16 February 2005

"When you're a celebrity, it's adios reality. No matter what you do, people think you're cool, just 'cause you're on TV..."

It's not often that I actually admit to being from West Virginia. Even though I lived there for the first 25 years of my life, more times than not, I claim to be from Texas. Of course, the fact that I just made the admission that I was, in fact, hatched in the small town of Madison in West "By God" Virginia, means I most probably can never use Texas as my point of origin. There goes THAT ruse.

Having said that, West Virginia isn't completely without a few charms.

OK, so nothing immediately came to mind, I took a few minutes and composed a small list.

Fun-filled Facts About West Virginia...

West Virginia is considered the southernmost northern state and the northernmost southern state. In other words, neither the north or south particularly wants to accept blame for... er, rather, wants to boast about claiming WV as part of their region. One could look on the positive side and say, "Wow, those WV'ians are nonconformists - how cool!", and that's a very nice spin, but it's like my saying I'm from West Texas - it's not quite true. This may also explain why West Virginia's State Motto is "Mountaineers Are Always Free". No one is fighting for possession. I guess it's a lot like being a wall flower, or maybe just a wild, wonderful dandelion.

Mother's Day was first observed in Grafton, WV on May 10, 1908. If you're reading this, you obviously have or have had a mother. You may even be a mother yourself. I'm all for celebrating mothers so I think this is a good thing, especially when my kids have cash and are feeling a rare sense of sentimentality and generosity right around the 2nd Sunday in May. Just because my kids have never felt a particular sense of sentimentality and/or generosity does not mean it can't happen. One must never lose hope.

The New River Gorge Bridge is the second highest steel arch bridge in the US. The bridge is also the longest steel arch bridge (1,700 feet) in the world. Every October on Bridge Day, the bridge is open for bungee jumpers (i.e., folks not particularly thrilled with celebrating their next birthday), and insane people who are allowed to own parachutes, to jump 876 feet off the bridge. This event usually attracts about 100,000 people each year from around the world, which is proof that WV does not have the market cornered on "eccentrics". And we'll just leave it at that.

Over 75% of West Virginia is covered by forests, which probably explains why I fell in love with the unobstructed horizon of West Texas and the magic of seeing for miles in every direction without ever having to look up. For years, I thought the sun slipped behind a mountain EVERYWHERE. I had no idea that a horizon was actually a flat line. I'd heard rumors but...The first time I flew into Amarillo, Texas in August, 1985, I had never seen such a huge sky. In fact, I used to refer to it as "skies" because to me, at least, it looked so massive that it almost demanded to be referred to in the plural tense of the word. I still say "West Texas Skies" and rarely apologize for it. I love wide open spaces. Forests make me feel claustrophobic.

On July 1, 1921, West Virginia became the first state to implement a sales tax. Why they haven't made bumper stickers boasting of this I have no idea. Who wouldn't want to proudly, and rightfully, brag about such a trail-blazing (pot holes notwithstanding) first? Maybe something along the lines of, "WV - First State Sales Tax - Worst State Roads". Nah, probably not an idea that would catch on.

The mean altitude of WV is 1,500 feet making it the highest average altitude east of the Mississippi and this probably accounts for the reason that I have such a huge fear of heights. What better place to find heights? MOUNTAINS! I think I'm seeing a pattern here...I have no hard data on this, but I can't help but wonder if it also leads the nation in per capita sales of Dramamine?

On September 8, 1798, Daniel Boone made his last survey of Charleston and in 1799, he left the state. What did he discover in his survey and what made him leave? If you thought about this long enough, it could prove troubling.

According to the crime index for 1997, West Virginia actually had the lowest crime index of any state in the country. You may get car sick and heights may make you queasy, but you'll feel safe when you're tossing your cookies.

Martha Stewart is currently serving her sentence at the first federal prison established exclusively for women. That's noteworthy, but I'm not sure if it's something to brag about or deny?

West Virginia has the oldest population of any state with a median age of 40. I'm five years over the median age so I suppose one could extrapolate that I would be in good company if I were again a resident of The Mountain State, but I have changed my ways, I now try and live a balanced life, commit several random acts of kindness a year and I keep hoping that if I strive to do "the next right thing", I will not find myself living there again. It's a nice place to visit and I have some interesting relatives who wouldn't consider residing anywhere else.

The most dangerous hobby any West Virginia Native can pursue is Genealogy. I regret to report that my father loves adding twigs to our family tree, but every now and then when his preternatural sunny disposition seems a bit off, it's a clear sign that he has stumbled upon something that really would best be left buried. This usually results in a day or two of his walking around trying to make sense of the unimaginable, softly repeating the name of individuals listed as brothers, uncles, cousins and fathers who are, quite sadly, all the same person. After a couple of days spent tending the garden or devoting his time to alphabetizing his filing cabinet, he shakes off the shock and gets right back in the root cellar. He is a wonderful man, but I fear his tenacity may someday get the best of him.

On a more positive and less painful note, some famous folks got their beginnings in "The Mountain State". Deputy Barney Fife aka Don Knotts, author Pearl S. Buck, pioneering test pilot Chuck Yeager and Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton are all natives who, through death or good sense, no longer reside in the state.

One really famous mountaineer is currently making waves and, though I never thought of myself as some kind of Country Music Fan, I do appreciate a sardonic sense of humor and this guy has it going on...

Of course, I am talking about none other than Brad Paisley...

He's talented, plays a mean guitar and he's very easy to look at...

Check this video out - it has it all...Reality Show References, Jason Alexander throwing a fit in Starbucks, Little Jimmy Dickens (also from WV - now that might make it onto a bumper sticker), American Idol spoof, William Shatner - not over-acting for once in his life, Rehab References, hope for everyone working at the Dairy Queen and last, but by no means least, Brad Paisley living large and looking fine. I think I almost have a lump in my throat and I do believe I might be feeling just the tiniest bit proud to be from West Virginia. That might be stretching it, but I'm going to go with it for now.

NOTE: Viewing this file does NOT necessarily make you a fan of this particular genre of music, but for some strange reason, this video can make me laugh when nothing else will and lately, I have needed a few giggles...

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to see if I can find a MOCHA SOY LATTE. And then I'm going to settle down and watch Brad Paisley hop around with that fine looking...guitar of his. :-)

I have been politely asked to make the Brad Paisley Video "Celebrity" a link rather than just assume you want to see and hear it. Apparently it is lingering in the head of a few people who, quite frankly, should be pleased to at least have SOMETHING up there to take up the space but, being the nice person that I am, I will make this into a link.

Happy now? Click here to see Brad Paisley hop around with his BAD guitar!

Wednesday, February 16 and all is not well...

It was only a matter of time, really. I had played dodgeball with the flu, the respiratory infections and the stomach viruses making the rounds and I must admit I was getting a little full of myself, nearly feeling invincible and above all that bacterial and viral fray but, alas, I have been felled, like a tree in a forest that no one heard fall, but still fell anyway. And so did I, just last night. Right into bed. Which is where I will be going as soon as I get this update posted. As it stands, I am drinking copious amounts of hot whatever (you take your pick, coffee, tea, more coffee, hot chocolate), drinking juice which just does NOT mix well with all that hot stuff and I'm popping Actifed, doing Robitussin Shots and I know where the jar of Vick's is and I'm getting less afraid to use it, even though when I do I will officially smell like my Grandmother did when I was about 35 years younger.

Speaking of grandmother, it would seem that last weekend, I became one. No, no, no, of course Katie and Justin didn't go there. At least not that I KNOW of and if you know of something that I don't regarding those two, please do us both a favor and keep it to YOURSELF until I feel much much better. Better still, just keep it to yourself. Period.

I was out of town last weekend but whilst I was away, the cats didn't play but the baby finches started jumping out of their egg shells like popcorn. I have pictures of a few of them at 1, 2 and 3 days old which I will post later today. They look NOTHING like a finch and yes, they look like something only a mother could love. And from what I can see looking into the aviary, she and her husband, their father, love them very much. Scrawny as they appear, those babies are never left alone. The parents take shifts and sometimes they just double up and take care of the kids together. Oh, how I wish that humans could adopt that plan.

Finches have it going on. They mate for life and don't even seem to mind. They divide the family duties. There's no bickering unless it's territorial in nature and because another unrelated finch came calling without an invitation. They nurture, protect and feed the babies until, a mere 21 days later, they don their aviator duds, give them a few flight lessons and then push those babies into the air and independence. No empty nest syndrome for these finches. It seems as though before the last kid is out of the nest, Mom and Dad are making new digs and, like the movie "Groundhog Day" it starts all over again without the Bill Murray sarcasm and arrogance. And everyone appears to be just fine with that. It's not broke and I don't see any finches trying to fix it. We humans are so busy trying to figure it all out, complicate it, amend, append, extend and expend until we "tweak" our relationships to the point of being irreparable. We could learn a lot from Finches., if we weren't so busy finding new and more efficient ways of driving ourselves, and those we love the most, completely insane.

Valentine's Day 2005 is H I S T O R Y and I, for one, am glad for that! I must admit that ever since the teachers decided we outgrew the need to decorate little shoe box "mail boxes" and slip in Valentines to our friends and especially that one particular person we felt a special affection for, the one who got the really cool Valentine, the holiday has just never felt the same. I miss jiggly J-E-L-L-O hearts. Heart-shaped chocolate cakes with pink and white frosting, complete with the Cupid's arrow through the heart, and I don't even care for the color pink. I miss heart shaped cookies that homeroom Mom's took great pains to decorate and red and white confetti! Yes, I miss the confetti, even though it's messy and eventually you have to vacuum it all up. While it's there, you know something special happened and people were happy.

OK, so I don't miss roses because I hate them. Much too funereal for my taste. But I do love daisies and I think daisies should be the official flower of Valentine's Day, but whoever is in charge of such decisions has yet to contact me. The great thing about daisies is that they are never unwelcome and always make the usually unsuspecting recipient smile, sometimes even on days they didn't believe it possible. Daisies are such an all-purpose flower - they work for every single situation that visits a person on any given day: Daisies can say "get well soon", "Miss you!", "Thinking of you!", "I'm sorry I was such a jerk", "Thinking of you" and yes, daisies can even say "I love you" without heavy petals and painful thorns that seduce you to want to touch their velvety petals and then make you wish that you had not.

There's nothing a daisy can't do - but most of all, they just make you smile and it must be because a proper white petaled, yellow centered daisy is reminiscent of the sun. Daisies feel just like home to me, exude a dependable brand of warmth and no matter what is going down, by some amazing power, they just make you feel better about things. Even if your dog just died and your cat ran away, you learned that you did not win the "Publisher's Clearing House" Sweepstakes and Ed McMahon will NOT be visiting your doorstep and that Powerball Lottery Ticket you just bought in South Carolina was only off by ONE number.

My daughter had a particularly lovely Valentine's Day and I've only heard about it 20 times in the past two days...not that I'm bitter or anything. She got unexpected flowers. They were roses, but she doesn't have issues with them so that worked out fine. She got two dinner invitations. Some cards from guys testing the availability waters. When she dropped by yesterday she was so positively ebullient, I had to excuse myself from the room to stave off a bout of nausea that I pretended was due to my current viral/bacterial/ebola-like run-of-the-mill illness. I did my best to project how happy I was for her and smile, and then I thought, how strange it is to be jealous of my own daughter! No, I wouldn't want to be 21 again, but she sure made it sound like fun - at least on this past "Heart Holiday".

It must be obvious by now that I am deep into feeling sorry for myself. I blame part of it on feeling like a very old, worn out dish rag that should have been tossed out years ago because it slipped through the drain and got hung on the garbage disposal blades and someone turned the thing on and ripped the cloth to shreds. I blame another part of it on the fact that I haven't seen the sun for a few days and this gray stuff is way too dim. I blame the last part of it on not being able to be in NYC on Valentine's Day, and a chance meeting with Tom Hanks on top of the Empire State Building which means I have watched "Sleepless In Seattle" one too many times. I mean, why do they create movies that both warm our heart and make us feel like the magic train doesn't stop at our station? Is it really too much to ask to meet Tom Hanks in NYC for one simple evening? I guess that perhaps it is. I hope he didn't wait around too long since I was unable to show up.

Daisies be damned!

OK, now that I am off my soap box, I have to tell you about one of my sweetest friends. He's about 16 years younger than me and I'm pretty sure I feel like I could be his surrogate mother, but it would appear that this Valentine malaise isn't something that is gender specific to women. My friend rang me up Sunday Evening and was not feeling too perky. He shared that he had been dealing with a case of the blahs and if you knew what he looked like, you would never suspect the blahs of ever having a reason to visit his doorstep. I knew for certain there was a God when he told me that this past Saturday Night, he found himself in his sweat pants, eating chocolate ice cream with a really big spoon and watching...get this, "Hope Floats" and "One Fine Day". This guy was sitting home in a dark living room chasing a sugar rush and over-dosing on Sandra Bullock and Michelle Pfeiffer. When my mind conjured up that image, I just had to smile, not because I was happy that he had to endure a Saturday Night like that, but because I guess I never realized that we all have those Saturday Nights from time to time.

Monday Evening, I ran into another friend at a meeting and after it was over, we were chatting about nothing in particular and out of nowhere SHE brought up that she had spent HER Saturday Night on the sofa watching sappy movies, only she substituted Krispy Kreme Donuts for the ice cream. Wow, two really attractive people had almost the exact same experience on the same night, just different sofas and high caloric delivery systems, within ten miles of each other. I think these two should definitely get together and compare notes! At the very least have coffee! Two days after that terrible holiday and I'm trying to be Cupid and I've never even shot an arrow.

Sometimes I think Valentine's Day is just a cruel reminder for a bunch of people that they are, in fact, alone and who needs to be reminded of something like that? Like you can be lonely and not be aware of that? Hello? Sure, it's probably great if things are whizzing along and one's love life is in order and steaming with passion, but for what I think might be the majority, the holiday of hearts should simply be deleted from the calendar. Too bad that "Cntrl/Alt/Delete" doesn't work on more than simply rebooting one's CPU. There have been times I'd love to reboot my life and reformat my hard drive. Who wouldn't love to do that from time to time?

I guess some days you just have to play those lonely Shawn Colvin songs, or listen to John Mayer's "Comfortable" or sit in a dark room and realize that the remote control only surfs movie channels that remind you of your present romantic-less status and then brew some hot (or cold) Jasmine tea and drink a toast to better days ahead.

Enough of this happy talk. I do hope everyone had a Happy Valentine's Day but just remember, if you didn't, you're probably in very good company so take heart (pun intended). Should you find yourself in sweats, digging into a container of any flavored ice cream or attacking a dozen donuts and watching movies that might cause you to run searching for the Dramamine, full of all that "happily ever after" dribble, it's a good bet that thousands of people across the US are doing the very same thing and wondering when, and if, their time will come and they'll be pulled off the sofa and invited to play in the heart game, only to be replaced on that sofa by people who played the very same game and got benched.

I think I've spread enough sunshine for one morning. :-) Baby bird photos coming up later today. I'll try and put a lid on the cynicism, but I make no promises until I can actually breathe through my nose again, swallow without feeling as if my throat is lined with razor blades and I've downed about a half gallon of syrupy sweet iced tea with lemons. :-)

Have a better Wednesday than I plan to. I need to wallow just a little more, if you don't mind. Time for me to go push a cat off my bed and pull those covers up.