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Sep. 21st, 2009


new blog address

I'm now posting at


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May. 17th, 2009

Tybee Island

Ponies and tapeworms

After reading Charlie's post about George Valllant's research, I read the article What Make Us Happy? in the Atlantic Online.  Valliant came says it is all in the adaption:

"The story gets to the heart of Vaillant’s angle on the Grant Study. His central question is not how much or how little trouble these men met, but rather precisely how—and to what effect—they responded to that trouble. His main interpretive lens has been the psychoanalytic metaphor of “adaptations,” or unconscious responses to pain, conflict, or uncertainty. Formalized by Anna Freud on the basis of her father’s work, adaptations (also called “defense mechanisms”) are unconscious thoughts and behaviors that you could say either shape or distort—depending on whether you approve or disapprove—a person’s reality."

The idea of adaption/coping makes total sense, but for people who have as you said been deeply unhappy it puts the burden on them completely.  The article leaves out any examination of what makes people unhappy.  For years I have been dealing with anxiety which triggers depressions.  Just when I think I've got serenity and happiness for as far as the eye can see, something dark creeps into the picture.  This has always felt like a failure to me; being unable to sustain an even keel.  But this year, while speaking with a counselor, I was given a pearl of wisdom.  Anxiety is like a virus.  It mutates, grows, changes, and finds new ways to gain a foothold.  In the moment I discovered this I had a picture in my head of a tapeworm oozing though my tissues as if seen on one of those high school science films circa 1981. 

While I can work on viewing a sock full of horse manure as a pony I just need to find, it is a little harder to dodge the invisible tapeworm.  Although I must add that the day I found heard about the virus-like qualities of anxiety I felt very optimistic and elated because I realized that I no longer would feel I had failed myself when I was bogged down with anxiety.  Instead I could focus energy on the source itself.  So maybe I get to have my pony and ride it too. 
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May. 10th, 2009


Ode to My Mother

While I was thinking about what to write on my annual Mother's Day Card, I realized that there was far too much to say in just 500 characters.  I know that my mom doesn't realize how much I value her company, just being in the same room with her or talking on the phone, and sometimes she even says that she wishes she could have been a better mother, which is just crazy talk.  When I think about growing up, which I often do because even though I have known Papi for a few years, we still sit at the dinner table and tell "I remember ..." stories after we eat, I realize what a great example my mom was for me.  She truly taught me what mattered most in the world.

Family:  My mom's family all lived pretty close to each other and celebrated birthdays and holidays together.  We also saw more distant cousins and relatives which I really appreciate now because even though I don't really see those people, I have a larger sense of history concerning my family.  I loved listening to stories about way-back-when.

I remember one Rosh Hashanah at the Weidenthal's house when two older ladies told me how they wait out on their porch when they were teenagers to watch my grandfather-the-teenager walk by with his dog.  They thought he was a hottie.  It was hard for me to imagine my gruff grandfather as a heartthrob, but there it was.

When my grandfather found a distant relative, also named Charles Bruml,  who had survived Auschwitz concentration camp, and I saw the tatoos he and Hannah his wife had, I understood the implications of being a 20thc Jew.  But my favorite memory of that visit is when Hannah encouraged me to slather butter on my bread so think that I would be able to see the impressions my teeth made when I took a bite.  I could hear the air escaping and my mom sucked in the words she wanted to say, but she let me follow Hannah's directive.  When I visited the Holocaust Museum years latter and sat in a dark room listening to a recording of Hannah describing the separation of her family when they arrived at the camp, I thought about the glee and delight I remembered coming from her as she watched me bite into that bread.

I think my all time favorite story came from my mom herself.  I love it so much because it seemed so out of character for her and played out just like a Brady Bunch script.  My mom and her friend draw spots on their forheads (forgive me if I have some of the details wrong) and told my aunt Jan who hated peas (and carrots?) that they were infected and would die if she didn't eat the left over aformentioned veggies in the fridge.  At this point in the story the adult Jan always breaks in and starts moaning as if someone is asking her eat those things right now.  Oh the trauma it caused her!  I loved it, but there was never anything like that I could do to Dan because he was fearless and was known to have eatten a fallen pickle off the floor at Burger King.

Animals:  Our house was always full of animals although I don't remeber it being full of pet hair in the least.  Animals were part of the family.  Kindness to animals was unquestioned, but they didn't run the house even when there were four dogs and four cats.  My mom got every four footed creature to sit and wait before they could get their dinner.  Cats would rub on dogs and dogs would fall over waiting, but finally the menagerie would get all its tails on the floor.  There was never any question that pets, like small children, were expected to be well behaved.  And she kept all of them undeer control with only her voice.  I never really got this even when she was trying to teach me, but when I got my little corgis the voice came out.  Respect for the creatures of the world and taking care of your little corner of it I picked up through her example.  Sitting on my mom's bed in the winter and looking out the front window at the squirrels eating all those peanut butter-filled iced cream cones got the message into my brain.

People:  I'm not sure that people neccesarily come after animals, but they were a further ring out in the map of life I developed in childhood.  No one told me the Golden Rule, but I learned it by watching my mom.  I don't remember her ever snapping at any people or being rude to anybody we came into contact with in our lives.  The annual shopping trip to buy gifts for every employee at the store my parents owner made a huge impression on me.  My mom picked out something personal for each person.  I thought the Polish flag for one of the stockboys to hang in his van (hey, it was the 70's) was just about the coolest gift you could get.  Later when those guys went on and got jobs at other places, they still were in contact with my parents whether it was to borrow books from my mom or to call for bail money.  There was never any them or us.  People were people.

I don't think that my mom knows when I have to make a decision or am having a difficult time,  I think about what she would do or say.  She is always the first person that I want to tell whenever anything good or bad happens.  I love you, Mom.  Happy Mother's Day!


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Apr. 17th, 2009

Tall Trees

La Primavera

I have been reading and doing more than writing , and during this time spring has sprung.  There were quite a few false starts this year.  The pine pollen went crazy with the balmy temps in January and the hard freezes continued all the way until last week.  ¡Qué raro! 

Now, however, I think the season is flowing out across the fields as it was intended to be.  We have had beautiful warm days reaching nearly 80 in the afternoons and chilly mornings and nights.  The last of the camelias and azaleas are still in bloom and the clematis growing on a trellis in the courtyard has salad plate size blooms.  The tiny red roses, chives, mint, oregano, and thyme are going full strength.  I saw a gerbera daisy, but they seem to come and go all year whenever they please.

I have a little family of Carolina wrens living on the glass porch.  The parents build a next of pine straw with a bit of corgi hair for comfort.  They planted themselves on the highest of the corner shelves behind an ugly menorah that is composed of nine rotund people standing hip to hip and holding up their arms.  When the eggs hatched I could hear the babies peeping.  For a few days I watched two parents fly in and out of the porch with insects.  Finally curiosity got the better of me and I dragged a chair over to peek into the nest.  I don't know whether the big bird in the next or I was more shocked at the moment of discovery.   The next day I got my camera and invaded the bird space again.  This time the babies were unattended and I got some pictures of the four babies with their mouths gaping.  They even peeped at me as if I might have some tasty morsels for them.


Apr. 7th, 2009

Professor Market

Snakes on the Coastal Plain

Yes, snakes are frequently on the tip of my tongue, metaphorically, because of the large number where I live in SoGa.  I have never liked snakes of any kind (it must be from seeing the movie "Sssssssss"), but was never afraid of them until I moved to this area which is full of poisonous varieties.  We have diamond back rattlesnakes, pigmy rattlers, cotton mouth moccasin, copperheads, and coral snakes.  We also have a great slithering bunch of nonpoisonous snakes, but I'm not great at telling the difference because my reaction is to scream, turn tail, and run away.  So if I see a king snake, a white oak snake,  or a rat snake I haven't looked at it long enough to know whether I was actually in any danger.  I long ago gave up turning my composte pile because they snakes love to burrow into its warmth.  Fortunately the heat and the humidity here make black gold for me as long as I continue to pile in my scraps and clippings.

In my yard I don't use insect spray or any type of weed killer other than boiling water (it really takes care of those weeds better than round up...just get an electric tea kettle, fire it up, and pour).  This really helps make it a healthy place for for lots of creatures including snakes.  We have so many trees, bushes, and birds that the snakes love it.  The house is on an acre right in front of about 30 acres of swampy woods.  For the most part, my fear of the snakes comes from wanting nothing bad to happen to my dogs.  I did not know until a student told me, but dogs do not react to snakes.  Mine have walked right over many, and I was warned by the vet that one bite will kill them.  If they were smaller, I would also have to worry about birds of prey swooping down and plucking them from the yard.  It is a wild kingdom here.

My friend Laura recently sent me a link to a story that would appear to be in the category of fake news, but it turns out to be frighteningly true.  A recent story on The Daily Show Terror Alert featured the plight of some cast-off pets.  Holy moly, Burmese pythons are on the loose!  This has definitely awakened the primal fear  I have of snakes.  Forget all the Ssssssss junk about being turned into a snake, now I can worry about being attacked by one.  At least the local alligators don't try to eat adult deer. Really, thank Laura, knowing this will help me sleep better at night.

This sent my into a panic.  I found articles confirming the feeding frenzy.  The first one shows a dead python after it tried to eat an alligator, and the second article says that the projection for the Burmese python migration across the southern US is incorrect.  I'm going to hope this is true because I can't stand the thought of looking out for 12-foot long snakes hanging out in my backyard.

Of course in my search for more info on the freed-pet-pythons-now-taking-over-the-Everglades, I discovered that a guy in Mississippi who runs an alligator zoo is missing 50 of his creatures after recent flooding enables them to swim over the six-foot fence.  He had 250 alligators, but 200 of them escapes during Hurricane Katrina.  I don't need to worry about his 14-foot gators because we already have plenty around here.  But a 12-foot long snake, now that would stick out like a sore thumb.

Apr. 5th, 2009

Tybee Island

Send me an Ark

After nearly a week of rain, the ground of SoGa is thoroughly saturated and many cattle grazing pastures have morphed into lakes.  The last three days of the week were canceled due to flooding in Colquitt county, which the governor declared a disaster area, and we have run right into spring vacation this week.  Colquitt county has 400 miles of dirt roads.  Many were washed out and a lot of the bridges on other roads are impassable.  You can check out my thoughts on dirt roads in an earlier entry.

Closer to home, the rains and winds brought down an enormus tree onto a neighbor's house.  You can check out some pics of Lowndes county (that;s Valdosta) at the blog of a local storm chaser.  Today there are also reports about the Withlacoochee River flooding in Valdosta and parts of Lowndes county being evacuated.  The Withlacoochee hit major flood status at 25 feet.  Yesterday when I was walking the dogs at 6 AM before heading out to Gainesville, Florida, I ran into one of my neighbors (we are an industrious lot here in Q'town and love to get up before dawn on Saturday) and he warned me that Rt. 84 out of town was closed.  I had to take the long way around to get to I-75 and this ironically took me along another section of the the Withlacoochee where I saw the water half way up the telephone poles.  It was pretty odd to see water rushing through the tops of the trees.  A few days ago a little bit of I-75 near Cordele (that is around the 100 milesmark) was closed because of water across the road.

On my way back to Q'town I tried to get far enough down Rt. 84 to see the mess, but I had no luck.  Today I'm going to walk back into the swampy woods behind the house and see how many fish were washed up onto the path.  Of course, I'll also be looking out for snakes!

Mar. 9th, 2009


RIP Peaches

Peaches is gone.  I'm fairly certain that 7-year old Lance took her demise better than I did.  Oh, the harsh realities of farm life, well, life within the historic district, on the outskirts of the city limits in a tiny town in the middle of a bunch of farms.    While Peaches placed 7th in the state of Georgia Hog Show for her age group, she also went on to the great pork chop-beyond after the show.  My neighbor told me they were sending her out to live on a farm, but it never came to be.  I think I will be skipping all things pork for awhile.

Also noteworthy in neighborhood carnage are two recent bird murders.  Last week I found a blue jay, or the feathery remains of a jay, in the dog run.  Really, it was just a big splat of feathers almost as if the bird had vaporized.  Today when I came home from work there was a pile of red feather on the porch.  The dogs were out this morning and I guess in the dark I must have missed the feathers which nearly blend in with the rug.  This time, however, there was complete destruction.  No downy soft feathers left.  Only tail feather or maybe wing feathers remained.  Papi thinks that two short corgis could never have caught and offed two birds in one week.  He thinks that some cat killed the birds and somehow dropped the remains in the dog run.  I think the boys tag teamed the birds.  Lately Coltrane had been going coocoo over birds when we are on walks.  I think it is corgi blood lust.

Mar. 8th, 2009

Professor Market

That Sho' Ain't PC

It was reported to me that the new president of a local university, fresh from fully-integrated South Dakota, visited the Upward Bound program offices on his new campus.  Upon greeting the 99% African-American students and staff of the program, he remarked, "We had an Upward Bound program in South Dakota also, but we didn't have any of you people.  We had Native Americans."

When I replay this in my head, he says injun's instead of Native Americans.  It gets a bigger inner laugh.

The worst part of the whole story is that while Mr. South Dakota is speaking, the audience is punctuating his remarks with "praise."  Praise with a capital P, the kind given freely in church, they kind where you sway, look to the heavens, and say, "praise," as in Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'olam shegemalani kol tov.   He even got a praise when he said you people.

Mar. 3rd, 2009


Excuse me stewardess, I speak Southern

I had a rather strange conversation with one of the ag teachers.  And yes, that is ag as in agriculture.  One of my students was out for a few days showing some sort of livestock, so I stopped this particular ag teacher and asked her if she knew how Melissa was doing.  She looked at me a little oddly, so I offered a bit of explanation, "she's out showing; I just wondered what was going on."  Again, something was just not registering.  I was speaking English, but this woman just seemed to be completely baffled.  I tried again, "her cows, or does she have hogs, she took them to a big show didn't she?"

This time I got through, but inexplicably, she started laughing hysterically, "I thought you were saying she was showing-out and I couldn't figure out what was going on with Melissa."

"Oh no," I said suddenly realizing what the problem had been, "she is behaving just fine.  I wanted to know if maybe the ag department  had gone to the show and had any news."

She didn't have any news, but she got another laugh when I told her that the first time I heard two teachers talking about a student showing-out they used the more crass expression to say that he misbehaved, "he really showed his ass today."  I had no idea what occurred in the poor woman's classroom.  All I could picture was some kid mooning the class.  Maybe it was jus' the country comin' out in that good 'ol boy.


Feb. 28th, 2009

Es de mexico

Did I just see that?

I looked at the photo in the cover story of Metro General Hospital's newsletter, "you're right," I laughed, "with the hospital's helicopter door slid open it really does read METRO GENITAL."
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