Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Options Should Expand for Our Youth

I am very concerned about the youth of today. Many young college graduates are doing work far below their educational level and feeling frustrated. This disappointment does not lead to good job performance of course. Some of these people would be happier in technical or service jobs that require training, but not a college education.

We lived in a small town in Michigan in the early 1990s that had an excellent vocational/technical school. High School students who were not college-bound could add vo/tech credits to their high school classes to graduate. The success was amazing. I did several newspaper features on the various programs: aqua-culture (fish farming and hydroponics were combined successfully); auto mechanics; auto body work; hospitality; food service; hair styling; and information technology. There may have been more, but memory fails me. I remember one boy in the auto mechanics program who was found to be so outstanding that he won a full-ride scholarship to study mechanical engineering. He never dreamed of going to college. But, what was really satisfying was watching the self-confidence of these students grow as they found a path they knew would bring them a satisfying career.

This model could be followed all over the country and I believe it should. Not everyone is suited for a college education but they are given the false impression that it is the only way to get ahead in the world. Let's give them better choices!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

1969 - Before Men Walked on the Moon

My youngest son had started school and I had just remarried my first husband. We had found a modest little frame rental house on a dirt street and moved in the week before. As we turned into our driveway Greg (my youngest boy) spotted an old maroon Chevrolet next door and exclaimed with joy "That's George's car." "No," I reminded him, George moved to Maryland so it can't be. "...and there's George!" he declared. I looked in disbelief at the huge form that was George. Sure enough, we were living next door to a man I had dated (even discussed marriage with) while I was divorced.

The three boys were close in age and played ferocious boy games, running with whoops though sandspur patches and down the dirt road in front of the house. More than once George's step-son Timmy was prey for my gang of two. I had a hard time convincing them that was unfair.

They were always into mischief. One day Greg hacked down a plant in the back yard. When I asked him why he said, "It doesn't grow food or flowers or anything. What good is it?" Another day, I found Tom covered in green oil-based house paint. Furious, I grabbed him by the arm to usher him in for a good cleaning, yelling all the way. He just laughed and said "wait until you see my brother!" Greg also set fire to the vacant field next to our house on at least one occasion. I was never sure which of the three boys hatched the idea though.

It took a while, but George, his new wife and step-son, and later his baby boy, became our friends. It was a bit unsettling at times. One day as I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes,  I yelled for my husband, "Honey?" and George answered (thinking his wife was calling him). The window over the sink faced theirs and was only a few feet away. Within a year, each family moved out and went separate directions. But, his wife and I kept in touch for years.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who me?

I've spent the morning clicking on the button at the top of the blog screen that says "Next Blog."  It stirred something in me. I'm not quite sure what.

I do find myself wanting to take Beau for a ride seeking beautiful and mysterious sights to photograph. Then I think, no, I really want to bare my soul in my blog. Tell what I'm really thinking. Then I think, no, I really should use this space to bring attention to all those really talented people out there who actually know how to do this.

One thing is for sure, I need to post on this blog, where I feel more like the real me, more often.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A vision of comfort

I feel the water lift my body to a new form and tip my head back to wet my hair then feel the luxurious coolness soothe me. My outstretched arms float along the surface, moving gracefully like tree branches in the wind.

A dozen or so aging swimmers stand in loose formation, chest-deep in the comfortably warm water stepping in place to 1950's music.  "Splish Splash I was taking a bath..." one sings a few bars and we all begin to march in time swinging our arms until the instructor begins to call out movements that are reminiscent of Jazzercise moves.  

Swimming is the best form of exercise I can imagine. No sweating, no falling down, and best of all no one can see me jiggle. After 20 or so minutes of exertion, I welcome the slower pace as we stretch out, push in, sway and flex to loosen the tight muscles. It  is then that I realize something truly liberating: I could do this even if I was blind.

As cataracts continue to cloud the vision in my one good eye, total blindness worries me. It is hard to imagine how I would spend my days without being able to use my computer, walk my dog, cook, shop and read to my grandchildren.

Once again, the water comforts my soul, reassuring me that it will be there for me even if everything else fails.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A last look at native Florida

Our visit was coming to a close much faster than any of us expected and there were so many more places I had wanted to show my guests. They were amazed at how many plants we have in common as many of our Florida palms and even ornamentals like bottle-brush bushes are commonly seen in Australia as well.  I wanted them to see the REAL Florida sights and people. I was secretly proud that most of the people we had encountered along the way were easy-gong and friendly, willing to help and anxious to please.

Today our adventures would take us in a southerly direction and we managed to get an early start with just coffee under our belts.

We crossed Pineda Causeway turning onto South Tropical Trail for a quick view of south Merritt Island where I told them about the mango groves and pineapple fields that once filled the island. I forgot until just now that I should have looked for some of the few remaining green parrots that easily disguise themselves among the mango leaves. They enjoyed seeing the variety of homes that face the Indian River with their comfortable docks and various sizes of boats.

Crossing Mathers Bridge from Merritt Island into Indian Harbor beach, they realized that some of those homes had a view of the Banana River from the other side of their homes because the island is so narrow at that point. They were even more amazed at the opulent homes along S. Patrick Drive as we made our way to Melbourne Beach.  Just as we turned onto A1a I spotted our target breakfast place "Sand on the Beach" and we made our way past the 1960s view mural to a table with chairs set into sand at the edge of the dunes.  It was a perfect morning for dining al fresco. A soft breeze off the beach kept us cool even though the sun was almost blindingly bright reflecting off the white sand.  Again, I was pleased with the service and food we had that morning as it was delicious and served with a smile. Our server even took pictures for us.

After breakfast, we continued south on A1a, talking and enjoying the sights of beachside living and wildlife preserves of seemingly endless palmettos and palms where endangered species of birds and tortoise can thrive. While crossing the bridge over Sebastian Inlet, I explained that the state park, which includes property on both sides of the bridge, is a popular destination for surfers, fishermen, snorkelers, swimmers and campers. In fact, we have fished and camped there many times.
Just a mile or so further down A1a, we pulled into the parking lot of the McClarty Treasure Musuem. a small building rich with history. The museum features the story of recovering treasure from the 1715 sinking of a fleet of Spanish ships that were rich with silver, gold and gems I The museum is located on what was the site of the 1715 Spanish salvage camp. A beautifully constructed narrated diorama explains the disaster and recovery story. There is a 45 minute film that tells the story of the more recent recovery of treasure that littered the seabed off the east coast of Florida. Some of it is still out there we are told.

Turning off A1a at Vero Beach we stopped at the Indian River Mall in Vero Beach for a stretch, some lunch and a bit of shopping.  The day was going fast, so we hopped onto Interstate 95 hoping to get home and get a few things done before dinner time. Tonight was to be the farewell dinner and everyone who could be there wanted to join us.. 

Troy and Linda were happy to go off on their own for a bit of exploring and last minute shopping in the afternoon and I felt very confident they wouldn't get lost since they had a new GPS system they wanted to try out. 

Again we were not disappointed as we gathered at a restaurant on the former site of an old hotel in what was once known as Eau Gallie.  The attraction here is more about location, history and Florida casual ambiance than food (which has been unpredictible through several changes of ownership). The hotel burned many, many years ago but most of the restaurant owners have been smart to keep a few photographs of the old place, walls of pecky Cyprus and other artifacts such as the original fireplace for the enjoyment of locals and history buffs. Our dinner was served in one of the enclosed dining rooms and the cool air conditioned air was a welcome relief this teamy afternoon. Usually, we would have preferred the thatch roofed open air dining room. 
After dinner, we moved to the outdoor bar area where chattering voices and laughter threatened to drown out the band. That would have been sad since there was a great Joe Cocker sound alike at the microphone.  

The sun had sunk below the horizon by the time we wandered out onto the sandy beach along the river for last minute chit-chat. 

We knew this would have to be an early turn-in night since they had a very early morning flight next day. But, it was very hard to get serious about bed time when there was so little time left. A night cap and soft conversation finally settled us down and the day was reluctantly brought to an end with a long embrace. 

After giving me a parting gift, (a much coveted fiery Australian opal pendant), we were informed of a bit of Australian law that requires US citizens to return the visit by going to Australia.  So, now we are on a crusade to add enough money to our vacation fund to visit our friends down under.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Big gator keep on floating ... away!

Another steamy day lay ahead of us, and without a long cooling off period at mid-day that can lead to a late night. We learned that after our Space Center adventure slowed us to a crawl during the afternoon hours the day before.

We had managed to extend the day by slipping out after dinner for a quick visit to the beach. There our Ozzie friends shook their heads in amazement that our Florida boys are even able to surf the wimpy waves that lap the eastern shore of Florida. (I didn't tell them about the Gulf coast!)  During a cruise surfside through Satellite Beach, I pointed out houses the early astronauts stayed in while awaiting a "go for launch" message. Then we shopped at the "World Famous" Ron Jon's Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. Even I was impressed anew at the cool store and its seemingly unlimited supply of any and everything beach.
We decided to head straight for the action this bright morning. Unfortunately, in the headlong rush to get going, I wrapped the 3rd and 4th toes of my right foot firmly around the leg of an imposingly sturdy dining room chair.  Owie!!!

My toes firmly strapped in place we took off for a real Florida excursion: an airboat ride in the alligator infested waters of the St. John's River. Arriving at 10am hungry, we were surprised to learn that the dock-side cafe doesn't serve breakfast. Undeterred, we ordered substitutes: cheeseburger, clam chowder and catfish sandwich respectively and ate them while witnessing the first gator of the day cruise across the river straight toward us. He was huge and probably attracted to the big large mouth bass being landed on the dock outside the cafe where we were eating. 

We were told that during the summer it was important to be on the water early as the alligators (and anyone with good sense) would head for the cooler deep waters as soon as the day began to heat up. We were on the 2nd boat out at 10:15am and luck was with us.

Within minutes of putting on our sound-suppressing earphone (works surprisingly well) the boat stopped and we saw a huge gator cruising toward us. Curiosity kept him afloat until someone in the boat stood up to take a picture. That was his signal to down periscope and sink quick as a nuclear submarine. 

Next thing you know we were zipping along skimming the marsh and even scooting across the surface of bits of land bridge here and there.  What amazed me most was the abundance of birds. They roosted atop tall grass light as feathers, or stood knee-deep in water turning their heads this way and that on alert for tiny fish.

Cattle stood shoulder-deep in the water, peacefully chewing their cud until the airboat urged them to move on.

No trip to the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp would be complete with out a picture like this.

I hope you can visit sometime. I recommend the catfish sandwiches too. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

To infinity and beyond

Despite the wilting heat of the previous days, our visitors were raring to go on this bright morning. In fact, this was the one adventure they had looked forward to most. Kennedy Space Center!
After a good ole' American breakfast cooked by my better half (who had managed a day off), we picked up our two older grandsons from their home and made our way north to the Space Center. Our son-in-law and the youngest grandson completed the group. The parking lot was already an oven by the time we arrived, although we were among the first guests that day. There was almost no waiting as we got our tickets and boarded one of the first tour buses.

Between the driver and the overhead video our tour was well narrated and we had plenty of time to see the various areas along the way. The VAB (vehicle assembly building) where the fuel tanks, the rockets and the space shuttle are assembled in a vertical position for roll out to the launch pad. This building is visible for many miles along the Space Coast and our proudest landmark.

We were able to explore the three-story launch complex known as LC 39 observation gantry which was once used for Apollo program.

As a side benefit, a nice breeze cooled us off while we looked out over the Indian River's Mosquito Lagoon area toward Port Canaveral where cruise ships await their passengers.

Getting a good idea of what it would be like to fly to the moon came when the men and boys tried out the Space Shuttle Launch Experience.

Shake, rattle and roll boys!

Maybe you can't reach the stars, but you can touch a moon rock when you visit the Apollo/Saturn center.

 The tour bus also stops at the International Space Station Center where you see workers preparing experiments and equipment to be taken to the ISS. You can walk through space lab experimental modules as the astronauts do and see how they live aboard the ISS.

Or be a star in the Star Trek show here... (now through Sept. 2010)

You can look inside a mock-up of the Space Shuttle.

Tour the Rocket Garden with its awe inspiring memorial to those who sacrificed their lives in the quest to further our knowledge of what lies beyond our planet's atmosphere.

And see what you'd look like in a space suit.          

We thought we would have time to visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame, since it is included in the ticket price, but our day came to an early end in the heat of summer.

In cooler weather we might have managed a longer day but it was pool time for sure by then.

"A wonderful day!" everyone exclaimed.