A Picture’s Worth…

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words…  I hope that’s true, because for today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ve got nothin’!  Actually, I’m so busy at work, I’ve barely had time to breathe, much less do anything fun.  If any of you have noticed me missing on the Blogfront, that’s why.  (I promise to be back soon and catch up reading and commenting on all of your blogs, as well as my own.)  But in the meantime, for today’s TBT, presented for your approval are some old and not-so-old photos I took them with the thought of doing something with them someday…  I guess today’s that day, and this is the something…

Time to talk:  Which photo do you like the best and why?

‘Tis the Season

I bet from my title, you can already guess the theme of today’s Throwback Thursday.  However, you might still be wondering how I plan on incorporating that into something currently happening in my life.

When I was a kid, the best Christmases were of course the ones where I got the best presents.  The year I turned two was a great Christmas.  Three days after my birthday, Santa came and left me a purple tricycle, a green desk that was a chalkboard on the top and a flip-open magnetic board inside, and my favorite Raggedy Ann doll that I carried everywhere until about three years later when my dog ate her head.

Three days after I turned eight was also terrific, because that year, I got two baby dolls instead of just one!  I wasn’t much of a Barbie girl, but I loved playing babies.  However, I never kept their names that came on the boxes.  I don’t know if you can read these dolls’ boxes or not, but the big one’s name was Fran, and the little one’s name was Agatha!  YIKES!  Those sounded more like grandmother dolls than baby dolls.  Their names were immediately changed to Heidi (from the book by the sane name), and – get this – Phronsie (from the book Five Little Peppers and How They Grew)!  Yes, really!  What was I thinking?

These days, the best Christmases are the ones where I can afford to get my kids tons of gifts, get my friends something nice, actually pull off all the surprises I have planned, and have the rest of the day to do something relaxing.

So why did I choose to talk about Christmas today?  Because today, I’m actually busy directing and producing six commercials that I wrote for my boss, and one of them is a Christmas ad.  That means that despite the 90° that feels like 113° (UGH!), last weekend, I spent both days actually shopping for Christmas items to use (Yes, Hobby Lobby actually has a lot of their Christmas stuff out already!) and putting up two Christmas trees.

We’re also filming a Thanksgiving commercial, so my sister Michelle has been doing tons of holiday baking this week.  And we’re filming Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day commercials, so I got to make a “Memory Wall” which I can’t wait to photograph and share with you.  And the two remaining commercials are not for holidays.

So, tell me, how are you spending your day?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever cooked a Thanksgiving meal or put up and decorated a Christmas tree?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever shopped for holiday decorations?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…  No, wait; that’s Star Wars.  For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m not going that far away… or that far back in time.

Back in January, I showed you the photos of my new couches.  Since then, my sister Michelle and I have been redecorating the entire house.  In the living room, we’re going for a late 1950s/early 1960s inspired theme, so we got a couple of funky rugs with wavy lines for the living room and foyer.

I’ve also been going through my Grandma’s old 50s/60s vases to sit around the room.  What’s so frustrating to me is that even though her favorite color was green, and my living room’s main color is green, she apparently had every other color vase but green!  This is so aggravating!

So, I’ve now amassed a nice collection of vases to store in my closet, and still have nothing for the living room.  Grrr!   I’ll keep you posted as we go along…

Time to talk:  Have you ever redecorated a whole house at once, or do you take it one room at a time?  How often do you redecorate?

Olé!

Since yesterday was my sister Michelle’s birthday, for today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ll tell you what happened a few years ago on a different birthday of hers.  Michelle lived in Virginia at the time, and drove to Florida with a friend who dropped her off with me, so the two of us could travel to New Orleans for some concerts that we were photographing.

The day her friend dropped her off was also her birthday, so I made arrangements for them to meet me at our favorite Mexican restaurant where I had several people on hand for a little surprise party.

We pulled off the surprise just fine, and Michelle was even more surprised when the restaurant wait staff brought her a huge sombrero to wear while they sang “Happy Birthday” then left the hat with her so we could all get photos.

But the surprise was on them when afterward, Michelle walked out to my car wearing the expensive sombrero!  I was mortified!  “Why’d you take that?” I asked her as I hid my face in embarrassment.

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I dunno.  They gave it to me for my birthday.”

When I explained that it was not a gift from the restaurant, she was equally as embarrassed!

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Michelle & Me

Speaking of embarrassing restaurant birthday traditions, last night, I arranged for a bunch of friends to meet us at the Roadhouse where, unbeknownst to any of us, the staff brought a saddle mounted on a sawhorse to the table, made Michelle mount it while they sang, and forced her to swing a napkin in a circle over her head while the whole restaurant gave her a rousingly loud, “Yee Haw!”

Now THAT was funny!  (And no, she didn’t try to keep the saddle… or the napkin.)

She said it was only slightly less embarrassing than the time we took her to Bubba Gump’s for her birthday a few years back and they made her stand on a table and hold sparklers while the staff sang and danced around the table.

Talk to me:  What’s the most embarrassing restaurant birthday tradition you’ve ever witnessed?  What’s your favorite restaurant to visit on your birthday?

The Gator at Sam’s Club

Can you believe how North Carolina had eight (severe) shark attacks in just three short weeks?  I’ve been going to the beach regularly my whole life, but this makes me seriously reconsider my pastime.

I think the thing that is really frightening is that all of these attacks were in shallow water.  I mean, who’d have ever thought that a shark large enough to sever a limb would – or even could – be swimming in three feet of water?

So, with all these shark attacks in the news, it got me thinking about other creatures with big, sharp teeth that lurk in water, and of course, my mind came to alligators.

Today’s Throwback Thursday tale won’t be from the Way-Back Vault, but rather, it’s something that happened not too long ago.  Remember last month when I told you about What Happens in Florida Stays in Florida, and in that post, I mentioned my recent sighting of the alligator at Sam’s Club?  I told you then that that was a story for another day… and today’s the day.

Now, in case you didn’t realize it, Florida is actually a giant swamp.  (Yes, really.)  A lot of the state used to be under water (even in my lifetime), until engineers devised a way to fill in the water holes and build on them.  Unfortunately, that’s one of the reasons we have so many sinkholes here.  So, per our state’s law, when someone builds a structure on what used to be swampland, they must provide a certain square footage of watershed on the property.  As such, we have watersheds in front of just about every commercial property I can think of.  (Some people might refer to a watershed as a retention pond.)

A couple of years ago, I dropped my sister off at Walmart then I drove around the parking lot until she was ready.  During the few minutes she was inside, I drove by a ditch (which was not their official watershed) that had filled with rainwater, and I noticed something moving.  Now, keep in mind that this ditch was three feet away from the parking lot!  Well, if you guessed the thing I saw was a gator, you’d be correct.  A small alligator, about five feet long, crawled out of the ditch and walked in front of my car!

(That’s where my friends up North usually gasp in horror, but it’s actually not that uncommon.)  I sped back to the front of the store to pick up my sister so she could see, but by the time we got back, we just saw his tail as he was going back into the water.  Unfortunately, it was nighttime, so the photo I took didn’t turn out.

Anyway, my point is that when I have friends visit from somewhere other than Florida, if they want to see an alligator, I generally point them to Walmart or Sam’s Club where I see them most often.  Which brings us to today’s story…

Sam’s Club & Watershed

A couple of months ago, Michelle and I were at Sam’s Club.  As we pulled in the parking lot and past the watershed, we spied a large alligator (about 13 feet long).  I thought it would be cool to blog about it if I could get a decent photo, so we parked and started walking to the watershed for a closer look.  (Don’t worry, it was fenced in.)  As we crossed the aisle in the parking lot, the gator was sunning himself on the far bank.  He was quite handsome and regal with the sun glinting off his fangs back.  I was so excited to be able to get a good photo of such a large reptile.

Can you see him in the water?So as we neared the fence, the sun was shining something fierce.  It just so happened that we both looked down for only a split second because it was so blindingly bright, and when we both looked back up, our gator was gone!  Not only had he run quite a distance to get back into the safety of his watery home, but there weren’t even any ripples in the water where he entered!

How about now?Seriously, it wasn’t more than two seconds that we each looked down, and he had to have traveled 30 feet to get to the water’s edge!  I was of course overcome with disappointment that I couldn’t get a good photo, but more than that, I was amazed at how quickly and stealthily he moved!  It sure made me appreciate that chain link fence between us that much more!

So to conclude, I apologize that I didn’t get any good photos of my friend, but so that I don’t leave you empty handed,  I’ll instead share a photo of a creature I took at Blue Springs a couple of years ago:

At Blue Springs

Let’s talk:  Would you be comfortable with only a fence between you and a 13 foot long reptile in the wild?  Do large creatures reside outside your Walmart?  Did you have a clue alligators could move so quickly?

Orange You Glad It’s Throwback Thursday?

Last year, I shared my very first poem with you that I wrote when I was four years old.  And at that time, I told you how my granddaddy who raised me was a citrus inspector after he retired from the Air Force.  Needless to say, because of his job, not to mention the numerous various types of citrus trees in our yard and the spacious orange grove next door, I grew up drinking lots of orange juice, eating lots of oranges, and even wearing lots of orange blossom perfume.

So, by the time I was in the fourth grade, it only stood to reason that I would write my report on — what else?  Oranges!  (Actually, we were each assigned a state, then we had to write about its most popular export.  How lucky that I happened to get chosen to write about the state where I lived.)

The thing I remember most about writing this report was also the thing I loved best.  (No, it wasn’t oranges.)  Using my creativity to make that cover was so much fun!  (The actual report, not so much.)

Back then, we didn’t have computers.  Heck, we didn’t even have colored ink jet paper!  So, I had to first cut a sheet of green construction paper down to the size of a sheet of notebook paper.  (As you can see, I also didn’t own a paper cutter other than scissors and my little hands!)

How funny that I made the F in Florida be the state flag, and I made the O be a sun (because it’s The Sunshine State).  Looking back, it’s too bad that no one made me use a ruler as a guide to get my letters even!

I have no idea why I thought it was acceptable to make the E in “flower” extend into an arrow to point to the orange blossom.  I’d shoot myself in the foot before I’d ever do that now!

The map was the tricky part.  As I said, we didn’t have computers back then, and we also didn’t just have a disposable atlas that I could have cut up.  So, I used a sheet of carbon paper (What’s that?!), and put the brown construction paper and carbon paper behind a page in a book, then I put a sheet of tracing paper (What’s that, too?!) over the page in the book, and I traced my state (including a couple of key waterways and Lake Okeechobee).  Then I cut it out, added the state capital, and voila!  How fun!  Not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but as you can see, my teacher thought I did a great job, too, as I got a 100 A+ for the cover.

The report (which I cited as having done my research in The World Book, volume N-O) reads as follows:

“The orange is the most important of all citrus fruit.  We have two kinds of oranges.  One is the sweet orange which is thought to be grown in Southern China.  The other is the Seville orange, grown in America.  The orange tree has dark green leaves which do not fall off with the seasons.  Its flowers are white and wax like.  For hundreds of years, the orange blossom has been a symbol or marriage.  The orange tree can grow to be thirty feet tall, and can resist moderate cold and extreme hot temperatures.  The average size orange is 3½ inches in diameter.  There are almost one million acres of oranges grown in Florida, the largest orange producing state.  Each tree produces between 3,000 and 4,000 oranges per season.  They are a source of vitamin C and are used in foods and drinks, and in perfumes.  The peel can be candied and also used as food for cattle.”

Isn’t that hilarious that this report was fewer than 160 words, yet it took me three pages to write (and it felt like it took an eternity!).  I only got a 97 A on the report because I didn’t use paragraphs.

At any rate, no, Grandma didn’t save all of my reports and school work, but I think she saved this because it was about Granddaddy’s beloved oranges.  (Oddly, with all the bags of citrus he used to bring home, I don’t think I can recall a time that I ever saw him actually eat an orange!)

So let’s talk:  Do you ever look back on any of your old work and wonder what you were thinking?  Do you know your state’s biggest export or source of income?  Did you ever use tracing paper or carbon paper, or a combination thereof? 

Second Verse, Same as the First

The following is a repeat of a post I made shortly after I started blogging.  I thought that since I’ve been getting comments regarding the intensity of my microfiction these past few months, this would be fitting .  Remember, I write Psychological Thrillers.  By the very definition, a psychological thriller is a thriller story which emphasizes the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states.

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It’s Throwback Thursday again, and this week I want to talk about intense writing. Sometimes people think my writing is a little too powerful.  But in my stories, I draw a lot from my own personal experiences, which I admit have not all been upbeat and cheery. As such, too often, I may be numb to what others find disturbing.  Unfortunately, we didn’t all have the luxury of a Disney-version whitewashed life.  We all cried when Walt Disney showed us Bambi’s mother being killed by hunters, but have you ever read an unabridged edition of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale?  Those were a couple of sick and twisted individuals (not to mention the audience that bought their stories to read to their children)!

One of my favorite books when I was little was The Little Gingerbread Man.  The story was first published in the May, 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine by an unknown author who claimed that a servant girl had told it to his or her children, and he or she felt it was worth preserving.  Apparently the servant girl claimed that an old lady told it to her in her own childhood.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, quite basically, it goes like this:  An old couple is hungry, and they have few ingredients on hand.  The wife uses the paltry amount of food in her kitchen and bakes a single gingerbread man for the two of them to share, but upon opening the oven, the gingerbread man jumps out and runs away.  He encounters several barnyard animals who all want to eat him, and as a pursuit ensues, the old couple and the animals chase the gingerbread man, but they aren’t as fast as he.  He inevitably tells them all, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.” Finally, having outrun all the hungry followers, he encounters a river, but he unfortunately can’t swim.  (That’s right.  Gingerbread cookies can, in fact, outrun even the fastest gazelles, but by golly, they don’t float!)  So a seemingly kind-natured fox offered to swim across the river, carrying the gingerbread man on his back.  The gingerbread man figured he’d be safe on the fox’s tail, but as the water got deeper, the fox persuaded him to climb higher, first to his back, then his head, then his nose, and of course you can guess the rest.  As the gingerbread man climbed onto the fox’s nose, the sly fox flipped him into the air, then snapped his mouth shut and ate the poor little guy.

(Yep, that’s me and my grandparents above.)

People who know me, know that my grandparents raised me from the time I was born, so I consider them both my actual parents.  And because my birth mother was their last child, they were older than a lot of my friends’ grandparents when they got me.  Now, the cool thing about living with my grandparents (which I didn’t appreciate until I was grown and had kids of my own) was that I got exposed to older culture than my peers.  And I’ve learned to truly appreciate the old-fashioned way of doing things.

My grandparents had already raised their kids and didn’t expect to have to take care of another one in their golden years.  So they weren’t necessarily equipped to look after an active child.  But, that turned out to be a good thing in the end.  You see, while other young children were hearing ’Twas the Night Before Christmas every December, I could count on Grandma reading me Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And while other little kids were hearing Jack and the Beanstalk as a bedtime tale, Granddaddy was reading me Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.  

If anyone ever questioned my grandma as to why she might find it appropriate to tell a young child such graphic stories, she wouldn’t hesitate to sing them a song that her mother used to sing to her and her siblings in the 1930s called “Babes in the Woods.”  This little ditty was apparently a true story of a couple of children whose parents died and left them in the care of their aunt and uncle.  But the uncle wanted their inheritance, so he told his wife that he sent them to live at a school in London, when in fact, he actually paid someone to take them into the woods and kill them!  It’s not unlike the original version of Hansel and Gretel where the children are actually eaten by the witch rather than them killing the witch and escaping as they do in the sanitized version.  And if The Tell-Tale Heart isn’t enough to give you nightmares, just take a look at the lyrics to Grandma’s song:

Oh, don’t you remember, a long time ago / Those two little babies, their names I don’t know / They were stolen away one bright, summer’s day / And left in a wood, so I’ve heard folks say

Chorus: Sweet babes in the wood / Sweet babes in the wood / Oh, don’t you remember / Those babes in the wood

Now the day being gone and the night coming on / Those two little babies sat under a stone / They sobbed and they sighed, they bitterly cried / Those two little babies they laid down and died Chorus

Now the robins so red, how swiftly they sped / They put out their wide wings and over them spread / And all the day long on the branches among / They sweetly did whistle and this was their song / Chorus

So, in conclusion, I don’t think I was depraved because I heard all these stories as a kid.  I actually think it enhanced my creativity.  Am I going to tone back my writing because someone might think it’s too intense?  Nevermore!