coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Prior to retirement we lived out in the country and had a cat door so our cats could come and go as they pleased.  We have co-existed with and loved many cats over the years.  Our all-time favorite was named Pooka.  We got her from a friend who had a farm where Pooka was born to be a barn cat.  She was quite young when we took her in; however, unlike all the other cats we have had before and since, she never ceased being feral.  As a result, few friends or family ever saw her.  She would quickly skedaddle outside when strangers arrived, leaving the cat door flapping in her wake.

She was a bit uncanny in the way feral animals are.  She clearly went her own way and had her own thoughts.  She was also a mighty hunter who loved roaming the wetlands near our land and often brought “presents” home to us.  This was especially true in the spring, which we came to refer to as the "Killing Season."

One spring morning during the Pooka years I got up for work and as I walked into the living room a garter snake slithered by in front of me and went under the couch.  I don't know about you, but this is not something I want to deal with at 7:15 a.m. or ever, for that matter.  Garter snakes are perfectly harmless, but there is still that wild, uncanny aspect to them; the same as mice.  Ick.  I was NEVER the kind of kid who picked up snakes by their tails and tossed them about.  Sorry, but in our house that is a job for Super T.  He was still asleep that morning and did not need to leave for work until long after I was gone.  I thought I would just go to work and then call and tell him it was there.  Right?

I reached to pull my coat off the coat rack and a chipmunk jumped out of my coat sleeve, dropped to the floor, and also ran under the couch.  I jumped back, breathing heavy.  Then I put on my coat and hightailed it out of there. 

The snake and chipmunk were never seen again.  My husband swears he never saw them.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Alligator Days

We have a friend from NYS coming to visit this weekend and I must clean, clean, clean this dirty house.  In lieu of writing a post I will share photos from a bike ride T and I took the other morning on the east side of Lake Apopka, a large lake near us in Orange County, Florida.  

There is a bike trail along that side of the lake and it is a good place to go if you want to see alligators in the wild. There are also snakes, bobcats, and coyotes living in this protected area around the lake. T has seen bobcats a couple of times. They are afraid of humans and run away when they hear us coming. It seems odd to me that there would be a public bike trail in a place with wild animals, but there is.

The animals seem to mind their own business. My hope is they perceive large fleshy creatures on wheels as too loud, fast, and big to bother with.  Sometimes I see people walking on this trail.  I don't think I would ever want to get off my bike there. I have a good healthy fear of predators.

First, here is my old man, T, biking up the trail in front of me. He is always way out in front, pedaling much faster than me. Now we have our smartphones with us so I if he gets too far ahead I can call him and tell him to slow down, for cryin' out loud!

We were having a great time, the weather was beautiful.

We saw an alligator’s head peaking out of the water.  Spotting an alligator is always exciting.  You can see it in the middle left section of the following photograph:

Here’s a cropped close-up in case you didn’t see the alligator's head in the first one:

We came to a rustic picnic area that has an overlook into a cove. 

Are you wondering what the sign says? Here is a close-up. Believe it or not there really are people foolish enough to try and feed the alligators. We have seen people do it despite the fact that feeding alligators is illegal and can result in a hefty fine. Plus it is just stupid to get that close to one.

Later we came to a crossroad and saw an alligator sunning itself out of the water on the bank of a canal.  It is hard to make out in the photo but it looks like a long black log smack dab in the middle of the photo below:

Here is another photo I took from nearly the same spot as the one above, but I took this one with my zoom lens, and then cropped the photo:

And finally here is the same photo even more cropped.  He seems to have curled his tail up around his body or he would appear much longer:

 It looks like it was a good day to be an alligator.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

On being disconnected

We gave up our landline phone recently.  We disconnected it and now we rely on our iPhones to communicate with the outside world. I have had a smartphone for almost 2 years, but I rarely turned it on before. 

I liked having a landline telephone. I do not particularly like talking on a cell phone.  The sound quality is not as good and I have this nagging fear that talking on wireless will eventually give me a brain tumor. But having the landline had become so unpleasant that we really had to get rid of it.

The people who owned this house before us went bankrupt and defaulted on their mortgage. Apparently they skipped out on a lot of other debt, too. After we moved in (a little over a year ago) and got our landline phone installed we started getting harassing and threatening phone calls from their creditors demanding to talk to those people who lived here before us. They asked for the previous owners by name, and they would not believe me when I said I was not that person nor did that person live here.

I could not figure out why the horrid bill collectors were calling OUR telephone number. We neither kept nor received the same number the previous owners used.  I guess the creditors must have used a reverse phone lookup, looking up the house number to find out what the current phone was for this address? That is the only thing I can think of.  But if those bill collectors are so clever with the Internet why couldn’t they find the telephone number for the previous owners?

For over a year we lived with the previous owners’ problems. We stopped answering the landline phone when it rang, instead relying on Caller ID to screen our calls. We continued to get creditor-related calls for the previous owners almost every day. Of course we also got the usual scam telephone calls daily simply because we are retired people who are home during the day. We were under siege.  Over time our phone situation began to drive me a little crazy.

One evening a few weeks ago I had to scramble out of the pool and run dripping wet into the house to grab the landline phone, thinking it must be a family member or a friend.  Who else would call in the evening? I did not make it in time, but the caller left a message.  My reward was a message from a nasty bill collector threatening me (actually not me, but you get the picture) with all sorts of legal actions. She left a return phone number. I usually know better than to call back – it gives them the idea that I am an easy mark. But I snapped.  Like a raving maniac I called her screaming and yelling, roaring that the people they wanted did not live here (and plenty more). I am not proud of myself.  I know it did no good, but I had a year's worth of pent up rage.  I was shaking when I hung up. It took me a long time to get to sleep that night.  Life is way too short for this kind of nonsense.  The next day I called our service provider and had the landline disconnected.

Disconnecting the landline phone did not save all that much money, so there is no windfall incentive to make me happy it is gone. I am only happy not to get the damn calls all day. I hate being forced to do something against my will. I resent not having the landline, but there you go.

I am adjusting to the iPhone. Now I charge it every night, turn it on every day (!), and keep it close by me at all times. I text now, too.  My daughter is delighted that I read and answer her texts in a more timely manner.  My tween granddaughter, who reportedly still exists but has not been seen in weeks, recently texted me from the depths of her darkened bedroom. It was thrilling. T texted me at the grocery store to pick up something he forgot to put on the list.  I messaged him some photos of our grandson riding a horse at the pumpkin farm yesterday.  And I took the *@!# picture with the phone!  If I get in an argument I can prove I am right wherever I may be as long as I can get a signal to google the question.  This is pure magic, people!  I urge oldsters everywhere to make the leap.  I have even texted a question and received an answer from my son-in-law, MV.  My grandson, N, will occasionally FaceTime me. This whole smartphone thing is much better than I thought it would be. I suppose it was past time for me to enter the modern world. Of course I entered it against my will, kicking and screaming all the way. But what else is new?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Bald Faced Lie

The little girl in me wanted to believe in Pope Francis, but she also wants to believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. I try to keep her in check because she is still a child and liable to get us in trouble. Still, I have to admit I have liked a lot of what Pope Francis has said and done since becoming Pope. I was following Francis in the media, with hope even, wondering what he would do next. Many of us ex-Catholics had been keeping an eye on him. Then he met with Kim Davis. 

For those of you from outside the States who may wonder what I am talking about, Kim Davis is an Evangelical Christian who is a minor elected official, a county clerk.  Among other things she is responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Rowan County, Kentucky.  In June, the U.S. Supreme court made the decision allowing gay people in all 50 States to get married. That has been problematic for Evangelical Christians in the so-called Bible Belt. After the ruling, Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in Rowan County because she would have to sign her name to the official document. She decided to break the law and ignore that fact that she was elected to perform a specific job because she does not want to break “God’s Law.” Hmmm, I do have an awful lot to say about religious arrogance and know-it-all-ism, but not right now.

Interestingly, because of the way the law works in Kentucky she cannot be fired for refusing to perform her duties.  She earns a lot of money for that relatively underprivileged part of the county ($80,000/year!) and refuses to just do the right thing and simply quit a job she feels she cannot perform.  Instead she wanted the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky to allow her to refuse to perform that portion of her job based on religious liberty.  The court refused and ultimately threw her in jail for contempt of court when she continued to deny gay couples marriage licenses.  She was released when she agreed to allow her underlings to issue licenses without her signature.  Unfortunately, she has not just gone away.  She is hanging on to the notoriety and keeps working her 15 minutes of fame. 

Perhaps most troubling is that she has allowed herself to become a poster child for the political aspirations of the extreme end of the religious right. Her lawyers belong to a firm that is officially listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  

Before I go on let me just say that I am absolutely in favor of religious freedom.  I disagree with her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay people, but I support her right to believe otherwise.  However, we live in a country that believes in the separation of church and state. She cannot choose to disobey the law of the land because of her religious beliefs. Polygamist sects would have a fit if she got do do that and they didn't.

In my humble opinion, since her job duties have lawfully changed and the job now offends her religious sensibilities she should quit the job. I think that would be the honorable and obvious thing for her to do.

Instead, Kim and her legal counsel used the recent visit of Pope Francis to the U.S.A. to manipulate the American public, to disrespect and embarrass both the Pope and the Catholic Church, and to further her cause. How did they do it? They tricked and blindsided the Grand Poobah of a major international religious institution. Wow!

Because of the liberal ideas Francis has been spewing there are many conservative elements within the Church hierarchy who dislike him.  Apparently they are also actively working against him.  A treacherous priest in charge of arranging meetings for him while he was in the USA seems to have colluded with Kim’s lawyers and got her a meeting with Francis. Then Kim and the lawyers went public with the meeting, making it appear that Pope Francis agreed with and was supportive of Kim. It is possible he did not even know who she was.

They lied and ruthlessly used the head of a world religion to further their cause.  Why would they feel comfortable doing something like that?  With all their self-righteous God talk, didn't they feel even a smidgeon of guilt about lying to millions of people?  How would they feel if a Catholic lied and used the Grand Poobah of their religion in a similar way?

In my opinion that is not their biggest transgression. Their biggest "accomplishment" was sewing seeds of doubt in the minds of untold numbers of non or ex-Catholic people about Pope Francis. Some will never fully believe in his sincerity again.  Some, like me, continue to feel foolish and gullible even after the revelation that Francis had been deceived and used.
It was a bit of a wake-up call.

I will admit I was charmed by the pre-Kim Davis Pope Francis. That little girl in me really wanted to like him.  She wanted to forget that he was the head of a religion that does not allow women to become priests, sees human sexuality as a necessary evil, is adamantly against birth control, and more things I do not agree with. What was I thinking?  Well, of course I was not thinking.  I was letting the little girl inside my head take charge, which is never a good idea.  I’m thinking she might have some Daddy issues…

When the lie first hit the media, Francis-friendly liberals all over the country were howling with indignation that they had been "played" by Pope Francis.  Smug conservatives kept saying, “What did you liberals expect?  This is the Catholic Church.  Francis is the head of it.  He has not changed any Church Doctrine.”  Yeah, well, you made your point. Shut up already! I hear you!

So anyway, if Kim and her lawyers had not met with the Pope and tried to use his words to manipulate the media, the modern world might have become a little different.  Imagine!  Some people may have continued believing Pope Francis was a sincere holy man, a heroic figure.  Some might eventually have found their way back to the Church, for better or for worse.  But The Vatican would have us believe that Kim and her lawyers did lie.  If that is true, as a direct result of Team Kim lying and deceiving us the world has now changed in an altogether different way.  Standards have been lowered.  The ministry of Pope Francis has been diminished after his ambush by Kim Davis and her Merry Men.

For the fun of it, let us imagine there is life after death and we will all have to account for our actions while we were on earth.  Man, I would hate to be in their shoes and try to explain and justify THOSE particular sins to St. Peter at the pearly gates.  I am waiting for the graphic novel.  It should be epic.