27 June 2010


When I was in 2nd grade I went to school with a boy named Buddy.   I lived in a small railroad town, after railroad towns were no longer a way of life, in the Steel City, around the time that Steel was becoming an import. The seventies, middle class existed and the eighties, cash was king.  Madonna was going to be the material girl, and I was too.  Everyone was on their way up to the things money could buy.

My neighborhood was small, on the low end of middle class.  Only two or three families went to private school.  Everyone had a car and a television, and most of the people on my street had a VCR in the early eighties, except us.  Around the time families were purchasing second cars, we got one that had air and working doors.  Our Scout in the seventies had side benches in the back for seats and a web of bungee cords keeping the doors closed.

This wasn't actually our Scout, but it looked something like this w/more rust.  
Image: Barry's Project Flikr.com

Manor Bank.  Located at the bottom of the hill, across from Buster's Candy Store, and across the tracks from the Volunteer Fire Department and the big playground.

My family moved into a HUD house on a quiet cul de sac with lots of kids our age.  I was a baby then.  Our stability and income fluctuated, but only slightly and on the higher end of poor.  My father was a steel hauler, and the unions and picket lines were part of my upbringing.  My dad had to make tough decisions about being a scab, crossing the picket line to feed his family, or joining the union, fighting for steel hauler's rights.  I doubt my dad realized times would change with or without his help, but he always chose trying to find a way to feed his family.  He was involved in mafia related trucking and at one point in my childhood his truck was stolen and blown up.  The church brought groceries from the food pantry and the WIC program gave us processed cheese.  The late seventies, my little sister was born.

Only a few people in my community had less than us, and they really were on the wrong side of the tracks.  I actually remember pitying them.  Usually these poorer people came with other circumstances, broken homes, drinking, drugs, handicaps, mom's with boyfriends.  They lived at the bottom of the hill, across the tracks, near the Legion, the Volunteer Fire Hall, and Elsie's bar.  My mother would whisper their sin when we talked about their sad circumstances on the way to buy her cigarettes with rolled change at Buster's  newspaper/candy store in route to Wednesday night church.

In this picture, to the left is the right side of the tracks.  I lived at the top of Mt. Manor.

Buddy obviously came from the bottom of the hill.  He lived above the big playground in a house that sat on a dirt road that wasn't really a road.  Buddy was really smart, so was I.  He raised his hand a lot; so did I.  When Mrs. Parks called on him, I seethed with jealousy.  He was always in my advanced reading group, but Buddy had obstacles, his mother had boyfriends, he was poor.  Buddy was my mirror, and I didn't like what I saw.  If only one of us would get out of our circumstances through intellect it needed to be me.  His hands were dirty.  His face was dirty.  He was tan, with blonde hair, his clothes, his skin, just dirty.  I remember thinking when I grow up to be a teacher I'm never going to call on Buddy.

This weekend, eleven year old Tanner, from Ninety-Six, revelled in the beauty of kayaking with the dolphins in the marsh, strolled around downtown under a full moon, heard ghost stories about the city jail, climbed a tree, played marco polo in the pool, and ate fried fish under the building at Bowen's Island.  He visited with his step mother Bobby Jo from Ninety-Six, and her two children by his father.

Tanner has every reason to be angry with the world.  His real father is in Afghanistan and the kids at school make fun of him for it.  His mother married his father's brother, so the kids at school also tease him about his uncle/daddy.  He said he wished his parents were physical; they just lay around and drink and sleep all the time. He doesn't have a bike, but he would like one.  Instead of being hostile, violent or aggressive, he was grateful, hopeful, kind.  His manners weren't polished, but he was agreeable.  He knew about things like women's periods and made inappropriate comments about them.  His grandma made comments about buying darkies.   He said he didn't go to church, but he would like to.  He asked for grapes at the grocery store.  He didn't want to wear his life jacket in the river, but I insisted.  He doesn't wear a helmet on his dirt bike; I have no say, but John insisted he should.  He strangely at one point said Jake was racist.  Tanner reminded me to call on Buddy when he raises his hand.

Greenish Blue

Two weeks ago, I switched to reusable water bottles for good.  I will not purchase a bottle of water.  I've also vowed not to carry plastic bags out of any store; I bring my own.  I'm looking for greener living, and here is why.  These images of plastic in the Northern Pacific, plus the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and my enjoyment of kayaking have lead me to rid my life of the conveniences that are harmful to nature.  I'm just starting.

The below photos taken by Chris Jordan from http://www.webofentertainment.com/2009/10/ocean-of-plasticin-birds-guts.html

The Plastic Problem
Conservationists estimate that 40 percent of Laysan albatross chicks die because they have been fed plastic.

Everyone's Problem
Every year, 260 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean, (not only from coastal regions) much of it carried from inland areas by rain runoff, streams, and rivers.

Eliminating the use of plastic disposables like water bottles and shopping bags, buying products made from recycled plastic with little or no packaging, ensuring non-recyclable plastic is disposed of in secure containers, and recycling all plastic than can be.

The problem of Oil:

photos taken from 

A sea turtle in oil

A brown pelican covered in oil

A brown pelican giving up

Hermit crabs

The dispersants worry me more than the oil:

taken from http://www.propublica.org/article/bp-gulf-oil-spill-dispersants-0430

"Dispersants are mixtures of solvents, surfactants and other additives that break up the surface tension of an oil slick and make oil more soluble in water, according to a paper published by the National Academy of Sciences. They are spread over or in the water in very low concentration – a single gallon may cover several acres."
"Once they are dispersed, the tiny droplets of oil are more likely to sink or remain suspended in deep water rather than floating to the surface and collecting in a continuous slick. Dispersed oil can spread quickly in three directions instead of two and is more easily dissipated by waves and turbulence that break it up further and help many of its most toxic hydrocarbons evaporate."

My goal:  A zero waste lifestyle.

26 June 2010

Meditation Chair

Meditation Chair

Gardening & Docking Saturday @ Peas Island

Jake's banana peppers

My zuchinni

Abbey's sidewalk art


Abbey's float

Full Moon @ The Battery

When I look up

Behind a live oak @ White Point Gardens

Full Time Living Part Time Work

I kayak through the marsh, training for the Folly Beach Challenge 2010 (Triathlon) in October.

I'm looking for any sign of oil weaseling into my paradise. And then I shudder because I'll find what I'm looking for, I always do, but then what?

Keep in mind I'm paranoid, but I saw what I thought was an oily film on the still water of the marsh, and a few globs.  Then, I noticed 2 or 3 little blue crabs floating in that same mess.

In an unrelated observation a week later, 2 big blue crabs floating upside down by the dock (6/25/2010).

These could be normal occurrences.  I'm observing now.

The more I practice meditation, the more the fibers inside me ache when I think of the destructive nature of men and greed. My own destructive guilt is in the past, for if I had to face the harm I've inflicted on life, I couldn't look. In this moment though, life is.

I have faith in Nature's rehabilitative techniques. She will prevail.
My shell will not last, but I will.

25 June 2010

Team JJAM Won The Urban Assault Race Charlotte

June 20, 2010
Nothing changes an outlook like victory!

Sunday, Father’s Day, a day both my children and I would like to sleep through, and instead we raced in a 25 mile urban assault of Charlotte NC on our bicycles and won the race. Jake, 7 years old, raced on a single speed 20” BMX bike. Abbey, John and I all had sufficient equipment, and many bikers commented on the aesthetics of my Electra Amsterdam, but no one saw us as competition. Neither did I really.
Saturday we packed the car and headed to Charlotte. We arrived at Brazzell’s bar for packet pickup about 15 minutes before it ended. There we made buttons, got backpacks and water bottles, and sent ourselves post cards. A fun detail of festival events is the free stuff. I’m very into Neoprene water bottles, recycling and creating less waste, so my favorite pick up in the free gear was the UAR water bottle. Jake seems to be a big fan of his pimp hat. Abbey wants my TShirt. I also grabbed a tube of Fat Tire chap stick every time I walked by that table.

I spent the rest of Saturday negotiating with Abbey and Jake. While I realized this was going to be very fun, I also knew that it would challenge my children’s physical and mental capabilities. At least once I said to Abbey that she would be rewarded greatly. I maybe promised her ice cream, a movie, and shopping if only she would compete with a good attitude. I of course knew that Abbey could do it and enjoy it, but it’s been a pattern in my house that if it’s something I want, no matter how much fun it is, Abbey and Jake complain about it the entire time. Ruiners is what I call them. In the end, they enjoy the event, kayaking with the dolphins, riding in some scenic location, hiking in the mountains to a waterfall, but they refuse to open their hearts to pure enjoyment. Finally at dinner Abbey said, “I’m just sayin… I’m actually looking forward to this, could you please stop.” The negotiating stopped, but I was not confident that good attitudes would follow us through this event.
Sunday morning, an early start. At 7 o’clock Jake and John donned their matching Mr. Blue Skyyyyy outfits, khaki cargo shorts and black dry fit shirts. Abbey and I, The Scene, decided against matching, and then when we saw the girls in the Wonder woman and Bat girl costumes at the event, we knew we had made the right choice. It was going to be 90+ degrees, so we went with tank tops and shorts.
Earlier in the week we received an email with clues and a quiz for start time leads. I took the quiz for both John & I and somehow, he got 2 points better than me on the test. So we took his stickers for our helmets and got a head start. Except we didn’t really. We waited for Bill & Kelly Platt and their family on their tandem bikes.
Bill and Kelly and their children  didn’t register until the last minute.   Only Bill and Mia registered as Planet Platt; Kelly rode with Mia (7) on a tandem and Bill carried their toddler Liam on his bike. Bill was going to be our fearless leader. And ultimately he did a good job jetting us around the city. But in the end when we won, I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about taking 1st and 2nd place while Platt planet was awarded third. I felt uncomfortable when Bill was trying to take extra prizes for his children at the sock table. I’m not really a rule follower, but I have respect for events like this.
The event took us around the outskirts of Charlotte to a number of physical and mental obstacles. We built a puzzle at the Common Market, we tossed newspapers at the Bike Source stop, we had a human bowling experience at Smelly Cat Coffee, with Abbey and Jake as the ball on a skate board, and we pushed them into the pins. We went down a water slide and swam a lap at Rays Splash Planet, in our clothes. John and Bill chased a man wearing an Afro and a Tutu around booty loop at Queens college, and we eventually caught him too. He said he liked my Electra. We played piggy back polo at the final common Market. And we found a bead at Abbey’s favorite statue in Charlotte at the Art museum. We raced bigwheels around a course and dove through a jump castle to the finish line. At the party Jake entered the mini bike limbo contest. Irony, only because one of his pre race complaints was he didn’t know if he could do this because he was very afraid of the mini bike limbo, what if he got hurt? He was the first person in line, and in the finals for the contest. My goal was to simply make it to all seven checkpoints in the allotted 3 hours.

While standing in the hot dog line, I heard my name called from the stage. Did he just say my name? Abbey came running from her rest position on the wall. “The Scene” he said; we won. As I walked to the stage, I was smiling, no, laughing, with giddiness. He kept calling names, Mr. Blueskyyyyy, Planet Platt. Now we were all laughing. We biked all over the city, had a great time, and won.
Once during the race, Bill’s son Liam, maybe 3 years old, said, Dad, look a comic book store, can we go there? Bill replied, no we are in a race. Later Mia, their 6 year old said, I have to pee. Bill asked, really bad, Mia replied, no not really bad. Bill said, hold it then, we’re in a race. The thing is, it never seemed like we were racing to me. It felt like we were riding, enjoying, competing with the ever approaching end time, but not racing.

After biking 25 miles, in the final event, while diving through a tube in a jump castle, I bent my thumb back and bruised it. Later while walking up the street to dinner, maybe slightly complaining about it, and also maybe mentioning that my legs felt like Jello and I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it to the movies, Jake gave me some of my own advice. It’s all in your head momma, if you think you can you will. Ouch. It’s working. They are listening.