The Mind of Anne

July 24th, 2014 Now I See Flamingos

Now I see flamingos. If you haven’t heard about my affinity to see things that aren’t there, see this blog post: I See Penguins – Where the Crazy Is. But I think these were actually real. Just last week I was standing on my deck talking to my neighbor when, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a pair of flamingos. Directly. Overhead. They looked like the flamingo in this photo.

flamingo-flight-2
Flamingo in Flight – 10,000 Birds

I (who knows something about birds) was astounded as my neighbor (who knows nothing about birds) starting yelling, “I’ve never seen anything like those before!” And I started yelling for Nice Husband Bill (who knows everything about birds.) He had just stepped inside moments before but by the time he came back out, the birds were long gone. What a difference 10 seconds makes.

So now the conundrum. Do I say I saw flamingos on the New Jersey shore? (I think I just did.) Or were they actually swans or funny flying egrets with a perplexing pink and red undercarriage? Or just chalk it up to The Mind of Anne?

Nice husband Bill consoled me by revealing that some friends of ours who live just a few miles away claimed to have seen flamingos by their house. But that was years ago.

Then there is the joke about Birdsnap. If you don’t know about Birdsnap, it’s a bird identification app that uses facial recognition to help would-be birders identify birds that they spot. There is much debate in the birding world whether this app will create lazy birders on one hand or spur on more interest in birding on the other. I tested it out and for me there is no concern warranted for either camp. Birdsnap identified an English Sparrow on my feeder as a Wild Turkey and a House Wren as an Eastern Screech Owl. There is some work to be done there. It just hasn’t worked for us. But we’ve had great fun calling all the sparrows and wrens we’ve spotted by their turkey and owl Birdsnap names. (Someday a real birder is going to hear us and take away our birding privileges.)

Perhaps I am the human version of Birdsnap – seeing flamingos that in reality are something quite different. But I was so very sure. So for now, I hang out on the deck, eyes to the sky waiting for another chance, hopefully this time I’ll have a camera in hand or at least have a more reliable witness nearby. After all, I see penguins and now flamingos where they couldn’t possibly be.

PS – After I wrote this I took a break. I heated something in the microwave while rinsing out the sink with the sprayer. I inadvertently caught the faucet with the sprayer hose and turned off the water at the same nanosecond the microwave stopped. My brain went straight to the assumption that I must have tripped a circuit breaker causing both events. Yes, that would be electricity and water. My husband saw my confusion and I confessed where my brain went. He just shook his head in disbelief. Any semblance of credibility I had with that man is now completely gone.

March 6th, 2014 I See Penguins – Where the Crazy Is

Penguin

I’m getting an MRI of my head tomorrow morning, presumably for an inner ear thing. I told my darling adult children what was going on and the immediate response from my lovely daughter was, “Oh they’ll get a good look at where the crazy is!” And my son, whom I lovingly call the Pirate, cannot stop laughing. Nice kids!

I’ve always been a little bit quirky. Those who know and love me just shake their heads and accept the mind of Anne. I often tell people about the ridiculous things that are going on in there regardless of how embarrassing it is or how stupid or crazy it makes me appear. Mostly because it’s funny. Then there is the penguin.

Nice Husband Bill and I row a double sculling skiff up and down the river all summer for exercise. We also get great joy at spotting birds and animals. So it was perfectly natural when I glanced off my port side shoulder and saw a penguin. Yes, a penguin. Penguins are not indigenous to our area. Nor are they normally found within thousands of miles of us except in zoos. Yet that is what I saw.

Upon taking a closer look, I realized my penguin was actually a small boat buoy – white on the bottom, black on the top. The mooring eye where you would normally attach a boat line was bent way over so it looked very much like my penguin’s beak. I could have kept it to myself but I told Nice Husband Bill so he got a chuckle too.

Then I couldn’t stop seeing that penguin. Even knowing that buoy was there, every time we rowed upriver, I’d glance over my shoulder and think, “Oh, a penguin!” as I jumped with surprise and almost dropped my oar. Time after time, season after season.

Nice Husband Bill just got used to me losing my mind for a moment as we passed the penguin. He used the penguin as a navigational marker – “Do you want to turn around at the osprey nest or cut it short at the penguin?”

Then one day the penguin was gone. The people who owned it replaced it with a round red-and-white buoy that looks nothing like a penguin. The magic is gone. We lament the demise of the penguin but anyone who knows will never let me forget about it. And that’s OK. I embrace the crazy.

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December 31st, 2013 Thanks to Pepper Davis

Apollos Softball - Me (back row, 4th from right)

Apollos All-Star Softball – Me (back row, 4th from right)

In one of those articles about people who died in 2013, I came across Pepper Davis, the inspiration for Geena Davis’ role in the movie, “A League of Their Own.” In reading the article
NPR: League Of Their Own’ Inspiration Didn’t Mind A Dirty Skirt, I experienced all those warm feelings of being a female athlete, combined with the bitterness of unkind things people said or did. Note my experiences were in the 1960s and early 1970s. Whereas Pepper’s experiences were in the 1940s.

To set things straight:

  • Although it would have been easier and more advantageous to be a boy, I didn’t actually want to be one. I just liked playing sports and evidently had some skill at it. I felt very left out and perplexed when all the boys I had been playing baseball with for years went off to Little League. There was an assumption that with the uniform came inherent skill. Boys I could outhit or outfield one day suddenly acted like they were better than me because they were on real teams and I was not, all the while ignoring the fact that I wasn’t allowed to join those teams.
  • The fact that a girl is strong and able doesn’t make her a lesbian. She could be a lesbian but athleticism has nothing to do with it.
  • Just because a girl is good at sports, she isn’t necessarily a dumb jock, insensitive or singly focused on athletics. That goes for male athletes too. It is very hurtful to have your opinions discounted by schoolteachers who have made those assumptions.
  • The boy’s teams at my high school suited up in the finest uniforms, warm-up suits, etc. while barely winning a game all season. In comparison, the girl’s teams won the conference championship and went to the quarter finals of the State Championship in gym suits (dresses with bloomers) with felt numbers pinned to our backs. This was just poor form. It hurt our feelings but made it easier to rally for proper uniforms for the next season.
  • There wasn’t a college scholarship to be found for any of the girls. It wasn’t fair but perhaps without the pressure to score those scholarships, we had more fun.

In spite of all that and much more, I wouldn’t trade my athleticism for anything. As an adult, I am strong and able. I have a can-do attitude. I am tenacious. I know the value of fair play and I am inspired by teamwork. A lot of this was honed during my days playing team sports.

Attitudes have definitely changed. The pursuit of athletic excellence is open to both boys and girls. Not so much as professionals but it’s getting there. The concept of the student athlete and the recognition that there may be some intelligence behind a person who can handle themselves in sports was very welcome. I have to hand it to men as well. Although there are still dinosaurs, I’ve observed many more men interested in women who do well in sports.

For me, I took my opportunity while coaching my daughter’s softball team. One of the other coaches was particularly picky about the rules to the point of making what should’ve been a fun game into a painful ordeal for the coaches, the umpires and more importantly, the girls. I took her aside and tried to explain that these girls were going to grow up and talk about these times as fun and inspirational or maybe as unpleasant and a poor example of adult behavior. To put it bluntly, I was not going to have a bunch of girls thinking I was a total bitch and I didn’t think she wanted that either. She ignored my advice and that prophecy has come true for her.

I’d like to think the women I coached as girls learned a few things. I wanted them to learn the fundamentals of the game, teamwork and fair play. And we even won a few games, quite a few games. But they also saw that a woman can hit a ball over the fence, field a steaming grounder and still have a husband, a job and be a mommy, among other things. There were many teaching moments and we became a team.

During my coaching years, the movie “A League of Their Own” was released. The girls took it on as their own. They quoted lines. They were proud to be part of something. They loved the camaraderie. Their team attitude extended off the field and girls who had been teased in school were now defended by their teammates. And they became comfortable with their very able bodies.

So to Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis and all the women like her who led the way, I thank you.

December 5th, 2013 Wanderlust and the Art of Planning an Adventure

The Duomo - Florence, Italy

The Duomo – Florence, Italy

It hits me so often I begin to wonder if I was meant to be a nomad. I get that anxious feeling that I’m missing something or life is passing me by or there are things out there I need to see . . . NOW. Yes, I am suffering with a terrible case of wanderlust today. I need an adventure.

When I travel I lean more toward adventures in nature, seeing the countryside, getting to know the people. There are the occasional trips to lie on the beach and veg. Or trips that are art-heavy. But for the most part, my trips will include hiking and biking and kayaking and wildlife viewing – not in an extreme sports kind of way but certainly active adventures. My theory is that I can be warm and dry and rested at home. Vacations should be a bit of a stretch for me.

Impalas - Okavango Delta, Botswana
Impalas – Okavango Delta, Botswana

Here are some basic steps I take in pulling together my adventures that many would call a “trip of a lifetime”:

Take inventory: I always keep a short list of places I can’t live without seeing soon. And then there’s the long list of destinations that require a lot more planning and cash. Locations shift between the lists as I read more, study more, yearn more. Today’s short list includes India, Ireland, Israel, France and the American West. I seem to have a thing for countries starting with I – I’ve already been to Iceland and Italy.

Figure out what you want to see and do: This is where I focus on the short list. I gather intel from the Internet, TV, magazines and talking to people. I sign up for info from travel sites, outfitters, tourism boards, etc. and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. I have an email folder, a folder on my computer and physical folders packed with info. At some point I make a list of places to go, things to see, experiences I must have for each of the destinations on my list. This is a long-term project and there are many destinations in the research phase at any given time.


Tocorime - Brazil

Tocorime – Brazil

Choose your destination: The destination chosen is more art than science. I don’t necessarily pick a country because I’ve done the most research on it but sometimes I do. There might be a good deal on a trip or airfare that pushes me toward a destination. It might be some particular activities that get me excited. It might be someplace my Nice Husband Bill wants to go. And more often than not, the destination isn’t chosen until more of the following steps are completed. However, eventually I have to commit to SOMETHING.


Puffins - Stykkishólmur, Iceland

Puffins – Akureyri, Iceland

Decide who is going: After I’ve done the research and get close to choosing my destination, I start talking about the potential trip. I generally keep the discussion to my husband and two adult children to start. I may include friends including those I’ve met on previous trips who were particularly fun travel companions. We toss around dates and activities. I’ve noticed that people are pretty non-committal during this stage. Most of my friends and family are AOK with me doing the research and planning.


Corolla, Shamana for villages surrounding San Regis, Peru

Corolla, Shamana for villages surrounding San Regis, Peru

Decide when to go: This is where I pull out the maps and scour the Internet for average temperature and precipitation charts. I look at what I’ll be doing and map that into the equation. For instance, I chose mid-June to go on safari in Tanzania because it was just past the rainy season but not so much into the dry season that it would be too dry and dusty. I went to Iceland in July because it was warm, relatively speaking, and had nearly 24 hours of daylight. Of course this plan excluded seeing the northern lights because it was never dark out. High season in any destination is going to be during the ideal weather conditions so you may have to pay more during this time. You might have to deal with crowds if you’re going to more touristy or city excursions. Choosing dates just outside the high season can keep the costs from being prohibitive. Other times you just have to go when you can go. For instance, I went to Italy in August because that’s when my daughter was going to be there on a work project. It was super hot but we were going for the art anyway.


Humpback whale - North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

Humpback whale – North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

Choose to self-guide or hire an outfitter: This is pretty straightforward. If the adventure is easy for me to plan, I’ll plan it myself. If I’m looking to go to a third-world country or the arrangements are complicated, I’ll probably use an outfitter. Language may or may not be a barrier. However, sometimes an outfitter has a trip set up that includes nearly everything I want to see and do plus they drive you around and set up where you’ll sleep. Some even include airfare. If there isn’t a huge premium for these services, I might just pick that option.


Rappelling Waterfalls -Turrialba, Costa Rica

Rappelling Waterfalls -Turrialba, Costa Rica

Make a commitment: Gather up all your materials. Get comfortable with your choices. Make sure your traveling companions are comfortable. Then take the leap. Put your deposits down. Make reservations. Then get ready for a busy and exciting time as the weeks and months tick by till you’re ready to go on your adventure.

I’ll be writing future posts detailing the self-guide and outfitter options plus tips on preparing for adventures. For now, I’ve successfully moved my wanderlust from an itch I need to scratch to one I need to slather with Calamine lotion. So off I go to step 1 – Ireland seems high on the list today.

November 11th, 2013 Going Feral

Nice Husband Bill was out of town for a whole week on his annual excursion. I just got him back yesterday. Although I miss him when he’s away, I look forward to doing a boatload of things I ordinarily just can’t get to. I always make an exhaustive list of things TO DO and figure if I miss a few, it’s a good list to continue on when Nice Husband Bill is back.


TO_DO

I make my big TO DO lists whether he’s going away for a day or a week. Sometimes I get big projects done like refinishing all the kitchen cabinets or smaller things like taking the 15 minutes to put the goo on my headlights so they get nice and clear instead of the yellow tinge I’ve looked at for a year.

Then there are times (like this one) where I make the list and then go a bit feral. The list had all sorts of great things on it:

  • eBay madness
  • Winterize the car
  • Getting the garden ready for the winter
  • Steam cleaning all the rugs
  • Latching all the windows
  • And on and on.

You get the idea.

Then there were promises I made to myself to exercise every day – both yoga AND Zumba. Jumpstart that diet.

I did NONE of that.

What I did do:

  • I ate frozen potpies or ordered Chinese for dinner so I wouldn’t mess up the kitchen and have to subsequently clean it.
  • I showered but wore what I call “less restrictive clothing” (read: a half step above PJs) and didn’t style my hair unless I was going out.
  • Even though it was chilly, I turned the heat up and didn’t make a single fire in the wood stove.
  • A lot of days I didn’t leave the house and just hung out with the dogs and the cat.

Yet I was pretty productive even in my feral state, just on things I felt like doing rather than what was on the list.

Most notably:

  • I caught up on two very time-intensive classes on coursera.org – video lectures, reading, essays and forum participation.
  • I joined a book club and read this month’s book in its entirety – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
  • I downloaded a bunch of books, which prompted me to clean up and reorganize my Kindle.
  • I finished my Dr. Who marathon catch-up leftover from a previous feral period. I am ready for the 50th Anniversary Special on November 23 and the subsequent season.
  • I went into New York for three dates at the American Ballet Theatre and one at the New York Philharmonic.
  • I was all over the Internet (lots of new ideas for future lists) and Facebook (Hopefully I was entertaining, supportive, thought-provoking . . .).
  • I listened to music I hadn’t listened to in years – Lou Reed and stuff that fell out of my rotation for some unknown reason – plus music I hadn’t heard before (many downloads followed).
  • I found my piano music – no more excuses for ignoring the piano keyboard that sits no more than two feet from my elbow. (I didn’t actual play but I’m ready to.)
  • I saved my iPhone from its attempt at learning to swim.

And the most important of all: I set up this blog.

I feel rejuvenated after my week of being feral. And now that Nice Husband Bill is back and life is normal again, it may be time to start working on that list. Maybe.