Monday, August 27, 2012

Tiffany' Soapbox: Parents in Public

tiffanys soapboxIt has been quite some time since I had a reason to get on my soap box.  Not because things did not get my ire up, but mostly because I have been to busy doing fun, happy stuff to dwell on any unpleasantness.  But I saw something on Saturday that really broke my heart, and has been weighing on me ever since.  So, I decided to sound off about it.

On Saturday, I was working with a friend who was an exhibitor at a mall.  You know, those little tables/booths you sometimes see selling specialty items?  Yeah, that was us.  So, we spent the entire day watching people at the mall.  Mostly benign, until I saw the following unfold.

A woman was walking along with her daughter (or so I presumed, turns out I was correct).  They were both fashionably dressed, carrying shopping bags full of stuff.  The woman stopped walking near a storefront, Yankee Candle, because she was talking on her iPhone.  It was clearly an unpleasant conversation, one that was getting progressively louder.  As the conversation went on, it became clear that she was fighting.  With the father of her children.  About money.  Not only was she doing this in public, she was doing it in front of her child.

The little girl was clearly humiliated.  She was hiding behind her mother, and pulling her hair to cover her face.  The mother was complaining about how much money she had to spend to get the kids prepared for the start of school.  She emphasized several times that she spent $40 on  a backpack for the little girl.  She was also chastising the dad for not being the one to spend the money.  Then she began complaining about the  weekends he was supposed to have visitation, and blew the kids off for his friends.

At this point, the girl silently slunk away from her mom, into a different store a couple of storefronts down from where her mom was.  But mom was too busy fighting with dad about the fact that she was a superior parent to even notice (how is that for irony).  She finally, loudly, ended the conversation by saying that the dad should continue spending his money on himself, and when his son fails in school because he cannot see the board due to not getting eyeglasses, he would be to blame.  The mom then stormed into Yankee Candle, oblivious to the fact that her daughter was gone.  It took her a full 5 minutes to notice.  And when she did notice, the first thing she said when she found the girl was "How could you do that to me?".  Once again, she was the victim.

I find so much wrong with this situation.  I am quite sure that this mother was frustrated, and perhaps had a valid and legitimate reason to have the above described discussion with the father of these kids.  But not in public.  In general, I find it in bad taste and highly uncomfortable when couples fight in a public setting.  Is it really that hard to say "We need to talk about this, but this is not the time or place.  We will discuss this in private."?

The bigger problem, I think, was her having this discussion in front of one of her children.  Perhaps this guy is a total crap father, but does her daughter really need to hear all that?  I am sure the girl has enough issues if the dad is as absent as the mother claims; listening to her mother complain about having to spend money on the kids is sure to create a feeling of guilt and it was creating obvious shame.  Perhaps this is the therapist in me talking, but people wonder why kids have self esteem issues, and become bullies.  This is a part of the problem.  If this woman was willing to have this conversation in public, my guess is she has the same one in front of her kids at home pretty frequently.  And I am not saying she does not have the right to feel frustrated or voice those frustrations.  I just think she should not do it in front of her kid.  The woman was too wrapped up in being the "better" parent to actually be a good parent.

I know plenty of parents who have these situations.  Absent parents, absent partners, both male and female. And the vast majority of the ones I know handle the situations with class and grace.  It is bad enough seeing your kid disappointed by their dad or mom and feeling helpless about it.  I am sure it creates fury.  And rightly so.  But sound off to your friends, or adult family members, not your kids.  The kids are hurting enough.

The unintentional message in this situation was "Daddy does not love you enough to buy your backpack, so Mommy has to do that.  And now I am mad because I have $40 less to spend on overpriced candles".  No wonder the girl slunk away.  I have a feeling she will be slinking all the way to a therapists office in a few years.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bats in the Belfry

It is hard to believe we have lived in our house for three years already.  The time has gone so fast, and I am amazed that our third wedding anniversary is approaching.  Over the past few years, we have had a slight ongoing issue, one which we will mistakenly think has gone away, but every now and again pops up to remind us that it still exists.

This problem is a bat.

You may remember the first time I spoke about encountering a bat in our home.  Hubby actually wrote a much more amusing tale of that initial bat encounter, complete with awesome reenactment photos.  This was our first full summer in our home, back when we only had Dexter and Nora.

Fast forward to last summer.  Either we never had a bat in our home, or we were blissfully unaware that the bloodsucking flying rat was there, because last summer, all was quiet.  

This summer, it has been a whole different story.  We have encountered the bat (or other bats) three times so far since June.  Each time, we get a little better at dealing with it in a manner that is quick and relatively painless for all involved.  This past weekend, we once again did battle, and this time, I got actual photos of it.


The funny thing with this bat situation is, we forget how awful the bat is, until it rears its ugly head again.  And the second we see it, all those awful memories of past encounters come rushing back.  We now have 3 animals to protect, as well as ourselves, so we never will be able to just ignore the bat completely, but we have been able to successfully get it away from us as quickly as possible, and carry on with our business.

I am not going to lie, each time I encounter the bat, it shakes me up a little.  I get nervous walking into the basement, peering up at the rafters and wondering if that terrible beast is enjoying peaceful slumber above my head.  I fear that it will fly into my hair, and send me doing a shrieking jig around the basement.

We have tried to determine where the bat is entering, so that we can block up the path, but since bats can squeeze their way into the tiniest of cracks, it is really impossible to turn our house into an impenetrable fortress.  All we can do is be aware that we may encounter this bat again, and be on guard.

One of my neighbors told me that, because we live near a river, the bats can be worse here, because we have more insects due to the closeness of the water.  I also think that having a basement makes us more likely to have bats, since the rafters are such a cozy place for them to roost.

All I know is, if we ever move, this bat is never getting our forwarding address.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Explorations: Relict Prairie

IMG_5320I remember once a few years ago hearing that there was some prairie land in Pennsylvania, and thinking that there must be some mistake.  Prairie and Appalachia do not seem to go together.  When I think prairie, I think Laura Ingalls Wilder, I think North Dakota, Montana, and Kansas, I think bison.  So, with all these thoughts about what and where a prairie might be running through my mind, imagine my surprise to find that not only is there prairieland in Pennsylvania, but that it is only about 45 minutes from my home.

The Jennings Environmental Center, near Slippery Rock, is a state park that allows preservation of and education about the ecosystem of its relict prairie.  "Relict" simply means it is what now survives of what was once a much larger ecosystem, meaning the prairie land was once much more expansive than it is today.  The  prairie is only about 20 acres, and it is the only protected prairie in Pennsylvania.  It helps protect some rare, and in a couple of cases endangered, species of plants and animals, including the blazing star flower.  In short, this land is a real treasure, and it is practically in our backyards.  We simply had to go visit it.


A few days ago, when I began to look into the details of the prairie, I learned that it was in full bloom, and would only be in full bloom for a short period of time.  So, off we went.  When we arrived, it seemed as if we were just going to any old wooded park. We found the entrance to the trails, and off we headed.  The majority of the trails are woodland trails, but the do lead to and connect with 2 trails through the prairie.  And there was no mistaking when we hit the prairie portion of the trails.  It was, in a word, dazzling.


The area opened up from trees into wide open fields, with the blue sky above.  The fields were ablaze with the vivid colors of many different plants and flowers, and several different types of butterflies were floating about.  Immediately, I began wishing I had a better camera.  But as it was, I did get to capture some truly gorgeous photos.



We walked the two trails through the prairie, which was about half a mile total.  Then, we ended up on the woodland trails.  I actually found the trails a little confusing, one constantly leading to another, to another, to another.  We had no map, so after walking in the woods for about an hour, I started getting a little nervous that we were walking in circles.  I pulled the map of the trails up on my phone, and we then found our way back to where we needed to be, and got to walk back through the prairie before returning to our car.

A few times in my life, I have experienced nature in a way that is so pure, and serene, that it cannot help to bring me joy.  In graduate school, I had a place where I could go, enjoy nature, and think about life.  I often find myself missing that place a lot.  In Celtic spirituality, there is a reference to a "thin place", a place where heaven and earth are most thinly divided, where man can easily experience the divine, where God and His majesty are most evident.  To me, I often find thin places in nature, and I feel certain that, in this beautifully preserved prairieland, I have found another.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Out of Town: Outer Banks (Part 2)

This continues my recap of our wonderful vacation earlier this summer.  Make sure you check out Part 1!

On day 5 of our vacation, we decided to head up north again, this time to visit Roanoke Island.  I had big plans for all the things we would do there, but I seriously underestimated how far of a drive it was.  It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get there, including the ferry ride.  Because we did not want to be away from the dogs too long, we decided that we would spend our time on Roanoke visiting the Elizabethan Gardens.  They were stunning!  We also took some time walking around Festival Park and taking in the sites before heading back to Ocracoke.  If we ever go back to the OBX, I really would consider staying in Roanoke or Manteo.  There is a ton to do and see, and it is not only cute but chock full of history.  We wanted to see the Lost Colony play, but it just was not feasible. (It was so bright that day, and the sky was cloudy, so all my photos look hazy and washed out, stupid white balance.)



Because we had been packing so much into our days, by day 6, we needed a day to just chill. We slept in, and then we walked over to a nature preserve on Ocracoke, called Springer's Point. This is allegedly the area where Blackbeard's treasure might be buried. We did not dig however, we simply enjoyed the view. We went to the beach later that day, and were shocked to find it compl full etely empty. We soon realized why; the winds were whipping sand all around and the water was too rough to venture into. We went out for a little date night for the best meal we had all week, dinner at Howard's Pub. I even got to see a bit of the sunset from their rooftop deck.




  Saturday, day 7, was our last full day of vacation, and we decided to make the most of it. We got up at 4:30 am, and went to the beach to watch the sunrise. Let me tell you, it was totally worth it. It was simply spectacular. We went back home, and Hubby took a nap, while I walked to a part of the island we had not seen, the houses there were so lovely. Then, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. Which was great, until I realized I had a horrendous sunburn. It made it tough to get a good night's sleep.



  The next morning, it was time to say goodbye. We headed out pretty early, and on our way back up through the Outer Banks, we drove through the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge. Sadly, we did not see much wildlife. We spent the car ride home dealing with two car sick puppies, and my terrible sunburn. Still, it was all worth it.




I have spent a lot of time trying to determine what my favorite part of the trip was, and I have come to the conclusion that there was not favorite part.  It was all amazing, every last second of it.  I am so happy that Hubby and I had such an amazing week.  While we are not the kind of people to go to the same place every time, and we like to have variety in the trips we take, I do hope someday we return to the Outer Banks.  We had an amazing time, from the car ride there, to the ocean knocking me down (quite a few times), to eating dinner at our beach house.  I would not change a minute of it, not even the sunburn.


Feel free to check out my photos from the whole trip here. There are many really great pics, but a word of warning, there are over 1000 pictures total!

Out of Town: The Outer Banks (Part 1)

I cannot believe I put off writing about our vacation for over a month now.  I guess I did not want to come to terms with the fact that it is over.  Also, that is the same reason I am citing for still having sand in the trunk of our car.  I am splitting it into two posts, so that it won't be as long or as picture laden.

Since we started dating, Hubby and I have been fans of taking small extended weekend trips, but had never gotten to take a big vacation.  Partly, this was due to the fact that Hubby was never able to get a week's vacation in the summer time.  Last yer, however, Hubby changed positions at work, which meant he was only competing with a few other people for vacation availability.  He was able to get a vacation time in June, so off to the beach we went!

I volunteered to do all the driving on the way down.  I was so excited to go, we actually left an hour early.  We loaded the bags, put the dogs in the car, and off we went.  Our destination was Ocracoke Island, which meant 14 hours of driving, a 40 minute ferry ride, then a short drive down the island to our beach house.  We actually arrived several hours early, but I called the reality office and told them we were going to be early.  They let us check into our house 5 hours early, so that really gave us half a day extra, which was so awesome.  We spent that first day unpacking, exploring the island, grabbing some dinner, and then, we went to the beach.  I had not set foot on these shores in 12 years, so it was good to be back!



The next day, we got up, ate breakfast (we ate most of our meals in), and headed out for a busy day.  We went to Teach's Hole (the Blackbeard museum), the Preservation Society Museum, the Visitor Center, and the British Cemetery as well as some family cemeteries, explored the streets and shops, and ended the day with an amazingly romantic sunset cruise.  The island is so quaint, and full of history.  It is necessary to take a ferry to access it, and most people either walk, bike, or ride golf carts to get around the island.  I just love it there!



On Tuesday, we ventured north into other areas of the Outer Banks.  We took the ferry to Hattaras, to visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum, the Hattaras Lighthouse, the Bodie Lighthouse, and the Pea Island Nature Preserve.  Back on Ocracoke, we also visited the wild pony pens, and of course the beach.  We actually took the dogs to the beach that day, and they were unimpressed.




Wednesday morning was a pretty exciting start to the day.  I had decided to go para sailing.  Hubby opted to stay shore and watch.  The rest of the day was really low key.  In late afternoon, we went to the beach, just to walk and take some amazing pictures.  Like the big kids we are, we spend some time writing in the sand, and admiring some sand sculptures.  We stayed on the beach and watched the sunset.




So that is a brief summary of the first half of our vacation.  I cannot even put into words how wonderful and relaxing it was.  I loved the fact that we stayed in a beach house, which felt so homey.  We were able to cook healthy foods, snuggle up with our dogs, and just relax.  Out internet was not working at the house, which was a blessing in disguise, because we really just got to unplug.  Stay tuned to hear about the rest of the trip, and feel free to check out my photos from the whole trip here.  There are many really great pics, but a word of warning, there are over 1000 pictures total!