Wednesday, September 29, 2010

High-tech hicks

My sister and I were talking while watching various relatives play cornhole* during the recent Hensley family reunion at the dinner-on-the-ground** site of Catron's*** Chapel Baptist Church in Kermit,**** Va. My sister, Johnita, recounted a conversation with her 16-year-old daughter Megan (my beloved niece):

Johnita: Christina said her son Hunter has the ability to hypnotize chickens.
Megan: Where'd you hear that?
Johnita: Aunt Virgie told Dad up at the molasses-making.
Megan: God we're hicks.

That bold truth bothered me when I was Megan's age, and it's likely that I wouldn't have uttered it aloud at 16.

Both sides of my family, Hensley and Blessing, settled in this country about 200 or so years ago and they've been in the Southwest Virginia-Northeast Tennessee area since before the Civil War. (My mom still has the document my however-many-greats Grandfather Blessing signed re-pledging his allegiance to the United States of America after the war ended. It's cool.)

We are far closer to the Clampetts than to the Southerners portrayed in "Gone With the Wind" - if either of those works of fiction ever truly bore resemblance to real people. Both sets of grandparents still had functional outhouses during my lifetime, farming was a way of living, and Grandma kept chickens until the day she died.

By no means am I saying that when I was Megan's age I was embarrassed by my country family. Far from it. I simply longed to be sophisticated, much like the beautiful women I admired in all those classic black-and-white movies.

Ever seen the TV series "Green Acres?" I identified with Lisa. Still do somewhat, to be honest. "New York is where I'd rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay ..."

It warms my soul that my darling niece embraces our family, even though it would be more accurate to say we are "high-tech hicks."

Every 21st-century innovation exists here, and at this point a great many of my relatives probably would have a very difficult time minus their cell phones, 200 channels, high-speed Internet and the like. Cousin's pimped-out pickup truck sporting a gun rack includes Sirius Satellite Radio, TomTom and cell phone integration. You get the picture.

God we're hicks.

Yes, sweetie, we are. Now would you PLEASE put down your iPod Touch and cell for just FIVE minutes?

* Cornhole is a game in which approximately 5-inch-square, cloth bags of corn are tossed toward an angled wooden target, about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, with a hole about three-fourths of the way to the top. Similar to horseshoes, but even more countrified if that's possible.
** Dinner on the ground is what most Baptists (and likely many other non-Catholic and non-Episcopalian groups but for sure Baptists) call the semiannual after-Sunday-church-take-lots-of-homemade-food-outside-and-eat-until-you-can't-move ritual. Prayerful potlucks, as it were.
*** Pronounced "Catern's."
**** That's right: Kermit.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Screaming echoes of a girly-girl

When I was quite young, I was very much a girly-girl. For years, I refused to wear anything but dresses and skirts – except for a very cute red top and blue jeans combo number that I recall from first grade – and I always wanted my hair to be JUST SO. Pink and red were my favorite colors, I very much wanted a mahogany four-poster bed with frills as well as a big, white furry cat to lie upon it, and I hated it when my family called my Andie instead of Andrea.

I, now the independent, blue-jeans wearing, sports-minded woman, grew out of it.

Though apparently I didn’t get over it.

Scurrying creatures turn me into a stereotype, an anachronism. The evidence?  High-pitched screams of an unexpected scale. Spasmodic running-in-place. Flailing of arms. Leaping and bounding of an unprecedented degree for someone of limited athletic prowess. More shrieking.

It’s not pretty.

Fortunately for my pride, there seldom are witnesses when these episodes of involuntary theatrics occur. My parents, of course, have enjoyed front-row seats over the years (two fairly recent examples: when the salamander got in their house during a remodel and the day I was ambushed by the big gray/green lizard near the beautiful roses I was admiring).

Solo, I have crossed paths with more spiders than I can count, a tiny mouse in the bathtub, a bat between the screen door and the sliding glass door to my balcony … and, as of very early Thursday morning, a rat in my kitchen.

A rat in my kitchen at 4:30 in the morning.

I heard this noise, this rustling noise (ugh) that awoke me on the couch, where I had fallen asleep instead of getting up and going to bed. Sitting up, I heard it (ugh) again.

Insert feeling of dread here.

I slowly stood up and walked toward the kitchen (rustle, rustle – ugh). I poked my head around the corner and saw nothing despite the glow from the secondary light in the room. I walked in, flipped on another light, turned around – and UGH.

Insert image of 1950s-era, Leave-it-to-Beaver mother standing atop her kitchen table screaming here.

I didn’t ACTUALLY see ALL of the rat (ugh). I live in a very old building, with lots of nooks and crannies, and I saw only its thick, brown (ugh) tail as it scurried (ugh) back through the tiny opening between the dishwasher and the cabinets under the sink. Back into, I presume, hope and pray, the wall separating me from my neighbor.

That tail (ugh) was enough, however. Plenty to send me into conniptions – and, when some sanity returned, running for the tallest pair of boots I own.

I went to sleep sometime after 7 this morning, after throwing away anything that was anywhere near the kitchen floor and couldn’t be bleached. And fashioning a makeshift blockade of trash bags and dishtowels, doused with bleach, that remains entrenched in the tiny opening between the dishwasher and the cabinets under the sink. And creating a bleach moat 10 inches wide between where the kitchen floor ends and the carpeted area begins.

A rat in my kitchen at 4:30 in the morning.

Shrieking sure seems loud at 4:30 in the morning.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reality Bites

I despise “reality shows.” There, I said it.

If that makes me “unAmerican” then so be it.

I harbor no personal grudge against Simon Cowell or Jeff Probst, though I must admit I hold them – if only slightly – responsible for the preponderance of crappyness that permeates those beautiful HD flat-screen TVs these days.

The idea of keeping up with the Kardashians is nauseating.

Kate Gosselin is about as entertaining – and relevant - as watching crabgrass grow.

I would be afraid to let the girls next door anywhere near my house.

I think America has talent but it’s not onstage hanging with Mariah Carey’s husband.

Dancing is lovely, but it’d have to be more fun to dance myself than it is to watch C-list celebrities hoof it.

There’s a reason those Bachelors and Bachelorettes are bachelors and bachelorettes.

The only even pseudo-interesting Situation on the Jersey Shore is the people in that group seem to be covered with some shiny/sticky substance most of the time.

And the “Real” Housewives all seem to have fake boobs and fake tans and fake attitudes and fake lives.

A confession: I used to watch Deadliest Catch. Those men are some of the bravest, craziest and unique individuals out there, but the show and those on it seem to have turned into a caricature of themselves – which means I’m out.

A qualifier: MythBusters is not a “reality show.” IT IS REAL.

And it’s in everyone’s best interest that I don’t get started on court shows - Judy, Joe, Alex, Hatchett, et al. 

I’d hate to get sued and wind up on a trashy TV show.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Faster than a speeding bullet and just as deadly

As a longtime sports staffer at a regional newspaper, I’ve grown accustomed to complaints.

Why didn’t we cover the game of (insert name of preferred local high school team) on Friday night? Why wasn’t the name of my son (or daughter) mentioned in the story? He (or she) is just as good as (fill in the blank)!

Cries of favoritism and bias, antipathy and partiality.

The advent of e-mail has made it much worse  —  on countless levels.

Before e-mail became commonplace, a person with a complaint had to take the time to sit down, think (well, somewhat) and write an actual letter, then go to the effort of finding a stamp and mailing the letter. Or the person with a complaint had to pick up the phone and prepare (or brace) for an actual conversation with a live person with the ability to respond.

Not so with e-mail.

E-mail is instant rudeness, instant thoughtlessness, instant crassness.

Quite often, the person harboring a complaint is angry or feeling unjustly treated, both emotions that lend themselves to hasty, brash and —  at least occasionally,  I hope —  promptly regretted e-mails.

From the book “Woe Is I,” chapter "E-mail Intuition," heading “A Civil Tongue”
E-mail can turn the nicest person into a tactless lout. It’s the nature of the medium. Unlike a phone call or an in-the-flesh conversation, an electronic message lacks the vocal nuances, the give-and-take, the body English that do so much to soften the sharp edges of a poorly chosen word. ...
All in all, it’s easier to inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings in an e-mail than in a letter, a phone call, or a face-to-face talk. ...
Next time you log on and enter the ozone, don’t check your manners at the portal.

Of course, I'm nowhere near certain that manners and sports fans can coexist that well, but it's been more than 17 years and I haven't abandoned hope.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Expressing Geekhood

i am a geek

Took the Geek Test and learned that I'm just shy of Total Geek at 23.43173 percent. Total geekhood occurs at 25 percent.

I'll take it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New notebook, fresh start

 The age of the computer. The digital age. Call it what you will,  there’s one thing that owning a wonderfully time- and attention-sucking laptop hasn’t changed for me.Stationery

My stationery fetish.

I haven’t done the back-to-school thing in more years than I care to count, but the annual rollout of fresh, unadulterated notebooks, binders, Post-It Notes, pens, highlighters, pencils and erasers turns my head to a degree that’s akin to a sighting of Hugh Jackman without a shirt.

You don’t know me, but that’s really saying something.

I glory in shelves filled with daybooks and address books, crisp stationery (despite having handwritten but a single letter in the past nine months), calendars and journals. I revel in colorful rows of paper clips, thumbtacks and rubber bands.

Like most people, I primarily use office supplies at, appropriately, the office.

That’s a problem. Procurers of said office supplies have no sense of taste or whimsy – oh, OK, a limited budget. Plain yellow Post-Its? Boring, blue, dime-a-dozen ballpoint pens?

Inconceivable! Journals

So I’m a BYOOS (bring your own office supplies) kind of woman - replacing the office Post-its with my multicolored, variously-shaped, lined, super-sticky Post-Its, the boring ballpoints with multicolored felt pens (though red steadfastly remains my favorite). A special touch? Multicolored Sharpie highlighters of different widths to mark off accomplishments. (I’m also big on list-making).

But don’t worry – I bring home the plain yellow Post-its to use as spoon rests.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I shook it like an Etch-A-Sketch, why won’t it go away?

I'm still quite the novice when it comes to blogging, meaning I have to try new-to-me things, screw up, try again, usually screw up again, ad nauseum, until I discover what I want – which is also not necessarily apparent to me right away.

I bring this up to explain the presence of the picture below. It doesn’t represent anything other than I don’t really know what I’m doing and am working to figure it out.

It’s still a pretty design, though.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The sports world is creative with its idioms, resulting in some mental aching on the part of language enthusiasts. That’s not to say it’s not fun or interesting.

In baseball, a can of corn is a high, easy-to-catch flyball or pop-up. Hard cheese is another term for a fastball.

In football, a slobberknocker is an especially hard hit on a tackle — also known as bringing the wood. The fumblerooski is a play on which the quarterback pretends to fumble and a teammate picks up the ball.

Fertile imaginations had a hand in these.

During the opening weekend of college football season, I heard both a new phrase and an old one, neither of which I really like. The new one was “a case of the quicks,” simply meaning the player was fast. It made its point but seemed unnecessary, and I hope it passes away quietly and immediately. The old one was “the worm has turned,” which is used often in the sports world but also is commonly heard in everyday language. I’ve just never really cared for it — and it has been around a very long time.

Among its word of the day entries, of “the worm has turned” the site says:
It’s one of many derived forms of an old proverb, the base of which is either tread on a worm and it will turn or even a worm will turn. It means “even the most humble will strike back if abused enough.”
The proverb is first recorded in John Heywood’s 1546 collection of proverbs in the form: “Tread a woorme on the tayle and it must turne agayne.” Shakespeare uses it, of course: “The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on” (Henry VI, part III). It has remained common in all sorts of literature: “He’s a very meek type. Still, the worm will turn, or so they say.” (Agatha Christie, The Mirror Crack’d).
The proverb’s first American attestation is in 1703, and there are a number of 18th century American examples, showing that it has been popular for some time.

I found another item about the phrase, one that's intriguing, but questionable.

The site says:
When Shakespeare used that simple phrase, “The worm has turned,” he knew his audience would understand its meaning and origin. A widely used expression even today ... but few who use it know why.
“Worm” is a common term for “dragon.” In fairy tale terms, the flying dragon spewing fire would ravage fields and villages. To be in the dragon’s path resulted in inescapable destruction. What a relief if it changed directions.

Though the segue from a mythical fiery, flying beast to a worm is suspect, another prevalent sports colloquialism also reportedly arose from a winged creature: the jynx.

Baseball Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson was among the first to use this word in print when he wrote in his "Pitching in a Pinch" (1912): “A jinx is something which brings bad luck to a ballplayer.” Big Six probably didn’t know that the word may owe its life to a bird called the jynx, which was used to cast charms and spells. The jynx, known in America as the wrynecked woodpecker or wryneck, takes its name from the Greek jynx for the bird. In the Middle Ages this rara avis, with its grotesque, twisted neck, its odd breeding and feeding habits, its harsh, strident cries during migration and its near silence the rest of the time, was thought to have occult powers. As jynx feathers were used to make love potions and black magic charms, the bird’s name itself came to mean a charm or spell, especially a black magic spell, cast on a selected victim. It’s easy to see how the slang term jinx arose from jynx, but the long flight of the jynx from medieval times to the printed page of 1912 is not easily explained.

Medieval birds tied to superstitious baseball players. Marvelous.