Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day #476 Myopia Magic

Did you ever put down your glasses and then not be able to find them because, being nearsighted, you can’t SEE them?
Today I learned a magic trick from one of those ubiquitous newsletters that seem to circulate indefinitely. I’m sure the tip will help me -- and it might help you, too.
Use the camera in your smart phone. Walk around your house looking at the view through the camera lens, and your house will appear in clear definition. That way you can find those glasses quickly and easily.
Of course, I so seldom take my glasses off, and I certainly tend not to set them down unless I’m absolutely sure where they are.
See? There’s a distinct advantage to being way near-sighted, rather than just sort of nearsighted.
But, if I ever DO lose my glasses, I’ll know precisely how to put my phone to work for me.
BEEattitude for Day #476:
       Blessed are those who learn from others, for they shall fly through life more easily.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day #475 Baby Curls

This archiving business is turning up some amazing finds.
Now, maybe you’re more organized than I am, so you’ll think I’m a slob when I tell you all the goodies I’m finding stuffed in the back of closets.
Things like my baby book. I’d forgotten I even had one. Little tendrils of golden baby curls. A picture of my grandmother sitting in her rocking chair, combing her hair before bedtime. My high school diploma (still don’t know what happened to the ones from college--I’ll find them someday). Photos of my big sister sitting with me up on the roof.
I still haven’t found the big metal box filled with slides. That was what I was looking for when I came across the baby book and all these other treasures.
What I’d really like to know, though, is the last name of the young orderly who took care of me for the first four or five days of my life. All I know is that his name was Tony, and he never left me alone the entire time my mother was out of it. I firmly believe he was an angel in disguise, making sure I could sense that I was wanted, at least for those first few days.

Later that week, my mother finally woke up and found out I was a girl rather than the boy she had expected. 
“But, we can’t have a boy,” she said. “I don’t have a boy’s name picked out.”
“Don’t you worry; I have it all taken care of,” my father told her--probably the only time in their whole life together that he got the final say-so.
So, if you know someone named Tony--he would be in his eighties now--who served in a field hospital in California in the late forties, tell him thank you for me. Then email me so I can go visit him.
BEEattitude for Day #475:
       Blessed are those who are open to finding treasures when least expected, for they shall have bright days and large smiles.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day #474 Archiving

Remember that lunch I mentioned yesterday? Well, I had it Saturday afternoon - a lunch with Pat Gerard, who is an archivist. She had spoken to me a couple of years ago about the possibility of archiving my papers.
“Who’d want them?” was my first thought.
But she’s convinced me that archiving for future scholars and researchers would be a good idea. After all, someone writing a historical mystery 200 years from now could pick up all sorts of facts about day-to-day life around the turn of the 21st century just by reading my journals.
When I read books about life in the 13th century, I want to know the writer has done her research so she gets all the minutiae right. Someday, my journals may help someone who’s writing about those days long ago at the end of the 20th century.
So, I pulled out all my old journals, college papers, lessons plans from when I did community teaching in a grade-school, family photographs (all of which I have to label!), and the transcripts of my grandparents and great-grandmother’s diaries.
Pat looked everything over, took some measurements (“How many inches tall would this stack of journals be?”), asked lots of questions, and then we went to lunch at Macaroni Grill.
During lunch she said that she’s already started the archiving process for my blog - printing each post on archival paper. This blog, after all, has in a way taken the place of the daily journal entries I used to write.
For the past dozen years or so, I’ve limited myself to nightly journal jottings that read like a list of what-did-Frannie-do-today. Not very interesting. The older journals, the true ones -- the ones where I was agonizing over how to order my life -- no longer seemed necessary once I was writing my life and my concerns into my Biscuit McKee mysteries.
Just think of it. Some day your great-great-great grandniece might come across the old Stewart papers and glean some sort of wisdom from them.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
BEEattitude for Day #474:
       Blessed are those who eat with friends, for they shall digest thoughts as well as food.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day #473 The Problem with Caller ID

It used to BEE, every phone call was a surprise.
It used to BEE, when I came home after a few hours, and found a blank answering machine, I could say, “Well, probably a lot of people called, but they didn’t leave a message.”
Ever since I got caller ID, though, I’ve had to face the indisputable knowledge that not only did nobody leave a message, but nobody called in the first place.
I know the trend went from phone calls to emails to facebook, texting, and tweets, but I have to admit I miss phone calls on those days when I don’t hear from anyone at all.
Don’t get me wrong -- emails are great. But there’s just something about talking to a real voice that can’t be BEEat. The only thing better is having lunch face-to-face with a friend, with cell phones turned off or ignored during the meal.
This afternoon I’ll BEE doing just that -- and I’m looking forward to it.
If you call while I’m eating, even if you don’t leave a message, I’ll BEE able to call you back later, BEEcause AT&T will tell me who you are...

BEEattitude for Day #473:
       Blessed are those who leave water in a safe place for us bees, for they shall have the benefit of our buzzing every sunny day. 
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day #472 Moon Disaster?

Someone recently called my attention to the National Archives. I’ve used the archives (www.archives.gov)to obtain transcriptions of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, but I hadn’t thought much about some of the lesser-known items that are held there.
Here’s one goody I came across. I’m old enough to remember sitting in front of a TV set late into the night in July of 1969 to see Neil Armstrong step onto the surface of the moon. 
One background bit of information I have never known, however, was the contingency plan for what the President was to have said in case the astronauts were somehow stranded there, unable to return to Mother Earth.
It seems that William Safire, author of the widely syndicated newspaper column On Language, was asked to draft a speech, just in case Nixon needed to inform the world that our astronauts were doomed.
Here, copied straight from the national archives, is the text of that speech, followed by Safire’s instructions to the president.
To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire July 18, 1969
  • -----------------------------------------------------
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.


The President should telephone each of the widows-to-be.


A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to “the deepest of the deep,” concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.
The young daughter of a friend of mine has decided that she wants to be on the first manned flight to Mars. Every since she was six years old, that has been her goal. 
I wonder who will be asked to write the contingency-plan speech for that event...
BEEattitude for Day #472:
       Blessed are those who appreciate the ones who have gone before, for the path they fly will be more sure as a result.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day #471 Weeds, Wildflowers, and Birdsong

Here’s a thought that came to my inbox from the Daily OM:
A plant is a weed only within a certain context; 
one person’s weed is another person’s wildflower.
I sure will be glad to see honeybees (and bumblebees) in my weedy -- whoops! I mean my flower-filled yard again.  That reminds me of a poem I read somewhere or other that was talking about the flow of the seasons. It contained this line:
Oh, that’s the reason a bird can sing;
On the darkest day, it believes in Spring.
I wish I knew who wrote that so I could give credit where credit is certainly due.
BEEattitude for Day #471:
       Blessed are those who sing for the fun of it, for they shall spread joy and have it bounce right back to them.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day #470 Six Words Changed My Attitude

Several years ago I was doing a book-signing at a bookstore in North Georgia. At one point, the number of customers had slowed to a trickle, then to a standstill. The owner took the opportunity to talk to me about a series of books she loved.
“You have to read them, Fran,” she told me, and went on to give a summary of the plot of Hunger Games, the first book in the trilogy. I made some polite noises, but closed my mind to the book. You have to read them, Fran -- six words I happily ignored, because the thought of reading a book about a repressive government that forced selected children to fight to the death once a year sounded about as interesting as a root canal.
She went on to replay the plot of the second book (at that time the third one hadn’t come out yet), but it still didn’t strike my fancy. You just have to read them, she told me again. Six more words that fell on deaf ears.
But then my granddaughter said a slightly different six words: “I wish you’d read it, Grannie.” She’d just finished telling me how much she’d enjoyed that first book and wanted to discuss it with me. But there was nothing to discuss, since I hadn’t read it. Until she made her request.
There’s a big difference, wouldn’t you agree, between you have to and I wish you would.
The upshot of all this is that I bought Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for my brand new Kindle and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Now I can’t wait to discuss it with the one who talked me into it in the first place.
BEEattitude for Day #470:
       Blessed are those who persuade with gentle, honeyed words, for their buzz shall be listened to.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day #469 Answers, Already

Questions are wonderful, aren’t they? You know why? It’s because asking a question seems to imply that there is probably an answer, and if the answer isn't known yet, it might be worth looking for.
When I ask the bee-joke questions, I don’t always have an answer in mind. I just enjoy seeing what you come up with. Sometimes I do have an answer available, but the ones you come up with are frequently funnier than mine.
Why is one of the most adventuresome words in the English language. Look at where it leads. To outer space, to the depths of the ocean, to the correcting of social ills, to the discovery of new technology.
And sometimes it drives the mothers of four-year-olds absolutely batty.
But still, it’s worth asking, don’t you think?
And if you’re wondering what you get when you cross a bee with a boomerang, the answer might be:
from Texas: “Crocodile DunBee,”
from Minnesota: “I dunno, but it’s gonna BEE home before you know it,”
from Alabama: “An insect that never has to fly backwards,”
From Colorado: “A BoomBeeRang,”
from New Hampshire: “An AborigiBee,” or
from somewhere unidentified: “A circular Buzz saw.”
Why do I ask these questions?
Why not?
BEEattitude for Day #469:
       Blessed are those who buzz for the fun of it, for their singing shall brighten the world.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day #468 Bee Wisdom and Eli's Blog

Bees are up against a lot of dangers. Sometimes it can be the weather, as I wrote about yesterday. Warm weather like we’ve been having makes the bees want to fly outside, but there’s no nectar or pollen for them to collect, so they waste a lot of energy for no results.
Sometimes they’re picked off by a hungry bird. Sometimes their little wings wear out and they can’t make it home to the hive. Sometimes a skunk or a bear raids the hive--skunks to eat the bees--bears to eat the honey.
As far as I know, bees don’t wage senseless war. Why am I thinking about these things?
Well, for some unknown reason, I went back the other day to take a look at my son’s blog. Now, keep in mind that the last time he posted anything was in April of 2006, shortly after three terrorist bombs went off in a marketplace in Dahab, Egypt.
Eli was there, vacationing. He’d been in the marketplace drinking juice, but he wandered away to a restaurant. Then the bombs went off--near the juice bar where he’d been standing minutes before.
The Egyptian government shut down all internet traffic, so it was almost two days before I knew my son was alive. The email I got from him said, “Alive. More later.”
The next email began, “I carried dead bodies yesterday.” He ended up using parts of that email on his blog. I must warn you that there are pictures (beginning on about the third entry down the page) of the extreme devastation caused by those bombs in April of 2006, including one of the mangled body of a man Eli tried to save. There are also pictures of the hundreds of people who took to the streets the next day begging for peace, demanding that the terrorists stop.
If you don’t want to read his commentary, I’ll understand. If you don’t want to look at the photos, I won’t blame you. But if you do, here’s where to find it all:
Eli stayed in Dahab for several days afterwards, doing his small part to help the local economy that depended on the tourists (the tourists who left the city in droves after the bombings). Then he went to Israel, where he posted his last blog entry for that year (and the next six years, come to think of it).
He wasn’t too excited about traveling for quite a while after that.
Why do we (the collective we of humanity) do such things? Bees are considerably smarter than we are in this aspect.
BEEattitude for Day #43:
       Blessed are those who never treat the world or each other in any way they wouldn’t want to be treated themselves.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day #467 Until the Sled Dogs Sing

I try not to complain about the weather. I figure the only things I have a right to complain about are the things I helped to institute--or tried to prevent. That’s why I vote each year, so I’ll earn the right to comment on what is (or isn’t) happening on the political scene.
That’s why I conserve water, recycle, give blood, and donate to libraries. So I’ll have the right to complain if things don’t go well -- or congratulate myself when they do. After all, I own a piece of the action.
But I don’t complain about the weather, since there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. That ridiculous bumper sticker that says Prevent Global Warming, for instance. Just how am I as an individual supposed to prevent global warming? I reduce, reuse, recycle. I buy local products as much as possible. I drive a fuel-efficient car, and I lump all my errands together so I don’t have to make repeated trips down the same road.
Still, I’m up against large industries spewing out fossil fuel residues by the ton. And I’m up against the Arctic Oscillation. Not much I can do about that.
What is the Arctic Oscillation? I’m glad you asked. My friend Dauna Coulter, a writer for NASA Science News who I’ve quoted before in this blog, explained it quite well this past week. Here’s the email that came to me, since I subscribe to NASA Science News
Winter seems to have been on hold this year in some parts of the United States. Snowfall has been scarce in places that were overwhelmed with the white stuff at the same time last year. In today's story from Science@NASA, JPL climatologist Bill Patzert explains what's going on.
Here’s Dauna’s story. Read it and then decide whether or not you have anything to complain about.
And here’s a video about it:
BEEattitude for Day #467:
       Blessed are those who try to understand the “why” of it all, for they shall find new fields of flowers to explore.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day #466 Lion Cub

A friend of mine -- someone I’ve never met in person, but got used to talking to when I called for blood donation appointments -- sent me a link to a video of a guy whose last day of work involved getting kissed by the lion cubs he’d been caring for.
As I watched it, it brought to mind something I hadn’t thought about in years.
Here’s the video:
And here’s the email I sent her in reply:
Pat, what a sweet way to start my day. Thank you for sharing this. Boy, did it bring back wonderful memories.
When I was in 8th grade, my sister came home from college one weekend with four of her friends, and we all went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which perches on the side of the mountain above Colorado Springs. It was mid-winter, so there weren't a lot of other visitors. Imagine having a whole zoo to oneself!
At any rate, when we got to the aviary, we spread out looking at the various birds. Suddenly, a baby lion came padding into the center of the room, soon followed by one of the keepers, a rather good-looking young man, or so my sister told me later. I wouldn't have known. All I was interested in was the lion cub.
The keeper told us that the various workers took turns socializing the cub, taking him with them as they worked around the zoo. He'd forgotten, apparently, to latch the door, and the cub took advantage of his lapse.
We ended up sitting in a big circle on the floor of the aviary, the girls listening to stories of zoo work from the fellow, while the cub pranced his way around the circle, making friends with everyone. When he got to me, he stayed, probably because I was the only one truly paying attention to him. I received the kinds of hugs and kisses this video shows. My cub was smaller, younger than the ones here, and the only "video" I have of that event is the one running in my head. 
Thank you, Pat, for you inadvertently gave me a delightful gift -- the gift of a marvelous memory!
Those little round ears and the scratchy, scratchy tongue still live, and I’m sorry the memory has been buried for so long, but what fun to bring it to light!
BEEattitude for Day #466:
       Blessed are those who share delightful experiences, the way we bees tell each other of good nectar sources, for they shall have wonderful memories forever.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day #465 Silver Sneakers Report

I’ve been taking the Silver Sneakers classes now for three full weeks, and I thought you'd like a progress report.
The first day I barely made it through the class, as I’ve already mentioned.
By the end of the first week, I had a pretty good routine down. I’d take the class, then get on the treadmill and walk one mile, keeping my heart rate at about 135 for a good cardio workout. It took me a little over 26 minutes to walk the mile.
Last Friday (after two weeks of classes), I could do the mile in 22 minutes, AND I’d increased the incline from 1 (wimpy) to 4. Love those readouts!
This week I’m still using only 1-pound weights during the classes, and I’m still doing the “beginner” phase of all the exercises. I still have to hold onto a chair back for most of the balance routines, but I’m not quite as exhausted by the end of class. 
The treadmill’s getting a bit easier, too. I’m not pushing it too much, just trying to keep my heartbeat at a steady 130 beats per minute. The 135 was just a bit much, so I was smart enough to back off a bit. 
A couple of days ago, I did the mile in a few seconds over 20 minutes.
So, this is turning out to be a good decision. 
BEEattitude for Day #465:
       Blessed are those who find the best nectar and pollen, for they shall reap the benefits.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day #464 Bee Joke Time Again

Inspired by the recent Australian jaunt --

What do you get
when you cross a bee
with a boomerang?

Let’s see who wins this one...
BEEattitude for Day #464:
       Blessed are those who like to chuckle, for their insides shall be massaged with laughter.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day #463 Daisy at the Horse Farm

Two days ago I told you that something wonderful had happened. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that ever since I decided to take up beekeeping, I’ve become braver and braver. After all, beekeepers are incredibly brave people. They face thousands of potential stings (and many actual stings) every time they open a hive.
So actually getting the bees was a first step toward courage.
Lately I’ve started voice lessons AND an exercise program -- both of which took me beyond my comfort zone.
And two days ago, I tackled my fear of horses. I’ve always been afraid of them, afraid of being stepped on or pinned against a wall, or slammed into by a head as heavy as a sledgehammer.
But I know a psychotherapist who works with the horses at "Flying Change"--the horses serve as a sort of co-therapist to help people work through their various issues. I could think of a few issues it might be time for me to tackle, but the thought of  doing it in the company of a potentially lethal half-ton four-legged creature was, shall we say, a bit daunting.
Enter Daisy, a 21-year old mare who lost an eye last year. Sunday afternoon I drove to the other side of Atlanta (about 50 miles from my house), spent half an hour or so talking with Jerry Connor, the therapist, about what I wanted to accomplish, and then we walked  down to see Daisy. 
I’d met her once before when I accompanied a friend I’ll call Donna, who was having a session with Jerry and Google. While Donna was patting Google, I happened to be standing next to a stall where an incredibly gentle horse (Daisy) put her head over the wall and practically begged me to pat her neck. As long as she was on THAT side of the wall and I was on THIS side, it was okay.
So, later, when I called Jerry to make an appointment, I asked if I could work with Daisy.
Sunday, it took me a while to get up the nerve to step into her stall with her, and I stayed near the open door at first. Daisy had been playing in the field and was muddy, muddy, muddy. The mud had dried into her hair. They handed me a stiff flat rubber brush, and I went to work.
Daisy must have enjoyed the scrubbing because at one point she lowered her head and butted into me, scratching the front of her face up and down my wooly vest. It startled me and sort of scared me, until I heard the laughter from the other side of the stall. “That means she likes you and trusts you!”
At one point, Daisy sidled closer to me, and my fear level skyrocketed, as I was between her and the wall of the stall at this point. “You can push her away,” I was told, but I didn’t believe it. “Just put your hands firmly against her and apply pressure. Don’t let up, just keep gently pushing against her. When she realizes you mean it, she’ll move.”
And, guess what? I did, and she did. I moved a 1,200 pound horse just by setting a boundary. This is my space, and you can’t move into it.
Golly day, I wish I’d learned that lesson when I was five. Then maybe I would have remembered it when I was 20, 30, 40, 50.
I came away from the Daisy session feeling so successful, I’m going back for another round next month.
BEEattitude for Day #463:
       Blessed are those who help others to learn, for they shall make the world a better place.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day #462 Comet Lovejoy

Dec 25, 2011 by Wayne England

From Australia to the stars. You see, we’re not really leaving Australia yet, because this story from NASA Science News contains a photo of Comet Lovejoy that was taken from -- would you believe it -- Poocher Swamp in South Australia.

As fascinated as I am with the story of the comet, I was equally intrigued by the name of the swamp, so I went online to find out about it and found this fascinating tidbit on Wikipedia:
Once owned by Dalton Staude, Poocher Swamp was sold to the Australian Parks and Wildlife Service for a recreation area and is now a favourite spot for pickincking, boating, fishing, yabbying and canoeing.
I get the part about pickincking (typos happen), but what, I ask you is yabbying?
If you find out …
Oh dear, that phrase reminds me of a gentleman I met in the London tube station long ago. I was trying to get from where I was to another subway station on  different line, and the map of the subway showed that there was an underground walkway between the two. I couldn’t find this end of it, though. I walked up to this man, who, in a gray three-piece suit, with a bowler hat in one hand and an umbrella over his arm, looked the epitome of London gentlemanliness. 
I explained what my problem was. “Could you tell me how I get from here to,” I pointed to the map, “to there?” He looked at my map, sighed, and said, “Madam, I have lived in London for all of my 63 years, and I have never known how to get from here to there. If you find the answer, do let me know.” At which point he stepped into a subway car and was swept away.
I finally found the way, but he was gone.
BEEattitude for Day #462:
       Blessed are those who ask, for they shall--eventually--get answers.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day #461 Carnarvon Gorge

Here’s the last of the Australia photos that I plan to show you. Come to think of it -- it might not be the last one. It’s simply the last one I’ve saved so far, but who knows what’s around the corner?
This is Carnarvon Gorge. It’s part of a national park in central Queensland, Australia. I learned (from Wikipedia, of course) that the canyon is 30 kilometers long, and at the mouth of the gorge, it’s 600 meters deep. That’s pretty impressive.
As I read on, though, I found that there are concerns about the way tourists hand-feed the animals, causing a population explosion among them and then near-starvation when the humans leave at the end of the tourist season, and the over-populated animals are left to try to find enough food.
Doggone it, why can’t people play nicely?
In the meantime, I want to share with you that something wonderful happened yesterday, and I’ll be writing about it in a couple of days. I need to process it for a while before I’ll feel comfortable telling you about it. But I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with someone who weighs 1,200 pounds.
BEEattitude for Day #461:
       Blessed are those who leave us alone to live the way we were intended to live, so we can make all the honey we want to.
The teeny details:
my books:  http://www.franstewart.com Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.