Dear Mom

Some say time is measured only unto man. Regardless, I wanted to wish you a Happy New Year!
Believe me it is not, nor ever will be, the same without you.

Love you forever,

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Dear Mom

The holidays suck without you.


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Every now and then...

...I know that all the time I spend running around the internet it worth it. I have one such discovery to share. Behold, The Periodic Table of Awesoments!!

I know, I know. Just consider it a Christmas present.

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We're, like, famous!

Last night the Griz beat JMU 35 to 27 to head over to TN and fight for the playoff crown! I love playoff football. None of the BCS crap! Go Griz!!

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What the?

Jennifer Zdon- The Times-Picayune
My mind has never associated NOLA with snow. When I moved to the Gulf in May I never dreamed I would see snow this winter. In fact, I have often bragged about enjoying a mild winter compared to Steph who lives in Montana or my other girlfriends who live in Washington. However, this morning the office was buzzing with excitement.
"Did you know it's snowing in New Orleans?!" was the question on everyones' lips followed by "Do you think they will let us go early?" Unfortunately, the answer to the latter question was no.
Although I dislike winter weather, I must concede, snowfall in NOLA is a beautiful site.

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Damn pets.

Today I washed and vacuumed my car until it was all shiny and pretty. It will most likely not be this way again until after the thaw in March. I was so proud of how nice it was. I tucked the chocolates from the car wash into my purse and ran the rest of my errands.

Went into the supermarket, bought all kinds of healthful foods and came back to my car.

The dog had emptied the contents of my purse, which is of a significant size, all over the interior of the car in the quest for the chocolate he was licking up from my seat where he had clearly ground some in. He had foil hanging from his mouth so I know he'll be ill tonight.

I came home to see the cat. I approached my overstuffed chair to throw myself in because of my frustration with the dog. Then I noticed that the cat had filled the chair with the soil from the plant next to the chair. ALL of the soil and all of the greenery.

Both, you'll be proud to know, are still alive. I know because they are crying at me from the bathroom where they will remain locked for the rest of their lives.

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On how we're now old.

We were commenting to each other how we're really 90-year-old women in much younger bodies. All this change makes my bones ache!

And then we said something really funny that made us both laugh. But now, an hour or two later, I can't remember what it was. Because I'm old. And losing my marbles!

Happily, I have friends that frequently say funny things. And that, my friends, is my belated Thanksgiving.

Burberry Boo

My colleague, Amanda, who I call Mandy-Pants, has bestowed a new nickname upon me. Instead of calling me Boo, she calls me Burberry. I'm not sure why she associates the Burberry label with me, but would like to consider it a generous commentary on my sense-of-style and my love of fashion. Although I don't own any Burberry clothing or accessiories, I embrace and appreciate the nickname just the same.

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Happy Birthday to My Brother...

our Turkey Day baby. Twenty-eight years ago, while my Mother was preparing Thanksgiving dinner for Dad and I, Josh decided to join us. Mom insisted Dad run the unfinished turkey and I to the Godfrey's before taking her to the hospital. Dad tried to dissuade her, but my Mother was insistent, and anyone who knew my Mother, also knows she usually got what she wanted.
Sister Godfrey finished baking the turkey while Mom delivered hers. I know I don't relate the story quiet like my Mother did, but I couldn't let the day pass without sharing, briefly, how my brother came into this world. I love you Harry! I can't imagine what life would be like without you to share it with.

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Six Months and Counting

On Wednesday, November 19th I celebrated my six month anniversary. When I left Washington in May I anticipated I would only be in Biloxi for three months. I was informed, upon accepting my deployment, that if my supervisor was pleased with my performance I would have the opportunity for an extension.
Three months passed and my contract was extended. Since then, our team has commenced the intensive survey of the first of seven counties we are committed to.
Although the duration of my contract is uncertain I have to admit I am grateful for the opportunity I've had to live and work in Mississippi. I look forward to spending another six months on the Coast, anticipating a Thanksgiving in Alabama, a Cajun Christmas and my first Mardi Gras in the Big Easy. No matter what the future holds I will never forget my time by the sea and the memories I've made here.

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A few weeks ago I posted a blog in anticipation of Halloween and a love reading I received almost two years ago. To satisfy the curiosity of those who may be wondering what the holiday yielded I am a little disappointed to admit my status as a single adult has not change. Mr. Right did not appear promising to change my life forever. Instead, I received a telephone call from my Uncle Jerry saying that my Aunt Nancy passed away.
Since receiving that call, I have often looked at the photo above picturing my Mother, Great-Grandma Elliott, Nancy and myself. As of October 30th I am the only woman in the photo living. They have all gone and left me behind; a single woman without her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and now aunt to guide her through the decisions she will face in life. Often I am tempted to think I have been robbed but, despite my feelings, the hard truth remains, they are gone and no matter how I mourn for them or pray for a quick reunion nothing can change that.
Looking through the photos I have scanned, since my Mother's passing, I noticed I have more photos of my Mother and Nancy together than I do of my Mother and I. Despite the thirteen month age difference between them, many often mistook them for twins.

Nancy was tall and slender with darker hair while my Mother was shorter, fluffier and blond.

Following my Mom's death, Josh, Lauren, Dad and I discovered letters Nancy had written to my Mom when they were younger. Reading them aloud was a bittersweet experience. I think Josh said it best, "The hardest part about life is living after those we love die." I couldn't agree more.
Although Nancy and Jerry never lived close to us, they would often visit. I remember the first Christmas present I received from them; a Snoopy piggy bank. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. In fact, I still have it; cracked head and all.
When they moved to Alexandria, VA Mom piled us in the car for a road trip to the "big city." Nancy and Jerry loved to tease us about being country bumpkins. I still have the video recording of our Fourth of July holiday with them in DC. Although I am grateful for the wonderful memories we made I deeply regret missed opportunities to make more.
Unlike my Mother, my Aunt Nancy had been suffering from a terminal illness for years. Battling the final stages of Huntington's disease, we realized Nancy's time was short. No one, especially her children, ever expected my Mother would proceed Nancy in death. We worried how Nancy's death would affect my Mother but never, ever assumed she would be the first to leave.
My Mother left us on January 30th. Precisely nine months later my Mother came for her sister. Although I rejoice they are together, and suspect are having a wonderful time, I feel a little left out; like I did when they would spend hours together in the bathroom doing their hair and makeup dismissing me because there wasn't enough counter space or they wanted to talk. I was always the younger, less experienced, naive, ugly duckling, Amber who felt so inferior in their presence. They were the most beautiful, sophisticated women I knew and I wanted more than anything to be just like them. Who do I look to now? How will my children ever understand and appreciate the women who proceeded them and shaped my life forever? How can I possibly fill the gap their absence has created in my heart; in my life?
Being the last Elliott woman, at least in the photo, remaining, I only hope I can do as Jerry counseled, continue the legacy they perpetuated; become a woman of beauty, intelligence and strength.

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Choice Desserts

In response to Steph's birthday request, I baked my favorite cookies made from Lehi Roller Mills pumpkin chocolate chip cookie mix. Yummy! I love you Fall! I love you LRM!
Thanks Steph for giving me an excuse to bake. I hope this is only the beginning of what proves to be a wonderful year for you. I know I always say this, but I sincerely hope all your wishes come true. Love you!

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I have an idea.

It's posted on my other blog. But here are the basics.

Tomorrow I'll be 31. I'm wildly depressed. What helps depression? Eating, of course.


This is a call to eat. Tomorrow, eat one thing (or several) that you love. Take a picture and then share it. Email, blog, whatever.

But I want people to eat and enjoy themselves to honor that I am OLDER THAN DIRT.

Go forth and eat, folks. I demand it of you.

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Honey Rider...

is the Bond girl I aspire to be.
This post is in response to a news link Steph emailed me yesterday. In anticipation for the release of the latest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, which I just finished reading, Fox News posted an article picturing the top Bond girls of all time. Ursula Andress, pictured above, is my absolute favorite. If I could resemble any of Bond's lovers Honey Rider would be it. With long blond hair and a killer figure, Honey Rider is the perfect embodiment of Bond's ideal woman in every way. With three days remaining until 007 latest adventures, let us not forget previous Bond girls who set the standard; one that I can only dream of achieving.

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Phil Vassar Friday

Last night my new friend Ben called and invited me to the Phil Vassar concert at the Hard Rock Casino. In fifteen minutes, I changed clothes, applied makeup, participated and completed two phone conversations and found a parking space, which wasn't easy, setting a record in my book.
Walking in I found a room full of energy. Ben and I had a blast singing and dancing along with the crowd. When the band covered AC/DC I went crazy. I love "You Shook Me All Night Long" and become an absolute maniac on the dance floor when I hear it. Instead of being impressed, Ben just laughed at my killer dance moves.
The concert ended much too soon so we decided to do a little shopping at the Hard Rock and then grab a late bite at the "Awful House." One of the things I appreciate about Ben is he's from Georgia and, as a fellow Southerner, recognizes the Waffle House is an important institution in the South and unlike McDonald's, which closes at midnight, stays open 24-7. Since hanging out Ben and I have actually closed a McDonald's.
Our waitress was terrific! She was extremely patient with me and totally took my side when the chef said the hash browns were exactly what I wanted. NOT!
I can't imagine what she thought about the two of us, especially after my vocal rendition of Sally's restaurant scene from, When Harry Met Sally, per Ben's request, of course. To heighten the situation, he tried to climb under the table so he would get the credit for instigating said scene. As if...

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Alternative to Charmain

Tonight I used credit card receipts located in my interior wallet pocket, good thing I didn't clean it out, to wipe my bebope. You may now call me the McGuvyer el bano.

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Tis Better to Know or Not to Know...

is a question I have been pondering this week. I often hear people say, "if only I knew when or where or how much longer I have to wait for a certain something," the waiting would be easier. Uncertainty has never been something I courted but nevertheless is a companion I have been promised will accompany me throughout life. Uncertainty can be exciting, yielding pleasant surprises that leave us with warm memories we cherish for a lifetime. More often than not, uncertainty bears unwelcome incidents that leave us wounded and afraid.

In March of 2007, Desiree and I traveled to Atlanta to crash her friend's wedding. The six hour drive to Atlanta was the perfect opportunity to catch-up. During our conversation Desi mentioned her roommate's mother had given her a love reading. I thought it was exciting and asked Des if her roommate's mother would be willing to give me one as well. Desiree called her roommate who subsequently connected me to her mother.

This woman had never met me. She had not seen a photo of me either. She had no idea how tall I was or how old I was yet she proceeded to give me a love reading that I have often thought about since.

She said I would meet the man I was going to marry within the next two years. We would meet at an event where we would be dressed-up; she explained she saw a hayride or a costume party. We concluded from this it may be around Halloween. She said he would be medium height around 5'10" but would not exceed 6'. He would have dark blonde or light curly brown hair. He would have a L in his name or as an initial. I would have dated his cousin or roommate or close friend. Once we meet we will have a long courtship that will result in marriage.

I remember thinking, "right." It may happen for Desiree but things like this rarely work out for me. Nevertheless, the thought of meeting someone on Halloween was exciting and I have been anticipating the holiday with more enthusiasm than I normally would.

Last Halloween I was with Corey. Needless to say I did not meet anyone nor did I care to. When I met Corey who had a L initial and was of average height I thought, despite the hair, he could be pretty close to "the one." He was brillant, kind, funny, and successful. We could hang out for hours doing absolutely nothing and still have a good time. However as time progressed, it was clear Corey was not "the one" and it was time to move on. I care for and miss him dearly. I wonder how he is and hope he is happy; even if it means he is with someone else.

This Halloween I am absolutely single. I haven't been on a date, let alone been in a relationship, for five months and I'm surprisingly OK with that. Since my Mother passed away I haven't been the same. I have so much to work through emotionally and spiritually that I'm not really ready for something serious. I would appreciate a good guy friend I can hang out with but to be completely "real" if "Mr. Right" appeared this Halloween I wouldn't complain.

But if he does... is it better that I anticipated meeting him before or is it better not to know? To be completely caught of guard. If I really do meet someone this Halloween am I ready? Am I willing to forfeit my life as a single woman? I don't know. And it's true... when you know something I think it compromises the magic that not knowing brings.

Tonight I am going to a masquerade with Amanda. Last month I decided I was going to celebrate this holiday come what may. If I meet someone, Great! If not, nothing lost. I rented a costume from Josette's, I got a pedicure this morning from TNT Nails and my hair done at Her Majesty's by a lady that's been doing hair for fifty years. I feel good and I think I look pretty good but do I really want to meet a man when I look better than usual? Wouldn't it be better to meet a man when I look horrible? Questions I believe every female has entertained at least once in her life. We all want to meet "the one" in some unique, clever way. We all want a story we can boast and impress friends and family with for years to come. We all want to feel that spark and to immediately know our waiting is over but how often does that really happen?

And although things like this never happen to me would it be so bad if it did? For once? If it really was my turn? If something beautiful resulted from this horribly painful year? If I could end this year with someone I loved and begin the new year with him too or will I appreciate the circumstance more if I meet him after I have abandoned all hope? Bringing me back to my initial question...tis better to know or not to know? What do you think?

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Yummy, yummy.

Since 300, like the rest of all woman-kind, I've been addicted to one Mr. G. Butler. This is the trailer I promised Boo I'd post. Mmmmm.

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Best chat of the week

STLRamsGirl95: Moments you're happy you got dressed for the day: a ladder hits the space below your window followed a fraction of a second later by a male face.
Tara: a cute one?

STLRamsGirl95: No.
STLRamsGirl95: He's our building handyman, Tom. He's like 459 years old
STLRamsGirl95: But a nice guy.

Tara: lol
Tara: damn
Tara: cause THAT would make for a good story

STLRamsGirl95: You're not kidding
STLRamsGirl95: And, let's face it, instant love on his part
STLRamsGirl95: lol
STLRamsGirl95: ;)

Tara: of course

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Fall Pictures

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Each morning I enjoy reading NPR. Friday morning there was an inspirational story about love, one of my favorite emotions. I have posted the article below just in case my friends missed it. The couple are pictured in the photo above.
" Ben and Bernice Finn met on a blind date. It was eight months after the end of World War II, and Ben had recently returned home to Brooklyn, N.Y., after serving in the Army.
'My two best friends were Hank and Eddie,' Ben said. And unlike Ben, they both had girlfriends. So, the two asked Ben if he'd like to go out with them — and a blind date.
'In those days, you wore a suit and a tie when you went on a date,' Ben said.
'I didn't have a suit to my name. So, I bought a suit to match the tie that I had.'
That sparked a memory from Bernice: 'Did it have apples on it?'
'It had apples on it, yes.'
'I was very nervous,' Ben said. 'She was so pretty.'
'I remember that day very well,' Bernice said. 'And no, you weren't pretty.'
But when the couples all went out that night, there was a chill in the air.
'And I took your arm,' Bernice said.
'I was thrilled by that,' Ben said.
'And the reason I took your arm is, you seemed nervous. And I wanted to make you more comfortable.'
The group went to a coffee shop, where they all started ordering hamburgers and drinks — everyone, that is, except for Ben. He didn't order anything.
'And I say to myself, 'Oh my God, I bet he doesn't have any money,' Bernice remembered.
'And there I am, starving,' she said. 'And I ordered black coffee. Because I was afraid my date didn't have any money. So, you owe me a hamburger,' she told Ben.
'I have no memory of that,' Ben said. 'Maybe it was I didn't have any money. Maybe I was just cheap. I don't know.'
'Okay,' Bernice said. 'I'll buy that second explanation."
The couple dated for two years before getting married. Ben eventually got a master's degree in education and taught elementary school. The Finns have two children, Gail and Steven, and three grandchildren.
Their 60th wedding anniversary will be this Christmas, Dec. 25."

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Claim to Fame

Tonight Claudia, Amanda and Hugh came over for a movie night. Our movie of choice was This Property is Condemned a Francis Ford Coppola film based on the 1946 one-act play by Tennessee Williams. Although the story is set in Dodson, Mississippi the film was filmed in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi the town where we are currently conducting our intensive survey of historic structures.
Typical of Williams, the female lead, Alva (Wood), is a confused Southern woman who uses her looks and charm to advance herself. Legate (Redford) is a transient, aloof male, who falls for her act despite his best efforts to resist her. Anyone who is familiar with Williams can easily predict how the story will end.
The couple meet in a boarding house which is still standing in "the Bay." Its interesting to see how the building has evolved over the past fifty years. The stained glass windows and gingerbread trim are gone and the roof remains fractured and exposed to the elements.
The city plans to transform the deteriorating structure into a theatre. I think its a wonderful idea and hope the work commences and concludes during my stay here. Apart from the railroad station, this building is the only structure remaining in "the Bay" that links the town to a world larger than its own. Its a physical reminder of brighter days, prior to Katrina, when historic houses lined the beach and Hollywood stars strolled the streets.
If you are curious about the work I am doing in Mississippi I encourage you rent this film. If you enjoy Williams you won't be disappointed.

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Sometimes I'm productive.

Today I managed to get laundry done, buy food storage, clean the car, clean my desk, organize my files, bake banana bread, make dinner, groom two animals, take a test, make a plan, frame some pictures, scan some others and talk to friends!

Not a bad day for an unemployed girl.

Now, if only there were sex in that list...

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Chasing Rainbows

Last summer (2007) I was counseled to look for rainbows. Since receiving that counsel my eyes have often searched the skies, during light showers, hoping to see a rainbow.
Before moving to Mississippi I rarely saw rainbows. Due to the tropical climate and an increased opportunity to work outdoors I often see them. The photo above was taken from my balcony in July, shortly after my birthday. I was so excited I cried.
Today while driving to Bay St. Louis we spotted two rainbows. My coworkers and I have often discussed the pros and cons about living in Mississippi. It may not be paradise. There is definitely a shortage of single men I find attractive and eligible to date making many evenings very lonely but as Hugh says, "it's a great place for regrouping; for finding yourself again." I think he may be right.
There is a little cafe we enjoy lunching at in "the Bay" called the Mosquito Hawk. A small sign on the wall states, "you find yourself near the water." Perhaps that is why I am here. To find myself again; to regroup, heal and look for meaningful ways to transform this painful period in my life into a season of learning; of refinement.
Eight months ago I could not imagine living my life in a meaningful way minus the companionship of my mother and one of my dearest friends. Although I still experience crushing grief and discouragement I thank God for sending me rainbows to remind me that His promises are sure and one day I will be reunited with those I love so dear and have lost. I hope I never forget the counsel I have been given to search for rainbows and in doing so, continue to feel joy each time I see them.

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As Promised

Since outgrowing my Dusty Rose bike, which I loved and rode constantly until I entered middle school, I have wanted a beach cruiser. Last month, a few days prior to Kelli and Joy's visit I perused the selection at a local bike shop. Although there were several bikes I loved, in the end, I decided on the very feminine yellow bike with a dainty red tulip chain. (Thanks Jeff for your patience! You were a sweetheart.) It is everything I have ever wanted in a bike, minus the basket, which will come later, with Jeff's help, of course.
Due to construction on Beach Boulevard, I ride in the cemetery adjacent to my condo complex. Some may find this a little morbid but any historian will immediately recall that cemeteries were originally designed for recreational purposes and my decision to ride through a cemetery, which is really just a garden with headstones, is not strange at all. In fact, there are few places in the surrounding area that have a collection of mature oak trees that provide shade like "my" cemetery does. With the large oaks and the view of the Gulf opposite of Beach Boulevard it's the perfect spot.
Because I am positive my father will read this sooner or later, let me assure you, I never ride unsupervised. Jennifer, our security guard, insists that I only ride where she can see me and that I only do so the evenings she is on duty. I am perfectly safe and sensible about the whole thing and there is nothing to worry about Daddy.
Don't you love my bike?

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My Main Gay

Getting old sucks, but lucky for me, I have Ben to help me through the pain.
Wow! This could be a commercial.

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Tips for Dating a Preservationist

My colleague, Amanda, shared these with me last week. I have bolded the points I particularly agree with. If you are interested in dating a Historic Preservationist or Architectural Historian, read below:
Preservation is not just about old buildings. Learn this very, very quickly.

Buying anything in Wal-Mart or any other chain store is wholly unacceptable. If anything can be bought via "mom and pop," it's best to do so and not complain about the thirty cents you would have saved on each item. The stress you'll spare yourself is worth much more.
The coffee found in local coffee shops is much better than Starbucks. The same can be said about the food at local restaurants as opposed to chains.
Vacation destinations, more often than not are determined by the age of the building to be found there or something that happened in that location several decades earlier. This is not as limiting as it sounds; beaches can be historic places too.
Be prepared to stop the car often, and with little notice-especially along particularly lonely expanses of highway.

You'll use the term "middle of nowhere" past the point of comfort. You should also invest in a map.
Take the back roads. They're much more interesting and the extra time you spend on them would only be wasted in traffic. Preservationists hate interstates.

Buildings have human characteristics. Don't question it, you'll only upset them (the buildings and the preservationists).

Always have a camera with you. You won't, however, be in very many pictures unless you are a stationary object and of historic consequence.

You will, at some point in your life trespass, I sincerely hope you don't get arrested (or shot).

When renting an apartment or buying a house, anything even remotely modern is not a consideration. Such housing lacks character. This piece of advice is of course contingent on you buying into that thing about buildings being people too.

Suburbia is a four letter word.

Flamingos are in style. Always. Get used to the sight of them.

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God is such a sneeky guy!!

I had a not great weekend as document on my solo blog. It was an ickfest. And the today I woke up to the first day of fall. And I wanted to climb back in bed until early April. And then, I remembered.

Ladies and Gentlemen, HEROS! Is back on! Tonight!

I feel a swoon coming on.

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Ever been imprisoned by wind? It's enough to drive one crazy. I hate Hurricane Ike and long for someone to reach out their hand and command, "Peace! Be still." Until then, my heart and prayers go out to those who are in the storm's path. May God protect you and fortify your hearts. May you have the strength to accept and endure the storm's results. My sympathies to all who are or may be affected. God be with you.

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Happy 60th Birthday Daddy!

Here's to being sixty-years young! I love you!

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Thursday I left Missoula, after a fantastic breakfast at Paul's Pancake Parlor with my new friend C., for Glacier. I've been planning for about two months to take a massive camping trip--to Banff. All things considered (read: fuel costs) I decided that it would be fun to stop at Glacier and do some hiking there. Scanning Craigslist--oh, CL, how I love thee--I managed to find most everything I needed second-hand and cheap! Best way to build the armory of things you'll use to play in the dirt, I say.

So, breakfast finished I head over to Derek & Beth's to pick up some firewood. I reach back into the pile and get one good piece, reach in again and get STUNG BY A WASP on my ring finger. Not a happy experience. When there is any type of insect venom in my system my body says, "HEY! I chance to be huge and red! We'll take it!" (see picture below--remember that all comments should be directed to woe not debunking of my pain) and off it goes. This time was no exception. After swearing and moving my CTR ring, I thought, "Fine! I'll *buy* wood, freaks!" and off I went.

The drive to Glacier isn't a bad one, you spend most of the time around the shores of Flathead Lake and on interesting roads. The drive through Glacier is even better--even with this...

The work on Going To The Sun road is extensive and the first trip over took me about three times longer than it usually does. Really, I don't mind. After all, you're looking at this...

I camped at Rising Sun for the three nights I stay and it was the most perfect little spot! My site had a secluded little spot for my tent, nestled in some trees and great underbrush--perfectly private. I was right against the mountain, not a soul but me near that end of the campground. Which was amazing and perfect! And then the ranger came by and said, "We haven't had any bears in camp for a day or so but be really sure to secure your food properly when you're this near the hills, ok?" I thought, "Ok! I can do that." But, as it turns out, it gets dark at night too! Bears! And the dark! Good lord.

I have to be the only girl in the world who goes camping and forgets that she's deathly afraid of the dark. Sheesh.

Luckily, I live through the night for this sunrise.

The next morning was filled with the un-photoed fun of fixing my tire. Yes, that's right, I managed to rip a hole in the sidewall of my tire on the first day of my trip. On the up side, I managed to change it myself, call my own tow truck and get it all fixed! Between that and making fire, I was feeling damn proud of my skillz. With my fixed tire, Friday was spent on a series of tiny hikes that people who are 90-years-old with oxygen frequent. Like this one...

It was also an exciting day because on my way back over to camp I saw my first grizzly! The bear was fantastically majestic, running up the side of a very steep mountain just off GTTS road. I tried to catch him but instead I got a picture of this...

Saturday was my big hiking day. Since I worked in the park ages ago, I've wanted to hike the Highline Trail. Generally if one was to do that, you'd have to hitchhike back to Logan Pass--I was not about to do that. Last year, however, Glacier implemented a shuttle service so you can take advantage of these great hikes and still get back to your car safely. Love it! Eventually I'd like to do the full trail, including dropping over into Grinnell Glacier but when you're hauling the equivalent of a full-grown male walrus on your posterior (read: my fat bum!) it's a miracle just to do the 11.6 miles.

To say that every mile is breathtaking would be lying. It's just the first eight or so. The last four are mainly groves and illustrative of how a forest heals after fire. I chose the trail specifically for the busy, popular nature of it. The last thing you should be doing as a novice hiker in bear country is hiking alone on mostly unused trails. At all points there were people in front of and behind me albeit usually out of sight. Or like this...

I saw big-horned sheep, mountain goats, marmots, deer and tons of other little creatures. I was satisfied with my lack of predatory animal sightings. I think a couple of my favorite animal moments were these...

That mom and baby were only feet off the trail! The little man before them caused quite a traffic back-up because he wouldn't leave the trail and his grazing until the full jam of us (eight or ten people) clapped and asked vocally. Then he just sauntered off the trail a few feet and waited for us to pass.

The last four miles of this hike were brutal--all downhill and on sore legs. Not fun. I think the most unnerving part of the hike was in the middle of my descent to the road--I saw my first bear scat, four piles of it actually. Then I looked up and discovered that I was hiking alone in wide, amazing fields of berries. There's no areobic exercise that will raise your heart rate like that! I spent the next mile or so singing and clapping, wondering where in the hell the rest of the hikers I'd been seeing all day were. Nearing the end of the hike I was truly spent and came close to laying down on the trail and telling God to send in a mule or lose my potential forever. Luckily I pushed through that and got back to the road. I was so proud of myself!

All told, I hike just over 20 miles in two days--not bad for a softie! Saturday night my friend C. came to camp for a visit and lucky it was. It rained that night and C. was nice enough to let me crawl into the back of the SUV to sleep since I have a talent for choosing tent sites that are in the middle of massive puddles. Sunday morning we had some breakfast in the rain and then decided it was probably better for me to break camp and head home--after all, who wants to camp in the rain? Not me. So my very sore body and I got everything packed away in the car and called it a trip.

I could go on for hours about this park and how much I love it. It was the best weekend I've had in months and I can't wait until next summer! Better shape means better hikes--ones that require bear spray--and I can't wait to get started on seeing more of my favorite place on Earth.

Hurricane Prep According to Dave Barry

We're about to enter the peak of the hurricane season. Any day now, you're going to turn on the TV and see a weather person pointing to some radar blob out in the Ocean and making two basic meteorological points:

(1) There is no need to panic.
(2) We could all be killed.

Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to be in Mississippi or Florida . If you're new to the area, you're probably wondering what you need to do to prepare for the possibility that we'll get hit by "the big one." Based on our experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

STEP 1: Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least three days.
STEP 2: Put these supplies into your car.
STEP 3: Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Halloween.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people will not follow this sensible plan. Most people will foolishly stay here in MS .

We'll start with one of the most important hurricane preparedness items:


If you own a home, you must have hurricane insurance. Fortunately, this insurance is cheap and easy to get, as long as your home meets two basic requirements:

(1) It is reasonably well-built, and
(2) It is located in Nebraska .

Unfortunately, if your home is located in MS or Florida, or any other area that might actually be hit by a hurricane, most insurance companies would prefer not to sell you hurricane insurance, because then they might be required to pay YOU money, and that is certainly not why they got into the insurance business in the first place. So you'll have to scrounge around for an insurance company, which will charge you an annual premium roughly equal to the replacement value of your house. At any moment, this company can drop you like used dental floss. Since Hurricane George, I have had an estimated 27 different home-insurance companies. This week, I'm covered by the Bob and Big Stan Insurance Company, under a policy which states that, in addition to my premium, Bob and Big Stan are entitled, on demand, to my kidneys.


Your house should have hurricane shutters on all the windows, all the doors, and -- if it's a major hurricane -- all the toilets. There are several types of shutters, with advantages and disadvantages:

Plywood shutters: The advantage is that, because you make them yourself, they're cheap. The disadvantage is that, because you make them yourself, they will fall off.

Sheet-metal shutters: The advantage is that these work well, once you get them all up. The disadvantage is that once you get them all up, your hands will be useless bleeding stumps, and it will be December.

Roll-down shutters: The advantages are that they're very easy to use, and will definitely protect your house. The disadvantage is that you will have to sell your house to pay for them.

Hurricane-proof windows: These are the newest wrinkle in hurricane protection: They look like ordinary windows, but they can withstand hurricane winds! You can be sure of this, because the salesman says so. He lives in Nebraska .

Hurricane Proofing your property: As the hurricane approaches, check your yard for movable objects like barbecue grills, planters, patio furniture, visiting relatives, etc... You should, as a precaution, throw these items into your swimming pool (if you don't have a swimming pool, you should have one built immediately). Otherwise, the hurricane winds will turn these objects into deadly missiles.


If you live in a low-lying area, you should have an evacuation route planned out. (To determine whether you live in a low-lying area, look at your driver's license; if it says " Florida ," you live in a low-lying area). The purpose of having an evacuation route is to avoid being trapped in your home when a major storm hits. Instead, you will be trapped in a gigantic traffic jam several miles from your home, along with two hundred thousand other evacuees. So, as a bonus, you will not be lonely.


If you don't evacuate, you will need a mess of supplies. Do not buy them now! MS and Florida tradition requires that you wait until the last possible minute, then go to the supermarket and get into vicious fights with strangers over who gets the last can of SPAM. In addition to food and water, you will need the following supplies:

1 23 flashlights. At least $167 worth of batteries that turn out, when the power goes off, to be the wrong size for the flashlights.
2. Bleach. (No, I don't know what the bleach is for. NOBODY knows what the bleach is for, but it's traditional, so get some!)
3. 55 gallon drum of underarm deodorant.
4. A big knife that you can strap to your leg. (This will be useless in a hurricane, but it looks cool.)
5. A large quantity of raw chicken, to placate the alligators. (Ask anybody who went through Andrew; after the hurricane, there WILL be irate alligators.)
6. $35,000 in cash or diamonds so that, after the hurricane passes, you can buy a generator from a man with no discernible teeth.

Of course these are just basic precautions. As the hurricane draws near, it is vitally important that you keep abreast of the situation by turning on your television and watching TV reporters in rain slickers stand right next to the ocean and tell you over and over how vitally important it is for everybody to stay away from the ocean.

Good luck, and remember: it's great living in Paradise

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Was the question I was asking myself last night. This morning my supervisor directed me to take a mandatory rotation. In anticipation Gustav will land Sunday, I was advised to fly out of Gulfport Friday afternoon. So, Friday evening I will board a plane to Charlotte where I will grab a connecting flight to Reagan.
I am not sure how long I will be in Washington but I am looking forward to seeing my friends and my hair stylist again. I only wish my family and Stephanie lived closer so I could see them too.
This is the first time I have been forced to leave an area due to an impending hurricane. I never thought I would be sad or anxious to leave Mississip but I really am. This area is still recovering from Katrina's devestation and I shrink imagining how Biloxi and its residents may be affected by a similar storm. I sincerely hope Gustav will die in the Atlantic or decrease in strength but I am not feeling optimistic. I guess all we can do is wait and see.

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Dear Mom

Three months ago today, I kissed Corey goodbye, climbed into the car with Brett, who drove me to Rhonda's where I hugged her and Larry before setting off for the airport. I think I cried all the way there. It was horrible.
Although I had a car waiting for me when I landed I didn't have a hotel reservation and drove around for over an hour trying to find something before I decided on the Hampton Inn on Beach Boulevard.
I have always wanted to see New Orleans, especially the French Quarter and Garden District. My first weekend in Biloxi, Yolita invited me to join her for dinner in NOLA. It was wonderful. We met Jimbo in the French Quarter and listened to Jazz bands in Preservation Hall. I thought of you when they played Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World.
Less than two weeks later I moved into a beautiful fully-furnished luxury condo down the beach in Biloxi. Although the view is wonderful from the balcony the king size plantation style bed is my favorite! Now if I could only find someone to share it with. Just kidding. Well, sort of.

A month after moving into my condo, I met Stephanie for a weekend in DC where she surprised me with a birthday party. It was wonderful! She also bought me survey tools. It was the perfect gift.
I returned to Biloxi in time to celebrate the Fourth. I attended a party at Mike's house where this photo was taken. Using Hugh's beach towel as a prop we decided to pose behind the "flag." Hugh, Amanda and I have been conducting deed research which can be frustrating at times but working with Hugh and Amanda makes the process more enjoyable.
When I'm not stuck in the office or conducting deed research, I am out in the field surveying houses with Laura and Amanda. At the beginning of August we surveyed 99 houses in Jackson County, MS. Georgia can be hot and sticky, but it's nothing compared to Moss Point, MS. Sweat was the least of our worries as we were constantly checking our hair and clothes for ticks and then there was the presence of alligators and poisonous snakes. We never spotted a gator but
Laura and Amanda found a cottonmouth snake in a shed. This dude came to our rescue with a shotgun but the snake escaped before the man could "blow it's head off."
I've also seen a few concerts in the past twelve weeks. Last Friday, Heather, Amanda (pictured here) and I saw Better Than Ezra in concert. I chose to join Heather and Amanda for two reasons; 1) It was free 2) Curiosity Ben liked BTE and once said one of their songs reminded him of me. The concert was fine. Their stage presence was not impressive but whatever. It was free and we had good seats.
Afterward the three of us danced to Human League on the beach as traffic raced by us. I can't imagine what people must have thought but it was so fun! I want to dance like a crazy woman on the beach more often even if I have to do it solo.
Tomorrow Joy and Kelli are flying down to visit. I am so excited. They are the first of my friends to do so but I hope they are not the last. Although there is a lot to do I still get lonely and long for Washington and the friends I left behind. I even miss Kentucky sometimes. I am trying to convince Daddy to visit and I think Joshie and Lauren may celebrate Christmas down here with Dad and I.
Three months ago my life was filled with uncertainty. I had no idea how long I would be here or where I would go after my contract expired. Now it appears I will be here as long as there is work to do. It's not DC but I am learning so much and making some really great friends along the way. I wish with all my heart you could have shared this experience with me. I imagine we would have spent hours by the pool or sunbathing on the beach. We would have talked for hours on the balcony watching traffic pass in our nightgowns like we used to do. There would have been trips to Wally World and long discussions about the books we'd read. There would have been pep-talks in the evening when I came home frustrated and I'm confident you would have teased me when I told you about a certain Marine I met at church. Don't worry he's not interested but I find it interesting that he is exactly the type of man you would choose for me. I am confident you would like him.
There would have been pedicures and long lunches at our favorite restaurants. We would share Diet Coke, yes, I have made the switch, drinking from the same glass and make brownies every weekend but it was not to be and I can't understand why you couldn't just hang around a little longer. I don't understand why things worked out the way they did. Why you made certain decisions and why God failed to intervene. I know people loose loved ones everyday but damn why you? Why now? and how in the hell am I supposed to make it? How am I going to make it through this life without you? I feel so lost and I would give anything, ANYTHING, just to talk to you, to hug you, to see you one more time.
I know I will see you again and I often try to imagine what that day will be like. Dad says you will be even more beautiful than you were here and we will laugh and talk for hours. Although I believe he's right it doesn't really comfort me. I miss you so much. I love you and I think about you everyday.
Love you forever-

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