Friday, August 29, 2008

Florida Fashion Trends

Wondertwin, who shares my love of shoes, sent the following new Florida fashion trend my way.
I think I'm going to have to take one of every color!

Bus stop horrors

Well I really did it this time. I managed to embarrass my daughter. And not the kind of embarrassment that is bestowed upon a young girl simply by the fact that her mother lives and breathes. I reigned actual, real-time, hard-core embarrassment on MiniMe. I ran late this morning and she missed the bus. I’m not sure she’ll ever be able to show her face at the bus stop again!

Now in my defense, the bus has been arriving about 10 minutes past its “scheduled” time all week long. So we approached the bus stop this morning at the same time we’ve been getting there all week, only this morning, and on a Friday no less, the bus arrives 5 minutes earlier than yesterday. We advanced on the bus stop just in time to see it pulling away. And no doubt MiniMe's friends saw the horrified look on her face as the bus left without her. She froze, her body stiffened and she looked back at me, then at the departing bus, then back at me and for a second I thought she might cry.

I quickly assured her that I would drive her to school and apologized for getting us to the stop too late. As we walked the long walk of shame back home to drive to school I said, “Well, that’s embarrassing. Now the other moms are going to think I’m the worst mom in the world because I didn’t get you to the bus stop on time.”

MiniMe retorted “What about me? I’m embarrassed more than you. All my friends are going to know I missed the bus!”


However, this story does have a happy ending. I drove her to school and on the way there we started talking about her school’s upcoming talent show. MiniMe wants to be in the talent show and “put on a play.” She is forever dreaming up little skits and performing them for me or her dad with the neighborhood kids forced to take part. Her dad had already explained to her that one of her “skits” wouldn’t really be entertaining enough for the talent show and suggested (strongly) that she play the piano instead.

MiniMe was upset that, No. 1, her dad dissed her drama abilities as unworthy, and No.2 that he was “forcing her” to play piano. I assured her that no one would force her to be in the talent show and tried to be supportive of the piano idea. That only got me an eye roll.

Then, it happened. I redeemed myself! I suggested the most brilliant idea for her talent showcase (at least according to MiniMe.) She could teach the dog some tricks and the two of them could perform together. Her eyes sparkled and I could see the wheels turning in her head as she imagined all the unbelievable tricks she could teach our dog Scout.

Unfortunately, I did not know the talent show is next week. That dog isn’t learning anything in only a week.

But we concocted a plan to spend the next year teaching him a series of increasingly amazing dog tricks so that in her last year of elementary school she would stun the audience with her dog whisperer skills.

“You know Mom, I’m glad I missed the bus. If I hadn’t missed the bus, I wouldn’t have come up with this great idea for the talent show next year,” MiniMe said with a smile as she gathered up her things and headed off to class.

Whew! The day is saved. Except for Scout. The poor dog doesn’t know what he’s in for . . .

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's that in the water?

The swarm of angry red fire ants pulse and buzz as they form a large floating ball of insect resistance against the rising tide of floodwater from Hurricane Fay. To keep from drowning, the large red ants gather together in a tight ball and float through the muddy water. As they drift through yards and down streets, their angry swarm floats into the house of an unsuspecting homeowner, working to salvage anything he can from his flooded home. The homeowner, surprised by the swift attack, succumbs to the swarm dying from anaphylactic shock.

No, this is not the start of a movie on the Sci Fi Channel. It’s ripped from today’s Florida news headlines. You might think fire ants would drown underwater. Not our Florida ants! They actually form into a floating ball and attack anything they come up against. Even people. This morning’s news included a report of a man who died in his home from anaphylactic shock after encountering a floating swarm of fire ants. Rescuers were unable to save him in time.

Water can be the least of your worries when your home or neighborhood floods in Florida. Because with the water come the wildlife that lives in water. I’m talking turtles, alligators, snakes, our famous walking catfish, which, if you’ve never seen one, could have you thinking these strange critters are a sign of the apocalypse.

Not funny, I know. But here’s something that is.

A fellow Florida blogger posted a great test on his blog today, “How to know if your Florida property will flood during a hurricane.” Essentially, he says that if you have any of the Florida wildlife, plant life or scenery to be found in the photos he posted, you will flood. His tongue in cheek post pointed out, very succinctly, that if you live in Florida, you better count on flooding. Really, it doesn’t take a genius to figure this out.

I guess some folks move to Florida and think that if they don’t live on the ocean or the river, they won’t flood. Real estate agents simply don’t tell new state residents that living in the Sunshine State means you’ve got to have a little Noah in you.

At one time I lived in DeBary, an area that experienced some of the worst flooding due to hurricane Fay. We built a home there years ago at a time when DeBary was undergoing quite a building boom. However, we knew that many of the subdivisions going in there were being built on dried up lake beds. And it is the “City of Rivers” after all. So when looking for property, we waited until the hurricane season dumped on DeBary. We didn’t have to wait long.

After a particularly grueling tropical storm, we put on the rubber boots and headed out to find a plot of land for sale that was currently high and dry. There were dozens and dozens of empty lots with only the very top of the real estate signs showing beneath standing water. We found a lot with no water anywhere nearby in a mostly built-out neighborhood, bought it and to this day that house has never flooded.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


My friend Lliba called me yesterday afternoon and although she didn't know it at the time, her call brought me great relief. You see she was calling me because she'd had an especially bad morning at work, had gotten into a disagreement and as a result was escaping the office to "run some errands" just to clear her head and get away from the aggravation long enough to calm down. I TOTALLY felt her pain and what a relief to know that someone else was having a bad day, too!

In my book VENT stands for Vitally Essential Negativity Talk. That's when your friends really come in handy. I'm so glad she called to vent to me. We all need to vent once in a while. I know when I get mad or frustrated at someone or something, I just don't feel better until I let it out.

What frustrated Lliba most was that the situation at work was so bad that she lost her cool a little bit. I get it. The same thing happened to me at the college on Monday when I was so angry that it took every ounce of emotional control I had not to turn use my "Mean Mommy" face on people that aren't even related to me.

I think Lliba feels the same way I do. In a professional setting, or any setting really, when a woman loses her cool she's branded a "Bitch." Even if we have every right to be angry or upset. How F'd up is that? Knowing that showing "extreme displeasure" with someone will brand you a bitch is sometimes even more upsetting than the situation that made you angry in the first place.

Fortunately, as I've gotten older, I've learned to control it much better (at least I think so but you'd have to ask my family to be sure). I mean let's face it, the saying "you get more flies with honey than vinegar" is just too true. Getting all Pyscho on someone, even when they're standing in that shower acting all Janet Leigh and just begging for a slashin' (metaphorically speaking of course), it isn't going to help the situation to pull a female-version of Anthony Perkins. In fact, you're just going to come out looking even worse.

But I have to tell you, the folks at my college really deserved some Hitchcock action on Monday. While I didn't raise my voice or snap at anyone, I did get my point across and they knew I was pissed. That became increasingly evident as several people at the college got involved in solving the situation and sent me very carefully worded one-line e-mails to assure me the situation was corrected. I think they were a little scared (cue Psycho music). Good!

It's also good that I had someone to vent to on Monday. And even better than Lliba had someone to vent to yesterday who totally had her back (so she didn't have to stick the knife in someone).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Like a good neighbor?

What’s that squeal you’re hearing as the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay finally leave the sunshine state? It’s the sound of Florida’s property insurers squirming as hundreds of thousands of claims begin pouring in.

But don’t be fooled. The squealing started before Fay was even a dark cloud over Cuba. As the hurricane season kicked off this summer, some of Florida’s largest insurers boldly petitioned the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation for rate hikes, some as much as 63 percent. But as Fay was bearing down on Florida, our state’s Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty batted away these pesky rate hike filings like a swarm of mosquitoes off a retention pond.

Farm Bureau wanted an average 28.4 percent hike. Smack!

State Farm wanted an average 47.1 percent hike. Smack! Smack!

Gov. Charlie Crist got his proverbial panties in a wad when insurance companies were lax in complying with new legislation meant to reign in insurers and lower costs for homeowners. His Terminator in this battle is Kevin McCarty, empowered with new regulatory control courtesy of Florida’s House and Senate.

He may very well have these corporate titans of indemnity scratching their heads and muttering “Surely, you can’t be serious,” as he denies their 2,000 page filings.

I imagine McCarty must feel good in replying “I am serious and don’t call me Shirley!”

And all this on the heels of the state’s settlement with Allstate Insurance that requires the insurance giant to pay a $5 million fine and lower its homeowner’s insurance rates in all territories of the state by 5.6 percent for a total reduction of 19.8 percent when including the 14.2 percent reduction that took effect June 1, 2007. Allstate also must write 100,000 new homeowners insurance policies over the next three years; and Allstate’s corporate office must cancel a $175 million surplus note it issued to the Florida Allstate companies.

Now it's time for Florida’s insurers to deal with flooding of their own – a rising tide of homeowners claims. State Farm, the state’s largest private insurer, reported approximately 4,000 homeowners claims and over 750 auto claims as of Friday.

Somehow, I don’t think the state’s insurance regulation Terminator has heard the last of it. I’m sure State Farm and others like them will be telling Terminator McCarty this week “I’ll be back!”

Florida - The Missing Link

Finally, after a false start, the school year has started. I intended to post a blog today about MY first day of school. Today was the first day I began teaching my adjunct class at a local private university. But that went so colossally wrong, that I didn't want to relive it with a post.

So instead, I decided to talk about evolution. I was reminded by a post on a fellow Sunshine State blogger's site that this is the first year that our public school system is required to teach evolution. A change was made to include evolution in Florida's education standards last year after much debate. Which got me thinking about my science classes in high school.

Not that I remember much from my high school biology or chemistry classes, except that one of them always smelled of formaldehyde and there was a periodic table in there somewhere. Anyhow, I attended a private Catholic school (although I'm not Catholic) and at my school we had religion class every day and science class every day. Sure, we read the Bible and were taught the story of creation. But in science, we learned about the natural world and the origin of the species. Two separate classes. Unrelated to each other.

So, back in the 80s, the Catholics managed to keep creationism out of the science classroom. And I mean, if they can do it, can't we all?

Anyway, if you need proof of evolution, consider this.

Madonna kicked off her world tour this weekend in Britain. She also turned 50 this month (Can I just say 50 is the new WOW!). Take a look at Madonna's evolution since she burst onto the pop scene in the early 1980s. She is constantly evolving, and if you ask me, getting better and better. I wish I could say the same for Florida's public education system. Oh well, at least I managed to connect Madonna to a blog post on teaching evolution in the Bible Belt. Damn I'm good!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wine and Bananas!

It's official. After four days of being cooped up at home waiting for Fay to go away, Beloved has finally lost it! I'm kinda used to the insanity that sets in after too much time spent at home with kids. But for Beloved to spend 4 days at home with not just MiniMe, but some neighborhood kids, too, he's a man on the edge. I finally had to send him out into the rain to drive around and find his reality checkpoint. He left muttering with the veins popping out on his forehead.

Of course, it didn't help that I got to spend most of the day away from the Nuthouse, I mean Home, at the Power of the Purse luncheon. When 700 ladies will brave the elements in high heeled shoes to attend a charity event, you know the storm's getting to people. But the Power of the Purse team was ready. I had no sooner walked through the door than a very nice cocktail waitress handed me something pink and bubbly in a champagne flute. Bonus!

There were quite a few interesting silent auction items available this year. But the one that drew the most attention was called "Snip, Snip." That's right, it was a gift certificate for a vasectomy. I wondered across this little auction gem on my hunt for an item that included Botox. I overheard several ladies say they thought about bidding on the Snip Snip item but that it would be too embarrassing. Like getting pregnant in our 40s wouldn't be? Lucky for him, Beloved already made the cut.

I attended Power of the Purse with Wondertwin who almost made me pee myself when she pointed out the ladies at the table near us sponsored by the local cosmetic surgeon. They all had big lips and no expression! Apparently you can get too much of a good thing (re:Botox and Restalyne).

I returned home to an excited MiniMe who had "made something for me" while I was gone. She rushed inside and presented me with a salad she made me for lunch. It was lettuce, cucumber and banana. Of course I expressed much appreciation and told her the salad would have to chill until dinner because I'd just eaten (and I wasn't craving banana on my salad greens since I wasn't pregnant in my 40s - yea!). She'd also clipped some of the border grass from the lawn and made a flower arrangement for me. Pretty! Beloved shared that he'd caught her earlier trying to open a bottle of wine to go with the salad she was making me for lunch. Now does my girl love me or what!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dads & Communication

Dads need a little help communicating sometimes. That must have been what was going through the mind of my 3-year-old nephew this weekend when he visited along with his baby brother, father and mother.

Age 3 is a great age. Kids this age say the darndest things. And apparently, so do their parents. Case in point.

As a teacher, my brother-in-law takes the time to try and explain everything to his oldest son in terms he thinks said boy can understand. This weekend, the family drove past a display of airplanes. My BIL pointed out the planes and said “Did you know your uncle used to fly planes?”

You mean he went places, said superior 3-year-old nephew.

“Yes, he went places. But he was the person who flew the plane when he went places. He was the guy who drove the plane.”

You mean he was a pilot?


Then you have those dads who communicate a little too much. Case in point number 2.

I’ve just picked up my daughter and stepdaughter from art classes this summer. We’re on the way home when I start reminding MiniMe that she needs to complete some of the workbook her dad got her when we get home.

In an attempt to keep our girl up to speed educationally, her dad bought her a workbook to use during the summer to help her with math and handwriting – two areas she struggles with. I didn’t say anything to her dad, but since she is MiniMe, math and handwriting are essentially a lost cause. Considering that I only got through my college math requirements by bribing the nerdy teacher’s assistant with his favorite ice cream and my flirtatious attention, her math genes are seriously in doubt. In the area of handwriting, I’ve been told I have the handwriting of a serial killer. But I can type 120 wpm. So again, while there’s not much hope she’ll ever be able to write legibly, in this day and age when texting and other forms of electronic communication are the only way the younger set actually relates to each other, she’s probably covered.

Still, dad bought the workbook and expresses great frustration in my direction anytime she’s spent the week with me and there’s been no workbook progress.

So to avoid the evil eye from my Baby Daddy, I prompt MiniMe to get going on the workbook.

“You know, when your dad comes to pick you up tomorrow afternoon I’m going to get a lecture from him if you haven’t done your workbook” I say. Ok, probably not the best mothering in the world, but hey, it’s the truth.

Mom, why does Dad have to talk so much when he’s mad at me, asks MiniMe.

“Well, when your dad is disappointed or mad, he tries to explain to you why he’s upset calmly, rationally and he tries to reason with you. At least he doesn’t yell and punish when he gets mad like Mommy does.”

But Mom, I hate it when dad lectures me. He talks and talks and talks and I think he’s never going to stop. It’s so annoying!

(True, but here’s where my few moments of stellar parenting are about to kick in!)

“Yes, but isn’t it better to have dad calmly talk to you when he’s upset rather than what happens when Mommy gets mad? Mommy's face turns purple, you get the mean Mommy face, I yell and then punish you by taking away dessert for the rest of the week.”

Without missing a beat, she says No, I’d rather have punishment than one of daddy’s never ending talks. I hate it when he lectures!

At this point, my stepdaughter who’s been unusually quiet in the backseat pipes up.

“Yea, and at least your way we can see it coming. We can usually tell when we’re doing something wrong and you’re starting to get mad.”

You can see if from a mile away Babe! True that!

I guess when it comes to parental discipline, I’m the outrageous “soundbite” parent, and Baby Daddy is the dissertation dad. Ying and yang.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to School Mom Award

The "Back to School" Mom award this year goes to Lliba. She sent me photos of her two boys waiting to board the bus with the other kids in the neighborhood on the first day of school and they are priceless. I just had to share!

Looks like her youngest just wasn't ready for summer to end so soon! She says this was his way of protesting the first day of school, which I found Hilarious with a capital "H!"

I still have the photo of her kids visiting Santa this year on my fridge. The youngest is screaming and crying and the look on Santa's face is highly entertaining. Other moms might not have paid for the "screaming tot in Santa's lap" photo and asked for a do-over, but not Lliba. She's got a really wicked sense of humor that I just love. She knew the screaming tot photo would be a keeper! It's one of those photos that will just have to be pulled out to show to any potential girlfriends when he's a teen. Bonus!

But back to the Mom Award (cue sweeping background music). Lliba gets the Mom Award for several reasons. First, she actually took a photo of her kids on the first day of school (which I didn't do), even though it wasn't a milestone year like the first day of kindergarten or first grade. Second, the photo was wickedly funny. Third, she took the time to send the photo to all her friends. And finally, she survived the first day of school with her sanity in tact and managed to entertain me at the same time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hurricane Prep Tips from a Native

After only one day back at school, the kids are now home for two days due to Hurricane Fay’s impending arrival. Talk about a false start! Anyway, for those of you who’ve never been through a Florida hurricane, here are a few of my must-do items for hurricane preparation.

Prepare for long, boring power outages by stockpiling important reading material such as People, Us, InTouch and OK magazines.

Buy shelf stable liquids such as Parmalat milk, bottled water, Vodka, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Warm beer is just gross!

Make sure you have plenty of candles and matches for when the batteries run out for the flashlights and lanterns. But remember, DON’T MIX YOUR AROMATHERAPY! Those holiday favorite Cinnamon Apple candles burning alongside your stress relieving Lavender Dream candles are a recipe for sensory overload and will lead to a migraine of epic proportions!

Charge up those cell phones! They won’t work because all the circuits will be jammed, but you’ll be most upset if your cell battery expires along with everything in your refrigerator.

Hunker down alongside a mom-friend with kids your children’s ages. When the power goes out and the kids realize they can’t watch Nickelodeon or play video games, things will get dicey! Having friends to play with can mean the difference between surviving the hurricane and a post-storm visit from DCF.

Refill all necessary prescription medication. Don’t forget about those all important OTC items as well. Florida experienced quite a baby boom nine months after the 2004 hurricane season. During an extended power outage it’s hot, it’s dark, there are candles, well, I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.

Stock up on hair gel and powder shampoos to combat that “I haven’t taken a shower in 3 days so I look like a Mad Scientist” look.

And, from the cheap seats, Beloved submitted the following items from his "must-do to prepare for hurricane" list:

Stock up on gas for the generator – A cold beer and/or frozen popsicle are powerful bartering tools when there is no air conditioning and it is 95 degrees and 95% humidity outside. (Besides, Native Mom and her friends drink all of the wine…)

Charge the i-pod – It helps to drown out the squeals from MiniMe and assorted guest kids when the power goes out, the tree in the back yard cracks or a particularly loud thunderclap sounds.

Ensure you are part of your company’s storm response team. That way, when the power is out for the next 10 days, the kids are cranky and Native Mom is out of wine, you can take off for work and enjoy the air conditioning and warm water provided at the office by the company’s back-up generator. Not only that, you can get comp time for all of those extra hours that you work and later take the time to head for the mountains on your motorcycle for a long weekend with the boys!

Making news again, but in a good way!

Finally, something great about Florida makes the news worldwide. If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll know that nothing drives me more crazy than Florida making national or global news for someone or something idiotic. But this past week, Florida was looking mighty fine as we were represented at the Olympics by swimmer Ryan Lochte.

Lochte (pronounced Lock-tee) has four Olympic medals in his collection. He won a silver in the 200 IM and was part of the gold-medal-winning 4x200-meter freestyle relay team at the 2004 Games in Athens.

But his most amazing performance came on Friday, August 15. Swimming two races just 27 minutes apart, the former University of Florida All-American proved he was up to the endurance challenge, winning gold and bronze medals. Lochte, 22 and a Daytona Beach native, started his grueling doubleheader by traversing the 200-meter backstroke in a world-record time of 1 minute, 53.94 seconds, shaving more than a half second off the mark he established at a meet in Melbourne, Australia 16 months ago. Before the gold was draped around Lochte's neck, he went back to the pool for the 200-meter individual relay. Though gassed from his first race, Lochte had enough left to finish third (1:56.53). (Source: USA Today)

Mighty fine! In more ways than one, Grrr! (That’s a Cougar growl, ladies you know what I mean!).

There’s a lot to love about Ryan, from his Olympic success, UF credentials, Daytona Beach laid-back surfer attitude and tight knit family, he’s a great example of a native! One ESPN writer summed up Ryan’s attributes well. All of us Floridians who’ve been following his career for years are in a great mood this week, even if we are getting ready for our first hurricane of the season.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Power of the purse

Next week I'm attending an annual fundraiser in our coastal community called the Power of the Purse. This is a fundraiser for our local United Way. Several years ago, some of our community leaders, who happen to be female, decided to do something about the fact that the majority of people seeking help from our local social service agencies and charities were women and children. The Power of the Purse was launched to specifically help women and children right here in our backyard. Sometimes it just takes a woman to get the job done!

The fundraiser is a luncheon and silent auction. The founders of this event knew what they were doing. The event keeps moving to bigger and bigger venues as the number of women attending (and giving more than $100,000 a year) is growing. Basically if you're a mover and shaker in this area and you carry a purse, you attend this event.

Which reminds me of a discussion VOR and I had last week about the power of women in the online community and the general underestimation of "mommy bloggers" by the male blogosphere establishment. Here's what most of us women bloggers know that our male blogging counterparts should remember:

  • Women represent more than half the U.S. population. (U.S. Census)
  • Nationally, about 32% of all women workers are in professional and managerial occupations. (Institute for Women's Policy Research Status of Women in the State Report, 2002)
  • Women control 83% of household spending. (The Trendsight Group)
  • As of 2002, there are an estimated 6.2 million majority-owned, privately held, women-owned firms in the U.S., accounting for 28% of all privately held firms in the country. (Center for Women's Business Research, projected from 1997 census data)

I bring this up because VOR and I were discussing how misunderstood women's role and impact as bloggers is having. Women bloggers are often dismissed by their male counterparts as irrelevant, which is when the snarky "mommy bloggers" term gets thrown around. While it is true that the majority of successful bloggers today are men, on the whole it's unwise to discount us "mommy bloggers." After all, we probably purchased the laptop and wireless router that most men are using to blog with every day. And we probably take care of paying the bill each month for that high speed connection.

VOR suggested that if a man who authors a highly visited political blog thinks he's having a greater impact on the blogosphere and on our political process than a "mommy blogger," he just needs to remember the political clout and power of "soccer moms" in previous national elections.

Women's blogs may seem on the surface to center mostly on family issues, but if you're a regular contributor or reader to a woman-powered blog, you know that what we're really doing is solving problems, supporting each other, debating moral and social issues and creating a network of empowered, opinionated, actively involved citizenry. But, to be fair, women still have a long way to go.

The only reason, in my opinion, that women don't run more of our Fortune 500 companies or hold a greater number of influential political posts in the U.S. is that women aren't doing a good enough job of supporting women. And women aren't doing a very good job of moving beyond stereotypes to reinforce our roles as leaders. Basically, we need to stop selling ourselves short.

For example. Last spring I was with Beloved at a bike week event in Daytona. (Disclaimer: I ride my own bike and am not a prude.) We wondered into a bar where all the bartenders were women and they were all dressed in lingerie. There were also women in lingerie dancing on elevated platforms. As I watched one of the "dancers," who was probably in her early 30s, bend down to retrieve a single dollar bill sticking out of the mouth of a man in the crowd using only her crotch, I said to Beloved "Hillary Clinton is never going to get elected President, nor is any other woman in this country, as long as an attractive 30-something-year-old woman is willing to sit on the face of a strange man for a single dollar bill."

C'mon ladies, let's strap on the power purse, support and encourage each other in everyday and virtual life, speak up, get real and get involved. Life's too short to squat on a stranger's face for a buck!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's all Greek to me!

It's been all about education here this week. Next week the kids go back to school and it appears my Beloved will be joining them. He completed the registration process to begin his master's program this week, something we’ve been talking about for a long time. So proud I am of all my students! Which got me thinking . . .

When it comes to education in Florida, we have some of the best and worst examples. Well, maybe not worst. Florida's public k-12 education system is ranked 42 in the nation. Although I'm not sure that ranking above another state's traffic school counts. But at least we're ahead of a handful of other states who shall remain nameless (Alabama!).

Florida is home to some of the most unusual, unique and misunderstood colleges and universities and offers a wide assortment of, shall we say “unique” degrees.

Stetson University. Although their mascot is the hatters, this is not a professional school for headwear but one of the top ranked private schools in the nation. It is well known for its school of music.

Ringling School of Art and Design. Not just any clown can get into this fine arts school. But if you want to join the circus, enroll at Florida State University, which has a school-sanctioned circus activity program called the Flying High Circus.

Is that B.S.? Here are just a few degrees you'll find offered by Florida colleges and universities that are sure to have your father exclaiming "How are you ever going to get a job with a degree in that!!!"
  • Knight School. New College of Florida offers a degree in Medieval and Renaissance studies.
  • No Habla Engles? Get your Master’s Degree in Hispanic Media from St. Thomas University School of Leadership Studies.
  • What a Coup! Earn a Minor in Regional Geopolitics from Lynn University.
  • Fore! Florida Gulf Coast University offers a PGA/Professional Golf Management undergraduate degree listed as a “four and a half year degree program.” What’s the extra half-year for?
  • It’s a Bug’s Life. University of Florida offers a degree in Entomology and Nematology.
  • This degree is divine. Clearwater Christian College, where all students automatically earn a minor in the Bible.
  • Tower of Babel. The Presbyterian USA associated Eckerd College is a private college that offers degrees in Japanese, Greek, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Chinese and East Asian Studies.
  • Can you hear me now? University of Miami offers a degree in Wireless Communication. I think my teenagers could qualify as professors for this subject.
  • Hope in a jar. The University of South Florida’s School of Aging Studies offers a degree in Gerontology. For the traditional age student that means the study of us 40-somethings.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chameleon Colors

Are you the type to see life in terms of black and white or do you see things in shades of grey? I'm prone to shades, but not all grey. Let's just say my belief system or philosophy on life is much more colorful. Around here, it's not unusual to bump up against life's colors in a spectrum that includes black, white, grey, Harley Orange, Blue Blood and Bottle Blonde all in one day. Like the last 24 hours.

Last night Beloved and I decided to eat out and take a ride on the motorcycle. Our favorite Mexican food restaurant has a mid-week "free beer" promotion, so one guess where we ended up.

The place was packed. We shared a table with two twenty-something guys who "were just keeping it real with the free brew" (their words not mine). Friendly enough. While waiting for our tacos, Beloved and I talked politics and sipped free draft PBRs (which I learned last night is not the name of an import, but Pabst Blue Ribbon which seems to be making a comeback around here. Who'd have thunk?). This was the black and white part of the evening.

In addition to having a blended family, I also have a mixed marriage. I'm democrat. He's republican. Lately we've been seeing more eye to eye. But politics is boring so I'll skip the conversation details.

Next stop a place called "The Garage" due to the fact that it once was a garage. Now its a favorite mid-week biker hangout with dollar beers and a band.

Quite the rainbow at the garage. Lifestyles in many colors. Here you'll find guys (and some gals) who work the labor pool and live day to day. Their color is Vintage Harley Orange. They're on the makeshift dance floor next to a guy who pulled up earlier on a brand spankin' new Harley, his trophy wife on back with her brand spankin' new boobs. Their color is Money Can Buy Me Youth Green.

You've got a group of retirees standing off to the side, one of whom brings his biker dog with him everywhere (swear to god, the dog rides standing on the tank which his owner has covered in a slip resistant fabric. Can you say Biker Bitch?!). Their color is Grateful Grey.

The early crew is now getting a little loud. They're the group who shows up at 5 for the free pizza to go with their dollar beers. They usually walk home, or in the ladies case, back to work on the corner. Their color is Hard Party Purple.

Scattered hither and yon are the small groups of guys in their 40s and 50s who just like to ride and use the mid-week break as an opportunity to hang with the guys and get out of the house. Their color is Lawnmower Man Maroon. They usually hang on the fringes near the couples who go in together on a babysitter and stop by on date night once a month (that's our spot). This group's color is Baby Blue.

Jump to this morning when I got a call at 7:30 a.m. from the chair of the committee I serve on for a local non-profit. He's a bank President. He wants me to lead discussion on an agenda item when we meet at 8 a.m. The committee members include CEOs of publicly traded companies, financial advisers, CPAs, lawyers and developers. Their color is Blue Blood. (good thing my baby blue helps me blend).

And here I am this afternoon in my Bottle Blonde life, blogging in between answering e-mails for work, organizing the syllabus for the next semester of the college course I teach and scheduling grooming appointments for one of my dogs, which is sleeping under my desk. Oh, and there's back to school items that still need to be taken care of and a chicken marinating in the fridge for dinner tonight.

I think, like the chameleon, it helps to be able live life in a variety of colors.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Biking the back roads

Beloved and I spent Saturday roaming around the backroads of Florida on our motorcycles. Of course we got wet. Because it is, after all, August in Florida. We had decided to try and see some small towns in Central Florida. There's no better way to do that than on a motorcycle. On our short list for the day were the towns of Oklawaha, Dunnellon and Yankeetown. However, the rain cut short our trip so while we got to see Oklawaha, we ended up visiting Leesburg and Mt. Dora instead.

What I enjoy most about motoring through Florida's back roads is a little game I've invented called "Florida roadside retail." I look for handmade signs advertising items for sale and keep track of the most unusual. This weekend I spotted the following for sale by independent entreprenuers: piglets, goats, frog legs, horses, watermelon, vine ripe tomatoes, "wholesale" pottery, and of course boiled peanuts in the cajun and regular variety.

My favorite roadside peanut seller is an independent businessman at the intersection of SR 44 and 44B near Mt. Dora who advertises his boiled pnut stand as a "Drive-Thru." You pull off the road alongside his truck with the pnut boiling apparatus off the tailgate and he brings the pnuts to you. Now that's service!

Beloved and I have often wondered about these unique Florida pnut entreprenuers. Beloved's theory is that the men who operate these operations (and most are men) are just trying to find some time alone and get away from the wife and kids. Making money is an afterthought.

We saw some beautiful scenery and cruised some lovely two-lane roads despite the weather. At one point, we pulled over after not finding our turn (notice I didn't say getting lost). Beloved pulled out his fancy, schmancy new GPS and I had to carefully stifle a laugh when the high tech gadget couldn't locate Oklawaha. Seems the town with only one blinking caution light and a population of less than 1,000 was "off the grid." Lucky for us a fellow biker came along and stopped to be of service. That's one thing about Florida bikers, they know the backroads of Florida better than any GPS, Atlas or professional map. They also keep our economy going by patronizing local businesses and giving to charity.

We dried off at Gator Joe's in Oklawaha. The town is famous as the location where the notorious Ma Barker and her gang were taken out in a shootout with law enforcement. Gator Joe's is on a lake that attracts water ski enthusiasts and offers charming "cottages" for vacation rental. Gator Joe's is a typical Florida bar and grill with an expansive deck and menu items like froglegs and gator tail.

While we waited out the rain, we discussed some of the small Florida towns we've visited by motorcyle over the years and which ones we liked the most. Some of our favorites include: Cedar Key, Appalachicola, Fernandina Beach and Crescent City.

Perhaps when fall comes along and the rainy season draws to an end we can finally add a few more small towns to our list.