Monday, December 2, 2013

Lessons in losing, and winning, and not Updyking

The Auburn Family can’t stop smiling. We rewatched the Iron Bowl of all Iron Bowls last night, and yes, we won, again!! Yes, Auburn University fans can’t stop smiling, and, it seems, some in the Bama nation can’t stop Updyking.

Updyking: (verb) Acting like a crazed, destructive Alabama fan.

I thought I made that word up, but not really, because the original updyker, Harvey, has @getupdyked as his Twitter handle. Let’s now pause for full cyber gross out.

Even as I talk about updyking, it’s near impossible to believe anyone I know who is a fan of The University of Alabama – and I know many gracious ones -- would condone or send twitter death threats to kicker Cade Foster, as have been reported (and printed) on the national news. Really? Don’t you think he feels bad enough?

But then, who would have ever thought that some crazed Alabama fan would creep onto the Auburn campus under cover of darkness, armed with the strongest of herbicides to poison oak trees. All because Bama lost a ball game. The game had been at Tuscaloosa, in 2010, the year Auburn got its first national championship since shortly after I was born.

The Toomer’s Oaks are gone; but thankfully, Auburn is an agriculture school, you know, we’re “Barners,” with a forestry and wildlife school and horticulture experts, too. (We’ve got cows, and fisheries, and poultry, too and that raptor center.) We’ll fix it; it’ll take a while, but we’ll replace and nurture the oaks.  Meanwhile, that corner got rolled fine and dandy Saturday night.

Harvey Updike, who in the end served six months, was recently ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution (we’re holding our breath on that one). He’s on probation, surely, (and worst to him, he’s been banned from any Alabama sporting event). He got off easy, we think, and he’s not sorry, apparently. He said he wishes he could poison them again. And, that was before Bama lost the game. 

Read this post, from several days ago:

The Iron Bowl is hyped as the most fierce college rivalry in the country, and it probably is. In Alabama, you know you have to “go for” one or other. But things like poisoning trees and death treats make me wish the Iron Bowl rivalry wasn’t so big, so fierce, so crazy. But it just is.

We hoped, had a feeling, believed we might win this game by another miracle. I’m giving some mystical credit to my daddy, C.H. Romine, who raised me Auburn, helped me graduate from there and wanted to study engineering there, but married Momma, stayed in Birmingham and graduated from Birmingham Southern instead. He died in July and didn’t get to see this miracle season. But then again, maybe he has seen it and – kinda like the angel wings Aubie was wearing -- could have been running in spirit along with Chris Davis on his 109-yard game winning return. It has seemed a season of destiny.

Auburn Coach Gus Malzaln – our Harry Porter-looking coach whom a clever sportswriter compared to Dirty Harry with a play book-- and staff and a crew of young men who believe in the “together” message have brought Auburn back from last year, one of our worst seasons ever. The Auburn family accepted last year’s mess, made adjustments and moved on. 

See, we know how to lose, and yes, we remember how to win. That’s football, college football at its best.  Death threats and poisoning trees are not, and both sides know it.

I know these are a crazy few sore losers and not typical fans. And fans and players have come to Foster’s defense, and rightly so. Wins and losses are team things. But crazy sore losers, they make the team, school, fans, and the state look, well, CRAZY.

Take it from us, folks who know that you can’t win them all. Instead of killing trees or wishing you could kill them again, or threatening kickers, Updykers, closet Updykers and frustrated Alabama fans, please try these tried-and-true reactions to losing:

  1.  “There’s always next year.”
  2.  “We ran out of time.”
  3.  “I’m getting tired of wearing houndstooth, anyway.”
  4.  “I’m ready for basketball season. Really.”
  5. “I didn’t go to Alabama anyway.”

That’s the spirit!

Postscript: I know this post may bother some Alabama friends. But, to paraphrase Harvey, the Updyker, who said on the “Roll Tide-War Eagle” documentary, where he denied poisoning the trees but said he couldn’t help it: “This is pro-bly gonna make some people mad, but…”

Picture of the day:
Don't know origin of this; my cousin reposted it on Facebook. It's a bit smarty-pants. But I couldn't resist. Love Aubie, too.

 Song of the Day: 

Crazy Train

Crazy, but that's how it goes 
Millions of people living as foes 
Maybe it's not too late 
To learn how to love 
And forget how to hate 
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train 
Let's Go! 

--From Crazy Train, written by Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads and Bob Daisley

Friday, October 25, 2013

ROBOCALLS have mercy please

These days I am at home most of the time – being that I am a retiree-freelance-writer-sometime-job-seeker-revising-author-household-manager-recovering-reporter-corporate-communications-spinner. (Note: My identity crisis may be a future post topic.)

As a result, I have developed a hate-hate relationship with ROBOCALLS.  You know, those recorded calls that call and call again. All day long, they call. No relief on weekends either.

It doesn’t matter if you are on the “do not call” registry. We are.  Robocalls don’t apply, in general, and they can find you and call you as often as they like.

I just counted, and of the 30 calls showing on the caller ID system today, half of them are robocalls. Have Mercy.

The dictionary defines robocall as:
plural noun: robocalls
1.    an automated telephone call that delivers a recorded message, typically on behalf of a political party or telemarketing company.

Another on-line dictionary defines a robocall as a telephone call that uses a computerized autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message without human intervention.

Originating in the early 1990s in politics (IT FIGURES), the robocall today is also used by commercial businesses and telemarkers, and I believe, a bunch of scammers. And, really bottom line, robocalls are annoying as heck, and I’ve found no sure way to avoid them.

I share some of my avoidance tactics below, but so far, it’s ROBOCALLS: 100, JACKIE: 0.

Some tactics I’ve tried:
1. Letting your phone ring until they give up and/or you get a robocall voice mail.
2. Pushing the answer button and then the end button in a super-duper fast hang up. That’ll show ‘em.
3.   My oft-used useless response of answering and yelling into the phone “STOP CALLING ME!”  Then I hang up. That’ll really show ‘em.
4. Adding the oft-calling numbers to your blocked calls list if your phone service provides this service. However, calls from the same robocall fiend come from varying numbers, so that’s not a solution either; and blocked calls are limited to 20, at least with AT&T.

Something I haven’t tried – recommended by a consumer protection attorney on-line – is documenting all your robocalls, including photographing the numbers calling and ID of organization, and then suing. Take ‘em to court. Supposedly people have received up to $1,500 per call after litigation. Yeah buddy. It’s temping, and if ever I would litigate, these annoying calls might be sufficient reason.

According to Wikipedia, the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) regulates automated calls. All robocalls, irrespective of whether they are political in nature, must do two things to be considered legal. Federal law requires all telephone calls using pre-recorded messages to identify who is initiating the calls and include a telephone number or address whereby the initiator can be reached.
I don’t think all my robocallers do that although many have a name and a number if you have caller ID. 

Others are unavailable, private or unknown caller.  I rarely listen to the whole spiel but when I have, some will ask you to select 1 to talk to a person. I’ve gone that route a couple of times, and shouted at the person my comeback of “STOP CALLING ME!”  and THEY hung up on me (turnabout fair play, I suppose).

And, each day, there are more, not fewer, robocalls.
NO wonder. When I Googled robocalls, half the items are advertisements for robocall dialing equipment and services.
“Lowest rate robocalls!”
“Easy robocalling system!”
“Send Millions of Automated calls; pay 7/10ths of a Penny Per Minute!”

Jeez.  They are advertising something that we’re not really sure is really totally legal, AND we know is absolutely annoying. And, you have to wonder, is this a legit business marketing plan? Robocalls?  How effective? I’d never do business with anyone or organization or business that uses this outreach tactic. Would you?

Just of kicks, here are examples of the robocalls we get, daily, repeatedly.




“ATTENTION SENIOR CITIZEN.” (That’s enough to make me hang up).

I’m not a senior citizen (well, maybe AARP says I am, and I’ll take that senior discount).  I DON’T care what the FBI says, and I wouldn’t take your supposedly free cruise if you paid me.

I just want to go back to the time when hearing your home phone ring meant that someone you know is calling you, with good news or just to say Hi. It’s a PERSON who you probably DO want to talk to on the other end of the line. It could be someone exciting calling or even that crazy friend of yours.  Anyone, please, except a robot.

Quote of the day/song of the day:

"People are crazy and times are strange. "

Things Have Changed, Bob Dylan.

Picture of the day:

In honor of my Auburn Tigers beating Texas A&M in fine fashion last week, here's a War Eagle sunset, with a Rising Moon (My Indian name) at Pine Barren Creek.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

WJSW? Fishing slow but signs bring reward

The sign is the left when you enter the hodgepodge that is the Selma Curb Market. Right across from the check out counter, next to the cooler of iced-down strawberry and grape drinks and above the selection of red worms, wigglers and super jumpers, is the sign that asks the moral question: “Would Jesus Steal Worms.”  There’s no question mark, probably because there’s no room for it, but the question is certainly implied.
The sign always makes me smile, and last weekend, when I stopped on at the curb market to buy minnows on my way to our fishing camp-camphouse in Dallas County, I had my iPhone, and snapped a picture of the sign. 
I posted the picture on Facebook, sending it out before Lucille, our labra-something dog and travel companion, and I pulled away from the curb market and drove the rest of winding way down Highway 41 to the camphouse.
I had plenty of likes, and one comment (“Yea, I think he would just make some instead”) by the time I got way off the paved road and arrived to meet the boys at our shack on Pine Barron Creek, our hideaway that we call the Wild Kingdom.
The fishing  -- with the minnows purchased at the curb market (I didn’t buy or steal any worms)  -- was slow, slow, much slower than the cyber likes for the Would Jesus Steal Worms picture.
I only caught  a couple of keeper Crappie during hours of pier sitting, hook placing and watching Pine Barren Creek flow to the Alabama River. 
But, I saw the sky morph from sunny bright to cloudy bright to orange-tinged dusk and twilight, and I studied cranes and water turkeys as they soared and dived in their own fishing expeditions.  
Just being there – in this remote natural world of moss-covered trees, gator filled waters and morning, noon and night songs from creatures seen and imagined -- is more than half the fun of fishing off our pier.
It’s a place where signs in country stores offer an implied, kind warning like Would Jesus Steal Worms, (surely, only the biggest of back-sliders could pilfer a plastic tub of super jumpers while reading that phrase), and where you have to know to ask for small minnows for crappie, not the big ones intended for catfish fishing.
It’s a place where you can enjoy yourself, find some peace and see the Lord’s grandeur in every sound and sight, even if the fishing aren’t biting.

Song of the day:

Fishin' Blues, by Taj Mahal

Betcha' goin' fishin' all o' da' time
Baby, goin' fishin' too
Bet yo' life, yo' sweet wife
Catch mo' fish than you

Many fish bites if ya' got good bait
Here's a little tip that I would like to relate
Many fish bites if ya' got good bait
I'ma goin' fishin', yes I'm goin' fishin
And my baby, goin' fishin' too

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Jean Martin, Selma stalwart and newsroom mom

Folks from the Alabama Black Belt used a plethora of phrases to describe Selma’s Jean Martin, who died Monday, March 11, at age 89.

Treasure, journalist, friend, public servant, courageous, volunteer, writer, historian.

For me, Jean Martin was our newsroom mom, a Selma stalwart and decades-long friend and mentor. Jean was one of the first people I met when I went to work at The Selma Times-Journal one year out of Auburn and journalism school.  She taught me and a series of young reporters – including her J’s (me, Janet Gresham and Jeannette Berryman, a trio at the Times-Journal in the 1980s) – about Selma, about working at a community newspaper, about making your readers FEEL something and about being strong and brave when you need to be.

Jean took us under her wing, called my husband “just darlin’,” introduced us around, vouched for us, and was there for our milestones – professional and personally. Jean was there at the birth of our first child – with Nikki Maute in my room when Will was hours old, taking a picture and publishing a column, “The news room announces a very special addition.”

She was Lifestyle editor, a job I’d later hold after one of her retirements from the Times-Journal. She never retired, really, from the art of writing, as an award-winning columnist, or from life and service, serving as director of the Old Depot Museum and several terms on the Selma City Council.

I last spoke to Jean in 2004, when she called me at home in Camden, when I was recovering from breast cancer surgery. A decades-long breast cancer survivor, she encouraged and pronounced my journey as successful (it has been), and we made plans to get together, but, I regret, we never did. We kept up through mutual friends and reading an occasion column, but still feel as close to my newsroom mom as when she wrote about me and my first born.

Jean loved her hometown of Selma and promoted it in every way possible.  She did the same for her friends. I was lucky to be one of those friends, and I feel blessed for it. 

Jean Martin, left, our newsroom mom,
with Nikki Maute, Maxine McDonald, Janet Gresham, me and Jeanette Berryman.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Awakening from the Knee Nightmare

It was just barely wintertime when the knee nightmare began for my son Will and our family. Three operations, five emergency room visits, four record-setting knee drains, a staph infection, a blood clot, three hospitalizations and weeks of pain and immobility later, it’s almost Spring, and we’re beginning to come out of this bad dream. Or we can at least, at times, glimpse the dawning of normalcy.

It’s been a long, painful road, and one that taught me, as parent and caregiver and makeshift nurse, many lessons. I expect the ordeal has taught, and is still teaching, lessons, too, for Will, who despite it all -- and it was very bad for a while -- soldiered on most of the times with a smile for his caregivers and a determination to walk and be pain-free again. He’s not there yet, but he’s getting there.

The staph and blood clot are gone, leaving behind a swollen, scarred and stubborn knee, requiring intense work to bend, straighten and act like a knee again.

There’s no need to detail the nightmare – how a routine knee scope for a cyst on a knee ligament developed into life-threatening conditions – except to say that most everything that could go wrong did.

But looking back -- as I prepare to return to work after two months off on Family Medical Leave and Will continues to struggle to walk, now on a walker, eyeing a cane and keeping as his goal the prize of walking well as a healthy 30 year old -- we learned many lessons and continue to. I’ll list a few here.

  1. Family members should not have operations (even minor knee scopes) during the same time period. My knee scope for a torn meniscus was two weeks before Will’s. It just worked out that way, but after all that happened, I saw clearly (after walking the steps to Will’s part of the house umpteen times a day) the folly of the caregiver also having a recovering knee. Part B to this lesson: think long and hard before you have any surgery, because you never know what’s going to happen.
  2. Doctors don’t know everything. We just expect them to.
  3. Nurses are saints, or nearly so. Many hours and days in the hospital with Will and in doctor’s offices galore renewed my respect for nurses in particular and health care professionals in general.
  4. You never know what you are capable of, until you have to do it. My renewed respect for nurses was boosted by this journalism major being pressed into medical service, giving Will injections in his stomach (an early treatment for blood clots), giving IV antibiotic injections (for the staph infection) in the PIC line in Will’s arm three times a day for 28 days, and coordinating treatments between four doctors, home health and physical therapy. I remember saying often, aloud and to myself, “I don’t know. I’m a writer.”
  5. Emergency rooms are not just for emergencies anymore. I suspect this is because our health crisis occurred at about the same time Birmingham’s Cooper Green Hospital stopped in-patient care. Overcrowded emergency rooms are the norm these days, and in our case, when yet another on-call doctor sent us to the emergency room, a septic knee or suspected blood clot lined up in crowded emergency rooms next to a bunch of folks who just didn’t feel good and a child with ringworm.
  6. A dog is man’s best friend. Lucille, our labra-chow circle-turning dog, rarely left Will’s side and was probably as important to his recovery as the antibiotics and satchel full of pills. And, one afternoon when Will fell and couldn’t get up or get to his phone, Lucille ran upstairs and got help, nudging and circling until she got a caregiver’s attention. Lassie couldn’t have done any better.
  7. Staph and blood clots are more common than you’d think. When a sturdy 6’3” young man is in a wheelchair with an outsized knee, you get lots of questions, and you learn how many folks have had staph and blood clots, but not that many had them at the same time. We met folks who had had MRSA, the super-bad staph that’s difficult to treat, a waitress who had a staph infection in her heart, and a doctor who had staph infection in his knee, in Vietnam, from days and nights spent in swamps and rice paddies and far away from today’s treatments.
  8. The view is different from a wheelchair or walker. Being in a wheelchair, even short term, and depending on a walker, changes your perspective on the handicapped. Most people are nice, and many will hold a door for you, but many, too, don’t really look at a person in a wheelchair. That person is invisible and too visible at the same time. For Will, I think, seeing folks who live their lives in wheelchairs and immobile made him feel lucky.
  9. Physical therapy works. Anyone who has been prescribed physical therapy and grew to nickname it torture therapy knows the challenge of doing repetitive, sometimes difficult moves and motions and wondering what good does this do? The answer is motion is the potion, and that’s never been more evident than when a leg and knee has been immobile, really frozen, and has to be moved under anesthesia. That was Will’s last surgery, and since then, motion continues to be the potion, and the physical therapy professionals he’s working with have become his lifeline. It’s not fun, but it works.
  10. Prayers work, too. We are grateful for the prayers, cards, meals, visits and well wishes from friends and family.  Even though Will still has weeks of physical therapy work ahead on the road to walking well again, we are surviving the knee nightmare, thanks to prayers, modern medicine, hard work and one heroic dog. 

Will and constant companion and hero dog Lucille

I Won't Back Down
by Tom Petty
"I won't back down, won't be turned around.
You can stand me up at the gates of hell, and I won't back down."