Monday, March 24, 2014

Bobcats, Coyotes, and Bears, Oh My! By C.P. Stringham

The woods and gorge behind my parents' house with the beautiful waterfalls. 
As some of you know, I’ve been on this healthier me lifestyle since June 2013. As it turns out, sitting with fingers flying madly over a keyboard doesn’t really burn calories throughout the workday. I know. Shocking. No one was more disappointed than I was. If you didn’t see my blog regarding my progress, here’s the link to Holidays, Damn Holidays. Since January’s almost daily 2.5 mile-excursion around The Matterhorn began, I’ve kicked up the difficulty level. Yes, after conquering the steepest part of the hike without stopping to rest and catch my breath (or throw up,) I began jogging or running along some of the downhill and flat sections. It has been amazing! Something I never thought I could achieve. The feeling of accomplishment was almost euphoric. I’d never before felt that from exercising. Instead of being exhausted and in absolute pain, I was ready to take on the world. Me, the fatty, leaving Paralegal Jenn and The Rage in the dust!
My oldest and me on 2-14-14 during our trek
around The Matterhorn. Would I use her 
for bear bait?! 

And leaving them in the dust was all well and good until the day my brother joined us for our hike—he does that from time to time over the weekends now that he’s dating Paralegal Jenn. On one recent Saturday, my oldest daughter joined us as well. She and I quickly took the lead by powerwalking our keisters off. At midpoint, we began picking up our pace by jogging and, at times, running to keep our heart rates up. A few times along the way, we chased beautiful deer and the scene was most idyllic. Very Wild Kingdom meets Chariots of Fire.  We made it back a full 10 minutes before the others. My best time yet at a little over a half hour for 2.5 miles. It was a champion moment…until Paralegal Jenn returned with the others and shared part of their conversation. When the first group of deer crossed our path ahead of us, my brother jokingly told the others that he would laugh his @ss off if we drove a bear out of the woods and it crossed the road in front of me. Not funny. It actually scared the bejeezus out of me because this is something that could totally happen in Bradford County. We have wildlife aplenty. Suddenly, being out in front and breaking time records no longer appealed to me.
Trail camera shots from my friend Penny Wood's backyard
shows her nighttime visitors; deer and coyotes.
Bradford County ranks right up there as one of the most rural counties in Pennsylvania. I’m sure there are a few ahead of us, but I would wager we’re in the top five. As part of the Endless Mountains region, we have dense woodlands and a fair share of farmland pastures. Before the natural gas industry invaded our tranquil part of the world, most dirt roads saw very little traffic—a few locals commuting to and from work, maybe a school van picking up or dropping off students too far out for a bus to get them, and an afternoon cruise by the local postal carrier. This is rush hour country-style. Our county has a wide assortment of wildlife: oodles and oodles of whitetail deer, a huge resurgence of birds of prey from bald eagles to red-tailed hawks, Eastern coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. I don’t care who you are, the first time you see one of those last three in your yard, your adrenaline level raises a tad. My parents live further out than I do. There’s nothing like having a relaxing evening out on their deck, chatting, taking in the sunset, when the coyotes start howling and yipping from the mountain gorge behind their house. I swear to God, every hair stands on end—even though you are completely safe. It’s chilling. A bobcat’s screech has got to be one of the most blood-curdling sounds of the wild. Another hair-raising event beyond compare is when you have your house windows open to catch a summer night’s breeze, when all of a sudden, it 
Bobcat trail camera photo in East Smithfield, PA.
(Photo by Bruce Learn)

sounds like a woman is being brutally attacked nearby. That's what a bobcat sounds like. No lie, the first time that happened two summers ago, I couldn’t get our windows closed fast enough…and I may have peed myself a little. Just a little. It was really freaky. Another time, my husband and I had just put the garbage out after dinner. We’d dined on Bernie Murray’s regionally famous Buffalo chicken wings. Something truly odiferous. Any animal with a strong olfactory lobe in a ten-mile-radius could probably smell them. We went to bed that night only to be woken up at 11PM to a scratching noise from outside. 

A bald eagle eating carrion. (Photo by Andrea Shaul)
The Husband told me it was probably a raccoon or opossum. He got up to chase them off. Upon turning on the back door porch light, he was greeted by the biggest black bear we’d ever seen in person. His head seemed to fill up the half-window of the door. The scene from John Candy’s film The Great Outdoors played out in my mind. Granted it wasn’t a bald-headed grizzly bear like in the movie, it was still incredibly unsettling. Seriously, the only thing between us and Smokey Bear was a piece of glass. Thankfully, we were able to chase him off and avoided further repeats by not putting garbage out at night.

                            Remember this scene from The Great Outdoors?
Bear about town in Troy, PA. "May I borrow a cup of sugar please?" (Photos by Cheri Thomas)
Running into THIS isn't an option!
But would I hide behind my duaghter?
(Image from internet search)
Getting back to my brother’s comment, the thought of running into a bear never crossed my mind. At least with walking and making noise (because the ladies and I are known to chat during our walks,) bears will usually try to avoid humans and scamper away. Running alone leaves too much opportunity for a surprise approach. Here it is spring and the bears will be waking up after their winter-long siestas. That also means momma bears are waking up with their new cubs or yearling cubs. The idea of crossing a momma bear kinda scares me beyond belief. I’m not good in emergency situations. I’d never be able to remember to drop and play dead—well, unless I died of an actual bear confrontation-related heart attack. And then it wouldn’t matter. Or worse yet. What if I turned into the worst sort of coward and hid behind my seventeen year-old daughter?! Some mother! That night, I had this realistic nightmare where such a confrontation occurred. Needless to say, running ahead is no longer part of my exercise routine. Instead, Paralegal Jenn and I have increased our distance from 2.5 miles a day to five by adding an extra lap. It’s all good. My hearts happy, my skinny-ass doctor will be happy, and, most importantly, Momma Bear will be happy.
Needless to say, living up in Bradford County means we have our fair share of sportsmen. A time honored rite of passage through the generations, hunting season is a time for hunting camps, camaraderie, and respect for the animals they hunt. Many of the locals are quick to share their bounty with neighbors helping to make sure no one goes hungry.  Here are a few great shots my friends supplied me with for today's blog:

Bill Thomas shot this glorious 10-point trophy buck with a 19 7/8" spread in Springfield Township, PA.
(Photo by Cheri Thomas) 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rotting the Brain with Television??? by Robin Janney

I have a confession: I did not watch the Oscars.

Shocking, I know.  But I have not had television in almost five years.  The Mister and I live off our DVD's and Netflix.  This isn't a purposeful lifestyle choice, like how some people frown on television as if it is something evil.  It's more of a cost efficient choice.  As in, we can't afford cable or Direct TV or Dish, so we do without.

best viewing is when the sun goes down...
The night of the Oscars, I became so jealous watching Facebook posts and Tweets about them that I just gave it up!  I shut everything down and went to bed to read.  I had thought about following up C.P.'s post about movie husbands with one about movie presidents but instead I've decided to talk about television.

Sometimes I miss it.  Like the news - well, just a little.  Like The Big Bang Theory.  Those guys speak my language, not the science, but the geek speak.  And Criminal Minds!  NCIS.  CSI: NY.  Anything Star Trek (except Voyager - I was never able to get into that).

My husband and I will start watching CSI: NY on Netlfix and watch show after show.  After a few Netflix will ask us if we're still watching.  While I understand why they do that, the last time it happened I said to Mr. Janney, "You'd think they'd know us better by now."  He just laughed.

never buy a big box of fruit for 2 people...ever
Some will argue that TV rots the brain.  And while I agree that some of it is pretty rotten, kind of like the oranges taking root in my kitchen, not all of it is.  And I even once made the argument, to my eleventh grade English teacher of all people, that sometimes our brain needs a rest.  I love reading, and imagining different worlds...but sometimes life is just too much and your brain needs to let someone else do the imagining for you because you're just too numb. An interesting side note is that this particular teacher agreed with me, although that may have had more to do with the fact that he was a fellow Trekkie.

We all have stressful days.  Spouses, and children, pets and co-workers...and bosses.  Things break, people get sick.  Watching TV might not be the answer for everyone.  But for some of us it is.  When I need to just be I'll cue up a favorite show on Netflix and just let them play.  Once my brain feels more capable of breathing on its own, then I'll pick up a book or my pen and let my imagination roam free.

And my biggest disappointment about not having any "real" because my favorite sitcom isn't on  streaming for Netflix and will probably never be.  You'd never get me away from the TV then.  M*A*S*H is my all time favorite.  Alan Alda has the best laugh ever.  I much prefer the TV series to the movie that was made two years earlier.  The show with its antics and pranks makes me laugh, and as we all know...laughter truly is the best medicine.  And...confession time: I didn't like the series finale that much either.  I don't know who that guy was, but that was not the Hawkeye Pierce we knew and loved.  I cried when Colonel Blake died on his way home from the war...I remember how the directors withheld that information from the actors until the scene was taped, so that those were real reactions we got to the news.  And when Radar left to go home as well, the scene where Hawkeye saluted him even though Radar was a lowly corporal and Hawkeye outranked him still tears me right up.

Of course, as Mr. Janney will tell you, I tear up plenty during CSI: NY as well.  I'm just a sap for those moments I guess. :)

What shows do you like to watch?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Movie Husbands By C.P. Stringham

Lupita Nyong'o
The Oscars are over for another year. The star-studded event is always fun to watch. The winners, the losers, the best dressed, the worst dressed, and the “what the hell was that?” moments. My daughters and I have made it an annual tradition to print up copies of the nominees and have a contest to see who picks the most winners—I won this year! I have to say my pick for Darling of the Awards Ceremony is Lupita Nyong’o. I loved everything about her from her red carpet dress to her truly inspirational acceptance speech. She was elegant and embodied old-style Hollywood. It was as if she channeled Audrey Hepburn. Honorable mention goes to Jared Leto. Without a doubt, the winners of the Best Supporting categories pretty much stole the entire awards show.
While staying within a motion picture theme, I thought I’d use my spin at the Broads of a Feather blog to talk about movie husbands. You know, those ruggedly handsome men delivering lines meant to make us swoon and, well, fantasize. Fantasize? Am I right? I know I'm not the only one doing this. C'mon. Admit it. I'm waiting. There! Now don't you feel better?! Here's my, I'll admit, non-traditional leading men list. If not married from the onset of the film, they say "I do" by the end.

Oh, Jack...
Husband #1: Jack Callahan (Bill Pullman) in While You Were Sleeping. I can remember going to the theater to see this film way back when. My friend, Andrea, and I went into the movie excited to see Peter Gallagher. We may or may not have been fighting over him. I know. Real mature. In all honesty, we didn’t even know who Bill Pullman was. Thirty minutes into the movie, we tossed Peter aside and fought over Jack. It’s no wonder Lucy forgot about Peter while he was sleeping.

Jack – “I'd say that she gets under your skin as soon as you meet her. She drives you so nuts you don't know whether to hug her or, or just really arm wrestle her. She would go all the way to Europe just to get a stamp in her passport. I don't know if that amounts to insanity, or just being really, really... likable.”

It's that smoldering look of longing that earns Matthew his place.
Husband #2: Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) in Pride & Prejudice. Okay, I know I’m going to catch some heat for this from the "Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy Fan Club." I have nothing against Colin. As a matter of fact, I’m quite fond of him. However, Matthew’s Mr. Darcy won me over when he delivered one simple line in the movie. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. He managed to deliver the line and make me feel that his need for Elizabeth Bennet was so great, he’d surely parish without her love. I remember watching it for the first time with My Gal Friday. The movie ended and we just sat there…both of us fighting the overwhelming urge to smoke a cigarette.
Mr. Darcy – “…you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you.”

Husband #3: Dill Penderghast (Stanley Tucci) in Easy A. I’ll be completely honest with you, Stanley Tucci could play the husband in the worst feminine hygiene product commercial of all time and I would love him. Love. Him. As Olive’s father, Dill, Tucci effortlessly steals each scene. It could be the witty writing or the fantastic chemistry between Stanley and his co-star, Patricia Clarkson, that makes Dill so appealing to me, but that’s just not it. It’s because he's STANLEY TUCCI. It’s a comedy movie and he’s in a supporting role. That means there isn’t a pivotal love scene line to quote from so I’ll throw in a clip from one of my favorite scenes. I dare you not to smile.  

Stanley Tucci is one sexy devil.

Husband #4: Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) Crazy, Stupid, Love. I know. Another Emma Stone film, but it’s a happy coincidence. Middle-age Cal is devastated when his wife, Emily, tells him she wants a divorce and that she’s slept with another man. While they are separated, Cal sees what the singles’ life has to offer. Even after arriving at some form of success as a ladies’ man, Cal realizes there’s only one woman for him and comes around to shoulder some of the blame for his marital problems. The moment that got me right here **putting hand over my heart** is when funny man Steve Carell made me look at him in an entirely new light with this delivery:

Cal – “I'm so mad at you. I'm really mad at you for what you did. But I'm mad at myself too. Because I should not have jumped out of that car - I should have fought for you. Because you fight for your soul mates.”
Just one look from Cal, tells it all. 
Husband #5: Henry Turner (Harrison Ford) in Regarding Henry. Not Harrison’s most popular role, but husband-worthy nevertheless. No matter how much you hated Henry Turner, the blood-sucking corporate lawyer and god-awful family man at the beginning of the film, you find yourself cheering for him by the end. After tragedy strikes and Henry suffers a traumatic brain injury, he is left to relearn everything at a rehab facility; walking, eating, dressing, etc. Besides the physical aspects caused by the injury, Henry’s memory and personality are drastically altered. In fact, he’s an entirely new person. His beleaguered wife and daughter embrace the change. It's the easy-going, vulnerable side of Henry that is so appealing and Harrison Ford pulls it off so effortlessly. 

Those are just a few of my favorite movie husbands. Believe me, I could go on and on. Do you have a favorite movie husband? Post in the comments below!  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Controlling The Speeding Conveyor Belt by Robin Janney

I watched a very encouraging video Sunday by +Bonnie Andrews on her blog Hobby to Hot!   The video link will take you there.  I loved the I Love Lucy reference, I don't think there is a person alive who wouldn't know the chocolate factory scene Bonnie referred to where Lucy is frantically trying to keep up with the chocolate sweets that are coming at her.

Sometimes I doubt what Bonnie claims, that I'm the one in control of the speed of that conveyor know the one.  Instead of chocolate bonbons coming at us, we get: schedule changes, plans thrown out the window because someone else wants to do a different thing, illnesses - either our own or a friends or worse, family, you name it and it'll fit on this list!  Bonnie was very right when she said that no one is exempt from the "busyness" of life!

I know that Bonnie is right of course, that I'm the one in control of that conveyor belt.  I can't control what comes at me, but I can choose the rate at some of the things headed at me and how I respond to them.  As my husband would be glad to testify, I don't always handle sudden changes with sugary sweet aplomb.  Sometimes I really get downright bitchy if something takes me away from what I had planned.  When I want to write, that's all I want to do, but sometimes life has other ideas.

There are ways I can control this better though.  Less time on Facebook would be a great place to start. Even though it can be a great source of humor, it can also be a time waster.  I could work on blog posts on my phone app while at work, or play my games at work so that when I get home I'm ready to focus on what I need to do.  Communicating better with the husband is always a must, as he does have a habit of changing what I have planned.

As I'm writing this, and thinking things up on the fly, I'm not sure how to handle the laggy computer.  This is the number one reason why I work with my phone or a book next to me, so that I have something to do while the computer catches up to me.  The only problem with that is I get caught up in the book or the phone and forget to check back on the computer and loose precious moments.

But as a death in my husband's family, my family now too, reminds me - some moments are more precious than others.  I don't have to post to my blog everyday.  And even if I don't get time on my story logged on the computer, I can always write it freehand or makes notes for later.  Nothing has to be lost.  As much as I love to write and read, time spent with loved ones is more important.  So maybe my husband sidetracking me last weekend is an okay thing.

Because the belt doesn't always have to go fast.  Life is meant to be enjoyed.  So if you're feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to look at what you have going on.  See what you can slow down.

I'm going to leave it at that for now.