All posts by annmeeker

Ann is an author of short-stories and a number of unpublished novels, a copy-editor, and a passionate run/walk marathoner.

Election Year Politics

The book I’m editing this week is about bullying in our schools and how to avoid it. The radio I’m listening to this week is NPR talk radio and it’s talking about politics. Suddenly I’m hit by the confluence of the two.

Politicians are bullying the public.

Here’s a definition of a bully, quoted from my book:

Bullying occurs when one or more individuals (bullies) impose their power (physical, social, and/or intellectual) over one or more individuals (victims/targets) with the intent to gain control over, to embarrass, or to inflict harm or discomfort. Over time, bullies repeatedly pick on victims (Olweus, 1993). Three primary elements distinguish teasing from bullying: (a) imbalance of power, (b) personal pain (physical, emotional, or social), and (c) persistence over time. In summary, bullies attempt to gain power or control over victims; bullies cause pain either physically, emotionally, or socially; and bullies persist in these attempts.

Now try substituting “political parties” for the word bully—and what do you have:

Bullying occurs when one or more politicial parties impose their power … over one or more individuals with the intend to gain control over, to embarras, or to inflict harm or discomfort.

This isn’t a perfect correlation, but I submit that’s mostly because they embarrass themselves more than they embarrass the average citizen. But the rest of it? It holds. For both political parties, I might add, but mostly for the Republican Party (because that’s the way I’m wired, though I’m trying to be kind of objective here).

Political parties definitely have more power than individual people, and they want to gain control over our votes, our money, our lives (“Vote for me!” “Send a donation!” “You’re not allowed to [fill in the blank].” (My mind fills in “be gay,” “have an abortion,” but you could also fill that in with words of your choice. I’m not trying to make this about Republicans and Democrats, but about our political process.)

But what about the “intent to harm or discomfort”? I think they definitely intend to do just that, under the guise of “knowing what’s right for us.” I’m NOT advocating anarchy, but at the same time, I think greed and fear of change are driving our political parties to say and do things that are not in our best interests. They need to go back to their roots and get their power FROM the people, not OVER the people.

Part of me says, “Those are just words, spun so that they confuse us.” (I admit to being easily confused, even going so far as to confuse myself.) But let’s look at the rest of the quote: “(Political parties) attempt to gain power or control over victims; bullies cause pain either physically, emotionally, or socially; and bullies persist in these attempts.”

Who could argue with that? That’s exactly what politicial parties do.

I don’t know what to do with this revelation that political parties are bullies. I suspect the answer is that we need to rise up as a group and do something about the bully, without becoming bullies ourselves (and therein lies the problem). But running away from a bully only makes him stronger.

There–do with it what you will, but this is what’s on my mind today.


Rural Life in All Its Glory–Not!

This is a blog about what it’s like to live in rural Georgia. For a city girl, I might add. This is the first I’ve lived in a rural area, and there are parts of it that are thoroughly and awesomely beautiful and wonderful. And there are parts that are not. Today I’m concentrating on the not-so-thrilling parts because that’s the kind of mood I’m in. Now, if you grew up in a rural area, none of this is going to be all that difficult to deal with and you’ll consider the possibility that I’m a whiney citified sissy. Build a bridge and get over it. This is my blog and I’ll whine if I want to. (Alternatively, you could tell me that I’m here and might as well make the best of it—or, in other words, “Ann, build a bridge and get over it.” Words to live by.)

Distance. That’s the big thing. It’s so freaking far to anywhere. I grant you, it’s 25 or so miles to Wal-Mart. That is an extremely good thing, except when I need kitty litter right this minute.  And 12 miles to the nearest grocery story (the “Baby Pig”) or 25 miles (the “Big Pig”) doesn’t sound so bad, until you consider it takes an hour or more to get a half-gallon of milk and a cup of sugar (and don’t even think the word organic). This requires that I must plan ahead and remember everything on my list. I can do these things, but I prefer to “wing it.” A doctor’s visit? Might as well take the whole day off. Fresh vegetables? Well, if you want “grown in China with unknown pesticides on them,” sure, they’re available. Otherwise, only in the freezer section of the Baby Pig. What it boils down to is choice—I have limited choices, and I don’t like any of them.  I could drive an hour to find what I want—but at what cost? Sure the lettuce is organic and fresh at the CSA in Savannah, but it would take a regular commitment to take how many hours out of my life, how many gallons of gas? It’s a trade-off I’m not willing to make, but I still miss having the choice.

People. I miss the diversity of people. The people in my neighborhood are, by and large, gracious, friendly, intelligent people—I just want more of them. I find the crush of humanity (within limits) to be reassuring, comforting. Sirens in the night are not something to be feared, they’re something to be grateful for (that we have rescue personnel who make it their life’s business to rescue those of us unfortunate enough to need them). Yes, more people means more crime and more “bad” people—but it also means more energy, more of a sense of being alive. Kind of like living through the Titanic disaster (the actual event, not the movie)—a bonding with those you have something in common with. And in a city, you can always find people with whom you have things in common. If today I want to wear frog pajamas in public, I can Google “frog pajamas” and find a support group  of like-minded people all ready to be my new, albeit temporary, friends. (Maybe not literally—I don’t own any frog pajamas—but I hope you get my drift. And if you don’t, well, I could find a group who does. If I were in a city, which I’m not.)

Bugs, spiders and snakes. Okay, I know there are bugs in cities—roaches and the like. But most of them don’t bite. I’m tired of bugs that bite, the smell of bug spray in the morning, itching all summer long, checking for ticks in my increasing number of nooks and crannies. I’m tired of looking out for spiders and snakes when I head outside to garden. I’m tired of paying an exterminator to come and poison all the critters than wander inside, and worrying about what those poisons do to me (but not worrying so much that I want to live with those same critters in my house). This does have a good side—the raccoon who has taken to visiting our back deck at about 6:30 every evening. I find he’s cute and adorable; Elliott sees a monster who chews nails, spits out roofing tiles, and is capable of creating a site of nuclear destruction in our attic. Balanced, we keep our distance and hope he keeps his.

And don’t even think about extolling the presumed  wonderfulness of Spanish moss. This is what it might look like to you, all romantic and wafty breezes:Taken from Google images, thanks to unknown photographer



And this is what it looks like to me, all smothery and scary,  killing the grass underneath when it falls. And where does it all come from, anyway?




Coffee bars and gyms. I miss going and sitting in a café where I don’t know anybody, just sipping my coffee and watching people, an anonymous woman of mystery (or so I like to pretend). I miss going to the gym to work out (and yeah, yeah, I know it’s gorgeous to run in my neighborhood). I just talked myself out of a triathlon because I have no place to train for a 1.5 mile swim, and I’m not young enough or stupid enough to think I can do that without training. Whine, whine, whine, I know. If these are the worst problems I can come up with, I’m pretty darn lucky. Which I am, and I know it. Privileged, one might even say.

Mostly trivial and superficial stuff, I accept that. But there’s that undefinable sense that some place is “home.” It’s been four years plus, and I haven’t found it here yet. I’m trying to make it home, but like a bulb forced to flower out of season, it’s a continual effort.

Whine, whine. See that half-constructed bridge over there? Rather than seeing it as a bridge to nowhere, maybe it’s a magical door to someplace called home. Maybe. I’m creeping my way towards it.

Quilting Room (such as it is)

Here are two photos of my quilting room. One wall is a pair of double doors to the outside; another wall is open to Elliott’s computer room. The remaining two walls (each with a door) are my quilting spaces.

Beneath the card table are my bins full of fabric. Organized? Not hardly. I periodically go through and try to sort by color, but invariably come across stripes that are both blue and green–so which pile do I put in in? And florals? I’m lost.

The bookshelf on top of the card table is closed in this photo (to keep the cats out), but nine times out of ten, I leave it open and soon find a cat in the basket.

Shelves above my machine are on my dream list, as is something to keep all the fabrics sorted and organized. I have been known to buy fabric that’s perfect for a quilt border only to find the same fabric already in my bin. A memory would also help.

Oh, and a cutting table. It’s the kitchen counter. If nothing else, it makes me clean the counter every so often really, really well.

Dark Thoughts and the Savannah Half-Marathon

It was dark this morning at 5:15 when I headed out for the Savannah Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon. We’d been warned that parking would be congested, so I gave myself plenty of time. But it was dark and my night vision is…not great. All I could imagine were the events that might delay me, like things that run out in front of me. Deer, for one. Curbs, for another. Did I mention my night vision is dreadful? I wasn’t worried about other cars–they’d have their lights on and I could see one coming. Well, I’d see two until it got close enough, and hopefully I’d have figured out which one was real by that point. But deer? They don’t wear headlights. And my car is small, very small. (Think SmartCar meets Godzilla.) And have you noticed that curbs are put in the strangest places sometimes? Like separating one line of traffic from the oncoming line. What is it with that?

And that got me thinking about my bucket list. Not that I think anything’s imminent and I obviously survived this morning’s oh-dark-hundred drive. I used to say I planned on dying at 93, but I’m thinking of upping it to 103.  But before that murderous deer got me this morning, I was going to have my obituary written. It’d go something like this: “Ann Beardsley, age 60…” and right there I’d tune out. Sixty? “She had a good long life,” they’d say. Not like I’m ten years old or anything. “But I’m not finished yet,” I pleaded. “I’m still figuring things out.” And that’s so very true. I always thought you were supposed to have things all worked out by now, but nope, I’m here to tell you that some of us sixty-year-olds just haven’t grown up yet.

Or maybe we have and there’s just nothing to figure out. No answers, at least not for certain. Some of us leave legacies, some of us don’t. Some of us have children (well, they’re sort of a legacy), some of us leave works of art. Maybe I’m onto something here–children are a work of art. Messy art, but art nonetheless. And some of us leave nothing at all, and is that so bad? Legacy can go both ways (think Adolf Hitler, for one, though he’s probably a hero to some), so maybe it’s safer not to leave one. Not as much fun, perhaps, but safer.

But who wants to be safe? I’m not running this half-marathon to be safe. My knee might give out. I might get trampled by the corrals behind me (ahem, there turned out to be only one behind me, and if I report that most of them had blue hair, well, then you’ll lose all respect for my fantastic accomplishment this morning). I might give a thumb’s-up to Occupy Savannah as I run by and somebody might bash my head in. I might not even survive the drive in the dark.

I survived the drive. I even survived the run. And what’s more, I survived the McDonald’s Combo #1, which was a guilty pleasure. I had beer (thank you, free MGD 64) at (gasp) 11:30 in the morning, wine at 3:00 p.m., and there’s more wine in my immediate future. Come to think of it, I might not survive the half-marathon recovery plan.

Thoughts about Blogs

Things I think about while watering plants:

The problem with blogs is that most of them–this one included–are self-centered, ego-driven missives of (hopefully) rather short length. Go see this movie/read this book because *I* liked it. Here’s what *I’m* thinking. In an era where we bemoan the entitlement feelings we see in our children, we simultaneously tell them that the world, yes, revolves around us. Is it any wonder they feel the center of their own universes? Some of that is, of course, just a normal growing up expansion of boundaries. But too many of us never outgrow it.

Perhaps this drive to share our own feelings is an expression of the child within all of us. “Look at me! See how well I can write!” That’s my own little voice. Perhaps yours says, “World! World! Let me tell what just happened to me!” or “Hey, wow, you gotta see this!” (which translates to: “Look at me! I saw it before you did!”). Even worse, though, are the marketing-driven blogs geared to surreptitiously sell us something. I feel dirty, used, when a blog sinks to that level. (An occasional mention of something doesn’t count here–I follow several authors’ blogs and I’m glad to know when they have a new book out. But if every blog started with “You can buy my books here and here and over there” I’d lose interest before I found the little x to close the site.)

Very few blogs cause us to think about things in new ways or teach us something. Note I didn’t say “lecture” anywhere in that sentence. If it’s not a teacher telling us what to do, it’s that damn little voice inside our heads. Most of us don’t need more lectures, just more learning.

Reaching out to see things from another point of view is difficult, especially when we’re all wrapped up in our own minds. Could I borrow your mind for a while? Just to see what it’s like. And, come to think of it, that might be the appeal of some blogs. I *can* see what you’re thinking suddenly. Or at least what you want me to think you’re thinking. I sense a do-loop in there somewhere.

And my last thought while watering plants? Damn mosquitoes.



Is it me?

In my current drive to be an individual, a character, and not just a sheep (or even worse, a mouse), I find myself striving to do things my way, and sometimes for no other reason than to simply declare my independence from that which is “normal” despite what commonsense tells me.

For example, I was/am trying to lose weight. For nigh onto a year, the dreaded pipsqueak voice on the wii told me, as soon as I stepped on, “That’s overweight.” Grrrrr. Like I didn’t know? A month or so ago, I stepped on (after a long hiatus from wii training), and it said, “That’s normal.” Suddenly, without warning, that little voice inside my head whispered, “Who wants to be normal?”–and the ice cream fell victim to my independence.

This morning, I logged onto my daily challenge ( For weeks now, I’ve been getting encouraging emails trying to get me to participate more, to earn more points by smiling at posts, completing simple challenges, replying with encouragement to the woes and tribulations of those in need. In each email, there was a counter that kept track. “Kathy C. earned the most points this week of all those in your group.” “Wanda R. smiled at the most points.” Wow, I thought, they must really be active. I should do better.” Finally, at long last, this week “Ann B. earned the most points.” Sheesh, I thought, you need to get a life.” Where was that envy I felt earlier, the feeling that all would be right in my world if only I had more…more points, more weight loss, more (God forbid) smiley faces?

And what is wrong with me that as soon as I get what I want, I no longer want it?

Thankfully, I came to my senses with the hot tub. “I want a hot tub,” I’ve said since we moved down here. “I miss my hot tub.” Whine, whine, whine. My 60th birthday popped up (as if it were unexpected) and Elliott started investigating hot tubs. We walked the porch, the back deck, everywhere to see where we could envision one. The back deck looked perfect. But there’s this problem…I’d have to walk out on the back deck in my altogether to get into it, and there’s this one corner where my next door neighbors–if they were sitting in a specific spot–could see me. OK, I could put on a swimsuit–but I’m lazy. I wouldn’t. Hot tubbing is too sensual to waste on a swimsuit. And spend that much money and still know it wasn’t the best it could be? Wouldn’t work. Starkers, or nothing. So one day at about 10:30 a.m. I told myself that if I couldn’t walk out on that deck right that minute, naked as the day I was born, then purchasing a hot tub would be a big mistake. And I couldn’t do it. I’m still not sure why. I’m not normally THAT modest or THAT embarrassed about my body. But I couldn’t do it. At night, maybe. But in the broad daylight, in front of God and everybody? Nope. And there went the dream of the hot tub.

the back deck. You'd have to have a boat and a telescope to see anything.

So I ask you, is it just me who doesn’t want something as soon as she (almost) gets it? Is this normal? Or am I trying to hard to be “different”? “Not normal?” (no, I didn’t say “abnormal…”) Normal has come to equate with “mediocre” rather than “sane, healthy.” The “normal” person reads at a sixth-grade level, we hear. So I definitely don’t want to be normal. When did normal become something bad?

Maybe if I had the courage to get out on the back deck in a mouselike manner and eat a tub of ice cream while refusing to send smiley faces I’d figure it out. (And thanks, Elliott, for all your patience with me while I flip-flop on issues of import that rank right up there with national security, world hunger, and global poverty.)


I’ve signed up to do the Walt Disney World marathon/Goofy Challenge* in January 2012 with my younger sister Katie (younger as in almost 15 years younger–still a kid). Right now, 6:30 a.m. on a Tuesday in August, all I want to do is crawl into bed and ignore my impending doom. I *know* I have to train, I just don’t want to. It’s hot out there, and buggy. I have a corn on my toe and it won’t go away. I have lots of work to do, and I want to get some writing down. I even have to run to the grocery today, which always takes at least an hour out of an already packed day.

I know that by running (defined as slow jog for 1 minute, walk fast for 1 minute–yes, a slow jog and a fast walk are about the same speed. Don’t ask.) I’m doing all sorts of good things for my body. And probably my mental state (though you couldn’t prove it by my current attitude). Logically, this is stuff I know. Emotionally, I want to curl up with a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts still warm from the oven and say to myself, “Nobody lives forever. Enjoy it while you can.”

I need to find some path between these two extremes. I suppose what I’m doing could be considered somewhere in the middle–I could be running 5-minute miles, for example, instead of 13-minute miles. Still, it’s a balancing act. I guess it’s just a matter of priorities. Right now, today, I will run 3 miles. Tomorrow I might eat the Krispy Kreme donuts. One day at a time. And isn’t that what any of us do, all day long, every day?

*The Goofy Challenge is 13.1 miles on Saturday (3.5 hour time limit) and 26.2 miles the next day (7 hour time limit). I’ve done it twice before, once within the time limits and once not quite so fast. My fastest ever marathon time was 6 hrs 43 min. I’m aiming for 6 hrs 30 min this time.

The Ups and Downs of Gardening

Sometimes, I hate my garden. When the deer eat the baby cucumbers, when something digs up my whole crop of elephant garlic and spreads the cloves willy-nilly along the path, when it’s too hot, too wet, too cold, too dry, too buggy.

Other days–admittedly fewer in number–I love my garden. Today, the temperature is just right, there are no bugs yet, and in cleaning up for soil preparation, I dug up a dozen sweet potatoes I’d forgotten I’d planted. I might have remembered–if the deer hadn’t eaten all the leaves to tell me they were there.  So, sweet potatoes for dinner tonight!

The onions are doing well, the garlic is still buried, the turnips are slowly coming along, the broccoli heads are small, and the cabbage…is cabbagey. By the time the weather gets warm enough to plant the spring seedlings that currently live in the sunshine on my dining room table, the others will need to come out to make room.

I’m trying flowers this year too–so into the ground today went freesias, gladiolas, lilies, and a single amaryllis. All pinks and reds.

Seedlings are spinach, sweet peas, morning glories, tomatoes, cucumbers, sunflowers, peppers, zucchini, and … something else I don’t remember. Last year, the squirrels got all my tomatoes and melons–I suspect because I put the birdfeeder above the deck and the seeds attracted the squirrels. The deer got the blueberries and the climbing hydrangea, but I’m hopeful they made it through the winter, and soon I’ll start spraying Deer Off on them again. I’ve also got Concord and muscadine grapes, if they made it through the winter.

Gardening is an iffy thing for a lazy and haphazard gardener like me. I’ve stopped taking it personally when something doesn’t grow, figuring it just wasn’t meant to grow in this sandy coastal soil. When something does grow, and grow well, I think I’ll just plant more of it. That might lead to a garden full of sweet potatoes…and I can think of worse things!

The Nature of Friendship

(posted by Ann)

I rejoice in the diversity of my friends.

This morning, I got one of those e-mails that says “If you forward this, you’ll get a check in five days” with all sorts of presumably logical reasons.* And I thought, “What the heck, it’d be nice to see a check in five days, especially from our misguided and hazardous-to-our-stress-levels movie investment.” So I picked five friends at random, people I thought would appreciate not so much the e-mail but my gently poking fun at such things.

First response: “Oh, how I love thee, Ann.” Needless to say, I’m all on board for that one. (Okay, I confess that one came from the person who originally sent it to me. Still, she loves me.)

Second response:  “Sorry, I really hate this stuff. Please don’t send any more.” She assures me she still loves me too, despite my sending her a chain e-mail.

Both responses are valid.  Our time at the computer—and offline as well—is limited, and we are inundated with things of no interest to us. But my mind now had fodder for playing with such totally different reactions. I’m glad my friends are different from me and from each other. I bask in the positive comment. At the same time, I find myself responding personally and defensively to the negative comment. I want to say “Bravo! I’m glad I’m the kind of friend you can say that to” and “Chill, for crying out loud. It’s just one short e-mail” all at the same time. I’m a magnet caught in that infinitesimal spot, wobbling midway between north or south.

It’s easy to accept praise, or what we choose to interpret as praise. It’s harder to merge within ourselves the reactions to anything that causes our defensive hackles to rise up and do a prickly dance. But really, it’s not about me, and I have to remind myself of that a fair number of times. My friend doesn’t want those sorts of e-mails, that’s all there is to it. The world has not imploded, I am still the same person I was five minutes before I read that e-mail, and life will go on just as it has. If I’m a good friend—and I usually try to be—all I have to do is remember not to forward her any chain letters. I can do that. It doesn’t make her a less valuable friend in any way.

My friends are still remarkably diverse and by choosing to take the ego out of our friendships, I haven’t closed myself off from people who don’t agree with me. Tribalism is in that direction, and I’d rather be of many tribes that limit myself to just one, to be inclusionary rather than exclusionary.

*Just in case you want to try forwarding it on, here’s main part of the e-mail I sent:

“This year’s July has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays, which apparently happens once every 823 years.  This is called money bags.  So send this on and money will arrive in 5 days.  Based on Chinese feng shui, the one who does not pass this on will have money troubles for the rest of the year…”

My e-mail added these comments:  “Was feng shui around 823 years ago? How about 1646 years ago, so that maybe somebody would have noticed a trend? A quick Wikipedia check tells me it’s been around in some fashion since around 4,000 BCE.  Or did they have so little to do with their spare time 823 years ago that they worked out the calendar for the next 820-odd years? And only THEN noticed that, gosh, there are five Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays!!   (Or, more precisely, 星期五,星期六和星期日, as the case may be.)  🙂

My view: Super Bowl XLV

Portal Flagposted by annmeeker:

Elliott has been sweetly pushing me to write something for his/our blog and I have gently and stubbornly said I have nothing to write. Who would want to hear my opinion on anything? Anyone I know would simply ask me. But in the interests of spousal kindliness and from a certain amount of stubborn I-can-do-it-when-I-get-around-to-it-ness, I am writing something. About the Super Bowl.

“Sheesh,” I can hear you say, “Ann’s writing about the Super Bowl? She doesn’t even known which end of the ball goes forward.” (Yes I do, it’s the pointy end.)

Actually, it’s not about the game I want to write, though we did watch one (I’m tempted to call it an inning) quarter. We also watched the half-time show and a lot of the ads.

First, the ads. I must be getting old, but I simply don’t find it amusing to see a woman knocked down into the mud by a giant log or a guy brought to his knees by a kick to his balls or any other sort of violent mischief. I know I’m not supposed to take these sorts of things seriously (“Aw, come on, Ann, it’s just in fun!”), but such representations leaving me feeling like I live in a very sick society. When did we ever find amusement in watching someone else get hurt, even if it is “just in fun”? I admit to an irrepressible urge to laugh when I see someone do a slippy dance on a bit of ice, but it doesn’t last past that moment when the poor dancer actually starts to fall and it slowly sinks into my brain that someone might get hurt. I admit to roadside fascination about accidents. But so many of the ads on the Super Bowl (and have you noticed how they now have ads about the ads?) are gratuitously violent? Our youth ARE impressionable and we are subtly and surely molding their minds–not to mention the squishy minds of we adults–to find violent acts amusing and not reprehensible. I was disgusted, in short. But that’s not a surprise. I gave up watching television a long time ago. When I find myself somewhere where it’s playing, I have to drag my eyes away from it much like driving past that roadside accident. It’s fascinating in a deranged way. (Side note: Two weeks ago somebody introduced me to The Biggest Loser. My first reality show. I hate to say it, but I loved it.)

Now on to the half-time show, the Black-Eyes Peas. First a disclaimer: I’d never heard the Black-Eyed Peas before. (And is Usher part of them or was he a separate act? I’m still not sure…) Anyway, and it must be age again, but I couldn’t understand most of the lyrics. I’ve always been challenged that way, music never having been one of my strong points, but I watched the lips move and tried to make sense of the words–and there was a big disconnect. So, I turned off my ears and looked at the costuming. Now THAT was cool. Hokey, but cool. I think the choreographers/costumers deserve the credit for the show, however much is due. To pull off that sort of a live event must take an enormous amount of coordination and technology. I don’t know much about costuming (despite having just edited a 1900-page book on costumes) but pulling off a dance of that magnitude had to take all of the dancers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area a fair amount of time–tho admittedly the “dancing” didn’t look hard, but remembering “Oh, now I’m supposed to be a green arrow!” “Okay, red heart time” “Let’s see, white rows, and I turn left–no right!” must have been a lot to keep track of. Keeping track of my arms and legs is tough enough, but color too? So, hats off to the dancers, choreographers, and costumers! They were the stars of the show.

And the game? I hear the Packers won. Whatever. They were both good teams and had to play a lot of great games to make it as far as they did. There’s no shame in losing, tho I admit winning is probably a lot more fun.

And now the hype begins for next year. I can no longer say I watch for the ads. Or the half-time show. Maybe I’d better figure out how to play football and watch for the game itself.