Selling Out and Cashing In Big

 When we moved out here to the woods, we made one compromise that continued to nag on me long after the boxes were unpacked.  For the first time in our married life, we decided to install satellite television - Direct TV, to be exact.  Why the ugly satellite dish?  Let’s revisit the rule for effective backwoods technology: if you can’t bounce that signal from space, it won’t get to us. 

There’s no good way from theah to heah, remembah?  

Not having grown up with cable, it seemed a gratuitous addition to our home, but I justified the change mostly because of my husband’s great (read: long-suffering) love for the New York Football Giants, and well, so we could watch the news... er, Food Network.  Still though, the realization that we’d sold out cashed in for 200+ channels and pay-per-view movie rentals sat in my belly like a cow in a hammock. 


That is, until I realized two things.

 1) Renting movies in pay per view, while still a frivolous luxury, is perhaps the best option for us to see anything that’s fresh off the presses.  We tend not to drive the two hours it takes to reach one of those newfangled “cin-e-mas”, and we rent them so infrequently that Netflix doesn’t even make financial sense.  Finally, to drive to town and snag a release from last April would cost us an hour.  Our new system isn't perfect, but it works.

2) Don’t snicker, but I’m kind of hooked on one of those hip, new reality TV shows.  I know, I know, after selling my soul to cable, I should have seen this coming a mile away.  I promise I won’t start wearing gold-sequin-covered heels and talking with a [dirty] Jersey strain on my vowels.  Not this girl.

Trust me, the show's good.  And there’s a decent chance that you already like it.

It isn’t the outlandish family behavior, or those sweet Louisiana drawls that keep me coming back to A&E's Duck Dynasty.  It’s not the strange (and often motorized) trouble that those duck-call-carving boys keep getting into or the way that Uncle Si holds that blue plastic tea cup [even while he’s racing lawn mowers or sitting in a kiddie-pool constructed in the bed of a pickup using a few lawn tarps].  

It’s that what happens on the show, while certainly comical, seems like it could happen here. 

Like, tomorrow... or later this afternoon.

You don’t believe me?  Well, I’ve compiled some similarities for your consideration:

  • There is an overwhelming presence of camouflage in the community


  •  The work day is interrupted by needing to perform one or all of the following:
  1. rescue a stranded boat
  2. shoot something
  3. start up the power generator (I guess that's just us)
  4. load/unload a truck bed
  5. fish something out of a body of water

Check.  Check.  Checkity-check.

  • Crock-pots are filled with any [or all] of the following: bear, moose, venison, squirrel, rabbit or something unidentifiable (but let’s face it - probably pretty good)


  • Wicked awesome beards (as in, “No-Shave November” is, well, November) 


  • Family meals – not requiring actual family membership            

Of course.

(Before we get any further, I ask just this once that you don’t go superimposing any screwy, mocking tones on this read.  Normally, I encourage that kind of behavior, but not today).

Yes, Duck Dynasty is funny and clever.  Yes, the daily events could be perceived as fairly unconventional and awful rednecky.   However, while I might gut laugh my way through an episode, I’ve come to realize that I’m not simply laughing at it.  I chortle along because I find myself identifying with the guys as they get stuck in a ditch or have trouble with an HVAC system, or set off in the woods to search for the perfect tree for a project. 

This is the way of things when you live off of the beaten path.  And really, folks, it’s pretty slick.  I think you’d like it. 

You’d like it when your fellow staff members are actually work buddies, with whom you can poke fun (and be poked at in return), play outside with, do dirty jobs with (often mud/water/plunger related), and share meals with.   Buddy stuff.

You’d like it where you can set off into the forest at will, and with no other motive than to see what lies there to be seen.  Here, where you can be struck over and over and over by how intoxicating the natural world is.  How easily you can become enchanted [by how bright the skin of a white birch is in the early twilight], absorbed [in the way that water slowly creeps down an icicle], or spellbound [by the shrill, ghostly call of a loon at dusk]. 

And you are because it is.  And you see it because you can. 

So, my question is:  Can you?  Can you get there, where there is forest or desert or river or sea?  If it is just outside of your grasp, then I beg you to find a way.  Borrow a car.  Take a drive.  I’ll bet you a hundred dollars that you can get yourself somewhere fairly remote in three hours, probably even less.  So pack some snacks, grab a hat, and go there.

If I can drive two hours for a movie, you can go three for the woods.  Trust me.  Trust the beards.  They’re crazy, but they’re also on to something.  

And I think you’re going to like it.


Peeking Behind The Curtain

"It's called a word cloud," he said.

C and I were having a spontaneous dinner with some friends, a husband and wife, having met at a mexican restaurant two and a half hours away from home.  I realize that I do employ the word spontaneous with certain irony here, but to us it felt both dramatic and reckless... Let's go get us some guac. and good conversation!

The husband is a teacher, and he was explaining some of the techniques that he uses to engage his middle school students in class.  Both of our friends are remarkably creative and full of ingenious ideas regarding education, team-building and general all around rabble-rousing.  They're great.  In fact, there's so great that I nearly proposed to the guy a few summers ago at a local beach, by accident.

You'll do well to avoid things like this, which when I think about it, shouldn't actually be very hard.

Anyway, we're at dinner and our friend is explaining word clouds, which sound pretty cool in terms of their general use, but when applied to something personal, seem outright terrifying.  Each diagram/widget/list shows the most frequently used words in large, bold print and the least used in small, faint print. The rest of the words are collected in a spectrum of small to large, in varying fonts and colors, based on their recurrence.

(Wait, you already know what this is?)

(Of course you would.)

So when he suggested using one here on the blog, it got me wondering what the resulting word cloud might look like.  Doing this will only make me look bad worse, I soon realized.  After considering the possibilities for a blog-cloud, I got to thinking about what my very own thought cloud could contain.  Oh, the possibilities! 

I don't know about you, but the content of my mind is like a dollar store grab-bag suspended inside of a large gift balloon: the structure contains so many wonderous things and yet, at the same time, so... much... empty... space...

They can put anything in there. 

I can only dread what would appear if we were to figuratively release its contents out onto the kitchen counter.  All I'm certain of is that there would be the sudden and overwhelming sound of muffled laughter and a series of scathing, disappointed looks.  If I understand these "clouds" (insert finger quotation visual) with any accuracy, mine might look something like this:

      BRRR... go put on some stretchy pants
muffinbottomlate to [location] again
 you can't only wear stretchy pantswhy is it so cold?
MY GOSH, will you quit running into furniture?!
if it's not black, don't buy it   best. cat. ever. 
will someone please tell me why don't we eat horse meat? 
not again.

In truth, I would be horrified if I discovered that you could read my mind.  And really, in most cases, I don't want to look behind your wizard curtain, either (a few of you are strong exceptions - you probably don't know who you are).  Socially, most of us are too composed, too well-behaved, and far too eager to conform, which necessarily means that - while I admittedly have some weird cat-lady stuff going on in my head - underneath that calm, cool surface, you're probably daydreaming about getting the lead role in the next television super-drama (Law & Order: Medical Malpractice), and are anxiously fighting a wild obsession with adorable baby ferrets.

So while the concept of a word cloud does seem pretty intriguing, and really fairly educational, I'm pretty grateful that it only works on written text.  In light of how revealing this little word-picture could be, I'd like to suggest that people strive to become increasingly mindful about what they choose to write.  It would be a great shame for an author's words to betray a sagging intellect.

I'm relieved to have such a handle on that.   

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