Monday, January 30, 2012

Cheering for the underdog

     This past weekend, my daughter and two of my grandsons headed out to the movies to see the film, The Grey. Great movie unless you're afraid of flying, and I've already informed my sister she is not allowed to see this until we come back from our trip to California. The main star is Liam Neeson, and his job is to protect the oil riggers who work in the Alaskan Wilderness from any stray or hungry preditors, such as polar bears or wolves.

     Now the people following my blogs are already aware of my working at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and even though I'm retired from this wonderful museum, I still try to instill the love of nature into my grandchildren. I may have done too good a job. Let me explain.

     I won't give away too many details because it is a good movie and you should try to see it, but the film starts with an overview of the oil rigs and the pipeline and Nathan right away says out loud, "This isn't good. Isn't grandmom protesting drilling in Alaska?"

     "Shush," my daughter says. "Don't get her started."

     "I'm okay. You can all relax," I chime in. Joshua keeps silent. He has seen me in action before.

     Anyway, the movie then pans to Liam, who has spotted something in the distance. He takes his rifle, aims and shoots. A wolf goes down. Liam's character is protecting the oil riggers from these beautiful animals.

     Intent with watching the movie, I hear Nathan whispering to his mom, "Why did he shoot the wolf? It was minding its own business."

     "Her reply. "Watch the movie and don't talk."

     Without giving away more of the movie, we watch as a group of men try to find their way to shelter, but they are being followed. It's beast against man. Now I'll stop with the movie details and go straight to the conversation going on among the grandkids.

     "They're getting even with us," says Joshua.

     "We're destroying their habitat and their hungry," says Nathan.

     "I'm betting on the wolves," adds Joshua.

     "Oh God, we have tree huggers in front of us," says the poor soul who happened to sit behind us.

     "Look what you started," says my daughter to me. She then tells the boys to zip their lips.

     "I haven't said a word? Why are you mad at me?" I plead my case.

     When the movie ended, and as we were leaving the theatre, my daughter began to chuckle. "I was afraid we were going to get thrown out."

     "I didn't do anything wrong," I said in my defense.

     "I don't know about that. I'm still trying to forget all the times, you would bring home the Madagascar Roaches to visit the boy's school. I still get the chills."

     "But mom, she taught us to love nature," Nathan chimed in.

     "All fine and good as long as she keeps nature outside, where it belongs."

    "Mom's so not going to survive the zombie apocalypse," Joshua teased as we climbed into the van.

   "I don't care how hungry I become, I will never, ever, eat a bug," my daughter replies and then starts the motor.

   Everyone is quiet until, Nathan says, "I want to see that movie, again."

  After we all had a good laugh, I said, "We better wait awhile. We might be barred from that theatre."



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Recognizing the Signs

     I promised to list the signs and red flags, which may indicate human trafficking is happening in your community. End Modern Slavery Now, Homeland Security's Campaign Blue, the Polaris Project, and The Somaly mam organization, all have sites you can visit and they also supply contact information if you do suspect human trafficking is going on in your neighborhood.

     If you see any of these red flags, act quickly and contact the authorities.

     1. Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes.
     2. Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts.
     3. Works excessively long and or unusual hours.
     4.  Shows signs of physical and/ or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture. Has the victim been deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care or other life necessities? Does the victim have freedom of movement.
     5.  Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport).
     6. Is not allowed to speak for themselves ( a third party may insist on being present and/ or translating).
     7. Was the victim recruited for one purpose and forced to engage in some other job?
     8. Is the victim's salary being garnished to pay off a smuggling fee? (Paying off a smuggling fee alone is not considered trafficking).
     9. Victim is forced to perform sexual acts.
   10. Has the victim or family been threatened with harm if the victim attempts to escape? Has the victim been threatened with deportation or law enforcement action?
   11. Can the victim freely contact friends or family? Is the victim allowed to socialize or attend religious services?

     The practice of human trafficking, which is the fastest growing criminal industry second only to drug trafficking, is widespread and every country in the world is involved in this web, including ours. I hope the signs I've listed, help all neighborhood watch groups, our local Police, and every concerned citizen.

Here are two contact numbers if you suspect human trafficking: The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 or the United States Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581


Friday, January 20, 2012

Learning to Fly

     When I go for my long walks around the lake, I have a favorite tune which I listen to on my mp4, Learning to fly by Tom Petty. I love the song and consider it my battle cry.

     Since I retired two years ago, I've been involved in many projects, all important to me( good) but very time consuming (bad), and I don't get enough sleep. I'm a writer, working on my book and I blog. I belong to a wonderful writer's group and try to make most of their get togethers, which are very helpful for a newbie like me. Now you would think the writing and the blogging, along with me babysitting a most lovable child, housework and spending time with the grandchildren would be enough to fill my life, but no I have this desire to right the wrongs of the world.

     I advocate for Unicef and I donate monthly. I would like to do more, but...time and life interfere. Same with fighting human trafficking, I share any updates from Somaly mam with my facebook friends in order to educate all, on the horrors of this heartbreaking crime. I share all my updates from End Modern Slavery Now and Homeland's Blue Campaign which is also aimed at fighting the trafficking of humans. My nexp post will list the signs to look for if you suspect trafficking taking place in your own neighborhood. This important information was sent to me by End Modern Slavery Now.

     A couple of posts back I also mentioned zombies because they will be featured in my second book of the trilogy but... they will be different than your run of the mill walking rotting bodies. On researching zombies, I became aware of this amazing group called Zombie Squad. Check them out they give advice on how to prepare for any major disaster. My father, if he were still alive, would have become a member. He survived the great depression and always taught his four children to stock away supplies and never count on government coming to your aid, Katrina and New Orleans having proved him right. I very recently became a member of the Zombie Squad and have a card saying so.

    If this wasn't enough to keep me busy, I'm also into steampunk, and love attending Dorian's monthly event. I love the clothing, the people and everything about the genre.

     My husband says he never sees me since I've retired, and if he does, I'm either writing, advocating or out with the kids. I can't help it, I'm flying, which brings us back to the title. It took me 62 years to get the courage to spread my wings and step off the cliff, I might come crashing down, but I might just stay airborne, and whatever happens, I won't give up. All I need is a good night's sleep....but there's that blog I need to read.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Writer's Contests or how to frighten away your family and friends

      I've been entering contests to help me with getting published. Usually, I send in a story prompted by the promoters of the contest. They suggest what they're looking for and you submit with the hope of winning. Most of the time, the prize is a free editing of your work, a valuable offer. But some contests give out cash prizes, just as good

    My trilogy is a supernatural/ sci-fi romance, very dark. But my blogs are about life in general, my crazy life in particular, and the many adventures with my grandchildren. I feel like a person with a split personality because it's so easy for me to shift from one genre to another.

     Well this past week, I entered one of my blogs in the site. This site showcases stories of a certain age, my age group or as the youngest grandson tells me, "The old writer's page." He's still alive because he's so darn cute and he keeps me humble.

     This site is different than the other sites I submit stories to because it isn't the Editor or Publisher voting on the best story, but other writers and anyone interested in reading good stories. My story was posted on Monday the 9th and it ended today. The prize is fifty dollars, but the money is not what drew me to this site, it was the chance to get a story published.

     The week before the 9th, I sent out a mass e-mail campaign asking friends and family to vist the site and comment. I resent the e-mail again on the 8th and then I began to check the site daily, to see how I  compared to the other worthy contestants. I found myself in a neck to neck race with another writer, and I began to badger, bribe and nag my friends and family to please log on and comment.

     Did I say nag? Well I did, oh yeah. My family stopped answering the phone, probably sick of my calling them and asking if they could maybe get their neighbors to visit the site and comment. The other day, I stopped by my sister's house to visit. I knew she was home, her car was parked in front of the house and her T.V. was on, but as I peeked through the curtains, the place appeared empty. Was my constant pleading causing her to hide in the coat closet in fear of me asking her to go through her phone book to ask her prayer group to comment on my story? Probably. Do I blame her, no, I can be a bit obsessive. Both my parents had OCD and as the first born, I inherited the double whammy of OCD.

    I don't know the results of this contest yet, but I think I'll wait a while before entering another contest. I like my family and friends and don't want to drive them mad. So for all you poor people, you know who you are because I hounded you on facebook, e-mail and phone, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your support and love and patience. You have given me the courage to dream and to act on a dream.

     Love you all...although, I did see another contest featured in Writer's digest...Hmm!!!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Edited and updated version of Assassins at the Museum

 I've updated this post because you should never post after three glasses of wine. Enjoy.

Assassins at the Museum

                You’ve all seen or heard of the movie “Night at the Museum”, well instead of the exhibits coming alive, I try to get my grandsons to act alive and interested, whenever we are visiting a museum.

                I’ve always enjoyed museums and would take my daughter every chance I had, and as the grandkids came along, I often took them. I became their hero when I had the privilege to work at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

                I was the part time manager for Changing Exhibits and the Birthday party Coordinator along with my other assignments, which included working in Outside in, helping with Safari Overnights and Scouts classes when needed. I shared my love for the Academy and when they became older a few of the kids began to volunteer. It was a sad day for them all, when I retired.

                The Wednesday after Christmas, I decided to take Jimmy age 17, Joshua age 15, and Nathan age 9, to the Mutter Museum which is part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. If you’ve never been there, make a point to go. It is a fascinating museum.

                It’s always an adventure going anywhere with the three boys because they argue a lot. The oldest teases the youngest, and the youngest aggravates both older boys, but as we rode the bus to Center City, I gave a warning. “No hitting, punching, running around, or obnoxious body sounds, while we’re in this museum, understood boys?”

                “What do you consider obnoxious body sounds?” the youngest asks.

                I gave the “granny stare” and once more went over the rules.

When we arrive at the museum it’s crowded with holiday visitors and as I check our coats, the oldest asks, “Where are the Siamese twins?”

                Joy of joy, will this be a pleasant museum trip? “On the lower level, but let’s look at the skulls first,” I say to all three.

                They stood beside me for a total of five minutes when the youngest asks, “Can we walk around on our own, so we’re not rushing you?”

                “Why yes”, I innocently reply.

                I kept my eyes on them as I looked at the specimens on the upper level and they seemed to be enjoying the exhibit…but I became suspicious when I noticed them moving through the crowd and looking over their shoulders. “What are they up to?”

                I became more suspicious by the time we had reached the lower level. “So what is this?” The oldest asked. I was looking at a display featuring a very large colon.

                “Well it says here…” I read from the card that also showed a photo of the patient. “Isn’t this interesting?” But he was no longer beside me and in his place, a couple who apparently enjoyed my reading to them. Red faced, I went looking for the desperadoes.

                “What are you three up to?”

                “We’re not making any body sounds,” the youngest volunteers.

                “Be good,” I remind them, but after a few moments, they’re gone. “I’m going to kill them.”

                “What’s this about?” the middle child asks, suddenly appearing at my side.

                “The different stages of gestation,” I begin to say, but he is no longer there.

                When it was time to leave, we headed for the bus stop. “I know you weren’t paying attention to what was in the museum.”

But I was in for a surprise, as they listed the most interesting or most disgusting items, including a section I was unable to view because of the large crowd.

                “I’m impressed, but what was the game you were playing?”

                “Oh…you saw what we were doing?” Sheepish grins were on all three faces.

                “GOD and grandmothers have the ability to see all things,” I say and watch their smiles disappear. “What was the game?”

                “Assassin’s Creed and points are earned by the most taps on the back.”

                “But, you were supposed to be learning,” I protested.

                “We didn’t make obnoxious body sounds,” countered the youngest.

What could I say? Nothing was broken, they weren’t fighting or bugging me about being bored, and when we left, the Mutter Museum was still in one piece. I guess it was a good trip after all.