Posts Tagged ‘family’

The Post – Gab to Go

February 4, 2008

Given it’s Monday, you expect to see someone sitting at their desk with a coffee cup sipping tentatively before plunging into whatever awaits. So it’s not a surprise that I have this Styrofoam cup on my desk. The odd thing is it sits next to my regular ceramic mug, which is what’s actually holding my caffeinated drink of choice – tea. So why the Styrofoam cup?

Ah, a throw-back to yesterday’s post – start this one with a question, right? Well, questions are the order of the day, and that’s exactly the point with this Styrofoam cup. It doesn’t contain caffeine. It’s loaded with . . . questions. No it’s not some mystical beverage, or some liquid whose swirls you gaze into or whose curls of steam you study for the secret of life. It’s a game. And to a writer, it’s like a playground.

Questions are the staple of a writer’s life. It doesn’t matter if it’s nonfiction, essays, or fiction, you write to answer questions. Whether it’s what killed the dinosaurs, why we should care, or a story about bringing them back to life in a doomed amusement park, all three start from a question. No questions, nothing to contemplate, and hence nothing to write.

A question here: In an era of You Tube, My Space, video games and Instant Messaging, how do you cultivate a love for, and the ability to confront questions? No this isn’t another essay bemoaning all of this technology in our kids’ lives. Technology is here to stay and frankly, a lot of it is great. Just see the effect on homebound elderly who’ve embraced email and the web and thus feel connected not isolated. And let’s be honest, even adults are glued to all of the above, not just teens. It’s simply a realization that unless the power goes out, everyone is plugged into something electronic (like this blog?) and when is there time to sit across the table from someone, ask a question, and ponder an answer?

One family confronted this on a vacation trip. They realized each was plugged into their own electronic device, and hence, their own world. Fine up to a point. But there was no conversation. No connection. Now I’m not dissing this completely because hours of several people jammed together in a closet on wheels can get old. Each having their own space for a little while can be a relief. However, I did grow up in an era of “See how many different states’ license plates you could find” or “look for whatever object came up next on a list” as you traveled down the highway. Like it or not, you interacted. So I can understand this family’s concern.

They came up with a simple yet elegant solution. They came up with a list of questions, things like: “What is something about you that would surprise most people?” “What word do you really dislike?” “What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?” Simple questions. Yet even one person’s answer could lead to not only an extended conversation, but a newfound appreciation for people you reside with and ordinarily take for granted. We often find talking to “new people” exhilarating because it’s something new and different. Yet how many new and different things are within the very people sitting next to us that we may have grown bored with?

The family went ahead and created a product – a bunch of question cards in a Styrofoam coffee cup – and have recently started to market it. It’s called “Gab to Go.” It started locally and is beginning to spread as people realize what a gift asking a question can be.

For myself, I could probably take each question and write at least one post on it, maybe more, depending on how I slanted it. The possibilities, if not infinite, are pretty extensive. In fact, I may use a question/essay approach on a regular basis in future entries. For now, I revel in the new worlds and travels never imagined, with people very close to me, all because somebody thought to ask a question.

If you’re interested in learning more about the how and why behind this couple’s game, and news articles on their idea, check out “Gab to Go.”

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The Post – Scarlett O’Hara and her molted ghost

January 31, 2008

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Well, I’ve been promising pictures of the fiddler family members so let’s start with Scarlett O’Hara and her recent molt.

The first picture shows her just after she molted, climbing down the side of the water filter. I love how they can have their eyestalks going in two directions as they move about. If you look closely, the right eyestalk is vertical, while the left one is scanning in a horizontal direction. Off to the right in the picture, her whitish “ghost” sits, discarded. With the water currents waving the legs and claws back and forth, the discarded shell looked eerily alive.

The second one shows her nestled safely under the water filter and behind her old self (fuzzy part in front), where she rested for some time. It is not unusual for newly molted crabs to hide. Their new shells are soft at this point and they feel vulnerable. So they hide to give themselves protection as their new shell hardens.

The third picture though a bit dark, gives you a close-up view of the ghost version. You can see the empty leg, claw and eyestalk casings. I will add that the “ghost of Scarlett O’Hara” no longer exists. Admiral Byrd ate it. Perhaps he is getting ready to molt. Crabs often eat discarded shells to reclaim the calcium the shells contain.

Last picture shows Scarlett O’Hara when she finally emerged from under the water filter. Still a bit tentative, she sought shelter under an overhang on the Live Rock.

These were all from Saturday, the 26th. Today she was back to her old self, running around the tank and eating. Maybe I can get a lighter picture of her now that she’s out and about. I need to work on “lighting” issues for these, but still, not bad considering no flash and long exposure times.

Soon to come, Admiral Byrd and Melanie Hamilton!!!

The Post – Caring, is catchy

January 30, 2008

Probably the most interesting thing in the fiddler crab experiment is my family’s reaction to them. My son came home from college at Christmas and initially looked at me like I was crazy because I talked so much about the crabs. In fact, my independent college student complained I was paying more attention to the fiddler crabs. He kept laughing at me as I talked to the crustaceans in that high-pitched mommy voice previously reserved for my toddler son and pet poodles. My husband just kept teasing me about the total amount we were up to on fiddler crab expenditures.

Within of day of being home, my son started watching them, and within a few days he was keeping track of who was doing what and telling me to check on Melanie Hamilton or Rhett Butler. In fact, I think he was the one who first noticed that Rhett Butler was dead.

My husband was the one who spotted Scarlett O’Hara molting and eagerly called me over to see her when I came in from grocery shopping. Last night, he came in from work and before he even said hello to me he stopped, peered in the tank and said with great concern, “There’s something wrong with Admiral Byrd! I think he’s dead!” As it turned out (after I poked Admiral Byrd with my latest acquisition, a 25 cc plastic pipette and bulb from Science Safari that I use to siphon out excess food), I think Admiral Byrd was just sleeping – they kind of hang there, their claws floating above their heads, and don’t react to much. But my husband walked away and said very seriously, “I think you’d better keep an eye on him.”

What I realized is that caring, like a cold, is an occupational hazard of sharing space. When you share space, even with a creature who has a brain the size of a pinpoint, it starts to get personal. When it’s personal, you start to care, even when you didn’t mean to.

I think the same thing happens with people. So often you hear people say, “I don’t like this group or that.” Then they meet someone from that group and find out they really are okay . . . maybe even . . . nice. It’s hard to share space – sit across the table from someone, hear their humanness, see it in their eyes – and not care. That’s the real risk factor I suspect . . . contact . . . sharing space. The minute you share the space, you start to see the real person. Once that happens, it’s personal. And once it’s personal, you’re done for because caring is catchy.