Friday, May 28, 2010

Crab Traps and Felonies -- jcarolek

Yesterday, as I was driving into the long drive that leads to my old farmhouse, I spied my neighbors in their yard.  Since life has been particularly hectic of late, it had been easily two weeks since last I stopped by to say, "hi."  So I stopped and we chatted.  Eventually, we ended up inside the house, and they asked if I had read the paper.  Well, no, I had not, but they pointed to the local paper, sitting on the kitchen table.  I wasn't sure why I was going to look at the paper, but it was clear they wanted me to.

So I obliged them and started skimming through the paper, on a hunt for I knew not what.  After a few minutes I did find it.  A small blurb, in the "local arrests" section.  There, I read, that my neighbor, Jim, had been arrested on a grand larceny charge, a felony.  Well, I wasn't exactly sure how to react to reading this news, standing in Jim's kitchen, with Debbie and Jim looking on.  I asked what it was all about, and, of course, they told me.

Jim is a 67 year old, retired welder, retired military, and, at least as far as I have been able to determine in the four months or so I have known him, a guy who will always bend over backwards to help others... anyone.  So, this little article seemed a stretch to me.  The tale is a little convoluted, but as they told it, I was convinced they were telling the true course of events.

It all started, they say, with a loan Debbie made to a long-time friend of Jim's.  He was down on his luck and she lent him $2500.  She also sold him a nice, used truck -- he was to make monthly payments on the truck.  Jim also allowed this 77 year old friend to store a pole barn and lots of tools and equipment on his property, rent-free.  That was six months ago.

In the early spring, Jim worked very hard to help another friend, this an 86 year old, regain his commercial crabbing license, and Jim then worked with this elderly fellow to build crab traps to complement the crab traps the old man already had.  Jim was leaving before daybreak, and returning home, exhausted, well after dark, spending his time helping the old guy with the crabbing.

After a few weeks, it became apparent, the crabbing idea, while a dream the old man had wanted to relive, was really more than he could sustain.  Jim and the old guy decided to call it quits on the crabbing operation.  Jim, the 86 year old and the 88 year old brother, moved the crab traps for storage purposes, onto Jim's land. There was a group of six older traps that they had not used in their crabbing this year, but were stacked on the old man's property.  When they were moving the crab traps to the storage on Jim's land, Jim inquired as to whether the six older traps also belonged to his friend.  Being told they were, in fact, the 86 year old's, Jim and the two elderly brothers picked the old crab traps up and tractored them to the storage on Jim's land.

MEANWHILE, Debbie and Jim have decided that six months is long enough to wait for even a single payment on either the truck or the $2500 loan, and they decide to recover the truck from the 77 year old friend.  He was not happy with them for taking the truck, and he let them know it.  That didn't phase Jim, and he continued allowing this guy (Hunt) to store his pole barn, building materials and equipment on Jim's property, free of charge.

Hunt indicated to Jim that the six older crab traps belonged to Hunt.  Jim told Hunt that if he wanted the traps, he was welcome to come and get them.  Instead, this week, Hunt filed a complaint with the local Sheriff's Department. Hunt insisted on charging Jim with a felony, and, according to the newspaper blurb, the Sheriff did not swear out the warrant... Hunt did.  In the Commonwealth of Virginia, $200 or more theft qualifies as grand larceny....  Hunt valued the crab traps at $200.

Now, the case is a little goofy sounding to me.  I mean, I had this idea that when men get older, they mellow and are more responsible, but this incident would challenge that idea.  According to Jim and Debbie, Hunt is mad because they took the truck back... the truck he'd been driving for free for six months.

Well, the attorney Jim had to retain, thinks it's a ridiculous case, as does the Sheriff, and the Magistrate.  Nevertheless, the COST of the case has already started biting Jim, to the tune of $1000 in attorney's fees... and that is ONLY if the case gets dismissed at the first hearing. 

I have no idea what will come of this case, but it seems very sad to me that a guy would do something like this to an long-time friend.  Jim is upset about the charges, but I think his feelings are really hurt by this friend's betrayal of the friendship.  In fact, his accuser STILL has his pole barn and equipment stored on Jim's property...for free...

I used to work with a guy who always told me, "no good deed shall go unpunished."  These days, I am really beginning to think he was right.  And we wonder why our youth struggle with decency and respect for their elders... perhaps there IS something to living a life that EARNS that respect rather that simply DEMANDS the respect.  Nevertheless, I will take a lesson from this.... before I move any crab traps, or allow any old friend to store his crab traps on my land, I will make certain he PROVES he owns them....  Better yet, I think I will just not let friends store crab traps on my land... JUST SAY NO TO CRAB TRAPS!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oh, OK... Go Ahead and GET older! -- jcarolek

May 19, 1957 was the day.  Jeannie had no idea what lay ahead for her.  She was to be the eldest of six children and the built-in babysitter for her younger siblings.  She had the spotlight for only one year before the first of these siblings arrived... that first sibling was me.  Jeannie and I shared a room until the day she graduated high school and left for Florida to attend university, leaving me (finally) with "my own room."

I won't pretend Jeannie and I saw eye to eye on things growing up.  Quite the contrary.  Jeannie was "the boss" and I was the kid who could not keep her mouth shut...simply HAD to correct the story... no matter whether it was my younger brother or my father telling the tale.  Correcting my brother was, of course, expected, but correcting my mother, or speaking back to my father was not the wisest move on earth.  I can attest to getting my fair share of "correcting" from him over the years.  And as I continued in my outspoken ways, Jeannie wondered why I always had to buck so hard... why I didn't just shut up and avoid the punishment.  So, in my view of the world in those days, Jeannie was the goody-two-shoes and I was, well, the one who got into trouble... not with the law or anything, just with my parents.

Our room was small compared to the standards of kids' rooms today, but it was better than sharing a room like my brothers did...they were four boys in a single room sporting two sets of bunk beds.  Jeannie and I shared a double bed in our early years.  Now that "sharing" was the source of many a battle, and I remember how WONDERFUL it was when we moved to England, and Jeannie and I swapped the double bed for bunk beds.  I slept up on top and that was just fine with me!  No more battles over the sharing of that double bed.

When I think back on those things that seemed such BIG deals when I was a youngster, I am truly amazed.  How narrow was my view of the world back then. 

After college, after we were both completely on our own, my sister and I actually became friends.  There were no more battles over the bedroom, my side the pig-sty, her side the better-homes-and-garden-on-a -nickel-budget side.  There were no more battles over purple walls and matching bedspreads.  In fact, in our adulthood, we found more in common with each other than I could ever have imagined as a child.

Last week I was in Maryland taking required training for work.  The second night there Jeannie called and we talked on the phone for nearly an hour.  We don't do a lot of phone calling, neither of us being particularly crazy about that mode of communication.  Still, since we only get together a couple of times a year, it really was nice talking with her. After we spoke, I thought about the conversation, a conversation in which she prefaced several of her sentences with, "I'm not trying to sound like your mother," LOL.  I had to laugh.  I am all grown up, in fact, well over the hill now, and my sister is worried about giving me advice, worried that I might think she is trying to be my mother!

Well, the truth is, all of those words, all of that advice, are just well intentioned concerns about what is happening in my life.  I cannot find fault with someone who cares about me and is comfortable enough to talk about tough subjects with me.  Does it mean I will always heed the advice offered?  Ummmmm.... well, let's just say that I haven't lost my will and determination in my adulthood.  I still have an idea of what I think is right and what is right for me, so, probably, I'll just be very thankful I have my sister, and that she is willing to tell me what she thinks.  I like the honesty.

But that brings me to the point of my post tonight.  Today Jeannie turned another year older and I didn't even get out to send her a card!  Shame on me.... In the next few days, I will get the card in the mail to her and I imagine she will understand that I didn't forget her on her birthday...

OK Jeannie, HAPPY BIRTHDAY.  Go ahead and get older... I'm right behind you!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Exam Day -- jcarolek

I recall as a youngster never really being too worried about exams.  Now this is not to imply I was sure I would do well on them or that I was some sort of genius or other -- quite the contrary.  No, I just was never too hung up on the concept of cramming a lot of information into my head for the purpose of regurgitation onto paper as the goal of an education.  If the knowledge I was gaining wasn't sufficient, and my understanding thereof wasn't accurate, no pressure of the exam would change those facts.  No, I always imagined exams were tools to allow ME to determine my actual level of knowledge, or at least my alignment with the teacher's understanding of the material.

So, against the recommendations of parents, teachers and such, I would not "cram" before an exam.  I either knew the material, or I didn't.  And even if I WERE successful in cramming all of those notes into my brain for the necessary time required to allow leakage onto the exam paper, once that flow started it almost always left my brain entirely.  So, cramming was pretty much a guarantee I would not retain the information.

My preferred method was to listen, take notes, ask questions and verify my understanding as I went along.  Before the exam, a simple read-through of the material to be covered helped me define boundaries, and, if there WAS still something I wanted clarification on, I could research the answer.  That was "back in the day..."  Back then the research of such last minute tidbits was constrained by the availability of resources...pretty much, if the answer wasn't in the required textbook, I had the option of consulting the Britannica Encyclopedia, or asking my parents....  Since asking my parents a question on subject matter the night before a big exam would typically bring on lectures of being better prepared, I generally opted for Britannica....

Things are quite different today.  Armed with my BA and MS degrees and many years of absence from the classrooms, I find myself, over 50 and trying to learn as if I were still 15.  I am frustrated by the presentation of the materials in the classes offered and required for  becoming "certified" in technical areas, and yet these certifications are critical to my employment stability.

Hence, I dutifully attend the classes, take my notes, and, with 4 long days of class and equally long nights of completing the assignments, I am faced this morning with the exam.  Now, under NO circumstances would I consider anyone who has just been introduced to this subject matter to be competent on the material four days later.  It would seem the goal is to effectively cram the information into my head, successfully regurgitate it on paper within the 2-hour time constraint, and then, MAYBE, revisit the material in the weeks to come, allowing myself the opportunity to actually LEARN the material.

The upside down approach to learning, I have discovered, leaves me with something I simply do not recall from my youth... test anxiety.  Well, so I also discover the more I cram, the more anxiety I experience... there is just something that nature mandates in these situations.... you simply cannot teach an old dog new tricks.

So this morning, after spending the first waking hours trying to cram this stuff into my resistant brain, I decided the better approach was to simply put it away.  The exam will start whether I am prepared or not.  I will take the exam whether I am prepared or not. And I will either pass or fail.  None of these things change the fact that my competent UNDERSTANDING of the material will occur, oh, I dunno, maybe a month or two down the road....

And with that, I suppose I should pack up my belongings, check out of the hotel and head over to the pre-exam "Q&A" session to be held during the 30 minutes immediately prior to the exam..... I'm sure I can confuse myself just a little further if I can add someone else's confusion to my own....

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Poison Ivy -- jcarolek

In my more than 50 years on this planet, I have not, until a few weeks ago, had the opportunity to experience that simple pleasure of an allergic reaction to poison ivy.  I presume that is, indeed, what this was/is, though I could not bring myself to pay for a medical opinion.  What I do know is this.  It started as a little tiny spot on my leg that was pretty itchy... but I mean it was TINY, like no bigger than a pinhead.  I have already plucked off several ticks this season and presumed this was just another tick bite or spider bite or, well, you get it.

By the next morning, my little spot was much bigger and much itchier and I began to suspect this was something new and different.  There were blisters appearing in the brilliant red patches and what had been confined to one inner thigh (don't EVEN ask me how, since I was wearing double layers with overalls while working in the yard and woods) was now taking over both thighs... I had another spot on my forehead and one in my eyebrow and down to the edge of the eye... and several on my arms....  By this time, I was pretty certain I was suffering from the poison ivy rash and decided the typical over-the-counter remedies would be my best bet.

I cannot say the concoctions I purchased were particularly helpful.  The rash kept spreading was REALLY unsightly.... I'm not exactly a vain person, but even I was glad it wasn't shorts weather yet!  The one thing that seemed to really be effective for me in the ability to tolerate this new affliction was benedryl.  One tablet worked pretty well to control the itching and hence the scratching....

I was thrown back nearly twenty years to the time when my children were young and my daughter, then about eight years old, developed some little spot, which itched and spread and which, before long, covered a good portion of her body.  By the time we attended a 4th of July get together with family friends, Jenn was really quite a sight!  My friend, a nurse, told me it looked as if Jenn had started out with poison ivy, but had what looked to her like a case of impetigo... not having a clue, but heeding her advice, I took Jenn to the doctor the next day.  There, the condition was confirmed and medications prescribed.

For the next week or so, several times a day, the ointments had to be applied to the infected areas of Jenn's face, arms, legs and less convenient and embarrassing locations... her father and I took turns applying the ointment, as Jenn protested indignantly.  On one evening, as James was applying the ointment to her face, Jenn shared with him, "this hurts worse than childbirth..."  I wonder if she will hold to that when, in fact she does experience THAT!

At any rate, I am now, I believe, rid of the poison ivy.  The skin has a "new" look to it, but is surprisingly, still itchy.  Not nearly as bad as it was, but itchy, nonetheless.  I sincerely hope this is something that will, eventually ease up!  I guess life is always full of new experiences, and I should count my lucky stars I lived nearly 52 years before falling victim to the leaves of three, but, well....

Still, I won't let a little poison ivy deter me from enjoying the great outdoors, the goats and the TONS of work still ahead of me in taming the old farmhouse and ten acres upon which she sits!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Raining in Maryland -- jcarolek

I'm traveling again -- taking a required training for work and having a pretty good time.  I know everyone in the class and, since many of us are mainly telecommuters, we don't get a chance to see each other very often.  The class is lively, with excellent discussions and a whole lot of learning going on.  I'm not sure the instructors are always fully appreciative of our particular brand of humor, but, nonetheless, they tolerate us.

The drive up Sunday was a glorious one, weather-wise.  Before leaving town I met my son and daughter-in-law for Mother's Day Lunch in Yorktown.  I think it had been three months or more since we'd shared a meal and we had a good time catching up.  Some of the topics were not the normal fare for a Mother's Day lunch, but they didn't dampen the occasion. 

When I returned home, just long enough to pack for the trip out of town, I discovered my daughter had called, so, on my way here we chatted.  I have to admit, I truly enjoy talking with my grown children.  I cannot imagine having youngsters anymore, and one day I look forward to having grandchildren, but for now, I am completely good with having adult, responsible, intelligent children with whom to converse.  

I was trying to determine if there was a moment that I discovered their transition from the teen/young 20's to what I would classify as truly "adult" and I simply cannot identify such a moment.  I suppose it is just one of those  "ahha" moments when I realize I am no longer explaining and giving advise, and trying to help them with their latest catastrophe on every call... that moment when I realize I am gaining as much insight from their observations as I have always tried to share with mine... and it is one of the best Mother's Day gifts a mother could ask for.

The drive was a long one.  Virginia was fine, with little to no traffic on the back road route I had selected, but once I crossed the bridge into Maryland, it was a different story.  Bumper to bumper traffic the rest of the way was the name of the game.  At least we were moving.  My cohorts who traveled up I-95 were stuck in non-moving gridlock for hours....

I was happy to pull into the hotel, shortly after dark and was checked into my room a few minutes later.  That night I went to bed early (for me) just after midnight, and awakened at 2:33 am, completely at a loss as to where I was.  I did not recognize a thing and it took me what seemed like minutes in that half-awake state to figure out I was in a hotel room!  Too much stress, I suppose.  It takes its toll.

Monday was a long day, and chilly outside, so being stuck inside, even though the sun was shining gloriously, did not bother me at all.  Today, on the other hand, it started raining here around noon and they say we should expect this rainy weather the rest of the week.  Well, I don't much mind.  I have a lot of studying to do and such, so being distracted by lovely weather would not serve me well.  My spirits today are a little better than yesterday when I discovered the latest volley from Conflicted Counsel awaiting me in my Incoming Mail online... today I had no such correspondences, but neither did I have any positive ones from my own attorney... I am afraid he is just not the "go-getter" I need....

So tonight, I will spend my time studying, enjoying the drizzle outside the window.... and looking forward to the days when this whole divorce thing is behind me.