Mega Pet Peeve

Another hot and ridiculously humid day today in middle-earth land. Instead of spending it indoors, which was my first inclination, I subjected myself to the heat with a morning cycle ride with a group of ladies. We cycled just shy of 39 miles, finishing minutes before noon, with the sun beating down upon us through blue skies and clouds resembling puffy white cotton balls. There wasn’t a dry woman amongst us; we were all drenched with sweat from head to toe. How lovely it would have been to fall backwards into a swimming pool à la the Lipton ice tea plunge. Remember that? Thankfully the ride was uneventful…meaning, no dogs gave chase and heart rates didn’t soar off the charts out of fear and peddling for one’s life.

These lovely women don’t know how close I am to hanging up my bike because of the unleashed dog problem in my area. Or maybe they do. I’ll admit that I talk about my fear nearly every ride. In my defense—should you think I’m a wee bit off in the head—I have been attacked by a dog and that experience is still so fresh in my mind even though it happened three years ago!  So all rationality goes out the window when a dog comes running after me and I turn into an emotional mess. Believe it or not, I do try not to become overly fixated about these “redneck” dogs. Still, often the fear catches a hold of me and once it does, I just can’t relax.  And yes, I have a cute little stun gun that I got on Amazon.com in my jersey pocket.  One would think this would ease the tension a bit but little good is it when a dog comes charging out of nowhere; I’m clipped in… and when there is an angry dog at your heels in a flash, there is simply not enough time to safely respond to the situation with the stun gun.  God help me if my vocal cords fail me.
Case in point:  Last weeks’ ride featured a large dog that came out of nowhere. In the blink of an eye he was out in the road, determined to get a piece of someone. Our very accomplished ride leader successfully yelled the dog out of her way and we thought the dog was retreating but apparently he had second thoughts about the whole thing and decided for another go of it. Barking wildly and clearly not friendly, he aimed for the next in line, which was me. He was a breath away from my right ankle. I screamed so hard that I thought I had damaged my vocal cords.

This is so NOT fun people.

We stopped not even two minutes later as we saw a parked patrol car. The officer was sitting in his car doing something on his cell phone. Our breaths were still somewhat labored with emotion from the encounter as we reported the incident. We were met with a languid, unconcerned response.

“You should call animal control,” was all the officer said. Seriously. It took everything I had not to unleash an expletive or two. A fleeting image of being behind bars in an Alabama jail cell came to mind so I thought better of it. I did manage a mildly cloaked sarcastic response: “Thank you for your help officer” before riding off.

Folks, I’d really love to be able to enjoy the Alabama countryside (and, for those who know me, that’s a huge thing for me to admit!). It’s no joy to be constantly scanning for Cujo-like dogs whose purpose in life seems to be to terrorize cyclists. Some of the ladies, long time locals, are of course very familiar with all of the various cycling routes so they know where the bad dogs are. They often alter routes to avoid dog encounters. But invariably, despite planning and precautions there is a bad dog encounter. It’s not unusual to hear: Where did he come from? That dog (or worse, plural—those dogs) wasn’t there last week!

Alabama Barn

Alabama Barn

Though I still fiercely miss the beauty of Southern California, there is much beauty to behold in the Alabama countryside. There are acres upon acres of soy, corn, and cotton fields. There are beautiful barns–some bright red, some strikingly white, and there are the old, fallen down ones too.  There are quaint little white churches and farm homesteads as well as dilapidated abodes which cause my mind to wonder as to the history behind their life and sad decline. Beautiful Crepe Myrtles dot the countryside and when they are in bloom it seems the entire countryside is awash in pink and white.   And, It’s always lovely to pass by lush green pastures where cows, seeking respite from the sun, rest their hefty bodies under the shade of trees, or horses …casually strolling in their fenced-in pastures, their long tails gently swatting at flies as they nibble on whatever treat is before them. And lets not forget the occasional goats, donkeys and chickens, and even Alpacas and Llamas. One such farm is a favorite on our route, where a good-sized herd of these animals live a sweet, cozy life on a farm that spins their wool into lovely yarns for sale as well as scarves and such. So cozy is this place that it is in fact the Cozy Cove Farm and this ride has been dubbed the Mama Llama ride. This setting, and more, are interesting sights to take in and enjoy during our morning or evening cycle rides.  But for me, always on the lookout for bad dogs, I’m often too tense to take pleasure in the beauty around me.  Sigh.

Llama beauty

Llama beauty

Our ride leaders—ladies and gents alike— do an awesome job of planning and leading rides in the Huntsville cycling community. They are working hard to establish Alabama as a cycling friendly state. We currently rank an abysmal 49th in that department (thank God for Mississippi!).  But it seems to be a difficult task making dog owners accountable for their pets which is beyond my comprehension. Cyclists are getting injured because of dog attacks!  I pray every time I get on a bike that someone doesn’t lose their life because of a dog taking them down. And, paraphrasing here, as one gal put it: It’s sad when you’re more afraid of dogs than cars.

Suffice it to say that irresponsible dog owners is one mega PET PEEVE of mine!

Weather Drama

The sun has finally returned from it’s vacation of sorts after days of dreary and at times, very dramatic weather. After a thick blanket of fog in the early morning it is now quite lovely out.  Despite the fog, I enjoyed a five-mile power walk early this morning with The Poodle, even stopping to take some photos along the way.  I lingered for a few moments longer than usual on a bridge over the Flint river, inspecting a spider’s large web. I marveled at the strength of it and how it could survive the big storm just a few days before.

Oh what a beautiful web!

Oh what a beautiful web!

Yes….Just a few days ago was a whole different weather scenario. We had tornado sirens blaring away. Nothing like hearing tornado sirens to get one’s heart rate up and mine was beating out of my chest with anxiety.  I hadn’t been in the gym for twenty minutes before I heard people chattering about the approaching storm.

I could see that the sky was beginning to turn an ominous gray. I had no idea we were supposed to have bad weather. Usually, I get weather alerts on my smart phone. I never had to deal with weather alerts while living in Southern California. There is virtually no effective early warning system for earthquakes (only seconds to less than a few minutes is not my idea of early warning) and it rarely rains buckets in Southern California (in fact, this year Californians are suffering through a record drought). Somehow during the ridiculous two-day process of updating my iPhone to IOS8 (yep you read that correctly….two days….that’s how S-L-O-W our internet is here on Little Mountain) I lost some of my Apps, the Clear Day weather App being one of them. My mother, in her continuing care community, enjoys high-speed internet but here on Little Mountain… in middle earth… my husband and I often cannot even be on the computer at the same time.  Sigh.  Anyhow, I now conclude that I have a dumb phone, an issue I’ll have to address when I get home.  Weather alerts are crucial to life here in middle earth.

The gym was packed when I had walked in but now people were starting to leave, en masse.  Black clouds swirled through the sky. Honestly, for just a moment it was as if Death Eaters were approaching! So much for a gym workout I thought as I cursed my dumb phone; I’d have never left the house if I had known tornado weather was approaching. Now it was time to bolt for the car.

A Death Eater is surely going to pop out of this ominous cloud!

A Death Eater is surely going to pop out of this ominous cloud!

For heaven’s sake, calm down, I admonished myself. Here I am running like my life depended on it. It’s just a siren. People in Israel and other war-torn countries have to hear these sirens (if they are lucky enough to have them, that is) along with the sounds of guns, heavy artillery and even death.  This world is a crazy, dangerous place!  As I make my way through the parking lot I am now thinking about how  people—especially the children–in war zones deal with the sirens and I am immensely sad.

Be grateful Missy, I say to myself. It’s just a mundane weather issue…not war, famine, Ebola or a beheading. And, while tornadoes aren’t to be taken lightly either, just be calm!

As I ran to the car, fierce lightning lit up the sky all around me and rain was coming down fast and furious.  Oddly enough (or perhaps not) I did not feel one bit safer once in the car.  I found myself white-knuckling it all the way home, naturally driving slower than usual because of the pounding rain and the traffic, thankfully moving at the appropriate pace for the road conditions. I cringed with each bright rip of lightning through the sky and gripped the steering wheel even tighter when I saw one very brave soul, a man who looked to be in his thirties, in the middle of the road trying to move a very large tree branch that had fallen onto the roadway.

After just a few minutes in the car I realized that part of my anxiety was due to what was playing on satellite radio. I was tuned to Fox News channel and there was ongoing coverage of the Ebola epidemic followed by the continuing threat of ISIS. This was NOT what I wanted to hear as tornado sirens were blaring while I was driving through a terrific downpour. I changed the channel to the classical music station. Ah….Mozart to the rescue! In the blink of an eye I felt calmer and was able to loosen my old lady grip on the steering wheel.

Let’s just focus on arriving home in one piece, shall we?

Once home, I encountered lots of debris in the yard as well as a large tree branch that had fallen onto the drive way. No way was I going to attempt dragging that thing out-of-the-way in the pouring rain and lightning. Fortunately, I was able to navigate around it just enough to pull my car in the garage. I let out a sigh of relief to be home. I know. This sounds overly dramatic–and it is— but for some reason on this day I felt as vulnerable as a baby in the hands of capricious mother nature.

It was only 4:30 in the afternoon but I thought a glass of wine was in order….to soothe The Poodle, you understand. My poor pup was shaking as he greeted me at the door with a stilted enthusiasm. I could tell he was trying to be brave while he greeted me but more than anything he just wanted to be under something…anything…with all the racket that was going on outside. After I got my glass of wine, I gathered The Poodle into my arms and carried him to my bed. I wrapped him in my quilt and together, we hunkered down for a good hour while the wind howled outside and the rains continued. I had my dog nestled at my side, a good glass of wine and Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, to read.

Everything was going to be just fine.  For me anyway.  Sadly, not for those living through the sirens signalling war.

“Sweet Home Alabama?”

Ah…validation.  I know.  I seem to be needy in that department but I get so few crumbs so when a few spill on my lap I beam.  OK….sometimes I gloat!   And don’t get me started on what my daughter thinks on the whole neediness subject either.  Anyhow…

So…this morning while making the bed I happened to catch the last part of a news clip on the local radio station.  The subject?  How Alabama ranks compared to other states.  Well, here is a newsflash….

ready…

drum roll…..

Alabama...it really is a red state

Alabama…it really is a red state

Alabama ranks POORLY compared to other states in our fine union.  Aha! I knew it!  The “Sweet Home Alabama” moniker is a lie!

Whew!  And I thought it was just little Ole me!

Just a couple of the more important criteria in the rankings include:  Most Livable State: Alabama ranks 42nd.  Economic Growth:  Alabama ranks 48th and, as for Bike Friendly? Alabama ranks 49th.

Of course all is not a total loss for this state whose apparent claim to notoriety (as least to liberals) is “most conservative state in the nation.”  I consider myself a moderate conservative and would have liked to see a little more balance in that ranking (call it my Libra sense in balance in all things, if possible).   Also, Alabama ranks as the second most religious state in the union, Mississippi being number one.  Interesting. All that praying and gospel music isn’t helping the soul of this state with a suicide rate of 14.2 per 100,000 people compared to the national rate of 11.9.

For those of you who just can’t wait to read all about it, check out the article in the Montgomery Advertiser (A Gannet Company) http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20130630/OPINION0101/306300019/Alabama-Voices-Alabama-ranks-poorly-compared-other-states

Well, here’s the thing.  I’m OK with this validation.  I’m OK with the realization that I’m living in Middle Earth.  I have to be.  It’s the only way I’m going to survive this “adventure” (my husband’s word, not mine) because with nearly 99.9% certainty (gotta leave just a fraction of wiggle-room because, well, one never knows)…I am not going to live here for the rest of my life.  This is temporary.  I’ve a lovely home even though the damn roof is leaking on this three year-old house, I’ve got food on the table, and I have much more to be thankful for.  Just not thankful I’m living in Middle Earth….but this too shall pass.