Yaupon Tea


Sometimes I complain about the ubiquitous, tough yaupon bushes when one of their branches whips back in my face or legs to remind me of a childhood switch. (Mother made us cut our own.) Fact is, the yaupon is a generous food source for deer, squirrels and birds. And don't be put off by the scientific name: ilex vomitoria. Hurling may occur if you eat the berries, but tea brewed from the dried, ground tender young leaves is full of caffeine and tastes remarkably like black tea.  Uh. . . so I read. Maybe I'll try it next April, when there are new leaves.

This photo was taken as part of a Christmas/New Year's walkabout right at the end of 2003. The following slide show album is a recreation of that walk. Most of my earlier photo albums that had been organized on Typepad were lost when I impetuously zapped the original Switched At Birth in June of 2005. Luckily, I have copies of the photos on discs. They are in a state of anarchy, and not always easy to locate, but I'm hard-headed and persistent. There are lots of choices now for preserving photos and embedding slide shows. It's much easier than the old method, which feels like hunt and peck.


E-Memoir: Electronic, Interactive, Progressive

This obsessive little project of mine to recreate lost, old posts is turning into a cool stroll through memory lane. The best part is finding blog friends that had been lost to me through time and the river. So far, there's Fran at Redondowriter's Sacred Ordinary, Dale at mole, and Tom Montag at The Middlewesterner.

I remember first hearing the word "blog" back in 2003. It was ugly then, and uglier now. Weblog isn't any better: web journal? writer's journal? How about E-Memoir?  Are we stuck with being bloggerists? It sounds unsavory.

What do you think?


Raider of the Lost Blog Posts

A few weeks ago, I wrote about printing out a PDF of Switched At Birth.  I put the 500 plus pages into a binder. It sure looked like a lot of words, and I knew if all the photos had been included, the page count would have at least doubled. All the photos are backed up on my hard drive, on discs, and in their proper places in the blog itself on Typepad's servers, so that's comforting.

All good, until I noticed the leaning tower of files and printed pages stacked beside my study reading chair. Copies of old blog posts were stuffed into files with labels like "Mary Beth's Kitchen" or "Travel." I planned to file them, but got one of those annoying brain itches and decided just for kicks to make sure all those posts had made it into the PDF.

Yep. You know what's coming. Approximately 60% of the original posts are currently in my blog archives. The other 40% didn't make it. And it's my own fault. I blogged from September, 2003 until June 25, 2005, printed out a copy of the blog and then canceled my Typepad account, and it was "Gone, baby, gone."

Meanwhile, I doodled around with a couple of other blogs for a short while. One was called "Longleaf" (Ha! Big surprise, that one!); another was called "The Way Home;" another was "Too Much Sugar For A Dime." When I finally realized I missed the original, "Switched At Birth," and wanted to get all the old bits meshed in with the new, what I had on my hands was a big mess.

Enter Dave Bonta, of Via Negativa, who was my helpful white knight. He steered me toward the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Low and behold, a good portion of my original blog posts (and the original design) were there. I was able to copy and transfer them to the new Switched At Birth.

Anyway. This has turned into a big shaggy dog story. Sorry.

When I compared my original photocopied blog posts, (which I have in bits and pieces like paper dolls, scattered all over creation), I discovered which ones were not in the Internet Archive.

So, I'm going to re-type the lost posts so the circle will, at last, as God is my witness, be unbroken.

As each one is finished, I'll slip it into the space and time where it originally occurred, and post a link to it in the event you care to travel back in time with me.


I woke up thinking about the Nazca lines in Peru. A few references note that a person named Mejia Jespe first reported seeing them from the air when he flew over them in 1926, but a quick search doesn't reveal anything about who Jespe was or what kind of airplane he was flying in that desolate country in those early days of flight. Anyway. That's a rabbit hunt for another day. But can you imagine the thrill he must have felt, leaning out the window of his small plane, and seeing those huge drawings on the ground?

In that twilight time just between sleep and wake, there is a rich chemical broth where creativity draws first breath and can be released only if we begin to ladle it out before our feet hit the floor.

It was in such a twilight state a few weeks ago that I thought, for the first time (strangely), that I would like to find, reconstitute (like powdered milk), and re-post all the old entries for Switched At Birth and The Way Home, starting with the first one in September of 2003. (And thanks to Dave Bonta at Via Negativa pointing me to The Wayback Machine, I have been able to locate many of them, thus saving months of typing.)

This morning, in another twilight state, as dawn approached I overflew thousands of words and images and began to see them in a different perspective. It gave me courage to begin to approach memories from that unwritten word space in late 2005 when we experienced a time of life-changing family tragedy and to fill it with love. Words will come after the space is buffered with surrounding layers, those time-cooled healing unguents. 

Re-posting strong images from the natural devastation of 2004's Hurricane Ivan (click here to see The Ivan Album) and then walking through the beauty of the woods as they exist at this moment provides perspective about the ongoingness of things.


Old snags, snapped or pulled apart in the storm, have provided years of food and shelter to a diverse population of birds and bugs. The storm slammed old longleaf and slash pines to the ground, shaking loose a tsunami of seeds at just the right time to germinate in the roughed up, rain softened ground and now, there is a vibrant population of young pines that are dazzling, green and fresh.

The Wrecking Crew

And the sanctioned destruction (see original post here) of workers dismantling our screened porch before construction on the new part of our home could begin was a powerful image for me to revisit, sitting here today in serene comfort, the noise of drills, hammers, saws, and five different radio stations at loud war with one another long stilled.

Cartharsis? Maybe not quite, at least not yet. But with the patient doggedness of an historian of everyday life, the hunger to dig up the bones and fit together all the fragments of an archeologist, and the eager heart of a Mejia Jespe, I fly.

Lively Bones

You may notice the Archives are growing. I have been gradually reconstructing the old blog files from 2003 forward. Getting into the rhythm now, I'm up to June of '04. Click here for a blast from the past.

Sometimes You Really CAN Go Home Again

Thanks to the smarts and generosity of poet, writer, photographer, naturalist, observer of the human condition and well-known blogger extraordinary, Dave Bonta, an archive of my original blog, Switched At Birth, has been discovered. I guess that makes Dave an archeologist, too.

As a result, months of typing, frustration and most likely giving up, have been avoided. There is still some cutting and pasting, to be sure, but substantially reconstructing the old blog, including comments, is now within reach, and I'll be working on it post by post for the next few weeks. And once it's done, I'll merge the new and old — and as you can see, have already reverted from "Too Much Sugar For A Dime" to the old name.

Frankly, getting a look at the old girl, risen from the dead in its original format, was an emotional moment. You all know how it is. This is our lives we're writing about here.

Where in cyberspace did Dave find me?  In a few small volumes on a surgically clean shelf at The Internet Archive. Check it out — you'll be amazed at what's there.

And while you're clicking to some of the most fascinating spots, add Dave's blog, Via Negativa, and the literary magazine he co-edits, Qarrtsiluni, to your "must read" list.

Homeward Bound

Buck is not a natural early riser. When he was on his feet, turning on lights with each foot fall, at 4:30 this morning, I knew he was ready to get back home to Maggie, Longleaf and the wildness of our piney woods retreat.

Buck drove the 637 miles with only a couple of brief stops. I made us several peanut butter sandwiches for the road and stuck a quart of milk and a hunk of basic cheddar into a cooler. Buck tossed three bananas onto the back seat. I walked out the back patio of our hotel room in the dark, opening two iron gates along the way to walk beside an eerie, steaming hot tub, and into the back door of the lobby to check us out while Buck finished loading the car.

Yesterday, the Naples/Ft. Myers area was the warmest in the United States, at 86 degrees, but this morning it was a sweet 62 when we left. Sometimes, there is no greater pleasure than downing a glass of cold milk and smear of peanut butter on whole wheat bread while watching a sunrise and hurtling homeward like bats out of hell.

Yep. This was one of those days.

Tools in the Toolbox

I am seeing woodpeckers high up in the standing snags in one particular neighborhood of the woods. It is a circular cul de sac, formed by a convergence of fire line paths. To my naked eye, they look rather dull colored, except when they fly. Then, I see white patches on their wings.

I have taken a few pictures of them, but without a telephoto lens and more knowledge than I have, the birds remain dull colored and incognito in the morning light.

Buck reminds me that we have a fine pair of small Leica binoculars. He finds them for me, unzips the case, unwinds the cord, and drapes them over my neck. "There, now. Go out and identify your bird."

I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this.

The contrast between my naked eye's ability to see and the reality brought in close by those binoculars was staggering. The birds' color blocks were so sharp, they looked like paint by number birds.

We all have forgotten tools in our toolboxes. Scratch around. Never know what you'll find.



Depot Mania vs. Rural Artistry

Home Depot, Office Depot, Cabinet Depot, Ceramic Tile Depot, Carpet Depot, Flooring Depot, Hot Tub Depot, Hardware Depot, Bar Stool Depot, Light Depot, AAARRGGHH!!

The meaning of "depot" according to Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary:

Main Entry: de·pot
Pronunciation: 1 & 2 are ˈde-(ˌ)pō also ˈdē-, 3 is ˈdē- sometimes ˈde-
Function: noun
Etymology: French dépôt, from Middle French depost, from Medieval Latin depositum, from Latin, neuter of depositus
Date: 1795

1 a : a place for storing goods or motor vehicles b : store, cache <a fat depot in the body>
2 a : a place for the storage of military supplies b : a place for the reception and forwarding of military replacements
3 : a building for railroad or bus passengers or freight


Depot gets my vote for the most over-used, mostly inappropriately used, word out there in retail land today.

Whether it's a "big box" retail store, a cookie-cutter franchise, or a tiny hole-in-the-wall outfit, the word "depot" is ubiquitous among business names in the home construction arena. The only way that word is mellifluous to my ears is when I think, nostalgically, of old train stations in small town America, as in "down at the depot."

Okay. No more ranting and raving. Here's something wonderful, instead.

Discouraged by assembly line kitchen cabinets and distressed by post-Hurricane Ivan prices, Buck and I drilled deeper. We heard about a family-owned and operated cabinet and furniture maker just over the Florida line in Alabama, about an hour's drive from Pensacola. We took a nice drive in the country, and found the Country Pine Furniture Company in Flomaton, Alabama.

Robert Carden, his wife, and their staff are artisans. A thick layer of sawdust has settled into the walls, lending a yellowish, old book feel to the place. A shaft of light showers motes onto the head of a young man carefully shaping and smoothing a table leg. It's quiet here at this hour of the late afternoon. Something about the atmosphere reminds me of the good feeling I get being in a library with time to soak in literary waters.

Mr. Carden had to leave us for a few minutes to sign for a delivery. Buck said to me, "Well, Twitchy Baby, I've seen all I need to see." When Buck speaks those words, it's a clear thumbs up or thumbs down. "He's got all the equipment to make us some beautiful cabinets." Ah, good. He agrees with me!

I love the thought of being able to "visit" our cabinets as they are being made, run my hands over the smooth curing wood, and dream of Thanksgiving.

p.s. You might think these custom-made cabinets are more expensive than those from a mass retailer. Not so. We bid the work, and saved more than 30% by going with the local, independent, family-operated business.


Yep. Another "lost post" restored. Original written April 17, 2005.

Cranes and Girders and Trusses, Oh My!

 Everybody gets excited when a crane shows up on the scene,  lifts huge girders high in the air, and swings them around like toothpicks. The big red crane looks like a man-sized version of a child's toy.



The fellow driving it looks a little like Wayne Newton. A white, ten-gallon hat almost covers up his long sideburns, and his triangular shape attests to many hours sitting in the operator's seat.

The chance of getting any non-housebuilding work done around here these days is slim and none. Here was the view from my desk last Friday.

The crew came out yesterday, even though it was Saturday. They were trying to catch a few hours of rare sunshine to start sheathing the main roof. They got a good start. Won't be long now until we're fully dried in.

I'll never forget the look of this amazing skeletal structure. Looks to me like a dinosaur's spine, or a super contemporary skylight.


Moving right along, now, with restoring the "lost posts." When this was originally written on April 10, 2005, my blog buddy from Wales, Daisy-Winifred, said "Be fantastic if that were a skylight, you'd have a punk roof with a Mohican haircut then."