Friday, July 31, 2009

Two Days After Chincoteague's Pony Penning '09

The ponies are gone. I missed the auction but what ponies that didn't sell were taken back to Assateague today to run free and wild as nature intended. I'm sure a few of them if not all were a bit shaken up from the experience and I'm hoping they are very adaptable.

Tourists are still here, but they'll weed out in another week and it will be almost like it was before summer tourist season started.

I talk about tourists like they're the most annoying things but I guess there must be some good points of having them here. I would say for the local businesses but if you look really closely, most businesses are owned by people who cater to the tourists because once the tourists leave, the shops close up which is confusing to me. It's like they don't care about the locals or maybe it's a money thing.

There are a few that stay open - the local grocery store, the post office of course, a few convenience stores. Dollar General stays open as do a few restaurants like Bill's (my favorite). Bill's Restaurant is located on Main Street and maybe my taste palates are different from yours but that food is the bomb. I can get a pound of large steamed shrimp for $11.00 which I often take home and eat out on the deck. There's a McDonald's of course and there's a pharmacy and maybe a few other businesses but the surf stores all close down.

AJ's stays open all year round but I honestly can say I've never been there. Oh yes, Don's is open all year round but it's been a long time since I've been in there, too. I stick mainly to Bill's. You can't go wrong.

When summer ends, the island reverts back to the locals. We have a few tourists that try to get in one last vacation trip before school starts and of course there are the bird watchers who descend upon the island in the fall.

But, it's great. No more sharing your dock. I can walk the dog in peace without kids yelling from the balconies, "Here doggie doggie!" Pfft.

It goes back to being paradise.

I'm sitting in my office right now. It's on the 3rd floor of our condo and a room all my own. I cut the air off for a little while and opened the window to hear the thunderstorm slowly making its way across the island. You can hear the thunder in the distance and the rain pellets dancing in the marsh weeds. The smell you wish you could bottle up forever.

It's peaceful.

I have a few more pony pictures to show you that my daughter and son took before they sent the unsold ponies packing, but I want you to see these beautiful creatures. This is after the ponies arrived at the carnival grounds and before the auction.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chincoteague Freman's Annual Pony Swim '09

Well I haven't posted much all summer because of work commitments, so I thought I'd get back on track. Yesterday was the Chincoteague Fireman's Annual Pony Swim and I was right there in the middle of it as usual. Last year was my first time since moving to the island and I thought I'd sit this year out but I couldn't ignore the excitement passing by my door!

An interesting thing is how I can tell if they have swum the ponies as you really don't know when it's going to happen unless you're listening to the radio. But...if you're living where I'm living, watch the water. When you see the boats flying by toward where they're going to swim them, you know you have probably a couple of hours because not only do they have to rest them in between swims but they have to rest them once they get them to Memorial Park before they run them down Main Street. If the boats are flying back toward Main Street, you know you've probably got another 45 minutes to an hour.

At 8:30, the boats were flying toward where they were going to swim them (from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island) so I knew I had a little bit of time but I was curious to see how the crowd was. They boast in the Eastern Shore News every single year about 30,000 people descending on this tiny island and that is so not true. I would give a rough guestimate at about 3,000 but I could be off maybe 1 or 2,000. And it probably wasn't even that many although...there were certainly a lot of people here.

At 8:30, though, the crowd was nothing. People were starting to bring out their chairs in preparation of the long wait until the ponies were run through.

And I guess you're wondering why they run the ponies through. Each year, the fireman's department raises money for the fire department for new trucks, etc., but auctioning off these ponies which, btw, is probably happening as I speak and I'm stuck on the computer. I might sneak a few minutes in and go take a few more pictures later.

So anyway, the tradition is...these "saltwater cowboys" gather the herd over on Assateague and swim them across the water onto Chincoteague Island where they rest at Memorial Park before running them down Beebe and onto Main Street for the crowd to ooh and ahh.

LOTS of tourists. Most have been here before if you take an informal poll and they just keep coming back.

After biking down Main to see what was happening at that point, I came on back to the condo to find my daughter waking up and fixing her daily Strawberry Toaster Strudel. She was hesitating going with me to watch the ponies run down Main toward the carnival ground where they are auctioning them off today because she feels it's inhumane (I'll blog about this tomorrow) but she said she was curious and off we went.

So we dig out the scooters and head on down Main and grab some pictures. Enjoy and I'll have a followup tomorrow...

This is part of the crowd. It was hot, babies were crying, kids were cranky....

And here they come!

The firemen, dubbed "Saltwater Cowboys," lead the ponies down Main Street.

Closer view of one of the Saltwater Cowboys as they try to keep the herd in a line and not trample onto the people standing to the side of the street to get a closer view (me!)...

More ponies!

And more ponies...

And more ponies...

I thought this little one was so cute!

This is how the carnival looked BEFORE the pony grew in size afterwards!

And...another picture of the carnival before the real crowd got there.

And here they are...those beautiful wild ponies ripped away from everything they ever knew and waiting to be auctioned off today.


Video footage of the ponies swimming from their home on Assateague to Memorial Park on Chincoteague where they will rest, then run through the streets, then on to the carnival grounds:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm guest posting at The Book Faerie Reviews Today!

Guess what! I'm guest posting today at The Book Faerie Reviews! I just found out this is going to be a monthly feature and I'm to talk about virtual book tours and online book promotion. If you'd like to see my first post, visit The Book Faerie Reviews! Stop by and leave a comment or say howdie!

Monday, July 13, 2009


Gracious Living on Social Security is an easy-to-read decade-long journey that offers tips and suggestions on how senior citizens can stretch their dollar and get the most for their money. Eleven chapters cover every important aspect of living together, from the wedding preparations to where to live. Key considerations follow each chapter for quick reference: considerations like where and when to buy clothing, choosing a place to live and juggling your finances. Artist Jeff Nitzberg adds his unique touch with original drawings introducing each chapter.

About the Author:

At eighty-eight, Valerie Kent is the survivor of a long lifetime spent adjusting to dramatically evolving worlds. She moved from Britain to the United States in 1933. Valerie began at the age of forty-six the drawn-out process of education - seven universities - that would generate, initially, a career as a drug and alcohol counselor for troubled women, then a decade as a celebrated college teacher and - ultimately - a final, exultant marriage. This is her story.


We all aspire to the many extras which supposedly make our lives more enjoyable. For some, the list is headed up by second cars, designer clothing, even dining out regularly in expensive restaurants. Where cash is scarce, it demands real discipline to examine spending patterns and determine just what we truly need, then prioritize whatever we merely want. Because money is one of the central issues in any marriage, retiring on a fixed income is likely to increase rather than reduce unavoidable tension over it. Careful planning and thoughtful shopping can help. This can reduce costs (even if our economy worsens) and thereby free up funds for luxuries further down everybody’s wish list. The discipline to follow through with a mutually-agreed-on plan, once made, is tough, but rewarding.

All this requires an investment of time: time, our most available resource. It is hard to change old habits, and an exertion of will is sometimes required to pay attention to details you never bothered about before. Joint planning, joint responsibility and joint action are vital now that you will be spending much more time together. Having that “we” approach is more important than ever to insure graceful living.

Our working years could certainly have benefited from this prescription for a happy life together, but the pressures and urgencies of raising a family and establishing a career often leave couples living quite separate lives. Each partner has had his or her own areas of responsibility, and in practice true collaboration is often lacking. Being forced to strengthen the bond of “we” during a financial squeeze may significantly improve living together in retirement by forcing the reconsideration of older, sloppier patterns.

One of the most difficult tasks is settling on those more urgent, less avoidable priorities. Dealing with the money forces decisions as to whose preference will prevail and facilitates true compromise. Inevitably somebody’s preference gets bumped off the budget. Thos fulfilled golden years are impossible without new level of mutual respect and open communication.

A Word from the Author:

"No treatment of gracious living is complete without a chapter on the emotional connections. I include a chapter on this delicate subject in Gracious Living on Social Security called Keeping Romance Alive. Having both begun life in dysfunctional households and survived difficult mid-life divorces, both my husband and I understand what a minefield marriage can become. We operate very carefully together, sharing the chores and indulging each other from time to time to heighten interest. In a way, we are still courting each other, and so have managed to keep going personally without the over-advertised “expensive blue pill.” The fact that Rick is fourteen years younger than I am doesn’t seem very important. The soul is ageless."

To learn more about Valerie and her book, visit

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Boomer Chick Plays Evel Knievel on Independence Day

So it was the 4th of July yesterday. The original plan was to light fireworks at the end of the dock only the guy who was selling the illegal good stuff wasn't there anymore so we figured we'd just go to the end of the dock and watch the fireworks that were going off at the carnival grounds the Chincoteague fireman shoot off every year. Even though we wouldn't be sitting right there in front of them, we were close enough to see them when they shot them in the sky.

It ended up sounding like a great idea because the crowd was HORRIBLE as you'll see why in a few minutes.

We decided to wait until the carnival just opened and then run in there and let my daughter grab the pizza and clam fritter (or is it oyster fritter?) sandwich and a candy apple and head on back home to wait for the fireworks to start. It was just her and I being as my son and ex had been out fishing all day and so the son decided he'd rather stay home being as he was not only beat from that, but figured by the time I went back to get him, the lines getting over to the island would be so backed up, we wouldn't make it back in time.

So, my daughter and I run out the carnival to get her some food and I notice the crowd wasn't too bad about that time. It was only 7:30 and since the fireworks wasn't going to happen until 10, the real crowd hadn't arrived yet.

Now I don't know what happened in between then and the time I decided riding out there on scooters would be a good idea, but I can only attribute it to the fact I was caught in the moment. It was so exciting to see everyone lined up already waiting for the fireworks which weren't going to happen until a few hours later (guess they wanted a front row seat and they got it). And I, for some insanely dumb reason, wanted to be in the middle of it all. On scooters.

So we get back to the house, she downs her food and she tells me she's going for a scooter ride to pass the time. And I say, "I wanna go, too!" She frowns, knowing full well I can't go as fast as she does (she gets so mad at me), so she says we'll just go ride down to the end of the street by the marina, turn around and come back. Well, we get down there and she says, "It sure is chilly," and I say, "Let's go back to the house, then we'll go from there."

So we get back to the house and here's where another insane moment comes in. I say, "Let's just ride out there and play it by ear." I figure if the crowd is too bad, all we have to do is turn around. I mean, how hard can that be to do on a scooter?

Well, it's about an hour before fireworks start and I want you to picture this. Picture a tiny island with 2 lanes but now the 2 lanes looks like the middle of Manhattan. There are cars lined up on one side of the street (allowed because usually we're a pretty quiet little town), so now a 2 lane road is suddenly 3 lanes and the cars that are parked? Well, here's a true story. One of the cars passing another car that is parked knocked the mirror right off his car, it was that close. New York city at its finest.

And we're going at snail speed. I pull up to Melissa and I tell her we need to get off this and onto a side road. It was crazy.

We pull off a side road and it didn't do a bit of good. The cop was directing traffic at the light to make everyone veer off to the left instead of the right where the carnival grounds were so that they would have to go on all the side roads to get to the carnival. So now the side roads were all backed up.

Now you have to know Melissa. She's not very patient. I was waving at someone I knew while we were at a standstill, not moving and wasn't going to be moving anytime soon, and I catch a glimpse of Melissa jumping up on the sidewalk and barreling down it.

O...kay. Uh, like wtf? I couldn't lose her because if I did, she wouldn't see me behind her and would think I had gotten run over or something and would never find me so it would be a horrible night so I took a deep breath and tried to hop the curb but unfortunately I don't think I had the get up and go Melissa did because the thing wasn't jumping nothing.

I see her waaaaaaay ahead of me by now, I'm freaking because I know I'm going to lose her and I take one last try and BOOM I was up on the sidewalk and if there were anyone on it, God love'em because they wouldn't be standing today. I remember as I hopped the sidewalk, I must have been being watched because I heard a man say, "You go, girl!"

So I'm barreling down the sidewalk and I expect someone to yell at me saying I can't do it or cussing at me, something, but I make it all the way past all the cars and I can barely see Melissa up ahead. It's like she doesn't care and was out for her own self, never mind her boomer chick mama who hates going that fast on a scooter but I haul ass.

We get back home and I tell her that's the most insane thing I have ever done and will never do it again. It was night, I'm hauling ass and there are cars in front of me, back of me, to the side of me, it's a wonder there weren't any cars barelling down the sidewalk, too.

All ends well. We put the scooters up against the side of the carport, go out and watch the fireworks on the dock and chalk it up to another exciting 4th of July. After I changed my underwear.

So how did everyone spend their 4th?