Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Just a couple of notes

I will be leaving in the morning for my next adventure! My husband and I are looking forward to seeing some old, familiar faces along the way. Posts may be far and few in between due to spotty cellphone coverage while on the road. 

I will try to post a few pictures of the trip when we are in camp for the night. Thank you everyone who took the time to vote for my Hub in the rising star competition. Voting ends tomorrow, so I'm hoping to find out shortly afterwards. 

There is some excellent competition, and I feel quite honored to be considered among their ranks. 

Happy trails to all!   



Friday, April 26, 2013

Nominated for Rising Star Award!

Votes are appreciated!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let the positive cultural revival begin!

Large crowds freak me out. Some say I have a phobia, but avoiding the risks associated with so many people occupying the same space at the same time, sounds logical to me. I think my fear is quite rational, as I prefer not to be the target of a pickpocket, and to avoid getting trampled by an out-of-control crowd. When we attend large events where crowds are unavoidable, my husband plays a game to help ease my mind. He looks over and says, “Moo,” implying that as cattle, we are making our way through the dinner line. He always brings my smile out!

My question is, why do people tend to follow the crowd (in a metaphorical sense)? I realize that chatting about the latest movie release builds camaraderie in the office, but what about the sculpted nail trend? Frankly, the idea of getting my fingernails ground down, then attaching acrylic pieces to them with superglue, gives me the creeps! Even more gross, is the piercing and tattooing trend - this dangerous gamble could result in serious negative health effects.

I want to challenge to readers to explore the world outside your social circle, and to be a positive trendsetter. Instead of celebrating the disturbing culture of reality television, be freethinking, eccentric individuals, who model inspiration and hope for others. Refuse to let your personality become a pawn of group-think mentality. Make a commitment to develop your natural creativity, talent, and skills. Cultural revival begins with a single person, when each of us unleashes our inner awesomeness!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why do good people do bad things?

The recent events in Boston have me thinking this question over. Apparently suspect number two was thought of as a typical guy. Most people in his social circle thought heat was a good person. 

How do people like him turn evil? What do you think about it?

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The journey Into RV living, as Snowbirds

Photo Credit: Aleshia Clarke

To the surprise of our friends and family, my husband and I packed a few belongings into an RV, and went south for the winter. People thought we were crazy. Few had believed we would actually follow through with our plan, but those who did were quite envious of us.

The Turning Point

After 10 years of hard country living, the joys of home ownership had lost its charm. My husband was planning to retire from his job of 30 years. I worried that he would hurt himself trying to fix the house up. I was also concerned about how he would deal with being home alone most of the time. My job was very demanding; a struggle for daily survival, and I was starting to feel burned out.

Our turning point came on the day of my first stress test, when I nearly died. It was a terrible morning at work. Management had various surprise assignments for me, and I dealt with a couple of angry clients. I sped along the highway to my appointment after escaping work…late again. My next memory involved taking two nitroglycerins and getting loaded into an ambulance. I nearly died again the following day, after transferring to a different hospital, where I proceeded to fail another type of stress test.

The director promised that things would change when I returned to work, but I knew better. I wanted out, and my husband agreed wholeheartedly. “Let’s go to Florida,” he said. My response was, “We could close the house up and live in a camper!” I gave my employer a full year notice in writing, and we purchased a small motor home. I had something to look forward to, and Jim started preparing for the trip.

Project Snowbird(s)

While we were closing up house, I brought some pantry items over to my sister. I will never forget her asking, “You guys will be back by Thanksgiving, right?” My employer finally hired a replacement 10 days before I left. During the interview, the Director assured her that I would provide my cell phone number to her before I left, should she need to ask any questions. I thought, “you must be kidding me!” I politely declined when the new employee asked for it, by telling her that I needed to focus on the road ahead of me.

Our daughter, a senior in high school, had applied to a college near her stepbrother’s residence. She was not accepted. We offered to bring her to Florida, but she wanted to be near her friends. Her words were, “Mom, what is the difference between a kid going to college out of state, or the parents going out of state to leave their kid at a local college.” She opted to attend a local college instead. In the end, the decision was entirely hers; still, people thought it was selfish of us to leave her behind.

The Journey Begins

My impatient husband, Jim, insisted that we leave on time - in the middle of a torrential downpour! We spent over 150 harrowing miles trying to keep the rig on the road, to keep Charlie (our dog) off Jim’s lap, and to keep Buddy (our cat) from having a stroke. I finally convinced Jim to pull into a Walmart parking lot until the tornado warnings ended. When they continued to active three hours later, we decided to spend the night in the Yogi at Shangri-la Jellystone Park Campground in Milton, Pennsylvania. Just our luck; it was adjacent to the Chillisquaque Creek, which had a long history of major flooding.

We managed to survive the night without incident, so we left the following morning for New Market, Virginia. Charlie had developed an attachment disorder, which became evident when we came out of a welcome center to find our 50 pound dog on the dashboard, nose pressed into the windshield. Shortly afterwards, the tire pressure monitor system alarm began sounding off. After we stopped to check it for the fifth time, Jim deduced that the left rear dually tire was overinflated. He also learned that going up and down a steep incline is a bad idea. Our rear hitch-mounted trailer, loaded with a 2-stroke Honda Zuma Scooter, scraped the pavement on the way up, and again on the way back down the Mobile Gas Station entrance ramp.

I drove for a bit to make amends for snapping at Jim over his carelessness. I came upon an extremely narrow bridge in heavy traffic, and made a hasty decision to drive right down the middle of both lanes to prevent passing traffic from sideswiping us. The terrifying maneuver worked like a charm. As Interstate 81 took us down through West Virginia into the Appalachian Mountains, we both began to relax while enjoying the breathtaking vistas. There were slightly unnerving emergency pull-offs for trucks with break failures, but driving deeper into the region’s beauty helped to melt our stress away.

We entered a garden of stone on the side of a deserted mountainside when we pulled into the Endless Cavern’s NASCAR RV resort. I finally had the chance to purchase souvenirs for our daughter at the camp store. With an entire section to ourselves, we enjoyed the solitude and natural geology of the resort. During the next two days, the pets calmed down, we caught-up on our laundry, and everyone had fun exploring the trails. Due to the nearby epicenter of a recent strong earthquake (the earthquake had cracked the National Monument in Washington D.C.), we avoided going down into the caverns.

The Halfway Mark

The next leg of our trip was mostly enjoyable and problem-free. There were no shortages of Walmart stores on Route 77, so there were no worries about low provisions. Our confidence pushed us all the way down to Fort Mill, South Carolina. By the time we arrived at the KOA camp, we were exhausted. To make matters worse, Buddy peed on our bed. This was a new behavior, but unfortunately, it became one of many future incidents. After washing the linens and taking a nap, we walked over to a local bar, had a couple drinks, and listened to the band play. The following morning held a surprise for us. It turns out that Jim’s nephew lives in Fort Mill. Finding us via my Facebook update, he and his wife brought us over a bottle of wine, and spent the day showing us around their town.

After the third day, we were back on the road again. The next destination was Edisto Island, where we planned to spend nearly a week camping at an oceanside state park. It was a beautiful, rustic, seaside jungle! We had to get jugs of drinking water from the public water tower, due the salty island water. Over the next several days, we zipped around on the scooter along the salt marshes and into town. The park has a breathtaking beach; it was barren, unspoiled, and loaded with seashells. The oceanfront village houses were up on stilts. Listening to the native folk accents made it felt like we were in Jamaica. Aside from the vicious mosquitoes, and a serious late-night car wreck on the remote road next to our camp, it was almost paradise.

The Final Stretch

The final part of our trip was underway. I was getting the sense that our daughter was having trouble at school, but she did not offer any information, and I did not ask for any. I could not afford to lose focus yet, because Jim had clearly lost it. Nearly four hours later, we made it off the island; the last five miles spent stuck in traffic, waiting for a huge piece of culvert to creep down the street. Thankfully, we did not run out of gas. Jim was upset over the delay, and over every other thing that he could not control, so I decided it was best to stop speaking to him!

Late that night, we pulled into a KOA camp in Kingsland, GA. Buddy was on our last nerve with his new habit of soiling our bedding. We also had our first experience with tiny lizards and weird bugs. We found the campground to be very charming; there were plenty of souvenirs to buy, and the reservations included a complimentary hot breakfast. After getting a good night’s sleep, we felt much calmer, as we eagerly pulled onto the highway to finish the journey.

Pure excitement made the hours go by quickly. When we finally arrived at the Nova Campground in Port Orange, Florida, it was a pleasant surprise for the manager to come out of the office and welcome us. Our site was very large, and pretty, with a variety of flowers and perennials all around it. As we started to unpack, we knew we would enjoy living here as snowbirds through the winter.

See Part II of The Journey:

RV Living: The Journey Continues

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Sunday, April 14, 2013


Photo Source: Aleshia Clarke

Aleshia Clarke

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Clever by design?

My response to a recent article concerning lawmakers who avoid discussing unfavorable job reports:

Perhaps they are concerned with offending people who have no desire to work. In my professional opinion, many unemployed people are quite content to remain jobless. I have served this population, and am amazed how hard some will "work" at avoiding the job search. Many of the people who support Mr. Obama, believe that government should take care of them in every way, shape, and form. They want longer unemployment benefits and lower criteria for disability benefits. My husband, a 20-year veteran of the Dept. of Labor, supports this position. 

Mr. Obama must surely realize that he can leverage the public's support for his other agendas by avoiding the "J" word. In my opinion, we need to bring stability back to this country by offering affordable, specialized training programs to those who have proven themselves exceptionally bright and motivated to work. We could fund the program by reforming our widely abused student financial aid system. 

~ Aleshia 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

They need our help

Please spread the word!

  Video Source: End It Movement (www.enditmovement.com)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Human Trafficking/Modern Day Slavery

Human Trafficking 

is an Insidious Crime

Photo Source: Aleshia Clarke

An insidious crime is well-established in the United States. It is called modern day slavery. Its victims endure daily exploitation in the most grotesque ways. The public perceives it as prostitution fueled by the current drug addiction epidemic. In fact, human trafficking appears in a variety of different forms, and each one of us could potentially become a target.

Trafficking in persons 
Monitoring human trafficking is difficult due to the crime’s highly mobile nature. Traffickers simply move to a different location if law enforcement becomes suspicious. The United States government estimates between 600,000 – 800,000 persons are trafficked across our borders each year. Fifty percent of those victims are minor children under age 18. There are no current federal standards to monitor enslaved victims inside U.S. borders.  

Typical victims
Human traffickers target immigrants for forced labor. They lure victims into the U.S. by offering lucrative jobs and affordable housing. Their passports are confiscated upon arrival. They are placed in over-crowded boarding rooms with deplorable living conditions. They work in low-paying factory positions. Their payrolls are deposited directly into the trafficker's bank account. 

Women and Children
Kidnapped women and children typically become sex workers. They must service up to 100 Johns per day after initial beatings and sedation with addictive opiates. 

The Elderly
By either threat or coercion, elderly victims sign their retirement benefits and bank accounts over to traffickers. After their assets depleted, they are forced to commit fraudulent schemes, or to obtain prescription drugs for their traffickers to sell.

The marketplace
This black market offers evil at an extremely affordable price using an unlimited amount of human flesh. Buyers find slaves and associated merchandise for sale in big cities and in remote rural areas. It is a matter of simply asking around. Highway rest areas and truck stops pose as common storefronts. Big name events, including the Super Bowl and the Times Square New Years Eve party, bring in large profits. 

Escape is difficult
Slaves may look like transients or drug addicts. But they are in bondage and cannot escape for several reasons: 
  • Their captors initially torture them until submission becomes the only means of survival.
  • They believe escape will result in their execution (similar to African American slaves).
  • Undocumented Immigrants don’t complain for fear of being reported to Immigration and Naturalization Services.
  • Social and family isolation insures compliance from the elderly.
  • They want to protect their families from becoming enslaved or harmed.
  • They have no financial means or resources to escape. 
  • They are ashamed of what they have become.
  • They have lost the will to live.

Law enforcement efforts
Recently passed laws are assisting law enforcement to put traffickers in jail for longer amounts of time. Unfortunately, there is not enough staff to keep up with local trafficking networks. Police need common citizens to be the eyes and ears of their community and report suspicious activity. Still, many citizens are afraid to get involved. Jurisdictional disputes may hamper an arrest - where was the crime committed, and which state will be responsible for prosecution? Local district attorney offices make the final decision.

An effective response
Mainstream American society is slowly beginning to realize that we have a big problem. Committed activists work tirelessly to increase awareness. The public arena and political platforms have not yet taken this issue to task. According to the Polaris Project, the human trafficking market flourishes within the business model of supply and demand. A large demand for services combined with a large supply of victims has created an affordable easily accessible market. Employing strategies to reduce supply and demand may crush the market. The following are some recommendations for an effective response: 
  • Education: Target public awareness campaigns towards potential buyers who may not realize that the services involve force, fraud, and coercion.
  • Deterrents: Make the punishment for sellers and buyers severe and highly publicized to discourage risk-taking behaviors.
  • Community Outreach: Train communities to create a local task force, to enact policies for monitoring suspicious activities, and to make plans for a quick response to incidents.
    For further information, please refer to the following materials:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lessons in Love

              Photo Source: Aleshia Clarke
Welcome class;

and don't forget to take good notes!

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