Admission of Guilt?

Bill Kling, Huntsville City Council member, as well as the entire state of Alabama, admitted guilt today in the contribution toward global warming and use of herbicides/pesticides to reduce the bee/bird population by reiterating the demand (a/k/a Ordinance No. 86-294 entitled “The Huntsville, Alabama, Grass and Weed Ordinance”) that residents maintain an inedible crop of grasses at a certain height that does not allow the grass to produce flowers and thus seeds all for the sake of “a way to help keep the community looking its best.””

There can be only one!

In olden days, beauty pageant winners demonstrated their singing/dancing talents in addition to answering a question about today’s popular issues in the news.

Not anymore.

This year’s winner of the Miss Kingsport contest had to be the last one standing. Literally.


We’ll let the rulemakers, the “Members of Amtgard,” describe the new contest requirements:

A blow to the arm or leg and you can no longer use that limb.  A blow to a kill spot and you are out.  The last two contestants have to battle it out until one beheads the other.  The last one standing is the winner.

Congratulations to Sullivan Central graduate Kylie Burkey for the surprise, last-second victory over Jacquelyn Crawford, the presumed winner who, although she won the the Jean Hilton Memorial Swimsuit Award and the Evening Gown Award as well as took tops in the talent contest by performing a graceful classical ballet dance to “Via Dolorosa” by Sandi Patty, lost her head in the final battle.

In 2013, Burkey became the first in Sullivan County history — and the first in at least the recent past statewide — to win gold at nati0nals.

When asked for comment, Crawford choked on her words but humbly admitted defeat.

When asked about her future plans to take other crowns such as Miss Tennessee or Miss America, Burkey said, “Right now, I’m just focusing on King.”

All contests are designed, run and judged by industry using industry standards.

Before losing her head, Crawford replied about her successful rise to the top of the program. “This is my first year being completely in charge of the Church Hill program, and it’s a really big responsibility,” she said, in regards to the Feed The Needy Program that believes no one in the community should go hungry during these times of heavy underemployment in the area.  “We feed nearly 150 to 200 undocumented immigrant kids a day to the homeless and homebound elderly.”

Barbara’s bartering banter

Barbara, tell us your story:

Bartering as a Lifestyle

I’ve learned to live on very little money in order to support my lifestyle as an artist. I haven’t had medical insurance since 1985 and luckily I’m very healthy but whenever I have needs, such as dental work, and once, a doctor, I asked around and found someone I could barter with. I’ve bartered for airline tickets, amazing places to live, places to stay while I’m traveling overseas and this continent, and car repairs. I usually barter my art, but I’ve met people with skills such as massage, hairstyling, jewelry making, and bookkeeping, to name just a few, who have done well with barter. If you are willing to work, create art, or have something to trade, then you’ve got something you can barter with. I’ve found that there are many times people might not want to spend money but will barter.

When I quit my systems analyst job and didn’t want to be stressed out about money, as a single person I learned that caretaking other people’s property allowed me the freedom to make my art. This lifestyle has landed me in extremely beautiful places, with my rent, utilities and, depending on the situation, food, salaries, vehicles, and use of swimming pools, as part of the deal. On this blog site I intend to tell my stories as well as those I’m collecting from other people, and pass on some web sites that will help you meet up with other people interested in bartering.

In my twenties I traveled around the world and found wonderful opportunities for work exchanges along the way. In Australia I lived for a couple of years in the outback where I rented a house on a two hundred acre farm for the low rent of $80 a month in exchange for keeping an eye on my landlord’s cows. In Bodh Gaya, India I spent a couple of weeks in a Thai Buddhist monastery, in exchange I spent an hour a day helping one of the monks with his university studies. In Israel I lived on a kibbutz for three months and did a variety of jobs in exchange for everything I needed. I learned that honest, loyal, hard working people were really appreciated and could get jobs anywhere in the world.

In my thirties I finally settled down and worked as a computer programmer until I sold two of my short travel stories to a magazine and a piece of art that I’d created was accepted for an important juried show the City of Los Angeles was sponsoring. I quit my job and began looking for ways to survive as an artist, which in L.A. meant long-term house sitting and scenic painting for movies.

In my forties my first creative work exchange was as a scenic painter for the New Hope Theater in Pennsylvania. I spent the summer painting sets in the Pocono Mountains while living in a beautiful resort hotel. I stayed for two months in an apartment in Venice Beach, CA in exchange for doing all the black and white still photography for a video project an artist friend was working on. On vacation in Jamaica I met a woman who lived in a beautiful villa on a hillside overlooking the Carribean and ended up house sitting it for a week when she had to go away. While there I learned wood carving from a local artist.

One of my favorite work exchanges was for a real estate investor in Bel Air, CA. For three years I worked two days a week as his office assistant in exchange for a salary and a nice little apartment in one wing of his house. I had full use of the grounds and swimming pool. It was while living in Bel Air that I began carving large sculptures for the Treepeople Park in Beverly Hills. I finally left Bel Air to do a summer work exchange at the Avondale Forest Park in County Wicklow, Ireland where I carved a large sculpture (see photo above) from a famous tree that had died. After this experience many of my work exchanges were art related.

Several times a week I will update this site with these stories and many more. I’m hoping to interview Ryan McDonald of The One Red Paper Clip fame, have a piece on house swapping, do an article on business barter sites, and much more. Don’t get me wrong, money is great, but if you don’t have much, there are alternatives with bartering. World travel, living in millionaire homes, the sky’s the limit on what you can manifest.

You can see some of my work on these blog sites:

If you have questions to can contact me at:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Barbara’s Bartering Blog

Tasteful or tasteless?

I have no problem letting my thoughts wander afield, knowing the energy spent generating thoughts reduces the energy spent acting upon them.

For instance, the day Merlin died — in fact, mere minutes before his life passed before my eyes — I drove over to the local supermarket and bought a cardboard container of fried chicken.

Seven pieces: two breasts, two thighs, two wings and a drumstick.

Can you see where this is going?

While my wife held the crying Merlin in her arms, I prepared a dinner plate for her of a chicken breast and banana pudding. I went ahead and prepare my plate, too, so that when my wife finished eating I could hand Merlin back to her and I could eat.

Merlin died before my wife finished eating.

I’m a sentimental old fool. I can sit here and remember so vividly as Merlin’s eyes dilated so completely I knew he was dying the moment Janeil handed him to me, as if he was taking in every last bit of the world he could just before he said goodbye.

But I digress.

After Janeil finished eating, she asked to hold Merlin [blog entry delay — Erin wants some turkey]…

When she held him, she looked him and said, “I think he stopped breathing.”

“I know.”

“Yes. He died a few seconds ago but I was too much in shock to say anything.”

She nodded. “Well, what do you want to do?”

“Bury him.”

“I know that. I mean right now.”

“I guess we can put him in a box.”

“There’s a box of my scrapbooking supplies on the stove. You can use it.”

I emptied the box and placed Merlin’s stiffening body inside, placing his loose head on the lip of the box as if he was just reclining in it for a moment.

I set the box on the sofa between us and went back to get my dinner plate of potato salad, cole slaw, cowboy beans, a chicken thigh, wing and drumstick.


While seated on the sofa, I ate. Tears welled up in my eyes. I looked past Merlin to my wife. “I’m trying to eat and not think.”

“Uh-huh. I know.”

It wasn’t just the thought of my dead buddy beside me that got to me.

It was other thoughts, too.

Like what does fried cat taste like?

Does it taste like chicken?

How much meat is left on Merlin’s bones?

No, no, I’m not supposed to think thoughts like that.

I’m civilised!

I’m not supposed to wonder if I placed Merlin’s body in the crawlspace, would unknown creatures strip his body down to the skeleton like the mice and chipmunk skeletons I’d found down there through the years?

I once made a recycled art homage to Damien Hirst using cat food boxes and cans, simulating a cat carcass cut in two. Would I dare use Merlin’s skeleton as an art exhibit?


After all, people have their favourite pets stuffed and put on display in their homes. Hunters mount the decapitated heads of their kills on walls.

Best remain still, my wandering thoughts, and finish my meal.

There’s always tomorrow. Seems like a pretty good idea to me.

After I buried Merlin that evening, I returned the next day to place rocks on his grave, arranged like a dinosaur skull…look sideways and you’ll see it.


The Magic of Merlin’s Forest

Can you die of a broken heart?

How are our thoughts manifested in our actions?

In my thoughts I live alone.  I and the universe are one.

I am not the center of the universe but what I know about the universe is centered on me.

I/me is an artificial construct, a set of states of energy that has circuitry which reflects the set back upon itself like a funhouse mirror.

Over the past few months, I have consciously made choices about where I sleep at night.

During the cold months of winter, I slept in the sunroom, closing the door to the house to keep the cold out.

But closing the door also kept Merlin and Erin from seeking me as a nighttime companion.

I could sense they were upset, easily so — they started pooping near the sunroom door.

Merlin gave me what I can only describe anthropomorphically as pouting looks.

Then, as Erin got sick and I paid extra special attention to him to try to get him well, Merlin seemed to enter a longterm depression.

He, too, got sick.

He seemed to have given up.

But in the last two weeks of his life, I devoted more attention to him and he perked up a little.

However, he was too far gone at that point.

I knew it and he knew it.

He drank a lot of water and ate less food.

Then, in the last week of his life, he could barely jump up on the sofa to sleep with me.

In the last few days, he could only walk a few steps at a time and had to rest.  He plopped down in front of the water bowl and laid his head on the lip of the bowl to dip his tongue just enough to wet his whistle.

Yesterday, he had to drag himself up on the sofa.  He looked sad.  I knew it was only a matter of hours before he died.

I cleaned his ears with Q-tips one last time.  I wiped the dried mucus from his eyelids.  I wet a paper towel and cleaned the dried cat food from his chin.

He did his best to purr.  A tiny rattling sound.

He rubbed the top of his head against my chin or, rather, attempted to, jerking his head from side to side.

His hind legs began to stiffen.

Erin tried to join us one last time but Merlin’s spasms made it difficult for the three of us to settle down together.

I sit in one of Merlin’s favourite spots on a sofa in the sunroom, sunshine touching the edge of the sofa where this time of year Merlin used to drape his head over the edge to warm his ears and top of his head.

Erin sleeps despondently in the living room, wrapped in the fleece blanket in which Merlin died yesterday.

It is a very quiet day.  Not a bird singing or a car passing by.  Just the clicks and pops of the expanding roof and walls of the sunroom.

A goldfinch checks out the empty bird feeders, trying to find one last seed to eat, no felines perched on the cat stand to chatter and stare.

I piled rocks on top of Merlin’s grave this morning.  Between burying him in the dark last night and the rain shower this morning, a large limb broke off the giant oak tree under which I placed Merlin’s body in two small cardboard boxes taped together in the shape of a child’s cash register toy, a printed copy of Merlin’s purchase receipt listing birth and death sealed in a plastic sandwich bag and taped to the box.

As I arranged the rocks, I noticed black beetles and black flies around the burial site.  Fresh food for them and their offspring…the cycle of life continues.

I felt like I was in a horror story or movie last night, a battery-powered lantern hanging from a tree limb as I shoveled forest soil to make a hole, black humus mixed with freshly-fallen leaves covering the first few inches I dug, followed by Tennessee Valley red clay, rocks and roots.

I retired from an office job in 2007 and have spent the better part of my life since then living in this house with two cats.

One of them is gone.

No more my wife and I keeping open containers of drinking water out of reach of Merlin’s head.

No more Merlin curling up into the crook of my left armpit in bed on a cold night.

No more Merlin stretching out in the sunny spots of the house, his brother joining him.

No more soft fur like a velveteen rabbit, a unique smell up against my nose when he decided to sleep on the pillow next to my head.

My daily house companion of the past seven years, a part of my peak work years, happy to see me when I got home, is gone.

No matter how miserable his life had been the last few months, Merlin looked into my eyes at the end and fought to stay alive a little longer.

Why did I shut you out so much lately, Merlin?  I was not tired of you.  I was tired of myself having given up on my life that I couldn’t bear to let you see me this way, an unpleasant house companion.  Yet, you asked for me at the end.  You chose to die in my arms, no one else’s.

I was the world to that cat, a set of states of energy just like any other that became life, a bundle of cells symbiotically attuned to keep on living no matter what.

We qualify the meaning of life.

In fact, when I returned to the house after burying Merlin, I saw a horse fly on the ceiling in the kitchen, minding its own business, cleaning its wings and I killed it because I abhor the stinging sensation of a horse fly’s bite even though the fly gave no indication it was going to bite me anytime soon.

But is the life of a human with celebrity status any more important than my cat in the workings of the universe?

I think not.

Life is life.

I shan’t punish myself for the times I pushed away a seemingly healthy Merlin recently when I thought Erin needed attention in his weakened state as he vomited up large volumes of blood.

Erin no longer vomits blood but he wheezes when he breathes and sneezes blood droplets sometimes.  By feeding him small portions of deli-sliced turkey along with regular wet cat food, I have brought his weight back up from malnutrition but he is still a skinny cat (he was always thin).

How long will he live now that it’s just the two of us most of the time and alone in the house by himself when my wife and I are not here?

I do not try to know.

All I can do is provide him the same love and attention he got when he was seriously ill before Merlin’s health started to decline.

I don’t want my imagination of two cats dying of a broken heart on my conscience.

I struggle enough as it is, sometimes, trying to find reasons to live.  I don’t need another reason to want to die.

It’s almost two p.m.  Time for my afternoon nap.  I’ll see if Erin wants to join me or wants to take my sleeping spot, either sofa or bed.

Watching Merlin waste away the last two weeks has been tough, knowing he was rapidly declining.  Whether the decline was caused by breathing the heavy dust of a new cat litter we tried, the cat snacks we gave or a spider bite, we’ll never know.  Running my hand over his body, feeling his rib cage beneath the guard fur of a Cornish Rex, noticing a nub that was either a broken rib or a cancerous node.  Seeing parts of him swell unusually, like a paw, a forelimb or his chin.  His body getting colder day after day as he finally gave up eating…well, Erin says enough typing. Pay attention to him!