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an interesting day/way to end the year...

Saturday, December 31, 2011
I spent most of the day painting walls today. I got an email yesterday asking for volunteers to help with renovating a building in an older section of town. They are remodeling an old branch bank to transform it into a medical office.  I'm not fully informed about the whole story, but will tell what I know... (in spite of trying to raise daughters to Not Do That.)

The doctor who will run the clinic has been doing something similar in Augusta, with support from the medical community there (which would be enormous with Medical College facilities to provide staffing and loads of interns and residents looking for someone to 'practice' on). He was persuaded to come to Columbus and start a clinic here that would provide care for the un-insured, under-served population, people who need medical help and don't have the resources to do anything more pro-active than drag into the ER when they get so miserable, or so badly injured they need more than band-aids or over the counter meds. Folks who are homeless, or suddenly unemployed, lost health coverage, seniors living on small fixed incomes of retired mill-workers who have to decide between filling the Rx or buying groceries.

I understand the medical community will corporately support what he is planning. The clinic is located close to downtown, in an economically depressed area where there is a tremendous need, but will provide care to anyone who can get there. Medical Center and St. F. Hosp. will help with funding, because this clinic will help the people who would otherwise show up in their ER, with problems that are not considered 'traumatic' or life threatening. I am sure there is probably some private funding as well, from some families with 'old money' and deep pockets who have the resources to do go anonymously. It pleases me, no matter the source, there are people in the community who are aware of the need, and willing to tackle the problem, aggressively seek solutions to provide needed assistance for the under-served who so often fall through the cracks in our society.

I spent the day painting. We made pretty good progress until the Dr. came in with three little girls who asked Daddy if they could paint - so then it was pretty much herding monkeys until they lost interest. I then spent a couple of hours re-doing what the monkeys did in a bathroom that the public will not have access to, so it does not matter that they got that horrid, institutional green paint Every where. Probably including each other, though I did not see the finished product the sisters  were wearing, before they left for lunch.

I went to wally world to get some solvent, cleaner and need to go clean paint brushes. Will go back on Monday to work on the trim... since they are hoping to have the Grand Opening on Thursday. They don't know how much I like to paint.


Friday, December 30, 2011
With a family member who is a professional chef, you'd think I would be all about cookbooks and such. But I cleaned that shelf off in the pantry several years ago, and gave most away (probably to the chef - who I also gifted with a whole rolling suitcase full of cookbooks at one point - that caused her to have to get a bookshelf built to hold them all!) I am a little shame-faced to admit I rarely cook anymore, and even more rarely in search of a recipe to get the end product to come out 'right'. I probably have less than a dozen bound books as resources, (you can always 'google it up') as well as a small file box filled with 3-5 cards. If I was not interested enough in the recipe to put it on a card in the file, it is likely untested in my kitchen.  Those cards are my first option/resort: I dearly love to thumb through those little dirty, frayed, faded, food-spotted cards and discover the one I was searching for is written out in script by someone long gone, but remembered  fondly/with love.

I recently bought/pre-ordered prior to shipping several cookbooks from the Infantry Museum, not knowing what I would do with them, but you know how we are when tempted with that old sales trick of: 'savings here!' proposal - even though it means spending to save... I got a whopping bargain, and only spent $86 for four that are now $30 each. Am I not the clever one?! So I gave them to the younger gen. who actually do spend time in the kitchen, and will hopefully try some of the eclectic assorted printed gems collected from all over the world, military families, supporters, veterans, museum volunteers, etc.

The Infantry Museum cookbook I took to Decatur to give away received several rounds of hilarity in response, when they found recipes for elephant casserole (feeds 8,362) and armadillo stew. Reminding me of the recipe from my brother years ago for Rum Cake that I submitted to reprint in a small cookbook the Presbyterians were producing... that ended with 'take another shot of rum and bo to ged'.I've known for years 'How to Eat an Elephant', but if you are interested in information on the prep. part, it has now been published as well...

lost civility in this 'modern' age

Funny that I would be writing this right after talking about how desperate I was to get 'tech support' with cell phone, but it has been on my mind in one form or another for a couple of weeks, and I feel the need to step up on the soapbox again. As I seem to have a lot of free time here at 5:30 a.m., see no reason not to give all three of you another piece of my mind... though I am sure there will come a time when I don't have any molecules to spare and hope you will save/remind/return to me things that are escaping faster than helium from an inflated balloon.

I spoke to my husband (obviously inappropriately - as he got profoundly huffy, and remained in a state of 'Grinch' for hours) about taking out his cell phone recently when we were sitting in a restaurant waiting for our server. He said he was just checking email, and I said that the people we were with were more important than the latest message/update. He did put it away, but we have yet to have the 'conversation' that will, I am sure make him very defensive and irritable all over again. Which is pretty interesting, since I am of the opinion that people usually get 'that way' when they Know They Are In The Wrong and so thoroughly dislike admitting (and especially apologizing for) bad behavior.

I often see people in pairs, or groups, sitting in public places, obviously having deliberately planned a convivial outing together, with heads bent low, text-ing or perusing mini-screens on their pocket sized electronics. I think I would have (slightly) more tolerance for such horrifying failure to interact if they were small children in need of diversion. But they if they are independent enough to get to any given location, and capable of paying their own expenses when they get there - they surely should have the ability to carry on a conversation/amuse themselves and companions. Especially with people they deliberately choose to meet/invest their most valuable commodity in.

I'm ready to hear from  'Ms. Manners' about: social isolation in a crowded room? Turn it off? Put it down? Make eye contact? Force yourself to invent small talk? Take baby steps toward relearning how to verbalize with your mouth instead of thumbs? I've seen articles that indicate all these young people who have electronic messaging devices prefer to type than actually make the call and talk with their friends - no actual interacting on a verbal level - too risky? Too easily mis-understood? Too simple?

When I accidently/unintentionally bought myself a new cell phone this week, I asked if they could disable the part that receives text messages. I found a number of messages on the old phone last week, that I did not know were there, or how to retrieve... so you know how interested I am in devoting my time to that! Forget expecting such tricks from this Old Dog...(though I will admit to trying to figure out how to send a message last night when I was walking in the dusky evening to say:' I saw the moon'!)

O.k., done with that....

a 'gift' I did not intend to purchase...

I did not mean to A) buy myself a new cell phone for Christmas, or B) have to learn how to use a new piece of techno-whiz. But I find myself compelled to do both - and think that the purchase will likely (and unlikely!) be less painful than the learning curve.Mostly due to having acquired this new one with montrous discounts and a $30 rebate that brought the price down to ten dollars plus a postage stamp was nearly as good as going in the store when I was informed that my contract was up for renewal and qualified for a new one - which the guy who pays the bill got instead. Being a guy, happens to be Very Fond of bells and whistles: the bigger the boy, the bigger the toy.

Happy New Year's Eve eve: I am up in the wee hours again, (4:30 a.m.) in spite of all the things I did to sleep all night... oh well.

I wanted to report:
I got all those missing numbers out of the old phone. Idecided to give it one last shot, so I took it back to the ATT store where they (independently of my personal preferences) bought my new one, and the sales guy said they had not been properly saved and un-retriev-able. But I could get it to power up,where they could  not, so decided that I would just go in and act pitiful, possibly get on my knees and whine if necessary. 
The sales guy told me I could take that sadly abused phone with the number pad lit up, but black screen, to another store across town and they had some technology that would transfer the missing contacts. I found my new Best Friend, who hooked me up with all those people who went MIA when I dropped the phone over the weekend. 
I was, needless to say, delighted to be back in business with my Family and Friends. There were several people on speed dial, but all the others were amongst the Disappeared - until I met my new BF at the ATT store yesterday. Three trips to the various ATT stores were, I think, a small price to pay for being able to 'reach out and touch someone' instead of waiting and wishing and hoping they would want to be calling me so I could get those contacts back after a 'series of unfortunate accidents' this past weekend.

But you can still call me if you are one of the 3 people who read this on a regular basis...hearing from you always makes me smile :)

yesh - that was amusing... now that it's over...

Thursday, December 29, 2011
I was really anxious about going, and very apprehensive about what would happen: sounds like dental surgery? Not at all sure I was fully committed but past the point of backing out, knowing that I had to finish what I had started: sounds like childbirth? Thinking I might just plead nausea, and go lock myself in the bathroom: sound like a blind date? Wondering 'what was I  thinking" when I agreed to go: sound like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane? It took me sleeping on it and having my little pondering hour this morning at 4:00 am, to decide I think I had enough fun to want to do it again... maybe. In about 364 days...

Went to Decatur yesterday morning to play 'paintball' with my little brood and several complete strangers, people who just ambled up about the same time we did, apparently with their own 'groupons',knowing the meter was ticking, time was running out for their own 'fun opp.'. F. lost her mind several months ago and purchased two 'groupons' for us to go, and we had to get it done before mid-January when they expired. The only time we could all get together was this week, so against better judgement and basic sanity: I went. They kept looking at me all afternoon, asking if I was 'OK?' Having fun? Enjoying myself? So under all the safety equipment, I must have looked pretty stressed out, visibly apprehensive... And it took getting almost to the end of a 500 count bag of little marble sized thin-shelled plastic balls filled with bright orange paint for me to say: well, what the hell... and start blasting away.

Blessedly those grubby little guys who were running the paintball establishment really seriously focus on safety (to their own benefit I am sure, as one accident could quickly put them out of business!) We amused ourselves for several hours with no more damage than some welts and bruises that will soon become badges of honor. (What is it about guys that makes them want to rehash the story of the biggest fish, largest mammal, woolly mammoth hunt over and over?) We were assured the paint will wash out, but you'll have to wait for 'news at 11:00' for that report.  Little Grubby Guys had a couple of different scenarios set up and we were divided variously into teams to shoot one another - mildly amusing. Probably 'way more fun for those with testerone pumping, but it was an interesting experience, and entertaining enough (in retrospect) for me to demand a rematch.

I've had a chance to inspect my parts for damage, and found big bruises on my right forearm, about 3 inches in diameter, and one a little bigger, where I must have taken a closer hit on the left upper arm that is really sore - but since it is right where I got my flu shot about a week ago, I did not think much of it, until I pulled off my long sleeves and looked, thankful that it is not on my face! I was a bit wussy when we started, so expect the other more adventuresome enthusiasts have much more impressive bruises to show for all that fun we had...

So: yesh, we had fun...and togetherness and laughing, smiles, family, being with people who have a really strange sense of humor (that they attribute to a genetic predisposition and completely beyond their control).

ready for Christmas? me neither!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Well, actually, I am ready - it's just that my house isn't. I have things I want to get done like cleaning up a bit, thought I don't know exactly why I think it is necessary - other than I have not done it in weeks. And it will be full of people, who am certain are not coming as health inspectors - especially since they have various and sundry hairy animals living in their houses that leave clouds of dust bunnies and tumbleweeds every step they take. My own personal dust bunnies are of the common, garden variety, and nothing so exotic one could be knitting scarves and sox from the residue... so my lowered standards are barely noticeable.

And I have wrapped zero gifts - no, wait: I mailed one off last week in a box of baked goodies. But I there is a bin in the closet that needs papering and taping and tagging, so I am not as ready as I could be. But the thing is:  I am absolutely, positively convinced at this point in my aimless little life that Christmas is about connections and family. Making the effort to be with people you care about. Devoting yourself to giving 'time' instead of stuff.

For the past couple of years, one of my girls has devoted quite a bit of effort to share skills with people she wanted to gift for the holidays: making handmade things, sewing, crafting, cooking with husband, doing cute and clever instead of 'made in China'. So there is the 'thing' that is the gift, but there is also the Thought +  Preparation + Effort + Time = Thing that she takes to the office and will share her skills and cleverness with co-workers as the Thing changes hands. (People Do still sew at home! yes! and we are such a rarity that other people will actually pay for having pants hemmed, buttons replaced, girl scout badges sewn on vests...)

I told them years ago that I did not want any 'stuff'. Nothing to wear, nothing to have to find a place to put and then dust around, move from place to place to clean. All's I want any more is time. Just a little attention from the people I care about... I guess that is some portion of the reason I write so much, send so many cards and notes, compose letters to mail and generously support the aching, aging US Postal System. Putting my effort into staying in touch, communicating through the hand written word: devoting my time to keeping friends and family informed, and signing my notes with 'love' - that's what's important. Email is good, conveinent, fast, cheaper than cheap - but nothing compares to opening your mail box and finding a letter or postcard someone wanted You to have.

So I have spent hours and hours the past three days handwriting notes to about seventy five people I want to stay connected with - lucky you! Making four trips to the post office in the past week for more stamps and addressing all those cards to keep in touch... remind all those people of my interest in their lives. You know who you are... better run out and buy those 'Forever' stamps and support the postal system before Ben Franklin starts spinning in his grave...

civilized behavior unravelling....?

Friday, December 16, 2011
I am appalled by the death of common courtesy in our society. I am horrified by the inconsiderate people who are walking around among us, loose on the streets without supervision by trained professionals who should be accompanying them to protect the rest of us from their compulsive behavior and baser instincts.

I heard a story today that makes me so irritated and annoyed I could not actually believe I was hearing the re-telling correctly. She was loading gallons of milk (you know how heavy those things are: at least eight pounds each) from a grocery cart in to the bed of the truck from the sidewalk (and yes, I know it was a no parking zone), when a woman passed by and shoved the cart off the sidewalk, causing it to crash, and bust a jug, wasting a gallon of milk. Without the first inkling of 'sorry', or 'whoopz' or 'can I replace that for you?' What's the world coming to?

And another story about a little fifth grade boy who was overheard by a third party/adult saying he thought a particular teacher was 'pretty', so he was suspended, charged with harassment. I'm all for the Zero Tolerance program with school bullying and opposed to anything that even remotely smaks of sexual inuendo or suggestive talk: but please.... people.... this is ridiculous.

If you are the rude, thoughtless, ill-mannered (possibly mentally unstable) individual who deliberately shoved the grocery cart off the sidewalk and onto it's side in the parking lot, or the adult who felt a ten year old child paying his teacher a compliment was out of line,.... we need to talk. But then again - if you are so out of touch with reality and common courtesy as to believe having no couth is acceptable, it is likely we are on such different wave-lengths, we probably don't have a common language in which to communicate.

I'm done - off the soap box. But open to suggestion as to what we might begin to do as a society that could turn our minds and hearts down another path and head us back toward a more compassionate, considerate, lucid, meditative state. Please don't take Newt Gingrich seriously. I am hoping all the people who are smart enough to realize what a clown he is, are just to polite to even discuss it, but will know what to do next November.

on the way to a job this morning...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I planned to leave the house about 7:00, to have time to stop by Publix on the way to the 8:00 start time for the sub. teaching job today. And nearly got out the door on time (this from the person who willingly admits that if I am riding with him on Sunday mornings, I always get there 15 minutes early, but if for some reason we are driving separately, I am always ten minutes late), so I think I should get some points/partial credit for the 'nearly' part.

There is usually a 3 to 5 minute wait at the top of my driveway, not even able to inch out onto the street, with traffic coming over the hill in three different directions. Hundreds of cars going to and from the elementary school a half mile away, plus hundreds - literally- of autos with  commuters headed into town. All these vehicles going towards town/work, trying to get out in the flow at the intersection  about one hundred feet from my mail box. Everyone attempting to make a left turn at the same time I am, in an effort to get someplace on time when we all started ten minutes late.

But this morning: when I left the house, only about three minutes after 7:00, and started up the driveway... no traffic what-so-ever. None. Nobody. Nothing moving on my street except my toyo. All the way to the end - no one - and nearly nothing barrelling down the highway - I was so confounded, baffled by the relative ease and complete lack of competition - I thought that the Rapture might have started without me - and I was more than a little alarmed to think I had got left. But I did not see any abandoned vehicles or empty shoes, so apparently I haven't missed my chance.

sub. teaching needs proliferate

Today will be my 3rd. sub. teaching job for the week - unusual in lots of ways. I think there are so many people competing for the fill-in jobs that I rarely get one a week. And there are weeks when I have so many other little items filling in the squares on my calendar, just some little something - any number of minor commitments - that when I do get a call at 6:03 a.m., I can't accept a 'day labor' job. Plus most of the calls I get are for someone to fill in a spot for a para.pro./aide (which does not pay nearly as well as the Teacher jobs), which is why everyone else who is job-searching/fishing for work jumps on the Teacher jobs, to make nearly double what they pay for replacing a para. in a classroom.

I was in the fourth grade Mon. and Tues... and can't explain what made me accept being in a room with two dozen ten year olds. I generally try to only take jobs that are pre-K, K or first grade, that usually have two people in the room, as I feel if there is already someone in there who knows their schedule, knows them well enough to call the misbehaving down by name, it will be a much better day for all parties concerned. So I actually don't mind going in a room as the para: other than the poor pay that indicates 'you are obviously not as valuable or valued as the Teacher is in this setting'. But I do like to leave at the end of the day with all my hair intact. Not so much from having the troop of excitable monkeys, hanging off your limbs and pulling on it - but the stress of trying to control the uncontrollable can make you pull your own hair out in despair and frustration.

I will be a para. pro today, at a school on the south side. But when I was down there a couple of weeks ago, it was in a well-disciplined, organized, classroom with a teacher who obviously loved her work and loved those little people, so I am hopeful about today... and will start looking for some 'day labor' jobs to fill in the rest of the week, before they get out for the holidays.

various and sundry road trips...

I went from one end of the state to the other last week: from Q. to TN. At some point recently my little toyo. has turned over on 10,000 miles. Which is somewhat worrisome after recently reading that the batteries are designed for that - and now I am fearful I will have to fork over the cost of replacement at any moment - or be coasting to an unexpected, ill-timed stop in an undesirable location (that would ideally be right in front of the battery store!)

I'd planned to go to Q. to do some dreaded house-cleaning, and year-end visit last week. Then I took a sub. teaching job on that particular day, so was mid-afternoon leaving town. On the way south, I got a call that dear friends in mid-FL were motoring to Tally. in anticipation of/impending birth of first grandchild. So I went on to FL instead, to see the new person and welcome APM to the world.He's already good looking, which is not always the case of new babies. Happy people, lots of joy.

Then I went on to Q. in the dark, flopped into bed. Spent most of the next day cleaning, with a little visiting around: went to see a friend of my mom's and to Valdosta to see my auntie, (and the new auntie of APM who had just moved into a new house - that as it turns out, has had several 'new house' problems, hopefully all resolved?) Got up early on Thurs. to get back to Col., so I could unload and reload to go to TN on Friday.

The worst part about going to Chatt-y-nooga is getting through ATL, but it was not a bad trip (or at least no worse than usual), probably due to the time of day I squeezed my way onto I-285. Got to TN before noon, and had lunch, went to an (over-priced) craft show/sale downtown, and did some shopping. Then across town to the mall to spend more $$$, and back to St. Elmo/nest of family.

We did errands on Sat.: shopping for gifts, trip to Post Office. That ill-fated trip to the p.o.: we were just there on Friday afternoon - right there in the parking lot and did not get the stamps to mail the Christmas Cards. So after driving across town again, and going to stand in line for ten minutes, behind a woman who had forty packages to mail at self-service, I said: 'just give me the cards and I will mail them for you'. So I went to the p.o. here, and bought happy holiday stamps, mailed them to Chatt. I know it is crazie to mail stamps - but not nearly as crazie as standing in line for half an hour when the inconsiderate person ahead of you in line won't look over her shoulder and give way.

After shopping, eating too much, hanging out, we cruised around to see Christmas lights on Sat. night. Went up on Lookout Mtn, and enjoyed the view out over the city - when the trees are bare - I guess you can enjoy the 'lights' for months on end with or without any seasonal decoration?. The tour of Rock City over the  holidays is highly promoted on billboards and well advertised during the fall, trying to make it a destination, with 'annual pass' rates... but we were not persuaded to want to stumble and bump around  in the dark along the edge of the precipice. They can actually see the festive decor. along the edge of Rock City from their house down in the valley, so we just enjoyed the SeeRockCity! view from a friendly neighborhood distance. And no 'SeeRubyFalls! for me either, as I have lost nothing down in a hole....

Went to church on Sunday morning, had lunch and started home, with a side trip to Decatur. Got it all unloaded (and found things I had to mail to Chatt. that should not have come to GA), and ready to start sub. job on Monday morning.

it almost felt like skipping school...

Saturday, December 3, 2011
What it really was: was a stolen day. Completely unaccountable. But did not really misbehave, other than eating some things that made me feel guilty (for just a few minutes - and since we did not even order dessert - that wee little twinge of wrong-doing did not last long enough to be worth mentioning...)  I prefer to think of last Wednesday, Nov. 30 as a day Filled with Opportunities - but if that were actually the case, we probably would have ordered one of everything on the dessert menu and two spoons.

One of my favorite cohorts reported months ago, and instructed me to mark on my calendar that Nov. 30 had been designated (by who? we will never know!) as Official Stay At Home Day. So what did I do to mark such an important milestone? yah, you guessed: left home... went to Decatur and spent the day slouching around. Then when it was over, and time for me to leave to go back to where I actually should have been all along (Home), I asked ' how in the world did you manage to finagle getting off from work for such a completely unlikely bogus reason?' She claims she had requested the day off weeks ago, and she also claims to have told the truth about the reason: she had to stay at home. I am convinced it is the lamest, 'most unlikely to be succeed' holiday ever, but: if it works, it works...and if you have seen the youtube videos of people who supported the 'wear your underwear to work' event, you will probably agree.

I recently read a quote by a well-known 'celebrity': a term often woefully mis-used and applied to people (with a large following of photographers who document their every move/bite/hair color) who dress unattractively in public, make fools of themselves by doing things that would horrify their grandmothers and generally completely destroy their reputations - in the unlikely event they had one at all. The quote was, I think, from Robert DeNiro - or maybe not- but went something like: 'there are no 'guilty' pleasures, just pleasures'. So though nobody actually kept themselves in p.j.s and robe on the Official Stay at Home day, it was mildly entertaining.

One of the things we did was go to the Christmas tree lot and accidently abscond with a tree. The only reason it was borrowed, instead of bought, is that there was no Attendant on the lot. The Boy Scouts had set up in a corner of a small mall, and were apparently not open for business until Dec.1, and obviously 'un-manned' during the day. (Got a report later that two other people had borrowed trees and not bothered to leave contact info./return to pay for goods). She left a note on the door of the trailer, and later went back to cover the cost of the 10-foot tall tree we delivered to her workplace.

When we leaving the house (fully clothed!) on the Tree Mission, I asked if we could take a box of bows I had been riding around in my car. Big pretty, sparkly, colorful, fluffy bows for holiday decorating on fresh green wreaths. I tried to sell to a guy who has a tree lot near wally-world and he told me how pretty they were. I told him I was a trained professional with much experience, then he said No. Oh. O.k.

So, while airing the bows out as they were enjoying the scenery cruising around in the backseat, I was pondering my next move: where is a more likely tree lot to get rid of a dozen fluffy holiday bows? And said: 'hmmm, I can just donate them to the Boy Scouts, to decorate the fresh, fragrant wreaths they will be selling for supporting their fun and projects'. Brilliant idea!

When she went back the next day to pay for the absconded tree, she took the pile of sparkly ribbons and asked if they could use them, in exchange for a receipt for goods donated to a non-profit. So: I hope the little scouts put the ribbons on their holiday decorations, and will increase the price of their goods. And I hope they will send me a receipt for the bows that I can then use as a deduction on my taxes.

I know you have already got your calendar for next year, and at the very least started filling up the little squares in January with various and sundry things that you need to remember/attend to. So go ahead and turn over to November, and write 'National Stay at Home Day' on the 30th. We will get together and eat bad/good stuff, laugh, enjoy life.

kinda, sorta, but not really...

Friday, December 2, 2011
I had a couple of days this week of substitute teaching work - but  not really. I was there, in the classroom, on Monday and Tuesday, but since I was the 'para-pro'/aide and had no idea what was going on, the daily schedule/routine, what they are capable of, what to expect - I was not actually useful... Plus those days of replacing the second on command, pay about half of what being the teacher pays, so it was only marginally productive in a remunerative sense as well.

I have made quite a few disparaging remarks about work as a sub. in the public schools in recent months and years as it gets more challenging, and frustrating trying to get to the part where you feel like you might actually be doing some good, effective even only for a few minutes with an occasional impact on a random child. I become more and more convinced that a big part of the struggle teachers face is due to issues within the home environment. And wondering: are children so often disrespectful and uncooperative because the teachers (and authority figures in general) are not honored and respected by other adults the children come in contact with outside of the educational arena? As in so many other areas: children are learning by what they see modeled as acceptable behavior. End of editorial...

Anyway: the two days I spent this week in schools down on the south side of town were very gratifying. I am sure part of it is because the kids were young enough to have some respect for authority, and maleable enough to want to learn, absorbing everything they are exposed to (both good and otherwise!). But those teachers were so obviously dedicated to what they are doing, it was a delight to be in the classroom with people who are there to try to have a positive impact. Those two classrooms, in different schools, were happy places, conducive to learning and education, well-run, disciplined, managed by people who obviously had plenty of experience and knew what it takes to make a herd of five-year olds feel valued and successful.

I think another part of it is that five year olds will always be five year olds - each August, that kindergarten teacher gets in a new batch of 'blank slates', to put the information in and hope you have a lasting impact. And each year, the teacher is a little wiser, more experienced, better able to discern the things that worked or didn't - even though some of that verbosity of curriculum guidelines/requirements probably makes them want to pull their hair out. I don't know the solution, and don't even know if there Is a solution: but it is apparent from what I saw on Monday and Tuesday, that there are teachers who do it because they love kids, and love the challenge of corralling up a roiling tussle of excitable five-year old, and applying knowledge to their brains.

after Tksg. road trip...

Saturday, November 26, 2011
No Black Friday shopping for me, unless you are including a tank of gas, and snacks at the curbstore. I cannot imagine wanting anything enough to spend the night in a sleeping bag  on the side walk to get a bargain. 

I woke up about 4:30, left home around 5:30, so was in Q. by around 8:30, rearranged the lighting in the house, checked for trash as I assumed no one else had thought to take it out - and when I found it sitting in the big pick-up bin in the back yard, rolled it out to the street. How they expected the truck driver to know we had a wee little bag of trash awaiting in the bin sitting behind the house?... I cannot fathom.
Picked a bag 'o' satsumas to take and share, leaving the high ones I could not reach, and a few really low ones for the kids next door to enjoy. 

I stopped by J. Mitchell's house out off W. Screven St., for a little chat,  since I did not see her when I was there a couple of weeks ago, and gave her a handful of juicy little fruits. 

Went fifteen miles up Tallokas Rd. to Nichols Lake to visit for an hour or so, leaving a little trail of sweet, drippy satsuma-gifts, and on to Pavo and Thomasville, across the wiregrass through Camilla and Bainbridge, then south into Florida to Chattahoochee.  

We drove west across the river to someplace - Mariana, I think? - for lunch, and then back to Chatty., and just sat around visiting for several hours until we went north to Bainbridge, then  out in the country to the smack-dab middle of nowhere to meet relatives and have supper at the "Pond House" restaurant, a remarkably attractive, cypress sided building 'way to the west of town. I wondered 'are we in Alabama yet?' we went so far into the woods, but did not hit a body of flowing water, so I guess not...
When you live in the city, where 99 percent of the roads are paved, you can forget that you were raised differently and learned how to drive on dirt, rough, un-graded sandy stretches that turn into 'washboards' with sufficient time and travel. The last little stretch, when we got to the end of the 'hard road' was sandy, down a little hill, and into the unpaved parking area near the restaurant, located on the backside of nowhere. The drive out in the woods, which surely ended in Seminole County, made me think we had traveled as far south and west as possible to go and still be in GA. 

It reminded me of being fifteen years old in B.C., and grinding gears on the straight shift of the old Ford Fairlane station wagon. Anxious to do well, and nervous beyond description, with my dad riding shotgun, patient as Job, and far more confident than I about my 'readiness'.  I can remember stress over when to depress/release the clutch, struggling to coordinate hands and feet. Really a monumental task when up until then, the greatest complication of my life was using the skate key that I wore on a dirty little knotted string around my neck, and used to make sure the roller skates did not fall off as I rolled down the sidewalk south towards grandmothers house.

I wonder if I could do that now - all that hand/food coordinantion, but think it is probably like riding a bicycle- even if your skills get as rusty as the bike, your body parts never forget how to handle their particular assignments:  hands and feet, vision, balance - to keep everything going in the same direction at the same time.

The 'Fish Pond' location made me think of going with my parents and their friends years ago to the Homecoming fish restaurant in the woods of western Thomas County - you had to know where you were going to get there - and I think the advertising was kinda covert, all word of mouth - so someone who really liked you had to take you the first time to show you the route. Twisting and turning and veering down so many little cow-path-sized dirt roads, making you wish you'd brought a big ball of string to unwind that would help you find you way back to civilization before bedtime.

I left the friends to return to FL, patiently (or not so much) awaiting the birth of a grandbaby in Tallahassee... any news yet?

I think it was about 7:30 when I left that place in the woods, and started to feel my way back in the pitch black dark of a cloudy night, to Bainbridge and highway 27. Had to stop for some caffiene when I realized I was running off the road out there on the backside of darkness, and finally got back to Columbus at nearly 10:00, stopping at Walmart for cat food. I expected to be exhausted, wanted to fall into bed, but could not go to sleep until nearly midnight due to the soda I picked up at a curb store to keep me between the lines.

When I woke up this morning, I was pondering how far I had driven, and wish I had thought to make a note before I left home before first light on Friday morning. I know it is 167 miles from my house to the back door of 1209., and think my circuitous route to Bainbridge must have been another 100, then the loop back from north Florida would have to be as far as it is from C. to Q., so I am thinking close to 500 miles. 

I am pleased to say I do not have any plans for today.

I'm not Reeeallllly that old, am I?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Spent a couple of days last weekend in south GA, reconnecting with my past - there was a multi-year high school reunion that covered over a decade. I'm not sure how many were in the classes before I graduated, but guess they would, over time, average out to be 80-100. Which should indicate what a sheltered life one can lead in a small rural town, when there are six public high schools here, (plus several private/church smaller schools) with classes that might have 350-400 seniors. So just guesstimating at 100 x 12 years, there was the potential for a thousand people there, allowing for farming accidents and beef-eating, sausage-gravy, biscuit poisoning heart attacks. I guess the crowd was pretty good in a bad, slow economy with any number of reasons for people not attending, including, I am sure, just not knowing they could have been there amusing themselves by observing how 'everyone else' has aged.

My cousin and I enjoyed ourselves, probably him more than myself, as it appeared he had stayed connected with folks from the past better than I. I looked for people I did not find, and have to wonder if I just didn't recognize them. I got really good at walking around and sticking out my hand to introduce myself, then asking 'am I supposed to know you'? If that person had married into Brooks County, instead of being raised there, I did feel a whole lot better at demonstrating my ignorance! And many were of classes far enough ahead of mine that I only vaguely might associate their family names with my alma mater.

I remember looking up Quitman, GA in an encyclopedia in my college days and finding the population (early 1970's so that information would have likely been outdated/over ten years old) was just over 5,000. I think I remember hearing someone report over the weekend that the latest census report indicates a number closer to 3,000. It is distressing to go and see 2/3 of the store fronts in that little town (with a retail area of aboutsix commercial blocks) empty, blank, devoid of enterprise.

There are people who are joining together to try to  improve the economic situation, but unless a major industry falls out of the sky and lands in Brooks County, I am not optimistic. I get occasional emails from 'destination Brooks', so I know there are folks in town who are continually making the effort to attract business and keep the population stable, but it is so sad to go and see a town that was once a hub of commerce languishing. If it were not for several traffic lights the DOT installed after they bull-dozed the city into agreeing to allow a four-laned main street (Hwy 84) through town, the semi-tractor/trailers that barrel through day and night would blow the little town off the map entirely.

Many of the people I saw who had returned after life elsewhere, careers in industry or military, are retired, and choose to settle back into a slower pace. So maybe the area needs to focus on that age bracket: a haven for senior citizens. Certainly a group that has a reliable steady income, and no need for employment in a town that has little to offer in the way of opportunity or advancement. So: do you wanna move to south GA? It's a peaceful place, but seems to be at the end of a cul-de-sac.

law enforcement ride along, part 4

Thursday, November 10, 2011
I went on a Saturday night with a deputy for my last in the series. After I arrived at the government center, and was directed up stairs to the Sherriffs' office, I sat and listened to their router/call center operater (only one person as compared to at least six with the police department - but most of the calls that come to the Sherriffs office are directed there from the 911 call center). When the deputy came in from his car to get me, he said that people who have lived in more rural areas, and are unfamiliar with police, will often call and request a deputy rather than a patrol officer, so they do respond to calls, but most of their work is related to the court system.

He has several summons he needed to serve, to people who were needed to serve on the Grand Jury. We made the stops, but most places there had already been a visit by a deputy, and a card stuck in the door with a note to call. He is required by law to place the summons in the hands of the person listed, unless that person is a  minor, and cannot leave the paperwork with anyone else in the house. After failing to find any of the people at home, he drove out on the north side of town, up on I-185, to monitor traffic. We spent an hour of so doing traffic stops. With the new 'superspeeder' law, and the state law that requires motorists to slow down or move over for emergency vehicles, they like to work in pairs - to catch passersby who flaunt the 'move over' law. The DMV will send a bill for $200, and suspend the license if it is not paid: surprise!

The deputy had several locations people have requested they periodically check for party-ing on the weekends, so we cruised around a school and construction site. He was telling me that in his spare time he does some geneaology work, helping people locate old grave sites, and searching for cemeteries that are not on city maps. And said that being in a patrol car, with a uniform on is very helpful in getting people to provide information they would otherwise be reluctant to share. This guy is one of the few people I have met while living in Columbus who says he was born and raised here,and  has lived here all his life. People who can remember 'back when' have some really interesting stories to tell about what the area looked like thirty or fifty years ago.

This is the last of the four ride-alongs, and nearing the end of the Citizen's Law Enforcement Academy classes. It is been a real eye-opener. I think everyone who benefits from feeling safe and secure in our community would find the experience invaluable - and it would likely make them all, as I am, vastly  appreciative of the people who choose a profession in law enforcement as keepers of the peace. I have become a flag-waving fool in recent years, supporting members of the military and what they volunteer to do - and feel the same way about all those in public safety. Thanks for your commitment.

law enforcement ride along, part 3

I went on a Friday night for the evening events with a detective. I'd gotten pretty anxious about going in general, as it would keep me up later than normal, and was sincerely hoping that I would neither be an embarrassment or get in a situation where my squeamishness would make them wish I was not present. Remembering my experiences when working with Head Start program and doing home visits going into places that still make me uneasy when they come to mind all these years later, I was a little fearful about where law enforcers do business.

As soon as the detective picked me up, she said she was headed to an apartment where others would meet her. There as a felony warrant out on an individual they had located, stopped in a rental/moving truck and discovered a gallon bag full of very fragrant weed, which she had in a paper bag in her backseat. We were constantly suffused with that unique aroma: smelling remarkably suspect ourselves. The search for the (alleged) felon started several days earlier with an altercation involving a firearm had brought about the warrant, so they were holding three of the men from the vehicle, one of whom was the brother of the person they wanted.Needless to say, they all denied knowledge of the controlled substance.

I went along when they searched the apartment, and was secretly horrified: thinking Yikes - they go through some very personal stuff - what if this was Mine?. These guys do a Very Thorough job - looking Everywhere. I stood aside and watched them put on their gloves, and go through all the piles of clothing, all the dresser drawers, all the moving boxes, all the appliances, all the cupboards, all the closets, all the OTC stored in the bathroom, every personal item in the house, all the upholstered furniture, even the crawl space above the ceiling. They found some misc. pills, in baggies, unidentified, plus several boxes of zip-bags, that indicated to the detectives a possibility/likelihood to distribute the gallon of very potent smelling weed.

We went back to the Public Safety building, where the three men from the truck were being held, in separate rooms. The detectives started the questioning process. Naturally each of the guys proceeded to deny everything. The detectives started the process of inventorying each item that was consficated: weighing the weed, identifying the misc. pills, sorting, counting, photographing the $1500 in cash one of the guys had, logging it all into evidence.

I left the building at 12:30, still smelling like a pot-head, and their job/shift was only half over. So you can imagine all the things that particular adventure makes me thankful for. Stuff it never occurred to me to do, like shoot people, sell illegal drugs, hang out with suspects, stay up all night being interrogated all the while expecting to be locked up when the questioning is over. Plus thankful for my dull, mundane, ho-hum, routine, law-abiding life.

law enforcement ride along, part 2

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I went to another 'ride along' as part of  the Citizens' Law Enforcement Classes I  have been participating in since back in early September. The classes meet each Thursday night, most have been at the Public Safety Complex, but some in other places, like the Training/Firing Range for the CPD or the Sherriff's office in the Government Center. A couple of weeks ago, on a weekend, I was signed up to go to Public Safety and observe the activities of the staff of the 911 Center. Their facility is underground in the lowest level of Public Safety building, where it was moved into, after this new building was completed about ten years ago. Previously housed below the Government Center, they now actually have a removable floor, so new wiring for all the technology can be added as needed. Needless to say: lots of computers, and multiple screens everywhere.

Each responder was sitting in front of four screens at eye level, and one large one hanging from the ceiling tiles above head level. I think there were six or seven people there with headphones on answering calls from citizens, plus a shift supervisor. When a phone call would come in, the map on the overhead screen would show the precise location of where the call originated: I guess this is what the 'enhanced' 911 is all about - pinpointing a location for quicker response. (Big Brother is truly watching - giving us all the google eye even when you think you are safe hiding under the bed)

It seemed like it was a fairly 'slow' night,with mostly routine events, like fender benders and traffic stops.The most interesting call I overheard when they plugged me into the sound system with a hearing device was from someone who was reporting her husband had brought home an elderly woman he found lying in the street. It turns out she was intoxicated, and had left a residential facility for the disabled, located a number of blocks away in the downtown area. I think an officer retrieved and returned her, but I suspect she probably had a history of problematic behavior and the shelter management was not happy to see her stagger in. Various and sundry other events that would naturally have a huge impact on the people who were at the scene, but overall for the few hours I spent as an observer, probably just routine calls for the staff to direct response from peace officers out patrolling on the street. 

Once again, it made me so thankful for my dull, uneventful, life - one where I do not think I have ever had occasion to dial 911 to report a mishap of a personal nature. Funny that I never thought of ''law-abiding" as a blessing, but putting it in the perspective of ones who go to work everyday expecting to hear from, see, interact on a daily basis and lock up those in the community who won't or don't live within the bounds of legality - I am thankful to be living on the mundane, low-key end of the spectrum.

Master Gardening workshop

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
I found  myself with time on my hands over this past weekend, a couple of days without commitments or obligations. So when the county agent here was sending out a call for gardeners to attend the semi-annual meeting of the state's master gardening group (with the added incentive of the extension service paying the $75 registration fee) I agreed to go to Macon for the day. There were others going, so I had hopes of finding someone to carpool with - but that did not pan out for me. I got up early Saturday morning and took myself to Macon for the day. I had a great time - even including the part about knowing no one when I got there.

I really don't mind driving, traveling alone - and get some great pondering done when I am on the road, having time to listen to public radio, talking books or even talk to myself. So the trip over (about 90 miles) was pleasant and uneventful. There were some really interesting speakers, mostly local people who are very knowledgeable about native plants, ecology, environment, plant health, etc. A number of vendors selling plants and gardening related items created some really bad plant lust. I accidently bought several small ferns to put out in a constantly shady place I have been adding ferns and hydrangeas too since back in the spring. And won a pretty spikey, pink-blooming pereninal prize for being in the right place a the right time (a result of coming in late and having  to sit on the back row in a dark room -  after all these years, finally a benefit for lateness!)

When it was over and I was oh-so-very well informed, I went on up to Decatur to spend the night, having rationalized that it was closer to go there than drive the 90 minutes back to Columbus. (Of course, I did have to then get up and drive the two hours back to Columbus on Sunday to get to church on time -nearly!)

a trip to MS... but not me!

Paul went to Biloxi over the weekend: the usual reason. When I encouraged him to go several weeks ago, he was 'invited' to come back and participate in a Tournament. What a sad, sorry, rotten way to lure people into leaving their $$$ in Mississippi. They knew he would agree, and be very flattered to be invited as one of the special people who is such a valued Customer they knew he would be a real asset to their event. And, as expected, he had already put the dates down on his calendar before he got back across the Alabama line to report he was so special they had requested the pleasure of his company this past weekend.

When he came in, looking a little sheepish: he handed me a little boxed gift of mixed nuts and snack mix. And reported that he had brought it just for me (so I know the temptation to open and snack on it had really been strong, and difficult to overcome - but it was delivered with the cellophane and tidy little ribbon, with 'Palace' sticker intact). He said the gift had been  provided to welcome the people participating in the card tournament. I said that was really nice and I was sure he would enjoy eating the assorted nuts and wasabi peas - but warned him about what wasabi means.

He said: Oh, no - I brought this for you. I asked how much it cost, and he reminded me it was a gift from the casino. I asked again how much the little box of goodies, probably about 12 inches by 6 inches cost, and he admitted that the actual  loss at the blackjack table caused the little box to be valued at $700. I did not notice an expensive diamond and gold bracelet attached - so I am telling myself: "You get what you get, and you don't complain."

He probably had $700 worth of fun.

learning about law enforcement

Saturday, October 8, 2011
I have been going to classes on Thursday nights since the first of September, at Public Safety to learn more about what they do and how they do it. It has been very enlightening. And a little intimidating: like the evening the group went on a tour of the city jail. Since I know I am a wee bit on the far end of the Claustrophobia scale, I was anxious for a week in advance, when I was reminded that the next class meeting would be going behind bars. My husband apparently got a lot of pleasure from telling people I would be going to Jail. Not so funny. Saw the intake area, solitary confinement areas, hospital/medical facility, kitchen, dorms and exercise space for males and females. And went into this control room with darkened windows where we were surrounded by the unhappy incarcerated. Lots of animosity floating in the air, and contentiousness oozing along the floor. Even those thick shatterproof windows did not make me feel comfortable. .Knowing I was safe, surrounded by peace officers, did not quell the uneasy feeling of knowing  I was breathing the air that those angry, hostile, mean-spirited men had been breathing.

We started off early last month with people at administration level coming in to talk about what they do, and have worked our way through traffic enforcement, juveniles, homicide (too graphic for me to stay in the room when he started the power point), fingerprinting, fraud/counterfeiting, sexual predators, fire-arms training, SWAT team and much more.

Last night I went on a 'ride along' with a patrol officer. I am very grateful that it was what she kept referring to as a 'slow night'. I was there, (sitting in the front seat- not in the cage!) when she had a couple of traffic stops. And thankful that was not me who would be going to court and having to explain why that red light was so blatantly run, or I was moseying down the street with no headlights on. And have to fork over the $$$ to pay the fine when the judge looked profoundly bored hearing the same excuses again and whacked her gavel down. Also feeling blessed to not live in a 'mobile home estates' compound where the streets twist and turn and double-back and dead-end so much that I felt like I was wandering through a maze in the dark. And basically just thankful for my life, home, stable environment with no need to be dialing 911 with problems.

I doubt the purpose of the experience, being out there on the Front Lines with the men and women who have sworn to protect and uphold, was not designed to give the class attendees a sense of appreciation for being moral, upstanding, model citizens. And pretty sure that exposing us to the mechanics of law enforcement will hopefully give a better understanding and sympathy for the officers who so willingly put their lives on the line every day. But a by-product of my experience thus far is profound gratitude. I had no idea leading my hum-drum life could be viewed as gratifying: not being a law-breaker never looked so good. All those decision not made really seem much more appealing.So now I am wondering who I should approach to seek forgiveness for all that teenage belligerance and underage drinking, falsifying documents back when licenses were written out by hand, and printed on cardstock.

In the course of the 16 weeks, we have the opportunity to 'ride along' with patrol officers who drive a 'beat'; spend four hours observing in the 911 room; a night with detectives; and another ride along with the Sheriff's deputies as they are crusing the by-ways of Muscogee County.  My stint last night was with a patrol officer who was assigned the south side of town, in areas with low income housing, lots of bars/clubs where there is usually plenty of activity - but apparently a lot more when it is a pay weekend, with disposable income in every pocket. She also surmised people who usually misbehave ('suspicious activity') might be trying diligently to walk the straight and narrow so they would not spend the weekend under the jail when there is a greatly anticipated football game being played at Memorial Stadium here today. Morehouse vs Tuskeegee. It would be worth being 'haved just to see the fantastic half-time show.

taking good health for granted?

Friday, September 30, 2011
My daughter came down from Decatur one day this week to visit. She drove down for the express purpose of going to sign up at a Marrow Registry drive. After hearing about this event a couple of weeks ago, she said she had been wanting to do this, desiring to get her information in the national system in hopes of providing a match for someone who needs a donation of bone marrow. So she came down on Wednesday, and went through the (completely painless) process of registering as a donor. Amazing. Gratifying. Sweet. My girl.

It was even more impressive than those of us who routinely donate a pint of blood every two months to the Red Cross. I don't know how many people they  recruited for the program over the two day drive, but when we went in mid-afternoon on the second day, the number was over 550. That's fantastic.You don't really need it- and it can make such a huge impact in someone else's life... You'll keep making more, and what you so obliviously continue to generate (all the while taking good health for granted) can literally Save a Life.

how was your Saturday?

I spent the morning running around town trying to find fresh flowers for friend who is getting married tomorrow. I called all over, asking for different flowers, and made several stops to accumulate everything I needed.Came home to put everything in water...

Then I went back to town to have lunch with a friend. Remarkably spry and full of zip for 84 years old, she is a member of the church my family attended for years, and keeps me informed about Presby. news.  We went to get a sandwich and were sitting talking, when we overheard a woman near us providing severe admonishment to two young boys. They were just amusing themselves and each other, but not behaving a manner she felt appropriate. We both commented/complimented her as they were leaving: saying most little people are rarely disciplined, and seem to have no one in their lives who will enforce rules until they develop self control, learn to manage impulsive behavior.

We started talking about a person we know casually, and I commented that I see her regularly enough to feel like this individual never has anything positive to say, seems to be a chronic complainer, does not have the ability to look for the good in life. Sad that some people are so blessed and do not seem to know it.  Got to talking about someone else, and my response was they just do not have it in their make-up to appreciate life. Living in America, with men and women in foreign lands to insure they will still have the opportunity to gripe and complain. And unwilling/incapable of getting up every morning and being thankful for breath, clean air to breathe, sunshine, blue sky, freedoms no one else in the world enjoys.

Spent the afternoon working on wedding flowers: boutenniers, corsages, nosegays, bridal bouquet, two large church arrangements.  Those cut arrangments are so big it took two trips to get them to church, but look so small in the sactuary, they nearly disappear. I am mostly done, just need to go to HobLob. tomorrow to get ribbon to wrap the stems of the bouquets.  Spent hours sitting out on the screened-porch listening to birds, talking to the black cat who was very chatty, enjoying a pleasant day, living a good life. Hope she likes her flowers!

a turtle story....

When my daughters were small, and we would be traveling along a highway, I would occasionally spot a turtle meandering across the road. Much to their mortification and amusement, I invariably pulled over, backed up and stopped to give the slow-moving reptile an assist. Occasionally putting it in the floor of the car to bring home and release in the wooded area behind our house that slopes down a steep incline to a small creek. Setting it free in  what I hoped was a safer environment where it could live for a hunderd years and enjoy making many generations of hard-shelled grand-turtles.

I was on  my way home from errands this morning, and saw a turtle with a shell about the diameter of a salad plate crossing the four lane a couple of miles from the house. So: guess what I did? Yes! The Turtle Rescue Squad rides again!!! Made a U-turn, went back and jumped out in traffic to get the turtle (who acted like he really did not want/need me intervening in his plans), and put it in a box to bring home. He had remarkably long claws, and nearly got dropped when he put all four legs out and started 'swimming' in the air when I picked him up to turn him loose in the back yard. I was quite startled, and I am sure he was as well.

Then I remembered how  my dad used to find turtles muddling around in his back yard, scooting through the flower beds, trundling across the expanse of lawn at the speed of practically nothing. He would go in his workshop and find a can of spray paint and squirt a small dot of color on the shell, so the turtle would be easier to spot in the future, plus he would know when he saw it if it was the same one or someone new had come to visit. I don't know how many different shells he squirted a dot of paint on over the years, but I know there were quite a few, and the idea of finding on that had taken up residence greatly amused his granddaughters.

I saw one some months ago, picked it up off the road it was trying to cross and brought it home, put it down in the back yard and assume it bulldozed under the chain link fence and made an escape into the wilds of eastern Muscogee County.  It was only about the size of a small cereal bowl, and  what used to be called a Box turtle, last seen wearing (a turtleneck? ha!) a brown shell with mottle yellow markings: tortise-shell colored, of course... Completely vanished, obviously having changing his attire (like the turtle in the BC comic strip when he takes his shell off) to make a clean getaway, but hopefully still alive and well, living someplace under an assumed identity in the Bull Creek watershed.

After this guy startled me so badly, extending all four legs with long claws plowing through the air,  I quickly put him down on the driveway. And yes, I did get a can of paint and spray three little white dots on his black, ancient-looking carapacel. He was hunkered down, trying to look invisible, immobile, inside the fence when I left at noon, and completely vanished when I returned an hour later - but I will definitely know it's him if/when he reappears. Yea! Turtle Rescue Squad!

in support of research...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
If you know me, you know that my mom died a couple of years ago, after a long slow decline into dementia. She was such a bright, lively, active, interesting person for so many years, and as with all our loved ones who slowly loose themselves, it was difficult to observe. It is frustrating, aggravating and misery-inducing to be so helpless as you watch it happening - something that I frequently, distressingly compared to sitting on a run-away train, with nothing to do but wring your hands, fretting your life away: knowing full well you should be doing Something, but having not the slightest idea of what that Something should be...

Her dad, my grandfather, died in a nursing home, with dementia-like symptoms, even though at the time, 'dementia' was not a specific diagnosis. I think the term back then was 'hardening of the arteries'. Research has progressed some, if you want to think that being able to put a label on it is progress. But there is so much more that needs to be done:

Which is why I am walking. The local Memory Walk for Alzheimer's Disease is in late October. There is an office here, part of the national association. Like lots of other events, there will be teams who are asking for donations, seeking sponsors to help with the fundraising to aid research and find the cause, that would then provide means of a cure.

I'll be walking with the team from St. Luke United Methodist Church. This is the group that operates the Respite Program my mom attended for several years while she was living here. They still talk about her, remembering her amusing self, with a great sense of humor, even when she was sinking into the 'forgetting disease'. If you would like to send a donation, it would be most appreciated, and will go directlly to the Alzheimer's Association. They will send you a letter to use for tax purposes.

If you are able to support this effort, please send your check to
Alzheimer's Association, GA Chapter,
in care of: Carol Boers, Respite Ministry at St. Luke UMC
P O Box 867,
Columbus, GA 31901

I thank you in advance for your support. If you are interested in taking action, we will be 'walking the walk' on Oct. 29, at 8:30 a.m., in the 1100 block of Broadway in Uptown Columbus. A donation gets you a shirt with lots of cheezy advertising on the back. I'll be wearing mine: Hope to see you there?

counting other people's blessings...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
A family friend is buying a house. She is a recent graduate from pharmacy school, started working in a great job less than two years ago. Actually having the house built, so she gets to pick and choose, and have it done just the way she wants.This is All Absolutely Amazing to me. I am so excited for her, and delighted to know that she is doing so well in her career, and life, putting down roots and getting established, making her way in the world, and in the community of her choosing.

But what really strikes me as remarkable is that she is a She.

I think about the fact that forty years ago, women did not routinely own property, make major purchases like homes (or even minor ones like appliances without consulting the man who would be doing the paying) or have the opportunity to be out in the community holding  responsible positions of authority.
And eighty years ago, women were second class, not fully 'citizens', ornaments in men's lives, decorative additions that were sometimes respected, often inconveient, frequently thought of as brainless and inconsequential, regularly considered incapable of making informed decisions.
And a hundred years ago, women did not have the right to vote at the polls, not capable of making intelligent choices about politics and leaders within the community and nation

And two hundred years ago WE were the 'property'.

You can gripe all you want about the US, politics, the American system, Democracy, One Nation Under God: but you also better be counting your blessings, and thankful for all the people who gave you the right to gripe.

counting our collective blessings...

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." ~William Arthur Ward

I've been thinking about this all day, and need to say it. We have absolutely no idea how much we have to be thankful for, and no concept of what people have done to provide us with the benefits and freedoms we so casually accept and think we have some sort of entitlement, that these choices we so routinely make are our  'due' .

Only due to living in America. Somebody, or thousands of somebodies, at great cost and over many years put effort into making our choices routine, easily accepted, casually received, commonly taken for granted.

 I have no qualms about flag waving, and would readily agree to blood test that showed mine is red.white and blue. I am so thankful that I am who I am, and live where I live. Thankful for all the people who made it possible.

another thing to be thankful for...

Monday, September 19, 2011
I just read a note that I got in the mail today from a family friend who is having a very difficult time right now. She has a history of problematic emotions. Her familly are such good, loving, caring people, and I am sure they have always been, and continue to be compassionate and supportive as she struggles with finding herself and her place in the world. I think it would be a painful thing to think that you are just not able to walk out the door and face the busy-ness of the world each day, giving you even more doubts and feelings of being out of sync with everyone who seems so capable and confident.

I know it is a heart wrenching experience for her family, wanting so badly for her to feel strong and healthy, desiring, as I know she must, that she have the skills to live independently and be able to function out there with everyone on the streets.

My spirit aches for her and her family as I know they have all been attempting to find solutions to this for years, searching for answers, travelling farther and farther afield to find that person who assist in bringing about wholeness and health. It is so sad that all the resources they have approached over the years have not been that Answer, as they continually deal with half-way solutions that only seem to reveal different problems.

But this also makes me count my blessings: grateful for health, and healthy family.

Even though I know we all have some little skeltons in rattling around in our closets, or tucked away in the attic, and every last one of us has some little odd personality quirks that other people look at and say: "hmmm, how strange...."

What were you doing on 9-11-01?

Sunday, September 11, 2011
I was at work at Publix. And like the rest of the nation, spent the next several days mesmerized by television. But have not been watching TV at all today, partially because I don't care to be mesmerized/not willing to devote my time to TV, and partially because I have been working at Publix.

If you have been watching all the anniversary events, I am sure you are really morose, as all that memorailzing would make anyone sad. Or maybe just give you an opportunity to be ferociously angry all over again.

But I will definitely Not Forget.

Do you know about the Skillet Festival?

Thursday, September 8, 2011
Quitman GA is having a Skillet Festival. If you want to know more, you have to look it up on the internet.

I am going. Hope to see you there.

The sponsors hope to see hundreds of people there, bringing pockets full of cash to spend in beautiful downtown Quitman, Brooks County, GA.

I have started doing some papier mache, after a Very Long Time of not doing it. And discover/am reminded why I always did my crafting on the back porch. It is so messy, with glue and paint, that instructions should come with a disclaimer: always do this someplace you can hose down afterwards. I have decided that it is strictly an outdoor activity: like watermelon eating, (or robbing the beehives of their honey) so you can just drag the garden hose in and clean up when you are done. Have you ever thought of how nice it would be to have a waterproof house, with drains in the center of every room,  when it is time to clean up?

I am making frames to take to the Skillet Fest., where I will be a vendor. I am a little anxious about this, but think it should be entertaining, even if I don't make a profit. I will also take the papier mache to the crafts fair we are having a church here in mid-October. You might get papier mache frames for Christmas....

riding in the golf carts

First of all, I need to apologize to my Golfcart-riding-buddies. Sorry you did not get to go along.

There was a week of unusual events planned for Columbus that was in support of the visually impaired. A local eating establishment has been sponsoring the Midnight Express, a 5K run, for many years, with all the funds going toward providing assistance for the blind. There have been a number of sight-impaired runners over the years - in the past connected to sighted runners by a short piece of cord, or possibly shoe-string. This year I saw a number, toward the end/slower crowd (where the Older People were!) who were using white canes, accompanied by other walkers. Since it is done at midnight, (always on the last Saturday in August) those without vision are not as much at a disadvantage as they would otherwise be.

The highest number I saw pinned on the shirt of a runner was 2487, so I guess there were over 2500 entrys in the event. At $20 a pop for registration, if all the funds go toward charity (wonder if they have set up a non-profit?) that is a great gift to the community. And I think they have been doing the Run for over thirty years, with it growing steadily.

I've been walking it for years, with daughters, who probably thought it was a big thrill to be out and about in the forbidden wee-hours. And the past couple of years with a friend who often gets roped into things. The sad truth is that the three mile walk takes right at an hour. But I always finish. Even though I have not been doing my usual two or three miles daily in this awful heat, it was still right at sixty minutes from start to finish.
Which is consistent with what I was doing years ago, so I am pleased to a) finish with the energy left to get back home and into bed, and b) maintain about the same time/pace as 15 or more years ago.

The sponsor, local BBQ eatery, planned other events during the week: a 'blind softball game'( using a ball that beeps - and having the team of sighted players wear blindfolds), and a golf tournament that is for the poorly or non-sighted. I was a volunteer scorekeeper for one day of the two day event with golfers.  Some were men who were born without sight, others had experienced playing golf in younger years before loosing sight, and others with very poor vision/partially sighted. They were from all over the world: Australia, Europe, Hawaii, various US states and travel as part of a worldwide organization that sponsors these tournaments, similar to the PGA, but for visiually handicapped. Every golfer has a 'coach' that can travel with him, and coach him through the game, giving guidance, advice, searching for lost balls. About fifty golfers, playing over a two day event, plus a practice day earlier in the week.

good night, all...

Sunday, August 21, 2011
I am taking my sleeping bag and toothbrush to spend the night at church.
I will get my reward in heaven, and also at the gathering that will include food when we all get Tshirts that are printed with the VIP slogan: God Blesses Me When I Sleep in Church. VIP is a local ministry that is part of a nationwide program designed to keep families together. There are apparently no other local resources for people that will allow families to stay intact. We are carefully  instructed to not call these people 'homeless', but they are in pretty dire straights.
Just wanted to give you an opportunity to count your blessings.

Here's another: aren't you thankful that you do not have to go out in the fields and pick baby spinach leaves every day for your livlihood?
I have to be at Publix at 7:00 a.m.,on Monday, where I will be making salads and thankful that I am not the one who is out there in the hotness, bugginess, dirtyness picking the greens.

quick little road trip to SC

Sunday, August 7, 2011
Went to South Carolina last week to visit my pen pal in Greenville. I met him when he called in 2004, looking for my dad. He spoke to my mom, who thought he was looking for my brother, so I got on the telephone and came to understand he was actually trying to locate his former commanding officer. Homer Bryant is part of a group of veterans from the Greenvile area planning to attend the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington in the spring of 2004. He called to invite his former CO to go on the trip. Mr. Homer was in the Army with Capt. Fluker when they were training at Camp Blanding FL, and Camp Robinson, AK. Cpl. Bryant continued to serve with him as a clerk in Co K, 263 Rgt,. when they were shipped to Europe. They were part of the 66th Division, shipped out of NY in Dec. 1944 and stationed in France during the closing months of the war.

I will always regret that I did not ask my dad to tell me about his military service, and get more information about the time he was on active duty. Most of what I know has come from the memory of Mr. Homer, who has been very helpful in providing information about their shared experiences. It has been such joy to have the opportunity to visit and spend time talking with him to learn more about personal experiences he had with my dad during those years. In the process of writing a biography, I have documented several memorable ancedotes the these two men shared those many years ago.

I cherish the second hand memories, and the precious friendship I have developed with this man in recent years.

Mr. Homer has recently admitted his wife of over sixty years into a nursing facility. She had begun forgetting, frequently loosing her balance, had a number of falls in their home, and was ultimately diagnosed with dementia. It is so sad to think about how lonesome he must be, trying to do everything she did all those years when they shared a home and life together. I know it must be heart-wrenching to be alone, and miss her - even when he is with her (he goes to visit every day) she is not really there.

multiple kitty excursions

Sunday, July 31, 2011
I took most of the cats to the vet on Saturday morning, for their annual visit. I am reminded of my mom taking me to the health department for yearly immunizations, and clearly remember that the big, heavy glass door at the entrance of the building opened 'in' so that a small child could not get a running start, give it a good hard push and escape. I would like to think that the Fire Marshall would not let that pass inspection now, and that little people today stand a better chance of avoiding that Trial by Needle than I ever did.

The vet we use sends out friendly little 'reminder' cards like your dentist to notify about scheduling an appointment, so I knew they were due rabies shots and tags last week. As soon as I saw the number of cars in the parking lot, I knew I should not have tried to do it on the weekend: like knowing you will stand in line for two hours if you go to the DMV for license renewal with all the others who waited until Saturday. But I had corralled one of the three, so thought I should go ahead and get the process underway.

Admittedly, I have not, after all these years, figured out a good system for getting them all from point A to point B and back again: it has always required three round trips to get it accomplished. For the first time last year, I had a pet carrier I tried to put them in, but it probably looked like a cartoom if there was anyone observing me attemtping to poke a twenty-legged cat into a small hole in the opening of the carrier: retreat/release was definitely the path I chose when all those claws came out!  There must be some sort of 'cat telepathy' involved: when I do get my hands on the first one, the others some how immediately know Bad Things are occuring, and can make themselves so scarce, I think they have evacuated to Talbot County, or making a run towards Alabama - definitely left the premises.

The first one refused to go in the carrier, in spite of the advice of 'grab the scruff of the neck and do it so fast they do not have time to resist", so I just put her in the car, loose. She is the one with the world's dense-est coat: I had to get the vacuum out when I finally got her back home - and used it not only on the car seat and carpet, but myself as well. When I looked down at T-shirt when I got her back to the house, I thought: Alpaca sweater! She also left drifts and drifts of hair while I was petting and holding her in the vet's office - they are likely knitting themselves another cat with all that got left behind.

The second one, historically the most docile of the three, went in the carrier with hardly a peep, but made pitiful little weepy sounds the whole time she was cooped up. Trip number two was mostly uneventful, but I discovered when I was leaving the vets' office is only open until noon on Saturday, so I knew I could not get back with cat 3 before they closed. When I did get home, and released the pitiful little long-suffering #2, naturally number three was sitting there, as if she somehow knew she was safe and would not be going for her annual drive to the doctor.... I told her it was a good thing the vet was closed for the weekend - but honestly, I think she somehow knew... She was the one I had caught first and tried to put in the carrier but turned loose before she shredded me with her claws.

The ornery one, Miss 'Most Likely to Create Puncture Wounds' will have to go on Monday - but I suspect she will become mysteriously very scarce when I go out in the morning: How do they know?

In Memory Of...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Anytime someone dies,especially in a sudden and unexpected  manner, they leave behind people who are sad, and strugglling with having a hole in their lives. I went to another funeral last week, for a man who unintentionally left behind some people he would have wanted to provide for, but did not.

But I do know how much he liked the people who were connected to him, and how willing he was to devote his time, attention and resources to them. As well as how much he enjoyed a gathering of friends and family: he was the kind of guy who never met a stranger, who loved to laugh, hug, tell bad jokes. The man Enjoyed Life. (Some folks don't: always complaining, with a 'woe is me' attitude - but not S.) It has been heartwrenching for the ones he left behind who truly mourn, and the distressing addition of financial worries is not something he would have wanted those he cared most about to face in their grief.

Even before his untimely, death I knew I should be getting my Life In Order, and had begun the process of organizing, to list all personal matters/desires. I have never actually owned anything, to have any reason for a Will, that would express preferences of what to do with an estate. I just never felt the necessity before... and I guess that is a common, (mis)belief: that your family can read your deceased mind, and would tend to your business in the manner you would choose. Now that we all see that in print, it is pretty clear that kind of thinking is a major fallacy and would likely lead to a seriously contentious trip to court, where only the attorneys truly benefit.

I am going to make copies of the Do It Yourself 'Last Will and Testament' Kit, with complete instuctions for both my favorite descendents. For them to use or line the canary cage with. But I will complete mine, and put it with all the financial info., and personal-preference data they will need to know. If you want a copy, let me know. It is completely self-explanatory, easy to do, and only needs two signatures plus a notary (readily available at any financial/banking establishment or insurance office, for no charge). If you own anything and have a preference that includes the state not getting a percentage of your estate, you should be completeing a will.

A life well lived: reminding us that we leave a legacy after we are gone. He continues to live in the hearts of those he befriended, and was well-loved by all who knew him.

Does it even count???

Sunday, July 17, 2011
There was this completely unlikely, largely unexplainable, thoroughly confusing, partially unresolved business that occured with my bank last week that has me still baffled. I readily admit to being mildly paranoid (not nearly as badly as Mel Gibson in that movie with Julia Roberts when his was legitimate), which I think in small doses can be  helpful/good for self-defense. But never unnerved to the point that I felt it necessary to pay for services on financial services to keep my banking information protected from prying eyes.

So looking back on the events of early last week, I now ponder if I should be more aware/on the defensive than I thought necessary? Was I foolish in: assuming that the security features banks and credit suppliers have for their protecting their own business would also be sufficient to protect The Customer (me)?

For reasons unrelated to the untimely death of a friend who left his estate in sad disarray, I started last weekend to think I need to Get My House In Order. So I was sitting with assorted semi-organized paperwork, putting down everything on paper to help make sense of the jumble for grieving family (Not to Worry:  I do not expect it to be used for many years). Just thinking about my dad and what a meticulous guy he was with his financial/personal business, and using his listing of Everything You Need to Know as the model for helping the lost and lonely when they will Need to Know Everything.

As I was listing banking account numbers/contact information, I realized I had not received a bank statement for months. To those who bank on-line this would not be a problem - but I am not yet convinced to go that route. Due to residual Right Brained in a Left Brained World problems: I have always struggled with mathematical business, and need the process of pencil, calculator, check register, printed statement to feel satisfied with the balance. So I called the 1-800-customer service number and talked at length to Francisco. He asked me lots of questions to determine that I was actually the owner of the account - dutifully documenting information about my mother, childhood pets, school attendance record. And remarked that I had changed  my address. I was astounded: mostly due to having been in the same location for nearly thirty (30!) years. He assured me that I had requested the change, but would not tell me where I now reside because that is Confidential customer information.

I wondered to him if I needed to talk to their fraud people, but he seemed to think nothing had occured. Someone went into their system, changed my address to receive my monthly statements - but nothing had occured? Bull-loney. It all started with me calling to ask for copies of the missing statements, and ended with me closing the account. But, when I did go to the bank and get copies of the statement (that I demanded the bank supply - and not bill me for cost -since it was their 'bad' that sent several to a bogus address.) everything seemed in order. After diligent application of pencil and calculator it appeared that nothing out of the ordinary had occured... so I am not sure I legitimately qualify (like the little boy who was left out alone on the hillside to guard the flock and cried 'WOLF' - just for the comfort of a friendly face...) as having been taken advantage of?

I did go to the local branch, explained my story to a very helpful csutomer service rep.(thanks, Wanda), who talked to someone in tech support to find that my 'new' address is a street in Naples, FL since back in April. It was changed by someone in Charlotte, NC, and the local CSR was hoping the person in NC could provide an explanation, as that was not something that could be done by telephone (which I most definitely did with the 1-800 guy: so I am left to wonder: how did it happen before?). She put in a call to that individual, who is required to document any changes in customer information, but the culprint in Charlotte did not respond. 

The saga continues: I called the branch manager the following day, who was remarkably lackadasical, generally unconcerned, mostly indifferent to my worries, when I had expected a response. She had a sort of don't-call-us - we'll-call-you attitude. I wish I had said: "if this was your personal account would you be so complacent?"  But I was still so anxious about all the unknowns, I went to the branch and talked to another very friendly customer service person, (thanks, Jose) who agreed I should just close the account. My helpful CSR will be back at work on Monday...

memorial to Jo....

Friday, July 8, 2011
My friend and co-worker Martin lost his mother last weekend. She died on her birthday. She had been in poor health for a couple of months and in hospice for most of that time. It has been so sad, and heartache-y as he and family have watched her slowly decline, just watching and waiting and waiting and waiting....

But the sweet, amazing, remarkable part has been the outpouring of love and caring that customers have demonstrated in the past week as I have been working in his stead. It has been so precious to hear total strangers, the most casual of acquaintances, people I can't even name - ask about him and his family. I feel like I have received a blessing by proxy as I have listened to people I have never even seen or spoken to before as they inquire about his mom.

A most unusual man: one who talks about his emotions, expresses his feelings to freely, and is so open and willing to talk about matters that matter. Having been raised in a family that was not able/willing to have the discussions about those things that are close to the heart, I have been astounded to hear people I've never said more than 'good morning' to tell me about a man who is so open-hearted they have hd that family in their prayers. Martin and Jo, along with his sister Nancy, spent time in recent weeks, talking about all the things most families scrupulously avoid discussing until it is too late for asking and answering. listening and sharing, finally getting to the point of knowing that nothing has been left unresolved. What a blessing to be able to let go with complete peace.

The older I get the more I believe that the reason most of us turn into decent, fully (or semi-) functioing human beings is due to the influence of our parents and grandparents. The character. morals, beliefs of the generations of family who raised us are the primary reason we become who we are... So I guess this is a testimonial to Jo. Though I did not know her, she obviously did a great job of raising a pair of amazing adults, and is looking down on them, singing and dancing with the heavely host, whole, healthy, happy, laughing, joy-filled forever.

to east GA and back in 36 hours...

Monday, June 27, 2011
There was a family gathering near Augusta over the weekend. I have been to several, and forced my daughters to attend a time or two many years ago. I believe they were under great duress,while being bored beyond belief and felt like they were there at 'gun-point'! I'm pretty sure they were rolling their eyes, thinking 'oh, Mom...' the whole time - but at least they know where one-fourth of their forebears originated. They have travelled enough with me to not be surprised when we wander through cemeteries - occasionally even though we do not know anyone who might have found it their eternal resting place.

I got up early Saturday morning, heading north to Decatur, then due east, with my toothbrush and sleeping bag, semi-prepared to sleep on a picnic table in the campground at Mistletoe State Park. But as it turned out, threw myself on the kindness of a cousin, and mercifully not suffering mosquitos all night, or suffocating from heat/humidity of a sleeping bag zipped over my head. Thank you, Louisa : -)

So... I have been to visit the long-departed Smiths and Flukers in the Smith Family Cemetery overlooking Clarks Hill Lake. The 'old homeplace' is underwater, due to the Corps of Engineers dam built to contain the resevoir from the Savannah and Little Rivers, but the cemetery sits on a little rise, tidily surrounded by iron fenceing, in a clearing usually only accessible by boat. The cemetary is surrounded by undeveloped forest, as is most of the land abuting the lake, much 'manged' by the state/Corps for wildlife protection. A cousin went out last week and cleared the way of numerous fallen trees to make the rarely used dirt track accessible for the two miles from the nearest paved road. He occasionally goes out to pick up beer cans and refuse left by boaters who apparently find the family cenetery a perfect spot to party and build campfires, up on the pretty little hill overlooking the slough on a lake that has a longer shoreline than the state boundaries of Georgia.

Local relatives brought pop-up canopies, chairs, a huge picnic from Subway with sandwiches and coolers full of iced drinks. It was a beatuiful, nearly bug-free day, with kids plunking rocks in the lake, stomping around the rocky edge f the lake, in the water dragging up small pieces of rusty metal: wondering what the original purpose was, and wishing the jetsam could talk to share history of hands who had done the shaping, hard labor that had produced tools to support families. Cousins reminiscing, telling stories passed down from their parents about grandparents lives, work, families. Walking around in the little fenced cenetary, listening to people who have spent their entire lives putting down deep roots in Wilkes and McDuffie counties tell stories about the elders/those people who make me who I am, that I never knew.

Someone pondered why young people do not attend, and I surmise it is because you have to get to be 'of a certain age' before you can fully appreciate the treasure of family- young adults are raising kids, involved in activities who are not easily extracted for a weekend to travel for such gatherings. People who have the time and resources to travel are nore likely to also be of the age to want to be connected, willing to devote themselves to making the effort to associate with distant, lesser-known relatives. I have gotten to the place in time as I look back over my shoulder, and wish I had made that effort years ago when my parents were the ones who were going to east GA to meet with family. And lately (hopefully not too late?) realizing what a treasure/joy it is to meet, see, renew acquaintances with those folks of my heritage.