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and then it was Thursday....(and Friday)

Saturday, May 26, 2012
I told my spouse well over a week ago, when I knew how much travel was involved here, that I needed to let him know what was going on - but he was not allowed to make any comments about how crazy it all sounded.
So he listened, though he cannot do so with interrupting to offer advice, then, of course, said: That's Crazy!

But it all seemed to pile in together. Not deliberately or intentionally, but since I am the one who continually consults the calendar due to not storing anything to do with numbers in my ill-equipped, math. impaired brain - I have to shoulder the responsibility for being so irresponsible in the scheduling.

Sunday: worked at Publix
Monday: drove to Decatur for the day, and home again
Tuesday: worked at Publix, drove to Decatur
Wednesday: drove to Greenville and back home
Thursday: drove to Valdosta and Quitman
Friday: drove to FL, and back home
Saturday: trying to justify such craziness.

I went to visit my auntie in Valdosta, for a few hours. Had a nice visit and admired her gloriously blooming beds that she has enjoyed planting and watering over recent months. And Moe's burritos for supper. But the primary reason for going to south GA was to spend the day with a friend whose mom had died the end of last year. She is so smart, and resourceful and practical and sweet and funny and honest. She teaches yoga among her many other talents ,skills, endeavors - so I went to  my first yoga class. I was thinking I need to start going to the Y and do something like that, or tai chi plus get back into swimming. So I have dipped my toe into yoga and find it relaxing, plus got to be good for me.

Then we went to Tallahassee (regrets to RG) to the nursery, where she bought too much stuff, and I bought things I did not need, but have the perfect place to put as they will be a great addition to my plan to be more welcoming to pollinators.I hope I will get the red pentas planted today, and looking forward to clouds of butterflies, busy buzzing bee visits and whizzing appearance of hummingbirds when they see what I bought for them to enjoy.

Got home about dark, but too loaded with caffiene to go to bed, so I was up reading at nearly midnight

then it was Tuesday... (and Wednesday)

So I got up the next day and put on my green shirt to go to work for four hours.

And did some things at home, ran a few errands, and lingered around until about 6 o'clock. Packed up and left to go back to Decatur to spend the night, so I would have a head start on driving to SC on Wednesday. Went for a shorter than usual walk to exercise dogs before leaving ATL during eight o'clock traffic craziness. But it was not really bad, since I was going in the opposite direction of most everyone else who had left for work twenty minutes late and was desperately trying to make up the lost time by traveling at the speed of sound.

The drive was pleasant, as I was immersed in a story I had started earlier in the week, reading talking books/recorded CDs. (Not my usual choice of material, but so intriguing I wanted to drive on to SC Tuesday night to get to the end and rest assured all the right people survived... weird stuff about time travel and psychics. They got sorted out Wed. morning by the time I got to Greenville.) I had a nice visit with my pen pal. We made plans to go to the 66th Division reunion, June 2013 in Nashville. And talked about him completing the paperwork I had printed to apply for the French Legion of Honor medal that could be awarded for his Army service in 1944. I read something about it in the newspaper a year or so ago: a handful of WWII vets being awarded France's highest honor. I clipped the article, kept it in mind, finally pursued it by locating an embassy in Atlanta. Looked up an address, phoned for more info., and had the required form emailed to print and take for him to complete. I hope he will get family to help him gather the necessary paperwork, and will send it all in to qualify for receiving the award.

Drive back to Columbus:  not so much fun. Due to hitting commuter traffic at 5:30. Listening to the radio, I heard the south bound lanes on the west side of the perimeter are all blocked due to a semi-trailer accident: the south bound lanes on I-285 on the east side are moving like cold molasses; traffic on I-75 is barely creeping along through mid-town... arrgggghhh. So I got off and went through town, as best as I could, for someone only vaguely, slightly familiar with surface travel in north Decatur. If no one else had been on the roads, I could have made that part of the trip in about twenty minutes, but it took me an hour... though still much better than sitting on the six lane interstate highway going Nowhere, while the overturned truck gushed a mystery liquid across the lanes.

Got home about dark again. That was about seven hours of driving.

maybe the best Monday ever (you know how Mondays can be....)

It has been a busy week of travel. But today: nothing. The past five days draw a comparison to the time I clearly remember when I drove to Savannah, then nearly to the Florida line and back to sleep in my own bed on the same day: possibly 12 hours of travel time.. I do not have the stamina for that anymore, though I believe I could possibly do it with a nap tucked in at some point to give my bones and brain a little rest.

 It is sad to think there is no need to set an alarm when I have a reason to get up really early. There is not really any joy to be had in the statement 'old people don't sleep well', but in my case -unless I stay up really late I'll be waking up in plenty of time to get on the road at 5 a.m. Being startled awake by a jangling cartoon-like bouncing, maleovlently grinning clock is not necessary - my brain does it without prompting. Perhaps the good news is there are some places I like to go that are far enough away that getting started well before the crack of dawn isn't completely undesirable: it gives me more time to spend with my faves when I get there!
Went up to Decatur on Monday morning to spend the day with my fav-o-rite people. The smart, sweet successful, hardworking one from TN had come down to overnight with her smart, sweet, successful, hardworking sister on Sunday, to be available on Monday morning. We had plans to go to the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum to see an exhibit about George Washington Carver's life and times. It was pretty interesting (to me anyway), reminding me of the major obstacles he overcame: familial, physical, financial, social, political, on his way to becoming such a remarkable educator and agricultural researcher. Makes me thankful times have changed so dramatically, while being appreciative of the vivid reminders that our society and nation was once so intolerant and 'closed' to those who just needed space and opportunity to shine and show their gifts/talents.

I had contacted a cousin in hopes of meeting her, possibly lured by the Carter Center, so she joined up for the Carver exhibit and lunch. I had never been, and found it very interesting. As you would expect, primarily devoted to the national campaign, presidenal years, and successful life he has experienced as a world traveler for human rights as an elder statesman. There were sections devoted to his early years of farm life in middle GA, and government service prior to the White House, plus quite a bit about changes he has been a part of effecting in world politics and especially health issues in third world nations.

We had a relaxing, tasty, charming meal on a patio, that was remarkably pleasant, though only about ten feet from roaring traffic on a major thoroughfare. Then there was a bit of hole digging involved... not surprisingly so: the whole back of my car was full of plants when I left home at 5 a.m. Some to leave in Decatur, some to travel on to TN. Remarkably, we got everything planted just as a drenching thunderstorm passed through, so all those hydrangeas happily settled into their new home.

It pretty much drizzled on me all the way south, but I did get safely back before dark, since the combination of night and slick roads multiplies the risk, and makes driving even more difficult than either is otherwise. All that fun - and it was still Monday when I went to bed!

not having fun any more....

Saturday, May 19, 2012
I have been employed at Publix for nearly fifteen years, most of that time working as a part-time 'clerk' in the floral area, as a sub-set of the produce dept. I have seen a lot of management people come and go: some  escorted out the door, while others have been promoted to jobs of increasing responsibility and increased income in other stores... while I fill my lowly spot at the bottom of the produce dept. food chain.

There was a time when there were more hours involved: being part time in floral and three days a week in the bakery on the other side of the store, adding up to a full forty hour week. That endeavor lasted a couple of years, before I decided there might be too much drama occurring over there, and found other things in my life needed more attention than I could devote with full time employment. So I went back to the obscurity of two days a week several years ago - about the time the bottom fell out of the economy. And found my skills becoming more and  more superfluous, with many weeks that I had no work at all. (This is where the aggravation of substitute teaching proved marginally beneficial.) They would schedule me for an occasional four hours as a bagger and cart pusher/taker-outer just to keep me on the payroll. That was not fun, and hardly worth the effort to get my duds on and go to clock in... but it did keep me in the computer system instead of being dropped as an active associate/employee all together.

The corporate attitude has changed since the economy tanked, and many things have been implemented to try to improve the bottom line, make man hours/labor costs more effective and prevent lots of little generally insignificant losses that cumulatively leaked big bucks when multiplied by 1000 stores. But it seems to me like some of the changes that have been ordered from the corporate office (designed by people who have no idea what it is like to be out on the front lines in the retail world) are so focused on OCD behavior and looking at more ways to tighten up the bottom line that the emphasis is gradually leading toward what appears to be 'pockets': how can we be more adept at parting the customer from his/her wallet? Subtle changes that seem to create a bigger and bigger gap from the principles I heard when I first started working there - creating happy employees would give the associates the desire to provide uncommon, exceptional service and create happy customers.

It ain't so much fun anymore. I suspect that part of it is due to the fact that I have less and less tolerance for standing on my poor tired, aching feets for eight hours a day. Not that I ever did find that enticing (though I can remember 'way back in the fog of time when I used to spend 8 hours a day on  stilts/wooden shoes with at least two inch heels... What was I thinking?!?!... probably not....) I still enjoy talking to customers, helping them make good decisions, providing information and service to meet their needs, but there are definitely times when I feel like I'm not having fun anymore...

it all just fell into place

Friday, May 18, 2012
I went to Decatur to spend the day on Wednesday., with the intention of making a crazy round trip to Columbus and back to Decatur on Thursday.  As things evolved: the trip back to Decatur on Thursday afternoon became a family reunion, when she asked her dad if he wanted to go to the city to have dinner on Thursday night.

F. sent P. a photo that made her think she wanted to see her peeps, so she and C. drove down from TN to have dinner with us. Then F. decided she would tell her older sister who lives across town about the fun she might miss, so she and her hubby came too.

I discovered a couple of years ago that one of my most favorite things is having all my people sit down to a meal together. So that was one of my best days.

last sub. teaching job ...

Monday, May 14, 2012
I thought I was supposed to work at my little floral jobette today, but when I found that I was not otherwise occupied, I accepted what is likely the last school district job I will do for this school year. Actually - I thought the kids were finished in a week, and that next Monday would be the final day until they start back in September. But when I asked someone who was an Enforcer in the lunch room, I was told that they have two more weeks.

I was in a school on the south side of town, and replaced a second grade teacher. She is obviously very good at what she does, having been recently nominated by her peers as their Teacher of the Year from that school. So she is apparently very effective, and does better than average job of providing the instruction the eight-year-olds need to be fully prepared for as third grade students.

But it was a rough day. I sadly/clearly remember the attitudes and blantant disregard many students would show to substitute teachers all those many years ago when I was a grade schooler, and see that little has changed. Though I do think kids now are more disrespectful and come in with larger chips on their shoulders, having learned some unacceptable attitudes at home, that they put on every morning when they get dressed for a day in the classroom. Some probably come from homes that find their uncooperative, contemptuous behavior acceptable, but I fear what will become of these little people in a few years when they find that lack of courtesy puts them at such a disadvantage out in the real world, where they will be looking for employment and expecting to find people who will tolerate their lack of manners and civility.

I have heard about kids who turn into the 'class clown' to compensate for all manner of problems - personal, emotional, family issues, learning difficulties - and think I probably encountered one today. He was such a sweet guy, so well-spoken, so interesting to talk to, but so unwilling to focus on the assigned work. He could not keep his mind on the task at hand well enough to complete any of the work they were supposed to do today. So cute and funny - yet somehow distressing to think that even though is mom sent him to school to become a little better educated today, I do not think he learned anything.

And to top it all off - he left the room when his bus number was called, then came back, looking pretty upset,  saying he missed his bus. So we walked to the office to have the secretary phone his mom to come and get him. He probably got blessed out for that as well, when she had to stop what she was doing to come and pick him up. Then another teacher walked in and said: he missed that bus on purpose - I saw him out in the hallway when his bus was loading... So cute and funny, and such a trial.

a piece of the past comes back...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
This story starts about fifty years ago. Not that I am that old, but I have to go back that far to help you fully appreciate what is going on now.

When I was in junior high school, my brother thought he wanted to participate in an extracurricular event that required all the members to plan and implement some sort of project that involved agriculture. Growing up in a county with an economy based on farming, where many of the students' families depended on either livestock or crops for their livelihood, most of the participants would have been raising some type animal. They would plan to procure and care for that animal until it was of the size and age to reach maturity, when it would 'go to market' (be sold for profit/processed for food). I honestly don't know what the other kids did for their year-long project, maybe growing and caring for chickens or beef. But for some reason what my brother ended up with was: bees.

The fact that there was a life-long beekeeper who lived a block away, readily available to offer advice, provide support, supervise, loan equipment could have been a factor in the choosing to become involved with raising bees. I don't know precisely how the decision was made - but I do know that my brother and dad got into the bee business... and long after my brother lost interest my dad was still tending the hives. Fortunately they are mostly low-maintenance, until it is time to go and and relieve the colony of some of that honey they worked so hard to produce. Then it becomes a Family Project... and not my teen-aged self definition of fun.

As most kids are thoroughly freaked out at the possibility of being attacked by insects of the 'stinger', it was excessively stressful to my young self when my dad would go out in the country to the tend the hives. Located in a  field several miles from town, the upper part of the hive would have to be 'smoked' to drug the bees and allow the upper sections (called supers) to be removed, placed on the back of the pickup truck and brought into town where the Family Project occurred on the screened-in porch. Bees angrily swarming on the outside of the screens, doors constantly slamming as supers were moved to the porch, frames were processed, brought in to be un-capped with a heated knife, honey extracted, and returned back to the truck bed amidst fiercely protective insects. A sticky mess.

When it is all done, the brick floor was covered with footprints of gooey honey, meaning that even when we were finished with the honey extraction, the work was not completed. It was a great location for doing the messy work, but everything had to be hosed down to keep from tracking honey everywhere. And the stacks of supers, emptied of honey, but with frames that the bees would busily start filling again were returned to the pasture for the bees to start back to work.

Honey put into jars to be sold at local grocery stores, with hand-stamped labels, and absolutely no health department inspection. Just good, wholesome, home-grown honey.

So there is the story of my dad and brother sort of backing into the honey business. But the really interesting part comes when I just suddenly realized that both daughters are owners of hives as well - so: that makes them unsuspecting Third Generation Bee Keepers.

How cool is that? Very. After all these years, Papa would be so amused.

outsmarted by a six year old...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
I had a sub. teaching job on Monday. The call came on Friday afternoon, and since I did not have anything of major import on my schedule, I committed to going down to the south side and wrangling five year olds as a para-pro. for the day. So I put my frozen dinner in my little lunch box and spent the day in Kindergarten.

As usual, in any given class, there are little people that are much more advanced than the average, and there will also be some that you will quickly discover do not have the readiness skills to be well equipped for the next grade. At any time when they were uncooperative, or prone to general rowdiness, misbehaving, the teacher reminded them they are only about two weeks away from being able to call themselves First graders: 'you know what the rules are' or 'you know what you should be doing' to get them back in line. She was very capable, obviously with much experience and managed them well.

The interesting thing was one little girl who was so advanced compared to her peers. She was using such sophisticated language, I was amazed. There was a point when they were instructed to take out a bag of books they have in their desks and practice reading: this girl was reading on at least the fourth grade level. I got so interested in the book she was reading to me, I had to finish it when they were called to do something else. It was not just the text of the book, it was her word usage in conversation. When she would respond to the teacher's questions, or interacting with classmates - she casually used language some ten year olds would not fully understand.

I had to ask if she and her mom read a lot at home and she said 'yes'. Then she said she had three older sisters. Can't you just envision them going to school all day, and then getting home and 'playing school' in the afternoon? I asked how old she was and she reported she was six, that her birthday is in November, so she could easily be nearly a year older than many of the other students in that class - but I was astounded at the language ability of little Destiny. And hope that she will be in classrooms  with teachers who appreciate her remarkable talents, and will make the effort to challenge her to continually aim higher.

I usually notice the ones who are so unprepared to make the step up. They are the ones who are struggling with not being able to figure words out phonetically, have not been able to pick up the concept of sounding the letters out to guess at what the word is, unable to use picture clues to decipher the sentence. And they do not know the little words that are the building blocks to make sentences: the hundreds of 'sight words' teachers have posted on the walls in the class room that have been their spelling words from week to week. They will be having trouble with reading the little books that have a five word sentence on each page. And not able to spell the words correctly as they write in their journals. You wonder what will happen: if they are behind when the teacher sends them on to first grade and they do not have the readiness skills in August, what will happen when they get passed along over the years, and end up in high school barely literate? Drop outs? Burger flipping? Baby-mama or daddy at fifteen?

getting outta east Texas ....

Friday, May 4, 2012
The trip to east Texas on Monday was pleasant and uneventful. The last encounter with the smiling faces (that's a joke, but not much funny about those people who are employed by the gov'mint, so as taxpayer I actually help employ to harass and mistreat traveling citizens and the otherwise undocumented) of TSA workers, I kinda felt like a potential terrorist: having been singled out for their personal attention. Probably due to failure to completely empty pants pockets while traversing security at ATL. You have to wonder if the first question on the job application is 'do you have a sense of humor?', and if they answer in the affirmative - they are immediately disqualified from employment. I am sure they hear too many excuses and comments that are meant to be amusing but turn out to be grounds for the traveler to be grounded, but they could at least smile and have some decent customer service skills.

My Presbyterian friend and I left Columbus about 9:00 a.m., to drive to Decatur and leave for the airport at 11:30. She, unaccustomed to travel, was pretty anxious about the whole venture. I do not think she has ever flown without a family member. She is in her mid-80's and twice widowed/single, fairly easily persuaded to want to go to TX to visit her son and family. Has not traveled by air in years, and was completely unfamiliar with the process of going through post-9/11 security. She has a son who is a flight attendant, and since she provided me with several bits of travel advice, so I assumed he had cautioned her about limitations of acceptable items in carry-ons.  The worst problem we had was having her can of hairspray consficated by baggage checkers. I suspect that fact that it was metal brought it to their attention when her luggage went through the scanner - and then the guy who rummaged through her belongings said it was 'over-sized', and not approved to travel in the cabin. Not sure what part of the 85 year old, grey-haired woman looked suspicious, but she was not sufficiently persuasive about fly-away, frizzy hair to allow him to release her contraband hairspray. We got through that, to our gate and off the ground.

We parted ways at the Dallas/Ft. Worth terminal, where her son met her, and the cousins picked me up to drive back east to their home. Enjoyed the stay, visiting, eating, doing mostly nothing,eating,  reading, eating. In order to avoid very early morning rising and misery of early morning traffic, I spent Wednesday night in a motel near D/FW to be able to catch the 8:30 return flight.

That's where the story gets interesting.

I know the airlines recommend travelrersd arrive at the terminal two hours ahead of the departure time, but I figured: I can see the terminal from here - so if I get on the shuttle that leaves the motel at 7:00 for an 8:30 flight that would be plenty of time. The shuttle driver was about ten minutes after 7:00 getting to the motel, and the other riders dragggggeeeeddd themselves out the door and up the steps onto the van. They obviously  were not pacing the sidewalk (like me!), concerned about getting through security to catch an 8:30 departure. The driver asked where we were going to be sure she got us all to the proper terminal for boarding... this is Not Atlanta, where everyone goes down the same rabbit hole, no matter what carrier you have tickets for: terminals are scattered all over the place with overhead trams (similar to Marta) or contractor shuttles to take passengers from A to B or D (or maybe even X, Y, Z ?) to make connections.

The driver put the Asian young people off at terminal D, and I thought: 'oh, good, E is next'. But then she circled around a huge parking deck and returned to D again, to let the other passenger off. Roadways are so very confusing: worse that that Moreland Interchange in northeast Atlanta by a factor of at least 10 due to terminals and parking decks being packed together - if I had been on my own, I would still be wandering around lost.

After some minutes of  working through the ins and outs of one-way access, she finally let me off at E and I dashed up the escalator, thankful I was virtually unencumbered with luggage, traveling with only a backpack full of dirty clothes and my paperback book. But when I got inside, I could not find my traveling companion. At this point it is about 7:35 and I know that the boarding can start as early as 7:45, so my co-hort is either hopelessly lost, muddling around in the innards of the terminal in tears, or being held hostage by TSA, or freaked out that I might miss the flight. And the information desk guy said that the airline was not allowed to let me know if she had already checked in/printed her boarding pass. All I could do was hope she was at the gate instead of lost in the maze of D/FW.

So I went to get in the line to wend my way through security - only to discover it was backed up about 100 people. I knew I was in serious trouble. I don't really get around all that much - esp. in the sky, and have never faced the possibility of missing a flight - but that 'free breakfast' I had at the motel was churning in my stomach. I overheard an airport worker tell someone in line ahead of me that if she would make the trek to the next terminal there would be no waiting in line. So I followed her: back down the escalator to lower level, outdoors, through a construction site, along a 'temporary' sidewalk made of plywood sheets, hemmed in with orange cones and plastic fencing to what I assume was terminal F. Up the escalator and backtrack to the gate.All the time wondering if my travel co-hort was waiting for me, or lost in the inner workings of D/FW.

There she was, sitting at the gate, with about 90 other people (plenty of crying babies), wringing her hands wondering about Me! I think I looked out the porthole/window through the cloud cover as we were crossing over the Mississippi River, which was pretty neat. Return flight: uneventful, after getting off to a shaky start.