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Halloween at the P. place...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
They have been doing a commercialized version of Trick or Treat at my workplace for years, but rarely have I been involved, due mostly to not being on the schedule for whatever day it might occur. But I went to work this afternoon at 2:00. Something I have not done since I was a Bakery Clerk at least six years ago. The level of joy to be had in going to work mid-afternoon has not increased in all those years. It was pretty odd to be showing up at that time - and I thought it was primarily to be the person present on the sales floor when my co-worker would be in the stock room getting three dozen centerpieces done for the special order this weekend.

But when I got there, I found myself appointed as the person who would hand out candy when all the little people were invited to troop through the store in costumes and say 'tricker treat', hold out their bags and get goodies. When I was given a bucket of candy to give away, I immediately ate a PeanutButter Snicker, just a little mini-size. It was so good, I thought: 'hmmm, that was so small and tasty, I believe I will have another.' And by the time I ate the third one, I was so candy-sugar miserable I was completely done with candy for the duration. I don't think I will ever need to eat another: completely cured.

There were lots of little princesses, a number of varying sizes of Spiderman, several fuzzy blue things with one eye in the middle of their foreheads I did not recognize, and one little Robin Hood. The little green thug was so cute I  questioned his mom, and she said they made the costume: bought an oversized green t-shirt and cut zig-zags around the bottom and sleeves, dyed the tights green, and made his hat out of a big square of felt. He was about three feet tall - and very funny.

I was, I am sure, overly generous with the container of candy the store supplied for me to give away, especially after convincing myself that I was allowed to go home when I emptied the bucket. So I started putting a big handful of Starburst and Skittles in every pumpkin bucket and bag that came by. I had definitely o.d.'ed on Snickers - so those were the first thing that I wanted to give away, to get out of my sight.

more on the 'punching' part...

I have been working at this job for just over fifteen years. That is pretty surprising to me too! The story most people hear is that when I decided my daughters might be old enough to spend a couple of afternoons at home alone with out burning the house down, it seemed to be time to look for a part time job. After this new grocery store was opened and I shopped there for about a month, I noticed a sign in the front window: floral clerk needed. This might sound bizarre and very strange coming from irreverent me, but my thought: 'If that sign is still in the window the next time I come in the store, it is something I am supposed to do'.

I'd been thinking, pondering, even reading library books on 'how to find the most fulfilling employment', and considering what I might want to do that would a)gratify as well as provide some b)income. I know there are a world of people out there who don't get a) and feel stuck with b). After lots of consideration, I decided the work I had done that provided the most satisfaction was in the floral business. As a longtime reader of the classified ads, I found a couple of parttime/seasonal jobs that I applied for and worked, but nothing that would be steady employment.

Then we needed groceries again, so I went back for more food, to find the sign still in the window. I filled out the application (this is so long ago the application was printed, with blanks to complete by hand - how Old School that is now!) And had a copy of my resume: also printed - seems to be so amateurish in this day of electronics! My 'test' to prove skills was to tie a bow, then produce a carnation bud vase. That was all it took to become an employee. I think when I started, the minimum pay was $5.15/hour and I got $5.50 because I was 'skilled' for the position of floral clerk. That sounds pretty pitiful - but compare it to this: I think when I got my first job ever when I was still in high school, wrapping gifts at Christmas, the minimum was $2.25/hour - and that was a Lot of  money for me to be turned loose with!

One of the things I like least about this is the necessity for twice employee work evaluations. I just had one last week, and I am still pissed. More later...

punching the clock...

After months (and probably years) of mumbling and grumbling about not being scheduled to work, it appears there might be some 'reverse' mumbling and grumbling. Like hearing about being 'reverse robbed', where totally random, completely unexpected things appear at your house and you have no idea of the origin. As in eggs mysteriously appearing in your refrigerator?) I am expected to appear at work four days this week. Not necessarily convenient - but after so much disgruntled commentary about feeling like the Red-headed Step-child, I feel compelled to take the extra hours when offered.

This weekend is when a big football event occurs here: historic rivals Albany State University and Ft. Valley State. They will play here, at Memorial Stadium, with lots of activities planned for students and alumni preceding the game on Saturday afternoon. What that event has to do with me, is the alumni, who are planning a dinner for Ft. Valley have ordered three dozen fresh cut flower table arrangements from the Floral Shoppe. My part in this is: nothing. I only have to be there in the store, a presence, on the sales floor while the centerpieces are magically being manufactured in the stock room. To mysteriously appear, completely formed, ready to be picked up on Friday morning with no more apparent effort than the wave of a wand. Or hand, or stem cutters.

To my benefit, I find that I am being scheduled to work three days a week: nice to have that extra bit of pay that will help pull the 'ends' that never meet closer together.. To my detriment, (or not) the days scheduled are not eight hours long. To my benefit: I don't think my feets and legs are able to tolerate eight hours of being upright. To my detriment: the shortened work days cause me to not be able to run up and down the road doing my usual traveling as there is not enough time to get there/anywhere and back in between times my number is in the time clock.

So... it's not all bad, but not all good with the constrictions of being at the mercy of employer - but as you know: we take the good with the bad, and do things we would prefer 'not' to have the resources to do the things we would Definitely Rather. More 'resources' means more of the Rather to enjoy, but less time to do it in... now that's a quandry....

a weekend of emmaus'ing...

Sunday, October 28, 2012
I'm discovering I am getting to old to function well on insufficient sleep. After getting up too early and staying up to late for several days - it's caught up with me. The usual quandry (after it gets dark entirely too early) is deciding whether to try to force myself to stay up and drag around for another hour or so, completely exhausted. Or go on to bed too soon, knowing that will create a problem in the wee hours of the morning, when eyelids pop open and brain won't turn off.

The workers for the Emmaus Walk were to assemble at the retreat early afternoon on Thursday, to start preparing for the Pilgrims arrival around 7:00 p.m. I'd been on the schedule to work at Publix, so it was mid-afternoon for me, with a detour by the library for reading material to fill some of those 'hurry up and wait' times. The team I was working with was responsible for frequent changes of scene in the chapel, as well as a number of communion opportunities. I think we must have 'communed' about six times over three days.

The little group I spent most of the past three days with are folks I met  a couple of years ago when I was assigned to 'worship' team. A mother and daughter, and a friend of theirs. It was a pretty enjoyable experience... listening to them telling stories about previous times as workers, people they had in common, and perodically going into the chapel to 're-set' the table for different stages of the Walk.

In addition to the gratifying experience the Pilgrims are there to experience, they are supposed to enjoy being cared for over the weekend by a host of 'non-existent' servants. The most amusing part is how we are supposed to be Invisible to the Pilgrims - I caught myself any number of times stepping over the threshold of the little room we were in - poised to walk out - and hesitating, in mid-air, remembering to check for evidence of Pilgrims on the loose before going forward. And lots of times staring down the path and making  a screeching U-turn when I would catch sight of someone who as not supposed to be seeing me. You could be standing across the way, and watch people lurking behind shrubs, half-opened doors, silently skulking in a clump of trees, peering around the corner of the building, waiting for the coast to clear, so we could go about our undercover, stealthy business. Cooking, cleaning, decorating, preparing worship events - all without being seen.  Sounds like super-heroes from comic books, huh? With a 'cloak of invisiblity', ready to vanish right before your very eyes!

Most of the worker-bees stay the weekend, in dorms away from the Pilgrims. But I knew I would not sleep well in a room full of strange people, making strange sounds all night long. So I drove up and back every day. Some nights getting home about 11:00 p.m., and setting the alarm to wake me at 5:30, to be back on duty by 7:00 the next day.  And I did sleep better than I would have in a room full of women getting up all night long banging bathroom doors (or coughing, or snorting, or snoring, or bumping and thumping) - but just not enough: so I'm going to bed.

and now I've been to Alabama...

Monday, October 22, 2012
Just so it would not feel neglected.... lately my travels have included most everything along the eastern seaboard, except Alabama. So today I drove 180 miles for a dr. appt. in Montgomery - and as I expected spent most of that time getting there and back again.

I'd been taking this Rx for years without ever feeling like it was really effective, and doubting the necessity. So I quit taking it for a couple of months back early in the year, and substituted some concoction I purchased at the natural foods store. When I went back to the Real Doctor and she did blood analysis, she said she was surprised I was still alive when she got the lab work results. That inspired me to start back on the real Rx, pretty quick like.

But still : thinking it was not really resolving the miscellaneous problems that originally caused me to begin taking this particular drug all those years ago. So I made an appt. with the closest female endocrinologist I could locate - which turned out to be halfway across Alabama. This was the third time I have made the drive.She has been tinkering with the dosage for six months, trying to figure out the lowest I can take and still have enough in my system to not fall apart, I guess?

And to tell you the truth - all those misc. symptoms I have been annoyed by, but apparently not so discomfited I would search out a specialist - are still right there/here - being annoying. But it was a pretty day, and I had my talking book to keep me company, and the interminable fundraising campaign on Public Radio to keep me annoyed whilst I drove to Montgomery and back. The gas over there is always less than GA: there was some that was $3.24 I felt compelled to buy even though I really did not need any and could only put less than three gallons in a nearly full tank. Do you hate me because I get 48 mpg? Sorry.

meandering our way out of north Florida...

Sunday, October 21, 2012
After the disappointing visit to Wakulla Springs, we headed back north, to spend the night in south GA. Part of the reason for wanting to go on a wandering road trip, was the Second Annual Brooks County Skillet Festival. Possibly the worlds' lamest idea for having a day of  dozens of craft and food booths on a courthouse square in modern times. I was pretty amusing, though I am glad that I was there only as an observer. When I went last year for the First Annual Brooks County Skillet Festival, I don't think I even broke even. Possibly making enough to cover my entry fee, but not the gas to get there and back. I'm pretty sure I am done with craft fairs. But we went, mostly/sorta saw it all - and only spent pocket change on a bag of fried pork skins. Which I could not even think about putting in my mouth. Nor would I eat fried bird feathers, or horse hide.

Another disappointment - was not seeing some art done by a local guy that was in the county historical museum. I'd received an email announcing the show, and encouraging folks to want to look, saying it would be on display until the end of the Festival. Might be true: but the building was locked, unmanned, and we could not get in the door. There were actually signs up encouraging people to want to visit the museum - but no one thought to actually provide the manpower to have the building open for all those hundreds of out-of-town guests they had been luring to town for the fun and festivities, just across the street. Crazy?

But I had two days of mostly, nearly undivided attention from one of my favorite people. Except for all that time she was texting, emailing, engrossed in the electronic device that has become an appendage, essential body part.

We went to visit the sister who was home, after over a week of incarceration in the confines of South GA Medical Center. I think she was released  on Monday, and is slowly improving, in barely perceptible increments, trying to regain strength and stamina from nearly ten days of being tethered to a bed. I know  nothing is more exhausting than doing nothing, and if you do it long enough you get to where you can't do anything, having learned some years ago that Inertia Breeds Inertia. The longer you sit, the more you need help to get up and wobble about. Hearing about some of the limitations the therapy/rehab team insisted on before releasing her, it's got to be frustrating to want to try to do little daily activities, and fearful of risking damage as a result of routine tasks. Wanting to regain strength, but being so limited in what she is allowed to do: arggghh.

Then we came back to Columbus Saturday afternoon, and that's that.

meandering our way into north FL...

We left Columbus on Friday morning and went to FL. I'd been industriously promoting a trip to Edward Ball State Park, just south of Tallahassee for weeks, trying my best to get someone to want to go with me: dangling the idea of a tourist-y little trip down the river in a glass-bottomed boat. Sadly: no such luck. We did get on the boat, but the ones that you could peer over into the hole and see stuff on the bottom was not an option, due to murky water.

I was so very annoyed - as I had actually done my own research this time, and was really looking forward to the opportunity to see all that stuff that lives underwater. The guy who sold us the tickets reported that recent rains had caused the water to be so cloudy they would not take the other boats out.  I suspect experience has proven that if they were to sell the tickets for the bottom viewing, and tourists could not see through the murky water, they would be doing a lot of explaining, to say nothing of refunding. I was really sad, and had so looked forward to peering down through the glass to see fishes, turtles, and whatever else there might be lurking in the spring fed river.

Our guide, who was extremely difficult to understand, reported that some unbeliveable quantity of water pours forth out of the spring - was it 6,000 gallons a minute? Holy Cow! Bubbling up to form the Wakulla River, and running into the Gulf of Mexico. Surprisingly the only part of that natural wonder that is protected is the part within the bounds of the park - only about two miles from the source. So anyone who wants to jump in, fish, boat, be enviornmentally incorrect, can do whatever they can get away with in the miles between the park boundary and the Gulf twenty-three miles to the south.

We saw fishing birds: pelicans, anhingas, coots, marsh hens, egrets, plenty of fishes, quite a few alligators - looking much blacker than I remember them to be. And, surprising to me, a number of manatees. I don't know if the fact that the guide said the water is almost always 70 degrees is a factor, but I did not expect to see the 'sea cows' so far north. Though I had read they like a warmer temperature, and were often found in Crystal River, just north of Tampa/St Pete area, it just did not occur to me that they would be in N. FL as well. Aren't they endangered due to mishaps with boat motors? And just being slow moving and not terribly bright?

Though we were surprised to see the manatees, what we really were wishing for is mermaids. I remember reading someplace about a theory that the early sailors in the New World possibly thought that the sea cows were mermaids. If so they had definitely, decidedly been at sea far too long. Still trying to get to Weeki-Watchee, where we Know there are Mermaids.

... and the comos were beautiful!

Monday, October 15, 2012
In all those trips up and down the state in the past week, driving to Chattanooga last Monday with the Birthday Surprise! Across the western edge of North Carolina on Friday. And coming down out of the NC mountains on Sunday to Gainesville, then back up towards TN today - the cosmos the D.O.T. planted along the right of way and medians was absolutely stunning. I think I might have to write a letter to the guys that are usually propped up on their shovels along the roads, smoking and spitting to tell them how glorious the blooming beauties are.

By this time of year, all you usually see blooming along the highways is goldenrod and other assorted wild flowers that are struggling in to survive from the blast of summer heat. But there were places along I-75 north of Atlanta, headed towards Chattanooga that the pink and magenta and white cosmos were obviously perfectly timed for gorgeous fall color. When I came back towards Atlanta this afternoon, I saw several vehicles pulled off on the apron, where passers-by had stopped to enjoy the beauty, getting out of their cars with cameras to capture the great wide swaths of bright colors.

When we crossed over from TN into NC on Friday morning, we began to notice large sections of right of way planted with lush coverings of the same hot pink, magenta and occasional white blooms of amazingly tall, remarkably healthy cosmos. I noticed the cover section of the map we picked up in Murphey had a photo of the brightly blooming plants.

And there were sections of cosmos along Highway 441 coming down out of North Carolina. Traveling through little towns in the hills of northeast Georgia, the D.O.T had provided more plantings in the medians. Long stretches of bright color, between the lanes of north bound and south bound, swaying in the breeze stirred up by passing vehicles, beautifully bouncing in the afternoon sun.

Remembering that back in 1996, when the Oplympics came to GA, the Garden Clubs were urging communities as well as state agencies to plant things that would produce gold blooms all over the state, I have to wonder who was behind the idea to blanket sections of the public highways with such eye-catching fall color... I know people like to go to the mountains to see the fall leaves, but those brilliantly colored cosmos are worth a trip!

the road trip in retro....

There were several things on my 'to-do' list when I started the trip last week. I have to confess I did not get any of them done. But it all worked out for the best, plus now there are excellent reasons to go back to NC again. We stopped in Murphey, right over the state line in North Carolina at a little visitor's center and got a map that is as wide as my car when completely unfolded. Reaching from the driver's side window clear over to the passenger side rear view mirror. Reminding me of the time our family was, for some un-remembered reason, driving the across the state the long way - it took an entire day.

Back in the summer, when we were passing through NC (the short way: south to north) I was navigating with a map, page 49 in the atlas, that was nearly twenty years old. The driver would not stop long enough for me to get an official state highway map - so we just kept going, with me thinking 'if you don't slow down for anything - you will not know what you missed by not having a road map with informative information about all the things that you are whizzing past.' But now that I have a 'real' and Official map, I can go back and see all that stuff we whizzed by in August...

I had hopes of going to the Grove Park Inn at some point and sitting out of the terrace, acting like rich folks, trying to give the appearance of being well-behaved and ordering some shamelessly decadent desserts. Like anything on the menu that would be remotely similar to 'death by chocolate' and ridiculously overpriced. But we decided to just wander around downtown and never got to the Inn - though it is always so fine to go and sit out there as the sun is going down over the golf course, mountains and pretend.

I had great plans for stopping on the road south at the Goats on the Roof - but it's such a unique tourist trap, I am sure it will be there the next time. And while I was tooling south towards Atlanta, passed the sign for Dawsonville, and remember: that is where the 'Kangaroo Refuge' is located. Which should be a legitimate reason to start planning another road trip!

And I meant to go to Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta to see the Gengis Khan exhibit, even though what you just read is all I know about it: having seen billboards along the interstate, I think it is something I don't want to miss. And those poor people who have been dragged through museums in six states should not miss it either. Fortunately Khan will hang around ATL until mid-January, so there is plenty of time to get there. There was an exhibit at the High Museum last year, with some of the terracotta soldiers from the Emperors' Army of China that was pretty impressive, so I hope whatever is traveling with Khan will be equally interesting.

At some point this morning, I unexpectedly, oddly, randomly decided that we would skip the Khan visit today, and get the TN girl on back home. For which I am profoundly thankful: her hubby had a wreck on his bike this afternoon, and she was there to rush to the rescue and get him to the ER for repair work. She reported he had stitches in his upper lip and nose, but will be ok. I don't know what happened, what kind of shape the bicycle is in, but thankful that it was not worse, and that she was there, available for his assistance.Thankfully he can take drugs, rest and get better, and as we all know, things are just that: things, so the bike can be repaired. Thankful.

three state tour...part 3

We got up Sunday morning and went to church, less than a block down the hill. R. has been the pastor of this little country church for about a year, and I suspect that the young pastor and his very energetic and amusing wife have really added a lot of liveliness to that congregation. The membership that we saw numbered about sixty, and appeared to consist of mostly older families. We were told there are four teens in the youth group, and two younger kids in the Sunday School.

We went out to lunch in a cafe in the downtown area of Canton. It's like many other small towns, with small locally-owned businesses struggling, and probably more places closing than opening. I''m convinced the only way most small town family-owned shops can survive in the age of big boxes and discount stores is having already weathered years of change. If the family has been around long enough to own their building and do not have to include rent in their expenses, they stand a better chance of breaking even in this time of struggling economy. But I know of family businesses that closed - when Walmart came into the area, and attracted other big discounters that can offer goods at prices no one can beat.

Lunch was in a cafe that opened in a building that used to be a hotel. I don't think the hotel is in business, but it looked like it was at least one hundred years old. As you would expect in a small town, on Sunday, after many go to church, it was a buzzing place. The biggest industry in the town is a large paper mill... you may have knowledge of the aroma one generally associates with such? Yep.

We had a good lunch, nice visit. And got on the road to head south. The host had a new nephew born earlier that morning, and they were headed to Raleigh to view the new person. So we took our leave and started south.My chauffeur quickly started feeling a nap coming on, so we swapped off and I drove on down to Decatur.

Sadly, not stopping just south of Clayton, on Highway 441 at the 'Goats on the Roof'. I knew it was there, but just did not take the time to veer off for this unusual tourist attraction: the name pretty much sums it up. Not that I think it is worth planning a trip specifically to take in - but if you should find yourself up there in the corner, definitely worth a look. Strange and funny, like the rest of the world generally think/expect people in GA to be...

It was amazingly time to eat again when we got to Eddie's Attic, and since we have special 'in' with the Kitchen Manager Person, we got the things we most enjoy eating: for me it is always bruschetta and for my traveling partner, it is always fried okra with Parmesan cheese.Plus a couple of fish tacos.

We'd been eating sundry variations on Latino food (if you allow the Taco Bell menu?) since we left Chattanooga, so wondering if there is any way that bruschetta could be considered Mexican? Factoring in tomatoes, cheese, onions in the topping, I think it might squeak in - which would mean we had plenty of gas all the way along on our road trip.

three state tour...parts 1 & 2

Sunday, October 14, 2012
"I've been everywhere, man..."

I left home on Thursday morning. Stopped for most of the day in Decatur, We walked the dogs, piddled around and went to the food trucks for lunch. I left ATL mid-afternoonn, got to TN about quitting time. We'd been talking about going to Asheville NC for weeks, making plans to take a hike in a forest I had learned about last fall. And thought that going when the leaves were changing would be a great time to take a walk in the woods.

I was somewhat disconcerted when I woke up Friday morning to discover it was raining - thinking 'hmmm... not so much fun walking in the woods in the Wet woods.But we got up, loaded up and headed east. Amazingly, just about the time we crossed over into NC the rain stopped, the sun came out, the sky was blue, it was a beautiful day. Kinda like when you were a kid and the vacation advertisements had you believing that as you were guaranteed nothing but sunshine as soon as you crossed over into Florida.

We'd made plans to stay with friends who live near Asheville, but i was not so sure exactly where 'near' might be. Stopped at the first visitors/info. center in NC and got a map, to discover the 'Band B'(D. had s little sign that said 'Bed and Breakfast -You Are Cooking!') we booked ourselves into was located on the west side of Asheville instead of to the east as I mistookenly believed. The friends are right off I-40, were very welcoming and provided comfy beds and good entertainment in the form of an amusing little canine. I'm pretty sure he has no idea he is a dog.

I also discovered from studying the map that the place I wanted to go for the hike had been misplaced. I was practically certain it was in a national forest to the east of Asheville - but that too, was located elsewhere. Not only 'way west of where we where, but something that we had pretty much passed in our driving earlier in the day. So ... that's another trip.

In order to fulfill my desire to take a walk in the woods, after perusing my new road map, I found Mount Mitchell State Park, which has the highest mountain in the eastern United States. So that's where  we went on Saturday morning. A long, very winding road thought some pretty impressive scenery - especially for someone who has always been in the flatlands of south GA. Got on the Blue Ridge Parkway for about an hour before taking the turn off into the State Park. It is surrounded by National Forest, which I thought most unusual. We decided, as we stopped and read markers that oddity is probably due to the State Park being designated before the National Forest was acquired and protected.

Fortunately, we did not actually have to walk any great distance up a formidable trail (remember Mt. LeConte? I certainly do!), but drove nearly to the tippy-top, and took a smooth, paved path to the highest point in North Carolina. Then wandered along a path more reminiscent of that exhausting LeConte expedition - that was blessedly only about 3/4 of a mile through thickly wooded, rocky terrain. It turned out to be another really pleasant day.

We met a friend of mine from childhood on the mountain. She has been living with her family, up in the northwest corner of NC: I had written her to tell her of plans to be nearby and we stopped at the agreed location and had lunch. Sweet to reconnect. I promised that since I now have a good NC road map I would return for a longer visit.

Came back down the mountain at a much greater speed than when we went up. Amused to watch the batteries in the Prius completely recharged from all that down-hill coasting. And spent several hours in downtown Asheville, plundering around, looking at bountiful handicrafts, trying to keep our cash in our pockets. Mostly successful, except for a pair of cute little sterling silver wire hoop earrings and some exotic chocolates that we were compelled to taste, as we are nothing of not sacrificial, all in the name of science...

The scientific research project consisted of a non-partisan panel of two fully functioning capable adults, willing to participate in determining the best combination of tastes to create the perfect chocolate 'turtle'. Pecans are superior to pistachios, and milk choc. is far better than dark in this combination with caramel adn nuts. Sadly the ones we found in Asheville do not measure up to the ones from the candy store in Ocean Springs, but we are willing to do further research when called upon. Nothing if not sacrificial, all in the name etc, etc... 

alligator farming in south Georgia

I was driving back from Decatur last Monday afternoon, a week ago. after taking the Birthday Surprise to Chattanooga.  And listening to public radio.  There was an report from  a small town in southwest Georgia, about a local man who was farming alligators. He reportedly had been in the chicken business, raising hens in barns to sell for processing.  And bought several alligators to put in  pond that would be the solution to dispose of the number of number of dead fowl were creating a problem. He gets more alligators, and then eventually turns from being  chicken farmer to being an alligator farmer.

When he was interviewed, the farmer reported that when he first started in the alligator raising business, he found the little ones he hatched out were slithering out of the enclosure he made for them - at a remarkable speed, which caused him to race around to every farm supply place in the area to buy all the fencing he could find, and quickly install a smaller gauge wire to keep all his 'stock' from escaping. He also mentioned that they are by nature very aggressive, and will bite from almost the instant they hatch out of the shell. This means do not let anything get near them that looks edible, especially small pink wiggly things like fingers.

I wondered if he had installed the gators in the long low buildings he was using for the chicken raising business, when he also reported the 'gators had to be kept in very low light conditions to keep them from being 'agressive', which I assume means chewing each other up. It is bad business to allow them to act on their baser instincts: the thing they were designed to do which is gnash their teeth and claw things: as this makes the skins less marketable/valuable for buyers. The skins, if not flawed by the alligators doing what comes naturally, are in great demand by high-end designers for belts, watch bands, purses, other leather goods.

I am actually getting somewhat queasy about all this while typing.

And then I was listening to the same show another afternoon a couple of days later and some irate caller had complained to the 'All Things Considered' staff that raising alligators in a dark environment was cruel and inhumane. What? They aren't 'human'! They are pre-historic, massively carnivorous reptiles.

The caller was probably wearing an alligator watch band while she ranted. And then I got to wondering what the farmer who got 'gators to take care of all the chicken caresses would get to get rid of all the unwanted gators. Then I remember that the (formerly known as) chicken farmer also reported there was a very good market for exotic meats - so I guess the new enterprise is paying off fairly well. Enough so I am nearly certain he will not be concerned about the people from PETA picketing on the dirty road that leads the the Camilla Alligator Farm.

reading while driving...

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Admittedly, I do a lot of reading when I am on the road - don't freak out: it's all 'Talking Books', a term I heard when I was kid. Living at home, with a grandmother a half mile up the street, who was gradually loosing eye-sight. Though she could not see well enough to enjoy books in print, she  continued to read at an astonishing rate through the beneficence of the Library of Congress. The government not only supplied the recorded books, they also provided the record player for her to use to listen to all the latest best sellers. This was of course at the beginning edge of the era of cassettes that made music so portable and well before the introduction of compact discs for recording sound. Can you remember those big black vinyl platters and sound that had to be 'read' with a phonograph needle? Me neither - I'm not That Old!

So... I do a lot of reading, anything that looks interesting when I browse along the shelving at the library that has hundreds of Talking Books, mostly in boxes that are smaller than the print version. They will usually take about eight or ten hours to finish, with ten or more discs of unabridged reading. Completely eclectic topics - whatever looks good, since I have recently been surprised to discover: if it's not interesting or written to appeal to me once I get started - I'm not compelled to read something I don't enjoy. This is astounding, as I have historically read any number of books I did not enjoy... Crazy? Probably. Just never had the thought: close it, put it down, return it to the library- unread!

Some were forced upon me during my years of education, and some (one very recently I picked up when desperate for reading material) that I just needed to know how things worked out. It was a remarkably lame book, but I forced myself to finish it just to get it over with. And another I confess to skipping over two-thirds in the middle, and reading the end to assure myself that guy got safely home. Even though they were fiction, I accidentally got so involved with the characters I had to know that everything worked out at The End.

I'm reading one now about settling of Australia. I never thought much about all those English criminals that got shipped to the supposedly 'unsettled' continent when the prisons in UK were overcrowded. Then read a reference to a book that was considered a definitive story of those years. It sounded really interesting, so I requested in print from the library, found that it was a huge tome, and read twenty pages, then returned it. (After discovering a friend had a copy that I hope to 'check out' when I get ready to start it again.)

I remember my parents talking of how they enjoyed getting CDs from Cracker Barrel and listening when they would be traveling, going all over the country seeing the sights. And since I have begun to do so much traveling, going all over the country (not as far afield as parents), I have really enjoyed the books I Read While Driving. Plus the joy of learning a truly vast amount of mostly trivial information when I tune into public radio.

flying low, shirt-tail flapping...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
I am pretty sure I unconditionally swore I would not make the trip to Quitman/Valdosta again in one day. But I did. And took a nap going down and coming back: I know - not a smart way to travel, unless of course, someone else is driving... ha, ha, ha.

When I have made that six-hour-round-trip in the past, I would be up before daylight, on the road, watching the sun come up over the woods and fields of south GA. I love it this time of year, when the goldenrod is blooming and the cotton is ready for picking.And would start back north so late in the day that the things I did not see due to darkness in the early hours, I would not see due to darkness in the falling night.

Today it was unusually, remarkably, densely foggy. Very unusual. Not just in low places, but everywhere for the first hour of the drive. Dark and swirling fog are not a good recipe for safe driving, but it was uneventful. The only difficulty was with the guy who is so careful and conscientious the trip was nearly an hour longer than usual. Mr. I Drive The Speed Limit Everywhere, All The Time. So it's a wonder we are not still on the road. I had planned on a pretty tight schedule, so I would get back home in the daylight. And have been puttering around in the yard, trying to wet things before I leave town again for several days over the weekend.

We went to Valdosta to visit his daughter in the hospital. She had surgery on Monday, and has been inching along on the long road to recovery. She will be out of work for eight weeks, and though in lots of pain, and severely sore, did say she was thankful that she would not be at work over Thanksgiving - and will not ever be lifting, dragging, tossing, hauling fifty pound sacks of pet food again. Her hubby said that he was hoping that her employer might notice that she was not there taking up the slack from all the things that were currently not getting done. Not her responsibility, but things the management should be doing, though they don't.

I was confounded, astounded, astonished to hear her Dad say to her as she was lying in bed, trying not to cough, waiting for the next morphine injection that he thought knee replacement surgery was worse than having your sternum cracked and heart by-pass done. I did the slicing motion across my neck to try to get him to shut his mouth - and I am sure he could not understand he should zip it. Could this be another example of  'guy thing'?

happy birthday to you....

Monday, October 8, 2012
Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I found it highly amusing.

Sweet youngest daughter will celebrate the 28th anniversary of her birth tomorrow. I had asked her sister if she would ride with me up to see her and take her out to lunch on Oct. 9, but the girl in Decatur had to work on Tuesday, so I told her to mark her calendar and we would go up a day early, which would be more likely to be a surprise than showing up on the actual day wearing party hats and blowing tooters.

Then I thought: would it not be hilarious if we had a big box to surprise her when she opened it up? Oh, yes!
So I went to the appliance store last week, flattened a washer box, and put it in the back of my car. The bottom was already cut out when I got it, so we could just hunker down and put it over our heads. Went to the Just-A-Buck store and bought rolls of wrapping paper (baby Muppets) and covered the box. Also got those little conical hats with elastics (that kids always pop their necks with, bringing the festivities to a screeching halt with buckets of tears). As well as a pack of those little tooters you blow in the mouthpiece so they unroll and make the bleating sound. (They used to have a feather glued to the end so you could blow it in someone's ear and tickle them - but China has got too cheap to put the colored feathers on any more - or they are raising naked chickens.)

I got up this morning about 4:30 and got to Decatur before 7:00. We left Decatur about 9:15 to be sure we would arrive in Chattanooga before noon. There was a small quantity of sneakiness involving the husband and co-worker/BFF at the office. We were so cramped up, squished under the box, and giggling, it probably looked very suspect - plus the flaps on the top would not stay down, due to my party hat. I'd wanted the friend to be standing by with a camera to catch the expression on her face when we popped up out of the box: but she was behind instead of in front, and only caught the two of us, with party hats, askew and tooters extended at their full unfurled stage, bleating wildly.

So after we went to lunch and embarrassed her as much as possible without getting escorted out of the restaurant, she agreed to 're-stage' the surprised expression for the camera. We got back in the box, nearly as amused with ourselves the second time, and had an instant replay with phone cams. at the ready. I'm not smart enough to include photos here: that's what I have tech.savvy daughters for!

I think she was surprised, as well as thoroughly amused. She readily tells all that she got her strange sense of humor from her mom, so hopefully it was more toward the entertaining end of the scale, rather than mortifying, and if not: 'You get what you get' with your genetic history, it's a package deal, sweetie...

wandering around middle GA in the dark...

Sunday, October 7, 2012
I went to central-middle GA last night. With my cohort, who suggested we could want to go to the Emmaus candlelight at Camp Dooly (which as you might assume is in Dooly County, some where in the dark, south of Vienna, possibly near Cordele?.) She had been a number of times, and said she knew the way well enough to find our way back home. So we decided that this weekend would be the one for us to go. It was pitch black dark when we got there, going nearly due east, and probably not very far from hitting Interstate 75 highway that bisects GA south of Atlanta.

It was a really sweet service, and I am glad I went. The camp sign indicated that it was founded in 18-something or other, so it has a long history. I assume was started as a Bible camp/retreat for area churches. The dang trains run right through the camp (probably all day and all night!)- and you cannot hear or even really think when the locomotives hauling freight cars rumble through. So even though I did not hear every thing that was said, I pretty much got the jist of the proceedings. Having 'candlelighted' at the Pine Eden retreat, and knowing that the event is pretty much the same world-wide was helpful.

We pray, celebrate communion, and then light candles before the pilgrims come through. Everything is seen by only the light of hundreds of individual candles. Each candle held by someone who made the trip out there in the woods, in the dark. Just to honor what those people who have retreated for the weekend are doing.

I actually saw a couple of faces I recognized as people who come to Candlelight when the Valley group has a Saturday night service up in Harris County. It's really a very gratifying experience: for both the men/women on their Walk, and the people who show up to light candles, showing their love and support for the event.

Drove 170 + miles and got home at 11:00 p.m. - well past my bedtime!

punching the clock...

It's pretty unusual for me to be on the schedule to work at Publix on a Saturday, with nothing in the way of 'special events' such as prom-time, pre-holiday chaos,  or a big wedding that swamped my co-worker. So it was sort of odd for me to be working on Saturday. When I got there and started asking questions yesterday, it was revealed that the produce dept. manager was taking the weekend off. I assumed since he is the guy who makes out the schedule, he had deliberately planned for going to the big football game: Morehouse vs. Tuskegee Institue annually played here in Columbus at Memorial Stadium.  I think they put on half time show that is worth the price of admission - which is definitely the only reason I would attend, as I care less than nothing about watching men mistreat each other for any reason whatsoever. No vicarious violence for me, on the perfectly manicured field, arena, ice, TV, movies,or anywhere.

But as I inquired and pried more information out of the other produce guys, it turns out the manager guy thought he should have the weekend off because he will be in a training class all this week. I guess it is in Atlanta, as that is where the district offices for GA are located, and  think he is going to be learning how to be a more effective/irritating department boss. Due to absences, we are sorta short-handed, and there was a young man from another store there on Sat. doing the cutting from the fresh fruit coolers. He might be in his thirties, works part time, and interested in getting a few extra hours of pay.

As he was getting finished up with what he needed to do around noon'ish, he started cleaning up the table, floor where he was working. It's a very messy process: cubing wet, sticky stuff like watermelon and pineapple to put in bowls, cutting up fruit ahead, to have enough to fill the cooler, and be fulling stocked for the next day's opening. Plus trying to guess how many customers will buy the product before the end of business. Sort of like shaking the Eight Ball for answers, getting: 'try again later', or 'more to come', really indeterminate and vague stuff along the lines of 'who knows?'

But when he said 'I always clean up after myself', when I told him I would hose it all down when I got finished with what I was doing, I thought: 'What? Where did he come from?' So I asked him if he liked to cook, and he proceed to tell me what a smart, creative, useful guy he is in the kitchen (remember - this is a self-professed 'cleaner-upper'), so I asked him if he wanted to get married.

I am sure he was wondering: 'What? Where did she come from?'.

I told him I was too, when he said he was married, but that I thought there was no harm in prospecting. That I was not really in the market for another spouse, but I had already decided that the next time (if there is a next time!), it would most definitely be to a guy who readily agreed and demonstrated a desire to be a cleaner-upper. As well as one that either liked to shop for groceries and putter in the kitchen, or wanted to go out to let someone else do all the work on a regular basis.

I probably scared him off - so don't think he will be looking to pick up any more random hours at the store where I work... which means he was probably not a good prospect anyway....

Amusing part is ME proposing: I never intended to get married both of the times I actually did.

but I did mean to work today...

Friday, October 5, 2012
After the most amazingly pleasant experience of substitute teaching on Wedesday, I was so enthused about spending the day with five-year olds, I got up this morning at 5:30 looking for more. I don't think it likely that everyone of the gazillion teachers in the county are all on the job ready for another day. So I guess all the people who wanted to find day-labor work got up at 5:15 to search online before the computer driven system began the process of filling vacancies at 6:00. The phone never rang - so apparently they have it covered. Without me.

I'm sure I can keep myself busy all day, with things I meant to do yesterday that didn't get done.

A number of plants in pots that I have been (more or less) faithfully kept watered for weeks, since it has been such a dry summer, needing to be put in holes.. I thought they would stand a better chance of surviving if I had them close by, in the shade, rather than putting them in the ground. Most look pretty good (except for the ones that don't, which means Murphey's Law is still in effect.) We've had enough rain recently that the normally un-diggable clay might be of the proper moisture/consistency to apply my shovel. Most of the things I have planted in recent months, the clay has been completely replaced with good healthy, enriched potting mix to try to give them a good start in growing roots to get established. Plus frequent waterings: 'it takes a village' to help newly planted flowers to survive a blistering summer with mostly insufficient rainfall.

did not mean to work yesterday...

I had plans to do some stuff around the house, possibly do some planting of things that have been sitting in pots for weeks - if not months - on Thursday. But none of that got done, when I got a call from Publix, offering me the opportunity to come in and get paid for being productive. So I got on my Publix attire, and went to clock in.

Just the process of 'clocking in' is pretty strange. When you try to 'punch in' the clock with your personal personnel number, and have not be scheduled for work by management, in the computer that tracks everyone's on the job time: of course you can't! But I discovered that the computer (reminiscent of Big Brother - as well as cameras mounted overhead all over the store + plus satellites observing our every move, + Google mapping) is always watching. It reads everything, remembers everything, even mistakes, and keeps a record of every effort, which makes me a little more paranoid than usual. And 'usual' is probably pretty high - due to personal history.

As you know, and I have stated here any number of times before: Guilt is a Great Motivating Factor.

But there have been so many weeks lately that I might get eight hours of work, and that would be divided over two days, when the assistant produce manager called and asked if I would come in and make salads, I quickly agreed. The fact that I had nearly nothing else on my schedule for the day was a big part of accepting. I did  tell him I had something scheduled at noon, and would need to work around that, but said I would come in as soon as I got my (uggh-ly) green shirt on. They thought they had a person coming from another store to do the fresh/prep.work over the weekend, but there was 'a failure to communicate', therefore a problem with Short-handed-ness.

I took a long lunch break, left at 11:45 and went to a 'lunch and learn' at the museum, sponsored by GSUSA. A staff member from the local office, and the CEO of the state-wide council talking about the history of Girl Scouting. Visuals always make a talk more interesting, and they had a powerpoint with photos from one hundred years of GS. The Historic Georgia Council have been celebrating all year, as has GSU nationwide. Girl Scouts started on March 12, 1912 in Savannah when Juliette Gordon Low gathered some girls in Savannah to begin a program for females modeled on what she had learned from observing Lord Baden Powell in England (as you know: the 'father' of Boy Scouts.).

Then we viewed a 'recruitment film'. Amusing - it had to be from the 1920's - no talking, but a musical score. Girls were in serious 'uniform mode', wearing hats that look like what we see now on Drill Instructors, and fashion-forward bloomers. Camping under the stars, with blankets for bedding, that they carried slung over the shoulder. Doing some fire-building that would not be 'safety' approved by today's standards. At one point demonstrating swimming skills by traversing a river, fully clothed, including hat, that she tucked her waist length braid under before paddling across. Overall so informative, that I am planning to write the local staffer and suggest they take the talk/video/film On The Road.

Then I went back to Publix to the salads that were incomplete. Left about 3:00, happy to add some extra hours onto this weeks' paycheck (that won't show up in bank until next week.)

whatd 'ja do today???

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
I had my first sub. teaching job for this year. Though I actually wrote it down on my calendar about a month ago when I accepted the work, today was my first since public schools started back in early August. There was a call on our home phone, asking if I would take a job for a Kindergarten teacher, who had specifically requested me! Naturally I was so flattered that if she had asked me to climb the monkey bars, I am sure I would have said 'what time do you want me to be there?'

I think I might have been in her classroom at some point last year, when all the age-level teachers in the system were scrambling to find replacements for a day of workshop/training. And remember being in her room when there was not only a highly capable para-pro. who could competently, completely manage on her on - but there was also a student teacher who was doing her semester of 'practice', and pretty much ran the class. So If I Were A Jerk, I could have taken my book and sat in the corner all that day and got paid quite well. But under those circumstances, would not have expected to ever work again at that particular school.

I've been getting calls  more days than not, which I think is due to the fact that I had expressed willingness to accept para-pro. jobs as well as replacing certified teachers. And think that since being the para. pay about 2/3 of what teachers make, some of the absences by para.'s go unfilled. But due to an ongoing confluence of complications, I have not had a day completely free to be in a position to accept a position thus far.

This school has to be the best elementary one in the county. Every child in the school, at every grade level has to 'test' to get in. And I think there is nearly always a waiting list for slots, and have heard of parents requesting the opportunity for a child to test/possibly get in long before they are old enough for pre-K. I thought, that like the other magnet elementary schools, this one was also a neighborhood school, and the 'academy' part was sort of a school within a school, but in recent years, as the neighborhood students have aged out, it has become truly a magnet of high-achievers - even the ones I was with in Kindergarten today.

I was amazed at what those five-year olds could do, really impressive language skills, and taking their class work very seriously. With remarkably little horse-play, none of the reluctance to focus, and seat work done with practically no errors on any paper. I noticed that a large percentage of the student body appears to be from families of Asian or sub-continent descent, and think that the parents are the ones instilling discipline and a desire to do well from a very young age. I suspect that the remarkable experience I had today is equal parts Parental desire/discipline and well-experienced Teacher. I would go back in that classroom in a heart beat, and be as impressed by students abilities and desire to succeed all over again... not something I can say about most of the classrooms in Muscogee County schools.

all's I know about tagging...

Monday, October 1, 2012
All I know about the process of tagging Monarch butterflies comes from one of the guys who works at the Day Butterfly Center, named Michael. I had contacted the Education office at the Gardens to volunteer to go up one afternoon and participate in what ever one does to 'tag'. Expecting it would certainly be a bit more complicated than just running around in the back yard and grabbing someone's shirt tail, saying 'you're It!'

And it is, as well as interesting. I did not actually have the opportunity to do any today, due to overcast, mostly rainy weather. Remembering they do not fly in the rain (and like birds that disappear when the weather is inclement - wondering where they all go to hide?), I did not expect much activity. But since I had said I would go, I went. Driving around by both elbows to get to the Butterfly Center, in a steady rain, I knew there would not be many visitors to the Gardens. And likely even fewer who would want to get out of their vehicles to troop into the 98% humidity of the glassed-in house where the indoor butterflies are all beating their wings against captivity. I think about a dozen people came in while I was sitting there reading my book on the bench.

Naturally, the butterflies they would want to tag, to have whoever finds the corpse, would be more along the lines of 'wildlife'. Not that the ones inside are tamed, but maybe just domesticated, since they can only peer through the windows and wish for freedom. The ones that get tagged are the great, great grandparents of the ones that will eventually make it to central Mexico. According to the resident expert, Michael, the average livespan is about three weeks, so the guys (and females) that would be tagged in Harris County in September, would likely not make it as far as the Gulf Coast before deceasing. They would lay eggs, and start another generation, that would lay eggs, to make more caterpillars,etc. He also said there are some of the Monarch variety that live as long as six months, so it is possible that some of the ones marked by the staff and volunteers at Callaway could end up being found in Mexico.

You have to have a good clear, sunny day to even think you might find one flapping around outside in the beds of tempting nectar-filled flowers. And you go out with a big white net (just like the ones in the song: "They're coming to take me awaaaayyyy...") but you don't have to actually tip-toe through the tulips to get them. Just hang around all the stuff the gardening staff has planted to attract them, and hope they will come flitting by. When you do get one in your net, you very carefully dis-entangle your catch and put this wee, tiny sticker on it's wing. The adhesive sticker has wee, tiny numbers printed on it that the finder would check and be able to coordinate throught a website, to know where it was applied. You also have to check it's gender. Not as simple as turning over a dog or cat - but not too personal either: they just have different markings on their wings. You write the date, time, gender in a book, along with a code number from the tag. Let 'er go.

I don't know when they started doing the tagging at Callaway, but this is the last week of 'tagging season', so I won't get another chance until next year. I remember going to Jekyll once years ago, on an outing I found out about through Georgia Conservancy. I thought it would be interesting for kids to go and see how they catch, band and release migrating birds - and also thought that we would have an opportunity to participate. But we were disappointed, I think because the experts that had put up a mist net said it was an overcast and windy day and there was little activity to see, and nothing to do. It was pretty much the same story today at the Gardens, but I will likely try again next year, now that I am aware of it, and think it would be interesting to participate.

Other than that, I spent the day at home, sorting and putting most of what I found that I must have thought was important when I crammed in the closet, in the recycle bin.