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wag more, bark less....

Monday, September 30, 2013
     "There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living."    ~Unknown (but it sounds like Robert Fulghum, huh?)

I don't know who wrote it, but I am in complete, total agreement. There are too many things in life - both our own personal little dysfunctions, (and crazy family members who seem to be in a state of continuous  spontaneous combustibality, dragging drama around, like that little cloud of dust the kid in the Peanuts cartoon had following him with every step he made, was he 'Pigpen'? Or those cars you see clunking down the street with the tailpipe dragging, and sparkler-like fireworks following everywhere they go) and Life in general, to spend time stewing about things we cannot control. 

just something to think about..

My friend from WA. and I were sitting at Eddie's after taking a walk around the block, so we could invite ourselves back in for another serving of pumpkin spice cheese cake with two spoons. We were happily spooning in our second dessert and chatting away. F., the kitchen manager, was called away to solve a problem, as it was her night to be at work for the closing procedures at the end of the business day (getting home at midnight if she's lucky.).

The 'problem' was a man who had apparently been walking around downtown for three hours trying to find someone who would help him out with some funding. His wife and son were standing on the sidewalk, waiting downstairs. They had obviously been walking the streets for hours with him, in hopes of some assistance to the tune of $22 to pay for a night's lodging. That sweet person I will now take credit for raising, F., came back in to sit down after talking with the man, saying she had taken $40 out of her pocket and given him. She said he did not look shabby, or unkempt, but was neatly dressed, with khakis, plaid shirt and sweater vest. I assume, he offered to do any kind of work she had in exchange for the financial help. She asked if he needed a meal, and he started crying. He asked if he could go get his wife and son, and the three had big, fat, juicy hamburgers for their supper.

My friend and I watched this whole thing unfold, and took up a collection (the two of us) to replace the forty dollars she had donated for them to pay for a room for the night. And got the report that when the servers/wait staff heard the story, they all pitched in ten bucks each, so they gave the family another $100. Remember: these are people who depend on the tips they get for serving to make a living, and ten bucks out of a servers' pocket is a big deal.

I'm usually a pretty easy touch, a sucker for anyone's hard luck story, but I questioned her about why she was so quick to pull cash out of her pocket and hand it over to this guy. She said 'that's the way my mama raised me'... so I am thankful for so so so so many things right now: A roof over my head, a pantry and fridge full of food (some of which we will throw away, uneaten), warm safe place to stay, comfy bed, financial resources that allow freedom from worry/anxiety about tomorrow and any challenges sunrise might bring. Daughters who can feel the touch in their hearts, and desire to ease others' pain, and have the resources to do so when called upon.

As I lay in bed this morning thinking about that tidy, well groomed, desperate man, I thought about how difficult his life must be. How he expects, of himself, to be the provider, main-stay, bread-winner of his family. And finds himself reduced to walking the streets, asking people for help to feed and house them. How heart-wrenching his situation is, and how humiliating it must be to spend hours and hours asking for help, to hear: "No". And "Sorry". And "Go Away".

This story is certainly not limited to this one man, but to hundreds and thousands in recent months and years. People who have found themselves without employment, surprised to unexpectedly discover no work, job loss snowballing into lost housing, and hunger, and desperate straits with worries about providing for family. So they are out there looking for shelters that will take them in, (most of which rarely keep families 'intact') to provide bed and meals for families.

So... just in case you haven't counted your blessings today... now's the time. Me: I feel like I had an encounter with a modern day 'good Samaritan'.

flat stanley's visit...

Flat Stanley came to my house last Saturday. I had been opening the mail box for nearly two weeks, looking for him... and he finally arrived. I was hoping he'd come before I went to south GA last week, thinking I could just hop on down to the FL line and take his photo standing in front of the 'welcome to sunny florida' sign... but he missed his chance on that trip.

Stanley, as an uninvited guest, did go to a country wedding on Sat. evening. A young couple from church got hitched out in the yard... the  wedding venue was a cleared out patch under the pecan trees, surrounded by family, friends and rows of planted pines. The bridesmaids all wore whatever, with bare feet, and the grooms men were in khakis and white shirts. Very Informal. The groom was probably in the first suit he ever owned. Sweet and happy couple. The reception was in front of the brides' (former) home, where her parents live, with lots of rustic decorations, like the agricultural equipment you see Stanley standing on in the first photo.

The second photo is of my (long lost) friend who lived at Ft. Benning when we were pregnant with first babies (now thirty!???), who came to ATL for a family wedding this weekend. We met and had too much good eats at daughter's work place: a plug for the local well-known live music venue in downtown Decatur, Eddie's Attic.

The other photos were taken Sunday evening as we were roaming the streets unsupervised in downtown. One by the gazebo behind the Old Courthouse, that sits above the underground Marta Station for downtown Decatur. And one in the CVS down on the corner, right there, smack dab on East Ponce de Leon Street, in front of the aisle full of Halloween decor and candy.  There were others that we should have taken when it was not so dark, but that is what happens when we are left to our own devices with no adult supervision... so you probably won't see the others taken around the courthouse/downtown area.

But you will see photos when I sent him off with the friend, E., who is visiting in Decatur, as she is going back home. She has agreed to take Stan the Man on a little side adventure: he is going to the west coast. I hope we get the prize for a Stanley having travelled the greatest distance, like you do when you go to family reunions, and get a cupcake for having travelled from Mars to attend.

this is how it played out...

Friday, September 27, 2013
There was a monumental amount of confusion about the flowers for the baby funeral. Several other Publix stores got involved, when the auntie of the baby was told she would have to find the arrangement someplace else, as the floral guy was not working this week. As it turned out, one of the other stores decided to give the flowers for the baby casket to the family. Which is great, and what my store manager probably would have done, if I had asked him about it. (And likely would have paid for it out of his pocket: when I told him the story, he gave me cash from his wallet, and said:' to whom much is given, much is required'. So I have no doubt that if I had told him of the family's need, he would have been willing to provide the flowers for the funeral.)

So when I finally got in touch with the family - another long convoluted story - I told the auntie I had some cash some friends had put together. And since Publix was donating the flowers, I thought I should just donate the cash that community group friends had generously offered. And let the family to use in whatever way they felt was best. Also told her about a local support center that provides bereavement counseling for families that have lost babies, help with a meal for the family following the internment.and possibly some financial assistance for funeral costs.

 I'd like to think all this generosity will someday come home to roost- though ultimately, it doesn't matter. In reality - that's not why people are so willing to pitch in when they hear of families finding themselves in dire straits, or heart-wrenching situations. You do it just because it is the right thing to do.

in an effort to self-promote....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Operating on the theory that 'it pays to advertise', and in an effort to get as much attention as possible: I wore the  'Today's my birthday' pin/button to work. It was interesting that so few people actually looked at me today, but those who did offered best wishes.

I was leaving work, standing in the check out line, waiting for my turn, with a container of cut watermelon cubes in hand. The person behind me was  a complete stranger. The group behind her was a friend from church with two of her kids. When I turned around and spoke to Kelly, she said 'Is it your birthday?'. I said 'yes, do you want to sing to me?' So she did, along with me, and both her daughters. The woman in the middle started singing along. We had quite a nice sing-a-long going. Too bad there was no campfire and marshmallows involved...

The child, standing there with her mom, who was the complete stranger, asked 'Mom? Who is Fran?' when we got through. So the complete stranger introduced me to her mortified child.

Just to let you know that you are not the only people with a mom who can embarrass you half-to-death in the check out line at the grocery store.

a sad story...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
I was at work yesterday. Pretty unusual for me to be on the schedule on a Monday. But there I was, due to my co-worker in the floral dept. taking some vacation time. It was right about time for me to leave for the day, and one of the produce guys said I needed to go talk to a customer. So I went up and introduced myself, asking how I could help?

She said she was looking for someone who could help her 'with the flower thing you put on a casket'. She was a young mom, with three small, but active/industrious kids in tow. As I was filling complimentary balloons, hoping to distract the kids, the mom was telling me that her niece, who was nineteen days old, had died and she was trying to order flowers to go on the casket for the funeral this weekend. Apparently, something I had never thought about: anytime a baby, small child dies from unknown causes, there is an autopsy. I assume the state requires it. So after the baby died, they went to the hospital and ended up having to leave the infant there. Awful. And cannot proceed with final rites until the autopsy is completed and the body is released. Awful-er. They are trying to plan the funeral for Saturday, but don't know if that is possible, because they have to wait for the cororner to let them have their baby back. Waiting. Awful-est.

I talked to my co-worker, who gave me the best price I could make her for a small fresh flower blanket. Which was 'way less than what another shop had quoted. So she said she would take it. I went to the funeral home today to find out about the size of an infant's casket. And discover the little fern and flower blanket to go on top only needs to be about twenty four inches long.

I was thinking about how I could help: suspecting the family will be struggling financially as well as emotionally after being overwhelmed by this unexpected turn of events. Wondering what I could do to bless these heartbroken people; decided to figure out how to give the flowers to the family. The plan: recruit some friends to help me pay for the flowers. If I could get eight people to put in ten dollars each, I could tell the aunt when she comes on Friday to pick up the arrangement , 'it has been paid'.  I wrote a note to the community group to ask if they would like to help. Hopefully enough folks will come through that I can tell Jennifer when I see her on Friday, that she will not be paying for the little baby-sized flower blanket out of her pocket.

you'd think I'd learn...

I had been asking PS about making a plan to go to meet his brother in law and have lunch. He is getting along in years, living alone. Just thought it would be nice to see him, visit a bit, and see how he is doing. After asking him to make the call and set up lunch several times, he finally did - and we went to Ft. Valley today to meet for a meal at the Lane Southern Growers store.

I pass by there when I am headed east, making the drive to Savannah occasionally, and see lots of activity with people stopping to buy all manner of things made from local produce: peach jam, jelly, preserves, local honey, various tourist trapp-y things. Probably a popular stop for tour buses full of people who buy souvenirs, along with high carb., filling buffet meal, and peach-y desserts. Some of the kinds of stuff you'd see in those big pink-painted places on the beach where you have to walk through the open shark jaws to get in the store... junk made in China, like shot glasses, plates that say 'Georgia Peach' on them (though painted in Taiwan), burlap bags of pecans and peanuts from Asia, etc, etc. I've stopped a time or two and bought high-priced jars of peach jam to give for gifts.

So we left home about 10:00, with the plan to meet the BIL at noon. (Always early for everything.) Got there about 11:20, to find the BIL waiting for us - another always early guy. We had lunch, I ate too much - which is what always happens when I find myself eating from the buffet. I don't know if it is good or bad, but instead of something gooey and surgar-fied for dessert, I had another helping of fried okra. Not especially good - sorta soggy, but it was not peach cobbler with ice cream on top.

I should have known, that as soon as he finished eating, he would be ready to get back in the car and start for home. This is the guy that I so thoroughly warned about 'eat and run' back in the spring, he gave me the stink eye for hours while he waited for me to get ready to leave Decatur when we went for lunch on Easter. Also the guy who drove two and a half hours to Tallahassee to meet friends for lunch, and was ready to start driving again as soon as he put his fork down (because I forgot to tell him I was not playing the 'eat and run' game.)

it was sweet and too short....

Monday, September 23, 2013
Daughters showed up for lunch yesterday, after going with their dad to church. I am not a blabber-mouth: there was no way it would have fallen out of my mouth, so he did not expect any of this. Not really intending that it would be a Big Surprise, I just did not bring it up. Today is his birthday, so even though no one specifically said: lunch was the 'party' (with the honoree footing the bill. Lucky guy!)

I don't think anything makes me any happier than finding myself with both of them at the same time. Just thinking about that makes me smile. Something that has been deliberately planned occasionally in the past, but distance and jobs, life and activities get in the way, so it does not happen often. Sunday it did all fall into place, as they made the effort to go to church with their dad, and 'let' him take them out to eat. I'd gotten up very early to work, so I could take a guilt free long lunch break and join them. It was sweet to be together, but sadly - had to go back to work.

Everyone there had a phone in their pocket, with built-in camera. Why did we not take photos? Why do we take photos of all kinds of crazy, worthless stuff, but not the things that really count?


Friday, September 20, 2013
That's how far I drove today. Got up about 4:30, to leave the house by 5:00. Drove to Q., spent some time rooting around in the yard, digging up those pesky smilax tubers. Some about the size of a pea, some about the diameter of a dime, some as big as a small rodent, some the size of the trap you might catch the rodent in, some the size of the cat that caught the mouse, that ate the cheese that lived in the house that Jack built. At least fifty, or more. Very gratifying to put them someplace they won't be sprouting to make more pesky, thorny, aggravating, irritating, mean, sneaky, annoying smilax vines.

Then I drove over to have lunch with friends from FL who had come up to see their daughter who lives/works in Valdosta. A good 'Chicken Salad Chick' lunch, nice visit, and I got back in the road to return to Columbus about 5:00.

This all from the person who swore/promised/committed to Never Driving to FL and Back in one Day. I'm sure I will feel a bit 'jet-lagged' when I have to get up and go to work on Saturday, but it was well worth the time/trip. And will be doing it again, when they are ready. I know it's crazy, but also know that I need to go while I am able, and before I get to the point of not being able to get myself home again.

I cannot precisely remember...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I am not certain what the precise name of the book by Judith Viorst was that was such a hit with the younger set. Something along the lines of the "Alexander's Very Bad, Horrible, No Good Day", I think. I just had one myself. It was in a kindergarten classroom. I should have stayed home and puttered around all day. It would have been much more productive, and far less stressful.

I took the job last night, when my phone rang about 9:00, thinking: how bad can a day in a class with a couple of dozen five year olds be? Obviously Not remembering how bad the first one was,back in August. And for the most part, they were pretty good kids. Then there is the minor-ist part of one kid who was unbelievable. How one little skinny five year old can be so distracting, disruptive, demanding, disconcerting, and crazy-making is hard to grasp. I was right there as a witness to the entire scene, and I still can't figure out just what happened. Amazing: that the teacher has any hair left.

It's hard to know what to do: some of the experts say to ignore undesirable behavior, don't give them even a glance to let them know you are noticing the acting out. That giving them your attention, deliberately 'noticing' the acting out - just want they want when they are so blatantly misbehaving. But it is so obviously unacceptable, the other kids cannot help but be entranced, or possibly stunned that such abberant, intolerable, uncontrolled stuff is going on right there in front of them. Or you, as the teacher, can focus all your attention, every minute of the school day, on trying to get this out of control individual to bend to fit in the plan, mold into the same behavior as all the others - whereupon you don't have any time at all to actually teach the ones that are malleable, teachable and ready to learn. So the 'nintey-nine' sheep that had not gone astray will continue to be neglected, all falling farther behind, and the consequences of not getting the lessons done are obvious when it is time for the testing to be done to evaluate achievement. So the arbitrary scores by which instruction is gauged make the teacher, principal, school appear inept when compared with others.

This individual was such a wide-spread source of chaos, the only way anyone in that room could have possibly absorbed any of the lessons, would have been to devote one adults' undivided attention to this problematic child. And what was so strange: it was so bad, the teacher called his mom, who came in and sat with him for a couple of hours - he was the picture of Mr. Well-behaved. Otherwise: he was spring-loaded. Could not sit down, or keep his mouth closed. Unbelievably disruptive. So, by ten o'clock, I was saying: 'Thank you, God. I get to go home at 2:45.' And so very thankful to have the ones God gave me: raised, on their own, giving the appearance of being perfectly capable, normal, fully functioning adults. Thankyouverymuch.

the definition of ambivilent?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

1:  simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action (not according to Webster: also includes retail work)
2:  continual fluctuation (as between one thing and its opposite)

This little jobette,out in the retail world,  where I have been for nearly sixteen years  - if you looked up 'ambivilence' in the dictionary, you might find me there. There are days when I wonder why I keep at it.  If you could take a giant step backwards, and get far away to be able to look at the big picture (which would probably require standing on the moon) it is a really good company to work for.

Lots of benefits and reasons to want to be employed there. A good retirement plan, with the company kicking in a bit to help your investment grow. Health benefits, as well as a plan that would provide if you were disabled, hurt on the job and out of work for an extended period. (None of which applies to me and other part-time employees.) Even a little policy to cover dental and eyes, which recently was offered to part time workers, very beneficial  when I had to get work done in my mouth.

But I'm having a hard time wanting to go in: the guy who does the floral dept. has been off for several days, so I am doing his job. It has gotten remarkably 'regular', for someone who usually works about fourteen hours a week. It's nice to get a bigger paycheck, but that time commitment is beginning to weigh me down.
Being the person (who is accused by close relatives:) driving all over the state like my shirt tail is on fire, it's difficult to also be the one who is conscientious, dependable, reliable, on time, steadfast, on a daily/regular basis.

It will be nice to get a paycheck that is more than pocket change, even though a full time job would probably not be sufficient to keep out of the red every month. So I will attribute the problem of being constantly in the 'red' to my considerable travels. Going to see people I really like, being with folks I care about enough that I can't stay in one place more than a couple of days. Do you want to get on my list?

a day in south GA...

Sunday, September 15, 2013
I was so surprised when I received email from my brother, weeks ago, reporting plans to be in south GA, I did not have the presence of mind to ask about motivation. I had no idea why he would plan to make the trip. Therefore completely taken aback when I got the message that he was planning to be in Valdosta on Sept.13-14.After years of my telling anyone who would listen that I did not expect he would ever return to Quitman: there he was! Like a jini out of a bottle... sort of. (After a twelve hour drive from Virginia)

Brother and Wife drove with her dad to help him make a visit to her uncle in the Orlando area. The dad's brother had been part of the space/rocket industry for many years, arriving in central FL long before Walt Disney. So had some land that was very desirable as things 'developed' over the decades. They just wanted to get together and visit. So they spent Thursday driving to Valdosta, where they spent the night, and he left on Friday morning for FL, after putting them out at the car rental place.

Brother and Wife came to Quitman on Friday, we spent several hours working in the yard. I strongly suspect that hot, sweaty, dirty, gnat-y was not what he had planned, but they were both good sports and generous with their time and muscles. As usual, nothing really 'shows', in the sense of all the stuff we cleaned up, eliminated, piled up on the right-of-way for the city to pick up will soon vanish.

Even though the 'mission' was to help the pa-in-law get to central FL, I am delighted they are such good caring people I was a beneficiary of their efforts. I'm sure he enjoyed seeing his brother and family, and spending time reminiscing about their shared history/younger years. Probably can't remember what they did last week, but have wonderful yarns to tell from seventy-plus years ago.

I am thankful for their time. Some of my fav-o-rite people, that I do not see nearly often enough, so it was especially good to be with them. You remember me? I'm the one who thinks Time is our most valuable commodity - the thing we think we have the most of, blissfully willing to squander on things inconsequential, and truthfully, that thing we should be most careful with. Maybe even to the point of being jealous of it, covetous of how we invest it, definitely conscious of what we do with it.

Invest wisely. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. What are you going to change?

snake-y things...

I am on a list serve that some people out in the east end of Muscogee County manage, to report all kinds of things residents might be interested in. Some I could not care less about, some noteworthy, some that have been very beneficial. The 'not care less' category is stuff like dog food recalls. Noteworthy is stuff like home invasions in subdivisions, cars broken into, people roaming the streets looking suspicious, guys trying to scam homeowners with pine straw sales. Beneficial would be something like 'five foot long water moccasin killing pet rabbits' (whereupon I am thinking: holy @#$%!)

There have been lots and lots of reports in recent weeks about rattle snakes in the area, coiled up on pool decks, patios, steps leading into homes, driveway aprons, any place they can think of that you are not expecting to see something snakey and sneaky that scares the stew out of you. Some think it is all the wet weather, some think it is housing developments, it could be global warming/rising sea levels/deforestation. Who knows? What ever the reason we are seeing more- I don't like it.

Rreminiscing yesterday about growing up in a house that was for some unknown reason very attractive to snakes. Can't say what particular 'brand' of snakes we found in the house, at least a dozen times over the years. But don't you think just finding one is one too many? Yeah, me too! There was a cousin during these years who had a mother that allowed him to actually bring snakes into her home, and live with reptiles. I recall a time when a particularly adventurous reptile got it's snakey-self coiled up in the springs/underpinnings of an upholstered chair and had to be found, then extracted when it was loose, roaming the house. Maybe that house-bound creature was trying to escape to it's natural habitat? Yes, one is definitely one too many.

I remember sweeping them up into the dustpan and putting them in a shoe box to deposit outside of the house I grew up in. I recall getting the broom and just sweeping them out the door. I remember the last one: was discovered coiled up around the warm cozy innards of the television, and had to be somehow extricated and shown the exit. (I was not the one who reached inside the TV to remove the guest.) My mom had such a strong distaste of them she would not say the word. And I'm not so crazy about them myself.

The most memorable snake experience since moving into this house, was the day I walked out on the back porch, at least 25 years ago. All I can say for sure is it was dark, probably black, probably harmless, possible King snake. It was Big, coiled up in the corner of the cross-piece of the screening supports. I should have been prepared, living on a big wooded lot with a stream at the bottom of the hill, lots of trees, leaf/pine straw mulch. And I am the one who wanted to find a house out of town, not in a squeezed together subdivision. Embarassedly, I freaked out. I would like to blame it on the fact that I had small children.

In recent weeks, I have been doing a lot of yard work, here and in south GA.Continually expecting to reach down to pick up a stick, limb,  or vine, and have that sucker wiggle. I've been pulling lots of thorny vines out of shrubbery, and lots of Virginia creeper up from under pine straw - expecting the next one to move when I go to pick it up. You will probably hear me screeching from miles away, when it happens.

Just typing all this is so un-nerving, thinking about snakes, I think I should consider forgo working in shorts and sneakers - start wearing high top boots and snake proof chaps...  And recruit myself a honey badger, who would jump at the opportunity to engage a ssssssnnnnnake.

a day of volunteering...

Thursday, September 12, 2013
If I had known about the National Day of Service on September 11, I would have been right there amongst them being patriotic and productive. But 'they' waited too late to tell me about it, and I spent the morning yesterday doing hot, sweaty, dirty stuff on my own, unsupervised, with no noticeable effect or value to the greater good. No flag waving for me :(... but only because I didn't know about the option/opportunity until the day was well underway.

But I did donate my time on September 12. So I guess the Choppy-ism I heard all my life: 'a day late and a dollar short' still holds true. Spent four hours at the local botanical gardens hanging around in the woods. There was a group of home-schooled kids, and parents, who came to have a series of 'walk and talk' lessons, incorporating science, nature, wildlife. Most of my day was spent with a magnifying glass in hand, helping little people to see mosses and lichens up close in an area of the property now called the 'moss garden'. Most of the tree trunks have lichens of varying types growing on the bark, and there are lots of little patches of different types of mosses growing in the leaf mulch in the dense shade of the decidious trees. We helped the kids identify several types we had photos of and then just creep around looking at things up close: bugs, ants, caterpillars, seeds, leaves, what ever crossed their path on their hands and knees or caught their attention.

There were volunteers doing other workshops: looking for bugs and identifying birds, learning about different types of herb plants/parts of plants used for traditional medicines as well as currently used in kitchens. The 'job' was from 10:30 until 2:00, which was pretty much perfectly timed for me feeling completely funned out.

amusing little anecdote

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Abut the time P & C were having an anniversary last month, for some unknown reason, I thought I would  google Wedding Anniversary gifts. To see what the traditional gift items would be, in a listing for various years of successfully accomplished couples: meaning people who had not been sentenced for spousal homicide. As I was perusing the list, I discovered that the 'traditional' gift for the thirty-second year of marital bliss would be 'conveyance', and in parenthesis was the word (vehicle).

He randomly brings up the subject that HE thinks I should want to trade cars. I don't want to trade, because I cannot make a car payment and still support myself in the style to which I have become accustomed. But it does have over 155,000 miles on it (yeah - and still getting  46 or 7 miles to the gallon....) so I can understand that it is something worth considering. If we happened to win the door prize and it was a brand new shiny red Ford Mustang, I would happily take it and trade it in for another Prius. No contest when you compare 47 mpg to 12 in a hopped up Pony.

I sent an email after making that interesting little trivia discovery about anniversary gifts to the man who has  not remembered the date of our wedding in a number of years.  So this was in reality, pretty worthless as a 'hint'. But hint I did. And when he came in the door later, after having not responded to my email about the wonderfulness of a 'conveyance' as a gift: he asked if thought I might like to have a little red wagon?

Are you still laughing? Me too.

dinner table conversation...

Not recently, but some weeks ago, we had a conversation at the dinner table. With him making the comment as a reminder to me that he pays for a membership every month for me to go to the YMCA. Asking if I had been swimming lately. (I did not tell him I have been to a neighborhood pool with a friend about once a week, since that would be unrelated to his question about the paid membership.) I admitted I had not been to the Y in some months, since I had a problem with my back and temporarily quit swimming. The 'temporary' part has extended for nearly a year - and he is still paying the monthly fee.

So he asked if I thought I would get back into swimming again. I said I hoped so, or that I might start going to Yoga classes. He wanted to know when I thought it would happen, reminding me again that the membership fee is paid every month. So I told him he should cancel it. He said he didn't want to do that. I said: 'you can cancel it or not, but you can't ask me about it again'.

We are done talking about the membership at the YMCA.

the 374 mile round trip...

I set the alarm for 5:00 a.m. And probably woke up six times checking to be sure it wasn't time to get up yet. You know how you set the alarm to be sure you will wake up, then seem to awaken every hour, with some sub-conscious thought that you must have overslept, startle awake with heart racing, to check the time, and be sure you're not late? I did some of that.

I did not want to make the trip to south GA and back in one day, and spent quite a bit of time in an effort to rationalize myself out of going.  Apparently unsuccessful, as I got in the car and on the road by 5:15. Only to turn around a half mile down the street and run back to the house for a forgotten item. Several years ago, I gave myself a 'good talking to', and said (to me): "you should not burn your candle at both ends and the middle as well, so quit thinking you have the energy/stamina to make that round trip in one day." But I did it anyway.

Went to Q. and did some up-close-and-personal, manual bush-hogging in the back yard for a couple of hot sweaty hours: excellent therapy. At least a beneficial as hole digging and weed pulling. Plus I probably dug up fifty of those irritating, aggravating, thorny tubers from smilax vines: always so gratifying to think they have been uprooted, and satisfying to know those prickly vines will not be growing back..

Then went to Valdosta to visit a bit. Got back on the road, headed home, about 2:30, and back to Columbus about 6. I'm pretty sure I will not need anyone to sing  me a lullaby tonight.

readily confessing...

Monday, September 9, 2013
There have been some pretty amusing things I have seen on YouTube, but most are more towards the mortifying end of the scale. Like when I did not want my kids to view the 'Funniest Home Videos' as the humor was at the expense of someone who would only be amused if the video they submitted was a cash prize winner. All the others: caught in dire circumstances for posterity.

I've seen some that were funny, and admit to laughing out loud at some of the things people (mostly relatives: you know who you are!) have forwarded for my entertainment.But by and large, I do not troll for video clips. Although those old ones from the Carol Burnett Show with Tim Conway will always tickle me, no matter how many times I see them. When you see the script fall apart on a comedy routine, when the pros crack up, and slide off the couch with the silly giggles, you tend to do likewise.

But: I heard this on the radio, during an interview, when I was traveling recently. And think it is so sadly, profoundly true it bears repeating. So here's the thing: "YouTube is the clearing for all of human stupidity".Video-ing for family amusement is one thing, but on the internet for the world's voyuerism is another matter entirely.  If you do something that lame, you need to be sure you are out of range of friends with cell phones, crazies with video cams, and probably keep the lights off, as GoogleEarth is probably peeping in your windows.

467 mile road trip...

I went to SC over the weekend. I've started trying to get up to Greenville about once a month to visit my pen pal. I know there is going to come a time when I will want to go and spend the day with him, and he won't be around. So I have begun to feel a sense of urgency, necessity, to go as often as practical and have a day of amusement with him.

The last time I went, about a month ago, I mentioned the idea of going to the state botanical gardens. I see a sign on I-85 every time I go through Anderson that suggests it would not be too far for a day trip. And asked if he would like to go sometime. He was calling me by the time I got back to Decatur that day, making plans and arranging for us to go, along with his daughter and a friend of his from church. I'd marked the day on my calendar, and was looking forward to going this past Saturday, even though I thought: kinda still pretty hot, don't cha think? But figured if the 90 year-old was game for the outing, I could manage it ok myself.

But he called the first of the week, and said we should not plan to go: after he had called the gardens and they told him to stay away. It was a Football Saturday in Clemson, and with a home-game, there would not be a place to park in a twenty mile diameter of the stadium. So we scrupuluously avoided Clemson, and puttered around Greenville instead.

I had never actually been to down town in all my trips to visit. Neat, clean, pretty area, with lots of trees, planters along the streets with things blooming. Storefront occupied with small independent businesses, people shopping and eating at sidewalk restaurants, roaming the streets. Obviously good city planning, bringing businesses back to a vibrant downtown. And in the middle was a beautiful park, where the Reedy River flows. Much of it has been left natural, but some lawn areas, where people were sitting on blankets, picnicing, kids splashing in the shallows, lots of family activities. Pretty water falls over huge rocks, and lots of shade trees.

Plus I got to see my cousin, who recently relocated to the south side of Greenville. After having scouted out the inner city, I suggested we should start of list of interesting places to go and eat, trying one each time I am visiting.  We went back into town and had dinner at a place that should be advertising 'slow food'. It was good enough, but the service not so much. Not the place to take little people who would not only have gotten whine-y and impatient due to the wait, they might have starved before the food came.

It was about 10 p.m. before I got back to Decatur, and had to get up crazy-early, to drive back to Columbus, and work on Sunday morning.

a lot of stirrin' up...

For the person who claims to not ever do any cooking any more, it appears that a lot of measuring, stirring, baking, cleaning up has been going on in my kitchen lately. I was perusing the recipe box for something or other, and came across one for some cookies that sounded both good and easy. So I made them last week. My definition of easy is: one bowl, and not much over five ingredients.

This one was something that has been around a while, as I made a notation on the card that when I made the cookies a couple of years ago (obviously not the first try) I reduced the amount of sugar I used. It is reminiscent of those wonderful cookies that have the fork prints on top. You know - where you roll the dough into a ball, and press the tines of a dinner fork on top, in two different directions, making a kind of checker-board effect. It's not really a peanut butter cookie without the 'fork marks'.

The nice thing about this one is that you stir it all up, and spoon in a 9 x 13 inch pan, so there won't be any extended temptation to consume little round balls of unbaked dough. You've already put it all in the pan, patted it out smooth, and stuck it in the oven. Preventing the problem of 'eating a little bite here and there', to the point of having to go lay down while they are baking.

I'll be making this again, and taking them elsewhere to keep from having a whole pan sitting around the house, calling my name.

Peanut Butter Squares

2 cups sugar (I used 1 1/2 this last time - that seems to be plenty)
3 eggs
1/4 cup oleo or butter
Beat together. When well beaten, add:
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat well, turn off mixer, and then stir in
2 cups self-rising flour

Batter will be stiff. Spread in greased 9 x13 inch pan. Dip fingers or spoon into water to smooth dough, spreading evenly into corners. Bake at 300 for 45 minutes into set and golden brown.
Makes approx. 40 squares.
This is not in the original recipe, but: when I made this last week, I melted some 'peanut butter and chocolate chips' with a bit of cream (or milk) and spread over when they cooled. Actually I tried to put them on top of the cookies as soon as I took out of oven, but they would not melt to spread out - I guess the 300 degree oven was not hot enough to soften the chips, so had to pick them off and put in pyrex cup in micro. to melt, then spread over cooled cookies..

busy: while doin' nothin'...

Friday, September 6, 2013
I set the alarm clock for 4:30 a.m. To get my ducks in a row and try to be on the road by 5:00, which nearly happened. I often think when I do this craziness (entirely too frequently) that I wish there was some way to do the 'hard part' first and get it over with. The hard part being the awfulness of driving in Atlanta traffic. It would be so nice to do that part first thing, and get it over with, then spend the next hour of the ninety-minute drive just crusin' along enjoying the oddball news on public radio.

But that's  not the way it works.

I got to Decatur at 7:00, and had gotten so sleep yby the time I stopped at my destination, I went right back to bed. And surprisingly enough, went to sleep. Then my phone rang. But amazingly I went right back to sleep... and the phone rang again. But amazingly I went back to sleep again. So - completely out of character for me: was still snoozin' at nine o'clock!

We've walked the dogs, made some tasty cookies, and done quite a bit of nothin': if standing by holding the door for the nasty process of cleaning out the chicken coops counts as  nothin'. It certainly makes me thankful to not have chickens, though I am sure the people who do have backyard egg production enjoy the benefit of a continual fresh supply. I am not sure that the joy of local 'layers' outweighs the  'ick' factor of coop cleaning.

2nd day of subbing...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Well - it was about what I expected. Only worse. Due mostly to the fact that the 'real' teacher was absent too! The para.pro (me) was a replacement for the replacement they had yesterday - so there were two of them muddling through the day, on the first day of the week after a long holiday weekend. The actual teacher is out with some (hopefully) minor surgery, and then the para. didn't show up on Tuesday either. So the poor guy who took the job, jumped in blindfolded into water 'way over his depth - was struggling for the second day with a back-up who didn't know any more about the classroom and kids than he did. Sadly, the ones who's names you catch onto first are the problematic ones, often sitting close enough to the teacher's desk to be with arm's reach, for frequent reigning in.

Wrangling Monkeys of the first degree. I've learned to expect that part of the job as an 'aide' will be lunch room duty. And that there are schools in town, where you should go ahead and take the double dose of Tylenol before you walk in the door and sign in for the day.Lunchrooms are chaotic, and noisy. Expect that.
But as someone those kids might not ever see again, I can tolerate most of it fairly well. Mostly by repeating the mantra: it's over at 2:45, it's over at 2:45, it's over at 2:45, etc...

Encountered some girls today who were at Girl Scout Day Camp this summer. When they saw me, it was like Long-Lost-BFF: Pizza! Pizza! So I spent the rest of my forty-five minute stint as Enforcer explaining a dozen times that was my 'camp name', chosen because, as we all know: everyone likes pizza. I have no idea what their names were- but obviously I'm someone they won't forget. Just like I told them this summer, when we were learning how to tie square knots... you will always remember, and you will always remember the person who taught you how.

today's assignment...

I was given the assignment of making a dish to take to a friend's house. She was the person who was in the way when a gas grill blew up last week, and was thankfully, remarkably not seriously injured. Even though they have thousand and thousands of dollars in medical bills - partially due to having been air-lifted to the burn center in Atlanta. I know they are counting their blessings that she is ok, and will soon be returning to work.

The small group I attend on Wednesday nights (replacement for our church family not having adult Sunday school) was taking meals out to the family when she returned home last week. My job was to make a vegetable. I'd been 'studying' a corn casserole, and decided (something I do with alarming regularity) that I should try it out on someone else. Scarey? Yep. Sorry.

I didn't actually taste it myself, even though I made the recipe twice, one to take and one to keep at home. The guy who ate it here said it was very good.Which, under different circumstances, would be note-worthy. But we know: he is a guy who will eat practically Any Thing. Especially things that he knows he should not. Like the box of Honey Buns he picked out and bought for himself at wally-world, and the giant, economy sized bag of Hershey Kisses he put in the fridge (they are better cold and crunchy!)

Corn Casserole

1 can creamed corn, plus1 can whole kernel corn, drained: mixed together
3.4 c. milk, plus 1 egg, mixed together
1 small onion, chopped, plus 2 Tbs. butter, saute till tender
12 buttery-type crackers (Ritz-like), crumbled
 seasoning to taste, lemon pepper is good.
Mix all this together, spoon into pam'med casserole dish, bake 350 for 40-50 min.

today might qualify...

... as that notorious 'offer you can't refuse'. I was sitting down reading the newspaper last night, when my phone rang. I had a suspicious feeling it would be the 'sub. finder', looking for replacement teachers for today. And sure enough: the job was for a para.pro. at one of the elementary schools. I declined. And finished reading the sad, sordid, miserable, distressing, home-wrecking, nation-rending, planet-destroying,  sorry news.

Deciding since there was nothing else on my calendar, I later went to the computer to check for some sub. work, and found the same job waiting for me. I moved on, did not accept, puttered about. Went out to water things that were panting, scratch the cat, etc. And my phone rang again - same job. After it popped up on the radar for the third time, with literally hundreds of other teachers on the calling list and No One else took the job, I thought: 'hmmmm, must be just for me.'

So I will spend the day monkey wrangling. I recently talked to a retired teacher, who has signed on to do sub. work (I think she is pretty particular about which schools she will work in). She went to the 'All Must Attend' meeting back in the summer, where you have to re-sign your 'contract' for sub. work each year. And reported that in order to stay on the active/in good standing list, we are required to take two jobs each semester. So at least I will have fulfilled my obligation.

It is a mixed blessing, working as a para. pro. I am pretty much sold on the idea of not being the only one in the classroom with two dozen kids I don't know, who don't know me, and don't think they have to do what I tell them. But it pays about half of what a teacher would get. There is the 'dollars vs. discipline' factor, and it seems like I lean more and more towards the ease of just trying to keep all the chickens in the barnyard rather than feeling slighted over not making more for a days' labor. Plus there is the knowledge that if I had stayed at home, worked in the yard or mopped the floor, it doesn't pay diddly either.

in the strictest sense of the word...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
When the P&C recently celebrated an anniversary, I'd heard mention that the traditional gift to mark the survival of a marriage of five years is silver. So I sent a gift that I thought was pretty neat, and fairly appropriate for the occasion. I don't think she was nearly as amused as I was, though she does get credit for reporting postal delivery/arrival and acknowledgement.

In a random sort of manner, I was kind of pondering anniversaries, and sort of googled up anniversary gifts, just out of curiosity to see what type gift one might expect for a thirty-second anniversary. No: not celebrating a half-minute of wedded bliss, but two years after not having strangled a spouse you have been married to for thirty years. And discovered that the 'traditional' gift, according to one source, is a 'conveyance' (with the word 'vehicle' in parenthesis). This is completely out of character, as I have never in all these years, and all my marriages, ever thought to look to see what type gift would be appropriate for any particular number of years.

I thought that was somewhat interesting, since I have been regularly receiving suggestions that I should want to trade vehicles and get something with less mileage on it. I'm not responding to the suggestion, as I am perfectly happy with what I have, especially the 'paid for' part, even though it has over 150,000 miles on it.
But when I saw that choice for gifting someone on an anniversary, decided I should e-mail the suggestion to the guy who rarely even remembers when he got married.

When I saw him later that day, he asked if I thought I might enjoy having a Little Red Wagon. I nearly fell off my chair laughing. In the strictest sense of the word, it would definitely be a conveyance, even though it is only self-propelled when traveling down hill. Pretty funny....

might'n it be a black hole?

It looked pretty darn black down yonder in that hole to me, so yes, as far as I am concerned it is most definitely a Black Hole. No doubt about that. The thing that has me curious is what could have dug it and what/whom is currently residing there?

I was out there, a couple of days last week, doing the trash detail, ongoing, never-ending picking up of tree limbs and stuff inconsiderate, thoughtless, ill-mannered passers-by toss out the vehicle window. Things like empty plastic water bottles, beer and soda cans, sytro. cups, fast-food wrappers, all manner of plastic. And the ubiquitous plastic shopping bags that probably out-number humans on the planet.  And notice a big, deep hole in the ground. Not like where a stump would decay over time, and leave a hole where the trunk had been. But a hole that looks currently occupied, deeper than I can see into, with the mouth of the space at least as the diameter as a dinner plate. Not just a wee little worm-like space, but really big: like whom-ever is living there had very recently done some renovations, and enlarged their living quarters. Freshly dug dirt scattered around the mouth of the hole, as if the dirt was recently flung up from excavating.

It's located where there was once a big pine tree, so the earth is not the usual brick-like, hard as stone red Georgia clay, but softer as a result of the base of the trunk and decaying roots leaving the earth easier to dig and rearrange. Out in the front of the house, under dense shade of a Japanese Magnolia. But I noticed yesterday, when digging up smilax and whacking back azaleas, it does not look as 'lived in' as it did last week. So maybe the 'disturbance in the galaxy' was me - rooting around out there in the area enough to make the un-invited guest relocate?

It is dug at an angle, so I can't see very far down, and No Way am I going to get down on the ground and do any Serious Looking. It's about the size of what I think a big land tortoise would dig, but not in the type earth or location they prefer. They are more about pine trees, scrubby oaks, and sandy soil. So I don't think credit should be given to native gopher turtles.

And: that's not the only hole. There is another one on the slope behind the house, cleverly hidden in the dense growth of a huge forsythia bush. The plant/bush is enormous, and and excellent disguise for keeping the mouth of the hole obscured. I would not have noticed if I had not been whacking the forsythia, and on the down-side of the slope when I suddenly noticed. And again, located right there where there used to be a big pine tree that we had cut down, and left a stump to decompose. I know that one cannot be due to tortoise: much to difficult for a big, ungainly, slow moving reptile to get into. I am currently wondering if it might be the burrow of a ??????? Do they live underground? Do they tunnel? Do they 'nest'? Could it be a whole colony? Hmmmm....Aliens? Zombies?

super e-z lime pie...

Monday, September 2, 2013
I made a pie to take to the Wednesday night crowd. We gather for community group, generally a video/DVD Bible study, discussion, prayer, socializing. And of course: eating.

I'd told a friend about the 'mom's majik mox' and she shared a recipe for an 'ice box pie'. It can't really date back to the era of iceboxes, since it has whipped topping in it. But it's good and easy, and suitable for people who (should be) watch sugar intake - just sub. sugar free jello and sugar free whipped topping. I can't put this in the majik mox to send to TN - there is a big problem there with the fact of Jello. And would probably result in the same face you'd see when she put tofu in her mouth.

Lime Pie

Mix all this together and spoon into a graham cracker crust (I found some at the Just-A-Buck!)

1 - 3 oz box of Lime jello
1/4 cup boiling water: dissolve jello in hot water, let cool.
2 cartons lime yogurt (it used to be 8 oz, but now all you can find is 6 oz cups), room temp.
1 8 oz bowl thawed, softened, room temp. whipped topping.

Stir the yogurt into whipped topping, gently folding. Stir in room temp. dissolved jello. Spoon in crust. Put in fridge.
No reason you could not use other flavors - lemon or peach would be good, don't you think?
I put mine in the freezer to get firm quicker, but think it is probably better without being icy/crystals.

dirty and may be a bit smelly....

I've been working in the yard, off and on all day. Would get out there and dig, chop, whack, pull, snatch, up-root for a while till I got so hot I'd think' I've had too much fun out here.' So I go in the houseand drink some water. Think cool thoughts, maybe stretch out on the cool tile floor and plot my next move. Then when I thought "I'm ready" - I'd get up, drink more water, put on my gloves and wobble back out.

Sadly, as usual, nothing really shows. I don't seem to have the foresight to take the 'before' photo, so the 'after' really isn't impressive. Only me is the one who knows how hard I worked, and how it looked like before I got started with the digging and lopping. All I can say at this point is you'll have to come before the city trash truck comes by on Thursday morning. To see that big pile of trash I have generated since last Thursday a.m,. that will demonstrate how much smilax I have rooted out, and how many limbs I have picked up and how whacked back the azaleas are.

One of the things I'd been wanting to get done is to cut back dead and broken limbs out of the amazingly prolific blueberry bush. Plus cut down the one that is so miserly it appeared to have died back in the spring. So determined to not be productive, it decided it would rather decease than produce a few small, undernourished blueberries. But when I went out with the loppers, to cut it all down, I discovered several small new sprouts coming up in the general vicinity of the dead bush. Guess I need to reconsider/take back all those disparaging remarks about the bush that was determined it would not be productive, and hope that it will be a bit more generous when the little shoots get big enough to bear.

I know practically nothing about growing  blueberries, but it appears that the original 'mother' plant must die out after sending out runners that put up other stalks to turn into bushes and regenerate? That's what it appears like with the bush I thought was gone. But with half a dozen little ones coming up six to ten inches away from the original - maybe I was too hasty in my critical remarks referencing Failure to Thrive.  Also cut back some invasive runners of honeysuckle that would probably strangle the bushes if left to their own devices. Like anyone who has been raised in the south has heard about risky behavior when you go to sleep with the window open, and kudzu is creeping across the yard....

So that's my report for Labor Day, 2013. Did you know Labor Day was originally intended as a day of respite for Union workers? Me neither, until a read an article in the paper that made me google it up.