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Monday, March 31, 2014
We spent a pile of  money several years ago, doing some renovating and painting with the idea of down-sizing to have less house and much less yard to maintain. I thought at that time we would find a condominium closer into town, and could put this place with a big three-acre-plus lot on the market. It didn't happen, and here we sit. I occasionally get a little blue and discouraged, when I think it will have to be repainted in order to sell, feeling like all that work and expense was for naught.

But suddenly: here we are, thinking about moving. There is a big empty house (sounds crazy, I know - the person who wanted less house and less yard to keep up) in south GA, waiting for someone to give it some attention. So here we go... It will take some doing, to get rid of more of this stuff that mysteriously accumulates. Some little obscure sub-set of Murphy's Law:  your belongings will somehow expand to fill up the amount of space you have to store things in. But we've decided to make some changes, and now that I've seen all my spring bulbs bloom, I'm thinking I can get myself organized and ready to move. Too bad it's April 1st.....     ;-)

pine straw...and salvia give-away program...

Sunday, March 30, 2014
The guys who are paid to tend to the yard have been coming every couple of weeks all winter long. So even though nothing is growing, they come around with their blowers, whizz through and move on to the next location in about twenty minutes, with leaves shooting up straight in the sky in a whirlwind-like frenzy.  Blow-and-go on the driveway and tear off to the next assignment before the leaves even have a chance to settle back to earth.

When they were here about a month ago, they were so enthusiastic with the blowers, all the mulch: some bark, some pine straw, some leaves (that they mostly blew off the parking apron weeks ago) was gone into the next county by the time they left. I know the boss thinks I am crazy, but I wanted those fall leaves to stay there, as insulation for roots in winter, and helping to conserve water in the hot summer  months. So when I called him to say they did 'too good' and all my mulch had been relocated, I told him he needed to bring several bales of pine straw to replace what they caused to vanish.

Those measly three bales have been sitting out in the bed for a week, waiting for me to sprinkle around my plants. I told him to just leave it for me to do, as I knew his  help would stomp all over everything I wanted to grow, bloom and spread. If they nearly uprooted bulb plants with the powerful blowers, I knew I did not want them in by flower bed again.  I have been out there spreading out pine straw, and discover that three bales is not nearly enough.  So I will have to go in my non-truck and get a couple more bales to finish the job.

But first I want to dig up a dozen or more volunteer salvia plants. If you are interested in having some butterfly-attracting, hummingbird-loving, red-blooming, pineapple-smelling salvia plants, let me know? They don't bloom until late in the summer, and usually get about four feet tall before then. Very easy to grow (a euphemism for so 'hardy' they can be invasive if you are not careful about where you plant them.) I just cut them back to a stump recently, and though they have looked dead since the first fall frost, they are already greening up. Please want some...

workin'....too much...

When I looked at the posted schedule, it was not a surprise to find me on it more than usual. I knew my cohort/coworker was planning to take some of his vaca. days and go to north GA to visit family. So I expected to be 'plan B' while he is away. But I am so very unaccustomed to going in on a regular basis, that having to get up and dressed, to be prompt has already become tedious. I know this sounds like a complaint, possible whining to all the folk who make their way in the world on a daily basis. But I am definitely not complaining. I know there are multiple reasons for thankfulness in this: health, ability to go, job to do, dependable transportation, good work environment, to say nothing of getting paid to be there, doing what I am trained to do.

It's just unusual for me. Two days of employment per week have been the routine for some time, so having to go in six days in a row is not my usual.  Plus, as I looked at my schedule, I discovered I was expected to be there on those days at 6:00 a.m. Which seems excessive. The usual time is 7:00, or possibly 8:00, and occasionally 9:00.I think you will agree that the idea of having to get up early enough to get dressed, combed, fed, shod, to arrive at work by 6:00 sounds extreme? I was able to negotiate a change for today, so I can go to early church service, and get to work by 11:00.

But Monday and Tuesday are back to that crazy number, still dark out there in the world, 6:00 a.m. I know I will be glad of the extra pay when it comes, but honestly- could I not do that same job at a civilized hour?  I am capable of being a good sport, and making the best of it, and know that lots of people who work there are expected to be ready to start their jobs at 4:00 or 5:00 each morning. That's just not Me!

re-peat performance...

Friday, March 28, 2014
I was so completely intrigued by the story behind the 'Monuments Men' movie, I needed to go see it again before they take it off the screens. I went again last night, and probably enjoyed it even more than the first time when I went right after it was released back in January.

I sort of knew the story, from an article published in the Smithsonian magazine a couple of years ago, based on the book of the same name. And still so fascinated by the story, I've just requested the book from the library. It apparently intrigued some other people as well, as I am number 5 in line.

Even if you don't have an interest in fine art or any desire to see famous religious sculpture that has survived for hundreds of years in churches and museums in Europe, it is a compelling story. I don't think it possible too fully understand or appreciate what these men did to preserve the culture of the
European civilization. It's amazing to consider how much these men were able to find and preserve: great works of art stolen by the Germans. Consficated from churches, museums, private collections and individuals. And scary to realize that if they had not been willing to devote themselves to tracking down these paintings and pieces of sculpture, we would only know of these priceless, irreplaceable works from the photos we could view in books.

It's truly a fascinating story, and even more so because it is true. I suspect that much of the information was classified by the military for fifty years following the end of the war, and has only come to light in recent years. There are probably lots of other things the government has kept from us over the years we would be astounded to know - most of which they think they have to keep silent about to 'protect' us.

it's funny ...now...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
I was driving back to Columbus from Decatur Sunday morning, leaving there about 6 a.m., when (thank you, Congress: for daylight savings time) it was still pitch black dark. Expecting to get back to town and go to early church at 9:00, before having to be at work at 11:00. And knew I would have to stop for gas.

Planning to go to a little curb store  north of I-85 and I-185 split, where the price is usually better than any other along that route. But when I got to that interchange: everything was completely dark. No signage lit. No traffic lights lit. No street lights lit. No nothing. With no electricity - there would be no pumping gas. And doubtful I had enough to get another fifty miles down the road to Columbus. Time for a little @#$%, but also decision-making.

Do I take a chance? Do I have any options? Do I hope to get back to town on fumes? Will this little Toyo. make it on the electric batteries if I run out of gas? Hope I can walk fast enough to get to work on time, even if it leaves me stranded?

Is there a station open this early at the next exit on I-185? Is there a station, period, at the next exit?
Should I go on down I-85 towards LaGrange? How far is LaGrange? Which of the two is closer/ lesser of the evils? All this running through my head in about twenty seconds, as the exit is fast approaching: point of  no return/decision time.

Decided there is going to be more traffic/vehicles traveling on I-85 towards Montgomery, on the road to LaGrange at that time of day on a Sunday morning. So if I did get stuck/stranded, more likely to find a ride/help for the stuck-ness. But as it turned out - the next exit was only a couple of miles past that fork in the road. So I got off, bought $5.03, about a gallon and a half. Tragically overpriced, but thankful to find it!  Plenty much to get me on to Columbus in a car that gets forty-plus m.p.g., and on towards town, where I immediately went and filled my tank.

Thankful for safe travels, a dependable vehicle, resources to purchase fuel.

it was amazin'....

...and much more successful than the trip we made a couple of weeks ago, when the gates were locked. (Closed on Monday.) We could not get in to see the gazillion daffodils and ended up making a stroll around Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield National Park, as a poor second choice. Interesting enough, especially for someone interested in military history, but not at all what I had planned for the day.

So we went back to try again to get in the gate at Gibbs Gardens. I've been listening to Georgia Public Radio when driving, and heard a little blurb for Gibbs, as a sponsor of some of the radio programming. Reporting that the Gardens have two million daffodils in bloom. I don't doubt it one bit. It was gorgeous. Even seeing is hard to believe. My eyes were filled. I might try to make a comparison, but until you see literally acres of daffodils in their blooming glory, you really can't fully comprehend. It was better than I had expected.

The day was bright and sunny, but windy, so a bit chilly: the breeze had the thousands of bright yellow blooms bobbing their heads. Some solid yellow, some a pale yellow, nearly cream color, with darker orange 'cup' sitting on the pale saucer. Some with blooms nearly as large as the palm of my hand. Some with blooms smaller than my thumb. But all together: (the most over-used word in the English language) Awe-and-then-some.

And beds filled with hellebore: a little plant that pops up in the early spring with various colors of bell shaped blooms. And some huge forsythia bushes, covered in hundreds of wee little bright sunshine-y flowers, looking like a huge swarm of tiny yellow butterflies. Plus great swaths of pansies in a wide array of colors, being consistently maintained/carefully dead-headed by grounds crew to keep them constantly blooming ofr the paying public.

Unlike the more local Callaway Gardens, there is apparently no option for a one-day/one time visit: you can buy an annual pass or wait in the parking lot. I bought two of the annual passes last April, and have definitely gotten my money's worth, with this being the third time we've been since the first trip nearly a year ago. Reminding me of a family trip to Chattanooga, probably twenty years ago, when the Aquarium there first opened. Standing in an interminable line, we were told a 'family pass' would get us in the door much quicker. As opposed to waiting, inching along to get to the window and purchase individual tickets. Which meant we had to return again, within a year, to feel like we had gotten full value/bang for our bucks.

anxiety inducing....

If you read the story about making strawberry jam, and were amused, amazed and astounded at how much anxiety I had over the whole process - this is a 're-play', but without the sticky floor. I have told a couple of people the jam story, remarking on how surprised I was that it was so difficult for me to get started. How much time I managed to devote to avoidance techniques: pretty impressive number of things I could find to occupy my time instead of getting the project done.

I was at work Tuesday morning, doing my little thing: making salads. If I make all the salads it takes to be 'in business', all of the varieties and the quantities necessary to start the day, it takes 2 1/2 to three hours. Then another couple to make fresh fruit yogurt parfaits, including prepping of fruit: lots of strawberries involved in this too. So around five hours, plus time to clean up afterward.

While this was going on, I had to stop several times to help customers in the floral dept. One being a woman who came in and wanted to place an order for a funeral offering. Her dad had died and she wanted a 'blanket' to go on his casket. I quoted  her an outrageous price, that, as it turned out, was pretty much in line with what the funeral homeworker told her it would cost. So she asked about a spray, which is one of those large, flat, oval designs on the wire stand you see at a service or standing around a grave site. She ordered, without even knowing the price. And I took the order without even knowing if we had the necessary items to fill it. Which, as it turns out, we didn't.

So I called another florist, sent a manger to pick up the flower holder (a plastic box-like affair that has a block of wet oasis inserted for fresh flowers) and the wire three-legged easel. Then did everything I could to avoid making the spray. Ran out of piddling tasks and finally had to 'cowboy up' and put it together. It's been perhaps ten years since I have done this - so it was a very anxious time while I was deciding what to do and than how to go about doing it.

 It took several calls to my co-worker for moral support and advice, but it really turned out well. The customer was pleased, and I am expect pleased with the price. The store manager saw it when someone helped her to her van, and commented on how nice it looked - so all the people who 'count' found it acceptable.  I was pretty impressed with myself!

new to me...

Monday, March 24, 2014
I've been receiving emails with lots of 'opportunties' to volunteer in the community, through the Master Gardening group. Some of the offers come from our County Agents' office. She is the one who sponsors the MG program, and is, I guess, ultimately responsible for our good behavior. Meaning she gets the blame if things go wrong, and might, possibly, remotely receive the credit for all the good the group does in support of community programs. J.D. is also the person who provides the training for MG wannabes, year after year, helping to provide the basic education classes (based on UGA Dept. of Ag. research) for hundreds of locals, from varied backgrounds, with a common interest.

A recent opportunity to do some work (which amounted to someone hoping for free labor in exchange for providing training/experience - plus countable volunteer hours in community service) was to help stabilize a stream in Phenix City. I assume it feeds into the Chattahoochee River watershed if not directly into the river. I believe the opportunity was tendered by the county agent in Russell County, which borders Muscogee County just across the state line. They were looking for help to 'install live stakes' in the drainage area of the creek. At first, I thought that was a typo too! Then thought: why would anyone want to add more live snakes into the creek???

As it turns out, new to me: "Live stakes are dormant hardwood cuttings that are driven into the stream bed where they intercept stream base flow and eventually produce roots, shoots and leaves. This is an inexpensive and easy method to install stream vegetation." Makes sense I guess. And if only half the cuttings that are 'installed' survive to turn into growing saplings and eventually trees, I can see how they would be beneficial for any number of reasons: preventing erosion, maintaining creek banks, slowing flow during rains, etc. But calling the process 'installing' sounds really odd, don't you think?

There were some students from Auburn Univ. who had signed on to help with the project. And I assume the county agent across the river was looking for some additional manpower from GA Master Gardening volunteers. I think this 'installation' occurred last Saturday, when my day was so full there was no way I could squeeze in time to go wading in the creek....

Saturday afternoon...

Sunday, March 23, 2014
I drove up to Decatur on Sat. to go along when cousin F. was planning to take the Auntie around to look at housing options as she considers relocating from Valdosta to metro area. Auntie is the sister of F.'s mom, and mine as well. The last living of four siblings, and last of that generation as well. All my other aunts and uncles of both parents are gone, with just the one Auntie left.

I wanted to go along and see the places they would look at, try to get a feel for what the auntie was looking for. I don't think she will find anything she likes as well as the little place where she lives in south Georgia. And certainly nothing with the space she has there, for what she wants to pay. Which demonstrates the difference in what the real estate markets are like in metro vs south GA, where land is cheaper, not as densely populated.

By the time I got up there, early afternoon, they had been doing some driving around and looking at a few things in the zip code where my cousin lives. I'm really concerned when I think about the auntie getting out in that traffic, as she does not seem to be able to get from south GA. to the cousin's house under her own steam. Gets confused with following directions, and calls from some parking lot needing to be rescued. I can't believe she would ever be able to navigate around in that town well enough to get to the places she wants to go. She seems to be so easily confused, anxious and often easily distracted, the idea of her getting lost in metro Atlanta is scary, as well as likely.

I went along, sitting in the backseat hoping I would be able to keep my mouth shut. Which did not happen, like I should have. They went out to look at a few more houses. And at one they had agreed with the owner to meet at 5:00 so they could see the inside. It was small, probably about one-third smaller than what she has now. But ample room, and well maintained. The woman who is selling is retiring and wants to relocate to south AL.I think a really good price for the location and size.  I suspect that the auntie will have difficulty with making a decision, and this one will soon be off the market. I am pretty sure she is not ready to make a commitment, and jump into a major change at this point, so think this may be a long, laborious process.

It seemed like every thing they stopped and looked at was unsuitable. Too big, or too small. Or too much lot, or not enough yard. Reminiscent of Goldilocks....

certificate of accomplishment...

Even though I did not stay for the whole time, that amusing guy with the Marshal's office gave me a certificate. I didn't even look at it to see what it says I am 'certified' for. I was doing pretty good. Getting the shots remarkably close (impressing both myself and the instructor!) to the center of the target. I think there were a couple of 'drop-outs' and that all the people who had attended the classroom part of the training were not at the range on Saturday.

I was late getting there: due to a) having locked my keys in the house, and waiting for the man with the key to come and let me in the door, plus b) a ridiculous detour on the road to the range. They could have told us the road has been under construction for months, but noooo - they thought it would be amusing to aggravate the living #$&* out of everyone who had to go around by both elbows to get there. It would not have been nearly as annoying if I had not been running late already: Murphys' Law, right?

I got started and was doing pretty good, we practiced on targets at close range for about an hour. Took a break, and went back for more. I suddenly started having pain in my wrist. The one I had a problem with many years ago, and was diagnosed as arthritis. So knew I needed to stop and not keep doing stuff that would aggravate it. I told the instructor I needed to quit.

I'm still surprised by my gun ownership. I have moments that I will feel anxious about it, sort of ambivalent, uneasy with the idea of having that tool that could do such terrible damage to a body. But will then think: you need to be able to defend yourself. Especially following that burgling event back in the fall. As our society changes, and more and more people seem to be so indifferent to the laws of the land, and willing to live outside the law, I think we all need to be prepared to protect ourselves and possessions we want to keep.

short arms....

Saturday, March 22, 2014
The hour spent with the shooting instructor at the public safety range was very beneficial. Mostly due to his level of patience with teaching people who have never even held a handgun what to do to actually hit the target. He said he has been doing this for thirty years, so it is understandable that he could make it look effortless. He said gun safety and practice is the first thing they work with on new recruits, and if they cannot be successful in that area, they are washed out. Before they ever get started on the actual training, and process of education it takes to become a part of the public safety program here in Columbus.

I know part of my difficulty is the lack of familiarity with the weapon, but it is very stressful to me. And certainly not the most minor part is the noise it makes. You probably have to have a gazillion shots behind you before you don't 'anticipate'/flinch waiting for the 'bang'. I can't begin to guess at how many shots over how many years it takes to have the confidence that the bullet will consistently land on your target. Imagine how long it takes someone who is truly competition level, like people in the Olympics to get to that skill level.

And then there is the inevitable recoil, so if you are trying to brace for that, you won't hit the bulls eye, much less target. There are lots of things to remember to make the process go smoothly and have a 'successful' shot - meaning it goes where you intend. I guess that is where the principle of 'muscle memory' comes in to play, and the idea is more ingrained, instead of requiring so much focus every single time?

I am going to meet my 'class' and the instructors from the Marshal's Office at their range this morning I am sure some of them have a lot of experience and will be much more practiced. But with my time yesterday at the public safety range, with a guy who was calm, peaceful, cautious, understanding, I feel much more capable and confident. Plus there were not a dozen other people out there on the line making so much noise and activity I could not focus on what he was telling me. I had a very good instructor - which explains why he has been doing it for ever.

It occurs to me that I do not actually have to stay there the entire time, so I can thank them, and depart at my convenience. Just like in recent years I have realized I do not have to finish reading a book I am not enjoying - there will be no 'test, no one giving me a grade on comprehension. So I am not required to complete an assignment for a score by reading a book that does not maintain my attention. Same is true here: I can tell them how educational it has been and then say 'Good-by'.

firearms with training wheels...

Friday, March 21, 2014
All those other people in the Firearms Safety Class seemed to be much more knowledgeable, as well as better informed, about their weapons. So I thought I might need to do some remedial work. And called the guy who does the training with public safety. Hoping I could make a date/meet with him at the city range before my class meets again on Saturday. I told him I don't mind looking like an idiot with him, but was reluctant to look a fool in front of that dozen or more group that will show up in the morning to practice shooting.

I'm supposed to meet him down at the city range this afternoon. I just don't feel comfortable with this. And know that I should at least know the loading process, if I am going to be a gun owner, and how to use it if the need occurs.  One of the people in the class, when we were talking about taking handguns apart to clean said you can find this sort of thing on YouTube, so if you get home, and get out your little kit and can't figure out where to start: start with googling it up. I have not done that, and don't even have  kit I should have bought at wallyworld, but will quit this and go there - before I have to meet down at the range....

moving wall...

The Vietnam Wall that has been traveling all over the country has found a home: here in Columbus, GA adjacent to the Infantry Museum. It was dedicated this morning, with appropriate pomp and circumstance. There was a graduation of four newly Infantry platoons, on the parade ground immediately behind the museum. Then all the new soldiers, moms, dads, lots of Vietnam Vets and assorted on-lookers and passers-by were invited to move from the parade grounds to the newly installed moving wall.

It will be in Columbus for at least five years, though an agreement between the museum and the Dignity Corp., that had the Wall built and has been trucking it around the country for the past twenty years. The Dignity people are, you might not know, part of a huge chain of funeral  homes and cemeteries. The Speaker for the dedication of the Wall was a man who is a Medal of Honor recipient, twenty year veteran of the Army, currently an instructor at West Point Military Academy.  Col. Jack Jacobs, retired. He was a delight to listen to as he has had a remarkable life, both in his military career and in the years since he separated from the Army. The general who introduced the colonel said he loves to walk down the hallway when this man is teaching and here the laughter as well as questions/conversations he brings out in the students in his classes.

I think the Army tries to plan graduations of newly minted Infantry to coincide with other events that bring people to the museum. Thereby benefiting both the visitors to the Infantry Center Museum who have an opportunity to see these young men who are the future of our all volunteer Army - and the new soldiers and parents/family members who are there in support of their off-spring at the graduation from basic training. There was a really good crowd in attendance. Cant' say how many were family members, coming to see these young men 'turn blue' when they get their .Infantry pins, and how many were there just for the dedication of the wall. But I'm glad I went: you know how sappy I can get when the Army Band starts on those John Phillip Sousa marches...

looking back...

I recently read a little article that I wish I had known about twenty years ago. And wish my parents had been privy to when I was a disgruntled, disagreeable, confused, acting-out adolescent. It's something every parent of a hormonal teen - especially females - needs to take to heart. Since you really can't lock them up, or give them away from the ages of twelve to twenty-one, it is good advice that would serve those attempting to raise up the next generation of civilized adults should consider.

It was a story about a man who had daughters who was just beginning to get to the age of fascination with boys. The Dad reported that he and his wife had laid out ground rules for dating early on as the girls matured from children into adolescents, getting to the point of building relationships with the opposite sex. The first rule is no dating until the daughters were sixteen. The second is that the Dad would expect to meet any young man who wanted to take his daughters on a date.

So this young man and a sixteen year old daughter make plans, and the guy comes up to the door to pick her up. Her dad reminded her that he would like to have an opportunity to meet and talk with the 'prospect'. Dad invites him in and they sit down together, with the young man obviously very anxious and ill-at-ease. He is understandably perplexed by having to sit with this man he does not know (and probably does not want to know, thinking the sooner I can get away from here the better!)

Dad asks: "If a stranger came to your door and asked to borrow your car for an evening, would you give him the keys?" The young man, looking startled responds that could not happen. The Dad then explains that he loves his daughters and feels that this young woman is far more valuable than a piece of machinery, regardless of he cost of the vehicle. Saying: "I don't know you, or anything about you, and you are asking me to let you walk out of my house with the most precious thing in my life. Before I allow her to leave, I want to know more about you... what you believe, your intentions and your character".

And sadly: what sixteen year old guy has ever thought about the future in terms of what he wants out of life, where he plans to go, direction in life? So I guess this explains why parents will ask about family: you know, those 'what does your daddy do?' and 'where do you live/work/go to school? 'inquiries. Questions to try to know at least a little bit about this guy who is walking away with their most valuable of valuables.

getting to that 'point'...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
It's pretty funny the things we can find to do in order to avoid an onerous task. In addition to the usual foot dragging, I washed a load of clothing, talked to the cat, swept the floor, rooted around in the pantry, wrote/responded to lots of emails, wrote several postcards.Then finally, when it got down to 'fish or cut bait', and there was nothing else I could think of to avoid the inevitable:  made the strawberry jam.

Whereupon I have made a couple of interesting discoveries. Trivial, but worth noting for future ref. That plastic clamshell/box that is supposed to weigh a pound filled with strawberries, will, when you cut off the caps, mash them up, and measure, make just over one cup. If the recipe calls for six cups, you had better plan on getting six boxes. Which I did not. But had some pureed berries in the freezer I'd put in the blender, then poured in muffin tin to freeze a couple of weeks ago. So even though the instructions say to use a potato masher to moosh them up, so there are chunks instead of putting them in a food processor, I added some of the stuff from the freezer to make the full six cups. The recipe indicates that if you use the recommended amounts of berries and (huge, horrifying quantity of white, refined, granulated) sugar, you should get eight cups of jam.

Then there is the info. gleaned from the instructions that came in the box of sure-jel: if you are using whole fruit,, mooshed up so there are little bits and pieces, the end product is jam. If you are using juice -either bought in a bottle at the farm/store, or strained (with too much effort involved) from whole fruit, the stuff you will be spreading on your toast and biscuits is going to be pretty much transparent, and is jelly.

Another bit of trivia you would want to know if you ever took complete leave of your senses and thought it would be a good idea to make jam - is that it is going to be very helpful to have another set of hands on hand. To help with the dipping and stirring and especially another mouth to stand by and offer moral support when you get anxious about 'am I doing this right?' and stressed over mixing things together (another point of no return) and if you've let it bubble long enough, etc., etc....There is one little jar that when I turned them up-side-down to encourage them to seal properly, where I saw a clump of sugar, on the bottom in the jar, that would not be there if there had been just one more hand available, stirring it in the berry concoction while I was pouring.

I optimistically washed ten little half-pint jars from the box of a dozen I bought at Wally world last week. And had them all ready to put the jam in when I'd measured, stirred, cooked, bubbled, timed, misc. hand-wringing, major anxiety, and found that it did actually fill up all ten.  I am pretty sure I could have bought ten quarts - not halfpints, or even pints- of strawberry jam, for what I have invested in this project. To say nothing of the stress I put myself through getting it done...

about the next gen....

Some interesting quotes I recently read about families, children, connections....

"In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings." ~ Ann Landers

"The work will wait while you show your child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you do the work." ~ Patricia Clafford

"Who among us is mature enough for offspring before the offspring themselves arrive? The value of marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults." ~ Peter de Vries

locating the' point' of no return...

I know what happens when you go down a street, and turn off onto one that has a sign posted: dead end. I know what happens when you go off in the woods, and are not fully prepared with all the tools, resources you need to get safely back to the starting point. I know what happens when you get up in the morning, and you have not sufficiently prepared before going to bed: find that you are out of cat food or toilet paper or milk. These three items being the absolute necessities at this house. The Rule of Going To Bed: You Never put on your pajamas without knowing there are adequate supplies for getting up. Meaning you do not want to wake up in a house with no toilet paper (no explanation needed here), or a place with noisy cats and nothing to feed them, or kids who need nourishment and find there is a quarter-inch of milk left in the jug.

I've been pondering the possibility of making strawberry jam for a couple of weeks, and incrementally getting serious about the idea. To the point of having bought some jars (after giving dozens away to people in TN), and even purchasing a box of Sure-jel to see how complicated it might be to actually go through with the project. But think that buying the berries is probably the 'point of no return'. Though I talked with a customer yesterday who said she just washes them, cuts in half and puts on a pan in the freezer to bag up when they are solidified. I guess I could do that if I get too anxious about undertaking the idea that I have been 'toying' with for two weeks.

I seem to be having a hard time making the commitment: saving the receipts for everything I have bought thus far, thinking if I can't get up my nerve to 'just do it', I can take all those components back for a refund. What is so complicated about making strawberry jam? I can't say, but I am really having a hard time moving ahead here. I think part of it is a 'going out on a limb' feeling, which is strange, as I have done it before - though it has been probably twenty five years, so maybe it's like getting back on a bicycle? If it doesn't turn into jelly, we could always have 'strawberry soup'....

trying to be thrifty...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
with my person: saving bone mass. I'm still in a quandary, not yet decided about what to do. The idea of putting some chemical in my system (no matter how much research has been done, and testing submitted to the FDA to document safety) is thoroughly off-putting. I cannot quite get comfortable with the idea of having some substance inserted through a needle that is supposed to protect bones from calcium loss for year. What if it produces some side-effects that I can't tolerate? How do I back up? Get it removed?

I have wondered, and pondered, and stewed over this for so long, that I have talked myself out of having this 'procedure' done. But now: what to do about my rattling, declining, fragile bones. I've mentioned grandmothers with obvious problems due to advanced age coupled with lack of knowledge about preserving bone health. I know I need to be doing more than just taking the cal + D, drinking milk, eating yogurt. And seeing what sort of problems grandmothers had in their latter years makes me even more aware of the necessity for a concerted effort to actively preserve what is decreasing in volume, protect what I have.

I've had conversation with staff as well as dr. about this, and the recommendation is to take an oral medication. That's a convoluted story: two trips to the dr. office, script reportedly faxed three times, three trips to the drug store, and no Rx yet. Conversation today with the pharmacist - who says the Rx is written for something she has never heard of and has no listing for in the resources available to the pharmacy chain.

Waiting on a call back from the dr. office... to be continued...Don't want fluffy bones, or have them turn into dust bunnies when I am still needing to use them, but can't figure out what to do to keep them strong???

armed and dangerous...

Monday, March 17, 2014
... but probably more dangerous to myself than anyone else. I have a handgun, the only thing of value in the house following the burgling last fall - they did not know about it, or it would have been taken  with the other two ancient handguns the piss-ants got. I thought I wanted one, and requested a couple of years ago. TP could not get to the pawn shop fast enough, meeting the guy who does the training for Columbus Police Department. Who gave advice and suggested the best one for him to purchase. Which he did, and I have had in the closet since, a bit un-nerved and fearful of that 'scary thing' I thought I wanted.

I signed up to go to a Firearms Safety class the Muscogee County Marshal's office teaches several times a year. The first meeting was tonight. I'd emailed the Captain who was the contact person asking if we were supposed to bring guns, and got a negative response. Wrong. Every other person in the class had their guns, except me. So I had to practice with the instructor's HK, so heavy I could barely hold it up with both hands.

Plus I got there about 35 minutes late, due to - can't believe this is happening in Columbus - traffic. I tried to go downtown on the north bypass, and traffic was completely stalled, for miles. I finally got to an exit, backtracked, and got down to the Government Center a good half-hour after they had started. Without my weapon. The guy who was teaching tonight is apparently the instructor for the Marshal's office, who said his name was 'Puddin'. Went through a series of power point slides about basic hand construction, then went around the room and talked each person through dismantling their particular weapon.

There will be another class tomorrow night. I know to leave home much earlier, to allow for traffic snarls. I have been surprised several times recently (often enough that it should not be surprising any more) by how bad traffic is getting out on our end of the county in the late afternoons. We've always been so 'rural' I've never thought of us as living in the city - but residential areas have built up so much out here, on the east end, there are hundreds and hundreds of people heading into and out of retail, commercial, business areas every day.

And Saturday, we will be going to the range to shoot. I am sort of anxious about this, but know that the only way to become more comfortable with this 'scary thing' is to handle it, use it, learn how to operate in  safe manner, be respectful, but practice, practice, practice. Which means buying more ammo. A friend recently showed me a handgun she bought that has a laser on it to help you be certain that you hit what you are aiming for - and that sounds like a good thing. If you are going to shoot it, you'd certainly want to have it hit whatever you were trying to make a hole in.

you will ...

...probably think I am completely off my rocker. Which is highly likely, but not for this particular reason. I told TP last night that I believe there are things in this world that mortals cannot explain. Events that occur, items that vanish for no apparent reason. There are always things that are happening, that we cannot apply logic to - no explaining why...

Not specifically airliners with over two hundred people aboard, as I believe it will eventually be found. But I am pretty susceptible to believing in things of a supernatural nature. I don't know if it is due to my brother 'forcing' me to watch weird TV shows as a kid. Things that were scripted and filmed to creep viewers out. Like the Twilight Zone. From the demented mind of Rod Serling. That show could probably still make the hair stand up on the back of my neck, even though they might appear archaic today, give the impression of completely lame, with nerdy special effects, if we were to be watching them again after all this time..

I read a library book years ago, surely science fiction (which is pretty unlikely as a topic of interest for me), about some people that were out west, walking through a farm gate into a pasture, and discover that gate was an opening to another dimension. Which makes me think about that David Bowie movie about people who are here, right alongside us, sitting, eating, drinking, driving, sleeping, that we can't see because they are in another dimension. I think it was 'The Man Who Fell to Earth"? Not saying that I really believe they are here among us - but can you think it's possible?

You know there area things that disappear out there in the Bermuda Triangle, right? And people who vanished in the farthest reaches of the Amazon rain forest? (Though some think they were put in the stew pot and consumed.) And people who went to climb mountains, started up and never came down?  And children who vanish, seemingly in plain sight one minute, then never seen again? Along with little inconsequential things like missing car keys that never, ever turn up, even when you (Murphy's Law) go to the trouble and expense of getting replacements? 

Is there a junk drawer (like everyone has in their kitchen) somewhere out there in the farthest reaches of the universe, big enough to hold all the things - large and small, people, B-52's, tall ships from another century, car keys, wallets that simply disappear?

a different 1%...

... not that same 1% that is reported in the media as being the ones who hold most of the wealth of the nation. While the others are slogging along, trying to decide whether to buy a box of breakfast cereal or bag of kibble for the family pet (or maybe to put the pets out along the road to become a public nuisance/problem?) This particular One Percent refers to those people who are fairly well educated, mostly productive members of society who cannot 'do' math.

That would be me. Still occasionally struggling with that admission of being Math Impaired.  Mostly able to be reconciled to the fact that God gives everyone different gifts, and I was apparently behind the door when the math skills were being distributed. Though there are things that I feel pretty capable and confident about, no where in there is anything related to numerical ability.

I got up early this morning, partially due to being so tired I went to bed too early. And partially due to the cat who has changed her designation from 'outside' to 'on the bed'. Needing to look at my check book and bank statement: while Not wanting to look at my check book and bank statement. I would not attempt this project late in the day, when I am tired and my brain is fuzzy - a job best saved for early morning when it is as sharp as it's gonna get. I had written a couple that had got mis-numbered in my register, and not properly noted, so there was some concern about 'what's going on here?' Yes. I know. I could be doing all that on-line, but I don't. Just accept that.

I was pleasantly surprised to have everything come out even. Something that rarely happens without a great deal of aggravation,  occasional @#$%, gnashing of teeth, erasing, juggling, fudging, re-arranging, and what could probably be labeled as blatant dishonesty: except for the fact that I am doing it to myself. So if it happened that I was re-arranging the numbers in my own register for my convenience and/or peace of mind - who's to know, or care?  Not to be bragging precisely, or patting myself on the back, but admittedly pretty impressed with the fact that the register and statement reconciled on (nearly) the first try. Honestly- if you knew how much I struggle with this, You would be calling to say: Way to Go!

I was prepared to devote several hours to this aggravating once a month effort, and now that it has resolved in record time, I don't know what to do with myself...

most of my reading...

Sunday, March 16, 2014
Most of the books I read come from the library, and are something that I generally pick up at random, looking interesting when I am perusing the stacks. But I will occasionally request a particular book that someone recommends, or I have read a review of that sounds like it would be enjoyable. One I recently requested from the holdings at the library was something I'd read a review of and thought it might be worth reading. I've mentioned it to several people, and recommended it to a couple of folks who are attorneys - since that is basically what the story revolved around.

"The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln" starts with the idea that the assassination we all know about was only an attempt, with the president only being injured by John Wilkes Booth, in what we now know was un-survivable. So you have to sort of suspend your factual knowledge to get interested in the story. I had a hard time early on, it did not capture my attention. I'm to the place in life that I know I don't have to finish something that is not interesting, as there will be no 'test' or book reporting requirement for a grade, so if it does not compel me to turn the pages, I have no hesitation about returning it unread. But that interview with the author, a professor at Yale, made it sound so intriguing, I stuck with it, and just finished over the weekend.

The main character is a young, well -educated and very smart black woman who has found a job as a clerk for a law firm in Washington City. She finds the people she is working for are the men who will defend the president when Congress decides that he overstepped his authority in his effort to win the war. Women have few rights, Black people have even less, and this woman struggles to find her place in a white man's world. Lincoln's wife is dead, an event that might have been suicide.  Two sons are dead. Lincoln is beleaguered by many in Congress, various presidential wanna-bes all hoping he will be unseated, and they can apply for his job. He is beset by a secret society of Radicals who want to see him removed as head of state. Recommended reading.

This is worth repeating/quoting, as the main character, Abigail, is speaking to Mr. Lincoln:
"Men think of great ideas first, and of friends and family after. With respect, Mr. President, you yourself voiced that very sentiment just moments ago, when you said you could not leave this office, no matter what tragedies struck your family, because your work is unfinished. It is the nature of men, sir, especially great men, to see themselves as indispensable. Whereas it is the nature of women to see their friends and families as indispensable. You were a man, relying on other men for advice, and so you overlooked the possibility that my sister's love for Rebecca might be greater than the love for her own duty..."  Not particularly germane to the overall plot, but just something that struck me as possibly being a great tru-ism, one of the profound differences between males and females, how we interact and build relationships.


...miles in the pouring rain this morning to get back to Columbus and go to work.  Stopped in Union City just south of Atl. to get some caffeine, and got back to town about 9:30. Stopped at the BK for a biscuit that was not at all what I ordered. I requested a butter biscuit with strawberry jam. And got one with no butter and grape jelly. But by the time I discovered they gave me what they wanted me to have,  instead of what I had asked for, I was sitting in front of Publix. Preparing myself to spend the day in wet shoes and socks when I walked across the parking lot that was like a big wide stream with water running full force towards the street.

It looks like it has finally quit raining, and I know to be thankful that it was rain instead of snow, ice or sleet creating terrible road conditions like people in the northeast are dealing with. And I suspect that when the sun comes out after all this drenching rain, we will really begin to see things starting to green up, looking spring-y.

after the tea party...

Saturday, March 15, 2014
P. had planned to stop by some of the locations where little girls were peddling the seasonal delight: Girl Scout Cookies! She had some latex balloons, printed with Girl Scout logo, and stopped at a Publix to get them filled. To go to a couple of the places she knew troops would be holding booth sales to raise funds for fun stuff. At a grocery store, and an Ace Hardware store, where the little girls had set them selves up to accost customers to purchase their highly desirable, long awaited products.

The little girls were delighted to see the helium balloons, and answer her questions about what they were planning to do with the profits from their cookie sales. Some interesting and well considered responses: ranging from plans to attend summer sleep-over camp to donating part of their money to the local food bank to help provide meals for those in the community who have needs. Others were going to donate to the local animal shelter, and have a fun trip to Dollywood.

Interesting that they were considering the 'big picture' and willing to get out there and put the effort into cookie sales, to use the profit to do more than amuse themselves. Seeing the bigger picture... wanting to make a difference, have an impact on their community and world. Girls even at that young age, being aware, and caring enough to want to share and show their ability to see the needs of others.  Possibly with a bit of discreet advice and guidance from their leaders, but how else do young people learn to care?

ladies tea....

P. told me when we talked, long before this weekend, that we would go downtown to a little tea room she knew about and do 'tea and crumpets'. What is a crumpet anyway? I can't say...other than to know that it is something that requires one to hold a pinky finger aloft when consuming...

When she told a neighbor about our plans, and asked if she, being a hot tea lover, wanted to come along. The neighbor, C, recommended a different tea room, on the east side of town, down towards Ringgold, even more frou-frou than the one in the downtown area.  So we collected C,  across the street, at around 10:30 this morning, and headed out for the Beyond The Garden Gate. Located in the old courthouse in Ooltewah. Nicely repurposed as a cute little venue, with a chapel upstairs available for rentals.

Oh, my gosh, at the frou-frou. Beaded lampshades, feather boas and vintage hats available for party-ers to wear: cabbage roses on the walls, floors, tablecloths, in vases on every mantel-piece. Four rooms downstairs available for parties, plus the upstairs space for weddings, private events. We were the first people there, but there were several other groups that came in before we left. When, once again, for the second time in less than twelve hours, I swore I would never eat again.

It was good, and fun, and remarkably filling for thinking that we were only having a cup or two of tasty tee and some cute little finger sandwiches.  I am pretty sure we had a full meal... mine was a croissant with veggies, a little cup of corn chowder, and the other two had something like a 'garden salad' plate with pimento cheese, scoop of chicken salad, a wiggly congealed salad and some other little odds and ends. Plus we ordered a couple of different types of tea, both very good, though I can't recall the names.

After we were pretty much stuffed, from starting with sconce and tea, through a full meal, we were compelled to order three different desserts. Which we shared, and then asked if there would be some place we could all go lay down for a little siesta. The staff probably hears that a lot, as they just all chuckled and gave us the bill. Which we paid, and waddled out the door.

weekend for traveling...

I left home on Friday to drive to TN. Not as early as I usually do - which means I was not chugging up the Interstate highway in the pitch black dark. I did not leave home until mid-morning, due to wanting to go with TP to a dr. appt. You know how guys are: if you not there to get the 'straight-skinny' in person, all you hear is '... oh, just fine'. Which is, of course, not the case at all, or there would be  not appt. with the dr. to start off with.

Got to Decatur around noon, which was about what I had expected/told my cuzzin I would do, when asking if she could make herself available to meet for lunch. So F and F and F went to lunch together, then all our separate ways. Cuzzin to spend time with her m-i-l, F to work and me on the interstate highway headed north-er. Traffic was about what one would expect on a Friday afternoon, even though I was hoping that I had started out early enough to avoid the worst. You know how you stop, slow, inch along, stop, creep some more, and suddenly return to full speed without ever knowing what caused everyone in all a three lanes to come to a screeching, red-tail-light flashing halt? We did that several times, with out the first inkling of what the road hazard might be: no wrecks, no debris, no flashing blue lights: nothing to indicate why we were crawling along at four-and-a-half miles per hour... then speeding back up to what most folk consider the 'minimum', but is actually the posted maximum: 70 mph.

Arriving in downtown Chattanooga about 4:30, to meet with J., and take a little stroll along the riverwalk, awaiting quitting time for the person I came to visit. But she called, and said she was back in town, from two days in Knoxville, and ready to quit being productive for the week. So we walked a while, then went to a little Indian restaurant to experience an experience. It was interesting. I don't think I recognized anything on the menu except rice, but what I ate was surprisingly good: meaning not so spice-y it burns twice.

Then we came home. And though I said I would never eat again in this life, we ate ice cream straight out of the carton. And went to bed, which is what is recommended when one has ate too much and needs to go lay down to aid digestion.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014
I've started a little volunteer job that I've done a couple of times in recent years: tutoring a couple of pre-schoolers. Going into an elementary school, borrowing a kid from the pre-K teacher for twenty minutes or so, to help them with their reading skills. The Literacy program has the teacher pick out the two kids she has observed as most in need of help, and a group of volunteers will meet with each individual child, five days a week for ten weeks. Reading a book every day for the week, and doing some sort of activity, coloring, connect the dots, matching words and items on a work sheet.  Return that kid, and get the second one, then do the same thing over again for a total of about an hour's time - not much really, but hopefully making a huge impact in the lives and abilities of the little people involved.

Some of the volunteers are college students, some are retired teachers, some military, people from lots of different sources, all knowing the importance of literacy, plus the value gained from devoting twenty minutes of undivided attention to one kid to boost their skills and esteem. The coordinator tests the students before they get started with the daily reading lessons, and again after the tutoring program has ended. I don't think I've ever been informed of the results from the before-and-after process, but have to believe it makes a difference in their abilities. It could possibly not be a permanent improvement, as there is likely not much in the way of reinforcement of what they have acquired - but surely it does give them a boost that carries over through the summer into their future.

The man who has been selected as 'Teacher of the Year', from all the local and state winners across the nation was in town recently, and sat down with a newspaper reporter to answer questions on his views about how the system works (or doesn't). The Q & A, last one in the article in the Ledger/Enquirer, that caught my attention in the interview:

Q: What's one way parents can immediately help their children to learn?
A: "Take time to read to them - 20, 30 minutes a night. It makes a profound difference in the way the kids learn, in the way they interact with you as parents. And you need to continue that past elementary school into  middle and high school. Maybe the parent isn't reading to their kid anymore, but the reading time still exists. Parents, by the time kids are in high school, that means you're reading a book, and they're reading at the same time. You have family reading time."
Jeff Charbonneau, 2013 National Teacher of the Year, Chemistry and physics teacher, from Zillah, WA., High School.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014
I've been out in the woods behind the house, planting some bloomed out daffodils. I rescued from getting tossed into the dumpster at work, and brought home to put in the woods, hoping that in time they will bloom again. The ones we get in pots from the growers (I think they come from some huge greenhouses up in Canada: 'agrowing amidst the ice and snow!) are usually premium bulbs, making cup and saucer blooms that are often as big as: cup and saucer!

And while I was there, with my shovel, out in the leaf mulch, saw a smilax vine just begging to be uprooted. Those big ugly tubers with the snake-y, thorny vines that will climb into the tops of trees and bloom, make seeds, reproduce, make babies, that sprout to become more evil-ness, and never die. I passed by the one I got up, and saw the top of the big tuber above ground, so it was as if it spoke my name, and said:' I'm ready' or more likely 'I dare you'. So even though I only spent about thirty minutes out there digging the holes for the rescued bulbs and rooting around getting that nasty tuber dug, it was a good, productive day of digging.

They are so ugly, something that looks as bad as I think cancer must, and so gratifying to get up, put in the trash to know they will never infest my yard again. Very satisfying to dig and pry and pull loose.  Plus if you know me, and my theory: hole digging is great therapy, you can imagine who got the enjoyment of getting that mean-ness out of the ground (and took a photo to memorialize the event) and into the trash can.

exercise in futility....

Monday, March 10, 2014

...is pretty much what our trip to north Ga to see the bulbs was today. I got up about 4:30, and left home to drive to Decatur. Where I immediately fell on the bed and had a little nap. Meaning I obviously left home much too soon. Due to trying to get into Atlanta and off the interstate highway before all those other four million people got in the road, on their way to work/school/shopping, etc.

We had been planning for weeks to go up to see the massed plantings of glorious daffodils that were supposed to be in full bloom at Gibbs Gardens. You might remember: we went last year, hoping to see beautifully blooming bulbs, but waited a bit too late in the season. The date on my 'annual membership' card is for mid-April, so that was our first try at seeing the hills abloom. According to the printed matter, it seems like I remember the man who owns the property has planted thousands of bulbs, along with lots of other perennials, both native and otherwise. Landscaped acres and put in all the amenities tourists expect: bathrooms, winding paths, vending machines, snack shop.

The trip last March got postponed due to really bad weather, and when we finally got there, the bountiful bulb blooming season was pretty much over, and not much else had started to flower. So we marked our calendars and planned to get there for the peak of the viewing season this spring. But the gates would not open: Closed on Monday. Rats. So pretty much 350 miles of driving in circles...

We plan a rematch the end of the month. Just as well, I suppose, as I had asked PI if she might use up some of that comp .time she has been accruing, and meet us there. So perhaps the 'exercise' was for the best, and when we try again, we'll be able to meet in beautiful downtown Ball Ground. A little town with one street of commerce, and mostly rock stores at that. Pretty interesting, but it does not take long to be able to say you've seen it all.

I did see lots of naturalized daffodils in pastures, along the right of way, out in the woods in places where you could imagine an old homestead used to be. With some farm family from 150 years ago living out in the north Georgia hills. And a wife taking the time to plant bulbs in the hopes of a bright spot in her day when the season changed from drab cold winter to bright clear sunny spring.  I am always tempted to stop the car, get out and go dig, but was able to resist the impulse all day long, so I did not come home with things that need foster care.

I am sitting at my dining table, looking out the window to the north. Seeing the last of the afternoon's sunny rays highlighting colorful hyacinths, sparkling white snowdrops and bright yellow daffodils blooming right here in my yard. Making me think: you should have stayed at home to enjoy the beauty of your own backyard, as those forysthia blooms open up so fast in this warm weather, you can almost watch the buds pop open.


Friday, March 7, 2014
...miles since I got up this morning about 5:00. I actually probably woke up closer to 3:00, and could not make myself get out of my warm nest to get up and get dressed. Thinking, as I am sure you would do: where in God's green earth would anyone want to go at 3:30 in the morning? I can't answer that one either, which is why I laid there pondering, in the cozy bed for over an hour before finally getting up to tend to the demands of the invalid cat. Then got dressed and on the road.

Drove to Q-town, arriving about 9:00 and puttered around in the yard a bit, pulling up a few of the fast growing weedy things that have sprung up due to recent rains and warm weather/sunshine. Noticed some of the abundant azaleas around town have already started to bloom, as well as prolific bulbs: daffodils and snowdrops in weedy/overgrown flower beds.  Went to the cemetery to remove weather beaten silk poinsettias, and replace with bright yellow cup-and-saucer silk daffodils I bought at Wallyworld earlier in the week.  Along with some fresh greenery cuttings on grandparents where I am forbidden to put anything 'artificial'.

I drove over to Valdosta to see the auntie. I'd written to tell her I was coming, and asking if she wanted to go along for lunch with friends from FL. She was still in bed when I called to confirm plans. But got up and dressed for going by the time I got there about 10:30. We met the R. and D. for chicken salad lunch, and had a nice visit.

Then I drove a  reverse path, (theoretically - not really in reverse!) to get back home about 8:00. Another of those days when I feel like I spent more time coming and going than being there. But well worth the trip to visit with some of my favorites. They'll spend the night in Valdosta, and see the star attraction: grandson on Sat., then return to FL.

On my way back to C., I stopped at a Publix, and asked to use the computer available to employees. I wanted to check the schedule for the new work week that starts tomorrow. A couple of things I had on my calendar, planned to do on Sat., had fallen though, and I thought I had nothing on my 'to do' list. All the guys in the break room in that store were asking: who-are-you, where-do-you-work, where-did-you-come-from, do-I-know-you? I just smiled and said: just checking my schedule, thanks guys. I am supposed to be at work at 7:00 am tomorrow, so I guess I better go to bed? Good thing all those other events got cancelled!!

peddling strawberries...

Thursday, March 6, 2014
For three days this week, I have been assigned a very humbling job at my workplace. I feel like I have been a really good sport in doing it, wearing my game face, but when my store  manager asked me yesterday if I was having fun, I said 'no'. He looked surprised, and I said I did not want to lie to him.  It has not been terrible, just not something I would volunteer for.  And truth be told - really not all that awful, as I have seen some regular shoppers I have enjoyed greeting, speaking with that I rarely encounter.
I 've been walking around the store with a platter full of strawberries, offering customers a taste. I slice them up, put them in little plastic cups, squirt on a dab of whipped topping and poke in a toothpick. About fifteen cups fit on the plastic platter. I fill my platter and walk around asking: 'Would you like to sample our fresh Florida strawberries?' Most do, though there are a surprising number of shoppers who say "I'm fine", which I take to mean 'no thank you'. And an occasional one who will say: "I'm allergic to strawberries", which is, of course possible, but something I have never encountered before. And one who said "I'm allergic to dairy", so I gave her a sample without the squirt of whipped topping.

In addition to being humbling, it has also be remarkably productive: my new produce manager told me our sales of boxes of berries were extraordinary. I don't know if it's because they are on sale, or in season, meaning very tasty, or my giving them away really made a difference. But the day after I did that 'sampling' for three hours, he said the sales of berries in our store were the best of any in the area. And that is a whole lotta strawberries.

so... then what happened???

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
As I was recounting the amusing details of my battery crisis to the store manager today - it got even more bizarre. If you recall, we were going to use his truck as the source of  energy to attach the jumper cables to for starting my car. So the assistant manager J.,  had driven the truck across the parking lot to get it close enough to where my car was stalled to be able to connect the two. And then had locked the doors, with the motor running, and the keys in the ignition.

This remarkable trick is probably a whole lot easier to perform in this era of keyless entry.  I can do that with my car, because the keyless entry device does not have to be inserted in the little 'key hole' to start the engine.  My little Toyo. car is designed to 'beep' continuously when the door is open, as a reminder, but I generally do not even insert the electronic device in the little 'key hole' that it is designed to fit.  I guess J. was just intent on something else...like helping me - which is basically the reason that he created the mess he had to resolve with our store manager's truck.

Apparently the truck has automatic door locks, and chose to lock itself when the door slammed.  J., in a sincere effort to be helpful, had popped the hood when he got out of the truck with the jumper  cables in hand. In the chaos and confusion of the key-locked-in-the-running-vehicle crisis: he did not slam the hood to secure the latch. With assistance from a guy with a long piece of stiff wire and a shim to hold the door gaskets apart, the truck door was opened. The situation resolved, and he drove the truck back to where it had been originally been parked. With the hood latch still loose, to be used to help the stalled driver (me). Though by this time I had moved onto plan C and called road service.

The store manager must have left the store in the dark, not noticing how loose his hood was on the drive  home. But when I was sharing the details of the crazy tale with the store manager today - he said he thought something was terribly wrong with his truck today. The hood was scarey loose, flapping, banging, rattling when he left home to come into town. He said he thought it was going to take flight, and come flinging over the cab of the truck when he got up speed, before he could stop to try to secure it this morning. I can picture him: jumping out of the cab, pulled over along the highway. Thinking: "what in the world is wrong with my truck!!??!!" before realizing it's just loose, never got secured, slammed down after the ill-fated jumping incident.


I am sitting at my dining table, looking out the big window on the north side of the house. Where the sun is brightly shining, and the hyacinths are brightly blooming. Along with the little bell shaped blooms of the 'snowdrops' that always make me think about my grandmother Fluker (her yard is where all snowdrop bulbs came from.)

And happy smiling, bright yellow daffodils, blooming in clumps that get bigger and more prolific every year. Partly due to the bulbs growing in size, and partly due to me continually planting more and more when I rescue them. Either from work, or when I get that itching urge to stop along the road and dig up a clump or two.  How can you look at daffodils and not smile???

so... what did you do then?

After I got done laughing, and over the total amusement of such a Series of Unfortunate Events, I opened the hood of my car, so we could figure out where to connect the jumper cables, even though the keys were still locked in the truck. Remember that I had been shopping and have several items of frozen food in my car, which I thought would quickly go from the shopping cart to the house. We peered into the engine compartment of my Prius, and could not guess where one might attach the clamps on the cables in order to jump start the dead car. There was literally no battery in sight. I thought he, being a Man, would surely know about this type problem, and I am sure that he expected I would know what was hiding under my own hood.

He knew he had to go back in the store and confess to the store manager about the keys being locked in the truck. And I knew I needed to resolve the 'where's the battery' problem and get underway.  So plan C: I called my insurance agent's office, and was very thankful a female answered the phone: someone who would not make light of my misfortune, or be amused at my limited skills. What sort of person does not know where the battery is located in the car they have been driving for five years? The answer to that: Me.

The guys at the quickie oil change came and pried open the door to unlock the truck. So that was pretty easy to resolve. My reliable, faithful, dependable service rep. with the insurance office, even though she got a good chuckle out of my tale of woe, called the Pop-a-Lock people. And that nice, friendly, efficient, knowledgeable guy from Pop-a-Lock came and started my car in a jiffy. It took him for-ever to get there, but he was quick to get me going when he did arrive.

I'd been calling around looking for a battery during the interim. Strolling the parking lot and gnashing my teeth: and found a battery on the third try. The first place I called, did not have what I needed and told me I would have to go to the dealer. Which I did not want to do, as I have a friend who did when she had the same problem and paid them $500.  Tommy got me started and I drove across town the battery store where my new best friend, Tommy works. He spent about thirty minutes taking the old one out, and installing a new seven-year warranty battery. I got home about 6:30, cold, tired, and $200 lighter.

But after all that: I am so thankful I got the problem resolved. And was not hundreds of miles from home when it happened. And have good insurance, and good insurance people. And the ability to pay for a new battery when I need one. And now, my little Toyo is happy, purring along, ready for the next adventure.

Oh - the starter battery is in the back, just behind the right taillight, under the floor. There are a couple of little 'pins' in the fuse box up under the hood that the alligator clamps go on to jump it. But you have to practically dismantle the back end to get to the battery for removal.  I'm sure the guy who sold the Prius to me told me that - but it was over five years ago, and I'm not always good at remembering what I did yesterday, so how would I know that????

probably not the all time best idea...

...ever: questioning what was going on inside the head of your boss. Wondering to him why it happened: though he said he planned for me to work a bit more than the ten hours I had been doing with the former boss.  Only to discover, when the schedule was finally available for viewing, I was working nine hours this week, spread out over three days. Even to the struggling math student, and those amongst us becoming reconciled to being math impaired, that did not appear to be something that would add up to increased paycheck. 

So I asked him, on Sunday afternoon about how things were going to work out. He sounded sort of surprised upon looking at the sparse hours printed on the schedule. And suggested that I should come in on Tuesday and do my usual work.  So I went in at 7:00, spent several hours doing prep. work for specialty items on the fresh bar: making salads and fruit parfaits. Then got started on the floral freight that had to be put out on the sales floor. I kept thinking I was close to getting finished, so never took a lunch break, and was still there until 3:00 - a long day on my feets. 

I wanted to do a bit of shopping before I left the store, so bought a few things, and finally got out into the parking lot about 3:30. Where I discovered my car battery dead as a nit. Nothing. Nada. I said to myself: "Self, you will be needing a jump to get to the battery store."

I'd had such success the last time I needed road service, with the flat tire in south GA, I thought I could just call the number on my insurance card. Ended up talking to someone who works for a group that contracts for service - and discovered I would have to pay cash for someone to come and get my started. I thought the price was a bit much (though I know everyone has to get a piece of the pie), and I declined the help.

Looked around myself, standing in the chilly parking lot, and realized there had to be at least 100 cars sitting there, all of which had batteries I might use to get my car started.  Returning to the store, I asked the manager to come and help. He sent his assistant, with the keys to the manager's truck. So the assistant drove the big Dodge Ram over to the area by my little Toyo, and got out with a box that had jumper cables in it: immediately realizing he had locked the keys in the truck.  I said: 'oh,@#$%.

And had to laugh at the astounding Murphy's Law quality of the whole scenario.

not so fun again....

Monday, March 3, 2014
I am pretty sure I did not have fun the last time I did it, and can already feel confident that this go 'round will not be much different. I found myself volunteering again to do the thing with the Literacy Alliance where adults go into the elementary schools and spend thirty minutes with a kid helping them with pre-reading skills. I think the funding comes from some non-profit, maybe with some grant money, backing by people who hope to improve the basic skills of the kids. Over the years I have been involved, the students seem to have all come from low-income neighborhoods and schools.  I'm not sure how the little people are chosen to participate in the program, assume a request is made to (or possibly by) the teacher. And she will identify which two children in her pre-school classroom need the most help with the things they need to help them learn to learn to read.

I've done this several times before, apparently forgetting in between that it is not something I enjoy doing, as the kids do not have the ability to appreciate the fact that I am volunteering my time for their benefit. Even though they have been in the classroom since last August, it is always surprising how little they have acquired. I know that the pre-K program is designed to see that kids entering Kindergarten have the skills they need to begin the educational process. But it is alarming to see that these little folk are so limited in motor skills, and basic literacy.

I had one little boy and one little girl. If I had tried to work with the little boy first, I would have been really frustrated. But the little girl, E., seemed eager to learn, much more able to focus that the little boy.  That little guy J., was so wiggly, and unable to pay attention to the book and what I was trying to help him with: just looking at the illustrations, seeing the scene there on the page and talking about what was going on in the pictures, without even reading the printed words. We (I) read the book twice, and did a little coloring, on a page that was supplied with the materials: "Mrs. Wishy-Washy's Farm". She lives out in the country, in a house, with clothesline full of wash. On the farm, complete with a big red barn and green tractor, a goat, herd of sheep, pond with ducks, chickens, etc., and washes her animals in a big tin tub. Some of them, the cow, duck and pig run off to the city, only to find that life is much better 'down on the farm', even though they sort of revolted, wanted to escape all that bath business.

Maybe the tutoring experience will get better, once we get to know each other, or I might acclimate to the limitations of these little kids who have had so little exposure to the world of books, language and the written word. I don' think I have ever been so clearly reminded of the joy and blessing that comes with the ability to read, but where would we be without it? You certainly would not be reading this! And thankful too for adult daughters who are literate, enjoy reading and all the richness and rewards/benefits that being able to read brings into their lives.

Mark Hood...

Sunday, March 2, 2014
The name of the guy who was speaking at church this morning. Someone you have  never heard of, and me neither, until today. He lives in Charlotte, and drove down for the express purpose of filling the pulpit at CCC this morning. With an amazing story to tell. He was one of the 156 people who survived the flight that landed in the Hudson River some years ago. The story that was told in the book, written by the pilot, "Miracle on the Hudson".

According to Mark, there were some injuries, but nothing life threatening. Some broken bones, dislocated joints, a whole lot of cold exposure/trauma due to people being in the 35 degree water, but everyone survived to return home to families and loved ones. And amazing story. If you recall, the jet, as it was taking off from La Guardia in NYC, headed for Charlotte, SC, ran through a huge flight of geese, and blew both engines. The pilot could not get back to the airport, and brought it down on the river. Everyone jumped out, slid down the emergency slides, landed in the water. Got up on the wings, though the belly of the jet was peeled back when it hit the water, and all were rescued by water taxis and local boaters.

Mark's part of the story, something he obviously loves to retell is that he feels the airliner was in the hands of God: the only reason it landed safely and no one was seriously injured. He would only give interviews to the media if the outlets agreed he could say that: giving the credit to God for the safe landing, and timely rescue. He said there were some news reporters who did not want to broadcast his thoughts, relating of the crash and rescue of the passengers and crew. But he decided he could not allow the story to be told without giving credit - and placing the results squarely in the hands of God.

He said he and Capt. Sullenberger were the last two to be taken aboard vessels, and Sullenberger would not leave his command until everyone else was safe. So, though he expected to die when the plane's engines burned out, and they were coasting, rapidly descending into densely populated New York Sity, he believes God was definitely in control.

 He was brought to share his story through a chance meeting with a Delta flight attendant who is a member of CCC. They met last year, when she was on a flight and would not agree for that jet to take off without a questionable safety situation being resolved.  He spoke to her, to commend her for her diligence, and concern, then told her he had survived a plane crash - and now you know the rest of the story. He did not write a book about the experience, did not get a lot of attention, no bill-boards, but he is certainly a man who is walking the walk, willing to tell anyone who will listen why he is here - and what we are all here for...

the saying on the T-shirt is...

"God Blesses me when I sleep in church". Referring to people who will go and spend the night in a strange environment, knowing they can expect to not sleep well. But willing to go none-the-less to stay with the group of people who are there because they have no where else to go. I've been-there-and-done-that-and-written about this periodic event previously, but here's the jist of the matter: 

The church I attend is a part of a group, at least a dozen different churches, of various denominations and sizes here in town provide housing, week to week, in support of the Valley Interfaith Program. The VIP is an organization, nationwide, dedicated to helping homeless families. They provide training, help with resume writing, an address to use for enrolling school age kids,, day-care for pre-schoolers, support and encouragement, guidance in finding suitable housing for families. I think most families can expect to be in the program for up to twelve weeks. I asked the director once about the success rate: how well families get through the program and find jobs that will allow them to sustain themselves in the community. And he said it is remarkably high- mostly due to the screening process. Only extremely motivated, and 'most likely to succeed' families are accepted.

Each church accepts responsibility for providing bedding (cots provided by VIP) and feeding the families for the week the church is hosting. I have cooked breakfast on a Saturday morning in the past. And eaten it with the families who have been sleeping in our church. But lately have been spending the night on a folding cot in a Sunday School room, one night during the week we've been the host church. The last time was back around Thanksgiving - and though I had signed on to get the blessing of sleeping in church, the families all wonderfully found housing and there was no need for pairs of people to spend the night.

Shelters that provide for the basic needs of the homeless population in our community will open their doors to men, or women with small children, but none will allow families to stay together. So intact families are sleeping in cars or vans. If sons are over the age of twelve, they are not allowed to stay with their families. And what mom would willingly put an adolescent son in a room full of strange men? So that little segment of the largely unseen, and under served population that consists of family units seem to fall through the cracks in many ways in our society. Thus the need for the VIP program. Sure it's easier for bigger churches with more resources, and a larger congregation, but any church willing to jump in the gap, make the commitment to service would make a difference to these families in their struggle to survive/stay together.

I spent the night at church, on that plastic covered mattress, on the unstable cot last night, but with the help of over-the-counter drugs, slept pretty good. I never did actually see the two families we were hosting for the week, but names and/or faces really don't matter. Most of the familes I have seen over the years have been single parents with a couple of kids, often lap babies and toddlers. But all in need of someone to reach out with a helping hand.  So I  will shower and go back to church to get the rest of my blessing for today.

holy cow hydrangea...

Saturday, March 1, 2014
I was expecting a little twig - the size of the forsythia I would dig to sell to people who will read the adv. on Craig's List. I put the notice up about a week ago, and renewed last night. Have only gotten one response, from a man asking how big they plants are. (I wrote back and told him they would be about the size of the switch his mama made him go out in the yard and pick when he had been bad and in need of discipline.)

Size is obviously something I failed to inquire about when I said I would come up this morning and pick up the hydrangea the guy was giving away. He was going to put in in a big garbage bag, to keep it moist, and keep from loosing dirt in my car. I should have realized how important the word 'big' was in the conversation.  I could not pick it up, and it would not fit in the back of my car. He suggested putting the back seat down, to tip it over, and finally got the hatchback to close.

So that hole I need to go dig will have to be much bigger than planned. As well as closer to the driveway so I can get the huge plant out of my car and into the hole. I cannot lift it up, but expect that gravity will help me lift it down. So I need to reconsider location, to find a place that is diggable, meaning relatively root-free, to make a hole big enough to put it in. Fortunately, it was growing in some hard Georgia clay, so he said that the root system was not extensive, and the plant is pretty shallow-rooted, so will be fairly easy to get back in the ground. So he said....

With the brief history of planting hydrangeas that the deer discovered, thought was a newly installed salad bar, I am concerned about investing my digging effort in a poorly chosen location. I can't decide whether to go ahead and put it out in the front, where the deer could enjoy, at their leisure. Or inside the fence where the earth is going to be really hard, completely clay-ey and nearly impossible to get a hole deep enough for the monster to go into. The weather predicts likely rain today, so I need to get underway with this unplanned project: asap.


I spent an inordinate amount of time checking email yesterday, as an avoidance technique to prevent myself from being productive. Late in the day, as I was checking, I found a note from the county agent. She was forwarding from a person up in the edge of Harris County: a guy who had been through the Master Gardening training class, and had a plant to give away.

It is a lace cap hydrangea, he has dug and wanted to give to a good home. I just happened to be the first person to call and ask about it. So I have to stop this, get dressed and go get my hydrangea. It looks like a good day to be planting things; possibly raining. I'm undecided on where to dig the hole, as I think the deer might find it delightful, although he said the deer did not seem interested at his house. And he knew they were around, as there was evidence of other landscaping being consumed...

my new boss...

You will find it strange that I stayed at home nearly all day yesterday, and did not come up with the first topic about which to expound. So Friday, at my house, was surprisingly a 'blog free' zone, due to my inability to find something to have an opinion about. Unlikely situation there, as I can pretty much spontaneously generate an opinion about most anything, whether I have any knowledge or not. Maybe due to all the years I spent with someone who seems to have an abundance of opinions.

I'd hoped to find a little work with the school district, but nothing came up - so I had a day in which to putter around, being profoundly unproductive. I did go for a walk, did plant a few bulbs that have been languishing around since back in the fall, did make a pan of brownies to take to a pot luck supper. (Most of which came back home with me, but were left in the car to take and let the guys at work consume - keeping both me and the local diabetic from eating something we should not put in our mouths.)

Re: work. I think I may have been a bit premature with my claims of infatuation with the new management team I will be working with. J. said he was planning to give me more hours so I would be working a bit more, creating additional income. And part of the plan would be to schedule me to come in and do 'demos', where I would be offering shoppers samples of different items to try, in an effort to boost sales in the produce department. Thereby justifying scheduling me for extra work.   

Publix has generated a logarithm/formula involving profit, loss, overhead expenses. This provides a number for how many labor hours a store is allotted, and actually looks at history of sales, and determines the schedules for the associates in any given store: deciding how many cashiers and take-out people are necessary at any given time. It is based on how many items are sold/scanned at registers at any given time: IPLH = items per labor hour. So if I was to ask people to 'taste-test' some sample that lots of folks then put in their shopping carts, and  increased the number of produce items (something Big Brother is watching/counting) that would justify me being on the clock, and paid for more time.

I was not at all excited about the prospect of working on a Friday afternoon or Saturday - I can find plenty of more interesting things to do with my time, especially on a weekend. But thought I should go along, as I do want to keep my job... Wait and see how things pan out...

But when I was finally able to access the schedule in the computer yesterday, I found me scheduled to work on Saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoon, and Wednesday afternoon. Guess  I will have to put  my game face on and make the best of this 'new broom sweeps clean'. I will admit to being Very Impressed with seeing the new guys cleaning things in the produce department that have not been done so in years. Seeing them scrubbing floors and tile walls is remarkable. I clean things on the rare occasions when I have a few minutes to spare;  things I know the full time workers never bother with. But was really impressive to see the bosses roll up their sleeves and get out the scrubbers to attack sticky walls and undersides of tables that have been ignored for years.

So we'll see how this goes. Hope I am still employed after the dust settles (oh - and he ordered enough feather dusters for everyone to have their own personal duster - never know when you might feel the urge to dust!) and the new wears off.