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dangerously close...

Thursday, December 31, 2015
...to the end of the year, here. I've been thinking about what we will eat tomorrow. Have had several conversations with customers at work, discussing what I have always thought somewhat bizarre habits of people born and raised in other places. The other person who lives here was brought up on what I've come to call 'Yankee food'. His idea of traditional New Year's fare is pork roast, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. I've eaten plenty of that since my association with him began, but you can be assured there will always be a side dish of peas, and cornbread as well.

Having lived in the south all my life, I grew up eating black eye peas over rice. That's just what you do. Along with some form of pork and greens. I've never cooked or fed anyone limp, saturated greens, and have no plans to start now, since I don't care for them myself. And now that I have mostly eliminated meat consumption from my diet, I'm not sure how I will season the peas, but There Will Be Peas. And some of the Award Winning Cornbread muffins I don't think I have produced since the first day of 2015.

I'm thinking I will buy a little pork loin when I go in to work, and since I am being so agreeable with that, I might as well get the 'kraut and potatoes as well. I won't be cooking it, so the man who eats it will be doing the seasoning and prep. for going in the crock pot overnight. Relenting enough to purchase the food and prepare the potatoes is about the extent of my participation in this near-religious tradition. But rest assured: There Will Be Peas. Considering the generational history of literally hundreds of years of born and bred in the south, how could there not Be Peas???

Admission: it has taken me many years to learn you don't have to cook the whole package at one time. When I first cooked black eye peas, I bought the little cellophane or plastic bag of peas, probably weighing a pound. And would soak them overnight, to be ready to put in the pot and simmer for hours. So you can imagine what the dish was like reheated a time or two as I was constantly attempting to tempt family to eat the remaining portion, consume leftover peas that had slowly turned into mush. Several years ago, I realized it is possible to only cook what you know you will consume. What a surprise! So we won't be eating mushy peas for a week, but cannot comment on the pork and 'kraut other than to say after a week or so, I will toss it.

volunteer driving...

.... to take someone I do not know to an appointment at the Cancer treatment center here. The patient is supposed to be at the center at 10 a.m., so I will plan on getting him there in ample time this morning. I've been doing this for several months, providing transportation to people who have to be at the Amos Cancer Center for treatment. Took a little 'training' course with the American Cancer Society, called something like Reach to Recovery, where potential drivers were provided guidance, advice, instructions as how we can assist patients in getting to treatment appointments.

With a random work schedule I cannot commit much in advance when I get frequent notices by email. There is a group of volunteer workers who send out the notices as appointments are made for different patients who need help with transport. So when I get the notices, more often than not, I have to delete, knowing that some other volunteer driver will come forward and take the opportunity.

I think I must have committed to this little project the middle of last week, when I knew I would not be going in to work until three o'clock today. I'm thinking I remember that he does not need a return ride to get home afterward, so when I get him downtown at ten, I am free to go about my merry way. If you ever run out of something to be thankful for: consider your health. I do, and even with a few creaks and aches, am daily thankful for the ability to get up and get going. Maybe a bit slower lately, but still on the go.

walking out...

...of another crummy movie. I was apparently mistaken when I thought it would be entertaining. It was not. Maze Runner, part 2 was not at all what I expected. Even though I had seen the first one, and thought it was pretty good, this second one did not seem to have anything even remotely related to the same story - and they threw in a bunch of walking dead. I was surprised it was rated as fairly kid friendly: PG-13. I saw little people there and can't imagine what they are permitted to view at home on tv, or why their parents would allow them to sit there and have the pee scared out of them. It was not suitable for this adult and most certainly not appropriate for small children.

There are folks I know who are thoroughly intrigued by the idea of an impending zombie swarm, and doing various things to be prepared for the inevitable attack. But I am not one, and not at all interested in seeing or knowing anything about the habits or behavior of the undead. So when the good guys found themselves running at top speed hoping to escape the garish, shredded, eternally hungry stalkers for the third time, I knew it was time to leave.

Due to the fact that the Scorch Trials was showing at the 'cheap seats' I did not even bother to go ask for a refund. I just went home and into my nice warm bed. Thankfully the zombies did not follow me, the rest of the night was peaceful with nothing creeping around to haunt my dreams.

not the least bit...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015
...guilty over that yummy soft pretzel from the mall, or the marinara sauce it was dipped in. Due to the fact that I have plans to change my eating habits on January 2. It's pretty drastic, but I am optimistic. Hoping to be successful, and willing to start over as often as necessary if/when I fall off the wagon.

I accidently looked at a Utube video a couple of months ago that was so interesting and thought provoking, it sounds like something we all need to attempt. It can't hurt, and could likely make a big difference in lifestyle if successful long term. So - jump in, let's give it a try.

This guy - some where in Europe, I think Austria or Germany - decided to go for a month without eating any sugar. I don't recall the details, but he spent four weeks reading labels and deliberately avoiding stuff with refined sugar as an ingredient. He reported drinking a lot of water that replaced some of the other things he was drinking, and claimed to loose a bit of weight. But the most interesting part was that it changed the way he eats, and sort of retrained his taste buds/appetite to not crave so much sweet stuff. We all consume far too much of sugar, especially those people who are chugging the energy drinks and living on caffeine. And kids consuming way to much of the stuff that is replacing real nutrition.

I've been paying a bit more attention in recent weeks, looking at labels. Reading the fine print for ingredients that come in a variety of disguised forms but all mean: sugar. And thinking about what I will have to eliminate to be sugar free for a month. It's not impossible, just requires being aware and conscientious. We all put things in our mouth without conscious thought, snacking on stuff we sometimes don't really even like.

For instance: me leaving work yesterday, going to the employee break room before walking out and seeing a huge cake someone ordered and failed to pick up, observing co-workers eating big hunks of tasty cake with gobs of butter cream icing. I scraped the icing off, and ate a slice of yummy cake, that I really did not even want. If someone had said: 'you have to eat the icing too', I would have refused the whole thing. But instead, without another thought, cut and consumed a good sized piece of cake that should have been left in the box. It was really good. I tell people all the time that we make the best cakes in town. Better than any catering service.

Of course, I knew better than to even think I could start something like this in December. With all the opportunities to eat stuff we should not, I knew it would not work to attempt cutting out sugar over the holidays. But now that I have finally had my slice of fluffy pumpkin pie, I think I am ready to give it a try. No sugar for a month? I'll let you know....

an itch that needed scratching...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015
... is the way to describe my interest in the Chattahoochee River at flood stage. It is still very high, many feets above what is considered normal. And if we should get more rain, it will continue to expand out of the banks. I read someplace recently that six inches is enough to knock you off your feet, and twelve inches can move a vehicle. When it is flooding and out of control, gushing in places it does not normally run, it can be Very Dangerous. Heard on the news about someone who was 'missing', and finally discovered in a vehicle, underwater.

I was just curious, interested, possibly to the point of being the sort of person who has to slow down and gawk at a train wreck or any man-made disaster that does not include me. I wanted to see it again, even though we had sort of glanced at it when we got back from TN on Friday afternoon. It's such an unusual out-of-the-ordinary happening, it was worth a trip to drive down south of town to get another look.

I thought we were going to a state park down below Ft. Benning, but did not get that far south, turning off at a sign that directed us to 'River Bend Park'.  And found a boat ramp, some picnic tables and composting toilets. That is the extent of the park, possibly vaguely maintained by the Corp of Engineers or the local county government. Posted signs instructed:  No swimming, or parking off the pavement. There are, I am pretty sure, alligators in the water, hanging around in the sloughs, waiting for whatever might be thrown out by people taking fishing boats out of the water. Before we started the return trip, there were several other vehicles, people we passed as we started out for home. Making me think I was not the only one with an itch in need of scratching - other people who were just curious, and wanted to see how much that much water looks like. It looks like A Lot.

We saw lots of low-lying areas with standing water, as well as running water headed towards the river, and Gulf. But not sure how high above normal the water level is, though there was A Lot. I'm pretty sure I will not run out of things to be thankful for, but today I am thankful for a warm dry place to sleep. And the bright sunshine I enjoyed this afternoon, following days and days of drenching rains.

the wash out is a wash out...

Sunday, December 27, 2015
...ha, ha, ha. I have been getting up in the dark and going to work for the past two days, taking the route that goes around both elbows. And pretty anxious about leaving plenty early to get to work on time, so allowing more than enough extra. Then finding myself 'way too early, and unwilling to stand around twiddling my thumbs will waiting.

It normally takes about ten minutes, depending on traffic and if I might accidently catch all the traffic lights between here and there green. It does happen occasionally: all green, just often enough for me to think it remarkable when it happens, but not frequently enough for feeling like it is routine. Hitting a series of consistently green lights is quite a novelty - they are not sequenced here, so the idea of not having to stop is a really big deal. No way to predict.

When I started home today, I thought: I'll just take a chance. Surprise! Not only is the road no longer MIA, it is passable. There is still a Lot of Water. So much that the golf course is closed, as the cart paths are still swamped. I am guessing it might be clear tomorrow, with the standing water gradually draining off into the watershed lakes, and on down into the Chattahoochee for the golfing addicts to get their fix.

It really was not all that surprising to find that the asphalt was still intact. When my curiosity got the best of me and I went to look on Saturday afternoon I surmised the road was still there. The goofballs who have been working on that drainage area for weeks had some big orange barrels set along the edge of the street, providing an extra measure of caution/warning for people (me!) who drive too fast along there. And noticing the plastic barrels still in place when I got nosy on Saturday, lead me to believe the right of way and street would eventually surface as the water recedes.

So - the warning from the CPD telling us that our street washed away was bogus. Thankfully so, as the detour to get to work added about five miles onto my route. Not really problematic just yet, but if it had realty disappeared, it would be a huge mess when schools start back on Jan. 4. There are two in the neighborhood, that would create a major snarl with only one way in and out had the street really gone down to the Gulf of Mexico.

wash out...

Friday, December 25, 2015
... is what we found when we got back to town. Left Chattanooga around noon on Friday, riding in the pounding rain most of the way to Atlanta, about a two hour drive, when the weather finally cleared up. And itty bitty glimpses of blue showing through patchy clouds gave hope that we might eventuallyget past the steady slap of windshield wipers. It was actually sunny by the time we made a quick stop in Decatur and got back on the road - happy to see blue and sunshine.

Uneventful drive down I-85, and back into middle GA. Just out of curiosity I asked to drive down to the 'west coast' to see how high the Chattahoochee River really is from all the rains of recent days. The Riverwalk is flooded, to the point that the water is about a foot or eighteen inches below the glass fixtures on the light poles along the edge of the walkway. So at least fifteen feet above normal.

I asked to drive across the river, so we went over into Alabama, and back, across two different bridges, just looking at all the voluminous water everywhere, far out of the bounds of the riverbank. There were places along the highway north of Atlanta it was gushing out of culverts under the road, and since it all runs downhill, headed towards the Gulf of Mexico, gravity is still in effect. It will eventually all return to where it started in the oceans.

When we turned on to our street, finally getting home about 6, after driving for 8 of the past twenty four hours: it is barricaded. Cannot get a half mile down the street to go home. So we went around the long way - at least five miles out of the routine route. I was so curious, wondering how early I will need to leave home in the morning to get to work at 6:00, I moseyed down the street to see if it is still flooded. And yes, it is. Not as badly as some years ago, when it flooded the shed and tractor of the neighbor who lived closest to the creek that runs under the road. But looks far too deep to traverse.

And now - with my computer plugged in, I see a notice from the Police Department saying the Road is Missing. Washed Out. Gone. So, yes, I will have to get up and going the morning, and leave early enough to take the circuitous route around both elbows to get to work on time.

merry happy joy joy

... and happy holidays. As in the 'holiday tree' decorated with politically correct ornaments in the President's house in Washington, DC. So generic and dull it will not offend anyone of any political or religious persuasion.

Went in to work at 6 till noon on Thursday, then loaded up and left home, to drive in the steady drizzle to TN. It was raining pretty hard in middle GA, to the point of flash flood warnings in low-lying areas.  And there on Georgia's 'west coast', with the Chattahoochee River over-running the riverbank and encroaching along the edges of private property in the areas of residential homes. When the driver was deciding on the route to TN, we discovered that places along Highway 27 were underwater, so driving the Interstate was the only option. Uneventful trip, though it does get tedious being stuck in an uncomfortable vehicle for four hours.

After a filling meal, and pleasant company with the in-laws, we went up the mountain to look at colorful holiday lights. Riding around the well-to-do neighborhoods and seeing homes decorated to the n'th degree, with twinkling srtings of lights outlining roof and gables, gaily hung wreaths on every door and window. Glancing out through the winter-bare trees along the streets winding along the brow of Lookout Mtn., down in the valley at streets lights and homes in the city, appearing from the distance to look as if the thousands of lights were strung together chain-like.

We've eaten the traditional sausage/cheese/egg casserole for breakfast, opened gifts, and thinking about a nap before heading out, back to middle GA. So naturally it is raining cats and dogs again.
We've enjoyed good food and good company, lots of holiday cheer. Back to the real world on Saturday: to be at work at 6 again, replacing people who had a few more vaca. days to use up.

Hope your holiday has been one of family togetherness and good memories.

when i went to bed...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015
last night, I took a newspaper from a few days ago that had an article I thought I should read. And now that I did - there was something in it you need to know about too. It was in the local newspaper, but of national interest: about the three females that successfully completed the Ranger Training program based here at Ft. Benning.

The story was actually about a man who had dropped out of the program early on due to medical problems, was given the necessary care, and eventually successfully completed the rigorous training to graduate and become a Ranger. This young soldier was at West Point Military Academy at the same time as one of the females, who was his superior  - they did not get along. You can imagine how harsh the discipline and overall environment is at the Academy, where senior classmen make every possible effort to force out those not tough enough to graduate and become officers in the US Army. Especially females who go in expecting they have to be even tougher, with staff and fellow cadets demanding even more from females than fellow males. Females have been admitted to West Point (and I assume the other military academies) since the early 1980's.

The story in the December 21, 2015 Columbus Ledger Enquirer Newspaper is titled:"Battle Buddies", a sort of follow up to all that has been in the media over the past year. Interesting reading, providing some history, and new information to the public. If you have followed the news, you are aware there has been  much coverage about the three women who successfully completed Ranger School. One is a helicopter pilot, one is an  MP and the third is a Major in the Texas National Guard, working in a civilian job as an engineer in Texas. Her name is Lisa Jaster, and she is a mom, with two small children. As she was working her way through the different phases of the training, she did not see her family for the six months. And was given the opportunity to 'recycle' portions she did not successfully complete, so much of that time was repeating areas she had already done, but not to Ranger standards. The training takes place in the swamps of Florida, a mountain portion in north Georgia, and at Ft. Benning.

This is both clever and amusing, and shows you how resourceful she is: She and her husband could  not communicate, allowing her to let her family know if she had successfully completed the training. But they had agreed if she was going to graduate, become a Ranger, she would withdraw exactly $20 at the ATM. Any other amount would be the signal that she had not been successful. So when she finally got word that she had completed all the necessary tasks, she immediately went to the ATM and made a withdrawal for twenty bucks!

Here's the quote near the end of the article. " I don't know much," Jaster says of that moment (graduation), "but I am a Christian woman. I feel like not being able to hug my family - not being able to be with my family - is what hell would feel like. And being able to hold them again after being away a long time is what heaven would feel like."

not original, but...

...you need to read it anyway. Though I am not faithful about reading a devotional every day, and sporadic at best, it is worth sharing and providing 'food for thought' during this season of gifting.

"What God expects from you"
Added blessing always brings added responsibility.
So: 1) Stop complaining. Happiness doesn't come from getting what you want; it comes from recognizing and enjoying what you have. So keep a positive attitude and be grateful every day. Rudyard Kipling said, " Don't pay too much attention to fame, power or money. Some day you'll meet a person who cares for none of these, and then you'll know how poor you are."
2) Stop assuming. When you see your neighbors buying new furniture, taking expensive vacations, an driving the latest car, does something stir inside you to do the same? Be careful. Just because someone appears to be in similar circumstances to yours doesn't mean anything. They might earn twice as much. On the other hand, they may be in debt up to their ears or three-quarters of the way to bankruptcy or a divorce court. Stop making assumptions and trying to be like someone else.
3) Stop withholding. Bruce Larson said, "Money is another pair of hands to heal, feed and bless desperate families of the earth. In other words, money is my other self". But that's only true if you're willing to part with it. Money is like manure: If you let it pile up it stinks; if you spread it around it helps things grow. Money gives you options the less fortunate can only pray for. And one more very important thought: How you use your money will be one of the biggest issues you'll face on Judgment Day. Indeed, it'll be the determining factor when it comes to your eternal reward.
Think about it!
~ from the paperback 'Daily Devotional' I pick up at church every three months.

Christmas gifting...

Monday, December 21, 2015
...of an unusual sort. In these days, most folks get a barrage of invitations to donate to various non-profits at the end of the year. Everyone is making an effort to do last minute fund-raising under the guise of a providing a tax deduction for people looking for ways to minimize Uncle Sams' bite before the next tax season. Places like Heifer and Habitat would love to have benefit from your generosity at year end, when you can 'shop' without shopping and benefit the needs of the underserved all over the planet.

A letter came a couple of weeks ago, asking if I would be interested in supporting childhood literacy. The Ferst Foundation is an organization that provides books to children to help promote a desire to learn to read long before they are actually capable of reading. The parents can make the contact to have an age appropriate book sent to the home every month for a year. Parents are provided with information, guidance and support to help them learn ways to encourage and support the early learning, develop the readiness skills that precede the actual reading.

Things like looking at the illustrations, talking about what you can see, imagining what is happening by studying the pictures on each page, or guessing what might happen on the next page. Things an experienced reader does by  rote, like starting at the front of the book, and learning to 'track' from left to right  - the way English is written. Beginning to identify letters, and eventually 'sight words', that little people need to know when they start school. Looking for details, colors, shapes in illustrations.

I am all about literacy. I have been volunteering for several years, going into elementary schools, spending time with four or five year olds, reading books and developing skills. So yes, I would be interested in supporting this. And decided I should put my money where my mouth is. I sent in a donation. All those people who usually get the cards telling about the gift of a rabbit, or beehive or ducks are getting even less this year. But some little kid who has parents that want them to be a rung ahead on the ladder to success will be getting a book every month. Though you won't actually hear 'thank you', you and I have (hopefully) made a difference.


Saturday, December 19, 2015
if fakery counts. Not baking in the truest sense of the word, but putting things on cookie sheets/pans, inserting in the oven, setting the timer and taking them out. So maybe if you stretch your imagination and don't look too closely?

Making a batch of the stuff that is chex cereal coated with melted chocolate, peanut butter and rolled in powdered sugar. So it definitely does not qualify as 'baking'. And some of those three ingredient peanut butter balls that you mark with forkprints and cook for eight minutes.

And  now some of the chex mix that has butter and worchestershire plus seasoned salt. You drench it in the wet stuff, then put it in the oven to dry it out, stirring to get the flavoring on all the nuts, cereal and pretzels.  I always have to wonder why I add the pretzels? As they are on  my list of things I hope to never put in my mouth again.

sadly, it did not pan out...

... but we had a pleasant day of not-sledding, nonetheless. It was certainly cold enough, but if the contractor people decided to cancel there was nothing we could have done about it. I was initially really disappointed that we had all made the effort to plan to get together for a replay of the hilarity we had when at the first sledding event back in January. But the notification came (call or email or text, I can't say) that the day we had decided upon was not going to work, just simply not do-able.

Something to do with the weather I am sure, but don't know if it had been to warm or too wet. We had a good rain earlier in the week, and I know what happens when you pour water over ice, which is basically what would have happened to the 'artificial', machine generated snow. It is, I am thinking, very similar (though of course on a much grander scale!) to the little hand-cranked toy we had that  was remarkably frustrating to use and profoundly aggravating to operate. The" Snoopy Sno-cone Machine", maybe a tragically disappointing birthday gift for a youngster who was (is) devoted to sno-cone consumption.  The 'machine' part of the title requires a huge stretch of the imagination, as the person desiring to enjoy the sno-cone was required to exert 100% of the energy necessary to grind the ice cubes up into flakes, little  more than mush once the vile-colored flavoring was added.

Anyway: remembering the 'snow' on the hill in front of the politically incorrect monument carved on the side of Stone Mountain, I think it was pretty close to solid ice, from the increasing temperature of the air on that bright sunny day in January. I recall the snow machine, with a long tube that was constantly blowing/generating more ice crystals, that was probably melting faster than it could shoot out of the tube. I think we have rescheduled to go in Jan. on the Monday that is a federal holiday, collectively observing birthdays of various and sundry notables from American history.

We had the day off, though the sledding was a bust, and spent our time roaming around the city. Went to the newly refurbished Ponce Market, that is located in the old Sears distribution center on Ponce de Leon Ave. Lots of little eateries, and high end shops that will likely struggle to make rent once the new wears off. And on the upper floors, high end loft apartments.

Then a circuitous stroll through the IKEA store in Atlantic Station. The thing I had to wonder: how is it that they know what you are looking for before you come in the door? And deliberately put it as far away from the front of the store as possible. To make you look at everything else they sell before you get to the thing you came in for. As well as tempting you to buy all manner of trinkets you do not need and never thought to want until you see them in the store, cleverly accessorizing their furniture.

the rest of the story....

according to the other tree thief. I sent him a note to ask if he would read the blog, and got a response about what actually transpired before we could make our guilty get-away. He reported that the property owner did see and stop us before we could make a clean getaway. My brother recalled the man asking what we were doing out there in the country on the dirt road to nowhere. And even though I expect he was thinking of a quick way to raise the bail money when we got deposited in the hoosegow, he was honest. And told the guy that we were cutting a trash tree that had volunteered on the fence line. To take into town and put up in the window to show the world our Christmas Spirit.

According to the other guilty part, the property owner said: 'Oh, okay. I thought you were stealing my pecans.' So apparently we were close or possibly actually in the orchard of trees that had been growing out on the farm long enough to harvest a cash crop. And when the man found out all we had was a prickly, undernourished, scraggly tree, he let us go.

No need for anyone to bake a cake with a file in it and stop by on visitor's day to bring goodies, to the teenagers holed up in the pokey over the holiday. Fortunately nothing bad happened. Other than getting stuck all over like a giant pincushion when we had to take the decorations off the tree after the holiday.

funny Christmas tree story, re-told...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015
...here, again. I think this is a repeat, with limited appeal, but there are a few who will find it amusing to be reminded and have to opportunity to read again. About the time my brother and I were assigned the task of bringing home a Christmas tree.  I'm not sure how old we were - maybe both of us had left home and were in college, or I was the only one still at home in my junior or senior year of high school, and he was just around for the break between classes/quarters.

I can see now, after all these years, that parents (in particular the person who does 99% of the house work) would think, and be willing to say to the younger generation: we will only have a Christmas tree in the house if YOU put it up and take it down. At this point in my life, I am in total, complete agreement with that statement. Cannot think of any logical reason to invent more work for oneself: the putting up and taking down seems both pointless and superfluous. As well as a waste of time and energy, plus $$$ if you choose to purchase a tree, to put out for the trash truck in a couple of weeks.

So... anyway... we got my dad's pickup truck, with some sort of cutting implement, I assume. A hand saw, most likely. And went off down country roads looking for the perfect tree. Right size and shape, not growing in a clump that would make it one-sided. Or growing in the fence row, that would cause it to have holes when you pulled it out and set it up at home. Nice and round, not too big for eight foot ceilings and not to small to look skimpy when viewed by passersby driving down the street.

And, in retrospect: not red cedar - which is the prickliest, stickiest, meanest type Christmas tree imaginable. The only thing that would be more hurtful would be thinking you could use a Holly tree. Which would turn you into a pin cushion, and red cedars will run it a close second.

Sadly, I don't recall the details. But we found the tree, left in a hurry, and fully expected to get buckshot in our backsides. I think the guy who owned the property from which the tree was removed without permission saw what was happening. Or maybe that particular tree was the one he had his eye on for decorating. But we definitely beat a hasty retreat, and expected for days after the tree came home and set up in the living room that the truth would out. Fully prepared to pay the piper when our Dad came in steaming under the collar and demanded an explanation. I'm sure I never gave one, and think my bro. would have told me if he had been cornered and questioned.

I know now the line about: 'it is easier to beg forgiveness than to seek permission', but think if I had it to do all over again, I would probably try to find the owner of the tree before practicing my 'cut and run' skills. And will caution anyone to Never attempt using a southern red cedar as a Christmas tree. Not only are they unbelievably prickly, but they will shed and shed and shed after you cut them and they start to dry out...

complete strangers and passers-by...

... as well as coworkers and acquaintances have also been asking if I have finished with decorating for the holidays. Not only have I not finished, I have yet to start. Though I  have been thinking for a couple of weeks, since right after Thanksgiving, about the little green wreath with twinkle lights that usually hangs by the front door. There is a outside light right there, near the front door, that I can remove the bulb and twist in a receptacle for plugging in the lights on the wreath. That, for the past several years, has been the extent of my seasonal decorations.

I will admit to an occasional urge, when I see strings of little clear lights to wanting to buy. I would put them on a bare tree out in the yard, and run the bright orange extension cord from the carport to light up the woods. Fortunately I have been able to control myself, and have yet to make the purchase. Thinking if I can resist temptation long enough, a) the lights will be on half price sale after the holiday, or b) it will be after the holiday and I will be able to rationalize and say: no need.

A coworker asked me right after Thanksgiving if she made me a wreath would I hang it on my door, and I said 'no thanks', explaining there is no where to put it. The space between the metal door (new one, replacing the one that got kicked in by the burgling two years ago) and the storm door is about three inches. Not enough to put a wreath and still have to storm door close to keep it from banging in the wind. So there is a slight, small, constantly decreasing possibility that I will actually go out and get the lighted wreath hung in the next week... but with each additional day I get up and go to work, spending hours on my feet, the likelihood of any decorating at all gets less and less.

passers-by and complete strangers...

 ... as well as friends and co-workers have asked me about Christmas shopping. Have you finished yet? Have I finished yet? Have I started yet? Am I going to get started? Do I hear the clock ticking, a la crocodile in the Peter Pan movie - you remember the one who was constantly after the rest of Capt. Hook after having the tasty morsel of his hand?

I don't do much. I can't say I don't do any because there are already a few miscellaneous items up on the shelf in the closet that have been accumulating over the months since last December. But there is not much in the way of holiday cheer going on here. I am certainly not of the 'bah, humbug' persuasion. Though I will readily admit to no enthusiasm for the hustle and bustle, crowds, mall shopping, chaos of driving in crowded parking lots and bedlam of whining tired children and aggressive mothers in the check out line.

For the past several years my gift giving has been limited to: a few items I see and immediately think of a person who would like/enjoy that particular thing as a gift, as well as being unwilling to pay out of pocket to own. So it would likely be jewelry or something small. Small being the operative word, as most of the gifts I do purchase would be diminutive enough to be considered 'stocking stuffers'. Those things that would fit in the apparel traditionally 'hung by the mantle with care'.

Or small enough to go into the little jewelry size boxes I have been using and reusing for years. Wrapped in out of stock, no longer in print, often out of style Christmas gift paper, and recycled from year to year. Some are (amusingly) nested inside boxes of different sizes, so that the smallest one, the one holding the actual gift, is tucked into a series of other boxes of increasing size - you have to open three or more to actually get to the surprise. Sort of like those little Chinese surprise balls made of paper you have to unwind and find little trinkets on the way to the center of the ball, wherein lies   actual gift, which is also likely to be a cheap, gum-ball machine type item. But lots of fun to unearth.

I suspect most of the recipients have figured me out by now, and know to expect gift cards. Which is to my way of thinking, pretty close to the perfect gift. The Perfect Gift being cash! This would horrify my mom, who thought cash, or a check the epitome of poor taste. But my thinking is: how can you go wrong, as it invariably allows the recipient to purchase something they really desire, or an opportunity to fritter it away on beer and peanuts.

this reminds me...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
... of the punch line to a really bad joke, in the poorest taste imaginable. But funny in an unfunny way. Which is, I guess, a way to describe 'irony'? The punch line is: 'Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?' So you can imagine for yourself the 'set up', leading up to the heretofore mentioned ending?

I am dressed and ready, having had my toasted bagel with jam, ready to walk out the door. Going downtown in the early morning commuter/carpool madness to be at the Rivercenter for a children's/school performance of the play "Fancy Nancy". The person who rides herd on the volunteer ushers (most of whom, I assume, are just in in for the ability to get in free) decided we must all 'participate' ten times during the course of a- year. Just arbitrarily instituted a new rule. No one knows how willing she is to enforce. But my thinking is: when you are dealing with volunteers, you need to show more-than-average consideration for your work force.

Most of the shows, concerts, plays, events I have been to as a volunteer were of the 'take it or leave it' variety. Allowing this particular venue to drop off my list of 'donating time' would not be a cause for grief. But there have been a few I have enjoyed, really wanted to see, but not badly enough to pay fifty bucks for a ticket. So... like everything else in life - it becomes a balancing act, with ongoing decisions of 'worth it?' or not. Thus far, it is apparently worth sitting through some lame, cheezy, goofy, mediocre performances in order to get to the ones that I really do want to see, while keeping the price of admission in my pocket.

And then I have to go to work: 12:00 till 6:00.

another tutoring job...

Thursday, December 10, 2015
...is in the works for January. Ready for 2016? I'm already putting stuff down on  my new calendar!

I went to a church out in Ellerslie. A little town that is not much more than a curbstore, post office and huge Baptist church building. They have a preschool/daycare that operates out of their education wing. Which really pleases me - to see a church building busy and productive all week long, instead of sitting there empty six days of the week.

An email about a need for tutors came a couple of weeks ago, from the person who runs the Literacy Alliance tutoring in the elementary schools. The church group had contacted her to ask if  she would put the word out in hopes of recruiting more volunteers to give a couple of hours one afternoon each week. Working one on one with the after school students to help with homework, reading skills, playing games that broaden their knowledge. Stuff like puzzles, maps, math flash cards.

I meant to get out there last week, but spent my day with the cookie bakers instead, helping to get the Botanical Gardens ready for Open House. But went to talk to the retired teacher who is running the tutoring program. And will sign myself up to go on Thursday afternoons starting in late January. I told her she should not even say my name in the same sentence with the word 'math', as that is most definitely not one of my 'gifts'. But I love to read, and would gladly help little people with their reading skills or homework as long as it does not require arithmetic proficiency.

right after being closed...

...on Thanksgiving day, when everyone who works at the grocery chain had the same day as one of their two 'days off' for the week, everything that is freshly made several times each week went out of date, and had to be trashed on Friday. I was the only person working in the prep. area of produce department and industriously going about my job, replacing all the things that were out of date due to the store being closed for one day. Making fresh salads and fresh fruit/yogurt parfaits to fill in the holes as we removed the old stuff.

My boss, the produce manager, amusing 'J.' came in and asked (what I can only assume to be a rhetorical question): "where's M.?" He put her on the schedule for the day after Thanksgiving, expecting her to show up at work - while the rest of us knew she was leaving town for the weekend. I know he wanders around a lot muttering to himself, saying stuff under his breath that we probably don't want to hear. So I didn't even respond.

He asked it again: 'where is M?' My response was: "I don't brush M's teeth". He looked at me like he was hearing a foreign language. And said 'what?' I told him I don't put her to bed or get her up each morning, and I am not responsible for seeing that she gets her teeth brushed every night. Meaning I have no idea where she is and do not have any reason to think she would be reporting her whereabouts to me.

As I said: I am assuming he was talking just to hear himself. He is constantly talking to himself, mumbling things no one else can understand. So we just have to work under the assumption if he wants us to get anything done, he will make more effort keep us informed. And then he came in today when I was busily making salads and asked for someone else, a person he had not even put on the schedule. So guess what? I said: 'I don't brush her teeth either!'

we've all read...

Monday, December 7, 2015
...stories in the media about how young people get sort of addicted to their technology and communication/electronic devices. How 'unhealthy' the experts believe the amount of time they spend staring at screens and being seduced by the instant part of texting and messages has become. Warning parents about the dangers of letting kids stay up half the night playing video games or using smart phones for inane conversations with their friends.

I am ready to confess that I usually tuck my phone under my pillow most nights before I go to sleep. Because I know it will wake me up at 6:01 a.m. The call will be from the local school district looking for teachers to replace people who will be absent from their assigned classroom jobs on any given weekday. I decline at least 98% of the time. Due to work or other plans already on my calendar. In addition to which I am pretty picky/choose-y about which jobs I would take in the unlikely event I am not otherwise committed.

But this morning: I woke up when my ALARM went off. So startled by the noise, awakened from such a sound sleep - I thought it was the school district. And picked up my phone and said:' hello'. Before I was awake enough to realize it was the alarm, and not the computer generated calling sub-finder looking for replacement teachers. I was obviously unprepared for the alarm, unaware it was set to go off at 5 a.m.. Never suspecting that the startling noise that would awaken me would be the jangling sound of a 'wake up' notice rather than the call from the school district's computer looking for substitutes. You have to talk to the computer for it to respond, and after you say 'hello', it will say your name. Then you can punch 2, to prevent more calls.

 I confess to saying 'hello' to the alarm.

probably shouldn't tell this....

Friday, December 4, 2015
...but it is so amusing, in perverse sort of way, I will feel much better for sharing. Even though I should keep it to myself, I hope you will be entertained, instead of finding it totally offensive. If it is seriously inappropriate, you  need to let me know, and I will (maybe) delete it before it shows up on the front page of the newspaper. Not that anyone actually gets their news from reading something as archaic as words printed on paper....

A few people have heard it, so you might want to skip this story. But for those who have not: there was discussion Wednesday night about how we would travel on Thanksgiving Day, when we were planning to go to Decatur for lunch. I offered, saying I get really good mileage out on the interstate, and did not mind driving if  he wanted me to. I did  not get a definite response either way, so not sure what to do. I got up on Thursday morning and put my casserole in the oven, planning to leave home about 9:00, to arrive around 11:00.

And asked again: 'who's driving?'  He said he really did not like to drive in the dark coming back home, as his night vision is getting bad. He agreed I would drive, and I got all my things put in the back of my car. He is a very big man, and looks squeezed in when he gets into my little car. I pushed the seat back as far as it would go, and he forced himself  into the passenger seat. He really filled  my car up, and looked very uncomfortable. But he got in, situated and got the door closed. I backed out of the carport and we got underway.

I was about a quarter of a mile down the street, when he said: "You drive too fast." I said, 'Oh.' And made a U turn as soon as I could. He asked what I had forgotten. I said 'I am going back to the house, so I can ride with you.' 

"Oh, no - that's ok, I'll ride with you." I said: "Oh, No. I am Not going to listen to that all day long. I am going to ride with You." So we did. I put all my stuff in his huge GMC and he drove to Decatur, had lunch, then hetook a nap on the couch while I went to visit the cousins. And he drove himself back home in the dark.

accidently being far more helpful....

... than I had expected.  By devoting much more of my day to the Botanical Gardens that I thought would happen. But it's all good. I'd been thinking about how I have gotten 'un-involved' and sort of disconnected with some of those people and wanting to get back into helping with projects there. So it was time well spent, helping to do the prep work for the Open House. It apparently is not only an opportunity to 'show off', but a fund raiser of sorts, with seasonal goods for sale.

In addition to being another set of hands to roll a great variety of cookies into little balls, and placing on the baking sheets before cooking, I was the runner. I made two trips to Hobby Lobby and one to the grocery. They stalled out at one point in the mixing when necessary items were needed, so I volunteered to make a trip to the nearest supplier. The folks in charge of all the organizing (and there was a Lot of Organizing going on) failed to bring a couple of important ingredients for various recipes. Needed cream of tarter and powdered cocoa to complete prep. before the many sets of hands could roll the dough into little balls for baking.

I'd mistakenly assumed the cookie project consisted of supplying 'homemade' goods to share with all the visitors expected at the Open House Event on Sunday afternoon. But no. They literally baked thousands of cookies to fill a multitude of tins, to have 'homemade' for sale to the general public. I've been with kids on a field trip to the commercial bakery (Keebler, now Nabisco, as well as the company that used to be Tom's and bought out by Lance) here in town, and seen cookies mass produced. But short of machinery and room sized ovens, I've never seen so many varieties and hundreds of cookies.

Then a trip to Hobby Lobby to get clear cellophane goodie bags to put individual cookies in: cute little snowmen to sell as singles. What mom could possibly refuse a child begging for a snowman cookie loaded with sugar and a marshmallow on top? And remarkably sticky to boot. Plus some of that gel icing that never dries to stain fingers, teeth, face, clothing. Oh, what fun!

Then another run to Hobby Lobby for wee electric votive tea lights to go in the paper bag luminaries on Sunday. In the past there have been dozens of odd/recycled jars hanging in several bare trees with the little lights in them: glowing in the gloom, bidding the passersby welcome. But this year: white paper bags lining the walkway with flickering lights to guide their feet along the path.

I did not intend to spend my day there, but pretty much did. And going back today to help with workshop for people who want to make fresh greenery wreaths. I will be practicing my bow making skills. Something I have often said I would do for free, I just like tying bows - so free it is!

quote of the day...

Thursday, December 3, 2015
"Being popular on Facebook is like sitting at the cool table in the cafeteria... of a mental hospital."

really helping with the cookies...

... and not confessing to anything. I am going today to the local botanical gardens to be a volunteer and help with baking for the annual open house event on Sunday afternoon. A friend I don't see often is the Chief Cook, so I could easily just be the dish washer. She occasionally does some catering, so I would consider her an 'expert', and knows lots of shortcuts and ways to make the process quick and easy.

So I have volunteered myself, my baking sheets, and will go to assist. Optimistic that I will pick up some of those tips and clever 'how-to' hints while I am a worker bee in the kitchen. I sincerely hope I will be keeping my mouth shut, and not putting sweets in it. In reference to the previous blog about gluttony....

helping with the cookies...

...but should be entitled: helping with the raw cookie dough. I am not so much fond of cookies, but tend to show much partiality to cookie dough. Have been known (though no one knew about it till I am right now confessing:) to buy a package of chocolate chip cookie dough from the refrigerated foods section and squirrel it away in the bottom of the fridge. And eat each little pre-cut cube one by one, slowly consuming the whole package without ever heating up the oven. Saving the time and trouble of having to wash the baking pan, right?

Once, on a Sunday afternoon, when I was a teenager, growing up in south GA.,long long ago, and far far away: a cousin and a friend and I ate a whole chub of cookie dough. The long plastic covered pack they used to package the dough in, before someone thought to make it in single serve size cubes. Similar to how you see bulk sausage packaged now. We were supposed to be going to youth group/MYF meeting at the local Methodist church. And went to the grocery store and bought cookie dough instead. Spent the hour riding around that little town, passing around the raw dough from front seat to the back and around again. Probably ending up sticky and wired from so much sugar and chocolate.

But hey: if that is the worst thing we could think of for misbehaving - it seems fairly harmless, don't you think? I'm sure someone's mom paid for the gas, and sticky cookie dough. But this was back when gas was probably fifty cents a gallon, and cookie dough could not have been more than a buck.
Pretty cheap form of amusement, is what I am thinking.

ab-so-lutely exhausted...

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
...from being on my feets for eight hours today. I don' t know why I am feeling so beat, but it was just a long tiring day. The recipe I was cooking in the Apron's demo. was interesting, but I did not taste it due to the fact that it was salmon. Poached in coconut milk. People who tasted it said it was good, and most seemed surprised when I told about the ingredients. I've never cooked anything with coconut milk, so it was pretty much a surprise to me too. Though not my idea of good eats... even though after making it five times, I have the recipe memorized.

I should go ahead and remind you that coconut is on my list of things I hope to never put in my mouth again, so even if there were not a very strongly flavored fish involved, I would not eat the food that has simmered in coconut milk. They - the passersby, people who tasted the food - said you could not taste the coconut, but just to be on the safe side, I did not let it get close to my mouth. Lots of people declined, saying they were not seafood or fish eaters. I said 'me too'.

One guy who stopped by, a man who works at the post office and I often see when buying stamps said he did not like coconut. I was so amazed I started sharing my list of Things to Avoid. And they were all on his list too! We commiserated and sympathized about things like oreos, and pecan pie and marshmallows. Hoping to never be in a place where politeness would cause us to consume those undesirables.

of course it is...

...raining this morning. I laid in bed and listened for a while. Then forced myself to get up and begin the day. I should have known wetness would be in the forecast, since I came home on Monday afternoon and washed my car. It's been  months since it was even semi-cleaned up, though I do occasionally get out the vacuum and sort all the recycling that accumulates on the floor inside. And now that it is nice and clean, it figures I would be driving down the streets where everything in the world will splash up on my sparkly white vehicle.

Historically, in a Murphy's Law sort of way, I've always thought that certain things are practically foolproof methods of causing it to rain. Like hanging clothes out on the line. Or washing your car. Or deciding it has gotten so dry you drag the garden hose around and start the sprinkler.

I've been thinking I would go to the garden shop and get some broccoli and cauliflower to plant, so now's the time. with the soil well soaked. That would likely be an exercise in futility as historically I've had near zero success, winter crops not actually producing anything edible when purchased, plant and wait expectantly. But now that we've had a good soaking rain, it's time to give it another try.