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on good authority...

Saturday, December 31, 2016
... the second of the Ultimate Tests of a Sound Marriage: hanging wallpaper. I readily confess to having just a wee bit first hand experience, but by no means an expert. I can tell you that the process as it occurs is highly aggravating, messy, tedious with many opportunities for contentious comments if being done by more than one person, especially in close quarters. It has been so long since it happened here, as it is thankfully currently mostly out of fashion, I blessedly do not recall the details: not even what the pattern was, or where we put it up in this house.

I do remember it being a 'process', how the paper was already coated with glue, so you did not use a wide sloppy brush to paint the sticky stuff on the back side of the paper. Instructions had us dip the paper in a narrow long vessel of water, a fairly shallow tray that would soak the paper, and activate the dry glue that was already on the rolls of paper. Cut the paper the proper length to match the patterns, dip, and fold ends over towards the middle for a few minutes - giving the glue time to become viscous. Then apply from the top down, carefully matching seams and patterns. It's all coming back to me now. I'm even wishing I could remember which room it was installed in?

The amusing tale I can share is about my husband's adult daughter: I'd asked K. to come and help me put up a border, maybe about six inches wide, around the top edge of the wall in the small hall bathroom. Assuming it would be a very simple task. But when she stepped up on the edge of the tub, and put her other foot on the soap dish, with wallpaper in hand, the soap dish gave way. Can't recall if she fell in the tub, or caught herself before slipping in. The ceramic dish, in the tile wall, had a little hand hold on the top edge, that extends enough to grip if you are needing to steady yourself getting in or out. It popped right off.

She called her very handy husband, who came to inspect the damage, went to the tile store and got a replacement, quickly did the repairs to make it good as new. But thinking about hanging wallpaper, one of the things that will 'prove' a relationship, made me think of this story from years ago. K. is a good sport, with a wonderful sense of humor, readily laughs at life. She will get a chuckle when she reads this after all these years.

So now we have two out of three' Make or Break' events: hanging wall paper and installing sheetrock with your spouse. If you know of the third, please let me know. It is so telling, ways that will provide the proof of sturdiness of a relationship, it would be good fodder for printing on a wooden  plaque sold at Hobby Lobby.

December 32, 2016. This is the last one for the year. I plan to leave this year and enter the next one laughing. And hope it will not be at myself!

it started me thinking...

Friday, December 30, 2016
... when I read an email from my brother this morning. I knew he had been helping adult children (with two small kids of their own) do some prep. work to relocate. They had been living in an older  house in the inner city, in a nice neighborhood. Well kept homes, tidy lawns and landscaping, wide sidewalks for trikes and baby strollers, dog walking. But with a growing family, needed more space.

My brother, handy guy that he is, had helped the son with a number of home improvement projects over recent years, to update, maybe finish an upstairs to be living space, build a workshop in the basement. He has reported going to their 'new' house painting, as they prepare to move in. Just a short drive for him, living out in the suburbs, into the area where they are relocating less than a mile from the old  neighborhood.

And  more recently reports having been to visit the other son, who moved into a brand new house this summer.  Helping to finish a basement, hanging sheet rock. Creating walls that will need to be mudded, sanded, painted, detailed with trim to complete the room. I expect he will participate in all that work as well. I commented on what a handy guy he is, how smart and capable he has gotten over the years, learning so many things in the course of handyman/home improvement projects.

Then said: I recall hearing my mom tell about things that would be the true test of a marriage. I think there were three items on her list of events that serve as proving ground for commitment. Sadly the only one I readily recall is how often she found herself commandeered to hold/support dry wall when my dad was working on the interior of the house they lived in for over fifty years. She claimed the process of hanging sheet rock was an opportunity to determine the solidity of a relationship. I hope to eventually remember those other things she reported as definitive moments... so more to come....

sledding...

Thursday, December 29, 2016
... on the artificial snow, being continually replenished in the fifty-plus degree temperature at Stone Mountain Park. The weather was so unseasonably warm on Thursday, Dec. 28, there were people out there sledding in shorts and T-shirts. That would not have been me, as I had on ample clothing, but it was astounding to see how some people dressed for a day in the park. Not actually any more surprising than what you would see when passing through the crowds at the Atlanta Airport Terminal, which is always good for entertainment of the befuddling sort. The type amusement where you look at the attire of complete strangers in wonder and ask yourself: what were they thinking?

I wanted to go and have a day of sledding again, so we ended up with reservations on the only day the three of us could agree on for getting there. Various scheduling conflicts as well as availability for days on not working. This is the third year we have been, and perhaps the last. I may have had enough fun of that nature to not need a repeat. Other times have been earlier in the day, and it seems the waiting in line has not been so time consuming on previous trips. I know we spent much more time standing around that actually sledding, partially due to the fact that the slipping down the slope happens so fast it's over before you get yourself settled in and fully ready for the push over the edge.

It was good fun, especially with my fave-o-rite people.

non-update on the auntie...

Wednesday, December 28, 2016
... meaning I do not know anything. Have nothing to report about her status, condition/well-being. But I can tell you about mine. After hearing from other people, friends of hers, family of us both: all the bad things she was saying about me, I knew I should lay low for a while. So did not write or call her for weeks.

She has been telling everyone who would listen that I am the source of all her misfortune. Hopefully they take her with a grain of salt, realizing that she is not a reliable source of information. This whole situation is really sad, as she declines due to the effects of dementia. A classic example of self-neglect that accompanies a general un-awareness of things we here in the land of normalcy all routinely do, take for granted as being capable of caring for ourselves.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided: 'I am bigger than that.' So I started writing her again, several times a week, just updates on current events. I've been doing that same thing for years - just friendly letters, making an effort to stay connected. All the while, hoping she would not write me back, send correspondence I could not decipher. Attempting to read her handwriting is like trying to translate hieroglyphics as seen in a mirror image. After she left the rehab. and returned home, began calling people to report of my 'bad behavior', I made no effort to contact her. Thinking it would be in my best interest to do as the Tar-baby from the Joel Chandler Harris tales: lay low and say nothing.

But recently decided to write, apologize for I-know-not-what, then proceed as usual. Let the past be the past. I am bigger than that. I have yet to hear from her. But I will do the right thing, regardless of what she does/does not, is capable of doing. So this is what a 'non-update' looks like...me deciding  to not be bogged down by other people's limitations or choices.

about that unavailable manager....

Tuesday, December 27, 2016
... who seems to be: a) hypochodriac, b) accident prone, c) chronically unlucky, d) all of the above.

He had back surgery late summer a year ago, for a historically painful problem that the cutting and sewing seemed to resolve. Out of work for weeks. Then he had some sort of crisis that involved a stone: either kidney or gall. He sadly became the recipient of a variety of impolite jokes about how conveniently he is not available for work when most needed. For instance: during any major retail holiday. Which basically means when he really needs to be at work: not there!

Most recent installment of the Not Available saga: back in the fall, maybe mid-October, he was out walking in the woods in the dark. (Why? I cannot say.) A random dog ran up and started gnawing on  him. He chased the dog off, but was badly bit on the leg. Requiring hours in the ER to get sewed up. With instructions to stay off his feet, keep the leg propped up. Being a guy and knowing far more than any highly trained medical person, he did not follow the doctor's orders.

Returning to work lead to inflammation, infection and a stay of five days in the hospital to have antibiotics delivered through an IV to bring infection under control and reduce swelling.  Released from the hospital, he went out in the woods, and fell out of the deer stand. On his rifle. And a limb fell on his head.

He has been out of work since before Thanksgiving, a huge retail event in the grocery business. And Christmas. I saw his wife in the store yesterday - she reported he was out in the yard on Christmas, with a teen-aged son who had received a gift of 'throwing knives'. One of the knives ricocheted off the desired target and hit this unlucky man in the knee. I do not know which end of the knife hit the knee, but will suppose with such consistently bad luck, it was the end that would make a hole.

Speaking of funny colloquialisms, the one my mom would use for some one with such a run of awful incidents, would be 'snake-bit'. Which apparently indicates 'if it were not for bad luck, he would not have any luck at all.'

conversing with a co-worker...

... has enlightened me to several bits of 'truthiness' that were not in my catalog of amusing expressions.  I have mentioned colloquialisms over the years that were not necessarily specific to my mom, but I had never heard them from anyone else. Therefore, when I do have occasion to think of situations where they apply,  or possibly hear them from another source, I will invariably think of my mom.  Just odd little sayings that I associate with her.

I've heard a couple that are new to me, but have likely been around for many years. These come from a woman I have worked with for a while, who comes from a very different background. Raised in southeast Alabama, in a family with a number of children, by parents who struggled financially to provide for them. So children started helping to provide support at a very young age. Just markedly different from my personal circumstances.

One of these profound expressions, we have had several occasions to discuss and apply to various people in the workplace: 'Every tub has to sit on it's own bottom'. The first time I heard Alice say it, I thought: 'what?' We talked about it, how she heard it from her mother, and how it would apply to a situation of people ultimately being held responsible for their actions, and resulting consequences.

Another I heard last week when we were working together before Christmas. The department manager has been out with various health problems for some time, and Alice was commenting to our store manager about how capably the assistant has performed under pressure.  She started the conversation off with 'it's a sorry dog that won't wag it's own tail.' Then proceeded to say what
a good job he had been doing, while managing to get everything needed ordered from the warehouse, all the goods put out on the sales floor, people busy doing their jobs. I am therefore assuming that the statement about the dog means: if don't brag on yourself no one else will. Toot your own horn!

Christmas ham story...

Sunday, December 25, 2016
... told on and about the man who went to buy the porker at the HoneyBaked store. I told him it would be a mess, that everyone within a hundred miles not having one shipped via FedEx would be there in a Very Congested parking lot. And that unless he called ahead, he would likely have to take a number and wait his turn in a very long, tedious line.

When we were discussing the menu for lunch, I was attempting to lean towards something fairly light, easy to prepare, uncomplicated to assemble, and agreeable to people who had been grazing for hours. Which, in my mind, sounded like turkey BLTs. My dad's favorite part of the great, groaning, overwhelming feast traditonally spread on holiday/over-eating occasions. He did love the day after, when he made a sandwich with sliced turkey added to the classic ingredients of bacon-lettuce-tomato.

Outvoted, I was. The menu was mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, roasted brussels sprouts, apple salad, freshly baked yeast rolls and ham. And butter in the shape of a three inch tall Christmas tree. All delicious and tasty as we would expect from the kitchen of A Trained Professional. It might have caused some of the participants to think about taking a nap.

After offering to get a ham when I went to work in the supermarket and being told it Had To Be HoneyBaked, I said: 'Your dad, who has all the time in the world, will go to the store and pick it up.' He was warned about the traffic and vast number of pedestrians. But apparently he did not believe the veracity of 'there be dragons here'. Because he came in with a $48 dollar chunk of pork and great surprise at the conflict involved in securing the goods. Reporting there were two uniformed policemen directing traffic at the intersection of Honeybaked and Ham streets. (Not really, I made the street names up.)

But there really were two cops there, keeping traffic moving. Directing and parking vehicles up and down both sides of the street. I guess he decided he'd gotten that far, and might as well finish the mission - because he had to stand in line. Not something he would have chosen, preferred or volunteered to do. He took a number and waited his turn, to finally be granted an audience with the ham of his choice. I've heard him tell the story three times, and he has probably gotten a lot more mileage out of it than that.

Still don't understand why he was not prepared for the ordeal. I told him what to expect, but somehow he did not believe it would be happening to him. The leftover slices were portioned out amongst all those attending. I expect we he will get another meal or so out of it, or will just graze in the zip-lock baggie until it is gone.

update on unreliable knee...

Saturday, December 24, 2016
... the one that in recent years has developed a propensity for not being dependable. Left leg, which is likely the reason I have been wearing the velcro boot on right foot for the past two months, and possibly indefinitely. I went to the foot Dr. several weeks ago, having set appts. at two week intervals, for them to bill insurance for more x-rays and say: come back in two weeks. At my last office visit, he actually said 'you don't need to come back, but you should continue to wear the boot until it does not hurt any more'. Which I later concluded will probably be the rest of my life.

I sort of felt like the foot problem was a resolved as it was going to get, so made an appt. to go back to the knee doctor, due to thinking the aggravating knee is likely the origin of the disability that created the foot problem. You know: like the song explains where 'the knee bone is connected to the leg bone, and the leg bone is connected to the foot bone, etc., etc.,' The knee man wanted me to get a the procedure done where they take lots of photos of the insides, while you are freaking out being enclosed in a narrow tunnel/machine. I said: "Oh, no. That won't do at all."

And was sent to a  'open MRI' that was only slightly less freak-out than the one that makes you feel you are being buried alive. Another office visit revealed even more misery than I knew about. Meaning I am entitled to feel much worse than I actually do. My favorite knee doctor said I will eventually need to get a replacement. But there are things to be done to forestall the inevitable. Like an injection of some synthetic goo that replaces the cartilage that is non-existent. And a knee brace that alters the torque so there is less pressure on the part of the joint that has no cushioning, where bones are rubbing together.

I am still wearing the boot, thumping along, sounding like a pirate clumping across the deck of the schooner. And waiting for the people with the knee brace to call to tell  me it is ready to put on. Knee man said I could expect to get a lot of sympathy when I put on that brace with the metal joint. But it is more likely I will just get really tired of answering the 'what happened? ' question....

thinking about home-made/scratch egg nog...

...which also means I have been thinking about my dad today. He loved to tell about being a small boy and having to use a wire whip to beat the egg whites when his mom made egg nog. This is, I am sure, before the era of electric mixers, so you had to beat and beat and beat to get the whites ready to fold into the yolks (which were also beat half to death.).

I am guessing you would use at least a dozen eggs, first separating white from yolk - if you are going to make the nog, you might as well make enough to reward yourself for the effort involved. I was telling someone today that I grew up in a 'dry' county, meaning you could not purchase hard liquor, and I expect beer was scarce.  It is likely there was plenty of the illegal stuff, made in the woods, or someone's abandoned barn, using recycled fifty-five gallon drums, and filtered through a dirty secondhand auto radiator. The sort of bootleg stuff that is so potent it is caustic to human plumbing.

The story I heard from my dad is that his mom with sit him on the kitchen table (probably before the advent of counter tops or cabinets  for storing utensils/pots and pans.) Give him a bowl of egg whites and tell  him to start beating with a wire whip. He said he felt like his arm would fall off his body, it seemed to take so long, be such a tedious task. When the egg whites are stiff enough to form peaks, it is time to gently fold into the well beaten yolks.

Yes, I know this sounds like a recipe for salmonella. And spending the rest of the holiday in the ER.

Then he had to beat and beat and beat the whipping cream to fold into the egg mixture before they slowly, one tablespoon at the time, added the bourbon. Cannot say what sort of alcoholic beverage was included in the recipe from Grandmother Rosa's kitchen, but it could have been sherry or a more seriously disabling ingredient. My dad had a bottle that lived in the closet, and only came out when it was time to make fruitcake or eggnog. You had to know where to look in the darkest recesses of the closet to find it. Not easily located, in case the Baptists might come to visit.

I have a very clear memory of making egg nog with my dad, after I became an adult. Watching him separate the eggs, giving me the bowl of whites to beat till they would form stiff peaks (with a hand-held electric mixer), slowly adding granulated sugar. While he is beating the yolks with a big stand mixer, giving me to eagle eye so I don't quit too soon. Watching him whip the heavy cream, and then methodically fold it all together. Slowly, one tablespoon (per egg) adding the 'oh-be-joyful' to the egg mixture, dribbling in the amber colored liquid, to keep it from separating.

Given a glass full,with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top, that was so thick a spoon would stand up in it. And having it be such a powerful taste, with that little tablespoon of whiskey, it would make me cringe. Sadly, my small-town definition of egg nog was the stuff that comes in the waxed carton from the dairy case, about the consistency of heavy cream, loaded with sugar, and a sprinkling of spices to add a nog'ish flavor.

not gift shopping...

Friday, December 23, 2016
...as it is mostly a 'non-fun' thing to do. Not sure how the Joy escaped from the idea of making purchases to give away, but it seems like I have not done any of the crazy chasing around and madly spending for things to wrap, give to others. I'm not wanting to wear the mantle of 'Scrooge', and do think I have at least a small measure of holiday spirit. But pretty sure I have not been/will not be caught up in the chasing around/frantically buying part of the season.

It seems I avoid shopping. Not with forethought, but just do not go places that would present me with the blatant indicators to separate me from my dough. Even though I am at Sam's Club once a week with a list of needs for church staff, I rarely make any purchase that is not something I deliver to the church. I don't go to the mall, in wallyworld only when necessary, and rarely in a store that would tempt me to buy, buy, buy. Ultimately, it's mostly because I don't want more 'stuff' in my life.

I'll be giving gift cards for Christmas. (If you are one of the fortunates who receive birthday greetings, you likely get a gift card for Burger King, Chic-fil-A or Taco Bell.) I found myself laughing yesterday afternoon when I tried to resupply my stock of gift cards for the drive-through, fast food establishment Sonic. There is one located in the perimeter of the parking lot at my workplace, so a quick easy stop for easily mail-able gifts to insert in birthday cards. They have been 'out' for weeks. Every time I go by, hoping to get more cards, they tell me to come back next week. So: that is trip #1 through the drive-thru lane.

I went up to the north side of town, where there is a bedlam, chaotic shopping strip mall. Thousands of parking slots, dozens of stores, movie multi-plex, eateries. And another Sonic. I had to laugh at myself as I made the third loop around the building. Once to try to discern where the little kiosk is where they say 'welcome to Sonic, can I take your order?', again to get in the line for inching up to the that kiosk, then a third time when I decided I would get out of that long, tedious, not moving row of vehicles and just ask. Count 'em: circling the parking lot three times. Plus the one time around the other store...

So I parked, approached a worker and said: 'Do you have gift cards? Which I thought was a legitimate necessary question, as I have asked it half-a-dozen times at the close-to- work Sonic. I bought two, which I have already given away, put in holiday greeting cards and given to fellow employees. Wishing I had gotten more, as Sonic has a really interesting breakfast menu, and seems to be open about 25 hours a day - right up there with Waffle House.


a sweet concert ...

Thursday, December 22, 2016
...that I enjoyed over the weekend, though I was volunteering/working as an usher (in order to attend without having to purchase a ticket.) Allen Levi, a local, well known song-writer and singer was doing a benefit, with proceeds going to a local non-profit. Levi was educated as an attorney, practiced for a number of years, while writing songs on the side. He felt the pull of music so strongly, he quit lawyer-ing for some time, to travel, sing, perform in concerts.

Eventually returning to his home and roots, where he now serves as a county probate judge. There was a similar concert a couple of years ago, during the year-end holiday season. Locals love him and his family, so there was a very good turnout for the event.  He told 'back-stories', sharing amusing tales of the inspiration for particular songs, how he came to write many of the stories he told in musical form.

I would consider him to be a troubadour, in the sense of those folk-singers from the previous century, who traveled the country, with guitar or banjo, sharing their talents with any who cared to listen. He is a consummate story-teller, obviously comfortable with sharing amusing memories as well as happily repeating embarrassing humbling encounters. I had heard him perform live once before in another venue, a local theater, and knew this event would be a treat. Added bonus was his keyboard player is who happens to be part of the praise team at my church.

If Levi had been from a different era, he is the sort of guy you would have found hiking from village to village, with his possessions on  his back, stopping at intervals to sing and tell of his travels. So similar to those people you read of in the history books: wandering minstrels, performing for room and board, then moving on down the road. Allen Levi has stories to tell, and songs to sing, as delightful twenty-first century balladeer.

At the end, he talked about what Christmas is really about - how it is not so much that helpless newborn baby, but a willing full- grown adult, horribly mangled and abused, yet so full of love and compassion He continues to have a powerful impact on the world today. 

book review: "Top Dog"...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
... about service dogs working with Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Written by Maria Goodavage, copyright 2014, subtitled: 'The Story of Marine Hero Lucca'. Goodavage has written another book, in the same vein, titled "Soldier Dogs", which I assume is about Army working dogs.
this one, that I just finished was randomly picked up off the shelf at the library, and read while traveling in talking book form. I enjoyed this story so much, about a Staff Sargent and his dog, Lucca, I will request the other book to read as well.

SSgt. Chris Willingham trained Lucca, and spent two deployments with her, working to clear IEDs and searching for explosive materiel as well as finding many weapons caches and high value human targets. I heard/read that most of the dogs the military uses are bred in Europe and often shepherds or Belgian Malinois or a mix. Willingham eventually became a kennel master for USMC, turning Lucca over to another handler, Cpl. Rodriguez. Rod continued to work the dog, as they served with Special Forces and regular infantry on missions. Lucca was a well-loved, easily liked, even tempered canine, hard working member of patrols, with remarkable results, good finds, great protection for the teams she worked with.

There are heart-wrenching personal stories here: of dogs and Marines who came home in body bags. And beautiful uplifting tales of many occasions that the service canines did the jobs they were trained for, preserving and protecting our service men. Lucca was ultimately injured in Afghanistan, and retired. (During the Vietnam era, the dogs who served in southeast Asia were usually euthanized.) Chris kept informed about her, and after she was discharged, Lucca was adopted by the Willingham family.

while waiting in line...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
...in the cold and dark of the parking lot in front of Best Buy this morning. I heard that people who had purchased that rare bit of frivolity earlier, were selling it on e-bay for quadruple the price. And a man stood outside the door, while we were awaiting our turn to enter one by one, waving cash in an effort to purchase the item.

The price at the register was $59.99 plus tax. Mr. Man, waving Thomas Jefferson's portrait at us was offering eighty bucks. I suggested to him he would have a better chance if he came back with Ben Franklin. He was still there, in the line, with his cash, hoping someone would take his offer of $80. Those fortunate thirty souls who were allowed to purchase the gaming device mostly waited to get the boxed goods rather than come back. We were told that if there were any left at 11:00, that people who had the lucky numbers failed to return to follow through on the purchase, they would be available on a first come-first serve basis.

So now, we are all curious? Wondering if the man who was willing to fork over the four Jeffersons was fortunate enough to get the game? Oddly enough, by the time we got in the store, I did not want mine any longer, but sold it for $55 (and a bowl of hot grits for breakfast) to the person who lured me out into the dark and cold at 5 a.m.

MY little red hen story...

... consists of reporting the effort required to get the annual Christmas Letter in the mail. I am quite pleased with myself, having gotten it done and on its way in record time. Starting with addressing the envelopes in order to know how many copies of the letter I would need to print. When purchasing seasonal stationary in the past, I thought the pack came with one hundred sheets of paper. But last year, when at the office supply store, the shrink wrapped packages with cute holly borders or amusing strings of colorful lights only had eighty sheets. Is that crazy, or what? Yes.

Hoping to not need more than 80, I began address envelopes, long before the letter was actually composed. Finding that there were really fewer than that, so even the skimpy number was sufficient. I got the envelopes ready, stamped, adding return address, and amusing holiday decorations to each. Counted, and decided seventy would be enough (later going for the full eighty). Got them all in the mail last week, to be delivered by the USPS.

I was actually leaving the building at church (where I used the copier) last Wednesday, having folded, with help from a friend, inserted in envelopes and licked them shut. When the mail man came by with his daily delivery. I stood in the parking lot and raised my hand to demonstrate that the 'flag is up' on my invisible mailbox, and gave them directly to the mailman to speed them on their way. Then I thought of several more people who I wanted to inform, so put the last of them in the mail before the end of the week.

All this to say: I bought the envelopes, tediously hand-addressed each one, bought the holiday postage stamps (no licking required), bought the stationary, composed the letter, took it to be copied, paid for the copies, folded the eighty letters, put them in the envelopes, licked the flap, closed them up, handed them to the postman.  I decided several years ago I would not send letters reporting on happenings of family members no longer present at my current location. Practicing saying: 'if you want news about them, you need to go to the source.'

After industriously providing all the information in the preceding paragraph, I do not feel compelled to allow the Man Who Lives Here a reading of the Christmas Letter. He can, if he wishes, compose and send out his own version of yearly activities. At some point, I expect he will receive some commentary/feedback from someone who has read The Letter, and wonder: ????

little red hen story...

... that you may remember from reading in grade school. One of those tales, like Aesops' Fables, meant to be absorbed as wisdom for the ages. Intended to serve as instruction for the youthful, who, while they are mesmerized by hearing of talking animals, will hopefully, ultimately, come to grasp the 'moral' of industrious labor, versus being a lazy ner'-do-well.

If the basic premise escapes your memory: (I have not read it in fifty years, so no need to correct me if this is not 100%, as I am just thinking about the end and presuming to get the basics in order...)  She planted, watered, weeded and harvested the grain to make a loaf of bread. All the laggards and lazybones that she encountered in the course of her efforts would not be persuaded to provide assistance. When she harvested her wheat to take it to the miller, they lounged and laughed. She went  home to bake,and they all scoffed. When she was ready to eat her bread, they all showed up with their bibs tied around their neck, but she declined all their offers of help.

This tale and others, likely take many forms in folk tales around the world, as varied cultures will retell the basic story using native wildlife, adapting to different environments. Being told by the elders through the centuries as a way of passing along wisdom to the next generations, handed down over the years in traditional oral histories before people stored words in written form. And the idea behind the tales, teaching youth to value time spent listening, absorbing the wisdom, and developing character needed for mature living, still applies today.

up in the dark again....



...when I agreed to go to wait in the cold at Best Buy to get a bargain. On good authority, I understood that people who would stand for hours on the sidewalk for hours in the freezing temperatures for hours would be permitted to buy some silly piece of electronics for an amazing price. Not only was it a stupendous bargain, there is a Very Limited Supply, so you had to be there waiting, near the head of the line in order to the one of the Fortunate Few. Allowed to come into the warm toasty store and participate in the conspicuous consumerism that has become our national anthem.

The Original Plan was to get up early enough to be there at four a.m. Which is really not all that difficult for me, as there are days I set my alarm to get me into work at 5 o'clock. But in a sudden rush of wisdom, better judgment had us leaving the house shortly after five, wearing many layers, with blankets, warm beverages, prepared to wait.  We had a folding chair, and set ourselves up on the side walk behind about two dozen other early arrivals. At some point, I overheard a mention of someone having waited in line since 2:00. So, putting this foolish behavior in perspective: we were not nearly as crazy as some, in the unlikely event there are Degrees of Crazy.

A number of people came along after we did, patiently waiting there in the cold wind, calmly que-ed up on the sidewalk, and out into the parking lot of the big box. So I guesstimate that there were maybe sixty people there when the store employee came out at 6:30, with a sheaf of papers in hand. She had numbered the copies of the sale circular she passed out, from 1 to 30, meaning that only thirty of this particular highly desirable item were shipped to this store. How fortuitous, that we were numbers 27 and 28.

We were told that we could come back later and with the 'golden ticket', could get the piece of engineered plastic for the wonderful low price after the store opened at 8 o'clock. So there was the option of going home to take a nap. Which was not really feasible for someone unaccustomed to drinking coffee and loaded with caffeine. Or we could go sit in the car and warm up, wait till store cashiers started arriving, when the lucky thirty early arrivals would be admitted one-by-one to make a single purchase.

The guy who was number 31 was overheard as saying:' I had been standing here a while, then went out to sit in my car and warm up. I looked up to see these other people (meaning us: # 27 and # 28, and the two guys behind us: 29 and 30) come up and get in line, and decided I better get back out there.' Can you even begin to imagine how sad, frustrated and p@**$d off that guy must be?

driving across georgia...


... in the dark yesterday. And on into SC to visit my pen pal and cousin who actually live in fairly close proximity. If you are a frequent reader, and keep up with my travels you know I try to go to SC once a month to visit that sweet, amusing 93 3/4 year old man in Greenville. He served with my dad in the Army during the Big War.

Got up at 4, and left home about 5:00 a.m., to try to get into the city before the millions of vehicles on the highways got so clumped together in a huge wad, that nothing was moving. I do dearly despise that awful traffic, and have told the people there that if not for folks I love who choose to live in that mess, I would never, ever go. I would like to believe my skills are getting better, but honestly, it is more likely that I am just a wee bit less intimidated and fearful due to proximity. In a perfect world, there would be a secret passageway, like the tunnel the drug smugglers use to get their evil product from Mexico into the States, or underground route for kingpins to mysteriously disappear from high security cells.

I picked up a passenger in Decatur, and started out for SC about 9. Had a nice visit with the guy who never met a stranger. It helps of course, that everywhere he goes he is wearing one of many baseball caps that have "WW II Veteran" embroidered on the front. It is such a delight to be out in public with him and have so many people walk up, thank him for service, and want to shake his hand, often telling about family members who are vets.

Went down to Simpsonville to visit the cousin, who met us for a meal and laughs. She'd been to visit her family in Montana, and enjoyed time with cute, funny little people. With photos on her phone (as does everyone on the planet except me) of peeps that live in the land of ice and snow. We got back on the road to return to the city around 6 p.m. One hundred miles in the dark from home to Decatur, 160 miles to Greenville and another 160 back into town. Not much worse than driving to south GA and back in one day, but then....

letter from a friend...

Sunday, December 18, 2016
...with a hilarious line worth repeating. You may not be as amused as I was, but I found it so spot on, I laughed out loud when I opened the 'Wilkes Christmas Letter 2016' and started reading.  Where I found:

"Our family has enjoyed another excellent year - all are well, no one was admitted, committed or arrested this year!"  Sounds to me like they are all happy, prosperous and not incarcerated.

It is so amusing, I am already planning my Christmas letter for next December. Starting off with being thankful that none have been: all the above as well as requiring a autopsy, provided of course, all those things are true. 

while searching...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016
... for a letter I put aside for my attention at a later date, I found something entirely different (and not the letter I was hoping to locate, but the search is still underway.) A thought I had clipped for some unknown source, but well worth sharing. So here is your quote for the day.

"Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator. But among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh."            ~ W. H. Auden


And while we are at it:

"Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise."
                                                                                      ~ Margaret Atwood

wasting your breath...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016
...is what happens when you try to dissuade The Man Who Lives Here once he has made up his mind. I have been observing baffling behavior long enough to know what goes on in there between his ears, even though I cannot even begin to understand or explain it. The latest in a long series of no-longer-surprising developments relates to vehicles.

He told  me a couple of days ago that he was thinking it was time to trade vehicles. The one he has been driving for five years has one more payment, and it will belong completely to him. Meaning it is time to start looking for a new one. I do not understand why it is unacceptable to drive something that does not belong to the bank or loan company. Seems to me like if it is dependable and reliable, you could drive it for a year, and save to have the funds toward a down payment. But nooooo... gotta go looking for a new one the day you get the title in your hot little hands.

He said he will have to buy tires and get some mechanical/brake work done. Apparently he would rather have car payments for another five years than spend a thousand dollars on tires. Doesn't make any sense at all to me, but after all these years with a guy who in some perverse way feels the need to be making payments on a vehicle each month, guess it is really not so unexpected.

book review: "Trials of the Earth"...

Monday, December 12, 2016
...by Mary Mann Hamilton. Written in her later years, reportedly as an accurate story of the life of a pioneer woman - but not the usual western frontier experience. This family settled in Mississippi in the delta area. Worked for years in the logging and sawmilling business as well as farming to provide food for the family.

It took a while for me to finish the book, but it was so interesting, I continued to pick it up and read till the last page. A remarkable woman, who was orphaned as a young teen, married a man she hardly knew at age fourteen in order to keep her siblings together. I cannot even begin to imagine how physically demanding daily life was in that era, when she worked for years cooking in a kitchen with a wood stove providing boarding house food for loggers in densely wooded areas of completely wild forests in Arkansas and the Delta area.

Quoting from the fly leaf of the book:
"Near the end of her life, Mary Mann Hamilton (1866- 1936) was encouraged to record her experiences as a female pioneer. The result is the only known first-hand account of a remarkable woman thrust into the center of taming the American South - surviving floods, tornadoes, and fires; facing bears, panthers and snakes; managing a boarding house in Arkansas that was home to an eccentric group of settles; and running a logging camp in Mississippi that blazed a trail for development in the ...Delta. All this  while caring for her children, several of whom didn't survive the perils of pioneer life.  The extreme hard work and tragedy Hamilton faced are eclipsed only by her emotional and physical strength; her unwavering faith in her husband Frank, a mysterious Englishman; and her tenacious sense of adventure."

I think I learned about this book during my reading of the "True Women" book about early settlers of Texas, so it appears I have been delving into early American history quite a bit. Women with a lot of grit and gumption. An absolute necessity in order to survive in those times and places when everything you had, wore, ate was physically wrested from the environment. Making me very thankful for today's amenities like hot water for showers, washers and dryers, a pantry full of canned goods and staples.

more often than not...

Saturday, December 10, 2016
...on the days I am scheduled to work, I am required to appear at 6:00 a.m. Meaning I set the alarm for 5, and lay there wide-eyed fully awake, waiting for the buzzer go off, then hit snooze. (Among the many reasons I quote my dad's mantra about 'old age is not for sissies', sleeping poorly is among the top most; along with body parts going bad.) So I got up this morning, dragging, put on several layers of clothing in self defense. Made my little bowl of oatmeal and staggered off to work.

Only to discover when I was about half-way there, I had not put on the uglygreenshirt that is required as part of the uniform. I'd put on so many other shirts, then a fleece vest, I did not even notice being under-dressed. Had to call the man who never has to get up and dash out the door to bring my uglygreenshirt when he left the house for the day.

It has been a really rough day. I have been tired, feeling like I am walking underwater, moving in slo-mo since getting vertical at 5: 09. Just exhausted, and not knowing what the problem was. I did a little self-evaluation around 11:00 (when I was supposed to be leaving the work place, but not finished with tasks, so actually left about 1:30). Thinking: man! I am really weary, and seriously hope I am not coming down with a bug? That flu shot I got the end of November has been circulating around in my system long enough to be diluted, and should not be a problem. So why do I feel so crappy?

The 'aha' moment occurred when I was finally done, and walking out to the parking lot. I suddenly remembered I gave blood at the Red Cross Donor Center Friday afternoon. So I am a pint low, making me both dehydrated and seriously depleted of red blood cells, short on hemoglobin/iron. I need to go get an iron tab/supplement and wash it down with a big gulp of water. That, and a Wendy-burger with some red meat should do the trick!

not sure why...

Friday, December 9, 2016
...I would have deliberately done something that pains me. And can tell before it even starts that it will be hugely un-fun. But I did it anyway, meaning I need to go ahead and give  my-foolish-self a good talking to for establishing a Change in Attitude.

Tuesday the 6th was the day all the would-be substitute teachers were required to report to the school district office to be reinstated as properly approved teachers for hire in lieu of contracted workers. I went, with assigned paperwork completed to be documented, and have been indoctrinated. And just this morning, I laid in my warm cozy bed, thankful for electricity, and pondered the question: Why?

What in the world makes me want to go to the trouble to do that to myself? When I have historically had days I would rather suffer the results of dropping a brick on my toe than spend eight hours in a classroom? Accidentally accepting jobs where I find myself in such a stressful environment that I contemplate leaving by mid-morning. Willing to forgo the pay just to get out of the situation. I was in one classroom last year (where I think I had accepted a different job, and was asked to adjust to meet the needs of another absence) where I really knew I was in the wrong place. The really sad part is that they were eight year olds.

There has been some turn-over in the department that supervises substitute teachers, with the man who worked the designated position for many years retiring recently. The new employee has instituted some major changes: including the requirement that a sub. must work twenty days a year to remain 'in good standing', and continue to be employed as a replacement. I failed to take this edict  seriously, resulting in a letter saying 'you can reapply if you would like'. My thinking is that there are always days when positions go unfilled, so forcing potential subs. out of the system is foolhardy. But what do I know? Apparently not much.

I reapplied, went to the meeting, and signed more papers, agreeing to comply with requirements. Along with over a dozen others, quite a few retired teachers. We were given the option of being re-activated immediately or starting Jan. 9. The problem with starting now is the necessity for getting in twenty days of work by the end of school in May. Whereas if you wait till the next semester starts, you are only obligated for ten days. Which is a lot in a bad situation. But trying to get twenty is a lot x 2. So I chose January, putting off the misery until next year....

update on the auntie...

Thursday, December 8, 2016
... who apparently still thinks I have been sneaking in her house and taking her stuff. It is completely baffling as to why she would want to shove all the blame for her problems on me, but she seems to think that I am responsible for her misfortune. I have had calls from the Georgia department of human resources, Adult Protective Services from a Social worker questioning me about what is going on. I have had calls from Public safety cautioning me to keep my distance and stay away from her as she was worried/fearful I was planning to come for a visit.

She has called cousins to ask them to contact me to let me know I should not come to see her. She seems to think I am the person who called the car dealership to have her car towed for service. As well as the person who took her keys to prevent her from driving, since I am also the person who was able to persuade the State to revoke her drivers license. All this would be distressing but for the fact that I know she is not thinking, cannot think clearly or remember anything anyone tells her, and will continue to decline in mental abilities. So I will just be sad and sorry for her as she slowly gets lost to her self, while denying that she is the source of all the difficulties.

remembering....

Wednesday, December 7, 2016
...my dad's sister, who would be celebrating a birthday today. I cannot say how old she would be if she were still here to enjoy the cake and ice cream, but I know she would find delight in the party and a house filled with well-wishers if she could. I actually 'visited' with her today, when I went to the cemetery to put out holiday flowers on family graves. I had lots of bright red silk poinsettia blooms, and some holiday greens to fill up the urns, so left the family plot with colorful Christmas decorations.

I have a story about my dad related to December 7, 1941. I don't think 'celebrate' is the right word as our nations looks back seventy five years to the day the nation of Japan attacked the US Navy Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. My dad told about hearing of the attack when he was driving from Valdosta, where he was working north of town at the Air Force base, headed home. He was apparently listening to the car radio, and heard the report. He said he immediately turned the car around, and went back to his work site. Where he spoke to the supervisor to say he knew he would be called up for active duty soon.

I do not know how quickly he got orders to report, but do know that when he had from college, the previous spring, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. So he knew that if the US became embroiled in the war that was going on in Europe, he would be a part of it. He served in Europe, after training in the US, and spent much of the time in southern France. Fortunately for my generation, by the time he was sent to ETO, much of the fighting was over.

Actually learning from him about the Sunday drive and hearing him tell that he went right back to the base to talk with his boss is pretty much all I ever learned from him about his service in WWII.

movie review: deepwater horizon...

Tuesday, December 6, 2016
... which it was a terrible mistake as it was 'way too intense for me to be viewing. I knew the story, but was surprised to see that this worst oil disaster in the history of the United States happened in 2000. Hard to  realize it has been that long since it occurred.

The story was based on a series of newspaper articles from the New York Times. So we can assume it was well researched and much too accurate with blood and explosions galore. Two leading parts, the boss of the crew as played by Kurt Russell, and a maintenance tech, played by Mark Walhberg were really well done. A boat load of special effects as the rig went up in flames. Due to greed by British Petroleum, wanting to start pumping without sufficient safety precautions. Eleven men died on the rig, while a crew of over one hundred was rescued by a nearby tanker.

I cannot imagine being someone who lives through an experience like that. As surely an occasion for PTSD as anything occurring in a battle zone. At the end of the movie, we learned that a number of the crew no longer works in the oil fields, having decided deep water drilling is no longer their choice of employment. I am sure it pays really well, going out on the rigs for three weeks at a time, then home for a week of R and R, but after surviving an experience like that you would come to realize there are things much more important than money.

quote for the day...

Sunday, December 4, 2016
..."There comes a time in every woman's life when it is a greater relief to swear than to pray."
Mary Mann Hamilton in "Trials of the Earth", copyright 1992, University Press of Mississippi

a funny billboard...

Saturday, December 3, 2016
...seen when driving to Decatur today. After working for five hours, even though I was  not supposed to be on the job today. I had asked for the day off - for something, it turns out, I did not do, but went to spend the afternoon in the city instead. When reminded about a self-defense class I had been invited to attend. It was at a Martial Arts establishment in south Decatur. It was pretty interesting - though I am not sure, if the occasion should arise, I would have the proper response in a crisis situation.

 The billboard, high above the interstate, has probably been up there since before the (disheartening, disturbing, frightening) election. It has photos of both candidates, looking very smug. Expressions of disdain, giving you a feeling like you would have after they tell you that 'yes, you did get the job' only to find that the job is cleaning out the gunk in the bottom of dumpsters. Pictures of both of them on one side of the huge billboard, and a realtors contact info. on the other. With the wording that suggests if you are serious about your threat to relocate to Canada, these real estate people will be happy to manage your rental property for the next four years. Or sell if the move is permanent.

full....

Friday, December 2, 2016
...day of activities for today. A friend/coworker has agreed (maybe 'contracted' is the more appropriate word, as I know she is getting paid for all her organizing time/labor/efforts) to decorate a small country church for a wedding on Saturday. I offered to help on Friday morning, and have tied a number of white bows to be used as pew markers in the church. I told her I would tie more, and will try to get that done today.

Plus she wanted some sort of decor for the windows. I suggested some bundles of greenery that will hang from some cup hooks already in place in the center of the window. After two days of rain, it will be wet in the woods, but I plan to get out there today and cut some cedar, pine and do some 'judicious trimming' on a big boxwood bush that will make nice trim. I'll meet her up in the church in the morning with bows and greenery and donate a couple of hours of my time to helping her add festive touches to the sanctuary. There is a reception in the fellowship hall, but that will not be my concern.

I have volunteered to spend the afternoon at Callaway Gardens. Being a 'greeter' and offering advice or directions/maps to guests who are coming to see the light show in the gardens. There is a 'package' available for people who want to see the lights, spend the night, enjoy a man-sized breakfast buffet and maybe tour the gardens again the following morning. My job, that I did once last year, will be to smile and say 'welcome'. Ask if I can help with providing information. Sort of a 'busman's holiday' for someone who spends every single minute of being employed  wearing a smile and standing on my weary feets....

tying bows...

Thursday, December 1, 2016
...is how I spent most of my day. I'd told a co-worker I would tie some bows for her to use when decorating church pews for a wedding. And offered to make some Christmas bows for sale at the Open House at Botanical Gardens. I think I spent about four hours today making fluffy bows: some with white satin for the Saturday wedding, and the rest with colorful holiday ribbon for attaching to fresh green wreaths and swags for holiday decorating.

Pretty sneaky: I also took bows that had been languishing around my house for several years, fluffed them up and included in the ones that will be for sale to the public when folks come to celebrate the season at the Open House on Sunday. The ribbon is all the kind that is wired on the edges, so pretty easy to sort of resuscitate and make presentable looking. Just takes a little time and affection to make them look re-freshed.

I did not say a word about the recycled bows, just eased the old ones in with the new, and hope they will find good homes. Like all those dozens and dozens of dogs and cats I read about in the paper that were adopted over the Thanks. weekend from the local shelter. It's all about 'presentation', right? You just have to put your best foot forward, be optimistic expecting good results.

holiday decorating...

... here consists of getting out the wreath and hanging it on the light fixture by the front door. I have to get the ladder to be able to reach the metal arm of the fixture, then unscrew the light bulb before I turn on the light. There is a string of tiny little clear lights in the wreath, so that plugs into a socket in the base of the outdoor light. Flip the light switch to on and volia: Christmas is here! 

When daughters left home, only to come back seasonally, they expected all the frou-frou they had seen since the age of awareness dawned. But I had already been tired of dragging it out of the attic, unpacking boxes, putting things together, taking things apart, finding the right box to make it all fit, forcing back into attic. I just quit. Then they said: 'What? No tree? Where are the decoratings?' To which I responded: 'When you come and put it all out, and come back and take it all apart, there will be a tree.'

So here we are: No tree, no tinsel, no blinking lights, no ornaments, no festive greenery. Just the wreath, plugged into the light fixture to let people know the Grinch does not live here. That's it for me.

puttin' in the time...

...happened during the first five days of the current work week. So even though I am willing, I will not be working any more until Sunday. I put in so many hours between Saturday and Tuesday, I could only work for four hours on Wednesday.  Working over forty hours is a really bad thing for us lowly employees, plugging away for hourly wage. 'Corporate' apparently gets thoroughly freaked out by anyone who is hourly getting a minute over the allotted forty, and qualifying for overtime pay. There was a time recently, in the past few months, when I accidentally went into overtime, and everyone went ballistic. Blaming me for not being more aware, and actually made me sign a 'counseling statement' acknowledging fault. Even though it is clearly the responsibility of managers to monitor.

At any rate: I'm done for the week. Have several things on my calendar for the next couple of days but none involve employment. Even though Iwill attend a meeting early next week to provide reinstatement in the sub. teaching program with the local school district. I found myself declared 'ineligible' last spring when I had failed to accept jobs for the minimum number of days required to continue on their listing of available substitutes. Ironic to the extreme that there are never sufficient bodies who want to work to meet demand, and jobs are unfilled on a daily basis. But the individual who manages the program apparently wanted to get rid of 'dead wood', made a decision to eliminate anyone who failed to meet newly enforced standards. Meaning: me!

I've completed the paperwork, been 'suspended' from the program for the required semester, and will go to a meeting next week to be re-indoctrinated. And will try early in the new year to get that prescribed minimum number of work days to remain in good standing. I enjoy the work less and less, but will make an effort to meet the goal of finding work in the schools system for ten days between January and mid-May when schools are dismissed for summer.

sound bites...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
...from a horror movie. This is what I think I must sound like if you don't know it is my disabled self, stumping along down the hall. Makes me think of those awful movies where you see the frighten innocents cowering, wide-eyed with fear, tears streaming down their dirt smeared faces as they huddle in the basement, in hopes of being invisible. While overhead you can see light seeping through the cracks in the flooring. And the enhanced sound track of someone walking around in the kitchen: thump, drag, thump, drag, thump,...looking for his next victim!!

I've been to the foot doctor for the third time. So they now have three sets of x-rays of my right foot, with the broken bone on that connects my little toe to the ankle parts. The plastic and Velcro boot I have been wearing for over a month is tedious, but definitely helps. The bone that the dr. said has a 'stress fracture' does not hurt at all when I am encased in the awkward get-up and thumping around sounding like a peg-leg pirate bumping across the deck.

The doctor, who is (seriously: I might have taught him in first grade Sunday School) young enough to be my child, said I don't need to come back unless I think I do. So I guess I am through letting them bill the insurance company for more x-rays every two weeks. I am to wear this bump-thump for a couple of weeks, then 'taper off', wearing it when I will be on my feets  for an extended period of time during the day.

the rains have come...

...and we are thankful. I hope those places up in TN and elsewhere that are dealing with wildfires, threatening homes, businesses and entire communities are getting some relief as well. It has been raining here for the better part of two days, causing the last of the colorful, deciduous fall leaves to come down - but the blessing of drenching rains is so needed.

I've been dragging garden hoses, wrestling with nozzles and periodically soaking myself by accident. I am delighted to know there is a reprieve from the watering necessary to keep landscaping alive.  We needed rain literally months ago, but will be thankful for what has fallen in the past forty-eight hours. As well as thankful to know we are not in the agriculture business, being totally dependent on the whims of the weather for a livelihood.

I received this interesting little contraption several months ago, and more recently had it installed. It is designed to hang from the guttering along the edge of the roof, for water to run into as it is headed towards the earth. Called 'Lily Cup Rain Chain', a series of small metal cups connected with loops of metal to form a chain from the opening in the gutter down to the ground.  There has been no rainfall here in nearly three months, so no way to see how my rain chain actually works - other than one of the people who installed it standing on the ladder with the hose to run water into the gutter, with onlookers laughing uproariously.

It has finally been tested. When the rain is coming down so hard it appears to be a 'frog-strangler', the water pours straight down out of the gutter where the down spout was removed. But after that first gushing downpour, the rain chain works, looks neat, and is quite amusing. I need to get a basin to go at the bottom of the series of cups, to collect water, and perform double duty as a bird bath/watering spot for local wildlife.

the story from the DA's office...

... might qualify as one of the amusing tales from Paul Harvey's memorable: 'The rest of the Story' series. You may remember the home invasion we had a couple of years ago: it's been a while, two years I think. We got a random call from the prosecuting attorney, who wanted to report that the man who kicked in the front door was being sentenced for a number of similar break ins.

You will be as surprised as I was to hear that the culprit was actually in jail at the time the crime occurred. None of this makes much sense to me, either, but this is what we learned from the District Attorney's office. The crime was done, along with a series of other similar events, while the man was on his lunch break as a 'trusty', living on the taxpayer's dole as an inmate, but being released during the day to some sort of work detail. I cannot provide details, but think he might have actually been assigned to work at the public golf course right across the street from out house.

What we lost: a couple of small caliber handguns, some jewelry, and an accumulation of pocket change from a basket on the dresser when pockets are emptied each night. One piece of jewelry was returned, unique and readily identified, but all else vanished.  We replaced the front door, and door frame. The lesson learned, if you recall: your door frame is put together with staples. It is pre-fab., made in China out of cheap wood, and poorly assembled. It does not matter how many lock/deadbolts you put on the door. The door might hold (our metal door was only dented by the kicks), but the wooden frame will give way.

The culprit was already in jail, so he confessed. He was sentenced to many more years, but who is to say he will not eventually become a trusted inmate in the future. One who is not observed during a lunch break when the supervising individual takes a break as well. I am thankful the evil-doer did not know that my little handgun was in the reusable grocery sack, and the diamond rings were in a box in the bathroom. I guess now that the cat's out of the bag, I should move them, huh?

book review: "Fast into the Night"...

...with a subtitle of ' A woman, her dogs, and their journey on the Iditarod Trail', by Debbie Clarke Moderow, copyright 2016. You've already figured out what the fascinating book is about, but might be surprised to know that it was such a good read, I would take it to work, and read during my lunch break, instead of eating. (The fact that I might have nibbled quite a bit on juicy, ripe, sweet pineapple chunks most of the morning might have a part in the lack of lunch.)

She grew up in the New England states, Conn. or Vermont I think, and went to Alaska on a lark to meet some friends for out door adventures. She was living in Wyoming at the time, but when she went to a party and met her man, Alaska became her home and lifestyle. She had two children, with the family enjoying out door life. Her devotion to dogs began when someone gave her a 'retired' sled dog, that soon became part of the family.

The first time she attempted the Iditarod, it was an unseasonably warm winter, and the thousand mile trail was altered due to some rivers not freezing enough to be traversed by sled. At one point, at least half way into the trip, the dogs balked. Sat down and refused to travel on towards Nome. The team was willing to turn around and return to the previous check point, but would not complete the challenge. It was understandably humiliating, for her to not be able to control or make demands of the team she had worked for many months and miles to train.

Her son, young and adventurous in his twenties, decided to make an attempt, and with many of the same dogs as part of his team. He succeed in completing the Iditarod, all the way to the finish line in Nome. Debbie took some shorter trips, other challenges, over time, reassessing the makeup of her group of dogs.Her awareness of the individual personalities, and quirks of each of her team was fascinating. It obviously takes a tremendous amount of time devoted to interacting with these animals to be so fully aware of their likes/dislikes and individual abilities.  She talked to some experienced breeders, trainers, and mushers hoping to find the right combination of dogs to make a second attempt. No spoilers here....

Some of the descriptions of the landscape are so well written, reporting on the brilliance of the starlight on a cloudless night, with temperatures at twenty below freezing, the air so clean and clear it hurts to breathe. The team of dogs determinedly trotting along across mile after mile of snow and ice, with only her headlamp to reflect on trail markers as a guide. She tells of seeing the colorful display of the Northern Lights, with constantly changing shades, so glorious in their shades of the rainbow, colors that adjectives cannot adequately describe. Traveling along rivers, frozen solid, hearing the ice creaking and groaning. And running all night in the complete silence of the north, with moon light so bright the dogs cast shadows as they run in unison, huffing clouds of steaming breath.

I've read a couple of other books about dog sledding, living with huskies, traveling in the land of ice and snow. By people who loved that life of being outdoors in minus-degree temperatures, in the mountains of the north or west. And would love to go to Alaska, or someplace where the stars are as brillant as a spilled bottle of sparkling glitter. Where the Milky Way is visible in all its splendor, with no light pollution to interfere.

today is the 29th...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
... of November, my mom's birthday. I've been thinking of her all day. And even after all these years, since she died in 2009, wishing things had been different. Not that I could, either now or then, do anything to make her a different person. Or there is any possibility of changing the past, but just wishing that the relationship had been warmer, and we had been better friends.

I think watching the decline of her last sibling, as she struggles with the family curse, makes me wish that my mom and I had been closer in those years when we could have enjoyed time together. I guess I never really felt like I was an adult around her. And as we all tend to do with parents: wishing, hoping, angling for approval.  I'm pretty sure the best thing I ever did from her perspective is give her granddaughters. We sent her cards and love notes for years reminding her that she was the best grandmother in the universe.

I put a memorial notice in the newspaper every year around her birthday, and again in January when she died. The weekly paper in that small town where she lived her entire life comes out on Wednesday, so I don't have a copy of the memorial to show you just yet.  I send a photo, and try to find a sweet poem, remembrance, Bible verse,  thought-y passage to include, so people who knew her (fewer and fewer as the  years go by) will think of her on her birthday. And  say: "My goodness, has it been 'x' years already?.

Then remember what an amazing person she was. If she choose you to 'gift' with her friendship - you were very fortunate. She could be more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Hilariously entertaining, thoroughly amusing, a woman with a real zest for life. I think/hope I got some of that....

So there: that's my memorial to Choppy.

draggin' the garden hose...

Monday, November 28, 2016
...for weeks and weeks, moving sprinklers, connecting and disconnecting nozzle to spray stuff in pots. Hooking up various soaker hoses that have been laid out in beds to keep things alive during this awful drought. Tired of trying to keep things alive, but thankful my livelihood does not depend on the weather. As well as grateful that us here at this house do not depend on growing our own food to keep ourselves fed.

I vowed I would never plant tomato plants again, but then Spring occurred. The weather got warm, sunny and I got itchy when accidentally veering off through the garden shop at Wally world. Even though I could remind myself of how disappointing results were in the past, and frustrating the process of planting for nought. But hope that next spring I will remember my plan to plant zinnias in that spot where tomatoes have been a failure for more years than I care to confess.

It does, of course, make me think about my mom quoting her mother-in-law the lifelong Presbyterian. Anytime something unusual enough to be of note in the media and worthy of comment, would likely be discussed after she said: "We are living in the last days". That was decades ago, and here we are: still at it, doing stupid stuff that damages the environment in ways that cannot be reversed.

too old for this...

Sunday, November 27, 2016
... being employed full time. It happened by accident in the past few days when co-workers were not on the scene, some by choice, some not so much. Resulting in putting in too many unwanted hours of being employed. It is understandably nice to be the beneficiary of a well fed paycheck occasionally. A good night's sleep works wonders. And pay lagging a week behind means I have usually pulled back from the edge of exhaustion by the time the funds appear in my account. So mostly unlikely to remember how weary my poor tired feets were at the end of an excessively long day.

Today has been a day that reinforced my desire to not be employed full time. There is not enough of me to put in a forty hour week and still feel like a human when I get  myself disentangled from work. The store was closed for the holiday, so everyone had the same day off. But when we opened again on Friday, the area where I work was undermanned by two people. (Three if you count the one who was sent home/suspended for three days, but his work ethic is so marginal, it's debatable if he should be counted either absent or present.) It's been rough, trying to get caught up. Everybody doing the work of at least one and a half, struggling to get it all done, feeling like we are bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon.

Finally began to get the feeling we were making some headway today. And no longer swimming against the current. Thankful that when I get to 39 1/2 hours I will be done doing all I can do.

when I had lunch...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016
...with a friend I call occasionally to say: where do you want to meet? While we were eating, she said:

This elderly couple were sitting out on the back porch in the swing he had installed for her many years ago. Just sitting, enjoying the sun setting at the end of the day, listening to the sounds of the world settling down for the night. She said to him: 'Do you remember when you used to put your arm around me while we would sit here in the swing in the evening?" So he scooted over enough to put his arm around her shoulders.

They sat in the swing for a bit more, enjoying the peace at the end of a busy day. And she said to him: "Do you remember when you used to hold my hand when we would sit out here on the porch and swing together?" So he reached over and took her hand. They kept swinging in the growing dusk of the night fall.

Then she said: "Do you remember when you used to hold me close, and nibble on  my ear?" And he said, "Yes I do, but I will have to go in the house and get my teeth".

All those people in the restaurant were probably wondering what we had been drinking, there in the middle of the day, sitting over in the corner, laughing uproariously.

about the p.o. box...

Monday, November 21, 2016

...there must be a back story, and since I don't actually know, there is no reason not to make something up, right? When my dad got home from the Big War, he got married, to a home town girl. Who I am pretty sure did not want to leave the safe familiar environs of family and friends, so they settled down in that small south GA town. Living in various and sundry rented spaces, producing two children. We will assume when they produced one of each gender, they decided to quit.

He went into business with his dad, who was operating a cotton gin, and working as a Texaco distributor selling petroleum products: oil, gasoline and heating oil. When his dad died, he continued to run the businesses in partner ship with his mother. Who was probably a silent partner, enjoyed the income, without providing the labor.

I am guessing my granddad first began use of that PO #229 when he started his business, and will also assume my dad 'inherited' and therefore continued to use the box after the death of his dad. It was our family address for many years. When my dad became executive director of the local Public Housing, he continued to use that box/address for the Authority. After a successful second career in that position, he retired. Agreeing to let the Housing Authority continue use of the PO Box.

Which caused him to finally have a need for mail delivery at his house. In all those years of living in that house he built, there had been no residential delivery. No box, no mail slot, no need for the mailman to bring correspondence to the house. My dad took the front door down off the hinges, proceeded cut a hole in the solid wood door, and installed brass hardware he had purchased, to have a mail slot for home delivery.

But two-two-nine lingers on. Long after he relegated the box at the post office to the Housing Authority, all of south GA uses 229 for an area code. As the population grew in the state, and need for more telephone numbers increased, the southern half of GA had their area code changed. For many years it was 706, but now everyone who applies for a phone number now gets one that starts with 229.

about the post office...

...in that small south GA town where I spent the first seventeen years. Someone recently sent me a notecard that has a photo of the federal post office building.Tidily situated on the corner of main street, at the end of a three block business district.  The kind of card that would have been easily available and popular with tourists fifty years ago. You've seen them: with realistic black and white  photos taken of interesting vistas, then hand tinted, before color photography existed.

I know the card  mounted on the front of the note paper is a reproduction, but it looks like the real thing, with the colors in the bricks, grass and background/sky added for authenticity. The sender of the card could not have known what an unexpected trip I would go on down memory lane as a result of seeing that image. Thinking of a long-gone era.

My dad had a post office box for business mail when I was a child. Our family did not have a box mounted by the front door as did most homes in that era. There was no mail delivered to our house - everything went to P.O. Box 229 in the red brick building. Like most things that happen in the life of a child, you tend to assume what ever is going on in your life happens everywhere: 'normal' for the entire world. When it is raining at your house, it is raining everywhere, right? I never thought it through, but know all the other homes I visited had a little metal mailbox mounted by the door, with a hinged flap at the top for the mailman to deposit incoming correspondence. Completely un-secured, without a thought someone would rifle through your personal business: back in the day.

He would make his daily stop to pick up incoming mail, and if my brother or I were with him, he would let us open the box. A key was needed for the little three inch square door, to access the mail in the box. As we got older, he would often sit in the truck, hand over his key and let us go in the building un-escorted.  Odd as something that insignificant sounds - it must have been, to a small child a measure of maturity, being 'grown up'.

I can picture me bouncing up the steps, on a Sunday morning, after church, in my layers of petticoats, lace-trimmed ankle socks and black patent Mary Janes, blonde curls bouncing - acting so important, with his keys jingling in my hand. Before the era of people hanging their key rings from belt loop on a carabiner, his were in a small leather wallet kept in a back pocket, that folded/zipped, with a row of little metal devices that hooked into the wallet for security. He would often take one key out, but occasionally hand over the whole leather bi-fold wallet. Give it to me or my brother (arguing in the back seat about who got to do it last time) for a child to go in the building to retrieve his mail.

big....

Friday, November 18, 2016
...enough to fill up the entire back seat of my car. Two red ice chests, that could have been full of any number of interesting things. All sorts of contraband, or illicit materials.  Driving back to middle GA from TN today. Even though I had no desire to get pulled over by the blue lights for an all out search of my vehicle - I was still somewhat crestfallen to arrive home without being questioned. No one stopped to inquire, poke around in the back seat, or asked me to 'please step away from the vehicle'.

I could have been hauling moonshine, or puppies. Not a single inquiry, or even flagged down. I guess I just look too mild-mannered, innocent, a most unlikely suspect. Two big plastic ice chests occupying the back seat, and no one was even remotely curious. I could have been an ax murderer, hauling body parts for disposal. But, No. Not me. All those officials with the blue lights looking for miscreants never thought I could be one of those... guess I just don't fit the profile? Bustling along in my little nondescript dirty toyota, head down, driving four miles over the speed limit.

back in 'ye olden times'...

...when I was an ignorant (as opposed to stupid: ignorant meaning poorly informed or untutored) teenager, if I remember correctly every female was required to take a class in Home Economics. I had a very strict, highly capable, really good teacher. I found myself so enamoured of all things domestic things that I took the next class the following year and the next one too: eventually being nominated and receiving: (do not laugh!) Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year award. A little pin, that I still have, along with a long gone certificate. All this in preface to report one of the things I still remember from that class. The teacher would say, when providing instruction for a project she knew fourteen year old would find fear- and trepidation-inducing: 'for a new experience'... try this x, or y or z.

So 'for a new experience' yesterday, while I was in Chattanooga visiting with P., I went along when she was going to a visit a neighbor, sewing machine in tow. For them to figure out how to make a veil to wear when she gets married in a couple of weeks. One of the joys of googling, the friend found one she really liked, plain, simple, high-priced that she thought could easily be duplicated with $17 worth of materials, vs. $279 for the designer original.

The bride-to-be had purchased yards of a very light weight (ie: flimsy) tulle and a metal comb to attach to her hair, plus some gold thread as that was what was in the 279 dollar version, edging the finger tip length veil. P. finally figured out how to apply the gold thread to edge the elongated oval we cut from the swath of tulle, after several practice attempts. No one wanted to guess at how to attach it to the comb, so I said 'give me the needle and thread' to stitch it onto the comb, which would gather the end there on the back of her head, allowing it to drape down the back of her gorgeous dress.

They plan to be married on a float in a parade in downtown Chattanooga. That should be memorable.

it's such a treat...

Thursday, November 17, 2016
...to have a day when you get to do only things you want, without the encumbrance of being employed, or a 'to do' list of necessities. I had one of those days on Wednesday. Having put in enough hours that work was not an option (in only four days of being on the job), it was a pleasant day of being able to do things enjoyable.

Sweet, smart, charming friends who are fellow gardening/planting lovers decided to have a little 'hail and farewell' party to bemoan the end of the growing season in middle Georgia. The one who has a tiny little yard that always looks like an oasis was the hostess.  Enclosed by a brick wall on two sides, and immaculately tidy, making one think of "The Secret Garden", after it was lovingly restored. The other friend, who loves to cook, hostess, share her kitchen skills (formerly a catering business owner) did the yummy eats.

 On a beauty-filled fall day, with every little leaf  perfectly groomed, and minuscule lawn perfectly barber'ed. Coffee or delicious chai tea, and a tasty assortment of finger foods that were so very tempting, I struggled to resist. What was that line, from I think, one of the 'Star Wars' movies? "Resistance is futile..."

Then I met another friend for lunch at a little restaurant I had never patronized before. She said she could not go anyplace they prepared 'commercial' chicken. I put on my seldom worn' 'politeness hat' and did not inquire for details, but presume it is not inappropriate to ask where the fowl originate? It was run by a Thai family, an enjoyable meal and pleasant visit. Amazingly good chicken broth soup, and plate of stir fried rice and veggies. I was tempted to ask for a box for the generous serving I could not consume, but wearing that same 'hat', left half my lunch there on the plate.

Then I got in my car and drove to Tennessee .Motoring up through the north Georgia hills on highway 27, enjoying beautiful sunshine, and color-filled landscape, much fall foliage still visible in distance. To spend the night and day with one of  my favorite people. Arriving in the near dark, sat in her driveway to await her return from work. Not knowing the spouse was already in the house, busily tending a sink full of dirty dishes. I know he wants us to comment, report how delighted we are that he is so domesticated, willing to 'help out'. But really? Guys - you are perfectly capable of doing that stuff. NO one says thank you to me when I do the dishes, or laundry, or kitchen floor.


the one time it didn't work...

Monday, November 14, 2016
...when I was using my phone for an alarm clock to wake me up for getting to work on time. I occasionally will forget that in addition to putting the wake up time in, I also need to change the 'pm' to 'am'. Why it always reverts to pm as a default I cannot say, but it has got me into trouble more than once. Most recently over the weekend....

I had set the alarm on Sat. to wake me on Sunday, so I could get up and be at work at six a.m. My brain is still somewhat scrambled from the time change. I've been waking up at odd  hours thinking it is time to get up and go to work, then look at the digital clock across the room and see: 1:43, or 3:07. Turn over and hope to go back to sleep. Which I did in the wee hours on Sunday, waking about 3'something-or-other and turning over. The next time I woke up it was: holy cow! 5:48.  I jumped up and put on my clothes, dashed out the door without brushing my teeth and roared out the driveway.

It's still unbelievable that I was punching my employee number into the clock at 5:59. I have discovered if I manage to hit all the traffic lights from here to there green I can actually make it to work in about five minutes. But to go from sound asleep to on the job in eleven minutes is astounding. I am still amazed. I never, ever get to work late - might not get anywhere else on time, but I am on time for work. Still - from the bed to the time clock in eleven  minutes? Wow!

You can be certain I will be checking to be sure the clock knows I mean to have the alarm go off in the AM in the future.

book review: "Lost on a Mountain in Maine"...

...written in the first person by a nine year old boy, Donn Fendler. Cannot recall where I read a reference to the book, that caused me to get it from the library to read, but it was certainly interesting. It was actually printed fifty years ago. I assume he had a ghost-writer or some one in the publishing business help with the narrative. I'm thinking maybe I heard a reference to the book on public radio, and something about how it has been half a century since the lost-ness actually happened, and that maybe the book has been reissued with a new fore ward written by the author.

When I found it at the library, it was actually a set of two Cd's, so I read it while driving to SC last week. The story, on the 'talking book' is read by a young boy, making it seem like something that just recently occurred, and all the more believable. As Donn tells of his experience floundering in the wilderness for nine days, his choice expletive is 'Christmas!' for times of greatest frustration, fear, doubt.

He was out on Mt. Katahadin with his dad and others, among them being a teenager who was well experienced as a wilderness guide. Donn grew up in Maine, and had spent much time in the woods with his dad, but simply got off the path and continued going. It was a foggy day, and they were up so  high they were in the clouds at the mountain top. Over the days, he found berries to eat, drank from a stream. Took off his dungarees when they got soaked to try to dry them out, and eventually lost his pants.Took off his shoes when they got soaked, his feet had blisters, and eventually lost both shoes.

 He knew to follow water flowing downhill, found several vacated cabins, hoping for food, but only found empty tin cans. On the ninth day of floundering in the forest, trying to stay close to the creek, he came to a lake where there was a family in a cabin. They knew he was the 'lost boy', and immediately called with notification of his reappearance.

computer geek...

Sunday, November 13, 2016
...in the work place. He told a story about being banned from an online game he plays, not allowed to participate for a week when someone discovered he had hacked the system. He claimed he had not cheated, but did it just to prove he could. I figured he would be my' go-to' guy for computer problems. And he is.

A couple of questions he has been able to solve as a result of me telling him what the problem is, and he would say: when that happens to me, I just x-y-z. So I wrote it down, took my note home, and applied some  of the recommended 'xyz' that to the best of my limited understanding was miraculous. Going to show how very little I actually understand.

I thought there must be someway to get on the internet (in a place where One Actually Has Internet) without having to plug in to the wall. So I asked, when I plugged in yesterday, sneaking around at work. He apparently got it going. While muttering about how much he hates Windows 8, but poking around, punching buttons and bypassing things. Allowing to get me to the point that I don't have to plug in just to soothe my blog urge.

He commented that without internet they are pretty useless. I had not thought about this: but with no wi-fi or connecting, what's the point? Nothing, I suppose.

still hoping to connect....

...eventually from the house. But it appears that will not happen in the near future. The 'take charge' guy seems to have been attacked by a serious inertia bug.  Apparently when he gets settled and (sadly) complacent in the big comfy recliner, it is not likely he will hear the cries of desperation from the other end of the house by the person who suffers from disconnect. Guess the hearing aids need fresh batteries?

I went to visit a friend on Friday morning, and pirated internet for five hours. She lives in a big multi-level retirement center, and is likely the youngest person in the building. I asked if I could come by and plug in, she assured me is would be acceptable. In a big meeting room the facility uses for games, parties, special events, with tables and chairs set up for residents to gather.

I was so itchy to tell stories, gripe about home situation, check e-mail, spill the beans for all the universe, I got there about 7:30, partially due to a frazzled brain from dropping Daylight Savings Time - which is still affecting my internal clock. Checking and responding to messages, telling the funny chicken story, and chatting with passersby.

Some teenagers came in, expecting to play board games with the seniors. I thought that was sort of strange until I remembered that schools were closed, plus it was veteran's day. Now I assume they were planning to talk, ask questions of the elders, especially the ones who had been in the military.

And a woman who apparently comes on a regular basis to market her cosmetics. She was dressed to the nines, as you would expect someone who makes a living by promoting attractiveness. Along with a perfectly assembled face, and a table full of pots and potions she could persuade you would preserve your skin for a hundred years.

It got sort of chaotic there in the meeting room, but I was so itchy, determined to get my fill of stolen internet I spent the whole morning. It was after noon before I left, realizing I never ate breakfast. I did get caught up... but the thing is: it never lasts. Sort of like a tasty bite of chocolate, when you thought  only one piece would be enough to satisfy.

chicken story, part 3....

Friday, November 11, 2016
...the rescued hens went to a house with little kids who were so stunned, excited, profoundly delighted to see the frightened, confused fowl, the little people immediately named one of the birds 'Heaven'. Along with three traumatized chickens, the rescuer took a large dog crate for them to stay in at night, go to roost and have a safe haven. And a bag of feed from the farm store. So the photos you are seeing that just got posted on part 1 and 2, are of the backyard where the chickens found a safe haven from the frat. house.

In a home with one nearly-teenager and two other small boys that were completely fascinated by the sudden appearance of chickens. Equally amazed that one of the birds produced an fresh egg, for them to argue over at breakfast. Sadly, the house is also home to a (mostly harmless) German Shepherd, who is an excellent watch dog. Keeping the yard safe from invasive critters like possums and raccoons.

The dog has already had an encounter with the hens, causing one to demise. Hopefully there will be some way for the remaining two fowl to be safe. And people to teach the large, loud, but generally friendly canine how to co-exist with bird-brains. The dog understandably thinks his job is to protect his people, keep all the other animals away from his family. And the chickens are certainly not very bright, but I do hope they will learn to get along before more feathered friends depart this world.

Chicken story, part 2...


...allows them to mostly have a happy ending. The first one she found belonged to a guy who thought it would make a good pet. He had already given it a name: Hennifer. First step towards domestication? She asked if he would sell the chicken. He said he wanted to keep it, even though he was offered cash. Her response: "You have to build a coop for it, which will be expensive. They sh*t everywhere. You can keep the chicken or you can take my money and buy some beer." He immediately turned over the chicken. Which she put in her carton, where I presume it felt safe enough to go to sleep.

But there were more birds out there in need of rescue. She found two more, on the property of a frat. house, where there were several guys industriously hammering together a pen for the two fowl they had. She came along with another box and a carton of ice-cream sandwiches and offered to swap. They surrendered the chickens, which she put in her box, closed the lid and departed. Securing a total of three.

A parent of one of the frat. boys apparently took two of the chickens home before they became orphans. Hopefully, to a place with other farm animals, and plenty of space for fowl to enjoy scratching and pecking. Now all five of the ladies are accounted for, in a place where they will be appreciated for the habits of laying hens, safe from juvenile frat. boys, vehicles, and predators.

funny chicken story...


...that I cannot take credit for, but have enjoyed retelling and talking about for several days. Starting with a phone call received early in the week, from the girl who feeds two hundred college students five days a week in the sorority on the campus of GA Tech. She got a report from some of these students that one of the fraternity groups had some live chickens. Which caused the antennae to perk up, her to put on her 'investigate this' hat, and start asking questions about the fowl.

I think the girls who spilled the beans reported the birds were used for decorations when the (juvenile) frat. boys were planning a party with a 'hoe-down' theme. One of the profoundly immature guys who was on the immature committee thought it would be great fun to have some actual live chickens to include in the festivities. The source, who attended the event, said that poor birds were huddled over in a corner of the party space, terrified by the noise, activity, drunk party guys.

If you know anything at all about chickens, you will are aware they want to go to bed when it gets dark. They need someplace safe to roost, be peaceful, sleep when the sun goes down. So having teenage college students thinking they would be amusing or entertaining when the noise was ramped up and the liquor started flowing was profoundly poor judgment - but not so surprising considering the party planners. Mostly guys who would have been born with collective silver spoons, living a wealthy lifestyle in a frat. house, due to the beneficence of dads with platinum credit cards.

The chicken lover got a carton and went out to locate the birds, due to feeling they were in great need of rescue, before the guys got bored with chicken and turned them loose in traffic. So what happened, you may ask?