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my dad's birthday...

Monday, May 30, 2016
...May 30. He was born in 1920. I remember in that last year, he said he was hoping to live to be 80. And also hoping to see the turn of the century. He did both.

I think about him every day. And especially today.

He was a devotee of ice cream. Good or bad, but especially home-made with lots of cream, and fresh fruit. Making it from scratch, cooking the custard all day long with eggs, milk, sugar till it got thick. Straining all the lumps out, then putting in the fridge to chill overnight, adding either peaches in season or fresh strawberries that had been put in the blender to liquefy. Mixing the fruit into the thickened custard, and the process of starting up the churn with ice and salt in the sink by the back door. I can almost hear the sound of that electric  motor on the churn as it stirs and thickens, freezing his ice cream into the perfect consistency, perfectly delicious taste of summer.

So I will have some ice cream today and think of my dad.

the story of the mastercard...

...is tedious and frustrating, but since I have not been hacked, mistreated, abused or being held hostage for someone's theft of my identity, I guess it has a happy ending. As many tales of some a of credit-card crisis do not, with people being caught unawares, cards being misused, personal info. hijacked, and credit ruined for years. To say nothing of the nightmare of trying to unravel the huge mess left in the wake of an uninitiated, uninvited, unwanted Hot Mess of a financial debacle.

But this one is satisfactorily resolved. It started when I noticed early in the month that my credit card had an expiration date of 5/16, and knew I should expect to receive a replacement before the end of May. I would occasionally notice the exp. date when I would pull the card out of my wallet to use it, on an almost daily basis (an Important Fact: frequent use). When a new card did not come in the mail by the middle of the month, I began to be a little concerned, wondering when it would arrive.

First mistake - though we think we are supposed to call the toll free number when we anticipate a problem, right?  I called that number on the back of the card, merely to inquire about when I might expect to get a replacement. And went through that process of tell us the number three times, and 'who did you say you are?', and 'are you really, really you?'

Apparently after that long, tedious, convoluted part where you have to prove that you are you, we passed the point of No Return.  Unknowingly set off some invisible warning that caused the card to be cancelled. So no matter what the conversation at that point, I was card-less. The rep. I spoke with reported the replacement card had been mailed out the end of March? What? Where was it? Who had it? What had happened to the card I did not get? It was sent to the post office box, so maybe just mis-put? But definitely not received by me. And thankfully not used by some anonymous creep. This does explain the necessity of cancelling - the fact that it had been shipped, but not received. And we changed the mailing address from the post office to street address.

I don't use a debit card, but do depend mightily on my MasterCard, pulling it out to buy gas, or groceries on a regular basis. Often multiple times a day, as I am so conveniently located in a supermarket nearly every day of the week. Plus rarely have actual cash in my pocket, so really dependent on the plastic.

I begged that customer service rep. to not cancel me, but to no avail. She said all my info. had been transferred to another account, and they would mail me the new card with the new number. I do have sense enough to not put checks for payments, or valuable mail in my box up on the street for pickup, and don't want stuff sitting in my box all day for passers-by and riff-raff to snatch it away. So I said you cannot send it to the street address and leave my credit card sitting in the box up on the street. They agreed to overnight it, and also FedEx, so it would be delivered to the door instead of languishing in that sweltering hot little metal box on the wooden post.

I was paranoid, anxious, stressed out, fearful, mildly confused, panick-y the whole time I was without a card. Sadly, so accustomed to pulling the plastic out and swiping with impunity, I was hyperventilating waiting for the replacement to arrive. When the FedEx guy pulled up in the driveway, I was out there waiting to give him a big hug. And I am generally Not A Hugger.

Needless to say, after the aforementioned trials and tribulations, the 'replacement' that she claimed was mailed in late March, with obsolete, nonfunctioning number came as well. What I am thinking is that the service rep. fumbled the ball with her dates, and did decipher what ever code they use for shipping properly, telling me March, when she meant May. She otherwise spoke perfectly good English... so it was not a problem with ESOL...

Anyway: happy ending. I have already put thousands of dollars on my new card, just to test it. Now all I have to do is pay the bill when it comes!

trivia about travels...

Saturday, May 28, 2016
...even though I am not yet back to the starting point. I left home very early on Friday morning, to drive to SC and visit my pen pal who lives in Greenville. A friend I try to go up and visit on a monthly basis. He is in his nineties, so I know there will come a time when I want to go and spend the day and he won't be around any more, so I make an effort to get there frequently. Plus a favorite cousin who lives nearby and will usually allow me to invite myself to come and spend the night in her spare bedroom.

Getting on the road soon after five a.m., to make the four hour drive, skirting around the awful mess of Atlanta metro traffic during the morning chaos. It was not nearly as bad anticipated, as I tend to paint a picture of bumper to bumper vehicles, twelve lanes across, creeping along at thirteen mph. But it was relatively easy, though nothing for me is 'easy' about the stress of driving in the city. I was in Greenville in about four hours, and enjoyed a nice visit with my friend. I stopped along the way at a Wallyworld to purchase a plant to give him - something that will bloom all summer long.

I also took him a five gallon bucket with a tomato plant in it. I'd put it in a container with drainage holes several weeks ago, with plans to take and share when I could make the trip to SC.  He used to enjoy gardening, and I know he does not have the energy to do the prep., cultivation required to grow vegetables now. I thought he would enjoy watering and watching this little 'Husky' grow. Hope it will do well in his yard, and he will enjoy some fresh grape tomatoes as it starts producing in a few weeks.

During the day he wanted to go to Wallyworld to look at lawnmowers, so we took a drive. I told him he did not need to be mowing his yard, that he has too many great grandchildren who would/could do that for him. But he seems to think he can buy a 'self-propelled' and get the job done. Mr. Ninety-three Years Old does not need to be pushing a lawn mower in the hot August sun.

Had a nice visit with my cousin, and some good laughs. Got to see current photos of cute grandkids, and catch up on news. I knew I would get up very early to return to Decatur today, on the road by 6 a.m. And stopped on the east side of town to get a birthday gift for a six year old we would see today.  We had been invited to a family birthday party for a four year old this morning who was visiting his grandmother. And went to the party this afternoon for the girl who has had about four parties already to celebrate being six.

So that makes three trips to Wallyworld in 24 hours. And two birthday parties in one day. I need a nap.

book review: "Ashley's War'....

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
...by Gayle Lemmon. The subtitle is the 'Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield'. This is the same author who wrote another book I recently read  (The Dressmaker of Khar Khana) and reported on about a family living in Kabul who taught themselves to sew, and turned their skills into a cottage industry. Siblings who began making clothing to support themselves and extended family. They were forced by the authorities to stay at home, could not continue with education, or be employed outside the home, not allowed to hold jobs, but  hidden from view when the Taliban came into power. True and amazing story of resilience, creativity, ingenuity and perseverance.

This newest book is one I heard the author talking about at an event at the Infantry Museum several weeks ago. I requested the book from the library and found the one about the Afghan family, so read it first. Just received "Ashley's War" the end of last week and finished it yesterday. Lemmon has done in depth personal interviews and research, and written a very readable, well documented story. I knew things would end badly, as Ashley is one of the first women to be killed in the Afghan war.

But her story is one that really resonates. Reading about Ashley and other young women who volunteer for the Army, in the Guard or Reserves or active duty. Then volunteer to undergo rigorous training to master necessary skills to be deployed with Special Forces on night raids trying to locate and capture insurgents. The women were  trained at Ft. Bragg in NC as members of a new concept: Cultural Support Team. Designed to go with SpecOps teams and SEALS into villages and homes of local citizens in search of information, explosives, and Taliban supporters.

The Army realized they were not able to investigate, interact with half the population when the men on the SpecOps teams could not meet with or talk to the women in the villages. And over time realized what a vital source those families could be if they could question the women in the compounds they were searching. They developed the program and plan to train capable, battle ready females to accompany the teams, along with interpreters who could help question and gain intel. to help find insurgents and keep soldiers safe.

Ashley was killed on a night raid, by an IED. The story leading up to her death tells about what an amazing woman she was, and what a huge impact her life made on family, fellow soldiers, other women in the CST program. There was almost no information provided to the American public about this CST program before her death, so even her parent were not aware of what she was doing. But her death brought the program out into the open, and caused the Army and DOD to provide details about how these young female soldiers were having such a huge impact in the War on Terrorism.

a little volunteer project...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
... I seem to have backed into involving Girl Scouts. I know these events can get off to a slow start, and gain momentum. Which will hopefully happen in the next day or so, as there were more adults at the event this evening than there were little scouts. Plus a bit of misinformation about the schedule caused me to be an hour early, devoting considerable time to standing around waiting....

I'd offered to assist, and expected some type summer fun was in the offing. But had requested plenty of lead time to get the event on my calendar and allow some wiggle room around work schedule. Sadly I got the notice on Friday that it would be starting on Monday afternoon. A 'Twilight Camp' from six to eight in the evening. As much of this seems sort of spontaneous to me, we might all encounter surprises as things evolve, with about six girls registered and four that showed up on Monday.

We started with the pledge and promise, made name tags (always a good project to kill thirty minutes), then went outdoors for an archery lesson. I was lured in to the event as the facilitator of all things crafty, so my field of 'expertise' would have been the wrapping of colored yard around craft sticks to make a 'god's eye'. With only marginal success: meaning two of the four turned out well, the other two looking like a tangle of yard suitable for bird nesting material.

It was all good fun, and enjoyed by the attendees - girls of elementary school age. I understand a couple of others are registered to start today, so hopefully the number of kids will increase as the week progresses. I was not responsible for any of the planning, so every day will certainly offer new opportunities for forging ahead into uncharted territory....

blooming agapanthus...

Monday, May 23, 2016

...in  my yard, in the narrow little bed between the front wall of the house and the concrete apron of the driveway. Glorious agapanthus, also know generically as Lily of the Nile. I can't say why, have not done any research, other than to guess that multiple blooms high on a long stem above the narrow strap-like leaves look sort of like papyrus that grows in Egypt.

I dug the bulbs/corms up from the yard at 1209 N. Court street, some years ago. Naturally, I will always think of the man who first planted them at his house every time I see them being so happy and prolific here with multiple beautiful blue blooms, when I pull up in the driveway. They have grown well there in the bright sun, multiplied and spread. I have divided and put some in other places around in different beds, but none do as well as the original planting right out by the front door.

And some Easter Lily plants I have put out in the leaf mulch are starting to open up. There are some up near the street,, visible to passing traffic. And others out on the north side of the house, across the lawn, where I can see them from the table as I sit and type. Loaded with buds, ready to pop open with  multiple white, trumpet shaped flowers.

unbidden opportunities...

Saturday, May 21, 2016
...for animal rescue seem to come into my line of vision, cross  my path at unexpected times. There is a long history of stopping to rescue turtles when those slow moving reptiles are inching across a roadway, dangerously close to becoming small greasy spots. A two thousand pound vehicle traveling at seventy mph makes short work of a supposedly impenetrable turtle shell. If I can stop and pull over or make a U turn I will assist the terrapins in crossing the road, though knowing they will likely turn right around and go back where they came from. Family members have seen me do this over the years, and there has been more than one report here from the Turtle Rescue Squad.

Today: there was a wee mockingbird baby without flight feather. Sitting in all it's downy glory on the asphalt driveway. A comedy of errors ensued, but with a (hopefully) happy ending. We moved it to a sheltered safe spot, so naturally it moved itself back (though we thought it to be not mobile) out into the wide open spaces. Where it could be easily found and eaten by any number of predators who would enjoy a tasty morsel. Info. was gathered (yes, of course we googled!) about how humans could best assist the hapless bird. Even though the parents were nearby and raucous, they were only frantic and not at all helpful.

We determined the best option was to take it to the local zoo, to give to people who were familiar with rescue and willing to stay up all night feeding it 'round the clock. So with the parents hopping from limb to limb and cursing us for our good intentions, we put it in a box and transported it to the zoo. Fortuitously, thankfully relieving us of the weighty responsibility of bird parenting. I once raised a fuzzy, lost squirrel with a baby-doll bottle and canned milk. I have no desire to take on a tiny, unfledged bird that has no more weight than that of a soul.

We would have put it back in a nest, but there was nothing nearby. No apparent place it would have fallen from, so no possibility of returning it to the safe haven where parents could nourish it into maturity. Hopefully it will receive kindness, care, feeding and be set 'free as a bird' when it grows the feathers needed to travel as they are designed to do.

book review: "A Walk Across the Sun"...

... written by Corban Addison, copyright 2012, Regulus Books.  Not for the squeamish. (Which most definitely includes me, the person who recently got up five minutes into a too intense movie and asked for a refund.  I should have known better, as one of the lead characters is so distasteful I would never have lasted all the way through to the credits at the end.)

The book was about two young Indian sisters, who suddenly become orphans, as a result of a tsunami in the south Pacific Ocean.  They had been schooled by nuns, and raised in a life of what the western world would consider 'middle class' privilege. Amenities many on the subcontinent will never see or enjoy. A comfortable lifestyle provided by educated working parents. Then suddenly with a tree height wave of rushing sea water, everything is changed.

As they attempt to make their way to the school and safety of church compound, they accept help from strangers, who sell them into the sex trade. They are taken to a brothel and locked in a hidden room. It is a worrisome, heart-wrenching tale. Written as fiction, but probably with much more truth and accuracy than we would like to admit or believe.

The sisters are held captive in a whorehouse. Poorly fed, carelessly housed, lives managed by an older woman who runs the house of ill repute, on a street lined with similar establishments. The older girl, barely past adolescence, is repeatedly used, raped, sold, and becomes pregnant, likely by the owner/pimps' son, but is rescued in a raid on the brothel in the slums of Bombay.

Her younger sister is sold, and taken away. Used to ferry drugs in her stomach, when she is forced into a sham marriage and taken to Paris on a false passport, supposedly on 'honeymoon' with the man who purchased her from the brothel owner. Sold again, used as slave labor in Paris. Sold again, taken to the US on a false passport. Sold again, taken to Atlanta, and sold again in a internet porn. scheme. And finally, rescued due to internet tracking and intervention by Interpol, US Justice and FBI. With the ongoing story thread of a US attorney who was working for an NGO in Bombay, while trying to reunite with his estranged, native Indian wife.

Lots of anxious moments, where each twist and turn in the plot has you on edge, continually hoping for the best, while envisioning the worst in human trafficking/child porn/sex trade industry. A great read. Interesting, very well researched, more information than you want to know about underage sex trafficking in the US as well as developing countries. Definitely a story/plot line for a great movie.

a friend has a calendar...

Friday, May 20, 2016
... family gives her each year with photos of grandkids. Lots of cute children, doing fun things together with their grandma. Vacations to Disneyworld, Christmas, birthday parties, winter ski trips, and all those sweet mundane daily things in between the highlights. Those ordinary events like picnics in the park,  swimming in the summer, as well as family gatherings that used to be deliberate 'photo ops' before everyone had a camera in every phone in each  pocket.

I noticed her calendar a couple of weeks ago, and commented on it. Telling her that I too have a neat calendar that has fun memories attached. One of my favorite people, who is 'guilty as charged', with cell phone constantly within arms' reach has a snapfish calendar made for a Christmas gift each December. With photos from travels, fun and funny things we have done together.

The one currently on the wall in my kitchen has lots of pictures from the trip we made last August to Washington State. With memories attached to each page of beautiful photos: bonsai garden, driving up through the forest to Mt. Rainier, mountain wildflowers with glaciers in the background, Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR., sunset at Haystack Rock on the Pacific Ocean, Rose test garden in Portland. The mighty, vast Columbia River flowing from the Rockies into the sea. And the view from the dock of a little lake house east of Seattle where we spent a couple of nights, generously hosted by friends who live in WA. I enjoy thinking of those people and places every time I look at the photos, and reminiscing of great amusement with family and friends.

The thing about photos people take every day: they might get shared on facebook, or sent as an electronic attachment. But rarely printed and practically never put out for repeated viewing. So having them printed where I can look at them, enjoy remembering, and smiling with memory is a real treat.

it appears to be...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016
...another of those weeks where this part-timer will be as close of Full as one can get without tipping the scale. Inching up on forty, and it's only Wednesday. So it is a safe assumption that the past weekend was another that had too many too long days of tired feets in it.

I just came back from the Wed. night community group, where we are watching a series of taped talks by Andy Stanley from Atlanta.  The overall topic is 'Defining Moments', and the subject for tonight was Nicodemus. A recurring character in the New Testament story. Really interesting how Andy tied it all together.

Though it is relatively superficial compared to the lesson from tonight's Bible Study, thinking about the topic of the series made me think about my feet. And an incident recently that could be considered as a 'defining moment' in my work life. I was so weary, barely hobbling, after putting in a excessively long day. Constantly in motion, steadily working, standing for hours and hours on the concrete floor. It might have been that recent holiday weekend when eight hours stretched into twelve or thirteen.

Late in the day, so ready to go home and prop my feet up, give my tired legs a rest. And saw a woman in a wheel chair at the checkout who had no feet. If that don't make you thankful for tired feet I don't know what will...

filling balloons with helium...

...at work yesterday. For a customer with had a friend coming up on her 21st birthday. Pretty big deal for those anticipating the day that you are suddenly a Grown Up person. But in reality, like most of those milestone events we so gleefully await: Prom, high school graduation, once it is over you are suddenly: So? Now what????

The customer asked if it would be possible to insert cash into the balloons before they were filled and tied off. I said sure! And helped her with rolling up 21 five dollar bills to slip into the neck of the latex balloons before I filled them and tied with a length of ribbon. What a neat, clever, unusual, welcome gift! How thoughtful. Who would not be delighted to get: a) this huge festive bouquet of balloons and b) a gift of $100 cash!

I can't say I was that clever (or generous) when daughters turned sixteen. But do hope that they think of that day as memorable, when they got to the end of the school day, and walked to the car they were 'forced' to share. There was the little red Ford Taurus filled with inflated balloons. I had blown up hundreds of multi-colored balloons, and took them to the parking lot after classes started, and filled the car to the brim. Or maybe they were not so very amused. But I thought it was pretty dang funny.

Especially the part where I taped a long hat pin to the window so they could pop all the balloons as  came cascading out when they opened the doors. Wishing I had a photo of them being both hilariously amused and mortified by their mom at the same time.

giving the man a ride...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016
...when he needed to get to his appointment at the cancer center. I get emails several times each week, but cannot often help out with getting patients to where they need to be, as my work schedule is so random and unpredictable from week to week. I worked a half day today, so had the afternoon off and was able to go down to the south side of town and pick up a man who had an appt. for lab work.

I'd called him yesterday to be sure I knew where he lived, get some additional information for getting to his residence. And said I would try to be there by one o'clock to get him to the 1:30 appointment. As it turned out I was a bit early, though I worked an hour later than scheduled. Mr. George directed me to the most direct route for getting through traffic and delivering him to the lab. Even though his time was set for 1:30, because we were a little early in arriving, he was out the door and back on the way home by 1:38. Completely uneventful trip.

A really pleasant, talkative, friendly, interesting man. Mr. George has a really good attitude, and I told him he did not act or sound like a man in poor health. He seemed to me like he has a remarkably upbeat attitude for some one who has had surgery and now going through the misery of chemotherapy to try to beat the big C. I enjoyed the time I spent with him, and thankful I could be a factor in making his stressful life a little easier.

sub. teaching...

Monday, May 16, 2016
...for what I presume is the last day I will be a participant in the substitute program. The school year for the district ends on Friday, so there are no more opportunities for doing any 'day labor' work until they start back in August. Probably early in the month of Aug., rather than later, now that all the schools are climate controlled, and no one is required to suffer in the blistering sticky heat of late summer.

But... maybe not the end for my intermittent sub. career. I readily admit I have not been diligent, and have failed to actively pursue opportunities to fill in absences by regular classroom teachers. It's not all that often that I actually have a day on my calendar that is not otherwise filled. With working, or other plans for things that are generally much more entertaining. Like traveling or lunch with friends. There is the occasional doctor's appt., that might take priority over work scheduling. But more often it is something far more amusing than putting on the green shirt, black pants and plodding through a day of work.

I have the idea that the person who runs the sub. teacher program is likely shooting herself in the foot when she insists that all the people on the list are required to devote at least twenty days a year to filling as replacements. If she really weeds out all those who have not been available for that length of time, I fully expect she will come up remarkably short for people who might possibly accept those vacancies for the next school year. I've heard (from a marginally reliable source) that the idea of purging the list of qualified substitutes is merely a threat. We'll see what happens when it comes time for us to attend the required meeting in July.

If I don't get an invitation to participate next year, I don't think I will be sad. I've only done eleven days since schools started back in August, so have most definitely not reached the minimum currently required. I'm prepared to let that go, and can  readily justify that decision with the fact that going in the schools as a sub. for the teacher's aide only pays about fifty bucks a day. Theoretically the going rate is $65, but after Uncle Sam takes his bite,  the remainder tends to be around $50 - definitely not worth the time, effort, stress, aggravation, exhaustion of herding cats for seven  hours.

the man who cooked....

Saturday, May 14, 2016
...Mother's Day dinner, needs to be recognized. Even though he did not actually do the cooking, I need to be sure he gets credit for effort and good intentions. Because when I got off work last Sunday after working about thirteen hours, he provided the dinner for exhausted Me.

I wobbled out across the parking lot and got in my car, desperate to sit down and get off my weary feets. As soon as I got in my car, I called and asked him where he wanted to meet me to eat. I had not had anything particularly nourishing since eating a bowl of cereal before going in to be at work at 6:00. So tired and hungry. He said: your dinner is here on the kitchen counter.

You have no idea how unusual that is. Most days I come home and throw a meal together, pulling things out of the freeze and out of the fridge, off the pantry shelf to put a meal on the table in about thirty minutes. Those things that used to be called 'TV Dinners'? and are now microwave meals?  I can add something to that to make it a more-or-less balanced meal and be sitting down to eat in half an hour.

So the idea that he had cooked? Amazing! The idea that he might be thinking of someone else? Baffling! The possibility that he had put together a meal and HE had food waiting for me? Unbelievable! As well as a complete fabrication.

What he did do was think ahead. Think about me, who had worked over twelve hours on Saturday, and gone back Sunday to do it again. So when he went to get himself something to eat he got me food too. He had a sub. sandwich. And brought me a takeout box full of rice, veggies and diced chicken. I was so hungry, so tired, so glad to have food I did not have to think about!  And there was so much in the Styrofoam container, it was two meals.

Thanks, thanks, thanks. And thanks again.

hoping for the best...

... even though I have not been a very good 'steward' with my newly planted blueberries and tomato plants. Especially the fruiting bushes. They've been in the ground a couple of months, and were doing really well - when we were getting enough rain for them to thrive despite neglect. But since it has been so dry in recent weeks, and I have been either  working, on the go, or too tired to tend growing things - they have taken on an air of desperation.

I went out to water in the past several days, and found them to be drought stressed. Felt like a Really Bad Mother. So when I got home today they got mulched. I added some good home-made dirt to replace  some that had washed away in rains, then put down layers of newspaper to keep down weeks. And added mulch from some bags of cypress mulch leftover from last fall. The bags of mulch h ad become home to large colony of ants, so some preventative measures were needed before I could move the mulch into the wheelbarrow to relocate and spread around the bushes.

They are well watered, along with tomato plants, that also got some newspaper around stems, plus some leaf mulch to keep weeds down and moisture in. I feel really guilty thinking of how much I enjoy blueberries but had neglected the bushes after peeps worked so hard planting in rock-hard clay soil. Sad that I was not more diligent with mulching weeks ago, as well as watering when we've not had good drenching rains. But hope that the 'better-late-than-never' work I did this afternoon will be sufficient to bring them back from the bring,

And after nearly ten hours of work in the produce dept., on my feets all day.

pardon me...

...please forgive my potty mouth, when I said 'holy s#$t'! I went out in the yard when it was really too dark to see, but wanted to look (pretty foolish, I know). I had just sat down on  my front stoop, near the door, where there is only one small step, but I had been puttering around, getting things done and rewarded myself with a cold beer.

Right there, just off the short narrow walkway between the concrete apron of the driveway and the little stoop, is a small space where I have planted many agapanthus. I wanted to count, and see how many blooms have popped up on long narrow stems, ready to burst open. I think fourteen but you know how math-impaired I am so  that is just a rough estimate. Some are just barely starting to open up, from a covering that is very similar to how onions bloom, so hopefully tomorrow there will be some starting to show color. I am so excited. See how little it take for me to get antsy and enthused about anticipating an impending event?

Then I remembered I had divided the bulbs several years ago, donated a few to the botanical gardens plant sale, and relocated others to the north side of the house. Thought I should go out there where the more recently planted one are to see were there any buds thinking about opening. Nothing going on there, but they are in more shade than those near the front door, so maybe a little slow to show off.

When I started back inside: (remember it is nearly too dark to see)  I noticed something 'odd' near the French doors that open onto the porch. So I turend on the porch light, that was surprisingly, disappointingly dim and could not tell what I was looking at. Went down the hall to get a flash light and back out the door. And discovered a snake. Only about eight inches long. But definitely a snake. Can not say what kind it was. A snake is a snake, right? I got the broom and swept him off the porch. He thought to go under a door mat, but I told him he did not live there, and proceeded to sweep it out into the flower bed.

I hope it is friendly, and slow growing, or on it's way to Canada, where it will have lots of company when the Republican candidate for president turns out to be a nutcase..

book review: 'The Last Midwife"...

Friday, May 13, 2016
... by Sandra Dallas. Fiction, but so well written, with characters so thoroughly believable you think it's all true. The story oft a woman who was, as you have already figured out, someone who felt the calling to help women with childbirth, in a place and time when doctors were scarce. The medical profession was not an option for females, and men were not often trained or accepted/invited into the birthing scene. But women have been helping, supporting, assisting each other for thousands of years as the time draws near for birthing.

This setting is back in the 1800's, as the west was being settled, in a small  mining town. The couple the story is based upon moved several times, from Arkansas, to California, to Colorado. This woman, Gracy, had been raised and trained by a Granny (commonly used term for midwives) and was well accepted in her community as the best, most dependable/knowledgeable help for mothers as they would begin their labor.

She was accused of murdering a newborn. The community either chose to support her, believe in her innocence, or believe the accusers: the man who owned the biggest mine/employer in the area as well as a local man who was a 'trained' physician. The doctor had little birthing experience, but felt his medical schooling outweighed Gracys' years of hands on delivery.

I won't spoil it, but some surprising twists occur. Gracy seems to have a real gift, not only for assisting women with homebirths, but readily identifying who the father of the newborn is  as well. A good woman, kind compassionate, stout-hearted. Sweet story.

If other writings by this author are as well written, any of her books would be equally enjoyable. Dallas is a professional writer, having done well in the commercial world of  journalism, and has a number of other tomes to her credit.

more good cheap entertainment...

...right there in my own yard. Across the space of a small oval shaped lawn on the north side of the house. Looking out past the ferns ruffling in the breeze, and the hydrangeas thinking about blooming. To a large shallow round container that is usually filled with about an inch of water.

Where I have seen several birds joyously splashing while I have been sitting here typing. A blue jay, a cardinal, and what might be a brown thrasher (which is Georgia's state bird). They look like they are having a glorious time in the makeshift bird bath. When thirsty plants get watered, I try to clean and refill that shallow metal dish as well. Making a place for local wildlife to drink and refresh. Hoping to do it frequentlyenough that it gets dumped and refilled before mosquito larva have time to hatch, buzz, use their little sharp probes to suck my blood.

Have not seen little mammals drinking, things that skitter around in the leaf mulch like chipmunks and squirrels. But I have seen evidence in the bottom of the wide flat basin that raccoons use it to wash their food prior to consumption. Tiny little scratchy paw marks, similar to a wee hand that would dip into the water to clean a bug, bulb, or acorn before eating. Too funny, cute and sweet.

I like to believe there is some value of being a 'friend' to wildlife. By providing water, cover for them to hide, feel safe. Encouraging an environment where they can be somewhat protected that will allow them to hang around. This from the person who stops in the middle of the roadway to pick up turtles either getting them out of traffic, or bring them home to set free in the woods. Hoping they mosey down the hill into the undergrowth and out of sight, set up housekeeping near the creek.

face painting...

...for several hours today at a local elementary school. Today was 'Field Day', where apparently everyone has an opportunity to enjoy fun and games, wet and dry, competitions for prizes/awards or just for the joy of being out of class on a beautiful spring morning. I'd seen a sign up sheet in the break room at work, asking for people to donate their time, go and help with running an event that needed volunteers to make it all run as smoothly as possible.

I choose to not help things run smoothly. But did offer to paint little faces with amusing designs. Something super simple and quick, with only a few choices to forestall indecision and produce maximum number of painted cheeks in minimal amount of time. The options were a pink/lavender butterfly, a lady bug, a football or a green snake. Sadly I forgot to take my poster with changeable index cards that would have several choices for kids to decide upon. So flying by the seat of my pants, I found a sheet of blank copy/typing paper (though no one actually 'types' any more!) and drew little illustrations with my handy markers to have ready for kids to look at, decide before they sat in the chair to become illustrated.

I wish I had the foresight to keep a count of how many little cheeks and a few hands got painted this morning. I think I got started about 9:00, and was packing up by 11:00. The kids were all hot and sticky and being herded back  into air conditioned classrooms by then, and I was ready to be gone.

Dozens and dozens of pink butterflies, red ladybugs, wiggly little green snakes, and footballs. I did not consider that many of the little faces would be varying shades of brown, with very few Caucasians. The khaki/tan color of the football did not show up well on them, so next time I will offer the option of baseball instead of pigskin.

In the chaos, excitement and bedlam of the morning, I expect most of the designs were either wiped away, or dripped off due to hot sweaty little bodies - but it was fun while it lasted. At some point a mom came in the gym and offered to help, so she jumped right in with a brush and paints. I'd guess between the two of us we must have painted simple, cute, fun designs on at least 100 little people. Bugs, sports and one little girl who insisted on a heart.

at the mercy of strangers...

...when stranded along a lonesome stretch of Interstate highway in the dark. Pretty scary. And quite dark, as well as very lonesome... all those things piled atop each other at the same time are seriously stress-inducing. So much that I could not report on it yesterday - when it actually happened. But after a good nights' sleep back in the peace and safety of my own bed, I'm a bit more prepared to share.

After laying plans to go to Decatur for the day, and getting organized on Wed. night, I got up Very Early on Thursday morning. Put all the oddments I wanted to take along in my car and was on the road before five o'clock. So it was understandably quite dark out there. Over the years I have done a great deal of traveling under cover of darkness, so I was not particularly anxious about leaving home at such an early hour.

Events unfolded along a completely unpopulated stretch of highway, nothing but trees and wildflowers, that caused me to run off the narrow apron onto dirt/grass. And create a very flat tire. Out there amongst all that nothing. Some years ago the state highway department actually installed some emergency phones on poles along that forty-odd mile stretch of road. Before cell phones became so efficient and commonplace, unless some kind-hearted Samaritan stopped to offer assistance - you were in a serious bind. Those emergency contact phones have since been removed, and if you failed to put your phone in your pocket - that same bind exists today.

After my heart-rate slowed, and I could process information, I called the emergency number on my insurance card. The first question is: "Are You Safe?" And the answer was, thankfully, "Yes". That friendly voice at the service center in north GA arranged for a tow truck to come. I thought I had two flats, as it certainly was not drivable. But it turned out to be only one - so that is also a reason for thankfulness.  It was still thoroughly dark, and I could not really tell. I was concerned that I would be buying two new tires, even though I'd just purchased four less than a year ago. To the tune of over five hundred dollars.

I sat at the tire store for an hour or so before I got on the road again. There are many small details that are part of this story that make me feel blessed. It got fixed, I did not have to buy a new tire, it was easily resolved, the man who fixed it came in very early due to the alarm going off in the wee hours, the man who runs the office came in much earlier than usual so I could pay and be on  my way. I had cash in the right amount.

This whole scenario could have turned out badly, differently, a disaster of great proportions. I am so thankful, prayerful, blessed. And will be on my merry way after returning late in the day, buying another tank of gas before getting home, ready to go again....

plans for today...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016
...consist largely of alligator wrasslin': a kind, tactful way of referring to my intentions of devoting my time to a Kindergarten classroom. I found myself a bit of day labor as a substitute para-pro in a room with a herd of five year olds.  You'd think I would learn, right?

I have the rest of the week off due to having exhausted myself over the weekend with twelve and thirteen hour days. And decided I should make one last effort to try to get in the number of days the school district requires to remain 'in good standing' as a substitute teacher. Cannot say why I feel the need for that, or what the actual value is for wanting to remain on their list of replacements. The last few times I have done it, by mid-morning I would be questioning my sanity. Doubting the sense and purpose of devoting my time to such a stressful, aggravating experience. Knowing that the small amount is remuneration cannot possibly be worth the trials and troubles involved in the seven hours in a classroom.

.....Later that same day: when I got home, upon being asked: 'how was your day?', I had to admit that it was 'almost painless'. The difference, when you have done it enough to be aware it doesn't have to be  horrendous, is the years of teaching an individual has under her belt. If she has been around the block a few times, and has developed good techniques for discipline/management, those kids actually do learn something. If she is fairly new in her career, and does not seem to be able to control behavior, it can be a really rough environment for kids, teacher, and substitute as well.

Sadly, they universities that are training the next generations of classroom instructors do not teach discipline or classroom management. The newly minted young adults taking over the classrooms of our public schools do not have the knowledge or skills to handle the behavioral issues that seem to be so common in today's children. The classrooms I have been where I have had opportunity to observe daily activities, it is readily obvious that the older, more experienced teachers are the ones who seem to be more capable of keeping kids on task and getting work accomplished.

The teacher I was with today has been doing it for many years, but said this is her first year with five year olds. She did a remarkable job of getting the kids to stay on target, get work done and provide instructional learning throughout the day. Really capable, which I attribute to all those years of doing it day after day, week after week, learning what works, how to manage a room full of energetic, excitable, easily distracted kids. She really did not need me there, but it was a good experience, being there, seeing her demonstrate her skills.

there is this oddball....

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
... customer who comes in occasionally at my work place. Someone who is obviously not quite right. Needing more help than I could possibly provide, and more attention than I am willing to give. He is an acquaintance of my favorite co-worker, who seems to be a remarkably easy touch, often the guy who props up any number of employees in times of financial distress. I give him grief about it all the time - saying he does not need to be supporting all those dependents who have full time jobs and sufficient income to be solvent, if not capable of budgeting.

But I just did it too. That goof ball came by, looking for the guy he knows as an 'easy touch'. But Mr. Easy was not at work today, and he found me instead. The story I heard was that he needed a 'ten spot' to get his prescription meds. If he is willing to get the Rx filled and take the drugs, who am I to say he can't. So I gave him the ten dollars he reportedly needed. I hope it went to get the needed meds., and maybe a little bit left over for something to eat.

He looks strange, acts strange, often makes no sense at all when he talks, but I think he means well.  Reports he has a 'job' working at a church, so it is apparent some other people are willing to show him a degree of kindness and goodwill. Due to his exceptionally disheveled appearance, it is not likely the man holds a 'meet the public' position, so I am guessing he does handyman/janitorial work. And there, but for the grace of God, go I....

my treasured reputation...

... as a diligent correspondent. Trying to maintain the standards to which my recipients have become accustomed. Forever taking on more people who desire to receive letters notes and cards, but do not seem to put any emphasis into reciprocating. Which is, ok, I guess as getting a response is not the reason I put pen to paper.

I just noticed a letter sent to the general populace, on the bulletin board in the break room at work, posted near the time clock, where every associate could hardly ignore. I read it a couple of times, discovering a guy who was on the stock crew was in boot camp at Parris Island, with the intent of becoming a Marine. Pretty ambitious, in my opinion. He wants to go into the Marine Band - really ambitious in my opinion. But I am rooting for him, and hope he will survive and even thrive in the strict discipline of the USMC. And become a successful member of their musical ensemble.

I copied his address down, and plan to write him while he is in seclusion of boot camp. Separated from all the electronic devices the young use to communicate and keep in touch with friends and family. Probably suffering from cell phone and FB withdrawal. But I will write him notes and cards with words of encouragement, and hope he will respond enough to let me know where he gets sent after the completion of the Trial by Fire that is reputedly standard for entry into The Proud, The Few, The Brave.

a classic example...

.. of why the USPS seems to reek of inefficiency and seems on the verge of perpetual bankruptcy. This comes as a report on the branch of the Post Office in Decatur in the Kirkwood area. My source is pretty well informed, and can be considered fairly trustworthy, reliable.

The sign on the door, for all to see and the literate to read before they entered the lobby, indicated that there were no stamps available for purchase. I assume this sign referred to the ones that are most in demand, the commonly requested first class stamps available on a small rectangular sheet of 20. So if you were paying attention when you came in the door, before you went into the area of the building where you would go to mail packages or make purchases, you would know there were no stamps.  But for whatever reason, patrons seemed to be particularly obstinately illiterate and unwilling to either read the sign or comprehend.

So highly irate individuals who were potential package mailers and stamp buyers continually came in the door, asking for something that could not happen. The clerk is a man with a reputation for being disagreeable and profoundly unconcerned about customer service.  The only thing the post office does is sell stamps, and provide postage to insure delivery letters and parcels - and they were OUT of stamps.

This is what he was reportedly telling customers who would have entered the building to make purchases necessary to have their correspondence and packages delivered in a timely manner: 'I am not in charge of inventory. I am not in responsible for ordering inventory. I am not in charge of receiving inventory  So I am not responsible for the fact that you cannot purchase inventory as you intended.'

The general consensus seems to be he could not possibly have cared less.  I seriously doubt 'caring' is anywhere in the job description. Which seems to pretty well sum up why the USPS is in such dire straits, right?

it's been long...

Sunday, May 8, 2016
...and hard to be on my feet at work over the past couple of days. Going in before daylight and getting home, so weary it was all I could do to get myself in the house.  I actually laid down on the couch yesterday as soon as I got home, and immediately took a nap. Over the past two days, I have put in nearly 25 hours. Sounds like a lot for a part-time employee?

The good news in all of this is that I am on the schedule to work four more days this week. And due to being there so long over the past two days, they will have to cut me back at some point. Looking forward to having an opportunity to goof around in my pajamas till noon when the opportunity occurs.

Thankful for: smart, capable, sweet, compassionate daughters.
Thankful for health to go to work and stand on my poor tired feets for twelve hours.
Thankful for feets. Some people don't have feets.
Thankful for a relatively healthy body that mostly can be depended upon to do what I want it to.

you will, i am sure..

Friday, May 6, 2016
...think this is disgusting. Right, you are. But before you say 'ewwww' and think I am perfectly awful, you need to consider that everyone of them is dead: roaches.  All are deceased, though I have found one lying around on the floor nearly every morning. They are  nearly dead', like in the Princess Bride when the Billy Crystal character gets out the forge billows and pumps life back into the 'almost dead' person in the movie.

So ... yes, I do find them, in all sizes, more often that not with their feet up in the air. Giving me the creeps, making me say 'ick', but thankful they are not moving. Reminding me of armadillos you see after a dramatic change in the weather along side the roadway. Where they have been roaming in the dark and wandered onto the pavement.  All deceased, rolled over on their backs with legs pointing skyward.

The deadness is due to their foolishly snacking on those little boric acid tabs that are in all the corners of the kitchen. Placed strategically along the baseboards near the door/entry points, and other places where they skitter about in the dark. It obviously works, even though I do not like the necessity of having the little white dime sized tablets in all the nooks and crannies where the nasty things might roam. It doesn't really matter that they are deceased - they are still nasty, nasty, nasty.

One of the hazards of living out here in the woods, on this lot with all the trees and leaf mulch, I guess. If the house were sealed up tighter, I don't think they would have as many places to access, but that too has its' on hazards. So I will live with the nasty, nasty, nasty and sweep them up to deposit in the trash each morning. Now that I consider - I don't think they were nearly as common, seen so frequently when we had cats... so wonder if the felines enjoyed them as playthings before the creeping things could get inside/

digging and planting...

Thursday, May 5, 2016
some stuff that was on my mind to rearrange. I have some perennial sage that has been growing for years, gets killed off over the winter, but comes back with a vengeance in spring. I have dug and replanted some, relocating a couple of times. But it is prone to spread. Not as invasive as some things I have regretted for years, but requires pretty close attention or it will definitely get away from you.

When I was out digging the wild onions, and pulling weeds a few weeks ago, I was very ruthless in pulling up some of the sage that has spread from underground runners. The mother plant sends out babies, causing the little ones to sneak a good distance away before they pop up and surprise you with more unexpected plants. I just pulled those little suckers up and trashed them along with the many weeds I wanted to get pulled before they bloomed and went to seed.

It's really a pretty plant, and smells wonderful: called pineapple sage, with foliage that really does have a remarkable aroma. Blooms in the fall, on a bush that gets surprisingly large for dying back to ground level in the cold months. Bright red spikey blooms that pollinators love, so I will keeps some of it around, but diligent to not let it spread.

I was digging up a lot of small shoots this afternoon and put them in pots. To take to the botanical gardens in early June when there is another plant sale. This one is a one day event: daylily show and sale. But there will be someone running a shop to benefit the gardens, with donated goods. Like plants people had that needed to be divided, unwanted pots or vases to recycle/resell, gardening books, maybe tools someone who is downsizing wants to get rid of.

I thought if the pineapple sage got in pots a month in advance, they would be acclimated, recover from transplant shock and look desirable for gardeners to want to buy. If no one wants them: I think I can be heartless again and put them in the trash... but hope there is, like P.T. Barnum said, someone who will think the pineapple sage is just the perfect addition to their garden. It does smell wonderful!

another one...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016
...of those days where crazy me drove to south GA and back, spending more time on the road than actually being there. I got up at 5, to be on the road by 6. Arriving in Valdosta around 9, to visit my auntie. Which is definitely a story for another day as I am not at all sure how to describe that experience. And on to a luncheon at noon, after a stop in the cemetery with my weed spraying juice to kill all the grass runners that have grown up on the stone markers of my forebears. Left there about 1:30, and back in town by 4:30.

Picked up my friend who volunteers with me at the Rivercenter, for us to be downtown to be our polite little selves, handing out programs and greeting attendees for the annual Page One awards. Where the most outstanding seniors of all the high schools in the area are recognized as being the very best at what they do, acknowledge the best and brightest of each school.

planting the tomatoes...

Monday, May 2, 2016
...done! It's about all I have accomplished today, but I got them all in the dirt. Started with six (having found pots at the garden shop that had two per pot) and put two of them in the actual garden. The others are in containers. Two went in the planter that was sent by the folks in VA, like the one they had on their deck last summer. (I thought there were two of the big rectangular planters in the box, but there was only one.) The other two, one a grape variety, the other that is supposed to bear yellow fruit, went into the garden where there are five others I planted several weeks ago.

And the other two, the ones found over the weekend, that I had been searching for that are supposed to be so prolific: Husky. Planted in five gallon buckets that have drainage holes drilled in the bottom. I had to stop and mix up some dirt, the special home-made recipe, with peat moss, vermiculate, Osmocote, compost. I'd tried years ago to grow tomatoes in buckets, with only marginal success, and concluded it was because the roots could not grow due to limited space. Without the root system to support the plant, the fruit just never got any size. Could not grow big fat juicy tomatoes with a limited root space.

I'm hoping starting off with a plant that was designed to produce thumb sized fruit, there will be lots of them, as a result of really good dirt and plenty of water. Looking forward to lots of good salads with fresh homegrown tomatoes in it.


... but not yet unpleasant to the degree of the millipedes and ants. I told the story of sweeping up millipedes for days in the kitchen, not knowing how to stem the tide. About a year ago, I did not know how they got in the house, why they chose to invade, what to do to prevent them, how they multiplied so prolifically. Just  cleaned up the deceased ones that had literally curled up and died overnight, as well as a number of living wiggling ones that went in the trash day after day.

Then last winter I got up one morning to discover a multitude of ants swarming in and around the kitchen sink, apparently attracted to a water source? Put out ant traps and called the pest control guy. After I convinced the man who paid the bill that they were residing in the walls, someplace all the traps and home-owner spraying could not affect. What ever the pest control service did was successful, as the problem went away.

Now I have a family of lizards living in a wooden crate full of roofing slate sitting out on the concrete apron of the driveway. This little community has been there over the cold months, and now appearing everywhere. I have good intentions/hopes of using the shingles for a for a craft project. I am not willing to confess how long the box with slates has been sitting there on the apron of the driveway, but will readily admit they have been in residence, snug within the stack of shingles long enough for several generations to mature. I wonder if there is such a thing as a 'friendly pest', like snakes that eat other things we want around even less than Mr. No Shoulders?

I think the little chameleons eat lots of insects, and they seem harmless enough, so there is not need for a relocation project, but they can provide the perfect opportunity for the necessity of a clothing change. You can be seriously startled when one jumps off the nearby boxwood bush onto the driveway, or skitters from the sunny spot on the edge of a planter to hide under the wooden crate. Or comes flying off the edge of the gutter downspout where it was sunning to hide in the nearby parsley plants. Or was taking a nap, wrapped inside the cozy warmth of the American flag mounted on the corner of the house, and is suddenly exposed when the flag is unwound from around the pole. Surprising all parties involved. Not normally jumpy around harmless chameleons, the appearance of a little green lizard can create reason to check one's heart rate as it spikes unexpectedly.

tomato plants...

... that need attention. And should have had it before that good rain we got last night. I have accidently purchased several of the plants that are designed to produce the small cherry/grape size for salads and wish I had gotten them squared away before the unexpected rain late on Sunday. Hope to get some yard work done today. Instead of sitting here typing I should be digging.

When I went to VA recently my S-i-l reminded me about some little planters they had mailed to me last fall. When I was up there visiting, I was amazed and astounded by the size of the tomato plants that were growing on their deck in some plastic planters. Probably as tall/long as those my dad used to have growing in his garden plot - fertilized with rich organic mushroom compost, watered daily, nurtured and nourished, thoroughly enjoyed.

These on the back deck, planted close to the back door, in hopes of protecting the crop from becoming deer appetizers where huge. Unbelievable in size, and still producing in the late fall when I saw them. Apparently the planters came shipped with some enriched mesh that had all the nutrients to grow, and produce a bounty for months. I was so intrigued, they had two of the planters shipped here. I hope I can put some of the cherry tomatoes in them, and get started on producing a bumper crop.

I don't watch TV, so not aware of some things the observing world has allowed the media to turn into 'must-haves'. I think these planters that come with matting for continuous release fertilizer might be 'as advertised on TV'?  But I am so excited about this tomato growing project, and looking forward to plucking grape/cherry sized tomatoes from my plants till first frost.

In conversation recently, someone recommended the 'Husky' variety as a prolific producer.  I've been to several garden shops looking for this particular one, and finally located it over the weekend.  I'm always so pleased with myself when I poke through bedding plants looking at all the pots, and come across one that has extra seedlings. Where the growers usually put several seeds in each pot then thin to only grow the healthiest one, occasionally, accidently failing to pinch off all the others. And leaving me another so I might find two for the price of one!

I'm going to get my planters out and do the reading, learn how to maximize production. Get started on this project today. Let me know when you want to come over for a yummy salad with home-grown tomatoes?

friday night...

at the local Relay for Life event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. I went in support of P., who was there in support of her friend J. Though I have not attended one of these events before, I quickly realized there is likely no one on the planet who has not been affected by the big C. Everyone of us has had family or friends, coworkers or neighbors who have been impacted by the ravages of this pervasive problem.

The impact is personal: my dad died from cancer, my favorite auntie was treated, and my spouse is a survivor. I realize none of us are promised tomorrow, or even the minutes to get back into bed at the end of this day here in early May. But I guess I had not considered how the people I know and love have struggled with trying to get away from it. I'm almost positive my first choice, with a diagnosis, would be: cut it out, cut it off, get it away from me!

The Relay was well attended. I would guess there were well over a thousand people there. Some fund-raising, some walking for family members, some there in support of friends and co-workers who continue to struggle through treatment. A number of corporate sponsors helped to fund this event. Lots of church groups  and schools there with banners to show their support. I wondered: surprised that the company I work for had no visible representation there. The corporation loves to get positive community recognition, and has advertised plans for the charitable arm of the business to donate a million dollars to Habitat for Humanity. Highly admirable, their willingness to provide financial support, man power to help with builds across the southeast, furnish pantries of completed homes.

But I am almost certain that every life of every member of the organization, from board members down to carry out workers have some connection to people who have been impacted by cancer. I'll see what I can do to stir the pot. As gung-ho as they are about 100% support of the United Way Annual Fundraising campaign, I have to think - we should be no less active and involved in fighting the big C.