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well worth a trip...

Monday, October 31, 2016
... to drive up to Decatur on Saturday afternoon. I knew that neat exhibit of amazingly huge blown glass was on display at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens all summer. And would be such a treat to see, especially when I heard from my reliable source that we could go at night, when the gardens were mostly dark.  With all the huge glass installations lit up and glowing out there under the trees in the acres of gardens tucked away in the heart of metro. Atlanta.

I thought to myself a couple of weeks ago: I should take this display 'off the back burner', and make it a priority so it does not get away before I have an opportunity to enjoy it. I know there is a limited time before all those gigantic pieces of brilliantly colored  glass will be dis-assembled and carefully wrapped in miles of bubble wrap. Diligently replaced in shipping crates to be sent on to the next destination. Actually: today is the final day.

I went last Saturday night, after a very busy day. Worked five hours, painted sweaty little cheeks with holiday designs for two hours at fall festival, then jumped in my car to drive for two hours to get to Decatur. We had tickets to go at night. It was crowded, which I found surprising .Hundreds of visitors milling around in the dark along the elevated walking trail, dozens of people slowly meandering through the dimly lit gardens, gawking at dozens of monstrous glass fixtures. But I guess factoring in that this is the last weekend of the glorious installation + about eight million residents of the metro. area, you could also say there weren't really all that many people present.

I've seen lots of pieces that originate in the Chiluly workshop in Seattle, but it never ceases to amaze. The size of the pieces is always astounding. The brilliant colors are always breath taking. The massed pieces when assembled together in a grouping: in a wooden boat, in a shady dell, startlingly erupting from a lush bed of woodland ferns. Appearing to glow when back lit by artfully placed spot lights hidden in the undergrowth at night.

getting to work at 5:00 a.m....

Saturday, October 29, 2016
... is not routine, but actually not all that far from reality. I only agreed to do it today, early in order to leave at ten, for an event I was planning to attend at the local botanical garden.  The usual arrival time is 6:00, which is not so different from five, especially when I woke up numerous times wondering what time it was, fearful the alarm had failed me. Making me feel like I woke up every 15 minutes to check and be sure I had not overslept.

Today at the gloriously blooming, neatly landscaped, tidily groomed gardens was the annual fall festival: fun, games, plants for sale, bouncy inflatables, portable rock climbing wall, eats and treats, plus me face painting. I had offered to be there as one of two people who would do some simple little designs on kids: face painting (or putting designs on hands for little ones who were too fearful to let someone decorate their cheeks.) As it turned out, I was one of one.

And paint I did. I must have put pumpkins, ghosts, smiley faces, ladybugs, butterflies, little green snakes or shooting stars on well over a hundred little sweaty cheeks in a little more than four hours. Wishing I had kept up with how many I did, but it was such chaos I doubt I could have counted them. In addition to a few grubby little hands that didn't want the painting on their faces. I think I would still be there, with a line of little ones in assorted princess and storm trooper costumes, if I had not said: 'the face painting shop is closed'.

interesting volunteer job yesterday...

Friday, October 28, 2016
... that lead me to be a judge for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich competition. When we went on the tree walk, the county agent was hoping for a volunteer to help with judging a 4-H program for elementary school students.  I guess this program where you get to invent your choice of ingredients to make up your own version of p-b-j is a 'think outside the loaf' type of project, and  most certainly not a traditional sandwich. I enjoyed it, but if I should happen to do this again, you can bet I will take my bottle of water.

Participants were all grade school kids, so just the fact that they choose to enter the contest, and had to gumption to show up to put their creations together for display and tasting is remarkable. I was impressed with all the kids and their efforts. One was a second grader, who was apparently too young to actually compete. We were told she was just there for the 'practice', to see what it was like. She might be the star attraction next year.

Some of the concoctions were a bit 'iffy', but others were quite tasty. Even so, you will need a big glass of cold milk to wash down a clump of peanut butter when it gets stuck. I am guessing the event had some sponsorship from the GA Peanut Council, and was supported by the UGA Extension Service, which is how I accidentally got involved.

One young guy made a sandwich out of tortillas, with sliced apple in between the smears of peanut butter, then put it in a panini grill to heat it up. Another used thin layers of rice-krispy treats instead of bread, and put chocolate in between with the peanut butter ('way too sweet!) One young girl made hers on a circle of bread cut out with a biscuit cutter, folded it over, and turned the half-moon shaped sandwiches into fortune cookies, with a dipping sauce. The clever second grader used a cookie cutter to make hers in the shape of a flower, then added celery sticks and a leaf to make it look like a flower on a stem.

It was a bit intimidating trying to decide on scoring, but fortunately there was no need for a Grand Prize winner. They all got certificates, for various and sundry accomplishments: most ingredients, messiest, most nutritious, best presentation, etc. Winners all!

a downtown stroll...

... on a beauty-full fall day.  Thursday, just after noon, along with several master gardening friends who were interested in attending the talk-and-walk about trees in the city. We went aroaming around several blocks, stopping numerous times to look at trees, as our leader, Dorothy, Director of Trees Columbus (in her gorgeous cowgirl boots) shared info. about various species. Discussing their growth habits and overall health when planted in urban setting.

It was interesting to hear about the different types of trees, and learn that some will actually thrive in an environment where others are doomed from the minute they are placed in the hole. We saw several examples of trees that should have never been placedd in small raised planters surrounded by paving and concrete sidewalks, obviously struggling to survive. And others that were a far better choice for planting in that narrow strip of grass between streets and sidewalks. Trees are often butchered by utility contractors, trimmed to the point of abuse to prevent damage to power lines. Many times trees that will grow far too tall are planted too close to utilities, and inevitably mistreated as they mature.

One interesting bit of trivia is there are certain trees that have small, narrow willow-type leaves the city crews love because when they shed in the fall the leaves will easily pass through drainage systems rather than clogging up storm drains and causing flooding. Dorothy noted as times have changed and trees have gone in and out of favor, ones that have been historically planted in commercial or urban settings are no longer popular. A case in point: Bradford pear trees with the historically 'weak crotches' that cause limbs to break, disfiguring the tree, and inviting pests to invade. They are beautiful when they bloom in the spring, as well as turning glorious colors in the fall, but not good for city landscaping: clogging drainage systems and needing pruning. And then there are ginkos that were once so desirable, even though they drop messy fruit and smell terrible,  now unwelcome in densely populated areas. Ginkos are so eye-catching in the fall when they turn golden yellow, but no one wants to clean up the mess when the leaves all fall, practically overnight.

Many trees in the city get damaged by delivery trucks breaking off limbs when traversing city streets. And many get abused by city workers who mow too close, or come by with string trimmers and slice into bark at the base. I guess it's a hard life being a tree in the city, in places where the earth gets compacted and they struggle to survive, blistering heat in the summer with insufficient water, air pollution, stuff that drips out of engines of vehicles and leached into the soil.

a small observance...

Thursday, October 27, 2016
..of one of many definitions of a charmed life. You have probably read here that I have a little book, about the size of a 3 x5 note card that I use for Thankfulness reminders. Try to write a line or two as I think of things I am thankful for. I have given away a several of these small, handy, pocket-sized, bound books to people I think deserve one. Folks that appear in my life who seem to understand that every day, every sunshine, every breath is a blessing. All those mundane random happenings we just accept as part of our existence are not to be taken for granted, but noticed, appreciated and should be recognized, noted in writing on a daily basis.

One of the things I recently wrote in  my book: pumpkin spice cappuccino. Available at the curb store for a limited time. It is such a small thing. In the overall scheme of things hardly worth mention. But here I am - appreciating my little cup of pumpkin spice, tasty, over sugared, high-fat, delicious drink. So good it should be a controlled substance, and require an ID to purchase.

Thankful that I can stop at the convenience store and walk out the door with my little cup of warming hot beverage, riding down the road in the dark. Or traveling across south GA in the early morning sunlight, enjoying the scenery. In my 'paid for' vehicle, with the financial resources to travel, and purchase gas. Without need of passport/papers to gain access/permission to go where I want.

So here we are: living in America, under the beneficence of the US Constitution. Thankful for all that.  While hearing about refugees stumbling across a war-torn country, hoping to get family out of harm's way to safety, shelter, food. Where, if they are lucky: stranded in a tent-city full of homeless hungry, exhausted migrants. Certainly makes one give thanks for housing, potable water, grocery stores filled with bounty, employment.

ready to confess...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016
... that I toot my horn when I am driving down the road at lots of inappropriate times. Like the little kids running around in circles in the yard, who would have thought that someone they know is passing by, causing them to stop their game and wave furiously at a total stranger. Or the guys working for the DOT contractors, flagging traffic. Who wonder: 'who in the world is that?'

Then there was the young guy, in shorts and T-shirt, leaning over the edge of the bridge looking into the creek. When I got even with him, I gave a couple of quick toots -hoping he would be so startled he would loose his balance and fall over the railing and go head-first into the water. Sadly, he only jerked up, looking to see who was driving the passing vehicle. Definitely no one he knows.

I was really disappointed when he did not go crashing over the railing. Hoping to be a witness to a splash-down disaster - but it did not happen. I'll keep trying, and hope to create a crisis in the near future.

about the auntie...

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
...who has a follow up appt.with the orthopedic Dr. Wednesday afternoon. I will get up early in the morning and drive down to get her, to be in Valdosta at the clinic at 1:15 for her appointment. I am seriously anxious about taking her, really worried that she will get belligerent with me when the dr. tells her that her fractured bones have healed enough for her to be allowed to go home Because the which the cousins all agree is not going to happen.

Even if she is physically able, relatively healthy, capable enough to spontaneously motivate herself up and around, she is not mentally able to return to her house and live alone. The anxious part is that it will be Me telling her that. She can be really disagreeable when you tell her something she does not want to here. If there is anything good about short term memory loss, it might be that she won't remember to be furious with me for very long.

I'm not one for confrontations, and never want to be 'the bad guy' bringing unwelcome or unwanted news.Therefore, understandably, I am getting really worried about how she will react when she has to go back to the rehab. facility where she has been getting fed, cared for, tended to, given meds. as she has recovered from that fall in late August.  Wishing she would grasp the meaning of 'don't shoot the messenger' when I am the one doing the transport.

the little tutoring job...

..on Tuesday mornings has two more weeks, then it's over until spring. I am by no means certain that the little bit of one-on-one reading these kids are getting has lasting benefit. I do hope that my time investment is meaningful, but not sure it is really helpful.

My coworker was asking me this morning after I returned to work 'how is it going?' And I have to admit I am not sure. I would really be interested in how the person who runs the program does the  evaluating to determine degree  of improvement following eight weeks of daily reading with an adult. I think there is some process where the kids are shown line drawings, like cartoons, of various objects and asked to  name the picture. Then maybe do the same activity after the eight week sessions to determine if their vocabulary shows any change.

When I started, one of the little boys was practically non -verbal. And now he can be much more interactive. Certainly not what I would classify as 'chatty', but willing to respond to my questions about items we see in the books, as well as naming colors. He is likely ESOL, and might only hear Spanish at home, so I can only imagine what a challenge it is for the classroom teacher to instruct and communicate with him. He has improved with sociability whether he has improved his vocabulary or not.

I was recently listening to public radio, my primary source for news, and heard that people who take the citizenship test are expected to have English skills. I am curious to know if they are required to actually take the test written in English? Or in an effort to be 'inclusive', the test can be requested in any language from any where on the planet. I'm a big proponent of literacy, and think reading/speaking is vital to success in life, but maybe it is not necessary to speak 'American' to get ahead?

passing along a funny tale...

Sunday, October 23, 2016
... from my brother, who I called while driving across south GA last week. I had been thinking of my dad, when traveling the back roads through fields of cotton, ready to harvest. As well as a number of fields with bare stalks of plants that had been defoliated, then picked clean by big, vacuum-like machinery that trundles down the rows pulling the fluffy white fibers from the prickly stems. The cotton is then tightly packed into rolls, wrapped with plastic and loaded onto trucks to be taken to gins where the seeds are removed by more big comb-type machines and the fiber is packed into bales for shipment to mills.

Since I cannot call my dad to tell him he was on my mind, I called my brother to report on the scenery as I traveled. He had an amusing story to share, about a small adventure that occurred at his wife's dads' house recently. You will be really happy this did not happen at your house!

The pa-in-law, named Ray, reported something was digging around in his yard, and rooting up the lawn and landscaping. It only happened after dark, so he did not know what sort of animal would come out of the woods and tear stuff up overnight. He got one of those traps that don't injure the captured animal, so he could just relocate it far away, allowing his carefully tended landscaping to remain intact.

The report I got was that Ray thought it must be an armadillo. That would not surprise me at all, as they are very common here in middle GA. But then I wondered if they had migrated as far north as Virginia. They are often seen along highways here, deceased, on their armored backs with all four feet sticking straight up in the air. They do not seem to be blessed with an abundance of intelligence.

I believe they eat bugs and grubs, little creepy crawly things that normally live in lawns, mulch or just below the surface. So it is reasonable to think that would be rooting up the lawn and stirring up mulch or pine straw around landscape plants. My guess would likely be armadillo or some other small rodent like creature.

What Ray caught in his Hav-A-Hart trap was: a skunk. Now what do you do?  You need a haz-mat suit to get close enough to open the trap. But if you do let it out, you still have the same problem. And you really don't want to pick the trap up to put in in the bed of the pickup truck to take it off someplace far away for relocation. Now what do you do?

back into the woods...

Saturday, October 22, 2016
.... early this morning, before daylight. After sleeping hard, though not fast enough, I am up and headed off for another day of 'retreating'. This will be a long day, as one of the planned events takes place after dark. Meaning I won't be back home to fall into bed until we have cleaned up and begun organizing for the final day on Sunday.

When I went to the library yesterday afternoon, I discovered a book sale going on. Good news for someone in dire need of reading material. I will likely sneak off to the library a couple of miles down the road, to find something to read. Yesterday, I bought a number of children's books, and plan to get them in the mail next week, to some little people who will enjoy getting a surprise - that will hopefully encourage parents to read and children to learn to love books, the written word, learning to be interested, interesting, knowledgeable adults.

The Informed Citizen is the Cornerstone of Democracy.

spent the day in the closet...

Friday, October 21, 2016
... at a retreat. Up in Harris County, where a group of fellow believers provide the man/woman-power for this semi-annual event over two consecutive weeks every spring and fall. Men one weekend, and women the next. I've been doing it for several years, volunteering my time to help make the event a success. It takes dozens of people, working behind the scenes, making it look like it all happens with smoke, wires and mirrors.

The participants do not see all the people who come together to provide all the meals, undertake all the invisible prep. work that creates such a seamless success, season after season. Until they 'graduate' on Sunday, and are so in love with the idea that they can hardly wait to be volunteers for the next event. Whereupon they are generally confounded at the number of people it requires, and the complicated process that reproduces the same setup/scenes year after year.

The little 'niche' I have found that suits my skill set so well involves a bit of floral work: right up my alley. There is a huge storage closet where lots of supplies are stored, bins and bins full of decorations. Shelves full of dry goods and disposable/paper/kitchen items. Vases, lamps, candlesticks, wooden crosses, tablecloths, all the equipage to be used for reproducing this well-planned weekend.

I make myself available as part of a team of three or four folks designated 'worship', so we are prepping for various gatherings in a small snug chapel, or larger open-sided tabernacle. My job mostly consists of assembling a couple of big cut flower arrangements, and adding some odd bits of frou-frou to decorate at various times during the event. Plus lots of down time, when I get to poke around in other people's business, kibitz with co-workers who apparently stay much busier in their little areas of expertise. I know to go prepared to get letters written, a back log of magazines read, and enjoy talking to people I only see once a year.

Today, I took my computer when I left home before daylight, only to discover that there is no wireless out there in the woods, miles from civilization. Terribly itchy to do some blogging, after several days of being in constant motion, on the road or at work. Using the excuse of going in to town to mail some notes at the post office, I went to the library and stole some internet to get it out of my system. And now, here, back at home, headed to bed: confessing. And wondering, since it is actually 'free', it's really not theft, is it?

turtle rescue...

...occurred when I was driving back from south GA on Wednesday afternoon. Out there in the piney woods, where there are many low-lying areas that never fully dry up. Thickets of dense shrubs that are always standing in water. Swampy places that look like solid firmament, but are actually watery bogs covered with green pond scum.

When I was driving down a country road, following a line of vehicles traveling about 23 mph. We were all stuck behind several trailers full or recently harvested peanuts., I noticed a huge turtle along the verge. Nearing the edge of the paving, slowly scootching through in the weeds. I made a U-turn and went back to inspect. He was enormous. A dusty black gopher tortoise, with scaly legs and sharp claws, perfectly designed for digging in the loose sandy soil of the coastal plains. Quite determined to cross the highway, which was fortunately not well traveled. He would not be deterred, so I picked him up and transported him across the rural highway. Deposited safely into the tree line on the far side of the ditch.

Sadly, like trying to herd cats, I suspect he merely turned around to start trundling back up the hill and slowly make his way onto the asphalt, returning from whence he came. He weighed about twenty pounds, and could have been a long lived patriarch.  I have heard they can live to be over a hundred years old, living in the sandy burrows they dig. The burrows  can support an entire community of wildlife, supplying shelter for a variety of animals that live in the flat lands of the south.

I hope I did a good deed and he will survive being 'helped' across the road, move on into the scrubby, shrubby lands of the pines.Hope that he will live long and prosper, stay off the roadways to create generations more of that very vital part of the food chain. Provided of course he finds someone who wants to be married to a wise old, dusty, black tunneling tortoise.

reporting on the auntie...

...from the most recent trip to visit where she is still 'held captive' in the rehab facility in south GA. She is understandably antsy about wanting to get out, feeling there is no point in her being held against her will. Sadly, there is also no 'reasoning' with someone who has short -term memory loss, meaning that every thing you say literally goes in one ear and out the other.

She seems to be improving mobility-wise. But when I saw her this week, she had been recently diagnosed with another UTI, which explained on-going crazy talk. She was insisting that she had dresses up in the attic. Even though one of the health-care workers told her there was no 'upstairs', she was certain she had been up there, and there were some of her belongings we needed to retrieve. In talking to a staffer and hearing she had started on another round of antibiotics, I was almost relieved by the recent diagnosis- which explained why she was on such a bizarre rant about something that did not exist.

There is a follow up appt. with Orthopedic Dr. next week, so I know she is expecting she will be released from future care (until the next crisis!) Which also means she will also be certain that she is ready to return home. Sadly: not without Adult Supervision, even though she will be vehemently opposed.

I expect there will come a time in the aging process when most, if not all, of us will decline to the point that we need assistance and possibly people to make decisions in our stead. I hope I will be more agreeable, co-operative and willing to be coerced when it is my turn. I've already told my family: just put me someplace they keep me clean and fed.

what it's like...

..to drive across the country side in south GA during the harvesting season: dusty. Whether the crop is peanuts or soybeans or cotton, it all generates a trememdous amount of stuffl floating in the air. I can imagine the clouds of dust that follow the guys driving the tractors and combines when they are finished with work for the day. After being out in the heat, sweating in the brilliant sunshine, and spending hours in that dust and dirt, they are probably caked with layers of mud when they get home.

I've watched the farming families harvesting rows of cotton, rolling the fluff up into big round bales, wrapped in plastic to sit in the fields until the crew comes to transport to the gin. I've seen the big combines harvesting peanuts that have been drying in the fields, lying in the sun in rows, waiting to be gathered and piled into wagons to go to market for sale. Watched the huge machines with tires as tall as a man trundle through the fields of dry soybeans, with streams of the dried legumes shooting into the trailers pulled behind those huge pieces of brightly painted farming implements.

Oddly, I can't remember the last time I saw a field of tobacco. I know it is harvested in the summer, to cure and send to market -but think there are so few farmers here in south GA that even plant it any more, I do not recall seeing any growing in recent years. I guess a combination of poor growing conditions/weather related issues, high labor costs and decreased demand have taken the profit out of growing tobacco as a cash crop.  Maybe other places, but not so much here, where I often travel, and observe the landscape.

so: did you find...

Saturday, October 15, 2016
...it yet? Yes. Well, where was it? Ok, I'm ready to spill the beans.

I recently wrote about something silly that happened, and commented on how it seems that as I get older, I am more willing to confess, laugh at myself. Admit to foibles and foolish behavior. Allowing the universe to have a chuckle at my expense.

It was buried in my sleeping bag. In the back of the car, where I had stowed it when I left Valdosta in the dark on Thursday morning. Apparently I had dropped it on the bag that was on the bed, and it got tucked into the 'stuff-sack' when I was gathering up my belongings to load into the car. I normally would have taken the bag into the house when I got home on Thursday afternoon, but I knew I was leaving again early on Friday for Decatur. So it sat in the car overnight.

With me thinking I had left it someplace in south GA before I drove back home on Thursday morning. Trying to retrace my movements, plot out my steps to remember where it might have landed as I was dashing to-and-fro between Nashville and Valdosta. Urging people in the vicinity to help in the search. While it accompanied me the whole time, much to my chagrin.

To be discovered last night when I pulled the sleeping bag out of the stuff-sack, and had the phone fall out on the floor. I was so pleased to see it, I've decided to confess, and admit craziness. But not going to be embarrassed over the people I alerted, challenged to help with the fruitless search. It was not the misplaced device so much, even though it was a little mortifying to have to describe it as 'old school flip-phone', but all those people who were 'stored' in the memory. All those folks I would miss not being able to contact, friends and family I could not reach, talk with.

Calling off the rescue mission. Problem solved.

even more distressing...

... was getting up on Friday morning, trying to get organized, loading up stuff in my car to leave home. Heading out before first light towards Decatur, in the pointless endeavor of trying to arrive in Metropolis before the traffic gets bad when four million vehicles hit the road. I'll always attempt to outfox them, hoping I can sneak in while they are showering and breakfasting, putting on their armor, readying to battle snarling traffic.

As I was putting things I would need for the weekend in my faithful little Toyo., I heard that unique sound of the phone on vibrate. I was delighted, to know it had not been abandoned in south GA, far out of reach. Thinking and  hoping it had slipped, unnoticed, down into the narrow nether world, between the back of the back seat, and the cushion part. It was too dark to look, and I was anxious to get on the road to get the stressful part of city driving over.  Comforted with the knowledge it was along for the ride.  Assured that the phone was actually traveling with me, even if not in hand.

I arrived at my destination, still waiting full daylight, when I could disassemble the  back seat and retrieve the sneaky hidden device. But when I began the search, it did  not appear. Apparently still unwilling to give up the secret hiding place, like that tiny turtle that got loose in the house when I was a kid and has yet to reappear. After a thorough search, actually taking all the bags full of miscellany out and diligently emptying and examining each one, that dang-nab-it phone was no where in sight. Still eluding capture. I absolutely know I heard that unique little noise it makes when the alarm vibrates. But didn't find the slippery little sneak.

I know you are thinking: 'why not just get someone to call it, and stand waiting for it to ring, leading you to the hiding place?' Good idea, except the guy who loves to man-handle problems had the missing device disabled when he went to get another activated, determined I should have a means of communication. He would not have slept a wink, due to fretting about the missing phone. So he gave me one I could not use, did  not have the skills to operate, but it satisfied his need for me to have one.

really distressing tale...

... of the lost cell phone. Part of what is so distressing is the admission that I never wanted one to start with, and find myself so befuddled, annoyed, feeling 'vaguely un-moored by the fact that now I cannot find it.  Mostly because of all the contacts I don't have when I cannot scroll through the numbers saved therein. In truth, back all those many years ago, when the first cellular phones came along it was a big unwieldy accessory the size of  a 'carry-on' bag, so ungainly it was like lifting weights to keep up with the dang thing. Plus I was so opposed to the idea of someone else thinking that me being connected was 'necessary', unwilling to accept that basic premise of always being in touch.

Now, I am thoroughly irritated over having no idea where the phone could be, mostly due to having to admit 'I don't know'. Expecting the response to my confessing would be: "Where did you leave it?"  IF I knew where I last had it, and could go back to get it, IT wouldn't be lost, now would it? Murphy's Law: You find that missing object in the last place you look (because when you find it - you cease looking, right?)

I'd been to south GA, so it could conceivably be anywhere along that trail of dust I left from my flying low trip to Valdosta and back. But I contacted people down south, who willingly assumed the task, looked in all the likely place, but reported 'no luck'. And therefore baffled, at a loss to figure out where the magic,vanishing phone could be hiding, giggling, muffling guffaws, waiting for me to poke about in the right cranny.


..in Decatur today. Lots of activity going on here for the wedding that will happen in the back yard this afternoon. Hoping for nice weather. All manner of paper lanterns, butterflies linked together with string, those little tissue paper fans that come shipped flat and open into brightly colored honey-comb decorations. Wildly colored paper stars, cleverly made from paper lunch bags glued together, and dozens of the flowers made from layers of tissue wired together and fluffed up. Starting to look like a festival around here!

Strings of the brightly colored, carefully cut paper flags, about the size of a restaurant place mat, you see at Latino celebrations, tied together and hanging from door frames, draping across the yard like patriotic banners, called papel picado. All wired or tied to every tree limb, fence post, stationary object in the area. Family pets will also be wearing party attire: dog in a suit and tie, cat dressed to the nines.

There is a nifty little metal archway, thoroughly decorated, with many garlands of little silk flowers, plus the honeycomb tissue fans. They will stand under the arch in all their best festive finery, with a dear friend to preside.  Loved ones have been recruited to read sweet poems of promise and commitment. Dozens of family and friends will all nod in agreement, smile, witness, congratulate and offer support as the happy couple step out into the future together.

Then we will eat, socialize, enjoy meeting others who have come to celebrate.  Under two big white tents set up in the yard, also profusely decorated with brilliantly colored paper stars, butterflies, lanterns, twinkling colored lights. I do love to be useful: my job is to fill mason jars with greenery and cut flowers we bought yesterday. Decorating the tables we will sit around to toast the newlyweds, while meeting all the others who join us in the celebrating.

Interesting to think that everyone who will show up has befriended, worked with, taught, shared life with these two who want to make public their  commitment today. How all the varied people who come together at this place, are in some way within the orbit of these two central characters, like a Venn diagram demonstrates relationships - how we are all connected. A wide swath of disparate individuals, all arriving with affection and words of affirmation to shower on these two sweet caring, capable, compassionate folk we join on this happy day.

book report: "Crisis of Character"...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016
...by Gary Byrne. All this stuff going on in the news about the two options for President of The United States makes me queasy. I just heard something on public radio recently about a third person who will be on the ballot, and don't even remember his name. But I will vote for this guy, who is... I don't know? An Independent? A Libertarian? A drug smuggler? A gun runner? A pot head? Not sure, but I do know what he is not.

I won't vote for Him, and I can't vote for Her. That does not leave many options. I am thinking I will go on down to the government center and vote early/absentee to get it done so I won't have to think about it any more. This mess we are in, what we have to look forward to, no matter which one gets in the Oval Office makes me ill.

Byrne was with the Secret Service when Bill Clinton was President. He was what is referred to as UD, meaning in uniform, rather than one of the guys in suits and dark glasses. After he left the White House, he ended up as a Federal Air Marshal before he retired from public service. I want to believe Bryne is sincere, a man of high standards, and wrote the book to reveal what he knows about the Clintons.

there is this T-shirt, that used to be my mom's...

Sunday, October 9, 2016
...we can assume she saved up proofs of purchase and sent in to Tropicana to get free. The quote on the T-shirt: 'more excitement than decent people need' is applicable to lots of things in life. What happened here, today, is some of that. We had a toast fire.

I put some bread in the toaster oven, to brown it for the guy here to make a sandwich for lunch. We sat down, and he put the BLT together, and proceeded to eat. I said, "hmm... I think your toast is burning up", and went in to check on the two slices I'd put in for his second sandwich. (Just an aside: I am pretty sure his favorite part of the BLT is not what you would expect - I'm nearly certain he thinks the best part is the mayonnaise. I have never seen anyone lavish so much mayo on a slice of bread.)

I went in to check, and sure enough: the toast was in flames! Holy Cow! I opened the little glass door and blew it out. But it came back, continuing to char the bread. So I went and got the little plastic water misting bottle I used to use back in the days when I ironed things. I got rid of my ironing board some years ago, with the intentions of never ironing again. But did not give away my iron or the little water bottle, which continues to live, neglected,  in the laundry room.

So I grabbed the little bottle and sprayed the fire to extinguish. Smoke billowing up towards the ceiling, filling the room. Now I am thinking it is probably time to take my kitchen fire extinguisher in to be re-charged, revived, checked as it has not been looked at in about ten years. In the way we always think we should close the barn door after the horses have all stampeded out and escaped.

I used the tongs to pry the blackened toast off the wire rack, and tossed it out in the yard. Opened windows and doors, turned on ceiling fans. And poured vinegar in little bowls to sit out around the kitchen to absorb the delightful aroma of char. It just so happens that I cleaned that little wire rack last week. It was nice and shiny for about four days.

I'm sure there is a mess in the toaster, but doubt it is sufficiently trustworthy for me to want to use again. I disposed of the little hamburger cooker we had around here for years, donating it to get it out of the house. It looks like the toaster is headed out the door as well. Which means there is really no point in cleaning it up, right?

book review: "The Birth of Venus"...

...by Susan Dunant, published in 2003. Picked randomly off the shelf at the library. And brought home as the flyleaf described the story as taking place in fifteenth century Florence, when it was still an independent city-state. Plus it had a beautiful illustration on the cover of a female head looking like the Botticelli 'Venus Rising from the Sea'. Sorry I did not make notes about the source of the art.

This young woman, actually still a child of fourteen, has a gift for drawing, wants to paint, but is discouraged as it is not an acceptable endeavor for women from wealthy families. Too much like 'work', when they are supposed to be living lives of leisure, or prayerful dedication. She encounters a strange young artist, a foreigner who her father has brought into their home to paint frescoes on a recently completed chapel. You can envision sparks flying. But they are circumspect. So no actual intrigue or misbehavior.

Alessandra is married off to a much older prosperous man who, it is hoped will keep her safe in a time of political unrest. The people are greatly swayed by a local bishop who vehemently preaches things that are not supported by the Vatican. Young men in gangs, supported and encouraged by this bishop roam the streets, inflicting instantaneous punishment and cruelty to those who oppose the local preachings. Possibly a very real depiction of life in that era, with no one who has the wherewithal to stop people who take the law into their own hands.

You will have to read the book to learn more, and I not one to spoil a good story... will only tell you that the intriguing ending of the book is in the first chapter. Which makes you read the whole thing in an effort to understand how it all comes together.

and the other things...

...I have eaten since leaving home is a 'real' breakfast: twice. after driving to Greenville, my pen pal had his cap and jacket on, ready to take us to eat at a little cafe where they know his name. He apparently does not cook anything besides coffee, so always ready to go someplace they will bring him a plate of eggs and grits and crispy bacon, still warm toast. Which he ordered, and enjoyed down to the last crumb.

I requested grits and eggs and a biscuit. The biscuit was huge, what you might have heard called a 'cat head', referring to size rather than actual facial features. Sadly, had been sitting around in the kitchen for hours, so not particularly fresh or warm. But it was all quite a novelty for me, as I generally have a bowl of cold cereal, or maybe oatmeal (if I eat anything at all) before leaving home.

And  now I have had grits, eggs and toast again. Today. A huge record - two in a row. The grits, which I highly recommend (now that there is not even a scrap to share) are made with milk instead of water. Making a bowl full remarkably creamy, tasty, desirable, and your taste buds really happy.

what has been in my mouth...

Saturday, October 8, 2016
...since leaving home on Thursday afternoon.

I thought I was tutoring a little eight year old at a church out in the county which is  my usual Thurs. aft. routine, but when I got to the church at 4:00: no one. Well, not really, as there was a funeral going on. Someone beloved by the congregation had died and was being memorialized. I saw a man who works for the funeral home I've known for years, and spoke briefly, got a hug, and left to head to Decatur. Leaving an hour sooner than I had expected.

Upon arriving in the city, in one of those places traffic stalls for no apparent reason, I took the next available exit.  Just south of the soon-to-be-abandoned Turner Field. Hoping that I could just continue to wend my way north on surface streets, and eventually run into I-20. When I got there, to an entrance ramp and saw traffic three lanes across inching along, I didn't get in another slow moving stream. Headed north some more, expecting to eventually recognize some aspect of the landscape, to find my way to Eleanor St.

It all worked out: I've seen enough street signs, and landmarks, I can figure it out. And if I can't there is always that handy back-up plan of GPS. We went to Publix to get the ingredients for one of my most favorite things to eat: bruschetta, with fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, just baked french bread, fresh mozzarella, any number of mortal sins all in the same bite. Oh. My. Goodness. It was just as excellent as I expected. Which causes me to always clean my plate/eat too much.

And was so tasty, that I requested it again when returning from driving to SC yesterday. Sadly, like the biscuits and gravy, it never comes out 'even'. There is enough bread left for me to potentially have it for a third meal in three days, but all the other ingredients are currently being digested. My taste buds still remember....

drivin' into the storm....

Friday, October 7, 2016
...if you are paying attention to the weather, you will wonder: "What in the world was she thinking? Driving to South Carolina knowing there was a category four hurricane bearing down on the state?" Give me little credit please! You know I am math impaired, but can at least discern between fours and fives! Not really so much that, actually, as the fact that I was going to what the citizens who live there refer to as 'upstate' (plenty far away from the coast and a ten foot high storm surge), rather than a complete loss of judgement/sanity that would have me traveling to the beach.

I went to Greenville - about two hours northeast of Atlanta - to visit my pen-pal, after a calendar snafu caused me to change plans when I thought I was going in late Sept. He called to confess a problem with the date we had agreed upon, very mysteriously saying he had a conflict. I was so curious, really intrigued attempting to decipher why a 93 year old man would have some social engagement that would precipitate a change in our plans for me to come, drive four hours from home, to visit. But sadly, I forgot to ask. Or maybe just too polite to inquire? I am still wondering.....

probably the strangest...

Thursday, October 6, 2016
...thing I have ever returned for a refund. This is a little side note to the scarecrow building story. One of the group who was there for the first planning meeting had to back out of the project, due to accidentally finding herself employed. Apparently she was not looking for work, but it just fell into her lap, so she decided to work for a while and had to disentangle herself from other commitments. But she had agreed to providing several important components necessary to assemble the scarecrow. Like boots, wheelbarrow and several bales of hay.

Then, as I said, she had to back out. So in trying to figure out how to fulfill her obligation, called me.  Who said: just get it to my house, and I will take care of it. She fidgeted some, worrying about how I would transport. But I assured her she does not have the only pick up truck in town, and I'd take if from there. Then as it turned out, the scheme changed to the point that we decided we do not need the bales of hay. So.... hmmmm.....

I'd paid her husband for the bales, when he delivered the goods, and handed off the receipt, just to take it off his hands. So I had three bales of overpriced hay ($7.99 each) for which I paid him $24. And a receipt from Tractor Supply. Which caused me to think: I want to get my money back from hay bales I don''t want/need or care to store in my carport, inviting riff-raff to come in and nest. But the problem with that excellent idea is I also do not want to have my car full of whispy pieces of hay that stick to carpet and upholstery like they are glued on.

Then I thought: Aha! There is a pick up truck at the church anyone who is moving can borrow for the day or weekend. I put in my request and went to the church to get the truck, promising to be back from my mission in less than an hour: the amount of time it would take me to run to the house (about seven miles) manhandle the hay into the back and get it to the store to get my refund. Assuming the manager did not laugh me out of the store upon hearing my off-beat request.

As luck would have it, when I got to the store, with wisps of hay stuck to my pants and clinging to my hair, there was a very irate customer in line ahead of me. Causing me to give the appearance of someone who had just 'had a roll in the hay'.  Ha,ha. I whispered to the cashier that I had not brought my bad attitude with me - so they were pretty pleased to do business with me, even though I was returning something.  Tiny little shift manager, who I probably out-weighed by a thirty pounds, picked up those three bales and hoisted them back into the semi-trailer where they are stored. And cheerfully refunded my  $7.99 plus tax so I actually made a buck and change on the deal.

movie review: this one is old...

... because I have not been to view a movie at the 'walk in' in weeks, so there is nothing 'current' to talk about. I think the last one I saw on the big screen was Tarzan, and it was at the cheap seats about a month ago. It was pretty good, but I must confess I often get so caught up and mesmerized by the special effects I am not a good judge of script quality or acting skills.

The one we saw one night this week, sitting on the couch, was a DVD from the library. Periodically I will go and check out a handful from the shelves, and bring them home to watch at night. I often claim to be a person who does not watch television, and (possibly bragging) then immediately report how much reading I do. But part of the reason for not being a tv consumer is the fact that it requires such a complicated process to operate. There is probably only one remote necessary to actually turn on the television, but it takes three to get the DVD's going. Therefore I never view a movie alone - cannot go through the complicated, process without someone else available to do all the buttons on all the remotes necessary to actually get to the watching part. Sad, isn't it? But the lack of tech. skills is the reason I do so much book reading...you know how 'low tech' turning the page is!

The movie is 'Changeling', with the lead part played by Angelina Jolie. I am not a huge fan, but she did an excellent job. The story is about Carolyn Collins,  who lived in Los Angeles in the late 1920's and early '30's. She was a single mother with a young son, named Walter. She was called in to work one Saturday, and left Walter (maybe 10 or 12 years old) at home alone. Upon her return, he had disappeared. Completely vanished without a trace. She searched, desperate to find him, but no one had any sightings or clues to offer. When she reported to the police, they were not helpful. Law enforcement eventually got involved, but as the story unfolds, when they returned her son to her: it was not her child.

There had been an ongoing brouhaha brewing in the police department with bribery, corruption, aggressive behavior, from the chief on down. They were in need of media coverage of something uplifting to improve their image, and refused to believe the boy was not her son. The story of what she went through while police denied a  mistake is horrendous: she was forced into a mental institution, a humiliating body cavity inspection, badgered by nurses and doctors, blasted with fire hose, submitting to horrifying subjugation. Punished for telling the truth, as happens when the truth is not popular or well accepted.

On her behalf, a local minister (played by John Malkovich - in the only favorable part I have ever seen him cast) took up a crusade to rally the citizens and force her release. The plot gets far more gruesome than I would normally care for, but so fascinating I could not stop. You see the humiliation and demeaning behavior of men and medical professionals, people in power over captives and females. When those in authority have the ability to exert control over those weaker, or underlings they often do so with brutal force. It is a realistic depiction of what circumstances were like during that era, when mental hospitals were able to incarcerate at will, with little recourse for those who were held captive.

At the end, you see in the credits, it was directed by Clint Eastwood. And that makes you remember the short line at the beginning of the movie that it is A True Story. I'm not sure how old it is, but you can probably find it on Amazon, if not at your local library. Well worth the time.

another driving opportunity...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
...similar to some in the past. When I take an assignment to pick up a person who needs to get to an appointment at the local cancer center. Usually for treatment, or possibly just some lab/blood work. But almost always to the building where most cancer care in our area occurs, associated with the local medical center. A couple of times the appointment has been for getting someone to a doctor's office, but those are pretty rare.

The job for tomorrow is to pick up a man who needs to be at the treatment center at 9:00 am. And will be there for four hours. I usually take a book, sit in the lobby/waiting area, and read while waiting for them to get finished, with most being there for less than an hour. But I will go in the morning and pick him, and wife up to deliver at nine a.m. And run some errands, kill time until they are finished and need a ride back home at 1:00. Probably go to Sam's club to do the weekly shopping for church staff  during the four hours between delivery and pick up.

I am assuming he will be sitting in one of their lounge chairs, with a needle in his arm, being infused with some dread, toxic chemicals designed to combat the spreading disease. I am more than willing to help in this small way, to make their lives only incrementally easier as they do not have the worry of transportation amongst all their other problems. I will (we should all) be very thankful as I am, every day, for good health.

making the (un-scarey) scare crow...

Monday, October 3, 2016

... with some co-conspirators who are also fellow master gardening friends. The local botanical garden is always trying to raise awareness, not always funds, by doing things to help the public be more knowledgeable about the facilities and opportunities to be had at our beautifully blooming space. A spring plant show and sale, with various vendors providing interesting wares. An annual day lily show with plants for sale, and knowledgeable speakers. Community Easter egg hunt. A big fundraiser event in the fall that brings a high profile, well-known gardening expert to town to give a talk at a luncheon, with a silent auction of donated items to help bring interested patrons to shop and enjoy a catered meal. Fall Festival, usually scheduled close to Halloween.

The annual fall festival  always has some bedding plants for sale, along with lots of fun activities for families: inflatables, face painting, scarecrow contest. Several of my fellow gardeners, who are volunteers for many of the above listed events, decided we should get together and make a scarecrow to enter in the contest. Started planning several weeks ago, with instructions from the county agent/mg sponsor that it needs to be 'educational'. We decided to approach it from the 'where are all the pollinators?' angle. With bees, butterflies, insects on and around our not-scare-crow, and wooden sunflowers that will help to tell the story. The not-scarey-crow will be holding a news paper, sitting in a wheelbarrow. Headlines in the paper will comment on the loss of pollinators and possible causes. Then offer more info. available at the library or UGA county extension service.

There are several different opportunities to win prizes for 'best of' in the contest. Which we have already spent on materials to assemble the man we will enter. So when we have a party to celebrate our success, it will be BYOB. Our man, dressed in plaid shirt and overalls, sitting in a wheelbarrow goes up the middle of the month, to remain through the fall festival event on Oct. 29. It should be amusing, as I understand there are at least two dozen entries.

with age, comes...

... a willingness to tell stories on myself, admit to foolish behavior and share moments of the ridiculous. Here is my funny story that occured about a week ago, when I went to bed too early one night. I was really tired, plus wanted to get away from the persistent blaring of the television. I generally have a library book in progress, reading myself to sleep after I get in bed. I was obviously so weary I did not read long, before my eyes wouldn't stay open and I fell asleep. Probably around 8:30 or so. Which I readily agree is 'too early', as anyone who crashes at that time, is almost guaranteed to be wide awake at 4 a.m., wishing to go back to sleep, but rarely finding any significant rest.

But what happened here: I startled awake, looked at the digital numbers on the clock and panicked. Thought I was late for work, and jumped out of bed and into my clothes, ready to tie on my shoes and dash out the door. Thinking it was 5:39, and I had to be at work at 6:00 a.m. Holy cow! I am so diligent about being there on time, and generally clock in four or five minutes early, rather than late, I am never clocking in even a minute past my scheduled time.

I knew I could do it, and get there to be clocking in at six, if all the lights were green and I could inch up a few miles over the speed limit. But when I looked at the clock on the wall in the kitchen, I discovered it was really 9:41 p.m. Meaning I could go back to bed and wake up again the next morning in ample time for work. The '5' and the '9' on the digital clock face looked so much alike when I startled awake after only an hour's sleep - I thought I had failed to set the alarm and was dangerously close to being late for work.

sporadically, inconsistently...

... intermittently providing a pair of hands with free labor to help with work in the local botanical garden. I have been volunteering there for years, in a haphazard sort of way. Not one of the faithful few who make the plans, laying groundwork for various annual events and motivating us worker-bees to jump in for manhandling projects as needed. Like lots of non-profits, it would cease to be successful without the many hours of volunteer efforts, both brainpower and manually.

I have been a couple of times to participate in the 'first Monday' work days: just show up and be prepared to do whatever needs doing. A pair of gloves, clippers, clothing that will tolerate dirt, and a fairly willing body for providing the gardens with several hours of upkeep in the area that most needs attention. My expertise lies in highly skilled weeding. I've long felt that pulling weeds is some of the best 'therapy' you can get for such a bargain price. The satisfaction of knowing that particular weed will not make seeds and multiply prolifically in the next growing season. Plus the gratification of a much cleaner, tidier space, and the opportunity to be productive with your hands in an environment of beauty: outdoors in fresh air, sunshine, the glory of nature.

I will gather up my tools, gloves, clippers, grubby working-in-the-yard shoes on, head out to the botanical gardens and give them a couple of hours of my time. Perfect weather for puttering around in a beautiful space with blooms, pollinators, fellow diggers and bright sunshine on a crisp cool morning. The gardens will benefit from our collective donated time, and we will all get excellent 'therapy' for no extra charge!

not getting there...

Sunday, October 2, 2016
...on Sunday morning. Even when I have to go to work on Sunday at 6 a.m., I can usually get to church. Taking an early lunch break to run to the 9:00 service and get back to the job by 10:30'ish. But it did not happen today. There was just too much to try to get done, and not nearly enough time to accomplish everything. When I realized there was no way I could let go at nine, I consoled myself with the idea that I could go to the eleven o'clock service, which I never attend.

And sadly today was not the exception. I just did not get there at all. So had to console myself with the next thought that I could get to lifeschool class at 5:30, which I did, but not nearly as satisfying as all that uplifting praise music. Plus an opportunity to be spoon fed a thought-y, meaningful, meaty message that would provide the nourishment to get me through the week.

book review: "The Road to Little Dribbling"...

...by Bill Bryson. Listening to the DVDs/talking book version as I drive across, then up and down the state. If you you read 'A Walk in the Woods', and found it amusing, you will also enjoy the dry wit and black humor found in his second walk through various villages and along footpaths in England. If you did not think the 'Walk' book was entertaining, and don't want to read about his travels to little known museums and odd points of interest, you won't be reading this one.

I have wished several times while reading and listening that I had known to read the 'Road' book before we went on our trip this summer. But we likely would not have had time to poke around and find the obscure places he occasionally enjoys, and reports on as remarkably well preserved important places of history, or tacky little outposts he regrets veering off to visit. He wrote another book relating his experiences in touring Great Britain by foot some years ago, after meeting, then marrying a woman who was a citizen. Settling down to live the life of a Brit.

A couple of funny stories from the book: one about taking a walk along a narrow footpath, through a  densely wooded area, where he encounters a local 'dowager' walking her dog. The animal stops to do his business, and they both quietly wait and observe the progress. When the canine has completed his work, it is apparent the woman has no intention of picking up the result. With Bryson looking at the steaming pile, he asked her if she was going to leave it there in the narrow path for the next passerby to find on the bottom of a shoe. Her response was that she planned to 'cover it', which she proceeded to do, by raking a few dried leaves over the stinking mess, before turning to resume her walk. Bryson reports he then lifted his walking staff, and beat her to a bloody pulp, rolled the body off into the underbrush. Just kidding, but in the telling, it is obvious he seriously considered doing bodily harm.

Elsewhere in the book he tells of planning his route so he could ride on a refurbished steam train. Reporting that there are a great number of organizations in England that people join with a common goal, or interest. Like running steam engines on otherwise abandoned tracks. Or collecting pocket watches. He said that if all the retired engineers in the country could join together and find enough steam engines in need of overhaul, there would be virtually no sales of Viagra in the entire nation. Thinking, I suppose, those grizzled, be-whiskered, crotchety old guys just need an outlet to keep themselves occupied?

Another story was about a walk along an area of the country that is known as the 'Jurassic coast'. It was actually not far from where we were this summer, when in the south west of the nation, near the Channel. I recently read a book about this, telling the story of a young girl who would search the beach below eroding cliffs for collectibles, that she would sell to visitors who were vacationing on the seaside. I thought the book was fiction, but it turns out to be based on a true story of a young woman named Mary Anning.  Mary was un-schooled as an archeologist, became well known as a result of her amazing finds on the beach and cliff face. Dang. I wish I had known to go and look!

He does occasionally go on a rant, about some injustice, or pointless law/rule, rude shopkeepers, an occasional failure of service people to be sufficiently prompt, places he visited years ago that no longer exist, or indecipherable timetables for trains. But the times he had me laughing out loud while cruising through the south GA piney woods or along the interstate were well worth those periodic ravings of a disappointed, frustrated tourist. Even those tangents are amusing.