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on good authority...

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

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

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

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

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

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

it started me thinking...

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

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

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

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

sledding...

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

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

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

non-update on the auntie...

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

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

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

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

about that unavailable manager....

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

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

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

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

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

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

conversing with a co-worker...

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

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

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

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

Christmas ham story...

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

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

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

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

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

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

update on unreliable knee...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

not gift shopping...

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

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

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

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

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


a sweet concert ...

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

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

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

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

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

book review: "Top Dog"...

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

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

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

while waiting in line...

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

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

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

MY little red hen story...

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

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

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

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

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

little red hen story...

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

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

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

up in the dark again....



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

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

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

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

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

driving across georgia...


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

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

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

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

letter from a friend...

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

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

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

while searching...

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

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


And while we are at it:

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

wasting your breath...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

more often than not...

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

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

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

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

not sure why...

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

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

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

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

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

update on the auntie...

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

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

remembering....

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

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

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

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

movie review: deepwater horizon...

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

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

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

quote for the day...

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

a funny billboard...

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

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

full....

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

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

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

tying bows...

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

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

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

holiday decorating...

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

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

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

puttin' in the time...

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

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

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