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the light show...

Friday, December 29, 2017

... at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens was quite impressive. We went early, before it was dark and had dinner at a restaurant in the Gardens. Lots of people milling around, and thousands or maybe millions of lights of every imaginable color.  It was quite cold, but the temperature did not stop us or every other citizen in a hundred mile radius from going to enjoy the gloriously hung, draped, mounted, flowing, artistically arranged gazillion of twinkling lights.

Trees, deliberately, tidily groomed, placed along each side of the path, standing tall in matched pairs, with practically every inch of bark covered in lights, a different color for each tree. Gigantic red and white snowflakes hung up high in the branches of full grown, mature trees making you wonder how in the world the guys got them up there. Tiny little flower shaped lights on tiny little trees, with wires and colored bulbs plenteously wrapped on every limb. Glowing orbs of dozens of white lights tucked away in the shrubbery, looking like something that dropped in from another planet.

An amazing display of lights hung from netting up high in the limbs of mature hardwoods, hundreds of long strings of many colors, just hanging straight down from tree tops. All those different colors blinking on and off synchronized to music playing from hidden speakers out in the undergrowth. Too overwhelming for my limited vocabulary, oh-so-very impressive that I am tempted to use that exhausted, overworked A-word, (-wesome!) to describe. Out there in the cold and dark with a multitude of others gawking, with heads tilted back and mouths agape, standing in the woods astounded by the sights.

book review: "The Lost Letter"...

...written by Jillian Cantor, published by Penguin Random in 2017. One of those just randomly picked up off the shelf of recent  arrivals at the library. Usually I will be in and out of the library in short order, now that I am convinced that I don't have to finish books I am not enjoying. Historically there have been tomes that were only completed under duress, back in the era when I mistakenly believed I had to finish every tale I started. Recently realizing if it is dull, something that does not capture my interest - I can return it unread. There will be no test, no one expecting me to complete an assignment.

The "Letter" referred to in the title was written by a man who lived in Austria during the German occupation. His correspondence was hidden away for over fifty years, tucked away inconspicuously as part of his stamp collection. Before the war started, he was training under a Jewish man who was an expert engraver, learning how to handle the tools and developing the skills to be craftsman who would make the plates used to print stamps. Then the Nazis came: sacking, burning, killing, raping, sending Jews off to hard labor and death camps. Most of the family escaped, going to allied countries and America.

The daughter of the owner (now with dementia in nursing care) of the collection, thought her dad's stamps might have some value, and went to see a specialist. As the dealer looked through the stamps, he noticed a very unusual one, on a letter that had never been sent or opened. They began an effort to determine origin of the correspondence. With the assistance of the professional philatelic (stamp) dealer, she began to understand the image on the stamp/unsent letter was unique: one of a kind. The stamp itself was carefully rendered, printed and meant to send a message to the recipient during a time when letters could be opened and censored by occupation forces, though it was never mailed.

No spoilers here, but a recommendation for reading the story. It was quite believable, well researched and full of historical information: towns no longer on the map after the Nazi occupation, details about the engraving process when it was all hand crafted by artisans, facts about stamp production. And a happy ending - always a plus to my way of thinking.

trying to train...

Thursday, December 28, 2017
... adults is far worse than raising little people. You will appear to small persons to have great authority, possibly due to size or just being so tall they have to literally look up. They generally believe you know what you are talking about, confident that you are saying the things you tell them for a reason, possibly safety and well being. Accepting what they are instructed to get accomplished (like tooth-brushing or bed making) or warned about not doing (digging holes in Sunday best or feeding the family pet off your plate at the dinner table.) Cautioned about risky behavior (jumping off the barn with an umbrella for a parachute) or unforeseen dangers (going with the man who offers candy or claims to need help finding his puppy.) Children are impressionable and willing to cooperate, take parents' wisdom at face value up to a certain age, then they become highly trained obstinate know-it-alls.

I've been trying for years to persuade my adult children they should not purchase items, things, stuff. For any and all gift-giving occasions. I do not want any more clutter in my life: it's all stuff. Telling them as opportunities for presenting present draw near that I would much rather spend time with them doing something fun. Or nothing at all. Many good laughs can be had sitting on the couch, viewing amusing videos they save to replay for us to look at and giggle together.

They hear me forever saying: let's go someplace interesting and do something we've never experienced. They are beginning to understand and think about neat things we can do together. One gave me tickets to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to see the Christmas light show. I don't know anything about it, but assume it is a small scale version of the Callaway Resort Fantasy in Lights, with miles and miles of holiday decorations out along the paved drive through the woods. Expecting the Botanical event is more condensed, walking along the pathways at night viewing a gazillion strings of lights, in various shapes, extravagantly illuminating the gardens tucked away in metropolis.

The other go-and-do surprise will be in Chattanooga. Saved for warmer weather, when we can get out on the Tennessee River, ride the Duck Boats for a tour.  Both of these sound like fun things to do. Lots to look forward to as we take time to be together, fulfilling my desire to spend time with my favorite people, it looks like they have finally caught on to my plan: Let's Have Fun.

nearly a tree...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

 .... in that it almost was, but not quite. I went to the craft store and bought several strings of tiny-est lights on tiny-est wires to wrap around a couple of bare branches I stuck in a vase half filled with  little round, flat, clear glass decorative pebbles. I was impressed - thinking it looks pretty good, for something that is impromptu and only temporary.

I have never purchased a fresh cut tree, though I think there was one here a couple of years, when I was not paying attention, and young people grabbed the opportunity to go and buy a fraser fir. I cannot imagine spending money on a  tree you will put out for the trash man in a matter of days. Already cut, and dying before you can get it in the door. We've had a reusable one off and on for years, something that would reside in the attic fifty weeks of the year, then come down to be hung, draped, tinseled and plugged in for sparkly frou-frou near year end. It went in the church yard sale some time ago, creating the perfect excuse for not devoting my time to decorating a tree in the living room each December.

I knew the people who were coming to celebrate the holiday would have some commentary about the fact that there was no tree. Therefore: the tiny little one with tiny clear lights, masquerading as a Christmas tree. Not only was it all the tree I needed, it was all they were gonna get... Until someone came in the door with a real, cut, fresh, green one, already decorated with ornaments and lights, perfect table-top size, ready to be plugged in.

not buying trees...

... for Christmas is a great and grand family tradition. When visiting my brother recently, there was conversation about trees we had years ago. The trees I recall were all the most irritating, prickly, itchy red cedars that grow wild/volunteer along fence-rows across south. You often find bird nests in them, as they would be a great place to lay eggs and raise a family due to how difficult it would be to get past all the prickles to rob a nest or abscond with hatchlings.

I don't recall any trees we had that were bought, purchased from a store or tree lot, as they all came from the woods or off the property of a farmer who thought the red cedar was trash.  In reality: there was no option, no people who brought in cut trees and set them up on corner lots for purchase. The small town where I lived had a few for sale at the local grocery store, propped up by the entrance, but there just were not places that sold holiday trees and greenery.

Those disagreeable red cedars are remarkably itchy when you cut them down and put them in the truck to get home and take in the house. Fit into the tree stand, and place in front of the window. Even more prickly when you are hanging ornaments, strings of lights and little foil icicles from each branch and twig. And prickliest of all when they have been sitting inside in heated air for a couple of weeks, dry out and start shedding. When you have to reach your hand in the itchy stuff to remove all those ornaments and lights.

The last one I recall: going with my brother, in my dad's truck, traveling down the dirt roads and by-ways of the county. Bumping down a farm lane, eyeing the fence rows, hoping to spot one the right size. Hard to do, as the one that looks perfect growing in the wild, is often far too big when you get it in the stand and in the house with eight foot ceilings. We finally thought we spotted the perfect one.

Jumped out of the pick-up, with hand saw and made quick work of cutting the volunteer cedar down. Put it in the back of the truck, and hopped back in to head home. When we were chased down and stopped by a man who asked who we were and what we were doing? I fully expected to be handcuffed, remanded to the sheriff. The farmer thought we were stealing his pecans, since we were parked along the edge of the road near his orchard. After the interrogation, he let us go on our knee-knocking way when we confessed to stealing a worthless, prickly red cedar to decorate for Christmas.

the other (gift) thing...

... they all will be enjoying after Christmas was a visit from Santa Claus. Several years ago, probably when I went in a flight to Virginia to see my brother, I read the Delta 'in flight' magazine, and discovered instructions for making origami designs out of a dollar bill. I think it was a bird, maybe a crane or dove? Anyway - it was too complicated for my simple brain to grasp, so I recruited my BFF to help me turn the greenback into some neatly folded creature.

I asked the BFF to practice it on a Washington, then when she had figured it out to show me how, and we would multi-fold Franklin to give for Christmas. I thought it was a nifty, clever idea. Who couldn't think of some way to fritter away a treasury bill worth $100? I believe I was the only one who was impressed. Oh, well...

So this year, I got some little pieces of white paper and made a disguise so no one would know it was really Ben Franklin. Tucked into a plain white envelope, he was wearing a white beard with mustache and red hat with white fur trim. I am almost certain no one who opened the envelope had any idea that it was really Ben traveling incognito.  Why would you think that it was anything other than the Jolly Old Man who lives at the North Pole surrounded by midgets?

time traveling...

Monday, December 25, 2017
... but not in the usual science fiction/made for movies sense. It happened due to celebrating the holiday on the 24, instead of the 25 like everyone else does... Oh, really? Didn't you hear: celebrating on the 25 is so last year!

I did not plan any of this, and was as surprised by the sudden relocation of Christmas as anyone who has long been calendar conscious and obedient to the hard and fast Laws of Commerce. Especially those of us plodding away in the retail world, at the mercy of the customer demanding goods and service. Punching the clock, giving our hours and days in a reciprocal agreement for funds to support all our bad habits.

They decided amongst themselves that they would rather be together on Sunday, and have Monday free. Some will have to be back at work on Tuesday, and would feel more like they have had a weekend if they did not feel exhausted and frazzled from traveling on Monday. Time to do laundry, put things away, take a deep breath or two before getting back in the groove. As long as there is an opportunity for sitting on the couch adjacent to each other, anything suits me.

In reality it did not much matter to me, as I had no intention of fisticuff-ing with all the other aggressive shoppers demanding consumer goods, crazy drivers whipping through parking lots and caution lights. My scheme, as it played out over the past six months, was to purchase a $50 gas gift card for $40 (with a grocery purchase and coupon from the weekly sale flyer). That ten bucks off coupon shows up once a month in the newspaper ad. I had been planning all along that the people I gift annually would receive free gas (not the kind you get from eating chili) as a present.

Especially after The Man Who Lives Here reported getting a discount with a Shell rewards card I brought him. He recently went to the curb store where he usually stops to fill up, and due to being a frequent flyer/buyer had gotten up to a serious discount: ten cents off a gallon by using the rewards card. Then he used a Shell gift card and proceeded to get a ten percent discount off  'Free!' How's that for saving money?! Yeah, that's what I thought: pretty strange....

how to outsmart oneself in three easy steps...

Thursday, December 21, 2017
.... even though this could easily be the title of something silly I find my self doing on a daily basis, this actually happened several days ago. I am just now sufficiently over feeling like a complete dolt and ready for True Confessions. It has taken me a week to get past the embarrassment, even though no one else was a witness. Ready to share something readers will find amusing while I am still feeling like a complete goof-ball as I confess...

Step 1.) When you bring home a loaf of bread knowing at least half will go in the trash, you should put some in the freezer. I divided the loaf, and put four slices each in three zipper bags to put in the freezer so I am not letting the bread sit around so long it turns into a middle school science project. Now half the loaf is tucked away and a slice or two can be easily thawed at room temp. when needed.

Step 2.) Take one of the handy little packages of frozen bread out of the freezer when you expect someone will want to make a sandwich, so it will be thawed and ready for ham and cheese. Notice that he only made one sandwich, so there are still two slices of bread, available for eating.

Step 3.) Remove one of the two slices from the zipper bag, when you come home from work to find some lunch. Spread peanut butter and jelly on the bread to eat. Go sit on the couch, with hopes of taking a twenty minute nap before returning to work. Jump up from the couch, discovering you took a thirty minute nap, thinking: Late!  Decide to grab another PBJ, speedily spreading the bread to eat it on the way back to clock in. As you are putting the jelly on top of the peanut butter, realize you failed to take the second slice of bread out of the zipper bag.

Step 3a.) Now you have to take the bread out of the bag (hide the evidence) and start over. Put the bag in the trash, so no one will know what a doofus you are, and remake your half sandwich. Dash out the door and back to work. I did not see any point in sharing experience with co-workers, and letting them know the truth. Not likely any of them read this so none the wiser....

errands done...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
... and marked off my list. A busy day of running around on Tuesday - and that was after spending over four hours at the elementary school where I have been doing some fill-in/sub. teacher work several mornings recently. I was so impressed at the end of the tail-chasing day, I thought I should save the list as a little monument to high level productivity.  Except for the distressing fact that it was not so productive.

The one thing I was hoping to accomplish was a small appliance gift. Surprisingly, I discover it to be such a hot seller, no one has them in stock, so not available in the store, or on-line or in the warehouse or on the boat from China.  It is a combination crock pot (slow cooker) and pressure cooker (super fast cooker). Plus has a timer you can set to either get your food ready and turn off, or wait until you tell it to start,  ready the minute you walk in the house to weary too think about what to prepare.

I was up and out of the house before 7 am to get to the store and inquire. After a failed foray on Sunday when I was informed a truck that comes in the wee hours  on Tuesday and more of the wonderful InstantPot would be available for sale after they unloaded and sorted. Well, guess what? No truck. But that very pleasant young manager I spoke with who was so agreeable as I vented my frustrations on Sunday night told me there would be a re-supply on Thursday. And she took my contact info. to save me one if they were came in.

For a back-up plan, I went to Target (all out) and Best Buy (all out) hoping to find one. Having two would not be nearly as problematic as having none. I honestly never even heard of the thing before it appeared on a Wish List. Attributable, I suppose, to the wonders of engineering, baffling secrets of computer chips, and constantly evolving micro-sizing of technology. Reminding me of that old joke about the guys who were deciding over the most amazing invention/discovery of all time. One suggested 'fire', the second thought 'electricity' and the last guy felt like the most remarkable thing on the planet was his Thermos bottle. The others asked in bafflement: "Why?"  He said he was astounded that it could keep hot things hot and cold things cold, and wondered: "How do it know?"

back to the doctor...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017
... on Monday afternoon for a recheck. They don't do anything until they have more pictures for which they can bill insurance. Every time I have been in the orthopedic clinic, the first thing that happens is a trip down the hall to the xray room: four more gruesome photos of my innards. I had plenty of time to study the newest view of my skeleton while waiting for the PA to come and and talk about what I was peering at on the screen.

Really pretty interesting, when you get past the 'ugh' factor. From my point of view, it appeared the little metal plate that was put in under the skin, secured with a number of screws, was on the back of my wrist. But being a layperson, versus the expert, I was soon to understand that the machine sees through bones, but not metal, and that permanent addition was on the inside of my arm, just below the bend. I took my sharpie so the doc could draw me a picture on my skin for me to see just exactly where I've been improved. No, I am not contemplating a tattoo there, just wanted to be able to visualize what is going on.

The best-est news is that the PA told me to quit wearing the brace that has been my best friend for weeks. I told her the therapy person has expected that it will be worn continuously. So being granted permission to not put that confining addition on every day is a welcome relief. I just need to be constantly alert, on guard to not use the still healing hand in undesired actions: still no pushing or pulling or lifting. On the mend!

substitute teaching...

... job today, and one more tomorrow before the end of the semester. I am well past that goal of accumulating ten days before the holiday break. And actually, when I do it again on Tuesday, think I will be about halfway towards the other ten required to stay in the good graces of the sub. replacement program. In order to stay active, the fill-in people are required to have a total of 20 per year.  If my figures are correct, I will have fifteen. Whew!

It has not been too rough. The kids I have encountered have been pretty agreeable and have not presented any problems. Just struggling to grasp some of the concepts that are appropriate to their age level, and needing some extra help to master some of the things their peers more easily understand. I have seen some who are having a hard time understanding the assigned work because they have a problem with reading, and basic vocabulary. If you can't read the material, you certainly don't have the comprehension to answer questions or respond when tested. There are probably as many reasons for the struggles as there are kids who are floundering.

They will get behinder and behinder, and are the ones who begin to feel so badly about themselves at grading time, they want to give up. I cannot even begin to guess at what the solution might be. I do know that literacy is so very important. A variety of theories on the best way to teach reading are out there - I am not qualified to have an opinion on what works. I do know that being a person who reads and demonstrates a love of reading, modeling the habit of literacy is one way,but likely not particularly helpful by the time students are ten or twelve years old. Reading to little people before they can even hold the book, and talking about the illustrations is a great way to start.

It is distressing to see young people struggling with trying to read the material their classmates are absorbing. To know they have such a hard time getting through the words, trying to decipher basic vocabulary in a paragraph they won't likely fully grasp content they need to ingest. If they cannot manage the basics, they will struggle as their assignments become more and more complex, not understanding what they need to know as more complicated skills are required. So sad....

interesting little side job...

Saturday, December 16, 2017
... well, not actually a paying job, so there was no remuneration involved.  Just something I don't routinely do, and think there are not many people out there loose on the streets who would be participants in such an unusual occupation. Volunteering with a service organization that has some loose ties to local public safety - CLEA. An acronym for Citizens and Law Enforcement Association.

Some years ago, I heard about a program the police department runs that allows John Doe to go behind the scenes and learn about the various jobs that are part of keeping us safe. Speakers from different areas came and talked about what they do, we went to the range to shoot one Saturday, did an obstacle course  involving rappelling down from a tower. Touring the jail, other areas public safety controls.

When the series is over, you can become alumni. Volunteer to help when they put out a call for extra hands in various harmless environments. Meet and Greet events where alumni would hand out flyers, or using extra people to provide help with events public safety sponsors for school age children. Which is what happened on Friday: big bicycle helmet giveaway, plus meet Santa. The CLEA people were recruited to do fingerprints for kids who had parental approval. It is a messy mess. After the kids get inked, prints are pressed  one finger at a time on cards and given to mom. Then you clean the black sticky goo off their hands before they touch their clothes, scratch their face or pick their nose.

We might have done prints for two hundred kids. Making me think it was a productive experience. I recall having prints done for my kids when they were very small. They don't change, just get bigger as everything gets fed, watered, grows over the years, so those tiny finger prints still can be used to identify those two no-longer-little people.

crisis of the day...

...on Friday was cause for another half-dozen unanswered calls in my pocket. He was coming north on the interstate (after spending four hours at the Infantry Museum, his two day a week jobette) when he had a problem with the carrier that hauls his motorized chair as needed. The lift is mounted on the back of his SUV, usually folded up, but extends out flat when he wants to load/haul the chair. Something broke, causing him to pull off, out of traffic, and be parked in the emergency lane with vehicles whizzing past. He did not know what to do. I don't know why he would have called me: there is absolutely nothing I could have done to help. In addition to being unwilling to go out on the six lane highway and stand by, wringing my hands in unison with his.

By the time I could answer my phone, the most current crisis had been resolved: a good Samaritan stopped, asked how he could help, and they loaded the very weighty chair into the SUV and he got home, mostly intact.  I heard the short version when I finally called back, long after the situation was no longer urgent. Got home, and found him sitting in the dark, frustrated, irritated, aggravated and annoyed.  He related the whole sordid tale and said that one of the welds on the trailer hitch where the lift is mounted broke loose. Convinced he does not want to get it repaired, as it will surely break again. I asked where he could get a new one, and he waffled, pulling numbers out of thin air for how expensive a replacement would be.

This indicates to me that he does not want to do this, has no desire to buy a new trailer hitch. I know he has been pondering the purchase of a van that could load the mobility chair into the vehicle. So it would be transported inside the vehicle, out of the weather. My educated guess is that he will proceed with that plan, decide it is time to trade and get another. Which would be perfectly ok with me except that he cannot get the insurance that will pay it off should he wink out.  Cannot say what he will do to resolve this current situation. I do know he was pretty morose last night.

As my cuz. often says: "more will be revealed". I have been trying to do better at keeping my mouth shut, waiting to see what other people say. Thinking (like you read in detective stories) that 'people will keep talking if you keep listening'.  Expecting if I can keep quiet long enough, not offer advice, he will come to his own conclusions. The reality of Not Expressing My Opinion is very difficult. I'm working on it...

I did suggest, while he was sitting there in the dark, that he could have called 511 for rescue. He said 'I did not think of that.'  (It's not just for flat tires, right?) He was aggravated that with no way to load/unload his chair he could not go to his volunteer job on Saturday afternoon. I said, 'I am sure you can find some strong willing backs to unload your chair to use at the Museum when you go tomorrow'.

when my pocket rang, sang and vibrated...

... there were at least half a dozen missed calls in my pants on Thursday. I had to wonder what sort of crisis had occurred on the home front to make The Man Who Lives Here so desperate to contact me. It was the water heater/flood/parting of the Red Sea.  He wanted me to get as frantic as he was about dealing with the huge puddle in the workshop. I was fortunately miles removed from the situation, so not feeling the sense of urgency that was weighing so heavily on The Man Who Lives here and loves to fret.

He was calling to insist I should make a bee-line for the big box store and purchase a wet-dry vacuum to get the water up off the floor. I did not fully grasp the magnitude of the problem that he was actually, literally, really sitting in (though he was not getting wet and cranky as he was sitting in a chair.) Told him it would be hours before I could get the vacuum and get home to join in the predicament. Optimistically assuming he would be solving the problem before I could participate.

Upon my arrival, and looking in at all the water, I began cursing and moving things to get them out of standing water... a great big mess. And then discovered that the plumber who had been stomping around in the indoor pond for some time had a utility vac. on his truck and was prepared to suck up all the water before leaving. So we actually only spent about $1000 for a brand new, fully installed,  modern forty gallon water heater, and did not also purchase a utility vacuum. Thank you Very Much.

All that stuff that I dragged out of the inland sea and deposited on the back porch is still sitting right there. Ready for me to haul back into storage. Making me think: why? If it has been in there in the dark with the bugs and rodents for company all this time, what would be the purpose of putting in back?  Obviously have too much stuff in my life. Do not seem to have any problem at all with donating un-used clothing to the thrift store, so don't know why I am struggling with other messss...

I just looked up synonyms/words to use as a replacement for crisis and amused to discover one of the closely related words that could be used is 'hot water'. Which I find hilarious since the whole watery mess started with a self-evacuating hot water heater. Along with 'predicament' and 'emergency' - all of which are apt for the now resolved crisis.

there was one other....

... thing my brother asked about, hoping it would still be lingering around in our dad's workshop.  Even though he died in 2000, there are still many oddments, remnants of Sonny's life that hang around. Lots of tools and bits and pieces of his long interesting history of following in the footsteps of his dad, the inveterate tinker-er, remain. Hanging from the rafters of his workshop, tucked away in between the 2 x 4 studs, gathering dust on the pegs of the board he installed to hang tools to have them handy for the next project.

When my brother asked me to look for another little thing that came into his mind, I learned a fascinating bit of trivia related to our grand dad. I knew that T.R., Sr. had been employed by the 'city' in the small town where I was born and spent my early years. Also that he would be called upon to climb into the upper reaches of the big churches in times of pipe organ malfunction. I don't know precisely why he got that job: maybe he had some training? Maybe he volunteered? Perhaps he just loved to tinker and people knew how smart he was. A man who was genetically programed to take any thing apart to repair and put it back together in good working order. A very useful trait passed on to my dad as well as my brother. All of whom would say: 'Hmmm... let me look at it.'

The little gizmo my brother was hoping would still be lingering around and find-able: an ancient device grand dad used to help him deduce the difficulties with the multitude of big brass pipes in the various churches. I know virtually nothing about the workings of those gigantic musical devices. But according to my brother, when grand dad was trying to figure out where the pumping air was leaking out of the organ, which pipe the air was being diverted to: he used the bee-keeping tool to blow smoke into the pipes to determine which one the air was escaping from.

I found this absolutely fascinating because I had seen that little rusty,, dusty gizmo all my life - assumed its only function was to help control honey bees when the hive needed to be checked. Used to provide smoke from a hand full of glowing pine needles, just barely burning, creating lots of clouds of inebriating smoke to dull the attack mode of honey bees. The can of smouldering pine needles had a bellows attached that would direct the smoke into the hive, cause the bees to be so dulled they would not come barrelling out demanding justice.

I was amazed when my brother told me that it had been around long before his short-lived stint as a beekeeper when he signed on to be in the 4-H Club. Everyone in the club was required to have a project related to livestock or farming. I'm not sure how my family ended up with bee hives to tend, feed, rob for honey. But probably fortunate we did not get in the hog-farming business. The several bee hives were not located in the back yard - but on some farm land several miles from town or other residences. Brother got over animal husbandry, but my dad continued to be a beekeeper for several years, recruiting me to sell the honey.

(Some examples of smokers you might find in an ancient, dog-eared, discolored Farmer's Almanac.)

I found the ancient rusty can that my granddad used to discern the drift of smoke in the pipe organs a hundred years ago. Dusted it off and thought about putting a handful of pine needles in to see if it still works, but suspect the bellows part is too dry rotted to work. So I will just mail it to my brother, along with the spikes grandad used to climb up trees when he was in the saw milling business.

my brother asked...

Thursday, December 14, 2017
... about some things he was hoping I might still be able to locate that he remembered from my dad's work shop. So I called the guy who is using the building for his business, storing tools and building supplies needed for his renovating work. After I told him what I was looking for, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say he knew just exactly what I was talking about, could readily put his hand on what I was hoping to find.

One of the things my brother had been thinking about was tree climbing spurs that belonged to our granddad. I do not have much memory of this man as he died when I was very young, but I do have a clear image of my brother tying the metal spurs on his legs with hay-baling twine, and attempting to climb a tree or wooden utility pole. Brother said the metal shanks that extend up almost to your knee were meant to be buckled on with a strap similar to a short belt. There is a U shape that goes under your shoe, held in place by the boot heel, with a short spike extending down, that was meant to be jabbed into either side the pole as the lineman climbs to solve the wiring problem.

Now, in these modern times, utility workers all use bucket trucks.  With a long mechanical arm that will lift them up right to the top of the pole, with all the tools they need to make repairs.There may be some older workers who still have the skill and equipment to climb a light pole. But it is likely a vanishing art, plus most of the utilities installed now are either on concrete poles or buried underground. I certainly do not have any sentimental attachment to the tree climbing spurs, as they look painful to wear as well as dangerous to put to use.

it could have been worse...

... even though what we had was plenty bad. We just had a new hot water heater delivered and installed today. When The Man Who Lives Here left before daylight today, he reported that there was no hot water to be had. Fortunately it was not in my plans to shower, so I did not miss an opportunity.

He called me in the early afternoon, saying I would have to go purchase a wet/dry vacuum to clean up a big wet mess. I told him I could not get home until late in the day, with what he wanted. My plans accidentally changed (one of many accidents that can be reported for this day in my personal history.) When I arrived at home, there was a flood in the storage area where the water heater lives.

The plumbing guy was in the process of connecting the shiny new water heater, after removing the one that created that pond. I immediately started getting wet things up off the floor. Lots of paintings on stretched canvas, framed pictures, memorabilia in cardboard boxes that act like sponges. And immediately fall apart when you attempt to pick them up out of an inch of water.

I will now admit to using entirely too many bad words. Cannot remember when I was more aggravated, frustrated, irritated with lots of stomping and swearing. Unless it might have been just last Monday when I devoted the day to the auntie who has the memory/retention of a gnat. Story for another day.... The good news is I Am Over It, so all that cursing and gnashing teeth was actually a good thing.

I've heard it said that your average water heater is good for about fifteen or twenty years. Which to me is completely baffling: why can't they make them to last, like bathtubs or other things that need to be 'plumbed?' The one that left on the back of the service truck is only half as old as my kids. Us have a very clear memory of that one coming to live with us. On a January day after the daughter got her driver's license and drove into the carport wall, where the first water heater lived just six inches away on the other side of that sheetrock.

The service guy offered some thought provoking words before he left. Meant to put us in a more positive frame of mind. Reminding us that it could have been far worse than what we experienced. For instance, our house did not flood. We don't have the water heater up stairs or in the attic, which would have created a true homeowner nightmare. So, I am really over it, and thankful we have the resources to deal with a crisis of this sort when it occurs.

book review: "The Reservoir"...

...written by John Milliken. According to the information I read on the back of the boxed set of Cd's, it is based on a true story, something that really happened in Richmond Virginia. But since the subtitle is 'A Novel', we can assume there was a great deal of liberty taken. Much of the reading is probably in quote marks from different characters as they are speaking from the witness stand, while the murder trial was taking place. There considerable poetic license that surely occurred when the author shares the questions and answers between attorneys and various witnesses called upon to enlighten the jury in the courtroom.

A young man is accused of killing his cousin and leaving her body in the city reservoir. There are many references to places, particular locations as the geography of the day. Naming specific streets and hotels, restaurants, universities, businesses, houses of ill repute that would have been in downtown Richmond in the post-war years. Buildings that would have come into being as the Confederate Capital was rebuilt after much devastation and destruction. Leading the reader to understand that the time period and trial was well researched through the reading of journals, dairies and news paper reports. Numerous details of interest that add color and a sense of actually being there in the time the events occurred.

This young man is an attorney, and seems unable to tell the truth of the matter. Providing a number of likely scenarios to different people who want to help him gain his freedom. But ultimately he is convicted and sentenced to the gallows. It is probably common to expect someone who is remanded to incarceration before death to believe there is always the possibility of a reprieve or commutation. This character was no different, a lost soul, unwilling to admit his part in the drama, yet expecting to wake up and find the whole sordid trial was a bad dream.

It did  not have a happy ending, but required that I make it through to the last disc. An interesting story, with lots of detail to provide authenticity as the tale unfolded. A bit wordy, but a good read.

who ever it was ...

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

...that is willing to lay claim to inventing fruit cake needs medical attention. Or being politely shut away, making the rest of the world safe from the Invading candied fruit concoction. It has never been one of my favorites. Even though it has been offered as a tasty holiday sweet for as long as I can remember: Thanks, but no thank you.

I can't say why I don't care for it. But will be perfectly content with never putting another morsel in my mouth. It might be the fact that it is so heavy on the fruit part and so short on the cake aspect. The name is spot on, if we follow the USDA labeling guidelines for listing in order of quantity included: there are only the barest traces of the few cake-like ingredients that hold it all together. Mostly fruit, fruit and more fruit, with pineapple, cherries, citron, etc as the primary contents.

My brother must have had a really weak moment when they were shopping in Sam's Club recently, seeing as how he bought a box that had four (4!) one pound fruit cake bars in it. Offering, then persuading and finally insisting that I would take one home to The Man Who Lives Here. I said I was sure he would enjoy it, as it would be oh-so-very good with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. My brother said: 'Really?' My reply: "Of Course! Everything is good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!" To which he said: "Oh. Ok."

When I unpacked last night, and unearthed that one pound fruit cake log, I left it in the kitchen for him to find today. He asked what it was for, hoping, I expect I would say: you. I told him my brother sent it (trying to farm out half of what he had bought as I expect it is reproducing there in the original box, and he now has about twelve logs/bars), and suggested he have some with vanilla ice cream. So then I had to make a run to the store for the icecream, and came home $114 lighter, wondering why I did not have anything in all those bags we could have for the next meal.

surprised by snow...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

... while visiting in Virginia. It is beautiful. And possibly very dangerous should you be on the road, in the dark, in below freezing temperature, far from essential services or emergency care. But really neat to be out there when it's coming down in big fat flakes, covering everything it lands on.

We drove in to the city to see the little peeps, after picking up boxes of fragrantly hot steaming pizza  enroute.  It was fun, they are delightful at age 6'ish and just over 2. Energetic and entertaining, in constant motion, and very talkative. Making me appreciative of peace and quiet at my house.

Everything was covered with white as we drove into the city, and glistening under glowing holiday lights as we made the return drive afterward. About the time we got back to the house (after the 30 minute drive took a slippery hour on slushy roads) the power went out. Likely due to a snow-laden limb falling on a line some place. Or possibly a shivering squirrel scampering in a transformer looking for a warm bed and being unexpectedly electro-fried.

It suited me perfectly, going to bed early. After asking for the loan of a headlamp to read by, I put my jammies on, ready for bed. Reading myself to sleep, which usually takes approximately fifteen minutes. It was not off all night, because I woke in the wee hours to see the digital clock blinking. Plus my bed was toasty warm as the electric blanket got busy doing it's job with ample joules.

More white stuff is predicted for today. It is truly beautiful, looking out the windows at everything covered in white. But I am heading south shortly, and will be happy to be back in the land of pines and warmer weather. Hopefully there will not be any delays related to fluffy or slippery conditions.

it's all relative...

...what some would refer to as a 'first world problem'. Which is, of course not really what could be considered problematic, just a superficial inconvenience. Nothing at all like walking five miles down a dirt path with a five gallon jerry can balanced on your head to the river. Then returning home with the knowledge you will have to forage for firewood in order to boil the water before using it to cook.

That flight that was expected to get me back to GA by mid-afternoon was delayed. I'd expected to have time after arrival to do a little visiting. But the plane was three hours behind schedule taking off from Richmond.Mostly weather related, with a little poor planning thrown in for good measure. I knew before we left the house the departure tine had been pushed back an hour, to leave at 2:30, instead of 1:30. I was prepared, with ample reading material available.

We were even later than the rescheduled time boarding. And then it starts to get bad: we had to be de-iced prior to take off. The tank truck that sprays out the de-icing fluid went dry half-way through another airliner. So we had to wait for the de-icing guy to trundle across the field to re-supply. Return to the gate area and finish (or possibly restart?) the adjacent plane before he could start on the one going to Atlanta.

A necessary precaution we could all be thankful for. Causing liftoff to be approximately three hours behind the original plan. I had people awaiting my arrival, but no worries about making connections, trying to do the dash for another flight. Even so, it was early dark after wending through the concourse, down the escalator to the plane train. Back up the seriously long/steep 'Escalator to Paradise', where I found my smiling peeps ready to squeeze me back to Georgia.

Home by eight o'clock, and in my jammies ready for bed by 9 p.m. I knew I would likely regret the (secret addiction) curb store cappuccino I stopped for as I was departing the metro. Woke up about one thinking it was time to get up and start a new day... so I am due a nap after lunch!

But all of that is really just a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. Also nothing compared to having a flight from NYC to ATL simply cancelled back in the spring. Leaving us to our own devices, which rapidly devolved into a fourteen hour rental car trip back to Atlanta .. And even that is of little consequence: we had the funds and the time, and with an amusing travel companion, though tedious, not  miserable by any stretch.

travelin' w/o 1 horse sleigh...

Friday, December 8, 2017
... but possibly in need of de-icing on the return trip.  Back in October, before the 'too much fun with Willie' incident, I had planned to visit in Virginia in early November.  Due to profoundly limited mobility, and more than a little anxiety about traveling alone while damaged, I decided to postpone. Fully expecting to be back up to 99% by December, able-bodied and under full power.

Recovery has not moved along as swiftly as I desired, so able-bodied is relative. 'Full power' is not true, but I am getting there.  After my travel agent rescheduled my tickets, I drove to Decatur Wed. night, to get to Hartsfield-Jackson International on Thursday morning. According to the info on the boarding pass, it takes longer than ever (meaning: forever!) to get through TSA. I wanted to allow ample time for the person with the new metal implant to be manhandled.  Sure enough, I was pulled aside and thoroughly scanned/inspected.  Patted front and back, checked for chemical residue. Found to be clean as a whistle, and sent along to ride the high speed underground train to the concourses.

By the time I arrived at "C", I'd forgotten my gate number due to an overload of information as my person was inspected, so had to stop and ask.  Now would be a good time to confess to a bit of mild subterfuge. When I was packing, planning, trying to determine how many layers I would need, I added the Velcro-strapped sling for my arm. Believing I would benefit from appearing to be mildly disabled. Taking of every opportunity to make the boarding process easier, letting people assume as they wish. 

It got me into a much shorter line leading up to the TSA checkpoint, bu that's about it. I was surrounded by people in wheelchairs, or being transported by airport personnel. Which made me thankful for being mobile. Then pulled out of line to be frisked due to metal in knee brace, metal in hand, looking like a suspicious character (just kidding - overdressed but perfectly harmless.)

The flight was uneventful, arriving a few minutes early. Peeps I came to visit were just walking into the terminal when Icame down the escalator to baggage claim/ground transportation area.  As per usual, we went directly to Panera bread store for lunch.  

'poor richard' (aka: Ben Franklin) came by...

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

... for a visit.  He's really sort of homely looking guy: balding with a mullet hairdo, usually wearing wire-rimmed spectacles, pot bellied, and always clamoring to be the center of attention. Forever reeking of tobacco due to his pipe-smoking habits. Spends too much time in the ale shops sipping stout, gabbing with rebel rousers and troublemakers, leaving wife and children to run his print shop, provide for themselves.

But he is so welcome when he puts in an appearance. Always congenial, spreading good cheer when he stops by, offering assistance and providing support, kindnesses to the widows and orphans. He does not often come along, but it is a pleasure to see him when he shows up, with a generous heart and agreeable disposition. Always happy to open the door when Mr. Franklin puts in an appearance.

He often looks a little worse for the wear, and sort of shabby chic under the best of circumstances, but still in all, a pleasant guy, and know that he will be available when you need him.  A much more welcome soul than the 'Scrooge' guy you hear of so frequently this time of year. Glad good ole' Benjamin stopped by for a visit, even though he will not stay around long!

as a result of a small windfall...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
... unexpected bounty that recently came my way, I decided to treat myself to a trip through the carwash this morning. I had to buy gas, and ended up at a curb store that has a little drive through jiffy wash, with various (inflated) prices for extra finishes. I didn't go for the budget version, but not the high end either - thinking the 'premium' would make my windshield a mess when they spray shiney stuff on.

While I was obediently sitting there, politely observing the signs that blink: 'pull forward', 'stop!', 'back up!' and 'finished', I thought of the last time I paid for a trip through an automated car wash. It was a day to remember.We got stuck, and the car wash would not let us out! Funny now, scary then.

I had small children. I don't know what possessed me to think it would be a good idea to take a twenty year old rusty, raggedy, beat-up truck through the car wash, as it had likely never been washed since it came off the assembly line in Dee-troit.  But with two small churrens bouncing on the bench seat, in we went. I have as clear a memory of that place and time as if I had a snapshot.

The hang up was those big, ungainly after-market, rectangular mirrors that stuck out on each door, apparently designed to assist with e a good line of sight when pulling a trailer or hauling some wide load on the pick up bed? At any rate, mirrors were not meant for car washes. The big whirling mop-like things that scrub got stuck on the armature/mount of the mirrors that must have come out nearly a foot from the cab. Could not go forward or back. There we sat. I think we all got a little panick-y. I know the small churrens were getting more than a little frantic. Thinking they would be spending the remainder of their young lives in there?

I started blowing the horn in the center of the steering wheel. Someone finally came to our rescue, and I assume hit the button to stop the whole thing. Which must have surely ground to a halt, allowing us to escape, semi-clean, but other wise unscathed. I was likely so thankful to be set free I probably did  not have the presence of mind to ask for a refund. It is amusing now, but I recall little people being terrified at the time.

I don't have a pick up or small peeps any more, but I have been eyeing trucks on used lots recently. So if you see one that is a good price, let me know. I am not in the market for small children.

now it's four in a row...

Sunday, December 3, 2017
....that I devoted my time to volunteering at the botanical gardens. There were still lots of tins of yummy home-made cookies for sale today, as well as a number of beautiful fresh  greenery wreaths for  people to purchase and enjoy over the holidays. The farmhouse was fragrantly festive with the delicious aroma of cider simmering on the stove. Choirs singing holiday favorites on the back steps, and photo ops with Santa in the old fashioned sleigh with iron runners.

Something new this year, that was sure to be a big success was a luminary walk through the area of the gardens that is planted with winter blooming camellias. A local retired banker, who is obviously a big fan of the imported plants, has traveled the world searching out, collecting, and purchasing a variety of beautiful bloomers to donate/plant in a dedicated area that is nothing but specimen plants. There are hundreds of juvenile camellia plants that will be watered and cared for over the coming years on a hillside that has been designed and landscaped specifically for that purpose. Complimented with a beautiful fountain and winding paved paths meandering through the filtered shade of tall pines for visitors to stroll and enjoy all those unusual evergreen shrubs with multicolored flowers.

I did not stay until it got dark, when the hundreds of luminaries would be most effective, but imagine it was a beautiful sight. After seeing neighborhoods over the years with streets lined with glowing candles in paper bags, I can envision what a treat it must have been. Hoping there will be photos posted of the scene for the ones who were not onsite to view and enjoy.

two parents...

... who were born in the decade of the big financial bust of 1929, therefore growing up in the depression era of the 1930's. Raised as children by their frugal parents who remembered hardships before and after WWI. Instructed in how to be equally careful with each dime, dutifully pinching each penny until it squealed like a piglet stuck in the fence. Generations who were always careful with their funds, often working extra/side jobs to supplement income. Allowing me to continue to reap the benefits of their thrift, as I make notes daily on reasons to be thankful in my Little Book of Blessings.

Many women/wives/mothers were excellent seamstresses. Much clothing was made at home: yard goods purchased, patterns re-used, pieces cut and assembled to make children's entire wardrobes. As well as dresses, coats, hats, sweaters women wore every day. It was a big deal to get a new hand-made dress at Easter when I went with my mom to choose fabric and pick a pattern from the huge book of designs. My grandmother made me a new outfit for my birthday for many years, allowing me to make all the choices of color, material and style. Tucked away in storage, I still have a couple of things my grandmother sewed, just for me. Of course, I have spread, so nothing fits, but still.....

I have a distinct memory of my mom doing one particular thing that was probably very common in that time of hand-made wardrobes: turning collars on my dad's shirts. When a collar on a cloth shirt would fray, while the body was still quite serviceable, my mom would remove the collar and flip it over.  Carefully pin and stitch it back in place reversed, with the fray folded under, invisible. Giving much more use out of a shirt that no longer looked worn and ragged.

Well... what's good for the gander is good enough for the goose. I recently noticed a small frayed area on the collar of a shirt I have had for years. I asked my friend P. who frequently sews, to reverse it for me. She had a mom who did that, so she did not look at me like I am a crazy person (although she knows!)  It looks great, good as nearly new and ready to be worn and enjoyed another forty years.

There are actually two nearly identical shirts. Everything is the same except one has blue stripes, the other has pink. Dear friend P. repaired pink for me, which means it has been worn and enjoyed more over many years than the blue. Even more interesting: my adult children wore these shirts when they were teens, returning both to my closet when they out grew them (or possibly they were un-cool?)

three days in a row...

Saturday, December 2, 2017
... I have given time to the local non-profit Botanical Garden.  Helping a lot of other volunteers to decorate the 150 year-old farmhouse and grounds for Holiday Open House on Sunday. There will be tins of home-made cookies for sale, along with fresh greenery wreaths available that were handmade on-site. Several choirs entertaining visitors with Christmas music, from local high schools

The building and surrounding area will be festive: a luminary trail down though the pines, wending through the hundreds of camellias in bloom. Christmas trees sparkling with tiny twinkle lights, and covered from the floor to tippy top at twelve foot ceiling with bright, gleaming ornaments for sale. Multiple mantles and fireplaces adorned with arrangements of seasonal greenery, including  Savannah Holly cuttings with bright red berries, fragrant cedar, and colorful autumnal hues of fire-y Nandina leaves. 

I was there on Thursday helping to fill the dozens of cookie tins with assorted baked goods. Returned on Friday afternoon to help with doing decorative arrangements for tables and fireplaces. Filling containers with cut foliage to add delightful fragrance to the house, as well as bright colors of seasonal natural greens.We will be doing more decorating in the Adams family farm house, finishing up with decking the halls and clean up prior to Open House.

A quote from my mom is appropriate here: 'many hands make light work'. There have been numerous people flowing in and out, around and about during the week. Providing helping hands and necessary labor to make this a successful event. It takes hundreds of hours: people baking cookies, making fresh wreaths, setting out dozens of bags filled with sand for luminaries, multiple other essential tasks for it to all come together. Giving the appearance of smooth and seamless.

A 'preview' with wine tasting occurs late today for members, with the big event for community attendance on Sunday afternoon. Punch and cookies for your tasting. Good cheer all around to start the holiday season!

sad story...

Friday, December 1, 2017
.. that will make you unhappy, then angry. And finally disappointed to be part of a human race that is willing to act so heartless. One of God's creatures someone decided they did not want to care for: a dog found abandoned. Causing me to be the one to call and request the city come and pick up. I felt terrible about it, but could not leave it out to get hit by a vehicle, or starve.

I was out walking in the neighborhood, a route I used to do on a regular basis. Just recently started trying to get out and exercise regularly, after a long spell of trying to be kind to my misbehaving knee.  Since the broken arm, as profound boredom has set in, I decided I should start back walking and try to do at least a couple of miles most days of the week. There is a nearby subdivision where I can get off the busy, high traffic street where we live, and make a loop with practically no speeding vehicles.

When I started out this afternoon, I passed a street sign on a corner, where there appeared to be a medium sized dog tied to the post. I gave it a wide berth, not knowing how friendly it might be. When I came back around to that same corner, the dog was still sitting there, at the edge of a lot, right near the street. I thought it strange the owner would have tied it out so close to an area where every vehicle that passes is going much too fast. But kept my opinion to myself, and just gave the canine glance, to avoid making eye contact/creating a power play, and walked on.

When I came by again, I had just passed a couple (wearing shorts!) out walking who asked if that was my dog, and I said I wanted to ask them the same thing. I stopped a passing pickup truck, coming out of the housing area, and asked if they recognized the animal, but they said they did not. We all looked more closely at the dog, and realized it was not tied to the sign post, yet patiently waiting for his owner to come back. Wearing a harness and a leash, but not attached to anything holding it in place. Just waiting for his master to return. Waiting and waiting.

I stopped a city trash truck, and asked the driver to call Animal Control, but he gave me the number instead. It was after 5:00 pm, so I had to call 911. The truck came to pick up the orphan in less than twenty minutes. I felt terrible:  sad, mad, and awful turning that scared, well-mannered pet over to the people who would take it to lock it up. What is wrong with human beings?

typing with 2 hands...

...after nearly six weeks of doing it with only two fingers. Actually, it is (surprisingly) much more of a challenge I would have expected. I truly thought getting my right hand back in action would be a breeze.  But have discovered it seems to not remember what to do. Wondering, as I suddenly reverted to using only my left hand, if it has to do with 'muscle memory'? All these weeks as I have been limping along using the forefinger and middle finger on my left hand? Has the right one been ut of action long enough time to forget what it is supposed to be doing on the keyboard?

substitute teaching...

... days that will add up to ten after I go to my  little jobette today. I was browsing the options for 'day labor' work recently. Being profoundly bored with my disability and interested in employment, I came across a position that was for a half-day in an elementary school. Due to the broken arm, and obvious limitations, I did not want to present myself for employment under false pretenses - have the school expect I was perfectly able to do the job, but show up with an obvious handicap. I did not feel my disability would prevent me from functioning in the classroom, but believed in full disclosure.

I called the school to explain my situation, and was offered a job in a different classroom, and went in to to work a full day in Kindergarten. After conversation, that half-day position was offered for the next day, which would turn out to be very easy to handle. In a classroom with four other teachers, and rotating groups of special ed. students. Which surprised me, as I have never been willing to accept work in a classroom of this type. Just uneasy about the students, and feeling I was not capable of handling the needs of these kids.

This occurred before the students were out a week for Thanksgiving holiday. The job was still open, so I called on Monday morning, to ask if I could come back, with the cast still on my arm. It will be four days of employment for the week. Meaning I am inching up on the ten days the school district requires to remain 'in good standing' per semester. And will hopefully get several more before the schools will close for three weeks over Christmas, to reopen well into January.


... might sound like something you are familiar with? It sounds like that other word: declassification.
That government agency tasked with keeping top secret information safe from us who do not need to know. Until it is such 'old news' that no one cares, and so severely redacted as to make no sense, and released for public consumption. But my word is freshly invented, just made up this very day.

It means that the cast has been removed. That newly coined word as well as it's sparkling fresh meaning is just because I said so. The arm protection I had been struggling with for the past three weeks was removed last Wednesday, much to my relief. X-ray pictures were done, and the Dr. said I was healing quite nicely. That's about it for the good news, what I had optimistically hoped for.

I knew he would want me to go to rehab. and still be out of work for weeks to come. And expected that there would still be some stabilizing device to help support that joint, offer protection while it is exercised and strengthened after weeks of inactivity. This new 'splint' appears to be made of a substance similar to play-dough. Comes in large rectangles, about 1/8 of an inch thick, that hardens after being heated. It was shaped/applied to my arm/hand, cooled and became solidified. Secured with Velcro.

My OT person, Rachel gave me exercises that are to be repeated five or more times each day. Return in a week, and display obedience. I really want to get back to work, so plan to be constantly making a fist, or bending at the wrist that is stiff and sore, mostly uncooperative at this juncture. It has not been used in five weeks, so there is little mobility at present, but I am planning to be vastly improved when Rachel sees me next Wednesday.

November 29...

Thursday, November 30, 2017
... is still my mom's birthday, though she is no longer here to celebrate the occasion. It is so firmly embedded in my mind, it will always be a day of thoughtful remembrance. I had a conversation about her with a friend recently. Not someone who knew her, but someone who knows me pretty well, warts and all. Which would have put me in a reflective frame of mind, even if the 29th were not a day that causes me to think of her.

In the years since they both died, I have had a remembrance notice printed in the newspaper in that little south Georgia burg where they spent most of their lives. A small town with a small town newspaper, that might have two or three obituaries to print on a weekly basis, or maybe six, or possibly one. Plus memorial notices on the birthday of a departed loved one, or the anniversary of a death. You may think me maudlin, but I just can't/won't forget. I guess I keep sending photos, with words of thoughtful consideration to remind the people who are still there. Folks who would have known them from church, or civic work, neighbors or casual friends. To prod their memories so they will remember what lively people those two were, while they were there, active and involved.

When I sent in my info. last week, to be printed in this weeks edition, I enclosed a photo. Along with the sweet quote from Robert Fulghum. The guy who is more famously known for the poster you might remember: "All I Need to Know, I Learned In Kindergarten."  (Be kind, hold hands, take naps, have milk and cookies when you get up from your nap, etc.) The other quote, the one in the newspaper that is in the memorial ad. for my mom:

"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.
That myth is more potent than history.
That dreams are more powerful than facts.
That hope always triumphs over experience.
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death."

plan B for cookies...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
... that is obviously necessary due to the abject failure of plan A. I do have some of those annoying chocolate waffle cookies, should you be interested enough to come and have a taste. But will likely put the recipe in the recycle bin, after putting the waffle iron on notice: 'stick to what you do best.'

I have recruited a friend to come and help with cookie making today. She asked if I need for her to bring anything. I said 'two good hands', because with only one, I cannot hold the bowl and stir. Plus it takes a pair to roll the cookie dough into little balls before you cook.

 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 salad oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple flavor syrup
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
extra granulated sugar to roll dough

Measure all ingredients into large bowl, blend well with mixer on low speed. It will make a thick dough. Chill. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, roll in granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, they will spread and flatten as they cook. Bake 350 degrees, 10-12 min., should be slightly soft when removed from oven. Cool on rack. Store in airtight container. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen.

There is also an identical recipe in my file box, with the variation of making Jumbo Gingersnaps: shape 1/4 cup of dough into a ball, roll in sugar. Place 3 inches apart, bake 15 minutes. Makes abt. 10.

My dad loved these. I have never made the giant ones, but found it interesting that the  measurements and ingredients list  were identical, from different sources - only a change in the size of the finished product. I hope we will get a double batch made, to donate to the Botanical Gardens Open House, where the cookies will be sold.

PS: I would add  bit more ginger, if I ever make this again. That would cause them to be snappier. Or else, be sure you are using really fresh ginger. There's no telling how long mine has been sitting on the shelf, half empty.  Plus the cardamom seems to be missing entirely...

a good idea fails...

Monday, November 27, 2017
... when I foolishly thought I could make cookies to donate. Everything about my 'good idea' went awry. Starting with the fact that I am incapable of cookie production, due to only having one usable, fully functional hand. There are lots of things you can do with one hand, but measuring, stirring, scraping the bowl are not on the list.

First mistake was to think I would have success with a recipe I could not even locate. One I made years ago, when there were small children on the premises, but had not replicated in at least the past decade.  The most necessary piece of equipment is  waffle iron: I gave it away when I emptied all the cupboards to repaint inside when we had the whole house painted. That means without the waffle iron - the whole scheme would be a moot point.

I thought I had donated the electric waffle cooker to a thrift shop/resale store. But found it at a daughters' house. Brought it back when we gathered for Thanksgiving. (Now I have to figure out where to store it in my cupboards.)  And googled up recipes for chocolate waffle cookies. Back to my first paragraph: I now wonder what made me think this was such a great idea? The novelty, I suppose. Can you imagine anything more time-consuming than making four cookies at the time? Arrrgghhh.

In addition to that: very messy. The batter got really thick before it was over, sticking to the 'non-stick' coated cooker, making them really hard to get out without tearing up. Virtually impossible with one hand. They are really unusual looking, but probably the most aggravating thing I've attempted in recent memory. Not easily accomplished with two functioning hands - highly frustrating with only one!

book review: "The Right Side"...

Saturday, November 25, 2017
... about a young soldier who was injured in Afghanistan. Written by Spencer Quinn, published in 2017 by Simon and Schuster. The author's other books are geared toward young adult readers, but this one is definitely not rated "G".

Sgt. LeAnne Hogan lands in Walter Reed Hospital after an injury while deployed, so seriously hurt by grenade fragments she looses an eye. Her roommate, also injured in a war zone, Marci lost a leg. They become friends as a result of proximity as well as shared pain, loss, frustration during rehab. Marci dies from complications, LeAnne takes a road trip while dealing poorly with anger and PTSD, ends up in Marci's hometown.

It is a very believable tale, filled with the confusing loss felt by someone who was trained to do a difficult, thankless job, then finds herself unable to function in the world after she has so radically changed.  I can't say 'enjoyable' as the feeling I got when i finished reading, but it was very well done, and certainly provocative. I expect this story will stick with me for a long time. Haunting tale.

there was a lot of....

Friday, November 24, 2017
... family, and food, and travel. A beautiful day, with happy people. My personal assignment was pie. I might have actually volunteered for that, which certainly has considerable irony attached, considering I cannot really stir anything, due to my broken arm being immobile.  I did acquire the ingredients, recruited the stirrer, and provided supervision to assure it was properly assembled.  When  people who have already consumed food far above the 'fill line' are confronted with dessert choices, it is comforting to hear 'it's mostly air'. The primary ingredient is a bowl of whipped topping, so it really is fluff.

Oh, and the 'adapted' version of Waldorf Salad: nothing but diced apples, pecans and mayonnaise. They whine and grumble if it is contaminated with diced celery, so it is only marginally nutritious. With an extra dollop of deliciously bad mayo. outweighing the heathy-ness of fresh fuji apples. Once again: though I did volunteer to provide the salad, I could not actually make it, with disabled arm/ hand. But was responsible for the shopping, purchasing, organizing, delivery.  Hopefully there are Little Red Hen credits for a portion of the results?  I could eat it all day long, and considering having the leftovers for breakfast.

We left home soon after 6 a.m., drove to TN, arriving mid-morning. Pretty day, and pretty amazing to drive through the heart of metro Atlanta with ease, virtually no traffic. I noticed as we were approaching mid-town, how remarkably clear the air was. Heading north past Turner Field,  when you first sight the gold come on the capitol building, and tall buildings in the heart of the city. With scarcity of vehicles that normally clog the interstate highway, not producing exhaust to pollute the atmosphere, even motoring through downtown was a pleasant drive.

My favorite people (minus uncle Jay) and time together. That's hard to beat. We even took time to assemble for a family photo to add to the annual Christmas news letter. Sneak a peek preview? Yes!

the donation was donated...

... when they had a fundraiser auction.  The letter phrased it as: 're-donated' where a bank purchase at the auction will fund programs to enhance community resources like after school programs and literacy.  Which makes my donation all the more amazing, as I was so weighted down by the problem when I gave up ownership of the project.

This probably sounds obtuse and obscure, with explanatory back-story needed for clarification?   Look back in the archives, 'way into the past...maybe as far as June, or even into the foggy history of last spring and May?  When I found myself with a unique, custom-designed, hand-made Little Free Library. Only to become frustrated and aggravated, completely stymied about where to mount it for maximum foot-traffic. If you go back and read the history, you might even find yourself as thoroughly irritated by the annoyance as I was back then.  (All of this being a 'first world problem': like running out of hot water during your morning shower, or insufficient milk to properly float your cereal...)

Then the little light bulb blinked on, brightly glowing above my head. Dink! When the thought popped into my brain that I should take it to south Georgia and donate to the library in the little town where my family lived for generations. Nearly virgin territory for those oh-so-nifty little boxes filled with reading material, free for the taking.

Most  public libraries will have a shelf of second-hand books for sale, available for purchase. Where you can find variety of items donated by patrons, neighbors, and families wishing to recycle reading materials/movies.  Which would be the perfect source for filling and refilling the small space of a 'free take one box' as passers-by peruse and see something of personal interest.

With help, that big heavy wooden box was loaded into the back of my little Toyota and went south, after making arrangements with the head librarian, Mr. S. I had communicated with him, told S. my story, frustration about finding a location to mount it, and was delighted by his enthusiasm when he welcomed a donation.  I was relieved to get it out of my life, and he seemed pleased to be the recipient. I understood it would likely be in the fall before the box would be mounted some place in the community, filled with reading materials and put in use.

a long day...

Thursday, November 23, 2017
... made longer by setting the alarm wrong. Hoping to be awakened at five am, to shower, dress, load up and be headed north by six o'clock.  After completing the first part, starting to get on layers of clothing, I glanced at the clock: discovering it is 4:35 rather than heading towards 6:00 am.  Leaving no doubt in my mind about the likelihood of a nap in the afternoon.

When the time reverted back to normal, in early November, from the pointless exercise that is
'daylight savings', my phone did not change. I only use it for an alarm clock, but it is not reliable. Making me think after the second mis-fire, I am better off with nothing than an alarm clock that is untrustworthy. The first time it happened, I was an hour early leaving home, which I was able to effectively fritter away by making unplanned stops while traveling. And today, the report is here.

There is the possibility that The Man Who Lives Here might be part of the problem. When I noticed that phone had not bothered to 'fall back' an hour, he offered to re-set the time. While I, with broken arm am disabled and only barely employed, there has been no need to get up and be on location in a timely manner. Therefore no particular need for waking in the dark to be prompt.

Like most conveniences, you don't need it until you need it. But when it is necessary, it is difficult to use anything else as a replacement. Need to get this worked out, without factoring in my frustrating disability in dealing with things that involve numbers.  Which will make it all the more confusing...

true confessions...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
... that should be added to the previous writing about freeing up closet space.  There were a couple of things I was not quite ready to part with. I am almost certain they will go out the door next week, when I look at them a few more times, probably say: "Out, dammed spot!"  (Was that from the murderous Ophelia?)

One: the dress I got married in, 36 years ago. It would probably still fit. But from this vantage point, I find it to be remarkably ugly. I'm thinking I might take it to a resale shop, expecting someone, somewhere might think it the perfect thing for holiday partying. Its sort of sheer, a pale gray color, long sleeves, with little pearl buttons, and probably just below knee length. Just not me anymore.  Oh, did I say it's the last/only dress left in my closet?  I'm so done with that: all the others have been gone for years!

And a jacket that is so ready for fun, it looks like a party waiting to happen.  My amusing daughter reported she thought it the perfect thing to wear on a cruise, sadly discovering it was not her size.  So she gave it to me before we departed to go off into the Caribbean on a big boat.  Years ago, and not worn since - but it still looks in need of a celebration.

in order for it ...

...to be successful,  the first thing required is the right frame of mind. Willingness to be ruthless and not be wishy-washy, second guessing yourself, or stopping to pour a glass of your favorite beverage which might make you too reflective or possibly maudlin. If you are going to weed through your closet and do some serious donating, you gotta' be serious.

I pulled them out on Monday, bagged them up on Tuesday, and put them in the car to take to the thrift shop to donate before I had time for second thoughts.  You've probably heard the advice: leave it in the store, walk away from an impulse purchase. Should your desire be as strong after a good night's sleep, and hopefully a clear mind (and your budget well-suited), then go ahead.  This is Not Applicable for weeding through stuff you already own. Just Do It.

After heeding another piece of sound advice, I knew it was time to sort through, and pass along items decent enough to allow some one else the opportunity to wear, and possibly look 'just like me'. I had turned dozens of hangers around, so they were on the rod backwards, with the hook part pointed out. Let the seasons roll around, then notice if you have worn, washed, paid any attention to those neglected items. You will likely see those things you were so pleased with upon purchase have languished for months. Meaning you need to let them go. Just Do It. Give them a second life.

Now that it is Wednesday, and those bags full of clothing I had not worn (or thought about) in a year have been out of the house for nearly twenty-four hours: I am having second thoughts. But not enough to make me consider going to buy them back. Just to neglect, then give away again.

not original...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
... but worth passing along for shop-a-holics to digest before the craziest retail day of the year occurs on Friday after Turkey Day here in the US of A. Adapted from an article I read in this week's TIME magazine.  Generally speaking I don't do any holiday shopping, and especially not on the weekend after Thanksgiving, when retailers believe those few days are their 'make or break' time for profits.

The short piece from the weekly news magazine, by Jeff Kreisler, would have you realize you don't need to consider how much the item is 'discounted' - but you should only purchase based on what it will cost you. The misleading mark down tags are there to lure you, deceptive marketing to make you buy a 'bargain'. Finding a shirt marked down from $100 to sixty isn't really saving forty dollars:  rather causing you to spend $60.

Kreisier also points out the danger of thinking in terms of percentages.  Your hard earned cash in your pocket is real, an absolute. Don't be fooled by sales people juggling dollar signs like rubber balls. "Whether it's 10% of a $1,000 sofa or 1% off a $100,000 renovation, or a bank loan: $100 is still $100".  Yours to keep in your pocket, or let some trickster at the county fair lift in the blink of an eye.

Jeff Kreisler, author of this short article is also co-author of a book on money management, "Dollars and Sense: How we Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter."     

about the pansies...

Monday, November 20, 2017
... that were calling my name when I went to the hardware store a week ago. Purchased a little nine- plant pack to go in the planters I have diligently watered and fed over the summer. Two large pots in little patio area just outside a door at church.

When I first felt the urge to take responsibility for the care and maintenance of these containers, they were thoroughly neglected. With deceased rosemary plants, and rapidly dying English ivy, really pitiful looking. I bought some spring blooming shrubs that will keep their leaves, stay green year-round, called Sweet Spire. Supposedly very fragrant, but they did not do much the first season. Hopefully, they will be better established, over initial planting shock, and bloom well next spring.

Added some bulbs that are a wee version of jonquils, donated from a friend. Then put several small plants around the base of each Sweet Spire, that would bloom all summer. Dianthus in shades of burgundy and white.  Most survived with ample watering, though a couple did not make it through the summer, possibly due to sitting on concrete slab that radiated blistering heat. I added some creeping Jenny, to trail over the lip and down the outside of each pot along with mulch to try to preserve moisture. Most Sundays, and maybe another day mid-week, I filled a big pitcher or bowl from the kitchen ice machine, and dumped in the shrub, to melt and provide water.

I have recruited a friend who will meet me this morning to put the happy faces of little pansies in today. How can you look at the bright colorful blooms of pansies and not want to smile back? These are the little ones, sometimes called 'viloas', so they might be related to violets? My mom had them growing in her yard, where they would re-seed, and come back year after year. So prolific, in the perfect environment, they were everywhere: coming up between bricks on walkway, along the edge of asphalt drive apron.

an interesting little...

Sunday, November 19, 2017
... volunteer job I offered myself for on Saturday, which you will find both unusual and possibly discomfiting: recycling used shoes.  If you fall of the far end of the 'excessively fastidious' scale, you should stop reading right now, as the following will make you very uncomfortable.  Since I was a volunteer, you might assume I knew exactly what I was getting into.  But you know what 'assuming' does, right?

Actually, I did not fully grasp the magnitude of the undertaking. I was unprepared for the handling of other people's rejects.  It was off-putting, but in retrospect, should not have been surprising. As well as drastically underestimating the quantity of donations people would drive by an drop off. That was amazed.

In the same way my naive little self was so easily duped by sleight of hand tricksters when young.  Along with those high school kids I admired from afar as a small elementary aged child, when they would volunteer to participate in performances by traveling shows. When some traveling charlatan would come to town to present his skills as a magician or hypnotist in the public schools, and students between ages six and eighteen would be herded into the small-town auditorium. All these years later, my innocence in the ways of those mystery men is still intact. How did they get those big strapping high school football players to 'baa' and 'oink'?

Nothing mysterious or surreptitious occurred: mostly me not thinking it through sufficiently to consider how disgustingly nasty those used shoes and hiking boots would be. They were pretty rank. But there were also some pairs that still had tags on them, never worn. Every type shoe you could name or imagine. Flip-flops and slippers. Pumps or kitten heels. Athletic shoes and work boots. Steel-toed construction boots and warm fuzzy bedroom shoes. Sandals and pointy-toed high heels. Tiny little 'Nikes' small enough to have been on wee little feet that never hit the ground. Huge man-sized hiking boots that looked like they would fit Sasquatch. We took 'em all.

They were matched up in pairs, bundled together and bagged up.  Every bag was supposed to hold twenty five pairs. By the time I left the designated location: it looked like we might have filled two dozen bags. That is a LOT of pairs of shoes.

My understanding of the purpose of the recycling event was two-fold: 1.) keep the shoes out of the land fill. I'm guessing the rubber soles of athletic shoes would last as long as old tires, linger for a thousand years.  Plus (the best part): 2.)  they will be packed into cargo containers and shipped to places where people can use them. Here, I am assuming to third world nations where people do not have, or cannot afford footwear.  I readily admit some of those hundreds of shoes that were donated on Saturday were  unsuitable, and seriously: ridiculous as far as 'practical'. So definitely not 100% usable.  But... still... shoes vs no shoes? Footcovers win every time.

about eye glasses...

... and having to do with The Man Who Lives Here.  I often wonder how he can get to where he is going, with vision so clouded by dirty lenses, covered with dust, grime, unmentionables. He will occasionally hand his spectacles to me for cleaning with my shirt tail. When he suddenly, apparently  discovers how limited his vision is from all the stuff preventing clarity.  I will pass them back, after removing smudges, bits of shed skin, possible sneeze prints (sorry about mentioning the unmentionables- not only is it nasty, but it is also true!), for him to comment: "Wow!" and "Oh, my goodness!"

The last time be passed me grubby, vision-limiting eye glasses needing cleaning, I noticed one of those little oval pads that support the frames on the bridge of his nose was missing.  Upon returning the now sparkling clean lenses to the owner,  I pointed out the missing part, and told him he needed to get it repaired. It would be an easy, quick fix at the optical shop, probably taking three minutes of time for some one with the parts and tools to install that small replacement.  It didn't happen. After a week, I asked if he had gotten that little chore squared away.

He reported he had another pair of eyeglasses, with frames very similar to the ones he had been wearing. What he called the 'back-up specs.', that he located and started wearing.  But when he took those 'back-ups' off at the end of the day, he discovered those glasses were missing a little nose pad also. I predict he used his all purpose bad word!

So when I saw him next, he was wearing the back-ups for the back-ups: looking like something from the 1980's.  I offered to go get #1 and #2 repaired.... which is a story for another day. Sufficient to report it was a thoroughly frustrating, irritating, convoluted, unsatisfactory experience. Ultimately, I found some innocent by-stander who was persuaded to take the one little nose pad from #2 and apply it to #1 using the world's smallest screwdriver, scavenging parts to make one comfortably serviceable pair of specs. Until I can get to the VA clinic (for the third time) and get him back in working order.