Thursday, October 23, 2014

There's Retired....and then there's...

...retired with too much time on your hands.  Which is what I learned yesterday.

The senior citizens at my Center love jigsaw puzzles.  In fact, we keep one going on a special table year round.  Those puzzles can get expensive, so we've developed a system with a couple of our folks where puzzles are shared.  This allows one puzzle to be used multiple times, until we can all afford to buy a new one.

The latest is a true challenge: a collage of the American Flag made up of individual photos.  

Years ago I discovered you can't just put a puzzle on the table.  The box goes ignored.  Even putting the pieces out...nothing.  The only way to grab their interest, is to build the "frame" of the puzzle.  For some reason this lures folks over to start putting in pieces.  So yesterday I put the new puzzle on the table, flipping pieces over and sorting the frame edges.  Then something odd caught my eye.


 Whoever donated this puzzle had WAY too much time on their hands.  
Because after the puzzle was done, 
he/she had flipped it over 
and

 numbered all the pieces!
(I'm hoping none of my puzzle workers figure that out.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday in the South


A couple of weeks ago I shared photos of the small cotton field 
outside my office window.  
Before you can pick cotton, you have to defoliate.
They did that last week...and for the record, it stinks.
Now it truly looks like a popcorn field.
 I used this photo as an illustration of how the "other farmer" doesn't do his job.
The white strip is cotton, 
the middle is the "other guy's" soy bean field filled with pigweed
which has spread to the cotton field.
The third green field in the background belongs to a third farmer
who yesterday had a crew outside plucking pigweed out of it by hand.

Now it really does look like popcorn.  
That "nut" like object on the left is a cotton bole which hasn't yet opened.  They'll be picking soon.

 The "other farmer's" corn field.  
It grew up so bad in weeds no one could get a combine in to pick it. 
 The deer and birds, however, will benefit.
(Same with the soy bean field, which is an ode to Dog fennel and Ragweed).

Here it is almost the end of October and it's 70 degrees today. (21 C)
No wonder my flowers are confused.  
The Gardenia has started blooming again.


 Begonia and Hibiscus on front porch

 Even that Halloween pumpkin looks out of place next to the Begonia.
Yes, that's an old wood stove as the planter.

The only sign that Fall is really on the way is 
the Old Gal out front has started tossing out pecans.

 Looks like a Pecan Growth chart:
Green hull which hangs from tree (unless wind blows hard like today!)
Dark brown hull, usually hangs from tree and nut drops from it 
but again, wind can change that.
And the lovely final product...
which both our mothers consider a better gift to receive than gold.  
Bringing pecans to them already shelled gets us a gold star.


And Bou says all will be right in the world 
when he goes to the Vet tomorrow to get the bandages off his ear!

Have a good week!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Last crop of summer

Outside my home office window is a small strip of cotton field.  Small, because our young neighbor, who farms for his uncle, wanted to add some crops of his own.  So while 2 acres may seem like nothing to most farmers, he's managing to gather a few extra acres around the neighborhood for some extra cash...because there's a little bundle of baby boy expected in December.  He's a good young farmer and had I included a shot of the rest of the field, that another neighbor "manages" (he plants seeds and thinks God should take care of the rest) you'd see the difference in work ethic.


As a kid, I called them "Popcorn fields" because all that fluffy whiteness looked like popcorn.  That might've not set well with my ancestors, who were farmers, but they'd forgive me because I too enjoy warm earth and planting.   I actually found a newspaper article concerning my 2x Great Grandmother's 81st birthday which included,"She is not only able to do quite a good deal of work around the house, but still enjoys the activity of field work.  Last year she picked cotton with her grandchildren- and rarely ever picked under 100 pounds a day.  This is wonderful considering her advanced age."

Wow!  You go Great Grandma!

 Some weeds, like pig weed, have grown resistant to herbicides and farmers have actually gone back to having workers go into the field and pluck it out by hand.  My young neighbor did so this summer and that 2 acres is the only spot in a 30+ acre field without 5 foot high weeds.  (Take note, older farmer who thinks he's done when the seed goes in the ground).  Which is why I was so surprised to see something else in his field this morning.

Morning Glories.
Not many, just a small patch in purple, pink and a few miniatures in baby blue on the edge of the field.  But instead of weeds, they look like exclamation points on a more well tended field.

Now before someone points out weeds, 
that was grass along the edge of the border dividing field and lawn.  
He's good, not perfect. 

And so with such lovely color available, 
I took advantage of Bou the dog following me and snapped a few shots.
(That's my "crop" of yellow Lantana, planted inside an old tractor tire).

After all, it's almost Christmas calendar season,
and my 4 legged Pin Up only has so much patience with posing.
But after watching me snaps shot of cotton,
he wasn't suspicious when I invited him to sit down.

Y'all have a great weekend!

Saturday, September 27, 2014


It's so quiet around here.  
I know tis the season of school, football and,
 if retailers are to be trusted (ha!) 
the holidays...
which aren't yet around the corner but are appearing on shelves anyway.

Just sticking my head in the door to check on y'all.
Hubby's knee is healing nicely and he believes he can convince the
Doctor when we meet on Thursday, 
that the other knee needs to be done soon...
as in before HIS surgeon has his own knee replacement in December.

As you were.
Just know that you're missed.
What?  I am NOT trying to make you feel guilty.
I just miss y'all's presence.
(And Chef, I'm getting hungry!)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

25 Years Ago Today...

...Mother Nature proved that hurricanes DO NOT stick to coastlines.  


25 years ago today, the gentleman in this photo asked if I could come across the street and help answer phones.  I knew him from years before, when I was a Radio Dispatcher for the State Police and he was a Sheriff's Deputy. I remember him saying, "You can handle telephones, the public and work well under pressure.  I could use that right now."    It was the first week after his secretary's husband had been transferred and he was the only one in the department we then called Civil Defense.  I received permission to assist this other county government department and went to help man the phones at 10:00 a.m. that Thursday morning.  There were 3 old fashion phones, one line each, with no hold button.  The head of Maintenance and I answered them for the first couple of hours until he and the Civil Defense head had to leave for a while.  At the height of the storm, you had to put your hand on top of the phone to know which one was ringing.  After a while, they all rang at the same time anyway.  I began answering one, asking the person to hold on, answered the second, then asked both parties if they could hear me.  If they wanted basic info, I told them at the same time.  If one had an emergency, the other caller graciously sat through a one sided conversation until it was his/her turn.  This went on for hours.

The next thing I knew, it was Friday morning and Hurricane Hugo had blown through, turning my hometown into a photo copy of a war zone.

Months later, I witnessed the oddest thing.  People jumped when the wind picked up or turned pale if it howled around a corner prior to a thunderstorm.  It took me a while to put two and two together and understand their reactions were connected to memories of Hugo.  So why didn't it bother me? After all, at one point I was the lone female in that room, surrounded by law enforcement as we all dealt with something none of us had ever experienced.  I was torn because Hubby was at home and had begged me to stay put because I was in probably the safest place in the County. I can still hear Maj. Holloway of the National Guard reporting for duty in a voice so deep it came from the bottom of his boots...and it was oddly comforting.  Why wasn't I as shell shocked as my community?

Civil Defense  was in the basement of the Courthouse.  Until the height of the storm, when wind howled around the building for two minutes, we never heard a sound.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

He Came From Scotland

     I think perhaps it's only human nature to "romanticize" a culture you admire but don't truly know enough about. As a teenager I loved listening to Sean Connery speak, yet found it funny when women swooned over his James Bond's "sexy British accent".  Um, that's not British.  It's Scottish.  I remember thinking, "Why can't they hear the difference?"
     I've always loved accents.  I don't know if it's the part of my brain which is creative and likes to write, or if I was lucky to be born with "a good ear"... hearing what some people miss. And what I hear stays with me.  Hubby says he can always tell when the British Wives' group has been at the Center because I'll use "lovey" or "Brilliant!", phrases foreign in my daily speech. In that group is a lady from Ireland and two from Scotland.  Interacting with the first one has me substituting "wee" for small for the rest of the day.  My Scottish ladies and I have an interesting relationship due to my never ceasing curiosity.  One is 90 years old, with a twinkle in her eye and a quick wit who likes to give hugs while telling me what a joy it is to see me.  No one else greets me like that.  The second, closer to my mother's age, was the one I sought out for a "translation".  I was reading a poem written as the Scottish speak (oh don't even go there about whether that's an actual language, lest you start an argument amongst the locals).  I asked for a definition of a few words I THOUGHT I understood, but wasn't sure.  She began reading the poem aloud, stopping occasionally to offer an explanation she thought was needed.  Yet as soon as she began to read, suddenly the words my eyes weren't sure of, my ears embraced.  Hearing them made the meaning clear.  Thrilled, I jumped in to  offer a definition in mid sentence, making her pause and beam because I'd gotten it right.  Finished, she gazed at me with a perplexed expression and asked,"You understood what I just read?"
     I replied, "I do now.  Because YOU read it.  YOU made it come alive for me." 
   Thinking I was merely being polite, she questioned, "But you understood WHAT I was saying?"  After my enthusiastic "Yes!", she shook her head and added, "I've been married to my husband (an American) for 20 years and his family still can't understand me.  But you do. You actually do.  How?"
     "I listened," was my reply. 
     Yet the truth was deeper.  I didn't tell her why.  Maybe I should have.  But how do you explain your love of her native tongue originated when you were ten and a kind Scotsman named Paul took the time to listen.  To me.
     In the South of my youth, children were raised to be quietly polite: speak when spoken to, otherwise let the adults talk while you listened and learned.  I was a shy child, so only offering, "No Sir" or "Yes Ma'am" wasn't all that difficult.  Shy children, however, learn a lot while listening to everyone else talk.
     Raised a Baptist, the church we attended had an annual "Revival".  For those not familiar, it was a chance for a preacher from another town to come in and, for a week, share with you familiar stories from the Bible.  But since he wasn't the man you listened to every Sunday, often his telling of the tales made more of an impact.  There was one young preacher the youth liked because he didn't talk over our heads to the adults, he spoke in a manner everyone understood.  Plus he didn't yell or thump his Bible which frankly, is rather terrifying to a kid...especially one with a vivid imagination who has created a pretty horrifying mental image of the Devil already without outsider assistance. 
     The year I was ten, this visiting preacher brought a friend named Paul, from Scotland.  For a little southern kid, the accent alone was a treat.  To this day, I can still see him.  Tall and broad shouldered, with hair dark as coal and the bluest eyes.  His smile was genuine and his laugh as deeply joyful as his voice.  He gave a lesson to our group prior to the main service, encouraging all of our questions, most of which had nothing to do with the lesson.  There was something so warm and caring about him.  As the last four of began to leave, he noted that my little wool tartan skirt made him a bit homesick. And that's when  something odd happened to shy little me.
     Amazed that an adult would admit such a thing I blurted out, "We learned to do the Highland Fling at school this year."
     Most adults would've said "That's nice", before hurrying the child along so he wouldn't be late.  Instead, without even looking at his watch, Paul sat back down and asked sincerely, "Would you show me?"
     I should've been embarrassed and refused.  That what shy kids do, after all.  Funny what happens when an adult takes the time to make a request instead of a demand.  As Paul began to whistle the very tune I'd learned to dance to, my feet began to move.  He merrily clapped the beat, cheering me on and applauding when I was done, telling me it was the finest Highland Fling he'd ever seen.  The other kids my age looked stunned.  I should've been.  But all I could hear was his softly uttered, "Thank you".  Never have two words sounded so heartfelt or exotically loving.
      The year was 1969 and things in the South were still racially charged.  At that evening's service, three young military men from the local Base came into the service at the last minute.  All were in uniform and quietly sat on the back row.  The soldier in the middle was black.  The good church people gasped, because churches were not integrated then.  One of the Deacons asked the man to leave while another called the Police.  I will never forget the eerie sight of blue lights flashing through the stained glass windows.  Or the feeling that it was wrong to ask the man to go, which he did respectfully and with no complaint.  His friends followed him out.  It made me feel awful.
     And then Paul spoke from the pulpit.  Many preachers would've pretended that what had just happened hadn't happened.  Paul had given apples to the congregation to share with others, just as, he stated,  God had shared his word with us.  In  a clear voice, he said, "I want you to stand now and leave in silence.  And as you walk out the door in silence, remember that God loves all of his children."  The congregation rose and filed out. No one spoke a word.  On one hand the silence was unsettling, because the adults all had odd looks on their faces.  As an adult, I now know that look was guilt.  It was the first time I understood you could lovingly admire a stranger for doing the right thing, for the right reason.  The greatest sermon I ever heard was Paul's last sentence, spoken softly, without anger, but with evident disappointment.  Yet my brain clung to the sound of a Scotsman saying God loved me, no matter what.
      I never saw Paul again. But he made a lasting impression on what it means to be truly kind and caring and compassionate.  He chose to stop for a few moments and make me feel worthy as a child.  Along the way, a Scottish accent became entwined with loving kindness until they were one and the same.
     I often wondered if Paul was the reason I wanted to find someone Scottish in my family tree.  Was he the reason I was inexplicably drawn to the "Isle of Skye"? Had I lumped little girl memories of an emotional night onto a foreign country and tied them together with a Scottish accent?
     Who knows?  But I have discovered that one of my Irish ancestors originally came to Ireland from Scotland.  Where in Scotland?  
     The Isle of Skye.