Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve Thoughts

When I was about 16, I gave up the tradition of written New Year's Resolutions. I was beginning to understand that goals were a good thing, but they should be attainable. My New Year's list usually looked more like something a Fairy Godmother would fulfill, not little ol' me.

So for 2008 I'm going to attempt to adopt my husband's Code for Living....works for him. Then again, he doesn't have that pesky "X" chromosome which controls "worrying".

RULES FOR LIVING LIFE:

Rule #1 Don't sweat the small stuff.
Rule #2 Everything is small stuff.

So whatever part of the Earth you may call home, here's wishing you the very best in the coming year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Consequences of Asking "Why?"

...is receiving a book for Christmas entitled, "Imponderables". It answers over 500 kinds of questions that people have pondered at one point or another. Such as "Why don't we get goosebumps on our face?" or "Why do we close our eyes when we sneeze?" What? Are you waiting for me to tell you?

It's a fun read for those times you only have a few moments to spare...which is why the book currently resides in our Porcelain Library.

Okay, the goose bump thing has to do with the hair on your body and because our faces aren't covered with hair the way our arms and legs, etc. are. But according to the book, dogs can get goosebumps on their faces. But how would you know? And most of your grandfathers probably told you that if you sneezed with your eyes open, your eyeballs would pop out. An exaggeration, but not by much. Did you know that the human body sneezes with such force that at the exact moment of that sneeze, EVERYTHING in the body shuts down?!

Good grief, as much as I sneeze, that could explain a few things about the way I think. :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Stocking Says It All

"Dear Santa,
Let me explain"

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas in the '60s

Mom posed and took this shot in our hallway for the Christmas card that year.
I remember trying to look happy while "encouraging" my little sister to be still....or else.
[You know how 2.5 year old kids are. Sigh.]
I'm almost 5 here and I think this might've been the last time I was taller than her too.

At least I still have the hat. :p

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Marvin the Marvelous

This time of year, encountering any worker in a store with an ounce of politeness left is quite a find. If they're smiling and/or friendly....well, that's an unbelievable bonus. Folks, I have discovered a treasure. And if you're ever in the need of an instant jolt of human kindness which comes with a genuine, megawatt smile, I know where to send you.

I encountered Marvin several months ago as he worked the register at the Walgreen's near me. Happy doesn't seem to be a big enough word for this guy. A black man in his mid 20s, Marvin is the kind of person who makes you smile even if you don't think you've got a smile left in you at the end of a bad day. The difference between him and other "nice" employees is that when Marvin asks you questions, you know he's engaging in a conversation with you, as opposed to repeating a training speech aimed at you. Last month I joked that he should be "Employee of the Month". He grinned and said he had been...for the last 2 months. With a nod at the Manager standing behind me, Marvin advised that fact could be confirmed. In fact, he insisted. Calling out his Manager's name, he offered, "This lady has a question." His manager confirmed the fact and I suggested that 3 months in a row wouldn't be a bad thing. You know what the interesting thing was about this exchange? The Manager had that managerial expression on his face before I asked my question, somewhere between serious and who-the-heck-messed-this-up? But when I complimented Marvin, the Manager didn't just answer, he BEAMED as if I'd asked him about a favorite child.

This morning I had to run into Walgreen's on my way to work. Run being a figure of speech, not an actual description of my motion. I'd jammed my knee last week and for the past 3 days I've been Air Traffic Controller for those Christmasy events at my Center. This morning, the knee felt better but the poor muscles which have been playing a supporting role were screaming with every step. Gimping inside, the first person I spot is Marvin speaking to a co-worker. He's dressed in this yellow shirt that I swear looks just like sunshine, with a tie to match. As soon as he sees me, he begins to wave like an over grown five year trying to get an adult's attention as he calls out, "Good Morning!"

He's so cheerful all his enthusiasm drowns out the chorus of would-you-just-sit-down! that my knee muscles are singing. As I pass him, I look at his co-worker and ask with a grin, "What do you feed this guy for breakfast?" She smiles and shakes her head, almost perplexed by such joyfulness. Without missing a beat, Marvin chimes in, "Chicken Eyelashes."

How can you not like a guy with a sense of humor like that?

I grab my items as quickly as possible and head towards the check out with all the enthusiasm of a snail on tranquilizers. Seeing me moving so slow, Marvin stops what he's doing and gallantly races for the counter with a cheerful, "I'm coming Boo. Slow down." We get into one of those interesting conversations that lasts past the return of change and receipt which leaves both of us laughing. Wonderful laughing. You know... the kind that is genuine and makes you feel better.

I wish him a good day and a Merry Christmas, adding that I don't plan on any more last minute purchases prior to that date. He smiles, looking like Jamaican sunshine and replies, "Oh, you'll see me again."

You know Marvin, you're probably right. I wonder if the sun knows it's got a rival?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Memories

Since first grade, Christmas trees have always meant one thing to me: the Gingerbread Man. I won him during our school party that year. Mom proudly put my name and date on the back and thus an annual tradition was born. From then on each child in our family received an ornament with a similar theme: such as a Drum or Angel in a variety of colors to maintain the peace on earth. When we left home, the box went with us, allowing good memories to be built upon in our new homes.

I looked at our tree today and realized the Gingerbread Man had become part of the history of Family Christmas Past. Yes, being interested in my family tree has led to a visual nod to that gene pool each year. Anyone who sees these ornaments immediately thinks, "1950s!" And it's true, because we literally grasp several of the ornaments from our childhood trees when our Moms decided to update their tree motif.

But some of my favorites are the ones I "rescued" after my Grandma died and her daughter went into the nursing home. I've been staring at those ornaments for so long, they're like a part of me. The little cabin and Santa are over 75 years old and so fragile they've almost become transparent. I love the little blue pine cone and remember when Grandma's sister actually had tree LIGHTS like that...along with some little birds that have flown the coop. I love the detail and variety of shapes those ornaments came in...a visual reminder that there are times to slow down and appreciate the beauty of something small and delicate.

Then there are the ornaments that have become legend. Like the year our country home was overrun with mice...and my other grandmother, Memaw, made me an ornament of a mouse sleeping soundly in a walnut shell, complete with quilt. The same year I got the one below it for my husband, who had to set all the mouse traps. Our joke is we put it on the bottom branch to remind the mice whose house this is.


Maybe the best part of these little treasures is all the memories they bring back to life. Grandma and Memaw may be singing "Hark the Herald Angels" with that actual group now, but every year at Christmas they're in the room with the tree and me. Smiling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Finding My Christmas Spirit

It's hard to feel like Christmas when it's unseasonable warm and you're in the middle of a drought. I've been running errands for everyone else but me and haven't baked the first Christmas cookie. Usually our live Christmas tree is what lights my seasonal joy. Yes, a live one. And until they outlaw them, we'll keep buying a live tree because the aroma keeps my childhood joy of the season well...alive. We finally got a Christmas tree, 10 days later than normal, but this year there was a bit of sadness to that tradition. The gentleman we usually get our tree from also has a fireworks stand and his father often helps him. On one of the few nights it actually got cold, the older gentleman went to light the heater and the worst thing possible happened: the fireworks stand exploded. Although good Samaritans ran to help the man, he died 4 hours later. His son disposed of the trees to another vendor. Understandably.

So this morning I decided maybe I could kick start the jolly part by listening to Christmas carols on my morning commute. Harry Connick, Jr. began to croon while my mind huffed in response.

Oh the weather outside is frightful.
Yep, frightful to the tune of 81 degrees today!
But the fire is so delightful.
It would be a delight to use our fireplace.
And since we've no place to go.
Don't even get me started on my list!
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Let it rain, needs some rain, come on rain!


I must confess I use that last line, slightly altered, when I'm antsy, irritable or grouchy. When I find myself getting like that, I sing with a grin, "Let it go, let it go, let it go." Doesn't always work, but the fact I'm cheering myself on with an altered Christmas song makes me feel silly enough to adjust my attitude sufficiently.

I turned off Harry Connick and sighed as the grandfather in the red car ahead of me continued his reasonable pace of 1 mile under the speed limit. Wondering if I should pass, I glanced in the rear view mirror to see if anyone was behind me and found another red car. Almost against my will, a smile began to tug at the corners of my mouth. You see, I drive a green jeep. So our little caravan was red, green, red....like a mobile string of lights. As I laughed out loud, something to the right caught my eye. It was mistletoe, growing in the top of a tree.

Some days you just have to take your Christmas Spirit where you can find it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Red Sky, Part II

How could I post just one?
Okay, so I offered the last one first...it was the best.
But these were too pretty to hide.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Red Sky at Night

Commuting isn't so bad when you get a view like this upon arriving home.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Terms of Endearment

Why do we feel comfortable addressing some people with sweet terms of endearment while sticking to "Sir" or "Madam" for the rest? With all the problems in the world, you're wondering why I even care. Possibly because it's a nicer topic than war, famine or politics. But the simple truth is, it's because it happens to me. A lot.

I've never been sure if it's my towering 5'1" height which visually signifies me as a not full grown adult or the fact I have a polite disposition and am nothing to fear. But there's something about me which makes people substitute one of those terms instead of utilizing the name my parents slapped on my birth certificate. Then again, maybe childhood is where it all started and I just got use to it. When I'd call Mom's name to ask for something, she'd often reply with, "Yes my Darling?". Dad use to call me "Shug", which in the south is short for Sugar. I grew up...well, chronologically...but the sweet name calling followed me into adulthood.

Most grown women I know bristle at being called "Honey"...unless it's by a handsome hunk of mankind rather than a guy with a comb over working on his 5th sexual harassment suit. I've gone to lunch with a group of women and everyone was addressed as "Ma'am"....until the waitress cheerfully inquired of me, "And what can I get ya Honey?" Adults have aimed such terminology at me for so long I mentally cataloged it as "Short southern female with normal I.Q. not allowed to age."

Except on Friday, it did matter. Because my ears picked up on intonation which was both funny and eye opening.

Friday is bowling day for my senior citizens and we utilize the alley at the local air force base. They refer to it as "fun socializing" while I consider it "cheaper than a shrink". Hey, where else can you throw things and not get in trouble? I'd missed several weeks due to a head cold and scheduling problems. As the "Go-To" person in charge of making sure everyone else has fun, it's nice when people notice you're missing...and aren't angry about it. The morning started out with my 90 year old lady stating, "We've missed you Dear," as she put her arm around my shoulder and softly kissed my cheek. Another lady, my Mom's age, added, "Hey Darling. Give me a hug". My group hugs a lot. Being in public doesn't slow them down. I just know someday they'll misread a stranger's somewhat taken aback expression and scurry over with arms wide open to include them. After being greeted with another "Hey Honey!", my brain and curiosity started keeping track of Who said What. I listened to the seniors greet each other. By name. Out of fourteen people, not one called me by my birth certificate designation.

The Alley staff is mostly retired military, from the desk help to the maintenance guy. My body went into alert mode the moment Maintenance Guy, in an unusual display of public affection, draped his arm around my shoulder. Translation: I was talking to someone else and didn't notice it was him until too late. Don't get me wrong. There has to be some redeeming qualities to him besides the fact he can fix whatever breaks. At least two women found him attractive enough to marry, even if the first one changed her mind. Envision a small, wiry guy with gray hair and a mustache. Add to that an ego larger than his body and a mouth to match. The seniors have never been sure how to take him because he has two modes: a scowling "Don't bother me!" and the rare "Hi, I acknowledge your presence but I'm busy."

Arm draped around my shoulders Maint. Guy growled, "And where the hell have you been?" This is as close to, "Gee, we missed you," as he's capable of uttering. Answering that I'd been sick, he replied with a disparaging comment about my mental health with all the suaveness of a third grader. Thank heaven I don't have pigtails to pull. Then, sounding much like James Cagney in a 40's gangster flick he added, "Well Sweetheart, now that you're back, try to keep them from breaking the equipment." With that he walked off. As 90% of me internally jumped up and down at being released, 5% of me made a mental note not to launch the bowling ball in his direction, while the remaining 5% muttered quietly,"Sweetheart?"

The Assistant Manager had the day off but he'd come in to see us anyway. He's five years younger than I, but just became a grandfather for the second time. I jokingly call him "Dad" or "Grandpa" because he can't believe I'm the older of us. We use Friday to commiserate on work conditions. Whoever had the worst week talks, the other listens. It's like dealing with a male version of myself...only one who bowls much better. When he asked if he could bowl with us on my lane I answered, "Sure Sweetie." My brain instantly shot back: dear lord, it's contagious. Just because he's like your male counterpart doesn't mean he has to get called that stuff too.

Then there's the new guy at the counter. We've seen him bowl and he's impressive. He's only been there with us a couple of times over the last month but sadly, the seniors seem a little afraid of him. Okay, even supposedly open minded me did a double take the first time he stepped up to the line in the lane next to me. In his late 20s, he's an average white male...except for the number of tattoos, piercings and body hair as art. As I recall, his hair was spiked with a purple streak at the time, he had a wicked looking goatee and his black tee shirt featured an intimidating phrase. The kind that made you take a step back after reading it. When our favorite employee, the Asst. Manager, advised this guy would be working the desk, the seniors' expressions were akin to being told a small version of the world's meanest Hell's Angel was now their caretaker. Now that Tattoo is working the front desk, his hair color and style are back to boringly normal and the face jewelry is at home. Friday the Asst. Manager announced Tattoo had bowled a 300, the first person to do so this year, and was getting his PBA card. The seniors burst into applause, then looked startled at their spontaneous acceptance of him. Later on, when I paused in my conversation with the Asst. Manager to point out that Tattoo needed to ask a question, HE was startled to be acknowledged. As he apologized and offered to wait, I felt somewhat ashamed. Did I actually deserve to be called all these "sweet" names if I had the ability to make another human being feel he wasn't allowed to speak until spoken to? Had my attitude somehow silently conveyed our differences made him inferior?

Nope. Thank heavens. Turns out that like me, he's just polite.

We've bowled there for almost ten years now. Most of the seniors have become accustom to reminding the counter person who they are...every week. After one week, Tattoo knew their names. As I waited in line to pay, I listened to him ask how they were or how they did. By name. When it was my turn, he said, "Hey [insert my birth name here]. Glad to see you! We've been worried about you. And I do apologize for butting in earlier. I could've waited."

Matching my sincere tone with his, I laughed that I'd actually interrupted myself... which was a nice change of pace since most of the time other people did it for me. We talked for a minute and I found myself noting what a nice smile he had and the twinkle in his eyes. I wished him a good weekend and he replied, "Thank ya Darlin'. You too. See you in a couple of weeks."

Redemption comes in the strangest forms. Next time, I'm gonna ask him to tell me about those tattoos. And if he's not careful, my attention to detail might get him hugged by a bunch of grandmas overflowing with love.






Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Walk on the Weird Side

I've taken many an interesting Sunday stroll, but this past one beat them all. We put the dogs on leashes and took a walk at Santee, the world famous lake in our part of the world, renown for its bass fishing.

Sunday, we walked ON the lake. I kid you not.

We're in a drought situation and the lake is 6 feet below normal. I never realized how much water that was until Sunday. Hubby's Mom use to have a house at the lake, so he took me there to illustrate that kind of phenomena to she-who-cannot-tell-distances. Hey, I'm a girl, it's genetic...unless you're an architect or something.

It's odd to walk across a surface that you visually only recognize as a body of water. In fact, it was like being on a Jacques Cousteau excursion... without the water. Rather than swimming from island to island, the deer are WALKING back and forth, as evidenced by the myriad of tracks we found. The raccoons are having a field day eating mussels that are so easy to reach...and the size of my hand. I'd never seen any bigger than 3 inches before. The deer are grazing on the lake bed...because there's grass coming up. Green grass. Like a wildlife buffet.
These piers are eight feet high and you can see the water marks on them. To the left is the mouth of Grimes Creek, although right now it looks like new real estate. Just so you aren't confused by the appearance of water here, someone tried to dredge out a small waterway and got stopped, apparently. It's not nice, [or legal], to mess with land owned by the State.

It's weird to see pontoon boats actually resting on their pontoons....on dry land! The islands in the distance are about 350 yards from the shoreline. The old shoreline. The one that was wet.

The island on the right is about 350 yards away...according to the hubby, not me. We walked all the way around it and past, for a total of about 1/2 mile of dry land that use to be water. Again, hubby estimates, not mine. Unfortunately he forgot about the camera until we got back to the truck so these are the only shots he took. He wanted to "document" where all the stumps were so when they go fishing, they dodge and weave correctly. He was amazed to discover that places they thought were clear and "open runs" had huge stumps, just waiting to reach out and grab a boat motor.

Wish we had gotten the camera out before the walk. Someone had actually laid out a line of fertilizer about 150 yards long [hey, it was only halfway to the Island, it's an educated guess!]. As we pondered why someone would mark a straight line, going out, in white fertilizer, my eyes happened to catch a large, white pile of something to the left.

Golf balls.

Someone's been putting this new real estate to use by utilizing it as a driving range. Wonder what kind of score you get if you clear the land and hit a gator?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Today's Road takes us...


...to Mom-in-laws for Turkey Dinner. And yes, having all those pecan trees has a draw back of sorts. I just baked the 3rd pecan pie this month.

Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Oh...and if you live across the pond and had nothing to do with our forefathers leaving for America in the first place, have a lovely day. ;)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Anti-Social Poet?

There are a group of local poets who meet at my Center once a month. Last night I'd been asked to judge a Poetry Slam. Unfortunately, there weren't as many as expected, so the contest bit the dust. But poets must share their work. So they did. And I stayed to increase the number of audience members. Besides, I work around lovely people but most are not interested in wrapping their brain around words not often bandied about. It was like a mental playground and I was happy to sit on a swing and watch them play.

I'll be the first to admit that I often write for me....or anyone who wants to read my written word on the page. I'm not the stand-up-in-the-spotlight kind of person. Nope, I'm usually the silent general behind the scenes making sure everything runs smoothly. So a part of me was awed by the fact I was in a room where everyone [except me] wanted to stand up and speak. One after another they stood at the front of the room, sending a wave of words our way. Deep emotions, painful experience, aching longing all floated on air in a silently respectful room. And when the words ceased and the applause came, the emotions still stood proud, as if waiting for their accolades as well....which they received in the form of discussion and debate. This lively repartee included a wide eyed youthful, "Are you kidding me?" moment. The youngest poet was gently teased about his pride in penning the phrase, "Knocking on Heaven's Door" , a concept musically penned by Bob Dylan years before this kid was even born. As if to assure the young man he wasn't being lied to, several in the room began to sing.

Given the number of people singing, or attempting to, I think he believed them.

Each poet did three poems. At the conclusion of one, a poet admitted the piece was 11 years old. Someone misunderstood and asked in surprise, "You wrote that when you were 11?" She laughed and repeated her sentence while adding, "Who would remember something they wrote at the age of 11?"

Inside the little kid in me raised her hand. Okay, so I was twelve. Close enough.

No, I didn't volunteer that information because there would've been an insistence that I share it with the group. I was actually sitting in a rocking chair...it was comfortable. Standing up to face them wouldn't have been. And then there would've been the discussion and questions about my mental state. Here, read my little written in 60 seconds poem...which was actually published in my Jr. High School's Literary magazine, much to my surprise.

"One day I found the world quite dead.
So I began one in my head.
And there was something I did find.
I'd rather live within my mind."

I remember how fast that little snippet of a poem had come to me. Then I re-read it. And it scared the shite out of me. To my little girl brain the words sounded like I had a mental disorder or was, at the very least, growing anti-social. Wasn't I too young to be a hermit? Who but the deranged withdrew from the real world to create one in their head?

Two kinds of people. Twelve year old girls afraid of the natural changes the body experiences under the control of a brain not yet wired to accept them.

And writers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Truth in Advertising

While in the eternal hell waiting room we know as “HOLD”, do you ever feel like a business is trying to suck the life out of you? To make it worse, they bombard you with music not fit to be heard in an elevator. As today’s cheerful Customer Service Rep chirped, ”If you’ll just hold for a moment, I’ll check that for you”, I reminded myself that patience is a virtue. And it keeps your blood pressure down. Miss Cheerful’s voice disappeared, replaced by music. My ears and brain sort of whispered, “What the…?”

Remember the movie “Nosferatu”? One of the first vampire movies ever filmed, it features a scene where the Vampire is playing an organ. During it’s most ear grating and spine tingling musical moment, he whirls around to fiendishly glare at a woman who has just discovered her date isn’t Prince Charming.

Well, the fanged one was playing his song…while I sat captive on “HOLD”.

After the initial surprise of not being musically assaulted by The Captain and Tennille, I laughed. Which was really confusing to Miss Cheerful when she came back on the line and heard me giggling.

Hey, let her wonder. I always wonder what they’re doing while I’m staring at the phone. Now we’re even.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Here's who I look up to

Our old faithful gal, the ancient pecan tree. She's not only providing the crows, squirrels, woodpeckers and me with her bounty, she's giving us all an aerobic workout trying to gather up her gifts!



Oh sure, there are three other pecan trees in the yard
but none of them match her splendor.
Besides, how can you not love a tree with a bellybutton?


Monday, November 12, 2007

Country Critter

Sitting at my computer yesterday I heard a strange sound. In the country, sounds are both crystal clear and remarkably loud at times. This one was a savage, rhythmic chomping. An angry gnashing of metallic teeth which rattled the windows as it grew closer. Okay, so maybe I've read too much Stephen King this week. Since it was broad daylight, I peeked out the window. This is what I discovered.

Time to harvest the soy beans...which I jokingly refer to as "the ugly crop". A local farmer laughs at that, saying he sees money in the bank when looking at a bean field. I prefer the ripping waves of winter wheat or the summer fence of corn that blocks out all traffic noise.

I did feel a little sorry for the little red guy in rear of this picture...replaced by his new green brethren.
Guess that tractor now knows how the mule and his plow felt when being shown the barn for the final time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

For Gregg and Natalie: The Bracelet

Here's the story that began my journey towards sending the bracelet home. I appreciate that Gregg has been so understanding in answering my questions about his Dad. To Gregg and Natalie: I think your Dad would've been very proud to see who you've grown up to be.

THE BRACELET


My most tangible concept of war sits silently in a corner of my jewelry box, a cold band of silver metal resting comfortably on a bed of fake blue satin. It can’t hurt me, but seeing it still makes my heart pound. As soon as it was mine, I wanted to give it back. For returning it meant my nightly prayers had been answered. To be able to give that MIA bracelet back to the Captain whose name I wore around my wrist meant he’d returned home safely.

But it’s still mine.

The day I bought the bracelet, my heart swelled with all the patriotic pride a twelve year old can muster. Our town was home to Shaw AFB and as a child civilian, wearing a bracelet was my only way to serve our country during the Vietnam War. Silently I stood in awe of the student chosen to sell these symbols of American pride. When my turn came, he snatched $2 of hard earned babysitting money out my trembling hand and stated in a monotone, “This one’s MIA. We’re out of POWs.” Dropping the cold metal into my outstretched palm, he peered over my head at the next consumer in line.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off that shiny bracelet. It was so powerful. I had a person wrapped around my wrist that I now felt responsible for and I silently promised to leave it on until that Captain returned home safely.

In the hallway of my childhood home was a framed poem by Kendrew Lascelles entitled “The Box”, which began..

"Once upon a time in the land of hush-a-bye
About the wondrous days of yore.
They came across a sort of box
Bound up with chains and locked with locks
And labeled, “Kindly do not touch, it’s war.”

I’d been taught that war was a terrible way to settle arguments and the poem was merely reinforcement of that concept. But the first time I passed the poem wearing my MIA bracelet, the hair on the back of my neck stood at attention. I felt uneasy. Uncomfortable. Inexplicably sad. The poem was no longer mere words. Only something as horrible as war could reduce a person into a two line summation stamped into cold metal. My wrist felt like it was on fire. Yet with adolescent fervor, I memorized the minuscule bits of information in order to rattle off his statistics. For if you had to look down and read off this information, not only were you an embarrassed child, it meant you didn’t really care. I took my child civilian duties very seriously. After a week, he ceased to be just a name, for I’d promoted him to “MY Captain.“ And I truly believed that My Captain would come home if I never took off the bracelet.

A month later, my wrist turned green.

My parents declared it was time to take the thing off. No! I begged, I had to wear it! It wasn’t just my patriotic duty, I feared taking it off meant I’d let My Captain down, leaving him to face an unknown world all alone. A neighbor saved me by applying three coats of clear fingernail polish inside the bracelet. Soon, green wristed patriotism was the least of my worries.

Every night I asked God to bring My Captain home. I watched Garrick Utley on the nightly news because he had a calm voice and seemed trustworthy. I’d hold onto my bracelet the minute he came on the screen, as if the two were magically linked. And I‘d wait for him to explain things. But the stories were confusing. I was taught to be peaceful, so why did college students protesting for peace scream so angrily? Even at age 12, I knew you didn’t spit on people just because you disagreed with them. I understood war brought out the worst in people, but it wasn’t suppose to happen at home. Between Americans.

One night, I noticed Mr. Utley wasn’t looking so good. Only a child could believe that reporters were impervious to gunfire simply because their job was to report the facts to the folks back home. But there were ever growing dark circles under Mr. Utley's eyes, as if the job was just plain wearing him out. Because he’d grown so pale, his features drawn and the fire in his eyes on the verge of being extinguished, I was afraid Mr. Utley was going to die. A weariness crept into his voice that I’d never heard before, as if what he’d witnessed wasn’t just bad, it was sucking the life out of him. My polite requests that God watch over My Captain evolved into demands that He bring My Captain home. Right now. Before things got worse. The very next day, I saw My Captain’s daughter at school, her eyes bearing that same hollowness as Mr. Utley's. And then I realized My Captain wasn’t just a symbol of my patriotism, he was a daddy. Just like my daddy….except he didn’t come home every night. Maybe he never would.

And he never did.

The day came when everyone who was coming home had made the trip. It was time to take off my bracelet. As a ghostly refrain of “Taps” played in my head, I solemnly laid the bracelet to rest on that bed of fake blue satin. As my jewelry box momentarily became a coffin, a huge lump formed in my throat. The bracelet, devoid of my wrist, looked so empty lying there. As empty as I felt inside. I’d never experienced such a connection to a total stranger. We’d never met, yet My Captain was a part of me. I finally understood that war effects everyone…soldiers, family, reporters…and even strangers.

I optimistically hope that future generations will only know about war from reading ancient history books because we will have, somewhere along the way, found a better method for solving problems than by waging war. History is a great teacher and I’ll never forget the role My Captain played for his country…and for me. The nice thing about history is that we’re allowed to add the occasional footnote. My Captain did not live long enough to hear or see these words, but they were always a part of my prayer to God. Please watch over and guide all the men and women who selflessly serve our country. Take care of those who do the right thing, rather than the easy thing. And because it’s never too late to acknowledge what one human does to keep another safe, two simple, yet heartfelt words: Thank you.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Past Says Hello

Mondays. Yuck. I suppose no matter what day started the work week we'd all grunt or groan over it. Of course the three hour Staff Meeting this morning didn't help. When I got home, it was blissfully quiet...the hubby's night out with his hunting buddies and the dogs went along to bat clean up and take care of the leftovers. Yeah! No cooking. Peace and quiet. And e-mail.

The first was from NPR's site "This I Believe", which is, as I previously mentioned, home to the condensed version of "The Bracelet". I glanced down the list while opening snail mail. Laughing at the bank's "offer" to allow me to skip my December or January car payment if I'd just send in $25 with my "Thanks, I'll skip a month" coupon, I dropped said coupon when my eyes got to the last e-mail. Fortunately the offer landed in the trash can. I landed in my computer chair.

The e-mail was from the son of "My Captain".

Funny how your heart beats faster at the weirdest things. As I opened the e-mail, I found myself quietly praying that it wouldn't begin, "Hey nut case, leave me alone!" Instead it began with a cheerful, "Thanks for the letter!"

I began breathing again.

The son followed that up with how serendipitous my timing was, as his sister had sent him a family photo taken at Swan Lake. It was a photo he'd never seen before and was taken just before his father went to Vietnam, when he was just two years old. By the time he reached three, his father was MIA. He could've stopped there but he didn't. Thank heaven. I'm one of those "rest of the story" people who just HAS to know what happens next. And he told me. From his Dad's childhood in Michigan, to college, to finding Mom to marry. I actually laughed when he said he could go "on and on" but that what he'd offered was probably more than I'd bargained for. I shook my head, fingers poised to reply that I was thrilled he'd turned my childhood imaginings into a real person. Then I noticed an attachment and opened it. It was a picture of his father in his flight suit.

It took my breath away. Tears began to roll down my face.

The photo was like an exclamation point on the reality that here was the person I'd worried about, even though we'd never met. And there he was, smiling at me. To tell you the truth, for a moment it was a little emotionally overwhelming. I felt 12 years old again. At least this time, I know what to do with all those emotions.

I e-mailed the son right back, asking for an address to send the bracelet. He'd explained that he'd posted on the site in an attempt to obtain a bracelet for each of his daughters, who are currently 5 and 6 years old. He added that later on he'll be able to explain more to his girls about the man whose picture is on the wall. The man who flew jets.

As I hit SEND, it occurred to me how small the world really is at times. The son's original request for a bracelet was made two years ago...when his youngest child was the same age HE was when his father disappeared. I smiled at the NPR "This I Believe" e-mail as if its appearance was confirmation that doing the right thing for the right reason is still a good policy. Saving a copy of my reply, I glanced at the calendar to date it. Tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of my father-in-law's passing...he a son of Michigan as well, an Air Force Recon Pilot who flew two missions in 'Nam but returned home safely. And yet we lost him in a freak flying accident. But at least we had him in our lives for many wonderful years.

I hope by Veteran's Day I can say "Mission Accomplished" because the bracelet will be in the right hands. I envision another little girl looking with awe at a band of metal bearing the name of a stranger. But before she reaches my age, she will know all about the man wrapped around my wrist and forever entwined in my memories.

Now I can finally say to My Capt, "Welcome Home."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Reaching into the Past

Last week, in honor of the upcoming Veteran's Day holiday, I posted a story on our local forum about the Vietnam era MIA bracelet I purchased and wore as a child. I've written many stories over the years, in fact this one was originally penned some time ago, but it's one of those stories I've always just felt a NEED to share. Maybe it was emotional leftovers of little girl me, overwhelmed by history that she didn't comprehend as it took place. Or adult me, who finally recognized the conundrum of wearing a bracelet pertaining to war when an anti-war poem graced the wall of our home. In any case I pulled it out, dusted it off and tried to share with the reader why this stranger touched me so deeply. Last year I "condensed" it to submit to NPR's "This I Believe", where it lives on at their website. On Veteran's Day, I will post it here.

To share this story is to take a chance. Vietnam was a touchy subject and although time has taken away some of the sting, it can't erase the unpleasant memories. And yet, some part of me always hoped it would. The best gift a writer can receive is for someone to read their work and mutter a soft,"Wow." You have truly touched someone's heart when they can feel what you have felt, to the point they are somehow moved...by the words of a stranger.

Posting the story on the Forum was my way of saluting veteran's of all eras. Another poster added a link for the POW/MIA site and I checked it. Sure enough, there was "My Captain", as I came to think of him. His son was listed as family looking to obtain a bracelet. My Captain was an MIA, so I still have his. I found a second site and once again I found the son. He was correcting a couple of errors in his father's bio. But it was his parting sentence which grabbed my heart and almost broke it: "He is the father I never knew and I think about him every day."

Wow.

Looking at the bio I saw that our father's were born the same year. My Capt. and my father-in-law were both born in Michigan...my-father-in-law was also an Air Force Recon pilot. My Capt. disappeared when I was eight and appeared on my wrist when I was twelve. When Vietnam was "officially ended", I respectfully lay that bracelet to rest in my jewelry box. And I felt like a deserter, some how. I would even grow up to work with his widow at one point in my life, but I never told her. I was afraid of causing her pain somehow. Just the sight of that bracelet still catches me off guard, leaving a lump in my throat. Yet it's still there...a part of growing up that I have never had the heart to part with.

Until now.

I can't get the son's words out of my head. So I have sent an e-mail to the address left behind with the bio. It's two years old, but you never know. Maybe completing my mission of never forgetting My Captain means symbolically placing him back into his son's loving hands.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Look It Up...Part II

“Go Look It Up” it yells.
A sound I cannot silence.
My brain demands to be fed
more than three times a day.

I try to vary its intellectual intake
utilizing an array of information.
A cacophony of ideas for brain cells
which like to have its ears tickled as well.

I love the sound of words.
The way they dance and play.
How a slip of the tongue one day
might find its proper place the next.

Reader Me tries to literally hear an author speak.
Screamer, Storyteller, Whispering confidant.
The emotional dialect lies between the lines.
My job is to discover who is at play.

For me, words are a playground which I
climb around until I understand them all.
And when I’m stumped, I ask for help.
So Shug, dear poet, what the hell is “smurry”?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Go Look It Up!

When I was a child with a question, and I had many, my Mom's favorite reply was, "Go look it up." Rather than believe Mom just didn't know, I became fascinated that there were books which held all the knowledge I was seeking. The Dictionary and Encyclopedia became my cohorts in learning the secrets of the world. And we kept Mom in the loop. Whatever answer I learned, I'd come back and share with her...as long as it didn't interfere with fixing dinner when I was hungry.

"Go Look It Up" is a habit I never broke. Thank heaven. It seems to be the fuel for my curiosity, this knowledge that what I don't know, I can find out. Sure, some answers take longer to uncover than others, but I enjoy the hunt. I find it encouraging that scientists are now pushing the theory that a brain kept active, stays active longer...right into old age. Since I'm aiming for 100 birthdays, that's good to know. And with an innate sense of curiosity, I won't have to buy one of those computer "Brain Game" toys to keep me sharp.

I've found myself silently trying to instill that same sense of wonder in the kids I work with in the After School program. They of the "push-a-button-and-find-out generation who need 30 second answers in 60 second sound bites prefer I just tell them the answer. No, of course I don't. I occasionally point out the page containing the answer, but I make them dig. I realized what a foreign concept this was when one of them asked for help in math one day. It's been a while since it was mandatory for me to know the difference between an "acute" and an "obtuse" angle. I asked them to give me a definition. They couldn't. I asked what the teacher had taught them. Shrugged shoulders. Of course no one had a math book. So I told them to give me a minute while I grabbed the Big Yellow Dictionary. One of them pointed out that answers to "Math" questions would not be in a book of words.

I just loved the looks on their faces when I proved that theory wrong. [And my ego was relieved to know that my knowledge of angles wasn't as far off as I feared]. One of them asked how I knew to do such a thing and I shared the story about Mom. I reminded them that looking up the answers to everyday things was how you learn. And that if you're really smart, you'll never stop trying to learn. The next day we were talking about sharks and one kid asked how many types there were. Yes, I said it. But I phrased it as "Let's go look it up," because we did so together. Last week I heard two kids talking about something they weren't sure of. One of the kids finally said, "Let's go get the book", which is how they refer to the encyclopedias. They're now aware those volumes aren't merely for looks but actually hold answers...if you remember to pick the book that has the same letter as the thing you're looking up.

Last night I caught the tale end of a televised interview with an actor who used the word "minuscule". The Interviewer looked puzzled, then butted in and asked, "What's that?" I give the actor credit, he did not get upset or mock the man, but simply gave him a definition. The Interviewer nodded and said, "Hmm, I didn't know that." At that point I had four rapid fire thoughts:

You've got to be kidding! (Then again, are Movie Critics really journalists?)
You know, Text messaging is ruining Americans' ability to use big words.
Well, at least the guy had the nerve to ask.
Dude...go look it up!

The Interviewer was maybe 25. I figure if he starts looking stuff up now, his brain should be fine when he reaches old age. And he won't have to cough up money for a computer gizmo aimed at making Baby Boomers believe they can't think without owning one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ending a Business Relationship

I'm sure everyone in the world has a credit card story that set their teeth on edge and made others nod in agreement. Today was my turn and I severed our relationship with said company.

Literally.

I will be kind and not mention the company in question, only their ridiculous policy. If you pay off a balance which you have had for more than month, the next month they show when that payment was posted, yet hit you with Finance Charges accrued in the time it took THEM to post your payment. How in the world they won any "Customer Service Awards" is beyond me...unless someone is getting a check.

With such a company, the easiest thing to do is cancel the account. And I did. But for once I stood up and pointed out they were the only credit card company I'd ever done business with who held to such a practice. Okay, so I've only had three credit cards in my life, but my credit record shows I've never made a late payment to anyone, which should mean something in this world of easy credit. I didn't yell or scream or call them bad names. I merely enclosed my card while advising my husband would cut his up when he came home that evening.

You know, my paper shredder does "cross shredding" so the pieces were really small. I imagine a confetti shower when they open the mail.

Was it petty? Perhaps even childish? Possibly. But I feel better. And you can't put a price on that...or a finance charge.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ingenuity

How does a 105 lb. chocolate lab, determined that the woman STILL sleeping in bed should be outside enjoying the 7:15 a.m. morning breeze, accomplish his goal?

He slips his nose under the covers, hooks them with this head and marches them down the bed. Thus the warm woman becomes instantly motivated to hop out of bed and chase him out the room. And while she's so close to the front door, he can't think of any reason why she shouldn't want to go outside and play.


How did this.....



Grow into the horse on the right? [He's sitting next to Dear Ol' Dad].

Sunday Morning Score: Dog - 1 Human - 0

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bump in the Road

Well, Mother Nature interfered....or intervened, depending on your point of view, with my Alzheimer Lady dilemma of "To Drive or Not to Drive...Will Anyone Ride With Her?".

Wednesday night I called this woman's granddaughter to discuss the fact I'd been told, in no uncertain terms, by one of the daughters that her Mama would never drive us to bowling again and it was my job to explain it to Mama. I knew such a conversation with the Granddaughter might actually result in that long overdue family chat. Unfortunately, Granddaughter was at the hospital...with her grandmother. And yet in spite of that, the Granddaughter's husband went out of his way to reassure ME. He asked questions about what I'd observed and laughingly agreed that I'd found the family members still in denial. But what totally caught me off guard was the fact he thanked me for caring enough to point out something was wrong when I could've just looked the other way.

Not my style. But it was nice of him to notice.

They believe at this point the woman's had a light stroke. She had another of her daughters [you know, the one I wasn't ever suppose to call..sigh] call me from the hospital with an update. Then the woman got on the phone with me herself, sounding rather chipper, considering. She actually apologized for not being able to drive to Bowling on Friday. Inwardly, I squirmed. I replied she shouldn't worry about it and instead concentrate on scoring well on her remaining "tests". She giggled. I asked if it was okay to call a couple of her friends in the group with her room number. She seemed relieved.

Relief is a funny emotion. When I told about her hospitalization, all of the bowlers expressed concern. And yet in the eyes of some, I saw relief. Self preservation is a mighty powerful motivator, but it can still turn the guilt screws when your choice is based on protecting yourself due to the declining health of another.

I hope this opens the family's eyes...and the doctor's. I think it's about time they talked about her driving. I'd certainly rather have her believe it is the doctor's choice she turn in her keys than believe her friends had turned their backs on her because they no longer felt safe to ride along. I have faith in the Granddaughter to continue to do the right thing.

But hey, Guardian Angel! Sir, if I were you, I'd take some vitamins. Considering how tough my week's been, I'm pretty sure you're worn out from just hanging around and holding me up.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Confession....

...may be good for the soul but it's often hell on the one who is asked to keep the secret. I'm not a priest. I'm not even Catholic. But I abide by the rules of what goes into my ears does not pass back through my lips, especially if the word "confidential" comes into the conversation.

Secret keeping is a tricky minefield that isn't listed under OSHA's Occupational Hazards guidelines.

I've recently discovered one of my senior citizens has Alzheimer's. No, not through a self confession. By accident. The discovery came by way of a telephoned confession by another senior, who'd accidentally unearthed the truth by simply remarking the lady in question was acting oddly. She was concerned because I am "in charge" and this condition has been present for 2 years...and we were all none the wiser. She asked for permission to share the secret with me so I could be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. But seniors are often forgetful. Sometimes they make ME forgetful, my mind often reeling with all their shared secrets and doctor appointments. It's hard to see a problem when the clues are the norm for their age group.

Sadly, this lady's husband died of a combination of medical problems and smack dab in the middle of them all was early onset Alzheimer's. But I've been seeing signs for a month now. Disturbing ones that made me wonder, "Didn't I just answer that question five minutes ago? Her usual aversion to loud people has evolved into sticking her fingers in her ears and telling people to shut up. Grumpy has turned into unexpected, angry outbursts. Last week a gentleman approached the lady to apologize for agitating her, even if he wasn't sure how merely talking to her had done so. She balled up her fist and hit him in the arm, huffing, "Don't talk to me!" If he was confused before, the right jab was an exclamation point he didn't comprehend.

From the looks of the witness' faces, he wasn't alone.

There comes a time when a secret kept can become dangerous. I contacted the nurse who's taken the group's blood pressure once a month...for the last 14 years. Her advice was to contact the family member I felt most comfortable with and ask how [hopefully] the family was handling it. Rather than chose one of her three daughters [a potential nightmare in itself beginning with, "Why did you pick HER instead of me?"] I choose a granddaughter who's a nurse. Good choice. She has this woman's POA. She listened politely as I rattled off, as kindly as possible, glaringly odd behavioral changes. The bad news was, the family hasn't really had that sit down talk that begins, "Mom, life is changing and so are you." The good news was knowing she was listening to what I had to say instead of labeling me as some nosy busybody. She agreed it was time for the family to have that uncomfortable sit down chat before someone got hurt.

This woman has driven several of us to bowling for seven years now. Her driving has become a little erratic of late, which we chalked up to her new vehicle. You know the feeling....brakes that are too touchy, jack rabbit starts until you comprehend how your new car works. With my new knowledge I will admit to reluctantly getting into the car last week for that ride. My poor guardian angel must be getting really tired at this point. The woman pulled out in front of a car but what scared me most was the inherent urge to speed up and get out of the way wasn't there. She commented on the car appearing out of nowhere and the gentleman in the front seat suggested we move out of it's way. She did...with the speed of a tortoise. Since then, I've been trying to decide how to suggest someone else drive without making her angry.

Tonight one of her daughters called to tell me they were keeping an eye on things. When she advised the family felt the woman was still okay to drive, I had to disagree. Politely, yet firmly. Daughter immediately dismissed the incident. The blame was placed on too many people talking in the car. I offered it was the second time in less than a month and shared a few more hair raising driving problems. The replies all came back to us being the problem: we're too noisy, too distracting. However, I was told in no uncertain terms that I would find a solution to the drive to the bowling alley which does not involve her mother...or the word Alzheimer's. Sigh.

I asked if the family had discussed anything with this woman. They still have not. Their misguided logic dictates that because they have not seen what I have, there is no reason to talk with her until a later date. I hope they don't get around to it too late. At the moment it appears that we who are witnessing a slow personality meltdown are wrong to notice.

I did not share that I'd talked to a granddaughter. Grown daughters do not appreciate it when you reach down to the next generation to discuss the health and welfare of their own mother. But the granddaughter understood when I called to ask for guidance that I wasn't being judgmental. No, I was requesting a road map to aid me on this journey.

The road ahead is tough. And a good secret keeper knows the difference in keeping a secret and withholding information in the face of impending disaster. The time has come to offer gently, "Don't you think it's my turn to play your chauffeur?"

If I do it right, maybe my arm will survive and I'll still be able to bowl.



Thursday, October 11, 2007

Choking on Red Tape

Today is one of those days I'd like to find the guy who coined the phrase, "Your government...working for you!" Well, not if you try to utilize their websites to talk to anyone. You can look, but you can't get real help. You can only receive their three patented answers: [1] Look at FAQ [2] Are you sure you checked our FAQ section? [3] No, you can't do that here.

Maybe Slogan Guy is also the one who initiated the Red Tape Waltz.

Auntie, for whom I have a Power of Attorney since her stroke in 2000, moved from an assisted living facility to a nursing home. Most of her mail comes to me, which isn't a problem. Only a few pieces, like Social Security don't. For the most part that's not a problem as her check is Direct Deposit and I don't have to deal with them first hand. Recently a situation arose where I discovered the easiest solution was a change of address. Silly me contacted Social Security, via their website, to change her address. You're rolling your eyes already, aren't you? Finding the most formidable legal warning of what they would do to me if I wasn't actually her, I backed away. Slowly....fighting the urge to look over my shoulder and see if someone from the Federal Government was about to kick down my door and drag me away from the computer. I suggest all terrorists apply for a card...they'd quickly give up and find another country to torture that doesn't torture it's only citizens for trying to follow policy.

But I digress.

So I "contacted" the Social Security by e-mail and explained the situation. Their terse reply, after asking if I'd checked the FAQ section, was that THEY do not recognize a POA. Hmm, so what's legal for everyone else doesn't apply to them? They did offer to allow me to stand in line for hours on end at my local SS office to apply for their own very special "This person legally represents a family member" designation. I'm pretty sure auntie's lawyer prepared a legally sound POA. I kindly declined...by not replying or checking the FAQ section.

I'd been able to skip the Change of Address postal route by personally contacting most of the individuals who contact her via mail with a simple request that they send her mail straight to me. I provided a couple of copies of the POA but that's fine...I have nothing to hide. In fact, the reason we took this route was to get her name off the mailing list of every catalog company who has ever produced something for mass consumption. She was on a first name basis with the UPS guy at her old residence. I get the bright idea I'll simply change her address online at the USPS site. You're shaking your head already, aren't you?

It was so quick. So easy. Took only seconds to type in the "Old" and present the "New" information. At the push of a button her mail, and possibly 100 new catalogs, would jet toward the proper address at the nursing home. Hey, I don't want all those catalogs in my mailbox...my mailman still likes me. I hit "Send", convinced I had utilized one government agency to thwart the other.

Wrong. Evidently, there's a conspiracy.

I was advised by the website that I was not allowed to have mail for an Individual sent to a business address. You know you can't win when your relative moves from an assisted living facility [listed as a Business by the USPS] to a nursing home which is listed as...say it with me...a Business. I hit the "Contact Us" button, explained the situation and waited.

At least it didn't take them 2 days, like their website advised. No, it took about 2 hours to let me know that according to their data base, the addresses I was trying to use belonged to businesses and I couldn't do that online. I would need to actually get in a car and travel to my local post office and handle it in person.

I should've just started there to begin with. After all, the guy at my local post office is a PERSON who likes People and has the audacity to be both helpful and charming. I'm sure the USPS would fire him if they had a clue, but I have no plans to "Contact Us" to share that fact. I just hope I don't try to hug him when he helps me do the right thing. I'm sure there's a horrible penalty for actually touching a federal government employee.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Culture Shock

In our small town, it's not unusual to see folks riding with a dog in the back of their truck or one in the car. It's the south. Okay, so I do get a little extra attention at the sight of our two chocolate labs hanging their heads out of opposite windows in the backseat. With all those ears flapping in the breeze, it's a wonder we don't take flight.

There is a section of town where my doggy duo and I draw the most stares, mostly cause the Brothers are walking their pitbulls down the sidewalk. I always think the pitbulls look jealous because my dogs have a chauffeur.

Due to my eclectic musical tastes, there's no telling what will be drifting through the windows of my car but I can always tell when it's a hit. Number one, it's never Country [with all due respect to that genre] so the Brothers usually nod in recognition as I pass by. I nod back. Occasionally it's music with a Latin beat and I've seen someone do an appreciative step or two as they stroll down the sidewalk. Sunday, I confounded all of them.

Imagine, if you will, a jeep driven by a small white woman with two large chocolate labs happily allowing the wind to blow through their ears. The light turns red. The music, a duet actually, has a lively beat and the driver is trying not to dance in her seat. When the light turns green, she slowly passes a group of pitbull walkers on the sidewalk. The unmistakable sound of Stevie Wonder on harmonica fills the air and one of the Brothers begins to nod with the tempo. And then Stevie, with his unique voice, begins to sing...

...in Italian.

Looking in my rear view mirror I see a Brother's head snap around as he mouths, "What the?!?"

I grin in spite of myself. Wonder's duet is with Andrea Bocelli and the whole thing is in Italian. I sing along as my dogs nod at the pitbull. I think the pitbull nodded back. I do wonder, however, if the Brothers will ever be able to listen to Stevie again.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Chasing Romeo

I've spent half my vacation looking for our oldest dog Smokey...the neighborhood gigolo. He must be quite the lady's man as some of the lassies have been known to follow him home.

Not this week. No, we had to locate him. It usually takes 24 hours. This time it took two days...and a tracking collar placed on his son, which led hubby straight to the love nest. I believe Smokey thought it was about time his chauffeur had arrived. Sigh.

Now for the record, I'm not one of those people who dress up dogs because I think they need to look fashionable. I could never get that bored. Ever. I create a calendar for hubby's archery shop each year and Smokey is the monthly pin up. His customers actually complained one year when I couldn't get the supplies for the calendar until February. Most months Smokey's just himself utilizing a variety of expressions. But for a couple of months on the calendar...well, his expression in the photo below pretty much tells you what he thinks of it all. When he sees a camera, he starts looking for an exit. :)

That said, I'm not sure if this photo is more a pre-Halloween decoration
or the truth. :)


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Last Rose of Summer

I trimmed my climbing rose yesterday. It's a Don Juan, aptly named for it's sweet fragrance that's unforgettable. Okay, so sentimental fool that I am, it's also the first rose hubby ever picked for me when I was a mere sweet 16. I actually still have the original, pressed between the pages of a book.

I remember two things about that rose: it had the most wonderful aroma...and 17 year old someday future hubby got yelled at...because he'd snitched the first bloom from his Dad's beloved roses. Without permission. His Dad softened up a bit when he found out it was for me. After that it became a family joke. Once Dad was the one who picked the Don Juan and gifted it to me.

There were a few buds still left and they looked too forlorn lying in the pile of clippings. Yes, the sentimental scooped them up and brought them inside. I chose one to keep me company at the computer. Now I have a pair of Don Juans watching over me...both were given to me by hubby.

And yes, those are hearts on his shorts. :)




Saturday, September 29, 2007

Country Moonlight

Okay, so I missed the proper full moon phase but I started vacation when the work day ended. Translation: I made time to wander outside and play with my camera. When you live in the country with no city lights, you get to see the most amazing things. The moon was so orange when I took this it looked like a pumpkin. Sadly that doesn't translate well here.

It's a shame you can't get the whole effect of this little photo shoot. The entire time I was outside playing in the dark, with trusty Dog #2 Boudreaux by my side, coyotes were howling in the distance. The longer I stayed outside, the closer the sound got. I could hear Boudreaux shifting closer as well. I wasn't sure if he was protecting me... or visa versa. So I tried out my "night vision" setting after the coyotes really began singing and this is what I got.


Can you say, "Mommy?!"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Say it Again...Please!

Last night hubby and I were watching t.v. when a commercial came on pleading we return Friday night for the fall premiere of a program we watched last season. I now understand the meaning of “harrumphed”. It’s the sound I made while muttering, “I still can’t believe they killed off the doctor on that show.” Hubby pointed out the man wasn’t a major character. I shot back,“Yeah, but he was the only normal one. Besides, he was so pleasant.” As hubby raised an eyebrow, I swallowed the rest of my sentence.

…to listen to.

Suddenly I realized it was the doctor’s accent I’d miss. Said actor doctor is a native of Scotland and although his lines were few and far between, they made me smile. His were lyrical, lilting words which made my ears applaud the audio change in diet. Had I admitted that hubby would’ve pointed out I was merely clinging to my childhood, where Star Trek’s “Scotty” was the closest to Scotland I’d ever get.

Accents have always intrigued and delighted me. I’m pretty sure I was the only little girl who sighed when Ricardo Montalban did Chrysler commercials about “Corinthian Leather”. Okay so there’s no such leather, which Montalban admitted, but his speech had such a musical rhythm, it was almost hypnotic.

Television has done wonders in spreading information and educating, yet it has homogenized our unique verbal signatures. As t.v.’s popularity rose, regionalized accents declined. Born in the midlands of South Carolina, my ears can tell you if a speaker is from the Holy City of Charleston or upstate Greenville…where they sound a lot like Scarlett O’Hara. Southerners can identify fellow southerners by state. Find an early recording of Andy Griffith doing a comedy bit “They Called It Football” and his N.C. accent is so thick, many t.v. executives were afraid to give him a show because they believed no one would understand him. Griffith never lost his accent, but the “strength” of it was watered down for the masses.

My husband finds it amusing that when watching a documentary, I’m not happy until my ears identify the Narrator. But I can’t help it. It’s like I have a dial in my head which easily switches from Southern/Bostonian/Jersey/Midwest/Californian to British, Scottish, Irish [yes, there’s a difference] to Hispanic, Indian, Australian and on and on. The sound of people’s words are just as fascinating to me as what they’re saying. I’d sit and listen to James Earl Jones read a phone book just to hear that lush voice. Ironically, he stuttered as a child. I’m glad he didn’t give up.

And I won’t give up the fight to keep my ears happy.

Amongst my senior citizens is a group of women we call the British Wives. Ranging from their mid 20s to mid 80s, they’re English girls who married American GIs. The sound of them talking brings back childhood memories of the boy across the street whose Mum was British. Her parents also lived there. Although I was sad when my friend moved, I missed his Grandfather more because he always entertained us with stories. After talking to the British Wives, I find myself using words like “lovely” and “brilliant!”. I’m not mocking them, my brain sees it as an auditory tribute. They hold a Christmas Tea for my group annually and a few years ago, one of their fathers attended. He was Welsh and as his daughter chided him to stop talking my ears off, I kept egging him on and waving her off. I hope he comes back this year.

I may quietly mourn the demise of the Scottish actor doctor, but I’ve discovered a website of Scottish poets like Hugh MacMillan and Rab Wilson reading their own poetry. It brings new meaning to the phrase, “grinning from ear to ear.” And when British Wife Jean, a Scotland native, came into my office to “translate” a poem from her homeland, I thought, “I didn’t get to Scotland, but Scotland came to me.” Insert big grin here.

Maybe my fascination is a good thing. Occasionally while watching a program with an international cast my hubby will sigh,”What did he say?”

Just call me the In-House translator.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The 100 year Contract

My husband once made me promise, before we got married, that I would never, EVER involve him in one of those "25th Anniversary Renewal of Vows". I made him a deal. If we did it right the first time, he wouldn't have to do it again. But I also locked him into a 100 year contract. I still tease him from time to time that if he feels the need to jettison me when he's 123 to look for a new wife...well, good luck.

I've kept my end of the bargain...we passed year 27 in August, with not a "renewal" in sight. Which is fine with me. I don't like being the center of attention. I'm more of a behind-the-scenes person. An Indian happy not to be the Chief.

The secret to our success? He makes me laugh. Still. I met 17 year old him when I was a shy sixteen. It's like we grew up together. Unlike today, we simply dated through high school and college, living at home with our separate parental units until we got married. I know. Archaic. Maybe, but we're still together. So here's an ode to hubby, who makes me laugh when life gets tough...and won't let me sulk. You know a person really understands you when they can just start laughing, knowing you'll fall right in. For no other reason than love is often a shared giggle.

Make me laugh.
Make me smile.
Make me forget for a while
That life doesn’t play fair…

…even if I do.


Make me giggle.
Make me swoon.
Make me believe in over the moon
Even if gravity binds me here…

…against my will.


Make me adventurous.
Make me try.
Make me never wonder why
You still believe in me…

…after all these years.


Make me courageous.
Make me take flight.
Make me know that in the night
You’ll still reach over to hold my hand…

…telling me it’s okay to fail if I'm willing to try again.


Funny. As kids we use to taunt
“You can’t make me!”
And yet, all I want
is for us to stay happy…

…and giggle for 73 more years.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Odds and Ends

The Information Highway is an odd and curious road. Recently I've discovered some of it's more charming moments...which allowed me to exchange thoughts with a poet WAY across the pond.

My current curiosity concerning Scotland led me to an interesting blog entitled, "Dark Mutterings from Drumsleet". Its creator is a Scottish poet named Hugh McMillan that I discovered while feeding my insatiable need to know. I originally found McMillan and some of his fellow poets on a website that allows you to listen to them recite their poetry. What a beautiful lilting sound! I found myself listening at first, then I began searching for written copies of the poems so I could read along as that lovely cadence filled the room. I hesitated, for about 60 seconds, then left a message on his blog. He's answered and provided me with a suggested reading list. If you're a wee bit curious yerself, his blog is at http://drumsleet.blogspot.com/
The poets' site can be found at
http://www.dgcommunity.net/dgcommunity/MiniWeb.aspx?id=263&menuid=5339&openid=5249
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Saw a bumper sticker today that read, "You should only worry about people who worry about you."
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Today's quote came when I typed in "don't give up".
"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. you wait and watch and work: you don't give up."

Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Perspective

Sometimes you get the coolest shots when you just sit down
and look up.




Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ouch!

It's no secret that I love trees. Never climbed them much but I admire their beauty and diversity. And their shade...especially in the south.

I've always joked we bought this tree and our house came with it. Our house is a 124 year old farm house. The neighbor next door told me of swinging from her branches, claiming the tree's been this big since he can remember...and he's 75. Contrary to popular belief [or first glance] it's not an oak...it's a pecan tree. Sometimes I wish she could talk, tell me who sat beneath her branches or walked past on their journey. There are a whole lot of generations who've enjoyed her company thus far.

Pecan trees tend to bear heavily one year, then take a break the next. Two years ago we had a wicked ice storm and Mother Nature did one cold job of pruning my girl out front. Looked like someone had dropped a bomb in the top of the tree it was so splintered. The fall after she was "broken" by Ma Nature was her off year and over the past two years, she's healed. At least aesthetically. This year we were amazed how many pecans were forming. But take this summer's drought [in spite of our watering her], the weight of the pecans, weakened limbs from that ice storm, add thunder, lightning and torrential rain...and you get a recipe for disaster.


Our 105 lb. chocolate lab Boudreaux is sitting in front of the tree to give you a sense of scale. Plus he couldn't figure out why there was a stick that big lying across the driveway. It happened the night before during a moderate thunderstorm. The sound had been horrible....like listening to someone rip apart wood with the strength of Sampson and then the SWOOSH! as the whole thing came tumbling down. We actually felt the "thump" inside the house.

But our gal's tough. In fact the limb didn't total snap off. If you follow the limb up toward the right hand side of the picture, it's still hanging on by a thread. Well, until this morning.

Our neighbor has a tree service and his crew was out front, trying to decide how to tackle our tree. The picture doesn't do the sheer size of the job justice. I'd heard chainsaws and grimaced. I felt this huge THUMP and shook my head, imagining they'd gotten to the point of surgically severing limb from it's main body. As the men walked back and forth, gathering limbs, I walked on the porch to see my husband shaking his head. At first I thought it was because he was viewing this through male eyes: "Wow! We sure lost a lot of pecans. But what a mess. Glad I didn't have to clean it up." My view was more along the lines of "My poor tree!"

Hubby turned toward me and said, "They were standing there talking, trying to figure out how to tackle where the limb was still attached. One of the guys walked under the limb and as soon as he cleared it, the thing came crashing down! You probably felt it all the way in the house!"

That tree has seen a lot in her years. It'll take more than a guy with a chainsaw and a plan to get the best of her.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A different kind of 9/11 Memorial

We all know the date’s importance to Americans. The media runs as many specials as possible, newspapers are filled with commemoration pages and everyone who has a flag remembers to fly it. The only bit of this “Americana” that I participated in was when a friend requested I keep my headlights on as a tribute. I commute...it seemed like a good idea.

Now don’t think I don’t appreciate what happened that day. I do. It was horrible and our safe little world cracked wide open. Land of the Free got smacked in the face when we’ve always believed we were invincible. After all that stupidity between the North and the South, we learned fighting on home soil was not progressive or productive. The old saying about learn from history or be doomed to repeat it is still important.

But so is living in the present. And hoping for the future.

I did two “pro-active” things yesterday that will make me think of 9/11 in a different vein. There are people in our lives we cherish and those we…tolerate. Often the ones on the Try-to-be-nice-to List aren’t lovable or have many redeeming qualities visible to the naked eye. I’ve discovered two folks with 9/11 birthdays: one is a lovely lady named Ruthella who attends my senior center and the other is the maintenance guy at the bowling alley we visit each week. Ruthella comes from a generation, the “greatest generation” and would feel wrong about bemoaning the fact that “her day” is now a dark day in American history. We’ve told her that her ability to make us smile, not to mention she’s made each member who attends lunch a handmade quilt, makes her a good reason to celebrate the day.

For the past couple of years, we’ve mailed the Maintenance Guy at the bowling alley a birthday card. After all, the seniors have been bowling there for 8 years now and they’re treated like family, not customers. Maintenance Guy has the kind of personality that you wait to see which way the wind is blowing before you speak, unless you like having your head handed to you during one of his off days. He is tolerant of the seniors but finds me, the junior member of the group, his target for terror. It’s like being in 3rd grade again and having pigtails that he likes to pull. In fact one summer, as I approached the line to bowl while sporting a ponytail, he actually snuck up behind me and tugged on it. If I didn’t have good reflexes, he would’ve been the proud possessor of three balls as I was at the point of my swing where the ball goes back before being launched.

I tolerate this guy only because there is the occasional, if small, spark of human decency that comes out at the oddest times. Sometimes I think it’s sparked by jealously, because the group loves the Asst. Manager. Literally. They almost hug him to death each week as he holds the door open for them. On days hugs are abounding, Maintenance Guy seems kinder, as if wanting the same, but that razor sharp tongue keeps everyone at arm’s length.

Yesterday, we turned the tables on him.

We called during our weekly lunch and sang Happy Birthday to him. When I got back on the line he was speechless. Oh, it was only momentary and followed with an appreciative, “Oh shit. You people are nuts.” This guy, who has an answer for everything, proceeded to stumbled all over himself for the next couple of minutes. We sang to Ruthella next. We may have sounded better the second time, but I think somehow the first chorus was more heartfelt because we knew we'd touched the heart of a man we were sure didn’t possess one. I do wonder what he’ll do to us on Friday when we come to bowl, but I’m guessing we might actually see a smile before he starts to verbally berate me.

The second unusual marking of 9/11 came from a friend concerning e-mailing a marine. I don’t know what Marine, just one whose commander is sick and tired of believing Americans want the Iraq deal over and done with because they’re sick and tired of hearing about it. I’m pretty sure the Marines are sick of it too, but they’re obligated to stay. The request was simple: e-mail an upbeat thought, even if it’s just the word THANKS, so every member in that Commander’s outfit receives a real message from an actual every day American. I’m about as everyday as they get and we all know how I like to write.

So I did. I hope it helped. If nothing else, it came from my heart.

Something simple for a person I know and one I don’t. Doesn’t matter. We’re all Americans right?