Monday, June 28, 2010

It's Official. Mondays suck

I won't bore you with the details of the Summer kids...they're just plain ignorant and possibly the spawn of the devil. Even the Director agreed and went to go see our Boss this afternoon. After all, my "help" consists of two 17 and 14 year old girls who want to be Buddies with the kids. Except the older one is prone to fits of screaming at them to "Shut the hell up! I can't take you people any more!"


So when Hubby called and wanted to know where I was on the way home, I thought he was just checking to see if my head had exploded....or if I'd actually blown that whistle to quiet the kids loud enough that he heard it over 30 miles away.

I think, he began casually although the tone of his voice wasn't teasing, we might've had a tornado here at the house.

And he wasn't talking about Bou running around.

The storm came up quickly and out of nowhere. Hubby said he was in the dining room when all of a sudden the whole house shook....hard enough for the dogs to come running TO him as if wondering what was going on. As quick as it came, it was gone. But it obviously came from one direction because as I was driving home, I could see a swath of destruction going in one direction....toward our house.

Fortunately for us, we mostly lost trees, some limbs and a few shingles off the pump house and shop roofs. The house had leaves plastered to it but no damage. Both of our loaded plumb trees were rendered into pieces, with one trunk surviving on each. On the close up you can see how hard the wind blew...those aren't broken, they're pushed up from the roots!

Thankfully, all is well. But you know what the weird thing is? I spent a good deal of time Saturday scanning old photos. There were a couple I knew nothing about, so I went online to find the history of what had happened in April 1924.

Would you believe the answer I discovered yesterday was, "The worst tornado in S.C. history"?! Two tornadoes had occurred simultaneously to run over a hundred miles, covering half the state in one afternoon.

Considering how those photos looked, we dodged an ugly bullet. And for that, I'm grateful.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday 55

FINALLY! Life is returning to as normal as it gets for me. :) Meaning it's time to play "Write a story in 55 words ". When you do, be sure to let the G-Man know, then kindly visit as many 55ers as you can.

Selling trinkets to tourists hadn't been her idea of fun.
But his English was better than her Japanese,
turning the sale into a game of
Using hand gestures, they figured out how to make the transaction.

55 words wasn't necessary for their conversation.
A simple smile, it seems, is the international symbol for gratitude.

For the rest of the story, which is true this week, visit here

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Microfiction Monday

I'm baaaaaaack! Well, until the Summer Kids drive me completely bonkers. While I still have some wits left about me, it's time for Susan's Microfiction Monday, where you have 140 characters to tell a tale. Make sure you drop by and let her know you played.

Here's the photo she provided this week. Remember, she's on vacation.

That's right.
We so lazy,
we taught the catfish to jump straight in yer boat.
If'n you ask real purty,
they'll even jump in da fryin' pan.

Did you SEE that?!

For the past two days, I've been working at the World Double Dutch Championship. For those of you who wonder what we're doing to Dutch people, twice, it's actually a jump rope contest. But this isn't your playground variety rope jumping. Although it began as a game for little girls on the sidewalks of New York, this isn't just for girls any more. It's two ropes + speed+ gymnastics= amazing!

Now I'll admit to not being thrilled when I was told my Friday and Saturday would be spent at the local Exhibition Center selling trinkets to tourists. But I got a floor level seat to all the action when those souvenirs weren't being purchased. I'm still not sure everything I witnessed was physically possible.

Although the economy made for fewer teams this year, it still began with the pomp and ceremony of the Olympics, complete with that theme song, as the teams strode into the Center, waving to the cheering fans who, quite frankly, cheered for everyone. I'll apologize now for the shot quality: I couldn't leave my post, meaning the box of money, and kept trying to work around that aggravating open bay door. First came the judges, then the teams. Although Double Dutch is expanding, the majority of the teams are still comprised of African-American kids. With one exception.

You always know when the crowd favorite has arrived
by the roar which fills the air.

I don't know if you've ever tried to turn rope for Double Dutch, but I have. You and your partner have to have the ultimate communication in order to even get the ropes going, each hand turning a rope in towards the other. The playground stuff is slow...and tiring after about 15 minutes. These kids go so fast, the ropes become a blur that soon are only a rhythmic, snapping a whip cracking. Even using a higher film speed, which usually captures all the action I need, see if you can spot the ropes.

Singles team

Doubles Team: yep, 2 in the rope at one time.

Don't you jump into a rope like this?
Well, usually he does a double BACK FLIP to enter.
And no, you aren't seeing double.
There's actually a jumper coming in from both sides.
At floor level you hear what the crowds in the stands can't: all the chatter going on between the 3/4 person teams. One rope turner is like a coach, calling out each move in the Compulsories, while the other rhythmically chants in between instructions, "Breathe, breathe!" Sounds silly? Not if you could see the speed. In what I considered something akin to torture, there is a "Speed Round" where a jumper has to jump as fast as possible for two minutes. Watching their feet, then glancing at the clock, I became aware of how L-O-N-G that is when going as fast as possible. And if you make a misstep or the turners tangle you up, you have to step out, then jump back in to finish. The only thing more painful than jumping was the 3 Judges who had to use thumb operated counters to MANUALLY keep up. The trick is to only count the number of times the left foot contacts the floor. I tried it. If you can't block out everything around you without becoming dizzy, you'd never be able to handle it. This Japanese kid in the high school division was the crowd favorite. Which is why he might one day go blind.... from all the photos taken of him. At one point, I had three of THEIR cameras to take group shots with. Even the Judges got in on the act. Why?

Because Jack Be Nimble here was the fastest: 300 times in 2 minutes.
That's just counting ONE foot.
Try tapping your feet for 2 minutes and see how fast you are...
if you don't cramp up first.

Ah, Team Japan.
Bringing 4 teams from ages 10 to High School,
they were the highlight of the two day event.
Polite, charming and very proud of their perfectly pronounced English "Thank you!", which they used often, they were such a wonderful change of pace from the bickering I've experienced the past two weeks. And whenever a camera came into view, so did their peace signs. The guy in front was also a Judge. Please don't judge him for his Jerry Lewis "Nutty Professor" glasses....he was a port of calm in all that organized chaos. I never found out all their names, but I began mentally assigning them names.

Meet Mr. Miyagi.
Remember him from "The Karate Kid"?
Stern task master with heart of gold...camouflaged by tough tactics.
That's who I began thinking of this coach as; expression usually stern, his concentration almost as fierce as his video camera skills. Every time a group from Japan came off the floor, they ran to him and he replayed their performance, pointing out with vivid hand motions where they went astray. This was as close to smiling as I ever saw him. His girls, the youngest group of 4, won their first Blue ribbon...and immediately burst into tears. Here he put down his camera to watch them. I feared they were about to get lectured for such a public display of emotion. As soon as I took this shot, he burst into the most gleaming smile you've ever seen. Then the formidable task master comforted each girl in turn as tears of joy streamed down their faces for the next 10 minutes.

Here we have Mr. & Mrs. Nomura...a tribute to good parenthood.
Okay, so I know their name because of what happened when I made a cultural faux pas...and no one scolded me for it. Dad here had video taped from every angle possible in that facility and the smile never left his face. On the floor during the ceremony, he carefully kept out of my shots and I did the same for him. He was so filled with joy that I wanted to capture it. Not thinking how male dominated their society still is, I pointed at him, and held up my hand in the universal "Stop where you are" position. He did, thinking he'd done something wrong until I raised my camera in one hand and smiled at him. At which point I wondered if I'd crossed the line into international incident. That's when Mama-san saw me, smiled and jumped into the picture too. Right after this, Dad handed me a business card with his daughter's picture on it, in Japanese and English, complete with e-mail address. He then did what no one else had done: he asked me MY name. Sure, it was a stilted conversation but we both enjoyed it.

And then there's my favorite: The Professor
I went to take a shot of Jack Be Nimble when he stepped in front of me.
Made an interesting shot within a shot.
Coach of a team consisting of 2 girls and 2 boys about 10 years old, he was the kindest of the group. He didn't just tell them what to do, he ran over and stood close by wherever they performed, as if reassuring them they weren't alone in a strange country. A cross between Mother Hen and Doting Dad, he praised his kids when they did well and had the ability to turn frustrated frowns into ghostly smiles which grew into giggles. He was the master of the high five. And if he ever made eye contact with you, he would smile broadly, as if seeing a friend. That smile was so contagious even the grumpy woman next to me selling the t-shirts would smile back girlishly in spite of herself as her 2 grown sons looked on, somewhat disconcerted.

On Saturday the Prof came over to look for additional small items to purchase: how they kept up with American money amazed me. Team Japan and I came up with our own system for this which amused both of us. The entire team had purchased t-shirts in every color (3) the day before and had bought most of the more economical items on my table then as well. The Prof eyed things carefully, then his gaze settled on window decals with the meet logo on them. I inwardly groaned: they were $5 each, an exorbitant price that even I wouldn't have paid. He nodded, repeated the price then began to mutter and count on his fingers. When I looked at him he said softly, "I'm counting the children that I teach at home. I wanted to bring them something. I think I can," he said, opening his wallet, still mentally naming names.

He was talking to the right person. For if there's one thing a southerner can't stand it's something silly standing in the way of kindness. I asked him to wait for a moment, then went over to my Boss. Everyone knows that the last 2 hours of a competition generally means slashing prices...but not on the stuff I had. Leaning down I asked my Boss if we could cut the prices of the decals, which everyone had been complaining about anyway. She seemed shocked to hear what we were charging, gave me a choice of two prices and told me to handle it.

So I did. Walking back to the Professor, I held up two fingers. Hey, so I chose the lowest price. You think "sucker", I'll continue to believe "kindness". The Prof's eyes lit up and he stared at me for a moment. "You are sure?" he asked again in that gentle tone which made me remember all the good teachers I'd ever had. They spoke the same way. Measured, kind yet leaving no doubt they were in charge. I nodded and counted out the 10 he needed, with him thanking me over and over so graciously I didn't know whether to feel good or embarrassed. He bought the last of the patches from the grumpy lady, then turned to me again with "Thank you so much." I don't think I've ever heard a more sincere bit of gratitude. And Savannah will understand how it took all the decorum left in me not to give him a hug before he walked away.

Here's the front side of the Prof. I did the same hand gesture to slow him down as I did for the Devoted Dad. He nodded, standing still with his best coach face on until I raised the camera.
Peace be with you too Prof.
Hope to see you next year.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I would be the first person to tell you I love kids. All kinds. Fat, tall, short, skinny, funny and even the ones who tell tall tales. They can be founts of information and their innocence, the ones which still have any, can be quite amusing.

Today, I was not amused.

Sadly, the kids in our Summer Program are not lovable. But it's not their fault, really. I've met their parents. Or at least the one who keeps dropping them off with us and demanding they stay put until 5:00 p.m. before even THINKING about coming back home. Yesterday as I was advising a boy, for the 3rd time, to stop running in the building, I made him sit in a chair. He glared at me. I stared back...sort of the equivalent of playing Alpha Male in a pack of dogs. He sat, but rolled his eyes every time I tried to speak to him. I asked his name. He stared at me. I calmly asked if he didn't hear me. He rolled his eyes again. I told him it would be in his best interest to answer the question. He eyed me up and down, then spat out, "Go look it up" as he nodded at the sign in sheet.

I'm guessing my Guardian Angel is the one who made the fingers on my right hand release that fist of frustration so I could grip the arm of the chair. I calmly (can you do that through clinched teeth?) told him if he couldn't be respectful, he would have to leave. And that included eye rolling.

Glaring at me, he stared into my eyes, then closed his in defiance. He's 10. Sadly, he's not even the worst.

I wonder how I will make it through 6 more weeks of this. I'm use to smart ass kids who learn it from the adults in their house or from HBO. Usually I can appeal to the majority to help tame the few who want to run wild.

There is no majority this year.

And so this afternoon, as I instructed a 13 year old boy who's half a foot taller than me to sit down and keep quiet, he began screaming at me. Screaming that he didn't have to be quiet. I advised that if he didn't, he was gone for the rest of the summer. He kept screaming, "I didn't do anything!" When I pointed out that part of the problem was that he was neither listening nor doing as he was instructed, he snapped back, "I'm not talking back!"

At that point, all I could do was stare at him.

A 6 year old in the group, sounding like a weary adult, piped up "You just can't shut up."

Before he could turn on the child, I told him he wasn't going to be allowed to go on tomorrow's field trip, which is a Double Dutch (Jump Rope) World Championship tournament. He began to cry. But he sat down. When his mother came, I told her the final decision was up to her; shared that he wouldn't listen or follow instructions. She nodded. And I knew she wasn't paying a bit of attention to me either.

I'm sure he'll be there tomorrow, smiling smugly. Because Mama doesn't want to listen to him whine about the unfairness of it all either.

Me? I'm in charge of T-shirt sales at the Competition for the next 2 days...because it appears my co-workers can't make change without giving too much back. So I guess I worked my way through college so I could make change to sell t-shirts to tourists.

I just hope the teams from out-of-state and the ever popular one from Japan don't go home with stories about how whiny, spoiled and obnoxious American children can be. Because they haven't seen anything.

And I've seen enough to know I don't want to spend another summer like this.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cultivating a New Look

I've been a busy little bee.

Yesterday I discovered the new Blogger templates but I didn't have time to play.

And now I have.

I hope I'll still like it tomorrow. If you find it annoying, please let me know. Personally, I like the "cleaner green" look. After all for me, it's suppose to be about the words and sometimes pictures, not the flashy stuff surrounding it.

Now if I can only get use to the fact I changed my screen resolution too, I might be all right before I tackle another round of "Handling Auntie's estate stuff".

Man, did she ever have some stuff!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Maybe it's the fertilizer

"Mary, Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow?"

Evidently ours is quite......contrary.

When I came home yesterday, Hubby suggested I go pick the first 2 tomatoes of the season. I wondered why he hadn't just done it on the way inside but he had this odd expression on his face.

The first one was an undersized runt, that made me think it was a Cherry tomato. And then there's this one.

To tell you the truth, I don't know if we should eat this thing....

...or have it exorcised.

Back view

Front-ish view

Is this the first Pinocchio tomato?

Now I'm almost afraid to see what happens with the cucumbers.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Checking In

Just wanted to thank y'all for all your kind words since Auntie's death. I'm back to work this week...just in time for the Summer Program, which means children-with-no-manners-whose-Mamas-don't-want-them-at-home will be spending their afternoons with me. You know they've been bored when [a] they greet you with "Thank GOODNESS you're here, now we don't have to be bored!: and [b] they think a spur of the moment spelling bee is fun. :)

So hopefully I'll get back to my little playground here soon. I'm in the process of turning paperwork over to Auntie's bank, who was designated by her to handle her estate, so I wouldn't have to. Sounds good in theory.

Except I still have to collect the paperwork that goes to the bank.

Hope everyone has a good week!