Friday, November 13, 2015

Cast Iron thougths of Christmas

Someone asked me what I might want for Christmas.  I don’t often think of what I want.  It was a very difficult question to answer.  So, I told them if I thought of anything specific I’d let them know.  That was a few weeks past.  When it came to mind I’d think about it--”what would I like...what could I use?”.  Alas, life would take over and the thought train dissipated as quickly as any other daydream.

Today was a pickup day, a day or sorting and organizing, walking through the abode, spying what was out of place, tasks that needed attention, and being diligent in accomplishment.  During these endeavors I noted that my preferred fufu (my signature fragrance) was just less than not.  I thought--in my pickup mode--“Oh, that could be a nice gift” and went on to the next project.  Those projects combined with some for a couple of others consumed so much of my day that I found myself out running errands between 5:00 and 6:00 PM.  For someone who does not readily partake of rush hour traffic going out at that time on a Friday evening--on Friday the 13th--of an event-filled weekend, was just absolutely absurd!  During the drive home from this arduous adventure, I’m thinking chill--get home, get unloaded, get in the kitchen, begin preparing dinner and ‘yeah”, Gordon Lightfoot channel on Pandora as I cook--”Oh, yeah, my cell phone speaker sucks!  It would be nice to have a nice speaker dock for Christmas”.  And that thought left as soon as I pulled in and was accomplishing.

As the cast iron heats on the stove I’m leisurely chopping onions, peppers, then tomatoes, and is good.  My mind wanders to the question again--Christmas, what do I want?.  I thought about the fufu, thought about the speaker dock, (while listening to a Yo-Yo Ma cd on my home stereo system).  Then I thought, no.  Things are so trite.  I want my family.  I want the familiar.  I want to see and watch my grand babies grow into their own.  I want community.  I want unity of our communes.  I want my babies--big and small--to know what I have known, to experience this world when a handshake and or a word was as binding as the judge’s hammer.  I want my tribe--my peoples, my friends, my associates--to be of one accord seeking union in and relishing in tranquility, peace, and love, endeavoring to educate the small peoples in earnest.  I want to commune with my deceased loved ones, my mother, my Hector, my sister, my father, my baby, and the others. I want the ideal! 

So now the pot is simmering as I continue with my tasks and Christmas is approaching yet, I do have plans for tomorrow.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


If we thought we had all the answers would there be any questions?  If there were no questions would there be any answers?  If there was nothing to answer, no one to answer to or nothing to answer for what would we do with our lives?  Would we seek anything?  Isn’t the act of seeking born of a series of questions?  If you wonder about anything, aren’t you questioning?  If you ponder about an idea or situation, aren’t you seeking an answer, a solution, something that makes sense?  How does it all make sense?

Have you even found yourself pondering the highs and lows in your life; the good days, the bad days; the wonderful, the not-so-wonderful relationships; the great conversations, those that went awry; etc.?  What was different? Why was it different?  Did you cause them?  Did someone else cause them?  Was it happenstance?  Do those things that are comfortable and familiar--routine, habits, home, family--have an impact?  If so, how much of an impact?  If so, is it a good impact or maybe not so good?  Do others experience the same?  How much of what we feel is influenced by others?  Just how much do others affect us?

Don’t we all want other people to like us, even sometimes admire us?  Though we might doubt ourselves, worry or hold insecurities close--even private--don’t we compensate for them in our projected personas to others?  Yet, don’t we seek security with others, identifying with them--family, friends, groups--even though we’re reluctant to be too frank about revealing the doubts we all have--our hidden selves or those things on our personal private shelf?  Are we too critical of ourselves?  Do we have more within us that we’ve failed to unleash?  We are all, of course, independent thinkers, right?  So, what matters?  How much matters?  If there is a common thread among our private selves, why do we not share it?  Do we want to know the answers?  Do we even know the questions?   Who are we if there is no one else? 

Author’s note:  It’s been a hot, sultry day in Savannah, Georgia, culminating with a glass of cold wine, some thought, and yes, mainly inquiry.  One of my recent reads was The Self Illusion, How the Social Brain Creates Identity, by Bruce Hood.  Though I can’t say Bruce sold me on the idea of self as an illusion--all things might be illusionary--, it was a good read and provided much food for thought.  In my thought processes of questionings and ponderings I fail to find any grouping of words more poignant or profound than those written centuries ago by Shakespeare , “To be or not to be, that is the question:”.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sir “Hamilton” Ivor Encounters The Small People

There’s a delicate approach to socializing a very young pup with very young children.  They’re extremely enamored with the other and the antics and frolicking about on both parts can cause some undesirable results. 

The small people are my two grandsons, about 30 months and 10 months.  Granted they are a bit young for a young pup but, if you do the dog year math Hamilton falls just between the ages of the boys.  [perfect]  Hamilton had been in his new digs for about 36 hours when the small people arrived and was doing well with the newly introduced routine.

When the boys and I entered the house Hamilton let his presence be known with a series of hardy puppy yelps.  Cooper, the eldest, in true Cooper fashion said “What id thaat?”.  I said “that’s the new puppy, Hamilton”, and Cooper excitedly responded “I want to dee him”. 

Initial encounter...
The boys were introduced to Hamilton while he was in the kennel.  They put there hands on the crate and cackled as Hamilton licked their fingers.  After sometime of crate-safe play I cuddled Hamilton on the sofa between the boys and taught them of soft petting.  Hamilton was massaged behind the ears, on his belly and, on his rump.  The boys and Hamilton had a good and new experience.  Hamilton went back to his kennel and the boys went to bed.

The morning after...
Hamilton was running about with gusto as Cooper came into the kitchen for breakfast.  Breakfast got left by the wayside as Cooper dodged, chased and had Hamilton chase him around.  When Cooper decided he wanted to hold Hamilton, he whisked Hamilton up with no forewarning.  Luckily, Charlie’s mom, Whitney was standing watch.  Whitney showed Cooper how to cuddle the puppy as I finished breakfast.

After breakfast, little Jackson and Cooper continued play with Hamilton.  Cooper was not happy when he had to leave.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fostering Sir “Hamilton” Ivor

Hamilton, (eight weeks of age), his seven litter mates and mother were rescued from a cruelty case by our local pet rescue, “Coastal Pet Rescue”.  When the summons for foster homes was broadcast I sighed because I had a visiting 16 month young Lab for the summer and the summons stated puppies “should not go to homes with other puppies so we do not risk any cross contamination”.  Luckily, the founder of the rescue contacted me directly and thought the Lab could be beneficial to the puppy. 

Anticipating the arrival...
I geared up for an extra positive relationship as I knew that within a span of two or three days little Hamilton had been whisked away from his familiar and comfortable--no matter how cruel it was--into an unknown world with foreign experiences... transportation, unfamiliar territory, prodding, probing, poking and ultimately, separation from his mother and litter mates. 

Enter Hamilton...
Hamilton arrived in grand style via volunteer chauffeur--after initial vet treatment and de-worming--with heartworm medication, flea treatment, food, crate, puppy pads, chew toys, leash and collar.  His whimpering cries echoed the pains of being separated from his mother and litter mates within the past hour. 

After initial introductions I set out to set him up thinking and knowing “I will be his introduction to a new and different life--the next phase”.  Most dogs/puppies want to please and when placed in a position/environment where the opportunity is available they will thrive.  I love a challenge and dedicating myself to a compassionate challenge is high on the list.  Conquering or ‘giving my all’ to a compassionate challenge only adds to my growth, the action is positive introspective and extrospective often creating an external pay-it-forward attitude in others.  Yes, even with the puppies!

Hamilton’s new world...
Little Hamilton showed signs of trepidation upon meeting my visiting big black lab, ‘Charlie’.  Charlie’s owner and I exchanged some banter about Hamilton’s heretofore awareness of white coats juxtaposed to the high contrast of Charlie’s black coat, further commenting on the vast size differences.  Ebony and Ivory.

Sometime after placing Hamilton in his kennel he would still whimper..  So, I took a black cloth and draped it over the top and sides of the kennel to create a den-type feel.  He then settled down and took a nap.  He didn’t eat that day but, lapped up a bit of water.

Moving towards training goals...
Potty training is one of the first goals I think of with a new puppy/dog.  Hey, we all have to go!  In my opinion this presents a great opportunity to cross train for the collar and leash.  Just before Hamilton was introduced to his kennel, he was introduced to his collar.  Yep, just put it on and let him adjust.  Each time I took him out of his kennel I would latch the leash to the collar.  We would make our trek “outside”--the word I use every time he comes out of the kennel.  The leash would stay attached until we reached his potty area. Then there’s a new word ”pot-go” to associate with ‘his business’.  Why “pot-go”?  Any term or word will do...yet, you don’t necessarily want to employ some word or phrase the pup might hear in random conversation.  That could be disastrous!  And, Hamilton is soon to be introduced to some small people who are also potty training so, I don’t want to use the same words or word phrases I will use with them.  Made up words or phrases can work great with dogs.

All puppies want to jump, chew and nip, it’s innate.  As a custodian, I desire to teach them the appropriate way to fulfill their desires without intruding upon others or breaking their spirit.  During this puppy learning phase, when available give them an alternative.  As far as jumping up on people, I employ the push-them-back, with a stern NO and give no other attention to the action.  [Remember puppies thrive on attention.]  When dealing with the early nipping stage...always have a dog toy available and teach them that the toy is good for nipping--not your hand or the leg of the small person!  This also works for the chewing phase.  When outdoors with Hamilton in the natural environment I offer a stick which fulfills his chewing need and introduces him to the game of ‘fetch the stick’.

Stay tuned to learn of Hamilton’s introduction to the small people and how he gained the title of Sir Hamilton Ivor.

I welcome all comments, especially those sharing knowledge!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I was “Made In America”

I, as most, have felt some--if not a great--impact during the past four to five years of our country’s economic decline. I started looking a bit closer at and studying the economics of the world as a whole, taking note of the happenstance elsewhere on this globe (and how we feed it). Had I been paying closer attention before, I might not have been so surprised by our declining economy. We-Americans can be so short-sighted or near-sighted--however you want to view it. Nonetheless, we are. Why? We have become a spoiled nation--yes, like spoiled children.

Spoiled children are conditioned by their environment. Their expectations are based upon what has gone before. They have no need to consider the impact their expectations have on any environment outside of theirs. They as well, expect the parent to take care of whatever needs attention, pick up the pieces, fix it. They are short-sighted, living in their world of “It’s all about ME!”

You can’t really blame the spoiled child, they’re just living what they’ve learned. You might consider blaming the parent yet, when it comes down to the nitty gritty blame has no place or is beside the point when resolution time arrives.

A child is not spoiled overnight and as a nation we have not been spoiled over year--if you will. This predicament our nation is in has been culminating for years--even decades. Somewhere back-there we lost sight of self. That seems a bit oxymoronic when speaking of one being spoiled doesn’t it? Yet, it’s actually the reverse. We as individuals have allowed our parents--the American government and corporate world--to spoil us (ie. you want this sparkle for less than a penny? Okay!) The parent of the spoiled child makes it happen ... for as long as they can ... even at times to the detriment of the child and the home. Then, somewhere down the road the spoiled child is abruptly awakened by life’s realities. [Hello!] If we want to break it down into elementary terms our nation’s economic demise started with us--the spoiled people--and grew forward, or rather backward from there.

Yes, we are the work force that undergirds the corporations (that have stayed on American soil); we are the people that make up our government yet, we are the spoiled children that have awakened to the realities of our conditioning. Sure, we partook of the incentives/sparkles paraded before us by our parents. How wonderful! Yet, how detrimental to our home, our nation, our communities, all of us. As the value of our dollar decreases in the world market, we-Americans are more to blame than anyone. And we-Americans [THE people] are the ones that can reverse what is happening. Yes, just like that.

If you haven’t been following ABC’s promotion of “Made in America” let me encourage you to do so.

This episode really had an impact upon my economical mind and bringing it home. The video may be slow to load but, is well worth your time.

I’m seeking American suppliers for all products used in my business. [Does anyone want to learn how to beat gold into leaf?] I will buy American for my home. I issue to you, as to myself--beginning a new year--with diligence, shop community, shop local, shop state, shop nation, then STOP! Don’t shop outside what our parent country and our country’s working individuals offer you . It is American jobs! For some things, it will take diligence. I'll seek it. Will you? Ask, “Was is made in the USA?” If not, pass on it.

Teach your children to seek “Made in America” labels. Teach them to ask for American made products. Don’t be a short-sighted citizen. Become the unspoiled and support yourself, your brother, you fellow American, your country, your home and it’s future. Make 2012 the year we brought it home! Buy American! Made in America!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Off the Shelf

I, and others who know me well, can tell you I have many on-going projects in the works at any given time. Some are physical projects meaning things I’m building or creating, or improving or embellishing; others are more mental meaning thoughts I’m processing, as in design ideas and writings. And then there’s the lifelong project of me which is a never ending quest to know and understand myself more completely. As I am incapable of dealing with ALL of these various projects in the jumble and juggle of everyday life, some get put upon the shelf--so to speak, and sometimes literally--as I work with those close at hand. Then, usually on a rainy day or with real life happenstance, I realize too late that the lifelong project has been too long on the shelf and should be dusted off and re-examined. I am humbled.

I am a seeker of tranquility--a life sustained in peace, enlightened by the joy of sharing with others, girded in the truth of one’s own spirit, enriched in all forms of love and bound by no rule. I seek to know myself more and more. For, I believe we cannot truly know another until we first know ourselves. As life changes around us, we [must, sometimes] also change--’tis the circle of life.

I will admit I have an affinity for courteous, kind and respectful folks. They bring a ray of joy into my day. I take notice of them--especially when they are someone who has nothing to do with me or my life, and may never lay eyes upon me again. I look up to them and aspire to be like them--in my everyday life, in all my relationships. I’m attempting to grasp a broader mindset of what these attributes might mean to others without totally sacrificing my beliefs or expectations.

I try to be considerate of feelings, how something may affect the other, the very essence of what it means to truly consider. I, in turn, generally expect that of others keeping in mind that someone may have an “off-day” yet, for the most part--expect them to exercise consideration.

I am an advocate of individuality, believing that diversity in personalities and interests coming together creates an extremely interesting smorgasbord for gatherings, as well as interesting relationship building blocks. Yet, I do not believe that individuality is a hall-pass--if you will--for the exclusion of consideration or respect.

Then there’s the ability to see through what matters and to let go of what doesn’t matter. Personal growth, possible change and improvement. To live, to love, to enjoy, to feel the hearts of others.

I have a collection of quotes which I sift through most mornings in search of a daily reminder. This morning I could not find a suitable quote in the collection. Leaning upon my weighted heart, I went to the internet and found this one...

“Grace means more than gifts. In grace something is transcended, once and for all overcome. Grace happens in spite of something; it happens in spite of separateness and alienation. Grace means that life is once again united with life, self is reconciled with self. Grace means accepting the abandoned one. Grace transforms fate into a meaningful vocation. It transforms guilt to trust and courage. The word grace has something triumphant in it.” - Yrjo Kallinen aka George Henry Kallinen

Grace. Yes, I’m seeking grace...maybe a form of grace that’s foreign to me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

One other weekend project

I should know by now, when I expand a space, the space will accumulate more things. A few years ago I expanded my kitchen (it was the smallest room in the house) to three times the size. Since then, I believed my only design flaw was that all the towel racks were on the south end of the kitchen and the sink on the north. Not that the journey was that far, nor a real big deal--justified in my mind--sans a few water drops on the floor. However, recently, I’ve struggled with the ever increase accumulation of lids in the lid drawer. Note to self: “This is not suppose to be happening”!

The lid drawer houses container lids and pot lids, positioned above the container drawer (wasn’t that elementary?). Yet, the bulky pot lids--those convex glass lids with the knobby handles on top--cause chaos. Decided...second design flaw.

I began thinking about it and queried friends on Facebook. Their situational fixes...small lids in larger pots, lids propped behind stove, lids in a hanging rack, etc., couldn’t work for me as my pots are on a rack, the stove on an island and the walls replete with artwork and other sundry items.

Looking around the kitchen I decided the least infringed upon space was below the oven--a space designed for vertical storage of low relief baking wares. [Around here, we do much more cooking than baking.] I shifted the baking wares, tightening the storage, freed one of the vertical spaces and found something of promise.

My brainchild was to create a two-sided vertical unit on full extension glides to accommodate five bulky lids. The available space is 5” wide x ~13” high x just over 26” deep. Perfect! Just enough space to squeeze in my menagerie of glass pot lids.

I’ve learned the value of the old adage “measure twice, cut once”. Furthermore, have personally learned when fitting into an existing space and/or for a specific purpose, one should measure as many times as needed--more often than twice--before cutting or proceeding. When the business day ended on Friday, I made a beeline for the kitchen. After measuring more times than I care to admit, I headed back down the stairs, gleefully visualizing the perfect storage unit. I rummaged through the available wood supply, kicked on the table saw and clamped together a mock up. Done for day one!

Day Two:
After removing the clamps from my mock-up, I decided the first task to tackle was positioning the glides. I’ve dealt with glides in the past (which, I installed) that were not accurately aligned. #*^&$*#!!! If I could not properly align the glides my project was hitting the trash can! After many measurements and much contemplation--not without consternation--the center-finding ruler became my best friend. Those glides slid like butter on hot corn!

From this point on it was a piece of cake. I cut down the oversized front and back members to proper height, positioned the lid supports, broke out the clamps, glue bottle and brad gun and proceeded to assemble. All dry, clamps removed, space-tested, filled and painted. Done for day two!

Day Three:
I woke and sprang from the bed to hurry downstairs and finish the project. A light rubbing out of the finish, some household oil applied to the glides and up the stairs for the install. Done! Time to make a pot of chili.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Graduation Tribute

I have three amazing sons! The youngest son will graduate law school tomorrow. I am overwhelmed with pride and admiration. This child came from a broken home VERY early in his life. As he grew over the ensuring eight years in a single family home he began to test life, daring most things that came his way. The older brothers could issue a dare--they and he knowing full well it would result in negative consequences--and Craig would take it on. He explored and challenged all that was put before him good, bad and indifferent--in earnest! Yet, he was always forthright and paid the consequences for his actions with a shrug of the shoulders. He learned just a bit more each time--as HE turned the tides. He was testing the waters and soaking up the experience like a sponge.

During his high school years he began plowing a path--his path. He pursued diverse routes, excelling in all yet, focused on those that he found most interesting. He was honing his life’s vision and has pursued.

Craig is a man of few words yet, every word has weight--a quiet man--yet, wisely so.

To my son, Craig--kudos!!! You have done well!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Technological Memory Trips

I took a stroll down memory lane this morning--in more ways than one. In that waking moment, that moment just before full awareness, where the conscious mind seems to waltz with the subconscious was the song “500 Miles”. Even as my feet found the floor, the song lingered. I put the coffee on and ventured out onto the deck to water the herb seedlings with 500 Miles running through my head. The humming followed and then--with the rhythm of the water--I burst into song for all of Savannah (well, at least my neighbors) to hear. After the watering task I went straight for the CD player and punched the appropriate keys to find The Kingston Trio and 500 Miles. While the song played it occurred to me ‘I am about 500 miles from my childhood home’.

Via the wonderful world of Facebook, I’ve recently reconnected with several people from my hometown, some that I’ve had no contact with since early childhood and many from my school--Clements High School. I’m certain this activity had much to do with my subconscious waltz. After brushing the teeth, washing the bod’, donning the duds, petting the pup and pouring the coffee, I headed downstairs to Google-Map the distance from here to my childhood home. It was only 498 miles. Ah! I had to make it work. Remembering that mother had always said we lived two miles from the school, I added Clements as my final destination. It is so! It was exactly 500 miles.

When my sons were young, we would pick an extraordinary place to visit (ie. London, England). I would go to the library to get a copy of the city map; to a travel agency to nab brochures; and to encyclopedias for further information. We learned about and talked of the place for a week and then we would sit together on the floor with all of our materials spread out in front of us and take a trip. Using the maps we walked the city streets calling out landmarks as we encounter them, discussing them, what we had learned and the history of the place. Wonderful trips and now great memories.

Today I was able to walk the streets around my childhood home and the Clements community via the Google Maps street view application. Technology is amazing.

I started from my childhood home walking east from our driveway. That was the house my father build while working for Jim Walter Homes. The seafoam green was applied in later years. One of the neighbors that lived across the road supplied the current photos (Thanks, Johnny). The old Smith place, where Tommy and Johnny lived is a bit like most of us-- the same yet, older and looking a little ragged around the edges. The Smith Place (current).  Click for larger image.<br />I paused for a moment at the top of the hill, spanning/looking left across what used to be a cotton field--now a cow pasture--I could see the back of my grandparents place over on Hwy 72. I did that as a child, too. There’s a new house built atop that hill just above the Smith place. My grandfather used to own that land. There was a little brown rental house there that came complete with outhouse. I don’t know that my recall of tenants is chronologically correct yet, I recall the Culkins [sp?], an elderly couple that drove an old green truck, which I loved--them and the truck; the Barnes family, Hazel was in my class; a Nash family, I think Ann was in Felita’s class; and my Uncle John and his bushel basket. Continuing down the hill I passed the house where Nancy Nash lived and just beyond there on the left, passed Debbie Watson’s house. A few houses down (a later addition) is the house Mark & Frankie built (two of my Clements classmates). At the top of that hill, on the right was Mrs. Easter’s house.

As a child I would always stop to admire Mrs. Easter’s beautiful flower garden and before I left she would bring out this wonderful tin containing King Leo soft peppermint sticks and offer one to me. I always took one yet, secretly wanted the tin more than the candy. Just beyond Mrs. Easter’s house, I spied a house I remember but, for the life of me cannot recall the name of the family that lived there. [Anyone?]

Turning left onto Log Cabin Road I saw a multitude of new houses. Reaching the end of that road and Hwy 72, I was happy to see the old Log Cabin grocery still standing, as well as the house across the road--though now looking like forlorn roadside shacks. If my memory serves me correctly that house had a breezeway which I thought was one of the coolest things in the community. [If anyone reading this can confirm that memory, I would greatly appreciate it.] I turned west onto Hwy 72 and checked out the grandparents place. All the hills, embankments and even houses seem much smaller than I remember. I continued west on 72 to Clements and was amazed at all the kiosk-type buildings, structures and growth. I strolled back home via Ezell road, stopping by the cemetery at the end of that road long enough to linger in a few memories.

I went back to the map view and traced the bus route I rode for years. I was really amazed at my recall of the route, who we picked up, where, and the flood of memories about those folks from those years.

If you haven’t experienced the Goggle Map street view application, let me encourage you to do so. You can travel to and see places you’ve never been--without having to make treks to the library or travel agencies--and in a sense, travel back in time. Enjoy your journey.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rock throwing Lawnmowers

When Felita was old enough (I’m not sure how old that was), Mother would make her treks to town or to do community/family errands leaving us at home with chores (always with chores)--under Felita’s supervision. As soon as that old blue station wagon disappeared over the eastern hill, the chores were abandoned for some sort of play, if not mischief. Felita was all about having time to herself, listening and dancing to the tunes on the radio with her friends and our closest neighbors, Nancy or Debbie, allowing us to do what we wanted...until something went wrong or the time was drawing near for mother’s return.

On one summer day we were left with the chore of mowing the two-acre lawn--not foreign to us, ‘twas something we had done since we were big enough to push the mower. One day, my two younger sisters and I were romping in the summer sunshine and decided to play hide-and-go-seek. Beverly and I had our turns at seeking and eventually Pauline was ‘it’. Beverly and I ran off as Paula was counting out the time for us to hide. Contemplating the best of hiding places, Beverly and I decided that we would really throw her for a loop and hide inside the house. We ran around the house and into the back patio door, locking it behind us, laughing all the while. [Our doors were never locked!] Just after we entered the house, Paula was on the prowl. Ducking below the windows we gleefully watched as she searched all around--for quite some time. Eventually, exasperated with the hunt, she tried to enter via the patio door, found it locked and knew we were inside the house. She started around the house and Bev and I immediately headed for the front door, arriving a moment before her, locking it as she shrieked. Whew! Ah! Then we remembered that Felita’s bedroom window was open and ran down the hall into the bedroom and slammed it shut--laughing--just as Paula appeared outside. The unjustified scorn delivered by Beverly and me was just a bit too much and that little feisty squirt of a sister began pounding on that window, demanding that we let her in. All of a sudden there was a clash, glass flew our way and it looked as if something had been thrown right into the middle of that window. Felita is suddenly jolted from developing the proper choreography to Cher’s “Half-Breed” playing on WKAC.

When mother arrived there was a wee bit of grass cut--a path in front of the house. In that path, right in front of that broken window, was one-half of a hard clay rock and the other half was inside on Felita’s desk with all that broken glass.

I truly don’t remember how the idea developed yet, it was collective-sister minds and a memory that stays. We did eventually tell Mom and Dad what had happened--later in life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Strolling through the garden

While watering the plants and enjoying my coffee on the upstairs deck this morning, across the neighboring rooftops, on the next street over I noticed huge clusters of bold yellow flowers extremely high in the treetops. In my many years of living here, I had never noticed them before. Curious, I went for the field glasses, not satisfied with that magnified view, I then went for the digital camera. Combining the optical and digital zoom lengths still failed to satisfy my curiosity. After a delicious sushi spread for lunch, shared with Stephen and our friend, Gert, Gert and I took a trek over to the base of that unidentified vine. With some debate, we finally decided which of the various leaves on this vine-laden tree belonged to those bright yellow blooms that towered above us some 30+feet. We yanked on the vines, took a few cuttings, shot a few pictures and retrieved a lone blossom that had fallen to the ground. With loot in tow we headed back to the abode to apply a few different rooting methods to our clingy vine.

After our rooting efforts, we took a stroll through the garden admiring the colourful blooms, looking for signs of new growth on plants damaged by the winter freeze (which is not common here), checking the oleander for aphids (which I had super-sprayed from the plant yesterday), looking for signs of seedlings in newly sown beds and discussing possibilities in life.

We found the recently sown lavender, cilantro, chives and chamomile perching above the soil and a few sprigs of self-sown dill from last season. The garlic chives, some of the cuban oregano and the lemon grass made it through the unusual winter. I redesigned my herb beds this year and am just a wee bit anxious to see it all come together.

We spied a few more aphids on the oleander then discovered they were also on the mandevilla. Yikes!

The flowering maple made it through the winter and is blooming as well as the lady bank roses, the shamrocks and the jasmine. The Meyer lemon and satsuma have healthy blooms as well. The wisteria and Japanese lantern blooms have already come and gone. It seems I may have lost two hibiscus plants yet, others that are putting out new growth. I haven’t decided if the red ornamental banana tree will come through but, the green ones have new leaves opening up already. I moved a few of the baby succulents from pots into the ‘cactus bed’ while we were out roaming around. There’s new growth all over the garden, it sings of spring.

I was thinking the bright yellow flowers on our mystery vine would look fabulous in the tall pine cornered in the garden so, I did some research. Turns out the vine is cat's claw aka, yellow trumpet vine, extremely invasive and not well liked among gardeners. Though the bright yellow display is quite dramatic, it’s short lived and not worth the efforts it would take to control. I might try a bit in a pot just to study it’s growth for a season but, don’t think I’ll be planting it in the garden.

The sun’s down now and time for me to apply a soap treatment to the aphid infested plants.

Maybe I’ll get back to another post before too long. Until then...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Changing Seasons...

“The leaves are changing colors,
the green grass is growing dim.
The Summer's heat is fading,
Autumn's chill is drawing near...”

That’s the beginning stanza of a poem I wrote. The Autumnal equinox seems to always begin a period of reflection for me. The summers are always so fast-paced with the gardens, beach-outings, cook-outs, vacations, family visits, etc. consuming much time, creating good times and memories. This year was no different, yet even more in one way.

We spent many weeks preparing for Craig and Brooke’s wedding. For those of you who may not know--Craig is the youngest of the three sons and the first to marry. Craig’s bride, Brooke, is a toot of a girl (toot derived from her former name, Tootle). I actually found a tongue twister recently that I wish I had found before the wedding, nonetheless ‘tis still apropos and I did send it on to Brooke--my favorite daughter-in-law. Here it is...

“A tutor who tooted the flute
Tried to tutor two tooters to toot
Said the two to the tutor
"Is it tougher to toot
Or to tutor two tooters to toot?" “

The weeks leading up to the wedding were filled with not only preparations for the wedding but those about the house and garden for the onslaught of expected guests and events while also pushing production forward in the studio preparatory for a two week shutdown. In the midst of all this preparation our beloved Hobbs came to the end of his days. Some of you knew Hobbs and some didn’t...clicking on Hobbs image to the right will enlighten a bit...

Whew! Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time filled with two weeks of visiting family and friends--to include my mother who celebrated here 81st birthday here with us--, there were numerous events, the ‘just hangin’ out and havin’ fun’ and the ultimate wedding celebration.

The newlyweds, back from their short jaunt across country, have settled in for their last year of school, the extended family and friends have returned to their prospective homes and lives and I’m here in the studio again, back up to full speed preparing for the fall shows, reflecting on what has gone before while contemplating what lies ahead.

With the approach and now advent of the Autumnal equinox, being a farm-raised girl and knowing what is waning, I’ve been scouring the local farmers markets for those last of harvest treasures. Last week: zucchini and yellow/summer squash prepared with onions and diced green tomatoes in a fry pan; petite okra pods boiled with a bit of butter and dash of salt; eggplant, diced, breaded and deep fried; pintos dressed out cuban style with various fresh peppers, onions, garlic, citrus fruits and spices, all served up with a cuban style pork entree, buttermilk cornbread and topped off with a fresh baked blackberry pie--a la mode. This week, more okra, squash and eggplant, the last of the peas and gorgeous red tomatoes.

I’m thinking about my next post for “Who I was” and “Who I hope to be” while posting and living “Who I am”. The seasons roll and our lives change. It all evolutionary. Stay tuned, I’ll be posting again soon. (Oh, that rhymes!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

AEA Week and Ramblings

Up until about ten years ago there was a week in March known as AEA week to Alabamians. To anyone else it might simply be considered Spring Break. We were out of school for the week and the teachers had the opportunity to attend the annual Alabama Education Association conference.

On the farm, AEA week was for planting. To this day, the smell of fresh turned soil takes me back to AEA week, walking barefoot in the soft tilled earth--a welcoming of early Spring which led to Summer. [A reminder that school was almost out.] Just the same, the smell of fresh cut grass reminds me of summer days on the farm, taking turns pushing that lawn mover, sweat dripping off skin laden with minute slivers of grass cuttings and drinking water straight from the water hose. When we mowed Mamaw and Papaw’s yard we would each get silver coins and were allowed to walk down to the Log Cabin Grocery where we would get a RC or Nehi Cola in a returnable bottle, maybe some peanuts or a MoonPie and penny bubble-gum! Ah, another smell-of-remembrance--wind-blow, sun-dried linens. There’s little more comforting and relaxing than to lie down on linens dried by Mother Nature.

For many years, we didn’t even own a clothes dryer. I remember helping mother take clothes off the line that were frozen stiff. When they weren’t frozen I almost always buried my face in the sheets and towels before tossing them into the basket.

Those clothes lines and poles were multi-functional. Sometimes during the summer months, Mom & Dad would allow us to have a party. Farm raised meats, fresh from the butcher, were on the grill served with fresh veggies from the garden and fruits from the trees. We had watermelon eating contests, ran about in the sprinkler hoses, played Red-Rover, Hide-and-Seek, Witch in the Well--for those who may not remember that, the “Dad” started the game by saying: “I’m Going to Town to Smoke My Pipe and Won’t Be Back Till Saturday Night”--and apple bobbings. The apples stems were tied to a string and hung from the clothes line. Your hands had to go behind your back as you attempted to grasp the apple between your teeth--which was tied just high enough you had to be on your tippy-toes to do it. I eventually learn to go for the smaller apples! [My first kiss was had at one of those summer parties--out behind the old barn.] Those T-shaped clothes line poles called out to you, ‘run towards me, leap, grab on, swing’--we did--till Mother yelled at us. We’d wait awhile before going back again, but not too long.

Mother ironed everything! All of us girls learned how to iron at a fairly early age--starting with wash cloths and dish towels -- yep, even those. I still sport a scar on my hand from attempting to straighten a corner of a dishtowel while watching and learning how to iron from Felita. Mother had a white plastic bottle (much like the quart milk bottles in the markets today) that had an aluminum top which mother had punched holes in. It was the starch bottle. You had to sprinkle whatever you were ironing with starch first. The bows on the the back of our dresses stood UP. The school teachers often commented on those stiffly starched dresses.

I was well into the second year of school when I wore pants to school for the first time. The kids in my class were shocked. Girls could only wear “pant suits” and the top of the suit had to come down to the fingertips. Mother made a lot of our play clothes and pajamas when we were young. Brightly coloured flour and feed sacks were her main source of fabric. I felt special to wear something mother had made from salvaged goods. I think memories such as these--along with all of the farm life--may have something to do with my tendency towards and my foundation in living green.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Young Uncle and Other Cousins

Uncle John was Daddy’s youngest brother, born 21 years after my Daddy. I was born 20 years after Uncle John and Uncle John’s first child was born 2 days before my sister, Felita. [Okay, now that you’re completely confused and I have it set in my mind...]

My first memory of Uncle John was when he arrived at the farm after a military tour in Germany. His eyes sparkled [he often bragged about having 20/10 vision], there was a pleasant look about his face, he smiled and laughed a lot. I remember thinking he looked really young to be my Daddy’s brother and--Uncle John in uniform--well, I thought he was really something special. This was also my first memory of someone in military uniform.

The first wife and that child that was born two days before Felita were no longer in the picture. Uncle John brought a new aunt and a bushel basket of new playmates to the farm. There were five in the bushel--two boys, the eldest and the youngest, and three girls; they were from Texas. All the girls had long straight hair and the youngest one--well, she did this peculiar thing, she would twist a stand of hair around the base of her thumb, stick that thumb in her mouth and suck on it. I never understood. I asked her about it once, but couldn’t understand what she was saying--with that thumb stuck in her mouth. The youngest son was named Billy--always made me think of that old folk song “Oh, where have you been Billy Boy, Billy Boy...”. I’m sure we even sang it to him at times.

Johnnie, the eldest of the bushel was considered “big enough” to handle the tractors. Uncle Frank and crew would come in from NC and Johnnie and Dink always got to go out on the tractors with the Uncles. I wasn’t allowed. However, I had a secret.

One day I was standing in the cow pasture with my doll, Tickle, pressed up against the fence watching cousin Tommy on a tractor in the cotton field. [Cousin Tommy was eight years older than Uncle John, so he seemed more like an Uncle.] Tommy waved, made a couple passes and then stopped that tractor, came over, lifted me and Tickle across the fence and took us for a ride up and down the rows of cotton. It was our secret. I wasn’t to tell. I didn’t tell secrets like that until I was grown. Then I ‘fessed up to lots of stuff to my parents and my siblings. That was kind of fun, too.

Cousin Tommy was a bit of a wayward soul. He would be around for awhile and then gone again until next time. During my fifth grade year I wanted to sing the opening song for a festival we were having at school. Mother didn’t know the entire song and I needed to learn it. Cousin Tommy happened to be there at that time. The next day when I came home from school he presented me with the sheet music for the song I needed to learn. That made me feel extremely special. I kept tabs on Tommy through the years, and went to visit a few times when he finally settled down in Memphis. One of my sons even had the fortune of spending time with him while in Memphis for a high school basketball camp. I miss Tommy.

Uncle John, Aunt Jo and the whole bushel basket stayed in Mamaw and Papaw’s house while a house for them was being built on the other side of Papaw’s barn in the far east pasture. Very soon thereafter Danny arrived--another son added to the bushel. Uncle John and his Texas family only lived there for about five years before things changed again. Somehow, somewhere along his sojourn Uncle John met my future Aunt Ann. Aunt Jo and the bushel basket went on a trip to Texas and never came back. Tippy Smith, who years earlier had bought the Log Cabin Grocery story from Papaw, also bought that little house.

Soon Uncle John brought Ann to our house for a visit. They held hands all the time and Ann held onto Uncle John’s arm as we walked around the farm. Uncle John took out his pocket knife and carved a heart in the bark of the aged beech-nut tree. [That was a great tree for carving.] Inside the heart he carved..John + Ann. And so it was, though not carved in stone, they soon married, had a son and moved away the following year after Mamaw died. My Uncle John died about eight years later at the young age of 41. I miss him, too.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Photos on the Blog

To save space and create some continuity, the photos I place within the blog are small images. Clicking on the image will open a new browser window where a larger version, and sometimes a more enhanced version of the photo can be viewed. This does not take you away from the blog, yet allows a closer view of the image in a separate window. On the lower right corner of an Internet Explorer window [I’m not well versed in other browsers.] there is a magnifying glass. Clicking upon the magnifying glass will enlarge the image even more. Just a tip for those of you who want a better view of the images.

Till next post....”May your house be safe from tigers.”

Discovering Lost Islands

On more than one occasion, I heard Daddy tell the story of a lost island in the middle of the Tennessee River. This island, called Knight’s Island, was--of course--the place of his birth. Daddy found a bit of humor in the fact that we thought it quite a tall-tale.

A recounting...Papaw was the foreman for some project on the island. Late in the day on June 2, 1920 a storm was moving in over the island. Papaw worked late into the evening securing the work site. The storm moved in full force before he made it to their little island home. It was then he learned Mamaw was in labor and would give birth during the night. The storm was so severe they could not risk taking the boat out, thus could not make it back to the mainland. Daddy was born in the wee hours of the morning, June 3rd.

Several years ago I sent for a copy of my father’s birth certificate. It could not be found. I was told by other extended family members that my grandfather was a boilermaker during this time and did indeed work on an island near Decatur for a while.

I began my search for the lost “Knight’s Island” to no avail. However, I did discover Browns Island, a very large island--over 1,000 acres--in the Tennessee River. It was located west of Decatur in Lawrence County very near the Morgan County line. This island was inundated in the 1930s when the TVA flooded the shoals during the Wheeler Dam Project. According to old TVA maps there were several homes located there and the island was owned by -- who? -- Jenny W. Knight. Ah-ha!

Yesterday would have been my Dad’s 88th birthday. In memory of Daddy...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hand-Me-Downs and Declarations of War

All five of us girls were born within six years. There was no lack for playmates and no lack of sibling rivalry. Felita always seemed older than she was, even her dolls were older. She was also the boss. I can’t remember Felita really fighting with any of us other than Mary. Mary came after her in the birth order--13 months and 1 day--and they shared a bedroom. I came after Mary--13 months and 16 days. When other fights broke out Felita would come to pick up the pieces if she wasn’t already there standing by and taking in the show. She didn’t usually intercede unless indicators of major harm were on the horizon.

My sister Mary was notorious for trying to pick a fight with me, hitting me, shoving me or just being plain ol’ mean. I didn't want to fight with her and usually walked away or ran away--to Felita for protection or metamorphosed into a tattletale as I ran to Mother. Sometimes I was just stunned--like when I got whacked over the top of the head with the Prell bottle [they were still glass then, heavy glass!] and when she snatched the telephone receiver out of my hand and whacked me over the top of the head. Those too, were the heavy receivers, those on the old rotary style desk phones. So, I just didn’t want to mess with her. It was like ‘go away and leave me alone.’

Hand-me-downs were common place in our household. The passing down ceremony was nothing more than a mere mention as Mother gave us a stack of folded laundry to put in our drawers. One day when Mother had gone to town, Felita and I fired up that old console stereo. We plugged the Tommy Roe and Tommy James tape into the 8-Track tape player, were dancing around the dining room and just a-singin’. [Cousin Dink really liked that tape and eventually talked Daddy into a trade. Daddy took about four other 8-Tracks that were bunk and Dink took our Tommy Roe and Tommy James to North Carolina.] Felita and I were singing Dizzy “I’m so dizzy my head is spinning, Like a whirlpool it never ends, And it’s You girl makin’ it spin, You’re making me dizzy” ...Mary came in--I know she was envious of the fun we were having--and began demanding that I take her shirt off. With some dizzy-amusement, I informed her it was not her shirt that Mother had given it to me. Uh-oh...she gave me a hefty shove and I was spread-eagle on the dining room floor--carpet over a cement slab. Legs out-stretched in front of me, I propped up, hands on the floor behind me and calmly but confidently looked her in the eyes, and said, “I’ve never fought you before but I’m gonna fight you now."

I didn't have any training. I fought like a dizzy-girl! But twelve years of taking it on the chin and drinking fresh hard-core cow's milk made for an ambitious attitude and some mighty strong fingernails. Felita stopped that fight when she grabbed the back of that shirt to keep me from landing on the concrete floor three steps down into Daddy's office/hobby room.

Mother had barely managed to open the door of that old blue station wagon before Mary was there, Mercurochrome amply slathered all over those scratches, crying and showing Mother where I had shredded her skin. Mother, rising from the driver's seat, looked at her and simply said "Well, I guess you'll leave her alone now." [Oh, happy day..] She didn't leave me alone, but from that point forward, I could walk away knowing full well I could win the battle if I decided to fight.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day! And email subscriptions...

I've added an email subscription widget in the sidebar. If you would like to be notified by email when I update the blog this is the place to subscribe. Type your email address in the yellow field and click the button labeled “Get email updates”. You will then be presented with options of where to receive your updates, via email, Instant Messenger Services, Skype, etc. Make your selection, confirm you're a real person by completing the CAPTCHA and then click the button labeled “Subscribe me!” You will receive an email to complete the subscription and activate your account. Your email addess is not shared and you may unsubscribe at any time.

My superfluous knowledge lesson for the day:
The term "CAPTCHA" was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper (all of Carnegie Mellon University), and John Langford (then of IBM). It is a contrived acronym for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart", trademarked by Carnegie Mellon University.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cottonwood Ammunition and a Kool-Aid Parachute

My sister Pauline--now called Paula--came after me and before Beverly in the birth order. The three of us shared a bedroom. Beverly and I slept in a double bed and Paula slept in the day bed. Unlike the rest of us, Paula was a petite little thing. Papaw nicknamed her PeeWee.

Papaw had nicknames for all of us, Felita was Long-legs, Mary was Lazy, Beverly was Moo-moo and I was Dumplings. Most of those need no explanation--I was Dumplings because he thought I just might love Mother's chicken-and-dumplings more than he did. [To this day it's my favorite Momma-dish.] Beverly was called Moo-moo because she used to stand by the fence row mocking the cows.

That little whip of a Paula had a set of lungs on her, knew it and used 'em. When she decided to cry out, that screech could be heard by anyone remotely nearby. She was also fast as lightning. You couldn't out run her, you had to figure a way to dodge her. For some reason, Beverly and I aggravated her a lot.

Paula had saved enough of those Kool-Aid Man squares from the Kool-Aid packets to send in for a prize. The prize finally arrived--an orange plastic pup-tent, complete with a blue Kool-Aid Man on the side, plastic tent pegs and nylon twine. She staked out her territory just back of the house, beyond the old cottonwood tree and proceeded to set up camp. Beverly and I wanted to help; we wanted to play in the tent too. Paula wouldn't have it. That tent was hers and hers alone.

Daddy had been working on the roof that day, needed something for the job, so he and Mother had gone to town. Beverly and I climbed that extension ladder and sat on the roof while watching Paula and planning our attack. Once she was inside the tent, down the ladder we went, sneaked round the corner, pulled a couple of green seed bunches from that cottonwood tree and began unloading on Kool-Aid Man. Paula commenced a screeching and we took off, ran round the house and unloaded another bunch. Before we could get around a second time Felita came out of the house and stopped us in our tracks.

Shortly, Beverly and I sneaked back around and found the tent empty. Paula was no where in sight. We had the tent down in a flash, grabbed a 32 oz. glass Coke bottle and scurried back up the ladder. We tied the twine around the mouth of the coke bottle. Beverly had the bottle suspended just clear of the roof’s edge as I was arranging the tent-turned-parachute to catch air upon release. All of a sudden we heard Paula scream, she came round the corner and headed straight for the ladder. I told Beverly to let go--release! She did. Our parachute didn't open, that bottle went straight down, Paula started screeching and blood started flowing.

Felita ran out and grabbed Paula up while blessing Beverly and me in a not-so-blessed way. I don't remember what happened when Mother and Daddy got home--maybe I blocked it all out. Beverly and I never talked about engineering parachutes again.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Cousins from North Carolina

Uncle Frank and his family came from North Carolina to visit for a couple of weeks every summer. There were five cousins--four girls and one boy, Dink. That wasn't his real name, but that's what we all called him. I always thought it a funny name. I still don't know how he came to be called Dink.

For a little girl confined to Uncle Frank, Aunt Peggy, Judy, Bonnie, Marilyn, Dink and Susie.  Click for larger image.
life on the farm, these cousins were kind of like celebrities. They were all older and got to do lots of cool stuff. Dink, well he was the only boy. I always thought of him as our protector. The girls had their hair cut at a salon rather than by Aunt Peggy and they sported new bikinis every year complete with tan lines and attitudes.

One fourth of July other cousins from central and south Alabama came in, too. After the potato harvest we packed the trunks of the cars with lawn chairs, blankets, towels, coolers of food & beverage, floats, water skis and other stuffs and headed to the river for the day.

All us younger kids were splashing around close to the banks where the grown-ups were grilling and preparing the picnic feast. The older cousins, Uncle Frank and other grown-ups were way, way out in the river, underneath the big bridge.

Getting out of the river to get some lemonade--which Mamaw was serving with a ladle from a huge plastic garbage can--I noticed one of my sisters way down the river bank, wading through the water towards the big bridge. She later came to me saying she had been out where Uncle Frank was and he wanted to see me. I was flattered that Uncle Frank wanted to see little ole me. I was all but five years old.

I turned and started walking right out into that river towards Uncle Frank. A few steps out and down I went--a drop-off. I don't remember much, feeling suspended in the water, I saw the sun's ray streaming in from above and little brown floaty-things in that sunlit path. I woke in Daddy's arms in one of those lawn chairs on the shore. We weren't allowed to go to the river much after that.

Those cousins loved the water and wanted to go swimming everyday. If we couldn't go to the river we would wind up at the pond in the cow pasture across the east cotton field. My sisters and I didn't know how to swim and no matter how many times he had been told before, Dink would once again get the Papaw/Daddy-lecture about being responsible for the girls.

Dink stayed in the water a lot, below the surface a lot. He'd jump in, disappear and pop up on the other end of the pond. Sometimes I got scared, thinking he wasn't going to come back up. I think sometimes he stayed under longer just to scare us. There was a hole in the middle of that pond that went all the way to China! Dink even said the best of swimmers would get sucked through to China if they went too deep. I never did go all the way to the middle of that pond.