Thursday, December 24, 2009
It’s a day for memories and traditions, for pausing for a little while to think about the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and to appreciate the warmth that the love of God, my family and friends brings my way.
This is the first year in several that I haven’t been with at least one of my sons during the Christmas season. Phil and I are on our own this Christmas, and I am facing today and tomorrow with nostalgia and many memories. It’s not bad, it’s just very, very different!
I’ve decided to change my focus for the two of us this Christmas – possibly new traditions in the making - who knows? With one son in New York and the other in California, the chances of us all getting together for Christmas in future years is uncertain, so it’s time to look at the holiday with a different perspective. Past traditions, now updated for the two of us, and some new things this year are going to make our Christmas special.
Today I am taking Phil out to lunch at Social Circle’s new eating establishment, Lou’s Soda Shop and Grill. This is reminiscent of Christmas Eves when the boys were young. David and I would take them to the local Mexican fast food establishment (we couldn’t afford anything more extravagant) where we’d chow down on tacos and cinnamon toasted tortilla chips and use up Christmas Eve hours and little boy energy. Going out to lunch on Christmas Eve is a nice tradition to return to! We’ll get home in time to sit at the computer to watch New York’s Marble Collegiate Church’s Christmas Eve service at 4:00, where we’ll see Brian read the scripture and hear Roy sing “O Holy Night.” This will be a new experience, since streaming video is something that hasn’t been around for long. It will also make me feel close to my son, in a “virtual” way. After this is over, I am planning to go to our own church’s candlelight service, and hope that Phil will decide to go with me.
Christmas morning will be quiet with just the two of us in the house. The stockings will be filled with treats for our animals, who are getting some pretty good Santa surprises. I am then going to cook a hot breakfast of eggs and bacon, and add the spice of Mimosas for a little buzz . The rest of Christmas Day is unplanned. We’ll probably drive to Monroe to see what Santa has brought our little four-year-old friend, Lille, and then we’ll be home tomorrow evening for our new traditional Christmas dinner of grilled steaks. I’ll have my cell phone handy all day long for calls from Wade and Brian and Roy, and look forward to wishing them all a Very Merry Christmas!
There won’t be a lot of baking in my home this Christmas Eve and Day. Everything in the kitchen will be pretty low key. All of the cookie and bread baking is done, and baked gifts have already been delivered to everyone on our Christmas list. We’re not big turkey eaters, and have discovered that a good steak makes a perfect Christmas dinner. There are no grandchildren coming to add excitement to the day, so a quiet, serene day is what we’ll have. If it isn’t raining, I’ll go for a long walk with Diamond in the afternoon.
Even though Christmas is different for me now, the magic of the day is still here. I woke up this morning with a sense of anticipation of the day and with a song in my heart. The child in me is very much alive as memories of past Christmases flood my memory. I know I will cry my way through all of the Christmas carols at church this evening, and will hardly be able to sing a word; in fact, I’ll probably be on the verge of tears most of the day. I always think about Mary on this day as she gave birth to Jesus, and remember giving birth to my first son, Wade, in December 39 years ago. Since Wade’s birth, a special soft spot for Mary has been in my heart, as I imagine what she must have gone through in giving birth to her firstborn son in such lousy conditions. She was one very strong young lady!
Christmas is here again. It’s a new day, as each day is, but one that is special as we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us all.
Monday, December 7, 2009
As a little girl, I remember my father’s voice bellowing from the bathroom every morning as he sang, “I’m walking the floor over you. I can’t sleep a wink it is true. Still hoping, still praying as my heart breaks right in two, I’m walking the floor over you.” He would also sing as he kissed my mother, and then lift me into his arms upon entering the house after a day’s work, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.” I can still hear his voice as I hum these tunes in my mind.
There are songs of current artists that have become my favorites. One line from a Sugarland song, “Girl, you’ll remember what your knees are for”, jumped out at me the first time I heard it. Such a simple statement, it reminds me of the importance of prayer and turning to God when things don’t go my way. I also like Rodney Atkins’ “If you're going through hell, keep on going, don't slow down, if you're scared, don't show it. You might get out before the devil even knows you're there.” These words teach me courage and perseverance and keep my focus on God. Kenny Chesney sings, “And today you know that’s good enough for me. Breathin' in and out's a blessin' can’t you see. Today's the first day of the rest of my life. And I’m alive, and well.” This song guides me back to a sense of gratitude for my blessings and thankfulness for my life and health.
One of my all-time favorites is Garth Brooks’ song, “The Dance.” In this tender ballad, he sings of a difficult memory: “And now I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance.” Even with painful things that come along in life, I certainly don’t want to miss the dance!
On the lighter side, I identify with Toby Keith as I contemplate growing older: “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” I also sing along with Brad Paisley about having fun and blazing new trails as we “get a little mud on the tires.” As the years pass, I am aware in many ways that I’m not as young as I once was, yet I want to always be ready to get out there and have some fun!
So, what’s the Christmas message in country music? I’m not sure that there is one. What I do know as I write this annual letter is that these songs remind me of who I am, whose I am, and that another year of living is something to celebrate. Join me in singing along with a little TWANG in our voices thanking God for the sunshine he sent our way in the person of Jesus, who promises to make us happy when skies are gray, and the assurance that “You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.” He’ll never “take my sunshine away.”
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Doug is our closest neighbor. You can walk to his house if you have ten minutes to spare to get there. Cross-country, he is much closer, but I prefer to walk on the dirt road, and then up his long driveway. In the summer, I can pick wild plums along the way. We met Doug seven years ago while we were building our house, when he came over to check us out. A wiry guy, he talks just like actor Sam Elliott, and after he’s been out in the woods hunting, he looks kind of like Sam, too. Doug is an electrician, and ended up doing all of the electrical work on our home for us. Funny as hell, Doug is! He can have us rolling with his stories of growing up in the Florida panhandle with parents who believed their son needed to grow up tough, and a kid who was fearless. A murderer of English grammar, Doug’s language is colorful to say the least. A decade younger than us, he calls us Miss Jennie and Mr. Phil, out of respect for us having ten years on him. He is kind and generous, and loves to come around to sit on our porch and chew the fat with Phil. Last week when he was here, I asked him if he had heard from another of our neighbors, an elderly farmer named Earnest (pronounced “Ernst”). I hadn’t seen Earnest driving his old pick-up truck up and down our dirt road for quite awhile and I was concerned about him. Doug answered that Earnest’s children had to finally have him put in an “old folks home.” “You know,” he offered with all seriousness, “Ernst has the old-timers disease.” Doug and I are talking about going into a neighborhood business together – raising chickens for eggs and meat. He has an ideal place for it, and since he travels a lot in his work, I’ll help him with feeding and egg collecting when he is away. We think we can raise enough to provide eggs for us and for another set of neighbors, Shannon and Neshlia.
Shannon and Neshlia live closer to Doug than to us. I pass the back of their property line on my way to Doug’s house. Shannon is a house painter, and Neshlia (pronounced “Nishla”) works as a cashier in the elementary school cafeteria. Both are as country as they can be, and they also provide us with colorful language and ways of saying things we would never imagine. Shannon is slow-talking and always has a smile on his face. Neshlia reminds me of those dolls with over-sized dark eyes, innocent and curious. Whenever they come over to visit us, riding their four-wheeler, they bring their own six-pack and stay until the beer is gone. Shannon loves my bread, and Neshlia is amazed that I know how to make it. They also like my jelly, and were surprised when they brought back the empty jar that I gave them another full one. In return, they bring us venison and entertain us with their stories. The other night while sitting at the kitchen table with Neshlia while the guys were downstairs drinking and talking about the state of affairs in our country, she told me that she and Shannon were leaving the next day to go hunting. Shannon and Doug lease a hunting camp with a group of their buddies, and they spend a lot of fall week-ends there. I asked Neshlia if she was a hunter, too. She answered, “Are you kidding! I just go down to drink and hang out with the other girls for Thanksgiving.” She proceeded to describe to me how the camp was set up, with a dirt floored cooking building and huts surrounding it where each couple had their own hut to sleep in, little more than a tent with solid sides. She told me that she and Shannon were lucky with their hut. “It’s really warm,” she told me. “We have a profane heater in ours that keeps us from getting too cold.” I’ve been thinking about them this cold week-end in their hut with the profane heater!
The salt of the earth! These friends provide us with a flavoring of country Georgia life that neither Phil nor I have experienced close-up before moving here. I got a taste when I lived in a parsonage in rural Virginia, but never got close enough to those people who always kept a safe distance from the parsonage family. We have bonded with Doug, Shannon, and Neshlia in a friendship that encompasses everything that says Neighbor. We respect each other’s privacy, but we are ready at a moment’s notice to help out, have a party, or work on a project together. Shannon and Doug have helped repair a leak in our roof, Doug has installed some additional lighting in our kitchen, and the three of them pow-wowed this summer over the best way to grow their gardens. Neshlia is a warm-hearted country girl whose welcoming kitchen table is always set with a bowl of snacks on it, and she is a tender nurturer of stray cats. It doesn’t matter that Phil and I are from “the city” and have college educations. They know us as Phil, the carpenter, and Jennie, the bread and jelly maker.
And isn’t that what neighbors are all about?
Sunday, November 1, 2009
In my dream, I was in a house with several other family members, including Phil, my sister, and my two sons, who were children in my dream. It was not the house that I live in now, or have ever lived in, but in the dream it was home, and I was familiar with the rooms in the house. As we were sitting in the living room together, a strange man appeared – I don’t know where he came from. We all knew him in the dream, but I don’t know in my waking state who he was. He told us that we needed to get all of our things together, that we would have to leave in a little while. I asked him what was happening and where we were going, but he didn’t answer my question. He repeated again that we needed to gather up things that we would need when we left, and we didn’t have much time.
I don’t know about the others in the room, but I took his instruction to heart, and began packing a duffle bag. I found a warm hooded sweatshirt, a pair of jeans, a pair of hiking boots and warm socks, two pairs of underwear, and a couple of long sleeved t-shirts, and put them into my bag. I then went to my bedside table and pulled out from the drawer my dog-eared New English Study Bible that had been my textbook in an Old Testament class in college years ago, still my Bible of choice. I then went to my desk and grabbed a journal book (the kind with only blank pages) and a ballpoint pen and mechanical pencil. All of these went into my duffle. From there I began searching for a sewing kit. While searching for this, I found a butterfly pin, and placed it with my other treasures. I looked and looked for needle and thread, but couldn’t find any. After going through all of my drawers fruitlessly, I remembered that I had a small sewing kit stashed in my closet underneath the lowest hanging clothes rack. I found it, and made sure that there were needles, thread, and a pair of scissors in it. Into the bag it went. Moving to the bathroom, I opened the cabinet under the sink to see if there was anything that I needed. I found a box of band-aids and a tube of antibiotic ointment, which also made it into the duffle.
I couldn’t think of anything else that I needed, so I went back to the living room to join the others. I told them how much trouble I had finding the sewing kit, when my younger son, Brian, asked me why I thought I needed it. I answered, “What would I do if a bra strap broke?”
Then I woke up.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I met my friend, Vicki, at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life Kick-Off event in Monroe last night for dinner. As I drove from my home in Social Circle the ten miles to Monroe, my mind was on seeing her and being with other people for a little while. I’ve been working my way through a period of cabin fever and thumb twiddling at home the past few weeks. The garden is finished for the season, the weather has been nasty and rainy a good bit of the time, Phil has been sick with a vicious sinus infection, and I’ve been plagued with a bad case of poison ivy. All of this, along with the job market to seemingly dry up even more in my areas of experience, has had me in its grip. I haven’t sent out a resume for a potential job in over a month, and the little free-lance job I am doing from home isn’t yet reaping any rewards. I’ve been sitting on an over-sized pity potty, wishing my life could be different.
Last night over dinner, I updated Vicki on my job situation, and pretty much dumped on her. We hadn’t talked in quite awhile, so we took full advantage of dinner time to catch up on each other’s news and give the CliffNotes version on what’s going on in our lives. It was after dinner, when the program began, that I got my slap in the face.
The main part of the kick-off program was offered from cancer survivors. Four people got up in front of the audience to tell their story, either of facing cancer themselves or of being a care-giver for a cancer victim. As I listened to the stories being told with emotion, gratitude, faith, fear, and courage, I was taken back almost nine years ago to the day I received the phone call from my surgeon, telling me in as gentle a way as she could, that I had cancer. The small lump was no longer merely suspicious, but was a potential killer. Each of their stories was unique and individual, yet each was also my story. As I listened and connected with them, all of my current problems melted away. I had the horrible disease, defeated it, and it changed me forever- physically, but more importantly spiritually. I am a cancer victim, survivor, and thriver. One of the speakers also spoke of being a thriver. I remember using the term several years ago while delivering a key-note speech to a group of nurses. While my current situation of being unemployed isn’t fun, and isn’t where I’d like to be, I realized last night that I am still a thriver, and I continue to be cancer-free, at least for today. I wake up every morning to a brand new sunrise, move through my day as a healthy woman, and look forward to each tomorrow.
At the end of the meeting, all cancer survivors were asked to stand, and the audience applauded. I briefly stood along with several others, shaking off the uneasy feelings I had about having a spotlight on me. I’m not special because I’ve had cancer. I’m not special because I beat it. I’m not special because I wear a “Survivor” t-shirt at Relay for Life. What makes me special is what cancer did for me. It changed my life. It gave me a new vision of my world and a deep spiritual sense of God’s presence in his creation.
I had let the pity potty overshadow this for awhile. This morning I am off the pot, and watching for the sunrise.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
As Diamond and I strolled up the street, we ran into a few people we knew and stopped to chat for a few minutes. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry as we all delighted in the sunny October day and the festival atmosphere around us. Diamond especially enjoyed the afternoon. She was the recipient of lots of attention, and didn’t notice the few individuals who demonstrated panic and fear upon approaching her on the sidewalk. She was very well behaved as always, and had no idea that there was anyone on earth who didn’t like her.
I was very impressed with the manners of the children that we met. Someone is teaching them well – I’m not sure if it’s their parents or school, but I’m guessing it might be school. As we paused to stop at booths for me to window shop, children would approach me and ask politely, “May I pet your dog?” Of course, my answer was “Certainly, her name is Diamond, and she loves children.” Many parents exhibited surprise at their children for the way they approached us and asked before they stretched out their hands to pet my big girl, which makes me believe they are learning this courtesy somewhere other than home! Diamond and I heard all about their pets, and many wishes that they might someday have a dog, too. They loved her kisses, and were reluctant to rejoin their parents to continue their way down the street. As we were walking, a delightful young woman, obviously with many challenges, was sitting on a park bench with her mother. With speech that was slightly garbled, she called out to me, “I love your dog!” Diamond and I took that as an invitation and walked over to be closer to her. Her mother had a look on her face that is very familiar to me – fear- but her daughter obviously wanted to get to know Diamond better. I reassured Mom that Diamond was friendly, and she relaxed somewhat. The young woman petted Diamond and cooed over her while telling me how much she loved dogs. We talked for a few minutes, and then I gently suggested that it was time for Diamond and me to move on down the street. “Thank you for letting me pet your dog,” the young woman said as we got ready to leave. She bent over to hug Diamond, who responded with a great big kiss on her face. We walked on down the street, still listening to her laughter and recounting to her mom about “that dog’s kiss.”
Diamond loved the afternoon. She met many new friends and got to sniff hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, barbeque, and other assorted treats. While she didn’t get the chance to sample any, she didn’t seem to be disappointed. She was too busy looking for children to love and other dogs to make friends with.
Diamond loved the Social Circle Friendship Festival!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I have been unemployed, at least by a paying company, for seven months. I can’t say I’ve been out of work, because I have been very busy during these months of not having to commute to Atlanta or sit all day at my home computer while teleworking. My paycheck is now a weekly deposit into my bank account from Uncle Sam in the form of an unemployment check, which I greatly appreciate. I feel like I’ve earned it! In addition to gardening, baking, writing, dog training, and other activities, I’ve been paying more attention to the news and have been following the economic condition of our country, listening to the various views from both left and right, coming to my own conclusions about what is going on in our country, and how I feel about it.
Most recently I have been working on a project of researching public libraries in the Southeastern United States, trying to identify the library directors and collection management librarians. It’s been an adventure in research, as many public libraries’ websites appear to be created by non-professionals, probably donated by local citizens, and many are lacking in contact information. While searching for an elusive name and contact email address, I have learned a great deal about the communities in this part of the United States, and it concerns me. I see this valuable public service, our public library, suffering greatly from the current recession. I read about library closings, reduced hours of operation, budget constraints, pleas for community donations, and other signals that point to big troubles. If a website has a section on job opportunities, there are no openings. If there is a section on new books, they are often ones that have been out in the market for quite some time. There is almost always a plea for volunteers. I think the public library offers us a clear picture of what is going on around us. It’s not a pretty picture and it makes me sad.
As my thought process continues, I return back to my situation. I’ve not been able to find a full-time job, and have been told on numerous occasions that my resume was one of many received. I heard on a news show this week that there is one job for every six people looking. In my case, I believe the ratio is much higher. Associations are similar to public libraries. Many are struggling as their representative membership base is suffering from the continuing unemployment and economic situation, and people and companies are becoming more selective in what they do with their expendable income. Hours have been cut and staffs reduced. At a meeting last week for association executives, I heard from several of my colleagues that they are now in survival mode, working to stay afloat until the recession is over. I don’t see many job openings in associations, and when one is posted, there is a plethora of candidates to choose from, and salary offers that are lower than they were two years ago. If the recession is coming to an end, as I hear on the daily news, I believe that it will be a long time before it trickles down into where people actually live and work.
So, where does this leave me? I sometimes think that I need to look at myself as retired, instead of unemployed. I have become a farmer on a very small scale, and now have enough food in my freezer to feed Phil and me for at least a year. I am looking at keepsakes and mementoes, wondering if I can sell them on EBay. I wonder if the time is right yet to sell some of my gold. Consignment and thrift shops are pulling me toward them. I am baking bread and selling it at a local outdoor market. I’ve pulled out my fabric scraps and am making a rag rug, thinking that someone might want to buy it. My one completed book is sitting on my desk staring at me, and I know that I need to get back to the task of finding a literary agent who will take a chance on me. My novel-in-progress is also sitting on my desk in the form of a jump drive, and I am beginning to feel the nudge to get back into it. With the summer season ending, I’ll have more time to concentrate on these things. Maybe I won't be retired, but will become a small-scale entrepreneur!
I know I'm not ready to be truly retired, so I examine my situation and wonder where my road is leading me. I don’t see another full-time job in my near future, but I keep my hopes up that something will come along worthy of my experience and expertise providing me an income and a feeling of contributing to something bigger than myself. I also look at all of my little projects, and wonder if perhaps they are drawing me into something that is beyond my present view of my life. I am practicing the art of patience, and know that this is the best way to approach each day.
These certainly are challenging times, and changing with each day. What does the future hold for me, for the former CEO of CoreNet Global, for public librarians, for anybody who is going to work each day wondering if this might be the last? I have to be optimistic about the future, but in order to do this, I find myself rethinking almost every notion I’ve ever had about life and how to maneuver through it.
So many changes. What will today bring?
Sunday, September 13, 2009
At 7:00 this morning it was still dark, with only the hint of the new day in the eastern sky. Last night Diamond and I got caught in twilight as we finished up our walk after dinner. I’ve decided that I am a sunshine kind of girl, and in voicing this fact, realize that I am mourning the end of summer. I tell myself that it won’t be long until Spring will be here again. But then I also remind myself that I have to make it through the long nights of winter. My one redeeming thought is that of hibernation, because it is in the winter that I nest down in my cozy home and feel the security and warm hugs of the walls around me.
With Autumn come cool, breezy days and bright blue skies, which I love, but they signal to me the end of another life cycle, that I find kind of sad. I can remember a childhood Sunday School teacher talking about the promise of new life as she showed us the seeds of summer flowers and vegetables. Even though this promise was reassuring, I had experienced the death of a brother and grandfather and beloved aunts and uncles, and I knew that no seed was left from their lives to bring them back the following April or May.
Fall reminds me of my mortality and the seasons of my own life. It also makes me begin to think about what is beyond Fall and Winter for me. I have been engaged in many conversations of the theories of whether there is something for us beyond the grave, and have heard many theories and promises on this subject. None of us know what welcomes us as our own life seasons come to an end. For myself, I have formed my own theory which is totally unscientific and not purely religious. As I told a friend one day when this topic came up, “I believe that there is something beyond this life because it is impossible for me not to believe it.” Not a logical statement, but it is the only one that I have, and I’m sticking to it!
I also look at the universe as I broach this topic in my mind. As I see specials on television about the universe and the theories of its creation, I always come back to one question, “What about origin?” I don’t have the answer, and the question goes unanswered for me by the scientific world. My one conclusion always comes back to God and a feeling that I will one day have the privilege of exploring the universe after leaving this world. There is so much out there to see!
But back to the thought of summer coming to an end. I don’t like it, and I am watching the sun and noting how its position in the sky is changing as my world readies itself for winter. I am already looking forward to the first warm and sunny day next Spring!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
New York City is a perfect place to make animal friends, especially dogs. They are everywhere! I see them walking on sidewalks and in parks, traveling through airports and on planes, and waiting patiently while their people enjoy an outdoor restaurant or rest in a park. Whenever I can, I ask permission to pet these wonderful creatures, and more often than not, I am given the all-clear for a pat on the head and sometimes a lick on the face.
This past week, when I was in New York visiting Brian and Roy, I spotted a perfectly adorable little dog while riding the subway. He was nestled in a pet carrier on his owner’s lap, and all I could see were two bright eyes, a long nose, and two of the longest ears I’d ever seen. He and his owner were seated across from Brian and me. After gazing at the pup for a few minutes, noting how calm and content he seemed to be, I pointed him out to Brian, and asked if he thought it would be o.k. for me to take a photo of the little dog. Brian whispered that I’d better not do it without asking permission first. I asked Brian to nudge the man, and after getting his attention, I asked him if I could photograph him and his dog. He said that it would be fine and then inquired if I was using a digital camera. After acknowledging that indeed I was, he pulled out a business card and asked me if I’d email him the photo. I found out that the little fella’s name was Buddie, a name which seemed to fit what I could see of the little guy snuggled up in his carrier.
I watched this duo until they got off of the subway, thinking about master and pet, and imagining this little dog napping on an office floor somewhere while his owner worked. I thought how nice it was to be able to take Buddie to work and for a ride on the subway.
After returning home from my trip, I downloaded my photos from my camera and pulled the man’s business card from my wallet. I wrote him a quick note, attached the photo, and sent it on its way.
As so often in my life, this was not the end of the story. Last night I received an email thanking me for the photo. The content of the message brought tears to my eyes: “Thank you so very much for the photo! Buddie is actually rather sick and hasn't got long to live so the pic meant a lot to me. Hope you enjoyed your time in New York.”
As I look back at that particular subway ride, I am glad that I asked permission to take the photo. It turned out to be much more than a chance encounter. Even though I don’t know Buddie or his owner, I count the little guy as one of my animal friends and he holds a permanent spot in my heart.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
This happened to me recently on my trip to New York City. I was traveling on the New York Subway with Brian, Roy, and Roy’s mom, Marta. We were on our way from the boys’ home in Washington Heights to downtown Manhattan to see the movie “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.” When I am with the guys, I count on them to escort me through the subway system and take me to our desired destination without my having to concentrate on where I am or where I am going. Marta, also, is familiar with New York, and she knows her way around the city as well as anyone. I always feel very secure when I am in the company of these two grown men – I know that I am in safe hands. As we headed on our way, I really didn’t know where we were going, the name of the theater, or where in Manhattan it was located.
We got off of the A train to transfer to another train that would take us close to the theater – wherever it was. As our subway approached, Brian alerted me that this was our train, and I stepped up closer to the edge of the platform, so that I could get on quickly when it stopped. Everything was normal – the train stopped, the doors opened, some people got off, and I stepped into the car first. Just as I entered, the door closed, wedging me halfway in and halfway out.
Panic! My first thought was that I was going to be squeezed to death right there in front of my son! My next thought was, which way should I go? If I tried to get inside the car, I’d be separated from the guys and Marta, and I didn’t know where I was or how I would ever find them again. My third thought was to get out of the car! In my panic to get out, I discovered that I couldn’t go in either direction, in or out. Roy was shouting for me to stay inside the car, and with a great effort, I managed to push the door a little and pulled myself free. I stood on the inside of the car looking through the window at them, feeling alone and lost. After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened, and they were able to enter the car with me.
Physically, I was fine. Everyone was asking me if I was o.k. and if I was hurt. I wasn’t. Even though I had been wedged pretty securely, I wasn’t injured, and the only sign of anything happening was a long black strip that went down my shirt and down a leg of my white jeans from the door’s grimy seal, as it had closed against me.
After it was all over, and my heartbeat had returned to a normal rhythm, I realized that I had done a pretty stupid thing in trying to get out of the car. I didn’t stop to think about solutions or alternatives. All I could think about was either being smashed in the door, or being separated from my son in a subway car heading toward who knows where in a city I really know very little about. I wanted out of that car, and in my panic, I could have made things a lot worse than they really were. I thought about the cell phone in my pocket. If we had become separated, all I needed to do was get off at the next stop, call Brian and let him know where I was. I’m sure he could have found me. When all of this was happening, the cell phone never entered my mind.
Now that it is over and a couple of weeks behind me, I can laugh about it, and make fun of myself. But it was pretty scary, and I realized that when something happens that truly causes panic, all good sense flies out the window – or subway door – whatever.
I think I was lucky that day.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
So, first of all, I’ll chuck the interesting and share some glimpses of the four days that I was there, aiming for the legible and memorable. It might be boring for the reader, but it helps me as I take care of my collection.
It was an amazing collection of days. I arrived at White Plains airport on Friday, with a darling senior citizen gentleman tailing me as we exited the plane, hitting on me all the way. He really was quite cute, but not my type. My eyes were glued in the direction I was headed, searching for Brian. He wasn’t hard to find – it’s a tiny airport, and quite a surprise for someone who is used to the chaos of LaGuardia. It took a total of five minutes for my bag to appear on the belt at baggage claim, and before we knew it, Brian and I were in his car heading toward the city, talking and catching up on anything and everything we could think of to talk about.
It was raining. I was glad that I had an umbrella as we journeyed down to the Village from Brian's apartment to the Fringe Festival headquarters to deposit some postcards of “The Jungle Fun Room.” As always, the subway ride kept me enthralled as I watched people and marveled at New Yorkers, wondering what each one was doing on the subway and wishing I could follow them home to see where they lived. I knew that each one had a story to tell, and I wanted to know it! But back to the rain….. after leaving the subway, we sloshed our way to our destination, dodged oncoming umbrellas, deposited the postcards and pinned a newspaper clipping about the show onto their bulletin board, and picked up some programs and other promo stuff. Stopping for a slice of pizza before subwaying it back to Brian’s place, we took care of our growling stomachs and escaped a downpour. That was the first day.
Saturday welcomed me with sunshine pouring in through the living room windows where I was sacked out on the couch. Thank goodness, the rain was over for awhile. This was the Big Day – the day of the show. A little drama welcomed us as we shook off the cobwebs of our night’s sleep, and listened to the television news reporter telling us that LaGuardia was shut down due to a potential threat. Brian’s friend, Christy, was in Norfolk waiting to board a plane bound for LaGuardia! Since she was the inspiration for one of the characters in the play, and one of Brian’s very special friends, we were on pins and needles, hoping against hope that somehow she’d make it to New York that morning. Fast forward a few hours….. we were waiting in the theater for time to enter, and she hops out of a cab. She made it!
It was an afternoon of reunions, both real and in memories. “Checking In” was a great show, and pulled out memories of friendships and relationships long buried, as everyone in the audience saw themselves in at least one of the characters, laughed, cried, and cheered. After the show, we all convened in a local bar, where the reunion continued. Many of Brian’s friends, several of Roy’s, along with the cast all celebrated the final performance, and partied. This continued into the dinner hour, when a small group of us moved to Brian and Roy’s neighborhood for supper. Of course, there was drama along the way – there always is when a group like this gets together – but the evening ended on a happy note, and we all slept well that night.
Brian had to work on Sunday, and I accompanied him to Marble Collegiate Church for the day, again wading through a New York rain – my feet got soaked. It was fun meeting the people he works with and seeing his day job stomping grounds. I especially enjoyed attending a Bible Study and the 11:00 church service, and wished that I had a church home like that one. Etched into my memory is the beauty of the sanctuary, the magnificent music, an inspiring sermon, and the warm and friendly people. For the sake of brevity, in Forrest Gump style, this is all I have to say about that.
Cocktail hour with neighbors late in the afternoon rounded off the day. I always enjoy meeting Brian and Roy’s friends, as they are so interesting and engaging, and this couple was no exception. And they had a great dog, Valentino – I love the dogs of New York and their cool names!
Harry Potter on Monday at one of New York’s oldest and most beautiful theaters, then a quiet dinner with Brian at a local pub, while Roy drove his mom home to New Jersey. No rain this day, which made it an almost perfect day. Back at home, Brian and I ate cheetos and drank wine until we got sleepy, and called it a day.
White Plains Airport on Tuesday showed me another view of this little airport. It was a zoo – crowded, unorganized, noisy, and fun. It felt more like a train terminal than an airport, and had a party atmosphere. Although everyone was jammed up together, sitting in row after row of terminal seats, trying to understand the blaring loud speaker announcing the flights, everyone seemed to be in good spirits, and took everything with a sense of humor. I was very glad that I had checked my bag and didn’t have to deal with it, but I had a nagging feeling that I might not see it when I reached Atlanta.
Finally home, I grabbed my bag from baggage claim – it arrived on the same plane with me, wonder of wonders! – and thus ended my New York adventure.
There is much more to tell, but it will have to wait for another day.
Friday, July 10, 2009
One of the highlights of each summer when I was a little girl was watching my mother poke holes in a mayonnaise jar lid with her ice pick for my lightning bug jar. I could hardly wait for the sun to set on those hot Georgia days so that my friend, Marcia, and I could start catching lightning bugs.
In those days we didn’t have Daylight Saving Time, so even on the longest day of the year in June, dusk would begin to settle on Winnona Drive around 7:00 in the evening, and it would be dark by 8:30. Marcia and I waited impatiently after meeting up on the sidewalk after we had eaten our suppers, holding our jars and scanning the shrubbery and lawns for the first lightning bug to light up its little tail. Some evenings, there were so many lightning bugs we couldn’t keep up with them. We’d fill our jars with the little glow worms and count and compare to see who caught the most.
I remember one night when I was barely more than a toddler that my mother let me bring my jar of lightning bugs into the house to set beside my bed for the night. I watched them blinking on and off, and got the wonderful idea that they would be so much happier if they could fly around my room and not have to stay inside the jar. I unscrewed the jar and watched as each little bug discovered that freedom was at the lip of the jar, as one by one they climbed the sides of the jar and lifted off into my bedroom sky. The next morning my mother was horrified at what I had done. It took her several days to round up all of the errant lightning bugs and free them to the outdoors where they belonged. After that day, I was allowed to catch lightning bugs in the evenings with Marcia, but I had to release them before going into the house when it was too dark to stay outdoors.
Yesterday, while working in my garden, I found a lightning bug resting on a bean leaf. As I thought about it, I realized that it has been a long, long time since I’ve seen the evening sky sparkling with lightning bug lights. I went out onto my deck yesterday evening to see if I could see any in the pine woods surrounding our home. I didn’t see a one!
I want to know --- what has happened to all of the lightning bugs?!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I went to visit Mom yesterday. She was sleeping as I slipped into her room and stood by her bed. I didn’t wake her at once, but gazed at her and said a prayer for her in the silence of the room. Her short, thin, white, wispy hair looked unwashed, and the overweight problem she had a couple of years ago is gone. Mom is slowly slipping away from us. After the third time of calling her name, she opened her eyes to see me standing there. She gave me a smile, not so much one of recognition, but one that made me know that she knew I was someone who loved her, even if she wasn’t sure who I was. She reached out her hand to mine and squeezed it, holding on instead of releasing it.
I began talking to her, mostly in an attempt to keep her awake for a little while. I told her about our garden and about the grape arbor that we’ve started. She and Pop had a wonderful scuppernong arbor, and every September I’d go over to their house to pick grapes for my jelly. I also described my triple bloom daylilies to her- she had given me a starter clump when Phil and I bought our first home, and I brought some of them with me to the country when we moved out here. They have multiplied into a gorgeous lily bed. I told her how I am fighting the deer, trying to keep them away from the lilies, since the blooms are a delicacy they can’t resist! She smiled as I told her about the stinky spray I’m using to repel the deer, which also repels Phil from me for several hours after I treat the garden.
I reminded her that her anniversary was coming up, and she smiled with a glimpse of understanding. I miss Pop, but I’m glad that he isn’t here to see his spunky Ginger - a nickname he gave her because of her ginger-colored hair - in the condition she now finds herself. I don’t think he’d be able to handle it.
They were young and madly in love back in the 1940s in World War II Europe. Pop was a paratrooper and Mom was in the Women’s Army Corp. They met in Paris in the spring, fell madly in love, and were married three weeks later in England. The marriage shouldn’t have lasted. Pop was a New Englander Jew and Mom was a southern Georgia Evangelical Methodist. Both had someone waiting for them to come home from the war. In fact, Pop told me shortly before he died that he was engaged to be married to a nice Jewish girl back home, and after he and Mom were released from the Army, he went home to Rhode Island, and Mom went home to Georgia. His family tried to get him to annul the marriage, but he was ready and willing to give up everything and convert to Christianity to be with his Ginger. Pop was disinherited from his Jewish family, and he and Mom found their way back into each other’s arms. I’m not sure how many years they were married when Pop died, but I’m sure it was at least sixty years . I remember celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary a couple of years after Phil and I married, which was fifteen years ago.
As I was talking to Mom about anything and everything I could think of to keep her engaged, her eyes slowly closed, and she returned to her dream world. I stood by her side for a few more minutes before slipping my hand out of her still strong grasp, giving her a little kiss on her forehead, whispering to her that I loved her, and tiptoeing from her room.
Today is their anniversary. She may not be aware of this special day, but I certainly am, and I’ll celebrate it for Mom and Pop.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
My memory took me back to my sophomore year in college. I was engaged to be married, unsure about what direction to take in my college studies, and full of wonderful fantasies about what life was going to be like as I moved into adulthood and marriage. My best friend at the time was Steve, who was in my Humanities class. Four days a week I met him in the Student Union Building and wheeled him in his wheelchair to Humanities class. During those walks across campus we shared lots of personal thoughts - our plans for the future, worries about an upcoming exam, romantic dreams, and other very important matters at the time. Steve and I had been friends for only a couple of years, but he had made a huge impact on me, and had caused me to think about things I had never considered before. My life had been a relatively easy one to that point, while his had been filled with challenges, mostly physical ones. Little did Steve know that his friendship and memories of our time together would get me through many tough times in my future life, even though we wouldn’t see each other again after that semester for almost forty years.
My life didn’t turn out to be the one I dreamed up in my mind during those college days, and that is why my mind took a reflective turn yesterday - I began to think about all the sci-fi ideas I’ve read about and seen on television shows. What if I had stayed in school and continued attending classes with Steve another semester or two? Would this have changed both of our lives? Where would we be now? How would our lives be different? What if there is another Steve and Jennie living parallel lives in an alternate universe? What are they like? What could we learn from them? Where would they be now?
Three years ago I saw Steve again, and it was as if time had evaporated. I tried to tell him how his life had influenced mine, but I’m not sure if I was successful in getting this across to him. Still in a wheelchair, Steve was all smiles and humor, and it was wonderful seeing him again. Again, my mind drifted to the concept of alternate universes. I began thinking a lot of what if’s. If I had made a different decision in my life, if I had taken a different path, would I be here, sitting next to Steve, reminiscing about our high school and college days?
The truth is, we don’t have the ability to live more than one life. What we do each day sets our path and direction, and then we are faced with the job of making the best of every decision, both good and bad. So, this brings me back to yesterday. I was sitting in Phil’s big easy chair, listening and talking. I looked around me at my wonderful home, and thought – what if? I don’t have the privilege of visiting an alternate universe, and doubt that one even exists. But the thoughts of such a thing are still a cause for reflection. I don’t know where I would be if something different had happened in my life to change my course, how my life would be different, or where I might be. But all of this isn’t possible. I live each day of my life as it dawns, and make the best of what the day offers. I make mistakes, which may alter my direction, but I continue on with a faith that everything in life has a purpose.
And as I sat in my livingroom with my husband and friend, I knew that I was where I was supposed to be and thought about a book I recently read. A quote keeps coming back to me: “God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen.” ( Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert).
I feel that this is true for me. Wherever my circle in the sand happens to take me, I stand firmly in the middle of it.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Yesterday, we were picking wild plums along the side of one of our country roads when I looked across the road and spotted dots of red on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence. Upon closer investigation, I saw a thicket of plum trees that was begging us to investigate. We faced a dilemma - a barbed wire fence separated us from the plums; a “No Trespassing” sign, while rather old and faded, was tacked to a tree along the fence line; a huge “For Sale” sign boldly displayed about 50 yards down the road announced that this property is on the market. I was torn. On one hand, I didn’t want to trespass. On the other hand, the property is for sale, and I could be a potential buyer. Would it really be trespassing if Diamond and I scaled the fence and took a look at this plot of land that the sign told us consisted of 544 acres?
I kept looking at the plum trees, and knew I couldn’t just leave them alone. Searching for a break in the rusty barbed wire, Diamond and I walked a little way up the road and discovered a makeshift gate across an entrance to the property. Looking in both directions to see if any cars were coming up the road, and feeling sure that we wouldn’t be seen, we ducked under the wire that served as a gate. It wasn’t much of a barrier, and I felt better about trespassing with each second. I rationalized that should I be caught, I could give back the plums, or better yet, offer to share my wild plum jelly. Who wouldn’t want me picking their plums for a few jars of my delicious jelly?
We made our way through the blackberry brambles, and finally were standing under more plums than I’ve ever seen in one place. The land was undisturbed, and it was evident that neither human beings or farm machinery had touched this ground for a long, long time. I felt sure that the owner, whoever he or she might be, probably didn’t have any idea that the plum grove was there or that it mattered a bit that I was risking my clean police record by trespassing. I began picking and filling my bucket. As many plums fell from the limbs as I disturbed them as I was able to capture. This further eased my lessening sense of guilt – the plums would be falling to the ground with the next stiff breeze, anyway. I was in actuality rescuing them from the ants or from rotting on the ground! Diamond kept her eyes out for critters, and my ears were tuned to the road, listening for passing traffic. Neither of us heard a thing, and within ten minutes, my bucket was full of the most beautiful red plums I’ve ever seen and we were on our way home.
As I was safe in my kitchen washing, cooking, and straining the plums preparing them for jelly, my guilty conscience entirely cleared. No longer was I concerned about stepping a few feet into private property. I tasted a plum, confirming that they not only were the most beautiful plums I’ve ever seen, but the best tasting, as well. Fifteen jars of jelly later, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.
Last night after dinner, I drove Phil past the scene of the crime. I wanted approval and confirmation that what Diamond and I had done earlier in the day wasn’t such a terrible thing. The property looked the same as it had earlier in the day- undisturbed, untended, and un-cared for. Phil assured me that what I had done wasn’t such a terrible thing - Diamond and I hadn’t destroyed property, vandalized, hunted, camped, or littered, which was what the “No Trespassing” sign warned against.
So ended the exciting day where I broke the law without getting caught. I may sneak back over there later this week to get some more plums!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Phil has been cutting down trees to allow more sunlight for future gardens. If all goes as planned, we’ll be completely self-sufficient in the vegetable food group by next year. He is also setting up a bartering system with friends and neighbors for beef, eggs and chicken. I made a deal last week with a friend who has an asparagus bed. He loves butternut squash, which we are growing, and I love asparagus. We’re going to swap produce with each other! What fun this is!
Apart from our garden, I am keeping a close eye on the wild plums and wild blackberries. I’ll begin picking fruit and making jelly sometime this month. I am also eagerly awaiting news that the blueberry farm is open for the season. I can hardly wait to lose myself among the blueberry trees while I fill up my buckets with these luscious superfoods. I imagine that I’ll see the blueberry sign at the four-way-stop sign within the next couple of weeks. I can’t wait!
Yes, summertime is here, and with it some hot weather. I get out early in the morning to work in the garden, and then do indoor things such as baking bread, reading or crocheting during the heat of the day, and watch the sky for an afternoon or evening shower. While I don’t have anything near a farm (at least, not yet!), I am reminded of my childhood summer visits to my Uncle John and Aunt Bernice’s farm in North Florida. I became intimately acquainted with early morning when I was at their farm, and learned to savor the cool morning breezes while we collected eggs, fed the animals, and worked in the fields. To this day, I love the beginning of each new day, especially summer days.
Now, all we have to do is keep the deer out of the garden. I could soon become acquainted with summer nights, because I refuse to let the deer harvest from my garden before I do! I may be sleeping under the stars some nights to protect my investment! But, I‘ve done that before, too, and I am ready to do it again!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Last week-end, I was reunited with a classmate from my adolescent past, thanks to the magic of Facebook. Actually, this friend was looking for Phil, hoping that my last name meant I was now married to his old friend. As we corresponded through Facebook, and I looked up his photograph in the high school yearbook that I keep next to my computer, I remembered this guy, although rather fuzzily. I recalled that he had dated my best friend, who was very popular and outgoing, and maybe that was the association. It couldn’t have been through Phil, because during those days we were church youth group buddies and not even attending the same school, and we spent more time picking at each other at church activities than anything else. Besides, after moving from Decatur, I didn’t see or hear from Phil for over twenty years.
When I mentioned this guy’s name to Phil, his face lit up, and he immediately began telling me stories about his youth and young adult days and how this new person, now my Facebook Friend, and he had become fast friends. I was so curious, I could hardly stand it. The two of them met for breakfast within the week, and then we invited him over to our house for dinner on Sunday.
This is not the only old friend I have caught up with through Facebook, but this is one who had a connection with both Phil and me, although separately. After a delightful dinner on Sunday evening sitting at our kitchen table, we three knew that several decades had evaporated before our eyes as memories of high school and beyond bubbled to the surface and the links became stronger.
As I look back at my teen-age years, I see myself as a shy girl, who was often considered a snob. It wasn’t that I wasn’t friendly, but that I was very unsure of myself, and as a result I was wrapped up in how I looked, what I wore, and what activities I was involved in. Sometimes I think that I missed out on a lot, just because I was so very self-absorbed. I never knew that this particular person, now back in my life, remembered me or knew who I was. Then yesterday, I got a huge surprise. He called me on the phone and asked me if the town of Safety Harbor meant anything to me. It had popped into his mind after our dinner together. Of course it did - that was the town we moved to when we left Decatur. He said that he remembered writing letters to me after I moved. Searching my memory, I vaguely remember this, as well. There were a few Decatur people who kept up with me for a short time, with whom I corresponded for awhile, and it had meant a lot to me in those lonely days in a new place.
It makes me pause to think. Maybe I wasn’t such a snob after all, if a teen-age boy thought enough of me to write letters to me after I moved from the town that was home to me. It also brings to mind “what goes around comes around.” Those connections we made as kids are still out there, just waiting for the opportunity to jump up and surprise us.
But it’s in a good way.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Not that this is a big Ah-haa moment in itself. I tuck my ring into a safe place in my kitchen (one of my three logical places) while I am making my bread. What I find fascinating are the interesting encounters I make along my way if I don’t remember to put the ring back on before going out somewhere.
Old men are flirting with me. At first, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. But then it dawned on me. Old men look for wedding bands. When they don’t see one, it’s open season for them to flirt. The discovery I’ve made is that these old men aren’t necessarily looking for beautiful young women, but for women in their own age group. Interesting, now that I know what’s going on.
Yesterday at the grocery store when I was checking out, a gray-haired (maybe a few years older than me) gentleman was bagging my groceries. He struck up a conversation with me about the beautiful day and what a nice Spring we are having. Then he took the dive – he asked me if I lived nearby. At first, I didn’t realize what was going on. But as I was talking to him, I noticed that he kept looking at my left hand. No ring- I had just finished baking two loaves of bread before going to the store. He proceeded to tell me that he was a widower and was working at the store part-time now that he was retired. Since it was mid-morning, I'm sure that he assumed I was retired, too, and single. When he offered to wheel my buggy to my car for me, I politely refused, causing a stricken look to appear on his face. Rejection! Oh my, I should have put my wedding band back on before going to the store.
Something similar to this has happened three times in the past week. What is revealing to me now as I look back at these men is that I see that they could have been my high school classmates. Of course, I haven’t aged in forty years, but they sure have. Or maybe I have. Which is why they are flirting with me. Second Oh My!! And second Ah-haa!
I think I’ll start making a point to put my ring back on as soon as the bread comes out of the oven.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
This is nothing new for me. Diamond is used to pausing in our walks whenever we pass a clover patch, so that I can check to see if there are any four-leaf ones. Usually, I spot at least one while on our walks; today was a windfall.
I don’t know if they bring me good luck or not. The three I found yesterday didn’t help me any in the Powerball game last night. My lucky numbers weren’t lucky at all. I also haven’t found a job yet, although I have to admit I don’t consider this a lack of luck at this point in time. But there is something about finding a four-leaf clover that makes me feel happy, and as I felt the cool breeze on my neck and the sun on my face today and looked up at the crystal blue sky, I knew that I was much more than lucky.
Four-leaf clovers have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Here is an excerpt from my book about a day in a little girl’s life watching over her clover patch. As I remember this day from my childhood, I think about yesterday’s walk when I watched the county mower making its way down the shoulder of one of our roads. I had the same feeling as I did as a child, grieving over all the four-leaf clovers that were being chopped up!
Clovers and Dandelions
Our front yard on Winnona Drive was not a landscaper’s dream. While my mother had beautiful flower gardens adorning the front of the house, the lawn would probably rank in the “desperately needs improvement” category. Our lawn did have grass, but not the smooth carpet as some or our neighbors’ yards. I don’t know if this was due to my dad’s seemingly lack of concern over its appearance, whether he was simply too busy to devote much time to cultivating a beautiful lawn, or if perhaps there was another reason.
I didn’t help matters much in the way our yard looked. What was my involvement in this wonderful world that was our front yard? I loved flowers, not only those that my mother so painstakingly planted and cared for, but clovers and dandelions were my all-time favorites. I could sit for hours in a clover patch searching for four leaf clovers and making clover blossom chains, which would become my jewelry of necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and belts. These items of jewelry were also special gifts for my mother to wear, and they accented beautifully her housedress and apron she always wore while doing her housework. After the blossoms withered and dried out and were no longer lovely pieces of art, I would carefully pluck the brown blossom remnants and broadcast clover seeds across the lawn in hopes of enlarging my beloved clover patch.
I also encouraged the growth of dandelions. I would watch the yellow dandelion blossoms and guard them until they transformed to white beards of fluff. Many wishes were made as I picked the dandelions to blow on them, sending their seeds on the wind of my breath across the yard. I can even remember picking dandelions from other yards and taking them home with me to make my wish!
I sat on the front steps of my house, crying my heart out while watching my father walking behind the old push mower, pushing and pulling it across my clover patch, chopping all the four leaf clovers I hadn’t found yet, and crushing all the little white flowers and yellow dandelion blossoms.
Now, so many years later, as I view this picture from the album of my memories, I wonder if our front yard was indeed the victim of a man who didn’t seem to be concerned with its appearance. I choose to believe that it was instead a world of wonder for a little girl, and if there was a victim, it was a father who couldn’t bear the tears of his child who was sitting on the steps watching the destruction of her beloved clovers and dandelions.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Enter my Schwinn Crossfit bicycle. I went with David to select a bike for myself, and picked it out. It wasn’t the cheapest one in the shop – in fact, it was one of the higher priced ones. It had fifteen speeds and tires that could roll easily on both pavement and bare ground. David kept looking at the cheaper bikes, but I was convinced that this was the bicycle I wanted and since he had sold my car, he gave in and bought it. With my new bike and helmet, I was ready to ride!
I rode my Schwinn all autumn and into the winter and the next spring. The geography of Hampton was flat, meaning I didn’t have to deal with hills, and seldom used all the gears on my bike. I explored the town, pedaled to the grocery store and post office, rode it to visit some of our church shut-ins, generally having a wonderful time.
It came time the following fall for me to go to Greensboro, NC, to enter graduate school, and my bike went with me. By this time, I also had a car, thanks to my dad who had given me an old one to drive, but the bike had become part of who I was, and I wasn’t going to leave it in the parsonage garage. My litttle apartment was only a few blocks from campus, and I soon found that it was easier to walk to classes than to ride my bike. However, one of my apartment neighbors was a legally blind man, John, who soon became my friend. He loved bike riding, but couldn’t see well enough to go out alone on his bike. My Crossfit and I became his seeing eye bicycle, and together we began checking out the Greensboro streets on our bikes. Side by side, we rode our bikes up and down the neighborhood streets surrounding the campus, enjoying getting out into the fresh air and feeling the wind in our faces. I served as John’s eyes, and while he could see me as a shadowy blur, I alerted him to obstacles on our way and described to him sights I could see that he couldn’t.
Almost two years later, I finished graduate school, now divorced from David, and newly engaged to Phil. When it came time for me to move to Atlanta to begin a new job, both Phil and the bicycle accompanied me. My new apartment was on a busy street, and there wasn’t a good place for me to ride. I didn’t want the bicycle to sit unused on my apartment porch, so I offered it to my nephew, Mark, for his daughters, Haley and Paige, to ride. I bid farewell to my Crossfit as Mark loaded it into his car, but knew that it would be ridden and enjoyed.
Twelve years and three moves later, I was now living here in Walton County on a dirt road out in the country. I hadn’t thought about my bicycle in years. One day Mark called me and asked me if I’d like to have my bike back. Both Haley and Paige had outgrown bike riding days, and it wasn’t being used anymore. YES! I’d love to have it back. Mark delivered my bicycle, and except for two flat tires, it looked exactly as it had when I passed it along to my great-nieces. I was delighted to have it back, and when asked by Phil what I’d like for Mother’s Day that spring, I told him I wanted my bicycle fixed.
Another two years passed – two Mother’s Days went by without my bicycle leaving the basement. This March, when Phil mentioned my upcoming birthday, I told him that I really wanted to be able to ride my bicycle again. With this request, he finally made it to the bike shop, bought two new tires, new handle grips, and had the bicycle given the once-over. Declared safe and sound, it was now ready to hit the streets, and I was delighted!
I am now back on wheels – the kind I have to pedal. I look forward to my bike rides and am enjoying riding up and down our country roads. I am also discovering what all the gears are for, as we have lots of hills around here. I am amazed that I can shift from gear to gear and keep on pedaling. I don’t even have to get off to walk as I did as a child riding my one-speed bike. I am working my way up to being able to ride it into town to pick up the mail and to ride over to Hard Labor Creek State Park. Even though I am a walker and can walk miles without tiring, I find that riding a bicycle is different, and I need to work up my endurance.
I am very happy to have my Crossfit back in my life, and once again, I’m ready to ride!
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Since we moved into our barn home six years ago, I have struggled with my bread baking. I had a sour dough starter that I brought with me from our former home, and began feeding it in anticipation of baking bread in my new treehouse kitchen. The starter bubbled and had the lovely sour smell as it was supposed to have, but when I baked my first batch of bread, it didn’t rise. I didn’t lose hope, and tried again. The second batch was just as flat. Undaunted, I tossed out the starter and began again. After a few more tries with the same results, I gave up and didn’t bake sourdough bread for the next five years. Instead, I concentrated on my jelly making during the spring and summer, and in between made loaves of banana bread and blueberry bread, with moderate success.
Last month I decided to try my hand at sourdough again. I started my starter, and nursed it for a couple of weeks to make sure it was doing what it was supposed to do. But, with my first batch of bread, I had the same results as I had before- flat bread- very tasty, but too dense for my liking. As the researcher that I am, I went to the internet and began reading about sourdough. I learned that some geographic regions have better indigenous yeasts than others, and that growing the yeast that makes the best sourdough bread is related to the yeasts that are in the air in a particular place. I concluded that my five acres of land is lacking in yeast! I also read that patience is a key, and it sometimes takes more time for the yeast in the sourdough starter to become active enough for making good bread. It was now up to me to supply the air with yeast spores to make up for my yeast-deprived acreage!
As I was reading, I found a recipe for a different kind of sourdough starter than the one I was using. I printed out the recipe, headed into my kitchen, and mixed up a batch. I also got out an old heating pad, and placed it on my kitchen counter to supply needed warmth (but not too hot!) for the starter to draw in the yeast it needed. In the meantime, I found a recipe for a good basic white yeast bread, which I mixed up and was delighted to see rising as it was supposed to do! I felt that maybe the yeast spores from this bread might help my sourdough starter.
The day finally arrived last week for me to take a deep breath and try making sourdough bread again, this time from the new starter. It worked! The bread rose once, and then again, and baked into a lovely round loaf. My next loaf didn’t rise as much as the first (I blame it on the cold snap and all the rain we've had), but I feel like I am on my way again. I can't wait to try it again in a few days to see how it works!
I am hopeful that my days will once again include baking and sharing my bread.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
It is also April Fool’s Day. I don’t have any plans to play any tricks on anyone – namely, Phil, since he is the closest one to me on this day. Over the course of my life, as a very gullible and highly impressionable individual, I have been the recipient of many April Fool’s tricks. I have also been the successful instigator of some pretty good ones, because nobody ever suspects me of doing something of a devious nature. I’m just not in the mood for all this today, and it’s not in my heart to try to trick someone. I am happy that March and winter is over, and that spring is hiding behind the clouds. I want to see some sunshine!
Maybe this morning is nature’s April Fool’s joke on me- waking me up at 5:00 am to more rain.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
From our house, one can see a hayfield that is mowed and baled several times during the summer, and across the road to the side of our place is a farm where black angus cattle are raised. We can hear peacocks crying at times during the day, although we don’t know for sure where the peacock farm is. Not far from us is a buffalo farm, and all around us are beautiful horse farms. During the summer, we also see vegetable farms everywhere. Goats are also popular, and several goat farms grace the countryside. A few miles down our road is a commercial nursery, with rows and rows of ornamental trees and shrubs. Yes, this is rural Georgia, and farms of all kinds abound.
One farm nearby puzzles me, however. I’m not sure about its purpose, and I’ve never seen much activity there. The herd seems to always be hanging around the long drive to the farmhouse, appearing to be fairly domesticated, and I never see any grazing out in the pasture. It is a porta-potty farm, and from the looks of it, it is a healthy operation. There is always a line of porta-potties along the driveway, and the herd changes size from time to time. I never see any baby porta-potties, however, and I’m not sure how the herd grows or sustains itself. Occasionally I witness a round-up, where porta-potties are loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away. But it isn’t long before the herd is back to its original size, and lately it appears to be growing.
They must not be very good to eat.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I take this as a good sign. This week has been a very good one, and I have completely enjoyed my at-homeness. While I have been exploring opportunities and reviewing the DOL and other career websites, I haven't been obsessing over my job search. I've put out feelers in many directions, and have contacted several of my professional peers alerting them to my availability for employment. As a result, I even landed an interview yesterday and have started the ball rolling toward a potential consulting job with a second organization. The interview was most interesting. While I don't feel that I was the right person for the job, I hit it off well with the company owner, and it looks like he may have some special projects for me that can be done on contract. The groundwork is being laid and I feel confident that the right doors will open at the right time.
On the homefront, the week has been wonderful! My tomato and pepper seeds have sprouted, and my strawberry plants are healthy and beginning to bloom. I planted Bibb lettuce seeds in the garden, and will soon plant a second row. I can already taste my early summer salads! Diamond and I have enjoyed long walks, and Kitty Rocky is getting accustomed to my being at home and showing me a tad of feline affection. I have gotten back to my bread baking, and I have begun a granny-square afghan that I bought the yarn for months ago. Phil has work coming in, and he is also going to make some prototypes of the lazy susans he made for Christmas gifts for us to try our hand at selling online. We are brainstorming to try to find out-of-the-box ways to earn extra money, and we have hopes that our big garden will help out our grocery bill this summer. I have even lost two pounds - without thinking about dieting! I had an appointment with my oncologist this week, which resulted in a good report for my eight year anniversary.
My days now are most definitely different than they have ever been in my life. My collection of days has taken on a new dimension.
I like it.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I spent a few days with some cousins in North Carolina this week, and they are encouraging me to re-invent myself. This sounds intriguing to me. One of the things that hit me after losing my job was that I was getting bored with a lot of what I was doing, which was no longer creative, but routine. I loved what I thought was the security of my job, and the steady paycheck was very nice. I also loved the subject matter of the information that I was classifying and cataloging for the online knowledge center, and it held my interest at peak as I went through the tasks at hand. I was also very proud of my “baby”, and nurtured it as if it were my own. The truth of it was- it wasn’t mine. The Knowledge Center and the information in it belong to the users- I was only the person who created it and made the information in it accessible. I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I had the chance, but if I don’t, then let’s reinvent Jennie and see what else she can do.
As I re-wrote my resume, and learned how to write a curriculum vitae, I realized that there is a lot of stuff that I know how to do, and have done very well in my professional career. One of my cousins noted that I have a valuable skill set, and I only need to find a way to market myself to those who are looking for someone like me. It was great being with this group of relatives this week, because not only did I receive the love and support of family, but I also benefitted from learning of their experiences and using them as sounding boards as we brainstormed about different directions I might take in my new beginning.
Brian is also encouraging me to get off my duff and see if I can get the book I wrote published. I’ve also begun writing a novel, and now that I have more time that I can call my own, he is nudging me to get back to it. He is my unofficial literary advisor, and I count on him to steer me in the right direction in this part of my life.
Whatever I do, I’m going to have to make a living, so my main concern is finding something that will help pay the bills. In the meantime, I’ll be collecting my weekly unemployment check with great gratitude, and focusing my energy on the reinvention of Jennie.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Johnny was a Downs Syndrome child- a Mongoloid- as I was told as a child. Johnny never knew his baby sister. When I think about the family dynamics in play at the time, in the 1940s, and the decisions my parents had to make about their handicapped son, I feel a deep pain in my heart for them and for my family. A decision had to be made about my special brother as he became school age. At that time, there were no public school programs or government assistance for special needs children and their families. It was even unacceptable for my parents to take Johnny out in public. But there was Gracewood, an institution in Georgia for the mentally retarded. This is where Johnny went to live. I am sure my parents’ hearts were torn to shreds with having to do this, but they had three healthy children at the time who needed their love and attention, and I’m sure Johnny and his needs were draining them physically and emotionally. I still remember my mother telling me stories about taking Johnny to Gracewood, and my brothers and sister have filled in some of the gaps for me in revealing to me what life was like for them as children with Johnny in their midst.
After Johnny left our home to live at Gracewood when he was seven years old, there was a void and sadness in our home, I’m sure. This was when my parents decided that another baby in the family might help fill the void and ease the pain. They also wanted my sister, Molly, who was a little over a year younger than Johnny, to have a normal baby sister or brother. This was when Mama became pregnant with me. I believe that it must have been a huge relief to them when I entered the world a healthy baby girl. I didn’t replace Johnny in the family, but I know that I must have brought joy into our home. And, when Johnny died during my first year, I'm sure the baby in the family was a comfort to my parents and siblings.
Many times over the years, I’ve wondered what my purpose in life is, and I’ve searched for meaning in my life. When I think about my brother, Johnny, I begin to see that my purpose was simply to be born, and I thank my special brother for the gift of my life.
Everything else in my life is a bonus.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
For some odd reason, this conversation came back to me last night as I lay awake in the middle of the night, gazing at the stars through our skylights, and relaxing in the quiet darkness of my cozy home. The simplicity of my life stretched out in front of me in my mind, and I began thinking about what I consider valuable. True, I don’t have a fancy diamond tennis bracelet, and I don’t live in a big rambling house as my friend did the last time I saw her. My mind drifted as I thought about all the things in my life that I treasure and hold close to my heart. None of them involve diamonds, gold, or other sparkly things.
I reflected on my walk yesterday afternoon when I noticed how blue the sky was, and watched the shadow of Diamond and me stretching out in front of us as we walked down our country road with the late afternoon sun behind us. I reflected on the furniture in my house, which I have often dubbed as “contemporary divorce.” Most of the furniture we have comes from my previous marriage, Phil’s previous marriage, or miscellaneous pieces that came from my parents’ home after they died. Phil and I have been talking for several years about buying a sofa, but just haven’t yet seen the need to get one. We do just fine with things the way they are. I drive an old car that’s been mine for years, and I try to pay for things I buy with cash.
And now with the current economic downturn and all the financial uncertainty facing us, I try not to fret over the evaporation of much of my meager retirement savings. I realize that the things I value most are my health, my family, my friends, and my home. My life is a simple one, and my wants and needs are also simple. I now talk to my friends about “going off the grid” and becoming more self-sufficient in my life. I am looking forward to springtime when we’ll plant our garden and jelly-making season will begin again. I continue to tithe from my income as a demonstration of my faith, and I know where my happiness and peace comes from.
I wonder about my friend and her diamond bracelet. We’ve lost track of each other, and I haven’t heard from her in several years. I hope that she is happy with her diamonds.
I know that I don’t need or want them.
Friday, February 13, 2009
This morning I was awakened at 4:30 by my big cat, Tom, licking my face. He is accustomed to Phil getting up at 4:00 and feeding him and little Rocky. I can’t say that I’ve ever been given a kiss by a cat before today. Diamond gives me kisses freely, but Tom – well, this just wasn’t something I’d ever expect from him. I obeyed his command, got up, and filled up the cat dish. Within fifteen minutes, both he and Rocky were back in bed with me, sound asleep.
Being alone brings back memories of graduate school days sixteen years ago. I was separated from David and living in a little one-bedroom apartment in Greensboro, North Carolina. My family worried about me living alone, but I thrived that year in spite of the pain of going through a divorce, and I loved my privacy and solitude. After living in a parsonage for fourteen years and always having people around me, I found aloneness very welcoming.
Nobody is worrying about me tonight as far as I know, and I am glad. I spent a very busy day in my home office, ate a bite of supper when I got hungry, and am now winding down for a quiet evening with my pets. I may turn on the television later, but then I may not. I have a couple of books I am reading, and I might snuggle up in the bed with one of them. I miss Phil, but I am enjoying his vacation as much as I hope he is!
I am content, and if I were a cat like Tom and Rocky, I’m sure I’d be purring.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
1. One of my favorite places in the world is being snagged up in the blackberry brambles and wild plum thickets every summer as I pick fruit to make my jellies. I also like the blueberry and strawberry farms, but they are much tamer.
2. I eat very little of the jellies I make. I give it all away.
3. I love cloud gazing, and have been doing this since the lazy summer days on Winnona Drive in Decatur, Georgia, in the backyard hammock.
4. I grew up in Decatur, and moved to Safety Harbor, Florida, my junior year in high school.
5. I have two very creative sons: one is a computer animator and the other is a playwright/singer/actor. Both have more talent in their little fingers than I have in my whole body! Being their mom is an adventure.
6. I have a third son (my son’s partner), who is a singer/actor. He is always the first to call me on my birthday and Mother’s Day.
7. I was once married to a United Methodist Minister, and did a pretty lousy job as minister’s wife. I never really adjusted to parsonages or to the lifestyle I was thrust into.
8. I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree until I was 35 years old. I couldn’t decide what to major in, and then I majored in something that I really didn’t want to do. It was the accomplishment that was important at the time.
9. My teaching career ended abruptly when a student’s father came to school carrying his shotgun after his son had shoved me across the hall and I sent him to the principal. The principal did not discipline the boy and sent him back to my classroom. I realized it was now open season on me. I wrote my letter of resignation and walked out.
10. I was an orthodontic technician for a few years, and have cemented bands, bent wires, tied elastics, made appliances, etc. Loved it, but the pay was too low and advancement non-existent.
11. I earned my master’s degree in Library Science.
12. I have traveled to Japan twice, and I long to return to Kyoto.
13. My German Shepherd, Diamond, and I passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test together. She goes with me to nursing homes, hospitals, and anywhere else I want to take her. We considered going for Basic Handling certification, but had a long conversation about it and decided we didn’t want to do it.
14. My photo was on the cover of a magazine (an association publication), and I was actually recognized on Peachtree Street in Atlanta by someone who had seen it. This was my true minute of fame.
15. I met my current husband, Phil, in third grade Sunday School Class. He’s a master carpenter, and the solid oak tree in my life.
16. I love baking cookies, and have an annual Cookie Baking Day every December for everyone in my family, and anyone who wants to be family for a day.
17. I am an eight year breast cancer thriver (I don’t like the word “survivor”).
18. I’m an early bird. I am up most days by 5:00 am, and enjoy the early morning hours more than any in the day.
19. Phil says I spend far too much time at the computer, but this is where I do my writing, and I have to write. At least, I’m not glued to the television.
20. I am a true introvert. It was a major AH-HAA moment for me when I read my Myers Briggs profile and recognized myself. I had thought there was something wrong with me.
21. I had twins who were born prematurely and died at birth. They are still in my heart.
22. I walk with a slight hitch in my get-along - I have a tilted pelvis and an irregular hip socket. It has never slowed me down.
23. I live in a barn that Phil designed and built (with a little of my help), on 5 acres outside of Social Circle. It is my sanctuary.
24. I love going out to eat.
25. I can roll my tongue.
Friday, February 6, 2009
A Few Things I Observed and/or Learned While With My Sister Cousins:
Cashmere is something to be valued far above polyester - and worth stealing from one another for!
There are lots of good things I could add to my daily nutritional intake: fish oil, turmeric, cranberry gelcaps, grape seed, Bio-Ear (for tinnitus), MUFAs, super foods, baby aspirin, Nite-trition (restful sleep supplement). All of this in addition to stuff I am already ingesting: calcium citrate, vitamin D, wine, whole grains, nuts, and dark chocolate (of which some of these are MUFAs- I repeat myself for those who may not have Googled this term yet).
There is a brand of wine labeled “OOPS”. Included in this label are “Cheeky Little Red” and “Bodacious Blonde.” There is also a brand called “Middle Sister”, which we dedicated to Kate – “Wicked White” and “Voluptuous Red.” Very good stuff!
While a boutique may have nothing I can afford, I love looking at the styles, fondling the fabric, and daydreaming about being a millionaire.
A Belldini blouse is something to be oohed and ahhed over, especially if it has bling.
There is a wonderful website for my single cousins, http://www.plentyoffish.com/.
Bamboo sheets are to die for.
Interior decorating is a Campbell trait I missed - it was reinforced that I wasn't in line when that one was handed out.
Men can’t resist the fragrance of vanilla.
I need to look into the Flat Belly Diet.
I wish I had a Fresh Market nearby.
Alibris.com has better prices on books than Amazon.com
Some cousins need more luggage for a week-end trip than others.
The style of pajamas differs among cousins.
What one wears to bed can affect the sleeping arrangements.
I need to look into buying an Earthbox for growing salad greens and tomatoes on my deck.
It isn’t a smart thing to ask someone on her birthday if her diabetes is the “geriatric kind.”I also picked up some wise (or not-so-wise) sayings:
A man is looking for a nurse or a purse.
Men marry for sex, women marry for security.
It is what it is.
Laugh about what you’ve had. Don’t cry about what you’ve lost.
Tend your own garden.
Life is an adventure.
Remember your first _____________.
In reference to Kate’s two husbands, both named John - It can take two Johns to make a Mr. Right.
And my all-time most hated one, but one Betsy liked – Bloom where you are planted.
It was a great week-end, and one that I returned home from exhausted but full of fun memories. We are now more than mere cousins. We have coined a new term, Sissins, a shortened term for Sister Cousins.
And that's exactly what we are.