Friday, December 16, 2011

The Man Cave

I have been working at Amtico almost a year now, and have survived the year of spending my days in a man cave. I have always enjoyed working with men, but this is my first experience of working with nothing BUT men. It has certainly been an adventure.

Our man cave is carved out of the large reception area of the Amtico manufacturing plant. It’s really nothing much more than seven-foot outer walls, and five-foot inner walls that separate our individual working space, otherwise known as cubicles. There is nothing decorative about our space, save for photos of children and grandchildren that have been photocopied and pinned to the cushiony walls separating us. My space is actually not much different. I have photos of my sons and dogs, calendars, and a few pithy sayings gracing my inner sanctum. I sometimes think I’ll bring something in to make it a little more welcoming and homey, but then I don’t want to become too attached to this place.

Dealing with complaints and claims all day long, tempers can become stretched like tight rubber bands, and occasionally colorful language erupts from behind cubicle walls. Since I work with gentlemen, an apology always follows the verbal eruptions. Most of the time I don’t mind, but every now and then I have to escape for a few minutes while the storm roars.

My belief has been reinforced through working with men that there really is a difference between men and women in how we think, act, and process information. These men think differently than I do, and follow different paths of reasoning and working through problems. For example, one day in a meeting, I was asked to create a computer-generated, interactive form – something I’d never done before, or even considered ever having to do. “It’s easy,” one of my co-workers told me, “it won’t take you more than twenty minutes.” When we met again the following week, I was totally frustrated from spending a total of at least ten hours on this project, and still not accomplishing my task. My boss couldn’t understand why I hadn’t finished the form or why I was having difficulty with it. “It’s easy,” was repeated, followed by, “I don’t see what your problem is.” With that, I got up from my chair and exited the conference room where we were meeting. Ten minutes later, my boiling point down to a mild simmer, I returned to the group. The three of them looked at me as if they were gazing at an alien from outer space, but nothing more was said about the form. Three days later - lo and behold - my email inbox had a message from someone I’d never met, with the completed form as an attachment. Why couldn’t they have gotten this mystery person to work on it in the first place, I wondered. However, I didn’t question, but simply accepted this gift.

A few days later, one of the guys I work with was joking about my walking out of the meeting. “We didn’t know what to think,” he said. “None of us understood why you were so upset.” I replied, “Imagine this, if you can. I bring a ball of yarn, a crochet hook, and a page of instructions on how to crochet a scarf, and place it on your desk. ‘It’s easy,’ I tell you. ‘All you need to do is follow the directions. It shouldn’t take you more than twenty minutes to whip this up for me.’ ” He stared at me, the light bulb of understanding beginning to reflect from his eyes. Since then, I haven’t been asked to do something that is outside of my area of familiarity or expertise, without the appropriate training or tools.

I never knew that guys liked to gossip until working here. I swear that they are worse than any women I’ve ever known. They love a good scandal, and relish the details, replaying them over and over, laughing all the time, while at the same time coming up with wild assumptions of what might have really happened. I’ll take a female gossip session over one of these any day! I have to admit that I learn a lot about what goes on behind the scenes, but I really get tired of hearing the same story repeatedly, always with a new twist or angle added for entertainment, followed by gales of masculine laughter.

On the whole, I like working with men better than I did when I worked with an all-woman staff. The testosterone in the air isn’t nearly as objectionable as estrogen overload. However, there have been times when I’d have loved to have another girl close by when I felt the need to escape the man cave. Thankfully, my wish has been answered. Our new office manager, a female, started working here this week. It’s nice to hear the sound of a higher pitched voice drifting over the cubicle walls, and I’m looking forward to having a feminine conversation every now and then.

Yes, I’m getting adjusted to working in the man cave. It’s a pretty good place to spend my days. That is, as long as there’s a clearly marked escape route!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


One of my best friends phoned me yesterday to tell me that she had read my Christmas letter – not one time, but three. She said that each time she read it, she received a different message from it, which I thought was totally cool. I jokingly responded that while the third time usually is the charm, perhaps she needed to read it one more time, and let me know what she thinks then. We both laughed, but my thoughts continued after our phone call ended.

As I struggled to write my Christmas message this year, a comment that Sister Carol Perry (the Bible Scholar for Marble Collegiate Church) made in a Bible study that I watch online kept creeping up and tapping me on the shoulder. She mentioned the fact that the Hebrew people of Bible times were reminded over and over “to remember.” Remembering was very important to their faith and culture – they remembered the stories of their faith, they remembered the prophets, they remembered the commandments, and they remembered God’s promise to His people. I began to consider “remembering” from a personal perspective, leading me to write my own message in this year’s Christmas letter.

Now that Christmas Cookie Baking Day is over, and it joins my collection of cherished memories of the season, I think about Christmases past, and realize that everything worth remembering is now in my collection of memories. And this is what my Collection of Days is all about – remembering. But memories are not always happy, as my friend reminded me when we were talking about my Christmas message, and many people do not have the warm Christmas memories that I wrote about. But what about the sad times, in addition to the happy? Do we remember them all? Yes, all memories are part of the collection of life, as they merge and mingle together, allowing us to remember and to grow.

As I go back to the reference of the Old Testament Hebrew community, I see that much of their remembering was in the form of lessons learned. In an Old Testament college class I took many years ago, one of the main lessons I retained from the class was that God blessed his people, they strayed from God, God punished them, they repented, and God blessed them with a grace gift, thus beginning the cycle all over again. This became the essence of their remembering, as they told and retold the stories of their faith and their God. If it weren’t for remembering, how could they ever learn?

So, I return in my thoughts to this Christmas. As each day comes and goes, all activities and thoughts move from the present into the realm of memory. Today is a brief moment in my life, but the memories of Christmases past grow with each day that passes. It becomes less important what my frame of mind is as I approach Christmas, or what mood the season may cast upon me, but more importantly how the memory and remembering changes me as I move into my future. Whether I am happy or sad, alone or surrounded by people, busy or contemplative, a gift-giver or a gift-receiver, the important thing for me is to remember, not only my personal Christmases, but also what Christmas really means. It becomes vitally important for me to remember God’s greatest grace gift of all time.

It’s something to ponder, don’t you think?

(Please read my Christmas letter, posted on this blog on December 7).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Time For Remembering

My Annual Christmas Message to Family and Friends.

I sit at my computer, staring at a blank screen, not knowing what to write. I feel like I am Christmased out with inspiring stories and witty essays to share. Inspiration seems to have gone on vacation, and I sit here wondering what to say. Usually by this time of year, something has touched my heart, and my writing comes effortlessly. This year- I struggle to find a creative thought. So…. what am I going to write about Christmas this year?

I’d like to say how much I am looking forward to Christmas the way I did as a child and as a mother of two little boys, but I’m not. There is so much for a child to look forward to with all of the holiday excitement in the air. I remember childhood Christmases, picturing my family gathered around our dining room table for our family dinner. I see my friends and me racing up and down the Winnona Drive sidewalk on new roller skates or bikes, and cradling our new baby dolls. As we get older, we model sweaters and new outfits for each other, and listen to our LP records on the hi-fi set in our den. I watch my mother’s delight upon opening Daddy’s gift- the one Molly and I were given the assignment on Christmas Eve to go out and buy for him to give to her. I see my own children’s faces light up in glee on Christmas morning as they dump their stockings to find all kinds of treasures, and then tear open their gifts that they had circled in the Sears Christmas catalog. I watch all of this from a distance, and I remember.

Yes, my memories of Christmas Day are warm and fuzzy.

Christmas is certainly different now. While I celebrate Christmas with my annual Christmas Cookie Baking Day early in December, once it is over, our home is quiet for the rest of the season. There’s not much to anticipate. We get together with a small group during the holidays for our annual Christmas lasagna dinner, and some years we travel during the season. But Christmas Day is usually a home-alone, ho-hum kind of day. With my sons living on opposite sides of the country, it’s very rare for them to be with me at Christmas. I miss those family Christmases.

I don’t want to sound negative about Christmas, because I’m not. I know my memories are certainly distorted as I gaze through the mist into my past. As surely as I, along with my boys, have grown up and changed, my celebration of Christmas has also changed. I think about the spiritual nature of Christmas more than I did as a child, and Santa Claus and receiving gifts aren’t important to me the way they were when I was a little girl, or when Wade and Brian were kids. However, Christmas Eve continues to be magical and mystical. It has taken a prominent place in my celebration, as I sit in the sanctuary at church and let the music, candlelight, and scripture of the holy night wash over me. While it is a beautiful narrative, the nativity story doesn’t hold the same appeal to me as it once did, as I understand that the Biblical account of the night of Christ’s birth probably isn’t totally factual, and the event may not have been exactly as it is portrayed in the Bible story. However, the significance of Jesus’ entry into this world and the impact of his life and ministry is overwhelming to me as I celebrate his birth.

I guess what I am saying this year is that being excited about Christmas Day may not be as important as I thought. Childhood Christmases are only a memory, and the reality is that life changes as the years pass. Maybe I’m supposed to approach Christmas Day differently; perhaps it’s more important for me to simply remember Christmases past as I embrace this Christmas. Christmas 2011 has something unique to offer as I open my heart to the possibilities.

My blank sheet of paper is finally filled with my Christmas message for this year. My wish for my readers is a Christmas filled with the love of family and friends, the warmth of peace and joy, the tastes and sounds of yummy food and happy laughter - all wrapped up in wonderful Christmas memories for future Christmases.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Marble Collegiate Church- My Virtual Church

I consider myself a member of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, even though I live a long way from New York, near Social Circle, Georgia. While I am happy not to live in the city, I wish I could somehow magically transport this wonderful church down South each week.

But, wait! I can do that!

Marble Collegiate Church streams their Sunday services and programs on the Internet each week, right into my home in the Georgia piney woods. I know about this, because my son, Brian, works at Marble, and I always plan my visits to New York to see him to include a Sunday at Marble. I love the people of Marble! Even though I only get to see them once or twice a year, I am always greeted as an old friend by those I’ve met on previous visits. Of course, Brian has opened doors of friendship for me, as I follow him around on Sunday as he makes sure everything is in order for the Sunday children’s educational program. And I try to never miss Sister Carol Perry’s Bible study.

I bought a new laptop computer recently, and was delighted to discover the miracle of HDMI, where I can plug my computer into our big screen television set, and take part in the Marble Sunday services, nearly life-sized! I almost feel like I am there as I listen to Sister Carol educate and challenge me in my faith, and then as my spirit is washed by the vision of the Marble sanctuary and the rich music that fills my personal space in my rural home. As the camera scans the congregation, I occasionally recognize someone I know, and wish that I could be sitting in a pew to say good morning to my friends. It’s not as good as being there in person, but it’s the next best thing. I am not able to attend every Sunday, but I make sure I am “at church” as often as possible. Phil now joins me in Sunday worship, since it is so much easier for both of us to sit comfortably in our living room and watch the services on the television screen, instead of sitting cramped up at my desk.

Yesterday, we were delighted to learn that Brian was going to be online in the afternoon with Liz Testa, talking about their journeys of “leaving the business” of acting and singing into the ministry of the church. As I watched my son on the big screen and listened to his words, my eyes filled with tears as he told about his pathway to Marble and how the church supports him in his calling, that of writing and reaching out to people through the written word. Participating virtually only made me feel that much closer to Brian and to the people of Marble. This church has become Brian’s family and support system, and I feel comforted knowing that he is embraced by people who love him almost as much as I do.

I wish I could say that I have a church here in Georgia that fills my spiritual needs the way Marble Collegiate Church does. Unfortunately, I have not found one within traveling distance of my home in the eight years I’ve been in Social Circle. I sometimes feel like part of my call is to be an ambassador for Marble. I send the website address to friends who are homebound or otherwise unable to attend church. I now know a handful of people who also attend Marble via the internet, and who are now experiencing the warmth and fellowship of this amazing church as I am.

If you ever need a virtual church home, you need to check out Marble Collegiate Church. I promise you will be blessed. Join me any Sunday at

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Fall Person

The autumn leaves are beautiful in central Georgia this year. My daily drive from Social Circle to Madison is now a myriad of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. And, until the season peaks, the colors will change with each passing day. I am enjoying the tree-lined roads I travel, as I watch the colors deepen and intensify in the early morning and late afternoon sunshine.

I am not a Winter Person, and Fall reminds me of the bleak, gray days that are looming ahead of me. As I gaze at the rich colors of autumn, I visualize what the scene will be in another month or so, and yearn for springtime. This year, however, I am determined not to dwell on the future too much, but to enjoy what my eyes are seeing today. I tell myself that this is the most beautiful Fall I’ve ever seen, while knowing I’ve lived through many, many seasons in my lifetime that were probably of equal, if not more magnificent, beauty. I try to imagine the same scenes in their winter attire, and remember the breathtaking beauty of last winter’s unexpected snow. I remind myself that the snowy days are also beautiful, but they tend to be in black and white tones, not in Technicolor. I tend to skip past my visions of winter, and go straight to springtime. Like I said, I’m not a Winter Person.

Even with the lovely colors that the leaves are displaying, they remind me of the circle of life, and of death. Now that more of my life is behind me than is still ahead, I watch the leaves fall and think about the end of life. I know that it’s not the tree that is dying, but only the leaves. The trees and bushes are simply shedding their worn-out summer clothes to wait for their new Easter outfits. The leaves will fall to the ground to decay and add nutrients to the soil, as they do their part to nourish the tree to prepare for the next season’s new attire.

I could get theological about this and go into my beliefs about life after death, but I’m not going to in this blog. The intent of this verbal wandering today is to share with whoever reads this my thoughts about Autumn this year, and the effect it is having on my wandering thoughts.

If it weren’t for winter, I think I could become an Autumn Person. At least, until Springtime!

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's a Job

This is a statement I’ve been hearing a lot recently from my peer group. Now that we are approaching retirement age, we are discovering that we’re not ready or prepared to take this giant step into the AARP world.

I never thought I’d be one of those saying, “It’s a job,” when asked about my work. I have always been one to look at my job in terms of contribution, fulfillment, and adding value to my workplace. I’ve spent the past twenty years pursuing a dream, searching for my bliss, and hoping that whatever I was doing was making a difference to someone besides myself. I’ve been guilty of bragging about my accomplishments and at times getting a swelled head over the importance of my job. Not any more.

After being laid off from a dream job in 2009, my attitude toward work and a paycheck has changed. While I was unemployed, I watched from the sidelines as several of my friends, who had retired with comfortable pensions, enjoyed their leisure time and newfound freedom. While I was simplifying my life in adjustment to leaner days, it seemed that they were out there living it up and living the high life. I was envious, and my skin was turning an eerie shade of green.

Recently, things have changed. I was offered a full-time job (finally!), and re-entered the workforce in a job that has little connection to my experience or education. It isn’t fulfilling or challenging, the pay isn’t great, but it’s a job. The company is a good one, and my co-workers are entertaining and fun to work with. I don’t dread going to work, but I daydream of greener pastures out there somewhere in retirement-land one of these days. I like my paycheck, especially now that I am watching my meager retirement fund vanishing before my eyes with the plunging stock market. I am thankful that I have a job.

What I find to be very interesting, however, is that many of my retired friends are now in job search mode. Evidently, their pensions aren’t enough to support their lifestyles, or retirement isn’t what it was cracked up to be, and they are looking for a job – any job. Every time I get together with high school friends, they ask me about my work, and ask me to keep my eyes and ears out for them. They want a job! And those who are either still working, or have been lucky enough to land something, will inevitably say when I ask them about their work, “It’s a job.”

And at this point in life, it’s enough.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Following Your Bliss

At some point when I was growing up, I either read about, or heard a sermon about, “Following Your Bliss.” I didn’t realize what this meant at the time, and it has taken a lifetime (at least, to-date) to understand, at least partially, what bliss really is.

When I was twenty, I was in love, and believed that my bliss resided in my new husband, who was a coach and teacher in a small north Georgia town. Bliss, to me at the time, was being married, looking forward to having a family one day, and being a part of the small community where we began our marriage. I didn’t look farther than the city limits of the little town, and I believed that my life would be one of living happily ever after.

It wasn’t long until life changed drastically for me, and for the next twenty-odd years I didn’t follow my bliss, but that of my husband. I followed him through four years in the Coast Guard, two graduate degrees, one of which was a theology degree, and in and out of seven parsonages and as many churches. During that time we had two sons, who tagged along with us everywhere we went, sometimes willingly, and sometimes not so enthusiastically. The years drifted by as I watched my husband follow his calling into ministry, supported him as he ministered to one congregation and then moved to the next, and did my best to be a good wife and mother.

During this time, I earned my bachelor’s degree in elementary education, not because I wanted to become a teacher, but because my husband thought that it was a good profession for a minister’s wife. I was a good teacher, but it definitely wasn’t my bliss, and after five years, I said goodbye to the public school system for good, knowing that it was not where I wanted to spend the rest of my working life.

When I applied for, and was offered, the position of a public library branch librarian, I felt a twinge of what bliss might be. I was happy in the library, and looked forward to going to work every day. The pay was lousy, though, and I was told that if I wanted to move up in the system, I would need to get my master’s degree in library science. The seed was planted, and I began to investigate some way to accomplish this goal, while at the time didn’t have a clue as to how it could be done. There were no library schools anywhere near our church, and when we moved to a new appointment the next June and I said farewell to yet another job, it still seemed like an insurmountable dream.

Even though becoming a librarian was definitely part of what bliss meant to me, it turned my life upside down for a few years in what I would consider to be the opposite of bliss. My marriage ended over my desire to become a librarian and have a career of my own. I also realized during that time that I really wasn’t a very good minister’s wife, at least not the one my husband wanted me to be. His bliss and mine came to a crossroads, and each of us insisted on following our individual bliss, which appeared to be going in opposite directions.

I became a librarian, which led to a wonderful job that included conference planning and association management. I was happy in my work, and fulfilled in my accomplishments, but still wondered why my life didn’t feel blissful. It even led to a dream come true for me: creating, developing, and managing a virtual library. I remembered that while I was in library school, I told my academic advisor that my dream was to build a library from the ground up. This is exactly what I did, although the “ground” was in cyberspace!

The financial crash of 2009 hit, and one of the victims was my job. My precious online library was suddenly part of my past, and I didn’t have a clue what the future had in store for me. My wonderful husband celebrated the loss of my job instead of encouraging me to feel sorry for myself, even though we weren’t sure how we were going to make it financially without my steady income. We hitched our wagon to God’s constant star, and knew that He would somehow guide us in the direction of bliss, whatever and wherever it might be.

In the past two years, I’ve finally discovered my bliss. My bliss is out in the garden during the spring and summer as we plant, nurture, and harvest. It is in the blue skies of an autumn afternoon and in the lightning strikes of a summer storm. It is in the wagging tails of my dogs and in the purrs of my cats. It is in the voices of my sons when they call me on the phone. It is in my husband’s smile, as he admires my kitchen counter full of fresh vegetables, drying herbs, and freshly canned jellies and preserves. It is the feeling I have when I write, watching my thoughts find their way into print. It is in the way my heart wells up and tears fill my eyes as I am overwhelmed with the blessings in my life.

Life brings struggles, disappointments, sadness and pain. We are not guaranteed an idyllic life with nothing but happiness and well-being. But I truly believe that when we listen to the voice of God in our lives, when we seek the divine in the everyday, and when we open our hearts to whatever comes our way, that is where we find our bliss.

And I’ve discovered that I don’t need to follow my bliss. Instead of being out in front of me, it walks beside me, and holds my hand.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Time Warp

Yesterday was my ex-husband, David Hampton’s, birthday. There are some things I never forget, and his birthday is one of them. Our paths seldom cross anymore – he and his wife live in Tidewater Virginia, and I am happily embedded in rural Georgia. But that doesn’t keep memories from flooding back at times, or my thoughts from going back in time to the years that we were together.

One birthday I remember in particular, and the one that kept creeping up on me yesterday and tapping me on the shoulder, was his 40th birthday.

We were in Fieldale, Virginia, for this milestone birthday. I wanted the world of Fieldale to know that David was turning 40, and some of my church friends were all too willing to help spread the word. I don’t remember who made the sign – it had to be either Darlene or Harriett - but on the morning of David’s birthday, a huge sign graced the front yard which read, “Lordy, Lordy, David’s 40!” Our car was also stuffed to capacity with black balloons. He received more birthday greetings in the mail than Santa receives letters from children, as everyone in town was alerted to his birthday. It was a fun time of celebration, that’s for sure!

My sons were 14 and 11 at the time, just the ages to really get a kick out of seeing their dad celebrate his special day. They liked watching his embarrassment about being in the spotlight, as well as his enjoyment about being in the spotlight. It was quite a day!

Yesterday, as memories of the day floated across the kitchen counter while I worked with the bounty from my garden, another thought hit me squarely in the head. My son, Wade, my little boy, is now 40 himself! And talking to Brian on the phone yesterday, he reminded me that he is “pushing 40.” Can it be possible? How can my sons be the age of their dad in this special memory? And, how old am I now, anyhow??? When David turned 40, I was the age that Brian is now- three years younger. Where has the time gone?

They say that you are only as old as you feel. I certainly don’t feel old, but the facts tell me that I’m progressing in that direction. And, so are my sons. My consolation in all of this is that memories are sweet, and no matter what my age may be, I can always escape into my memory bank to be whatever age I want.

I also repeat one of my mantras – “The secret of a long life is to continue getting older.” This is something I plan to do with each day I live.

Happy Birthday, David!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Going to Summer Camp - A Memory of My Mother

I stood next to my bed folding tee shirts and shorts, while my mother bustled in and out of my room bringing me more things to pack into my suitcase to take to Camp Toccoa. We had spent all day yesterday with a marking pen and iron-on labels, making sure my name was printed on every item and labels ironed onto all my clothes. Even my socks had my initials, JLC, printed in black magic marker on the toes.

Mama helped me arrange my clothes in the suitcase, shoes on the bottom, then shorts, a pair of jeans, shirts, and finally pajamas on top. My socks and underwear were tucked neatly in the side pockets. All my toiletries nestled in a brand new pink plastic carrying case, which lay on top of my clothing. My blanket roll contained everything I needed for my bed and shower- sheets, a blanket, two towels and wash cloths,and my pillow, all wrapped up in an oilcloth which would protect my bed and me from the damp ground when sleeping under the stars - a Camp Toccoa tradition - all rolled and tied neatly with a strong rope. We checked off each item from the list from Camp Fire Girls Headquarters as we carefully packed. We didn’t want to forget anything I’d need for my week at summer camp. Finally finished, we left the suitcase unlatched for last minute additions and made sure the bedroll was tied securely enough to stay intact during the two hour train ride from Atlanta to Toccoa.

I was excited about going to camp. I was eight years old, and ready to spend a whole week at camp, even the nights! My sister, Molly, was already at Camp Toccoa, where she was a counselor-in-training for the summer, so I wouldn’t be totally on my own. However, I was a little apprehensive about being away from Mama and Daddy for seven days and seven nights. I decided that I needed a photograph of my mother to take with me, so that I wouldn’t forget what she looked like while I was away. As I searched through Mama’s desk drawer where she stored her keepsakes, I realized how old both she and Daddy looked in the photos stored there. People often mistook Daddy for my grandfather because of his snow white hair, and Mama was what her friends called “salt and pepper” gray. I was the youngest of five children, stretched out thirteen years apart in age, so they really were old compared to my friends’ parents.

Finally, I found what I was looking for--- a portrait of a lovely young woman who looked a lot like my Aunt Lois, Mama’s youngest sister. Mama smiled when I showed her the photo, and confirmed that it was a picture of her and not Aunt Lois. She told me that the picture had been taken when she was a student in nursing school before she and Daddy got married. She said that it would be fine for me to take the picture with me to camp. I carefully sandwiched it between two tee shirts in my suitcase to keep it safe from breaking. Ready for a week at summer camp, with the photo of my young mother going with me, I snapped the latch shut.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Georgia Girl

I’ve been living in Social Circle, Georgia, for almost eight years. In the time I’ve been here, I’ve gained some insights into living in a rural area, away from the big city. And, in the past few months, I’ve become more acutely aware of how I’ve become a small town Georgia girl.

When I started my new job at Amtico International in Madison this past January, my life changed dramatically. It wasn’t that I was beginning a new job, but it had more to do with the people I found myself surrounded by. In every other job I’ve had since I’ve been back in the workforce, I’ve been either in downtown Atlanta or in the suburbs. Even though I moved to small town Georgia, I was still part of the city scene. Things are different now. And I like it.

As I meet folks who work in the plant, they ask me where I live. I tell them that I live in Social Circle, after which they tell me where they live. People come from Newborn, Greensboro, Buckhead, Jersey, Monroe, Greshamville, Covington, and other neighboring towns to work at Amtico, and many live right there in Madison. I can’t think of anyone I’ve met who lives in metropolitan Atlanta. This part of Georgia is their backyard, and it extends for many miles radiating out from Madison. They are local people, for the most part, with a few transplants like me. When we talk in the breakroom, it’s about gardens and pets, children and grandchildren, Monday and Friday. Amtico, in my opinion, is set smack in the middle of Georgia’s heartland.

We don’t dress up for work. Amtico is a manufacturing plant, so those who work there wear their Amtico shirts, blue jeans or khackis, and steel-toed shoes. For the few of us in the office, we follow suit with casual dress. I love wearing my jeans and tennis shoes to work. My steel-toed shoes are tucked under my desk, to slip into when I need to go back onto the manufacturing floor. I gave all of my business suits to Goodwill last month, and I’m wondering if I’ll have a chance to wear my summer skirts that I like so much. Oh well, I think I can manage if they hang in the closet most of the season. I wouldn’t change jobs, just to be able to wear a skirt!

Another thing I’ve discovered is the morning sky. I’ve always loved watching the sunrise, but my new commute has revealed much more than what I was accustomed to seeing. I travel 15 miles east from my house to go to work, and it’s into the sun every morning. I’ve watched as the rising sun has moved across the horizon from winter to springtime, puzzling me about exactly where east is. I know that is has something to do with the tilt of the earth’s axis and the changing seasons, but it still amazes me, and I don’t quite understand it. The sun is now behind the upper left corner of my sun visor as I drive to work – three weeks ago, it was shining straight into my eyes, and two months ago, it was a little further to the right, peeking out from the horizon.

Instead of driving in morning rush hour traffic to work, I cross miles of farmland. I barely remember what rush hour in the city is like! For me these day, it’s meeting a vehicle at the four-way stop sign, which occasionally happens. Most of the time it’s a farm truck or tractor at the intersection, and sometimes a chicken truck. It’s not until I get to the last few miles of my trip to work that I hop onto I-20, going east, that I encounter any traffic, and it is always very light, especially in the direction I travel. I find that I have to put my car into cruise control, or I might drive too slowly along my way, I get so caught up in the beauty of my surroundings.

The land is changing with the coming of summer, as I watch the hayfields grow, which are then mowed down and baled. The spring wildflowers are spectacular, even though I’m experiencing spring hay fever that I’ve never had before. Rows of corn and other crops are beginning to define the farmland in lines of emerging vegetables. Wild blackberries are blooming along the fence rows, and tiny wild plums are fattening up in the thickets.

As the morning scenery changes, I realize that I am changing, as well. I promise myself that I will never get on I-20 West ever again to go to work. I don’t think about Atlanta, and have no desire to walk down Peachtree Street – I don’t think I’d mind if I never set foot on it again in my lifetime. The towns in this area of Georgia have everything that I need – delightful little restaurants, Saturday markets and outdoor concerts in town squares, grocery stores with locally grown produce, meat and eggs, doctors and dentists who are as good, or better, as the ones I knew in the city, and good, good people everywhere. I love hearing the whistle of the train in the distance, as it crosses the road about two miles from my house, and I enjoy hearing the braying of the donkey that lives down the road from us. I even don’t mind when a passing car stirs up dust on our dirt road.

I look forward to a day off from work, so that I can get out into my garden to pick strawberries or pull weeds. Soon, I’ll be spending all of my spare time picking and “puttin' up.” Our freezer is almost empty, ready for this season’s abundance of good food to store. The days are getting longer, the world is bright with greens, blues, and wildflower colors, and the warm sun on my skin reminds me that hot summer days will soon be here. I am learning patience, how to slow down to watch and wait, and how a prayer is always only a breath away.

Yes, for this Georgia girl, life is different than it used to be, and oh! so much richer!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Shopping Bag

This narrative piece was read last night at "The Puzzle: A Festival of New Work" at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. I was thrilled that it was selected as part of the festival!


Every person living on this earth is required to walk through the experience called life individually and, basically, alone. We encounter others along our way, and we often walk alongside them for awhile on our life’s journey - sometimes for a short distance, while other times for many miles. When it comes right down to the actual trip, however, we each have our personal road to travel. The road I travel through my life is mine alone, and nobody but me will experience it in its entirety.

I enter my life carrying a shopping bag of sorts, which stays with me throughout my journey. In my mind’s eye, I see it as the type that department stores dole out at Christmastime to holiday shoppers. Square-shaped with lots of room for packages, it is made of sturdy heavyweight paper, with a stiff, plastic-coated rope handle at the top on each side for easy grasp. I use my shopping bag to collect and store the many articles I pick up and carry along with me as I walk down my life’s road.

As a child, I tend to drag my bag along beside me. I am so small, and it is very large. It isn’t heavy yet, and it has plenty of room inside. Among the few things I carry in my childhood bag are the sticks and stones that break my bones, and the words that are not supposed to harm me. I also carry a bushel and a peck of “I love you”, and a hug around the neck. My bag may not be full, but I discover that it is very difficult to remove items from it, and that it is easy just to carry the bag with these things inside. Who knows? I may need them later on!

As I grow, the shopping bag ceases to drag the ground, and I carry it along beside me, still collecting items to put into it. I switch hands from time to time as the weight of it tires out one side of my body, and then the other. I also swing it over my shoulder from time to time to carry it like a back pack. Every now and then I look into the depths of the bag to discover that it is filling up with all kinds of interesting and important items that I have collected during my childhood and adolescence.

My walk continues, and I realize how handy my shopping bag has become. I pick up things as I travel, studying, scrutinizing, and turning them over and over in my hand, before making the commitment to place them inside my bag. I decide that some things aren’t worth keeping and toss them back onto the shoulder of the road, discarding them as worthless or not necessary at this time in my life. Those items that I decide to keep find their place inside my bag.

With this decision-making process comes the problem of determining what to keep and carry and what to leave behind. Sometimes I make good decisions, while many times I make poor judgments about the value of the things I find. I stop to collect rocks and stones, and more sticks, sometimes a banana peel or an apple core. I know these things are potentially hazardous for my journey, but for some reason I am compelled to keep them, even though they are of no real use to me, and only add weight to my bag and take up space.

As I continue walking down my road, my shopping bag gets heavier and heavier with all sorts of stuff. I don’t know why, but I pick up a handful of dirt and sprinkle it on top of my assortment of articles. Maybe the dirt camouflages what lies beneath, or maybe I have simply become a collector of useless items. Even though my load is getting heavier and harder to handle, I find that I enjoy looking down into the bag and feel a sense of pride in all the junk I am able to lug along with me. I am strong and able, and my weighty bag is the sign to myself and everyone I encounter that I can handle my life and carry my load all by myself. I am proud of my shopping bag and of all the things I keep stored within. It has become a part of who I am, and I believe that I need each and every item with me all of the time.

I am surprised when I come to a fork in the road and another person joins me going the same direction. We walk in silence for a short distance, scrutinizing each other and stealing furtive glances into the other’s bag. We carry our own load protectively until we are too tired to go further, and we stop to rest along the side of the road. A superficial conversation begins, and then we take a giant step by reaching into our bags and pulling out an item to show the other. What a risk this is! Is it worth it? If it isn’t, we look at each other’s possession, comment on it politely, and then return the treasure back into the bag where it belongs. After a brief rest, we rise refreshed and continue down the road to the next fork, where we part company and continue on our respective journeys in solitude.

But what if we share our treasures with each other only to find out that we carry similar items in our bags, and we can exchange personal thoughts about our journeys? We may even dump our bags in the excitement of finding someone who is interested enough to examine and admire our belongings! We ooh and ahh over the rocks and sticks and wadded up paper and crumpled up containers we each are carrying, and we help our new companion re-pack our shopping bags, placing everything very carefully back into place. We might even convince the other of the worthlessness of an item or two, and leave it behind on the road. We then decide to walk together for awhile, where we can share our load by carrying the other’s bag for a short distance, giving each other a respite from the heavy weight.

As the two of us amble down the road together, we notice wildflowers growing along the way. We pause to pick a few, proclaim their beauty to one another, and place them gently in the top of our bags. My friend finds a bird’s feather, and a rainbow, a chip of a robin’s egg, and the song of a waterfall, and shares these delicate and lovely items of nature with me. As they are placed into my bag, an amazing thing happens. The shopping bag feels lighter and easier to carry. I check the bottom for a tear or a rip, but find none. I still carry all my prized possessions, but they appear to have lost their heaviness. The beauty of the newfound treasures has transformed my bag into a lighter, more manageable piece of baggage.

My journey continues, and even though my friend may have to leave my road to take another path, I keep the gifts with me. I hold them from time to time, remembering. Their beauty lasts, never fading away, and they rest lightly always in the top of my shopping bag. They have made my load lighter, and I tire less quickly.

As I reach the end of my journey, I pause to examine once more the contents of my shopping bag to reassure myself that I haven’t lost anything along the way. I have carried these things for such a long time, and they have become a part of who I am. I open the bag wide and stand amazed at what I see. All the contents are gone! No rocks, no sticks, no banana peels or apple cores, no wadded up paper or crumpled containers. Even the dirt that was sprinkled over everything is gone! My bag is empty, or appears to be so. I look more closely. I bend down for a closer examination. Wait! There is something still in my bag. Resting lightly in the bottom of it, I see a wildflower, a rainbow, a bird’s feather, and a small blue chip of a robin’s egg.

And when I place my ear close to the bag’s opening, I hear the song of a waterfall.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tom's Nine Lives, Minus One

Our big black cat, Tom, cashed in one of his nine lives this past week.

We noticed that Tom wasn’t feeling great a couple of weeks ago, and at first we explained it away to old age, being overweight, and spring pollen. He had quit climbing into the rafters to get to his favorite basket to sleep, and had selected Phil’s laundry basket on ground level for his new napping place. A natural talker, Tom has always liked to meow at us whenever we spend time to talk to him, and at times I’ve felt like he was carrying on a conversation with us. Last week-end, Tom’s meow went away, and we had to read his lips to be able to tell when he was meowing. It had to be the pollen. It was driving us crazy, and we assumed that he, too, might be suffering from a case of springtime allergies and laryngitis.

Monday morning, Tom wasn’t in Phil’s face at 4:00 am demanding breakfast. We became alarmed at this change in behavior, and began watching him with keener eyesight. Tom was spending too much time in the laundry basket, his meow was still missing, and his normally bright eyes were getting a dull look to them, now watery and sticky looking. He still had an appetite, but wasn’t our morning alarm clock that it was time for breakfast. On Monday evening, when I returned home from a day of work and evening of tutoring, Tom was lounging on a chair out on the deck. I stopped before going inside to talk to him for a few minutes and see how he was feeling. It was a pleasant evening, and I decided to leave him alone and let him sleep outside, where I thought he’d be more comfortable.

Tuesday morning, Tom was nowhere to be found. He didn’t show up for breakfast, and he didn’t respond to our calls. Tuesday evening, there was still no sign of Tom. Our other cats and our dog, Diamond, were acting strangely and clinging to us, which was totally out of character for them. They sensed that something was wrong. Diamond and I went for a walk along our country roads and through our forest, looking for Tom, but couldn’t find him. When we returned home, Phil and I looked at each other with mirrored sadness, believing that Tom had gone out somewhere to die.

Tom showed up at our house on Valentine’s Day in 2000, hungry and lost. We took him in, and welcomed him into our little family. It took him about two years to decide that we were worthy of his trust, but once he made up his mind that we were ok, we became his full-time staff. He began monitoring my activities, especially when I would do things my mama had taught me. It seemed to me that he was keeping an eye on me for my mother, who had died a few years prior to Tom’s arrival at our home. Tom especially took a keen interest in my strawberry bed, which had been transplanted from my mother’s house, and he guarded it from birds and other critters stealing the fruit. When I made home-made jelly, he’d hop up onto the kitchen counter (which he never did at any other time) and watch me prepare the fruit, cook the jelly, and pour it into the jars. Only when I had completed the task to his satisfaction, would he hop down and go about his daily activities. I’ve always felt that Tom is somehow closely tied to the spirit of my mother, and has a direct line to her soul.

But, back to this past week. Tuesday night, I went to bed very sad, thinking that Tom was dead. I prayed for God to look after him wherever he might be, and also said a prayer to my mother to watch over Tom. I fell asleep with a sad heart and tears welled up in my eyes.

Sometime before dawn Wednesday morning, I heard the cat door swing open, and got up to see which kitty had been burning the midnight oil. It was Tom. He could hardly walk and his eyes were glazed, but he was alive!! I thanked God and Mama for sending him back to us, lifted him up gently, and placed him into Phil’s laundry basket.

After I went to work on Wednesday, Phil packed Tom up and took him to see Dr. Jeff, our veterinarian. Tom was very, very sick. Dr. Jeff said that he thought it was either a bad bacterial infection or cancer. Tom had lost two pounds, which is a lot for a cat. He got a shot while at the vet’s, had some blood work done, and was sent home with Phil, loaded down with antibiotics and pain killers. If it was an infection, Tom should be feeling better soon, Dr. Jeff told Phil. If it was cancer, then the medicine wouldn’t help. By the time I got home from work, Tom was resting comfortably on the ledge in the kitchen which he’d use as a jumping place to go upstairs to his basket, and his eyes were brighter looking. His meow was still hoarse when he greeted me, but his purr box was pumped up to the loudest volume. He was beginning to feel better.

Each day since then, Tom has visibly improved. He still isn’t jumping up to go to his basket high above us in the rafters, but his meow is back, and he’s talking to us again. This morning, he alerted Phil that it was breakfast time, and then came back to bed to curl up next to me until time for me to get up. His beautiful eyes are bright and sparkling, and I know he’ll be ready for jelly –making season, which begins in about three weeks.

Thank you, God, and Thank you, Mama, for looking after my big, black, wonderful Tom, and for taking care of him for us.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Writing a Book

Yesterday I posted the final chapters of the novel I wrote, Fishbowls and Birdcages, on the blog site I set up for the purpose of putting my book out into the world for people to read. What a relief! When I came up with the brilliant idea to do this, I didn’t anticipate how it would affect me.

Writing the book was similar to a pregnancy. It began with a nugget of an idea, and as I wrote, the story developed into a living, breathing entity. I struggled with the theme, the characters (which included naming each one), the setting, and the story line. I encountered several bouts of ‘false labor’, where the story tried to speed itself up and take me down some roads I didn’t want to follow. When I wrote the words “The End” on the final page, I felt like I had given birth. WHEW! I actually sat at my computer desk and sobbed.

But like a newborn baby, the story didn’t end at birth. It continued to grow and change, as I read and re-read it, and then as I entrusted the manuscript to selected people to read and critique. I revised it, re-worked parts of it, and did my best to make it read more smoothly. I took some suggestions to heart, and made changes, while ignoring others which I determined were given with the best of intentions, but which I believed would change the character of the story. In the end, I finally laid down my editing pencil, took a deep breath, and declared the story finished.

My next big step was to decide how to get the story out into the world. I didn’t have the time or the money to research publishing the book, and I wasn’t sure if it was the kind of story that would sell enough copies to make it worth my time and effort. The blog seemed to be the perfect avenue, and I decided to set up a new blog site, and post the book in serial fashion. In a heart-to-heart conversation with myself, I realized that my intent in writing the book wasn’t to make a ton of money. I had always wanted to write a novel, and the exercise of writing it was enough to satisfy me.

I posted the link to each chapter on my Facebook page, and soon I had a small following of Loyal Readers. I looked forward to messages posted on my Facebook page and to private ones sent to me via email. Everyone was very kind – I didn’t receive any negative comments throughout the entire project. I found myself speeding up the process of posting chapters. My intention had been to post one chapter per week, but as the story progressed and Loyal Readers clamored for the next installation, I began posting two-three times a week.

Posting the final chapter yesterday was like giving birth all over again. I felt a huge sense of anticipation, with butterflies dancing around in my stomach as I wondered what my Loyal Readers were going to say. Thankfully, favorable comments have trickled in, and I feel fulfilled in completing this project. I did what I said I was going to do over two years ago – write a novel – and in a strange and unique way, I have published it. I will leave the book in its entirety online for awhile before taking it down, and hope that more readers will either stumble onto it, or be forwarded the link to read the story.

Now I am trying to decide whether to bare my soul in writing another story. I think I may have another one in me somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is. I have some ideas, so I think I’ll lay low for awhile and see if a seed will sprout, showing me the way to a new adventure for some unsuspecting story character. I am toying with the idea of continuing Lou’s story in some manner, but I’m just not sure yet.

We’ll see what grows!

Please feel free to read Fishbowls and Birdcages at and forward the URL to people you think might enjoy reading it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Father's Pocket Watch

A round, gold pocket watch is attached to a long gold chain. Indentions from babies’ teething dent the worn timepiece.

The man’s trousers feature a special hidden pocket below the waistband just large enough for the watch to slip inside and disappear.

The chain is hooked to a front belt loop, making the chain look like a golden capital U.

The little girl climbs up onto her daddy’s lap, pulling at the chain to extricate the watch from its hiding place.

Tiny hands hold the watch while one little finger pushes on the watch’s magic button, making the top pop up to reveal the watch’s face, bringing smiles to two other faces.

The little girl bends down to bring the watch to her ear, turning her bright eyes toward those of her father, stretching the chain tautly as she pulls.

“Tick, tick, tick, tick,” the second hand says as it travels around to each of the twelve numbers. Father and daughter share a warm hug, a melting heart, and a child’s giggle.

I loved my Daddy’s lap and his pocket watch.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Question about Giving Thanks

What if you woke up in the morning to discover that all you have or own consists only of what you gave thanks for yesterday?

This question was asked at a memorial service I attended last night for a friend who was killed in a motorcycle accident last week. This simple question struck me, absorbing through my skin, and finding its way to my heart. It really made me pause to think.

My life is filled with blessings. My dad used to remind me to count my blessings whenever I’d feel blue and down in the dumps. This simple statement last night brought all of this back to me that I need to thank God each day for all that has been given to me.

One of my practices when I have trouble sleeping at night is to list all of the things I am thankful for in a prayer. Sometimes I’ll play the children’s alphabet game as I make my mental list, finding something beginning with each letter of the alphabet for which I am thankful. Usually, I fall asleep before reaching the end, but if I'm still awake, I start all over again with “A.”

God is good, and life is rich. Even with the disappointments and failures I’ve experienced in my life, I can count them as blessings. Through every one, I have learned valuable lessons, grown spiritually, and practiced focusing on the important things in life. As I grow older, I better understand the meaning of “in all things, give thanks.”

There is so much to be thankful for. The challenge is to be thankful DAILY for it all.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Baby Crib

I was thinking about my babies’ crib the other night as I was drifting off to sleep. I’m not sure why this bubbled up into my conscious mind, but since it did, I relaxed and let my memories lead me by the hand into my past.

We were living in Miami when I became pregnant with Wade. Our home was a cozy one-bedroom garage apartment, surrounded by avocado and citrus trees. The little cottage apartment was barely big enough for the two of us, not to mention a new baby. As we planned for the new addition, we knew that our baby would be sharing our small bedroom with us – there was no other place for him or her – space was definitely limited. I was determined to purchase a full-sized baby bed; I wanted my baby to sleep in comfort, with plenty of room to grow.

The perfect crib found us in the baby department of one of Miami’s department stores. It was a simple style, painted white, with pink and blue spinning balls along the top of the headboard. Stenciled on the headboard panel were the cutest little puppies I’d ever seen. It was the latest design – both side rails went up and down, and the springs had three height adjustments, showing consideration for both a growing baby and the parents who lifted baby in and out of bed. The rail tops had a plastic coating on them, a safety feature for teething babies. I loved this bed at first sight, and even though we couldn’t afford it, somehow we found the money to purchase it.

David assembled it in our bedroom as soon as it was delivered. It fit nicely tucked into a corner of our bedroom, with enough room to spare for a small rocking chair beside it. I put a fresh crib sheet on the mattress, hung the nursery rhyme mobile my parents had given to us, and waited for baby Wade or Katherine to arrive. The crib and I were ready for baby.

Wade slept in the crib from the day we brought him home from the hospital until he was almost three years old. It moved with us several times over those years, and David became very proficient at assembling and disassembling it with each move.

By the time Wade celebrated his third birthday, he had made the move into a big boy bed. We were expecting another baby, and Wade was excited about becoming a big brother.

Before Brian was born, we moved into a house with a small bedroom that would serve as a nursery. David assembled the crib, and I cleaned it up and pulled out the crib sheets I’d stored away. Up went the same mobile that had been Wade’s, and we were again ready for baby.

Brian slept in the crib until he was big enough to climb in and out of it all by himself. Again, we took it down, stored it in the basement, and Brian graduated to a twin bed with rails on each side.

I knew that there would be no more babies coming our way, and thought often about my beautiful crib gathering dust in the basement. What should I do with it? My answer came one morning as a dropped Brian off at a neighborhood church day care center, where he spent one day each week while I worked a part-time job. The center was growing by leaps and bounds, and I noticed that the three cribs in the nursery room were occupied. I asked the director if she accepted donations. You’d have thought I’d offered her a million dollars! Yes! They’d love to have another crib, and hand-me-downs were most welcome.

I talked first to Wade and Brian about the idea of giving their baby bed to the day care center. Upon receiving their enthusiastic approval, we told David our plan. He agreed, and by the following week, the crib was being used by a cute baby girl. When I dropped Brian off at the center my next working day, he was delighted to see his bed with a sleeping baby in it.

I’ve often thought about that crib, wondering where it is and who is safely tucked into it. I'd like to believe that even after all these years, it is still on duty.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Shoe Truck

Today was the day for the shoe truck to arrive at my workplace. I had been looking forward to it ever since I began working at Amtico International earlier this month. I’ve never bought shoes out of a truck before, and I was ready for this new adventure. When I woke up this morning, my first waking thought was of new shoes. I could hardly wait to get to work.

Steel-toed shoes are required in my new place of employment. I am not allowed onto the manufacturing floor without them. One of the perks of employment is a new pair of shoes each year. I was eager to look at the selections in the shoe truck and hoped that I’d find a perfectly wonderful pair of new steel-toed shoes. Yes, I am easily entertained and amused by the simplest of pleasures.

My new friend, Angela, who has been at Amtico for several years walked with me out to the shoe truck, parked behind the plant. I think she wanted to accompany me because all I’ve been talking about the past couple of days is my excitement over the truck’s arrival. Once inside the truck, she left me on my own to select my shoes, and she headed back to the building.

The selection of women’s steel-toed shoes was sparse and disappointing. That is, until I spotted a pair of clogs! I commented to the salesman that they reminded me of my Crocs. I had no idea that one could get safety shoes in a slide-on style. Luckily, he had a pair in my size. Yes, they felt very much like Crocs on my feet. When I verbalized this out loud, he shot me a look verifying that he thought I was downright loopy. But, he wasn’t one to turn his back on a sale and quickly wrote up my receipt.

Once back inside the building, I was invited by Angela to walk with her back onto the manufacturing floor. I quickly slipped on my new shoes, wiggled my toes, and stepped confidently into the plant.

It’s amazing what worlds can open up when you’re wearing the right pair of shoes!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Sunrise

One nice thing about my new job is my drive each day to work. I’ve never before had a job where my commute took me past pastures, hay fields, and rolling farm land. And, this is the first time in my working career that I haven’t been on the road well before the sun came up in the morning. For this job, I drive east and have the privilege of watching the morning sky change as daylights dawns on the Georgia countryside.

This morning’s sunrise was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. As I drove along, I wished for my camera to take a photo of what my eyes could hardly believe. I left home just as the sky was beginning to show light. To the east, a multi-shaded orange glow draped the horizon, and to the west a band of icy clouds reflected the early light in a pinkish violet glow.

When I turned onto the road to Madison, the colors were changing second by second as the sun inched her way into the morning sky. Sunlight reflected off of the ice-laden clouds hovering along the horizon, shooting golden rays into the sky. A wash of blue began to deepen as day began in earnest. The frost on the barren fields and bales of hay sparkled with the dawning day. It seemed that nature was celebrating with a burst of color.

By the time I got to work, all of the colors had faded into a bright and clear winter morning. As I walked into the building, I was ready for my day.

I also began to wonder what my ride home would be like, when I’d be driving into the afternoon sunset after my work day is finished.

There are other good things to say about my new job, but for today nothing can top the way this day began.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Snowy Day - Am I Still in Georgia?

It started late Sunday night after I went to bed. We all knew it was coming, but I was secretly hoping that this snow storm would be a false alarm, much like the one I remember in the mid-70’s, when I lived in Marietta.

On that eventful, or non-eventful, day as it turned out, I stayed glued to the parsonage windows with my little boys, eyes peeled to catch the first snowflake. We were ready for some winter fun – visions of building snowmen, sledding, and most definitely making snow angels were dancing in our heads. The television was tuned to a local channel, and the news announcer standing on one of the overpasses of I-75 kept telling us over and over that the snow was on its way. Businesses and schools all over Atlanta had either closed for the day or had sent children home early. While there was no white stuff falling, there was mayhem on the interstate as cars jammed it up, creating rush hour at 2:00 pm, their drivers and riders trying to get home before the storm hit. Every few minutes, we’d hear the announcer tell us that it wouldn’t be long- we were definitely in for a winter event. Sadly, it never arrived. We might have seen a few snowflakes that afternoon – I really don’t remember – but our dreams of playing in the snow drifted up into the winter sky, yielding no results.

This time was different. I woke up yesterday morning to a white world. Of course, the first thing I had to do was take my ruler out onto the deck to see how deep the snow was. Measuring about 4”, I knew that I would be staying home for the day. It didn’t matter that the company I now work for doesn’t have an inclement weather policy – I wasn’t going anywhere! The snow was still falling, and I was eager to get out in it to check things out. As I was heading out my door with Diamond for a morning stroll, my phone rang. It was my boss, telling me that the office was closed for the day. I was delighted, since I was facing taking a vacation day on my second week of work! Diamond and I ventured out onto our dirt road – no tracks. Ours were the first ones of the day. We then checked out the paved road. Only one set of tracks had disturbed the blanket of snow. Yes, it was going to be a good day to stay home. Now, if only the power would stay on for the day!

As the morning progressed, the snow changed to sleet, and then a misting freezing rain. I stood at my window, much like that day so many years ago, watching the day drift by. By mid-afternoon, Diamond and I were beginning to feel the effects of cabin fever, and decided to venture out once more. This time, it was more treacherous making it to the ground level. Our steps were covered with a crunchy layer of ice over the several inches of snow. Carefully, we conducted the slip test, discovering that if we stomped hard, we didn’t have to worry about slipping on the ice. With feet and paws finally firmly planted on the ground, we checked the bird feeder, and I dusted the snow off, allowing better access for our birds. There were now a few sets of tracks on our road, and a couple of four-wheelers roared past. The paved road was still snow and ice-covered, but a few more tracks showed me that some adventurous folks had braved the icy conditions. Diamond romped in the snow for a few minutes, took care of some necessary business, and we headed back home. Cold! It was sooo cold. I had bundled up pretty good, but my gloves were not made for snowy days, and my fingers began to throb. I knew it was time to get back indoors where it was warm.

So, now it is Day Two of the first (and I hope, last) snowstorm of 2011. Not only is the ground still covered with white, but the pine branches are heavy with a thin coating of ice. I’m still indoors with no plans to go anywhere today. Our office is closed again, so it must be pretty bad out there. I’ll bundle up once more a little later in the day, with two pairs of gloves on my hands this time, and go for a walk with my dog. I’ll look toward the sky, urging the sun to peep out from behind the clouds to melt some of this stuff, and eat another steaming bowl or two of homemade soup.

Springtime, where are you?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Second Day of 2011

The new year arrived as I was rudely awakened at midnight by the sound of gunshots from down the road. Crazy neighbors were welcoming in 2011 with firearms instead of firecrackers. I was thankful to be indoors, as I rolled over and gave Phil a New Year’s kiss on the cheek, without rousing him from his sleep. I drifted back into la-la land, pondering the thought, “I wonder what 2011 will bring my way.”

On my Facebook page, I have been wished a Happy New Year by a number of my friends. One thing that struck a chord was that many of them commented the hope that 2011 will be a better year than 2010. It made me begin to wonder – was 2010 a bad year for so many, or are people merely striving for excellence in the coming year? How can 2011 be better? We lived through 2010 to welcome in a new year. What could be better than that, I ask.

2010 was a challenging year for me, but it was a great one. Who could ask for more? As I look at the open book of 2011, I see opportunities and more challenges heading my way. 2010 prepared me for this new year. In 2010, I learned that I can be a salesperson as I hawked my wares at the Saturday market. I broke out of my introverted shell as I interacted with strangers, making friends along the way, sharing my gardening and baking knowledge, teaching friends how to make rag rugs, and stretching my wings in my writing and photography skills. Money was scarce at times, but all our bills were paid, and as I look back at the year, I can see that I prospered.

The year also brought sadness and pain. My son’s beloved dog, Maddie, died, leaving a hole in all of our hearts. My dearly loved Aunt Agnes finally left us at the age of 103. Phil’s mother didn’t wake up one morning in October from her nursing home bed. I stumbled in my garden in July, leaving a jagged upside-down “L” shaped gash in my leg, requiring 20 stitches and a huge medical bill. My washer and dryer of over 15 years agitated and tumbled their last laundry load, again calling for a large expenditure of cash to replace them. These, along with other events, of lesser note and importance, brought tears and moments of introspection and contemplation.

And there were surprises in 2010. The biggest one of all was that I was offered a job in November. I was flabbergasted that I was invited for a second interview. For the past two years, if I made it to one interview, I was never asked back for the second. For some reason, this company wants me, and even with all of my excuses not to accept the position, they had a solution to every one of my roadblocks, including my part-time job of tutoring at the local college. The job offer was a decent one – a good salary, excellent benefits, and a job that is only 20 minutes away from my home. When I start my job on Tuesday at Amtico International, I look forward to this new chapter in my life, while I’ll still be able to leave early on Mondays for tutoring at Georgia Perimeter College. It all looks very promising for an interesting year.

I wonder what 2011 will bring? I hesitate to speculate or dream of what I wish for the year, because I know from experience that the surprises will out-number what I think will happen. With my notebook in hand, and my new camera around my neck, I’m ready for whatever the year brings down my country road.

Bring it on, 2011!