Monday, March 29, 2010

Hen and Chickens

As a little girl who spent summers with her maternal grandparents and her mom's unmarried sisters, I was trained to know the outdoors. Unfortunately, I was more interested in having my blond hair combed, avoiding baths, reading outdated copies of Redbook and Ladies' Home Journal, hanging out at my aunt's beauty parlor and trolling through movie magazines, and resting my usual TV deprived butt in my aunt's chair and watching Lawrence Welk, I-Spy, or Perry Mason.

Up the street about an eighth of a mile was a small park with swings, slides, and this big tilt-a-whirl that I could get spinning so fast my brains were scrambled. I loved that thing -- I was indefatigable on it, and I begged my aunts, and sometimes strangers, to spin me till I couldn't stand.

It was cool to be young and dizzy part time.

Hmmm. No wonder Algebra gave me such a problem --and to think I blamed it on my momma allowing me to roll off the bed when she was changing my diaper when I was nine months old. :)

My mother went back to work when I went to kindergarten. My parents became one of those 1960s statistics of the beginning of the two-income family -- neither one made a ton of money, but together, they managed to save enough money to send four children to college, supporting for one year, three at a time.

So, during the summers, for my first young years, I was sent to stay with my aunts and grandparents in their home in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The house was a three story white clapboard (top photo) with a glassed-in front porch, eaves used as attics, and a full basement with a spooky, hulking coal furnace. The basement was full of implements left over from farm work, as well as home canned goods, and the washing machine --- when it finished its cycle, the hose emptied over a floor drain.

Coolest thing evah.

Uncool -- then someone carried them to the backyard to be hung out on the clothesline attached to the house and the alley fence on a pulley. That was the best thing -- it was on a pulley, so we could stand in one spot to hang the clothes. I usually parked myself in the nearest lounge chair. See photo at left.

Tee hee.

It was in this backyard that my aunts instructed me on flowers and other flora and fauna that they had lovingly transported from the "farm," their 100 acres in Appomattox.

When my grandparents became too old to farm in 1959, they moved from the farm to the nearest big city, and their daughters, unmarried or uninterested, had no desire to keep the vocation that their parents worked so hard, they lived together in this house on Westover Boulevard in Lynchburg.

They brought memories of the farm to town -- foxgloves, snapdragons, ladies' tresses, squaw root, poke weed, golden rod, and beauty berry. Names I thought they made up based on how they looked--- and within the native flowers, they planted daffodils, tulips, and clematis.

When we went to "Grandmaw's little acre," a patch of land with a cabin that they saved from "the property," which we visited every Sunday afternoon after church, and after paying our respects to the ancestors at the church graveyard near by, we would take a picnic to the cabin and again, my aunts and grandparents patiently tried to teach me about plants and trees.

Unfortunately, I was more interested in checking out the outhouse, pushing the hand mower, or stretching out on a lounge chair under the trees with my second or third piece of homemade pie or cake.

I was a brat in training.

When my aunt died and my family emptied their house, I was a grown married woman with an ache for nostalgia and memories. Too late -- that generation, mostly had passed on, or were sequestered in nursing homes where they hardly knew me.


my Aunt Eleanor's green thumb had the power to make the hardest of indoor plants flourish: orchids, African violets, and .... did what she asked them, and her tender loving care of plants, not only from the farm, but those she coddled for forty years in that house -- were alive to be taken for posterity.

I loved a plant she called "hen and chicks" that grew like a weed in her flower bed -- their little heads clinging to sides, climbing over one another, and putting out like a toaster.

She also had a little breeding ground for these in "Papa's bean bowl" sitting on the side porch door stoop. In that bowl were "hen and chicks" galore, spilling and filling that bowl like it was its natural habitat.

When we packed up that house, I asked to take the hen and chicks in "Papa's bowl," and since no one in my family wanted them, I was allowed to take them with me to Georgia, where they have flourished.

That was 1992.

Those hen and chicks were blessed ones.... they are still rearing their heads each spring, and sending "chicks" in all directions.

Over the years, I have shared the hen and chicks with friends, and one time with a UPS delivery man who admired them on the porch. I quickly snipped four or five "chicks" and sent them to grow to be hens with the UPS man.

Plants are a legacy. They should be something that you share.

Yeah, you should.

And now, I officially sound like an old lady.

Shutup. All of you.

Pictured above -- At Grandmaw's cabin, my sister and me -- and then Aunt Eleanor, me, and my sister on the Blue Ridge Parkway.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Familiar Heat

Set on the Florida coast, Familiar Heat by Mary Hood enters the lives of ordinary folks -- white, black, Cuban -- shrimpers, menders, priests, a housekeeper, a stone cutter, a baseball star, and exiles from Cuba -- thirty years after the Bay of Pigs.

As the story opens, Faye Perry, married to Vic Rios, boat captain and son of a Cuban hero, executed by Castro's regime, enters the bank to do her business and interrupts a robbery. Her timing could not be worse, as the robbers choose her as hostage. Determined to somehow "live" through the horrific plans the two culprits have for her, Faye survives, but the brutal details of that survival undermine and break her relationship with Vic. As Hood details Vic's reaction to his wife's abduction, her husband notes, "'So you say she's missing, you don't say she's dead,' as though that were the sort of bad news a man could just bear to hear. but no more than that: no." Vic can't bear what happens to Faye.

"One thing leads to another" sang the the rock band the Fixx in the 1980s .. and the events that occur after this erase Faye's memory of who she was -- much less the past that cause her and Vic estrangement in the first place. Faye concludes, "[I] knew I didn't know what I was missing... but how was I to find out what got left out?"

Hood not only focuses on Faye and Vic, but on Vic's mother and her stubborn determination to immortalize her dead husband as hero after his execution, and the story of Vic's brother, Tom, a tormented widower still suffering the loss of his own wife but sympathetic to the complications of his sister-in-law's memory loss and her determination to live alone with her new life -- a life vacant of a past that knew Vic. When Tom and Vic disagree over Faye's situation, Vic tells him: "This is rich. This is biblical; this is one for the pope."

In addiction, Hood narrates the ups and downs of Zeb Leonard, family exile -- who runs away from his Chicago family and starts a new, reinvented life, and eventually has his own family, and his dream to be his own man. Once started, he makes decisions that alienate him from his wife's love, and she, in turn, shuts him out of their marriage and away from their children.

Then there is the priest, his housekeeper with a cat phobia, the stone-cutter neighbor and others who invest in the risk of caring about others.

Familiar Heat was what I would label a "big" novel.

Hood spares no detail - the Florida coast -- its vegetation, wild life, and storms --- the minute descriptions of the world of owning a small boat, its maintenance, expense, and frustrations---- the brutal violence of man to his fellow man ---- and the repercussions of brain damage -- she seems to know about it all and know it well.

Mostly though, Hood is a story teller -- stories about us and our innate powerful desire to live, to love, and to be loved.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Inside Job?

I have always been curious about what type of person takes those jobs that require one to stand in the middle of a busy intersection and hold a sign that says, "Going out of Business or Moving: Everything Must Go."

The businesses that require that type of advertising are usually electronics or furniture or appliance stores. I don't know that I have seen it with other types of businesses, but I do lead a sheltered life. :)

When the weather is less than pleasant, like rainy or really, really hot, I feel sorry for this person who has to stand out there and hold that sign. I want to roll down my window and throw them a twenty and wish them a inside job.

I don't mean "inside" job, I mean a job inside a building with a roof and air conditioning... with benefits.

Forget the benefits, the current world slipped my mind.

A month ago, my friend Edie and I went to Chick-Fil-a, a fast food restaurant, that in terms of fast food is always good. Because we hadn't seen each other in a while, we sat inside the restaurant.

As we sat there over our chicken sandwiches, we were accosted not once, not twice, not even three times, but six times by a person, unknown gender, dressed like a cow. This cow wandered from table to table giving folks high fives. Cute, if you are five yourself, but Edie and I are grown women with lots to talk about... we didn't need to be interrupted every five minutes by a six foot six black and white cow insisting on giving us high-fives. Neither Edie or I could figure out where the eyes were ---very disconcerting, and we guessed he was looking at us through its nostrils..... and chuckling like a wild man at how annoying he was.

Talk about embracing your anonymity.

Enough, costume cow. Enough.

Edie said, "This must be part of the stimulus package."

Edie is quite funny.

In the last five days, I have seen these these street sign holding employees three times --they work for the Liberty Tax Service, and not only are they holding a sign, but they are dressed as Miss Liberty.

Like, Miss Liberty costume... with their faces painted green.

This week is fairly typical for me: Bible study, a visit with my friend Celia who had knee surgery, a trip to the library, and lunch with Laura off of I-75. I'm on the road, blog readers.

Retirement is keeping me so busy.

*files nails*

These Liberty Tax Service's Miss Liberty costumed employees holding their signs seemed to be everywhere I traveled, and the three I saw personally were as different in body type, gender, and race as you could be.

Blog readers: How different in gender can you be?
Me: Trust me.

One of the things that cracks me up about these costumed Miss Liberty characters are also the range in personality.

The first one I saw was a young man, perhaps a tad rotund, who stood on the side of the street holding the sign for "Get Your Taxes Done Fast," and danced. He did the Watusi, the Penguin, the shake, and he did some other wild thangy that I can only say might imitate mating. He grinned, he gesticulated, and he passed the time entertaining himself.

I grinned as I passed him and thought, "that's the way to do it, buddy."

The next one was a middle-aged woman who sat all comfy on the side of the road in a folding chair, legs crossed, high heeled foot kicking out and back, and lazily holding the sign "Taxes Done Here" and smoking a cigarette. She looked like she was passing by and the real Miss Liberty asked her to adorn this costume, hold this sign, while she took a potty break.

I thought, "you go, girl. Make that work for ya."

The last one was my favorite. He was a sunglasses wearing Miss Liberty with a blond goatee and million dollar smile. His advantage -- he staked out his world right by a red light. His victims pulled up to the light, and when I was stopped there, he leaned over and peered and grinned right into my passenger window. Since it was sunny Wednesday, I had the sun roof back, and he huskily purred, "hey baby, I bet I could hustle you some tax cuts, and we could treat ourselves to a nude beach in Waikiki!"


I don't imagine that I was the first one he had said that to.

As I pulled away from that stoplight, I guffawed. What a riot that guy was --- I can imagine the stories he can tell about the reactions he got to his line.

I told David about the guy offering me that line, and David said, " I don't think Waikiki has a nude beach."

You gotta love David, and he's totally wrong. I looked it up on the Internet. Waikiki does.



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Good Turn

Almost anyone knows how the adage goes, "one good turn deserves another," but in the case of Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn novel, well, I'm not so sure. In fact, I'm not so sure what I think of the novel at all --- maybe as I review it, I will work it out.

Mild mannered Martin Canning, aka as Alex Blake, writes detective fiction for a living -- his snooper, the fairly innocuous Nina Riley. Martin makes a pile of money writing these rather lame, but popular novels, and secures himself a beautiful home and lifestyle, but his shy ways make him a easy target for moochers and leeches. Currently staying free of charge at his home is the unfunny comedian, Richard Mott, who has also borrowed his car and Rolex.

Outside a Fringe Theater District in a less than spectacular area of Edinburgh, Martin watches what seems to be a friendly fender bender (heh, as if they can be friendly), but turns violent when one of the drivers exits his car huffing and puffing like a mad man and holding a baseball bat. Mouth agape, Martin somehow, in a horrified stupor and before the bat wielding driver can put a second and final blow to the head of the other driver, hurls his laptop at the assailant. Then thinking the attacker will come after him, he falls over in a dead faint. The attacker, however, skedaddles as the little skirmish in the street draws too much attention.

When Martin comes out of his heroic reverie, the police are on the scene, and the assaulted driver, awake but with a concussion, thanks Martin for his intervention.

Before Martin knows it, he's in the ambulance and accompanying the victim to the hospital and assumes a type of "responsible party" for a man who claims he has no "next of kin" and assures Martin that he is fine and can be left alone. For some reason, the usually mild Martin winds up as his babysitter and then finds himself the victim of a crime -- his victim takes Martin's wallet and disappears.

Then it dawns on Martin that he has no identification, no money, and then remembers his laptop -- his weapon of choice is A.W.O.L. -- and therefore, his latest Nina Riley story gone -- not once but twice.... since the backup for it was on the flash drive securely safe in his wallet.

Eh. Martin became pretty quickly too dense for me to root for --- I hung my hat on one of these other characters.

Also at the scene of the road rage assault are other bystanders and witnesses --- the ex-policeman Jackson Brodie, who neglects to turn in the tag number of the "hit" (with the baseball bat-- heh) and run, and Gloria Hatter, wife of one of the richest and most corrupt house builders around. Gloria even stretches her neck to see what occurred but chooses to not reveal what she sees either.

Maybe I can root for one of them?
Uh no.

Jackson is all stupid over his actress girlfriend who thinks she's the clever one: she calls her director -- "savior" and "angel" -- and she's dressed in a potato sack and in a play titled Looking for the Equator in Greenland.

Gloria lives in an ostentatious estate on the outskirts of London and enjoys wearing outfits that match her peach themed living room.

Where the heck am I?

Meanwhile, Gloria's husband Graham suffers a heart attack while with a Russian call-girl, and "surprise, surprise"-- all of these characters cross each other's tracks and become semi-involved as the hunt for the crazed slugger and the reason why he assaulted the other driver like a medicated but effective Mark McGuire.

To further complicate matters, a pinked-out cleaning service called Favors (heh) finds a dead man at Martin's home -- and well, you know.... it's a mystery.

Then there is the policewoman, her son, a petty thief -- and the list goes on and on...

No likey Graham.
No likey call girl.
No likey policewoman.
No likey the pink dressed girls who worked for Favors.

*rolls eyes*

I think I'd rather read Martin's Nina Riley missing story, Death on the Black Isle.


I finished this book -- it's the loser in me, but I did not particularly enjoy it. Everyone in the novel was a wanker.

Maybe I was the biggest wanker of all for finishing it.


Atkinson was trying to be funny, and I should have channeled my British sense of humor, perhaps taken a cup of tea, warmed my brogans by the fire, and chuckled wickedly to myself about how silly these characters were, but, you know, it just wasn't funny, even though, I do have to admit I love the word wanker.

So, I guess I can thank Atkinson for that?

One Good Turn does not deserve your turning the pages of this book. Forget Atkinson. If you want British humor, go read George Bernard Shaw.

But that's just me ... and I'm a wanker.


ETA: Jennifer? Just want you to know that almost everyone in this book had a secret. They just weren't dark -- they were boring.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Read, girl, read."

Julius Caesar wrote his autobiography 2060 years ago when he wrote the Roman sagas and talked about himself in third person.

My Latin teacher, Mr. Burger, a formidable man, strolled up and down the aisles of his classroom, hands folded behind his back, pants pulled up under his armpits, white shirt, black tie, and randomly stopped at a student's desk , tapped the notebook paper with pen scratches and scrawls, and asked the student to read aloud from his homework. His homework -- three or four pages of Latin text-- had to be translated into English.

I used to spend hours on it -- Mr. Burger would stop by my desk and demand: "Read, girl, read."

The translation of Julius Caesar's words would read something like this:

"Caesar left Alexandria, having established Cleopatra as a client ruler in alliance with Rome; he left three legions under the command of Rufio, as legate, in support of her rule. Either immediately before or soon after he left Egypt, Cleopatra bore a son, whom she named Caesarion, claiming that he was the son of Caesar."

Note: Caesar was a cad --- "claiming" --- but Cleopatra was no ingenue -- she slept with snakes, you know.

Ha. No pun intended.

The translations would go on and on, and sometimes, Caesar might add olive branches, gold leaves or greaves, chariots, and bloody battles. The bottom line was that Caesar thought a lot of himself -- and I guess, you would, if you were writing up your life in Latin and making clear your conquests for posterity.


BTW: When you translated incorrectly, Mr. Burger would say, "I'll have your life's blood."

Teaching by intimidation -- what a novel idea.... :)


In fact, I'm pretty sure that Mr. Burger wanted a DNA test to prove that I was my brother's sister -- an older brother who was Star Student, GHP attendee, State Orator winner, and Valedictorian. He got himself a full academic ride to the University of Virginia. Mr. Burger thought he was the brightest student he ever taught -- and then there was I -- who struggled with Latin -- cause it was like "Greek to me."

but those that understood him smiled at one another and
shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me
--William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 1599.


Seriously, how would you like to follow a sibling like that?

I took Latin because it was a family tradition.

We conjugated verbs in a dead language.


What were my parents thinking?

Anyhow -- I listened to this very funny podcast on "if you were to write your autobiography, what would be its title," and the people calling in were quite clever.

I wish I would have called in ... cause I used to tell my students that my autobiography title would be Nobody Claps for Me.

What would yours be?

Vinegar Hill

James Agee's, A Death in the Family, sent chills up and down my spine when I read it the first time as a teenager. Agee painstakingly describes each family members' reaction to the death of a loved one, but mostly related the point of view of Rufus, the son, who loses his father. Never in a hurry to rush narrative or character, Agee demands a patience from the reader to stick with this fictionalized, yet autobiographical account, of his own father's death in a car accident when Agee was a child. Death in the Family, published posthumously, won the Pulitzer as Agee died before totally completing the novel.

As I delved into A. Manette Ansay's 1994 debut novel, Vinegar Hill, I thought about Agee's novel -- the same slow telling -- the careful prose --- but this time, the death of a loved one -- is perhaps the death of self. Set in 1972, Ellen Grier finds herself disappointed in her marriage and unhappy with her new set of circumstances -- living with her in-laws, a couple of misfits with an ugly and tragic past -- and an damning secret kept for forty years.

Ansay throws punches -- hard, life ones --- as she lays out Ellen's husband abusive childhood and the equally disturbing loveless relationship between her husband's parents, both from tough backgrounds where farm work and the rigidness of their Catholic upbringing meld for some rather bizarre behavior and unfathomable violent outcomes. Living with her two children and husband with her in-laws where she is under constant criticism, Ellen hardly holds it together. With her in-laws address on "Vinegar Hill," the use of vinegar as the street name is no accident -- this is a bitter, sour house full of anger, resentment, lies, secrets, and despair. As Ellen notes late in the novel, "within those walls, [I] am the piece that doesn't fit, the doll without a task."

Vinegar Hill held my attention, but as one reviewer puts it, "Lovely prose, but only for those who can stomach the content."

I barely did "stomach it," but Ansay kept me there for Ellen, cheering her and hoping that she would make the decision best for her, best for her family.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Su camastro esta ahora listo para usarse."

David and I bought a chaise lounge chair for the deck -- I had been bugging him for one for a couple of years. We always waited too late in the season to get one -- then they'd be picked over, the wrong color or style, or not available at all. You have to get a chair like this ... early in the season.

This year, I was determined to get one -- and when we were in the mountains last weekend, I saw one at Home Depot -- and said, "Thar she blows!"

So we bought it -- good thing David had the trailer hooked up to the car -- or I'd still be lusting after my lounge chair.

We loaded the big box and brought it home -- and it sat in the basement till Sarah came over yesterday.

Sarah is a sophomore at Mercer. She's busy being a Resident Assistant and running around and doing whatever college students do, and I hadn't seen her since Christmas when she came over to play games with the family.

Hmm. Perhaps why I hadn't seen her in a long time?

*rubs chin thoughtfully*

Anyway in the process of catching up with her, talking about school, music, movies, concerts, other KMHS graduates, and church, I for some reason mentioned that the only thing new in my life is that I finally had the lounge chair I wanted.

Blog readers: Gawd. *yawns* Is this a blog about a lounge chair?
Me: Be patient. This is about something.

Sarah: Where is it?
Me: It's in the basement. It's got to be assembled. I'm waiting on David to help me.
Sarah: We could put it together.
Me: You'd help me?
Sarah: Sure.
Me: Well, you are a graduate of KMHS's magnet school of math, science, and technology -- I guess we together can wield some tools.
Sarah: Totally.

Sarah had arrived at my house in this cute little dress and "too high for me to consider them as an option" black pumps.

The idea of her and me getting down to the nitty gritty with some tools and a lounge chair seemed like a skit for a comedy show.

Nonetheless, she was game.

We went to the basement to get the box and bring it up to assemble it so that when we were done we could easily carry it to the deck.

We struggled up the steps with the box -- hitting corners, groaning, and laughing -- an inauspicious start for swiftness in the project.

I groan all the time because I'm old.

Sarah groaned because she was lugging a rather cumbersome box up stairs backwards with cats darting between her legs like a teenager behind the wheel of a Ford Taurus taking the cones during Drivers' Education ... the cats only slightly more agile than the Taurus.

Halfway up the stairs, I said, "Are you sure you wanna do this?"
Sarah: Mercy. I guess. We have the box almost up now.

BTW: Sarah had kicked off her four inch heels.

We got the box upstairs, opened it, separated the parts, and begin to read the directions. We felt so confident that I said, "Let's follow them in Spanish."


Lista De Componentes


The chair had all kinds of parts -- a chaise lounge back, a base, right and left arm rests, washers, plastic and metal, bolts of two sizes, an allen wrench, a hex wrench, plastic nut caps, and, of course, nuts, large and small.

The chair had two steps. Paso 1 and Paso 2.

*crack knuckles and exchange confident looks*

How hard can this be? Two steps?

We studied the directions and put two bolts in the end of the chair to hold the lounge back.

Sarah studied the diagram:

Sarah: Do you want to put the bolts this way or that way? It looks like a personal preference.
Me: Let's read them in English.
Sarah: It still looks like a personal preference.

So, we put the bolts on and deftly used the wrenches to attach them securely.

Me: Hey, Sarah, maybe this summer while you're home, we can put a sign up at Home Depot and offer to say, put lounge chairs together for paying customers and undercut the subs at Home Depot who charge like 40 dollars an hour.
Sarah: We so could! We could even do it in high heels.
Me: Speak for yourself.

Then we pulled out the chair arm rests. Something wasn't right as we moved them around the sides trying to figure out the exact position.

*flips directions over to English side*

Sarah: Hmm? Looks like we have two left arm rests.
Me: Darn liberals. They're infiltrating everywhere.
Sarah: *snickers* Well, I think we'll need a right arm rest to make this work.
Me: Yes, you always need the "right."
Sarah: Hmmm.
Me: Can we finagle it to make it work?
Sarah: Nope. Not even in Spanish.
Me: Bwhaha.
Sarah: Let's go to Home Depot.
Me: I don't wanna go to Home Depot.
Sarah: Snap out of it. It will be fun.

So, Sarah and I hop in the car, holding the two lefts, the directions and the chair receipt, run to Home Depot, get a lady from the "Home and Garden" department to crack open a box labeled "Napa Chaise Lounge" and give us the RIGHT arm.


Blog Readers: The "right" jokes are wearing thin.


We get back to the house and begin to attach the bolts to the arm rests and we begin to tighten using the handy dandy wrenches provided by the Napa Chaise Lounge company.

Sarah: Uh, I think we used the wrong bolts on the back.
Me: Let's just change them out.

So, we change them out, and again proceed to try to adhere the bolts to the arm rests.

We worked the hex wrench -- we worked the allen wrench, and for some reason, we just can't get them tight.

*thirty minutes later*

Sarah: Oh dear. I'm not sure that we can get this tight enough. Look! Argh! This one is crooked.
Me: *shakes fist at wrenches* Argh. I can't do this anymore. My fingers are killing me.
Sarah: I'm thinking our summer part time job is off now.
Me: Totally. It would take us FOREVAH to put one of these together.
Sarah: Mercy.
Me: Look, I'm thinking that this is a job for David when he comes home. He is stronger and can tighten quicker.
Sarah: You don't have to convince me. Let's go watch some You Tube.
Me: I'll race you to the computer.

So, David comes home, and I showed him the chair and said, "Will you tighten the bolts?" and I hand him the nifty hex and allen wrench provided by Napa Chaise Lounges.

David: I ain't foolin' with those monkey wrenches.
Me: No pun intended?

David rolls his eyes.

He goes to the basement and then appears upstairs in less than a minute with his own tools.
He then flips the chair over, holds his own version of an allen and hex wrench in each hand, and in less than five minutes has tightened every bolt, placed the plastic nut caps, both large and small on the chair, and moved the darn thing to the deck.

Me: *blink, blink*

Yeah, well, uh, I think I'll stick to blogging -- and Sarah -- can find a different job for those heels.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I feel --- Full.

I've decided that "Going to Lunch" is my new job.

It's a hard job -- in the sense of scheduling, deciding where to go, and then once there, "what to order?"

Such stress!!!!

These are big decisions -- I can't just wave them away like they are unimportant matters -- these are serious, serious issues and decisions. This is my citizen's way of helping with the stimulus plan.

Obama! I'm giving you my "change."


For years as a school teacher, I packed my lunch.

I tried eating in the cafeteria -- but the rolls alone were contributing to my own rolls -- so I packed my lunch -- it saved money, time, and fat calories.

At some point, I simplified what I packed partly due to my busy schedule (more decisions), and I began to pack the same thing every day for lunch -- my lunch consisted of a hard boiled egg, 8 Saltine crackers, an apple (if in season) and a measly 4.5 oz can of V-8.

Every day, I ate that.

I actually looked forward to it -- it was satisfying -- and pretty healthy.

Friends: Ugh, I don't see how you eat that every day.
Me: I'm just that disciplined.

It doesn't matter that in school buildings -- if you were hungry -- there were vending machines with "Dangerously Cheesy" crackers, Doritos, or candy bars, Diet Cokes, and, of course, folks always were bringing in treats of cookies or cake.

If a treat was placed on a table in a teacher's workroom, teachers circled it like vultures and hacked at it with their greedy paws. Ultimately, there was no knife (weapons policy-- LOL), so we whacked at food with the puny effectiveness of plastic knives.

Other teachers whom I ate lunch with would bring in leftovers (pot roast, pizza, chicken), and they would patiently stand in line to use the microwave --- eating up minutes (no pun intended) of their precious twenty-four minute lunch period -- and I would be done with my boring lunch in under three minutes and ready to use the extra time to swap stories.

I admit I would eyeball their good looking lunches with envy, but I recognized that food was just fuel for wielding my red pen ---- the egg, Saltines, fruit of the season, and V-8 gave me that much energy.

*raises a pen in memory*
*wipes tear from eye*

Sometimes, I would supplement my diet with a mid morning granola bar or a cup of strawberry banana yogurt. In the late afternoon, if I was there, moving ungraded papers around on my desk, I would search my purse for change and pling it in the vending machine for a Snickers or pack of crackers. Wiping the crumbs from the top of the papers, it would give me that boost to perhaps finish grading a stack of vocabulary quizzes or make some copies.

No cryin' over those days -- even though I do miss the Snickers.

But now, I am out in the world, spending money, tipping servers, and eating out ---- spending all that hard earned money that I saved for thirty-three years for retirement.


I hope I won't need that extra money at the old, too mean to die teacher's home -- where it might make the difference between a loud roommate or a choice of dessert?


Each morning, I talk to my sister on the phone -- while she's on her way to work. Our roles have reversed --- she used to talk to me on my way to work, but now she's working, and I'm not.

*does a jig*

Anyway, she said, "Do you go out to lunch everyday?"

Me: Not everyday.
Sister: It seems like it.
Me: Seems is not is -- even though they are both linking verbs.
Sister: What?
Me: No, I am not going out to lunch everyday, but sometimes I go twice a week, sometimes three, and sometimes.... well, more.
Sister: How do you do that?
Me: It's VERY hard.


Last week, I went out lunch six times in seven days, but it was a banner week.

Monday -- David and I were in North Carolina --- lunch with Pat and Jane in Hillsoborough at Tupelo's. I had homemade chicken salad, and David had a turkey and brie melt. {See photo}

Tuesday: David and I ate at Cracker Barrel in Spartanburg, SC. with Jennifer our "lookee at the snow" waitress. I had a chicken club, and David had a hamburger.

Wednesday: My nephew and I went to Longhorn to discuss his options after graduating from college, Obama (he loves politics), why some people are seriously bad at being waiters, Halo, and other members of the family. He had steak, and I had a loaded baked potato and salad.

*whew -- I was doing a lot of chicken*

Thursday: Wingate and I went to Biscayne Bay and sat for three hours -- we made our waitress so nervous -- she checked with us nine times to make sure we didn't want dessert. Nine times we said, "No, thank you." I had fried shrimp, hush puppies, coleslaw, and French fries -- Wingate had the same except her shrimp was Jumbo. I don't do Jumbo Shrimp -- it sounds like an oxymoron... plus it's so chewey. Ugh.

Friday: Aww -- no lunch out -- but Danielle and I had a pedicure.

*wiggles toes*

Saturday: Kit, Cindy (girls from Bible study), and I went to lunch at California Dreamin'. I had a shrimp wrap and French fries. We discussed ---- the gamut -- but Cindy told a story about a "doo rag ' and a man on a motorcycle that was VERY interesting. Kit had a club while Cindy had the fish sandwich.

Sunday: David and I went to Grapes and Beans in Clayton, Georgia, where our mountain house is -- this is our Sunday ritual when we are at our house. We buy a New York Times and gossip with the owner. We order a hummus plate (the best in the state of Georgia) -- David has whatever the special is -- usually something with Tofu or bean sprouts, and I always have the vegetarian pita with cheese.


That's a lot of going out to lunch.

*pats stomach*

I feel full.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Smurf porn"

I tried to watch the Academy Awards last night... just for a minute.
I was curious to see Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as co-hosts, but their material was pretty underwhelming, and frankly, I think other than the "stabs" at Meryl Streep (at least these were in the front), and some kind of George Clooney inside joke, I was pretty clueless about what was funny.

And I thought Jeff Bridges [pictured at left] was Kris Kristofferson.

Of course, Matt Damon was there, and I would watch him make breakfast....preferably for me.



I hadn't seen any of the nominated movies. Not one.

I feel un-American. I know I'm not doing my job as an American consumer.

Blog readers: Come on now, surely you have seen The Blind Side?
Me: Nope. I just might be the only person in the free world who hasn't seen it, but I haven't.

*hangs head in shame*

Blog readers: What about Avatar?
Me: What about it?

BTW: My friend Jane, who has been known to make some rather illogical statements in the twenty plus years I have known her, told me this:

Jane: Harriett, if you don't see Avatar --- why -- that's like living in the late nineteenth century and refusing to see the French Impressionists.
Me: Really, Jane?
Jane: Really.
Me: Well, the New Yorker called it Smurf porn. Doesn't make me wanna see that in 1-D, much less 3-D.
Jane: So short sighted.
Me: I take it that is not a pun.

Jane waved me away -- like a bad odor or an annoying ninth grader wishing to tell me how many points he scored on his marathon weekend playing Halo.

Blog readers: I don't think they score points.
Me: Whatever.

Anyway, David, expectantly, turned on the Oscars and thought he might be entertained.

We weren't.

Of course, as I have told my friends over the years -- I haven't been impressed with the Oscars since Ghandi beat out E.T. for best picture in 1982.

Blog readers: Are you kidding me?
Me: Nope. I couldn't' believe it either.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Skip the Poetry

After unpacking from my trip to North Carolina where I had taken back issues of The New Yorkers, I counted the ones remaining on my end table.


That's how many behind I am.


*wipes brow*

My New Yorkers make me nervous as they sit patiently on my end table waiting for me to pick one up and read its well-written articles, essays, stories, and reviews.

I have to be in the mood to read this magazine.

I can't explain it -- but sometimes, if I am not in the mood, I can't find one thing to read, and then when I'm in the mood, I read the whole darn thing.

Lookee -- an article on "Robots that Care."
Oh, and I can't wait to read the music review on Kanye West.

*rolls eyes*

When I retired, I thought I would read the New Yorkers as they came in the mail.... not save it for a marathon weekend reading or when I am away from television, the Internet, or novels.

But my favorite time to read them is when I travel.

They're compact, easy to hold, and they fit under my arm. I carry them places --- sit on them, put coffee mug rings on them, and they are no worse for wear. They conveniently fold over to the place where I leave off and are an excellent portable reader.

Edie: You need a Kindle.
Me: Not yet, my friend. I'm just now writing a blog. I'm embracing 2001.

I read about six New Yorkers going and coming on the six hours one way trip to North Carolina.

I left a Hansel and Gretel type of trail of those "use this card to get the New Yorker for 83% off the cover price* cards wherever I went.

They constantly fall on the floor, behind the car seat, or when I open the car door, to the ground.

I grumble when I have to lean over and pick one up.


They are a literate kind of litter, I guess, except that they reproduce like roaches.

Dang. They're everywhere in that magazine.

When we stop at rest stops or gas stations, I throw those cards in the trash. It feels good to do so. I don't know why -- it's like throwing away a to-do list where all the items have been crossed out -- it's like cleaning up after reading. It's cathartic.

David likes to drive --it's a control thing, and I am one of the few people I know who can read in a car.

David: Reading in the car gives me a headache.
Me: Reading in a chair gives you a headache.
David: Your point?

My friend Wingate gets my New Yorkers when I am finished --- I put Post-it notes on the articles, essays, book and cinema reviews, or fiction that I read and enjoyed. I don't read the poetry because it reads like this:

Water Angst

Ah, now my time has come, Melinda.
You visit me at night while I drink
a glass or twelve of white wine --
holy water
spirits of wet
---you who are from the sky--
for you have children, Paris, and lovers,
and big tumblers.
Still, I got angry with the paper and
the towels. Wet.
Circles the table and clacks her stilettos.
Asian bukkake.

(translated from the Berkerlian by Homer Jones)


So I skip the poetry.

If I had more room in the margins, I would underline text and make comments, but that slick paper makes for smears and illegibility. Plus, there is just not enough room. I can do some commenting.

My next issue is November 2 [somehow if fell out of place] and the the last one of December of 2009 -- then I will be to 2010.


No worries, though. The New Yorker is not a timely magazine, unless you read their political articles, which I don't. They're so far left -- I can't see them from the center.


The New Yorkers have interesting covers which I like to scrutinize .....

(a form of visual literacy, I guess, -- and sometimes, I don't get it --but I mostly do)

*pats self on back*

.. and their cartoons are more than clever.

*looks at end table*


That's a lot of magazine.
That's a lot of those subscription cards.


*picks up a novel*

Snow Again in Georgia? Eh.

We Southerners are fickle, you know?

We usually love snow, snow days, wild trips to the grocery store to get milk and eggs, makin' snow men that are really snow midgets, and diggin' out the scarves and gloves, shaking off the dust, for that ONE day when we have snow.

But two snow storms?


Yesterday, David and I drove back in the snow from North Carolina after taking a long weekend visit with our friends Pat and Jane, who live outside Chapel Hill.

David picked up the static interference of WSB while we were crossing South Carolina. The radio reporters were out and about talking to Joe Average.

Random man on the street: No. No. No. No more snow.
Random woman: I can't believe this. It's the end of the world. So cold. So much snow. Jaysus. I thought March was supposed to be warm! Jaysus.
Random kid: *giggles* Love it. Out of school again. Plus, today I had a math test. I hate math.
Random twenty year old: I'm sick of snow.

Me: Sick of snow? Who says that in the South?
David: I hated math too.

We stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

BTW: Spell check does not like Spartanburg. {wonders about origin of town's name?}

When I was in college, the girl across the hall in the freshman dorm was from Spartanburg. Her name was Linder.
No joke -- Linder.

When I met her, I wanted to call her Linda.
No, she'd correct me, "Linder."

I'm pretty sure she was from these parts -- it's not like she was adapting a foreign name unless you wanna call South Carolina "foreign."


*thinks more about foreign*

They do have that BIG PEACH in Gaffney, South Carolina. I mean, BIG PEACH on the side of I-85 ---- which looks more like a butt these days since they have painted it with a little more pink. When I was a kid, it looked more like a peach -- but now, not so much.

*wonders about barb wire's purpose*

As a kid traveling in the car with my family on the way to see my grandparents, we'd squeal when Daddy would tell us the BIG PEACH was coming up. Of course, he'd tell us that when we were still thirty miles away so that we would be quiet and concentrate on seeing the BIG PEACH.

I don't know what that was about --- the squealing -- not the Big Peach. We'd get excited and brag about who saw it first. It was either look for the Big Peach, play alphabet road signs, or fight about who gets to sit by the window -- car entertainment was pretty limited.


Oh, btw, there is nothing wrong with landmarks --- Marietta has its Big Chicken.

*rolls eyes*

I'll never forget moving to this area in the early 80s -- and folks would give directions with the big chicken as the cardinal point.

The first time I encountered them was when I was living in the Cumberland area and needed a veterinarian for my cat, Bo. I called the vet office, located in Marietta and recommended by a friend:

Receptionist at vet office: Take a left at the big chicken.
Me: Big chicken?
Receptionist: Yeah, you can't miss it.
Me: Is there a street name?
Receptionist: Oh yeah, but you can't see it -- but you can see the big chicken.
Me: Okay. I guess.

And yeah, I could see the big chicken. No lie.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, David and I were stopping at the Cracker Barrel.

That place was friendlier than a personal relations damage control for John Edwards.

{South Carolina and North Carolina have got some politicians, don't they?}

We were greeted four times by Cracker Barrel employees before we could make our way to a table.

Jennifer was our waitress, and in her South Carolina purest accent she said: "Hey yaaaaaw. Ain't that snow purty? When I get off werk, I'm so gonna make me and Chester [boyfriend? brother? husband? hunting dog? son?] a snow man.

I love a South Carolina accent --- they have this thang about long a's.

David: I think it's gonna melt pretty quickly.
Jennifer punches David in the arm: Naw now. Don't say that, sugah.
Me: I'd like a glass of unsweetened tea, please.
Jennifer: Unsweet? *giggles* Not me -- I love everything sweet. You take sweetner, right?
Me: No. Just unsweet.
Jennifer: It's comin' down hard now. Lookee!
David: I'll take unsweet tea too.
Jennifer: You two, sugah?
David: No sugar.
Jennifer: *laughs" No, I'm callin' you sugah; it's a bad, I mean baaaaaaaaadddd habit."

Jennifer walks off.

David: She's gonna be hovering like a mosquito.
Me: Totally not nice.

BTW: David was right. As we ate our lunch, Jennifer buzzed around us exclaiming about the snow, her snow man, and whether we wanted *giggling* more UNSWEET tea.

We took our unsweet tea to go and made our way home through the snowy weather and back to Atlanta where schools were lettin' out early and the traffic was crazier than a bag of squirrels.

I think I might be over snow too. My daffodils took a hit.

BTW: Edie, every time I go in a Cracker Barrel, I say to David, "Edie's favorite place." David always says, "Mine too -- it's road food."

Blog readers: See blog June 10, 2009, for Edie's love of the Cracker Barrel. David doesn't read my blog.