Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How ya gonna send me?

Hilarious. I remember singing this song as a child, but I don't think I have ever seen this video. Thanks to my friend Nan for forwarding this to me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Different Friends; Same Jacket

I'm turning in to a photo blogger these last couple of posts.

The holidays not only will bring the family to town [as David calls it "the circus"], but it also allows time with good friends.

Marilyn, her beautiful daughter Ramsey, and I stand on Ramsey's front porch before her Christmas open house. Love these girls!

and, my dear friend Brenda, whom I taught with at HHS, and I grab a few moments as she is in Atlanta from South Korea where she now teaches for the Department of Defense.

Eh. I know I have on the same jacket in both photos -- but, you know, the jacket is good-looking.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Dusk .. and a "Lit" Cat

I love the winter sky. 

Yesterday as my friend Debbie and I walked Pigeon Hill at Kennesaw Mountain, we heard the sound of sandhill cranes as they filled the sky in their V's and headed south. Hundreds of them flew over head and squawked and honked. 


Tonight, when Tallulah and I had our "hour" on the deck, I couldn't believe the colors in the west.
* double sigh*

Tallulah climbed on the railing: I loved how the Christmas lights "lit" her up.

I am blessed to have the time to notice.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lakemont, December 10 and 11

 Dec. 10, 9:30 PM  full moon

Dec. 11-- 7: 15 A.M. dawn, as a I read in a novel, showed up "with a smear of pink" or as
Homer [not Simpson, *winces*] described it more than once:  "rosy fingered"

Tallulah greeted early morning with me... note her front paw ... she kept lifting one and then the other from the deck railing which was covered in frost...

morning visitors --- late sleepers -- in my book -- showed up about 8:30 A.M.

As I watched this one, he/she? kept lifting one hoof and stomping .. even though I took photos from the window, he/she seemed to "warn" me or "the others" that I was there.... *shrugs*

Note: I know you "real" photographers out there are shaking your heads at my "amateur" photos. Ya think I need a tripod in order to capture the moon more clearly?
Bigger lens?
Different hobby?

BTW: I read this somewhere:  
Blog Breakdown --
1/3 stories about "crap" somebody cooked, knitted, or sewed
1/3 conspiracy theories, 
1/3 self promotion.

I think I know where I lie.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Special Because of How They Were Given

a glass ornament that hung on the Christmas tree from my childhood

My Aunt Harriett [my namesake] worked for the US Government, specifically the CIA, as a secretary, and she retired from that work in the early 1970s. At one point, she lived in Europe, mostly in Germany, on assignment with the US Government, a fact about her life that I really don't remember, but that my oldest brother Hunter reminded me of recently. He couldn't remember how long she lived there, but he knows that it was at least a year, and from the postcards I have -- it was 1958, a year that she spent the holidays away from her own family.

When we closed up my parents' house after their deaths, my sister and I split up the Christmas decorations that my mother had used for over 46 years as a wife and mother, and dispensed them among us and our brothers. My brothers, like the men they are, are not as sentimental as my sister and me, but we did give each of my brothers one of the Santa mugs that my Aunt Harriett had sent us that year that she was stationed "overseas," a term she and my mother's WWII generation used to designate Europe.

BTW: I think I mentioned on one of my blogs that Aunt Harriett had a box full of blue ball point pens stamped "Property of the US Government" that we coveted as children, and on occasion, she would let us have one. When she died, we found a box full of them in one of the drawers of her writing desk.

Santa mug to the left -- postcard in the center -- and the mug on the right - given to me by my sister-in-law Sally, a much more decorative one than the one I grew up with...

While "overseas" in 1958, Aunt Harriett mailed me a beautiful had painted postcard, its edges gilded in gold,  from Germany that depicts two young girls standing in front of snow covered trees and staring at a winter sky full of stars. At their feet is a lantern and a sled holding a Christmas tree, and there is an inscription on the bottom  front that reads, "Heilige Nacht, du kehrest mieder/Stern bei Stern zu gluh'n beginnt -."

BTW: I have no idea what that means. I'll have to ask my nephew-in-law, who happens to be German, at Christmas this year how that translates -- I'm guessing it's a line from a Christmas carol.

Could be Cold War propaganda for all I know.

On the back of the postcard is our address in Atlanta, complete with "10" as the zip code, and she wrote "Happy Holidays - Love, Aunt Harriett." The postage stamp gives the place and date as "US Army Postal Service, APO, Nov 20, 1958."  The postage costs 3 cents.

I was four years old.

Another hand painted postcard from her, sent the same month and year but addressed to the "The Junior McDaniels," pictures a Santa sitting in a tree and looking through a telescope at a snowy scene. I imagined then that he looked at me. :) At the top it reads, "Joyeux Noel," and she wrote this on the back: "Thought I send you Christmas greetings from France also - Harriett."

the postcard from France -- [the white duck decoration was one that my mother used in the last years of her decorating]

My mother prominently displayed this Santa postcard at Christmas every year for as long as I can remember, and I now continue her tradition by having both of these cards, now framed, sit on my mantle with other decorations during the Christmas season.

My Aunt Harriett, a World War II veteran, never married, and she lived most of her adult life outside Washington DC in Falls Church, Virginia, in a two bedroom, two story house where she died at the age of 82 in 1994. Always generous toward her four nieces and nephews, she gave "store bought" gifts that she picked up at Miller and Rhoads as well as trinkets and novelties that she picked up on her traveling.

When she was "overseas," we received some unusual gifts: wooden shoes, lederhosen, a cookoo clock, dolls in native costumes, and four Santa mugs [one for each of us] with each of the Santa faces on the mugs sporting a different expression. Those mugs, now considered kitsch, I'm sure, are faded and cracked and can no longer hold the "hot" beverage that my mother served us as children. I loved those mugs, and during the Christmas season, I would stare at them, as they sat up high away from the small hands I owned, and imagine drinking from them, their smell and taste unusual to my tongue as the reeked of a ceramic-ness that is hard to describe. Hopefully, it wasn't lead. That, however, could explain my inability to do algebra.

one of the four mugs -- the winkin' Santa...proudly displayed

My mother only allowed us to use these Santa mugs sparingly during the Christmas season. She would make hot chocolate for us to drink in them -- by heating up milk, adding pieces of chocolate and flavoring it with sugar and cinnamon and cooking it {seemingly so slow} in a double boiler on the stove. We admired the mug with its steaming liquid and sipped carefully from them while sitting under her supervision at the kitchen table. At the end of Christmas season, I watched her as she carefully washed each mug, dried them thoroughly, wrapped them in tissue paper, boxed them, and put them away for another year.

My mother told us that those mugs were special since they were given to us by "our Aunt Harriett" and that we needed to treat them as so. She valued most the items given in love.

One of those Santa mugs, cracked and faded, with one of Santa's eyes in a permanent wink and the other a sky blue with long painted eyelashes, sits now as a Christmas decoration among the framed postcards on my mantel. Forever relinquished to inactive use, Santa's stocking cap, shaped as the handle of the mug, is wrapped in tape, a mending job that I have left since that repair was done by my mother many years ago.

At Christmas, a time when I miss my parents and aunts the most, I think about them, the love that they had for all of us, and I am thankful for the memories and for the mementos that I do have of those years, now so long ago.

This plastic Santa boot ornament was stuffed with candy --- it hung on my childhood Christmas tree as well. :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roughing It: Tallulah's Travelouge 793

Humans too busy to blog?

I no get.

This is what I see---

Sit on Sofa.
Do again.
How that busy?

Much like cat

I no leave.



Ride in car.
In cage.
I no like.

This time.
Silent treatment.

No let lizards know.
Or big worthless dog.



Peer around lamp shades.
Get in tub.

Monkey here too.
Very Quiet.

Sneaked up on me.

I no like.

Palm tree fronds.
Like huge alien fingers.
No bird sit there.
Too pointy.

Not same kind of spooky
As car rides.

Humans leave.
Eat elsewhere.

While gone.
Bite shells.
Stare at dumb dog.
Make plans.
Create destiny.
Rub body many times on strange sofa.
Leave DNA.
Purrfect DNA.

Pelican. Seriously?
Wrong age, bird.
See Cretaceous.

Barking [stupid]dog in courtyard.
Waste of fur.
Couldn’t sneak up on a concrete statue.
Not even good at staring.

Look marvelous in sun.
Highlights my fur.

Should be model cat.
Well, I am.

No patience for cameras.
Too slow.

Gotta go.
Lizards awake now.
Sleep late.
Must be lack of fur.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Ramblin' Raft Race Part II

 Ramblin'? I'd say...

This is the second in a two parter about my trek down the Chattahoochee in 1972, with my high school friends, so if you didn't read the first one, you might wanna. Or not. :)

Gloria and I arrived very early Saturday morning, as it was still dark, to Morgan Falls Landing, which is right next to Morgan Falls Dam. Ya think?

We found our fellow raftees -- George, Brad, Bill, Jonathan, Darlene, and Pam -- and tried to orient ourselves to the task at hand -- getting the raft into the water.

They had all spent the night in a tent on site to guard the raft and watch the spectacle that must have been the other competition. I know that they told some stories about not “sleeping a wink” and “strangers stumbling into wrong tents” --  and other tales of a less than quiet night. Perhaps another reason why my parents thought it better than I spend the night at home. *grins*

BTW: :The term “race” for this adventure is a misnomer -- there was  no race, not really. In some ways, I think the purpose of the raft race was to join 4,000 people on the river -- to have a collective memory, a rite of passage, or establish some kind Atlanta tradition.  The challenge lies in the journey?  When completed, it’s an experience to tell the grandchildren [in my case grand ‘phews and news] like Woodstock or having to use a rotary dial on a telephone.

Regardless, we had to get the raft to and into the water, travel the approximate six miles down river, with all parts of the raft intact, make it to the finish, and then file the experience somewhere in the environs of memory and bragging rights. Race?




The Chattahoochee River is not exactly a teeming, churning frightening body of water. It’s relatively placid as it works its way through the northern suburbs of Atlanta, passed the boom towns south of the metropolis like Columbus and Fort Benning, and then meanders along to merge with other water to empty "down yonder" into the Gulf of Mexico.

The name Chattahoochee, yes, I looked it up, actually means “rock painted” as in there are rocks all along its banks, but it’s not the Colorado or the Missouri with rolling rapids and precarious sections. It’s not Big Water. It’s primarily known for being cold all the time as floating down the “Hooch” on blistering, hot summer days is still a pastime. Scary water? No. Cold water? Yes.

Despite the thought out raft design by Frank, our engineer, but alas not part of the crew, we suffered greatly as we put that humongous raft into the river [as I remember other rafting contestants to the river that day actually helped us heave ho that thing to the water], scurried aboard like the rats we were, and put ourselves in the precarious position as novice sailors.

I dressed pretty stupidly for the odyssey. The morning was cool, so I donned jeans, a flannel shirt, and wore a bikini top underneath the flannel. Only in the 70s would that be attire that no one looked at you like you were nuts. In fact, all of us girls had on jeans. There had to be some reason? It was the era of jeans? We thought we were hippies?

It was May, not a hot day by any means, and the water in the Chattahoochee never warms up -- at best, it maintains a cool 50 degrees. Perhaps those are the reasons for the fashion ensemble I chose?


At the beginning of the “race” [eh. voyage?] we floated pretty aimlessly along, avoiding the other entries, and steering wide of the tubers and rubber rafters. The day warmed up, and I shed my flannel and sat pensively on one of the barrels and looked at the crazy scene before me: thousands of young people, some of the young men shirtless, drifted lazily on the brownish green surface checking each other out -- especially admiring or comparing our contraption with the other “showboats,” the homemade hopeful floaters built in  backyards, garages, and fraternity houses around Atlanta. The river was crowded, kind of like a traffic jam on one of the Atlanta highways, and I’m sure navigation was paramount. I wasn’t in charge of that part -- perhaps I saw myself as a type of Cleopatra or some kind of Naiad -- ha.

At one point, I remember that Pam stretched herself out on the front of the raft like the senior wife of a sultan on a yacht. I wasn't quite as carefree as she since, you know, I was privy to the building process. I was a little more clingy. Bwha.

In our fecklessness, we passed the early time of the venture exchanging comments back and forth with the other participants: “Nice looking rubber” or “You wanna drag?”

As we covered the first 3 or 4 miles on “flat water,” we sat prettily for a while ---  until we were about a quarter of a mile from a place known in the seventies as a “swinging singles” compound, aptly titled Riverbend.  It actually had a more notorious name, but that name is unsuitable for this “family” oriented blog. :)

The term “Riverbend” means what it designates -- the river bends, and what was up ahead well -- it was just as well we were not aware of what was coming.

Note: None of us had done a “trial” run down the river, you know, to scout the trek.

Feckless? I'd say.

At Riverbend, and on both sides of the river, young singles of Atlanta had gathered with their coolers, mesh lawn chairs, and staked out viewing venues to watch this “event.”  Waving at us from apartment balconies and the shore, applauding our derring -do, I guess, they cheered us on our journey. Perhaps these denizens of the river knew what was about to happen and were there to watch the "fun"?

And  -- it was at Riverbend that things began to go south. No pun intended.

“Look out!” became the words of the moment. Not only on our raft, but all around us.

We encountered rapids and hit them with a jolt. We bobbled headed our way through. Frank’s well-engineered raft began its disintegration barrel by barrel as the wet rope split apart and the impact of slamming against the rocks loosened them from the boards. The barrels threatened to float away, and with their loss, well, let’s just say we were not ’river” worthy.

The guys struggled to control the raft, the girls grabbed and held onto the barrels, and the guys also held onto us, by the feet as I recall, to keep us afloat. For the next mile or so, it was a harrowing experience as we were not the only ones with rafts coming apart and the denizens of said floaters struggling to keep afloat and the pieces together. It was a crazy ride---- like crack bumper cars on a river --- and fast and furious.

Plus, we were merely a "little ways" from having to get these river beasts to shore. It was crazy as we jammed up against each other, fighting to hold tight, and struggling to steer these unwieldy things to the right.

Event planners on shore did have the forethought to bring heavy ropes to throw at the raftees whose river experience bordered on none or whose raft chose these moments to shatter like toys.

We came to the finish line at Powers Landing, and we held onto the raft parts as some burly guys, and some serious frowning adults, strained to pull us by rope close enough for us to wade ashore and pull our wreck to dry land.  We frantically dove for and went after barrels and boards that threatened to float away.

It was a chaotic few minutes as we gathered the raft scraps from the river and piled them in a place until we could haul them off - --

When I got home, I soaked in the tub till I feel asleep. I remember that my mother woke me, made me eat crackers, and then sent me to bed where I slept for the next 18 hours.

I have never been so tired or so filthy again.

The Ramblin’ Raft Race was an experience, and not one that I wanted to have again -- and you know what? I didn’t. 

ETA: I don't have any new photos to share :). How could I improve on these?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A. Manette Ansay concludes at the end of her 2001 memoir, Limbo:  “I was raised to believe that every question had its single, uniform answer, and that answer was God’s will. But the human body, like the life it leads, is ultimately a mystery, and to live my life without restraint, to keep moving forward instead of looking back, I have had to let go of that need to understand why what has happened has happened and, indeed, is happening still.”

The title of this memoir, taken from the Catholic belief in a place between heaven and hell that is neither one, suggests that Ansay uses it to show how her life was placed on hold for three years while she suffered from a debilitating ailment that at the age of twenty-three left her in a wheel chair. The memoir, written with honesty and directness, is a beautiful chronicle of her childhood, young adulthood, and then the crushing obstacle of physical illness in a family full of ‘fundamental assumptions about life and faith.”

Growing up in rural Wisconsin in a large extended Catholic farming family, Ansay came of age in changing times. Born in the mid 1960s, Ansay was the oldest of two children and greatly influenced by the religious belief immersed deeply in her large family and that surrounded her daily life.

When she was fifteen, she thought seriously about a career as a classical pianist and devoted her time and energy to making that a reality. As she practiced playing, she noted a numbness and tingling in her arms and fingers that she and her piano teachers assumed were the side-effects of rigorous practice.

For the next three years, she tried to either ignore the symptoms or treated them with home remedies and anti-inflammatory drugs.  She landed admittance to Baltimore’s prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music. There, her dream unraveled.

A wonderful storyteller with an eye for the necessary detail, Ansay hits all the right notes [no pun intended] in this examination of her early life. She changed directions as an artist and became a writer, which may have been a loss for the world of music but is only a win for the world of readers. :)

Good read. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The World's Best Wrist Strap Fish Finder and Other Great Christmas Gifts

Catalogs. Catalogs. Catalogs.

It’s that time of year -- of course, catalogs arrive in the mail year round, but with the season of gift giving two months out, the catalogs are coming!!!!  When I worked, these slick little magazines full of materialism and deals piled up like refuse on the table, and many times, I threw them out without so much as glancing at the first page. Now, I have time to look at them [see following blog], and I enjoy perusing the choices of items even though I rarely order them. No harm in looking ---

About a week ago, I received  a mail order catalog from Hammacher Schlemmer, a company of which I was unfamiliar. Hammacher Schlemmer, referred to from now on in this blog as HS, in order to keep the spell check out of spas mode, claims to be “America’s Longest Running Catalog” as well as “offering the best, the only and the unexpected for 167 years.”

Of course, I would have put a comma after “only,” and if truly the catalog is that established, it seems just a few cents at minimum wage back in 1848, would have hired them a decent editor to catch that comma.

But, I digress.

On the second page, the catalog notes the following: “Since 1848, when Hammacher Schlemmer began as a hardware store in New York City’s Bowery district, we have always embraced quality and innovation. Through the items we offer now are more refined, they still reflect out 163 year tradition of providing products that perform an important task and are the best of their kind.”

For the last three months, I have volunteered at my church’s office. Once a week for four hours, I answer the phone: “Church Office, this is Harriett.” I listen to the caller, either answer the question he has [sometimes pretty poorly], transfer the call to the appropriate staff member [it took me a while to catch on to the system -- many buttons involved -- and of course, many times I cut the caller off --whoops ], or I give him directions.

A lot of answering the phone is giving directions. 

In a lot of ways, this volunteer job is like playing “office.” I answer the phone, harass the various ministers as they come in and out of the office [Is that what you do with my tithe money?], or I catch up on reading.

I usually save the catalogs that I receive in the mail for my “office” work,  as there I can leisurely flip through them, contemplate buying the product by putting little post it notes on the page, but just for fun, as I really have no intention, most of the time, of buying anything.

It reminds me of the stories my parents told about Sears and Roebuck’s catalog, but as you know, that’s a story for another blog.

A couple of weeks ago I received HS for the first time, and  as I leafed through its merchandise for sale, I thought, “These items are hilarious.“ [probably not intended to be -- just sayin']

They may not have hired an editor, who would have caught the need for that comma, but they have some comedians on staff.  Some of their items are quirky random -- I was crackin’ up  ---  but they also put some superfluous adjectives to their item names: “the only” or  “world’s best” or  my favorite -- “impervious.”

I love a catalog that uses “impervious” as an adjective.

Here’s a sampling of their items for sale:

“The Best Fingerprint Recognizing Expresso Machine”

“The Best Stainless Steel Wallet’

“The World’s Lightest Impervious Luggage”   

“The Only Touch Sensitive Reacting Dinosaur”

“The World's Best Wrist Strap Fish Finder”

“The Touchscreen Compatible Gloves”

“The 45, 000 Station Car Radio”

“The Only 12 Foot Sprawling Snowman” [as in -- the huge inflatable snowman sprawls in your yard like a Playboy centerfold]

“The Remote Control Tarantula”

Or my favorite…..

“The Marshmallow Wrist Cannon” [which launches mini-marshmallows up to 30”]



That’s what I got.

For now.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

One Matchless Time

When I taught American Literature to gifted and honors level sophomores for the last seventeen years of my teaching career, I usually ended the year with William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.  With a little introduction about the writer but less about the work itself, I threw that book at my students [because I wished to see their reactions after they had read the first nine sections] and said, “Stay with it. It’s worth it.”

They'd come to me the next day and make all kinds of great comments.

One student said, "Mrs. Gillham? Those people ain't right." 

And, I'll never forget one girl who quipped, "Who needs LSD? I've read Faulkner."

Some of them totally enjoyed the work for its comedic effect [I could do a mean white trash dialect], others refused to “get it” and lazily avoided reading it [and actually missed out when we discussed parts that the readers and I doubled over in gales of laughter], and the others [the ones I considered the brightest] told me that it was “the most memorable book they had ever read.”

Well, that last comment maybe doesn’t mean much since its from a bunch of fifteen and sixteen year olds who might have only read four books in their life ---  all of them assigned by me.

Just kidding. Sort of.

One Matchless Time by Jay Parini, a biography of William Faulkner, chronicles the life of this famous writer from Oxford, Mississippi, with the skill and insight of someone who has studied, researched, and devoted a majority of his waking hours to his subject. Parini knows Faulkner so well that this work not only follows Faulkner's life year by year but highlights each published work by Faulkner and carefully places it into the complex and very populated world of Faulkner’s fictional characters of Yoknapatawpha County [a daunting and prodigious project to say the least].

In fact -- it's truly what Parini does in this biography --  he painstakingly tells the life story of Faulkner, a southern gentleman with “impeccable manners” who had the burden of providing for an extended family [by his own choosing], had a serious drinking problem, and an unhappy marriage. As Parini tells the story of this enigmatic writer, he covers all the novels in his canon as well as most of his sixty plus short stories. 

Remarkable. Seriously.

Parini concludes that Faulkner was a “short story writer but twice has written great long fiction [ The Sound and the Fury and Light in August].”  I liked that he considers As I Lay Dying [*wipes brow*] and Absalom, Absalom as the next two greatest works by Faulkner.

Parini draws the title of this biography from a comment by Faulkner about the writing binge he was on between 1928 and 1942, a time of “wild inspiration when characters and stories came to him mysteriously and in abundance.” During this time, Faulkner published six novels including his greatest works[according to Parini and other literary scholars], and to Faulkner, this was “his one matchless time.”


I learned a lot about Faulkner I didn’t know in spite of having read extensively his canon in a graduate course titled Faulkner and taught by an esteemed professor, Dr. Edwards at West Georgia College. Dr. Edwards, the epitome of a southern gentleman himself, came to every class in jacket and tie, and once asked his graduate students, a question addressed to “the ladies,” if “would [we] mind if he removed his jacket?”

I loved that professor -- he was the last of a dying breed of "old school" English professors.

I love Faulkner, a writer that many found unreadable and one that my mother called “scandalous.” I love that about my mother -- she was genuinely concerned that I was teaching Faulkner to impressionable young people. :)

Yes, I have a Faulkner fan card, and this biography reminded me again as to why.

ETA: Faulkner made quite an impression on some of my students -- not the last bunch I taught who seemed to have little interest in reading at all, much less appreciating it or enjoying it  -- but some in what I have termed my “halcyon” days of teaching. {I won’t mention what time period this was -- so that all of my former students who read my blog will think they were a part.]   ----- *smiles* --- These former students when they run into me or drop me notes would ultimately remind me that as much as they enjoyed other things we read that they would never forget our study of As I Lay Dying.

“Free Darl.”

“My mother is a fish.’


ETA 2: In my humble, but accurate, opinion, I always thought that the AP Literature teacher at the school[s] where I taught, who had her students read The Sound and the Fury in preparation for that test, did her students a great service. After reading that novel, a student can read anything with confidence including James Joyce and any organic chemistry textbook. :)

ETA 3: OMG -- when I went to get an image of the book cover for AILD, I had to scroll through a whole page of a heavy metal [grunge? Black Sabbath looking?] band with that name.


*runs and hides*

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On Leaving the Front Yard

The blogger, looking lovely in her 70s regalia, and Charlie

When I was in my junior year of high school and my brother Ken a senior, we shared a lot of the same friends. Going to a neighborhood school and church, the friends we made overlapped in those milieus, and we formed a tight knit group.

We ran in a pride. A pack. A tribe.

We got in trouble together. We hung out together. We told each other stories. We threw Frisbees. We were young together. A beautiful thing -- and a transient one.

According to Bob Seger,"[I]wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then..."


As you know from my previous blogs, my parents ran a pretty tight ship. Always aware of where we were supposed to be, they never allowed us too far from their range of vision or too far from  their ability to rescue us from ourselves. Or others.

One way that they controlled our whereabouts was by not letting us go anywhere, much, especially during the week, but they did allow our friends to hang out at our house.  They gave up the living room from time to time to our impromptu gatherings, but in temperate weather [which was a lot of the time here in Georgia], we hung out in our driveway or in our front yard where the huge shade trees protected us not only from the hot sun or light rain, but also from their sight --

Not that we were up to no good, it was just a way of us feeling like we had independence ---

{Okay, okay, occasionally, perhaps, we were up to no good. But not like you think.]

After all, we were partially chaperoned by my parents… partially. Very partially, but enough. They were always on the peripheral. I was very aware of their close proximity.

On any given afternoon into early evening, four or five cars would be parked in front of our house. I had a lot of guy friends, product of my brother’s friendship with them, and product of my being so entertaining.

Except not. It was just that I had a lot of guy friends. I was just that kind of girl -- I liked boys. Still do. They seemed uncomplicated, non-judgmental, and more laid back. They were easy.

Sitting on Steve's car in front of our house

It was the early 1970s --- and we were a mobile bunch. Gas was 40 cents a gallon -- and nobody's house was very far -- it was the age of small schools, small churches, and there was no such thing as a subdivision -- there was just the neighborhood of Sylvan Hills-- and it was five miles tops from one end to the other. In another age, you could walk it with ease -- but we were the age of automobiles and "riding around."

Riding in a Chevy Nova or a Dodge Challenger, these guy friends of mine drove to our house, parked, and then stood around the yard or in the driveway or street or sat on the ground, and we seemed never out of things to talk about -- what happened at school or church, what we thought the future would bring, what we wanted to do, or our favorite topic --  music.
Kerry sitting on his car

We loved our rock and roll -- we liked to talk about music as well as listen to it. One of the guys might make fun of me for liking Three Dog Night or we might try to analyze the lyrics of “Stairway to Heaven,” a cryptically lyrical song by Led Zeppelin and an over the top smash hit of the time.

Occasionally, some one would pull his car into the driveway, where we would gather around it like the pagan idol it was, and he would crank up the radio or 8-track player [if they had one], prop open the doors, and we’d give it a listen -- whatever song it was.

 We listened to Santana‘s “Black Magic Woman,” the Allman Brothers “Midnight Rider,” or Cat Steven’s “Wild World.” When I hear these old tunes now, it takes me back to those lazy, young days of my youth and my front yard where time was what we had plenty of, and we wasted it as if it were so.

In my front yard, we developed a close friendship--- a friendship that lasted through my college years and into my early twenties until we found ourselves moving on -- me to a full time job as a teacher in a distant metro county, some of those boys to marriages and serious girlfriends, one to the military, and yet another would move across country.

I had several guy friends from that time period: Steve, Kerry, Bobby, Stan, and Charlie to name a few. Showing up at my house on a regular basis, these guys and I enjoyed each other's company.If my mother had been more dramatic or perhaps named Amanda Wingfield, she might  have misunderstand those boys' intentions, as Amanda was wont to do, and believe that these were my “gentleman callers."

But -- they weren't. These were my buddies, my friends -- :)

Stan died of a heart attack about ten years ago, and now Charlie, my front yard friend, has taken his own life.

When I think about those afternoons and evenings that I shared all those years ago with these guys, our lives ahead of us, our dreams big, and our friendship solid, it’s hard to believe that of those five, two are now dead.

And one by his own hand.

Sweet Charlie -- gregarious, witty, gentle, and big-hearted, he left my front yard, as we all did, but he must have gone on to live a troubled life, to be host to a troubled soul.

I hadn't talked to Charlie in over twenty years: our lives in different directions, our geography not quite so compatible. I don't know where he was when he made this decision, but I hate that it was so dark that he felt without hope. I wished I could have hugged my old friend.

Rest now, my friend, rest now.

Charlie and me

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Friend of the Family

The title of this novel,  A Friend of the Family, by Lauren Grodstein drew me to the reading of it. As an English major, I had read and enjoyed [as well as anyone could enjoy a book on such a painful subject] A Death in the Family by James Agee, so when I picked up this novel, I had no idea what was ahead. Rarely any more do I just pull a book from the shelf and know little about it -- I pull my selections from a long list of books I want to read --- book recommendations from friends and other sources...:).

I used to stand in the stacks and pull book after book from the shelves with little reasoning behind why I might pull one or the other -- but a title sometimes was enough to make me choose it -- thus, the choosing of  A Friend of the Family.

Pete Dizinoff, known as Dr. Pete to his friends, lived the good life. Having built a thriving practice as an internist in a posh suburb named Round Hill, New Jersey, he and his wife raised their only son Alec in the best of private schools, only for Alec to lose his way. After bailing him out of trouble with the law and helping him secure a spot in an expensive liberal arts college, Pete's disappointment in Alec's choices accelerate when Alec quits and return to his parents' home, where he declares that he needs time to “find himself.” Impatient, at best, with his son’s decision and his wife’s support of it, Pete secretly seethes inside -- but outwardly grins and bears it.

Meanwhile, the Dizinoff’s best friends’ wayward daughter returns to Round Hill after having lived away from home for twelve years. Residing at her parents’ house a few blocks away, the troubled Laura, with a “hushed” history, befriends Alec, who’s immediately smitten by the attentions of a pretty girl ten years his senior, and their relationship unhinges Pete.  What Dr. Pete will do to keep his only son “safe” makes this book a page turner.

Grodstein lays her novel out with an unusual chronology -- a jerky time movement that adds suspense and mystery to the story. With that stylistic approach and the enigmatic but relatable Dr. Pete, she allows us to understand what a parent might be capable of doing in order to protect what he has so carefully built and made an investment in  -- his son’s future.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Feed the Birds

For the last four or five months, my brother Ken and I have been walking together on Fridays. It gives us good brother/sister time and provides us with a good dose of outside, and of course, exercise.

About a month ago as he waited for me to get ready to walk, he saw a note I had on my kitchen table for David. The note said, "Feed the birds."

We write a lot of notes around here, David and I, as it keeps us from forgetting things that we want to do. In fact, if I have a particuarly busy day, I make a list like this:

Coffee :)
Walk with Debbie
Watch Netflix
or Argh.
Cook dinner. :)

The notes are just a little reminder of what I wanted to do that day, but not necessarily etched in stone. After all, I am retired, and nothing is a "have to" anymore. It's more of a "want to."

Should do?

Some days my list is short:



With all that said, my brother read the note and said, "You know what jumped into my head when I read that note?  Mary Poppins and Feed the birds."

Aww. Mary Poppins. One of my all time favorite childhood movies. *sigh*

As you know, I didn't see all that many movies as a kid [remember the blog about the horror movie?]. Yep. I'm trying to think of all of them now.

Mary Poppins.
The Sound of Music.
The Music Man.
and that horror movie... *shudders*

That could be it.

My daddy loved musicals -- he had reel to reel tapes of all kinds of show tunes ---South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma, Show Boat, Gypsy, Annie Get Your Gun, Carnival, Hello Dolly, Mame, Camelot, The King and I, etc. etc. etc. [bwha]. I grew up singing those songs. I remember an Irving Berlin song called "Everybody's Doin' It Now" sung by Julie Andrews that I memorized and sang at the top of my lungs, sometimes pretending to be a torch singer. I was young. I had huge dreams. :)

Yes. I was am lame.

One of my favorite singers of the time was Julie Andrews, a relative newbie in the early 1960s who had appeared as a Broadway sensation and whose voice expanded four octaves -- to me, she owned "the voice" in a time of many other great female voices. 

I loved me some Julie Andrews.

In 1997, a throat operation damaged her voice: a tragedy as she had done even more fun movies like Thoroughly Modern Millie and Victor,Victoria.

That's why God allowed man to invent sound recording. He knew what was to happen to Julie Andrews. :)

Beautiful song. It brings back memories. Good ones. Enjoy.

ETA: I also saw Shenandoah. I cried for three weeks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Hallowed Ground

Robert M.  Poole’s On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery traces the history of Arlington from its inception during the Civil War up until the last World War I soldier’s remains were buried there in 2006. [I won’t mention too much about how the angry Union quartermaster held a grudge against Robert E. Lee and determined that when the war was over that Lee’s home would be un-inhabitable for him to live in again.]

Thorough, well-researched, full of interesting facts, stories, and anecdotes, Poole’s ability to maneuver  through Arlington’s history by interweaving it with America’s war history shows that he is a true historian, ably sifting and sorting as needed to tell this compelling and rich story.

To anyone interested in how the American military funeral evolved to its current level of strict rules, traditions, and decorum will find Poole’s descriptions of military funerals, his details on the lives and deaths of individual fallen soldiers from every American conflict, and the behind the scene politics of the hallowed ground itself worth reading.  I found so much of  the work interesting that I took notes [huge nerd, I am] -- here is a partial list of what I recorded:

---“Taps’ played for the first time in 1863 for a Union soldier and spread informally, appeared in Drill Regulation in 1891

--- two out of five Civil War soldiers were unidentified at burial

--- In 1862, because of the inundation of war causalities in Washington alone, Lincoln signed a bill to designate fourteen cemeteries for burial of the war dead

--- Grave marker 5232 in Arlington is three amputated legs

--- Decoration Day began in May of 1868, later became Memorial Day, the nation still so divided that the Confederates were not included

--- After the Spanish American War, the US pledged to bring dead service men home from overseas instead of burying them on foreign soil, if their next of kin requested repatriation

--- the “dog tag” [1901] evolved from the “burial bottle” where comrades wrote out the name, rank, and organization for each deceased serviceman, corked the paper in a bottle, and wrapped it into a blanket with the remains to preserve the dead soldier’s identity

--- McKinley [1900] authorized that Confederates could be buried at Arlington, their grave markers pointed [the myth to keep Yankees from sitting on them] -- they were buried in a concentric circle in a new section, instead of being in lines like the Union dead

---  46,000 WW1 war dead were returned to the US from Europe -- 5800 in national cemeteries, 5241 to Arlington, 30, 000 stayed in Europe to lie in military cemeteries ceded to the US by the allies

---  Arlington created the first of four tombs for the Unknown Soldier; guard posted at the tomb round the clock for the first time in 1937

--- the Lee Mansion, which had fallen into disrepair, was renovated in the 1920s; one of Lee’s former slaves, James Park, was an integral part in its authenticity

---  by 1955, the war dead in Arlington went from 44,000 to 70,000 -- all but 3% of Americans identified in WW2

Okay, that’s enough, but I do want to tell a story that was new to me, and I thought I had read almost everything about John F. Kennedy. 

In March of 1963, President Kennedy made an impromptu tour to Arlington, his first and only. At the end of a tour that lasted over two hours, Kennedy stopped and stood on the top of a hill, the sloping, green lawn of Arlington in front of him. He told the National Park service employee, who had given him the tour, that “[he] could stay here forever.” Six months later, he lay buried there.

After Kennedy’s death, Arlington was never the same -- and you know, in some ways, I don’t think we were either. This book is really not just for history buffs -- it’s for Americans.

I am almost finished with Patricia O' Brien's The Glory Cloak, a historical novel based on the lives of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton. This is a simple read -- good story -- and dovetails nicely with Poole's book.

Then, I think I will take another route -- I am about amputated out. :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

And then there were the roses... at Smith Gilbert. *sighs*

Smith Gilbert Revisted: OMG

Those of you who have read my blog in the last year know of my love for Smith-Gilbert Gardens, located right here in Kennesaw.

Today, my friend Debbie and I caught it again to check it out in fall. Seriously. Beyond beautiful.

Enjoy the pictorial. If you want to see them bigger, just tap the photo. They're worth it.

How was that?

Rhetorical. I know.

Oct. 16 -- After reading Michelle's comment, I realized that I could enlarge my photos for better viewing. Duh.  Thanks, Michelle.