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.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Raft Race: Construction and ....

courtesy of the AJC
Even though I professed in one of my former blogs that I knew how we came to float down the Chattahoochee on that day in May of 1972, I really don’t remember all the details. There are many blanks, after all, it was the 70s. I think it was Robin Williams who once said, "if you remember the 70s, then you weren't really there." I actually think he said the "60s," but it works here too. Trust me.

What I do remember are some of the events that led up to that grainy photo in the AJC.

I know there were entry forms and a fee, size specifications for the raft, and rules laid down by the sponsors of the race, one of those sponsors being WQXI, a local radio station.

BTW: It was AM radio -- what can I say -- we were three years from FM.

One of the original members of our crew and a fellow senior at Sylvan, Frank, joined up to be a part of our excursion down the Chattahoochee River, and he designed and helped to build the raft. Good thing, because the rest of us didn’t have a clue where to begin, regardless of having read a fictional novel set in the 1840s. Frank, a smart kid, especially in mathematics, drew a plan for our raft with specifications for size [8 people] and weight [who knows -- it was before the crisis in obesity] and the possibilities for building materials.

Since we were money challenged high schoolers, who already had to cough up money for the entry fee, we wished to use scraps and salvage for materials as much as we could. We had to buy lumber for the platform, but we felt like that we could get the six barrels [used for flotation] from one of the industrial sites around our area, and we used pine trees that we tied together for the rest of the raft. We wrapped the outside with rubber [for bumping], and Jonathan, our artist, made a sign … the origination of its intent has faded from my memory. In retrospect, the name was quite silly even though we, I’m sure at the time, thought we were clever.
Jonathan holds the raft sign, "Up Your Satisfaction"

BTW:  For over twenty years, my mother kept a piece of that raft [a small chunk of sawed off pine] on a bookcase in her den as a souvenir. She must have found this particular shenanigan of her youngest daughter, the last of her brood,  -- memorable or maybe she kept it for the sentimentality. When we closed up my parents’ house in March of 1996, after their deaths, I came across that piece of the raft.


There are two excursions that I remember well  for [free] materials that make me laugh.

One was our search for barrels to be used as floatation devices.  Jonathan, one of the other fellow raftees, and I rode around a nearby industrial area on Murphy Avenue on the hunt for the barrels. We were like Ahab's mariners, singing out if we sighted a barrel.

We trolled businesses, approaching foremen and managers, and asked if we could have their old, used oil drums sitting unused or trashed on their property. Mostly met with an emphatic “no,” we finally found one guy who shrugged and said, “sure.”  So excited but also afraid that he might change his mind, we loaded those barrels, two at a time, in the trunk of my 1969 Chevrolet Belair and made three trips back and forth to that  business. The barrels, tied down in the trunk, leaked and oozed thick sludge into the trunk. 

Another time, a bunch of us raftees went to a section of woods, probably owned by someone but guarded by no one, and cut down several small pines to use as well. We made one trip, again in the trunk of my car, but a second trip we carried them lengthwise, where they jutted out the rear windows on either side. As we came up my street, the trees smacked, but did not break, the windshield of a parked car at the bottom of my street.
Darlene, shooting the peace sign, Jonathan in the hat, and Frank showing off his practically amputated finger...

Jonathan and I tie the base together as JaJoe guards the middle.
The thwacking sound reverberated loudly; I just knew that any minute, an enraged neighbor would emerge from her house waving a rolling pin and demanding to know what “it is that we think we are doing?“ Any moment I feared the blue light of the Atlanta police.

Frank works; I snip.

 Hurriedly, and with my uncontrollable laughter resounding from the car, I gassed it for the top of the hill with Jonathan and Frank running beside the car and lifting the trees over other parked cars. They screamed at me to “slow down” and “watch out’ all the way up the hill. With my heart in my throat, as it was night-time -- I worried about our clandestine and perhaps *cough, cough* felonious activity. We ended up safely at my house where we unloaded the trees and carried them to my backyard, the raft building site.

We must have been quite a sight as I backed up that car loaded with this and that and carried it to the backyard where we assembled the raft piece by piece under the supervision of Frank.

Frank sat up shop with the materials for the raft and directed the rest of us on what to do to help. My friend Jonathan and I, as well as my kitten JaJoe, were pretty much his most frequent assistants -- since I lived there and Jonathan around the corner. With Frank’s instruction, we held planks down to be sawed, wrapped thick rope around small pine trees, and somehow the raft came together.

Sometime during this period, [I don’t‘ remember when exactly], Frank cut his index finger to the bone. Because of the seriousness of the injury and the fact that the wound could not be immersed in water, Frank was off the raft crew and out of the race. Since Frank was not only our chief builder, he was also to be our pilot -- this setback worried us.

At the last minute, a friend’s brother subbed for Frank -  and as I recall, the sub's brawn saved us in some of the rough rapids on the Chattahoochee, but I’ll get to that later.

The next obstacle that we had to overcome was how to get the raft to the Chattahoochee River. What we realized too late was that the raft was heavy. Really heavy -- as in, we couldn’t lift it.

The rafts sits heavily and miserably on the trailer -- it doesn't look river worthy, does it?
Another view -- JaJoe inspects it for mice, who are notorious stowaways -- *tee hee*

Pam stands in the back of the truck and stares disconsolately at the size of the completed raft
The guys lift and shove it into the truck -- check out the second guy from the left -- don't you love his hair accessory?
It's on the truck -- two guys, Charlie and George fade away -- they look nervous???
Bill [number 5] will take Frank's place on the raft; Brad grins at the successful launch of the raft on the truck. LOL

So, Brad, a member of our rafting crew and the high school football team, convinced some of his fellow players to stop by my house and load it into a truck. Along with other friends of ours, we managed to get it loaded on a trailer only to discover that it was too large [see photo]. Frank, for all of his plans, well, didn‘t plan for the transportation of the raft.

We ended up renting a U-Haul truck to transport it to the river [don't know how we paid for that]. Once we got it to Morgan Falls, the dam at the top of the Chattahoochee and where the rafts were to be placed in the water, other rafters helped us take it down from the truck. The rest of the details of that have faded.

The Friday night before the race on Saturday, everyone of the raftees except two of us, Gloria and me, camped at Morgan Falls to guard the raft. My parents were behind us in this race, but not behind my camping out with boys un-chaperoned. Enough said.

Gloria and I would meet them early Saturday morning, really early, to get prepared for the race down the river.

I wondered what my neighbors thought of that activity that went on in my backyard. After all, it was 1972 -- and stranger things with young people were happening. Maybe they thought we were prophets, a type of Noah, listening to God and preparing for the end.

I am amazed now at my parents’ tolerance for all of this -- but I do know that their philosophy was -- better to have her being a fool at home where we can watch her than somewhere else.

*tee hee*

Later: part 2 -- the race ..

I apologize for the quality of the pictures as well as the lack of having a photo of the whole crew -- not pictured, Gloria and George. Who knows where they were? Studying?

How do you like my jeans? I think I made them myself. Ya think?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Caleb's Crossing

Geraldine Brooks’s narrator in Caleb’s Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, who comes of age in a tiny settlement of Great Harbor in the 1660s with her fellow English Puritans. This group, estranged from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and their leader John Winthrop, carve out a living and struggle to coexist with the Wampanoag.

Bethia’s father, Great Harbor’s minister, wishes to convert the Wampanoag to Christianity, and with his ability to heal ailing natives from time to time, he makes headway with some of them and brings them to Calvinism, much to the dislike of the medicine men.

Bethia, a quick study and a covert eavesdropper, listens in on her own brother’s lessons in Latin and Greek, and she knows how to read and write as well as speak in the language of the Wampanoag. Out on her own one afternoon, she meets Caleb, the son of a Wampanoag leader -- and for over a year in secret, they teach each other what the other knows -- her, English and the Bible, and he, the ways of nature, farming and fishing, and the Wampanoag language.  They form a close friendship, but when Caleb's abilities come to be known by Belia's father, he sees an opportunity to use Caleb as a way to bridge the gaps between the white man and the natives.

Caleb's fate and future intertwine with Belia's but not in a predictable way. Kudos to Brooks for that -- :)

Brooks’s historical novel is delightful. Her authentic language, her ability to create time and place, as well as the real events and people of which the book revolved makes this book a powerful and engaging read.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Last weekend, I went to lunch with one of my oldest friends, Darlene. Darlene didn’t attend kindergarten with me [wasn‘t mandatory], but  she came to Perkerson Elementary in 1960, where she and I shared many classrooms and teachers.  


Darlene and I have been friends for 51 years. We attended not only elementary school together but also high school where we always hung out with the same people.

Darlene: Uh, I wasn't on the drill team till I was a senior. It was a sympathy win.
Me: LOL. I don't remember that at all.
Darlene: I do.

After high school, she and I attended and graduated from different colleges; she got married fairly young, had a child, and I followed a path to becoming a career high school teacher.

As we ate our lunch, we enjoyed laughing and reminiscing as Darlene had brought with her a copy of  The Golden Memories, our high school annual from 1972, the year we graduated, and we looked at people and wondered.

Darlene, who has a much better memory than I and who is a sweet, sentimental soul, did a lot better job of keeping up with people than I did and in remembering things that I didn't.

Darlene: You remember all that candy we sold as a fund raiser?
Me: What?
Darlene: Oh you know, we did it to raise money for the Junior/Senior.
Me: [concentrating] Candy? Door to door? Friends and family? Was it chocolate?

Perhaps, she remembers better than I because she attends the reunions.

I only attended my 10th and 20th class reunions and then “meh.” I taught high school for a living. Why would I want to immerse myself back into the history of my own? I found it all too surreal. I dunno.


Stuck inside Darlene’s annual was a newspaper clipping from May 21, 1972, from the front section of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.
There in all its grainy, very grainy, glory was our claim to fame: a photo of us taken from a helicopter [?] over the Chattahoochee River by an AJC photographer.

Darlene and I, and six others -- Gloria, Jonathan, Pam, George, Brad, and Bill, participated in this relatively new phenomena known as the Chattahoochee Ramblin’ Raft Race that first began on Memorial Day weekend in 1968, apparently the brain child of a Georgia Tech student but later taken over by a local radio station, and continued annually for about 12 years until sensible, “green,” people shut it down. 


When I look at the entry in Wikipedia for this “event,” I am quite shocked at its description. I promise you that if it had that reputation at the time, well, my parents would never have allowed me to participate in it nor would they have given their backyard to the building of the "said"  raft for it.

Just sayin’.

In the spring of 1972, I was seventeen years old and just months away from going away to college. I knew I would miss my high school friends, of some, like Darlene, I had known all my life.

A group of us had heard about the Raft Race on the radio, and said, “That sounds like fun. Let’s build a raft! Let’s float down the river with other people we don’t’ know! Let’s get involved with something we know nothing about! We’re young. We’re smart! We can build a raft! Let’s build a raft! I’ve read Huck Finn.!!! I'm almost a high school graduate!!!!”

Or something like that….

So, I think that’s gonna be one of my next blogs -- the Chattahoochee Ramblin’ Raft Race, 1972.

I need time to look for pictures. Meanwhile, enjoy this one from the AJC.

ETA: Do you know which one I am?

*tee hee*

Friday, October 7, 2011

Top Ten Blessings of the Moment

Blessing 1. Going on this week where I used to work[I'm not there!!!!] -- Homecoming week... which means a whole week of nuttiness, hyped up students, and little academics. I mean very little. Do.Not. Miss. At. All.

On Saturday night, the high school hosts a Homecoming Dance in its courtyard. Since a theme is a prerequisite to the success of the dance, *shrugs*, there is always a flurry of activity, in the week prior to the dance, surrounding the building of some artifact by the flagpole. The flagpole not only is near the entrance to the school but also has to be passed in order to go to the courtyard.

This "artifact" usually looms as tall and as wide as the flag pole itself. *coughs GINORMOUS*

It's usually such a hit that the school leaves it up for weeks afterward.

*wonders at the truth of that statement*

Yep. Since it can be seen from the very busy road that the school is on, I always imagined the folks passing by who considered their tax dollars: "Lawd, what on earth is going on at that school?"

For an "Arabian" theme one year, they hired [or did he volunteer?]  a man and his camel. I have no memory of what was built at the flagpole. Aladdin's Lamp? Pyramid?

Some of the previous successful constructions have been a lighthouse, a clock tower, and the Golden Gate bridge. Indeedy.

this year -- I heard volcano. *claps*


I hope it erupts. That would be some serious bonus.

My friend Nan, who still works at the high school, told me that "you need to just drive by and see whatever it is." Nan has an impeccable record of not disappointing me.

When I was in high school, the dance was in the gym and the decorations involved a few colored pieces of crepe paper hanging from the ceiling. Not that I ever went to a Homecoming Dance.... ABFADD.

Blessing 2. At 10:00 this morning, I saw the first grosbeak of the season. He sat primly on the feeder and checked out the neighborhood. He'll be back and bring his woman.

Blessing 3: The ability to open windows during this weather.. nuff said.

Blessing 4: A friend of mine reminded me this week that he turned 60. I'm not.

Blessing 5: The "evil empire" lost to the Detroit Tigers.

*waves flag*

Blessing 6:  The whole family will be together for Christmas again this year. Yesterday, my nieces, via Skype, and who live in other countries, told me that they had made plans to be here.

*throws confetti*

*flexes wrist to get ready for Foose Ball*

Note to Nora: I know that technically California is not another country. *grins*

Blessing 7: The student I am tutoring and I just finished the reading of the play Antigone by Sophocles. After two meetings, I got him to quit saying Antee Gone. When I taught this play to ninth graders in my long teaching career, some students NEVER EVER pronounced it correctly.

*pats tutoree on back*

BTW: I've been working with this child for two months. Last week, he looked at me and said, "You'd make a really good tutor."

*scratches head*

Blessing 8:  I don't have a Twitter account.

Yesterday on the CBS national news, the two talking heads discussed the death of Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. They gauged reaction to his passing by reading from Twitter accounts.

Bill Gates and Oprah.

Ashton Kutcher.

*ponders two out of three's significance to this?*

Is that better or worse than Angelina Jolie's Twitter response?


Then one of  the anchors said, "And then we have some tweets from NORMAL people."

If I had a Twitter account, would I be a "NORMAL" person and tweet about Steve Jobs?

Is Twitter capitalized? That's all I want to know.

Blessing 9:  Halloween candy is out, and thus begins the Eating Season, which lasts all the way to New Year's.


Blessing 10:  I'm reading. Lots.  :) and I'm thinking about a nap. :)

ETA: Thanks to all of you who responded to my question about the ability to comment on my blog. I still don't have the answer to why you can't or can, but I'm happy to know that you are reading.  That's all that matters. Except not.