Monday, September 30, 2013

Teaching the Truth

Last week I started a second round of Life Writing classes. Our first homework assignment was to write something about high school. While writing the following story, I kept in mind that my number-one goal in writing about my life, whether I'm doing it here on this blog or in the classroom, is to leave something behind so my descendants, should they choose to do so, can learn through my own words what kind of a person I am/was. Maybe they'll find some traits they can relate to--either good traits or bad ones.

The following is what I read to the class today:


From first grade through high school, I nearly always forged a stronger bond with my teacher than with any of the other students in the classroom. I liked the other kids just fine, but the teachers were the ones who interested me. They knew all the things I wanted to know, and they shared thoughts and ideas that I could keep in my head to pull out later and mull over at my leisure.

My Senior English teacher, Mary Wheeler, might have been the best of the bunch. She was sharp, funny, and observant. Nothing got past her. She was also determined to teach us more than language and literature. She wanted us to learn to think for ourselves, to develop the skills we’d need in the world outside the classroom. She treated us as individuals, and she taught each of us a lot about ourselves.

We read Shakespeare’s MacBeth in Mrs. Wheeler’s class. I hated it. Our discussions were interesting, but the reading of the play itself was boring beyond measure. For days we spent that classroom hour taking turns reading aloud, each voice a different monotone reading words with no regard for the meaning behind them. I had trouble staying awake.

Eventually it was my turn to read, and, in a bit of serendipity, it was time for the witches. Shaking off the sleepiness, I began to read in my best impersonation of a witch’s voice, building up steam as I came to the part about “double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” I don’t know what my classmates thought about my dramatic interpretation, but I can tell you this much:  they were all awake. And Mrs. Wheeler was grinning.

In a classroom discussion later that year, Mrs. Wheeler asked for a volunteer to define the term “non-conformist.” One student raised his hand and suggested that a non-conformist was a beatnik. “A beatnik could be a non-conformist,” Mrs. Wheeler replied, “but all non-conformists aren’t beatniks, so that definition is too limiting.” Gesturing toward me, she continued: “Linda is as much of a non-conformist as anyone I know, but she certainly isn’t a beatnik.” I was stunned. I looked like the other students, dressed like them, and did my best to fit in, but deep inside I knew I was different. It was mostly a matter of being interested in different things than they were, but I didn’t think they knew that. It was shocking to learn that the uncomfortable differences I felt were obvious to someone else.

One day near the end of senior year, class rankings were announced on the P.A. system and posted on the bulletin board minutes before the bell rang for English class. Naturally, that’s what everybody wanted to talk about as we made our way to our seats. “Where were you on the list?” the boy at the desk next to mine inquired.

“Third,” I said.

“No, you weren’t,” he retorted, “Skipper was third.”

“Skipper was ninth,” I snapped, irritated. “He was the highest ranking boy.”

Mrs. Wheeler leaned in close to me and whispered, “I wouldn’t brag about being third if I were you. You should have been first by a long stretch.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, puzzled.

“Never mind,” she responded, shaking her head as she walked back toward her desk. “I’ve already said more than I should have.”

That was the first time I’d ever been confronted with what I now know to be an unbecoming truth: I’m an underachiever. Always have been, probably always will be. I’ve been fortunate in that many things have come easily to me. I apparently learned at an early age that I could coast through most situations without expending a great deal of effort, yet when life has presented difficult challenges, I’ve been quick to back off, surrender, move on to something easier. People say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Well, I get going, too. If you want to know where I go, pull out your street map and locate the intersection of Easy Way and Path of Least Resistance.

Mrs. Wheeler may have believed I could work on that particular character flaw if she called my attention to it. I’m glad she doesn’t know that things haven’t changed much in all the years since then. She’d certainly be disappointed. I’m not proud of it myself.


It occurred to me after I wrote this that the part about knowing I was different probably had more to do with my introverted nature than with anything else. In hindsight I'm sure there must have been lots of other students who felt the same way I did, but it's sometimes hard for us introverts to find each other. Each of us is too busy maintaining and preserving our own, individual block of personal space. The extroverts, on the other hand, put their personalities out there for anybody and everybody to see, so I knew them better, and they were the ones to whom I compared myself. As much as I liked them, I knew I was not like them. Now that I understand what that was all about, a do-over might be nice.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Day the Music Died

Okay, the title of this post is an overstatement, but I did sort of feel like that yesterday while I boxed up records and cassette tapes to donate--or maybe to sell; I haven't decided yet. Whatever their final destination, they all hold precious memories, and it's hard to let go of things like that. I had to remind myself again and again that the memories are in the songs themselves, not in the recorded media, and the songs will not be lost to me.

I counted as I boxed and came up with 175 singles, all of which were accumulated between late 1970 and sometime in the mid-80s. All of the 45 rpm records I'd bought before 1970, a stack about the same size as this one, were given to a neighbor when we moved from Texas to Florida and didn't have room for them in the small utility trailer we towed behind our station wagon.

Here's a small sample of the 45s:

The albums we owned did make it into the trailer for that Florida trip, so some of the 105 albums I boxed up yesterday predate 1970. Only a handful of them were purchased after 1980.

By the time my husband and I separated in mid-1980, we'd been buying cassette tapes instead of vinyl albums for a while. When we divorced, I got all the albums and he got all the tapes, a decision based once again on which medium would take up less space in the moving trailer. I continued buying tapes on my own, even bought them for several years after everyone else had switched to CDs. Being compact in size, all but a few of the tapes made it into this photo:

I did get with the times eventually and now have a nice-sized stack of CDs. I'm keeping those for now, even though I've uploaded all the best tunes from the CDs to my computer. There, they're stored alongside hundreds of iTunes selections that include many of the songs from the singles, albums, and tapes I'm finally ready to give up. The best part is that all the digital tunes don't take up even an inch of space in my house. Isn't technology amazing?


This week's Saturday Song Selection is from the tape at the upper right-hand corner of the cassette-tape photo above (you can click on it to enlarge it). This one reminds me of a time when I was between relationships. I wasn't at all unhappy, but I wasn't yet resigned to singlehood status, either. I fully expected to fall in love again before too long; that's the way it had always happened before. I'd listen to music while I busied myself around the apartment, and this song always made me imagine that the kind of man who would bring me a broken arrow and a bottle of rain might be very much to my liking. I guess I'll never know for sure; I never met a man like that. I stopped looking years and years ago.

The song is "Broken Arrow," written and performed by Robbie Robertson.
Thanks to TheUnderground5150 for posting this beautiful video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cyber Mechanics

There is one more thing I accomplished yesterday that I'm kind of proud of--unless I misjudged and it turns out to have been a bad thing. The "service engine soon" light has been shining on my dashboard since early spring, and I've intended ever since then to get it checked out. But. There was one great big "but," that being that I've had more than one bad experience with auto mechanics feeding me a line of bull and talking me into expensive repairs that weren't actually necessary. Based on those bad apples, I've become suspicious of all but one trusted repair company, one that specializes in tires and brake jobs, unfortunately, not engines. If the light had read "service engine now," I'd have had no choice but to bite the bullet and hope to find an honest mechanic, but that word "soon" seemed like nothing more than a suggestion and made me wonder just how important it could be.

I've been reading online occasionally for months about the many different things that could cause the "service engine soon" light to come on, and one thing I learned was that even something as simple as a gas cap not screwed on tightly could allow enough air into the gas mixture to trigger the dashboard alarm. I also learned that tightening the loose gas cap (which I've presumably done every time I've filled the tank since the warning light first appeared) won't turn off the light. Well, I wasn't about to get roped into costly repairs over nothing more serious than a loose gas cap, so when my Internet search led to information about how to reset the light, I decided to try it.

It was so easy! All I had to do was remove the battery cable clamp from the negative terminal, wait five minutes, then put it back on, start the engine, and voila! No more warning light. I figure if the light comes on again, there must be something wrong that really needs fixing, and I'll go get the work done. In the meantime, maybe the light will stay off at least long enough for the car to pass its annual inspection.

Have I mentioned how much I love the Internet? Too many times, you say? Well, here it comes again:  I LOVE THE INTERNET!

UPDATE AT 7:00 PM:  Well, crap! The light came back on half a mile from my house. That's what I get for feeling smug.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's an ordinary day, except...'s an especially gorgeous one! This is the view that greeted me when I let the dogs out just before seven this morning:

The early morning sunlight made everything in its path sparkle and was accompanied by the coolest outdoor temperature I've felt in months. After days of unrelenting heat, broken for mere hours at a time by drenching rainstorms, a day like today is a welcome reminder that fall will come, eventually, to Southeast Louisiana. 

The good weather convinced me to eat lunch outside again today, the first time in several weeks I've enjoyed what was an important part of my daily routine until a few weeks ago. I'd almost forgotten what a pleasure it is to sit out there with my finger-food lunch on the table at my left, a book in my lap, and two happy dogs dropping their tennis ball near my right hand at least twice a page.

Indoors today I'm doing laundry, experimenting as always to determine which order of washing the various loads is the best one to keep lint off my dark clothes. Since I'm not always successful at that--and maybe you aren't, either--here's a tip: a T-shirt-size length of contact paper stuck firmly against one side of a garment and then the other does the best and quickest job of lint removal I've ever seen.

Also, I'm still emptying drawers for Kim's upcoming move, and today it was time to buckle down and figure out new places to keep the gift-wrapping materials I've been storing in the room that will soon be her bedroom. I have a tall plastic container that holds rolls of gift-wrap paper, and I think that the whole container will fit into a long, built-in bin in the den. Rolls that are too long for that can go on the top shelf of my washer-dryer closet, along with plastic boxes of ribbons and bows. Gift bags and a rainbow assortment of tissue papers have been placed in zippered plastic bags and will now live in the living room in an end-table basket that's been empty until now. (Now, if I can just remember where everything is when I need it. I may have to do a keyword search for this post from time to time.)

Writing this mundane post in the scraps of time between chores and other activities has taken nearly all afternoon. The only good thing about that is that the laundry's all done now, so I can report that the order of today's loads was an effective one: hairy dog towels first, followed by human towels, sheets, light clothes, then dark ones. My good black pants came relatively lint free from the dryer.

The season premiere of Grey's Anatomy is on tonight. If I hadn't forgotten to put chicken in the crock pot earlier today, supper would be almost ready and the last hours of the day would be as nearly perfect as the rest of them have been. Maybe I'll take a short drive and see if anybody showed up for work at the burger place. It doesn't take a lot to make me happy. 

Monday, September 23, 2013


This pretty little pooch is named Buddy. He belongs to my next-door neighbor on the left. Buddy's mom installed a doggy door for him so he can go out into their large, fenced-in backyard and back into the house whenever he chooses, except when the doggy door is locked. I have a feeling someone forgot to lock it day before yesterday. That's when I looked outside to check on my big dogs, Levi and Gimpy, and saw them both doing their "this-is-not-right-oh-this-is-so-wrong" dance, pacing with small steps in a tight circle.

I walked outside to see what was up and there was Buddy, prancing in the driveway of my other next-door neighbor, the one on my right. Levi and Gimpy were correct: Buddy had no business being there. I called his name, and he glanced over his shoulder at me, then turned and walked around the side of the house where I couldn't see him anymore.

I've frequently compared the road in front of our houses to the dangerous one in Stephen King's Pet Semataryand I knew I'd never forgive myself if I minded my own business and Buddy wandered out onto that road. I darted back into the house, grabbed a leash, and ran out the front door, intending to lure Buddy close enough to catch him and walk him home.

As I hurried down my own driveway, my path was intercepted by Buddy, who was nonchalantly heading toward home. As he trotted leisurely across his own front yard, I followed him every step of the way, intent on discovering how he'd escaped the yard. The obvious answer was that an entire section of fence was missing on the far side of the neighbor's yard, no doubt having been taken down a day or two earlier to accommodate work being done in her backyard. I stopped right there, but Buddy turned and jogged alongside the house, then, with one final glance in my direction, disappeared around the back corner.

My neighbor wasn't home, but her daughter's car was in the driveway, so I knocked on the door to let someone know Buddy had been running loose. Nobody answered the first knock, so I knocked again, harder this time, and after a few seconds the door was opened. The neighbor's daughter eyed me curiously, as if she were wondering why in the world I'd pounded on the door. So did Buddy, who had let himself back in and sat right there at her feet.

That dog must think I'm really stupid.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I Don't Care What You Think; I'm Keeping This

I am exhausted. In the best possible way. The household purge continues and today I reached a point where I could actually begin to move some furniture. Mostly that consisted of relocating four loaded bookcases from the den to my bedroom, which I accomplished with the aid of my old, grimy Moving Men furniture sliders. If I hadn't thoroughly reorganized the utility closet earlier in the week, I wouldn't even have known where to find that battered box of sliders, so yay for serendipity!

Before moving the bookcases, I took everything out of the cabinets below the built-in, non-movable bookcases, eliminated what I could, and reorganized the rest. Those three cabinets were full of office and art supplies. Two of them still are, but one now holds the few games I'm keeping and eight or ten unopened jigsaw puzzles. I found a like-new leather day planner in there and thought how useful that would be for one of the young women in the family--and then I realized that everything I used to do with the day planner, they all do now on their smart phones. I discovered enough manila envelopes in a wide range of sizes that I'll probably never have to buy one again. The same goes for sticky notes and index cards. There were four plastic shoeboxes, each containing an assortment of crayons, colored pencils, markers and chalk. One day after the big move is complete, I'll sort them all out by type. For now I'm keeping all of them.

I found stuff when I moved the bookcases, too:  mostly rolls of a dust-and-dog-hair mixture that had accumulated under them, neither visible nor reachable from the front. Also under a bookcase were the stiff, leathery, well-preserved remains of a five-lined skink. Those bookcases sat next to the backdoor, so the skink probably darted in when the door was open and sought shelter in the nearest dark space. I wonder if the dryness of the dust and dog hair mummified it.

Tabletops and counters are still covered with items to be given away or donated to thrift shops. A visitor would be justifiably horrified at the mess, but I'm beginning to see beyond it now, to imagine how it will look when all those things are gone from here and we have a functional, comfortable home again. Working towards that goal has been good for me, both mentally and physically. It's amazing what the right motivation can do to get a woman off her backside.


I could have reclaimed space in my home much faster if I'd taken a hint from the title of this week's Saturday Song Selection, but three lines of the lyrics sum up the reason why I'm sorting through everything carefully and hanging on to more than I need:

"No matter what you think about it
You just won't be able to do without it
Take a tip from one who's tried."

Of course, the song is about love--not decorative items stored in a spare-bedroom closet--but we all hear what we want to hear, don't we?

The song is "I Threw It All Away" by Bob Dylan.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to 3vignano for posting this video on YouTube.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grammy's Giveaway

What a week! I've been emptying out closets, drawers and cabinets, piling the contents on tabletops and kitchen counters, sorting what to keep, what to donate, what to throw away. If I were doing this on a TV show, there'd be a "what to sell" pile, too, but I have neither the time nor the energy to hold a garage sale right now, and posting stuff on craigslist would involve strangers coming to my home. (Ooh! Scary!) One thing I do know: when the time comes for my daughter to move in with me, there'll be room for her. She's going through a similar process in her present home, sorting out what to bring with her and what to put into a rented storage unit for the time being.

Over the weekend I set up a private Facebook message for my kids and grandkids (promptly dubbed "Grammy's Giveaway" by my granddaughter) where I've been posting photos of anything I think might be of interest to one of them. The first one who claims an item gets it; what isn't claimed before my next trip to Goodwill will go there with me and never come back. It's been kind of fun.

Here's a list of the items posted so far:
  • Barstool, wrought iron with beige, microfiber seat. Bought about two years ago at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Seat is 29.5" high--a tad too tall for my use. 
  • Crosley record, radio, CD player, rarely used. It all works, but the quality is only about two degrees above a P.O.S.
  •  Big stack of 45 rpm singles, mostly from '70s and '80s. I loved them all but haven't played the records in years. Still listen to a lot of the songs on iTunes. Big stack of albums, mostly from the same era. Don't care for the music? I once saw one of the "Trading Spaces" decorators line an entire wall with records.
  • Resistance chair and Smooth Rider Exercise Cycle for Resistance Chair: I bought these a few years back when the arthritis in my knees was so bad I could barely walk. Didn't use it but about three times then and don't use it now. I still really like the idea of it, though--for someone with more self-discipline than I have.
  • Sharp Z-57 Compact Copier. Anybody need a small-office copier with a big footprint? Bought it so I could make legal-size copies; don't need to do that anymore. Old but still works fine and parts (toner cartridges and drum) are still available. FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • Bissell Spotlifter Powerbrush -- Kim gave this to me when she got a big floor model carpet steam cleaner, which I liked so much that I bought a big one just like it.
  • Large afghans made by either my mother or my grandmother (I've never been sure) have been stored in a drawer in zippered plastic bags for years. Specify which one(s) you want. MULTI-STRIPE: Lots and lots of different colors. RED, WHITE & BLUE: Red, white, blue very pale pink. (Do you think maybe she couldn't see very well?) LAVENDAR, GREEN & WHITE: This is the prettiest one, in my opinion. I like these colors together. FOUND A NEW HOME!

  • Games:  Backgammon, Pictionary, Password, Code Sudoku, Scruples, Scrabble, Outburst, Ouija Board.
  • Oreck XL hand-vac with shoulder strap, perfect for upholstery or auto vacuuming. Comes complete with four brushes, two extenders and a couple of extra bags. I got this as a bonus when I bought the big Oreck (after I saw it lift a bowling ball on TV), didn't really need this small one so used it only once or twice.
  • Audio cassette storage boxes: Two nice-looking stackable boxes that can be repurposed and used to store craft items, office supplies, nails and screws...I don't know...matchbox cars? Cassette boxes (and I can provide those if needed) can be inserted to partition the boxes into smaller spaces. FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • Task Force 12" Mitre Box with 14" Saw: I remember buying this--needed it urgently for some project--but I can't remember why I needed it and I haven't needed it again.
  • Pile o' Wires -- almost didn't even list this, but, as they say, one (wo)man's trash is another man's treasure. There are electrical wires (old-style extension cords with no ground), telephone wires, plus TV cable wires and a couple of computer cables.
  • Black-Widow Spider Halloween Costume -- Elastic on sides makes it one-size-fits-all. (Black pants, hoody, and "hand socks" NOT included.)
  • Strait-Line kit containing laser level, stud finder and sonic laser tape. These are nice tools, but I don't expect to do much more redecorating, and I'm content to hang pictures the old-fashioned way (or using simple techniques I've learned on Pinterest).
  • Three ring binders: 1" stiff back (salmon colored); three 1/2" flexible backs; pocket inserts; multiple sets of dividers. FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • Broken watches -- I'm thinking they might be used some way in a craft project, e.g., attached to a picture frame for newborn's first photo, with hands set to time of birth. Or worn all together as a fashion statement. My first thought was to place tiny portraits under the glass, but I don't know how you'd get the darn things open.
  • Hanging/folding makeup kit (plastic) -- never used. Also good for holding craft supplies, coupons, hair bows, scarves, belts, tights/hosiery, etc. FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • Five-quart plastic jug with spigot. Very narrow, takes up little space in refrigerator. Has a very, very slight leak. When I used it in my refrigerator, I kept a folded paper towel right under the spigot and that took care of it. Great to fill with Kool-Aid, etc., for use outdoors by small kids. FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • Beer or soda can dispensers -- plastic-coated wire. Three of them. FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • "Bread Buddy" -- Used to use it, but I eat bread so infrequently that I now have to keep it in the freezer. Put loaf of bread in container, pull wrapper back over sides to slide bag toward opening, then snap lid over bag.
  • Vintage Premium Saltine Crackers Tin - from 1978, has a few very tiny dings, which is not bad when you consider it's been part of five major moves.
  • Carter's Onesie (size 3-6) months, plus matching hooded bath towel -- still has tags. I bought this for Keaton (who recently turned 10), but he outgrew them before I got around to packaging them to mail. Put them in the back of my closet, still in the plastic shopping bag, and forgot about them through Presley, Cohen, Henley, Owen and Olivia. They're perfectly fine--just not gift-worthy, because they'll need to be washed after all that time.
  • Christmas mugs -- good for hot chocolate or, when filled with candy canes and wrapped in a bow, a cheap spare gift. (That's how I got both of them.)
  • Ceramic Campbell's soup mug
  • Stackable food storage containers (incomplete set, but mostly there). Base sits on shelf, lazy susan part pulls out and turns so you can pick out what you need. Frankly, the idea of these is better than the reality of them, because the lids are hard to put on and take off. Hm. It just occurred to me that the containers could be discarded and the pull-out lazy susan might be handy for storing spices, canned goods, etc. FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • Tupperware ring mold for Jello OR shrimp (not Jello AND shrimp). FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • Five-piece set of Mickey Mouse Chinese mini-pliers (my assumption only). Have no idea where or when I acquired these. The package has never been opened, though it appears that I did my best to try to get it open. FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • Caulking gun and caulk, bought about a year ago because I need a line of caulk at the base of my bathtub. (Still do.) Apparently, I'm either too weak or too stupid to use this properly, so I gave up. FOUND A NEW HOME!
  • VuPoint 35mm slide & negative converter - Converts your old slides and negatives to digital images. This was a Christmas gift I requested and very much appreciated a few years ago; however, I switched from PC to Mac and it is no longer compatible with my equipment. The box says it's for Windows XP and Windows Vista, latest versions of Windows at the time I got it. Don't know if it's compatible with Windows 7 and 8, but if you have lots of old negatives, it might be worth checking it out.
  • Astrology Kit - Quoting the box: "Everything you need to cast horoscopes for yourself, your family & friends."
  • The Ken Brown Calligraphy Kit - Lots of fun, but watch out for that India ink.
  • Six brushed-stainless cabinet knobs, 1-1/2" diameter. Mount them several inches apart on a nice narrow board to hang ball caps, etc. Cabinet knobs would also be pretty if they were mounted on a pretty board in two (or three) rows, with small, framed photos hanging from the knobs by cords. Also, five stainless hinges. Any "outside-the-box" ideas for using these?
  • Double-switch wall plate, off-white antiqued with gold, fleur-de-lis at top and bottom.
That's where I stopped Sunday night, but there's more to be listed as soon as I clear a spot on the table for picture taking. 

I spent yesterday getting the "taken" items cleaned up and ready for delivery, including washing and drying every single one of those damned stackable food storage containers, then moved on to washing, drying and reorganizing the food storage containers I plan to keep, the ones that have been stacked so precariously in the cabinet that one false move can cause them to tumble out. Now I wish I could think of a crafty use for the umpteen extra lids I discovered.

I also discovered two more broken watches--the total is up to six now--so I'm now thinking I'll keep those and use them in a project like one of these someday. Besides, they don't take up very much space.

Yesterday I uncovered a box of more than a hundred 3.5" floppy disks, some of them (and I wasn't always sure which) containing confidential information of the kind I would shred if it were printed on paper. So, while I watched TV last night, I sat with that box next to me on the sofa and a plastic shopping bag in my lap. One by one, I put each diskette into the shopping bag (to catch any flying pieces), cracked it open like a nut, and removed the thin magnetic disk that stores the data. Every so often I'd stop and use scissors to cut a stack of those filmy magnetic disks into pieces. Now I feel comfortable in disposing of them, but I've learned that this kind of electronic refuse isn't safe to toss into trash that might end up in a landfill. The same applies to cassette tapes, videotapes, CDs of obsolete software and expired batteries, all of which I have plenty. Finding a disposal site will be another big undertaking. Oh, well.

I'm just now realizing that I already covered a lot of these topics in another post just six days ago, which tells me that the "thin magnetic disk that stores the data" in my brain isn't functioning as it should, possibly due to overload. That being the case, I'll stop writing for now and get back to the physical activity of purging and reorganizing to make room for Kim (FOUND A NEW HOME!).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

You Stole My Heart, I Couldn't Leave You If I Tried

It was 1971, about this time of the year. We lived in Miami, Florida. My daughters were just a few weeks into a new school year, one in fourth grade, the other in second. Tonight I'm remembering those days, especially the early mornings, the blond heads of my sleeping girls, their arms and legs tangled in the sheets.

My husband worked nights then, and he usually stayed in bed, sipping coffee and listening to the radio while I got the girls up, fed them breakfast, helped them get ready for school. No matter what was going on in the ordinary confusion of morning, it all came to a halt for my older daughter when one particular song came on the radio. How many mornings did we watch her, smiles on our faces, as she stood there in our bedroom doorway, toothbrush or hairbrush in hand, swaying to the music and singing along with Rod Stewart?

She's been a grownup up for a long time now, but I remember that little girl vividly. Sometimes I still see flashes of her.

The song is "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart.
Thanks to AllTheLoveGoneBlack for posting this video and the song lyrics on YouTube.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Creating Elbow Room

Due to a recent series of events centered around the end of a relationship, I'm going to have some new housemates by the end of October. My older daughter, Kim, and her two dogs, Oliver and Lucy, are coming to stay for a while. In the meantime, Kim and I both need to figure out how to eliminate a lot of "stuff" from our households so we won't be stepping over it all once they move in.

As many clothes, books, and other items as I've donated or thrown away in the past couple of years, there are still too many things here that I don't need. Somehow, when one has empty drawers, shelves, closets, or floor space, items seem to drift in from all directions until everything is full again. As long as the space doesn't feel too crowded, keeping unnecessary stuff doesn't seem to be a problem. Now, all of a sudden, space is at a premium.

Over the next few weeks I'll be purging with a critical eye toward making room, getting rid of a lot of things I've kept just because I could. Things like this set of fine china my father bought me in 1965:

Thanksgiving Day Table Setting - 1978

Those were the "good" dishes, the ones reserved for Thanksgiving and other special meals back when life was a more formal affair than it is nowadays. The days before automatic dishwashers. All these dishes have a thin rim of silver around the edges, silver that will erode rapidly in a dishwasher. It's been at least twenty years--possibly thirty--since I've used them, yet they're stacked and lined up neatly, along with coordinated serving bowls and glassware, taking up one whole set of cabinet shelves. I can no longer afford to be sentimental about them. It's time for them to go to someone who'll appreciate them enough to wash them by hand.

There's a bulky copy machine I bought in 1997 when I was thinking about starting my own home-based business. It's old but it functions perfectly. I use it about once a month and don't need to use it then. Any copying needs I have these days can be handled quite capably by the three-in-one printer/scanner/copier on my desk.

There are boxes of games I no longer play because more interesting games are available online. There's a shoe-drying-rack attachment for my dryer that I've never used. On the same shelf is a fabric softener dispenser, also unused because I prefer dryer sheets. There's an unopened box of legal-sized hanging files I'll never need again, three boxes (in three different locations) of assorted wires and cables, and attachments for a vacuum cleaner I no longer own. There are non-functioning and/or obsolete electronic appliances I can't get rid of until the next annual electronics recycling day. I have tons of vinyl records, cassette tapes, and VHS tapes. A nearly finished quilt top (made by a great aunt) and three crocheted afghans (made by either my mother or my grandmother) sit in zippered plastic bags inside a drawer, where I see them only when I can't remember what's in that drawer and open it to find out. There are so many things taking up so much space, and that has to change. Now.

There are other useless things, of course, that I'm not ready to give up. One example is a round tin box full of assorted buttons I've saved over the years. My grandmother kept a button box very much like this one, and I spent hours, as a child, rearranging the colors and stringing them together with a needle and thread. There's something magical about a button box, and some kid, someday, will like mine very much.

Wish me luck, please. And focus, too; wish me that. I'm going to need a lot of both in the coming weeks.

Sunday, September 08, 2013


By some meandering path of thoughts this morning, I remembered pleasant hours of craft-time back in the 1950s. For a while my mother's hobby was making jewelry from tiny, tiny seashells. Sometimes she'd let me work with her. (My little sister, too, I think, though I don't remember for sure.)

I can't exaggerate how small and fragile the shells were:  about the size of the hulls in a bag of popped corn and not a great deal sturdier than that, either. They came in little cellophane pouches, sorted by shape and color, and each new package Mother brought home was met with "oohs" and "aahs" and individual visions of design possibilities.

We mostly made brooches and clip-on earrings. The jewelry hardware came attached to flat plastic disks. Using tweezers, we painstakingly glued the shells to the plastic disks to form flowers and other designs. I searched for images on the web before beginning this post, and the closest ones I could find to show you were on a blog called Style Me Betty(Thanks, Betty. Nice site!)

Mother was always crafty. She sewed, she knitted, she sketched occasionally, mostly for the amusement of kids and grandkids, and did paint-by-numbers art. If it interested her, she tried it, and she was usually good at it. You can't see it very well in the photo below, but she made the amber-colored glass top on the round table from crushed and melted beer bottles. (Daddy, crafty in his own way, helped. He also provided all the beer bottles.) There's something amusing about the juxtaposition of the beer-bottle-topped table so near Mother's cabinet full of fine china.

I liked the artsy side of Mother's nature. When she was engaged in an activity she enjoyed, she was relaxed, happy, and not inclined to unleash her sharp tongue. That's how she was when we worked together making jewelry with the tiny shells. Happy memories, those.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

I know that I shall never see...

...a hawk on that persimmon tree.

Recently, the barking of my two big dogs alerted me to a tree-removal crew in my next-door neighbor's backyard. Off and on throughout the morning, I watched them work to take down a large oak tree. It was a fascinating, carefully choreographed process: one man in the bucket of a crane, several others on the ground, working with chainsaws and ropes to lower sawed-off branches and huge segments of tree trunk safely to the ground.

If you click this image to enlarge it, you'll see that
the white spot just above the center of the photo
is a man working from the bucket of a crane. 

That tree grew on the far side of my neighbor's house, so, even though its higher branches were visible to me, I never paid particular attention to the tree itself. The same cannot be said for the tall, spindly persimmon tree that grew farther back in the same backyard. The persimmon tree was a focal point of my daily nature watch.

The persimmon tree in question is the tall tree on the left side of this photo.

I must have well over a hundred pictures of that persimmon tree. In winter and summer both it provided photographic opportunities: cloud formations behind it and birds flying onto and away from its branches. Birds of prey seemed to consider the top of that tree an ideal spot for waiting and watching, for scoping out meals in nearby yards, and I delighted in watching and photographing those magnificent birds.

I felt nothing more than curiosity when the men took down the oak tree that day. It took them several hours to do it, and, when they were finished with the oak tree, I assumed their work was done. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I looked out only minutes later and saw the persimmon tree lying on the ground.

The pile of green at the center of this photo is the felled persimmon tree.

Today there's hardly any evidence that the tree ever existed.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I cried when I saw that the persimmon tree had been cut down. Not that it was ever any of my business, but my neighbor later mentioned why she'd had the two trees removed, and her reason is a good, sound one. I didn't tell her what I've just told you--that I felt sad (still do) about the loss of the persimmon tree. There's no reason to make her feel uneasy about doing something she had every right to do, and besides, I feel a little silly about discovering I'd become emotionally attached to a tree.

I will miss it, though. Just probably not as much as this guy:

Mississippi Kite on uppermost branch of persimmon tree.


Since I've only written one blog entry between now and last Saturday, it seems too soon to post another Saturday Song Selection. Eh...who cares? There's one song that's perfect for today's topic, so I'm going to post it anyway. It's a lovely version of a children's song, and the photos in the video are gorgeous.

The song is "Tree Song" by Evie Tornquist Karlsson.
Thanks to Barry Desaine for posting the video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Not Only That, but the Shake Machine's Broken

A couple of weeks ago, after finding nothing in the refrigerator or pantry that appealed to  me, I decided to indulge in a hamburger at the nearest drive-thru restaurant. Knowing that the service at that particular "fast-food" place is normally quite slow, I packed my Kindle in my purse so the wait wouldn't be boring, then set out to pick up supper.

Mine was the fourth car in line at the drive-thru. The first car in line had been parked next to the ordering speaker ever since I drove up, and I'd already read about half a chapter by the time I noticed that nobody had moved. Right then I saw a young male employee come around the corner of the building, headed in our direction. His steps--and his smile, too--seemed tentative. As he drew near, making eye contact with first one driver then the next, I rolled my window down so I could hear what he had to say.

"I'm so, so sorry, y'all, but I just thought I should come out here and tell y'all that I'm th' only one that showed up at work this evenin'. I don't know why they didn't come, and I'm doin' the best I can by muhself, but I cain't do ever'thing fast enough. I didn't want y'all to have to wait so long that you go all nine-eleven on me."

Bless his heart. That was a brave thing to do, and I appreciated it. As for his co-workers who didn't show up? Well, that's the sloppy work ethic we've all come to expect, isn't it?

A former in-law visited that same restaurant a few years ago, walked inside to place his order, and discovered--after shouting "hello" a few times--that he was the only person in the building. I suppose nobody had bothered to show up to work that shift, either, and the last person to leave from the previous shift hadn't even taken the trouble to lock the door.

There's a fried chicken place a little farther down the road that's just been reopened after having been closed for quite some time. I don't plan to visit there anytime soon. The last time I went there before the place shut down, I ordered a two-piece meal. The voice-in-the-box at the drive-thru replied, "I'm sorry, ma'am, we're all out of two-piece meals. Would you like a three-piece?" Huh? Does that make sense on any level?

These are the kinds of incidents that come to mind when I read about fast-food workers striking to double their wages. I'm usually pro-union, but not in this case. The best thing about fast-food jobs is that entry-level workers can handle them, so they're good places for teens to gain a little work experience. Good workers move on to bigger and better jobs. As for the ones who stick around because they aren't capable of moving on to something more lucrative, for goodness' sake, let's not give them the idea that they're doing such a bang-up job that they deserve more money for it.

That's my opinion. Would you like fries with that?