Welcome to my blog. Thanks for coming! One day I hope my little piece of internet real estate will be home to lots of family photos, pictures of my scrapbook and card art, with some random thoughts and memories posted on a somewhat regular basis. Mostly my world is very predictable, but occasionally some excitement will find me, so visit often. Who knows what useful (or useless) information you may find here.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

WBHS – First Away Game

Last night was a night off from football, but the band had an exhibition show.  Can't wait to see them perform the entire show next Friday night!!!  

Here's my account of last week's away game:
This past Friday the Doggs, Cheerleaders, coaches, support staff, and the DoggBand loaded up and headed to Duluth for our first official away game.  Whitney and I had signed up to be bus chaperones, and it was like going back in time 16 years ago to my first bus chaperone trip when she was in 9th grade.  All the hustle and bustle in the band room, inspections, and dismissal.  What fun memories!! 
What I had forgotten about was the actual school bus ride.  I think buses have shrunk in size since those days, and the backs of the seats are higher.  This is not good for a person with claustrophobia.  In the olden days, I got my very own personal seat that I did not have to share with anyone.  Part of this reason was I was also Keeper Of The Medical Bag in years 2, 3, and 4.  This year the buses are full to capacity, and I actually had to share my seat.  Thankfully, it was with Whitney.  Unfortunately, I got on the bus a bit sooner than necessary.  No movement, no air flow, I couldn’t see over the seat in front of me, nor the back of my own seat.  As one by one the bodies came on board, it felt like the world was closing in on me.  I was by the window, so at least I was able to scramble up and hang my head out the window for a bit and get some fresh air.  Once we started moving, it was fine… as long as I kept my mind off of the tiny little section space that I was wedged into.  The trip took a little longer than expected, because of a detour made necessary by a train stopped on the tracks. 
Aside from the claustrophobia, it was great being on the bus with the band kids again!  The major difference this time around is that Whitney actually claimed me as her mom, and even sat with me!  It seemed really odd not knowing the other chaperones or the kids.  I found myself looking for *my* kids, and every now and then I would see someone who reminded me of one of the 2000-2004 group.  I love doing the chaperone thing with Whitney, but I sure did miss the old Friday Night Crowd – Nancy and Phil Stephens, Linda and Charles Perry, Karey Russell, Delores Smith, Kitty McCall, Christine Shaheen, Beth Savage, and all the other parents who made it so much fun.
The Doggs looked great on the field, and it was a very exciting game.  Back in the day, I was more interested in band stuff than football, but this year the games have been exciting to watch.  Here’s to hoping that trend continues, and the Doggs go all the way!
I’d love to say the band looked great on the field.  Well, actually, they did look great on the field.  We just had to watch from behind.  The hosting school, Northview in Duluth, has a policy that doesn’t allow any visitors on their side of the field.  I went to every away game from 2000-2001 to 2003-2004, and that has never been an issue.  Chaperones, band support folks, parents, and students have always gone across to the hosting side in order to watch BOTH bands perform.  We’d clap and holler for our kids, and when they finished playing, we respectfully watched the home team’s band play, and clapped and hollered for them just the same.  It’s just what you do.  We have seen some awesome bands from other schools, and always support them with our cheers and applause. 
We were quite disappointed and upset that we weren’t allowed to go across at Northview.  There were resource officers who simply would not let us pass.  Not just WBHS, they said, but no visiting teams are ever allowed over there.  We tried explaining that this was their first show to march, because of prior halftime shows being canceled due to weather, but no exception was to be made.  A few parents went rogue and went the opposite direction and somehow made it across the gator-filled moat and past the fire-breathing dragon, and got into the stands, and were able to shoot a front-on video of the show.  It’s on Facebook, if you want to see it. 
As a mom, a band chaperone, and Keeper Of The Medical Bag for three years, it was also concerning to me that our kids were on the other side of the world with no adult support.  Well, they’re not really kids, and they certainly know how to behave, but you never know when someone might need something, have an accident, or any kind of incident that could require adult supervision.  That in itself would seem to merit allowing chaperones/parents into the stands. 
Oh well.  Here at WBHS, we welcome visiting band supporters into our stands, and show our support to all the visiting bands.  Our band kids are taught to appreciate the opposing team’s band, and show them the respect they deserve.
And on that note, if you are in the stands while the visiting band is performing, it would be really great if you would also show them the same supportive cheers and applause that you graciously show to our own fabulous WBHS Marching Bulldogg Band!  #HighRoad Go Doggs!  Yay Band!!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Boyz In The Hood

No time to write in the old blog any more, so I'm cheating again, and sharing the article from last week's paper.  

I’ve never lived more than 25-30 miles from the place of my birth, the good old (old) Winder Hospital out on East Broad.  Dr. Etheridge brought me into this world on a crisp fall day many, many years ago.  Barrow County has been home for the greater part of my life, with a few years spent in Oconee, with a couple of short stents in other nearby towns. But I always found my way back to Statham. There really is no place like home!

We lived in Winder while Whitney was in middle and high school.  I was working from home most of those years, and the flexibility of my job made it possible to be an involved Band Mom, and make sure that she was where she needed to be.  It was a quiet little neighborhood, and I had dear friends across the street from me.  We watched out for each other, and traded chores whenever needed.  They later moved away, which broke my heart. There was nobody else in the neighborhood that I befriended, and it was pretty lonely after that.

Shortly after Whitney left for college, I decided to move back to Statham.  My parents are here, my BFF is here, my church is here, and my crafting friends are here.  I was very fortunate that my house in Winder sold quickly, and I was able to purchase a home in Statham.  I bought the house from my good friends, the Johnsons, who had raised their kids here in The Hood. 

When I moved in, I inherited the most awesome neighbors!!  I still missed my friends from Winder, but was so happy to have been accepted into the family of neighbors here in The Hood.  Most of the families on my street have lived here for years and years, and they know each other well.  Some of them ride around in golf carts, keeping a close eye on anything that might seem to be amiss.  On any given evening, it’s not unusual to see a convoy of golf carts going by, or see a group of them stopped in the driveway of another neighbor for a visit.  I don’t get out and socialize with them as often as I would like, but it is very comforting to know that there are at least six or seven Boyz In The Hood that I can call on if I need a guy to help me do things.  My BFF is at the end of the street, and her husband is like my brother.  One July 4th morning I woke him up before daylight screaming for him to come down here, something exploded in my house and I thought it was on fire.  He was here in a flash – and after finally convincing me the house was not on fire, and not to call 911, his diagnosis was that a squirrel had chewed through one of  the power lines coming to my house. This was later confirmed by the Georgia Power guy, who worked for hours in a pouring rain to get it fixed. 

My dear neighbors Arti and Tammy have been so good about mowing my lawn.  I can never thank them enough.  One summer I had a bad foot and they kept it cut for me the whole season. They are awesome!  One time we needed to move a wooden playscape down the street.  All the guys gathered in my back yard and after much planning and conspiring, they loaded it onto David’s flatbed truck, and safely transported it three doors down to the Melton home.  The guys followed on their golf carts, and helped to unload it and shore it up for safe playing.

I’m always bragging about my great neighbors on Facebook. I’m so very thankful for my life here.  It’s a wonderful place to be, and I am so blessed to be surrounded by The Boyz (and girlz) In The Hood!!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

All Lives Matter

The fireworks have faded, and the picnic baskets put away for another year.  The red, white, and blue decorations are discarded, and some people have even removed the flags that waved proudly from the front porch only a few days ago.   The outfits celebrating the holiday are cleaned and hung in the back of the closet, with hopes that they will still fit next year.  It’s back to work as usual until the next holiday. 

Holidays like Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, Memorial Day, etc., are days that we set apart to recognize, commemorate, and celebrate certain events in history.  It is a good thing to bring special attention to these events, right?  Yes, of course it is.  But my favorite people are the people who remember these events every day!  People who fly their flags 365, not just patriotic holidays.  I suppose there could be the argument that flying it every day would lead us to become immune to its presence, and make it less special.  Perhaps that is true for some.  When I’m inside my house, I don’t see it.  But each time I go outside, or turn into my driveway, I see it, and am thankful.  And, when driving through the streets of my community, I LOVE to see it waving from the side of your house! 

Exactly one month after the 9/11 attacks, I had the opportunity to travel to Boston with Mrs. Thompson’s AP US History class.  We weren’t even sure we would be allowed to fly, but thankfully, air travel was allowed to resume before our departure date, October 11, 2001.  We flew into Logan airport, the origin of those flights that brought about the tragedies of 9/11. 

History was one of my least favorite subjects in school, and I remembered very little of what I learned.  Visiting the sites of the events that would shape our nation awakened within me a new feeling of pride in my country, and a sober realization of the real cost of freedom. Visiting the graves of some of the founding fathers felt like walking on sacred ground, and my heart was full of gratitude.  Sitting on the cool grass in the Lexington Green, and walking across the (replica) Old North Bridge, we were taken back to the first days of the revolution.  I could almost smell the gunpowder.  It changed me. 

Needless to say, the trip had more of an effect on me than it did the students, and I learned (and felt) so much.  In their defense, had I been an upcoming 10th grader on a “history trip”, I probably wouldn’t have been as caught up in it either.  I hope that someday they will remember having the honor to visit the pages of history.

We live in a very troubled world today.  The past week, even in the shadow of our celebration of freedom, we have seen so much ugliness within our nation.  Our government is spiraling out of control.  Our presidential candidate choices are abysmal.   Martin Luther King, Ben Franklin, John Hancock – what would these men think and say if they could see what we have become?  What does Jesus think?  How can we fix this? 

I saw a post on Facebook that said something like this:  “If you weren’t saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ yesterday, how can you say ‘All Lives Matter’ today?”  Huh?  I didn’t say “Black Lives Matter”, or “Blue Lives Matter” yesterday or the day before.  Because I DO BELIEVE that All Lives Matter.  Until everyone embraces the fact that All Lives Matter, then things will just continue to deteriorate.  And as we continue to kill and hate each other within the borders of our nation, we will prove Abraham Lincoln’s words that “A house divided against itself shall fall.”   (Also Mark 3:25) 
Sometimes I just wish Jesus would hurry on up and come get us.  But that is the coward’s way out.  There is still work to be done.  We tend to think that there is nothing we can personally do to effect the change our world needs.  And there’s probably not anything that we can do on a global level.  But I can make a change in my heart, in my household, in my family.  In my small little world where I live.  And so can you.  In the words of Gandhi – “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  And the words of Michael Jackson’s song, start with “the man in the mirror.”

I love this nation, and what she once stood for.  I pledge my allegiance to a flag that represents that which upon we were founded.   Today’s America is not the America for which my heroes fought, bled, and died. But we must maintain our allegiance, and resolve to be the change.  If we don’t do that, change will come anyway, but in a very bad way.  Fly your flags!  Pray for our leaders!  Pray for our law enforcement officers.  Pray for our pastors.  Pray for our citizens.  Pray for courage and integrity within our own hearts.  And never stop praying for God to Bless America!!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Vacation Bible School

Nothing says summer quite like “Vacation Bible School!”  All around town signs can be seen in church yards inviting youngsters to attend.   For as far back as I can remember, VBS has been a favorite pastime of children, held at varying times throughout summer break. 

According to Wickipedia, the origins of Vacation Bible School can be traced back to Hopedale, Illinois in 1894. Sunday school teacher D. T. Miles, who also was a public school teacher, felt she was limited by time constraints in teaching the Bible to children. So, she started a daily Bible school to teach children during the summer. 

Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have all the resources that are available these days.  No social media with which to advertise flashing spaceships or roller coasters, and we didn’t have video clips, overhead projectors, or pre-recorded music with coordinated dance moves.  No bright, colorful posters to hang up in the windows of local merchants.
We had cardboard and crayons, and if we were lucky, a few magic markers for our homemade posters.  The Saturday before Bible School was scheduled to begin, we would line up a few cars and pickup trucks, and have a little mini-parade through the streets of Statham.  Kids of all ages would be hanging from the windows and from the beds of the trucks, clapping and shouting “Vacation Bible School!! Vacation Bible School!!”  I think I remember a station wagon driven by Wayne Holliday, decorated with streamers and balloons, as the Grand Marshall of our parade on several occasions.

In the years before our church had a fellowship hall, all of our fellowshippin’ was done in the basement, and out on the grounds.  There was also an old house practically in the front yard of the church that we used for Sunday School classes, and of course, VBS.  We’d have an area for crafts, study time, snack time, and recreation time.  My sweet grandma was always on hand to serve butter cookies and a cup of Kool-Aid.  Miss Frances would play the piano for assembly, and there would be a special chord she’d play that indicated when we should stand up, and another one for when we should sit down.  Craft time was my favorite (well, maybe second favorite, if we had cherry Kool-Aid at snack time.)  Oh, the magical things we created from popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue!

I’m sure the local churches planned it this way, but we were always excited when we were able to attend VBS at several different places.  Some had daytime sessions, while others held theirs in the evening.  Sometimes for two weeks, but mostly just one week.  So much fun!   Shhhh… don’t tell my church, but Pleasant Hill always had the best crafts!!!

After I became an adult, I no longer got to make the crafts and eat the cookies, but took on the role of teacher.  I did this for years, until one fateful summer when I was assigned a group of fifth grade boys.  That was my last year of teaching.  Jesus loved those little boys a WHOLE lot more than I did.  I’ll just leave it at that.

Check out the many programs available near you, and get your kiddos signed up to attend!  (And pray for the teachers!!)


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

As The Tassel Turns


Congratulations to the class of 2016!!  I said my prayers all week long that the weather would hold out so that both schools could have their ceremonies outside as planned, and was very thankful that there was no rain.  For WBHS graduates, what fun it will be to tell your kids you graduated by the light of hundreds of cell phones?  That was pretty cool!

Forty years ago, the Class of 1976 had to change locations from the football field to the cafeteria.  I remember that being such a disappointment.  We were only allowed two admission tickets per student.  No grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriends or girlfriends were allowed to attend.  Not only that, it was the year of the bicentennial celebration, and, while I should have been a proud, patriotic student, I remember pouting a little bit that we had to wear white gowns, and our tassels were red, white, and blue.  I had always loved the red and black color scheme of WBHS, and had long admired the red and black tassels hanging from rear-view mirrors of the cars of my older friends, and couldn’t wait to have my own car to display my red and black tassel.  But, it was not to be.   I still have that red, white, and blue tassel, tucked away for safekeeping, but  I never did hang it from the rear-view mirror of my car. 

So, class of 2016, what’s next?  Some of you are headed to college.  What a challenge that will be!  Others may enter the work force right away.  Perhaps a military career is ahead of you, and I thank you in advance for your service!  Eighteen still seems an awful young age to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life, so don’t sweat it if you haven’t yet decided.  Sometimes going to college right after high school is the right thing to do, while for others, it makes more sense to take a break, and go at a later time.  You may feel pressured to pursue a career of your parents’ choosing, or feel the need to follow in the family footsteps of chosen careers.   I’d never be the one to tell you to go against your parents’ wishes, especially if they are paying for your education, but keep an open mind.  Perhaps when you do discover your life’s ambitions, they will be supportive, and it will be a win-win for everyone. 

Whatever you do, make it count.  Be a productive member of society, whether it’s working in a high-paying, prestigious career that requires you to wear a suit, a laborer on the construction site, the sanitation department, or someone who cleans bedpans at the convalescent home.  All these jobs are important. Don’t believe me?  If a high-falutin’ Wall Street office closes tomorrow, most of us will never feel the effects.  Let the sanitation department close for two weeks, and we will all feel it.  Every job is important.  Do your best.  Be careful not to look down on others who choose a less glamorous career than yours.  Likewise, don’t be intimidated by those who wear fancy clothes and work in a corner office when your job is shoveling poop at the horse farm.  Just do something.  In today’s world it is far too easy to live off the system.  In many cases, there is more incentive to stay in the system than to break out and be productive. 

No matter where you live, no matter if you buy your clothes from high-end fashion boutiques or thrift stores, you are important.  If your daddy drives a Mercedes, or if your daddy drives a beat-up truck with slick tires – that doesn’t have to direct your path in life.  Of course, some will have more advantages and opportunities than others.  If you’re dad’s bank account affords you an easy road to education, and friends in high places help you get a fancy job – then that’s fabulous.  Don’t waste the opportunity.  But be very careful not to take it for granted.  If your dad’s bank account will hardy pay the bills at home, and you have fewer opportunities, then that’s okay too. Sometimes the harder we have to work for things, the more we appreciate them.  If your home life is unstable and you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, then determine that you are going to be a force of change in your family, and you will make a difference. 

Certainly, life is easier for some than for others.  But let me be clear on this:  No one person, regardless of ethnicity, economic status, or GPA is less valuable than another. All lives matter.  Class of 2016, YOU MATTER.  I love this saying:  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The tassels have been turned.  Now: Go.  Change the world!!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Only Thing That Stays The Same Is That Nothing Ever Stays The Same

There’s a saying that goes like this:  “The only thing that stays the same is that nothing ever stays the same.”   I’m pretty much the poster child for this saying, as my life reflects more changes over the years than I like to acknowledge.  Some changes are good, some changes are not. 

Relationships change.  Jobs change.  Home addresses change.  Friendships change.  Our bodies change.  Finances change.  The state of our health changes. 

The only thing that doesn’t change is God’s love for us.  But the rest is up for grabs, and our lives can change at the drop of a hat. 

If you know my family, you know what an awesome bunch of folks I’m blessed to have in my life. We’ve always been very close, and in prior years, spent most weekends together at my grandma’s house.  When I was a kid, I didn’t know the difference between aunts and uncles “by  marriage” and those born into the family.  My Uncle Gene was as much related to me as my Aunt Joyce.  I remember being so confused when I first learned that we were not all related in the way that I thought.  But, no matter.  I still stick to the same feeling – my relatives “by marriage” are just as loved as those whose DNA I share. 

As the years went by, and life became more busy and complicated, we didn’t spend as much time together.  It seemed with each new generation, we drifted a little further apart, and our time spent together slowly dwindled to holidays, weddings, graduations, or funerals. 

One exception to this has been my relationship with my cousin Jim's wife, Mary Kay.  She married into the family, and quickly became the life of the party.  She’s a hilarious gal with a Milwaukee accent, and as much fun as a barrel of monkeys.  Jim passed away ten years ago, and since his passing, Mary Kay and I have become closer than ever.  She blames me for her passion for paper crafting and card making.  I hosted a Stampin’ Up show years ago, and she and her sister came for moral support.  They were not the least bit interested in anything crafty, but came to my show anyway.  Stars were born, and they both became addicted to crafting!  Since that time, she has amassed the most amazing stash of supplies, tools, and equipment, and Jim helped her create the most fabulous craft room ever.  We have spent so many hours together creating cards, sharing secrets, and making plans for our respective futures.  There have been numerous no-sleep sleepovers, and I’ve returned to work many a Monday morning running on a serious sleep deficit, but with a heart filled with love and creative satisfaction for all the things we accomplished in the craft room. 

But now that is changing.  She is moving to Phoenix.  Her siblings are scattered across the country now, and there is a sister in Phoenix with health issues, so MK will be moving to be near her.  It is the absolutely the right thing to do, and I support her 100%, but my heart is broken, and I can’t stand the thoughts of her no longer being a 45-minute drive away.  She “gets” me on so many levels.  I love her as much as my other precious cousins.  She is my family, and my extra special friend.  I’ve spent the past three weekends helping her purge and pack.  It was bittersweet, going through and packing up all the craft supplies.  So many memories. The house is empty now, and our voices bounce off the bare walls in a sad echo.  While I’m so excited for the new chapter of her life, I am selfish, and don’t want her to go.  But, you can bet that I’ll be watching the airlines for those special extra-cheap flights to Phoenix, and can’t wait to see her NEW craft room, and witness her new start in life. 

Yes, things are constantly changing, and I am reminded to never take for granted that my friends and family will always be close to me, and to make every minute count.   DJ, it’s been far too long since we’ve had coffee on the deck.  Brew up a fresh pot.  I’m coming over!!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Crazy Cat Lady

Here's an article from The Barrow Journal that was published a few weeks ago.  Kitten season is upon us!!!

The Crazy Cat Lady

 Life without kitties?  I don’t think so!   For as long as I can remember,  the pitter patter of sweet little paws, sandpaper kisses, and purring lullabies have been part of my life.  Besides grandbabies, there’s nothing sweeter than a little fur ball curled up in my lap, snoozing after a hard afternoon of frolicking about the house.

Currently there are three kitties who share my home.  Why do I have three kitties?  Because I can’t afford four (or a hundred!) I could so totally be The Crazy Cat Lady.  I want them all.  I had to stop following the Humane Society pages on Facebook, because I worried about the kitties finding homes, and I’m sure my friends grew tired of me always posting pictures of kitties who needed homes. 

While there are many factors that determine the active kitten season, it seems that spring and summer are the busiest intake times for the shelters.  And guess what… spring is right around the corner. 
There are beautiful breeds from which to choose for those who are looking to buy a fancy cat.  Of all the cats I’ve had, there were two that I actually paid money for.  Yes, they were gorgeous specimens of fine breeding, and I loved them dearly.  But, in reality, they were no more special than any other cat I’ve had – including the ones with torn and tattered ears, one with a paralyzed tail, and several who surely qualified for the Kitty Psyche Ward.  Bottom line, if it purrs, I love it. 

I’ve recently been amazed and delighted to find that there are folks in the area who are totally dedicated to the feral cat population, and are personally committed to these homeless kitties.  There was a story on one of the cat pages on Facebook about a woman who came into town for work, and stayed at a local hotel for a few days.  She discovered a sweet kitty living in the parking lot, and started feeding her.  The kitty would come out late in the evening, and after a few days, allowed her new friend to pet her. She had an obvious injury to one of her feet, and the lady wanted to save her. She reached out to this Facebook page, and several people got involved right away.  Someone volunteered to adopt her, if she could be caught.  Another person agreed to come to the site and capture her. This was an amazing story to follow.  The lady from out of town was so concerned about the kitty, that she stayed in Athens for an extra two nights, just to ensure that someone was able to rescue the kitty.   It took a village to save this little furbaby, and after getting the medical care she needed, she is flourishing in her new home. 

Kelly Bettinger is the awesome gal who captured the kitty.  She works with an organization called Campus Cats over at UGA.  I know she is awesome because she rescued that particular kitty in a matter of minutes, late one night, on her own time.   Kelly also drove to Statham one Sunday afternoon to help capture Dixie, one of my best friend’s kitties, who was scheduled for spay surgery the following morning.  Dixie is one of four kitties who “took up” at DJ’s house a while back.  Dixie got herself in the family way, as cats are prone to do, and gave birth to four beautiful kittens.  As responsible pet owners, DJ and David made sure to get all the kitties fixed, but could not for the life of them capture Miss Dixie.  After seeing the story about the parking-lot rescue, I hooked DJ up with Kelly, and she drove out and got Dixie caged in no time flat, enabling her to be transported for surgery. 

Yes, I love kitties, and I’d like to adopt all of them.  But these folks who get out in the field, give of their personal time to really make a difference… these are my heroes.  Perhaps someday I’ll have the time and resources to help, but until then, I’ll do my best to take extra good care of Cooper, Scout, and Boo Radley, my sweet rescue kitties.

With kitten season just around the corner, please consider several ways in which you can help the overpopulation problem:   Adopt a kitty of your own for a delightful addition to your family!   Yes, there is an adoption fee, but your kitty will be totally vetted, fixed, and microchipped.  It’s a great deal!   You can also help control the feral population as well, by notifying a company called Altered Feral State, who will trap, fix, and return feral cats.  For more information about this organization, you can call the Pet Smart store in Winder.  I’m not sure how far out of Athens the Campus Cats folks are able to provide service, but please contact them for information, or volunteer to help.  They are making a huge difference in the Athens area, and would so appreciate your help.  There are many adoption agencies who work with pet stores in this area, as well as Humane Society offices located in most counties.  These folks are always in need of supplies, donations, and volunteers.  Add a bag of kitty litter, cat food, paper and cloth towels, or bleach to your shopping cart for donating.  Sponsor a surgery for a homeless kitty.  Call one of the agencies and schedule a play date for you and your kids to go into the shelters and play with the cats and kittens.  They need to learn socialization with people to help them be better candidates for adoption. 

I’d love to be The Crazy Cat Lady and have a house/yard full of kitties.  I’d love to save them all.  But I can’t.  However, I recently saw a poster that said “How can you save 100 cats?  Spay or neuter just one.”  

There’s room for lots more heroes out there, and there’s a superhero cape with YOUR name on it!  If you’re more of a dog than cat person, the same needs exist for our canine friends as well.  Please consider how you can make a difference in the lives of our furry friends.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It Takes A Village

With all that's been going on in our family recently, I've not updated here in quite some time.  Here is an article from the Barrow Journal that was published in late February/early March.  


It Takes A Village

When I was a kid growing up, I remember sitting out in the yard in folding lawn chairs, feet dangling from my short legs, with a newspaper spread open in my lap.  A handful of peas or butter beans piled high would keep me busy for an hour or so.  I loved the smell of the raw vegetables, - but not the sore thumbnails I’d have the next day!   I tried my best to emulate the way my grandmother would pop open the peas or butter beans, swipe her thumb through the hull, and hold the prize in the palm of her left hand.  She would shell a handful before tossing the bounty into a little white basin.  My small hands could only hold a few of the prized peas before they would spill out onto the newspaper.   Green beans were fun, too.  She’d pop off one end of the bean, pull the string down to the bottom, flip the bean over and snap off the other end, faster than Matt Dillon could draw a six shooter.  While still holding the strings in her right hand, she’d then snap the bean into several pieces, before depositing them into a different basin.  I was amazed at how quickly she worked, and how she could hold so much in her hands. 

An added bonus to the harvesting process was sharing the chores with friends.  We’d go over to Jackie and Roger Steed’s house, sit in their yard, and shell peas or shuck corn.  Or they would come to our house and help us shell a mess of butter beans.  The task was accomplished faster, and sharing in conversation made the time pass even more quickly.  I remember aunts and cousins sitting out in my grandmother’s yard peeling delicious, juicy peaches for canning.  They didn’t allow the kids to be around for that project, as there were sharp knives involved (and sticky fingers of children who would abscond with the bounty!)  We didn’t argue too much about being banned from the peach project, as we didn’t like the inevitable honeybee infestation that went along with peach canning.  But I remember how they enjoyed visiting together.  “It takes a village” is not such a bad statement, when viewed in this context.  Sometimes having the help of a “village” is the only way that we can get through the day.

So, what is this phenomenon of support?  We go about our daily lives, hopefully remembering to stop and be thankful for another day in which to live.  We face our challenges of meeting deadlines, managing personal finances, and striving to reach goals.  Whether employed or retired, for the most part, we are allowed to make choices to determine how we spend our free time.   Sometimes there just do not seem to be enough hours in the day, and we do well just to get things done, with hardly any free time at all.   There is very little yard-sitting with neighbors these days, and life moves at a much faster pace.  

For the generation above mine, the telephone revolutionized communication.  They no longer had to go down to the corner store, or the town square to hear all the latest local news – or discuss the news they heard on the radio or newfangled television sets.   They could just pick up the phone, and the operator would ring the neighbor.  Before long, we were able to dial our own phones and speak with people all over the world.  My generation saw the evolution of an untethered phone without wires, and today's generation has seen further evolution to mini-phones/computers that fit in our pockets!! Oh, the wonders of technology!

Communication is at an all-time high these days, what with social media, electronic mail, Skype, etc.  Facebook is probably the “telephone” of this generation, in that it has totally changed the way we communicate.  With one click of a button, we can notify an unlimited number of people the news about what we ate for dinner (and can post a picture of it, too!),  share pictures of our grandkids, post about our political views, or anything else we choose.  We can keep up with the latest news about our favorite sports team, be reminded of birthdays, and send quick greetings without going to the store for a card, or paying for postage stamps.  (And then remembering to put it in the mail.)  The World Wide Web gives us access to up-to-the-minute news, right at our fingertips, and the Information Highway has all but ended our need for encyclopedias and dictionaries.  

Social media also allows us to learn of unfortunate events, and troubled times that our friends are facing.  I see almost as many posts asking for prayers as I do any other types of posts.  This is a fabulous tool, and a very efficient way to get folks praying without having to utilize a phone tree or prayer chain that requires someone to stop what they are doing, look up phone numbers, and call the people on the list.  Sometimes a rapid response is needed!

My family experienced this first-hand a few days ago.  We were in the ER with my dad, and within moments of a few texts and phone calls, our friends and family were quick to rally with prayers of support.  A couple of posts on Facebook by my brother and I have resulted in hundreds of people praying for our dad.  There’s our village!!!  Our support group!! 

In just a few hours, I’ll be sitting in an uncomfortable chair, surrounded by the whir of machines, and the sounds of busy nurses going about their tasks.  My family, and many friends, have sat, slumped, and tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to sleep in those uncomfortable chairs over the past few days.  We are not unfamiliar with this.  As with most of you, we’ve sat at the bedsides of our family members, prayed lots of prayers, and  waited (and WAITED) for the doctors to make rounds. We’ve taken the calls from friends offering prayers and appreciate every one of them!  We have such a great support system from friends in the community and church family.  We totally feel the love, and we are blessed by each person who calls, visits, texts, or posts on social media.   

The love and support of friends is an extra measure of healing potion, and plays a huge part in the healing process.  No doubt, we’ve all been on the receiving end of such power.  Sometimes, when I see a prayer request, I am tempted to just keep scrolling and pray for the person later.  But then I forget.  There’s a reason that I’m seeing that post at that particular moment of the day, so it is easier to say a prayer for the situation right at the moment.  For all the people who have sent words of encouragement our way, we know there are many others who have prayed and sent happy, healing thoughts, but did so quietly. 

Having been the recipient of these blessings over the past few days, and experiencing the outpouring of love, I will never again minimize the power that my piddly little prayers contain.  If you are a praying person, always remember that even a quick “bless this person” prayer is precious, and has the power to make a real difference.

And about my dad – he’s a trooper, and has rocked the first part of the battle like a boss.  We believe our prayers, and the prayers of our friends, have made all the difference in the world.  The moral of this story:  You are important.  You are a vital part of the lives of those around you.  Consider it an honor to pray for them, think kind thoughts, offer your support, bake some brownies, pick up the newspaper from the driveway, or many other small acts of kindness you can show.  It matters.  So much.  And you will be blessed to have been a part of the village. 

Edited to add:  Going on six weeks since this article was written, I'm happy to report that Dad is continuing to improve, and is receiving intensive physical and occupational therapy.  We are hopeful that he will return home to us soon, and can continue the long road to recovery in the comfort of home.  We have awesome neighbors and friends who are traveling this journey with us, and we appreciate our "village" so very  much.  Special thanks to Chris Humble and Perry Barton, for getting Dad's garden up and going this year.  He won't be able to work in it this time around, but these wonderful men know how much my dad loves his garden, and they know being able to enjoy watch it grow and enjoy its bounty will be very helpful in the healing process for him.  We love our community so much, and are so grateful for all who have shown kindness to us!!!!!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Internet Dating For Seniors

Happy Valentine's Day Weekend!!  Here's this week's article in The Barrow Journal, just in time for the Season Of Love!!


Here he comes again.  That chubby little angel with wings, and a bow and arrow.  The Valentine Season is upon us.  Red hearts and all that crap everywhere.  It is SAD day for sure.  Singles Awareness Day.  Yeah, we know we’re single.  But thanks a lot, Mr. Cupid, for reminding us in such flamboyant ways.  At this stage in my life the only good thing about SAD is the 50% off chocolate available on the 15th.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m perfectly fine with my singleness.  So fine, in fact, that I will threaten to shoot that chubby little rascal if he starts flying in my direction. But, let’s face it.  A date every now and then would be nice.  And I do have some single friends who really would like to find a companion for the long haul.  Even though, at our age, the haul isn’t nearly as long as it once was.

For many of us, by the time we’re ready for Social Security, finding a date becomes a little more challenging.  Nowadays, the best place to meet someone in our age group seems to be the waiting room in the orthopedic office, the hip-replacement rehab facility, or the funeral home. 

Then there’s internet dating.  I my ownself tried this about 15 years ago.  I answered all the questions, took the personality-match tests, etc.  I even submitted a photograph.  After a reasonable waiting period, I was delighted when the site matched me up with someone nearby.  After chatting through the site, e-mailing, and talking on the phone for a few weeks, we decided to meet.  He was a nice enough fella, but it was very obvious that he was put off by my appearance – as though I looked completely different than he expected.  I was puzzled by this.  The photo I had posted was recent, it was not photoshopped, and I felt it was fairly accurate.  (In other words, I hated it, and figured nobody would ever click on my profile.)  And because we had corresponded for so long, and supposedly knew quite a bit about each other, he knew that I was Not A Skinny Girl.  So I was totally surprised by his reaction.  I mean, he didn’t throw up or anything… but it was obvious there were no *sparks* when we met in person.  So, the date ended early, and I was very happy to get back home to my kitties, who love me unconditionally!  (And though it may be unkind for me to say so, he wasn’t ALL THAT his ownself!

That set me to thinking.  You can *be* anything you want to be on the internet.  Dating site profiles look pretty much the same.  Everyone loves romantic walks on the beach, the mountains, spending time with family and friends.  Even my own profile reflected that.   In my humble opinion, far too much time is spent on frivolous, superficial information that may or may not even be true.  The whole idea is to market ourselves as a person someone would want to date, and maybe even marry.   Embellishing the truth appears to be a fairly common practice in the marketing process. 

For those of us who have been around the block a time or two, I submit that we cut the crap, and get right to the point.  There is no time to separate the wheat from the chaff here.  The clock is ticking, and the undertaker has a box with our name on it.  Just be honest up front, and it will make the choosing a lot better.  The truth will come out sooner or later anyhow, so just lay it all out there.  You never know… there may be someone who is perfectly fine with our lack of awesomeness. 

If I were creating a dating profile for senior dating, it would look something like this: Iloveromanticwalksonthebeachandsunsetsoverthemountainsandromanticdinnersfortwo. (Yeah.  Let’s just go ahead and get that out of the way.)

Things you will need to know:   I love Jesus.   I will love your kids and grandkids, but I will always love mine more.   I don’t need your money to pay my bills, but you need enough money to pay yours.   My culinary skills are questionable, at best.  Love me, love my cats.  I am not a Skinny Girl, but I can bend over and tie my shoes.  I have stretch marks on my tummy.  Her name is Whitney.  My requirements:  No lying.  Ever.  Either you have a job now, or you have a retirement check from a job you once had.  No freeloaders.  Like me enough to let me be me.  The good, the bad, the ugly. Hissy fits and all.  If you can fix things, build things, and let me borrow your power tools, that’s a plus.  If you have all your original body parts, and they work reasonably well, that’d be super.  Not a deal breaker, but extra bonus points, for sure!!

I think that’s enough to get the process started.  So, my single friends, (especially my senior friends for whom the clock is ticking,) if you decide to go the way of internet dating, just skip all the superficial crap and get right to the important stuff.  If you need further guidance creating your profile, feel free to check out the archives on my blog in the February 2013 folder titled “Internet Dating” for a more comprehensive guide to marketing yourself out there in cyberspace.  Yes, honesty is always the best policy.  But, with all that honesty in my profile, I suppose it’s a good thing I like being single!!!



So, in case you're interested in the more comprehensive version of dating tips, I will paste the blog post from 2013 here, and you won't have to search for it.


Internet Dating       (April 23, 2013)

If you watch television very much, you’ve likely seen the advertisements for online dating services.  E-Harmony, Match.Com, Zoosk, OurTime, Chemistry.Com, PlentyOfFish.com, to name a few.  It is an industry unto itself, with millions of members, generating millions of dollars. They’ve got the marketing techniques down pat, too.  Just watching the commercials could make a lonely person head straight for their computer and sign up to join.  The couples look so happy, and so perfectly suited for each other.  

Yeah, right.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so cynical.  I’m sure there are success stories. In fact, I know there are, as one of my favorite people did indeed meet her Prince Charming through E-Harmony, and best I can tell, he really is a prince. In reality, though, the true Prince Charming-falls-in-love-with-the-Princess, Happily-Ever-After stories are probably more rare than common.  And I’ll bet there was a lot of toad-kissing going on before they found each other. And we all know how I feel about kissing toads. 

I will admit that in 19 years of being single, I did, on occasion, peruse the sites.  I even did the E-Harmony thing one time.  There was a local fella with whom I corresponded for a bit. Then we met, and he was so obviously put off with my appearance that he could hardly wait for the date to end.  Which puzzled me – the photograph I posted was recent, and was not photo-shopped to make me beautiful. We had disclosed our body types, so he was well aware that I was Not A Skinny Girl.  He knew my age.  He knew more about me than Whitney’s dad knew about me on our first (blind) date.  So it really ticked me off that he was expecting something different.  But, then, he was kinda weird his ownself.  He was a civilian, but had a job with the military, yet he was quite evasive regarding the particulars of his job description.  There was all this top-secret stuff that he supposedly was doing – in the vein of “if I tell you, I’ll hafta kill you” kind of way… so I wasn’t disappointed when the date ended, either. And – might I add that HE looked a lot older than HIS profile picture, and not nearly as buff.  So I was pretty dang offended that *he* didn’t like *me*. So, I’m personally not much on the internet dating thing.  If it works for you, then more power to you – and I celebrate your relationship.  I think I’ll just stick with my family, my  friends, and my cat.  That’s about all the drama I can take these days. 

Recently, though, I did have the occasion to check out a particular dating site.  I was a single girl for many years, and I still have lots of single girlfriends. Lots of single girlfriends who are currently into the internet dating scene, and who visit these sites often. Back in December, someone brought to my attention something they thought I might find amusing on one such site, so I took a look.  The only thing I found amusing was that nothing much in the world of internet dating had changed. Most of the bios are still as bogey hilarious and fake as they ever were. If you’ve never visited one of these sites, allow me to enlighten you as to how it all works.  The main idea is to put your best self forward, and present yourself in such a manner that all members of the opposite gender will find you irresistible  and therefore, want to date you, (or marry you, if finding a spouse is your goal.)  Here’s a sample of some of the most common things you’ll find.  Mr. or Ms. Prospective Mate will post this about himself or herself:

Username:  PrinceCharming1954

My likes:
~Spending quality time with that special someone
~Romantic walks on the beach
~Watching the sun set over the mountains
~Traveling with my mate
~Romantic dinners for two
~Sunday afternoon drives
~Romantic surprises
~Snuggling in front of the fireplace on a cold winter evening

What I’m Looking For In A Mate: 
~Physically fit
~No baggage
~Loves animals and children
~Free spirit
~Financially independent
About Me: 
~Financially secure
~Love to work out
~Love to spoil my mate
~Devoted to family
~Hard worker
~Excellent cook
~Love animals and children


Okay. Sign me up.  Sounds perfect, huh?   Hahaha.... I totally get that you have to market yourself.  But, seriously.  Most everyone I know would put some of those items on their list. (Whether or not it's true seems to have no bearing, at this point in the game.)  

If I were in the market for a beau, (which I am not), and wanted to market myself on the internet, (which I do not), I think my bio would go a little something like this:

My User Name:  JustSayNoToToads  (Because it is a terrible idea to use your real name on a dating site)

My Likes: 
~My family
~Spending time with my friends – Girls only, or couples. You must love my friends and fit into our circle, or you’re out. Just as with my family, we’re a package deal.
~Watching my favorite TV shows without someone talking or bothering me
~My alone time, balanced with “spending quality time with that special someone”
~Shopping - Preferably alone
~Romantic walks on the beach
~Good food cooked on the grill
~Watching the sun set over the mountains
~Going to church, but occasionally playing hooky
~Dancing (Chubby white girl can’t dance, but I like to do it anyway)
~Romantic dinners for two, and romantic surprises
~Doing crafty things
~Flower gardening (usually without much success)
~Blizzards  (Dairy Queen - Not snow)
~Foot rubs and back rubs  (Given to me – not by me – though I will occasionally return the favor)
~Swimming and floating about in the pool
~Chick flicks
~Sometimes being worthless, lazy, and self-indulgent

My point:  Most people DO like those romantic things, (see, I have them on my list too!) so listing those things really tells you nothing about the person. Let’s hear about the real stuff.  What you’re REALLY like. Translated:  Let's cut the crap, and talk about what makes us tick.  This is Dating For Seniors. We're getting older by the minute, and don't have time to glean the chaff from the wheat here. Let's not bother investing time getting to know each other, if we can already determine ahead of time that there's things about each other that we're not gonna like - deal breakers, if you will - no matter how strong the physical attraction may be.  With that in mind, here’s some more info about me that you would want to know, before adding me to your Favorites list:

Random Things About Me: 
~I will love your family and your grandkids, but I will always love mine more. 
~I’m soon to be 55 years old.  I have earned every wrinkle and laugh line on my face, and will  not be visiting the Botox Doc.
~I have gray “highlights” in my hair.   Bling, if you will.
~My body type is always a work in progress.  For the most part, I have to claim “chubby” or “pleasantly plump”, or as the dating sites like to say “a few extra pounds”.  I’ve long ago faced the reality that I’ll never have buns of steel or six-pack abs, but I can touch my toes as good as (or better than) most girls my age and size, and I can tie my own shoes.  Well – unless my back is bothering me, which happens from time to time.
~I love sleeping in on Saturdays.  But when I get up in time, you’ll find me on the deck at DJ’s having coffee.    This is sacred girlfriend time.  Do Not Disturb.   
~I have stretch marks on my tummy.  Her name is Whitney.  (Okay, maybe one or two are named Oreo Blizzard)
~I am a grammar/punctuation/spelling Nazi.  I’m not always perfect, and I make typos and mistakes, but I DIE when someone else finds my errors before I do.  But your mistakes will bother me even more.  Besides, your errors are easier to spot than mine.  At the very least, please Learn the difference between plural and possessive, and use those apostrophes appropriately!!!  Unless, of course, you want to see my head explode. (And if you find errors in this post, please notify me immediately!!)
~My entertainment preferences are quite diverse. Downton Abby to Duck Dynasty.  Bach to Zeppelin and Floyd.  Mercy Me to Garth. Wizard of Oz to Braveheart.  You must be willing to embrace the entire spectrum, and enthusiastically agree to listen to, or watch, whatever I’m in the mood for at the moment. And you must tolerate my singing in the car.  Without laughing.
~I am very forgiving, and nonjudgmental.  But hurt me or someone I love, though I forgive, I don’t forget.  Do it again, and I will cut you.  
~I am sometimes impatient. Maybe *often* would be a better choice of words.
~Sometimes I procrastinate, but I don’t want to talk about that right now.
~I enjoy cooking, but have had so many kitchen disasters, that I allow people to think that I can’t cook. That  way, I only have to bring the paper products or chips to the parties and reunions.
~I hate math.  Seriously hate it.  Think: Head exploding.
~I love my power tools, and want to add to my small collection, so it would be a real plus if you have lots of tools, and are willing to teach me how to use them. I want to be a carpenter when I grow up. Only without the math.
~I am bossy. (But like Edith Ann used to say – “I am not bossy.  My ideas are just better.")
~The “control-freak” gene is alive and well within my DNA. 
~I like my towels and washcloths folded and stored a certain way in the linen closet. (OCD?)
~I like my steak cooked medium to medium-rare.  David can show you how to cook it. Please
  observe carefully and learn. Perfection is key when cooking a steak for me.
~I love discussing “politics and religion”.  Especially if your ideas differ from mine.
~I am financially independent.  Not wealthy.  I get by.  I just don’t need your money to pay my bills, but by the same token, I don’t have enough money to pay yours, so if you’re lookin’ for a sugar mama, you’re lookin’ in the wrong place. However, if you have plenty of money and would like to contribute to the paying of my bills, and would like to support me in my retirement, well, then, I’d be okay with that.  That, of course, would also cost you a wedding ring and a trip to the courthouse.  I ain’t lookin’ for no sugar daddy, neither.  (note - bad grammar intentional)
~I am funny.  If you don’t believe me, just fall down, or drop your milkshake or ham sandwich, and watch me laugh.  People who laugh are funny. Right? I have a warped sense of humor and often laugh at inappropriate times.  My daughter is the same way.  We absolutely cannot sit together in church. We’ve almost been kicked out of a funeral home (on two different occasions), and we barely escaped banishment from her prepared childbirth class.  Don’t even ask about the parent meeting before church youth camp one year.
~"Business Professional Attire" translates to me "My Nicest Pair Of Pajamas"
~The fact that the text doesn't align itself the way I want it to when viewing this blog post makes me seriously want to throttle the person who wrote the code... as I have spent a massive amount of time in aligning the text perfectly on the "compose post" page.

What I’m Looking For In A Mate:
~No lying. Period. Ever.
~Someone who will cook for me.
~Someone who can fix things and build things
~Someone who will listen to me gripe and complain when things don’t go my way, and agrees that I am   
  right, and everyone else is wrong. Including his ownself, whenever necessary.
~Someone to spoil me with romantic dinners and surprises.  Including planning and paying for said dinners and surprises.
~Someone to take me to the beach for romantic walks. 
~Someone who will help me take care of my yard and my house, except when I want to do it myself….  which is pretty much never.
~Someone who loves me enough to let me be me.  The good, the bad, and the ugly. Someone who doesn’t run away, or think less of me, and will forgive me when I have a meltdown or pitch a  hissy fit.  (Which goes without saying, was all his fault in the first place…)
~Someone who understands that, except for a short time, I’ve been alone for most of my adult life, and I smother easily. I need my space.  If you’re looking for me, and find the door is closed, unless you’re vomiting blood or the house is on fire, please go away.
~Someone who makes me laugh.
~Someone who wakes up every day thinking of ways to make me feel happy, secure, and loved.
~Someone who can program my cable box remote control.
~Someone who is thoughtful and brings me flowers, and makes me feel like I am the center of  his universe.
~Someone who understands that It’s All About Me.

So.  Any takers?  I really am a catch.  You’d be lucky to have me. Don’t doubt it for a minute.  ;-)

HAHAHA… probably wouldn’t get many takers with a bio like that.  Which is why so many of these relationships don’t work out.  Because the bios of most folks aren’t real.  There’s a cookie-cutter version of what we WISH we were like, and then there’s the reality of what we really are like.  I realize that even my “real” list is tainted by my own perception of myself.  I’m probably worse than the bad things I list, and probably not nearly as good as the good things I list.  But – my list is for sure more real than what you’ll find on an internet dating site. 

Internet Dating.  There are some happy endings.  But it’s not for everyone.  And it’s certainly not for me.  I think I’ll just sit on the couch, watch some uninterrupted TV, eat my Oreo Blizzard, and pet my sweet kitty.  And live happily ever after.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

Chili Nights

It's Friday afternoon, and I'm sitting in Jason's Deli waiting for Elaine.  We get together once a month for dinner, and tonight's the night.  I had some other things to do after work, so decided to stay in town, rather than driving home, and then back down here.  So I'm doing a little catch-up work while I wait.  It smells so good in here, and it is a true test of willpower not to go ahead and fix my plate.  I'm sure that I could graze from now until she arrives in a couple of hours. Management probably wouldn't appreciate it, though, if I ate for two hours before dinner time, and kept on eating once she gets here.  There's only one electrical outlet in the entire joint, and it's where the little kiosk thing is that allows you to cut through the line if you're only ordering salads and drinks.  And it's right by the bar where the food is prepared. #torture.  I asked the nice lady if I could go ahead and pay for my dinner and drink, and just wait about dinner.  An odd request, for sure, but, I'm really thirsty, and wanted a drink while I wait.  And since I never carry cash (right Richard Russell?) I needed to use my debit card.  I guess I have an honest face, because the lady gave me a glass and told me I could go ahead and get my drink.  It's the little things that make me happy!!!  Did I mention that it smells really good in here? Lots of food-food-smells.  Including a big vat of freshly made chili that I see (and smell) behind the bar.  

Here's the latest article from the Barrow Journal.  The story will be familiar to some of you, but for others, this may be your first exposure to my culinary adventures.  The incident is a little less painful for me to remember, as I sit here surrounded by the aroma of freshly cooked food... and chili...


Chili Nights

Fewer things please my palate than a steaming-hot bowl of chili on a cold night.  Topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and saltines on the side, with a giant glass of Diet Coke.  Almost heaven. 

It was a cold winter weekend in the late 90s, when I remembered that it was my turn to feed the kiddos at the Sunday night gathering at church.  My mom offered to do the cooking for me, but after politely thanking her and declining, I forged ahead with my giant pot of chili.  Tons of ground beef, spices, beans, onions (and tears) later, I finally had a nice, giant pot of chili simmering on the stove.  Only problem, it was around 2:00 a.m. before it was done.  Too hot to put in the fridge, and too long to leave sitting out.  The crock-pot theory seemed reasonable, so I turned the stove down to the lowest setting, and put my tired self to bed.  The next morning it smelled delicious!!  I left the stove on while we went to church, figuring I had backed myself into a culinary corner that would require simmering it all afternoon in order to be hot and fresh for the 4:00 feast. 

Something happened while I was at church.  It is the dangdest thing, and I still have no idea what happened.  When we walked in from church around 12:30, the house smelled horrible.  Like a six-month-old litter box in a very damp room.  I removed the lid to find a heinous, frothy substance floating on top. After stirring, I took a bite – which made me gag and immediately spit it out.  Must have been some bad tomatoes or something – but it was a giant, simmering pot of toxic waste.  By now it was 1:00, and I had three hours to come up with something to feed the masses.  Sadly, they had to settle for corn dogs, which my own daughter despises, and wouldn’t eat. 

I had to remove the hot mess from the house, so I set the pot out in the back yard, thinking maybe the neighborhood dogs would relieve me of the nastiness.  Somewhere around, oh, I’d say… March, I remembered the pot, and went outside to retrieve it.  To my surprise, the chili was still there.  Not only that, it had rained and was filled to the top with the rain water, and there were dead creatures floating about in the water.  I checked to make sure I had left my fence gates open to allow the dogs to dine.  Indeed, they were open.  Hmmm.  I guess the dogs saw the dead bugs floating inside and decided it wasn’t safe for canine consumption, either.   Then around, oh, I think it was April, I made a mental note to myself that I must check the pot again, and bring it inside.  But we know how mental notes work. 

One afternoon in….. probably May…. I was sitting at my desk working, when suddenly I heard Whitney come rushing into the house gagging and screaming, “Get it off… get it OFFFF!!!”  Horrified, I was afraid there was a snake, or spider, or space aliens (oh, those screams!) attacking her.  Once she got to me, I realized that she had big globs of the radioactive chili on her shirt.  Holes had starting to form in the shirt, and it was disintegrating before my eyes.  Puffs of smoke were filling the room.   She was gagging and screaming.  We were both gagging.  The smell was akin to what I imagine a forensic crime scene might be. 

Seems she had been in the yard on her bike, and had accidentally disturbed the pot, causing the “chili” to slosh up onto her shirt.  Of course, the shirt had to be incinerated, and she took the longest shower of her life.  We carefully examined her delicate skin to be sure she hadn’t suffered any burns or skin deterioration.  Thankfully, she suffered no skin trauma. 

It became very clear to me that the neighborhood animals and Mother Nature were not going to dispose of the mess for me, and I would have to take care of the disaster myself.  I donned my hazmat suit, protective eyewear, and gloves, and set about the cleanup/decontamination project.  The pot was carefully placed into my wheelbarrow, and very, very slowly, was transported to the ravine that ran at the back of my property.  When the pot hit the bottom, a large cloud of glowing, green vapor arose from the ravine, and before my eyes, the vegetation started to wither and die.  Nearby trees bent over and touched the ground.  Birds flying overhead suddenly fell from the sky.  Little critters were scrambling in all directions, trying to flee their Hiroshima.  Back in my yard, the grass where the pot had stood was gone.  My spring flowers had failed to bloom.  But at least the weapon of mass destruction had been relocated to another area on the property. 

Several years later, I sold that house and moved back to Statham.  My parents were helping me dispose of dirt from old flower pots, dead plants, and we were throwing the debris down into the denuded ravine.  Suddenly, my mom turns to my dad and says, “Look, hun, there’s a POT down in the gully!  Go down there and get it, and we’ll clean it up for Cat!!”  Umm.  No, thanks, mom!!!!!

Indeed, nothing tastes better on a cold winter evening than a nice bowl of hot chili.   Strangely enough, though, everyone seems previously engaged whenever I invite them over to eat some delicious homemade chili!!  

Do you have a cooking disaster story?  I’d love to hear it!!  E-mail me at bencath@aol.com to share yours!! And maybe I’ll e-mail you back with another of mine, because, unfortunately, I have quite a few to share…


Man.  I hope Elaine isn't running late today!  I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to wait....

Happy Weekend, everyone!!!  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Most Inspiring People of 2015

Each year Barbara Walters has a show on tv about her most *fascinating* people.  I decided if she could do it, then so could , I, except instead of *fascinating*, I have chosen to list the most INSPIRING people I have met this past year.  This is the first article for the year published in the Journal on 1/6/16.

Hope the new year has started off well for everyone!


Inspiring People of 2015

Here we are, just a few days into the New Year!!  We leave behind the old, and look forward to the new.  2015 was a year of change for many of us.  Many of us lost loved ones.  Others welcomed new babies into their families.  There were weddings, and there were divorces.  Some received devastating news from the doctor, while others received news of hope.  The only thing that stays the same is that nothing ever stays the same.  Whether good or bad, our lives can change in an instant.  

2015 was a year of change for me, too.  At the end of June, my co-workers and I were informed that our jobs were being outsourced to a national agency.  We had the choice of going with the agency for a guaranteed position, but most of us elected to pursue other avenues.  Fortunately, I was able to transfer into the position of medical scribe within the hospital system, allowing me to keep benefits, length-of-service, etc.   

Not only did my job description change, but everything about my work day changed.  I went from working at home in my PJs and fuzzy socks, sitting at a desk all day, to wearing scrubs and shoes, driving into the office, and standing on my feet all day.  From working in solitude, to working with other people.  This was perhaps the biggest change of all.  Spending so much time alone had reduced even more the size of my world, and my small circle of friends and my family were pretty much the only folks I saw.  Sadly, I had also become somewhat cynical through the years, finding it difficult to trust people, and not very willing to share my life with those outside my little world.  I knew that changing jobs would have an impact on my life, but I never imagined how it would change ME. 

Every year Barbara Walters has a special about the people she finds most fascinating, though her definition of fascinating is much different from mine!!!  These past few months of working outside my home have exposed me to some very interesting people, both at the office, and people I’ve come across while out and about in public.  Inspiring people.  I’d like to tell you about a few of them.

One day I overheard an older gentleman speaking to another gentleman.  He was talking about his wife, who is showing increasing signs of dementia, which, understandably, was very distressing for him.  But I was touched to tears as I saw his face light up, and he said, “But, you know, every time I look at her, I fall in love all over again.”  Now, if you’ve had any experience with someone with dementia, or Alzheimer’s, you know what a horrific disease it is, and how it can rob your loved one of their true personality.  Sometimes they are not very lovable, and are difficult to be around.  To hear this man’s declaration of love rocked me, and I will never forget his words.  He inspires me to love, even when it is difficult to do so.

I heard the story of how an elderly, wheelchair-bound, legally blind woman was delivered from a debilitating fear of the dark.  She told how God came to her in the form of light, and she felt Him say to her “Fear not, for I am with you always.”  She was never afraid of the dark again.  How profound – for one who is blind to be delivered of her fear of darkness.  Her faith is real, and I felt it spill over into me.  I am inspired to have faith that my God is with me always, and there is no need to fear.

I met a woman who is facing a terminal disease, and is running out of treatment options.  She is so strong and positive.  She lives every day to the fullest.  Though her reality is harsh, and there are moments of understandable weakness, she pushes forward.  She inspires me to be a better person, to make a difference in the world, and to be thankful each morning for another day in which to be alive.

Then there’s Andy, a patient at our office (name used with permission).  I asked him if I could share his story, and he reluctantly agreed.  I say reluctantly, because he is a humble man, not wanting attention drawn to himself.  I don’t know much about Andy’s history or his personal life, but I look forward to learning more.  He’s a long-time patient at the office, and it is obvious that everyone loves him.  At one of his appointments, he told us about an award he had recently won.  He was chosen at the state level for Caregiver Of The Year.  He was selected from hundreds of candidates, and was honored at a very fancy reception, a stay at a luxurious hotel, a limo ride, a standing ovation, and was presented a token of appreciation by President Carter, and Rosalyn!  What an honor for him!  He was treated like royalty, and was shown great respect.  He was so excited to share the news with us, and we were delighted to share in his joy!!   One again, I found myself wiping my eyes while sharing in the joy of another.  A few weeks later, he came by to tell us that he had been given the award for the Region, as well!!!  It is wonderful to see someone recognized for their dedication and hard work.  The job of caretaker is one of service, humility, and commitment. Andy is a servant, and is willing to do anything he can to help another person in need.  He told me if there is ever anything he can do for me, all I have to do is call.   I know he is sincere, and I know I could count on him.  He is a true hero.  He inspires me to have the spirit of a servant, and to show kindness to others.

Working outside my home has been a huge change, indeed.  But the greatest change has come about inside of me, as I have met these incredible people beyond the walls of my home.  I am finding goodness, kindness, and amazing strength in people, and my faith in humanity is being restored. 

The people who inspire me would never make Barbara’s list.  But the people who inspire me are real.  And I am honored to know them.   They help me to be a better person. 

The New Year ahead is a blank canvas.  Let’s do our best to paint a picture of inspiration for others.  Happy New Year from my house to yours!!