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New Year - Happy?

Goodness, so many thoughts roaming around in my head today.

Sherman, a dear, dear friend left this earth ten years ago today. I have the privilege of being in touch with his wife and grown children via Facebook and I am very happy for that. Very happy.

This picture is crazy - Brenda, the woman on Sherman's right has also passed away - too young. And the woman in pink, is John's wife Laura. John died a year ago yesterday.

I cannot even explain how much Sherman meant to me. He "saw" me. He was love, pure and simple, but he didn't put up with any bullshit. Teenagers adored him, including my son.
He was hilarious and high maintenance, (and got a big kick out of me telling him that), stubborn and kind, wise and a little scary, in a mind reading kind of way.
When the BF and I broke up, Sherman sat me down in his office, and with his face about two inches from mine, said in a steely, quiet voice, "Don't you ever, EVER, sell yourself short again."
I'll try not to Sherm.

Wednesday, three of us went to the Nasher Museum in Durham.

The Record was one of the special exhibits - waaay too avant garde for me, but The Vorticists was very interesting.
There was a poem by T.S. Elliot, "Rhapsody of a Windy Night" and
the third verse made me think of this tree from my Christmas eve day walk at Bolin Creek.

A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.

On this balmy 50+ degree day, I went out to Pittsboro. Picked up this fabulous AND inexpensive piece of art at lovely Vespertine Cafe. I want to hang it over my bathroom mirror:

Ginna was listening to the Gotan Project, she always has the best music. 

On the New Year Day brunch front, the pork is marinating, the salad is melding.

Hey, speaking of salad, my friend Beth showed me a great way to chop herbs. Y'all  probably already do this because I can tell - y'all are smart.
Every time I use this method I think it's a freaking miracle. I am easily entertained. The cup from Whynot Pottery is perfect for this purpose.
Stuff herbs in a small container.

Use kitchen shears to chop.

Magic! All chopped & contained in cup.

Kitchen shears used to one of those utensils I poo-pooed, they seemed fussy and all "oh-look-at-me-I'm-a-chef"-ish. Now I have three pair and I use them ALL the time. There's the chopping herb pair seen above, the pair I use for heavy duty action, like cutting pizza (a genius tip from Sandy I.) or chicken bone, and the small red pair (thank you SG) that I use just about every day for everything from opening cat food bags to cutting string.

What else has been going through my head? Oh, yea - aggressive drivers. There was an abundance on the road today. My judging self had a hard time remembering to say blessings instead of this:


Let's see, what is going to be my last dinner in the year 2010? Me thinks white trash Tuna and Noodles. I'll untrash it just a little with Trader Joe's lemon pepper pasta.

Thanks all ye faithful ones who, god love ya, read my puny blog and think it's funny or enlightening or silly or moving or enjoyable or wow, I can do better than that (I agree).
Thanks for all your comments here and on Facebook.
I feel the love.

Time me eat!


New Year's Eve Eve

Bleh. That's how I feel today.
Remembering my friends, John Pezzi and Sherman Brees who both died this time of year, John a year ago today. Sherm, ten years ago.

In other news, Mom's catheter is out and we went to Nantucket Grill to celebrate. She said she felt "so good" several times.

RBC finally figured out how to set up her VA account, so I need to get over there and sign, sign, sign. Found out during the process of setting this up that they closed the Fernandina branch of the credit union - wow! no more Amy. I'm wondering if I should move everything up here.

The snow's mostly melted, now everything looks dead and brown, the sky leaden. Christmas decorations are disheveled and bedraggled, tilting crazily off the sides of mailboxes.

The cats have been funny today, choosing to stay in bed snuggly in the silk comforter rather than greet me when I came home from the movies. What is up with that? Ungrateful felines.

We southern gals have to have three things New Year's Day - black eyed peas, pork, and some kind of greens. Most everyone does collards, I prefer kale. Here's my contribution to the FUWOF's New Year's Day brunch:

The recipe is from Cooking Light, it's so crazy good and easy.

Sweet and Tangy Roasted Pork Tenderloin

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. tomato paste
11/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 black pepper
1 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed
cooking spray

1.) Combine first 6 ingredients in a shallow dish, add pork, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2.) Preheat oven to 450.
3.) Remove pork from dish, reserving marinade.
4.) Place pork on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Brush with reserved marinade. Insert a meat thermometer into thickest portion of pork. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes or until thermometer registers 155 (slightly pink). Remove from oven, cover and let stand 5 minutes.

Couple of notes:
Always used balsamic vinegar (I was out of cider vinegar) and I always marinate it overnight.

Click Black Eyed Pea Salad for the recipe.

Have made myself put away the New Pornographers and Neko Case, am now listening to Glasser, I love to turn up my top of the line 2003 Toyota Corolla sound system so I can FEEEEELLLLL the drums.
That got me hankering for some military tattoo. You know it, I am loony for a bagpipe (and a man in a skirt).

And that leads to Ewan McGregor (Scottish) who was in the movie "I Love You Phillip Morris" and then that got me thinking about "Long Way Round" which I rated five [rare] stars on Netflix - seriously, it is where I became a fan of Ewan. Even if you don't like motorcycles (I don't especially). Fair warning, there's some salty language from time to time, because it is two lads off a holiday basically, but it's great fun overall. all a good night...


Poor Mom

Yesterday afternoon around 4:30 I got a call from Clare Bridge. Braced myself for the "she's pulled out the catheter again".
Instead it was, "she was hit in the chest by another resident. She's okay, everything is fine, but we're required to tell you this occurred."

Poor Mom, this was not a good weekend.

Lillie and Finn on my lap, Oscar was curled up next to me. Who says cats don't like to be with people?


Yesterday and Today

Went on a nice walk with three of the gals, the two mascots, and the furry gal Solo. Then we sat in the lobby of the very uncrowded and quiet Marriott and drank their complimentary coffee.

Then I went to Mom's. The nurse had just left after re-inserting the Foley, Mom was laying on her bed, subdued and weepy. Presented her present (jeans, a red sweater, and a sparkly flower ring), she was more weepy, (but really liked the ring). Then we watched some "Ben Hur" on TCM.

I did not feel up to taking her to the K&W and I really don't think she was up to it either.
Ripping out a catheter has got to wear you out, don't you think?

Went over to Jim and Daphne's after that and hung out over there for about five hours. I brought over a Whole Foods vegan Harvest Berry pie (I worked so hard!). Dinner was a fresh ham (not cured) from Nancy the egg lady's Fernhill Farm, layered salad (my favorite!), great mashed potatoes, green beans, collards, dressing, and fingerling sweet potatoes. Ate so much layered salad I can barely look at what came home with me, but will probably get over it.
Went home when it started to snow, around 8:30 - 9 PM. Watched "Waking Ned Devine", one of my favorites, and went to bed. 

This is what I woke up to this morning:

Braved a trip to Kroger for the trinity of snow day essentials - bread, milk, and alcohol (wholly spirit!) (okay, okay, it was a cheap "shot"!) (HA!).

Today is a comfort food day - a casserole of baked penne is bubbling in the oven. Threw some horseradish cheddar into the asiago, fontina, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese mix, along with Hogan's Magnolia Farms grass fed beef, and Trader Joe's marinara sauce, which has become my go-to base for anything requiring tomatoey-ness.


I may just watch "Arrested Development" for the rest of the day and eat baked penne and layered salad.

Happy Boxing Day everyone.


All I Got For Christmas

Was a phone call saying Mom had pulled out her Foley catheter. Yeah!!
I was immediately reminded of the doctor's statement that only intoxicated people did that. I'm thinking demented is right up there with intoxicated or being on PCP. (never hear about that drug anymore. Did it go away or something better came along?)

It's not like I can put it back in so I'm still sitting at home being selfish, having a piece of blueberry pie and a cup of coffee. Feeling a rising resentment towards - well everyone. Mostly because I can't feel selfish in peace. Jeez. Feck off guilt! (Father Ted reference)
Oh, and I've run out of deodorant (alert the news media!)
I'm going to continue on my selfish path and go for a walk at noon.

Last night's Jewish Christmas Eve (Chinese food and a movie) was a good time with six of the FUWOF gals. Thanks for asking.


One of My Favorite Places

From 1968 - 1973 we lived in Kodiak, Alaska. It was the longest we ever lived in one place.

Kodiak is a island in the Gulf of Alaska, home to the Kodiak bear, (brown bear grown extra large), and the king crab. When we moved up there in 1968, the town was still recovering from the quake of '64. The quake wasn't as big a problem like it was in Anchorage, but the ensuing tsunami wrecked havoc on the town.

In 1968, if you turned right when you exited the Navy base, (they left in 1972 and it became the largest Coast Guard station), there were two miles of pavement, the rest of the eight miles into town was unpaved. At some point they paved the main road all the way into town to just a bit past the High School. All the other streets in town were unpaved.
If you turned left there was 500 feet of pavement, then gravel roads for about 40 miles and that was it - the end of the line. There was one blinking yellow traffic light on the whole island and that was on the base.
I remember asking my mom if we were isolated.

We would have picnics in the snow with the Scottish Highland cattle, who lived outside all year long. Sometimes you would have to shoo them out of the road.

Other times you'd need to adjust the road to the width of your car:

We were too far south to have six months dark, six months light, but in winter we went to school and came home from school in the dark. When I was older I could stay out until it was dark in the summer, about 11 PM. It was light again around 4 AM. We had blackout blinds on all the windows.
On the longest night of the year when it never got dark enough to see the stars, Mom and I would stay up and play Canasta until it was light again.

Williwaws came down off the mountains and the freezing howling winds would cause road condition Charlie (only emergency vehicles on the road). Dad would get stuck out at the ComSta (communications station) which was ten miles away at Holiday Beach.

Old Woman Mountain

Each morning, breakfast cereal was accompanied by the sound of C-130's and other SAR planes warming up outside the hangers across from our house. (I love C-130's, they have a comforting almost maternal look to them.)
When I see a box of Frosted Flakes, I hear my dad's spoon slowly clinking against the side of his coffee cup and plane engines.

The view from our living room window

C-130 landing on ice. Amazing pilots.
View from our dining room in summer - note the mountain, Barometer.

Winter. Where's Barometer?!

So many memories. Picking salmon berries or low bush cranberries on Pillar Mountain. Having a heat wave at 70 degrees!  Making snow ice cream. Walking home from my friend Judy's house feeling like I was the only person in the world, big fat snowflakes falling and the lone sound being my boots crunching in the snow. Feeling so lucky I got to live in such a beautiful place.

(All the pictures were taken by my mother with her beloved Minolta)


Lessons I Learned At The ER

for you gentle readers who are not friends on Facebook and were thus unable to be riveted to my status updates, (I remember thinking, so this is where Twitter comes in handy), yesterday I picked Mom up at 10:30 AM and whisked her to the UNC ER because she was - er - impacted.
Or, as I so lovingly put it as we walked to the car, full of shit.

(laughter, the best medicine - right?)

One de-impacting, one enema, some vomiting, two x-rays, one CT scan, one ultrasound, one Foley catheter, three nurses, two doctors, and fourteen and a half hours later, we left.


Here's what I learned:

2.) Drink plenty of fluids - especially water
Example - see above.

3.) Wear eye protection - all the time.
(this doctor had an all caps voice)
SIR, WHAT HAPPENED? (indistinct mumbling continues)

4.) Do NOT ever get a salivary gland infection.
Example: twenty minutes of listening to a man first have a camera put down his nose, then a breathing tube inserted.
The nurse who did it was very sweet, he was also [one of ] Mom's nurses, he said when I told him it made my stomach hurt to listen that it wasn't as bad as it sounded.
It sounded pretty bad.

In addition, there was all the various and constant dings, buzzes, rings, clanging, banging, intercom announcements, people vomiting, or saying "Ouch, OUCH! Stop doing that!" 

Thankfully we were in an honest to goodness room from which to eavesdrop on other people's pain, not in one of those horrible beds lining the hallway. There was a very comfortable reclining chair for me. Small gifts, greatly appreciated.

Mom slept through a lot of it. She was a trooper, until the very end. I don't think she liked the last nurse, who seemed to be in a big hurry to get rid of us.
Mom got mad and said she wasn't going to go or put on her clothes because she was already home.
"I don't like this!", she declared of the Foley catheter and leg band. (Instead of the bag you have to carry like a purse full of urine. I know - ewwwwww! I really couldn't see her being able to handle that at all.)

Don't blame her one bit.

Oh, and last but not least - to everyone who commented, prayed, thought good thoughts, wished for the best, offered to feed cats, bring me ruby slippers or pie, and made me laugh, (you know who you are Becky Kelley!) - Thanks! It meant a lot. Really.


I Am NOT Like That! Part Two

I sometimes think it's not clear in my blog that my mother had/has an excellent sense of humor.

As we'd watch the Anal Retentive Chef fold the garbage bag over and over, then staple it shut - I'd say he's just like you! She'd reply, I'm NOT like that!  Sometimes I'd just go to the freezer and get a bag of cookies, then she would laugh.

Her big defense - you are too!
Yeah, but about completely different things, like organization and tidy counters. The Boy told me he would purposely tip the pictures on the wall off kilter - something else that makes me crazy. (Or pictures hung too high - arrrrggghhhhhhhh!!)

Her and I would bust up in Publix over Big and Crusty Bagels. (gross and so second grade I know). Except for the dark months when she wasn't taking her meds, she has always been a good sport and been able to laugh at herself.

I just wanted to clear that up.


I Am NOT Like That!

Remember Phil Hartman's character Cooking with the Anal Retentive Chef on SNL?

That was my mother.

She said she wasn't like that, but oh, yes she was.
Toast had to be buttered all the way to the very edge all the way around - I swear it took her five minutes to prep her toast. Her hamburger bun had to have the mayo on the top bun and the mustard on the bottom one.
If it was done wrong, she got a little squirrelly about it.
Yeah, not OCD at all.

Who else would slice each individual pecan for cookies or Cherry Nut Cake? Slices, people. Not chopped all willy-nilly into different sized pieces. No, each sliver of pecan was the same size.

Speaking of cookies:
If the recipe said "makes five dozen" - then by god she was going to get five dozen - or more.
All the cookie dough blobs were exactly the same size and placed precisely the same distance from the next cookie dough blob. Actually, it is not fair to call them blobs - that would be what mine looked like. I used a tablespoon and she always told me they were too big, not to mention my pecans were um, diversely shaped. It drove her crazy. (Bwaahahaha...)
Hers were rounded from one teaspoon to another until they were smooth perfect orbs of doughness. If one cookie had the balls to spread into another cookie - oh my god. Defective! She hated that.
They'd cool, on a wire rack of course, for the exact amount of time called for. Later they would be packaged into plastic baggies. This was before zip-lock style bags came in a small version, we're talking the sandwich bags that had the fold over flap.
Two cookies (no more, no less) would be placed in the bag. The flap was folded down (need I say it?), neatly, two or three times, and stapled. Two staples. These little packages were then placed in the freezer - after being labeled with the type of cookie and the date it was made. All ready for school lunches.

I suspect this attention to, ahem, quality control was why my dad never made the potato salad. The potatoes (and eggs and onions and sweet gherkins) must be cut precisely for potato salad, each piece was exactly a bite-sized cube.
Dad often made the dressing for the potato/macaroni/coleslaw salads. Mayo, mustard, and vinegar, which in the correct combination will get you right in the "gill slit", that spot where the earlobe and jawbone meet. (you know the place). I liked my dad's version better because his was more tart.
If there was extra, it became "squeezy" dressing - so called because it went in a leftover picnic ketchup "squeeze" bottle. Nothing better over a slab of iceberg lettuce. If you're a Brit - Salad Cream is a good equivalent.
Grinder at far right.

Dad made the coleslaw. He'd get the grinder (a.k.a. old school food processor) with its multiple attachments down from the cabinet over the stove and clamp it to the counter. We were not allowed to touch it because it was sharp.
Then we'd wait impatiently for the core of the cabbage that he would slice, salt, and distribute. You'd have thought it was candy the way we gobbled it up.

An item that held great promise was the giant green Tupperware bowl. If Dad got out that bowl and the electric skillet - popcorn was in our future!
He'd melt the butter, (oh okay, it was margarine. We didn't know any better then), in a small one-cup Revere Ware pot. (My brother got that. If I'd had room in my kitchen for the electric skillet it would be here now) That giant green bowl also held Chex Mix.
Oh laws how I love Chex Mix. I could eat the entire bowl myself (I never did, but I could have!).

You can rest assured each piece of cereal was equally coated...


To Sum Up

Yesterday I went over to CB around 2:30 PM to move furniture around for the new chair and didn't leave until 7:30.

It was too long.

My mother was a micro manager, this has not changed. She used to re-make the bed after I made it.
I hate that. (Really, who does well under that management style? No one I know.)
I asked her to sit in her [old] chair while I moved things, but she couldn't be still. Wanted to help by putting things back on the dresser I wasn't done moving or standing in the way or picking up tiny pieces of thread off the floor.
Finally after she told me for the fourth time, with considerable glee I might add, that I was going to hurt myself, I asked her to go out to the main living room. Then I could think and talk to myself and found an arrangement that worked. The coffee table is now the TV stand and the TV stand is a donation.

When she came back fifteen minutes later, she was teary eyed and had Harold, who lives across the hall, in tow. I was informed that he is a nice man.  Sitting on the seat of his walker was a plate and cup, the cup got emptied in Mom's trash, then he announced he was finished. Mom gave him a hug and Harold went on his way.
She cried a little.

Was she upset her furniture was moved? I don't know.

A knock on the door - Harold was back to ask if we had a key to his room. Meanwhile Mom seemed to have forgotten the sequence of events needed to use the toilet and was milling around in confusion crying.
I put her in the bathroom and scooted down the hall to find someone with a key for Harold.
Had to tell her to wash her hands, she said she did, and she didn't. So, I had to get things going (becoming a micro manager myself - ugh!). Then she dried her hands with a used Kleenex and when I used another Kleenex to throw that one away, she pulled them both out of the garbage - so we had to do everything all over. Yes, I am becoming a germaphobe. So?

By this time, I was frustrated and cranky. Mostly because this is not the first time her confusion about bathroom procedure has flared up. I worry Depends are in her near future.

After all that fun on an empty stomach, I was hungry. We went to Bob Evans - where, according to her, she's never been before!
"Bob - how did you get here?!"

She had meatloaf and mashed potatoes. And even though the bubbling lava hot potatoes burned her mouth every bite - she did not remember to blow on the next bite to cool it off.

Here's one area she has changed.
As children, going out to dinner was a double-edged sword of fun and the tenth circle of hell. Because my parents thought nothing of sitting around after dinner for hours, just talking! Oh the humanity.
Talking about boring stuff (i.e., not us)!! Having a third cup of coffee!!! Oh gahhh, another cigarette!!!!
I swear they stayed longer just to torture us.
Now, she is up and heading for the door the second she's done eating.

Afterward I ran into Home Depot for a Sharpie for writing her name in her clothes. Hopefully that will help stop the traveling. Then back to CB for the writing. She hovered and moved clothes from the done pile back into the not done pile. Then hung them from her arm when asked if she could hang them in the closet. Then she got mad when I asked her to sit down because her back seemed to be hurting.

My sense of humor (and patience) was done run out by then.

I was back over there this morning at 8:30 for the chair installation.
She still thinks I got one just like it.

Mom, far left with Coke - Dad far right.


Vegative State

It is a dreary wet Sunday. A day for sleeping in, washing clothes, and cooking.

Popped out to Kohl's for a bit. My mother is a founding member of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - could only locate three pair Friday night. Arrrgghhhh. Honestly, where DO they go?!

Did two massive loads of laundry (wouldn't you rather hit yourself with a hammer than read this?!), which is becoming like dusting - I already did that once, why do I have to do it again?!
Especially putting things away. I wish I was Samantha in "Bewitched" and could just wiggle my nose to have tedious chores like laundry all done. Wouldn't that be great? I'd also employ the nose for all things gardening, ironing, and dusting.

There was just a huge crash from the direction of the living room - one moment please:

Nothing drastic, Finn knocked the recipe binder onto the floor. Guessing it was him since he was nowhere to be seen.

Today is fruit and veggie day. First there was blackberry pie for a late lunch (many thanks to Whole Foods for packaging half pies), then I made Simply Recipes' Sauteed Greens with Pine Nuts. The kale wasn't chopped small enough, it was a bit chewy; I would add more red pepper. The raisins are a fun little surprise.
Also roasted some sweet potatoes and a spaghetti squash. Mashed the potatoes with a handful of dried fruit.
I love spaghetti squash. For me, pasta is just the carrier for the important stuff - the sauce and cheese. Spaghetti squash is the perfect no guilt carrier.

Okay, off to clean up the mess in the kitchen. Wish I could twitch my nose for that too.


Night of the Living Dead and Other Observations

Last night, after our RoomStore adventure, Mom and I watched "The Jeffersons" on the muted living room TV while the rest of the folks ate supper. (Mom proclaimed her dislike for Mr. Jefferson.) We sat out there because her room was locked and I still don't have a key.

It occurred to me that all the inmates people in there (that I've seen) are Caucasian. Most of the caregivers during the evening are African-American. Some are from Jamaica, some from Africa. During the day shift, most of the care-givers are white. People have worked there a long time though, some of them fifteen years. Guess that says something.
I hope it says this-is-a-great-place-to-work-I-get-treated-fairly-and-I-WANT-to-work-the-evening-shift.

One of the women says, "Somebody help me!" over and over. Mom rolls her eyes when she starts up.
As in - "Oh God, here we go again."
One of the caregivers said there are a lot of former professors and other smart type people in there. One of them studied dementia for twenty years and now she's in here. That just might be the definition of irony.
Interestingly, (to me anyway), there is a higher proportion of men in Clare Bridge than there was in Wynwood. 

Bob, who was a pilot at some point in his life, shuffles around the halls in his baseball cap and aviator jacket. He doesn't really speak, it's more of a groan. Another man, whose name I don't know yet, came up and started talking to my scarf about war maneuvers. A woman in the dining room asked if I was "going to take care of things around there." I said I would do my best.

I left Mom in her room, after someone unlocked it for us, dressed in her pajamas and robe watching the dashing Mr. Poitier in "Lillies of the Field" on TCM. (my favorite "Scrooge" movie - with Albert Finney - was coming on at 9:30 and I don't have cable. Dangit.)

Then Bob and I shuffled down the hallway to the lobby, where I was released.


Santa Baby

Alcohol is in order. Please standby....

So, yesterday's meeting with the VA rep went fine. Mom performed well. When he asked if she knew what day it was she said yes, then asked him what day it was. Same for the President and year.
Pretty sure she confirmed she was incompetent. 

I have to open a bank account in her name with me as fiduciary. The VA money goes into that account, it can't co-mingle with her other money (her "estate" as he called it. HA!).
It can only be used for her cost of care. If we need to make a purchase over $1000, they have to approve it.
Guess the vacation to Cancun is out.

He wanted to know if the two characters witnesses would attest to my being fabulous, moral, a fine upstanding citizen, and stuff.
I said I sure hope so, cuz I paid 'em.
VA people don't have much of a sense of humor.

This afternoon we went to Rick's Diner. She was making car noises on the way over, it was like riding with Mel Blanc.
She made up a word for zipper too, zerfluffle or something along those lines. My very own Dr. Seuss.

After the chicken salad sandwich, we went to RoomStore to get her a new chair. She's been using this accent chair that has no back support at all, or she sits on her bed, even worse back support.
The short straw went to a very nice salesman named Michael, who did not have a clue what he was in for.
Told him we were looking for a small chair, not deep because she is short, and cheap inexpensive. We wandered around and she sat in chairs, some good with ugly patterns, some bad with good patterns, others too big, too deep, too expensive.
Mom was sitting in this nice red chair ($599 - ah, no), which I noticed was a recliner. She wasn't expecting it, so when I pushed it back, she yells, "Oh God, she's trying to kill me!"
Well, obviously that was hilarious. And brought the whole store to a standstill for a few seconds. Michael left the area, I think to laugh his ass off. He did come back.

We finally settled on a small oatmeal colored chair and ottoman (included in the price) for $199, which he gave us for $159 (perhaps to get us out of the store), the store manager is delivering it for $30 cash on Tuesday (instead of regular delivery charge of $99). Pulling the poor widder woman stuff works sometimes. It's not like I'm lying.

On the way home, she kept asking if I got a chair too.
No, it was for her, Merry Christmas.
"I'd better be good then."


Steath Cat - Not

I had a good title but I lost it.

Oscar was trying to be sneaky and get to my empty chili bowl on the sly. Hilarious because he is a large cat and does not do stealth at all.

About as subtle as an eclipse.

He jumped on my desk, nonchalantly looking everywhere except at the bowl or me, (are those pictures new? hey, check out that printer. this lamp smells interesting), then tiptoed in front of me to check out the bowl.

Have a meeting Thursday morning with a VA rep. They need to make sure I'm not ripping off my mother's widow pension (just a little over a thousand a month). Background and credit check, plus two character references. He has to meet with her for a few minutes to see if she really is incompetent I guess.
Should be interesting.
I hope she calls me Mommy.

Sometimes when I'm taking apart a box for the recycling bin, (the one that held the LED light bulb was like a puzzle), I think - somebody made this. Someone designed it, someone printed it and someone assembled it. Do you ever think about that?
Or a simple pencil. Somewhere there is a factory making #2 pencils and people go to work there. Forty hours a week, making pencils. I loved when Mr. Rogers would do a feature on how something was made, crayons for instance. (I confess to watching Mr. Rogers waaaaay after The Boy stopped.). All these things we never notice most of the time - lampshades, silverware, Post-It notes. Someone makes them.

There is no point to this at all. Welcome to my head.


Turkish Cooking

This afternoon after the walk, three of us went to the Divan Cultural Center in Cary for Turkish cooking class where a couple of absolutely charming young woman cooked three recipes and we helped.

We made a meatball soup (my favorite), a pea, carrot, and potato side dish, and simit - little pastry rings - imagine pie crust with sesame seeds.

Oh and halva, a sesame paste and honey confection, which was already made.

While we were making tiny meatballs, it started snowing! This is early for us.

Snow conveniently corresponding with post UNC game traffic made the ride home from Southern Village where I parked for the walk, usually about ten - twelve minutes drive, take about thirty.
But people were mostly well behaved (except in Cary, several honkers there) and we all made it home unscathed.

I made a video (of the snow) but can't get it to post for some reason.
You'll just have to imagine it.
Here's the recipe for "treated soup" or meatball soup.

1 lb. minced meat (lamb or beef)
2 slices stale bread, crusts removed & insides crumbled by hand
3-4 tbsp. uncooked rice (they used short grain rice)
1 tbsp. black pepper (their recipe calls for a dessert spoonful)
1 egg
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 bunch of parsley - finely chopped

Mix together all ingredients except parsley. She kneaded the mixture for at least 5 minutes and said her mother throws the mixture down on the table 30-40 times as well.
There was some discussion between the two instructors about the parley. One advocated adding the parsley to the meat, the other wanted to roll the meatballs in the parsley. They compromised by doing both.

Make the meatballs small, about the size of a shooter marble. 

1 med. onion, finely chopped
1/6 of a cup oil
1tbsp tomato paste
1 quart (or so) of water (their recipe calls for 1.5 liters - there was some conversion math going on)
1 tsp. salt

Saute the onion in the oil. Add tomato paste and "turn them in the pan for a bit." Add the water, salt and meatballs. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
You may also (they did) add a can of drained chickpeas (garbanzo beans) OR 2 chopped potatoes and carrots.

The meatballs were very tender and light. I attributed this to the amount of kneading the meatballs received.


Week Recap

I used that word [recap] in my last post. It's a fun word.
Madcap is another fun and vastly underused word. CP used it at our FUWOF Mediterranean Deli anniversary luncheon. My inner crow was so enamoured of the word - as it swung and shimmered in the air - that I cannot reclaim the context in which it was used. (OHHH sparkly! seems like a purple word, doesn't it?)
I've been trying to figure out how to slide it into conversation ever since. Like she did, oh so effortlessly.
CP is a modern day Flannery O'Conner, she is. Not that Flannery used the word "madcap". But CP has that same Southern command of the language. 

If I had a totem animal it would be a crow/raven or a bear. Wait, I need to be both. I'd have to have a bi-totemic personality. Depending on my mood. Because bears just aren't that into sparkly. But they will kick your ass.

Anyway, let me sum up :

Mom: having bad week, crying. Will change her med time - again. Sugar down even more, insulin reduced. Dinner at Bob Evans - again (BOGO breakfast when you sign up for email.). Called me her mommy. Wants to buy a house. Carries dinner napkins around with her all the time. Infatuated with them. Why?

Bad car noise - fixed for free. (yeah Auto Logic!)

Got a sweater completely free today using my 15% off coupon in combination with $10 in Kohl's Cash.
Shut the front door!

Changing my CFL light bulbs to LED's - one expensive bulb at a time. I've replaced three, only twelve to go!
Pros: No mercury, no hazardous waste, no flickering, no humming, and they're dimmable.
Cons: Expensive and not very bright - yet. Only found the 40 watt equivalent at Home Depot or Lowe's. Not good for reading at all.
Side note: Have you found the CFL's living up to their "lasts for five years" hype? I haven't.

Have you noticed when driving that people just want to be first? No matter how fast I'm going, it's not fast enough. Go 100 mph in a 35 mph zone and some schmo will need to pass so they can BE IN FRONT. W.T.F.
Definitely a bear totem moment.


I Love Auto Logic

Remember back in September when my car made a bad thud thud thud noise when I pulled into a parking space at Wal-mart?


Well, first - hummmmpff.
Second, you can refresh your memory here.

Just in case you didn't feel like re-reading that whole post for the two sentences pertaining to the car noise (I don't blame you), let me recap: CP and I tried to recreate the noise by turning 360's in the parking lot. Nothing.

But a few weeks later, as I was making a hard left - it did it again. And it kept doing it. Again. And again.

I was freaked out. So sure it was going to cost me one million dollars, I ignored it.
(Just like I do with any dental pain - thus assuring that a $100 cavity will become a $1000 root canal.)

Finally, today I said to myself, "That's it. Stop being stupid. Take the car in, you'll only make it worse if you ignore it."
Drove the seven miles to Auto Logic in Carrboro which was the only place my little Blanche had ever been in her whole mechanical life - until gas went over $4/gallon. Then I started cheating on them by taking her to the dealership two miles away - who, I might add, were never trusted to do anything but an oil change.
I am frugal about the darnedest things.

Anyhoo, Garth, he of the loveliest blue eyes, jumped in car, we made a hard left turn in the parking lot, he jumped out, looked under car and said:

"Blah, blah, cover, blah, scraping, blah blah blah, couple of screws..."

(it was exactly like this Gary Larson cartoon - the dog side - not the cat side for once.) 

The rest was drowned out my my huge sigh of relief. You just cannot imagine. Well okay, maybe you can.

AND about ten minutes when Gene brought back the keys - he said - "No charge." !!!!!!

Oh Auto Logic, I do love you and only you.


"This Is A Soul" a.k.a. The Book of Shame

I just finished reading "This is A Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes" by Marilyn Berger for our book club.

Rick is a doctor, a truly awe inspiring man doing amazing work in Ethiopia. On top of saving lives - he's adopted at least five children. Many more, with horrible disfiguring diseases, have literally been plucked off the streets and live at his house while they wait for surgery.

But, slogging through page after page after page of selfless acts of goodness, it was not inspiration I felt. Instead, I felt ashamed that I didn't want to move to Ethiopia THIS MINUTE and adopt twenty children.
Don't get me wrong, I'm so thankful there are people like Rick, Mother Theresa, this woman, and many, many others, who are (or were in the case of Mother Theresa) moved by the plight of children (and grown-ups) around the world.
And if you're called to that - then get up off the couch and go do it. Stop procrastinating. Go to Kabul, teach, whatever is eating at your gut - go. do. it.
The problem comes when I think there's something wrong with me because I don't feel moved to do the same. Or - when someone who is called to do it thinks there's something wrong with me when I am not moved to do the same.

No, I've not been called to adopt children from and/or move to Siberia, Ethiopia, India, or even Hawaii for that matter. I've been called to be very, very boring.

What if there are no fireworks or fanfare, CNN reports, or best-selling books in your future either?

What if your future [or present] is just a quiet sitting with the aged, suicide prevention, feeding the homeless, rescuing pit bulls, saving the rain forest or lemurs, teenage mothers, AIDS awareness, helping the illiterate learn to read, or raising two kittens you found in a dumpster.

What if all we were meant to do was smile at that person we smiled at today or talk to that woman perusing the bagels at Whole Foods or pay for the people behind you on a toll bridge or write that encouraging blog post (ah, yea, that's not me either). Maybe our sole/soul purpose was to call AAA for the young girl stranded in the bank parking lot.

And that's it.

The point is, don't dismiss what you do do. Because that smile could save a person's life. 

It is, as they say, all good.



There's this thing going around Facebook, take a twenty question quiz (you know I love those!) and see what religion you come up with.
Well, I came up with 100% Liberal Christian Protestant AND 100% Orthodox Quaker. Third place was 87% Liberal Quaker. 

I was christened a Methodist. My mother looking out for my eternal welfare. Thanks Mom! Guess I'm covered. I don't think either of my siblings had anything of the sort. Hmmm.

We always said grace before meals, you know that "God is good, God is great" one. That was the only religious action in the house, but we weren't allowed to say "God!" or "Jesus!" in exasperation. However, we weren't allowed to say "kid" either - unless we were talking about baby goats.

In Guam I went with my friend Pam McPherson to her Baptist church (with a quarter left on the table for the offering plate). Her father was the chaplain or whatever they're called; afterward we would go to A&W for "Baptist beer" [root beer]. I caused quite the stir when I wanted to be baptized (because she was going to be). The horror. A christened Methodist being baptized. Or something. I didn't get what all the hullabaloo was about.There were parental confabs and then I don't think I went anymore.

As a teenager, I did seriously consider being a Quaker, I did not/do not get war and it appealed to me for that reason. It's interesting Belief-O-Matic came up with that - twice.
Instead I became a Jehovah's Witness, they don't believe in war either.
That lasted about seven years.

Now it's just me and the Big Wide Wonder, the Universal Truth, The Great and Wonderful Oz, The Big Cheese.
I figure we'll sort it out, eventually. He and I.
He knows I mean well.

The Other Oscar Wilde

Doesn't he look like he's pondering some witty saying?

Small Business Saturday

This morning after the weekly Saturday walk, I went out to Pittsboro to celebrate Small Business Saturday.

First stop: General Store Cafe for the usual BBQ sandwich and beet salad. Fortified with delicious food goodness, I walked over to Vespertine for some goat's milk soap and the cute prints by UK artist Amy Blackwell that Ginna said were back in stock. Sorry I didn't get to see Ginna. :(  (Thanks for putting some aside for me!)

 The MEOW is translated as "bah humbug". HA! I didn't see that until I got home. Perfect.

Then I drove down [or up] to French Connections  which is a big house crammed to the gills with all things French and some things African - fabric, beads, linens, baskets, etc. 
It's always fun to browse in here, but today I had a mission. They carry La Rochere glassware and their prices are reasonable; one of my Versailles pattern goblets (isn't that a posh word?) got chipped and needed replacing. Then I spied the shrinky-dink version! So cute! (It's actually called the wine goblet. Funny, that's what I use the big one for...)

Even the bottom has a pattern, which is one of those unnecessary lovely surprises. 
I think Versailles is the only one that does.

TJ Maxx had some Bee pattern stemmed glasses and long drink glasses a couple of years ago for dirt cheap ($3.00 ea.). Even though it's not my favorite pattern, I couldn't pass up the bargain. The glasses are very sturdy, this is the first one I've had to replace in ten years and four moves.

Then it was off to The Wine Authorities for wine (and some chocolate covered figs!) to put in my new goblet. 

It was a win-win day for four small businesses and me.


Happy Thanksgiving

My cunning plan was to stay in my pajamas all day.

 And also eat turkey and pie (not necessarily in that order), but Steffi texted me with an offer of a walk.

I did the right thing and went for a virtuous three miler.  

 Since I was out, I went over to Mom's to drop off a new bra, the pajamas I bought the other night, and a few other essentials.

She was pretty funny with the new bra.
"They're way up here!"
Actually, that's where they should be.
"Are you sure?"

Her back was hurting, so we dug out her back brace. Between the new bra and the brace which acts like a corset, they really were up there.

It occurred to me that two years ago we had Thanksgiving dinner in Hillcrest Convalescent Hospital. It was after she slipped off the bed and got a compression fracture in her back. The crack that diagnosed the dementia and forced the move to Wynwood.
She didn't remember any of it.

Even though it wasn't the plan, we ended up going to K&W Cafeteria for a Thanksgiving lunch.
She had ham.
And felt herself up every five minutes.

She recognized the wife of another inmate/resident standing in front of us as we waited to check out.
I never believe her when she says she knows someone. It seems so odd she'd recognize someone she's only seen several times, but can't bring up a mental picture of her children or grandchildren.
A dear friend sent me this link earlier this week. I'll try that with pictures of her grandchildren.

Now I'm back home fixing to eat some turkey and cranberry conserve. And thankful.
But no more so than any other day.


Cranberries - Saucy Little Things

I love all things cranberryish. (remember the 90's Irish band The Cranberries and the song "Zombie"? That song still gives me the goosebumps)

Anyhoo, I'm glad they're [the fruit] popular and available most of the year now. I used to hoard them in the freezer. Yes, I was the maniac with twenty bags of cranberries in her cart every November, so I could make cranberry bread or sauce throughout the year.

Homemade cranberry sauce is ridiculously easy to make. Some water, some sugar, boil until the cranberries pop. I usually throw in additional things, whatever is handy - grapefruit peel, dried tart cherries or blueberries, (always have some around to jazz up the oatmeal) - whatever suits your fancy. There's no excuse for canned sauce (unless of course, that's what you like :)

I really love this cranberry walnut conserve recipe I heard on The Splendid Table and make it every year.
Obviously it's terrific on a turkey sandwich, with chicken or the other white meat [pork], but if you're a white trash girl such as myself, you'll love it just spooned on saltine crackers (just hush-up 'til you've tried it). Here's the recipe, in time for Turkey Day.

Cranberry-Walnut Conserve
 (from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider)
1 1/2 cups walnuts
3 navel oranges, well washed
5 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2/3 cup wildflower honey, or more to taste
1 1/4 cups dark raisins or currants
A few teaspoons fresh lemon juice if needed to brighten flavors

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast until they are fragrant, about 9 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Cut off the ends of the oranges and discard; slice the oranges in quarters through the stem. Then slice each quarter crosswise as thinly as possible, discarding the seeds as you work.
  3. In a heavy non-reactive 3 quart saucepan, combine 4 cups of the cranberries, the oranges, honey, and  1 1/2 cups hot water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened and the cranberries are soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in the raisins and the remaining cranberries and cook until the raisins are plump, another 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. Chop the walnuts coarsely and stir them into the conserve, along with the lemon juice to taste. Transfer the conserve to clean dry jars and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate.
Storage: The conserve will keep for at least 1 month in a covered container in the refrigerator. 


    Yesterday when I went to CB, Mom was in one of the dining rooms "making" pumpkin pie. A. (an aide) was going to get her, but I asked her to wait, I'd go get her after I put the new sheets and quilt on her bed.
    A. and I talked for awhile, she said Mom was doing so good. Her sugar's been in the low 100's after breakfast (really good).
    Several of the aides know Mom from her smoking days, when they'd all convene in the patio area of Wynwood to enjoy their little death sticks (sorry. just a bit of judgment to start the day). When she saw A. here, she hugged her and said "I remember you!" (Hopefully she won't remember the connection.).

    Mom told A. she moved here so she could be "normal".

    She does seem happier here. And again, I feel like I've done the wrong thing keeping her in a place she wasn't suited for.
    Ah well, I will not should myself today, as my friend Judith says.

    We went to Dillard's to see what the sale racks held.
    I'm a guerrilla [clothes] shopper - go in, hit the target, get out.
    Mom is not. She's a - touch everything, look at every rack, comment on each item from shoes to plus size suits - kind of shopper. Add to that a dash of holy-crap-where'd-she-go and a jigger of champagne-taste-cheap-beer-budget and voila! you have the makings of an exhausta-tini. (a silly drink I made up to explain that shopping with her is tiring.)
    Scored two pair of pants and three shirts. Returned a pair of pants and a shirt later and found her two pair of cute pajamas.

    We decided to go to Rick's Diner, but on the way there, she spied Bob Evans. A mad sideways dash across three lanes of traffic ensued to accommodate the change in plan.

    Later, when we returned stuffed full of open-face roast beef sandwiches and omelets, we tried on the clothes. Turns out she was wearing a pair of pajama pants under her slacks. No wonder they were tight.
    The quilt and sheets were new all over again. (Could probably save a lot of money by telling her everything in her closet is brand new. But how mean would that be?)
    Then we held hands and watched part of a Jack Benny movie in the living room while everyone else ate dinner.


    The Blank I Didn't Blank

    Here's a prompt that didn't work for me. When they don't, those fifteen minutes can seem like an eternity. 

    June 12, 2010
    Wow, it's been a long time since I've been here, my brain is sluggish, not ready. So many blanks, so little time.

    What blank haven't I blanked?
    One night stand. Check.
    LSD. Check.
    Oh wait, cocaine is a blank I didn't.
    So f***ing boring.

    My mind is on other things. I'm hot, sweaty, haven't seen Mom in two weeks, guilty, not guilty, my neck hurts, wish I'd gotten more coffee, sweat is running down my back and that is gross. Gack.
    Fawn comes next week for eight days. I hope we don't hate each other by the time it's over. I'm already worried about that.
    F***ing neck.
    Stream of consciousness is not working for me today.
    Some people have already turned over a page - how do they do that?! I have a small cramp just from this much. I wish I hadn't gotten the omelet at Foster's, eggs were overcooked. God, I am such a complainer, really a worry wart.
    God I hate being sweaty. Great, more complaining. STFU. Seriously. Freakin' Debbie Downer. Am I avoiding? More lazy. I am lazy. This is becoming more clear to me the older I get. I am one lazy ass MFer.
    Someone is wearing a sweater! Makes me hot just to think about it.

    Blah blah blah. Shit. Still have to go see Mom. Again more lazy. Mental lazy, emotional lazy.
    The lazy I didn't lazy. OMG. This takes awhile to get into the swing of things. Some good writers in here today, Joelle, Virginia - they've already written a ready to publish article I'm sure.
    [and mercifully, the timer goes off]

    Who's Sorry Now?

    I would B.E.G. my mother to play the Connie Francis record(s). Her and Mr. Clean were favorites of my three year old self. But this isn't about Connie. Or Mr. Clean and my weird attraction to bald cartoon men. That is another post entirely. Or mostly.

    This is yet another prompt. God gave us free will, you're not required to stick around and read this dreck if you don't want to.

    The prompt was: Someone you'd rather be with than your family OR a family meal. Dated 3/22/08.

    Thanksgiving 1975
    My friend S. was visiting from Alaska. I'd known her since seventh grade, but we weren't really friends until tenth grade. S. was pretty and smart. In spite of me being taller and much less pretty, people thought we were related. We were called liars on at least one occasion when we said we weren't. Oddly, several times even our parents mistook us for one another.

    This particular Thanksgiving I also invited my current boyfriend to dinner.

    Big Mistake.

    He had recently gone AWOL. In the eyes of my military career father this was akin to being the Anti-Christ.
    He had shaved his head (see above) which also pissed my father off for some reason.
    The third strike: he was late.

    When R. came in the door, my father, gracious Southern gentleman that he was, developed a severe "headache", went upstairs and was not seen again for the duration.

    To say that things were uncomfortable is a gross understatement.
    My mother was in a tizzy, trying to pretend that my father having what basically amounted to a case of the vapors was a common occurrence and he'd be right back to carve the turkey.
    She went to get him to come down, but my father was part Georgia mule with a theme song of "We Shall Not Be Moved" and Jesus' second coming wasn't going to get him downstairs.
    Not as long as that bald Commie bastard was in his dining room.
    Good times.

    Several years later, S. came to visit again. The night before she arrived, my darling husband - the bald Commie (did you expect someone different?), told me that she was the one he had really wanted to ask out, but she was going back to Alaska.

    The nice thing about my dad, who did not attend my wedding to R. because he had a headache (I'm not kidding), is that he didn't say "I told you so", when R. left me several years later.
    And he totally could have.

    A Separation

    This prompt was dated July 11, 2009.


    Dementia is a wedge between us. She no longer remembers names of grandchildren or friends without prompts.
    "The one with Lupus," she says when talking about her youngest grandchild. Sometimes I'm "this one" and my sister is "that one".
    I suppose it is a separation between herself as well. A disconnect between her now and her then. A constant game of charades or twenty questions.
    But she still covers well most of the time. While watching slides of her past life, she'd say "You know who that is don't you?"
    I'd say, "Yes, it's so and so."
    "That's right."
    But somehow we both doubt she knows that's right.
    She is separate from her past and her future. Dazed and confused in her tiny one-roomed present, grounded only by an eleven year old mostly blind dog.
    I don't really know her anymore, this woman who holds snakes where once she was terrified. Who tries new foods when "I don't like it" was her mantra.
    She is five or seven or ten and a bit naughty.
    She will slight you for the smallest offense, usually involving the dog. Then the Irish DNA kicks in and she does not forget.
    She is separate too from her filters - the ones that warn about saying something hurtful or unkind. My sister ["that one"] becomes "the pretty one" and I get asked if I'd like to look at pictures of myself before I started eating so much.

    Hallway or Room of Choice

    Prompt from January 24, 2009. Back to Grandmother's house we go.
    My grandmother's kitchen was small. There was a large table in the middle of the room, with eight to ten chairs around it. The table was sandwiched between two sideboards, I don't recall any cabinets. A huge wood burning cast iron stove anchored the room.
    There was a pantry with a window off to the side, open to the kitchen. We took baths in the pantry in a galvanized tub, using water heated on the stove. Back then, this seemed novel and fun. Looking back I'm struck by how much work it was to do anything, even taking a bath.
    On the other side of the kitchen was the room I slept in, a small living room of sorts. Her foot pedal operated sewing machine was in there, a small black and white TV set, where I remember watching Mighty Mouse.
    There were piles of Field and Stream magazine which put the fear of rabid animals deep into my psyche.
    That side of the house was low and the resident hound dog, Brownie, whose world was complete when we were there, could walk right up to the window and look in. He would bare his teeth in a doggie grin and wag his entire body starting with his tail and working forward. Waiting for me to get up so we could run through the woods together (and he would protect me from rabid foxes and skunks!).
    I loved sleeping in that room, so close to the warmth and smells of the kitchen, covered in my grandmother's quilts. I used to sleep in the hallway, in the bed under the stairs, until my father told me some story about a snake coming up through a hole in the floorboard under that bed. True or not, it freaked me out and I never slept there again. I think one of my siblings did.
    The L-shaped screened porch was where everyone hung out. It was on the shady side of the house and so much cooler. The chest freezer was out there and the top of the freezer was where the cakes lived. I always hoped to see my favorite - coconut. Sometimes there was Japanese Fruitcake (okay, but not my favorite), or caramel cake (also good, but again, not my favorite). Or there would be pie or maybe a fresh peach cobbler (second runner up!). A lot of the kitchen work - shucking corn, shelling peas or pecans, churning butter - was done out here.
    Across from the kitchen door, to the right as you stepped onto the porch, was a long shelf that held an white enamel basin. Next to the basin was a wooden bucket with a gourd dipper. That was essentially the bathroom, since there was no running water in the house. It was where you washed your hands and face, brushed your teeth. The water was cold and sweet and delicious.
    The dogs used to lay at the bottom of the hill where the water came out from the pipe attached to the basin. The dirt was cooler there. Sometimes when they were sleeping, we'd pour a dipper of water in the basin and watch them startle awake from the surprise bath. Harmless fun on the farm.
    My grandmother had a play grocery store that I adored. She kept it in the attic and as soon as it was polite to ask for it, I did. I'd sit in the big formal living room on the braided rug in front of the fireplace and play for hours. There were a couple of carts, a grocer figure and at least one woman (smaller than Barbie), and stands to stack the tiny fruits and vegetables in. I was eleven the last time we were there and I played with that thing.
    When I tired of the grocery store, I could sit on the front porch swing for hours by myself . (the budding introvert) Just looking and listening and thinking and noticing.

    Write About A Craft

    Back by popular demand, more prompt writing (okay, one person asked for more). From October 24, 2008.

    I am distinctly uncrafty. My best laid craft plans usually run amok. I have super-glued countertops, stapled my dining room table, nearly cut my femoral artery with a hacksaw, and all my decoupage projects have at least one cat hair floating prominently in them.
    In sewing class I had races down the hallway in the rolling chairs. I traded sleeves for buttonholes and got in trouble (what? they got done, right?) Patterns puzzle me, nail guns out smart me. I am constantly amazed I have all my body parts.
    My mother sewed most all my clothes when I was young and as a testament to my future as a craft un-doer, I ripped out hems with the heels of my shoes, tore off bows and sashes, and was generally a mess. My father said if given a crowbar, I could destroy the world.
    Not that he had room to talk. If something went wrong with an appliance, my mother would skip telling my father and jump right to calling the appropriate professional. If he tried to fix it, we would need a new appliance, not just a repair.
    I can barely put up a mini-blind - easy assembly my eye. Four hours and twelve drilled holes later it might be semi-functional. Just don't pull the cord too hard.
    I am a sloppy painter, hate finish work, and am not allowed to have a band saw.
    Yet people ask me for decorating advice and say they love how my house feels.
    So maybe I have a knack for arranging - if not making - things. Arranging is safer and no one needs stitches.



    I'd always wanted a truck.
    When I moved back to Florida in 1996, I didn't have a car, then after my dad had served as a cataract-ridden chauffeur for six months, my parents, God love 'em, gave me a small amount of money as a down payment on a vehicle.
    Thanksgiving weekend 1996, Angus Og (the Irish god of love) came into my life - a 1993 V-6 Ford Ranger XLT extended cab pick-up.
    That truck was like a dog or horse for me. He was my buddy, my I-got-your-back-adventurer-slash-partner-in-crime, and perhaps most importantly, my introvert escape pod.

    We spent every weekend together, listening to Fiona Apple, taking pictures, traversing the back roads of northern Florida and southern Georgia.
    Horse Stamp Church Road, Burning Church Road, roads I no longer remember the name of. Jekyll Island, Sea Island, St. Simon's Island, Savannah, St. Andrews Island, St. George, Big Talbot, Little Talbot, the Okefenokee Swamp, Fort Clinch, all those places were our stomping grounds.

    As a pick-up driver, there was a wave - loosely speaking - of camaraderie. When you saw another pick-up, you did this: with your wrist lying over the steering wheel (that's how you steer, duh),  you ever so subtly raise the first two fingers of your hand and give a slight upward nod. Sometimes you just got the two fingers in return - not the nod. Younger people did not know this etiquette, this is a generational gesture and only people thirty and older know it.

    When Fawn and I were in Ireland, we noticed many of the older men had a head twitch when they passed us. Kind of a neck adjustment sort of thing - a quick twist to the left. It was several days before we realized this was the Northern Ireland equivalent of a hat raise.

    Angus at the beach

    The Last One, I Promise

    The final prompt [for now] is from 2/16/06. We still met in the Border's store back then, kinda right out in the open and I remember starting to cry when I read this (you can read your piece if you want). The prompt was "Grandparents".
    My grandmother was a short (4'9") woman. My grandfather was probably 6'7" tall. We didn't see them much, because my father was in the Coast Guard and the coasts he guarded were far away from the red clay hills of Georgia.
    The things I remember most about my grandmother are love and food, how they wrap around me like welcoming arms. Neither of them were demonstrative physically, but love was as present there as a handmade quilt. I loved them more than I knew at the time.

    When I was three, she made my doll her very own tiny blackberry pie. (This chokes me up every time).
    I remember walking out in my grandfather's truck garden in the early morning before it got too hot and together we would pick the best cantaloupe for the breakfast table.

    I learned early that if I was quiet, I could sit on the porch with my mom and grandmother while they gossiped. There was work involved though, I was given my own bowl of peas to shell or beans to string. I had no idea who they were talking about, but it made me feel like I was part of the grownup club.

    My grandmother's pantry was full of jewel toned jars of emerald green beans, ruby red tomatoes, golden pickled peaches, all the fruits of her hard labors. She cooked on a wood burning stove, indoor plumbing didn't come until the 1970's.

    I didn't know until I was grown that they were "poor", tenant farmers, that they rented the house my father grew up in and sold moonshine to make ends meet.

    All I knew is that some of the best days in my life were spent at their house. Sitting on the front porch swing under the tall Georgia pines watching the red dust swirl up after a passing pick up truck. Using a gourd dipper to drink some of the sweetest coldest well water in the world. Being the only one up with my grandmother before it was light watching her make biscuits.

    Another Prompt

    Can you tell I've been cleaning house? This one was dated 9/16/06 and the prompt was "a letter to me from my house". (For some reason, my house has a Jersey accent.)

    Hey, you - the one who doesn't go outside in the summer. My grass looks like crap and the damn squirrels have chewed some of my siding. And the deck! Don't get me started on the deck!

    Inside you did good, I feel good inside. It's warm, I like the pictures you hung and the pottery. Like what you dd with the guest bath too, that color - that Mystic Iris - that's real nice.

    Hey listen, don't worry about that crack in the foundation, it's cosmetic only - really. You gotta trust me on this. I wouldn't lie to you. I like you, you're a good egg. I can tell.

    A new coat of paint would be nice ya know, that yellow you picked last year. I know, I know, you're still paying off the gutters. See, you are a good egg. I really appreciate not being all stuffed up with acorns.
    I won't lie to ya, I hear you talking about your house in Florida and how much you loved it. It hurts my feelings sometimes. I get it, first house, like a first love I guess. You're not my first either sister.

    But I do like you kid, you're trying. I can be overwhelming sometimes. I'm glad you picked me over that house in Woodcroft or the one in Trinity Park, you know the ones. You made a good choice, you won't be sorry. You'll see, I'll take good care of you.

    P.S. Please paint me soon.


    Another prompt. Dated 2/21/07

    There are many doorways in the Crane Cottage, an old Italianate mansion on Jekyll Island, Georgia.
    The front door is weathered wood with an ornate doorknob and plate. In the back, the courtyard is surrounded by a U-shaped, double barrel vaulted (also called a groin vault, but that doesn't sound very pretty does it?) loggia leading to french doors on each wing.

    How I loved this old building. Every time I came there was a new surprise, something I hadn't noticed before: the lion's head gutter spout, wrought iron flower pot holders on the balconies, the shutter tie backs (aka dogs) on the faded peeling blue shutters in the shape of clam shells. Then there were the old peach colored bricks peeking through the broken stucco, chairs in the courtyard with wrought iron leaf backs and bright POW! blue seats. She was unkempt then, but oh so interesting to a photographer; wood, glass, brick - so many textures!

    Once, a back gate was open and I snuck inside. There was a beautiful spiral staircase, parquet floor, arches in the hallways all curved angles. When I looked out the front windows, the marsh sparkled and winked at me.

    Now she's been gussied up. They tore down the trumpet vine and the cedar tree in the front. All her exposed brick is modestly covered in a new coat of white stucco. You can stay in one of the thirteen bedrooms and eat lunch in the courtyard by the fountain in the chairs with the bright blue seats.

    I miss her. She seems sad to me somehow, valiantly trying to be new again. She's too clean, too pretty.

    The doorknob's the same, but I don't take her picture anymore.