Welcome!

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.

cathyb

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...

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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…

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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!

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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!!




Christmas Articles

It's Saturday night, and the munchkins are sleeping over.  We've been in our jammies since around 4 p.m., had a yummy dinner, and the little ones are asleep.  The first week of 2016 is in the books, and from my corner of the world, it was a good week.  I hope all of you can say the same.

I'm a little behind in posting the newspaper articles to the blog, so I thought it would be a good time to catch up.  Here are the last two from the month of December.  The Joseph one is a re-do from a couple of Christmases ago, so if you were reading the blog at that time, you might remember it from then.

Christmas Cookies  (from the 12/16/15 issue)


My little brother loved to piddle in the kitchen from the time he was a little fella.  I was more interested in eating the food than preparing it.  One day, hunger got the best of me, and I decided to fix myself some tomato soup.  I don’t remember the details, but apparently I wasn’t doing it correctly.  Soon he was beside me with a dining room chair, which was bigger than he was.  He gently moved me aside, climbed up onto the chair, and said “Don’t worry, Cat, I’ll fix it for you.”  What a sweetheart! He fixed my soup for me that day, and he grew to be a very fine cook. 

I, on the other hand, still prefer eating the food than preparing it, so I never really got very good at it.  Shortly after I married in 1980, I invited my parents and my new in-laws over for dinner.  The menu escapes me at the moment, but the main dish was fried chicken.  My mom and dad arrived early to help with the last-minute preparations.  What bride doesn’t wish to impress her new in-laws with her homemaking skills?  I had just taken the chicken out of the pan when my mom got there.  It smelled so good, and was beautifully browned and crispy.  However, when my mom cut into a piece with a knife, it was still pink.  Whaaaat???  She asked me how long I cooked it, and I told her that I cooked it until it was done.  I mean… it was nicely browned and crispy, right?  Thankfully, my mom was able to salvage the chicken, and after we had finished dinner, my sweet mother-in-law had a good laugh as well.  But we didn’t spill the beans until after we had eaten. 

I may never have learned to cook fried chicken, but I did learn to enjoy making snacks, party food, and cookies.  When Christmas time came around each year, I’d rustle up a bunch of treats to share with friends and neighbors.   I’ve always enjoyed this tradition, but never so much as last year when my granddaughter helped me.  All of the grandkids have always enjoyed helping out in the kitchen, but when the pressure is on to produce, it normally worked better to spend my time in the kitchen when they weren’t here.  Sometimes “helping” wasn’t really helping at all.  My youngest
granddaughter has shown a real interest in cooking, so last year I decided to let her “help” me.  To my surprise and delight, she was actually very helpful!!  We made several batches of cookies, candy, and other treats to share.   I could never have done it without her.  We have always been very close, but we bonded in a different way that day in my kitchen – covered in flour, chocolate on our faces, and sticky fingers.  She wasn’t just a cute little girl whose hair I braided, or read bedtime stories, but a young lady learning how to measure ingredients and follow directions.  She was more excited than I was with each batch of cookies removed from the oven.  She even washed dishes!   Precious memories indeed. 

I’m looking forward to time in the kitchen with both granddaughters in the next few days, when it will be time to let the baking begin!!  My oldest granddaughter already knows her way around the kitchen really well, and does a great job.  It will be fun working together.  Not so much with my grandson yet.  We will spend special time together doing something else - just not in the kitchen.  While he sort of enjoys it, he’s rather impatient, and is more interested in the end result and eating the cookies!  Maybe next year he will enjoy the preparation and cooking process as well. What fun it will be to have all three of them “helping” me!!

How about you?  It’s not too late!!!  Drag out those recipe books and whip up some Christmas cookies!!


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The True Meaning of Christmas   (12/23/15)

For (hopefully) most of us, Christmas is all about Baby Jesus in the manger. For others, Christmas is simply a time of parties, the madness of retail frenzy, and maybe a warm feeling in the heart.  Not so much about Jesus, yet a happy time of peace and goodwill to men.  For some, Christmas is just a sad time of year to be endured.

Since becoming a mother myself, each year when Christmas rolls around and we focus on the manger, the angels, shepherds and wise men, I have had a much different attitude toward the parents.  Mary and Joseph.  They have become more real to me than before the birth of my own child.  

The personalization of Mary and Joseph seems to become stronger for me with every passing year.  There's a song called Mary Did You Know that has become popular over the past several years.  Another favorite song about Mary is Amy Grant's version of Breath Of Heaven.  

Mary and Joseph were real people.  Young people. And they were real parents. Do you remember how you felt when you first held your own child?  There is no greater joy in the world. Chances are, though, that your red-faced, squirming, screaming little bundle of joy was wrapped in a clean blanket, after a sterile birth in a warm bed with a host of medically-trained personnel orchestrating the event.  Dad may or may not have been present in the room at the time of the birth, but if he was, his only hands-on involvement might have been cutting the umbilical cord.  The responsibility of the birthing process didn't rest on his shoulders, because the nurses and doctors were there to facilitate a safe birth. No doubt about it.  The birth of a child rocks our world, and we discover within us a love that we never imagined existed. 

Mary and Joseph were real people.  I can't imagine how frightened they were.  We women complain about the discomforts of pregnancy.  Can we imagine traveling for miles and miles on the back of a donkey with a baby lying low in the womb?  We have our birth plans all mapped out, and we pre-register at the hospital a month or so in advance.  All we have to do is walk in the door, and our labor and delivery is managed by those trained to assist us.  There was no warm hospital bed for Mary.  I can imagine a frantic Joseph desperately searching for a place to stay as Mary leaned against the smelly donkey, holding her stomach as the pains of birth were upon her.  There were no brightly-lit rooms or warm blankets. There was a dusty barn, likely filled with the smell of animal poop rather than antiseptic soap.  There were no beeps of medical contraptions to surround her, rather the soft breathing of the animals, perhaps the lowing of cattle in the distance, the whinny of horses or bleating of sheep as the background music for the birth of her child.  Young Joseph wearing his dirty travel clothes was her attendant, not a host of nurses clad in clean scrubs.  Joseph, who had no Prepared Childbirth classes, attended Mary as she labored, and at the final moment, received into his hands the Glory of God, as Jesus entered into the world in the form of a flesh-and-blood human.  

I wonder what Mary and Joseph were thinking as they cleaned Him up, and wrapped him in tattered blankets?  Because of the visits from the angels, the immaculate conception, they knew that something Pretty Big was going down.  But.  Did they know?  Did they know What, and Who they were holding? I like to think that God bathed them with grace to protect them from what was coming down the road.  I can't imagine what it would have been like for them to know from the get-go the path that He would take, and what He would ultimately submit himself to.  

There are few things sweeter to me than pictures of a dad holding his baby.  I love a daddy who loves his children, and isn't afraid to show it.  Do we think that Joseph is any different from other dads? Somehow it seems we don't think much about Joseph at all.  He was an exceptional young man, called upon by God to do a crazy thing:  Marry his pregnant girlfriend, with whom he knew HE had never been intimate.  Obedient to the voice of God, he was a faithful servant, and did as he was told.  There were no lights or cameras in the stable, but I imagine that Joseph was as overcome with emotion as any other dad upon witnessing the birth of his child, or upon seeing the baby for the first time behind the glass walls of a nursery.  

As Mary slept afterward, can't you just see Joseph gazing into the face of his child, the way all new parents do, wondering at the miracle of birth.  ESPECIALLY THIS BIRTH!!

Have you heard this song?  It’s called Joseph’s Lullaby.  So amazing.

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Go to sleep my son, this manger for your bed.
You have a long road before you, rest your little head.
Can you feel the weight of your glory? 
Do you understand the price?
Does the Father guard your heart for now,
So you can sleep tonight?
Go to sleep my son.  Go and chase your dreams.
This world can wait for one more moment 
Go and seep in peace.
I believe the Glory of Heaven is lying in my arms tonight.
Lord I ask that he, for just this moment, simply be my child.
Go to sleep my son.  Baby close your eyes.
Soon enough you'll save the day.
But for now, dear child of mine.
Oh, my Jesus, sleep tight.  
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Wow.  If that doesn't give you a new view of Joseph, I'm not sure anything can. Mary was real. Joseph was real.  Jesus IS real!!  I hope this year it all feels very real for you. 

Merry Christmas, from my house to yours!!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Oh Christmas Tree

This week's article in the Journal


“Have you put up your Christmas tree yet?”  That’s an often-heard question this time of year.   I saw a few homes with trees up well before Thanksgiving this year.   Of all the Christmas memories of childhood, I think my favorites are the beautiful trees my daddy would find and cut down for our family room.  Well… most of them were beautiful.  There were a few Charlie Brown trees along the way, but mostly they were perfect.  Always a highly-fragrant cedar tree, with the old-fashioned colored lights.  I loved those old-timey lights that we use to have before the miniature lights came out.  They were so heavy that my daddy had to attach them lower on the branches of the cedar trees, as the frail ends  couldn’t hold the weight.  Besides, we needed the tips of the branches free for the tinsel, or “icicles”, as we called them back then.  I remember my grandaddy sitting in the command seat, navigating placement of the icicles to be sure that not one tiny branch went unadorned.

One year, we ended up with a tree that was so large it covered the double-windows!  We didn’t have enough ornaments, so it was somewhat sparsely decorated.  There’s an old black-and-white picture of my snaggletooth self, standing proudly in front of the mammoth tree, with my hair in sponge curlers.  We were so proud of our giant tree!!  (tried to find the pic for the blog, but no luck with that)

Our family room was on the back of the house, which meant that the travelers up and down Broad Street were not able to see our tree.  One year Mamma Lorene, my dad’s mom, gave us one of those fabulous trees made out of aluminum.  We proudly assembled the tree, added the fuchsia-colored balls, and put it in front of the double windows in the dining room, on the front side of the house.  There was this lamp that sat in the floor, with a rotating plastic disk of different colors.  The disk would turn slowly, and the colors would fade from one to the other.  I much preferred the live tree with the multicolored lights, but was delighted to have TWO trees in our house each year. 

As the years went by, some of the ornaments were lost or broken.  Seems that we always managed to hang onto the ones my brother and I made at school, and those were hung each year with love.  At some point, we swapped out the chunky lights that I loved for the newfangled miniature lights that were becoming so popular.  It was the end of an era, and even though the tiny blinking lights were beautiful, I’ve always been partial to the old chunky ones. 
The first Christmas tree after I got married in 1980 was a special tree.  Not a cedar tree like I had grown up with, but some kind of pine tree that we cut at a tree farm.  With little money to spend for decorations, I opted for DIY ornaments, and our tree was covered with homemade felt snowmen and clothes-pin reindeer, a few fake red apples, and some candy canes.  But there were lots of colored mini-lights!!!   And because it was our very first tree together, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. 

There have been many trees since then.  I remember scoring a really expensive fake tree after the holidays one year.  It was perfectly-shaped, and looked better than some of the real ones we had used in the past.  I was so excited to have this flame-retardant tree, meaning we could put it up earlier, leave it up longer, and it also meant I could put my favorite chunky lights on it!  I went to the store and bought a gazillion of them, and put them on our new tree.  Couldn’t wait for the hubby to get home and commend me for our old-fashioned Christmas tree.  To my great disappointment, he made me take them off, and return them to the store.  What with being a fireman and all, he only saw the fire risk, and not the beautiful ambience I was attempting to achieve.  So I had to undecorate the tree, remove the lights, and take them back.  I pouted for days, and only half-heartedly redecorated. But by then, it was Whitney’s third Christmas, and she was at such a fun age I couldn’t stay mad for long.  

The year that she was in first grade was the first Christmas that she and I lived alone, and we carried that fake Christmas tree with us during several moves through the years.  We had a tradition on tree-decorating day – there was an old VHS Disney tape of Christmas songs.  We’d listen to it every year while we decorated.  When she was in high school, the old tree finally died, and I replaced it with a tall, skinny tree that she laughed at, but once decorated, admitted it was a really pretty tree. 

Nowadays, it is the eyes of my grandchildren that sparkle at Christmastime.  One of my favorite spots to photograph them is in front of a Christmas tree.  Last year found me feeling a bit overwhelmed, and not really interested in much holiday fanfare.  I didn’t put up my tree until the week the kids were out of school…   which was one week before Christmas!  Normally, I’m very persnickety about the ornaments being placed just so, but not so much last year.  Because of my indoor kitties, I use a small 4’ tree on a table, in an effort to keep them away from it.  Last year, though I kept my precious, breakable treasures safely packed away, I let the kids decorate the tree.  They took turns using the step-stool to reach the higher branches, but 90% of the ornaments are on the lower half of the tree.  A job obviously done by children.  But… the joy I was lacking crept back into my heart as I watched them decorate “their” tree all by themselves.  They were so proud, and the occasion was, of course, marked by many photographs and videos.  Because the tree is so small, when I got around to taking it down (don’t even ASK!) I just picked it up and set it in an extra bedroom.  Still decorated. 

So now it is Christmas 2015!!!  My little tree was delivered from the extra bedroom to its place in the living room.  Still decorated from last year.  It was my intention to undo the kids’ handiwork and re-decorate it with at least a little symmetry in mind.  But every time I reach to take something off, I am reminded of how much fun they had decorating it last year, and how excited they will be to see that I am using it that way again this year. 

Yes, Christmas trees are my favorite part of the holiday.  And one of my favorite sayings about Christmas is this:  It’s not about what’s under your Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.  I hope you will share special moments with special people around a tree this season. 

So, let me ask - have you put up your Christmas tree yet?  Just remember....





Sunday, December 6, 2015

Empty Chairs

There were two empty chairs at our Thanksgiving gathering this year.  Aunt Peggy and Aunt Carolyn are no longer with us, and this is the first holiday season without them.  I think of my cousin Elaine, and my friend Lewiss, who are missing Miss Reba this season.  And so many others.  My article in last week's Journal spoke of our losses.  Here's the article.  Hugs to all my friends who also have empty chairs at your tables.

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Empty Chairs

The turkey is gone, and the pumpkin pies are but a sweet memory.  Black Friday bargains are waiting to be wrapped, and Christmas trees are going up in homes all over town.   The holiday season is officially upon us!  Twinkling lights reflect in the eyes of excited children, as the anticipation is almost more than they can bear.   A friend on Facebook recently posted a photo of a vintage Sears Christmas catalog.  How many of us remember poring over its pages as kids, dreaming of the toys we’d find under the tree?  The rush of adrenaline we’d feel at the sight of that jolly old Santa?   Even all these years later, those Santa pictures conjure up happy memories of childhood.  I vividly remember a “Night Before Christmas” coloring book, and a new box of crayons.   Hours were spent coloring at my grandmother’s dining room table, being careful to stay between the lines.  Every now and then, one of the adults with sit and color with me for a while.  What is it about a new box of crayons and coloring book that brings about such pleasure?  The smell of new crayons never fails to take me back to those days, and coloring with my own grandchildren is one of the few activities from my childhood that we can enjoy together.

For most of us, the holidays are synonymous with family.  As children, we are focused on the excitement factor- the lights, the hustle and bustle, and, of course, the gifts.  At some point, the childhood magic fades, and we begin to understand the deeper meaning, and experience a new kind of magic.   The kind of magic that makes us tear up at Publix commercials on TV.   The soldier returning home in time for Christmas dinner.  The new baby’s first Christmas, all decked out in their precious outfits.  The family who realizes that this will be the last holiday spent with a loved one.  The long-overdue reconciliation of a strained relationship.  For some families, the only time everyone gets together is at the holidays.  We look forward all year to the time when we can sit down together and share a meal.  While our tables may not be Publix commercial-worthy, I doubt any of us would trade our family gatherings for the picture-perfect scenes that invoke such emotions on TV. 

And yet, while we are focusing on all our blessings and loving on our families, we need also to remember those who are hurting.  As unfathomable as it seems, there are people who do not share in our bounty of family members, and the warmth of hearth and home.  The sound of bells and the sight of red kettles outside stores during the holidays is an ever-present reminder of those in need. 

Then there are those who, though they have no lack of necessities, are sad and lonely during the holidays.  I can’t imagine spending the holidays alone – yet there are those who endure the loneliness year after year.  Day after day the loneliness haunts them – though more acutely so when colorful lights are twinkling, and Christmas music permeates the airwaves.

There were two empty chairs at our Thanksgiving table this year.  We lost two beautiful ladies within four months of each other, my Aunt Peggy, and my Aunt Carolyn.  Aunt Peggy was my mom’s best friend.  The holidays, while wonderful and joyous, also accentuate the absence of those we love.  We all know someone who is hurting this year because of the loss of someone they love.  I think of a good friend, who lost her battle with cancer, and the devastated husband and best friend she left behind.  So many empty chairs.  Loss is part of life.  Death, divorce, estrangement, deployment.    So many reasons for empty chairs. 

This year, as we celebrate the Christmas season, may we first remember that Jesus Is The Reason For The Season, and then may we remember to pray for those who will be seated at tables with empty chairs. 


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Double Dippin'


I must confess.  I'm a double dipper.  Sometimes I'll use an article from "my column" as a blog post, and sometimes I'll pull blog posts from the past to create a new article for the paper.  My blog doesn't have a large following,  and lots of those don't read the paper, so I think I'm fairly safe.  At least if accused with plagiarism, it will be my own words that I'm stealing.  HA!  Here's the column from this past week's edition of The Barrow Journal.  Several of my facebook friends have told me, "I was there!", and they remember exactly what I'm talking about.  Fun times!!!!

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Friday Night Lights

Given my choice, I’d much rather read a good book, or piddle around in my craft room than sit in front of the TV to watch “the game”, with few exceptions.  Sports have never been a huge priority in my life.

Check that.  If we could turn back the clock, oh, let’s say about a hundred years to 1969, I believe you’d find me as passionate about a ballgame as any fan between the hedges could ever hope to be.  Back in those days, there were six elementary schools throughout the county.  Our schools went through the 8th grade – no middle school, except for the Winder crowd.  Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were allowed to try out for the basketball team and the cheering squad.  I can dribble bounce a ball while standing still.  That’s about the extent of my basketball skills.  Forget walking/running and dribbling.  Talk about a comedy of errors!!! However, you give me some saddle oxfords and some pom-poms, and I could cheer with the best of them.  And cheer we did!! Every Friday night during the fall and early winter, we’d pack the gymnasiums all over the county, and Play Some Basketball!!!  Each school would play the five other teams – once at home, and once away.  There would be standing room only in the old gymnasiums, with tiny concession stands stocked with candy bars and soft drinks.  And you’ve never seen such rabid fans!  Parents, grandparents, members of the community would come out and pack the place, and the screaming and shouting, I’m sure, could be heard all over town.  It was Serious Business.  We screamed, we cried, we hollered at the refs, and we stormed the floor after every win.  On the way home from away games, we’d to go Dairy Delite for ice cream. Sometimes we’d sneak and sit with a sweetheart and maybe hold hands on the dark bus ride home.  Gives a new appreciation to the phrase “Those were the days”. 

I wasn’t fortunate enough to make the cheer squad in high school.  One year I made the first cut, but not the second.  I couldn’t play an instrument, so there was no marching band for me.  So, I was relegated to The Walk.  You know the one.  Walk from the concession area to the stands.  Then back again.  A thousand times.  Throughout the entire game.  Sometimes we’d stop on the sidewalk and talk with friends.  If we felt really brave, we’d walk into enemy territory to check out the cute guys.  Then one year I got myself a sweetheart who played football, so I felt compelled to watch the game – though I knew nothing about it.  Everything I know about football, I learned from his parents, who patiently explained the basics and answered my questions.  I must say that after I learned about it, the game became much more interesting.


Interesting enough, in fact, to start attending the GA games in Athens.  I wasn’t a season ticket holder, but I missed very few home games.  Before the stadium was enclosed, there was a little side gate over by The Bridge, where students could get in for $2.00.  Then there was The Hill.  Yes, you remember The Hill!!  Hundreds of people would sit on the grassy hill to watch the game.  (And I think most of them were from Winder!!!!) The fact that it happened to be right next to the opposing team’s seating area only added to the fun.  There was a special little song we used to sing to the Vandy fans….  Anyone remember?  So many fun times on The Hill.   I also got in big trouble one time on The Hill….. but we’ll just leave it at that. 


Years later, I would again find myself in the stands every Friday night to watch the Double-G Doggs.  Whitney was in marching band in high school, and I was a Band Mom.  I loved every minute of it!!  And though I really went for the band, I enjoyed the game as well.  More fun memories.

This year’s season is upon us, and the excitement in town is palpable.  I don’t expect I’ll be attending any of the Dawg or Dogg games this year, but I’ll have the TV on for the GA games.  Here’s to a fabulous season for our favorite red and black teams!   

Goooo Dawgs!  And Goooo Doggs!!!  

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Great Day To Be Me!


The worst thing about being me today was putting on clothes and shoes at an ungodly hour this morning. HA!! What a lucky girl I am, to be able to say that!!!!  The best thing about being me was starting a new job that I can already tell I'm going to absolutely love.  Working from home for all these years has kept me in hermit mode, and while I do enjoy my alone time, I'm happy to be working among those who can converse with words other than "meow".  (Although I do believe my kitties missed me terribly today!)

Having already gone into the office on a couple of earlier occasions made today a little less overwhelming.  There is still MUCH to learn, but the gals who have been working with me are a.w.e.s.o.m.e., and I want to be like them when I grow up.  :-)  Or at least within the next few weeks.  It's a great concept, and a total win-win-win for the patient, the physician, and ME!  I'm only a tiny bit impatient that I haven't already mastered the EMR software.  I know it will take time, but I can't wait to learn it all!!!

After sitting at a desk all day for a couple of decades, NOT sitting at a desk is going to be a challenge. But I'm consoling myself by thinking about all those steps I'll be taking, and all those calories I'll burn.  (Silver lining, you know.)  Advil helps, and even though my shoes are hideously ugly, they're pretty comfy.  I'll hafta get me some sho-nuff good shoes for the long haul, but avoiding pain is top priority for the moment, until I can get myself better conditioned.  It didn't help much that I'm terribly sore from doing yard work this weekend - serious tugging and pulling (by hand) a large patch of rogue weeds, and some runaway spearmint plants.  Not to mention the hours and hours (well at least 20-30 minutes) of weed-eating, lots of bending and stooping, etc.  My arms still haven't recovered from holding the weed-eater.  My legs scream whenever I sit down or stand up.  That should be gone by tomorrow, though, so I'm looking forward to some serious improvement in mobility.  

Another great thing about being me today was some incredible bargains I found!!  On my way home, I stopped at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  My vision is so terrible that I have to use a  very strong magnifying mirror for girly stuff.  I can't see my eyelashes, I can't see my eyebrows, and I like to keep an eye out for all the new gray hair that keeps popping out.  On the dark side, the mirror also exposes terrible things on my face that I really don't want to see - like the giant pores large enough to land the space shuttle, the broken capillaries, and the wrinkles ravines etched into my face.  Do you remember the song "Mama Told Me Not To Come"?  Yep, I kinda feel that way when I look into this mirror.  But, alas, I need the mirror. I seem to have misplaced the one I had been using.   So I went into BB&B to pick one up.  My last trip to Wal Mart netted me a 10x, and I wanted a 15x like my prior one.  BB&B didn't have 15x ones, but they had a bin full of 20x ones.  OH NO.  The ravines will be canyons now.  Nevertheless, I was delighted to see that they had been marked down 50%, from $19.99 to $9.99.  Now, let me tell you, I almost wet my pants when I saw the tag that said 75% off the lowest marked price.  Are you kidding me? $2.50!!!  So, of course, I grabbed several.  One for each bathroom, and one for work.  On account of you just never know when you might need to watch a space shuttle landing up close and personal.  

Also on the 75% off rack, I found some little wine bottle dress-up thingies.  Like you'd drape over a bottle of wine when giving as a gift.  My brother makes his own wine, and will sometimes give the wine as gifts.  I thought these would be cute for him.  Go on.  Ask me.  How much did I pay for them??  Well... The original price on them was $7.99.  They had been reduced many times already, and when she rang up the first one it was .12 cents.  Yes.  T-w-e-l-v-e cents.  I told her to hang on just a minute - I wanted to grab a few more of those babies.  I went back to the clearance shelf and grabbed up the remaining ones.  So for less than $2.00, I probably have enough wine-cover-thingies for my brother's entire line this year.  So much fun!!

I'm in serious thrift mode these days, what with the job change and all, but I'm thinking I might be stopping by BB&B fairly regularly now to check out that 75% off rack, seein' as how It's right on the way home from work. Santa will be coming before long, and who knows what cool items might end up on the clearance rack?!?!?  The store is moving, and she told me they are putting a lot of items on clearance to prevent having to move them. SWEET!!!!

AND the same route that takes me to BB&B also takes me right by Aldi's.  I've recently discovered that I can save tons of money by shopping there, so I'm super excited about that.  Time to stock up on the produce!!!

So, yep - it was a great day to be me!  I'm home now, all fresh and clean and once again in my jammies. I've got a little bit of clinic work to do, and then it's off to bed.  

Please remember to say prayers for and/or send happy thoughts to my co-workers, as they continue the job search.  These things tend to move slowly, and transition time will be here before we know it.  While I'm very thankful to have landed what I'm confident will be a fabulous job for me, my heart still lies with my sister eagles, and it won't seem "right" until we've all found our new nesting place.   

I hope today was a great day to be you, and that tomorrow will be even better!!

CathyB

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bittersweet


In the spring of 1992, I started working part-time at St. Mary’s Hospital as a radiology transcriptionist.  I’ve never looked back.  I still have my original employee ID number, and have been on the employee roster all these years, either as part-time, full-time, or prn.  

In the spring of 1999, I came on board with St. Mary's full time.  Except for a three-year stint in a local ortho office, I've been full-time ever since.  

The date eludes me now, but sometime in the early 2000s, the hospital embraced the growing trend of remote transcription, and sent us home to work.  So, instead of working in little cubicles in a room of six to eight medical transcriptionists, we set up our offices at home, and spent our days working in PJs and socks.  It was fabulous! 

When the first home-based computer connected to the hospital for the first time, an e-mail was sent that said simply:  The Eagle has landed.

From that day forward, we have called ourselves The Eagles, and we’ve been very happy in our little nests at home. We are scattered over six different counties, yet we have remained a very close-knit family, and every now and then we pack up and go to our Home Nest (the hospital) to work for a day in order to attend meetings, gatherings, etc.  We’ve seen babies born, grow up, graduate high school and college, seen them get married, have us some grandbabies, and we’ve watched our parents grow old.  We’ve suffered heartbreak, life-threatening illnesses, celebrated victories, and held each other close in times of sadness.  We greet each other via email each morning, and strategize the game plan for the day’s work.  We cover for each other when someone needs to be out.  I do believe we have been closer than some actual blood-related families. And like families will do, every now and then, we have our spats and disagreements (and the occasional accidental “reply all” e-mail incidents that can go badly), but love and respect always win.  We forgive and move forward.  And we perform our jobs as best we can, always with the patient’s best interest in mind.  It’s what we do.  And what we have loved for many, many years.  It has also been a wonderful blessing that we all share the same faith, and are able to encourage each other in that regard.  Nowadays that’s a rare thing.  What a joy that has been!

It seems impossible that it could be coming to an end.  As you may remember from an earlier post, our jobs are being outsourced to a very large corporate-endorsed transcription agency.  We were given the option to go with the company, but none of us want to do that, and we’ve all been seeking other employment. 
One of the Eagles has already left the nest due to medical reasons, so we’re down one person already.

And now it’s my turn.  Today will be my last day in the nest.  On Monday, I’ll be landing in a new nest as I go to a new job.  I’m praying my wings will be strong enough to carry this old bird into a new land, to learn new things and work with a new family.  I’ll be working in a family practice office, and will carry my transcription skills with me as a medical scribe.  It’s kind of the same thing I’m already doing, except the doctor won’t be dictating the words for me to transcribe.  Instead, I’ll go into the room with the doctor, and listen to the interaction between physician and patient, and document the pertinent information into the EMR.  I’ve been in the office with him on two days already, and find this concept to be very liberating for the physician.  When I visit my PCP, she is hardly able to make eye contact with me, because she is constantly switching from screen to screen on the laptop, trying to find the information she needs, while asking me questions and trying to take care of me.  Not the case with a scribe in the room.  When I was working with Dr. J., I was ecstatic to see his interaction with the patients.  He could sit on his little stool right in front of them, look into their eyes and really see the patients.  They could feel it too. They know they have his attention, and that he is really listening to them. I’m there to document everything, and try to anticipate anything he might need, such as prior lab work, and can have that ready for him to view, saving him from having to search for it.  It is a WONDERFUL concept, and I love it already.  It makes me want to be his patient, too!  It’s so sad nowadays that doctors can’t be doctors because of all the red tape and hoops they have to jump through. 

While I am very excited, I’m also very sad.  I wasn’t sure of my last day as an Eagle, as there were several factors that determined my start date at the new job.  The phone call came yesterday morning.  I had already cleared with my immediate supervisor to be off the Thursday and Friday before whenever my start date would be.  So that means today is my last day.  The process seems to have taken forever, but it got real when I told my family of co-workers that Wednesday would be my last day.  I cried like a baby.  Some of them did, too, and it ain’t over yet.  I expect we’ll be leaving one by one, until there’s no-one left.  At least that’s the plan, because none of us want to go with the agency.  (Nasty company to work for!!)  So instead of ripping the bandage off in one fell swoop, and all transition into the agency together, we’ll be going our separate ways one at a time.  It will be more like taking the bandage off a little bit a time - a slow and painful process, as one by one we leap from the nest into skies unknown.  We vow and declare that we will always be close, and nothing has to change.  We don’t see each other every day anyhow, so we can still e-mail and Facebook.  But there’s just something about being in the nest together, sharing a common goal, knowing someone always has our back.  That part will be gone. 

The office where I’m going is within the St. Mary’s system, so I’ll still be an employee of the hospital.  This is a good thing because I get to keep my years of service, leave accrual rate, benefits, etc. 

But still, it is very bittersweet.  I’m going to miss my family: Tammy, Pam, Cheryl, Jeneine, June, and JoAnn.  Tammy, our transcription supervisor, has grieved right along with us, and worried herself nearly sick that we have lost our jobs.  She has been wonderful through this entire process, and we have been so fortunate to have a fair, compassionate, hard-working, supervisor who appreciates us, and tells us so very often.  While there is nothing locally we can do about corporate decisions, I feel safe in saying the hospital is losing a dedicated group of loyal, long-standing employees. The trade off for saving money by outsourcing will be offset, I’m afraid, by strangers - many of whom live overseas- who have no vested interest in our hospital, and care not one bit about our patients.  Sadly, in corporate America, the bottom line is the almighty dollar. 
But, as I have always believed, everything happens for a reason.  We can fret and be bitter about the change, or we can take it as an opportunity to get out of our jammies, and get our  homebody selves out into the world.  Shake things up a little bit.  Meet new people, learn new things.  Make a difference in the world.  Even if we do have to wear clothes and shoes. 

I’m truly grateful that this job came along – and in retrospect I can see that it was orchestrated (I believe by God), many months ago in a casual conversation with a friend from church - long before I knew I would be losing my job.  There have been a few moments of anxiety, but for the most part, I’ve been very calm and assured that everything would work out, and that God would provide what I need.  And I’m still counting on that heavily, as there is a significant difference in compensation.  (If you look for me and can’t find me, I’m probably living in a refrigerator box under a bridge, surfing the internet for different ways to prepare ramen noodles. Haha!)   Nah…. I’m pretty sure my mama and DJ won’t let me go hungry, and my dad would probably let me and the kitties live in the basement with his electronic stuff if it comes down to that.  So I’m not worried.  Well, maybe a little about the ramen noodles part – never developed much of a palate for that… 

To my Eagle Family:  As we go our separate ways, may our journeys from the nests we’ve known for so long be safe and prosperous, and may we always remember this:  The Eagles will land again, and God will be the wind that carries us until we arrive safely at our new homes. We can do this.  We are The Eagles!!  Thank you, ladies, for loving me during the best of times and during the worst of times.  You are all a part of me, and I will carry you with me as I go.

Today it is my turn to fly. I’ll turn off my computer one last time at the end of my shift today, and say goodbye to a career that has served me well, and which I have loved, for many, many years.  Monday morning I’ll walk through a new door, get to know my new family, park my car at a new address, and do my best to make a difference in someone’s world each day.

And all the while, I’ll remember this verse from Lamentations:  “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.  I say to myself, The LORD is my portion, therefore will I hope in Him.”


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back To School



Fall is my favorite time of the year!  Sadly, school starts back in the middle of summer!!! Earlier and earlier!
For Barrow County, the day was August 4th.  I was so thankful to be able to take Leyland and Corey to school on the first day for one last time.  (See pictures in a previous post!!) Working from home has afforded me the most wonderful opportunity of doing little things like that, and attending special school functions, that I wasn't able to with Whitney.  Since my days of working at home are swiftly coming to an end, I was especially happy to be able to enjoy it one last time.

Every year when back-to-school time rolls around, I am carried back in time to those days when I was a school kid.  One summer in particular comes to mind.  I wrote about it for "my column" in the Barrow Journal, and it ran last week.  For those of you who don't read that paper, I'll share it here, in hopes that it will trigger your own childhood memories of hot summer days and the anticipation of going back to school.  

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Back To School

“I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates, you’ve got a brand new key. I think that we should get together and try them out, you see.” Does that bring back memories to you like it does to me?

That was a silly song popular the summer before I entered 7th grade. It wasn’t a particularly favorite song of mine, but the lyrics and tune were quite catchy. What I did like about it was that it made riding a bike pretty cool, and the “person” in the song was probably about the same age as we were that hot summer of 1970. We rode our bikes everywhere. And like the song says, we didn’t go too fast, but we went pretty far. All over Statham, to be exact. The dirt sidewalks laden with centuries-old tree roots were a favorite obstacle course. We’d bounce along, expertly avoiding the roots, or if we felt really brave, we would drive over them, bouncing around like popcorn kernels in a pan of hot oil. At that time, the streets in Statham were paved, but not with asphalt. I don’t know what it was called, but it was an irregular, gravel-type material, with uneven rocks. I remember this vividly, because sometimes I’d lose chunks of my big toes to the offending street surface.

My bike was an ugly, old-fashioned, blue bike. I remember it was my dad who ran along behind me, holding onto the back of the bike to keep me from falling, and then finally let go when it seemed like I had the hang of it. He was so proud! A rite of passage never felt so good.  I loved riding the bike, but I hated the bike. It was so old-fogey. All my friends were riding the newfangled “banana bikes” with the sleek seats and high-rise handlebars. And I’m still on Old Blue with the wire basket and battery-operated headlight that jutted out about 6" on the front looking for all the world like something off the Batmobile. I longed for a new bike with all my heart. One Sunday my mom and dad called my brother and I outside.  What a surprise! Brand new bikes for both of us! I almost had a heart attack right on the spot!! I got my snazzy new banana bike with the white wicker basket on front (and no stupid battery-operated headlight). It was hot pink, had a white seat with flowers on it. AND it had pom-poms on the high-rise handlebars. I don’t expect a teenager with a brand new car could have been more excited than I was with my new bike!!

I would love to know how many miles we logged on the streets of our little town. We all wore out two or three bikes over the years, and would celebrate whenever someone got a new one. We would decorate the wheels with brightly-colored beads that would slide up and down the spokes with every turn of the wheel. Sometimes we’d take playing cards and fasten them on the forks with clothespins. We sounded like a pack of Harleys cruising up and down Broad Street.

Back in those days, the school at Statham went 1st through 8th grade. We always had two classes for each grade. We stayed in the same room all day, and had the same teacher all day. Always female. But as we prepared to enter the 7th grade, we were excited to learn that we would have different teachers throughout the day, and some of them would be MEN!! We were really moving up in the world!! A few weeks before school started, Bobbie Jean and I rode our bikes down to the school house. We went inside to check out the classrooms, and to see if we could scope out the new teachers. Once inside, we met Mr. Austin, and learned that we would be in his homeroom. He teased us unmercifully about riding our bikes, and told us we reminded him of the I-Ride-My-Bike,-I-Roller-Skate,-Don’t-Drive-No-Car song. We dutifully informed him that bikes were the preferred mode of transportation for upcoming 7th graders, and we were proud of it. But after that, the bike song was kind of our theme song. 

What a different world we live in today. I cherish my memories of growing up in Statham, and bike riding is one of my favorites. Every trip down Bike Memory Lane always takes me to that 7th grade classroom, meeting my first male teacher, and I hear that silly song again.

Next week the kids return to school.  Some will be excited, some will be sullen.  Summer doesn’t last nearly long enough these days.  Cell phones and social media keep them connected, so it’s like they’re not apart at all. Not so back in the olden days, and I always missed my non-Statham friends over the summer.  I always loved the hustle and bustle of back-to-school preparation, and the anticipation of seeing everyone again. Of course, that lasted about a week, then I was looking forward to the next summer break.

Here’s to all school kids, teachers, and the many other staff people who make educating our kids happen.  Hats off to all of you.  In just a few days, the future of our nation will be sitting in your classrooms.  Thank you for all you do to make our world a better place.  Have a great year!!!

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By now, the kids should be settled in their classrooms, and parents are hopefully adjusting to the new normal.  Football season is upon us, and soon it will be time for sweaters and Pumpkin Everything!!!  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Fourth of July At The Lake

   
Late Afternoon at The Lake

In years past, our family would gather as often as possible for holidays, birthdays, and just because we liked each other’s company.  

Labor Day weekend was spent “in the mountains” (Seed Lake) at Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Bill’s place.  We'd go there for a weekend in April, too, to celebrate the official opening of trout season.  <(((<

Fourth of July always meant going to “The Lake” (Lanier) at Aunt Joyce and Uncle Gene’s house.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, and boxer dogs everywhere.  Fireworks at dark, hand-cranked ice cream from a churn.  When it fell on a weekend, we'd all crash at the cabin and stay until Sunday. I never knew that this was a rare and precious thing.  It was just what we did.  So many happy memories of our times together.
 
Since the passing of my grandparents, the gatherings have become fewer.  There are only three occasions that we now celebrate with a gathering:  Thanksgiving, held the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, though that crowd is smaller each year, and 4th of July. 

I’m not sure how our celebration of Independence Day got moved to August, but, I guess that’s just how we roll.  Today was the day for our Annual 4th of July Family Reunion At The Lake. 

My morning started out the best of all possible ways – with Leyland and Corey giving me wake-up snuggles and love.  Mary and the littles had a sleepover with me last night.  Just in time!  I was about to nut UP from not seeing them for days and days.  Leyland hung around with me this morning to help with the cooking, and then we rode to The Lake together.  She is a natural in the kitchen, and loves to help.  She did an entire batch of fudge by herself, and assembled the green bean casserole. She mixed all the ingredients for the hash brown casserole, too, and was a great help to me.  It’s so much fun to have her in the kitchen!!

The weather was great, the fellowship was awesome, and it was almost the perfect day.  Bittersweet, though, – as this was our first gathering since we lost Aunt Peggy.  We miss her every day, but it sure didn’t feel right without her there today.  And it’s so sad to see Uncle Billy not doing well.  I don’t like this getting old stuff – not so much for what it is doing to me, but because it means their generation is getting into some serious elderly years.  I’m not liking that so much. 

It was cool to sit down by the water today, knowing that four generations of Dunahoo people have played there, sunbathed, skinnydipped, learned to ski, swim, and dive, and spend untold hours on the dock, riding in the boats, fishing, feeding the ducks, etc.  We'd lie on those cheap plastic rafts and bob up and down with each passing boat, delighted when they'd come close enough to churn up the waves.  We’d spend nearly every weekend in the summer at the cabin. The folks who owned the neighboring cabins did so as well, and it was like our little family community of Lake People away from reality. Some of the neighbors still come back to visit, and several of them still live there.  

One of my favorite moments of the day was looking out over the water and letting the memories flood my mind.  Our family has been so blessed.  My grandchildren’s relationships with their cousins won’t be anything like what my generation was.  My immediate family gets together on a more regular basis, but still not nearly enough.  Time is the ever-elusive treasure that, sadly, enslaves us.

Which is what makes days like today so extra super special.  Happy 4th of July, y’all!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Very Quiet Day


New Beginnings.  Remember when I wrote about that a few weeks ago?  Well – here’s what one of mine looks like!!   And there are more on the horizon!!

Today was the first day of school.  No grandchildren in my house, giving me hugs and kisses, “styling” my hair while I work, creating beautiful artwork with markers, and sharing their stories and discoveries.  

During the summer, I have one or more of them with me every day.  However, during the school year, my afternoon routine is to pick them up in the car rider line, bring them back here, feed them a snack, and settle in for a little TV time and homework time.  Because of my impending job change, we’ve had to make other arrangements for afterschool care, so I didn’t pick them up today.  My house has been very quiet.  All. Day. Long.  How I miss those sweet hugs and kisses, and “Greemaw, guess what?”  I think I’ll even miss the occasional whining and tattle-tale moments.  

It has been such a blessing to be able to get involved with their school activities, parties, ceremonies, having lunch with them, etc.  I’m trying to balance out my sadness at losing this with being grateful that I was able to do it to begin with.  I wasn’t able to do nearly as much with their mom when she was growing up, so doing it with the grandkids has been fabulous beyond words.  It has been a true blessing to be able to share their lives on a daily basis.

Here are a few of my favorite memories from school days:  (tried to keep in some kind of order, but it just didn't work - sorry!)

 






















 



 

 

 

 

 
























 

 

It’s kind of a nostalgic day all the way around.  Today is the three-year anniversary of the day I moved back to The 409.  It was not a good time in my life, and I wasn’t certain I’d survive it.  I don’t suppose I’ll ever understand why things sometimes happen the way they do, but I stand firm in my belief that everything happens for a reason.  What I lost that day three years ago was very difficult to overcome, but with my faith,  my friends … and time… I was able to get through it.  Before long, I began to realize that it provided the opportunity for me to focus my devotion on the most important thing in my life (besides Jesus, of course!) – and that is my family.  Moving back to Statham was always the goal, though I never imagined moving back alone.  However – the pieces fell together, and once I was able to breathe and function again, I realized that this is where I belong – even if it meant living on my own again.  Working from home allowed me to be here for the grandkids, to do things for Whitney, to be there when my parents needed me.  So – whatever the reason – I’m HOME, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

New Beginnings are scary.  Hearing that our jobs have been outsourced to an agency has been a bitter dose of reality.  We knew it would happen at some point – but we were hoping it would be years down the road, maybe to make it to retirement before the bomb dropped.  But, alas, we have become victims of technology, and there are four of us actively seeking other employment.  It’s kind of scary in today’s world to be at the mercy of corporate America, especially at my age.  But once again, I must have faith that everything happens for a reason.  While working at home in my jammies has been FABULOUS for all these years, I’m almost looking forward to getting out in the real world and interacting with people again.  [To be clear, I’m NOT excited about clothes and shoes… but I’m thinking it will be nice to be around people again.]

But in the meantime – until the day that I have to get dressed and drive in to my new place of employment – I’ll be here at home working in my jammies, in my quiet house, and miss those sweet grandkids who bring such pleasure and joy into our lives. I can’t wait for the first sleepover, to hear them laughing, talking, even bickering- every bit of it!  To feel their presence with me, to smell them and to love on them. To  having girl time with Mary - who has gone and grown up on me in the blink of an eye.   They are my heartbeat.  And I cherish the memories we’ve made together. 

Here are The Veal Kids on the first day of school 2015.  Mary is in 8th grade, Leyland is in 3rd grade, and Corey is in 2nd grade.  They are Greemaw’s sweet babies (no matter what grade they are in!!)