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


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Crazy Cat Lady

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

The Crazy Cat Lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It Takes A Village

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


It Takes A Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 12, 2016

Internet Dating For Seniors

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


Internet Dating       (April 23, 2013)

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

Yeah, right.

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

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

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

Username:  PrinceCharming1954

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

Chili Nights

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

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


Chili Nights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Happy Weekend, everyone!!!  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Most Inspiring People of 2015

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

Hope the new year has started off well for everyone!


Inspiring People of 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!!


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.

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.  
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.


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!!!!


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!!!