Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All I Wanted Was a Houseplant

Before Christmas I purchased myself a BARGAIN houseplant.  I paid just under $8 for it.  (Then I spent $34 on the pot for it, but it was still a good deal, right?)  You can see it in the photo...behind the white oscillating fan..and to the left of the dancing elf.  (She was singing and dancing to Jingle Bells sung by my dancing poinsettias, but that's another story.)  Although it was cool outside, it was imperative to have a fan going.   (When a 3-year-old visits there is NONSTOP activity which can cause women of a certain age to SWEAT.)

Although my houseplant and I got off to a shaky start due to a tree frog hiding in the watering can, I am now enjoying the newest addition to my living room.  I believe the palm tree is happy with its new home as it is filling out, sprouting new leaves, and not developing any brown areas.  It adds a bright spot of color to that corner by my front door and I just enjoy looking at it.  Everything would be perfect...except...except for ...

the *FLB.

Yes.  Him!  He spends a lot of time staring at the tree.  Up close and personal.  He will walk up to it, sniff around it, stick his stinkin' little nose in the dirt and sniff...


Then he will startle... and stare ... at SOMETHING he sees or thinks he sees in the tree.  He will back off and sit and stare.  Move closer.  Stare some more.  Eventually he forgets what he's doing and wanders away. He is driving me crazy.

I picked up that tree and plunked it in my shopping cart and hefted it into the back seat of my car and lugged it into my home.  If there was something IN the tree wouldn't it have jumped out and gotten me then?  Wouldn't it?

Today I remembered a story carried in the St. Augustine Record last July.  I looked it up and here is the headline:  "Garden Shop Reopens After Rattler Bites Shopper".  I am not kidding.  A man was shopping in the fern section of the St. Augustine Wal-Mart Garden Shop when his girlfriend's child dropped or threw a baby bottle onto the floor.  Said customer "reached under a plastic shelf" whereupon HE WAS BITTEN BY A PYGMY RATTLESNAKE!  He survived - after he was hospitalized.

The garden shop was closed so a wildlife professional could be called in and "assess the area".  Here's my favorite quote, "What is not known is whether the rattlesnake got into the garden center from nearby woods or if it came in on plants delivered to the store." 


Since 2006 three incidents were reported of snakes attacking customers in Wal-Mart Garden Shops around Florida.  In the almost-requisite "What to watch for" part of the article appeared my 2nd favorite quote: "The ornery pygmy rattlesnake is a 'sit-and-wait' predator that sits coiled in one spot, waiting for its prey to approach." 


So I'm sitting here wondering what the heck my dog is sniffing and staring at in my palm tree.  I bought it at Home Depot, not Wal-Mart.  Thank heavens.  I'm not going to DO anything with the palm tree like pick it up and move it - not anymore.

And I keep my eyes WIDE OPEN when I'm watering it - after I have checked out the watering can thoroughly.

Damn.  Just damn.

*Freakin' little bastard

Sunday, December 27, 2009


For some reason I wanted to watch TV very much this week.  I wanted the noise and the "company" that TV could provide, especially yesterday and today.  It was like a craving - no reasoning to it - just WANTED it. 

I knew that the TV would be full of AFTER CHRISTMAS SALES & LIQUIDATIONS commercials.  I reminded myself how annoying those would be. Still wanted TV.  I tried to analyze this craving:  did I associate TV with Christmas?  I was unable to dredge up any memories of TV and Christmas - no parades or events that I would miss. Still wanted TV.

I finally decided I was tired.  I had hosted dinner for my family Christmas Day and, even though we all had a great time, I was beat.  TV would be so EASY...just sit there and click click click my way into numbness.  Nothing (besides sleep) is as EASY and as MIND-NUMBING as watching TV.  And when I say "watching TV" I was not thinking of any particular show.  I still like certain TV shows and look forward to watching them in the future.  When I craved "watching TV" I craved sitting in my big chair with the remote and staring at the TV and tuning out.    

Instead of watching TV I cuddled up in my big chair with my new Sue Grafton mystery, and read.  What a pleasure to read something as well-written and intriguing as U is for Undertow.  Unlike so many writers today who take a formula and just basically "fill in the blanks" as they crank out book after book after book (can anyone say James Patterson?), Sue Grafton crafts each and every book the same way an artist creates a painting or a sculpture.  She experiments with point of view, she is attentive to detail, she creates living, breathing characters who you care about - even if they end up being the "bad guy".  

I start a new Grafton mystery by allowing myself a chapter or two at a time, but I always end up devouring the final chapters as the suspense builds to a surprising climax.  I finished this book last night.  I was sad for a few minutes - sad and satisfied - and then decided it was time to read the series from beginning to end again.  The series is so good that you can read and reread the books and enjoy them over and over again.

I've been reading a huge collection of Flannery O'Connor stories and I'm ready to be finished. What a tremendous talent!  I've learned a lot about writing, but I'm ready for something ... sunnier.  Not a lot of laughs in Ms. O'Connor's stories.  Same for Eudora Welty...another Southern writer with a very twisted way of looking at things.  I have The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass waiting for me at the library.  I may release my hold on that one - again, not a happy funny novel - and start rereading A is for Alibi.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


"Back in the day" when I used to watch TV I would use it to lull myself to sleep, or to pass the time when I couldn't sleep.  My ex and I divorced in 1992 and the following August I bought a house in Lake Capri, a quiet community of mostly older folks who had moved there in the 1970's and 1980's to retire.  Atlanta suburban sprawl had caught up to this part of Rockdale County and now it was just another suburban neighborhood.  I loved the area with its spring-fed lakes and walking trails, and I liked the house.

My older daughter, a senior in high school, moved in with her father, and my younger daughter stayed with me.  Our house had two bedrooms upstairs that shared a large bathroom and, on the weekends when my older daughter came to stay, the girls could have all the privacy up there they wanted.  The master bedroom was downstairs and I could also have all the privacy I wanted and needed at that time.  The house had a large fenced yard and the girls' two dogs lived back there.  Snoopy and Jodi were two mutts that the girls adopted at the pound when both dogs were just puppies.  Snoopy was a black chow-mix and Jodi was a huge hairy collie-shephard-and-something-else mix.  The dogs were my responsibility (problem) now as they were older and the girls had moved on to bigger and better things.

One winter night I could not sleep and I was channel-surfing, clicking from one station to another, looking for something, anything to watch.  I had put the dogs into our large utility shed because it was going to be below freezing that night.  Melissa was asleep upstairs (or so I thought) and Mary Lee was at her dad's.  I was in the divorcee's typical sexy nighttime outfit - an over-sized tee-shirt and panties.  Click.  Click.  SCREAM.  I jumped and clicked.  One of the channels must have had on a horror movie and I clicked on it just as some poor victim let out a bloodcurdling scream.  It gave me shivers and I made a note to skip that channel if I surfed near it again.  Click.  Click.  What's that?  Boring.  Click.  Click.

Let's change the point of view.  My daughter Melissa, who was 13 or 14 at the time, was upstairs just dozing off when a bloodcurdling scream woke her.  She froze in her bed as the scream was cut off!  MOM!?!  She listened and heard nothing.  O MY GOD!  Had something happened to Mom?  She reached for her phone and pulled it under the covers with her.  9-1-1.  She told the operator that she had heard her mother scream downstairs and she thought someone was in the house.  The operator immediately dispatched two deputies to the address and kept Melissa on the phone.  Was there any way she could get out of the house?  No, the stairs and front door were by her mother's room.  Was her bedroom door locked?  No, yes, maybe, sometimes it didn't lock all the way.  Did she want to check?  No!  She was too scared to even get out of bed.  For all she knew her Mom was dead and someone was coming up the stairs to get her!  The operator tried to calm her and kept her on the phone while the police hurried to our address.

Point of view shift:  Mom is watching some stupid movie or program downstairs totally unaware of what is going on in her daughter's room.  All of a sudden she sees lights dancing on the wall outside of her bedroom door.  Mom rubs her eyes; the lights are still there.  It looks like someone is shining a flashlight through her living room windows.  Holy crap!  Someone is trying to break in!  Mom is terrified!  She mutes the TV and slowly climbs out of bed looking for a weapon.  Nothing!  She tiptoes to her bedroom door and peers around the wall into the living room.  There are two people standing at her front door shining flashlights through the window!  One of them raps on the door and says, "Ma'am!  Police!  Can you come to the door?"


"Just a minute!" she says.  She stumbles to the door and slides back the latch.  She hears her daughter's bedroom door slam open and her daughter stampedes down the stairs saying, "I'm sorry!  I'm sorry! Mom, I'm so sorry!"

Mom opens the door to the police who are relieved that we are both all right, but supremely aggravated that,  in checking out the house before approaching the front door, they had heard noises around back and opened the utility door.  The two excited dogs had bounded out, jumped all over them, and had run away.  My daughter apologized for calling 9-1-1 and they were very kind to her and told her she did the right thing.  I was mortified to be standing there in an over-sized tee-shirt, wild hair, and clueless.  They apologized for releasing the dogs, and made a halfhearted attempt at rounding them up before they gave up and drove away.  Melissa ran back upstairs and fell asleep.  I put on some sweatpants and a jacket and retrieved the dogs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Something caught my eye as I eased up my driveway.  The afternoon was bright and sunny, but with the long shadows of approaching winter.  I turned my head and peered through my windshield and what I saw caused me to slam on the brakes.  A large bird - I think it was mostly brown both on its body and its wings, and I could only see it from the neck down and from below - swooped over my car and then rose over the back fence and the house behind.  A snake dangled from its beak!  (At this point I'm still fairly sure it was its beak and not its talons, but I was in awe and my memory is imperfect.)

The snake was colorless in the strong sunlight.  It was about one and a half times as long as the bird and I believe it was still writhing in protest.  Of course, it could have been swinging but I think it was moving.  The bird flapped its wings and soared over my neighbor's house, then descended out of my sight.  I wondered at the time if it was going to land in my neighbor's front yard and finish off the snake.  I sat in my car for several moments just letting the feelings wash over me.  Amazement.  Wonder.  Creepiness (afterall, it was a SNAKE).  The awe that nature inspires. 

My part in the small drama was over.  I started my car and pulled into my parking spot.  As I walked to my backdoor I kept turning around and looking for another glimpse of the bird and its prey.  I wondered what kind of bird it was.  What kind of bird hunts snakes?  I opened the storm door, unlocked and opened the back door.  The *FLB stuck his nose out in greeting and I invited him to come out and relieve himself.  I watched him as I thought about the bird.  Was it an osprey?  An eagle?  Some kind of hawk?  Harley decided to run off as I stood there.

Twenty minutes later I caught him five buildings east of mine.  Unlike a large dog who will galumph around a neighborhood in the joy of being FREE FREE FREE to run, the FLB is like a nosy neighbor who takes the opportunity to check up on everyone.  He trots up to all the doors and sniffs with great gusto.  He snuffles the various pet scents and he checks out other wilder scents:  armadillos, possums, whatever floats his dastardly little boat.

I didn't call for him.  I knew it was a waste of time and, besides, I was embarrassed.  I knew better than to let him out of the house without a leash.  He didn't even have his halter with his ID tag on it and I was just a tiny bit afraid I would lose him for good.  That would be my punishment for being careless.  I spotted him bouncing up the sidewalk of a pale yellow triplex and kept my eye on him as I approached.  When I was even with him I called out his name in a voice like you would use when you run into an old friend.

He looked up from his snuffling and actually looked happy to see me.  He took a few steps in my direction and stopped.

"Harley, come!"  I said in a more serious tone.

At that point he decided to give in, but he wouldn't do it without a small win on his side.  He cowered.  He crawled to me on his belly looking like the most beaten, pathetic, abused animal you have ever seen.  I tried not to look around to see if anyone was watching; that would make me look even guiltier.  I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and looped the leash around him in a slip knot.  As soon as the FLB realized he was caught and was not going to be kicked and beaten (at least in public), he jumped up and headed for home, pulling on the leash, wagging his tail, and holding his head high.

When we got home I filled his water bowl and he drank all of it.  Running away is thirsty work.  Then he laid down to rest.  I will never never never let him out again without his leash.  (Famous last words.)  I should have known when I saw the bird and the snake that something bad was going to happen.

I looked up birds of prey last night, and  I've decided it must have been some kind of hawk.  The osprey is primarily a hunter of fish and, though it could have been a juvenile eagle, odds are it was one of the seven species of hawk that either live here or migrate here in the winter.

Postscript:  I have a new palm tree in my living room that I purchased on clearance at Home Depot last week for only $7.00.  I needed to water it this morning, so I retrieved my cheap plastic watering "can" from the back patio where I leave it for my granddaughter Kinsey to use to water Grenah's outdoor plants.  I filled it and when I tipped it to pour onto the palm, the water gurgled and only trickled out.  What?  I guessed that some kind of outside gunk had gotten into the spout.  I carried the plastic can back to the kitchen sink.  I fished a bamboo skewer out of my kitchen supplies and was just sticking it into the spout when something caught my eye.

A tree frog looked up at me from the watery depths of the watering can!!!

My blood ran cold, my bowels turned to water, and I nearly fainted.

I grabbed the watering can and carried it carefully to the back door.  The frog swam frantically from side to side while keeping at least one of its bulging eyes on me.  I fumbled with the door knob.  Oh crap, it was locked!  Was the frog getting ready to jump?  Keeping one bulging eye on the tree frog, I flipped the lock, pulled the door open, pushed the storm door open, set the watering can down on the patio, and backed away.  Then I ran back inside and slammed and locked the back door.

The palm tree will have to wait.

*FLB=Freakin' Little Bastard

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Things I do to torture Harley:
  1. I play the CD Songs of the Humpback Whale.  The CD contains no instrumentation or vocals - just the whales.   Sometimes the whales even sound a  I was deciding whether or not to keep the CD, and noticed Harley cocking his head back and forth.  Oh, he would try to ignore it!  How he would try!  Then when he couldn't stand it anymore he'd run over to the speakers and stare at them, cocking his head.  Sometimes he'd utter a sharp bark.  It's so easy to get my jollies....
  2. I go outside without him.  I don't do this to torture him or punish him.  The fact that it bothers him is a side benefit.  He will stare mournfully out the storm door at me or run into my bedroom, jump onto MY bed, and bark out the window at me.  
Oh, come on!  When I first adopted Harley I let him outside to do his business and he would come right back.  "What a well-trained dog!",  I thought.  Boy, was I stupid.  One night he didn't come back.  In fact, as soon as I opened the door to let him out, he bolted into the dark and never looked back.  Of course, I chased him.  It's human nature.  He never looked back.  I took a flashlight and walked my street calling for him feeling like an idiot.  It is not fun to yell "Harley" throughout your neighborhood.  And, deep down, where I didn't want to admit it, I was terrified I'd lost him for good.

When I got back to the house my phone was ringing.  A woman who lived on the street behind me had found him.  The day before this runaway episode I had put a tag on his collar with a web address, so if someone found him they could put in his code number (also on the tag) into this web site.  The web site had my name, address, and phone number.  Oh, he had his county tag on, but I think we all know how well those work.  Besides, my real fear was that he would get hit by a car because he has no street smarts.

So I drove over to the nice woman's house and listened to her tale of the little wet dog that greeted her when she arrived home from church.  He must have crawled through a hole in the old fence that surrounded a retention pond, mucked around in the surrounding grasses, then crawled under a broken piece of fencing on her side.  (That fence around the retention pond has since been replaced!)   She said he jumped all around her and was just so happy to see her.  She took him inside and toweled him off and fed him cheese.  Her husband (a very smart man) jumped on the Internet and looked up his tag information and made her call me.  I think she would have kept him, but her husband must have sensed T*R*O*U*B*L*E.  I thanked her and almost cried with relief.  I then pulled and dragged the *FLB into my car.  He didn't want to leave the nice lady with the cheese, you see.  A month or so later she dropped in on me so she could visit Harley.  She brought him pieces of cheese and brought me several issues of the Watchtower.  Harley is the gift that keeps on giving.

I only take Harley out on a leash and I find I can't do quick chores with him tethered to my wrist.  I also will tie him to one of my Adirondack chairs but once he starts hunting lizards he gets tangled.  I tied him to the fence near my car once, thinking that there was nothing on which to get tangled.  He ended up crawling under my car then whining because he didn't think he could get out.  sigh.

Who's torturing whom?
*FLB=Freakin' Little Bastard

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009


    My darling cousin Melanie  Sherman writes a great blog about her life in the Northwest.  I recommend it.  The address is  She is also a writer of fiction and has completed a historical fiction about a young American girl who is mistaken for a boy, kidnapped off the streets along with her two male cousins, and pressed into service on a British ship.  She's doing the final edits now and soon soon soon will be signing that publishing contract.

    Her most recent blog - "Stuck with the Stapler" - struck a chord with me as I love the little funnies in life.  Like the fact that I purchase the office supplies at work and I love buying staples from Staples!  It is just so - KARMA-like - that you can have a box of staples in a red box labelled STAPLES in big black letters.  That line of thinking led me to an incident that happened a few years ago.

    When I started working at the Inn there already was another employee named Karen.  My boss thought it would be too confusing to have two Karens, so asked if I'd mind going by a nickname.  I have to admit my first thought was, "What?"  I mean, I managed to get through school and other jobs that also had other Karens and it didn't cause problems, but it was my first day at work and I didn't want to start trouble on my very first day.  I always wait for the second or third day, you know.  So I said, "No problem, how about Max?  That's what kids called me in 8th grade."

    Actually kids called me Maxwell Smart in 8th grade because the TV show Maxwell Smart was running at the time (oh, quit doing the math, I'm 55!) and...I was very smart!  So being called Max at work seemed to be no big deal.

    Being Max has caused quite a bit of confusion.  When I answer the phone people almost always ask me to repeat my name.  "Max?" they ask.  Then it starts.  "As in Maxine?"  And sometimes, Lord help me, I just say, "Yes!" so I can get on with my day.  The real fun happens when I'm making a business call to the cable TV company or phone company and they ask for my name.  "Max," I say.  "And your last name?" they ask.  Ooops.  Didn't know you were going to ask for that.  "Maxwell," I say.  There is ALWAYS a pause.  "Your name is Max Maxwell?"  And then I have to explain.  To people who really don't care and just want to fill in their blanks correctly.  

    One of my coworkers thought it was quite funny that I was the OFFICE manager and that my name was MAX, so he started calling me OFFICE MAX.  I liked it.  In fact, I liked it so much that the next time I was buying supplies in our local Office Max store I looked for some Office Max mugs or other such items.  I didn't find any, so when I was checking out I decided to ask about it.

    "Do you carry any mugs or other items that have your Office Max logo printed on them?" I asked politely.

    At that time the clerks in Office Max all looked like high school dropouts with multiple piercings and dull, glassy expressions on their faces. 

    "What?" the clerk asked.

    I repeated my request.

    "Nah," she answered.

    "See, my nickname at work is Office Max and I thought it would be fun to have a mug or something with your logo on it - get it?  Office Max?"  I said.

    The young lady picked at one of her (do you call them earrings if they are in your eyebrow?) piercings and just looked at me.  I stood there for a minute and decided that, yes, I felt silly now and I could leave.  I picked up my stuff and left.

    I still think it was a good idea.

    Friday, December 4, 2009


    Head colds are so stupid.  They make you feel soooo sick, but then, it's "just a cold".  My latest cold virus hit me last night and kept me tossing and turning most of the night.  I often heard Harley, my little mixed terrier,  sighing from his bed in the corner; I guess I kept him awake.  Around 4:30am I got up, took some ibuprofen, emailed my boss that I was not coming in, and went back to bed listening to a CD-book.  I also remembered to turn off my cell phone and my alarm.

    At 6:30am I awoke with a start when someone or something jumped on my bed.  Going to sleep with a Stephen King story being read can make your mind go funny places.  It took me just a few seconds to realize it was Harley and for my heart to retreat from my throat.  I closed my eyes again and tried to go back to sleep.  Harley wanted me to wake up and stuck his nose in my face.  He pawed at my exposed hand.  I put my hand back under the covers.  He barked.  I managed to croak a stern, "Quiet!" and he laid down on my bed and stared at me.  I didn't open my eyes to confirm he was staring at me; if he saw my eyes open he would take that for me being awake and would start the pawing and barking again.  I felt his gaze on my face, though, felt it like a hot nasty dog breath on my face even though he was at the foot of the bed.  'Way too much Stephen King.  I tossed and turned some more which made him finally jump off the bed, and I finally fell into a deep sleep.

    When I woke later he was ready to go out and I took him out first thing.  He had been "good" and not had an accident (like anything he has done has EVER been an "accident"..) and I fed him his breakfast and gave him 2 OK release commands as a gift.  (He's still jerking me around with that OK release command.)  He laid next to my chair as I snuggled with a blanket and box of Puffs tissues.  Every time I got up - to move a trash can next to my chair for all those Puffs, or to get a glass of water, or to make a cup of tea - he got up and followed me.  He even looked concerned.  I was touched.

    I made myself some homemade chicken noodle soup and set it on the dining room table.  Harley was sitting on the arm of the sofa looking back and forth from me to the window.  I felt a tug on my heart and decided to give him a treat; I also decided to take his halter off.  I called him over and removed the halter and hung it in the laundry room.  When I returned - talking out loud about getting him a treat - he was jumping off the dining room chair.


    I don't know if he stuck his nasty conniving nose into my soup or not.  I ate it anyway.  And I did NOT give him a treat.


    Don't worry.  He's fine.  I just told him to go to his bed in the living room.  I wanted to put my slippered foot up his butt....but....butt....but....I didn't.
    =*freakin' little bastard

    Monday, November 30, 2009


    Destinations really make the vacation, don't you think?  A vacation to...say...Trenton, New Jersey...should not be compared to a vacation trip to...Dublin, Ireland.  Not to put Trenton down.  Although, if you read Janet Evanovich's series about an inept but daring bounty hunter in  Trenton, you could then put Trenton down.  Her description is - to say the least - unflattering; however, there must be fun places to visit and fun things to do in  Trenton.  Otherwise, why would anyone live there?

    I just returned from my vacation to Covington, Georgia.  My daughter, son-in-law, and grandson (darling Noah - see above left!) live in Covington, Georgia.  We never actually visited or drove by or through the actual TOWN of Covington.  Their mailing address is Covington, but they live in a very rural part of Newton County.  Covington does have a very picturesque town square which you may have seen if you ever watched the TV series In the Heat of the Night starring the now deceased Carroll O'Connor.  My daughters were raised in the neighboring town of Conyers and had occasion to see some of the stars of the series and to actually watch a scene being filmed one time.  Watching a scene being filmed is like watching paint dry; however, meeting celebrities - that was fun!

    We were dining in Po' Folks Restaurant** one Christmas season and who should walk in?  Alan Autry!  He played Captain Bubba** Skinner on the series.  My daughter Mary Lee watched every episode of In the Heat of the Night and was enamored of Bubba.  She cried out his name as soon as she saw him.  He was being escorted by our booth and stopped to say hello.  He looked at Melissa's Santa hat, and said, "Nice hat."  Melissa retorted, "Yours, too!"  He was wearing his signature cowboy hat.  He laughed and moved on to his booth.

    I did not see any celebrities in rural Newton County or in downtown Conyers this trip.  The weather was cool and crisp, and, although leaves were being blown from the trees, there was still quite a bit of beautiful fall color to enjoy.  I set aside the last two days of vacation so I could spend Saturday and Saturday night with my friend Susan, then drive home to Florida on Sunday.

    Susan lives in Kennesaw, Georgia.

    Now, if you Google "Kennesaw GA" you will get some basic information links (like the original name of Kennesaw was Big Shanty - - nice - -) and several links that refer to "Gun City".  You see, on May 1, 1982, the city passed a law that required every head of household to "maintain a firearm together with ammunition".  It was passed partly in response to a 1981 handgun ban in Morton Grove, Illinois.  Now before ya'll get all scairt - this law was amended in 1983 to "exempt those who conscientiously object to owning a firearm, convicted felons, those who cannot afford a firearm, and those with a mental or physical disability that would prevent them from owning a firearm".  Phew!  I wonder how many financially disadvantaged conscientious objecting disabled felons purchased firearms before the amendment? 

    Another interesting sight to see in Kennesaw is Wildman's Civil War Surplus.  Also known as the "Best Little War House in Kennesaw". describes the shop as being "run by a gun-loving bigot".  Susan has offered (threatened) to take me to Wildman's several times, but, since most gun-loving bigots are misogynistic, too, I've been concerned that I would burst into flames as soon as I entered such a place.  So far I haven't been treated to a visit there.  Even though I was having to enter the city limits of Kennesaw I was still excited about visiting my dear friend Susan.  We always manage to have fun.

    A couple hours after I arrived we were sitting around drinking coffee when we heard a big WHUMP and the power went out.  The power stayed out, too; however, it was a sunny and fairly warm day and we didn't need no stinkin' electricity to have fun so we just kept talking.  Susan's boyfriend Karl checked with the neighbors and confirmed the outage was not just us, so we all figured a transformer had blown.  Susan and I decided to go shopping and hopped in my car for the short drive to Wal-Mart.  (Hey, better than Wildman's!).  We got to the neighborhood entrance and found several cars stopped.  Uh-oh.  Maybe it was more than just a blown transformer.  Oh, you bet.  We parked and walked out to the main road.  Looking to the right we saw this truck and this pole tilted and these power lines in the road.  

    This is what I could see using my zoom lens.  The pickup is pretty well trashed; that was a camper shell on the back. 

    The accident happened "a ways down the road" from Susan's neighborhood, but you can see the lines block the entire street in that direction.

    We walked to the left to get this shot - this is what you would see looking left from her neighborhood.  A firetruck had blocked the street and the power guys were shoring up the lines that had been pulled and snapped when the truck hit the other pole.

    What is unbelievable - besides the fact that the two people in the truck sustained only minor injuries - is that the truck hit the pole so hard that it BROKE OUT A PIECE OF THE POLE (see behind the left rear wheel?) which then went over the truck and destroyed the camper shell before landing behind the truck.  Speed limit on this street?  35mph.  Driver's story:  He had a sneezing fit and that caused him to floor the gas pedal and swerve into the pole.


    Susan (pictured at left) took a lot of ribbing about the "good time" she was showing me in Kennesaw.  Once the cops decided that we could turn left out of the neighborhood without wildly swerving to the right and plowing into the downed lines, they let us out one by one.  Then the good times really started:  Wal-Mart - didn't have what either of us wanted; however, I did have a snack of 1 (one) Pringle (served on a napkin) with a small swallow of Coke Zero.  I believe that is the only time in my life I have only eaten one chip.  Ever.

    Then Susan took me to Kroger where some redneck woman and her son tried to run over us several times in the liquor aisle.  Then she took me to the Dollar store where I picked up Christmas bags really cheap.  It is truly the THOUGHT that counts.  Then she took me to Publix where she introduced me to Bob who had just prepared samples of Greek Tilapia and Greek Cucumber Salad.  Since I hadn't had anything to eat since 10:00am (well, except for that chip and swallow of Coke Zero) and it was almost 4:00pm I was very grateful to Bob for this sample.  I even thanked him after I growled, snatched it from his hand, and stuffed it in my face.

    I will admit that Susan later took me to Taco Mac (with her boyfriend Karl and her sister Meloney) and Taco Mac had the best frozen Margaritas I've ever had!  And good food!  And even the Florida State (SEMINOLES) and University of Florida (GATORS) fans hollering at the multiple screens broadcasting the annual rivalry game didn't bother me; in fact, it was like being back at home in Florida.  We did get out before the Georgia-Georgia Tech game started; that would have been too much excitement. And bloodshed.

    So my vacation ended on a high note:  power outage, redneck car wreck, Wal-Mart, and football.  Kennesaw.  I'm writing a review for and giving Kennesaw a thumbs up!

    **Po'Folks Restaurant - yummy Southern cooking including fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, mashed taters with white gravy.  Good eatin'....
    **Bubba - not just a rural legend - this name exists and is found frequently south of the Mason Dixon line.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009


    "Disney World" for dogs.  Harley loves this backyard.  Picture taken from backdoor/patio..steps lead up to pool (closed for winter).  Blond dog with curly tail looking at the camera is Lilly - named for a character on Days of our Lives.  She is 9 years old and the alpha dog - Queen - of the backyard.  The little dog behind her is the *FLB.

    *FLB=freaking little bastard

    Bo and Harley being friends for the camera.  Bo (also  named for character on Days of Our Lives) is the no-way-alpha-ever dog and just LOVES Harley.  Bo shares his doghouse with Harley on cold & dark winter nights.  Unless they are all in the garage - on REALLY cold nights. 

    Lilly looks on as Bo & Harley frolic. 

    My daughter baked a homemade chocolate pound cake from my grandmother Maxwell's recipe.  She set it on the dining room table while we were working on something else in the kitchen and I advised her NOT to cover it for awhile.  It has a nice crunchy-brownie-like crust on the outside and if you cover it tightly the crust softens.  A few minutes later I noticed a little face peeking out from behind the cake.  The little face seemed to have crumbs on it and looked rather pleased.  I motioned my daughter over to the door and we both watched.  Then she went and examined the cake.

    Yep, someone had been scraping off pieces of the cake.  Some 2-year-old grandson!  Noah (NOT named for anyone on TV)  was mighty pleased with himself and we have a Thanksgiving story.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009


    Harley is having a great time on vacation.  He loves it in the backyard here.  It is completely fenced and about a half-acre in size.  Imagine you are a 20-pound mixed terrier and your greatest obsession is marking your territory.  You are let loose in a large yard with lots of bushes and trees.  Heaven.  Add in two more dogs for company and you have the perfect vacation for a dog.

    The other two dogs are named Lilly and Bo.  Lilly is a blond & tan 50-pound mutt of indeterminate origin.  She has a long, crooked, curly tail, the long sleek lines of a greyhound, and  the rounded nose and floppy ears of a hound.  Bo weighs in at about 80 pounds and has the unfortunate genetic background of Basset Hound and Labrador retriever.  Unfortunate because he is as thick and heavy as a Labrador, but his big body sits on Basset Hound legs.  He also has Basset Hound ears and can raise the hair on the back of your neck with his howl.

    All three dogs have been adopted and all have their own issues.  Put them together and they get along fairly well.  Lilly and Harley skirmish over alpha status.  Bo follows Harley around the yard while Harley marks his way around the perimeter of the fence.  Lilly and Bo make Harley wait until last before he can eat.  Sometimes they all bark together at some imagined threat or noise.  One afternoon the fire station about two miles away released the trucks, sirens blaring.  All three dogs howled.  And Harley and  Bo play in weird dog ways; this afternoon Harley was lying on his back and Bo was licking his belly.  It was a little too Caligula for me.

    It's dark and chilly tonight.  Lilly is snuggled in her dog house; Bo and Harley are bunking together in  Bo's doghouse.  I don't ask and they don't tell.

    Monday, November 23, 2009


    Thanks to the Merriam Webster online dictionary:
    Main Entry: 1va·ca·tion
    Pronunciation: \vā-ˈkā-shən, və-\
    Function: noun
    Usage: often attributive
    Etymology: Middle English vacacioun, from Anglo-French vacacion, from Latin vacation-, vacatio freedom, exemption, from vacare
    Date: 14th century
    1 : a respite or a time of respite from something : intermission
    2 a : a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended b : a period of exemption from work granted to an employee
    3 : a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation
    4 : an act or an instance of vacating

    I'm on vacation.  I am enjoying a respite from work and the daily routine, and for the first few days I have enjoyed suspending a lot of activity.  Every once in a while I feel a twinge of "should" as in what SHOULD I be doing?  I bat it away with a shake of my head.  It's almost noon and I'm still in my pajamas and barefoot and wearing my daughter's Snuggie. 

    Every morning so far (this is my 3rd day of vacation) my grandson Noah and I have enjoyed coffee together in the dining room.  We discuss the view outside the French doors which includes trees, leaves falling from the trees, rain (yesterday), sunshine (Saturday), clouds (this morning), and Harley.  We discuss the deliciousness of the coffee while stirring our coffees with our spoons.  Mornings are the best.

    I have to admit staying TV free has been a challenge.  At home I've rarely been tempted to watch since I unplugged 9/1/09; however, here in my daughter's house temptations are everywhere.  My first afternoon here the family went to a birthday party (for a 1-year-old) and I stayed here to take a much-needed and appreciated nap.  I snuggled on the couch with an afghan and a magazine.  The magazine, Entertainment, had the Twilight-series' stars on the cover and lots of talk about the movie New Moon, but lots of the magazine was devoted to current TV shows and what's happening on various series.  Suddenly I was salivating about Dexter and wondering about new shows I had never seen!  I put the magazine down, pulled the afghan over my head, and slept soundly.

    Later that day my daughter was laughing at the latest Survivor shenanigans and told me she wished I was watching it this season, because one of the "survivors" was really sly, manipulative, and smart.  (Not always a combination you find on the show.)  He's president of an oil company and doesn't care (or at least he says so) about the million dollar prize.  I found myself laughing at his antics as retold by my daughter, but not really tempted to watch.  Then I asked her about Amazing Race and she told me about the gay brothers who pretended to be straight to woo the girl teams, and the Harlem Globetrotter team members who were very down-to-earth, and funny as all get-out.  Why did I ask?  Self-torture.

    Last night I was listening to my audio book in my room as I relaxed before bed.  When I realized I was dozing off and missing whole sections I decided it was time for lights off.  I walked into the living room to say good night eyes were the the episode of....Amazing Race...that was playing.  A little voice in my head screamed, "Nooooooooooooooooooo."  I turned, I turned back.  There was Phil, the good-looking and wry host of Amazing Race.  I gasped, "Where are they?"  My daughter answered, "Prague".  Oh my, the Czech Republic.  Maybe I'd just watch for a minute.  I confess.  I watched almost the entire episode. 

    Was this a slip?  Would I have to attend TA* meetings again? Did I have to call my sponsor?


    I went to bed with an almost-clear-conscience.  About 96%.  Pretty good for a recovering Catholic.

    This morning the TV is on and Noah has watched an episode of Backyardigans, some Einstein show on the Disney channel, and now some dinosaur train show on PBS.  They are just background noise while I catch up on email and blog.  I did stop to sing the Backyardigans' songs.  I'll be getting dressed eventually; it's still cold and overcast outside.  My daughter has a cold so we'll be staying in today.  Whatever.  I'm on vacation.

    *Television-addicts Anonymous

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Audio Books and Driving

    Blogging remotely from Covington, Georgia

    When I decided to spend Thanksgiving with my daughter's family one of the most important items on my to-do list was :  get audio books at the library.  The drive from St. Augustine to Covington is six to seven hours depending on traffic congestion, road construction, and determination in "making good time".  I've made it in seven and I've done it in six.  Audio books keep me entertained and awake, two important ingredients for driving long distances by myself.  A third ingredient is plenty of caffeine:  I know all the Starbucks on my route.

    So last night I had the *FLB in the backseat; he sits in the pink Princess car seat that my other daughter gave me last Christmas so my granddaughter could zip around town with me.  Harley doesn't seem to mind the color or the Princess logo repeated all over the seat; he's secure in his sexuality - or what's left of it after I had him neutered.

    In the front passenger seat was my CD player, the audio book A Most Wanted Man by John LeCarre', backup audio book for the return trip Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King (a collection of short stories), and my purse.  You might be wondering why I had a CD player on my front seat instead of using my car's CD player.  Well, the car's CD player finally died earlier this year.  It didn't quit working all at once; no, that would be "normal".  Instead, like all things electronic in my family, it died piece by piece.

    It was the kind of CD player where all the CDs are loaded into the CD changer in the trunk.  A wonderful invention where I could load 6 music CDs or 6 Audio CDs and listening to all 6 would get me almost to my destination.  When the CD player started to die, it died one CD disc holder at a time.  So on one memorable trip up to north Georgia I listened to DISC#1, then DISC#2, then DISC#4....WHAT?  At least for that trip I was listening to Christmas music and not an audio book; skipping whole chunks of a book would have driven me nuts.  Over the next couple months the CD player continued to quit working one disc at a time.  Finally it just died.

    So with a fresh set of 8 "C" batteries and my first CD disc loaded I headed north towards Florida.  Just as I merged onto I-95 my cell phone rang; it was my long-time best friend Bonnie who lives in St. Petersburg.  (Florida not Russia)  We hadn't talked in weeks, so we spent the next hour catching up.  I had to be careful; traffic wasn't too heavy,  but the last time I got in a cell-phone discussion with Bonnie while I was driving long distances, I overshot my destination exit by 15 miles!  This time, HA!, I saw the sign for I-295 WEST just in time to cut across two lanes of traffic and make it.  We talked all around Jacksonville and hung up as I merged onto I-10 West.  Traffic was very heavy by then and I had to pay strict attention.  Besides, Bonnie had to go.

    I listened to my first CD disc of A Most Wanted Man after I filled up with gas in Macclenny,  Florida.  And may I just say that Macclenny was a bit nerve-racking.  There was a Wal-Mart with a gas station on the outer perimeter of its parking lot, and people were lined up for gas like it was on sale or something.  (It wasn't.)  Just past the gas station a couple had parked their pickup truck on the grass and she was holding up a hand-lettered sign that said FREE PUPPIES and MOMA FREE TOO.   "Moma" looked like a pit-bull-mix as did the puppy that the man was holding up.  No thanks.  And please, they couldn't spell Mama?  Momma?  Anything but MOMA.

    I spotted an oasis in this rural outback - STARBUCKS - and got myself a grande vanilla latte at the drive-thru.  Thus fortified I returned to the gas station and grabbed a pump without any problem.  Once safely out of Macclenny I started my CD player and enjoyed the first installment of my book.  By the end of the disc I was in Georgia.  It was dark as pitch and I didn't think I should be changing discs while hurtling along I-75 north in a construction zone.  I waited until the construction zone ended and at the next exit pulled off for a drink (LARGE diet Pepsi with a shot of cherry) and a disc change.  I also took the *FLB for a "walk".

    The 2nd disc finished just as I passed Macon.  I couldn't tell you one detail or memory of that part of the drive.  I must have been watching the road, but I don't remember it.  My mind was totally on the book.  If I thought about it much I guess I'd be scared, but Harley and I made it to my daughter's house in one piece.

    Epilogue:  This morning when my grandson ran into the living room to see his darling Grenah, he ran PAST me and to the French doors where he hollered:  HARLEY!  HARLEY!
    *FLB=freakin' little bastard

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009


    Last night I babysat my granddaughter for just over an hour.  Now there's not a lot you can do in just an hour.  The previous week I babysat for about 2 hours and we managed to squeeze in a trip to Staples, a walk to Barnes & Noble, chocolate milk in the Starbucks Cafe, a bathroom break, playing with the train set in the children's department, and a quick walk back to Staples to meet mommy.

    For our hour last night I thought we might have a picnic:  get a bite or a drink at the drive-in, and sit at one of the outside picnic tables and just enjoy the evening.  (Grenah was a bit TIRED.)  Kinsey got out of her mommy's car with a milkshake in one hand (forget the bite or drink!) and her daddy's flashlight in the other.  I buckled her into the Princess seat and as I buckled myself in, she told me, "I saw COW!"

    This was exciting news.  Cows are very important to Kinsey and me.  You see, Kinsey has always loved stories and books.  And when she was very small, just toddling-around size, about 12 or 13 months old, she was staying with me one day and learned she could close the door to the laundry room.  My back door was bolted (so she couldn't escape!) and the laundry room was fairly safe, so I didn't immediately open the door and check on her.  I knocked, and she opened the door, and I asked, "May I come in?"  She LOVED that.  For a couple weeks just playing with the door was enough.

    Then one afternoon she let me into the laundry room and we were just kind of standing in there and she asked me to tell her a story.  I didn't have any books in there and I really don't know why this story came out of my mouth, but I told her a story about Kinsey playing at Carousel Park and COW drops in for a visit.  And COW wants to swing, Kinsey says NO, COW gets on the swing anyway, CRASH goes the swing.  And the same with the slide.  And the carousel.  Then Kinsey tells COW that it's time for COW to go home.  So Kinsey rides in her car (with mommy and Grenah) and COW follows.  They find a farm and the farmer is very happy they brought COW home, and COW is so very glad to be home.  The End.

    Then please tell me more story - so I'm thinking this is easy - and it's Kinsey at the beach.  Here comes COW.  COW tries to do human things like surf, boogie board, build sand castles....disaster results...Kinsey takes COW home.

    And so on.   COW in Target. COW at Grenah's house.  I had a million of them.   And for weeks she would take me in the laundry room and ask for a COW story.  I was a hit.  A star!  THE GRENAH OF THE AGES!  She would pass these stories down to her grandchildren and tell them what a loving and wonderful Grenah she had....oh...the immortality...the fame...the love.................

    Then one day we were in the laundry room and she clung to me and asked if COW was there?!  She was scared!!!!! of COWS!?  I went from a loving Grenah to a PHOBIA-CAUSING NUTCASE.  The stories never had COW as a villain - more of just wanting to be a little girl!   What was I going to do?  And Kinsey still wanted COW stories, but she would hold my hand and peer around me looking for the maniac cows.  This couldn't go on!  I would be vilified!  The topic of therapy sessions and tell-all autobiographies.  The example of evil in every grandparenting book!

    So we entered our PC phase where we talked about how COW was lonely and just wanted to have some fun.  I bought her a couple of little stuffed cows - she wouldn't touch them!  We learned the Old MacDonald Had a Farm song - especially the MooMoo here and MooMoo there.  Still scared.  When we were driving or riding around I would point out COWS everywhere I saw them - kind of desensitization therapy for 2-yr-olds.  Luckily, Chick-fil-A is big on COWS and there were big friendly COWS on their billboard, and inside the Chick-fil-A the welcome mat had a big picture of a COW, and there was a cardboard cutout of a COW near the counter.  Lots of pointing and touching and talking about COWS.  I also watched for any and all books that featured COWS in a positive light.  TIME will tell if I'm truly successful.  She seems more fascinated than scared now.  If Kinsey becomes a large animal vet or studies agriculture or marries a farmer - not so bad.  If she becomes COW-phobic,cannot venture outside any city limits as an adult, and needs years of therapy, I will deny deny deny.

    So back to last night, Kinsey tells me she saw a COW and she's very excited.  I realize her milkshake comes from Chick-fil-A (It's called a CLUE, Grenah!) and that must be where she saw the COW.  (Her mommy confirms later in a phone call that Kinsey was very excited and yelled "MOMMY, LOOK!  COW!" while she was ordering.)  So I tell Kinsey we are going on an adventure and looking for cows.  It's only a 10 minute drive west to farm country; it's at least 40 minutes to sunset.  Plenty of time.  So we head west and then my cell phone rings.  Can I bring the car by the mechanic's just for a minute?  They have to SEE the hose they are replacing so they are sure to order the correct part.  Sigh. We do a U-turn and I tell Kinsey we have to run a  5-minute errand.  She doesn't mind.  She says, "We go get Harley and go on adventure."  (You see, she's decided the *FLB is her **"best friend" now.)  I say, "I don't think we'll have time to go get (gritting teeth) Harley."  She just nods her head and says, "We go get Harley.  Harley my best friend.  We take Harley on adventure."

    That damn dog.

    We wait at the automotive place 30 minutes instead of 5.  Kinsey is fascinated by the constant stream of people in and out, and by the picture of the Daytona Race Track painted around the top of the waiting room.  She alternately chews her straw and sucks her milkshake.  Several people speak to her and get the 3-yr-old mute stare.  I tell John the owner that she will not speak to him and he promises me that she will.  When we leave I say, "Bye, John!" with a smirk, and Kinsey says, "BYE!".  He laughs us out the door.

    Now we have about 30 minutes left.  No time for Harley (HA!) and no time for COWS.  So we drive one mile east and around the big curve and park at the beach.  We spend the next 30 minutes walking and racing (well, she raced and I pretended) and picking up shells and climbing on mounds of sand and having a great time.  We get back to the car just as the sun truly sets and darkness surrounds us.  We meet her parents, shake off most of the sand on her shoes and rear end (when you climb you have to slide and fall dramatically, don't you know), hand her daddy his flashlight, and hand her mommy a milkshake cup with shells.

    All in one hour.

    *FLB=Freakin' Little Bastard
    **A couple weeks ago Kinsey arrived at my condo and I took Harley out on his leash to meet her.  It's the first time she hasn't run to me and jumped in my arms.  She screamed, "HARLEY!" and ran to him. FLB.

    Monday, November 16, 2009


    Mondays.  Why is it you start off the week with the best of intentions and you end up in your big fat chair after work with a frown on your face?

    It starts at work with a computer that decides not to boot up - what?  A simple reboot turns into a 30-minute long OH CRAP I'M GONNA HAVE TO TAKE IT TO THE SHOP adventure.  You mess with it  and finally it looks like it's THINKING about booting up, so you walk away from it before your impatience makes you click or tap on something which delays the fix.  Besides, you are ready to punch a hole in your monitor even though you realize with the thinking-side of your brain that the monitor isn't the problem.  So you leave it and take your coffee to the kitchen computer just to get a few things done while your computer decides what it's doing. 

    So you work on the computer in the kitchen where the A/C blows directly on your back and drops your body temperature to about 45 degrees and your coffee drops from hot & lovely to cold  & forget it.  Then you try to help the Front Desk because their printer quit working Sunday and no matter what trick you try it won't freakin' work and you just don't want to give up because you hate saying I CAN'T FIX IT and IT'S BROKE.  But you finally come to your senses and realize it is dead and it will cost $90 to call the computer guy in to confirm, or the inn manager can spend $100 for a new one.

    Then you go back to the office and your computer has booted successfully.  For no good reason.  It's just the universe screwing with you.  And this is all before 9am.

    And you've planned to drive to the outlet mall after work and you decide to print that $10-OFF coupon before you forget and then you read the small print and it's $10 OFF YOUR $100 PURCHASE.  Uh, no, you weren't going to spend $100.  But wait!  There's a 2nd coupon - 20% OFF - cool - but it starts on THURSDAY.  You didn't want to wait until Thursday, but in the interest of saving a couple bucks you will.  But now you're irritated.

    And you get home and you let the *FLB out of the house for a quick pee - no leash - because he does it and goes right back in the house EVERYDAY, but he spots SOMETHING that YOU can't see and he's off like a shot barking at whatever it is.  You sigh and go into the house and grab the leash and come back out and he's sniffing and rooting around the big tree next door - just past the BUCKET where the snake lives.  So you call him and he runs around the tree and you're trying to make like you're NOT chasing the *FLB and he knows you really ARE chasing him and you're worried the snake is NOT in his BUCKET but out here in the yard enjoying the sunny afternoon and if you see him or step on him you're going to have a coronary and then you get up close to your darling terrier and grab that sucker by his neck.  You're NOT going to look up in the tree where HE'S staring because it could be ANYTHING up there; you just make the leash into a quick slip knot and lead your pet gently into the house.

    And you open up your email and even though you've gotten 2 estimates for gutters the other condo owner wants just one more from "his guy" and that delays the gutters again.  sigh.

    And you read some short stories in your Glimmer Train Winter Issue and they are well-written but the last one punches you in the gut and you toss it aside and decide to do something else, but you feel like crap.

    Then you read your daily Dave Barry column and, even though it's from July 2001, it makes you laugh.  It's about taking his baby daughter on a 4-hour flight and involves projectile vomiting.  And on the Georgia news you read that a bug from Asia has appeared in Georgia and it loves to eat kudzu.  The bug is called the globular stinkbug and the last line of the article says it all:  "But if the bug if threatened, it will put off an odor."  What?  How bad an odor?  Like a skunk?  Considering the forecasts that if scientists don't stop the spread of kudzu it will eventually cover the entire southeast, I think southerners can put up with a little odor.  Can't be as bad as that plane ride with Dave Barry's baby.
    *FLB=Freakin' Little Bastard

    Sunday, November 15, 2009


    Finding a good movie buddy is vital to maximizing the enjoyment of a movie.  You want someone sitting next to you who is scared with you, or sad with you, or, best of all, laughing with you.  It just makes the movie experience much more fun.

    My first movie buddy was my friend Bonnie.  I learned quickly that Bonnie would watch just about any movie with me, but there was a price to pay.  Bonnie would grip my arm if there was any suspense at all, and, as the tension built, so did the pressure on my arm.  Her nails would dig in if there were any shocking and/or surprising scenes.  While she was tearing up my arm she would cover her eyes and peek out between her fingers if something really scary or gruesome was going on.

    She was also my first X-rated movie buddy.   We were 17 years old and extremely sheltered Catholic school girls and we wanted to use our 17-year-old status to see a "dirty" movie.  So we contrived this big cover story about seeing some movie in South Miami; it had to be a movie that wasn't playing in our local movie theater so we could account for the extra drive time.  Then we drove up to South Miami to see Clockwork Orange.  CLOCKWORK ORANGE?  Neither of us had a clue what was going on between the thick Cockney accents and the invented language and the manic pace of the movie.  What a waste of an X-rating and a good cover story; we were both disgusted.  We did manage to see The Last Picture Show sometime that year and got our first real dose of NUDITY in film.

    Other than temporary paralysis or a few scratches, Bonnie remains a wonderful movie buddy to this day.  Unfortunately she lives in St. Pete on the west coast of Florida and I live on the east coast of FL - 4 hours apart.  The last movie I saw at the theater with Bonnie was either Blue Crush or American Pie:  The Wedding.  For both movies we were the oldest people in the theater.  The most memorable movie seen with Bonnie was a B-movie about witch-hunters (Mark of the Devil) that ran at our cinema for many weeks while we were in high school.  The theater was supposed to give out free vomit bags with all the tickets.  It remains one of the bloodiest and most gruesome movies I have ever seen.  My arm was useless for weeks.

    I wanted my ex-husband to be my movie buddy, but his taste ran to cheerleader movies and (stupid) adventure movies.  So that's when I became my own movie buddy.  The first movie I saw by myself?  Ordinary People.  Man, it is weird to cry that hard all by yourself in a movie theater on a Saturday night.  I guess my worst experience at going to the movies by myself was seeing Terms of Endearment.  I knew NOTHING about the movie beyond the trailers and I honestly thought it was a comedy.  I managed to drag my tear-stained face to the car after the movie and I sat in the parking lot crying my heart out for 15 minutes.

    My sister was my movie buddy for awhile in Atlanta.  I will always associate Thelma and Louise with her.  We were both so pumped up after seeing that movie the first time!  She had to restrain me from robbing the nearest convenience store.  (Maybe it was just me that was all pumped up?)  We saw that movie together 3 or 4 times. 

    Susan became my movie buddy after my divorce.  We started going to a movie every Friday evening after work at a theater near our office.  We lived on opposite sides of the city so this was the most practical way of seeing each other without driving for hours.  Susan has a very high tolerance for violence and a great sense of humor so our tastes matched on most movies.  There were times when we disagreed on our movie choices.  She gave me HELL about seeing The Hours; she seemed to think it was depressing.  Was it my fault Virginia Woolf drowned herself?  I think not.  I wanted to see Frieda and when she wanted to see something more....pedestrian...I gave HER hell.  Then there was the time I let her pick the movie and it was supposed to be about some couple who were attacked in their home in France....but this movie was set in California and there was no couple.  Ten minutes into it I realized we were in Memento.  Now Memento is a FABULOUS movie but, because it takes place in reverse time (hard to explain), being confused from the start is not HELPFUL. 

    Susan was there for me when I sobbed so hard through The Patriot that she thought I was going to have a complete nervous breakdown.  She was really, truly worried during the movie, and even when I explained that it had to do with my dad's recent death and my childhood pastime of playing Swamp Fox with my cousin, she was still really, truly worried about me.  Since then she has used this personal knowledge to make fun of me and heckle me with "Remember The Patriot?" .  Brat. We'll always have Memento, won't we, Susan?!

    Here in St. Augustine I sought a movie buddy, but my girlfriends twitched and moaned whenever something even mildly violent happened.  One friend got upset in Slumdog Millionaire (she thought it was a musical), and another friend thought The DaVinci Code was too violent.  So I told myself that's OK; I'll see "girl" movies with my girlfriends, and other more "exciting" movies by myself.  So I watched Sex and the City, Mamma Mia, and Julie and Julia with my girlfriends, and took myself to see Star Trek.

    Then District 9 came out.  Wonderful reviews and produced by Peter Jackson.  I took a chance and asked my brother Dan if he wanted to see it.  Sure!  We both hung in there through the long introductory documentary part.  We hung in there through the hard-to-understand (at times) South African and Nigerian accents.  We both flinched, then giggled at the zip gun (as my brother nicknamed it) and its massive...zapping power.  We both appreciated the incongruity of the Nigerian gangbangers in the midst of the alien ghetto.  We both "got it".

    How about Inglorious Basterds?  Quentin Tarantino?  Brad Pitt with a Southern accent?  Nazis?  Sure!  "We're in the Nazi-killin' bidness; and bidness is a-boomin!"  Next it was Zombieland.  This time Dan's stepdaughter Jeannette and my brother-in-law Pete showed up, too.  There were giggles galore as zombie after zombie bit the dust.  And much sharing later of tag lines such as "It's time to nut up or shut up." and "Double tap."

    Today we saw The Men Who Stare at Goats, George Clooney, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Bridges in a satire about the army training psychics to become "Jedi warriors" or "supersoldiers". As we agreed afterward, it was no Zombieland, but it was still pretty good.  Bob:  "Gees,  you had the whole desert to drive in, Lyn."

    Friday, November 13, 2009


    I don't like so-called "women's magazines".  These are magazines that are "for women" (because we're all the same, you know).  These magazines are supposedly about "being women" (like that's a job or something to "work at being").  At various times in my life I have subscribed to: Seventeen, Glamour, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Ms., Cosmopolitan, and Southern Living.  I'm not picking on any of these magazines by themselves.  (And Ms is in no way a "women's magazine" like the others;  no, no, no.   I was going through my ANGRY period when I subscribed to Ms.)  I'm just pointing out some similarities.  In fact, I picked up a Southern Living today at my mechanic's and enjoyed flipping through the gardening section.  (Good thing I wasn't looking for timely information; the issue was from 2005!)  But even Southern Living can fall into some of the categories below.

    Did you ever notice that most "women's" magazines have the same topics month after month after month?  Really.  Month after month; year after year.  Next time you're waiting in line at the grocery store, take a look at the covers.  (I'm not including gossip/celebrity magazines in this group.)

    On the covers of the "women's" magazines you will see a beautiful model or celebrity air-brushed to perfection (or if it's a holiday you might see children and/or food, etc.) and headlines that tell you:
    1. YOUR HOUSE IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  These articles are about being a good housewife and mother - housekeeping and cleaning (code word de-cluttering) and cooking.  This category also includes decorating and makeovers.  Hang with me here for a few minutes.
    2. YOUR BODY IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  These are articles about losing weight either through diet or exercise, or a combination of both.  Headlines also includes code words like "slimming" recipes.  Ironically the same magazine will also contain headlines about baking Christmas cookies, or Thanksgiving feasts - these will be featured in the Housekeeping Section.
    3. THE WAY YOU DRESS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  These fashion how-to's so often include the code words "making you look slimmer, leaner, younger, etc". 
    4. THE WAY YOU SHOP IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  Shopping tips and how-to's (because it's just so difficult, isn't it?) for buying anything for yourself or others.
    5. YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH UNLESS YOU HAVE A MAN.  Men - you need one and here's how to get one or keep one!  And you better pay attention to HIS feelings and what HE wants because you may LOSE him and then you will be ALONE.
    6. THE WAY YOU FEEL IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  How to be happy - either at work or home or both.  How to succeed.  How to balance home & work. 
    Here are some samples:

    Seventeen Magazine November 2009:  
    1. Nothing on the cover about housework, but click on the link and you will see a slideshow of pictures about the actress on the cover.  The last image on that slideshow is an ad for a Dyson vacuum cleaner.
    2. "Get Your BEST BODY EVER Without Working Out"
    3. "525 Fashion and Beauty Secrets/Shiny Hair/Perfect Makeup"
    4. "Cute Clothes Under $20"
    5. "Real Guys Confess:  What Really Turns Them On and Off!"
    6. "Win Tickets to See New Moon" (What else would make a lot of teen girls happy?!)
    Glamour magazine December 2009:
    1. OK so Glamour's not big on cleaning your house or's about how you look.
    2. "How to Eat Drink and Not Gain Weight even during the Cookie Season"
    3. "Easy Beauty Tricks - Three Minute Miracles Inside"
    4. "39 Cutest Holiday Outfits for Your Body & Budget"
    5. " Relax! Seven Reasons Guys Love You Just the Way You Are"
    6. "Serena:  Strong and Happy.  ALSO:  12 Winners Give You Life Advice"
    Cosmopolitan Magazine December 2009:
    1. Cosmo is sooooo not into decorating or housework. 
    2. "Get Rid of Muffin Top - 7 Belly-Blasting Tricks."
    3. "Colors that Make a Man's Heart Race." "14 Sexy Party Hairstyles"
    4. No shopping mentioned on the cover - but I bet there's plenty inside.
    5. "His #1 Sex Wish" AND "Why Love is Harder in Winter" AND "He Shoots He Scores: Wacked Out Things Guys Say in Bed" AND "What His Hug Reveals"
    6. "The 10 New Rules for Success" "Is Stress Turning You Into a Raging Bitch?"
    Good Housekeeping December 2009:
    1. "The House Looks Great - How to Clean Up in 12 Minutes Flat"  "Holiday Cookbook:  3 Festive Party Menus, 32 Mix & Match Recipes, Foolproof Fabulous Cookies"
    2. Nothing about your body in the December issue- Just wait until the January Issue!  Of course the December cover is full of Christmas cookies!
    3. Nothing about fashion either - too much space given to holiday partying and recipes.  I'm sure there are party dresses etc inside....
    4. "Best Toys of 2009", "Amazing Gifts for $.99 to $30"
    5. Nothing about men - this is Good Housekeeping's December issue - just bake him cookies!
    6. "The Power of Forgiveness" "Enter to Win $25,000 Dream Holiday"
    Please notice the words used in Seventeen's cover:  "secrets"  "perfect"  "best body".  Can we say anorexia or bulemia?
    Glamour talks about eating, drinking, Cookie Season, and not gaining weight.  Again:  eating disorder alert.  Also uses the word "miracle" about beauty - that's encouraging. Oh, and WE can relax because HE likes us just the way we are.  PHEW!  I was worried for a minute.
    Cosmo is supposed to be for sexually liberated women, but it's all about HIS sex wish, what HE says in bed, and analyzing HIS hugs.  Really.

    I now subscribe only to magazines that are about something.  For example, I subscribe to Writers' Digest.  The articles are about writing and publishing and those interest me.  Sure, they tend to repeat themselves, but the articles are on topics that challenge ME and engage my MIND.  I joined the Florida Writers' Association and I receive their quarterly magazine which is also about writing and about other writers in Florida.  I also subscribe to Glimmer Train, a small press dedicated to publishing stories from new writers.  I have received their Fall 2009 issue and I enjoyed reading the variety of short stories it contained.

    Sunday, November 8, 2009


    Dear Gwenn,

    I'm sorry I didn't get up to the North Georgia Mountains to visit you in October.  As it turned out my two girlfriends Ann & Gaelyn did their "Fall Festival Tour" the 3rd weekend of October, but I had to miss it.  It was not a good time to miss work; we were upgrading our reservation software at the Inn and I needed to be there.  I missed seeing you and visiting you in Blairsville more than anything!

    I thought of you a lot yesterday.  My 3-yr-old granddaughter Kinsey spent the morning with me while her mommy had a hair appointment.   I used - and used it knowing how much you would love me doing it! - the cup and saucer with the lovely purple flowers and gold trim you painted several years ago.

    I made coffee and then mixed lots of milk and sugar and a tiny bit of coffee in an old china pot I had purchased at an estate sale in Tampa.  While Kinsey watched with eyes as big as - you guessed it! - SAUCERS,  I got out the special cup and saucer she had been eying for weeks.  While I set the table and got her ready for her special coffee, I told Kinsey about my special friend Gwenn who painted the flowers and the gold on the cup and saucer.  She was so very excited to be using her Grenah's special things.

    I brought her the coffee and the cup & saucer and brought my own cup of coffee to the table.  We had the best time!  Just two girls drinking their coffee and talking!  She was very respectful of the special cup.  I asked her to be very careful, but also explained that nothing would ever be as special as she was to me.

    When she finished her first cup of coffee she asked if she could pour more and, of course, I said yes.  She was so careful; she used two hands.  She warned me that it was very hot and that she would be very careful not to burn herself.  I just love it when she is so serious and is being so "adult" in modeling her behavior.  And her imagination!  That "coffee" was cold cold cold.

    As we were sitting there and the quiet settled around us I thought of you and the first time I met you at the fall festival.  I couldn't remember if it was the Hiawassee Festival or the Sorghum Festival in Blairsville, but I did remember that you and I hit it off from the very beginning.  I loved your artistry, and then, the more you talked, the more I loved your wonderful personality.   And your spunk and your laughter!  I fell in love with an English Squat Pot and told you I wanted to buy it.  You said I could only buy it if I promised to use it.  I was horrified!  No way!  It was too gorgeous!  I knew I'd drop it or crack it against something or the boiling water would destroy it.  You took it back from me and told me I couldn't buy it then!  You told me in no uncertain terms that the pot was made for steeping tea and that you meant for all you artwork to be used and enjoyed.  I promised to use it and I still do to this day.  I still enjoy the short fat shape of it and the delicate pansies you painted on the pot.

    I was thinking today that it must be close to 15 years since we first met; I can't believe it has been that long.  Year after year my girlfriends and I would drive up to Hiawassee to enjoy a 4-day weekend in the fall colors of the mountains.  And we would hit every festival we could while we were up there - big and small.  Year after year my favorite part was hunting for your booth and for your smile.  A couple years - when you weren't feeling well, you weren't there.  I missed you badly.  And the next year I would be so anxious looking for you and so relieved when I saw your smiling face!

    Yesterday, before I served the coffee, I used my little Aerolatte whip to whip up some milky foam for my own coffee.  After we had been sitting there for awhile and just talking and sipping, I asked Kinsey if she would like some foam, too.  She nodded her head and I took some foam from my cup and added it to her cup.  Of course, I knew that wouldn't be enough.  She asked if she could do it, and she took several spoonfuls of foam.  We got a little silly after that because when you drink a nice lovely foamy cup of coffee, you tend to get a foamy mustache!  So that's when the giggling started.

    Eventually Kinsey filled her cup to the brim with "coffee" and foam so she couldn't lift it without spilling.  I showed her she could just lean down and sip from the side (Emily Post I'm not) and she got foam  on her nose and on her lips.  This led to a major bout of giggling from both of us.

    I understand why keepsakes are to be treated with respect and also why part of that respect is to use them.  I could put all my treasured painted-by-Gwenn porcelain pieces on a glass shelf and admire all those pieces until the day I died.  I could write notes on each one explaining why it mattered to me.  I could hand the pieces down to my daughters and  they to their children.  Some of that may still happen.  But the magic happened Saturday morning with my granddaughter and using the porcelain cup and saucer and the memories and  the foamy giggles.
    Gwenn & Karen April 2009
    St Francis Inn, St Augustine
     Love you, Gwenn, and miss you so much!


    Thursday, November 5, 2009


    I really really was not going to post about this again.  I don't want this to be the dog & critters blog, but I've started to wonder:  have I brought this on myself?  There is this school of thought - New Age, whatever - that what you envision is what you will receive.  So if you think about a fabulous new career you will eventually obtain that fabulous new career.  And the reverse is true; if you think only negative thoughts then your life becomes full of negativity.

    So...can blogging about critters bring MORE critters?  You tell me.

    Last night I was surfing the 'Net and saw this headline:  WOMAN:  DEAD FROG IN GREENS.  So who could resist that, right?  The story is about a woman in East Texas who purchased a bag of Glory Mustard Greens (and I have purchased Glory Collard Greens & Turnip Greens & even Kale) who put her greens in a pot and noticed "a pair of eyes staring out at me".   Jiminy Cricket!   Is nothing sacred?  Greens are actually GOOD for you and now I can't even buy those anymore!  This is beyond gross...and ....he looks like a tree frog, doesn't he?

    So I started getting a small case of heebie-jeebies and decided that was enough.  I walked to the back door - which is a storm door and the screen was rolled up to let our delicious autumn breeze in - and just before I called Harley for his goodnight walk - I saw him.  A little tree frog on the glass of my storm door.  And he was very alive - all pulsing and throbbing and oozing.  I decided Harley could hold it until morning.

    This morning I take Harley for his morning walk - without incident.  I get back home and I open the dishwasher to pull out a glass and what runs on the inside of the dishwasher door?

    That's right:  a Palmetto bug.  The first gxd-damn Palmetto bug I have seen in my home since I moved here 6.5 years ago.  GD...son-of-a-bitch...shxt!  Now I am pissed off!  This is beyond gross and I will not put up with this!  He has crawled (scuse me if I make many typos - I am flinching and twitching and running my hands thru my hair like a nutcase as I type) on top of a large bowl.  My trusty lizard/frog-killer Harley is standing right by my side.  I c.a.r.e.f.u.l.l.y lift the bowl out of the dishwasher.  The disgusting filthy animal stays.  So does the bug.  I tap the bowl on the floor in front of my trusty lizard/frog-killing machine and the bug lands right at Harley's feet.  The bug sits there and Harley looks at me like, "What"

    I yell, "Get him, Harley, get the bug!"  This startles the bug who starts skittering on the floor - the motion FINALLY catches the *FLB's attention and he's starts after him....and....

    The gd s.o.b effing bug goes under the refrigerator.  Damn, Harley!  I could have stomped him but I thought you'd be faster.  I didn't say this out loud to Harley but I sure did think it.  I moved Harley out of the kitchen and grabbed my can of RAID and sprayed a killing perimeter all around the refrigerator and then under it, too.  Stupid effing bug might get out but he wouldn't live to enjoy it.

    I then placed a step-stool next to the refrigerator because the step-stool bugs Harley and it would keep him away from the killing field all day.  Then I went to work.

    I was busy working on my computer when I noticed a bug on my monitor's screen.  It was a stinkbug.  Very common down here and it's actually considered kind of a "good" bug because it eats other bugs.  Every so often a couple stinkbugs will get in the office; the office sits in the courtyard of the inn and is surrounded by vegetation.  Usually I let the stinkbug crawl on top of a piece of paper and carry him outside and let him off onto a leaf.  So PETA of me.  I let this little guy crawl around on my screen, because after seeing effing GODZILLA in my dishwasher, this little guy was like a pet. 

    Later I was in the lobby talking to Kelly and she said, "Hold still." and picked something off my shirt.  "What is it, a bug?" I joked.  She opened her hand.  It was the stinkbug.  She crushed him before I could stop her and tossed him in the trash.  Poor stinkbug.

    That afternoon Mike stuck his head in the screen door (the weather here is really really nice right now) and looked up and said, "Good grief, what's that on your ceiling?"  I looked up.  I kid you not - there were between 5 and 10 stinkbugs walking all over the ceiling and one was right over my chair.  I didn't have a broom or anything long like that so I threw a dog toy (don't ask) at the ceiling until I knocked him down. 

    I am phobic about insecticide (except in the case of Palmetto bugs) but I'm about to get over that.  If I have stinkbugs tomorrow, the gloves are off.

    And no, that is not the end of the story.  The last straw is coming.

    I'm relaxing in my big fat chair reading a book tonight when I hear Harley running like he's chasing something.  I get up and walk around to the dining table.  It's that Palmetto Bug!  (And don't give me any "How do you know it's the same bug crap....I know it's the same one because if it's not the same one I can't live here anymore!)  So Harley puts his paw on it  - and I realize he's been playing with it.

    "Kill it, Harley!" Harley lifts his paw.  The bug runs under the living room sofa.  Next to my big fat chair. 

    So I had to write about it because I'm not going near the living room until I find its dead body.  Meanwhile, Harley is whining and crying because he can't find his new toy.  I even moved the sofa out from the wall so Harley could search all around the sofa.  Every now and then I think he spots it because there's the sound of running feet.  Then he starts whining and crying again. 

    Damn.  Just damn.
    *FLB=Freaking Little Bastard