Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Once upon a time....

"Once upon a time, and long ago, I heard someone singing soft and low/ Now, when day is done, and night is near, I recall the song I used to hear."

Those are my favorite lines from my favorite song from the musical Peter Pan. I was 17 when I did that play.

I was four when this photo was taken.

Today, I am 39. I don't feel 39. I don't feel 20-something, much less almost forty. Time passes so quickly, like the fastest rocket known to mankind. One day you're a little kid on the beach, the next you're a senior in high school, and before you know it, you're a wife or mother or both, and you're looking at your own 17-year-old and thinking, "But I swear I just gave her a bath in the kitchen sink."

I could have continued my Retreat trip report (and I am still working on it), or I could have posted a picture of me today. I could have posted a picture of me last week, or I could have found a picture from my wedding in 1987. I could have dug up one of the pics from when I was at camp, or I could have posted one from my 25th birthday (which was really nice).

I picked this one. I'm not sure why.

When I was a senior in high school, the speech/play productions class threw a surprise party for me at school. It was one of only two surprise parties that have ever been thrown for me. Actually, I sort of suspected the other surprise party, which was held just the summer before at camp. The other aides threw a party for me because I had to leave a week before camp was out. But I could tell they were acting suspiciously, so I wasn't really surprised.

Not so on my 17th birthday.

You see, I had a particularly bad day on October 26, 1983. Early in the day, I was called out of one of my classes and summoned to the guidance office. There, the guidance counselors harangued me for an hour to stop making trouble. Apparently, without my knowledge, one of my teachers had *commented* that there was something wrong with the state guidelines for "gifted" students if I was not considered a gifted student. And I was not considered gifted. The schools in those days got extra funds for the numbers of "gifted" students that they listed in their rosters, and I was not among those extra-smart people.

It had never really bothered me not to be considered gifted, although I knew it irritated my mother -- at least when I was in junior high. In junior high, they actually had "enrichment" classes for the gifted students, and I might have benefited from the additional scholastic opportunities there. But once I went to the high school, there was nothing for gifted students. There were three levels of all academic courses: remedial, average, and above average. And I was in all the above average classes that I needed to be in -- which were just English and history. I barely scraped by in science, and I loathed math. Nothing else really mattered beyond English, history, and my electives, so I was never concerned about the whole "gifted" label.

Then I was called into the guidance counselor's office, as I said -- *on my birthday* -- and berated for putting a teacher up to the mischief of trying to get me re-labeled in the middle of my senior year when it would be too late to benefit anyone, least of all the school.

It was a bad, very bad, terrible, no-good, horrible, very bad day.

I was frustrated. I felt mistreated and abused by the guidance counselor who was a horrible, snotty man. I had never liked him. His wife was great. But he was an insufferably smug cretin. He sat there, rubbing his beard and telling me that I was an "over-achiever."

Now, at home, I only heard that I was an under-achiever. Mama was constantly frustrated by my bad grades in maths and my noncompetitive nature. And when the guidance counselor finally named my supporter, I was forced to admit that in her eyes, I probably *was* gifted. I was talented on the stage, and I was a very good writer. By that time already, I had won the Century III scholarship competition (based largely on one's knowledge of current events) and the National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Award in Writing, which had caused no fewer than three English teachers to burst into tears of rapture because my school had *never* had a winner in that contest.

And I was more than willing to take the IQ tests necessary to ascertain whether or not I was "gifted" as the state Department of Education defined it.

But mostly, I sat in that room wondering why he felt it necessary to beat me up with this, and didn't he know -- he *had* my file sitting right in front of him the whole time -- didn't he *know* he was attacking me on my *birthday*????

No, he didn't know.

I had "early dismissal" at school that year, meaning that I attended five classes and then was free to go home. That was the last year that any school in Tennessee had such a thing as early dismissal except for the vo-tech students who had jobs that counted as school credit. My last class of the day was Speech/Play Prod. I had never taken those electives earlier in my school career, even though my most passionate extra-curricular activity was theatre. And even though I could have left school at 2:30, I usually stayed after. I was president of the Forensics Society, and I was competing in speech/theatre competitions, and of course, I usually had play practice after school. Besides, I still wasn't driving a car yet. I wouldn't get my driver's license until Christmas break that winter.

So when I went to fourth period, instead of taking notes during the history lecture, I was writing a letter to a friend of mine who was going to a boys' school in Virginia, venting all my frustration with the guidance counselor who had attacked me so suddenly. When the bell rang for fifth period, I went directly to Ms. Sutherland's classroom and resumed writing my letter.

I was sitting in my desk, quietly, writing out all my frustrations, and I realized that Ms. Sutherland was standing behind me. I looked up, and she was reading over my shoulder, reading about what had happened in the guidance counselor's office. She tried to smile -- it was more of a smirk -- and she asked, "How's your day?"

"Not good," I said, blackly, "Don't ask. I'll be fine. Later."

And she shrugged. I didn't know until much later how angry she was.

Finally, the bell rang, and class started. Ms. Sutherland -- a dramatic woman with a purposeful, manly gait -- strode across the front and said, "Everyone stand up. We're going to do vocal warm-ups today."

And we all stood up and shook out our arms and rolled our necks in preparation for the usual warm-ups. We started with humming loudly through our entire range, and then yawned, and then we started doing tongue-twisters. I was terrible at tongue-twisters, but that just made that class more fun.

And then she said, "Now let's do Big Black Bear --"

And the whole class -- the entire roomful of people -- immediately started singing, "Happy birthday to you."

I was so surprised. I was shocked. I sat down, collapsing onto the floor next to my desk, which isn't quite as pitiful as it sounds because the desks were on tiers. I sat down hard on the step next to my desk and cried as my classmates -- my friends, my compatriots, my fellow thespians, my *people* -- sang loudly and lustily to me, and two girls appeared from the dressing rooms with a lit birthday cake. I had not even noticed when they slipped out of the room during the vocal exercises to light the candles.

The cake was in the shape of a star, and on top of chocolate frosting it held my name in lights.

There were stacks of cards from everyone in the room.

I just cried through the whole thing.

I could not believe -- and part of me still doesn't believe -- the trouble to which they had gone. Not only had they - a group of more than 20 -- conspired to throw me a surprise party, but they ordered a cake in the shape of a star and made cards for me. There were refreshments and music, and we spent the whole hour doing nothing but playing charades and laughing.

And I never had a clue. I had no idea. I don't remember what my mother gave me for a present that year, and I do not know what I was wearing. And I had had a truly awful day -- up until that beautiful, shining moment.

I can still see their faces in my mind; I can still hear the song and the laughter. I can still feel the warmth of their hugs as they each gave me a card or patted me on the back. There was one card from one student who wasn't actually in the class -- he was a freshman whom I knew in my typing class, and his sister was in class with me. He liked me so much and so enjoyed being in on the surprise that he made me a card himself and made his sister give it to me.

That was the best birthday I ever had. And it had started out so badly --

Which is proof that things always get better just when you think they can't get worse.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Another couple of pages

Here are the next couple of pages in my little Erikia book -- these are my dinner companions on that first night and the trading cards that I received during the reception.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Day 2 of Wisconsin trip, Day 1 of Retreeeeeeat

Thursday, August 4th

The night before, we had talked about all the things Tricia needed to do on Thursday morning. Her mom Pat would be arriving, and Tricia needed to take Emily to Spanish Camp and go to CSHQ to wrap up a few loose ends there.

I slept in a little, but fortunately I got up early enough to reap the benefits of Cliff's fabulous coffee. OMG -- y'all -- Cliff really does make great coffee. I had a couple of buns to go with the coffee, and I just kind of vegged out until Pat arrived. We caught up and chatted -- it was *so* good to see her!!! She looked wonderful that morning, very happy to be there and very excited about Retreat. Pat is the *bomb*. She had just started chemo treatments about a month earlier, and I was worried that she would be wiped out, but it was a pretty good weekend for her to be attending a busy event.

There's so much about Pat that I admire, just on a general level. She's a strong and responsible woman who raised strong and smart children. She has a great sense of personal style, which has obviously rubbed off on Tricia, who also has a great taste. I mean -- this is a great woman. I could learn a lot from her. Other than that, I just like being around her -- she's always pleasant and fun and never has an unkind word to say about anyone. Pat is a treasure, and watching her with Tricia is a joy. It's wonderful to see mothers and daughters who more than just get along -- they're really good *friends*.

We all went to Neenah to a marvelous little restaurant in the restored downtown area of that town. "We" were a group comprised of me, Tricia, Cliff, and Pat. The restaurant (and I wish I could remember the name, dang it!) was an Italian restaurant by night and a soup and salad bistro by day. The soups defied description, they were so delectable and intricate. I literally just had to point to a soup and say, "I'll have that one."

The salad was sublime, the bread was divine, and the soup was *incredible*. I have no idea what it was. I drank a strange foreign soft drink in a bottle -- it was very tasty. I think it was lime flavored. I should have saved the bottlecap, but... I was ditzy and left it behind. I was stuffed. That section of Neenah is just too adorable for words; I was getting quite an education in how pretty and historic Wisconsin is!!!!!

The whole time I was being driven from place to place, Tricia or Cliff were trying to tell me how the lakes connect from one section to another, and they were pointing out their favorite places to go boating. I kept looking at those lovely, huge lakes that go on for miles and thinking, "Man, that water has got to be cold." I live in East Tennessee. Our lakes are deep, mountain-stream-fed lakes that are cool all summer long. In Georgia, the lakes are warm. In Florida, lakes are hot and filled with alligators. I figured that the further north you go, the colder the lakes get. But those Wisconsin lakes *looked* warm and inviting, especially on those hot August days.

Another note about geography in general: I was always confused about where I was, exactly. Green Bay? No. Neenah? Maybe. Appleton? Maybe. Oshkosh? Probably. Menasha? Possibly. It's all very confusing. Those towns run into and over each other, following the lakes and skipping across to the opposite shore, I guess. I don't know. I'll never know. It surely was pretty, though, much greener than Tennessee, which by August has turned mostly brown from the heat.

Lunch was great. Then we went back to the house, and I'm almost sure that's when I got my nap. And thank heaven I took it, or I never would've been able to make it through dinner.

I'm an introvert. Lots of people who don't understand the nature of introversion think that introverts don't like people. Not true. Lots of introverts *love* people. We love them so much that we want to know everything about them and their souls. But at a large gathering, it's very difficult to get that kind of information out of everyone you talk to, which is very frustrating for introverts and causes them to be exhausted.

OK, so I'm an introvert. I knew that I would be meeting... well, 111 people. Or so. Not to mention waiters and bartenders. I knew I would be exhausted by the welcome reception, and I tried to steel myself for it.

We left Tricia's house in time to get to the hotel in Oshkosh about an hour before the welcome reception. Honestly, I was very busy watching the highways and byways for things I might recognize. Big lake, big bridge. Waterlilies. ... And on the left, a shopping center with a craft store and a scrapbook store, the hotel must be near! We got off at that exit and turned left, and then right to get to the hotel.

We were there!!!!!

We had brought Tricia's computer and a printer with us, so we had a lot to carry in, which we did without too much trouble. In the lobby, there were people, and I got my Retreat packet and goodies, my nametag and my class schedule. Eeeeeeeeeee!!!! Finally!!!!! I was starting to get really psyched!!!!!! Before we got to the bar, Tricia showed me the huge aerial photo of the area around the hotel. They have a massive air show and fly-in every year in Oshkosh, and we had really just missed it. Tricia hosted a family in her home during the air show, and we had been talking about it. Dang! That's a whole bunch of people and planes!!!!!

Then we went through the bar to the reception area. In 2003, the reception was in the bar, but this year they wisely put it in the main ballroom so there was more room and therefore, a little more room to breathe!

Tricia, Pat, and I set up our albums on the album-sharing table, and then Tricia disappeared. I had some small task to keep me busy -- but I can't remember what it was now. I did keep having to dig under the tablecloths where the albums were. But I honestly can't remember why.

Immediately, I saw Kay, Jill, and Dinah's daughter Nikki. I saw Dinah and we hugged. Kay was setting up for the photos with Tricia and Dinah, so I got my picture pretty early. Oh! Y'all! I had this *spot* on my blouse. It was one of those spots that you just can't do anything about. Dinah *very* graciously stepped in front of me just a little and angled her shoulder so that my spot didn't show. What a sweetie!!!!!!

Then I saw Terri and it was like a reunion in a movie -- you know, fields of daisies, warm afternoon sunshine, and us running at each other with our arms wide like... OK, yeah, that's a total lie. ROFL!!! But we did hug and say hello. We also got our photo taken with Tricia and Dinah. Eeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!

Before things got too hairy (I think -- I could be wrong!), I dragged Terri outside for a quick break and a chat. A few Retreat attendees who also knew Terri (who *doesn't* know Terri???) joined us, and I regaled them with the tale of "Bay and the Search for Pretty Panties."

We laughed and laughed.

It was fun.

Then we all went back inside and the Welcome Reception commenced.

It was ... *lovely*. So many people were having so much fun searching for their ATC swap people. I didn't have an ATC swap list (late addition to the whole Retreat thang, dontchaknow), so I was just wandering around meeting people and chatting. I found Chris at some point during this mess and said a quick hello, but it was way too short. I would find my way back to Pat occasionally, and then someone would ask if we had seen so-and-so, and then I would be out milling around in the crowds. A couple of women were really nice and complimentary about my scrapbook.

The hors d'oevres were yummy, and we were all having fun.

Dinner was also good -- I cannot now remember the menu, and it was the one meal from which I didn't get the menu that was on the table. CS Retreat is always done this way -- they print up the menus on scrumptious CS paper so you have a souvenir of the evening. But I was a doofus and didn't pick it up. I was sitting with Tricia and Pat and a bunch of lovely attendees from all over the country. Time passed way too quickly.

I ran to the ladies' room at one point, and when I returned, I discovered that the introductions and speeches had started. Phooey! I missed the beginning!

I finally grabbed a minute to say hello to Erikia, who is even lovelier than ever. She's such a tiny thing! She was a sweetheart.

The next thing I knew, Terri was getting ready for her one workshop. In our Retreat packets was an entire kit with which to make a lovely handstitched book. I wanted to take the class, but I was absolutely exhausted already. I have no idea how that happened. Tricia, of course, had to keep mingling and greeting people, and I think she even had to take Tim to dinner somewhere, because his flight was late and he missed dinner.

Some ladies approached me and we sat in the bar and chatted, but I didn't drink anything because I was already almost falling asleep. Finally, Tricia came by and asked me if I was going to take Terri's workshop, and I could *see* the relief on her face when I said no, I was ready to go back to the house and get some sleep! It turned out that Pat was exhausted, too, and if I had said, "I'm takin' the workshop," we would have had to find a way to get me back to Tricia's house. That would have been confusing for everyone.

So Pat, Tricia, and I trundled out to the SUV and headed home. I spent a little bit of time trying to call home, but I couldn't get a reliable cell signal at Tricia's house. She told me to use her house phone, because she has a one-price long distance plan. Don't you love that? I have it, too!!!! Technology rocks. Unfortunately, Wesley was already asleep by the time I called, so I just talked to my daughter.

On this night, instead of using the small lamp for a night light, I used the lava lamp. I was *terribly* worried that if I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I would disturb Pat, whose bed was between my room and the bathroom. I hope I didn't bother her!!!

But I kept pinching myself and looking at the Retreat packet even after I retired for the night. I just couldn't believe it -- I was in Wisconsin. I was at Retreat. It just didn't seem real!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Erikia's book cover

One of the projects we made during Retreat was this little 6x6" book in Erikia Ghumm's class. the cover is chipboard, painted with green acrylic paint and covered with a laminate image transfer. Erikia even included bits of ribbon and frayed fabric strips. I added the Junkitz charm -- it was part of Tim's class, but it kept falling off my monogram, so I moved it over to the book. Me likey.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Club Scrap Retreat, August 4-7

Wow! I can't believe I'm getting requests for this. The nutty thing is that I started to write it back in August, and I made myself stop because it was such a bummer that I couldn't share it with anyone. Now I can't find where I started! And that's terrible, because I had the *best* best time of anyone anywhere in all of Wisconsin, and y'all should get to read about it if anyone could. ;)

So I'll try to drag up my rusty memories and see if I can't pull together some semblance of a report. I am sure I will forget stuff. I didn't take notes during the trip, mostly because I was always busy, and when I wasn't busy, I was asleep. Retreat wore me out!!!!!! It wore me out in 2003, too, but I was *way* more wiped out this year. I'm not sure why -- maybe because I've gained 40 pounds in the last two years? Surely *that's* not it! OK, it might really be.... Anyway, here's my trip report, such as it is.....

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005.
I was scheduled to fly from Nashville to Detroit and then on to Appleton. The Nashville to Detroit part went just as planned, and I was supposed to have about an hour layover in Detroit, just long enough to grab a snack, use the ladies' room, and then board the plane, probably. The first leg of the flight was totally uneventful and didn't scare me. Unlike the plane trip to the 2003 Retreat, I didn't even get locked in the dark in the ladies' room on the airplane. But then... I haven't *used* a restroom on an airplane since that year! ROFL!!!! Once burned, twice shy.

When we landed in Detroit, I found my next gate without incident and then doubled back to the ladies' room. They were totally out of soap in there. That drove me *crazy*. I am sorry, but one needs soap for one's handwashing, y'know? So I walked all the way past my gate to the next ladies' room, where, thank heaven, there was soap. I finally got my hands adequately cleansed. And I would like to tell you that I didn't touch anyone or anything on my way to that one. I mean -- yuck. Public restrooms should have *soap*.

Then I went back to my gate, where I discovered two really important things:
1. This was not my gate any more, and
B. My flight was being delayed by another hour.

Yikes!!!! I knew Tricia was planning to pick me up at the airport, so I whipped out my cell phone and called her. She was actually on her way to the Appleton airport to pick me up right then! Ack!!!! Not a problem; she could take some Retreat attendees to the hotel and then come back to the airport, by which time I *should* be landing. OK, that's a plan! I'm sorry that I was late, but glad that it meant that Tricia got to drive someone to Retreat!!!!!

Then I found a restaurant in which to eat. I don't remember the name of it, but they made things similar to fajitas but not exactly fajitas, and they were way more exotic than the fajitas or burritos or any tortilla-wrapped food one gets in Tennessee. I could only eat about half of it, because I was excited and nervous about flying, but I ate as much as I could and read my book.

(Oh, yeah, I bought the newest Sophie Kinsella book, "The Undomestic Goddess," in the bookstore at the Nashville airport. Shhhhhhh. Don't tell Wesley.)

Finally I boarded my second plane, and as we set out over a Great Lake (never can remember which one, but it's definitely very great), I managed to concentrate enough on my book not to get nervous about flying over water. I'm not a calm flyer, y'know.

We got to Appleton, and honestly, the airport seemed different somehow since 2003. Bigger. Curvier. More confusing. I went to the baggage area to get my suitcase, and before it even came around on the carousel, there was TRICIA!!!!!!!! Eeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!! She ran up to me with her arms open wide for a hug, and we hugged and squealed and jumped up and down until my enormous bag came around, at which point we wrestled it off the carousel and trundled off to her SUV waiting just outside.

The trip to Tricia's house was fun and filled with laughter and conversation -- she told me about taking Retreat attendees to the hotel, and I told her about how the ladies' room in the Detroit airport didn't have soap -- we briefly considered going out to get something to eat, but I was still too nervous to eat anything.

At her house, I met Cliff and Emily again, and got settled in the guest room, which is *gorgeous*. We sat on the porch and chatted and drank. Tricia keeps Diet Dr. Pepper on hand for Terri, and I needed to make the switch to diet colas, so I was very relieved and happy to discover that I can handle Diet Dr. Pepper. (Through the course of the Retreat weekend, I am happy to announce that I got *totally* switched over to diet drinks. My really mean doctor will be happy. She's mad at me because of all the weight I've gained since my skinny-chick metabolism quit working.)

Oh, and I need to apologize publicly to Terri because if she goes to Tricia's house and she's out of Diet Dr. Pepper, it's because I drank them. Sorry, Terri. :D But I'm really glad that's your beverage of choice, because it *really* helped me to switch over to diet! I never could get used to Diet Coke. Blech.

Cliff and I caught up on the last couple of years and got acquainted. Cliff is a hoot!!!!! He's so much fun, so outgoing and friendly, and just the best host in the world! He also makes FABULOUS coffee. This is a guy who really knows the importance of coffee. It's not just a matter of getting caffeine into your system. Oh, no. Coffee is a very important thing just in terms of taste and color!

Emily was a little reserved at first, but she showed me her room, which is just a veritable palace of pinkness. I know pink isn't Tricia's favorite color, but she's one of those truly great moms who sublimates her own tastes and gives her child what her *child* wants. That room is a dream come true for a little princess. And Emily is more than a princess; she is incredibly smart and motivated. Throughout the weekend, I was often delighted with the conversations she could hold with adults and her behavior in general. She's completely different from my Emily -- I think she'll be a great lady when she grows up, very kind and generous with a heaping dollop of booksmarts.

In the dark that night, we could see some kind of equipment looming in Tricia's backyard, evidence that there's a seawall being implanted against the canal back there. Later in the trip, I came to appreciate how very cold it gets up there in the winter and the importance of a seawall. But wow, that's a lot of work!

My biggest impression of Wisconsin in August that night? Well, honestly, I wondered if it was all a big joke on the Southern girl, because it was just as hot in Wisconsin as it had been in Tennessee! It wasn't quite as humid, but man, it was *hot*. The house was completely open to let cool night breezes in, and I was in the basement which was much cooler than the upstairs. And I was *glad* to be in the basement!

Somewhere around 11:00, I unpacked and hung up my dress for the Saturday night dinner, and I turned on a little light for a night light so I wouldn't get lost in the middle of the night. I always get lost in strange places. Heck, I get lost at home, but I try not to tell everyone *that*.

In general, my feelings were: Happiness (because I was finally there), trepidation (what would it be like without my sister Amy to hide me from scary new people?), excitement (for all the things I would get to learn that I knew nothing about), and a little tiny tinge of anger (because Terri had scheduled some stinkin' boat rally thingamabob and wouldn't be at *most* of Retreat, dang it!!!!). I was really looking forward to seeing Chris and Dinah and Kay and Jill and everyone from CSHQ -- I was anxious to see Annette again -- and great, huge hope that I wouldn't either scare someone or disappoint anyone. I couldn't wait, couldn't *wait* to see Erikia. I haven't seen her in person since the 2003 Retreat, but there is something about Erikia that just speaks to my soul. She's so delicate and ethereal; it's almost as if she doesn't belong in this big, loud world in which we traffic, but her art always makes me feel a little bit better about humanity in general.

As I laid my head down on a perfect feather pillow -- a pillow which I nearly stole and brought home with me; it wasn't too big and wasn't too small but was *just right*, which is the way everything in Tricia's home is -- the last thing I thought was, "Dang! I never called Amy to tell her I'm here safely!"

Workin' on the railroad

I live on the nicest street in my town. I swear I do. However, the nicest street in my itty bitty town is directly across a small berm from the railroad tracks. Hey, man, this is small town America. You get what you get. We have no traffic to speak of, and very little crime. All we have to put up with is the occasional train.

Every few years, the railroad has to perform maintenance on the tracks to keep the trains speeding through at a good pace, and this is one of those years. The other night, some maintenance cars were parked on the side track directly in front of our house. And these are the kinds of cars that have to run all night long. For one terrible night, it sounded like a train wreck in front of my house -- All Night.

And all the cars were brightly lit, so that the railroad workers could, I don't know, keep an eye out for thieves and miscreants. Or maybe they worked all night on something. I'm not sure.

Every time I opened my front door, I smelled creosote and engine oil and diesel fuel. This odor is not unknown to me, because when I was little and lived in Social Circle, Georgia, I played at the depot all the time. There were almost always one or two engines parked at the depot, and the odor around them was identical to the one I smelled now.

It was a shot of nostalgia.

Not nostalgic were the sirens. Every once in a while, some sirens or alarms or *something* would go off -- and it sounded like a volunteer fire department's sirens to call the volunteer firemen together for a fire. I know what *that* sounds like, too, because Social Circle's fire department was about a block and a half away from my house. And there were a lot of fires in the summer of '69. That made quite an impression on me, let me tell you.

Fortunately, the alarms on the railroad equipment stopped going off around 11:00 -- but the lights remained bright all night long.

My new camera recorded the picture pretty accurately.

I really like my new camera.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Just one picture

I could have put this in my last post, but it deserves a post of its own.

Two of my favorite people on a completely gorgeous October afternoon. This photo makes me smile.

She's here!!!

For an afternoon, for an evening, for just long enough to feel normal, my sister came home.

She's in trouble, of course. No, not because she moved all the way across the continent. Although that's a really good excuse. No. She's in trouble because she gave me an early birthday present -- a new camera. It's a great camera. It's much, much smarter than I am.

But she came home, and that's what counts. For one blissful afternoon, I felt like the world was right again.

I can't explain what it is about Amy. When we were young, I mean *little*, we didn't get along that well. I was the squeaky wheel. She was the smart one. And I have to tell you, it is really hard to follow in Amy's footsteps. All of my teachers always said, "You're Amy's little sister??? Oh! We expect *great* things from *you*."

So I always did the opposite of what Amy did, unless it was completely unavoidable. Piano, for instance. Amy was a prodigy. I started taking lessons when I was 8, and I outgrew all the local normal piano teachers by the time I was 16, but I still couldn't aspire to Amy's standards, so I quit after that. Theatre, for another one -- Amy did a play called "Fumed Oak" when I was, oh, 7 or 8 or so. I'm not sure. It's one of my fondest memories. She played the daughter with a head cold. I have absolutely no idea who wrote "Fumed Oak" or what it's about, but I will always carry the memory of Amy, onstage, in the spotlight, talking as if she had a terrible cold, and the way the grown-ups around me laughed and applauded for her. That was it, I was gone, I had to do a play. And my life has never been the same since.

But math -- oh, Amy is the smartest person I've ever known when it comes to math. And I am a complete dunderhead. I can barely add, much less do algebra, and Amy majored in math and became a computer programmer. She revels in puzzles, adores unraveling mathmatic mysteries, and loves solving programming problems.

All that is just surface stuff. When she went off to college, I was almost 14. Somehow, her absence made us able to stand back and appreciate each other -- or maybe I just finally grew up enough to be able to relate to her amazing brain. Now she's one of my best friends. No -- she's my *best* best friend. We always laugh so hard when we're together, and it's always such a magnificent relief to be with her, just so I can be myself.

There's a part of me that still can't believe she moved to Las Vegas. I know it was the right thing to do, and I know she's much happier out there, and I'm happy for her. I'm just sad for me -- sometimes. Sometimes it's really hard not to have her here. We used to meet for coffee late at night. Now we talk on the phone almost every day, and we email like maniacs -- but it's not the same as actually being with her, breathing the same air that she breathes, touching her arm, knowing that she's here and solid and *real*.

We laughed all afternoon, and laughed much harder in the evening. I know tomorrow -- or the next day, or maybe Thursday -- I'll be crying over missing her. But right now, I'm just wallowing in the knowledge that she's just down the road. If I hopped in the car right now, I could touch her arm and feel the warmth of her existence in less than 30 minutes.

At least I have a photo or two with which I can remember her. This will hold me together until the next time I see her. And someday, we'll live in the same time zone again, and we'll hang out all the time again.

It's nice that technology has advanced so much that I can talk to her without running up a huge phone bill (the way I did when I spent nine months in Illinois). But it's so much better to actually be in the same room as Yamy.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ah HA!

I knew Toby was the leak!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, got carried away. I love "The West Wing." And I predicted that Toby was the leak. Said it weeks ago. No, not on this blog, on a message board, and I could probably post a link, but then I would have to dig around to find it, and that's more trouble than it's worth. Even though I could conceivably do the "neener neener" dance, I'm really too busy procrastinating to behave insufferably about anything right now.

And I still love Leo to death. He's so clueless. Good ole Leo!!!

Gotta go write. Bluh.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


I can't believe y'all didn't like the post about the goldfinches -- my feelings are hurt! I'm gonna pout.... but not too long, because YAMY IS FINALLY COMING BACK TO TENNESSEE FOR A VISIT!!!!!!!!! I haven't seen my favoritest stister since last Christmas. I can't believe we've been apart for so long!!!!!! But I can't wait to see her. That should be Sunday afternoon/evening. She's going to Alabama for a folk art show first.

Shyuh -- like art is more important than *me*. Hmph!

Most interesting tonight is that a number of my friends have finally recovered from the exhaustion they experienced at Memory Trends, a trade show in Las Vegas. Now many of us who didn't go are making plans for CHA Winter, which will be at the end of January. I've got to start scraping my pennies together for that, but I'm going even if it kills me. A. It'll be cool to go back to a trade show but as a walker rather than a shower, and 2. I'd love to see my friends in Las Vegas, and III., what a fabulous opportunity to hang out with Yamy some more!

If any of *you* are planning to go to LV for CHA, make sure to make time to go to Fat Burger for a milk shake. I'm just sayin'. Is all.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A little birdie told me

Early this afternoon I was talking to my sister Amy when I realized there was a commotion in the last elm tree that stands in my yard. I looked up and realized there were some little finches in the tree, chattering and flitting about like mad, and I exclaimed to the other bird lover on the phone, "Amy! I have a whole flock of goldfinches in my tree!"

I adore goldfinches. I know they're fairly common around here, but I don't see them that often. I shouldn't get all excited, but I do. I mean, I see robins and mockingbirds and common housefinches all the time, but c'mon -- it's just more interesting to see a bird with some color on its wings.

Goldfinches have a pronounced scalloped flight pattern, and they are really very yellow, so if you happen to catch sight of them, you really can't mistake it for something else. They love thistle seed and little, tiny bugs, and I never have thistle seed sitting around for them. (Note to self: Get thistle!)

Before Wesley left for work, I happened to notice that the goldfinches were still zipping around the elm tree. Once I thought about it, I realized, "Hey, this tree is dying slowly -- I bet it's covered with whatever little bugs the birds like." So I grabbed my camera and took a ton of pictures, just hoping against hope that *one* of them would be clear enough to show that I really do have a tree full of goldfinches.

Well, I got it partly correct -- I got one picture, and it shows one goldfinch. Hmph! I swear there are lots more where this one came from. I just can't prove it with a photograph.

Tee hee! Goldfinch! Maybe my next bird will be an indigo bunting. Do you think I should hold my breath?

OK, maybe not.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Halloween humor

I'm sorry; I'm sitting here in tears, holding my sides, which have split because I'm laughing so hard at this e-card. I think it may be the best e-card ever designed. Warning: Do not drink while viewing this card.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Green-eyed monster me

Every other November, I go to Walt Disney World with disreputable friends of mine.

OK, they're not really all that disreputable. They're really very nice. I'm probably the most disreputable member of the lot. This photo was taken last year at the Kona Cafe in the Polynesian Resort. From left to right, we are Diana, Linda, Gail, me, and Krisi.

Krisi is always my roommate at WDW, and she's my bestest friend in the whole wide world. She's everything I'm not -- she's energetic and athletic; she's extroverted and fun; she's a Yankee and I'm a Southerner... the list goes on for ages. I adore Krisi.

Every November that we *don't* all go to WDW is a depressing November, indeed, and this year is going to be one of them.

But, oh, I just found out that Krisi and her husband Leo have planned a spur-of-the-moment jaunt to the Happiest Place in Florida. (Can't call it the Happiest Place on Earth, cuz that's Disney*land*.) And Gail -- in the yellow shirt in that photo -- will also be there. They're going to meet for dinner and a night at Pleasure Island.

I'm lonely.... I'm soooooo looooooonelyyyyyy... and it isn't even November yet.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

O, what a tangled web...

I haven't set out to deceive. Still, life is a tangled web these days.

Today was... interesting. I'm in the midst of saying goodbye to one part of my life, and I received an email that sealed the envelope. It is so hard -- always so hard -- to leave the known behind and venture into unknown waters. Still, I can't help but think of Robert Browning at times like this:

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?"

And darn it, I'm not even all that fond of Robert Browning. But hey, that's a fabulous quote and so appropriate to so many occasions. I often find it in my head when I'm at a crossroads, as I am today.

Today was spent tying up some loose ends, getting to work on other projects, and washing my beloved Prius. I adore my car. I love it for both its tree-hugging cleanliness and its economy. I don't know what I'd do if I still had an expensive gas-guzzler; even when I fill the Prius, the cost takes my breath away. For those of you filling regular cars, you have my unending sympathy.

After I washed the car, the light was so pretty and the afternoon was so glorious that I took some pictures of the kids. I had been meaning to take some pictures of Woodrow because he just turned 13 last week. Terrible kid. Rotten, awful, disobedient child. I have *begged* him to stop growing up, but he just won't listen to me. I got some good shots of Woodrow with his new bicycle, and I imagine I'll be scrapping them someday.

I also took pictures of Emily. It's much harder to get a good shot of my giddy 17-year-old. She doesn't sit still long and has difficulty just composing her face for photos. I have to use far more distractions when I'm taking pictures of her. I feel blessed to have captured the shot above. I took more pictures a few minutes later, but for some reason the focus is off. I know in a year or two, I'll be ecstatic to have even the unfocused pictures, but right now I'm just happy to have this one shot, with the sun shining in her golden hair, her hazel eyes gazing off to the side, and her mouth open.

Why is her mouth open? Because she's talking. Of course. LOL -- that's my gadabout, my wild child, my extrovert --

My Emily.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The rest of the Edisto trip...

OK, the guilt is killing me. I don't know if I'll ever finish my proper trip report. Here are the highlights of the rest of the trip...

Saturday evening:
- Took carriage ride. OK guide. Rainbow Row. Woo hoo! Pretty. But HOT. Sun beating down on us no matter which way we were facing, and that was with a cover on the carriage.

- Nifty, funny, no, hilarious thing: Toward the end of the carriage ride, we spied a guy with a sousaphone (marching tuba) running toward St. Peter's Episcopalian. Then we saw three groomsmen in tuxedos running toward St. Peter's and loudly complaining about (a) the heat, (b) the parking situation, and (c) the sweat ruining their tuxedos. When we got to St. Peter's, we saw signs that there was, indeed, a wedding taking place. Then after the tour, a parade complete with a Dixieland jazz band and the wedding party totally interrupted traffic all around the Market. And yes, the sousaphonist *and* the groomsmen were all there.

- Wesley's blood sugar dropped and I'm not sure he ever even heard the jazz band.

- We went to Hyman's seafood place for dinner. I've read about it for years, and the concensus in guidebooks is that it's overpriced and overhyped, which is why I've never gone there. The guidebooks were wrong. We walked right in (around 5:30 in the afternoon), were seated in gloriously air conditioned surroundings, and had a completely fabulous meal. Our waiter was somewhat inept, but earnest, and he tried hard. He just isn't cut out to be a waiter. He's probably going to cure cancer or something, though. He was the epitome of the absentminded professor. If you go to Hyman's, take at least three people with you. Order different desserts. And share. There is no way to order just one dessert; they are ALL sublime. Our tab was just over $120 including tip, and it was worth every penny, especially considering the air conditioning.

- We walked around in the waning evening, found Margaritaville (where I appreciated the one chair in the shop and the others bought Parrotheard paraphernalia), visited the bookstore, and then went back to the house on Edisto. Ahhhhhh, air conditioning!

Sunday, August 21st --

- The most truly unique thing I have ever witnessed took place -- we woke up to find Edisto police stomping around in the backyards behind our row of rental houses, looking out into the marsh. There was apparently someone who had done something and had fled into the marsh when the police approached him. While I stood on the second story balcony and looked for the hoodlum myself, I watched two raccoons swim from one marsh island to another.

- It was so hot that there were heat index warnings all over the radio. Woodrow and I went shopping that afternoon, and in one of the shops, the owners had the police scanner on. During the fifteen minutes that I was there, several people collapsed on the beach and ambulances were being called out all over the place.

- Late Sunday afternoon, the wind picked up and Wesley, Woodrow, and I went to the beach. We could not anchor the beach umbrella in the fierce wind that blew. I waded into the ocean and promptly ran into a jellyfish. I kicked. The jellyfish bounced around on my feet, calves, shins, and thighs. That was NOT FUN. I tore apart four cigarettes, wetting the tobacco and applying it to my stung spots. The wind blew the tobacco around. Stupid wind. Getting back into that ocean was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I did it because Woodrow was freaking out.

- The Ruby Seahorse was closed all day Sunday for a company picnic. HMPH!!!! I cannot now remember what we did about dinner, but what I really wanted was another Ruby Seahorse burger. That place was *wonderful*!!!!

Monday, August 22nd --

- We cleaned up and checked out and packed up the car. Sniffle!!!!

- We went to the Serpentarium the moment they opened. I only wanted to see the turtles, and I spent quite a lot of quality time with them. This year I snagged the owner's wife and asked her to please identify all the turtle varieties for me. There's Joe, the African tortoise, who lives in a large area by himself. Joe has more personality than any reptile or amphibian or whatever tortoises are than I have EVER SEEN. He's like a dog. He comes over to the fence and begs to be petted. When the workers go to feed him, he follows them around like a puppy, begging for attention. I want Joe. The other turtles in a large, wet holding area, include soft-shell turtles (leathery backed buggers), Mississippi River snapping turtles, ordinary box turtles, regular river turtles, and then.... the cutest turtle I have EVER SEEN. There are turtles with bubbly-shaped heads and the most darling seafoam green and ivory markings. They had round little bubbly eyes and they followed me around as I walked around the tank, blinking their bubbly cartoon eyes at me. I swear they looked like Dr. Seuss had drawn them. The owner's wife said they were "diamond-back terrapins," and that they are indigenous to Edisto's salt marsh. I have looked up "diamond-back terrapins" online, and the pictures I found are nothing like these darling little cartoon turtles. I tried to take pictures, but none of them do these babies justice. They're just too cute for words. Go see them for yourself!!!!!!!

- Then we drove to Charleston for a tour and a lunch. We toured the Edmonston-Alston House, which is absolutely gorgeous. We toured it with a snooty tour guide and about 8 other tourists (besides our family of four), and frankly, I felt rushed, and I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside. One of the tourists with us was the actress who played Brett Butler's neighbor on her old TV show. Wesley keeps saying, no, that wasn't her. OH, YES, IT WAS. She handed me her camera and asked me to take her picture on the veranda with Ft. Sumter in the background. That was *so* her. I can't remember her name. I should've gotten her to pose for a picture with me. But I'm always too shy, and hey, I didn't know her name. All I could think was, "She used to be on TV with Brett Butler and ... hey, Blake Clark was on that show for a while, too." She's much prettier in real life, and that red hair is her natural shade. Her daughter had the same hair. And, oh, she had the best sandals. I told her I loved her sandals after I took two pics of her with her disposable camera.

- Wesley's favorite part of the Edmonston-Alston House was the Purdy shotgun that was mint-in-box, never assembled, never shot, purchased in 1864, and they had the receipt to prove it. It was gorgeous with a beautifully engraved register. Heck, even *I* thought it was gorgeous. He has since written to Purdy to ask them how much that gun would be worth today. They cannot affix a value to it. That's the kind of stuff they have in that house. If you're in Charleston, go see it. I just hope you have a more generous tour guide who lets you linger more than ours did!

- Lunch was very good at a microbrewery. Wesley was a happy guy.

- We didn't get out of Charleston until very, very late -- about 3:30, I'm afraid. So we drove until very late at night to get home. And oh, the weather was terrible. Big thunderstorms followed us all the way home. At one point, we got off the interstate to get gas, and the city we chose had suffered a blown transformer, so they had no traffic lights. It took us 45 minutes to get gas and get back on the interstate!

The last day was one of the best days of the whole vacation, honestly.

There. That's the end of my trip report! Now I can give up a bit of my guilt!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Problems with layout...

What do you do when you're having trouble with a layout?

Well, I don't know what *you* do, but I tend to suddenly find myself reciting long-forgotten "poetry" from my childhood. Here are a few favorites, appropos of nothing.

Fuzzy Wuzzy
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair --
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, wuz he?

Ooey Gooey
Ooey Gooey was a worm,
A mighty worm was he.
He climbed upon the railroad track --
A train he did not see.
Oooooooooooooey Gooooooooooooeyyyyyyyy.

And finally, this tidbit. I learned this from Lisa Goldberg at camp when I was 7 years old. Lisa Goldberg was by far the funniest and smartest girl at camp. I heard many years later that she was writing for David Letterman. That was, like, the most sensible thing I had ever, ever heard. One recites this poem upon the utterance of a burp:
Excuse me, please, for being so rude.
It was not me; it was my food.
It got so lonely down below,
It just popped up to say, "Hello!"

Now I'm going to be awake all night wondering if I've remembered her name correctly. Man, it stinks to get old and forget the names of the most clever and righteously funny girls at camp!

Back to the salt mines......