Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Bears Eat Some Pig

Once upon a time Hula-Locks and Hubby-Locks went skipping hand in hand through the woods and over to the local BBQ Festival in search of a good time. There they found thousands of other people doing the same thing. It was so crowded Hula-Locks and Hubby-Locks missed the sign at the big intersection that told you where everything was.
So they followed the smoke and the smell, wandering past BBQ houses for naughty little pigs.
And really naughty little pigs.
Until they came to the house that looked just right. (And there is no picture of it because Hula-Locks forgot to take one.)

Anyway, they looked around for their main course. They tried a sandwich, but it was spicy hot. They tried some boiled shrimp, but it was too cold. Then they tried some ribs. And they were just right so they ate them all up.

Still hungry, they looked around for some sides. (Editor’s note-That’s side dishes for all of you not from the south.) They tried some baked beans, but they were too hot. They tried some potato salad, but it was too cold. Then they tried some Cajun corn, and it was juuust right. So they ate it all up.

They drank some sweet tea, listened to some music and still felt hungry. Well, not really, but they weren’t ready to quit eating because hey it’s a BBQ Festival and special events calories don’t count.

They looked around for some dessert. They considered a hot fudge sundae, but it was too hot. They sampled cheesecake on a stick, but it was too cold. Then they found some ice cream. And it was juuuuuuuuuuust right, so they ate it all up.

Full and tired they wandered home for a nap in the recliner, and in the middle of that nap the phone rang. It was Mama J. Bear and Papa T. Bear wailing about how Hula-Locks and Hubby-Locks had been to the BBQ Festival without them and they were hungry and there was nothing in the house to eat. Anticipating this because it happens every year, Hula-Locks and Hubby-Locks reached into the fridge where they had stashed extra ribs and sandwiches from the BBQ Festival and took them next door where Mama J. Bear and Papa T. Bear declared it juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust right and ate it all up.

And they all lived happily ever after. Until Hubby-Locks got indigestion.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Favorite Childhood Foods

Thirty five plus years before KFC started dumping mashed potatoes and corn into a bowl and mixing them up, Hula was swirling her taters and corn together with copious amounts of salt and black pepper. Today, she stills mixes her taters and corn. With copious amounts of salt and pepper. And butter. Mmmmmm.
The down side to this is the amount of fat and sodium in that bowl. The up side is the corn doesn't slide off the fork or plate.
Hula thinks that when she is old she shall wear red hats with purple dresses, grow tomatoes and mix her potatoes and corn.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Had A Three Day Weekend....

But I’m not sure where it went. The Hula-gen’s are running in circles these days, which would account for my four day absence at this site. The highlights:

-The remodeling is about 3/5s done, but it’s starting to drag a little, and we are trying to crack the whip. We go on vacation in two weeks, and we want this stuff DONE by then. Done I tell ya’, done. Finished, finito, get out of my house.
-I am so over painting and picking paint colors. We are down to the master bathroom which has one coat of a blue that I was just sure was the perfect blue. Until it was put on all four walls, and I screamed, “Stop!” It’s butt ugly. Every one from the electrician to the brick layer thinks so, so it’s going. I don’t have the energy to look for another blue, so I told the painter to slap on some of that cream color that’s in the foyer and the hallway and call it a day. I can live with cream. It's the new black.
-New faucets in brushed nickel are lovely, simply lovely. Until you find them leaking about 9pm, three hours after the contractor has left the building and about fifteen minutes before the bottom of the cabinet is about to give way. T-Y-L-E-N-O-L.
-I am in serious need of that vacation. The Emerald Coast here I come! With swimsuit, sunscreen and library books in tow.
-Our days and evenings have suddenly turned a smidge cooler, and the thought of jacket weather is TICKING ME OFF, but I am trying to be grateful for the beautiful days that are upon us. It’s hard for a summer baby like me, but I’m going to try. I wore white shoes the other day just to be stubborn, though. Nobody noticed. I the only person who hangs onto sandals long after they’ve worn out? Even when they’re stinky and faded, I can’t seem to turn loose of them.
-While we haven’t had a firm offer on our old house yet, it’s showing well, and we are upbeat. I am, however, tired of trying to keep it sparkly clean for unexpected lookers. The neat freak otherwise known as Hubby is loving every minute of the sparkliness. I swear, that man is crazy in love with neatness. It must be a disease. If it’s a gene, I was born without it.
-Our niece’s son, W., has had three cobalt treatments in the last week and a half. His hair is starting to fall out. They keep running tests but haven’t really given us an indication yet of how bad his leukemia is. The two times they’ve tested his spinal fluid they have not found cancer cells there which is a good thing. The teachers at the elementary school where his mother teaches and the high school where is father teachers are putting on a mini-Woodstock type fundraiser for little W. next month. It’s wonderful how friends have started to rally around him, but it breaks my heart that he’s going through this. I cry if I think about it, so I try not to think about it.
-The dog and the cat lay side by side in Hubby’s lap for about forty minutes Friday, and we thought we’d had a major breakthrough in their showdowns. Until an hour later when he chased her into the dining room and she slapped him in the face with a furry paw.
-Papa T. has been cranky lately. Arms crossed, mouth poutin’ seriously cranky, and we’re not sure why. His mama would have whipped him with a peach tree switch if he had acted that way with her. We’re about ready to find a peach tree.

Twelve more days until vacation. Twelve more days.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Almost an Ordinary Day

An interesting thing happened yesterday. The ninth anniversary of my nephew’s death passed, and I almost missed it. I rushed through the day without realizing the significance of the date until I got home around 5pm and saw a small group of balloons in the garage. Every year on the anniversary of Chance’s death, we release a few balloons and watch them sail over the tree tops and out of sight, marveling at how high and far they go.

In past years, I’ve awakened on September 23rd to immediate thoughts of Chance. I always wonder what he would look like now and what he’d be doing. He would be 22 years old now and I suspect he would have made a fine young man. He likely would have graduated from college and found his first engineering job. Or would have run off with a rock and roll band as a roadie. We’ll never know for sure, but it’s nice to imagine what might have been, and for the past nine years I’ve spent a fair amount of time on September 23rd thinking about what might have been. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I didn’t. I almost missed it. I almost let the day slip away without remembering what day it was.

For a brief moment I felt a pang of guilt and worried that I was starting to forget him. Sometimes now, it’s a little hard to remember what his voice sounded like, and that bothers me. I brushed away the worry though because in my heart I know I haven’t forgotten. The joy that I gained from knowing him, and the life lessons I learned from his passing are always with me. I live each day with the knowledge that life is short, and we don’t have much time to make the most of it. That we should live without fear because some things are worse than failing. Whenever I do something adventurous or courageous I think of him. And I smile.

I think my forgetfulness yesterday was a just a sign of healing. My memories are tied less to the horror of the day he drowned and more to the love that we shared. I carry him in my heart every day, not just a single day in September, so yesterday was just another day. And that my friends, is a good thing.
Chance 1997

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Moment of Silence for the Maytag

Appliances are like celebrities; they die in threes. We have mourned two losses in the last week and are awaiting the third casualty. The shower died Sunday morning, and the dryer crapped out Monday. We are taking bets on which appliance will be next. The washing machine? How about the water heater or the dishwasher? Heaven help me if it’s the dishwasher. I have a gag reflex that’s so sensitive I can almost puke on demand, and I don’t do well with food floaties in dishwater. I can scrub toilets all day long, but wash dishes with lettuce and noodles floating in it? I’d rather juggle snapping turtles.

I’M betting on the washing machine. It’s the oldest thing in the house next to Hubby, and it’s sounding a little squeaky on the spin cycle, which I have pretended not to notice in recent weeks. The squeaking that is, not Hubby. We’ve already had one disaster with that washing machine a few years ago which resulted in oil all over the laundry room walls, so a relapse isn’t out of the question.

Being a home owner means staying in a constant state of despair…I mean repairs. Something always needs fixing. Most of the time it’s something routine, but it always costs money. Sometimes it’s something major, and when it is, it seems like the hits keep comin’ until you’ve racked up a trifecta of big purchases. Right now, I have two problems: 1. I have already spent my money on the new house and 2. I’m no longer interested in spending money on the old house. Once we decided to buy the new house, I lost all interest in doing anything to spruce up the old one. The old one is pretty much move-in ready for the next owner, so it doesn’t need much. And even though I still sleep there and park my butt in front of the TV occasionally, psychologically, I’ve moved on. I’m done with the old house. Finished. Over it. As in we could use some time apart, let’s just be friends and here’s your ring back. I’m just not into it anymore. It’s kind of like when Papa T. turned 75 and declared that he was done with all routine preventive tests like colonoscopies because he just didn’t think it was worth the expense, time and trouble. I don’t want to spend one more dime on the old house, but the appliance gods aren’t listening. Every time I turn around, something breaks.

I promised God last Friday that I’d quit swearing, and I think I heard him cackle out loud. Sunday morning, the handle on the shower screamed, “Psyche!” and refused to turn when Teen Angel got into the shower. In fact, the whole dadgum mechanism that controls the water and the water temperature broke apart. Hello plumber. Goodbye wallet. *#@%! The following night I came home to find a load of clothes that had been tumbling in a cold dryer for two hours. Upon investigation it was determined that it had indeed joined the shower in the category of Things That Make Hula Reach for the Margarita Mix. Double *#@%!! It had been on life support for weeks, and we knew it was terminal so it was no surprise. After uttering the serenity prayer, clicking my heels together three times and saying, “There’s no place like Lowe's,” I declared the dryer dead. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out and a pox on your family, twenty year old gas dryer. But instead of heading to Lowe's for a replacement, I said, “Whoa, Nelly.” Not because I didn’t want to go to Lowe's, because goodness knows I haven’t been there in at least three days, but because I refuse to buy a new dryer when we are about to move. The new house has a dryer. A beautiful, shiny front loading lusty babe that is just waiting for us to spin her cycles. I see no need in buying another one when we should be living there in about a month.

So, I did what any red blooded (does blood come in any other color) American woman does in a time of necessity. I hauled my clothes next door to Mama J.’s house and borrowed her dryer, which is my plan for the next few weeks. If I get desperate, I may purchase a really cheap dryer at the used appliance store or out of the want ads, but I’m spending no more than $50. I’ll hang clothes on every flat surface inside and around the house, which is why you’ll find Hubby’s underwear on the deck rail during the month of October. And I’m being extra gentle with the dishwasher because I refuse to buy one of those either, and the thought of noodle floaties scares me more than hanging my drawers on the yard lights.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Things Hula Likes

1. Smooth, brown hardwood flooring that brings nature inside.
2. Tumbled tile that adds warmth to a room.
3. Pretty pendant lights that make a great accent. (And yes, I will be removing the tags and dust eventually.)
4. Electricians who don’t freak when they’ve just finished the job but you call them anyway the next day to say, “Hey, about these cool pendant lights I bought on a whim at Lowes last night. They sure would look great over the snack bar.”
5. Teenage daughters who go to the Homecoming dance with her buddy and dance the night away with friends when the boy in her life turns out recently to be a real doo doo head.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tricks for Treats

Nothing cures a good case of boredom like dressing up your pets in Halloween costumes and laughing at them. Even when they give you disgusted looks.
Or try to yank off their ears and udders.Or howl in protest.

They're just so gosh darn cute that we can't help ourselves.

What can I say? We're easily amused.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How does Your Garden Grow?

I haven't written about the garden this summer because I've been so consumed by the remodeling nonsense. We've still been gardening, though. In fact, our 40-something tomato plants are working hard to produce all kinds of fruit. In fact, we're in the middle of our peak picking. It usually happens a little earlier in the season, but the weather has been strange this year, and the glut happened about a month later than normal. Better late than never, I say. Goodness knows it didn't hurt the crop. This was one day's worth of picking last week.
Yeah, I know. It hasn't slowed down, either. We pick about that many tomatoes two or three times a week. We have beautiful grape tomatoes.
So many we pick them and snack on them like potato chips. Which is okay until they reach the lower part of your colon.
And we have the bigger tomatoes.
They're everywhere.
They make fabulous BLT's, of which we've had many this summer.
Why do we have some many plants? Because we enjoy trying different varieties, and we are tomato nuts. We sit around in the winter and wax nostalgically for a good juicy summer tomato. What do we do with all of them? I can some for soups and chili in the winter months. Mama cans some, too. In fact, she took all of the sixteen gallons of tomatoes in that first photo, canned some of them and shared the rest with six other families. Six! That's awesome. We give them away to neighbors, friends, family, the ladies who work at the drug store. Basically, anyone who wants them, needs them or allows their arm to be twisted when we're begging people to take them. We just enjoy growing them and sharing them. Oh, and eating them.
This is the last year we will grow tomatoes in this backyard. Hubby has a new garden spot picked out at the new house, which has a huge backyard. We'll have a whole new big space to practice our farming skills. Ha! And a whole new bunch of neighbors to pawn those maters off on.

Friday, September 18, 2009

17 Quart Samples, 7 Weeks and 1 Doctor's Office Visit Later

When we first started this remodeling project eight holy mother of Sponge Bob weeks ago, I never dreamed it would take this long get everything finished. But keeping carpenters, electricians, painters, masons, window hangers and toilet setter uppers lined up and on schedule is an ordeal that just has to play itself out. As my friend, Mia, joked at the doctor’s office last week, everybody you hire says their job will take “two weeks”. It doesn’t matter if it’s hanging cabinets or fixing a light switch. How long will it take? Two weeks. Two weeks becomes three. Three becomes four…and you get the picture. We’re probably about two thirds of the way through this project, but we’re making real progress. In fact, I don’t want to get carried away, but GREAT GERTIE I HAVE A TILED KITCHEN BACK SPLASH! (Pictures coming soon to a blog near you.) While I whine about how long some of this takes, I have to be honest and admit that at least one aspect of the work has been slowed by….me. Yes, me. The lashing with the wet noodle begins now.

Weeks ago I made a comment on this very blog about being swift in my choices for all of the materials for the remodeling. Remember how I bragged about being sure and decisive? And I was decisive. Flooring? The man dropped off samples, I examined them in every room and by the next day I gave him my selection. Granite? I spent twenty minutes in the granite yard looking at each piece and made a choice with confidence. Tile? Not a problem. Ten minutes. Grout? Easy cheesy. Light fixtures? An hour in Home Depot and my cart was full. Another thirty minutes in Lowes and I had all of my ceiling fans. See, decisive. Except for one thing. Paint. And that has been a boil on my backside for seven, yes I said seven, weeks.

When I wrote recently about how paint keeps me up at night, I was not joking. I haven’t had this much trouble making a decision since I went prom dress shopping in 1982. I know some people say, “Oh, it’s just paint. If it doesn’t look good, paint over it.” Well, I’m paying a pretty penny for this painting and frankly, I don’t need them rolling on any more coats than I have the funds for. Also, I can’t stand to live in a house with wall colors I don’t like. Call me quirky, but it makes me uncomfortable to live with certain colors. So this decision is big. Really big, and I’m afraid of screwing it up.

When this project began we hired our painter right away, even though he wasn’t going to start for a while. We’ve used him before, and he’s great. Knowing that he uses only Sherwin-Williams paint, I went to the local Sherwin-Williams store and grabbed a sample card of every color. From the beginning I knew I wanted two things: lighter and brighter and shades of yellow, green, red and blue. While the old colors in the home were beautiful, they were dark. Very dark browns and oranges. In order for us to live there, the house needed to have a brighter, happier feel than when Sissy lived there. The very first time I sifted through those cards, I came across one that had the exact look I wanted, a pale creamy yellow foyer leading into a living room that was a slightly darker shade of gold. I put it in the keeper pile and started planning other items around those two colors. I bought a quart sample of each, along with two similar shades for comparison and rolled them on various walls of the house to see what they looked like, and I made a bad mistake. I second guessed myself. Neither shade seemed quite perfect enough, so I bought more samples and rolled those on the wall. And more and more, seeking the perfect shade of gold until I had so many that nothing looked right. I was also buying samples of blues, reds and greens for other rooms, so before you know it I had seventeen quart samples of various shades sitting on the kitchen counter. Seventeen! Paint store clerk Jason started laughing at me openly when I would walk into the store and would ask, “Have you picked a color YET?” Now, I have taken leadership classes, have been a manager for years and worked in fast paced environments where I had to make decisions about high risks or big expenses quickly. I can evaluate and act fast. I do it all of the time. But this stinkin’ paint thing just paralyzed me. I was about to throw my hands into the air when Hubby called me at work one morning to tell me he had found THE gold. He had taken Papa T. to the audiologist, and Hubby swore that the gold on Dr. Tony’s walls was the exact shade I was looking for. So the next day, which was a Saturday, we drove to his office and peered into the doors and windows, checking out the paint. And I hollered Eureka! It WAS the right color. It was beautiful and exactly how I had pictured it in my mind. On the following Monday, I called Dr. Tony’s, and the sweet receptionist opened up their last can of paint in the back closet and smeared some of it onto a piece of white cardboard so I could take it to Sherwin-Williams for a match.

Jason was almost as excited as I was. He mixed it up and gave it a special name, just for me, Butter Cream.
“This is IT!” I declared to him and rushed home to roll it onto the walls. Which I did. I put it in the living room, and the kitchen and the bedroom and sang the songs of angels while I did it. Then I went home to sleep and dream of butter. And when I came back the next day I sat on the floor and screamed because the paint looked like C-R-A-P. Crap, crap, crap. Orangey, dark shinola. Butt ugly, my baby pooped carrots shinola. It just didn’t look the same in my house as it did at Dr. Tony’s.

The next day the painter called and asked for my paint colors because he was ready to start. I gave him the ceiling and trim colors, the green for the dining room and the red for the guest bathroom. I begged for a little more time on the yellow/cream thing. He agreed and started with the dining room. The green was perfect. It was just the shade I wanted.
And I felt a little better.

The red was fine, too. (It's not this bright in real life.)

Just what I wanted and I felt some relief. As a last ditch effort I tried two more shades of yellow, but they were too…well….yellow. As I eyeballed all the colors on the living room wall, sweating over the fact that I needed to HURRY UP AND MAKE A DECISION BECAUSE YOU’RE OUT OF TIME DANG IT I noticed something. Two colors suddenly seemed right. You guessed it. The first two colors I started out with. So I sheepishly called the painter and told him to get some Cottage Cream and White Raisin and get to rollin’, and he said, “Coooool.”

His crew starts at 5am. Yes, I said 5am. At least we’re not living in this house while he’s painting it. We were when he painted for us the first time, and staggering to the front door at 4:45am in a tea stained robe to let him in every morning was painful. He does a great job though, so we lived with the early start time. Anyhoo, his crew was well underway by the time I headed to work on the day they started painting the living room. I drove past the house and tried not to look. I swore I wouldn’t worry about and that I would drive straight to work. Then I circled the blocked and pulled into the drive. I hesitantly walked through the back door, peeked around the corner and breathed a great sigh of relief. It was lovely. Beautiful. Just like I wanted it. Buttery and creamy.
And just a little darker in the living room. Much better than before.
I heard angels singing. I walked on air out the door and spent the next two weeks admiring the lovely golden and green and red walls of the new house. And we all lived happily ever after.

Until this week. When Hubby called and said that coat of blue they had finally gotten around to putting on the master bathroom liked like C-R-A-P. I thought he was joking. Then I went home. And sat in the floor and pulled out a chunk of hair. Because it looks like blue muck. Poo poo muck. Which means I’ll be back at Sherwin-Williams this weekend for yet another sample or two. You know, if they had those little cards you punched every time you made a purchase there, I’d be getting something free by now.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just When I Thought This Family's Luck Was Finally Changing

2009 just isn't our year. On top of everything else that has happened, we got more bad news this week. Our niece has four sons. The third son spent Sunday in the emergency room with flu like symptoms, stomach pain and weakness. By twilight he had been flown to Nashville where they ran multiple tests. Tuesday, they diagnosed him with leukemia. Yesterday, they did a spinal tap to see if the cancerous cells are in his spine. Now we await word on just how bad it is (or isn't) and what kind of treatment lies ahead for little W.. He is just a fifth grader.

If you are the prayin' kind, send some prayers his way. He could certainly use 'em. We're all really scared for him, so you might tack us, his parents and siblings and the rest of the Hula-gen's onto your list, too. This one came out of nowhere.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Outlaw Sometimes Wails

It’s like the OK Corral at our house, every day. There’s a standoff around every corner and sometimes there are multiple casualties. It’s a regular Clint Eastwood movie around here. Trying to make a traumatized cat and a spoiled middle aged dog get along is like trying to beat out Kanye West for the title of A** Hat of The Year. It’s just darn near impossible. And we may all die with our boots on trying.

When we adopted Sabrina, we knew it would be difficult. She’s a beautiful kitty, but she led a rather isolated life at Sissy’s house. She likes solitude and quiet. Our house is not quiet. Mostly because of Jack.
Our miniature schnauzer has a personality bigger than his body and makes his presence known. He barks at anything that comes near our yard, causing a rucus about six times a day. When I get home from work, he meets me at the door, barks a greeting and spends several minutes trying to talk to me and lap up all of my attention. He is noisy. He likes attention. Lots of it. He’s used to being top dog around the house and was not happy about Sabrina’s arrival.

She wasn’t too happy about it, either. I think she would have been content to roam around Sissy’s empty house for the rest of her life as long as we stopped by once a day to feed her. Which is what we did for the first few weeks after Sissy died, putting off a decision about Sabrina’s future while we focused on settling the estate and boxing up Sissy’s belongings. Sabrina’s fate was pretty much sealed though. At a cranky eight years old, she was not likely to be adopted if she went to a shelter, and we couldn’t stand the thought of her being put to sleep, so we brought her to our house. And braced ourselves.

For weeks it was easy because she didn’t come out of Teen Angel’s room. Ever. She literally stayed in there all day and night. She ate in there, used the litter box in there and hid from us. She simply didn’t know how to interact with people because Sissy never spent much time with her. We tried to coax her out, but she wanted no part of it. Or us. I don’t think she understood love and affection. Teen Angel kept working with her and eventually she buddied up to TA to the point that TA could bring her into another room of the house and sit with her. And that’s when the trouble started.

As soon as Jack realized she existed he started trying to get rid of her. He barked at her. He snarled at her. And chased her back into the bedroom. He literally attacked her a couple of times and we had a couple of close calls before we could rescue her. We couldn’t leave the house without shutting her behind the bedroom door for her own protection. We tried all kinds of positive behavior modifications with Jack but nothing worked. I finally had to wear out his bottom with a newspaper one night. That convinced him to quit chasing her, but it didn’t make him like her. He hates her.

About two weeks ago, Sabrina suddenly started leaving the bedroom on her own and began prowling around the house and seeking us out. It was if she finally decided that she liked us and wanted to stay. At first, she came out just a little and dashed back in whenever there was the least bit of excitement or noise. But gradually she started staying out longer, especially when she realized Jack would get into trouble if he chased her. A light bulb went off in that sneaky feline mind, and she started using his bad behavior to her advantage. She’s become…well, downright sassy in the last few days. Not only has she decided she likes us and wants to stay, now she’s staking out some territory of her own. She prowls the house nonstop, laying in Jack's favorite places like the sunny dining room.
She climbs into Hubby’s lap in the recliner which ticks Jack off to no end, and Saturday Teen Angel found her lounging in Jack’s bed in his crate. That kitty is on a suicide mission, I tell ya’.

Several times a day, Sabrina waltzes right in front of Jack, just daring him to chase her. Sometimes she hides and waits for him to notice her.
All of this posturing leads to one standoff after another. He’s all bark.
And she’s all hiss.
Literally, she’s all hiss.
Any day now I expect a dirty blonde woman and her grandmother to show up at the front door. If we close our eyes while all of this is going on we can almost hear that cheesy spaghetti western music. Figuring they need to work through this jealousy territory thing on their own, we have backed off disciplining Jack somewhat. We closely monitor these little showdowns, letting the fur fall where it flies. Our only hope is that they learn to tolerate each other before they kill each other. For now, they’re free to shoot it out, but the day one of them spits tobacco juice at the other is the day somebody’s getting my boot up their butt.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This What The Heck Moment Brought to You by Marlboro

So I’m running at lunch yesterday in the bright midday sun, minding my own business when a passing car slows down in the lane nearest to me. An elderly woman in the passenger seat who looked as if she could barely sit up and draw a breath, pulls the cigarette from her mouth and crabbily says to me, “Watch after those knees.”

My initial reaction was to shout, “Thanks. Watch after those lungs! And that heart! And your skin!” But I didn’t. Only because God performed some kind of miracle right then and there that was the equivalent of parting the Red Sea. Seriously, what the heck?!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why I Didn't Get to Work on Time

The gentleman who is painting our house is a gem. I just love MC. As we like to say around here, he is country. That’s not an insult. That just means he’s a simple man of simple tastes who works hard, cares about the quality of his work and is a plain talker. MC cuts right to the chase. He doesn’t waste a lot of words, and he wraps that strong southern twang around those words in a way that I could listen to all day long. When he likes something, he says, “Coooool”. MC is my age, but his slang is straight out of the 60’s. It doesn’t sound old fashioned or out of date when he says it. Just quaint. Here lately I’ve caught myself saying, “Coooool” when something pleases me.

As I was driving to work this morning, I saw that MC and his crew were painting at the new house, and that put me in a good mood because that means we’re making progress on this remodeling mayhem we began seven (yes, seven) weeks ago. I flipped the iPod on to shuffle and started humming. My mind was busy planning the day and the week ahead so I didn’t pay much attention to the music until about three miles later when I rounded a curve. Greeting me on the other side of the bend was a beautiful sunrise glowing over the Tennessee River. The opening strains of Dion’s Abraham, Martin and John hit my ears at the same time. It’s one of my favorite songs, and I never get tired of it. The sun was warming up the sky nicely and bouncing off the grain elevators sitting on the river. After driving three blocks in fifty mile an hour traffic, checking the sun in my rearview mirror and debating whether it was worth being late to work by taking a picture, I turned the car around and went back. I bailed out, left the car running and with the faint strains of Dion in my ears I dashed across the wet grass for a couple of photos. When I was finished I stood there for a moment soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of the morning and felt very alive. It was just one of those moments that pop up every now and then and make you feel extra sensitive to your surroundings and very glad to be alive. I took one last look at the sun, which was already changing and smiled. Coooool.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Old School

The Hula-gen's are all over class reunions these days. Last weekend we attended my elementary school reunion. Yesterday, we took Papa T. and Mama J. to Papa T.'s 57th high school reunion. We drove an hour and a half to a city in Tennessee where the class gathered, passing through the tiny town where they attended school so many years ago. There were twenty one students in Papa T.'s graduating class, and his was a big class. There were six seniors in the group that graduated before them. Ten members of his class gathered yesterday, as they've done for the last several years. It was great fun to listen to them swap stories and tell lies on each other. Hubby and I were the youngest people in the room, and we didn't mind at all. We listened to a lot of wisdom and soaked up some character. The grilled shrimp wasn't bad either.

Papa T. grew up in a farm town. It's the kind of town that still has grain bins on the main drag, a little BBQ joint and a handful of homes on the "other side of the tracks". The old storefronts with big glass windows are still there and tell you exactly where the bank, the post office and the hardware store used to be. Not much has changed there in the seventy years since Papa T. trudged to school down dusty dirt roads in sturdy brown brogans. In his time, everybody farmed, nobody had any money and you ate what you raised. School was important, but it was a level playing field, since no one had fancy clothes or expensive backpacks. People made do with what they had.

The school he graduated from still stands. It's closed now and sits abandoned at the edge of town. It housed elementary grades AND high school students. It was actually built when Papa T. was in third grade. The original school burned one day while the students were in class. Papa T. remembers being ushered out of the building and a frantic search for a missing first grader who was later found at home two miles away. He remembers spending the next two years scattered around town where the grades were divided among the local Baptist, Methodist and Church of Christ churches. Classes were held in Sunday school rooms and sanctuaries with dividers placed in the main aisle, separating grades. By the fourth grade, he was in the brand new building where he would spend the next nine years with the same small group of kids. This is their senior picture.

Papa T. is the third from the left on the back row. Apparently, he and his classmates were close. A symptom of being a small group, I suppose. They still seem to enjoy each other's company.
This lady looks like a Hollywood glamour queen in her yearbook photo.
This fellow helped Papa T. to get into a fair amount of trouble way back when.And this guy used to keep a $2 bottle of Four Roses bootleg liquor bought out of the the back door of the local funeral home hidden in the corn crib. The boys slipped out there for a snort every now and then.
There were tales about old cars and watermelon stealin' and stolen kisses. And most interesting of all, they each stood up individually to give everyone an update on what had happened to them in the last year. Most of them told of their RV trips and their grandchildren's achievements. One lady remarried after being single for 26 years. Papa T. was last, and I held my breath a little when he stood to speak. I looked at Hubby and made eye contact with Mama J. They were nervous, too. It's been a terrible year for Papa T.. Losing your eyesight and a grown child to suicide are not things you want to share with the whole world, but everyone in the room was somewhat aware of his situation. His blindness had been an elephant in the room up to that point. He rose slowly, his bad knee causing him to grimace a little. He smiled and as he always does when he has to deal with something difficult, he met it head on. He talked about his eye problems as a young man and explained that his last surgery was the last operation possible for him and that it didn't really do anything to stop the blindness. I caught the tear that started to squeeze out of my right eye before it slid down my cheek. He explained how life sometimes hands us obstacles and we just "have to deal with them". And then he said something that took me by surprise. He told his fellow classmates how much he cared about them and that the one good thing about blindness was that in his eyes, they would never grow any older. That they were standing still in time to a certain degree and that he liked that. They liked it, too. They all smiled and then rolled with laughter when he broke into a story about him and James on the court square with a loud muffler and a police officer.

I breathed a sigh of relief and marveled over the way he had handled the situation. And I smiled at the warmth those folks still feel for each other after 57 years. How remarkable. I found it especially comforting on the heels of a national day of remembrance for the folks lost in the worst terrorist acts on American soil. While there is still turmoil and hate around the world, in its small corners there are folks who love each other and nurture each other through the years. They toil the soil, walk down Main street and keeps things rolling in small town America, generation after generation. Hubby and I enjoyed our visit with the Class of '52. Those Puryear Hornets gave us quite the education yesterday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When Those Franklin Lancers Fall In Line

This past weekend we had a class reunion. Not the usual high school reunion, but an elementary school reunion. That’s right, the Franklin Elementary class of 1978 and its teachers gathered to reminisce and catch up with each other. The idea grew out of a thrown together dinner a few of us had last year at a local restaurant. It was more fun than a barrel of preschoolers on a Mountain Dew high, and you can read about it here. In fact, you should probably read it to understand why we have such a strong attachment to our grade school and each other. Essentially, we grew up in a Mayberry like atmosphere that’s pretty unheard of these days. Some of us don’t want to let go of that memory. And that’s okay.

Madd Maxx, M. and me started planning the event last fall, and it culminated with Saturday’s wing ding. For months, Maxx emailed and called from Louisiana with ideas. He would text over a worry about food or RSVPs, and I would text back “Chill” or “Dude, it will be fine.” He (thankfully) reminded me to check on various things, and I did. Well, except for that CD player I was supposed to bring to the reunion. He took it upon himself to locate each and every one of our classmates, spending who knows how much time on the phone and computer. He’s a whiz at tracking people down. He should work for the CIA. Or a repo company. M. works at a bank in our hometown, so she knows where people have been hiding out for the last three decades, too. She collected reservations and money. Together, we managed to gather together many of our classmates and teachers for a Labor Day weekend reunion.

There were people there whom I hadn’t seen in thirty-one years. We all looked a little older than we did in 1978.

For four and a half hours Saturday, we laughed and told stories of spankings and classroom antics. We laughed at ourselves and our childhood goofiness. And for a little while we got to relive our innocence and the simplicity of a time when our biggest dilemma was whether or not mama was going to let us buy a metal Tom and Jerry lunchbox. Or whether the boy or girl sitting next to us was going to circle “yes” or “no”.

As I was reviewing the pictures from the reunion, I realized a common theme: Madd Maxx. He’s in most of them. Now, when I’m taking pictures I just look for a good moment to capture. I don’t really think about how many I’m taking of one person or another. And there were plenty of photos of smiles.

And laughter.
And storytelling.

But over and over again, there was Maxx.
During the school trivia game.

And the picture discussions.
With teachers.
And fellow classmates.
He was all sit by me.
And do you remember.
And while I think most of us had a really good time during that walk down memory lane, for him it was even better. It was a chance to relieve a very special time that came to a traumatic end when he had to move out of state immediately after our 1978 graduation. While he’s always stayed in touch with me and a few other childhood buddies, he has missed the 35 other kids he made memories with so long ago. It gave him a chance to catch up and gave the rest of us an opportunity to stop and appreciate how good we had it back then or finally realize how difficult of a time some of our classmates had at home then even though they didn’t show it. I now know life wasn’t all Mayberry all the time for some kids.

So Maxx, thanks for the fun during the last few months. I love ya’ more than my luggage. And thanks to my fellow Franklin Lancers for giving me an evening of laughs and smiles. More importantly, thanks for the nine years of friendship and life lessons.