Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy, Happy Joy, Joy

100_0592_3511It was a good Christmas.  One of the best we have had in a while.  No presents were exchanged.  There was only the gift of time together.  A reminder of what Christmas is really all about.

It just all worked out.  There was no real plan.  My kids were home and off work at the same time.   We talked and cooked and ate as we felt like it.  My son requested Chicken and Dumplings for Christmas Eve dinner.  My daughter requested potato latkes for Christmas breakfast.  Whatever they wanted to eat, I fixed it.

It snowed.  What’s better than snow on Christmas?  We woke up to snow on Christmas morning and it came down softly all day long.  Not a lot but enough to make it special.  And it kept snowing well into the next day blanketing our yard and the roads in white and making it easy to stay inside together.

We played games – Connect Four, Yahtzee, Scene It - until midnight on Christmas Eve.  My daughter’s best friend joined us.  We played Scene It again on Christmas Day.  Then, after talking to friends, we headed to their house, through the snow, to play Just Dance 2 on the Wii.  We danced for hours, all the kids, all the adults, just hanging out together and acting a fool.

As she drove back home on the slick, snow covered roads, my daughter said that this was one of her favorite Christmas memories.  I switched over to drive my son’s car for him and he said the same thing.  We talked about the fact that we are blessed and that none of us needed anything so we didn’t miss the presents.  We talked about the laid back feeling of just doing what we felt like doing with no pressure to make it the “perfect” Christmas, whatever that is. 

I was reminded of how special my kids are and that time with each other is what creates the best Christmas memories.  And this was one of the best.
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where Are You Christmas?

silver pop treeMy world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Every year, I seem to struggle more.  Christmas was my favorite holiday as a child and as an adult.  When I had children, I wanted to make it amazingly special for them.  It had to be beautiful and special, not with toys or things, but with memories and activities and stories and family.

In 2001, my husband died and it became more difficult to muster the energy to decorate.  Things were not the same.  Someone was missing and we all knew it.  It was weird.  The effort to “make things the same” was wasted because we knew it would never be the same.  Then I tried to make things totally different.  That didn’t work either and ended in tears.  We couldn’t “fix it”.

We did try to get rid of the material items that meant nothing and tried to make memories.  We replaced the material things with trips each year – a cruise, Disney World, New York, a cabin in the Smoky Mountains.  That was a good decision.  We have great memories of those times.

The kids got older and got jobs and significant others in their lives.  It was hard to coordinate time off and for them to miss work for a trip during the holiday.  It became a dance of schedules and often left us a two hour window to open presents and eat before one had to go to work and the other had to attend the significant other’s family dinner and present opening.

But we still had family with us.  Either we headed to Alabama to visit my husband’s family or to Middle Tennessee to visit my family.  My siblings are spread across the country so it didn’t happen every year but there were a few occasions over the years that we were all at my parent’s house at the same time.  Then my mom passed away.  Again, it was different.  Someone was missing and there was no getting around it
We tried to make it the same.  Then we tried to make it different, holding Christmas at my house for Dad and my sister’s family from Louisiana.  Then everyone else’s kids got older again and it became more difficult to get everyone in one place at the same time both in Alabama and for my family.  Last year Dad couldn’t make it to my house but my sister’s family did.  This year, I think it’s going to be almost impossible to get any of us together.  My daughter is living in Atlanta working two jobs and my son works almost every holiday.  At least they will be home for most of Christmas Day.

Hence my lack of Christmas Spirit.  I am really not whining or feeling sorry for myself.  I have a very close extended family and I realize every family goes through this.  It’s my turn.  I love tradition and family and stories and memories and food and games and will miss the loud discussions, the large personalities, the quiet moments, the sharing of love and family.  But we will make all that happen again in a new way, maybe at Christmas, maybe at New Year’s, or maybe even in the summer months.

My son has his tree up downstairs and it’s different and beautiful – totally him.  My daughter has a cute tree in her apartment in Atlanta that expresses her personality and colorful sense of design.  Do I have to put up a tree?  I think I do.  I could sit here all day and wait for the holiday spirit to come and anoint me with the magic of Christmas.  I might be sitting a long time.  I think it will happen once I start the decorating, starting with the tree.

And yes, I will complain that I have to drag out all that stuff, find a place to store the “stuff” that is a part of the d├ęcor all year, and then clean up everything.  And I will whine that all that has to be done again in reverse in a few weeks.  But I will do it.

Christmas changes and I need to change my expectations.  I’m working on it.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shame on . . . WHO?

shame on
This picture is from the Maryville Daily Times, just over in the next county but these signs are all over the East Tennessee area, all with different names to be shamed.

The signs began popping up around Knoxville well over a year ago and I paid them little mind until one showed up just down the street from my neighborhood.  The sign and the two people sitting with it were positioned on a main road, up against a brick wall, across from a middle income neighborhood.  The sign obviously named someone who lived in the neighborhood across from where the sign and it’s handlers were positioned.

I was curious about the situation since all the signs have different names to be shamed.  I began to look into it on-line and learned that all the protests were being organized by a local carpenters union and they are protesting the use of non-union carpenters by local developers

The interesting thing is that none of the names on the signs are developers.  In fact, the name on the sign above is the mayor of Maryville.  In this case, there is city money being paid to a developer who uses non-union carpenters and the union objects.  The mayor represents the city so his name goes up on the sign.  No one driving by even knows who the developer is.

My effort to bring this up is NOT to discuss union practices or the labor issues that have arisen from this.  I am just wondering how effective they are with this type of protest.

For the last year, I have driven by these signs and paid them little mind.  As the weather changed, I worried about the people being out in the extreme heat or cold.  I figured they must be pretty dedicated and believe in their cause but that was the extent of me thinking about the cause.

Today, as I drove on my way to work, I passed the sign close to my neighborhood.  There were two people with the sign, one sitting on each end, as always.  But today, on one end, there was a person in a reclining lawn chair leaned all the way back, covered by blankets and an umbrella.  I couldn’t see if the person was male or female but I COULD see that they were asleep.  At the other end of the sign was someone in another chair, wearing a gray hoodie with the hood pulled around their face, slumped over to the side, asleep.  Don’t these people have lives?

I began to think of the ridiculousness of it all.  The signs have the name of a person that is not directly responsible for what they are protesting.  No one knows what it is they are protesting.  If you ask, you are told “we can’t say anything except it’s a labor dispute”.  These people are sleeping on the side of a main highway in horrible weather guarding a sign that no one understands and they won’t explain.

Is this really the best way to get your message out?
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

That Was Then, This Is Now

Tere 002
I know I’ve been absent lately but my mind has still been going, questioning, thinking, and mostly resolving things before I take the time to write them down here.  I’ve missed my blog.

I have spent some time thinking about the beginning of this blog and how different things have become in the last 3 years.  In October of 2007 I began this endeavor because I loved to write.  I had no aspirations of writing for a living nor did I think I was particularly good at it.  I was told people enjoyed my writing but that was once a year when I sent out a holiday newsletter and shared little tidbits about our lives throughout the year.  This would be different.  This would have people “all up in my business”.

At the time, I made a decision that I would not write about work.  That would just be stupid.  I would also not give details of my children’s lives that might embarrass them at some point.  I only wrote things they would be ok with reading or that their children might read about them later.  I also decided that I would only share personal feelings and thoughts about others that I was okay with them reading.  Beyond that, everything else was on the table and open for discussion.

I wanted to tell funny stories.  I wanted to be thoughtful.   I wanted to inspire.

As I read through some of my early posts, they seemed a little superficial.  I held back a lot, trying to find my way, attempting to achieve balance.  I’m not sure I am that different now but it is getting better.  My goal was never to gain thousands of followers or to have comments in the hundreds and neither of those things happened.  I have a small loyal group of folks who graciously take some time to read my thoughts.  I have met other bloggers across the country that I now think of as friends although we have never met.

It’s interesting . . . the people that I thought would be the most supportive are the ones that visit the least.  I don’t think my father has visited my blog three times in three years and only one of my siblings reads regularly. 

When I first started sharing my life here, I had to hold back from writing every day.  I didn’t want to burn out – myself or anyone who might be reading.  And I didn’t want to be posting something just to fill the space.  I eventually fell into a rhythm of about 3 posts per week.  Over the last year I have slacked off a little and am only posting about every 10 days.  I miss it.

So I am trying to figure out what I want to say again.  Maybe my rules have changed, maybe not.  But my plan is to post at least once each week, more if I run into something funny or interesting.  I hope you continue to join me here, that you share feedback and opinions, and that you enjoy it enough to keep coming back.  Even through the slow times.
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

High Five

Have you noticed the recent development in customer service?  I’m sure you have heard something like this:

“You might get a phone call asking you about your satisfaction with our service today.  Is there any reason you can’t give me the highest score of 5?”

There are other versions of that conversation, some referring you to the web to complete a survey, some asking you three different ways if they answered all your questions and then asking if there is anything else they can do for you, explaining you might be surveyed.

I have known for some time that this was common practice with a few service related companies but it is expanding rapidly.  Companies implement these ratings in order to improve the service to customers.  They believe it allows them to give employees incentives to do better and to discipline or “weed out” employees that are not performing up to expectations.  In theory, I would support that and I have seen it work.

I used to hate dealing with a certain cell phone carrier.  The customer service in store and on the phone was horrible and I was considering terminating my contract for that reason alone.  I complained to a family member that works for the company and he shared with me that they had started a rating system as described above.  The kicker . . . if they receive less than a 5 on a customer survey, they fail.  If they fail a certain number of times, they are terminated.  And their plan worked.  I no longer dread my interactions with employees in the store or on the phone and I have happily stayed with the company.

But there are many companies using this plan now and I have begun to dread the questions at the end of every interaction where they explain the survey.  I call it the Can You Give Me A Five? conversation.  It drives me crazy.

A few weeks ago I was in Atlanta opening a bank account with my daughter.  The woman that helped us was completely competent and did her job.  Her interactions were awkward at best and she seemed a little stressed.  She was friendly but just seemed naturally awkward or uncomfortable talking to people.  At the end of our time, she shared the following:

“You may receive a phone call asking about how I handled your business.  If you don’t give me a 5, I fail.”

I was surprised she phrased it that way.  Again, she was kind of awkward.  I said something like “Wow, that’s harsh”.  She went on to explain their system and that if they receive 2 fails, they are terminated.  She shared that they get the results once a week on Fridays and that one of the girls in the office gets physically ill on Thursday nights, worried about how she will do.  She asked if we were happy with the way she handled our business.  What the heck was I supposed to say at that point?  I just said “Yes”.

My issue with this whole thing is the fact that I never give the highest or lowest scores on surveys unless I really feel it’s warranted.  I must be terribly impressed or unimpressed to give those ratings.

I think this puts the employee and the customer in such an awkward and unfair position.  Companies are putting employees in the position to ask for the highest rating.  But what if I feel, although they did nothing wrong whatsoever, they don’t deserve it because it was not exceptional?  The companies are putting me in the position of deciding whether or not that employee should keep their job.  As a result, the survey is not effective if people are not rating service accurately and it becomes worthless.

A customer’s rating isn’t always about how the job is done.  It could be about the way an employee looks, what country they are from, what kind of mood the customer is in, or some other uncontrollable factor on which people base their opinions of others.

I would not have given the woman at the bank a 5.  As I said, it was awkward but she adequately did the job so I would probably have given her a 3 or 4.  I would have hoped that her supervisors could coach her into feeling more comfortable with people but it may just be a personality trait that cannot be changed.  But it would not have, in any way, caused me to not return to that bank.  In fact, if not for her explanation of the survey, I would have completely forgotten the interaction with her that day.  And I would have returned to that bank and branch as I needed to as a loyal customer.

What do you think about this practice?
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

In My Own Company

Today was 10/10/10 and I wanted to document my day in photos.  I didn't really have anything planned and that sometimes leads to sitting in my big pink chair watching shows from last week on the DVR.  Now what kind of interesting photos can you take from your chair, right?

The day started quietly with coffee and preparation for a training I have to do on Monday.   It was quiet in my house, the windows were open and a cool breeze was coming through.  I considered what I would be having for breakfast and decided today was a good day to head downtown to one of my favorite restaurants for brunch.  I thought about waking up my son to see if he wanted to go but he had only been asleep for a few hours, being 24 years old and all.  I thought about calling friends but then decided that today was a good day for me to spend with me.

I dressed and threw on some makeup, grabbed my camera and headed down to Market Square, one of my favorite areas of Knoxville, the site of The Tomato Head.  The Tomato Head is a funky little restaurant that has gained a huge following with their support of local farmers and business and their amazing food.  They have vegetarian, vegan, and meat options, a wonderful weekend brunch and great pizzas.  They recently expanded their brunch menu and, after seeing the options online, I couldn't wait to try it out.  Today was the day.

I had the Biscuits and Gravy which was actually a split biscuit topped with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, Benton's bacon, and homemade gravy over all.  I am not normally a fan of gravy on top of eggs but this was one of the best dishes I have had in a while.  I seriously considered licking the plate. I could have eaten another order but my waistline would not have been happy with me.

After brunch I hung out in Market Square for a while, enjoying the beautiful weather and taking a few photos.  I love our downtown and have considered selling my house and moving to one of the many loft/condos that have been going into renovated buildings all over the downtown area.  It would be crazy for me to do that right now as I only have about 7 years until my house is paid off but I really do love the renaissance of downtown Knoxville and the options that are available.

One of my favorite stores, Abode, in Market Square is going to be closing so I headed there to check out the sales but didn't buy anything.  I walked through Krutch Park over to Gay Street and decided to kill some time before going to a movie by enjoying some coffee outside one of the cafes and chose The Downtown Grind.  They have small tables on the sidewalk with little vases of fresh flowers on each table.  I enjoyed a Hazelnut Latte and enjoyed eavesdropping on conversations of all the people taking the tour of all the downtown living options.  Hmmmmmmm, do I really want to go to a movie or wouldn't I just love to take a tour of the downtown lofts, homes, and condos?  I decided against the tour, fearing I might make an impulse buy and would then need to move my furniture.

I finished my coffee and walked down to the theater to purchase my ticket for "The Social Network", the movie about the creation of Facebook.  I am amazed that I still spend the money on a movie and popcorn in a theater.  The matinee ticket was $7.50 and the popcorn and bottled water I got inside was $11.75.  Why, why, why do I do that?  It's not like I can't wait until the movie comes out on DVD and I certainly don't need the popcorn.  But I have always loved watching movies in the theater.  And I just can't watch a movie in a theater without that hot, salty movie theater popcorn.  It's like a drug.  The movie was good and I would recommend it, especially if you are a Facebook user.

I realized when I got home that I had spent the whole day by myself.  I had not spoken more than probably 30 words today and all of them were said in ordering food, drinks, or tickets.  But I enjoyed my day to myself, taking photos, enjoying the city in which I live.

It was a good day.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sudden Concern

Has anyone NOT heard of the documentary "Waiting For Superman"?  If you have not heard of it, you must not own a television.  No criticism about the TV but this movie is really all over the news and talk shows right now. 

I am SO glad!

No matter your opinion on the points made in this documentary, whether you agree or disagree, whether it makes you angry or you find yourself passionately in agreement . . . at least we are talking about it.

What is "Waiting For Superman"?   It is Davis Guggenheim's look at our nation's education system and why it might be broken.  It takes a hard look at public schools, charter schools, lottery systems, good teachers, bad teachers, parents, administrators, teacher's unions, politicians, and everything related to American schools and the fact that our children are failing and graduation rates are dropping.  It is a call to action.

I am so excited to see a discussion about this because I have been saying this for years.  Before you make any assumptions and start sending me hateful emails, allow me to give you some background.

My mother was a teacher.  She taught high school English and adult education.  Both my parents had master's degrees.  Education was a priority in our family. 

I have made my life about education . . . early childhood education.  I have been a private kindergarten teacher, worked as a preschool teacher, managed a childcare center and now am a district manager for the nation's largest provider of early childhood education.  I was raised in public and Department of Defense school systems. 

My children went to public schools.  I was a huge supporter of public schools and all that goes along with them.  My children didn't really apply themselves. I take full responsibility for that as a parent.  We didn't push too hard but they always pulled through and they seemed to mostly enjoy school.  They were smart and their grades were okay.  It worked.  Until my children went to high school.  The schools and their ways started to worry me when they were in middle school but it was full blown frustration by the time they were into the 9th grade.

I have written about my frustration before.  You can read some of that here.  In summary, both my children wanted to drop out at their senior year because they were failing and we could get no help from the school.  Yes . . . it was partly because of their lack of dedication.  But there is so much more to the story.  And there was NO way I would allow them to drop out. 

With my son, I changed him to private school for his senior year.  It was a great option for him and he excelled, graduating on time.  His public high school had told me there was nothing they could do.  My daughter was told the same thing.  Nothing we can do.  I called the school board and was told about an option within the school system where she could go another location and work at her own pace through an online system and with a teacher in classroom, as fast or as slow as she wanted to go.  But if she learned quickly and applied herself, she could graduate on stage with the others in her class.  Her school knew nothing of this option within it's own district.  My daughter worked hard and, in fact, finished early.  She graduated with her class as scheduled.

I have listened to the discussion on this film over the last week.  Everyone has a solution.  I do not.  I have heard we need to extend the school day by an hour.  If kids hate being there or have a poor teacher, more time in the schoolday is not going to help them.  Making the testing more difficult is not going to enhance a child's ability to learn if you are a kid who does poorly on tests or has a learning disability.  Again, I don't have an answer but I think it starts with respect.  Respect for children, respect for teachers, respect for parents.  When we first speak to others with respect, then we can find a solution. It's a start.

What ideas do you have?

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Changing Light

signs of fall_2 There have been few signs of Fall arriving but they are starting to come in the form of small, subtle hints
The changing light, that amazing golden glow that betrays the heat that still lingers.  The brightness is still there but there is a softness to it now, the kind of softness that makes you look out the window and think it’s chilly outside, makes you want to eat chili.  But once you venture out, the 90 degree temperature tells you otherwise.  How disappointing.

The mornings have taken on a slight chill in the air.  It feels refreshing.  It gives you hope that there is a season change coming, some relief from need to run air conditioners and fans at the same time.

And this morning, the first tiny acorn greeted me at my doorstep as I let the dogs outside for their morning tour around the front yard.  It was small and alone, having been the first to leave the safety of the oak tree just to the right of my front door.  There will be more.  Many more.  Soon I will be cursing the acorns as they ping off my roof and my front steps.  But this morning, I was glad to see it.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Characters Everywhere

LoonyMy daughter and I talked while eating crepes at the French Market Cafe this weekend – I had strawberries and cream while she enjoyed the butter and sugar style.  We did a lot of eating and talking this weekend.  Lots of different topics.  Lots of things discovered.  It was good.

One of the areas we covered was the number of “characters” that abound in the Knoxville and East Tennessee area.  You know what I mean  . . . the quirky, funny, possibly a little crazy or just plain weird folks that seem to be a part of everyone’s home town.  The ones that, if you haven’t actually met them, you have heard about them.

My daughter was comparing and contrasting Knoxville and Atlanta where she now lives.  In her words, “One thing’s for sure . . . Atlanta doesn’t have near as many characters as Knoxville.”

At first, I leapt to the defense of my hometown.  “Atlanta has them, they are just spread out or unnoticed because of the shear size and pace of the community”.  Then we talked about it and I began to change my mind.  Every town has one.  But we have a lot more than one.  We really do have a lot of characters.  Maybe it’s just Tennessee in general.

You’ve read about our Southern quirkiness in many novels - there’s Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird and Forrest Gump – and then there’s TV – Ernest T. Bass from The Andy Griffith Show, any of the Beverly Hillbillies or The Dukes of Hazzard

We have them here.  You have read of my fascination with the late moonshiner Popcorn Sutton.  If not, you can read about him here or here or just Google his name.  Popcorn was quite the character on the surface.  Under the beard and overalls was a human being with lots and lots of faults, some scary, some sad, some obscene.  But we seem to forgive all that if you’ve got a good story.

We have the man who has become known as the Bikini Man, an older gentleman who is in the process of gender reassignment surgery.  He walks on one of the busiest main roads in Knoxville every morning.  He wears a giant blond Dolly Parton style wig, a sports bra and spandex biker shorts on a good day . . . I have literally seen him wearing a bikini on occasion.  He also rides a pink scooter if he has further to go.

Then there’s what has become affectionately known as The Fellini Kroger.  It’s a regular Kroger grocery store but the variety of characters shopping there seem to be straight out of a Fellini movie – surreal.  Weird things seem to happen during each visit – stories of a toe found in the parking lot, sightings of morbidly obese 3 foot tall albino twins in overalls, the man shopping in his tighty whiteys and tube socks.  There is even a Facebook fan page devoted to the store called Friends of the Fellini Kroger. 

I could go on, there are many more examples.  We love our characters here.  Hopefully we leave them alone or when necessary, get them help.  I’m sure Atlanta has them too.  It is the South after all.
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Travel Bug

I was listening recently to a radio show in which the host asked people to call in and share their favorite US travel destinations and/or hidden gems at those locations.  It really made me think about some of my past experiences traveling and some of the places friends have shared with me.  So here are some of my favorites:
  • IMG_1894Hopkinsville, KY – Ferrell’s Hamburgers.  I have shared my passion for Ferrell’s before on this blog.  That passion has not diminished.  
  • Upstate NY – The Thousand Islands.  We visited my grandmother’s home town of Ogdensburg, NY when I was about 12 and toured the Thousand Islands.  We took a boat tour down the St. Lawrence River and saw all the tiny islands, some with large Victorian mansions, some too small for a house.  It is an amazingly beautiful place and I would love to spend a family vacation there with my kids.
  • Panama City Beach/Laguna Beach, FL – Thomas’ Donuts.  They have been around since 1946 and I think the building has not changed much since then.  You can get donuts, breakfast and lunch and it is definitely beach food.  Our favorite is the breakfast items and the yummy donuts.  It is directly across from the beach, a walk-up place with a small inside and air conditioned dining room.  Bring cash cause they don’t accept credit cards and be prepared to stand in line.
  • Gatlinburg, TN – Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.  Most people who come to the Smoky Mountains are very aware of the National Park, Cades Cove, and the very touristy Gatlinburg area.  But smack in the middle of downtown, you turn down a side road, go a short distance and turn off into one of the most beautiful areas in the mountains.  It feels like you are stepping back in time as you pass the old homes and the giant trees.  You can follow the small, one-way road through or park at one of the narrow pull-off areas and explore.  And you should spend the 50 cents for the guidebook for sale at the beginning of the trail.
  • Gulf Shores, AL – The Pink Pony Pub.  Many great memories were created in this fun, beachside hangout.  On a trip with friends, we christened ourselves the “Pink Pony Dancers” after a few pina coladas.  This is the place my daughter ate her first oyster on the half shell at the age of 6.  And later, if I remember correctly, it’s the place where she got her first taste of a pina colada.  Fun beach food, a great deck, and live music.  The ultimate beach experience.
Now it’s your turn!  Share your favorite hidden vacation gem.
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Confessions of a High School Homecoming Queen

So, I’ve been thinking lately . . . about high school.  Yes, it was a LONG time ago and who really wants to go back, right?  It was a time of awkwardness, teasing, and trying to be one of the “cool kids”, right?

I have a confession to make.  Although all of us were kind of awkward, I never got teased and, horror of horrors, I was kind of one of the “cool kids”.  I know you are mildly mortified and you can just go ahead and judge me right now but I feel a little bit of a need to defend my high school experience.

I loved high school.  I know that’s weird but I did.  I’m not saying it was easy.  I went to one very large high school in Virginia for 2 1/2 years where I was completely comfortable.  I had friends whom I loved and I was involved in a lot of activities at the school.  Then my family moved to Germany in the middle of my junior year.  I had to start over in a new country and a new, smaller school with people who had totally different experiences in life.  I was naturally a shy person, not one to jump in and approach people with whom I had no comfort level.

The first day, I searched out the basketball team and asked to try out.  I had been playing on basketball teams since 6th grade and it was the start of the season at this new school.  I was allowed to play and met several people who are still my lifelong friends. 

I learned quickly that things were different here.  I had rarely lived in a military base environment so I was unaware of what it meant to be an “officer’s kid” in this new school.  As far as I was concerned, my father’s rank had nothing to do with who I was or with whom I was supposed to hang out.  I liked people with whom I had things in common, not because their dad had the same rank as my dad.  Once we got past that craziness, I started to make friends and since kids in the school were used to people coming and going, the “new girl” label went away quickly.

I don’t remember any of the “mean girls” antics by anyone.  I remember everyone having a “live and let live” kind of attitude.  We were all different but we pretty much got along.  I do remember a couple of times at school dances where we discussed people’s dancing or outfit or general behavior but it was not one clique versus another and once the dance was over, the gossip was over.

Since most of the people I went to high school with are on Facebook and this blog feeds into Facebook, please tell me if I have selective memory.  I personally did not experience the stereo-typical horrible high school experience.  I don’t believe I created that experience for anyone either but again, please set me straight friends.

And yes, I was homecoming queen.  I was also the senior class treasurer, was voted “best personality”, and was nominated for prom queen where I lost to one of my best friends.  And all of that means nothing today.  I’m honored by it all but, just as my dad’s rank had no bearing on who I was, all of those things have nothing to do with who I am today.  I have to prove myself as an individual each day and high school is done.

Many of my friends today say they hated high school.  They talk about the experience in the cafeteria, the way the “cool kids” made fun of them, the feeling of being on the outside.  I listen and feel a little guilty.  While I didn’t experience that, do people I went to school with feel the same way?  Did I contribute to that?  Gosh, I hope not.  I tried to be nice to everyone unless they gave me some serious reason to stay away from them.

These friends are still affected by that experience to this day, in both good ways and bad.  I guess I am too.

What was your high school experience?
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Sunday, July 25, 2010


stop sign crop
I read several blogs that are written by moms.   Depending on the age of the children and the desire for their privacy, the bloggers use various tactics to discuss activities with their children or grandchildren.  Some use the child’s name, some just say daughter or son, some use the child’s age (the six year old, the 13 year old), while others give them fictitious and funny names such as Thing 1 and Thing 2 or Scooby Snacks.

When I first started blogging, I used my children’s first names.  I then learned of some of the dangers of the internet and, because I talk a lot about my kids on this blog, I looked for options to discuss them while still respecting their privacy as individuals.  I also use pictures of my children on the blog so it was important that I not give too much information.  I eventually settled on the daughter/son thing since I have one of each and it was easy to use.

What do you think?  Does it depend on the age of the child?  If they are adult children, does it make a difference?  If you are a blogger, what tactic do you use?  Have you ever had an experience that caused you to need to hide your children’s names?  I would love to hear your thoughts.
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

To Market, To Market

 In an effort to gain some inspiration for my photography, I joined a few groups on Flickr that run themed challenges.  One of the groups, Echo, is running the theme “Market”.  I had yoga this morning and dance class at noon so my plan was to head to the Market Squar Farmers Market when it opened at 9am to get some fresh produce and take some photos for the theme.
I had plenty around me to give me inspiration for the theme – Market Square, the farmers market, the colorful produce, a clothing store called Black Market.  Later in the afternoon, my son and I headed back downtown to see some of his photos in an art show.  We also stopped in at The French Market (yet another market for inspiration) for crepes – his was turkey, spinach, artichoke and mine was Nutella and bananas – oh my goodness!

I am a happy girl.  I have been happy all day.  I love it when I have a project or a challenge for my photography.  It’s like someone turned on a light switch and I smile more, stand up straighter, have more patience, and feel more creative.  It’s better than drugs!

So here some of those photographs from today.
 market baskets sm
market squash 2
market honey
blackberries small
 market flowersmarket naturally grown

market zack french market
french market 2 sm

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

What Would You Do?

I was listening to a talk show on my Sirius XM radio today.  There was a discussion taking place regarding the following scenario:

If you were purchasing something in a store, the cashier handed you the change and there was $20 too much, what would you do?

Without hesitation, I thought to myself, “I would give it back”.

People were calling in and giving their thoughts and I was amazed at some of the rationalization people had for keeping the money.  I shouldn’t be amazed that people rationalize their actions but they honestly don’t see anything wrong with keeping the money.  Nothing at all.  Yes, I’m judging them.

One guy said it depended on what type of store he was in.  He said if he was in a small bodega that was just scraping by, he would return the money.  But if he was in a higher end store or a corporate chain, he would keep it, they don’t need it.  Dude also said it depended on the cashier.  If the cashier was nice and friendly, he would probably return the $20 but if the cashier was grumpy or indifferent, he would keep it. Wow.

Someone also said it depended on their financial situation at the time.  If they needed it, they would keep it.

What part of “It’s not yours!” do people not understand?  Don’t get me wrong, I am not naive.  I would think about my needs and the greedy part of me would want to keep it.  But what you think about is not nearly as important as what you do.  And I am a strong believer in Karma.  I have a clear idea of right and wrong.
Years ago, I was given $10 too much when I cashed my check at the drive-through at a bank.  I had been waiting in line for about 15 minutes and as I drove away, I realized I had been given too much money.  I thought about driving away . . . it was only $10 and the line was really long and I could really use that $10.  But, because my mom had worked for a short time as a bank teller when I was younger, I knew that the teller could possibly lose her job.  And returning the money was the right thing to do.  So I got back in the long line with the same teller and gave her the $10 back.  She was very surprised but grateful.  I felt both stupid and proud.  But later that day, I was shopping for maternity clothes.  I found a top and decided to buy it.  When I got to the cashier, she said “Oh, this one isn’t marked on sale but it is $10 off”.  Hmmmmmmmmmm, sorta got my $10 anyway.

So now that I have totally judged those people that honestly said they would keep it, what would you do?

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Coming Home

100_0381_1496 It was wedding weekend.  My daughter’s friend was getting married and she was a bridesmaid.  It would be the first time she has come home from Atlanta since moving there in April and she was looking forward to seeing her family and other friends and she was bringing her boyfriend along.  There was the wedding, parties with friends, and, never having seen old Mom dance in public, she would get to watch me perform at Pridefest on Saturday with my dance troupe.

It’s hard to go home once you leave.  You come home with expectations and things don’t always go as planned.  The time available to spend with her friends was short.  Their schedules didn’t line up with hers this weekend.  And after waiting for 20 minutes in the blazing hot sun for the dance performance to start, she and my son ran to go pick up their waiting lunch and missed the performance.  So she still has not seen her old Mom dance in public.

100_0367_1482While she was busy with her wedding obligations, her boyfriend and I got to spend time together.  I have known him since he was a small child but we really don’t know each other.  We didn’t do anything special but we had fun and now have a comfort level with each other that was not there before.  I approve.  He is a great guy and he fits right in with our crazy little family.  So it was a good weekend.  When we weren’t doing the wedding things we watched soccer, ate out, saw a movie, chatted about music and old times.
And then it was Sunday.  It started early this morning.  I was dreading her to leaving but I didn’t say anything.  She went about packing quietly.  “We need to leave about noon” she mentioned.  “I don’t really want to go”.  I didn’t say anything.  I know she misses us but I know she can’t stay.

We went to get something to eat before they left.  We talked about her not being able to see her best friend for more than a few minutes.  She said she wished she could stay a few more days.  I told her we would plan another weekend when there was not so much to do, when we can all just hang out.  We joked that she and her boyfriend could spend six months in Atlanta and six months here.  They dropped me off at the house before leaving.  I gave her an old iron from the garage and she packed up the Wii and Playstation to take back with her. 

Casey and Wes 6_27_2010I really had to work hard to keep the tears away so she wouldn’t see.  This time was harder than when she first moved. I miss her.  I stood in the driveway as they drove away and I saw her cry.  I can’t watch her cry.  I tried not to wipe the tears away until after they were down the street.

It’s hard to watch your child struggle even when you know it’s a good thing for them.  She is in a new city and starting to make new friends.  It’s hard to pay rent and utilities and insurance and car payments and buy groceries.  It’s easier to be taken care of at home where there is a mom and a big brother that love you.  It’s comforting to have your friends around you that you have known since middle school.  But she loves being in Atlanta and she loves that boy.  So she will figure out how to do it and eventually we will both do it without tears.


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Friday, June 18, 2010

Not On My Bucket List

8_8_08_weeping I have heard a great deal of discussion lately about Bucket Lists.  Seems like everyone has one.  As people talk about what they did last weekend or what they plan to do this summer you hear “yeah, that’s on my bucket list too”.  I hear it a lot.  Maybe it’s my age.

For those unaware, a bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”.  I don’t have a bucket list.  At least not a formal type of list.  I have a lot of things I want to do before I die but those things change as I get older.  I have also done a lot of what I wanted to do when I was younger. Maybe one day I will sit down and make a list
As I listened today to three people discuss items on their bucket lists, I very quickly came up with a list of things I have no intention of doing.  Evah!  So here are 5 items you will NEVER see on my bucket list:
  1. Jumping off of or out of anything over 5 feet high.  No planes, no buildings, no bungee platforms, no bridges.  Fear is good.  It keeps you safe. Strapping a backpack to my back that contains giant piece of shiny cloth that is supposed to make me float to the ground when I jump out of a flying airplane will never be on my list.  I’ve seen those Dateline stories!  Neither will strapping a giant rubber band to my ankles and launching myself head first over the side of a 30 story building.  Never, ever!
  2. Eating exotic foods.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to food but I have a pretty definitive line that I am not crossing.  Bugs are meant for squishing.  Chicken feet are meant for transporting chickens around the barnyard.  Sheep’s eyeballs are meant to allow them to see the farmer coming after them with the carving knife so they can run away!  If any of those things were meant for eating they would sell them at Kroger and Whole Foods.
  3. Hiking or climbing to the top of giant mountains.  I live at the foot of the Smoky Mountains in the Appalachian Mountain Range.  The mountains are absolutely beautiful.  I love to look at them and to be a part of them.  I even hike and climb around a bit.  But there is no peak anywhere that is waiting for a flag with my name on it.
  4. Interacting with wild animals.  No desire to go on a safari to see lions or tigers.  No desire to swim with sharks.  Or try to outrun a bull.  Or ride an elephant.  Most of those animals have large teeth or large pointy things sticking out of their heads.
  5. Anything that involves running any distance.  I am not, nor will I ever be like Forest Gump.  No desire to run across the country or even really across the street.  A marathon holds no interest and most certainly, neither does a triathalon.   Nope, not even a 5k although I have actually done one of those.  Cars were invented to cover long distances for a reason.
There are only 5 things I can think of so that still leaves a wide variety of choices that could actually make it to the list.  So . . . what’s NOT on your bucket list?
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nope, Still Not Any Easier

I keep thinking that this day will come and pass by unnoticed.  That hasn't happened yet.  It's been 9 years today.  The anxiety starts a few days before, coming on unexepectadly then fading.  Then when June 3rd arrives, that feeling in the pit of my stomach is there all day.

I relive the events of that day 9 years ago.  It was a fairly normal day even though the kids and I were in a different city, helping out my family.  I go through the day, the phone conversations and then the phone calls unanswered, the night spent awake and worried.  Why doesn't he call me back?  Where is he?  I'm not sure why I choose to torture myself that way.

I thought it would be easier by now.  Nine years is a long time.  Life did get easier but June 3rd is not.

I don't know if it ever will be.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Out Of The Box And Out On The Town

Me on the townHave you ever seen so much eyeliner on one person?  Go ahead and say it, I admit I went a little overboard on the “smoky eye” look.  But it was all done in an effort to get out of that “mommy box” and into a new way of having fun.

I have been going out with friends more now that my children are grown and basically on their own.  I have so much freedom now and I have no intention of sitting at home and waiting for someone to invite me to join them and to rescue me from boredom.  I’ve been there, done that.  I have to rescue myself or just put myself out there.  I am not a “bar” kind of girl and I can never see myself hanging out in a club but an occasional night with a group of friends in a club sounds like fun as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.  I’m a little old for that.

Through my dance classes, I have met some amazing women.  They do things.  There  is no competition.  There is a LOT of support.  We are very different people but we enjoy so many of the same things and we motivate each other.  They have motivated me to get the heck out and do stuff.  Stuff I would not normally do.  And I’m having so much fun.

On Friday night, our friend Kisa was performing as a part of her burlesque troupe Salome Cabaret.  She is one of the founding members and has been recently selected as a performer at The Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, one of only 12 people in the country to be selected.  It’s kind of like the Miss America of burlesque from what I’ve been told.  Kisa and her troupe have been teaching classes and Friday night was the class graduation.  She invited us and we happily accepted, excited about this new experience.  I had been to one show before but the other girls had not ever attended a burlesque show.

We are girls who like to dress up.  I don’t actually own any “dress up” clothes.  I mostly buy clothes for work or play and since I have lost weight, I had nothing.  So Friday afternoon, I went trolling the mall for something sparkly but casual.  And I just happened to pass by a really cute pair of quasi-gladiator sandals with a great heel height that would work for a night out or for work.  With a sparkly casual shirt and those cute heels in my bag, I headed for home to get ready.  

Have you ever had one of those days when everything just worked?  I touched up my makeup . . . okay, the smoky eye thing was a little more than a touch up.  I threw on a dangly pair of earrings.  Since I have been growing out my hair, some days it works and some days it just hangs there.  I didn’t have a lot of time so I just plugged in the curling iron and hoped for the best.  I threw a couple of curls in the top layers, shook my hair forward and flipped it back.  Oh my goodness . . . I think I might have looked a little bit hot!!!

There is something about feeling good inside that allows you to put off a little bit of a glow.  I felt good and I think I was pretty much glowing when I went out the door.  And I felt that way all night.  It really was not an ego thing.  At all.  It was more of a confidence thing.  And it felt good.

The show was amazing – much better than the first show I had been to.  The crowd was great.  We had a great time together.  As we were sitting through intermission, one of my friends was asking about my son whose birthday party was the next night at a local club.  She asked how old my son was and I replied that he is 24.  She said “You are too hot to have a 24 year old” and I laughed.  The man that was sitting next to me said “I’m glad you said that ‘cause I was was going to say it”.  I said thank you and laughed again.  It was just a teensy bit creepy but it was nice to hear anyway.  I think it was the glow.

Today I am back to a normal amount of eyeliner and wearing my shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops.  There is something to be said for normal life too.
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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day

family 1980
Whether you believe Mother’s Day is a commercial creation that originated with greeting card companies or that the day was created to genuinely honor motherhood, Mother’s Day is a special day.  Over the years, Mother’s Day has changed in many ways for me and none has ever been as different as it was today.  

When I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to make my mom happy on this special day.  She was my hero.  I wanted to draw her a picture or make her something special out of construction paper and crayons.  As I grew older and more self – centered, I never seemed to pay attention to what she might want but ended up buying her what I thought she needed or what a commercial showed me ALL mothers want.  I mean, if I had paid attention I would have realized that my mother never wore anything but Shalimar perfume but I got her a small bottle of whatever the latest cheap perfume was that was being advertised for Mother’s Day that year.

Later I became a mother and the day became about me.  Since we never lived close by, I always called Mom to wish her a great day but I was focused on me and my kids.  My kids picked me flowers, drew pictures, made me breakfast and made me feel so special that day.  I felt like I was their hero just as my mom was mine.

Today was different.  Mom has been gone for five years.  And for the first time ever, my kids are not at home on Mother’s Day.  My daughter is living in Atlanta and my son is working.  My daughter called me early today and my son and I spent a few hours together this morning before he left for work.   My siblings texted me to wish me Happy Mother’s Day as did many friends and even some of my kids’ friends.  I have had the day to myself which is fine but it is different.  I’m not sad or lonely.  Ok, maybe just a little, but it really made me think about this day and what it means now.

I hope my mom knew how much we all loved her.  I think she did.  I know how much my kids love me because they tell me and show me all the time.  What I thought about today was that there are so many mothers in my life that I can honor.  My mother-in-law and her sisters and sister - in - law have always made me feel a part of their family even long after my husband died.  My aunt has reminded me that she learned so much from my mother and she continues to keep me close.  I always thought she was the coolest mom and now her kids do too.  Most of my friends are mothers and when we talk about our kids, we all learn from each other and divulge stories we might never tell others.  My sisters and I discuss both our childhood as well as parenting and we share advice and remind each other what Mom would have done.  I read bloggers who are moms and they make me laugh and cry.  

So I realized today that Mother’s Day is not really a day about me or my mom.  It is about all the mothers in my life, the women who have influenced me in the past as well as those that touch me every day.  It’s about all mothers, and women in our lives, even if they are not mothers yet.  

Happy Mother’s Day.
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