Thursday, December 31, 2009

new year's eve

Pull down the shades. I'm fixin' to kiss you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

quotes I like

"Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost."
-- Thomas J. Watson

"Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should just live next door and just visit now and then."
-- Katharine Hepburn (1907 - 2003)

"I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find - at the age of fifty, say - that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about...It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you."
-- Agatha Christie (1890 - 1976), An Autobiography, 1977

"Do something. If it doesn't work, do something else. No idea is too crazy."
-- Jim Hightower, The New York Times, March 9, 1986

"People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first."
-- David H. Comins

"American women expect to find in their husbands a perfection that English women only hope to find in their butlers."
-- W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965), The Razor's Edge, 1943

"That little man in black over there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him."
-- Sojourner Truth (1797 - 1883), Ain't I A Woman, a speech delivered in 1851

Monday, December 7, 2009


On the way home from work tonight I spotted a bumpersticker on the back of a car that read WWSD. I immediately jumped to the incorrect assumption that the owner of the vehicle was doing a satanic version of WWJD or What Would Jesus Do? I became upset for a moment until I got close enough to see what it really meant.

Then I just felt silly! Go Scooby!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009


As I was leaving my master bathroom, I resolved to return with cleaning supplies and get at least that one chore done today. But, I spotted the pile of dirty towels and decided to throw them in the washer first. But going in the laundry room would mean seeing the kitty litter box. I resolved to change the litter box first. I remembered that the new kitty litter boxes were in a box by the front door. I use the disposable kind made out of corrugated cardboard. When I got to the box, I saw that I had put some little ornament boxes on top of the box holding the litter boxes. I decided to put them away in the drawer of the sofa table where the other ornament boxes are. When I opened the drawer to put them in, I found a bunch of spare change that Sam must have left behind. I picked them all up and went to put them in my purse. My purse was a mess, so I sat down on my bed to clean it out. When I went to straighten out the covers, I remembered that I wanted to wash my sheets, so I decided to strip the bed. As I was stripping the bed, I tripped over a little pile of catalogs and magazines that had accumulated on the floor by my bed. Disgusted, I went in the kitchen to get a garbage bag. When I got to the kitchen, I saw that the dishwasher had completed its last cycle, so I decided to put the dishes away. As I put the dishes away, I spotted the poppy seed bread on the countertop. I popped the container open and dropped two pieces into the toaster. A cup of coffee would go great with that, so I started the coffee. Now I am sitting back on the sofa, having enjoyed the bread and still drinking the coffee, back on the computer again. Sigh.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Did you know ...

That there is a Thanksgiving holiday celebrated on October 25th each year in Grenada? It celebrates the anniversary of the 1983 invasion by American troops following the murder of their Prime Minister. Operation Urgent Fury made other countries furious because it was seen as an example of American imperialism. America did not have the backing of the U.N. or the support of most of the world leaders. Ronald Reagan just made his move and asked forgiveness after the fact. I find it fascinating that the country that joined America in this invasion was Jamaica. Hmmm - I am trying to picture the battle field.

I visited Grenada about three years ago. The cruise ship I was on - The Golden Princess - pulled right up to the dock and we walked off the ship. We got on a little transport bus and went off on a shore excursion. We visited an old family owned estate that makes rum, a historic spice plantation, then traveled to a beautiful family-owned restaurant where we sat out on a beautiful wrap-around porch and enjoyed a buffet lunch and rum punch.

You can rent a villa on Grenada for a very reasonable price. It comes with a staff who will shop, cook and clean for you. For about the same price as you would spend for 5 days at Disney, you can spend a week on the lovely island of Grenada.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

top ten stupid things he has said

Subtitle: When You Should Walk Away --- FAST

10. Can we do lunch instead? I get up really early in the morning.

9. I turn my phone off when I get home because I really need my rest.

8. I left my wallet in my desk at work. Can you cover this and I'll get it next time?

7. Hey, I just noticed that you called a while ago. My phone is screwed up.

6. You don't want to meet my friends. They're a pain in the butt.

5. My house/apartment is being painted/fumigated, so we can't go there. How about your place?

4. I can't stay over. I need to go let the dog out.

3. You don't want to meet my family. They're really dysfunctional.

2. I live with her, but we aren't in a relationship. I actually sleep on the sofa.

And the Number One Stupid Thing He Has Said:

1. I can't accept your Facebook friend request today because I am really busy. But I'm taking a day off from work next week. Maybe I can get out there then.


I know ... WOW, right? This is a compilation after several conversations with friends. But the number one is my own. I am STILL laughing about it days after he said it to me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

no eggos - are you sure?

I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work. This sign attached to the display case caught my eye. It made me laugh. I was on the phone with my Dad at the time and I told him I needed to hang up so I could take a picture of the sign.

Friday, October 23, 2009

homeward bound

We started our day in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, by taking a brisk walk up to the little shopping area. This picture shows Jane posing in front of some huge statues. I am slightly ashamed to tell you that I have no idea what the statues are.

I regret that I have no pictures of the actual torture that was the high speed jet ride over the class 3 rapids in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. This photo shows the frigid water behind us just after we have returned from the ride and changed our clothes. All I can tell you is that it was horrific. We were given rain pants and rain jackets to put on. These did absolutely nothing to protect us from the frigid water that the boat driver purposely dashed on us by aiming his jet boat right at the biggest waves. Picture having bucket after bucket after bucket of freezing cold water thrown in your face. Oh. it was joyful. I wanted to kill Jane. The ride was fun. The nasty, cold water was not. We were soaked by the time we got off the jet boat. We had been warned to bring a change of clothes and were provided changing rooms. We did survive!

Back at the dock, we zipped through the little shopping area in the terminal. I sat down for a rest and this moose got fresh with me. Of all the nerve!!!

That night, we played bingo. We didn't win. But nobody else won the big jackpot.

The next day found us in Halifax. Nova Scotia where we traveled to Peggy's Cove. Below, you see us posing in front of the lighthouse. It was just beautiful. The trees were every color - just stunning. Back in Halifax, we boarded the Hop On, Hop Off trolleys and meandered through town looking at historic sites and doing some shopping.

That night we played bingo again. We lost again. But we were both so close to winning the $1700 jackpot. We each only had one number to go. Here are our cards and our very sad faces:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I am writing this as the ship slowly departs from Bar Harbor, Maine. The sun has almost set behind the mainland and all of the little islands in the harbor. What a gorgeous place!

We had pre-reserved two tickets for Oli’s Trolley, which was highly recommended on Here we are in front of the trolley.

We took the two and a half hour trip, which took us all over Bar Harbor, then over to Mount Desert Island where we toured Acadia National Park. We drove up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, then over to The Wild Gardens of Acadia, then to Thunder Hole, which is a spot where the waves crash through some rocks and create huge plumes of water in the air. Then we walked all around Bar Harbor, stopping in at a bunch of little shops.

Back on board, we scored a miserable 8 out of 20 possible points in the Afternoon Trivia game. We were slightly handicapped by the addition to our team of two elderly ladies who could not properly hear the questions, so kept giving incorrect answers. After they would give an incorrect answer, one of them would say, “Oh, I thought she said blah-blah-blah.” The other one would chime in with, “That’s what I thought she said.” But to be truthful, Jane and I were not exactly firing on all cylinders. We were tired!
Now we are preparing for dinner.

We have had one interesting scenario. On Friday night, I ordered a bottle of wine with dinner and drank about a glass and a half of it. I asked the waiter to keep the bottle in the back and I would have the rest on another night. On the second night, we dined at Sabatini’s, one of the two specialty dining rooms, so I didn’t ask for the bottle. Last night, we were back in the regular dining room, so I requested my bottle. They couldn’t find it. The Head Waiter came over and asked me where I was sitting when I ordered the wine. We told him. Jane even walked him over to the table and showed him where we had been sitting. He went away and came back to tell me that we had not been in this dining room, that we had been in a different dining room. We told him that we had only dined in THIS dining room. He went away and came back with a waiter from another dining room and asked if this is who had served us. I told him that I did not remember because we have had contact with so many crew, but none more than once. He went away and came back again to argue again. I put up my hand and stopped him. I said that this had already taken up too much time and I did not wish to spend more time on it. He went away. But he came back with one glass of wine for me and said that I should not eat on Italian night without a glass of wine. In my opinion, he should have simply given me a new bottle. But I suppose there are so many people who will try to scam the cruise line that they have to be careful.

Monday, October 19, 2009


This morning, the weather was lovely and showed no sign that the prior evening had contained such scary moments. We had a leisurely breakfast and then headed out of the ship. We bought a shuttle ticket and rode over to the historic areas. There we boarded a trolley and rode around to see the sights. It was cool seeing all of the important sights of the Revolutionary War. I was really glad that I had seen the HBO series on John Adams because it gave me a framework within which to fit all of the pieces that the trolley driver provided. He basically followed the Freedom Trail.

After we got off the trolley, we came back to the ship and went to afternoon tea. Then we sat in the atrium and listened to a jazz combo for a while. Then we went to dinner, then to Bingo. And now I am in the room again and Jane is playing cards downstairs. She is a night owl. I am an early bird. But we manage!


Jane and I are alive, thank you very much, though for a while it was questionable whether we would survive the Nor’easter that the captain of our ship insisted on sailing through. We lost the Newport, Rhode Island port due to the weather. The captain made an announcement that I will try to re-create here. In case you aren’t good at figuring out accents, or in case I do a crappy job, I will tell you that the captain is Italian. Here was the announcement:

“Yes-ah, Ladies and Gentlemen, I-ah have to announce-ah that the-ah Harrrbor-ah Pilot-ah has just been on the sheep-ah. Un-ah-fortunately, we have-ah concluded-ah that it eez not safe to-ah enter the-ah harrrbor at theez time. Therrreforrre, theez will be-ah a sea day. A rrevised-ah itinerary weel be deliverrred to yourrr-ah staterrrrroom momentarrrily. I do-ah rrregrrret this dee-cision, but-ahhhh must poot passs-engerrr safety firrrst.”

Jane and I didn’t mind losing Newport, Rhode Island. And the day at sea was nice, unless you happened to be bothered by mildly rough seas. We played “Passenger Feud”, which is just like Family Feud, except the teams are made up of whoever happens to join together. Our team won, of course, and we jumped up and down with excitement as we were handed our signature baseball caps. (Ugh.) We took a line dancing class and learned the Electric Slide (which I already knew), the Achy Breaky Heart and the Boot Scoot Boogie. We are all set for the Country Hoedown. Then Jane played Bingo while I went to the Spa for a hot stone massage.

When I got to the spa, the check-in girls told me that I could not change clothes in the locker room because there had been “an incident”. I asked, “Was it a murder? I believe that my friend and I could solve a murder.” The girl said no, there had been no murder. Somebody just threw up. So, I changed in the shower room and carried my clothes with me. When I got to the waiting area, everyone who was there before me had the little wristlets with locker keys. Everyone who came after me had the little wristlets with locker keys. I must have arrived in the 3-5 minute window where the ship’s crew was cleaning up the locker rooms. Anyway, my massage was okay. It was really a Thai massage with some hot stones thrown in for flavor.

Last night was formal night, so Jane and I put on our fancy clothes. We had made a reservation at Sabatini’s, a restaurant on board that you pay a little extra for. You pick the main course only. Then they bring out 14-16 appetizers which you can try all of, or part of. Incredible. It was really good. After dinner, Jane went to the casino and I went to see a comedian. The comedian was not that great, so I left and went back to the room. That was when the real fun began.

The seas had become increasingly choppy as the day went by. When I got in the bed, I could really feel the swells. The ballast in these huge ships is really great, so when you feel the ship moving, you know you have some extremely choppy seas. Then the ship began a series of shudders and moans. At one point, there was an extremely loud BANG as if something had broken off the ship. At moments, the ship would tilt a bit to one side. I found myself expecting the ship to roll over on its side into that rough ocean.I tried to imagine what it would be like, whether water would immediately enter my cabin or whether I would have any time to prepare. Then I had a moment of two of sheer panic, where ideas raced through my head, one after another. It kind of went like this:

“They said to wear warm clothes in case you have to abandon ship. Should I put some warm clothes on now? Which shoes should I put on? My tennis shoes wouldn’t provide much protection from the cold water but my boots might weigh me down. Maybe I should put my life jacket on. Should I take a life jacket to Jane in the casino? What if I am on my way to the casino with her life jacket and she comes to the room looking for her life jacket and the ship rolls over at exactly that moment? Should I get my phone out and try to call my family just in case the ship is about to go down? Who do I want to talk to? What if I make them panic for no reason? Which clothes would protect me most from the cold water? Should I wear fleece? Should I put my raincoat with the warm lining on? Where is Jane? Why doesn’t she come back to the room? Can she even feel this movement down there?”

This nonstop panic thought went on for a few minutes, then I simply burst out laughing. Jane finally came back. She said that when her stool turned over in the casino, she decided that it was time to go back to the room. We both tried to go to sleep but it was terrifying. Each time the ship rolled into a tilt, we both said “Ahhh!” I just can’t figure out why the captain kept sailing in the storm. There had to be a back end of the storm, like in NYC where we started maybe? Why didn’t he just sail the ship south until he got the back of the storm? Who knows?Anyway, we both finally went to sleep. This morning we woke up in Boston with blue skies and pretty weather, maybe in the 50’s.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

all aboard

After our sumptuous breakfast, Jane and I packed our belongings and went downstairs for a taxi. Off we headed to the cruise terminal. How anyone finds that place is beyond me.

Folks, there is nothing like priority boarding. We went through security, were checked in by a very polite woman and escorted on to the ship. In the meantime, we could hear other people being called by number. Some folks looked annoyed to see us go by.

Once on board, we dropped our stuff off and headed to the Coral Dining Room. All of the ship's staff will direct you towards the Lido deck for the buffet. But it is a highly guarded secret that this one dining room is open on the first day for lunch.

Jane and I both had a shrimp appetizer. I had tenderloin and Jane had salmon. We both had the orange souffle with vanilla sauce. Yummy!

Now we are unpacking. Next will come the muster, then the departure. Fun!

huge breakfast

We ordered room service and ate a gigantic breakfast. We are now getting ready to head over to the ship. I am hoping that we will get on early so we can eat lunch in the dining room. None of the ship's staff will tell you that the dining room is open. They all point you to the buffet up on the Lido deck. But experienced cruisers know to go to the dining room for a great lunch. Let the weight gain begin!!!

Friday, October 16, 2009


We are just back from seeing the Off Broadway production of Hair. The last time I saw this play, I was about ten or eleven years old. Mother brought us along with her on a trip to NYC to meet her lover at the time. She actually confessed to me years later that she left us at the planetarium while she and he went off to have a bit of private time together. It was on that trip that I somehow came into possession of a guitar, which I taught myself to play.

So, Jane and I stood in the taxi line in front of the Waldorf. You would think that the doorman of the Waldorf would have an easy time of getting taxis. Nope. It took FOREVER. When we got in the taxi, we told the driver where we needed to go. He looked at us like we were crazy. He asked us if our show started at 8 p.m. We said yes and he took off like a madman. But he got us there. I love New York cab drivers!!! We entered the Al Hirschfeld theatre just at 8 p.m. There were quite a few people entering the theatre as we arrived, but the lights were already blinking to indicate that everyone should take their seats as the production was about to begin.

This was a good production. A few of the voices were just outright spectacular. I look at their faces in my Playbill and they all look so young. Sasha Allen, as Dionne, sang the opening number, Aquarius. Her voice is incredible - very powerful. I wasn't thrilled with Will Swenson as Berger. I think I allowed myself to expect a sexier version of Berger. Jane said the same thing. Caissie Levy played Sheila. "Easy to Be Hard" was her best performance of the night. It was excellent.

We had a great time!


We are safely ensconced at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Jane is out getting burgers or sandwiches for us, having pronounced the room service too expensive. I am starving!!!

I arrived at the Memphis airport this morning to hear the words that every traveler so hopes to hear. "Your flight has been canceled." Well, no trip would be fun without adventure. The first alternative was a direct flight getting in to Newark after 10 p.m. I begged and pleaded. We have theatre tickets that cost $140 each. The next choice was changing planes in Chicago and getting into Newark at 6:30 p.m. That would be tight for 8 p.m. theatre. The third and best choice was changing planes in Atlanta and getting into La Guardia at 5 p.m. The flight out of Memphis was at 11:40 a.m. Off I went!!!

The flight to Atlanta was 45 minutes and uneventful. The flight from Atlanta to NYC was a bit longer. As soon as we were airborne, the lady in front of me fully reclined her seat. When the flight attendant came with the drink cart, I told him that I wanted to buy the lady in front of me a drink. She turned to look at me with a puzzled expression. I said, "I thought since you are sitting in my lap, that I might buy you a drink." She put her seat forward.

Oops. Jane just arrived with the burgers. More later.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

off to the snowy north

Snow has arrived in Pennsylvania and the New York City area is cold and wet. My hope is that my flight will take off at the appointed time and land at the appointed time. Tomorrow night we are scheduled to go see the musical Hair on Broadway. I really want to see it, so I hope we both get there timely and safely.

Given the nasty weather that is expected, I am finding it difficult to get excited about this trip. To top it all off, I have come down with a mild cold. My voice sounds husky and I have a bronchial cough. I really worry that if I show any symptoms at all that I might be banned from the ship. Another option would be that once on board I might get quaranteened, which happened to someone on our Tahiti cruise.

Oh well, no use worrying about things over which I have no control!

I will blog each day of the trip, as usual. Wish me luck!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009


This is the time of year that I have two major projects due.

First is the Reauthorization for the state of Tennessee. I am ahead of schedule on this deadline, with just a couple of items left to fill in when I receive them from the home office. Good! Deadline: October 15

Second is the ACCSC Annual Report. I am ahead of schedule on this deadline, with just a couple of items left to fill in when I receive them from the home office. Good! Deadline: November 15

Third is the ACCSC Reaccreditation Application. I am behind schedule on this deadline, with quite a few items left to fill in!!! This one has me stressed out just a bit. It will all get done, but I am a bit stressed. Deadline: November 2

How do I always manage to schedule my vacations at a time when I am surrounded by deadlines? When I went on vacation in April, I was stressed out about budget deadlines and the completion of my Strategic Plan for FY10.

It'll be fine, just fine.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

making lists

I am leaving on my vacation in six days and I still haven't made a list of items that need to be done, purchased, cleaned, etc. This is not like me. Typically I begin this process weeks in advance. I'm not sure why I am procrastinating, but I checked with Jane when I spoke with her today and she is doing the same thing. The only thing I can figure is that although we are excited about this New England/Canada trip, that the destination doesn't carry the same Woo Hoo factor as a trip to the Caribbean. I do know this: If I don't get started soon, I am going to find myself in cold weather country without enough cold weather clothing!!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

front lawn

As I write this, there is a man in my front yard mowing my grass. I have no idea who he is or why he is doing this. Instead of being grateful, I am partly scared and partly annoyed. I don't know if this is someone who is a little crazy who does work, then rings the doorbell and demands to be paid. Or maybe this is a neighbor who has grown sick of my high grass and decided to take matters into his own hands.

I actually pay someone to cut my grass, but he is notoriously unreliable. But he is very cheap. He called me two and a half weeks ago and said that he would not be by on Saturday, unless I wanted him to come, because he did not think the grass needed cutting. We agreed that he could wait until the next weekend. It rained and the yard flooded that weekend. But this weekend would have been fine. For whatever reason, he did not come. Now the yard really needs cutting! For all I know, the guy in the yard might be working for my guy!

Several years ago, I hired a fella who was passing through the neighborhood ringing doorbells. He offered to rake leaves. We agreed on a price. He finished about two thirds and asked for the money. I gave him two thirds of the agreed upon price and never saw him again. The yard looked funny for weeks until enough leaves fell to fill in the blanks.

The lawnmower sound has stopped. Exactly what is the etiquette in this situation? If he rings the doorbell, do I have to respond?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

travel fever

On some Sundays, at around 2 p.m., I get a sudden urge to get in the car and GO. I get on the Internet and search places to go that would allow me to back in time to get a good night's sleep before heading back to work on Monday. Inevitably, I conclude that I should have begun my travels early. Next time, I vow, I will leave early in the morning and just GO. I will travel the Natchez Parkway, I think, but I can't figure out how to do that without driving really far our of my way and/or driving the same way back as I did going out. I will go check out the Ozarks, I think, but then realize that it is a LOT of driving. I need a travel companion!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


There is a new show on the OXYGN channel called Snapped. I've never seen it until tonight when they featured a murder that took place here in Memphis a few years ago. It featured a good-looking man who was killed by his girlfriend after she intercepted text messages from another woman he was seeing behind her back. Seeing this took me back to the early 1990's just after I moved to Atlanta to be closer to my boyfriend.

I had my Snapped moment that year and I am just forever grateful that I did not have a gun or other weapon. The man I was dating was someone I had known for many, many years. We knew each other in college. Six or seven months prior to the incident, I had found out about a girl that my boyfriend had been with on the side before I moved there. He had continued seeing her until I found out about her. I thought she was long gone from our lives. But on this particular day, I found out differently. He had purchased a pager because his daughter was expecting her first baby. He wanted her to be able to reach him at any time. He gave me the pager number too and took the trouble to tell me that we were the only two people he had given the pager number to.

That day we were goofing around, wrestling and laughing. I ended up laying back on his suit jacket. He got up to go get a drink from the kitchen. While he was gone, I felt the pager in his jacket pocket vibrate. I thought, "the baby", and grabbed the pager out of his pocket. When I looked at it, I found the phone number of the girlfriend who I thought was long gone. I recognized the number because she had stalked me repeatedly, calling me and hanging up over and over before she finally disappeared off the radar.

My boyfriend came back in the room. I held the pager up and asked, "What is _____ doing with your pager number?" That is when he made what could have been a fatal error. He got stubborn and responded, "I can give my pager number to whoever I want to give it to." And that is when I snapped. I leaped up and began to hit him. I was completely unable to stop myself. I just kept hitting him. He would hold me away from him, then let me go, then I would hit him again. This went on for about twenty minutes. He told me later that I hit him harder than any man had ever hit him, that I did damage to his ear drum. To his credit, he never laid a hand on me other than to try to hold me away from him.

I know two things. One - anyone is capable of murder. If circumstances come together just right, you really do just snap. I had never hit anybody in my entire life and would have bet good money that I never would, unless in the defense of my precious child. But the rage I felt in that moment, to discover that he had done to me AGAIN what had caused me so much pain and grief the first time, was overwhelming and hard to describe. If I had been in possession of a gun, I have no doubt that I would have tried to kill him. Two - it is my responsibility to make sure that I am never in a position to snap again!

We continued to see each other for quite a few years, until I found out about one last betrayal that beat them all!!! I won't even go into details here. Suffice it to say that it was enough to sour me on him for a long, long time. But I didn't snap this time! In fact, I sort of saw it coming and was not the least bit surprised. Oh, it still hurt like hell! But I couldn't say I was surprised.

If I could go back to that day when I snapped, I would have walked away from him forever and perhaps opened myself up to something more beautiful. But love will make you do the stupidest of things!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Mother Loves Blue

She grew up next to the ocean in Norfolk, VA. It seems as if every conversation I have had with her during the last few years has included some reference to the beach or the sea or an ocean voyage. Just today she was telling me about a cruise she is going on with her friend Betty in May 2010. Her favorite painting that hung in her office throughout her entire career features beautiful sand dunes with a hint of blue ocean and blue sky beyond the dunes. When she was 82, I took her on a cruise and we were able to rent a little beach shelter on the cruise line’s private beach day. She wanted to go in the water and I watched as she slowly made her way down to the shoreline. I had offered to walk with her, but she wanted to do it by herself. As soon as the water was up to her ankles though, the sand became too mushy and she lost her balance and plopped down on her bottom. I raced down to the water to help her up. I asked her what she wanted to do, prepared to do anything for her in that moment, even swim into the ocean with her, a prospect that terrified me. I hate the thought of unidentified things brushing against my leg. Too many viewings of Jaws have left me expecting a sudden attack from a Great White Shark. But Mother, embarrassed by her public tumble, wanted to go back to the beach chairs. After a few moments in the chairs, she turned to me with tears in her eyes and confided that her fantasy was to run into the ocean as she had done so many times as a young girl. In her mind, she was still that young girl, running free, unencumbered by age or physical restraints.

My Mother loves blue.

Her favorite ring is a turquoise and sterling silver ring that she bought while visiting her Aunt Ruth in New Mexico back in the 1960’s. If you know her well, you know that she always has that ring on. She has many rings, but wears that one the most. It is a huge ring and her hand is small, but it looks like it belongs there. She also has another ring which features a small aquamarine surrounded by diamonds. She bought it with a portion of the money that she inherited from her mother when she died in the 1970’s. By today’s standards, that ring isn’t all that fancy, but Mother kept it in the safety deposit box at the bank for the longest time, only bringing it out to wear on very special occasions. Now, she simply keeps it in her jewelry box. At some point I told her that she ought to wear that ring every day. Why not enjoy it all the time? But taking the ring out of her jewelry box and putting it on means the occasion is very special and she likes doing it that way.

My Mother loves blue.

Unfortunately, Mother also frequently gets the blues. She suffers from major depression and has throughout her entire life. She takes anti-depressants and does not want to. So every now and then she stops taking them. But eventually another low point will come and she will go back to the medication. But perhaps because she was trained as a counselor, Mother is not the type to be ashamed of being depressed. She served as a kind of poster child for the Mental Health Association of Georgia, the year that the organization featured the illness. She was interviewed and appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discussing her struggles and even toured around the state doing public speaking engagements. After each trip, she would come back and tell me about whatever group she had spoken to and the interactions that she had after each speech. The stories were very colorful and sometimes quite poignant. I like to imagine that she touched a lot of lives through her frank and unashamed discussions about her own experiences, not just that year, but always. Certainly it helped me!

My Mother loves blue.

When I moved into a new house in 2008, Mother sent me a check to buy some new towels. She says one should always buy new towels at least every other year or so. I went to lots of stores and looked at a lot of towels. My own decorating schemes usually feature jewel tones, but I was curiously drawn to a particular set of blue towels. My master bathroom is devoid of color. The huge walk-in shower is surrounded by glass, so there is no need for a shower curtain. The large picture window has the look of stained glass, but is all just patterns, no color. The towels I kept going back to were a beautiful marine blue. I finally bought them, two bath towels, two hand towels and four wash cloths. Mother always tells me to buy more wash cloths because they don’t last as long. When she came to visit for two months that winter, I gave her the master bedroom because it was on the ground floor and I know how much she hates climbing stairs because of her trick knee. She worries that her knee will give out halfway up or down a flight of stairs and she will fall and break a hip. During the course of many visits to the nursing home where her mother spent her last year of life after breaking a hip, Mother and I had been powerless to prevent her from slowly giving up on life. Mother does not want to repeat that end of life story. When Mother saw those blue towels she exclaimed about how beautiful the color was. I didn’t realize until that moment that I had bought the towels for her.

My Mother loves blue.

Mother is a Blue Devils fan. That’s Duke University, for you plebes who don’t know. Mother roots for Duke during the men’s basketball tournaments every year. Of course she lives in a house with two Duke graduates, so she almost has no choice in the matter. She really struggles when the North Carolina Tarheels, with their powder blue and white uniforms, are in the finals along with Duke. They are her secret favorite. She always experiences relief when one or the other drops out. Duke and Carolina can always be found in her brackets, though, most often fighting a heated battle to the triumphant victory of one or the other of the two. But anyone who knows Mom knows that her favorite sports team is the Atlanta Braves, who don’t sport a speck of blue in their uniforms! Mother is fond of telling people that she has been a fan of the Atlanta Braves since they were the Atlanta Crackers. When she and Daddy were studying at Emory University, Daddy could get in to the games for free because he was clergy. Mother could get in for free on Ladies Night. So they went to a lot of Ladies Nights games.

My Mother loves blue.

But when I think of her, she is a kaleidoscope of colors with her rich life experiences and her broad knowledge of so many subjects. She jokes that she is a jack of all trades, master of none. But that is not really true. She is a well-read and smart woman. She could have done or been anything during the course of her life. She chose to be educator, counselor, missionary, mother, musician, music lover, minister, world traveler, healer, speaker and avid reader. She is many things to many people. She is my greatest critic and my greatest champion. She rescued me when I needed rescuing. She laughs deeply at my stories and antics. She loves me greatly. And I love her. Sometimes I like to think about her as that little girl, on a beach somewhere, running in the surf, arms outstretched, hair flying, legs covered with sand, the smell of sea salt in her nostrils. Each year when I go on vacation, I look for her in the blue ocean, in the blue sky and in every young girl I see running on the beach.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

While I was in the car driving to Georgia on Thursday, I received a phone call from our Office Manager telling me that they were under a tornado watch. It turns out a tornado had touched down just a couple of miles from the campus. They had the students in the hallway and were keeping them there until they sounded the all clear. Here is a video showing the tornado damage to the nearby Kohl's and other stores:

I was in the mountains by the time she called. Right after we hung up, I called the home office and let the receptionist know that the school would have their night phone on while they had the students in the halls. My phone had been turning itself off periodically and it did it just after I spoke with the home office. Every time it turns itself off, it automatically reloads all of its programs, which takes about ten minutes. It is incredibly annoying. It had done this so many times that my battery died. So I couldn't check on the school again until after I arrived in Atlanta.

It was really hard not to know what was going on at my school!!! But the management staff handled everything with perfect professionalism, as usual.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

family reunion

My son, Sam, and I left for the airport at 6:20 a.m. on July 3rd. Both of us were a little crabby, but we managed to get to our gate with a little time to spare. Sam does not like to fly. He once flew while he was taking some muscle mass stuff which causes mild anxiety. Since he didn't know about the side affect, he wrongly associated his anxiety with flying. Even though he now knows that the muscle stuff caused the anxiety, flying now induces the anxiety too. We sat across the aisle from each other. He had a drink before we got on the plane and another while on the plane. He made it.

We arrived in Charlotte, NC at close to noon. My sister and her husband were flying in from Newark, NJ, and were scheduled to land at almost the same time. My father and stepmother were flying in from Philadelphia, PA and were also scheduled to land at almost the same time. None of that was planned. It just worked out that way! I called Daddy when we landed and got voicemail. Then I called Lenore and John. They were at the rental counter. I was renting from Avis, so I told them I would call them from the road. Once we got out on the road, I called them. We decided to meet for lunch. A call to Daddy yielded that they were right behind us, so we told them where we were meeting. All of us arrived at more or less the same time - hugs and kisses all around.

My brother-in-law, John, is battling prostate cancer. His is a particularly virulent strain. At the time that we arrived in NC, he was a few days out from his 2nd chemotherapy treatment. He looked a little rough. My sister has surprised us all with her strength as she handled the strain of her husband's illness and potential death. She has been dependent on him for many years and the role reversal has been hard on both of them.

During our lunch, I brought out a bunch of little rubber (or plastic?) duckies that I had purchased from Oriental Trading Company. There were ninja ducks, hockey ducks, doctor ducks, nurse ducks, hippy ducks and the biggest hit for these four cat-lovers, cat ducks. I brought the ducks for John because I had sung the entire 'Rubber Ducky' song for him over the phone one night while Lenore was helping him bathe. Getting all of the little duckies out made us remember that and smile. (I knew it would.) I also brought an extra set of cat ducks for Dad and Emily Jean because I knew they would want them. I was right!

After lunch, we jumped into our three rental cars and took off for the mountains. My father's extended family has been summering in Montreat, NC since 1906. Several of the "cottages" owned by the family are over 100 years old. Large numbers of family always gather for the July 4th weekend. I rented a five bedroom lodge for the weekend, but it wasn't available until Saturday night. So, On Friday night, we stayed at the Super 8.

After we all got checked in, Daddy wanted to go over to his brother's house. Uncle Harry is 88 years old. Their father lived to be 91 and their mother lived to be 99, so the family expected a similar pattern for my father and his two brothers and two sisters. But we were all suprised to lose both sisters within the last two years. Then one brother died last year.Now Daddy, at 84 and his brother Harry are the last of their generation. Daddy is very active. But Uncle Harry is pretty frail. My Aunt Lella (Harry's wife) is still fairly spry, though.

Dad, Emily Jean, Sam and I all drove over to visit with Uncle Harry and Aunt Lella. John and Lenore stayed at the motel to rest from the trip. Uncle Harry's house is one of the newer houses and is located on North Carolina Terrace across the street from two of the older houses, now owned by my cousins, daughters of Aunt Kitty who was the older sister of my father. When we arrived, Harry and Lella's youngest daughter, Nancy, answered the door along with Aunt Lella. Nancy is a few years younger than me. She looked fabulous. We all went out on the back porch where Uncle Harry was already sitting.

Aunt Lella raised her children to be gracious, well-mannered Southern ladies and gentlemen and they are. Refreshments were served and gracious conversation was shared. Each time my son did or said something that was very mannerly, this was noted and he and I were both praised. This struck me as a little funny. I worked hard to make sure that Sam had great manners, but I also know him as someone who can be a rotten scoundrel at times! But he did not show any of that while we were with the family! We were soon joined by Nancy's oldest sister, Randy, who was named for my father. My brother, born soon after her, was also named Randy. We actually referred to them as Randy-girl and Randy-boy when we were growing up. LOL

As we were getting ready to leave, we were joined by Katie and Larry. Katie is the oldest of my cousins. She is the oldest daughter of my Aunt Kitty. Katie is the oldest of eight children. So along came her youngest sister Becky and her husband Bob. Then along came her sister Nancy, then her sister Eleanor and Eleanor's husband Mike. I just love my cousins. They are all just wonderful people. I consider myself blessed to be connected to all of these people.

We headed back over to the Super 8. John and Lenore were up and getting ready to go out with their friend Barry who was in Montreat for a music conference. After a rest, Dad, Emily Jean, Sam and I went over to the Black Mountain Cafe for dinner. It was pretty good! I love spending time with my father and stepmother. They are two of my favorite people in the whole world!

Saturday morning we all went to Denny's for breakfast. Yummy! Then we headed over to Cabin Creek Lodge, where I had rented the five bedroom lodge. (The photo shows the handmade stair railing, the work of artist John Hentschel, inside The Lodge.) We checked in and then headed out for the family picnic. There were about 80 or so family members at the picnic. Sam got a chance to hang out with some of the cousins that are closer to his age. Aunt Sissi, widow of Uncle Roddey (Daddy's other brother) was at the picnic with her new beau.

Towards the end of the picnic, a small group of us went down to the edge of the creek and spread Uncle Roddey's ashes. I added rose petals because he was a Master Gardener and would have loved that touch, I know. Then we gathered into a group hug and cried. Daddy said a beautiful prayer. This was a precious moment and I am so glad that I was a part of it.

After the picnic, we went back to the Lodge for a rest. Aunt Sissi and her beau (Bob) came over for dinner. Sam and I volunteered to go out and get Chinese. But the Chinese place was closed so we got BBQ instead. The eight of us feasted on BBQ, baked beans, potato salad, Brunswick stew, Texas toast and tea. Yummy! Then we had ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Then Sam went off with some cousins to a square dance. The rest of us hung out at the Lodge. Several cousins came by to visit.

Sunday morning, Sam slept in. John and Lenore drove over to Asheville to attend church with Barry. Dad and Emily Jean drove over to visit old friends. I had the Lodge to myself - ahhhhh - until Sam woke up. Then he and I went out to get some lunch. I got Wendy's and he had pizza. Dad and Emily Jean were back before too long, as were Lenore and John. Sunday night Sam was out again with cousins. The rest of us hung out at the Lodge, with visits from more cousins.

Monday morning we were all up and packing. Saying goodbye was hard!!! Sam & I got to the airport in time to catch an early flight home. This was a wonderful trip!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

bourbon orleans

On Sunday, June 28, 2009, I was scheduled to do a three hour tour of New Orleans with a few co-workers. We were to meet in the lobby of the hotel. Since we had to check out that day, I packed all of my belongings and went to the lobby, intending to leave my bag with the valet while I went on my tour. I arrived in the lobby about six minutes late to find that the group had left without me. I found out later that they had called me several times, but my cell phone did not ring. Once I figured out that they were gone, I rolled my bag back up to the room. I called another co-worker who I knew was also moving to the new hotel that day. She told me that her son was picking her up and that I could ride along too.

At the appointed time, the son picked us up and drove us to the new hotel, the Bourbon Orleans, which is right on Bourbon Street. It was too early to check in, so we left our bags with the valet and went off to breakfast. I had already eaten breakfast in my room, but I had coffee with them. When we returned, a number of other co-workers were sitting in the lobby. So off we went to lunch!

I do have to say that the food was incredible in New Orleans. I regret that I didn't write down every restaurant that I visited and every meal that I consumed. They were all memorable. I do not recall a bad meal. I ate jambalaya, gumbo, fried oysters, crab salad, several varieties of fish, shrimp, crayfish ...

Needless to say, I enjoyed New Orleans!!!

Monday night, it was "dinner on your own" and a group of us went to Irene's, which was (I think) the best restaurant of the trip. The atmosphere is just so very special and the food was to die for. I was seated next to some of my favorite co-workers, so the conversation was wonderful. This was a very happy evening for me.

Tuesday night, we went on a rather cheezy riverboat cruise. I suppose it was exactly what anyone would expect. But the boat itself was in a state of disrepair. The carpet smelled of mildew. The furniture was very old and cheap. The members of the band appeared to be in their 90's. But the food was pretty good!

Then on the last night of the meeting, our CEO took us to Antoine's. What an incredible place. We ate in a private dining room and every bite was delicious. I even ate fried oysters, which I generally don't like. After dinner, we went back to the hotel.

I flew home on Thursday, July 2, 2009. I drove home from the airport, already planning my next five moves. I needed to do laundry, pay bills, visit with my son and my cat, call the office and then pack again for the trip to North Carolina on the 3rd. It was family reunion time!!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

the maison dupuy

My flight to New Orleans on Saturday, June 27, 2009, was uneventful. I arrived sometime after 10 a.m. and caught a cab to The Maison Dupuy at 1001 Rue Toulouse, a hotel that the company had booked me for one night since the main hotel was not yet available. The somewhat cold woman at the front desk informed me that my room would not be available until 4 p.m. I indicated that this would be no problem, then set up camp in the lobby, opening my suitcase to get out papers, plugging my laptop and cell phone in to charge and making a phone call to my friend Holly. Not suprisingly, I had a room within about 40 minutes.

The room was quite nice. I relaxed a bit. A phone call from a co-worker asking if I would like to go find some lunch stirred me at about 1 p.m. Off we went to walk towards Canal Street. We found a fun, but humid, eatery and I enjoyed some jambalaya. I also sampled the corner of a friend's catfish - also delicious. Back to the hotel we went, where we found more co-workers. We all retired to our rooms for a rest, then regrouped at dinner time. We set off more or less in the same direction and ate appetizers prior to assembling at a prearranged spot for 'ghost tour' of the French Quarter, which turned out to be a snooze festival. So we ditched the tour group, hired a horse carriage and took a different sort of tour. When that concluded, we bravely set forth towards Bourbon Street.

Announcement --- I am too old for Bourbon Street. I hung in there for a while - even enjoyed a great rock band for about 90 minutes. (Twenty-five years ago I would have thrown myself at the guitar player.) But at the first sign that one of our group was ready to go, I cut out of there like a razor blade. (But it was fun.) And we took a cab back to the hotel. LOL

Sunday, June 14, 2009

if I can get the price of this car down to $---, will you buy it?

Yesterday I went to look at cars. I've been driving a Chrysler 300 for about 10 months and I really miss the Jeep that I was driving before. So, I test drove another Jeep. It was great. I loved it. My salesman was doing just great. Then they did that tag team thing where another guy comes out. This new guy asked me, "If I can get the price of this car down to $---, will you buy it?" I answered, "Probably." That wasn't good enough. He talked for a few minutes, saying nothing that made any sense to me. Then he asked me the question again. I answered, "That is the price I am comfortable with, but I am not committing to a purchase until you actually offer it to me at that price." Again, that wasn't good enough. He started talking again - using a lot of car salesman language that made no sense to me. I looked at the original salesman and asked, "Why is it important for me to answer "yes" to this question?" He didn't answer. Instead, the new guy started talking again. I held up my hand. I said, "I don't understand why you are still sitting here talking instead of going to see if you can make this deal." He answered, "I need your committment first." I picked up my purse and stood up. I turned back to the original salesman and said, "I have plans tonight and I have to work tomorrow. If I'm going to buy a new car today, it will need to be in the next 90 minutes." Then I left.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


It never occurred to me that I would ever have "maggots" as a blog post, but a friend of mine called me tonight to tell me that he found maggots in his house. He then went on to say, "you'll probably blog about this and everyone who reads your blog will know it was me". Well, not everyone who reads my blog even KNOWS this friend, so I think that is a gross exaggeration, which is just typical of him! I promised that I would conceal his identity. So, for anyone reading this who knows my friends, this blog post is NOT about my friend who lives in Alaska with his two daughters. See, Frank? I can conceal identities just as well as the next blogger!

Now, about those maggots ... they just appeared in the house! There was no garbage left out and nothing rotting anywhere, but suddenly there were maggots everywhere. Now, I have found maggots in a house I lived in, but they were on a bag of garbage that I left sitting out. I think you only need to have that happen once before you become more careful about your garbage. Anyway, this wasn't the case with Frank. But, he had left doors and windows open when his window air conditioning unit suddenly quit on him. It was just too hot! That explains how the flies got in! And that explains the maggots.

So, I googled maggots to see what I could find. I skipped the obvious Wikipedia entry, which I knew would give me all sorts of clinical information that would probably make me throw up. Instead, I found the Missoula All-Maggots Rugby Club How cool is that? Check out the picture of these handsome lads. They were the Montana Rugby Union Champions of 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008. Leave it to me to do a blog entry about maggots and populate it with a photo of some rugged, good-looking men! (I just adore their bus!) Theirs is a GREAT website - very entertaining!

Then I found Maggot Art. Here is the explanation from the website: "Maggot Art is a unique outreach program that combines art and science in an exciting and informative activity. Live maggots are dipped into non-toxic paint and allowed to crawl on paper, creating beautiful paintings." Okay! That sounds pretty gross. But isn't that painting beautiful? It is the work of maggot artist Rebecca O'Flaherty.

The best link of all is to another blog that I found called FYI:Science where I found a blog entry entitled "Throw another maggot on the barbie, mate". You just have to read it for yourself. You will thank me, I promise. Here is the link:

As for Frank, I have complete faith in his ability to solve his maggot problem. Although he is small of stature, he is a giant when it comes to finding solutions to problems! He reminds me of a couple of my other best friends. Come to think of it, most of my closest friends are pretty plucky people! I wonder if they see me the same way!!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

another blast from the past

I received a phone call today that was totally unexpected. Steve, the keyboard player from a band I played in over 30 years ago, called me out of the blue. I had recently been in touch with one of the guitar players from the band after a mutual friend died. Apparently Steve heard about that and asked for my contact information. Steve lives here in Memphis!!! He is a studio musician and wanted to know if I still played the guitar and sang AND if I would like to join him and some mutual friends in a jam session.

Wow. I didn't know what to say! I haven't played my guitar in a while and I don't even know if I have the time or the energy to do something like that. But I must confess, it took me back to those days of learning new songs, then rearranging them, which was a specialty of Steve's. I remember performing a super-fast version of Carlos Santana's "Evil Ways" with me singing a harmony to the entire vocal, then morphing into a slow song that was written by Doug, the guitar player, with lyrics by me. We were performing in a local talent show and we won. But the hours we spent crafting that two song performance, trying different ways of putting them together, stand out to me as such a memory of the creative process. Five guys and me, in a basement, smoking and arguing and playing music. It was a heady time. It was fun and magical. It all came back to me today.

I finally agreed to come down and just hang out a bit. What can it hurt?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

two women & their soap

I don't know exactly when Maureen and I became friends. We stumbled across each other playing Scavenger Hunt on Facebook. The more friends you have playing, the more chances you have to find the items you are hunting. One strategy we each used was to add more "friends" who were playing the game already. (There are "add me" discussion threads full of people who are willing to do this. Typically, one creates a special security group to put these "friends" in, so they will not have access to your personal information. Nobody wants a complete stranger tracking them down and calling them at work.)

We got to know each other, a little bit at a time. Maureen can usually be found at King's Landing, a historical settlement in New Brunswick, Canada. She does demonstrations of the old ways of spinning, soap making and herbal medicines. Having been a huge Williamsburg fan, I was immediately facinated by what she does. Several months and conversations later, I removed her from my tighter security group and added her to my RL (real life) friends. She is the only person I have ever done that with.

Today, I received a package from her that contained five bars of soap, three lip balms, a sachet and a solid lotion bar. My house smells so good right now. I have the bars of soap displayed on my coffee table. I keep picking them up and holding them to my nose. One bar is Black Raspberry & Vanilla. Another is Oatmeal Goatsmilk & Honey. There is Apples & Cinnamon. There is Celestial, which smells like a cloud looks. But my favorite is Green Tea & Sea Mud. I can't seem to put this one down!!! The lip balms are "Just Peachy", "Cherry Fudge" and "Chocolate Mint". I have the peach on now. Yummy feeling. (The photo at the top of this blog entry is just a random soap picture. The battery in my digital camera is dead.)

The packaging for each bar of soap is unique. The labels have different pictures and different fonts. But each says "Made In The Kitchen In Millville, NB" and the words "Two Women & Their Soap". Very cool! Thank you so much, Maureen!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

you can even eat the dishes

straight from

Every Friday through the end of September, you stand a chance of getting a free chocolate bar or candy because of the Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act. Mars initiated the program last week, giving out coupons for chocolate treats to the first 250,000 people who logged on at on Friday and requested a coupon. The response was so large that Mars is doubling the chance for free chocolate this week. A half-million coupons will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis and mailed to those who qualify. Coupons are redeemable for any full-size Mars chocolate product and are limited to one per person per week.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"next blog"

Periodically, I repeatedly click on "Next Blog" and see what I find. The last time I did this, I remarked about how many blogs are in Spanish and I vowed to purchase software so I could teach myself Spanish, which I did!!! Well, I bought the software. Naturally, I bought the best - Rosetta Stone. And, of course, I splurged and bought Spanish I, II and III. I think I did manage to get them out of the box. Sigh.

So - no vowing this time!!! (Is 'vowing' even a word?)

I will simply hit the Next Blog button and see what I find. I always find a jewel or two hidden among the rest.

Here we go .....

Recovering alcoholic exploring her sprituality

SCORE! Wrinkled Blankets appears to be a brand new blog with only two entries to date. But you can't go wrong with pictures of Steve McQueen and an entry of poetry by Virginia Woolf, for goodness sake. I can't wait to see where this goes, so I will follow for a while.

Spanish futebol (soccer)
Free style prose with no intent to order the thoughts
Artist - paintings
Korean travel blog
Spanish futebol
Cooking blog - brand new - one recipe so far
Japanese cartoon download blog

SCORE! Tulip in the Thicket is a blog by a woman who is probably about my age. She is blogging about various things, nothing meant to be profound or profane, but her quiet communication is interesting and touches my heart. I will follow for a while.

Artist - paintings
Artist - photography

SCORE! To Know Him and To Make Him Known is a blog written by a young man who is spreading his Christian faith through his blog. Nice job, Nate! I will follow for a while.

Okay, that is enough for tonight. That was fun. Now it's time for bed!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

swine flu

I am at home today, feeling very pukey. Since I just returned from Mexico, people keep asking me if I think I have the swine flu. NO!!! I do not think that I have the swine flu! I think I would be a lot sicker if I had the swine flu! My goodness, people panic so easily!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

rainy drive, twisty turns, brad paisley, girlfriend time

Saturday morning, I got up with the intention of getting on the road early to drive from Memphis to Nashville, which is about a three hour drive. I didn't want to rush, though, so I deliberately took my time getting everything together.

I drove over to McDonald's, ordered food and coffee, with lots of cream "on the side". I intended to drink that one cup of coffee with part of the cream, then make another cup of coffee with the other cream after I finished eating. When the gal in the window gave me my bag, I looked into it (which I have learned to do after one too many disappointing moments of getting home to discover something missing). There was no cream. I asked for six creams. The gal in the window said, "They are already in your coffee." I asked for six more. She looked at me for a sec, then handed them over. I figured I could dilute the over-creamed coffee with some I made. I got home, started to brew the coffee, took the top off the McDonald's coffee, only to find no cream in the coffee. It's a good thing I asked for more!!!

I ate a leisurely breakfast, savoring my second cup of coffee while I checked my email and my Facebook games. (I am addicted to Mousehunt.) I packed my overnight bag, then jumped into the bath. As I was letting my hair airdry, Brenda called me to tell me that she had to run a little errand and wouldn't be back until about 3 p.m. I told her that I would wait until a bit later to hit the road, which sounded great to me!!!

I finally left the house at 2 p.m. For directions to Brenda's house, I had her address and two specific directions from her. From I-40, turn right on Murfreesboro Road, then left on Nashboro Road. It sounded simple to me, so off I went. The drive to Nashville was uneventful. There was some light rain here and there, but nothing major. I love being on the road, listening to music and singing along. At 5 p.m., I heard the live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion begin on the radio. It was not until that moment that I realized that the show we were attending, at 9 p.m., would not be on the air. I'm not sure why I was so slow! Of course they wouldn't broadcast both shows!!! (My only regret in attending this later show is that there is no recording of it on the website, so I can't listen to it again! And "The Lives of the Cowboys", which did air on the show, was not repeated in the show I attended - very disappointing!!!)

When I reached the outskirts of Nashville, I pulled up my GPS and typed in Brenda's address. My GPS did not know the address. Well, I thought, no harm - I'll just look for the Murfreesboro Road exit. I got all the way to the other side of Nashville without seeing a Murfreesboro Road exit. Hmmm. I called Brenda. She said she wasn't sure where I had gone wrong. (She just moved to Nashville herself and had forgotten that I had to take one exit off I-40 before I got to the Murfreesboro Road exit.)

I decided to put the closest cross streets Brenda had given me - Murfreesboro Road and Nashboro Road - into the GPS. Eureka! I had directions. Off I went again. When my GPS unit announced that I had arrived at my destination, I looked up to find myself at the intersection of Murfreeboro Pike and Nashboro Boulevard. Sigh. I called Brenda. She asked me to describe my surroundings, which I did. She said, "You're here!!!" A few more turns and I was at her apartment.

I took my things in, we chatted a while, then we were off to the Ryman Auditorium. We agreed we would splurge again and park as close as we could get and ended up in the parking garage next door. Then we walked over in a light rain. I've never been inside the Ryman Auditorium before. It is the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, so it has seen a LOT of celebrity in its day. And, of course, it has appeared in many, many movies including a favorite of mine, Coal Miner's Daughter, starring Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn and Tommy Lee Jones as Mooney Lynn (Loretta's husband).

Brenda and I had great seats down on the floor, in about the 8th row. The seats are wooden church pews. To my right was a very nice couple from Knoxville, Tennessee. The wife was a 54 year-old kindergarten teacher with a little girl voice. She and I were dressed almost identically, which was kind of funny to me. She mentioned that since we were not attending the live show that had to conform to a specific time frame, that the show was probably going to go longer than the typical two hours. (She was right - it turned out to be three wonderful hours!) As soon as we were seated, Brenda left to go get us drinks. We enjoyed a nice wine while we waited for the show to begin. Sound technicians came out and checked everything.

Then, out they came, Garrison Keillor and the rest. Tim Russell can do anybody's voice and did quite a few during this show. Sue Scott does the same for the female voice. But my favorite performer on A Prairie Home Companion is Fred Newman. That man can make any noise, from a train to a ship at sea to a car screeching around a turn. And he puts his whole body into each sound creation. This visual aspect of his work was unknown to me since I had only heard him on the radio. Now I have even more admiration for his work.

And the show's regular musicians are just spectacular. Richard Dworsky can play the piano like nobody's business. Pat Donahue is a fantastic guitar picker. (He did a really great song that was about stealing guitar licks from Chet Atkins, called "Stealing from Chet".) Gary Raynor was on bass. Peter Johnson played percussion. Andy Stein plays the violin and the saxophone

The Sam Bush Band was on the show this night. Sam Bush is an unbelievable mandolin and fiddle player. He was a nice addition to the show. He brought his band with him: Stephen Mougin (guitar), Scott Vestal (banjo), Byron House (bass) and Chris Brown (drums).

Garrison Keillor graduated from college in 1966. That means he is about fourteen years older than me, which makes him about 64. He has a ton of energy and obviously enjoys doing this show! He is a master story-teller and a pretty good singer. He is a star, but seems to really enjoy pushing anyone and everyone to the front of the stage. He is a great showman.

The guest that really surprised me was Brad Paisley. This guy is a superstar of country music. But on this night, with the exception of a couple of songs, he was just a member of the band. There was one skit that featured him. The premise of the skit was that he had gotten carried away by his passion for geology and his agent was trying to get him back into music with a live performance that featured a woman being shot out of a cannon and Brad singing "La Bamba". It was hysterically funny.

Later, when he was singing a song by himself, he forgot the lyrics and asked if anyone could help him remember. Someone from the audience sang out the "La Bamba" lyrics, cracking up the audience. Brad handled it all well. He is clearly a very humble man. He debuted two songs at the show. He and his wife have just been blessed with the birth of a baby boy. Brad sang "Anything Like Me', which he had just written. I suspect it will be a huge hit. He also sang another song about men who boast about "wearing the pants" in the family. I don't know the name of that comical tune (which he dedicated to a male heckler in the balcony section), but the punch line vocal is, "It's Not the Pants, It's the Skirt". It was very funny.

There was also a surprise visit from Little Jimmy Dickens, from the Grand Ole Opry. For those of you who aren't fans of the Grand Ole Opry, Little Jimmy Dickens has been a mainstay there for decades. He sings ballads that often have a comic air to them and he tells corny jokes. He also wears very "loud", rhinestone-covered outfits. You will recognise him on awards shows because he is older and is under five feet tall.

The whole experience was incredible. I am so very glad that I went to this show!

After the show, Brenda and I went to the Waffle House. I just love the Waffle House. You really see the salt of the Earth in the Waffle House. Our waitress was a large, butch woman sporting a black eye that neither of us dared to ask about. I had an omelette. It was really good. Brenda is a night person so she had cup after cup after cup of coffee. By the time we got back to the apartment, it was 2 a.m. Then we stayed up talking another hour. I felt like I had a hangover the next morning, which I didn't. Speaking of salt of the Earth, Brenda is such a wonderful person - so many stories!!! I am very happy to have made this new friend!

The drive back to Memphis on Sunday was beautiful, spoiled here and there with light rain. There are a number of lakes not too far from Memphis. I made a mental note to check if there are any rentals on any of the lakes I passed. That would be a nice weekend break!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

a prairie home companion

I've been a fan of A Prairie Home Companion for so many years. It is a wonderful radio show that is, I've read, much like the radio shows that predated television. Thousands mourned when it went off the air in 1987, the year my son was born. It came back a few years later, much to the delight of so many fans.

This weekend, I will travel to Nashville, Tennessee to appear in the studio audience in the Ryman Auditorium while the live show is aired. I am so excited to get to do this!!! We've splurged on the best seats in the house and I can hardly wait!

While I am in Nashville, maybe I can go visit the Hermitage Hotel to get a peek at the men's bathroom, which was just voted as "America's Best Restroom" in a contest sponsored by Cincinnati-based Cintas Corp., which supplies personal hygiene products for public bathrooms. The men's room, you say? How does the women's room stack up? No clue - the article on didn't mention.

Nashville is also home to the Grand Ole Opry (which originally aired in the Ryman). I hate to miss that! But I probably will. I doubt my friend, Brenda, wants to play the part of the Nashville tour guide. But if she offers ...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

home again, home again ...

After I finished Friday's blog entry, I went back to the room to collect Mother. We went to the International Cafe and had tea and cake. Then we went to the Princess Theatre for the final staging of "Once Upon a Dream". How these dancers manage to do what they do while the ship is rolling is beyond me! Mother, exiting the theatre, said, "Pitiful!". I asked her what she meant. She indicated that the show was just not up to her standards. I thought the cast did a great job.

After that, we returned to the room to begin packing since bags needed to be out before 8 p.m. This is a tricky business. You have to keep the items that you might need for the remainder of the evening and the next day. On a previous cruise, a ship's staff member told me that many times after bags are taken, passengers realize that they have failed to keep a pair of pants or shorts for the next day and have to send someone to the boutique to purchase something for them to wear off the ship. That has not happened to me, but I can just imagine that it could!

After we put our bags out, we walked down to the grill and ordered cheeseburgers and fries. Neither of us was up to dressing for dinner. We took our plates back to the cabin and just enjoyed a relaxed meal in the room. Mother decided to read for a while. I left the room and made the rounds, returning library books, playing the slot machines in the casino, talking with a few people we had met during the cruise and taking tips to certain people who had been especially helpful during the cruise.

We woke up early on Saturday morning to find that we were already docked. We quickly dressed and headed to the Horizon Court for breakfast. After that, we returned to the cabin to collect our belongings. I gave Mariana, our cabin steward, an extra tip for being so quietly efficient. Then we headed to the Explorer's Lounge to wait our turn to disembark. Upon arrival, we were told we could go ahead and leave the ship. So we did!

I hate the process of looking for luggage, but I have to admit that Princess makes it as easy as they possibly can. I found our bags in short order and we joined the queue for customs. Then we were out the door and ready to jump on the Princess bus for a transfer to the airport. Unfortunately for me, Mother's airline had set up camp just outside the exit and Mother insisted on checking in and getting rid of her bags. So instead of a quick 10 minute trip to the airport, I sat for 45 minutes while Mother stood in the line to get checked in for her flight. I think I watched a thousand people exit the ship during that 45 minutes. As each minute ticked by, I felt my chances for switching to an earlier flight home just slipping through my fingers.

Mother finally finished and we walked the next hundred or so feet to the transfer buses, only to find that although we were going to the same airport, we were on different buses because they grouped us by airline. (I could have left her in her airline queue.) I helped Mother to her bus, then got on mine. I arrived at the airport to find that there were two earlier flights that HAD available seats, but that those seats had already been claimed. So I was stuck waiting for my 2 p.m. flight. So I headed to Chili's to sit out part of the 4 1/2 hour wait. At around 12:30 p.m., I headed to my gate, only to hear an announcement that my flight was delayed and we would not be leaving Florida until 4:40 p.m., which means I would be missing my flight out of Atlanta. Sigh.

I did make it home last night - late. And the flight into Memphis was frightening! It was raining and you could not see the ground as we came in for a landing. But the pilot handled it all with aplomb!

It was wonderful to sleep in my bed last night!!! Today, I need to go in to work to look over my FY10 budget so I will be ready for my budget presentation. Ugh.

Friday, April 17, 2009

dateline: princess cays

Today we took the tender over to the private island. I had reserved a "clam shell", which is an temporary shelter that you can adjust to provide some shade for the two lounge chairs that come with it. I burn instantly no matter how much sunscreen I have applied. In fact, I have had almost no direct sun exposure and my skin is showing pink and a very light brown where the reflected light affected my skin throughout the week. Amazing.

Mother wanted to get her feet wet so she walked slowly down to the edge of the water. She is a bit unsteady on her feet, but she felt like she could manage. She made it to the water and took several steps into the water, lost her footing and PLOP, sat right down in the water. But the momentum of the sideways sit carried her on over so she was stretched out on her side. She played it off beautifully, however, ending up in a position that made it look as if she had planned it that way all along. I still rushed over to make sure she hadn't hurt herself. She was fine, but she wanted to get up. I pulled her up and asked her what she wanted to do next. She wanted to go back to the clam shell immediately. So we did. Then I walked to the food pavilion and brought back some food. We ate that, then walked along the edge of the water together for a few minutes. Then we headed back to the ship. I don't think we were on the island more than two hours. It was nice, though.

Mother took a shower and a nap. I went back up to the Sanctuary and relished my last relaxing moments on my lounger. I just love that place!!! I am actually considering a short, three-day cruise in December on this same ship.

Tonight is our last night on the ship. As always, I just want to cry when I get to this point. I don't want to stop!!! But this has been a lovely cruise. You know, I am always amazed that there are people on board the ship who complain and yell at the ship's personnel. They complain about everything!!! It strikes me that people who insist on being unhappy will be unhappy everywhere they go. It reminds me of a story that I read somewhere. I wish I could remember where so I could give the original author proper credit. It goes like this:

An old man is sitting outside the gates of a large city. In the distance he spies a traveler walking in his direction. As the traveler reaches the gates of the city, he asks the old man, "Sir, I come from a long way away and I am searching for a new place to live. Tell me, what are the people like in this city?" The old man looks at the traveler and asks, "What were the people like in the city you just left?" The traveler scowls and says, "They were selfish and rude. When I needed help, no one came to my support. I was taken advantage of and treated terribly." The old man pauses, then says, "So shall you find them here, young man, so shall you find them here." A few days later the same old man is sitting outside the gates to the same city when another traveler happens along. As the traveler reaches the old man, he asks him, "Good afternoon, sir. I've come from a far distance in search of a new place to call home. Tell me please, what are the people like here?" The old man looks at the traveler, sighs, then asks, "What were the people like in the place you just left?" The traveler smiled and answered, "They were some of the best people I ever knew. I made many friends and was sad to leave, but the road was calling me." The old man smiled and said, "So shall you find them here, young man, so shall you find them here."

I love that story.

(An aside for Martha Jane Thompson: I am sitting in the Internet Cafe as I type this blog entry. Behind me is the piazza where a pianist and violist can be heard playing ... you won't believe it ... "Papa, can you hear me?" from Yentl. What is it with Princess and this song???)

If you've never cruised, what in the world is stopping you? You can do a seven day cruise on Princess in an inside cabin for under $400 per person. Of course, once you go balcony, there is no going back! But I highly recommend this experience to everyone who reads about my trip. This is my 9th cruise and it still remains my favorite way to travel. I can't wait to come back!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

dateline: somewhere at sea

We spent yesterday docked in Cozumel. We spent the day in the Sanctuary again. It was so relaxing. I love that place. It is just wonderful to relax on that lounge chair, alternately reading and dozing. I can't think of a better way to spend the day. The crew that works in the Sanctuary are just outstanding. They are very attentive, but not in a bothersome way. They are very friendly and are clearly very interested in keeping the guests happy.

Last night we had a nice dinner. I had an eggplant parmasian, followed by a peach soup, followed by veal marsala. I know that sounds like a very odd combination, but it actually worked quite nicely. The peach soup acted as a nice palate cleanser. For dessert I had a terrine that looked like a slice from a box of neopolitan ice cream. Between each layer was a cookie/pastry layer that was delicious.

Today was a sea day. We again spent the day in the Sanctuary. The days are going by entirely too fast now that we are nearing the end of the cruise. As always, I do not want it to end. Tonight is a formal night and the Captain's Circle reception. Champagne, canapes and prizes galore. (I've never won anything at these things, but there's always a first time for everything.)

Tomorrow we arrive at Princess Cay, the cruiseline's private island. I reserved a "clam shell" which is a bit of shelter from the sun, complete with two lounge chairs. If we hate it, we can always comeback to the ship and the Sanctuary.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

dateline: somewhere at sea

Well, I couldn't wait until tomorrow to write about the Chef's Table. It was absolutely magnificent. Please excuse any typos or spelling errors. I am a bit tipsy after the incredible amount of alcohol served during this meal. I don't drink a lot and I am really feeling it! Either that or the ship has hit some unexpected turbulence that only I can feel. Well, Mother felt it - she has passed out in the room!!! (I'll have to remember to check her breathing before I turn in for the night. KIDDING!!!)

Mother and I spent the day lounging in the Sanctuary with a view of the long Grand Cayman coastline stretched out before us. Beautiful, but very settled - nothing wild there at all. The beach is lined with hotels and other buildings. In the afternoon came an announcement from the Captain indicating that one of the forward thrusters (whatever that is) had suffered "catastrophic damage" that could not be fixed until our return to Ft. Lauderdale. He said this would slow us down and would delay our arrival into the remaining ports of call.

At 7 p.m., we presented ourselves at the International Cafe where we met the Maitre'd. He was, of course, Italian. He greeted us warmly and took us around the corner to a lobby where a coatrack stood. holding chef's jackets. We each put on a chef's jacket and then were paraded throught the main dining room into the galley. Just inside the galley, we were shown the handwashing station. We were told that all staff bringing dirty dishes into the kitchen first dropped the dirty dishes off at the first cleaning station, then stopped to wash their hands before moving into the belly of the kitchen to pick up the next courses. Each of us was instructed on the proper way to wash out hands, which we then did, each in turn.

To the back of the galley we paraded until we reached a back station where the Head Chef waited for us with champagne. We were presented with four hor'dourves. As each was presented, the Chef told us about how each was prepared and what staff were involved in the procurement of the ingredients and the preparation of each.

First came Tuna Tartar with Wasabi and Pickled Ginger. (Daddy, I can already hear you groaning.) It was fantastic. Then came Bliss New Potatoes with Sour Cream and Caviar. Ahhhhhh. Then the Fontina Cheese Quiche with White Truffle & Sun Blushed Cherry Tomato. (I can't speak highly enough about this dish. That cherry tomato was roasted until the skin peeled off and was so full of flavor that I wanted to cry.) Then, finally came the Foie Gras Terrine on Toasted Brioche with Apple Chutney. All of this with plenty of champagne. Folks, we haven't even sat down at the dinner table and I am already so happy and so glad to be having this experience!!!!!

Then we paraded back through the dining room, back to the coat rack where we removed our Chef's jackets. Then we were led around the corner to an elaborately laid table. There was a floral arrangement running down the center of the table, which was set for eight people. Then on either end of the table there were huge goblets filled with bread sticks that must have been eighteen inches long. They were sticking straight up out of the goblets. (I had a perverse urge to take one out, dip it in the butter dish and take a big bite off the end of it. Out of respect for Mother, I didn't do it.)

A word or two about our dining companions: There were two women and one man there from Great Britain. (I didn't realize at first that two of the three were a couple - until I was asked to take a photo of them and was shooing the blonde out of the photo so I could take the picture of the man and the brunette. The man then whispered to me, pointing to the blonde, "She's my wife." I almost died!!!) Besides these three, there was another couple in their 50's who were on their honeymoon! They were delightful people from New York, but now living in Florida. Then there were two bleached blonde girlfriends, both in their late 50's, early 60's, both giggling about their many prior husbands and boyfriends. Many looks were shared around the table whenever either of them was talking. Yikes!

On to the dinner! We started with Risotto laced with Parmesan Cheese and Julienne of Treviso Red Radicchio and Langoustine Ragout. (When I went to remove the shell from the langoustine, it slipped out of my hand and landed in the space between my chest and the table edge. "Good catch!", one of the blondes crowed! Good lord. I put it back on the plate and enjoyed it very much, thank you! The risotto was good, but I will admit that I have had better. This was served with a wonderful white wine.

The palate cleanser was incredible -- "Amalfi" Lemon Sorbet with Mango Slaw. It had Limoncello vodka poured over it. Holy cow, that was so good!

The main course was Roast Veal Shank & Veal Tenderloin, carved Table side, with Cepes and Jus. The shank fell off the bone and melted in my mouth. This was accompanied by market vegetables (asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onions, etc.) and Chateau Potatoes. This was served with a red wine that was, I think, some of the best I have ever tasted. It was a blended wine - mostly Cabernet, mixed with Merlot.

The cheese course was a Baked Camembert with Pine Nuts with a Port Wine Reduction, served with fig bread and date bread. What can I say - divine!!!

The dessert was an incredible construction that the pastry chef brought out himself. I'm not sure I can describe it properly. It was described as a Passion Fruit Dome Cake with a Whiskey Soaked Raspberry Soft Center served with a Mango Glaze. But to see this beautiful work of art sitting in front of me made my mouth drop open. Each of us had one. On the dessert plate sat a spun sugar "plate". The spun sugar was clear with raspberry swirled throughout. The edges of the spun sugar were lifted up into elaborate folds. Sitting in the center of the spun sugar plate was the dome cake, with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Sticking up out of the cake were two tall pipettes of raspberry spun sugar. Wrapped around the pipettes was a wafer cookie shaped like a pig's tail. Beautiful! This was served with a sweet dessert wine.

The whole experience was amazing. I am so glad that we did it!!!