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Delia Wilson, Writer Posts

I’m already late and other thoughts

Well, despite my best intentions, I’ve already fallen down on my blogging activity.  I have several topics chosen and one partially written in my head.  After a long week of work last week, I just am having trouble getting back into a productive groove.

I did want to mention that I’m seeing real estate moving and more job openings locally.  We’re on the way up economically – no matter that it might be a fitful recovery.  I graduated in the recession of the 70’s. Returned to the states from overseas during the recession of the 80’s and then became jobless despite the best planning possible in this recession.  I think I’ll sit out the next one, thank you!

Which brings me to my dilemma: whether to remain self-employed or take a permanent position somewhere.  Don’t know the answer and am having trouble letting the future plan itself.  Accepting what comes is not only easiest but healthiest, this I know from experience.  Though I saw the recession coming, my decision to take a job to weather it didn’t exactly go the way I planned, so my planning is now rife with indecision.

We love living in Charlottesville and I know we made the right decision to target the area in my job hunt. It’s definitely opened up new possibilities for work and play (I promise my next post will be about Socializing Delia). Now that we have a contract on our GA house, I feel more confident about being able to settle in here perhaps even with a local home purchase. I’m enjoying my new friends and the social media outlets that have delivered them into my house!

After making the move, taking the risks and having to readjust to self-employment, however,  I’m having some difficulty settling into my new life. Kinda like, oh, gee, am I going to get to stay here?  Well, I stopped applying for D.C. jobs after one afternoon trip to D.C. (Ever wondered what a third world country is like? Just visit our nation’s capital!) I’m no longer looking at Charlotte job openings with the same scrutiny that I was last month.

So yeah I probably can stay here. So do I jump into the marketing mode for my business?  Yuck.  Well, how about dipping my toe in.  I RSVP’d for the COC after hours next week down at Lake Monticello.  I may take the day off completely because the Women’s Round Table Lunch is also that day as well as another crucial appointment.  Maybe I should dress up and hit the streets that morning. Let’s see: wearing not so comfortable clothes to meet and greet or working a making money?  Guess what my druthers are!

Well, off to work for now.  Definitely a decision is not on my to-do list today!

On the Path

I got an early start this morning when Sissy (the 15 lb min pin) decided enough was enough – sleep that is. So we were on the trail by 7 this morning. The Rivanna River Trail, that is. Just one part of my path here in C’ville.

We left Athens last fall, me after 27 total years there and Tommy after an whole lifetime.  The newness of C’ville is not wearing off or wearing thin still today.  Back some time ago I checked out meetup.com in an effort to meet people here.  That led me to a walking group on Monday nights. The first night I showed up, at the Charlottesville Running Company, Marty says, “We’re doing 3 miles tonight; can you do it?”

I blithely replied, “Sure, I can do that.” Well, it was the hottest and muggiest day in C’ville so far this summer.  And… walking downtown C’ville off the mall is hilly.  I did make it but it was really rough!

The next week I took the 2 little dogs.  A couple of weeks later we walked down at Riverview park and the path has gone from there. We meet Marty for the Monday night walk and this week did the Thursday morning walk.  Weekends I head for the park and do over 3 miles there as well. So next week I’ll be up to 9 miles a week. Wow.

I’ve always said I don’t like to sweat and that is a very true statement.  The good news is that it is cooler and less muggy here than Georgia so it’s not as bad as it would be down south.  I used to remodel houses for exercise as I’ve never been a believer in exercising for exercising’s sake. Time moves on and now I can’t physically work on houses.  There’s still a lot I can’t do because of continuing physical problems, but by golly, I can walk!

Riverview Park is a nice little park that leads into the Rivanna River Trail which runs around C’ville.  Almost 2 miles are paved leading out of the park and all of it lies along the river.  There are spots where you can go down to the river’s edge so the doggies can drink. (They are then required to pull me back up to the trail, such good sled dogs!) There are spots where you don’t realize the river is there.

The path winds along in back backyards of homes and businesses. There’s a back hum of traffic, sometimes near and sometimes very distant.  Between the birds (recently including a flock of geese),  cicadas and the regular deep croak of a bullfrog. it’s never a quiet place.  Sometimes the rushing water can drown out everything else – oh, heavenly!

The sights are so varied! Sometimes you are in wilderness and then you come face to face with hulks of panel trucks parked in the back of an auto repair shop. Walking under the 250 bridge has become a soothing comfort for me – dampening the noise from above.  Sitting in the car on top was scary before since you can feel the bridge move.  Underneath, though, that is all a distant memory.

Everybody says hi as they pass and occasionally we stop to greet other dog visitors.  Mostly we stand to the side while I hold my dogs tightly and the passing pooches react or sometimes don’t react to the presence of my pair. This morning some sort of hound started hallooing immediately on spotting us.  He was still giving voice long after we went by.

The folks can be interesting to watch. Today I spotted a guy again who happened to end up in one of my pictures.  He talks on the phone his whole walk, making business calls and sweating.  Huh?  Another morning I passed a fellow who was creepily scurrying along with some sort of satchel.  Reminded me of that innocuous serial killer who’s always “such a nice, quiet fellow”.  Also seen and heard today was a real runner – no flat-footed jogger, was he.  (and really skinny, too; either obsessive or a competitor).

On my path in C’ville, just enjoying the variety and monotony of walking with my dogs.

View today’s photos below or  at http://deliawilson.tumblr.com

Blogging.

I am a writer first and foremost.  Then I’m a web and graphic designer. I am the “web guru” to my customers and friends. Due to my varied background and my big mouth, this blog has a threefold, oops fourfold, purpose:

1) Imparting information to my web design & hosting clients as well as anyone who is interested in web issues

2) Giving me a platform for the humor and opinion pieces I’m famous for. (I’ve incorporated my columns from the weekly Oglethorpe Echo and will be adding in my humor pieces from Okinawa, Japan’s Entertainment Weekly as I scan them in)

3)  Trying to get my Georgia friends and relatives to come visit or move to Charlottesville (hereafter referred to only as C’ville)

4) Communicating to prospective clients and/or employers who I am and what I believe in. (Yup, I want you to know me)

Guys and Beasties

What is it with guys and those living creatures we gals aren’t fond of? Perhaps my view on this is restricted by the circles I now live in, but I think it has wider implications.

I was fortunate that my son wasn’t too interested in the bugs and beasts, so I escaped the type of episode my brother subjected my mother to when he was about 12. He had developed an interest in biology, of which we all, of course, were very supportive. Finally, little Bro was developing some type of academic leanings. Our support, however, led us into new territory when Bro arrived home with a dog carcass he had obtained from the local vet. His autopsy efforts kept all of us out of the basement for days! Well, at least he didn’t bring home bugs or snakes.

It’s not that I am particularly afraid or repulsed by bugs and snakes. I’m not like my daughter-in-law who freaks at the sight of a spider or wasp. I consider myself pretty grownup about such things. Being a military wife and later a single parent for years has instilled in me a streak of self-reliance and practicability that many men and women may lack.

I mean, after all those gigantic flying cockroaches and lizard-infested rooms on Okinawa, Japan, how could I be too squeamish?   Well, I’m not, but, guys, you do astound me sometimes!>

For example, we have three entomologists at our karate school. Not one, three!. One showed up at my Christmas party 2 years ago with chocolate chirp cookies.   The chirp means the crunch in those tasty treats was crickets, not nuts.   The cookies were better than your usual run of chocolate chip though that was probably due to a good recipe and not the inclusion of the crickets.   What was funny that night were the numbers of folks (men) who refused to even try them! There were leftovers.

This summer our pool party featured deviled eggs with bug parts.   I did not ask what bugs.   I did not need to know that piece of information. They were quite tasty with a little added crunch. The party hostess reached the buffet as I was taking the last one. She exclaimed, “Oh, they’re all gone. Too bad.” Her face fell when I offered her half of mine. She accepted and slunk off to the side.

Yep, the plate was clean. The past years had instituted a dare system with both entomologists harking their wares. No one dared not to try those eggs!

Now I find these guys are swapping recipes. I’m not sure whether to fear or anticipate the next party.

Now, if that isn’t bad enough, there is my husband. I won’t tell you about his phobia. His fear of one specific member of the insect world simply doesn’t compute when you discover his interest in snakes and other creepy crawly things. He loves snakes and turtles and all sorts of other living things. And what does he do? As if he were my young son, as if he were still a boy, he brings them home.

First, snakes. He had one when we married. I believe it was a king snake. That aquarium went into my teenage son’s room. Eventually my son let it lose. Nowadays, my husband is constantly reporting to me what snake he’s found, how he moved it off the road, you know, like pygmy rattlers and copperheads. I was relieved when he didn’t bring them home.

But now, our neighboring entomologist has requested a rattler. He said to bring it home for him! Boys will be boys, I guess.

My hunter husband is always relaying bits of data to me about the animal kingdom. I know an incredible amount about deer, bears and other denizens of the forest. Last night we even watched a national geographic special on snakes. He is forever turning to the discover channel to watch informative, yet boring, programs on fierce, poisonous or weird things.

I must admit, though, that a baby box turtle turned out to be an episode to cherish. He found one the other morning during his jog and, of course, brought it home. It wasn’t the first turtle he had walked in with, for he seems to have a particular fondness for them. He announced he was going to keep it. I took the 4 inch beastie from him all the while wondering did we still have an aquarium?

A moment later he changed his mind and said he would let it go instead. Feeling fonder of the critter at that point, I was letting it roam around my hands. It wasn’t as shy or scared as the ones I’ve handled before.

I looked down to see my dog, Micky, the basset/golden retriever mix (yeah, I know that’s weird). Micky was very interested in my little friend. She has a wonderfully large heart and loves everything and everybody and was interested in either gaining a new friend or eating it. I leaned over to let Micky sniff the turtle. She really didn’t know what to make of it. Then the dangedest thing happened. That little 4 inch turtle bit Micky’s nose!

Micky’s offense was noticeable. She withdrew. Our delight in our turtle friend’s self-assertion has not faded even today, a week later.

Ah, yes, memories to cherish. So what if it’s the grownup and not the kid who furnishes them? Yep, boys will be boys–and they will be men, too.

My Car

Riding home last week I decided to use the time to plan my column. It was raining a little and the 5:30 traffic was pretty heavy. Naturally my mind centered on cars as a topic. Once again my changing priorities became the obvious theme.

In the past I’ve always tried to have new or nearly new vehicles for several reasons. First, because affording a car payment and repairs has been difficult. Second, because my choice of older, used cars just seems to create mechanical problems—I specialize in lemons. Third, because dependability has always been important and fourth, because they look so pretty! So I own Toyotas and, usually, not very old Toyotas.

Much has been made of the American love affair with automobiles and I am no different than most. A sparkling new car says I am mainstream America, that I, though not affluent, own a piece of that American dream. To be able to drive off the car lot with a new car with my name on the license plate (such is the cost of vanity at $25 per year)… I think some of my happiest moments have been just that.

Oh, and that new car smell! We Americans are really stuck on deodorizing our lives. My sojourn in Germany back in the eighties made me realize how very stuck on smells and or the lack of smells we Americans are. The Germans are some of the most civilized folks on earth. The countryside was so clean and they had no obvious ghettos back then. They, however, like so many Europeans just aren’t so deodorant dependent as we Americans are.

One of the reasons why that new car smell is so treasured by us car-crazy Americans is obvious during muggy weather like we’ve had recently. If you drive an older vehicle, then every spill, every dog passenger, every mold spore carried on one’s shoes, every bit of odor history is obvious to the nose. It’s no longer antiseptic; it doesn’t seem clean no matter how much effort I put into interior cleaning which I admit isn’t much effort at all!

And that new car smell also has such good memories attached to it. I’ll bet you remember that first new car and the overwhelming excitement and pride of that first day. I sure do. Every new car smell brings back that first one, in my case the year was 1974 and the car was—now don’t laugh—a Gremlin, a golden-colored, weird-looking mechanical contraption with the most uncomfortable backseat known to man (or woman).

I was so proud. That was such an exciting year. A move across country. A new baby. And that new car. What great memories to be triggered by only a smell!

One of the other great things about owning a new car is brought home to me every time I wash my present car. Now you must understand this is something I don’t do very often. I live on a dirt road and car washing has never been a priority for me. But, it’s gotten so bad, that a visit to my son’s home always gets an announcement from the two-year-old grandson. He makes horrible noises and points to my filthy car. “Ooooo, Nana, ooooo.” My son and his brother are always after me to wash it and they actually will do that for me occasionally!

But if you wash it, you reveal that great metallic black paint job with every ding and scratch that normally hides under the mud. It’s just not so pretty any more.

So my priorities have changed since my move to the country. I now own an aging Corolla that due to costs cannot be traded in any time soon. I keep checking every 6 months or so but the ever increasing mileage keeps depreciating that poor old car faster than I could ever pay for it.

I’ve finally had to accept the fact that I may keep this dependable, black (I didn’t want a black or white car!) old thing. After all, I now live on a dirt road. As fast as a new car depreciates, driving a brand new car out here doesn’t make sense unless it’s a big pickup or something similar, and I leave the truck stuff to my husband.

I can just see it now. Driving along and a big piece of gravel gets thrown into the shiny paint job or meeting a logging truck and getting so close to the edge that branches scrape the sides. Not to mention those commuting miles. It just wouldn’t be so practical to get a new car, right?

Not only that, but I am remembering those lemons I have owned and I am grateful for my trusty, aging Toyota. It may not be as pretty as a new car but it is mechanically sound and very trustworthy.

So there I was, moving with traffic, thinking all these practical thoughts, feeling pretty good about how I had talked myself into accepting ownership of an older model car and accepting the fact that I can’t trade it in. I’m bouncing to the music and moving with the traffic. The road was wet but I was several car lengths behind a Jeep SUV when someone hit their brakes unexpectedly in front of the Jeep. I ended up getting intimately acquainted with the granddaughter of a Maxeys’ friend and her step-dad. Nice folks who felt very badly that the Jeep wasn’t even scratched.

That was last week. This week I’m driving a rental (new, pretty, good-smelling) waiting on the body shop to fix my crunched front end. I’m enjoying the attractive, clean car. I keep noticing how much better it accelerates and how much lower the hood is so this short person can see better.

But, this week I am grateful for car insurance and looking forward to getting my washed, scratch-free front-ended car back. It is truly amazing how sometimes life hands you what you wish for and for a lot less money!

Outsiders

How is it that you, as Oglethorpe County citizens, want to be known? By the outside world, that is–by our neighbors in the surrounding counties, by the rest of Georgia, by others from farther away than that?

Southerners have long been known across this nation for being friendly and polite. This I have heard often as I have traveled all over the world.

So I ask it again: how do you want to be known?

Another Oglethorpe County resident once told me that she had been informed she was an outsider. She had responded to such name-calling with the news that she had been born here. She received the response from a prominent Oglethorpe resident “Well, your grandparents weren’t!” Even though those words were not delivered in anger and might even have carried some jest with them, my acquaintance was–to say the least–taken aback.

No, this isn’t a response to Louise Griffith’s recent letter-I know how nice she’s been to me! She certainly wasn’t talking about this outsider in her letter.

Okay, let’s get something straight. I really am an outsider. I wasn’t born here but I was born in Gainesville. (That makes me less of an outsider than some of those that come from other states or countries, doesn’t it?)

Oops, but my family! Momma’s side is pretty strongly Southern and have been here for generations. But Daddy! Talking about outsiders! Sheesh, the man was from New Jersey. His grandparents were from Poland and Ireland! Oh, dear, oh dear!
Not only that but Daddy’s family was (and is) majorly Catholic. Gasp!

It’s true that many of us can trace our American family roots back to previous centuries; it’s just as true that all of us have family members that may not be that recently American or Southern. Many folks in the Athens area are also fond of talking about their Native American roots (I never heard that in Gainesville). Nope, we are all more than just Southern or even American.

I’m really, truly proud to say I come from a melting pot of people. Traveling abroad was, yes, broadening. It’s a wonder to me how other countries have such personalities. The Germans were truly an engineering marvel–sticklers for rules. To live there you meet a people, not just many people. I found that to be true of other nations as well.

My son is a great example of the melting pot phenomenon. Not only is he of Southern, anglo-saxon descent; not only is he descended from those Irish-Polish Yankees but he also is Spanish in name and in blood! Ask him what he is and he’ll probably tell you American.

We all come from immigrants, outsiders here in America. And our immigrant population continues to grow. We’ve had a large influx of Hispanic immigrants in past years and Atlanta’s and Athens’ intercultural influences continue to make this state’s population more diversified.

It’s another one of those truisms I’m fond of spouting: ‘Change is constant’. I am one many ‘outsiders’ that change has brought here to Oglethorpe County. It was only on my husband’s instigation that I even considered moving to such a rural area.
Not only that, but now I find I like it here! Why? I like the rural nature of the county and I like the people. I have found most folks to be friendly and welcoming.

But I simply want to remind you. Not everyone in Oglethorpe County is white or black-we got all shades of colors here. Not everyone is of the Christian or Jewish faiths-there are Muslims, Buddhists, and even atheists. Not everyone is heterosexual.

We are a microcosm of American society and of the American people. A little bit of everything and everyone. That’s one of those things that make this county great-that’s one of those things that make this country great.

How do you want to be known? As a community that recognizes our differences? Or the alternative? Outsiders beware: acceptance is only offered after 3 successive generations?

I do not glory in my ‘outsider’ status; in fact, I frequently forget that fact. I feel welcome here (though I’m fond of saying y’all may run me out of town when you really get to know me!)

Please extend that welcome to any of the others who may be different. Let us be known by our friendliness and by our civility. And most importantly, by our recognition of and acceptance of difference. Ah, yes, it does take all kinds…

Computers

Now I’m warning you up front. I’m writing about computers this week, but I’m going to try to make this understandable for those of you, like my husband, who aren’t very knowledgeable. (He’s computer illiterate and proud of it!)

My odyssey started with the very difficult decision to purchase a new computer and network it with my old computer (tie them together). I reasoned that if I go ahead and commit myself to such an expense that I would be sure to get off my duff and start marketing my services and therefore make money at home.

OK, that works in theory. Now for the reality.

I checked out prices at several locations around Athens first. I discussed possible computer components with friends, store clerks and computer professionals. I did some deep soul searching and finally decided to let my friends at Cuby Systems put some components together and I would use parts of the 3 extra outdated computers I already own to complete the setup.

I figured that I could get a faster, larger machine this way for less money than an already assembled computer. Well, I was right on that, but the problems brought me to tears and in the end cost me a lot more money than I expected.

I picked up the computer on a Thursday. It started up so quickly! I installed an old 3 ½” floppy drive (that opening where you put in the little square things) and an old CD-ROM (the opening for the round things). I started the computer. Nope. I restarted the computer. Nope. I checked the connections. Nope. I changed the connections. Nope. I disconnected the connections. It started.

I took it back to Cuby Systems. Tony reports the CD-ROM won’t work without the sound card that came with it (the thing that allows music and sound to be played on a computer). I already knew that sound card wouldn’t fit in the slots provided for it.

I went to Best Buy and chuckled, resignedly, as I bought a brand-new CD-ROM Writer. “Oh, woe is me! I have to buy that great component I really wanted in the first place!) A writer lets you make the disks as well as play them.

I went home and installed the CD-ROM Writer. Oh, rephrase that. I tried to install the thing. I discovered that this particular writer couldn’t be installed unless Windows (that basic operating systems so cleverly marketed by Bill Gates) was already installed. Well, you have to have a CD-ROM to install Windows. I had no CD-ROM installed. I had no Windows installed.

I took it back to Cuby Systems. I purchased a new Windows upgrade and paid Tony and John to “get it running” on the express orders of my husband who didn’t really want me buying this thing in the first place.

I went home and installed the network card on my old computer (this will allow the 2 computers to “talk” to each other). I connected the cable. No network. I spent hours last Saturday trying to get it to work.

Sunday I called Kirk Thomas of Wilderness Kennels in Paoli and a present computer employee of my last employer. He says, “Get a hub. I know it’s supposed to work without one but get a hub.” (hub, a small box to make a computer network work)

I bought a hub. I installed it and turned on the computer. The network worked. But now odd things were happening—something about hardware conflicts, which I knew about but had never experienced. And then all of sudden-ERROR! ERROR! ERROR!

I shut down the computer and started it in “safe mode” which is supposed to let you troubleshoot problems. It wouldn’t start.

First thing Monday morning I called Tony at Cuby Systems to let him know I was coming in again. I told him that I wished I had bought a ready-made system. He tells me that I would still have these problems.

I called another computer-savvy friend to set up lunch. He tells me to bring the computer by his house first and let him look at it.

I go to Athens, computer and all pieces in tow. He reformats the computer (wiped it clean inside). He reinstalls the basic software. He decides that my graphics card is the problem (graphics card does something to make the pretty pictures appear faster and prettier). He installs one of his collection of graphics cards (a much better-and expensive-card). Voila! It works!!!!!!

I go home. It’s now Tuesday and everything is set up and working fine. I’ve installed most of the necessary software. I’ve proven that I can reproduce the work at home that I’ve been traveling to do. I’m marveling at how fast this machine is. I feel professional.

But am I finished? Nope. I have to change out the floppy drive for the square disks and put in a better one. I have to install the new sound card so I can hear my machine talking to me and so that I will soon be able to talk to it instead of typing (anything to cut down on my legendary tendonitis of the wrists and arms). I need to delve into the old computer to adjust some hardware oops that I created but aren’t very important. I have to disconnect stuff and install stuff.

And I am terrified! I must jeopardize the working computer. Do I risk it? Do I let it ride for a while? Tune in next week for the next installment of “Days of Our Lives, Computer-Style”.

Life’s Little Lessons

A friend of mine, Eunice Spratlin, took a tumble last week. Unfortunately, her 80-year-old ankle didn’t hold up very well. Since she’s a big fan of my columns, I thought to write one for her. When I visited her, ensconced in a hospital bed in her daughter-in-law’s front room, she didn’t even give me chance to ask if she’ld like that; she just asked if I had already written one!

Well, Eunice, you have a place of honor this week in the Echo! Since I hadn’t written one in a while, topics were not hard to come by – deciding which topic was the hardest part.

I decided that a look at life’s lessons was appropriate for her and me and for my mother who was also hospitalized last week.

I’ve been remodeling bathrooms at my house for 7 months now. Some wise person years ago put the bathroom in my 100-year-old house in the largest room and lined up the fixtures against the back wall. One has had to walk over 13 feet from the door to get to the “throne”. A bizarre thing indeed, not to mention really revealing since you could almost see that toilet from the front door as well.

This oddity did make it possible for me to divide the room into two bathrooms – one of those desperately required features of house in which my husband lives.

I took the slow week of July fourth this year to finish up this project that has been dragging on so long now.

I’m a firm believer that things in this life happen for a reason and it’s up to us to find opportunity in disaster and tragedy. The disaster last week? Let’s see, heat, humidity, arthritis, asthma, bruises – no, not Eunice’s, not my mother’s who is also 80, but mine!

The list continues – plumbing leaks, sheetrock dust, dog hair, etc.

I had an arthritis flare up in my left hand after the heat and humidity got really bad and of course, asthma and allergies rose their ugly little heads due to sheetrock dust and the normal effects of no housekeeping during all this work.

Time for clean up finally, thank heavens. Oops, time for remembering why keeping a house clean all along is important. Yuk, chest and head congestion, fatigue, sleep deprivation. What a lesson to have reinforced!

Turning wrenches and tightening plumbing connections got harder and harder. Swelling fingers gave way to stiffness and then to amazement.

I’m not 80 – only 50! Living to my projected lifespan of 100 (due to genetics and the rapidity of medical advancements) seems incredibly painful and possibly undesirable.

Oh, but positive thinking requires a life lesson. In desperation, I grabbed onto the fact that arthritis certainly will be my constant companion from now on. Lovely thought.

So last week was training for me. Learning to live with the effects of aging. Seems I’ve been doing a lot of that recently. Hmmmmm…

Aging does has its disadvantages for sure. I mean, the pain of doing things I used to breeze through, taking twice as long to do other things and not feeling like I’m a genius anymore. You know, those usual effects of aging!

Oh, but the advantages!!!

I was telling someone recently that I wasn’t accustomed to making mistakes in my employment. They said, “What? You were perfect?” I said, “Yes, and now I’m just normal!”

The lesson learned from this little jewel? I no longer have to be perfect; I no longer have to give 150%. I can relax a little and enjoy life more. What a burden off my shoulders! Such a wonderful way to live!

Okay, so now that these lessons are firmly implanted in my brain, how can I renovate this whole house, establish a wonderful garden on my 2 acres, write the great American novel while making tons of money for my retirement and obvious disability that’s coming.

I mean, I gotta do it all now in order to get ready for my retirement, right?

Wait, relaxing, enjoying life – didn’t I just say something about that? Nah, must have been someone else’s evil thoughts. Gotta go – got a bathroom to finish and a house to clean!

Planning and Zoning

Have you noticed? Coverage of Oglethorpe County’s news and events has been pretty heavy recently in the Athens Banner Herald and they’ve even assigned us our own reporter!

Along with the news we also made their editorial page last Friday after our county commissioners agreed to spend the money to take our zoning process to the next level.

The editorial said “Oglethorpe County may be as close to a clean slate as there is in Northeast Georgia…” that we “don’t have to deal with fixing a host of earlier planning mistakes”.

BUT…I am to here to tell you what else needs to be done. We are making a good solid start with zoning. As the secretary for the Planning Commission, I can tell you that I am pleased with the protections the proposed zoning and the new subdivision regulations will provide. (I’m not an expert though-just the lady who listens, learns and writes the stuff down.)

What I also have to tell you concerns everyone in our “clean slate” county just as much and maybe even more than the zoning. That is, we have to get our act together; we have to do a number of things that the average citizen doesn’t think about at all. We have to join the rest of the modern world by instituting application forms, procedures and policies that will both adequately protect the citizen interests and rights as well as relieve our government officials of the necessity of spending meeting time hearing every case or problem that arises.

A case in point is the recent events in Maxeys. A lack of permitting applications and procedures has helped lead to misunderstandings and a situation that has upset a whole community. The new council, having inherited old procedures, scattered and possibly missing council minutes as well as the muddied legality of ordinances, has shown themselves to be dedicated to correcting these problems. Alas, but not before a disturbing crisis that threatens to destroy the community.

On the county level, the Hawkes Landing controversy has already led to a lawsuit. The outcome of this complex issue will also entail financial and human cost for Oglethorpe County residents.

It is natural for a rural, close-knit community to resist new laws and procedures. Bobby Cook said it for everyone at the Crawford City Council meeting: “that’s not how we have done it out here in the past”. Henry Cabaniss was also outspoken in a recent planning commission meeting saying, “we have to avoid over-regulation”.

Unfortunately, the days of personal promises and the handshake to seal the deal isn’t possible in today’s lawsuit-happy world. It is time now to standardize and write down policies and procedures, to create the mountain of paperwork those larger governments hold so dear. And it’s time now to hire on additional staff to administer that paperwork.

There is no question in my mind, if these steps aren’t taken on all levels of government and taken immediately, the citizens of Oglethorpe County will find themselves paying more for lawsuits than for the paperwork and the additional employees.

But be assured this isn’t just the job of your local elected officials and county employees. Every one has a stake in this and I must send you that old JFK message about asking what you can do for your country. Ask what you can do to speed up the process.

Can you do some research? Do you have a computer, the time and appropriate software to help develop forms or produce quality documents? What about offering a personal service to your official so that she or he will have more time to devote to their underpaid (or unpaid) office?

What can all of us do, as the Banner Herald said, to make our “community the most desirable in Northeast Georgia” and to keep the old feelings of family and community that makes it worthwhile for us to live here?

Country Paranoia

Do you lock your doors at home? What about your car? Do you secure it every time you get out of it? Boy, I’ve been doing that for years. What about you?

Well, I recently was smacked in the face with another country-living realization. We went out of town for several days and a friend agreed to feed the dogs while we were gone. My husband also requested she move the truck around the yard to make it look like we were still there. It’s a standard security precaution.

You should have seen her face when I handed her our house keys and relayed Tommy’s request. She laughed and said, “My husband doesn’t even own a house key—we don’t lock our doors.” She thought we were being paranoid, I guess!

I did realize that folks out here still leave their keys in their cars and weren’t necessarily diligent about locking up their houses, but my friend’s reaction (laughing, indulgent, a bit sheepish and a bit condescending) cued me into the fact that we have brought our “big city” ways out to the country.

After all we’ve had our car broken into, a house burglarized, my son’s house burglarized, (all in “the big city”—not out here); I’ve caught shoplifters, been physically threatened on jobs by customers, spent major amounts of time worrying about work safety in retail settings, delivered newspapers in housing projects in the wee hours of the morning (no, none of out here); I’ve traveled the world, met a lot of bizarre folks, seen a lot of troublesome things; my husband’s been a cop and a 911 dispatcher (he thinks he’s seen everything).

My “paranoia” isn’t unnatural: it’s earned! I’ve always locked the car doors when I get out, no matter where I am—like even at the gas station when pumping gas. We always lock the house when we leave home. My husband has always driven me nuts because he locks the doors when inside. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out the back door and tried to come in the front a few minutes later, only to find it locked when I least expect it!

My husband prefers covering every window with blinds, shades or curtains. (I think he kept a record of the numbers of peeping toms while at 911.) Once he started working every night and I started eating out in the evenings, he even told me he didn’t want me out after dark. (Yeah, sure!)

I mean after all, right after I opened my store, a Christian bookstore in the same shopping center got robbed in broad daylight. Women do get abducted by men slipping into their cars while at the gas station. Houses get robbed, people get mugged, and violent arguments can erupt any where, right?

On further reflection, I can truthfully say I really admire my neighbors’ feelings of safety. It must be nice to feel that comfortable, that secure.

I have to tell you though—my habits are changing out here in the country. When you don’t ever see anyone walking your road, when the only vehicles you see either are folks that live or work out here, when you can’t even hear people most of the time, one does tend to relax a little.

Nowadays we still lock the doors but now we leave the windows open when away though I probably wouldn’t do that if it weren’t for the three noisy (and, of course, “vicious”) dogs. In the city, I wouldn’t at all. Tommy has quit keeping all the doors locked all the time. (What a relief!) I’ve put sheers on the living room windows and there aren’t any window coverings at all in the kitchen.

The bathroom blinds on the window above the toilet stay up and/or open. (I think he gets a kick watching our rabbits cavort in the back yard!)

I never lock my car doors at home anymore. Well, almost never. I occasionally forget and lock them. It’s just not a habit I want to break actually.

I just realized recently, however, that I’m gaining new habits that I wasn’t expecting. Now when someone drives up in the yard, I leap to the window to check them out before they even get out of the car. If I’m by myself, I find myself tensing, worrying once again about my safety.

I do know in parts of this country, folks “hello” the house before approaching. I understand today’s Indians in the southwest still practice the custom of “helloing” the house and waiting for an invitation before approaching. I can see where this might be necessary living in isolated areas. One could get shot by being too forward out there.

I guess I can’t expect my guests to “hello” my house; there’s too many city folk running around. They wouldn’t understand why it should be necessary. I think I’m going to start discretely “packing” a pistol instead.

Yep, my paranoia is changing: it now has a country style to it!