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Tag: lifestyle

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 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


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…

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!

Who Me, Organized?

I, like so many others, kept saying I would be glad when the election was over and things could get back to normal. Oops.

Normal, you know, like no more election news? In the middle of all this weirdness (electile dysfunction and no, I didn’t make that up), my life has suddenly ratcheted up into high gear.

Before the election I would decide the night before what I would be doing the next day. I did start using Microsoft Outlook as an organizer and appointment notifier so I would remember my once or twice a week duties, appointments and bill due dates. Without the structure of a full time job, I find I forget what day it is on a regular basis.

But, now! Some pending things have moved to the “got to do” column, other things have gotten busier, meetings are turning up more regularly and life is so much more full than before the election.

Such as appointments: The medical stuff has taken on a faster pace now. After bouncing from let’s try this, to no diagnosis, to medical test, to no diagnosis, to possible diagnosis, to wrong diagnosis, to wait maybe we were right the first time diagnosis and now to let me find someone for you and to my PCP (principal care provider for you non-HMO folks) saying he’ll give me a referral to whomever and wherever I want to go, I’ve now added whiplash to my list of complaints! When somebody finally stops calling me Miss MM (medical mystery), I will have plenty of background for an in-depth look at the state of our medical system. I promise it will be hysterically funny.

In the meantime, appointments, questions to the HMO about appointments and doctors, and calling the HMO to get them to pay whomever for whatever is a time-consuming and frustrating set of vignettes that occur and reoccur.

Add in the part time jobs; the printer, the paper, the planning commission and my so-far failed attempt at substitute teaching (I’m always busy!) takes up another chunk of time.

And I’m trying to weatherproof the house before it gets really cold—I’m never going to finish painting the last window I re-glazed some weeks ago.

Pending became reality with our karate school move now in motion. New digs are found because the old building will become just as much dust as the Waffle House next door that’s already been gone for several weeks. Don’t believe every thing you read, guys; the Waffle House claimed to be closing the Broad St. restaurant due to low sales. St. Mary’s offered them, and our landlord, enough money to shut down. Here comes a new nursing home entrance; bye-bye buildings.

So now I’m renovating new commercial space—actually, mainly planning renovation of new space so that volunteers can easily find tasks to complete when they have time. Planning is much harder than doing it.

Bits and pieces of web design work for several sites, housework (who me?), care and feeding of three attention-starved dogs, designing a t-shirt for screen printing involving copyright decisions, and —— the holidays.

At least the organizer software is keeping me paying the bills on time, though being notified in a timely manner does require one to actually input the correct info into the computer first. (So I’m a little distracted—at least I did realize the Crawford City Council meeting was last week even though my organizer let me know yesterday that it is scheduled for this Thursday. Yeah, I know that was my fault. Didn’t matter. I had a conflict that prevented me from going anyway!)

I think I’ve got the appointment thing organized now. I don’t know how to avoid ending up at the wrong address though. Perhaps if I was to actually ask someone where their office actually is I wouldn’t have ended up sitting in an empty parking lot last Friday for 20 minutes before realizing I was at the wrong building Perhaps..

OK, there’s got to be a point to this discourse. I like to try to make at least one valid point if someone is going to take the time to read this. Then again since I woke at 6:00 am again this morning (I hate the time change), maybe I shouldn’t be required to be so purposeful. Maybe I should just go “catnap” with my willing canine partners or maybe I should finish at least one of the brochures sitting in front of me.

And then again, maybe I should schedule entire weeks at a time in my organizer….Oh, well, the couch and doggies await!


In the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks, I didn’t immediately try to put words to paper because there is no way for me to put the sorrow and horror into an effective piece of descriptive writing. Simply put, I hurt.

Now that the shock is beginning to recede I find my mind going off on many tangents. I worry about what changes this will wreak on our system of government, our economy and our daily lives.

I worry about those innocent American citizens and resident aliens of Middle Eastern and Asian descent who are already suffering a backlash from the actions of a handful of fanatics. One dear friend of mine who is originally from Afghanistan left Georgia 3 years ago after years of torment created by hatred and prejudice here in Georgia. I worry about how her life has changed out there in the “freedom” of the West Coast.

I must preface all this with one piece of understanding that has allowed me to jump quicker past the shock than some others. During my years overseas I spent 7 months in Germany in the early 1980’s. As military dependents we had special license plates on our car that announced to anyone in viewing range that we were American.

This made us a target then. Terrorist were placing bombs in Americans’ cars then.

Terrorism is new only in that it has finally come home to us and in a bigger way than I certainly ever thought it might. We here in America have been very lucky it has taken this long to make its appearance.

One meeting I attended last Thursday and one news report last night helped my thoughts congeal into a definitive initial analysis finally last night. In that meeting of internet professionals and students the question was asked “What can we do as technology-savvy individuals and as an industry as a whole?”

One response that I seconded immediately was short and to the point – education. As a person that is coming to increasingly rely on technology for a livelihood, I have access to a wider base of technical information than the average person and, hopefully, a deeper understanding of its place and potential in modern society.

I believe I have an obligation to try to understand the complexity of all the issues before us now. I believe that I also have the obligation as an American to help educate my fellow citizens to these issues.

So, I want to make several specific points and recommendations to you.

Number 1, these acts were perpetrated by a small group of people. These people are not easy to find. Killing untold numbers of innocents in order to “hopefully” find these people is not in any way anything less than “legalized” terrorism. Bombing the h___ out of Afghanistan is very unlikely to result in “getting” the criminals. It is likely to kill many innocent citizens who now can’t even flee their homeland.

Number 2, these criminals may well look “alien” or “foreign” but most of the “foreigners” now in the US are not guilty. Any acts against these people is simply terrorism on a local scale. Getting rid of foreigners and immigrants and closing our borders will not prevent terrorism from happening. Not only that, but it is totally impractical and does not address the real issues.

Number 3, giving up any of our rights may well not result in stopping future terrorism. I for one am not willing to give up my fourth amendment (search and seizure) rights. Our system is set up to deal with these challenges. Any rights we forfeit now may well not be regained — ever. Such is the nature of any government.

In saying that, however, I want to make note that privacy in today’s world may well not exist. I never assume that my mail or email is secure. One interesting piece of news for you UGA employees-your email and your computer are not secure nor do you have any rights to privacy.

There is no firewall or protection from incursions from outside sources or hackers. Use of any state-sponsored email does not give you any rights to privacy. (This from a explicit statement from the head of UGA’s Information Management section.)

Making this the norm for everyone is the equivalent of allowing anyone to read the mail that arrives in your mail box or look at anything on your computer.

I know that our government needs to address the problems of airport security. I give them carte blanche to deal with that. My suggestions to that end include requiring the new equipment long needed by the airports for air traffic control. The present equipment is many years out of date and held together by baling wire and chewing gum.

I also believe that the government has an obligation to institute emergency networks for all air travel. Forget using 911 – installing hot buttons on every air traffic controller’s console across the nation with appropriate effective directions and an effective system of response is one step towards thwarting the plans of those willing to die for their “beliefs”.

Why these measures and not looking at the first moves already in place when the airports re-opened? It is obvious to me that what we saw last week is possibly not preventable. There are weapons made out of plastic and various other materials that cannot be detected. There are always ways around any security anywhere.

The government has an obligation to make our air travel safer. It has an obligation to mandate changes for the air industry. I believe the government has an obligation to step in to this private business sector because the airlines are not capable of effectively doing this on their own.

Obviously, many lifestyle changes will come our way in the next few years. The pendulum has started its swing. In order not to let that pendulum swing too irretrievably far, Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar, said it best last night: vigilance is the key.

We must be more aware of the possibilities life holds for us in this century and try to plan accordingly. The illusion of safety has been forever shredded. A harsh lesson–one to be learned from.

Some of these lessons produced by history have not been engraved into our legal system. Over 77,000 Japanese were incarcerated into our own “concentration camps” during World War II. This was never deemed by the courts as illegal. Any constitutional scholar and any reasonable human being will tell you that declaring a certain class of society or race of people to be “dangerous” goes against anything America stands for. But it happened.

There is no question in my mind that we must be vigilant to protect our rights and our freedoms so that America stays a place worth fighting for.

Summer Vacation

One unanticipated benefit of living in the country is a feeling of permanent summer vacation. This I just realized today as I was picking the wild blackberries that line one side of our property.

As a youngster, I did spend time in country with relatives that owned farms years ago. I can even recall picking cotton at my great grandmother’s though I don’t really remember her. I can’t even remember actually picking berries as a child though I must have. Surely I picked berries during those years as well as cotton.

Now I’m spending my free time slowly picking berries, liberating my peach tree from its heavy burden/bounty and putting some walls and windows in that decrepit shed behind the house. All these tasks performed in the muggy, hot weather speak to me of long ago summer days when the world seemed so full of opportunity.

I can forget the pressing issues of grownup life out here. I can forget the necessity for making a living; I can forget the marks of time on my body; I can forget the hallmarks of that cruel (faraway) world. Time has slowed around me as I have adapted to the rhythms of country life.

We did some planting earlier in the spring: some Leyland cypresses for privacy, some azaleas for beauty, some morning glories for memory (Daddy used to wake me whispering “morning, morning glory”), and some caladiums for spot color in my “garden”. I’ve never been much a one for growing stuff. I’ve even insisted for many years that I had a brown thumb, that I would kill it if it couldn’t remind me to water it like my dogs do when they get really thirsty. (Beagles can really give you a stare that communicates!)

But now, I have found myself watering, watching and worrying. Seeing those sprouts come up from the morning glory seeds was a triumph quickly diminished when the deer decided they were tasty enough for breakfast. The caladiums have finally made an appearance without any special care or watering-a miracle in itself. The azaleas might last the summer. We’ve lost some of the cypresses as the drought has progressed due to less watering (we are trying to do our part to preserve the water table).

Our “grass” in the meadow that is our front yard bloomed beautifully white in the spring with some sort of ground cover but it all turned brown in May. It’s now looking greener with the recent rains we’ve had and we are grateful for the reduced growth since the riding lawn mower isn’t running.

I never imagined that sky watching would become a habit, that rain would be an occasion for porch sitting. I never imagined that I could care so much about the weather.

Especially in the summer. Although I was raised in North Georgia, I’ve always hated summers as an adult. Asthma doesn’t mix well with heat and I hate sweating. I spent many summers as a child in the swimming pool or lake: that’s a reasonable activity for a southern summer. Without a pool or lake, I’ve been huddling in my air conditioning since the mid-eighties until last year.

That summer I started working in the yard up there in at my last house. I love buying old houses because they usually come with automatic landscaping. There does come a point though when the yard starts taking over. Because of my decorating interests, I have been exposed to many magazine articles about gardens. I’m talking about decorative gardens, not the eating kind. It finally has started affecting me.

My first efforts at taming the overgrown views from my front porch were not incredibly successful. First, though I didn’t spend much money, I did manage to kill off some dollars planting in the heat of August. Secondly, I proved that I really couldn’t recognize poison oak. Of course, I did get my Girl Scout merit badge for plants; I used to be able to point out many things to be avoided. Since I’ve never broken out from poison anything, however, that knowledge has totally disappeared from my citified brain. Those tiny red spots on my ankle last year were a warning I managed to forget.

This year in an effort to start taming this new yard, I kept rooting around in hedges and flowerbeds before everything bloomed. I would spend 15 minutes here or there on the way to or from the mailbox. After one day when I had spent a fair amount of time pulling vines, I suddenly had a thought. “What if there was poison oak or ivy in those bushes? Did I even notice?” Well, the answer quickly appeared on my legs and arms. I am so grateful that I really am not very allergic!

I had my husband walk the yard with me that week and I was horrified to find I had been wallowing in all sorts of unhealthy stuff. That thought has effectively curtailed my weeding tendencies since then.

Besides a thorough coating of sweat (ick), I only gained a few scratches today gathering my juicy blackberries, ha, ha. I spent the time thinking about writing another column. It’s so easy to wax philosophic out here while listening to the birds, frogs and crickets. The country quiet is definitely tempered with a wide range of natural, soothing noise, once again awakening in me memories of long ago summer days.

Oh no. What if there were poison oak or ivy in amongst the blackberry thorns? Did I really forget to look again? Well, I think it’s time I quit writing now. Perhaps next on my summer agenda will be a thorough shower and a change of clothing. Oh, dear, now I’m itching!

Ah, Peace and Quiet!

Everyone talks about the peace and quiet of the country. All of our visitors have commented on the serenity of our “estate”; both my husband and I fell in love with this place simply because of the quiet.

How quiet is it? Well, quiet enough to discover a few new things about our world. It’s so quiet that I am able to hear all that air traffic.–all that air traffic that one does not normally notice amidst the noise of city life. I am truly amazed at how much noise comes from the sky.

Now, I have it on good authority that the helicopters are there for one thing and one thing only, to search out all those nefarious marijuana plots nestled in our back country. We must not have any of those type plots anymore because the helicopter traffic is constant. Prevention or discovery? I would like to know.

There’s a lot of small aircraft as well as jets up there and they’re pretty noisy since they are so low flying. I can, however, hear those jets even when I can’t see them and I’m not even used to hearing them. I figure that the air traffic controllers must send ‘em out here so that a crash will not hit largely populated areas—just my house instead.

Another modern intrusion has become apparent recently. I knew parts of this area were being logged, but it was only this week that I’ve been hearing big trucks and machinery in the distance. I had been more concerned about the traffic from the loggers but the passing trucks don’t bother me. I don’t really like meeting one of them on the road, but we’ve already discovered an advantage.

Last Saturday during all that wind a pine tree fell across the road up a ways. Tommy said he had to go into the ditch to keep traveling. We were about to gear up and get it moved when a visitor arrived and told us it had been cut already. I had noticed a lot of logging traffic in the meantime, so I guess the guys just took care of it for us. Thank you, sirs! (I’ll try harder to ignore all that machinery noise.)

Another heretofore unnoticed noise is the wind. One day last week I thought I heard a train approaching and was amused to realize it was only the wind. When the wind is blowing, it gets incredibly noisy around here. I can also swear the wind is fiercer out here as well with no buildings to block or divert it. I feel buffeted by both the movement and the noise. (I’ve never had the opportunity to use that word, ‘buffeted’, before; I just couldn’t resist!) Ain’t nature grand!

I heard our resident turkey this morning—the first time I have ever heard and identified a turkey gobble! (Tommy is planning to go turkey hunting this year.) I hear even more bird calls than ever before, even more than my husband. Tommy’s slight hearing loss makes him think this place is quieter than it really is. He’s no help in identifying some of those birds since he can’t hear what I’m asking about. Oh, well!

My first warm Saturday after we moved here was also an eye opener. I was working on something outside and enjoying my first really peaceful day when suddenly I didn’t feel so isolated anymore. I heard dogs and hunters and firearms on the land behind us: obviously, the hunting club was out in full force that day. I just had to laugh at my preconceptions of how quiet the country is.

How quiet it is? Oh, my heavens, not quiet enough! I felt so crowded while on Okinawa, Japan, and was so glad to get back to less populated area here in north Georgia. Now I understand what Tommy means by “away from people”. Do you believe that? Delia, the city girl, is starting to complain about crowding! I must be getting used to living out in the “boonies”.

Short and Sweet

After I returned from Japan, I kept threatening to write a book entitled “How to be tall at 5’2″. I wrote for a weekly entertainment magazine while in Okinawa and was always on the lookout for the zany, the odd, and/or the different to use in my humor column there. (I was going to compile those witty pieces into one volume with that title.)

The most obvious difference for me in Japan was the fact that at 5’ 2 ¾” I was tall!! Okay, let me rephrase that. I was taller than a large portion of the native population, men and women. All the cars were made for midgets over there, just as the roads were smaller, the furniture was smaller and even the trash trucks were smaller. I reveled in the feeling of being taller than someone (anyone).

Interestingly enough, the off-base housing we rented at first had been built post-WWII by the Japanese for the Americans and my kitchen cabinets were so high I had to use a stepstool to reach anything. The Japanese tend to assume all Americans all tall. HA!

I must admit, however, there really hasn’t been too many times when I wished I was taller. I’ve been fond of saying for many years now that the only time I wish I was taller was in the movie theater. I’ve been known to move three times to get a seat with no one in front of me so I can see the movie!

But now, among all the other changes I’ve undergone, I must tell you that I am getting tired of this tall world. Now I wouldn’t mind being taller. In my zeal to fit as much “stuff” in this new house, I have taken full advantage of the 10 ft. ceilings. I built bookcases and storage shelving from floor and desktop to ceiling in both my office and the hallway. (No, I still don’t have enough bookshelves.)

My new physical limitations have proven this to be, although an efficient use of space, a real problem for me. I can no longer look up. No, I don’t know what the problem is, but physical therapy didn’t fix it. I’m not talking a major problem here. If I was taller, it wouldn’t even be so evident (because I wouldn’t have to look up all the dang time).

Of course, I can’t paint ceilings and even have some difficulty getting to the top of the 10 ft. walls. I spent quite some time recently arranging books by author on some of the freestanding bookcases in the hall. Boy, was that a pain (literally) in the neck!

I’ve always found there are many things I can’t do, not because of a lack of strength, but a lack of a leverage. Sure I can pick it up, but lifting it (whatever “it” is) up to where it needs to be becomes a life-threatening situation (especially since I tend to spend inordinate amounts of time teetering on top of a ladder, a stool, a counter top, etc.). When one is short and not incredibly strong, one simply can’t easily do everything a tall person does.

Working on a computer has also been uncomfortable for years due to my short legs and increasing reliance on bifocals. At work I always feel like shrimp number one since adjustable chairs can’t be adjusted high enough for me. Here at the house I built a desktop 4″ lower than normal and so have found comfort for the first time ever at a computer.

But I can’t adjust the rest of the world so easily. I am always having difficulty reaching products on the higher shelves in stores. I frequently can’t see over the steering wheel and dash when cresting a hill in the car. (That was sheer terror while living in Tacoma, WA, years ago with those San Francisco-like hills). There’s even 2 spots on my dirt road out here where I simply can’t see!!

I have to fight the feelings of inferiority that occasionally come over me while standing and talking with tall people. I’m the shortest of all the 10 first cousins in my generation. Even my sister is taller than me!

And what is the point to this cataloging of “short” problems? (As usual, actually just to let me vent) No, no, really, this is all about aging. I’m not even 50, yet the physical limitations of aging are becoming evident to me. I’ve always been short and, no, it hasn’t mattered before.

I’ve decided that one’s life is defined by those words ‘can’ and ‘can’t’. Can’t is a four-letter word in my dictionary. I’ve spent years denying there wasn’t anything I can’t do. Now I have to look at my life as defined by can and can’t.

As a child and teenager, ‘can I’ was the key phrase. We are learning what is permissible and isn’t permissible in this big scary world. As parents, our job is to teach our children that they can. They can do whatever it takes to become happy, productive adults. Mama always told me I was just as good as any man—this was before feminism, remember—that I could….

As an adult, I learned over time that never saying ‘can’t’ was an important tool in getting along in this world. One can overcome almost anything as long as one says, “I can…”

In middle age we start running into limitations. All of sudden a 45-year-old man finds playing a casual game of football is not as easy as it used to be. A 42-year-old mother of 3 finds her attention to family and home has left her out of shape and dumpy. My husband has found that rotator cuff repairs remove most of the pain but limit activities. I find I’m no longer able to whip a house into shape like I used to before.

But, instead of just saying I can’t, perhaps it’s time to say “Can you help me with this? Can you fix this? Can you do this so I don’t have to?”

For it’s also time for another useful set of words, “Can I help you?” It’s time to use what I know for others.

‘Can I’, ‘I can’, ‘can you’, and back to ‘can I’. Funny how much life can be stuffed into those few words…


I can’t believe I got lost! I have one handy talent that my husband doesn’t have. I always know where I am in relation to the world. This came in real handy during all my travels and during those years of newspaper delivery. Poor old Tommy is “spatially challenged”—he gets lost inside buildings just by turning a corner.

So he’s delighted that I have missed our street three times recently in the darkness. Now this kind of thing just doesn’t happen to me so I have had to dig deep into memory and knowledge base to figure out why in the world do I frequently have flashes of “where am I?” while driving home.

This is my third residence outside of Athens: commuting isn’t anything new to me. I well remember the long drive to Carlton—so well, in fact, that I could (and probably have) driven it in my sleep. I certainly had no trouble getting home while I lived in Crawford.

Out here we even have a security light marking the location of the Alltel substation shortly before our road. Tommy says he has no trouble finding our road because of that and what’s wrong with me.

I guess my zoned-out auto pilot is at fault. I’ve spent enough hours on the road that I automatically fall into a suspension trance—”I’ll be home soon, soon, soon…”. Leaving Athens I don’t have to be aware of where I am at all times—a quick glance can establish my location without any problem. I traveled the roads to Carlton and Crawford daily for years, but I haven’t done as much traveling out here.

The first time I missed my turn out here, I felt dumb. It was so unlike me that I figured it would never happen again. I did, however, find myself emerging from my trance abruptly during my ride home and anxiously reading the street signs. All of these intersections look the same in the dark; the only distinguishing trait is the street sign. I decided I just needed to be more vigilant for a while and it would fall into place. I would soon be automatically be turning into our lane, sleep-driving as usual.

Soon after that some inept or hostile driver knocked our street sign askew and a few days later an unknown party lifted the street sign. There was no reflective marker there and no lights at all. I missed the turn again.

I decided I needed assistance just like on a paper route. I would purchase some type of reflective marker and stick it on the side of the stop sign. I bought 2 rectangular markers placing them in the shape of an ‘L’ (get it? Lunsford, Lower Wirebridge Rd). This worked ok until last week someone ripped them off the sign. I missed my turn again.

Now I don’t know who took them off. Why, I can even suspect my gloating husband or a vicious vandal who hates me, but I realize the truth may be that county employees may have removed the unauthorized additions to the stop sign.

It was at this point that I decided I had to know the dynamics of this “lost” phenomenon. It just isn’t something I’m accustomed to though Tommy has described his thoughts and actions to me many times. After much reflection, I finally decided my new country lifestyle had struck again. For the first time in my life I no longer live just in the city limits of a town. There is no sign, no stores, no obvious residences, no street lights, no city out here. There’s just land, trees and an occasional Alltel substation…and me, lost in the countryside.

I decided to bring in the big guns: I placed a call to Robert Johnson at the commissioners’ office this morning. I don’t know if he or the roads department is even aware our street sign is gone. (I mean, after all, we are the last ones to get our electricity restored—we now make sure we touch base with Rayle EMC whenever the power goes out.) I expect it will probably take a certain space of time to get a replacement sign.

I guess I need to quit teasing my husband so unmercifully about his “disability”. I guess sleep driving isn’t such a good idea. Maybe I’ll get used to this type of home drive and then maybe not. Maybe I’ll buy some more reflectors like those stick-in-the-ground things. Maybe not.

Oh, dear, I guess I’ve just given my new (and old) friends another reason to tease me! Please, folks, take pity on me. I have been humbled. Be kind

Balancing Act

Having been shed of normal, full-time, one-employer type of employment since December, I find that I’ve had time to look at the scales of my life: how balanced am I?

I’ve spent so much of my life as so many have, working whatever jobs and whatever hours seem necessary at the time to make ends meet.

Last year while working for a post-secondary school, I found myself teaching and counseling on topics that I hadn’t looked at very closely in many a year. One of those topics was balance. As I stood in front of a class of students who most likely would never make much money even after their “education”, I realized that they may have to work unbalanced for most of, if not all of, their lives.

I frequently use myself as an example of what not to do and I told them my life wasn’t balanced. That I spent way more time devoting myself to paid employment and remodeling houses and too little time relaxing and socializing with family and friends. My daily “routine” was dictated by employers, financial goals and inner pressures. I was stressed, lonely, regretful and longing for things seemingly not possible.

Two layoffs and a lifestyle change later, I find myself trying to slide back into those habits. When we moved out here to the “boonies” even further away from Athens, I told Tommy, “No more commuting. If I have to live out a dirt road in the midst of such idyllic splendor, I won’t commute any longer.” Or words to that effect.

Problem number 1, how do I make money? I have proved that money making isn’t necessarily what I do when left to my own devices. Aha, I’ll turn my interest in web design into a concerted effort to obtain contract employment that way.

Problem number 2, how do I live in the meantime? Aha, I’ll use the money from the sale of the house to finance a trial period of at least a year.

Problem number 3, how do I keep from going crazy not ever seeing people? Aha, I’ll get a part-time job at Greater Georgia Printers to provide a little income and a little people contact.

Problem number 4, how do I keep from spending all my savings before I get established in self-employment? Aha, pick up a second part-time job with the Echo as a reporter.

Problem number 5, how do I make enough money to make me less uneasy and allow me to do what I want and need to do with this house? Aha, work more hours at both jobs.

Problem number 6, how in the world do I find time to work on learning and marketing the web design if I am working 2 jobs, remodeling a house, joining the Maxeys Woman’s Club, socializing with friends, spending time with son and family, my siblings, etc? Aha, let’s regroup.

Let’s see, I spent over 7 hours yesterday on the computer for Greater Georgia. This morning I am writing a column. I plan on painting the living room for a while today before I go back in the Greater Georgia. I’ll go by the library again (I usually read a book every day or every other day). I’ve talked with my daughter-in-law this morning and caught up on the news. I still have a small computer problem remaining that needs fixing and somewhere I have to find the time to work on my web site at

Hey, you know what? That’s pretty balanced, very full, of course, but it’s definitely less stressful. Am I making enough money to ease my fears? Nope. Am I enjoying myself? Oh, yes. My blood pressure is lower; I’m slowly getting into shape; my weight is staying down; I see my husband on a regular basis for the first time in years; I read when I feel like it; I’m started to get into a routine that allows me to get the most important things done. Am I satisfied? Nope, never. If I could make more money, if I could finish unpacking, if I get another bookshelf built, if I could get the house cleaned, if I could just slow down a tad…