Category Archives: 31 Days of Writing 2015

2015 Day 31: The Wilderness Camp

As you already know, I was a teacher for many years.  And I was also the crazy teacher who loved to take middle schoolers on field trips-overnight.  One of the most interesting and physical field trips that I ever did was the time we went to a wilderness camp. Yes, you heard me correctly-a wilderness camp!  We could have a total of 15 people. The reasoning for 15 was that was the size of a van.  And we didn’t need to take too many students because not everyone is ready for that kind of experience. By experience, I mean that we were going to do a ropes course, go hiking on the Appalachian Trail and we were sleeping in tents on the trail.  We didn’t have to do cooking-thank goodness! The other teacher had never been camping-EVER! But she was a good sport and willing to give it a try. So that left space for thirteen students. We were not sure how many eighth graders would want to attend but we figured that it would be mostly boys. Right? Nope.  We had ten girls and three boys. All of the boys were in Scouts-so no worry there.  The girls were bright and funny and cheerleaders. I was concerned a little about them.

The day began misty and gray as we set off from the school parking lot. By the time we had driven 20 miles,  the girls had begun to tell knock knock jokes. They were hilarious! By the time we reached the 30 mile mark, the girls had switched to blond jokes. The fact that they were all blondes made the jokes even funnier!  Next they switched to singing songs. The other teacher and I didn’t have to do a thing. The girls were the undesignated entertainers for the trip. When we arrived at camp, we put our things away and started on the ropes course. Ropes was the key word here. We were divided into teams and used group strategies to use ropes and cross rushing streams and climb cliffs.  It is a good thing that I could do heights! The strangest and scariest activity was something called the pamper pole. It was as tall as your typical telephone pole with the little iron steps up the side. The activity for this was to climb up the pole using the iron steps/grips. When you reached the TOP, you were to crawl up and stand up on your two feet on the very TOP of the pole. BTW, we wore a safety harness.  Once you reached the top and were standing up straight, you were to spring from the top and grab a swinging bar. The harness person would then let you down to earth. Some of the kids started up the pole but came back down. Most of the kids climbed to the top and leaped to the swing bar.  No one made it to the bar yet. Then it was time for the adults. My teacher friend said no and looked at me.  So up I went. Once you got into the groove of climbing up, it was ok. But when I looked down when I was almost to the top—yowie!  I made it to the top and then climbed  up. Next was the swing bar.  Man, it was hard to leap into the air but I did it. I missed the swing bar but was fine. Well, check that off my list!

The next morning we left the base camp and headed to the mountain trail. It was misty rain. The guys were glum. They were not hikers. The girls were cheery and sang the WHOLE day! We had a great time eating by the campfire and sleeping in 2 man tents at night. The next morning after a hearty breakfast, we hiked back to base camp. The guys were tired.. The girls were singing-again!  The guys even mentioned how difficult it was to hike with cheerful people.  The girls mentioned that the boys were real stick-in-the-mud campers and started singing again.

Well, I know one thing from this experience. I will choose blonde cheerleaders to hike into the woods with any day over Boy Scouts.  Sorry guys!

2015 Day 30: The Tale of the Water Witching

Have you ever heard of a water witching? Do you have any foggy idea of what this means?  Well, in 1978 when we were looking for some property so we could build a house, I certainly had no idea of what this was about or even anyone who did this. Well, let me tell you–I have been there and seen it in action.

We found some property that was pretty close to town but not in a subdivision. We had this idea we wanted to live without neighbors. We wanted to be in the woods. Our kids were excited because they liked the idea of a country life, too. First of all, you need to know that just because you find some property, it doesn’t mean that the said property has modern conveniences-like electricity, cable television, natural gas, sewage, trash pickup or water. Now some of those items are easy to arrange. Electricity was not a really big deal. There was a line pretty close to our land and all the power company had to do was to extend it over the hill to our house. Whew! Natural gas was a no go. No lines in this area. So we went with propane gas. I had never used propane before but my mother-in-law had used it for years. So it was not a big deal. We had to find a propane gas company and get a tank and fill it up and we were in business. Check that off the list! Cable was a no go. We would have to pay for the lines and it made cable out of reach forever. So we did something else. Check that one off. No sewage lines? Just get a sceptic tank and field lines. Check again. Telephone? Ahh-run those lines under the power. Check again. Trash pickup? Well you just put the trash in your truck and take it yourself to the dump. I recycle a lot so we don’t really have much garbage-maybe one bag a week.

Let’s see. What did I not mention? Water. Yep. WATER. The life force for drinking, washing, cooking, flushing——WATER is very important. To run water lines to our house was only a little less than the national debt in 1979. What would we do? At that time, our neighbor and friend, Johnny, stepped up to the plate. “You need a well,” he said. “And I can help you”. How could he help was what I was thinking. He said he would help us on Saturday and we decided on a time. Saturday came and we met at his house. We started walking to the property when he made a little detour. He went to a peach tree and cut off a very specific kind of branch. It was like a capital Y. He told us he would use this peach branch to find where our well should be drilled. I plastered a smile on my face although in my heart I was a total non-believer in his method. Let me say for all of you reading—-this is crazy! He began to move over the property walking slowly and looking at his branch. He told us that when the branch dipped down, he had found a water source. We kept walking and watching. As he neared the place where we planned to build our house, the branch dipped down. It was a trick-I though. He marked the ground and then handed me the stick. He had me walk away from the area and then turn back. Oh my goodness, I felt a tug and the branch dipped down again. Even though I fought the dipping, the branch pulled down. The look on my face must have been priceless because he laughed at me. Then he showed my children how to use the stick to find water.

Well. We have a well at our house. It has been there since 1979 and has provided us with excellent water. And the way we found where to drill was determined by our friend Johnny using the peach tree branch and his skill as water witch. You know, sometimes things happen and you can’t explain it. You just go with it. And thus ends the tale of the water witch!

2015 Day 29: Food for the Road

If you have read any of my previous posts, you are aware that I was a teacher for many years.  I loved working with children!  I also worked with some pretty fantastic teachers.  We talked all at the same time and could finish one another’s sentences.  It was great! We were also a little crazy.  By that, I mean we thought it was FUN to take eighth grade students out of town overnight.  Actually we took them out of town for three nights.  You are now saying-“Yep, she’s crazy.”    I am and so were they!

We had a big environmental unit that we taught.  One of the ending activities was to spend several days at an environmental center for students.  We had a great time exploring ocean topics and the environmental issues.  Kids wanted to be on our team and parents wanted them with us, too. In order to take 60 students out of town for several days, we had to have some plans that kept everyone busy and at the same time, made the trip affordable.  Since the first and last day involved 7 plus hours on a school bus, we had to have plans for food.  Cheap food.

Going down was easy.  Everyone brought a snack and a lunch and we had a big cooler.  No problem.  Coming back was harder because there were no Moms to pack that lunch.  The first year we decided to let the camp provide us with box lunches.  Big mistake.  The food was good but geared more to older students-not middle school ones.  The next year we had a better plan for coming home on the interstate food.  McDonald’s????  NO.  Burger King???? NO.

With a fist full of coupons, we stopped at a local grocery store.  We had made major math calculations prior to the trip.  We filled two grocery buggies with loaves of bread, peanut butter (because NO ONE was allergic in those days), jelly, bologna (yes we ate that, too), cheese, individual potato chip bags, huge jars of pickles, canned drinks (I know, I know you are shocked), and enough LIttle Debbie snack pies to keep all of us on a sugar high.

Did we stop at a roadside park and have a leisurely picnic? Nope.  Stopping to let 60 people have a pit stop took forever. So we didn’t stop to eat.  We put the coolers that were filled with food in the back of the bus on the floor.  The longest one we put on the back seat and formed a work table.  Two of us made sandwiches on that table, wrapped it in a paper towel and passed it to a child.  If you wanted that kind-you kept it.  If you didn’t, you passed it to the child in front of you.  Easy peasy.  In no time everyone had a sandwich.  We had poured out the liquid in the pickle jars and passed them up the seats ,too.  If you wanted a pickle, you got one out.  Otherwise, pass it forward.  The chips were easy and handled the same way.  A teacher in front passed out canned sodas.  In no time, everyone was eating.  When they finished, they shouted out a request for a new sandwich and we made it and passed it up the seats.  We then did the Little Debbie pies.  We covered a lot of miles in the silence of eighth graders eating.  Was it fancy? No but everyone ate every single thing we had.  Our road food was a success!

Every year after that, we did this same food prep and distribution.  It’s amazing how many sandwiches you can make while riding in a bus on the interstate!

2015 Day 28: Second Story Living

I really loved visiting my grandparents! They led a really different kind of daily life. First of all, they lived up north in Illinois. My cousins teased me about my accent which was fine. I teased them about their accent. Most of my aunts and uncles lived fairly close to each other. That meant that when we came to town we got to see tons of people. My grandparents lived in town. They had no car. They walked to where they needed to go. Or they rode the bus. Or they rode the train to other towns-like Chicago.  What fascinated me the most is that they lived over a storefront. There was a business downstairs and they lived above it. They had nothing to do with the business. They just rented the apartment over it. Living over a storefront was a pretty common practice in their area.

My grandparents’ apartment was pretty big for just the two of them. The front room was a big room and served several purposes. There was a living room part with a sofa and chairs. There was a dining table that would expand a lot. When everyone was there, we hovered around 20 people. The expandable table was for the adults. Children were seated at various card tables around the room. This front room also contained Grandma’s quilting frame. I can never remember going to her house that the quilting frame was down. She was always, and I mean ALWAYS, working on a quilt for someone.  The quilt was hand stitched. Every single stitch-I am not kidding-was hand stitched. I still have the quilt she made for me when I was 6. It was for my bed. I STILL have that quilt on my bed. I still use it. It is almost 60 years old! My Grandma would sit by the frame  for several hours a day, making tiny even stitches on each section.  They were all a work of art.

So my grandparents lived upstairs. And my Grandma quilted. So why was I so wild about this whole thing? I need to mention that the business downstairs was a bakery. Ahhhh. Every morning about 3:30, the fragrant smell of bread and yeast would float right up to the apartment. I could not sleep once I got that first whiff. About 6 am, my Grandpa would go down the back stairs and knock on the back door and the baker would give him fresh hot doughnuts.  Well, what could be better than fresh doughnuts in the morning-every morning? As a child, I couldn’t think of a single thing that was better! So now you know the “rest” of my post about second story living!

 

 

2015 Day 27: Black and White Part 2

Last year I wrote a post titled Black and White. It was about growing up in the 50’s when races were separated. I wrote how as a child I was never aware that  separation was wrong. Tonight I am doing an update on the black and white topic. In today’s post, I am a teenager and still in Girl Scouts. That is where I am starting.

As a senior Girl Scout, I could apply to go to the national Round-Up. It was a wonderful event for Scouts. The competition was tough but I was one of the Scouts selected to attend and represent Georgia. I was so excited. As a part of the yearlong training, I met and camped with all the attendees from north Georgia. It was great fun! We had a camping weekend every month. We were divided into patrols and worked together to get ready for our Round-Up in Idaho. There were a few differences in our camping. We stayed outdoors-even in the cold and snow to get ready for our Idaho experience. And we were multi-racial. My partner was black. We all drove to our camping events. No parents ever came. We were teenagers and had council adults to assist us, train us and monitor our training.

The BIG difference happened when we met at the train station in Atlanta. Our parents had never been around.  We saw one another and raced into each other’s arms-hugging and laughing. We were going by train to Chicago and then across the United States. It was exciting!  That is when I noticed the looks on the faces of some adults. There were a few shocked faces. Why? Well, we were a mixed group. Some black and some white.  A few parents made a scene-a big scene. They did not want their daughter to camp with a black Scout. They threatened to pull their Scout from the event. Girls cried. Parents griped because they wanted some separation. Well, we had been together for months.  We saw nothing wrong. To the best of my memory, two girls were pulled by their parents. The rest of us got on the train and we left town!

The next few weeks were glorious! I was in a double compartment with  7 other girls-black and white. We immediately began a marathon Canasta game with new folks joining when someone wanted a break. We shared clothes, shoes and makeup. I learned about processed hair. We watched the black girls fix their hair and they watched us. It was a blast!  The Round-Up was awesome. The scenery was too beautiful for words. The time flew by.

Before we knew it, we were on the train again coming home. We played Canasta, swapped clothes and talked about everything. When we arrived in Atlanta, our parents were glad to see us. What they saw were a bunch of girls who had lived several weeks together. WE saw nothing different about any of us. We hugged, laughed and cried together as our parents peeled us apart.. There was no black and white.  We had lived together, eaten together, exchanged clothes and beds, prayed together.  We had solved the world’s problems. WE WERE ONE! Amen.

 

2015 Day 26: The Glory of Fall



 

 

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Fall has arrived in my neck of the woods . Yay!  I love Fall! Mornings are a little cooler. Maybe a tad crisper. Jeans and flannel shirts come to the front of my closet. Listening to the thunk of acorns hitting my metal roof. Sleeping with the window open–yes! Listening to the hoot of owls at night.  Fall is glorious!

This morning when I went to teach water aerobics, it was raining. We get a lot of rain in the Fall in my area. I had to stop in the driveway to let a group of wild turkeys cross the road. It was my first turkey group in the road sighting this year.  They are beautiful creatures to me. Also they do not eat my roses!

In the first years that we lived here, this is when I put my boots in my car. Boots are important if you live in the country. It’s easier to walk up a muddy road in boots rather than other shoes. If you have to drag part of a tree out of the road, it is easier in boots.  I wore boots today for the first time. My boots aren’t pretty but they carry me where I need to go.

Boots

No high heels. No wedge heel. No fake fur. No pointy toe. No decorative trim. Just work boots that keep my feet dry and with room for my toes to spread.  They have no zippers. They lace up. They go great with jeans. With walking in the woods. With cutting wood. With raking leaves. With walking in the rain with my Doodle Ozzie.

In a few days, my road will be completely covered with leaves. You will not be able to see a single piece of tar and gravel. That is when I drive up the road and stop. And get out of my car. And just look around and listen to the quiet wonderfulness of Fall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Day 25: That First Solo Drive

Driving alone can be an exciting period of time for a teenager.  I can certainly remember my first solo drive.  It was my birthday and I had passed  my driver’s test. Then my Mom let me take the car and go to the bakery to pick up my birthday cake.  Driving and birthday cake-what could be better!

But this first solo drive that I am writing about is not mine.  It is not my son’s or daughter’s either.  You see they took their first solo drive earlier than 16, too.  We live in the woods and at first had a wood furnace. So cutting downed trees was a family activity.  So we taught them to drive before they were 15 in case we had an emergency and needed help.  The most exciting thing that happened to them was to forget to shut the back door on the car all the way before backing out of the garage.  That resulted in knocking the door off the car.  Oops!

This first solo drive post is about my youngest granddaughter.  And she had a little help from her older sister.  You may remember the older sister as the child who colored herself in purple magic marker a few posts back! My son’s family was living with his sister because they had sold their house and were building another one elsewhere.  Like many stories with young children, the family was getting ready to go somewhere and they had already put Loo-Loo in her car seat in the car.  Annabanana was already in her seat in the car, too.  Mom and Dad had run back in to grab the next two children.  Somehow in those few moments-if you have children you already realize that a child can do something in a nano second-the girls talked and Loo-Loo revealed she was interested in driving. Or so AnnaBanana said later.  So she unhooked the restraining seat belt for herself and her younger sister.  Loo-loo climbed into the front seat-the driver’s seat-and somehow changed the gears.  Big oops there.  What happened was that the car rolled down the driveway and across the street and BAM! right into the neighbor’s brick and stucco mailbox.  Mom and Dad arrived on the scene as the car was moving down the driveway with Loo-Loo driving and Annabanana riding as a passenger.  How cool they thought they were.  The car’s fender received some major damage. The mailbox received slightly more damage. No one was hurt.  And no one ever drove the car again without at least a learner’s permit!

2015 Day 24: Do It Yourself Folks!

I come from a long line of DIYers.  My grandfather and his siblings came to the United State in the 1800’s because they were carpenters.  There were actually advertisements for carpenters in European countries.  So he came here.  My Dad was a mechanical engineer who loved to get his hands dirty.  He did two additions to the house where we lived. He mixed and poured his own concrete.  He knew how to do block work for foundations.  And he had excellent woodworking skills.  There was a period of time when he built redwood picnic tables on the side to make extra money.  It was a lot harder to have good carpentry skills in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  He did not have those radial arm saws or a flooring nailer that was run by the air compressor.  When he laid flooring, he sat on the floor and nailed each board by hand.  When you missed, you hit your thumb.  For months, Dad had a blue thumb.  It was a hazard of the job.

I am not a fabulous carpenter but my Dad taught me the basics.  When I was a child, you helped out with chores. And if that meant being the “holder” while Dad cut wood, you did it.  I can measure twice and use a variety of tools.  I DO have one of those radial arm saws in my garage right now.  I cut some trim yesterday.  I can use a drill, a circular saw and so on.  My husband has some carpentry skills, too.  So when we built our house, we did some of the work ourselves.  Let me tell you right now that there is a huge difference in cutting some trim and putting it up AND building a house.   A HUGE difference.  We had a builder but we could save a bunch by doing some work ourselves.  Boy- that sounds like one of those programs on television right now.   The hardest thing we did was to roof our house.

My Dad was excited that we were building a house.  So he said he would help us out on the weekends.  Great! Somehow that translated to roofing the house.  Well, the shingles were delivered and a friend used his tractor to lift them to the roof for us.  Whew! That would have been hard alone.  Those things are heavy! So then all Dad, my husband, our 5th grade daughter, our 7th grade son and I had to do now was to get busy.  We put down the tar paper and started on the shingles.  One side of our house was two stories.  It looked a long way down.  Dad just sat down and started on the shingles and so did we.  After a few hours, we had a lot down.  I was just glad we were away from the edge.  I just scooted along on my sitter and nailed between my legs.  I made sure that my sitter had contact with the roof at all times.  I don’t think I ever got the tar stains out of the seat of those jeans!

We-yes, all of us-ran wiring, put in insulation, and put up sheetrock. We did plumbing.  Every weekend was an experience in what seemed like the longest house build ever.  I will say one thing about this experience.  It was tiring but one of the most fulfilling things we have done as a family.  We all learned a lot.  We laughed at our mistakes and sometimes we grumped around our mistakes.  But we did it TOGETHER.  And we were stronger for it.

 

2015 Day 23: The Paper Drive

I have been a recycler all my life.  My Mom and my Nannie were recyclers, too.  They taught me everything they knew and that was what got me started.  Then I taught science for a long time and I always taught about recycling.  I used cloth grocery  bags before most people even realized there was such a thing.

My Mom and my Nannie saved aluminum foil. I know that sounds crazy but it is true.  Whenever they used a piece of aluminum foil to cover something, they would carefully wash and dry it.  Then they would let it air dry.  Finally they would carefully fold it up and put it away for another day of use, covering something else.  They lived through the Depression and WW2.  They knew what it was like to do without something.  So they reused everything they could-including foil. They didn’t call it recycling.  They said they were frugal.  You are probably thinking “yuck” regarding reusing foil.  Well, I am in my late 60’s and it never damaged me, I never got sick from food covered with the reused foil.  So—–it must have been ok.

Glass jars were reused, too.  You could can vegetables in them or store leftover foods in them in the refrigerator.  We never threw away glass jars. NEVER.  BTW, we did not have plastic storage containers at my house-either. The sodas we drank came in glass bottles.  We had to return them to the store to get our deposit back.  There was NO aluminum cans when I was growing up.  Listen carefully again.  We had NO aluminum cans.  We had NO plastic bottles.  Milk was delivered to your house in a glass bottle.  Ah-the good old days.

And newspapers? Well, they were saved, too.  Every year our elementary school had a big paper drive.  Yep! You heard me right.  A paper drive.  The front of the school had a covered walkway and there would be a sign with each teacher’s name on it.  For one week, we would collect every newspaper that we could find.  We would tie them in bundles and put them in the stack for our class.  By Thursday, the stacks of newspaper would be taller than our heads. The entire walkway would be covered with stacks of newspaper.  On Friday afternoon, a  truck would come and collect the stacks.  The school would get a check that they could use for programs in the school.  And the winning class? Well they got a prize, too! The paper drive was the B.I.G. fundraiser for the school.  As soon as it was over, people started collecting their papers for the next year.  They stacked them in their garages and on their porches.  It was a BIG deal.

So that is what started me in recycling.  Thanks Mom and Nannie for making me more careful with this earth that God has given us!

 

2015 Day 22: Clocks, Markers and Scissors

Have you ever had a child whose body seemed to know what time it was?  It didn’t matter where you were or what you were doing because if you “hit” that special time, all bets were off.  That internal clock had only one acceptable activity that could be done.

My oldest granddaughter had a clock inside her.  It was set for 8:00 PM.   If you were coming home from church and happened to be in the car with her, she  would cry.  She cried really loud with tears.  It was a sight!  If you were traveling up the interstate and the car clock ticked over to 8:00 PM, she began to cry.  Really cry.  She could actually cry for two hours straight.  I am not kidding.  You could give her a snack. She would refuse it.  You could give her a teddy bear.  She would refuse it.  And she never quit crying.  So what was her 8:00 activity? A bath.  A nice warm bath with her favorite tub buddies.  The second her fat little toes hit the water, she was silent and smiley and happy.  Finally….

She also had a thing for markers.  She loved to color on paper.  She loved to color on the wall.  She loved to color the appliances.  Face it-she loved to color anything.  Her Mom finally had to keep the markers locked up!  But Annabanana was pretty sneaky and sometimes she hid a marker or found one that had not been locked up.  So what did she do? Well, she took that permanent purple maker and colored something she had never colored before—–HERSELF! Her face.  Her arms.  Her legs.  She looked like a Smurf! Nothing would take the color off.  It had to W-E-A-R off.  When her parents took her to church, no one even said a single thing about her purple body.  They knew her attraction to markers.

Her other attraction was to scissors.  Even at an early age, she loved to cut hair.  Other people’s hair.  So her brothers and sisters sometimes got an extra haircut-thanks to Annabanana. The most famous haircut was to her younger sister.  With four young children in the family, her parents would get one ready at a time.  That day they were having a family picture made.  Her younger sister was all ready.  Then Annabanana.  Then the boys.  When my son and his wife started gathering everyone up, they kept noticing that the youngest girl-Looloo-looked a little different.  It took a few minutes for them to realize that her bangs were gone.  Not short.  GONE.  Cut to the very scalp.  Well, it didn’t take much guessing to figure out who was the hair cutter!  Annabanana said that Looloo wanted her bangs cut.  Right.  The nice thing is that Looloo didn’t have to worry about her bangs for a long time!

I am happy to say that Annabanana is a sophomore in college now and has given up her 8:00 bath, doesn’t color herself or anyone else with markers, and only allows a professional cut her hair!  Yay!