Category Archives: 31 Days of Writing 2014

Day 27: Sometimes You Don’t DIY!

Many years ago, in a small North Georgia town lived a family with two small children. Dad was a telephone engineer and mom was a stay-at-home Mom. In order for them to make ends meet, they sometimes did projects at home themselves. They sometimes didn’t agree on what and how to do things, but they agreed that they enjoyed saving the money. Some projects were small and some were large. They painted their home-inside and out. That was ok. They replaced the carpet in the living room and hallway. That was ok even though they were pretty paralyzed the next day from crawling around so much on their knees. They planted a garden in their backyard even though the mom had never raised veggies. She had read Organic Gardening all winter and had a few ideas about what to do. Of course, their neighbor HA-Hawed a lot when they planted the garden. He pretty much so said they were nuts and would not harvest a thing. Although the mom had a few moments of anxiety from his comments, she went blindly ahead and grew a lot of veggies that summer. Another successful DIY project was completed and they were able to cut their grocery budget and have marvelous veggies, too. Yay!

Feeling confident when Fall arrived, they decided to try another kind of DIY to save a little money. The other projects had gone well-so why not? Well, the couple was us-big surprise there. And the new project was frosting the mom’s waist length hair! Why not? The ads said it was nice and easy. And lots CHEAPER. We bought the frosting kit at the local drugstore. We read the instructions several times and gathered all the materials. When the kids went to bed that night, the wife and husband put the tight rubber cap on the wife’s hair and began to pull the individual hair through the cap holes using a crochet hook. The wife finally went to sleep with her head resting on his knee. Let me tell you, it took hours! About midnight, they finished and her hair looked great. And they saved a bunch of money. Mission accomplished!

As spring approached, the mom needed a touch-up. So off she went to the local drugstore to purchase the frosting kit again. Before beginning, they talked about what shade and how much hair to pull through that rubber cap. Well, it was Spring. We would be outside a lot. Why not make it a tad blonder? Seemed to make sense to us. Just full of our previous accomplishments, we went ahead with the blonder tone which meant we left the dye/color on longer-a lot longer. The timer went off and we headed to the kitchen to pull of the cap and look at my gorgeous newly frosted hair. The cap was off. We put on the toner. We washed. We conditioned. My husband put a towel over my head and I turned around. I was smiling and couldn’t wait to go look in the mirror. Then I noticed my husband’s face. It was not exactly happy. It had a puzzled look and he said,” It’s a little brighter than the picture.” What exactly is a little brighter???? I went to the bathroom and flicked on the light. My hair was brighter. In fact, it was almost bright enough to stop a school bus! I looked like Bozo the Clown with bright orange hair!!

Since this happened on a Saturday night, I had the rest of the weekend to look at my orange hair! Then on Monday, I found a professional hairdresser who laughed at my story, cut my long hair, and colored the remainder of the hair on my head. Every time I thought about self-frosting my hair, my husband strongly encouraged me to seek a true professional. Sometimes it isn’t about the expense, it is about finding a true professional!

Day 26: And Who Really Has the Last Word?

Many years ago, when I first started teaching school, I was blessed to work with some wonderful experienced teachers. The start of the year was rocky. I started teaching fourth grade. But the numbers didn’t work out for four fourth grades and after ten days, I was transferred to a fifth grade position at the same school. I was blessed that I didn’t have to change rooms. But I had a super speeded up intro to fifth grade. As new kid on the block, I ended up with the lowest math group but an average reading group. After many initial worries about my math students, I found that it was a perfect place for me. The group was small and they would do anything for popcorn. So we worked hard for four days and on the fifth did testing, played games and had popcorn. They thought we were playing cards or bingo.  But aha, we were practicing our basic skills. I was pretty sneaky!

That year, the fourth and fifth grade team was in a separate building on the campus and  we were very helpful and supportive of each other.  I lost my grandmother that year and they were so wonderful to me. Then the husband of one of the fifth grade teachers died very suddenly and unexpectedly. We were all shocked. He was so young to us although he was probably in his late fifties. We became her extended family during this time. As her birthday approached-the first one without her wonderful husband, we decided to give her a surprise birthday party. We knew we had to do something crazy because it would be sad for her. So we decided that the theme would be Wonder Woman!  And each of us would give her something funny from within our building that would relate to teachers. We all also agreed to not tell each other what we were doing.

The day of the party arrived.  We had a Wonder Woman  cake.  We had wrapped gifts. Although we all had been inventive and used schoolroom items, one teacher earned a gold start for excellence.  Before I tell you more about this special gift, I need to give you a little info on our principal. This was his first year as principal and he was funny. But man, he had a thing for his name stamp. I was a principal for many years and a name stamp is so important. Every report card is to be signed with the name of the principal.  Well, right away, you can see that no man or woman in their right mind says- “Hey-bring me your report cards and I will sign them all.”  Who wants to sign their name over 600 time? Not me. So I had a stamp made and it stayed locked up in the vault at school.  This man’s stamp stayed locked in his drawer and no one could check it out without getting it directly from the principal. If you borrowed it, you had only so long before he was calling to see if you were done. He was a bit obsessed with his stamp and who had it. It became a joke to all us teachers.

So when Mrs S opened that gift bag, she looked a little startled as she bulled out a roll of toilet tissue. It looked brand new.  Perfect.  Pristine. She smiled and look at it oddly until she noticed in the middle of the first sheet of toilet tissue was stamped ” Charles B.Melcome”-the principal’s name. Then she began to unroll the roll and saw that every single sheet of toliet tissue was stamped with  the principal’s name.  The teacher quietly said-“I think you know how to use my gift”. We laughed and laughed.  And then we laughed some more!

I am sure she knew how to use this special gift.

Day 25: Black and White

I have to take this post for a confession. I grew up in the 1950’s. Everything was either black or white.  Since I had never known anything else, I never realized that anything was amiss.

For example, I never went to school with anyone  of another race. Every child in all my classes  and throughout the elementary school and middle school and high school was white. The entire staff at the school-teachers, lunchroom workers and custodians-were white.  Everyone in my church was white. My Scout troop was white. I lived in a white world. Black students in grades 1-12 attended their own school. Students were bussed there every day from the city and the county.

My white world extended to grocery stores, doctor’s offices, and clothing stores.  I saw black people in town but had no interactions at all with any other race.  Never.

My grandfather worked for the railroad. He was a conductor. So we sometimes rode the train to visit him in Illinois.  We would leave the train station in Marietta in the afternoon and arrive in  Chicago the next morning. Well, we left from the white station. One end of the station was for whites. The other end was for blacks. Doors were labeled “Whites Only”.  Water fountains were labeled. Blacks were not served at the drug store luncheonette. The theatre on the square had a separate entrance for the blacks. Their seating was above the balcony and they could reach this by standing in line on the sidewalk on the street beside the theatre. They could not purchase tickets at the ticket booth. “WhitesOnly”

When we were in the north visiting family, the separate but equal continued. Places served whites or they served blacks.  It was not just a Southern thing. Apparently many regions of the country believed in separating the races.  What is funny is that if you were Asian, you could eat with the whites. Or shop with them.

Unfortunately, separate but equal also was used to separate “different” children from “regular” children. I never had a single special education child in an class. These “different” children had their own “different” school.

My parents never talked about races or racial issues around the children. They just never did. They never used inappropriate racial terms. In fact, none of the parents that we knew ever did that.

Still, looking back over this period of time in my life, it is hard for me to believe that I never noticed anything was different.

 

 

Day 23: Notes on Being A Greeter

A  few times in my adult life, I have worked as a “Greeter” .  It has generally been in connection with churches and is a terrific way to start off your morning worship  because you smile a lot and welcome people. I am thinking that  my my second music teacher would be proud of me. She always taught me that being warm and friendly was a life skill. And she was right. I sometimes work as a greeter at other kind of functions. I usually know right away when I am going to be asked because every conversation starts-” We were trying to figure out who can talk to total strangers and your name came to mind.”  Yep! That is me! I can talk to anyone.  And face it, some folks cannot. Some always look like their shoes pinch or their panties are in a bunch!

Many years ago, I was serving on the greeter committee in a church. We were involved with a lot of thing there and in the community.  One of our other fun things was working as chaperones with some high school scouts.  A big day trip had been planned and I was SO excited! We were going canoeing in the mountains for the day.  I had been canoeing a few times and loved it.  When we arrived at the river, the water was down. It had been really dry and the water depth was not as much as we expected. But that was no BIG deal, I thought. Little did I know——water dept is very important!

My husband and I were partners. That was BIG mistake two. We had been married a long time. Who would realize that you should never partner with your spouse?  We started out with adult couples spaced between scout canoes . I was in the front. My husband was in the back. Part of MY job was to notice the water depth so that we did not run aground on the rocks. If that happened, we would have to jump out and pull the canoe to deeper water. Well, rats! It was so hard to judge the depth from the front of the canoe. It would look just fine and then we would hit the rocks.  My husband began to complain bitterly about my canoeing skills. And probably I was a little touchy from just not being able to quickly determine  the depth.  By mid-morning, I would have traded my husband for —well almost anything.  So I decided to become the depth finder of the ages! I would NOT screw up again. I carefully leaned forward to see better and WHAM! We hit another rock. Unfortunately, my paddle was posed so that the sudden rock hit slammed the handle into my forehead. In mere moments, I had a huge lump in the center of my forehead and both eyes were beginning to discolor!

We stopped and put ice on my head and switched places.  Quickly, my husband saw that indeed it was hard to determine the depth.  Even with his expert canoeing  skills we ran aground!

But this is not the end of this story. The next day I was one  of the greeters at church. There I was with a discolored lump  in  the middle of my forehead. And two black eyes! After the initial shock, people would ask about what had happened to me. When I told them  that my husband and I had a canoeing accident, they would smile and say “sure”.  Then they would ask about what really happened.

Oh my!  I should have had a better story!

 

 

Day 22: The Day That Camelot Died

It was a Friday.  Fall was finally feeling like Fall in the South. Our weather is always a little screwy. It was almost Thanksgiving. I was excited that we would have a few days off. I was in the ninth grade in a newly started middle school. Actually we were not a real middle school. We were a bunch of ninth graders that didn’t fit into the statistics for enrollment that year. So half of the ninth graders went to a brand new high school. The rest of us unfortunate people went to the old high school that had room for us. That meant that by the time we arrived in another year, friendships would already be formed without us. There was no band or chorus. We were just out of luck. Some teachers were required to stay at the old school and were glad. Others-not so happy. That year I  had two excellent teachers-my English lit teacher and my world geography teacher. But that is not a real part of this post. Just supplemental information!

My geography class was 5th period. I have no inkling what we were studying. Looking back I should have remembered. But then again it wasn’t that important to the day.

The Date was November  22, 1963.

What were you doing that day?

For many of you, this date means nothing. For me, it was the day that the principal announced over the intercom: John F Kennedy has been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.   We were silent. I could feel my heart beating -fast.  Who would do this? Should I be afraid?

I had reached the age where I had begun to notice political things and The Kennedy’s were certainly worthy of watching. One of the big things I heard adults talking about at church was if Kennedy was elected would the Pope be able to have him do special things for the Catholic Church.  Hmm. I had never considered that the Roman Catholic Church might end up running the country.  Does that mean that Billy Graham could call up a senator and get special treatment? Hmm.  People talked about Kennedy and his heroism in the Pacific. Everyone knew about PT 109.  I still have that video!  People talked about how rich the family was. So wealth was an issue, too.

But he was elected President and fell into the media spotlight. Women wore pillbox hats because Jackie did.  Women wore big sunglasses because—-Jackie did. And everyone grieved for the children they lost.

We all watched the funeral procession and wept for the life destroyed before it’s time.

And we all watched John-John as he saluted his father’s casket .

 

 

Day 21: This is the way we wash our clothes!

The title of this post is from a song that every child knew.  On Monday we sang, “This is the way we wash our clothes. Wash our clothes. Wash our clothes. This is the way we wash our clothes. So early Monday morning.” Each day of the week had a different task to perform. And that was just the way things were done! There was a weekly routine and folks just followed it.  That is always the way things had been done.  On Monday, you washed.

Washing was a bigger deal during my childhood. We didn’t have a clothes dryer. No one on our street had one  We had a clothes line. Although we called it a line, it was really four lines. Some families had wooden posts.  We had a steel post that my father had made. He spray painted it every year-generally in the spring after he used a steel brush to scrap away the rust. The clothes line ran the length of our backyard. Every yard had a hedge of clothesline. We had a big clothes pin bag. It held a lot of pins. The pins were wooden and had a spring in the center so the clothes could be held securely to the line. There was nothing worse than wet clothes falling on the ground and getting dirty. That would mean the clothes had to be washed again and the whole week’s schedule would be off!

The washer was in our kitchen although a few families had theirs on their back porch. Ours was white. Every washer was white. Frequently, the washer would be loaded incorrectly and the washer would shudder across the kitchen. Even a child knew what to do for a shuddering washer. Turn it off. Call Mom! The clothes were separated following the strict  guidelines that were passed down through the women of the family. Men were not expected to do laundry. That was women’s work.

When the cycle was done, the clothes were pulled from the washer one item at a time. They were vigorously shaken to get rid of wrinkles and placed in a large aluminum wash pan or a wicker basket.  My neighborhood was mostly wash pans because they lasted longer. There was no fabric softener. There was soap and bleach. Then the next load was started.

The next part of the laundry was what I thought was most interesting. Laundry had to be hung in a certain way. Only public items such as sheets could be on the outside lines. Towels were ok on the outside and so were socks. Unmentionables (panties, step-ins, boxers) had to be in the middle. Even though everyone wore them, they could not be seen. That would be “common”. In other words, you couldn’t do that. And brassieres? Oh my goodness. They were never seen! Which is hilarious since all were white cotton and made by Playtex!!!! Or maybe Lovable. This generally meant that the one hanging out the clothes was standing between two lines of wet clothing!

When you had to get the clothes in, the secret clothing had to be removed first and folded into the basket. No peeking! Then the public laundry could be removed!

When it was raining, we had a wooden clothes dryer that we filled with clothes so they could air dry. A good mama knew exactly how to arrange clothing so it would dry quickly. In the winter, my mama put the wooden rack over the floor furnace to speed up the process. Then the whole house smelled clean and wonderful! Sometimes women would sneak in an extra load of clothes at night and they would hang out all night. But the same rules applied!!

One smell I will never forget is the smell of diapers flapping in the breeze and the smell of sunlight in my sheets. Heavenly!

 

Day 20: Girls’ Auxiliary

imageWhen I was a child, children had fewer choices regarding afterschool activities.  There were no organized sports for girls! Girls played with dolls or paperdolls, they read, they went to Girl Scouts, they played the piano or they took ballet or tap dancing. That is about it! Children attended Sunday School in the morning before church, they attended Training Union before Sunday Evening worship and they could be a part of Girls’ Auxiliary (better known as GA’s).

There was more rigor in Training Union in those days. That suited me fine because I could memorize about anything. We had Bible Drills and I could be pretty fast. I practiced at home!

GA’s was pretty academic, too.  I could read fast and I could memorize so I did well. In GA’s, members could progress through different steps or levels.  The first step was Maiden, then Lady-in-Waiting, Princess and Queen. You were expected to finish these steps by the end of 8th grade  In high school, you moved through Queen with a Scepter and Queen Regent.

Once a year, we had a big coronation at the church. You had to have at least one queen or above for a coronation.  And it was a BIG deal. Girls would recite scripture or tell about research on a missionary or tell about any of the requirements of a step. Then every Maiden would be presented to the church and they would receive their badge which would be placed on their white dresses. Next came Lady-in-Waiting presentations.  Then Princess. Then Queen.

When you got to be a Queen, you wore a formal dress and your crown was carried down by an attendant-usually a younger sibling. Your presentation was longer-rather like those orals you had to do after your Master’s program. No one ever wanted to do the life of Christ. it would be too scary in front of the church. What if you forgot something!

I loved GA’s! It gave me an identity during those preteen/teen years  It was ok to be in GA’s and be smart. I was fortunate enough to have some great leaders. Those women worked hard encouraging girls and supporting them as they worked to complete their steps. We also had a big retreat every year at Rock Eagle. It was called Houseparty and was awesome.  We stayed in cottages at Rock Eagle and talked all night and met missionaries and sang a lot and had a great time! It also always rained. I can’t remember a single time that the sun shined! Looking back, I would have to say that GA’S was one of the best activities in my life.  It provided support and encouragement and was lead by good and faithful women who knew what was really important. I thank God that I had the opportunity to learn from them.

The picture that is at the beginning of this post is of me the night I received my Queen Award. My younger sister is the cutie beside me. She got to carry my crown down for me. It was May 27, 1962.  I was 13 years old.

 

Day 18:My 15 Seconds of Fame

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I have heard somewhere that everyone has 15 minutes of fame. I am not sure what defines the “fame” but I thought I would go with 15 seconds of fame and tell about my watermelon!  The setting  is a cold January in the 1950’s. Probably in a Big Star Grocery store. The produce manager is holding the knife and the melon. And I am taking a big bite. I am the one with the squinty eye, the long sleeve blouse with cuff links, a belt and a skirt-probably woolen.

My dad loved to go grocery shopping! And he had a thing for watermelon! So when he found a watermelon in August at the grocery store, he snapped it up. After the groceries were unloaded and stored, the watermelon somehow was placed between the refrigerator and the kitchen wall. And there it sat.

Through the month of August. Through the month of September. Through the month of October.  Through  all of November. Through all of December.

Oops! Now we are in another year and the poor watermelon was still sitting there. Here is where my parents began to say things like-honey take that out. I bet it is rotten!  On the other hand, I was saying let’s cut it up and eat it!  After much discussion, the produce manager said to bring it by the store and he would cut it up and the newspaper would make pictures! So I got all dressed and we went off to the grocery store with our watermelon. It was yummy! You would never realize it had been sitting in the kitchen for 5 months.

And the produce manager even knew who grew the watermelon and gave his name to the reporter. So I am thinking he claimed his 15 minutes of fame, too!

Day 17: Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is October 19, 2014.  It is also my Mother’s birthday. My Mom was adopted. She never talked with me about it. In fact, my grandmother-Nannie-was the one who eventually told me.  My Mom never wondered about her birth mother.  Her adoption sounds like something from a news story – “Infant girl left in basket at doorstep of local family”.   Because, you see-that is what happened. She deeply loved her parents and her kin folks. I never knew my Grandpa. He died before I was born.  His name was Roy and he was an electrician.

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This is a picture of my Mom as a teenager. She is seated with my Nannie, three of my aunts and cousin J. Don’t you love how they do their hair?

My Mom grew up in a tough time. She had a paper route to earn some extra cash. She won a bike the first summer for adding the most new customers.   She loved dogs-cockers were her favorite. They were always named Lady. When she entered high school, she started working at a photographic studio in town. Eventually she started doing touchups for the studio. She was very talented with photography.  She had great baby pictures of me!

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Then she met a boy from Kansas who was attending Georgia Military Academy. He was all alone  His father had died when he 18 months old  His mother remarried and moved to Illinois with her new husband and children. Fortunately his father had set aside money for him to attend GMC when he became a 9th grader. I have no idea how they actually met. I have often wondered but that opportunity for questions is forever gone.

When Dad was drafted, they got married.  My mother continued to live at home with her mother until Dad came back.  I was born in Milledgeville, Georgia and 9 years later my redheaded sister made her appearance in our family.

I would love to say that we lived happily ever after. But we did not. My parents divorced when I was in my twenties. But I can say with absolute certainty that my parents loved both of us enormously and were proud of our accomplishments. They were always there when we needed them.

scan0498Mom was a great baby holder! A was just a little chunk of cuteness in this picture.

I love you and miss you, Mom!

Day 14: Prunes and Skates

First of all, I had surgery today on my wrist. My entire arm is still numb. I am still a little fuzzy around the edges so I apologize in advance for typos I don’t recognize. I am still using the one finger approach! :-)) And tonight’s writing assistance is provided by Brookstone Dark Chocolate pomegranate pieces!

First of all, you must like prunes if you clicked on this post! lOL Or you are a skater! I have talked a little about the teachers in my life and what I remember about their impact on my life. I think it is interesting that the things I remembered are not directly related to instruction but to their interactions with me. First grade was all about assembly and garters! Second and third were in fast forward apparently. But fourth grade was a winner! I had Mrs.R who had taught for many years. I was a “tall” girl in fourth grade. I apparently had hit a growth spurt and got to sit in the back. The last seat-hooray! And I was close to the teacher which impacted seriously on my hidden library book activity. But I found that sitting near the teacher had other advantages. I was the errand runner. Yay! In those days, teachers didn’t give a hoot about helper charts. They cared about responsibility and who could be a good helper. Throughout  fourth grade C,S and I were helpers.

One day I noticed a piece of cake on her desk. It looked rather like Japanese Fruit Cake. But it was the wrong time of the year. So before lunch I had a chance to say”Mrs.R, is that Japanese Fruit Cake?”. She told me it was Prune Cake. Did I like prunes? I smiled and silently thanked my Nannie. And said yes!!! I ate stewed prunes with my Nannie. Yum Yum!! So at lunch she gave me a taste of her Prune Cake. I loved it! The next day she brought me a whole piece of my own. Her family didn’t like it so she always shared. Next she brought me the recipe. I still have it! So what else do I remember about fourth grade? Prune Cake and the fact that I always had a regular GI tract! :-))

In the fifth grade, I had a new teacher to the school. And he was a man! I didn’t know that men could teach in elementary school. He even had an interesting name. His first name was the singular form of his last name. For example—Forest F Forests. He was single. He had worked at Lockheed and left to teach school again. He missed working with children. He was a little fluffy! He wore a starched white shirt and black dress trousers every day with a tie. Can I remember what we did in class.? No.  I can remember the other fifth grade teachers were women and crabby. He was not. He smiled a lot. Then at the end of the first six weeks, he forever had a place in our hearts. He announced that we had done so good that we were having a class skating party in Atlanta at the Rollerdome. We would leave at 5 and ride in the cars of parents to the Rollersome. We would skate from 6 to 9 and then return to the school and children could be picked up.

The Rollerdome was huge and down near the Crackers stadium. It had gorgeous wooden floors and several huge chandeliers in the center. The music was excellent. They had partner skates and races and backward skates. It was THE place to skate and none of us had ever been to such a fancy place. I loved it. My dad skated with me. My friends. My not friends. Then the teacher did another thing that we did not expect and was instructional. He taught every single one of us to couples skate. He said it was a skill we should know. I learned to skate backwards too. We went every six weeks. He skated with every single one of us. He was an excellent figure skater and we thought he was the best in the world! I will also need to mention that one other significant event happened that year. I had my very first visit from my aunt in RedBank (let me know if you have no idea what I mean). The same night  I also went to see Handel’s Messiah at a local church. I thought that the Music was especially significant that day!

And so, once again you have learned about my educational endeavors for fourth and fifth grade! I had another yummy recipe for prunes and I could couples skate! Not everything is a part of standardized testing!!