Category Archives: Parents

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 19: Happy Birthday Mom!

Today was my Mother’s birthday. If she had lived until today, she would have been 90 years old.  Unfortunately, she lived the last years of her life with Alzheimer’s.  It is a terrible disease because it slowly kills you.  It takes away your ability to think, read, play with your grandchildren, dress yourself and connect words into sentences.  You die a little every day.  You say good-bye a thousand times.

The one thing that my Mom said she never wanted to happen to her was the one thing she had.  She never wanted to have Alzheimer’s.  She knew what it could do.  I was her guardian and primary caregiver for about 12 years.  It hurt to see her become dependent.  She had always been the “I can do that myself” person.  So today I am going to take you down some of the paths we traveled together.  First remember that this is a progressive disease. So what she did one month or a few months would then go away.  Forever.

My parents had been divorced many years.  So Mom was alone.  She was a quite lady. She would never do anything that might cause others to look at her.  But  Alzheimer’s took care of that!  We would be eating out at the Dwarf House-one of her favorite places to go-when a heavy person walked by. Mom would say something like “Does she know how fat she is?” Cringe.  Somehow her voice carried further when she made comments like that.  And trust me, she noticed every person who was large.  I had to just move on. There was no point in correcting her because it did no good.  Move on.

The other thing that Mom did that was totally unlike her former self was to notice men.  She really had a “thing” for men with silver hair.  Her favorite phrase was “That is one fine looking man!”  Yikes.  Y’all this was my Mother who was saying this.  She never approached a man but she sure could  comment on their handsomeness! This phrase lasted a lot longer than the “fat” stage!

Conversations became easier when I figured out how to talk to her.  I would just chat about what she was wearing or the trees (she had another thing for trees) and she would talk.  After we exhausted that topic, we would sit quietly for a few minutes and then she would ask the same question and we would talk again about the same thing.  And again.  And again.  And again.  I discovered that elaborating on the topic gave us something new to say and made our conversations last a little longer.  Every conversation was new to her.   She would ask about her neighbor at home-if I had seen her.  I always said yes and talked about her cooking.  Mom would nod and smile and then we would be silent for a few minutes.  Then she would ask again about her neighbor.  You don’t fuss-you just go with it.

Mom had never had her nails done. NEVER.  She was not a girlie person.  So I did her nails and she really liked that.  She could not understand how they became colored but she really liked that.  I had her hair done. I had it colored. I had her get a permanent.  She loved those girlie things. Then that was gone, too. We stopped painting the nails because she thought something was wrong with her nails and tried to pick them off.  Moving on again to another stage…..

I can never remember my Mom saying an “ugly” word.  Well, we went through that stage, too.  The first time it happened was at dinner one night.  One of the table members touched her rice and she swore at the lady and then decked her.  She had to eat alone for a bit after that.  She would become aggressive and swore like a sailor.  And she was strong! She could knock you right down.  Fortunately, that stage was short.

As you read, you are thinking that this was a pretty grim post.  Yes it is.  But we spend probably five or six years in these stages. You learn to just go with it.  You smile.  You hug. You smile some more. You hug.  Sometimes you just hold hands and watch television or watch the trees sway in the breeze. I learned a lot during this time.  And I learned to sometimes just watch the world go by and enjoy the moment.

Love you Mom!

2015 Day 15: Happy Birthday Coffy

Hobart Carter Coffman was my father in law.  He was kind, funny, a hard worker, an awesome cook and loved his grandchildren beyond words.  Heaven is a better place with him there.

When I first met Coffy, he was fishing on the dock at the trailer.  The trailer was the summer home that he and Charlotte, my mother in law, escaped to every year.  It was heavily wooded and cool during the hottest of summer days.  And the lake was a stone’s throw away.  I had never dated anyone who had a home at the lake and I thought it was the best idea in the world.  Who wouldn’t like to live  right beside that huge lake filled with clear water that allowed you to swim ANY TIME you wanted? It was perfect!

While Coffy was fishing on the dock, Charlotte was inside making her “famous” potato salad.  It was the kind of potato salad that someone in the South might call—Slap your Momma potato salad.  I know that sounds awful but it MEANS that it is SO GOOD that NO ONE can describe it! What Charlotte did was teach ME to make it.  To this day, I am asked to bring potato salad to everything.  I never bring home a bowl with anything left. NEVER.

Later Charlotte and Coffy retired and  built a permanent house on the lake and my children LOVED to go spend a week with them.  Shoot. I loved to go spend any time with them. Charlotte knew everything about the family and told the funniest stories.  Coffy was an amazing gardener and cook.   He always sat at the head of the table. My daughter sat at one side and my son at the other.  He would start the dish passing after Grace.  He always dipped out the food for my children.  He would do David first. He would say, “David, would you like some broccoli?”  David would say, “No Granddaddy.”  Coffy would put a spoonful on his plate anyway. You see Coffy grew that broccoli and you always ate everything that he grew whether you liked it or not!  Then he would say, “Shell, would you like some broccoli” and she would reply,”Yes Granddaddy. Just a little.” So he put a little on her plate. It took David a little while to catch on to what to say.  Then Coffy would pick up the next bowl of homegrown veggies and it would start the same way.  It was hilarious to watch.

Shell loved to follow her granddaddy around in his enormous garden.  She would be sitting right beside him doing whatever he was doing.  David on the other hand, would be inside cleaning under the supervision of Charlotte.  He did not like to garden in the sun! Both of them got to go fishing with Coffy.  They loved being able to get in the boat with their Granddaddy and go fishing.

Whenever we left their house, Coffy always sent something home with us.  He had an extra refrigerator in his carport room.  It was really a frig that had once been inside the kitchen. Coffy never got rid of a single thing that still had use in it.  The top of the frig was filled with glass bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.  He recycled the bottles, of course.  He never offered me one. I never saw him even tipsy. Never.  The rest of the frig was filled with veggies that he had not canned or frozen yet.  He would immediately begin filling a grocery bag with veggies to take home.  He was also a fisherman and we brought home the best fillets frozen in washed milk cartons and water.  How I wish I had his hush puppy knowledge!

Because of Coffy, I became a backyard gardener, too.  I learned to make sausage gravy from Coffy.  I learned to cook rabbit because he grew those, too.  I can still see him on his porch with a smile on his face, hugging my children and then me.  He taught me a LOT about being a grandparent. About having a kind voice. About being patient.  And he never even realized that he was doing that.  I miss him still.  But the lessons he taught me—-well they are with me still.  Love you Coffy.

2015 Day 12: The Tale of the Stove

Since I have already introduced Girl Scouts to you, I thought I would share another really great experience from my camping career!

After Brownies, I graduated to a Junior Troop. This meant I could put away those brown boxer shorts and striped brown and white shirt. I could stop wearing the brown uniform and the beanie. I was growing up! Yay! I now wore a green uniform and a fancy beret.  I had a sash that had my troop number on it. Soon it would have badges on it, too. I had already circled the ones I was most interested in doing in my Girl Scout Handbook. I was ready for the big time.

The big time also meant that we FINALLY went camping during the fall or winter or spring.  We still went to Scout Haven so I knew all about it.  Well, I was wrong-a little.  Scout Haven had added another area to the camp.  It had been undeveloped for a long time-well, except for latrines! But recently the council had added a winterized cabin for troops to use.  So what is a winterized cabin? Just what it says.  It was one large room and one smaller room that was set up as a kitchen. There was a huge rock fireplace in the large room.  We had a fire going and that was all the heat we had.  We put our air mattresses and sleeping bags out on the cement floor.  The first night we cooked our dinner in the coals in the fireplace.  My dad was in charge of that. It was yummy. We all made a packet of veggies and meat and wrapped it up in heavy duty foil and put it in the coals.  Dad made a peach cobbler in a cast iron dutch oven and put it in the coals for dessert.  We had no bathrooms so we had to bundle up and use our flashlights to trek to the latrines.  It made you careful about how much you decided to drink!

The next morning I had kitchen duty. The cabin’s kitchen had the most enormous stove I have ever seen.  It was huge. It had a warming box over the top and several doors on the front.  I had to butter bread for toast so I got busy with that.  The bacon cooker was looking at the stove and opening doors and seemed really puzzled.  She called over the leader who came over and did the same things-like open the doors and even look behind the stove.  Then I saw my dad.  He was smiling so big.  And the father next to him was doing the same. Finally the Scout turned around and said to everyone–“Where is the switch to turn on the stove?”  That is when my dad really lost it. He began to laugh out loud.  Finally he stopped laughing and said-“It is a wood stove! There is no electricity!” The Scout and the leader looked shocked.  Dad walked over and showed them the firebox and the kindling that was split beside the stove.  He showed them how to build a fire and breakfast was finally on its way. Of course, it was not speedy.  Wood stoves take a while to get going!

And so ends the tale of the stove.

2015 Day 9: Welcome to Scout Haven!

I was lucky enough to be in Girl Scouts as a child.  I met a lot of people that were terrific.  I got to be outside and camp a bunch.  I had a sash with a lot of badges. I loved being in Girl Scouts!

My first experience was with Brownies.  The mother of my best friend was our leader.  I only had to walk up two houses in order to reach the meeting place.  It was great!  And we got to go to Day Camp at Scout Haven during the summer.  That was the best! We meet at the Scout Hut in town and rode a bus to the camp which was about 30 minutes away.  The entire time on the bus we sang songs together.  One of the first ones I learned was “The Ants Go Marching”.  We were not restricted from religious songs so we also did Kum By Yah.  We sang rounds with one side of the bus being one group and the other side being the second group.  The time flew by.

Once at camp, we met up with our patrol which was a smaller group of girls plus a leader and assistant.  Generally these were high school or college girls.  They were idolized by all us young Scouts. The first order of every day was the raising of the flag.  The best job for the day was to be in the color guard and help with the flag raising.  Generally a camper would get to do it once each camp.  It was a great job.  Then we would leave the flag circle and go with our patrol to  the First Aid hut to get a big pinch of sulfur to put in our socks to keep bugs away.  Yes, we did the sulfur every day!  During the day we would have crafts, camping skills classes like putting up tents or cooking, and swimming in the lake.  We also all had chores to do to keep the camp clean and tidy.  Each patrol had a chore chart.  The yuckiest job was the latrine orderly.  In case you are uninformed about latrines, they are outhouses.  And since you “used” them, you had to help clean them.  I can remember ours being fairly new.  They had two little seat areas that were separate and afforded some privacy  The latrine workers had to sweep the latrine.  Then they had to put a big scoop of lime into each privy hole.  Finally, you used a big brush to wash the seat with PineSol.  So now you know how to care for a privy!  All us city girls were really fascinated by the whole outhouse thing!

On the last night of camp, all us little Brownies had a parent night.  We did skits about what we had learned.  We displayed our crafts. And we cooked out the perfect supper–Girl Scout Stew (which I still cook to this very day). Everyone toasted marshmallows and made S’mores which was a real treat!

The last year of Brownie Day Camp gave campers the chance to spend the next to the last night at camp. Oh boy! I loved that. I had a new flashlight, a sleeping bag—I was ready for anything.  We spent the most of that day putting up our tents, making a fire circle to cook our dinner that night, and just being excited! We cooked our dinner over the open fire and breakfast, too.  It was then that I realized that camping was my favorite thing to do. I love being outside and watching the sun come up.  I love listening to the frogs and birds.  There is nothing better.  Thank you Scout Haven!

2015 Day 8: The Pickle Girl

I have always had a taste for some very specific foods.  My Nannie taught me the wonder of fresh corn, butter beans, cucumber salad and hot tea with a little milk.  My neighbor taught me the goodness of freshly fried okra.  Oh my! I can taste that right now.  My Dad taught me the wonder of an unusual food-dill pickles.  He was a pickle man.  His favorite was a brand that was described as genuine dills.  Not kosher.  Not spicy.  Not those little gherkins.  Not sweet.  He was a dill pickle man from the top of his head to his feet.  His favorite snack was a chilled dill pickle that he would carefully cut into fat slices and a small stack of soda crackers.  He would eat a slice and then eat a cracker.  What can we say-he was a precise creature of habit. He also had his OWN jar of pickles.  No one ate from his jar.  Ever.

From the time I was a little girl, I loved pickles, too.  Sometimes Dad would give me a smaller slice to enjoy.  I loved them.  So my Mom started to buy two jars of pickles.  Because I was not as picky as Dad, she would frequently purchase a different kind of dill pickle.  Sometimes she would buy slices because they were on sale.  Sometimes she bought kosher ones.  Sometimes she bought whole dills.  I was fine with anything she bought.  To me a pickle is a pickle. If they were those thin slices, I would fill a coffee cup with slices to munch on as a snack.  Or I might fill a cup with slices to eat with a sandwich.  My Mom even sent  pickles in my lunch.  That was hard because they were juicy and would leak.  My lunchbox always smelled like pickles.

When I turned 8 years old, we had a family party for my birthday.  I liked that the best.  My Mom would always get a cake from Pat-A-Cake Bakery.  It was a white layer cake with confectioners sugar icing and lots of roses on top.  That was my favorite cake.  After dinner, I would open presents from my parents and grandparents.  Then we would have cake. Yum! That year, I opened a card from my Nannie.  She always sent me money for books.  Yay!  And my Grandma would sent me a card with money, too.  More books!  I don’t remember what my Mom did for me because my Dad’s present just blew me away.  It was a BIG box.  And heavy. I could not imagine what it was.  When I got the paper off, I found a huge GALLON jar of dill pickles! We all laughed and laughed about the pickles.  I was happy as a clam.  I had a ton of pickles to eat ALL BY MYSELF!!!

Happy Birthday to ME!  The Official Pickle Birthday Girl!

2015 Day 6: Welcome to the 1950’s Technology Explosion (not)

I spent the 1950’s growing up in Marietta, Georgia.  As I have said before, it was a simpler time for everyone-especially children.  From Labor Day to the week of Memorial Day, children went to school.  We had few holidays.  For the first few years, I could actually go home for lunch. That was terrific, I thought.  During the summer, children went to the reading program at the local library and took Red Cross swimming lessons at local pools. Boys got to play baseball.  Girls got to watch. Girls did NOT play sports when I was a child.  I was happy my Dad and Mother let me have a bike.

Technology was limited.  Really limited. In fact, the word technology may not have even existed at that time.  Really!  There was NO Twitter.  NO Google.  NO cell phones.  NO internet……..I could go on and on about what we did not have.  Instead I will focus on what we did have that just might-and I mean just might relate to the concept of technology.

We had telephones.  You are probably saying-DUH.  Our telephone looked exactly like this—-

Telephone

The actual phone was made of some hard black material.  Later-much later-they were a hard black plastic.  Please notice that the cord is just a cord.  It is not a stretchy cord.  It has a rotary dial.  Our earliest telephone number was 5 digits.  I still know it! Our phone was in the kitchen.  We had ONE phone.  If someone called, you talked to them in the kitchen.  You couldn’t go elsewhere.  The cord did not even allow you to stretch to the doorway and secure some privacy.  Of course, privacy for children was ridiculous!  Kids rarely talked on the phone. Instead you walked to someone’s house and talked to them on their porch.  When you wanted to call long distance, you called the operator and she did the tough stuff of connecting you.  People rarely talked long distance.  We wrote letters instead. With ink pens.  On writing paper which you put in an envelope and used a stamp to guarantee delivery.   This phone is a long distance from the smart phone I have now.

When I was 10, I received a transistor radio. WOW! I was SO excited! I had made all A’s and this was my reward from my parents.  My radio looked exactly like the picture below except mine was turquoise colored. Turquoise was a BIG color in the 1950’s.

transistor radio

My radio was AM.  That was it.  It ran on batteries.  I could carry it anywhere I wanted to go.  There was no guarantee that I could actually receive the radio signals.  The big radio station in our area was actually close enough to our house that I could walk there.  They had programs like preaching on Sunday, ball games on Friday nights and music at other times.  The music had words you could understand and actually spell.  There was no profanity.  They came on generally at 7am and “left” the airways at midnight.  They had news every hour just like today.  But the news was less graphic.  And most times, the big news from other countries took a few days to get to us via the radio or even the newspaper.  No one was “instantly”  or “constantly” in touch unless you were sharing the same swing on the front porch or in the backyard.

So you may be thinking how awful it was to be without cell phones, computers or the internet. Well, I have news for you.  We talked to people in person.  Real conversations.  We had dinner together without watching television or checking Facebook or our email.  We wrote real letters on paper-not on the computer.  We read books that we had to turn the papers ourselves.  We were off the  grid and life was good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!