Getting Lit

Getting lit on our end of the block doesn’t involve a drink, although we could certainly use one afterwards.  Had Thomas Edison been our neighbor, you’d still be lighting candles right now.  I think it’s something in the air.

Our neighbors on the other side–Beauregard and Boo–have always had tall, lovely, aromatic NC Frasier Firs until this year.  After years of cajoling, she’d finally convinced Beau to try an artificial tree and she’d hit the after-Christmas sales and found a real beauty:  a large, very deluxe, artificial tree for Christmas 2013.   She was understandably nervous when they finally took it out of its box last week.

The assembly didn’t go smoothly.  Boo encouraged Beau to read the instructions, but he declared that he didn’t have time to do that.  Instead, he began shoving the parts together, figuring he could build a tree, whether it was the one on the front of the box or not.  It was definitely more “NOT.”

When the branches became a tangle of twisted wires, Beau began ripping the lights off the branches, even though they were carefully wired in place and even camouflaged with a pipe-cleaner-like material covering every wire.  (It was a VERY deluxe tree!)

Seeing the lights and the camouflage material being yanked was enough to make Boo panic.  She called the store where she’d purchased the tree.  They told her to bring it in and they’d have one of their technicians put it together properly.

Again, things didn’t go smoothly.  Now that the eight-foot genie was out of the box and lying in crazy-quilt fashion all over the den floor, there was no way they could get it into their car.  They called a friend for help.  She rushed over in her van and they loaded it up with all the tree it could hold: about 2/3 of it.  The top part had to ride in the car with Beau and Boo.

When they arrived at the store, it took all three of them to get it inside.  I can imagine the scene,  the three walking parade style, carrying the pieces still tethered together by wires, some of them dangling.  The tree technician took it back to Critical Care and told them it would take some time.

The technician was able to work his miracle and the wounded tree is in full glory now, standing proudly in their den, lights glowing.  Boo added a small stick with balsam fir scent to make it seem even more authentic.

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Dearly Beloved hooted at their tree story.  He wanted to know why Beau hadn’t called HIM for help, since tales of DB’s…um… expertise in matters of electrical wiring are circulating through the neighborhood.

After they left, I went back to assembling our own pre-lit tree and DB went back to carrying wheelbarrows of leaf mulch around back to the azalea beds.

Our little tree is several years old.  We’ve always set it up in the bay window of the sunroom and the direct southern sun has taken its toll.  Instead of the original deep green, the tree has faded to a sickly greyish-blue.  (My friend Beanie suggested I think of it now as a blue spruce.)  Blue or green, it has always been easy to assemble and I’ve assembled it so many times,  I went ahead and decorated it without bothering to test the lights.  Oops.

I plugged it in, but only a small belt of lights around the middle of the tree came alive.  GOOD GRIEF, did we have an epidemic in the neighborhood???

When DB came inside and saw the sorry sight, he immediately reached in among the branches to fix it, not even pausing to remove his jacket.   He appeared oblivious to the ornaments bouncing off the tree as he worked.  As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes The Jackass takes over in these situations and for a while there, I was understandably nervous.

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Several broken ornaments later, the tree was in one piece and lit from top to bottom.  Applause!  Applause!!  Applause!!!  My man!

Notice the Christmas tree skirt in the picture above.  It’s an inheritance from a relative who never met a sequin she didn’t like.  She made them all by hand.  Consequently, I have three tree skirts, plus a large, round tablecloth that looks much like an enlarged tree skirt.  Ghosts of Christmases past.  They’ve been stashed in the attic for ages, but this year I decided to bring out my heritage in all its sequined…um… glory.  We may be light-deficient, but danged if we don’t still sparkle.

Maybe that contributes to the tree looking more anemic than ever this year.   It’s also wonky; the treetop angel keeps leaning left.  I wonder if Santa ever puts a tree under the tree?

I’ve a mind to hit those after-Christmas artificial tree sales myself.  I’m thinking that I’d better start at the store which has a tree technician.

Just in case, mind you.

Calm and Bright? Not Exactly.

Our neighbor decided to hang some of those large, lighted Christmas balls on the trees in her front yard this year, no small undertaking for a woman who lives in her car.  Well, practically.   Hauling her sons to all the practices, games, and school activities that go with young boys these days, she probably racks up more miles than a long haul trucker.

She bought the materials, made and wrapped the balls, dug up the electrical cords, and headed outside.   Now it was time to attach those balls and electrical cords to the limbs in the tall trees.

All that hauling the little guys to practices appeared to pay off.  She had them tie a rope that was attached to an electrical cord around a small football and they took turns tossing it over the branches until they hit pay dirt.  It wasn’t easy. The suckers on the limbs either blocked the football or kept the rope from pulling along the branch properly.

Nevertheless, they hung three balls that first day before heading off to basketball practice.  A day or so later, she brought out more of the lighted balls to hang and the football tossers ran into the same problem, particularly with one limb.

That’s when Dearly Beloved, wandered up our driveway and came upon the scene next door.  He and Scout, our Wonder Dog, had been heading out for a walk, but he couldn’t resist stopping to give advice:  “Now just calm down. “

(If I could rip those words from his vocabulary, I’d make a stab at it.  It’s advice he gives to me, to the dog, to various athletes and referees on television, to politicians. . . arrrggghhh!  My blood pressure is going up just thinking about it.  I’m sure the neighbor was ever so thrilled, too.)

Finally, Mr. Calm couldn’t help but join in the toss to get the rope in the right place.  As he was doing so, he presented his bona fides by telling them about The Chandelier Incident in the previous post.  Now, I wasn’t on the scene, but as I understand it, he did make a successful toss.  Just as he gave his “There!  I fixed it!” grin, our neighbor pointed out that when he’d yanked on the rope, it had detached the electrical cord,  so what they had at that point was a rope dangling from a tree limb, too high to reach.

At that instant, Odessa, who I used to refer to as the wonder dog before we got Scout, came flying out their front door at warp speed to show off her wonder-ness.  She ignored the assemblage there and dashed across the street, pausing a few seconds for a quick sniff at a tree.  Scout ran over to join her.  DB was calling Scout and the neighbors were calling Odessa, so at that point I went outside to see what the commotion was about.  Everyone was yelling.   I resisted the urge to say, “Now just calm down….”  Instead, I began yelling, too.

Scout came back, but Odessa took off again and turned the corner at the end of the block, racing toward the busy street nearby.  She was out of sight in no time.

All innocence.
A pimped-up Odessa.  All innocence.

I brought Scout into the house and DB took off after Odessa.  He said later that he stopped  and asked several people had they seen a brown dog.  She’s a bit hard to describe.  (Well, she wears her hair parted down the middle….)  One man said that he’d seen “a brown blur” run right through the traffic and kept going.

One of our neighbor’s friends happened to spot Odessa some distance away and was able to coax the dog into the car.  The friend was driving over to our neighbor’s– to pick up the boys for basketball practice, of course.  In the meantime, because DB’s phone charge had run down, we couldn’t call to retrieve him, so Odessa arrived home well before he did.

The rest of the Christmas balls have been hung now.  I’m not sure when it happened; one day they were simply there.  Perhaps in the middle of the night when she could do so without the intervention of man, beast, or ball practice.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stepping Out in Atlanta

When my friend Martha and I went on a “weather permitting” trip to Atlanta last weekend, she pulled two pedometers out of her bag, saying she was sure we’d walk 10,000 steps each day, with all the plans we’d made.   It turned out that we had more battery life than the pedometers.  We didn’t really need them; our exhaust-o-meters indicated that we surpassed our goals.

We had tickets to The Girl With the Pearl Earring exhibition at the High Museum of Art Saturday afternoon.  We saw the Dutch Masters paintings, then headed upstairs to see two more floors of other featured art.

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She looks vaguely familiar, doesn’t she?!

Martha, a Bed and Breakfast affectionado, outdid herself by finding us accommodations at The Social Goat, a  B&B in the Grove Park area, near the Atlanta Zoo.   We didn’t quite get up with the goats, turkeys, roosters and chickens, but we did feed them after our own breakfast of blackberry French toast and sausage, grilled peaches and oranges with granola and yogurt.

We had tickets for a Sunday afternoon concert in Roswell, GA  and even though the weather was iffy that morning,  we decided to take our umbrellas and head to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, to see the exhibition from the Mosaiculture International Montreal. These living sculptures are making their first appearance in the US and “fabulous” is inadequate to describe it.

Take a look at a few of them:

One of two giant butterflies.
One of two giant butterflies.

There were cute rabbits hiding in the grasses. . .

A batch of bunnies.
A batch of bunnies.
The unicorn wasn't "loveliest of all" but he was awfully cute.
The unicorn wasn’t “loveliest of all” but he was awfully cute.

There were two cobras.

Look how he coils!
Look how he’s coiled!  His friend was on the other side of the walkway.

Earth Goddess was magnificent!  Love the hair!

Rising right out of the hillside....
Rising right out of the hillside….

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The fish twirled and spit water in their pool.
The fish twirled and spit water in their pool.

Gooseberries and strawberries frolicked in the vegetable garden.

Walking berries.

Could they have been more spot-on with this canine cutie?

Shaggy dog.
Shaggy dog.

This Ogden Nash poem was posted beside him:

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There are 19 creatures in this exhibit and they’re scattered throughout the grounds among the permanent garden treasures.  I’ll show you some of those another time.

The rain suddenly began in earnest, so we ran to the car and made it to the concert with enough time to grab a quick lunch first.  The music was delightful enough to make us forget about our wet feet.

We’d managed to keep up with each other all weekend, but somehow we went out of different doors after the concert and it took us over 30 minutes to find each other again, thus ensuring our 10,000 step count for the day.

*   *   *   *   *

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.” 
― Victor HugoLes Misérables 

For Whom The Road Tolls

Our knitting/e-mail group got together for a few days at Lulu’s house in Birmingham this summer. They’d needle me if I posted a photo of the group, so here’s Lulu’s dog, Sami, just to prove I was there.

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Why yes, that IS a pink elephant on the table and since wine was consumed,  I’m relieved that you can see it, too.  (And yes, you purists, that’s crochet, not knitting.)

On the way back, I stopped to see our daughter and her family in Atlanta  and attend one of Middle Grandson’s swim meets.  His older brother had strep throat, so I volunteered to drive Middle Grandson to the meet, a 20-mile or so trek on Atlanta’s highways and toll roads in rush hour traffic.

No problem.  The calm voice of Miz MapQuest anticipated my every question and took us right to the pool.

I set up camp in the last spot of shade to be had– just outside the men’s room door.

“How will I know when you’re swimming?” I asked Middle Grandson when he walked by later.

He stuck out his arm, which now sported a hodgepodge of Sharpie-tattooed tic-tac-toe lines and numbers.

“Take a picture of my arm,” he said.  Genius.

I misread the arm photo for his first race.  By the time I realized my error and made it  poolside, all I saw was an empty lane.  Grandson was probably out of the pool and off eating a popsicle somewhere.

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In full-blown crazy grandmother mode, I bulldozed through the crowd of timers, coaches, and players for the next race. Squatting at pool edge, I aimed my camera to get a closeup of Grandson when he bobbed up at the touch pad.  I wanted to  send it to Dearly Beloved.

My camera honed in on the backstroker coming toward me, ready for the big finish.

What th’. . . ?

The kid that popped up, nose to camera lens with me,  was a complete stranger.  Wrong lane again!  Grandson was already towelling off.  I think that his time in the race was better than mine in trying to stand back up from that  squat.

My son-in-law, who’d come directly from work, called out, “Did you SEE that?  His best time yet!”

Mumble, mumble.

When persistent thunder delayed the meet for an hour or so, I decided to head back to the house.  Son-in-law stuck around and, as it turned out, saw a few more heats before the match was called for the night.

Once in my car, I kicked off my shoes and told Miz MapQuest to reverse her directions and lead me back.  At the toll entrance, I threw my quarters into the basket and started to drive forward.  The gate didn’t lift.  What now?  Did I even HAVE any more quarters?   Wasn’t an attendant supposed to be wandering around?  Had the people lined up behind me never heard of patience???

And where the heck were my shoes?

I scrounged around and found more quarters–and, because I’d already driven past the basket in anticipation of being able to proceed, I now had to walk back to put the money into the basket.

I didn’t take time to look for my shoes, so I opened the door and put my bare feet down,  cringing at the thought of what might await.

Want to take a guess what littered the pavement?

????

Pennies.  Dozens and dozens and dozens of pennies.  I’m don’t think my feet even  touched the nasty asphalt.

Who throws pennies out at a toll booth?  And why?

I usually pick up loose change I see in parking lots and on sidewalks,  so it might have been difficult to walk away from all that loot, had not the honking serenade behind me insisted.

The toll gods accepted my coins this time and the gate raised.  I jumped back in the car and screeched out of there.

I called Dearly Beloved.  Son-in-law had been sending him excellent videos of the races, he told me. . . “But I’m sure watching the videos is nothing like actually being there.”   

Yup.  Nothing like it at all.  I didn’t say so, though.  He didn’t offer me a penny for my thoughts.

Between a Rock and an Avant-Garde Place

When my friend Martha and I went on the fall tour of historic homes in a nearby small town,  one home wasn’t historic at all–but it turned out to be the most fascinating.  We almost skipped it.  We were soaking wet, it was still raining, and this part of the tour was mostly outside, to see the homeowners’ art collection.  It was the last place on the list and we were pooped.

The family home is set well back in a wooded area off a quiet road.  The owner is a sculptor whose work has received international acclaim.  We knew we’d found the right house when we came upon the roadside newspaper and mail boxes.  (Click on any photo to make larger.)

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There was a gate, of course…

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and a nearby sentry made of  scrap metals and repurposed junk, like the tractor seat.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A dog and cat stood on either side of the front walkway and beyond the walk, an old parking meter marked a graveled spot.

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Dozens… maybe hundreds… of his sculptures are featured throughout the property.  None of the large rocks, like the one beside the meter, were original to the site.

Art works inside the house hung from the very high ceilings, over some of the windows,  on the walls.  Mantel, floor, tables, and ‘most every available surface held more treasures.  Some of the collection was the work of other artists, but most was done by the homeowner.

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The hearth room in the center of the house had minimal furnishings and maximum art displays. Many were whimsical in nature, like the fish “skeleton” over the mantel.

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Dining Room Table
He made the dining room table
Patio table.
…and the patio table.

A larger-than-life horse had once been a pile of old gears, washers, bicycle chains, wrenches, and other scrap metals.

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Woman waving pink ribbon.
Woman waving pink ribbon in front of a giant sunflower in a blue pot.

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An outbuilding held a huge, kidney-shaped pit for skateboarders, including the couple’s teenage son.   On weekends they open it for others to enjoy.

Half of the skateboard room.
Half of the skateboard room.

Remember, every boulder was hauled in and carefully placed–dozens and dozens.

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I have dozens more pictures of sculptures; arbors to zebras.  So many unexpected surprises–like this guy on the upstairs balcony:

Statue off upper balcony.  Swim trunks and winter scarf.
Swim trunks and winter scarf.

Meanwhile, back inside the house. . .  remember the woman in the hearth room, sitting there looking at the Christmas tree?

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I’d walked right past without even realizing that she wasn’t real.

I remember thinking that her outfit seemed a little casual.

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Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Postscript from the Ledge

Friend Martha called yesterday to reschedule lunch.  (Read yesterday’s post to make sense of this.)  

We decided to meet on Tuesday at a restaurant we’ve never tried.  Although we can’t remember the name of the restaurant or the street it’s on, we’re fairly certain we’re talking about the same place: the one that the yoga instructor’s son opened.

We talked about my mishaps of last week and I mentioned that I’d even written a blog post about it.

“Then you might want to add a PS.  Remember that I cancelled lunch because a group was coming to tour my garden?”  Martha asked.   “When no one had shown up by 11, I called to make sure I had the time right.

“I had the time right, but the wrong week.  They’re coming THIS Thursday. “

Lunch ought to be fun.  I hope we show up.

–   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’ – C.S. Lewis

“A good friend will bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting beside you saying, ‘Damn that was fun!'” – Author Unknown

Calendar Girl

Occasionally, someone will ask if my Dearly Beloved minds that I write about his… um…. missteps.  HAH!

Believe me, his ego remains unaffected.  In fact, he feels that he’s given me plenty of material for additional gems I’ve never written–a mistake on my part, since he considers the ones about him to be my best.   Without him, it’s all squirrels.

My ego not being as intact as his, I’d have to leave the country if he took up blogging.  He’d have to learn to type faster.   For the past week or so, I may have blown any previous record for screw-ups.

I baked cookies and cut up fruit last week when it was my turn to provide refreshments for our library Book Club Meeting.  Since I reside in the State of Panic, I was running late, so DB helped me load the car.

He helped me unload it when I came home 20 minutes later.  I’d been a week early. The meeting wasn’t until this week.

When I brought in our Sunday paper and discovered it didn’t have the comics, Parade, or ads in it, I called the Circulation Department to request a complete paper.  The automated voice informed me, “Today is Saturday, April 13.”   Oh.

On the day of my doctor’s appointment, having not received their usual confirmation call, I phoned them.  Even though I had the appointment slip in hand, I was convinced I’d done something wrong when they said they had no record of an appointment and put me on hold.  I  had plenty of time for mental self-flagellation while I waited.   Was it only my appointment that was missing or was I a goner, too?

Eventually, someone picked up to inform me that their new computer system had lost practically everyone’s appointment and it was a madhouse there.  Could I come next month?

Sure.  Just remind me.

My friend Martha and I had planned for a month to attend a gardening seminar to hear a speaker we both enjoy.  We had spoken and e-mailed about how much we were looking forward to it.  I had my computer calendar send me two reminders.  Nevertheless, Monday night I received an e-mail from Martha asking, “Are you okay?  Where were you?  The program was delightful.”

I shrieked.  I thought the program was Tuesday.

Martha reminded me that had DB and I bought the house next door to them (for sale when we moved back to Charlotte) this wouldn’t have happened.  “We could take care of each other,”  she told me.

We made a date for lunch the next day–so I wouldn’t have time to forget.  When DB asked what time I was meeting Martha, I couldn’t remember if we’d set a time. I  said I’d call her, but I checked my e-mails first, in case she’d written.  She had; she was canceling lunch.

She’d forgotten that one of the suburban herb guilds was coming to tour her garden at 10AM.

Yep, we should have bought that house.

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“All the girls feared their Father less than they did their Mother, because she sometimes remembered things and he did not. Lord Brightlingsea was swept through life on a steady amnesiac flow.” 
― Edith WhartonThe Buccaneers

“Why can we remember the tiniest detail that has happened to us, and not remember how many times we have told it to the same person.” -François de la Rochefoucauld

Dog Day Afternoon

We’ve had no measurable rainfall since early September, so when the weather forecaster predicted rain, we were hoping it would rain cats and dogs.

Turned out to be only dogs.

Miss Piggy’s steep decline in recent days indicated the end was near.  She’s been lying around, barely opening her eyes, refusing to go on her short walks.   It is not an exaggeration to say that she lives for food, so Dearly Beloved has been giving her extra treats to ensure that she ended her 16-year lifespan with a happy stomach.

We noticed that her left eye, the one that the vet treated for a scratched cornea a couple of weeks ago, had a gooey discharge and made an afternoon appointment with our vet.

In the meantime, one of our neighbors called and said that a man had rung her doorbell to ask if she knew the owners of the large white dog that was following him on his walk.  The neighbor didn’t, but offered to put the dog in her fenced backyard for safety until the owner could be found.  It was a soft, fluffy, friendly female, she told me when she asked that I send out a Found Dog Alert to the people on my Neighborhood Watch list.  Her neighbor photographed the dog so that it could be included.

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Later, because the dog-keeping neighbor was going to be gone all afternoon, we brought the dog to our house.  First,  I loaded her in my car and took her to the nearest veterinary office to see if she had a microchip.

They discovered a couple of things:  “she” was actually a neutered “he.”  Oops.  There was also a microchip, but the registration info was not for this dog.  I corrected my e-mail to acknowledge the newly discovered organ.

We left the white dog here with a bowl of water and took Miss Piggy to our vet.

Three vets studied the infected eye and recommended a veterinary eye specialist.  Our vet would call to make the arrangements.  Miss Piggy isn’t dying, she told me.  She has a very sore eye and a bad headache.

Back home again, we waited to hear from the vet specialist and also the white dog owner.  Here is a Fast Forward of the events:

Young mother is out pushing her child (who has the flu) in her stroller in an effort to soothe the little girl.  She encounters another walker who asks has she seen a white dog because a man was out riding around looking for it.  The young mom tells the walker about the e-mail alert, but the walker does not know the owner’s name or where he lives, but does describe his vehicle and remembers he said the dog’s name is Barney.  Young mom calls me to say that the owner is “out there” and she’ll try to find him.  She continues to push her snoozing child around as she watches for the car.

About 30 minutes later, she called again.  She’d flagged down the owner.  He drove over immediately to retrieve Barney.  In all, seven people had a hand in the reunion.    Another Neighborhood Watch e-mail went out and five dog-loving neighbors immediately sent their congratulations.

Back to Miss Piggy and the eye specialist.

The waiting room at that office was full of flat-nosed dogs with eye ulcers… boxers, bulldogs, Boston terriers.  Like Miss Piggy, most were older dogs and beloved pets.

The waiting room was also full of hairy chairs.   Drat!  I’d been out to lunch with a friend earlier and hadn’t had time to change out of my best brown pants and new sweater.  I chose the grey cat hair covered chair to Dearly Beloved’s right.  Miss Piggy assumed her usual waiting room position under our chairs.

I have no idea what the eye specialist was telling us was the problem,  but she numbed the eye and scraped it with a succession of swabs, leaving it now completely ulcerated.  She prescribed pain pills and told us to continue the antibiotic eye drops and moistening drops we were already applying until we return in two weeks.

Then came the final insult–the dreaded cone collar.

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We heard scuffles and bangs during the night as the patient tried to get comfortable in her new armor.  She’s going to be even more distressed when she realizes that the abundance of treats must be curtailed now that we know her demise is not imminent.

The predicted rain turned out to be only a slight drizzle, not even enough to clean our car windshield as we returned from our dog day afternoon.

Village Flower Festival

Any time my British friend mentions the Flower Festival her village holds annually in late summer, I beg for photos.  The floral entries were set up in the village’s historic church.

Church of England.

This one is clever, I think.

Help me figure out the theme here:  mice, cat, teapot, packages…?  I know it’s there, but I’m clueless.  Anyone…?

I love the “cream” pouring out onto the berries here.

This floral entry is called “Cream Tea.”  It looks luscious!   Good thing the festival included a bake sale.

Clever placement.  Take a closer look at the admonition on the window.

Flash!

Are you familiar with this flashy flower?

My friend Martha brought this one over to me.  She says it’s a Brugmansia or Datura, sometimes called an Angel’s Trumpet.

To get an idea of the size, here it is beside some more familiar cut flowers.  Its fragrance packs a punch, too.

It does have one shortcoming… you have to look fast!