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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mama Wants a Fur Coat

When I was a little girl I can remember my mother wanting a mink coat (actually a stole). And, yes, we lived in South Carolina, in the low country where it stays warm most of the time, we have a few weeks of coolish weather, and summer runs early May through mid-October. And, no, global warming has not changed a thing. It has been this way all my life.
Now, I never pined for a mink coat. The closest I ever came to a fur coat was my white rabbit muff that Mama had me take to church every Sunday (between October and February).  I never could figure why I had the white fur muff - or for years what I was supposed to do with it for that matter. Mama always said it looked nice and it was something that made my outfit. To this day, I think she got the idea from some old Shirley Temple film. By the age of ten I shed the muff. Funny,  I was the only one who had one. Seems  it wasn't that big of a fashion statement on seventy degree Sunday mornings.

But, back to the mink. Oh, Mama wanted one. "For what?" my Dad would ask in fun. (He knew he was going to buy her one, he was just making her suffer.) "Oh, I could wear it to Country Club Dances, formal weddings, out to dinner when we go to Charleston, and to those big parties we always go to during the holidays." "You don't even wear a coat now when we go out." "But that's because I don't have a fur."
So the mink arrived at Christmas, actually two weeks early, so Mama could get good use of it at the big holiday parties and dances. Daddy commented that she did look good in it, but he was sure she was glad all the places they went were air conditioned. And, he said all the smart places had the air conditioners running to make sure the ladies "needed" their stoles.
In March Dad came down to breakfast one morning carrying Mama's mink. "Well, honey, tell it goodbye." "Goodbye? Where are you taking it?" she asked almost in tears. "Back to the store. You didn't think you were going to keep it did you?" Before she started crying, he just laughed. "Sweetheart, your fur has to be stored for the summer and the store I bought it from offers  a professional storage service." 
Every fall the fur came out of storage and every spring it made its pilgrimage back to the great fur spa (or where ever they kept furs over the summer). Dad and I found great humor in that mink stole. It didn't matter whether it was 40 degrees and raining or 75 and sunny, if the occasion was even slightly appropriate for such apparel she had it on. Dad commented one day, "You know when I bought that stole, the furrier told me I was lucky to live in the south because a nice fur would last a lady a lifetime, especially with our climate and limited number of times it would be used. But, it's good thing this one has to be stored during the summer, other wise it would be exhausted."

Photography Post - Christmas Card - Old General Store



Old Bate's General Store in Bolen Town, SC.

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One of the selection of Christmas cards I have available to anyone this year (for an extremely reasonable price). 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mama's Friends of Bill

Mama's visitation was most entertaining. Because we have such a nice (new) funeral home, the family could spread out and greet visitors without getting stuck in a formal receiving line. I navigated as best I could through the folks who had come to pay their respects, trying to make sure I spoke to them all. Most of them I knew, and those I did not know could read my, "I appreciate your coming, but I haven't a clue who you are," look and would introduce themselves. 

The callers fell into several groups, and some of those groups over-lapped. There was family - those we knew and those who introduced themselves as "Cousins".  There were the members of her various bridge clubs and lots of people from her church. (She was an active church member.) And, of course our garden club was represented. There were former neighbors, current neighbors, and people she had traveled with. She gave up her dream trip to China two years ago after she swore she spent a month recovering from a two week trip along the coast and into Alaska. 

As I was talking to a former neighbor a couple caught my eye as they came in. They were not dressed in a coat and tie or skirt like most people. They both had on tee shirts and jeans. I watched them make their way around the edge of the crowd, not speaking to anyone, move down the main room and disappear into parlor where Mama was lying in repose. I just continued my conversation. 

As I moved on toward a cousin I had not seen in a while, two women walked in the door. I did not recognize them and they also looked a little out of place. They walked straight up to me and introduced themselves by their first names. Then it dawned on me - these were Mama's friends from AA. Like, everyone else in the room, they too wanted to pay their respects.

I stood there for what must have been ten minutes as these two women talked about much my mother had helped them. One of them told of the many times my mother had to come to get her in the middle of the night when she was drunk and had no where else to go. They both made it clear that they and many others found strength in her sobriety and she had changed their lives. I asked about the young couple I had seen earlier. "That must be Jill. Your mother was her sponsor and she was finally starting to see the light. She has been struggling, but your mother took her under her wing when no one else would." After some more conversation, I thanked them so much for coming and for their kind words.

During the visitation, there were several more of her friends from AA who came in to pay their respects. And, there may have been more who blended in with the crowd - those we could not discern. But, we tried to speak to those we could and thank them for coming and if they wanted to talk, we listened. After all, that is what Mama would have done.

As a post script:

My mother had a horrible drinking problem  for years. Looking back this brought about many humorous situations that I can laugh about now. However, growing up with it was painful. 17 years ago, she got herself straight and, as far as I know remained that way until she died. She never hid her alcoholism from anyone. Once, she faced it, she was honest about it to others and herself. We all knew she was active in AA (perhaps not as active as she was.) She once told me that after sobering up, she was thankful for every day she had, because she knew the odds were against her years ago that would ever see that day.

Arbitrage, a Movie Review

First in total disclosure, Richard Gere in my books makes the ticket worthy, even if the sound doesn't work. I haven't yet recovered from his performance in American Gigolo (1980). The opening scene of his riding down the California Highway in the Mercedes Coup Convertible  with the top down, Blondie singing "Call Me" in the back ground still gives me pause. But, I digress. 

Arbitrage has two story lines going on at the same time. One is a great who-done-it, except you learn who did it early on and you are his side. The other keeps you intrigued. Richard Gere plays a hedge fund manager at the top of his game, master of his empire at the start of the movie. The 107 minutes flew by like the corporate jet in the opening scene. Susan Sarandon plays his wife, and though, usually I find her work brilliant, in this role she was flat. But who was watching her when Mr. Gere was on the set. And, his performance in is role of Robert Miller, is also good If there is one moral to the story, -  will men ever learn? Probably not.


Rolling Stone says "It's instructive to note what a killer actor Richard Gere can be when a movie rises to his level."


Photography Post - Christmas Card - Snowy Barn Yard




A barn yard dressed for the holidays in the snow.
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One of the selection of Christmas cards I have available to anyone this year (for an extremely reasonable price). 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fourth and Fifth Person

This is another past post of mine (several years ago) that will help illuminate my mother, bless her heart, to those of you who have only been reading my Blog for a year or so.


My mother had this annoying habit of speaking in fourth person. When she wanted to give her opinion and add some credibility, she would always start with, "Well, you know people say . . ." or "Everyone in town is talking about it." I could never define this habit, I just knew it irritated the heck out of me. I finally found that it is grammatically accepted. Now, I am not defending her, or saying it is correct, but my research says "The Fourth Person is sometimes used for the category of indefinite or generic referents." So, I am assuming the "generic referents" were the figments of my mother's imagination who were readily available to support and validate her opinions.

Now, I had an imaginary friend when I was 3 or 4 named Guggy but never recall relying on him and all his friends as my "indefinite" referents when I was trying to make a point to my parents. (Probably because I never thought about it.) His thousands of friends would have readily agreed with me on any issue. That would have given credence to any statement a 4 year old was trying to make. "All of Guggy's friends say it is OK to get to stay up late." Somehow, I don't think that would have swayed Dad. But I digress.

Now, I can assure you, if my mother (all 4 feet 8 inches of her) had walked in and said, "Now, James, Sue, Anne, Carolyn, and Joyce all say that Sara and Tom are having an affair," I would definitely had taken her seriously, after recovering from the shock that she had revealed her "referents". But, I wasn't concerned about going into the shock, because that was not going to happen. My concern was always that she would move from fourth to fifth person. That is where the indefinite referents talk among themselves. I can hear it now, "Well, everyone in my neighborhood heard that everyone else in town was saying . . ."

Oh, dear God.

Master, a Movie Review


What brings all this to mind is the film Master with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams. The trailers of this film struck me as tedious, long, and the story of two characters at odds with each, one being totally psychotic (Joaquin Phoenix.) The reviews came out mixed from the best film and strongest performances of these actors, Joaquin Phoenix's comeback, a story loosely based on the life of L. Ron Hubbard to dull, long, and dragging.  

Long story short, my DH suggested we go, based on reviews saying it is a must see. With this cast, it will probably be one of those Oscar night run aways and I'll be sitting there like a fool saying, "Well, it didn't look interesting." So we go. (Oh, and another small fact, it is 137 minutes long - do the math, that is over 2 hours. That is a serious investment of my time.) 

I do not want to be a spoiler so I will reveal no details, but to say 2/3s of the way through the movie, my DH turned to me, "Do you think this is as bad as I do?" I definitely agreed. (I had been watching out of the corner of my eye and I'm not so sure he had not been wrestling with this thought for a while.)  So we left. For the record Hoffman and Phoenix do give Oscar nomination worthy performances, however, the movie is tedious, long, and the story of two characters at odds with each, one being totally psychotic. 

Photography Post - Christmas Card - Holiday Mail Box



A snowy mailbox decorated for the holidays.

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One of the selection of Christmas cards I have available to anyone this year (for an extremely reasonable price). 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just Close It - Please

I swear on my Mama's grave - I did not make this up. Let's face it, even I am not this creative.

Yesterday, I was trying, in my role as Administrator of my mother's estate, to close some of her accounts so we would not continue to be billed for services we did not need or being paying for anything my Mama, bless her heart, no longer was using. My first call was to the company that handles the senior phones  (You know the ones designed for senior citizens - ten large buttons, cushioned handset, and preset numbers. It resembles something Playskool would have designed for kindergartners except this one really works for the "old folks" who don't know how to use it as opposed to the pretend ones they design for the 5 year olds who know how to operate a real one but are only given a play one. But, I digress.)

I reach a rather surly operator, I guess Nancy, the friendly one on all the TV ads is with someone else. This one may as well be Peggy with Discover Card. I explain the reason for my call. Her first comment, "There is a balance on the account." "I realize that. We just found the bill." "You cannot close the account until you pay the bill." "That's fine, I'll pay the bill now. Can I give you a credit card?" "Is the card in your name?" "Yes." "We can't accept that card. The payment has to be made by the person who's name is on the account." "But she has passed away." "You told me  that."

"Can I be transferred to customer service?" "Mam, this is customer service." "Do you understand that this is my mother's account and she has died, therefore she is unable to pay the bill at this time." "That is unfortunate." "And, what is your policy when a customer dies?" "Oh, their account must be paid in full." "And, how are they supposed to pay it?" "We accept Master Card, Visa, and Discover Cards." "I just tried to give you a Visa Card." "But that was your card. If she is unable to provide her card, then you will need to complete our Form 41, and return it with a certified copy of a death certificate and a check for the full amount of the bill on the estate bank account." 

"Then the phone account will be closed?" "If it is paid in full. However, if the next billing cycle starts prior to the correct forms being received and processed then it will  not be paid in full." "Seeing, we are very close to the start of a new billing cycle, can we just make the check out for an additional month's amount?" "You can. However, if it is received and the amount is incorrect, the system will void out the transaction and you will be notified that the account is in arrears."  I'll spare you the remainder of the painful story.

One would think this company, given they market to folks 65 and older, would be prepared to deal with loved ones of customers who have passed on. This "lady", and I use the term loosely,  acted as if she was offended that a customer died and even more so that we wanted to close the account.

And, this was just one call. AT&T insisted (through their computer voice system) that I must hold for the next available operator to handle my request. However, every 30 seconds during my 25 minutes on hold a recorded loop played reminding me that most services could be handled easily on www.att.com and that I should go the Internet to get faster customer service. 

Naturally, while I was waiting for a live voice, I tried the "more efficient web site". All I found there was an on line Chat Customer Service Rep named "Charlie" who kept saying that he could not understand my request (to cancel an account.) 25 minutes with continuous loops suggesting I consult a web site which is telling me it does not understand my request is more that I can handle. Since AT&T does not have a brick and mortar store (for home phone service) I will try one more time and if that doesn't work, I may just send them a check with a polite note. (Their policy is "Make the Impossible Possible" - folks, communicating with you is still impossible.)

The irony here is that both Time Warner and Direct TV (the "evil cable and satellite companies") were most sympathetic, both offered their sympathy for "the loss of my loved one", quickly took the information they needed, made payment easy, prorated the accounts back to her date of death, and the transaction was finished in less than five pleasant minutes each - go figure. 

Meanwhile, "Peggy" is still reading from her script annoyed that customers have the audacity to die and customers of AT&T (whose problems cannot be resolved online) are languishing daily on hold going into a hypnotic state with the company's loop about their web site that runs every 30 seconds. 

Photography Post - Christmas Card - Icy Country Pond

Over the past few years, I have had friends comment on our family's annual Christmas cards. So this year, I thought I would put together a selection and make them available to anyone would who like them (for a very reasonable price). My "Photography Posts" for the next several days will be from this collection.

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A print done from a photo I took of our family's farm pond taken on the one day it snowed in 2010.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Birthing Martha Stewart

This past weekend my oldest daughter was in town to prepare the food for a baby shower we were co-hosting with some family friends. We started baking and cooking on Friday night and were still working on the finishing touches thirty minutes before we loaded the car up to tote it all to the hostess's house Sunday afternoon.

The shopping list for ingredients for this project started with 4 pounds of butter, 5 pounds of regular sugar, 12 boxes of powdered sugar, 3 boxes of brown sugar, and a bottle of brown corn syrup. And, that was just what I didn't have on hand in my pantry and 'fridge. Obviously, this was not going to be a low calorie, low carb affair. But hey, when was the last time you went to a baby shower where they served carrots, celery, tofu, and rice cakes - and you didn't leave hungry and mumbling under your breath.

The first item were these peanut butter pretzel goodies that are dipped in white chocolate. Although, I'll be honest, I don't think you do them justice unless you eat them straight out of the freezer. However, that was not an option at the shower. Even though I do not care for peanut butter, the first time I had these at my daughter's house in Texas, I was certain that the intervention of a 12 step program would be the only way able to stop me from dying from consuming them. Luckily, I wasn't the only one addicted and due to a limited supply, my life was saved. But, I digress. 



Our next project was 60 sugar cookies we baked in the form of giraffes that were then decorated with royal icing. These (or at least the ones who escaped with all their tails and legs still attached) were put in clear bags tied with pink ribbon for parting favors for all the shower guests. Any rejects or injured ones were set aside as sustenance for the cooks. 



After the giraffes came dark chocolate cupcakes that were baked then topped with rich butter cream icing. We needed 45 "perfect" ones, so naturally we baked 65- 70. (Always be prepared.) 

At this point it dawned on me, 27 years earlier, I had birthed Martha Stewart. How did my daughter have the energy to do all this?  Where did she get all her ideas?  (For example there were toothpicks in the top of each cupcake decorated with papers giraffes, elephants, zebras, and lions to match the "jungle" theme.) 

And, all this time, I am grazing. I don't even want to know how many calories I have consumed in preparation for the event. Naturally, over the weekend breakfasts and lunches were skipped. Who needs fruit or cereal when there are stray giraffes about or random peanut butter and pretzels - the breakfast of champions? After one has taste tested the rich chocolate cupcake batter (several times), butter cream icing (a bunch), and white chocolate dip many times - who is hungry? 

And, there were the caramel oatmeal lace baskets we made to hold diced fruit - but I'll spare you the details of that creation. That was a cook on the stove, bake in the oven, mold on a cup, and cool on a tray - production of epic proportions. One I plan to leave for the professionals in the future.

Finally, it was time for the event. The food was taken to the the shower and served to the guests. A grand time was had by all. By the time I got home late Sunday afternoon, I was exhausted. How much weight had I gained? Oh, how I had sinned. But, I had been successful in not bringing any of the food back home, so there would be no guilt or temptation from the evil peanut pieces, iced giraffes, caramel lace baskets, or butter cream iced chocolate cup cakes. 

All I wanted for supper was something simple, like a bowl of soup - something guilt free I could eat knowing that I was not pasting more fat onto my hips. And, I knew where to find it. We had two containers of tomato soup in the refrigerator.  I opened the refrigerator door and sure enough there was the tomato soup just as I knew it would be - on the bottom shelf. 

Then to my horror I saw next to it a bag of pink butter cream icing. I needed to throw it out. I knew I needed to throw it out. I had to throw it out. Maybe I needed to taste it first to make sure it was OK before I threw it out. Oh, the things we will justify. Tomato soup? What tomato soup?



PS- Yes, there should have been more pictures but I was not present as a photographer. Who had time? I was on the line as a food prep, junior chef in training. 

Photography Post - Scenic Autumn Drive

A beautiful drive on a brilliant fall day in North Carolina.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Mother's True Love

Nature is known for animals who mate for life. Several come to mind - Wolves, Prairie Voles, Bald Eagles, Turtle Doves, Mansoni parasitic Worms, French Angelfish, Black Vultures, Swans, and Gibbons. And, as an incurable romantic, I can relate - most of the time. I signed up for better or worse and I can honestly say, that at least 27 of the 30 years I have been wed to my true love have been blissful. And, no there was not a three year period of misery, just a total of a 900 or so days, I could have done without, but out of 10,986 - I'm not complaining. But, I digress.

My Mama, God rest her soul, is a whole 'nuther can of worms. She was dearly in love with my father. However, their 32 year marriage ended in divorce (what we referred to in the family as "the recent unpleasantness") due to her proclivity with the bottle. He just could not compete. And, she loved him to the day she died.

He died in 2000, 13 years after their divorce and 11 years into his second marriage. I never realized how much denial my mother was in about her divorce until my father died. At the time of his death, Mama had suffered a horrible fall and broken most of the bones on the right side of her body. She was in a rehab facility recovering. I would have never wished that hardship on her, but God was looking down on me and my brother. 

We had often worried in angst of handling the two grieving wives (the former and the current) at my father's funeral. As much of a lady as my mother was, the jury was out as to how she would handle playing second fiddle at the funeral. But, the old man up stairs gave us a pass on that one.

A week or two after the funeral, I was at my Garden Club (my mother was also a member, but  was unable to attend the meeting since she was still in rehab) and a dear family friend stopped me. "I was so sorry to hear of your father's death. I know your mother has to be taking this hard. They must have been married what, 40 something years?" I just thanked her and politely moved on. Another friend of the family came up. "Oh, you poor dear. And, your mother, I just cannot imagine what she is going through. But she has y'all."

It was at that time, that it dawned on me. My mother had just never bothered to let anyone know that she and my father were divorced. Daddy had been ill for several years and had been out of the social scene due to his health and Mama had just carried on. I guess if anyone asked, she just explained that they liked sleeping in separate houses - on separate sides of town. Surely, someone was surprised to see another lady seated as the grieving widow at the funeral? Only my mother could pull that one off with such aplomb.

I can see her justification now. "Well, it is just not something you talk about in polite company. Besides, no one asked me." Perhaps in her drunken stupor she failed to remember the details of the events. She may not, but the rest of us do, and it wasn't pretty.

When I was telling my brother this story after Mama's funeral. He just laughed. "I can top that one. At her funeral, one of her friends commented about her being a widow for 12 years. I just let it go." "I think one has to be married to the deceased at the time of his death to meet that requirement." "You know Mama, she wasn't into the technicalities if they got in her way.

When we were getting her retirement settled, we learned she had an annuity that was still listed with Daddy as the beneficiary. My brother called to get the details. He hung up the phone and just shook his head. "Oh, she would have changed the beneficiary, except that would have required her signing a form saying that he was no longer her husband." "And, she wouldn't do it?" "Nope. The benefits coordinator said her file shows that she updated it just a year or two ago and said there were no changes, including her marital status and beneficiary."

Southern women - there is their life and then there is reality. Only in the south, do woman get to chose and get away with it. Although some might think my Mama's story would be fitting for some Faulkner novel.  It made my life fall somewhere between ""Sweet Home Alabama" and "Rumor Has It . . ."

Photography Post - Fall Leave on a Pond



Fall leaves reflected in a mountain lake.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

WWMD

My mother, bless her heart, left us with much - memories, family pictures, lovely antiques, a lifetime of jigsaw puzzles, and as many plastic ponchos as we could ever use. We have generations of old china and dozens of new glasses. 

There are the plethora of pillows, countless clocks, and the "As Seen on TV" treasures we have found. We cannot forget the "King of Swing" Buckwheat doll, that priceless object d'art. However, for all her prized belongings, her treasured antiques, her random objects, we have yet to find a will, as in Last Will and Testament. 

There were a lot of things about my mother that were predictable - getting from her house to anywhere else in town involved a rather circuitous route past the front of my house,  she never failed to remember everyone's birthday, anniversary, or other significant holiday and the cards always arrived on the correct day despite the many failures of the US Postal Service, and she was the only person I knew who had her car serviced not one mile past the exact mileage suggested by the manufacturer (as if the car were going to self destruct should the service schedule not be met.) A lot of things about my mother were predictable - her last thoughts of distribution not being one of them.  I only fear how ugly it could get should the inheritance of Buckwheat be up for grabs. What if there are not enough plastic ponchos to go around?

Seriously, this is a problem. After searching high and low, gleaning through each piece of paper, flipping through every magazine, catalog, and book, turning over every sofa cushion and mattress, we have yet to find one. Being the tidy book keeper, and detailed business woman, I feel certain this is a detail she did not overlook. However, we cannot find it. It was not in the safe deposit box. None of the three attorneys she dealt with had knowledge of one existing. Her CPA could offer us no help either. So here we are, asking ourselves WWMD (What Would Mama Do)?

Photography Post - Colorful Gourds

A basket of colorful gourds


Friday, September 14, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Who Knew?

Trying to sort through Mama's things that our family doesn't have a need for has become something Milton Bradley certainly could use as inspiration for their next board game. Dealing with the 30 or 40 jigsaw puzzles, most of which are still in sealed boxes, is not difficult. And, I feel certain we can find someone who can use the clothes, especially those brand new, still in the unopened original packages. 

The fun part starts when you get to the half dozen or so (new) wind up alarm clocks. Was this part of a "White Rabbit" syndrome, "I'm late, I'm late"? I don't think so, given she was always early to everything, but then again perhaps this is why. Or, the several dozen sets of drinking glasses in her kitchen cabinets that still have the price tags on them. Then there are the numerous (more than I care to count) unopened packages of disposable aluminum baking pans and trays she had stashed away, not to mention the dozens of rolls of aluminum foil and boxes of trash bags. Always prepared - to bake, wrap, and trash?

When we opened the coat closet, we discovered nary the coat. However, there were two dozen throw pillows stacked from the floor of the closet all the way up. And, naturally, a few jigsaw puzzles were stashed on the shelf (and a clock or two.)

We have quite the selection on new screwdrivers, light bulbs, cheap batteries (no Duracells), Sharpies, and boxes of un-sharpened No, 2 pencils. Also, she was always prepared for the unexpected downpour with an unending supply of plastic ponchos.

Throughout the house we found unopened  "As Seen on TV" treasures such as a "Plant Globe", "Magic Wallet", "Twin Draft Guard", and "Magic Mesh". But, the all time grand prize winner was the "King of Swing", the authentic limited numbered edition "Our Gang" Buckwheat doll produced by the Hamilton Mint. I would not have been surprised to find a Scarlett O'Hara doll by the Franklin Mint  (given my mother's infatuation with Margret Mitchell's saga of the Old South) or Lady Diana (to accompany to the boxes containing magazine and newspaper articles covering everything from the Princess's engagement announcement to Prince Charles to her Funeral). But, Buckwheat? O-Tay!




Photography Post - Autumn Country Scene

The a barn on the side of a country road on a fall day in the mountains of North Carolina.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ah, The Things My Mother Kept

"What's in this stack" my brother asked, looking at a rather large stack of papers, folders, and pictures sitting on my mother's guest bed. "Very sensitive documents I thought you may want to review." "Like insurance forms, real estate documents, and tax statements?" "No, your report cards from grades 3 through 9." 'She kept those?" "Oh, those and much more." "I fear to ask." "Pictures." "Oh, God." "Yes, I never knew you favored powder blue leisure suits."

Photography Post - Madris Gras Mask

  Several years ago, while I was in the Big Easy on Bourbon Street, I came upon this.  


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Photography Post - Old Car

One of our first images of Cuba in traffic on the way into the city from the airport.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Photography Post - The Chair

Remember the Bench, well this is the chair, that could be in Charleston or Savannah, but it is in La Habana Vieja (Old Havana). 





Saturday, September 8, 2012

Photography Post - The Battery


A family of tourist on the East Bay Battery at dawn.

Photography Post - Green Balcony


A Cuban man watches the street below from his balcony. Note the decaying beauty of old architecture juxtaposed with the TV antennae, clothes line, and trash bags.


Friday, September 7, 2012

A Discount on the "Low Country"

I try not to solicit through my Blog, however, I get many requests for my books, The South Carolina Low Country, (both hard back and soft back editions), as well as the 7x7 inch soft back edition, my little Charleston Notebook, a 40 page journal for notes, lists, whatever, with photos of Charleston  and the SC low country throughout, and Unto These Glorious Hills, a photo book few folks know about, of the mountains. 

I do not keep extra copies on hand, however, copies can be purchased at the gallery at Five Rivers Market in Orangeburg or the Salkehatchie Arts Center in Allendale. They have always been available online from the publisher Blurb, which brings me to the point of this post.

Blurb is offering a discount code (good until September 24, 2012) for 20% off the purchase of the books (or 25% off a purchase of over $50). Use the code SKILLS (all caps) at checkout. There have been some issues with their codes in the past, however I went in this morning as a random customer and it let me use the code at checkout.


Again, I only post this because folks often request copies, especially for gifts, and I wanted to pass this discount on to you. (Or, whomever you think would want to use it.)

Photography Post - Abandoned Cuban Homes


A prime example of the lovely mansions in the Miramar area of Havana, the well to do Cubans were forced to abandon when they fled to Florida (and other parts of the US) during the revolution. The government confiscated the property and all the contents. Many of these seized manors, such as these  in neighborhoods, as well as  commandeered estates on acres of manicured lawns behind gates, are now foreign embassies.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Photography Post - A Bench




A bench which could be any where, in downtown Charleston or Havana. But no, Savannah, Georgia. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Give Them a Little and . . .

A local assisted living facility approached me this past spring about displaying some of my photography in their home. I was flattered. Then the lady went on to explain that due to budget cuts, their decorating budget had almost been eliminated, so they were trying to be "creative". I wasn't exactly sure how to take that, but I said I would be happy to loan them some of my work.

Two weeks ago while Mama was in CCU, they called and asked about the photography. I briefly explained that I was "tied up" at the moment, but if it was OK with her, I would be back in touch shortly, but I was definitely still planning to loan them some of my work. 

Last week, I got around to meeting with her. She showed me the hall where she would like to display my work. "We plan to have an art show to show case local artists. We are giving each artist a hall or area for their work." She and I walked down the hall which currently had framed English country scenes every twenty five feet or so.

 "How many pieces do you want?" I asked. "As many as you think will decorate this hall." "And, do you have a certain theme in mind? Like all beach scenes? Are prints of Charleston? Or the low country?" "I think just a mix will do." I got the feeling either she had not really put much thought into it or she didn't care. "What if I bring you several pieces and you can choose the ones you feel will best fit." "That will do. And, you can help us decide where each piece will be hung." This was important to me because being my work I wanted it staged to reflect some cohesiveness. The canvas of the Red Car in Havana does not play well next to a Pink Rose Bud.

I left the home, not really sure what I was tasked with delivering. At my home, I went through my surplus supply of framed work. Having more smaller pieces, I was concerned that they would need more larger pieces. After all, the current pieces they had were much larger than anything I had. So, I went to the gallery and gathered up some excess larger pieces I had.

I made a list of the work I was going to take to the home. (I am fairly anal about keeping up with inventory.) And, it was quite a list. Knowing I would be bringing some of it back, I wasn't concerned. There were many larger pieces and the hall was only so long. And, they did not really have a use for so many small pieces. Currently, they only had one or two groupings of smaller pictures.

When I delivered the pieces, the lady seemed very pleased. She commented on a piece or two that she said were her favorites. We walked down the hall, I was to decorate, and  into an empty suite. "You can put the pictures here for now."  Knowing they could be a tripping hazard in the hall that made sense. It took several of us, several trips each to bring them all in from my car. When they were all in the suite, they were arranged on the floor, around the walls. The lady I was working with and another, who was helping, walked around looking at the pieces.

"I brought a lot of pieces, so you could chose which ones you wanted," I said as I looked around at about $3500 (retail price) of my work. "Oh, we'll take it all," she said without hesitation. I was almost too stunned to say anything. "Well, looking at the length of the hall, let's see what will fit." "Oh, we'll find a place for all this. I really appreciate your bringing them." We started walking down the hall and I was thinking we were going to start staging the work only to realize I was being walked out. 

"Did you bring any of your business cards?" "No, I was going to see which pieces you chose and bring those when I brought cards for each photograph."  "You can just drop those off next week. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate your bringing us these photos."  "Now, I need to remind you that several of these pieces have been submitted for awards and should they be accepted for consideration, I will need to come get them." "Oh, I totally understand that." "And, any of these pieces are for sale at any time." "Oh, of course."

Getting in my car, I had to stop and think to myself. What just happened in there?

Photography Post - Golf Course


Morning on the golf course



Saturday, September 1, 2012

We'll Take It

Mama's house is one of a dozen or so fairly new patio homes on a cul de sac built in town. Most of her neighbors are senior citizens and retired. As the community developed, it became a very popular place to live. It did not take long for most of the lots to sell and houses to spring up. The few lots left were at the other end of the street where there was more traffic noise. I guess you could say, Mama's house is in a prime location.

The morning after she died, my daughter answered the door and found this darling little white haired man from the funeral home standing there with the  the condolence book for folks paying their respects and the stand for it. He very professionally expressed his sympathy to the family, came in, and set the stand up just inside the front door. As he was leaving he turned to my daughter,"I know this is not appropriate . . . never mind." My daughter assured him she felt whatever he wanted to say was fine. "Well, I just wondered, if now that your Grandmother has passed away, if the house will be sold." Then he hurriedly added,"But, I know now is not the time to ask." She just smiled and said, "Yes, we will be selling the house." He lit up. "Let me give you my name and phone number. Please call me and let me make the first offer." With that he whipped out a pad and paper and wrote the information down and handed it to my daughter.

When she came into the kitchen, my daughter was so tickled to tell the story of the little white haired man. She added, "But, I'll have to run his name by the little ladies in the neighborhood. I certainly don't want them mad me for talking about selling the house to someone they don't approve of." We laughed at the story but realized she was serious. Until that time, I had not thought about Mama's house being something retirees may seek out.

After the funeral, the funeral director came to follow-up on the details (and present his bill). While he was at the house he picked up the stand and commented to my brother. "You may be interested to know that one of my employees is very interested in buying this house should you decide to put it on the market." My brother smiled, "So we have heard."

Yesterday, I was at Mama's and up to my knees in trash bags, boxes, Christmas ornaments, family pictures, and jigsaw puzzles when the door bell rang. I opened the door and there stood the nice white haired gentleman from the funeral home. "I just came by to get the stand." "They picked it up Tuesday." "Really. I didn't know that." Then he looked around at the living room. And, I knew what was coming next. With some hesitation he asked, "Mwife's in the car, would you mind if I went and got her so she could look around at the inside of the house." I told him not at all.

He brought his wife in, who was just as nice (and enthused).  I apologized for the mess and gave them a tour of the rooms, pointing out the features. In the kitchen, I showed them the laundry room. "Now would the washer and dryer go with the house?", he asked. Looking at the sun porch, his wife looked at him, "I'm not sure we can get both of our sofas out there." And, when we were in the guest bedroom, she asked, "Is that a full size or a queen size bed?" As we made our way back into the main room, he commented, "And, our dining room table will fit here, just like hers does."

We chatted for a moment, they thanked me for taking the time to show them around, and they left. I watched as they slowly made their way down the front walk, I am sure no doubt, making plans for annuals next spring. I called my daughter and told her about my visitors. "I just hope it works out that they end up buying the house. Otherwise they are going to be heartbroken." 

Later that afternoon, I saw them slowly drive by.

Photography Post - Purple Flowers



Purple flowers in a field at sunset.