Friday, May 27, 2011

The British had it Right

holi·day (hälə dā′)
  1. a day of freedom from labor; day set aside for leisure and recreation
intransitive verb
CHIEFLY BRIT. to take a vacation or vacation trip

Given that Memorial Day weekend is upon us (ie a Holiday) and I am off work, I thought I would be literal about this and look the word up. Free of labor - well, I'm off work - my paying job. The catch here is the second part - "day set aside for leisure and recreation". What is involved in our recreation of camping does not qualify as "leisure". I want to "Holiday" like the British do. That sounds so much more sophisticated.

Yes, I know they conquered the world and ruled the continents and the seas long before we had planes and other travel luxuries. They saw their way through the bush in Africa and across the plains in India, yes, in tents. So civilized, with china, silver, fine wine, and aged scotch. But then again, they had their Sherpas. 

As we load the tent, the screen house, the stove, the wood, the lanterns, lamp poles, the food, the three coolers, prep table, grill, chairs, sleeping bags, air mattress, clothes, and what else will fit in the truck, I think the British had it right. Take it all, including the kitchen sink, but take your people to go ahead of you to prepare for your arrival, the Sherpas to move the loads, and the crew to clean up after you leave. Sounds like a plan to me.

I'm still looking for the Sherpas.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cash - What is That?

I forgot how to use cash, not money mind you, but cold hard cash. But, unfortunately, thanks to some Cyber thieves, I am remembering pretty fast. My debit card was "comprised" (a bank term for they stole my money and went on a spending spree in London). Luckily the bank's fraud division called me within 8 hours and inquired if I had purchased $23 worth of cookies in Minnesota and $784 worth of designer clothes in London that morning. Seeing that I had just gotten out of bed, and my bed was still located at home, I replied that I had not.

My card was "Hot Carded" and I was told another one would be sent to me within 7 to 10 business days. (The check is in the mail and I'll respect you in the morning.) In the mean time, I had no debit card. Given that was Saturday morning, I had an hour to get to the bank to cash a check to fund my activities. I did so and I was set or so I thought.

On the way home from the bank, I stopped to buy gas. As I pulled up to the pump, it dawned on me, I am going to have to go inside and pay for this gas before I pump it - and there's a line in there - of very slow people. I got my gas, which took twice as long, but I did learn that Luwanda's man got out jail last night but spent all his money at the Paradise Party Club and didn't get home until three am.  And, Junior's car won second place at the drag strip, but would have won first place if Billy John hadn't put that illegal part on his engine. But I digress.

I went to the grocery store. After loading up my buggy with several days worth of groceries, I realized I didn't have enough cash and would have to write a check. That meant pulling out my checkbook, my driver's license, and a pen. Naturally the check out girl was new and had to page the manager to get assistance in taking my check. I didn't dare look over my shoulder at the line of unhappy customers behind me. Sure, they all thought I was one "those" people - you know the kind who refuse to use debit cards because they fear the bells and alarms will go off at the ATM machine if they mash the wrong buttons (or worse yet, some cyber thief will get their card and empty their bank account.)

When I went to return a dress, the sales clerk looked at the receipt and said, "We'll just credit your account." "You mean my debit card." "Yes, the one you used to make this purchase." I'm afraid you can't do that because that card was compromised and is no longer valid." She looked at me as if I had 2 heads. "Well, that is our policy." "Can you give me cash?" "No, not since you purchased it with your debit card." After much discussion, she finally agreed to give me store credit for the return. 

Since this debacle has started, I have been unable to shop online and had several accounts cancelled because my automatic payment was declined since it was associated with my "Hot" debit card. Then to add insult to injury, the 7 to 10 days ran into 14, so I called the bank. Fearing my replacement card may have been stolen, before I could stop them, they issued me a new replacement card and cancelled the first one. Now I will have 7 to 10 more working days before I can expect my new card to arrive. [Insert Primal Scream] 

How do folks live this way? I am exiled from any cyber shopping, denied the convenience of automatic payment, forced to stand in line to pay for gas, and have to remember to get a check cashed to provide for any daily funds. If there is a lesson here, I can only think it is to have 2 checking accounts, each with a debit card, so should one be "comprised" you have another to fall back on. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ith a Therios Matter

My mother called yesterday."I just wanted to let you know I'm going to the mountains for a few days." "I hope you have a good trip. The weather should be great." "I really don't care what the weather is like, I just need to get away." Should I ask? "What's wrong?" "Well, it's just the Florist. We had our homeowner's meeting and he is going to take over."  Jumping in with both feet I asked, "What has he done now?" 

"Well, he and his committee have this agenda." "Was he elected President?" "No, but they are still going to take over. He has them hook, line, and sinker." "Mama . . " "No, he has them over for his dinner parties once a week." "Maybe you should join his committee." "Join it? It's all I can do to get away from it." "Mama, it cannot be that bad."

"His newest thing is that our sign out front looks 'dinky' and no one could ever find us if they were looking for us. Well, I just told him, that no one had ever told me they couldn't find me." In my mind I could see the two of them going mano a mano - this 4 foot 8 inch ball of fire and this six foot eccentric florist with a very pronounced lisp. "Then he started on the mailboxes again." Oh, God, not the mailboxes!

"You should hear him, 'Y'all thould thee what everyone thinkth of uth. Ith not funny. We need a fancy thine out front, a big one with all kindth of ivy and greenery on it. I brought thome exampleth for you to thee."Mama, that's not funny," I said laughing. Then she continued, "Ith a therious matter. We pay a lot to live here, people thould know how to find uth." "I hope you didn't laugh at him." I was too mad to laugh at him.

"I still say, let him be. He is pretty much harmless. So what if you end up with a big new sign out front?" "We can't afford it?" "Let him figure that out or pay for it himself." "God you sound just like my neighbor." Finally a voice of reason. "Well, I think she's right." "But those poor ladies he has under his spell." "Trust me, Mama, they'll thurvive."  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We Made It, Yet Again

Well, I guess we got a reprieve. I don't know about you, but I'm still here. I guess if we survived Joesph Smith's prediction of Armageddon sometime 1891 or earlier, Pat Robertson's declaration that the world would surely end in 1982, and that issue in 1992 with the comet Hale-Bopp and the Heaven's Gate cult (that was when I finally gave up Koolaide if Jonestown wasn't a big enough hint). Of course there was always that long awaited infamous Nostradamus prediction that the world would end in August of 1999 - I think that one set a record being made 400 years prior. And, who can forget Y2K - 1/1/2000 when all the computers would not be able to tell difference between 1900 and 2000 and possibly bring about everything from international blackouts to a nuclear holocaust. Oh yea of little faith - we are still here. 

Of course, if I lived in California, I might think maybe some of these are coming true in a slow painful way. Take a hint, where else do you live in fear of your house being carried  off the hillside with sliding mud or being engulfed in the annual uncontrolled fires or falling victim to the earthquake that is just a moment away. 

Personally, I'll take my chances down here with the religious zealots given their track record. At least, they are more entertaining and they give us some lead time.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The End is Near - I Don't Think So

I hate to break it to all these doomsdayer folks - the end cannot be near, much less this coming Saturday. It just doesn't suit. I have way too much to do. I do not have time for the full revelation of God, the salvation of the believers, and the damnation of (us) sinners. It isn't penciled in on my calendar and besides if this date is so important and has been known for so long, why isn't a permanent "date to remember" on the calendar. (How could Hallmark miss an opportunity - you know all the "See you on the other side", "Don't forget to repent before it's too late", and "You'll be missed" cards?)  For that matter, why do any calendars bother to even have May 22 forward.

My Grandmother, Granny, and Aunt Kat were all God fearing church going women. And, not one of them ever told me to mark that date on my calendar. In fact Aunt Kat and Granny were staunch Presbyterians and you know John Calvin gave all of them the road map to their life when they were born, seeing that they were pre-ordained. I never saw the map stop on May 21, 2011 .

These folks are telling me to repent now to save my soul. The way I see it, I didn't know it was lost and if it is as lost of they say, there is not enough time in the next 24 hours for me to repent. Besides, I still need to clean out my attic, organize the bedroom closets, visit Cuba, buy my Carrera, house break Ellie, and find that piece of jewelry I "misplaced" a year or two ago. So the end will need to be post-poned.

But, before I fast forward my bucket list and lose sleep over this, I think I will put these folks in the group with those still searching for Elvis, the ones who swear the moon landing was actually filmed on a Hollywood sound stage, and the few who have little doubt there was second gunman on the grassy knoll in Dallas. We'll see if any of us are around on Sunday. But, just in case, I may just polish off a box of Whitman Samplers this afternoon. After all, I would not want to miss a chance enjoying that sin, should we all perish.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Mother's Bridge Club

My mother is currently in three bridge clubs. She must be a fairly good player because she often plays in tournaments and, when asked, will admit that she wins "here and there". Those are her words for "a lot".

When I was a little girl, my parents were in a couple's bridge club and I can remember the nights they hosted the club at our house. Like most all other social events they hosted, there were copious quantities of adult beverages served and consumed. I can only assume that cards were dealt, hands were played, and games won. My brother and I could hear the laughter and merriment go on until the late hours.

Now since my mother no longer has a predilection for the bottle, she is no longer married, and the average age in her bridge clubs is, say, seventy five, my assumption was that they had become more genial and proper affairs. But then again, I have been known to sell my mother short and assume she has slipped into the boring years of matrondom to live her life as a good southern lady should. Let's just say I'm glad to hear she is still alive and well and perhaps it's best I'm on a need to know basis.

Yesterday, I was visiting her and she asked me where she could get the inside of her car cleaned. Now, my mother's life line is her car. She is constantly on the go and one never knows what she may have with her. Years ago she started driving a small SUV so she could carry pieces of furniture if she found a bargain. It is not unusual to find the occasional mahogany chair or wicker table in the back of her vehicle. And, there are the bottles of water, packages of crackers, and God knows what else. (She says you never know what you may need on the road.) My brother swears if we ever have a national disaster, she could live out of her car for a week.) But I digress.

I gave her the name of the car wash we use that does a fairly decent job with the inside. Then asked, "Just out of curiosity, why do you need that done?" "Well, it's a long story, but I'll keep it short. Jane picked me up for bridge the other day and her car was spotless. Next week, it is my turn to drive and my car needs to be cleaned out, so I really need professional help." "You car pool to bridge?" thinking to myself that made sense, given the cost of gas and that everyone was trying to save money and live on the conservative side.

"Well we have this system. Each week we trade off. One drives, one brings the refreshments, and one brings the money." "The money?" "The money, for the game. Of course, we already have it in envelopes. We are always discreet." Of course, I thought, southern women would never want to be ostentatious with the money they pass around at the Bridge table. My Mother - playing Bridge for money. And, I always thought they passed around mints and nuts.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Registration Ovals

I know the sophisticated Europeans aren't quite sure what to do with us down here. I've commented before about the liberties the folks have taken with the international vehicle registration ovals they use in Europe. Well, today I saw one on the back of a pick up that would definitely throw them for a loop. It read "RIBS". Some folks down here just don't get it.

Of course, on the other side of the window was a sticker that read "I'm not tailgating, I'm just drafting". Need I say more?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Great Hunter

It must be in her nature, that's all I can say because I can assure you she has not received any "in house" training that I know about. I'm talking about Ellie. Yesterday, I'm working away and I realize that there is total silence in my office. As, in 'not a creature is stirring' silence. Given, it is not nap time, this can only mean one of two things, Ellie is no longer in the room or she is up to something no good. The former will require a quick search of the house to see where she is doing the later. I assume the worse and turn around to see how much damage she has done to what.

She is proudly sitting there, (when she sits "up" she is all of 12 inches tall) with the carcass of what looks like one of her toys proudly displayed in front of her. Now, when I say carcass, I mean, I have to pick it up to identify exactly what I am looking at. And, yes, it is was her stuffed rhino, rest his soul. His back is ripped open, his head dangles to the side, as fluffy stuffing hangs out of various places. But the thing she is most proud of is the squeaker that lays on the floor beside her trophy. She has killed the beast and dug the illusive squeaker out of his chest. This is the goal of most terriers I am convinced. Like the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks. 'I know it's there and neither rain nor snow nor dark of night will keep me from it.'

As I reach to pick up the 'Grand Prize', she immediately puts it in her mouth and high tails it out of the room with me in pursuit, leaving the remains of the rhino. It is all I can do to wrestle the small round piece of plastic from her jaws. And, when I do, it is clear, not only have I hurt her feelings, I have issued a death sentence on some unsuspecting dog toy. It is just a matter of time.

Finally, I understand the market for the toy "skins" they sell at the pet shops. I thought it odd to buy a dog toy without stuffing and a squeaker. That must be the politically correct way these days. I'm afraid that wouldn't go over so well here. The hunt and the kill is what it is all about. After all, what good is a skin with a friendly face on it? 

Monday, May 9, 2011

She Swims, She Flies

When I got back home from my trip out West I was curious to see what new tricks little Ellie had learned. Just last week she had become Ester Williams in our Airedale's water bowl. One afternoon I heard her yapping, with glee - I might add, and I looked out the window to find her soaking wet, frolicking in the water bowl as if it were her own personal pool (albeit only 5 inches deep, but hey when you are only 8 inches tall you don't need much).

If I thought her aquatic maneuvers were entertaining (actually, they lost most of the "fun factor" when I had to towel dry a dripping wet terrier every time she came back in) little did I know she was just getting started. By the time I got home Friday night I learned that she could fly.

We have dog gates throughout the house to "contain" the pups to the den and the kitchen. They are only 15 inches tall. Yes, that only comes to Thatcher's knees but I always said she rides the short bus, bless her heart. But I digress. But in addition to Thatcher, the gates are sturdy and tall enough to contain our Scottie and Ellie- we thought.

Last week, while I was gone Ellie learned that one doesn't need to be encumbered by fences, just sail over them. I was walking down the hall only to see Ellie take the hall fence with all the grace of a seasoned steeple chaser. And, "we" don't stop and 'hop' over the gate. Oh no, we gracefully clear it by a good 2 feet on either side.

Thatcher meanwhile is standing there, looking over the barrier (that comes up to her knees) and I can see the confusion in her mind: "How did she do that?" Maggie of course is sitting there protecting her zone and thinking to herself, "Show off. If I just had opposable thumbs, I could open the damn little dog door that is built in the gate." At that point Ellie enters Maggie's "force field" and is given a low growl of warning.

Once again Maggie looks up at me with her brown eyes pleading, "She can go home how. Could you please call whoever left her here and tell them that she is ready to be picked up." Should I break the news to Maggie now that not only is Ellie here to stay, but we have a new addition coming in June? Probably not. Best not to give her more time to plot.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Great Aunt is a Fat Lady

When I was little, the definition of a great aunt was a fat lady. I had a great aunt on each side of my family who weighed over 300 lbs. Both qualified for the circus. Now don't get me wrong, I adored them. In fact, in good southern tradition each one of my daughters bares one of their names. Flora Katherine aka Aunty and Virginia Smoak aka Aunt Jeannie. Both of these ladies had personalities as large as they were, especially my Aunty.

My father was reared by three women: his widowed mother Mary Margaret (Mamie), her sister Flora Katherine (Fode), and his much older sister Katherine (my Aunt Kat). These women adored him, and he could do no wrong. Mamie and Fode were a pair, as different as night and day. Mamie, my grandmother, was a proud southern lady, always properly dressed. She was not uptight and enjoyed life, but she did not live on the edge. She did not even get close.

Aunty lived on the edge and loved every minute of it. And more than that, loved to taunt her sister. She was a cigarette smoking (Salems - I can see them now), cussing, card playing, fun loving woman. And this was when I knew her when she was well into her 60's. God knows what she was like when she was younger - and if half the stories told were true. She also was a nurse who worked on the local army base during the war (ie WWII) and had delivered (what seemed to me) half the babies in Scotland County, NC.

After a family meal, I can remember her sitting back in her chair, chain smoking, telling some colorful story, usually about my Dad - at the expense of my grandmother - in her rough smoker's voice. My grandmother would protest, "Now Fode, you know that's not true." And Aunty would reply, "Yes, it is Mamie. That's exactly how it happened and you know it."

Thinking back on those evenings, I know why I was so intrigued - they were like my conscious with 2 sides - there was Mamie, neat, prim, proper, correct, but a little tense. Then there was Fode, smoking, cussing, laughing, pushing the envelope.

Maybe that's not a good analogy because I don't see a lot going for Mamie's side.

Mother Nature's Sense of Humor

My mother and I showed up at a friend's wedding in the same dress. Now, I'm not talking about same color or similar design - I'm talking same dress. And, my mother is not one to try hide her age by dressing a generation or two younger than she is. Let's just say her style is not "hip" as my youngest daughter would say. This meant that if she was not trying to achieve a "younger" look, then  I had achieved a matronly look - by default. Would anyone notice?

Would anyone notice? Are you kidding? We were at a home town wedding in a small town and it has been said that my mother and I resemble each other. Well, on this day, that was an understatement. To make matters worse, she looked better in the dress than I did. 

The good news was that the reception had an open bar. The bad news was that I had to attend the wedding ceremony first. Certainly, the church was big enough for me to slink into the back row, unnoticed. Or, better yet, go home and change clothes. There are two things a southern woman can always change - her mind and her clothes (and of course her hair color - but that is for another day). 

Unfortunately, in this case,when I made the former, I had no back-up plan for the later.  It wasn't like I had a nice selection of dressy wedding frocks hanging in my closet. Then, it just got worse. A friend of mine approached me. "I just saw your mother and she looks so good." Then she stopped. "Are y'all wearing the same dress?" "No kidding." "You didn't do that on purpose, did you?" "Sure, I enjoyed the mother-daughter outfits so much when I was six I just couldn't resist doing it again." I said sarcastically.

If I killed her now, where would I put the body? I asked myself, not referring to my mother but my busy body friend who was about to turn my evening into reality show Hell. Then my youngest daughter came over to me. "Do you realize that you and your mother have on the same dress?" "Yes, it's hard not to." "You are worse off than I thought." I appreciated the vote of confidence. 

Now, I had the ultimate fashion embarrassment - showing up in the same dress as another guest as well as the unspeakable humiliation of it being the same one my 78 year old mother had chosen.  And, my daughter had all the ammunition she needed to back her theory that not only did I lack taste, what little I had was that of a matronly frump. We are our mothers. And, if not now, we will morph into them eventually. You cannot fight Mother Nature. 

I pray, if anything, there is retribution. Eventually, I can watch my daughter become a matronly frump.  What am I thinking? That will never happen. The matronly frump issue only deals with me - that is unless Mother Nature has a sense of humor.