·        Rainy Monday, 27 September 2004

The Roof leaks & Kid Stuff…


One can live magnificently in this world

if one knows how to work and how to love.

-         Leo Tolstoy


You do what you must do.  If you are a dog owner, you also do what the dog must do.  Rain began just before the morning walk, rain falling at about an inch per hour. 


South Carolina’s rainfall average is about one inch of rain per week. There are flash flood watches throughout the state and in many county’s there are tornado watches.  This is all the result of the 4th hurricane to slam into the Florida coast this month. 


Zoë and I splashed along under my big red umbrella.   She seems to enjoy the inclement weather, if her stride and pace are an indicator. 


Siberian Huskies look like they are smiling or laughing.  It is something about the way they hold their mouths.  Today Miss Zoë trots along grinning and occasionally stopping to shake off excess water.   She is a northern breed so foul weather is her element.


Walking without the grandchildren allows us to stride along and it feels good.  When the children and Mark are along, the walk sometimes slows in pace and is more of a stroll.  People heading out to work stand in their doorways, sipping coffee, and watching as we splash through puddles and make our way down the street. 


The wet weather means there is an extra step in our routine when we arrive home.  I grab a towel and wrestle with Miss Z as I try to dry her paws and rub some of the water out of her dense fur.


Despite my best efforts, the girl escapes and trots down the hallway to the living room where she gives a long, satisfying shake and plops down to lick her feet dry.  There are puppy-paw-puddles on the hardwood floors. 


As I do damage control, I pass the room where grandson Cam sleeps.  In the middle of the floor is a large puddle.  I head back to the kitchen for a mop and bucket and soon have the floor dry and the bucket strategically located to catch anymore fallout.  A leaky roof….oh the joy of homeownership.


This has happened a couple times and Mark has been up in the attic crawl space with a flashlight to determine the extent of damage.  There is no obvious evidence of a leak, but leak it does.  We will have to call a professional.  Another large unexpected expense, in a year when we are trying to bring our finances into line with Peace Corps limitations. 


Today I will catch up on routine housework and read Brownie leader literature.  (There are several books to wade through.) 


The news that we will have several sets of house guests in November set off a furniture moving frenzy for me last Friday.  I had planned to pare down our household inventory at the Oktoberfest Officer Spouse’s Club Flea Market at Ft Gordon, GA this weekend, but now I am opting to keep some of the furniture till we say goodbye to houseguests.  After Christmas we will become more proactive about paring down our possessions and boxing up special pieces for storage. 


The new arrangement in the living room is not entirely satisfactory, but it seems much more cozy.  Both the cat and dog have established strongholds near the couch where the relaxation action centers.


 In the past we had a TV room, but now the television dominates our living room in a large, unwieldy cabinet which I am eager to dispose of in the future.  In the interim, it is a comfortable space to gather in.    


Mark administered Cam’s haircut this weekend.  He parked the boy outdoors and let the wind carry away the red hair that the clippers harvested.  While the men played barbershop, Randi and I sanded a small picnic table and two benches and then painted them a bold, happy red.  It was a gratifying project.  We plan to use the table and benches at the flea market next weekend. 


After a little yard work, Mark and Cam built a fire in the chimenea and we trucked our linen and dishes out to the pergola where we could watch the fire and enjoy the autumn air.  We dined on corn on the cob, rice, brussel sprouts and beef fillets.  Randi and I made a centerpiece from some of the fall flowers – bright yellow mums, marigolds and purple butterfly bush blossoms in a Noxzema-jar-blue vase.    


Randi enjoyed collecting a basket full of pine cones which we may use for a project later.  I did some touch-up paining on our old stake-sided wagon which I plan to use as a fall decoration on our porch.  I will probably put a few pots of mums in it and a pumpkin or two.


Late Sunday afternoon we all relaxed and played Monopoly for a couple hours.  Mark was the land baron after a slow start.  We finally forfeited the game to Grandaddy and took Miss Zoë for a nice long evening walk before making a big bowl of popcorn and settling in for the night.


Here’s another nice quote:


The love of one's country is a natural thing.

But why should love stop at the border?

       - Pablo Casals



  • Friday, 17 September 2004

Walking Miss Zoë…


Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;

they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

-         Marcel Proust


The morning walk was trying.  Last night there were high winds, tornado watches and flash floods throughout the area, part of the turmoil spawned by Hurricane Ivan.  Many upstate communities have no power today.  The neighborhood is littered with downed trees.  The sky is grey and the warm air is thick with sticky, steamy humidity.  All this could make a walk less than satisfactory, but these factors are not what made my walk so difficult.


A stray puppy managed to sneak up on Miss Zoë and me and proceeded to follow us for the duration of our walk. What a nuisance!  


Initially I did not notice the pup, but he trailed me for several blocks before I realized he was there.  He was an artful dodger and skilled at staying behind me so when I turned to see why Zoë was being so unruly, there was nothing to see. 


I tried to continue my walk, but Miss Zoë was insistent, jerking her leash and snapping her jaw.  She threw back her head and sat down.  I jumped back and stumbled over the golden ball of fluffy puppy that tripped me up.  Somewhat stunned, I stared down at the little guy.  Zoë began sniffing him, licking him, pawing at him… The pup yipped in delight.


I looked the pup in his sweet eyes and barked out a firm “No!  Go home!”   I stamped my feet and shook my big red umbrella at him.  He sat glued to his spot, staring at me.


Next I pulled Zoë to her feet and attempted to continue our walk, but I met with opposition.  Miss Zoë wanted to stay and investigate this small creature.  Leash, dog, pup and umbrella angled around me and I almost fell down.  Gusts of wind blew my hair into my eyes and added one more annoyance to an already frustrating situation.  I finally managed to drag an obstinate Zoë along, her front legs suspended above the ground and the pup continued to dog us as I moved as quickly as possible down the sidewalk.  Pup kept up. 


When we reached the field near the elementary school I decided to try another tactic: we’ll outrun the pup.  I attempted to run.  Now Miss Zoë is a Siberian Husky – a breed that lives to run, so an opportunity to make tracks should be pretty appealing to her.  Not this time.  Once again, Miss Zoë just sat down.  I stumbled to a quick stop and the puppy scrambled around my feet and again almost tripped me up.


Time to just head for home.  I dragged my uncooperative dog along and the pup trailed behind.  After several blocks, we managed to get a little distance between us and the insistent pup.  We were forced to a complete stop at a busy street and the pup caught up.  He flopped down on the grass and gave a little sigh, but as soon as we made a move to cross the street, he was right behind me. 


Stray dogs are not uncommon around here and many houses have three or four dogs inside fenced yards. It crossed my mind to simply drop the pup into one of the fenced yards.  If nothing else, at least I could make my escape!  (We have farm friends who often come home to find an extra dog in their fenced yard).  I can not, do not, will not have another dog.  


The Humane Society of overrun with lovely puppies and older dogs who need homes.  They cannot accept another animal. 


Many dogs (and cats) are killed by cars on the busy street in front of our house.


I imagined making found pup flyers and wandering the neighborhood distributing them.  The determined puppy followed us for almost a mile when a car pulled over and a young mother and child got out.  They started up the sidewalk to their front door.  In the back yard I could see a curious dog running up and down the fence line. 


“Oh, isn’t your puppy cute!  See the cute puppy?” said the mother, squatting to help the little boy pet the pup.   


I quickly engaged the young woman in conversation. I explained my dilemma while the boy and his mom rubbed the puppy’s belly.  I nudged Miss Zoë and took a few steps.  A little more conversation, a few more discreet steps away…  When I was certain they were fully engaged with the pup, I picked up my pace and Miss Zoë and I made our escape.  We were about half a block before the woman stood up and looked at us.  


Feeling like a criminal, I quickly turned my head and continued walking.  My heart was pounding.  The puppy did not follow.  I did not look back.


OK, no more puppy, but now I am exhausted physically and emotionally and I am left with guilt.  I can only hope the pup will join the young woman’s dog in her back yard.


  • Tuesday, 14 September 2004

Football with Cam


The Eagles have won!


Grandson Cam’s team finished their second game tonight and pulled off a 20-6 victory.  The 6 PM game was out of town so we had to hustle to get there in time for the game. 


The field in Ware Shoals gave the feel of walking onto a movie set.  The old stone field house, which once housed the press box and the score board resembles what would have graced a New England college campus back in the forties.    I almost expected players to run onto the filed sporting leather helmets and a real pigskin.  A model T and a few male cheerleaders wearing raccoon coats and carrying megaphones would complete the scene nicely.  The adjacent baseball field is an elegant reminder of another era too.


Ware Shoals is a town that time left behind.  It is a small community, somewhat isolated from the beaten path and not an easy commute from other less economically-depressed cities.  There are many deserted houses scattered among some elegant mansions from the heydays long ago.  Kudzu creeps up on properties, taking over the land, the trees and finally the buildings themselves. 


The football game was good.  Certainly better than their last game.  Cam played often and was happy to be part of the team.  Rain threatened, but it only sprinkled a bit and we were safe under our umbrella.  Miss Zoë kept the small children on the sidelines occupied.  When the game was over the clouds rolled away and a glorious rainbow stretched across the sky.  Everyone stopped to stare at it and watched as the single bow soon turned into a double arc. 


Following the game we drove back to Greenwood and celebrated the Eagle’s victory at Cici’s Pizza Buffet.  We walked in the front door at almost 9 PM, lights out time for Randi and quiet time for Cam.  Sports involvement seems to take up many hours between practice and performance.  It often makes it hard to get much else done Monday through Thursday.  So, no bedtime story last night. 


There is a game Tuesday and Wednesday next week.



  • Monday, 13 September 2004

The ants go marching one by one…


Joy provides assurance; envy brings loneliness.

- Sir John Templeton


We had extra “guests” for breakfast this morning.  No they are not refugees from Hurricane Ivan, no, they are ants.  Hundreds and hundreds of tiny ants.  This was no picnic, in more ways than one. 


Miranda and I were still sleepy eyed, but focused on getting a good seat at the breakfast table when we became aware that Mark was moving at high speed and emptying the contest of several cupboards onto the countertop.  A long line of tiny ants marched in a single-file formation across the bottom of the cupboard and across the back wall into the next cabinet. 


They puzzled us since they did not seem to be drawn to any of the more obvious treats one might think ants would be drawn to.  There was no evidence of ants in the sugar containers or on the peanut butter jar.  It was as though they were simply enroute to somewhere else.  With three cupboards emptied, Mark squirted a few shots of ant spray and took out a few hundred of them and dispersed the remaining bunch into a confused crowd rather than a disciplined squadron.


Later this morning I will tackle the clean up operations.  Why they are there and where they are going remains a mystery.


Friday blended into the weekend because usual the routine was broken.  Mark and I started the day in Miranda’s classroom along with many other grandparents.  We had the opportunity to share some stories about our trip to Malawi with the class of wide-eyed 6 and 7 year olds.  We asked for a volunteer and dressed her in a chitenza and asked her to balance a bucket on her head.  We explained that little girls in Malawi walk to the well each morning before breakfast to carry water home.  Mark shared a couple African instruments with the students too.  Other grandparents read aloud from Dr Seuss books or other favorites.  It was fun to watch the children beam when their grandparents were in front of the class.


Later on Friday Mark and I drove to Clemson University to pickup a dozen computers donated to EHS.  It is a pleasant drive through several charming little towns.  On the return trip we stopped in Due West to wander through an antique shop.


Friday, Cam and Randy’s interim reports arrived in the mail.  Both are doing well and nothing but good comments. They are both participating in the accelerated reading program and real well-beyond their years.  I have enjoyed over-seeing the homework processes.  Interim reports already – in some places school is just getting started!


The weekend was low key.  Saturday we again went to yard sales.  We came home with a video of Watership Down.  Cam plans to read the book (which we have on our shelves).   Miranda found several plastic horse to add to her herd.  Mark found a wonderful CD of circus music which we had a lot of fun with imagining various performers and animals.  As we drove along, we conjured up some outstanding acts!


Much of the yard sale allure is simply seeing the community up close. We meet local people and learn much about the area and about attitudes.  People at yard sales talk.  I collect phrases, personas and tales for later use (in my writing).


We ended the morning at the town square in Hodges where they had their annual fire department fundraising festival.  A carnival was set up and there were craft booths, etc.  Hodges is a tiny town and an insular community.  There is a feeling of stepping back in time when you visit.  Cameron snacked on a funnel cake and Miranda chose to sip on lemonade while we strolled around looking at the fair. 


Mid-afternoon, my friend Martha came to visit.  She and I sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee and visiting, just like our mothers once did.  Since Martha is also originally from Le Mars, her visits seem a bit like having family visit.


Later Marty and I slipped out and went to a couple antique shops.  Martha is excited about decorating Pat’s new farm so we had fun window shopping.  She did purchase a large pottery ram.  He is a primitive style and will add a touch of whimsy to the kitchen.  She hopes to establish a Scottish feel about the place and they are hoping to sustain that image with a Scottish name for the property.


Sunday we all got up and shared some wonderful French toast.  Mark is a good cook and we are appreciative eaters.  Following the meal we headed outdoors for an extended walk with the lovely Miss Zoë.  Our first stop was the mill pond where we fed the ducks.  Turtles joined the fowl this time.  We continued our hike along the rails-to-trails path and got a great workout. 


The remainder of the day slipped away while we did laundry and some weeding in the flower bed.  Cam and Randi played on their computer and watched some TV. 


In the evening when everyone was bathed and the popcorn was made we watched our yard sale movie.  By 9:15 Randi and I were in our beds, sound asleep and I believe the guys followed suit shortly after. 


Tonight there is a football game to attend. That is if it isn’t called on account of rain. 


Now I must tackle the ant relocation/removal project.  



  • Wednesday, 8 September 2004

Rambles about birthday, rain, children…


I am mislead by appearances.  Through the window I see overcast skies and a promise of more rain.  Autumn days like this can be great for walking, but here, even with a temperature of 69 degrees, the humidity is evident. You can not detect this through the window view. 


I walk a hundred yards outside the door and sweat pours off my scalp, down my back, soaking my shirt.  Zoë initially trots along, alert, happy to be striding down the avenue, but soon her enthusiasm wilts and her panting is nonstop. 


I think about Moriah and Chip in Phoenix where temperatures are around 100 degrees (107 is the forecast for tomorrow according to our 11-year-old weather prognosticator Cameron).  As “they” say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” 


Before bed last night, I stood on our vine covered porch and watched the rain thundering down.  The streets filled with water.  Our sidewalk resembled a trout stream bordered by beds of perennials.  On the radio there were recurrent warnings of tornadoes and flash floods throughout the region. 


On the positive side: no football practice and maybe, with luck, no game tonight.  I know, Cam enjoys the game and it is a good thing for a child to belong to a group committed to a team effort.  Practices are held from 6-7:30, Mon–Thurs, Aug-Oct.   Dinner and homework are rushed, the family dogwalk is renegotiated every night and family reading time is pushed later and later as practices intensify.  How to fit in Boy Scouts or other activities?  There are many compromises for all of us.  Every person’s choice makes an impact on the family.  I do not think that is a bad thing, but something to be cognizant of.  (In many families, there are no family meals or rituals and routines and that is partly because they allow outside activities to dominate their choices and in the interest of simplifying their lives, eliminate some things…the old effectiveness versus efficiency debate is evident.)  At 9 PM one child should be in bed and the other should be enjoying some free time – time to do as he pleases since his entire day is often scheduled and out of his hands.


I am in the living room and through the window I hear the sound of cars on wet pavement.  The grey light filtering through the windows suggests a wintry day and I eye the fireplace longingly.  With the air conditioner on (to dilute the humidity) the room feels almost comfortable enough for a cheery fire.  (On my birthday I gave in to that impulse and enjoyed watching a few logs burn as I relaxed for a while with a good novel.)  I will be glad when cooler weather arrives and I can have a fire…sometime in November perhaps. 


The weekend plans were scuttled by the weather closer to the coast (this month there have been five hurricanes with all their associated warnings, watches, rain and threats.). 


Saturday we drove to Columbia and did some shopping.  We looked at duffle bags for our Peace Corps adventure and we visited a book store and a few other stores we have no access to here in Greenwood. 


We lunched at The Olive Garden.  Dining with children is always a compromise.  Cam recognized the restaurant and said he had eaten at one at Disney World so it was OK by him.


Sunday we loaded Miss Zoë in the back of the truck and headed toward the western part of the Piedmont to find a few waterfalls.  The weather was perfect – almost crisp and quite bright and sunny.   We visited two falls, splashed in a stream and picnicked under the trees.  Enroute home we stopped at a fruit stand where there were 16 cats in residence.  We bought a bag of wonderful apples to tie us over till dinner at home.    


Monday, our wedding anniversary, we stayed home and puttered around the house.  Mark cooked a fine meal and we shared some Spanish Cava.  The kids had sparkling cider.  


Yesterday I organized our Peace Corps medical screening package so we can make copies and post it later today.  The only delay is for reimbursement receipts.  The busy “season” for their staff seems to be June- September so, with the rush over, perhaps the screening time will be shorter. 


I am fairly certain there will be a request for additional tests or follow-up.  This is not because we are not thorough, but because they are a bit cautious about assuming any health risks for their employees.  I just hope we can leave in the spring.  I am ready to move on with our lives and I do not wish to put down anymore roots here in Greenwood.  I want this place to be a pleasant memory (not a prison).


Today I will finish my Girl Scout leader package.



  • Friday, 3 September 2004 (My Birthday)

My birthday and changes of plans…


Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing

it every day.

- Henri Nouwen


I donned my birthday crown before I even turned on the light in my bedroom this morning.  I stumbled down the hall, rubbing sleep from my eyes and was greeted in the kitchen with a pile of packages and a plate of Eggs Benedict (somewhat modified to accommodate my diet preferences).   I sipped my coffee, adjusted my crown a bit, and after some polite conversation began to unwrap the lovely gifts in front of me.  Not a word about my lovely crown…


Last night Miranda and Cam were scurrying around in a way that indicated secrets and hush-hush operations.  The bedroom door opened and closed several times as they assembled their tools.  Now it was clear what they had been up to: they personalized their gifts with hand decorated gift wrap.  Cam’s picture, reminiscent of op-art, was a view of the back entrance to the house complete with flower beds, wisteria vines and alllllll those pesky steps. 


While I began opening gifts Mark assured me there will be birthday cake later – He made a “from scratch” carrot and pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting.  I got a glimpse of it and have permission to sneak a piece during the day!


Randi’s gift was a special treat: two bars of wonderful, dark, truffle chocolate which I will savor when I indulge myself with espresso later this weekend.  Cam must have consulted Grandaddy or his mom because he selected a lovely burgundy-red light-weight pull-over which should get a lot of wear in the future.  Mark’s gift came as a surprise: a tiny Sony DSC-T1 digital camera.  Now I can skip a few steps when I want to post photos to the Internet.  What a lovely surprise.  I opened a few more gifts and a couple cards before Cam headed off for the bus and Mark left for work. 


I hurried around to get dressed so Miss Zoë and I could walk Randi to school.  As I was tying my beat-up dog-walking shoes, Randi commented, “Gramma, I have a crown like that, but mine is bent.”  I reached up and took my tiara off.  This community already thinks I am a bit of an eccentric old, dog-walking woman with wild hair, but a crown would just be a bit too much for them.  Real queens probably don’t wear their crowns when they walk their grandchildren to school.  I wonder if they ever wear them at breakfast?


My day and my new-year are off to a good start.  I may play hooky from my checklist today, but it is a long weekend coming up so I may just tackle a few things so I won’t regret it when Tuesday rolls around. 


The tentative plan is to drive to Charleston tomorrow and enjoy the aquarium with the grandchildren.  It looks like the huge tropical storm that has been threatening will not hit the coastline of South Carolina and we already have room reservations so that is not a problem.  People from Florida will be evacuating so perhaps we should forfeit our rooms and stay home in the local area this weekend….we will see. 


One more cup of coffee and I will start my official day…I will be singing a happy little birthday song to myself because life is good and I am grateful for the abundance of warmth and joy that bless me. 



  • Thursday, 2 September 2004



Research says that scents are the most effective tool for triggering memories.  I concur. 


Zoë and I were caught off guard this morning when a large truck pulled out of the mill parking lot.  As the truck driver shifted gears, the truck belched out a cloud of fumes.  I inadvertently inhaled and almost immediately memories of our life in Spain flashed through my mind.  I had the odd feeling of being transported to another place, another time.  The moment passed quickly and we resumed our walk, hurrying along because of the rain. 


In retrospect, it is as though I was really back in Spain.  The brief moment was filled with sharp images and a very real sense of being there.  Events fast-forwarded in a peculiar way, that did not seem at all strange to me.  I felt like I was on a vacation to my past.  The moment passed and I stepped off the curb, back in Greenwood, SC heading home to dry off and sip a cup of coffee.


It appears our weekend plans to visit Charleston will be scuttled by the weather.  There have been 4 tropical storms/hurricanes off the coast in just three weeks.  Another is expected to pound the shoreline Labor Day weekend.


Throughout my life, it often rains on or around my birthday, regardless of where I happen to be on my special day.  Most years I almost relish the rain showers (I like rain, but I grow tired of days of grey) as a sign of autumn on the horizon.  Fall is my favorite time of year. 


Here in South Carolina signs of fall are usually later and much more subtle than up North.  South Carolina is a fine place to be in the spring of the year.  There are glorious displays of flowering shrubbery and blossoms everywhere.  Autumn, however, is rather bleak.  The fall color is not significant and the air is seldom crisp nor is the sky bright and clear. 


I rate beautiful, lingering autumns high on my requirements for a place to call home. 


I hope on our Christmas trip to Phoenix we will have the opportunity to visit some of the small mountain communities where there are conifers and cool weather.  I am thinking ahead, beyond our plans for a Peace Corps adventure.  I hope we can relocate to a place that matches more of my quality of life criteria.  Part of me says just relax and enjoy what this community has to offer, but I do not want to roll over and just exist and that is how that suggestion makes me feel.  I know hat often fate or God or a higher power seems to place us where we need to be for some reason.


 I am sure Noah and Moses were not too pleased with their lot in life at the time.  I find much to be grateful for and I am abiding my time with good spirits, but I hope to take proactive steps to carve out a retirement home that meets some of my priorities. 


I love to walk so a community with a CS church, a library and maybe a coffee shop and a book store to walk to are high on my list.  Parks are wonderful perks and an active arts community – bands, a farmers market, interesting architecture… A dry climate with cool, crisp winters and comfortable summer weather.  These are some of the criteria on my list.