Tuesday, July 5, 2011

That Cedar Chest

The dark yet comforting void that is a cedar chest...  Where objects go to be kept safe, secure and in the dark...

Several years ago my cousin and I had to move her mum into an assisted care facility. Her mother was not of sound mind and could not assist in any fashion when it came to sorting out her near 80 years' worth of possessions. We were on our own.  My cousin mentally and emotional locked up (as often happens to people when they simply cannot wrap their minds around the enormity of a task or event). So this packing up of her mother's life was left largely to me.

Now, mind you, "The Mother" did not have an actual cedar chest. But in a way, her apartment of roughly 26 years was one huge cedar chest. The Mother was old-school. If you pissed her off, you were "marked off her list". No more party invites for you! She was very crafty, artsy and an awesome cook/hostess. She turned simple lunches into a special event. She was much of my inspiration to travel, cook and entertain, yet I was not close to her. She seemed to drink a bit much and could get right cranky.  Over the years I started understanding why...

We went cabinet by cabinet and drawer by drawer. Pulling out, sorting, keeping or donating objects. Books, dishes, silver, china, jewelry, you name it...  There were oddities from assorted travels through the years. Books about various art, travel locations and historical events. Even clothing from back in the day! Mink and fox fur stoles!

At one point we reached the basement storage room. There is where it got interesting. No one had bothered to go through the stored items down there in years. Maybe not since they moved into the apartment after "The Father" passed when we were 7 years old.  What we found were photo albums from back pre-us-children era.

The photos showed "The Mother and Father" at the beach down in Alabama. They would spend a month or so in the summer at a beach house down there. I have no idea if they owned it at the time or simply rented it.  They would take kids from the family, as at the time they had none of their own, and introduce them to a different life. My family was by in large not well to do. So for kids to get to go on what amounted to a long vacation was a huge thing. I wish I had access to these photos to post here because they were so interesting as these were circumstances, situations and dress that I had never seen my adult elder cousins in. I remember Rena normally wearing dresses and skirts throughout my life and that was the same in the photos, but of course she was much younger and seemed so happy. "Doc", for the period of time I knew him, as he died when I was 7, was always in a bow-tie, dress slacks and an arrow collar shirt. In these photos he was lounging in chairs with a cigar, a low-ball glass and an undershirt.  Think 'wife beater' shirt. There were children playing in the sand in their cute little 'covers everything' swim suites.  The year had to be the 1950's.

We also found in one album a letter confirming a room reservation in an Atlanta hotel (I have long since forgotten the hotel name but seems it is still there near the stadium). Obviously there were no internet sites back then. And, apparently at this point the phone was still not the communication of choice in the south? The room confirmation was for a 2-twin-bed room costing something like $10 or so. They were going to watch baseball.

The twin bed deal was no shock. They slept in separate beds the whole time I knew them (5 out of the 7 first years of my life).

While we poured over the albums, it became clear why "The Mother" drank and would get cranky. By that time she had lived without the love of her life for maybe 27 years.  She missed him. She never got over losing him. She never dated. She did everything with her mother (until she passed) and her daughter.

We ended up stashing the mink and fox stoles we unearthed in my cousin's steamer trunk. The jewelry went into her jewelry box, furniture into her house in the basement and the silver (that came from OUR great grandparents) placed on cabinets.

Several months after The Mother passed, we were doing that age old ritual of getting ready to go out tramping as we called it. This actually means we were going to a nightclub to dance. We almost always had a new outfit each to wear.  Her mother used to help us get ready when we were younger. Critique our outfits, doll us up, take photos of us, keep us on task and on time. So, this night, as we ran around her house half (mostly) naked trying to get our outfits together, we pulled the furs out of the steamer trunk and we draped them around us and laughed hysterically.  We both thought how funny it would be when we were old and in a nursing home together. In our rooms would be these cedar chests and steamer trunks full of oddities from our parent's and grandparent's.  We would probably visit, and dawn, the stashes daily and race our wheelchairs down the institutional hallways - half naked (hopefully not mostly naked) wearing these furs, and costume jewelry.  All the while orderlies would probably chase after us.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Red Light Part II

I just wanted to follow-up on the last blog post concerning the dreaded RED LIGHT.

I had mentioned that I had yet to know anyone who was the subject of one of those dreaded "The XXX community is saddened by..." voicemails. 

Interesting note:  I never did listen to that voicemail message. The lady who works at my desk back-filling my position periodically listened to it the next morning.  She let me know that So&So's mother had passed away unexpectedly.  Ms. So&So is an acquaintance/distance co-worker of mine that I have enjoyed meetings and luncheons with.

So, maybe the dread I felt was not the idea that yet another So&So had passed on - but maybe the universe was telling me to listen to the message.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Red Light

The Red Light

No, this is not about what you would assume.

It isn’t a stop light.

It isn’t a rail-road crossing.

It isn’t the Red Light District.

It IS simply – Voicemail.

As I sit at my desk working, I find myself oddly thankful that the internet and phone lines are down. This means the voicemail system is down as well.

Earlier I was sitting here working on a book order when THE Red Light caught my eye. The “You have voicemail” light on the phone suddenly flashed on. Now, I was not on the phone so this means that this voicemail came internally from the main office. This signals one of two kinds of voicemail notifications:

“The XXX community is saddened by the loss of…”


Someone has had a child. I would quote that announcement – but it is usually a death. I cannot remember how a birth announcement goes.

It is such a simple announcement. I never know the people involved. Sometimes it is a current employee, former/retired employee, family member of an employee, or etc. The strange part is – I fill with dread when that light pops on like that. Many of my co-workers, to my surprise, agree that they hate to dial for messages when that light pops up.

Each announcement is recorded by the same person. The message is always professional. Always to script. Her voice always soft and nearly monotone. Not unpleasant in and of itself. If only she where able to make other announcements of less grave contents…

The shock

Sometimes I come back to my office and the voicemail light is on. I always assume I have simply missed a call. I pick up the receiver, dial my mailbox and wait for the caller’s voice. The second I hear this dear lady’s voice, that dread wells up inside. Sometimes I delete it before the message even gets going. I just cannot listen to it.


As I pointed out, so far I have NOT known any of the parties involved in the sad affairs. This means no emotional connection between myself or them. As a matter of fact, I feel little to no emotion at this point in my life as a general rule. At times I think it has been beat out of me or simply erased. Maybe neglect has allowed the emotions to just wither away like an un-watered flower. I feel a connection to very few people. I am simply a blow-up doll in an emotional closet. No public displays.

And Reality...

The phones are back up and the Red Light is back on. They have been up for a couple of hours now. I still have not dialed my voicemail.

It's 5:00pm now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Call Before You Come Over. Seriously...

I have had no one to fish with yet this year.  My favorite travel-about companion has been inundated with work projects to the point of working 6.5 days a week. Hardly a minute for fun, let alone the chores that come with that fun!

The boat sits in the tractor shed at the farm. I forgot to winterize the motor. Yay me! So, a little extra maintenance will have to be done before we can AGAIN try to go fishing on actual water.

The following will be considered stupid of me to post.  I am not concerned. Really.

So, as some of you already know, I am newly living alone, for the first time in my life. A month ago my ex purchased his own house and I was able to move back into my little "cottage" (yea, I am calling it a cottage; It sounds so much better than "little hovel").  A good friend asked me when the last time was that I lived alone. I stood there with the phone in my ear, dumbfounded and said "I have never lived alone".  I had not realized, until that point, that I had NEVER really ever lived alone.

I went from parents to army to married to having a child, etc. Child is off to live her life and I am divorced. End of story. NEVER LIVED ALONE!

So, yes, I live alone, but safety is no longer much of an issue because of the alarm, the dogs and the Baby:

  • Alarm - I have ADT. It is an annoying set up, but monitored, loud and effective.
  • Dogs - If the alarm does not dissuade an intruder, I have Cleo and her brother Genghis. These dogs are close to 100 pounds each, with cranky fighting dog lineage. They have not been socialized so they are not the friendliest dogs to cross paths with.
  • Baby - Finally, if those two things do not deter an unwanted visitor, the Glock 9mm compact (otherwise known as a Baby Glock) next to my bed, and the following story, will take care of any doubts.

A lot of people out there will have you believe that "Guns kill people" but I am one of those Americans that believes that "People kill people".  My younger brother and I traipsed around the Grandparent's farm as little kids - toting loaded rifles and target shooting. Our Parents and Grandparents taught us gun-safety. We never shot each other or anyone else - nor did we do damage to property.  If people are incompetent or untrained, they are going to hurt or kill either themselves or others.

I also believe in what my GrandMa Taylor said; "If guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will be armed".

Enough said.  You know my stance on proper training and Gun Control now.

I have been frequenting the indoor pistol range not far from here. I learned that I was not a bad shot (not that I ever thought I was really).  I come from a good lineage.  My Grandfathers both had to hunt for part of the family food.  They did NOT starve to death.  My father had been on a winning rifle team in the army (even though he was blind in his right eye and right handed - you do the math) and my mother thinks he did pistol competitions as well, but we cannot confirm this with anyone.  My parents were both decent shots. 

I did my time in the military (which I think the country would benefit from every able bodied American of age 'doing compulsory military time') when I got out of high school.  I was barely 17 when I signed up for the Army on delayed entry as I had to finish high school. I was so young my parents had to sign for me because my signature alone was not enough legally. That August I was off to Fort Jackson for Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT).  Let's just say it was hot, dry and I inhaled/ingested a LOT of sand. 

I was no good at the physical training (PT).  I managed it, but I hated it. I was not a morning person.  I am still NOT a morning person. I did fine enough in most other aspects of training and excelled in Drill and Ceremony. I guess that high school marching band business was beneficial. The one area that I stood out right fine in was at the firing range. I did not care one way or the other about the machine gun training. That thing was heavy and I was not interested in being the one to carry it. The M-16 rifle training was fabulous. The short story is, having had experience with rifles and being thus comfortable with said rifles, M-16 training was a breeze. So easy that the females who were not so blessed got out of KP (Kitchen Patrol) to practice at the H.O.T! range while I was politely asked by the cranky Drill Sergeants to stay in the vented chow hall so the females who could not hit the broad side of a barn could practice!  YAY!  No, seriously, KP was a blessing in the hot summer at Fort Jackson SC.  That was cool with me. I drank soda (which we were not allowed to have otherwise)!  Benefits!

Just as a side note, my favorite training in my military career was hand grenade training.  Running up, high-crawling or low-crawling to a bunker or fence (or whatever) - and tossing that biatch in/over!!!  YES! Just say'n...

Back to today's life...

In January of this year I discovered a couple of competition .22 pistols that my dad left when he passed. They were in a cabinet no one ever went into. I pulled them out, cleaned them and went to the range with my favorite companion.

It was all over but the crying.

After a few magazines, I found my stride. I settled into pistol shooting. I got all misty as the memories came back to me. Memories, vague as they were, of dad instructing me on shooting. Little things he had told me.  The military training kicked in about the same time.  It was, as they say, like riding a bike. I had hardly ever shot a pistol before, but I used mostly the same techniques I had learned from firing rifles. 


My fun-time companion and I joined the indoor range as members.  We have gone back quite a few times, but not nearly enough.  We learned that I am on par with his Former-Army-Drill-Sergeant-Farm-Boy firing abilities.  From target to target and weapon to weapon it is anyone's guess which of us will out-shoot the other (barely).  He seems proud that we are on similar footing here and that fellow practicers o'da'day notice me.  It makes me proud to know that I can hold my own at the range with him because we are exceedingly lopsided in so many other areas (and not in my favor mind you).

Now, as far as daily life goes... Just remember:

  • The ADT alarm is your friend.  
  • Genghis and Cleo are a fair warning. 
  • Baby is a permanent solution.  

Seriously, do not come to my house unannounced.

Just say'n.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Maiden? Not So Much...

So, 3 months later I continue this story…

After hitching the boat and trailer to the Jeep, we headed down to the public access boat ramp on the Cumberland near General Burnside Island – boat in tow.


There is no other way to describe this boat launch/ramp. It was maybe 10 vehicles wide and a 10th of a mile long? Two-tenths? It was huge. I do not recall a launch this big in my memory. And boy, was it a busy launch.

My person backed the boat down to the water, we pulled it off the trailer and I walked it around the ramp to a floating dock. I looked like (as well as felt like) I was walking a puppy. I started talking to the little boat; “here you go little fella. Right over here. You mind so well”! Right then and there I named the boat “Little Puppy”. ‘Nough said.

The boats I saw while waiting sort of forced the question; “I thought the economy was bad”. Cigar boats, fishing boats, large pleasure craft. The only puny and old looking boat in the joint was mine (although in reality it IS cute).

My person parked the Jeep up at the parking area, walked the 4 million miles down the ramp to the dock in 900 bagillion degree heat only to realize he had left the water-proof container with my temporary boat registration in it.

Let me explain something to you all here… I do NOT do that well in heat. He seems to do even worse in heat (as far as I can tell). But, one of us MUST go back for that registration. This boat is so out of the norm out here, due to its age, that we would be noticed straight away so not having legal documents would be a bad idea. This boat was drawing attention. Or stares of disbelief maybe… We needed that document just in case. Period.

One of us has to go back up the 40 mile ramp in the heat to the jeep to get the container.


So I knew (and know) too little about the boat to mess with it and get it going. I volunteered to walk the walk (or climb the climb as it were) while SKW takes care of the boat prep. This was the first time this puppy had been started on the water in 10+ years we think. I was not going to be the one pulling the string!

I think I was also postponing getting in the boat until I knew it would hold us all without sinking. “Us All” is defined as my Person, the full gas tank, the motor, the battery, the cooler, the tool box, the, the, the, and me. I had this horrible thought as we added items to the inventory that we would overwhelm the boat and it would sink straight out the gate! This was a fear for like over a month. Y’all, did you know there is a math equation for that? Had I confessed my fear to my engineer favorite person, he could have told me (proof positive) that the water displacement was going to be minimal…

Fast Forward past the cussing, puffing and mumbling under my breath…

I put my vest on upon arrival back at the boat with the water-proof vessel (which also acts as a bucket for bailing water). I climb into the boat and feel an immediate sense of pending doom, death and destruction. What is this? The boat does not sink far in the water which is great but it is so unstable with the turbulence caused by my person’s weight, my arm flailing, waves, fish blowing bubbles, rocks tumbling on the river floor, seagull farts and cat meows that I was about to have a heart attack!

While I quietly shit my britches, he used the trolling motor to putter away from the dock towards a small inlet – mainly to get out of everyone’s way! In the mean time, I was HEMORRAGING! The motion. I was sure we were going to tip over and die. Why!????

We had on life vests. The worst that could happen would be the boat would sink. The probable outcome is embarrassment and the boat takes on water and we have to have it towed ashore and use that stupid orange water-proof container to actually bail the water out of the boat…

We were going to die.

When we were out of everyone’s way, SKW went to start the little old motor. It ran, a little… We could hear it running, but we were not gaining ground (or water as it were. So SKW is moving around trying to figure out the problem, the boat is a rocking and I was pitching a good old southern hissy. It is like an anxiety attack on steroids. I never saw stability as a concern until I was in the boat. Damn.

Turns out, a pin had broken. The shear pin. That is the shear pin’s job. It is found in the transfer connector that connects the shaft from the motor to the shaft for the prop. The pin is designed to break under times of stress (such as the prop hitting a rock, stick, submerged log or running aground) forcing a sudden stoppage. This stoppage, without the pin, would reverberate right up to the motor and basically destroy it or the shaft (not sure which, but both equal BAD).

We pulled the boat out of the water, headed back to the campground to drop it and went to town where we found material at Home Depot to make a new shear pin because, AGAIN, all the boat places were already closed. SKW sat for a few hours making pins, lots of pins. SPARE pins so this would not happen again.

Little did we realize that my ever prepared cousin Wiley had two pins stashed in a holding area in the motor. Had we taken the time to familiarize ourselves with the motor, we could have STAYED ON THE WATER!

To make a long story no shorter - we did not end up getting the boat on the water that weekend.

Lessons learned:
  • Launch the boat at a more remote/unused location
  • We need to learn to pay more attention to details
  • I need to learn to speak up with concerns
  • If we both have life vests on, stop stressing
  • The boat is not so important that I need to stress my Person out on the road or on the water…

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