Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mud and Wild Onions

We drove all over East Tennessee today, it seemed. Through the pouring rain, low fog, and construction zones, I could still see spring blooming everywhere: daffodils in nearly every yard, yellow forsythia bursting on its branches, Bradford pear trees with thick white coats, redbud trees in purple bloom, and two-tone StuffMart potted pansies neatly encircling every little tree in every fast food restaurant and convenience store parking lot. Why, then, is my yard filled with nothing more than mud and wild onions?

It makes me yearn to garden, then I remember, I do not have a green thumb. I recall the Chinese evergreen my girlfriend bought me for Christmas. "Even you can't kill that," she said. Wanna bet? I forgot to water it -- at all; dead by February. Again, another case of sheer neglect. I'm so ashamed. I'd love to have roses, but I dare not.

Still, my yard looks awful--pools of muddy sludge and sprouts of wild onions growing taller with every raindrop, sparsely dotting the landscape (or lack thereof) in front of my house. I'll make a good effort as soon as the ground hardens a little bit; mow down the onions and spread some sod. I think I'll buy one of those roll-out flower beds and lay it down in front of my house to see if it blooms. Just my luck, the rain will stop and I'll be forced to remember to water it.

Trucker News

MyHusbandTheTruckDriver was headed home from Chicago Friday on I-74, on what should have been a fairly easy trip, getting him home by noon on Saturday. Just his luck, thousands of other people decided to converge at the Shelbyville, Indiana, exit just as he was approaching the area. So what tied him up for 3 hours or more and caused him to travel 5 miles in the same time frame he should have been able to travel over 150 miles? The long-awaited grand opening of the $200 million casino at the Indiana Downs racetrack. Somehow, he didn't feel it was worth the wait.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Quarter Past Christmas . . .

It's the middle of March already and my Christmas decorations are still up. Do you think that's sad? Or just a case of gross neglect? Actually, my Christmas boxes were in the storage room, and with everyone's busy schedule and having been a one-car family for the past 3 months, no one has taken the time to retrieve the boxes and bins. Now huddled on my living room floor, they beg to be filled. And my family begs me to put away the Christmas stuff, already; it's almost St. Patrick's Day!

Car Notes:

Aaron's car has finally started! I believe it to have been the power of prayer that made the engine hum when he turned the key yesterday. The new engine was installed two weeks ago, and no matter what my husband and my son did, they could not get it running, even when every system check they tried said it's a go. He is thrilled, and so am I. Now maybe I won't be so stranded, as I have been feeling lately, especially now that spring is teasing us with her buds and blooms.

I saw the most magnificent display yesterday. Bradford pear trees all in a row, their bulbous contours ablaze with their white blossoms thick as snow. For a brief moment they'll wear their dressing gowns, then don their comely raiment as a debutante presented in the spring.

I must put the Christmas stuff away!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - An Oil Painting by My Dear Late Sister, Debbie

click on picture to enlarge for greater detail

1₡ Per Word

I'm not a professional writer. By many (probably most) standards, not even a very good writer, but I would like to be. In fact, with my children grown and MyHusbandTheTruckDriver on the road so much, I am contemplating finishing my journalism degree (started over 35 years ago).

That being said, I am beginning to build a portfolio and more faithfully contribute to my journal, more for myself at this point than any second-career, post-retirement aspirations. So I was initially pleased when I was accepted by a marketing firm to join them as a content writer. I thought it might be a way to add to my portfolio and gain a bit of recognition, and perhaps a few dollars, for myself.

The catch is, were I to join them, it would be as a ghost writer; I would have no rights to my words, would essentially be selling the rights to my articles to the marketing company and its clients. I would not be able to include my articles in any other form of print or publication or, I assume, use them in my portfolio. They want 400 word articles; they pay $4 per article. That's only 1₡ per word. One Cent Per Word.

So, my question to all you professional writers out there is: Is this a good way to start? What are the pros and cons of becoming (an underpaid, overworked) content writer? Yes, I could go read forums and subscribe to newsletters for feedback, but I thought this would make a good post. Comments welcome.

Note: Image created by me.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bumper Cars

Saturday was such a beautiful pre-spring day, with mild temperatures reaching 70 and clear blue skies, one might surely turn her thoughts toward visiting a local amusement park. I, however, had no such intentions. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself not once, but twice, a participant in an unintentional game of bumper cars.

The thing about bumper cars is just when you think you have a clear space to break away, the car behind you abruptly changes direction and lunges into your personal space. So it was with the silver El Dorado with the tow hitch that I watched pull securely into his parking space directly opposite me before I backed out of mine.

Now I will sheepishly admit that I am not the most alert driver, but I was watching where I was going. Clearly through my rear view mirror, I saw the El Dorado safely parked, lights off, as I slowly moved backward in my own vehicle. Then, without warning, just like that annoying little bumper car that comes from out of nowhere and rams you when you least expect it, thud! Seems the driver didn’t see me back up when he decided he had pulled in at an angle and needed to back up himself and re-park. Well, truth be told, maybe I didn’t see him all that clearly either, and it was a rather minor bump, although it left a 3” gouge in my rear bumper. The tow hitch was not harmed. It’s still amazing to me how all 50 cars in a parking lot the size of a small city find it necessary to park in the first 3 rows.

Business concluded, and having decided to continue to enjoy the gorgeous pre-spring day, I drove merrily on my way with a few more stops left before it was time to pick up my son, Aaron, at work. Carefree, on our way home at last, we made one last stop at the convenience store for gas and a paper. While I darted into the store, Aaron pulled between the car at the pump and the curb to park and wait for me. Then, it happened again; not a thud this time, but a pop. It must have been a little too tight a squeeze, for the right front tire scraped the curb just where its metal frame and concrete were broken and left exposed, jagged and rough. A non-repairable hole in the tire, oh my! And no spare.

AAA to the rescue, but at my expense for the new tire, and possibly the tow since the distance to the local StuffMart Tire Shop (the only retailer open at 6:55 p.m. on a Saturday night in East Tennessee, imagine!) may have been more than my coverage allowed. We’ll see. Fortunately, a call to the RegionalConvenienceStoreChainEmergencyManagementNumber promised retribution if I would call the office on Monday and report the claim.

Note to self: No more wild rides.

Trucker Notes:

Myhusbandthetruckdriver hit Chicago Saturday morning where he waits to pick up his next load. All weekend in the terminal is not so bad; at least they have a TV in the trucker lounge; it has better reception (usually) than the one in the truck. Monday morning he is off to Oklahoma; hopefully home next weekend.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Efficiency Vs. Security

As a small on-line seller, I ship a lot of packages. Generally, I pay for postage and print postage-paid labels on line, so everything is ready to go when I take my parcels to the post office. While I expect pre-paying to save me considerable time at the post office, I do still expect to stand in line to have my packages received.

So, I was surprised yesterday when I was called out of a busy post office line and told I could simply leave my packages on the counter, and they would be handled. At first, I thought, "hmm, how convenient." I gratefully dropped my packages and departed on my merry way. Then it occurred to me that I had been allowed to simply leave a stack of sealed packages on a busy post office counter in the heart of a high-security-risk city.

Not that I am an alarmist, but I wonder how easy it would be for someone with less benign intentions to leave a possibly lethal package undetected as well. I'm willing to trade a little inconvenience for the sake of precaution. I promise to stand in line with a smile on my face and never grumble at the person behind the counter for taking too long (unless, of course, the line I'm in is one of the 4 open register lines out of 30 at my local StuffMart on a busy Saturday afternoon).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wood Carver Extraordinaire - A My Town Monday Post

Kingston is home to a local artisan. Don McMurray, an 82-year-old Kingston native, has a passion for carving wood. For 30 years he has been turning and shaping and carving pieces of wood into beautiful and intricate figurines and other pieces of art.

But he’s never sold a single piece, not because they weren’t marketable; he’s just never been inclined to sell his work. Don’s motto is, “If you charge a dollar, you lose a friend.” Still his pieces have become very popular in the community where they have been displayed over the years or given as gifts to friends and family.

Fond of carving caricatures, Don won a blue ribbon at the Tennessee Valley Fair in the early-90’s for a carving he dubbed “Knicker Knockers.” It was group of 4 golfers with movable heads wearing polos and golf pants and standing near their golf clubs.

One of his more popular carvings are those of Santas in all shapes and sizes and made from all different types of wood. When a local hardware store in Kingston burned some years ago, Don obtained some of the charred wood from the 200-year-old building and used it to make one style of his Santas. Those Santas aren’t painted, and bits of the charred wood can be seen on the statues. Don gave two of those Santa figurines to the Browder family (the founders of the hardware store that burned) and donated one to his church’s auction, bringing $340.

Once while being treated for heart problems, he met a lady in cardiology for whom he carved several wooden name tags that she could pin to herself. She was thrilled with the gift, and now that the woman, nicknamed “Shorty,” has passed away, McMurray muses that at least one of his carvings has gone to heaven.

While McMurray enjoys carving his more lighthearted pieces, he says he has more respect for his more serious carvings, such as the nativity which took him more than two years to complete. (It’s the only piece he has ever tracked the completion time on.) Starting with the Baby Jesus’ face, he was so dissatisfied with the outcome, he started over on the other end of the piece of wood. Always beginning at the face, which McMurray says is the hardest part, he laughs about it now and calls it “twin Jesuses.”

Most of his work can still be found displayed throughout his home, pieces such as ducks and Indian pieces, and a piece bearing the Kingston logo. The rest are stored in five boxes in the basement which is where his workshop is also located.

The craft that he loves comes natural to him. He has been doing woodwork all of his life, and a 4-poster bed in his home testifies to his skill and the quality of his work. He says he took up the carving hobby after he became a card-carrying member of the Smoky Mountain Wood Carvers group, and he hasn’t looked back since. The culmination of his years of work will be a public exhibit at the Kingston Community Center on March 9th.

And although he has slowed down a little over the years, saying he’s lost a little of the feeling and a little of the attitude, he’ll return to his work table often to finish those undone pieces. And sometimes, when the wood calls to him, he’ll even start a new one.

Photos courtesy David Doonan/Roane Newspapers

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday Morning Coming Home

MyHusbandTheTruckDriver has been on the road for two weeks, but he'll be rolling in about dawn. Sunday morning and he'll be home for two days, then off again on Tuesday morning to pick up a load in Knoxville going back up north.

This run he's been to Florida, through the Carolinas, into Pennyslvania, then Chicago and Wisconsin, and back again. He was able to see his daughter in Georgia and his mother in Pennsylvania; I'm glad for that.

He'll be glad for two days without hot dogs or potted meat, and grateful for a king-size bed. Otherwise, his hometime will be uneventful by many standards. We'll run errands, do a little necessary shopping, see our children and grandchild, and rest. He won't have time to work on his project car or finish the new floor, and the weather is still too bad (too muddy) to work in the yard. We'll try to hold on to the next 48 hours together; they have to last us for two weeks.

March is here and winter will soon be behind us for another season. He keeps promising me I will go with him in the spring.