Season’s End

Standard

Shortly before I left my job this past April, I had a conversation with a new co-worker about Facebook.  More specifically, we talked about why she wasn’t on Facebook.  “I believe people come into your life for a season,” she said.  “And when that season is over, you move on.”

I was reminded of that conversation last weekend as I admired two framed pieces of artwork in my sister’s house.  When I asked about them, my sister told me the story.  (Note:  this is why you should always ask about what you see – there’s bound to be a good story in there somewhere.)

When my sister and brother-in-law lived in Boston, they became friends with a woman who worked for the same company.  They stayed in touch, even after my sister and brother-in-law returned to North Carolina.  At some point and for reasons undisclosed, their friend hit a rough patch.  Life became very difficult for her.  By this time, she was working with a family member in some type of antiques sales business.

Brooch become art

Brooch becomes art

She began creating art as a way of dealing with her situation.  She would come across a brooch or some other piece of jewelry in the business and make it the centerpiece of a painting.  She would then find an antique frame and put it all together.

As my sister said, “She had never done anything artistic before this and when she got through this rough time, she stopped.  She hasn’t made anything since.”

I realized then that my “season” of writing this blog had come to its end.  When I started this last June, I was very unhappy in my work and desperately needed a creative outlet.  I needed to focus on the positive things all around me as I came up with a way out of my employment situation.

Now that I am out of that job, I am creatively engaged in building a new business venture, becoming more active in my volunteer work and doing all kinds of delayed projects around the house and yard.  My brain is much happier these days as I am interested in everything that I’m doing.  And I have found that writing posts for On The Sunny Side just aren’t a priority any more.

Since I am one of those people who likes loose ends neatly tied as I close out a project, I knew that I needed to write this closing post.  I want to thank everyone who took the time to read any of the Sunny Side posts, who commented or who signed up to follow this blog.  I know those of you who blog will understand when I say what a thrill it was to be notified that there was a comment waiting or that someone from some other area of the world was now following the blog!  I look forward just to reading and commenting for awhile.  There are so many people writing interesting blogs and sharing incredible photographs.  What a world we live in!

Daylillies in full glory

Roadside Daylilies

This picture is from my first post last June.  I rode past this intersection Saturday evening and the daylilies are in full bloom again.

One season ends…another begins.

All Together Now!

Standard

cat hat trim

This is the cover of the birthday card I received from my dear friend this year. A month later, it still sits on my counter because I smile every time I look at it! And the wording reminds me that we have many sources of inspiration, including “…the right hat…”

About five or six years ago, I transitioned from primarily reading fiction to nonfiction.  It wasn’t a particularly conscientious decision.  I think it came from being unfulfilled in my work.  I didn’t want anything academic.  What I really needed was some inspiration, true stories of common people who have done uncommon things.  One of my favorites is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.  I was fascinated by the mental and physical challenges faced by the climbers.  I felt like I was there (which will never happen!)

One of my more recent reads was Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, the former professional football coach.  Truth be told, I’m not much of a professional football fan.  However, I had heard many positive comments about this man so when I came across the book, cover facing up on a table, I picked it up and checked it out.  I’ve always wondered how professional coaches and their families handle the seemingly constant threat of being fired.  And how do you motivate and lead a group of people that are breathtakingly overpaid and poorly behaved?  (A major generalization, I know.)

We all have stories to tell and Mr. Dungy is no exception.  I have a better understanding of why he has a good reputation and I certainly learned a few things about the challenges of coaching.  But one of the most interesting parts of the book was the use of quotations to start each chapter.  To me, the “right” quotation is like the perfect photograph – sometimes that’s all that’s needed to make a point.  I actually took notes while reading this book and the one quotation that stood out was attributed to Booker T. Washington:  “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

I’ve certainly found this to be true in my own life.  When I was 27 years old, my first husband took his own life.  This happened about 3 years after my mother died of a malignant brain tumor and once again I found myself in a really dark place.  Perhaps what was most strange was my almost total emotional disconnect from life.  In retrospect, I came to see this as a protective factor.  Instead of being overwhelmed and incapacitated by too much emotion, I felt almost nothing, which enabled me to at least keep moving.   Feelings about anything came back slowly and in small bits.

At the time, I was working in communications/marketing for a local non-profit organization.  I had found a woman in town who was self-employed as a typesetter and printer.  Her business was named Bestype and she produced good quality work at a price our non-profit could afford.  She was not married and at age 30-something, she got pregnant.  Her business was small, located in a rather run-down area of town and she had no one to help her, personally or professionally.  I knew several other women who were her clients as well and after some telephone calls we decided to give her a surprise baby shower at her office one afternoon.

She thought we were there to do business.  When she realized we were there to give her support and needed supplies for her baby, she was moved to tears.  And for the first time in months, I felt the stirrings of emotion again.  Just enough to remind me that I was still alive.  As we left her later in the afternoon, I realized I actually felt good.  That’s when I learned that doing something kind for someone else is one way of helping yourself.

Now as my friend Deb and I are scratching together the foundation of what we hope will be a successful business, I am grateful for all those people who have met with us, shared their ideas, answered our questions and provided guidance and encouragement.  Surely this is along the lines of what Mr. Washington had in mind.  It will be our privilege to do the same for others some day.

Do you have a favorite quotation that motivates you?  Share!

Do you like inspiring non-fiction?  If yes, what is the title of one of your favorites?  It’s past time for another great read!

Listless

Standard

When I started writing this blog almost a year ago, I did so because I was determined to remake a large portion of my life.  Writing on a regular basis was the first step.  Now I’ve taken the second step, a much larger step: I’ve left my job of almost 20 years.  I have been officially retired (and unemployed) for 10 days.

I was shopping for college graduation cards one day last week, on my way to a lunch gathering with former co-workers.  As I was scanning for a catchy picture or wording in the sea of graphics and sayings, I heard a voice ask, “So, how does it feel?”  I turned to my left to see my friend, the executive director of the non-profit organization I support.  I smiled as I shook my head side to side and replied, “I’m not sure.  I just feel like I’m in the middle of a week off.”  “However,” I continued, “I have this overwhelming urge to make a list.”

We laughed and chatted a few minutes and then went our separate ways.  As I got in my car to head to lunch, I realized that I was feeling quite unsettled and it had to do with that business of making a list.  I am one of those people who likes to have a plan, likes to be organized and likes to see the fruits of my labors.  In other words, I like to put my to-do’s/want to-do’s on paper and then mark them off when I’m done.  This is how I have handled all the years of juggling home, job, church, volunteering, etc.  We are a busy society and I know I am not the only “list fanatic” out there.

Yet, one thing I have griped about for the last couple of years is how scheduled and structured my life has been.  In my mind, remaking my life  was going to be throwing all those lists to the wind.  She who is not known for being the queen of spontaneity was going to become such overnight.

Well that was pretty foolish thinking on my part.  It has not taken me long to realize that my grandmother was right all those years ago when she told me we needed structure and routine in our lives.  She was recounting how she managed her life after my grandfather died unexpectedly and early from a heart attack.  In spite of her grief and her desire to do everything to the contrary, she made a point of continuing to get up at the same time every morning, getting dressed for the day and having her meals on schedule.

I’ve seen the value of this in the lives of friends who have lost their jobs.  Suddenly the anchor line has been cut and they are drifting.   Clinging to whatever schedule of living they had when employed helps them stay on course.  I’ve seen it in people who have returned home after serving time in prison.  The schedule they lived under provided some semblance of stability.  Freedom, so greatly desired while serving time, becomes a major stumbling block upon release.  And how many of us have known young people – maybe this includes you – who enlisted in the military because they needed structure and discipline in their lives?

The List

The List

While I don’t have the next year of my life all planned out, I do have some goals I’ll be working toward.  Having a sense of purpose is critically important to our well-being as humans.  When I got home after my luncheon last week, I made a to-do list.

It’s not real long or detailed, but it’s my anchor for the next week or two as I continue working on this remake.  My life is certainly different and yet, there is at least one part of it that will be the same:  the list.

What I am interested in seeing – I feel like a spectator here – is what happens to this blog.  While the focus of my posts has always been on the positive side of the craziness of everyday living, I’m not sure where my thoughts and ideas will take me in the weeks to come.  I am definitely going to spend some time getting to know some of the incredibly interesting people I know are out there in the WordPress world.  I feel sure there will be some new influences that may lead me to make some changes here.  Who knows?  It’s just part of the remake!

Two Must Do’s on Your Way Out

Standard

We’ve all been on our way out at some point…on our way out of school, out of a club, or in my case, out of what has been my work home for the past 19 years.  Once I knew my timeline for leaving, I also knew what my “must do’s” would be before the last day.

First:  leave the place better than I found it.  This is one of those lessons instilled in children by mothers everywhere.  In my case, it was most often heard when our family was preparing to leave a rented beach house and head home.  We had to clean the place until it was in better shape than when we arrived.  So for the past two months, I’ve worked to wrap up every project and meet every commitment.  I’ve cleaned out the paper files and the electronic files.  If I’ve worked on a project with a co-worker, I’ve saved those files to a disc, given it to my colleague and made sure she knew what materials were still available to her.  I’ve created all kinds of “how to” guides so others would have a step by step outline to follow when tackling some of the work I always did that will now be divvied out to them.  I’ve written posts and articles that can be used during the next two or three months so someone else will have time to orient herself to the work.  I want my going out to be helpful, not crippling.

The other must do:  say goodbye in person.  Typically there is some kind of reception for people who are retiring or leaving.  I know my health education team members well.  I decided I didn’t want them going to the time, expense and effort to plan, set up, buy and prepare food, create and email out some kind of invitation, host and then clean up.  What I really wanted to do is what I have done:  spoken individually to the many people who have meant so much to me.  I wanted to thank people for being kind, for helping me, for covering for me, for teaching me.  I wanted to tell them how much it meant to me when they shared their family stories, their family photos and their joys and sorrows.  When you have laughed and cried together, when you have prayed together and for each other – those are ties that bind and I wanted to honor those above all else.

When you think about it, shouldn’t this be the way we live every day – not just when we’re on the way out?

If you have any more “must do’s,” post them!  I have 5 more days!

Another Graveyard Reunion

Standard

Saturday was old home day in the graveyard.  All of us who have been to a funeral or graveside service understand that those occasions are, to some degree, social in nature.  The mood is usually pretty somber.  However, that’s not the case on the Friday and Saturday before Easter Sunday if you’re in a God’s Acre graveyard somewhere.

I was blessed to grow up in two Protestant denominations:  Moravian and Methodist.  While I am most active in the Methodist church, I still cherish my associations with the Moravian Church.  To put it plainly, Moravians have some cool traditions that other denominations don’t.  Preparing your family’s gravesites for the Easter Resurrection Service is one of them. God's Acre

It starts with the graveyard itself.  God’s Acre is the name used by Moravians for the graveyard associated with their congregation. It’s reflective of our German heritage and means “Field of God”.  Moravians believe strongly in equality, including at death.  Consequently, all headstones are the same shape, size and color (white) and are flat on the ground.  It creates a truly beautiful setting.  If you’ve seen a military graveyard where all the markers are white crosses, you will have a better idea of the impression you get.  I’ve always referred to God’s Acre as the “most un-scary” graveyard around.

This picture is from God’s Acre in Old Salem, Winston-Salem, NC.  It covers the area down to the white car, across the green area and up the hill and to the right.  The first stone was laid in the 1790′s.

Members of the congregation who are buried here are buried in what are referred to as choirs.  This is a mirror of how they sat in church (in the early days) as well as their station in life:  married men, married women, single men, single women, and children.  The graves are laid out in a grid pattern and are in chronological order.  If you are looking for a gravesite, a date of death can get you a long way.  There are paved walkways between the grids and green water pumps scattered throughout.  We have so many relatives in the God’s Acre here that we’ve been using a map for years.  My cousin’s husband Tod is great about updating it as needed; I got my new copy on Saturday.

All extended family members are invited to meet in the parking lot at 10:30 a.m.  Everyone knows to bring buckets, scrub brushes, cleanser, gloves, flowers and stakes.  Then we divide and conquer.  Family members who do not come are the recipients of disparaging remarks for the rest of the year.  Redemption comes when you show up to clean the next year.  We usually end up going by all the relatives’ graves so we can say “Hi” to the loved ones we knew and wonder aloud about the ones we didn’t.  Along the way, we’re checking out the inscriptions and giving our opinions about the flowers and cleaning job done by others.

We run into old family friends, chat with strangers and rehash family memories.  This year, we spent some time in what we’ve dubbed the “condo” section.  This is a relatively new section for cremated remains.  Same type of headstone, just smaller.  Still beautiful.

On Saturday we had 3 generations present:  my 2 paternal aunts, now the family matriarchs; 11 of my generation, my siblings, some cousins and some outlaws – those who marry into our family; and 9 of the younger generation.  This group included 2 soon-to-be family members – Jen will marry my nephew Alex this summer and Lewis will marry my niece Emily this winter.  If you want to get in good with the family, come clean gravestones before the wedding! Graveyard Tailgating

Once all the cleaning and visiting is done, our crowd piles up in our cars and we head for a local restaurant for lunch together.  Some families stay and tailgate.  Why not?  There’s plenty of room for the little ones to run and play…plenty of people milling around for the afternoon.  Just bring the lawn chairs and your food.  If the weather’s as beautiful as it was this past Saturday, it’ll be a wonderful old home day in the graveyard.

Then come back Sunday morning for the Resurrection Service.  Watching the sun rise over the expanse of white stones, highighted by colorful flowers, is more than worth the effort.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense

Standard

Over the past two months, I have had an opportunity to get to know and become friends with a local potter.  She worked for years in a variety of corporate jobs, but never lost her love for or desire to create pottery.  She finally made her dream come true in February 2012, when she opened a pottery studio and small consignment shop for local artists.

I live in the middle third of North Carolina.  This area is home to an extensive network of potters.  The area around Seagrove is a pottery lover’s dream.  You can spend days visiting all the studios and galleries, meeting potters and shopping.  The artistry displayed by some of these craftspeople is breathtaking.  My new friend clearly has the gift.

Creation in progressA lump of unremarkable looking stuff — this grayish, moist mixture of clay and sand — can become anything in the hands of a master.  I watched as my friend sat on a small stool, grabbed a clump of clay out of a bag and placed it on her wheel.  She used her right foot to start the wheel spinning.  She wet her hands and carefully placed them around the clay. A little pressure in just the right place and the lump begins to become something.

I wondered what she had in mind, but I didn’t ask.  I wanted to see it come into being as a surprise – like awaiting the birth of a new baby without knowing in advance if it’s a boy or girl.  In what seemed like only seconds, the shape of some type of column became visible.  Finally she told me it would be a stand for a larger plate that had already been made.

But with pottery, the making of the actual item is just part of the process.  What I have not seen is the detail work she may have added.  I haven’t seen the glaze colors she chose.  I am so looking forward to going back to the shop to see the final product.

It’s no wonder that our lives, shaped and colored by so many inner and outer forces, are often compared to clay in the hands of the Master.  No matter how we hard we work to mold our future, the truth is that our future can be reshaped at any moment. Fortunately, thankfully, the beginning is never the end.  It’s a promise of more to come.

Today’s Weekly Photo Challenge invited us to grab an image from our world that holds the promise or portent of the future.

For some of my friend’s creations, visit pinterest.com/jamestownps .

The Scarf Comes Off

Standard

jonqils bigOur local newspaper has been asking readers to share their harbingers of spring.  For most folks around here, seeing the daffodils blooming is the first real sign of spring.  Although this winter, we’ve had a warm day or two tossed into the mix every couple of weeks so that the daffodil greens have been up for awhile.  Daffodils and jonquils are cheery flowers and they manage to keep their heads up even if we have a late frost.

Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons, but Spring has the edge.  Since I don’t care for cold weather, I look towards March on the calendar all winter long.  I study my garden area from the kitchen window, planning how I can do a better job than I did last season, working out a new plan to protect my tomatoes from the squirrels this year.  I stand on the porch next to the pansies, standing in the little bit of sunny warmth that has kept them going all winter.

Spring is the season of promise.  The promise of more sun and fewer clouds.  Warmer temperatures.  New green on old brown.

Yesterday, I spent the morning unloading bags of compost and manure from the back of my car and hauling them down to the garden.  After pouring it all out and raking it over the bed, I got out the trusty old mattock and turned over a narrow section close to the edge.  I have been itching to get something in the ground and at this time of year, lettuce is the way to go.  In a week or so, I should see the sprouts cresting.  I have a new mattock, but I use the old one because it belonged to my maternal grandmother.  She was so talented with her hands.  She grew beautiful roses, had gardens, cooked great food, created beautiful needlepoint works of art and the list goes on.  Surely if I use her mattock my garden will be more successful.

As I was digging in the dirt, I listened to the staccato tapping of a woodpecker.  We back up to a lake so it was no surprise to see 2 mallards waddling through the yard, hoping for a cache of grass seed.  Why didn’t I have my camera with me?  We stopped and looked at each other for a few minutes, then went back to what we were doing.  And yes, I admit, I did talk to them.  No, they did not answer me.  When a large group of ducks are playing or whatever else it is ducks do in the water, their quacking sounds like laughter.  The sounds of Spring.

However, in the midst of soaking up every possible sign of the season, I am reminded of how this can be a sad time of year.  I have two friends who have a parent battling cancer.  One is in the early part of this journey – and the hope for healing and recovery is strong, like flowers pushing their way through the dirt towards the sun.  But the other is close to the end.  And as much as you want their struggle and suffering to go away, you also want the clock to stop.  You want more time and the signs of spring are a painful reminder that life goes on.

One of our nieces popped in for a quick weekend visit last weekend.  She brought us a bouquet of beautiful yellow tulips and that was my reminder to do one thing that really lets me know it’s springtime.  Take the scarf off the Count.Count VZ

This bust is of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, a very distant relative.  He watches over us from the shelf in the living room all year.  He’s old and I know he gets cold in the winter, so a couple of years ago I knit a scarf for him.  I really did it to see how long it took my family to notice.  Now I put it on him every winter and then, come spring, I take it off.

What is your favorite sign of spring?

Help Us Stop Domestic Violence – Read and Vote

Standard

Today’s post is a shameless request!  I am asking everyone who reads this to please go to the Huffington Post’s Mayors Challenge (HPMC) page and vote for my hometown, High Point, NC as the Fan Favorite.  Voting ends March 6 and you can only vote one time.  Then share this request with others.

Why should you?  Because the Fan Favorite winner gets $50,000 to put towards its program.  That would be a terrific contribution to the work we are doing.  And I’m asking nicely (see the word “please” above).

And the work we are doing?  It’s a novel approach to stopping domestic violence.  There’s a short video about our work (and the work of all the other finalists) on the HPMC page.  However, there is so much more to say.  And even if we don’t win the Fan Favorite contest or the Mayors Challenge, I want you to know about this approach because it might work in your hometown as well.  That’s one of our goals.

Our program is called the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative.  It’s patterned after a violence reduction program we created and have been using for over ten years, which has reduced our violence and homicide rates significantly.  It is a collaborative effort between the law enforcement agencies (local, state, national agencies as well as probation/parole offices) and the community (residents, volunteers, service agency representatives, business owners, etc.).  Law enforcement identifies 4 levels of domestic violence offenders – individuals who are showing initial signs of abuse patterns to those who have a record of abuse – the worst of the worst.  Those showing initial signs receive warning letters as well as visits from law enforcement officers to explain why this behavior is wrong and what will happen to the offender if it happens again.  A repeat offense moves that individual up the ladder of levels and results in other consequences.

Those with established patterns of abuse are asked to come to a meeting.  We call them “notifications” or “call ins”.  This is a highly structured event, hosted by a local non-profit organization, High Point Community Against Violence (HPCAV), and the High Point Police Department.  Members of HPCAV address the individuals first, explaining that their past behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated.  We are very purposeful with our words and what is said is based on research done in the area of domestic violence offenders.  Following this part, representatives from a multitude of law enforcement agencies as well as the state and federal court system make their comments.  The heart of the message is that domestic violence – abuse of intimate partners – will not be tolerated by our community or our law enforcement.  Any repeat offenses will result in immediate and severe consequences.  These include moving that person to the top of the list for a court appearance, a look at how to get that person the most jail time possible and a promise that the community will show up in court to let the judge know that a warning was issued but ignored.  The meeting closes with an offer from HPCAV:  if you are willing to change what you are doing, we are willing to help you make that change.  We stay to have conversations with any of the individuals who want to talk.  We explain how we can help them connect with established programs or services that can help them control their anger or resolve some of the challenges that may lead to violent behavior.  Our director is available to listen, to guide, to support.

This particular initiative started almost one year ago and is based on careful research and data gathering.  Domestic violence victims and service agencies have been a part of the research and planning.  Our six month data looked very promising in terms of a lower number of repeat offenses.  We are excited and hopeful that the first year’s results will be as good or better.

Imagine what our communities and our country would be like if we could stop domestic violence.  Imagine what it would mean for women and men, girls and boys.  What it would mean for children.

This is a very shortened explanation of a complex and well-conceived program; it’s what is being considered for the Mayors Challenge.  While winning would be an incredible gift to our city, what we really hope for is results, real results.  We want a real decrease in the number of domestic violence incidents, this year, next year, and 10 years from now.  We want a program that you or anyone else could replicate in your city or town with confidence, because it has been successful in our city and because we have the research to prove it.  We want every home to be the safe haven it should be, for all of us.

I hope you’ll vote for us and I hope you’ll keep this effort in your thoughts and prayers.  Thank you!

Brain Sucking Parking Decks

Standard

What is it about a parking deck that causes people to become, as my dad might have said, “dumb as a sack of hammers”?parking deck

I park in a deck adjacent to my office every day and have for almost 19 years.  I’ll be the first to say the directional signage is terrible, as is the lighting.  I cannot remember how many people I have had to help enter, park, and exit over the years.

One day I was on my way to my car to leave and noticed a woman in her 30’s kind of wandering around, clearly looking for something.  We have our share of “check your car door” thieves and drug addicts moseying through (it’s not a great area of town) so we’re all aware of our surroundings.  However, she looked somewhat distraught and not overtly dangerous, so I stopped to ask if she needed help.  “I can’t find my car,” she said.  “Do you remember what level you parked on?”  I asked.  Clearly I have a bright future in interrogation methods.  The deck has 3 levels, each with a different way of exiting – ramp, steps down or steps up.  I thought that might help her identify where she had parked.  “No,” she replied.  Of course not, I thought.  Who could remember that kind of detail – ramp, up or down?parking deck steps

After asking her a few more questions, it was clear we were not making any progress.  So, I invited her to get in my car and I drove her through the deck until we found her car.  She was on the “steps up” level.  As I shared this with my husband that night, he was not impressed with my decision to give her a ride.

Yesterday morning, I pulled up to enter the deck and noticed the van in front of me was not moving, because the car in front of it had stopped.  It appeared the driver and passenger were reading the very large sign about parking rates.  The backup lights appeared, so I waited to see if the car was going to back up and leave the entryway.  That happens sometimes.  But no, the car moved forward…all the way to the gate.  The driver never even glanced at the machine to the left that spits out the ticket.  There the car sat, waiting.

Now, there is a booth there for an attendant, but there is no attendant in that booth.  It’s clear, so anyone with reasonable vision can see there is no one in there.  I don’t believe she ever glanced at the booth.  Finally, I got out of my car, walked up and said, “Excuse me.”  The driver’s side window was down and I was able to tell there was a woman driving.  I didn’t want to scare her.  She looked at me.  “You have to pull the ticket, ma’am,” I said, “or you’ll be here all day.”  (I couldn’t stop myself.)

I suspected then that I had come across a local version of Minnie Pearl.  She apologized and shared that she had no idea what to do, she’d never been here before.  The gate went up and she drove in.  The van then entered and I got back in my car and entered.  As I made the turn to get into the area where I always park, I noticed her car a bit further down, making a circle.  Bless her.  Finding a spot in the mostly empty deck was not going well.

I parked my car and got out, waiting.  As she came back up towards me, I waved at her and the passenger.  I asked her if I could help her in some way.  “Where are you going?” I asked.  “The courthouse,” she replied.  I suggested she drive to the top of the deck, park and then use the ramp to make her way to the courthouse.  This way she didn’t have to take the steps.  “I don’t even know how to get up there,” she said.  “Can’t I just park right here?”  I realized then they stood a better chance of actually getting where they were going on foot.  “Certainly you can park here and I’ll help you get to the courthouse,” I volunteered.

When they got out of their car, the Minnie Pearl suspicion was confirmed, minus the hat and price tag.  Her male companion was a bit younger, perhaps her son, but I don’t believe he had any teeth.  And he was wearing some pretty thick glasses.  That may explain why she was driving.  She had the parking ticket in her hand.

“Be careful with that ma’am,” I said.  “You will need that when you leave.  You have to pay to park here.”  “Pay to park?”  She sounded like she had never heard of such.  “I don’t have any money.  Do you?” She looked at her companion.  “Ay-yep” came the response.

For a minute there I thought I was in the middle of the Hee Haw cornfield.  I went on to remind her that she was parked on the bottom level of the deck and she would need to come back down the steps to get to her car.

About that time I saw a woman I know who works in the courthouse.  “Debbie,” I called.  “Are you going to your office?”  When she responded that she was, I promptly handed off Minnie and her son.  Debbie is a much nicer person than I; I knew she would treat them well.  As we got to the steps, I took a sharp right down the sidewalk to my building entry and Debbie was chatting away with Minnie.  I need to ask her if the son ever said a word. I doubt it.

When 5 p.m. finally rolled around, I headed for my car.  Minnie’s car was gone, so I can only assume they found their way back and out.  I stood for a minute, looking for my car.  It wasn’t in the usual area.  I did a slow 360, wondering aloud where in the heck I had parked after lunch.  Just about the time I could feel my anxiety level rise, it dawned on me.  I had not driven my car; I had driven my husband’s car.

Guess I’ll need a sack for those hammers.

What’s Your Name? Who’s Your Daddy?

Standard

Raise your hand if you read the obituaries…in print or on line.

If you don’t, you really should.  While most of them are similar in terms of the information provided, every now and then you’ll come across one that leaves you wondering what in the world the writer was thinking!  I skim them, looking for anyone I might know, but I’m also on the lookout for unusual names.  When I see an unusual last name, I look for where this person was born.  But it’s the first name that’s most interesting to me.

Southerners have a thing for names – first names, middle names and how those names connect you to someone else.  I can’t remember how many times I heard my grandmother ask, “And who are his parents?” We want to know:  who are your people?

Add to that the fact that Southerners are a quirky group.   The way we name our children proves it.

My family is big on the “family” name.  Go to one of our family gatherings, yell “Blair, toss me that tennis ball!” and you’re liable to get a barrage of balls coming your way.   We have a lot of Blairs.  We have had 4 generations of Robert Alexander; no wonder Southerners use nicknames.  I was named after my mom – Cornelia.  It’s not a bad name, but just not one you want as a child.  The classroom teacher would always pause before attempting to call my name aloud in class.  Without fail, the other kids would giggle as I would replied, “I go by Connie.”  My cousin was named after her mom – Erdmuth Dorothea.  My aunt is called Erd (Erd Bird being the family nickname); my cousin managed to come out with the name Dottie.  Older family members, like my great-uncle John Fries Blair (there’s that name again) always used our “full” names.  Fortunately, our parents didn’t.

My good friend Robin has a nice name – short, easy to pronounce and spell.  I’ve never asked her if she feels fortunate, but considering other names in the family, she might.  Her mom’s name is Lodell.  Aunts and uncles include:  Creola, Mundale, Vendale and Lonie.  Then there’s General Delton, General Dolan and John Target.  And yes, you use both names every time.

Another friend, Dennis, tells great stories about a family in his hometown that had 6 kids – 5 girls and a boy.  The girls’ names trip off his tongue with ease, like some kind of poem:  Irene, Ilene, Imogene, Fayrene and Dordene.  Then, bless him, comes Arvil.  Add that name to the end of the line above and the rhythm comes to screeching halt.  Arvil.  Dennis’ father renamed him Tangerine.  Now say it:  Irene, Ilene, Imogene, Fayrene, Dordene and Tangerine; harmony restored!

Some Southerners just keep it simple with what I call the “interchangeable first letter formula”.  One family’s example:  Lonnie, Donnie, and Connie.  Growing up, we had neighbors who took the opposite approach:  all the kids have a name that starts with the same letter.  Imagine…6 kids, all of whom had names that started with the letter T.  With 6 kids running around, I think “Hey you” and a pointing finger probably worked just as well.

We like our Biblical names too.  This week in the paper I found an Obadiah (now deceased) and a Messiah, alive and well at 4 years old.

There are names I have never seen attached to a person.  This week’s entry:  Clorine.  And yes, she had a nickname – Clo.

Then there are names that should never be combined.  One of the 7th grade teachers in my junior high was Mrs. Cain.  Care to guess what she named her first daughter?  All together now!  Candy.  What in the world were her parents thinking? or smoking? or drinking?

Finally, there are those names I call unfortunate.  I see a lot of these in the obituaries.  They seem to be older names that have fallen out of common use – a good thing as far as I’m concerned.  A name makes the “unfortunate” list if it gives me a less than pleasant visual.  One of them is Fanny.  My maternal grandmother’s oldest sister was named Fanny.  I grew up hearing that same word used to indicate one’s backside.  Sure to unleash waves of giggling in the early elementary school classroom.  I’m sure great-Aunt Fanny was a lovely woman, but that name.  Unfortunate.  Bertha; that one makes my list too.

I have never lived outside of the South, so I would love to hear from some of you how your family or your area of the country names its children.  There are bound to be more interesting (and unfortunate) traditions out there.

Extra credit points to anyone who can guess the source of this post’s title.