Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Anna!

Today is my niece Anna's birthday. I honor of her seventeen years, I offer this list of...

The 17 Things That You Might Not Know About Anna

1.  Anna has a sixth sense but I only know of one time she used it. She knew I was pregnant with my oldest son before anyone else. She knew before I officially knew. The morning I was in my home taking a pregnancy test, she was on the other side of metro Atlanta in her own home telling her mom that I was going to have a baby. She was five years old and that morning knew I was having a boy. We went to lunch with them later that same day and they told us that Anna said "the craziest thing this morning." I love that story.

2.  When she was about one year old, Anna initiated my husband and I into the true secrets of parenthood. Childless and naive, we watched her parents give her liquid antibiotics by means of a combination bear hug/half Nelson. The scene was one part wild cat fight, one part Linda Blair, one part WWF. Don't misunderstand me; her parents were supremely gentle with her. Their movements were like a ballet. Anna was the wild cat. My husband and I have never forgotten that scene and we successfully used the same holds on our own boys years later.

3.  The worst picture that has ever been taken of me was taken the very first time I held Anna. I had come to visit the new baby and my brother, her dad, thought to capture the touching moment when aunt meets niece. The picture is known in the family as "The Jimmy Durante."  In my defense, the lighting was harsh. I didn't know my angles. I wasn't wearing any makeup. I could go on with reasons why The Jimmy Durante has been destroyed. But given what Anna is going through in her life right now, I would have posted it here and now in tribute to her if I hadn't shredded the only copy of it I had. If anyone has that picture, I'll post it. Just send it to me. There were other, better pictures taken of us that day, but I can't get my hands on those either. Darn old film technology!

4.  Anna can pose for a picture. She knows her angles. She learned it from her mom.

5.  Anna stayed with us for about a week in June 2003. It was a few weeks after my second son was born. Her parents left her with us while they explored their first international relocation. I can admit now that I don't have many clear memories of Anna's stay. Post-partum hormones were raging and sleep was scarce. But I do remember her playing with her own Bitty Baby.

6.  She took my boys to their first pub. They'd go anywhere with her.

7.  No matter how old she gets, she always waits at the top (or bottom) of the stairs with the younger kids on Christmas morning while the adults to get their coffee until we know Santa has visited and everything is ready.

8.  Even with all the worldly experiences she has had in her young life, she still enjoys simple fun like tubing and horseback riding with her family in East Tennessee.

9.  Anna has a thing for East Tennessee black bears.

10.  She likes a "lil snack a' brownie" every now and then.

11.  Anna has a quiet way of making others feel special. She lets you wear the crown.

12.  She's really the one responsible for starting Sticky Chicken. No matter what anybody else tells you.

13.  Anna named me Aunt Cocky. It has nothing to do with my demeanor but rather the difficulty of my name for her 2-year-old mouth to master. I take the name proudly.

14.  She has the best, full-body laugh...from the time she was a tiny baby until now...she laughs with her whole soul.

15.  She's looking for a match. Maybe you could help her or someone like her. Click below to find out how.

16.  She's always been a strong person but until recently no one knew just how strong she really is.

17.  She's competitive. She likes to win. I believe she will.

Happy Birthday Anna!!! Aunt Cocky Loves You!

Friday, September 23, 2011

We Are Not Alone

When I talked about my holey t-shirt dilemma, I was not expecting the responses I got. I received several blog comments, FB comments, phone calls, and texts from people with the same t-shirt mystery of their own. No one had identified the Dang Nub as the culprit. After reading my post, each of these folks checked their own vehicle seat belts and all but one have the Nub. Some drive Toyotas, some drive Hondas, both vans and sedans, one drives a Jeep. The one without the Nub drives a Volvo. So maybe the Dang Nub is not solely responsible for causing the holes but the friction of the seat belt alone can weaken t-shirt fabric. Before the lawsuit is filed, a full study would have to be performed to singularly implicate the Nub or determine if it has accomplices.

I did find the explanations that the other people had for their t-shirts problems interesting. Several had no explanation, just a sense of frustration. One male victim logically assumed the holes were a result of his belt buckle that he wears daily. One female attributed the holes in her shirts to all the time she spends standing in front of her kitchen sink. Apparently, she leans against the countertop edge at the sink frequently.

I even received a picture of someone else's holey t-shirt as proof of solidarity in this situation.

This is the Kitchen Sink Lady. She must have some really dirty dishes or a very vigorous method of scrubbing pots and pans if she's actually ripping and snagging her clothing like this.

Another thing I realized was that the holes of all the victims are in generally the same spot on our shirts - just a few inches above the bottom seam, right around waist level. All these victims are different heights so their waists are at different heights too. The Dang Nub, and its alleged accomplices Seat Belt and Belt Buckle, are the only reasonable explanations for the waist-high damage. Pretty clear cut if you ask me.

My husband has had a few things to say during this mysterious case. Before I identified the Dang Nub, he offered the notion that I might have an egg tooth in my stomach that I was unaware of and it was trying to release something al a Alien style. Nice Honey. Thanks.

He then suggested that we all just pull our t-shirts out from under the confines of the Nub after we buckle up. But that would require breaking a near 30-year habit of how we settle in to drive and establishing a new habit. You can imagine how hard that would be. But I've been doing it. One drive at a time.

This is not the end of the t-shirt caper. I am sure others with feel strongly enough about this injustice to come forward especially now that they too know that they are not alone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What To Wear to a Tractor Pull

It's Fair time again in Frederick. I didn't grow up around agriculture or animal husbandry or bake-offs, so the Fair experience is still novel to me. Here the Fair is hugely popular. There is even a sanctioned day off from school locally known as "Fair Day" where every kid in the county is out of school. I have an issue with that. I support the ag and 4-H kids involved in the fair having the day or even the entire week excused from school. But not every kid needs Fair Day off.  I guess the rationale is that if the kids have the day off from school, they will go to the Fair and learn about the animals and farming. Not so much. Have you seen the midway? That's where they want to go. So it's really about commerce. And that's fine; my kids go to the midway. But not when they should be in school. We've always avoided going to the Fair on Fair Day. Most of the people I know avoid the Fair on Fair Day. I'm not alone in this but still only part of a minority. They tried to take Fair Day off the school calendar at one point and many folks got really upset. So this Friday is Fair Day...and when in Rome...

But I didn't come here to talk about my opinion of Fair Day. I came here to talk about how every year we go to the Great Frederick Fair  and learn something new. As I said, I didn't grow up with a vast fair experience so there are many fair related things to be learned. Last year we learned about pigs, sheep and goats and how it's nice to have someone you trust riding a rollercoaster with you for the first time. We also took Sticky Chicken with us to the fair last year and learned all about poultry.

This year we decided to go to one of the entertainment events. Unfortunately, Darius Rucker was sold out and our schedule wouldn't allow for any of the other musical options. Our choices then were the Tractor Pull or the Demolition Derby. Our hectic schedule chose the Tractor Pull so off to the Pull we went.

The first thing anyone says to you when you say you are going to a tractor pull is that you better have ear plugs. And they are right. They are so right in fact that the Fair officials have smartly arranged for an army of fair employees to dole out ear plugs as you enter the grandstand. You must have them. It is so loud. Oddly, there were many people in the grandstands without them. I assume those folks had already lost their hearing at a previous tractor pull. Or they were teenagers trying to prove their invincibility to members of the opposite sex. Either way, I found them curious and crazy to be sitting there without ear plugs. We, being new to the tractor pull setting and being ones who enjoy having our hearing intact, used the complimentary ear plugs and our fingers for added protection.

The second thing you must know about a tractor pull is that the only machines you will see that resemble tractors are the actual tractors that freshen up the track after each "run". These are the Zambonis of the tractor pull. They are regular looking tractors driven by regular looking farmer type guys who smooth out the track between pulls. Also there was one tractor that would return the sled back to the starting line after each pull. Aside from that, I didn't see any other tractors.

What I did see were souped up dragsters that had REAALLY BIG rear tires and teeny tiny front tires. Here's a "tractor" (on the left) attached to the sled (in the middle) with the regular tractor (on the right).

The gist of a tractor pull competition is to see which "tractor" can pull the weighted sled the furthest. There are different weight classes and horsepowers and yadayadayada. It all boils down to big boys with big toys. Or does it? I was surprised that several of the drivers were WOMEN. It seems women's lib and equal rights are alive and well on the tractor pull circuit. Good to know.

I was also surprised to hear the amount of money that people pump into these vehicles. The engine alone in some of them can cost $50,000.

And some of them have two engines.

And that doesn't even include the cost of all the other parts that are needed to actually make them the exaggerated vehicles they are. Someone told us these can cost up to $250,000. All that makes me think is that some people have more money than sense. Or at least they have much more money than I have.

I must admit that I had been to a tractor pull before. It was decades ago in high school. I had forgotten about it until this recent tractor pull experience. The main thing I remember about that tractor pull was what I was wearing. I was clearly out of my element then and proved it by wearing white capri pants. I saw no white capri pants this time, mine or anyone else's. I was savvy enough from my previous experience to wear jeans...and ear plugs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mystery Solved

There is a mystery that I have been trying to solve for quite some time now. I have finally cracked the case. And in cracking this case, I think I have a pretty good grounds for a lawsuit.

Here's the backstory. I have an extensive t-shirt wardrobe. My line of work requires it. Some of my t-shirts are cheap and some are not so cheap. Some are very casual and some are actually nice and dress up a pair of jeans or khakis. I probably have at least a couple hundred dollars tied up in t-shirts.

Over time I have noticed a pattern of damage in many of my t-shirts. Tiny holes have been appearing in the shirts at about waist level on the front. I have a number of shirts with these mysterious little holes.

At first I attributed the holes to the quality of the t-shirt.

Then a few of my nicer shirts from Loft developed holes.

Then I thought it might be a problem with my washer or dryer.
But then I realized no one else in the house was having this type of problem with their t-shirts.

And then one day I looked down and saw this.

This is now what we call "The Dang Nub," because that's what I exclaimed when I realized what was happening...

The Dang Nub is that little button that keeps the metal clip of your seatbelt from slipping all the way down to the floor when you unbuckle.

But The Dang Nub is also the culprit in this clothing damage dilemma. When you are buckled up, The Dang Nub sits right in the spot where these tiny holes are forming.

The Dang Nub is ruining my t-shirt wardrobe. I feel certain that I am not the only one experiencing these damages. I have seen all the Toyota Siennas out of the road and I know how many people where shirts on a routine basis. So this looks like a prime situation for a class action lawsuit against a large minivan manufacturer. Anyone with me on this? What about you Honda Odyssey drivers? Does the Odyssey have a Dang Nub? If I had known about this where we were weighing our options between Honda and Toyota, the Dang Nub would have been a deal breaker.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Looking Back 10 Years - September 11th

I have never written my personal reflections about September 11, 2001. Today is the 10th anniversary of that day. Since this blog is all about passing down my lore to my boys, I am writing my thoughts down now for them.

Ten years ago today, we lived in Decatur, Georgia. We were in our eleventh year of living in the Atlanta area. My husband's office was only a mile away from our house. Our first son was 16 months old. I had a great network of friends with babies around the same age. My husband's work, in comparative hindsight, was very low stress. Life was enchanted for us, experiencing things for the first time through our young son's eyes.

That Tuesday morning was typical. My husband left for work and my son and I got down to the business of our day. I can't really recall what that business was but it likely involved planning at which park to play or which friends to invite over for a playdate. Shortly before 9:00 the phone rang. It was a good friend Megan on the line. I don't remember the words she said. We talked so briefly I suspect she only told me to turn on the television, that something bad was happening.

I turned on the TV and heard Matt Lauer's voice. I saw an image of the first Twin Tower with its now famous plume of black smoke billowing from the upper floors. I called my husband. I told him something was happening in New York, a jet had crashed into the World Trade Center. We talked only long enough for him to say that he would go check it out. There was a TV in the break room at the office.

Back to the TV, I watched, wondering how a plane could have crashed into the middle of New York City. And then the second plane hit the other tower. I know I saw it live because Matt lost his anchorman's composure ever so briefly. "It's another one! A second plane has hit the South Tower!" I talked to my husband again. I don't know if he called or I called. This was no accident in New York.

I remembering the feeling of horror and shock I felt that morning. I also remember being afraid. I called my parents. When Dad answered the phone, all I could manage was, "Are you watching tv?!" I remember those words vividly because I had to repeat them several times. Dad didn't recognize my voice because I was crying so hard. I finally told him who I was, why I was crying and to please turn on the television. He didn't know about the attacks until that point.

Once the next plane hit the Pentagon, my husband decided to come home from the office. The rest of that morning is a blur of phone calls, watching news footage, and hugging my husband all the while trying keep things normal for my son. That is what the last ten years have felt like too. I have been trying to keep things normal for all of us since that day.

I didn't lose anyone personally that day, but I feel I lost my innocence. Ten years ago, I lived in a bubble where bad things didn't happen in my life. Apparently, I was really lucky up to that point, or at least I was enough of a Pollyanna to think so. September 11th changed all that. It didn't "happen to me" but it happened and it took something away. From me. From all of us.

That September 11th became my World War II, my day that JFK was shot, my day MLK was shot, my Vietnam, my LA riots. It is the day that took away my sense of enchantment. It took away the peaceful easy feeling I had as I walked through life before that day.

I do not walk through life today in fear of terrorists. I do have quite an impressive emergency kit that I never had before. I do hate when anyone I know travels on or around this date. I do recognize that my bubble has been burst.

If September 11th had not happened, something else would have been the pin to burst that bubble. In the intervening years since 9/11, many things, enchanted, bad and otherwise, have happened to me and those I love. That is life and Pollyanna is gone. And in her place is a woman who knows that normal does not mean that harm won't be hurled your way. How you respond to that hurtling harm dictates how you emerge from the rubble.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Family Wish

I've been thinking a lot about family lately. My family is spread all over the Eastern United States. Little groups and single members are randomly strewn across the map. There are hundreds of miles between most of us. Over the years, some of us have lived close enough to each other to allow for day visits or even close enough to meet for dinner. But that has been many years and many moves ago. Now we look to even-yeared holidays when the whole lot of us can be together. In between, there are random visits, travel plans converging in Tennessee, business trips that bring some within a rental car's driving distance of another.

I know of families whose members all live in the same community. They share the day to day. My family does not know what that is like. Being all together has its appeal to a family spread out like mine. But I am sure there would be drawbacks of such togetherness. There would be a few wrinkles to iron out. But I think we could make things lay nicely.

One thing about my family is that behind all our history, underneath all the idiosyncracies lies the desire for the best for each other. There is a common wish, may be at times masked by our individual quirks and opinions, but shared nonetheless.

The miles still divide us today, but with the help of pictures, music and internet wonder, I feel a little closer to my family this morning. This is my wish for you...

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Word is Hodgepodge

I am participating today in Joyce's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Joyce posts thought provoking questions on her blog and we all answer on our own blog.

I am participating today because of the first question in particular...

1. What is one piece of advice you would give a 'just turning' 21- year old adult?

If this were a hypothetical question and I was giving advice to any 21-year-old, I might not put too much thought into my answer and say something like, "This is the time of your life; enjoy every moment to the fullest," or "You'll never feel this free at any other point in your life, so relish it before real life sets in." But this isn't really a hypothetical question and I am not answering just any 21-year-old. There might actually be an almost 21-year-old in my family whose industrious mother might just be collecting nuggets of wisdom through a blog, perhaps, to pass along to this particularly important 21-year-old. If that's the case, then my advice is more of a thought to share with this particularly special girl approaching this milestone in her life. As full and free and as alive as she may feel right now, there are many years ahead of great fulfilment and freedom and life that she can't yet imagine. Happy Birthday Hypothetical 21-year-old! Now that that's been said, you can live it up...right after you check in with your mother.

2. Besides cooler weather (or warmer weather, depending on your hemisphere) what is one thing you are looking forward to this fall?

Shorter days which actually translates into longer snuggle and reading time on the couch with my boys in the evenings.

3. What sound lulls you to sleep?

Complete silence. Even a constant restful sound like the whirring of a fan or the peaceful babbling of a mountain stream can keep me awake.

4. September is National Preparedness Month...does your family have an emergency 'kit' and/or disaster plan in place?

Yes and yes. And in honor of National Preparedness Month, I think I need to review our kit contents and our plan. Thanks for the reminder.

5. How has your blog changed since you started blogging? Or has it?

I feel like my blog must have changed since I started it because I really had no plan or theme for it at the start. Now I have broad themes that all swirl around my family. I don't know if anyone else can recognize that, but I do. I think I have changed since I started blogging. I am definitely more appreciative of my family (immediate and otherwise) since blogging began. Blogging may not be the reason for my new appreciation; circumstances may have dictated that and blogging is just my latest way of expresssing it.

6. What's something you've recently learned to do on the computer?

I have recently been pulled back into my former career as an accountant. I am bartering services with a friend: I'll set up the bookkeeping for her new OT business if she'll be my photographer's assistant at an upcoming shoot. So recently, I have learned the ins and out of QuickBooks Pro 2011, version 8.0. It's actually not so bad, doing a little bookkeeping. It feeds my organizational beast.

7. Is a picture worth a thousand words? Elaborate.

As a photographer, I would like to go out on a limb and say that a GREAT picture is worth ONE word. A great image captures a thought, a feeling, idea and shouts that one word out to any and all who see it. I don't know if I've ever captured an image that great myself but I strive to. In the meantime, a really good image is worth as many words as can be conjured in the minds of those who take time to ponder the image.

8. Insert your own random here.

How about a random image...

Words like precious come to mind...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Home Sweet Home To Me

It's football time in Tennessee! Actually, the game is currently under a weather delay. But as soon as the storm passes, it will be football time in Tennessee. Technically it's football time everywhere in America. But let's talk about what's important - UT football. This importance comes not from high pre-season rankings or from a previous successful bowl season. I don't think anyone is anticipating a great season for UT. We've got a young team and are in a rebuilding period, so my husband says. Regardless, I am NOT a fair weather fan. I love to watch Tennessee football no matter what.

I love all the orange. As garish as it would be on any other day, all that orange is fun and festive on game day.

My hubby and I have been spontaneously singing Rocky Top all week long. We have burst into song at the most unexpected times. We don't actually sing it though; we only know the words to the chorus. So it's more of a vocal rendering of a trumpet sound....dadada da da da da dada da da da daa da dada da daaa....followed by "Rocky Top you'll always be home sweet home to me!"

My mouth was getting tired of faking the trumpet and it occurred to me that it was high time I learned all the words to Rocky Top. I did know a few choice words from the song: moonshine, corn from a jar, sodie pop. I won't reprint all the song lyrics here. If you're interested, go here. It's a fun song about missing the simple life in the hills of Tennessee. I can relate.

What I found most interesting about Rocky Top was that it was written by a husband and wife songwriting team in 1967. I love their names: Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. In case you have to ask, Boudleax is the man. Even more interesting to me is that Boudleaux and his lovely wife Felice are responsible for such other great songs as "Love Hurts" and "All I Have to Do is Dream". Any Everly Brothers fans out there? No? You prefer Nazareth's version? Either way, you can thank Boudleaux and Felice for easing your teenage broken heart with their poignant words.

Oh...but I was talking about football, right? I'd like to thank Boudleaux and Felice for making UT football a sing-along event since 1972. The University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band has a perpetual license to play Rocky Top as often as its success on the field allows. If you've ever been to a UT game, you know the band takes full advantage of this legal arrangement.

Each time the band plays the song, the crowd joins in only on the chorus of course. Because like me, most UT fans only know the chorus. It is quite a sing-along.

I can't take credit for this video but this is a good sample of the Rocky Top experience. I especially like the guy singing the loudest. There are lots of these guys in the crowd on game day.

Good ole Rocky Top! Rocky Top Tennessee!