I am glad you chose to visit! My blog is a compilation of the many hats I find myself wearing. On any given day I may be an encourager, an instructor, or just a lady who is venting. You, dear reader, will probably identify with my triumphs and my tribulations! These snapshots fit into my Life Scrapbook I have named A. McInnis Artworks. I hope you will find something worth your while.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

* "Pawing" and Vanna White

Why, you ask, would I vault out of the bed at 5:15 AM" the day before" the day before school starts? What on earth could be so important that I would find myself in the JC Penney's parking lot at 7:10 AM on my "last" Saturday morning? It's a long story but one worth repeating.

Does your life every spiral completely out of control? Do you suffer from "the snowball effect"? I once knew a woman who politely asked her teen daughter not to dip the gravy all the way across the table to her plate, but to move the gravy boat closer to her plate and dip. Well, one or two teenagery smart remarks later the daughter was grounded for six weeks and the whole dinner was ruined! That's the way it always begins...one little incident and then like a magnet something else sticks and suddenly you've got the War of the Roses on your hands.

It all began with a wand, not the magic kind but one on my mini blind in the kitchen.
Several months ago, the wand on the "one inch out of date" mini blinds broke. We have four windows over the sink, and it has always been my great pleasure to get up early, fix some coffee and open my blinds over the sink and look out over the pasture at the big oak tree. (Of course, you remember the oak tree was split in two by lightning, so now I just look out over the dead split fallen oak tree.) But the wand on the #3 window, my favorite, was the one that broke.

My husband, ever the cheerful penny pincher, said, " Oh, that's not so bad, just adjust the blind with your hand. It opens right up." It sort of looks like you are "pawing" the blinds, coaxing them to open, one by one. Every day now you can tell who has pawed open the blind. If light comes in from the top all the way down, it's him. If only a few blinds are open, it's me. It's harder to "paw" very high when you are 5'1".

What is opened must also be closed. The "closing of the blinds" is a wrist action much like Vanna White does on the game show. The problem is compounded if Husband has "pawed" the blinds open because then the top blinds are too tall for me to close. So this necessitates opening the pantry, retrieving the yardstick and closing the blinds. This entire scenario has become very annoying.

Friday afternoon the unthinkable happened. Another wand broke! This time it was window #2.(Levolor must have had an exact 17 year long warranty on these things.) So into the car we go to check out new blinds at JC Penney. Husband was tired (two a day football practice and all. It was 5:00 on Friday afternoon, lots of traffic, big purchase looming on the horizon), so things were pretty tense on the ride to Penney's to "just look" at the sale blinds.

Because of the great sale, I could get rid of those 1" minis and get my much desired 2" blinds! To make a long story shorter, we ordered 4 new sets of 2" blinds and I was deliriously happy. Approaching the car, my stomach suddenly lurched. For a moment I thought it was the afterglow of the day old pizza I had for lunch, but then it hit...I couldn't get those 2 inchers, they were right next to the dining room which had 1 inchers. I watch enough HGTV to know that's not happening. I quickly counted, if we did the dining room, the living room was next to it and the 4 windows in the front of the guest room, then we might as well finish out the rest and before I knew it, I had counted 15 windows would need blinds! BTW: we had to get custom made ones, because our windows were 1" narrower than the ready mades.

We dashed to Lowe's to comparison shop. (Tension rising.) Couldn't get the right width or length. We could, however, buy new wands for only $2.97 each. We bought 4. "Let's try them out when we get to the car." We had brought a "good" blind to measure with. In wresting the wand onto the wand holder thing, somehow, it broke, too. If you are counting, we now have 3 broken wands out of a possible 4.

I called my blind man at Penney's. I mean the nice, patient guy who works the drapery department. He is not blind. I needed to change the order to 1 inchers. What color? "Well, you just be the judge." To spare you the details, after 3 phone calls from my new BFF, the last one at 9:00 PM, we decided it would be best for me to come back to the store and pick out the best color of white blind. That's how I ended up there at 7:15 on Saturday morning. He had appointments the rest of the day...I bet he did..anything to get rid of me.

Filling out the paperwork for blinds is a lot like applying for a job at the Pentagon. EXACT measurements (now we are having custom blinds made), side of wand tilt, drawstring? or ring? or the new ringless? aluminum or vinyl? which white? dover, snow, coconut, dover metallic, snowball, yada, yada, yada! Room where they will be used? Initial here in three places, read the contract, and sign your full name. Is this real? All this to order an "out dated" decorating accessory for your home? I dutifully did everything BFF said to do and the deed was done. What if they don't fit? Well, remember the contract?...it's tough if they don't fit.

I paid, picked out some new sheets in the linen department and for the first time in my life I have 300 count sheets! Wow, and what are these over here? 500 or 800 count sheets! What? 800 threads per inch? What has this country come to? Do we have to pretend we are in the Trump Towers every night when we go to bed? The 300 count "on sale" ones would have to do.

One inchers will be in August 30. (Custom, remember?) BFF will track them for me. Until then, it's "paw" away in the AM and Vanna away at night! If you ride by my house and wonder what's wrong with the blinds...I had to "paw" open this morning.

Lessons to be Learned:

1. HGTV has got to be in "cahoots" with the building and decorating industry. Don't watch any of the programs.

2. If you are 5'1" or under and the wand on your mini blind breaks, go IMMEDIATELY to Penney's and ask for BFF. No comparison shopping, nothing. JUST GO.

3. It is a communist plot to make the American public think that they are so "entitled" that they must have 800 thread count sheets. Remember the pioneers? I think they probably slept on burlap or worse. 300 is as far as my family is going. Somebody must take a stand!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Saturday: Tips of the Day

Last week we discussed "the downtrodden and the bedraggled". This weekend I have another little "outcast" that was revived for Granddaughter Gracie's room. She is very into zebra print and so we took an old white wrought iron vanity chair ($12 at a garage sale about 10 yrs ago), sprayed it gloss black and re-covered its red velvet seat. The little backrest pillow is encircled with feathers and topped off with pink polka dot bows, rhinestone buttons and black grosgrain ties.

We added a zebra bulletin board, pillow with the letter G made from green seed beads and a basket I found at Hancock's for 30% off to the mix.

Cost: $9.99 for 1 yard of corduroy zebra print and $5.60 for sale basket. We had the feathers and ribbon. But for just a little over $15 we made a big impact in the room!

I hope to publish the pictures of the zebra stuff on Facebook. I am having trouble with posting pics on the blog.

Tip #2: Re-use your tissue paper.
I know some of you will be horrified with this tip, but I can't tell you how helpful it is. Pretty tissue paper, rather than standard issue white, can cost up to $1 per sheet! I keep all my tissue paper when I receive a gift. I put it on the ironing board and press it. It doesn't burn and irons beautifully. (No steam please.) I then fold it and stack it by color. I have lots (and lots and lots) of tissue stored in a flat box. It's ready to go at a moment's notice. At school, I have used the same tissue to decorate for various events for several YEARS! If it rips I toss it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

* Polyester and Princess Reeboks

I'm not certain how to broach this subject...it's on every woman's mind, but most women are really hesitant to speak out loud about it. I am also having a difficult time organizing the post because there is so much to put into it today. So I am just going to dive right into THE topic...our feet.

Several times a year I get the "urge to purge"..my house, that is. The Urge to Purge has emerged..and as I was purging the drawers in my bathroom, I opened the FOOT DRAWER!

Let me explain how this all happened and why I have the FOOT DRAWER.

For years, everyone has known that my very best feature is my feet. And despite what gravity and time have done to the rest of me, my feet really hung in there until five years ago. For the past 13 years, I have worn Princess Reeboks to school. I am sorry but my feet began to hurt then and I just had to do whatever it took to be able to teach, short of losing 40 pounds. Princess Reeboks and white socks were a staple in my closet. (Now I know that horrifies you Shoe Fashionistas, but you do what you gotta do. ) With all my other features gradually diminishing, even though they hurt, my feet still looked great. They were soft, uncalloused and with a little pearl polish, they could pass for a teen's feet.

A side note: I have a very good friend, Miss Anonymous, who has made it her life's work to keep her feet as nice as mine. It hasn't exactly worked, but she's possibly a close second. So every few months she orders, purchases, spies or somewhere unearths a new method of keeping our feet nice. (Notice: "our".) She always buys or alerts me to the new "way" to have our 20-something feet stay 20-something. So begins the saga.

Five years ago I was introduced to backless shoes. (Now, I have passed the stage of being obsessed with fashion. You know this time has come when you are drawn to a Bon Worth window and your eye falls on a great matching 100% polyester outfit with elastic in the pants waist and the pants are $9.99 year round! These pants and shirts NEVER wear out..You couldn't kill those things if you tried. YOU will die before that polyester does. ) So it came as a great surprise to my cohorts when I arrived at school wearing backless shoes. Then the obsession moved to backless Reeboks (Princess, please, forgive me), backless house shoes. I just couldn't get enough backless shoes. I got to the place that whenever I wore any shoes with a back, I was in pain and that's not a pretty sight. Everyone knows when I am in pain, it's written all over my gravity stricken face.

Here is the prob. When you constantly wear backless shoes, the bottoms of the shoes hit the bottom of the foot and your heel. Yep! You guessed it! For the first time in over five decades, my heels became, let's say, slightly "texturized". My husband told me we'd never have to worry about having a match striker in the house, because my heels would do the trick. Whoa!! Wait a minute! My "soft as a baby's back end" heels could strike a match? Suddenly my dear friend's remedies didn't seem so audacious. So the FOOT DRAWER grew. Potions, several of which contained acid, pumice rocks, stones, scrapers, files, lotions to name a few. Then we moved onto QVC and their eggs and handled eggs, electric mini sanders and on and on. There isn't one thing on the "pedicure" market we haven't tried except those flesh eating fish...WBTW completely gross me out. With a little help from certain "sanders" and lotions, my feet have returned not to their once glorious state, but pretty darn close. So there's always hope.

I would like to tell you that there is a happy ending to this dilemma, but I can't definitely say it's a done deal. Getting old is just extremely difficult. There's so much real estate to cover and so little eyesight to do it with and so little time every morning. But, I can tell you one thing, I put my foot down when Miss Anonymous tried to get me to use my husband's palm sander..I think she's just trying to move into the #1 Best Feet For Ladies Over 50 position!

Lessons to be Learned:

1. If you ever call a friend and there is a strange noise in the background, it's probably her using the palm sander on her feet. Call back later, I understand it's very difficult to stand on one foot and sand.

2. Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) eventually wears out except Bon Worth polyester.

3. Everybody needs a friend like mine who is TRULY concerned about the well being of their friend's feet.

One more BTW: We Sensible Shoes girls see you Designer Shoes types limping to your car after work every day...you'll be in SAS and Reeboks before you know it. Come to your senses before it's too late.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

* Grocery Shopping Minus the Cell Phone

I am a little hesitant to post this blog today. Because my husband does the grocery shopping, I might sound a tad ungrateful. So it is with a slightly faint heart that I post (aka: rant) here.

Because he coaches both football and track, he is gone most of the time from August until November and then from February until May. So in order to "help" me, he grocery shops and does the laundry!! I hate grocery shopping. I would rather take a busload of 13 year old boys on a field trip to a deer processing plant than go to Wal Mart and grocery shop. So I am truly appreciative of his efforts, however, his method of grocery shopping drives me over the edge. I mean it.

First, anyone who knows him knows that he refuses to use a cell phone. Who in the universe does NOT use a cell phone? I mean "Really"! If I need him (and this drives all the other coaches around the bend too), I have to call one of them and then he has to call me back ON THEIR PHONE. If he uses a cell phone he still has to ask which button to push to end the conversation. Oh, please, green means GO and red means STOP. This is a man who risks life and limb every day teaching fifteen year olds how to drive on the interstate! If I stay on the phone long enough I can always hear him on the other end saying, "Now which button do I push to turn this thing off?" As usual, I digress. Every week I make out a list of specific items. Brand, size and in the order in which they appear in the store..every detail BECAUSE if I don't, what happens is unbelievable.

A while back, I dutifully made out the list. I was having a gathering at my house, and I needed whipping cream so that I could make whipped cream to top my dessert. How difficult is that request? A pint of whipping cream..."Oh, would you like to take my phone in case there is a problem with one of the items on the list?" I asked. "Oh, no, the list looks ok," he says confidently. "Are you CERTAIN you don't want my cell phone?" I implore. "NO! (& this is his favorite quote) I've lived 61 years without a cell phone and I can live 61 more without one!"

Oh, really? 122 years without a cell phone, I don't think so.

Grocery shopping done, car pulls into garage, I know what is coming. Unusually high number of bags are placed on the counter. Eggs, check. Cereal, check, bread, bananas, ok. Then it begins...quart of whole milk; quart of 2% milk; quart of skim milk; can of sweetened condensed milk; spray container of Redi Whip; 2 tubs of Cool Whip (with and without fat); carton of Half and Half...need I say more? I look at him, he says, "I wasn't sure which kind of whipped cream you wanted, so I just got some of everything." Grocery budget for the week: $85 Amount spent: $110. BUT we saved a trip back to the store.

PS: It took us the rest of the month for me to find enough recipes to use up all that milk. But, because I see the glass of milk half full rather than half empty, I found an upside to the excessive milk I consumed. I was having a bone density test a short while later, it really pushed my numbers in the right direction!

Lessons to be learned:

1. BEFORE you marry, make sure your fiance can use a cell phone properly.

2. The week of a party at your house throw out everything in the refrigerator so you will have plenty of room for the refreshments and all the "wrong" things purchased to save a trip back to the store.

3. Put your big girl drawers on and do the shopping yourself!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's a Girl to Do?

Since before 6 AM Tuesday morning, I've had the worst time on Facebook. Lost all my Friends list, can't load pictures, can't receive messages...I'm not sure what happened. I've had Norton on ALL day long. I am not sure if you were able to read my blog post this morning about Cub Scout Day Camp. If you were able to read it would you respond in some way so I will know whether or not you were able to?!

Technology is great when it's working, but when it's not, it's the pits!! Hope you had a good day. I miss talking to you!

* Why Certainly, I'd Be Honored To... Cub Scouts

I am not sure how it happened. All I know is that I left the house with these instructions, "Do NOT come home as a Cub Scout Leader." The next thing I knew I was writing a check for not only my son's Cub Scout uniform but also for my new Pack Mother's uniform. My friend, Bobbie would be my assistant.

Remember how I used to complain? "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride?" Well, the part about being the bridesmaid changed dramatically after I had a child. Suddenly I was the Bride of everything. It must be that yellowbrick road on my back. Or maybe it's the doormat I wear around my neck that reads, "Please, wipe your feet before walking all over me."

I used to have a "Post It" note by my phone. It was given to me by my friend, Assistant Den Mother, Bobbie. On it she wrote, "If nominated, I will NOT accept; if elected, I will NOT serve." (Ulysess S. Grant) "Now," she said," I want you to put that by the phone and when anyone calls and asks you to do something, read that to them!" I think she, along with my family and other friends, was sick of me accepting all kinds of jobs and then griping about how much I had to do. I don't know what happens to me when someone asks me to do something. I guess I am flattered that someone thinks so "highly" of me or could it be that big target on my back that says SUCKER?

Anyway, I was the Pack Mother or Den Mother or whatever they were called. And I dutifully wore my yellow blouse neatly tucked into my A-line navy skirt to every meeting, and attended all the monthly Cub Mother meetings, decorated for the banquet, helped run the Pine Wood Derby and all the other things millions of mothers all over America do for their little boys. (BTW: Bobbie verified this story in church Sunday...before the service.)

Toward the end of my Head Den Mother tenure, we were asked to be counselors at Strong River Day Camp. Why, yes! Of course I would love to. (Remember my distaste for the heat.) I wasn't teaching then, so vacation days were very dear. Yes, oh, yes (please let me!) of course, I would be delighted to take one of my precious days and tramp about in the woods with sweaty little boys. There I go again...where is US Grant when you need him? I rode the UN-airconditioned bus to the camp with at least 400 campers. They smelled ok on the trip out to the camp, but let me tell you, the trip home was the longest two hours I've ever spent in my life. I was compressed in a seat near the middle of the bus and all I remember was screaming, "If you close that window one more time, I'm having the driver throw you off this bus, little boy!"

But I am ahead of myself. The bus ride home occurred AFTER the biggest scare of my life. It's a good thing I was in my thirties when this happened or I might not have lived to tell this tale. When we arrived at the camp, all 400 campers vacated the bus (along with our driver). I trudged up the hill and went from area to area trying to keep up with all the activities... at some point, I was asked where my lunches were? What? You mean every boys' lunch on my bus? You mean someone didn't have them in a cooler somewhere? "No", said the camp director, "they should be in a giant black garbage bag on the bus." Lovely. It was 104 in the shade. Those lunches were probably ruined. (But what's a little food poisoning between friends?) "Would I go get them?" Oh, certainly, I'd be happy to walk 1/2 mile to the bus, retrieve the giant garbage bag containing hundreds of lunches and haul it to the mess area (and I mean mess).

FYI: To give you an idea of the primitive nature of this "camp". For dessert, we ate ice cream sundaes out of a long gutter.. "What do you mean, eat out of a gutter?" I snapped. "Oh, yes, mam, we do it every year. The gutter's been cleaned." Oh, well that sure makes it better.

I took out toward the bus to retrieve the garbage bag. Now I want you to picture this, me (in shorts, I was in my thirties) grabbing a black garbage bag full of lunches that I couldn't pick up if my life depended on it...dragging that blasted bag through the piney woods toward that 100 foot dessert gutter situated in the middle of the mess area.

I stopped momentarily to try and regain my composure when I thought I heard something behind me. I turned and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move. A bear, a wolf?

I froze. I looked like a female version of Santa Claus hoisting her pack along behind her and my steps were a little more lively because of the noise. I stopped, listened, heard a twig snap. Suddenly, out of nowhere, came several men in white uniforms running behind me. (Those kids could starve, I was high tailing it out of those woods...I left the garbage bag and ran full throttle to the mess area. )"Who in tarnation are those men in the white coats?" I shrieked. "And why are they running after me?" I was panting and "sweating" like a nanny goat in a pepper patch. "Oh, they weren't after you, Lady. Some patients from a nearby mental facility were visiting today and one of the patients got loose. They were just trying to capture him. He was right behind you." I remember swooning slightly and then I heard somebody yell, "Hey, lady are you going to get those lunches or what? We got to eat. The ice cream is beginning to melt."

Lessons to be learned:
1. Learn early in life what the word "NO" means and the USE it.

2. If you accept a job, don't gripe and complain about it. You could have used rule #1.

3. It's best to eat ice cream sundaes out of cups or sherbet dishes...eating out of a gutter takes some of the ambience out of the dessert.

BTW: That "Post It" note is the only thing about US Grant in my entire home, I promise.

Monday, July 26, 2010

* Don't I Know You From Somewhere?

Wish you were having as much fun reading these posts as I am by writing them! I am remembering details to the best of my ability. If you were a witness to any of these catastrophes, forgive any incidental mistakes I may have made!

One day, several years ago, Granddaughter Gracie and I were visiting in a nursing home. After our visit was done, we proceeded to walk down the hall toward the exit when we spotted a little lady using a walker slowly coming down the hall toward us. We spoke and it hit me! I think that is Mrs. So & So from Such and Such school. We taught together years ago. I told Gracie we needed to speak to her and turned around.

After stopping her I said, "I don't think you will remember me but we were together at Such and Such school." "Why," she exclaimed, "it is wonderful to see you! I can't believe you remembered me." She was just beaming. We talked and talked about the old days and how school had changed so much. Technology has changed so many things, girls' skirts were too short..Oh, wait we could have been talking about the '60's. Remember?

The conversation was a little strange at moments. I should have had a clue when random statements like, "Yes, I've cut a lot of hair in my time" were thrown into the mix. "But, who knows," I thought, "many teachers go above and beyond the call of duty." Maybe there were boys who needed a haircut and couldn't afford one. But another statement that threw me, was "they used to start coming in around 6 or 6:30 every morning." Wow, now that WAS going beyond the call of duty. She started cutting students' hair at 6 a.m.? Suddenly, the light bulb went off. Uh, oh I had a bad feeling about this. Who was this precious person? I had gotten into this conversation, there was no place to hide. What was I to do? Well, I did what every nitwit who gets themselves into these positions does, I kept right on talking. There was no turning back.

Anyway, we spent a very pleasant few more moments and then Gracie and I were on our way. I caught Gracie's hand and as we walked rapidly to the door she said, "GuGu, who was that lady?" To which I whispered, "Gracie, I have NO idea." Gracie looked perplexed. She cocked her head to the side and said, "Then why did you talk to her?" "Because I thought I knew her," I said.

Gracie smiled and squeezed my hand, "Well, it was real nice of you to pretend you knew her."

I've thought about that exchange several times since then. How many times do we do things just to "be real nice"? Is being "real nice" a thing of the past? No lurking ulterior motive, nothing to be gained. Just trying to make somebody's day a little brighter? Now, I am not suggesting we "pretend" to be nice, but I am saying we all see people in our life (friends or not) who just need a little"nice". So I say, Carpe diem. Go forth and sprinkle some "nice dust" around!

Hope ya'll have a "real nice" day ...

Lessons Learned:
1. As you age you not only forget names, you forget (gasp) faces, too.
2. It's ok, everyone will be at that same point someday, and then they will feel bad for being so impatient with you.
3. You probably won't be around to say "I told you so"... so just laugh to yourself now and KNOW that "what goes around, comes around!"

Sunday, July 25, 2010


"Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord." Psalm 27:14

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1

"Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord." Psalm31:24

"I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about those who fear him, and delivereth them." Psalm 34:4, 6-7

I hope your day is one filled with peace and rest.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to Stretch a $ Until It Screams "Uncle"! Feather Arrangement

I thought a little something different was in order for Saturday. So I am starting a Saturday's Tip of the Day!

I've always had to live "within" my means. Being married to a coach and being a teacher myself hasn't left me a lot of wiggle room for luxuries. I decided a LOOOOOG time ago that if I wanted something I was going to have to figure out an economical way to get it, thus was born the "Angela McInnis Inexpensive (ie CHEAP) Way" of decorating. Now if you are loaded, then this post will probably bore you to tears, but for all my economically challenged friends, you may want to try some of this stuff.. You others run to Pottery Barn and shop and rejoin us on Monday. We love you anyway!

I stalk Hobby Lobby and such places and find things that are 50-80% off. Things like out of season floral arrangements...they usually look pretty bedraggled by the end of that time. I will shop for an arrangement with an attractive container and "some" floral elements that are still usable. Then I will bring my little ugly duckling home and either use floral elements that I have or that I pick up while they are on sale and begin to transform. Pictured above is an arrangement that I purchased at Paul Michaels in Monroe, LA. I loved the pineapple-like container. (BTW: for my English teacher friends, I write like I talk...lots of commas, made up words. Please, forgive me. My writing papers would be one HOT mess to grade!) Anyhoo..

I couldn't afford the arrangement the first time I spied it, but when I went back at the end of the season...it was screaming my name. It wanted to move to Mississippi and besides it was 50% off. So I picked up a few "on sale" items...little grass things, the orangey berry clusters...it already had the feathers..and off we went. Another BTW: moss is a great filler..not Spanish, but the kind you can also buy at Michaels & HobLob..you know, the kind fairies and gnomes play in. Arrange it amongst your flowers to fill out the bottom and hide unsightly items. ALWAYS keep a spare bag of moss on the shelf. You never know when you will need it...watch for sales. Moss is the "tissue paper" of the floral world.

I think she turned out rather well, and she now resides in the middle of my dining room table. (Feathers blowing in the wind when the a/c turns on.) My point being, don't walk past a "bedraggled" thing. Adopt it and fix it up and it will become one of your all-time favorite purchases. You do NOT have to have everything from Pottery Barn (don't I wish!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

* "Grandchildren Say the Darndest Things" : Mascara

I am a mascara aficionado. I love trying new mascaras but I always end up going back to my tried and true Maybelline. Growing up, my friend, Greer's mother always let us curl our eyelashes while we were playing at her house. Thus began my long obsession with keeping my lashes curled and adding mascara. (Everyone else would be playing records and making prank phone calls except me. I'd be sitting at Mrs. B's dresser curling away.)

Anyhoo, I have a granddaughter who is now 10. She is precious, however, she and I usually go "toe to toe" and "eyeball to eyeball" (lashes curled) several times a week. (These confrontations used to be daily, but we've cut it down to weekly now.) Gracie has always been interested in makeup. So one day, when she was 4 or 5, she was sitting on the bathroom floor watching me put on a new purchase. It was a type of "white" mascara that you put on UNDER your regular mascara to give your lashes a "boost". She asked, "What's that white stuff, GuGu?" I said, "Oh, it's just something you put on under your regular mascara to make your eyelashes longer." "Why?" she questioned. "Well, it's just sort of like underwear for your eyelashes. It's supposed to be good for you like wearing underwear is something good for you." "Well, do you wear it every day?" she asked. "If I decide I like the effect I will wear it daily. I don't know yet," I explained. Ok, you see the error of my ways here, don't you? Mentioning underwear? Not a great plan.

Scene cuts to a few days later...Christmas time...lots of hustle and bustle...stores filled to capacity with angry, tired shoppers. Well, we are about to make a boatload of Big Lot shoppers come unglued!

Sweet Gracie and I enter Big Lots in Brandon, MS. We do our shopping and get in the check out line...which is, btw, a very long line...lots and lots of people. Now sometimes I have to remind Gracie to "use her indoor voice" and today was no exception. Everyone was weary, you could see it on their faces, and it was unusually quiet in the Big Lots check out line. Gracie wanted this candy and that box of Kleenex and some gum. "No", I answered softly. After the third or fourth "No", my jaw tightened and my head began to pound. (I bet you thought I was going to say my head began to spin around like Linda Blair's.) The directive "No" has never set well with Gracie, and she was her ever vigiliant self. She kept asking questions and begging for this and that. Finally GuGu had had just about enough and I snapped, "Stop talking so loud, and don't ask for another thing. Santa Claus is watching you!" A hush fell upon the crowd. GuGu had laid down the law. Everyone waited to hear what was coming next. Gracie, in her best OUTDOOR voice, clearly said, "Ok! But GuGu, did you remember to wear your underwear today?"

Nobody moved a muscle (except to move away from my direction). I felt the burning eyes of everyone in Big Lots boring holes through me. Why this poor little girl has a GuGu who sometimes forgets to wear her underwear! My face was red as Santa's hat. But on the outside I was cool as a cucumber. I smiled and replied, "Why I certainly did remember. Thank you for reminding me." I made the split second decision not to even try to explain she was referring to my "underwear" mascara. I paid and left Big Lots with my head held high and my lashes slightly wilted...what else could I do?

Lessons Learned:

1. When talking to young children NEVER refer to any undergarments that you may (or may not) be wearing.

2. Do NOT, under any circumstances, shop at Big Lots with children at Christmas (or, if you can avoid it ) any other day of the year.

3. If you and I are ever conversing in the Brandon Big Lots, don't be alarmed when the staff points and snickers, I have a reputation there.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

* Oh, the Horror of It All! :Camp Desoto

Greer (far left); Me (with OVERNIGHT bag)
Picture courtesy of S.A. Johnson

As you know, I do not like the heat, the sun or the Good Ole Summertime. The only thing worse is being shipped off to summer camp IN the heat, UNDER the sun, IN the Good Ole Summertime. My parents decided that I was a wimp and needed to be toughened up, so they saved up and sent me packing to Mentone, Alabama to Camp Desoto for a month. (Oh, I know I am horrifying all you Campies who went there, but frankly, it was thirty days of pure unadulterated misery for me.) I begged not to go, but Mother & Daddy were determined. So off I trudged with a footlocker stuffed with matching madras shorts sets, my family's picture, an autograph book and all the bug spray my bag could hold.

My friend, Greer and I were roommates with about twelve other "fortunate" girls. We had a counselor who kept the fan aimed directly on her. My bed was the farthest from the fan..of course. Let me explain about Greer. She had (and still has) the loveliest, thickest, waviest hair. Her mother and grandmother kept it in perfect condition, and it was the envy of everybody. My hair, on the other hand, was exactly as it is now, very fine, straight as a board and thin. Greer's mother made sure she had a bag full of hair rollers to take to camp. When I saw those rollers, I melted. I NEEDED those rollers. My mother said I'd be fine with just washing my hair and letting it go "natural" for a month.

One night I asked Greer (who had decided if "natural" was good enough for me, it was good enough for her) if I could use the rollers. My hair, by this time, looked like a newborn duck's. She said, "Sure. I don't need them." Those were her exact words, I remember them like yesterday. So every night I carefully rolled my hair. Every morning I'd brush and comb mine and I must say, I looked pretty good for "roughing it" in the backwoods of Alabama.

At the end of two weeks, parents could come visit their camper and take them "to town" for the weekend. I had dreamed nightly of this for 14 days. Greer's parents were coming to get her, and they were taking me, too! Air conditioning, real food, a bath tub...I could make it with this "carrot" dangling in front of me. I crossed off the calendar every day...waiting, waiting. My parents couldn't afford the trip with two other children. Greer was an only child. I was one of three. (Side note: Three of my best friends were only children. I was the only one with siblings. When we all married, all three of them had more than one child, I had one.) But I digress...the day of the parental visit finally came. I was up early, curling, combing, dressing in my matching madras short set, I couldn't wait!! When Mr. and Mrs. B got out of the car it was like a slow mo movie...me, running toward them, their arms stretched outward, but just before I reached them, a look of horror crossed Mrs. B's face and she looked like she might faint. "Greer!" she shrieked, " Your hair! What on earth have you done to it?" I looked back over my shoulder, to see Greer walking down the driveway with the most unusual hairstyle I've ever seen. She looked like a little alien with a cloud of dark brown moss surrounding her head. It was the most out of control hair I'd ever seen. I'm not sure she had combed or brushed it properly in 14 days. I knew she hadn't rolled it..because I had her rollers!

The horror continued. We went to the office to "check out" and "Oh, wait, there's a problem. You have to have written permission to take Angela with you." WHAT?! WRITTEN permission? I couldn't go? Mrs. B began to cry, I began to cry. Greer offered to stay at camp and said I could go in her place. I will remember it always, that scene. Me standing at the gates, perfectly coiffured, dressed in my madras, big tears running down my face waving good bye. When they returned from the weekend, Greer's hair was back to normal and they brought me a present. (I think it was a bag of new rollers.)

Lessons to be learned:

1. Make sure your hairstyle can withstand the temperatures of your camping destination.
2. Don't send sensitive children to month long camps without hair styling supplies.
3. Once a wimp, in a lot of ways, always a wimp.
Coming Tomorrow: Grandchildren ...

* The Time HAS Come To Be a Woman: Swimming Lessons

Anyone who knows me (and not even very well) knows that I am an INDOOR girl..heat, the great outdoors, sports are all very unnecessary if you ask me. So when I came home one day and asked my daddy if I could go to Grenada Lake and ride in a boat with a friend, he looked at me like I had abandoned all reason. "I would promise to wear one of those horrible huge orange life jackets. I wouldn't put my hand out of the boat into the water." I just wanted to be like everybody else and go to the lake and ride in the boat while my friend skiied. "Absolutely not," was the answer, "UNLESS you learn to swim." Here we go again. The mandate. Learn how to swim...why? If anything happened I had the large life jacket. It would hold me up until help arrived. "No."

So my friend, Martha Ray (who also wanted to go in the boat), and I got signed up for swimming lessons at the Grenada City Pool. That's how it all started. A simple request. Five days of Red Cross lessons with a "graduation" on Friday. The first day started well. We sat on the edge of the pool with our legs dangling in the water. Then things got dangerous. We had to get into the shallow end. Everyone else jumped in, but MR and I went cautiously down the steps. I've never seen so many children. How could they keep up with all of us? Would they know that #455 didn't come up when she went under?

For at least 20 minutes we practiced letting our faces touch the water..."No!" the lifeguard shouted at me, "not the side of your face, the front!" What?! That means my nose has to be under the water..this will never do. But after some coaxing, MR and I did it! Not once, but several times. I was trying to figure out how to do all this without getting my hair wet..another story for another time. Then we learned to hold on to the side and kick our feet. That was pretty fun...really rather lame...what's so hard about swimming? After our first lesson we excitedly flipflopped our way to the car. We had a great time! Why by tomorrow we'd be swimming all over the place!

Day two was more difficult. We did the jellyroll by grabbing our ankles and putting our faces in the water and "floating". I really can't explain how we made it through that, but we seemed to do pretty well. It all seems like a dream now. Then we learned to do the Australian Crawl...except we were supposed to be kicking our feet and crawling with our arms at the same time. Ha! Are they serious? MR and I tiptoed on the very tips of our toes and just did the arm motions. Why we looked like swans. We were flawless!

Day three passed. Still tiptoeing and crawling. Day four was our Waterloo. We arrived, removed our sunglasses, flipflops, folded our towels..anything to put off what was coming next. We were "whistled" to the middle of the pool on the concrete edge. Now I'm no mathematician but I know a 6 when I see it and it plainly said 6 FEET. I quickly calculated that I was about 4 feet tall. This meant No tiptoes today. The lifeguard (who was very cute, I must add) whistled for all 500 of us to jump in. Huge splash. Only two were left standing on the side...MR and me. We preferred the ladder, if that was ok. (We were pretty high maintenance even at age 10. ) We both hung on to the side of the pool for dear life...literally. When everyone else pushed off and began dog paddling, we both promptly sank to the bottom and had to be pulled out.

The two of us got some one on one time with an instructor and by graduation time (Friday) we did reasonably well...well enough to get our Beginner's card. But still not good enough to go boating!! I think my daddy and MR's daddy ganged up on us there.

Lessons learned:

1. When there is a choice between life and death, you better not tiptoe around.

2. If you are going to swim, you eventually HAVE to get your hair wet...it's ok, it dries.

3. You can fool some of the lifeguards some of the time, but not all the lifeguards all of the time!

* Thanks For The Memories!! : Miss Hospitality

Isn't it wonderful to have people in your life who believe in you, no matter what? That is the subject of my blog is today. It's about a person who believed the best in me and for me...always.

I arrived home from college in 1968 to see an evening gown lying on my bed. My mother informed me, "The Rotary Club wants you to represent them in the Miss Hospitality contest. Of course, I told them you'd love to." Naturally Mother was prepared for a fight. I didn't like "pageants" and I was usually " the bridesmaid, never the bride." So when I shrugged my shoulders and said "Ok", she felt she'd won that round. Little did I know she was about to present me with one of the funniest and most heart-warming memories of my life.

The night of the local pageant I drove myself in my VW Beetle to the contest wearing "the" evening gown and made a quick stop at the post office to see if my grades had arrived from college. They had, and I was pleasantly pleased with the marks, so I thought that I had already won. With a "song in my heart" and my decent grades in my gloved hand, I got back in the car and drove to the auditorium. I'm not sure how it happened, but I won the pageant. Finally "the bride"!! Now on to the state contest.

There were 67 young women in the state contest that year. We spent a (surprisingly) action packed, fun-filled week on the coast. The worst part was swimsuit competition. (After watching some of the pageants today, we looked like nuns compared to what they wear now!) My family came down for the festivities and brought my mother's mother (aka: Nannie). The big night approached and everybody was swathed in a cloud of hairspray and perfume, eyelashes mascaraed (is that a word?) and hair that looked like it had been pumped up with a bicycle pump.

(Ok, here comes the great part!) When they announced the winners, they began with third alternate and went up. And oh, yes, one thing you have to know about my grandmother, she was probably the most down to earth, humble person I've ever known. She worked hard and was quietly humorous. I NEVER heard her raise her voice. (Back to story.) Third alternate was announced, second alternate and then first. When the first alternate was announced my grandmother, in the heat of the moment, jumped to her feet and began clapping and announced for all the world, "She's won, she's won, Angela has won!" Well, you guessed it! I did NOT win. While my relatives were trying to calm Nannie, they announced the name of a lovely girl from Starkville as the state's new Miss Hospitality.

What has this got to do with anything? Surely you see the point. Maybe none of the judges thought I was worthy of a crown that night, but my Nannie did. She believed in me and that belief has meant more to me than she will ever know. When times have been tough (and they have been) I have thought of that night and smiled, even laughed at the thought that my demure grandmother was so pumped that she actually got up and clapped and announced that I'd won! In her eyes I HAD won. Thanks, Nannie, for believing in me... oh, btw, she was mad the rest of the trip. Thought the judges were either blind or had been "on the take"....oh, please!
Tomorrow: The Swimming Lesson or It's Time to Become a Woman

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old & Cracker Pie

When I was a "soon to be bride", the ladies in Grenada, Ms had a Kitchen Shower for me. They brought recipes and all the ingredients or utensils needed to actually make the recipe. A dear friend, Beth, actually made me a recipe file. Even though the file itself has certainly grown, her handwritten recipes are still there and are used frequently. Each time I open the box and see her cards, it makes me smile at the thoughtfulness of a good friend.

Recently, I saw another of those cards. It was written by a friend of my mother's . I am a Facebook Friend to this friend's daughter, and I sent the original card in her mother's writing to her. (I made a copy first!) Isn't it fun to have old friends and have their actions and kindnesses still circulating after all these years!

Remember this from Girl Scouts?
Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver and the other gold.

This is an old recipe that I once had and couldn't locate. My good friend, Julie found it and sent it to me for you to try! It's good and great when you don't have many ingredients on hand and need something sweet!

*Julie's Note: At some point I had calculated that 1/8 pie has 323 calories.

Divinity Pie (aka: Saltine Pie)

3 egg whites beaten stiff
Add 1 cup sugar, beat well
Finely crush 23 soda crackers
Fold cracker dust and 1 cup nuts into egg whites
Add 1 tsp vanilla
Put in buttered pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
Topping -- when pie is cold:
1/2 pt whipping cream -- whip until stiff -- spread on pie
Sprinkle with nuts or coconut
Let stand in refrigerator 10 to 12 hours

Art Work: Stretching My Wings & The Future Looks Bright

16x20 Mixed Media on stretched canvas.
Title: Stretching My Wings
7x7 Mixed Media Painting on Stretched Paper Canvas.
Title: The Future Looks Bright

Recipe for Mock Apple Pie

The lore concerning this recipe is that it was introduced during the Depression when ingredients were difficult to buy. I had my classes in Nutrition bake one of these pies and my instructions were always met with groans..."How can an apple pie be good if it's just got Ritz crackers in it rather than apples?" (They always loved it and late last evening one of my former students FaceBooked me with the recipe request..) So here it is and it's fun to make and fun to eat with vanilla ice cream on top!

Mock Apple Pie

Preheat oven: 350 degrees

2 nine inch pie shells (unbaked)
2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
1 sleeve Ritz Crackers
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 c. water
1/2 stick margarine cut into small pieces
2 to 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. sugar

Boil 2 c. water and add sugar & cream of tartar. Stir and cook for 3-4 min. Add lemon juice & stir.
Remove from eye and let cool a few minutes. Barely crush crackers and put into one of the pie shells. Pour the cooled syrup over the crackers, sprinkle with cinnamon and top with cut margarine.Weave strips of the second pie shell over top in lattice fashion and seal around edges. Bake for 35 minutes. Yield: 8 slices.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: Fall of the Oak Tree & Other Dreams

Unfortunately I've spent a great deal of time in my life "wishing". Wishing what could have been, wishing what should have been...wishing, wishing, wishing. Woulda, coulda, shoulda!

One of my "wishes" was to build and design my own house. When I look out over the pasture behind my house (you know the grass is always greener, etc.) there is a beautiful crest of land. On the top of the crest is a majestic old oak tree. I used to stand at my kitchen window looking out over that scene and "wish" I could have a house right by that old tree. Not satisfied with what I had, I wasted many precious minutes thinking about that house. Well, yesterday, when I arrived home after a torrential downpour and very high winds I drove into my driveway to see that beautiful tree split right down the middle and completely destroyed. Certainly glad my wish wasn't granted this time. At what age do we finally learn that God knows what is best for us, even when we don't? Don't build your house on a sandy foundation and don't judge something by its outward appearance. Look at the heart of that tree! Rotten to the core. On the outside it was beautiful, but the inside wasn't. Matt. 7:24-25!!

Welcome To My Thoughts: Original Blog Entry

This blog has been a long time coming. I love to write, to think and to hear what others have to say. I enjoy sharing my art and getting honest reaction to it. So this is the perfect vehicle for those pursuits.

By profession, I am a teacher, but there has always been another "me" deep inside that has not had the opportunity to emerge. My sixtieth birthday had a profound effect on me as did losing my mother several years earlier. I woke up one day and realized that if I was going to accomplish certain things in my life, I had better start and start quickly.

I hope you will join me in this journey. I would like this blog to be helpful and full of encouragement to those of you who join. If you have ideas for me, please, feel free to express them! Thanks for reading my ramblings.