when they were young…

… for many years I purchased these little advent calendars for daughters to enjoy during the month of December. Probably made by the same company that makes a gazillion versions of chocolate Easter Bunnies, all in different garb that is nothing more than a piece of foil wrapped around the same basic shape as a snowman or Santa Claus. Just change the wrapping and you can use that same extruded hollow figure for every season across the calendar.

The little holiday calendars would have an insert that contained 25 small pieces of chocolate, tucked behind little doors marked with numbers from 1, for the first day of December to the 25th. Inside a flat cardboard box, with the doors perforated so small fingers could easily bend the thin card-stock and open each of the doors on a designated day. A fun way to count down the days from early Dec. as the anticipation of waiting for Christmas day got so unbearable it nearly made them crazy.

When I went to Decatur last Friday, I was greeted with an advent calendar, made by the famous chocolatier: Godiva known for their premium, exotic expensive products. Even though we were still in November, on the day after Thanksgiving, I thought: So what? and opened the first little door inside the box filled with delicious candies. They have all been very tasty.

I know today is the first day of December: and I should be ashamed and embarrassed to confess that I have already opened ten of the little doors hiding various yummy chocolates. But: so what? Not only have nearly half of them been eaten I am planning to buy more tasty treats to fill the plastic container they were all nestled in, close up the two dozen little doors and do it all over again.

book review: “N is for Noose”…

… by prolific mystery writer Sue Grafton. She wrote her way though the entire alphabet, almost getting to Z before her death in 2017. I’ve been perusing wikipedia and found she split her time between So-Cal and KY after she married for the third time. I may as well go ahead and admit to stealing the book from a library, with every intention of returning it as soon as possible. This is possibly the only one of the many books featuring the PI Kinsey Milhone that I have read as a hard-back, the others being paperbacks, several of which I left as a trail of bread crumbs on my trip to Washington State in Sept. and scattered as I finished and made my way back east.

Kinsey is caught up in a strange situation of being hired by a woman who desires to understand what caused her husband to have some mysterious personal problems at the time of his death. The death itself was not mysterious, as he was discovered in his pickup truck parked along a deserted stretch of highway, having a heart attack. He died, but left plenty of unanswered questions. The dead man was in law enforcement in a small rural town, well known and highly respected for being honest, trustworthy and responsible.

Kinsey picks up the opportunity to work for the woman to try to retrace her dead husband’s activities and spends some days in the small town in the mountains of eastern California. Meeting people and trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together: struggling to find the missing notebook cops often use to document their daily activates, keep records, notes of conversations: mysterious disappeared after his death.

I thought once I got started on the tale, it was familiar, but have read so many mystery stories I could not pull the pieces of the plot together, though I often had the ‘I know what will happen next’ sense when turning the pages. It did not end like I had expected, but as usual, my favorite PI was able to tie up the loose ends quite nicely.

planting pansies…

… in a couple of the pots by the back door. When the relocating from middle Georgia to southeast TN occurred back in late May, I had a few things in pots that would be portable enough to move, though there were a number containers across the front of the house that got left behind: large heavy concrete planters that were would have required too much effort and energy to move, so they just got left for new homeowners to enjoy or destroy. A half-dozen smaller containers – mostly terracotta that is getting brittle from weather exposure over the years, starting to flake off – with tiny little dianthus blooms, some sedum that makes beautiful rose-y colored flowers in the fall, a old galvanized bucket that drains too well due to a rusted out bottom.

When I was in Decatur over the weekend, we planted blue and yellow pansies in a row of pots sitting on the front steps at Eleanor Street. There was a small plastic six-pack cell of pansies left over from all the potting, so it came to TN for me to put in a couple of the containers that have been sitting on the steps all summer. Most of the things that were planted in the pots were bitten by freezing temperatures, so the pots were ready to have some new plants and bright colors added: happy smiling blooms to greet everyone who walks up and comes in the back door.

I did not put much effort into transplanting: added a bit of time-release Osmocote before scooping out holes to put the root-bound starts of pansies in the bucket, plus a couple in the pot up on the next step. Watered well, and can only hope the squirrels don’t pull them all out of the dirt overnight.

walkin’…

… out on the bike trail that wanders along the riverfront downtown, from the park above the dam at Lake Chickamauga into the St. Elmo neighborhood at the base of Lookout Mountain. it was maybe a coupla-three weeks after the knee surgery, when it took more effort than it was worth most days, but I knew making myself use the walker and exercising the knee was the only way to regain mobility – and if not that, what was the purpose of the misery, right? After walking in circles around the house, feeling profoundly unsteady, insecure, finally getting to the place where walking up and down a fairly short driveway became repetitious/tedious, I was hopeful for a change of scenery.

The people here loaded up the disabled person and the walker with tennis balls on the back legs and went up the street to a place where they knew the riverfront bike/walk trail is being extended. Under construction with roads ripped up, trenches dug, orange barrels and cautionary cones, saw-horses warning of detours perched all over the side-walks, right-of-way, disrupting both vehicle and foot traffic. There is a paved section that runs up into an old foundry, now defunct, but with wide walk-ways and fencing on each side to keep walkers, baby strollers and bike riders on track. It travels over a bridge, spanning what is probably a section of Chickamauga Creek that eventually empties into the Tennessee River, with a lot of the land adjacent to the path undeveloped, over grown and in a natural state.

After I made a couple of stops at the USPS and library, the rolling walker and I went over to the path and enjoyed a nice stroll in the sunshine. When I had been – several weeks ago, just slowly getting mobile and lacking energy/stamina for any distance, I might have toddled along for about five minutes in each direction before deciding that was enough exertion for one day. Anxious for a change of scene, and desperate for some natural vitamin D from a sunny sky, I just did not have the strength or motivation to go any more.

But today: walking for over half an hour. Getting a little more time in each day, I’m sure it is not yet a mile, but plugging away. Expecting, hoping it would be flat and easy to push the walker, I found it was a little bit hilly, up and down some easy slopes where the wide concrete path(at least car width) passed under a railroad. Though only for bikers and pedestrians, it was obviously used for vehicles at one time, as one side was fenced off/gated to prevent access. Some place new, it was pleasant to walk along and enjoy fresh air, sunshine.

The name of the foundry was obviously “Wheelan’, possibly a family name. The entrance leading through the underpass to walk below the rail line. There are still some foundry buildings seen off in the distance, but no work/activity going on in the area.

“Storyworth”…

… perhaps this will be considered as a ‘commercial’, and cause me to loose my status as an amateur writer, but there has been no exchange of money or goods, so no possibility of personal profit. “Storyworth” is a program (for sale) on the internet. A person can purchase a gift/subscription to be delivered weekly to a family member or friend who would be willing to respond. There is a long list of options, queries to pass along to the giftee, or you can come up with your own selections, inquiring about particular matters of interest applicable to an individual or certain family quirks. There have been a few questions posed over time that did not appeal, and were either ignored or changed to something of interest or more in line with the way my brain cells rub together.

Most of the subject matter has been thought-provoking enough that I hope the responses have been enlightening. I have enjoyed the process so much, that after a year had passed and there were fifty-two answers, we kept at it. I was willing to re-enlist for another year to have the opportunity to ponder, reflect and share more personal history, events, people from the past. This weeks’ question is about learning how to drive.

Starting at age ten or so, I was mowing the grass on a one acre lot, driving a mower that had a deck below the seating, several speeds plus reverse gear, and possibly a steering wheel rather than bicycle handle-bars type for directional guidance. Meaning I was accustomed to changing the different gears to adjust speed based on the height of the grass as well as if driving across the lawn at the end of the circle with blades raised/in neutral. Able to press the brake and clutch and shift gears, which is the essential part of learning how to master a straight shift in a vehicle of any size.

Though I did not realize it at the time, all those circles around and around the front and back yard, up and down, back and forth in the ditch and across the lawn were preparation for driving a passenger vehicle. Although I cannot recall for certain what the family car was when I was fifteen, I suspect it was that same battle-ship-sized Ford Fairlane station wagon that was the transportation for the family vacation drive to California and back over three weeks one spring. If we still had the Ford, and I believe it is true, it was like driving a tank: completely impervious – the absolutely positively best thing for a student driver to start in, though it was before the era of seat belts, you could have a load of timber fall off a log truck on that station wagon and walk away without a scratch.

I don’t recall the particulars but I can say with certainty, I learned how to drive the family car on the same streets my adult children did. The only difference is that generation was driving my dad’s pick-up truck rather than a boat sized auto. Going out into the north end of the county, onto rural roads where the surface was clay when dry and rutted clay when wet, with the rare tractor or hay-baling equipment as the only other traffic. Only courtesy caused anyone to stop at an intersection: why would the county roads maintenance crew install directional or stop signs when the cows could not read? Even most of the paved/hard surface roads were nothing more than tar that had gravel spread on the surface, so hundreds of miles of clay or sand surfaced rural by-ways were not unusual. Through farm land where the fields were growing crops of tobacco, cotton, corn and soybeans, and the edges were often un-fenced, only a wide ditch for drainage on each side to delineate where the edges of the drive-able roadway ended.

Delighted to report that another generation had very nearly the same training, learning-to-drive experience that I did. Same patient man teaching them the basics, how to maneuver, be cautious, look both ways, driving defensively who taught me.

Not long after I felt like I had mastered the skill and gained some degree of confidence, I was devastated when I discovered my dad had traded vehicles. No longer driving that imperious tank of my learning-how months, but a big, fine, cush-y Buick with cloth seats that did not blister your bare legs in summer, air-conditioning for comfort, power steering: and automatic! No shifting to first, second-third, but either ‘D’ for drive or ‘R’ for reverse. I was heartbroken to discover after all that determined effort of mastering the shifting of gears, it was wasted! He tried to convince me the new (used) comfy Buick would be much easier, but it took me a while to realize: as usual, my Dad was right.

book review: “A Woman of No Importance”…

… recommended by someone I met on the street. While out walking around the block in the sunshine working on building up strength in the new knee, the across-the-street neighbor introduced herself and we talked about books. She was ‘reading’ this on her earphones, is an Audible book, and suggested it to me. In response, I have looked up the book I read some months about the German woman who was a paramour of a man who manufactured munitions for the Nazis. She was able to get to England, met an American movie mogul, and became a well known personality in Hollywood: “The Only Woman in the Room” about Hedy Lamarr. Reviewed here, it is one of several excellent books by Marie Benedict who writes historical fiction masterfully.

The “Woman” here is an American who choose to get involved in the war as a secret agent supporting the resistance forces in France. She started out working in various embassies in Europe, at the time when women’s employment was limited to supporting white males, in positions of diminished authority as typists, clerks, assisting men who could hope/expect promotions in diplomatic positions. She spoke a number of languages, and proved herself very adept at subterfuge, able to find supporters, build a network of disparate individuals who were willing to be small cogs in the big picture of sabotaging Nazis.

I found it difficult to keep up with the many characters who were woven into the tale, as they often had different names/alias to keep identities clandestine. Virginia’s ability to travel in France began as she was American before the US entered the conflict, with papers that allowed her access to places French or English were not allowed. Her cover story as a reporter/journalist gave her freedom to report the activities of the Germans directly to Special Ops in the UK under the guise of sending her wires to newspapers in the US. It was a fascinating tale of derring-do, kept secret until highly classified documents became public in recent years, available for public review, material for such an amazing story.

book review: “The Last Garden in England”…

… recommended by a friend who is also a voracious reader when she is not working in her own garden/beauty spot. Authored by Julia Kelly who has written two other books, that make one assume from the titles they could be set in the war years in the UK. Other titles are “Whispers of War” and “The Light over London”, both of which could easily be influenced by the copious research the author surely must do to write such engaging tales of historical fiction.

The premise of the book is about a garden that was started well over one hundred years ago filling the grounds of an old manor house in England. Designed by a female professional gardener, it was created to be a series of ‘rooms’, including a secret walled garden, all with careful planning and deliberate plantings to enhance the various themes of each distinctly unique area.

Venetian was the designer, working in the spaces around Highbury House in the early 1900’s. The owner and resident of the home Diana lived there during WWII when the property was requisitioned by the government to house military as they recuperated from war wounds. The third of the women who were the main characters in the tale was Emma, who comes on the scene in 2021, charged with restoring the gardens back to the original plans as much as possible. The original drawings and some photos are found to help guide the gardening crew as they undertake the massive project.

I’m not a big fan of tales that are not told in sequence, but jump back and forth with characters from different decades popping into the story line. So it can be difficult to keep them all straight, as the author travels to-and-fro changing from one set of people to another over time. But it was an interesting story, especially intriguing to read the author’s notes at the end, when there a brief explanation of her inspiration: relating how the government requisitioned vast country estates for schools, orphanages, maternity wards for people evacuated from urban centers.

a little drive in the country…

… on Thursday, when everyone was off and had plenty of time to take a ride out through the woods along two-lane highways winding through the hills, traversing narrow streams and over wooded ridges in southeast TN. I was went on a ride-along on Wed., when a delivery was made in the YMCA van to a site in Cleveland, and noticed a sign along I-75 as we were driving east of Chattanooga for the Red Clay Historic State Park. Almost completely ignorant of TN history, inquiry was made to the man of the house who is a native. Although most of his educational years were spent in GA schools, he was quite informed about Indigenous culture and provided a lot of information about the First People who were residents long before the White Anglo Saxon Protestants came along and usurped the land, forcing the Natives out.

My understanding of the Red Clay area: a place where the Cherokee people settled when they had to leave their traditional homes in north Georgia. The area around New Echota was taken over by white settlers, causing the original residents to relocate. The Red Clay area, sadly, was only temporary, for a few years before the Natives were forced out again by the government, marched on the long, tragic Trail of Tears that started at the Red Clay site.Traveling in harsh winter weather, the Cherokee were, under guard, forcibly lead to undesirable land set aside for a new homeland.

There is much more tragedy, heartache and misery to the story than what is related here, but it all amounts to a sense of white entitlement: the people with the gunpowder and deadly force. There is much in the media today about certain groups or individuals who come to power, dominating others who have been long suppressed and made to feel inferior over time and history. Native Americans, the many peoples clumped together under the term ‘Indian’ by early invaders from Europe might have borne the brunt of the worst of discrimination due to being ‘different’.

Their culture, in the southeastern US was amazingly advanced, with written language, printing presses, well organized government with established chain of command. Homes built from natural, readily found materials that provided shelter as communities grew and farm-steads provided stability with crops and livestock. Everything the generations of Indigenous had worked for, establishing homes with growing families, clearing and planting the land to harvest crops: taken by the government, handed over to white settlers, with little concern for remuneration. Force-marched hundreds of miles in winter, with little concern for shelter, nutrition, medical care of the sick and elderly, to a land with little in the way of resources for starting over. This Trail of Tears era is a huge tragedy, a permanent stain on the WASP government that took over established farms, communities with no regard for the First People who had labored to create comfortable lives.

the fourth Thursday…

… in November is the officially, Congress-approved federal paid holiday for giving Thanks. I admit to googling and doing some wikipedia research on how it all got started: four hundred years ago. When ‘our forefathers brought forth upon this nation’ privileged white Anglo-saxon Protestants trying to get away from crowding and religious repression in Europe Seeking freedom they took a chance on coming to north America bringing hardship, the barest of skills and diseases that rapidly decimated the indigenous people.

The first opportunity to have that feast to celebrate their survival, though their numbers were decimated by hunger, weather, childbirth in the dirt, and the rawness of the land they had to clear before they could plant and harvest was well over a year after their arrival. So the actual first day of feasting and giving thanks was in 1621.

It took a female, devotedly writing state governors and nationally elected officials over many years to have a day of Thanks declared. President after president refused to put forth the effort to create a law that would. After much waffling and changing of dates on the calendar Congress eventually passed a law during the Roosevelt administration declaring that the fourth Thursday in November would be a day on the calendar for giving Thanks. Making it sufficiently official that all government employees get the day off as a paid holiday.

According to all the trivial info. from wikipedia,they could not afford the big metal buckles you often see in reenactments, they could not afford the expensive black dye for cloth and wore other, brighter colors, and if it had not been for the original Americans, would have likely starved. Only about half of those who got off the boat survived the first year and a half, long enough to plant and harvest and have something to be thankful for: most of those who died were the overworked, child-birthing women.

You know, of course the celebration is a uniquely American tradition? I recall mentioning it to a customer years ago, who had a very strong British accent, and she told me in short order: that is not something the English enjoy celebrating! There is a Canadian Thanksgiving someplace on the calendar, but do not mention it to people from the UK: that’s what the Revolutionary War was about.

rare is the day…

… that I am not thankful for living in The Land of Good Health Care and having the wherewithal

to pay for insurance when the occasion might arise that I would need assistance for medical reasons. Often in a state of gratitude for the financial resources to be able to get the care and pay for it as needed. The Explanation of Benefits for the new knee was in the yesterday’s mail, so here is a rough idea of the cost of joint replacement here in this wonderful country. I am sure there will be other charges, like anesthesia, and someone to come around and cleanup afterward.