Summer storms in Tallahassee are an everyday occurrence. At 2:00 p.m. the sun can be shining without a cloud in the sky, and then bam! 2:15 brings a mighty wind, torrential rains, and zero visibility. At 2:30, all is forgiven, the sun shines again, and one wonders why an umbrella was even necessary.
One day last week I was caught in one of these storms. I had the top down on the 350Z and was cruising along without a care in the world. Then all hell broke lose. One flash of lightning followed almost instantly by a BOOM and down came the rain. As soon as I could safely do so I pulled over and put the top up, but I was soaked. I sat in Trader Joe’s parking lot and got a case of the giggles. Then I went in Trader Joe’s and got a case of beer. Pretty good trade off.
I live about 12 miles from Trader Joe’s via Interstate 10, in a subdivision dubbed Lake Yvette West. There is but one road into the subdivision, and when I got to my turnoff, it was blocked. A huge limb from a big ol’ tree had broken off as a result of the strong winds generated by the storm and was laying across most of the road. A gentleman from Talquin Electric arrived about the same time I did and began assessing damage to the power lines.
Of course while I waited for him to give me a go ahead signal my imagination ran wild. What if the road was closed indefinitely? Could I reach my home via Lake Yvette East? Would some kind person over there lend me a boat so I could row across and tend to my cats? Maybe Studly and I could build a houseboat and live on the lake. Maybe Han Solo would swoop down in the Millennium Falcon and take me to Coruscant….
But then, I got the all clear. Darn! Just when it was getting good.
Yesterday I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. This wasn’t my home mirror that recognizes and accepts my every move and curve. No, this was a mall mirror just hanging around gawking at passerby. Unlike my home mirror, this mirror judged me: A square bodied, middle aged woman with absolutely no fashion sense. I cringed inwardly and outwardly. What happened to the girl who was once too skinny? What happened to the woman who once dressed in size 10 clothes? What happened to the “while never pretty, not terrible looking” person I used to be?
As I contemplated my missing self over a McAlister’s veggie baked potato smothered in cheddar cheese, a slender, stylishly dressed young mom in her mid-20’s and her adorable daughter sat down at the table next to mine in the mall food court. Being the lonely broad that I am I started a conversation with the little girl. She was three she told me, not in words but by carefully arranging the appropriate number of fingers and holding them up.
Her mom was so proud of her. She told me how smart her little Daneisha was and the little girl demonstrated by singing the alphabet and counting to 20. I was suitably impressed. I told the mom how much I liked her look and about my confrontation with the mall mirror. She said, “But you are a beautiful woman! Look how much Daneisha likes you and she doesn’t like strangers!”
I’m embarrassed to say I got tears in my eyes. The tears are here now as I type this. We aren’t a size. We aren’t a shape. We aren’t a style. We are souls. Mirrors have no business telling us otherwise.
My husband, Studly Doright, is a Golfer. He lives, eats, and breathes the game, and over the years he’s become rather good at it. He’s self-taught, with a homemade swing that looks a bit awkward, but is certainly effective.
Studly didn’t begin playing until his mid-thirties when our son indicated an interest in learning to play; although, my dad tried to get him involved back when we first married. Studly thought then that golf was an old man’s game and couldn’t believe anyone under the age of 60 would take a serious interest in smacking a little white ball around for three hours on a Saturday morning. My how times have changed!
Every week for the past 20 plus years, weather permitting, Studly has played golf on Saturday and Sunday mornings and at least one evening during the week. His first three years of golf were played in North Dakota, so the golf season wasn’t very long. But Studly was the first one on the course in the frigid spring and the last one off the links in the freezing fall. Our North Dakota neighbors decided that “Tex” was crazy. I didn’t try to dissuade them.
The man is a pretty natural athlete, but golf didn’t come easy for Studly at first. He could hit the ball a figurative mile, but there was absolutely no telling where it would end up. He called it military golf (left, right, left) as we walked a million miles in search of wayward Titleists.
Now, I’m not a golfer. Daddy tried to teach me, then Studly did his best, but the consensus was that some people just are too uncoordinated to even pull a club out of the bag, let alone try to swing one. Even so, I’m a fan of the game and an even bigger fan of my own favorite golfer. Imagine my pride when he told me he’s basically got a 2 handicap. That’s darn good for someone who only began playing in his mid-30’s.
Where at one point in our marriage I detested the number of hours he spent on the links, I’m now encouraging him to play even more. It’s raining? I don’t want to hear it. Get out there, man and hit that ball. You say it’s too cold? Wear more layers! Put on heated gloves! Too windy? Suck it up, buttercup! I’m signing him up for the senior tour next year, and he won’t make it with a 2 handicap. No more slacking!
I remember when I first wanted to be a writer. I was a second grader in Mrs. Gregory’s class at R.C. Andrews Elementary in Floydada, Texas. The class was assigned the task of writing a story based on a series of pictures. Those pictures remain imprinted on my mind:
Frame 1: a little blonde girl stands on her porch looking at a kitten
Frame 2: the little girl gives the kitten a bowl of milk
Frame 3: more kittens come to the porch
Frame 4: the little girl gets more milk
Frame 5: more kittens are on the porch
Frame 6: the girl’s hands are in the air and she looks distressed
Mom saved the story and every so often I find it tucked away in the pages of an old scrapbook. I must have just become familiar with the idea of using a period because they are everywhere, especially where they don’t belong. After a brief battle with autocorrect I’ve successfully copied the story below. Note the spelling of “hungry” and the use of the word “fixing.” For your reading pleasure:
“Kathy and the Cats”
One day when Kathy was going for a walk. to look for her lost kitten Frisky. She had just walked out the door when she spotted her kitten. Then she said I bet Frisky is hungery. So she brought him out some milk to drink. She was just fixing to go in when. She heard something. When she turned around she saw more kittens. So she got more milk. And fed them. Then more and more kittens came. Then finally she threw up her arms and said I have more kittens than milk.
Mrs. Gregory, who really did not like me very much, had written “S+ Very-very good” in red ink across the bottom of my paper. Mom said, “You did such a good job! Maybe you will be the writer in our family.”
Now, for all I know, Mrs. Gregory might have written the same praise on every student’s paper, but at that moment I decided I was going to be a writer. I just had no idea what that meant. And, I had no idea how to find an audience once I was out in the world. Thanks to the advent of web logs (a.k.a. blogs) we can all have an audience.
So, I credit Mom and Mrs. Gregory for putting this writing idea in my head. And I thank you for being my audience.
Finding an episode of Criminal Minds that you’ve not seen before
Having fresh guacamole made to your taste right at your table
Opening up a fresh loaf of soft bread
Discovering a new author whose books speak to your soul
Listening to a song that lifts your spirits
Identifying with a character in a novel
Having that aha! moment when working on a project
Completing a less than fun task in a fun way (you should see my toilet cleaning technique)
Singing in the shower and sounding like a pop star
Clicking through the channels and finding “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” already in progress
Getting an old-fashioned letter in the mail
Snuggling with a kitten
Kayaking with my Studly on the lake behind our home
Getting surprise calls from my youngest and oldest grandchildren on the same day (thank you D and Ninibelle)
Having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine on the patio with a good friend
Finding peace within myself if only for a moment
Having a good dream about loved ones I’ve lost (Mom, thanks for your “visit” last night)
Hearing the words, “I love you, Nana!”
What are your little things?
Have you ever felt like you just needed to beat the stuffing out of something or someone? I’m pretty much a pacifist, but right now I’m not feeling the love. And I have no idea why I feel this way.
It’s as if a cloud of seething, buzzing anger has gathered round me. Maybe it was on its way somewhere else and I got in its way. Wrong place, wrong time. I’d tell this anger cloud to run along, but really, that wouldn’t be fair to its next victim either. Nor to the victim’s victims.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I could put on some light boxing gloves, step in the ring, and go toe to toe with someone? Just work everything out in a three minute bout. Any takers?
Unfortunately real life doesn’t work that way. So, I’ll keep plugging along, and I’ll try to figure out the source of my anger and deal with it. I feel a little bit better just having written about it.
Peace (Really!) People.
After three months off, this week I begin working again. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand I’ll be bringing in the big bucks. (It was hard to type that with a straight face.) On the other hand, I’ll be giving up my life of leisure. No more midday naps! No more dressing in tank tops and flip flops. And, I’m going to have to talk to real people. Let’s hope I remember how that works.
Seriously, I am thrilled about continuing my relationship with the Florida Council for Reading Research (FCRR). This year we’ll be working with second graders in five counties, and I’ll be coordinating the efforts in Gadsden County.
I taught for several years, and I’d like to think I was good at it. The truth is, I probably was mediocre at best. I loved, loved, loved the kids, but I stunk at the organizational skills a good teacher needs in order to be effective. And, I was moody. That’s a hard truth to face, but it affected my ability to be a calm, caring professional.
There is a performance aspect to teaching, and I thrived on that. I never sat down, never relaxed, never fully settled in to the art of teaching, which should be more about the child than the teacher.
The position with FCRR is all about the kids. After conducting individual assessments, we engage small groups of students in targeted literacy interventions to help them develop the skills necessary to become competent readers. At the end of the semester, we will conduct post-testing to measure the effectiveness of the interventions. I was part of this program last spring, but came into it towards the end, so I am excited now to see the process from the beginning.
So, I’ll forfeit the naps, dig into my closet for blouses with sleeves and shoes that don’t flip and/or flop, and charge headlong into doing something I really enjoy. It will be nice to feel productive again.
One of the best things about moving to a different part of the country is finding the really good eateries.
I ate at Food Glorious Food in Tallahassee on Friday. With a name like that, it had better be good. And it was. Really, really good. I don’t often write about food, and I’m not one to post photos of my culinary adventures. I won’t now because I devoured every morsel before I even thought to snap a picture.
My lunch was their Maison salad and a club sandwich served on the softest, tastiest bread I’ve ever had. For dessert, I had a slice of Key Lime pound cake. Mercy! I wish I had the skills to tell my readers just how incredible this was. All I can say is, if it were human, this pound cake would make George Clooney look like Elmer Fudd on a bad day. If there is food in heaven, their Key Lime pound cake will be elevated above angel food cake which has the whole name thing going for it. This is why I’m not a food critic. I tend towards hyperbole.
Tallahassee isn’t a big city, but it has a surprising number of top notch places to dine, perhaps because it serves as the state’s capital. Here are some of the non-chain restaurants Studly and I have discovered:
Paisley Cafe is a breakfast and brunch place. They have the most delightful selection of baked goods, along with fresh fruits, omelets, and lots of other yummy stuff.
The Front Porch Great atmosphere! Situated in a big old southern style house, The Front Porch specializes in seafood and killer mimosas. I drank 7/8 of a carafe all by myself one morning. I don’t remember much after that.
Wells Brothers “Monk’s” has a ridiculously large selection of gourmet burgers. Studly likes PB&J on his.
Voodoo Dog is near Florida State University and caters to the college crowd. Their Wake n Bake is the best hotdog ever imagined. They take an all beef wiener, wrap it in bacon and lay it on a fried egg before putting it into the bun. Oh, and there is cheddar cheese baked on top of the whole shebang. Paradise on a bun.
The Seineyard has terrific seafood. Of course they fry 99.99 percent of it, so I don’t eat there often. They also have world famous cheese grits. I’ve become a fan. Their hush puppies are just right, too–perfectly crisp on the outside, soft and flavorful on the inside.
Z Bhardi’s Italian Cuisine is the best Italian place I’ve ever experienced. The atmosphere is romantic, the service impeccable, and the food divine. Even Studly liked it, and he doesn’t do Italian.
Ok, I’ve made myself hungry. Remember that Key Lime pound cake? I saved a piece and I’m having it for breakfast.