Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kite Flying By The Ocean...Part Two

“I’m going to have the dinner. I might have the platter tomorrow.” The three of us headed out in my sister’s van and ended up at the Flying Fish—a great place where the food matched the décor. As you can tell from the photo, I caught more than just the shrimp for my dinner.

And the crabs were tasty, too.

The restaurant was one of those places that I’ve always wanted to eat at but was always past it before I remembered that I wanted to stop there. And I’m just like my mother in the fact that if I pass something I don’t like to turn around and go back. There’s always the next place up the road, Mom says. But again, my timing was right and we were stopped at the traffic light directly in front of the Flying Fish and my brain was like “Hey, didn’t you want to stop there?”, so we did. The food was excellent. The drinks were overflowing and the service was exceptional—it’s hard to get all three of those at the same time and when you do the best thing you can do is tip well (We did.).

After lunch we headed back to the beach house to spend a few hours hanging out on the screened porch. I have a rather light complexion and after my early years of being fried to a crisp without the benefit of sun screen, I have decided in my later years to avoid the sun whenever possible. This year, I have done a really good job of that except for the one early evening I decided to go for a walk on the beach. I should have known better (really, I should have) but I took my sandals off at the end of the boardwalk that leads down to the ocean and stepped on the sand and starting walking. I hadn’t gone more than a few steps when my feet started burning and I was jumping up and down on either foot trying to escape the scorched sand but it was too late—the damage was done. I hadn’t sunburned any part of my body, but instead sand-burned the bottoms of my feet. (I should have known better.) 

Unfortunately, my timing wasn’t good on this occasion because I ended up with burn blisters on both of my feet or maybe the timing was good enough that the burns weren’t more severe. As a person that has had diabetes and taken insulin injections for nearly 20 years, there are two things I am fanatical about: my eyes and my feet. Diabetes can lead to complications over time and I do my best to wear eye protection when needed and I always wear socks around the house. Mom just gave me the over-the-glasses-look and shook her head. “You should have known better than that,” she said. (You’re right!) The scorching of my feet actually took place two days before my perfect timing day and I stayed off my feet the next day.

Later in the evening after I saw the sunrise and dolphins all of us decided to take a walk on the beach (with my shoes on) and watch the sunset. It was windy and we were almost out the door when I remembered I had picked up four kites for two bucks each at Walmart back home. We grabbed the kites and were really disappointed when we took them out of the package. The front of the kites was no bigger than a large paper plate but had over 20-feet long tails so we didn’t know how they would fly. Once we lifted them up into the air the wind took hold of them and for the next 90 minutes a handful of people on the beach had the time of their lives flying kites over the ocean. I’ve been told to go fly a kite on occasion but I never did (ha ha) but as best as I can remember it’s been at least 30 years since I have actually flown a kite. For mom, who kept saying no, she didn’t want to, once she took hold of the string, it was like she was transported back 60 or more years to her own childhood when she flew kites with her own brothers and sisters.

And what about the small kites we were using? They turned out to be just the perfect size for the wind we had and I can honestly say it was the best eight (4 kites x $2) bucks I’ve spent in recent memory. It was another of those timing issues. I hadn’t intended to go to Walmart that day and I certainly hadn’t intended to look for toys but something wanted me to get those kites and I really am glad I did.

You may not think so but everything that happened on this day was about being in the right place at the right time. My week at the beach has been almost perfect (except for the blistered feet) and maybe my friend was right: the ocean is a healing place. I know I certainly feel better.

Here’s my advice to you: If you feel like you need to unwind, relax, rejuvenate or just spend some time with your thoughts take yourself to the beach.

And this is the most important thing to remember: Look up from your screen, or better yet, leave it behind and remember to wear your shoes.

On another note, if you are keeping track of my summer of writing, this is the 60th day in my one hundred days of writing and I have added 60K words to my various projects. And there are only 40 days to go.

(Not that I’m keeping track or anything.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Kite Flying By The Ocean...Part I

I’ve been at the beach for the past week enjoying time with my family on our annual summer vacation. We alternate beaches and have visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the Gulf Coast of Florida, and of course, the beaches on the Georgia Coast. We tend to favor the Georgia beaches more because it is the halfway point for my sister and her family when they travel south. We’ve really enjoyed visiting the Outer Banks over the years but we like to go in September when it isn’t so hot but with a house full of teenagers who are already in school by that time timing has become an issue.

This year our destination was Tybee Island which is located about 20 miles from Savannah. For whatever reason, I have been lucky enough to visit the ocean three times in the last four months and as one of my friends, Gail remarked, “The ocean is a healing place.”

My response was a usual quip, “I must need it,”  but her words got me thinking about my attitude when I am going, I’m there, or after I have returned from a visit to the ocean. I am different. Other than being hot and sweaty in all the wrong places and trying to make a decision on whether I will have the fried shrimp dinner or the fried shrimp platter at the restaurants we visit no other decisions are required of me. I’m fairly easy-going by nature and the moods around the ocean enhance that trait. It could be just the fact that I am on vacation that mellows me out but some of the last few trips that Mom and I have made—up the East Coast last year, a bus trip to the Grand Canyon and a boat ride down the Danube in Germany in December left little time for relaxation.  It was go, go go or you’ll miss the boat (which I almost did in Germany when I went hunting for spicy mustard up the street and  I spent too much time in the souvenir shop in NYC when visiting the Statue of Liberty), I don’t have to worry about that when I’m at the beach. If I miss something, I can always catch it the next day because the waves are always rolling and crashing in, right?

Maybe not?

Some days, life is about timing and every once in a while, my timing is right. Yesterday, I had one of those days that when I look back on it in the future I’ll wonder how I was lucky to have such a perfect day. It started, ironically enough, by my inability to sleep and as I saw the first rays of morning creeping through the window I thought of the sunset that I’d yet to witness on this trip. I only gave it a thought because I rolled over, put the pillow back over my head and tried to go back to sleep. It didn’t work, because nature called and then I was up for good. It was 6:15 and I thought sunrise was at 6:25 so I threw on my clothes from the night before, and took my spectacular crown of bed head and my unwashed self to the beach which was probably only about 300 yards away.

Only a handful of souls were walking the beach at that time of day and none were within a hundred yards of me. I had my phone with me ready to document the birth of the sun on this morning and I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. The sun didn’t come up when it was supposed to and I waited a few more minutes snapping a few photos of the morning tide and finally concluded that it was too cloudy for the sun to be seen. I had my back to the ocean and snapping one last selfie when a flash of brightness reflected off my screen and momentarily blinded me. I turned around and there it was: the sun. I checked the time and it was 6:45—either it was late or I’d gotten the time wrong. It didn’t matter because the timing was right and even though I was being so preoccupied like everyone else these days by having my face buried in a screen I was somehow lucky enough to view a brilliant sunrise.

I spent the next few minutes walking along the shore and had a few pictures of the sunset that I thought I would share on my Facebook page for others to enjoy. Again, my face was buried in my screen and I was startled when a wave nearly overtook me and I scurried a few steps back. I’d almost walked straight into the water because I was worrying about something other than what was right in front of me and when I looked up and out at the ocean I was delighted to see a group of dolphins swimming parallel along the beach. Again, even though it almost swept me out to sea, something wanted me to see those dolphins and the timing was just right.

Later, after I returned to the beach house and went back to bed, I was surprised to wake up and find out it was after noon but Mom summed it up perfectly: “You’ve seen the sun come up, a pod of dolphins, had your breakfast and your daily nap all taken care of by noon—that’s a great day. Now, you’ve got the rest of the day to explore, read, or do nothing, but first, it’s time for lunch. Are you going to have the platter or the dinner?”

Check back for part two tomorrow….

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

One Hundred Days...50 Days In

One Hundred Days…50 Days In

Half-full? Half-empty? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? I like to think I’m a little bit of both but for the last week I’ve definitely been on the half-empty side of things. Maybe it’s the current political climate that our great country has found itself in where “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” and “Muslims Don’t Matter” dominate the nightly news. One report I saw had a protestor with a sign that read “No Lives Matter” and with the random killings that occur not only in the United States but in France and Turkey it makes you stop and ask yourself: Does my life matter?

I’d like to think that it does.

The next question you might ask yourself is What can I do to change things? Can I make a donation of money, time or blood? Can I wave a sign in a protest march? Can I post my political views on Twitter? What about Facebook?

Facebook has become more than just a way to keep up with old friends and their crummy vacations. It’s become the go-to choice for many of those old friends to rant about this politician or that politician, but I wonder if all of that effort does anything more than confirm to your non-aligned friends that you really are as crazy as they remember. How could you possibly support that person?

But now the half-full side of me is going to present this statement for you to think about: Isn’t that what makes our country great? Hasn’t America always been a melting pot of ideas and cultures where everyone has the ability to contribute something and express themselves? In the America that I live in that’s been the case, but some would make you think that America isn’t great.

What’s incredible about being a melting pot of ideas is that most of us are contributing whether you know it or not? Every time you show kindness or offer assistance to someone you are a contributor in the larger scheme of things. An example: Holding the door open for someone. A simple process, yes, but let’s open the scenario a bit wider. You're a Democrat. They’re a Republican. They’re Christian. You’re Muslim. They’re a Redneck. You’re from the Upper East Side. I can’t speak to every occasion because no one can but if someone is struggling to open a door because their hands are full with groceries or trying to get a walker or wheelchair through isn’t it your first response if you’re able and close enough to give a helping hand?

I’m right, aren’t I? You would help, wouldn’t you? And your first instinct wouldn't be to ask what their political affiliation was either.

Of course, there is always someone out there that wouldn’t open the door for their own parent, spouse or child. The hatred is planted so deep that the roots are cemented to their very soul and those people are the ones that hide behind the anonymous label on social media. Their mantra is “I can say or do whatever I want to and you’ll never know it was me.” But I wonder if perhaps they have already been caught—by their own conscience. Do the haters ever give pause before they hit the send button? Are they ever kept awake by a comment they posted on Twitter or ashamed of a shared post on Facebook that served no purpose than to cause harm to someone else?

I’d like to think so because I am an optimist and I try to see the bright side of things. As we continue on in this election season and beyond if there is anything you take away from this essay it’s this: America is a great country, so do what you can to help out and if you ever find your hands full, just look for me or anyone else, we’ll go out of our way to hold the door open for you.

It’s America. That’s what we do.

Lastly, this past week has been the toughest in my writing journey thus far. I haven't wanted to write anything, especially in the books I'm working on because I'm describing something that doesn't exist. It is a fantasy novel and I'm making it up as I go along. And when I get too involved and wrapped up with what's happening on my social media pages my imagination likes to take a sick day or even worse: a two-week vacation so when I do sit down at the computer I spend the first 15 minutes typing my name so I'll remember who I am and what I'm trying to accomplish before I can actually begin to write.

It's working too, because I've learned to turn off the social media and I've added 50,000 words to my various projects and there are only 50 days to go.

Or maybe I should say I've completed 50 days and I'm halfway there.

In this case, both works!

One hundred thousand words in one hundred days is how I am spending my summer. There's still time to join in on the fun.

Keep writing.

Monday, July 11, 2016

One Hundred Days...40 Days In

Well, I made it past Independence Day. And it was tough too. I wanted to stop. Everything. The walking. The writing. The walking. And the writing.

I wrote nearly twice that much last November but I think my problem then was that I gave myself a deadline. When I reached the end of the month, I could take the Holidays off, which I did and the next few months after that.

On the Saturday before Independence Day, Mom and I took a trip and did what we do best: Loafer.

Until me moved south of the sweet tea line (which is Kentucky/Ohio border in the midwest) and into North Georgia, loafer was not a word we were accustomed to using in everyday conversations. It's one of those colloquial terms that you might find in various parts of the country, but I've never heard it anywhere besides North Georgia.

Mom and I are fancy and we don't just loafer, but we add "ing" to the word and go loafering. When we are loafering you can bet two things will be involved: yard sales and food. Neither of us are known for our ability to bypass either of those two things.

On more than one occasion we have even eaten and yard-saled in the same place and came out with a treasure of some kind and a bad case of heartburn or worse. We've learned to be a bit more picky about where we stop.

We took a 60-mile shortcut to go 50 miles up the road. In other words, we took the scenic route. We drove to Hiawassee, Georgia and traveled around Lake Chatuge before stopping in at the McDonald's there for a potty break and a large sweet tea. Not many things will tempt Mom away from her Diet Pepsi, but the large sweet tea from Mickey D's for only a buck is one of those things (And a peach milkshake from Chick-fil-A ).

We then traveled through Hayesville, North Carolina and on in to Murphy where we decided to stop for lunch. We ended up in a joint called Chevelles, and you guessed it, they had a lot of car-themed items on the menu. Mom had the El Camino which was a wrap with green stuff on the inside and I had the Studebaker which was a barbecued pork chop. The food was good but what stood out the most were the homemade yeast rolls. I think I had four of them. And what else was surprising was that we ate for less than twenty bucks.

After lunch, Mom was ready to go home but I had a surprise for her. Harrah's Casino in Cherokee, North Carolina has opened a new casino in Murphy called Valley River and I've been a couple of times but she hasn't been there yet. I like to gamble but I don't like to lose so my limit was $20. I like to play video poker, specifically a game called Shamrock 7s. If you get three 7s then you get to pick a pot-o-gold and win a bonus. I really like this game and I have gambled in Vegas, Biloxi, Atlantic City and other smaller cities in between and it is only available in Cherokee and now Murphy. Or so I thought. Recently, when I was in Savannah, I went out on the Emerald Princess which is a gambling boat and they have the game out there too.

Anyhow, Mom left me at one of those games and wandered off. It didn't take me long to lose my money so I went looking for her. I found her all the way on the other side of the casino in the food court having a snack and reading a book. She saw my look and before I could say anything she said: "I had five bucks to lose and on my first or second spin on one of those penny machines I won five bucks and cashed out. I doubled my money and it was time to go."

I like the way she thinks.

I needed a day like that to get out and have some fun. I came back reenergized and ready to write. In fact, I'm happy to say that I'm on track and have written 40,000 words in my various projects.

My summer of one hundred days of writing continues and I hope the words keep flowing.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Holiday Parades

I missed the Fourth of July parade again this year, but just barely. I wanted to go, but I have this thing about parades. They scare me a little and usually make me cry.

I was in the marching band in high school so I got to march in several parades a year. I don't think they bothered me then because I was in the parade and didn't have to watch. From the tenth grade on I marched in the very front row on the left-hand side. I played a large brass instrument and it was a lot of fun. Maybe, it was from watching all of those Thanksgiving parades on TV that made me nervous around parades. All of those large inflated creatures that if there was just one wrong misstep could send their handlers floating off somewhere over the rainbow.

As I drove into town yesterday, tractor pulled floats with balloons flapping in the breeze, pickup trucks with 'Vote-for-so-and-so' and gleaming red fire trucks passed me coming the other way. When I reached the center of town it looked like someone had set a bomb off (wonder if they had a permit?). Trash everywhere.

Families were still milling around town clinging to their children's hands to keep them from running into the street to salvage any leftover thrown candy. I saw one child dart out into traffic, hit a pile of manure (EEWWW) left by a horse in the parade, pick up a piece of candy and slide across the road into the waiting arms of a very shocked parent. One parade judge was receiving medical attention because one of the parade participants had thrown an exceptionally large piece of hard candy at him and boinked him on the head.(I think they got last place.) I heard a little girl sobbing inconsolably because she hadn't gotten any of the candy thrown in her direction.(See a pattern here?)

As I was waiting to make a left-hand turn in the center of town, I was startled when I heard something beside me go bleep, bleep. I looked at all of my mirrors and couldn't see a thing. Bleep, Bleep, BBBLLLLEEEEEEPP!! All of a sudden, six very large clowns(I'm scared of clowns too!) jumped up out of the smallest motorized vehicle that I have ever seen and yelled, "Chinese Fire Drill".

The light turned green but I stayed put. Clowns were running beside me, around me, one even tried to open my door (good thing I had it locked) all jumping up and waving, one tripped over his feet, one pulled a flower from his sleeve, one honked his nose at me and one handed me a balloon in the shape of a wiener dog. As the light turned back to red, they hopped back into that car, made a right-turn and sped off.

I waited for the light to turn green and was shocked to hear a bleep, bleep once again. I looked up and saw that little car heading my way again and thought, "I don't think so." I didn't care what color the light was, I slammed that Mustang down into first gear, hit that pile of manure, hit the emergency brake, squalled the tires, and laid down a piece of rubber that would've made Old Number 3 right proud. I left those clowns choking and gasping in my dust.

I needed to stop and get gas before I left town and was a little uneasy when a guy in a clown suit pulled up at the next pump. He smiled at me and I just kind of looked away. I heard his cell phone ring and he began to talk to someone. I had finished pumping my gas and looked backed over at the clown. (He wasn't there.) As I did so, I heard a 'honk', I jumped out of my skin, turned back around and there stood the clown. "My friends just called and said you really made their day with that maneuver back at the light," he said. "They want to know if you want to go to the next town and be in the parade with them?" (Sign me up!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Future Of Track And Field....2016 Update

As a former high school athlete, I can appreciate the effort that millions of kids throughout the country put forth every day. I'm sure many of them dream of becoming a professional athlete, but to many, it's only a dream. We've been fortunate in the MA Fat Woman's family to be around a young man that has dreams of the Olympics and beyond.

Antonio Blanks is his name, or Tonio for short and his sport is Track and Field. Tonio is an up and comer in the Track world and has been setting records since he was a freshman at Dunbar High School in Dayton, Ohio. He recently completed his junior year and went to the State Championships in four events. He won the 300M hurdles and is now state champ. Isn't that amazing? I threw the shot and discus back in the day and missed going to the District finals by two inches in the shotput. Even if I would have made it to the District, I would still had to have gone to the Regionals and won there, before I made it to the State Championships.

Tonio is a personable young man that loves to laugh, eats Mambos candy and munches on fresh fruit by the gallon. Needless to say, he is tall and lean. His coaches have asked him several times to anchor various relays and to watch his kick on the back stretch is just breathtaking. If ever there was a 'natural', Tonio seems to have it. (Whatever it is?)

Tonio already has his eye on the future: He wants to be an engineer and build things. He' s an A student and has the grades to get a full academic ride wherever he wants to go. (Oh, yeah, don't forget the full athletic scholarship too!)

Antonio Blanks, remember the name and remember you heard it here first! Watch out Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2016 Olympics, the MA Fat Woman and her family are heading your way!

********That was then; this is now**********

I wrote this story about Tonio in 2010 and just wanted to update that he is a freshman at Ohio State, finished 7th in the NCAA Championships, and, in turn, made him eligible for the 2012 Olympic Trials, in Eugene, Oregon, later this week. How cool is that?

Here's a quote from Tonio that ran in the Columbus Dispatch: “I’m treating it like another meet,” said Blanks, a freshman from Dayton who finished seventh at the NCAA championships. “I don’t know what’s going on; I’m just running. I don’t have anything to lose.”

Amen, to that! Run fast, young man; we'll be watching!

********That was then; this is now***********

Four years have passed and Tonio graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from THE Ohio State University. He had a wonderful senior year racing and once again made it to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon in the 400M Hurdles where he concluded his collegiate career as an ALL-AMERICAN. All I can say is OUTSTANDING!

Once again, Tonio has been fast enough to receive an invitation to the 2016 Olympic Trials in Oregon and we wish him all the best.

Pictured above are Tonio and his new wife, Jewelisa in their new hometown, Atlanta. Both have secured new jobs and are beginning new lives in our wonderful state.

I know you won't let the heat get to you, young man, and whatever happens, we're very proud of you!

And as always: RUN, TONIO, RUN!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day

The scene--Any small town in a state that doesn't allow fireworks, namely Georgia.

A guy walks into his local courthouse and asks where he can get a permit. The guard sends him down to the permit office. There is a really long line and only one window open. He admits to himself that this permit thing must be a pretty good idea, 'cause everyone here seems to be getting one. After all, on July 4th, he always hears fireworks going off all over town, so, they must have a permit, right?

The man finally reaches the counter after one lunch break, and two smoke breaks and asks the lady about applying for a permit. She pulls out the forms and said that the fee was going to be $500.00. He scratches his head and thought that that sounded like a lot of money. "Ma'am, why does it cost so much to get a permit to let off fireworks," he asked?

"Let off fireworks," she said. "Don't you know that is illegal in this state?"

The man scratched his head once again and then asked, "What are all of these people here for?"

"Sir, this is the tag office," she said.

The man, quite confused by this time, looks up and asks, "Where does the city get its permit to let off fireworks for the community each year?"

The lady, quite at a loss for words looks up and says, "Wait right here, I'm gonna go get my supervisor."

Enjoy your 4th of July wherever you are and remember this: Let the professionals shoot off the fireworks, because they have a permit. Just don't ask to see it.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tater Salad

It took me a few years to learn to appreciate this delicacy served at picnics, potlucks, and funerals. Church socials, family reunions and basically any other gathering that served food always seemed to have several different kinds of potato salad. Potato salad or tater salad as we call it in my family is a gathering requirement. Someone usually asks who's bringing the tater salad and the resulting answer is met with extreme caution. You see in the middle-aged fat woman's family there are four(4) different recipes for tater salad. And none of us really like the others' recipes.

Mom's recipe is a classic tater salad laced with eggs, onions,(I'm allergic) pickles, (I don't like) relish, (Yuck) and celery seed.

Brother's recipe is stocked with onions, (I'm allergic) paprika, and every dressing and sauce in the fridge which total (at last count) 43.

Sister's recipe is spiked with onions, Ohio style chili, and caffeine free Diet Pepsi. (No comment for that one)

Middle-aged fat woman's recipe is a meat-and-potatoes kind of dish. It only has a few ingredients, none of which are listed above, except eggs.

I subscribe to several upscale magazines and had seen a new recipe for Summer Potato Salad. Well, I thought la-dee-da, I'll just have to give this new tater salad a shot. The new recipe called for fancy bleu cheese crumbles, 3 tablespoons of coarse salt, red wine vinegar and freshly chopped chives.

What a disaster.

Of course, all of the stores were closed for the holiday, so, I had to stop at a convenience store to pick up those unusual ingredients, none of which they had.

I got to Mom's house and began to assemble the Summer Potato Salad. (She had already cooked the potatoes) We poured 3 tablespoons of Morton salt into the bowl. We added wild onion stems pulled directly from the front yard. Lastly, we poured blue cheese salad dressing into some cottage cheese to get the crumble effect. We had all of the other ingredients so we added them in as well.

Mom looked at me and I looked at her, "You ready to taste it?"

In went the spoons, out came a gag and a bleccckkk, she spit hers out and my eyes teared up. It was awful. Just awful. Brother came in and gave it a taste, "That tastes like @%X*^!#," he said, then threw down his spoon in disgust and stomped out of the kitchen. Sister wasn't in town for this holiday, but her daughter was. I looked over at her with spoon in hand and she said, "I'm allergic to tater salad." (Smart kid)


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