Rashida, a bike and the turtle.

Rain drops trickled from the sky last Friday midday.

Sitting outside on the porch with a tomato sandwich and book, a voice called to my right. Or it might have been a voice, I wasn’t sure. In the middle of two of my favorite pastimes, I figured if someone wanted my attention, they’d make it clear.

Hearing the voice again, I looked up to see a woman on a bike.

The rider stood stride a mountain-type bike outfitted with two large red all-weather storage satchels off her seat on either side of her rear tire.

Standing face-to-face in the light rain, I thought she wanted to know where Dixie Highway was. That was an easy fix.

But the more we talked, she had just come from Dixie Highway and needed help getting to  . . .

get this.

South Carolina.

Suddenly, this became quite interesting.

She was the sweeper for a cycling group headed to the South Carolina coast. They started their journey on the west side of Atlanta. After spending last night at Hard Labor Creek (a park 10 miles from me), this leg of their journey took them to Hamburg Park in Mitchell, Georgia.

Taking out a sheet with her directions, the paper so damp it disintegrated in her hands. The extended downpour had separated her from the group but she had communicated with them by text.

Oh. And her phone was now dead.

I offered a portable charger from some conference SWAG bag. She laughed that it wouldn’t help, saying that she calls herself analog her phone is so old.

With no GPS, a disintegrating directional sheet, no phone, no idea where to go, I offered to get my bike and show her another way to Bethany Road through town.

*   *   *

I dashed back home through the raindrops filled with a since of urgency. I had a mission! A purpose!

Grabbing my bike, shoes, helmet, I trotted back up to the corner relieved to see my friend still waiting.

“Oh wow, you got a bike,” she said after seeing my road bike.

“Yes. She’s 10 years old. My midlife crisis.”

She laughed saying that she will be 40 in a few months, “Maybe that’s what this is?”

How was this woman going to get to Mitchell, Georgia in the rain by herself?

Riding along in the rain, I started a little small talk.

“What do you do?” I ventured.

“I’m in the energy conservation field. I work in San Fransisco with the . . ”

“YOU LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO?”

My new friend riding a bike in the rain through the Georgia country side, lagging far behind a group heading to Mitchell, Georgia was not from Atlanta but from California. She worked installing energy effiencent lighting. She had gone to graduate school to study carpentry. Bad timing on that, she laughed with a little sigh.?

I learned that she was born in Memphis and lived all over the south and had been in San Francisco 10 years. And her 40th birthday in a few months would be spent climbing Machu Picchu.

When we got up to the highway she was to cross to get on Bethany, we dismounted.

Remembering she had no phone and disintegrating directions I said, “You need my phone number. Please call if you need anything.”

She began sorting through her packs for a paper and pen.

And pulled out a turtle.

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“A turtle, NO WAY. I love turtles!” I told about me being the turtle wrangler and pulled up my twitter background.

 

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“This is magical!” Rashida exclaimed.

Yes. Somewhere in the searching for paper, the writing of my number, squealing over shared love of turtles, we exchanged names.

So after I googled Mitchell, Georgia and found out it was an hour by car (three or four by bike she thought), Rashida packed up her turtle and road away.

 

*   *   *

 

Saturday I received a text from Rashida that she had met up with her group and was headed to their next stop Magnolia Springs State Park.

 

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I hope Rashida uses that email address I gave her.

I want to find out how the journey ended. I want to ask her thoughts about the whole adventure. I want to follow her to Machu Picchu.

No phone. No twitter. No blog. I asked because she could have a killer blog. 

She laughed.

My new hero Rashida living life. Unplugged but so very plugged in.

If I was the jealous type, I might be. Just a little.

Thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

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Good Will Bunting. Rutledge, Georgia.

Memorial Day 2015.

I’ve got my bunting on. Have you?
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This is a photo from my porch.

Yesterday, I was riding my bike through nearby Rutledge and took note of all the bunting displayed.

This would make the perfect blog post. Timely, local and easy. 

If you want to know the unvarnished truth coating the mind of a busy person who blogs. That’s it.

So I rode down there today to capture patriotism for you this Memorial Day weekend. After perusing the vegetable transplants at the hardware store, I headed onward deep into the heart of downtown Rutledge.

 

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The stop can.

 

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Yes, fiddling with my filters, hopping in and out of my car.

 

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I witnessed a quiet town’s patriotism.

 

 

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Birds chirping and cars passing by on the way to other places. Other spaces.

I’m afraid that my first thought on Memorial Day is yay the motorcycles will pass the house and it will be summer!

But with the passage of time, the more I reflect on the young soldiers who never had another hot dog or waved a flag as floats ferried past on a parade route.

 

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Those who never again watched the joy of a child playing in a sprinkler’s spray.

Never got another chance for ice cream at The Caboose.

 

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Never again played hide-and-peek with a ballon.
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Or had a chance to draft an easy peasy Memorial Day blog post.

Nothing else to say but thank you.

Thank you so very much.

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Lake Lanier Under the Lights 5K. Worth breaking “the rules.”

Our youngest is 11 years old. I’ve written before how he’s my last holdout, my last buddy. I realize that time is quickly (and probably already has) slipping away.

Okay. That’s not clear. He’s my last child I can talk into hanging out with mom and participating in organized fun.

For example, he and I are a team for the Ronald McDonald House race. And I often procrastinate enthusiastically scan the internet for local 5Ks we can do together. That’s how I happened upon Lanier Under the Lights 5K.

Lake Lanier is a resort 30 minutes north of Atlanta. For us, that meant a 90 minute drive. But what’s an hour and a half of riding in a car for a chance to run through holiday lights?

They hold this race the Saturday and Sunday before the park opens the light show to car traffic.

Joe and I headed that was last Sunday afternoon.

This was at the start. Notice the castle in the background. Oz-ian I think.

 

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It was misty and chilly, which added to the cheery winter mood.

Cheery winter mood?

Yes. I got caught up in the lights and the little whiff of Santa in the air.

This required suspending my long and fast rule: NO Christmas before Thanksgiving. I surprised myself how easy it was to drift into that mum-of-a-little-child-at-Christmas haze.

 

The official start.

They had waves which was a good thing. Lots and lots of children. Serious runners were up front followed by mid-pace runners, joggers, walkers and entire young families pushing toddlers in strollers.

 

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A few photos.

 

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These pics aren’t conveying the excited children chatting to parents. Parents encouraging their child to run to the next reindeer. The young 20-somethings running in packs.  I knew that when I was snapping away. But I had to try.

My partner never likes me to stop and take a pic.

Notice the green glow-stick stuck in his curls.

 

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The course is hilly. I knew that from a ZOOMA half marathon my friends and I ran there.

We ran; we walked with hundreds of other peeps in search of a pre-holiday buzz.

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And had a great time.

The lake is down there somewhere.

 

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A thumb way up!

Don’t know what I’ll do next year if my then 12 year old won’t do this race with me.

:/   <– Mommy angst.

How about you? Will you join me?

 

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Chickamauga Battlefield Half Marathon. 13.1 Miles of History.

13. 1 miles of history . . . Or so says the back of our dri-fit shirts.

Every fall my running buddy Kim says we need to do this race. So this year, I signed up and when Kim couldn’t join me — I talked my husband into going with me. He walks for exercise.

Like really fast walk.

He’s secure in his maleness to walk 13.1 miles. Which is cool with me because the main thang is to have him walking his little heart out getting cardio exercise.

The man is into history as in would-have-loved-to-have-been a history professor into history, so I thought this was perfect for him. So after I begged and pleaded and promised things I’ll never follow through with, he agreed to go with me.

It’s ironic that recently, we stumbled upon a PBS show about Chickamauga. Okay, I happened to walk in the bedroom while he was watching — remember he is the history nut in the family.

According to the show, Chickamauga is a Native American word meaning river of death. The river there was so named when the Cherokee contracted smallpox. The sick would go to the river seeking relief from their fever  and many of them died while at the water.

Ironically, the battle fought at this river of death was the second deadliest of the Civil War. Second only to Gettysburg. Very sobering and hard to imagine, in a place that today is the epitome of bucolic beauty and tranquility.

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Here we sat last Saturday morning.

Let’s cover why this race is great from a runner’s perspective. You can wait in your car with the heater on. Which is awesome said anyone who has stood around for an hour in cold weather before a race.

 

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As far as the race size — it wasn’t too small; it wasn’t too big. It was just right. The marathon and half folks started together. I was reading about how the first place woman in the marathon was disqualified when her split times didn’t make sense. I think she probably got confused and didn’t run some of the course. Who knows?

Alls I know is that I covered every inch. And then some.

My time was where I seem to be stuck these days — 2:30. Well, 2:31:something. Which is 15 minutes slower than I did consistently a few years ago. But considering the wear and tear on my joints, I’m just happy to be participating in these things.

As much as I enjoyed this race, I encountered technical difficulties.

And since this is my blog and not an official race report, I will bore share them with you.

—  The race started. I turn on my iPod shuffle. No sound. For about the first half a mile I fiddled with the shuffle. I fiddled with the ear buds. Never got the blasted thing to work. So I quickly changed expectations — 13 miles. No music. No problem. Said no one ever.

—  Between Mile 7 and 8 my RunKeeper died. Well, my phone did. So instead of carrying a dead phone in my hand, I stuck it in my tights. Before long, my phone would fall down my leg and end up at my knee. Which caused me to stop and reach down into my tights to retrieve dead phone. I did this off and on for a few miles till I thought — this is maddening and carried my phone in my hand the rest of the way.

 

So even with no music or time, I’d have to say this was one of my top three half marathons. And I’ve run a ton.

A beautiful spot. Race day conditions were perfect. In the 30s. No wind. Blue sky.

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I took this because I thought the steam rising off the runners was cool.

 

 

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Yes, we were running through a battlefield. One where many, many young men lost their lives.

I have no notions to romanticize The Civil War.  It was a horrific thing. A horrific thing that had to be.

Slavery was a way of life in the plantation South — an inhumanity unthinkable in our culture today.

History proved war the heinous solution to end an even greater evil.

That was 151 years ago.

I kept having to remind myself that thousands of men died here.

Thousands.

Sixteen thousand, two hundred Union casualties and 18,500 recorded for the Confederate.

I can only shake my head as I type that.

 

 

 

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We did it.

 

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Thanks Johnny for coming with me.

So with no music and no timekeeper to neurotically check, I still give this race a must do.

Thoughts?

 

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Memorial Day. Climb every mountain. Every Stone Mountain.

Memorial Day.

I just could stay at home and sit on the couch.

Well. I wouldn’t be sitting on the couch anyway.

I wanted to go to North Georgia and hike. But there wasn’t enough time.

So next best thing was to head to Stone Mountain. My youngest and husband were the only two that I could talk into joining me.

 

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So we headed up and up.

It was a lovely day.

To be out and about.

 

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I couldn’t help but think of Army Spec. Erica Alecksen today. She was killed in Afghanistan last July 8.

In working on a story, I spoke with her mother and her aunt. Her pastor and her husband. The funeral director.

She had just turned 21.

It’s hard to think of a mother who lost her only daughter to a IED so deep that even the dogs couldn’t sniff it out.

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Today was just a nice day with family.

Thinking Erica’s mother and brother and of all those who are missing a family member today killed in the line of service.

Memorial Day should never be just the day that marks the beginning of summer.

 

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So Very Flannery.

A Good Hard Look.

Today I traveled to Georgia State and College University (GCSU) — a truly outstanding liberal arts public school — to interview a few professors for something I’m working on.

As I was coming into Milledgeville this morning — with not a second to spare for my 10 o’ clock meeting — I passed this sign again like I’d done so many times before.

 

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The sign indicating the turn into the 544 acre farm and site of Flannery O’Connor’s family home Andalusia. The place where she wrote most of her published works.

I’m always in a rush. Always busy. Never time to turn in.

But today the interview didn’t last long as expected.

As I walked along the college grounds,

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and found my car, it occurred to me I had a little time.

I could stop at Chick-fil-A for a coke and waffle fry or I could turn in?

Turn in the gravel road by the sign on the busy highway and visit Andalusia.

I am always honest with you. I am not pretending to be any Flannery O’Connor expert. I have read some of her works.

Truthfully, I find her hard to read. Maybe it’s the grotesqueness  (isn’t that the word everyone uses of her work, so I might as well too) of her characters? Maybe it’s her disturbing brilliance? But there is no doubt she was a force in words. A Gothic Southern writer in the truest sense.

Here’s an article from Salon if you need a quick Cliff Notes on her.

I have also read a fictional book, A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano on Milledgeville and Flannery. The Flannery Napolitano created captured my imagination. This brilliant woman living in rural Georgia. A devout Catholic with painfully-razored mindset who wrote about her fellow denizens in this small Southern world.

Mired in Central Georgia. Trapped by an illness that would take her from this earth at 39.

Today, I turned left. And traveled down the gravel road.

After a little bit I saw this  . . .

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I don’t know if it was the Paperwhites? Or seeing her standing on that porch with her determined look and horn-rimmed glasses? But my heart stopped.

For a moment.

Now I’m not a drama mama. Lord knows sometimes I wish I was a little bit more something ~ but pretty much what you read is what I am.

And something hit me when I saw the house.

Just the force of her.

Peacocks. She had dozens of peacocks, I had learned that.

They have a few feathered representatives though now these birds sit in a cage rather than drip from the branches of the oaks lining the drive.

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I parked and walked around.

It was so very quiet.

And grey. And Gothic.

So very Flannery.

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When I got in the car, I just sat.

And started weeping.

I wept for the tragedy of her life.

I wept for my dad.

Nothing like a good cleansing cry in the shadow of  literary history.

So very Flannery indeed.

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Madison, Georgia 2012 Holiday Parade.

Every year the primary school students walk from the school in the Madison Holiday Parade.

Every year I’ve had a Primary Panda eligible to participate, I’ve successfully avoided walking.

Call me Scrooge, I know.

This year my second grader really wanted to walk.

I thought how this is my last year that one of my three will be at the school — so why not?

We ended up getting adopted into the Dachshund Divas brigade. Joe was asked to walk River whose mama, Kim Watts, was out of town.

I had SO much fun. It was a perfect day. There was a huge turnout. All I could think was . . .

Why did I never do this before?

I’m in Florida with my dad who is very ill. I want to be here but hard to be away from family at this time.

Sitting here in a big city, I’m so thankful I had last Saturday in our wonderful small town.

It will be a memory that I can carry me through this topsy turvy Christmas season.

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Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Decked Out Halls. Madison, Georgia Christmas Tour.

The Madison Christmas Tour is this weekend. My in-laws and my across the street neighbors are on the candlelight portion.

CRAZY.

For my in-laws not so much.

But for my neighbor the ever-creative, ever-talented Trish Jones (her coolio decorating/art blog) — in a word. WOW.

She and her house from the 1800’s are up to the task.

It’s just that she is a wife, mother of three with a thriving Etsy shop . . . and well, she is a mother of three.

Here was her house tonight.

 

We were met at the door by some proper young docents.

Then I witnessed this derelict docent racing back to her station inside.

Wonder who was distracting her from her duty?

Earlier today, I went over there for a sneak peak and it looked so great.

 

 

I’ve never matured enough in my decorating skills to use fresh fruit.

Not that I  don’t like it, it’s so Williamsburgy and traditional.

And traditionally, I’m decor-challenged.

Trish. 🙂 Sorry I took this before I reset my camera’s speed.

Look at all the neat touches. Just scattered about.

Trish bought this tree on eBay last summer and handmade all the ornaments.

Homeowner Rob, running to complete some decorating task or running from the camera.

Look at her cute solution to the non-working fireplace in their bedroom.

The journalist hard at work.

I could go on and on because her things were so adorable — but in the interest of hard-hitting journalism — I have the courage to show you the behind the scenes story.

A few hours before showtime, a few traces of life with three children remained.

And . . .

So I took off my crackerjack reporter hat and put on my good neighbor hat and started folding.

Rob jumped into.

If you’re in our neck of the nape tomorrow, the show goes on for one more night.

It is a lot of fun.

Because my house is not on display.

What about you? Would you open your door to hundreds of good folks at Christmas time?

* * *

And that completes my 30 days of November participating in NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month.

Woo! Made it.

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Who will help me eat the pie?

Pecans.

It’s been raining pecans here thanks to all the recent windy weather.

Since I am the best pecan pie baker in the world (or at least am privy to the best recipe), I always make a few for Thanksgiving. And I always buy the star of the show.

That’s nuts.

 

All over the ground just waiting to be picked up.

I made a proposal to my youngest. “Come out and help me pick up pecans and I’ll pay you.”

He picked up a large empty Lego box from his birthday last weekend and said, “If I fill this, will you pay me $2?”

“Sure,” I replied. A little too quickly.

Suddenly he begins arguing for $5.

 

Getting a bit irritated, I said no way and headed out to do the job myself.

All the while castigating myself this is how I have failed as a mother. My children never help out unless bribed or threatened — and honestly, I’ve not much energy for either anymore.

 

So little Mr. who couldn’t help pick up the pecans grabs my camera lying on ground.

And begins taking photos of my rear end.

 

I noticed few things with my rear in the air and my face toward the ground.

One, our yard was a mess with leaves. Curses.

 

 

And like a child unable to stop eating their candy from last night, I couldn’t stop eating the cracked pecans littering our yard like discarded wrappers.

Too tempting.

They are so delicious this year.

I wonder who will help me crack the nuts?

Surely anyone who wants Thanksgiving pie will help.

Ha.

Do you have any luck getting kids to help around the house (or yard)?

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My bad attitude was no match for Zeke’s sunflowers.

I have a wonderful life. Not perfect – but I have no reason to ever be in a foul mood.

But today at 2 p.m. I was.

It had been building all day. No all week.

Through the morning rush to football games, keeping aging parents happy on their visit. Spending time with college son home for weekend — and making all his favorite foods. Running around for birthday surprises for husband tomorrow.

Then to Madison’s Chili Cook-off with children.

Only to find all the tasting tickets . . . gone. Sold out.

The result: disappointed children and a mama that couldn’t hid her displeasure.

Why wouldn’t they have enough tickets for everyone? Good grief.

But in small towns wisdom does not make a public fuss and only complains in the sanctuary of her car.

“Did I sound a little short with that lady?” I asked my daughter.

“Yes,” she replied. “But I’m glad.”

Now to be completely honest, we did look around the festival and settled on a substitute lunch of boiled peanuts and a coke.

But later in the afternoon, at the bakery counter at Walmart, I still wore a furrowed brow on the inside.

No. My whole insides were scrunched up in a deep furrowy trench.

Wanda behind the bakery counter asked, “Did you get to the Chili Cookoff today?’

“Funny you should ask that Wanda.”

The next few minutes, we spent trading stories of being turned away without the ability to purchase a chili-tasting wristband.

Pout. Pout and More Pout.

Then she offered, “You know what is free and the best show around — Zeke’s sunflowers up there on the corner. I see them every morning coming to work. Today four cars were pulled over. Folks stopping for pictures.”

Zeke’s sunflowers.

A little voice whispered take that way home.

Zeke Lambert is part farmer, part banker and known to all the men — and women — in Madison. For some reason late summer, he sowed sunflower seeds in many of his fields around town.

So on the way home, I pulled into the dirt road of the highway and got out.

Had to share all the splendor on Instagram.

 

Yes, while I was out frolicking with and inhaling the fresh, wide-open, forever-flowered space, my daughter got my other camera.

 

Getting back in the car to my tween paparazzi.

Do you see it?

Sure I look worn, ragged, tired — all that I was before.

But I look happy.

I was happy. So happy. A healthy-perspective-of-life happy.

A moment in a sunflower field healed a sour-puss mood that a full morning of positive self talk couldn’t budge.

Before we left another car drove up.

Once I built a bridge and got over my pouty self, I realized the great truth.

Small towns are blessed places.

Second only in the blessings to a field of sunflowers.

What do yo think? What snaps you out of a bad mood?

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