Happy Days are Here Again


It is midmorning and I just finished doing three loads of laundry, vacuuming all the German Shedder hair floofs up from the entire house – including under the furniture — and mopping the floors.  Big deal, most of you would say.  Well, I am here to tell you it IS a big deal.

I spent the last week with a hot sock stuck to my face, swabbing my gums with organic honey and clove oil, stuffing my cheek with black tea bags, and slathering my jawbone with essential oils, while taking every pharmaceutical offered by the dentist.  Getting out of the recliner, turning off the endless Netflix stream of “Virgin River,” and cleaning my house is amaaaazing.

Some people dream of winning the lottery, taking a European river cruise, or spending a month in Tuscany; others imagine white water rafting or wilderness camping.  Me?  I’ve just been daydreaming about a root canal and the energy to scrub the toilet.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have had loftier dreams and I am sure I will again after the euphoria of being able to run the vacuum wears off.  Right now I am high on Mr. Clean and I’ve been tooling around the house sporting rubber gloves and carrying a feather duster like a scepter.

I haven’t even had the root canal yet.  This is all from that under-heralded Wonder of the World, amoxicillin.  Yeah, baby.  That’s what I’m talking about.  With all my touting of natural cures and the dangers of chemical drugs, you may rightly ask if I am concerned about my gut microbiome with all these antibiotics.  Heck no.  In between doses, I am sipping kefir from a wine glass.

I will make this brief, since nobody really wants a play by play, I am sure.  I just had to share my joy.  God’s in His heaven, my dentist is fantastic, and all is right with the world.

Go Ahead, Be a Weenie

ID 115633585 © Yanisa Deeratanasrikul | Dreamstime.com

I used to scoff at people who ran to the doctor at the first sign of a sniffle, or rushed off for X-rays every time they slid out the back steps in the rain.  Suck it up, Buttercup.  Don’t be a weenie.  Go drink some Echinacea tea for the sniffle.  As for that possible broken leg – it might be just a sprain, limp on it a while and see.

So when the dentist recently said, “That tooth will need a root canal.  It is bothering you?”  I said, “Nah,” totally ignoring the occasional twinges I had been getting for the last year.  It was a twinge, for heaven’s sake.  I wasn’t going to be a baby.

So that is how I came to spend the last week holding a microwavable warming footie to my face (not caring in the least that it had last adorned my right foot) and pushing mega doses of ibuprofen down my gullet without regard to the NSAID warnings about stomach irritation.  I was going to die of the golf ball size swelling in my jaw anyway if I didn’t do something, so I couldn’t be bothered with thoughts of a little ulcer.  Besides, I was already taking an acid reducing medication, so it should all balance out.

I was calling every dentist in town to see if I could get a root canal within the hour and blubbering like an infant when the closest appointment was two weeks out.  I even showed up at my primary care physician’s office unannounced to show her my face and see if she could slice open the golf ball or yank out the tooth.  Besides reminding me that appointments were the approved method of getting in to see a doctor, the receptionist and the nurse told me that the antibiotics I was given by my dentist were designed to get the infection under control so a root canal could be safely done.  They also gazed in awe at the protuberance in my jaw, commenting, “Man, that looks painful.”  This did not help.

Dejected, I went back home and stared in the mirror to see if it looked any better at all and wondered how I could sneak in to a dentist.  Maybe force an extraction at gunpoint.  But that was just the fever talking.  I munched on a couple of Tylenol and thought, you know, I never had to wait a long time for the vet if one of the animals was sick or in pain.  They are doctors, after all; maybe I’ll just swing by and . . .  no, that’s crazy talk.  Or, is it?   I shook my head, which brought clarity — and searing pain — then slowly gathered my amoxicillin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, and warming footie and  settled into the recliner with the remote and dreams of a root canal.

I know one thing.  There is no glory is staying away from the doctor’s office and toughing things out.  I could have saved myself a lot of agony by just admitting my tooth ached a bit (and that my leg might really be broken that night since it followed me backwards down the steps).  I am reformed.  If taking care of my health makes me a weenie, just call me Oscar Mayer.

0body Rites Nymr

How often in a day do you get a text from somebody, especially young somebodies, that you have to decipher? It’s like a paragraph of acronyms. But worse. It’s TextSpeak. Or would that be txt spk? Not only do they not use real words, they see no need for capitalization or punctuation. “hi c u sn bty need $” Where will it stop?

We already know kids aren’t being taught cursive in school. How long before they don’t know how to spell at all? Or write at all? Will there soon be a day when we walk into nursery school and see all the toddlers with iPads (maybe called totPads), learning basic communication with abbreviated words and emojis? Kids already text when they are in the same room with their friends; will oral communication become a thing of the past? Will our larynxes shrivel up as we evolve? I can see it now. In the distant future, giant thumbs on legs are studying archeological remains. They have found the missing link, a race of beings from the 21st Century. Odd creatures these ancients; they have long torsos with a slender apparatus upholding an orb on which are located the eyes, nose and eating orifice. In the apparatus is some bony structure. “wht cud this hav been used 4,” one archeologist texts to another.

This train of thought all began when I ran out to the store to get stationery. I wanted to write a letter to my mother-in-law, but realized I had no dedicated writing paper. All I had was copy paper for the printer and some legal pads yellowing with age. How long had it been since I had actually hand written a letter? Far too long, obviously, as I soon found that stationery had become an endangered commodity. Walmart had notebook paper, but no letter paper. I tried Walgreen’s and was momentarily buoyed when I spotted a sign proclaiming just such a dedicated section. What I found was a selection of envelopes of various sizes, mostly larger padded mailers. An office supply store then, I thought, but found the very same scenario.

A Google search yielded sources of “vintage” letter writing paper. I quickly ordered a supply, wondering what will happen when I follow through on threats of shutting down my Internet and stepping back to simpler times where you go to a store to find things. I can’t depend on grocery sacks to write on; it’s mostly plastic bags these days. I guess I will have to use the backs of junk mail until the postal service becomes obsolete. Then it won’t matter anyway, as there will be no way to send written missives. I will have to get in the car and go visit whoever I want to communicate with. Which isn’t such a bad thing. I only hope they still remember how to use their larynx when I get there.

I didn’t want to wait another minute to write my letter, now that I knew how unsure the writing future had become, so I improvised. I wrote a progressive letter on a series of aging notecards I found in a cubbyhole of my writing desk. OMG!! TTYL

TV after 50

I remember daytime television back in those early years when I was a stay-at-home mom. Not that I got to see much of it because you don’t sit still when you have young children lying, crawling, toddling, and running about. However, at nap time, I could set up the ironing board and watch a soap or two guilt free. The guilt came later when my three-year-old started singing “Old McDonald Carey had a farm.” Apparently the little darlin’ was not always asleep when the first soap came on, proclaiming, “This is McDonald Carey, and these are the Days of Our Lives.”

The soaps were turned off so I wouldn’t jade the toddlers. I turned to silent books after that for nap time so the kids wouldn’t suffer. The ironing was a different story. You just can’t flip pages and wrangle a hot iron at the same time. Thank God for the advent of permanent press!!

Today I was a stay-at-home. . . person. That’s all. There were no little ones; I just stayed home for a repairman to fix my Internet. I’ve been working for more than 30 years, so being at home during the week is not the norm unless it’s a holiday, which has its own set of chores. I couldn’t get online to update my Facebook page or the website, and I didn’t have a new book to read, so I did a little laundry and started thinking about what I wanted to post on here today. The repairman came mid morning and while he was outside working on the lines, I turned on the television so that when the service was restored I would know, no matter where I was in the house.

I was polishing the counters when programming resumed. Monk was on and I got caught up in the episode. After the first few commercials, I realized they had a common thread. The first commercial was for a GrandPad, apparently a communication device specifically so older folks can communicate with the kids. (Way back when, in olden days, they had this thing called a telephone. Grandma communicated with it just fine.) The next one was for AARP approved insurance. These were followed by Medicare benefits, a portable nebulizer, and a machine that creates oxygen from the air.

At this point, I turned the television off and began to reflect. Who, exactly, is watching TV in the mornings these days? Kids are enrolled in some kind of school by the time they reach nine months, and women are almost pitied if they aren’t pursuing high-powered careers straight out of school, families notwithstanding. Men have never been the day-time television demographic, so who does that leave? Unless I just happened upon the Geezer channel, television programming is geared to people who are sitting at home thinking about getting a ride to the doctor.

I plan to retire soon, so this was a little scary for me. Is this what the future holds? Should I keep on working just to avoid a life of endless sitcoms broken up by Life Alert commercials? I sat gazing at the black screen for a while, then shook my head, throwing off the depressing image trying to take root. No, I am master of my fate, captain of my destiny. I willed the Universe to send me a sign that I was bound for greater things.

Filled with optimism, I turned the television back on and randomly selected a different channel. Judge Judy dismissed a case and a commercial followed. Beano. Apparently my aging system will need help digesting. If I don’t take Beano, I may need my Medicare benefits to provide a ride to a doctor. Otherwise, I could end up using Life Alert to get me some help before I require a portable oxygen machine. Really, Universe? That’s the best you could do?

Telegram, Telegraph, Teladoc?

I keep getting notices in the mail from my insurance informing me that I can save time and energy by not bothering to go to a clinic when I am sick. I can just call up Teladoc. Right! If I want someone to just guess what may be wrong, I can call my sister. I hear there are also virtual clinics. I will want a virtual doctor when I have a virtual illness. If I am sick or hurting somewhere in this flesh-and-bone body, I want a flesh-and-bone doctor to see me, take my temperature, get a blood sample maybe, pat my arm, or say, “Does this hurt?” Or all of that.

I have not used the Teladoc service, so I can’t say it is good or bad; I just know I don’t want it. I know from experience that appendicitis can feel a lot like a stomach virus. How can a doctor on my phone or a website tell the difference without ever seeing me?

And think of this. What if it’s the first step to replacing real doctors with robots, and even then you don’t actually get to go into a clinic and see your primary robot. You can get a RoboMed app for your smart phone. I don’t want to pick up my phone and say, “Hey, Robodoc, I have a pain in my right leg. What’s up with that?” Robodoc may diagnose me with bone cancer when I actually have a torn meniscus. Or vice versa.

Now, I have admitted—right on this platform, in fact—that I have technophobic tendencies. I think my phone is eavesdropping and my computer is spying. Microwaves may be frying my brain and even electricity may be short circuiting my physiological wiring. I openly proclaim that I want to go back to a phone on the wall with an answering machine. A cell phone where you can be found anywhere is just an electronic cowbell. I don’t want to be called when I am in the produce aisle, or the toilet. At most, a cell phone should be an emergency device when you are on a trip. A pre-paid flip phone would work for that. I have a road atlas; I don’t need GPS on my phone. Besides, my car is already equipped with enough “helpful” devices to get me where I need to go, call emergency services, spy on me, and play my favorite music.

While I am on this soapbox, I will go further. We are a nation–maybe a world—of people who think everything should be instant and easy. I saw a sign proclaiming a drive-through window to pick up ashes for Ash Wednesday. Really? Maybe we should just do away with churches altogether and have a Salvation App for the fundamentalists, ConfessaPhone for the Catholics, and WatchtowerWeb for Jehovah’s Witnesses. We already have Amazon for shopping, and Waitr and GrubHub for meals. Folks who can telecommute for work need never leave home at all. Ever. If they miss their friends or family, they can just Skype or FaceTime. Is it just me, or is this an unhealthy path we are on?

I am protesting. I am going to unplug my microwave, go grocery shopping, pop in at a chapel, visit a friend face to face, eat at a restaurant, then stop and make an appointment with a doctor, any doctor. My cell phone is not going with me. And tonight I am reading a bona fide hard-cover book instead of streaming four episodes of Grace and Frankie.

Take that, technology.

The Call of the Wild

You hear so many stories about the tiny house movement and about retirees (and people of all ages, for that matter) who sell everything and go traveling around the country in an RV.  It has an allure, you know?  Simplifying, adventure—the call of the wild.

Scott and I answered that call recently.  Well, we at least picked up the phone, so to speak.  We kept our house and all our stuff, but we bought a tiny camper and set off to see the world.  We went as far as Blakeley State Park near Spanish Fort, Alabama, which Google Maps places at 6.7 miles from our front door.

It was all so exciting.  Scott spit shined the camper exterior while I set about getting the interior outfitted and ready to go.  We shopped at Camper World, nodding sagely to our new peers, fellow adventurers.

The morning of our trip was clear and bright.  We hooked up the camper to the truck and set off.  Twelve minutes later, we had arrived at check-in.  We were given our site number and a map and off we went to set that baby up.  After a few tries we were in place and level.  Scott was outside hooking up the sewer connections, and I was trying to get a signal on my cell phone so I could order a pillow that said “I’m sorry for what I said while we were parking the camper.”  The fact that such a pillow exists in mass quantities tells you a lot about the realities of camping.  It’s all fun and games until somebody says, “Guide me in.”

After we were in place and hooked up, the pillow was forgotten and we had a wonderful weekend, just the two of us and our dog.  The site was woodsy and felt secluded, but we had neighbors a few trees away.  It was a young couple, living the tiny home life with their two dogs.  We made fast friends, as did our dogs, and the whole “parking the camper” fiasco was forgotten.

And then it was time to pack up, unhook, and hitch up to the truck again.  Do you know it takes over two hours, for novices anyway, to just get ready to drive out of the campsite?  There should be another pillow.  A much smaller one would suffice, though.

Twelve minutes after leaving the park, we were back in our driveway.  We sat around and did an instant replay of the weekend, memories of “Guide me in” softened by the camaraderie and fun of our experience.

A couple of months later, we went back to Blakeley to join my brother and sister-in-law for a weekend.  We were better equipped and more emotionally prepared.  We still needed the pillow.  And we still had a wonderful time once we were in place and all hooked up.

We were encouraged.  We could do this.  The wild still called, so we made plans to spend two weeks in the mountains to see the foliage and live the dream.  We purchased an annual camping pass so we could make several trips to different states for mini vacations.  We went back to Camping World.  We made reservations at a park that had basketball, a fishing pond, community events, and was surrounded by mountains.

When the day came, we loaded up, hitched up, and drove to North Carolina, with an overnight stay in Tennessee.  Rather than a play-by-play, I will summarize.  We drove backroads in pitch black dark to get to the KOA, where we put the first ding on our tiny camper by way of a rock wall.  We learned that you must remember to close and latch the refrigerator door before driving away or bad things happen to it.  We learned that a storm will blow up so quickly in the mountains it will twist your awning into a canvas-and-metal pretzel before you can say, “Should we roll . . . .”

Our campground was, indeed, full of amenities and mountain views, but it was also populated wall-to-wall with other nature seekers so close you could pass a cup of coffee camper to camper through the windows.  Scott and I had a long talk, after we passed the pillow back and forth, and decided that we are not campers.  We love being in the camper in a forested area, but we don’t like having to get there, set up there, pack back up, and then leave there.  And we don’t like spending our time in what looks like a used camper lot.

I applaud all those dedicated RVers who love the life.  It’s just not our life.  We left the tiny camper on a hill in North Carolina in the care of a son who promised to watch out for it and oversee the repair of the awning, and headed back south, just the two of us and our dog.

We agreed that we can retire the camping pass and the apology pillow for all time.  The wild still calls to us, but the wild is situated on a hill overlooking a cow pasture and never has to be hitched up or leveled again.

Time, Sweet Time

Things have taken a definite shift.  Downward?  That remains to be seen.

Some friends and I are going to a theater production and decided to meet beforehand for an early dinner.  Nothing surprising there.  However, in discussing dinner plans, someone said, “Yes, let’s meet early enough to have a leisurely dinner and a glass of wine.”  The rest of us responded in variations of my own response, “No wine for me.  I would be snoring by intermission.”

When did that happen?  Now, admittedly, in my younger years, a “drink” meant a glass of tea or a Coke, which only aided in my ability to stay awake through an event such as this.  Is it the wine or is it time, sweet time that has rendered me unable to keep my eyes open through anything that starts after 8 o’clock in the evening? And reading? I love to read in bed, preferring a good book to a movie most any time.  Nowadays, I get about three paragraphs in and wake up hours later with the book on my chest and my glasses sliding down my nose.

Since most evenings now include a glass of red wine with or after dinner – heart health, you know – I am not sure if it is the alcohol-induced relaxation that has prevented me from seeing the end of a movie, or a chapter, for the last five years or if I am headed down that road to socks with sandals and coupons for a 4 p.m. dinner at Cracker Barrel.

I am choosing to believe it’s the wine.  If you read back in previous posts, you will understand that I am embracing the Law of Attraction, so I sure don’t want to attract more age-related incapacitation.  In fact, affirmations, at which I used to scoff, are becoming part of my daily ritual.  I just affirm very softly so Scott doesn’t think I believe the woman in the mirror is a visitor.

Now that I think about it, the shift is positive.  Time, sweet time has brought about good changes.  I am enjoying more, doing less hard labor, spending more time at things I am passionate about, and pretty much loving life.  As one of my cousins says, “Life is good – and then it gets better.”  I am taking time to read good books and watch good movies.  Perhaps I will forego the wine . . . nah, I’ll just go to matinees, and maybe occasionally look for some Cracker Barrel coupons.

Ah, Yes, I Remember it Well

I was sitting in the dentist’s office, patiently waiting to be called back for a filling when my cell phone rang.  It was my chiropractor’s office.

“Good morning, Ms. Pittman.”

“Good morning?”  This was said with a lift at the end, as I wasn’t used to being called by my chiropractor just for a chat.  I was confused.

“How are you?” she continued.

More confusion.  “I am fine.  How are you?”

“Fine, thank you.”

A bit of a pause here, then, “We were expecting you in the office.  Is everything alright?”

Now, I was really perplexed.  “I have an appointment for this afternoon,” I replied.  “Right now I am at the dentist’s office for a 10 o’clock appointment.”

“Well, we have you down for 10 here.”

“I am not sure . . .,” I began, then light started to dawn. “Hold on a minute.”

I got up and went to the front window.  “Is my appointment for 10?” I asked.  “No,” the receptionist replied calmly, barely looking up from her desk.  “It is for 2, but we had a cancellation for 10:30 and since you were here, I just slid you right into that slot.”

I returned to the phone.  “I am so sorry.  I had you written down for 2 and the dentist for 10, and the dentist didn’t mention that I was four hours early,“ I explained.

“Well, we have an opening for 1:30 if you can come then,” she graciously offered.  I accepted and apologized again.  How had this happened?  Was this the first leg of a long trip to not even knowing where I live?”

I went back to the front window.  “I don’t know how that happened,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” she interrupted. “It happens all the time.  People flip their appointments.”

Reassured, I returned to my seat.  The reassurance didn’t last long.  The chiropractor didn’t say it happened all the time there.  The chiropractor’s office tended to be full of vibrant young people maintaining their bodies and their Zen.  Even infants whose parents wanted to be sure they stayed aligned and healthy showed up at the chiropractor’s.  Probably on time, too.  My dentist just happened to also specialize in dentures.  Now, I know people of all ages can need dentures, but let’s face it, the usual denture demographic is far more likely to be starting on that unfortunate memory journey than the Zen seekers.

After worrying a bit, I decided not to place too much importance on the incident.  I got the filling, ran some errands, tried to chew some lunch with a numb lower jaw and lip, then headed for the chiropractor’s office a little early.  I wanted to get there before I forgot where it was.


Be Careful What You Wish For — or a Practical Lesson in the Law of Attraction

I learned some important things during my recent trip to North Carolina –the truth of the law of attraction (also understood as the power of positive/negative thinking) and the veracity of the premise that you learn who you are and what is important to you in an emergency. This latter can be understood as “When you are in a squeeze, what is deep inside you comes out.”

Now, I found out in a serious car accident some years ago, that when I am squeezed, I am apparently full, not of wisdom or depth of spiritual understanding, but of punch lines.

This recent trip taught me that if you precede every vacation for years on end with a marathon of Chevy Chase vacation movies, you will inevitably get some degree of  Griswoldian adventures. Ergo, the law of attraction in action.

Scott and I went to North Carolina to see two of my children and their families and exult in the fall foliage. Growing up in south Mississippi, I didn’t really get seasons–just swelter with a few days of freeze thrown in for variety. I remember once welcoming what I considered fall color only to be told by a good friend, “Phyllis, brown is not a color; it is just dead.” So for years I have been wanting to be where there is an actual fall. I moved from Mississippi, but only went further south into Alabama. Now, Fairhope, Ala. is a wonderful place, but fall there only means you tripped on the sidewalk.

So back to this vacation. We planned for October so we could glory in nature– and also take advantage of my composer son’s home studio to record The Trouble with Grits as an audio book. Michael and his family live in a charming old farm house in the heart of tobacco country, complete with a tobacco drying barn out back. It has interesting architecture and the personality and eccentricities of a historic structure. One of those original, eccentric features is a brass doorknob on the bathroom door with a unique locking system.

The first day of my visit, my son and daughter-in-law had to work, so I planned to visit Pages book store in Mt. Airy and take them more copies of the book. When I woke up, I made my way blearily to said bathroom, but when trying to make my exit, the charming knob just turned fruitlessly to the left, to the right, back to the left. It wasn’t locked, but neither was it willing to open. I surveyed my terrain. Okay, there was a window I could climb out if necessary. I opened the blinds and looked out. The window opened into the garage, which was a long way down on this historic structure. If I managed to jump down onto the cement, I would likely break or sprain something and not only still be trapped but be in pain to go with it. I looked around again. There was a toilet and there was water, both good things. The kids weren’t expected back before 7 or so that evening, so I began thinking food. Toothpaste was about the only thing on the menu, so I figured a water fast wouldn’t hurt me a bit.

I tried the door again. Nope, still eccentric. Assessing my options calmly again, I took what I considered reasonable action. I banged on the door frantically and yelled, “I am trapped in the bathroom. Anybody home?” After the third round of banging and yelling, Gizmo, their Jack Russell terrier came to my aid and began barking. On my sixth round, Gizmo’s third, I heard creaking on the stairs. Michael had not left yet–hallelujah!!!–and Gizmo’s barking had awakened him. Salvation! However, the doorknobs – and the doors—of bygone eras are very substantial and neither would budge. The screws were on the inside and the only tool I had was a toothbrush. However, there was still the window, and Michael managed to get a screwdriver through the window, enabling me to loosen the knob enough that he could forcibly remove it. Voila! When I came out of the bathroom, heady with my freedom, I noticed a note by the door, apparently taped there early in the morning by my daughter-in-law. “The bathroom doorknob is being finicky.” it read. “Please just pull the door to the jamb and don’t close it completely. Otherwise, you might get trapped in there!”

I made my ablutions and went off to Mt. Airy to fulfill my plan for the day, which included eating at the iconic Snappy Lunch made famous both by Andy Griffith’s references to it as the place to eat in Mayberry, and by their pork chop sandwich. Seated in Snappy Lunch, I learned that without the pancake batter coating, the deep frying, the bun, and any other possible wheat offenders (to which I have an intolerance), the famous pork chop sandwich deconstructs into a pork cutlet with cole slaw. But, at least I could mark it off the bucket list. No matter, there was still the glorious foliage in the mountains, although the Piedmont area was till surprisingly green. I drove north. I did not find color, but I did drive right into hairpin curves, fog, and heavy rain. At Fancy Gap, I gave it up, turned around, and went back to Pfafftown to read a book on my iPad and enjoy the rainy cool day on the porch.

The next day, Michel got the recording equipment set and sent me up to start the audiobook. I–who have been longing for pens and stationery rather than email, and landline phones with answering machines instead of cell phones and texts – was given a crash course in mute this, unarm that, set this track, now unmute, arm, and start recording. If you mess up, stop do it over, or delete if you hate the whole thing. Right! I will remember that. I finally got the first chapter exactly how I wanted it. The second chapter didn’t go so well, so I decided to delete. The delete worked just as it was supposed to, except that I deleted the perfect first chapter instead of the faulty second. An optimist, I didn’t let it upset me. I just went back and did it all over. About halfway into the fifth chapter, with my voice beginning to hoarsen, the power went out. Michael, the hurricane not Michael my son, had come to join us. I went downstairs and Michael, my son not Michael the hurricane, said, “Did you save it at all?” Save? Nobody ever said anything about save.

Again that law of attraction went into action. For two days, I got to experience life without cell phones, computers, or those pesky old electric lights. When the battery ran out on the iPad, I borrowed a paperback and read until it got too dark to see the words by candlelight. Then we turned to actual conversation, with much reminiscing and laughter. Dinner morphed from a baked chicken dish to burgers and hotdogs on the grill. Bedtime came early, but a good time was had by all.

After Michael, the hurricane not Michael my son, moved on out of the way, it was apparent there was no fall foliage as yet and time had run out on my opportunity to record. Everywhere I went I heard people talking about all the unaccustomed green in mid October. A few disgruntled serious leaf lookers were complaining to management at hotels and RV parks about the disappointment and demanding their money back. I figured that complaint should be addressed to God, and I, for one, did not want to be around when that happened. Remember the Israelites?

There was still no electricity, so we booked a very nice hotel in downtown Winston-Salem. Formerly the RJ Reynolds building, The Klimpton is a beautiful building with a delightful mix of décor. We had a lovely dinner and a glass of wine, then retired to rest up for the next part of our trip. The bed was luxurious, which translated to too soft for my spine, so I awoke often, the last time about 7 a.m., to hear an alarm going off, followed by, “Attention. Attention. An emergency has been reported in this building. Please stop operations and follow evacuation routes outside the building. Do not use elevators.” They might as well have prefaced the announcement with, “Griswolds, listen up.”

I am pleased to say that we did not panic. Neither, apparently did anyone else. We got dressed and grabbed essentials. This is where the premise of understanding what is really important to you comes in. Outside on the sidewalk, I looked around and saw a woman with a great deal of jewelry on and carrying a large purse. One man had taken the time to pack a suitcase. I saw someone with their computer bag. What did I grab? The paperback book I had started at Michael’s. I could do without my suitcase, my cell phone, and even my computer, but I HAD to know how the story ended. I am apparently not terribly deep, but at least it is easy to make me happy.

Granny Get your Gun

Now, I’ve never been an activist. I am somewhat apolitical, or at least laissez faire. I live by the Paul Simon credo: “I get all the news I need from the weather report.” Don’t be haters. There is room in this world for Simonites.

But my point is that all of that has changed. I have now taken up not only a cause, but arms to defend that cause. “Freedom of the press?” you may ask, since I have a journalism background. Nah, that will work itself out. Freedom of speech, since I am a communications major and a writer? Nope, I hear plenty of free speech going on. The right to bear arms? Well, yes, but only incidental to my main cause.

I was on the front porch this morning in the first rays of sunlight, actively fighting for the rights of birds to enjoy their feeders and their supply of gourmet, species-specific seeds unmolested by marauding bands of rogue squirrels. There are oak trees in the yard with a billion acorns, for heaven’s sake. The lawless rodents have no need to go seed rustling. It’s pure greed and a lack of regard for their fellow  – ah – phylum mates. It really comes down to a class war, kinda like the Clantons and the Cowboy Gang against innocent ranchers and townsfolk. On the battleground of my little Fairhope habitat, the Sciuridae Family has become the enemy.

So that is why I was on the porch in my PJs in the dim pre-dawn light, wild-eyed and tousle-headed, armed only with random shoes for throwing at the gang leader. I do have a BB gun somewhere, but no ammunition, and I have packed up most of my belongings for an impending move. What I DID have at hand was a collection of shoes taken off at the front door, and the first cobbled missile hurled from the porch sent Curly Bill Sciuridae scrambling up the nearest oak.

After seven more forays toward the feeders, all defeated with footwear, the Sciuridaes had turned back and an array of blue jays, cardinals, and chickadees were breakfasting peacefully on black-oil sunflower seeds and such. I had regathered my ammunition and had a cup of fresh-ground coffee in my hand. I brought my laptop out so I could work and still remain vigilant. I didn’t dare take time out for a shower, so I was still garbed in nightwear with my hair sticking up on one side and plastered down on the other. Peace reigned in my world, though, so I was content.

My attention turned from the birds to the young school children who were now making their way from the neighboring cul-de-sacs toward the bus stop near my house. I smiled and waved at the ones familiar to me, and at the parents who accompanied the youngest ones. Totally distracted by the morning ritual, I failed to see Curly Bill and Johnny Ringo sneaking in from the leafy cover of the overhead canopy. I sighed happily, then turned my head to gaze on my little flock, and there they were. The Sciuridae ring leaders were perched on top of the feeder nearest me, stuffing their nasty, greedy, furry little cheeks and staring at me in total defiance.

In my recovery of the shoes, I had discovered a cache of magnolia pods, and I quickly catapulted one of these toward the outlaws. They fled and I chased them from my yard to the neighboring trees. Maybe I was bleary eyed from doing battle before coffee, but I would almost swear Curly Bill had a red bandana tied around his hind leg. “Run, you lily livered gray coated fiends. RUN!” I yelled. Caught up in the moment, I continued, “Tell all the other curs the law’s comin’! You tell ‘em I’M coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear?” Then I nodded to the startled young man who was hastily moving his four small children to the other side of the road and hurried inside to unpack a big box of shoes.