Tuesday, September 29, 2009


A few home truths:

Our basement isn't as rainproof as we thought. 15 inches of rain in less than ten days was more than a match for  gutters, downspouts, and french drains. So far we've lost carpet, an area rug, a small chest, and a box of keepsakes.

Our stream isn't the dry ditch some folks would like it to be. The quiet little stream between our neighborhood and the village roared to life. During the onslaught, the volume of the water was so high that we have new sandbars up and down the streambed and the spring head is blocked by silt and debris. By the time our neighbor took this photo, it was back to the trickles and swirls we had for years pre-drought. Now there's a lot of trash in the stream bed. And, since the stream eventually empties into Wildcat Creek, it's adding even more mess to Dunwoody Park. I think it's time to apply for a RiversAlive stream cleaning for our section of the waterway.

There's going to be a lot of new carpet sold in Dunwoody. Just as you can see what everyone got for Christmas by checking out the post-holiday trash pile, it was easy to see whose basements were flooded. Piles of carpet, sodden cardboard boxes, disheveled furniture, and other waterlogged possessions appeared curbside throughout every neighborhood. Blue tarps on roofs, wet vacs passed from neighbor to neighbor, a flood day from school . . . it's been quite a week.

Mildew stinks.  Today the sun is shining, the air is gently chilled with a hint of fall, and the acrid scent of mildew is wafting through our house. I've baked cookies, placed some odor thingies throughout the house, and still the smell is overwhelming.  Doubtless, we'll have to replace the carpet in the basement, but we have to go through the ritual of insurance coverage to figure out what they'll cover.

The garbage guys are awesome. In short order, they picked up all the stuff on the curb, then came back for their regular rounds.

If you order pizza during a storm or Chinese food for delivery to a school late at night, you'd darned well better tip well. Papa John's came through during the kids' Flood Day from school and Chopsticks II fed us well during an up-until-3:30 am work session at Peachtree Charter Middle School while we finalized some edits to our charter.

Everyone looks bad when they're wet. After awhile, you just stop caring what you're wearing because it's all going to get wet and dirty anyway. Dunwoody went from fashion-forward perfection to down-and-dirty in no time.

The sun really does come out after a storm.  Thank goodness.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wildcat Rapids.

I'm such a creek geek.

The rain that keeps coming, coming, coming down has turned gentle Wildcat Creek into rapids. The volume of water was so massive at Dunwoody Park that the wetlands are filled with sand and silt, there are new sandbanks rechanneling the water, and wide swaths of plants have been pushed down. It's fascinating to see how the water has rushed through, over, and around the contours of the creek beds and low-lying wetlands.

Peering over the side of the treehouse pavilion, I looked for signs of the turtles and snakes who call the wetlands home. No luck. I'm sure they're enjoying all the high water, but may have been dislocated by the currents.

We had scheduled a stream clean-up this weekend, but the rain made that unsafe for the volunteers. Now debris from Dunwoody Village is littering the wetlands and creek. Once things dry up a bit, we'll try again.

I love rainy days, snow days, ice days, and any day that makes staying home an inviting proposition. Bad weather means good knitting, and I've had a steady stream of knitting this past week. Right now, I'm working on a pair of socks for my mother, who chose some scrumptious sock yarn during my visit to Greensboro last weekend. I just turned the heel on the first sock, then discovered I'd forgotten a few tricks with the gusset. I'll have to frog a couple of rows and go back and do it right. But even that prospect cheers me because I love the technical construction of sock-knitting.

Now, even though the rain continues all over Atlanta, it's time to nudge the kids out the door to school and head to Dunwoody Nature Center. I expect the internet and telephones to be down (they always are in the rain), standing water in the clubhouse, and even more debris in the wetlands.

It may look like a perfect knitting day. But it's a work day. A really wet work day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The it's-not-swine-flu Flu

The tween started coughing yesterday, developed a temp last night, and awakened during the night with chills and a 102 fever. We've been down this road before, just two weeks ago, when the teen was diagnosed with "Type A" flu and given Tamiflu because he has Crohn's Disease.

Thanks to the tremendous number of kids with the flu, no one is sending on the testing swabs to the CDC for a formal diagnosis of H1N1. As a matter of fact, our high school principal even told parents that, until he's given an actual diagnosis, he can't follow any special protocol for the high number of absences in the school. "Keep washing your hands and stay home if you have a fever" is the prevailing tactic.

Since Georgia starts school way before most of the country, we became a crucible of sorts for the potential rapid spread of H1N1 through the schoolhouse population.

Yep. It spread.

As one parent/pediatrician said to me a few weeks ago, the flu she's treating is most definitely H1N1 because it's too early in the season for such a widespread outbreak of "normal" flu. The CDC has said the same thing in several comments to the media. They can't keep up with the testing required for a documented diagnosis, so they call outbreaks in colleges, schools, communities "suspected" H1N1.

Our neighborhood children attended a pool party last week and promptly succumbed left and right to the flu. Symptoms developed nearly overnight, and many parents were sick, too.

I've heard of parents having "swine flu parties," rather like those misinformed parents who have "chicken pox parties" to expose their children deliberately to a supposedly mild illness. They don't think about complications (not my child!) or lifelong repercussions such as shingles.

Time to take the tween's temperature again and make sure it stays below that dreaded 103 degree mark.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Three sewing needles removed from woman's heart - after 23 years

You can't make this stuff up:  a woman in India had three needles removed from her heart during a routine procedure. She didn't know how they got there.


Some misguided Scottish legislators want to require knitters to have a "knife license" because they fear they can be used as weapons.


Is it bad manners to knit during an evening out with friends? Of course not. Maybe the other party-goers didn't understand how much BETTER your attention can be when your hands are busy. Otherwise, being the only fairly sober person in a party can be downright boring.

In 2008, Grandmothers for Peace embraced the stereotype of knitting and staged a war protest by knitting in public. In contrast to World War II-era knitting for the troops, these impassioned grannies knitted to bring the troops home.  Politics aside, it's fascinating the way knitting has long symbolized "back home" support of our troops. Though not so much in this case.

The knitting life isn't an easy one. But it sure is interesting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Preschool Phonics

The first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a teacher.

I loved school. Even though I moved 13 times by the time I finished high school, classrooms were a constant in an inconstant life. The smells, sounds, and rituals of school sustained me from Florida to Kansas, Georgia to Okinawa, and on and on.

I loved teaching. Until I discovered that my measly $13,000 paycheck wasn't enough to do much more than pay the rent on a shared apartment and my college loans. So I left, to satisfy my other love, writing. I became a copywriter in an ad agency, doubled my salary in one year, and enjoyed myself tremendously for the next 20-odd years.

(Oops . . . I'm revealing a little age there, aren't I?)

I returned to teaching when I discovered that my children were ready to learn to read far sooner than Kindergarten. Writing a curriculum, figuring out the preschool learning style, adapting Phonics to the comprehension of a 4-year old: Preschool Phonics was born.

For the past six years, I have taught Preschool Phonics, primarily at the preschool my daughter attended, the continuing long after she entered our neighborhood school.  These classes come after my stint at Dunwoody Nature Center, and satisfy my need to teach. I recently calculated, just for fun, how many preschoolers I've taught the foundations of phonics. More than 400. Oh, my goodness.

This week, I begin my 7th year, with a new class of wriggling, slobbery, grinning, eager-to-try-anything pre-kindergarten munchkins.

I'm back in the preschool world. What a blessing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Father and son.

During my drive to and from North Carolina this weekend, I listened to two wonderful storytellers. First, Jan Karon took me to the mountains of North Carolina for Shepherds Abiding, a lyrical and poignant visit to the wonderful Mitford I've enjoyed so much. Hearing John McDonough tell Father Tim's story, sing favorite hymns, and capture the essence of the many characters who populate her stories . . . magic. Five hours passed all too quickly, leaving the final chapter for my return home.

Once I'd closed the audio book on Mitford on the return trip to Dunwoody, I began Tim Russert's recollections of Big Russ and a working class childhood in Buffalo, New York. While Shepherds Abiding was a repeat visit, this was new territory. Knowing the sad, abrupt end to Russert's life made his story all the more compelling. I loved hearing my own philosophies articulated in the wise teachings of Big Russ . . . do your very best, every job is worth doing well because every job makes a real difference, honesty is truly the only way to live, lead by example, work hard and live hopefully. Big Russ's generation, that greatest generation of Tom Brokaw's marvelous homage to the World War II patriots, returned home to provide for their families no matter how hard and menial the work may be.

I didn't realize until I was close to home that I'd somehow chosen two father and son stories. Jan Karon's Father Tim brings the Holy Father intimately into everyday life. Tim Russert's Big Russ is a paragon of fatherhood - human, modest, and loving.

I think about my children, whose lives of privilege are such keen contrasts to my childhood (as well as every other working class family of the 50's and 60's). Do I fail my children by giving them so much material wealth? Are they cognizant of the value of hard work, even the necessity of doing something you don't like because it has to be done?  Will they make the necessary sacrifices, if called upon, to provide for their families or their country?

Big thoughts for the return home. I don't have the answers . . . I can only pray that I'm doing the right thing day by day.

I'm grateful for the time with my parents. It was a peaceful and loving reunion after a too-long time apart. I'm thankful that I'm home safe, hugging my children close to my heart and pulled back into the family must-do's. What a blessing to be home. And what a privilege it is to be a mom.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fish to fry.

I'm visiting my parents in Greensboro, North Carolina and offered to prepare them a homecooked meal. (They rarely cook, thanks to restrictive diets and modest needs that make homecooking a bit of a bother.) Fried chicken, biscuits, and fresh vegetables? Steaks and sides? A fish fry?

That last offer made my dad's eyes light up. He loves seafood, particularly flounder and shrimp.

So Mom and I ended our day out with a grocery run and I whipped up a spread for the parents. Calabash style shrimp and flounder, homemade slaw and hushpuppies, and a cherry-pineapple dump cake.

They don't eat such rich food often, so I'm glad I could give them a little homemade love.

Of course, food always evokes memories, so we enjoyed chatting about the Sanitary Fish Market in Morehead City, good and bad fish places in Greensboro, why it seems like so much trouble to cook when it's actually not so complicated after all, and how family meals were an anchor for us when my brothers and I were young.

The main purpose of my visit was to see them, but also to see how they're doing. So far so good. That's a relief. They've spoiled me thoroughly, I'm getting some wonderful walks in through old, familiar parks and byways, and tomorrow's return to Dunwoody will come all too soon.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Right turns.

I love Jim Wooten's right-eous column in the AJC. It's a breath of pragmatic conservatism, without all the shouting and cynicism of so many mouthy media pundits.

I am conservative by nature and philosophy, and have been since my college days. (How's that for a not-so-typical experience? While most of my professors and college peers were avowedly liberal in those post-Vietnam years, I came to NCSU from a patriotic, military dependent childhood.) I actually feel more in the independent camp, but that particular label means very little participation in the voting process. Maybe one day there will be more options for moderates than the polar opposites of present-day politics.

This week, I've had many, many thoughts about government thanks to personal experience with the many ways local, county, state, and national entities impact our lives. I rarely embark on political rants here, but . . .
My neighborhood is embroiled in a lawsuit against our own City of Dunwoody about some pretty amazing procedural errors that are costing us dearly. A very early "oops, we did that wrong" would have saved both sides all this angst. Meanwhile, we're still being painted as whining backyardagains who just don't understand complicated stuff like ordinances and legal proceedings and mediation. Guess our backgrounds as accountants, attorneys, financial consultants, educators, development specialists, engineers, airline pilots, nurses, computer programmers, and civic volunteers don't count.
 President Obama's speech to the nation's schoolchildren certainly blew a few gaskets. I am most definitely not in favor of most of his social policies, but I felt that hearing a speech by the President of the United States is always a great thing for students. The reality is that our kids couldn't hear the speech because of crappy technology and sheer busy-ness of a rigorous academic day. Even if the President had tossed in a few political bones, I'm quite confident that we could have had a very healthy discussion at home. I watched the speech. It was fine.

Two of my favorite blogs are John Heneghan's timely updates about the City of Dunwoody and DeKalb School Watch, a watchdog extraordinare for our local public schools. John is one of the fairest people I know . . . you get both sides and even a mea culpa now and then. As for the DeKalb School Watch, the comments provide fascinating insights into school government-gone-fat in an era of cost cutting and expected sacrifice by teachers and students.  A recent blog noted that DeKalb's curriculum administration pays nearly $31 million for 551 administrators. Really?  And that's just a small subset of the overall administrative costs of our school system.
America is a republic.  (Which should not be confused with Republicans. That's a political party and philosophy.) Since we're a republic, we vote for City Councilpeople, Representatives and Senators, County Commissioners and Boards of Education to represent us. We're not a democracy. Can you imagine what life would be like if we had to vote on every single decision? Gridlock.
I adamantly do not want the national government handling healthcare.  One of my favorite Britcoms, Waiting for God, has an episode where Tom entered the hospital for prostate surgery. When Diana visited him, she was directed to a room she couldn't find. "Where is Room 00?" she asked a nurse. "Oh, we had patient overflow. This hall is a room now because we have patients in it." There was Tom, sleeping on a cot rolled into a hallway - along with four other male patients. No privacy, just a cheerful nurse insisting this was normal." Diana's ensuing rant about England's National Health Care Service was priceless - and illuminating. 
That's enough for one day. It's time to hit the road for North Carolina. I'm visiting my parents while the rest of the family stays here for homework and meetings and sundry events at church. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

You just don't notice things until you get there.

Life is myopic. We experience our lives through tunnel vision, unaware of things outside our immediate concerns.

Now that our son is driving, we've noticed how the next door elementary school parents park in the students' spots as a convenience during morning drop off. Exasperated, I tossed an email at the principal, asking him to let parents know that their patronage of those spots is ill timed and downright thoughtless. He begged for understanding (they have no parking lot at all). An older student told us that this has been happening for years.

We never noticed before.

As I visit the library, study plant options for this fall at Pike's Nursery, or enjoy breakfast at Olde Hickory House with my husband, I can hear the wailing cries of bored children who would rather be anywhere else. Their pitch is perfect, grabbing the wincing attention of every adult in hearing distance. When my kids were little, I honestly never heard those wails since my children were yammering about anything and everything on their minds. Now that I'm one of those "older moms," I hear every shriek.

"Just you wait," older friends and family have told me through the years. Aches and pains, college tuition, teen parties with beer as the star attraction, hot flashes, clothes shopping with a tween, the dog you get when the puppy has grown, boredom with stuff that was once integral to "living large" (like eating at trendy restaurants or going to a concert of ANY kind) . . . I never understood why people stopped being interested in staying current and keeping the social calendar as full as possible.

Now I'm getting there. And I get it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Go outside.

A major perk of my job at Dunwoody Nature Center is that I get to take a walk in the park whenever I need one. Two hours straight on the keyboard followed by a twenty-minute pass through trails, picking up trash around the picnic area, and deep, cleansing breaths of fresh air: not a bad schedule.

It's a shame that the testing-focused education of our kids precludes such outside breaks. Every minute of the school day is so precious that administrators feel they have to command students' attention lest they fail the almighty No Child Left Behind federal mandate. Of course, by now we all know that this particular educational philosophy du jour isn't such a success after all. It's surreal that our government insists that one size fits all, ergo one educational model (everyone goes to college) fits every student's need.

So fresh air has to come before and after school. It's imperative for the tween and teen to get away from computers and books and soak in the sun, ride a bike or take the dog for a walk, toss a ball around, and enjoy some freedom from must-do's.

Just as we've invested in math and music tutors, we must ensure that our kids get the essentials they don't have at school.

Two of the more evocative memories of my childhood  are indelibly linked to the outdoors: my mom yelling at her kids to "go play outside and don't come back until it's dinner time" when we'd gotten too rambunctious and the slamming of my grandmother's screen door during visits as we passed back and forth for drinks and food and bathroom breaks.

I really, really miss the creaky, springy, slammy sound of a screen door.

It's Labor Day Weekend. The teen is headed to Dragon Con (that guarantees miles of walking around downtown Atlanta), I have some gardening chores to do with the vegetables and landscape, the tween has a dog-sitting job and wants to ride her bike all over Dunwoody, and the family will enjoy a picnic and hike on Monday . . . in a park.

Rain or shine, we'll be outside this weekend. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Proverbs 31:13

"She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands." - Proverbs 31:13

I've been working on a new shawl design (it'll be posted here shortly!) and my first Mason-Dixon log cabin blanket. Fun! One of my favorite stores, the Jake's House shop in Dunwoody, has a new design for "close-knit" friends. Shopowner Beth Dresher let me know it was in stock, so I dropped by this weekend to add the pink tee to my stash. It's soft, comfortable, and fun - perfect for weekends.

I took the tee along with me when I joined some fellow knitters at St. Luke's this past Sunday to participate in the Time & Talent Expo, a marvelous buffet of programs, classes, missions, and fellowship made possible by the extraordinary people who make up our congregation.

In the ROCKERs "booth" (Reaching Out Through Crocheting & Knitting), we displayed layettes for Share Atlanta, prayer blankets and shawls. We chatted merrily away, our needles flying, and encouraged everyone to sign up for lessons (FREE!). As visitors and church members stopped by for the homemade cookies and cheesestraws some of the knitters had prepared, the most common thing they said to us was, "I'd love to knit, but I just don't have the time to learn."

Neither did we.

In most cases, knitting was born from need, whether sitting bedside with a critically ill family member and waiting not-so-patiently in a series of doctors' offices or filling the empty spaces left by a spouse suffering dementia.

God put needles in our hands because we needed them. We're not alone . . .

Expectant mothers on bed rest in the high-risk unit at Montefiore Medical Center in New York are dealing with their boredom by learning how to knit. ...

Staff at NHS (National Health Service) Highland have been learning to knit as a way of staying healthy and to provide items for a Homecoming Scotland celebration. A number of employees have spent their lunch-times knitting squares which will be sewn together and handed over to the Stitches on the Bridge project.

Beginning September 1st, for every Lands' End FeelGood
sweater purchased, the company will donate signature FeelGood yarn to One
Heart Foundation's Warming Families, a nationwide knitting charity. Lands'
End expects to donate thousands of pounds of yarn to the charity where
volunteers plan to knit up to 25,000 hats and other items to warm the homeless
and displaced.
Knitting needles could be classed as weapons in Scotland
Okay, that last one is there because it's so darned funny. The greater risk to the general public is if a knitter is denied the meditative and calming benefits of knitting on an airplane (I hate flying) or train (I hate waiting).

Life . . . and knitting . . . is good.