Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Mother's Charge to the New Eagle Scout

Adam and his Troop 764 Scoutmasters: Brian LaRose (current), Phil Cohen, Steve Barton, and Bob Smallwood (the troop's founding Scoutmaster)

Adam and his dad, both Eagle Scouts.

Our son's Eagle Court of Honor was this past weekend, held in the Chapel of St. Luke's Presbyterian Church. We were humbled by the many friends and family who traveled long distances and shared their busy weekends with us.

Adam asked me to close the ceremony with the Mother's Charge, which traditionally means poetry and tears. As an inherent stoic, I really couldn't decide what I'd say, right up to the night before the event. But, during chats with visiting friends, I finally figured it out.

And here it is ...

Seventy miles.

The Boy Scout Hiking Merit Badge requires five hikes of 10 continuous miles each.

Plus one hike of 20 continuous miles.

You had to choose hiking trails close to Atlanta. No high adventure because they’re too remote. Crohn’s meant staying close to help if needed.

I volunteered to walk those seventy miles with you. As your mom, I needed to watch over you since some of the hikes came between flare-ups.

I also wanted this time together with you, before you decided that time with me wasn’t nearly as fun as time with friends.

So we hiked. On the Big Creek Greenway, over Kennesaw Mountain, around Dunwoody, through Atlanta, and along the Cherokee Trail at Stone Mountain. Sometimes you listened to your ipod. Sometimes we walked together in silence. Most often, we talked.

Because of Crohn’s, you have to work harder to get what you want. It doesn’t matter that you don’t feel good or are weak because of your meds or can’t sleep because of a flare-up. You still have to keep moving.

You decided you wanted to be an Eagle Scout just like your Dad when you were a Tiger Scout. And you followed through, until all that lay between you and beginning your Eagle Project was seventy miles.

You never balked. You put one foot in front of the other and finished what you began.

And now you’ve reached your goal. You’ve taken the road less traveled and achieved something rare and valuable.

Adam, my charge to you is to keep moving. Never balk because something you want is hard. Life is filled with obstacles, both expected and unexpected.

You’re an Eagle Scout. And I am very proud of you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mailbox Brigade.

My neighbors Sara, Allison, Tara, Lisa, and Sue and I put together 29 mailbox swags as part of the Mailbox Brigade benefiting Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. None of us claims to be  particularly gifted with floral arrangements. We made up for our lack of expertise with a lot of enthusiasm. A little design 101, bunches of evergreens and holly berries, a huge red or blue bow for each swag, and we had 29 lovely packages to deliver to mailboxes in our neighborhood.

My frigid, messy garage became the work site. At least we were out of the wind.

Mixing fir, magnolia, boxwood, and holly takes its toll on the hands. Note Allison is wearing gloves. I didn't. Guess whose hands AREN'T cut and covered with sap.

Clumps of greens bound together and ready for installation. They don't look like much here, but check out the finished product ...

The Knitternall mailbox looks really nice. The little card says we belong to the Community Friends supporting CHOA.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Happy 18th Birthday, Adam

 Happy Birthday, Adam.

Your life is bookended by your passions.

From Thomas the Tank Engine to afficanado of anime, manga, and video gaming.

From Tiger to Eagle Scout.

From Dark Wing Duck to Mock Trial star.
From smocked john-johns to collector of snarky t-shirts (more than 40 and counting).

I look forward to watching you continue to grow and discover new passions as you step into adulthood.

Love, Mom.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The Knitternall family celebrated Thanksgiving in our pajamas, slept soundly for five blessed nights, read great books, enjoyed the latest Harry Potter movie, watched schmaltzy Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel, and tackled a few too-long-delayed chores. We left the biggest job until Sunday, not because of procrastination, but because of rain. Our house was surrounded by an ocean of leaves. Maple, oak, poplar, and chestnut leaves covered the ground, sidewalk, driveway, front steps, bench, and shrub.

We filled 25 lawn bags, hauled huge piles on tarps to the back woods at least a dozen times, and finally managed to take care of the windfall.

At one point, my son asked why we couldn't just burn the leaves, which would result in far less effort and provide many opportunities for fire-poking (his favorite camping activity). Informed there's a law against that, he rolled his eyes. "There are way too many laws." Rather than embark on a parental lecture about fire hazards, pollution, and fire safety, I agreed. Because there are. Too many laws. At his age, it's not as easy to differentiate between the "good" laws and the "oh, puh-lease" laws. (Chickens come to mind.)

Actually, I'd love to burn the leaves. I have many childhood memories of my grandfather burning leaves in whichever part of the yard he planned to till for the next season's garden. He swore that the burned leaves, mixed in with the dirt, made a good garden. And since the bounty from that garden fed the entire family through the Depression and long after grandchildren joined the dinner table, it worked.

I loved the smell of burning leaves, the fun of tossing small sticks into the flames, the conversations of the adults who stood around watching it just in case, and the fun of dodging the smoke as the wind changed direction occasionally. Leaf burning was always on a still, windless day - simple common sense.

Ah, well. At least we still have a wood-burning fireplace, having resisted the installation of gas logs over the years. Thanksgiving was too warm for a good fire, but we're finally trending toward consistently cold weather. So we'll smell that cozy, wood-burning warmth very, very soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gifts for the Earth at Dunwoody Nature Center

Gifts for the Earth
Saturday, December 4
10 am - Noon
A Family Program Sponsored by Adrian and Brian Bonser and the Gendell Family Foundation
Turnabout is fair play: make something special for the earth that gives us so much. Create natural animal feeders and other gifts for the creatures who call Dunwoody home. Make one for Dunwoody Park and take one home to share with people you love.  Walk the trails, explore the wetlands along our boardwalk, and enjoy the fall foliage from our treehouse learning pavilion.
This FREE family program is sponsored by Adrian and Brian Bonser and the Gendell Family Foundation. Marion Gendell and her late husband, Gerald Gendell, established the foundation to make philanthropic contributions supporting Jewish organizations, the arts, education and medical research.  Their daughter, Adrian Bonser, continues the family’s support of education, including the environmental education programs of Dunwoody Nature Center.  Councilwoman Bonser and her husband Brian chose to sponsor Gifts for the Earth because they believe in the mission of the Center and wanted to make a gift to the City of Dunwoody. As a result, there is no charge for participating in this fun family event.
Dunwoody Nature Center is located on the grounds of Dunwoody Park.
5343 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The giving season is here again.

Light Up Dunwoody is tonight (my daughter is marching with the Peachtree Charter Middle School Band), Thanksgiving is this week, and I've filled the pantry and fridge with yummies from Trader Joe's and Publix. The frenzy of activities and preparations will subside and the Knitternall family will have some much-needed quiet time together over the four-day weekend. Since we're spending the holiday here at home, I opted for a combination of somebody-else-made-it and homemade specialties so my time in the kitchen is more fun than chore. 
After many, many hours at the computer working away on my freelance writing assignments, I indulged in a knitting project for a very favorite person. It's finished, and just in time for its newborn recipient. The Upside Down Pansy Hat is definitely an "awwww" - and a very fun project to knit. (I also have a fairly unique assignment: one of the Nature Center volunteers wants an eggplant hat. Yep - eggplant. Seems there's this long tradition of giving a friend all things eggplant through the years. What a hoot.) 
Once Thanksgiving concludes, I'll gear up for the following weekend, which will be a special, first-time event at Dunwoody Nature Center:
Gifts for the Earth                                                    Saturday, December 4, 10 am - Noon at Dunwoody Nature Center
A free family event sponsored by Adrian and Brian Bonser and the Gendell Family Foundation
Turnabout is fair play: make something special for the earth that gives us so much. Make natural feeders and other gifts for the creatures who call Dunwoody home. Share with people you love as gifts from you to them to the earth.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vroom, vroom.

This has been a very eventful week for the Knitternall gang ... all good.

  • I took Adam to Mock Trial Law Academy at UGA. As an avowed Wolfpacker, red means NC State. Having to take my kid there was downright painful. The things we do as parents ...
  • As for Law Academy, Adam is having a really good time. Favorite moment: last year, his competition role as Witness lead to an Outstanding Witness award when he devastated the other team's attorney. (Basically, the attorney's job is to impeach the witness; the witness' job is to stay in character, stick to the story, and mess with the cross-examining attorney.) At dinner the first night, he discovered the opposing attorney is at Law Academy, too. "You're that GUY!" As my son said, "kinda surreal, very cool."
  • I recently took on a new freelance writing client, who has me working 15 hours a week on a 3+ month project. So when I'm not anchoring home base at Dunwoody Nature Center or teaching Preschool Phonics, I'm writing. Whew.

  • Anna Grace was accepted to MidFest, the state level honor band at UGA. Yes, another kid going to Bulldog territory for a long weekend. But we didn't know she'd been nominated or placed until this week. Her band teacher decided to surprise us. Boy, did he. Big cost, big conflict. The date for the weekend? During Adam's Eagle Ceremony.
  • Speaking of which, I've been designing the Eagle Ceremony invitations and program and getting things ready for the big day. I need a clone!!!
  • T is still basking in the completion of a three-year certification (some highly specialized area of private banking equivalent to a master's degree). But, since he hopped immediately into multiple business trips, we've barely had time to celebrate.
This abundance of blessings has me somewhat bemused. The good comes like the bad, often unexpected and certainly not deserved. I'm giving myself the same advice I cling to when we weather storms: rely on faith and pay all grace forward.

Since I was neglecting my blog, I welcomed the high comedy of fellow bloggers. Dunwoody Talk has a stealth link inside an anonymous comment that had me ROTFL (kid speak - seriously, I don't text acronyms).  If anyone has been paying attention to the total "fail" of Dunwoody's new branding, visit this link: I discovered that a little "d" with an asterisk is now the go-to logo for the city. I'm keeping an open mind. Some people love the abbreviated "insider" look (kind of like those oval beach decals that look like European city license plates - if you know what they mean, you belong). I just keep wincing.

I also got to hear a neighbor tell me one school board candidate is the best choice because the other candidate is a mommy and just doesn't have the time to invest in all the meetings and preparation and analysis needed to serve. Seriously? As a mommy who juggles three jobs, knits an embarrassing amount of yarn, is pretty involved in my kids' schools, manages one kid's chronic illness and neverending medical needs, and volunteers in several different nonprofits ... I have a feeling a mommy can multi-task and understand things just fine.

We're leaving shortly for UGA for the Law Academy's closing ceremonies. Another trip down Highway 316, the most insane drag strip I've ever had the misfortune to navigate. 65 miles per hour through stop lights and cut-throughs.


Monday, November 8, 2010

The year of custom knits.

I've indulged in knitting for myself this past year as I've explored some new techniques. As a result, I am well supplied for the near future with cardigans, shawls, and sweater coats.
Design and Photo by Michele Sabatier
So now this will be the year of custom knits for others. I'm designing some special things for next year's Little Saints Holiday Market at St. Luke's and knitting favorite patterns for gift-giving and charity auctions.

On my to-create list:

  • Baby blankets in organic cotton
  • Baby sweaters knitted from the softest possible cotton and blended yarns - in rich teals, browns, creams, and roses.
  • Baby hats that look like frogs, flower tops, bunnies, and pandas.
  • A new line of felted totes and bags, embellished with hand-crafted flowers and geometrics.
  • Knit and hand-felted elf shoes for little ones.
  • Shawls - from vintage lacy to edgy geometric forms.
  • Ruanas knit with vivid colors and textures.
Each will be one of a kind, because I like moving from one technical challenge to another. As my inventory builds, I'll post photos on this blog for inspiration and special orders.

It's winter, the season of wool and angora, soft cotton and cozy blends.

Are you a Knitternall Follower? Don't forget to click "Follow" to the right. When we reach 100, I'll give away a hand-knit lace shawl in your choice of colors!

Knit on!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A yummy reason to support Dunwoody Nature Center

 Join Dunwoody Nature Center Today.
"Grow" a Love of Nature for a Lifetime. 
Fall 2010 Membership Drive
Summer Camp at Dunwoody Nature Center

Join Dunwoody Nature Center by November 15 and receive a gift certificate for one regular size frozen custard at Village Burger!
The first 100 new and renewed members during our two-week on-line membership drive will receive an e-coupon to Village Burger. Simply go to  and click on "information on membership and Annual Fund giving" on the right-hand side.
Members Are The Roots of Our Mission
... and Growth.
Your membership benefits include discounts on programs and early camp registration ... as well as the intangible (and priceless) knowledge that you are helping to ensure that this greenspace and these quality programs continue to thrive. 

Field Trips at Dunwoody Nature Center
We receive no government funding, other than the City's payment of certain utilities and maintenance services.  Your support is critical to keeping the lights on, paying our wonderful environmental educators and continuing to provide  excellent community programs.
I'm already a member. How else can I help?
Dunwoody Nature Center
If you are already a member or sponsor, Thank You! Please forward this message to friends and neighbors to help us spread the word about our membership drive.  
There are other ways you can help. Volunteer at Dunwoody Nature Center, helping us with park and trail improvements, special events, and our never-ending "to do" list. You can also contribute to the Annual Fund with an online payment. Any amount is much appreciated and well invested.  
We cannot accomplish this alone.  Members make it possible ... and fun ... to fulfill our mission: "to preserve and manage the natural environment and related facilities of Dunwoody Park and to foster the enjoyment and appreciation of nature through environmental education and outreach programs."
Thanks for your support!

Village Burger of Dunwoody

Thanks to Village Burger of Dunwoody for their generous support of our Fall 2010 membership drive.

Dunwoody Nature Center is located on the grounds of Dunwoody Park, 5343 Roberts Drive; Dunwoody, GA 30338. Our mailing address is P. O. Box 88070; Dunwoody, GA 30356. For more information, please contact Claire Waggenspack Hayes, Executive Director, at 770-394-3322 or
Dunwoody Nature Center is a  501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I hate robo calls.

Dear Candidate for (Fill in the Blank):

I hate your automated phone calls.

I am not influenced by your friend, party associate, or name-in-the-headlines endorsement of your candidacy.

I decided quite awhile ago whom I would vote for, from our state governor to our local school board representative.

Nonetheless, in the past two weeks, our family has received 52+/- robo calls for various political candidates.

We're on the "do not call" list, but evidently that doesn't prevent this constant bombardment by office wannabes.

For anyone else, this would be a form of cyber-stalking.

But it's political season. So you are allowed to interrupt our homework time, dinner hour, and bedtime rituals with your incessant, loud, insistent pleas to VOTE FOR fill in the blank.

Please go away.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Christmas knitting.

For the past five years, I've knitted dishcloths for my kids' teachers and presented a set of three with some handmade soap during the holidays.

Why dishcloths?
  • They're fun to knit.
  • The cotton yarn makes a sturdy, mildew-resistant, longlasting dishcloth.
  • I get to play with patterns: Ballband and Chinese Waves, Waffle and Checkerboard, Grandma's Favorite and Tweed, Circles and Lineoleum.
  • They're gender-neutral - everyone can use a dishcloth (or three).
  • They're practical AND unique.
The teens have a total of 12 teachers between them. The volume of knitting will go down next year because my oldest heads to college (I don't think college professors are expecting gifts from parents). I'll actually miss the lengthy giving list because that'll be another door closed on my kids' childhood.

I'm nearly finished with the teachers' sets. Next, I want to knit some for hostess gifts and just-in-case giving.

And a few more for myself. My last batch, knitted a few years ago, is finally showing some wear.

Knitternall 100 Giveaway Reminder:  When my "followers" total 100, I'll give away a hand knit lace shawl in your choice of colors to one chosen at random! (The pattern is Haruni by Emily Ross.)

Happy knitting!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Holiday Shopping at St. Luke's!

Knitternall is also Shoppernall during the pre-holiday season. Between knitting gifts and finding special things for dear ones, this is a really fun time of year.

I highly recommend one of my favorite venues: St. Luke's Presbyterian Church Preschool (aka Little Saints) has an annual Shopping Spree that is a high quality, easy to navigate experience.

Stop by:

Wednesday, November 3, 9 am - 1 pm and 5-8pm
Thursday, November 4, 9 am - 1 pm

St. Luke's is located at 1978 Mt. Vernon Road in Dunwoody.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dunwoody - the Discount City?

When I saw this yesterday:

I immediately thought of this:

I have worked on many, many branding campaigns, so I fully appreciate the challenge and inherent risks in creating a position from scratch.  It's impossible to please everyone and sometimes ideas get watered down in committee because of some mythical concept of consensus or everyone is so darned tired of debating and pontificating that the loudest voice wins.

I love Dunwoody because of the people who are Dunwoody.  I want to love the logo because I know a lot of people worked hard on it.

But I can't.

The logo and tagline do not express the dynamic that is Dunwoody.

If we're so smart, why are we so derivative?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dunwoody Music Festival

What do John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Pat Metheny, and a bunch of middle school students have in common?


Many of today's top jazz musicians played their first notes in school bands and orchestras.

Saturday morning, at 10:00 am on the Brook Run Stage, Peachtree Charter Middle School's Blue Shadow jazz band and percussion ensemble will perform in two separate sets. The kids have been practicing many  new pieces, including improv parts by several soloists, and their new shirts look spiffy.

It's going to be another great day in Dunwoody ... and another reason I'm so glad to call this wonderful town "home."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Team of the Week?

Dunwoody High School is in the running to be Fox 5's Team of the Week. Which means legions of students, parents, and friends in the community are perched on the Fox 5 website, clicking DHS Wildcats and entering the "gotcha" code.

I'm one of them!

When I'm on hold, I'm punching in numbers.

While I wait for the dryer cycle to end, I enter a few more votes.

Just before I head to work ... a few more votes. I had the personal satisfaction of watching the counter click past 19,000 votes this morning. Since each time I vote the counter ratches up a few more notches, I know someone else is doing the same thing.

Come on, Dunwoody ... this is OUR high school. Root, root, root for the home team!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Constant Contact Is Giving Me a Constant Headache.

I know just enough about email template programs to know that the background html code can be a pain in the watoosie. My current battle with Peachtree Middle School's enews has me pulling my hair and grinding my teeth. The input, preview, and test email all look PERFECT. Then, when it hits the e-waves to the 950 or so school subscribers, the copy is BLUE.


Constant Contact is a constant pain. The blue copy is just part of it. CC no longer likes my preferred Firefox browser, so I have to use Internet Explorer, and the page jiggles maniacally every time I enter something in the main copy block.

I thought technology was supposed to make us work faster, smarter, better. Not. Instead of technology serving us, we are serving technology. We have to contort our brains and work patterns to fit the paradigm of whatever technology we're using.

Need to pay the government a quarterly tax? Maybe QuickBooks will be right. Or maybe you'll pay a penalty to the IRS because the report QuickBooks prepared and you sent with your check is a few dollars off, despite faithfully downloading and reviewing every update.

Want to work on an Excel spreadsheet after MicroSoft's latest update? Good luck finding all the drop-downs you had memorized over the past couple of years since the last update.

Trying to copy and paste some text from an email into a web page? Don't forget to use that handy-dandy eraser icon for deleting the formatting because there's a lot of hidden stuff that's going to blow things up as soon as you upload your website.

Prompted to change a password? The security protocol says you have to use a number, symbol, upper and lower case letters, and snap your fingers in quarter time to hit the magic "strong" marker. 

This is why some people get to the point of saying "Stop. I am no longer going to be a hostage to the ever-changing whims and quick-click developments of the technology trend du jour. I am tired of doing tutorials that don't actually tutor. I am frustrated by user forums that are more snark than smart. I am going to stick with what works." Except that, a few Internet Explorer updates later, your computer no longer speaks to the internet.

I'm a writer, not an IT guru. But the virtual workplace forces me to get just enough expertise to navigate clients' websites, eLance's complicated workroom set-up, DreamWeaver and PhotoShop for the Nature Center, as well as the entire MicroSoft Office suite of headaches.

I am not at peace with my technology. I need to dig in the dirt. And do some baking. And sew the aprons I'm making for Christmas gifts. In other words, I need to use the hand skills God gave us to survive and thrive.

Thank you for reading this rant. Now go outside and enjoy this splendid day!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Knitternall in the Park in the Dark

I'm shepherding Dunwoody Nature Center's Whooooo's in the Park after Dark? Chattahoochee Nature Center is bringing two raptors, we'll have some fun crafts for the kiddies and hot chocolate for everyone. Come on ... and bring your flashlight!


in the Park in the Dark? 
Saturday, October 16
6:30 - 8:30 PM

DNC Members $3; General Public $5

Spend an evening in the park as darkness falls and the sounds of night-time nature abound. Enjoy animal presentations of birds of prey and a hike to listen for owls calling. Which owl says "Who cooks for you?" Which little owl makes a tiny whistling noise? Make some crafts, see the world through owl eyes, and dissect owl pellets. Stay for refreshments as the stars come out! Fees are per person. Cash only; no will call available for this event.

Don't forget the Knitternall 100 GiveawayWhen my "followers" total 100, I'll give away a hand knit lace shawl in your choice of colors to one chosen at random! (The pattern is Haruni by Emily Ross.) I'll cast on as soon as I contact the winner and we discuss the options.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Phonics Phunnies.

My Preschool Phonics classes are well underway. The children are settled into class routines, I've figured out each one's learning style and quirks, and we've jumped gleefully into blending sounds into words.

I begin each year believing that, having taught this program for more than six years, I've seen and heard everything.

Like do I live at Dunwoody Nature Center? (Feels that way sometimes.) Are my children actually Phonics Friends who decided to stay with me because they love, love, love Phonics? (I said yes.) And the fact that there's one child, every single year, who likes to put EVERYTHING in his mouth (I've had to retrieve letter magnets, pencil erasers, puzzle pieces, notes to parents, and a hot dot pen from various little mouths through the years.)

Turns out I can still be surprised.
I did not think that a lanyard holding a name tag could become a chew toy. I have some powerful chewers this year.
"Can I use the bathroom outside? Did you know you can pee on a tree?" Well, yes I did. But I encouraged the little scholar to use the regular bathroom instead. (I also noted that /pee/ and /tree/ rhyme. I never miss a teachable moment.)

"Look!" I looked. At the same time one of my students was successfully matching rhyming word pictures, his "free" hand was stuck firmly up his nose. "Honey, let's not pick noses in class. And you need to wash your hands." "Why?"
I taught the children the Little Red Wagon chant (You can't ride in my little red wagon! The front wheel's broken and the axle's draggin! Chugga, chugga, chugga chugga chugga!) It's a great wiggle-soother. I forgot that preschoolers can't say "axle" very well. So, loud and clear across Dunwoody Park came one little darlin's rendition: "The front seat's broken and the a (double s) is draggin!" I am proud of myself for not falling apart in giggles right in the middle of the lesson.
"Mrs. Nall, we're late because the back-berry kept talking." Mom blushed and I chuckled. "My phone does that too, sometimes." 
Keep 'em coming, kids!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Knitternall 100 Giveaway

Musings during a splendid Sunday morning in Dunwoody ...

  • My friend Kathie at A Few Good Pieces had a great idea: a giveaway to mark the 200th follower of her blog. I forgot to add the "follower button" in the early years, mainly because I was still a bit tentative about exploring this virtual community. I am grateful for the more than 170,000 (and counting) hits my blog has received in the past few years. Now I'd like to pay homage to my regular visitors. When my "followers" total 100, I'll give away a hand knit lace shawl in your choice of colors to one chosen at random! (The pattern is Haruni by Emily Ross.) I'll cast on as soon as I contact the winner and we discuss the options.
  • While this began as purely a knitting blog, my postings have evolved into a "slice of Knitternall life" in Dunwoody. I am blessed to live in this town, among caring friends, a dynamic church family, and with people who give so generously and selflessly of their time to make Dunwoody truly special.
  • Knitting is still what I do. All the time, according to friends and family. But that can't be true since I'm usually juggling the parent thing, myriad writing assignments, volunteer jobs, and the Nature Center. Yet, when I count how much I've knitted this year, I'm either knitting in my sleep or way more produtive than I thought.
  • Village Burger has become our go-to place for a quick, tasty bite or just some dessert. It's in walking distance of the Knitternall house. My favorite time there is in the evening, while fall is cooling the breeze and scores of friends and friendly faces are lining up for their House Burgers, Char Dogs, and Concrete Cones. It's becoming a barometer for when things end ... plays, games, schools closed because of a water shortage: drive by VB and watch the crowd surge.
  •  "Celebrate all you have achieved." That's what the studio portrait package says. We have to order our son's senior portraits TODAY or miss the deadline for yearbook. I've dithered because the cost is unbelievable. The studio has rigged the packages so that, in order to get just an 11x14 and a few extras for friends and family, you'll spend close to $350. For another hundred dollars, you can get 107 prints (count 'em) plus a CD so you can print out even more. Really? Sticker shock is putting it mildly. And this comes right after hefty checks for yearbooks, "required school fees and supplies," two major car repairs, and just before oldest teen sends in his college applications (and we anticipate that first tuition bill.) Do I put my philosophical foot down, say "enough," and order a la carte just the 6 prints I want (one of his formal senior portrait and three black and white casual photos)? for $200 (wince)? Or do we buy into the insanity?
  • My yard died. The long summer heat won. Back to the shovel and rake over the next four weeks as I plant optimism for next spring.
Blessings to everyone who visits here.  Your comments and insights are always welcome!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Write stuff.

I just returned from a teacher conference. Conference subject: writing. Not the mechanics ... the content. It's a big leap from writing a paragraph on some random topic to writing with depth and focus. My daughter is a very strong student who loves to learn. Now, hopefully, she understands the difference between narrative and expository writing.

My kids have watched me write their entire lives. From the day each came home from the hospital, I've freelanced, writing copy around Mother's Morning Out and nap time, before and after ballet recitals and band concerts, and long after they've gone to bed. Now that they're older, my writing time is more seamless and focused. I can actually write for hours at a time, without interruption. Bliss.

I don't know if they got the writing gene from me or if it's a bit of osmosis, but they're both really strong writers. Their "voices" are idiosyncratic and very much different from mine. I love reading their work and take great care not to offer an opinion beyond a few pointers about mechanics and transitions.

Today, I'm starting a long-term project for one of my favorite clients (we've been together "virtually" for more than a decade) and a one-off video voiceover for an organic grocery in New York that DELIVERS ORGANIC FOOD AND GOODS TO YOUR DOOR. Since I am still mourning the demise of WebVan, this assignment compounds my longing for home delivery.

My freelance cup runneth over.

I love writing. One day it's framing products and a speech for Miss Virginia, the next it's furniture and organics. How cool is that? The range of topics and media keeps me on my toes and writer's block at bay. (Writing for Dunwoody Nature Center is a little bit of pay-it-forward I always enjoy.)

The only downside for my family is that I go completely into the writing zone when I'm working. I don't hear, see, or talk coherently until I finish for the day. Or night. So they can stand right beside my chair, tell me something very, very important, and I have absolutely no clue what they said. Or that they're even there. I think the ability to tune out distractions is a gift. My family calls it annoying.

Ah, well.

Back to work.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Snakes Alive!

Snakes Alive!
Saturday, October 9
11:00 - 4:00 PM
DNC Members $8; General Public $10
Drop by to visit reptile expert Connie Haynes of Nature Corners to discuss the amazing characteristics of snakes. Examine artifacts and exhibits of live snakes and see a snake up close as it moves on the ground. Explore the habits of snakes, their eating patterns, and natural history. Native and exotic snakes will be available to observe and touch. (Venomous snakes will not be present, though will be discussed. All of Connie's animals are rescued or rehabilitated.)  Purchase tickets for will call or pay cash during the event.
Dunwoody Nature Center is located on the grounds of Dunwoody Park, 5343 Roberts Drive in Dunwoody.  The nonprofit organization's mission is to preserve and manage the natural environment and related facilities of Dunwoody Park and to foster the enjoyment and appreciation of nature through environmental education and outreach programs.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The things we do for our kids.

The older I get, the more I can cross off my "been there, done that" bucket list.

Married with kids. Check.

Navigated the subway system and enjoyed New York like a native. Check.

Explored the backroads of England and enjoyed some real pub food. Check.

Published in a wide range of media, including magazines and websites. Check.

Conquered lace knitting. Check.

Check. Check. Check.

There's another list. The one that itemizes all the things I sincerely do not enjoy, but do anyway because my family needs me to do them.

Camped. I hate tent camping. I hate platform tent camping. I loathe "under the stars" camping.
Slept in a bunk bed. For a week. In 90 degree heat (at night) and using a bathhouse that stunk worse than the open sewer ditches on Okinawa (there's a memory).
 Hiked a total of 70 miles with my son during one of his merit badge challenges.

Dressed up for countless office parties. (I hate to dress up.)
Waded into countless battles with teachers. Usually the same teachers. (I'm a teacher. Most of my kids' teachers are superlative. But the few who are disorganized and cranky with kids are high-maintenance challenges.)
Coached and served as team parent for countless sports, academic, and competition teams. There's just not enough time in the day most weeks.
Did the chores: cleaning, laundry, dishes. I like a clean house, but I hate cleaning it. Quite a paradox.
Check. And doublecheck.
 Thing is, there isn't a single thing on the second list that I regret having to do. Because it's a privilege to be with my family and a blessing to serve their needs.

Uh, oh. Both of my kids just signed up for something new.

What am I in for now?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bad bunny.

I'm researching rabbit prevention.

Not for the cute little bunnies that hop along Dunwoody Park's woods each spring.

Nor the big ones that streak across the road early in the morning as I wind my way through Wytercreek and Roberts Drive.

The ones that eat the garden. Blast it.

My perspective on Peter Rabbit has changed completely. Now I understand how very frustrated the farmer must have been. Every single vegetable we plant at the Nature Center becomes a feast for roving bunnies. I caught them at it one day, so there's no doubt they're the prime culprit.

I'm determined to turn things around next spring with a low cost, easy to shift enclosure for the garden. I want to use materials we already have in hand because that's our way (reuse and recycle).

There are lots of ideas in virtual gardener land. But I'd love to hear what works here in Dunwoody.

Ideas very much welcome.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hello, Dali.

The girls are heading to the High Museum. We'll lunch at Village Burger (our first visit!), grab Marta to the Arts Center Station, and enjoy the Dali exhibit together. This special Saturday comes courtesy of Aha! Connection, which alerted me to the free museum tickets available through the Smithsonian. I love a deal, I enjoy the High ... voila!

I admit that surrealism is not my artistic cup of tea. And Dali's self-indulgent and highly expressive mustache is distracting.  Perhaps the High's instructive dialogue accompanying the exhibit will illuminate the art and help me appreciate it beyond the visual chaos.

Bookending our day is a stop by a Girl Scout garage sale fundraiser and my daughter's highly anticipated opportunity to play with the Dunwoody High School marching band at tonight's football game. (She had to recruit her brother to take a babysitting assignment she'd already committed to before the band gig came along. He's quite a good sport - he said he'd cover for her. The parents said yes, and all's well in her world.)

The house is clean, the laundry's put away, the guys have their own stuff todo today, and it's time to head out.

Hello, Dali!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I am not married to Karl Rove.

Despite appearances to the contrary, I am not married to Karl Rove.

In the past five years, T has been offered a first class seat ("hey, I know you - you shouldn't sit back there! let's trade seats!"), asked how it is to ride on Air Force One while watching it land ("Ma'am, if I were who you think I am, I'd be on that plane, not standing here."), given countless handshakes ("You're doing a great job!"), had some fairly priceless doubletakes (to the point of folks nearly tripping and falling) ... because he looks a whole lot like Karl Rove.

You decide.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life In Dunwoody.

For a town of 30,000+ people, this sure is a small world. I was chatting with several parents at Monday evening's Dunwoody High School PTSO meeting and one mentioned that, in one week's time, she interacted with me as a Scout parent, Dunwoody Nature Center staffer, DHS parent, and blogger. Other than the DHS parent thing, each contact was an "a ha!" moment. "Where are you NOT?"

It isn't that I'm omnipresent (though I like my kids to think so). It's just that so much is interconnected in Dunwoody. Church friends, knitting friends, fellow volunteers in the schools, volleyball parents, Preschool Phonics families, weekly breakfast diners at Hickory House, dog owners at the Bark Park, thrift store treasure hunters, fellow walkers, Scout parents, visitors to Dunwoody Nature Center ... the Venn diagrams of our relationships are constantly overlapping and rerouting. (T has even run into Dunwoody connections on flights throughout the country.)

And that's what makes life in Dunwoody so very special. We get to enjoy a small town sensibility, yet can drive just a few more miles away to get a big city perspective. Lunch at Village Burger in town can preceed a visit to the High Museum in downtown Atlanta (which is what my daughter and I will do Saturday, thanks to the Smithsonian's free museum weekend).

Life (in Dunwoody) Is Good.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Watch your tone.

The rich inflections added to any statement can change everything. A simple "yes" becomes condescending, sarcastic, funny, desolate, worried, elated ... it's all in the tone.

I've been called to task a few times about the "tone" of my emails. I'm always juggling multiple projects at work as well as family needs, so I get to the point, pretty much writing the way I speak. The problem is, an email doesn't transmit inflections. So while I'm thinking, "how are we doing?," as I email "what's the status of xx, xx, and xx?" the reader may "hear" a patronizing,  "Are you doing your job?"

It's all very frustrating. Then I either have to send a placating email (you're doing fine, I just wanted to know how we're doing) or pick up the phone to offer a verbal mea culpa. I have to remember to add warm fuzzies to emails for those who need them, and stick to the facts for those who just want to get down to business. Confuse the two and you get equally emotional responses. ("Don't be so short!" "Don't waste my time!") Worse, chronicly touchy people slow down projects and add so much complexity to what are often already difficult parameters.

Maybe I should start using those yucky emoticons. 

A telephone call is better in delicate situations because you can control the tone and delivery of your message. But that's not how we communicate these days. Phone calls are time-consuming. Send an email, move on to something else, and come back when you get an answer. Voila!

Blackberries and Iphones are notorious for bluntness. You can only thumb-key so many letters and symbols on those tiny devices. I don't own either, but lots of people email me that way. I'm fine with it - I love the brevity of a keyed "yes" or "approved" to a straightforward question. But I also know that some people hate the terse emails, particularly when they don't include the text of the email they're responding to.

 The nature of my work, both paid and volunteer, is coaxing disparate personalities to work together, guiding them without leading them and staying on schedule rather than veering off into emotional turbulence. I also have to read and send close to a hundred emails each day.  It isn't easy.

So I'll watch my tone.

Okay, I'll try to watch my tone.

Nah - I'll probably do it again.

Will a pre-emptive mea culpa in my signature work?

Sigh. Probably not.