Monday, August 30, 2010

A surplus of crowding.

DeKalb schools report $40 million surplus in construction funds

How about renovating or rebuilding the Shallowford School location to ease the overcrowded classrooms in Dunwoody?

Just sayin'.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Scooter the Wonder Dog is a connosieur of squirrels. He sniffs their trails, observes and reports their presence with loud joy, and demonstrates a variety of track and capture techniques ... so far in vain.

He's also the Forrest Gump of dogs. Stupid is as stupid does.

The guys were in the sunroom this morning, enjoying breakfast and Dick Williams' Sunday morning news show. Suddenly, a squirrel appeared on the railing just outside the window. "Scooter! Squirrel!"

Scooter ran to the sunroom, having heard "food" instead of "squirrel." He sat at attention, staring at their plates.

"No, Scooter. Squirrel!" They pointed. His focus on their plates never wavered.

"Mom! There's a squirrel outside and Scooter can't see it."

So, wanting to give the dog an opportunity to bark insanely, I picked up Scooter, turned him to face the blasted squirrel, and said, "Squirrel!"

He looked lovingly up at my face.

"Squirrel! (blasted dog) You love squirrels!"

He squirmed.

I put him down, he ran toward the window outside which the now laughing squirrel perched, did a quick 180, and returned to his post facing the guys and their plates. At this point, the squirrel fell off the railing, in hysterics and eager to post Scooter's embarrassing lack of canine instinct on Squirrel-tube.

Stupid dog.

Lesson: your dog may be madly, passionately, over the top obsessed with squirrels.

But food always comes first.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Are you reading this?

This year, after stepping down from Peachtree Charter Middle School's executive council, I am preparing and sending the school's weekly enews. It's amazing how much the enews has improved communications for parents. Now we don't have to rely on flyers stuffed at the bottom of backpacks, garbled translations of something heard on the PA system, and same-day "oh, yeah, I have a project/test/teacher's note to meet you today."

Interesting fact: there are approximately 962 subscribers to the PCMS E-news. Each week, I get a report that approximately 423 have opened their emails.

Perhaps some are using their email preview screen to scroll down, so their reading doesn't register as an open.

But that's a very high percentage of families who subscribe, but don't read the news.

I've been thinking about some of the enews that are in my inbox right now:

  • Dunwoody High School's e-news.
  • St. Luke's Highlights, our church's weekly news.
  • Atlanta Knitting Guild's monthly newsletter
  • Daily update from eLance, for freelance copywriting assignments
  • Jim Walls' Breaking News
  • Aha! Connection
  • Groupon offerings
  • Spruill Center art classes
  • Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild classes and news
Will I read each of them fully? Okay, likely not. I just don't have the time (or desire) to sit at my computer monitor the time it would take to read everything.

Just as television news has resorted to the "bits and pieces" approach because the audience is overwhelmed by a cacophony of messages, I believe we'll see an evolution of enews as well.

If I have to scroll past the preview window, I have to be invested in the sender. If there are repeated messages, news about something too far out to worry about at the moment, I'm likely to be more dismissive.

So as an originator of electronic news and a reader, I'm of two minds about that statistic for PCMS' readership.

What can we do to make the news important enough for families to read it?

Are we giving them too much information?

It's a quandary.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What am I missing here?

I react emotionally to a lot of things. T likes to study, think, and reflect before he reacts. Somehow we arrive on the same page most of the time.

This morning, I saw the following headline on the AJC's web front page:

Child in hospital; mom may be sent home

Barbados woman's visa extension denied; daughter, 7, treated for cancer. 

Evidently Mom applied for two extensions to their visas; daughter's was approved, hers was denied. She must return to Barbados, without her daughter, by next Thursday.

Just reading that headline sent shivers down my spine. I cannot imagine leaving a child alone in a hospital, even one as stellar as Scottish Rite. And this child is anxious, ill, and in total isolation while undergoing treatment for neuroblastoma in the AFLAC cancer unit.

Sadly, it happens. When our son was there (multiple times), there were often children crying alone and inconsolable, no loved one in sight. The nurses are caring, but harried, and certainly could not sit bedside for hours, stroking arms, rubbing the restless out of legs, and giving careful hugs around medical lines and gauges.
Further reading of the article reveals puzzlement by  the Scottish Rite social worker who helped mom apply for the extension and the Immigration service spokesperson, as well as Mom herself.  
Gooding has been separated from a husband and 2-year-old son during the ordeal. She has assured immigration officials she isn't trying stay in the U.S.
"My life is there," she said. "The one thing driving Niamh through this whole treatment is, ‘are we closer to getting back home?'"
Is there a "rest of the story," as T often tells me? Is Mom wanted for something, or has Homeland Security redflagged her for some reason? Will we discover in the next few days that the story was "spun" to tweak our empathy?

I've decided that I don't care. That little girl needs her mom with her.

I pray that common sense rather than red tape prevails here. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Max headroom.


You're doing your day, taking care of the to-do list, and just when you think you have it all under control - whack! Something unexpected hits you.

I've been planning six different special events and discovered that some very critical information was not shared in the beginning. Which means starting over and changing several of the plans. I don't like do-overs. I like to gather facts, plan ahead, anticipate every possible contingency, leave room for changes and mistakes, and finish early. (I overprepare all the time.)

Major segue alert: the blog post title reminded me of something.

Does anyone remember Max Headroom? He had a brief life in the 1980's. Essentially, he offered a cautionary warning about the way television and big corporations could take over our culture ... and our thoughts and our lives. Rather prescient, as it turns out, since what we think too often comes at the speed of the internet and the spin masters.

Okay, back to getting blindsided.

My takeaway from having to re-do something as important as a special event is that I need to factor a do-over in my timelines. But is planning for trouble a self-fulfilling prophecy?


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

As I recall ...

I don't remember a single time in my childhood when there was a FOOD recall. The one time I got sick was after a meal at McDonald's, when the backdoor word-of-mouth mom network figured out that everyone who'd eaten at there one day had gotten sick, too. (Without the internet, they talked directly to each other, playing a variation of the telephone game until everyone around the block knew the news.)

Now I look at our food with great suspicion. We buy primarily organic vegetables, fruit, and meat, and from providers as close by as possible, so I'm somewhat more comfortable with the safety of what we're eating. Nonetheless, the latest ground beef, egg and deli meat recalls had me opening the refrigerator and checking "just in case." (No problem - all's well.)

Since we have Crohn's in the house, we are vigilant about food quality. There's no way to tell the difference between food poisoning and the beginnings of a perforated digestive tract, so we must treat both with the same urgency. Yet we don't want to be paranoid. We eat out in restaurants, our oldest teen is very fond of bake sales and pizza sold by the slice for fundraisers at school, and our peanut butter comes from the plant in Georgia that had its own recall fairly recently. (At this point, it's likely the safest peanut butter place around.)

I know food quality concerns isn't a new thing. Ever since more of us began living in cities rather than on the farm, food has gone through many hands before landing on our dinner tables. In the early 1900's, particularly in the Lower East Side tenement neighborhoods, not only was milk not pasturized and likely to spoil very quickly, some dairy farmers watered it down, added a white powder to make the resulting liquid look normal, and ended up causing many, many deaths.

Food recalls. It's always something.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Getting around is even better now.


Some of the nicest work crews I've ever encountered are wrapping up the paving of Vernon North Drive. Truck drivers smile and wave, different workers have been available to direct residents around the heavy equipment, huge machines have actually STOPPED to let us pass ... in all, it's been an amazing sight. Allied Paving has made lemonade out of inconvenience, so not only do we get a very nice road, we've also enjoyed a series of pleasant encounters with their crews. (Of course, all that heavy equipment has been sheer heaven for the neighborhood children. I even saw two sitting in lawn chairs perched curbside so they could get the closest possible view of the massive rolling machine moving back and forth over the hot pavement.)

Now that the weather is just a bit more tolerable, AG and I have been walking again. We discovered that the crosswalk on Mt. Vernon Road between Dunwoody Village and what we call "the Chic Fil A shopping center" is now very visibly marked. Cars actually stop! Pedestrians push a button and yellow lights flash on both sides of the road. What a very welcome change to "dodge car." We also walked the block around the library and up Vermack - no overhanging branches and shrubs!

So here's to you, City of Dunwoody. Great choice with Allied Paving and thanks for making walking in Dunwoody even more pleasant.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The (Harry Potter) ties that bind ...

After a morning of tending to two sick Knitternalls, the afternoon proceeded peacefully through chores, a light supper, responding to a few freelance clients, and knitting time. I posted on Facebook the fact that I was watching the Harry Potter marathon on ABC Family while knitting a sweater (bliss). Immediately, one of my college roommates pinged me back and said "we're watching it, too!" Then another college roommate chimed in.

Talk about the "Suite Life" - we shared a suite at North Carolina State University, where they had a close-up view of my painful transition from sheltered immaturity to dogged determination to not only make the Dean's List but graduate as early as possible (to save at least one semester tuition!).  It's amazing the way Facebook has bridged the years.

(Hence my flashback to the Star Wars movies - when The Empire Strikes Back left us cliffhanging for TWO YEARS until we learned the rest of the story.)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows promises to do the same thing, splitting the last book into two movies separated by painful months of waiting. The only difference is that we know the end of THAT story.

Who knew that Harry James Potter would connect Joni, Meredith, and me this many years later?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A few good pieces ...

I love, love, love what Kathie Chipman is doing in her little corner of Dunwoody. Her amazing sense of style and can-do spirit has catalyzed the launch of a blog and added much-needed panache to the Knitternall house.

Two vintage-new Kathie C bedside tables and lamps energized our master bedroom.
Blogging is this century's version of the kitchen door. When I was little, friends came and went through the back door, usually without a call ahead, for a cup of coffee and a chat. Our go-go-go lives make those drop-ins a matter of luck and timing, so blogging and facebooking and email keep us connected even as we move from one thing to another.

We can discuss what to wear, where to put something, how to arrange a room, what to do with sibling squabbles, and why my lemonade cake imploded when everyone else's bloomed beautifully.These internet chats don't replace our together-times. They are a welcome bridge, maintaining valued connections until we can be with each other again.

I loved visiting before and after my purchases during Kathie's "garage sale." And I'm so very glad that I get to be with kindred spirits at church.

My photography doesn't do Kathie's turqoise table justice. It's artful and richly hued.
Thanks for a happy day - and many beautiful new additions to our home.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Kathie C Collection

One of my very favorite multi-talented women is having what she modestly calls a "garage sale" tomorrow. Kathy C has collected and refinished a delectable assortment of furniture, from chairs and side tables to full-scale china cabinets. She has a deft touch with marrying the right distressed finish to each piece. I really wanted to buy everything in sight, but restrained myself.

I scored a vintage-new table and chairs for our breakfast area for a very modest price. (I covered the chairs in some leftover fabric so they coordinate with a few accessories in the nearby family room.)

I'm going back. A turquoise side table is calling to me.

She opens at 8. I am so there.

(Dunwoody friends - she's in the Kings Point area across from Peachtree Charter Middle School. Follow the signs!)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coming unraveled.

Four weeks ago, I saw a knitting pattern that sang to me. It trilled, "beautiful design," "you already have enough yarn in your stash," and "it'll look fabulous on you."

I began knitting.

Indeed, the pattern was a pleasure. There was minimal seaming, the yarn draped beautifully, and the instructions were very easy to follow. I was on gauge, and tried on each section as I went to make sure the fit was correct.

Last weekend I finished it ... put it on ... looked in the mirror ... and winced.

It looked dreadful. The proportion of shoulder to sleeve made me look like a linebacker. Since that was the very last section I knitted, this revelation wasn't apparent until the very end.

So I unraveled it. Four weeks of knitting tinked and wound back into balls. 2300 yards of yarn back into the stash. The yarn is just too darned special to waste on something I don't like.

My daughter was horrified. "Mom, you worked on that HOURS and hours. How could you just take it apart?"

Because as much as I love wellmade knitwear, I enjoy the process of knitting even more. I don't consider the four weeks a waste of time. I now know the yarn will knit into something lovely. And that the shoulder line of the pattern I knit isn't right for me. So I won't choose in the future a pattern with that particular design.

Unraveling a knit project isn't the same as coming unraveled.

I am at peace with my knitting.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sibling revelry.

"I just realized something," my daughter told me recently. "Adam and I only fight when you're around. We get along great when you're not there."

Oh. My. Goodness.

I knew it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ironing out a few things.

Once upon a time, when I was the biggest overachiever mom in the universe, I ironed everything. I ironed baby tshirts and onesies, my own t's and denim shorts, starched every button down collar and button placket, and made sure every skirt pleat had a nice sharp edge.

I also kept floors spotless, changed bedlinens every week, and couldn't abide a spot or smear on a window.

At the same time I was channeling June Cleaver, I was billing 40-60 hours a week as a freelance copywriter, in pockets of time between naps and preschool, then in solid chunks from 7 PM bedtime until well past midnight (including weekends).

Sound exhausting? It was heavenly. I had a lot to do and I did it. That sense of accomplishment is pretty darned satisfying.

Ten years later, I'm still ironing ... reluctantly and only when the basket is overflowing with shirts and skirts I'd forgotten my daughter and I owned. Floors get a lick and a promise when they're noticeably dirty. I trained the kids to wash sheets and make their own beds. (Their bedrooms no longer look like a Southern Living photo spread ... they're in charge of keeping those tidy, too.)

While my interest in June Cleaver-isms has decidedly waned,  I'm still freelancing. Because I really, really like writing. I'm also putting in mornings at the Nature Center and broadening my folk skills (knitting, gardening, weaving, sewing). Because I also like the idea of sustainability and self-reliance.

This afternoon, as I ironed three dozen napkins, a shirt my daughter will be thrilled to see again, and some cloth prewashed for a sewing project, I was content. There's little room in my overbuilt schedule for complete idleness, but that's by design. I don't like idle. I like doing. So what looks to others like a crazy quilt day filled with work and volunteering and chores and precious time with my family looks like peace to me.

The more I do, the more I get done.

It may be another month before I get the iron out again. Meanwhile, the dryer has a handy-dandy "refresh" button that gives a do-over every time we forget to unload it. Bliss.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fight, flight, or flow.

Dunwoody Nature Center's program manager is leaving us to teach at North Georgia College and University. Dr. Bahun will bring profound expertise and a calm demeanor to environmental science education at this wonderful gem in the mountains. (It's on my son's short list of schools.)

She leaves many pearls behind.

"When a job gets that many moving parts it's time for the amoeba to split and create two jobs."

"The fact that you waited until the last minute does not make your problem my emergency."

"I find that there are three ways to handle any situation: fight, flight, or flow. I prefer to flow."

"I understand that our schedule and policies don't fit your preferences. May I suggest some local camps where you might find someone more flexible?" (To a parent who called on a Monday to register her 3- and 6 year-olds in the same camp group.)

"Please don't." (To a man who bicycled over with a copperhead in a bag - he asked if he could release it in Dunwoody Park.)

Best wishes, Carla. You're smart, warm, and funny as heck. Thank you for the many footprints you leave behind. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Trial and error

For two summers, I've tried to coax vegetables to grow in less than four hours of direct sunlight. The beans were cooperative, the cucumbers did just fine, but everything else winced. So I've put my name on the waitlist for a plot at the Dunwoody Community Garden, where direct sunlight is in abundant supply (as are advice and encouragement by other gardeners).

Dunwoody is hilly, lush with greenery, and quite beautiful through every season. But the downside of all these trees is that gardening is a challenge.

Which reminds me of the history of Dunwoody Park. We have evidence of terraces cut into the hillsides along the creek. In the early settler days, the farmers cleared the land and cut terraces so they could grow crops. Faced with the same conditions as we have today, they maximized the yield of the hilly terrain by leveling as much land as possible and clearing the way for direct sunlight. One family even had a mill on the property - its dam and millstone are still on the grounds.

Urban gardening has so many challenges those early farmers would have thought ridiculous. We can't just do with our land as we see fit. There are tree ordinances, setbacks, residential codes regarding structures visible from the street, and sundry other obstacles to raising food. But creative folks are figuring out ways to be self-reliant.

The good news is that my garden box is mobile. So I'll take it down this winter, keep my fingers crossed that I can move it to Brook Run, and get ready for a new year and a new garden.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Maybe Dunwoody High School Needs a Staging Agent

In my last post, I lamented the hold of decorating shows and magazines that have homogenized interior styles. You can be as individual as you like while you're living in your home, but the moment it goes on the market, out comes the sage green, black, white, granite, and warm wood furnishings.

Dunwoody High School is undergoing a massive, and quite welcome, renovation ... while school goes on for students and teachers. Anyone who has lived through a home renovation knows the process is messy, deadlines are a moving target, and lots of things change midstream as hidden problems see the light of day. That's most definitely the case at DHS. The contractor has worked furiously all summer, but those gremlins have caused some delays in getting full access to the building's interior. Hence lots of trailers, a ridiculous parking plan that funnels students, faculty, and parents into a single entrance right at the intersection of Womack and Vermack, the football team roughing it in a single trailer (yuck), no access to the building until yesterday, and round-the-clock moving in this weekend. (My son and I are heading there shortly to pitch in with the move-in.)

We're trying to get things as settled as possible for tomorrow's Freshman Bridge, which will be the first time many 9th graders and their parents will step foot inside a high school. As well as for Monday, when everyone else heads to school.

Maybe what we need is a staging specialist. Someone who arrives with a 100+ crew to "makeover" the school by artfully arranging the cafeteria and classrooms and talks a kazillion companies to "brand" our school with new furniture, appliances, and high-tech storage solutions for all the gear and textooks that have been stuck in storage limbo all summer.

Wouldn't that be cool?

Well, we don't have a fancy staging agent, so parents and student volunteers will surge all over the school today and tomorrow to get things ready. I expect to be tired and sore this evening ... and really, really glad to see school start on Monday.

If we can only get to the school on Monday. Now that's a whole 'nother story.