Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When your college student comes home ...

I've heard many, many stories about the give and take required to live peacefully during winter and summer breaks with college students more accustomed to making their own decisions than following their parents' lead.

I get it. Fortunately for me, and in spite of my overachieving ways, my son is too innately kind and tolerant to remind me that he's already demonstrated the ability to take care of himself, thank you very much.

College Guy stumbled downstairs this morning to let the dog out and get some breakfast. I've been up for awhile and am in full "morning person" mode. He's bleary-eyed, appalled at rising before noon during a break from school, and absolutely not tuned in.

Me:  "Good morning! We're going to Stone Mountain today. Want to come? Did you bring your dirty clothes downstairs? Because I have a load going into the washing machine shortly and you can add yours if you want. Did that computer science class open up yet? I'm trying to decide about dinner tonight so let me know if you have a preference."

College Guy: "Wait ......................... What?"

Poor guy. Even as a toddler, he was slow to get going in the mornings. The difference was that I could just pick him up, toss him into the car seat, and head out while he stared vacantly out the window.

I have no idea how he gets himself up at school ... I'm just glad he does. He kept up with his medicine and his appointments, managed not to lose too much weight because he didn't want to bother going to the dining hall or grocery store, didn't lose his laptop or his cell phone, discovered that drying his beloved cargo pants takes twice as long as any other load, caught up after missing a week of school when he was hospitalized with an intestinal blockage, ate nothing but junk food and the occasional pear, went hiking at midnight with roommates "just because," celebrated his birthday with campus friends, saw first-hand what "stupid drunk" really means, and kept his grades up.

Yay for that critical first Freshman semester DONE.

For College Guy's birthday, I shipped a box full of party gear, including moustaches, a crown, pin the tail on the donkey game, party hats and blowers, glow in the dark necklaces, and candy. Goofy stuff. We had pizza delivered to his dorm, timed for the end of finals for the day. Evidently the moustaches were a particular hit with the girls, all of whom wore one for the duration.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Raking in the fall.

I love fall weather. I love the glorious blue skies, crispness in the air, swirling leaves, and disappearance of gnats, mosquitoes, and flies.

Raking those swirling leaves, however, brings out my inner procrastinator. While my neighbors industriously rake those leaves onto tarps and bag them into 30+ brown sacks each week or landscape crews make quick work of the chore with their major-league blowers, I stare gloomily at the rising tide and think of lots of other things I need to do instead.

I'm not alone. Evidently, a lot of people try to come up with ways to make the chore easier, or at least more interesting.

I have wide rakes and hand rakes; bag-hold-em-openers and a wet vac that supposedly will suck up leaves (not); High School Girl, College Guy (occasionally), and Campaign Guy to join me in the "fun" and  an electric blower to help move the mass onto huge tarps.

I sure miss the weekly leaf pick-up where we lived in North Carolina - you just blew and raked everything to the curb and a single truck would vacuum everything up.

A human-powered alternative to those smelly, loud gas-powered backpack blowers blaring across Dunwoody throughout the fall.
No matter what I try, I'm still raking leaves every week through Christmas. When I order pine straw from DHS' Cross Country team, it's knowing I'll have to store it until all the leaves are off the trees. The Troop 764 Boy Scout pine straw sale falls nicely in the spring to cover the comingled leaves and pine straw left after winter storms drive the remaining leaves down from the trees.

Okay, enough whining about the leaves. The yard is well covered and needs raking.

After I do the grocery shopping, laundry, and carpool duties. Is it going to rain? I need to wait until the leaves are dry. Wait, I need to bake for the Marching Band end of season cookout. So maybe I should wait until next week.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Yes, you can knit. It's easy. Really.

I highly recommend this video for those who want to learn to knit:

"We're not making mistakes. We're making experiences."

"Come on, man. Just buy a scarf."

Sublimely hilarious.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What about the schools?

One of the most critical considerations for anyone moving with a family from one community to another is the quality of the schools. Dunwoody is blessed with great schools that thrive in spite of lackluster central office leadership, strangled budgets, self-protective personnel policies, and education pedagogy that change with the whims of state and county administrations. 

All those woes are well documented in DeKalb County School Watch, a blog that serves as watchdog and gadfly for our local system.  If you're a parent, you should read it. Knowledge is power.

For awhile, there was a grassroots effort underway to consider turning Dunwoody High School and all its feeder schools into a single Charter Cluster. I don't know if the steam has run out of that effort, if the folks engaged in the foundational work have turned to other issues, or where things stand today, but I hope the concept finds new energy in the near future.  Fulton County Schools are considering charter status, one of many school systems and clusters willing to tackle the massive documentation, research, and development work required to satisfy the state's evolving requirements.

DeKalb Schools has a new superintendent. Maybe she's a rainmaker and something good will finally come out of that dysfunctional nexus. We have an outstanding School Board representative in Nancy Jester, who is often the lone voice of pragmatism in a group of people who seem to add to our problems rather than solve them. Georgia is requesting a waiver from the illogical No Child Left Behind paradigm and trying on yet another measurement tool that ignores the realities of student capabilities and inconsistent parent support. Our state level elected representatives would have to change state regulations and budget limitations that prevent Dunwoody from having greater control over our schools. There are lots of obstacles (costs are #1) to having our own school system. But there are many, many positives to having our cluster go charter.

By the time the education juggernaut changes direction, my kids will likely no longer be in Dunwoody's public schools. But I'll still be a taxpayer, homeowner, and passionate booster of this community.

Schools are relevant now and for the future.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sure is early.

It's nearly 7:00 am and the Knitternall family's morning has been underway over an hour. We rise and stumble at 5:30 so High School Girl can catch her bus to the Fernbank Science Tools & Technology program. No complaints from her ... all that science is nirvana to her rationalist soul. (Oh, the philosophical and faithful discussions we have had ...)

Once the fog of sleepwalking in the dark lifts, I'm glad I'm up so early. I'm at my most productive during those brisk hours before mid-afternoon, after which I slide into a stuporous, slow blinking half attention for late afternoon and evening meetings and deadlines (fair warning). One of my clients is at full charge around the time I head to bed, which means she's texting me at a time I can't think straight. We've worked out a system where she sends stuff to me well past midnight, then I tackle them a few hours later. Deadlines met.

Good morning, Dunwoody.

Hello, Mr. Smith, the preternaturally alert and cautious school bus driver who rises at 3 am, makes his rounds in Dunwoody, then delivers his teen-aged passengers safely to Decatur each day.

See you tonight, Campaign Guy, as he leaves for another busy day bridging work and Dunwoody visits. We'll meet again over dinner.

Have a great day, neighbors leaving the house with one hand on the wheel and the other flexing a coffee cup to lips in the dark of the pre-dawn work day.

Sssshhh, lawn care companies starting power mowers and blowers before 9 (actually, at 7:15 one recent morning). I know you have a long day ahead, but please don't break the morning peace so abruptly.

That's enough, Fox News, CNN, and other cable news shows relying way too much yelling at each other rather than the calmer BBC method of simply reporting the news.

I'm on it, much valued client texting a desperate "can you get this by 10 am today" plea for writerly attention.

Just a minute, hyperactive Scooter the Wonder Dog. You don't really need to go to the bathroom - it's that chipmunk family under the front steps you're really keen to check on.

Have a great day!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Volunteers do it for free.

What makes Dunwoody truly great is the limitless capacity of friends and neighbors to volunteer their time and talent for causes near and dear to their hearts. 

In the past few weeks, I've had the privilege of working with volunteers at Dunwoody High School, Dunwoody Nature Center, Campaign Guy's energetic yard sign brigade, the DeKalb Master Gardener program, and St. Luke's Presbyterian Church. As I've shopped, carpooled, and run errands, I've also encountered volunteers like the firefighters collecting for Muscular Dystrophy, a sweet woman staffing the gift shop at Scottish Rite, parents loading and unloading instruments for the Friday night Marching Band performance, a young mom carrying a bag and picking up trash as she walked her child to Austin Elementary School, bloggers spreading the news about community events to Dunwoody's virtual neighborhood, the Young Professionals of Dunwoody planning a spectacular block party benefiting the DHS Band program, and .... well, frankly, seeing volunteers isn't just an occasional thing in Dunwoody. It's a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-'em, integral part of life in this It's a Wonderful Life town.

John F. Kennedy gave us all an echoing call to volunteerism, asking us to give, not receive; to look for opportunities to serve, not to benefit.  The Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, and other world-changing volunteer organizations are a legacy of my childhood, that era when a passion to change the world preempted practical considerations like retirement funds and keeping up with the Joneses. Dunwoody is well represented by volunteer service organizations like the National Charity League, Dunwoody Woman's Club, Rotary and Kiwanis, faith groups, medical-focused charities, and others.

As this economy makes all of us look over our shoulders and fret over savings and expenditures, volunteers are even more critical to the quality of life we enjoy.  According to The Nonprofit Times,

"(t)he total estimated value of volunteer service in 2010 reached $173 billion with the proportion of volunteers serving more than 100 hours increasing from 33.2 percent in 2009 to 33.8 percent in 2010."
My unsubstantiated guess is that the percentage of Dunwoody volunteers serving that 100+ hour mark is even higher.

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 draws near, remember. And do something. Honor our men and women in uniform by using the freedoms they fight so hard to defend. Including volunteering your time and talent to enrich our community. Check with Dunwoody's own PebbletossersHands on Atlanta, and the City's volunteer opportunities board. Grab a trash bag and talk a walk around town - there's always windblown trash in natural areas and rights-of-way. 

Volunteers do it for free .... and from the heart.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tough enough.

My morning routine (while waiting for High School Girl to catch her 6:15 am bus) includes reading the AJC online, scanning emails to prioritize my day (deadlines change by the hour), and checking into Ravelry, my favorite knitting virtual world.

This morning, I saw this:  Tough Gals: Do They Still Exist? 

Women are girly. Again.
Don't believe me? The proof is in the blogosphere: Women who blog about cupcakes! Women who blog (okay, rant) about gardening, Hello Kitty, and knitting! Even BUST magazine is sponsoring a Craft Fair in NYC. Women who blog about cats! And then there are cats who blog, but let's not get into that just now. Don't get me wrong, these are all lovely blogs, smart and entertaining. And some blogs, like the wonderful Jezebel, keep us on our toes pointing out what a long way we haven't come, baby (like in this piece on how female superheroes are sexualized). But.. seriously... cupcakes?"
Oh, bless her heart. This one-dimensional thinker has mistaken women's hard-won choices for copping out. She implies that the things men do are preferable to "girly" activities such as running a cupcake business, knitting for relaxation between working all day/tending to family needs, and wearing high fashion as we wage business wars.

So women can only be feminists if we act like men, work like men, look like men, and do "manly" things?


One commenter said,

"Perhaps women are girly again because finally we can be, without being thought weak. The hard work of a generation of feminists who felt they needed to be ball busters in order to be taken seriously has yielded this fruit: women who are not afraid to show their creative side, women who have been able to turn passionate hobbies into successful careers, women who are REAL."

There are trace elements of men who still patronize women in the workplace. Women have learned to deal with them deftly, moving around them or bowling over them when necessary. But bloggers like this, someone I believe is a young woman, are simply unfathomable in their snide superiority and complete lack of understanding that the success of the women's equal rights movement isn't a manly paradigm ... it's the opportunity to be women, in all the wide diversity of the gender.

As for the knitter the Huffington Post blogger "dissed," the Yarn Harlot has garnered over $1 million in donations to Doctors Without Borders. While knitting. And talking about knitting.

I am knitter. Hear me roar.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Les Mis

When Campaign Guy and I honeymooned in London, we saw two theatrical productions. Somehow, we chose Andrew Lloyd Weber's Starlight Express rather than Les Miserables, which had opened at the Barbican and was still in full production while we were there.

Seriously. Starlight Express.  Actors singing disco while wearing roller skates.

Through the years, I shrugged off the thought that the French Revolution could be interesting enough to warrant theater tickets.  And, because I'm somewhat plebian when it comes to live theater, I couldn't reconcile the high cost of the tickets.

I was wrong.

I have enjoyed the PBS' airings of the 25th anniversary celebration of Les Miserables in Concert at the 02 ... repeatedly. Fortunately, it's the darling of the fundraising campaigns, so I've been able to catch it four different times. Since I'm rarely sitting long enough to see an entire movie, let alone the multi-hour Les Mis, that means I've now seen it from start to finish. Alfie Boe is mesmerizing as Valjean, Nick Jonas surprisingly effective as Marius (it's sweet the way Katie Hall, the actress playing Cosette, keeps patting him on the arm reassuringly after one of their duets). And I love Norm Lewis as Javert.

I wonder if the Fox version next April will be as good? There's a lot to be said for being close enough to see the actors' expressions ... the Knitternall budget-friendly cheap seats in the Fox provide a panoramic view of the stage, but not the nuances of the emotions within the songs.

The lovely, silver lining to my late discovery of Les Miserables is that it's a fresh experience that I can appreciate much better now than when we were honeymooning. Thanks to advancements in filming, staging, sound, and today's digital media, I get to enjoy it at home ... repeatedly.

If you haven't seen it, catch it next time PBS airs it during a fundraising campaign. It's a splendid incentive to support the arts via public television.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Technology keeps outsmarting me.

In the past two weeks alone, I've had to wrangle with internet-based phishiness, Facebook phonebook shenanigans, and a new round robin of urban legends.

I completely understand why some people just opt out of the whole social media/online world/electronic communications schtick.

1. Facebook's Phonebook Fiasco: Facebook is "enriching" our social lives by grabbing ALL cell numbers from our smart phones and posting them on our Friends page. I saw something about this yesterday, then friends have begun posting alerts and instructions on how to remove those details from our pages. 

Go to the top right of the screen, click on Account, click on Edit Friends, go left on the screen and click on Contacts. All phone numbers from your phone (FB friends or not) are published. Click "visit this page" under Phone book Contacts on the right side of the page - then choose "remove contacts".

Now, why does Facebook want this personal information on MY page, visible to anyone allowed to see it? Because they want to "help me" get more Friends, more viewings, more feelings of connection to the world.

I suppose that I'll start getting all kinds of telemarketing and inappropriate calls on my cell phone now. Joy.

2. We had two charges show up on our checking account after someone phished my PayPal account. No, I did not respond to one of those ridiculous emails asking me for passwords and personal info. Someone else did. And because they allowed a hacker to see THEIR PayPal account, somehow that person was also able to get into MY account and request money. Turns out this is well known by my very responsive bank and "find the right FAQ if you can" PayPal, which promptly refunded the money. My bank said they get calls like this ALL DAY. I've changed passwords, my financial connections with PayPal, and continue to monitor our transactions daily.

Which is pretty darned irritating, when you think about it. Having to go into checking and credit card accounts that often is time-consuming. But it's the only way to prevent fraud as it's happening. My quick actions meant the two fradulent transactions were the ONLY two ... my bank says often numerous transactions hit long before account holders notice.

3. Great news! U. S. companies operating call centers overseas must transfer you to a U. S.-based rep upon request! I've had several people tell me this with great glee, saying "I know this works!" Actually, it doesn't.  Wish it did, because that would mean more U. S. jobs AND fewer scripts ("have you rebooted the computer, ma'am?").  You can ask, but likely you'll just get the person sitting next to the first person you talked to. In India. Or wherever.

Those are the current aggravations. There are many, many more, including the one just waiting to pounce tomorrow. Or the next day.

Progress is outpacing intelligence and caution. At the same time various levels of government, from school systems to Congress, move at a snail's pace, technology is racing ahead with the next cool thing.

There has to be a better way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Master the garden

A lapse in posting = a busy summer with freelancing assignments, Campaign Guy's communications and strategy needs, getting College Guy ready to move on campus, and prepping High School Girl for her first year in high school.

At long last, I'm applying for DeKalb County's Master Gardener Program through its Extension Service. I hope that I transition from killing plants to nurturing beautiful gardens filled with edibles and ornamentals.

Interested? Here are the details:

Dear Gardener,

Thank you for your interest in the 2012 training for Georgia Master Gardeners in DeKalb.

The Master Gardener program provides community-minded gardeners with practical horticultural training that prepares them to be volunteers for their county’s Cooperative Extension. The DeKalb Cooperative Extension is a joint program of DeKalb County and the University of Georgia . Through the program, homeowners are provided with unbiased, research-oriented horticultural and gardening information.

Master Gardener training and information is provided by the horticulture, entomology, pathology, and crop and soil sciences departments of UGA’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Master Gardener volunteers answer horticulture inquiries via telephone, email, and in person at the Extension Service office. They also speak to civic groups, design and install beautification projects, and participate in a variety of community service projects.

To receive an application for the program you will need to attend one of the three available information sessions in September. Because we want to be certain that all applicants are aware of the responsibilities – and possibilities! – of the Master Gardener Program, applications are available only at the information sessions.
Please plan to attend any one of the following:

Friday, Sept. 2, 10:00 am – noon at the Cooperative Extension Main Office, 4380 Memorial Drive , Decatur (Demonstration Kitchen)

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 10:00 am – noon at the Cooperative Extension Main Office, 4380 Memorial Drive , Decatur (Demonstration Kitchen)

Thursday, Sept. 8, 10:00 a.m. - noon at the Cooperative Extension Main Office, 4380 Memorial Drive , Decatur (Demonstration Kitchen)

At the information session, we will review the Master Gardener program with you, we will answer any questions you may have about the Master Gardener program, and you will pick up a training application. Deadline for submitting applications (with your deposit) is Friday, Oct. 7, 5:00 PM. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

Classes will begin Wednesday, January 4, 2012, and run through Wednesday, March 28. Classes meet on Wednesdays only, 9:30 - 12:00 noon, and 1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m., with a one hour lunch break. An orientation for DeKalb Master Gardener trainees will be held Wednesday, April 4. Attendance at all classes and the orientation session is mandatory. To become a Certified Master Gardener you must successfully complete the training and 50 hours of volunteer time in the following twelve months.

Cost of the classes is $140. This covers all materials, including the extensive Georgia Master Gardener Handbook.
Space is limited. Students are accepted on the basis of their commitment to volunteer activity that satisfies a gardening interest and meets county needs. Note that you must be a DeKalb County resident to apply through this office. If you are a resident of another county, you must apply through the Extension Service office in that county. To reach your nearest county Extension office call 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

For more information about Georgia Master Gardeners in DeKalb contact Gary Peiffer or Averil Bonsall at 404-298-4080, or email Averil at abonsall@dekalbcountyga.gov

We look forward to meeting you at a future Cooperative Extension Program. We hope that you will take this opportunity to join our dedicated group of gardeners, and share your talents and enthusiasm!


Gary Peiffer                                         Averil Bonsall
DeKalb County Agent                        Master Gardener Coordinator for DeKalb

Maybe, when I'm finished, I'll fit in with this savvy gang, the Master Gardeners tending to the native plantings at Dunwoody Nature Center.

Have you noticed this sign as you enter Dunwoody Nature Center? Just a small reminder that the beautiful plantings are the result of hard work by dedicated volunteers.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Would you rather ...

High School Girl has a game she plays with her friends when they're so bored that board games are the only stopgap in the long, bleak moments stretching between activities in their go-go-go summer. It's called "Would You Rather" and it poses two equally terrible options that the player must choose and offer reasons why.
WOULD YOU RATHER have five bottles stuck on the fingers of one hand for a year -OR- a bucket stuck on your foot for a year? "Neither" is not an option here!
The fascinating part of this game for a parent is hearing their reasons, which are ultimately based on value systems they're only vaguely aware they are developing. 

Adults live in WOULD YOU RATHER land every day. We have to make difficult choices, resorting to the "lesser of two evils" without always being fully aware of the consequences. We're given misinformation, insufficient information, and downright incorrect information, and must formulate intelligent decisions based on factors out of our control.

Do I take that high-paying job with all its risks and unknowns when my present job, while boring and stressful, is at least stable?  Will my kid thrive in the new neighborhood and schools when we chose them based on a realtor's recommendation and a few Google searches?  Should I invest in the higher cost health plan with its lower deductibles and extensive coverage or the low cost plan that assumes my family will stay healthy?

I have a few suggestions for the game: 

WOULD YOU RATHER go into bankruptcy-inducing debt to pay for your kid's college OR take a great job you love that has no healthcare benefits?

WOULD YOU RATHER be sentenced to watch Nancy Grace 24 hours a day for a year OR to go back to Middle School for three years?
WOULD YOU RATHER everyone knows where you are thanks to smart phones OR no one care where you are?
WOULD YOU RATHER have 1,000+ friends on Facebook OR a few really good, lifelong friends?
WOULD YOU RATHER pay higher property taxes because your home value is stable OR pay lower taxes because your home value is declining?
WOULD YOU RATHER own a large flat screen TV with no cable service OR a clunky old TV with free, extended cable service?
Despite the game's rules, sometimes the real-world answer is both. Or neither.

Have fun with that ...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I love a parade.

This year, the Knitternall family enjoyed Dunwoody's 4th of July parade from quite a different perspective. While we've marched alongside Troop 764, St. Luke's Presbyterian Church, swim team, and Dunwoody Nature Center entries in the past, this year, we did this:

We're having a blast supporting Terry in his bid for City Council. And discovering even more reasons to love Dunwoody.

For example:

  • Kids say "thank you" when you give them candy. (Even the loudly assertive "We want candy!" contingent said "thanks.")
  • In one morning, we got to say hello to more friends and neighbors than we normally see in a week.
  • Dunwoody Police Officers on Segways - fun!
  • Boy Scouts serving barbecue - the logistics are impressive and food quite good.
  • Even as they melted into a sweaty puddle of overheated, flushed red exhaustion, parade participants and watchers wished each other a "Happy 4th!"
  • The Dunwoody Homeowners Association and their volunteers ... just wow. Until you've been IN the parade, you can't fully appreciate all the work that goes into staging the state's largest 4th of July event.
  • I bet the MJCC's Clifford the Big Red Dog bus could do a brisk business just giving rides to small ones. Loved the balloon ears.
  • Hint to Italian food aficionados - Dunwoody's Carrabba's Italian Grill is not only a great place to eat, but the manager is a really nice guy and the restaurant is very generous in supporting the community.
  • Master Gardeners ... the secret behind Dunwoody Nature Center's native plantings.  Their parade entry was accompanied by Junior Counselors, a cadre of volunteer teens who support the environmental education center's summer camp.
  • Dunwoody High School ... band, football players, cheerleaders, lacrosse team, principal - our home town school does us proud every year.
  • Peachtree race runners, who arrive to cheer on the parade after their early morning exertions (and celebrations).
  • Unabashed patriotism, from Army and Marine bands to small children in special July 4th ensembles. Gotta love it.
  • Instant gratification - getting to see all the parade entries we missed thanks to Dunwoody Patch.
We look forward to next year's parade. Rain or shine, it's the anchor of our family's July 4th celebrations.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Suddenly, grass.

We're still adjusting to life without the tri-maple that came down in our front yard. Brighter sunlight outlines every spider web and dirt appearing on windows and trim. (So I'm washing the outside more often.) The hydrangeas are frying in the heat and direct light. (When they go dormant this winter, I'll move them to a shadier spot.) Tomatoes are greedily soaking up the sun's energy, producing a gracious bounty for BLT's and salsa. (I'll relocate the raised bed as well this winter, creating a decorative border in its new spot in the front yard.)

And grass is popping up everywhere.

Long dormant grass seed is finally getting much-needed moisture now that the maple's roots aren't soaking up every drop. We may actually have a lawn by next summer.

It'll be serendipity if we do, because I am not Lawn Woman. I don't love grass the way my dad did. Cutting the grass is simply a way to make the yard look tidy rather than part of an all-out assault on weeds and bare patches. I love the smell of newly cut grass, and appreciate the green. But weeds are green, too. And they all blend together when they're cut, into one green canvas over the hard-packed clay.

(I also view grass cutting as exercise, mowing at a near run to see how quickly I can finish the front and back. I bet my neighbors get a kick out of the sight.)

Found this ... Looks way more fun than my cranky lawn beast.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Long distance booking.

When I drove my mother home to North Carolina Sunday, we listened to Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, an absorbing and wrenching "read by ear" about a hapless kid who did a Jack London and didn't live to tell the tale.

Chris McCandless took off after graduating from Emory University with honors. He gave away and burned inheritance and cash, and cut bonds completely with his parents and siblings. For more than two years, he lived off the land as a modern day explorer, stopping briefly here and there without staying long enough to forge any real emotional bonds. He was fearless and self-indulgent, brilliant and disconnected, hard working and quick to move on, careful and careless.
Fascinating story, zigging around McCandless' odyssey with rich details gathered by a biographer who connected the tenuous dots of McCandless' life on the road. He wraps up McCandless' story in the epilogue, as the boy's parents fly by helicopter to see where he starved to death in the Denali wilderness. Abandoned by their child, scorned by him for reasons he never explained to them, and absolutely flattened by his life and death, they were seeking answers that simply were not there.

The book ended as I approached Greenville, South Carolina on the return trip. I turned off the audio and drove in silence back to Atlanta.

By all accounts from people he met, as well as the self-portraits McCandless took, he was happy. He loved the life he chose. That's what a parent hopes for a child. But the price for McCandless' parents ... not knowing where their child was for more than two years, not understanding why he cut all bonds with them: too dear.

Quite compelling.  I'm very glad I listened to the book.

But I do NOT want to see the movie.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The first time your kid takes himself to the dentist ...

... is rather surreal. Suddenly, your kid is College Guy, perfectly capable of handling his own appointments, thank you very much.

He's handling haircuts, shopping for clothes and toiletries, picking up his prescriptions and supplements (which are legion), and living more and more of each day on his own terms.

I couldn't be happier. Or more bemused. At the same time.

Mothers remember those last few weeks of a pregnancy that seems to go on forever, to the point that all you can think about is "when is this baby going to come out!!!!" It's the same feeling with an 18 year old. You've done all the loving and tending and admonishing and nurturing until you're just plain tired of repeating yourself. At which point, it's time for that kid to get out ... already!!!!

Okay, that's an exaggeration. I like having College Guy around because he's really a nice person. Scrupulously honest. Quite funny. And very caring.

On the other hand, he's also messy, prone to staying up all night and sleeping past noon, and impervious to smells wafting from dirty clothes kicked into the corners of his bedroom. His response to "clean your room" is kicking through the clutter to blaze a path from the door to the bed.

He may be fairly typical for his age and gender., but he's my oldest - the practice kid. (Teen Girl has had a much more relaxed mother than College Guy has ever enjoyed.) So perhaps I overreact. From time to time.

I have a feeling that I'll miss that messy room when he's living on his own - even the smells.

Both of my kids loved this book ... were they just preparing me for the teen years?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Big things are happening in the Knitternall family.

College guy is heading to North Georgia, teen girl is moving up to Dunwoody High School, I'm writing for several new freelance clients, and Terry is stepping forth to serve the town that means so much to the Knitternall family.

Sneak peek here.

We hosted a large campaign committee brunch this morning, getting input from a wide range of supporters as we begin to develop logos, positioning statements, July 4th Parade essentials, and strategies. I am simply humbled by the enthusiasm and energy of neighbors and friends - so many great ideas came out of the meeting.

The campaign website will have all the details, while I continue to chronicle our slice of life in Dunwoody here on this blog.

Fall 2011 will be especially memorable for all of us.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Things to do when you're not thinking.

Saw this headline in the AJC:  Jumping from bridges into lakes risky.  Um, seriously?

How about Forest Park votes to drop age limit on public breast-feeding. Micromanaging much? Pretty sure that was a no-winner for the council.

And a gem:  Weiner admits photo, won't quit.

Too much information featuring boneheaded moments in the lives of the average (and high profile) citizen. Add cable news' screaming diatribes by so-called experts and I'm just numb.

I'm more interested in the local news ... really, really local news ... for today. Such as

College Guy Returns Home from Freshman Orientation.

High School Girl Cleaned Her Room and It's Still Clean Two Days Later. 
Milk, Bread, and Dog Food Nearly Out.
Husband On Business Trip, Needs to Get Home to Kill The Huge Roach That Just Sped Through the Front Door.
Preschool Phonics Classes Nearly Full For Fall 2011. 

Scooter the Wonder Dog Still Hasn't Caught the Chipmunks Living Under the Front Porch.
Swamplandia Finally Ready for Pick-Up at Dunwoody Library.

Now that's news I can use.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sure is hot out there.

The greeting du jour, moaned by sweaty folks in grocery stores and pharmacies, office parking decks and swimming pools, dry cleaners and pet clinics, post office lines and playgrounds around Dunwoody. We're melting in this early summer heat wave, with a week or more to go before there's any relief.

Might as well have fun with it.

Never let them see you sweat.

It's wicked hot.
Alternative cooling system.
Stress sweat.

So, if we're sweating like a pig, we're actually cool and dry, right?

Don't sweat the details.
All that sweat equity we've put into our homes ... so not funny.
Don't sweat the small stuff. Or the behemoth SUV parking right against your passenger door.
Sweat lodge. Unairconditioned transportation for our kids when they head back to school in mid August.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Just because ...

Just because the federal government proclaims that no child should be left behind doesn't mean every child is capable of going to college.

One of my favorite cranky bloggers, The Other Dunwoody, today blasts education academia for its emphasis on pedagogy over content.  I agree just a bit ... I've encountered one too many teachers in the public school system who regurgitate the same tired lesson plans year after year because they fit the bureaucracy's paper trail and formulations. (Bless the teachers who figure out how to write to the form and then proceed to teach with professionalism and excellence far beyond the understanding of their administrative superiors ... and they've been the rule, not the exception, in Dunwoody schools.) A critical piece of legislation may finally get through the Georgia state morass allowing principals to fire incompetent and lackluster teachers on the basis of poor classroom skills and judgment rather than wade through years of documentation and supplication to highers up. Shuffling them to another school so they can be someone else's problem is currently the only solution available.

I also disagree, for one simple reason: the emphasis on college prep as the end all and be all of high school education leaves too many children behind, in remediation the moment they step into college, in debt because they can't keep that almighty Hope B average, and feeling less than stellar about a vocational track when they have every reason to be proud of those skills.

That isn't a teacher issue. It's another intrusive legislation from the Federal level down.

I believe in multiple tracks: college, technical, arts, so-called career, and more. If we are truly preparing every child for a life of financial independence and self-reliance, then we need to give them the tools to excel with whatever talent or passion they possess. Public (and private) education is failing the carpenters and electricians, early childhood educators and auto mechanics, multi-media electronic technicians and small business entrepreneurs, chefs and store owners, learning disabled and emotionally delayed who don't need a four-year college degree as much as they need the opportunity to explore basic skills that prepare them for a job or technical school, and then forge productive, well paying careers.

No B. A. or B. S. required.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hot times.

It's hot.

Really hot.

Superheated, humid, heavy air presses down on us, straining air conditioning systems and gardens.  Summer has shifted from February cold to August hot in just a few weeks.

Weather forecasters predict more hurricanes than usual.  A price war on seedless watermelons has broken out among Publix, Fresh Market, Wal Mart and Trader Joe's (though it's a bit surreal that $3.98 is a really low price for a watermelon).  Normally cold pool water is sun-warming much more quickly so early morning swim team practice actually feels refreshing. Pony tails stuffed through a visor have become the style du jour as hair volume wilts in the heat. Hot tempered travelers are touchier than ever (a fight just broke out on an overseas flight when one passenger fully reclined his seat). And HVAC companies can't keep up with the frantic calls from people whose A/C has broken down in the unexpected heat wave ("Your wait time to talk to a representative is .... twenty minutes.")

Summer is a Southerner's tough love season.

Particularly when it begins a month early.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What's next?

My daughter and I share the "what's next" gene. We collect experiences, grazing through crafts, volunteer work, books, travel, and ideas. Some experiences stay with us; others get checked off and tucked away in memory. Experiences are so much more engaging than things.

Yet I think there comes a point when it's easy to get overwhelmed with all the opportunities for learning. Which is better ... master a few things or a little skill in a lot of things? Our multimedia-driven culture exposes us every day to new-new-new. We worry that we won't keep up and that, by not staying on top of the next technologically-driven social media trend/workplace IT tool/graduate degree/cultural phenomenon, we'll fall behind socially, professionally, and personally.

Catalog the things you've learned to do, from the mundane to the career-mandated.  In just one generation, our expectations and experiences have taken a quantum leap from the need-to-know and want-to-know of our grandparents' era.

My personal inventory: technical writing, basic sewing, needlepoint, cooking, knitting, vegetable gardening, refinishing furniture, housebreaking a dog, how to pack up and move a household in just a week, scrapbooking, managing websites with DreamWeaver, Vacation Bible School management, copywriting, strategic message communications, volunteer recruitment, Girl Scout troop leadership, the full continuum of child rearing, PowerPoint presentations, video scripting, how to pitch a tent, Microsoft Word/Excel/Publisher, Odyssey of the Mind coaching, painting walls and trim, how furniture is made from the moment the tree hits the ground, teaching phonics to preschoolers, change a tire, speechwriting, blogging, iPhone, English instruction for high school, running a nonprofit organization, Facebook, how to document a disability for public education accommodations, rudimentary PhotoShop, how to write an annual report for nonprofits and financial industries, search engines, political campaign marketing, door hardware installation, bicycle chain repair, Constant Contact email communications, streaming movies, earthy Japanese curse words (a remnant of my teen years in Okinawa), troubleshoot internet connections, charter school development, carpet manufacturing, hospital wayfinding design, SEO, online library reservations ...

Okay, that's enough.

But it can't be. To stay competitive as a freelance writer, I have to stay connected at all times with my clients' industries, demographic research for disparate audiences, cultural trends, and what's going on both locally and internationally. We don't live or work in a bubble anymore, limited by budget and travel modes to the wider world. Instead, the internet brings the world to our desktops and laptops in a constant cacophony of information.

Mental rest comes in doing things my grandparents considered necessities: home crafts, gardening, making do.  I hope to take the Master Gardener program through the DeKalb Extension Service. The next series begins January 2012. (There are information sessions in September for anyone who's interested. See the end of this post.)

What's next? It's always something.

It’s time to start recruiting for next year’s Master Gardener classes!!

Encourage your friends, neighbors, colleagues to send in their contact information to be added to the mailing list.  Letters (or emails) will be sent out in August with details of our September information sessions, and anyone who wants to apply must come to one of those sessions.  The dates are Sept. 2, Sept. 7, and Sept.8, all from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon in the Training Kitchen at the main Extension Office.

Details of the program can be found on our website www.ugaextension.com/dekalb/ and I will be happy to talk to anyone who wants to know more - Averil - 404-298-4071

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stationery card

Tassel Frame Gold Graduation Announcement
View the entire collection of cards.

Curbing the appeal

Before ...

And after ...

The moment of truth came when the tree crew reached the trunk:  a spongy center through the center limb and the beginnings of rot in the trunk. So it truly had to come down.  I miss that tree and the way it sheltered our home. And now I have an entirely different micro-climate in the front yard.  We'll install plant new perennials and shrubs along the foundation and a tree next fall and winter. The hydrangeas will move to the side yard, which is still shady.  And we'll close the wood shutters quite a bit this summer to offset the increased heat from the sun.

Oh, well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oh, baby!

Knitting continues to happen all around Dunwoody. From the Atlanta Knitting Guild that meets monthly at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church on North Peachtree and my favorite knitting circle at St. Luke's Presbyterian Church to knit-ins at Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, a sometimes surprising (to others) cross-section of knitters gathers to enjoy their craft. Some of my favorite knits come from twenty-somethings who consider knitting part and parcel of the whole self reliance/sustainable movement. (One posted on her blog that she refuses to wear anything she hasn't sewn or knitted herself. Her clothing creations are unbelievably beautiful and detailed ... fashionistas would be very, very envious.)

I've been knitting for babies lately ... organic cotton frocks, richly hued hats and sweaters in all-season cotton, soft blankets, and felted jester boots. It's fun to play with color and texture in creating these gifts and custom orders. I prefer natural fibers for most of my knitting, though sometimes I have to compromise with cotton. By itself, cotton has a tendency to stretch and sag; with a little manmade fiber or wool twisted into the yarn, it can stand up to wear and tear. I've found some amazing organic cotton yarns that hold their own, so I'm busily acquiring hanks of the yarn whenever I find them.

Felted jester booties for a toddler ... when I knit these with wool yarn, they're twice as large as they are when they come out of the hot water felting bath.

Organic cotton ... I love this pattern so much I'm making several more in various combinations of natural beige, cream, and tan

Those little leaves at the waist continue around the back.

A round blanket to wrap around a darling baby. Soft cotton yarn will be easy to wash.

I love Elizabeth Zimmerman's magical Baby Surprise Jacket pattern. I'm pleasantly surprised every time I knit one and love how it fits on babies and toddlers.

I'd still like to knit a custom lace shawl for a follower ... it may take awhile, but when that 100th follower signs up, I'll choose a winner at random, let them choose a color, and knit like crazy to create a lovely shawl.

Dunwoody knitting continues ...