Friday, June 27, 2014

I'm Such a Big Chicken

I hate changing my winter clothes for summer ones.  The entire process is exhausting: washing, folding, packing and moving them back to the attic. My winter items have been stacked on top of a bench at the foot of my bed, in some baskets on the floor beneath it, as well as in a large laundry basket and on two side chairs.

It’s the end of June, and it’s overdue for my lightweight shorts, shirts and capris.

When I change my clothes out, I mentally prepare for 8 or more hours of tedium.  An old movie I’ve seen a dozen times is the perfect backdrop to accomplish the task.  The dialogue will keep me company and memorable scenes break up the monotony.

First, the cats go out.  Otherwise, they rediscover the joys of empty baskets, and drawers left open.  They watch for soft sweaters to lie in and dangling strings on pants that will be pulled across the floor in a familiar game.

The baskets show imprints of fat cat bodies and lots of left-behind hair; it’s everywhere and nothing is spared.  Collect the hair and a new sweater would be produced.    

Sorting through a basket, I find an old, soft, yellow cotton nightgown that I can’t seem to throw out.  I picked it up and a huge dark roach appears underneath, attached.  I threw the gown on the floor and screamed like no other scream could be screamed, one that is immediately recognized by Scott as “my roach scream”. He makes a fast dash to the bedroom to encounter the monster.

I must stop here to explain that there are varying levels of happiness, excitement and terror that trigger physiological reactions; hysterical laughter, peeing in one’s pants and blood-curdling screams are just a few.   I suppose I have and still do exhibit all the fore mentioned reactions; if I held these in, I would explode, just as badly as if holding in a violent sneeze.
The roach scream generally comes when I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner or cleaning up, or anywhere near dog or cat food.  Since the cats eat in my en suite, my bedroom or bathroom is another surprise location. 

Since I was both a cheerleader and a singer in earlier years, I can project my voice to decibels equivalent to mach 1.  When I scream, I become paralyzed.  Sadly, the roach isn't adversely affected.  Scott is prompted to find the vacuum cleaner or a sturdy shoe to annihilate the beast, a job well suited for a retired Marine Colonel.

You may ask why a roach would instill such fear into a science educator whose passion in college was entomology.  I would have to say that it stems back to my childhood with a non-air-conditioned home, where the southern heat and humidity would allow the world’s largest vermin to enter.  They would make their way to the tops of the curtain rods and then fly across the room.  In actuality, they became kamikaze, dive-bombers, ultimately hitting their target, my head or face or other bodily parts with such precision that I knew the entire species made me a target.  

That deep psychological defect has tortured me for a lifetime.
All roaches, underneath that waxy calcareous exoskeleton, have a pair of wings, perfect for dive bombing.  Give me snakes, wild animals, or even an alligator to face before the villainous roach.  Not only do they fly, but are also nasty creatures, according to the Raid advertisements, carrying up to 32 diseases, so I have reason to hate these vile creatures.

Getting back to the dilemma at hand, Scott ran into the room and all I could do was point to the object.  He carefully picked up the nightgown by a corner and eased his way out the door and into the hallway, where he saw the massive object and immediately dropped the gown.  Then he began to dance on top of it, Flamenco style.  Convinced that the culprit was flattened, he opened the gown and began to laugh.  Peeking out the door, I saw him hold up the hideous thing, and I understood. 
It was a feather off one of the cat’s toys.    


That feather blew me away.


May all your days be filled with feathers. Email me at aitken.helen@gmail.com

Ta ta.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer memories


I can't help it, I love the summer and even though it may be 200 degrees in the shade, I love the thought of going barefoot, wearing shorts that are too short for my chubby legs and feeling the sunshine on my heavily sunscreen face.

I also have fond memories of the summer when I was much, much younger... If you indulge me, I'll tell you about it.


·         We lived about 20 minutes from the nearest beach.  We took trips to Topsail Beach every weekend and if we were very good, during the week.  
      There was only one pool we went to and it was always over crowded, but the ocean was always big enough for everyone.  

·        It didn’t matter if our bathing suit was full of sand, we wore them home like that and then put the water hose down our suit to flush out the sand and any sea creatures we brought home.


·         Flip-flops were the best shoes, you could buy them for about fifty cents, so we had several colors.  
      They could get wet, you could run in them or ride a bicycle with them, and they were the only shoes we could wear when we got sunburn on the tops of our feet.

·        Who needed a beach chair when a beach towel would do on the sand?  
      Who needed to sit on a beach towel when making sand castles and digging up fiddler crabs (mole crabs) took up our time? 
      Buckets, shovels, a float for the ocean and a cooler of food and drinks, were all we needed. 


·         Mom always wore the “loudest” DeWisse or Rose Marie Reed black bathing suit with bold red roses or poppies on the fabric.  She wore the biggest brimmed hat to match, red lipstick, painted nails and toes to match and we listened to WJNC am station on the transistor radio.


·        There were no SPF sunscreens, only the characteristic smell of Coppertone Lotion.  
      I found out that I was allergic to coco butter in some suntanning lotions- I broke out in dots all over.
      We also mads a concoction of baby oil and iodine...


·        Saltwater taffy was actually made at the beach and it was fascinating to see the large paddles pulling and stretching the the different colors and flavors.   
      You had to take home a box for later.  
      Now, the boxes of saltwater taffy come from New Jersey.


W  We didn’t have air conditioning in the car, so we would cool off only driving down the road.  

     
     A&W Root beer came in a paper megaphone and if we were lucky, we got a root beer float.  
     I consumed so much before being a teenager, that I can’t stand the smell of it today.

·        
·         Kool-Aid was our favorite drink and watermelon was our favorite dessert.  I still love these. 
  

     Today, when I get a notion to get some sand between my toes, I only have a 15 minute ride to be there.  
     Boy, am I lucky.   


     I'd love to hear about your summer adventures.

     Email me me at aitken.helen@gmail.com or on Facebook.   


     Have a cool summer day.




Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Flip-flops

“Where are my brown flip flops?”

“Haven’t seen them” said the chorus of men in the house.

“Are you sure you haven’t taken my flip flops by mistake?”

“Mom, none of us can wear your shoes,” said Will.

At least that’s a true statement. My size 10 shoes are small compared to the rest of them.

“Would anyone help me find them?”

“Sorry Mom, we’re busy.”

My flip-flops are dark brown with a logo. I can’t remember the brand name, but I’ve never spent twenty dollars on a pair of flip-flops before, so I’d like to have them back.

I remember when we only paid a few quarters for a good pair. Generally, we outgrew them before they wore out, but when the strap broke or the dog chewed them, it didn’t matter. We went to the dime store and bought a few more; I always got red ones, my sister got blue and my brother got black.

“Flip flop, flip flop” is a great sound that fits a perfect name.

It’s hard to imagine that basic flip-flop design has been around about 6000 years, seen on ancient Egyptian murals in temples and tombs. I can’t imagine my $20 flip flops lasting more than 2 seasons of wear.

I wonder if Egyptian mothers had problems finding their sandals.

In ancient times, the Greeks placed the toe strap after the big toe, the Romans after the 2nd toe and the Mesopotamians, the 3rd toe. I’m a Greek toe person. Any other place would feel bizarre.

Flip Flops emerged in the 1950’s as a casual shoe, then designs took other forms with wedges, stacked heels, wood, leather, bamboo and rubber. Straps have flowers, glitter, pearls, sequins, rhinestones, Swarovski crystals, ribbons and bows, all with expensive price tags.

Imagine wearing flip-flops on the red carpet, or seeing a bride wearing a tulle veil on her feet.

My $20 shoes keep sounding better and better. If only I could find them.


May all your days be worthy of wearing flip flops. Write to me at aitken.helen@gmail.com

Have a great summer.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Chimney Rock Adventure

It was as expected.  The room had two lumpy double beds with the best squished pillows. The beds were covered in white quilted bedspreads which were machine embroidered in rose buds and leaves on meandering vines and the pillow covers matched.  I expected lace but only found it over the bathroom windows. The walls were a mauve color with deep burgundy drapes, and everything matched the outside color of the Carter Lodge in Chimney Rock Valley.

I was surprised, Scott said nothing about the decor.

The lodge is serenely located by the river, which I can’t remember the name, that flowed underneath Chimney Rock State Park.  Our room has a balcony with two chairs. I should have left the door open to hear the rush of water to lull Scott and me to sleep.


Maybe the water sounds could have drowned out that lone bird looking for a mate at 5 am each day.  He must have been the alarm clock because the other males began singing at 6 am.  Who could sleep after that?

The Carter Lodge grounds has a grill for public use, corn-hole toss boards, and lots of chairs on the lawn.  No doubt, a Fourth of July celebration would be spectacular.

It’s hard to say how old the lodge is, but if I had to guess from the ceiling tiles and the bathroom light, it must have been built in the 1950s. 

There was no door on the closet, sans the rod for the hangers; however, there is a platform for a small refrigerator.  There wasn’t a coffee maker or microwave and yet the owner asked if we brought a cooler.  Who would have suspected that the town would not be awake in April?  No coffee stands, no gas stations for miles and no drug store.  We were in a time warp.

We did eat at a “casual gourmet” bistro named Medina’s, which was wonderful.  Their brochure stated they were featured in Southern Living magazine, Charlotte Magazine, and National Geographic Traveler Magazine. This is a gem among the granite.  I tried to suck down as much coffee during breakfast as possible, knowing I’d never see another drop until I reached a civilized drive-thru, an hour away.

The whole purpose of visiting Chimney Rock State Park was to take a photography class.  Mission accomplished.  I learned a lot by trial and error and Scott acted as my bag handler and tripod whiz.  He told me, “I read the brochure.” 

He also told me, when he saw Chimney Rock from Medina’s restaurant, “You know I’m afraid of heights. I’m not going up there!”  As fate would have it, the 26-story elevator to the top was in repair and neither of us desired to climb an additional 200 stairs to reach the flagpole, so photos were taken elsewhere.


This was Scott’s first time there and I hadn’t been there since I was a preteen, so it was an adventure that perhaps we will repeat when all the buildings open for tourist season.  I will bring a cooler filled with Cokes, meat for the grill, and my own coffee maker. 

Until then, maybe we will solve the mystery of why the monolith is called Chimney Rock, and not an anatomical feature.  


May all your days be reminders of the past. Email me at aitken.helen@gmail.com
Have a great day.

Friday, April 18, 2014

What’s wrong with me today?

I'm having a time warp problem this week. 

I realized Scott and I will be driving to Chimney Rock, N.C. so that we can take a photography workshop and I needed to make "hotel" reservations.

He said, "I don't need the romantic cabin getaway package, but I'd like to take the pontoon boat ride on Lake Lure."  
It's easy to see his priorities.

I spent $320 so that he could eventually help me with some of my work.
He asked me, "What am I going to do there?"
I replied, "Take photos."
He said, "I'll just use your smart phone."
I said, "No, I just paid $160 for you to use a camera. You can learn to use my other Nikon camera and lenses."

Little does he know he is also going to carry all the bags, the tripods and lunch.

And, the lodge bedroom has fuchsia walls, Granny square comforters with lace edged pillows and curtains... He’s going to die.

Oh no! We leave next week, not day after tomorrow.  
This is so sad.

Let’s just remove this week from the calendar.

May all your days be the right day. I'd love to hear from you. Email me at aitken.helen@gmail.com


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Am I coming or going?

Sometimes I don't know whether I'm coming or going.  Literally.

Last week I was in Dayton, Ohio for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.  The conference packed in so much humor, and I made so many writer contacts- everyone should experience "work" in that way!
However, sleep deprivation eventually catches up with me; I crashed on Sunday, but dreamed of being funny.

Fast forward to this week's schedule:
Monday and Tuesday,start researching, interviewing and writing and get into that mode.
Wednesday (today) was supposed to be my day for visiting with alligators in Wilmington, N.C.  No, not for an article but to take a workshop for my Environmental Education certification and Teacher renewal credits.

It didn't seem like much of a transition going from one bite to the other...

In my absence of four days, the refrigerator and pantry emptied.  So I was stuck making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on hamburger rolls and finding sandwich bags for stale chips and mini pretzels. Luckily, Scott left me a Coke and a bottle of water.  I packed these and left them in the toaster oven, hoping that the dogs didn't find them first.

The weather here was so bad last night and Scott said, "There is no way you will get up at 6:00 am to drive 2 hours, to be at a workshop that will last all day, and then drive 2 more hours back home.  The weather isn't going to be any better.  Don't go."

I'm so glad I emailed the instructor about not going and slept until 8:00.  I checked my email; low and behold, the workshop is next Wednesday!

I really need a secretary.

And PB&J sandwiches for breakfast is pretty good.


Here's hoping you can manage your week better than me.  I'd love to hear from you, email me at aitken.helen@gmail.com.

Have a great day.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Latest Boat Building Article

Today's post isn't about my cats, dogs, son, husband or what I've done to myself, or was done to me that created a laugh.
Instead I thought you might show you what I usually do during the week; I write for boating magazines.

Most of the time I'm writing about boats, or something dealing with boats.  It can be about a festival, learning to build boats in the state of North Carolina, or about boat makers.  Whatever is interesting to me is generally good for the magazine All At Sea Southeast

Last month I wrote about a famous boat restorer, James Moores.  This month I write about a company that sells "kits" to people who want to finally build their own boat, with help, ENVIBOATS.  

I hope you read my article, and find it interesting, informative, and perhaps find a little humor in it.  Please read:
http://www.allatsea.net/enviboats-build-others-envy/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Weekly+ALL+AT+SEA&utm_content=Weekly+ALL+AT+SEA+CID_ef3ad6ed3d75b12d6cc0dc4ba8ac7c8e&utm_source=Campaign+Monitor&utm_term=ENVIBOATS+You+Build++Others+Envy


I'd love to hear what you think and you can always leave a comment on the site.  Otherwise, I hope you have a wonderful day.  aitken.helen@gmail.com