Opening Doors

It isn’t the same and I won’t pretend it is.  But last year has been on my mind, a lot lately.  Maybe it is because hurricane season is gearing up, but I’ve also heard some snarky comments like “if you think these families ought to be together, then why don’t you open your home.”  Little do they know that our home is always open to people who need a place to stay.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston last year, it was easy to post on Facebook that anyone who might be evacuating could come to our home and stay.  I knew no one would come.  No one did.  Then came Irma and I knew I had to do something.  This could be bad but did I really want a bunch of strangers in our home?  I emailed my cousins first and they were all fine.

We started hearing how there were no hotels in Georgia.  This was not going to be good.

So up went the Facebook post.

Now let me add an important part of this story.  Bob and I were leaving on Thursday for  Maine for a weekend writing workshop.  We were spending the weekend with some of my favorite people and that meant my daughter was going to be in charge.  Totally in charge of everything.  I left her a credit card.

Our first guest came on Wednesday.  He is an attorney in Ohio and his wife is a dear friend of mine.  They have a home in Florida and he had to get home.  There were no flights and there were no hotels.  He arrived late Wednesday night, we ordered a pizza for him, and we sat up late getting to know our new friend.

We left on Thursday and on Friday I got a Facebook message from someone asking whether we still had room.  I said yes and gave him Jodi’s phone number.  In hindsight, I can see how people would question my sanity.  I had no idea who these  people were.  We had no mutual friends and we have still not figured out how they got my contact information.  They had two elderly cats, and his son had been killed in Afghanistan.  His son’s birthday would have been on Sunday.  They had been to one hotel on the way up but it had bedbugs, so they had spent the night in their car.  Then they found us, through someone who knew someone who knew someone…

I got a message from Afghanistan on Saturday of the writing workshop.  “Do you still have room? My friend’s sister and her family needs to evacuate.”  I called him and told him yes, we would make room, and I called his friend and gave him Jodi’s information.  She took it from there and I went back to my writing workshop.  They arrived a few hours later, the husband and wife, their son, their son’s friend from college, and two small dogs.

My daughter texted me later and said that her friend from South Georgia needed to come, also, with her two children.  That whole friendship deserves its own blog post and I’ll just leave it at that.  We ended up with 15 people in our home, from three continents.

We took a chance and opened our doors.  We’d do it again.

Winning the Lottery

I won the lottery this week. Not the Georgia Lottery, but one even better than that.  I’d have to play the lottery to actually win, and I can’t really see the value in that.

This week, I got to spend time with my mom, I introduced one of our grandsons to one of our favorite books, I had a picnic with a new friend, I started physical therapy for my knee, I went on a walk with another new friend (or I tried), I saw a movie with Michael, AND I made another new friend.  The icing on the cake was finding out I could go to college in Georgia for free.  Age does have its privileges.  Can you imagine a better week?

Let’s start at the beginning.  My mom is always fun and anyone who knows us knows we love road trips.  We just came back from a successful road trip with Sloan, another grandson, and he liked our habit of listening to audiobooks on the road. With Jacob, a somewhat reluctant reader, we chose “Skink, No Surrender,” by Carl Hiassen.  Carl Hiassen is one of our favorite authors and even his books for young readers keep us entertained.  Jacob laughed the entire trip and even asked to turn on the phone when we got inside. He couldn’t get enough!

We got home Tuesday evening and on Wednesday morning I had an appointment.  This was where I met my new friend, Mike, in the most unlikely place. We had already talked on the phone and I knew he was very helpful, but when we met in person we clicked.  You can never have too many friends.  He’s a smart guy, a social worker, and I’m adding him to our Boxing Day party list.  Not just everyone goes on that list!  Thank you, Mike.  I never expected to find a new friend that day, especially when the next lady who came in acted like I was some kind of nut case.

This was a very quick trip and I’m on a diet so I got three barbecue sandwiches that I intended to ration carefully.  I ate one for supper on Tuesday and I knew both needed to be eaten on Wednesday, but there was no way.  When my friend Lawrence said the magic words, I suggested a picnic on Wednesday.  The weather was perfect and we ate under a big tree at Wesleyan College.  The company was outstanding, even though we were both eaten up by ants and I’m still itching.  If you know me very well, you know I don’t share my barbecue sandwiches with just anyone, so you know Lawrence must be a very special friend.

Paige Parker is the best physical therapist in the world.  If anyone can help my knee, Paige can.  She worked miracles with my shoulder.  I’m highly motivated, but she pushes.  I’m optimistic.  Getting an appointment brightened my mood.

The best laid plans don’t always work out, and the rain prevented my walk with Hal.   I have so much respect for Hal Brickle and his work with the weekend lunch and I couldn’t wait to walk with him, so off we went. We got to the stop sign, and down came the rain.  I hobbled back to the car and he ran a little faster.  J

As I said, the icing on the cake was finding out I can go to college for free at state schools in Georgia. I’m particularly interested in the history program at Middle Georgia College, perhaps the music program there, the theatre program at Georgia College in Milledgeville, or if I’m really serious about studying, economics at Georgia State University.  For $49 per course, I can even go to Emory University.  I could get a BSN at Middle Georgia College, but I think I’m over that.  I think I want to do something FUN!  I may be the only person, though, who thinks public policy and economics sounds like fun.

First, though, let’s get some money coming in on a more regular basis. But this has certainly been a fun week.

Tribute to an old friend

IMG_0109His name doesn’t matter.  I found an old resume of mine, and I’m talking really old, and he was listed as a reference.  We lost touch at least 33 years ago, but this dear friend was important enough to have been listed on my resume on my initial job searches in Atlanta.  He didn’t want me to move.

As soon as my mother reads this, she is going to call me.  “Who are you talking abou?”  I’m not going to tell her.  I’m not even going to talk about it any further.  I’m going to savor the memory of this friendship, 30+ years ago, and remember fondly a larger than life person who passed away in 2016.  Some memories should just be savored and maybe woven anonymously into a book or something.

Our first meeting was not was by chance.  Someone recommended I contact him.  He was a valuable resource.  He restored my self confidence and opened doors I couldn’t have opened alone.  I was in awe of him.  He couldn’t believe I was a commercial pilot and flight instructor, plus a nurse, and he respected my intelligence.  He was kind and generous and a gentleman.  I was vulnerable but he did not take advantage of that.  He was older but he treated me as an equal.  He respected my opinion.   He introduced me to jazz.

So many fond memories!  His faith in me empowered me and helped make me become the person I am today.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.  I will always remember that.

I found his obituary last night.  He was preceded in death by his wife of 27 years.  She came along 5 years after I left so I didn’t know her, but I wish I had. He was a good person  was well remembered by all.

Rest in peace, my friend.

The Saga of the Sink, or Why I Believe in Design

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a low threshold for certain normal things.  I can handle a jet or a DC-3 losing an engine, but household things confound me.  What to wear is a huge decision.  I’m not good at it. I am easily overwhelmed by choices and decisions that a normal person might easily make, or even enjoy making.  I enjoyed these decisions when we built our last home, but we’ve moved to Macon and life has changed. I know my limits.

It was a leak in the kitchen faucets and mold that sent me over the edge.  I was calm at first, as we cleaned everything out of the cabinet.  I thought this was a repeat of our last leak, which was covered by our insurance, so I called that contractor.  The guy came out, removed the kick plate under the cabinet, and our sink fell down.  The contractor immediately denied responsibility and said this was a different leak.  I didn’t feel like fighting but when the sink crashed down, I lost it.

My husband is the kindest, most patient person in the world.  He took charge.  When we got to Lowe’s to find a replacement sink and faucet, there were too many choices. My eyes glazed over and Bob sensed a meltdown in my future. “You know, we should just call Bonnie.  She’ll know what to do.”  I married better than I deserve.

Bonnie Dowling is my friend.  We met at church and I trust her.  She has transformed our home and has saved us money.  She’s saved me time and my sanity.  She is a stunning individual, beautiful inside and out.  She’s smart and she’s talented, and she is always color coordinated.  I wish I had that talent. I trust her.

I believe in interior design.  I’ve tried doing things on my own, but Bob repainted the master bath three times in three years.  That’s pushing the limits of a very good and patient husband.  Bonnie helped me narrow down the color choices from the 4 million paint colors out there (and the crazy names!) to three.  I didn’t want to live in a box of crayons, though I love color.  Bob was happy to paint once more, but he drew the line at repainting every year.

Bonnie took charge and I could relax.

It hasn’t been easy.  Who knew there were so many different kinds of sinks?  One bowl, two bowls, lower center division so you can wash large pans?  Then you get into how many holes do you want for faucets and dispensers.  One?  Two?  Three?  And what do you want the holes for?  Soap?  Hot water?  Two controls for water, or one?  Do you want a sprayer?  If you want a sprayer, do you want it separate or part of the faucet?  Bonnie is a superhero.  Who knew there were all of these options and decisions?

Our home was built in 1996 and our sink is larger than normal, and we couldn’t have gotten one from Lowe’s anyway. No one sells a sink that fits the hole in the countertop.  A new sink with countertop modifications would have set off my husband’s defibrillator.  The best option was to use the old sink with its three holes and replace the faucet and sprayer.

Bonnie’s strategy was brilliant.  She sent me no more than five choices for anything.  This was more manageable than the 10,478 on build.com.  I chose one and then we had to figure out what to do with the rest of the holes in the sink.  That was relatively easy.  A hot water dispenser and a soap dispenser will fill in these other holes.  A piece of cake.

Compared to the sink, the cabinets were easy even though the cabinets themselves had been discontinued.  Bonnie had a super cabinet maker who was able to replicate everything.  No problem.  He could also remove our trash compactor and  give us additional cabinet space.

We received Bonnie’s bill for January today, and it took her only 5.5 hours to do what it would have taken me weeks to do.  She’s a pro.  She’s allowed me to focus on what I do best, growing my business and loving my family.  It has been stress-free.

I believe in design.  This isn’t a paid announcement or commercial of any kind, but just an affirmation following a bad experience fixed by a good designer.  It is an affirmation of friendship and respect for someone who knows what she is doing.  It is a statement of respect for a profession whose members provide a great benefit to their customers.  As I have told my children many times, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  A good designer can save time and money.

Disaster averted.

 

 

In memory of my friend

There’s a hole in the universe tonight.

Rich Rusk was a dear friend.  We fought for social justice with Come To The Table and with the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee.  We went to Rock Hill to meet a reformed Klansman.  We went fly fishing.  We held our own private remembrance services for Sam Hose, in Newnan.  This was an active friendship.  We didn’t just sit around and tell stories about Alaska.

True friends don’t come around very often, but Rich and I were fast friends from the day we met.

Rich came to Newnan with representatives from Southern Truth and Reconciliation and the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee to talk about the Sam Hose lynching in Newnan, which occurred in 1899.  Someone was so concerned that Come To The Table was discussing Sam Hose that they called the sheriff.  Undaunted by the presence of law enforcement, Rich shared the story of the Moore’s Ford massacre and how the memorial committee sought reconciliation in the Athens area.  He thought we should do something similar to commemorate the lynching of Sam Hose.  We met at the lynching site each April 23 to say a prayer and leave flowers.   We would remember, whether anyone else did or not.

Rich was a writer.  He called his first book, “As I Saw It”, a tape-recorder book but anyone who knew Rich could hear his voice.  He wrote this book with his father, Dean Rusk, who served as Secretary of State under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.  He said he wanted to write another book.  He also wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail and made it through several sections.

Rich was passionate about the environment and he loved fly fishing.  He enrolled Bob and me in a course at UGA so we could learn, too.  He knew we would love fly fishing. He and Janice took us to a Trout Unlimited banquet.  We took one trip to Blue Ridge to fish, in December, in the snow.  I’m a girly girl, but I put on waders and went out in the river.  I prayed I wouldn’t have to touch a fish, though I loved standing in the river, in the snow.  Bob caught a fish, but he didn’t want to touch it, either.

Rich loved anything outdoors.  There was one Saturday where he and Bob left Janice and me at their home to review the Moore’s Ford scholarship applications.  Janice and I had a fun day inside while Bob and Rich kayaked down the river.  Bob rolled his kayak and lost his glasses, and that trip was ever after known as the time Rich tried to drown Bob.  We were always kidding around.

Then there was the trip to Rock Hill to meet Elwin Wilson.  We loaded up in Rich’s van and drove to South Carolina, fascinated by the idea that someone who had done so many terrible things could reform and make peace.  We wanted to enlist Elwin’s help in getting the FBI to reopen the Moore’s Ford case.  We were successful in getting the case reopened, but no arrests were ever made.  Rich never gave up.

Rich was passionate about the environment and climate change.  He called a couple of years ago and said he was riding a bicycle from Athens to somewhere in south Georgia, with Waymund Mundy and two other people.  I thought he was kidding but we invited them to spend the night at our home.  I don’t think any of them made it the whole way on the bikes, but it was a fun evening.

When my friend was moving to Athens for graduate school, I called Rich in hopes he would have a rental that would work for her.  He didn’t, but he made some good suggestions.  That would be the last time I would speak with him.

My mother is at the age where she goes to a funeral every Saturday.  I’m just not ready for that.  I’m not ready to be old.

Rest in peace, my friend.  We will miss you.

Remembering

“Four shirts, four pairs of pants, a snow machine suit, and I’m still cold.”  Thus began my journal, on this this day in 2000. I was in Fairbanks, Alaska, flying a 1946 McDonald Douglas DC-4 delivering fuel to remote villages.  This contract pilot stent may very well be the craziest thing I’ve ever done and sometimes I still can’t believe I actually did it.

Why was I in Alaska?  Money.  Insanity.  Opportunity.  Adventure.  I already had a class date with Netjets of February 8, 2000.  I had sold my flight school and would finally get the airline job I had coveted for 30 years, and I really had nothing to do.  A month in Alaska would help me cover the gap.

I got my DC-4 experience flying night freight for Custom Air Charter out of Hampton, GA.  Not many people want to fly 60 year old airplanes, at night, without radar and at fairly low altitudes. Bob McSwiggan’s attitude was that radar “only scares the pilots.”  He was the owner, and besides owning a freight airline he is a tap dancer!  But that’s a story for another day.  The photo is not the DC-4 that I flew, but you get the idea.  In Atlanta, I flew the Carvair conversion, which you can see here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FfOmlb4SAU.

Flying a DC-4 was romantic and exciting, but it was hard work and sometimes dirty work.  The radial engines leaked oil and sometimes quit unexpectedly, but I loved those R-2000 engines.  On the ground, you had to climb on the wing and put a stick in the fuel tanks to confirm the fuel levels. In the air, you had to keep your eyes on the gauges and periodically pump oil to the engines. The instruments in the cockpit were appropriate for the 1940s.  It was just plain fun.

I got a call from a pilot friend in December to fill in for one of the pilots for Brooks Fuel in Fairbanks.  There aren’t a lot of qualified DC-4 pilots and initially I said no.  He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse –  I would be guaranteed 8 hours a day flying time, a ridiculous hourly rate, a generous per diem, plus a place to stay.  Off I went.

The place they gave me was so dirty that I washed my feet in the sink after I took a shower.  I lived off chicken pot pies that I could heat in the microwave.  The high one day was a whopping -17 degrees and another was -20, but I saw spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis and I went to places you won’t see on an Alaskan cruise.  Cruises won’t take you to Beaver, Kobuk, or Alakaket.  We flew kerosene, gasoline, and propane.  When we weren’t flying fuel, we’d fly snow machines to these same remote villages.

I learned a lot on that trip, and will now summarize a few of those lessons:

  1. There are no words to describe the beauty of the Northern Lights, especially when you are that far north and that far away from civilization.
  2. Boots certified to 40 below don’t really work that well past -10.
  3. Always take shower shoes. If you can’t eat in the kitchen, you really don’t want to put your bare feet in the shower, either.
  4. People who live in remote villages work on a different timetable than those of us who like cities.  They won’t accept fuel during lunch hour or on weekends, but they’ll take a snow machine whenever you can get it there.
  5. When you’re in a different place with a different culture, don’t expect to feel perfectly at home. It takes an effort and you need to respect them.  When a native decides to give you a baseball cap, accept it with kindness and treasure it.
  6. A 2300’runway, covered in snow with mountains on either side, is a challenge when empty, but even more when the aircraft weighs about 50,000 pounds.
  7. Appreciate your ground crew. They are the ones who get to the airport at 0400 to put heating blankets on the engines.  Without them, you wouldn’t fly.  You don’t like to get up that early and you know you don’t like being that cold.
  8. To expand on #7, appreciate everyone and everything around you. We’re all in this world together so let us work together to make it a better place.  Together, we can.
  9. Remember this. Whatever it is, you can do this.  Whatever your situation, it is not worse than -27 and no ladies restroom (actually, no restroom) in Anektuvuk Pass, Alaska.  It will get better.  You will get to warmer weather.
  10. Look at life as an adventure. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and experience life and to meet new people.  Maybe you’ll learn something and maybe you will gain a new perspective.

Finding these pages from my journal was a tremendous treat.  Sitting here warm and safe in our home in Macon, Georgia, I can’t believe I actually did it.  Am I the same person who took off that day for the trip of a lifetime?   Would I do it again?

I just don’t know.

Reflections

As we move into the New Year and our commitments to our New Year’s resolutions fade, I intend to make 2018 the best year ever.  The lessons we learned during Hurricane Irma and during my recovery from rotator cuff surgery have caused us to refocus and really engage with the people around us.  That’s my only resolution.  Engage.

We were thrown for a loop in September when my recovery required more time off than we expected.  The disability insurance company disagreed with my doctor on work restrictions, so I’ve been without a paycheck for a significant amount of time.  While we weren’t able to give extravagant gifts this year, one of our grandsons said that my presence was his best present ever. Quite honestly, I have enjoyed being able to totally engage with family, without the demands of work being constantly on my mind.

We were all set a quiet for Christmas until we received a phone call from a judge’s office on December 23.  The judge wanted to know where someone could go for Christmas dinner.  We weren’t sure, so we all said, “we will feed them!”  This was just the first step in what would turn out to be a very special holiday experience.  The judge gave us the information and we set out to help this family.

The man had lost his job and his truck.  He told us he just wanted to give his wife a Christmas tree and that it didn’t matter whether there were any decorations; a tree would be fine.  After some prodding, we found out a little more about the family and their needs, and we went about arranging for some nice surprises that would brighten their holiday.  Several friends contributed so that everyone in their family received gifts and had a delicious Christmas dinner.

Just when I thought we could relax, my daughter asked us to help hang curtains at Camp Twin Lakes, a camp for children with special needs.  The camp was replacing the window blinds in all of the cabins with fabric curtains.  Corded window blinds are the cause of about 25 preventable childhood deaths per year, and the death of Elsie Mahe has brought this danger to the forefront.  Elise’s father is the former NFL running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, Reno Mahe.  My daughter arranged for the fabric and the labor to sew 450 curtains in the cabins at this camp.  How she did this is beyond me, but there are some very generous people out there who were willing to help.

On New Year’s Eve, the six of us went to Rutledge, Georgia, to hang the 144 curtains that were ready.  It was a cold, wintry day, and there was no cell service at the camp.  The cabins had heat, but no television and no wireless coverage.  We were forced to connect with each other.  Everyone had a task and we focused on what we were supposed to be doing. Even our four-year-old granddaughter had a job and the time flew by.   As we talked and walked through the woods, without the distractions of electronics, I couldn’t help but reflect on the special gift of this day.  That we were all working together on a huge project was a great gift, perhaps the best gift of the season.

As we begin 2018, I invite you to look for opportunities to step outside and help someone else.  Whether you choose to volunteer somewhere or donate to a food pantry, serving others in a volunteer setting can help you gain confidence and make a difference, or even learn new skills.  It is even good for your health.