Thursday, May 31, 2012


What to do when you are trying to stick to a budget and the urge for some "retail therapy" strikes?  Well, Kate and I decided to go to Home Depot and buy a couple of fancy house keys.   

We threw ourselves into the project and even attempted to buy Jer a Star Wars key, which I believe would have provided him with hours of amusement as well as an endless source of trivial conversation as well, but the blank didn't fit our door key type so he was out of luck.  I ended up buying three keys.  Katie chose a leopard print, I picked a tie-dyed one and since I happened to have Mary Ann's house key with me*, we bought her a fancy brown key with hot pink polka dots. When Mr. Home Depot guy was finished duplicating, he gave me back both of the dull, original keys and I stuck them in my pocket.  The entire purchase was well under ten dollars, a success by any budgeter's standards. 

(*Clarification:  I don't usually run around with other people's keys, but Mary Ann has been up north on an extended visit and I have been on cat duty.) 

Back at home, I grabbed the key out of my pocket, put it on a huge keyring and hung it by our front door so that when I go for walks, I can just grab it and go - and that's exactly what I did after supper when Katie and Jerry left to do some errands.
After my evening stroll I saw Mary Ann was finally back, so I stopped in to hear about her trip and presented her with her new key - which is adorable in every way and was suitably admired by its new owner.  It was only after I'd hiked back down to our place and tried to get in that I realized the key that I had put on my big-honking keyring wasn't to my front door, but was the original key to Mary Ann's door. 

So there I was, locked out of my house.  Kate's car was parked in the driveway and had the garage door opener in it, but it was locked too.  I was out of luck.   I  sat out on the deck for a while. It  was drizzling out and mosquitoes were buzzing but, on the whole, it wasn't a bad place to be.   Still, I had hoped to use this free time to catch up on some reading and my books were inside.  I decided to break in. 

I walked around the lower level to see if any windows were unlocked.  BINGO!  One was and (BONUS!) it didn't even have a screen on it.  I pushed and shoved and tried, without success, to open it.  Now I'm the first to admit that my mechanical aptitude is nil, but burglars make it look so easy. It's not though - at least not for me. (I have no doubt that Jerry could have opened that window in under sixty seconds.  This knowledge only made me feel more incompetent.)

Having totally and completely failed at Plan A, I defaulted to Plan B - go get my spare key from Mary Ann.  I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner!  Soon I was letting myself in, just in time to see Jer and Kate turning into our driveway. 

That evening when I was getting ready for bed I found Kate's old front door key in my pocket.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

From the Sky

Katie was feeling pretty good about her choice to move here because we'd just finished picking a gallon and a half of plump, delicious blueberries.  We came home and she decided to grill herself some chicken while I made a salad. 

About two minutes later, I heard a blood-curdling scream.  I went tearing down the stairs in Mother-mode and calculated how long she'd been on the deck, thinking up worst-case scenarios - like the propane tank exploding for example.

As I rounded the corner and stepped onto the deck, I fully expected to see part of the house engulfed in flames, or something equally as dramatic.  What I saw instead was a very animated Kate dancing around and waving her arms.  The look on her face was sheer horror. 

"A giant slug fell from the sky right onto the grill." she explained.  "Now I am teetering on the edge of whether or not I can live here."

I've decided to add a fresh fruit salad for supper too - blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, and throw in a little bit of watermelon from Florida, too.  Maybe that will tilt the teeter totter back in our direction.  If not, maybe a shopping trip would do the trick...

First-of-season blueberries
What I'm not going to tell her about are the skinks, Palmetto bugs, chameleons, black widow spiders, brown recluses or even about the various assorted flavors of poisonous snakes we have here. 

It's taken me a lifetime to arrive at this conclusion: some things are better left unsaid.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Airplane Rides

I don't like creepy airplane noises.  When the bell dings twice and the cabin stewards run up the aisle to the cockpit, intellectually I know that the captain probably only wants a cup of coffee, but I still get nervous.

My first airplane trip took place when I was eighteen years old. I was flying from Michigan to Texas and my parents were so worried about the transfer in Chicago that my father flew with me to O'Hare Airport then flew back home after he'd escorted me onto the proper flight.

From the start I have been a skittish passenger, but some years ago I found myself on a cross-country flight that was the scariest, most turbulent trip of my life. The plane was pitching and roiling and my stomach was churning. Every time we lurched, I got more frightened.  And then things deteriorated.  It was at that time I promised God that if he could only see his way clear to get me safely home to my babies, I would never fly again.  Never!  And I meant it, too. 

Time passed.  The kids grew up, our son moved out west, our daughter had our first grandchild up north and we moved down south.  Suddenly, not only am I flying, but I'm flying on tickets paid for by frequent flier miles.  Don't get me wrong, I still don't like creepy airplane noises and turbulence still makes me crazy scared, but when I get to choose between thirteen hours riding in the car and an hour and a half gliding through the sky, well, I'll pick the airplane every time.

I can almost hear God laughing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Monday Morning List

The FLYLADY (Marla Cilley) has a website dedicated to assisting people like me gain control of their housework monsters.  I love, love, love her system because when I use it, it works.  It's a strict routine using a timer, based upon a book called Sidetracked Home Executives.  I can strongly identify with the "sidetracked" part of the title, with the "executive" part, not so much.

Every Monday morning I get up and make a "to do" list of things I want to get done by noon.  Then I get distracted and end up doing something totally different.  Every Monday.  This is my routine.  I don't need to make a list on Tuesday or on any other day either, because I haven't finished my Monday morning list.  I could just call it my "Things to do this Week" list, but pride prevents me from admitting that it will take me five days to do what ought to be accomplished in four hours and I love the optimism of thinking that someday - someday - I might finish my Monday morning list on the same Monday morning.

Today, Katie noticed my Monday list on the counter, which is a minor miracle in itself because usually by Thursday the scrap piece of paper that I wrote the list on has either mysteriously vanished or gotten wet and is stuck to the counter, an illegible mess. 

"Holy Hannah!" she said.  "How many hours do you have in your day, girl?"  This was right before we both spent forty-five minutes searching for my purse, which we finally found hanging on the knobs of our bookshelf doors, camouflaged in plain sight.

I wonder if FLYLADY has a section on her website for slow learners.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Love and Sunshine

My youngest daughter bathes in sunshine.  She basks in it.  A sunny day is to her as a glorious, crisp, fall day is to me.  Her mood is elevated.  Things just seem to go better on a bright, sunny day.

For the last nine years, Katie has lived in the second cloudiest city in the United States.  All through that time, she's dreamt of the day when she would move into the sunshine.  That day came last Thursday when she packed her car up with all her worldly possessions and headed south.  She arrived at her destination after dark.

During the night, it began to rain and Friday dawned, gray and drizzly.  Saturday crept in wearing gray tones and didn't change her clothes all day.  Sunday, rain.  Monday, torrents.  Isn't that just the way things go?  You're expecting one thing and get the opposite.  

Katie rummaged through her stuff and pulled out a sweatshirt to wear while wondering out loud if donating her fleece jacket had been such a good idea.  We both started carrying an umbrella with us when we stepped outside.  Today started out to be another gloomy day too, but then finally, mid-afternoon, out popped the sun and blue skies returned.  

Patience pays off and finally Kate was smiling.  Then we got the weather alert.  Severe thunderstorm and flash flood watch until 10:00 p.m. 

April showers bring May flowers everywhere but in South Carolina.  Here it's May showers bring, well, rain.

Welcome home, Katie.  
Beautiful April flowers

Friday, May 11, 2012

Flea-market Find

A couple of years ago when we were at a low ebb financially, we had an urgent need for a mattress.  Being the shrewd shopper that I am, I hunted down a cheap one at a perpetual flea market near us.  It was only $219 (including tax) and came with a five year warranty.  What was I thinking?  We actually bought a mattress set at a flea market.  Seriously.  Although the thought did occur to me that the warranty was virtually useless, the price certainly was right so Jerry strapped those suckers to the roof of our car and off we rode.

Ever wake up feeling like you've spent the night sleeping in a cardboard box?  The next morning I wanted to be shaken out, uncrumpled and given a good ironing.  And things got worse.  Over the next few months whenever we sat down on the mattress, we would hear sprongy noises and sometimes in the night we'd hear sounds suspiciously like wood splintering.  Turns out buying the flea market mattress set was not our finest hour.  Go figure!

As time progressed, fortune again smiled upon us and we decided to purchase a new mattress and relegate the flea market find to the guest room.  This time we purchased a memory foam knock-off from an internet site.  It came vacuum packed and when we opened the plastic, it exploded into the mattress that we know and love to this very day.

Now that I was once more enjoying blissful slumber, I began to feel guilty about our guests' visits.  We shop at all the high class places (I guess that's obvious by now) and at one of them we found a piece of one-and-a-half inch memory foam padding, which we bought for the handsome fee of $29.99.  Nothing's too good for our friends and family.  Imagine my surprise when our visitors started telling us how well they slept!
Kids can sleep anywhere!
The story ought to end there but it doesn't.  When we moved south, we realized that our beautiful bed with its antique headboard would not fit into the master bedroom of a house built in the 2000's.  We were forced to put it - with its wonderful internet memory foam - in our guest room in the basement. 

So now guess what we're sleeping on again?  I'm pretty sure that some night Jerry is going to roll over and the box springs will implode underneath us, but until then I'm sure happy to have that inch and a half of foam between me and the flea market mattress.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I'm Never Alone

Jerry has been away on business this week which means that I am all alone, or I would be if I didn't live at "The Zimmermans' Animal Spa and Wildlife Refuge."

We find bird-watching entertaining and have three feeders and a block of suet hanging off the roof of our front porch.  Right now both a bluebird and a red-headed woodpecker are snacking out there.  A cardinal is watching and waiting for his turn to swoop in.  A whole lot of whistling is going on and birds - lots of birds - are pooping on our deck and stairs, of this there is little doubt.

Earlier, one of (God only knows how) many squirrels was visiting the feeders.  Chasing squirrels from bird feeders is an exercise in futility so I don't. The birds don't seem to mind sharing, so why should I?  Plus, squirrels are fun to watch.  They are the trapeze artists in the cirque du soliel of the animal kingdom.

In the evening an old raccoon with a gray muzzle lumbers up the stairs and checks to see if the birds left any seeds uneaten.  Often he will stand up on his hind legs, put his front paws on the windows and stare inside.  He doesn't seem disturbed at all that we are sitting less than a yard away.

Just moments ago I looked out the window to my side yard and saw a young deer standing in my terraced flower bed eating a newly planted bush.  Out of the entire woods, this is where he chooses to munch.  When he saw me he gave me the "what?" look.  He knew he was being naughty and he knew I knew it too.  I used to see that exact look on our children's faces when I caught them involved in questionable activities, too.

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I heard a blood-curdling cry like some  poor creature was being stabbed to death right underneath my window.  I didn't bother to get up and look out.  We live in the woods; it's dark here at night.   (This is not my first rodeo.)  When we heard these noises before, Jerry researched them on the internet.  The cries are either from an owl or a fox.  Surprisingly they sound a lot alike.   

Now there are two deer in my flowerbed...

...and people wonder why I don't watch t.v.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Another Day on the Road

Something funny happened to my husband today and I decided to allow him to be my first guest writer and post his story on this blog.  Enjoy!

                                                     *  *  *

Another Day on the Road
Edward J. Zimmerman

Those of you who know me also know that I drive a lot, always have.  As such, it's not surprising that things happen me ...because of me - while I'm on the road. 

Friends and relatives alike also understand that

     1) my fuse can be frustratingly short

     2) I don't always exhibit the greatest level of:

          a) compassion
          b) empathy
          c) sympathy
          d) pick any other noun associated with kindness

I'm working on both numbers 1 and 2 but my attempts at improving these attributes are more than likely going to spill over into my next life.

Swimming Upstream blog readers might want to print posts entitled "Another Charleston Story" and "Tempting Fate" for handy reference during this story.

This evening I was heading home from a day in Greenville driving north on I-85 and participating on a conference call with co-workers. Yes, it was on hands-free. (Thank you for asking, Chris.)  I had been engaged in the conversation for a while and it was lively.  As the call was winding down I realized that I was gaining quickly on the vehicle in front of me and I glanced at my speedometer (see "Tempting Fate.") 

Fearing I had inadvertantly been mashing (yes, mashing, I live in South Carolina now) the accelerator, I quickly backed off but realized I was only going 45 mph to begin with. I wrapped up the phone call, mumbled bad words about the guy in the car ahead, sped up, moved into the left lane to pass, and the guy moved over in front of me.  More bad words.  Now going 50 mph, I carefully moved back to the right lane again. Again he moved in front of me. Now I'm thinking, hey, maybe during the phone call I inadvertantly cut this dude off or something; maybe it's not him, maybe it's me? 

I started to feel a little guilty, just a little, not that much really, hardly noticable. Another quarter mile passes and we're still going 45 but I notice his right turn signal is on. Hey, perhaps he's trying to signal me (see "Another Charleston Story.")  I take the next exit, pull into a Denny's and check the kayaks (yes, they'e always up there) but they're fine.  Bad words are spilling out again - I can't stop them, it's how I am.  I think about that car, a blue Impala, Michigan license plate.  Go back home, Yankee dog!

Now I'm heading back north again on I-85.  I turn on the radio and my phone rings. It's a South Carolina number but I don't recognize it.  I answer and it's my neighbor Dave.

"Whatcha doin?" he asks.

"Just driving around Greenville," I reply.

Before he speaks again my Cray supercomputer-like brain starts cranking. He works for a manufacturer out of Michigan, drives a company car, a blue Impala. More bad words and I ask if that was him in front of me.

"Why would I be driving 45 mph on an expressway?" he laughs.  Even more bad words.  He said he was heading through Greenville, looked up the road a mile and noticed a goofball with one blue and one orange kayak on top of his car. "Hey, it's Jerry Zimmerman up there."

I'm guessing he was bored.

BTW Dave: Congratulations on the big order, jackass.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


In the inky evening when the world is darkening rapidly, the last thing you should be doing is strolling down a street with no sidewalks, right?  I find myself in that very situation more than I'd like to admit and always regret my wardrobe choice - usually some version of khaki capris and a gray tee-shirt,  rendering me virtually invisible, especially to the five out of every seven drivers who are  talking on their cell phones.  (That number is 100% accurate.  I watched seven cars speed by and five drivers were on the phone, no joke.)  More likely than not, I am forced to jump into the English ivy to save myself even though I have  often been told that it's the Motel Six of the snake kingdom. 

Are snakes lurking in the ivy?

Just last week I was out walking with Mary Ann as twilight fell.  We were power-walking past a yard full of ivy when something (we couldn't see what) suddenly hissed loudly and jumped out at us.  Terror froze me to the spot!  In the heat of the moment I panicked and belted out a scream worthy of a horror movie.  In the same split second, I grabbed Mary Ann with both hands.  (I thought I heard a little sympathy yowl from her direction but I can't swear it wasn't because I was squeezing her too tightly.) 

In a flash, the man who owned the house came tearing outside to see what the
commotion was all about, no doubt envisioning carnage.  Instead, what he found was two screaming ladies standing in the puddle of water that his automatic sprinklers had made on the first squirt of their cycle.

Was my face red?  Was Mary Ann's arm bruised?  It would have been hard to tell because by now it was too dark to see.