From Louisiana to Walnut Mountain – It’s vacation time! Part 1

We’ve been on vacation this past week. It started off with a bang – literally, and not in a good way. We were only about twenty miles from home and were going through a school zone when a man came running through the traffic waving his arms shouting, “Stop. A cop’s been shot!”

IMG_3010We were just moments behind the flying bullets which took down a deputy. He was shot in the eye, arm, and chest. Even with these injuries, he managed to get off a few shots at the assailant. When traffic was finally released and we passed the scene, five shots were noticeable in the truck’s windshield.

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While we sat in the middle of the highway only a few hundred yards away, but still in range of bullets, police and first responders swarmed in. We had a front row seat to the assailant being taken down by the police.

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What made the scene even more eerily, is this happened in a small town where I attended school as a child and the bus I rode turned in to the school in this very spot. Back then, this was unheard of. When crossing guards motioned for you to stop, you stopped. You didn’t get mad, flee the scene and return with a gun.

After an hour delay, we were on our way to New Orleans. We had just cleared New Orleans East when we came upon two company trucks, pulling road warning signs of all things. I say this because the driver of the second truck was busy texting and in the process wasn’t paying too much attention to how close he was getting to the truck in front of him. Although they were hauling road caution signs, they were not displaying much caution.

People texting while driving really irks me. While hubby drove along side the truck, I looked up the company name on my phone. Once we had the truck number, I phoned in to speak to the safety manager. He was a little surprised at the information we were able to provide. He asked what the driver looked like so he could be sure he spoke to the correct person. We not only provided a description of the driver, but the mile post, direction, time, and truck information.

The safety manager said that he was sure that the driver would deny the accusation, but also remarked that where there was smoke, there was normally fire and with the information we provided, he wouldn’t be able to easily weasel out of the problem. I guess when the driver decided to text, he wasn’t expecting a trooper to be watching. The safety manager thanked us for the information and told us he was glad we had called in.

I think we were heading through Alabama (from Louisiana) when we came across this on the interstate. I couldn’t resist clicking a picture.

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It’s not often you see this!

Our trip originated in Southern Louisiana and we traveled through Mississippi, Alabama, and then Georgia on this trip on our way to the Smokey Mountains in Northern Georgia. You see a lot of strange things out there on the interstate!

We headed through a rainstorm that insisted on following us part of the way north.

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With the morning delay, by the time we made it to Atlanta, we hit work traffic. It was a mess. I’ll never forget the first time I experienced Atlanta traffic. It was years ago. We came off of an overpass and around a curve and saw eight lanes of stalled traffic.

This was only six lanes wide.

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North of Atlanta, we ran into more rain as we headed into the mountains.

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Even with all the delays and weather, we still ended up arriving at Walnut Mountain before dark – just! These photos were taken on the mile drive up to the top of the mountain. This is actually a very steep incline.

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The fog rolled in as we reached the top.

I invite you to stay tuned for more of our adventures!

*Update – On the trip home as I was checking on the condition of the deputy that was shot, I stumbled across the name of the shooter. My heart skipped a beat when I realized that it was someone that I attended school with for five years. It is hard to reconcile the individual who picked up a gun and shot at another human being with someone I knew so long ago. Proves once again, it’s a small, small world.

Lenten reflections along the bayou

10980743_10204674666940914_9078032255017558502_nI was bound and determined today to sit down and just write. It’s something I’ve been feeling the need to do and not having the time to do. It’s Lent for anyone who is Catholic and a time of reflection; at least that seems to be the theme of the homilies at church these days.

I don’t know if I just didn’t understand exactly what reflection was, or just wasn’t in a place to reflect. That statement will no doubt resonate with only those who have been in a state of flux as I have been. So much in my life is unsettled and will remain that way indefinitely. I think that is what makes reflection difficult for me. To reflect means thinking back on some of the most painful parts of my life, and while it may be helpful to work my way through those parts, it is truly not possible. There are missing parts and people who are needed to work through those parts. It is not only my healing that is needed.

I have been reflecting on what a mess parts of my life have been. I do not think that as children, we think about growing up and looking back on our lives trying to figure out what was truth and what was not. Sadly, this past year has been one of many revelations; most of them not good.

I’ll probably be writing more on reflection later, but for now, on to the “lighter” side of life.

IMG_7216If you follow my blog, you know that I have two beautiful West German Shepherds. They are my two loves! Calypso seems to have her own “Lucy” moments, like her mistress!

Hubby wanted to have chickens and so he built a chicken coop. All I did was warn him, the chickens had better be secure as Calypso (and Ryka) were here first.

We weren’t going to start with the chickens so soon, but a friend of Hubby’s wanted to get rid of a few of his so it jumped started the process. He quickly built a coop of his own design and instead of the six he 10437011_10204634538937739_4468608345729621289_nwas hoping to house, he ended up with nine chickens. Well, there’s a saying that goes something to this effect – “You get what you speak into your life…” Well, he’s been saying that he might have to give three away if they start fighting because he really only wanted six and built the coop for six.

10968366_10204665585233877_115202294979787255_n…and then there were eight. Hubby built the pen on skids so he could pull (see the chain?) it around the yard with the tractor so the chickens would have fresh grass. He pulled and parked it one night, not noticing that it sat on uneven ground. That was all that chicken needed! It bypassed the barbed wire along the bottom and out and about it went. Didn’t take long for Calypso to spot it – I wasn’t there but I know my dog VERY well. It looked like a chicken feather plucking contest in the back yard. The chicken was confiscated from Ryka and Calypso in the front yard. It wasn’t in good shape from what I heard.

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Calypso has been spending an in ornate amount of time in the kennel as of late. It seems as though all I need to do is walk out of the back door, and they head to the kennel. The chickens have gotten used to Calypso running around and around and around the coop. Even after three weeks, she still finds them fascinating. She loves the excitement of making them fly. Ryka sometimes joins in, but for the most part is content to sit and watch between naps.

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punished again

…and then there were seven. Hubby really should have known better on this one. He didn’t put the dogs in the kennel before going to the coop. He opened the door and a chicken saw a dog and a dog saw a chicken stepping out, and that was all it took. Calypso made a move and the second chicken was confiscated in the front yard. This one was still in good condition as Hubby chased Calypso and grabbed it. However, it was dead. Hubby cleaned this one and put it to cook.

11024741_10204777419989676_228312288507037972_nI learned a few fascinating things with this chicken – one, there was a soft egg that the chicken would have laid the next day. Call me silly, but I didn’t grow up on a farm and never gave an egg much thought other than the fact it came in a carton at the market. Two, old chickens taste and smell horrible. While Hubby was chowing down on chicken stew, I had to shove my bowl away. I am extremely taste and texture sensitive. It was awful!

There are still seven chickens to date and I informed Hubby that if he would like for it to stay that way, he had better begin speaking it into his life, as in “I always wanted seven chickens!”

I learned an inter1503605_10204834745302773_2743525273453174456_nesting trick this week. I saw this on Facebook. What would we do if not for Facebook. It is such a wealth of information! (laughing) I boiled a dozen eggs the other night and tried this technique out.  After the eggs were boiled and slightly cooled, I put them one at a time into a mason jar. I filled the jar with tap water to about the height of the egg, capped it, and then shook it viciously. The egg pealed itself! I kid you not!  I was so excited and making such a commotion that Hubby ran to see what I was doing. After that, it was a fight to see who was going to peel eggs. Why I didn’t just give him his own jar is beyond me.10891466_10204834747222821_4502341357018315688_n

10984478_10204653276526167_2843587863359547188_nAnd, being the Lucy that I am, what would a week be if I didn’t cut or burn myself at least once! I have no clue how I did this, especially since I was being careful, but I managed to make a connection with a knife right at the knuckle. Hubby did a great job of bandaging it in a way so that it stayed immobile to it could heal. The cut probably needed stitches, but I’d rather suffer. It has finally healed but looks like I have an extra ripple. Oh well. Doesn’t look any worse than the arthritis on my fingers.

I have friends who home school and this semester Hubby is teaching a farming course to them. They are gardening in our back yard. It should be quite interesting for the kids. They planted seeds and are documenting their growth through germination, planting and harvest.

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Calypso and Ryka each get a “cookie” in the morning. The difference in personalities is so great and really comes through in the little moments. This is each of them waiting for me to hand them their cookie.

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Ryka, ever the patient one, and Calypso in her “I want it and I want it NOW” way. She is the wild child. She lives life to the fullest. I guess I should be glad she’s a dog and not a kid.

I love taking pictures and while I was out walking a couple of days back, I took some shots of what I refer to as “Around my yard” on Instagram. You can follow @SouthernCharmPlanner if you are interested. There is a sunny shot of a beautiful Red Maple tree in my front yard and then a shot from a different angle on a cold and cloudy day. I love the contrast of the bare Crepe Myrtles and the Red Maple in the background along with the gray sky.

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I also took a few shots of my front porch, along with some of the bird nests in the trees in our yard.

Other than a favorite of mine, Homemade Hot Chocolate, that’s about it for now. Hope to see you again next week! Please feel free to comment about your week. 11039025_10204812395104032_2632421917608954331_n 11025776_10204831872550956_8933032454740008558_n

Here are few more of the chicken and pet pictures. Enjoy!

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A Southern Porch…

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A Southern porch

This is where life happens in the South, or at least some of it.

My porch is not a fancy porch; it is simply my go-to place, my sanctuary; a place to “catch a breeze”.

There is a swing at one end where I sit while my thoughts find form. For the hot summer days that sometimes reach into the high 90s, there’s a Southern Breeze maker – a fan. Here in the South, we make our own breeze more often than not.

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A Southern breeze maker

The porch is in need of washing for as soon as the mildew has been scrubbed away, it begins to form again. The floor shows the marks of Sentry, a pet, taking a running start and flying off the end in an attempt to avoid landing in the azaleas that line the porch. More marks are noticeable from Calypso, another pet, chasing her tail. Taking up space is a plant bench that my husband made for a daughter. I’m sure she’ll be by at some point to reclaim it, but until then I’ve piled it high with plants; plants I forget to water.

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Two rockers take up residence on the front porch, their red surface marred by the chew marks made by Calypso as a puppy. They sport by contrast, fading yellow putty in need of paint. Across the front steps is a double gate; installed in an attempt to keep our two German Shepherds, Ryka and Calypso, off of the porch. Most days, it swings in the breeze as I am not diligent about securing it. I find it comforting to look up and see one, if not both of my dogs, napping at the front door in an attempt to be near me. Some days, all I see is a blur, as they have left their mark, nose prints on the glass, as they have sat watching my every move inside.

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Ryka and Calypso along with the smudges
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Let sleeping dogs lie

We have plans for the front porch. Much discussion flowed about the pros and cons of putting the screening on the inside or the outside of the railings. The porch railings have gone up without the screen. Louvers will eventually be built and installed at either end of the porch for privacy. Landscape will be cut back and the steps widened to accommodate the double screen doors that will be installed.

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Calypso

 

Until that time, the front porch is a place to sit and relax. It is a place to dream of the future and contemplate the mistakes of the past. It is a place to drift in time as we Southerners are known to do.

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Ryka

My Life in Review – Never let it be said that life is dull

Never let it be said that life around me is dull; I’ll just make my own fun. Yesterday was mow the yard day. Trawling season here in South Louisiana opened so Hubby was occupied for the day and I was looking for something to do.

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photo 5 (2)Ryka and Calypso love to ride the new mower so after all was said and done (the yard mowed) it was have some fun time. I pulled up to the kennel and cut the blade, and they both came running out, actually stumbling over each other in their haste to see who was going to climb up on the mower first. This surprised me as Ryka doesn’t seem to trust me. She’ll ride with Hubby, but is quite hesitant if given the opportunity to ride with me. Kind of makes you wonder…but Calypso? Now, that is a throw-back to the 1960s. She is the wild child and doesn’t think twice about anything. She leaps without looking. It’s all about fun.

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Now, you may think I’m a little crazy because how do I know what my dogs are thinking? Clearly, if that’s the case, you don’t have a dog (and not everyone wants a dog). Ryka is the regal one. She sits like a queen, acts like a queen, gets treated like a queen. Of course, she’s earned it. She came to us fully trained, but sadly only listens part of the time. When I call her, she sometimes just sits there and looks at me. Just like a teenager! I’ll tell her to “come” again and she’ll put her head down and give me the sad eye look. Generally, the third time I call her, she’ll slowly drag her body up – like it’s a huge chore – and walk on over, hoping there will at least be food. On the other hand, if she thinks there’s a belly rub coming, she’ll flip over in a nano second.

Calypso – what can I say? She’s the wild child. She’s half Ryka’s age at 3 and has Doggie ADD. She loves spring – she loves any season. She loves the cold and wet and mud in the winter. She loves the cool days of fall and spring. But, she especially loves the summer months with swimming and bugs. Actually, she loves water period. She loves chasing anything that flies by. I love sitting on the porch swing watching her run back and forth. If you’ve ever watched a cutting horse, you’ll understand. She is very graceful. She runs and cuts and heads back and spins on a dime. Shepherds are very powerful animals and to watch her run and gain speed and cut is actually quite a beautiful dance. What is particularly interesting to watch is when a mosquito hawk (dragon-fly) lands on the chain link fence. She does a series of tapping with her back legs until she gets her position just right and then up she goes on those hind legs and grabs the bug without ever touching the fence – that is grace. Then, in a New York second she’ll bite your finger trying to get her doggie cookie – we’re working on that one. I can feed her ham or cheese and she is quite careful about nibbling it out of my fingers as not to bite (I’m constantly trying their patience on that one so they remember not to bite the hand that feeds them), but if I have a dog cookie, she’ll take my fingers off in the process. I’m still scratching my head on that one.

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Signs have been popping up all over the parish (we are in Louisiana) in the shape of forks. It’s all about tourism. I was at a meeting focusing on our Parish Comprehensive Plan (I’m on the Planning Commission) and there was talk about a new fork that had popped up. To us, who live here on the bayou, it depicts a little humor. It is so often the answer when someone is asking directions – “It’s up the bayou” or “It’s down the bayou.” It is a phrase I even find myself using it quite a bit. I’m a transplant to the area and never gave it a second thought until one of my daughters asked me – “How do you know what is up the bayou and what is down the bayou?” I guess it’s one of those relevant things – if you are here, that’s up and that’s down. Move a little and what was up is now down, or visa versa. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy the sign and a little trivia. This particular sign can be found once you exit the interstate, (which crosses Bayou Lafourche) and you circle around to Louisiana Hwy. 1 which runs with the bayou. Instead of Raceland or Lockport, it just simply states “Up the Bayou” or “Down the Bayou.” You have only those two choices.

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I did have a little excitement this week. I attended a meeting and then headed off to grocery shop. My habit is to put my keys in my pocket when I exit my vehicle and then lock the doors. That way, I NEVER forget my keys. There’s that word I NEVER try to use because it always comes back to bite you – NEVER! About half way through shopping I happened to run my hand down my side and realized in a panic that I didn’t feel my keys. At that point I tore my bag apart searching, hoping frantically that I had tossed them inside. No keys.

I did my best to calm down and then began praying in earnest. I completed my shopping and retraced my steps back to the truck. No keys. At this point I was beginning to panic. I stepped up to the window and there on the console were my keys and after my initial excitement, I realized they were locked in and I was locked out. And, to make it worse, Hubby was at a meeting 40 miles away and that person had picked him up at our house – 15 miles “down the bayou” and that is where his set of keys to my truck were. Not a good situation and to make matters worse, it was 6:00, the time his meeting was set to begin. I was quickly adding up the miles involved to get my truck opened – 40 + 15 “down” + 15 “up” + 40 back to the meeting = I had better find another way into the truck.

photo (1)Then I remembered – ONSTAR!!! Then, I thought oh no, how do I call OnStar? I am one of those people – the one who is so organized, she panics that maybe that is the one time the information won’t be found. I did have my phone and I called. The kind lady asked how could she help and of course, being me, I told her my keys were locked in my truck and I was locked out of the truck. The whole process took less than three minutes. I gave her the needed information and she told me to step away from the truck and the locks popped up. Magic! Needless to say, there was a whole lot of prayer thanking going on.

I’m sure those weren’t all of my adventures, but I think I’ve blocked the rest out. See you next week!

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My Life in Review – April 26, 2014

This week has been a much slower paced week than last week. It was nice to have days when I wasn’t expected to be somewhere at a certain time.

I’ve discovered that not only am I an introvert (always known this) but I also suffer from social anxiety. I had been researching the topic (don’t you just love when people self-diagnose themselves!) and when I mentioned it to my best friend, she laughed and said I didn’t need to take a test or to tell her that – she already knew. Ummm…I think she should have shared that with me! I guess there are things we just need to discover for ourselves. We’ve attended writer’s conferences together and we joke about the social hour. That is normally the time we cut out. We discovered that we only talked to each other and we could socialize on the drive home instead of standing around feeling awkward and conversing with each other.

I actually ventured out of my very small comfort zone and attended the social after the conference this year because another friend wanted to introduce me to someone. I sent in a proposal to be a speaker next year – no the social anxiety doesn’t bother me so much there – and I needed to be introduced so the orchestrators of the event could put a face with a name. That part was awkward. This is normally me: “Hi. It is so nice to meet you.” Then silence. I have nothing else. That’s it. I am not a good conversationalist unless you let me rattle on about a topic I enjoy and know a lot about. Then, just try to shut me up. You may need to call out the Calvary at that point. Personalities are strange things. We react quite differently in different situations. I have always been extremely fascinated by personalities so I can go on and on, on this particular subject – and most people eventually end up wanting to fall asleep!

photo 4photo 2photo 3photo 1photo 1 (1)photo 4 (1)Our driveway is lined with beautiful crepe myrtles – the tree of the South. Hubby calls it the Tunnel of Love in Valentine, Louisiana (where we live.) For some reason he declares every day in Valentine, Valentine’s Day. You should hear him on Valentine’s Day! With spring coming into its own here in the South, the trees have begun to leaf and you couldn’t drive down the driveway without getting battered by them, especially with my new truck. Notice how I say “my truck.” Hubby has a truck too and we recently sold the Suburban and purchased a four-door truck for me – you have seen the two little horses (dogs) I own? They were getting almost too big to both hop in to the back of the car so I thought a truck would be our best purchase. Only thing, I have to heft them into the back and that’s no small feat. They each weigh about 80 pounds now! It’s not easy hoisting up 80 pounds of dead weight onto the bed of a truck where the tailgate is more than waist-high. Hubby is going to make a ramp so they can walk up. German Shepherds are known to have hip problems and I don’t want to put their health at risk as Ryka has already been battling some stiffness at 6.5 years. Calypso is 3.5 and I want to ensure that she doesn’t develop the same problems too early.

Getting back to the myrtles, it was trimming time. The first thought that came to mind was having Hubby ride in the back of the truck (mine is quite high) and trim as we drove. That way, we’d know the amount to trim. We ended up just walking and cutting. Once they bloom, there will be a little more trimming as the weight of the blooms weigh down the branches and we’ll be getting whacked again. I’ve had this happen before and unfortunately I had the windows down on the suburban; not a fun thing when you have to clean all the flowers out that found their way in. Also, if you read this story –

Green Acres is the place to be…Tuesdays with Donna, A Little Southern Comfort

you’ll find that the last time I had to fetch him from the back when the tractor quit, I sort of got a little close to the trees and it was like playing Whack-a-Mole with Hubby as the target. For some reason, he doesn’t trust me.

photo 3 (1)My best friend was recently nominated for and one Teacher of the Year at the high school where she teaches. She then received the honor of winning High School Teacher of the Year in our parish (we live in Louisiana.) The awards banquet was yesterday and I had the privilege of attending where she received her awards.

She and I have been best friends for a very long time. We always joke that because we’ve surpassed the “seven-year-itch” we will be friends forever. I hope that everyone has a chance in their lifetime to have a best friend like Jessica. I tend to forget some dates and one was when we actually crossed over from just being neighbors to becoming fast friends. She reminded me of the date as she told the people we were sitting with. It was the day her son was born and he is now twelve (on his way to being 13) years old. I remember the day quite well as she helped out with a gathering we had at our home that day.

We’ve been through thick and thin as the saying goes, seen each other through good times and some really bad times. We push each other to the limit and cross lines that others know never to cross. We tell each other what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. Congratulations to Jessica, a truly deserving teacher.

Going back to Friday night, my stepson played music at a bar not too far from here and we try to and listen when he plays close by. There were a number of other events in the area and attendance was not heavy – which made for a nice quiet night – and I say that laughing because I wear ear plugs! The band concentrates mostly on 90s music, but takes requests. Friday night, someone requested a french song and Josh motioned to his dad to join him on stage. I hope you enjoy the show. It was a great moment that the two of them will remember. It is always nice to make memories with your children – no matter how old they are. As soon as the video loads to YouTube I will share it. My phone shows it there, but I can’t find it on the computer. Technology! Can drive you crazy sometimes.

I found it – on the wrong channel. Oh well. lol

Enjoy a little Cajun music:

As always, thanks for visiting and have a blessed day!

Donna

 

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Instructions for Love by June Shaw (Review)

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Rugged plantation owner DANE CANCIENNE knows how to love, but anger now fuels him. He cherished his wife and death took her. Now he’s steeled his heart against letting another woman cause him such anguish. After a fast-talking New Yorker arrives at his doorstep, he determines he must get the beautiful stranger to leave before she softens his heart enough to make him consider taking another chance on love.

LACI WESTLAKE flies down to Louisiana’s bayou country for her beloved Aunt Tilly’s funeral where someone hands her an envelope with a strange request. If Laci follows what her late aunt asks of her, she’ll probably lose everything she has. And if she carries out those wishes, will it happen soon enough to discover she has arrived at the perfect place and located the perfect man for her?

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  • Print Length: 178 pages

JUNE SHAW: My debut novel was published some time after I became a widow with five children. My ninth grade English teacher ignited my dream of becoming a writer, but my life was busy, my dream long deferred. How exciting it is to see my lifelong dream come to pass.

My mystery series has been compared to writing by Janet Evanovitch and Agatha Christie. It’s been called suspenseful and fun. It’s certainly been fun for me. Deadly Ink nominated Relative Danger for their David award for Best Mystery of the Year. I’m honored and thrilled–and love to hear from readers.

I’ve also written a book about my amazing mom that can help anyone getting older. And I’ve plunged into writing for children with HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR PET GHOST. I sure hope you’ll explore some of my works. Thanks! June

MY REVIEW:

June Shaw captured the true south in her book INSTRUCTIONS FOR LOVE. While the storyline was more of fairytale like than real, I found the book to be an enjoyable read.

Being from the South, June Shaw accurately captured the Southern slowness of life and the culture where so many others have attempted and failed. The moss swaying in the Oaks, the bayous and canals, the wildlife, the plantation life, the cane fields, the slave quarters, and T-Fred’s Diner (perhaps by another name,) the local seafood joint are all places that exists in Southern Louisiana today.

Where some reviews have criticized  a lack of development in the story line and characters, I felt there was a story between the lines. Love can develop at quick pace when two people are right for each other. I can understand where some readers thought perhaps Dane went from grieving to being in love in a blink of an eye. Had they read at a Southerner‘s pace, they would have seen that Dane was a grieving man ready to move on. And Erin, as with many people thrown into the Southern bayou culture, was a fish out of water.

A culture exists in Southern Louisiana that exists nowhere else. I, myself, was a fish out of water – and still am most of the time – in a culture still deeply embedded in its past and immersed in its Cajun French Culture; something that is difficult for an outsider to understand – “Erin rushed down here and found Louisiana’s southern end flat and its occupants’ accents swelling around her almost as heavy as their air.”

Tilly’s request for Erin to spend four days before heading back to New York may sound a little farfetched at first sight, but Southern mamas always seem to know what their children need. And the trickery? Well, let’s just say it’s not beyond the realm of reality.

June pulled straight from her surroundings. Never is this more evident in this quote, “But you’re a woman.” T-Fred gave her mop of orange hair a toss to the side of her chubby face. “Yep, that’s what they tell me.” “But your name…” Erin’s nose made a cute scrunch. “My dad was Fred. His first kid was gonna be named after him, no matter what. And I don’t think you’re from around here, but lots of people get the T stuck in front to make a nickname, the T meaning little.”

You’d have to experience the culture to know just how true that quote is. I would be hard pressed to name one person down on the bayou that doesn’t have a nickname or a “T” in front of their name. And, everyone knows everyone elses’ business, or they will real soon.

There were a few drawbacks in the book, but not enough to mention. It’s a fast-moving romance at a slow-moving pace (a Southern thing.) The writing was good and I liked that the area and story was depicted accurately without using the Cajun dialect that often makes a book difficult to read. I am giving INSTRUCTIONS FOR LOVE four stars.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Why I didn’t get flowers for Valentine’s Day

WHAT!? You say? No. I didn’t get flowers. I didn’t get candy. Those are all items easily picked up at the market while frantically trying to get home in time for a romantic dinner before Valentine’s Day goes to hell in a hand basket.

What I did get for Valentine’s Day is love. And why is that enough? I’ve had the fake flowers and the fake candy – the items grabbed in a rush because it is what you’re supposed to do. I’ll take true love any day.

Hubby likes to say that everyday is Valentine’s Day because we live in Valentine. We really do – Valentine, Louisiana, a little settlement along a lazy bayou. And, it is Valentine’s Day everyday – except for when it’s not, we all have those days.

Hubby got up bright and early to go fishing this morning. He has been so busy building a house (he’s in construction) that he hasn’t had the time to just relax and let his mind wander a bit. So, he loaded up the boat and went fishing. Why does it not bother me that instead of spending today with me, his wife, he is out in a boat? Because it makes me happy to know he’s finally relaxing a little. That is what love is about. That is what Valentine’s Day is about.

I’d rather have a Husband, who when the water lilies are in full bloom and floating by the wharf, leans precariously over the water and snags a few of the beautiful purple blooms – because he knows how much I love them rather than one that grabs a bouquet at the market at the last second. Being thought of is Valentine’s Day.

IMG_4038I’d rather have a Husband, who when it is very cold outside, lets my two German Shepherds into the garage for a warm night’s sleep because he knows how much it would mean to me (without being begged to.)

I’d rather have a Husband that takes the time during running errands and says let’s stop for burgers at the Goal Post (a little drive-in) than one who takes me to a crowded restaurant just because it’s February 14th.

I’d rather have a Husband who takes a look at my dirty truck (yes, I have a truck) and sneaks out to wash it to surprise me.

I’d rather have a Husband, who just this morning, grabbed a plain sheet of writing paper, and left me a beautiful note saying how much I mean to him, rather than grabbing the first acceptable card from a rack.

I’d rather have a Husband who comes and sits on the porch swing in the evenings with me, rather than watching Gilligan’s Island.

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day and I didn’t get flowers. What I do get is Valentine’s Day – every day – in Valentine, Louisiana.

Happy Valentine’s Day – every day – to my Husband. Love you to the moon and back!

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That pesky end-of-the-year Tax Stuff Organization

How many of you dread that end of the year thing where you are scrambling around trying to corral all the papers you need to file your taxes? Wow! That’s too many of you!

When my Hubby retired from the State Police a few years ago, we started up a small construction/rental company, and you guessed it – as much as I ADHORE numbers, I became a make-shift accountant. My life has become my biggest nightmare!

Before Hubby retired, he also trawled (we live in Southern Louisiana and it’s what you do) to supplement our income. It was at this time, being the organizer I am, that I set up our accounts in an organized manner – that is, I destroyed his old filing system (a shoe box – literally!) If you fall into the category of small business owner and your files are not huge and complicated, my system will work for you. It will also work if you just need to hold on to a few things in order to make deductions.

I currently use Quickbooks on the computer, but in the beginning, all I used was a ledger sheet and it worked beautifully. To set yourself up, you will need a three-ring binder (choose an appealing color and you’ll be much more likely to continue this practice – I know, I like pretty.) You will need either plastic dividers or plastic divider folders (Avery makes these). I prefer folders because they are easier to put the papers in. They come in a multitude of colors and you will need enough for year (12) and a couple of extras. Next up is labels (or not – you can handwrite on the dividers) and an expandable file (for year’s end.) And, in case I forget – did I mention how economical this filing system is? It is! You may have most of the supplies already lying around the house.

Recap:

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3-ring binder, separating receipts at end of month
  • 3-ring binder (at least 2-3″)
  • plastic divider pockets
  • labels
  • expandable file

When I first set up my file, I used a label maker and labeled each folder with a month. I then put the folders in the binder with December on top and worked my way back. I did originally set it up with January in the front, but as the year progresses, the files are harder to turn. Trust me here, December to January with the extra files in the front. I use the unlabeled folders for pending items or when I need a reminder to handle something, etc. You may or may not use these every year.

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January cover page – type near the bottom of the page

Place one empty folder at the back. You will file the bills here that you do not need for tax deductions – power, water, gas, etc. These bills you can toss at the end of each year. Just file the new month in front of the old to keep them in order in the event you need to quickly find it. In the other files – monthly – you will file the bills and items that you use for deductions.

I put the electricity and water bills for Hubby’s workshop, fuel bill, phone and internet bills, etc. that are deductible along with their payment record. I also file his invoices and payments as well as a Profit & Loss sheet and the bank statement. I do not file bank statements separately because they are available on-line should you need one. I file these along with all the tax-deductible items in an expandable folder at the end of the year, mark the year on it and file it away.

At the end of the month, once the bank statement is reconciled, I print the month’s Profit & Loss and then pull all of the papers from the folder. I corral all of the fuel receipts and other little receipts and staple them together and then paperclip all of the papers together and attached the “January” page, and put them back in the folder until the end of the year.

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You will then fold over short edge (typing at bottom)

I continue this procedure for each month. At the end of the year, each month is taken from the folder and placed in the yearly file (expandable file) and labeled along with the yearly Profit & Loss sheet, and all 1099s. That’s it. I am ready for the accountant.

I also have the same set up for our business files for our company. We build rental houses and each house has its own file because we frequently reference the costs of items as we purchase them again. It is much easier to pull a house file than to start digging through receipts in a folder. I tried a couple of different ways of organizing before I developed this system that is tailored for our needs. Other than the house files, all other receipts, etc. are filed according to month. In the business binder, I also keep a supply of checks for when I need them. It is much easier than having to grab the huge check box every time I need a check – which isn’t often because I use on-line bill pay at the bank.

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Papers gathered with cover sheet folded over and clipped

The last part of my filing system happens after we’ve been to the accountant. I take the files he provides me with after filing our taxes and these go in the front of the expandable file before the file is packed away.

Well – this is my system. It is a very quick and easy system to use. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment. I’ll try to answer them as best I can. My motto is why make something complicated when you don’t have to. Work efficiently. You’ll have more time to play.

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Papers ready to place back in monthly file

A note: This post is only about my tax keeping system. There is a lot more to the day-to-day business operations that require additional files. You know – those pesky pending payment files and licenses to be paid files. That is all for another day!

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File back in monthly folder until end of year
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It’s been a busy week afterall!

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On Monday I instituted a brand new time management schedule and then life outside came to a standstill. Southern Louisiana saw snow and sleet! Hubby was even forced to sit this one out at home. And, when that happens, any schedule I have seems to fly out the window. After a short recess, I got back on schedule and I have to say, my week was a lot less stressful when I followed my schedule.

I am an organizer and when I say my favorite saying is everything should have a place and everything in its place, you can be sure I mean it – even time. Yes, time! That’s where my schedule came in. Everything had a place and everything in its place. Exercise and tidying up the house had a place. Sitting down and writing had a place. See where I’m going with this? I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but if you tend to have a zero attention span the way I do, it works.

I didn’t even feel stressful today when I deviated from my schedule and used my work and writing time to grocery shop. I even found a little time to play. I have become obsessed with every card or sticky note in my planner being something other than what it is – and that is straight lined! I came up with the idea of using one of my many Martha Stewart punches and making eyelet tracks down the sides of my sticky tablets. As you can see in the photo, I haven’t quite mastered matching the sides. I’ve tried upside down and right side up and turning it over while punching the second side, but for some reason it isn’t working. It’s not that important, but sooner or later, I’ll figure it out. Meanwhile, aren’t they cute? Also, you can see by my planner, the week ended up being quite busy despite the adverse weather conditions.

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Other than working on three book reviews that I’ll have up before the weekend ends, that was my week. Hope you’ve had a great week as well.

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The New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints NFC Championship victory in...
New Orleans Saints NFC Championship victory in the Superdome which will take them to the Superbowl. Right after the winning kick! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went for my morning walk today and as usual, no one knows what thoughts will be entering my head. This is so true because why on earth would I be thinking of the New Orleans Saints? Decorating, yes. Baking, yes. Organizing, definitely yes. But, the Saints? Go figure that one out. But true to form, this is what came to mind.     

Is it safe to be from Louisiana, more specifically South Louisiana, and not be a diehard New Orleans Saints fan? I was contemplating the validity of this thought and decided that I can dare say it can be quite intimidating at the very least.                

I found one sure-fire way to stop an animated point by point, play-by-play conversation cold in the middle of the church aisle (a Catholic church at that) was to interject an excited statement of my own about the joys of going to a movie or shopping and having the theater and stores all to myself (it’s not that I don’t like people, I just prefer the quiet.)The looks of complete and utter bewilderment I received were worth putting my life in peril.      

At this point, I will stop to thank the Saints for making it to the playoffs. People who would not speak to each other are now holding each other in rapturous conversations. And did I mention the ear-splitting, window-rattling rendition of The Saints Go Marching In that followed the bedazzled priest out the door after mass. Who would have ever thought we’d live to hear a priest include a prayer for a football team and a “GO SAINTS” in his final blessing before joyfully marching down the aisle to the above mentioned song? Not me!     

It almost isn’t safe to attend church if you are not a Saints fan. Who knew there was so much Saints paraphernalia that could be worn, held, walked on, spit on, listened to(you get the picture)? One enters the church these days with much trepidation. Even the prim and proper little old ladies are sporting Saints t-shirts under their jackets while giving out Holy Communion as well as sporting Fleur-de-le earrings in their sagging ear lobes!     

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am not a fan of the New Orleans Saints; I am just not a fan of football. I, for one, am more than a little happy that football season has come to a close for the year. Fans have finally begun washing  their well-worn lucky t-shirts and are placing their lovingly folded clothing in the drawer for a much-needed break before next year’s season; at which time those Who Dat’s will surely spur up the emotions of South Louisiana once again. 

Reprinted from March 3, 2010

Hot Air Ballooning: Tuesdays with Donna, A Little Southern Comfort

The paddleboat Natchez, on the Mississippi Riv...
The paddleboat Natchez, on the Mississippi River from the East Bank of New Orleans, with the Crescent City Connection Bridges. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past weekend, Hubby and I attended the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race held in Natchez, Mississippi. We went with great expectations, and a little naivety at assuming we would see balloons flying during our entire stay. Turns out, the art of ballooning is a very intricate matter. It was Sunday before any of the balloons were able to fly so there was a little bit of Southern patience going on. It turned out to be a very educational weekend. Balloons need nearly perfect weather before they will lift off, and our weather just was not cooperating. A cool front was determined to wreak havoc on our stay in Natchez and the winds were fierce.

We had decided to drive in to Natchez a day early to orient ourselves with the historic little town and to spend some alone time since we’d have company for the remainder of the weekend. Balloon lift-off on Friday morning was cancelled due to fog, and then the rains began. The weather cleared enough Friday evening that we were able to experience the “Balloon Glow” down by the riverfront. Some of the balloons were raised and in the night, the light from the flames produced a glowing effect. Standing on the riverfront walk, we were able to see two balloons on our side of the river and three across the river in Louisiana. Along with a beautiful sunset, it was IMG_4166magnificent to see.

This was the first time that we have attended such an event and we’ve always wanted to go to Natchez so it ended up being a great four days. We were blessed to stay at a wonderful Bed and Breakfast Inn complete with superb Southern cooking and hospitality.

Hope Farm is the oldest B&B in Natchez and has a wonderful history. Ms. Ethel, owner and proprietor of Hope Farm, gave us a tour of the house Saturday morning after breakfast. She is just the sweetest lady and the epitome of Southern hospitality. In other words, she is Natchez. I will be writing more on Ms. Ethel and Hope Farm next week. This week is all about the balloons.

Sunday morning dawned with beautiful weather and we were down by the riverfront at 7:15 am for the scheduled 7:30 am flight time. We quickly learned that you have to constantly check the skies in all directions to discover where the balloons are launching from. Being able to determine which way the wind is blowing is also helpful. As Hubby always points out when I open the front gates at home, I couldn’t tell which way the wind is blowing if it reached out and poked me!

Everyone was standing around and of course, speculating when and where the balloons would come when Hubby reached over and knocked me in the shoulder and shouted, “Look, there’s one!” It would seem he garnered half the riverfront’s spectators with his actions and everyone thought he was kidding. But, sure enough. There was one balloon and it was so tiny. BUT, IT WAS A BALLOON! And, imagine all of our excitement. Then, a second balloon appeared. We quickly learned what chasing the balloons was all about and we hopped in the car and ended up in the Kmart parking lot with balloons flying above us. It was a wonderful and exciting experience. The beautiful and colorful balloons had a beautiful, clear, blue sky as a backdrop. I hope you enjoy the photos. I invite you  back next week for a post on Hope Farm, the wonderful Bed and Breakfast we stayed at in Natchez. IMG_4281IMG_4326IMG_4325IMG_4319IMG_4306IMG_4300IMG_4293IMG_4304IMG_4328

A Fallen Trooper: Tuesdays with Donna: A Little Southern Comfort

Today’s column will be nice and short. I can’t keep my eyes open long enough to see to write. I was drying my bangs yesterday morning with the curling brush – which I’ve used for so many years I can’t count = and I accidentally (because who would do this on purpose) stuck the bristles in the eye. I am sitting here typing with my eyes closed because I still cannot open my eyes together for more than a few seconds.

Sunday evening we attended the wake for a trooper who suffered a heart attack and died while on the job this past week. It is so difficult to imagine what his wife and young sons are feeling at this moment, but the large showing of support from law enforcement last night was overwhelmingly heart touching.

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Retirement Day

My husband has been retired from the Louisiana State Police for seven years. He had a long career and managed to retire fairly unscathed. But, it is still not so long ago that I do not remember what it was like to watch him dress for work and then head down the driveway and through the gates into the big, bad world to do his job. I know that no job is safe in today’s world, but when you watch your husband strap on his bullet-proof vest and then his holster and gun, you know there is always the chance that he might not be coming back home. There were times when he was only a few miles from home that his life was in danger due to the drunks coming home and crossing the center line into his lane of traffic. He didn’t talk a lot about what he encountered on the job because he knew how difficult his job could be on the family.

A lot of emotions going through his mind. 25 years on the job.

My father is also a retired Louisiana State Trooper so I was very much aware of the perils of the job before I married my husband. Each year at the state convention, the troopers do a beautiful tribute to their fallen comrades. And, it can’t help but enter your mind that one day you will see your father or your husband’s picture up there on the screen. Law enforcement is a tight-knit community and that was never more evident than when we drove up to the funeral home Sunday night. This trooper has had a long career and was well liked. There were representatives from all branches of law enforcement and fellow troopers from 100 miles around in attendance. We had driven 79 miles to be there. One can only wish the family well and keep them in their prayers.

The Troop C branch of the Louisiana State Police are very involved in their charity work. On Monday they hosted their annual Grant-a-Wish golf tournament which is widely attended and supported by the public. Through generous public donations, they have been able to grant the sick children in this area their greatest wishes. They are also the recipients of a skeet shoot sponsored by a local business. The programs sponsored by this troop are well-known and respected by the public and their work is outstanding. These troopers not only work hard, they give hard.

Thanks for visiting today. As always, I love comments and hope you will take the time to leave a story of your own, something in your neck of the woods that touches your heart.

It’s all about life – Tuesdays with Donna, A Little Southern Comfort

It’s Tuesday. Welcome to a Little Southern Comfort here on My Life. Just so happens today is also my birthday. I found myself wishing it didn’t fall on this day because I write my column on Tuesdays. While most people enjoy celebrating their birthdays, I do not. It has nothing to do with age. I am now 56 years old. See – no problem. My not celebrating my birthday has to do with life.

If I celebrated my birthday, I would find myself making a wish as I blew out a candle; and because we all want that proverbial wish to come true, we tend to wish for something that will come true. You have to admit that we all hedge our bets. I can’t do that. I would wish for my two daughters to put their anger aside and to be part of my life, an honest part with no pretense. I have wished and prayed for just that for seventeen years. It hasn’t happened. And so, this is why some birthdays, theirs and mine, are bittersweet.

Yesterday was my sister, Debbie’s, birthday. She lost a battle with Leukemia at age seven. I was five at the time, and as anyone who has lost someone dear to them will tell you, the loss never goes away. And, although I have my very own angel in Heaven, the gloom lurks near by.

As Tuesday was approaching, I didn’t think I’d have much to write about this week, but turns out, things began happening. I’m still trying to navigate my way around my new Mac Air. I have to admit that by Saturday night, I was wishing I had left it on the Apple tree (so did everyone else!) I was attempting to use Quickbooks for Mac. photo (7)I’ve been using Quickbooks on my PC for about six years now and easy peasy. On my Mac, I had a menu strip down the side of my screen as well as a menu across the top and then the open page in the center. Once I figured out what was going on (just as I was picking up the phone to dial Quickbooks help) everything made sense.

Then, I had to close the file and finding it again proved to be a scavenger hunt. After a few texts to a friend, I managed to not only locate the file but even move it to another folder. Thanks Jessica! Yeah Me!

I have another good friend whose little boy started school this year. He has a few developmental problems and his little immune system is compromised. This means she needs to stay nearby in the event another of his classmates is sick and she will need to pick her little boy up so he doesn’t get sick. We haven’t been able to have lunch together for a while so I told her we needed to do breakfast instead. What fun! She came over and we had fun that only two chocoholics and puff pasty addicts could have. We wrapped chocolate in puff pastry, put it in the oven, and sat down to wait – impatiently! When the pastries came out of the oven, we sprinkled – okay, dumped – the confectioner’s sugar on them and then laughed like only kids can do. It was the best breakfast and visit. We’ll have to do that again soon Lynette!

We almost had a hurricane blow through. Call me crazy, but Hubby and I both attribute our good fortune to all the people on the bayou praying the “Hurricane Season Prayer” that gets prayed every Sunday in mass. We live in Southern Louisiana about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans and all the rain was on the east. God listens when two or more are gathered. The proof is in the pudding!

My cousins that have been in from Georgia came to visit on Friday. They left on Sunday to go back to the place on top of the mountain they now call home. I miss them already. I pass their house in New Orleans every time I head into the city to Ochsner for a doctor appointment or blood work and I could always count on calling and saying, “I’m passing by, want company?” I am quite lucky to have them in my life, even if it’s not as often as before. I really miss the great meals I was served on those days.

The tide has been high due to the disturbance in the gulf and on Sunday the bayou was finally beginning to flow back south. Water lilies were floating by in droves and as Hubby was checking his crab traps, a few came close enough to the wharf to snag a few blooms. They are really pretty and I love sitting on the swing behind the boat house photo (2)watching them float by. It is very peaceful if you can tune out the traffic.  There will be pictures if I can figure out where they are on the computer. That’s makes me laugh, because I hit download and they disappeared. (Obviously, I did find the pictures.) I am also wondering why it was so easy to find them. Someone is playing a trick on me.  I am also including a picture of the bayou. So many people do not know what a bayou is and we get asked that question frequently. In other parts of the country, it is called a river or a stream, etc. Here in the South, it is called a bayou.

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It is also pecan season, at least in our yard. We have a pecan tree that produces every two years. And, of course, Hubby decides to check to see if the the steady wind that has been blowing has knocked any to the ground. I say this because we are on our way back from the boat house and there is no container except our pockets to put them in! photo 4photo 3

I am also including a picture of Calypso and Ryka (laying down sleeping) sitting guard at the base of the tree. We had a squirrel for the first time this year and they know it’s up there. For someone who chases her tail and can’t sit still, Calypso is

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holding a quiet vigil waiting…

According to my planner, I have books to read for review so that’s My Life for this week. Hope you’ll stop  by again next Tuesday for a visit.

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Hurricane Isaac rears his ugly head

Part 1

It is 8:14 a.m. on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. The house has been shuttered as though expecting a long winter’s nap. The first wave of rain associated with Hurricane Isaac is beginning to hit the house. The last two days have literally been the calm before the storm, as it is said, as they were beautiful, warm sun filled hours in which to prepare. This morning was no exception. It began quite early for those of us in the storm’s projected path as we completed last minute preparations.

It is strange how many items you find that you can do without as you pickup and secure things in anticipation of the winds. The roadside garbage piles the last few days have been reminiscent of spring cleaning at its best.

I sit here in the darkening room as the day progresses, listening to the wind gusts and the howling of the wind as it whistles its way through the rafters of the house like a lonely ghost. Perhaps it is the silence of the shuttered house that magnifies the pump at the oil batteries across the rising bayou. It is not a sound that we normally notice, but with the silenced normal activity in anticipation of the storm, it is somehow fitting that we hear the eerie drone of the motor.

Family pets, not normally allowed inside, welcome the respite from the heat as they lie in the cool garage. They cannot even be tempted to go outside to romp and potty, afraid that the very action of venturing outside, however momentarily it will be, will end the rare allowed luxury of bedding down in their kennels.

For a while during the storm, it was as though we were cake batter in the Kitchen Aid mixer. The wind was beating against the front of the house and whipping around the corners with such velocity, that I waited, with baited breath for the house to begin spinning.

Thursday, August 30, 2012. Now, that the weather has calmed down, there is a gentle breeze accented with the occasional rain, hampering the cleanup efforts of many. The highways are beginning to come alive with traffic as people venture out to restock supplies depleted during the confinement brought on by the storm.

I was outside earlier washing down the house, removing the remnants of leaves that had become part of the exterior before they dried. Already wet, I continued my task as the rains once again came down, enjoying the chance to feel the light cleansing rain on my skin, a sign of the healing that begins after a storm has passed.

I spent time on the front porch swing with Ryka and Calypso, who were rapturous to be free once again. Calypso seemed intent on catching up with all the time she missed chasing her tail, while confined to her kennel. Ryka was content to take up the extra space on the swing, enjoying the gentle movement back and forth as the breeze ruffled her coat.

Generators are humming all around us as people charge up freezers and enjoy the comfort of fans.

We were lucky this time around. Even as the storm danced and stalled several times as it stalked the coastline, trying to make up its mind where to strike, it did not hold the punch of storms long passed. The seventh anniversary of the devastation reeked by Hurricane Katrina upon an unsuspecting coast, has passed in relatively quietness, allowing those holding their breath to exhale.

 

Some things never change. It’s hot after a storm.
Tree damage.
The wind.
First rains.
Tree down. Water.

 

Additional pictures are available on http://mylife-in-stories.blogspot.com