Wednesday, September 15, 2010


When I left the workforce nearly a year ago, I never used the word “retiring,” or “retired.” Those words sound too final. After all, my entire life has been centered around working and my job. My work gave me an identity and if I no longer had that, who would I be? So, I left the door open by merely saying, “I’m not working now.” I guess in my mind it was a trial of sorts or a face-saving mechanism. If I wasn’t happy, I could always get a job without friends and family saying “you couldn’t handle retirement.”

But, George, my husband of nearly 42 years, does not have the luxury of a “trial” retirement. For him, it’s all or nothing. We always envisioned that 62 would be the cut-off date for him, after working with the State of Georgia for thirty years. So, following the guidelines of a three-month notice, last March I went online and started filling out his application for Social Security. I was doing fine until I reached the question, “What is the date of the last day you will work?” That question stopped me dead in my tracks.

I realized how final that would be. I realized that with both of us retired, it would be the end of a long chapter in our lives and the future was very unknown. I quickly decided that was not a date that I could take responsibility for. That was George’s decision. So, I abandoned the Social Security application and waited for him to get home from work to discuss it. I fully expected him to give me a date and I would resume the application the next day.

I never dreamed that “to retire, or not retire” would be such a hard decision. By far, it has been the hardest decision in our lifetime. Admittedly, the economic situation has played a major role in the decision-making process. However, there is far more involved than that. George has been blessed with a profession that truly allows him to help people. He is the “VA man.” That is his identity. He thrives on helping veterans and making their life better. No matter where he goes, be it days, nights, weekends, he actively seeks people to help. For him, it is more than giving up a job. It is giving up a way of life.

So, the application I started in March has never been completed. I’m still waiting on him to give me the date of the last day he will work.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chewing Gum

The other day, someone offered me a piece of Juicy Fruit gum. It had been years since I had I chewed that brand and I was amazed at how good it was. As I savored that wonderful sweet taste, memories came flooding back. I realized that chewing gum used to play a major role in my life. A single piece of gum would make me happy for an entire day, and into the next day if I took care of it.

When Milton, a distant cousin, would come to visit, he always had gum in his pocket. I would endure hugging his neck just to get a piece of gum. The highlight of my day was running to meet Lloyd, the mailman. He always gave me a piece of Dentyne gum, which wasn’t my favorite because it was so little and lost its flavor much quicker than others. My greatest day would be when Fat Mama and Charlie came to visit. Fat Mama always gave me a bag of penny candy with Bazooka bubble gum. A single piece of bubble gum would give me at least two days of enjoyment. I never tired of practicing blowing bubbles.

Life was simpler then. There were only four major brands; Juicy Fruit, Dentyne, Spearamint, and Double-Mint. Nowadays, the various flavors and brands of gum take up two shelves at a convenience store. Choosing a pack of gum nowadays is a major decision. Do you play it safe by selecting the sugar-free, or live dangerously and choose one with calories galore? I much preferred the days when I didn’t have to think about gum putting fat on my hips or decaying my teeth. I could just enjoy and savor that wonderful sweet flavor without feeling guilt. I think the turning point in the gum world was the introduction of Beechnut Stripes. I recall everyone rushing to try the new flavor and it was a big event. Since, the market has been flooded with various flavors. The day I saw watermelon flavor was the day I shook my head and said, “What’s this world coming to?”

We are very wasteful with gum today and tend to chunk it after a few minutes of chewing, as soon as it starts to lose its flavor. A child today would not have a clue what the song “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor On the Bedpost Overnight” means. But on the other hand, if I walked into my child’s room and found gum stuck to the bedpost, I would rant about ruining furniture or lecture about unsanitary conditions. Of course, we had metal bedposts that were perfect receptacles for gum. It would be waiting there for you the next morning like a faithful friend. If you preferred, you could retrieve it a few days later. Also, you would never get rid of your gum just because you had to eat. The underside of your dinner plate became a safe haven for it.....most of the time.

Daddy worked late one night and Mama fried some oysters for him when he got home. As I stood by him, nibbling from his plate, I placed my gum securely under his plate, or so I thought. He got a funny look on his face and said, “These oysters don’t taste right.” After a little more chewing, he said, “These oysters taste like mint.” During this time, I kept picking up his plate, looking for my gum. He finally took out his false teeth and gum was stuck all over them. “How in the hell did I get gum on my teeth?” As he scraped the melted gum from his teeth, I was very upset. What a waste of a good piece of gum; it had lots of life left in it!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Confessions of a Disturbed Child, Part II, Compulsive


Parents today would find it hard to believe that I was allowed to ride in the back of my Daddy’s pickup truck even as a young child. Looking back, I find it hard to believe myself. But I did; and never had a mishap, except for once. I was sitting on the tailgate looking down on the road as Daddy drove. I became mesmerized. The road appeared to be moving, not the truck, and the road looked smooth as glass. I just couldn’t help myself. I had to touch the road! I made sure Mama and Daddy’s heads were straight ahead. I held onto the chain on the tailgate, and lowered myself until…… big toe touched the ground. It damn near ripped it off! Oh my God! What am I going to do? They will kill me if they see my toe. I hung my toe off the truck, careful not to let any blood get on the truck. Since the damage was on the underside of my toe, I learned to walk with it sticking up and just kind of hid out until it healed.

Years and years later, I was standing on the corner at Five Points in Atlanta. A Marta bus was turning the corner. The big wheels were moving slow and effortless. I became mesmerized. I had an urge to stick my foot under the tire. Then I thought about my toe……………

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Riddle: When is a Rooster not a Rooster

I can do a lot of things well, but chicken farming ain’t one of them. When I started my flock four years ago, I thought it would be so easy to raise chickens. My childhood memories consist of Daddy buying biddies, putting them in the yard, and a few months later, we’re either eating their eggs or eating them. I only remember foiled attempts by predators thanks to Andy, the bulldog. However, I don’t have such a skilled dog in my yard. Due to attrition for whatever reason, one day I found myself back to square one with only one annoying guinea. I listed the guinea for free on Craig’s List and had a home for guinea immediately.

Having been spoiled to the rich taste of home-grown chicken eggs, I didn’t want to invest the time needed for baby chicks to start laying. A friend told me about an auction in Barnesville. The auction itself is another story entirely, but I’ll cut to the chase and tell you I was thrilled to be the high bidder on eight 4-month old white rocks. They were huge, healthy white chickens that appeared would start laying in the next couple of months.

By the light of day, I realized that these chickens were nothing more than commercial chicken house chickens. That was okay with me as long as they provided eggs. That first night, I noticed they didn’t attempt to roost; they just sat on the ground. I then noticed that they didn’t scratch at the soil. I attributed that to being in a chicken house all their life. But they could eat. I would fill the feeder and four hours later it would be empty. And they didn’t just drink water; they funneled it.

A friend offered to give me a rooster. I eagerly accepted because I thought an experienced free range rooster could teach the ladies how to scratch, how to roost, and make them more contented in general. Didn’t happen. The rooster wouldn’t have anything to do with them. My suspicions escalated the day I bought three grown Rhode Island Red hens and threw them in the pen. Bam! Bam! Bam! The rooster was so happy to see them and was strutting his stuff.

I decided to seek the help of a chicken expert. He said he had been in the chicken business for 53 years. I told the crusty old man my story. He said, “Lady, you ain’t never gonna get an egg from them chickens. What you have is a capon.” “What’s a capon?,” I said. “A capon is a castrated rooster.” He went on to explain caponization and the effect it has on the chicken. The high steroid content of their food while developing creates retardation. I was correct all along. The first day I had them I told George that they were “retarded.”

After that education, I had a dilemma. What do you do with castrated roosters? I listed them on Craig’s List for free but didn’t get any takers. I decided we had to eat them. It has probably been fifty years since I last witnessed a chicken killing but I found out it’s just like riding a bike. I made William, my son, chop the heads off the first two we butchered and I took it from there. Two weeks later and still no takers for the capons, I decided to put two more on the block. Nicholas, my ten year old grandson wanted to help. I told him to hold the feet and when I chopped his head, he needed to hold it to the ground so it wouldn’t flop. With a full audience looking on, I chopped and Nicholas turned loose. Chaos ensued as the headless chicken began to jump around and actually was doing back flips. Every move Nicholas made, the chicken was right behind him. When the chicken calmed down and the audience stopped yelling, Nicholas looked like he had been involved in a massacre; he was covered in blood from head to toe. I was clean due to the fact that I wisely fled the scene. From there, the children had an educational experience and learned all about the anatomy of a chicken. Nicholas said he was sure he was going to have nightmares about being chased by a headless chicken. Ryleigh, age 8 said she was now a vegetarian. Nathan, age 3 said, “Grandma, that was rude of you to cut that chicken’s head off.”

After all that, I still had half of them left and a depleted bank account from all the food I was buying. I paid $2.75 per chicken and no telling how much I spent on feed over a two month period for those Amazon chickens. I sent George an e-mail and told him I wasn’t fooling with butchering any more of those chickens; that I was going to chop their heads off and feed them to the cat fish. Much to my horror, George told a lady on his van pool of my plans…….this lady would probably be a PETA member if High Falls had such. In any event, she and her husband came that Friday and picked up the rest. In the meantime, when George arrived at work on Friday morning, his computer home page lists information about the day. He said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he read that Friday was “be kind to chickens day.” Seriously.

So, the answer to the riddle “When is a rooster not a rooster,” is “When it is a capon!”

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Farmville Addiction Progress

My name is Marilyn and I am a Farmville Addict. I continue to make good progress but there have been a few setbacks. As if the Zynga gods read my mind, they did the one thing that would keep me from walking away. They introduced “pigpens!” All the other animals have their own special place so I couldn’t in good conscience not build them a pigpen. So, once again I had to resort to begging neighbors for building supplies. I get so tired of begging. Now that the pigpen is complete, I found out that I’m expected to make slop so that they can hunt for freakin truffles!!! (See, I told you earlier that Farmville was educational because I had to look the word “truffle” up at I think I draw the line at making slop.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Confessions of a Disturbed Child, Part I

Mystery Corn

When I was growing up, it would get very lonely with just Mama and I during the day in the backwoods on the Sandhill. I managed to stay busy, getting into first one thing and then another. The hogs were my companions. One day they disappeared. I tracked them down the sandy road to the culvert and the tracks went off into the woods. I was certain they’d never find their way home again. As usual, I had a great idea. I went to the corncrib and with my handle-less axe, I chopped corn off the cob. I started at the last place I saw the hog tracks and started dropping corn all the way down the road. The hogs came home, of course, and I assumed they ate the corn to find their way home. The next day, the County motor-grader came down the road. Some weeks later, Daddy came home and said, “I just can’t figure out how corn is growing all down the side of the road.” He obsessed on that question for weeks. I didn’t dare explain it to him because he would have scolded me for wasting the corn.