December entry for
My Own Treasured Friends,
As we welcomed the year 2003, we also awarded a new name to Bear With No Name through our Name Our Mascot Contest. Nancy, my sister and editor, and I had a wonderful time watching your entries pour in.
Since No Name is Nancy's bear and resides with her in Oklahoma, Nancy had the deciding vote. A recent e-mail from her reminded me that she took her power none too lightly. In fact, I will quote her as saying, "Remember, I will not have this bear sullied with sweetness!” (Well, that's not exactly how Nancy put it, but you get the idea.)
Her point was that while I lean toward the frou-frou and the excessively cutesy, Nancy has a leaner, meaner attitude. Nancy, therefore, wanted a handle for No Name that was as far as possible from that of my dear, feminine fancy bear, Martha, who lives with me in Florida. No Name's new name had to be masculine and coordinate with his reputation, which includes his lack of social graces and a rascally streak that's mildly peppered with bouts of trying to do the right thing, usually in the wrong way.
We want to thank everyone who took the time and exercised his / her brain matter to think long and hard, or even short and spontaneously, about a contest entry. There was not a bad one in the lot. We don't have space to list all the entries, but we wanted to share a few of them. We've included comments as to the inspiration behind some of the submissions.
As you can tell, the final decision was difficult.
And now, ladies, gentlemen and Martha Bear® (in particular), may we present to you: Teddy O™
Congratulations to our winner: Ardith of Fairport, New York! Ardith should be receiving her sweatshirt of victory ("No Space Unfilled") any day now from our Café Shops stores.
Nancy selected Teddy O (without a Period) for Bear With No Name because the little guy lives in Oklahoma. Add the fact that his mouth is more often than not pursed into an "O” shape, as if he's surprised, and you can understand that Nancy had no choice in the matter.
Since she told No Name what his new name would be, Teddy O™ has quickly gotten used to it. He's ordered business cards as well as a brass name plate for his corner of Nancy's desk. These days the bear can be spotted wearing a disposable paper name tag, a fresh one each day, because he likes to practice writing his new name.
Love from Amelia Island,
PS Since Teddy O™ now has a new name, he's hoping it will bring him the fame and fortune the mere nickname of J Lo's has brought to Jennifer Lopez. He admits he needs to strengthen his weak ankles if he wants to dance like she does. He may even be gargling with salt water to aid his singing voice. In any case, Teddy O™ is sure he can achieve his goal of life on the wicked stage
He is intrigued by the wicked part. And as for J Lo's many affairs of the heart, Teddy O™ thinks that is, as Martha Bear® would say, "A better thing,” because, after all, he is the most dashing of bears. Just ask him.
My Own Treasured Friends,
Some things never change in newsletter production. Nancy, my sister and editor extraordinaire, insists our GraciousJaneMarie newsletter, contain commentary one month in advance of actual events. If we're talking Christmas, my articles must be ready for publication in our November issue. If the upcoming celebration is July 4th, articles must go in our June issue, not July's. This is the way magazine articles are published, and we do likewise. In defense of Nancy and editors everywhere, I must say newsletters don't happen overnight. It takes time to edit and set up web pages.
This explains why I find myself writing about the official and sometimes bizarre festivities of March in your February issue. So while we may have just celebrated Valentine's Day and President's Day, let us explore the upcoming and perhaps lesser known - but who is to say less important - occasions for celebration. For example, March is American Red Cross Month, National Kidney Month and Help Someone See Month. All are worthy of our attention.
But are you aware that the third month of the year is Play the Recorder Month, Talk to Your Teen About Sex Month and Keep Your Shoelaces Tied Month?
Ah, but wait. Here are a few more days in March we like to celebrate at the Southeastern Branch of GraciousJaneMarie.com.
March 1st - Peanut Butter Lover's Day Those of you who have been with us from the beginning realize we are peanut butter lovers from way back. To that end, we sometimes have Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches for breakfast, Peanut Butter Milk and Peanut Butter Pinwheel Cookies with lunch, and Frozen Peanut Butter Pie after dinner. After eating so much peanut butter, some of us may be unable to play the harmonica for a time, but, hey, we still have arms to play the musical saw for entertainment until we can swallow again.
March 3rd What if Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day? This is a special day around our place, Stately Martha Manor, where we show our Feline (Work) Force, Mr. Buzzbee and Spew, what life would be like if they indeed had thumbs. Taking turns between them, those of us with thumbs spend most of our waking hours holding kitty paws to help them make good use of all the yarn they've snagged from our now ruined afghans, sweaters and scarves. And what good use would that be? Why knitted tail covers, of course. Granted, the tail covers are a bit on the stiff side and smell of fish because of all the kitty spit the old yarn has soaked up. Nevertheless, the cats are proud of their new apparel.
March 5th Multiple Personalities Day
March 12th Alfred Hitchcock Day This year, we will watch exciting movies by Alfred Hitchcock like The Birds, Marnie and Psycho. Our movie marathon will continue until we are driven to imagine psychotic birds wearing wigs and designer clothes who fall in love with Sean Connery.
March 23rd National Organize Your Home Office Day and National Chip and Dip Day This one is a toughie. Shall I dust the sticky notes that blanket my computer screen in Story Central (This what Martha Bear® and the Feline Force call my office.) or spend the day dipping chips into my homemade Cheesecake Dip?
While I ponder how to settle this future food dilemma (Cheesecake Dip almost always wins.), you can see that our lives are a whirl of joyful anticipation of upcoming events here at GraciousJaneMarie. And that is before we even think what to do to celebrate Bunsen Burner Day on March 31st.
Love from Amelia Island,
PS We won! We won! This is our Golden Web Award given "in recognition of creativity, integrity and excellence on the Web."
PPS Due to the increase in subscribers to our newsletter (thank you), it's been necessary to double our Feline (Work) Force. Our two new permanent associates, based in Tallahassee, Florida are Parnell and Madge. Look for their adventures as they integrate with our team of enthusiastic* contributors.
My Own Treasured Friends,
I have discovered over the years that there are two kinds of people in the world, and I am in the category of the losers. Now, before you begin giving me a pep talk, telling me I need to buck-up, that I'm being too hard on myself, let me say that I appreciate your efforts. However, that is not the kind of loser I mean. I'm talking about the person who misplaces their everyday items, such as the car keys, their glasses, etc. I am one of those.
My condition began as a child and has accompanied me into adulthood. How many times did I pester my sweet mother as I hollered, none too graciously I might add, "Mom, where are my shoes?”
"I put them on the stairs to your room,” she'd patiently reply, "next to the pile of clean clothes that needs to be carried upstairs. Please clear a path on the steps. You and your sister will break your necks.”
If any of you were ever children, you can probably relate, understanding that we always left more stuff on the steps than we ever toted up to our room. It was so much more efficient that way, albeit extremely dangerous - especially in the dark of night when our feet landed on that slick algebra notebook as we descended the treacherous terrain to the first floor bathroom. Of course the time it took to navigate from the top of the stairs to the bottom was cut in half as we half skied our way down to slam into the closed door at the foot of the steps. Proudly (surprisingly), I can say none of us ever broke a bone.
I remain afflicted to this day. With regularity, I ask my ever-tolerant husband, "Have you seen my shoes? Where is my brush? What have I done with my sunglasses?”
He is always on top of the situation. He alerts me as to the whereabouts of the missing articles, never skipping a chance to follow his pinpoint accuracy with the crack, "I can put my hands on anything I own in the dark.” Does the man have nothing better to do with his life than organize?
I am reminded of an old movie, That Touch of Mink, with Cary Grant and Doris Day, where he comments to his ditzy wife, "I'll come home and find you've misplaced the children.” She can't argue with him or be insulted because, to her credit, she recognizes her limitations.
Do I forget where I've laid things because I, too, am ditzy? Some might agree, my husband perhaps, fueled by the time I said aloud in his truck, "Crank.” The look he threw in my direction was odd and I, too, found myself puzzled at my unusual comment until I realized I was thinking about manually rolling down the passenger window. With that explained, my odd enunciation of thought didn't seem quite so odd, now did it?
I must stop telling on myself. People may actually think I'm ditzy. Where did I that put that toaster?
Love from Amelia Island,
My Own Treasured Friends,
We all receive unexpected (or as Nancy would say, "#$@%&") e-mail urging us to invest / spend / enlarge something. But every once in a while, we get actual e-mail communications we must answer.
Cary, you may recall, found a smelly, abandoned bear on a picnic table in Belgium, and promptly forgot to name the little fellow. We referred to this bear as Bear With No Name until our Name the Mascot Contest (now concluded) resulted in a winner.
Dear Jane Marie,
As I lay awake in bed early this morning, my thoughts turned to Teddy O. Where was the ole boy? Hadn't seen him in some time, maybe months ... or was it years? Yeah, maybe years. With the happiness of anticipation spreading warmly across my heart - as if someone were pouring warm syrup over it, I jumped out of bed, switched on the light and rushed to the corner where I knew Teddy to be waiting for his friend and companion of 20 odd years
He was not there. "What the &$#@," (Cary and Nancy are prone to colorful language. He is a US Navy veteran. She has no excuse.) I yelled. "Where the heck is Teddy?"
Nancy awoke suddenly and with some alarm on her face. I whirled around to confront her. With a mixture of pure childlike panic and adult insanity, I asked in a tone known only to convicted killers sitting in electric chairs and divas of the worst sort, "WHERE ... IS ... MY... TEDDY ... BEAR?"
Nancy whispered, "Remember, Sugar Cube? I sent Teddy O™ to help Jane Marie and Martha Bear."
The look on my face must have been extraordinary because my dear wife exploded into cackling laughter. The only thing I can equate this scene to would be something out of The Exorcist: 25th Anniversary Special... - perhaps when Linda Blair turns her head around 360 degrees, looks into the camera and recites some Latin phrase. (Just between you and me, I think the director figured no one in the audience would know Latin so Linda said something like, "Put extra virgin olive oil on my sandwich."
It was some experience, but now that I have had time to collect myself, I have a few questions for you:
Teddy O™ appears to be fine and often reminds us how good looking he is. He is always a busy boy and recently took a road trip with us to the Civil War Reenactment Battle of Olustee. During the ride, he insisted I sketch his picture, saying idle hands are not a better thing. He wanted a portrait of himself along the lines of those I had done for Mr. Whickers and family, who run our new MarthaBear.com General Store & Online Emporium. Upon our arrival at the reenactment, Teddy O™ chose to remain in the car, the better to admire my rough sketch. Sadly, rain prevented the festivities, but I have to tell you what a good laugh Teddy O™ got at poor Bruce's expense when the bear spied my husband stripping to his (Valentine) red heart laden shorts so as not to have to endure the hour and a half ride back home in wet trousers.
Teddy O™ has also been helping Martha Bear® with her senior editing duties, insisting she implement his mysterious system of organization. You can imagine how thrilled Martha Bear® is.
Has Teddy O™ been eating properly?
Yes, at least by his definition. After Teddy O™ cleans his plate, he is quick to snatch the last of the food from everyone else's. He explains this is a Belgian custom* and he's doing his part to keep us all from gaining weight, a thing he likes to point out to everyone who wears any size over a one. This does not apply to Martha Bear®. Teddy O™ prefers her full figure.
Have you been giving him his favorite food?
Teddy O™ can't seem to settle on a favorite food. One day it's cheese curls, the next it's peanut butter and sweet pickle sandwiches. We try to keep up with his demands, but he repeatedly points out our lack of effort at finding him fresh chicken feet on which he can munch.
Does Teddy have a private bathroom?
Teddy O™ spends long hours in front of the mirror in the front powder room where he can not only gaze at his own image, but also watch television via a convenient reflection.
Does he have any difficulties with Southern speech patterns and accents?
Your bear has taken to saying "y'all" and "fixin' to." He calls every male he meets "Bubba." While he says he's doing it to fit in, some of us are not quite convinced, particularly when he shouts, "Yee-doggies!" and he's talking to the cats.
Have you tried to see if he will float in the ocean?
Teddy O™ has accompanied Martha Bear® and her grasshopper companion, Airborne, down to the Big Pond (Atlantic Ocean). He gets bored looking for shark's teeth and prefers wading in the water. Being the little fellow he is, he was repeatedly swept into the surf until Martha has discovered that a rope tethered around his middle is a good safeguard against having to fetch him from the jaws of the waves.
Oh, speaking of jaws, he has made friends with a pod of whales and is in negotiation with them to offer chartered rides on their backs. For the more daring customers, the possibility of riding inside the bellies of the whales has been discussed, but naturally, the price would have to be doubled. Teddy O™ does have the knack for business, doesn't he?
Does he cry for me???
Does he crawl out of bed at night and wander around shouting my name, over and over because he doesn't understand why someone would send him to a strange place?
Does he miss me?
What do you want? Money? Oh, wait a minute. He wasn't kidnapped.
Chin up, UTD. Certainly Teddy O™ misses you. I can't count how many times he's interrupted a conversation to say, "I sure wish that guy, what's his name, you know, the one who's married to Nancy, I sure wish he'd come and see me. He gives the best back rubs and doesn't care if I eat his homemade pimento cheese spread right out of the bowl. Too bad he isn't a bear. Life isn't always fair." Then he sighs and pulls the tail of whatever cat is passing by.
Go about your business, dear Cary, and don't worry about your boy. He's having the time of his life modeling with Martha Bear®, even going so far as to have a romantic dinner with the big girl herself. Granted, he's telling everyone it was just another photo shoot. I'm not so sure.
Remember, Teddy O™ is in loving hands. Yikes! Gotta run! I hear the cats singing drinking songs, and our cats don't sing or know the words to such songs.
In any case, watch for Teddy O's appearances throughout the site. He asked that we put his picture on every page, but Nancy says photos take up too much bandwidth. Thank goodness!
Love from Amelia Island,
PS from Nancy: As you may know, I'm not only the publisher of our website, I'm also the editor. When Jane Marie sent me this, her April letter, she knew from sad experience I would cut the %$@#$ out of it. Cary was another matter. His comment was, "My stuff is great. Cut her stuff." (Or words to that effect.) Naturally, neither husband nor sister is currently speaking to me.
PPS Happy Mother's Day to mothers and mothering people everywhere.
Our Mom →
My Own Treasured Friends,
You may have seen on this site that our family motto is No Space Unfilled. I recently learned the true meaning of that phrase when I had to work an eight-foot wooden church pew into the mix of furniture, pictures, knick-knacks and other assorted oddities that make up my eclectic decorating style.
Years ago, we got one old wooden pew from the church in which we were married and until this month, it sat on one side of our dining room table, occasionally draped with a quilt or pretty afghan. We always kicked ourselves for not having gotten a second pew to balance the room. Well, 20 years later, we finally did. Although not an exact match and several feet longer than the first, it too is made of aged oak wood in a beautiful bronzed color. The pews co-ordinate quite nicely.
The question became, "What are we going to do with the two extra dining chairs whose spaces have been usurped by the pew, as well as the kidney-shaped desk and chair that is now blocking the way into the kitchen? Oh, and the easel holding the watercolor of our home, aka Stately Martha Manor, my husband gave to me last Christmas. Something had to go - or did it?
I thought if I stacked the two hand painted chests that were my daughter's great grandfather's in the corner of the foyer instead of along the wall, I could put the kidney-shaped desk and one of the dining chairs in their place. If I moved the marble-topped washstand closer to the corner in the bedroom, the desk chair might just fit beside it. If I dragged the large parlor palm into the foyer by Bird, he'll think he's in the jungle, and I can put another dining chair in the palm's place at the end of the pump organ. That should leave one empty wall in the dining room next to the narrow china hutch. The watercolor of the house should look lovely there.
As for the easel, it may have to be relegated to the attic until I can find another spot for it. Perhaps the master bath? Of course, my husband would undoubtedly stub his toe in the dark on the leg of the thing, but we all must do our part for art, including a little bruising, if necessary.
I hoped my plan would work and after a mere hour and a half, it did! My husband was even more amazed than I was, believe me.
We now have an eight-foot church pew that will comfortably hold four adults on the side of our small dining table meant to seat two. The math may not be perfect, but the effect is certainly appealing. What thrills my husband most is that I haven't suggested he permanently find a home in the attic WITH the easel. Life is always interesting for the dear man.
Love from Amelia Island,
My Own Treasured Friends,
When a large group of our family gathers in one place, I call it a "pile." And we recently piled into our dad's Pennsylvania house for his 86th birthday. Sadly, no husbands could make it, but three sisters, their brother and various children were enough to fill the home in which we all grew up with laughter, memories and food.
Speaking of food, as it's a subject close to my stomach, there was much to eat in the house, but there was also the lure of wonderful Italian restaurants, one within walking distance. Needless to say, we hit a few and filled the already overloaded fridge with containers of leftovers. Some of us ate meatballs for breakfast. Oh, what fond memories rushed back to me when I chomped into the icy middle of a spicy ball of beef. Naturally, we added three extra leaves to the table and with no elbow room to spare, we were able to crowd around, all fast-talking over each other.
Of course, we didn't go just to attend the birthday party, but to work, a small price to pay for all the wonderful years during which the family home has served us so well. Originally, our brother Bob told us we shouldn't think of it as having to do chores, but rather as Gardening Camp. Happily for some of us, the weeding was rained out, but Bob stayed longer and eventually tackled the little suckers. The bad weather meant the sisters were forced to attend Cleaning Camp. When we all pulled together, my nieces and nephew included, it became fun. It really did. Like an assembly line, one would mop, while the other folded the towels. When one would carry glasses (and Dad has a lot of glasses) to the sink, another would wash and a third dry. What could have taken a whole day turned into just a few hours, and the result was a sparkling showplace. One of my favorite old movies, Cheaper by the Dozen, comes to mind. Our experience may have been a little less organized, but nonetheless was just as loving and wonderful.
The window wars were a featured event of our assembly. We all had opinions as to what was best - the windows open, the windows closed, the draperies open, the draperies pulled shut. Sister likes the windows closed when it's raining and humid. Brother likes them open despite the cool temperature. Father gets cold and the furnace begins running. "What? The windows are still open?" Call the 11 o'clock News, think I, cherishing the controversy.
As for the sleeping arrangements, they can only be described as creative. Picture a three-story house, including two bedrooms and the finished second floor, formerly the attic, which all three sisters shared growing up. Next picture the length of the attic lined east to west with a wall of black soft side suitcases. The only thing differentiating one from another was the spillage of garments, cosmetics, toys and other assorted necessities.
Back to the slumber part. A sofa bed in the midst of the kitchen/dining room area might have been considered the best nest since it was isolated. However, a daily 6:20 a.m. unwanted wake-up call woke Nancy each morning as our early rising father, who wouldn't recall each morning that someone was sleeping in the dining room, started her days off with that perfect combination of the smell of hot coffee and a colorful use of language.
In order to protect himself from early risers and silly sisters, our nephew rolled out his sleeping bag in a very large closet. All was fine and dandy until the girls discovered his palace. In short order, they filled the space to play games, watch DVDs, read, and listen to CDs during the rainy hours. As Nancy always says, "Life is full and rich."
Our pile of family took an hour and walked to the grade school we had trudged through blizzards to attend. As a little kid, I thought it had to have been about 50 miles from home, but it's just under a quarter mile away. The shape of the building is no longer a simple rectangle, and I didn't know whether to ride, sit or swing on most of the playground equipment, but I'm so glad we stretched our legs to show the children where we used to go to school. You just know how much that had to mean to them. (Insert "yeah, right" here.)
Our last night was filled with talent, everyone's definition being different. Keyboard playing from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to a spirited Irish jig entertained the troops. After a three minute rehearsal, sister Peggy and I, having forgotten our tap shoes - rats! - performed a socked foot wiggling number that was outdone by our costumed niece doing her latest dance routine. Nancy threatened a memorized version of The Owl and the Pussycat, but mercifully abstained. If only I'd thought to include my harmonica. Next time I shall not be so ill-prepared. No worries. A professional storyteller was in our midst and finished off the program in style. Out came family movies that have been converted to video. The little kids escaped after about six minutes, but the adults hung on for several hours.
I could continue, but you get the idea. We had a wonderful if too brief time, went for walks on the beach at Presque Isle State Park, and everyone felt Dad's party was a roaring success. My advice to you is pile on your family as soon as you can.
Wishing you a grand and glorious July 4th,
PS Yes, Nancy and I drove everyone else crazy with our talk about business. We apologize to all who wanted to change the subject, but hey, it wouldn't be a family if there weren't these little conflicts. Her version of events can be found in her weblog entry, Party Hearty.
My Own Treasured Friends,
"Yard Farmers" is the new handle our rascally but beloved bear, Teddy O, has bestowed upon Martha Bear®, our mascot, and myself. Why? Because we like to play in the dirt. Being a bear, Martha naturally has a propensity toward digging holes in her quest for whatever it is that bears like to find in the dirt. I prefer to plant flowers, a few veggies and fruitsies, as our father, Leo, likes to call them. I glory in the wealth of loveliness that abounds when water, sunshine and fertilizer are all generously applied.
Alas, there are drawbacks to being a yard farmer. The only time I can grow my nails to any length other than short and ground down is in the dead of winter, which is not a long period of time around here.
Remember, I live in Florida and our winters, real winters with temperatures so low we get a hard freeze at night, are few. That means we can frolic in the soil nearly anytime we want because we're not hindered by snow or great gales of icy wind - unless it's hurricane season, of course. That runs June through November.
My fingers generally have the appearance of underdeveloped pickle stumps. Thorny roses attack me with regularity, leaving my skin, grubby T shirt and / or drawers in shreds. And then there are those nasty little crawly things that I unexpectedly dig up with my trowel, aka, worms. I just plain don't do worms. I understand their value. They aerate the soil. But they are slick, not unlike their fatter, probably unrelated cousins, slugs, both of which are slimy. Slimy falls under the classification of major ick in my world.
Editor's Note: How quickly Jane Marie forgets that she once ate worms with the kid next door. Nancy
Jane Marie's Reply: I did not.
Editor's Reply to JM's Reply: Did too.
Now I must descend to the subject of snakes. I don't know why I have this aversion to the nasty beasts, but I do. (If your best friend is a snake, I apologize.) Perhaps it's because of my occasional glimpses of a repulsive reptile slithering across the exact garden spot on which I had been sitting just a moment earlier. Maybe it's the echoing thud of a serpentine body falling to the ground from a low branch just after my husband assured me snakes don't climb trees. Whatever. The result of a snake sighting in my garden is PANIC in the form of a squealing woman curling herself into a fetal position while standing on one foot. Granted, the imagery is compelling, but before you begin sending me e-mails on how to overcome my fears, be aware that I am working on this. How? By forcing myself to glance at pictures of the creatures in magazines or on television for long periods at a time. I'm already up to .274th of a second and that's over a twelve-year period. You must admit I'm making progress.
Bottom line, call me a One-Legged Shriekball of a Yard Farmer dressed in tattered clothing if you want. I can take it. As I lead my intrepid squad of one cat, Mr. Buzzbee, and Martha Bear into the floral wilderness of our Back Forty, I am reminded of my dear husband's comment, "All I can say is you must like flowers more than you hate snakes."
Time for another I'm-going-to-love/tolerate-snakes treatment. If only I could find that tattered biology book that Daddy once used in his high school classroom. I bet it has photos. Then again, how hard do I want to look for a picture of snakes?
Love from Amelia Island,
My Own Treasured Friends,
Being a homeowner, I sometimes think back to the main advantage of renting an apartment - you are not responsible for the maintenance of the place. With that said, let me proudly declare I am an accomplished person of repair of all kinds. In other words, I occasionally fix things. Well, sometimes.
When I bleached my husband's red shirt* to pink by accident, I cleverly bought a box of dye and used it to restore the shirt. Had he not observed that the buttons had turned from white to orange, my remedy might have gone undetected. Alas, not all my repairs are such successes.
My husband, too, has had his share of less than perfect results in the field of home repair. Don't get me wrong. The man is an experienced antique organ refinisher, a brilliant pot hanger and front gate builder, an expert vacuum and weed-whacker motor re-conditioner, AND all the clothes in his closet are uniformly hung or folded. He would rather do things thoroughly or not at all. In fact, I've recently discovered that when I put the laundry away, he refolds his undies to his particular and unique specifications.
Back to the point - when a person lives in a place for a few years, he or she realizes where more storage is needed. We needed a new towel rack in the bathroom. After considerable banging behind closed doors, my husband told me I could look at the finished product. Yes, there it was, a shiny new chrome towel rack centered on the back of the door. It held a squarely folded work rag for demonstrative purposes only. The dear man was so proud of his accomplishment, I hadn't the heart to point out the one flaw in his presentation.
Leave it to our daughter to burst his bubble. "Hey, isn't that rack thing upside down?”
We all must move on from our disappointments.
After finally finishing hanging the new wallpaper in the kitchen (remember Mr. Buzzbee), I decided I desperately needed more shelving over the washer and dryer. Three years of gentle hints (nagging) finally got us to the hardware store.
We shrewdly purchased pre-finished white boards that required no painting and the metal strips and supports with which to hang them. Returning for the screws we'd forgotten, we gathered our materials, had a refreshing snack and were ready to begin.
We needed to find the studs within the wall because they would be bearing the combined weight of a gallon of bleach, a bottle of laundry detergent and those hefty dryer sheets. I watched with fretful anticipation as my personal stud blindly searched for the supporting beams behind all that sheetrock and freshly applied wallpaper. "Don't worry,” he told me as he drilled hole after horizontal hole through the wall. "The shelf will hide the holes. There's got to be a stud here somewhere.”
I began breathing again when the bit finally chewed into something solid on the other side of my lavender and peach patterned paper. What my man had calculated would take about an hour to do, took most of one day and part of the next. It was worth the wait because those shelves are solid. In fact, they're so strong, that if, heaven forbid, a hurricane blows away our house, the only thing left standing will be those shelves and a ton of exploratory drill holes for the wind to whistle through.
Although the actual timed process of some of our home repairs may be four times as long as a professional would require and even if the purchase of specialized equipment necessary for our little improvements might amount to a hefty bank loan, we have the satisfaction of knowing we'd done it ourselves. And that, as Martha Bear® says, is a better thing. I think.
Love from Amelia Island,
My Own Treasured Friends,
Alas, my writing life is not exclusively a whirl of clever words and phases peppering informative articles and heartfelt fancy fables of romance, recipes and roses. Sister Nancy and I have a business to build that puts me at the keyboard - even when my daughter, Barbra, and her husband, Mark, come to visit.
In an effort to finish some essential chores before everyone woke the other day, I propped my head up at my computer, a bit bleary-eyed from having stayed up late the night before in a futile effort to spy Mars through the telescope.
OK, back to the keyboard. As I always did, I clicked on the icon on my desktop screen that would bring up my Internet service and eventually my e-mail. Nothing happened. I must have not clicked on the center of the icon, I thought. Again, nothing. At this point I saw Mr. Buzzbee, our Florida Feline Production Manager here at GraciousJaneMarie, the newsletter, strolling down the hallway. Grabbing my furry friend, I pushed open the bedroom door where Barbra and Mark were sleeping. Ever so gently, I tossed the always purring cat into the center of their bed where he immediately trod up to their heads to blow his fish breath in their faces.
"Oh, are you awake?" I asked. Although incoherent, they grumbled their "good mornings" while I casually mentioned, "I have no e-mail!" in a tone of voice similar to that of the smoke alarm when it's detected the fumes from spilt pancake batter charring on the stove burner.
In a much calmer voice, Mark replied. "I must have deleted it yesterday when you told me you didn't recognize that bothersome pop-up and asked me if I could get rid of it."
"Yup," I agreed, "must have. Then again, you trusted me." Although the kids have been married for five years, my sweet son-in-law hadn't been aware of his mother-in-law's less than awesome technical skills.
And so the fun began. Fortified only by the strength received from a can of a diet soft drink, Mark began the process of reinstalling my e-mail program. His efforts slowed considerably when he discovered the installment disc contained an outdated version. Naturally, the system wouldn't let him enter local dialup numbers (so I wouldn't be charged for long distance calls each time I connected).
He finally said, "We'll have to call customer service, but it's $1.98 every two minutes."
"Do what needs to be done," I replied, swallowing hard. To my surprise, someone actually answered the phone. She told him she would e-mail him the new version. We could download it and then install it on my computer. Duh. We were not able to get onto the Internet or into the e-mail. That was why we were calling.
Then Barbra offered, "Hey, I brought my laptop. We can use that!"
Surveying Stately Martha Manor from every position, we tried to determine which was the easiest phone jack to access - behind the pump organ, the million pound antique bed or under the roll top desk. We went for the desk. Moving aside the stakes of books stored there (remember, our family motto is No Space Unfilled), we plugged in Barbra's laptop. But wait. It wouldn't connect. Why? We had the wrong phone line. Rectifying that, the e-mail from customer service opened.
"Do you have any blank disks?" asked Mark. I gave him a floppy. "It says it will take 18 minutes to download the program." At the end of that time, the screen read disc too full, meaning all or nothing of the info would be copied. We got nothing.
"Do you have any blank writable CDs?" Mark next inquired. Not having a CD burner, I told him no. "Not a problem," he said, mumbling something that included the word hell and was out the door with Barbra on a quest, egg sandwich in his hand.
They returned triumphant and fiddled a bit more.
"The battery on the laptop is dead," announced Mark. Grumbling, "I'm afraid to drive home. At this rate, I'll probably get eight speeding tickets." He finally reinstalled the program, and we were up and running. Or so we all thought. The kids left to go back home, thanking us for a fun weekend. Ha. Ha.
I (me, Jane Marie) eventually reinstalled the updated version of the software and violà, I was victorious.
Nancy hates it when I use this phrase. She says only bad TV attorneys presenting their summations should say it.
... so, in conclusion, if you are a blooming idiot with regard to mega-thingies and giga-whatsies, leave your computer problems for your children to fix. It makes them feel needed.
Love from Amelia Island,
PS We were thrilled to receive an e-mail from HGTV. They asked to use my husband's photo for an upcoming feature on musical saws. Click here to see the dear man in action.
My Own Treasured Friends,
Holidays and company go together likepeanut butter and pickles. (At our house they do anyway.) Since the holidays will be here before we know it, I wanted to share the events of a recent weekend. We all love to entertain, but preparations can be overwhelming if we let them. My best tip for greeting guests in style is simple - draft a willing helper and divide those chores.
Our good friends called the other week to say they would be in our area and would be staying at our place. Glad, happy and proud to have them as I was, I knew I was in for planning, physical endurance and teamwork. That's where my hubby, Bruce, comes it.
As usual, Bruce opted to clean the inside of the house, while I tackled the flower garden. Now that might not seem like an uneven division of labor, but since we have no grass inside our courtyard - only mucho square feet of flora forever doing fierce battle for turf against weeds - it worked out.
Actually though, he got the better deal because he was in the "electrically cooled air" as our teddy bear mascot, Martha Bear®, calls it. And there I was, peeking in from outside with the blistering Florida sun showing little mercy while he and his cats, Mr. Buzzbee and Spew, stalked our new robotic vacuum cleaner.
Always trying to live up to the Gracious title given to me by my dear sister, Nancy, I agreed that a robotic sweeper might be a better thing to have since Bruce has a bad back.
Naturally, we kept the receipt in case it didn't work as advertised. But the vac cleans wonderfully! Heck the entertainment factor alone makes it a worthwhile purchase. Bruce actually enjoys emptying the thing, saying manly comments like, "You know, this machine is put together really well." It doesn't take a lot, apparently, to amuse the male population.
With no appliance to entertain me, I went back to work ripping out weeds and unwanted volunteers (plants that have seeded themselves). Unfortunately, I realized too late that some of the roots I had pulled up had entangled themselves around the wires of the lights running along my serpentine brick pathway.
I laid the path myself and plan to install a few warnings signs stating something like
But hey, I never trained as a brick mason.
By the time I realized what I was doing, three quarters of the lights no longer functioned.
"Bruce," I called in my sweetest voice.
Bruce wisely shies away from most matters of electricity, but he does have the ability to tinker with sidewalk lighting systems. I tried to convince him I had created this new repair project in order to save him from a humdrum weekend of watching football. And he bought it! He agreed to get the lights running because he is proud of our home and wants it to look its very best in the dark - though he neglected to thank me for my innovative efforts to fill his time. I blame Bruce's lack of good manners in this matter on his exposure to too much bleach. He over uses bleach when he washes the white bed linens. (Originally, they were all multi-colored.)
One final, yet simple project fell under the category of Mr. America Saves the Day and Provides a Lovely Environment in Which to Entertain Our Company. I needed Bruce to saw the legs off the rattan armoire I found on the side of the road after Hurricane Floyd in 1999. It had been wave-jammed, meaning sand had washed up to the home where the piece had formerly lived and bent the metal frame. Being one who loves to uncover treasure, I rescued the armoire to live out its days on our screened-in veranda.
By the light of the citronella candles keeping the mosquitoes at bay and that of the overhead fluorescent in the garage, I balanced the large armoire on the workbench. I struggled to hold it still against the might of Bruce's powerful biceps as he wielded the saw blade and whacked off the bottom four inches of the rusted legs.
As I watched those husbandly muscles undulate beneath the bagged out and ugly green and gray striped T shirt my guy was wearing, I said, "You know, most people would have thrown this armoire away."
His reply, "Ya think so?"
"Sure," said I. "The way I figure it, if we lop off four inches of rusty leg a year, we have a good six or seven years of wear left."
"Lucky us," said he.
The next evening, as I awaited our guests, I thought how lovely it was to be married to a rational man.
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving from us all,
PS This is Issue 24 of Gracious Jane Marie, the newsletter.
♪ HAPPY SECOND ANNIVERSARY TO US ♫
It was another whirlwind year at our home on Amelia Island. So much has happened that we only have enough room to share the most exciting news.
Father managed to lock both sets of keys, his spare included, inside the car with the radio still playing. As the locksmith pulled away after charging a massive fee, Mother asked if Father could get her one of those "jimmy things" that the technician used for preventative maintenance purposes. Father pointed out that he certainly could, but that particular instrument was a criminal's tool and mother would be arrested unless she had a locksmith license. Mother is still deciding whether to attend Spikes Pick-Lock and Gun Academy as an alternative or ask the cook at the local jail if he shares recipes, just in case she gets caught.
Daughter is out on her own now and only borrows money from the family when she needs to eat. She spends her own income on a cleaning service.
Oh, on that same subject, daughter called the house in a panic and screamed, "The new maid has thrown away Strappy. It's the cat's favorite toy!” When Mother recovered from the horror, Father mailed daughter another plastic tie strap from a shipping box. The psychiatrist said Daughter suffered a major trauma over the whole incident and unnecessary visits to his office could have been avoided had Father spent the extra money and overnighted a new Strappy to her. Mother is still scolding Father for his penny pinching.
Afraid to leave the slow cooker on in the house while away, Mother plugged it into the exterior outlet and set it on the cement floor of the veranda to prevent any fires. After eight hours in the pot, the Teriyaki Chicken was still cold inside. Father had unknowingly unplugged the pot while repairing the walkway lights. He offered to eat the raw chicken and sacrifice himself to salmonella. Mother thought there was less chance of him getting sick on hamburger, so prepared a raw beef patty for him since he was so hungry and she didn't want him to wait another eight hours for it to cook. They always look out for each other.
Speaking of pathway lighting, Father is still trying to get the light bulbs to stay on all at the same time ever since Mother accidentally ripped the wires out of the ground while weeding. With their random flashing, Mother is afraid he'll call down aliens of some sort. Not that she would turn anyone away, it's just that she's afraid their green skins will clash with her favorite chartreuse dress, the one she's decided to wear when the paparazzi show up. In the spirit of harmony, she'll offer black trash bags for the aliens to don so everyone will look their best in the worldwide photos.
Mother and Father were invited to a recent holiday dinner at a new friend's house. They got lost in the pouring rain, stepped in puddles to the ankles while trying to figure out which apartment they were supposed to go to, discovered they were at the wrong complex and found their cell phone had lost its charge when they tried to call for directions. Upon finding the right place (three hours and 36 minutes later), Mother tripped on the fringe of the area rug, spilled wine on her new sweater, choked on crispy turkey skin and lost her faux hairpiece in the soup tureen. Father burped three times at the dinner table, broke his reading glasses when the host sat on them, shattered two pieces of the hostess's crystal stemware and cracked a tooth on the mashed potatoes. Mother always looks on the bright side and pointed out that Father's burps were in perfect rhythm to the tune Jingle Bells. Father just loves Christmas music.
When Daughter was small, she used to shake the gifts to guess what they were so the family often referred to her as the Christmas Elf. Now that she has advanced to unwrapping and re-wrapping the presents undetected, she is called the Christmas Troll. Father thinks she may follow in the footsteps of Mother, the lock-picker, and have a profitable future in safe cracking.
Happy New Year from Amelia Island!
Bear With No Name becomes Teddy O™ - click on the photo to enlarge it
Martha Bear® prepares an Official Change of name Certificate for Teddy O™
It's not too late to get a Call Your Mother T Shirt!
click on the photo of Teddy O's arrival in Florida to enlarge it
click on the photo of Martha Bear® and friends enjoying the new pew
click on the photo of Mr. Buzzbee (lower right) to enlarge it
click on the photo of Jane Marie at work in her garden to enlarge it
don't let your kids go to school without our adorable Tumbling Teddies lunchbox
featuring our own
click on the photo of Martha Bea™ to enlarge it
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