What's Really Important...

It is so easy to get caught up in the little velcro hairballs of life and forget what is truly important.

The past few days I have been all balled up in finishing the taxes so the Eldest Unnamed One could do his financial aid applications for college, hiring and firing handymen so I can get the house on the market while simultaneously preparing for, undergoing and recovering from my first rite of old age passage...my first colonoscopy...that I forgot about what was real in the world.

And then the Eldest Unnamed One came home in the middle of me trying to reinvent the financial details of the last year. I was so busy I just tossed off "Unless someone's dying, I can't talk to you."

He said, "Mom, Trae's dead."

Trae, his buddy since second grade. Trae who played soccer with my boy since forever. Trae the boy who's Mama was the toughest loving woman around, the woman voted most determined to see her son make something wonderful out of himself. Trae, the boy who had the Eldest Unnamed One and me hiding underneath my dashboard,laughing our asses off and waiting on his late arrival at the home where their dates had gathered for the pre-Prom pictures. Trae who gets hyper on sugar. Trae who chases my boy around his car after school, Trae the wingman, Trae the perpetually happy kid who defines himself as "Living life to the fullest times 10" on his myspace page. Trae who feels life is worth nothing if he can't make others laugh and feel good, too.

Trae is gone and his wingmen are in shock, walking around in disbelief, their faces frozen in the smiles left over from the second before they heard the news. And here we are, all of us mothers, crying for the boy and the mother left behind to grieve.

I can't remember...Did Dad meet Trae? I think he did. Dad died 5 months ago today. I wonder if he's been up there long enough to be on the Welcoming Committee yet? I think Dad would be a good guy to hook up with if you were young and full of life and energy- then suddenly it all ended. Dad would be good with easing the transition.

I wish he were here to help the left behinds accept the loss.


1_800- Flowers Comes Through!!!!

Well, honey, look at this miracle of miracles! 1-800-Flowers.com sent the following this morning:

Hello Nancy,

Thank you for shopping with 1-800-FLOWERS.COM.

We apologize that the item you purchased did not arrive in satisfactory condition. Our goal here, at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, is to build a trusted relationship with our customers by providing them ease of access, tasteful and appropriate gifts, and superior service. Unfortunately, there are times when we are unable to provide the quality of products we strive so hard to maintain and appreciate you bringing this to our attention.

We have issued full credit back to your paypal account.

Once again, we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you, and look forward to serving your gifting needs again in the future.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at the address listed below. You can also contact us at our customer satisfaction number, 1-800-468-1141.


Regina Washington
Sales and Service Specialist

So I'm thinking 1-800-flowers may not be so bad after all!! I wrote and thanked them and assured them I would be letting all my friend online know that they did come through and make things right after all!

But FTD.Com is still a lost ball in high weeds...They haven't even responded to my inquiries!

And now...I'm off to Clarksville, Va to look at lake property and dream a little bit more about the wonders of tobacco barns turned into guest cottages and waking up to the gentle lapping of the water against my little dock...

A full report will be forthcoming in the next post!


1-800-Flowers- The Battle Continues- Beware Gentle Consumer!

Just to update you on the continuing debacle with 1-800-Flowers and FTD.com...

Here's the original order confirmation email with the guarantee of Feb. 14 delivery and guarantee of success:



Delivery Date Flexible Delivery Selected

02/14/2007 02/14/2007




Subtotal: $29.99

Total Shipping Charge: $15.99

Tax: $0.00

Order Total: $45.98

PLEASE NOTE: If your order is presently en route, has already been shipped or is
delivered, we will be unable to cancel it.

If your order is scheduled for a future delivery date, we will do everything possible
to comply with your request. To cancel your order, you can contact us using any
of the following methods:
Call us at 1-800-468-1141.
E-mail us using our Online Customer Service Inquiry Form.

Thank you again for your order. At 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, your satisfaction is guaranteed.


Julie L.Kaufman

Director of Customer Service


After I tried to contact them by both phone and email then resorted to starting a Paypal dispute, they sent this:

Dear Nancy,
Below is delivery information for order W0045220023.

Your order to Nancy was delivered on Friday, 02/16




Delivery Date


Thank you again for your order. At 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, your satisfaction is guaranteed.


Julie L.Kaufman
Director of Customer Service

Have a special birthday or anniversary coming up? Need a gift for that special someone? Whatever the occasion, you can SAVE 10%* off your next purchase today! Click here to start shopping now!

This is what UPS said:

Tracking Detail

Your package has been delivered.

Tracking Number: 1Z 8XW 814 13 3930
Type: Package
Status: Delivered
Delivered on: 02/16/2007 2:53 P.M.
Location: FRONT DOOR
Delivered to:
Shipped or Billed on: 02/13/2007
Weight: 6.00 Lbs

Package Progress
Location Date Local Time Description
NC, US 02/16/2007 2:53 P.M. DELIVERY
02/16/2007 4:45 A.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
NC, US 02/15/2007 4:13 P.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
02/15/2007 12:53 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
PA, US 02/15/2007 11:07 A.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
PA, US 02/13/2007 11:33 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
NY, US 02/13/2007 8:29 P.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
02/13/2007 8:10 P.M. ORIGIN SCAN

Tracking results provided by UPS: 02/22/2007 7:46 A.M. EST (USA)

By now I've sent emails and called, had to file with Paypal AND suddenly 1-800-Flowers delivers brown roses 2 days late and tries to pass this off as ok?! So, I wrote back:

Dear Julie,

Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining! The delivery was guaranteed for Valentine's Day. The fact that it was allegedly held up in Philadelphia due to weather and allegedly arrived at my house which is NOT EVEN the DELIVERY address originally scheduled, is not my problem.

Those flowers are now three days without water. What do you think they look like? What's that going to tell my son's Valentine- We think you're worth brown, dying roses?!

Please refund our money.


Nancy Bartholomew

I escalated my inquiry through Paypal to a Dispute level. And this is their answer!

Dear Nancy,

Our investigation into your claim is complete. As stated in our User
Agreement, the claims process only applies to the shipment of goods. It
does not apply to complaints about the attributes or quality of goods
received. Therefore, we are unable to reverse this transaction or issue a

So, 1-800-Flowers skates by because they eventually delivered wilted, brown flowers 2 days late!!!!

So, just to release my frustration, I write them again:

I continue to be amazed that you people can send brown flowers to the WRONG address two days late and still not be held accountable or offer your customer any renumeration. I frankly find this practice reprehensible and will do my level best to tell anyone and everyone I know what shabby, unacceptable service I received from your company.

I continue to remind you of your guarantee not only to deliver the flowers on time and to the correct address, but to guarantee your customer's satisfaction.


Nancy Bartholomew

And that, my friends, is why I'm putting it all out here- so you guys won't fall victim to what I consider to be a huge consumer fraud!!! I can understand the weather holdup, but as I paid a full $15 extra for a guaranteed Feb. 14th arrival, I expected a refund because the Valentine never arrived on the day, at the delivery site or in good condition!

And what's worse? Every day they send me emails advertising their current specials!!!

Oh, and FTD.Com? I have yet to hear back from them!!!!



A Kiss Is Worth a Thousand Germs, But Two Kisses...

So...I am on my way to the nursing home yesterday when my cell rings. "You have a crisis at Nursing Home #1. A suicidal/homocidal patient." Then they add their normal spiel..."He will be a regular referral and is in room blah,blah,blah. Have a nice day!"

This means I can see him more than once a month, which if you're doing therapy is totally the only way to go...if you want to see someone get better that is. I mean, what can you do for a suicidal guy you see only once a month? I'm thinking magic wand for those type cases because talking about the problem in 20-30 mins. just doesn't cut it!

But when I reach my first stop, the social worker greets me with, "You don't want to stay here too long. We're infested with the Norovirus." Great. I'm one of those people you say, "One time, when I was three, I got carsick," and I'm already heading for the commode. It must be a narrow form of hypocondriasis limited only to stomach viruses!

"But," she says, cocking her head to one side and frowning, "I don't think it's hit that hallway yet, so if you move fast and don't breathe on your way, you might be okay...and he is suicidal...or else he's just attention seeking because both his kids are out of town..."

So, off I go.

I do not consider it a good sign when I walk through the swinging double doors onto the hall and half the staff are wearing surgical masks.

My little fella comes tottering out of his rest room, gasping for air, his hospital gown open in the back to reveal a flat butt in saggy tidy yellows (no way were these ever tidy whities.) His gray hair is standing up in tufts, his skin is as gray as his hair and the aide quickly hooks him back up to his oxygen. She is wearing latex gloves.

He sees me, smiles or grimaces, I prefer to see it as a smile, and beckons me in. The aide walks past on her way out and says, "Oh, he's got diarrea now."

Uh-oh. But it's too late. He's looking up at me expectantly and it's time to get underway.

Turns out he doesn't think he's suicidal or homocidal. It's more like he's having "bad thoughts" he can't control. Furthermore, he's fairly certain God is punishing him for something because why else would his kids be gone? And why else would something real bad be wrong with him, something so bad people have to wear masks and gloves around him and won't tell him what's wrong?!

So I tell him his kids just went on vacation and he has a virus and that the staff is wearing gloves and masks to keep from getting or spreading the virus.

"Eh?" he says. "What was that?"

This is when I learn how hard of hearing he is.

So, I wind up broadcasting the virus news to the bottom half of the hallway.

And when I finish he says, "I just wish they'd tell me what's wrong with me. Why did God take my kids?"

This is when I realize he has no short term memory.

So I say, "How about them Yankees?" Because there is Yankee stuff everywhere. He can remember the Yankees, so I try tying the virus information and the kid whereabouts to the Yankees. After 20 minutes he remembers the kid stuff but still wants to know what's wrong with him and who the Yankees got in their trade for some pitching staff.

But when I leave he stretches out his hand, clasps mine and brings it to his lips, kissing me goodbye.


Halfway down the hallway, on my way out, I run into Lazarus. He doesn't look so wild today. In fact, he is dressed and sitting in his wheelchair and looks for all the world like a 7 year old boy waiting for school pictures.

The smile he gives me is like spring returning after a long winter's cold snap. Then he takes my hand and he kisses it!

That's when I notice the kidney-shaped throw-up pan on his lap. But it's too late to stop the kiss. Lazarus has a grip like iron and eyes that beg for love. I stoke his hair, smile and say a few words before making a beeline for the antibacterial hand sanitizer.

I practically shower in the stuff. I clean everything I have with me. Then I turn to the social worker who's waiting expectantly for my report.

"Well," I say. "There's good news and there's bad news. First of all, Norbert isn't suicidal or homicidal- just anxious and lonely."

"So what's the bad news?" she asks.

"The Mudwing Hall has Norovirus."

She sighs. "I was afraid of that," she says.

You were?! Really?! What was I, your science experiment?!

Stay tuned for a further report on the incubation period for Norovirus...


Dancing Naked With More Pennies from Heaven

The pennies are raining down again...

In the past 24 hours ten or more pennies have appeared in unexpected places, including one that seemed to fall out of nowhere onto the floor beside me...old pennies, none of them shiny or new.

When the penny fell out of nowhere, I had to smile. "Hi, Dad," I whispered. "I miss you, too."

I don't know when these pennies are going to start appearing, only that they will.

Does Dad know when I need a boost? Is he saying, "Keep up the good work?" Or is he simply saying what he told us before he died, "I will always be with you"?

I am writing again and this time I've passed Chapter 1. Unlike every other beginning of the past year, this one is falling out onto the pages like a movie or a homecoming and I am so relieved.

But I can't talk about it. It jinx's me.

I am also reading "Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn." If you haven't read it or indeed, if you haven't read all of Kris Radish's books, you're missing out. If you've ever been afraid to trust your dreams, or indeed to dream, get going and find this book!

Reading Dancing Naked has only underscored what I've been feeling lately- that our lives are made up of dreams and the secrets that get in their way. I would hazard a guess that everyone keeps at least one shame secret deep inside, one "wrong" or irrational truth about themselves that keeps us afraid and unable to totally let go. If we can't let go, we can't travel with our dreams.

But just knowing this isn't enough. We have to break through that fear and banish the myth.

But you know that. We all "know" that.

Life is just too damned short to waste time indulging in fear. I know this but still I plunge into that same pool over and over again.

Maybe that's what Dad's pennies are about...Death happens to us all. Fear doesn't stop it from happening. In fact, all fear does is rob of us the present moment. Maybe Dad's saying, "If I can die and survive, you can live."

And since we create our own reality, that's what I'm chosing to believe...


True Love Triumphs Over 1-800-Flowers and FTD.Com Any Day

This is young love:

This is the Eldest Unnamed One's first love and his first Valentine's Day with a true love...So he knew what he wanted to do- He wanted to send her roses. He said buying roses and taking them to her was cheesy and I agreed with him. He knew having roses delivered would make her Valentine's day. So he asked me for help.

After a great deal of hunting around online to find something wonderful and yet not totally outrageous in price, we found 1-800-Flowers. This is what they promised to send, with guaranteed delivery on the 14th, to the Beloved's home:

But on Valentine's Day, nothing arrived. Nada! Zip, zilch, zero! Nothing!

So, I emailed them and as we'd payed with Paypal, I began the complaint process.

Day after Valentine's Day- Not a word from them.

Then today two brief emails arrive showing that delivery has JUST been made TO OUR HOUSE! Our house- not across town to the Beloved's house where the flowers belonged. And since they'd sent a confirmation email stating they had the order right the day after we ordered them, I began to smell a rat.

They sent a link to UPS tracking to show the package had been held up in Philadelphia due to weather and explaining this was their unpreventable reason for the late arrival...Okay, but why send the roses to my house then? Furthermore, isn't that why you pay 15 extra dollars for the delivery guarantee, so you can get a refund if it doesn't arrive? You don't pay guaranteed arrival so you can get wilted flowers delivered two days AFTER the special day to the wrong address!

Apparently 1-800-Flowers disagreed because this afternoon, right after the two emails arrive in my In-box, I find a purple, 1-800 Flowers box on the front porch.

This is what was inside:

Wilted, brown-edged, bent and wrinkle-petaled roses. I don't think they look like they were pictured on their site, do you?

So, I wrote back and said "Don't try to pee on my leg and tell me it's raining. We want a refund."

But don't feel bad, 1-800-Flowers, it's not just you...

FTD.Com's roses arrived a day early and in about the same, if not worse, shape...also guaranteed to arrive ON the 14th, not before and not after. Also satisfaction guaranteed.

This is what I ordered from them:

And this is what we got:

I called them. Know what their customer service line said? "I'm sorry, we're too busy to take your call today. Email us."

So, I did. And guess what?

They haven't even written back!

But that's okay. I watched Oprah today and learned that every event we perceive in a negative light is really a positive lesson and we should be thankful the learning event occured because we have been given a gift of knowledge and an opportunity to grow.

Okay, here's what I got out of the opportunity-

Maybe buying roses at Fresh Market and carrying them to your loved one is better than buying them at the cheesy grocery stores. It certainly beats the $80 bucks I would've paid a local florist to deliver said roses and when you're personally in charge and acting as the delivery agent, you know those damned flowers will be there they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there! But no matter how you choose to give your beloved flowers, anything, absolutely anything, beats buying roses online from 1-800-Flowers or FTD.com!

But there was an even better gift in this experience- The Eldest Unnamed One has seen first hand what we all hope for in a true love- that roses are no substitute for what really counts, and when the chips are down, a real Valentine understands. She appreciates the time and effort put into the day and loves you just because you're you.

They're a class act, those two!


200th Post! More Brown's Barn Tales

Unbelievable- this is my 200th post! Wow. Doesn't seem like I've been yakking that long!

Anyway...for two days I've been struggling with uploading a piece of Saturday night. I think I've got it. You know I'm sometimes technologically challenged!

Marti and I were out at Brown's Ole Opry, a bluegrass venue run out of Farmer Brown's old tobacco barn and a well-kept secret to the uninitiated. They don't charge anything, don't sell anything...the Brown brothers started inviting musicians out to their barn to play just because they liked the music. Folks soon began to gather every Friday and Saturday evening, bringing cakes and pies, hot coffee and fresh well water as a donation to the evening's doings.

I first heard about the barn from one of the Lisas at clogging- the farmer Lisa. She said she'd been out at Brown's one late Spring evening. They open up the back of the barn when the weather allows and a fresh breeze blows through the old barn, the frogs and crickets join in with the bluegrass pickers and beyond the gravel drive that runs along back of the barn, the fresh scent of hay wafts in from the seemingly limitless acres of farmland.

"Well, I was just a settin' there when, Plop! Off one of the rafters come these two snakes! Right down on the hay bale beside me!" We all allowed as how we would've run screaming never to return but not Farmer Lisa. She smiled. "Well, it's mating season and they was all twined around each other and too busy to fool with me, so I just got up and moved aways off. I didn't want to disturb nobody."

I don't know as I would've had the presence of mind not to disturb most of mid-North Carolina! However, that's the kind of gritty everyday determination typical of most of the barn folk. They work harder than most of us could ever imagine. It takes a lot to get them worked up, especially when it's only a couple of harmless black snakes doing what comes natural. Most of the people I've met out there are friendly, quiet, easy-going people who welcome me without hesitation and wrap me in the fold of their community without asking my particulars. It is a special gift to be so blessed.

Nobody takes anything or anybody too seriously- which is why, when Deberry, a retired deputy sheriff and right fine banjo picker, decided to sing one of his favorite "She done me wrong and my heart is broke" songs, the guitar player and finally the audience, chimed in with wails and loud sobbing.

Marti and I enjoyed it right much. I wouldn't want you to feel left out- so here's a little taste of barn life and Deberry singing...

P.S It'll take a few minutes to load, but it's worth waiting on, I promise!


Saturday Night Country Fever

Oh, it's big doins down here in McLeansville, North Carolina! Way out in the middle of almost nowhere, Farmer Brown (no joke, his real name), John Brown no less, hosts local musicians in his old tobacco barn. Only the locals in the know get an invite and sometimes they drag their friends along, which is how I got hooked up with this wonderful event.

The musicians are rarely in tune, but the audience is forgiving and a good time is had by all. We were out this particular evening because we love to dance with Caroline, the woman in the pink top. She's one of our regular clogging group but what makes her so fun to dance with is the way she just loves it. She's been a little down lately. Her husband lost his battle with lung cancer and life just hasn't been rosy. But when she dances, she forgets everything but the music and her smile is a delight to behold.

Marti's husband, Gary, shot the video. I told him to get as much of the local color and flavor as he could. I mean, one day all of this will be gone. Gary did a right good job. He even caught a guy explaining to me why he drives an hour to eat at the Libby Hill Seafood restaurant in High Point. "We eat the expensive stuff too. We got the shrimp and for the two of us it come to $23! Well, it was $21 but I left a tip, so that made it $23..." !!!! A $2 tip.

Oh well, maybe I'll get the singing deputy story up tomorrow, along with his clip...


Finding Your Life's Passion- or Passion? What Passion?

The Truth Is...Continued

Here I am with my old "The truth is" writing prompt again. You start with "the truth is" and go on from there...

The truth is, if y'all have any good ideas for other writing prompts you'd like to hear from this writer, feel free to let me know...Except for you, Billy! You are a dear, dear sweetie, but you'd probably have me writing about goats invading alien spaceships or some such as that!

The truth is I have no idea what my passion is. You know when I was talking about visualizing your dream into reality? Well, every time I think on it lately, I come up with dead air.

Marti and I tried thinking together in the same room and we both had the same result- nada.

We've asked ourselves if we're just chicken shit. We've wondered if we're afraid of failure, so we're blocking our wish from popping up into our heads so we can go visualize it. We've analyzed, proselytized, finalized and idealized all sorts of notions, but it doesn't help.

This is as far as I've gotten...My dream reality is so far a plot of land on Kerr Lake where I will put 4 tobacco barns- two joined together to make a roomy and nice cottage, then the other two will each be transformed into little guest cottages for the boys and their families when they come home to visit.

When the boys aren't there, I can rent them out to folks like a bed and breakfast, thus supporting me in my old age. When the boys are there, we'll jump off the end of the dock, water ski, catch fish and raise a good amount of hell...Then, when we're done with the racket and the fussing, we'll send them off to their cottages with their families and lock the door behind them until morning.

I'll have a study overlooking the water, so I can write and look out the window at the red-headed woodpecker who's made a home in the tree ten yards away. I'll have a little, manageable vegetable and flower garden and perhaps a few rose bushes, but not the well-behaved kind, the old "found" rose type bush, the kind that still grows around the foundations of home places long ago reduced to their stone foundations.

There will be music and the smell of muffins and cinnamon rolls wafting out my kitchen window in the morning. The window will be the kind that you turn a crank at the bottom to open it and it opens out from the cabin, like tiny glass barn doors.

There should be a screened in porch overlooking the lake, too. The beds will have feather mattresses, pillows and comforters. Old quilts will be piled in a trunk in front of the overstuffed sofa. And my friends won't have to call before they come over, just pop in the back door...Unless I've stuck my little yellow "Not right now" flag into its holder off the back porch railing.

Bird houses. Bird feeders. Fresh zinnias on the old wooden kitchen table in the summer. Fresh tomatoes, shaved Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and basil for summer lunch. Thick vegetable soup in the winter time. The quiet stillness of a gray winter morning that heralds snow by mid-afternoon. Snow that clings to the cedars and looks like a Christmas card from my front gate.

A red kettle on the stove. Mismatched mugs hanging from hooks beneath the open-faced cabinets. A yellow hooked rug in the middle of the kitchen floor. Warm dogs snuggled beside me on the sofa for their afternoon naps. Someone who loves me, who loves to laugh, puttering around the place, sometimes taking the '48 Chevy truck into town to pick up one Bubba thing or another.

Bright, faded colors against old barn wood, soft, worn quilt fabric against ancient barn wood...and time, always more time. No one pushing me to do things I don't want to do. No paperwork or time clocks. Just the serenity of the sunlight hitting lake ripples, the quiet lapping of water against the dock, the scent of approaching rain on a hot summer day.

This is all I know of what I want and perhaps for now, it is enough.


Mouth of Marti...

When I grow up, I want to have Marti's mouth!

This morning, the guy from the Toyota place, Tony, calls and Marti answers the phone.


"Hello, is Gary there?"

Marti: "No, I'm sorry, he's not."

Tony: "Oh, well this is Tony from the Toyota Place and we're having a big event Saturday afternoon to showcase the new Toyota Tundra and we want to invite him since he's a Tundra owner."

Marti: "Oh? So you aren't inviting me?"

There's a pause while Tony tries to think up an answer but Marti's too quick for him-

"Is this a men-only event or don't you think women would be interested in trucks? Because if that's what you're thinking, you're wrong. I'm the one who drives the Tundra. It's mine." She sighs. "Well, I guess it's still a man's world, isn't it?!"

"Well, ma'am, I'm sorry. I guess the list they gave me just had Gary's name on it and so I was just..."

"I know, you were just doing what you were told to do. You didn't even think to question the list. That's because you're a man and that's how men think. Tell me something, are there only men's names on that list?"

"Well, yes, ma'am, there sure are. I'm going to look into this..."

"Won't do you a bit of good," Marti snaps. "Because it was a man who gave you that list, wasn't it?"

Tony is floored. "Why, you're right, it was a man."

"That's what I thought!" Marti says, and starts to hang up.

"Uh, Ma'am? Wait! Could I please just ask you just one favor?"

"What's that?"

"Would you please, please, please come down to the Toyota place this Saturday afternoon between 3 and 5 and ask for me, Tony?"

"And why would I do that?"

"I just gotta meet the woman that goes with that mouth!"


Goddesses, Alive and Thriving in Greensboro

Ah, it has been a full day here in bargain shopping land. Marti and I had lunch with Mertis but somehow we finished out meal and still felt like something was missing...something like...shopping.

But we don't need a thing. Between my coupon shopping and free bargain dealing, there just wasn't anything we needed, leaving us only the option of browsing Kohls, filling up our carts with deals and then "Unshopping" everything and leaving.

It's not landing the deal sometimes, it's the pursuit.

So, there we are, minding our own business in the jewelry department when I notice these two other women. Two other women about our age, dressed in funky dresses and hats, palling around just as we were. It was like seeing ourselves from the other dimension.

Frankly, Marti and I are just different. There aren't a whole lot of us wandering around...but there they were.

So, the one in the black hat stops, looks at me and says "That is a beautiful jacket! Did you get it here?"

This one is clearly the extrovert of the two, as you will see later.

I am wearing the most funky, multicolored jacket over a black velvet skirt.

"Here?" I say. "Oh, no way!"

The woman smiles indulgently. "No, I didn't mean here in Kohls. I meant here, in town!"

Duh! Of course.

So we talk for a second and go our separate ways. Later Marti and I agree if we don't pee, we'll explode. So we head for the ladies' room by customer service, and there they are again. They're just sitting in chairs between the ladies' room and the customer service counter.

There are three chairs and they are taking up two, with a purse in the third chair.

Now Marti and I have a dilemma. We hate Kohls' bulky carts, so our arms are loaded with bras and sweaters and miscellaneous do-dads we have yet to "unshop," and we have nowhere to put them whilst we tend to business.

So Marti, clearly the extrovert of our duo, says "Is anyone sitting there?" Which of course they are not. A pocketbook is sitting there. The black hat perks up, picks up the purse and says, "Oh,no. Do you want to sit down?"

I feel like we're at a ladies' tea.

Marti allows as how, no, we just have to go and have nowhere to leave our goodies.

Thus our new friendship began.

We return from the ladies room and Marti complements their outfits. And we all talk about how much we love to dress up, how important it is to celebrate our juicy, sexy, creative, wonderful selves...especially as we dance around the rim of menopause.

And that's when we find out who they are and what they do.

These two cool chicks call themselves "Joie de Vivre."

"Our mission is to unleash the creative spirit in everyone through the power of dress. It is through creativity that we can restore our souls, ignite our passions and leave the world a better place."

They sponsor Hat Attacks for cancer patients: "Adorn your beautiful bald head!" They use scarves, hats, ribbons, crowns, whatever it takes to celebrate the beauty that is our naked head. "Nourish the soul and pamper the body!" they say. There are hand massages, aromatherapy, scarf-tying workshops...it's so wonderful!

Marti and I will be volunteering soon.

They also do the Summer Solstice here in Greensboro...

"It is important we gather to give thanks for our beautiful earth. Without gratitude there is no joy! Please join our mission to keep the Solstice going... We would like the "Summer Solstice" to always remain free for our community...this year over 4000 happy souls attended. This is just one small way we can bring joy and peace to a world that needs much of that!"

These two are living all that Marti and I have been puzzling out for ourselves this past few months and they are doing it with an open-hearted generosity that pulls others into its radius and warms every spirit it touches.

Go check these chicks out!

Damn! Aren't we lucky to have true Goddess examples living amongst us?!


P.S On the Amish in, or out, of Caswell County

I got a sweet email from a lady named Martha today. She said:

Hi Nancy,

The Amish have left Caswell Co. for other parts.


Sigh. Well, at least my journey was not for naught. I loved Caswell County. The way the hills rise up then ebb away into beautiful glens and valleys; the tobacco barns; the old buildings in little towns that seem to ache to tell their story, or to be inhabited once again.

It just fuels my "Live by the Lake" intention...Maybe Lake Hyco or Mayo...somewhere close to those red barns and misty hills. Somewhere where I can fuse two or three tobacco barns together into a sweet cottage with a fieldstone fireplace and old rose bushes that volunteer their pink blooms a time or two a summer.

The city is just wasted on me.


Paula Dean Realities and the Movie "Because I Said So!"

Okay, I'm reduced to giving you a movie review. That is how dull my weekend has been, from a blogging perspective.

Gene Shalit trashed "Because I Said So," on Friday morning, putting a small damper on my enthusiasm for seeing Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore in this romantic comedy about an interfering mom and her too-long single daughter.

But, because as I said it's a slooow weekend, we all trooped down the the theater, plunked down our money and settled into our seats- even the Youngest Unnamed One who complained bitterly about being dragged to a "chick flick." He said the Eldest Unnamed One was only attending with his Beloved because, and I quote directly, "He's had his balls surgically removed." !!! The Beloved usually bops the Youngest on the head when he says this and they all laugh and then the Youngest looks at her and says, "Make my bed, woman!" which always gets him another bop...that is, if I don't reach him first...but I digress.

We have a quite open relationship around here, so all comments are totally tolerated...not agreed with, but tolerated or debated. The way I see it, I'd rather hear what they're thinking than not.

Besides, I love the way their minds work.

So, the movie was good. We all laughed, even the chief cynic who said it wasn't as bad as he'd anticipated.

I think chick flicks have the opposite reaction from the one the movie makers hope to generate. They usually make me feel sad. I think it's that "I could've had a V8" feeling.

So, I slog around feeling sorry for myself for a few minutes and then I remember the thing about reality is, it belongs to you and it is whatever you make of it. So if I want a V-8, or a relationship where I'm loved for who I am and not who I should be- I have only to create it and it will be.


Well I hope so...because there wasn't a lot of time to waste on pity parties. We all trooped home and I taught the Eldest Unnamed One and his Beloved how to make herb-crusted pork chops and maccaroni and cheese while I tried the recipe Paula Dean attempted to give Oprah on Friday afternoon...that is, before Paula dropped the glass measuring cup into the batter and it spewed all over everywhere. God, that was too funny! Paula just laughed and laughed and didn't let it bother her...which is why I had to make the pound cake. Oprah said the fiasco with Paula was the best time she'd ever had cooking on a show and from the way she was laughing and trying not to spew a mouthful of cake, I believe her!

That's what cooking and Saturdays are for anyway- laughing in the kitchen and celebrating the life you've made.


Friday's "Explore" of Enraptured Caswell County

You know me and Ellen are bad to wander.

Today's "explore" took us to "Amish" country in Caswell County. We were in search of an Amish market, Yoder's.

In my mind, I suppose I had pictured the Amish markets of my childhood. Row after row, booth after booth of noodles, eggs, meats, baked goods and other special things grown close by and put up fresh.

I could see the Amish girls, cherry cheeked, in plain black and white frocks, their hair neatly coiled beneath small white bonnets. The air yellow with the reflection of light bouncing off brilliant butters and cheeses. The smell of baked yeast rolls in the moist warm air. That is how it is where I come from, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Lancaster, the hub of all things Amish in my old neck of the woods was only thirty miles away but scores of Amish farmers would make their way in to the local farmer's market to sell their wares each weekend.

I set out with this in mind, thinking how Ellen would love this sojourn, what fun it would be to explore the acres of produce with her. What did it matter we were driving over an hour to get there? I'd seen the list of items they offered for sale and it was a gracious plenty.

We drove. We got lost, as usual, but eventually we wound up on the right road...but at 3.4 miles, per the directions printed out on Mapquest, there was nothing. At 5 miles still nothing.

"It says End Branch Road," Ellen said, squinted to read the print on the map. "Maybe we just have to drive to the end!"


In fact, we nearly missed it...

There were certainly no acres and aisles of booths filled with Amish. In fact, the Yoders sold out to another family and they are not Amish...at least not traditional Amish! Not with a website and a van advertising their store. Not with a gaudy purple and gold Jesus is Lord flag. Not the Amish I know!

Still- we found plenty to bring home...but not the golden cheeses and butters I remembered. Noodles, thick Amish style noodles, tee-ninsy bow ties no bigger than a half inch in size; tie-dyed butterfly sprinkles to top cookies; steak rub; lightly roasted cornmeal; oatmeal mixes...It was a right good haul.

In keeping with my "never repeat yourself on the way back" philosophy, we turned left out of the lot and took our chances with a sketchy map and the car compass. We saw one sign near the store that said to look out for horse drawn buggies, but we didn't see a one, leading me to speculate it was a marketing ploy to attract tourists to Yoders. (Didn't see any horses drawing buggies, either. Now that would've been something...a horse wearing an artist's smock and beret, sitting out in the field on a bale of hay just painting away...Forgive me, it's been a long day.)

While the route was not as beautiful as the one on the way in, we stopped to take picture...Ellen looking out for ill-tempered homeowners with rifles who don't like "touristy" types and me snapping away as fast as I could.

Don't know why I rushed myself though, we hardly saw a single soul on the road, in the yards, or for that matter, anywhere!

Ellen thought maybe they'd been snatched up by the rapture while I thought, nah, aliens...Rapture, aliens...Same difference, really...


Snow Stew and Young Love

We was robbed! We came looking for a party and all we got were a few lame flakes and the threat of an ice storm! On the good side, school was canceled and a big pot of snow stew prepared.

Snow stew is the weather good luck dance we do around here for luck with snow forecasts. I believe this is why we were cheated today- I didn't start making the stew until the morning of the alleged snow, not the night before.

If only I'd started sooner!

Usually I make spaghetti two days before the alleged event. I make extra sauce and use it as a base for the stew but this morning I started from scratch.

I browned a pound of ground beef with half a chopped onion. In the meantime I cooked half a bag of dried Lima beans. When the meat was done, I drained the grease, added a jar of spaghetti sauce, 2 cans of creamed corn, 4 cans of baked beans, 2T brown sugar, 1 T or so dark Karo syrup, 1/2 c. ketchup and when they were done, the Lima beans. We let it simmer for about an hour and then we feasted.

Oh, it was wonderful.

The Eldest Unnamed One later revealed he'd eaten at least five bowls over the course of the day.

Five bowls of basically, beans.

Fortunately, he's over at his beloved's home for the evening. Otherwise, things might've turned explosive around here.

Beans, beans good for your heart...Hope they're good for young love as well!