Friday, December 29, 2006

It Seemed Like a Good Idea...

I’m not sure what possessed me to try this, it just looked…interesting, or like something someone needed to test. Anyway, there they were, little bits of false eyelashes that were supposed to be glued individually to the eye area to make a realistic set of lashes.

Mind you, I have never, in my life, worn false eyelashes, but hey, we’re in the South, home of some of the biggest false eyelashes and hair in the world, so how do they do it? Theatrical displays run in the family so I had to check it out.

So I brought these home (very inexpensive from CVS) with the proper glue substance and guffawed at the fact that salons charge some $40 to apply these suckers. Surely I could do it with my eyes closed.

It turns out you have to do it with your eyes closed, since applying them means closing one eye and then blocking the other eye with the hand applying the lashes. My first attempt (eye number 1, lash number1) went pretty well. Beginners luck. Subsequent attempts resulted in lashes on my eyelid, eyebrow, cheek, hand and finally the floor, which started to take on a creepy look like a little spider gathering.

I proceeded doggedly on, glue was beginning to form stalagmites on my fingers and my original lashes were becoming one with each other. I finally called my Dear Husband to have a go. He is gainfully employed as a Dermatological surgeon, (“…the cancer, I forgot about the cancer…”*) so I figured if anyone could do it he could. Apparently it takes more skill to apply these lashes than a surgeon, used to tiny maneuvers, could manage. Even weirder, he made no comment about my trying out these little beasts as though I do this sort of thing all the time. I’m figuring that either:
1. He secretly liked the looked of random lashes on my eyelid,
2. He was also curious about this process, since he might one day have to perform this operation in his office,
3. He knows me a little too well.

Finally I had to give up. Resistance was futile and I had wasted enough time in my stubborn insistence that I could conquer these little beasts.

I made one last attempt. I tried a different approach, and it worked!

So if any of you women or men out there get the urge for big false eyelashes, pay the $40 bucks, it might be worth your sanity.

NOT that I'm condoning this kind of behavior.

Except for Johnny Depp.

The big hair is next.

*Seinfeld, for those of you too young to remember.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Trying out a New Format for a New Season

 I thought I'd try out a new format for a little while, unfortunately I lost all my links so I'll have to rebuild those.  Remember, 'Patience is being able to wait peacefully' or at least that's what I tell my kids.

Winter, Winter, Winter

Though we may be chastised, though we may be shunned we must be bold and true to our beliefs and shout from the rooftops..."We love Winter!"

I had given up hope early in the season of seeing any hope of a cold winter with, well, actual cold.  And yet as I stand looking at the blowing leaves, with brown crispness and nary a sign of humidity or sweat, it is Winter I see.  I had wondered what we would do with our generous supply of cold weather gear, our downs, our hats and gloves and scarves.  It seems I worried in vain, for here upon our mountain home (at 1500 ft.) there are signs of frost, and crystal stalagtites formed from mountain run-off.  
The wind is biting, our painter is wearing long underwear (granted people down here were long johns if the temp goes below 60), my leather driving gloves are back out and ready to rumble and I can put on a cashmere sweater without passing out from heat exhaustion.  And as the final icing on the sweet-tea, there were a few snowflakes fluttering furtively around today as if this was new and uncharted snowflake territory.

Fall herself was pretty spectacular, with more and

 longer lasting colors than we have ever seen anywhere.  The leaves piled up so high on the side of the road that we could drive through with a very satisfying crunch, swish and swirl.  (I'm sure we fully endeared ourselves to our neighbors doing this)  We hadn't realized how much we couldn't see through the density of the trees until the leaves fell off.  For instance we had no idea that we were so close to the back of the school or the road on the hill above us.

Robb has somehow forgotten how to dress the girls warmly and keeps sending them to school with light coats.  Luckily indoor recess happens if the weather is colder than freezing, as apposed to Wisconsin were indoor recess happened if the weather was colder than 0 degrees F.   Them were tuff little kids in Wisconsin.  Also snow pants were required as part of the dress code.

I can't say it's been an easy adjustment moving again and to a place so different from whence we came, but it certainly has been a beautiful one.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Of all the Places...

One might think that one must go to a major city, or even a minor city to get some really unusual cultural experience, however, one might occasionally be wrong about that thanks to serendipity and a really persistent Cultural Art Center director, thanks to whom I was able to enjoy a weekend of Chinese calligraphy taught by an esteemed professor from Nanjing who is also one of the most highly regarded calligraphers in Mainland China. (I wonder if that is a full sentence?)

Thanks to Karen at the MACC on Signal Mountain (claimed population of about 9,000) about 20 people were able to take an austere and wonderful 2 day vacation playing with brush pen, ink and paper. This event also allowed your’s truly to speak more Chinese than I have for years. Heaven on Earth for me.

Professor Zhou from the University of Nanjing, China ran this two-day seminar with the help and several wonderful translators. His English was only a little better than my Chinese but he was so earnest and charming and gentle, as well as totally puzzled by us Americans that the class had a sweet, soft, humorous tone. He brought us each the gift of an ink-stone, a ‘pen’ (brush), ink and practice paper. The brushes were engraved with the event of “Dr. Zhou, Tennessee, 2006” on them in old-style script. It was funny to see how moved we all were from these objects even though the translator kept saying,
“Dr. Zhou says to shake up the ink, it may have been on a shelf for a while!”

Having some knowledge of Chinese classroom etiquette I could see a little of what we were like in Dr. Zhou’s eyes. We were able to sit still for a whole 10 minutes of lecture on the ‘4 treasures’, pen technique and history before almost everyone started playing with the ‘4 treasures’ like 2 year olds. Finally he gave up the lecture and said,
“Ah, how would you like to work now?”
(as we opened our ink anyway)
“Americans are doing people, I see that.”
(as we sloshed some into the ink-stones)
“We can learn some history later”
(as we looked, puzzled, at our brushes, stiff with glue from the factory)
“Ok, ok let me show you how to soften the brushes…!” (panic)
(as we prepared to break the bristles off)

We tried to be as polite as possible, Southern American style, however we looked more like an untamed rabble and that is probably as polite as possible. We were quite a contrast, he, in his formal dark mandarin collar suit and us in our sweat, T-, tie-dye shirts and jeans. Once everyone settled down, though, and stopped sniffing their ink, everything was butterflies and bunnies, or mao bi and shuan. (Brush pen and rice paper) (I have no idea how to say bunnies and butterflies)

We began to practice strokes and fill the paper at an alarming rate unheard of in a Chinese writing class. Dr. Zhou had to show us repeatedly that it was not speed but art that timed the stroke and after about 10 pages we got the point and slowed down. We then sat in a freezing lecture hall (they don’t turn on the heat in the building on weekends) for an amazing tour through the history of Chinese calligraphy. Both the translator and Dr. Zhou would punctuate the lecture with comments like;
“I really like this guy’s style,”
The ‘guy’ being an ancient scholar 1000 years dead.
For some great examples of ancient script go to and click on some of the scholars.

We also saw some shots of Dr. Zhou’s son on a field trip to an ancient planetarium sight. Here was this adorable kid sitting on amazing historical stones and ancient architecture…eating Pringles.

On the first day we all went to lunch together at a Chinese restaurant on the Mountain. Someone asked Dr. Zhou if he liked the food, and after a long pause he answered that he liked American food very much, then whispered in Chinese,
“…This is not Chinese food…”

During this time he also discovered I learned Chinese in Boulder, Colorado and from then on told everyone I learned Chinese in Boulder, China. The translators and Dr. Zhou were very complimentary about my pronunciation and expressed great pleasure in that I, “Had speaking tones!” I was, of course, very flattered even if they were just being kind.

The class was so energizing and inspiring that I went home that evening and practiced before the next class. Both girls were fascinated by the process and we all spent a wonderful night making big black blotches on paper along with pictures and poems. Chinese calligraphy is a very compelling process perhaps because it has the weight of 5000 years of effort behind it.

The next day Dr. Zhou was greeted by a Daylight Savings Time deranged bunch of Americans armed again with brush pens and ink, who were working in silence when he arrived. I imagine he thought he must of tamed the circus. Five minutes later he introduced something new and whoa! Who let the dogs out!

During this class I had Robb bring the girls by since they had made pictures and practice calligraphy for Dr. Zhou. He seemed very, very moved by their efforts and was especially impressed with Ceili’s work, saying she was doing as well as students much older in China. Of course she had not only written Fire Dragon and Water Dragon in fine form but had also illustrated them with the dragons in question. Since the Dr. and I had previously discussed the possibility of marriage between our children he seemed very pleased by his future daughter-in-law. We explained this to Ceili who luckily took it with good humor and only a little suspicion.

After much attention and doting we all got back to work until a rumor spread like wildfire that we could actually buy some work of the Dr. Zhou right on

the spot. Again chaos reigned made even more so by Dr. Zhou pulling out a large brush, handmade, with bristles of rushes for large interesting works. We all gave it a good try and large paper with much ink splattering and happy dances.

In the end it seemed to be a mutually beneficial Mardi-Gras of cultural exchange, Dr. Zhou getting a close in intimate look at American excitement about learning something new, willingness and yes, that ‘doing’ thing. We had a terrific view of some of the treasures and values of China with a very fine and gentle ambassador of the best of a country that many people in the US have a very limited perception of.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Fun Has Just Begun

To celebrate Halloween, which seems to be a much bigger holiday than many of the major holidays throughout the US, we make our yearly trip to store X to buy some face makeup. This replaces last year’s, which has been used regularly because everyday is Halloween in our house. So today, after carefully applying the morning’s make-up, the girls came home from school and asked if they can apply more grease paint over the already large amount of purple and black. (One girl is a demon cat the other is a purple and black witch.) Our six-year-old is especially fond of face-paint, which eventually becomes body paint, then wall paint, then floor paint.

“Mommy? Do you know what a Goth is? Well, I’m a Goth princess, you know, Goths are very pale. Actually I’m half Goth princes and half normal princess. The normal princess side is pink skin and the Goth side has a darker eye.”

Her wedding dress is a big purple t-shirt and underwear since this leaves more skin to decorate. She has drawn Raggedy Anne cheeks and some scars.

I’m to wait in the waiting room because today is the Goth/princess’s wedding. She is marrying a prince who is from here, but far away in the mountains. The princess is talking to herself, sighing that that darn prince is going to take her far from here. Now she is singing a loud refrain of “Great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts…” If you don’t have the reference you obviously never attended public school. Apparently marriage and gopher-guts have somehow been equated. Hmmm who has she been talking to?

In our neighborhood, Halloween is a tasteful and arranged affair; everyone’s house is decorated with professionally designed displays that match the architecture and garden layout. Except ours. We’ve so far thrown some pumpkins on the front step and called it a day. We tried to hang some ghosts and skeletons but the dog barked and barked, and then, deciding they were friendly guests, tried to pee on them like he does with everyone who comes to the house. Ceili also hung some fake cob-webbing around. Unfortunately, you can’t tell its fake.

The neighborhood is sponsoring a Halloween party, complete with a cart on a small tractor to take the kids around to houses in the ‘hood to trick or treat. I’m sure everyone’s costume will be tasteful and match the architecture and landscape.

Pictures coming soon.

Halloween Southern Style

Halloween Southern Style

It was a warm and comfortable night. The breeze was blowing gently, moms with strollers strolled their small charges up and down the streets chatting socially. Crowds of parents with crowds of children greeted each other congenially. Children dressed in costumes with short sleeves and/or tights roamed with flying bags filled to the top with popcorn balls and candy. A gentle rain began to fall and a neighbor drove our whole group home. When the little purple witch and the demon cat came in they asked for a cold drink. Candy packages were tied with pretty ribbon over little bags. Welcome to Halloween in the South.

This is not the Halloween I grew up with, nor the one my children have experienced so far. MY Halloween was usually the day we could expect the first snow. We prayed for it, even though it would mean wearing a heavy coat over our costumes or bulking up underneath with long underwear. There were no fairy princesses in pink dresses and dress shoes. There were hippy hikers with fatigues and snow boots. There were strange plastic garbage bag clad monsters with down coats hidden by dark green. We looked forward to arriving home to hot chocolate and sitting around a table where we would carefully sort through our candy looking for suspicious open packages which my parents feared were injected with LSD.

There were neighbors of sketchy character, who truly made the trip a little bit creepier. Fathers and mothers tightly bundled in warm coats, their hands gloved, faces wrapped, held flashlights grudgingly. They prayed the kids would get tired quick, get tired NOW. Later in the night we could count on some of the neighborhood ‘bad kids’ coming around T-P ing and smashing pumpkins, upsetting the parents mightily and kind of freaking us kids out too. And this was the nice area of town.

In Seattle kids wore warm raingear and REI was the new black. Umbrellas were de’riguer and we mainly attended door-to-door affairs in the downtown of our little town with plenty of hot drinks and not a few sips from the pocket flask.

In Wisconsin my children dressed in scarves, hats and earmuffs and we pretty much ran from house to house before our feet became numb. We didn’t want to have to carry kids home, teeth chattering and red nosed with nasal secretions running down onto our shoulders. We were all Desperate Housewives, even the men. The candy was pretty solid on arrival and we had to thaw some of it before chewing. (Frozen 3-Musketeers are a delicacy.)

This Halloween was a full on weeklong celebration with one event after another. My children dressed up in full costume on three different occasions ending finally with the actual trick-or-treating, seemingly anticlimactic after a week and fun and frolic. Who needs candy corn when you’ve had cupcakes, cake and self-decorated cookies?

I put up our decorations the night of Halloween wearing a t-shirt and no shoes. We couldn’t put anything up earlier because the dog took constant offence at the strange figures on the walls and doors. Responsible big brothers came out last on the candy collection train. They had been responsibly handing out treats to the younger generation with good will and enthusiasm. This may have been the spookiest part of all.

I also learned of an odd custom the kids called Trunk-or-treating, a bunch of church members parking in the lot of their church handing out candy from the trunk of their car. I didn’t find out if the trunks were decorated, or if maybe they had a body in there ala’ the Mafia. Did they hand out the candy or make the kids dive for it? Did they park right next to each other or some distance apart so the kids had to work to get to the next car with obstacles so that getting the treats was actually tricky? Who came up with this? Doesn’t this seem a little…weird or unsafe?

Next they'll be telling me people can legally fire shotguns in unincorporated areas...oh wait...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Learning something new

One can count on having experiences that widen your horizons and expand your knowledge when you travel or move to a new place. Thus this must be true of moving to Tennessee, although there are some who would disagree. We, however, can prove otherwise. For instance, I have learned definitively that ANYONE can be on the Board of Education here, whether he or she is qualified or not. For once it’s not a case of having money or not, just brains. And those who tend to be the least qualified also tend to be the loudest about things they know very little about. But isn’t that always the case?

However, onto lighter matters, here is one invention we discovered that I’m sure didn’t have it’s origins here but was widely used during a wine tasting event we attended recently. A very formal wine tasting mind you.

Robb was expressly forbidden to drink from the glass while it was on his neck.

Next came this little gift from the office, which was given to everyone in his office to wear on Botox days.

My special shirt in rhinestones said, “Pale is the new Tan” in pink.

We've also recently heard that Goats are being used to try and cut down on Kudzu growth. In case you don't know what Kudzu is, it's known as the weed that ate the South. Only one goat has died since the experiment started, by natural causes they say.

At Hardies thay have something called a Pork Chop Biscuit. A deep fried pork chop that is placed between a split buttermilk biscuit and recommended to be eaten dipped in sausage gravy. How do I know this? Because my husband who has high cholesterol and high blood pressure ate one. I have threatened his life, in case the pork chop doesn't do him in first.

At Cracker Barrel, they receive shipments of lard 6" round and 3' long which is pretty much added to whatever seems dry that week. Robb swears he has not been to Cracker Barrel. I'm sharpening my steel toed cockroach killers (picture later) just in case I catch him with a pork chop or seat at the Cracker Barrel.

He is now at this moment trying to distract me from this blog so I won't write any other bits about his eating habits.

On the up side - HE HAS PASSED HIS DERMATOLOGY BOARDS!!!! - in case there is any question about the difficulty of this, find a dermatologist and ask them about it. Then get a thorough skin check. It could save your life.

More later...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A concert Southern Style

Where have I been all these years? Obviously kept in a small dark box, because I have never heard of John Prine. In case YOU haven’t either, he is a musician who did a lot of work about 20 years ago, had a run-in with Cancer, survived and is now singing again. Oddly, I had heard quite a few of his songs over time, without knowing the singer. He has recently been very popular for the song “That Flag on Your Car Won’t get you to Heaven any more”…

I am, however, the only person in Chattanooga who didn’t know this guy from John. My Father-in-Law talked us into going to a ‘John Prine’ concert, which sounded like he was asking us to watch the grass grow or the road crew work. The concert ended up being a sold out event, because, I assumed, maybe everyone in Chattanooga LIKED watching the grass grow. We got in a long line of very enthusiastic people and were herded into a very nice old concert hall. The three of us were seated in the nosebleed section, because, what d’ you know, this man is popular!

Now, I’m not saying that this was like any other concert I have been to. Sitting in front of us was one of John Prine’s quintessential fans I think. I had seen this fellow outside and thought he was a poor crazy person waiting for handouts. Nope, he was just a little crazy, in the nicest sort of ways, but still needing an escort just in case. He had long grey hair, in two braids that hung down front, a cowboy hat, big aviator glasses, and overalls with no shirt underneath. He was dark brown from sunshine in such a way that made my Dermatology husband go nuts. He came complete with grizzled graying beard and eyebrows, heavy Southern Country accent and a hoot and holler that could be heard clearly in the next county. Every once in a while, he and is escort would yell and ‘high-five’ from sheer over- stimulation and that was before the concert had started. At one point, his nephew turned to us and somewhat apologetically said, "They don't make 'em like that any more."

The other type of fan, we would come to know, was, surprise again, the somewhat endangered ‘Liberal’. Mr. Prine is actually quite the politically left strumming musician with some very insightful and witty lyrics that endeared him to us forever.

The hall itself came with its own ‘John Prine’ atmosphere. At least it seemed that way. There was a strange foggy curtain hanging over the audience that had no discernable source. The mist was thick enough to be highlighted by the stage lights as they swept across the room. I kept sniffing for a whiff of ganja or cigarette, but there was nothing. We decided it was the sweat vaporizing off the bodies of the audience from the extreme heat and humidity outside into the only slightly cooler inside. Now if that doesn’t make you want to go to a concert in the South I don’t know what would!

The performance turned out to be great fun and a sort of family affair. There were kids dancing with their parents in the aisles and people swaying and holding hands. Everyone would shout out his or her favorite songs to Mr. Prine and he would…respond! He set aside a little time in the concert to try and sing everything people wanted and some of his newer stuff too. (Not that I could tell the difference) My Father-in-Law kept shouting out something that sounded like “Deerabee, Deerabee”, and weirdly, so did a couple of people in front of us including Mr. Overalls. Finally, Mr. Prine sang a song called “Dear Abby,” from which I was filled with relief because 1; I had heard this many times, again, without knowing the artist and 2; It was good to find that my FIL was not joining the ranks of the “Crazy in the best of Ways”, just yet.

I’m not sure how many people this concert hall holds, it’s the Tivoli in downtown Chattanooga, but I’m figuring that just about every left strummin’ individual in the know was there, and we felt somehow at home for a few short hours, relieved from the pressures of trying to find a place in a new town, with new customs and new people. I guess that’s why Mr. Overalls felt comfy there too, so we probably aren’t that different. Except for the aviator glasses. And the cowboy hat. And the overalls with no shirt. And……

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Friendliest Place on Earth

My poor solitary nature is in tatters.

We’ve had to be SOCIAL! Aaaack. A very lovely neighbor across the street has made it her mission to introduce us to everyone in the area. This isn’t hard since everyone is so friendly. However, meeting everyone at once at a golf and country club is Waaayyyy more than a solitary, shy, meditative person like me can handle. As far as I can remember from that fateful and stormy night we met 12 blond and perky Karens and 10 hardy and hale Dennises. There were also a few suntanned and perky children, but mainly folks whose children have moved out on their own.

It was hot, it was dribbly and the girls kept wandering away into the deep end. My eyes were caught constantly by the glistening of sweat-drops as they formed on everyone’s faces and eventually swept down into a river at the base of the neck to disappear either into the shirt collar or down the cleavage of the human fountain from which they came. My own sweat glands were in over-drive, washing away the non-waterproof tinted sunscreen I had applied minutes before, making me look like I was actually melting.

The young woman with the task of filling drink and food orders for the club was looking bewildered to start with, and when faced with 10 people all on one ticket ordering from BOTH menus resorted to simply saying politely, “I’m sure the bartender or chef will know…,” to pretty much everything. This is where I realized that my education was not complete and I was introduced to an ‘Arnold Palmer’, a mix of lemonade and Iced tea. This mix was insanely popular when I was a kid, but we never knew its name. Dennis, the one who ordered it, said he thought it was a clubhouse thing, and that if you were at a pool, perhaps it could be called a ‘Mark Spitz’.

The General Manager of the club did pop by every once in while to make sure we were comfortable and enjoying the club, just in case we suddenly had the urge to join right then and there

By evening the air cooled down a bit and the Dennises and Jeanies mainly drifted off either home if they had children or to the huge motorcycle party/concert/bar that takes place each Friday night at a club downtown. (Who knew?) One marvelous couple we met were on their way down on their Harleys. Theirs is one name that sort of stuck with me because I haven’t heard many Polish names in the South. It was something like Orgsvensnvki but with more letters.

Eventually we headed home, showered and retired, my mind whirling with faces of tanned blond people and cups of ice water. I do know, though, that if we ever need an orthodontist, a chemical engineer, a cardiac surgeon, a chiropractor, or any of several other useful and interesting professions whose practitioners we met, I will have to look in the phonebook, because I will never remember who went with what.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Settling In

July 11, 2006, Trying to Settle in to the new homestead.

We are still waiting on Robb’s car and a wagonload of our belongings that did not leave Madison when we did. In fact, they haven’t left Madison at all. The car should be loaded today, and will make its way here via Oregon. Everyone close your eyes and imagine this route, Madison, Oregon, Chattanooga. Somebody is enjoying a little too much of something I suspect. How long will they keep our boxes? I’m trying not to think about that right now since I’m still trying to figure out which utilities I’ve started and cancelled at which house.

The ‘New South’ is an absolute picture of contrasts. Take our newspaper. It is the Chattanooga Times Free press. Its actually two papers in one, liberal (sort of) and conservative (definitely). In the last couple of days half the editorials are in support of Al Gore’s new movie and half are ranting about the lack of Americanism by those liberals. Everyone is trying really hard to at least give lip-service to being racially and progressive and then some guys shoot up a Koran and throw it at a Mosque and the police are trying to decide if this act violated anyone,s right to feel safe and unharassed for their beliefs. The library contains more books on Christianity than the Vatican and they reside beside all of David Sedaris’ books and ‘Zen in the Workplace’. Feng Shui books are proudly displayed in the devil worship section. (no, not books on how TO worship the devil, how NOT to) In the words of my favorite ex-columnist,
“I am not making this up!”

I’ve discovered too, that class distinction is healthy and well. Northerners and Floridians have mainly instituted any of the socially responsible programs and some people live here precisely because they can get away with things that offend the social and societal morals of the North. For example there is none of this ‘Liberal building of housing for all levels of income right next to each other’. “And shoot, why would anyone NOT want to carry a loaded pistol in their car, it’s just un-American!”

Signal Mountain does have a recycling center, but you have to want to recycle. None of this babying by picking up recycling for you people. One of the more tragic failings in the area is the complete lack of financial funding for education. When you listen to the rhetoric it sounds as though some high placed government officials out there as well as some religious leaders want to keep everyone as stupid and ignorant as possible so that they are easier to control and take advantage of.

OK, enough of the ranting. Let’s rave for the friendliness, helpfulness and community warmth in the South, and the slower, mostly more calm pace of life. I notice this especially with the women. Everyone jumps in to help even if a person is simply asking for directions and the process takes the time it takes to get it right, or at least to an acceptable conclusion. This process includes trading of as many phone numbers as possible and making several lunch dates.
Me: “I’m looking for Pleasant Lane?”

Women: “Oh, let me see, oh dear, it’s the opposite direction, Emma, what do you suppose is the best way to get to Pleasant?”

Emma: “Why I think it’s over the ridge. You know, it’s by the Pumpkin Patch. Do you have children dear?”

Me: “Yes, two girls.”

Emma: “Oh you have to take them to the Pumpkin Patch. It’s just wonderful.”

Woman 1: “Here’s my number in case you need anything, I’m Sandy and all my children are grown but I’ve lived here all my life.”

Emma: "Now here are the directions to Pleasant, what school are your girls going to? Thrasher? It’s just so good. Have you gone to Ayala yet? Wonderful Mexican food.”

Woman 1: “Now don’t forget to call if you need absolutely anything! We’re always around and you are sure welcome to the Mountain. Where did you move from?”

Me: “Madison, Wisconsin via Seattle, Washington.”

Them: “My Goodness that is quite a move, you must be so much happier to be in a warmer place, isn’t it just so cold up there?! Well you will just love it here! Bye dear!”
So far I've collected 4 phone numbers from strangers and an invitation to dinner a 'The Club'. On Friday night. I'm not sure which club. I didn't even know there was a club.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Several Days Later

Sometime later….

We lost contact with the web sometime after Illinois. We are alive and well and living on Signal Mountain in our new home. All the animals and children arrived just fine. Robb and I are now bald but otherwise well.

We are sharing our home with boxes and flies and repairmen of all shapes and sizes coming in and out on a regular basis. Not only do we have the normal new house set-up, we have the new-new house set-ups. We’ve had a couple of doorknobs come off in our hands, a shelf fell down, the lawn tried to drown itself, one sad plant died and several rooms were missing various connections to one thing or another. We’ve had UPS deliveries, mattress deliveries, and strange neighborhood dog deliveries (and you KNOW what that means…).

The dishwasher was a huge mystery since it comes in two parts, we have no idea how to work the sprinkler system or what days garbage is picked up. Our telephone line is not buried yet and stretches across the lawn and then across the street. So far the folks who put in the lawn have mowed the phone line and the phone line folks accidentally cut the sprinkler line trying to bury the phone line. The washer hookups were reversed, surprise! We now have some very small items of clothing.

Even though there are plenty of bathrooms upstairs, the master bathroom has become the family bathroom. We’re hoping to have some guests soon so that the other bathrooms get used and the kids can’t seem to find toilets when they need them.

Robb’s auto and our second truck of belongings are still missing, as are, for some very strange reason, all of our knives. We’ve found all other kitchen objects, but no knives. Admittedly our cast iron pots were packed with sandbox toys so the knives could be anywhere.

Bindi has used my yoga mat as a bathroom, so needless to say there will be no downward pointing dogs on my part any longer. Why was the mat out in the first place? Cedar was doing yoga from Cedarland. (Cedarland is the place where all imaginary or wishful thinking things happen or live. For instance there are no stinging bugs in Cedarland, but there are lots of flying mammals.) There is also chocolate pudding land; use your imagination.

We are thrilled to have so much more room for normal things. For instance, in our condo we had all our pots and pans in about 3 sq. feet of space. Here we have an actual full cabinet for them. They look small and humble in the space, as do we, I’m sure. All in all we are very happy to be here and take the strange happenings with humor. I’ll be starting work on the garden as soon as I can figure out how to re-attach the doorknob to let me out of my room.

More soon,

Whipper ‘E’

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Day 5

Day 5

We finally left town, first to meet kin just south and then onto the main trails south. We tried to fill up on protein at breakfast, which would last us for a long while. We now have all of the animals loaded on the wagon, that’s two birds, one guinea pig and one dog. We are sure the dog will make it, however the guinea and the birds ore suspect. The guinea has gone into prey mode and remains frozen in his little hiding house. The birds are generally nervous but are calming down. We’re not sure if they’ve eaten.

We are at a rest stop located somewhere in central Illinois, the great West. I’m in the wagon with the animals. The wind is severe and every time I go outside, I start sneezing violently. Robb is pacing with Bindi in tow. This is his ‘on the phone’ pace, so he is probably speaking to parents. (In case some of you don’t recognize ‘phone’, it’s a small device that allows people to speak very loudly to themselves in public places without others thinking they have lost their mind.)

Ceili is reading a very large book and is keeping us posted on character development, even though we have no idea what she is talking about,

“Now Eregon is fleeing with the Urgal armies!!!” (giggle giggle)

and Cedar is reading the names of trucks and reflections as they pass.

“Fed Ex!”
“Fed Ex!”
“Fed Ex!”
“Mom, what’s SALTA?”
“Fed Ex!”

Robb’s friends are calling from las Vegas and, while on the speaker phone, announcing,

“Wow! I’m getting whiplash from looking at all these hot babes!” Thanks HL.

Meanwhile, I think I just saw a swarm of bees get blown by. And look, there goes a German Shepard and a cow. Better go collect everyone.

An update: Those bees, that you thought I was joking about, were actually a swarm of beetles that have been attacking trees in the area. The wind was blowing them so hard they were splatting on Robb and the kids. I’m really glad I stayed in the wagon.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Day 4

The last of our belongings have been loaded onto the wagon train. Except for the 6 full boxes sitting in our lodge waiting to be sorted by this eve, the 2 other boxes waiting at the old homestead, the 4 suitcases, 3 laundry baskets and several bags also awaiting examination and shipment on the Pony Express. This does, therefore, call for extreme action on my part, mainly by sitting down to record these events. Also petting the dog.

It is silent here at the temporary lodge. The silence is rare and wondrous, and I can almost relax except in the knowing that the bugle of need will be sounding through at any moment and I must be ready at attention, able to collect the dog and all necessaries and rush out to rescue the children or the husband or both at the same time.

We have been to the water hole twice, the children could stay in for days. The youngest is learning to put her head under and blow bubbles. She is quite excited by the fact that, if you open your eyes underwater no matter how much it stings, YOU CAN SEE THE BOTTOM OF THE POOL!

We are getting desperate for nutrition having shot some KFC last night and a clown with a red wig today. I can only hope something better will come along this evening.

The call has come. I must go. If you find my stricken starving self, please give me m & ms.

Later in the day;
All members of the party have been rescued and fed. We have said our sad but good- humored goodbyes to our very good friends, Abby ‘Abicus’, Turk ‘Mr. Incredible’, Jenna ‘Cinderella’ and Drew ‘Buzz’ Wilson. A future Wilson is on the way, Marcinda Delmonico Fantasia incredakid Wilson, AKA little klingon. We will also not forget Jesus the alligator and Sid, their giant skink, who shall go down in history as the only immortal skink in the world.

I’m afraid I was only ½ present for the farewells, being too full of what needs to be done and too empty at leaving our home and friends, but I am consoled by Turk, who was the same, except he was full of painkillers from surgery and the empty would then be self explanatory. Tomorrow we need to send a smoke signal to Loretta ‘You gonna’ make something of it Fella’ Feldman, Abby’s mom (from Chicago), who has also been a wonderful friend and neighbor and without whom, we would never have met the Incredifamily.

Let us not say “goodby” my friends, but rather, “We need to come back soon to see if Sid is alive”. (are you guys SURE she was just hiding under that towel?)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Day 3

Day 3
Continuing from yesterday, when all seemed well at the end of the day, surprise!, I developed a migraine and mysterious leg cramps, severe enough to end me up in the town ER. I had been carrying heavy objects and running up and down 2 flights of steps about a thousand times and training the dog. They surveyed the damage and declared dehydration and muscle strain, pumped me full of saline and painkillers and after 6 hours sent me home with no further help. It was a rough night. These backwoods university Docs need to catch up with the 18th century.

The main wagon pulled up this morning, along with the pregnant packer person. 4 hearty men and a nursing mother came along to help with the packing. It’s a family affair, the main driver being the father of the baby. Once again everyone seems surprised at the largesse of our belongings. Someone, somewhere missed the boat here. The group is good spirited and I am encouraged from the beginning. Needless to say, everyone received a bit of “Snack” money at the end and lots and lots of Gaiter-Aid.

We have reached our first encampment this evening. The children are restless and in need of nourishment. I have sent Robb out to hunt a chicken, but he keeps getting distracted. We are hoping he will bag something before sunset. We plan to play in the water hole after dinner, and our host will provide breakfast in the morning. The youngest keeps writing notes about her desperation,

“I am soud…”
“I am stil sad…”
“I dont no what to doo…”
“Im stil var var sad nou…”
“is dad going to be hom soon?”

Obviously we are in dire straights…

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Day 2

We were up and going with the birds today, readying safe zones in the house and getting everyone’s teeth brushed. A small setback, the packers ended up being a packer, fairly small even for a big job. We’ve given her extra provisions to keep her going. There was some confusion as to just how much we have to load onto the main wagon. As it is, she has sent a messenger to try and get more help. If she does this herself, I believe she is deserving of a big tip!

All the animals are quiet, so I am left in peace to record our proceedings, which may or may not be of value to others following our trail. Tonight we will either dine on raw fish, or find some way to cook it in a leftover oven with no utensils or pots. Otherwise we may be stopping in one of the local saloons.

Well, it took me a bit to realize it, but the brave woman packing up our things is Pregnant! Yep, I kept thinking, “Why is this woman going to the bathroom so much? Is she pregnant or something?” And then the shoe dropped, or the belly showed. Talk about your big tip now! I’m hiding out at a coffee shop to entertain Bindi for a bit. I did have to get myself a banana split for nourishment, else I might not have survived. Bindi is helping me type. It’s probably time to head back and supervise now.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The journey south, a record, day 1

The first day is really a pre-day. The company’s leaders’ spirits are low; there is so much to do and so few of us to do it. Our supplies are being set aside, but the wagon can only hold so much. The newest member of the company, Bindi the dog, must have sensed our desperation and learned quickly where to urinate, so that we would not have him along as a food source. The guinea pig and the birds may not be so lucky. We have a second difficulty with Bindi, who, following in the proud tradition of many members of our family, gets wagon sick and howls pitifully on long hauls. I will go to the general store to purchase earplugs tomorrow.

There are some workfolk coming to pack up the rest of the homestead on the morrow. The children of the party are nervous that the packers will covet some of their belongings and make away with them. Needless to say, we are sending the younger folk out for the day. Our provisions at this point mainly consist of salt and sugar sources, but we are hoping to add some meats and fresh produce soon.

The children have been helping as they can; the small one whines a bit more than the older one, so we may bribe the older one to entertain the younger. This can be difficult, since at about 3 feet distance they each complain that the other is breathing on them.

Our first stop will be a La Quinta. I think this means, “The Shack” in Spanish. We shall see. They do allow animals, which alone may say everything. We will use this as a base-camp before setting out on the longer part of the journey. Some kin of ours will meet us on the first leg of the trip and feed us breakfast. We surely do appreciate the offer. One can get tired of warm milk, stale bread and old muffins offered by many lodgings.

The Dr. in our party is very nervous. It is on his shoulders that our success at our destination lays. We are trying to comfort him as we can, but it is a burden he must bear, until he becomes accustomed to our new life in the South. He is a big man with broad shoulders enough to see it through and has been trained to have confidence enough if he remembers.

Signed; Pam ‘Whipper’ E
June 27, 2006

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Southern Hospitality

While visiting Signal Mountain, the sight of our new home, I stayed in a B&B for the first time in years. The owners, Susan and Earl, were wonderful and the epidomey of what I consider Southern. Susan had lived in that same house for 30 years. It is decorated in early "Stuff" style, a collection of, well, everything. Panels of artwork next to tapestry, antique furniture and a beautiful yard with a front flower garden any gnome would be happy to inhabit.

From my perch at my private breakfast table on the second floor I could look down on the garden and watch the Over the Hedge dramas unfold down below. Along with this amazing view of color and variety was the color and variety of my breakfast. As you can see, just as attractive as the garden. In a way it was very French, little bits of each side dish in little bowls or plates with the main course and any added flavorings. The hit though is the fruit bowl with a great variety topped with yogert, whip cream and crushed chocolate graham crumbs. Oh man did I savour that thing!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Couch that ate Chattanooga

Psychologists say that couples who stay together for a long time tend to take on one another’s tastes, therefore becoming more like each other, like people and their pets. This can put a damper on the said relationship, since our differences are what attract us to each other (at one level).

Not a problem in between Robb and I. Viva la difference!…..but for buying furniture.

There is joy in the air as we enter furniture stores, each of us full of anticipation at getting a little more furniture for our new house, which is twice as big as our present one and we have an absolute minimum of furniture anyway. However, that joy is quickly dashed as from first breath we part ways, I towards my marshmallow art deco curved couch sets, and he towards his clean-lined hard modern pieces.

We can each look over the fence at the others choices and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s ok…”. But actual agreement is hard to come by. If there were such a thing as Danish Modern, Art Deco, curved, comfortable, modern, wood, leather, metal, fabric couches in good taste, we would blend ever so harmoniously, but this is not yet to be.

To illustrate:
Robb’s choice;

Pam’s choice;

My choices need to be comfortable, cushy, inviting, clean but with character. His
needs to be sleek, Danish modern, visually attractive but not necessarily comfortable. I like curves, he goes for lines. He really likes big sectionals, I like a variety of pieces. He likes dark cave-like dwellings, I like light and air. I love world influences, Japan, Morocco, the Mid-East Italy, he likes Danish Modern. We do both agree that French Provincial is out. Maybe.

He has difficulty with the big picture, it’s scary and unknown. Better stick with a single focus, as in…that chair, and Danish Modern. Just that chair. Don’t confuse me with the rest of the room. I’m a big pic gal. Here is the fireplace and here is the kitchen bar, all things must have harmony with these areas….

We’ve come to one agreement, he will decorate the study, and I will decorate the master bedroom. Ah Ha Ha Ha! (evil laugh)

Bedroom: but with lighter colors and more silk

Study: but with Danish Modern

We have now view so many websites with examples of couches that I’m dreaming about driving around in a giant fire engine. Oh wait, wrong dream…

Anyway, the search continues, stay tuned…(the Mr. wants space for rebuttal.)

P.S. You might be saying to yourself, wow, you're lucky you can afford to buy any furniture at all, why disagree about it? Well, if you saw what we've been living with for the last 9 years, you'd understand...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A really good sweet tea recipe from this web site

Frugal Recipes

Michelle's Meals on a Budget
(featured column)

Southern Sweet Tea
Copyright © 2004 by Michelle Jones, editor of

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sweet Tea, Super Dr. Pepper and Patti Rhea

Yep boys and girls, that’s our lesson today. We lived in Seattle, Washington for 15 years. Contrary to what the natives there tell you, yes, it does rain a lot and it is cloudy a lot more. This is the birthplace of Starbucks coffee and for good reason; it’s the only way to stay awake on days in the middle of winter, when the sun doesn’t actually rise due to the clouds. Not only are we addicted to $5 cups of coffee, but also to fine drive-through and sit down coffee establishments where you get to know everyone in the hood. The coffee culture hasn’t hit the South as hard as it has hit much of the country. I think there are several reasons for this;

  1. Insane amounts of sunshine (to my eyes at least).
  2. A slower pace of life. It’s hard to chat while your teeth are chattering from a coffee high. (Or from cold for that matter.)
  3. Sweet Tea.
  4. Super powered Dr. Pepper.
Let’s start with sweet tea. Most folks in the North who have never ventured into ‘The South’ have not had the absolute pleasure of Sweet tea. Florida doesn’t count. I had no idea what I was missing. This is not your ‘stir- into-water jar of instant sweetened iced tea, this is brewed tea with a sugar syrup. Anyone making sweet tea worth his or her salt does NOT use instant tea. And it is SWEET! It’s also really good. You do have an option in restaurants, you can ask for ½ sweet tea, which could still knock a few cavities into your mouth. There are few things I’ve tried that are more refreshing on a hot day.

Number 2 has been dealt with earlier (see: Ordering Breakfast in the South)
Number 4, super caffeinated soft drinks, are really popular down there. This hasn’t caught on in the north so much because of copious amounts of coffee and a very slight (very slight) more care with sugary soft drinks. Also the power drinks, (those are the ones with caffeine, vitamins and amino acids that cause the whole body to go into overdrive), are a little more prevalent in the north, again I think due to the weather and pace of life in general.

Which brings us to Patti Rhea our real estate broker from Crye-Leike Realty. Patti loves purple and corgies. She has introduced us to several wonders of Chattanooga including Libby Lou’s, the best Bar-B-Que in town and super-charged Dr. Pepper.

Patti is a true child of the South. She ordered sweet tea full strength and then, as we watched in horror and amazement, she added sugar! Patti is our source for local custom questions and a paragon of
Southern Manners. She has been a wall of patience and good humor while we’ve stumbled our way around our first large house purchase and move across the country. Our children think Miss Patti is an extra aunt that we’ve only just met and she lets my youngest nest in her hair.

Every once in a while Patti comes out with a Southernism that we have to stick in our ‘Future Use’ dictionary, here’s today’s;

“There were so many people you couldn’t stir ‘em with a stick”

Hi Patti! And thank you from all of us!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Now Listen to Our Story...

Happy Post-Mother’s Day Everyone. I must say that due to the Benevolent Blogging this Sunday, it was one of the most interesting Mother’s Day ever. $27.00 for The Orphans Foundation of America was raised with many kind and fun responses. It was fun to know that we were all desperately trying to leave comments on everyone’s sites before the days end. Oddly, no one left a comment on the Husband for Stud posting, which I figured would generate some comment! (Like, how much?)

Today I’m trying to tie up lots of loose ends on the home buying front. Which means ¼ business on the phone and ¾ chatting with all the bankers and real estate people. I have learned now to leave plenty of time for such things. We’ve also discovered that the price for having someone move you is really high, so we may just load up the old car and do a ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ but backwards…

Now listen to my story ‘bout a poor family
Dad got some learnin’ so they’ve gone to Tennessee
They’re hoping that life up the mountain will be good

But they sure can’t take everythin’ they think they should

Stuff that is, goodies and toys

Should they leave the kids? Or should they leave the pets?

As far as they know this is good as life can get…

They’ve been living up north where the winter winds blow

But there’s a rumor now of places without snow!

Leave the coats they said, bring the boat instead…

“Another great adventure!” Shouts the father of the brood

Mom’s just a dreamin’ about that extra bathroom

But we’re all just excited to get on with the move

Check with us in a while when we’re in our Tennessee groove!

Chattanooga that is….Chooo Chooo.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Mothers' Day!

Happy Mothers’ Day to all you Moms out there. I got to celebrate early with a lovely dinner sans children, a walk downtown and a movie. All this thanks to a friend who volunteered to have our kids sleep over. I know that doesn’t seem fair, since it IS Mothers’ day, however if you had kids who talk, sing, dance, run, jump and cling as much as mine, you’d understand.

Today I’m going to sneak a perfume blog into my usual Yankees Moving South, because this really is one of my passions and most of the Benevolent Bloggers have come from Beauty and Fragrance Blogs. So hey!, let’s make everyone happy today!

I’ve been testing lots of perfumes to see which ones will be appropriate for Southern Living. You see, I’ve been living in Wisconsin were summer is short and winter is long, so I can wear very deep, strong, heavy Orientals, flowers and woods almost all year ‘round. However, once you’ve overdone the rose on a hot, humid day, you never want to smell rose again. Been there. Recently. In fact, my beloved Cedre’ by Lutens, is definitely a ½ squirt on a summer day, if at all. However the Mure de Musc by L’Artisan is a new find and starts strong but winds down to a lovely light berry.

So, I’ve been sniffing and collecting mainly “Summery” fragrances like Carthusia Mediterraneo, Eau d’ Hadrien, Hermes Un Jardin Sur Le Nil and Un Jardin de Mediterranee and Eau des Merveilles
I’ve collected some Tommy Girl and some FCUK (which is just a spray on with no thought sort of fragrance), and then there are the light flowers like Do Son and La Chasse.

For earthy scent I love, love, love Terre d’Hermes. Bois de Iles and Songes are what I wear if I want classic sexy, and I really want to get a-hold of some Sacrebleu for the classic notes. However, I haven’t been able to find a light and transparent Rose, or an oriental that is light and free. Armani Prive’ Bois d’Encens (so ethereal and beautiful) takes care of my love of Incense fragrances but I will have to limit my Amir by Tonnato.

My daughter loves my Bvlgari Extreme. It has gone to my favorite list when my youngest grabbed me in a big hug and said “Mommy you smell soooooo good!” Jasmine is my absolute fave’ but the ones I practically bathe in are wayyyyy to strong to use in summer. (Especially a la’ Nuit)

So if anyone has suggestions for Southern Summer frags, let me know. I realize there are certain quintessential Southern smells like bar-b-que and…. Bar-b-que (OK, I really don’t know anymore yet, but I will find out) but the closest I could come to that would be Idole by Luben but I’m sorry to say, it’s just too strong and it doesn’t reeeaally smell like bar-b-que. Does Dogwood smell?

(I have to say, Guerlain and I really don’t get along and neither do most of the s-fragrances, except the Surf Spray, which you can’t get in the US) One of my most favorite body creams is made by Mixed Emotions, but they discontinued the tea scented ones. Bummer.

Oddly, when I was last in Chattanooga, I didn’t really smell anyone. I have a very sensitive nose so I was expecting to either smell over perfumed or sweaty bodies, but even when it was 80 % humidity and 80 degrees I was never bothered either way. I know that sounds weird, but I didn’t really note anyone wearing any perfume of note. I guess everyone there has learned what I now know; you can’t guild the Southern Belle.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Benevolent Bloggers

We need Mothers without borders!

So, this Mother's Day, along with a growing host of other bloggers, my family will join in for a Benevolent Blogging event to raise money for a selected charity. For us it's the
"Orphan Foundation of America"

Benevolent Blogging, the idea of Katie of Scentzilla and Seldom Nice Nowadays, really does show a wonderful side of the communities that grow around the world via blogging and networks. For each comment left on Yankee Family goes South, on the calendar date of May 14th, My family will donate $1.00 to the Orphan Foundation of America.

Here is the growing list of other BB participants

Monday, May 08, 2006

Husband out for Stud

Now that we are moving to Tennessee, my husband had decided he needs a horse at some point. Not just any horse, a Tennessee Walking horse, because he loves a folk song about a Tennessee walking horse. He gets a lot of ideas like this.

So of course, we neeeeded to go to the
Wisconsin Horse Show so he could check out the horses. (Background: He knows absolutely nothing about horses and has ridden a total of once.) So off we go to the Horse show. The highlight of the day was the viewing of the Stallions who were on offer for stud. Beautiful horses, amazing personalities. Each horse was introduced and spoken highly of, “Gentle disposition, fine colts, not a mark on the females…”. My 5 yo daughter nudged me and asked why these horses were all male.

I said, “Because these horses are all going to be daddies so the owners want to show everyone what kind of daddies they will be.”

She thought about this for a few minutes and then asked,

“Did daddy do this when you were picking him out to be our daddy?”

Long pause,


“Well then how did you know he would be a good daddy?”

“Um, he looked like he’d make a fine daddy when I met him”

She looked at me like I had been totally irresponsible.

P.S. My husband decided he liked the Foxtrotters best so he entered a drawing for one. Luckily the drawing isn’t until August, when we will actually be in Tennessee, instead of storing the horse in our condo.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Clothing for the South

Summer approaches and I am sadly storing away my lovely long down coat and I realize suddenly that I will not need to wear this LLDC anymore, for in Chattanooga, the temperature will not drop to minus 20 F very often. (i.e. the next ice age). The coat is ankle length, very durable, has a hood with a soft layer of fox fur around the edges and has the nicest down filling one could ask for. Will I give it away? Will I sell it on E-bay? No, no, no! It has been my security blanket. It went with me to the hospital when I had a severe reaction to antibiotics. I could go out in ANY weather and feel comfy. It wrapped me as I blogged in a cold living room. It smells very faintly of rose.

My husband, who never gets rid of anything ever, thinks I’m silly to keep it. No. People will have to pry it out of my hot, sweaty, dead-from-heat-exhaustion hands. I don’t know how but I will find a way to use this coat. (Suggestions are welcome)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Southern Fashion

It was amazing, like nothing we’d ever seen. You didn’t want to stare but you had to. You couldn’t hear a word she was saying. It was like Steve Martin’s nose in Roxanne. You just had to look. It was “An indescribable wonder” (Kevin Henke). The children stared in awe. It was truly, BIG HAIR.

We were in an expensive store in the men's fine clothing, looking for suitable replacements for the luggage my husband forgot at home when we were approached by this very kind Sales Associate, who was, for the record, very tastefully dressed. It was the coif that really threw us.

I found this picture on a site called Beauty and the Bouffant. I had to edit it a little to match our vision. And the woman we were talking to had hers in almost a Mohawk sort of bouffant with wings out to the sides, but this is really, really close. This hairstyle is definitely not something we would see every day around these parts. But just in case you think I’m being unduly harsh or judgmental, we do have lots of the dreaded Mullet in so many shapes and sizes they cannot be summed up with a picture. Why would I mention just one woman out of all the rest in Chattanooga? Because she is not one woman. Her sisteren are everywhere. Maybe the heat makes women feel they have to get the hair off their necks and a ponytail just won’t do. Maybe the smell of hairspray is more attractive in humid climates. Maybe there is a deep, socio-psychological reason for the need to enlarge ones head to gigantic proportions. I just don’t know!

You say 'Sale' I say 'Sell'

Ooops!  My first accent problem happened today.  The mortgage specialist working on our house asked if we had a certain contract on our present home.  I answered, only a contract to “SELL” with our realtor.  (This is a prime piece of knowledge so that everyone knows your serious..)  Our Broker heard contract to “Sale”.  Big difference, so all our approvals had to be redone.  It took us a few minutes to sort the whole thing our because neither of us could tell what the other one was saying even then, both being pronounced “SAYELL” in Southern.

Which reminds me, when we came to visit during a Jewish holiday last year, we were invited to a family’s house for dinner one night (it was Passover, which has great ceremony attached to the dinner, so it’s kind of a big thing).  The woman at the synagogue who introduced us told us in a whisper, “Now watch out ya’ll, they are from New York and their accent can really hurt your ears sometimes…”

Our accent, originating in Colorado, seems to be a bit gentler on the ear.  Who new?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Culture Shock

Why am I writing this redux. When I found out we were moving to the Buckle of the Bible Belt I frantically went on-line to find anything I could on living in the South that might give a hint on our situation. Now, if you’ve ever tried, there is nothing on ‘Living in the North’ that anyone has wrote for Southerners moving to New York City. There should be. I can’t even imagine the culture shock. Same for us. We’ve had no middle ground, no living in, say, Oklahoma, or the southern Midwest that might have given some warning. Not even a vacation to Disney World (yet).

Now, living in a small town in Wisconsin did prepare us for a couple of things, such as a politically conservative climate, but heck, Madison is 10 minutes away and that is NOT a bastion of the GOP. We also encountered folks here in our small town who had never known what a synagogue was and felt very sorry we didn’t celebrate Christmas. I’ve never in my life met so much innocent ignorance about people of the Jewish faith, or for that matter any other non-Christian faith. I’ve had countless bizarre conversations with children and adults about whether I believe Jesus was born..(yes), then I must not like him (what?!), and my people killed him. (All around re-education needed there.) I've had to explain countless times that I thought Jesus was indeed a great figure in history and that, as a Jew, my family has taken a different path in religion, but that God and Creation are for everyone.

Oddly, this was not a problem at ALL in Chattanooga. A private Episcopal school had a Rabbi come in and talk fairly often, everyone knew where the 2 synagogues were in town and people actually enquired about Passover happening at the same time as Easter. Non-Jews introduced us to Jews so we could be comfortable having some of the ‘Tribe’ nearby. All of this there-by shattering one view that we had of the South, that there was rampant religious bigotry. I mean, the KKK doesn’t exactly have the best PR.

This is not too say that there is no reason for the Buckle of the Bible Belt moniker. If you are in any way shape or form Christian, you are fair game to be recruited into some other different area of Christianity. While a simple “Actually we’re Jewish” does it for us, this will not work for anyone else. I’m pretty sure there are more Churches than restaurants and anyone wanting a tax break can set up a little house, put a Cross up and be in business. There is a giant 6 story Cross with Christmas lights on it just as you drive into town, businesses hold prayer sessions and so does the airport. I try to picture all of this going on in Seattle or San Francisco.

I do appreciate the ‘Lord saving us’ everyday, as we can use all the help we can get and I’m pretty sure ‘The Lord’ does not differentiate nearly so much as we humans do. Frankly, I am a deeply religious person, just not in the way most conventional religious doctrine dictates. So as long as a person walks the walk as well as talkin' the talk, being in a religious community doesn't cause me concern. In fact, we might just all have things in common that we never knew.

Bad (good) Bad Southern Food

Southern states have one BIG problem that I can see right off the bat. It's a BIIG problem and It isn't getting fixed quick. Unfortunately its biggest problem is also one of its biggest strengths, which is the food.

There are more fast food spots than I have ever seen anywhere and these are not like ones in Boulder or Seattle, like "Schwarma Vegi King" or something. These are "We are trying to make the biggest fattest hamburger with as much fried pork on it as we can" kind of places.

There are signs like "Super bacon burger comes with a whole deep-fried pig and a deep-fried snickers bar for desert" kind of places. "We don't supersize, that IS our size".And it shows..and shows.

Tennessee is one of the top ten fattest states with a huge portion of morbidly obese people. When we walked into a Chinese Buffet, there was no getting around the fat, I mean fact that people were taking advantage of the ol' "Get what you want but eat what you get". It's almost some sort of conspiracy to wipe out the poor and those with no knowledge of healthy eating habits through heart disease and obesity. We had little choice while staying in a hotel looking for a new house, but to eat in these fine-dining establishments. After my first giant shake it couldn't look at another one, however good it was. My DD and I never wanted to see fried fish again, ever. And even though the best bar-b-que can be found in the South, after one dripping greasy glorious meal, we felt like pigs to market.

We did finally track down sort of soup and salad emporium. Not real busy, as you can imagine, kind of grubby and run down, but salad, yet veggies, glorious veggies finally! Ahhh, my carrot my love....

P.S. Just for the record, the shake in question was a mocha caramel with whip cream and hot fudge. The caramel was warm and kind'a slurped up into your mouth like heaven in a glass. Which was about 12 inches high and not thin. It took a while. A looong while....

P.P.S. On the up side, gyms are the new
20 and they are springing up everywhere

Friday, April 28, 2006

How to order Breakfast in the South

Now why would I want to blog about this? Because I was ignorant, yes, ignorant about this simple thing when I went into a Shake 'n' Steak (which are everywhere in the South along with tons of other extremely unhealthy but tasty venues, more about that later).

Elsewhere in the US, one usually sits down in a booth, picks up a menu, and a harried wait person comes over, demands your order, (heaven forbid you're not ready) and rushes off. Sooooo, I sit down, quickly choose my food and as soon as the waitress says "Hi" I'm ordering. She stands there for a second or two looking at me and smiling, and then looks puzzled and says,

"Um, is that it?"
"Yes, thank you."
"OK then, it'll be right out."

So it was that pause, and the puzzled look that I got several times that day. I finally asked my friends, who had lived in Tennessee a whole 1 year, what the story was. They laughed and said, "Oh, you didn't chat. You have to chat. You need to talk about the weather, your day ahead, your family, where you're both from...stuff like that."
"Yeah, a banking transaction here can take 45 minutes with all the preview sizing up chitchat."

Ah Ha! My first lesson in 'Southern Manners'. One of the complaints that Southerners have is that Yankees are so rude, but besides the obvious occasional New Yorker or Bostonian gruffness, it's hard to say what that exactly means if no one grabs you by the arm and shakes you. (Which Southerners are far to polite to resort to...)

P.S. The shake was the best one I have ever had in my whole life. Really. No pun intended.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Books I've read in preparation for Southern Life

I've heard lots of rumors about Southern Women, and the South as a whole. So, to add more fuel to the not-so-vast information I have about the Southern US, I decided to start reading alllll about it. This is my reading list so far. If anyone has suggestions, please comment.

The Civil War by Goffery C. Ward

The Southern Woman: New and Selected Fiction

Recipes from the Old South by Martha Meade

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech

Southern Women by Lois Battle

and finally we have a subscription to
Southern Living, which is like judging the whole North by Martha Stewart Living. And actually, if one wants a reeeeaaallly imaginary image of the South, Veranda is the periodical for you.

This list is pitifully small now, since I can only read so fast between buying and selling homes, packing, kids school stuff, and a zillion other things, but I'm trying, I really am.

Why? any sane person might ask, am I reading all about the Southern United States, a country which I have occupied my whole life? Because after visiting our new city a couple of times, I realized that, more than any other place I've lived, this is more like moving to another English speaking country. In my mind, if you are going to travel the world, learning about the customs of the people you will visit is mandatory if you don't want to be seen as an ugly American or a rude Jackass.

Photo from a European ad for an
"American Tourist" costume

We've also been supplied with various movies about the south by one of the docs my DH works with who is originally from Alabama. She also passed on a book called "How to Speak Southern" which is not in any way PC but I didn't feel at all guilty since it was a genuine Southern bell passin' it on.