Saturday, June 25, 2016

Raise Your Hand If You Remember These!

" Step right up on the box, Junior, and put your foot in the radioactive machine so I can check your feet inside your new shoes.

"No, Mother, don't you worry, it's perfectly safe. Junior's toes will not fall off or glow in the dark from radiation. This is science at work to give Junior a perfect fit and an inch to grow in."


We visited a small museum in Walterboro, South Carolina and came across a flouroscope, which I hadn't seen since I was a child in the 1950s getting new shoes for school.


The flouroscope was invented in the 1920s as a sales gimmick to sell shoes. It X-rayed the customer's feet, revealing bones and the outline of the shoe assuring a perfect fit.

Even by the1950s when the dangers of radiation should have been fairly clear and clerks who used the boxes were reporting burns and other injuries, the hazards were brushed off and the machines continued to be used! By the mid 1950s there were 10,000 of them leaking radiation all over the place in the United States and a similar number in England.


The customer, most often a child, would stand wearing new shoes with her feet in the slot in the bottom of the box. At the top were three viewing places, one for the salesman in his suit and tie, one for Mom in her dress and heels, and one for the child, also dressed up for the occasion.






I got two pairs of shoes every year, brown "oxfords" for school and patent leather "buckle shoes" for church. They were always the same. No one asked me what I wanted and I don't even know if the store had any other options. The brand was Buster Brown and they came from the small town shoe store that had the X-ray machine. I don't remember its name.

When you put your feet in the machine with the new shoes on, you wiggled your toes around inside the new shoes to check the fit, and I can't tell you how exciting it was for a five or six year old in the mid 50s to see the actual bones inside her foot moving around. I could have stood there wiggling my toes all day long!

This is from an article I read when I was looking up some facts about the flouroscope. If it's true, it's pretty frightening but I didn't see any research about it that looked more detailed. So take it for what it's worth.

"By the 1970s, shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were almost universally banned, but damage had already been done; foot cancer began to rear its ugly head in many older patients, and there was little question of Its source."

If you want to give yourself nightmares, Google foot cancer images. Yikes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Be It Ever So Humble

You might have noticed I've been missing for awhile. Perhaps you saw a weather map and assumed I had melted into an oil slick and floated off to sea. Or fled to Australia where it's winter to cool my fevered brow.

But nope!

We have been searching for a place to call home and believe me, that is a full time job.

Sunset from the deck of our island home

We started months ago thinking we would buy the home on the island that we have been renting. You can't beat its peace and beauty. But the house needs many repairs and a lot of upkeep, and the more we thought about it, the more reluctant we became to spend our time and resources fixing things. It is very difficult to get people to do work way out here. (For example, we have been trying steadily to get a plumber to fix a plumbing problem for over a year and have not yet been able to get one to show up. We are tired of trying and just lucky we have one toilet that works!)

Our next plan was to move to Beaufort, population 10,000 and the second oldest town in South Carolina. It has gorgeous old southern homes, a slow southern lifestyle, lots of history, a pretty waterfront. We have spent a lot of time there and come to love it. And we have spent entirely too much time dashing off to look at yet another home that has come up for sale in order to make an offer before it has been snapped up.

Only to become more and more discouraged.

Sunday morning on Beaufort harbor

Prices have soared over the last couple years with homes of little value going for ridiculous prices. There has been no urban planning so there are decaying old trailer homes grandfathered into neighborhoods of nice homes, making us leery of being able to resell the home when it becomes necessary.

Two weekends ago we looked at three more houses that left us cold for various reasons and completely discouraged. It was 98 degrees, so humid the moisture hung in the air as haze and hit your chest like a wall every time you walked out the door. I couldn't even count the red bug and mosquito bites I had, not to mention the two new fire ant bites on my foot.

We were done with Beaufort. What to do? We came home and started looking at a map.

Long story shorter, on Monday we drove three hours north to Georgetown, the third oldest town in South Carolina. Neither of us had been there before but it took only about a half a day of looking around to realize it had what we wanted. It was several degrees cooler because it is 20 minutes from the ocean. The historic town center is intact and thriving, there is plenty of outdoor recreation, a nice library, lots of history. Best of all, real estate prices were about $100,000 less than what we had been looking at! Georgetown was our town!

We returned to Georgetown on Friday to look at houses with a realtor. We looked at lots of houses but there was only one house that struck both of us as The House. When we walked in the door we each knew that this was the house for us. Everything about it was perfect. Well, everything was perfect except that negotiations were under way with another buyer. The buyer and seller had been going back and forth for quite some time trying to agree on a price, and we were told they were close to an agreement.

We decided to make an offer anyway. Why not? And by the next day, ours was the offer accepted!

In the course of looking at houses I'm not sure how many we have looked at. Fifty? A hundred? Some had a fatal flaw, like neighbors with chained dogs or yards next door full of trash. Some were strange with things like tiny rooms with no use. Many were okay but had no personality. A couple gave us the creeps and me nightmares. This house, the Maryville house, gave off sunshine and brightness and good vibes. You could tell happiness and love lived there.

We can't wait to add ours!

A hedge all around of red roses and purple hydrangea
And look, in the center--a small banana tree!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Early Morning, Port Royal, South Carolina

"From our boats to your table!"

It's a steamy June morning in Port Royal.

The shrimp boats are in, fish selected from the local docks,

and Seafood Express is ready for customers.

The Reaves family has been in business since 1970. They own three shrimp trawlers, five oyster boats, and a fleet of trawlers and skiffs used for clamming and crabbing. What they don't catch in their family-owned boats they buy from other local fishermen.


"Yum yum"


"Eat fresh local seafood"


"Eat more fish"






With 86% of the seafood consumed in the United States imported,

it's nice to be able to

"buy local".


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dolly Parton's 'Home Town'

Dolly Parton is a kind of American music legend. The fourth of twelve children of a dirt poor hillbilly family, Dolly succeeded in making it big as a country singer and songwriter. I'm sure her early fame had something to do with her big blond hair and expansive chest that preceeded her tiny body by about a half a mile, but at some point her big voice became just as, um, outstanding as her physique.


Dolly was born in a one-room shack in the Smoky Mountains but the little town of Sevierville, Tennessee has proclaimed itself her home town. When we drove through on our last trip back from Minnesota we decided to stop and say howdy.

Dolly's likeness sits on a big rock playing her guitar on the courthouse lawn.







At six Dolly began playing a homemade guitar and singing in church.

At eight she played and sang on local radio stations.

By 18 she was making a name for herself in Nashville as a singer and songwriter.

Dolly met Carl Dean, owner of an asphalt paving business, in front of the Wishy Washy Laundromat the day she moved to Nashville. He warned her that she was getting a sunburn.


They married in 1966, and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in May of this year.

She and Dean had no children of their own but raised several of Dolly's brothers and sisters.




Dolly sponsors a literacy program for children dear to my teacher's heart, Imagination Library. The program mails a book a month to every child enrolled from birth until they enter kindergarten. Imagination Library has provided books for over 850,000 children every month across the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia, 10 million books annually.

Among many other projects, Dolly has raised money for a cancer center in Sevierville in honor of the doctor who delivered her-- the doctor her father paid with a bag of cornmeal!

I've always enjoyed Dolly Parton's music with its bluegrass and mountain roots. I like her peppy personality and the family values she has maintained.

Of the 3,000 songs she has written, my favorites are Coat of Many Colors based on her mountain childhood and I Will Always Love You made famous by Whitney Houston.

If you want to have a listen, here are a couple links:


Monday, June 6, 2016

Scammed! ... No, Skimmed!

We thought it would be good to leave electronics behind and just enjoy our vacation on Ocean Reef last weekend. Which means we didn't check our email until we got home. When we did ...

Big shock!

We had been skimmed!

There was an email from the bank alerting us to suspicious activity on a debit card, which began just one hour after we left the house. We hadn't read the email. Debit card and PIN number were stolen and the account drained of $3200.

It's a horrible feeling.

By studying the account activity we figured out the information was stolen at a gas station in Savannah, then first used in Charleston by thieves to finance a Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas.

We were stunned. There had been no one suspicious lurking around, peering over our shoulder at the pump. How could someone get the PIN number?

* * * * * calls 2016 "The Year of the Skimmer". It's happening everywhere, in small towns and big cities. Maybe we are the only ones unaware of this but maybe not. I'll pass along what we've learned. Maybe it will save someone else from this crime.

Thieves work in pairs, one to distract the gas station attendant, the other to open the front of the pump, and in seconds install a small device on the card reader inside the pump that relays the credit card number back to them wirelessly. They also stick a tiny camera on the pump over the PIN pad to get the number as you punch it in. They are fast and on their way before the attendant knows anything happened.

Craig VanBuren, director of the Consumer Protection Section at Michigan’s Department of Agriculture, shows how the skimmer devices are placed inside a gas pump. NBC News

Crooks can buy a skimmer on eBay for less than $100 and it's small enough to fit in the palm of the hand. They also target ATM machines and rig them with similar devices.

The advice I've gathered:

  • How can you know if a skimmer has been added to a gas pump? Some stations are putting a sticker across the seal on the door on the front of the pump. It's a bright color and easy to see if it has been tampered with or torn and the pump opened. If anything looks suspicious on the front of the pump, don't use it. (We haven't seen a single one of these stickers since, however, so it doesn't seem they are in widespread use yet.)
  • Use the pumps nearest the attendant in the station. Crooks target the pumps farthest away.
  • Pay inside. Your chances are better that the cashier is not a crook.
  • Use a credit card, not a debit card. This limits the amount of info the thieves can get, plus it's easier to get your money back than with a debit card. Also, not all banks offer debit card protection.
  • Set up your credit or debit card account for alerts by text message which typically will be noticed before an email.
  • If it happens to you, alert the gas station and the police of the town where you think it happened. They can install a GPS tracker on the thieves' device in the pump and possibly catch them.

Fortunately for us, the card we used was protected and the money will be returned to our account and the card replaced.

Meanwhile, though, we are still waiting for the new card a week later and have no cash or access to our account.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Living It Up at Ocean Reef

We did enjoy our Memorial Day weekend in the Florida Keys with The Writer's children at his son's girlfriend's family home. Sorry to say, no special announcement was forthcoming, much to everyone's surprise. Maybe next time.

Our hosts had a very large second home and boat on Ocean Reef. I think I heard 5000 square feet mentioned. (That's the house, not the boat.) We had a third floor guest suite that was as big as my house and looked out over the pool and ocean beyond.


We spent most of the weekend in the boat and I was so excited to see groups of dolphins so near you could almost touch them.

"Swim with the Dolphins" is on my bucket list, and this was pretty darn close!

Lots of famous people have homes at Ocean Reef. The Obamas were there for a visit a few weeks ago.



Time to Burn is a 38-foot sport fisherman that sleeps four.


We went out into the open ocean to cruise and it was also our transportation to lunch, dinner, and beaches every day.


On the first afternoon we tied up at the dock of Alabama Joe's.

Alabama Joe's is an open air restaurant just before the toll bridge to Key Largo. It opened as a biker bar in 1947. Tradition says you must get a t-shirt on your first visit (we did) and leave a license plate from your home state if you are a regular there.

I think they save a lot of money on a decorator, don't you?

You also have to have their "world famous" conch fritters. (The fritters were okay but I didn't really have anything to compare them to. We don't have conch fritters in Minnesota.)

There is definitely no "No shoes, no shirt, no service" sign, but I think you do at least have to wear a swimsuit nowadays. Looks like it might have been optional when they first opened.


Yes, that is me napping by the pool after a rough day of doing nothing and that is the open ocean above the mangrove tree line.

Please don't blow this photo up too large, okay? I did not approve of The Writer taking it.






I couldn't get all of the house into one shot without falling off the dock into the water. (There are gators in there!)

So imagine you are looking at half of it and it goes on an equal amount past the trees to the left. (Because it does.)





The other transportation at Ocean Reef is by golf cart.

This is The Writer's son and girlfriend and their little family, Dexter and Buddy.

Buddy and Dex go to Doggy Daycare during the week while their humans are at work.

When Dexter stands on two legs he is in direct line to kiss my lips. Now that was a surprise.



There are many models of golf carts to choose from. If we lived at Ocean Reef, I think I'd look really good driving this one. But maybe in a little more snazzy color?

I couldn't help but wonder what Golf Cart One looks like when the Obamas are in residence.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Saying Goodbye

"True happiness is born of letting go of what is unnecessary.” ~Sharon Salzberg

"I just walked away from 75% of my life." ~Cynthia

Saying goodbye to 30+ years of living, growing deep roots, and raising a family has been an interesting process. Now that I'm pretty much through it I thought I would share some thoughts.

First, my moving crew extraordinaire. Daughters, sister, son-in-law, The Writer, and of course, Mason.

Bringing the freezer up from the basement was a major accomplishment. It was going to my daughter's house. She has four growing boys so no problem filling a freezer.

Getting it out involved removing two doors of the house and the top of the freezer--a necessity discovered only after reaching the top of the stairs the first time.

Back down, rest, remove doors, start the push-pull process of the ascent all over again...

That wasn't the craziest thing though. A ping pong table that went down the stairs 25 years ago had to be dismantled and destroyed to get it back up the stairs.

How did that happen???

We had eight days to sell my car, empty the house, and get it up for sale

as The Writer needed to be back in SC in two weeks.

We did it!

I put my car on Craigslist (a new experience) and it was gone in 24 hours. We spoke with a realtor and 10 hours later had a buyer before the house had even been listed. The woman who wanted it, the mother of a neighbor, had admired my house for years because of my gardens and trees, so I know all will be cared for and enjoyed for years to come.

Comin' up!

We had a garage sale and I gave away whatever was left after that. I now have no car, no house, and about 25% of the "stuff"I had a few weeks ago!

The quickness of it was a blessing, but it was also sort of stunning and I got overwhelmed at times. Oh heck, I still think about the tiny handmade baby clothes, the special childrens' toys, the sentimental items that had no use but holding memories, and get weepy! But I know the objects aren't the memories and the memories of those days are safely in my heart to keep forever.

Most everyone has to downsize in later life and I'm thankful that step is now pretty much behind me.

My best advice for getting through it ...