Monday, October 20, 2014

Simplify

Simplify

I officially launched my major project of reorganizing my house a week ago, and one of the first things I ran across in my push to declutter was a little notebook someone had given me as a gift.

It was probably from a student, since it's the typical kind of thing students give teachers, especially ones who like to write. But fancy, expensive little notebooks really aren't for me. While I adore pretty stationary and notebooks, I can't help but feel they're too special to waste on everyday writing, and I'm always saving them for something "special". Instead I find other supplies on the infrequent occasions I do much pencil and paper writing. Grocery lists go on skinny strips of paper where I've cut apart coupons I printed. To-do lists go on the back of junk mail and church bulletins.

In my head, I'm a hopeless romantic. In real life, I'm a total cheapskate.

Simplify

This particular notebook had some very good timely advice. "Simply Your Life" it proclaimed. "Pare things down. Clean out the junk."

I'm really not sure what the notebook expected me to write in it. Lists of things to sell? Things to throw away? Areas of the house to tackle? What to store where? No, all those kinds of things are what I saved all those stacks and stacks and stacks of scrap paper for.

But it was very good advice. Very profound. Very needed.

So I heeded it, and sold the notebook at my yard sale. It was, in fact, my very first sale.

And my life is a dollar simpler for it.

Yes, very good advice, indeed.

***

Photos and content (c) 2014 by Debbi Craton. May not be used without permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Christmas Trees Gone Wild


My daddy loved playing with his tractor and growing things. For a short time after my parents married, Daddy tried to be a farmer and quickly found that he couldn't make a living raising sweet potatoes, and that flying and building airplanes were much more stable careers.

From the time he retired from the Air Force, he always had a garden. For several years, he even grew enough corn and field peas to sell. When he still worked at Lockheed, I'd go out in the field with him sometimes to hold a flashlight for him so that he could pull corn in the dark to sell to coworkers the next day.

When I was still pretty young, Daddy decided to raise Christmas trees. I think part of the plan must have been to save money for my college expenses because much of the proceeds ended up in my savings account.

The original cedar orchard.
I remember helping plant some of these trees. Daddy grew corn and peas in the field.

So he ordered a large order of cedar seedlings. I don't remember exactly how many, but I think it was around a thousand. Across the driveway from the house we lived in when I was small was a large field. About half of it was designated as the Christmas tree orchard, and he set out all those trees in a grid with Mama and I helping. If I recall correctly, I think we planted in January or February. The next year, we put in a new shipment of trees. Several years later, he started planting Virginia pines in the upper half of the field between the old house and the house we moved into when I was ten.

Daddy built the house not visible on the other side of the trees on the right when I was 1, and the house at the end of the driveway when I was 10. The trees along the driveway were planted at the same time as the orchard as a border between that yard and what was then my uncle's dirt driveway. The pine orchard is on the right, behind the 3 acres that were sold with the old house.

They were all nice and cute, this neat little orchard of young cedars and pines. But for all his agricultural experience and knowledge, I don't think Daddy ever planned on what would happen to the unsold trees when they weren't little and cute anymore.

There are a lot of dead pines in the Virginia pine orchard. The thicket is nearly impenetrable for anything larger than a wild turkey. The yard to the old house is visible through the trees on the right.

For most of the year, Christmas trees were a low maintenance crop. Daddy would bush hog between the rows maybe two or three times during the year. Before the trees reached seven or eight feet, it was fairly easy to go around shaping them up. Sometimes he would put in a small order of replacements in vacant spots.

After a few years, the cedars reached five or six feet, and Daddy's tree farm opened for business. From Thanksgiving until Christmas, people would come and wander around the field to pick out a tree. On weekends, there would be quite a number of people constantly showing up. It was supposed to be a cut-your-own farm, but Daddy usually ended up doing the cutting. Daddy sold most of the trees for $10.

Some of the large downed trees at the edge of the pine orchard. I'm not happy at being able to see houses in the new subdivision on the other side of the little creek in the strip of woods. That used to be a pasture that Daddy sold in the 1950s.

The five to eight foot trees sold well for a number of years. As the trees grew to ten and twelve and fourteen feet, there were still occasionally people with tall ceilings or two-story foyers who wanted them. Daddy always donated big ones to any church or community group who wanted one.

Daddy always kept one or two cedars in the front yard to decorate. When they reached the right height, he would either sell them or cut them for us and start over.

Virginia pine orchard

After a number of years, Daddy stopped planting new seedlings. We ran out of the cute little trees, then the pretty well-shaped six and eight-footers, then the tens and twelves. Soon we ran out of the nice-looking big ones, then the ones suitable for cutting the top out of. Finally, all that were left were these ungainly giants, and the nice neat open well-kept rows had turned into impenetrable thickets.

The deer like them. So do the turkeys and the rabbits. Me, not so much. They're good for privacy, but privacy could be a lot prettier. Many have died or fallen in storms. I can't even give the dead pines away for firewood.

Cedar orchard

I'm assuming the snakes like the trees, too. But I don't make a practice of hacking my way through the thickets in the summer canvasing the residents and asking their opinions.

I don't want to cut all the trees down because with all the development in the area, the animals are running out of habitat, but I would like them thinned out some day. In the meantime, the party continues among Christmas trees gone wild.

Cedar orchard


***

Adapted from a series originally published on Bubblews.

Photos and text (c) 2013, 2014 Debbi Craton. May not be used without permission. All rights reserved.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Yahoo Contributor Network and Squidoo Close Down

Yahoo announced in July that it would be closing the Yahoo Contributor Network and shutting down it's Yahoo Voices website. Squidoo announced August 15 that it has been acquired by HubPages and will soon shut down it's site as well.

The Yahoo Contributor Network was my first paid online writing experience, followed quickly by Squidoo. I was with each site right at a year.

In all, I published eight articles on Yahoo Voices and seven lenses on Squidoo. None of them earned me much money, but they were valuable learning experiences.

One invaluable lesson that they taught me is that I am a blogger, not a journalist or a marketer. My focus now is my blogs, Old Roads Once Traveled and My Road to Earning Online, serving as chief photographer and executive assistant to Guiness the Cat at The Guiness Blog, and social blogging on Bubblews and Persona Papers.

Despite what Guiness says, I am not the one who "broke" Squidoo or Yahoo Voices.
The Guiness Blog: Was it Something Debbi Did?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Almost Like Christmas



Here are more photos from the unjammed side of Snow Jam 2014 this past January. These were originally published on Bubblews before a website redesign stripped them from their post.

Three inches of snow combined with all the cedar and pine trees around made it look like Christmas came back and brought the North Pole with it. It made everything look peaceful and surreal.


I couldn't resist the opportunity to take pictures of my neighbors' birdhouses covered with snow. Beyond the pine trees, my house is on the right and the rental house next door that formerly belonged to my uncle is on the left.




Only in the South: a snow-covered magnolia tree.

The Storm Rages On

3:30 p.m. Tuesday
Undisturbed, the way any good snow-covered driveway should be.
Not shoveling it.
Here are more of my winter storm pictures that were made homeless by a recent website redesign on Bubblews. Please follow the links to the original posts for the narrative.

Okay, maybe it didn't exactly rage. Fell lightly to the ground. Peacefully accumulated. Calmly collected. Read more ….

The orchard, which takes longer than the yard to stick, is covered.
5:00 p.m. Tuesday
The storm is drawing to a close.
Still not shoveling it.
Unlike all the commuters stranded in their cars for 12, 18, or 24 hours, since I work at home, I had nowhere to go but the mailbox, and I was loving it. Read more ….
5:00 p.m. Tuesday.
The only tracks on the driveway are footprints belonging to me and the deer.
I stayed off the driveway as much as possible since I couldn't
tell if there was ice under the snow.
Not shoveling it.

My road at 5:00, looking nothing like the interstates.










Thursday, July 31, 2014

From Facebook Photos to Snow Jam 2014



The Georgia January 28, 2014 snow storm started out like any other snow oddity in Georgia. As the ground started to be covered and snow collected on decks, regular TV programming was preempted so that Atlanta TV news coverage could be extended to cover all the snowball fights, fender benders, and Facebook pictures of rulers stuck in two inches of snow.

Seriously.


My personal ruler photo.
I didn't post it on Facebook, but I did post others.

This is Georgia. It's what we do when it snows, okay?

It did get redundant, yes. For awhile. Until it turned treacherous.

This was not our typical dusting, but an actual snow storm. Georgia only has a limited number of salt and sand trucks and snow plows. Even if we did, we still probably wouldn't do snow storms well.

Except for the higher elevations where it really does snow on occasion, in North Georgia we are accustomed to The Rule of Atlanta Snow Forecasting. The Rule states that if the meteorologists predict two or three inches of snow, absolutely nothing will happen. Nothing. Nada. It might rain, but that's it. If they say a few flurries or a light dusting, ninety percent of the time nothing will happen. In that other ten percent, we may end up with an inch or two. It's almost always a surprise.

The forecast called for a light dusting from Atlanta northward.

11:20 a.m.
There had been a little light
snowfall since before ten a.m.


Surprise!


2:28 p.m.










That "light dusting" quickly turned into two or three inches or more. The news coverage shifted from Facebook photos to treacherous road conditions, accidents, and roads and exit ramps clogged by motorists unable to get up the hills. Everybody at work in Atlanta all left for home at 12:30.




Doom came quickly. At 12:16 p.m., the interstates in Atlanta were clear and traffic was flowing smoothly. By 12:36, traffic was at a standstill.

No one went anywhere.

Hotels filled rapidly. Many people spent the night at work. Some took refuge in stores or restaurants.



 

My road at five o'clock, a time I normally have a hard time getting out of my driveway.

 

Friends of mine who were stuck in this mess spent twelve hours getting home. Many people were stranded in their cars for over 24 hours. Some abandoned them and walked miles in the snowstorm to refuge. Temperatures fell from the 20s into the teens.

The area school systems, which are sometimes ridiculed for cancelling school at the slightest chance of snow, uncharacteristically relied on the innocuous forecast and made the decision to dismiss early rather than close school for the day. By the time they released students, traffic conditions were already treacherous. Many school buses were in accidents, including one driven by a friend of mine. He and the kids on his bus were stranded in the ditch for hours. Other kids spent the night on their bus, and many, many more were returned to their school to spend the night.

So grateful I work at home.
***


 



 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It's Snowing! Well, Not Right Now, But it Did in January


During and after the Georgia snow storm that resulted in Snow Jam 2014, I posted a lot of pictures on Bubblews. After all, snow like that only happens in Georgia once in a blue moon. I work at home, I had plenty of food, and I didn't have to get out in it, so I had a ball going out, taking pictures, then coming back inside my warm house to sit in front of the computer and get paid for writing about it. I love my job!

Unfortunately, when Bubblews redesigned their website recently, all but a few of those pictures went poof! I'm working hard to repair all those posts. To make the photos that those posts are about visible to readers again, Guiness and I are uploading them to our blogs.

Here are some of the early pictures. The captions are as I originally wrote them on January 28, 2014.


Not shoveling it.
The walk isn't covered yet, so I brought Guiness out and put him down where there was a good patch of snow to get some pictures. Before I could take a single shot, he took off for the porch.
This was the best I got.
"Let me in!"

Here is the original post:

It's Snowing!

Monday, July 28, 2014

2010: My One and Only White Christmas


White Christmas in Georgia December 25, 2010

Living in Georgia, I only rarely see snow. When it happens, it's magical. When it happens on Christmas, it's a once-in-a-lifetime event.

At a church cookout last fall, several of the men opened up a persimmon seed (yes, it took several) to reveal a spoon-shaped image inside. Supposedly, this predicts lots of heavy, wet snow. I didn't have a picture of the seed at the time I wrote the post "And the Persimmon Says … Snow!", so I used photos from the last significant snow storm I had.

If you want to see the picture a friend of mine took of the persimmon seed with the spoon image, you can find it here: "The Spoon in the Persimmon Seed".

Here are some other pictures from the Christmas snow of 2010, my only white Christmas.






I have to admit that I was like, well, a kid at Christmas. Guiness, however, was not impressed.














Guiness never made it farther from the door than halfway up the walk.







Hungry reindeer.









 
 
















 



Let it Snow!


I have been making my list and checking it twice. My list of my posts on Bubblews, that is.

The recent website redesign on Bubblews no longer supports more than one photo per post. That means that all the photos other than the title photo--and sometimes the title photo as well--have vanished from all my photo essays, most of the time taking some of the text with it.

And between the two of us, Guiness and I had a LOT of photo essays on Bubblews.

Some of the posts are fine with only one photo after a little editing. But for the photo essays that were about the photos … nuh-uh. Many of them no longer make sense. Some of them have been mostly or completely gutted.

I can edit the text, but I can't edit or replace the photos. To salvage them as much as possible and make the photos still available to my Bubblews readers, Guiness and I will be uploading the photos into companion posts that link to the original post, and then publishing them either on this blog or The Guiness Blog by Guiness the Cat.

It's a massive salvage job, and it needs to be done as soon as possible, so please be patient with us.

So where better to start in the middle of summer than with a little polar vortex?

Merry Christmas, and let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

History in the Closet



There are definitely good things about being a second generation packrat. The clutter can sometimes yield treasure.

I was going through the hall closet this past winter, cleaning out coats to give to a homeless ministry run by friends of mine, when I came across a jacket I didn't recognize. Pulling it out, I saw a Foremost Dairy patch on it, and realized it belonged to my mother's father, whom I never knew.

My mother's mother was the only one of my grandparents still living when I was born. The other three died within weeks of each other a little over a year before my birth. I was an adult when she passed away, so I knew her well. Many of her things, treasure and clutter alike, migrated to my parent's house after her death, and are still here long after my parents are gone. I've always had plenty of little things that belonged to her, or that belonged to her and him, but this was the first time I had a personal tangible connection to him.

It was so cool pulling it out and finding the jacket probably just as he left it. Pa was a driver for Foremost Dairy, and died suddenly from a heart attack while on the job.

There is just something touching about finding out that your grandfather wore a size 46 M.

His name is hand embroidered on the chest. Did my grandmother embroider it?

Stapled inside the coat is a small slip of paper with the number 1640-3 handwritten on it. Is that a dry cleaning tag? Did he leave it in there, or did my grandmother or mother have it cleaned after his death, then hang it in the closet?

Why am I thinking about cleaning the coats out of the closet in January when it's July? A website redesign on Bubblews recently changed the photo platform, removing many pictures and some of the text associated with them, and severely cropping others. Since I had many, many multiple photo posts, I was going through my Bubblews posts looking for damaged posts to repair, and to upload the missing photos to one of my blogs, and found "Time Capsule in a Closet".

The above photo is the uncropped cover photo I used. The one below is a typical 1920s/1930s photo of my grandparents and my mother when she was about two years old.



My brother, Bob Craton, wrote a follow-up article to this one, filling in some of the blanks for me. The website changes chopped Pa's head off in the title photo, and the rest of the photos are missing, but I still recommend reading "Memories of a Grandfather".

***

Jacket photo (c) 2013 Debbi Craton. All other photos from our family collection.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Guiness the Cat Launches The Guiness Blog




My cat Guiness has been writing his own journal posts on Bubblews.com for over five months now with his own particular cat-centered outlook on life. Now he's bringing his opinions--and yes, his cute pictures--home to his own brand new website, The Guiness Blog by Guiness the Cat.

Besides his journal, Guiness likes to do tutorials and restaurant reviews, and wishes very much that I would bring more food home from restaurants for him to review.

Guiness will still be contributing his take on life on Bubblews, but not so many pictures. A recent website redesign on Bubblews has completely changed the way photos are shared there, making it not so photo-friendly. Multiple photo posts are no longer possible, so Guiness will be reserving his photo essays for his blog.

Guiness can't wait to interact with everyone, so head over and say hello.