Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday

Black Friday in Camden, Arkansas, population less than 14,000, doesn't have quite the frenzie normally associated with the biggest shopping day of the year. Although Jayme briefly contemplated being at Wal-Mart for a 5 a.m. opening, she decided there wasn't really anything she needed that badly, and truthfully we weren't too sure the Camden Wal-Mart would be opening early anyway.

So we girls opted instead for Four Seasons' 9 a.m. opening. In fact, a trip to Four Seasons to check out Frank's mantel is a Walker family tradition for the day after Thanksgiving, and we usually end up with some new greenery and an ornament or two. This year's mantel features the Three Wise Men along with some cool artificial pine cones. We could smell the smoke from the wood-burning fireplace before we even went inside.

As for our purchases, Jayme bought two vintage looking postcard ornaments, Kate found two cute snowmen, and J.B. and I settled on the Santa covered with a glass dome. As usual, Susie spotted the best looking greenery.

To top it off, we got back to Mema's in plenty of time to watch the Hogs upset LSU 31-30. In fact Kate and Wes made it to Little Rock and were in their seats at War Memorial Stadium for the kick off. A great way to end the Thanksgiving weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some Things Never Change

As predicted, we are toasty. Mema has the thermostat set on 75, day and night. Considering that we keep our heat at home on 68 during the day and 65 after bedtime, LBeau and I are roasting. Mema is wearing long underwear!

To make matters worse, LBeau forgot to bring his shorts. Like a real trooper, he is not complaining.

In other predictable matters, Aunt Mary asked me to help decorate the tables for tonight. The plan was for her to pick me up at 10:30 this morning. It's now 12:15, and I haven't seen her yet. I just hope we get back in time for me to watch the Cowboy game.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks

It's Thanksgiving week, and once again LBeau and I will be travelling to Camden, Arkansas, to celebrate with my family. Most of the men will stay at deer camp so they can get in some hunting while they are there. The women and children will stay nice and toasty at Mother's, and LBeau will take shorts to wear around the house.

Brent shot this 8-point buck Thanksgiving 2003.

Thursday night a large gathering of Mother's extended family will be at the Fellowship Hall of the First Presbyterian Church for our Thanksgiving meal. When I was growing up, we always had our Thanksgiving dinner at Grancy and Poosie's house, but as the family got bigger, we had to relocate.

Aunt Mary will probably call me Thanksgiving morning and ask for my help in decorating that afternoon. So we'll put out the well-worn candles, turkeys, pumpkins and Pilgrims and set the tables with silverware and napkins.

My cousin Robert will smoke the turkeys, and Mother will make the cornbread dressing. Aunt Mary always bakes homemade rolls and fixes asparagus with cheese sauce. Thanksgiving used to be the only time I ever got asparagus because nobody else in my family liked it very much. Everyone else will bring one or two dishes, and there's always plenty of food for seconds.

I'm not sure who will bless the food this year. Hunter, our resident preacher, will not be there this year (nor will my other children), and Uncle Bill has moved to Tulsa to be closer to his son Ricky and his family.

On Friday the girls will shop. We'll visit Four Seasons to see how Frank has decorated his mantel, and Susie and I will probably purchase some new greenery. Catherine's and Bruce's will be on our shopping schedule as well, but we'll be sure to make it back to Mema's in time for the kick off of the Arkansas-LSU game. Who knows, maybe we can pull off an upset again this year.

At some point Susie and I will probably go to the pasture to cut possum haw to use for Christmas decorating. We'll put it into large black plastic trash bags and hope we can get back to Conway and Birmingham without losing too many berries. I also hope there is at least one cold clear night so I can check out the stars from the pasture.

Of course, Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks and eating good food, but for me it's mainly about family.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

High Profile

Ben's and Claire's wedding write up made the High Profile section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Little Rock edition today. Not only did it include photos of the bride and groom, but also pictures of LBeau and me, Brent and Katie and Mema Martha as well as Claire's parents and lots of her family and Ben's friends Mike and Sarah Beth from Birmingham.

My first hint that the wedding might be featured was when the wedding coordinator approached us as we arrived for the reception and told us that the Democrat-Gazette photographer wanted to take our picture. I remembered to set down my purse and shawl and to remind LBeau to take off his overcoat, but I forgot one thing.

An hour or so later when I realized my reading glasses were sitting on top of my head, someone said, "Maybe they'll look like a tiara."

So what do you think? Tiara or reading glasses? At least I remembered to put them in LBeau's coat pocket before I walked down the aisle.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


As of my birthday on Friday, November 14, I reached the magic age where I am eligible for Social Security. Although I have not gotten to "full retirement" age, I decided it was best to start getting my money while I still could.

So last Wednesday I sat down at the computer to complete the online application. I just love doing stuff online. I gave them about 10 pages of information and hit the "submit" button. Then I put the required documents, a copy of last year's W-2 form and my birth certificate, into an envelope and took it to the post office.

This morning at 7:50 I got a call from a nice lady at the Social Security office here in Birmingham who told me that she had gotten my online application and that they had already received my documents. (She certainly was working early on a Saturday morning.)

"I'm just thrilled," she gushed.

"Well, I'm thrilled, too," I thought. "I'm going to get some money from the government."

It seems that she was thrilled that my application was in order, that I had submitted all of the required documents and that I had given them phone numbers where they could actually reach me.

"You won't believe how many people give us a phone number and then just leave the country," she explained.

So I guess that makes me retired, although it doesn't mean my daily routine will change. I'll continue to build and remodel houses; I'll just be getting a monthly check from Uncle Sam.

Friday, November 21, 2008


LBeau doesn't do well with change, so I was surprised yesterday as he was leaving for work to see him wearing the leather jacket that he bought probably two years ago. In fact, I can recall seeing him wear that jacket on only one other occasion.

He has been known to order pants from L.L. Bean, Jos. A. Bank or Brooks Brothers and let them sit in the closet in the box for over a year before getting them hemmed. Keep in mind that the style is no different from the pants he has been wearing for the last 20 years or so. It's just that they're new, and that represents change.

The boys and I have also observed him wearing stuff around the house with the tag still on it. I guess he's just waiting for the right moment to go public.

So now that the leather jacket is in the rotation, maybe this summer he'll break in his new sandals from Johnston and Murphy. By then they'll be a year old.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wedding Wrap Up

The pace picked up in The Slow Lane last weekend with Ben's and Claire's wedding in Little Rock. LBeau and I arrived on Wednesday night to begin making preparations for the rehearsal dinner, the main contribution of the groom's family.

The Friday night event at Cotham's came off mostly without a hitch. However, I made one minor boo-boo when I closed the laptop, causing LBeau's PowerPoint presentation to go black. Oops! All 135 of us got our fix of fried food with catfish, chicken fingers, French fries, hush puppies and some kind of fried corn balls that were absolutely yummy.

A reception at the Clinton Library followed the Saturday evening wedding. The band from Memphis was amazing as was the view of the city from the ballroom. Katie sang with the band, performing James Taylor's "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved by You." But I must say it was the first wedding reception I've attended where I had to go through a security check to get in.

It was wonderful having so many friends from Birmingham drive all the way to Little Rock to be there, and we loved seeing Becky and Cliff, our former neighbors from Texarkana.

Congratulations Ben and Claire and have a wonderful life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Grocery Store Update

Margie made a trip to the grocery store Sunday morning. Turkeys were on sale, so she bought the Thanksgiving turkey that I didn't get.

She also purchased four or five more cans of LeSueur peas and two more boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats. I thought the two cans of peas and two boxes of cereal that I bought would last a while, but I guess I was wrong.

The big news is that she got the answer to the question "What are Velveeta Strips?" Technically, there's no such thing as Velveeta Strips, but Velveeta now comes shredded. Scott will be pleased.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grocery Store Challenge

The next time you're up for a challenge, try grocery shopping from a list someone else created to do his or her own grocery shopping. I had the opportunity to do that this morning when my sister Margie had to make a speedy trip to the hospital for the birth of her granddaughter two months early.

Last night Margie, with Katie's help, had made a grocery list, so I offered to take the list and do the shopping for her. Before I left her house, I decided to go over the list with Katie. That exercise raised more questions than answers.

What is "my cereal"? Does she want sliced cheddar cheese or a block of cheddar? What kind of bread does she buy? And what are Velveeta strips?

Fortunately, her housekeeper Susie was there to tell me that she had never seen a block of any kind of cheese in Margie's refrigerator and that "my cereal" meant some flavor of Honey Bunches of Oats. A quick look through her pantry revealed two unopened boxes of cinnamon flavored Honey Bunches of Oats, so I decided on the honey roasted flavor.

Looking in the bread drawer, I found an almost empty sack of Nature's Own Honey Wheat bread, so that answered that question. And a search of the garage refrigerator told me that she had two unopened containers of orange juice, so I crossed "OJ" off the list.

I already knew that "DDP" meant Diet Dr. Pepper, so armed with my list and a few answers, I headed out for Kroger. I quickly filled a basket with most of the items on the list, although I never did find anything called "Velveeta Strips." I decided on Velveeta slices instead and proceeded to check out.

I later learned that I did pretty well, actually. However, I was curious about the Velveeta Strips. Margie explained that when her son Scott complained that she had only shredded Cheddar cheese for the chili, she told him that Velveeta doesn't come pre-shredded. He quickly said, "That's what Velveeta Strips are for."

Well he can just tear those Velveeta slices into little bitty pieces next time.

Also, it's a good thing for my wallet that I interpreted "turkey" to mean sliced deli turkey, otherwise I might have actually bought the Thanksgiving turkey she really wanted.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembering Our Veterans

On this Veterans Day I am reminded of my father, Captain Thomas Benton Walker, Sr., who served with the Timberwolves during World War II in Germany, France and Belgium.

After reading Scott Turow's Ordinary Heroes I became intrigued by The War and started going through a scrapbook that my Aunt Sissy, Daddy's sister, compiled with letters, photos and other things Daddy sent home from Europe. Unfortunately, I didn't even know about the scrapbook's existence until after Daddy died.

I'm sorry I never took the time to talk to him more about his experiences, but I'm not sure he would have shared much anyway.

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served in the armed forces, and especially those who served in war time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In the Home Stretch

We are now officially in "Wedding Week," as we move closer to Ben's and Claire's big day in Little Rock this Saturday.

Sunday afternoon, LBeau and I did a run through, setting up the 6'x6' screen and projector in the den and playing the rehearsal dinner video from start to finish. I must say that I am pleased with the results. I created the slides using StoryBook Plus and then used Microsoft Movie Maker to pull the slides and music into a video presentation.

It's also comforting to know that we have our own equipment and don't have to rely on renting something that we then have to figure out how to use. I have to admit that I teased LBeau when he decided we needed to order our own screen and projector. Frankly, it seemed like an extravagant expense at the time, but I think we'll find lots of uses for it.

In the meantime, LBeau is working on his speech, complete with a PowerPoint presentation. This required the purchase of another gadget, a remote controller for the PowerPoint that comes with a built in laser pointer.

This afternoon I created an Excel spreadsheet with the seating chart for the 140 guests for the Rehearsal Dinner, many of whom RSVPed via email to invitations that I printed and addressed in Microsoft Word.

It makes me tired just wondering how weddings came together before all of this wonderful technology.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

That's Our Coach

On this football Saturday, I am reminded of another football weekend fifteen years ago. In 1993 Danny Ford came to Alabama for the first time as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Ford had played at Alabama under legendary Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, and the local news media focused on that angle as well as the Razorbacks' first trip to Tuscaloosa as a member of the Southeastern Conference. During Friday night's sports segment, one Birmingham television station interviewed a number of Arkansas fans who had already arrived in Tuscaloosa.

After watching the broadcast, my friend Peggy turned to her husband Phil and said, "I don't know why they always pick the hickiest Arkansas fans to interview."

To which Phil replied, "That's not a fan; that's our coach."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Alabama Girls

Yesterday's agenda included a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Although most of the tour group were ACI Convention attendees, a couple of locals were in the mix.

At one point a somewhat scruffy looking gentleman approached Marcia and me and started talking about "The Hill," the Italian section of St. Louis. He had all kinds of advice from how to get there to where to eat. Later in the hospitality room where we were enjoying a pomegranate-raspberry beer, he started talking to us again. (Side note: I am not a beer drinker, but the pomegranate-raspberry beer was pretty refreshing.)

After boarding the bus to return to our hotel, I looked up to see him coming down the aisle. I didn't think he looked like an engineer, but I decided he was part of our group after all.

"Where are those Alabama girls?" he asked.

Marcia and I meekly raised our hands. So here he comes with his gift shop bag and begins showering us with gifts--an umbrella, a coozie and a keychain flashlight. Turns out he was a brewery employee who decided to take the tour on his day off.

Guess there's something about us girls raised in the South. Must be the luscious lips or maybe it's just the accent.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Stuck in the Slow Lane

I'm married to an engineer, so that's why I sometimes get stuck in the slow lane. This week is a classic example. We are at the American Concrete Institute Fall Convention in St. Louis. Imagine spending four or five quality days with a bunch of mostly men who find pleasure in attending sessions with such titles as "Evaluation of Existing Structures by Means of In-Situ-Load Testing and Structural Monitoring." That's where LBeau is as I type.

Yesterday we took a tour of the Holcim Cement Plant that's under construction in Ste. Genevieve County south of St. Louis. It's important to keep in mind that cement and concrete are not the same thing. Cement is made from limestone and is an ingredient of concrete.

Last night I passed on the opening session, but we did go to the Reception, which featured a cash bar (they ran out of red wine) and light refreshments. In going to these conventions for the past several years, I have learned that "light refreshments" typically means chips and salsa, veggies and ranch dip, and cheese of various kinds with crackers.

Tomorrow night is the big social event, aptly named the Concrete Mixer. The food shoud be better.

Meanwhile, the highlight of my evening was when Ross from Naples, Florida, told me I had luscious lips. Thankfully he didn't try to kiss me.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Four from My Forties

Margie has challenged me to post and write about four pictures from my forties. She probably thinks I don't remember my forties, but I'm up to the task.

When I turned 40 we were living with our three boys in Texarkana in the Pleasant Grove area at 18 Clay Avenue. Not too long after moving to Texarkana from Little Rock we adopted a cat. Blackie had lived across the street, but her owners built a new house and moved about a mile away.

Blackie was an outdoor kitty, and she missed Clay Avenue. So she kept running away from home and hanging out at our house. I would dutifully call her owners and tell them that Blackie had come back again. They would come pick her up, and the whole cycle would start over. They finally asked if we wanted to keep her. We did. Knowing that she would face a long trek from Birmingham to Texarkana, we left her with our neighbors Maurice and Irma Short when we moved here in 1989. She lived out the rest of her days with the Shorts.

Does anyone remember Hands Across America? The event happened on Sunday, May 25, 1986. Technically I was only 39 at the time, but I thought I would include this picture anyway. The line wound through Texarkana, and the boys and I joined it at Summerhill Plaza Shopping Center.

A couple of years after moving to Texarkana, Laura Butterfield and I opened Rose Hill Emporium. Laura's husband Andy offered us the empty space in the front of his small motor repair business, and we taught painting on wood and fabric and sold gift items. I don't think we ever made any money, but we had a good time.

By the way, this picture is proof that big hair was alive and well in Texas.

In 1989 we moved to Birmingham, Alabama. Larry and I decided that we would buy a lot and subcontract our own house, so in 1991 I became a builder. Since Larry was working all day, I had the task of overseeing the project. I ordered all of the materials, hired all of the subcontractors and made sure everyone showed up on time. Well, more or less on time. Seventeen years later I'm still building and remodeling, and a couple of those subcontractors are still with me.

Each summer the boys and I headed to Camp David for a week on Pickwick Lake. Camp David is my sister-in-law Billie Anne's lake house. My sister-in-law Mary Katherine brought her three children, Mema Martha was there, and sometimes Anne and David, BA's kids, would spend a few days with us. Fishing, boating, tubing and playing tennis took up most of our days, and BA always organized an outing to Shiloh National Military Park. At night we played games, and the cousins performed impromptu shows.

So there's my four from my forties (I know it's really five, but I'm not counting the one when I was only 39). It's fun to remember the Good Ole Days, so if any of the rest of you are up to the challenge, just pick a decade and post some pictures.