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2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Talladega

“When the winds go cold and it blows October,
I think about us shoulder to shoulder,
Like those cars my thoughts roll over and over and over,
In my mind

Tonight I’m in Talladega, boys raised up,
Whiskey in your glass, here’s to turning up,
Slowing down and cars that go real fast,
We were laughing and living, drinking and wishing,
And thinking as that checkered flag was waving,
Sure would like to stay in

How appropriate that my 40th high school reunion and the Talladega race fall on the same weekend.  Eric Church’s song isn’t about racing… it’s about a time in your life that stands out… that you’ll always remember.

I absolutely loved my time at Darlington.  I was fortunate in that I ended up getting to do just about everything I wanted to do in terms of extra-curricular activities, and the group of people that I hung out with were the ones who were very competitive in terms of grades, so those stayed up as well.  It was the full package, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  Sure… there was the usual teenage girl drama… and I was truly a bit of a nerd (which sometimes made me somewhat of a target)… but I figured out later that being a nerd was ok and paid off in the long run.

So, I’m headed for the class reunion tonight with memories of 40 years ago swirling in my mind.  All of us who are going are bringing years of experience with us, and we’re all much different people than we were then.

As for Talladega…. it’s the first track at which I was able to see a race in person.  It was right after my mom had been hospitalized in a very difficult situation, and it was touch and go right up to the morning of the race as to whether we’d be able to go.  But her caregivers, God bless them, assured me it would be ok, and we drove over in the middle of thunderstorms (which were a fitting metaphor for the week before).

When we reached the track… surrounding it was a sea of campers, and it was the largest sports facility I had ever seen (Remember, it’s a 2.66 mile track with 33 degree banking).  We had purchased a package that allowed us pit road access – and we did that in the rain. The race was delayed a bit… but the clouds cleared and the sun shined and finally the engines roared to life.

It was one of the most beautiful sounds I’d ever heard, and I had tears streaming down my face, because I’d finally made it to Talladega.

In the years since, we’ve been back every year.  I’ve crossed a bucket list item off by seeing Dale Jr. win a race there. And we’re going again this weekend to make another memory.


I’m taking a break…

I decided today that I’ve had it up to here (imagine my hand up at my hairline) with politics.

This is a big revelation for me, since I’m a naturally political animal.  One of my degrees is in Political Science.  The system and how it works fascinates me.

The problem is that this go round, everything is so horribly nasty that it’s just overwhelmingly exhausting.

I made up my mind how I’m going to vote a long time ago.  Very little outside of a headline in bold print about drowning puppies while running over kittens with a tank could change that.

So, I see no need to subject myself to the horrible animosity being generated by the current climate.  I’ve spent the afternoon going through my Facebook newsfeed and clearing it of many of the political sites I follow.  To all my friends who just can’t resist sharing such content, don’t be surprised if I unfollow you until sometime in mid-November.  It’s probably the only way we’ll stay friends.

With any luck my newsfeed will be full of NASCAR and dachshunds.

Like much of the American public, I’m tired – and I don’t know how the heck we got to this point.  For my own sanity, I’ve got to take a break.

I’ll re-evaluate after November 8.

“Bobby, it’s a tumor.”

I can still see Frank Hampton looking directly into my father’s face and saying those horrible words.  He had wanted to tell my dad himself, since he and my dad had been friends for years.  I felt the bottom drop out of my stomach – sort of like what happens when you’re on a carnival ride, except this wasn’t fun at all.  It was literally deadly serious.

The day was September 26, 2001.  Frank had admitted Dad to the hospital because he woke up that morning not making any sense when he spoke.  We thought he’d had a stroke.  At the time, the MRI was at the imaging center in Rome, so I took a ride in the ambulance over with Dad.  He knew every doctor in town because of his work with the hospital authority.  After his test, every doctor scattered.  I knew something was very wrong then, but I just didn’t know how bad it was.

I didn’t realize at the time how profoundly that day changed my life as I threw myself into researching brain tumors and, upon finding out he had the absolute worst kind you could have, researching what treatment options there were.  Going over his assets with him before the brain surgery so somebody would know what was going on if he shouldn’t survive it. I made a legal pad of information that I lived by for six months after his death.

But that day was when I switched from being a 43 year old adult who had very little responsibility outside of a job to a caregiver.  And I stayed in that role for the next 13 years till Mom passed.

I know that God has a purpose for everything.  I had to grow up fast during Dad’s illness, and I appreciated the fact that he had been so proactive in getting everything in order so that I could just manage things.  But the tumor gave me a gift in an odd way – I found out more about Dad’s boyhood and how he grew up with his siblings in the time he could still speak than I had ever learned before.  I treasure the lunches we had together on the two days a week I’d come up to take him to his radiation treatments.

Dad and I had always been close. He had a dry sense of humor that I adored. He’d get a twinkle in his eye before he did something silly.  And I couldn’t believe I was going to have to go on without him.  But by the end of three months, I had to let him go to God. It was a blessing because he was in such pain.

I learned a lot while Dad was sick.  I learned while watching my husband gently help my father take care of himself, then again years later while he held my mother down so they could medicate her while she was delirious (while tears were streaming down his face), that I had married the right man. He loved my parents, and he loved me during the nights of crying (which still happen).  I learned what a fantastic church family I have who supported me and came to Rome and stood with me at the funeral – both times.  And I learned that I have a core of friends who I’ve chosen as family.

September 26, 2001 changed everything in my life. I spent the next thirteen years essentially as a caregiver – first guiding Mom through living without the person on whom she’d been dependent for 52 years… then helping her through her final struggles with emphysema and dementia. It’s been two years since she passed, and I’m still adjusting to life without taking care of someone.  I’m watching my friends starting down the same path I’ve already traveled, and I wish I could make the way easier…

Fifteen years have passed since my life path altered so radically.  I miss my parents daily. But, when all is said and done, and I consider all that has happened and the road I’ve traveled – in the words of the beautiful hymn… “It Is Well With My Soul.”  Thanks be to the God who never left me.

(with apologies once again to my friend Jackie, who is a very nice person who works for them)

I have a friend for whom I do some business work who has a business account at BOA.  Opened it thirty six years ago in 1980.  She runs an organized business and is very low maintenance, banking-wise.

This past week she had need to open a second business account to do some online transactions.  I figured she’d go, open the account, transfer some money from her primary account, and be done with it.  Easy peasy.

Obviously I forgot who we were dealing with.  The manager at the branch informed my friend that a) there was no way they could open this account without the *original* paperwork she presented thirty six years ago and b) she’d have to keep an astronomical minimum balance in it.

Now, I understand that the business environment has changed in 36 years, but I have small businesses opening accounts all the time without such demands for documentation.  How many people do you know who can lay their hands on paperwork that old?  Anyone? Bueller??   I could have understood the demands if it were a new business coming in – but it was an existing account holder trying to open an additional account.

All of this to me was code for “We don’t want your business anymore.” I advised her that it was time to change banks to someone more business friendly – which is exactly what’s going to happen this coming week.

I still find it amazing that banks can treat people like this and stay in business… but then, based on my personal experience with BOA, I shouldn’t be surprised by anything.


We recently purchased a new, larger bird feeder. Our smaller one was doing a great job feeding only the finches, nuthatches, and other smaller birds, but I really missed the big guys… woodpeckers, the occasional flicker, and most of all, my cardinals.  Even though the cardinals were on the box of the smaller feeder, it just wasn’t to their liking.

Predictably, it was just a matter of time before the squirrels bellied up to the sunflower seed bar that’s hanging from off my deck. One has started hanging by his (her?) toes from the top while he dines to his heart’s content from the easy pickins.

I have nothing against squirrels, really.  I find their antics comical.  But, frankly, the price of seed has gone up just like everything else, and my intention was to feed birds…

Working from home today, I gazed out, and our furry contortionist was having a late brunch.  I pounded on the windows.  The squirrel looked up as if to say “hey!” then went back to his (her?) meal. I pounded some more.  The only result was that my hand hurt and the squirrel remained entrenched at the feeder.

I looked at Penny. Time to earn that kibble, girl.

Now, when our precious Oscar was with us, the mere sound of the word “squirrel” would send him into a fury. He’d fly to the door going out to the deck, barking his fool head off, and wait to be released to do his level best to catch the offending creature. We could say “squirrel” and he’d leap up onto the chair to see out the window to get a look at his prey.  We’d open the door to the back yard and he’d run straight to the tree where he just knew they lived, barking for them to come down and meet their doom.

Eventually, the word “squirrel” was banned in our house in favor of the less troublesome “furry tailed rodent” or “FTR” for short.

Penny looked up at me waiting for a treat.  “Penny!  Squirrel!”

A totally blank stare came back at me.  I went to the door to the deck.

“SQUIRREL!!!  SQUIRREL!!” I  screamed as I opened the door.  The squirrel, oblivious to all the commotion, was still hanging onto the feeder.

Penny sauntered out onto the deck, walked right past where the squirrel had climbed up to access his brunch, and then turned around and looked at me like “what??”  Evidently unless there’s a visible treat, life doesn’t exist higher than dachshund head-level.

The squirrel, now seeing me on the porch, did his (her?) best dive off the feeder, into the hydrangea below, and across the yard and up the tree.

Up at the Rainbow Bridge, I’m sure Oscar was barking.

With many apologies to my friend Jackie, who is truly a good and kind person currently trapped in employment by this organization, I’m going to relate what happened with the mortgage on my mother’s home.

Your mom still had a mortgage at age 85? Well, yeah.  My parents lived in that house 50+ years and remodeled it multiple times, and they always used the equity in the home to finance the remodeling.  Plus, I never let her pay it off because I didn’t want to deplete resources unnecessarily and the interest helped on taxes. But the original loan was with Countrywide, which was absorbed by The Borg Bank of America (BOA).

The trouble began when I got a notice that the mortgage payment was going up by more than 100% due to an escrow being tacked on top.  I found this more than curious, since the loan had never been escrowed.  Now, right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I neglected to inform BOA that Mom had passed.  I’ve got the house for sale, and I figured (incorrectly it seems) that the house would sell quickly and it wouldn’t be a problem.  Silly moi.

So I call BOA to talk about the escrow.  I get a gentleman on the phone who immediately asks me if I’m a representative of the estate – remember that I’ve never informed them that Mom had passed… this becomes critical. I tell him yes, then he informs me that he can’t speak to me without proper paperwork, which I then offer to fax to him.  Oh no, I can’t fax it to him, I have to send it to another department and allow at least a week to pass.

I allowed two.

I called BOA again to talk about the escrow. The first four departments couldn’t help me. Finally, on the fifth try, a woman tells me that it’s gone into escrow because they’ve purchased insurance on the property, since the insurance lapsed in October.  Excuse me??  Isn’t this important information to relay?  First I’d heard of it. I asked the woman why it took five departments to tell me that’s what was wrong — she was clueless, because she said it was right there on the same screen all of them shared.  She gave me the address and fax number to send confirmation of insurance coverage, and let me know that they’d draft the bank account for the full payment plus escrow, but then they’d refund any overage back to that account.

I called my insurance agent in a panic and got coverage on the house (NOT CHEAP) and gave her the info BOA had provided to send confirmation of coverage. I foolishly thought it had been handled….

…till I got the letter the next month informing me that I hadn’t paid the mortgage.

I checked the bank account online – sure enough, it hadn’t drafted.  I refer you to the paragraph above whereas I was told the payment would draft.

I called BOA.

“Oh no.  Mrs. Early is dead.”

“I realize that.  I’m her daughter.  I buried her.”

“We can’t draft from a dead person’s account.”

“Well, you’ve been doing it for nearly two years… and you told me she was dead when I called you in the first place, so your organization can’t deny that you knew of her death.”

Silence on the phone…. then “Well, you’re going to have to give us another account.”

“I don’t have one.  You take it from that one or you don’t get paid.”

More silence.

“What’s the payoff?”

“I have to transfer you for that.”  She was very glad to get rid of me, and she sent me to three other departments before I landed with the next person.

“Please fax me the payoff on this mortgage – I’m going to give you my fax number.”

“That will be a $30.00 charge for a fax.”

“You. Are. Kidding.  How much to just tell me on the phone?”

“Oh, that’s free.”

“Then just tell me.”

After I got the payoff amount, she had the audacity to ask if I had received “world class service from BOA.”  Not even close.

So now, the loan is paid off, and I’ve confirmed it, but I’m still receiving threatening letters for non-payment. I’m going to wait another month, then I’m going to sic my attorney on them.  My family has never, ever missed a payment on a mortgage in our lives, and we wouldn’t have then if BOA had lived up to their end of the bargain and done what they said their representative would do.  I am appalled that someone would be treated this way following the death of a loved one.




Dear Mom…

It’s been a year since you went home to be with Dad.  I just wanted you to know that I’m ok down here.

I’m not going to say that things haven’t been really different.  I mean, there are still times when I reach for the phone to call you.  And I catch myself looking at the clock at 7:30 every night, because that was the time I’d normally check in.  And, I find that when I’m out with my besties, I have this little voice in the back of my head that says I need to get home to check on you. Then I remember that you’re all right… you’re with our Lord and with Dad and with Mamaw and Papaw and all your brothers and sisters.  From what you told me about all the times you and your brothers had when you were younger, I can only imagine that there’s quite a celebration going on.

You were always worried that I’d be alone… I’m not.  I married a good man, but you knew that. I’ve got a good church family, and I’ve got a circle of girlfriends who accept me for me and still love me for some reason.  And you were always worried about the house – it’s being taken care of… probably not as quickly as you would have liked, but our friends who helped take care of you are helping with that too. God sent me some good people, and I’m very thankful.  (And yes, I pay people who work for me – I know you were always worried about that too.)

Business is going well – be sure to tell Dad that. 🙂  I’m as busy as I want to be.

Richard and I are taking time for us now. We bought that little place in the mountains I had told you about, and we’ve spent some time fixing it up.  We know we’re going to enjoy spending some weekends there with the dog (and yes, she still bites me… and no, I still don’t like her chewing on me, and no, she’s not really hungry, she’s still just trolling for food, but I know if you were here you’d give her every bite off your plate).  I’ve gone off on a couple of stitching weekends with friends and one all by myself. I know you never liked for me to travel alone, but I’m really alright.  You and Dad taught me how to take care of myself.

So Mom, I miss you, and I miss Dad; I love you both, and you’re never far from my thoughts. I know that you’re well and whole and happy, and I know that I’ll see you again one day.  Do me a favor and stop by the Rainbow Bridge from time to time and give Oscar a belly rub and a chicken biscuit and tell him I love him too.

Thank you for the wonderful life you gave me.