Mama takes me to the cleaners

Lord, keep Your arm around my shoulder and Your hand over my mouth.

-- The Bob Ross prayer

I drove over to Atlanta last week to surprise my mother. I pulled up in the driveway, told her to get in the car so I could take her to lunch.

"Oh, I don't want to go," she said. "Let me fix you something."

"No, really, Mama, I'm here to do something for you."

"Well," she said shrewdly, mulling the moment, "would you mind washing my car? ... Vacuum it out, too. I have trouble with that."

So, that's what I did. And I am again reminded of the advice that there are people of a certain age one should not mess with.

YOUR MAIL: Old friends Eleanor and Steve Blackmon , of Washington, Ga., send a postcard from Williamsburg and write: "We were here 63 years ago on our honeymoon. My! How it has changed. It is beautiful and 14 first cousins are here."

And my old baseball friends Ernie and Martha Odom , of Evans, send a card from their tour of Maine., where "the weather is really nice -- lows in the 40s and highs in the 50s."

SHOP WONDERS: Working on house fix-ups this time of year? Trying to get everything ready for winter? Well, it's a time many of us head to the workshop, and what better time to review these tools, as shared by James Hall .

Pliers: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.

Vise-Grip: Used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads.

Phillips screwdriver: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

Straight screwdriver: To open paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into nonremovable screws and butchering your palms.

Hose cutter: A tool used to make hoses too short.

Hammer: Originally employed as a weapon of war, nowadays is used as a divining rod to find the most expensive parts next to what we are trying to hit.

COOKING THE BOOKS: One of my oldest friends, Joe Dabney , of Atlanta, will be signing his latest cookbook from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Simply Kitchen in Surrey Center.

His latest, The Food, Folklore and Art of Lowcountry Cooking , follows his earlier success from Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread and Scuppernong Wine , which won national awards.

TODAY'S JOKE: Here's another one from Bob Ross :

A well-worn dollar bill and a similarly distressed $20 bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the belt to be burned, the $20 reminisced about his travels all over the country.

"I've had a pretty good life," he proclaimed. "Why I've been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean."

"Wow!" said the dollar bill. "You've had an exciting life!"

"So tell me," says the $20, "where have you been throughout your lifetime?"

The dollar bill replies, "Oh, I've been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church , the Lutheran Church."

The $20 interrupts, "What's a church?"

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