Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Gift of Christmas Spirit

Once again, just like last year and most years before that, I've made it this far into December without having made a dent in my Christmas shopping. Yesterday I went to the local outlet mall to see what I could find, but in just a couple of hours my head was spinning in confusion about what to get for whom, and my knees were screaming, "Give us a break, lady!"

Today I tried a different approach. I got up early and went straight to the computer, telling myself there's still time to shop online if I do it right away. By early afternoon I had ordered exactly one thing: a pair of pants for myself. I hadn't found a single gift item that seemed right for anyone on my short Christmas list.

By mid-afternoon I was feeling discouraged, as I always do when time is short and I want so much to buy meaningful gifts for the people I love. So I gave up and took a nap. Then I read for a while. After that, I fed the dogs, then warmed up leftovers for my own supper and ate it while I watched the local and national news.

About that time it occurred to me that tonight's the night the garbage can has to be rolled out to the curb, but there I was--still in my bathrobe. I hadn't dressed all day and wasn't inclined to bother with it when there were only a few hours left until bedtime. Instead, I watched this week's results show on The Voice and waited for it to get fully dark outside.

Finally, I gathered up the trash, threw my very long, dark winter coat over my robe, peeked through the window to make sure no neighbors were outside, then lugged the trash bags to the garbage can. I'd just started rolling the can down the hilly driveway when I began to hear loud music and short blasts of sirens and horns. I stopped to look for the source of the sounds and was surprised to see a fire engine rounding a nearby corner. The big red truck was all decked out for Christmas. Recorded carols blasted out of loudspeakers as it passed slowly along the road in front of my house, its multitude of lights flashing in celebration of the season.

I, who had sneaked outside under cover of darkness, was caught right there,  alone on the hill, in streams of colored lights. And you know what? All of a sudden it no longer mattered that they could see me dressed in my oversized coat and incongruous summer sandals or see my hair that hadn't had a brush run through it in hours. What did matter was to let them know that I could see them, to let them know they had touched me.

Thank God for our firefighters. I'm sure they've seen much scarier sights than the apparition of an unkempt old woman emerging from the darkness, waving her arms wildly, traces of sentimentality glimmering in the corners of her eyes, and a smile on her lips almost as bright as their emergency lights.

 Fire Department - Gonzales, Louisiana
Photo dated December 18, 2006

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Game Time: My Move

Today I did something I'm not proud of. I voted in a congressional runoff election for Edwin Edwards, Louisiana's 87-year-old, four-term former governor, four-term former congressman, convicted felon. I voted for him in the general election on November 4th, too, with just as many reservations, and was surprised to see him get as many votes as he did.

There were a number of Republicans on the ballot in November, and votes were split among them, resulting in Edwards getting more votes than any other candidate by a narrow margin. Things are different in today's runoff election. This time Edwards has only one opponent, Republican Garret Graves, whom I expect to beat him soundly in this red state.

I voted for Edwards both times as a protest. There was no candidate I wanted to support in this election. Garret Graves might be a decent guy, I don't know, but he seems to be toeing the party line every step of the way, and I expect Washington's puppet masters to keep him reined in tightly if he's elected. I hope Edwards gets enough votes that Graves will remember that there are plenty of people in Louisiana who didn't choose him, plenty who expect more of a U.S. congressman than to do what was the overwhelming theme of his political ads: stop Barack Obama. There's already been too much stoppage in congress; now I'd like to see them get a few things done.

If I've gambled wrong, and Edwards somehow pulls out a win, I'll be shocked. In that unlikely event, I'm counting on the fact that he got little if any support from the Democratic party and, therefore, may not feel as obligated as he might otherwise have been to political party movers and shakers. He might welcome an opportunity to buff some of the tarnish off his image by representing his constituents rather than the powerful one-percenters. At his age he can take a stand without having to worry that unpopular congressional votes might generate repercussions that negatively affect his long-term political future. Plus, he did say this, which I'm pretty sure is true, about his decision to run for congress: "I can't make it any worse."

It is now a few minutes past eight o'clock, the time the polls closed. I'll watch the returns and then sleep comfortably in the knowledge that in the days ahead there will be no more political ads, no more robocalls, no more glossy mailouts that twist the words and deeds of both parties' candidates, no more lies, no more games.


It's Saturday--time for a Saturday Song Selection--and it's kind of sad yet kind of reassuring that the lyrics of a song made popular in 1969 still apply today. Sad that we haven't made more progress, reassuring that the game playing has been going on for so long without causing total destruction.

The Song is "Games People Play" by Joe South.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to murpicus for posting the video on YouTube.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Home is Where the People Aren't

The quieter it is in my house, the harder it is for me to leave it. Right now I need to go grocery shopping, but the dogs are all sleeping. How can I bear to leave this peacefulness and head out into the busy marketplace?

Sometimes I think I have a case of agoraphobia-lite. It's similar to real agoraphobia, except that the fear is removed, the anxiety reduced by half, and a fair amount of self-indulgence and antisocial tendencies are added to the equation. I suppose that makes it exactly like garden-variety introversion. I don't panic at the idea of going out among crowds; I just generally prefer not to do so. There are certain things so good they would overcome my reluctance to leave home--a must-see movie based on a favorite book, a James Taylor concert in an intimate setting, a figure-skating exhibition--but shopping isn't one of them.

I have never and can't imagine that I will ever insert myself into the "fun" of Black Friday shopping; no bargain is that good. And you would be surprised at what I'll eat for dinner if it means I can postpone grocery shopping one more day. Today, when there are actually two viable dinner choices in the freezer, staying home is a no-brainer.

Grocery shopping is hardly the worst thing, of course. Yeah, it requires bathing, dressing, doing hair and applying minimal makeup, but at least it doesn't involve a lot of talking to people. Parties are much more difficult unless I know all the people there and they all know me well enough not to be offended when I leave early. Family parties, in fact, are wonderfully comfortable. I look forward to them.

On the other hand, the pressure at parties full of strangers is almost insurmountable. I skipped a toddler's birthday party two years in a row, intending to show up both times, then bailing at the last minute. I rationalized that the toddler, whom I love dearly, would be too excited about her gifts to notice whether or not I was there and that her immediate family members (who are also mine) would be too busy for me to hang onto their coattails while pretending to be invisible to the other guests. Lingering guilt is the price I pay for skipping the parties.

So here I am today, home alone with four sleeping dogs, happy as a pig in you-know-what, even if I know it means I must get an early start tomorrow or suffer the consequences of an empty pantry. The good news is, if I make a good shopping list and do a thorough job tomorrow, I won't have to go again for a week.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"...there is a season"

November is my favorite month, the month of my birthday, of Thanksgiving, of cooling temperatures and, for much of the nation, of colored leaves swirling through the air, sometimes followed days later by snowflakes. This year the colors of Louisiana's November have been bolder than ever--maybe no match for the vivid reds I remember from early years spent in Missouri, but quite pleasing nonetheless.

Kim and I spent Thanksgiving Day at Kelli's house, where the food was wonderful and the company even better. Before leaving Kelli's, I sat on a stool next to three-year-old Olivia. "I had fun with you today," I told her.

"Yes," she replied, with a smile on her face and a cookie in her hand. "We laughed."

Indeed we did. We laughed a lot, and I'm grateful that each of the children and grandchildren in our family was born with a sense of humor.

We left Kelli's late in the afternoon, needing to be home in time to give the dogs their supper. Kim drove, and I sat in the shotgun seat and aimed my camera through the windshield. The sun was in our eyes, and as it sank lower and lower during the course of our twenty-minute ride, it lit the trees from behind, causing the translucent leaves to grow brighter with each mile we traveled.

On that day I recognized how much I have to be thankful for. I still do. I always do, yet November, beautiful as it is, has been a hard month. Colder weather has made my knees hurt. My feet, having known the freedom of sandals for months now, are not happy about having to wear more substantial shoes. All the pants that fit me a month ago are too tight now. Comfort food is not my friend.

Even as I am grateful on a larger scale, I am frequently irritated on the small scale that weighs the success of individual days. My coping skills don't seem to be functioning as well as usual. Little tasks (such as calling the doctor to find out why two long-term prescriptions that expired were renewed for one month only) require more effort than I've been able to muster up, yet must be done before we get much deeper into holiday-related office closures. I'm comfortable with routine (set in my ways?), and holidays disrupt it.

I'm getting old. I've never been a high-energy person, and I find I'm getting tired more easily now than I used to. As much as I like November, its physical changes remind me that life is seasonal, that slowing down is a natural process, followed in the plant world by the process of shutting down, either temporarily or permanently and, if nature intends it to be so, followed then by a period of rebirth.

I am aware that a life span is finite, that burying myself between the pages of a book is a lovely way to spend a cold autumn afternoon but not the most productive way to use the remainder of the unknown number of days allotted to me. There are things I need to do.

These thoughts about mortality are caused partly by the changing of the seasons and partly by the notice I received yesterday that my online friend and fellow blogger, Patsy, has passed away following a long illness. Considering words Patsy herself has written about her suffering and her faith, perhaps she was ready to reach this final milestone. I will miss her wit and her wisdom.

I am not ready. Not yet. The splendid colors of the season remind me to take care of business while there's still time.


The song is "Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)," written by Pete Seeger, performed by The Byrds.
Thanks to mhcaillesrn for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Canine Comedy Hour

The dinging of a timer bell is a common sound in our household. The microwave timer sometimes goes off several times in short succession if I'm keeping an eye on something and unsure how long it will take to cook. Same thing goes for the oven timer. I also set the oven timer throughout the day so I won't forget soft drinks being quick-chilled in the freezer or Oliver, who always wants to stay outside a few minutes longer than the other dogs do.

Levi has decided that the timer is important, maybe because I stop what I'm doing and get up to tend to something every time it sounds. In fact, he has appointed himself Timer Monitor. When that bell dings, he stops what he's doing, too, and presents himself at my feet, presumably to call my attention to the timer's signal or, possibly, to let me know he stands ready for duty should I need his capable assistance.

I think that's pretty cute. Last night, however, it became problematic. Not for me, but for Levi.

All four dogs were asleep in the living room when I tuned in to watch Vegas ER. Have you ever noticed how much beeping there is in a hospital emergency room? Every time a piece of medical equipment beeped, Levi woke up, climbed off the sofa he'd claimed all to himself, walked over to where I sat and reported for duty. It took a time or two before I noticed what sound he was responding to, and he seemed confused when I didn't jump up in a hurry to do something about it. He'd stand there looking at me for a minute, then return to his place on the sofa.

I watched two one-hour episodes in a row. I can't tell you how many times Levi showed up at my feet, but it was obvious that the frequent sleep interruptions were getting to him. Each time he came to me, he was more dazed and confused than the previous time. I tried to explain to him, the way I explain when the dogs respond to a barking dog or ringing doorbell on TV: "It's a TV noise." He didn't get it. He was so tired by the end of the two hours that I felt really sorry for him (hugged him a lot), but that didn't stop me from cracking up laughing.


A similar story:  All four dogs rushed over to my desk the other morning when I watched a video that featured yelping puppies. Lucy, Oliver, Levi and Gimpy all barked their concern for a moment, then three of them wandered away. Levi stayed behind just long enough to push past my knees and do a quick puppy-search under my desk. He's responsible, that one. And thorough.


Oh! I almost forgot to tell you one more funny thing that happened last night. Gimpy was asleep on the other end of the sofa I was sitting on. The constant ER bells on TV didn't bother him at all, but he tends to participate actively in his dreams. At one point, sound asleep, he started running, his legs moving slowly at first, then faster and faster, stretching himself out to a full-length hard run before suddenly trying to stand up. Fortunately, he woke up just before he flung himself off the sofa. He looked sheepish for a second, then flopped over and went right back to sleep.

My life would be so boring without these dogs.

Gimpy (left) and Levi.