Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paper Rainbow


My new camera makes me want to learn more about photography. And thinking about photography reminded me of a story told to me a few years ago by a woman I know. Usually it isn’t photography that makes me think of this story. Usually it comes up when the topic of conversation is the way men’s minds work.

The woman and her husband, both really good people, were seeing a counselor as a last-ditch effort to make their marriage work (which it ultimately did not). At this particular session, they told the counselor about an incident that occurred the day before. The couple had been at a gathering of the husband’s family, and the husband’s brother was showing photographs he had taken. The brother apologized that the pictures weren’t all that good, and the woman in our story, before she could stop herself, popped back: “It must run in the family.” Her husband’s feelings were hurt, and an argument ensued.

The marriage counselor listened as the couple told her about the incident, and then this exchange took place:

Counselor: “So, Wife, why do you think you made that remark? Do you think it’s because Husband puts so much emphasis on doing things right, and this is something he doesn’t do well, so you saw an opportunity to needle him about it?”

Wife: “No, actually, I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s just a sore subject because we’ve both been interested in photography and we both wanted to take a class, but we couldn’t afford it. We finally agreed that he‘d take the class while I stayed home with the kids, and then he’d teach me everything he learned. His pictures haven't improved that much since he took the class, but that's beside the point. What bothers me is that he's refused to teach me anything, and he doesn’t even like for me to use the camera.”

Counselor: “So, Husband, what do you think might be a solution to this problem?”

Husband (raising his eyebrows and shrugging his shoulders): “Get a new flash?”

Monday, February 27, 2006

Feelin' groovy

What a great couple of days I've had! After months of trying to decide on a digital camera, I finally bought one yesterday. It's a Canon PowerShot S2IS, and I am in love with it. My biggest photo challenge was taking pictures in the low-light conditions of my home, but this camera just kicks butt! From clear across the room, I took a flash photo of a clock and a hanging plant. You can read the numbers and even see the minute marks on the clock. And you can see dust on the plant, which I hadn't noticed until I saw it on the photo. I took a picture of my daughter's Yorkie and you can read her name and phone number on his tag. Too cool!

Also, I'm off work today, thanks to all the Mardi Gras celebrations going on, and the weather is beautiful. This is the first time in a month we've had pleasant, dry weather on a non-workday, so I was able to get outside and stain all the quarter-round trim that my son-in-law will put down for me soon. One more thing checked off my list.

This week is TV heaven: Tonight is The Bachelor finale and the season premiere of The Apprentice, then tomorrow night The Amazing Race kicks off a new season. Add in three nights of American Idol and I'm just as happy as a pig in...well, you know. I wish there was a computer program that would help me figure out which shows to watch and which ones to tape in order to view everything in the least amount of time. I'd buy it.

One more thing: I've just discovered that the reason there's so much detail in the photos I described earlier is that each photo file is about 1.5 megabytes in size. Huge! I'll have to go through and resize all the photos I've taken so far. In the meantime, here are these of goofy Butch sleeping on the futon and Kadi enjoying the sunshine.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Goodnightus interruptus

Yesterday’s post about disrupted sleep reminded me of something that happened more than once when I was married to my second (and last) husband. I would be sound asleep, then somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind, I’d hear him calling me. It would go something like this:

Hus2 (whispering): “Baby!...Baby?”

I wouldn't answer immediately as my foggy brain tried to sort out whether or not I was dreaming. So he’d start again:

Hus2 (a little louder and accompanied by a nudge): “Baby!”

Me: “Hummmmph. What?”

Hus2: “Are you awake?”

Me (wide awake and alert now): “Yes, why?”

Hus2: “I wonder what woke us up.”

Saturday, February 25, 2006

It was a dark and stormy night...

..and I'm still recovering from it.

I happen to enjoy a good thunderstorm, but my dogs, unequivocally, do not. They'll tolerate a little light rain, but storms are to be avoided at all costs.

Butch and Kadi have gained some wisdom as they've aged. They've figured out that even if they don't have the urge to go out when it first starts raining, they might have to later and it might be storming later when they really need to pee. So now, as soon as it begins sprinkling, they come to me urgently and ask to go outside.

That's what happened a little after three a.m., when Kadi woke me up by poking her nose repeatedly into my face. She poked hard, too, with little jabbing motions. Butch was right behind her, and as soon as I raised my head, both dogs broke into a trot toward the door. Okay, no problem. I let them out and made my own bathroom visit, then let them back in the house. They were wet, which meant taking the time to dry them off with a towel, but in terms of sleep disruption, it wasn't too bad. I snuggled back under the covers and, after a while, drifted off again.

The thunder and lightning started around 5:15. Butch's approach to a storm is to find a remote corner, curl himself into a ball, and sleep it out. Bless his heart! Kadi, on the other hand, has no intention of sleeping when she's in such obvious danger, and just in case I don't know it's storming (which I didn't), she'll climb onto my bed and stand over me, breathing rapidly and pawing me until I'm awake, and then trying every imaginable way to crawl inside my skin.

Last night was only a little different, in that she failed in her attempt to jump onto the bed because she tried to jump at exactly the spot where my body was. This left her half on/half off the bed, clinging with her toenails and, once again, poking me in the face with her nose. I helped her up the rest of the way, and then she began her usual storm procedures. She laid her 65-pound self parallel to the headboard, her head next to mine, and began trying to burrow under my neck. When that wouldn't work (because I had barricaded my head with the extra pillow), she started worming her face into my armpit. (Note to any dog who happens to read this blog: You cannot breathe when your nose is pressed into somebody's armpit!)

The inability to breathe doesn't deter Kadi at all when she's in full out thunder-begone mode. She simply presses in closer, the drool from her panting tongue dripping onto the sheets and soaking my nightgown, until she can no longer hold her breath. Then she pulls her head back abruptly (which creates a sucking sensation under my arm and makes a noise like popping a cork out of a bottle), takes a huge gulp of air, and dives back in for another ten or fifteen seconds of safety. Over...and over...and over.

Kadi's her usual sweet ol' self today. I love that dog soooooo much. And I'm glad I didn't kill her in the night when I considered it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Does brain food come in liver flavor?

My daughter is almost finished reading John Grogan’s Marley and Me and highly recommends it. One of the things she's commented on is Grogan’s spot-on descriptions of what he perceived to be the thought processes of a dog. As a matter of fact, I have some questions about that very subject:

How do dogs know what day it is? Butch and Kadi have no separation anxiety whatsoever on the five days each week that I go to work. In fact, sometimes when I tell them goodbye, they show so little interest that I have to lean in close and check their breathing. But on Saturdays and Sundays they challenge me every time I try to step out the door, barking and making it quite clear that I’m not supposed to leave the house. At least not by the front door; the door to the backyard is OK.

Can dogs count? If I’m handing out treats, first to one dog, then the other, and if for some reason I miss somebody’s turn, the missed dog gets highly agitated--and vocal about it--until I correct my error. I’ve also wondered if Butch, my blind dog, counts steps as he makes his way around the house. At first I thought he managed strictly by scent and floor texture, but I’ve noticed something that makes me wonder. If his route from one place to the other includes a turn–-going from the kitchen to the bedroom, for example–-he usually gets where he’s going with no problem. But if he starts out just a couple of degrees off course, he goes a certain distance, then turns–-maintaining the same angle he always uses to make the turn, but not turning in exactly the same place--which causes him to run into the door frame instead of through the open door. What's his frame of reference for when to make that turn?

Does size matter? Apparently it does, at least if we’re talking about treats. If I break a treat into two pieces, one larger than the other, and hold one in each hand, Kadi will inevitably pick the big one. Unfortunately, I can’t test this concept with Butch; it’s one area where his blindness is a handicap.

How do dogs make group decisions? My dogs act independently of each other when they want to go outside or come back in, and either one may pick up a certain toy or wander off alone to take a nap in another room. But it’s rare that only one dog will beg me for a rawhide chew. Usually, they approach together, double-teaming me. And if my granddogs are here, then all four dogs surround me, smiling, dancing, wagging, and looking pleadingly back and forth between my face and the cabinet where the rawhides are kept. They do this until (a) I give in, or (b) I convince them I’m too stupid to understand what they want.

Do they think I'm going to die soon? Why is it that the food and water dishes stay practically full while I’m at work, but then the dogs rush to eat as soon as I come through the front door. Are they rationing? I've fed them religiously for years, so why do they think that any given day might be the one when I don’t come home and they’re left alone to starve?

What is so fascinating about the scent that clings to my clothes when I’ve been to court? Once every few months, in the course of my job, I have to go to court on arraignment day. Every time, without fail, the minute I get home from court both dogs descend on me and thoroughly “vacuum” my clothes and shoes. I've considered a lot of possibilities, but so far I can only think of one substance I’m exposed to in court and nowhere else: airborne particles of orange-jumpsuit lint. Wish I knew what they like so much about it.

Maybe John Grogan has some insights. Can't wait to read that book.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The scene that ruffled her feathers

When my girls were young and we lived in the little green house on Nightingale Street, we had an old black and white TV set that couldn’t be relied on for a good picture. But once in a while we'd get lucky and manage to position the rabbit ears in exactly the right direction to pick up a passable signal.

On one such night my friend Cynthia brought her kids over and we all settled down to watch Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. I was a little concerned that the movie might be too intense for my kids, especially for my three-year-old, so I kept a close watch on their reactions as they watched the movie.

The kids showed great interest but almost no fear as the suspense built moment by moment. They didn't seem to be bothered at all when a few birds began attacking people. Even when enormous flocks of birds flew across the screen to land on people and peck them around their heads and eyes, the kids didn’t show any alarm.

After a while, I stopped worrying and settled into the story. It was totally quiet in my living room except for the scary music soundtrack, the screeching and cawing of the birds, and the occasional screams of the characters. On screen, a dressed up Tippi Hedren entered a house where she encountered (duh!) lots of birds!

That’s when my little one finally saw something that terrified her: Tippi Hedren made her escape and ran away from the birds. She burst through the front door of the house and ran down the sidewalk as fast as she could, and as she ran, my child, suddenly on high alert, jumped up with an urgency that sent chills down my spine and screamed, "Her purse! Her purse! She forgot her purse!"

Monday, February 20, 2006

Linkin' bLogs (little pieces of people's lives that all fit together)

Writing an online journal is a new experience for me (less than a month now), and I'm learning as I go. Yesterday afternoon was devoted to figuring out how to add links to my posts. It turned out to be more difficult than I expected. My daughter says I'm probably overlooking some easy-link feature available on the blog host, and I'm sure she's right, but in the meantime I'm cutting, pasting and editing code. Jeez, this HTML stuff is picky about having every little character exactly where it's supposed to be. Anyway, I managed to do it, and I'm especially happy that I was able to post links (at left) to share with you some of the sites I never miss .

The first blog I ever read was "Inspired Work of Self Indulgence," which was brand new when I stumbled across it through a Google keyword search. Alison, who writes it, hooked me immediately with her vivid word-pictures and her gift for drawing the reader into her emotions and experiences. A little of that made me want lots more, so I searched out lists of popular blogs and became an instant fan of "Dooce," "Laid-Off Dad," and "Finslippy." (Jen, I think you will especially like those.) "PostSecret" is another one I find fascinating. It's updated every Sunday, and if you're the least bit nosy about other people's private thoughts, you should find it interesting. The other two links are to sites that are new to me, but I like what I've seen and will definitely keep going back.

After careful consideration and a discussion with my daughter, I decided not to post a link to her website, which is also a favorite of mine. She's identified by name on her site, which is related to her work, so if I were to post a link, she could no longer be that anonymous woman-child I can write about so freely on these pages. (I'm only explaining this so family members who see my links won't think I'm overlooking her.)

The blogs I've included on my "Links" list all have a few things in common: The writing is excellent, the photos are beautiful, and they will move you in one way or another. They may make you laugh, or they may make you cry. Either way, you'll feel richer for having read them.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Hazel's Diary

When I was a child, I thought of my Aunt Hazel with almost the same reverence that I had for the princesses in the fairy tales I read. She was that beautiful and that kind.

Hazel was actually my great aunt by marriage to Loren, my grandmother's younger brother. Part of the enchantment might have been that we didn't see them often. We lived in Missouri, and they lived in the Washington, D.C., area. My uncle worked at the Pentagon. Family legend has it that in the course of his job, he designed a turret on the tank that brought down the troops of Rommel, The Desert Fox.

When Hazel died in 1991, at the age of 86, we learned that she had kept diaries fairly consistently since the time she was a schoolgirl. Most of the entries are mundane, describing her activities for the day, what they had for dinner, what movies they saw, etc. All of them, though, offer a glimpse into her life, her love for her husband and especially for her mother, Sadie (whom she nicknamed Sado in the diaries). A glimpse into the past in the simple words of one American woman.

The photo above was taken in 1942. Here are the entries for just a few typical days that year:

Mon-May 4
Hot & sultry. To Hecht's this AM to get my mother some pajamas & our cards. This aft - Mary Peck, Moran & Thurston & I went up to the Girl Scout place on Stafford and registered for our sugar ration cards - L, Boots (her dog) & I - to P.O. before supper to mail our packages for Mother's Day. For short ride - Home for supper. Letters from our moms - Reba Bailey left today for San Diego - 3500 miles.

Tues - May 5
Stayed home all day. Ironed. Made bran muffins tonight. Bee in. Washed head.

Weds - May 6
Corregidor fell today! Spent 2-1/2 hrs. at Red Cross this aft - Rather chilly. Letter from Sado.

Thurs - May 7
I loved today. It rained & rained & how the good old earth needed it! Stayed home & studied & embroidered. Finished "Dragon Seed" by Pearl S. Buck. Didn't care for it. Bee in this aft. Sweet Mother's Day cards from my Mom. Loren sold our 1936 Lincoln Zephyr today to Stewart Motors: 6th & New York Ave - Check for $141.64 - They "absorbed" a $25.00 repair bill. The check will buy Defense Bonds.

Fri - May 8
Chilly this AM. Seems strange when I realize we have no car. But with gas rationing & no more tires there are hundreds who'll give up cars before war's over. Had phone service continued. Card from Sado - She was in Excelsior Springs, Ark., on convention From Tues till Thurs - Worked at Red Cross from 1-4. Made 50 4X4 Surgical Dressings.

Hmmm. Seems like war affected the average citizen in this country more in 1942 than it does today.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Thanks, but I'll have it YOUR way

The phrase "fast food" sums up precisely what I like about it: it’s fast and it’s food. I’m no stranger to food cravings, but I rarely crave anything sold at a fast food restaurant. I go there when I’m really hungry and want to stop the hunger quickly and with little effort.

The exception to this rule is that nostalgia sometimes leads me to a Wendy’s drive-thru. Their Single, with mustard, pickle and onion only, is as close as I can get to my memory of the hamburgers at Taylor’s in Springfield, Missouri. Mmmmm-mmmm! It’s been 49 years since we left Missouri, but my sister and I both still remember how good those burgers were.

Usually, though, I just don’t much care. "Have it your way" is a nice thought, but the reality is I’d just as soon have it their way and not have to make any extra decisions about it. Fortunately, at most fast food restaurants, even if you’re allowed to make special requests, you don’t have to. You can simply ask for the dish by name or number, hand ‘em your money and, most of the time, a bag containing your sandwich pops out the window.

Which brings me to my gripe about Subway. I like their sandwiches, but they’re way too much trouble. Let’s say, for example, that I see a picture of their Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich. It looks delicious and I decide to go there and try one. First of all, there’s no drive-thru, so I have to get dressed appropriately, then go in and stand in line. My turn comes and it goes something like this:

Me: "I’ll have the 6-inch Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich, please."

Server: "Good choice. What kind of bread do you want?"

Me: "I want the bread that's in the picture."

The server names all the different kinds of bread they have and, with a little prompting, tells me what she thinks is in the picture. But she isn't sure.

Me: "Okay, fine, let’s try that one."

Server: "Great. Now what do you want on it?"

Me: "I want whatever comes on it...whatever is in the picture."

Server: "Do you want lettuce and tomato?"

Me: "Mmmm...there appears to be lettuce and tomato in the picture, so yes, I do."

Server: "What about cheese? Do you want cheese on it?"

Me: "I don’t see any cheese in the picture. Does it usually have cheese on it?"

Server (getting testy now): "You can have cheese or not. It’s your choice."

Me: "Never mind the cheese."

Server: "Mustard, mayonnaise, oil and vinegar?"

Me: "I. Want. Whatever it takes. To make a Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich. Don’t you have a recipe or something?"

Server: "No. It’s your choice."

Me: "Okay. Don’t put anything else on it. I’ll take it just like it is."

The good news is that I’ve never had a bad sandwich from Subway, regardless of my uninformed choices. The bad news is I don’t go there often. It’s too stressful.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Artist's Angst

My older daughter is an artist who makes a decent living by selling her work on eBay. She has control over when she works, how long she works, and her colors and designs. She has no control over how much bidders are willing to pay for her work.

Sometimes an auction ends at a price that’s so low it scares her. How will she pay her bills if she can’t get more than that for her work? Why didn’t the bidders like that piece? Has she lost her touch?

More often, lately, the prices soar beyond her expectations, and even though she is delighted, she worries that her customers might be disappointed that they’ve spent so much once they get her work in their hands. So far, there have been no disappointments, and buyers keep coming back for more.

Once in a while, like yesterday, an auction climbs so high that there’s no rational explanation for it. When that happens, the online bulletin boards begin to buzz as my daughter’s peers watch the auction action and call it to the attention of others. People in Germany and the U.K., in addition to the good ol’ USA, chat about why this particular auction is going so high. Ninety-five percent of the posters are positive, praising her work and writing variants of "You go, girl!" But five percent cannot stand it. They criticize the work and the artist, question the authenticity of the bidding, and comment about the "rich bitches" who spend their money so freely.

My daughter smiles as she reads the posts of the ninety-five percent and then, somehow, those posts vaporize and she doesn’t think about them anymore. But the negative five percent, those are sticky. They cut, they burn, they don’t go away. She reads them again and tries to understand why people would write such mean things. The whole time she reads them, the whole time we talk about it, and the whole time they sit in the back of her head and nag at her, the posters are achieving their desired result: to bring her down. Down to where they are.

So here’s something else for you to think about, Sweet Girl:

"It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered."

Envy is like a fly that passes all the body's sounder parts, and dwells upon the sores."
Arthur Chapman

"Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all. "
Joseph Epstein

"Fools may our scorn, not envy, raise. For envy is a kind of praise."
John Gay

"If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape, it would be the shape of a boomerang."
Charley Reese

"I love you."

Dirty Dancing

I missed "Dancing with the Stars" last night, but the results show is on as I write this, and I just saw Drew Lachey and Cheryl dancing to Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." WOW! Was that sexy or what???

Drew's not my type (my type now, actually, is old and slightly wrinkled), but I can tell you this much: If somebody had danced with me like that back in the early 80s, during my brief period of looking for love in all the wrong places, he would have had my phone number--and probably more if he'd wanted it--before the night was over.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Last night I watched Dr. Phil's Primetime Live Special, featuring his attempts to help Paula Abdul make a love match. One of Paula's problems, she said, is that she's emotional, quick to burst into tears, and most guys can't handle it. They don't understand it, and it freaks them out. No kidding!

I attended a seminar once about the differences between men and women in the workplace, and it was very enlightening. The crying issue came up early on. It seems that one of the differences is brain chemistry, and the level of one particular chemical (I forget which one and I'm too lazy to look it up right now) in women's brains causes us not to be more stressed, but to cry at a lower level of stress than men do. On an upset scale of 1-10, for example, women might start crying at 4-5, while men might go all the way up to 8 or 9 before they would get teary eyed. Doesn't that just suck?

Because men don't understand that there's a chemical difference, when they see a woman begin to cry, they assume that she is as upset as they would be if they were crying like that--and their natural leap is that she is much more upset than the situation demands, ergo, she's irrational.

In fact, the crying woman could conceivably be even less upset than the man under the same circumstances. If stress were to take the shape of a fire, let's say, a man and woman looking at it would probably have very similar perceptions about the size of the fire and the danger it presents. But because of brain chemistry, the woman's "sprinkler system" would automatically turn on earlier.

Usual scenario: The guy thinks the woman is overreacting and starts looking to make a graceful exit, which makes the woman think the guy is overreacting, because it's only tears, after all, no big deal, so what kind of insensitive jerk is he?

Maybe we need to teach this stuff to our kids early, so they can grow up with it. "Son, don't pick your nose in public, always put the toilet seat down when you finish, and if your girl starts to cry, just pat her on the back and give her a few minutes."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Will you be my valenTIME?

During afternoon drive time yesterday, I heard the radio deejay request listeners to phone in their favorite Valentine's Day stories. One southern gentleman called in with a tale of such long-term devotion that I tried to remember it to share with you. This may not be exact, but it's pretty darn close:

Caller: Me and this ol' gal went out a couple of times 31 years ago, and she wanted a Jesus-head ring, and...

Deejay: She wanted a what? A Jesus head-ring?

Caller: Naw, a Jesus-head ring, y'know, like they had back then, so I went out and looked all over th' place and finally found a special one, one that had diamonds in th' eyes. I give her that ring for Valentime's Day and she was some excited to get it.

Unfortunately, I had to concentrate on merging onto I-10 about that time and missed a bit of the story, but I did comprehend that the romance hadn't blossomed in spite of his generosity. The story continued:

Caller: So anyway, she called me up th' other day and tol' me that she had wore that ring ev'ry single day, for 31 years, until she lost it last year at th' Mardi Gras. So I got to thinkin', and I went out lookin' and tryin' to find one, and I couldn't find one anywhar, so I finally described to this here feller what I wanted, and he made me up a Jesus-head ring -- with diamonds in th' eyes, now -- and I'm gonna give it to her this year for Valentime's Day. And she don't know nothin' about it.

Deejay: Now, was this your wife...or your girlfriend, or...

Caller: Naw, we just went out a couple of times, but we never...waal, I guess I always did have a kind o' love for that ol' gal.

Happy Valentine's Day to all the people I love. You know who you are.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Looking at the picture of my granddaughter that I posted yesterday made me think about how sweet all the babies in our family have been...

Which made me think about the next one coming. My niece is pregnant with her fourth child. She's a great mom, and she's not feeling very well right now...

Which made me think about the fact that I was sick the entire time I was pregnant, as was my mother...

Which made me think about how big my mother was when she was pregnant with my brother...

Which made me think about going shopping with Mother at the Piggly Wiggly store when she was almost nine months pregnant. She reached out and picked up a single potato that started a whole bunch of other potatoes rolling onto the floor. She tried to lean against the potato bin and stop them with her huge, swollen belly, but that didn't work. She couldn't pick them up, either, because of that belly, and I couldn't help her because I had both arms clutched around my stomach as I doubled over with laughter. She solved the problem by standing on her left foot and using the inside of her right foot like a putter, waiting for each potato to hit the floor, then lining up the shot and kicking it under the produce bin...

Which made me think of what my grandfather told me about rolling potatoes. I remember sitting with him on the front porch swing, watching the rain and listening to the thunder. He told me the thunder was caused by God spilling a wheelbarrow load of potatoes.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


One of the reasons I detest drop-in company is the way I like to dress when I'm home alone. Although I make an effort to see that my pants and shirts match each other, I tend to dig out the oldest, softest not-quite-rags I can find. There are a couple of reasons for this: (a) I'll be cleaning the house and don't want to get my good clothes dirty or, more likely, (b) I'll be in the recliner watching TV with huge dogs piled on top of me and I want to be comfortable. Anyway, earlier this week I dug into my basket of clean-but-not-put-away clothes and pulled out a pair of pants and a T-shirt to wear while I watched "Wife Swap."

If you remember that last episode, it was about the home-schooler mom who traded places with a "hoochie-mama" career lady. The show brought out that the home-schooler mom spent only $500 per year on her whole family's wardrobe, a lot of their clothes being hand-me-downs from members of their church. The other mom, whose career was hosting in-home parties to sell women's sexy lingerie and other, ahem, unmentionables, spent somewhere in the high five-figure range on clothes for her family.

I felt kind of smug as I watched the show, thinking my style (though certainly not my budget) fell somewhere in the middle of the two moms: I dress better than the mom whose only fashion rule was decency and I'm not as flashy as the sparkly, must-show-cleavage mom. As it turned out, my smugness was short-lived.

The scene changed to show Hoochie-mom going through the other mom's closet, shaking her head in dismay. Suddenly, she zeroed in on something, reached in and yanked out a single pair of pants, declaring those pants the ugliest, unsexiest thing she had ever seen. Yup, it was the exact same plaid pants I had pulled out of my laundry basket 15 minutes earlier.

Happy Birthday, Child of Joy

I love this photo of my granddaughter, who turns 22 tomorrow. This picture was taken when she was two, as she had the following conversation with her mother:

2-year-old: "Dat giwl scawes me!"

Her mom: "That girl scares you? Don't be scared. That's Mary, remember, Mary from church? That's Jesus's mama."

2-year-old: "Ohhh, dat's Mawy, I know Mawy." Then toddling away from the statue, singing to herself, "Maaaaawy had a lit-tul lamb, lit-tul lamb, lit-tul lamb..."

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Commodore

It's hard to believe it, but it's been 10 years
today since Daddy died.

He was born in Kentucky, to a father from Germany and a mother from Scotland, and grew up and moved to Texas. That's where he met my mother, when we traveled from Missouri to vacation with relatives who lived there. About three weeks later, he came to Missouri, and they married. What are the odds?

It took quite a leap of faith for a man to pack up his new bride, her two adolescent daughters and all her earthly possessions and move us to Texas to begin a new life.

He had a young daughter of his own who moved in with us soon after we arrived, and a year later the family grew again with the arrival of our baby brother. Daddy immediately mowed my brother's name into the thick grass of the backyard and tended it regularly so it remained visible all summer.

Daddy loved fishing, but more than that, he loved his boat club and went there almost every day after he retired to share stories and a beer or two with his friends. He traveled wherever he needed to go to cheer on the local football team, grew wonderful tomatoes in his backyard, and packed an astonishing amount of junk into his garage, just in case.

He was cantankerous and enjoyed being that way. He especially got a kick out of pushing Mother's buttons with a well-timed word or two, and you could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he planned exactly what to say to set her off.

Mother didn't like it when Daddy and I talked politics, but I thought it was fun and I think he did, too. Our first debate was about the Kennedy/Nixon campaign. I wasn't old enough to vote in that one, but I'd be willing to bet we canceled each other's vote in every presidential election after that.

One of my favorite memories of Daddy toward the end of his life was when he pulled me off to the side one day and, with a sheepish grin and a chuckle, pulled an index card out of his shirt pocket. He was writing down the names of his granddaughters' boyfriends and husbands as a ready reference while we visited.

The eyerolls Daddy provoked in us through the years must have numbered in the thousands. I hope he was able to look beyond that and see how much we loved him and appreciated his steady, reliable presence in our lives.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rock critic

I'm watching the Grammy awards as I write this. Paul McCartney's performance just ended and it reminded me of seeing him for the first time with the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I just Googled the date of that performance: February 9, 1964.

One morning in the weeks after that, but before the birth of my younger daughter in early March, my firstborn daughter sat on my very pregnant stomach, facing me as I lay back in bed and held her hands. She was 23 months old at the time and this was a ritual for us. Each time, I would tell her I loved her, then I would ask, "Who do you love?" Her answer, always, was, "I yuv Mommy." Except for that one time. That time I said, "Who do you love?" and she answered, without hesitation, "I yuv de Beatows...dey sing good."

But that isn't the end of the story. The irony is that her music appreciation skills eventually paid off. The tiny "Beatows" fan grew up and moved to New York City, where she made her living for more than a decade as a writer for a major music magazine and authored a book about a hugely popular band.

Listen to your babies; they know what they like.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Butch - Part VI

Some things have changed since Butch’s blindness and some haven’t. When he hears noises outside now, he still goes to stand at the window and "look out." Sometimes, if the blinds are closed, he scratches them with his paw, turns his face in my direction and waits for me to open them for him–which I do. Then he lies on the floor with his head on the windowsill and "watches" with his ears and his nose.

His ears and nose have taken up the slack for his missing eyes and are much more sensitive now than before he had to rely on them. He can hear a soft whisper across the room, and he can smell food before the refrigerator door is fully open. I hand him his treats now, instead of tossing them to him, but if a treat happens to hit the floor, he’s usually the first dog to get to it.

Butch is cuddlier than he was when he had eyes, probably because he likes to be close to his people so he can keep up with what’s going on. He likes to sleep with his head on my lap, one paw planted on my arm or my chest, and I like it, too. But he can also be a little overbearing when he sits beside me on the sofa, wide awake and drooling, his ears cocked and his nose two inches from my mouth, listening and sniffing for every subtle change in my breathing pattern. I’m learning patience, and Butch is learning to back off a little bit when he hears me say, "Butch, you’re in my personal space."

With all the hair grown back on his face, he is once again a handsome dog. He has neat black lines where his eyes used to be (the vet did an outstanding job). The empty spaces behind the lines are a little sunken in, but not much. I expected Butch’s face to be less animated without his eyes, but it isn’t. Maybe the muscles around the eyes, not the eyes themselves, create the "window to the soul."

Even though Butch’s eyes don’t open now, he still blinks, and he can furrow his brow and twitch his face to display his whole range of doggy emotions. More than anything else, he looks like he’s sleeping. And the best thing, the thing that warms my heart and makes me want to just hold him and squeeze him tight, is that his eyes still move when he dreams.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Putting my foot in it

There’s a new report in the news almost every day about one thing or another that’s going to be affected negatively by the fact that the Baby Boomers are turning 60. Personally, I can think of at least one industry that could get richer by paying attention to the older segment of society.
So here’s a heads-up to the designers and manufacturers of ladies’ shoes: Our feet hurt!

We wore our share of stilettos and pointed toes and we loved ‘em. We even danced in Roman sandals in the 1970s, for heaven’s sake, their long laces threatening to come untied with every step. But enough is enough. Most of us just don’t want to do it anymore.

Our feet hurt, and we still want to look pretty. We want more shoes, pretty shoes, dressy shoes, shoes in colors other than black, brown and beige, and we want them with good arches and thick, flat soles. Not stiff, rigid platforms, mind you, but soft soles that provide a cushion between our tender tootsies and the cold, hard ground. And we want a little room in the toes, too.

Please don’t think I’m suggesting that you stop what you’re doing. There’s always going to be a market for the kind of gorgeous footwear that makes a woman’s legs look curvy and sexy. Young women will still buy plenty of them, and we still like to look at them. It's just that we've realized curvy, sexy legs don’t make a woman look better if her face is contorted in pain.

We’re tired of wearing sneakers, sturdy nurses’ shoes, and manly-looking loafers when we plan to be on our feet for hours. We want styles and colors that suit the way we see ourselves, and we want them to feel good when we wear them.

Are you listening, Payless? Can you hear me, Jimmy Choo?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Butch - Part V

You know, when you catch yourself laughing at something your beloved pet does because he is blind, a part of you feels really bad about it. But when the funny thing that happens doesn’t seem to make your pet feel bad at all, then you have to just go with it. And the visual enormity of this particular miscalculation had a room full of people rolling with laughter.

Now that Butch is blind, he sniffs along the sofa before he jumps on it so he can find a spot with no human or dog or newspaper in his way. That system worked fine for him until the visit from all my Texas relatives. During that week, there were no vacant spots on the sofa.

One evening we were all packed into the living room, just visiting, and Butch was a little wired, having just finished a vigorous wrestling session with my niece’s husband. We didn’t think much of it as he made his way across everybody’s feet, sniffing knees until he stood facing the empty corner between the two sofas. He stood there for a moment, "staring" intently into the empty space, then suddenly bunched up his hindquarters and did a magnificent, balletic leap into mid-air, a leap that would have landed him well above the sofa, had a sofa existed in that spot. He crashed abruptly to the floor, fortunately landing on all four feet. He turned around cautiously, gave his tail a few wags, held his chin up high, then proceeded around the room with his dignity totally intact, as if that had been his plan all along.

I can assure you he hasn’t made that mistake again.

To be continued...


I got an e-mail late last night from my 86-year-old aunt to tell me that her younger brother, my uncle Wayne, had passed away after a long battle with cancer. Of the nine siblings, Wayne was the next boy after my dad, and he's the one I knew best.

My mother and dad divorced when I was five. When I was 14, Mother remarried and we moved from Missouri to Texas, and contact with my dad's side of the family dwindled. During our Missouri years, though, we saw Wayne and his young family somewhat regularly.

In 1996, my sister and I decided to take our first road trip together to go to a reunion of my dad's side of the family. My dad wasn't going (too far for him to travel) but he called Wayne and asked him to look out for us. And that he did. He took us for a ride in his restored Model-T, told us a couple of good stories about growing up with our dad, and helped us out when my sister's new car developed an engine problem just as we were leaving for the trip home.

If I'm calculating correctly, Wayne and his lovely wife were married 62 years. I can't imagine how it must feel to lose someone you've lived with and loved for that long.

He was a good man, and he will be well remembered.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


My younger daughter told me on the phone the other night that she had hit a dog. She said she didn’t even see the little beagle until it stepped into the path of her car, and after she hit it, it kept on running and she couldn’t tell where it went. She’s been worried about it ever since. The damage to her car was substantial for the size of the dog and she figured the dog must have been injured. She’s an animal lover (like the rest of our family) so I understood her distress.

Last night she told me she had asked her husband to drive down that road and see if he could find any sign of the poor dog. He came home a little later and told her, "No, I didn’t see any dead dogs." After a brief pause, he continued: "But there was a little cross beside the road with some dog toys under it."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Butch - Part IV

It’s been nearly six months now since Butch’s eye surgery, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the way things have turned out. Who knew his life as a blind dog would be so normal?

Only a day or two after coming home from surgery, Butch jumped onto the sofa.. I fretted that he would fall, but he just rested awhile and then eased himself back to the floor. Now he jumps on and off of the sofa all the time and sleeps wherever he wants.

He still bumps into things every now and then, especially when he first wakes up (I, myself, am disoriented under those conditions and have been known to bump into walls). It hurts to see him bump his nose, but he takes it in stride, just corrects his course and goes on about his business.

And he has a lot of business. There are quite a few dogs in the neighborhood, and Butch monitors their behavior and their barking very closely. Many times he will grab my hand in his mouth and "grrrff" to signal that he needs to go outside–now! And when I open the back door, he crouches down into his best "let’s-play-attack-dog" position and runs hard, down the step, around the patio furniture and out into the yard, snarling and barking, in the direction of the offending neighbor dog. Somehow he manages to stop just inches short of the fence.

If Butch has been outside for a while, or if he’s been running, he may lose track of exactly where he is. It isn’t a problem, though. He has landmarks. He walks the fence line, or he heads across the middle of the yard until his feet touch the stepping stones or until he can smell the bird feeder or the gardenia bush, and then he turns toward the house, makes his way to the back door and scratches to be let in. If the door is already being held open for him, he doesn’t stop, just turns at exactly the right place, steps up the step and into the house without ever touching the doorframe.

We still try to be vigilant about keeping all the furniture in exactly the same place and keeping other obstacles out of his path, but with three other dogs around most of the time, dog toys get left where they shouldn’t be. Butch doesn’t sweat it.

The biggest obstacle test came a few weeks after his surgery, when Hurricane Rita brought my East Texas relatives over for a week or so. We had a house full of people, six extra adults, three extra kids, two extra dogs and a guinea pig, and luggage and air mattresses all over the floor. Kadi, my yellow lab, was stressed about the mess, but Butch had the time of his life. One of the kids was a two-year-old, and he and Butch must have walked a hundred miles through my house that week, each on the opposite end of a tug toy, one giggling and the other wagging his tail. Another visitor, my 10-year-old grand-nephew, fought boredom by playing hide and seek with Butch. The boy would hide, and Butch, wagging his tail enthusiastically, would always find him.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dear John

For my birthday recently, I got an unusual but much appreciated gift from my daughter and son-in-law. In fact, I was flushed with excitement when I opened my birthday card and read the following message:

Your birthday is such a special day!
And we surely don’t want to spoil it.
So we’ve made a decision...
To buy you a TOILET.

This may not be at the top of everybody’s wish list, but I’m now in the third year of redecorating my 1970s-built home, and this porcelain throne (complete with installation) put me that much closer to my goal. Besides, this is my first brand-new, never used before, commode.

Two questions occurred to me on installation day:
  • What kind of weird coincidence was it that the book on my bathroom shelf was Iris Johansen’s On the Run?
  • If my daughter and son-in-law had been stopped by the police, and the police had found in their trunk a toilet that they were planning to deliver to me, could they have been charged with possession of pot with intent to distribute?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

TV or not TV

Hi, my name is Velvet, and I'm a reality TV addict. I started out a few years ago with a couple of episodes of The Real World, then binged one weekend on a marathon and things have never been the same.

I could handle it in the beginning. At first I just indulged in Survivor once every seven days, but then I moved on to Big Brother and tied one of those on at least three nights a week. Before I could stop myself, I started snorting The Bachelor, and then...then The Amazing Race came along and, omigod, I was hooked! I love traveling vicariously to all those countries. I love the butterflies in my stomach when the racers are running through the airport, knapsacks banging against their backs, some contestants in tears and some shouting obscenities at each other, and they're not sure -- and neither am I -- if they'll make it onto the first flight out. What a rush!

I'm not totally over the edge, though. Fear Factor, for instance, became too hardcore a couple of seasons ago, so I won't watch it even when nothing else is on. And The Biggest Loser doesn't do anything for me. (Well, okay, I did watch the first season, but I wanted to watch it with a snack and the show kind of bummed me out.) For each new show that I muster the resolve to turn off, along comes a Project Runway or an America's Next Top Model...and then the dancing shows...and now the ice skating celebrities. Aaaaarrrrggghh! As I write these words, I'm high on American Idol, and the networks just keep on enabling me.

There is some solace in knowing that I'm not alone, that there are other dependent souls who haunt internet bulletin boards to get a "can't-wait-until-showtime" buzz. And there are actually a few real people in my life who offer understanding and support, because they're in the same sinking boat.

I may quit someday. But not now. It's in my blood, and it runs deep. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's even in my genes. Wouldn't you agree, Sis?

Butch - Part III

Butch lost his eyes in August of 2005. The surgery went beautifully from a technical standpoint, but waking up with no vision at all was traumatic for him. One of the vet techs said that she had held him in her arms after surgery for a long, long time, cuddling all 55 pounds of him to ease his panic as much as she could. The vet acknowledged that it was a difficult experience for Butch and for everybody, and all of them were relieved as the day went on and Butch calmed down. Then, on the second day after surgery, the vet noticed Butch pacing in his kennel and wondered what had made him so agitated again. Finally, he realized that Butch was trying to find the water dish. Once they pointed him in the right direction, he drank his fill and relaxed again.

They let us pick up Butch at the end of the second day, a Friday, so he could get back into familiar surroundings as soon as possible. He walked haltingly and nervously as the vet led him into the room where we waited. His face had been shaved from behind his ears all the way down to his muzzle, and the visible skin was mottled, pink and gray. Because nature designed eyelids specifically not to grow together, even with stitches, his eyelids had also been surgically removed, the edges sewn together with heavy black sutures that resembled eyelashes. He looked pitiful, but then he heard our voices, his whole back end began wagging, and his joy and relief were palpable.

When we were ready to leave, I tried to get Butch to follow me out of the clinic on his leash, but he insisted on going first, his nose to the ground, sniffing for all he was worth, and he led me outside without bumping into a single thing. That turned out to be a fluke. The vet had warned me that Butch obviously had been able to see better before the surgery than any of us had realized, and he said that I would be shocked to find out how much he would have to struggle at first. Still, I wasn’t prepared.

When we got home, Butch charged ahead, crashing and banging into end tables, doorframes, and other obstacles that seemed to multiply in his path. We opened the door to let him outside and he stumbled down the one step, then dashed out into the backyard, running ahead at full speed until he crashed into the fence and bounced off of it, again and again. The surgical bruising on his face was joined by other scrapes and bruises before we could stop him. For several days afterward, we took him outside only on a leash, gradually lengthening it until we were sure he had a healthy respect for his limitations.

Butch learned amazingly quickly how to navigate around the house and the yard. What a relief! And his joyous personality helped immensely to assuage the guilt I felt about putting him through so much trauma. He positively bloomed! In the absence of the pain that must have been worse than we knew, he became livelier than we had seen him in a long time--frisky, playful, affectionate--a thoroughly happy dog.

To be continued...