Saturday, September 30, 2006

Somewhere along this dusty road, the clotheshorse died.

On the Monday after I graduated from high school I started working for an East Texas law firm. On Friday of that week I got my first-ever paycheck: $47 after taxes. I paid Mother $10, the amount we'd agreed would be reasonable room and board for someone of my new "adult-working-girl" status. Because I'd never learned to drive, a neighbor who worked across the street from my office took me to and from work each day; in exchange, I gave her gas money. I went to lunch every day with another secretary, mostly to places where we could get a good, hot, plate lunch for $1. Those were my only expenses. I spent the rest of my money on clothes.

My lunch buddy, Jo, had established relationships with the owners and managers of all the best clothing stores in town. They'd call her a day or two ahead of each big sale they planned, and we'd schedule our daily lunch hours around that insider information. We'd choose a restaurant near our target store, eat as quickly as possible (I still eat too fast as a result of that training), and shop until it was time to go back to work.

During that year, I bought beautiful clothes, dresses I could sketch in detail today if I were talented in that way. I loved them all and wore them well. The sizes were consistent from label to label, so I could pick my size off the rack and it would fit as if it had been designed for me. At 50 percent off, and with the help of layaway, I bought pretty much what I wanted.

Some days we shopped only for shoes, and I had shoes in every color. The most popular shoes in the early '60s were pointed-toe pumps with stiletto heels, much like the ones I see for sale today. I remember specifically a pair of wedgwood blue pumps that were so beautiful -- and so inexpensive at their sale price -- that I bought them even though I didn't own one thing to wear with them. Over the next couple of weeks I managed to find a shirtwaist dress and a purse in that exact shade of blue. The dress and purse were not on sale, unfortunately, so those "cheap" shoes ended up costing me a sizable amount.

Are you wondering why I'm spending so many words to describe my clothing excesses of more than 40 years ago? The reason, I guess, is to help you understand how much I've changed in all those years. Today, I would rather spend an hour strapped naked to a tree in a mosquito-infested rain forest than spend that same hour shopping for clothes. Sizes are inconsistent, age-appropriate styles are limited, plus-sized fashions are generally unfashionable, and prices, in my opinion, are ridiculous.

Still, I bit the bullet earlier in the week and spent a couple of hours to supplement my deteriorating work wardrobe. You want to know what I bought? Three pairs of black pants (each cut differently to accommodate varying levels of water retention) and four sweaters, all identical except for the color. The part of me that used to be aghast at repeating a look within a two-week period has grown to embrace the idea of a "uniform."

There are advantages to growing older, not the least of which are (1) I've become more or less invisible, and (2) I couldn't care less.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

And the clock!

Earlier this week I made a financial investment for my future. Now all I have to do is sit back and reap the rewards. I'm crossing my fingers that this was a good decision.

The advertising hype is that over the course of the next seven years I'm supposed to save more than five times as much money as I spent on my initial investment. That's a pretty good return, don't you think? I'm already having visions of a more comfortable retirement than I could have imagined even last week.

So, you want to know my money-making secret? It's light bulbs! Yes!! I'm gradually replacing the light bulbs in my home with compact fluorescent bulbs. They're pricey, but I figure if I buy enough of them, and if they live up to their reputation, I'll reduce my electric bill to the point that the power company will have to send me a monthly check.

The best part isn't even the money; it's the safety factor. There are some hard-to-reach light fixtures in this house. Changing them involves standing on my tiptoes, stretching out as tall as possible, and leaning forward precariously so my fingertips can manipulate impossibly tiny screws that hold delicate glass globes in place. Naturally, maintaining this position involves leg and shoulder cramps. And gritted teeth. But now? Now I won't have to do it more than once every seven years.

I installed the first of my new light bulbs tonight in the sconce to the right of my fireplace. It should last until I'm 70. Check back with me every couple of years and I'll let you know how we're doing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Not a moment too soon

There was the merest touch of a chill in the air this morning, not cold by anyone's standards, but cool enough to make South Louisiana a nicer place to be. I'm immensely grateful for a day of relief from months of sweltering heat.

Fall has always been my favorite time of the year. The autumn colors of my childhood turned out to be what I'd miss most about Missouri, especially the brilliant red of one particular front-yard maple tree. We don't get colors like that down here. In another month or so, though, subtle, muted shades of red and gold will begin to creep into the green that currently lines our highways. Our Cajun-country leaves will give it their best shot.

For now, I'm content to measure the changing of the seasons by my changing temperament, casting off summer's irritability and embracing the opportunity to breathe cool, fresh air. I love being able to open the windows and let some of that freshness inside. It's also pretty nice to walk the ten steps from the door of my house to my parked car without breaking a sweat.

Even the dogs seem to notice the difference. When I was home for lunch today, Kadi was friskier than I've seen her in months. Tail wagging, she dropped onto her doggy-equivalent of elbows, hind end high in the air, and engaged the tag team of Lucy and Winston in a vigorous wrestling match. Kadi hasn't played with the pups so enthusiastically since last March, when this photo was taken, before the hot weather set in. But today was glorious -- a wrestling kind of a day.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

When a bad dream is a good dream

This morning I slept until 9:15, unusually late only because Kadi and Butch normally wake me up well before then. As often happens when I sleep late, I had a recurrent dream, one I've had so many times previously I couldn't begin to count them. Some of you have probably had this one, too.

It's an extremely frustrating dream in which I have to go to the bathroom and can't find one to use. I'll walk into the bathroom in someone's home and find a little sign on the toilet saying, "Out of order, please don't use." I'll stop to use the restroom in a public place, but there won't be a door on the stall, and other people will be in there. I'll find a toilet that's private enough to suit me, only to discover that the last person to use it peed all over the seat.

Obstacles like those I mentioned in the last paragraph occur almost every time I have this dream, but other versions of the dream have featured some really bizarre obstacles. One time, I stood in line to use the only toilet available at an elegant catering hall. The man who appeared to be in charge of things (judging by his tuxedo and my internal dream translator) said the banquet wasn't due to start for another half hour, so it was okay to use the facilities until guests arrived. All the people in line ahead of me went through the door and used the bathroom with no apparent problem. When it was my turn, however, I was shocked to discover that the toilet was set up in plain sight, right in the center of dozens of white-clothed, centerpiece-topped tables. Still, I needed to go so badly that I stepped up and began to lift my skirt in preparation to do the deed. Wouldn't you know it? Waiters bearing trays of water glasses began pouring into the room. I straightened my skirt and made a hasty exit, feeling more desperate than ever.

In this morning's version, it was my husband who repeatedly required my assistance with one damned thing or another just as I was about to get to a usable bathroom. My husband in this dream was capably played by a young Tom Selleck. I suppose my subconscious mind must have plucked him from a recent news item about his affiliation with the National Rifle Association. Whatever. I'm still annoyed with him as I write this.

I figured out a long time ago what this dream-theme means, and Edgar Cayce's website confirms it: "...very often...we have dreams that correspond to physiological sensations. For example, very often people dream that they have to use a restroom, only to awaken and discover that they literally have to use the restroom. Because we have been taught that it is only appropriate to go to the bathroom in certain places, the dream imagery shows the dreamer inappropriate places because it would certainly be inappropriate to go while asleep."

This is not my favorite recurring dream, by any means, but I -- and my clean, dry sheets -- have learned to appreciate it.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's an ill wind that blows nobody good

This time last year, my sister and her extended family were here from East Texas while Hurricane Rita huffed and puffed and tried to blow down their houses. The decision for them to come here was kind of a last-minute one; South Louisiana isn't first on anyone's list of safe places to ride out a hurricane. Their choices were limited, though, because three weeks earlier we'd filled up all the Texas shelters with Hurricane Katrina evacuees, most of whom were still there.

It was an interesting time, having them all here under such circumstances. There was a certain amount of stress as we watched the news for every tiny scrap of information available (few and far between) about conditions in their town, but it kind of felt like being on vacation, too. We had a really good time. I enjoyed their company so much it was hard for me to remember that their reason for being here wasn't a pleasant one.

Their homes did suffer some damage. My niece's home took the worst hit when a tree fell through the roof. Fortunately, the damaged portion of the roof was over the garage, and the rest of their house was habitable once the power and water were restored. All of my Texas relatives were sorely inconvenienced for a while, but I'm pretty sure they consider themselves lucky.

We've all been lucky so far this hurricane season, and I hope it stays that way for years to come. But, Sis? You probably know this, but I'll say it again anyway: If there's anything else y'all need to run from -- anything from severe weather to boredom and monotony -- I'd love for you to run this way again. I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

That's a Croc -- er -- crock!

A teaser on the noontime news today said, "Coming up, those Crocs may be fashionable and comfortable, but they can be dangerous, too. Stay tuned." Well, that's just my luck. The Crocs have relieved my foot pain so much that it just stands to reason they're gonna maim me in some other way.

When the actual news report came on after the commercial break, it was a story about children (one or two maybe?) who have sustained serious foot injuries after their Crocs were swallowed at the bottom of an escalator. And this would be the shoe's fault how? Give me a break.

When we lived in New York, way back in the early '70s, my daughters and I witnessed a child, a rather big boy, actually, getting his foot caught in a department-store escalator. His shrieks made a lasting impression on all of us, and I have no doubt that it was painful and frightening. But the boy we saw was wearing sneakers, not Crocs. Crocs hadn't even been invented yet.

The newscaster stated that recent incidents occurred on older escalators, ones that had worn down and no longer had a tight mechanical fit at the bottom. So shouldn't the news-fingers be pointed at escalators instead of shoes? I guarantee you, if the thick sole of a Croc could get sucked into the moving parts of an escalator, so could most other children's shoes.

So here's my suggestion: If your child doesn't wear steel-toed shoes, and if your child can't be taught to step off the escalator when it reaches the bottom -- you know the kind of kid I mean, the one who'll just stand in one spot and let the escalator do the work of pushing him off at the end -- then there's only one thing to do: You ride behind him, one step back, and be vigilant. Hold your purse and all your packages in one arm and place your other hand on the railing. When that bottom step starts to flatten out in front of your child, let go of the railing, reach out fast with your free arm, and either pick that kid up or shove him hard! He may skin his knees, but his feet won't get caught in the shoe-eating escalator.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stumbling blocks

All of us encounter stumbling blocks in the course of our lives. There's an endlessly wide variety of obstacles available for us humans to bump up against, and they don't seem to have been distributed even-handedly; some folks have to struggle harder than others. The ability to navigate successfully through life in spite of those obstacles is a mark of character strength I find admirable and inspirational.

I just finished reading today's entry on Janet's "Ordinary Life" blog. It's an honest, thought-provoking post about one particular facet of her life that doesn't slow her down, but can occasionally trip her up.

Janet's post made me think about things I take for granted and how the inability to use any one of my "tools" for living could throw a monkey wrench into my life in ways I'd never imagined. All that thinking made me remember somebody I knew a long time ago.

For one year in the early '80s I volunteered as an adult literacy tutor through the "Operation Upgrade" program in Baton Rouge. (There was a reason why I decided to do this, but I'll save that story for another day.)

The student assigned to work with me was Leland (not his real name). He was a handsome young man, 28 years old, who earned his living working on road crews. He'd made it through the 10th grade without learning to read. "Coach took care of his athletes," he said.

Leland wanted a better job. He had a baby daughter from a relationship that had ended, and he wanted to be able to read to her. He wanted a stable relationship with a good woman who could be proud of him. He wanted a lot of things, and he knew that the first step toward meeting his goals was to learn to read.

I could write a lot about our twice-a-week lessons, but I'll focus this post on one specific class, a couple of months into our time together. Leland showed up that night looking more depressed than I'd ever seen him.

The night before, he told me, he'd ridden with friends to a small town half an hour north of Baton Rouge. They'd stopped for gas and a soft drink, and he'd noticed a really pretty girl who was gassing up her car at the next pump. She'd noticed him, too, and had given him a big smile.

Leland walked up to the girl and struck up a conversation, but he'd said only a few words when she raised her hand and signaled him to stop speaking. Puzzled, he watched her take a pen and paper from her purse. Gently shaking her head, she touched two fingers to her ear and then to her lips, indicating she couldn't hear or speak. Still smiling, she extended the paper and pen to Leland so he could write out his message to her. But Leland couldn't write.

He said he was caught off guard and didn't know what to do. He couldn't think of any way to explain his predicament to her. So, he told me, he just smiled, shook his head "no," and tapped his forefinger against the face of his watch, pretending he didn't have time to write a note. He said she looked confused, her big smile gone, as he gave her a friendly wave and hurried to join his friends inside the building.

It had gnawed at him all night and all day. The thing that got to him the most, the thing that almost brought tears to his eyes as he told me about it, was concern for the girl's feelings. He said she must have known he was interested in the beginning, and she probably thought it was her handicap (when actually it was his own) that made him change his mind about getting acquainted with her. He said his inability to read hadn't hurt anyone but himself up until that point, but now it had caused him to hurt someone else. He said he'd never felt so low in his whole life.

To me, the story of Leland's encounter with the pretty girl at the gas station was the most ironic tale I'd heard since my childhood encounter with O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi". In fact, I think Leland's story might have been even more ironic than O. Henry's. There's no question it had a sadder ending.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"I didn't do it"

My niece has four children, one of whom is a just-turned-three-year-old boy. (Let's call my niece "Mom" for purposes of this post, and we'll call her little one "3YO.") My sister told me yesterday about the following conversation between the two of them.

Mom: "Oh, look, my pretty plant is dying. Look how the leaves are falling off."

3YO: "I didn't do it."

Mom: "Oh, no, I'm not saying you did it, I'm just saying it's dying."

3YO: "I didn't do it."

Mom: (Beginning to worry that he thinks she's accusing him) "Don't worry about it, okay? It's all right. I know you didn't do it. Sometimes things just die all by themselves."

3YO: "I didn't do it." (Brief pause) "My soup did it."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weather or not

The sun showed up this morning,

the clouds came after noon,

the rain is pouring as I write,

I'll post the next change soon.

Update 9/18/06, 5:30 p.m.

The rain stuck around for more than 24 hours, except for brief respites every now and then. It was raining when I went to work this morning and still raining when I left the office at 5:00 p.m. today. Twenty minutes later, though, I arrived home to this:

These vivid shades of blue were worth the wait.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Who knew there were so many of us?

I've mentioned before that I'm not a morning person. My brain's a little foggy this early in the day, my mind wandering like a free-range chicken, pecking at a piece of this and a bit of that and not willing to be confined to a coop of anything requiring concentration.

The dogs woke me up. I let them out, then turned on the computer and the TV to keep me company until they were ready to come back inside. As I clicked on various links to see if my favorite bloggers had posted anything new, the TV reporter talked about a group of retirees who came together because, I heard her say, "Their passion is Play-Doh."

Whaaaaaat? You mean I'm not the only one? Just this past Sunday, on my grandson's birthday, he and I were reminiscing about the things we used to do together when he was little. He mentioned the little "people" I used to make out of Play-Doh. I hadn't thought about that in years, but I used to love it when the kids played with Play-Doh. We'd spread a big plastic tablecloth on the floor, put all the supplies in the middle of it, and have some serious fun.

While the kids played with the Fun Factory and molded hamburgers and cheese wedges, I handcrafted tiny vegetables and fruits. I made inch-long bananas with minute brown spots and tiny oranges with skins pitted by rolling them around on the tablecloth. My best pieces, though, were tiny human heads.

Most of the heads were of old people. I tried once or twice to make a younger person, but by the time I'd pinched out a nose and pushed up some cheekbones, they all came out looking older. For every head I created, I made a separate set of shoulders, dressed with collar or necktie to match the head. The shoulders served as a base, and I connected the head to the base with a sturdy length of toothpick. Once everything dried for a day or two, the heads tended to wobble, but the kids didn't care. Neither did I.

When my grandson mentioned the Play-Doh people, I found myself missing the good smell of the stuff and the pleasing texture of it in my hands. I wondered if it might be fun to try it again, or maybe to move up to a more age-appropriate medium, such as polymer clay. Those thoughts were fleeting, though, and hadn't crossed my mind again from last Sunday until this morning, when the TV lady said, quite clearly, "Their passion is Play-Doh."

I'll admit that phrase excited me. Maybe I'm not just a silly old woman, I thought. There are others my age who still have fun playing with this, and they've all gotten together to support each other's efforts. Good for them!

I turned away from the computer to pay attention to the Play-Doh segment. On the TV screen, a group of older people were going into what appeared to be a university building, apparently heading toward a classroom. As I listened more intently, I began to hear words that didn't make sense in the context of what I thought I was watching. Words like "philosophy."

My initial burst of enthusiasm began to wane. It seems I was mistaken. Those distinguished-looking retirees weren't interested in molding tiny objects from brightly colored modeling dough. Oh, no. Their interests were way more sophisticated than my own.

What the TV announcer had actually said was, "Their passion is Plato."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

They had the best of the worst of times

I'm exhausted tonight, too tired to write, really, but still feeling inclined to "feed the blog." Afraid of falling asleep while trying to think of something to write, I jump-started the process by clicking on "My Pictures" to see if anything there moved me to tell a story. The first thing that caught my eye was this off-center photo of the generation that preceded my own.

The girl second from the right is my mother. Her baby brother is at the center of the photo and her older brother is on the right. The boy and girl at left are their first cousins. It's the girls I want to talk about tonight. They were 14 and 15 when this photo was taken in 1937.

Mother grew up in Springfield, Missouri, and Nadine, the daughter of my grandmother's sister, grew up in the Kansas City area. The two girls didn't see each other often because of all the geography between them, but their personalities were a match and they were the best of friends. All the way up until their grandchildren were almost grown, they laughed themselves silly whenever they got together.

In 1933, four years before this photo was taken, their grandfather died, and they traveled with their families from their respective homes to Galena, Kansas, for his funeral. On the one hand, they'd loved their grandfather, although they didn't really know him all that well. On the other hand, they were glad to see each other, and they had a lot of catching up to do.

Mother and Nadine sat together on the front pew during the funeral service, possibly the first one either had attended, and they recognized that it was a solemn occasion. Something about it, though, maybe just nerves, made one of them giggle. That made the other one giggle, too. Before they could get a grip on it, the laughter bubbled up in their throats until they couldn't contain it any longer and it burst out -- loudly.

Mother said they caught their breath long enough to give each other a sidewise glance, both of them recognizing instantly that they were going to be in serious trouble with their parents. Nadine, who always had a flair for the dramatic, put her face down into her hands and pretended she was crying. Mother followed suit. For the rest of the funeral service, the two of them muffled their laughter with fake sobs, their shoulders shaking in pseudo grief.

My mother was in her 70s when she told me the story of my Great-Grandpa Joe's funeral, and when I think about the day she told me, I can see her clearly in my mind, first giggling, then chuckling, then laughing so hard it was difficult for her to get the whole story out. That funeral was obviously one of her favorite memories.

It was kind of fitting, I think, that Mother told this story as an example of why she'd always loved Nadine so much. Nadine had died just a few weeks earlier. "We always had so much fun," Mother sighed, "I'm really gonna miss her." Her eyes glistened with unshed tears as she spoke, but there was a smile on her face.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 this ever happened to you?

A couple of months ago, Dooce wrote about discovering she had skin cancer. What caught my interest about that particular blog entry is that she described the cancerous bump as looking like a scar. Hmm, I thought when I read that, then pulled up my pant leg to look at the little bump I'd noticed recently on my left knee. I hadn't worried about it, just wondered what it was. It wasn't even as big as a match head, but it didn't look like a mole or a wart or a pimple. What it looked like most was a little upraised lump of pearly-pink scar tissue.

Dooce had apparently had hers for quite some time, so I resolved just to keep an eye on the thing for now. Still, when I went to the doctor for my checkup a few weeks ago, I asked her to recommend a good dermatologist. One of these days, I thought, I'll go check out that little bump and the itchy red rash I know will appear on my right ankle when the weather starts getting cold again. I don't have health insurance; barring emergencies, I go to the doctor when I've accumulated enough complaints to get my money's worth.

So, anyway, I was sitting in the recliner two nights ago, wearing a pair of shorts. Winston, my daughter's Yorkie, was snuggled into my lap. His head was resting near my left knee, but he was wide awake, watching the other dogs and licking me every now and then. As I watched TV and stroked him absent-mindedly, I suddenly felt an intense stinging pain in my knee, and Winston began licking furiously right on the spot that hurt.

I immediately moved Winston and took a closer look. Where the suspicious little lump had been, there was only a tiny round wound, bleeding ever so slightly. I looked at the wound, then at Winston, then I looked at the wound again, then back at Winston. He was sitting right next to me, quietly but conspicuously licking his lips.

What the hell? Did he just all of a sudden take a notion that something edible was stuck to my leg and help himself to a little snack?

I'm still watching that spot on my knee. There seems to be a slightly raised rim around the little scab, so he apparently didn't get all of whatever it was. If it comes back, I'll go to the dermatologist as planned, but I certainly don't want to go now and describe to the doctor how it "used to look."

I'm also keeping a closer eye on Winston. Do you blame me?

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 & Sunflower

I've been watching TV tonight, remembering the events of 9/11, and hadn't intended to post anything. In fact, I was headed to bed when I decided to do a quick check for e-mail messages and blog comments. I also checked my cousin's new blog and found a comment there from Sunflower Optimism, whose name you may recognize from her visits here.

In her comment, Sunflower was thanking my cousin, Postlady, for giving her the courage to post her first blog today. Naturally, I jumped over and checked it out.

Sunflower, it seems, has a natural aptitude for writing. I'm grateful she's decided to share it with us and understand completely why today was the day.

I, for one, look forward to reading more.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Standin' on the edge of everything, seventeen

My grandson turns 17 today, and I can't begin to adequately describe the pleasure it's been to watch him grow up. This is one of my favorite pictures of his "bad" two-year-old self, the devil in his eyes making it clear what he thought of having his picture taken at that moment.

On his second birthday, a couple of months earlier, he sat in his highchair at the end of a picnic table, surrounded by family members, and opened birthday gifts. His expression didn't change as he ripped paper and ribbon away from present after present. No "thank you" left his lips despite prompting; he didn't say a word. It was impossible to tell whether he liked something or not until he opened a package containing a colorful, plastic tool kit. His face didn't change even then, but he immediately began to climb out of his highchair. His mother helped him down, people parted to get out of his way, and he carried the tool kit under his arm until he reached the family car parked nearby in the driveway. There, he sat on the ground, leaned forward, and began to work on a wheel with his new tools.

On his fourth birthday, he romped outside with his friends and cousins of all ages, running and jumping and all the things little kids do, until a pickup truck drove up to drop off some folding tables for the party. The rest of the kids continued to play, but the birthday boy ran to the truck and offered to help unload the tables. He considered himself one of the men, and there was work to be done.

A couple of months after his 10th birthday, my mother died, and my grandson went with us to Texas for her funeral. He asked his mother if people would think he was too young to be a pallbearer, because he'd really like to do that for Mama-Too. He was big for ten years old, but not that big; the other pallbearers readily agreed to pick up his slack and he helped lay his great-grandmother to rest. There's no greater gift he could ever have given her.

He's a good student and a good athlete. He may have a head full of fun and mischief, but his heart is full of kindness and compassion. My own heart fills with joy when I'm around him. I think about the fact that he and others like him will be running things a few decades from now, and I feel hope for the future.

So here's my message to this fine young man: Whether devil's food cake or angelfood cake is appropriate to honor you on any given birthday, I don't care. I love the entirety of you, and I wish you a wonderful year.

Legs hangin' off the bayou bridge
Feedin' fish potato chips
And talkin' 'bout the mysteries of the universe
Yeah the world was somewhere else
We had the summer all to ourselves
And the stars went off like fireworks

Only comes once in a lifetime
Don't it just fly by wild and free
Goin' any way the wind blew baby
Livin' on crazy dreams
Rock and roll and faded blue jeans
And standin' on the edge of everything

(Partial lyrics of Seventeen by Tim McGraw)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A woman's prerogative

My younger daughter has been in a whirlwind of redecorating activity for the past couple of weeks. I've always thought her home was beautiful as it was, but she grew tired of its neutral color palette, deciding to use bolder colors on certain walls and accessories to "warm it up." She loves the new look, and I can't wait to see it.

Listening to her excitement as she talked about the changes she's making reminded me of her enthusiasm when she was 10 and we redecorated her bedroom in New York. Back then she fell in love with French provincial furniture, white, with gold trim. The wallpaper she chose had stripes of delicate flowers in pastel blue, green, and lavendar on a white background. Her dad built a white wooden canopy over her bed, with scalloped edges and strands of beads hanging from each side in colors that matched her wallpaper. It was a room fit for a princess.

Fast forward five years. We'd moved from New York to Georgia and then on to Louisiana, and the white bedroom furniture had moved with us. She was 15 by then and had definite ideas about how her hip teenager's room should look. Her plans included new furniture, and she wasn't happy to learn that our budget didn't.

"This looks like a little girl's stuff," she complained. "It's too young for me now."

"We can make it work," we told her. "We tried to talk you into something different when we bought this furniture, but this is what you had to have. You wouldn't even consider anything else."

"Well, maybe so," she said without missing a beat, "but how would you like to live with a decision made by a ten-year-old?"

There was no way we could argue with that kind of logic, so we didn't even try. Her point was valid. Still, it all came down to money, and she didn't get new furniture. I can't tell you how happy I am for her now that she's in a position to change her mind once in a while.

You go, girl!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sleepover company

I have a couple of houseguests for the next nine days, youngsters whose mom has never left them overnight before. I must say they're doing better than I'd expected. These kids spend a lot of time here under normal circumstances, so they're familiar with the household rules, but they're still young enough to hope I won't notice if they break them now and then.

While I worked yesterday, I left them with a couple of senior citizens who don't hesitate to alert me if something displeases them. Everybody seemed very happy when I got home, and nothing was out of place except the little ones' toys. Same thing again today. So far, so good.

Bedtime last night was a little challenging. The young'uns couldn't decide whether to sleep in the guest room, where they've stayed before with their mom, or in my bed. To be honest, I didn't care one way or the other; I just wanted them to make a decision, stop jumping in and out of my bed, and settle down. Fortunately, that happened soon after I closed my book and turned off the light.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, my houseguests are my granddogs, Lucy and Winston, whose mom jetted out of town early yesterday. Have a wonderful time with your friends, Kim, and don't worry about your babies. Kadi, Butch, and I have it all under control.

Special delivery...

...from my cousin, Postlady, who has dropped her first certified letter into the mailbox at the corner of 1st and Blogger, return receipt requested. She's been reading blogs for a couple of months now, so you may be among the "wanted posters" in her comments section. Stop by, if you get a chance, and express yourself.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Baby backs and bragging rights

On Labor Day I joined my family and a lot of their friends for a barbecued rib cook-off, which was a follow-up to the bake-off I told you about at the end of July. From what I’d heard about the bake-off, I was expecting a dozen or so people at the barbecue. Boy, was I surprised.

There must have been at least 50 people there, many of whom took their barbecuing seriously and all of whom appeared to be having a great time. My granddaughter and her fiancĂ©, hosts of the event, said they’d e-mailed invites to several people but hadn’t had any idea that so many would show up. Ha! They ended up with 14 entrants, which translated into 14 individuals or teams who’d dragged their families, their barbecue pits, and all of their ingredients and supplies to a backyard barbecue competition. Half a dozen of them had even set up tents.

I was impressed with the judging system. Each contestant or team was provided with a numbered styrofoam box to hold their final “product.” A table was set up in the carport to hold all the entries, and everyone had to put their closed box of ribs on that table at 5:00 p.m. sharp. Meanwhile, at the dining table inside the house, three judges waited with numbered score sheets as the entries were delivered to them a couple at a time. No one else was allowed near the judges’ table until all the goods had been sampled and the scoring was done.

The judges awarded points in each of three categories: presentation, texture, and taste. I can’t comment on presentation (the cooks were secretive as they arranged their offerings), but samples were passed around all afternoon and I can attest to a wonderful variety of tastes and textures.

All these cooks were working toward one prize, a simple but important one in this part of the country: braggin' rights. And the surprised and happy winners? My daughter and grandson, ably assisted by my son-in-law who manned the fire all afternoon. The ribs they cooked may have been the best I’ve ever tasted, but I need to try them a few more times real soon to be sure.

As a mildly interesting side note, the guy who came in second did his cooking on a $5,000 barbecue pit. He cooks competitively fairly often, usually for more serious prizes, and said this was the first time he’d lost. Our winners, on the other hand, cooked on a “rescue” barbecue pit they’d acquired when someone else was throwing it away. Go figure.

There were a couple of minor disappointments. My grandson had to leave early for football practice (yes, even on Labor Day, this is the South) and didn't learn that his team won until later that evening. Also, someone requested that next time it might be better to choose judges who have less integrity.

One more thing: My granddaughter and her fiancé may have fallen a little short in the rib-cooking department, but they certainly proved that their recipe for a good time is hard to beat. Lots of people were discussing what the challenge should be next time. Last I heard, it'll be gumbo.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Happy feet

Today was an excellent day, even though I didn’t expect it to be. When I woke up this morning, I knew this was the day I’d have to grit my teeth and go to Wal-Mart. It’s been several weeks since I last made a major grocery shopping trip, and there was no way I could postpone it any longer. The “dogs” at the end of my legs would just have to suffer so my fur-covered dogs and I would have food.

Fortunately, my older daughter gave me a gift yesterday afternoon of my first pair of Crocs. These may be the ugliest shoes I’ve ever owned, but, omigod, they’re comfortable! Usually, after buying a month’s worth of groceries and putting them away, my feet are screaming and the rest of my day is wasted. Today, my feet and legs were a little bit tired. That’s all. And they recovered after a brief rest.

I realize some of you have a higher standard of fashion than plastic/rubber shoes (not to mention any names, Rebekah). Rest assured, I plan to order some dressier shoes from a couple of the sites y'all recommended. There are times when I need to look like a girly-woman and/or a professional. But I’m gonna order more Crocs, too. I could get used to having something on my mind other than aching feet.

So, the first part of my day was excellent because I got the grocery shopping done, right down to the excessive purchase of you-know-what, and I still had enough spring in my step to attend a barbecued-rib cook-off this afternoon.

The cook-off was the most excellent part of the day. I'll tell you more about it in my next post. For now, facing the cold, hard fact that I have to go back to work tomorrow, I’ll take my full belly -- and my relatively okay feet -- to bed. I will sleep well tonight.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

How Now Brown Cow

I can’t remember where I saw it, but their there was something on TV or the Internet the other day about people who are trying to change the official spelling of certain words to make the English language less complicated. I’ve always bin been fascinated buy by words, in and of themselves, so this subject peeked peaked piqued my interest.

I’ve amused myself on numerous occasions by thinking about the inconsistencies in the weigh way words look similar on paper butt but are pronounced differently. I’ve also wondered whether laziness or just lack of imagination was responsible for sew so many words that have entirely different meanings but sound exactly alike. Maybe there simply aren’t enough separate and distinct sounds to make a fresh word for each thing we need to right write or speak about. (Yes, I know I ended a sentence with a preposition; but that's for another blog entry.)

I’ve imagined ancient conversations that went something like this:

1st man: “Sir, what do you call the top of that mountain?”

2nd man: “That? Oh, that’s’s called a ‘peak.’”

1st man: “Naw, that can’t be right. A peek is what I take when milady's bathing in the stream.”

2nd man: “It is a peak. I’m the word expert; if I say it’s a peak, then it’s a peak.”

Curiosity and a quick Google search lead led me to the Simplified Spelling Society. Wow! These guys have it all laid out for us, complete with examples of unpredictable spellings and a history of how the English language ended up in this condition.

The SSS people make a good case for changing words we’ve learned the hard way, and the suggested spellings would no doubt be easier to learn. But what would happen to the fun? For example, without the inconsistencies, I couldn’t have written this:

Hough Nough Broughn Cough

The English language isn’t easy,
learning it is tough.
The spelling’s so confusing I
can’t understand some stough.

Variety’s the spice of life
I’ve often thought, although
I like my words consistent as
the tides that ebb and flough.

I read about an apple tree
“with gently swaying boughs,”
so shouldn’t those four-legged things
with udders be spelled “coughs”?

No, those are cows, so Webster says,
a hacking sound’s a cough.
Should not the light switch on my wall
be labeled “on” and “ough”?

There is no pattern I can find;
I’ve searched it through and through.
It simply isn’t logical.
Does this make sense to yough?