Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fool me twice, shame on me

When I got my new cell phone recently, I checked out all the ring tones that came with it and selected one I really, really like: the sound of chirping birds. It's a distinctive sound and very pleasant, but it isn't working out for me.

My conscious mind can't seem to get used to it. When I'm in the house and my cell phone rings, my first instinct is to peek out the window to see what kind of birds are raising such a ruckus. And when the phone rings in my car, I turn up the radio in anticipation of an old Minnie Riperton song. In either case, by the time I've identified the source of the chirping, I've missed the call.

My sub-conscious mind, on the other hand, is apparently very task oriented. Now that Spring has sprung, there are chirping birds outside my window every morning at first light. I used to find that sound so peaceful and relaxing. Now, though, my ears pick up the bird sounds and send them to my sleeping brain, and my brain kicks my butt out of bed and sends me across the room to fumble through my purse for my cell phone. By the time I wake up enough to realize--again--that my phone isn't ringing, the dogs are awake and ready to go outside, and there's no going back to bed.

And that, my friends, is for the birds.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I was looking at this photo of wisteria and thinking how wonderful it will be someday when technological advances give us the pleasure of seeing and smelling beautiful pictures on the internet.

And then I looked at this photo of a muddy buffalo and had second thoughts. This guy was majestic, but pretty nasty.

Naw, never mind. Definitely not a good idea.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More than one way to skin a cat

Last week I posted here about the need for a device to discourage others from driving right on my tail. I knew I wasn't alone in my frustration, and sure enough, I found a kindred spirit on my drive to work yesterday morning. I stopped at a red light behind a guy who had obviously faced the tailgating problem himself and found his own creative solution. In the back of his car, clearly visible through his rear window, were four medium-sized white cardboard boxes, each labeled in large red letters: DYNAMITE. Heh heh heh! Brilliant!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Talkin' trash

On Tuesday mornings at the crack of dawn, the garbage truck rolls through my neighborhood, which means that sometime on Monday night I'll be outside taking my gigantic garbage can to the curb.

The driveway is paved and the can is on wheels, so as long as I hold on with both hands, it's fairly easy to manage--at least on the flat part of the driveway. But let me mention now that my house sits on top of a little hill. And let me add that I'm no spring chicken and that I'm overweight and out of shape. Are you getting a picture in your head? Good, then, let's go on.

Even though it was nine years ago, I remember the first time I took out the garbage after moving into this house. The can was shiny and new and so big--almost up to my armpits. Because of the recent unpacking, it was stuffed to the max, and even as big as it was, I still had one bag of trash that wouldn't fit. The loaded garbage can was heavier than I expected, too, and I remember being surprised, since it had wheels, that it took so much muscle to move.

I had the extra trash bag in one hand and was trying to push the can with the other, but it was extremely difficult to steer. After trying to push it for a few feet, I got the bright idea that it might be easier if I'd just pull it instead. I tilted it over and found I could balance the weight of it in one hand, so I picked up the extra trash bag again and fully expected to get all the garbage to the road in one trip. That approach worked just fine until I got to the hill.

I started down the slope and the garbage can began to speed up behind me. I picked up my pace a little bit to keep it from running over my heels, and it started moving faster and faster and faster, as if Mario Andretti were inside the damned thing and driving it in his last lap before the checkered flag. I went from a fast walk to a trot to a full-out, booby-bouncing, hair-blowing-in-the-wind, knees-high, escape-from-danger run, all the way down the driveway and almost into the road, finally saving myself by veering off the pavement and onto the grass.

So these days, if you're in my neighborhood on a Monday night, you might see me taking the garbage out. I'll be walking squarely behind the can, holding it tightly with both hands, taking small, slow steps in my rubber-soled shoes, and using every ounce of strength in my body to hold back the demon-racer that lives inside that can and dreams of running free.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

One year older, one year wiser...both of us

My firstborn child has a birthday tomorrow, which marks one more year that I've loved her dearly and been fascinated by her creativity.

I was newly married and 18 years old when I first found out I was pregnant, and I thought taking care of a baby would be a snap. After all, I was 15 when my brother was born, so I’d had some experience caring for him, plus I had babysat throughout my teens. But when my daughter arrived six weeks early, she was so tiny that I was scared to death of her. I cried all the way through her first bath and was so grateful that my own mother was there to hold my hand and boost my confidence.

Through her whole life, this child has had to be my “experiment.” It seems it’s always a struggle for parents to decide what their children should be allowed to do and when, and we practice on our firstborns. If we’re too nervous and anxious, we stifle them, and if we’re too laid back or permissive, they pay for it in bruises or bad experiences. And this "baby bird" wanted so badly to fly--each time higher and farther--that she really kept us on our toes. What to do, what to do?

Somehow, in spite of all the mistakes we may have made, she’s turned out just fine! She's a beautiful, capable woman, and I feel honored that she still needs her mom every now and then. The neat thing is that I don't feel so much pressure when she needs me now. I know that she knows that I’m still just giving it my best shot, and she knows that I know she could handle it on her own.

Happy birthday, dream seeker! I love you.

Nothing's perfect

My last post was about how much happiness my dogs bring me, and every word was true. Even so, there's a downside to all that "puppy love."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Happy, happy, joy, joy

These are the furry creatures whose mere presence in my home fills my heart to bursting. At the top is Kadi, the Lab, the best dog ever, then Butch, the (Stevie) Wonder Dog. Kadi and Butch are mine. The granddogs are next: Winston is the Yorkie and Lucy is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Winston and Lucy are at my house most days because my daughter's studio is in my backyard. How could anyone not love these faces?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Idol moment

This is the second straight evening in a row that I've posted about a television show, so that should give you a clue as to how exciting my life is.

Anyway, America got it right last night! Kevin Covais was eliminated from "American Idol." Nothing against Kevin, but I, for one, am glad to see him go. Kevin seems like a sweet boy. He has a pleasant (not great) voice, and he's cute, the way a little kid is cute. Buh-bye!

I wouldn't even mention this except it has bugged me for the past few weeks that Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest have repeatedly credited the "granny vote" with keeping Kevin in the competition until now. Huh? As a certified, card-carrying granny, I'd like to dispute that. I don't think it was us.

For one thing, we are not your grandfather's grannies. A large percentage of us were young women in the Sixties. Some of us went to San Francisco and wore flowers in our hair and some of us were the first to wear miniskirts to work. Even as we carried our children, some of us carried protest signs and some of us carried briefcases. Some of us burned our bras, but most of us just burned our aprons. We were all about enlightenment and honesty, and not so much about cute.

So, let me enlighten you: This granny is rooting for Chris Daughtry, Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, and Mandisa. These are the ones who could make me part with my hard-earned money to buy their music.

And let me be brutally honest: All the rest of the finalists, the ones whose names I didn't mention above, are still way better than Kevin. All except Ace Young, that is. Ace can't sing either, but if I were all about cute, he's the kind of cute I'd be all about.

Obviously, Kevin has developed a fan base, and I wish him well. My advice to him would be to have a backup plan, but if he's determined to stick with music, then I hope the demographics experts can figure out who's been voting for him and target that specific audience. All I know is it wasn't the grannies.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Calling all inventors

Have you seen the new TV series developed by the creators of "American Idol"? It's called "American Inventor," and I'm watching it with hope in my heart.

So far, they've only shown auditions, and I haven't seen anything I'm dying to own, but I'm keeping my eyes open for one product that I've been waiting for years for someone to invent. The thing I have in mind would attach to the back end of my car and, at the touch of a button, would hurl brightly colored paint pellets onto the hood of any vehicle that gets too close to my bumper.

Tailgaters drive me crazy! And in case you were wondering, I'm not one of those people who creep along way below the speed limit and force traffic to stack up behind them. After all, I am the daughter of Wanda June, yes, the Wanda June who was known on more than one occasion--in her seventies, no less--to drive like a bat out of hell in the Wal-Mart parking lot. So, no, I'm not responsible for the people who get so close I can count their freckles in my rearview mirror.

My opinion of people who drive like that is that (a) they're arrogant, pushy and too inconsiderate to care what they're doing; (b) they're sick and twisted and get an actual thrill by terrorizing people on the highway; or (c) they're too stupid to realize that their teeth will be embedded in my skull if I have to stop suddenly. In any of those cases, I think the AutoPaintLauncher would get their attention and help them to do the right thing.

I'm gonna keep watching this show. I sure hope somebody will make this for me.

Note: The Splatter graphic was borrowed from

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Maybe he'll like this one...

A long time ago my sister told me a story I’ve never forgotten. It’s her story to tell, because it's true and it happened to a friend of a friend of hers, but since my sister doesn't have a blog (yet), I'll take the liberty of passing it along to you.

I'll tell you the story with all the images I always picture in my head, because it's a visual kind of story. If Hallmark filmed it, it would make you cry. But if it were part of a Ben Stiller movie, you'd laugh out loud. So I'll just tell it, and you can choose your own reaction.

The story is very short. Imagine that you're watching it unfold on the big screen.

You see a man getting out of his car in the afternoon sunshine and walking to the front door of his home. He's a young man, no more than 40 years old. He unlocks the door and steps through it, then suddenly clutches his chest. You can see the pain on his face. He's having a heart attack, and you see him fall to the floor.

And then the scene changes. It's dark now, so you know some time has passed. The man's wife is arriving home from work. She, too, walks from her car to the house, and she notices that the door is slightly ajar. She hesitates, calls her husband's name, then pushes the door open wider so she can enter. Her hand flies to her mouth and she screams, and you know she has just discovered her husband lying right there on the floor of the foyer. The camera lingers on her face for a few seconds more, then slowly pans to the man's dead body, which is now surrounded by little dog toys.

The end.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Random acts of animal kindness

The monkeys in this photo prompted a conversation at the zoo about how cool it is to watch animals socializing and caring for one another. Immediately before this shot was taken, the monkey at the front left seated himself on the platform and began to cough. That's when the monkey you see next to him ran up beside him, leaned over, and looked him in the face, checking to make sure he was okay. You can see that the monkey on the platform above them was also showing concern.

My dogs and granddogs, though normally trying to outsmart each other to get the best treat or the best spot on the sofa, are themselves capable of showing compassion on occasion. Butch, my blind dog, was first on the scene when my daughter's little Yorkie, Winston, fell off the back of the futon and let out a frightening "EEE-YI-YI-YIIIII." Even though Butch has barely tolerated Winston in the past, he stood over him and sniffed him from one end to the other until his people came to the rescue.

Kadi, my female Lab, keeps an eye on Butch. For example, if Kadi sees that Butch is about to run into the doorframe, she'll quickly wedge her body in beside him, essentially steering him away from the doorframe and through the open door.

My younger daughter has a little inside dog, BeBe, and a big outside dog, Jez. BeBe has recently developed a routine, all on her own, that shows she's thinking and planning ahead about Jez. When the door is opened for BeBe to go outside for the first time each morning, she detours past her food dish, picks up one piece of food, then runs out the door and drops the food right in front of Jez. We're very curious about BeBe's motivation on that one. We don't know whether (a) BeBe is sharing food out of the goodness of her heart, (b) BeBe is taunting Jez by showing that she gets the premium dog food, or (c) Jez is in the mob and is making BeBe pay for protection before letting her into the yard.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

For those who trust too easily

This pretty creature playing on my patio sent me digging through my file of old poems to find one I wrote back in my corporate days. The talented (but devious) co-worker who inspired it was transferred from department to department, always welcomed enthusiastically by each new supervisor, then just as eagerly passed on to the next one, until everyone was wiser and there was nowhere else for her to go.


I watch from a distance
as she changes from one color to another,
selecting with uncanny accuracy
the shade she thinks
you’ll find most appealing.

She leaps from branch to branch,
directing your attention
to the ripple of movement
she has created
in the otherwise quiet bush.

She demands,
through her stirring of the shrubbery,
that you look at her,
and she looks back through heavy-lidded eyes,
defying you to see anything
but that which she chooses to show you.

The image she presents delights you,
and it makes you vulnerable.
Predator disguised as prey,
villain as victim,
she invokes your trust
and begs your protection
from vile birds and beasts
that neither understand nor appreciate
her whimsical nature.

Her antics capture your imagination.
I know. I understand.
I, too, have watched her
frolic among the leaves,
and I’ve responded to her reptilian charm
in much the same way you do now.

Her emerald animation has enchanted you.
Such is your fascination
that you wouldn’t hear me if I spoke
nor believe my words if you heard them.
I wish I could tell you what I’ve learned.
I need to explain to you
that my spirit bears the scars
of a hundred little lizard bites.

Instead, I watch from a distance,
in silence,
as the mud-brown, scaly thing
hides behind vivid hues
and lures you ever closer.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Bad News/Good News

Bad news: It’s cold enough here that I’ve had to turn the heat on again.
Good news: At least I’m not as uncomfortable as I was during last weekend’s 90-degree zoo trip.

Bad news: The post-Katrina traffic in Baton Rouge seems to be permanent and is still unbearable.
Good news: I had green lights all the way while I ran errands today.

Bad news: My sweet tooth hasn’t been satisfied in days now.
Good news: When I got to the bank, the Girl Scouts had a cookie booth set up outside.

Bad news: The line at the bank was long.
Good news: The lady in front of me was tapping her foot, wiggling, moving her lips, struggling really hard not to burst out singing along to the piped-in music of Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

Bad news: A pretty little three-year-old pitched a howling temper tantrum at the bank.
Good news: It made all the adults in line (strangers of all ages and colors) smile and talk to each other.

Bad news: By the time I got out of the bank, the Girl Scouts were all out of Samoas and Thin Mints.
Good news: I tried a new kind of cookie, and it did the job.

Bad news: Last weekend I got the first rock chip in the windshield of my new car.
Good news: When I walked back to my car after visiting the cookie booth, a man from a glass company was working in the parking lot. He fixed my windshield in five minutes for $20.00.

Bad news: I haven’t done any of the laundry or housecleaning I intended to do today.
Good news: I don't care.

No wonder he's in a "good humor"

As soon as I exited I-10 yesterday, with only one mile left on my drive home from work, I found myself stopped at a red light behind an ice cream truck. I couldn't hear the strains of "Red Wing", so I assumed the driver was off duty. That made sense. There's a ton of traffic in that area.

The light changed and we both turned left, and that's when I noticed that the ice cream man couldn't seem to decide which lane he wanted to be in. (Maybe it takes that kind of person to be patient all day while kids try to decide between Popsicles and Nutty Buddies.) At any rate, he finally settled in front of me again and stayed there until we both turned onto the narrow, two-lane road that leads to my street. On that road, too, there's a lot of traffic, so if the ice cream man had even attempted to peddle his wares at that moment, hands would have flown out of car windows, all of them pointed in his direction, all of them ordering just one big one.

The ice cream man must have known better, because he still didn't turn on his music, but he did slow down to a creeping, ice-cream-truck pace of 15 miles per hour. And for a solid half mile, until we turned in opposite directions, I watched his big square white truck, painted in colorful, kid-friendly signs, weave back and forth across his lane, repeatedly crossing over the yellow line on his left and narrowly missing the ditch on his right.

How could this be? This was the Ice Cream Man, that hero of my childhood. It broke my heart to think that the man who stood at that window, smiling and dispensing frozen bars of Heaven, stood on feet of clay.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More zzzzzzzzz's, please

I'm tired. Falling-asleep-before-the-end-of-a-good-show tired. Today a friend at work asked me if I've been getting enough sleep, so the dark circles under my eyes are obviously telling their gossipy tales. I know I've been going to bed too late, but it's always such a temptation to read just one more chapter before turning out the light.

It does seem to be true, though, that I don't require as much sleep as I did when I was younger. Back then, I needed a lot of sleep, and the minute things got quiet, I'd go out like a light. I never--not one time--made it all the way through a date at the drive-in movie. You can guess how that affected my popularity.

There was one funny sleep-related incident the first year I was married to my second husband. He had a good friend from high school who used to drop in with his wife and kids once a month or so. The guys would head out to the garage where they could engage in a little male bonding and car talk, and the kids would go off into my kids' bedroom to play. That left me to entertain the wife, Virginia.

Virginia was a nice person...well, okay, she was more than a little bit boring. I'm not good at small talk either, but I'd try for a while to keep a conversation going and then, without fail, I'd doze off right there in front of her. I don't know how long I'd sleep, but I'd wake up suddenly, my head jerking wildly, and be so embarrassed! I dreaded their visits. I'd try everything I could to stay awake, but it happened every single time.

And then something happened that took the pressure off. Everything was just the same right up through the part where I nodded off, but this time, when I jerked awake, I saw Virginia sitting calmly on the sofa, eating candy from a little bag and reading a book that she'd brought along for just such an occasion. She was as embarrassed as I was, but I liked the fact that she'd come prepared. It wasn't the last time I fell asleep on her, but it was the last time I worried about it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Picture perfect weekend

What a great weekend! It included visits, phone calls and e-mail chats with some of my favorite people and a trip to one of my favorite places. In addition, my son-in-law came over on Saturday and gave my lawn its first haircut of the season. The monster dandelion is gone, the fig tree is sprouting new leaves, and the tangelo tree has tiny blossoms. All is right in my little corner of the world.

On Sunday my daughter invited me to go with her to either the zoo or the plant nursery, and I picked zoo. I loooove the zoo. When I was a kid, I used to sniff the telephone poles on our street because the smell of creosote reminded me of the monkey cages. The Baton Rouge Zoo is missing that terrific monkey/telephone-pole scent, but it more than makes up for it. It's so clean and beautiful that I'd pay to see the flowers and plants. The animals are just a wonderful bonus.

We went mid-morning and thought we'd beat the heat by going so early in the year. That didnt' happen. After a couple of hours we were both miserable and red in the face from the humidity, so we decided to cut out early and leave some animals unvisited (sorry, otters and giraffes). All day long I assumed that I must have become an even bigger wuss than I'd previously admitted to, but last night the weatherman reported that the day's high temperature was a record-breaking 90 degrees. In the middle of March? You've got to be kidding me!

Despite the heat, we had a great time. My daughter recently bought a camera just like my new one, and between the two of us we took almost 700 pictures. Last night I combined her shots and mine into one computer folder, where I oohed and aaahed while I sorted them until after midnight. Hope you enjoy these samples.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

How do you spell dessert?

My last post reminded me of a story they used to tell about my uncle Neale. The grown-ups spelled in front of him, too, apparently. One day at the dinner table, little Neale looked longingly at the pie and said, "Could I please have some K-G-Y-P-T?

Nosiness as a language tool

In high school I took one year of French. Because I’ve never had the opportunity to use it, I’ve retained very little, although I can still sing a mean first verse of “La Marsaillaise.”

A couple of years ago I invested in “Spanish for Dummies,” thinking I’d learn it so I could speak more easily with my neighbor from Columbia. But while “Spanish for Dummies” gathered dust on my shelf, my neighbor improved her English at such a rapid rate that I didn’t need Spanish anymore.

Still, I am bilingual. A second language was spoken in my home when I was very small, a language used by the adults to speak in my presence about things they didn’t want me to hear. Before I was three, I had mastered it and understood everything they said:

“Opstay erhay! Eshay isyay oloringcay onyay ethay allsway.”

“An’tcay ouyay akemay erhay utshay upyay? Eshay isyay ivingdray emay azycray.”

“Issusmay Onesjay oldtay emay atthay ethay ilkmayanmay ayedstay inyay Issusmay Ithsmay’s ousehay orfay ortyfay-ivefay inutesmay Uesdaytay.”

The grown-ups were shocked when I started speaking Pig Latin back to them. After that, they resorted to spelling all their secrets when I was around. And for that, I give belated credit to my family, who unintentionally paved the way for the eighth-grade spelling champ of Jarrett Jr. High School.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Today I took something I shouldn't have. I thought about it for awhile before succumbing to the temptation, because I knew I'd regret it. And, sure enough, I already do.

The opportunity presented itself when we closed the office early and I had the afternoon off. If not for the extra time on my hands, it never would have happened. I wouldn't have been in the right place at the right time.

I've done this kind of thing before. When it's happened in the past, I've spent the rest of the day in a fog and then followed it with a sleepless night. A night spent tossing and turning, asking myself over and over again why I did it.

It wasn't a question of need. I just wanted it, and I wanted it right then. I wanted to wrap myself in that softness and warmth and revel in the luxury of it.

I should have walked away. I should have focused my attention on finding something to do, something interesting that would occupy my time and keep my mind off of it. Instead, I let the instant-gratification-fanatic part of me take over and make the decision. And I grabbed the prize while no one was around to stop me.

If I could undo it, I would, but there's no going back on this one. I hope that by committing this lapse of judgment to writing, I won't repeat it. I'll try to remember, the next time I feel that overwhelming urge, to reread this post and recall how awful I feel at this moment. There'll be little sleep at my house tonight.

Oh...that thing I took? A three-hour nap!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Weed 'em and reap

There are one or two things I do fairly well and a whole bunch of others at which I have no skill whatsoever. Gardening, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. My daughter has put gorgeous potted plants on my patio each Spring for the past two years, and I've enjoyed them immensely even as I watched them die before their time. One year I bought a beautiful, healthy-looking ficus tree, and as I drove it home (I swear this is true), all the leaves turned black and fell off the branches.

I'm telling you this as a way to help you understand why I'd let a common dandelion grow right at my back door. I know it's a weed. I don't think it's pretty. It does not smell good. I just wanted to see how long the darned thing would continue to grow. Well, ladies and gentlemen,

One tiny piece of white dandelion fluff floated to the ground, wedged itself into the narrow crack between my patio and the concrete foundation of my house, and grew to giant beanstalk proportions. It did this all on its own, with no assistance from me. Or, I should say, no interference from me. I didn't overwater it, I didn't underwater it, I didn't do anything. It obviously got the right amount of sunlight, too, along with whatever nutrients it needed to absorb right out of the air. So, I ask you, what's the deal with the expensive nursery plants?

I've thought about planting morning glories, honeysuckles, or some other kind of vines on the neighbor's side of the fence, then just ignoring them and hoping they'll eventually grow over the top to my side. Having seen this Amazon dandelion, however, I'm a little bit afraid. It isn't too hard now to imagine being attacked by rapidly advancing morning glory tendrils that grow over my legs and strap me to my lawn chair.

Hmmmm. I'm pretty laid back. I wonder if I could learn to like dandelions if I'd give 'em half a chance.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More Comfortable Genes

This may be the only picture in existence of me with my parents, and I've spent a lot of time studying it to see which parts of me came from each of them.

The picture was on my desk while I wrote yesterday's genealogy post, and the combination of the writing and the picture caused the following poem to insinuate itself into my brain, one silly couplet at a time. It's been a long, long time since I've written a poem--much less a rhyming one--but it was fun to do and I decided to share it.

A History of Them and Me
(and How We're Linked Genetically)

My father’s sperm and mother’s egg
hooked up to make my arm, my leg,
my heart, my lungs, my chin, my knee,
and every other part of me.
My speaking voice, my pale white skin,
my lanky hair and crooked grin,
my way with words, my awkward dance
were part of my inheritance.

Before my parents there were others,
great-grandfathers, great-grandmothers,
soldiers here, a doctor there,
and farmers, farmers everywhere,
a rascal and (the oddest thing)
a concubine of England’s king,
passing on through progeny
the mixed-up genes that make up me.
From ancient time, from foreign place,
I got these eyes, this nose, this face.
The slender fingers of my hand
once toiled in soil of distant land.

My ancestors who trod this earth
in all the years before my birth
could not have known I’d ever be,
and yet they are a part of me.
As I do now, they lived and breathed
and bits of themselves they bequeathed,
so here I stand to honor them,
to think of her, remember him,
to thank them now with all my heart
for each and every body part.
Though they’ve all died and gone away,
I carry on their DNA.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Comfortable Genes

In the last days of 1988, shortly after my grandmother died, I went with my mother to sort through Mammaw’s things. Among them was a letter from her brother, Loren, in which he had detailed what he knew about their family history. Up until then I hadn't had any questions about our ancestors, but I suddenly realized that I'd better start thinking up some questions and asking them whle there was still someone alive who knew the answers. From that day forward I’ve been on a quest to expand Uncle Loren’s list. With the aid of a few interested relatives and the wonderful resources of and Family Tree Maker, I’ve spent 17 years fitting together pieces of this family puzzle.

Genealogy is one of those things that people are either interested in or they’re not, and I try not to put anybody to sleep with facts about who begat whom. But when they want to know, I’m ready for ‘em. I’ll tell them that we share ancestors with the Roosevelts of New York and Washington, and with the Fondas of Hollywood. I’ll tell them that Mary Boleyn, sister of beheaded Anne, was our 15th great-grandmother and had her own hanky-panky with King Henry VIII. We'll talk about those famous names first, and then we'll talk about the hundreds of other ancestors who were average, hard-working people, just like us. We’ll look at old photos together and try to determine which of those facial features we can see in our loved ones, and we’ll follow the trail of red hair that skips and jumps through our extended family.

I’ve loved every minute of poring over census records and online family trees, putting names (putting real people, actually) into a database where, with a few keystrokes, I can take them out and spend time with them for a while. There aren’t a lot of leaves left unturned on this family tree, so the research isn't occupying much of my time these days. Still, I think often about all those people who came before me and about the circumstances and coincidences that ultimately led to my existence in this time and place.

Note: The people in the picture above are my great-grandparents. This was their wedding picture, made in 1895.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Here's a hint: It's your birthday!!

Tomorrow is my younger daughter's birthday. She's as sweet a person as you'll ever hope to meet, and I feel soooo lucky to have her in my life.

Here's just one example of the way she's always been able to make me laugh:

When my two girls were five and three, my mother took them shopping to buy me a gift. I got home from work that day and found them so excited they were about to burst. As if to convince themselves, they kept repeating that they couldn't tell me what was in the package, that I'd just have to wait until the next day to open it. And then there was this:

5-year-old: "I'm gonna give you one hint: It's something for your office."

Me: "Ooooh, goooood, now don't tell me anything else, 'cause I want to be surprised."

3-year-old (dancing around in a frenzy): "Well, she got to give you one hint, so I'm gonna give you one hint, too: When you look at it, you're gonna know what time it is."

Happy birthday, Sweetheart. I love you sooooo much!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunday Morning Coming Up

There was a time when my Sundays were sad and lonely. A time when I needed the hustle and bustle of work to keep my mind off the fact that there was no special man in my life and I didn't know how to cope with that unfamiliar emptiness. A time when Kris Kristofferson spoke to me when he sang this verse of "Sunday Morning Coming Down":

In the park I saw a daddy,
With a laughin' little girl who he was swingin'.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school,
And listened to the song they were singin'.
Then I headed back for home,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'.
And it echoed through the canyons,
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

I'm glad to say those days are long gone. Sundays are special to me now, set aside for the solitude and serenity in which I can nourish my spirit and soak up enough peace of mind to last through the coming week.

I seldom leave home on Sundays. If I do, it's to go somewhere or to some event that will enrich my life, not to shop for soup or laundry detergent. This is the day when I'm most likely to spend time on the phone with someone I miss or pursue a project that stimulates my creativity. The only household chores I'll do on Sunday are those that are satisfying to put behind me; otherwise, the tasks can wait.

On Sundays I have time to think and to feel, to think about how lucky I am to have people in my life whom I love so much, to feel the joy that my pets pump deep into my heart, to bask in the beauty that's been there all along.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Shout "Hallelujah!"

I'm one of the many people who think of themselves as spiritual rather than religious. It's been a long, long time since I've been to church, unless you count weddings, but last night I dreamed about it. In the dream, a friend and I went for the first time to one of those huge mega-churches that are popping up all over. Not the decorous sanctuaries I experienced in the Baptist church of my youth, the Methodist church of my teens, or the oh-so-sophisticated Unitarian Universalist church I attended for a while as an adult. This was the kind of church I see on TV, where the music is lively and the people are standing on their feet, waving their open hands in the air, faces raised up to the Heavens. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Since my dream-friend and I had never attended that kind of church before, we agreed before going inside that we'd just watch the other people and try to blend in--sit when they sat, stand when they stood, etc. It seemed like a good plan, but it started unraveling almost immediately. First of all, we got separated because of the large crowd. I ended up sitting in a section of pews that were placed at an angle to those where my friend sat. From my position I could clearly see her in her front-row seat.

Another person also caught my interest. Standing on the floor in front of the stage and a short distance away from the preacher, there was a lady who was using American Sign Language to interpret the service for a group of deaf people. The deaf people, coincidentally, were in the first few rows near my friend. As the choir sang, the deaf people signed along with the interpretor, "singing" the lyrics, and when the hymn ended, they all quieted their hands and watched the interpretor as she translated what was being said.

The sermon began. I listened to the preacher, but I watched the congregation. I got busy sitting, standing and waving as the others did, and then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something I couldn't quite wrap my brain around. My friend, it seemed, had chosen the interpretor as her model for how to behave in this church. I watched in disbelief as my friend mimicked the sign language motions, moving her hands and fingers, touching her face or her chest, exactly in sync with the interpretor. It was actually quite fascinating.

I didn't want my friend to embarrass herself, so I focused all my energy on her, willing her to look in my direction. When she finally did, I began mimicking the sign language motions, too, accompanying them with a frown and a side-to-side shake of my head. My friend didn't understand that I was signaling her to stop. Instead, my fake-signing seemed to offer her affirmation, so she gave me a big smile and continued even more vigorously. "No sweat," her smile seemed to say. "I'm down with this."

And then I noticed that a couple of the hands-high-in-the-air people were looking back and forth between my friend and me, both of us doing sign language now, and one by one they began joining in. Like a wave at a baseball game, the sign language movement grew from the front of the church to the very last row in the back. The pastor, caught up in the fervor of his own voice, didn't seem to notice. Nor did the interpretor.

As the choir began to sing again, this time a rousing gospel number, the interpretor started swaying to the music while she signed the lyrics, which started my friend and all the deaf people swaying and signing, and then the entire congregation began swaying and signing like crazy, all in unison--all except me. I had stopped by that time and was just standing there, watching all those people dressed up in their Sunday best, joyous expressions on their faces, looking to me like spaced-out, signing line dancers.

The dream ended then, at the point where I was feeling alone in the crowd and wondering (not for the first time in my life) why I was the only one who seemed to think there was a problem with everyone just goin' with the flow.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Stop me before I ruin this

Since the beginning of the week, I've been totally at war with all things technical and/or mechanical. I noticed on Monday--the first day warm enough to turn on the air conditioner--that the A/C didn't seem to be cooling properly. I tested various settings, checked the breakers, etc., and blew it off because I didn't want to think about it that day. At night I kept cool (and a little moist) with the fan on.

On Wednesday, my first workday of the week, I discovered that my cell phone had died. I put it on the charger overnight and still, nothing. Nada. Zip.

So, yesterday I faced reality. I called to arrange for a new cell phone, which should arrive in a day or two, and I called the A/C repairman and asked him to come out today when my daughter could be here to let him in.

This morning, my new toilet started leaking...just a drop every five seconds or so. My son-in-law had told me when he installed it that it might start to leak and that he would come and adjust the bolts if it did. I noticed the leak just as I was leaving for work, so I wrapped a towel around the base of the john and called that good enough for the time being.

This afternoon my daughter called me at work to say that the A/C man wanted to speak to me. He began with the dreaded "I'm afraid I have some bad news," and then talked until he reached $2,090.

Right after I hung up the phone, I realized that my son-in-law would be on his way home from work, so I called to tell him about the toilet leak. After that I started telling him about the call from the A/C man and, for some stupid reason, I began to cry about it. It took me a minute to get a grip and terminate my pity-party, and then I apologized to him for getting all weak and weepy. I said, "It's just so frustrating that all these things are breaking at one time. I'm afraid to go home and touch my computer." He suggested that I might not want to watch TV, either. He said, "Why don't you just read the newspaper; I don't think you can do anything to that."

So, I made it home safely (without car trouble), and I started thinking on the bright side of things, like how my loved ones are all well, and how I'm glad I bought the camera when I did, because if I had waited until the A/C broke, I wouldn't want to spend the money on the camera. You know the kind of thoughts I mean, all the positive, Pollyanna-ish things you tell yourself when everything is going wrong and you want to boost your spirwhextyhgbujiokm ,.[plokmutghvbkj., tyuhn l., pojhbg nm,.mnghn m, quhbmnc

Thursday, March 02, 2006

If you've never seen a bunny in a cloud, you might as well not read this.

I’ve recently had a brief online discussion with a friend about all the considerations involved in selecting new flooring. It’s hard to make a choice. Flooring is a major investment, after all, and with so many options available, it would be easy to pick the wrong one. Add a couple of big, hairy dogs to the mix and the difficulty increases exponentially.

When the old carpet in my living room died (a long, slow asphyxiation by dog hair and other flotsam and jetsam), I learned that choosing a replacement floor that looked beautiful wasn’t nearly as important as choosing one that was dog-friendly and would make my life easier. I was open to a variety of flooring materials, but there was one deal-breaker: It had to be the color of dirt.

After months of looking at flooring samples, I finally chose the floor you see in these photos, and I’m really happy with it. Yes, it’s easy to clean. No, it isn’t too slippery. And there’s another positively delightful bonus: Hidden in the dark spots and whorls of the flooring pattern are dozens of little animal faces that pop out at me as I walk through the house and make me smile every single day. How would anybody ever know to shop for that?!

Can you see the droopy-eyed pup in this tile?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Misty March morning in my backyard

Because I was off work Monday and Tuesday for the Mardi Gras holiday, all the usual Monday madness took place on Wednesday this week. After a chaotic day, a non-nutritious-but-delicious supper of chips and Rotel cheese dip, and a couple of hours of compulsory TV (American Idol and a Barbara Walters special), I'm in a near-zombie state and headed for bed. But if it was a generally unproductive and unspectacular day, I'll take responsibility for it. The day itself started out with the potential to be glorious.