Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Greetings from the infirmary

I had a lovely, peaceful holiday weekend until late Monday afternoon, when some kind of "bug" got hold of me and didn't turn loose. For the next 30-plus hours, I relied on the companionship of my good friend John.

I did make an effort to go to work yesterday, but that lasted only about ten minutes before I turned around and headed back home. Once home, I didn't feel like reading or even watching TV, so I slept almost all day long and then on through the night with no difficulty except that created by a furry intruder.

Late yesterday afternoon, my older daughter came over to stay with me. She'd had a wisdom tooth pulled earlier in the day and wasn't in much better shape than I was. We figured that the two of us together had at least a halfway good chance of taking care of our four dogs in the manner to which they've become accustomed, and it actually worked out pretty well. Would have been fine, in fact, had Lucy not been so excited about the idea of a sleepover. She went from room to room all through the night, jumping on and off the beds to check and see if anyone was awake and willing to play.

This morning I felt weak but well enough to go to work, and I've continued to feel better throughout the day. My daughter, on the other hand, called me this afternoon to tell me she now has whatever bug I had yesterday, so she's still stretched out in my guestroom. The virus was bad enough without the complication of an aching jaw, so she totally has my sympathy.

Two people told me today that there's a virus going around, and I know from experience that if there's one within a 20-mile radius, I'll catch it. That being said, I rarely get colds or flu-type illnesses (knocking on wood here), and I almost never miss work.

Which brings me to the point of all this whining: One day in the 80s, I faked being sick to stay home from work. It was the only time in my life I ever did that, but I woke up just too exhausted to deal with all the crap I expected to come across my desk that day. I really did feel guilty, but I picked up the phone in spite of it, called my boss, and told him I "must have a 24-hour virus or something."

The next day, feeling rested and ready to face whatever came along, I went to work. Within the first 30 minutes I was there, three co-workers called in sick. They all said they thought they'd "picked up whatever it was" that I had.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day


I place white flowers
on the grave
of one young soldier
boy who gave
his life, my own and
yours to save,
to honor him.

Though I may not
in fact agree
this war is a
necessity,
he bravely fought to
keep us free.
I honor him.

And as I watch the
mothers cry
in anguish while their
children die,
there is not one who
questions why
we honor them.

The bravery with
which they fought
to buy the freedom
others sought
came from within,
could not be taught.
We honor them.

The question I would
ask is for
the leaders who have
chosen war:
How many men must
die before
you honor them?


Note: The photo accompanying this original poem was taken at a Civil War reenactment at Magnolia Mound Plantation, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in November 1997.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Extra! Read all about it!

The photos here, taken in 1949 or ‘50, show me and my grand-father, on the same end of the same sofa, engrossed in what we’re reading. Other than love itself, the love of reading may have been the greatest gift I ever got from my mother and the grandparents who raised me. All of them read for the sheer pleasure of it, and I learned early on that it wasn’t something they had to do; it was something they wanted to do.

My mother and grandfather devoured “murder mysteries,” the paperback crime novels that sold for 25 cents each at the drugstore on the corner and featured gruff detectives who worked long hours out of seedy offices to prove that blondes (or brunettes) in tight dresses had killed their hardworking husbands. If you look at the stack of books in the picture I posted yesterday, you’ll see that some of that rubbed off on me. Today’s thrillers are less formulaic, I think, but probably not by as much as I’d like to believe.

My grandmother mostly read magazines, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, and Redbook. She liked articles and stories that were short enough to finish in between household chores. Mammaw was a “good news” kind of person, and the murder mysteries were not for her.

I reveled in comic books, those featuring Disney characters, of course, and especially Little Lulu and my all-time favorite, Archie. (That devious Veronica still makes me mad.) Once I started school, I moved through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series and into the "Ginny Gordon” mysteries. Somewhere along the way I read The Island Stallion, Walter Farley's story about a boy and a beautiful wild horse that haunts me to this day. Those books and all the others took me places I’d never otherwise have gone and introduced me to characters and situations I might or might not have bumped into again in the course of my life.

All of us read the newspaper, and I still remember the first news article I ever read. I was only six years old in April of 1949, when three-year-old Kathy Fiscus fell down a well and died, but I’d heard something about it and wanted to find out for myself exactly what had happened. I’m sure some of the words in the article were unfamiliar to me, but I could read enough of them to understand what had happened, and the story of Kathy and the failed but heroic rescue effort moved me to tears.

One of the books in the stack pictured with yesterday's post, The Great Deluge, by Douglas Brinkley, is about the devastation during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve seen some of the results of Hurricane Katrina firsthand and watched hours and hours of television coverage, but I firmly believe I'll understand it much better after I read about it.

Those of us who live in the internet age are fortunate to have an additional source of reading material: weblogs. Who would ever have believed there’d come a time when individuals across the world, skilled writers or not, would be able to share their innermost thoughts and ideas instantaneously with strangers -– with you and me? And who would ever have imagined how reassuring it would be to read that all those people in all those places, people with different orientations, different lifestyles, and different opinions, have so much in common when it gets right down to the heart of the matter?

I could go on and on, but I'll stop now. I've gotta go read the Sunday paper.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Brown paper packages tied up with strings

Well, not exactly, but when Julie Andrews mentioned them in The Sound of Music as she sang about
"favorite things," I knew exactly what she meant. There are no strings attached to the brown paper (cardboad) packages these days, but I still get just as excited to see them.

I splurged recently on a book club order, then, a few days later, ordered a couple of CDs from Amazon.com. Both packages came at the same time.

It was such fun to browse the actual books, not just their catalog descriptons, and to anticipate the pleasure they'll bring me this summer. I read every night at bedtime and take the settings and characters with me into my dreams. (If you have difficulty reading the titles, you can click on the picture to see it in a larger size.)

I don't buy many CDs. Through experience, I've learned that most of them have one or two great songs and a lot of others I wish I hadn't paid for. Of the two I ordered this time, one is a dud, and the other is amazing. It's been my driving music for the past two days, and I could listen to it over and over.

In fact, I'm gonna go listen to it again, because I have a list of errands to run today. I'll be back later to post something a little more substantive, but in the meantime, if you have a minute, check out Joe Cocker's Greatest Love Songs. Be sure to scroll down and listen to a few samples. If you're like me, you'll find yourself wishing you were slow dancing with somebody.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Beautiful bee bait

Honorable foot in mouth

Have you ever heard something come out of your own mouth that stunned you into a horrified silence? And did the person you were speaking to give you a look that said she wasn’t sure she really heard what she thought she heard?

That happened to me. My face still burns when I think about it, and it’s one of those stories that gets passed around at family gatherings a dozen years after the fact. In order not to embarrass anyone else, I’ll use fake names in this confession.

There’s a really nice lady who lives a mile or two down the road from me. We’ve never spent a lot of time together, but our paths cross occasionally, and we’re connected in a way. Her daughter and my daughter married brothers, which makes our grandchildren first cousins. Our granddaughters are just a couple of years apart in age and have shared a number of activities through the years, so this lady and I have sometimes found ourselves at the same events.

I’ve never known her by anything other than her Americanized name, Patty (let’s say), but she was born in Japan. Although she’s been in the U.S. most of her adult life, her speech still evokes visions of kimonos and cherry blossoms. I adore listening to Patty talk. I’ve always been fascinated by foreign accents, and hers is musical, almost. When I listen to her speak, everything else goes out of my head. I know I shouldn’t, but I find myself concentrating on the sound, more than the substance, of what she’s saying. I let her words and phrases roll around in my mind, and I play with them. Silently (and without moving my lips) I practice saying words the way she says them. WARNING: DO NOT DO THIS!

One night after a dance recital, Patty and I ran into each other outside the LSU Union Building and waited together for our daughters and granddaughters to join us. Neither of us had known beforehand that the other’s granddaughter would be dancing, so each of us had brought along a gift for our own grandchild but nothing for the other girl. We held our separate gift bags and chatted for a few minutes about how nice the recital was and how fast our girls were growing up. Once again, I found myself drawn into Patty’s speech patterns. I was enchanted, and as each sentence came out of her mouth, I mentally mimicked it.

Patty, suddenly becoming aware of the gift situation, blurted out, “Oh, no! I not-ta get-ta nut-tin foh Kaaaay-tee!”

To my intense and endless shame, I immediately responded, “Oh, don’t worry about it, I not-ta get-ta nut-tin foh Staaaay-cee.”

Wouldn’t you just die?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Good job, people

Taylor Hicks is the newest "American Idol," and I couldn't be happier. I'm sure those of you who don't watch and couldn't care less are happy, too, because now I can shut up about it.

Which I'll do.

In a minute.

After this.

YIPPEEEEEE!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This will be a difficult post to write...

...because I can't type...fast with one hand...and I have to use...the other hand to press...redial over and over...to vote for Taylor Hicks. So far tonight I haven't...been able to get through, because...of busy signals, but I...will keep trying until...the two-hour voting window...has expired. From the...beginning of this season...of American Idol, my...favorites have been Chris, Taylor...and Katherine. I thought Chris...had the best voice, and...Katherine has a lovely...voice, too, but every time I pictured...myself going to a...concert starring one of...the Idol hopefuls, I was always...smiling bigger at a Taylor...concert. Chris had rock...idol potential, I thought, and...will probably go in...that direction. Katherine has film star...looks, but I have never tapped...my foot to a single Katherine...song, not even the...fast ones. Taylor, on the...other hand, gets my juices...stirring and pumps rhythm into...this aging body. I'm gonna...give it my best shot tonight, boy...just like you did in...your three performances,...and win or lose, you'll...have my vote in the...form of CD purchases...down the road.

To anybody...who reads this post before...10:00 p.m. SDT, please bookmark...it and come back later. Go on...now, go dial 1-866-IDOLS02 and...show Taylor we love...him.

I have an...idea. I'm gonna go grab the...extension phone. With one...in the right hand and...one in the left, maybe...I can redial fast enough to...get at least one vote in tonight.

Edited at 10:25 p.m. to add: I never got past the busy signal. Not one time. I hope I don't cramp up my typing fingers by sleeping with 'em crossed tonight.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cool dude

It was almost eight o'clock last night before I summoned up the strength of character to drag myself to Wal-Mart. I wouldn't have gone then had I not been out of dogfood, but I'd used up the hurricane-emergency canned dogfood earlier in the weekend and no longer had a backup plan.

It was even more nightmarish at that time of the evening than it would have been earlier in the day. Not as crowded, perhaps, but all the pre-school-aged shoppers were tired, cranky, and prone to letting out sudden, ear-splitting screams. I was at the point of wishing birth control pills could be added to the public water supply until I spotted the little guy in front of me at the checkout stand.

He was probably about five--maybe a tall four--and he was sooooo cute! I'd noticed him in the store earlier, but not because he was one of the screaming, crying, whining kids. Au contraire. He looked like "Joe Cool," trailing casually behind his mama in his jeans and oversized, red-and-navy-striped rugby shirt. His hair was styled in beginner-dreadlocks, and to complete his Lenny Kravitz persona, he wore a pair of wraparound sunglasses. The lenses were smeared with fingerprints, and one earpiece was wrapped in grey duct tape and barely hanging on.

When I saw him again at the checkout stand, he was no longer wearing the glasses. He still wasn't complaining, but he was beginning to squirm a bit and his frequent coughing made it obvious he wasn't feeling too well. And then romance blossomed.

The family in line next to us included a little girl who was about a head shorter than our line's little Rastafarian boy, and she took an immediate fancy to him. She moved over closer until she stood about two feet away from him, smiled her biggest, brighest smile, and silently watched him. When his mother noticed the little girl and pointed her out to him, he whirled around to face her. The cough was immediately cured, and the squirming was gone. He stood perfectly still and studied the little girl for a moment. Then slooooowly, he twisted his body away from her and reached into his pocket. Out came the cool shades. He put them on carefully and, apparently satisfied that his "look" was complete, turned back around, cocked his head ever so slightly, and posed once more for his admirer.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Stinging critter-cism


It was so nice of this wasp to stand still for a moment so I could capture his digital essense. (How in the world did I ever get along without this camera?)



Now all I have to do is destroy his home and family, and we'll be all set.

Ta-dah! A "chicken" post

I've been checking Patsy's daily posts about chickens (love those new baby chick pics, by the way) and feeling woefully inadequate in the poultry department. Lo and behold, I found this poem, written waaaaay back in my corporate days. I realize Patsy's chickens are much nicer than the one I wrote about, but this is pretty much all that's in my chicken repertoire:

FOWL MOOD

The banty rooster puffs his chest
in silk tweed suit or feathered breast,
declaring he’s the very best
to anyone who’ll hear him.

In barnyard or in boardroom, he
proclaims superiority
and clucks and crows incessantly
that others should revere him.

He struts and flaps his wings a bit
to compensate for lack of wit
and stirs up dust and chickenshit;
the smell still lingers near him.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Baby Face

It’s funny how the little things stick with you, things nobody would expect you to remember.

In the Spring of 1948 my mother took my sister and me from our home in Missouri to Chicago, Illinois, where my father was stationed in the military. Mother had already filed for divorce, and this trip was a last-ditch (ultimately unsuccessful) effort at reconciliation, although I'm sure I didn't know that at the time.

We were in Chicago for approximately three weeks, during which we stayed in two different hotels. Mother told me years later that the hotels were awful, with garbage littering the halls. For other reasons, too, the trip was a nightmare for her, but the few memories I have of it are good ones.

The first place we stayed in Chicago was a small room with twin beds that pretty much filled it up. It must have been confining for a young woman with a five-year-old and a toddler. What I remember, though, is the good time I had sitting on one of the beds and using red plastic safety scissors to cut shapes out of slices of white bread. It was a really fun thing to do, and I was kind of surprised that Mother was letting me do it. I also recall eating breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The taste of the waffles there (my first maybe?) set the standard for every waffle I’ve ever eaten since.

Our second hotel room was much larger, at least from a five-year-old’s perspective. I vaguely remember beds and chairs, but the big attraction was a roll-top desk. I loved that desk. I’ve played “office”–-or worked in one--practically my whole life. I wonder if that desk got me started.

Our room in the second hotel was a couple of stories up from the ground floor, but the windows opened wide (no air conditioning back then), and I remember sitting in the open window, my arms folded and propped on the windowsill. Both the warm sunshine and a cool breeze kissed my face as I watched the hustle and bustle on the street below, and somewhere outside, not too far away, someone’s radio played this song:

Baby Face,
You've got the cutest little
Baby face,
There's not another one
Could take your place,
Baby face,
My poor heart is jumpin’,
You sure have started somethin',
Baby face,
I'm up in heaven
When I'm in your fond embrace,
I didn't need a shove
Cause I just fell in love
With your pretty baby face.



“Baby Face” was recorded in 1948 by Art Mooney & His Orchestra
Words & music by Benny Davis & Harry Akst

UPDATE - 3/23/2013:
I came across this post today, did a quick check on YouTube, and learned that "Baby Face," which wasn't available when I wrote the above blog entry, has since been posted on YouTube. Thanks to TheLimePopsicle for putting it up there. Now you can listen to it if you want to.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Welcome home, I think

What a weird 10 minutes I just spent. I drove up to my carport after work and noticed a huge bird sitting on top of the next-door neighbor's shed, just on the other side of my driveway. I grabbed the camera, sneaked around the back of the house, and managed to get half a dozen shots of this peahen before it ambled down the other side of the shed roof.

Back inside, the dogs were protesting loudly that I hadn't allowed them to go with me. I let them outside and started uploading the peahen photos, and in about three minutes, they were back. I brought them in, gave them treats, and turned back toward the computer, then heard choking and gagging sounds behind me. I turned around to see Butch hunching his shoulders and trying to expel the big jerky strip he'd inhaled without chewing. He was obviously in distress and couldn't catch his breath. I began doing what I guessed to be the doggy-version of the Heimlich maneuver (during which time Kadi tried her best to wedge her big yellow-orange body between Butch's and mine), and the jerky strip popped back into Butch's mouth--and he promptly tried once more to swallow it whole. He choked again, and I Heimliched again, and eventually he began breathing normally and chewing the big lump that had landed back in his mouth. Scared the crap outta me!

He's fine now. He asked to go back outside, so now he's happily walking the fenceline, wagging his tail and trying to attract the attention of the neighbor.

The peahen, by the way, isn't a total rarity in our neighborhood. There's a patch of woods across the road from my house. Behind that patch of woods is a bird sanctuary, so we get strange feathered visitors every now and then. I like that.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

And she wasn't even a blonde

I was thinking today of an old friend, "D", who moved away several years ago. Lousy correspondent that I am, I've lost touch with her, but we shared a lot of laughs in our time together. "D" was a super-bright woman, extremely intelligent under normal circumstances, but she did admit to an occasional mental lapse. Since I don't know where she is, and she doesn't know I'm here, I'll share this story at her expense:

One evening "D" and her husband were relaxing outside, enjoying a cool drink, when he suddenly stood up and walked to her car. He leaned down, rubbed his hand across the top side of one of her brand new tires, and pointed out a bad scrape.

He: "What happened to your new tire?"

She: "I have no idea. I've never seen that before."

He: "Did you run over something in the last day or two?"

She: "Noooo...well, I rubbed against the curb, but that would have been on the bottom."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Resusci-Annie and the big, bad boss

I hadn't thought of this story in years, but it came up in conversation today and I need to tell it now, before I forget it again.

In the mid-70s my family lived on Long Island, New York, and I worked in the marketing department of a well-known fast food restaurant chain. My direct supervisors were nice guys, but the head honcho was one of the most arrogant men (he was second most, actually) I ever met. On top of that, he had a beastly temper, snarling and snapping every word he spoke. Most of us just did our best to stay out of his way.

One day, to the surprise of everyone there, a Resusci-Annie dummy was delivered to the office. We learned later that Annie was to be used in training restaurant personnel how to do chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but on that day we had no idea what she was or why she was there. All we knew was that someone had delivered a suitcase, somebody else had opened it, and there inside, all folded up, was a dead-looking blonde with a bad haircut. Annie's plastic body was dressed in a polyester jogging suit that had fake white tennis shoes attached to the ends of the empty legs.

As luck would have it, on the day Annie arrived, the big chief was not expected to be in the office. It didn't take long for creative marketing minds to run wild. In a matter of minutes, Annie was ensconced in the boss's luxurious private office, reclining comfortably in his enormous, expensive leather chair. Her empty pants legs stretched out before her, one crossed casually over the other, and her tennis-shod feet rested on his desk. One plastic hand held the telephone, the other had a cigarette wedged between its fingers.

About ten of us surrounded Annie, laughing and admiring our cleverness, when the receptionist gave us a heads-up that the boss had returned unexpectedly and had just stepped off the elevator. In your whole life, you never saw people scatter any faster than we did that day, and by the time the boss walked through the front door, all of us were back in place and studiously taking care of business. All of us except Annie, that is; we'd had to abandon her.

As usual, the boss didn't speak to anyone as he entered his inner sanctum and closed the door behind him. We all braced for an immediate explosion, but it didn't come. Heads stayed down, and eyes started sending nervous, questioning glances. For about five minutes, we heard nothing.

All of a sudden, the door burst open and out he came, the lifeless body of Resusci-Annie in his arms. He charged across the floor into the middle of the secretarial pool. There, as jaws dropped, he raised Annie high above his head, then dashed her to the floor. Face red and eyes bulging, he glared at the jumbled heap of Annie. All eyes were glued to the scene and there was a shocked, dead silence, until he growled, in his most menacing voice, "Now, when I say 'type faster,' goddammit, I mean type faster!"

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I love being a mom...

...but I've always thought Mother's Day was a trumped-up holiday designed mainly to profit florists and card companies. Maybe I feel that way because I'm lucky, because my kids show their love in various ways all year long, and it feels kind of like overkill to have a special day set aside for it.

Nevertheless, I racked up today! I'd told my girls there wasn't anything I wanted or needed, and darned if they didn't come up with exactly what I wanted and needed: a book on photography, another on creating websites, and the absolutely perfect camera case.

My older daughter remembered that I'd recently mentioned I'd like to learn more about HTML code, so she got me this book. Not wanting to offend me on Mother's Day with the "Dummies" part of the title, and being the creative person she is, she modified the cover to look like this:


She also changed the spine to read: "Creating Web Pages for Mommies." Cute, huh?


In the early afternoon, my granddaughter and her fiance had us over to their new home, which I hadn't seen until today. It's beautiful. We stuffed ourselves on boiled crawfish and laughed almost to the point of tears as we told stories on one another. There's nothing I enjoy more than the high of a good belly laugh, and my family is full of natural comedians.

Now I'm home, resisting the temptation to take a nap. I still have the whole Sunday newspaper to read, and tonight's finale of Survivor will wrap up a perfect day. Thanks again, kiddos!





P.S. Happy Mother's Day, Wanda June! I miss ya'.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Heeeeeey batter batter batter batter

Thinking about it, I can almost feel the summer heat. My grandfather sat on the front porch, smoking hand-rolled Bull Durham cigarettes, listening intently to the play-by-play of the St. Louis Cardinals as the distinctive voice of Harry Caray wafted through the open window. Like lightning bugs, fresh corn on the cob, and the swimming pool at Fassnight Park, baseball on the radio was a natural part of summer in my childhood.

The team pictured here includes my father, Paul (front row, second from left), and his older brother, Harold (front row, far right). They may not have had much in the way of uniforms or equipment, but these boys had heart. This photo was taken (about 70 years ago) because they were the city champs that year.

My mother, too, loved baseball, especially the Houston Astros. On a table next to her favorite chair, she kept a notebook in which she religiously recorded the stats of each game she watched. After she died, my brother honored her with an "in memorium" brick at Houston's Enron Stadium, where the Astros played. I couldn't imagine anything she'd like more.

Somehow, I missed the baseball gene that has blazed a trail through my family for generations. But I'm a carrier. I passed it on.

As I write this, my younger daughter and her family have just returned from Lafayette, Louisiana, where my grandson's high school team had a playoff game. My daughter loves baseball so much she would snort it if she could. She and her family follow the children's teams wherever they go, then spend the rest of their summer in Alex Box Stadium with the LSU Tigers.

My grandson, shown catching here, has played ball almost his whole life. His Dixie Boys League team made it to the nationals a few times, and his love of the game keeps him playing still.

Even though the baseball bug has never bitten me personally, I have to recognize and respect a game that's brought so much joy to so many people since the early 19th century. Today my thoughts are with all the boys and girls of summer in my family -- past and present. I love your spirit and enthusiasm.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Shutting down

I click my mouse on the red “turn off” button, and in mere seconds, Microsoft’s musical tones signal that the shut-down process has begun. For the rest of the night, at least, I’ve left cyberspace and returned to my other plane of existence.

The instant those musical notes hit the air, I hear other familiar sounds: the “whufffffff” of large dogs rolling over on leather cushions, one on the futon just across the room and another on the sofa all the way in the living room. I hear toenails scrabbling as eight paws hit the floor. Jingling tags tell me Butch and Kadi are stretching and shaking off the sleep that gripped them only seconds ago. Before I’m out of my chair, both of them are moving toward me, tails wagging. To them, the musical shut-down tones mean the beginning of our nighttime ritual. “Mom’s finished,” they seem to be thinking. “Oh, boy!

I open the back door to let them out into the yard one last time. Butch waits on the patio while Kadi heads into the grass and finds the perfect spot to squat. Then, in spite of his sightlessness, he makes a beeline to that exact spot and lifts his leg to cover Kadi’s scent with his own.

While they’re outside, I turn off lamps and the TV, carry Butch’s favorite big, round, corduroy-covered bed from the den to “our” room, and put on my nightgown. Before I finish, I hear them back at the door. Butch scratches it with his paw while Kadi stands back and waits. I open the door to let them in, and Butch doesn’t stop for even a moment. He trots past me and the big bookcase, hooks a wide right into the dining room and around the table, passes through the gate of our indoor picket fence, makes a hard right turn and runs the remaining distance into the bedroom. There, he does a quick one-eighty to stand facing the doorway and wait for me.

Kadi, in the meantime, stays on my heels, watching every move I make to be sure I don’t forget the “big ol’ biscuits” that are their standard bedtime treat. She watches me open the bag, then moves in to check my hand: “Yup, she’s got ‘em.” Satisfied, she follows closely while I turn off the overhead lights. As I close the gate behind us (to keep her from sneaking in to sleep on the forbidden soft-yellow chair), she runs ahead to the bedroom doorway and stands at attention beside Butch. They get their biscuits and eat them while I brush my teeth, then I set the alarm and we settle in for the night.

We are creatures of habit. The Microsoft music is Pavlov, and all three of us are his dogs.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

IDOLiked to see Katherine go home...

...so now I'm really bummed. Every one of the final four American Idol contestants has a lot of talent, but I don't think Katherine is in the same league with Chris, Taylor and Elliott. She's a beautiful girl (even though she does have the shoulder span of a linebacker) and she has a very nice voice. She'd be fun to watch as the next Kelly Ripa (a/k/a the next Kathie Lee Gifford). But, people, Chris Daughtry is an awesome singer. What have you done?!?

The only way I can rationalize the shocking results of tonight's show is to believe that a lot of the voters assumed Chris was safe and threw their votes to Katherine, who was in danger after last night's performance. That coulda happened. Tragically stupid, but possible.

In spite of his unfortunate elimination, I have the utmost faith that Chris is gonna go on and do great things, music-wise. He's got the whole package.

Elliott Yamin, too, can have a good career, I think. He seems to be a sweet, sweet guy with a huge heart. He's easy to listen to (if you like easy listening), and Billy Joel can't hold on to the "America's-favorite-singing-elf" title forever.

That leaves me rootin' for the eminently entertaining Taylor Hicks. Come on, Homeboy, I'm countin' on you to really bring it next week.

Blog brightener from the Baton Rouge Zoo

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A really good guess, if you see what I mean

One segment on this morning's Today show featured an elementary school class in which the students had elected to use their recess time to learn Braille. They were doing this in support of two visually impaired classmates. For obvious reasons, this story made me smile, and it produced a second wave of smiles by reminding me of something my sister once told me.

A few hurricane seasons back, my sister and her extended family were forced to evacuate inland from their Texas Gulf Coast homes. They ended up staying at a multi-story hotel. My niece was riding up in the elevator with her son, "J.C.", who was about 7 at the time, when he noticed the Braille markings on the elevator buttons. As nearly as I can remember the story, their conversation went something like this:

J.C.: "Look, Mama, these buttons have those bumps on them that you touch if you can't see."

J.C.'s Mom: "Um-hmm, do you know what that's called?"

J.C.: "Uhhhhhhh, I don't know, hand-eye coordination?"

Monday, May 08, 2006

Hindsight

On a warm, spring Saturday when I was 12, I'd been given permission to ride the city bus to meet a friend for an afternoon movie. It wasn't the first time I'd be riding the bus alone, but it was the first time I wouldn't have to report to an adult at the other end of the line.

I can't even remember which friend was in on this scheme, but I do recall that we'd arranged to meet two boys (suave, mature 12-year-olds) at the movies. We knew we didn't technically have dates with them, but we felt pretty grown-up just because we'd be sitting next to members of the opposite sex.

Tony R., the boy who was to be my "movie-partner," was a neighborhood kid I'd known from first grade on. He'd always been just a schoolmate, never even a playmate and certainly never anybody I'd considered boyfriend material. He wasn't bad looking, though, and in my mind on that day, I was woman, he was man.

I gave a lot of thought to what I'd wear and finally chose a simple cotton dress that my mother had made. It was a medium-purple cotton, constructed of two A-shaped panels, front and back sewn together at the sides, each panel gathered at the top onto a white band. The white bands tied together at the shoulders to hold the dress up, and there was a third white band that gathered up all the fabric and tied around the waist. It was a little girl's dress. In fact, I'm pretty sure my eight-year-old sister had one just like it. Because I was a young girl, the dress would have been appropriate had I not chosen to accessorize it the way I did.

For years, I'd admired my mother's opal jewelry, its strands of large stones sparkling yellow and pink and purple, each stone completely surrounded by orchid-colored rhinestones that exactly matched my little cotton dress. My mother wore it only for fancy occasions. The big clip-on earrings pinched, so I didn't bother with them, but I smuggled the necklace and bracelet into my pocket. On my walk to the bus stop, I put them on and knew with absolute certainty that I looked stunning.

Nothing at all memorable happened at the movies. The boys were goofy, as 12-year-old boys usually are, and Tony didn't even seem to notice how sophisticated I'd become since he'd seen me at school the day before. After the movie we went our separate ways. I put the jewelry back in my pocket and rode the bus home, where I slipped it safely back into my mom's jewelry box. As far as I know, nobody was ever the wiser about the jewelry or about the boys.

For some reason, that day has stuck in my head. Although nobody told me I looked ridiculous, it didn't take long for me to realize that I had, and it's bugged me all these years. Not that that's the last time I ever made a fool of myself, no indeed, but that I felt so extremely confident while looking like a little girl playing dress-up.

Even now, long after I've learned to see the humor in the situation, if I think about that day too long, the self-doubt starts creeping in. Am I still completely clueless? Are there still occasions when I do stupid things of which I am totally unaware? If I live long enough, will there come a time in my 80s when I look back and cringe at what a jerk I was in my 60s? God, I hope not.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Honk if you love geeses

I just got off the phone with my sister. She and her husband have a beautiful home in East Texas. Their yard backs up to a lake, and when I've been there, I've enjoyed the peacefulness of sitting outside, watching the ducks swim by and an occasional fish jump out of the water. Don't let this idyllic setting fool you, though; nice as it is, it's not trouble-free.

While we were talking, my sister heard a rapping noise. She went to investigate and found a well-fattened goose pecking persistently on her back door, looking for a breadcrumb handout. She had to shoo him away three times while we talked. By the end of our conversation, she was thinking she might like him better roasted.

This wouldn't be so funny, except our mama raised city girls. I'm still laughing.

Friday, May 05, 2006

His No. 1 Concern

Just finished watching "America's Funniest Videos," in spite of the fact that I had no intention of watching it. I never watch it intentionally, but if I don't change the channel immediately, I somehow get sucked into it again. Anyway, seeing the usual bunch of take-a-hit-in-the-groin clips reminded me of my grandson.

He's 16 years old now, a big guy who plays baseball and football and suffers his share of sports injuries with courage and dignity. When he was little, though, he was much more concerned about the hazards of this ol' world.

He was about four or five when we drove past the framework of a large home under construction. He craned his neck to take a longer look and said, "What kind of wood is that? That grey wood?"

"That's not wood," I replied. "It's steel."

"What is steel?" he asked, and I explained that steel is a very, very hard kind of metal, so hard that it would make the house much stronger than it would be if it were made of wood.

He thought about that for a moment, pressed his lips together and shook his head slowly from side to side. "Mmmmmmm," he said. "Sure would hurt your privates if you fell on steel."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

War babies, reunions, and letters from home

This picture was taken in 1946, within a month or two of exactly 60 years ago, and these two little girls are the daughters of American soldiers. The child on the left is me, and the other little girl is my cousin, the daughter of my father's sister. I was born a little less than a year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and this little cousin was born about 16 months after me.

As nearly as we can figure it, we haven't seen each other since about 1956. Separated by miles and years, we've come together recently through e-mails, and for the past few days she's been giving me a daily synopsis of what she's been reading -- and I am enchanted.

Unlike my own parents, whose marriage didn't last much beyond the war, my cousin's parents have stayed married all these years. And the marriage isn't the only thing to survive; they've saved all the letters they wrote to each other during World War II. Their children have organized the letters chronologically, and my cousin is reading them and passing on pertinent bits and pieces to me. Her e-mails plunge me back into history, letting me see it on a personal level for the first time through the eyes and words of my aunt and uncle.

My mom and my aunt hung out together while their husbands were away, so sometimes my mom and I were mentioned in my aunt's letters. It's fun to read about their daily lives and the things they did together to pass the time. What's really interesting, though, is hearing about the experiences of the soldiers in the field.

In September of 1944, my uncle wrote about a week-long ocean voyage that ended when his company arrived in France. Within a day after landing, he learned that my dad's company was less than a mile away. My uncle walked there and found my dad. Can you imagine how great it was for these men to find family so far from home?

In the 1990s, my dad talked to me on several occasions about the war, and each time he talked about it, he cried. It wasn't until that late in his life that I had any inkling of the long-term effects of his war experiences. He didn't go into too many details, but he made me understand that war really is hell. From that frame of reference, I was incredibly moved when reading of his reunion with his brother-in-law in France, and their adventures together over the next few days.

God bless my aunt and uncle for saving their letters. God bless our soldiers.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Am I the last person in the free world...

...to read Dan Brown’s most famous novel?

I bought The DaVinci Code months ago in response to all the hype, but for some reason I’ve kept moving it back in my books-to-read-soon pile in favor of other titles. I guess I thought the gimickry of it was what made it so popular, but now that I am reading it, it’s hard to put down. Now, I feel foolish that I didn’t start it sooner.

...to discover Buffalo-style hot wings?

Why I never tried these until recently, I couldn’t begin to tell you, but I’ve made up for lost time since my daughter introduced me to them a couple of months ago. So far, I’ve sampled hot wings from about five different places. You know which ones I like best? The ones you can buy in a big bag in the freezer section at Wal-Mart and heat in your oven. They’re distributed by Tyson Foods. Really, really good! (And, by the way, Tyson is where Patsy, whose birthday is today, used to work.)

...to see not even a single Star Wars movie?

Whatever. I can live with that.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Have you seen this weed?

Yesterday I wrote about animal pests, and today, to demonstrate my great versatility, I've moved on to pests of the plant variety. I think I might have one of those, too. Not sure.

You see, I read Mike's post about his battle with the wicked Oxalis plant and began to worry that the delicate little yellow flowers scattered about my own backyard might be Oxalis, too. I'd never worried about them before--never given them much thought one way or the other, actually--but a seed of doubt had been planted in my fertile mind.

I commented on Mike's blog to thank him for alerting me to the potential for damage, and in response he gave me the additional information that Oxalis is sometimes known as Sour Grass and is actually kind of tasty.

So now I've put the worry on hold and have settled for the moment on confusion. I don't think Sour Grass is what I have. I remember chewing on Sour Grass dozens of times in both Missouri and Texas, and it was different from what I have here in Louisiana. What I knew as Sour Grass had clusters of three smooth-edged, heart-shaped leaves. The stuff I have now is similar in size and also has clusters of three leaves, but as the picture above shows, my current plant's leaves are pointy, with ragged edges. The flowers are a little different, too (aside from the fact that the one pictured was smooshed in my scanner), with narrower leaves than the Sour Grass I remember.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the berries. I don't know whether one plant makes the little yellow flowers and the berries, or whether there are two weeds, with similar leaves, vying for the same spot of ground. Everywhere the little yellow flowers were, though, there were also tiny, strawberry-looking thingies, each about the size of the nail on my pinky finger. I'm saying "were" because there are almost no flowers left and not one single berry, and I hadn't even noticed they were gone. The picture at left shows what it all looked like a couple of months ago.

I'll add, in case it provides a clue, that the plant that's in my yard grows very close to the ground. I suppose I could also give it the taste test, but I'll pass, if you don't mind. There are too many dogs in my backyard.

So what do you think, Mike? Does this look like your Oxalis? Any ideas, you gardeners out there?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Uninvited houseguests

For the second time in as many weeks, there’s a lizard in my house. The one shown here posed for the photo-op, then jumped down onto a book, so I quickly picked up the book and dumped him outside.

The more recent intruder, however, was too fast for me and didn't land on anything portable. He was on the outside of the glass storm door, casing the joint, when Kadi spotted him and barked to alert me to his presence. (Her mission in life is to actually catch one of the little green suckers.)

I made the mistake of opening the door to let Kadi out, thinking she’d scare the lizard away, and she did. He ran away from her. He ran as fast as he could around the edge of the door and into the house. I watched him race across the den in a green flash, and the last time I saw him, he was in the dining room. He leaped from the wall onto the back of a chair, then disappeared under the table. For a split second, I thought about going under there, but the idea of getting tangled up in all the dining chairs with a leaping lizard was more than I wanted to tackle.

I’ll admit to being kind of spooked by the idea that he’s around here somewhere, meandering over my things at his leisure. I’m not afraid of these little lizards, and as long as I see this one before he sees me, everything will be fine. But I don’t like the idea that we might surprise one another, which could make him jump on me.

And if Kadi spots him first? There go the table lamps!