Friday, June 30, 2006

When hubby was a hothead

Fast forward 18 years from the road trip I wrote about yesterday and you'll be in 1978 -- on another road trip. This time I was one of the parents in the front seat, and my daughters, then 14 and 16, were the bored, irritable teens hugging their respective windows in the rear.

We'd been living for a couple of years in Vidalia, Georgia (home of the famous sweet onions) and were on our way back there from Louisiana (where I am now). My husband had a job offer in Louisiana, so our whole family had made a fast trip here to check out the area. It was a long way to go -- 520 miles each way -- over a three-day-period, and we were all exhausted.

Heading east, the blazing sun was in our eyes all morning long. Three of us found some relief as the sun moved overhead around noon, but my husband's discomfort just got worse. This was our first long trip in my new car, a brand-new 1978 Chrysler Cordoba (which turned out to be a very beautiful piece of crap). My husband's head was only a couple of inches from the top of the car, and the glass T-tops focused the sun's rays directly on the little bald patch that had recently broken through on the crown of his head. The hotter his scalp got, the more agitated he became.

Time was of the essence on this trip, but as soon as we came to a service station, we stopped to try to find him some kind of cap to wear. We bought soft drinks, potato chips and pecan rolls to go, but they had no hats of any kind. The cashier told us the next place to stop would be about 30 miles farther down the road.

Back on the road, my husband was starting to fume and was beginning to curse the car and the sun under his breath. We gals sympathized with him, but each of us, individually, had also apparently noted the humorous aspect of his predicament. Not that we would have mentioned it; it wasn't the time or the place to be funny.

Teenagers, as you know, are all about "cool," and they rarely use "cool" and "parents" in the same sentence. It's not difficult for us parents to embarrass our teenaged children even by the way we breathe, so it goes without saying that things we put on our bodies are mostly all wrong. My husband didn't understand those basic facts, however, so as he drove on down the road, and as the sun continued its attempts to boil his brain, he got desperately MacGyver-ish and simply laid a Kleenex on top of his head.

I didn't say a word, but I casually glanced into the backseat and sent a "don't-you-dare-laugh" look to my daughters. Their eyes were about to pop out of their heads, and that little bit of eye contact was all it took to send them into fits of silent hysteria. They ducked their heads. They clamped their lips together. They pressed their hands over their mouths. They wrapped their arms around themselves and held their sides. Their faces contorted and their bodies shook like jackhammers. Every time another car passed us and its passengers glanced our way, a new wave of embarrassment would wash over my girls and they'd have to fight that much harder to keep the laughter from spilling over. The loud music on the car radio was the only thing that saved them.

The time it took us to drive that next 30 miles was as good a time as I've ever had without being able to laugh out loud, but we made it to the hat-getting place wihout further incident. The laughing-out-loud part came later and hasn't ended yet.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jesse James's Hideout

I mentioned in yesterday's post that the last time I saw my paternal grandmother was when I was 16 years old. By that time I'd been living in Texas for three years with my mother, sister, new stepfather, and new baby brother, and this was the second vacation trip we'd made back to Missouri.

We spent the biggest chunk of our vacation time with my mom's parents, the ones whose home I'd grown up in. Their house was right by the campus of what was then known as Southwest Missouri State Teachers College, and, for as long as I could remember, my grandparents rented spare rooms to college students.

That particular summer their only roomer was a young student whom I'll call "Larry." Larry had just finished his freshman year, and college had been tough on him. First of all, he was away from home for the first time, and secondly, he had such a bad stutter that it was difficult for him to carry on a conversation. All in all, he was kind of a lonely boy.

From Missouri, we were going on to Kentucky to visit my stepdad's family. Our trip would take us through the outskirts of St. Louis, where Larry's family lived, and midway through our stay in Missouri, it was decided that we'd give Larry a ride home.

Bear in mind that this was in the days before cars were air conditioned, and we were traveling in July or August. The two adults, two adolescents, and two-year-old boy who had arrived in Missouri made room for a 19-year-old stranger for several hot, sticky hours.

Looking back on that trip, I can't believe our parents let us be so rude, but poor Larry had to sit in the middle of the backseat, between my sister and me. When she and I had the backseat to ourselves, we'd get mad at each other if somebody's foot strayed across the invisible center line of the car space, so once Larry was plopped down between us, his feet on the hump over the driveshaft, we each scooted over to our separate windows and didn't even attempt to have a conversation. We were hot, tired, bored, and irritable.

Mother and Daddy weren't talking much either because my little brother was sleeping, so we drove in relative silence. About halfway to St. Louis, we started seeing signs that announced the number of miles we'd have to drive until we reached "Jesse James's Hideout." The first sign was mildly interesting, but as we continued on our way, we started seeing them so frequently that each one seemed to be just one more annoying blight on the landscape. After miles and miles of uninterrupted silence, Larry broke the ice and won our hearts when he suddenly spoke up from his perch in the backseat: "J-J-Jesse J-J-J-James' Huh-huh-huh-hideout," he stammered. "N-n-n-n-no wonder they f-f-f-found him!"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

If God's in His Heaven, then Audrey's still singing

This is my grandmother Audrey, mother of my father, when she was ten years old, and this is the picture that moved me to tears when it was given to me recently. If ever I saw innocence in my life, I see it here in her face.

Audrey was born in 1900. Her childhood, from all I've learned, wasn't a particularly happy one. She was the only child of her father, whom her mother divorced when she was very young. Subsequently, her mother remarried and had four more daughters. As the oldest girl, Audrey no doubt had a lot of responsibility for the care of her younger sisters, and there must have been times when she felt like Cinderella among her half-sisters (although I doubt they were wicked ones).

Audrey grew up and married a kind, gentle, hardworking man, and together they had nine children. As you can imagine, that wasn't an easy life either, but she did what it took to get the job done and then raised three grandchildren besides.

I remember my grandmother Audrey clearly from family get-togethers, but I never felt I knew her well. I know she must have been a patient person, because she let me play her upright piano for long stretches of time. She didn't stop me as I tried over and over again to pick out simple tunes, even though my wrong notes and frequent start-overs must have driven her insane.

I was 16 the last time I saw her. The fact that I'm possibly the worst communicator in the world may be the reason why the letters we exchanged, infrequent even in the beginning, eventually stopped altogether. I'm sure she wrote to a lot of people who took the time to write back to her, and I didn't hold up my end of the bargain.

Recently, through aunts and uncles and cousins, I've learned a lot more about my grandmother's life. I've learned that my own love of writing may have been inherited from her and that all the time she was managing her large household, she dreamed of becoming a published writer. My aunts have sent me copies of some of her stories. All I could think of as I read them was how much she'd have enjoyed living in the Internet age, where a fledgling writer has so much access to an audience. I think she would have been thrilled at the endless possibilities.

Even though my grandmother's written words haven't been published, the Internet has given her a taste of immortality in another way. I didn't know it, but when she was 70 years old, she participated with many others in a very special music project. I discovered this years and years later, more than a decade after she passed away, when I googled her name one day. I'd done it before without interesting results, but that day I struck gold. I clicked on the link, paused for a few moments to grasp what it was I'd stumbled across, then scrolled down until I found her: Barclay, Audrey. I clicked again on a title below her name and, for the first time since 1959, heard her familiar voice. That day, for the first time I could remember, I heard my grandmother sing.

The project is known as The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection, and I'm grateful beyond words for its existence.

Monday, June 26, 2006

"Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning..."

As much as I admire people who wake up full of energy and rarin' to meet the day, I've never been one of them. Mornings and I have always been just a little bit at odds.


Part of that, I'm sure, is a direct result of loving to read so much that I can't make myself put the book down in time to get all the sleep I need. Another part comes from love, too, love of this "nest" I've made for myself. It's nothing fancy, but I hate to leave it to go to work each day. I hate the rushing around to get ready for work, and I hate the inevitable morning traffic. I'd prefer just to cuddle my dogs and ease gently into the day.

I drive home from work on the interstate, but post-Katrina traffic makes it impossible to make the necessary left turn to go that way in the morning. Instead, I take a back road, a little two-lane country road that winds along the banks of a canal. The parish I live in (if you remember your geography lessons, you know that Louisiana is the only state that has parishes instead of counties) hasn't had much in the way of zoning ordinances until the past 15 or 20 years, so this little road takes me past beautiful new homes, tumbledown shacks, industrial sites, a baseball park, a cemetery, a golf course, a falling-down trailer with rusty old cars and trash all over the yard, a well-kept stable, and one bar whose name was painted on the front in the handwriting of its owner. Scattered throughout this hodge-podge of manmade structures are patches of natural beauty.

I never look forward to my drive to work, but once I've turned off the main road and onto this one, it gets better. I know every little twist and turn this road makes. I know where I'll see the goats on the far side of the canal and where the geese will be gathered, and I know there are a few places where the early morning light will shine so beautifully through the trees that I'll be glad to be awake in spite of my grumpy self. It's that glorious light, more than anything else, that pulls me out of a sleepy fog and helps me make peace with the morning.


Morning Has Broken

Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird,
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,
Praise for the springing fresh from the world.

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall on the first grass,
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning,
Born of the one light Eden saw play,
Praise with elation, praise every morning,
God's recreation of the new day.


As sung by Cat Stevens,
(Lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Master of his domain

Butch's blindness hasn't diminished his determination to protect "his" property. He seems to know immediately when a strange dog comes around, and he makes sure the new dog knows not to mess with his yard.

Since yesterday afternoon, the biggest yellow lab I've ever seen has been hanging around my next-door neighbor's yard. He's an enormous, muscular, fully intact male and seems to be attracted to my neighbor's girlie dog, who is following him around with a big doggy-smile on her face, as if her handsome prince has finally arrived.

It isn't unusual for Kadi to wake me in the middle of the night, but Butch rarely does. At 4:00 a.m. this morning, though, he nudged me with such an urgency that I was sure Nature must be calling him on the Red Phone. Nope, that wasn't it. Stranger-Dog was back, and Butch's urgent need was to go outside to bark at him. At 4:00 a.m. When all my neighbors were sleeping.

As soon as I figured out what Butch's game was, I began trying to get him back inside the house to end it. He couldn't see my waving arms, obviously, and he couldn't hear my whispers because of his barking. I didn't want to yell his name. If there was any chance that his barking hadn't disturbed the neighbors, I didn't want my yelling to wake them. (Besides, if I didn't yell his name, maybe they wouldn't realize which neighborhood dog was being the nuisance.) Finally, he stopped barking to take a breath, and I called out one word: "Treats!"

That did it. Maybe he thought that was a way to back down without losing face. "Okay, Big Guy," he might have growled. "You lucked out this time, because I don't want to miss out on the biscuit, but you and I both know I coulda kicked your ass."

After that, we slept until it was really morning, and then I let Butch and Kadi outside again. Stranger-dog was still there. I didn't see him when I first opened the door, but Butch took off running toward the fence as if his tail were on fire and started up the fierce barking all over again. When I put on my robe and stepped outside, the first thing I saw was our little fig tree shaking wildly. On the other side of the fence, Stranger-Dog stood perfectly still, watching the action intently but apparently not too disturbed about it. Then I saw Butch. He was behind the fig tree, barking furiously, and wiggling for all he was worth to scratch his butt on the fence. Whoa! I bet that intimidated the big fellow.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

One small boy took it personally

CNN just reported that Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in the early hours of this morning. I can't imagine what her life has been like since the death of her daughter, Jon Benet, in 1997.

Count me among the ever-growing number who believe Patsy had nothing to do with Jon Benet's murder. Nothing, in my opinion, could be worse than to lose a child under those circumstances; Patsy's pain must have been unbearable. I understand that suspicion must always fall first upon those in the family, those closest to the victim, but to have had to deal with so much suspicion and notoriety on top of the loss of a beloved child is beyond my imagination.

In the weeks after Jon Benet's murder, when it was the subject of continuous speculation on TV newscasts, most of the adults I knew were caught up in the story and hungry for new information. We "tsk-tsked" about the beauty pageant aspect of it, and we speculated about the guilt or innocence of all the various parties to the story. We felt sad about the little girl who died, but our thoughts quickly moved on to our desire for justice. We wanted to know who did it, and we wanted that person to pay for it.

I didn't think too much about how children might be reacting to all those news stories until one day when I walked through my daughter's livingroom and found my eight-year-old grandson sitting on the floor in front of the TV set. He was watching the news about Jon Benet with interest and obvious concern. As the news reporter moved on to another topic, my grandson looked up at me with hurt in his eyes and slowly shook his head. "She was just six years old," he said. "You know? That's somebody I could have married."

Rest in peace, Jon Benet. Your mama's with you now.

Friday, June 23, 2006

TUV-Wee-XYZ

Every letter but for one
is short and sweet to say,
like A-B-C-D-E-F-G
and H-I-J and K.

A single syllable is all
we ever need to use
to dot our I’s and cross our T’s
and watch our P’s and Q’s.

For twenty-five of twenty-six
one syllable was fine,
so how did W get three?
Is that not out of line?

Was special dispensation made
to placate W?
Is its work too important for
one syllable to do?

We need the W, of course;
without it you and I
could not ask any questions such
as Who? What? Where? When? Why?

But as for those three syllables,
if it were left to me,
I wouldn’t call it “double-yoo,”
I’d call it “way” or “wee.”

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Chalk it up to imagination

Tuesday's entry about the lemon experiment, combined with Sandy's comment about relaxation techniques, reminded me of a self-hypnosis class I took at LSU one summer. One exercise in particular stands out in my memory.

The instructor asked us to close our eyes and imagine that we were standing in front of a chalkboard. "Now," she said, "pick up the red chalk and write your name in large letters on the chalkboard." No problem, I could easily imagine that. "Next," the instructor continued, "put down the red chalk and pick up the blue chalk. Now write your name in blue, just below where you wrote it in red." That, too, was clear in my mind. "Now," she said, "put down the blue chalk, pick up the green chalk, and write your name in green underneath the blue." Without hesitation, I mentally wrote my name in nice, large, green letters. "Okay," said the instructor, "put down the green chalk, pick up the yellow chalk, and write your name in yell..." Uh-oh! I didn't know what to do, but I knew I couldn't do what she suggested. I started to stress out. The reason? I'd written my name too big the first three times, and there wasn't enough room on my (make-believe) chalkboard to write it again.

Isn't that weird? All this imagery took place while I was leaning back with my eyes closed in an uncomfortable classroom chair. There was no chalkboard and there was no colored chalk. I had set imaginary limitations that kept me from accomplishing my task.

Isn't it interesting to think about how much each of us might be able to accomplish if we weren't held back by our own preconceived ideas, false perceptions, and self-imposed limitations? I wish it were easier to identify some of those.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Me? A meme? For me?

As soon as I began reading blogs regularly, I learned about the meme, that "now-it's-your-turn questionnaire" that gets passed from blogger to blogger. Up until now, due to limited readership I'm sure, nobody's ever tagged me for a meme.

Last night changed that, but...uh...not exactly. My daughter forwarded an email to me that I'm supposed to answer and email back to her, but do you think I'm gonna waste a perfectly good meme experience by limiting it to her and four other email friends? Nah, of course not! I'm gonna get at least one blog entry out of it and tag some of you guys.

Subject: Friends

Finally! A different take on the "get to know your friends" email meme. How well do you know me??

For instance, did you know...

Four jobs I have had in my life:

1. Secretary to a judge.
2. Assistant to the marketing manager of a burger chain.
3. Human resources manager.
4. Legal secretary.

Four movies I would watch over and over:

1. Mississippi Burning
2. An Officer and a Gentleman
3. The Princess Bride
4. You've Got Mail

Four places I have lived:

1. Springfield, Missouri
2. Orange, Texas
3. Miami, Florida
4. Farmingdale, New York

Four TV shows I love/loved to watch:

1. Grey's Anatomy
2. Boston Legal
3. American Idol
4. Big Brother (New season starts tonight. YEAAAAA!)

Four places I have been on vacation:

1. Las Vegas, Nevada - when my first husband won a trip in a sales contest
2. Niagara Falls - twice when we lived on Long Island
3. Eureka Springs, Arkansas - twice with my sister
4. Hanford, California - to see my dad and meet his (my)second family

Four websites I look at daily:

1. Bluff Road Art Glass
2. Ancestry.com
3. I Am Prepared to Give Up at Any Time
4. Life at Star's Rest

Four of my favorite foods

1. Chicken chimichangas with guacamole and sour cream
2. Lasagna - our family's recipe
3. Country fried steak with white gravy
4. Corn on the cob - actually, corn just about any way you want to fix it.

Four Friends that have been tagged that I think will respond:

Carmon
Patsy
Janet
Susan

Edited to add: Er...uh...oh, yeah, and Mike

So here it goes...copy this onto your blog, delete my answers, replace with your own, tag four other online friends and publish your post.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The lemon experiment

The human mind has always fascinated me, and I've been particularly interested in how our bodies respond to whatever is going on in our minds. If our brains can be tricked (and they can be), so can our bodies. Try this experiment with me:

Imagine, as you read this, that you're cutting a plump, juicy lemon into quarters with a sharp knife. Pick up a piece of the lemon and study its freshly cut surface. Look at the crinkly texture of the lemon's flesh and notice the juice that clings to it. If there are seeds, you can pick them out with your fingers now and place them on the table in front of you. Good. Now lift the lemon gently to your nose and smell it for a moment until your nostrils are full of its scent. Now look at the piece of lemon once more...take your time...then move it to your mouth and bite your teeth into it, hard.

How'd that work out for you? If you're like most people, there's a lot more saliva in your mouth right now than there was before you read that last paragraph. Considering that there wasn't really a lemon, isn't it odd that your body reacted just as if the lemon had been real? Your brain relied on the information it received (which happened to be false), and then it did what brains are supposed to do and sent appropriate signals to your salivary glands.

Here are a couple of other examples right off the top of my head: Think about the sound of somebody scraping their fingernails across a blackboard. Did an involuntary shiver just run down your spine? What if I were to tell you about the time I was peeling potatoes when the potato peeler slipped and sliced a chunk out of my knuckle? That didn't happen, but did you get a little twinge in your stomach when you thought about it?

No doubt these automatic physical responses are important to us in some ways. They get us off our butts if we just "think" we smell smoke. They're what make it so much fun to read a good thriller or watch a car chase (or a love scene) on the big screen. But the fact is, our bodies generate these various chemical responses without requiring our brains to prove anything. So sometimes we get all stressed out for nothing.

I'm certainly no expert, but I've learned enough to be convinced that our thoughts influence our brain chemistry and, therefore, our health. I think that's why it seems to matter so much whether we focus our thoughts and energies on the positive aspects of our daily lives or the negative ones.

There is one thing I wonder about, though. Whether I'm feeling bummed out and blue or happy enough to celebrate, my brain seems to send the same message over and over: "This might be a good time to have some cookies."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Something nice

I found Fotos de Manuel Tendero when he commented on my peacock pictures the other day. His blog is in Spanish, so I don't understand the text, but his photos translate into every language imaginable. They are absolutely wonderful!

Manuel's blog has only been up since March, so you don't have a lot of catching up to do. In a matter of minutes you can go through his archives and see every single picture he's posted. I promise you it'll be well worth your time.

Something nasty

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you might already know that Monday night is when I'm supposed to put out the garbage. Tonight, that presents a little bit of a problem.

You see, last Monday night I forgot about garbage day, but my neighbor (who's been using my garbage can because I have extra room and she doesn't have enough garbage to justify paying for the service) didn't forget. So her trash has been fermenting in the sun for a week now. (In fact, I haven't looked in the can, but she looked kind of disgusted when she came back the other day to drop off this week's trash.)

It gets worse. The lid to my garbage can has been broken for several weeks, and I've had to fidget with it to get it on the can straight. Week before last, when I did remember to take the garbage to the curb, the dang trashman must have tossed the broken lid into the back of his truck. All I know is my can has no lid at all now.

And it's pouring down rain, filling all the empty spaces around my neighbor's garbage, and I'm stuck inside with two big bags of my own. We really need the rain, but I'm hoping it will let up soon so I can go out before dark and dump the putrid garbage-tainted rain out of the can to make room for my own trash.

Yuck.

Edited at 7:30 p.m. to add: Never mind. It wasn't as bad as I expected. Sorry about the whining. Signed, Wuss Lady.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

He always was fond of the grand gesture

This is the first Father's Day to roll around since I started my blog earlier this year, so yesterday I thought quite a bit about which of the many fathers in my life would be the subject of today's post. My son-in-law and brother-in-law, along with my second husband, deserve recognition for having had the courage to expand their families, their responsibilities, and their hearts to marry women with children. My brother was a trouper about taking on Mr. Mom duties with aplomb. So was my uncle, who is especially in my thoughts because his daughter is seriously ill right now. Then there is my children's birth father. We didn't get much right together, but by God, we made some great kids.

The central father figure in the first 14 years of my life was my grandfather, "Packy," shown here with my sister and my cousin. His comfortable presence and quiet strength made me feel safe. It never occurred to me even once that having my mother, my sister and me in his home might have been a burden. If it was, he carried it willingly and without complaint. He was steadfast and reliable. He was where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be, and I trusted him completely.






My new stepfather became the "man of the house" when I was 14, and we had some rocky times at first. I thought I didn't need a stepfather; things had been just fine the way they were. I knew I didn't want to move to Texas. I was as obnoxious as only a 14-year-old girl can be, but it didn't scare him away. He stuck around for the long haul. When I was an adult, living far away, his house was where I "went home." It was my mother's house, too, of course, but it felt normal, natural, and really good for him to be there.



And then there's my birth father, who missed most of my life. He was only 19 when I was born, and he left with the Army the day before I turned three months old. I saw him only sporadically when I was young, but he was important enough to me that I remember a lot of those times in some detail. When my father popped into town, he usually managed to make his visit somewhat spectacular. He'd take my sister and me for a ride in a fancy foreign car or buy each of us an armload of dresses. He bought my sister her first car, and, after I was married, he bought furniture for my new home. He was witty and charming, and he was regretful. We appreciated his gifts but recognized the guilty feelings that motivated them. In a way, the gifts made me hold him at arm's length. I didn't want him to think my love was for sale.

In the late '80s, having come to terms with many of his own issues, my dad came back into my life. This time he came easily. There were no more lavish gifts. Instead, he gave me what I'd always wanted, gifts of himself. He visited multiple times. He wrote, he called, he told me stories about his life and his second family, and he asked me questions about my life. He befriended my children and delighted my granddaughter.

His guilt had kept him away. Now, for the first time, he stepped beyond his regrets and became a part of my life. He listened, offered advice when I asked for it, and discussed with me for hours whatever was on my mind. He told me he loved me, and he told me he believed in me. He helped me to feel confident that I could handle whatever was thrown my way.

In 1997, I visited him at his home in California for the first time. I met his second family and bonded with them instantly. It was a visit I'll always remember, and it came just in the nick of time. Six weeks later, he was gone.

Or maybe not. In the early hours of this morning, I dreamed that my daughters and I were sitting on my bed, looking at old photos. After a while, we walked back into the livingroom and found it full of tall, green trees--not plants or flowers, but large trees--in beautiful pots. There were five of them, all different, tucked into nooks around the room, giving it the feeling of a magical place in the forest. My daughters and I stared in amazement, not quite believing what we were seeing, and then we noticed a florist's card stuck into one of the pots.

I pulled out the card, opened the tiny envelope, and thought at first that there'd been a mistake. The card was printed to read "Happy Father's Day," and I, of course, have never been a father. Looking more closely, I could see faint traces of ink, where someone had written something below the printed message. I took the card to the window, opened the blinds to let the bright sunlight in, and looked at it again. There, in his own handwriting, was my father's full name. I was so overcome with awe and joy that I immediately burst into tears. It was those wet, happy tears that woke me this morning.

Happy Father's Day to you, too, Fats. This time you really outdid yourself.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Passing the papa test

My daughter reminded me of another story about my second husband, and since it's a good story for Father's Day, I'll tell it now and move on.

From the first day he met my kids, this man showed patience and creativity with them. To keep them entertained when I took them to his home for the first time, he draped a sheet over the dining table to make them a tent. He provided pillows and snacks, and they crawled in and out for the better part of an hour. I thought that was a good sign.

The day I knew for sure that he had family potential was the first day I cooked for him at the little green rent house where my daughters and I lived. I cooked my favorite special meal, the Sunday dinner menu from my childhood: fried chicken (remember, this was before KFC), mashed potatoes, corn, and buttered dinner rolls. I was really pleased with the way everything looked and tasted, and, for once, it all finished cooking at the same time so it would be hot (this was before microwaves, too).

My kitchen skills, I hoped, might score a few points for me. I felt warm and happy as I placed the hot dishes on the table, and we all sat down. As I dished up plates, I smiled at him, then at my five-year-old, and then at my at my three-year-old, who leaned forward at that exact moment and vomited her guts out.

Without the slightest hesitation, he helped me clean her up. That's when I knew he'd be a good daddy.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Look who came snooping around my backyard

As my daughter was leaving my house this afternoon, I told her I'd heard the peacock and asked if she'd seen him. She looked around and said, "There he is, right there." I grabbed my camera and stepped outside, and this handsome guy came closer. He jumped off the fence into my backyard and put on a great show for us for about half an hour.

It was sooooo cool! He displayed his tail from every possible angle, danced some kind of little peacock jig, posed on the fence and on the ground, and just generally entertained us. He let me get really close to him a couple of times, and I might have been able to get even closer had I not been so nervous about those sharp, pointy things on his legs. He seemed at least as curious as we were. I have a BIG crush on this guy!





Crazy Parking Day, Hooray!

Twice a day my route to work takes me past the office where I worked nine years ago. I keep thinking I'll stop to visit the dozen or so people I still know there, but I always seem to be in too big of a hurry. Anyway, driving by there this morning, I was reminded that I haven't told you yet about Crazy Parking Day.

A few years ago I ran into someone who was still working there, and I asked how everybody was doing. In the course of catching me up on all the changes since I left, she told me that they've designated every Friday as Crazy Parking Day, "just as a little morale booster." Now, having been responsible for my own share of corny morale-building stunts while I was there, I should probably be more understanding. But, viewed from the outside, the silliness of this just cracks me up.

Mondays through Thursdays, all the cars in the asphalt parking lot out front are lined up in neat rows. But on Fridays? They're parked at all kinds of weird angles, as if a cyclone had picked them up, whirled them around a bit, then gently sprinkled them back on the ground.

It really tickles me that these professional adults, some of whom I know are great people, seem to get such a kick out of parking their cars however the hell they want to. They like it so much that they've done it over and over and over again. One day a week. For several years now. Is there something wrong with me that I don't get that? What am I missing? Where's the fun?

Do they rush to get there first on Fridays so they can have the whole parking lot to themselves and make the opening move on the Crazy Parking Day game board?

Does Sally walk in laughing on Friday morning and say, "Oh, Jack, you're such a character; I love the way you backed in and parked with your rear wheels off the pavement!"?

Does Betty tell Cindy, "Oh.My.God! Bob has parked his SUV all the way out in the field. Look at the grass stains on his khakis. I tell you, that guy is a riot!"?

Does Jim make his right hand into a gun, point it at Susan, and say, "I saw you out there seesawing back and forth so you could park with your front bumper up against Jerry's side panel. Girl, that is classic!"?

You want to know what really struck me funny? Last November I drove by that office on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. They're normally closed on both Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holidays, so guess what. They'd moved Crazy Parking Day to Wednesday so they wouldn't miss it!

Bwaaaahahahahaha! What a wild and crazy bunch!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fuzzy, was he?

I was 24 years old when my first divorce became final, and it was only about nine months until I married for the second time. I don't know whether that fact speaks to the depths of my loneliness then or just to plain old youthful impulsiveness. At any rate, I knew the man who'd become my second husband only about three and a half months before we married.

Naturally, in the months before I met him, I dated a few other guys. Maybe half a dozen, tops. Those were not significant relationships, but some of those guys met my children, and I eventually learned just how thoroughly my girls were checking them out.

When the man I'd later marry came to meet my daughters for the first time, it didn't surprise me that my younger daughter, who was three at the time, climbed onto his lap the minute he sat down. She was (still is) a people person, and she absolutely adored male attention back then.

My new suitor seemed pleasantly surprised that my little one took to him so readily. They chatted for a minute, then she reached out and rubbed her small hand on his forearm in tiny circular motions. Drawing her hand back gently, she looked up at him, smiled her sweetest smile, and announced, "You're the hairiest boyfriend we ever had."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

On June 14th I'm thinking of...

...Kadi's birthday

She's nine years old today. I've loved this dog since she was a 10-week-old bundle of energy, nothing but big feet, wagging tail, and yellow fur. I expect to love her for the rest of my life, whether on this plane of existence or the next one. Kadi is a people pleaser, a prim and proper girl, a great communicator, a wonderful friend. She has enriched my life beyond measure. Excuse the saccharine, but I find her "Labradorable."


...one of my wedding anniversaries

On this day in 1968 I married my second (and last and best) husband. He was a good, good man, with a warm heart. He took me and my two small daughters into his life and wrapped us in his love. He was a good provider and, when he was in the right frame of mind, a great husband and father.

He was also a man with a troubled spirit. He tried to run from his personal demons by moving again and again to distant places, expecting each new city to be the one where he'd be happy. We made seven long-distance moves in the 12 years we were married, and I have happy memories from almost every place we lived. He made sure we had a comfortable home in each place, but he, himself, never managed to find much comfort or happiness. He had magnificent highs and devastating lows, and we rode that roller coaster with him. In 1980, when he wanted us to pack up again and go to California to search once more for a better place and better times, I chose to stay in Louisiana in search of stability for myself and my then teenaged children.

I wish we'd known more about clinical depression in those days, because I'm convinced now that that was the root of his problems. But we didn't have that knowledge. We didn't have Prozac or Zoloft or Wellbutrin, so he medicated himself with alcohol. As the drinking increased, so did all my old insecurities and fears of abandonment, and moving became a frightening proposition for me.

Some people, in trying to drown their sorrows, drown themselves. He didn't. He managed to stay afloat. After we parted, he married three more times and moved to many, many more places, both in this country and abroad. He died in 2003 of an obscure illness that doctors believe he contracted when he lived for a while in Jamaica. We hadn't stayed in close touch, but from the day we met until the day he died, my respect for him as a man remained intact.

I no longer celebrate this anniversary, of course, and I've never doubted that the decision to go our separate ways was the right one. Still, I think of him every June 14th and remember how much love and hope was in our hearts on our wedding day. I've loved again since my years with him ended, but I can't say I've ever loved a better man.

On a much, much lighter note, my wedding ensemble pictured here (coat over matching dress) was beige linen, with stripes of hot-pink daisies with lime-green centers, as bold and stylish as my huge hairdo in the Laugh-in days of 1968.


...Flag Day

As holidays go, this one doesn't get much attention, but the very fact that a holiday exists to celebrate our flag speaks volumes about its importance to us. At a time when the nation is more divided than it's been since the Civil War, when it's begun to seem easier to turn our backs on those who disagree with us than to listen to each other and seek a peaceful middle ground, it's amazing how united we all are in our pride and patriotism when we see this beautiful banner. It is, indeed, a Grand Old Flag.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hanky-panky in the neighborhood

Apparently, I've had a new next-door neighbor for a few weeks. I've only seen this gal once, and I assumed she was just visiting, but now I think she may have moved in. Today at lunchtime I saw a guy hanging around over there. Him, I haven't seen before.

I was kind of surprised when I saw this chick a few weeks back. She just doesn't look like she fits in here in our neighborhood, although I've seen her kind around here on one or two previous occasions over the past few years. She's big, rather plain, and looks like she'd be right at home in a more "rural" environment, if you know what I mean.

I've known something has been going on over there because I've heard voices in the yard late at night. Loud voices. I've even peeked out the window a couple of times when I've heard them, but haven't been able to see anything.

Her guy is fairly brazen. When I left to go back to work after lunch, he was hanging out beside my driveway, and he just stood there and watched me. Didn't move an inch. He actually had the nerve to holler at me as I drove my car a little too close, but I couldn't get out of the driveway otherwise. Very cocky!

When I came home this evening, he was still there. Not in the same exact spot, but in the same general area, as if he's staking out a claim to "his" territory. Now I'm thinking he's taken up residence right along with the new neighbor lady, and, to be frank, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they've been "getting it on" right out there in the yard. They just look like the type.

That being said, my curiosity is intense at this point, and I kind of hope they stick around just so I can see what comes of this relationship. I must say that the guy is extremely handsome, and even though the gal's not as good-looking as he is, I'll bet they'd make beautiful babies.

You know, come to think of it, I've already mentioned this lady to you in my May 19th blog entry. Here, I'll show you her picture again:


And here's her fancy man! Isn't he fine?



Monday, June 12, 2006

New Client Rules

Rule One: If you are perspiring so profusely that you think you absolutely must wipe your face with the hem of your T-shirt, kindly do it outside before you come in. I do NOT want you to stand in front of my desk and expose your wet, hairy belly while you wipe the sweat from your brow.

Rule Two: If you choose to ignore Rule One, please do NOT follow up the face wiping by asking to borrow my pen.

Your cooperation will be deeply appreciated.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rosedown, rainbows, and reasons to believe

One of the first times I ever met my brother-in-law, before he was offically part of our family, he and my sister came to Baton Rouge to visit, and we took a little sight-seeing trip together. We drove up to St. Francisville, Louisiana, about an hour and a half away from here, and stepped back in time more than 150 years at Rosedown Plantation. It was a magical day. If you follow the link, you might be able to imagine how we lost ourselves for several hours in the beauty of the gardens and the ancient, moss-draped trees.

We were feeling really mellow as we drove back to Baton Rouge. In the distance there was a faint rainbow, and my sister started telling a story about some people she knew who had found themselves standing near the end of the rainbow. My future brother-in-law and I, almost in unison, began telling her all the reasons why the story couldn't possibly be true. We tried to explain about the characteristics of rainbows and water particles and light refraction, but even before we'd finished making our points, we rounded a curve in the road and came upon exactly what we'd told her was impossible to see: the end of the rainbow.

The arc of a brightly colored rainbow came low over the treetops and ended abruptly on the shoulder of the road, less than half a mile from where we were. We watched it with wide eyes and open mouths as we slowed down and drove past it, and then we turned our heads and watched behind us until it was out of sight. It was an amazing part of a wonderful day.

I think that may have been the first day that I saw my sister's husband-to-be let his guard down enough that I could peek behind his "man's man" exterior and catch a glimpse of his softer side, the side that was rapidly winning over my sister. My sister had told me, quoting Julia Roberts' Vivian in Pretty Woman, "I want the fairy tale." On that day, I believed for the first time that she might have a real chance at getting it.

My sister and her husband have been together for a lot of years now. You'll be pleased to know that the "happily ever after" part seems to be coming along nicely.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Dog days

If one dog year equals seven human years, as they say, Kadi and I will be the same age next week when she turns nine. Both of us are past our prime, a little worse for the wear, but still feeling pretty good.

Lately I've been kind of worried about Kadi because she's been drinking excessively and waking me up in the middle of the night to go outside. That's all behavior that started within the last three weeks or so. On two occasions, she didn't even bother to wake me up (maybe she was offended by my profanity when she woke me the previous night) and just quietly peed in the hallway. Considering Kadi's strong sense of propriety, she must have been in desperate straits to do that.

Otherwise, she's seemed perfectly normal, but I took her to the vet this morning just to be sure. It's the first time she's been in the car since I got a new one last August, so she was ready to ride. In the old car, she'd have a barking fit everytime I used the turn signal. This one's quieter and didn't seem to bother her. Other than having to tell her repeatedly to stay in the backseat, our ride into Baton Rouge was fine.

At the vet's office, Kadi ran ahead of me on her leash as if she were going someplace really great and couldn't wait to get there. Apparently, she only likes the lobby, because she started balking when we headed down the hall to the exam room. We had to wait in there for ten or fifteen minutes, during which she quivered and panted and tried unsuccessfully to climb onto my lap. She did find someplace to climb to, though, and the vet laughed when he came in and saw her big yellow body sitting tall in the straight chair next to mine. No cold floor for my girl.

Fortunately, we got good news: no sign of diabetes, which was my main concern. The vet thinks the likely problem is a urinary tract infection. He told me that an animal's instinct, when it feels discomfort "down there," is to drink a lot of water to try to flush it out. Unfortunately, if bacteria are present, the flushing doesn't always do the trick. He put her on antibiotics and said we should see a difference within the next three or four days. If that doesn't work, we'll do blood tests to check for kidney problems. I'm feeling optimistic at this point.

While we were at the vet's office, my younger daughter and her husband came over and cut my grass. They and my older daughter take care of that job for me, and I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am. Heat gets to me in a very short time (one of the many things I have in common with my sister), and fresh-cut grass, although it's one of my all-time favorite fragrances, activates my allergies big-time.

By the time Kadi and I got home, the lawn looked beautiful and there was a brand-new doggy pool in the backyard. We waited until the grass settled down and the temperature dropped a few degrees, then filled the pool for the pupsters. Kadi likes to run as fast as she can from across the yard and jump into the pool with a big splash, and the doggy-smile didn't leave her face for the whole half-hour or more we let them play.

Not an exciting day by anyone's standards, but a nice one nevertheless.

Friday, June 09, 2006

They hadn't seen each other in a coon's age

This is Rocky Raccoon. There should be a trademark symbol next to his name, but I don't know where to find one.

Rocky lives on a shelf in my closet. He's a puppet. His rabbit-disguised-as-raccoon fur is wrapped around a loosely coiled spring, and by manipulating the spring with your finger, you can make him appear to do all sorts of things. For some reason, most people don't seem to notice right away that Rocky has no legs.

I bought Rocky at a magic show in the mid-80s, when I was in a long-term relationship with a man whose hobby was magic and illusions. (He was good at it, too; he made himself disappear sometime in 1989 and I haven't seen him since.) Rocky has never personally been in show business, but he's entertained a few grandchildren in his time--and me. He's entertained me a lot.

It must have been four or five years ago that I was cleaning out some things and stumbled across Rocky, and my first thought was to introduce him to Butch and Kadi. They were super-excited to meet him. Kadi politely sniffed under his tail (she still does that--every single time), and Butch, who was normally a little standoffish with other animals, wagged his own tail blissfully as Rocky rubbed against his face. Neither of the dogs has ever tried to bite Rocky or to play with him like a toy.

Rocky only comes out to visit once every three or four months. When he does, he talks to my dogs in a voice that sounds a lot like mine, except that his is high-pitched and squeaky, and he talks really fast. He mostly says things like, "Hey, Butch and Kadi, how you doin', little buddies?" and "Ooooooh, I'm soooo happy to seeeee youuuuu; let me scratch your ears." Kadi's sniffed under Rocky's tail enough times to know there's no life force there, so she usually just takes a quick whiff to make sure nothing's changed, then exits. But Butch sticks around until I tell Rocky, in my own voice, that it's time to go home.

Now that Rocky's older, he mostly just enjoys his quiet time, resting in between my steam iron and my old straw hat with the brightly colored floral band. But that doesn't mean he's been forgotten. This morning I walked into my bedroom and found Butch standing at the closed closet doors, wagging his tail, waiting patiently. I knew instantly what he wanted. "Do you need to see Rocky?" I asked him, and his tail wagged faster and faster. I took Rocky down and let them visit for a few minutes, then Butch went back into the den, and I left for work.

Sometimes, I guess, you just think about an old friend for no particular reason at all.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

News Bites

Around the World
The U. S. Government checked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi off its list yesterday. Good. So that list would be how long now?

Book Critic
It's critical that I move some books out of my house before they take over everything. Deciding how to decrease the volume of my volumes is my own personal Sophie’s Choice.

Entertainment
On the Today show this morning, a representative of People magazine reported that the new daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie appears to have her mother’s lips. Hmmm. Talk about power-nursing.

Fashion
Britney Spears can afford to dress better. So can I. Both of us should consider it.

Food
Lunch today was from our “white-trash” menu: Cold pork ‘n beans scooped up with barbecued potato chips. It's a dirty little secret, but sometimes I’ve just gotta have it.

Gardening
Everywhere I turn, I see a bush that leans way too far to one side, but I’ve been told that nothing can be done about it for a couple more years.

Health
A new medical condition was discovered today when a Louisiana woman, Velvet Sacks, broke out in hives and repeatedly butted her head against the wall. Sacks stated the condition came on suddenly when she turned on her computer and continued to deteriorate as she remained without blog editing access for nearly three hours.

Help Wanted
Stepping-stone edger needed. Must have strong back and mile-wide masochistic streak.

Music
If I were chief of the music police, the song ”Sabre Dance” would only be allowed at the circus. Because if you hear a snippet of it accidentally, it will stay in your head all day. Don't believe me? Follow the link.

Politics
See “Gardening” above.

Religion
For some unknown reason, it popped into my head today that Jesus was a shepherd, not a sheep. That gives me hope that He could relate to those of us who don't just blindly follow where some people try to lead us.

Weather
Just like politics and religion: too hot to discuss in much detail on my friendly little blog.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Hit and run

To lighten things up a bit, let me tell you about my friend "C."

We met through a mutual friend in the late '60s and ended up working together at an East Texas courthouse. "C" was a very slender, pretty girl, with black eyes, olive skin, and long, long, long black hair that always caught everyone's eye. She dressed well, too, in nice dresses and high-heeled shoes.

In those days, shopping in the town where we lived was limited to a handful of stores in the downtown area and another group of stores in a fairly large, L-shaped shopping center near the traffic circle. The shopping center was anchored by Sears at one end and Weingarten's Supermarket waaaaaaaay down at the other end.

One day, soon after I returned to the courthouse from my lunch break, "C" rushed in. She was a few minutes late, and she looked frazzled.

Me: "Where'd you go?"

"C": "I went to the shopping center, and I got hit by a car."

Me: "What do you mean you 'got hit by a car'? You mean your car got hit?"

"C": "No, I mean I got hit. I was walking across the parking lot and a car hit me."

Me: "Omigod, are you hurt? Are you all right?"

"C": "I think I'm fine, but the car bumped me in front of Sears, and I ran all the way to Weingarten's before I could stop."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

It's all coming back to me now

Roles were reversed at my house yesterday. The tribute to my sister was actually the second blog entry I wrote that day, after my older daughter persuaded me I'd regret it if I posted the first one.

The first one was written while I still had my knickers in a twist over something that had started out as a little irritating pinprick and then festered in my mind until it seemed to be crying out for me to set the record straight. To my way of thinking, what I wrote was a great piece of work. It was scathing, biting, brilliantly (or so I thought) sarcastic, with a few well-placed zingers that would have shaken my literary middle finger right in the face of the person who'd angered me. Not that that individual would have actually read it, but at the time that seemed to be beside the point.

Fortunately, I had the good sense to realize I needed to let it sit for a little while before spewing my indignity out into cyberspace. During that cooling-off period, I passed it by my daughter, who already knew why I was steaming. She read it and asked me a few questions:

If [that person] were to read this post, are you willing to sacrifice the relationship?

Maybe, I said with a shrug of my shoulders, if it came to that.

Do you think the preachiness of your post might anger some readers you don't want to lose?

Ummmmm...possibly. I suppose. Actually, there was a good chance of it, because preachiness is exactly what had aroused my ire in the first place.

Would telling someone off be worth the fallout you're likely to get by stirring up controversy?

Maybe not...but maybe so. I don't know. I'll have to think about it. I was wavering, but I was still mad. I'd made a lot of valid points in that post, by golly, and I didn't want to waste them.

Then my daughter said something that stopped me cold: Even though I know where you're coming from, I think the tone of this post sounds like the voice I hear when you and I argue about something and you have to have the last word...and that's not the best side of you. That clinched it. She was right.

Because of something I learned a long time ago in a team-building class, I'm usually the one encouraging everybody else to "let it go." Think of the higher value, I say. I know it isn't fair, and I know you're dying to respond, but don't lose sight of your goal. Focus on the best thing you can do right now to make things turn out the way you want them to in the end. Sometimes, that means not saying everything that's on your mind just because you think it needs to be said.

I didn't figure out that piece of wisdom by myself, even though I should have, given the ample experience I'd had with my own words coming back to bite me in the butt. I'd had to be taught. Obviously, it was time for a refresher course. I'm happy to report that it's still good advice, and it was interesting to find myself on the receiving end of it. I could have made things so much worse.

And today? Everything is okey-dokey!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sistah-friend

These are my favorite pictures of my little sister (on the left in both photos) and me. One was taken in 1951 and the other 10 years ago this summer. In between, we provoked squabbles with each other, slapped and tattled, vied for our mother's attention, and everything else that goes along with sibling rivalry.

For most of our adult lives, we've lived in different states. For years, we'd talk on the phone once in a blue moon, see one another on rare occasions when I went home or she came to visit, and keep up with each other's news largely by relaying it through Mother.

Then, in 1996, we took a trip together for the first time as adults. We went back to our hometown for a family reunion. Shoulder to shoulder, we stepped forward to meet relatives we hadn't seen in nearly 40 years, and we relaxed together as we felt the warmth of their welcome. We visited schools and parks and shared our separate memories of being there long ago. We mourned the fact that our childhood home had long since been demolished to make way for a university tennis court, but we went to that spot anyway and stood together on the very ground where we once rode our bikes, pulled each other in the wagon, and drew hopscotch squares with colorful Missouri rocks. We looked at each other in surprise and fought back tears as an unidentified fragrance from our childhood suddenly wafted through the air and reminded us we were home.

On the trip back to our present-day homes, we stopped overnight in the majesty of the Ozark Mountains. We sat together on the balcony of a Victorian-style bed-and-breakfast inn and soaked up the beauty and tranquility of the evening. We talked about the places we'd been, the people we'd seen, the things that time had changed, and the things it hadn't. We sweltered together in the heat of an un-air-conditioned auto dealership after we encountered car problems. We stopped over and over at fast-food restaurants to use their clean restrooms and bought cold drinks as a thank-you, whether we needed them or not. We got lost. We struggled through mixed-up hotel reservations. We worked it all out. We talked, we drove, we talked some more and drove some more, and we left the miles and the years behind us.

We both knew when we started out that it would be an emotional trip down memory lane, but we had no idea it would be the beginning of our journey together into the future. We talked--and listened--more on that trip than we'd ever done in our whole lives, and we got to know each other as the women we'd become. We discovered that our differences would fit in a thimble and that our similarities are too big to be confined by time or space.

I've always loved my sister, but from that trip forward I've loved her more, and I've learned to appreciate her to a degree that makes my heart swell. She's fun-loving, quick-witted, whip-smart, rock-solid, and beautiful to boot. She may not always agree with everything I do or say, but I'm convinced she'll have my back either way. And I'll have hers.

Last night I e-mailed my sister about a silly little thing that had ticked me off. Mostly, I wrote to her because I wanted to vent to someone who knows me through and through and wouldn't need an explanation as to why my feathers were ruffled.

I got her reply at lunchtime today. As usual, she didn't disappoint me. If she thought I was right, she didn't feel the need to validate my opinion, and if she thought I was wrong, she didn't find it necessary to point out the reasons why. Instead, with one simple, typed sentence, she let me know she heard me--and understood.

Thanks, Sis. Again. I love ya'.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Zoo-ming in

The top three "modern art" images here were captured by cropping, in sequence, the bottom three photos. You might want to try this with your own pictures when you're feeling creative; it was fun to see things in a different way.






That being said, I find the bottom ones way more beautiful.






Saturday, June 03, 2006

Think twice, Taskmaster

At work Friday, I called a local attorney who is opposing counsel in a case my boss is working on. He seemed perfectly pleasant, and we had a brief but cordial chat, in the course of which he referred to a specific report that was in his file. I mentioned that we didn't have a copy of that report, and he replied, ever so nicely, "I'll make my secretary fax it to you this afternoon."

It was just a poor choice of words, right? He couldn't possibly still think that way in this day of enlightened feminism. 'Cause I don't get it. Did he think she would object to faxing it to me? I can picture her now, standing with her arms crossed over her chest and a look of resolve on her face. "Hell, no!" she's saying. "No way will I fax that!"

There's a lesson here for any guys who happen to read this blog: Women will do almost anything for you if you ask nicely enough. But if you want to see passive aggression in all its glory, just order us to do something.

My second husband was a construction superintendent who was used to having a couple of hundred big, burly men do his bidding in order to build nuclear power plants and things. It seemed only natural to him, therefore, to kiss me goodbye in the morning and toss off a quick, "Pick up my dry cleaning today." Guess what. I didn't do it. Didn't have a chance. Too busy. Sorry, forgot about it. The next day, after I'd proved to myself that he couldn't control me, I'd go and pick up his dry cleaning. (I wasn't a complete asshole, after all.) All he had to do to get it the first day was to say, "Could you please pick up my dry cleaning today?" Consider it done.

I'm not saying we'd refuse to comply with an occasional directive issued hurriedly or casually. That happens all the time at work, and it's usually just a language short-cut to get the job done faster. At home, I don't think anybody would object to a quick "Scoot over just a little bit" or "Toss me that pillow right there." I'm talking more about a pattern of speech or an attitude that implies more control over another person than might be warranted.

At a stress-management seminar I attended once, the instructor spoke about reducing stress when dealing with employees and with family members. In both cases, he advised, "The first step is to give up your illusion of control." He said that if we desired certain behaviors in those around us, our best bet would be to set up situations (through reasonable requests, rewards and consequences) that would make them desirous of behaving the way we wanted. "Otherwise," he said, "you'll be continually frustrated, because the truth is, after people have reached their teens, you can't really control them."

So, just to be clear, I'm not telling you guys how to talk to the women in your lives. I'm just asking you to consider that you might get better results with a "would-you-please" approach.

By the way, the report we needed was faxed over later in the day. I wonder how he made her do it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Going bananas!

I've never been much of a fruit eater. An occasional orange, fresh strawberries, an apple once or twice a year and that's pretty much enough fruit for me. Except for bananas. I don't eat bananas often, either, but I buy them fairly regularly. If there are firm, unblemished bananas in the store, bananas with no green ends and no brown spots, some of them are going home with me.

I know perfectly well that I'll only have time to eat one or two bananas before they start getting spots and turning softer than I like. But do I buy one or two? Of course not. I buy four or five. Then I take them home, eat one or two over the next couple of days, and wait until the rest turn dark and disgusting and start leaking onto my kitchen counter. Then, maybe, I'll throw them out.

Back in my "good-little-wife" days, I'd turn overripe bananas into fresh-baked loaves of banana-nut bread. For someone who thinks of carrot cake as a vegetable, that's a good use of bananas! I still enjoy banana-nut bread, but I don't bake much these days. For one reason, it takes time I prefer to use in other ways, and for another reason, I can't be trusted alone with homemade baked goods.

Anyway, back on topic, I've been aware of my excess-banana-buying habit for quite a while, and it's been bothering me. Maybe that's why my subconscious mind helped me figure out how to stop letting bananas go bad on my kitchen counter.

On my way home from work this evening, I picked up a few groceries. It's the first time I've shopped since May 21, according to the blog entry I wrote the next day, so I've gone 12 days without buying any groceries except for one loaf of bread and three 12-packs of Diet Coke. And, no, I didn't buy any bananas today.

Nevertheless, when I got home and unloaded my trunk, I found one white plastic bag containing five very dark, mushy bananas. Evidently, I bought them on my last trip to the grocery store and they never even made it into the house! And I never missed them!

My new method is still wasteful, but I think it's gonna work well for me. All I had to do was toss the bag of bananas directly into the garbage. Easiest cleanup ever.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Take me out to the ballgame

It's been just a few days since Barry Bonds hit his record-breaking home run. I figure that if I'm gonna post another baseball-related entry, I'd better hurry up and do it while baseball is fresh on people's minds.

I apologize in advance for the fact that this story pokes fun at a fat person. I do know that's tasteless, but I'm gonna tell it anyway. I'm a plus-sized woman myself (okay, plus-sized and tasteless), but because of this story, I still chuckle every time I hear America's best-known baseball song.

When my daughter lived in New York, she told me on the phone one night that a guy she worked with had made a confession to her that day. He told her that he'd accepted a date with a girl he didn't like because she had tickets to a baseball game. He said the girl wasn't anybody he'd ever be interested in getting to know better; she annoyed him in general and, on top of that, she was a "fat chick." He said he knew it wasn't right to accept the date under those circumstances, but "you don't know how much I want to see that game." He'd made up his mind to deal with his conscience later, after the date. In the meantime, he'd make sure the girl had a nice time, and he'd also make sure not to lead her on.

Later that same day, my daughter saw the guy again. As he passed her desk, she heard him singing softly:

"Take me out to the ballgame,
take me out with the crowd,
buy me some peanuts
and buy me some peanuts
and buy me some peanuts
and buy me some peanuts
and..."