Friday, December 28, 2007

The battle of the sexes

Apparently the difference between the male and female brain, the disconnect that makes it so difficult for each sex to understand the other, shows up at a very young age.

The walls are thin in my new office. We can almost always hear voices coming from the beauty shop next door, and today I could clearly hear two small children playing on the other side of the wall:

Little girl's voice: "Hello?"

Little boy's voice: "Hello, this is the FBI!"

Little girl's voice: (Muttering too softly to be audible.)

Little boy's voice (much louder now): "NO! I said, 'This is the FBI!'"

Little girl's voice (in a placating tone): "I know you did, but now I want to say, "You have the wrong number.'"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Angels among us

Christmas of 1968, I think, was the last year my daughters believed in Santa Claus. In this photo, the magic is still in their eyes.

By the following year, due to an unfortunate set of circumstances and a misguided sense of justice, we had spilled the beans to them. It didn't ruin future Christmases, but it put a bit of a damper on that one.

What thrills me now is that we didn't ruin the part of those little girls that allows them to hope and dream, the part of them that even today holds a sense of possibility and wonder. I saw that part of them in their faces on Friday.

Some time ago I wrote about my mother's amazing ability to find a good parking place in the most crowded lot and, more interestingly, the fact that her children and grandchildren seem to have inherited that ability since her death. Except that it doesn't feel like an "ability," exactly; it feels as if we're being guided to just the right place.

That earlier post generated a lot of comments. I certainly understand the skepticism, but the fact is that a year and a half after I wrote that post, nothing has changed. We still get excellent parking spots -- all the time -- and it still strikes us funny and makes us happy. It always, always makes us think of my mother.

This past Friday, my daughters and I decided to have lunch together. It's rare that all three of us are available at the same time, so we looked forward to going to one of our favorite restaurants. Despite plans to get there early, we arrived exactly at noon, just at the peak of lunchtime traffic. The parking lot was so full that cars were lined up in a caravan that extended from the road through the parking lot. By the time we turned into the lot, the cars in the long line were unable either to move forward or to turn around.

We debated what to do. There were so many vehicles in line ahead of us that we felt sure we were in for a long wait. We discussed parking at the restaurant next door or across the street at the mall if we could ever complete one loop through the parking lot and head out onto othe road again. Because of my knee problems, neither of those options appealed to me, so I suggested that the girls let me out of the car as soon as we made it near the front door, then they could park wherever they wanted to. As an afterthought, I added, "Who knows? Maybe Mama-Too will find us something."

No sooner were those words out of my mouth than the cars ahead of us began to move. We watched them, one by one, pass slowly by one row of filled spaces and turn onto the next row, equally as full. Then, as the car directly in front of us made that same turn, taillights came on just ahead and to the left of us. A car began to back out of a space that we were perfectly aligned to pull into. It happened to be a space right in front of the restaurant door, just one row back.

We were immensely pleased -- but not entirely surprised -- and we laughed and said aloud, "Thank you, Mama-Too." Whether Mother had anything to do with our good fortune, I can't say for sure, but it's wonderful to imagine that she did. Either way, she was right there with us in that moment. Our hearts were full of our love for her and hers for us. We were three adult women, connected in the wonder and mystery of the moment, suspending disbelief and willing to accept at least the possibility that there was an angel among us.

It's the magic of that possibility that I wish for you during this holiday season, along with best wishes for peace and love and hope. Pay attention when you feel any of those emotions. You might just sense the presence of an angel of your own.

The song is "Angels Among Us" by Alabama.
Thanks to estera53 for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


It's been exactly a week since my last post -- a week of running as fast as possible to touch all the bases and still running (breathless now), trying to reach home plate. (For anyone who's keeping track, that may be the first and only sports analogy I've ever used on this blog.) Thankfully, I'm almost there.

Last Thursday morning, because my prescriptions were all expiring, I went to the doctor. It was time for a check-up and time to discuss all the recommended testing I'd refused up until now because I didn't have health insurance. I'd intended to enroll in Medicare before that appointment, but didn't get it done in time. Nevertheless, we developed a plan for what needs to be done and a timetable for doing it.

I'm really lucky to have a doctor who understands my financial limitations as well as my health needs. The last time I went to see her, she changed most of my prescriptions to generic versions, which meant I could get them filled for $4 each at Wal-Mart. That saved me a bundle of money each month. On this visit she changed the prescriptions to 90-day (instead of 30-day) refills, cutting out two Wal-Mart visits each quarter. She noticed my delight at this suggestion and commented that it would save me from impulse shopping while I waited for the prescriptions to be filled. That's true, but that isn't what delighted me. All I was thinking about was saving the wear and tear on my feet and knees.

After the doctor's appointment, I called the toll-free number for Social Security, planning to set up a time to visit the nearest office to sign up for Medicare. As it turned out, I was able to enroll over the telephone, which saved me both a trip into Baton Rouge and a morning or afternoon of missed work. In addition to assisting me with Medicare enrollment, the Social Security representative thoroughly explained all my options for drawing Social Security benefits. She was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable (not at all the bureaucrat I'd expected), and I hung up the telephone feeling much more hopeful about the prospect of eventual retirement.

Since that call, I've been scrambling to get certified copies of marriage and divorce documents, the last of which came in the mail today. I'll mail those off tomorrow and scratch that project off my to-do list for now.

My other urgent project this week was to begin Christmas shopping, which I did on Monday and Tuesday nights. Both nights I came home, unloaded bags from the car, then collapsed without putting anything away. I was too tired to even read at bedtime. Last night I stayed home after work, did a little gift wrapping, and once again went to bed early. I'm hoping that my shopping muscles are broken in now and will hold up until I finish.

The good news is that I'm off work now until the day after Christmas. And the even better news is that I realized, at some point in the middle of Tuesday night's shopping expedition, that the Christmas spirit has finally arrived and kicked the bah-humbug right out of me. It's about time!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Puppy Love

Most of the extra trips to Baton Rouge that I complained about two posts ago were trips to the vet for Kadi. She'd had blood work done last year that revealed a liver abnormality, and it was time to test her again to see if anything had changed.

This year's blood work showed the same problem as last time -- no better, no worse -- and the vet said that was good news. Apparently, a dog's liver has multiple sections or lobes. When one goes bad, the others "kick it up a notch" to make up the difference. The fact that there's been no change indicates we don't have to worry about any loss of liver function.

The blood work did turn up one new problem: a low thyroid level. I had to take Kadi back for additional testing, which verified that test result, and now she takes thyroid pills twice a day. She didn't seem to feel bad before all the testing, but they tell me this should make her feel better and -- BONUS -- reduce hair loss.

Once all the testing was complete, it was time for dental cleaning. Unlike Butch, who was born with bad breath but good, solid teeth, Kadi has teeth that accumulate plaque at a phenomenal rate. Now, though, she's all fixed up, and her doggy smile is once more beautiful. In addition, she's had the first of two vaccinations that are supposed to inhibit the growth of dental bacteria. (Boy, do I wish they'd come up with a vaccine like that for humans.) We have to go back right after Christmas for the second shot.

All this animal health care is pricey, but times like last night convince me it's money well spent.

Watching the sentimental finale of "Kid Nation," I got into the spirit of the show and began shedding happy tears -- accompanied, of course, by noisy snuffling. I was focused so intently on the TV that it took me a moment to notice that Kadi had climbed onto the sofa and rested her chin on my shoulder. I turned to look at her and found her staring, big-eyed, right into my face. That's when I realized she'd wrapped both front paws around my arm and pulled it close to her body. Bless her heart. That was very nearly as good as any human hug I've ever had.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It's a small world, after all

My sister called this afternoon and, as usual, we had a delightful chat. After we checked on the well-being of each other's families, she mentioned a bit of news that set my mind off on a six-degrees-of-separation tangent.

This photo was taken in my mother's home on my first wedding day. That's 18-year-old me at center right, holding a cup of lime sherbet/ginger ale punch, and that's the man I'd just married with his back to the camera.

The news my sister gave me in passing today was that the man at left in the photo, in the background, died recently. This was my husband's best man, his former boss, who was an East Texas automobile dealer. In fact, it hadn't been in our plans, but we ended up spending our wedding night at this man's fishing camp -- along with him and his entire family. (If that sounds weird to you, I assure you it felt even stranger to me.)

I didn't know this man well, although we'd socialized with him and his wife a number of times. They were in their mid-thirties and I was half their age. I didn't have a lot in common with them. Often, when we visited them, I managed to avoid adult conversation by calling on my babysitting experience and entertaining their children until it was time to leave. All of my visits with them were before the marriage. We moved out of town right after the wedding, and I don't remember if I ever saw any of them again.

Some years (and another husband) later, I was reminded of this man when I learned that his daughter had moved to Atlanta, Georgia and had just won the title of "Miss Georgia." I saw her on TV and was horrified to realize I was old enough to say truthfully that I once piggybacked a Miss USA contestant. She had grown up to be a beautiful woman. Ted Turner liked her enough to give her her own talk show when CNN was in its early days.

For those of you checking out the six-degrees-of-separation thing, there's me, then the pageant queen I piggybacked, then Ted Turner. That's just two degrees. If we take it one degree further, Ted Turner married Jane Fonda -- who, coincidentally, is my eighth cousin, twice removed. (Yes, I'll admit it: I'm distantly related to -- but separated by only three degrees from -- Hanoi Jane.)

Anyway, back to the immediate story:

According to what my sister told me and what I've read on the Internet since her phone call, this man who was best man at my first wedding became somewhat politically active in the years after we left there. One of his good political friends was Charlie Wilson, the flamboyant Texas congressman who is the subject of Charlie Wilson’s War, a book by George Crile. I haven't read the book yet, but after reading this excerpt and finding on page 10 the names of my husband's best man and his daughter, I definitely will.

The book has been made into a movie that's due out this month. I saw an Oprah show about the movie and was interested in seeing it even before I discovered the connection. It has a great cast, including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and (you guessed it, Kim) Philip Seymour Hoffman.

So, here we go: First there's me, then there's my husband's best man, then there's Charlie Wilson, then there's Tom Hanks. That's four degrees. But wait; it gets better.

Tom Hanks did another movie you may remember called Forrest Gump. Holly, better known to some bloggers as CreekHiker, worked on that movie. Isn't that cool? Holly (in Los Angeles) and I (in Louisiana) were separated by only five degrees long before we ever heard of each other.

(Sigh.) I love this game.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Gimme shelter

This is one of those times when the ordinary functions of life, the mundane processes we repeat to get from one day to the next, seem burdensome and unmanageable. I don't know why.

Maybe it's the weather. With the outside temperature changing from 84 degrees one day to 38 degrees the next, I can't seem to set my thermostat correctly to make my home comfortable. Wardrobe decisions are equally iffy, so I shiver or sweat at any given moment.

Or maybe it's all the little decisions nagging at me right now. My prescriptions are on the last refill, which means I need to make a doctor's appointment, which I didn't want to do until after I signed up for Medicare, which I've postponed because I haven't been in the mood to sift through the various plans and make choices. I'm be-whiched.

It could be the three extra trips to Baton Rouge this week, trips that used to take twenty minutes and now (post-Katrina) can take twice that long at the wrong time of the day. The trips I made took place, of course, at exactly the wrong time of the day -- either before work or after -- replacing precious stop-and-smell-the-roses hours with take-care-of-business time.

It may be the holiday season. It lost a big chunk of its appeal for me when my children grew up, and now that my grandchildren are either grown or practically so, I no longer see the magic of Christmas through their eyes. Now, unfortunately, it's just another deadline.

The main thing, I think, is that it's just so easy for us introverts to run out of emotional "gas" when we don't take the necessary quiet time to reflect and "refuel." Lately I've been too distracted to notice and appreciate the little things that normally nourish me: The brightest star in the night sky. The movement of light and shadow as the sun goes down. Brown leaves dancing in the air in front of my car as I drive the curvy river road. Hundreds of identical acorns in the driveway and one funny, bald-headed one, its empty cap lying right beside it. The leaning tree beyond our back fence and the few clusters of green leaves engaged in some sort of endurance contest on its otherwise bare branches.

I'll make it through the end of the work week, because making it is what I do, and then I'll crawl inside my shell and stay there until I can come out again with my head on straight and my rose-colored glasses balanced perfectly on the tip of my nose. I hope you'll wait for me.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Another volley fired in the garbage wars

My ongoing love-hate relationship with the local "waste management" company has been the topic of so many posts that I don't want to tackle the job of creating links to them. If you're all that curious, you can go to the blue bar at the top of this post, type the word "garbage" in the white box at the left, then click on "search blog." Otherwise, I'll just note here that the battle continues.

For more than ten years now, my neighbors and I have clustered our cans side by side at the curb. We've done this out of consideration for the trash collectors, thinking this arrangement would save them some steps. Apparently, the company has recently managed to eliminate a few jobs by mechanizing the physical process of picking up and dumping the cans into their truck. That's fine. Whatever. But if they wanted us customers to begin doing things differently, it would have been nice if they'd mentioned it up front.

Instead, they surprised us. I came home for lunch on trash-pick-up day and found this (click the photo to enlarge it):

I cropped off the company name and contact numbers just to be nice. And to not get sued.

As you can see, my neighbors and I unknowingly violated the "improperly placed cart" rule. And, in case the explanation on the card wasn't detailed enough, somebody kindly wrote a few words to explain it in more clearly: "Cart need to be divide apart." Well, all righty then. I get it now, and I will divide cart apart in future.

If you look closely at the photo, you'll see what appears to be a white circle at the upper left. The circle is actually a hole in the card. There's a slit from the edge of the card to the hole, so I assume the card was designed to hang from the garbage can handle. Instead, this one was lying in the driveway and another one just like it was in the middle of the front yard. After I traipsed through the wet grass to get the second card, I had to deliver it in person to the neighbors.

There's no telling what kind of problems we might have had if the card had blown away and the neighbors didn't know cart need to be divide apart. They might not understand why I put my garbage can off by itself on the other side of the driveway from theirs. They might think I believe my garbage isn't as stinky as theirs. Or they might decide I must have had a good reason for moving my can, which could lead them to put theirs right next to mine again, on the side of the driveway where we've never put them before.

We'd have the same problem all over again. Then the garbage picker-uppers would think we're really stupid.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I've been waiting for you

I heard about you years before I realized how important you might be to me someday, but it's only been in the last few years that I've fantasized about getting to know you better. I read the things that were written about you and imagined how my life would be different, more carefree, with you in it. If it had been left up to me, we'd have met sooner, but the people we've elected to make all the rules decided I wasn't mature enough to know you before now.

Nights when I lay sleepless, my body aching, I thought about you. When there was such a burning inside me that I found it difficult to breathe, I knew you'd be able to help me extinguish the fire. My mind was troubled sometimes, trying to distinguish between needs and wants, trying to determine which needs could wait and which demanded immediate satisfaction. With you, I knew, the choices wouldn't be so difficult. The mountains wouldn't seem so high.

But the time wasn't right. No matter how grown up I imagined myself to be, the law said I was too young for you. Well, now everything has changed.

I'm 65 now, Medicare, and I'm coming after you.

When my body aches and even the least expensive pharmacy charges $120 for Celebrex, I will lean against you and let you share my burden. When acid reflux threatens to burn a hole in my esophagus, you'll be there to ease me through the pain of paying for Nexium or Prilosec. From now on, when I think I need to go to the doctor, I won't be as hesitant. I won't be afraid of starting something I can't afford to finish.

I don't expect you to solve all my problems, Medicare; I know enough about you to know you don't work miracles. That's okay. I just need you to have my back, to offer a little reassurance now and then.

I'm excited about having you in my life. Please don't let me down.

Friday, November 23, 2007

How well do you know the person next to you?

Last Sunday I mentioned that Yajeev’s entry about imaginary friends reminded me of two posts I needed to write. This is the second one, and this one I must treat gently. If this story were made into a movie, my role would be that of a bit player. The main character would be a woman I’ll call “Gina.”

Years and years ago, I was one of seven secretaries working in a corporate office. Because there were so few of us, we knew each other fairly well. Gina was the newest member of our group. She was thirty-something, average in appearance, with a pretty smile we didn’t see often enough. During her first week there, we learned that she had standing doctor’s appointments twice a week. Cancer treatments, we were told, and the look on her face let us know she didn’t want us to ask any questions.

The rest of this story would be better told in a straightforward fashion, but I’m going to be deliberately vague. I'll beat around the bush a little now and explain why later.

Gina told us almost from the beginning that she was preparing for a "major event" in her life, an event that would be equally important to her "special man." She told us his name and his occupation, which, if I remember correctly, involved big red trucks with sirens. She brought in magazines dedicated to events of the type she was planning. She showed us pictures of several long dresses, white ones, and asked our opinions about which one she should order to wear to that event. She also talked about colors for the dresses her close friends would wear. She included us in discussions about invitations, decorations, and all the other details that needed attention.

This planning went on for months. The rest of us were happy for Gina, which we told her, and worried at the same time, which we tried not to show. She still visited the doctor regularly, and we crossed our fingers that she’d stay well enough to make it through her special day. And we did one more thing.

About six weeks prior to her special event, on an afternoon when she’d gone to the doctor, we got together and planned a "pre-event, gift-giving party." We decided which of us would be responsible for decorations, who’d bring what refreshments, etc. We also decided to have this party away from the office and to include her family and special friends. One of the secretaries approached the personnel manager, explained our plans, and obtained a phone number for Gina’s emergency contact, her mother.

We thought Gina's family would be pleased that she was well liked at work and had friends who would do something nice for her. We gathered around as our designated caller dialed the emergency number, identified herself and began to outline our plans. Then we watched as her smile changed to a look of confusion and her eyes darted from one of us to the other, indicating her obvious distress about what she was hearing. Her final words before hanging up the phone were, “I understand. I’m so sorry.”

Our co-worker became teary-eyed as she related Gina’s mother’s response: "I don’t know what she's been telling you," the mother had said, "but none of it is true.” There was no special man, no special event was planned. There was no cancer. There were doctor’s appointments, two a week, with a psychiatrist.

We were heartsick. All of us. I still feel sad and sick when I think about it all these years later. With good intentions, we had torn down a friend’s carefully constructed fantasy, and we had done it in a way that left her no room to work her way out of it. We'd created new problems for her both at work and at home.

Gina missed work the next day but showed up the day after that, long enough to submit her resignation. We apologized to her, and we cried before she did. All Gina said was, “It’s okay. I can’t explain to you why I did it, but it’ll be okay. There’s a doctor who’s helping me.” We never saw or heard from her again.

I’ve been careful about the words I’ve used in telling this story because I don’t know what happened to Gina. I hope she got better, but what if she got worse? Just in case her mental condition has deteriorated to a dangerous level and her computer skills have grown, I’ve tried not to describe this bizarre incident in phrases that might lead her, through a Google search, to this blog. If that sounds silly and melodramatic, it probably is, but I’ll tell you one more little piece of the story:

A couple of months after Gina began working at our office, the weather changed suddenly one afternoon. Snow began falling hard and fast, piling up several inches high in a matter of minutes. It was too late in the day for snowplows to clear the roads before afternoon rush hour, so driving would be hellish.

I knew Gina lived much farther from the office than I did, so I asked her if she’d like to ride home with me and spend the night with me and my family. The city would have the roads cleared by the next morning, and Gina would be able to ride to work with me, then drive herself home from there later. Gina thought about it for a few minutes and finally agreed. It made sense, given the weather conditions.

We made it home safely, had a nice dinner, visited and watched TV for a while, and then we showed Gina where she’d sleep. My younger daughter would bunk in her sister’s room for the night so Gina could have a bedroom to herself...almost. There was a bird cage in my younger daughter's room, but the bird (I won't name the breed) always went to sleep early. That night he sat on his perch with one leg pulled close to his breast and his head tucked under his wing. He barely cracked one eye open as we covered his cage with a dark cloth the way we did every night.

The next morning brought the usual rush as we got ready for work and school. Gina and I were dressed and having breakfast in the kitchen when my daughter came in crying. She’d gone to her room to give food and water to the bird, a routine morning chore. When she'd removed the cage cover, she'd found her pet bird lying dead in the bottom of the cage.

The bird was only two years old and had never had any problems. He'd seemed to be in perfect health the day before. Even so, we accepted his death as natural, a heart problem, perhaps, and we recognized the timing as unfortunate. I certainly didn’t want Gina, whom I believed was battling cancer, to think that a bird dying next to her as she slept was some kind of ominous sign.

My girls weren’t so sure that the bird’s death was natural. They didn’t make outright accusations when we talked about it later that night, but they asked several pointed questions.

Ever since I learned the truth about Gina, I've had questions of my own.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I don't suppose anyone's life is perfect, but each of us, I believe, has experienced countless perfect moments. My favorite day of the year is this one, the day set aside to remember all the goodness that's been granted us and express appreciation for it.

Since my first Thanksgiving Day, which occurred the day I was born, today is the only Thanksgiving I've ever spent without the company of at least one other human. Because of step-families, in-laws, a play-off game and a special occasion, we've postponed our family get-together and feast until Sunday.

Today was quiet, reflective, different from all the other Thanksgivings I've known, and still wonderful in its own way. I didn't feel lonely for a single minute; my heart is too full, my joys too many. Besides, I've shared the day, a Hitchcock movie marathon, and crock-pot chicken and dressing with four loving pooches, each of whom has slept a portion of the day wholly or partially on my lap.

I'm grateful for a day filled with precious, perfect moments. Even if your day was quite different from mine, I hope you would say the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The way we were

Yajeev, whose young male mind sometimes seems to run along a parallel track to my old female one (except that his train of thought eventually steams off into high-intellect pursuits such as biochemistry, and mine chugs happily into all the Nora Roberts novels I can get my hands on) posted about his brother's imaginary friends. Now that the subject has been broached in this corner of the Blogosphere, I want to give credit to the imaginary people who were there for me and my family when we needed them most.

I personally had three of them: Judy Rubberband, Judy Rubberband's mother and Corny James. To be honest, I've forgotten pretty much everything about Corny James except his name and the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when I think about him. I'm thinking he must have been a nice boy but one who stayed mostly in the background. The other two, though, were my partners in crime.

These folks were part of my life when I was about three years old, before my real sister was born. Judging from the imaginary friends of other children I've witnessed through the years, Judy Rubberband and her mother must have seemed quite real to me. What's odd in retrospect is that even as I insisted they were real, I must have been aware on some level that my mother couldn't see them. And that obviously seemed like a pretty good deal.

If my mother walked into a room and encountered a freshly made mess, I'd say Judy Rubberband did it. She was a good friend, but I didn't hesitate to rat her out. If Mother walked in and found me in the act of doing something I wasn't supposed to do, well, then, Judy Rubberband's mother told me to do it. I couldn't argue with an adult, could I?

My brother was also about three when we first met his imaginary friend, who went by the name of Father. The bedroom/bathroom area of our house was divided by a central hall, and that whole part of the house could be closed off by a door between the hall and the living room. The door opened into the hall and was mostly left open. Father lived in the narrow space between the open door and the hall wall behind it. I always thought he would have appreciated having at least the whole hallway to call his own.

A few years later, my older daughter had two imaginary friends, Brownie and David, who lived with us when she was (you guessed it) three years old. Both of her friends were based on people she saw on television. Brownie, we learned, closely resembled Peter Noone, lead singer of Herman's Hermits. His name referred to their hit song, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter." And David, we were informed, was David McCallum, then starring on TV in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Those guys might have been famous, but they sat around our living room all the time, and we got in trouble frequently for accidentally sitting on them.

I find it interesting that all the imaginary friends of our family were hosted by three-year-olds. Another weird thing happened when I was three, and I wonder if it's related in some way to whatever psychology lies behind the imaginary-friend phenomenon. I changed my own name. My older cousin Sandra had a real-life friend named Dorothy. Soon after I met her, I announced to my family that my name from then on would be Dorfy. Afterwards, I've been told, I refused to answer to my own perfectly good name. They could call me Dorfy or they could be studiously ignored; it was up to them.

I don't remember the actual name-change incident, but I clearly remember being Dorfy, and I remember that Dorfy had a near-death experience. I was at the grocery store with my mother, and a piece of candy became lodged in my throat. I remember feeling very distressed, then the grocer grabbed me up by my feet, held me upside down with one hand and whacked me on the back with the other. There's a very clear picture in my mind of that little store and of the green Lifesaver that popped out of my mouth, bounced once on the counter, then rolled across the floor.

That might have been Dorfy's experience, but the scars remained with me. For a long, long time afterward, I'd eat all the other flavors of Lifesavers, but not the green ones. Those, I'd generously give away. I'd share them, then sit back quietly and watch.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Time flew by since my last post, so I thought I'd spend a few moments to catch up on the non-events of the last few days:


It might be mid-November, but the grass was still thick and green when we had our first frost this past Wednesday. Post-frost, it's begun to turn brown, which means the annual muddy-paw season will soon follow.


Clouds to the left of me...

...soakers to the right...

When I saw these clouds yesterday morning, I thought we'd have some rain, but so far it's stayed dry -- and warmed up again, too.


The people around here are having difficulty deciding what season it is, but our coterie of pea-sized snails believes the weather is perfect for a rally. In years past, the snails have mostly remained hidden near the roots of Winter's brown grass, where we don't see them unless they catch a ride on one of our dogs. This year, though, there are bunches of them on the patio right outside the backdoor, so many that quite a few of them have succumbed to a slimy death under the heels of a rushing human or animal.


Butch is halfway through his high-powered antibiotics, and I don't see much improvement in what we sympathetically refer to as his "hurtie-heinie." He isn't due to go back to the vet until at least Tuesday, no later than Friday, so I hope we don't have a problem working him in around the Thanksgiving holidays.

I didn't mention in my last post that he's also getting treatment for another in a continuing series of yeast infections in both ears. He must have had at least ten ear infections in the nine years of his lifetime, and nobody has been able to explain why. The vet last week said it's "just very common" at this time of year. Because of his blindness, I feel very protective of his hearing and wish we could find a satisfactory way to prevent the recurrent ear problems.


One more good book suggestion for the avid readers among you:
The Book Thief
, by Markus Zusak. I loved this story. All the way through it I thought about my German-born stepmother, who has recounted her own fascinating stories about running from bombs and spending hours in basement shelters.


This afternoon I switched media and watched a movie that I also loved and recommend, one with the simple title of Bobby. It has a large cast of fine actors portraying hotel workers and guests whose stories converged when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

If you're old enough to remember 1968, you'll recognize the hairstyles and enjoy the fashion, but what will really get to you is the reminder of how hopeful we all were back then. And whether or not you were around in 1968, you'll be moved when you realize the similarities between key issues then and now.


Yajeev, bless his heart, with one single post has provided me with not one but two blogging opportunities for next week. I keep a running list of things to write about "someday," but some of them are off-the-wall stories that would seem weird to post in the absence of a specific context. Yajeev's post flows naturally because it's current, tying in as it does to his co-worker's continued state of weirdness, so if I piggyback off of his post, maybe my own stories will seem relevant. Thanks for the segue, Yajeev.


Except for a couple of hours tomorrow morning, I'm off work until the Monday after Thanksgiving. That time off will go very near the top of next week's gratitude list, right after my family, my dogs, and you, of course, dear readers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where my "extra" income goes

Here's a photo of Butch "looking out the window" (despite his blindness):

Notice his beautiful, fluffy tail. You'd never suspect it, but beneath that tail is a very, um...orifice.

Just yesterday I made two flying trips to the vet in Baton Rouge and spent $213 on Butch's butt. That's the second time in less than a month he's been treated for an anal sac abscess, and he has to go back for a follow-up exam in a week or ten days.

This is supposedly a very painful condition, but Butch never showed any of the usual behavioral symptoms. And he's too large a dog to pick up easily, so I don't often come eye-to-eye with his butt. We were fortunate that the vet noticed the problem when I took the dogs in for shots. Unfortunately, the antibiotics prescribed on that occasion weren't strong enough to completely heal the abscess, and it came back.

Butch has more powerful antibiotics now and is happy to take each one disguised in a bite of ice cream. He also has tasty, chewable pain pills to take once a day. All in all, he seems to be a happy camper already, and I'll feel better once I know his problems have been resolved.

Meanwhile, I and my occasional hemorrhoid just suck it up and deal with it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Song for a wasted literary long weekend

You Made Me Read You
(Sung to the tune of "You Made Me Love You")*

The laundry piled up.
I didn't want to do it.
I didn't want to do it.

The dust and dog hair,
I didn't quite get to it,
Guess you could say I blew it.

I had three days off work and
Three new good books.
I wasn't thinkin'
How bad this ol' house looks.

Your words ensnared me.
I couldn't put the books down,
Just wouldn't put the books down,
Ignored the chores for fun,
More than one, not begun,
Completed none.
Give me, give me, give me,
Give me what I'm needin',
The self control
To not spend three whole days just readin'.
Three days and no work got done.

*Music by James V. Monaco,
lyrics by Joseph McCarthy

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The music in my head

Now that I've complained about non-stop Christmas music, I should probably mention that non-stop music has been a minor issue with me for years and years. The music I'm speaking of is the music in my head.

I'm not talking about the occasional pesky earworm. The music I hear constantly at a low, background level in my brain consists of an ever-changing playlist. All that's been missing is the DJ.

I can't remember when the music started. The first time I ever thought about it, it seemed normal to me, so I must have been hearing it for years by then. Frankly, I enjoyed it, except for a brief period in the mid-'70s. That's when we were in New York, and the company I worked for decided to pipe in elevator music at a background-noise level that couldn't overpower the music my brain was playing. It was as if I were standing between two radios tuned in to different stations, and it drove me nuts. Fortunately, my co-workers didn't like the piped-in music either, and the company didn't keep it long.

With that exception, the music in my brain always receded if I was listening to other music or engaged in really stimulating conversation, but even under those circumstances, I could instantly tune it in if I thought about it. And most of the time, whether I was reading, chatting, working, writing this blog, whatever, the music was always there.

I'd hear other people talk about songs "getting stuck" in their heads, so I thought for years that everybody's brain played music like mine. I was probably in my 40s when I casually mentioned it to a couple of people, and they had no idea what I was talking about. From then on, curious, I'd ask others about it from time to time, trying to find someone else who had the same experience. No one ever admitted it.

Then came the Internet. One of the first things I ever Googled was "music in my head." There were lots of hits, most of which didn't refer to the condition I was exploring, but I did find a few people who described the same phenomenon. So far, I haven't found a name or a reason for it, but my most recent online search turned up some speculation that it might be related to a type of attention deficit disorder. Hmm. That's a possibility, I suppose.

At any rate, I was prompted to write about this because of a couple of things that have happened recently. First, I noticed earlier in the week that there's been a slight change: The music is no longer there all the time, and when it is there, I can stop it if I want. Or not, if I happen to like the song that's playing. I can't imagine why it's changed, but I think I'm going to enjoy the quiet.

And today, driving to work, I had a different experience that's related to music and mental multi-tasking. I was singing along with a CD, one I really like and know all the words to. A question popped into my head and my mind went off on a tangent, exploring possible answers to my question. After a couple of minutes of intense thinking, my attention abruptly snapped back to the music -- which I was still singing, word for word and nearly on the last verse. Strange!

It reminded me of the experience of reading a book, following the words with my eyes, turning the pages at the end of each odd-numbered one, then becoming aware several pages later that I have no recollection whatsoever about what I've just read. Now, surely some of you have done that!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A terrorist plot... destroy Christmas is being carried out at a local radio station. I'm sure of it.

For several years now, the easy-listening station that wakes me up every morning has proclaimed December to be "all Christmas music, all the time." That much Christmas music drives me insane.

In the car today, I pushed the button for that station and immediately felt as if I'd driven into a time warp. This year, they've expanded "all Christmas music, all the time" to include the month of November! Who in their right mind wants to listen to two solid months of Christmas music? Santa Claus wouldn't do it, and I'll bet Jesus wouldn't, either. I'm with them.

I like to hear Christmas music sprinkled throughout the day in the weeks before Christmas, and I even enjoy constant Christmas music from the time the gift opening begins until the last scrap of red and green paper is put in the trash. But much more "Deck the Halls" than that assaults my ears, grates on my nerves and makes me count the days until Christmas is over.

That's why I think my regular station is involved in a terrorist plot. If all stations played non-stop Christmas music for two full months, a lot of people might run screaming to another religion by the end of that time. A less musical religion.

Who knew CD's and radio push buttons would be so vital to the preservation of Christmas as we've always loved it?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Dirty old lady?

Just in case anyone tells you I’m getting weird in my old age, I’d like to explain for the record what really happened:

A colleague of my boss’s came into the office today. I’ve known the man for several years now, but not terribly well. Our relationship has always been cordial and always professional.

When I opened the door to the lobby, I was expecting someone else, someone who was coming to see me, so I was caught off guard from the get-go. My boss had just told me good-bye, and I knew he was planning to leave in a minute or two through another exit. At that moment I wasn’t certain whether he was still in the building or, if he was, whether he’d want to be delayed. I decided to buy him some time to make a clean getaway if he chose to do so.

So there I stood, smack in the middle of the doorway between the lobby and the interior hallway, smiling and greeting the unexpected visitor. As I opened my mouth to tell him I wasn’t sure if the boss was still there, the visitor strode quickly and purposefully toward me, and, when he was mere inches away, he opened his arms out wide. He'd never greeted me that way before, so I recognized it as unusual behavior, but I did what comes naturally to me in response to that particular gesture: I reached out my own arms and hugged him.

In the split second it took me to realize he wasn’t hugging me back, it dawned on me that he’d stretched himself out so he could squeeze past me through the doorway and hurry on back to my boss’s office.

Heh. That was awkward.

I wasn’t going to tell anybody –- and hoped he wouldn’t, either –- but the more I thought about it, the more it tickled me. And a good laugh needs to be shared, even when the joke's on me.

Plus, it seemed wise to get my side of the story out there first. This is a small town. Juicy rumors spread fast.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Celebrating a Holly-day

Earlier in the week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with Holly, better known to the blogging world as CreekHiker. She's visiting family here in Louisiana, and I'm so happy she could make some time for us to get better acquainted.

It didn't surprise me a bit that Holly is as warm, funny and interesting in real life as she is in her writing. In fact, one of the things I enjoy most about the blogosphere is that bloggers don't generally waste a lot of time with small talk. We write openly about what we think and feel, which makes it easy to get to know each other without a lot of pussyfooting around up front. Isn't that great?

Blogging, I think, has a wonderful way of equalizing people, pulling us from different places, ages, genders, races and experiences and letting us see that our similaries are far greater in number than are our differences. Holly and I talked about a lot of things, including why we like to write. I was touched when she told me that my blog had motivated her to write hers, and she seemed surprised to learn the story about how Alison's blog, Inspired Work of Self-Indulgence, inspired me to begin this one.

So now I'm wondering: Why did each of you decide to write down your thoughts and send them into cyberspace? You can answer as a comment here or as a post on your own blog, but if you do it on your own site, please leave a comment here so we'll know to go look for it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


When my grandchildren were little, I hated it when they cried. I hate it more today, now that they're grown, because today it takes grown-up hurts to make their tears flow. This past weekend they lost a friend, and there's no way anyone can kiss that kind of hurt and make it well.

This particular friend was the best man at my granddaughter's recent wedding, the best friend of her new husband. He was traveling through Texas Saturday, on his way to Galveston to board a cruise ship, when he was killed in a head-on collision.

I'd met this young man only briefly, but I stopped by the funeral home tonight to offer a little support to my family members who knew and loved him. The place was packed. As I waited in a long line, I had the opportunity to listen to others speak about him. They cried as they talked about how much they'd miss him and how he was the one others turned to when they needed their spirits lifted, then they laughed as they told stories about the way he went about lifting them. And then they cried some more.

He touched a lot of people in 28 short years. I suspect that won't stop just because he can no longer do it in person.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Canines of the Corn

The full moon glowed above my neighbor's rooftop tonight and made me think of all the tales I've heard about eerie things that happen when the moon is full. The stories were fun but purely fiction, or so I've always believed. Now I'm not so sure.

Something weird is going on. If it's nothing to do with the phase of the moon, perhaps it's the fact that Halloween is just around the corner, or maybe the dogs next door have been filling Butch and Kadi's heads with ghoulish campfire stories. I only know that I have reason to suspect that my dogs are performing secret rituals while I'm away at work.

Butch and Kadi, at 9 and 10 respectively, are no longer interested in playing with toys. If an object isn't edible, they don't want me to throw it for them or shake it playfully in front of their noses. Still, I've kept their big basket of toys, because Lucy and Winston, my much younger granddogs, enjoy the toys when they visit.

When Butch and Kadi were young, the toy they both preferred was a stuffed hedgehog. They liked the gruff sound it made when squeezed, and they enjoyed the process of ripping the stuffing out of it. As I bought new hedgehogs to replace the disemboweled ones, the empty hedgehog pelts seemed to disappear, presumably resting in peace at the bottom of the toy basket. Until now.

I came home earlier this week to find this:

If you'll click to enlarge the photo, you'll see clearly that three hedgehog carcasses were extracted from the variety of toys in that basket, then carried all the way from the basket in the den to the living room, where they were placed ceremoniously around the perimeter of a vase of tall, dried stems. Don't you think that behavior is rather Druid-like? (No offense to the Druids among you, dear readers, but I find this all a little spooky.)

I saw no signs of fire or blood, and the dogs are not admitting to anything, but I'm keeping an eye on them just the same.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Under Siege

Part I
I've spent the last two evenings watching the news about the West Coast fires and talking with California relatives, all of whom are safe, thank goodness. As much as my heart aches for so many people who have lost everything, my spirits have been lifted by the strength, determination and acceptance displayed by those I've seen interviewed. There was sadness, for sure, but I didn't see even one person who appeared to feel defeated. I'd like to believe I could show that kind of grace and dignity under such circumstances, but I'm not so sure I could. God bless 'em.

Part II
The reason I'm having doubts about my own strength of character is that I've been reflecting on my overreaction to a situation that occurs in my life almost every morning, one that changes my mood from good to bad in a matter of seconds. I am attacked on a daily basis, and I respond each and every time with anger and curses, despite the fact that I'm entirely alone when the attacks occur. I need to get a grip on it.

I step into the shower each morning feeling relatively calm, then I turn the water on, and before I'm even wet all over, the plastic shower curtain liner has become this massive, moving, suffocating beast that wants to swallow me whole -- or at least to get close enough to know me in a Biblical sense -- and I find myself struggling to stand upright. While I'm washing my left leg, the shower curtain wraps itself around my right one. While I'm shampooing my hair, the curtain drapes itself against my shoulders, clinging, copping feels like a movie version of a creepy drunk. I feel as if I'm about to be drowned -- or maybe shrink-wrapped.

And so I fight. And I swear. And I fight some more, until I can call myself clean, then I turn off the water to tame the monster and escape, exhausted. Oddly, by the time my hair is dry, the anger is gone and I forget about it.

The next morning when the alarm goes off, I stumble through the house to let the dogs out, get that first and most important Diet Coke and some toast or cereal, turn on the "Today Show." Everything in my world seems lovely as I sit quietly and have breakfast, but slowly, inevitably, the brain-fog lifts, and I'm ready to take a shower. It's time to do battle again.

There is neither grace nor dignity in the way I handle this daily dose of adversity, but at least I'm aware of it. I'll try to do better tomorrow.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hope Votes

The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” - Henry Kissinger

I’ve never been much of a risk-taker, but yesterday, with a single touch of my finger, I, a liberal Democrat, voted for Bobby Jindal, a conservative Republican, for governor of Louisiana. He won the election, and I’m counting on him not to let me down.

Though I definitely lean to the left of moderate, I’ve always tried to vote for the candidate, not the party. This isn’t the first time I’ve crossed party lines, but it’s the scariest time. I’m sickened and saddened by what the current administration has done to our country, and I don’t want to be responsible for electing someone who might perpetuate more of the same.

I knew even as I pushed that button yesterday that I disagreed strongly with Jindal’s positions on several political issues, but I don’t think those issues are of immediate concern, either to me or to the candidate. I voted for him because he, among all the candidates, is the one who gave me hope.

Someone said once that the problem with Louisiana is that there’s such a high level of satisfaction with the lifestyle here that many people never leave, and that people who never go anywhere else can’t imagine that things could be any better. I think that’s true. The flip side of that problem is that many of our college-educated people do leave. There aren’t enough jobs here for highly educated people, and without an educated work force, we can't attract the kind of businesses that will boost our economy.

Smart isn’t everything, but I want a leader who is smart. Bobby Jindal is. I want a leader who is concerned about all the people, not just those with money enough to make campaign contributions, and I think this man cares. I want a leader who looks forward, not back, and I believe this governor-elect is focused on raising our state from its standard position near the bottom of the “best” lists. I want a leader who is a doer, not just a “decider.” When I watched TV as Hurricane Katrina turned South Louisiana into a high-water Hell, I saw Bobby Jindal getting things done while other politicians stood around waiting for direction.

I’ve often pondered the irony that for all my liberal leanings and progressive, independent thinking, I ended up plopped down in the middle of the land of the good ol’ boys, destined to feel like an outsider even after 29 years, and still, for the most part, to feel content. Unfortunately, the discontented part of me has grown in the past few years. It’s grown in direct proportion to the bungling, on every level from local to national, of those we’ve elected to look out for us.

I made a huge leap of faith when I pushed that button yesterday, and I pray to God I didn’t make a mistake. If time proves that my faith wasn’t justified, I hope you’ll all remind me of that–-mercilessly--before the next major election. In the meantime, I’d like to read your thoughts and comments (but not political arguments; save those for your own blog) about what you look for in a leader.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Love letter

Yajeev left a funny comment about my last post. In part he wrote: "The first house belonged to the Smiths. I was friends with their daughter. I had a crush on her and even played Barbies with her just so she'd hang out with me." As soon as I read those words, I knew what I'd write about next.

In 1970 and 1971, we lived in Miami, Florida. One of my daughters' most frequent playmates was a little boy, Andy, who lived directly behind us. Andy was seven when my girls were six and eight, a cute little guy whose freckled face radiated innocence.

I used to watch from the window as the kids played in the front yard. I understood why Andy might like to join in the high-energy games, but when the girls set up a complete Barbie village near the front sidewalk, it surprised me that he seemed so interested in that kind of play. It surprised me for several days in a row. Then I stepped outside quietly and got close enough to discover that Barbie and Ken were naked. It could have been worse, I know, but that was the end of playing Barbie with boys.

Andy, bless his heart, stayed around anyway, and in the first months of 1972, when we moved to Georgia, he seemed sad to see us go. We gave him our new address before we left, and it was only days later that I got a letter from him, a letter that brightened my day and still does, thirty-five years later. When I read Yajeev's comment, I knew I had to dig this out and share it with you (click to enlarge):

Isn't that the sweetest thing ever? This is the best letter I ever got from someone not in my family -- certainly sweeter and more heartfelt than anything ever written to me by any in the series of men in my life. I like Andy's letter even more because he included our whole family in his affections, even though his early man-training led him to "like" instead of "love" my husband. And because he erased the word "girl" and replaced it with "lady."

Andy would be more than forty years old today. He was a sweet, sensitive boy, and I'd love to know what kind of man he grew up to be.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Going home: a walk to remember

A severe case of nostalgia settled over me a couple of weeks ago, and I haven't been able to shake it. Not that I've really tried. I suppose you could even say I've wallowed in it.

Aided by the magic of the Internet, I've toured the college campus across the street from the home where I grew up and "visited" some of the neighbors I remember from way back then.

This is a photo of my little sister and me, standing on either side of our maternal grandparents near the front steps of their Missouri home:

This was the home that provided security and stability for us throughout our young lives, the home we'd be leaving the next day to begin a new life in Texas with our mother and brand-new stepfather.

I look at this photo and I can smell the flowers that Mammaw planted in the dark-green, wooden flower boxes. I can feel the roughness of the stones as well as if my fingers touched them today. In the background I see the homes of neighbors, and I begin a mental walk westward down the block.

Right next door to us lived the Buzans, Hattie and Cecil, a friendly couple about the age of my grandparents. They rented an apartment in their home to Mrs. Anderson, grandmother of my school friend, Sarah, and another room one summer to a South American exchange student, Suzanne, whom we admired for her beauty and her foreign accent, the first one we'd ever heard.

The next house was a smaller one, home of a playmate, Nina Ruth Brown. Nina Ruth's mother had severe arthritis. Walking was difficult if not impossible for her, and she didn't have a wheelchair. She spent her days in a straight-backed chair, bouncing and jiggling it, inch by inch, to move through her house.

Two families lived in the next house during the time we lived on that street. First was the Maness (Mayness?) family, which included my good friend, Carolyn Sue, whose daddy was a minister.

I'm on the left in the photo, the curly-permed girl in the skimpy sunsuit, and Carolyn Sue's the pretty girl in the modest dress. The boy on the bike is my uncle, Joe, who gained a good friend after the Manesses moved out and Jimmy Wheelis moved in with his aunt, Annette, a beautician.

The next house, a tall, two-storied one with a peaked roof, belonged to the Fullers. They were a super-nice couple who always seemed to be apologizing for their darling-but-snarling chihuahua, Susie. It was Mr. Fuller who accidentally shot my sister one day. He was shooting at a pesky squirrel in a tree in his yard, but the bullet hit a branch and ricocheted four houses up the block to our backyard, where it struck my sister in the neck. The force of the bullet had dissipated enough that it didn't break the skin, but it did give my sister a nasty sting and a big welt on her neck. I remember Mr. Fuller bringing my sister a present (a box of candy, I think), which made me wonder why I couldn't have been lucky enough to have been shot.

The Rice family lived on the other side of the Fullers. The Rices had a beautiful daughter, Beverly, who was much older than we were but always very nice to us. In fact, the whole family was nice, despite the fact that my sister and I always attempted to steal a piece of their house when we visited. The exterior of their home was covered with a grey, mortar-like substance that was embedded every half-inch or so with bright, multi-colored bits of glass. It was my habit to knock on their door with my left hand, while my right hand, furiously but unsuccessfully, tried to dislodge at least one sparkling gem.

Next came the Stinsons. I don't remember much about them except that they, too, were very pleasant and that their grey hair made me think they were the oldest homeowners west of us on the block.

There was one more house past the Stinsons, but I never knew who lived there and don't remember ever going to their door, even for Trick or Treat. They had a screened-in porch made almost invisible by tall bushes that grew in front of it, and there always seemed to be a lot of college-aged kids hanging out on the porch. Maybe it was a boarding house of some sort.

Next up was a single-story, flat-roofed building that housed three small businesses. Annette's Beauty Shop, operated by our neighbor, Annette Wheelis, was first. I got a perm there once, an event I probably wouldn't remember except for a slightly embarrassing moment. I was under the hair dryer, reading a comic book and singing softly (I thought) to myself. A tap on the shoulder alerted me to look up, and I saw a shop full of ladies laughing and looking in my direction. Apparently, I'd been singing much louder than I'd intended and didn't realize it because of the noise of the hair dryer.

Next to Annette's was Frank's Market. Frank Scroggs was the neighborhood butcher. He was the father of my classmate, another Suzanne. This Suzanne had dark eyes and long, black, curly hair. She wore two big bows in her hair each day, positioned one on each side of her forehead so that they reminded me of a favorite comic strip character, Little Lulu. Suzanne's mother was always dressed "fancy," in my youthful opinion, as if she had important places to go, and I assume it was her doing that the family sometimes wore matching outfits, dresses and shirt all made of the same fabric.

At the end of the block, on the corner near the mailbox, was Parson's Drugstore, where comic books sold for ten cents each and the soda fountain beckoned with cherry phosphates and multiple flavors of ice cream cones. Parson's was one of my favorite places in the world.

This post has grown much longer than I intended it to be, and I don't know how many of you readers have chosen to accompany me all the way to the end of the block. I do know my sister will walk with me every step of the way along the sidewalk we traveled so many times together that is no longer there, beside houses that have long since been demolished to provide space for college expansion.

My sister and I have visited that patch of earth together in recent years and stepped out onto the ground where we used to play. Even as I saw the tennis courts that are there now, I looked right through them. In my mind, in my heart, I 'll always see well-tended houses, beautiful trees, smiling neighbors. I'll always see home.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

When I turn 80, these'll be the good ol' days

The mercury hit 86 degrees here this afternoon, better than the high temperatures we've experienced for too many months, but still uncomfortably hot. This morning, though, for just a few hours, the air was cool. I opened the door at first daylight to let the dogs out, felt the coolness on my skin, and immediately felt wide awake and alive. That's quite a contrast to my usual groggy morning self.

Today inspired hope that the oppressive heat will soon be over. If I'd been lucky enough this morning to have the privacy of a place like my imaginary cabin in the woods, I'd have followed the dogs out into the yard and danced in my nightgown like a(n oversized) fairy in the dew.

Fall is the only time of the year that I really enjoy being outdoors. The rest of the year, as much as I appreciate the beauty of nature, I'd just as soon view it through glass.

I'm also looking forward to taking more pictures now that the weather is cooler. (It's been so frustrating this summer to see something outdoors that might make a good photo, only to have the camera lens fog up the instant I stepped outside.) I especially want to get some shots along the road I take to work each day. Sometime between last Friday and Monday, fields turned from green to bright yellow like magic, presto chango. Some of the fields are bursting with Goldenrod and others with blankets of Black-Eyed Susans. Simply beautiful!

If it sounds as if I'm all hyped up by the change in the weather, that's only partly true. The cool air is definitely responsible for a portion of my good cheer, but another large chunk of happiness is because today's Thursday: "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy" will be on TV soon.

Life is good.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Why I call her Lucy-Fur

WARNING: This post contains certain information that might offend some people's sensibilities. Part of it even offends my own. Proceed at your own risk.


Kim went out of town six days ago, and it's been my pleasure (most of the time) since then to have Winston and Lucy as houseguests.

Winston has been exceptionally well-behaved, as if he instinctively understands the importance of pleasing the provider of his food, water and treats. With the exception of a few rousing games of plastic-hamburger-keep-away and occasional lifts into and out of the high bed, he hasn't made any extra demands. Lucy, on the other hand, has seemed to have only one thought on her mind since her mom dropped her off:


Lucy is the delicately built girly dog who likes to snuggle. She lets us hold her like a baby and stretches her pretty neck to get close enough to bestow dainty dog kisses on our cheeks. Let's just say that after this visit I won't be so eager to have any more of those.

Here are some of the things I've taken away from Lucy this week:

1) One half-eaten dead wasp;
2) One half-eaten dead beetle;
3) One whole chicken wing stolen from my plate;
4) Two cotton balls;
5) One stuffed animal whose fabric tail she was tearing into pieces, chewing up and swallowing;
6) Two knee-high stockings, worn ones that smelled like feet;
7) One big wad of paper towels I'd put on the floor to blot up a puddle of pee (hers); and, last night at the foot of my bed,
8) One well-chewed-but-not-quite-dead tiny pink gecko.

To complete the portrait, here's a photo of Lucy slinking up to play Inspector General while Kadi goes about personal dog business in the backyard:

The reason I'm telling you all this is to demonstrate that Lucy is not the sweet baby doll we thought she'd grow up to be. Though she's capable of turning on the charm, she's all dog.

So here's the clincher, the for-certain-too-much-information part of this post to explain how Lucy hurt my feelings: She had settled down on the sofa beside me, the entire length of her body snuggled up against my hip and thigh. She was sleeping soundly, and I didn't want to move and wake her, but I began to feel some rumblings in my abdomen.

After a moment I shifted position ever so slightly, and when I did, a tiny amount of gas escaped, accompanied by what I considered an unfortunate but rather feminine little toot. Lucy, the willing eater of vile creatures and close-up admirer of fresh poop, raised her head, sniffed the air, whipped around to look at me with an expression of disbelief, then leaped down and ran across the room and jumped up on the other sofa. How dare she?

Strangers who meet her think she's the prettiest, sweetest little thing. Humph! They've never seen the devil-dog side of her.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

This is NOT about Britney Spears...

...except that the recent news about Britney’s custody battle reminded me of the most theatrical real-life courtroom scene I ever witnessed.


In 1967-68 I worked for an East Texas district judge. One morning when court was in session I noticed a family sitting near the front of the courtroom. There were a father, a mother, and four children who appeared to range in age from about twelve to six. All of them were dressed in their Sunday best, and the children were exceptionally well-behaved. The clerk called a number of other cases ahead of theirs. The kids sat without making a peep from nine in the morning until the judge recessed court for a lunch break.

After lunch, the family returned promptly to the courtroom and sat quietly for about another hour until the clerk called their docket number. That’s when I learned that the case was a contested adoption. The father had always had custody of his four kids, and his present wife had cared for them for years. She wanted to adopt them, but their natural mother was unwilling to consent to it. This hearing was a chance for everyone involved to have their say.

A good friend of mine, Paul O., was the attorney for the children’s father and stepmother. He had the first turn to speak, and he immediately called the children’s birth mother to the stand as a witness.

Paul O: "Are you the natural mother of the children who are the subject of this case?"

Witness: "I am."

Paul O: "Are the children present in the courtroom today?"

Witness: "Yes, they are."

Paul O: "Will you point them out to the court, please?"

The witness pointed to the four children who had waited so patiently all day long.

Paul O: "For the record, you’re indicating these four children in the second row?"

Witness: "That’s right."

Paul O: "Your Honor, I move to dismiss the witness’s motion to contest this adoption on the grounds that she’s had so little involvement with the children that she doesn’t even know what they look like."

As it turned out, only the oldest child was hers. The three younger ones were ringers, neighborhood children who’d been "borrowed" for the occasion.

No other witnesses were called. After a brief discussion with the attorneys, the judge dismissed the motion and granted the adoption.


Back to Britney (sorry, couldn't resist), the word is that she turned her kids over to their father earlier than the court required and chose to run errands rather than attend yesterday's hearing. No matter. If, someday in the future, she should run into problems similar to those of the mother I just told you about, she shouldn't have any trouble identifying her two boys. All she’ll ever need to do before a scheduled court appearance is pick up the latest issue of People magazine. No doubt their photos will still be in there, bless their innocent little hearts.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why wait?

My sister called this morning and surprised me with the news that her newest grandchild, a boy, arrived last night -- five weeks early. This baby is my niece's first child, and I can so identify with her right now.

My own firstborn arrived six weeks early, before we'd bought diapers, a crib or anything else. I'd thought there was plenty of time. For weeks I'd been embroidering tiny, gender-neutral diaper shirts, none of which was completed -- by the time of her birth or ever. Babies change plans, and when they arrive this early, the only thing that seems important is that they're healthy. My niece and I both got lucky in that regard.

This little boy will grow up in a family where love and laughter are plentiful. He'll be welcomed by parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles who'll be charmed by every hair on his head and every breath he takes. Maybe he knew that somehow. Maybe that's why he couldn't wait.

Why wait
When now is the right time?
Today could just pass you by,
Why wait?
It's your turn, it's your life,
The future is what we make
So why wait?

*Why Wait
By the Cheetah Girls

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

To You-Know-Who-You-Are Surveys, LLC

Get a clue, okay?

If you call someone's home phone number a half-dozen times over the course of a week, sometimes during the day, sometimes at night, and you never, never get an answer, which of the following possibilities do you think is the most likely scenario:

a. Nobody's ever home at this number, but the people who pay for this phone would really, really like to participate in your survey and would feel terrible if you didn't keep calling back until you finally reached them; or

b. The people who pay for this phone have Caller ID and have no intention of talking to you, no matter how many times you call back; or

c. There's a remote chance that one of the people in the household you're calling might be sitting right next to the only phone in the house that doesn't have Caller ID and might be expecting a call and might reach out and answer the phone without screening it first.

Crap. The correct answer was "b," but you picked "c," didn't you?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lest ye think I exaggerate...

About a year and a half ago I posted a photographic example of my ongoing dog-hair problem. There's hair on the floor, hair in the air, and hair constantly falling off the dogs as they walk through the house. It mostly collects itself into tumbleweed-like puff balls and hides under furniture, so it isn't as if I have to kick a path through it. And I don't consider it dirty, exactly, because if the hair were still on the dogs, I'd have no objection to hugging them. It just gets a little overwhelming, that's all.

It would be easier to manage if I could just vacuum up the hair, but there's too much of it. It fills up more than one vacuum cleaner bag, and at five dollars a bag, I can't afford to use more than one per session. So I sweep before I vacuum. I pile all the hair into a corner, sweep the pile onto an open sheet of newspaper, then fold up the paper and put it in the trash.

You can imagine the volume of hair that accumulates if I get behind in the sweeping and vacuuming. Say I'm busy with a barbecue one weekend, a birthday dinner the next, then I get involved in a really, really good book, and then, just when I'm finally getting around to tackling chores, I get invited to trek through a nature preserve instead. Time flies by sometimes; what're you gonna do?

Today, I made up my mind, was no-nonsense day. I got Kadi and Butch both down and brushed them vigorously, determined to get every loose hair off of them before I began sweeping. Then I made a deal with myself.

Sweeping hurts my back, so I decided I'd sweep for 15 minutes, then do something I enjoy for the next 15, alternating until the job was done. I watched TV and drank a Diet Coke after the first 15 minutes, then picked up the broom again. As I swept, my mind began focusing on the possibility of a new creative project, something I've never seen anybody else do.

The timer rang and I got started. First, I needed a spray bottle of water to make my sculpture medium pliable enough to hold shape. After five minutes, I had just what I wanted, so the next step was to photograph it. It took about a minute to get the right shot, then another three or four minutes to get the photo loaded onto my computer. With five minutes left, I opened the photo file into the Paint program and went to work "painting" little facial features. Done, just in the nick of time.

This is supposed to be a vacuuming period, but I'm so pleased with the results of my art project that I couldn't wait to show it to you. Do you know how many times I've joked with people that there's enough dog hair in my house to make a whole 'nother dog? Maybe now they'll believe me.

I think I'll name this one Fluffy (may she rest in peace).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Under the white-hot sun?

Some of you have already written about cool nights and the need for warm blankets, but we're not there yet. Right now we just feel lucky that the temperature has dropped in the last week to a daily high of no more than 89-90 degrees.

I do know the season will change soon, though, and there's one more photo I want to show you before cool weather makes it untimely:

It's such a simple shot, really. The colors and the bleakness make me feel the kind of loneliness I experience when I look at Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World, but much warmer thoughts come to mind when I remember the day the photo was taken.

If you have the time and the inclination, tell me if the picture reminds you of anything or anywhere in particular. Then I'll come back in a day or two and give you the backstory.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

That's me, right there on the red carpet

Interviewer: Umm, you're on the red carpet, so I know I'm supposed to know you, but could you say your name for the viewers, please?

VS (leaning over to speak directly into the mic): Velvet. Sacks. My name is Velvet Sacks.

Interviewer: Uh, yeah, right, where are my notes? Ummm, Miz Sacks, can you tell us a little bit about your latest,, album?

VS: Well, I don't have a show or film or album; I have a blog.

Interviewer: A blog? Like on the Internet? Like thousands and thousands of other people have?

VS: Precisely.

Interviewer: And is your blog famous?

VS: Well, there are at least half a dozen people who read it regularly. Plus family. Well, not all my family, of course, some of them are busy with actual lives.

Interviewer: Oh, I see, well, ummm...tell us who you're wearing tonight.

VS: Dress Barn. Plus.

Interviewer: Hmmm, we don't see that here too often. Can you tell us what kind of fabric that is?

VS (rolling eyes): It's velvet, okay? Between the heavy, fuzzy fabric and the TV-adds-10-pounds thing, people are gonna think I'm fatter than I really am.

Interviewer: Heh-heh. Well, tell us why you're here tonight. Have you been nominated for something?

VS: Nominated, my ass! I've already won two awards, you doofus, and the most recent one was for being nice! Can you freakin' believe it? Now get outta my way; I need to get inside and see if they have any of those little finger sandwiches.


Jackie gave me this award, and I'm delighted, if somewhat embarrassed, to accept it. While I don't think I'm a mean person, "nice" isn't the first adjective I'd apply to myself. Are there any graphic artists out there who could digitally transform this into a "Not Usually a Jerk Award"? That might come just a little closer to the real me.

Jackie also posted these words that go along with the award: “This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends, and those that inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you have been awarded, please pass it on to seven others whom you feel are deserving of this award.”

Now, that last part I can do. I can think of way more than seven nice people I've met through blogging. Many of them have already received this award, and since every recipient is supposed to send it to seven others, I'm scrambling to get this list up fast.

I'm honored to present the "Nice Matters Award" to:

Austin of The People Behind My Eyes;

Maxngabbie of Maypoles of Life;

The four sisters who are quite nice but try their best not to show it:

Patsy of My Life and Times;

Betty of Galla Creek Ephemeris;

Helen of A Little of This-n-That; and

Fleta of Dirt Road Lives.

The seventh blogger whom I've chosen to recognize with the "Nice Matters Award" is, ta-dahhhhh:

Robbin with 2 B's of Cedar Chest of Dreams.

Robbin is, coincidentally, the person who gave me my very first award, the "Rockin' Girl Blogger Award," back in July. As much as I appreciated it, I missed my window of opportunity and then felt awkward writing about it: "I got this really nice award a lonnnnnnng time ago." I thanked Robbin on her blog, but if I'd had my ducks in a row back then, if I hadn't been so lethargic, and, well, if I'd been a nicer person, I would have been much quicker to post the award and thank her here. Sorry for the delay, Robbin. It does mean a lot that you thought of me when passing out these awards.

Speaking of passing out, I know this post is getting extremely long, but if you can take a deep breath and hang with me a bit longer, I'm supposed to give out five of the "Rockin' Girl Blogger" awards. These, I'm proud to send out to a special Fab Five:

Carmon of Life at Star's Rest;

Janet of Janet's Ordinary Life;

Alison of Inspired Work of Self-Indulgence;

Holly of Creekhiker; and, bringing us full circle:

Jackie of Jackie's Garden.

Not only do these ladies rock; they're nice, too. In fact, all of them have already received an award for that.


P.S. Just for the record, I didn't forget about Annie of Little Rock Daily Photo fame. Other people beat me to her.