Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Into the woods

Next week will mark ten years since I moved to this house. For all those years, every time I've driven out the driveway or walked to the mailbox, I've looked into the little patch of woods across the road. You can imagine my surprise when I looked over there earlier this week and saw a house I've never seen before. I suppose it could be a new home (there's definitely a new fence around it), but it looks as if it's been there since the last century.

The house is almost invisible in the woods, its wooden frame weathered to a shade of grey that blends in seamlessly with the trunks and branches of the many trees nearby. For most of the year, I'm sure, the leafy canopies of those same trees would provide even more camouflage for the house.

New or old, it's a wonderful house. It's three stories high, with magnificent windows and a wide porch that appears to run completely around the house. It's a noble house, one with a great deal of character. It's the kind of house that isn't scary but should be haunted by gentle spirits.

The woods themselves are a bit frightening at night, but in the daytime they're comforting in their serenity. This time of year, just before the sun goes down, the light behind the trees is so spectacular it catches my breath. The sun, settling down after a hard day's work, pours its most beautiful light onto the green grass of this field, like King Midas spreading out all of his gold, the better to enjoy it.

I'll end with one final photo of the woods, this one with its own bushy-tailed surprise just to the right of dead center. This one's for Annie.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Jesus Christ -- Superstar?

I try not to write too much about religion or politics on this blog. I like to keep everybody feeling all comfy and undisturbed when they come here to read, so I don't want to stir up controversy. But my last post touched on religious issues, and one reader's comment reminded me of something else to write about before I move on to more neutral topics.

Last Saturday's post about my encounter with piped-in Christian music at the grocery store prompted The Rev. Dr. Kate to comment, in part: "I agree with your take on the whole thing - it is not appropriate to force others into a conversion experience in the dairy aisle - and I would be leery of the conversion if this is all it took!"

It was the "leery of conversion" part that grabbed me, because I've long had questions about the authenticity of my own accepting-Christ-as-my-savior experience, which happened when I was nine.

To give you an idea of my thought processes around that time, it was at the age of eight that I began to question what I heard in church. I remember sitting with my grandmother and listening to the minister say we needed to give more money to the missionaries so they could go to Africa and tell all the children there about Jesus. So far, so good; I thought the children in Africa deserved to know about Jesus. But then he said that if the missionaries didn't teach the children about Jesus, those poor children would be condemned to hell. Huh-uh, I thought, he's wrong about that. God wouldn't do that to kids who never even knew that they had to believe in Jesus.

I should also mention that I believed in Santa Claus until I was eight and refused to accept the word of other children in my class who'd told me for two years that Santa was a myth. I finally asked my mother, who admitted that the other kids were right. I still wasn't convinced. She had to do quite a bit of talking to explain why I should believe she was being truthful this time and not all those other times when she'd told me Santa was real.

These anecdotes indicate two things to me: (1) I was capable of forming my own opinions, and (2) I could be convinced to believe--and stand up for--things that were not true.

Now, fast forward to one Sunday when I was nine and an evangelist visited my Sunday School class. I don't remember one word of what he said, but I do recall that he was young and very, very handsome. He moved about as he spoke, delivering his message with fire and passion that grabbed my attention and held it. As the hour passed, my excitement rose to a level that was almost overwhelming. I experienced feelings that were powerful and exquisite, feelings I'd never had before--feelings I couldn't even begin to name. This must be it, I thought. These are the feelings that let you know it's time to give your life to Jesus.

Sunday School ended and I went to meet my mother, who worked in the church nursery. We didn't always stay for church, but I told her I needed to stay that day, and I explained why. I'd been taught in Sunday School and church that there was only one way to get into Heaven, and I wanted to lock it in.

We sat through a sermon I don't remember. At the end of it, when the preacher gave the invitation to accept Jesus and the choir sang "Just as I Am," I walked to the front of the church with a half-dozen adults. When it was my turn, the preacher asked me if I understood what it meant to accept Jesus as my savior, and I assured him I knew exactly what I was doing. The next Sunday I was baptized--the full dunking. According to the philosophy espoused at that time at the First Baptist Church, my eternal salvation was a done deal, regardless of how I lived my life from then on.

Let me mention one more time--because it's important to the whole point of this entry--that the powerful feelings I'd had as I listened to the young evangelist were new to me. I'd never felt them before...and I never felt them again, until I was 13 years old and went to my first Elvis Presley concert.

It was the fall of 1956, and my mother let me go with a friend to the Shrine Mosque to see this relatively new entertainer I'd been listening to on the radio. We sat in the second row, and, as I watched and listened to Elvis (backed up by The Jordonaires), I experienced the overpowering excitement again. This time I was in an arena where I could express what I was feeling. I worked up a sweat that plastered my hair into limp strings. I fanned myself with my program, and I laughed and cried and screamed with all the other girls. It was amazing!

It wasn't too long after the Elvis concert that I began to wonder if my soul was really safe. I knew my intentions were pure on that day when I walked to the front of the church, but how could I feel the same way about Elvis that I did about Jesus? To make matters worse, I felt that way every time I saw Elvis, and I hadn't felt that way in church again. That couldn't be right, could it?

It was several years later, after I'd learned the concept of charisma, that I realized it was the handsome young evangelist--and the passion he had for Jesus--that moved my feet down that aisle. Along with that realization came questions about the whole experience. As Dr. Kate might put it, I'm "leery of the conversion." Yes, I know some people would say that Jesus was working through that young evangelist, and those people might be right. But what if it was a case of a really good "commercial" making me want to run out and buy "the product"? There's no doubt in my mind that the charismatic young evangelist could have sold me a Happy Meal.

Today, I respect the rights of others to draw their own conclusions and follow their own beliefs, and I'd like for others to respect my rights similarly. Obviously, none of us can know for sure.

At this point in my life, I believe there's a power in the universe that's much greater than I (or any of us earthly creatures), and I choose to call that power God. I've also grown to believe that other people, in other lands, are responding to that same higher power, although they may call it/him by another name. I believe the uninformed children in Africa have just as much chance of recognizing that higher power as I do--and just as much chance of securing a place in the afterlife that many of us seek and some of us refer to as Heaven.

I hope I'm right about this. The public pronouncement I made when I was nine may have been too insubstantial to serve as a backup plan.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I have no problem with Jesus...

...but sometimes His fervent followers tick me off. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they annoy Him, too.

If I had to check a box on a form, I'd check the one next to Christian. I was brought up in the First Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri. Some of what I heard there I believed, and some of it didn't feel right to me, so I dabbled in a few other religious denominations as I grew older. All of them were Protestant and all of them fell under the broad category of Christian. When the sermons I heard in those churches failed more often than not to jibe consistently with the God I knew in my heart, I moved on.

I may be a backslider, but the spiritual part of me feels pretty content. (These days I get my religion mostly by reading The Rev. Dr. Kate.) I do not feel the need to have my immortal soul rescued at the grocery store.

Remember when I wrote about being excited because a new supermarket was being built near my house? I was thrilled that I'd no longer have to drive five to eight miles to do my grocery shopping. The fact that I wouldn't have to navigate the parking lot and vast interior of Wal-Mart seemed like an answer to my prayers. (Yes, I pray--but generally not for things like convenient shopping.)

The new store is nice. It's ultra-clean and laid out well, and it has almost everything I need. It's a little more expensive to shop there, but the convenience makes up for it. I'm eating better, too, because shopping nearby means shopping more frequently, and that translates into more fresh foods.

After I went to the new store for the first time, I wrote this: "...all the people inside the store were smiling--especially the customers. Even me. I hadn't seen smiling grocery shoppers in a long, long time. By the time I left the store, I was humming carols right along with the piped in (piped out? to the parking lot?) music." I shopped there yesterday, but without the same pleasant experience. It was the piped-in music that changed everything for me.

I don't remember what kind of music they've played since the Christmas season. I think it was just typical elevator music, although I do remember one time recently when I was alone in the dairy aisle and the music made me feel like dancing behind my grocery cart.

Yesterday, though, the whole time I was there I listened to piped-in Christian music. It was the pleasant, easy-listening, could-be-confused-with-soft-rock kind of music, but the lyrics were all about praising and worshiping and Jesus being the answer. It wasn't the music itself that offended me but the idea that Jesus was being "sold" to me right there among the avocados and the cherry tomatoes.

If you want to talk to me about "saving" while I'm grocery shopping, tell me about coupons or two items for the price of one. Don't make me think about my afterlife while I'm trying to determine which carton of skim milk has the longest shelf life.

Now, I'm all for free speech. If you write about your religious beliefs (or political viewpoints) on your blog, I can read it--or not--and agree with it--or not. The same goes for anything you publish in your newspaper or broadcast on your television show. In those situations, I have a choice. But when you proselytize in the supermarket while I'm trying to buy enough of your goods to check one household chore off my list, I can't turn you off. My choice is either to live with it or to shop somewhere else.

I could protest, of course, but I'm trying to see both sides of the issue. I guess, if I were the storeowner, I might feel entitled to play whatever kind of music I like. As a customer, I don't like it. And I don't think Jesus ever expected to be the subject of background noise for people whose minds are on the price and freshness of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I loved the time I spent with you.
You opened up your mind to me
and let me glimpse the treasures
you have hidden in your head.
I was bedazzled by the brilliance
of each precious stone you laid before me
and tantalized by the radiated glow
of all the jewels I’ve yet to discover.

I heard each word you spoke to me
and saved it like a grain of sand,
lodged deep within the oyster’s shell
to grow in time to be a pearl.

I will be richer for knowing you.
Please share your wealth with me...
and I will give you all that’s mine.

Thursday night is the absolute best night for TV. As much as I'd like to post something interesting for my readers, I can't risk missing the first results show of this season's American Idol or, even worse, a single minute of Grey's Anatomy. The easiest thing to do, I decided, was to dig deep into my old-poem stash and pull out something you haven't seen.

This one was written in 1983 in honor of the first man I'd dated in a long time who could carry on an interesting, intelligent conversation. God, that was so refreshing! We had a really nice relationship for a few months, until I met someone else, someone who was almost as good at communicating and a little more interesting to my shallow, non-thinking parts.

Anyway, it occurred to me as I reread this poem that it has a different meaning to me now. If I were to write these same words today, I'd be addressing them to you guys and gals, my blogging friends. For the many words and thoughts you've shared, I offer you my deepest thanks, my utmost appreciation, and this old poem.

I'll give you "all that's mine" a little bit at a time--but not on Thursdays, okay?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Four days' worth of not very much

My four-day weekend is almost over. It's gone by in a flash, and I don't have too much to show for it. Here's how I've passed my time:

  • Slept late.
  • Finished reading Iris Johansen's Stalemate.
  • Babysat the granddogs, Lucy and Winston, while their mama worked in her studio in my backyard.
  • Washed and folded four loads of laundry.
  • Spent half the afternoon working through the first three lessons in a tutorial called Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0, Classroom in a Book.
  • Ate something so boring I can't even remember it for dinner.
  • Watched equally boring TV until bedtime.
  • Started reading James Patterson's Cross.
  • Oh, yeah, and read other people's blogs off and on throughout the day.


  • Slept late again.
  • Unloaded the dishwasher.
  • Read the interesting parts of the newspaper (which my daughter kindly picked up from the driveway as she came over to work again).
  • Babysat the granddogs again.
  • Read other people's blogs and thought about answering e-mail.
  • Dusted and vacuumed (which I'd intended to do on Saturday).
  • Got a phone call from my boss, telling me he was on his way home from the hospital (thank goodness).*
  • Showered and otherwise whipped myself into suitable shape to appear in public.
  • Went to the movies with my two daughters. We saw Dreamgirls, which, if you like musicals, you might enjoy as much as we did.*
  • Went to Outback Steakhouse for dinner after the movie. I had a horseradish-encrusted filet that was so good I can still remember the taste of every bite.*
  • Forgot to tape the season premiere The Amazing Race. Dadgum it!
  • Went to bed, read a little bit, and could not fall asleep for the life of me until after four in the morning. My legs ached (from dusting and vacuuming the entire house, standing up through a shower and primping session, and climbing stairs in the movie theater) and my brain pumped out a steady stream of thoughts and ideas that could have easily waited until morning.


  • Woke up early to let the dogs out, then went back to bed.
  • Woke up again when my daughter called to say she was on her way over.
  • Let my daughter and the granddogs in, then went back to bed until a little past noon.
  • Read other people's blogs and considered answering e-mail.
  • Scanned dozens of photos my younger daughter brought over the day before. These were pictures of her biological father (my first husband) and his siblings and ancestors. I wanted to be sure these people were included in my genealogy database in case my girls ever get interested in that kind of thing. Here's my favorite photo of the whole batch:

  • Made a salmon loaf for supper--fast and relatively good.
  • Talked on the phone with next-door neighbor I haven't seen for a while.
  • Talked on the phone with neighbor in front of me to offer condolences after I learned (from next-door neighbor) that their little dog had died.
  • Felt bummed out by those two phone calls, and wasted two mindless hours watching Wife Swap and Supernanny.
  • Forgot to take the garbage to the curb because it didn't feel like Monday night.
  • Went to bed and read for an hour.
  • Slept eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.*

Tuesday (today, so far):

  • Got up at six forty-five and stayed up (pats self on back).
  • Watched the Today show in its entirety.
  • Gave Butch a long belly-rub and Kadi a full-body massage.
  • Read some more of my book. And some more of other people's blogs.
  • Cropped and labeled all the photos I scanned on Monday.
  • Talked to both daughters on the phone.
  • Ate the leftover salmon loaf.
  • Took ground meat out of the freezer to thaw for spaghetti sauce (which lets me put off going to the grocery store for at least one more day).
  • Wrote this blog entry (while watching part of Divorce Court and part of Ellen).

Before the day is over, I'll answer those e-mails, write checks to pay a few bills, wash one more load of clothes, make and eat the spaghetti, watch American Idol and take my book to bed again.

If you're still with me, you may have noticed it would be difficult to get a good blog entry out of any single item on this list, which is why I didn't even try. These last four days have been mostly uneventful, but they've also been really, really restful. I'm feeling good!

*The best parts of the whole four days.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Snippets (blog soup)

It's some kind of a record...

...for me, at least. It's been exactly a month since I posted about cleaning my really messy house, and I've managed to maintain it in a clutter-free condition the whole time since then. Who knows? I may catch on to this strange, picking-up-after-myself concept after all.

This photo was taken right after I'd cleaned the living room. If you saw the same room now, you'd see every flat surface coated with a layer of dust, and if you tried to eat off my floor, you'd get dog hair in your mouth, but there is still no clutter. I'll dust and vacuum tomorrow.

Still on my own...... the office. My boss, Mr. J, is still in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. He's doing well, heartwise, but has a couple of other issues that need to be resolved before they send him home.

Today is the eighth day in a row I've spent the majority of the workday by myself. A few clients have dropped in, and an attorney who's been an invaluable resource during Mr. J's absence has checked in several times daily to answer my questions. Mostly, though, it's been really quiet. Even an introvert like me gets lonely after a while.

Speaking of hearts...

...the writers of Grey's Anatomy rip open my chest every Thursday night and play my heartstrings with the all the deftness of an inbred Appalachian on the front porch with a banjo. I laugh and I cry. I hope and I fret. I can't wait for it to begin and I don't want it to end. They're good, those writers. I know they're manipulating me, but all I want is more of it.

A good thing about living in South Louisiana... that all the offices, banks, courthouses, etc., close for Mardi Gras. With President's Day on Monday and Mardi Gras on Tuesday, I'll have a four-day weekend. Tomorrow I'll dust and vacuum (as promised above) and do a little laundry. The rest of that four days is mine, mine, mine!

A bad thing about living in South Louisiana this weekend... Mardi Gras traffic. From Friday through Monday, eighty percent of the cars on the road will be headed southeast of here. Bumper to bumper, as fast as they can move, they'll head in a caravan to the Big Easy, where they're hoping to find their fair share of drink and debauchery. Parades will roll, liquor will flow, music will fill the air, and the ladies(?) will expose their breasts and scream, "Throw me somethin', Mister!" in exchange for strings of plastic beads tossed from floats and balconies. All that partying, just an hour away from here! I'd go, but there's this really good book I'm reading...

On Wednesday? All those cars will be headed in the other direction. A little more slowly. Trying not to hit any bumps. Or make any noise.

The first joke I ever heard about New Orleans:

Q. Do you know how to spot a tourist in New Orleans?

A. Yeah, sure, by the chalkmark around the body.

Quite a set for a neutered dog...

Earlier this evening I sat on the recliner end of the sofa. Kadi sat erect to the left of me, leaning against the back of the sofa and leaving about a six-inch margin of bare leather at the edge of the seat. Butch passed by, sniffed to survey the situation, jumped up onto the empty seat at the other end of the sofa, then immediately turned around and carefully cat-walked, one foot in front of the other, through the narrow space around Kadi, to squeeze in, lie down, and rest his head in my lap.

I've always thought it took a lot of guts for a blind dog to leap onto a sofa. Butch is a big dog; there isn't a lot of margin for error. I thought tonight's tippy-toeing, teetering on the edge, was beyond bold. I thought he was brave. Kadi thought he was annoying.

The girls

There's no story to go along with this photo of Lucy and Kadi. It makes me smile, though, and I thought you might like it, too.

If you don't smile right away, click the photo to enlarge it and look at Lucy's little mustache. (It reminds me of Mrs. P, our next-door neighbor in New York.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

On Valentine's Day 100 years ago... Marion County, Indiana, Agnes Cairn Blair married Otto J. Hofmann. The bride was 28 years old, a native of Scotland, and her 35-year-old groom had been born in Germany. For most of the rest of their lives, they lived on a farm in Kentucky.

Agnes and Otto are not my ancestors. I don't have any photos of them, and I don't know much about them. I do know they had four children together, and one of their two sons (born in Kentucky) grew up and married my mother (born in Missouri). Here's a photo of their son and my mother, taken in Texas in 1957, a few days after they met on the beach:

I think about people like Agnes and Otto and wonder about the chain of events that brought them from their native lands to the U.S. and then to a place where they eventually found each other. I wonder where I'd live today if it hadn't been for Otto and Agnes and their son, my stepfather.

If my mother hadn't married their son, I might still be in Missouri. Instead, we moved to Texas when I was a teenager. I met and married a Texas man (son of parents from Oklahoma) four years later. He and I had two beautiful daughters. That marriage didn't last, but it was in Texas that I met and married my second husband (born in Maryland), with whom we moved around the country until we landed in Louisiana.

So many people from so many places. So many miles traveled for chance meetings that sparked love and changed lives.

Otto and Agnes never knew their grandson, my brother (born in Texas to my mother and their son), and I don't know how much my brother knows about them. I think their story might be a nice one. Judging from their choice to wed on Valentine's Day, at least one of them must have had a romantic streak.

Happy Valentine's Day to the ones I love. Some of you are right here in Louisiana, nearby. Others are in Texas, California, Missouri, Minnesota, and points in between. One, a young Marine, is in Virginia. Wherever you live, you live in my heart.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

This little light of mine...

When my granddaughter was little, she used to visit my apartment and play on my computer. I'd draw pictures in the Paint program, and she'd color them right on the screen. We created characters of all shapes and sizes from the selection of facial features available in another favorite program. We could play for hours that way, and even before she could read, she could navigate her way through all of her favorite programs. Nothing she tried to do was difficult enough to make her give up.

One day when she was four, I left her playing at the computer while I went to take care of (ahem) pressing business. A moment later she hollered through the wall that the mouse had quit working, and I hollered back that I'd be right there. When I went back into the computer room, I found her crawling out from under the desk. "The mouse was unplugged," she said, "but I fixed it."

She's always had that adventurous, can-do attitude, and it's made her my hero. Where I was fearful and cautious as a child, she was born ready to take on the world. Where I was tentative, she was full speed ahead.

She's all grown up now, and she still radiates light and joy. Today's her birthday. I hope she feels as special as she is.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How I fell for the puppy

This is the fourth time I've sat down tonight to try to finish writing this entry. I'm about ready to just blow it off. Interruptions, even though they are justified ones, are breaking my concentration to the point that writing anything that halfway makes sense requires more effort than I'm willing to give.

Janet's recent posts about falling in her yard, and then, the very next day, about the day her dog, Spot, came to live with her, made me remember how Butch came into our lives. I was trying to write something about how lovable he was and, at the same time, how much trouble he caused in the beginning. It was going to be sweetly sentimental and funny, too. But now? Screw it.

Here's the short version: Somebody found him wandering alone when he was no more than five weeks old (according to the vet) and gave him to us. He was a scaredy-cat puppy who stayed right on top of my feet. Twice, he tripped me, causing me to fall -- hard -- in the backyard. One of those times I fell on the concrete patio, striking my head and shoulder against the house, and ended up in the emergency room. My knee was sprained, and I had to stay off that leg for three weeks.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and tonight, if the picture will substitute for even a couple of hundred words I don't have to arrange in any kind of pleasing order, I'll be satisfied. Here's the picture:

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Getting to the heart of the matter

On Monday morning my boss told me how much fun he'd had hunting with his grandson over the weekend. And then he told me how tiring it had been, how he almost didn't have enough breath or energy to walk out of the woods.

He's been hunting almost every weekend for the past couple of months, so this fatigue was unusual, and he knew it. He'd heard a friend mention that a new test, a coronary calcium screening test, had alerted him to heart problems, so he called and arranged to take the same test Monday afternoon.

Test results showed there was at least a 90-percent arterial blockage. I called the cardiologist who has been seeing him once a year since a heart attack 12 years ago and made an appointment for Thursday afternoon, the earliest they could work him in on a non-emergency basis.

Tuesday morning my boss had court. He wasn't feeling great, but court was uneventful and he returned to the office in relatively good humor. He called his nephew, a Baton Rouge physician, and told him about the results of his coronary calcium screening test. He also told his nephew that it had been years since his cardiologist had done anything on those annual visits other than listen to his chest with a stethoscope, check his blood pressure, and look at the lab reports on his cholesterol level.

Dr. Nephew said that wasn't good enough. In a matter of minutes he called back and said he had made an appointment for my boss with a better cardiologist early Wednesday morning.

The first time I saw my boss on Wednesday was when he returned to the office from seeing the new cardiologist, and he was a bundle of mixed emotions. Based on the morning's test results, they'd sent him home to pack a bag so he could check back into the hospital for a late-Wednesday-afternoon heart catheterization. That's the last time I've seen him.

The catheterization showed severe blockage that would almost certainly have resulted in a heart attack in the very near future. The new cardiologist kept him in the hospital Wednesday night and Thursday, and at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery -- seven hours' worth.

Throughout this ordeal, my boss's lovely wife stayed in touch via her cell phone. Each time she'd get a medical update, she'd call and tell me, and it would then be my turn to get on the phone and relay the news to concerned friends and clients who were anxious for information. I think my boss underestimates how many friends he really has.

The surgery went very well, according to the doctors, and the next phase for my boss would be a day or two (today and tomorrow) in the intensive care unit. His wife and grown children would be able to visit him for a few minutes at a time, and they were told to expect that he'd look pretty bad.

His wife called me this morning after she went to visit him. "You wouldn't believe it," she said. "He was sitting up in the bed, talking -- saying he doesn't plan to go through anything like this again -- and they're talking about moving him out of ICU later in the day."

I am so relieved. My boss -- my good friend -- is going to be okay because he was smart enough to pay attention to the warning signs.

On a lighter note, let me tell you how this story played out on the Louisiana-small-town rumor circuit:

A very worried lady called the office yesterday afternoon and asked, "Did Mr. J have a heart attack?"

"No," I told her, and I explained the course of events to her much as I've outlined it for you above.

"Thank God!" she said. "Now, let me tell you what the rumor is. I heard from someone who said they'd heard it from a client of Mr. J's who was there when it happened. They said Mr. J and his client were in front of the judge, and Mr. J was arguing, defending his client. They said Mr. J was so worked up that he started yelling, then he grabbed his chest and fell out on the floor of the courtroom, and the paramedics had to come in and take him away in the ambulance."

I can't wait for my laid-back boss to hear this version of the story. I told it to a good friend of his who said, "Well, he may not spread this rumor himself, but if he hears it, he probably won't deny it, either."

He's going to be okay. It'll be an interesting and challenging couple of months, workwise, but it's going to be okay.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A warm story about snow

So many of my blogging buddies have been writing snow stories that I felt compelled to post one of my own out of empathy.

Just a few months after my second wedding, and even fewer months since our family had happily moved into a lovely new home in East Texas, my husband announced that he was going to take a job in Ohio, one that would last about a year. He said the pay would be good enough that he could make a lot of money in a short time, and he could fly home once every couple of months to visit.

That didn't work. We were miserable. Two months and one weekend visit later, in January of 1969, he came back to get us.

This was our first of many long-distance moves. Since it was supposed to be temporary, we boarded up our new house and traveled to Mentor-on-the-Lake, Ohio, where my husband had rented us somebody's quaint, furnished, summer cottage, not too far from the banks of Lake Erie. I still remember my first sight of the lake, frozen and covered with thick, powdery snow that reminded me of cake frosting. It was magnificent!

My older daughter was in first grade then. In Texas we'd joined a neighborhood carpool to get her to and from school. In Ohio, where my husband had to drive our only car to Cleveland to work each day, she'd have to walk to school. Fortunately, the schoolyard was less than a full block away, but she would have one street to cross. We bought heavy coats, leggings, mittens, stocking caps, etc. We registered her for school and took a couple of practice walks on the day before she was scheduled to start, to make sure she knew the way.

Morning came, and I bundled my daughter up in her new warm clothing and pointed her in the right direction. I was really nervous about sending this southern-born child out alone into the winter whiteness of Ohio, but I kept smiling for her sake. I watched from the doorway until she was out of sight, wiped away a tear as I closed the door, and turned my attention to the sweet four-year-old who was still at home with me.

No more than five minutes later, about the time I estimated my little schoolgirl should be arriving at her classroom, I heard a commotion on the front steps. I opened the door and there she was, cheeks as pink as her new snowsuit, blue eyes wide, struggling to catch her breath. "Mama," she gasped, "I just (hunhhhh) saw a dog (hunhhh) chasing (hunhhh) a rabbit!" Her smile was as big as her eyes. She'd made it all the way to school before she saw the rabbit-chase in the schoolyard, and she'd run all the way home through the snow to tell us about it.

That's when I knew this move would be an adventure for my kids. That's when I knew they'd be okay.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Scanning history (and ignoring the Super Bowl)

As part of an ongoing project, this weekend I've been scanning photos almost non-stop--five decades' worth since yesterday morning. I just finished the '90s.

What a wonderful trip down memory lane. These particular decades included the ones in which my children and grandchildren were born. As I arranged their pictures in groups on the scanner screen, I watched them grow up all over again.

I spent some time today with beloved family members who have since passed on and with others who live so far across the country I may never see them again. Every familiar face brought me joy.

I visited houses where we used to live, rooms where we shared happy times and a couple of hard ones, furniture that seemed like a good idea at the time, and a few items that have traveled with me across the miles and the years.

I sat on the Missouri grass with Wiggles, the family dog of my childhood, and on a Louisiana hearth with our '80s dog, Radar. I lingered over puppy pictures of Butch and Kadi and was reminded once again how much love they've brought into my life.

I watched fashions and hairstyles change. Automobile shapes went from boxy to aerodynamic, and bare tree branches turned green, then lost their leaves again. The photos themselves changed, too, from sepia to black and white to color, with a wide variation in quality depending on the camera and film that were used.

One more weekend should be enough to finish the scanning, then I'll begin cropping the scanned groups into individual photos, labeling each one as I go. When that's done, I'll save everything to DVDs and distribute enough copies to ensure that someone, somewhere, will have a backup copy if something should happen to the originals.

It's a laborious process, but it's a labor of love.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The truth about my trust issues

Somebody told me, a long time ago, that he thought I had trust issues. At the time I told him he was nuts. "I trust people in general," I said, "it's just you I don't trust."

Today, though, I'm thinking he may have been right. I certainly seem to be less willing to trust than ninety per cent of the folks who share the interstate with me.

I don't trust that the person in front of me won't have to slam on her brakes when she encounters an obstacle in the road, so I stay several car-lengths behind her, just in case. Most drivers, it seems, have way more trust in their hearts than I do. They have so much trust in their fellow drivers that they follow them at 70 mph with no more than one car-length in between. I used to call that stupid, but maybe it's always been trust and I just haven't recognized it.

The driver behind me today trusted me implicitly. I could tell because he talked on his cell phone as he tailgated me, obviously obliviously having the utmost confidence that I wouldn't brake suddenly. In my rearview mirror I could see his lips moving and his left hand to his ear. He must have been steering with his knees at one point, when he leaned over to his right and appeared to be adjusting his radio or something. I'm a cautious driver, but this man couldn't have known that about me. I used to call that idiotic, but it must be blind trust.

Another example: the guy in the pickup truck who floored his accelerator as he pulled away from Burger King and crossed the road right in front of me, causing me to hit my brakes so I wouldn't smash into his king cab. There was a time (yesterday, the day before, and many days before that) that I would have called that guy an effing imbecile, but that was before I was enlightened. That jerk guy trusted me. Wow!

To be honest, I'm just not that trustworthy. I wish I were a perfect driver, but because I know I'm not, I'm probably projecting my own shortcomings onto the rest of the drivers on the road. I need to be more trusting, like everybody else is.

This change might take a while. In the meantime, I hope those people aren't offended when I drive behind them and leave some space between us.