Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lost and found

LOST: My mind, very nearly. Work has been extraordinarily hectic. I've been arriving home physically exhausted and mentally drained. The physical tiredness is mostly centered in my neck and shoulders, the muscles I tend to clench tightly when I'm stressed. (Just FYI, I had neck-and-shoulder pain for almost the entire year of 1982. In January of '83, I broke up with my boyfriend. The pain miraculously went away about two days after he did.)

FOUND: A special locket I'd put in a "really safe place," a place so safe I couldn't remember it for several days. I'll write this weekend and tell you why it was important to find the locket.

LOST: A handful of old photos I've been trying to find for almost two years. They're some of my favorites, ones that I've pulled out and scanned to make copies for others. Unfortunately, those scans were on my last computer, the one that died, so I don't have backup copies. I usually keep my photos filed by decade, and I'd pulled some of the best ones from each file and put them all together in a folder so I could keep track of which ones I'd copied. I'm still hoping they'll turn up, but after searching for them for so long, I've run out of places to look. So far I've insisted on thinking of them as "misplaced." Now I'm beginning to move out of denial and consider the possibility that they might be lost for good. It breaks my heart.

FOUND: Two state quarters I didn't have yet. Yes, I collect them; don't ask me why. This is my ninth year of never paying for anything with exact change. Instead, I always round up to the nearest dollar, hoping each purchase will be the one that lands me a "wanted" quarter. (Let me assure any muggers reading this, you do NOT want to be hit by my very heavy purse.)

LOST: Any shred of interest I may have ever had in young, slutty, drug-or-alcohol-impaired celebrities. I will vote for whichever presidential candidate promises to banish news about Lindsay, Britney and Paris for at least a week.

FOUND: Lost, the ABC TV series that I ignored after the first episode, despite rave reviews. My daughter, a huge fan, recently acquired the first two seasons on DVD and left them here for me to watch. Initially I wasn't all that interested, but last Saturday night I settled in to try to figure out what I was missing. After a couple more episodes, I was hooked. I've already watched the entire first season and can't wait for the weekend to immerse myself in Season Two.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kadi's step-by-step guide to a perfect day

Kadi may be getting old, but she still knows how to have a good time. She asked me to pass these tips along to all the other dogs who read this blog:

Step 1: Convince your people to fill your pool. If your cuteness isn't enough to get the job done, try some heavy panting to prey on their sympathies.

Step 2: After they've filled the pool, test the temperature of the water.

Step 3: Have yourself a little drink. After all that panting, you'll need it.

Step 4: Ease yourself gently into the water.

Step 5: Relax for approximately 45 seconds.

Step 6: Stand up and make some waves.

Step 7: Step out of the pool and shake vigorously.

Step 8: Hurl your body to the ground.

Step 9: Roll around with reckless abandon.

Step 10: Race around the yard, stopping to pee at least twice along the way (this keeps the pool sanitary).

Repeat Steps 3-10 until you (or your people) are worn out and ready for a nap.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sneaky diva

Soooo, I was driving home from work, singing along with the car radio like all the women in my family do. The radio was turned up loud, and I was singing like I meant it -- and then I had to slow down for a stoplight. That's when I began to analyze my actions and to wonder if I'm crazy or if other people behave the same way under similar circumstances. I couldn't wait to get home and ask your opinion.

It seems that if the wheels on my car are turning, I'm quite comfortable putting my heart and soul into accompanying the music on the radio. It doesn't matter how many lanes of traffic there are or how many people might possibly see me; as long as we're all moving, everything's fine. I figure nobody will get more than a passing glance at me, and they'll forget it before they've gone another half mile.

My discomfort begins when I have to stop. That's when a driver in the next lane would have time to casually glance my way and not only notice my gigantic mouth movements but study them. That's when the self-consciousness really creeps in.

The obvious solution would be to stop singing then -- but I can't do it. I have to sing it all the way to the end, especially if it's a good song. Instead, I try to disguise the fact that I'm singing.

So far my methods of subterfuge are limited. If I'm stopped at a short light and the other traffic is only on one side of me, I can put up my hand on that side to cover my moving lips and pretend to scratch my nose or rub my eye. Unfortunately, scratching or rubbing for more than a few seconds looks almost as weird as the singing does.

A longer stop brings me to attempted ventriloquism. I had to resort to that this afternoon, and let me just note here that it's extremely unfulfilling to sing without moving my lips when a really good song demands to be belted out in a big way. The main problem is all those b, p and m sounds that get in the way.

Today, for example, I was having a wonderful time singing along with Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss to their mournful hit, "Whiskey Lullaby." As I approached the stoplight, we'd just finished the first verse and launched into the chorus. Brad and Alison continued to sing beautifully, but I, because of the cars stopped on either side of me, tried to sing without moving my lips. My version of the lyrics came out like this:

"He fut that vottle to his head and fulled the trigger
And finally drank away her nenory
Life is short vut this tine it was vigger
Than the strength he had to get uff off his knees
We found hin with his face down in the fillow
With a note that said I'll love her till I die
And when we vuried hin veneath the willow
The angels sang a whiskey lullavy."

It's a great song, but it loses a little something in the translation, don't you think? After that, I didn't really have the heart for the lovely "la-la-la" part of it.

So, my question to you is a) do you think I'm totally nuts, or b) do you have these problems, too? If you chose "b" -- and I hope at least a couple of you did -- please 'fess up and tell me whether or not you've discovered any better stealth maneuvers.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Heeeeeere I come to save the daaaaaay..."

Half an hour before dark yesterday, I sat down to see what was on TV. Kadi lay nearby, but Butch had elected to climb onto the futon in the den rather than join us in the living room.

Just as I got comfortable, Butch began to make "grrruffff" noises, quiet little sounds that are half growl, half warning bark. After he'd done it three or four times, I could hear his feet scrambling to get off the futon, and I knew I was in trouble.

We had come back in the house less than ten minutes earlier. I knew he didn't need to go outside again. Whatever was bugging him didn't seem to be bothering Kadi, so I felt fairly sure there was no danger lurking at the back door. Nevertheless, here he came, dancing around me like a prizefighter before the first round, his ears perked up Rin Tin Tin style. "Butch," I said sharply, "go lay down." Huh-uh. Not gonna do it.

Instead he began barking louder, a desperate, high-pitched, pleading sound that fell somewhere between a whine and a bark, letting me know that his business was urgent, that life as we knew it would cease to exist if I didn't let him outside immediately. It was Butch's impersonation of Lassie's "come-quick-Timmy's-in-the-well" speech. I decided it was easier to let him out again than to try to reason with him.

When my feet hit the floor, he whirled around and ran full-speed through the house, barely missing end tables and dining room chairs, and hurtled through the back door the instant it was opened. I swear the size of his chest expanded with each step as he ran toward the back fence, barking fiercely all the way.

Fearful that he'd smack headlong into the fence, I called repeatedly for him to slow down. He didn't drop speed, but he did manage to pull himself to an abrupt stop just a few feet short of a crash. By then I could hear the distant HONK-pause-HONK-pause-HONK of a neighbor's car alarm. Evidently, that was the sound that had provoked Butch's distress. He faced the general direction of the honking sound, threw his head so far back it lifted his front feet off the ground, and gave four mighty barks in succession. Then he listened for about five seconds and did it again.

The barking continued -- four barks, listen, four more barks -- until somebody, somewhere, turned off the car alarm. As soon as the honking stopped, Butch cocked his head at various angles to listen carefully, then turned back toward the house. He seemed pleased with himself. He held his head high, did a perky little trot-step all the way back to the door, stepped inside, made his way straight to the living room and lay down to rest.

So what if he can't see? The man of the house has to step up and take charge when a situation needs correcting. Good job, Mighty Dog!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"This may be a stupid question, but...."

In the past week or so I've heard three different people begin conversations with those words. I totally understand the reason for the disclaimer. As a matter of fact, I've prefaced my own questions with it more times than I care to remember.

My high school graduation was on a Friday night. The following Monday, I began my first job. I was officially a secretary for a couple of East Texas lawyers. That particular Monday fell on Memorial Day, so nobody was in the office except one attorney, the office manager, and me.

The attorney dictated more than a dozen letters, I remember, and I captured in precise Gregg shorthand every word he spoke. I didn't have to ask him even once to slow down or repeat anything. I began to relax, to think I might be able to do this grown-up job. At the end of the dictation session, the lawyer handed me two client files. "When Jo comes in tomorrow," he said, "ask her if these files are ready to discard."

The next day I met the rest of the staff, including Jo. Sometime around mid-morning I took the two files to Jo and said, "Mr. S. wanted me to ask you if these files are ready to discard."

Jo, flipping through the files, replied, "Yep, they sure are." She handed them back to me without further instructions.

All day long those files sat on the corner of my desk. It seemed odd to me that they'd just throw the files away. What if the clients came back and wanted to discuss their cases again? I didn't want to ask for specific instructions because I didn't want to appear stupid. I was an honor graduate, I reasoned, and "discard" was a simple word.

Before I went home that day I threw the two files in the trash. The cleaning lady came after the office closed and emptied all the wastebaskets. Mine was nice and empty the next morning.

On the afternoon of my third day there, another secretary took me on a little tour. She showed me the law library, the office supply cabinet, and a wall of file cabinets known as the "discard files," where they kept the files on every case they'd had since the firm began in 1927.

I might have been only 17, but I was a girl who took pride in being honest and forthright, in doing the right thing. It was an innocent mistake, and it crossed my mind that if I confessed right at that moment, there probably wouldn't be any severe consequences. Nevertheless, I. Kept. My. Mouth. Shut. Once that opportunity slipped away, the innocence was gone. I worked there for a little over a year (until I got married). I thought about it all the time, but I never figured out a smooth way to confess.

Fast forward about 20 years to a time when I lived in a different state and had a different job, this time in human resources. Every time we hired someone new, regardless of the job the person had been hired to do, I told the discard-file story at the end of the new-employee orientation. "I don't care how stupid you think your question might be," I'd say with a smile, "we want you to ask it."

Sometimes sounding stupid is the lesser evil.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Living the good life

This past weekend was nearly perfect. I spent most of Saturday doing genealogy research. A single clue in the 1920 U.S. Census led to a wealth of information I hadn't uncovered before. It was like finding a key to a treasure chest, opening it and finding a key to a second treasure chest, which contained a map to another buried treasure, and on and on and on. So much fun.

Mother's Day was delightful. The family got together at my younger daughter's house for boiled crawfish, lots of laughter, and much the same kind of day we had last year. The location was different, as were the gifts, but the rest of it was familiar right down to the finale of Survivor to cap off the day. In this case familiarity does not breed contempt; I could do it again today, tomorrow, and the day after that.

My kids are so thoughtful, and I'm not speaking only about their perfect choices for Mother's Day gifts or even the lawn-mowing I appreciate so much. They show they care in little ways all year long: a hard-to-reach light bulb changed, a dishwasher emptied, a newspaper brought in from the end of the driveway, a phone call fit into an extremely busy schedule. They're good people, and I'm lucky to have them.

On top of cutting the grass and trimming weeds at the end of last week, my son-in-law made time to clear away the heavy, dirt-filled pots (I killed the plants) from my patio and to fold up and put away the extra-large dog kennel that's too heavy and bulky for me to handle by myself. I enjoy sitting out there in the late afternoon, when the sun is less brutal, and he made it a nicer place to be.

The only point of concern the whole weekend was the point on top of Butch's noggin: a big goose egg showed up Saturday morning and lasted almost until bedtime. I didn't see it happen, so I'm not sure how he did it, but the location of the bump made the CSI part of me think he must have raised his head up under a table or something.

I'm glad I didn't see it happen. A hit that hard would have freaked me out, and it didn't seem to bother him much at all. When I first noticed the bump, he was in the act of using his nose to flip my hand off the computer mouse, then grabbing my wrist in his mouth to pull me where he wanted me to go (to the treat cabinet, of course). He was obviously happy and hungry, and his brain was functioning well enough to figure out how to get me to do what he wanted, so I knew it couldn't be too bad.

Weekends like this past one always make me feel very, very grateful. I hope yours was as good.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

7 Random Facts/Habits About Me

Carmon tagged me with this meme, so I'll give it a go:

1. I have to work really hard to remember to keep my mouth shut and not offer advice unless I'm asked for it. My brain seems to have been hardwired into problem-solving mode. That's a helpful quality in a work situation, where I can easily figure out what might go wrong in a specific situation and work out the kinks or prepare a backup plan. It's also been helpful in my personal life, except in the area of relationships, where I've too often forged straight ahead in spite of the potential problems I've spotted.

The downside of being a problem solver, as my children will gladly confirm, is that if you tell me your exciting plan, I can shoot it full of holes before either one of us ever sees it coming. "Have you thought about this?" I'll ask...or "what will you do if that happens?" My heart's in the right place -- to help you make your plan as solid as it can be -- but you won't appreciate that fact while your bubble is bursting.

Even with the bias toward problem solving, I'm an optimist. I always feel confident that everything will turn out just fine once those pesky problems have been removed.

2. My earliest memory is of my father, in his army uniform, holding me in his arms as we watched a truck roll by. It was a flatbed military truck with rails built around the sides, and it was loaded with standing, waving soldiers. As they passed us, one of them tossed an orange to my dad, and he handed it to me. I don't know exactly how old I was when that happened, but I do know it happened in Salina, Kansas. I was 18 months old when we left there.

3. I've worn the same hairstyle for about ten years. For at least the last five of those years, I've cut my own hair to avoid the hours of small talk in the beauty shop. The pros do a better job than I do, but not that much better, and my own mistakes don't annoy me as much as theirs do.

4. If I have a chocolate craving I can't fight any longer, I make "emergency fudge." I dump confectioner's sugar in a small bowl, plop a big blob of peanut butter on top of it, and squirt in just enough chocolate syrup to allow me to mix everything together. When the mixture reaches a thick, doughy consistency, I knead it for a minute, then roll it up and eat it like a candy bar.

5. I once paid money to spend the day behind the scenes at the zoo. Ten of us, all women, signed up for the experience. In addition to the usual zoo tours, we spent time in the baby animal nursery, the kitchen where all the animals' food is prepared, the hatchery where the chicks are raised to feed the reptiles, and inside the elephant house. I actually helped bathe an elephant, and I loved every minute of it.

6. In high school I focused on getting good grades. All my friends were other nerds, although we didn't use that word back then. When I graduated and started working, a new, non-nerdy friend convinced me to "dumb down" and use improper grammar so the boys wouldn't be intimidated and would like me better. It worked like magic! Unfortunately, it didn't take me long to realize I wasn't all that interested in the kind of boys it worked on. That may have been my first lesson in the value of quality over quantity.

7. Years and years ago, on a long flight home from San Francisco, I had a rousing conversation with the seatmate to my right, a perfect stranger who was a decent-looking guy on a business trip. We talked and laughed for a couple of hours, then I dozed off. When I woke up, just as the plane was preparing to land in New Orleans, he leaned over and kissed me, right smack on the lips. It startled me for a moment, then I kissed him back. That one kiss was all there was to it. We didn't exchange phone numbers or even last names. When we exited the plane, we went our separate ways, and that was the end of that.

And that, dear readers, is the end of this.

I won't officially tag anyone, but I'll mention a few folks just in case they're interested: maxngabbie, duly inspired, sister-three.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Warm fuzzies

My beadmaker daughter, Kim, had company this past week in the person of Priss, another beadmaker who was once a frequent commenter here. I've missed her warmth, her wit and her intellect on this site, but let me assure you she's even better in person. What a pleasant, lovely human being! She's driving back home to Georgia tomorrow, and I wish her a safe journey.

I'm feeling happy tonight and wanted to write a happy blog entry, but to be honest, I've waited too late and I'm way too sleepy. (Still having a few problems with the energy thing, I guess.) I'll take my happy self to bed and incorporate some of those sweet feelings into my dreams.

For you, I'll send out some warm fuzzy feelings another way, through one of my favorite YouTube videos. Click on the link, settle back, feel the love.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I fee-eel goo-ood (dah-da-dah-da-dah-da-dah)

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling good for the first time in over a week. What a relief!

I couldn't honestly tell you what was the matter with me, only that I hurt--all over--and could have slept 20 hours a day if circumstances had allowed. The knee pain that's almost always with me revved up to an overwhelming degree. The right knee, the one I broke in 1968, the one that's so arthritic now I can't even straighten out that leg, screamed at me every time I stepped on my right foot: "Owwww! Stop it! What the hell are you doing? Arrrrrgggh! Don't walk on me!"

The left knee, perhaps sensing that I was favoring its cranky companion, was having none of it. When I stepped on the left foot, the ligaments on either side of the kneecap pinged like razor-wire harpstrings.

But the knees, and their Croc-shodden cousins, the always tender feet, weren't the only source of trouble. All the joints in my body ached, first one, then another, in a kind of traveling pain that had all the intensity of a bad toothache. I never knew where the next attack would come from. It was as if tiny cowboys were herding cattle along the neural pathways of my body, and each time they'd round 'em up near an ankle or an elbow, a finger or a toe, there'd be shouts of "Yee-haw!" that sent me reeling.

My energy level was non-existent. By the end of the second day my sense of humor had died and my ability to concentrate lay in shreds. Standing in one spot long enough to shower was misery. Food didn't appeal to me, and my stomach was upset, either from stress or from not eating properly.

I missed work on Monday. The rest of the week I managed to drag myself there, but what I accomplished in four days should have been done in one. The bright spot of my work week occurred when an elderly client came in, assisted by a walker. The old man looked pretty feeble, but that walker? It was looking good to me. Real good.

The smart thing to do, I suppose, would have been to go to the doctor. Due to the lack of health insurance, that's never my first option. I kept thinking I'd wake up feeling better the next day, or the next one after that. Sure enough, that's what happened yesterday.

Fortunately, I've picked up a number of useful coping skills as I've traveled the path of my life, and one of the best ones is the ability to differentiate between things I have to do (feed the dogs) and things I can put off until another day (answering e-mail). Let's just say that many, many things have been postponed. Some of them (keeping in touch with my cyberfriends, doing a good job at work) were things I value; others (making the bed), not so much.

I've spent the last two days catching up on household chores and projects I've let slide, so I'm back here now with a clean conscience. Thanks so much for the warm thoughts you've been sending my way. I appreciate all of you.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A short note... say I've been missing you.

For the past few days I've been under the weather--nothing serious, but some kind of bug has dragged me down to a level where I haven't felt like writing or even much like reading. Today was better, thank goodness, and I'm looking forward to catching up with you on your blogs and doing a better job of maintaining my own.

I did attempt to write something new earlier this evening, but halfway into it my energy fizzled out, and I gave up the effort. I'll try again tomorrow.

In the meantime, just to stay in the game, I'll offer you a rerun of one of my favorite early posts.

See you soon.