Friday, February 29, 2008

"Able to leap tall buildings... a single bound"

In honor of this date that comes only once every four years, I wanted to write something related to the word "leap." I thought about "leap of faith," "quantum leap," "look before you leap," and several other leap references, but nothing captured my interest or imagination until I remembered the phrase I've borrowed for the title of this post.

If you've spent any time with the music links on the left-hand side of this blog, you might have noticed that there are two Superman-themed songs in the group. I love both of these songs for slightly different reasons, but what they have in common is that they remind me of real people -- not superheroes.

The first (and older) one is Superman's Song. Can you think of someone in your life who gets up and goes to work each day, often without recognition or reward, because of a deep-seated desire to make things better for other people? I know someone like that. If you do, too, keep that person in mind while you listen to the lyrics. Or, if you prefer, you can read them.

MUSIC VIDEO: Superman's Song - Crash Test Dummies.

LYRICS: Superman's Song - Crash Test Dummies.

The second song is called It's Not Easy to Be Me, and it reminds me of someone I know who goes through life trying to be all things to all people. I watch him sometimes and think how tired he must get, and I wonder if he ever makes time for himself to just be, to think about who he is instead of what he believes other people expect him to be. I hope so.

MUSIC VIDEO: It's Not Easy to Be Me - Five for Fighting.

LYRICS: It's Not Easy to Be Me - Five for Fighting.

Connecting Superman to February 29th may be more of a stretch than a leap, but what can I say? My mind makes connections like that all the time.

I hope you enjoy the music.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Playing catch up

To give you an idea of how far behind I am, I'll just admit that there's still Christmas giftwrap paper on my dining table. I'd take a picture to prove it, but there's so much mail piled up I'm not sure you could pick out the giftwrap.

Beginning a few months before my 65th birthday, the level of junk mail I get increased threefold, and I cannot make myself throw it out without looking at it first. Don't know what's the psychological root cause of that ridiculous tendency, but I need to work on it.

Then, because the clutter wasn't already bad enough, I got sick and let everything go for another two weeks. Feeling bad was all the excuse I needed to flop on the sofa and watch political news instead of picking up after myself. Life, of couse, went on around me:

The Sporting Life
I've written before about how important sports are to people around here. The adults are huge fans, and for every kid who wants to be on a team, there's some kind of ball to play.

There's another group of sportsminded kids who don't play on teams. These kids are old enough to ride around in cars, and their sport of choice is rural mailbox bashing.

These three mailboxes near the end of my driveway were all knocked down last Friday. My next-door neighbor got hers up the next morning. Mine was bashed in too much, so I had to go out and shop for a new one ($27 plus tax plus the cost of stick-on letters). Thanks to help from Kim, I had a mailbox back on the post by Monday afternoon. The neighbors in front of me are still without one.

My message to these sporty young men (girls don't generally do this for fun) who cost three families time and money is this: I hope you grow up to be fine, responsible citizens someday. And then I hope that each of you gets to deal with at least one son who's a chip off the old block.

A Dog's Life
I've also written before about my muddy backyard. It's a pain in the backside at the best of times, but cleaning muddy dog feet several times a day is especially annoying to one who has the flu.

As usual, Butch has been able to go outside and come back in with the barest minimum of soil on the pads of his feet, and Kadi has come back in every single time with mud all the way up to her ankles or higher. Once, the mud was so thick and high on Kadi's legs that I threw my hands up to my cheeks Home-Alone style when I saw her.

There was way too much mud on her to clean off with a wet towel, and I think she must have realized she'd overdone it. I jabbed a finger at her and said, in a low, deadly serious tone, "You. Better. Come with me. Right now," and Kadi willingly, for the first time in many years, followed me to the bathroom and climbed into the tub.

At that moment hell froze over, so the mud hasn't been too bad since then.

Mother Nature Likes to Play, Too
We've had strong winds for the past few days, but this afternoon was sunny and warm. After work, I thought it would be nice to sit outside on the patio and breathe in some fresh air, but Mother Nature has been busy redecorating all the lawn chairs. I just stood in the doorway and appreciated her artwork instead.

This is getting way too long, so I'll stop now and give us all a rest. Besides, I want to leave a little something to write about tomorrow. I wouldn't want to wait another four years to post something on February 29th.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

One weak week

That's how long it's been since my last post. I apologize for not checking in before now, and I appreciate your good wishes and kind inquiries about my health. I've tried to keep up with reading my favorite blogs but haven't been energetic or clear-headed enough to leave coherent comments.

I don't know whether this is a cold or the flu. Three people at work now have the exact same symptoms, which would make me think this is flu, except that one of the symptoms is lower-than-normal temperature. I would have thought the flu would include a fever. Whatever it is, we've all felt well enough to go to work this week -- but just barely.

It's the sleep deprivation that's the killer. The cough that subsides substantially during daylight hours returns at bedtime and jackhammers my chest and head until well past bedtime. Then, when the cough finally subsides, the more subtle respiratory noises take over. With every exhaled breath, a little tea-kettle whistles to get my attention. When I can't stand the whistles anymore, I roll over on my other side, and the noise changes: now I'm exhaling the snap-crackle-pop sound of Rice Krispies. There is no peace.

For the most part, my week has consisted of going to work, then coming home and going to bed early, with very little in between. Fortunately, I slept well last night. If I can make it two nights in a row, then maybe I'll feel like tackling some items on my "things I've neglected" list. It's a long list, but blogging is near the top of it.

Thanks again for your concern.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cold season

I have a three-day weekend.
I’m spending it in bed,
with tissues on the nightstand
for the fluid in my head.

I spent the whole night coughing,
so sleep was not to be.
My throat is sore, my body aches,
I have no energy.

Somebody came to work last week
with symptoms just like these.
We followed him with Lysol,
spraying after every sneeze.

But papers were passed back and forth,
and those could not be sprayed.
I washed my hands religiously,
but I was still afraid.

And right I was to fear those germs,
‘t was not just in my mind.
Those nasty things came home with me
and kicked my old behind.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The best laid plans of yellow dogs...

I’m almost finished reading a new book about animal emotions. That’s a topic that greatly interests me, but I’m disappointed because there aren’t many anecdotal examples in the book, and the ones that are there don’t pull my heartstrings as much as the ones I read on your blogs or see in my own home.

Kadi, especially, shows her emotions. After looking online to try to find exactly the right word to explain her manipulative behavior this past Saturday, I've had to settle for "lust"(in a non-sexual context).

Just for background information, let me explain two parts of our regular routine:

1. When I’m planning to take only one dog in the car, I send both of them outside first to do their doggy business. When the first one comes back in, I lure that one into the living room, then close the gate that blocks off the living room from the kitchen. My goal is to separate them so I can put the leash on the dog that’s going with me. Otherwise, Kadi and Butch fight about who gets the leash, and it’s a struggle to get them apart and get out the door with just one dog.

2. When I let both dogs outside, Butch is almost always the first one to come back and scratch on the door to come back inside. (He’s a house dog and doesn’t want to take any chances that someone might think otherwise.) On the rare occasions when Kadi comes in first, it’s usually because she was closer to the door when I opened it to check on them. If that happens, and if Butch is at the other end of the yard, I tell Kadi, “Go get your brother.” She does it. She runs to wherever Butch is, nudges him with her nose, then runs back toward the house with Butch trotting along behind her.

Kadi knows the ropes well, and on Saturday she used her knowledge to her advantage.

She was sitting beside me on the sofa Saturday afternoon when I announced to her that I needed to go vote. (Yes, I talk to the dogs.) I changed my clothes, then said, “Who needs to go outside?” Both dogs went out the door, but Kadi was back in about ten seconds, bumping the door urgently with her nose, demanding to come back inside. Now! Her face and her body language screamed her anticipation of going somewhere with me.

I let her in, then leaned out the door and called Butch. He didn’t come. I called a couple more times, and he still didn’t come. I couldn’t see him from the doorway, so I stepped outside and saw him standing like a statue at the far side of the yard. It was obvious he was listening to me call him, but he wouldn’t budge. I walked closer to him and said, “Come on, Butchie, let’s go in the house.” He quickly moved farther away.

I went back to the doorway, held the door open wide, and said, “Kadi, go get your brother.” Kadi stretched her body out low to the ground and raced as fast as she could, not slowing down a bit as she approached Butch. She smashed into his chest, knocking him back about three more feet, then whirled around and raced back in the house. Inside, she looked at me expectantly, as if to say, “He isn’t coming, so let’s go, okay?” I gave up temporarily and found something else to do, during which Kadi didn't leave my side. Half an hour later, Butch came back to the door on his own.

That was the first time in many months that Butch refused to come in when I called him, and I’m blaming Kadi. Frankly, I think she must have told him something. I can just hear her saying in dog-speak, “Butch, if she catches you, she’ll take you to the doctor, so you stay far away and I’ll go instead of you.”

As I left the house later to go by myself to vote, Butch was resting comfortably on the futon. Kadi, on the other hand, hung her head low and looked at me with big, sad eyes.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Apathy alarm

The community I live in is populated by people who generally support one another. If a family loses its home to fire or flood, friends and neighbors rally together to provide shelter, clothing and household goods. If someone’s child suffers a catastrophic illness, you can bet there’ll be a well-attended event to raise money to help pay medical expenses. And above all else, this community supports its local sports teams. Whether it’s Dixie Boys League baseball, high school football, or any sporting event sponsored by LSU, people will wear the team colors, carry the signs, pack the stadiums, and shout encouragement. When people here care about something, they care all the way.

But there are some things, apparently, that they don’t care all that much about.

Louisiana’s presidential primary election, held yesterday, was a well-kept secret. If I hadn’t paid close attention to the national news, I might have missed it. Local news sources didn’t do much to publicize the election, and, so far, I haven’t seen even one yard sign or bumper sticker for any presidential candidate. Still, judging by the hotly contested races I’ve seen on national news shows, I expected a large voter turnout.

When I thought about going out to vote yesterday, I thought there'd be a long line at the polls. I knew my bad knees would suffer for it, but it was a gorgeous day, and if I had to wait in line a long time, it was a great day to do it. I enjoyed a leisurely Saturday morning, and as it was almost noon before I was ready to go, I decided to wait a couple more hours. I figured some folks would be using their lunch hour to vote and, since I had all day, it didn’t seem right to make the line longer for those good citizens.

Finally, it was time. I drove to my designated polling place, a nearby high school, and was surprised to find very few cars in the parking lot. Inside the school there were four people in line ahead of me, and only three more came in before I left. In nearly thirty years of voting in this community, I’d never seen such a light turnout for such an important election. The poll workers said it had been slow all day.

I don’t know what the turnout was like in the rest of this state, and I do know my candidate won, so you might think I should be happy and stop complaining. It’s just disturbing to me that a community I know to be so caring doesn’t care about an election that could have such an important effect on our future. Apathy disappoints me.

So, to the people whose job it is to get local folks to the polls on election day, I have a couple of suggestions: Cook a pot of jambalaya at each polling place. And, more important, get a few guys to stand outside and toss a football.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Snail trail on screen door

Last Saturday I huddled on the sofa with three chenille throws on top of me. The central heat was on, but I couldn't get warm. By Monday I was running the air conditioner. Today it's cooling off again, and I have no clue what kind of weather tomorrow will bring.

Whether it's cold or hot, the yard stays muddy here in the winter, and my outside photo opportunities are limited. That's why I appreciated this little guy, who sneaked inside the screen door and meandered into camera range while I stayed comfortable and dry in the house:

Looking at the snail's trail, it appears that he was headed up the door, then changed his mind and turned in another direction. Maybe he forgot something. Or maybe he was running from the camera.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

How do you spell "courage"? M-A-R-I-A

Maria Shriver, first lady of California, has just taken a giant leap to the top of an ever-evolving list of people I admire. Days after her husband, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain, I watched Maria take the stage at a political rally at UCLA and declare her support for Barack Obama. What a woman!

My stepfather and I used to argue politics all the time. It was fun for us, but it drove Mother nuts. I asked Mother point blank one time if she agreed with all of Daddy's political views. She said sometimes she did, sometimes she didn't, but in either case, she always told him she agreed with him. Then, she told me, when she went into the voting booth, she voted for the candidate she liked best.

The pressure on Maria Shriver to support the Republican Party or stay mum must have been substantial. Not from her husband, necessarily, but from her own knowledge that in speaking out she'd set herself up for censure from those who pull Republican Party strings. I'm sure that as I write this, there are men in suits gathering to discuss one specific agenda item: "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"

Nevertheless, there she was, her face bare of makeup, encouraging people not to be afraid to vote with their hearts, not to be afraid to take a stand. She was an unscheduled speaker. She had come, she said, after leaving with her daughter for an earlier, non-political event and realizing she needed to follow her heart to the rally at UCLA.

It's a moment I wouldn't have missed for the world. If you've noticed my absence from the blogosphere in the last few days, it's because I've been glued to the television set, flipping from one news channel to the other, listening for every word spoken by every candidate. Despite my best intentions, I've become a political junkie.

One of the things I've enjoyed most about blogging is the discovery of how much we are all alike, how much we have in common when it comes right down to our cares, our concerns, our hopes and dreams. In the blogosphere, it's our similarities, more than our differences, that draw us together. Distinctions such as gender, race, age, nationality, and sexual preference seem to blur when we read another blogger's words and recognize pieces of ourselves, our shared humanity.

Because I feel protective about those good feelings, I've never wanted to make this a political blog. In real life, I'll discuss politics with people I know well, people I trust, but certainly not with casual acquaintances. And I've never wanted my little corner of the Internet to be sullied by controversy. I still don't want that.

But today something changed for me. With the courage of her convictions, Maria Shriver stood up in front of the world and spoke her own mind. Having witnessed that moment, I can't, in good conscience, do less. So, with hope in my heart and a yearning for a leader who can inspire the best efforts of each of us, I'll stand up in the safety of this little blog and be counted as a vote for Barack Obama. If you haven't made up your minds yet, maybe you'll give him a second look.

Today, I'll put my trust in you, dear readers. I'll trust you to look into your own hearts, follow your own dreams and vote as you please. At the same time, I'll trust you not to leave comments telling me what's wrong with the candidate I like or what's wrong with me for making that choice. I'll trust you to understand that I don't even need your affirmation if you happen to agree with me. And if you choose to write about your political opinions on your own blog, I'll read whatever you have to say, give it thoughtful consideration, and still respect you in the morning.

In her speech today, Maria Shriver quoted a line from the Hopi Elders: "We are the ones we've been waiting for." Making a difference is up to us, isn't it? Follow your heart and vote for the candidate of your choice, and please don't let apathy or cynicism convince you your vote won't matter.