Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Paper dolls from different sets

Women of a certain age probably remember playing with paper dolls when they were children, but I'm guessing that most of my (two or three) male readers never had that experience. For the men's benefit, I'll explain:

Paper dolls usually came (do they still?) in a booklet that included two or three human figures to be punched out of cardboard, plus several pages of paper clothing to be cut out with scissors and hung by folded tabs from the shoulders of the cardboard people. All the dolls in a particular booklet would have similarly painted features and be of approximately the same size. It was easy to believe they were friends or family members.

I loved paper dolls when I was a kid, and I owned several sets of them. The problem was that the sets weren't interchangeable. Even though I had lots of paper dolls, I could never pretend to host a large gathering, because the people from different sets didn't go together. For example, there might have been a set of little-girl dolls who were ten inches tall and proportionately wide, and the adult glamour girls in another set might have been only eight inches tall. There was no way to pretend the glamour girls were the mothers of the little-girl paper dolls. I had a good imagination, but not that good.

I've been thinking about this because sometimes I see real people with other real people who look like they belong to different sets. Do you know what I mean?

For example, if I see a very tall, skinny woman walking with a really short, round man, I think, ah, different sets. Or if I see a well-groomed, professionally manicured woman wearing a business suit, I'd never guess that the guy wearing overalls across the room is her husband. In my mind, her husband would be wearing a coat and tie. Hip-hop artists and country singers don't seem to me like they go together, and yet there they are, at the Grammy awards, all getting along.

The good news is that even as I notice the differences in people, even as my paper-doll-influenced mind sorts and categorizes them into sets, I've outgrown the idea that the sets shouldn't mingle. As an adult, I've learned that a gathering of people "from different sets" can be much more interesting than a group of people who are all just alike. It's diversity, it's a good thing, and I'm glad to see most of the world making progress in that direction.

Although, to be honest, I'd still have a hard time putting those eight-inch glamour girls with the ten-inch giant children.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Did you know?

In the past few days I learned two new things, and I wish I'd paid more attention so I could give credit to the sources of this newfound knowledge.

While surfing the Net this afternoon, I ran across a computer tip on someone's blog: If you hold down the ctrl key while you roll the little wheel on the mouse back and forth, you can make the text larger or smaller. Try it. Isn't that cool? (Some of you probably already knew this, but it was news to me.)

On some show on the Animal Planet channel, I learned that veterinarians now say that the old way of calculating a dog's age (one year in a dog's life equals seven in a human's) is inaccurate. The new way, they say, is to count the first two years of a dog's life as 25 human years, then add four years for each actual year after that. Under the old calculations, 10-year-old Butch would now be the equivalent of a 70-year-old human. But with the new math, he's only 57. That's much better.

Hmm. Now that I've checked the dog-age fact on the Internet, I'm finding that everyone seems to agree that the old method is obsolete, but opinions vary slightly on the numbers to use for the new method. At any rate, I've just this minute discovered a very handy chart in case I forget from day to day how old my dogs are.

Whatever. Class dismissed.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Talk Radio Haiku

Ranting, radical,
muckraking windbag spewing
hate for a living.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

At the supermarket

Picture a young man standing in front of the gourmet cheese counter. He's wearing baggy jeans with pant legs that pool at his ankles and lie in loose folds on top of his dirty white sneakers. He needs a shave. Spikes of oily brown hair peek out from under his worn red ballcap.

Speaking into his cell phone, the young man says confidently, "I thought I'd cut it with butter, just a glaze, not a sauce."

As the saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Yesterday was three months exactly since our veterinarians scuttled their attempt to remove Butch’s anal sacs. As we might have anticipated, those troublesome organs are still giving him problems.

Butch stayed on antibiotics for a few weeks after the aborted surgery, and for a few more weeks after that, I lived in a state of denial, trying to pretend I wouldn’t have to make a decision about what to do next. I obviously knew it isn’t healthy for Butch to have anal sac abscesses one after the other, and I knew he can’t stay on antibiotics indefinitely, but thinking about how close I came to losing him just scared the bejesus out of me. Finally, when he began spending way too much time with his nose stuck up under his tail, I knew I’d have to face my fears and take him back to the vet.

We did that two weeks ago yesterday. Butch does indeed have another abscess, and it needs to be cleared up before surgery is even an option. This time the vet did a bacterial culture, which identified three separate bacteria, and she prescribed a four-week course of antibiotics that are supposed to wipe out those specific bacteria. At the end of the four weeks, we’ll consider surgery again.

While I was at the vet’s office, I asked her to write down what anesthesia they were using when Butch stopped breathing. That’s information I want to keep handy in case Butch ever has to go to the emergency after-hours vet clinic. The vet gave me a written list and said she suspected either morphine or pentathol -- or the combination of both -- caused the problem. She also said it wasn’t that Butch had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia but rather that he went under too deeply. He’s had anesthesia on at least three previous occasions, so no one knows for sure why he had problems on that particular day.

The mention of morphine helped me to better understand Butch’s bizarre behavior in the hours after I brought him home following his near-death experience. During the hours he paced the floor and crashed into walls and furniture, he may well have been having morphine-induced hallucinations. I remember my mother’s description of something that happened when my over-90-year-old grandmother stayed with her for a while. Mammaw was taking morphine to reduce cancer pain. Mother woke up to noises in the middle of the night and discovered that my fragile Mammaw had pulled the mattress and all the bedding off her bed. She was also highly agitated about the "naked men" who were flying around the ceiling of her room. I don't know if Butch's hallucinations included naked men, but he was definitely agitated.

To wrap up this lengthy entry, let me tell you about one moment I treasured on Butch's most recent visit to the vet: I was sitting on the end of a cushioned bench in front of a window in the lobby, and Butch, on a leash, was standing at my feet. A woman across the room spotted Butch, did a double-take when she noticed he didn’t have eyes, and walked over to ask about him.

Butch accepted the woman's attention enthusiastically while I explained about the primary glaucoma, but he lost interest after she stopped petting him. After a few “oh, poor babies” and a couple of “bless his hearts,” the woman asked, “Does he have problems getting around the house?” Butch chose that exact moment to turn away from her, scrunch up his hindquarters and leap up onto the other end of the bench, where he sat facing the window, nosed the venetian blinds open wider, and basked in the sunshine on his face.

I was kind of surprised myself that he'd figured out the layout of the bench, the window, etc. That’s my good boy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dang, that man gets on my nerves

Just when I thought there was nothing George W. Bush could do to make me like him less, he did it today, right here in my own backyard. Technically, it wasn't his fault, but it annoyed me anyway.

I took off work early this afternoon to drive to the vet in Baton rouge. I had to take Kadi to get her thyroid levels checked, and I had to pick up another round of antibiotics for Butch. This trip was timed carefully to avoid rush hour traffic.

About halfway to the vet's office, just before it was time to turn off the two-lane back road and get on the interstate, traffic came to a dead stop. After standing still for a while, all the vehicles in front of me started making three-point u-turns -- nevermind that there was steady oncoming traffic -- so I did the same. It was quite a visual spectacle and more than a little bit hazardous.

I had to backtrack a couple of miles to find an alternate route, and as I was driving, the radio announcer started naming roads that were closed because of a presidential motorcade. I knew George Bush was in New Orleans yesterday, but I had no idea he was still around. Apparently, he was planning to attend a fundraiser at a private residence, and there were protesters lined up on the interstate side of the nearby water park. I was on the back side of that same water park when everyone started making u-turns.

Kadi and I still got to where we were going, but it took an extra half hour to get there. I kind of wish I could have seen the protesters.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

With gratitude... Carmon of Life at Star's Rest, I humbly accept this pretty and colorful award:

I'll share it with:

Helen, of A Little of This-n-That, who has impressed me tremendously with her courage and good humor in the face of a serious illness.

Alison, of Inspired Work of Self-Indulgence. Hers was the first blog I ever read. I'm grateful to her for the inspiration and for a consistently good reading experience.

Val, of Golden to Silver Val. I've only discovered Val recently, but I already appreciate her wit and her writing skills.

Ladies, pass it on if you wish.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Make the world go away

The first time I heard someone say, “He lives inside his head,” I related instantly. That sentence clarified for me a condition I’ve known since childhood, a personality trait that I now know is labeled ”introversion.” If you were to search this blog for the keyword “introvert,” you’d find that I’ve written about this subject a number of times.

I’m quite contented with the head in which I live, except for the fact that I have to stick it out into the real world all too frequently, and the real world isn’t always a safe place for us introverts. It’s noisy, it’s hectic, and there is entirely too much talking going on. It’s people, people everywhere and not a place to think.

Lately, the noise and confusion of my days, not to mention the televised evening news, have made me spend my evenings turning inward, regrouping and searching inside my head for the coping skills I’ll need when the mornings roll around. Having had years of experience in dealing with copious amounts of crap, my coping skills are highly developed. Chief among them is the ability to raise an umbrella of silence and serenity over my head.

When I’m under that umbrella, it feels right to talk as little as possible. When my mind is cluttered with a thousand random thoughts, the silence helps me to think more clearly, to evaluate which thoughts and ideas have value and which ones are dragging me down. Once I have them neatly categorized, I can “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative,” and regain the sense of balance necessary to navigate my life.

Unfortunately, I’m realizing that when I don’t feel like talking, I don’t feel like writing, either. For a blogger, that isn’t a good thing. A “genuine” writer, I suppose, would feel compelled to write down the troubling thoughts, to dissect them in an attempt to discover their origin and their meaning. It might even be therapeutic. But I certainly wouldn’t want to write that stuff here, and, frankly, I’m not inclined to expend that kind of energy.

Energy is another thing that's been in short supply lately. I’ve done what I’ve needed to do at work, and at home I’ve accomplished the bare minimum necessary to take care of myself and my dogs. How little I’ve actually done at home was brought to my attention a couple of days ago when I found myself (of necessity) eating microwaved enchiladas with an iced tea spoon.

The dishwasher has since been turned on, and the laundry will get done today. Before the weekend is over, I’ll dust the furniture (although I’m tempted to plant flower seeds on one end table, just as an experiment). I’ve paid my bills, I’ else have I done? Oh, I’ve written this.

It’s a start.

Me, today.

Me, soon I hope.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Blame it on Janet

If you’ve been here in the last few days and haven’t found anything new to read, blame it on Janet. It’s all her fault.

Janet recently posted five of her favorite links, and one of them led me to JigZone, the jigsaw puzzle site where I’ve been held captive for many days now.

Each evening I’ve told myself I’d work only one puzzle, certainly no more than two, and then I’d write something on my blog and leave comments on yours. And each evening I’ve told myself a big fat lie, because I’ve ended up working one puzzle after another until well past my bedtime.

As an expert rationalizer, I convinced myself a long time ago that jigsaw puzzles are valuable. The process of fitting tiny puzzle pieces together actually makes me more observant, more finely attuned to my surroundings. For example, if I go outside after completing a puzzle, I look at a stand of trees and notice the differences in the shapes and colors of the leaves. I pay attention to one tree that leans in a particular direction, to a patch of blue sky behind the branches, to areas of sunlight and shadow. All in all, it’s a nicer way to see the world.

I haven't noticed getting the same benefit from these tiny puzzles that can be worked in about five minutes. But I do adore the instant gratification. The puzzles are so pretty. And they're so much fun! And they’re so spectacularly addictive!

Hmm. Now I'm thinking maybe you haven’t been here at all recently. Maybe you found the JigZone link, too, and maybe you’ve become obsessed and have spent all your time there.

Maybe I don’t have any readers left at all. If that’s true, I blame Janet.

(Janet, if you read this, can you recommend any more good sites? Please?)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Bloomin' peacock

Val asked me to try to get a picture of Mr. Pea "in bloom," and I didn't have to wait too long to do it. He stopped by last night and put on quite a show:

If you notice that the photos aren't as sharp as they should be, blame it on the subject: he wouldn't stop dancing. His performance seemed to be entirely for the benefit of my neighbors' pickup truck.

Earlier, I heard Mr. Pea's loud calls and went outside to find him up on the roof. He immediately jumped down to check out the contents of the goody bag in my hand, and we had a quiet little visit in the driveway. All that changed when the neighbors with whom I share a carport started up their truck.

The truck wasn't visible from where we were standing, but as soon as the engine started, the bird went into his full-out courting dance. He fanned his gorgeous tailfeathers, fluffed up his downy white butt-feathers, and pranced and preened, turning around and around directly in the path of the truck. I yelled to get him to move, but he was a man on a mission. The neighbors, forced to stop their truck, got out of it and took photos with their cell phones while they waited for Mr. Pea to finish his act.

I knew he liked that pickup truck, but I didn't realize how much. He spent much of last summer perched on the sides of the truck or resting in the bed of it. I'd pull my car into the carport next to the truck, and up would pop that bright blue head of his. That must have been amusing for the neighbors, although I suspect they may not have been too thrilled about the frequent poop clean-ups he necessitated.

A Louisiana peacock is apparently just like the average Louisiana man: He loves him a pickup truck. It must be something in the water.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I have a neighbor who seems to think it's perfectly acceptable behavior to show up at my door unannounced and hang around for as long as it takes until I give in and offer him a meal. I haven't heard from him for months, but he showed up for supper tonight with no advance notice and no apologies.

I know he's just using me, but I was glad to see him anyway. It isn't as if I've forgotten how persistent he was the last time he stayed around for a while. He was demanding and messy, and the timing of his visits was often inconvenient. He was even something of a stalker. I felt trapped in my own home when I looked out to see him pacing in my carport, stretching tall to try to peer through my windows. Despite all that, I can't seem to find it in my heart to turn him down.

I'd heard he was back in the neighborhood. When Butch and Kadi started barking incessantly this evening, it crossed my mind that he might be the reason for their excitement. I cautiously raised one slat in the blinds and peeked out, and there he was. He'd spotted the movement and was looking right back at me.

So here we go again. It'll be just like it was last year and the year before that. He'll pop in when he feels like it, and I'll feed him. He'll take what he wants from me, for as long as he wants it, and in the end he'll do what he always does: he'll go home to the mother of his children. And I know that's as it should be.

He's lucky he's so good looking or I wouldn't put up with this at all.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Westward ho, city girls!

Packy, my grandfather whose home we shared, worked at Martin's Furniture Store in Springfield, Missouri. He did a little light carpentry, assembly mostly, and he delivered furniture to customers. Sometimes my grandmother picked Packy up at lunchtime, but some days he drove home in an empty delivery truck.

If he was driving the big van, he'd have to park it on the street. My sister and I would climb up inside it and jump around a little bit, but we grew bored pretty quickly in the van, and it was hot in there, too. The other truck was way better.

The second truck was larger than a pickup but smaller than the furniture van, so my grandfather could drive it right up into the driveway and park it under the shade of a nearby tree. There were wooden-rail "fences" along each side of the truck bed, and before Packy could get in the house and sit down to his lunch ("dinner" we called it then), my sister and I would climb the rails and straddle them. They were our horses: beautiful stallions with flowing manes and tails.

We rode miles on those horses during summer lunch hours. We crossed prairies and deserts, watering our horses at streams along the way. We encountered stagecoaches, goldminers, train robbers, and sheriffs wearing big tin stars. Shots were fired sometimes, but we were the good guys, and we usually survived our injuries. Luckily, our trail always turned homeward just in time for Packy to go back to work.

When I think about those days, I can still smell the summer dust and the little-girl sweat, and I can almost hear the strains of the radio music that filtered through the screen door and provided a fitting soundtrack for our adventures. Click on the video link and ride with us for a while.

MUSIC VIDEO: Ghost Riders in the Sky - Vaughn Monroe (1949)
LYRICS: Ghost Riders in the Sky