Monday, January 17, 2011

Pot Pourri

It's a beautiful day today, about sixty degrees outside.  Rain is predicted to begin any minute, but right now the sun is shining, the dogs are sleeping, and it seems like a good time  for a blog update.  Here goes:

That cold thing:  
My last post was a short one about being cold. Little did I know when I wrote it that it wasn't just the low outside temperature that made me feel so chilly; it was also the first day of The Mother of All Head Colds. Today is the first day in a week I've felt halfway decent, and I still don't go too far away from the Kleenex box. I'm grateful to Kim, who made one drugstore trip and two grocery runs for me during the week, and to Kelli, who brought me two nights' worth of supper this afternoon.

The Tucson shootings:
I'm sure most people who intended to write about this have already done so, and I don't have anything to add to what's already been seen on TV or read online about this specific incident. I do have some strong opinions about the need for more stringent gun control, though, and I wrote about the reasons for those opinions nearly four years ago. If you missed reading it the first time -- and if you're interested -- you can click on this link.

Running with scissors:
About the only thing I accomplished all week was to clear off my kitchen counters and dining table of anything that didn't absolutely need to be there. On the day before I did that, my head was so full of fluid that any sudden movement sent me spinning. Levi saw my slow movements as an opportunity. At one point I heard a clanging sound in the kitchen. By the time I got up to see what had happened, he was in the den, lying on his belly on the futon, with my kitchen scissors in his mouth.

This time it was a hawk:
I recently posted about taking pictures of "hawks" that turned out to be buzzards, so this morning when I saw a very large bird swoop down and land on top of a tree just beyond my back fence, I was skeptical. I photographed it anyway and I'm glad I did. I knew there was a hawk around here somewhere.

Standing the test of time:
I snapped this picture while I watched "The Today Show" yesterday morning:

That's Meredith Vieira with the Video1 superimposed over her head. (I've tried everything I know to get that thing off my TV set, but it's still there, all the time.) What interested me was the outfit she was wearing, because I wore a nearly identical one 42 years ago:

Hemlines were higher in 1969, and heels were lower, but that basic black-knit, turtleneck  dress still works.

Talking about TV:
Last Wednesday night I watched "Off the Map," the new series produced by the people responsible for "Grey's Anatomy." I think I'm gonna like it, although the initial episode didn't hook me the way "Grey's" did. Tonight I'll watch "Harry's Law," because I love  Kathy Bates and because this show is the brainchild of the folks who created "Boston Legal." Then, this upcoming Wednesday marks the return of my guilty pleasure, "American Idol."

Are there any new shows you're excited about?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Locked inside on a cold, grey day

No threat of snow here, but it's a gloomy, ugly day, and I'm cold to the bone.

Can you feel the chill?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The end of week two

We brought Levi home exactly two weeks ago today. That very morning Patsy, of My Life and Times, wrote a really funny post in which she predicted the outcome of my new puppy adventure. I hope Patsy won't mind that I've copied and pasted it here, exactly as she wrote it, just in case you missed it:
"...I went on the whorl wind to see velvet down Louisiana way. Velvet has two old Big dogs she lives with and velvet loves her dogs more than I see as a option but it's her life after all. Well she said she was getting a new PUPPY cause her dogs were getting old and did I mention one is blind? It is A Goldendoodle and will weigh about 50 pounds! Oh yeah she is driving to Texas to get this bundle of Joy. A goldendoodle is a cross of a poodle and a golden retriever that is a bird dog folks.
"She going to be sorry This is what I said to her, we have a pup here, Sammy has one he is 7 months old and I tell you are going to be sorry and you old dogs are going to pack up and leave home. Sam's pup gathers all the stuff he can find in the neighborhood and bring the stuff to the front porch step. then I have to pick the crap up and take it to the trash can. some of his treasures of late included torn pink woman's panties, US army cap and dirty baby diapers.
I know Velvet will say I wont leave him out side to roam the neighborhood, she will before he is there long. Her old blind dog will learn to open the door and say come on puppy lets go play then SLAM the door as soon as puppy is out side.
"I can see it now Velvet will go looking every where saying where is puppy? the old blind dog says, Don't ask me, He's not my dog!"
That post cracked me up so much, but even as I laughed, I knew there might be some truth to it, so I've used Patsy's predictions to measure the success of our first two weeks with Levi.

First of all, my yard is completely fenced in, so there's no way Levi could gather "all the stuff he can find in the neighborhood and bring the stuff to the front porch step." So, you see, Patsy, all the stuff Levi has gathered on my patio was dragged right out of my very own house. Except for the 18-inches-long, four-inches-in-diameter chunk of tree limb. He must have found that way back behind the garden shed, where maybe it had fallen from the neighbor's pecan tree. And, to give him credit, he's learning quickly that when he takes a toy outside, he has to pick it up and bring it with him when he's ready to come back inside. Except I have to stop him at the door each time and check out the toy to make sure he didn't accidentally pee on it. (He hasn't yet learned how to lift his leg.)

My old lab, Kadi, has actually taken a liking to Levi. If he goes outside, she goes, too, and she doesn't come back in until he does. Butch, blind as he is, "keeps an eye" on Levi. Butch goes outside only when he really needs to, certainly not just to be companionable,  but when Levi and Kadi go out, Butch likes to stand in the doorway--with the door wide open--and wait for them. If I touch him in any way that makes him think I'm encouraging him to go outside, too, he jerks back abruptly, turns tail, and moves a few feet further back inside the house. Butch pulls this stunt so frequently that it makes me wonder if he really is waiting for the right moment to slam the door as Patsy suggested.

For the most part it's been sheer joy to have this "young blood" around. Yes, he's a little opportunistic (see yesterday's banana incident), but his kind of ingenuity is exactly what Lassie would have demonstrated as she opened the doors to the burning barn and saved all the livestock. And yes, I do have to bend over and pick up hundreds of white puffs of stuffed-animal innards every day, but think about the health benefits of all that reaching and bending. Who needs Jazzercise when there's a very busy puppy in the house?

While we're speaking of exercise, I don't even have to worry about taking Levi for walks. He expends plenty of energy on his own, racing an imaginary zigzag track through every inch of the backyard.

He runs flat out, as fast as he can go, then leaps up and grabs a branch of the gardenia bush.

Can you imagine the time we'll save by having to trim only the top half of that overgrown shrub?

Usually, after he has played hard, Levi is ready to nap. That's when he reminds me how young he really is: a sweet, sleeping baby who steals my heart by trusting me to take good care of him. He likes to sleep near me in tiny, den-like spaces. Right now he's under my desk:

Even when I'm in the bathroom, he finds a quiet corner:

And then, when I leave the bathroom and walk into my bedroom, my faithful new companion rises and follows me.

I have to ask you, Patsy, could it be any more fun than this?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Nothing is safe here

Three dogs lay sleeping on the living room floor when I sat down to watch TV this afternoon. It was wonderfully peaceful, and before I realized what was happening, I dozed off.

Mere minutes later, I woke up. All three dogs were awake, too. Two lay just where they'd been before, but their eyes were glued to the third dog. He, apparently, had awakened and fixed himself a snack.

I had left two small, perfect bananas in the middle of my kitchen counter. The one you see between Levi's paws is the second banana. That peel beside his left foreleg is from the first one, which he presumably enjoyed in its entirety.

I'll give him very little supper tonight and hope he doesn't get a belly ache.

When going green turned to seeing red

Once a year, just after a lot of folks have been given gifts of new electronic equipment, a local Television station teams up with an electronics/appliance store to stage an electronics recycling day. Last year I was all set for it, but the roads were icy and hazardous on the designated day, so I put all my stuff back into closets to wait for a year.

This year I almost missed it. Luckily for me, the dogs woke me up early yesterday morning, the TV was already tuned to the sponsoring station's channel when I turned it on, and the first bit of news I heard was that recycling was happening that very day. I pulled out all my old electronic equipment, loaded everything in the trunk, and drove to Baton Rouge.

The recycling station was set up in a large, strip-mall parking lot in front of the sponsoring electronics store. When I got there, there were two lines of vehicles at 90-degree angles to each other. At the stop sign where those lines intersected, they merged into one line to approach the collection area. It appeared to me that everyone was being courteous, stopping where they were supposed to, then a car from one line proceeding, then one from the other line. 

When it was my turn to move into the single line, the man in the other line waited patiently, though I could see that he had already turned his wheels in preparation for pulling in after me.  He didn't get the chance. The man behind me clung as closely as if our bumpers were magnetized and squeezed out the other guy.

That didn't go over well. At all. The man who had been cut off pulled his car up until it was almost touching the car of the guy behind me, jumped out and stormed to the window of the SUV behind me, where he shook his fist in the air and yelled, "Back up, you idiot! Back up! Back up! Back up, you old a$$h#&e!"

The "old a$$h#&e" didn't budge, nor did he acknowledge the guy who was waving his arms and screaming at him. He just sat there, staring straight ahead through his windshield, pretending he was exactly where he was supposed to be. The man who'd been cut off, getting more infuriated by the second, began yelling to the security guard at the front of the line and stomped off to meet the guard halfway and return with him to face the offending driver.

The guard assessed the situation and directed the man behind me to pull out of line and drive away in the opposite direction of the recycling area. He resisted at first, but  complied after the guard said a few more words to him. Because I was too busy exchanging smiles and thumbs-ups with people watching from other vehicles, I didn't notice whether the line-breaker man went back to the end of the line or left altogether, no doubt wondering how he'd explain to his wife why all that stuff was still in the back of the car.

Both of these men were geezers (an uncharitable term for people near my own age), and though it was clear, traffic-wise, that one was in the right and one was wrong, it would have been so much easier and safer if the offended driver had just let the other guy get away with it. It would have meant only a one-car delay.

I understand all about "the principle of the thing," so I won't ask you if you think breaking in line was justification for the cut-off man's outrage. Instead, my question to you is, do you think that men's heads continue to get harder and harder as they age?

Friday, January 07, 2011


The last item on yesterday's word-verification list was "retsub," which happens to be "Buster" spelled backwards. Every time I hear that name, I'm reminded of a three-year-old girl who was our neighbor in Georgia in the early 1970s.  Her name was Shannon.

Shannon was the middle of three children, the one sometimes pushed into the background by the bright chattiness of her older sister and the constant needs of her baby brother. She was about to start pre-school, and her mother was worried that she would feel alone and afraid in a new place, among so many children she didn't know. It turned out there was no need for concern.

At the end of the first half-day session, the teacher reported that Shannon had taken care of herself very well.  When a little boy showed interest in Shannon's dessert, she scooted a couple of feet away from him, looked him pointedly in the eye, and said, "You ain't a-gittin' none o' mah pah, buthter."

We were new to Georgia then, still fascinated by the cadence of the accent, and when my daughters and I heard that story, we repeated Shannon's declaration over and over to each other. It eventually became a catch-phrase in our family.

Shannon would be about 43 years old now. I wonder if she's still in Georgia and if she has little ones of her own. I wonder if it would make her smile to know that three women in Louisiana still remember her fondly and still quote her words sometimes when the issue of sharing arises.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Verifiably nutty - Part 2

A couple of years ago I posted a list of word verification examples that had amused me, along with possible definitions for those randomly generated "non-words." I've recently filled up another 3x3 Post-It note with funny ones.  Here are the best of them:

1.  uniqu -- one of a kind; unusual, such as an odd spelling of a common word
2.  coxem -- bombard 'em with mail-out solicitations for your cable service
3.  kroeladi -- woman who is known for keeping company with large, black birds
4.  oueltim -- from the past, as in, "Gimme that oueltim religion."
5.  koodies -- what little boys think little girls have
6.  cowson -- bull calf
7.  esmor -- plenty, as in, "Eat up, esmor enchiladas."
8.  nomor -- all gone
9.  pridatac -- full of oneself
10. ungurlie -- masculine
11. refulit -- what to do when one's car runs out of gas
12. puredic -- a) male virgin; b) totally despicable man
13. sockalip -- what to do when one is goaded by a smart aleck
14. ullogi -- words said about the deceased at a fewnarull
15. retsub -- R-E-T-S-U-B. . .B-U-S-T-E-R -- Buster? Buster, is that you writing these things?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Would you go back?

Here's something I wrote this past August and decided not to post at that time:

August 2010:

Last week I had a follow-up visit with an endocrinologist I've seen four times previously. I went to see him originally because my general practitioner suspected I had hyperparathyroidism and might need surgery to remove the affected parathyroid gland(s). After many tests, the endocronologist said, “I can’t prove you have it,” so surgery is not on the table at this point. I’m fine with that.

Instead, the endocrinologist has focused on a bone density scan I had in November 2009, telling me on each of the first four visits that I have osteoporosis (not the less severe osteopenia that the technician who gave the test diagnosed) and pushed me to pursue a certain course of treatment that I've so far resisted due to reports of negative side effects.

On this visit, because I've been feeling exceptionally well and think I could now tolerate the side effects, I was ready to get on with it. But this visit was different. This time the doctor looked at the same November 2009 bone density scan results and said, "Oh, yes, I see that you have osteopenia." (Huh? My condition has improved from osteoporosis to osteopenia on a piece of paper that's been in your file for nine months? Great news!)

He asked if I had any other questions, and I said, "Well, you've mentioned [treatment plan I didn't like] in the past." He looked again at the test results, left to go to his office and do a risk assessment calculation on his computer, then came back and told me I don't need that treatment.

"It wouldn't hurt anything to do it as a preventive measure," he said, "but you can have another bone density scan, let's say next summer, and consider it again then."

What a waste of everybody's time and Medicare's money.

Back to the present:

I'm posting that earlier rant now because I went to see this doctor again yesterday. Yesterday's appointment was scheduled at the end of the one in August. At that time the doctor gave me lab test orders, told me to have the tests done in five months (which I did) and follow them with an office visit ten days later.

This time, after I waited alone in the exam room for more than an hour before he finally came in and rifled through my file to figure out who the hell I was and why I was there, he zeroed in again on that 2009 bone density test, the only one I've ever had, and what he is now calling my "borderline osteoporosis." He told me about a new treatment, one that "only came on the market about four months ago, and it's a really good medicine." It's an injection that's given every six months. He said it costs $700 or $800 and that I should check to see what my insurance will pay. I told him Medicare is the only coverage I have, and he said, "Well, if they need pre-approval, let me know." I said not one word to indicate to him whether I wanted this drug or not, but he hastily wrote a prescription and told me to get it filled at a pharmacy, then bring it with me to his office so his nurse could give me the injection.

He also told me to make another follow-up appointment for six months from yesterday, though he didn't give me any lab orders, so I don't know what he plans to follow up on. I took the prescription without further discussion, intending to find out more about the medication and my insurance coverage and then make a decision. As I started for the exit, a nurse motioned me to the front desk to make the follow-up appointment, but I kept going, saying I'd call back later for that.

Late in the afternoon, after I would have assumed his office would be closed, I got a phone call from someone there asking if I'd filled that prescription. I told her I had not, and she said, "Well, don't fill it; we've ordered it from here." I told her I didn't intend to take the injection until I got more information about how I was going to pay for it, and she said, "Medicare will pay for it."

"How much of it will they pay?" I asked.

"I don't know. Some of it."

I told her she needed to cancel their order for the medication, and she said they would "be in touch" with me.

I do not like to be pushed, and I do not like for someone to think he can make decisions for me, as long as I'm conscious and coherent, just because he has a stethoscope hanging around his neck. Both of the "must-have" treatments he has insisted I take involve extremely expensive medications purchased through his office. I have my own idea about why he's tried so hard to push me into these treatments, but I'd sure like to know what you think. Are you as cynical as I am?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Branching out

January is drab and colorless in this part of the country. I stepped out into my backyard today, camera in hand, and saw no scenery worth photographing. And then I looked higher and found the beauty in my neighbors' trees.

Autumn's oranges refusing to surrender 

Graceful limbs stretching through mingled greens and golds

White bark framing a patch of blue

Maybe I'll just walk through life with my eyes raised upwards until spring.


Monday, January 03, 2011

One more quick thing

I finally cleaned up by blog links list ("Oh! The places I'll Go"), adding a few new ones and, I'm sad to say, deleting three or four that hadn't been updated in practically forever. If yours is one of the ones I deleted, I've missed you for a long time. And if you start writing again, please let me know so I can add your link back and share you with others.

Short Subjects

Three quick things for you today:

One more Levi story (are you tired of him yet?)
In the days before I brought Levi home, my niece taught him to sit on command. He's very good at it. He's not so good at walking on a leash, however, and this morning he got excited, ran around me in tight circles, and tangled the leash around my feet. Alarmed and afraid I might fall, I said, "Leeeviiiiiiiiii, holy shit!" He sat. Immediately.

Old friend with a new blog
In a post last Friday I mentioned how happy I am to have reconnected with my long-lost  friend, Annette. One of the things that brought us together in the first place all those years ago was that the two of us were responsible for writing and editing the company newsletter, she in the Texas division and I in Louisiana. I couldn't be happier to announce that Annette started her own blog yesterday. It's bound to be a good one, and I hope you'll click here to check it out and welcome her to the blogosphere.

Best laugh I've had in a long time
If you're a regular reader of Hyperbole and a Half, then you've probably already seen her post entitled "The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas." If you haven't read it, don't go to bed tonight until you do. I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks. Honestly.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

In celebration of Levi's one-week anniversary:

Portrait of the artist, posing beside his work.

What I saw with my eagle eyes

Several times in recent months I've seen a red-tailed hawk surveying his kingdom from the top of a telephone pole that stands around the corner from my house. I've wanted to study him, but each time I've seen him, I've been driving by in a hurry.

A few days ago I was in my backyard with the dogs when I saw a single, very large bird "making lazy circles in the sky." It's that hawk, I thought, and ran inside to get my camera.

Outside again, I watched in awe as he swooped through the air, and I wondered what it must feel like to ride the wind that way.

He flew north, south, east and west of me, rapid ascents and slow, deep dives, an air show unto himself.

Then, to my amazement, a second hawk flew into view. Though they were never near enough to each other that I could capture them in the same frame, it was splendid to watch their aerial dance.

I took shot after shot with my zoom lens, trying to get as close as possible to these creatures so I could share their magnificence with you.

Finally, when I couldn't stand it any longer. I hurried inside to upload the images to my computer, hoping I'd be able to see greater detail by enlarging them.

Wait. Does that hawk have a red head? 

Oh, no! The "hawks" circling over my head were buzzards! Do you think this has anything to do with my recent birthday?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

1-1-11: "Git 'er done!"

With the fresh start of the New Year in mind, I'm checking some things off my to-do list, beginning right here. First off, I've expanded the title of this blog to be more specific. I started writing here almost five years ago, and I've never been entirely comfortable with "Velvet Sacks" as the title. I do like comparing soft, velvet pouches designed to hold precious items to this blog that's a place to hold thoughts and memories I want to keep, but if I saw the name "Velvet Sacks" on a list of blog links, I wouldn't click on it. I'd think it was a blog specifically for the sale of actual bags made of velvet, like those pictured in the sidebar. In fact, according to my stat counter, more than a few people in the market for real velvet sacks have ended up, disappointed, right here.

I've also changed the way I'll sign my posts from now until the next time the wind blows me in another direction. Instead of Velvet Sacks, I'll be Linda@VS. Just telling you that so you'll recognize me if I leave comments on your posts. Even though I'm Linda now, those of you who are used to calling me Velvet may continue to do so if you wish.  (I'll keep Velvet in case I need a stripper name someday.)

Next to go from the sidebar was the reading list. I'd neglected to update the 2010 list since approximately last June, and even though I might conceivably do a better job this year, I don't need the pressure. So goodbye, reading list. And goodbye to "Velvet's Bookstacks," the book review blog I stopped updating too long ago to remember. Gone, gone. I'd rather spend my time reading books than listing them or reviewing them, but if I read something that's especially good, I'll write about it here. Probably.

At the suggestion of Holly (CreekHiker), I've put pictures of all three of my big, yellow-orange dogs on the sidebar. Measured on my monitor, that's about seven column-inches of sweet puppy love right there. And they all match my color scheme.

I still need to clean up my links list, but once that's done, the only other blog change I have in mind at this time is to post more frequently. We'll see how that goes.

Now, on to the long list of household projects.

What projects do you plan to tackle in the New Year?

Updated 1/2/11 to add:
Well, I changed the title back tonight. Just couldn't get used to the new one. The new version lasted less than 24 hours, which is approximately the same amount of time it took me after my first wedding to figure out that the marriage might have been a mistake. It's okay for a woman to change her mind, right?