Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Walking through the olden days

In last Sunday's post I mentioned that my daughter Kelli had taken me on an outing to LSU's Rural Life Museum. I can't believe I've lived in this area as long as I have and  never visited this enchanting place before now. Makes me wonder what else is nearby that I'm missing.

Today I'm going to show you a few of the many, many photos I took, just enough to give you an idea of what the museum is all about. I'll make the images smaller than usual so I can post more of them without bogging everybody down. Be sure to click the images to enlarge them.

The museum building itself contains so many items it would be impossible to take a good long look at all of them in a single day, so I'll show you just a couple of the collections I particularly enjoyed. Let's start out in the transportation area, where an old hearse is at the head of one long line of vehicles.

In a room nearby is a collection of old sewing machines. This photo shows just a small number of them:

As much as I enjoyed seeing the artifacts inside the building, the outside area, with its village of buildings representing different eras, was by far the part of the experience that grabbed my interest and wouldn't let go. The photo at left shows the front of the redbrick commissary.

At right is one wall of the interior of the well-stocked commissary.

Here's a row of former slave cabins.

All of the outbuildings are furnished. At right is the sleeping area in one of the slave cabins.

Here's a side view of an Acadian-style house, with its outside stairway. This photo also demonstrates how scenic the village setting is.

Another side view, this time of the small village church with its painted windows.

This is the front porch of a pioneer's cabin...

...and here's what you see when you look through the pioneer cabin's front door.

One final photographic sample of the museum's beautiful natural setting:

There is so much more to this place than what I'm showing you here today:  many more exhibits, many more buildings, beautiful trees, lush gardens. If you're ever in the Baton Rouge area, you owe it to yourself to set aside time to see all this in person. I can't wait to see it again next spring.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What I'm Reading Today: Bitter Sweet

It was bedtime. I looked at the two unread books on my nightstand and realized I wasn't in the mood for either of them, so I reached for my Kindle. I knew there were at least two more unread books on there, and if they didn't suit me, I could download one that did in half a minute. The battery was dead.

That almost never happens, but it's been a few weeks since I hit the bargain bins at both Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, and I've had my head buried in those printed volumes.

My only hope for enjoyable bedtime reading was to choose an old book, preferably one with a plot I didn't entirely remember. Thinking that most of the ones on my shelves would be too fresh in my mind, I went to the spare bedroom, where the dresser drawers are filled with old paperbacks, and chose this oldie but goodie:

Click on the image for a description
and reviews of this book.

It's only becoming familiar to me now that I'm 60 pages in. LaVyrle Spencer doesn't disappoint even in rereads.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The week that started with a bang

Monday, 11/21
My older daughter, Kim, called me Monday evening and mentioned that she was going to buy groceries. Later, about nine o'clock, I suddenly thought of something I'd forgotten to tell her, so I called her back and learned that she had been trying to call me at that same moment. She was calling from her car, in which she was trapped following a collision. An off-duty paramedic sat in her backseat, holding her head steady, as she talked alternately to me, to him, and to the investigating officers.

I hung up and called my younger daughter. She and her husband live slightly closer to the accident scene than I do, and they got there first. Kim was still in her car when Kelli and Troy arrived, but by the time I got there five minutes later, she had been placed on a stretcher board and was being moved into an ambulance. She was driven to the hospital, and we followed.

Kim had been driving through a green light at an intersection when a pickup truck coming from the opposite direction made a left turn and crashed into the left front quadrant of her compact car.

The driver of the pickup truck attempted to back it away from the scene, but the truck was stuck to Kim's car, so the driver and passenger jumped out of the truck and fled on foot. A witness described them to the police, who gave chase and caught both of them. The truck driver was determined to have a blood alcohol level much higher than the legal limit and is still in jail as I write this.

The ER doctors checked Kim over and released her with a prescription, instructions on how to keep the swelling down, and the advice to follow up with her personal physician. We left the ER and drove very carefully to Kelli's house, where Troy had taken all the groceries Kim had bought right before the accident. Then we went to Kim's apartment to pick up Lucy and Oliver and enough clothes for her to stay at my house for a few days. I don't think either of us slept a wink that night.

Tuesday, 11/22
Tuesday was consumed by errands: to the insurance company to file a claim, the wrecker yard to get Kim's personal items out of her car, and half a dozen other places to tie up loose ends.

Wednesday, 11/23
By Wednesday the insurance company had determined that Kim's car was a total loss. They had also arranged a rental car for her, so we went first to the insurance company, then to the rental car agency, and then to the wrecker yard again, this time to remove the license plate, which will have to be returned to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Thursday, 11/24
Finally, a day of calm. With much to be thankful for, we went to Kelli and Troy's for Thanksgiving dinner. The weather was beautiful, the food was delicious, and being with all the kids and grandkids was delightful.

Here's my great-grandson, Owen (20 months),
on the porch "fwing" with his PopeƩ, Troy.

This beautiful girl, wrapped tightly in my arms,
is 12-week-old Olivia Grace, the newest member of our family.

When Owen asked for "ducks," some of us made the trek to the pond.

The ducks were all gone, but the beauty
of the pond was well worth the walk.

Friday, 11/25
Kelli came Friday morning to take me on an early birthday outing to LSU's Rural Life Museum. A calm, peaceful place hidden away in one of Baton Rouge's busiest areas, it features a warehouse jam-packed with antique items and a small village of furnished cabins and other buildings. The outdoor setting was beautifully picturesque, and Friday's weather was perfect for a walk back through time.

I enjoyed the day tremendously and will show you more photos in the next day or two.

Saturday, 11/26
My birthday arrived with a cloudy sky and rain that lingered throughout the day. Kim was still here with me. We had planned to celebrate together, but late Friday night I had asked if it would hurt her feelings if what I really wanted more than anything was to  spend the day at home. I'm not used to being on the go so much, and I couldn't think of a better thing to do on my birthday than to return to my usual, quiet existence. So that's what we did. She spent most of the day online reading car ads, while I alternated between visiting with her, visiting with my sister on the phone, reading, napping, and pampering our assortment of dogs. We had take-out sesame chicken for dinner and went to bed early. It was great!

Sunday, 11/27

Kim went home this morning. She has a list of things to do tomorrow and needs to figure out what to do when. She's still quite stiff and sore, has ugly purple bruises on multiple areas of her body, and still has sharp pains in her chest, especially when she coughs, sneezes, or moves in a certain way. I'm pretty sure she'll get those chest pains checked out in the next couple of days, but she hates to complain when her injuries could have been so much worse than they appear to be.

It's been a difficult week in some ways and a wonderful week in others, and I end this Thanksgiving week grateful for the subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that we in this family have been richly blessed.

What I'm Reading Today: Julie & Julia

I missed this book and the well-publicized movie that was made from it, so when I spotted it in the bargain bin at a local bookstore, I couldn't pass it up. I'm finding it entertaining, but a lot of readers apparently didn't. Fortunately, the reviews are fairly specific, so read some of them and decide for yourself whether this might be one you'd like.

Click on the image for a description
and reviews of this book.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Frayed nerves and ruffled feathers

I have come to the store equipped with a detailed list, items grouped together according to aisle location, and have traveled from one corner of the store to the other, gathering my goods in record time. I survey the check-out area and find more closed registers than open ones. I briskly roll my cart to the end of the shortest line. There are three people ahead of me, none of whom has a large number of items. This should be quick.

I survey the covers of the tabloids and the slick magazines with pictures of celebrities or fancy desserts on their covers. Nothing I need there. I glance at the lighters, nail clippers, and single-serving bags of beef jerky, then inventory the candy bars in search of new products. I don't eat sugar anymore, but it's good to stay abreast of new developments. As I begin to check out all the different types of chewing gum, it occurs to me that the line hasn't moved since I got into it. Not one step.

The lady in front of me has begun to shift from one foot to another and to glance around nervously in all directions, like she's getting ready to bolt. The woman in front of her appears agitated, too, but she's stuck because she's already piled all her stuff on the counter. Now that I'm paying attention, I look at the person at the head of the line and, presto, I see and hear the problem simultaneously.

This woman, who has been in the process of checking out since before I got in line, is talking, talking, talking, non-stop, to the frazzled cashier, to the new trainee clerk, to people in other lines, to everybody within earshot. People are looking away from her, refusing to make eye contact, all but dropping to their knees and praying for her to just shut up. For a second.

She is enormous, this gabby woman. (I use the term "enormous" in a descriptive sense, not a disparaging one, because a thin person could run her mouth just as easily. The word "gabby," though, is intended to be disparaging.) She is wearing a very bright, frilly blouse, and she's talking with her hands, so that the colors of her blouse seem to blur with her quick movements. She rotates in bold semi-circles, keeping an eye out for anyone who's open to a little friendly conversation.

The cashier has finished ringing up the order and is waiting for the woman to pay. Only then does Talkative Tina reach into her cart and rummage around through the plastic bags she's just piled in there. Finally, she retrieves her purse. The purse is enormous, too. It's silver-grey, faux leather, and has big, cutesy ruffles on both sides. Here's a sketch of the purse:

The woman's incessant chatter has been grating on my nerves, and now, curiously, I find myself feeling some animosity toward her huge, ruffled purse. I understand that this makes no sense, but the longer I stand there, the more I despise that purse.

Jabbering Josephine hefts the purse up onto the counter (no easy task, that) and starts digging in it with both hands, momentarily interrupting the gestures that have thus far accompanied her words. Bingo! One fist pops up with a wallet. A matching wallet. And I'm not kidding.
I instantly detest the wallet, too.

Babbling Bertha opens the overstuffed wallet and begins to write a check. I'm thinking this might slow her down to at least a low-level mumble, but no, she's a multi-tasker. She writes and talks at the same time, all the while looking around to make sure she still has an audience.

Aha! A tired-looking woman, probably a grandmother, rolls onto the scene with a beautiful baby girl in the seat of her cart. The baby's head is dressed in a colorful elastic band with a giant bow on it, and she's screaming her little gift-wrapped head off. As the grandmother tries to move to the end of the line, the chatterbox whirls on the baby and begins cooing to her. "Whatsamattah wif oo, weetiepie, is oo hungry? Is oo tired? Does oo need to go beddie-bye?" She reaches a dimpled arm out and begins to poke the baby, who cries even harder. The grandmother rolls her eyes and takes two assertive steps forward, leaving the baby-poker with a half-written check in one hand, a pen in the other, and a shocked expression on her face. Do you think she returns to writing her check? No. She steps out into the aisle and yells to the back of the baby's head, "Welllllll, okay, sweetums, I hope you have a better day. Goodbye, babykins, okay? Bye-bye, now."

Only then does she turn back to smile at the cashier, who by now is leaning on one elbow and propping her chin in the palm of her hand. The trainee's eyes are about to pop out of her head. She looks at the rest of us who are waiting in line, offers a tentative smile and a shrug of her shoulders.

I am no longer looking at Prattling Patty. My eyes, my thoughts, my irrational anger are all focused on her ugly purse and her stupid matching wallet. If my eyes were lasers, they would burn holes in the side of her purse. I have a mental image of that silvery fake leather beginning first to smoke, then to blaze, the fire making a black-edged hole through which I can see sparks falling on used tissues, old grocery lists, and empty Twinkies wrappers. Somehow, while I'm mentally burning the woman's purse, she manages to finish writing her check and leaves the store. I don't even see her go.

Minutes later the three of us who have waited in line behind her have all checked out, and I'm on my way home. I put my groceries away, then seat myself at this computer while the images are still vivid in my mind. I carefully draw that ruffled purse and wallet to the best of my ability. I realize as I draw them that they probably aren't as ugly as I first thought they were. But I hate them because my eyes have overdosed on an excess of fluff and frills and ruffles and because gibberish is still echoing in my ears. I hate them, I tell you, yet I'm kind of excited at the idea of showing them to you.

Obsessed much?

What I'm Reading Today: Ghost on Black Mountain

(Click on the image
for more information about this book.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Shear" necessity

When I mentioned in a post the other day that I'm "attempting a new skill," I was referring specifically to the skill of dog grooming. Before Levi I'd had only short-haired dogs, and grooming was simple: brush 'em, bathe 'em, clip their nails, and they're good to go. But, oh, the shedding those short-haired dogs do.

One of the things that first appealed to me about Levi was the fact that he has hair, not fur, and doesn't shed. It never occurred to me that his curly hair would just keep growing  longer and longer without frequent haircuts. Even if I'd thought of that, I wouldn't have dreamed that the cost of having him groomed would be such a budget buster.

What to do, what to do? I could handle bathing Levi, but his tendency to roll on every fallen leaf or dead bug in the yard was causing his curls to tangle into mats no brush could penetrate.

Coincidentally, my daughter Kim, who has two small dogs of the hair-not-fur persuasion, was also pondering the grooming issue. She'd taken Lucy and Oliver to the pet salon often, but the last time she'd been called to pick them up early because they were so stressed out that the groomers were worried about them.

When Kim mentioned to me that she was thinking about investing in some professional grooming equipment and trying to do it herself, I immediately wanted in. We would share the investment and recoup our expenses in only three or four groomings. Together and separately, we watched online grooming videos, and Kim researched grooming sites to find out what kind of equipment was favored by the pros. With lists made and bank cards on the ready, we marched off to PetSmart and Petco. We bought clippers, extra blades, shears, thinning scissors, detangler tools, shampoos, conditioners, and doggy "freshener" sprays.

Ollie, the Shih Tzu, was our first victim. He was well behaved as we hovered over him on the bathroom counter and did not seem stressed at all. Granted, he seemed a little leery of us for a couple of days afterward, but we all survived the experience. And he looked pretty good for a first effort.

Levi, whose hair was in his eyes, would be next.

I kept the bag of equipment at my house and strategized about the process. Levi is big. There would be no standing him on the counter. Where else could I put him so that the clipper cord would reach all the way around him? I pondered the situation for three or four weeks a while, then decided I'd begin by sneaking up on him with the round-tipped shears.

Snip, snip, snip! I'd clip a few curls and Levi would leap away and look at me as if I'd just removed one of his limbs. I kept the scissors close at hand and we repeated this scenario many times, in many different parts of the house. I learned quickly that the back end of a dog is much easier to trim than the end that has teeth on it. I also learned I could get a lot more done by catching Levi napping. I ended up skipping the clippers and giving him an all-over scissors cut. After multiple sessions over a five-day period, I could not call him "finished," but I called the job "done."

You can see by the long curls sticking out on his cheeks that I missed a few spots. Never mind. He can see again, his tangles are all gone, and enough is enough. He's a little ragged, but it's a learning process, right?  The next time should be easier.

This week I'm following Butch around with the Furminator®.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Keep smiling and keep dancing."

For the third time in little more than three weeks, I am posting about death. I'm hoping not to do that again anytime soon.

This time it was my Aunt Nina, who passed away yesterday. She was my father's sister, the first of nine children, and she had recently turned 92 years old. Of those nine siblings,  Nina was the one I knew least. The others were still around Springfield, Missouri, when I was growing up there, but Nina had moved away. I'd met her, of course, at family gatherings on holidays, but hadn't spent any time with her before we moved away ourselves.

Then, about five years ago, we began talking, first by phone and then by email. I was charmed by her intelligence, her wit, and the stories she told so well. She gave me pieces of the puzzle that, up until then, had been my father's side of the family.

Thinking about Aunt Nina today, I thought about the details in all those emails she sent. I thought about how fragile life is, how quickly things can change, how people and things we take for granted can be lost to us in an instant. Time is fleeting, my friends. People die, computers crash, and first thing you know, there's no one to answer those questions you've been thinking about asking.

And so I began scrambling. Aunt Nina's emails were stored on an old PC, one that I'd retired a couple years ago when viruses slowed it to a crawl. Fortunately, I still have that old PC. Today I fired it up, poked around until I found those emails, and printed every one of them. For good measure I printed all the ones from my Uncle Glenn, my Aunt Shirley, and my cousins, Karen and Sandra, because they, too, had written to me about my father's family. It took a couple of hours and nearly a whole ream of paper, but when the last page came out of the printer, I felt like I could relax again.

I'm glad I got to know Aunt Nina. I'll remember her especially for the enthusiasm and  sense of humor with which she told me her stories. I'll also try to remember the little piece of advice with which she concluded most of her emails: "Keep smiling and keep dancing."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Down, boy!

Levi has bursitis, we think. He had a slight limp for nearly a week before I took him to the vet. He showed no other sign of being in pain, and the limp came and went. Every time he got up after resting for a while, he limped the first half a dozen steps and then stopped. I thought he'd get better day by day, but he didn't.

I'd checked his feet carefully, of course, and mashed and squeezed up and down his legs without any indication from him that anything was sore. Actually, it didn't surprise me to think he might have injured himself. He spends most of his awake time gamboling around the house, jumping from the floor to the sofa and down again, racing from room to room, flinging his tennis ball, then sliding across the floor in pursuit of it. He frequently crashes into furniture, and one would think that might be kind of painful.

The vet's office is only about five minutes away, but after that short ride, Levi gagged and threw up three times between the car and the vet's front door. Carsickness, she said. I'd suspected as much because he always looks unhappy when I take him for a ride.

While the vet examined Levi, I told her about his rowdiness in much the same way I just explained it to you. She laughed and said, "Boys will be boys," then leaned closer to Levi's big head just in time for him to let out a huge belch. Yes, indeed, boys will be boys.

The vet and her technician walked Levi outside, but he didn't limp for them. She's guessing bursitis is the problem because she felt him resist slightly when she tried to move his left shoulder joint. We're treating him for that first, and if he hasn't improved somewhat over the course of this second week, we'll do x-rays just to be on the safe side.

My job, in addition to giving him his daily meds, is to keep him from "getting completely crazy" (the vet's words) when he gets in rip-roaring gymnastics mode. Would you care to guess how that's going? Would it give you a clue if I told you this puppy now weighs 83 pounds?

As the microphone once picked up Nancy Reagan whispering into her husband's ear mid-speech, and as he immediately repeated to the gathered crowd, "We're doing the best we can."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Family Tries

She arrived on Thursday, bringing with her a single travel bag, a lovely gift for me, and a plethora of memories that supported my own conclusions: our family was dysfunctional before we ever knew there was such a word, but we had some good times, too.


She and I are related not by blood but by the bonds of holy matrimony between her father and my mother. She was 11, my sister was 10, and I was 14 that first summer. She was a buffer between my sister and me, a cool spot in the heat of our sibling rivalry. Before her arrival in our midst, we had battled one on one; afterwards, we each tried to draw her to our side of the argument to gain strength through numbers. On rare occasions, such as the time we thought Daddy was giving her special phone privileges, my sister and I declared a truce long enough to align against her. Sometimes, if you can believe it, we all three got along beautifully.

In the small house where we first lived together as a family, we three girls shared a bedroom. I remember talking to her late into the night, lying there in the darkness, about dreams, plans, observations, and vaguely formed philosophies. We could discuss those kinds of things because I had no beef with her. It was my sister, not she, who, by virtue of birth, had stolen a huge portion of our mother's limited supply of affection. I was mean to my sister and she had learned to be mean right back, so deep conversations had never been part of our daily interaction.

Near the end of their first year of marriage, our parents strengthened the bonds of our blended family by producing a beautiful baby boy, a fine brother who was related equally to all of us girls. We moved to a larger house, I had a room of my own, and those late-night discussions came to an end.

Over the next few years our parents became increasingly quarrelsome, engaging frequently in loud bouts of put-downs and one-upmanship. I don't know how my siblings felt then, but I felt insecure in a big way. I didn't think the structure of our family was strong enough to hold up under that kind of assault, and I didn't know what would happen to us if the family fell apart. My private thoughts shifted more and more to my own personal future: When would I be able to leave this family and how would I go about doing it?

The daily shouting matches became the norm, but the marriage held together (for 39 years, until the death of my stepfather). I married at 18 and moved away, feeling guilty about leaving my siblings behind on the battleground. My stepsister married four years later, my sister a year after that. In discussing our early marriages with my stepsister this past Thursday, she asked if I had felt as she did upon leaving home, that the unspoken message of our parents was, "Don't let the door hit you in the behind." Yes. Yes, I did feel that way.

After we were married and scattered, we got in the habit of communicating through Mother instead of with each other. Long-distance phone calls were expensive, and with one call to Mother we could find out what was happening in the lives of all the others. We saved a few dollars but paid a higher price in that we got the news but not the feelings behind the news. We didn't learn to know each other well as adults.

My sister and I have managed to bridge that gap and have become best friends. We're similar in so many ways that I deeply regret the loss of her friendship during those early years when I focused only on our differences. My stepsister has just stepped back into my life after decades of very little contact, and I'm very happy that she initiated that reunion.  One thing the three of us have in common is that we all want to be closer to our brother. If those family bonds are to be strengthened, it's up to us now to do it.

Left to right in 1960: 
My stepsister, my sister, me, our brother

Left to right in 1982:
My brother, his wife, my sister, me, my stepsister


She came on Thursday afternoon, and by late that night we had filled in nearly fifty years' worth of the blanks in both of our life stories. We had pulled out all the old baggage, dusted it off, searched it thoroughly, then put it away. Once more out of sight, out of mind.

On Friday morning we talked mostly about the present and the future. We've survived difficult pasts, and we're both in good places now. We have moved on. We still have dreams, we still have goals, and some of them are things we might work on together. We still live miles apart, but we won't lose touch again. Family is family, blood or no blood.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rest in Peace, Carmon Deyo

I learned hours ago that a dear online friend passed away on Friday. If you've met Carmon through her blog, Life at Star's Rest, then you know what a wonderful human being she was, and you're as sad as I am that her life has been cut short. And, if you're not familiar with her, then I urge you to go read her blog and get to know her now. It's not too late for her to touch you with her words.

Though Carmon wrote compellingly about her two years of battling melanoma, there was so much more to her than a brave cancer patient. Save those last two years of posts to read later. First, go back in her archives to her earlier posts and learn about her interesting life and her love for her husband and for the rescued animals that gave her their trust and kept her company as she lived, often alone, on a mountain in New Mexico.

Carmon was an amazing and inspirational woman. I've never met her in person, but I'll remember her always.

Sunday stillness

It's mid-morning when I step out the backdoor in my bathrobe to check the temperature, then come back inside to get dressed. This morning I choose to wear summer clothes, shorts and a tank top, knowing that the privacy fence on my patio will shield my neighbors' view of this unbecoming outfit. I'm too old to wear clothes like this, but I'm craving sunshine on my skin.

Outside minutes later, accompanied by the dogs, a new book, my camera (just in case), an ice cold soft drink, and cheese and crackers wrapped in a napkin, I lean back in one chair and prop my feet on another. I'm simultaneously warmed by the sun and cooled by a stiff breeze. Both feel wonderful. I make a mental note of the fact that I'm clearly not ready for cold weather.

It's quiet this morning except for the cawing of crows, the pinging of falling acorns, and the scraping of dried leaves against concrete. The latter sound is courtesy of the breeze that swirls those leaves in tight, playful circles.

A neighbor has bed linens hanging on a clothesline I never knew was there. The sight of her white sheets blowing in the wind fills my head with the fresh scent of sun-dried bedding I remember from childhood. I wonder if she'd mind if I walked over and sniffed her sheets.

Lucy and Oliver are here with my daughter Kim. Kim's in the shop making glass beads, Oliver and Levi are playing together, and Lucy is sticking close to Butch, the only male dog who isn't too boisterous for her tastes. The easy camaraderie between the animals gives me a sense of peace.

The past few days have been busy ones. There hasn't been much time for writing or reading, for watching TV, or for doing the daily crossword puzzle, which I've missed  every day but one. The usual chores of cleaning house, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc., have occupied half my time, and the rest of it has gone to unusual events that are worthy of individual blog posts:

  • Welcoming a special houseguest;
  • Trying to keep a limping dog from jumping off the sofa;
  • Attempting a new skill; 
  • Remaining calm in a stalled check-out line; and
  • Practicing a new creative outlet.

I'll write about all those things in the coming days. In the meantime, I'm happy to have a quiet, low-key day today, pleased to have time to spend with you here at Velvet Sacks, and glad to have squeezed in a few minutes throughout the week to take a few photographs:

Tiny flowers dwarfed by blades of grass.

Lucy: "Don't point that thing at me!" 

Trees with their heads in the clouds.

The first red leaves in our neighborhood.

Peeping lizard.

Full beaver moon, a/k/a frosty moon

Sunlit and splendid.

Town cryer, town crower.

What I'm Reading Today: Off Season

(Click on the image
for more information about this book.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


I've been busier than usual the past few days, but I did take time out on Sunday to visit my younger daughter. This little guy was also visiting with her that morning:

That's my great-grandson, Owen, who's 19 months old. (That dark stain on his T-shirt had been ice cubes minutes earlier.)

I don't know which was more fun, watching Owen's antics or watching the grown adults, including myself, literally dancing to his tune. He requested  "mu-sick," which to him means only one song: "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas. Owen danced, and we danced with him and for him. And we laughed. And we danced some more, until he tired of dancing and wanted to do other things. He's a very busy boy.

The weather was warm and beautiful that day. It's remained warm enough that I've had to turn the air conditioner on again, although it's supposed to cool off at least back to sweater weather tomorrow.

We still have only a smattering of autumn yellows and golds. I guess  that's better than having no signs of autumn at all. Since I had my camera with me on Sunday, I stood in my daughter and son-in-law's backyard and snapped photos of trees on the edge of their property, then snapped a few more on the way home.

See? Still mostly green:

A patch of pink peeked through these sunlit leaves:

This live oak tree was graceful and lovely, even in its humble, behind-someone's-garden-shed surroundings:

And this dead oak tree was beautiful in a different sort of way:

(Sigh.) Family gatherings and photo ops both give me warm, fuzzy feelings.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Legislative impasse

I love today's song. The first time I heard it, I thought the lyrics expressed a man's frustration with a woman, but after listening to it in regular rotation on my iTunes list, I began to hear it in a different way. Viewed in that new light (heard through a different ear?), the lyrics seemed to apply to a number of different situations, including the frustration legislators on one side of the aisle must feel when those on the other side refuse to budge.

For the record, I don't intend to turn this into a political blog, so please don't write me off forever just because your opinions differ from mine. It's just that today seems like a good time to feature this song since I already ventured into political territory earlier in the week.   What's more, the song is neutral, even if my opinion is not.

The title of the song is "Blue to a Blind Man." Here are the lyrics:

Blue to a Blind Man
by Ken Block

You think we're broken,
What if we're just a little cracked?
I know we're choking on the little things
That seem to come with time.

One word and watch our armies brawl.
No one will bend until one falls.
We used to fight, you for me and me for you,
Tied up without the words that might cut through.

It's like trying to teach blue to a blind man,
Rude to a kind man, or walking on the sun.
You try, and I do all that I can,
But teaching blue to a blind man can't be done.

We used our soldiers,
And it was us against the world.
The toll was taken, now we're buried under life
That comes with time.

One word and watch our eagles (egos?) brawl, 
No one will bend until one falls.
We used to fight, but you for me and me for you.

It's like trying to teach blue to a blind man,
Truth to a lie, and walking on the sun.
I try and I do all that I can,
But teaching blue to a blind man can't be done.

We can go home, 
You can sleep,
And I can think for a while.
We can't go on and on,
On empty, or endless oceans dry.

It's like trying to teach blue to a blind man,
Rude to a kind man, and screaming at the sun.
You try, and I, I do all that I can,
But teaching blue to a blind man can't be done.

It can't be done.
I'm teaching blue to a blind man.

And here's the music video:

(Thanks to scottymo2009 for posting this video on YouTube.)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

What I'm Reading Today: The White Queen

I enjoy reading about the kings and queens of the Plantagenet era. Some of them were direct ancestors of my family, so it's fun to get the scoop on them, even if that scoop is largely fictional. 
(Click on the image
for more information about this book.)

Also, I'm happy to report that the Plantagenets' family-feuding gene has been watered down substantially over the last eight or nine centuries.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Occupying Velvet Sacks

It doesn't bother me one whit that there are people in this country who have a lot more money than I do. Let 'em have it. "Live and let live" and all that.

At a time when so many people are struggling financially, it does bother me a tiny bit when I see such overtly ostentatious houses, automobiles, or yachts that there seems to be no reason for their existence other than to stroke someone's outsized ego. It troubles me even more to learn that some individuals have obtained their fortunes through cheating, stealing, or accepting ridiculously large bonuses while workers at lower levels are being laid off. And when exceedingly rich people and corporations use their boatloads of money to buy political influence? That doesn't just bother me, my friends. That pisses me off!

Our laws should ensure that the ultra-wealthy are entitled to exactly the same amount of political influence you and I have: one vote apiece. When our elected officials fail to do the business of our government because the offices they hold have been bought and paid for by the one percent of the population with the deepest pockets, we need to recognize that something has gone terribly wrong. The fact that this kind of paid political persuasion is possible does not make it acceptable.

Today I'm standing up in my little corner of the Internet to join forces with people all across the country who are stepping up to occupy their communities in the interest of letting our officials know that we love America, we love what it stands for, and we're desperate to put a stop to the short-sighted, greedy, grab-what-you-can-get-and-to-hell-with-everyone-else attitude that has permeated Wall Street and Washington.

I've been reading the websites and Facebook pages of some of the Occupy groups. For the most part (there are always exceptions), I like what they're trying to do and the peaceful way in which they're attempting to go about it. The Occupy movement reminds me in so many ways of the push for change that grew in the 1960s until changes did occur. The process was long, frequently painful, but almost always exhilarating, as though the very air we breathed contained a low-voltage electrical charge.

I't's difficult to explain the Sixties to people who didn't experience it for themselves. If you're one who missed it, pay attention to what's happening across the country now. We  might be on the verge of something similar.

I haven't yet found the courage to join the bold souls who have recently begun to "occupy" nearby Baton Rouge. Maybe I will, someday, but when I see the hatred being spewed online at some of these groups and the misinformation being dispensed by certain segments of the media, my thoughts turn abruptly away from what's right for our country and focus on my own safety and security.

How selfish I am. I stay hidden, like a rabbit in tall grass, trying not to draw attention to my small presence in this field of dissent. The Occupy protestors march through that same grass, waving signs, singing anthems, shouting slogans, shining a spotlight on the masses of Americans whose financial--and, therefore, physical--security is being threatened. To me, these protestors are soldiers battling bravely in a different kind of war.

I proudly salute them, even as I slink back into posting about dogs, books, autumn leaves, and old family furniture.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Trinkets and Treasures - No. 9

I'm happy with most of the furniture in my house, but only a couple of pieces are really special to me. You've seen a picture of one of those pieces at least once before, and today I want to tell you why I love it so much.

This piece stood in the dining room of my grandmother's house (the home of my childhood) from the earliest days I can remember. I don't know if it was hers to begin with or if it had first belonged to her mother, Dora, who was also part of our multi-generational household.

After my grandmother passed away, my sister kept this piece and cared for it lovingly in her own home. It came to me eleven years later, after our mother died, and I hope it will always have a place with someone in our family.

You can't tell by looking at it, but it's actually made in two parts: the hutch sits on top of the secretary. When the hutch is lifted off, there's a span of wood on the secretary that isn't covered by the veneer that was so carefully applied to the rest of the piece. That patch of rough-hewn lumber demonstrates the age of this built-by-hand piece, as do the dovetail joints of the drawers and the slight rippling of the glass. The hinged half-top of the secretary folds out into a worn leather desktop.

When my sister passed this family heirloom on to me, she asked, "Did you ever know there's a hidden compartment in this?" I had not known it. I, who as a child had gone surreptitiously through every inch of that house with the thoroughness of a government agent, had somehow missed this.

The top of the hutch lifts up to reveal a secret space large enough to hold a good portion of a family's valuables. (I can show you this because I have no valuables to store in that space.)

I looked down on the top of this piece every time I went down the stairs from my bedroom for more than fourteen years and never suspected it was keeping a secret. My grandmother kept doilies on most of the flat wooden surfaces in our home, and there was always a crochet-edged scarf covering the tiny hinges on top of this.

I wonder what other interesting things I might have missed in my covert spy missions.