Saturday, December 31, 2011

The things that affected my life most in 2011

There are so many, many things that have made the past year pleasurable. I could list family, friends, books, music, puzzles, games and on and on and on, and I would have listed them except that those things don't change. Those things sustain me day to day, year to year.

Likewise, I could write a long list of things that have not made me happy, a list that would probably be nearly the same as yours: housework, rising prices, politicians, junk mail, email spam, and all things Kardashian. Those things don't seem to change either.

So, I thought about it for a while and came up with a short list of what made 2011 different for me.

The addition of Levi to our household
Technically, Levi came on the scene the last week of 2010, but it was in 2011 that he became a full-fledged family member. On his worst days (and there were a few bad ones) he still had funny going for him. On his best days (most of his days are best ones now), nothing has been ripped, and he gives hugs and kisses along with being funny. It's very hard to get depressed when there's a natural clown in the house.

The continuation of a low-carb lifestyle
Photo by Kalyn Hoover
This, too, began in 2010, but I've really reaped the benefits of it in 2011. I have felt better this year than at any time in the past ten years, maybe even longer. Yes, I'm getting old, and I still have some of the aches and pains that go along with that, but nowhere near as many as I did before. This year I accepted the possibility that I might actually live longer than I had previously anticipated, which made me focus more on what I'm doing with my life and less on how much time is left.

The vacation with my sister in the Smoky Mountains
This was the first vacation I've had in years, one I wouldn't have been healthy enough to take a year earlier, and it was wonderful. The time with my sister, who is the person who has shared more of my life than any other living being, was precious to me. The scenery was spectacular. Those things together have given me enough good memories to last the rest of my life, but, more than that, the experience expanded my horizons. Where I once saw boundaries and limitations, I now see possibilities.

The loss of Kadi
This is the only negative item on my short list. Kadi's personality was a big one, and I've felt her absence in so many ways. She was the first dog I ever knew all the way from puppyhood through old age, and I loved her dearly. In her short life, she gave me everything she had. In her death, even as I grieved, I learned again that loving is the best thing there is, that love is worth the pain of losing it, that the pain doesn't die but the rawness of it diminishes, and that the love doesn't die or diminish at all.

Thank you, 2011. You've been mostly very good to me.

What I've Been Reading: the Last Books of 2011

I've fallen a little behind on posting links to the books I've read, so I'll combine the current one and the last three into this one post. Here they are:

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

Thanks to my fellow bloggers who have shared their reading lists in the past year and turned me on to some good reads.

Now, then (she says, brushing her hands together), I can start the new year with a clean slate.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Update on my furboys

Butch is once again celebrating suppertime, and I couldn't be happier. He won't stick his muzzle into his food dish (maybe it's painful?), but he happily lets me put food in his mouth one spoonful at a time. I had stopped feeding him crunchy kibble sometime last year, but now I'm softening his meals even more. If the next step needs to be mush, we'll do that, too. As long as he's happy and his gum condition isn't going to cause him to starve, I'll do whatever needs to be done to keep him comfortable.

If you can call this comfortable:

Levi is now on Day 5 of crate confinement and is doing remarkably well. I haven't noticed any limping when I let him out for potty breaks, which is a very good sign since most of his limping was happening right after he'd been resting. I thought he'd go nuts inside the crate, but he's occupying himself with naps and toys. In fact, when I bring him back into the house after we've gone outside, he heads straight for the crate and walks right in it with no coaxing from me.

He's also being very good about letting me put the drops in his ears, so I have high hopes that his ear infection will be cleared up in short order.

Thanks to all of you who expressed your concern. My boys are both doing well, and I am SO relieved.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The things that are dogging us

UPDATE WEDS. 4:26 PM: The vet looked at the photo of Butch's gums and said the growth does appear to be an epulis of the non-malignant variety. Fortunately, there are some non-surgical treatments that might help, the first being antibiotics to eliminate any possible infection. She gave me a prescription to start him on tonight and said he should be eating better by tomorrow. If not, then infection isn't what's keeping him from eating, and I will have to take him in tomorrow afternoon so they can get a good look at what's going on. She said that without surgery these tumors sometimes grow so long that they completely encase the dog's teeth. Most dogs, when that happens, will simply chew off the surplus. That's gross, I know, but it's an alternative Butch and I can live with.

I'll keep you posted.

I had expected to be announcing this week that a new dog had joined our family. His name is Barkley, he's another Goldendoodle, he's about two months older than Levi, and, in fact, he's Levi's brother from another mother. Barkley belongs to my niece, who loves him very much, but he's a little too big and a little too energetic, and he knocks her babies down when he wags his tail too close to them.

Barkley's move from Texas is on hold for now. If my niece hasn't changed her mind in a couple of weeks, I hope he can join us then, but for the immediate future I have to put Butch and Levi's needs first.

Levi is on strict crate confinement for two weeks to try to clear up a limp that his vets still think is bursitis. He had a whole series of x-rays on Monday, none of which showed any bone or joint abnormalities, so we're hoping that complete rest will heal what ails him.

I moved his crate into the living room so he'll have company, but he is not a happy camper. To make matters worse, he started shaking his head violently this morning, so I checked his ears, and one of them appears to be infected. We're going back to the vet later this afternoon.

Butch, in the meantime, has been perkier in the last week than he's been in at least a year. He's been so stiff and arthritic that I can't recall the last time he was able to get up on the furniture, but I looked up the other day and was shocked to see him sitting comfortably on the futon in the den. I don't know what made him decide to give it a try on that particular day, but he's been up there several times since then, apparently happy that his attempt was successful. Here he is relaxing on the futon with Lucy:

Butch has also been more social lately, spending more time interacting with people and other dogs and less time off by himself sleeping in another room. He seems to be hearing better than he did for months previously, and if I so much as crack open the refrigerator, he is up and coming into the kitchen to investigate. I've used his interest in food as an indicator that he still finds something positive about life in spite of his blindness, near deafness, and painful joints.

All that sounds good, don't you think? But there's a problem. When I took him for a checkup early in November, the vet commented on one tooth that looked really bad, saying he wouldn't risk putting Butch under anesthesia to pull the tooth (because of his age). He said to watch for any swelling around Butch's mouth or any signs that he was having difficulty eating.

Last night Butch didn't want his supper. He accepted a treat I offered him later, but promptly dropped it on the floor and left it. I pulled his lips back to check the appearance of the bad tooth, and I couldn't even find it. Since that veterinary visit less than two months ago, Butch's upper gum tissue has grown and hangs down to obscure all of his upper back teeth.

I have looked on the Internet for pictures of dogs' mouths that look like Butch's, and I believe what he has is an epulis. An epulis is a non-malignant tumor that occurs fairly commonly in older dogs. The problem in Butch's case is that treatment consists of the surgical removal of the epulis. In Butch's case surgery is not an option.

Butch needs to go to the vet, but riding in the car has become pure torture for him. He fights me when I try to get him into the car, and his whole body shakes until he is out of it again. I don't want to make him suffer more than necessary, and I am afraid he may not come home from his next trip to the vet.

I have taken a photo of the growth on his gums and will take it with me when I take Levi today to see if they will/can identify it from the picture. If it is what I think it is, I have a decision to make. Should I have Butch put down now, while he's in a relatively happy state of mind, or should I wait until he's in so much pain that death is the only way to make him comfortable? I don't want to deprive him of a single happy minute, but this brave animal has already endured so much pain in his lifetime. Is it fair to keep him alive when a long, hard winter may be all the future that lies ahead of him?

I'm praying for answers. What would you do?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Yule Be Blessed!

The bright red and green of this holly are live on the bush--not decking my halls--but they make me think of Christmas all the same.

We actually had our family Christmas celebration this past Saturday, a week ago today, which was the only day all five of my grown grandchildren could get together at the same time. It was a wonderful day! Tomorrow will be low key in comparison, but the Christmas spirit hasn't even begun to abandon me, so it will still be a time to reflect on the reason for the holiday and the joy of spending time with family and friends.

My Christmas wish for all of you, wherever you are, is that you get what you really, really want--and I don't mean something that's wrapped and put under the tree. What I do mean--what I think we all want for Christmas when it comes right down to it--is the joy of loving and being loved and the sense of fulfillment that comes along with that and grows so big it nearly bursts your heart.

Merry Christmas, everybody!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ringing in the delusions

Approaching the entrance to Walmart, I saw the holiday bell ringer call out to a young woman who had just passed him on her way out of the store. She stopped, turned around and looked at him, hesitated, glanced at an older woman nearby, then turned back around and continued on her way to the parking lot.

The bell ringer, moving several feet in front of his red kettle, watched her intently. Only when I came up behind him to put money in his kettle did he turn around. He thanked me for the donation, wished me a good day, and I wished him the same.

That's where it should have ended. Instead, he called after me, "I think I embarrassed that girl."

"How'd you do that?" I asked him, turning around and looking at him closely for the first time. He was a small man, shorter than I, stocky but not fat. I guessed him to be in his mid-30s, and there was something just a little "off" about his face, starting with an oddly twisted mouth. When he spoke again, I realized it wasn't just his face that was out of kilter.

"I told her that all the girls here are prettier than the ones in Baton Rouge. And it's true, they are," he declared with a big smile.

"Well, then," I responded, "I guess this bell ringing job is not such a bad one, is it?"

He laughed out loud. "I told my friend that just the other day. The first three days I was here I got twenty-five phone numbers." He laughed again, gleefully, turning slightly red, not looking me in the eye.

I don't know why he chose to tell me that story. Maybe he thought I'd overheard his conversation with the girl, but I hadn't. I do know that if he expected camaraderie or congratulations for the imaginary notches in his belt, he didn't get either. Instead, I gave him a little wave and a tight smile (fake this time) and moved on into the store.

As offensive as I found this little man who was turning charitable bell ringing into his own personal brand of solicitation, I felt sorry for him. He probably got this job through people he knows from the soup kitchen, and he probably won't keep it long if he continues to pester the pretty, young shoppers. Nor should he.

Still, his situation makes me sad. I doubt that either a free hot meal or a rich fantasy life keeps him warm at night.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What I'm Reading Today: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I am loving this book! It's funny, irreverent, beautifully written, and full of so much common sense that I keep slapping myself on the forehead and saying, "Of course, that's the way it is. It's exactly like that."

If you like to write, Anne Lamott tells you in this book how to make your writing better. If you like to read, she helps you understand what it is about one book that grabs you and holds on long after you've read it, while another book fails to engage you from beginning to end.

Bird by Bird isn't only about writing and reading; it's also about life. It's about the big and little things that happen to people, the similarities and differences between the people those things happen to, and how they--all those people in all those stories--connect with us.

This book has been around for a while, so I suspect many of you are already familiar with it. Somehow I missed it until now. If you've missed it, too, please do yourself a favor and check it out. Soon.

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I'll begin this post by skipping right to the end of it: I spent hours and hours working a jigsaw puzzle, only to discover, when it was nearing completion, that two pieces were missing. I'll bet that's happened to you, hasn't it?

I can tell you the ending of this story because the end isn't really important. What matters, at least to me, is that the process of assembling this puzzle helped me fit a piece or two into the unfinished picture of who I have become. Here's what happened:

Day One:

The rain is coming down in slow, ropy drips, the first rain we've had in weeks. I don't mind it since I have no errands to run, and I think about what I'll do to occupy myself on a perfect indoor day like this one.

I piddle around on the Internet for a while, reading blogs and Facebook posts. One person is glad it's Friday, and two others want me to copy and repost their status updates, one to show that I love my daughter, the other to honor our men and women in the military. I do love my daughters, both of them, and I do respect those who serve our country, but I never repost anything. That's a good way to get a computer virus. Besides, I'm 69 years old and have long since learned that I don't have to do a thing just because someone asks me to.

Last night at bedtime I finished my book. Should I start another one? No, I don't want to get absorbed in anything this early in the day. I'd rather do something that allows my mind to free-float for a while. I don't want to watch TV, either; the house is quiet and I like it that way. I could draw, but that would mean dragging the pens, pencils and sketchbook to the end of the sofa where the light is best, and I know that as soon as I sit down on the sofa, Levi will show up with his ball and that please-please-play-with-me look in his eyes. Hmmm.

My eyes fall on the bookcase next to the fireplace, the shelves that hold games and jigsaw puzzles. I went on a puzzle binge a few years ago, and the binge ended way before the supply of puzzles did. It's been at least two years since I've put one together. I pick up an unopened box and study the picture on the front of it: too bright and flowery to suit my mood on this rainy day. I pick up a few more boxes, looking for something more seasonal. I stop and count the unopened puzzles; there are seventeen of them. I study the picture on each box top, finally choosing one that shows a sand-colored castle, topped with terra-cotta roof tiles, surrounded by russet-hued trees and a pale blue sky.

The table knife I use to open the box isn't up to the job, but I persist and finally puncture the paper seal. Now that I've made entry, I slice down one side of the box, then repeat the whole hacking process three more times. I mentally chastise myself for being too lazy to use the right tool for the job and for not being more safety conscious. Then, in the next second, I forgive myself--as simple to do as it is to say.

The puzzle is open. That's what counts. I take it to the dining room table, have a seat, pull the box close to my chest, and start sifting through it to find every piece that has one straight edge. When I think I have all the edge pieces, I set the box aside and begin assembling the frame of the puzzle. This part is as easy as child's play. Actually, it is child's play.

Next, I pull out all the pieces that look like they might be part of the castle walls and spread them out on the left side of the puzzle. Then I look for all the pieces that might be roof tiles and lay them out to the right. Piece by piece I fit tabs into notches until all the manmade structures in the puzzle image lie, surrounded by empty spaces, in the puzzle frame.

That's enough for one day.

Day Two:

I don't begin work on the puzzle until late in the afternoon, then I dig out all the pieces that look like sky. Wow! There's a big pile of sky. I look at the picture on the box again and see that sky covers nearly half of it. This could get tedious.

I notice for the hundredth time that the light in my dining room isn't very good. Parts of the sky are light blue, and parts of it are white, and in this light it's hard to see the difference. I get the flashlight out of the drawer and shine it on the sky pieces. Now they all look yellow, which doesn't help anything, so I put the flashlight away. The only way I can distinguish the light blues from the bluish whites is to hold two pieces side by side, one pair at a time, so I do that, over and over and over, until I have a dozen little five- or six-piece patches of sky. That's progress, even though I have no idea which patch goes where.

I glance at the clock and realize how long I've been sitting here, working on nothing but sky. This puzzle seemed like a good idea when I started it, but I'll tell you what: sky is  boring.

My eyes are burning and my shoulders ache. I stop and roll my head around a couple of times, then move my shoulders up and down, forward and back. As I'm working out the kinks, it suddenly occurs to me that I don't have to finish this puzzle. I'm not getting paid to do this, so there won't be any negative consequences for quitting. No one would even know I did it. It dawns on me that, except for the care and feeding of my animals, I'm not really responsible to anyone about how I spend my time. My kids and grandkids are grown, so it's not as if I even have to set a good example. If  I want to quit, all I have to do is decide to quit, and I'm done. The newfound sense of freedom is heady.

I decide that I won't give up, but I will stop for the day.

Day Three:

After a good night's sleep, I feel fresh this morning. I let the dogs outside and sit down at the dining room table to wait for them. After a couple minutes I glance casually at the puzzle, then at the carefully laid-out pieces of sky, and one of those pieces practically waves at me. "Pick me up," it seems to shout, and I do pick it up, and its shape pops out at me so distinctly that I know instantly where to put it. There. It fits. Then I recognize the shape of a second piece and a third, and by the time the dogs are ready to come back in, I'm channeling Chicken Little: "The sky is falling."  Falling into place. This sky is mine.

All that's left is the leafy part of the puzzle. There are orange leaves, yellow leaves, tan leaves, leaves in shadow that appear dark green and even black. I lay out the leaf pieces by color around the perimeter of the puzzle and work systematically. By now I'm not thinking in terms of tabs and notches; instead, each piece has arms, legs, and a head on either end. I work with one piece at a time, trying to find a match for an outsized head that slopes to the right or a left arm that looks like an angel's wing. Minutes stretch into hours, but the end is in sight.

There's one piece left on the tabletop. I pick it up, reach across to drop it into place, and . . . wait, how did this happen? There are three empty spots in the puzzle. I fit the piece in my hand into one of those places, then start searching for the missing pieces. I look in the box and find it empty, as I expected. I lift up the bottom of the box, then the top. I lift the leaves of the silk plant that sits in the center of the dining table, then pick up the whole plant. I pull out the chairs on either side of me, thinking the pieces might have slid off the table onto the seats. I check the floor and don't see anything, but I know the colors in the autumn-leaf pattern would blend right in with the flooring, so I go get the broom and drag it carefully toward me from every direction, gaining nothing for my efforts but a little dog hair and a couple of dried leaves. Real leaves, dragged in from outside. They, too, blended right in with the flooring.

So that's it. I've worked on this puzzle for large chunks of time on three different days and have ended  up with two pieces missing. I didn't quit, but I can't finish it. And yet, I am done. I'm satisfied. Where there was anger and frustration the last time this happened, there is now peace of mind.

This post is about three puzzles, then: first, the cardboard one I just (almost) finished; second, the mystery of the missing pieces; and third, an unanswered question:  when did it get so easy for me to let go and move on? The third puzzle is the one that interests me most, because frustration used to be the flag I flew daily. Somewhere along the way between then and now, it seems, I've learned to tell the difference between mountains and  molehills.

They say that wisdom comes with age, but I believe it's perspective, rather than wisdom, that one gains over time. (Or maybe, if I'm lucky, wisdom is still in my future.) All I know is that I'm 69 years old, and, like everyone else who has lived this long, I've been through some stuff in my life.

Two missing puzzle pieces? Pffffft! Who cares?

Friday, December 09, 2011

The battle of the bone

When I wrote about Levi on his birthday last summer, I told you about the bone game he plays with Kim's dog, Oliver. Here's what I wrote then:

Levi's best pal is Oliver, who has been willing to race through the backyard with him since Day One. Though about one-fifth Levi's size, Ollie is the alpha dog. He established that at the very beginning of their relationship, and Levi clearly understands it still. Inside the house, the two of them play mind games, mostly centered around Levi's very large Nylabone. Each dog feigns disinterest in the bone while the other one has it, but the instant the possessor drops his guard, the other dog steals it and runs. The game is an elaborate one, involving much skulking, hiding behind furniture, and approaching stealthily from the rear. Kim and I should probably keep score, but we're too busy laughing at them.

The game continues as enthusiastically as it was played in the beginning, perhaps even more so. Levi has learned from Ollie and has become a better match for him. The two have different styles. Ollie is the champion of ballsy moves, while Levi relies on stealth and vigilance. There is no fighting in this game, no bared teeth or growling. Despite all the trickery and deceit involved, the game is conducted in a spirit of sportsmanship.

Last night's play was so intense that I was able to leave the room and get the camera without disrupting the game. Here's the play-by-play, picking up as I returned to the action:

Levi has possession of the bone, but he's worried because Ollie has his eye on it.

Levi shifts position. Ollie does, too, staying off to the side and waiting to catch Levi off guard. 

In a move too quick for the camera, Ollie lunges, grabs the bone, races across the room and slides, home base and all. He is saaaaaafe and he scoooooores! In a demonstration of fearlessness and dismissal, he turns his back on Levi.

Levi is left waiting on his side of the court. He waits, watches, looks sad. This game is so hard.

But hold on! Ollie has just abandoned the bone because his mother has called him. (Interference?) He's only two steps away from it when Levi leaps off the sofa and dashes across the room. 

In action once again too fast for the camera, Levi grabs the bone and returns with it to his home base. Levi scores! Ollie, sensing that he has been duped, immediately jumps up next to Levi, beginning the next round with a strategic move known as  "feigning indifference."

And the game goes on.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

What I'm Reading Today: A Killing Tide

Online reviews are all over the place on this first novel by P. J. Alderman, but for the low price of the Kindle edition I couldn't pass it by. When I started reading it last night, I was too sleepy to read more than the first chapter, but not too sleepy to notice that the author had used the word "bobble"--when I'm pretty sure she meant "bauble"--only eight paragraphs in. 

I find little bobbles like that disruptive because they take my focus away from the story and put it on the words instead. Once I got back into the story, though, it held my interest. In fact, I'm looking forward to reading more of it in a little while when I sit down with my Kindle and a bowl of hot, homemade soup.

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

Monday, December 05, 2011

Try this if you're so INKlined

My daughter Kim recently turned me on to a design technique called Zentangle®. I read online that it's okay to use that name as long as I include the following paragraph when writing about it:

The Zentangle® art form and method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and is copyrighted. Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at

The hundreds (thousands?) of Zentangle images online make it obvious that I'm late to this arty party, but I'm enjoying it enough that I thought you might like to try it, too. It's relaxing, it can be done anywhere, and it doesn't require a huge investment in supplies. Paper, pen, and pencil are all you need. The experts prefer certain brands and types of those supplies, naturally, but you can use whatever you have on hand to try it out and see if you like it.

Zentangle basically consists of lines and doodled patterns put together on small sheets of paper, and it's incredibly easy (unless you're a perfectionist, that is). The art is in the overall look, not in the individual strokes. Thank goodness, because I mess up a lot of those simple little strokes.

I'm a little embarrassed to put my first efforts up here where you can compare them to some of the strikingly beautiful designs on the rest of the Internet, but I'll do it in the interest of showing you that even a beginner can achieve some interesting effects. With two exceptions, these are the only ones I've drawn, and they're posted in the order in which they were drawn. One exception is my favorite so far, and I've saved it for the end of this post. It isn't necessarily the best of the lot, but, for reasons I'll explain, it holds more meaning than the other ones. The other exception (I think it was the sixth one I drew) was messed up beyond repair, so I cut it out of my sketchbook and threw it in the garbage. (If you think a one-out-of-nine reject rate is too high for a novice, you should have seen some of the failures I created on earlier projects.)

Oh, another thing: I usually encourage you to click on my posted images to enlarge them and see them in greater detail. Not so in this case. Enlarge this set of images only if you want a close-up look at the hundreds of imperfections in these drawings. Sometimes, it seems, smaller images are more forgiving.








One more thing I found interesting was that after I had done only a couple of these designs, I started noticing patterns in my environment where I'd never seen them before. There were patterns everywhere, and it was fun to see them pop out at me after years of blending in with the scenery. 

The following drawing is my favorite because I sat in my living room and picked out patterns I could see from right there on the end of the sofa. The connected black squares at the upper left (they're black squares, not white crosses) represent a wall hanging made of laquered metal squares connected by black bars. The top center design is my version of tall dried vines that stand in a vase near a doorway. Next to the vines is a silk philodendron, bordered on the right by a pair of drawer handles. Underneath the drawer handles sits a patch of rattan from the baskets under my coffee table. Below the rattan there are four pine cones like those piled up in a dish on the coffee table (except when Levi messes with them). At the bottom right is a design cast into a bronze lamp base. The shape at the bottom left is a curved chair arm with its nailhead trim. The pattern of the actual chair consists of narrow stripes similar to those shown in the center of this  chair-arm shape. For the outermost portion of the chair arm, I repeated the amoebic shape of a single large leaf from a botanical print on my wall. See what I mean about patterns everywhere?

If you're looking for something to keep your hands busy, you ought to give Zentangling a try. And if you do try it, please come back and tell us what you think about it.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

What I'm Reading Today: Sweetie

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

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Haiku: Big Dog with No Brakes

Happy to see me,
he runs through the yard, hits hard,
knocks me to the ground.


And for good measure, here's a different version, same title:

Big galoot runs fast,
hits me in the effing knees.
I walk with crutches.

Harder than easy but worth it

About this time last week ten musical notes--a little snatch of a melody--wormed their way into my head and played over and over. They were beautiful. I knew I'd heard them before but had no idea when or where and no way to find out the name of the song. If only I could identify the song, I could download it on iTunes.

I hummed those notes all day long. When I lay my head on my pillow that night, the notes continued to play in my mind until I finally fell asleep. In the morning they were gone. I couldn't remember the music and felt sad that I'd lost it, but there was nothing I could do about that.

I went about my business, humming other tunes as they came to mind. Then, in the middle of the morning, the notes came back, arriving in my brain as suddenly as they had the day before. The difference was that this time the first six notes were accompanied by five words of the lyrics: "I will always love you."

I googled those words and shouldn't have been surprised when the search turned up pages and pages of references to "I Will Always Love You," the song made famous first by Dolly Parton and then by Whitney Houston. That's a beautiful song, too, but not the one I was trying to find. I looked through several pages, then gave up.

The tune continued to play repetitively, then, late that afternoon, another few words of the lyrics fell into place.  Now I had words to go along with all ten notes: "I will always love you the best I can." Back to Google I went and eventually matched those words to a set of lyrics that seemed familiar. The lyrics had a title, of course, so it didn't take long after that to find the song on YouTube. I listened to it a couple of times, then went to iTunes to buy it. I didn't want the song to get away from me again.

To my surprise, when iTunes opened up to my music list, the title of the song leaped off the screen at me. Apparently, I had already downloaded it a long time ago. I've since learned that this song was once featured on a "Grey's Anatomy" episode, so I must have gone through the same or a similar process to find it after watching that show. I usually listen to my iTunes in "shuffle" mode and can't explain why that song has never made it into the mix.

This song that I've been humming over and over to myself, then playing on YouTube and iTunes, is "Harder Than Easy," by Jack Savoretti (with Lucy Styles). Since it's captured so much of my attention, it seems only fair to make it this Saturday's song selection and post it here to share with you.

(Thanks to mjchunfilm02 for posting this video, complete with lyrics, on YouTube.)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

December surprise

With the new month calling for a change of header image, I sat down to upload one this morning and got this message:


I guess I knew somewhere in the back of my head that Blogger has a "photo upload quota," but if I did know it, I never gave it a second thought. I'm just glad this didn't happen a day earlier, after I had painstakingly selected 11 photos out of 300-plus possibilities for yesterday's post.

The good news is there are plenty of free photo-hosting sites online, and it's only $5 a year to get 20 GB more photo storage from Google. I decided to go with the latter option; it's worth a cent and a half a day to me to keep all my photos together. Once I'd paid my $5, it was only a matter of minutes until I was able to upload the new image as easily as ever.

It took nearly six years of blogging to reach my free photo upload quota, so I'm grateful for all the free storage space I've had up until now. In fact, I'm grateful to Blogger in general for its free-ness and its customizable templates and all that it does to support those of us who like to spill our guts on the Internet.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I wish I'd published a few more photos a couple weeks sooner. All this gratitude would have made for a good Thanksgiving post.