Saturday, July 28, 2012


There's a French word that's used frequently in this part of Louisiana: lagniappe (LAN-yap). It means "a little something extra." Actually, it's more than a word. It's an attitude.

On the first night of my recent houseguests' visit, we went for dinner at a popular seafood restaurant. It was early in the evening, so our wait for a table was no longer than ten minutes.  As it turned out, that first available table was not the best one. Not that any of us noticed that in the beginning.

I sat across from my stepsister, Donna. Her husband, C.O., sat between us. Service was good, and in a matter of moments our attention was focused on good conversation and the excellent food in front of us. We paid so little attention to other diners and to usual restaurant noises that we might as well have had the room all to ourselves.

A sudden crash caused all three of us to jump, shattering the illusion of dining in a bubble. We were instantly aware that the kitchen door was only a few feet away from C.O.'s back and that a busboy with his tray of dirty dishes had accidentally bumped the edge of that door, causing the load of dishes and leftovers to crash to the floor.

Restaurant staff surrounded the spill immediately, cleaning up the mess with as little disruption as possible, and we returned to enjoying our dinner. We were now aware of people coming and going through the kitchen door, but they were so unobtrusive about it that we paid them little attention.

Several minutes later, after we were no longer thinking about that interruption, a member of the restaurant staff stepped quietly up to C.O.'s shoulder. She was dressed in uniform, dark pants and white shirt, and she held a small towel in her hand. With a friendly smile she leaned in and quietly informed C.O. that there was a splash of tartar sauce on his shirt and, with his permission, she would wipe it off. He readily agreed, and we all laughed as she leaned in and rubbed the spot off his shirt. She seemed relieved that we had responded with humor, and, her black eyes dancing as she finished with C.O.'s shirt, she motioned to his rear end. "And that ain't all," she said, flashing an even bigger smile.

By then we were nearly rolling with laughter. I saw another staff member leaning in the kitchen doorway, smiling and shaking her head at the nerve of her co-worker, who was  bent over, busily scrubbing the seat of C.O.'s pants.

I get so tickled when I think of the conversation they must have had in that kitchen beforehand, trying to decide what was the right thing to do and who would be brave enough to do it. The meal was good enough that we'd probably remember it anyway, but the decision those restaurant workers made ensured we won't forget the night C.O. got a little something extra with his seafood platter.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Not-So-Terrible Twos

My Goldendoodle boys share a birthday today, and I can't think of a single thing that's terrible about these two-year-olds. Nobody would call them perfect, but they're definitely wonderful.

Levi (left) and Gimpy

We brought Levi home in December of 2010. Gimpy, his litter mate and best bud, didn't join our family until April of this current year. Getting these two back together is possibly one of the best things I've ever done. They have so much fun.

Levi (left) and Gimpy

On Gimpy's first day here, we found out Levi didn't actually know how to play ball. He'd never really had to learn, because he had had no competition. I'd throw the ball and he'd mosey around until he found it, then bring it back to me. Gimpy, however, had grown up sharing space with his father. He had learned to stand back a few yards so he'd be closer to the ball once it was thrown, and he'd learned never to take his eye off the ball. The first couple of weeks Gimpy was here, despite his nerve-damaged leg, he beat Levi to the ball every single time. Levi learned from Gimpy and they're a good match now, which makes the game more fun for all of us.


I thought in those early days that Gimpy was the alpha dog, because Levi followed him around, let him have first choice of toys, and submitted to his every whim. Now I think Levi just had a huge case of hero worship. Levi is the bossier of the two, but I suspect he's the boss because Gimpy lets him be. Winning seems to be important to Levi. Gimpy enjoys their various games enough to offer Levi a challenge, but he isn't nearly as intense about it as Levi is. I thought Levi might be using his size (five inches taller, 30 pounds heavier) to gain an advantage over Gimpy, but I've discarded that notion because Kim's little Shih-Tzu and, more recently, my stepsister's tiny Yorkie-Jack Russell mix can make both of my big dogs avert their eyes and stand at attention. Nope, I think Gimpy just doesn't care as much about being the boss as Levi does.


They "fight" daily, usually several times, but I've never seen them fight in anger. The mock fight is one of their favorite games. Like most of their other activities, it involves a tennis ball. The dog who has possession of the ball tries to keep it, the other one tries to take it away. It involves rolling, tumbling, much snorting, wide-open mouths with bared teeth, body slamming, choke holding, and limb grabbing. It can be played indoors or outdoors, and it is repeated over and over until both dogs are exhausted. I am included in this game. I am home base. For example, in an indoor game, the winner usually leaps onto the sofa and stands next to me--or, if Gimpy is the winner, stands on my legs--with the ball in his mouth.

Levi on top, Gimpy on the ground

I love these boys and can't resist hugging them or kissing their foreheads every chance I get. Levi has always taken sort of a drive-by approach to affection. He goes about his business, playing, eating, or sleeping, and occasionally, as if the idea just occurred to him, he drops by and plants a sloppy wet kiss on me. Once in a while he'll crawl up on the sofa beside me and stick around for some petting. Gimpy, though, is a lover, a cuddler, a snuggler. He plants his whole body on my lap several times throughout the day, licking my cheeks and chin, and if I'm not sitting where he can do that, he walks up beside me and pushes his head up under the palm of my hand so I'll pet him. That part of his personality makes him seem younger than Levi, even though they're exactly the same age. Levi is my big boy, and Gimpy is my baby.


As luck would have it, the cuddlier dog is the one that sheds. I explained in an earlier post that Gimpy takes after their father, a Golden Retriever, and Levi got more of their mother's Poodle genes. As much as they look alike, their hair is very different. Gimpy has never had a haircut except for an occasional trim between his eyes. His beautiful curls are apparently as long as they're ever going to get. That's good in terms of less grooming being required, but I'm sweeping up dog hair once again. Levi sheds no more hair than a human does, but his coat grows thick and long and fast.  Without regular haircuts, he gets matted and tangled easily.


Gimpy is the naughtier of the two. He's nowhere near as destructive as Levi was during his first few months here, but Gimpy is a bit of a kleptomaniac. He especially likes to steal paper and cloth. If I lay down a dust cloth and turn my back, it'll be gone before I reach for it again. A towel dropped on the bathroom floor gets filched and carried to the futon or into Gimpy's crate. He pulls packets of paper off the office-supply shelves near my computer desk. He always seems genuinely contrite when I confront him about it, so I think the "debbil" must be making him do it.


Levi barks the most. His keen hearing alerts him if a neighbor opens or closes a door or if someone pulls into a nearby driveway, and he barks loudly--and sometimes emits a low warning growl--to let them know they're not going to get past him. I guess that makes him a good watchdog. It also makes him a little bit annoying. Sometimes, when Levi barks protectively, Gimpy makes a couple of little "grrfffs" himself, but more often he just comes to wherever I am and stares up into my face to see if I've noticed that Levi is barking. Gimpy is my back-up alarm.


Levi is the more confident of the two. Despite the previously mentioned barking, he seems to assume that new people he meets are friendly. I haven't found much that scares Levi other than little dogs with take-charge attitudes and the dreaded plastic Walmart bags


Both dogs warm up to people quickly, but Gimpy is more cautious, holding back until he's had an opportunity to learn a little more about someone new. It's Gimpy who has snapped twice at veterinary technicians, and it was Gimpy who suddenly snarled and growled at a neighbor who bent down and put her face right next to his on the other side of the fence. In his defense, he's normally so sweet natured that all three of those people placed the blame on themselves. The vet technicians each claimed that it isn't unusual for a dog to get snippy when someone "messes with" his hind end, and the neighbor said she knew better than to make direct eye contact with a dog that doesn't know her well. Gimpy is still somewhat timid around anything or anybody new and even a few things or situations that are by now familiar to him. I'm hoping that enough time, love, and reassurance will build his confidence and make him less fearful.


Unless you count the fact that I shared my tuna salad with the boys at lunchtime, we haven't done much in the way of celebration today. I thought about getting each of them a new toy, but they'd each want the toy that the other one had, and both toys would be de-squeaked and shredded in less than ten minutes. They'll have a good play session tonight, I'm sure, but I can't imagine it will be any more or less exciting than the one they had last night or the night before. I can't speak for Gimpy and Levi, but I can tell you honestly that every day I spend with them is a celebration as far as I'm concerned. They hold my heart in their shaggy paws.

Levi (forefront) and Gimpy

Terrible twos? Not these boys.

Gimpy (left) and Levi

Monday, July 23, 2012


It rained again this afternoon. Summer rains are certainly not unusual around here, but normally they show up in the form of a light shower, just enough to keep the grass green and growing. Under those conditions, the backyard dries out soon after the rain and makes a lovely green carpet on which my dogs can run as hard and fast as they wish.

Even when the grass is dry, if Levi and Gimpy have a good romp immediately after the lawn is mowed, the freshly released chlorophyll tints their blond paws green.

Fortunately, the green soon fades.

Unfortunately, the ground beneath that beautiful grass carpet is only slightly more solid than Louisiana swamp land. When we have days and days and days of rain, the rainwater exceeds what the earth is able to absorb and stands in the backyard, concealed by the rapidly growing grass. It's like living on a sponge. The ground appears to be firm, but one step off the sidewalk is often enough to sink my foot nearly to the ankle.

There's mud under all that water, and when I let Gimpy and Levi outside to take care of their business, I cross my fingers that they don't get too frisky. It only takes a few seconds of full-out running to cover their undersides with mud:

Gimpy (left) and Levi

As I mentioned in a recent post, we've had heavy rains for days now. The dogs are bored, bless their hearts. They want to play outdoors. Getting muddy doesn't bother them, but I'm really, really tired of hosing them off several times a day, and they don't much like that part of it, either. (Don't worry; the hose is on the shower setting, so it doesn't hurt them.)

The man who cuts my grass called last night and said he'd be here this morning, if the sun was shining, to mow the lawn before the rain started again. He came. He mowed. I was busy and didn't look outside until after he was gone. At least I think he's gone. He and his tractor may still be in there somewhere.

I guess I should have warned him.

What I've Been Reading

Three of my last four library books were good--not great, but definitely worth the time spent reading them. The fourth book (pictured at the bottom of this group) failed to capture my interest. I picked it up a dozen times over a three-day period, each time reading a couple more pages, and finally gave up on it. That doesn't happen often, and it always makes me wonder if something on the very next page might have grabbed me. Guess I'll never know.

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult:

In the Dark by Brian Freeman:

The Deepest Waters by Dan Walsh:

Lost River by David Fulmer:

For a description and reviews of any of these books,
click on its image above.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Of Life and Death and Constant Rain

Sometimes, in the midst of quiet complacency, life swoops in on a gust of fresh air, cleans the cobwebs off our daily routines, and sets us in motion. That would explain the creative energy that has consumed so much of my time over the past few weeks. It would also describe the house guests who visited earlier this week. Their animated personalities and generous spirits filled my home with light and joy.

But other times, also in the midst of quiet complacency, insanity rains down on the least likely of places, terrorizes innocent people, and snuffs out life for no rational reason at all. Meanwhile, across the country, a friend's beloved mother sheds her tired old body, no doubt as nature intended it, and goes peacefully to meet her Maker. Those things happened this week, too.

Here in South Louisiana, our daily rain showers were interrupted by three days of sunshine while my guests were here. Soon after they left for home, the rains returned:  hard rains, accompanied by spectacular displays of thunder and lightning. The storms have continued since then with few breaks.

It was thunder that woke me this morning and it's thunder that rattles the house now, keeping one of my dogs (Gimpy) close beside me. The storms and the news coverage have temporarily damped my good mood, but I'm not worried about it. I know it will return, and I will appreciate the joy even more, having been reminded of life's fragility.

Pray for peace for those who have lost loved ones and pray in gratitude for every day that those you love stay safe. Or, if you don't believe in prayer, then wish fervently for those same things and, while you're at it, wish for something or someone powerful and good to believe in.


Today's Saturday Song Selection is an instrumental piece that fits both the mood and the weather:

The song is "Sad Romance" by Ji PyeongKyeon.
Thanks to herrocroser for posting this video on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


If you've visited here in the past few days, you might think all I've been doing is reading, but you'd be wrong. I've been up to my eyeballs in projects:

Let there be light--but not quite so much of it:
Because of my unique housing situation, and because of the furniture arrangement in my living room, I frequently found myself simultaneously watching television and struggling not to look straight across the carport into my neighbor's house. My solution was to keep the blinds closed almost all the time, but that made the room depressingly dark.


This week I put up privacy-frosted window film around the perimeter of my front windows and all across the two bottom rows of panes, leaving a two- by four-pane section near the top clear. Now I can see out when I'm standing, but I can sit on the sofa with my feet propped up and not worry about flashing anybody.

While I had all the supplies out for that project, I decided to put the same film on the doors of the bathroom cabinet. They were already lightly frosted, but the additional layer made my extra rolls of toilet tissue a little less conspicuous.


Another window project:
A long time ago (we're talking years) I bought two halves of an old window at my next-door neighbor's garage sale. I knew I wanted to use them to frame pictures, but I never could decide what pictures I wanted to display. This week I did. I love the concept of bringing the outside in, so I printed twelve different photos of trees:

I dug the old windows out of the garden shed, hosed them down, then brought them inside for a thorough scrubbing.

It'll take a while longer to mat the photos and hang the heavy windows, but at least I have a plan in progress. I'll show you the finished project as soon as it's on the wall.


Saving files in style:

After finishing several family history searches recently and printing out tons of paper records, it occurred to me that there is a better way to store all the documents and images. Thanks to the ever-helpful Internet, I learned how to save genealogy reports as  PDF files that can be opened, searched, and printed on a wide variety of computer types, then I saved each person's family history files on a CD. Wanting to end up with a nice-looking product for a couple of special people, I made covers for the CD jewel cases. Those turned out well, so I bought a packet of Avery® CD labels and downloaded a free template from their website. This was fun, and it sure beats my previous method of titling CDs with a Sharpie® marker.


I don't know how long this creative spurt will last, but I'm enjoying it for now. The heat is keeping me indoors, and I'm glad to have something to do. Anything but housework.

What I've Been Reading

On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah

Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark
I especially enjoyed this one. Don't see a whole lot of books based in my neck of the, uh, swamp.

River, Cross My Heart by Breena Clarke

To read a description and reviews of any
of these books, click on its image above.