Friday, May 31, 2013

Impulsive or Not

I knew my first husband for only six months before we married, the last three months of which he lived in a town far enough away that we only saw each other a couple of times.  That marriage didn't work out.

I married for the second time to a man whom I'd known slightly under four months. That one didn't work out either, though it lasted twice as long as the first one did and was much better while it lasted.

Now that you know how impulsively I made marital decisions, would you be surprised to know that it's taken me seven years to decide whether or not to buy a specific shower curtain? I've never seen it in person, but online it looks like it would be a great match for my bathroom. I've viewed it online so many times that an ad for it now pops up on my screen at least daily, and almost every time it appears, I look at it again and consider buying it.

A couple of days ago I was searching in my "Miscellaneous" folder for a particular photo when I came across a picture of that same shower curtain, a picture I'd saved all the way back in 2006. Who takes that long to make a decision? If I liked it then, and if I still like it now, what's the problem?

The problem is the design on the shower curtain. It's one that people won't be neutral about. I happen to like it; others might hate it. So, once again, I weighed the pros and cons.

Here are things that have kept me from buying it:
1) The design features outhouses. Two big ones. I have to acknowledge that that's at least a little bit corny.
2) One of the outhouses is labeled "his," and there is no "his" in my house. That fact hasn't bothered me for years, but do I need a daily reminder of it?
3) The other outhouse, the one labeled "hers," looks red in a lot of photos, and red wouldn't go so well in my bathroom.
4) An outhouse design shouts country, and, if you don't count the quilt on the bed in my guest room, my decor is not country. I'd call it traditional with, perhaps, a nod toward rustic.
5) I have a perfectly good, plain, white shower curtain, so there's no need to spend money on a new one.

And here are the reasons to buy it:
1) The design features outhouses, yes, but it's also covered with grass and trees, which I love dearly. I'd like it better without the outhouses, but I can live with them to get the grass and trees.
2) I don't have a lot of company. If I like this shower curtain (I, who would have to live with it), why do I care so much that infrequent visitors might think it's silly?
3) In some photos the "red" outhouse appears to be a rusty brown. The other day I read a review in which a purchaser complained that she had bought this shower curtain and the "hers" outhouse was browner than it appeared in the photo. That's good, because my bathroom floor is also a rusty brown.
4) I've been leaning in this direction for a while. Last year I framed a few of my own photos and hung them in the bathroom -- photos that include three outhouses and a cistern.

5) I found a site where the outhouse shower curtain is on sale right now, more than $20 cheaper than I've ever seen it.

So I ordered it. After seven years, I'll finally get to see it up close. I figure the worst that can happen is that the colors will be wrong and I'll have to send it back. But I hope that doesn't happen.

It's kind of freeing to be such a risk-taker.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Scanning and Skinning

On Tuesday I got mail from my Aunt Shirley, a big package of old family photos to post  on the blog set up for my Grandma Audrey's stories.  I was tickled to get them and couldn't wait to begin scanning them yesterday morning. What I thought would take an hour or so ended up taking much, much longer.

The first few photos scanned beautifully, then the scanner went nuts. It didn't die, but it might as well have, because its output became virtually useless. Here's an example of what it did to a photo that was lying perfectly straight on the scanner bed:

That wouldn't do, obviously, so I tried again:

I tried half a dozen more times with no better results. The printer/copier/scanner would copy the photo perfectly, but it wouldn't scan properly for anything. Go figure.

I Googled for help, tried everything I read, and nothing straightened out the crooked scans. I was just about to give up when I thought of using my camera to take a high-res image of each photo Shirley had sent. That worked much better:

Grandpa Erna (standing far right) and 
Grandma Audrey (seated at right on the sofa).

Now, don't misunderstand me. I certainly don't mean to imply that the quality of the picture above is good. After all, it's a photo of a photocopied enlargement of a picture taken more than 40 years ago. I'm just saying that the camera did a better job than the scanner in more ways than reproducing a properly aligned image.

I'm also saying there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I've been on a cleaning spree recently. Really. I have. Well, maybe "spree" isn't the right word, given the pace at which I've been working, but I've been making a little progress each day and hope to have all my spring cleaning done before summer officially arrives.

Last week I cleaned out my closet, pulling out all the too-big-but-not-by-much garments I'd kept from the last round of closet cleaning (in 2011) just in case I didn't maintain the weight loss that was fairly new at that time. Now I feel confident in sending those items to Goodwill, too.

There are a few things in the donation bag this time that I'm going to miss, even though I haven't been able to wear them for a long time. If I didn't need the extra closet space--and if I thought I'd ever take them apart and make something out of the fabric--I'd keep them. I probably wouldn't get around to that, though, and I'm sure there's someone else out there who might enjoy them as much as I have.

Realizing that it's the fabric, not the garment, that I love, I decided to take a few pictures. That way I can give them away and keep them, too.

This is a soft, stretchy, pullover blouse I wore frequently the last year
 I worked. It has short sleeves, so I wore it in warm weather,
then added a black cardigan when the temperature dropped.

Another black pullover blouse, this one so much older
than the first one that I can't remember for sure when I got it.
If I'm not mistaken, it dates back to the late 1990s. 
I liked it enough that I didn't get rid of it during all the years
when it was too small. Lots of age on it, but not too much wear.

This is an ankle-length skirt I bought to wear to a
wedding in 2007. As much as I like it, I don't think
I've ever worn it again. I never stopped admiring it;
I just don't go many places where I need to dress up.

This is a short-sleeved, embroidered, summer sweater, another
item I've had for a long time. I bought the sweater with a
pair of buttery yellow slacks to wear on vacation in 2004.

These are the only four garments I photographed. It hadn't occurred to me until I looked at the photos side-by-side that the four fabrics share a particular design element: leaves. As someone who loves botanical prints, who photographs trees and leaves excessively because she can't resist the beauty of them, I shouldn't be surprised that leaves show up in my favorite clothing. But I am. I had no idea there was a pattern to my fashion choices.

Next time I do some serious shopping, maybe I'll look for other leafy prints to replace these. In the meantime, there's an unfortunate but distinct jeans-and-T-shirt pattern going on in my freshly cleaned-out closet.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


It's Memorial Day weekend. The weather is beautiful, the stores are having big sales, lots of people are barbecuing (even though newscasters warned that beef prices have risen), and the town next to mine is hosting its annual Jambalaya Festival, featuring plenty of food, beer, live music, and beefed-up security to make sure nobody's good time gets out of hand.

Oh, yeah . . . we're supposed to remember our fallen soldiers this weekend, too.

This week I'm posting two Saturday Song Selections. Both of them speak to what I'm feeling about Memorial Day. The first one, with its dire predictions, moved me every time I heard it back in the mid-'60s. It still does. So much of it is still true, which is distressing, yet I recognize that some things have changed since those lyrics were written. Some things are better. That makes me hopeful. The second song is one we all know, one we've heard too many times, one that's played over and over and over, and still it moves me every single time. Who knows how many times it'll be played in the future while politicians value commerce and industry more than they value human life?

Memorial Day has been set aside to honor the men and women who have died in service of our country. Wouldn't it be good to honor them by not adding needlessly to their number?

The first song is for those of us who are alive and well and in a position to make the world a more peaceful place, beginning with the way we treat our neighbors.

The second song (with unofficial lyrics below it) is for those whose fight has ended. May they rest in the peace they've earned.

"Day is done,
gone the sun,
from the lakes,
from the hills,
from the sky,
all is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh."


The first song above is "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire.
Thanks to Rexall1234 for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

The second song is "Taps," performed and posted to YouTube by the United States Navy Band. Thank you, Navy, for this and for so much more.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Great Tabletop Battle

It was time for lunch. As usual, we were heading for the patio, I with a book, a phone, a paper-towel bundle of cheese and crackers, and a diet orange drink, Levi with a tennis ball in his mouth, and Gimpy with only a happy face and a wagging tail. Just before I opened the door, I noticed movement on the patio table--movement that made me set down all my stuff, grab my camera instead, and leave the dogs in the house.

It was lizards. I see lizards all the time, but I'd never seen any like these before, with their brown coloration, black marks behind their eyes, and the dinosaur-looking ridges down the middle of their backs. What the heck were they? And what were they doing on my table?

I sat down at the table right next to them, aimed the camera, and watched as they circled each other.

They were focused. They paid little or no attention to me, even when I reached right between them and picked up the stick (makeshift paperweight) that was on the table.

They moved in closer and closer . . .

. . . and the fight began:

They were already turning green again by the time I started recording: 

The original video file was too large for Blogger, and it took me a long time to figure out how to reduce its size enough to upload it here. It looks fine on my computer, but there doesn't seem to be a way to test it on Blogger without hitting the publish button, so I apologize in advance if the quality isn't good. I also apologize for the wonky moment that happened near the end of the video when I jerked the camera because the loser lizard either (a) leaped or (b) was flung by the winner right at me. The good news is that we all lived to tell about it.

After a little bit of Internet research this afternoon, I've learned that the fierce-looking lizards in this post are the very same, usually mild-mannered, anole lizards that I see every day. Normally they look like this, all sleek, smooth, and green:

It's when they get riled up and stressed out--in a territorial dispute, for instance--that they puff up and morph into their darker, ninja-warrior selves:

I'm not sure what territory they were fighting over, but I can tell you that the loser eventually crawled over the fence, and the winner made his way up into the folds of the patio umbrella.

Afterwards, I ate my lunch right there and played ball with the dogs. I watched for the lizard the whole time, but he never came out.


UPDATE: The resolution on the Blogger video was really bad, so I deleted it and uploaded via YouTube instead. Not great, but much better. Thanks, YouTube!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Brain Power Outage

The power went out at 5:22 p.m. yesterday. I know the exact time because my electrical service provider told me in a recorded telephone message I was able to receive only because I still have two hard-wired, corded phones in my house for use in just such an emergency. 

The sudden burst of quiet--no air conditioner, no computer, no refrigerator--alarmed Levi and Gimpy but not me. I turned off the air conditioner so it wouldn't be damaged by a power surge, fixed the dogs' supper to distract them, and ate my own dinner: the tuna salad I'd planned to have for lunch today.

The message from the electric company had stated that they expected to have power restored by seven--before dark. Good. I took the Doodle boys outside to play ball and pass some time, then came back in and considered what I could do next. I was disappointed that I'd just finished the last unread book in the house, but I had a new logic puzzle magazine and games to play on my iPad. A phone call from one daughter and a text from the other informed me that their power was out, too, which let me know that the outage was spreading and might not be repaired as quickly as originally estimated.

Seven o'clock came and went. It was beginning to get dark in the house, so I opened all the blinds and all the doors, put a flashlight and a camping lantern where I could find them easily, and settled in for a wait. The dogs were happy, going from door to door to keep an eye on the neighbors, and I was content working on my puzzles. Eventually, I turned on the lantern. The dogs went to sleep, and I switched to playing Free Cell on the iPad. At one point I looked up and noticed the red light on the DVR, indicating that my shows were being recorded. How could that be? I wondered. I decided there must be some way the DVR was drawing power through the cable wire, something I hadn't known was possible and felt pleased to learn. How cool is that? Yay, technology!

For at least another half hour I sat there on my usual end of the sofa. By nine o'clock the darkness outside was complete. I was beginning to feel conspicuous and exposed in the dim light of the lantern, so I got up to close the blinds and the doors. As I stepped to the front door, I was shocked to see bright lights on in my nearest neighbor's house. How come his power had been restored and mine hadn't?

I closed the door, looked out the window once to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me, and thought about it for a moment. Only then did I notice the quiet hum of the refrigerator. There were no lights on in my house because I'd never turned them on. The DVR had been recording because the electricity had come back on forty minutes earlier and I'd been too stupid to notice it. Dadgum it!

My Uncle Joe, who is only seven years older than I, used to tell me all the time when we were kids, "You might be book smart, but you don't have any common sense at all." He's the first person I thought of last night when I realized I'd been sitting in near darkness for no good reason. This proved his point. Don't tell him, y'all.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Linda Waits, Kim Waits, Tom Waits. Hold On.

So ... yesterday I wrote about a long day wasted in the waiting room of a surgical clinic. Today I want to talk about the difference between waiting and a similar but more intense state of existence: holding on. Waiting seems to me to be a benign, passive condition, requiring nothing more of us than to be patient while a long line creeps forward or a boring lecturer babbles on. Holding on is like waiting turned up to 11, hanging in there when your stress level is so high you can barely move, and your fate depends on your staying power.

Kim and I waited while seated in fairly comfortable chairs at the surgical clinic. If, instead, we'd been sitting in a leaky boat with sharks circling in the water below us, our comfort level would have zeroed out, and waiting would no longer have been a viable option; we'd have had to escalate all the way up the scale to holding on. And bailing. Never overlook the importance of bailing.

"Take one day at a time," people tell us. "Hang in there." "Wait and see." All of that is good advice, because sometimes conditions do change from one day to the next. Sometimes we change. So, yes, there are times when all we can do is hold on, and if that's all we can do, then we have to do at least that.

Sometimes things can't be changed. I'm thinking now of the Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change ... " There's nothing serene about holding on, and it may take a lot of holding on before one settles down into patience, then finally, if we practice enough, into acceptance and serenity. Serenity is a good place to live.

Then there's the second line of that prayer: " ... the courage to change the things I can . . ." That's harder, don't you think? I lack courage, so I'm a lot better at waiting and holding on than I am at changing things, even though I know that changing some things is every bit as important as accepting others. Bailing water out of a leaky boat is a good example of changing things. If you're in a leaky boat, serenity is not your friend.

The last part of the prayer, the part about "the wisdom to know the difference" (between things that can be changed and those that must be accepted) is tricky. Wisdom can definitely help us decide which things fit which category, but not if we don't even bother to ask ourselves the question: "Can I change this?" There have been times in my life when I've gotten so bogged down in the holding-on process that I haven't even considered whether or not I could do something to change the situation. I couldn't, of course -- not until I asked the question. Then, sometimes, I discovered I could. And did.

I suppose, while we're on this subject, we should at least acknowledge that there's a different kind of holding on, the kind in which we attach ourselves to people or things or beliefs or perceptions that hold us back and keep us from being our best selves. That kind of holding on isn't healthy. The remedy for it is letting go, another useful concept in our psychological toolbox.

So, in addition to praying for the wisdom to know which things can be changed and which can't, we might also need to ask for help in figuring out which kind of holding on we're doing in any given set of circumstances. It gets confusing, doesn't it?


What prompted such a serious post on this beautiful spring day? Today's Saturday Song Selection did. It's one I've liked for a long time:

The song is "Hold On" by Tom Waits.
Thanks to Epitaph Records for posting the video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Wait. Someone Will Call You.

My older daughter, Kim, makes her living as an artist. Specifically, she makes glass beads, melting colored rods of glass at a torch and manipulating the molten glass to form designs. She's been doing that for more than a dozen years, ever since she left her writing career in New York City and moved back here. The hours and hours of repetitive motion required by bead-making have taken a toll, causing her right thumb (the one on which she was coincidentally wearing a band-aid in the photo below) to become stiff, painful, and sometimes unusable.

She went to an orthopedist a couple of weeks ago for a diagnosis and treatment, got a cortisone shot directly in the joint as a temporary fix, and was told she might need surgery. When she asked about the cost and told the orthopedist she doesn't have health insurance, he explained that if he were to do the surgery, there would be not only his fee, but also the fees for the hospital and the anesthetist. He helpfully suggested that she could save a significant amount of money by going to an orthopedic surgical clinic that's set up to do this type of surgery in house, and he gave her a referral.

Everything I've just written is backstory. The part I wanted to tell you begins now:

Kim picked me up on Monday an hour ahead of her scheduled appointment time. I had offered to go with her to take notes on her options, if any, so she could focus on listening to the surgeon and answering--or asking--any questions that arose. Armed with Google Map directions, we located the clinic in only twenty minutes, so we made an impromptu visit to McDonald's drive-thru for biscuits.

Back at the clinic, a sprawling, one-story complex, we followed a sign that read "surgical clinic." Still thirty minutes early, Kim checked in at the front window, then we took two of the only adjacent seats available in the crowded waiting room. Very few new people came in after we did, although a lot of those who were there when we arrived came in and out. Sometimes one or another of them would get called to the back, only to reappear in a short time and settle back into the spot they'd previously vacated. Kim and I had both brought reading material, but we spent the first part of our wait sitting quietly, orienting ourselves to the lay of the land, and watching people.

One man, built like a linebacker and wearing a neon-green knit shirt, left his backpack on a chair and left the building for what seemed like forever to someone like me, who had watched hours of TV footage about bombs in abandoned backpacks at the Boston Marathon. I don't know when I've ever felt so much relief upon seeing a stranger reappear. He left several more times in the next few hours (probably taking smoke breaks), but I didn't worry after the first time.

Across from us sat a very dark-skinned woman, also built like a linebacker, wearing an ill-fitting wig of long, straight blond hair with bangs. I watched her surreptitiously all morning, expecting that the wig might explode off her head if she were to frown deeply then raise her eyebrows suddenly.

Seated near the blond woman were a man and woman whom I presumed to be husband and wife. (Who knows these days? Who cares?) The woman napped, her head leaning into the man's shoulder while he talked on his cell phone. He was speaking quietly, so I couldn't understand his words, but it was impossible to miss his muffled bursts of laughter. It was the kind of laughter normally reserved for quiet places like a movie theater or church or a funeral -- the kind that happens when you get the giggles and it's inappropriate to let loose and bust out the belly laughs. Every time a snicker or snort escaped despite his best efforts, Kim and I got tickled, too, forcing us to match his restraint with our own.

Lunchtime came and went. (Thank goodness we'd had those breakfast biscuits.) I think all the patients who'd been in the waiting room when we first arrived were still present and accounted for at that time. We pulled out our e-book devices and read for awhile.

At 2:21 p.m. I texted my younger, daughter, Kelli, who had asked us to keep her posted:

Me:  "Still in the waiting room. Unbelievable!"

Kelli:  "Omg do you need me to bring y'all some food?"

Me:  "No thx. We're currently having Cheezits and Rice Krispy treats from the vending machine. Life is suddenly much better. I'm thinking we can hold out now till closing time."

Kelli: "SCORE!!"

We did feel better after we ate, and there were a few more vacant seats in the waiting room. Not many but some. I asked the woman next to me if she'd been to this clinic before and if this kind of wait was typical. She said she had and it was. Other people began to join in our conversation and talk about their experiences with long waits there. As appalled as we were by the idea of sick people having to wait so long, we concluded that all we could do was deal with it.

Kim and I laughed a lot that day. Both of us have a deep and abiding appreciation for life's absurdities, and the longer we waited, the funnier it got. Every time a nurse showed up at the inner door with a file in her hand, we perked up in anticipation that it would be Kim's name she called this time. It was always somebody else's, which made us laugh at our overly optimistic selves.

Through the course of the day Kim apologized a number of times for keeping me waiting so ridiculously long, but we both knew it wasn't her fault. She made repeated offers to let me take her car and go on home, but I was too involved by then to leave, too curious to know how this misadventure would turn out. People had started leaving and not coming back.

At three o'clock Kim announced, "Five hours. That's long enough. I'd walk out if I didn't have so much time invested already." By that time there were only a few people still waiting with us, all of them except Kim having been called to the back at least once. Kim went to the window, gave her name to the new woman at the desk, and asked how many people were ahead of her. The woman looked puzzled and asked Kim to wait while she checked. In a few minutes she returned and explained, "They have you down as a 'no show.'" For a brief moment there was a stunned silence, the room so quiet you could almost hear the eye-rolling.

We took our seats again. It wasn't long before Kim was called to a back office to fill out the preliminary paperwork she'd expected to get upon her arrival. That's why she'd made a point of getting there half an hour early. Paperwork completed, we were back in the waiting room again, where only one other person waited with us, an old man who told us he was waiting while his wife had outpatient surgery. He had the "cool dude" appearance of a blues musician. He told us he was 83 years old, though he looked much younger,  then went on to tell us the ages of his living siblings, all older than he, and of some of his twelve children, the youngest in her forties. "I come from a good line," he told us. "We live a long time." Whipping off his cap and leaning forward to show us his full head of coal-black hair, he added, "And we don't lose our hair."

While we were listening to the old man, we couldn't help noticing that wastebaskets were being emptied, floors were being buffed, and the halls were no longer full of medical personnel the way they had been earlier in the day. The old man's opinion about the current state of health care was interrupted when Kim was called again, this time by a pretty young woman who identified herself as a medical student and directed us to an exam room. She asked Kim all of the same medical questions she'd been asked by the first woman who interviewed her, then told us to wait where we were, that someone would be in to do a more thorough examination in a few minutes. She closed the door and left us. Time passed, and Kelli texted again at 4:25 p.m.:

Kelli:  "Please tell me y'all are not still waiting??"

Me:  "Yes, but we're waiting in a room now. We're the last people here. They had her listed as a "no show" even though I watched her check in."

Kelli:  "Oh wow that's unbelievable! Hope that's not a sign of what kind of care they give!"

Me:  "That's what we're wondering, too. We just opened the door to the exam room to increase our chances of not being locked in the building overnight."

Kelli:  "Part of me thinks that's funny and part of me thinks it's very wise. :)"

Me:  "It's definitely both. We've been laughing all afternoon because it's just so bizarre."

The medical student returned. Alone. "Um," she began, "I'm sorry, this is my first day in surgery, so I didn't know, but we just do general surgery here, not orthopedic surgery?" She ended her sentence on an upward note so that it sounded like a question. "We do have orthopedic surgeons who come here on certain days, and we're going to write a referral for you. It may take a few days for them to pick up their referrals, but as soon as they do, if the referral is approved, they'll call you to set up an appointment, okay?"

It was okay, and, then again, it wasn't, you know? It was okay because we were so glad to get out of there, but the only reason Kim was there in the first place was because someone from that facility had called her to set up the appointment after her first referral had been approved. "Okay," Kim replied, and thanked the young woman without qualifying the degree of "okayness."

By the time Kim dropped me off at home, that visit to the clinic had eaten up seven hours of our day. I'm proud of both of us for taking it in stride, maintaining our good humor and our assumption of goodwill, not needing to seek out someone to blame. It was a strange day, but not, after all, a bad one.

One day later Kim received a call with a new appointment. She saw their orthopedist first thing yesterday and was home by mid-morning. Sometimes, by accident or design, things go the way they're supposed to go.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mothers and Others

Last Sunday was Mother's Day, a holiday that brings out my cynical side because it's always been so heavily promoted by card companies and florists. I'm embarrassed by the idea of Mother's Day. It feels as though the second Sunday in May has been set aside as the day when all the mothers of America line up, united like organized union members, and present our bills for services rendered. No matter how many pretty flowers you stick in it, it feels like extortion.

And yet . . . and yet I love those cards, obviously chosen so carefully, and even more than that I love the words my daughters have written in the cards, cherished messages I keep and reread again and again, reminding me that our bond is as important to them as it is to me. I don't need the cards to know that, but I love the reminders nevertheless.

We spent Sunday afternoon the same way we've traditionally spent Mother's Day in the past few years, with a crawfish boil at my younger daughter's house. I loved being with my two warm, beautiful daughters, my delightful grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and those of their significant others who weren't somewhere else working or spending the day with their own moms. We sat at long tables spread with newspapers, chatting and laughing as we feasted on crawfish, spicy boiled potatoes and corn on the cob, followed later by shamefully full bowls of chilled banana pudding. My son-in-law's music played in the background, music that always surprises me because most of his songs are my songs, too, and I like the fact that we share a cross-generational, mutual fondness for soulful sounds.

We all became lazier after we ate, leaning back in our chairs under the shade, hiding our laughter as 21-month-old Olivia pitched a fit when the limits of her dexterity frustrated her independent spirit. She tried and failed a few times to put a bubble wand into its narrow-mouthed plastic jar of soapy fluid, then threw the wand as far as she could throw it (not very far). She didn't cry, but her anger was apparent in the scowl on her face. She cast a quick, spiteful glare at those who sat near her, then, in case no one had noticed she was angry, marched over to the sudsy wand, picked it up, and threw it again for good measure. All of us thought it was funny, but we were careful not to let her see us laugh. She's a baby and she acted like a baby. In that moment every adult there loved Olivia enough to let her express her feelings. Most of us, I believe, silently cheered her on. Yes, she'll need to learn a better way to handle her disappointments someday, but there's plenty of time for that later on.

The little ones, Olivia and three-year-old Owen, wanted to get in the swimming pool. Though the day was warm, the water was chilly, but there were still a few adults willing to get in to let the floaty-armed babies have some fun. My younger daughter, Kelli, their grandmother, stayed longest in the water, frequently having both babies in tow at once. I watched her holding on to them, keeping them safe, playing with them, instructing them, calm, unruffled, smiling. Owen will remember her that way long after he forgets that the pool got colder as the sun moved and cast it into shadow, that he cried and protested vigorously, repeatedly saying, "I'm not cold!" through blue lips and chattering teeth as his mother and grandmother pulled him flailing out of the pool. He and Olivia will remember the happy times with their grandmother when they're grown, and they'll always think of her as a safe port in a storm, the way I, as old as I am, still think of my mother's mother. Kelli is showing them in every way possible that she loves them unconditionally, and they'll feel that--they'll know that--for the rest of their lives.

The strength of my passion for genealogy and family history sometimes makes me wonder if I'm living too much in the past. On Mother's Day I felt that I was on the opposite end of the spectrum, as if I were living in the future, seeing the three generations after mine coming into their own, glimpsing the kind of good people who will carry on after I'm gone, also watching them fulfill their present roles as if they were born to them, and understanding that, yes, they were. This is exactly who they are and where they're supposed to be at this time in their lives. There really is no past, present or future when it comes to families, only a continuous cycle of life that ties all of us together with those who came before us and those who have yet to arrive. All of us--mothers and others--are eternally linked to the rest of us.

Mother's Day is a good day to remember that. Any day is a good day to remember that. There doesn't need to be a special card for it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Half-Fast Blog Post

The lawn maintenance man arrived about seven-thirty this morning, the sound of his mower waking the dogs and me for only a moment before we closed our eyes and went back to sleep. The dogs couldn't go outside until the grass-cutting was finished, and that seemed as good an excuse as any for all of us to stay in bed awhile longer.

I was away from home Sunday afternoon and most of Monday, so I've made it a point today to play ball outside with Levi and Gimpy, downing an extra dose of antihistamine in hopes of warding off the allergy-induced vertigo that usually accompanies my exposure to fresh-cut grass. So far, so good. My head is only slightly "swimmy," though the combination of antihistamine and half an hour in bright sunshine has made me extremely sleepy and sluggish. In fact, I'm finding it difficult to think--let alone write--in coherent sentences at the moment, so I believe I'll take a short nap and try this again in a little while.


There now, I feel much better.

Several things are on my mind today, subjects too random to be tied together into one post, so I think for now I'll just list them, then use this post as a guide to flesh out each item later in the week:

1) Mother's Day and what was so special about it.

2) Seven hours wasted at a medical clinic.

3) The process of scanning and/or "cleaning up" old photos and newspaper clippings for Audrey's Ambition, the blog dedicated to my paternal grandmother's life and stories.

4) Getting "pretty" with the assistance of two big dogs.

5) A growing--and completely unreasonable--attachment to a tiny green frog. ("Yes," she answers your unspoken question, "I'm gonna write about that @#$% frog again!")

Now that I have a bare-bones post today and a plan for better ones later in the week, I'll spend the rest of the day answering emails. I'm way behind on that, too, to the point that my conscience flashes alarms at me every time I sit down at the computer.

As an attempt to direct your attention away from the feebleness of today's post, I'll end it with a photo of the puddles in my driveway right after our most recent rainstorm. Click on it, if you'd like, to enlarge it. Maybe the reflections will brighten your day the way they did mine.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"And If You Want to Talk About It Anymore . . ."

When I choose a Saturday Song Selection, I try to find a song that's relevant to a story, an event, or even just a mood. There's one song I love and have wanted to share here, but I've passed over it repeatedly because it didn't relate to anything I'd been writing about (a fact that makes me feel rather lucky now that I think about it). It's a song about friendship, about "being there" for one another through the rough times. It touches on the idea that circumstances change a person's role in a relationship, that the person who needs to be comforted in one situation can be the person providing the comfort in another. I imagine we've all seen ourselves in both roles too many times to count. The song taps into the emotions of those times and feels to me like a warm hug.

If you happened to read yesterday's post, you'll understand why I think the song finally ties in to the subject matter. I'll post it now, while it still fits, then we'll have it where we can find it next time we need to hear it.

The song is "Cry" by James Blunt.
Thanks to sweetLIKEpoison2 for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Friday, May 10, 2013

When It Rains

Thunder shook the house at half past four, waking the dogs and me to watch the rapid flashes of lightning and listen to the repeated bursts of thunder that followed. I couldn't hear rain yet. Expecting that the sky would open at any minute and rain could still be pouring at our normal wake-up time, I roused myself from the comfort of my bed, the dogs jumped up from theirs and fell in beside me, and we made a dash outdoors while we had the chance. Good timing. Having preemptively dispensed with the anticipated urgency of nature's early-morning needs, we all went back to bed, back to peaceful dreams.

Our rest was mildly disturbed by continually rumbling thunder, but we made up for it by sleeping a couple of hours later than usual today. There's something about sleeping in on a rainy day that evokes a deep and ancient sense of well-being--something akin to what the cave dwellers must have felt on days like this as they lay tucked in a pile of animal pelts and watched raindrops trickle down the rocks near the opening of their shelter. No hunting and gathering today. Might as well rest and conserve energy.

It's been an interesting week. There was disappointment (but understanding) on Tuesday when I learned that the delightful company I was expecting to arrive today or tomorrow had changed plans due to an untimely illness. About half a day later I turned that negative into a positive and jettisoned my lengthy housecleaning to-do list in favor of reading a book and other pleasing activities.

The extra leisure time turned out to be helpful as the week wore on and I needed to nurture my own strength of spirit in order to try to lift that of someone else I care about, someone who was experiencing a bit of an emotional crisis after being confronted with unexpected hard truths. I've lived with the same kind of disregard and self-centered apathy that rained down on her this week, so even as I felt anger and distress over her disillusionment, I found further vindication for decisions I made more than half a life ago. She's over it now. Over the crisis, at least. She's home with people who love her, value her, support her. I'm glad she has those people in her life. Glad I have them in mine, God bless 'em.

It's an unfortunate fact that life rains on all of us sometimes. When it rains on those I love, I try--but admittedly struggle--to remember the truthfulness of simple words sung by Marius and Eponine in Act II of Les Misérables: ". . . and rain will make the flowers grow."

That's what I wish for all of you today: that your rains will grow flowers.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Taking Liberties

Fact No. One: My mailbox sits beside the road near the end of my driveway, a long stretch with a downhill slope that prevents me from seeing the mailbox from the house. Fact No. Two: I never--ever--put outgoing mail in that mailbox. I always take it to the post office.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I drove out to go grocery shopping and noticed the red flag up on my mailbox. I stopped the car immediately and got out to investigate. Inside the mailbox were two Netflix DVDs in their red return envelopes, no return address anywhere. How odd!

Who was using my mailbox? And why? My neighbors have their own boxes, so it wouldn't make sense for them to use mine. I was puzzled and mildly upset that someone would infringe on the sanctity of my private mailbox, but what could I do about it? I put the envelopes back in there, closed the lid, and went on to the store.

Since then I've given some thought to who might do such a thing. I don't think any of the adults who live nearby would mess with someone else's mailbox. There is one boy who conceivably might have rented movies he didn't want his father to know about, but he's a really nice kid, and I can't see him being presumptuous enough to invade someone else's space. The more I've thought about it, I've narrowed it down to one key suspect--someone new to the neighborhood, someone who arrived without invitation and shows no indication that he plans to leave anytime soon. That same someone has plenty of time on his hands as far as I can tell. He has no job. He goes out every night and spends most of his day alone in his little man cave, so it's reasonable to assume that he might seek out some form of home entertainment. It could be . . .

Nah! That's preposterous!

But what if . . .

C'mon! Don't be silly!

But think about it. We already know the new guy living at my house has a sense of entitlement. I think he could be the one using my mailbox to return his movies.

Yeah, right. And I think you're losing your mind.

I'm just sayin' maybe . . .

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Hustle, Bustle, and a Smidgen of Sentiment

I am busy-busy-busy this week. Big weekend ahead, my house is about three dust bunnies short of a disaster, I'm dog-sitting for my granddogs, Lucy and Oliver, and I have about a million errands to run. If I'm noticeably absent from the blogosphere this week, that's why.

That being said, something in yesterday's post about an elephant leaving our local zoo reminded me of a short, simple poem I wrote when I was in my 20s. Back then I thought it would have made a good greeting card inscription. Today I think it'll work for a quick blog post--right when I need one:

On Leaving

Tomorrow will come,
And with it will come leaving,
And loneliness
And emptiness
And sorrow, too.

But through it all,
I'll have my memories
Of music,
Of laughter,
Of loving you.

That's all I have for today. I'm outta here.

Egret's egress.

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Memory . . . Like an Elephant

Kim and I went to the zoo just in the nick of time, apparently. Local news outlets reported over the weekend that Bozie, the Greater Baton Rouge Zoo's only remaining elephant, will soon be leaving. I'm happy that Bozie's needs are zoo officials' primary concern, but I feel a little sad for those of us who have an affinity for elephants and will no longer have one in our community. Bozie is being relocated because elephants are social animals and she is lonely following the death of her companion, Judy, in March of this year. 

I remember Judy well. She's the elephant I helped bathe one day in the '80s as part of a "behind the scenes" zoo event.  She's the one pictured below with children riding on her back, a practice that was stopped abruptly years ago when it was discovered that Judy had developed arthritis. It's been reported that Judy died of "chronic gastrointestinal irritation from arthritis medication."

Judy the elephant in 1984. The little girl riding in front is my niece, Lindsay.

Judy and Bozie in 2006.

As sad as I am to see Bozie leave, I know it's best for her, and I'm excited that she's going to a good place, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where she'll live with several other elephants in a recently renovated (to the tune of $56 million) Elephant Trails Habitat. Judging by the many news reports from the area surrounding her destination , Bozie will get the kind of welcome she deserves.

Bozie in April 2013, getting a drink of water . . .

. . . giving herself a dust bath . . .

. . . and saying goodbye.

Good luck, old girl. We'll miss you.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

A Place Untouched by Time

A few weeks ago my online friend and fellow blogger, Patsy, posted a 1992 song I'd never heard before. I loved it instantly and downloaded it from iTunes after listening to it only once. The piano and violin music at the beginning and end of the song are hauntingly beautiful, but it's the lyrics that capture my imagination. They tell a story about the changes that have occurred in Florida's Everglades as a result of man's intervention. That story immediately evoked this memory:

When we lived in Florida in the early 1970s, my husband, our two daughters, and I took a day trip into the Everglades. That was the first time we'd ever explored a real swamp, with its cypress knees sticking up out of the water and Spanish moss hanging from the trees. We walked above the water on a wooden boardwalk, a welcome safety feature that didn't detract from the sensation that we were in a place time had forgotten. The air was hot, damp, and thick with an almost mystical wildness.

We stopped at one lookout point and studied the nature that surrounded us. Directly below us was an alligator, one at least ten feet long, lying perfectly still. We watched a number of big fish swim back and forth in front of the gator's face, fish we thought might make a good meal for a hungry animal, but the alligator didn't blink an eye. We watched for several minutes. Just as we began to wonder whether the gator might be fake, another tourist standing near us opened a cellophane snack pack of peanut-butter-filled cheese crackers and dropped one over the railing. Before the cracker sandwich hit the water, the huge alligator began to roll. Roiling the water with the speed of its movement, it opened its mouth and caught the snack easily, then slammed its powerful jaws shut and settled once again into its own lookout point under the boardwalk. So much for a place untouched by time.

With a nod of thanks to Patsy for introducing me to this song, I'm choosing it for this week's Saturday Song Selection: 

The song is "Seminole Wind" by John Anderson.
Thanks to morgan7852 for posting this video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, May 03, 2013


The picture above was taken from my barely opened backdoor on Wednesday, about ten minutes into a heavy rainstorm. It's raining again today -- third day in a row. If all the precipitation we've had over the past few months has anything to do with the polar ice cap melting, I wouldn't be surprised to wake up one morning and discover polar bears washed up in my yard.

Wednesday's downpour helped me solve a mystery. What caused me to take my camera to the door in the first place wasn't the rain but a familiar voice I heard "singing" in it. For about a month now I've been awakened in the night by some creature that seemed to be right outside my bedroom window. I couldn't tell if it was a frog or a bird. It sounded like a frog but was unusually high pitched. Sometimes it's been so loud I've gotten out of bed and looked out the window to see if I could spot it. Wednesday was the first time I've heard it in the daytime. This is what I found:

That little tree frog has made its home under the trim on my bedroom window. No wonder I couldn't see it when I looked out: it was only inches from my head. The tiny green and pink frog is about an inch and a half long from nose to rear end, which is amazing when you consider that its voice box must be at least as big as a one-gallon pickle jar.

I've stalked it ever since I found it peeking out of its hiding place. It's small enough to completely conceal itself underneath that narrow trim, and it's been there every time I've checked except late at night, around eleven. I suspect that's when it goes out partying, only to come home drunk in the wee hours and hoot and holler with no consideration for the neighbors.

On those nights when I've dragged myself out of bed to try to find the source of the noise, I've intended to shoo it away. But that was before I knew it lives here. The small space behind the window trim is its home, its haven, a place where it's safe from hungry birds of prey and whirling lawnmower blades. I have no reason to believe home is less important to a tiny frog than it is to me, so I'll let it stay where it is for now. From now on, when I hear its shrill croak, I might even sleep better, knowing it's arrived home safely.

I can always take a nap if I need to.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Pilfered Posies

May Day is supposed to be a celebration of spring, but to me it represents the anniversary of an annual childhood crime spree and brings back traces of the anxieties associated with it.

I loved the part of May Day that took place at school. I loved dancing around the schoolyard flagpole with my classmates as each of us held on to one of the colored crepe-paper streamers that teachers had attached to the pole. I loved making May baskets, cutting strips of (usually green) construction paper with our little blunt-ended scissors, then weaving and pasting them together into basket shapes. The at-school part of May Day was always fun.

The problem started when the bell rang and it was time to go home. I needed flowers to put in the May basket before I could give it to my mother. We had flowers at home in my grandmother's garden, but those wouldn't do. For one thing, Mother might have recognized Mammaw's flowers. For another, the whole point of the gesture was to arrive home with a basket of flowers and surprise her.

So I stole the flowers.

Every May Day from first grade through fourth I'd leave school and walk home by whichever route offered up the easiest pickings. As I walked along the sidewalk I'd try to appear nonchalant (though I probably didn't know that word then), but my eyes were roving stealthily, searching for showy irises, splashy roses -- any blossom that was large and bright. (Here's a tip: if you're stealing flowers, steal big ones. You can fill your basket faster with fewer chances of getting caught.) When I spotted one, I'd check to make sure no one was watching, then I'd make a mad dash into the yard, break off the stem, and run like crazy until I was at least two houses away. Then I'd do it all again, several times more, until my fragile paper basket was full. My crime scene was about six blocks long. By the time I got home, my nerves were shot and I couldn't wait to hand off the basket of evidence to my mother, who never once asked where I got the flowers.

They say confession is good for the soul. This time next year, if I remember, I'll let you know if writing this has diminished my guilt. And if I don't remember, then I guess you can assume it worked.