Saturday, July 27, 2013

Digging In and Digging Up

I try to post something on Audrey's Ambition at least once a week, usually on Friday. Yesterday's post, written by my grandmother, was about her lifelong interest in cemeteries. I've read that essay several times before, but somehow, in transcribing it yesterday, I became determined to locate the small Missouri cemetery where her grandfather was buried. I've looked for it previously, but I finally found it yesterday as a relatively new entry at

Genealogy is a bit like I'd imagine panning for gold to be, in that the discovery of one little nugget sets off a big burst of energy and a flurry of activity, just in case that one nugget signifies a brand new vein to be mined. After a few small successes yesterday, I was back at it early this morning, digging--and frequently finding--photos of ancestors' graves.

In the case of Audrey's grandfather's gravestone, his original stone was evidently replaced after his wife died twenty years later. She was buried next to him, and the new grave marker had her name as well as his on it, along with the dates of their births and deaths. This would seem unremarkable to most people, but seeing it struck me funny, because my first thought was that Audrey's grandmother must still be rolling around in there. She was a spiritualist and, according to another story Audrey wrote, was convinced that he was haunting her in the years after his death. I wonder if she expected her final resting place to be right next to his.


Since I've spent the better part of the last two days poking around in online graveyards, I picked a Saturday Song Selection to fit that theme. This is a rather nice one:

The song is "Dig Two Graves" by Randy Travis.
Thanks to Ralphy Boy for posting it on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Birthday Boys

Levi and Gimpy are three years old today. I can't imagine how empty my life would feel without them. Why, I'd have to seek out human companions, and we all know that human relationships are much more complicated than those we have with our dogs.

Levi (left) and Gimpy - last week

Levi has had a haircut since that last photo was taken. Gimpy's haircut is overdue.

Levi (this morning)

Gimpy (this morning)

Having two dogs is less complicated--and requires less energy--than having one, because they entertain each other. These two brothers do almost everything together.

They're the ones having the birthday today, but I'm the one doing the celebrating. They just make me so happy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What I've Been Reading

There wasn't a single clunker in this whole batch of e-books. I enjoyed them all. The best of the lot, though, were the two mysteries by Chris Culver. The main character in both Culver books is Ash Rashid, a detective with a law degree, a practicing Muslim with a drinking problem, and a devout husband and father who spends too much time on the job. I want more of Ash Rashid in the same way I can't get enough of Jack Reacher. I hope this will be a continuing series.

This time I've grouped the titles by category:

One Non-Fiction

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name
by Heather Lende

Two Good Mysteries

The Abbey
by Chris Culver

The Outsider
by Chris Culver

Four Modern-Day Romances

A Minute to Smile
by Barbara Samuel

Sand Castle Bay
by Sherryl Woods

Wind Chime Point
by Sherryl Woods

Sea Glass Island
by Sherryl Woods

Five Historical Fiction Novels

Sarah's Valley
by Sharon Mierke

by Judy Alter

Far Away Home
by Susan Denning

Whistling Woman
by CC Tillery

The Birth House
by Ami McKay

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Potpourri (which I once pronounced paht-POOR-ee)

So, let's see: I've already told you about getting a new roof, lining up new auto and homeowner insurance policies, and replacing a cell phone. I don't think I've mentioned that my refrigerator stopped cooling in the middle of all this or that I read on the Internet how to fix it, and the second thing I tried worked. I don't think I've mentioned that a light on my dashboard says "service engine soon," which I plan to do after everything else settles down. If the light read "service engine now," it would have a higher priority. I know I haven't mentioned that my older daughter broke up with her boyfriend and thought she was going to have to find a new place to live almost immediately. I wouldn't say anything about that now, except she already posted about it on Facebook, so all of her friends already know what's going on. I haven't written anything about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial; even though I didn't agree with it, I didn't have time to explain why. Unless William and Kate's royal infant arrives while I'm typing this, I won't mention him or her, either.

Instead, I'll write about the little things I've been doing to maintain my sanity. It's now been over a year since I posted about undertaking an old-windows project. Two weeks after that post, my brother-in-law hung the old windows on my wall, where they've remained empty ever since, waiting for me to display matted photos in them. Last week I finally did that:

I ended up repainting the window frames after the pictures were firmly in place, thanks to emailed advice from my favorite interior designer, my stepsister, who explained to me how to give the fresh black paint an aged look:

While I was in printing, painting, and framing mode, I replaced two store-bought botanical prints on the focus wall of my living room with my own botanical photos (both of which I'd altered with the watercolor filter in PhotoShop Elements). People always used to ask me if the old prints were mine. (Holly asked most recently). Now, if anyone asks again, I can answer affirmatively.

I should have taken a "before" picture but didn't think of it. Here's an "after" shot, along with two close-ups:

I still take photographs almost every day. Awhile back I showed you photos of a Mississippi Kite that had been hanging around the neighborhood. A pair of these birds have been spending a great deal of time at the top of my neighbor's tree, and I now have more Kite photos than anyone could possibly need. I simply can't help myself when they perch up there and make their pretty selves so available to the camera's lens. Here's an example of a frequent pose:

And here's a not-so-frequent one, taken while the tree swayed yesterday following a thunderstorm:

The dogs and I took a long nap during that particular thunderstorm poured and woke to find it had rained enough to flood the back end of the yard:

We've had hard rains almost every day recently, and I'm expecting another one any minute. This was the pretty promise of rain about eight o'clock this morning:

The rainy weather and the big curly dogs that like to roll in wet grass have reminded me that it's time for Levi and Gimpy to get their quarterly haircuts. I managed to give Levi his on Friday, but Gimpy wanted no part of it. I'll have a second go-around at him in a day or two.

Gimpy (left) and a newly-shorn Levi.

I've distracted myself every evening with reality TV and wrapped up each day with a Kindle book at bedtime. These simple activities, these ordinary things, help me hang on to a sense of normalcy in the same way that the Kite pictured above holds on to its skinny, wobbly branch. Sometimes the best thing one can do is just hold on until the storm passes and the wind stops blowing.

The winds around here seem to be dying down, but I won't let go just yet.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Weighing Options

My daughters would tell you that if I've told them once, I've told them a thousand times, "It's always good to have options." Yet there I was in my last post complaining about the difficulty in choosing between options. Maybe it's time to amend the advice I've dished out so often: "It's always good to have options--but not too many of them--and all options are not equal."

When my cell phone abruptly stopped sending or receiving text messages last week, I knew it was time to get a new one. But which one? Almost everyone I know has a smart phone, and I'm quite impressed with that technology, but so far I haven't wanted to pay an extra $30 a month for Internet service on a cell phone. I've often considered it, though.

If I would disconnect my landline, I could afford that extra $30 cell phone fee. All my out-of-town relatives know the landline number, though, not the cell number, and I don't want to miss any of their calls. On the other hand, I get many more automated sales calls than calls from real people who are important to me. It's also a fact that cell phones aren't yet as effective as landlines for 911 emergency calls, and I know that each passing year increases the likelihood that I'll need to make an emergency call someday. For now, at least, I feel safer with the landline.

That day Kim and I got lost on our way to the zoo, the GPS on her smart phone came in really handy. I'd like to have one of those. But do I need it? I know how to get to multiple Walmarts, post offices, libraries, and bank branches. I know the way to the regular vet and the emergency vet, the family doctor and the cardiologist's office. It's rare that I go anywhere unfamiliar, and when I do, I get on the Internet ahead of time and print out a map and directions. If I'm going to travel any significant distance, there's almost always someone with me -- usually someone who has a smart phone.

I've had these smart-phone-or-not arguments with myself numerous times, and I would have sworn that my decision not to get one was settled until something happened earlier this week to raise the question again. The day after my cell phone broke, I signed up for a new auto insurance policy, which turned out to be $400 a year cheaper than the old policy. Do you see where I'm going here? All of a sudden I could afford to pay that $30 monthly cell phone service fee without changing my budget.

Here came all those pesky options again.

I was sorely tempted to upgrade to a smart phone. GPS? Internet? Email by phone? APPs? I love all those things. But, you know what? I don't need them. I need to make and receive calls, and I use texting a lot more than I ever thought I would. There may be a time when I'll need to use my cell phone to take a picture, though that hasn't happened yet.

In the end, I picked out a phone that does the things I need it to do and not too much else. The one I chose comes only in red, which is a little conspicuous for my taste, but I can live with it. And I can live more easily with myself, knowing I didn't give in to temptation just because it suddenly became an affordable option.


It's time for another Saturday Song Selection, and this week I've picked a 1972 song about a young man who's desperately trying to speak to the girl he loves one last time before she marries someone else and moves away. Unfortunately, the girl's mother refuses to call her to the telephone. It's a good song but a sad story. When I began searching through the various music video of this song, I had to laugh at the truth of one person's comment: "It's too bad they didn't have texting back then." That commenter was absolutely right: a text in time might have changed everything. (See, that's why I need texting.)

The song is "Sylvia's Mother" by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show.
Thanks to Steverrz for posting the song and its lyrics on YouTube.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Perspective Adjustment Needed. Fast.

Does it sometimes seem to you that the smallest attention to business matters can eat up your whole day? That's how I've felt lately. I know that's only my skewed perspective, not the truth of the situation, but it's enough to make me wonder how I ever managed to hold down a full-time job.

I hate to admit it, but I think I've become so settled in the routine of these post-retirement years that anything out of the ordinary seems like a bigger deal than it actually is. Especially if tending to it requires doing hair and makeup.

Also, I don't know whether my attention span is shorter than it used to be or my supply of patience has diminished, but I find it especially tedious to study multiple sets of options, prices, etc., in order to make selections. I've never liked making those kinds of comparisons, but now I hate it. I hate having to think that hard.

Now that the new roof is on the house, I'm back to the task of lining up home and auto insurance policies to replace the ones we've had for years, which will expire next month. All the paperwork has been filled out, all the questions have been asked and answered, all the decisions have been made. The new auto policy is in place as of yesterday. Once we get word that our homeowners' policy application has been accepted, I can breathe a sigh of relief and return to not thinking about insurance ever except when a payment comes due.

Next, I need to decide what to do about replacing my dying cell phone.

It's always something.

I know. These are first world problems, right?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Let the Music Play"

I started scrolling through my iTunes list today with no particular song in my mind for a Saturday Song Selection, but when I came to this one, it felt like an excellent choice. I first heard this one on the car radio in the early '80s, then bought it on a 45 rpm record and played it on repeat for at least a couple of days afterwards. I still love it. The song is "Midnight Blue," by Louise Tucker and Charlie Skarbek:

Every time I hear that song now, it reminds me of the place where I worked back in those days. I remember walking down the hall at the office and hearing that music coming from a side office. I took a step back, popped my head in to listen, and discovered that what I was hearing was not, in fact, the same song. The sales manager had his radio tuned to a classical music program on NPR, and the program's theme song was Beethoven's "Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 (Pathetique Sonata), Mov. 2." Same melody, different century. Beethoven did it first. I love this version almost as much.

Thanks to Alma 122509 and aaron8895 for posting these videos on YouTube.

Friday, July 12, 2013

My Protectors

Over at Audrey's Ambition I just posted a little story my grandmother wrote about a boy and his dog. In it she described a strange snake that was "gingerly attacked" by the dog "in an effort to frighten it away."

Levi and Gimpy "gingerly attacked" a strange creature they found in our backyard last night. To see almost exactly how they moved during that attack, watch the first 20 or 30 seconds of this video:

Now, if you can, keep the fast, low-slung movements of those wolves in your mind, but replace the actual wolves with big, blond, curly-haired, pretty-faced, snarling, growling Goldendoodles. Once you get that picture firmly in your head, take it a step further: that grizzly bear in the video? Replace that grizzly in your mind with a black, tall, kitchen trash can, lying on its side. Woooooo! Are you scared yet?

I bought that garbage can at least six months ago. It normally stays under the overhang of the garden shed unless I'm toting it around the yard while I pick up sticks and/or doggy-doo. Levi and Gimpy explored it thoroughly when I first brought it home and haven't paid any attention to it since then. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I will concede that it normally stands upright.

We had a little storm late yesterday, though. The rain came quickly and forcefully, and I guess I should have known by the rain blowing sideways that the wind had kicked up quite a bit. Apparently, there was enough wind to knock the trash can over and blow it 20 feet out into the yard, where it hunkered down and posed a threat to life as we know it. That's where it was when my boys--the same ones who didn't bark more than once apiece when six strange roofers, wearing hats and carrying tools, climbed out of multiple strange vehicles and crawled all over our house for two days--leaped into action.

Gimpy and Levi thought they knew all there was to know about that trash can until yesterday. This morning they moved hesitantly beside me when I walked toward it and picked it up. It's back in its place now, but they'll probably never trust it again.


Thanks to FunnyAnimalsList for posting this video on YouTube.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

As Levi Would Say, "Roof! Roof!"

Or, in my own words, "Yaaaayyyy! The roofing job is complete!"

I've never lived in a house while a new roof was put on it, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Thanks to a professional roofing company, the patience of neighbors, and the trust and adaptability of my dogs, Levi and Gimpy, we got through the process rather painlessly.

The work was supposed to begin on Monday but was postponed a day due to predicted storms that never happened. Materials were delivered early Monday anyway. They arrived on a truck so big it had to park on our narrow, two-lane road, blocking one lane of traffic, while the driver loaded everything onto a forklift and rode that up our hilly driveway to unload everything, which took several trips.

We'd been advised that a trailer would be backed under the edge of the carport so that debris from the roof could be pushed off into it, and we knew our cars would fare better if we parked them away from the house. That's where good neighbors came in. Along with the three drivers who rent the front part of our house, I borrowed parking space in neighbors' driveways for two days and nights.

The roofing crew arrived just after daybreak Tuesday morning. I made sure the dogs saw the men setting up outside, and I left the doors open so the dogs could watch through the storm doors and understand the source of the unfamiliar noises. That worked very well; there was very little barking in spite of a great deal of noise going on over our heads.

This is Gimpy keeping an eye on things.

The roofers, all from south of the border, were fast and efficient. There were half a dozen of them, and they worked well as a team, each one seeming to know exactly what he was supposed to be doing at any given moment. It was pleasant to hear them speaking--and occasionally singing--in Spanish while they worked. They scurried up and down the ladder without any sign of exertion and traversed the roof as easily as I walk across my living room.

While they worked, they worked full out, and when it was break time, they did that all the way, too, taking advantage of the shade in the carport. I'm guessing it was the coolness of my glass door that made it a prime place to rest.

The biggest inconvenience to me (and not a very big one at all) was having to take the dogs out one by one on a leash for two days. The backyard gates were open, nails and other materials were falling off the roof and bouncing into the grass, so I had to lead Levi and Gimpy carefully away from all of that. They really wanted to explore the mess but didn't tug too hard on the leash when I insisted they follow me to a safer part of the yard.

I also chose to do some cleanup of my own after everybody left at the end of the first day. The section of roofing replaced immediately prior to quittin' time happened to be right above my patio, and the man who made the mess would have missed his ride home if he'd taken the time to clean it up right then.

At the upper left of this photo you can see Levi peeking out the door.

This picture shows the density of loose nails in roofing debris.

Since the patio is my preferred path to take the dogs outside--and since I was paranoid about the nails on the ground--I decided to pick up and sweep up right then instead of waiting for the roofers to clean it up in the morning. I still led Levi and Gimpy away from the newly roofed areas, but at least the patio was no longer a danger zone.

The roof was finished by mid-afternoon on Wednesday, and the crew spent their last hour or two cleaning up. They were as thorough in that as they'd been in everything else, picking up, sweeping up with a push-broom, using a magnetic sweeper to find as many stray nails as they could, and piling every little scrap into the dump truck to be hauled away. Except for the new roof, there was no way to tell they'd ever been here.

But ... there were those nails. And there was my paranoia about the possibility of my dogs stepping on one of them. And there were my long-term trust issues. I went to the hardware store and bought a magnetic sweeper of my own. I may never need the thing again, but I figured I could buy ten of them for the price of a single trip to the emergency vet. 

So, first I swept the driveway--again--and then I walked to the neighbor's and drove my car back home. Then I swept a large area of grass directly behind the house, finding another couple of dozen nails, some as far as six feet away from the house. I swept close to the house in the front yard, finding some there, too, but not as many. The grass isn't as thick there. Kim came over later and did a thorough sweeping of the side yard, agreeing with me that it was fun to roll that thing along and hear the clink of a nail jumping out of the grass and clinging to it. Now that I know how many nails the first magnetic sweeping missed, I'm pretty sure I didn't get all of them on the second pass, either, so I'll probably do it at least another time or two. In the meantime, I'm crossing my fingers and letting the dogs run free in the yard again.

Who knew a pretty, clean roof could perk up a whole house? It looks great in person. If you click on the photos to enlarge them, I think you'll be able to see the difference, too.

Back of the house on Monday.

Back of the house today.

Front of the house on Monday.

Front of the house today.

I'm so grateful that the company we selected to do this job took pride in every aspect of it. And I'm so happy to check this off my list of things to worry about.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

How the Rabbit Knew the White Peacock's Secrets

The other day I came across a couple of old 35mm photos from a zoo trip with my daughter in the summer of 2004. I smiled as I remembered the rooster we'd seen making the rounds, strutting as if he owned the place, appearing to have important business with several other zoo residents.

I suppose there's someone like that in every community.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Counting Blessings

Here we are, already at the 5th of July, and it's the first time this month I've had the simultaneous opportunity and inclination to write a blog post. I'm also behind in responding to emails, watching recorded TV shows, and vacuuming, all of which I hope to get to soon. The past couple of weeks have been stressful, stress makes me tired, and my response to that type of fatigue is to reserve my energy and brainpower for only those things that must be done, letting everything else slide for the sake of maintaining sanity. Fortunately, the immediate crisis has passed, and I'm now sticking my toe back into that slightly murky pond we call "normalcy."

Weather Report
It's raining today, preceded by a couple of days of warm sunshine tempered by the kind of cool breezes one doesn't expect in Louisiana in July. It looks like the rain is going to set in for a while, but I won't complain. Given the torrential downpours in the east and the extreme high temperatures in the west, I'm grateful for any weather that falls in the moderate range.

Over Our Heads
The bids are in for the new roof, the contract has been awarded, the color samples have been reviewed and one selected (gray, like it is now), and work is scheduled to begin Monday if the rain lets up by then.

It's going to be interesting to see how well Levi and Gimpy cope with the sound of constant hammering for a day or two. I'm hoping that if I take them outside so they can see what's causing the noise, they'll deal with it better. The basis for that bit of optimism is their response to a roofing-project estimator who knocked at our door on Monday. My "boys" went ballistic at the sound of the knock, barking and growling like junkyard dogs. But, as soon as I opened the door and stepped outside to greet the man, they watched us through the glass storm door and dropped all the attitude. In fact, Levi abruptly left his station by the door and returned seconds later with a tennis ball. He apparently thinks optimistically, too, once the danger has passed.

Speaking of Loud Noises
Unlike Kadi and Butch, whose fear of fireworks made every 4th of July of their lifetimes a miserable event, Levi seems completely undisturbed by them. Gimpy gets startled by the noise and looks to me for reassurance each time a new bout of pops and booms begins, but he carries on. Yesterday my strategy was to distract him to keep his fears from growing. Throughout the day, when firecrackers popped, we went outside and played ball. Ball held his interest over firecrackers every single time. So there we were at nine o'clock last night, out in the backyard, standing in the wide "V" of light cast by the patio light, tossing and retrieving the ball, ignoring the booms, whistles, and fiery explosions going on around and above us. It was nice, and I felt lucky.

The 4th was not so nice or lucky for my granddaughter, however. She posted this photo and caption on her Facebook page last night:

"So much for the fireworks display on the beach!"

That's my great-grandson, bless his heart. And his mama's.