Friday, November 22, 2013

"I just looked around and he's gone..."

What I remember most about that day is the overwhelming sense of despair, a heaviness that settled over America's shoulders in the hours after the news broke and may never lift entirely.

JFK was my president. I hadn't voted for him -- wouldn't be old enough to vote until four days after his death -- but I'd stood toe-to-toe with my parents and other potential voters more than once before the 1960 election and argued vigorously on his behalf. He was an inspiration to me and to so many others whose hopefulness and innocence would be shattered by the bullets fired on a November day in Dallas, Texas.

I've been to Dallas, toured the museum at the Texas School Book Depository, and paid my respects to President Kennedy there by writing what he meant to me in a book provided for that purpose. I was there with my younger daughter, Kelli, and her daughter, Kalyn. Because Kelli was the baby I'd carried in my belly on the day the president was shot, it was especially meaningful to be with her at that museum, to give her a sense of the historical events that took place shortly before she was born and to affirm for both of us that life goes on beyond our bleakest days.

We stood outside the Texas School Book Depository on a sunny July day and watched the people come and go. It seemed such an ordinary place, a downtown building typical of its era, a structure incongruous with its tragic history.

Texas School Book Depository - Dallas, Texas - July 1996

We walked on the grassy knoll, a patch of green that wouldn't have drawn a second look until the people who stood on it fifty years ago today witnessed the assassination of a United States president.

Grassy Knoll - Dallas, Texas - July 1996

It's been half a century since those fatal bullets flew. The wounds still feel fresh.


The song is "Abraham, Martin & John" by Dion.
Thanks to Somewheremaybe for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Genie in the Vacuum Cleaner

In August of 2011, I wrote about buying a new vacuum cleaner and getting a $75 gift card:
After a little online research helped me pick out a new vacuum, one that happened to be on sale at the time, I called my daughter Kelli and asked her if she wanted to go shopping with me.
We went to the mall, where the department store had one vacuum cleaner left in the model I wanted, and we had to wait for about 45 minutes until the lone salesclerk was available to help us. I might not have been so willing to wait except that the sale price was $80 off the regular price and I had good company while I waited. When the clerk finally rang up the sale, we were surprised when the cash register displayed a message: "This purchase qualifies for a free gift card." I whispered to Kelli that I didn't want to wait another half hour for five or ten dollars, and right after that the clerk finished entering the sale information on her gift-card screen and another message popped up stating that the value of the gift card was $75. The clerk was as shocked as we were and had to check with her manager to verify that this sweet deal wasn't too good to be true.
I now think of my new cleaning appliance as my "lucky vacuum."
I must have been back to that store half a dozen times in the two years since then, always expecting to spend that gift card. Each time I left without buying anything, the card still tucked away in my wallet.

Last week Kim needed something from there, so I went with her. Once again I didn't find anything I wanted or needed--until Kim finished shopping and I stood beside her in the check-out line, where I saw gift cards for sale. I bought three $25 Amazon cards with the $75 department store card and walked out with a big grin on my face.

That same afternoon I uploaded all three cards to my Amazon account and ordered two Kindle books that were priced beyond my pre-gift-card budget.  The next day I learned in an e-mail that the purchase of one of those books, a best-seller in the mystery genre, entitled me to buy more books in a select group of mysteries and thrillers for the highly discounted sum of $0.99 each. I think I downloaded about ten of them.

Kim called my vacuum cleaner "the gift that keeps on giving." Can't wait to get into those bargain books and see what kind of prize is in there.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

See Ya Later, I'm Going for a Drive

Back in September I wrote about the pesky "service engine soon" light that had been shining on my dashboard for a while. Yesterday, because Kim was off work and could pick me up at the auto repair shop, I took the car in for service. I should have done that six weeks sooner, before my inspection expired, but time got away from me. You know how that goes.

Anyway, the problem was diagnosed as two faulty sensors. Five hours and $400 from the time I dropped the car off, it was repaired and ready to go. Kim drove me back to pick it up, and I went straight from there to the inspection station. It flunked. The mechanic who did the inspection explained that there was most likely nothing wrong with the car, but the repair work had reset all the sensors, and I need to drive the car approximately 150 miles to allow the sensors to collect enough new data to determine if everything is working properly.

I have put fewer than two thousand miles on my car in the last year. I told the inspector that, then rolled my eyes and said, "I guess that means I need to take a little trip."

"Oh, no, that won't work," he replied. "It can't be highway miles. It has to be in-town driving, with lots of starts and stops."

From what I've since learned on the Internet, each model of vehicle has its own specific "drive cycle" pattern that must be followed in order for the sensors to record the necessary amount of information to satisfy the inspector's test equipment. I have thirty days to get this done and pass the inspection test. For the next two or three weeks I'll have to drive around and around town at low speeds on busy streets, repeatedly passing the police station and the sheriff's office and bored motorcycle cops, all the while sporting a giant red sticker on my windshield that just screams, "PULL ME OVER!"

Holy crap!

It also occurred to me yesterday to check the expiration date on my driver's license. Good thing I did; it was due to expire on my birthday next week.

After leaving the inspection station, I soldiered on to the DMV, where I carefully parked with the rear, un-red-stickered end of my car facing the building. The drivers license renewal process went smoothly and even fairly quickly, thank goodness. The new photo is ugly, clearly reflecting the deer-caught-in-the-headlights frame of mind I was in, but I don't care about that. At least my license will be up to date when I get pulled over.

I hope those pull-over stops don't mess up the drive-cycle pattern.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Odds and Ends and Those Darn Dogs

This time last week the temperature was beginning to drop. Sunday afternoon I pulled the electric blanket out of the closet and rigged up its wiring behind the headboard and under the bed to take the chill off the sheets before bedtime. I also set the thermostat so the central heat would come on if the temperature dropped too low in the night. Which it did.

For two nights in a row the temperature hit the freezing level. I kept the heat on in the house all day and dressed in sweats and thick socks. The third night the heat didn't come on, and I kicked off the covers because the room was too warm. The next afternoon I slid the switch from heat back to air conditioning, and the A/C has been on ever since. Yesterday I wore shorts and sandals to play ball outside with the dogs.

I picture the weather gods as geeky guys in a control room, pushing buttons, turning dials, and laughing so hard their sides hurt. Cut it out, you guys. It's not funny.


My microwave oven died. Well, I suppose that's not technically true; it had irreversible turntable failure, so I euthanized it. It was eight years old and getting quite rusty where condensation had accumulated under the turntable, a sure sign that death was imminent. The decision to put it to rest came about because the turntable stopped turning altogether. The cooking function still worked, but I convinced myself that the little turntable motor, straining to turn and unable to do so, was a fire hazard. The fact that I'm spoiled and lazy didn't have anything to do with it.

Remember when microwave ovens were new to us and we had to manually turn the dish of food several times during the cooking process to evenly distribute the heat? It wasn't a big deal then, but it sure seems like a lot of trouble now, don't you think?

Anyway, Kim and I both checked microwave oven reviews online, then we went shopping and picked out one that was on the list she'd made. It looks and functions very much like the last one (different brand), but the inside is operating-room clean, and I'll be a lot more careful about wiping condensation out of this one. Long may it nuke.


I was on the phone with my sister a couple of weeks ago when I had to interrupt our conversation to holler at Gimpy, who had suddenly decided to dig a hole under the gardenia bush. He's a fast digger, so the hole grew to about four inches deep by the time he understood why I was yelling at him. Apparently that hole is the perfect size to meet his needs.

Levi and Gimpy take play breaks under that bush all the time. Now, when they lie there, Gimpy positions himself so he can drape his front paws over the side of the hole. (This is Louisiana, folks. Think swampland. Any holes we dig are mudholes.) Not only does Gimpy get his paws muddy, he drops the tennis ball into the hole and bats it around like he's kneading dough until it's covered with a thick coating of smelly mud.

When they've rested enough, Levi is the one who sticks his mouth into the mud to pick up the ball and bring it back to me to throw. My reaction? To use a local phrase, "Ain't no way!" I make them wait while I go inside to get a paper towel, then make sure they're watching while I use the towel to pick up the ball and throw the whole mess in the garbage.

I wonder how many balls we'll dispose of before they make the connection that the mudball is a game ender.

"Before" and "after" tennis balls.


At the center right of the photo above you can see the wicker basket (formerly a dog bed) that holds the dogs' toys. We keep it up out of their reach so we can monitor which toys they're playing with and not leave them unattended with anything that might present a choking hazard. When the dogs show an interest in the toy basket, we set it on the floor and let them choose. The boys, Levi, Gimpy and Oliver, like to empty it out, one item at a time. Lucy doesn't show much interest in it.

The other morning the boys had taken all the toys out of the basket and were playing happily with one thing, then another. Kim and I were nearby, working on our separate computers at opposite ends of the den, when we heard a loud crunching sound. We glanced at each other, simultaneously asked, "What was that?" and got up to look.

It was Lucy. She was lying comfortably in the empty toy basket on the floor between us, eating the sides of it. How convenient!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Linda thought about writing a book. She did not.

I've just finished reading the worst-written book I've ever read. Granted, there have been other books I didn't like and didn't bother to finish, but this time the bad writing is what kept me reading. Each groan-provoking grammatical error, misused word, or ill-written phrase spurred me on to find another one that might be even worse, essentially turning a reading experience into a contest. Winning my vote as the funniest sentence in the whole book was this one: "K-----n stopped walking suddenly as did her breathing." Bwahahaha!

There were more misplaced commas and apostrophes in this book than I've ever seen in any other. The correct usage of there/their/they're was a crapshoot. The author's attempt at dialect missed the mark. "Don't chya"? No, I don't. He used gimmicks. Many different paragraphs in the book contained consecutive sentences in which the main character wanted to, thought about, considered, or expected to do something that she did not then go ahead and do. For example, a passage might read (paraphrasing here): "K------n wanted to ..." do whatever. "She did not. She wanted to ..." do something else. "She did not. She wanted to tell him ..." such and such. "She did not." Ho hum.

I suspect that the author had been advised at some point in his life to add more details to his writing in order to bring it to life and help the reader visualize the action. He did that mainly by telling us which hand K-----n used to touch her brow and which balled-up fist the angry man smacked into the palm of which other hand. The book contained so many right and left descriptors that I was not surprised (but was tickled) when I read this one: "S----n affectionately patted her on the rounded bottom of her right butt-cheek ..."

This was a cheap, self-published e-book and I got what I paid for. I can't complain about wasting my money. The fact is that I've bought a lot of inexpensive, self-published books in the last couple of years and have been pleasantly surprised by most of them. Self-publishing is a great way for new authors to get their work in front of readers who might enjoy it and be willing to pay more for future works by the same writers. I wholly support the self-publishing concept.

I also support the concept of kindness, so I'm not going to tell you the title of the book I've written about here or the name of its author. I will tell you that the book has four-and-a-half stars on and that I wish I'd bothered to balance out the five-star reviews I read before I ordered it with the one-star reviews I didn't read until today. I've tried not to put anything in this post that might lead the author here through a Google search. Who am I to disparage his work on my piddling little blog? I'd no more tell him his book stinks than I'd tell him his baby is ugly.

He tried, by golly. He has guts. He put his name on his work and he put it out there, which is way more than I can say for myself. I've certainly never written a book. I've never thought I could, never even tried. But now that I've read his book? Heh. Let's just say that the bar has been lowered. I'm thinking maybe I could do it after all.

Don't hold your breath, though.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

What I've Been Reading

There were plenty of days in the past two-and-a-half months when I didn't find time to write, but not a single day passed that I didn't manage to carve out at least a little time to read. Reading keeps me grounded. A good story wipes the worries and to-do lists out of my head and allows me to rest for a while in a different time and place. There are usually problems to be solved between the first page and the last, but they aren't my problems.

Because so much time has passed since the last "what-I've-been-reading" post, the newest list of books is a long one. Posting images of all of them would cause this page to take too long to load, so I'll make photo links of my four favorites from this batch, stick to text links for all the others, and leave the one clunker off the list entirely.

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

These is My Words (P.S.) by Nancy Turner

Sarah's Quilt by Nancy Turner

The Star Garden by Nancy Turner

Looking for Jane by Judith Redline Coopey

Redfield Farm by Judith Redline Coopey

Waterproof by Judith Redline Coopey

Okatibbee Creek by Lori Crane

An Orphan's Heart by Lori Crane

The Legend of Stuckey's Bridge by Lori Crane

Coming to Rosemont by Barbara Hinske

When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Clay's Quilt by Silas House

Sweet Song by Terry Persun

Burning Sassafras by Annie Stokes

Just Run by Chris Culver

The Tide of Life by Catherine Cookson

The Dwelling Place by Catherine Cookson

Unseen by Karen Slaughter

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

Just for the record, I'd be delighted to read other books by these authors. Some of them (like Catherine Cookson) have been favorites for a long time. Others I've only discovered recently, but they'll be on my watch list from now on.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Peaceful Days and Changing Times

What a gorgeous day! Sunshine, mild temperature, gentle breeze--all the things I love about our southern autumn, which typically lasts only about three weeks.

Kim's been living here a full week today, a very pleasant week, in fact. Kelli left here minutes ago after a fun visit that lasted just long enough to remind me again what a sweetheart she is. The four dogs played in the backyard for about an hour; now they're back indoors and each one is sacked out on the horizontal surface of his/her choice.

Tonight we get our extra hour back, the hour we lost in March when we sprang forward for Daylight Saving Time. I don't know what you'll do with your extra hour, but I plan to sleep through mine. If I get lucky, there'll be sweet dreams during that extra sixty minutes of sleep, and I do enjoy waking up with fun dream images still fresh in my mind.

It would be easy on a peaceful day like today to forget about government upheavals, international espionage, airport shootings, and hateful political propaganda spread by otherwise nice people on Facebook. Maybe I'll just put all those discouraging things out of my head for a day and focus on the good things of life.

Today's Saturday Song Selection is a ridiculously obvious choice, but I'm feeling like doing everything the easy way today. Besides, it's a great song and still relevant after fifty years. I wonder if Bob Dylan had any idea that the times would be a-changin' as slowly as they have.

The song is "The Times They Are A-Changin'," by Bob Dylan.
Thanks to comoassimvelho for posting this video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.