Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sixty Years Ago

Come with me today and let's travel all the way back to 1953. Dwight Eisenhower replaced Harry Truman as President of the United States in January 1953, a disappointment to my grandfather, who was a staunch supporter of Adlai Stevenson. That was the year Queen Elizabeth II was crowned queen. A polio epidemic in the U.S. frightened all of us, and the Korean War--never more than a blip on my underdeveloped radar--came to an end. Click here for a fun, closer look at 1953.

For a big part of that year I was ten years old and in the fifth grade at Phelps Elementary School. My teacher was Mrs. Challis, who lived directly behind us a few streets over, close enough that I could walk to visit her at home, which I did on more than one occasion.

This path led from the Phelps playground to my friend Leila Kammerer's
backyard. We met up at her house each morning and walked the path
to school together. (I was pleasantly surprised to see that the path
 was still there when my sister and I visited the school in 1996.)

My great-grandmother, Dora Elliott, passed away in October 1953. She was the first person I knew personally who died. I remember standing beside her open casket, hesitantly extending one forefinger to touch her lightly on the cheek. What a shock! That one touch of her body told me Grandma wasn't in there anymore, forever changing my understanding of death and making it less frightening. I have no memories of Grandma before she was senile, but I must have known her in better days, because I can still say the alphabet backward as quickly as forward, and some part of my brain remembers that it was she who taught me that.

Dora Hetherington Elliott in 1950

Movie theaters were great places to be in 1953, when 3-D movies became very popular. My favorite one, because it was so scary, was House of Wax. I'll bet you can smell the popcorn while you watch this movie trailer:

We got our very first television set sometime in 1953. Until then we gathered in the living room every night, each of us with something to keep our hands busy, and listened to our favorite radio programs. The big console radio kept us company in the daytime, too, first with my grandmother's soap operas (including Oxydol's Own Ma Perkins) and then with music, songs that evoked emotions and stirred dreams in me even as young as I was.

This picture, taken about 1956, is the only one I could find of our
big family radio, shown at left. My little sister and I are seated in
the chair. The young man on the phone behind us is a college student
who rented an upstairs bedroom. The birdcage behind him holds our
beloved Sugar, an avian character who deserves a blog post of her own.
I remember a lot of radio songs from 1953, some of which you probably know even if you weren't yet born then. One of them was particularly inspiring--possibly the first spiritually uplifting song that ever captured my attention--and still moves me today. In fact, that song is the inspiration behind this entire post and, yes, it's today's Saturday Song Selection. I hope you like it as much as I do. I believe you will.

The song is "I Believe" by Frankie Laine.
Thanks to texpaco for posting the song and its lyrics on YouTube.

Thanks also to Helpmemakethisfilm for posting the House of Wax trailer on YouTube.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Yesterday afternoon I had to make a quick trip to the post office. As I turned the corner nearest my house, a tiny brown head popped up at the corner of the windshield, quickly followed by the rest of a panicky lizard. Having Googled lizard coloration after witnessing an Anole lizard fight recently, I knew that the colors of this one indicated an extremely high stress level. No $hi#! How would you like to be resting peacefully in a shaded carport, then suddenly find yourself hanging onto the outside of a moving vehicle?

It was 102° here yesterday afternoon and much hotter than that, I'm sure, on the surface of my car. But I was stuck on a narrow, two-lane road, deep ditches on either side, and knew that if I pulled into someone's driveway, I'd have a heck of a time backing out into the steady flow of traffic. So I kept moving.

The lizard held on, all the while bobbing and weaving and crawling back and forth across the windshield. Sometimes it appeared to be staring in at me, though the truth is it was probably just looking into the shaded interior and trying to find a way to get inside.

Half a mile down the road, I pulled into the parking lot of a small church, stopped the car, and got out with my stamped mortgage payment in my hand to use as a prod. I tried to slide the envelope under the lizard so I could lower it gently to the ground, but the lizard just scooted over a few inches. I tried again and got the same results. By that time the lizard was hanging on at the very edge of the windshield, so I walked around the car, slid the envelope toward it again, and it jumped off onto the ground. People, I actually heard myself saying out loud, "Good job, buddy!"

Then it ran under the car. Great! Not only was I abandoning it far away from home (in lizard-miles); now there was a good chance of running over it. I looked under the car but couldn't see it in the shadows, so I finally got in, drove forward slowly and carefully, made a U-turn in the parking lot, and went on to the post office.

There was a time I wouldn't have cared about the life of one small lizard, but I've gotten in the habit of shooing them higher up the fence so Gimpy can't get them, and I think I may have crossed some kind of line. All I know is I'm feeling guilty this morning for not turning around yesterday and driving that hitchhiker lizard home.

If I ever start feeling sentimental about spiders and bugs (ladybugs being the exception), please have me committed.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

He Dreamed a Dream of Days Gone By

If you don't like dogs, if you think they're hairy and smelly and they do things in public that offend your sensibilities, then you'll find this post offensive, as well. Don't read another word.

But if you do like dogs, if you think they're generally charming and smart and funny even if they do disgusting things occasionally, read on. I'm gonna tell you something about them that you may not know yet.

Those of us who live with dogs already know that they dream. We watch them sleep, and when their eyes move, their paws twitch, we chuckle and say, "Awww, he must be chasin' rabbits!" All of my dogs have shown physical signs of their dreams. Sometimes muffled barking sounds come out of their nearly closed mouths. Once in a while they'll whine or cry pitifully. Gimpy does all of that and then some. He's the most sleep-active dog I've ever seen.

Gimpy likes to sleep next to me in the evening when I sit on the sofa and watch TV. He lies on his side with some part of his body touching mine, so I can feel the jiggling begin as soon as he starts dreaming. Sometimes his tail wags enthusiastically, slapping against the leather sofa with such force that I'm surprised it doesn't hurt him. Sometimes he runs, his whole body moving as all four legs pump furiously. Whatever it is, he sleeps right through it. I always, always wish there was some way to know what he's dreaming about.

The dictionary definition of "dream" is "a series of thoughts, images, or emotions occurring during sleep." Some people believe dogs can't think, but those of us who have them know they do. They think, they remember, and there's even evidence that they plan. I'm also convinced that they show emotions. Love, curiosity, concern, fear, sorrow,  shame, and impatience come immediately to mind. I have no way of discerning whether dogs' brains store images, but the very fact that they dream persuades me that they do. So, here's the little tidbit of news I promised you at the beginning of this post: Dogs may indeed dream about chasing rabbits, but there's a lot more interesting stuff than that going on in their subconscious minds.

The other evening Gimpy lay on his side next to me as usual, fast asleep, one foot resting against my hip. All of a sudden he was moving, big movements, nothing subtle about them. I turned to watch him and quickly realized that this was not a running dream. Gimpy was ... um ... humping. Humping the air. Vigorously. It only lasted a few seconds, and it didn't wake him up. Neither did my laughter.

Bless his heart. He was neutered soon after he came to live with us when he was almost two. I've seen him indulge in humping behavior only a couple of times in a waking state, and both times I interrupted it with a disapproving tone of voice. I know it's a normal behavior, but it isn't one I want to encourage. These days, if he still has those kinds of thoughts when he's awake, he doesn't act on them.

But, hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Wish I Had a Shell

The feeling of swatting at angry hornets that I mentioned in my last post has diminished slightly, so that now I only feel as if I'm juggling many balls--and that any ball I drop is going to bounce right into that hornet's nest and agitate all those suckers again. Still, I'm grateful for that small improvement.

One of the issues that's troubling me (not the most serious but probably the most expensive) is that we're going to have to replace our roof. I mentioned in an earlier post that our long-time homeowner's insurance company is discontinuing coverage in Louisiana and our policy won't be renewed. (I won't mention any company names, but picture a bunch of men wearing overalls and straw hats, holding hoes or pitchforks, and you'll figure it out.) One of my tasks last week was to check on getting a new insurer. I filled out a bunch of paperwork and thought the process was going pretty smoothly until the agent told me that our roof is way too old under their guidelines and that they--or anyone else, he said--can't write a policy until the roof is replaced.

We're waiting now for a roofer to come out and give us an estimate. This is one roof, but it covers two houses, so it's going to be costly. We've known it was just a matter of time until it would need to be replaced, but there's still some good left in it, so we didn't think we'd have to do it so soon--and on such short notice. We'll do what we have to do.

Anyway, the roof issues reminded me about something that happened the night before we got the bad news about the roof. I stayed up late and took the dogs out for the last time after 11:30. They went to separate parts of the yard and were doing their respective business. All of a sudden both of their heads snapped forward and they tore across the yard to the same spot, where they began to dance around some kind of critter I couldn't see. I called them several times (softly, didn't want to wake the neighbors), and they ignored me, so I came back in the house and got a leash, a flashlight, and my camera. This is what had them so excited:

I know it looks like this shot was taken in broad daylight, but it wasn't; I used the flash.

Now, this guy needs a new roof. That's the worst looking shell I've ever seen on a turtle. There's a chunk missing from its back end. (An old chunk; believe me, I checked.)

The dogs stayed back while I took pictures of the turtle, which I did until it started walking again and turned its head toward me with a pointed look I interpreted as, "Give. Me. A break!" So I did. I had to put Levi on the leash to make him come back to the house with me, but Gimpy followed Levi, and the turtle was gone by morning.

I've thought about that old turtle in the days since then. First, I wondered if a turtle's vantage point allows it to see high spots under a chain-link fence easily or if it has to slowly walk the fence line until it finds one. Secondly, I wondered about this: Wouldn't it be nice, on the days when the dogs of life are dancing around and poking you with their big, cold noses, to have a shell you could retract your vulnerable parts into while you sit and wait out the chaos?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Concert for the Disconcerted describes it this way:

dis-con-cert-ed [dis-kuh n-sur-tid]

  1. disturbed, as in one's composure or self-possession; perturbed; ruffled: She was disconcerted by the sudden attack on her integrity.
  2. bewildered or confused, as by something unexpected: The class was disconcerted by the instructor's confusion.
I would describe it like this:  It's been a hell of a week.

Blogging is difficult when my head and my heart are occupied elsewhere. I sat here yesterday looking at a blank "compose" screen for a long time, giving up on it because my thoughts were too scattered to post even a simple Saturday Song Selection. 

This morning I awoke with more clarity, able to uncork my feelings and let them flow, understanding that I don't have to be strong every minute, that bending like a willow can keep someone from breaking. Also, in between writing the last sentence and this one, I've had phone calls from two of a few special people who are my rocks: I know I can always count on them. Furthermore, if I imagine myself standing in a circle with those people, I can look at them one by one and identify their rocks, too; they each have a supportive network of others to look out for them. That's how we roll when it's our turn to be rocks.

With that in mind, I'm giving myself permission to post a Saturday Song on Sunday this week, because I now know exactly the right song to fit the situation (even if you don't like country music). If you ever find yourself feeling as though someone has tossed a nestful of angry hornets into your lap and you don't know where to swat first, remember that the people who are your rocks want you to know this:

The song is "I Won't Let Go," by Rascal Flatts.
Thanks to DieHardCreations for posting the song and its lyrics on YouTube.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On My Mind: Love and Money

I've spent much of the last two days sorting through seven-and-a-half-years' worth of blog posts to print those I think would be of most interest to one of my favorite people in the world, my lovely stepmother, Liane. Liane is 88 years old now, and an age-related illness restricts many of her daily activities. This would be troublesome for anyone, but it's worse for Liane than it would be for me, because she's been very active until the last year or so. But she likes to read, and maybe I can help out with that. I don't know if the kind of writing I do will appeal to her particular taste, but I'll send it to her and we'll see.


My Uncle Olan passed away Sunday night or early Monday morning, I don't know which. Of my dad's eight siblings, Olan, I believe, was closest to him in temperament. Those two probably sowed more wild oats than all the others put together and left behind the most tales to be told. If they're together now, I'm sure God and St. Peter are both keeping an eye on them, making sure they don't start some kind of shenanigans. I have to admit, though, it would be fun to watch.


The fence along one side of my backyard is leaning. It has half a dozen broken posts, rusted through at ground level where the water stands deepest through the rainy months. I talked to my neighbor about it because the repair people would have to do the work on her side of the fence, even though the fence is technically on my property. She sent me a Facebook message Sunday evening saying not to worry about the fence, that her father had looked at it and she, her dad, and her brother can fix it. Now, those are good neighbors! I'll pay for the materials, but this will save me quite a bit.


I've received notices in the mail that both my homeowner's insurance and auto insurance policies will be canceled as of their policy expiration dates in August. The insurer I've had since 1997 has decided to no longer issue those types of policies in Louisiana. One hurricane too many, I suppose. Anyway, I'll begin the search for new coverage in the next day or two and hope that other insurers don't get greedy when they recognize the glut of displaced policyholders in the same situation I'm in.


I put my office reorganization project on hold when I had company last Friday and haven't managed to return to it yet. I'll get back on it any day now and finish the job. When I was going through all that stuff earlier last week, though, I did set aside one thing to show you. This is the receipt for my very first computer:

It had an astounding 1 MB of RAM--and (I think I remember) a 40 MB hard drive, but I still can't believe it cost that much all the way back in 1989. That was way more than a month's pay. Looking at the price on this receipt made me recall that my first microwave, a Christmas gift from my husband in 1975, cost nearly $400. I guess one good thing about electronics is the way their prices drop once they're no longer the hottest new item on the market.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"All a Part of Me"

I know who I am:

I am Lola Fern's granddaughter ...

I have eyes shaped like my father's ...

and, to borrow a song lyric, 
"my mama's still my biggest fan."

Though I didn't know that part about my mother in her lifetime, I'm pretty sure of it now. Well, maybe she's not my biggest fan, but she's up there somewhere close to the top of the list. Otherwise, why would I sense her spirit--her happy spirit--around me so often now, more than thirteen years after her death? It's as if she knows how much I missed her support when I needed it most and is doing her best to make up for it. Doing a good job of it, too.

I feel very lucky to live near my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but I often miss the members of my family who live so far away. When I hear from them, it's as if a missing piece of me has been plugged back into place. Within a 24-hour-period that began this past Thursday night, I was blessed with phone calls from my half-brother in California, my stepmother in another part of California, an aunt in Missouri, and my stepsister in Texas. It was as if electrical current flowed through all those wireless phone connections, twisting our loose ends together, soldering them in place, leaving me recharged with the essence and energy of each of those people who mean so much to me. 

I didn't always know who I was, but I do know now, and I know that the people who have touched my life in meaningful ways have made me better than I could have possibly been without them. Not that I'm anywhere near as good as I could be. I also know that we never stop learning and growing, that nothing nurtures personal growth more than the loving support of family and friends, and that we may not even realize how much we need that kind of nurturing until we get it.

I got plenty of it this week, and it sure feels good.

This week's Saturday Song Selection addresses the strength that comes from feeling connected to a group of people who know you, understand you, and love you anyway. God bless every one of 'em.

The song is "Who I Am," performed by Jessica Andrews.
Thanks to mackashina for posting this song and its lyrics on YouTube.

Off My Computer Screen and into the Real World

If you've visited here on a regular basis, you've probably seen comments left by Holly, who blogs as CreekHiker. And if you've also read Holly's blog, then you already know her longtime canine companion, Mabel. Yesterday Holly and Mabel traveled the road between the blogosphere and real life to spend a few hours at my house.

Holly lives in California but is presently staying in Baton Rouge to care for her mother, who's recovering from hip surgery. I enjoyed her visit very much, and, yes, we talked about a few of you.

As for Mabel, photos don't show how beautiful she is: slim, sleek, and shiny. With an animal's innocence and respectful curiosity, she moved gracefully on her long legs and explored every inch of my house. I loved that. Haven't you ever wished you could feel free enough in someone else's home to study everything in it close up, as if it were a museum? I would do it just the way Mabel did, not touching, just looking. Her ladylike behavior and sweet disposition reminded me of my Kadi, whose birthday it happened to be yesterday.

Mabel at my house yesterday.

I knew from reading Holly's blog that Mabel was good with other dogs, and I hoped my boys would be nice to her. They were. They were nice to Holly, too, though someone less dog friendly might not have perceived their insistence on sitting on her lap and licking her face as nice. 

Levi and Gimpy presented Holly with a tennis ball right off the bat, and she was kind enough to stand outside in the stifling heat and throw it for them. In fact, they had several sessions of outdoor ball yesterday, separated by indoor cooling-off periods.

Mabel chose not to participate in the early rounds of fetch. 

While the boys played with Holly, Mabel inspected the 
backyard as thoroughly as she had earlier checked out the house.

Later, she showed more interest in the game.
(That's Levi with the ball in his mouth.)

Now she's getting into the spirit.

The ball's in the air! Who'll get it?

Mabel, waiting patiently for the silly boys to get back to business.

Here's to new friendships!
(That's Gimpy with the ball in his mouth
and his ears blowing in the wind.)

I thought Levi and Gimpy had plenty of company in each other, but now that I've seen how much fun they had with Mabel, I think I'll have to arrange play dates for them more often in the future. I hope Holly and Mabel will be able to come again before they go back to California.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I need space. I feel hemmed in by things that sit on open shelves and gather dust I'm tired of wiping off: reams of colored paper, vinyl record albums, PC computer software that won't work on my Mac, all my new art supplies, a box of photos waiting to be scanned. I'm ready to give away some of those things and throw away others, but I need covered space to store what I want to keep. I open closets and free-standing storage cabinets and look what's in there, check to see if there are things I can get rid of to create space for other, more important things.

Today I inspect the contents of file storage boxes in one of the cabinets. One box is filled with the the diaries of my great-aunt Hazel; those'll stay. Another box contains receipts and instruction manuals for small and large appliances I've long since replaced; those get tossed, but first I pull out and shred any canceled checks that were attached to the receipts. Next I find a box of work-related items: newspaper and magazine articles about leadership and management, company newsletters (all of which I helped write), cartoons clipped for posting on breakroom bulletin boards, a year's worth of meeting schedules on loose calendar pages. I remember what that job was like without the aid of all these papers. Everything goes into the trash.

In other file folders I find registration receipts, handouts, and notes from continuing education courses I took years ago. Such a variety of classes:
  • Introduction to Computers - 1 & 2
  • Self Hypnosis/Personal and Professional Excellence
  • Increasing Personal Effectiveness
  • Cajun French
  • Color Analysis
  • Time Management for Supervisors
  • Stress Management
  • Performance Appraisal Systems
  • Increasing Organizational and Team-Building Effectiveness
  • Humor - The Sixth Sense
  • Journal Keeping
  • Introduction to Greek Philosophy
  • Introduction to Linguistics
  • Transactional Analysis
  • Editorial Cartooning for Fun
  • BASIC Computer Programming
  • Bookkeeping
  • Intensive Journal Workshop
Grateful for what knowledge I've managed to retain, I throw the paperwork away.

There are folders full of training instructions for volunteer work I once did: teaching an adult to read in the Operation Upgrade program, crisis intervention on a local suicide prevention hotline. I throw it out. If I ever decide to do either of those things again, I'll need formal retraining anyway.

Now I find mementos of a visit to New York City when my older daughter lived there. There are plane tickets, travel itinerary confirmation, a playbill from Les Miserables, which we saw on Broadway. That trip is firmly entrenched in my mind: the energy of the city, the view from Kim's high-rise apartment, the color and sound of a street fair, a short and uneventful subway ride, my first taste of Thai food, a wonderful but exhausting day at the Museum of Modern Art, and, yes, the magic of the New York theater experience. The memories are all I need; the rest can go in the trash.

Inexplicably, and obviously misfiled, there's a newspaper clipping of a poem in this last box. I remember how, when I first read it so long ago, it affirmed the sense that I was finally growing into my own skin, finally at peace in my own mind. Rereading it today, I can even apply it loosely to the feeling of freedom this "stuff-purging" process is bringing me. It may be difficult, but sometimes it's good to let go and move on. 

I'll refile the poem, but I'm keeping it.

Comes the Dawn
by Veronica Shoffstall

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security,
And you begin to understand that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head held high and your eyes open,
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
You learn to build your roads
On today because tomorrow's ground
Is too uncertain for plans and futures have
A way of falling down in midflight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you get too much,
So you plant your own garden and decorate
Your own soul, instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure,
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn ... and you learn.
With every goodbye you learn. 

Saturday, June 08, 2013

"Austin": the Best Part of a Romance Novel in Under Four Minutes

A really great song from 2001 shuffled up on my iTunes earlier this week, right after I wrote the post about all the romance novels I've been reading lately. I knew in an instant that that song would be this week's Saturday Song Selection. It's perfect

The story in the song is typical of the tales told in all those novels: man and woman fall in love, their relationship is interrupted by misgivings on somebody's part, but in the end--well, you know how they all end. We readers would feel betrayed if they didn't end that way.

In this video, a very young Blake Shelton epitomizes the hero of a romance novel: a tall, handsome, long-haired cowboy who fell for a sophisticated city woman with issues, then thought he'd lost her. Watch the video and listen to the lyrics. I don't know many women who wouldn't fall at least a little bit in love with a man as loyal as the one in this song.

The song is "Austin" by Blake Shelton.
A great big thank-you to Blake Shelton for making this video available on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, June 07, 2013

My New Happy Place

The new shower curtain I ordered arrived late Tuesday. I spent Tuesday evening getting acquainted with it, trying to decide if that one reddish-colored outhouse clashes with the floor. By Wednesday I'd convinced myself that the bathroom floor looks enough like barnyard dirt that it doesn't matter what color the outhouses are, so I cleaned the bathroom vigorously, scrubbing tile, bleaching grout, cleaning the blinds, taking the valance down to wash--making sure everything in there was pristine before I hung the pretty new curtain and its brand-new liner. Yesterday, Thursday, I sent the following early-morning-check-in text to my daughters:

"Good morning! Getting ready to hang my new shower curtain, then I plan to sit on the toilet and admire it all day."

And that's pretty much what I did. I really, really like it. There's more to that shower curtain than the outhouses, the trees, and the grass. There's a birdhouse hanging in one of those trees and a nest wedged in the branches of another. There are birds in the trees and on the ground. There are tiny wildflowers and a wire fence and a trailing vine. I feel certain that if the curtain were twice as wide, there would also be a wishing well, a wheelbarrow, and at least a couple of chickens. There's so much more life in this shower curtain than in the solid white one it replaced.

So here: step inside and let me show you around my bathroom:

This is the view from the door.

Here you can see the shower curtain reflected in the mirror.

This is the view from the "royal throne."

And you might as well see this corner, too,
since it's the only one left.

It's funny how a new splash of color in a single room can brighten up a whole house.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

What I've Been Reading: Outside the Romance Genre

Though I've been reading mostly romances recently, there were also a few books that didn't fit that mold:

The first one is a mystery--with a little romance on the side. It's a book I've had for years, so many years, in fact, that I didn't remember a single thing about it. (Which says more about me than it does about the book.) Who knows what other completely forgotten novels wait on my bookshelves for a second reading?

Feather on the Moon
by Phyllis A. Whitney


The next book would fall into the mystery category, too--unless thrillers have a genre of their own.

by Alan Russell


If You Lived Here is different from anything I've ever read. It's the story of an important friendship that develops between two very different, mature women. Now that I think about it, there's a little bit of romance in this book, too, but in this case the romance is only a subplot.

If You Lived Here
by Dana Sachs


The next book is a true story (or "based on a true story") written by a grandmother who, believing the court system had failed her abused granddaughter, took the child and left the country for several years. This book was especially interesting to me because in 1967-68--twenty-some-odd years before the incident that's the basis for this book--I worked for a district judge in that same Texas court system. I knew some of the people the author referenced by name and figured out the identities of certain other characters whose names she had changed.

In fact, I knew at the beginning of his career the now prominent attorney who represented the grandmother in the latter stages of her criminal proceedings after she was forcibly returned to the United States. I specifically remember a brief conversation with him once when a bunch of us from work went out for drinks at the end of a long day. He and I had approached the jukebox at the same time, and each of us was insisting that the other make a selection first. Neither of us would name the song we intended to play, joking that it would spoil the surprise. When the music started, we shared a good laugh. Both of us had played the same song: "Danny Boy."

Back to the book: the writing may not be the best from a technical standpoint, but it's a compelling story told by a quite capable storyteller, and it kept me turning pages late into the night.

Seashell Prisoners
by Frances Collins


That brings us to what I'm reading now. This one is a memoir. I'm only about halfway through it, but I'm loving this book. In the early chapters it made me laugh long enough and loud enough that Levi and Gimpy both got out of bed to see what all the fuss was about. Since then I've laughed a lot more--and shed a few tears, too. I'm now in a quandary, because I want to read the rest of the book as fast as I can to see what happens next, but I also want to read it really slowly so it won't end too soon.

The Dog Lived (And So Will I)
by Teresa Rhyne


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

What I've Been Reading: Romance

Love is in the air ... or at least in the cloud where my e-books are stored. There's nothing I like better than a book with an intricate plot and characters so richly drawn I feel like I know them, but sometimes, especially when there's a lot on my mind, I want to read something lighter--something that doesn't make me think too hard. That desire often leads to short romance novels. Reading them is like eating M&M's: they come in many different colors, but the flavor is basically the same; they're delicious if not nutritious; and even after you've had a whole handful, you still crave more.

When I find an author who's a good storyteller, I do go back for more, downloading several at a time so I'll always know there's a good story waiting for me to read it. I know in advance what's going to happen: the troubled heroine will meet the equally troubled hero, they'll be deeply attracted but disinclined to pursue a relationship until they're thrown together in a situation where passion overcomes them. At this point there'll be a sex scene, which is my cue to skip ahead several pages. It's important to the plot to know that they "did it," but I'm too old to care about the details. Not too many chapters later they'll come to their senses and realize that they were meant to be together, and that's pretty much the end of the story. We don't usually get to know how it all worked out for them.

These stories are similar enough that if I read several in a row, it's hard to remember which title goes with which book. It's helpful if the title contains the name of a person or a place. But don't misunderstand me: every one of these stories was a good one--one that kept me hooked. The similarities didn't bother me, because these skilled authors use a basic plot the way a good cook prepares chicken: it's a chicken recipe on Wednesday and another chicken dish on Saturday, but there's so much variety in the other ingredients that the two meals seem entirely different--and quite appetizing. 

Dunaway's Crossing
by Nancy Brandon:

Wait for Me
by Elisabeth Naughton

Don't Say a Word
by Barbara Freethy

On a Night Like This
by Barbara Freethy

So This Is Love
by Barbara Freethy

Breaking the Rules
by Barbara Samuel

Dancing Moon
by Barbara Samuel

Jezebel's Blues
by Barbara Samuel

Light of Day
by Barbara Samuel

Summer's Freedom
by Barbara Samuel

The Black Angel
by Barbara Samuel

The Last Chance Ranch
by Barbara Samuel

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

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Chair-ished Times

It was the chair that caught my attention in the picture above, a chair in the corner of the living room in the house where I grew up, my grandparents' house in Springfield, Missouri. That chair had a story behind it. If the dog in the picture had a story, I don't remember it; the dog didn't belong to us. That beautiful rug is the one on which I once accidentally dumped a dishpan full of heavily buttered popcorn after stumbling when I caught my toe on the edge of the rug.

It's funny how a single photo can grab you, suck you in, make you spend hours searching for clues about it. My search this morning led to this picture, obviously taken the same day:

Same chair, same dog, same rug, this time with the addition of my little sister, Judy (on the left), and me. I wondered what year this was and tried to figure it out. The first clue was Judy's teeth. Her permanent front teeth had grown in, but the ones around them hadn't caught up, so I guessed her to be around seven, which would have made me about eleven. That made sense, too, because my chest was still flat as a board and my legs were still bruised from childhood play, but acne had flared up on my face. I'm guessing that would have been the summer of 1954.

To further substantiate that date, I found an earlier picture, one in which Judy's front teeth were missing:

If Judy lost her front teeth at the typical age of six, this photo would have been taken in 1953. Here, we were posed on her bed in the upstairs bedroom we shared with Mother. Judy's  favorite stuffed dog, Snoozy, was on her lap. Snoozy was her equivalent of a security blanket. The doll between me and the foot of the bed was named (not very imaginatively) Clownie. On the wall over Judy's head you can see about half of the doll collection that disappeared when we moved to Texas in 1957. The portrait on the wall above me was painted from a photograph and sent to us by our father when he was stationed overseas. I was always curious about that, because he and Mother had divorced when Judy was about a year and a half old, yet she was clearly older than that in the painting. The last time I saw that portrait it was hanging in the guest room of my sister's home in East Texas.

Back to the chair, here's another picture of it:

In this one the chair's in the same corner but has been pulled away from the wall to put a desk beside it. I don't know who's in the framed photo on the desk; though he must have been someone important to our family, I don't recognize him from any other photos I have. The framed paintings on the wall were part of a shipment my father sent us from Germany when I was ten. They, too, are in Judy's home today, still part of the family. I think I was probably about twelve in this picture (my bangs had grown out), and, since I was wearing summer clothes, I know the cake I was holding wasn't for my late-autumn birthday. The only other thing I can think of that would have caused someone to photograph me holding a cake is if it was one I had baked, maybe my first one. And if there was a special reason for me to bake a cake that summer, it might have been for my grandmother's birthday or my mother's, which would have put this in either July or August of 1955.

So many clues, but no dates on the photos.

Now, back to that chair one final time:  My grandfather, Packy, worked at Martin Bros. Piano Co., which actually sold a complete line of furniture, not just pianos. This chair came from Martin's. Packy retrieved it from their trash pile and brought it home. He said there wasn't a thing wrong with it--except that it was crawling with the tiny, white larvae of some kind of insect. I don't remember what types of products he used to fumigate it or how long it was relegated to the porch before it was ever allowed in the house. And I don't remember how long it had been in the house before I ever got the nerve to use it. A loooonng time, I think. Once it was debugged, it was the newest, best chair in the house, and it's clear from that last photo that I did sit on it eventually.

Now, be honest: Did this post make you feel itchy?

Monday, June 03, 2013

"Truly Remarkable in Support of Me" (Subtitle: "Wink Wink")

Blog spam  drives me crazy. You may get them, too: anonymous comments that don't relate to your post and contain links to questionable websites. There have been some days when I've received as many as 50 of them. Blogger's spam filter does a pretty good job of rounding them up, but it doesn't catch all of them. I still have to look through the list of published comments carefully and delete any fake ones that have slipped through. It's an annoying waste of time.

I do have to admit that I'd find them funny if they didn't make blog maintenance more difficult than it needs to be. They're almost always written in broken English, and some of the writers have obviously tried to make their comments generic enough to fit a variety of targeted posts. Others haven't bothered.

A couple of weeks ago, in anticipation of writing this post and explaining spam comments to people lucky enough not to get them, I did a screen capture of a random selection of spam picked up by Blogger's filter and listed neatly for review. Click on the image to enlarge it, then have a laugh.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Dream Team

Help came to my house yesterday in the form of my son-in-law and two grandsons, a team of good workers who whipped through some heavy-duty chores in spite of the scorching heat. My daughter came, too, intending to visit, but, not one to sit still, she got out and ably assisted the men.

The main item on their project list was trimming the big live oak tree in the front yard. Some of the branches would have soon been dragging the ground; others had grown enough to extend almost to the peak of the roof--not a good place for them, especially now that hurricane season has begun.

No more big branches touching the rooftop ...

... and a pile as tall as I am to be hauled off today.

Their next project was to lay out the stepping stones that have been stacked by the garden shed since the sidewalk was laid two years ago. It's taken me that long to figure out where I wanted to put them. I finally decided it would be great to build Levi and Gimpy a little patio in the front corner of the backyard, right at the spot where they like to visit the next-door neighbor's dogs. They've tried to dig under the fence at that spot, so yesterday my grandsons filled the holes with dirt and laid stepping stones over that area. Let the dogs try to dig there now; they can't make a hole, and they might give themselves a pedicure.

Levi, checking things out.

There were enough stepping stones to make a walkway clear across the front fence and connect to the sidewalk. Levi and Gimpy can now visit their friends without getting their feet muddy--if they'll only do it.

While my grandsons laid out the stepping stones, my son-in-law fixed another problem I'd surprised him with yesterday: a leaky toilet. Every time I flushed, water inside the tank would shoot so forcefully it would hit the lid and drip down the back of the tank. Not anymore, it doesn't. (Thanks, Troy!)

I feel lucky that I don't need a lot of help--and blessed that there are good people in my life who'll step in and help with the jobs I can't handle. I hope they know I'll never take that help for granted.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

One More Shower Song

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about songs I sing in the shower out of habit. Since yesterday's post was about ordering a new shower curtain, maybe another shower song is in order for this week's Saturday Song Selection. The three songs I mentioned in the earlier post are still in my body-cleansing repertoire, but lately a fourth one has been coming up in regular rotation.

The "new" song is another old one, this time from 1959. I like the song a lot, but I don't listen to it very often, so I only know the lyrics to the first verse. It doesn't matter. The Everly Brothers sang it in harmony, so I sing the words I know one time in Don's baritone part, then switch to Phil's tenor part and sing the same words over again. If it weren't for the other songs that are always in the mix, I'd probably be happy just switching back and forth between the high and low parts of this one until I'm clean.

The song is "Take a Message to Mary" by the Everly Brothers.
Thanks to futykoolz for posting the video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.