Thursday, July 31, 2014

Help! The Sky Is Falling!

About ten minutes after I let the dogs out into the backyard this afternoon, I heard such a frantic outburst of barking that I hurried out there to see what was going on. Gimpy met me at the door, so excited he was practically doing backflips. The source of their agitation wasn't too hard to spot:

My big yellow boys, Levi and Gimpy, turned four years old last Friday. Unless they saw a hot-air balloon before I got them, this was their first. Saying it gave them pause would be an understatement.

That's Levi in the photos. I would have liked to have had Gimpy in the picture, too, but he wouldn't move more than three feet away from my side.

Kim's little Oliver, on the other hand, wasn't impressed. He saw balloons a couple of years ago--lots of them--and had better things to do this time around. Ollie is the dark spot near the bottom center of these photos, shown having his daily tête-à-tête with Buddy, the Maltese next door.

Lucy isn't in the photos, either. She was asleep in her favorite place behind the toilet and missed the whole darn thing.

Sure am glad I didn't. I love the big balloons!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"And if I'm an ass, that's okay."

I've cooled off since my last post, so I don't think this one will turn into a rant, but I still need to talk about what's been weighing heavily on my heart. So, let's play What Would You Do?  Imagine this scenario:

Every so often you meet with a group of women you've gotten to know and like. You get together for a specific purpose. This isn't a coffee klatch or a social gathering, definitely isn't a political event. Up until now the group has been focused and cohesive, the participants respectful of each other and supportive of the work you're all trying to accomplish. It's a fairly diverse group, and you don't know much about each other's world views. Opinions haven't come up for discussion because they don't matter at all in the context of these meetings.

The membership of the group hasn't been constant; participants come and go as their personal lives and choices dictate. So far that's kept everything fresh and interesting. This time there are two new participants. You don't know them, and they don't know you, but in the first half hour one of the new women begins a diatribe about the immigrant children who are coming into America illegally, "bringing strange diseases" that could wipe us all off the face of the earth, and the other new participant joins in, tsk-tsking and contrasting those children against her own immigrant ancestors who followed all the rules. The rest of the group sits in shocked silence. You think to yourself, Why are we even talking about this? This has nothing to do with why we're here. 

Newbie No. 1 opines that the parents of those children should be charged with child abuse for sending their children here alone. Another participant reminds her of the dangers the children face in their own country and of the Jewish families who sent their children to other countries in World War II to prevent their being rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Not to be deterred, Newbie No. 2 makes a hand gesture that encompasses the whole group and states, "If they want to come to this country, then the husband and wife need to stay together, work hard, save a little money and then come here legally, the way all of our ancestors did."

A lovely, sweet-natured African American woman has heard enough. "Hah!" she exclaims. "My ancestors didn't come here illegally. Mine were brought here against their will and forced into slavery."

On that note the off-topic discussion ends and the group gets back down to business. But just barely and without the usual enthusiasm. Without knowing or caring who agrees with the newbies and who doesn't, the long-time participants glance at each other, and the expressions on their faces show that they all agree on one thing: something ugly and smelly is now floating in their metaphorical punchbowl.

The second and third meetings are the same. At various times, with no prompting whatsoever--completely off the wall--Newbie No. 1 launches into tirades about welfare recipients, children who get free lunches at school, children who benefit from school supplies donated through the local "Stuff the Bus" program, and on and on about poor people in general. Newbie No. 2 backs her up: "There's no reason for anybody to be poor in this country," she begins. "Three things are all you have to do: graduate from high school, marry the baby's daddy, and stay off of drugs. That's all you have to do." She is a font of advice, having also shared earlier which two shows your children should watch on television and why, in general, children should not watch TV at all, because, you know, "crime and murder and now the gays are kissing."

So, back to you. Let's say you hear all this stuff and you want to speak up. You'd like to express a different viewpoint right here and now, but you know that this is neither the time nor the place. This is not why you're all here, and the entire discussion is inappropriate. Adding your own opinions to the mix would only get the group further off task.

Let me be clear: I'm not asking for your opinion on any of the social issues that were raised, and if you give it to me anyway, I will probably delete it. I'm fed up with listening to partisan opinions. What I'm asking is, would you a) speak up and debate the issues, b) tell the newbies that this is not the right venue for discussing those issues, or c) "be polite" and remain silent, knowing that the offenders might assume you agree with their  derisive remarks and offer more of them? And, if your choice was to remain silent, would you feel like a coward and a hypocrite?


This morning, looking for a link to the What Would You Do? show, I came across the video below. The compassionate store customers in this video gave me hope. One of them even gave me a title for this post.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"I can't stand here listening..."

It's been 15 days since my last blog post. For the first few days of that time I felt that I didn't have a single interesting thing to say. Then, after a series of events, I found myself in a situation where I had too much to say--but I wanted to scream every word, not write about it.

While I'm trying to collect my thoughts into a coherent post, I'll share with you a song I discovered only this morning. It isn't the most melodious tune I've ever heard, and the party scenario doesn't exactly fit, but the lyrics are right-on. They say precisely what I wish I'd had the courage to say.

The song is "Your Racist Friend" by They Might Be Giants.
PLEASE click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to Nester Beauregard for posting this video on YouTube.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ten Minutes in a Sun Shower

South Louisiana's intense summer heat often produces late afternoon rainstorms. Yesterday's heavy rain would have been no different from that of any other day except that the sun never stopped shining. There's something about that phenomenon that I find particularly appealing: no dark, gloomy clouds, no noisy thunder or scary lightning--just water and sunshine everywhere, like a festive day at a water park. A rainbow is the only thing that could have made it better.

I know I'm not the only person who imagines a magical quality to such a mixed-up weather occurrence. Online articles here and here, among others, address the folklore that has grown up around simultaneous sun and rain through the years in places all over the world. Some of the legends involve devils, witches and strange weddings. Personally, I find sun showers heavenly.

If you're so inclined, click on the following images to enlarge them, and maybe you'll feel as cool and fresh as I did while I snapped them:

5:00:27 PM - Rain falling on the leaning tree, just behind my back fence.
(Viewed from my patio, under the eaves.)

5:00:47 PM - Rain pouring off the roof of a neighbor's cabinet shop.
(Viewed from my patio.)

5:01:07 PM - A corner of my own roof (in shadow) with blue skies overhead.
(Viewed from my patio.)

5:02:55 PM - My driveway and next-door neighbor's house.
Look at all the sunlight!
(Viewed through glass door on side of the house opposite the patio.)

5:04:20 PM - Neighbor's truck (nearer front of my driveway)
in pouring rain but enough sunshine to cast shadows of tires.
(Viewed from under my carport.)

5:04:43 PM - Hard rain spattering on driveway,
shadow of basketball net support.
(Viewed from under carport.)

5:06:55 PM - Rain and sunshine both beating down on neighbor's roof.
Drops that appear larger were falling from eaves of my own roof.
(Viewed from under carport.)

5:08:10 PM - Closeup of rain spatter in deep puddle.
(Viewed from dry spot under carport.)

5:08:39 PM - Rainwater pooling at uncovered end of carport
where mop had been put out to dry.
(Viewed from covered part of carport, but enough
water flowed through there to get my shoes wet.)

5:09:01 PM - From bottom to top: edge of front yard, 
peak of the hilly driveway, woods across the road--and rain.
(Viewed from carport.)

5:09:59 - Walked through the house in wet shoes and
stepped out the backdoor again to take one more shot
of the bright blue sky. It was still raining, but the camera
couldn't capture it against this beautiful background.
(Viewed from patio.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Um...What Was I Thinking About? It Wasn't Birds, Was It?

My home office area is set up in a corner of the den where two windows meet and allow sunlight to pour in and brighten the room. I enjoy looking out those windows while I'm pondering a blog post idea, deciding the best way to structure a sentence, or editing photos to share. (I pay bills in the same spot, but that process doesn't involve much restorative window gazing.)

Lately, for some reason, sparrow-sized birds have been flying up and attaching themselves to the window screens. They'll hang there for a moment then hop across to a different spot on the screen or maybe fly away altogether, only to return a few minutes later. Sometimes more than one bird will land on the screen, one right after the other. Most of them eventually move upward toward the corner of the roof and out of my line of vision. I don't know why. I've looked twice and can't detect any sign of a nest up there.

The birds scratching on the screen sound very much like mice inside a wall, so the first time I heard that scratching I was relieved to look up and see a bird. Actually, because they are backlighted by the glaring sun, I see only their dark silhouettes--black, bird-shaped blobs. I can't identify what kind of birds they are.

As much as I like our fine feathered friends in general, about the only thing I can say for certain about these particular ones is they sure have a way of knocking an idea right out of my head.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Corn on the Cob and Strings of Ash

It's America's 238th birthday and I feel excited! Well, maybe not excited enough to justify the exclamation point at the end of the previous sentence, but a pleasant, anticipatory sensation nonetheless. Don't ask me why. July 4th used to excite me because it meant a holiday from work, but now that I'm retired, every day is a holiday, so that's not the reason.

We aren't celebrating with a festive cookout, though tonight I will cook oven-barbecued sausage links and serve them with store-bought potato salad, slices of the single home-grown tomato remaining from those my younger daughter brought us from her garden, and maybe we'll finally eat that corn on the cob that's been in the door of the freezer for god knows how long. That all sounds holiday appropriate, doesn't it?

What I'm feeling might just be residual excitement from childhood. The 4th of July felt like a really big deal in the '40s and early '50s, though the truth is our family celebrations weren't elaborate even then. We usually had a watermelon, which made the day special, and we must have had some kind of picnic food, or else why would I think the occasion calls for potato salad and corn on the cob?

I'm not excited about fireworks. Fireworks displays are nice to see, but my enthusiasm for them has diminished in inverse proportion to the number of dogs I've had who've been frightened by them. When I was a kid, we lived in town. We couldn't have Roman candles or any other kind of "bombs bursting in air." We did have small firecrackers that the grownups would light. Sometimes there'd be a few cherry bombs we could throw hard against the sidewalk, and we could count on having sparklers year after year. I was always afraid of sparklers. (Whose brilliant idea was it to put fire on conductive metal wires and hand them out to children?) I gritted my teeth and waved them around anyway, because my little sister wasn't afraid and I needed to be as brave as she was.

My favorite firework back then (if one can call it a firework) was made of some type of gray-colored material that had been compressed into the shape of a sitting dog no taller than the diameter of a half-dollar coin. A lighted match held briefly to the dog's rear end would cause a long, continuous string of black ash to shoot out of its butt, a sight that cracked me up no matter how many times I saw it. Now that I live with four real canines, dog poop doesn't seem so funny anymore. Although dogs do look funny when they do it.

Whatever. I can't really explain the source of my mild excitement, but it's Independence Day in the US of A, and maybe that's reason enough.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

"I'm Gonna Be Good, Whatever It Takes!"

I'm pretty sure Gimpy has whipped his stealing habit. It's been a long time since towels went missing from the bathroom or dishtowels from the kitchen counter, weeks since papers were snitched from a desktop or books pulled off a shelf. It's always seemed unfair to crate Gimpy while allowing the other three dogs unsupervised freedom, but I've done it for his safety and my peace of mind.

Lately, considering Gimpy's long stretch of good behavior, I've begun to trust him--enough that I haven't put him in the crate the last three times I've left the house.  He hasn't disappointed me; each time I've come home to find everything in its place.

I do wonder if I'm more comfortable with this new arrangement than Gimpy is, if my trust for him may be greater than his own sense of self control. I say that because Levi, Lucy and Oliver come to greet me at the front door when I get home, and there sits Gimpy, way back in the den in his crate, watching the action and wagging his tail, but not coming out of the crate until I call his name.

His self-imprisonment touches me. I kind of understand how much pressure he must feel when confronted with an opportunity to help himself to whatever's within his reach. It's the same pressure I feel when I know there are cookies in the house.