Wednesday, September 30, 2015


The last day of September has arrived and I don't have a single blog post to show for the month. Pathetic!

Painful knees, allergies,
Overwhelmed by both of these.
Family doc and orthopedist,
Keep chin up, don't be defeatist.
On the walker, limping yet,
Dentist visit, dog to vet,
Mammogram again this year,
Flu shot season once more here.
Make appointment, not too late,
Make one more, coordinate,
Make the phone calls, make the lists,
Rub my eyes and clench my fists.
Headache, headache! Blow my nose.
Take these pills but don't take those.
Knee replacement coming soon.
Back to bed to sleep till noon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

I am not a nosy person. Most of the jobs I've had required confidentiality. One of them, in human resources, required that I familiarize myself with the types of questions the law says employers mustn't ask. So, whether it comes naturally or through years of practice, I mind my own business, sometimes to the point that it comes across as indifference. I'm not nosy, but I'm not indifferent, either.

Yesterday, as I loaded groceries into the trunk of my car at the hottest place in the world (the Walmart parking lot), I kept hearing the muffled barking of a dog. I looked around while I situated slithery plastic bags but couldn't figure out where the sound was coming from. Finished, I closed the trunk. Part of me wanted nothing more then than to get in the car, turn the air conditioner on full blast, and head for home. I'm sure the man who was waiting to park his pickup truck in my space expected me to do just that. But I couldn't.

Instead, I took off walking, following the direction of the barking dog, until I finally narrowed the sound down to a couple of cars. The little dog, a cute, fluffy, spotted thing, was standing up in the backseat of the first car I approached. The car's front windows were both down about two inches, but the back windows were up, and the interior of the car was black. I would not have wanted to be stuck in that backseat.

Not sure what to do, I decided to call the Sheriff's Office. Not 9-1-1, but the main office, where I hoped to get advice about what steps I could legally take. Having worked for the Public Defender, I knew the Sheriff's Office number by heart. I tried and failed to dial it half a dozen times. First of all, the shine on my cell phone makes it almost impossible to see the screen in bright sunlight. Secondly, my hands were shaking like crazy, so I kept hitting numbers twice and having to back up or start over. Then I noticed a young woman approaching very slowly, pushing a grocery cart. She had a worried look on her face and was staring straight at me.

"Is this your car?" I asked.


"I was calling the Sheriff," I told her. "It's way too hot to leave a dog in the car."

"I take good care of my dog," she replied.

"Not like this," I said. Then I quoted statistics to her, facts I'd learned by watching TV and reading websites like this one. I finished up by asking her to please hurry up and get that dog in some cool air.

She said, "Thank you for your concern." She didn't say it sarcastically, but so calmly that I detected a tone of let-me-be-careful-how-I-talk-to-the-crazy-lady. Whatever. I'd had my say.

I walked back to my car, turned on the A/C and waited a couple more minutes--just long enough to make sure John QuiƱones wasn't going to show up.

So, have you ever been in a position where you weren't sure what to do? What was the situation, and what did you decide?

Saturday, August 01, 2015

"Just make us be brave and make us play nice..."

I've skipped a few Saturday posts (also Sunday thru Friday ones), but I'm here today to share a song with you. This one's been around for about fifteen years, best I can tell, but I'd never heard it until it played in the background of a recent TV show. I downloaded it immediately and have listened to it dozens of time since then. It's a short, sweet song, sort of a little prayer like those I imagine we've all whispered from time to time. Enjoy!

The song is "Don't Let Us Get Sick," by Warren Zevon.
Thanks to This Is Not An Exit for posting the video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Quick Thoughts

It seems to be getting harder and harder for me to organize my thoughts and retain them long enough to sit down and work them into a coherent post here. They're too scattered, entering my mind like tabloid headlines read in the supermarket checkout line with no point-by-point stories to clarify them. Here's a sampling, not necessarily in chronological order:

I should put away the folded laundry. Nah, there's no rush. I can read another chapter.

Donald Trump leads in the polls. Is that not the scariest thing ever? Do people think he just landed in the limelight yesterday with pockets full of money? Have they read nothing at all about his ruthlessness in business and in life? About the total disrespect he has for almost everyone whose name isn't emblazoned in gold on a building? I understand that some people rally behind a man who isn't afraid to say what he thinks -- we've all had times when we'd like to stand up and stick it to "the man" -- but isn't diplomacy an important quality in someone who'll be dealing with foreign leaders? The presidency is no place for a hothead.

What is that in my mouth? Holy crap! It's my denture! Why is it in two pieces? I was taking a nap; how did it break while I was asleep?

Why is this towel on the sofa? I'll just pick it up and pretend I didn't notice it's where it isn't supposed to be. Gimpy's wearing his guilty face, and I don't want to hurt his feelings.

Oh, no! Another theater shooting! And this one was only an hour away from here. How many died? Two, not counting the shooter? That is so sad! And there's our governor, smack in the middle of the investigation bigwigs outside the crime scene. That's gotta be the fastest trip he ever took. Ha! Listen to how he dodged the question about gun control.

I need to go to the store. But the heat index is over three digits. How can I put this trip off until tomorrow? Peas. I can eat this can of peas for supper. Tomorrow won't be cooler, but I can get an earlier start.

Another murder in Baton Rouge. Another person dead, another family traumatized. How many does that make this year? Hm. This website says 40 already. So that's, what, almost six a month? Not much fuss raised about most of these individuals. Why not set aside one day a year to lower the flag and collectively acknowledge all those who have been slain one at a time? It would at least call attention to the fact that this country has a murder problem.

I should empty the dishwasher. Nah, I'm gonna read for another twenty minutes.

I really want to see the new baby! Look at all that dark hair! She looks just like her daddy, and I know he's gonna be a good one. Her mama will be a good one, too. She's a lucky little girl. They're probably having a lot of visitors now. I'll wait a little longer.

Good grief! There's a brain-eating amoeba in the water supply! Not ours, thank goodness, but too close for comfort. They're saying the water is safe to drink, but be careful not to get it up your nose. Seriously? How thirsty would I have to be to drink water that I know contains a brain-eating amoeba? I'd stick with diet soda; the chemicals in that might kill me, too, but it would take them longer to do it.

Why are the dogs scratching at the base of this little table? There must be a ball under there. (Pulling out table.) Oh my goodness, five balls -- and dust bunnies and dog hair. Heh. All three boy dogs are darting in and grabbing a ball. Heh-heh. Lucy's nuts. She's ignoring the two remaining balls and scooping up dust bunnies.

This raisin bread is SO good! How many slices should I toast? That's a lot of carbs and calories, especially with the butter on it, but I haven't eaten yet today, and it's almost noon. It could be breakfast and lunch. Yeah, that's it, that's how I'll think of it. Hm. How can I keep the first two slices warm while I wait for the second two to toast?

Look at this nonsense on Facebook! Why does she insist on posting political videos that have no foundation in fact? She's smarter than that. She is, right? Have I given her credit for having better sense than she actually does? This one is just way over-the-top ridiculous. Okay, I'm sorry, but that does it. Let's to pull down unfollow.

I really should vacuum. Nah, I'm not expecting company, and it's quiet now. It's a good time to start that next book I've been waiting to read.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

What I've Been Reading

It's embarrassing to admit that I've forgotten the basic plots of almost all the books on this list, even though I'm fairly sure I enjoyed each one while I was reading it. I know for certain that I've liked every Barbara Freethy book I've read so far, so Daniel's Gift must have been good, too. In The Sweetest Thing the lead female owned a candy shop, I think. Or regularly visited a candy shop. Or was it a bakery? I don't know, but it was something sweet. The only non-fiction book on this list is When I Married My Mother, and the fact that I remember quite a bit about this one speaks to the wisdom of giving a book a title that clearly hints at its contents. Good planning, Jo Maeder.

Daniel's Gift
by Barbara Freethy

The Virtues of Oxygen
by Susan Schoenberger

Watershed Year
by Susan Schoenberger

by Christoph Fischer

Out on a Limb
by Carolyn Jourdan

A Thousand Lies
by Sharon Sala

The Sweetest Thing
by Lillian Darcy

When I Married My Mother  (Non-Fiction)
by Jo Maeder

At Last
by Barbara Bretton

by Kimberly Vargas

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

Sunday, July 05, 2015


Levi has been wearing my old T-shirts for the last week and a half after I found a small but nasty-looking wound under the curls on his left side. He had apparently sustained the injury a few days earlier, but it didn't bleed enough to discolor his thick fur. I might not have found it when I did had he not been snuggled up next to me on the sofa and flinched when my "skritching fingers" landed on that particular spot. By then it appeared to be badly infected.

We went to the vet the next morning, where a saucer-sized patch of Levi's fur was shaved off, the wound was thoroughly cleaned out and we were given two weeks' worth of antibiotics and one week's worth of doggy pain pills. My canine-trodden floors are not sanitary (there is no five-second rule here), so I asked the vet about bandaging the wound to keep it clean. He didn't want to do that, said it needed some air circulation, and suggested putting Levi in a clean T-shirt instead. So, that's what we've done.

I had no idea that Levi would be willing to wear clothes. He surprised me. He didn't object when I put the first one on him, and he's been as cooperative as a fashion model each time I've changed his outfit, often two or three times a day. He hasn't tried once to get out of a shirt. He wears a loose elastic belt around his waist, which allows me to roll the shirttail once or twice to keep it out of the line of fire when he pees.

The wound is healing nicely. I could probably leave the shirts off by now, except I don't trust our three other nosy dogs to pass up a chance to explore what the heck that thing is on Levi's side. As long as he seems comfortable, I'll lend him shirts until there's no more sign of the injury. Besides, he looks really, really cute!

Friday, July 03, 2015


This morning, minutes after waking, I lay in bed thinking that today feels like the 4th of July, especially because both my daughters have the day off work. But Independence Day is actually tomorrow. Today is only the 3rd. Hm. The 3rd of July. I thought about that date for a moment, then did some mental math.

Fifty-four years ago on this date I married my first husband. Here's a photo of me, 18 years old, looking a little shell-shocked, sipping non-alcoholic, lime-sherbet-and-ginger-ale punch minutes after the brief marriage ceremony:

A week earlier, when I'd told Mother I'd accepted a marriage proposal, I'd expected her to try to talk me out of it. She could have, but she didn't try. Instead, she went into action and pulled together a small but lovely at-home wedding. Here's the pretty table she laid out in her dining room for the reception (note the green candles chosen to match the punch):

Fifty-three years ago on this date, living 200-plus miles away from my parents' home, I took the top layer of that wedding cake out of the freezer and discreetly dumped it in the garbage, probably hiding it under coffee grounds and potato peels. I didn't feel much like celebrating--especially if it involved eating freezer-burned cake.

I can laugh now when I remember those long-ago events. It helps that my two daughters from that marriage have brought so much joy and love into my life. It also helps that I've lived long enough to understand that one impulsive marriage doesn't invalidate all the good decisions I've made through the years. Of course, that marriage wasn't the only mistake I've ever made. True, it remains the shining star of my bad or questionable decisions, but when I lump them all together, it loses some of its luster. 

These days I smile and shake my head when the song I once considered "our song" comes up on my iTunes playlist. It's a great song, and I still love it, but how could I have overlooked the warning in the lyrics?

The song is "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," performed by The Shirelles.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to Mp3SuperSound for posting the music video on YouTube.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

He Who Would Be King

On October 20, 2007, I cast my electronic ballot for Bobby Jindal to become Louisiana's next governor. The following day I wrote a post about that vote, the iffiness of it and the hope behind it. That post included these words:
I made a huge leap of faith when I pushed that button yesterday, and I pray to God I didn’t make a mistake. If time proves that my faith wasn’t justified, I hope you’ll all remind me of that–-mercilessly--before the next major election.
Well, folks, I screwed up. If you want to heap scorn upon my head, I'm ready to stand here and accept it. Voting for Jindal isn't the stupidest mistake I've ever made, but it's the stupidest one I've ever made public.

In the beginning I was encouraged. Early in his first term we had Hurricane Gustav, and Bobby Jindal showed himself to be far more adept at crisis management than his predecessor, Kathleen Blanco, who was notably inept during Hurricane Katrina three years earlier. There. I've given him credit where he deserved it. That's the last thing I remember liking about him.

It is perhaps a fault of mine that I'm overly impressed by intelligence. Jindal is bright; there's no question about that. I have tended to equate intelligence with logic and open-mindedness, but I've learned from watching our governor that I'm wrong about that, that those traits don't always go hand in hand.

I've also learned that naked ambition trumps intelligence when it comes to making decisions in the best interest of the citizenry. (And speaking of "trump," the Donald's naked ambition is brazenly obvious, too--but that's a subject for a whole 'nother post.)

I don't think Bobby Jindal has ever cared one iota about the State of Louisiana except as a stepping stone on his path toward the presidency. If he believes every single piece of right-wing propaganda he's spouted in the last eight years, then, in my opinion, he's dangerous to a free society. If he doesn't really believe everything he's said, then he's such a suck-up that Tea Party bigwigs must have permanent hickeys on their behinds. Either way, polls indicate that seventy per cent of this red state's population are disappointed in his performance.

Why am I bringing all this up today? Because Bobby Jindal is expected to announce his candidacy for president at four o'clock this afternoon. What an ego! What a loser!

I'd say, "What a joke!" but I'm not laughing.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

For Charleston, Where "Hate Won't Win"

This brand-new song is "All Good People" by Delta Rae.
Thanks to Delta Rae for writing it, recording it, and posting it on YouTube in response to the slayings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Beat of a Different Drum

I wish I knew what goes on in Gimpy's mind. When the dogs start from anywhere in the house to go outside, they have to pass between the dining area and the kitchen, go into the den, then turn left to go out the door onto the patio. Three of the four do it just that way. Gimpy, however, skips that first left turn, runs straight ahead to pass between the futon and the cedar chest, steps up twelve inches onto the hearth, then turns left, steps down, passes by the large dog crate and turns right, ready to burst out the door. He  doesn't choose this crazy path always, but he does the majority of the time.

Here, I drew this floor plan of my (overcrowded) den for those of you who prefer pictures to words: 

He also has his own convoluted route to get back inside from the backyard: 

I"m pretty sure I know the reasoning behind his chosen path in this instance: anole lizards hang out on the patio furniture. They're only there in warm weather, but Gimpy does it this way in winter, too, just in case. (Sometimes he shortcuts under the table.)

(Speaking of convoluted, those little squares placed in odd positions near the round patio table in the second drawing represent chairs positioned just where we like 'em. I like to sit in one chair and prop my feet in another one, symmetry be hanged! We don't arrange them nicely unless company is coming.)

Gimpy's eating habits are peculiar, too. We separate the four dogs at feeding time because Lucy is greedy, doesn't take time to chew, and doesn't mind eating out of someone else's bowl. She and her bowl get locked in the hall behind a gate until Levi and Oliver are finished. Gimpy eats in the crate with the door closed. The gist of the long story behind that is that before we got him, he shared a home with his Golden Retriever father, who intimidated him and wouldn't let him eat. He was getting skinny. Here, closed in the crate, he can feel safe that no one will interfere with him during his dinner. That worked fine for a long time, but he's been taking things a step further recently. Now, when I put him and his bowl in the crate, he faces away from the bowl, lies down and waits. Only when the three other dogs have all cleaned their bowls and have gathered around his crate does he stand up and begin to eat. He does it very slowly, as if he's relishing every bite, and he glances up now and then to make sure the other dogs are still watching him. I'm pretty sure that if he could talk, he'd be saying, "NA-NA-na-NA-na-na."

I love Gimpy. He's funny, the most clownish of the four dogs, and the cuddliest, most affectionate, too. He gives far more chin licks and tail wags than the others do. He also happens to be the most jealous: if one of the other dogs is getting hugs or skritches, it's only a matter of seconds before Gimpy shows up and squirms into the middle of the action. It's sweet and funny when it happens, but we all know jealousy isn't a particularly good trait. He's sneaky, too. If I tell Levi to stop licking or scratching, Levi stops it. If I tell Gimpy the same thing, he gives me a dirty look, then gets up and goes around the corner where I can't see him.

I love him even more for his weirdness.

Monday, June 15, 2015

What I've Been Reading

It seems like forever since I've posted about books, and a search just now proved that it's actually been seven months--way too long, for sure. Since I don't actually review the books here, these book lists and links probably don't help you much. (You can count on the fact that I rarely read anything that doesn't have at least a four-star rating among Amazon's customers, and if I really dislike a book, I won't even list it. So who needs my opinion anyway?) Nevertheless, these posts sure make it much easier for me when I'm considering a book and can't remember if I've already read it. That happens more often than I'd like to admit, especially when I'm reading a lot of books by the same author.

I knew that someday I'd get back to book lists, so I've continued to save an image of each one as I've read it. Boy, have I built up a backlog! I'll try to put up a reading post at least once a week until I catch up.

Here we go, starting way back where we left off in November:

Under the Sassafras
by Hattie Mae

Huntress Moon
by Alexandra Sokoloff

The Lost Saints of Tennessee
by Amy Franklin Willis

The Beans of Egypt, Maine
by Carolyn Chute

A Will and a Way
by Nora Roberts

Jubilee's Journey
by Bette Lee Crosby

Blood Land
by R. S. Guthrie

A Girl Named Zippy
by Haven Kimmel

The Girl Who Came Home
by Hazel Gaynor

Harbored Secrets
by Marie F. Martin

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

Okay, I will give one brief review:  The Beans of Egypt, Maine is a well-written, good story, but it depressed the heck out of me. When I think about it--and I still do--I wish I could unread it.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sooey, Pig, Pig, Pig!

At the end of May I saw this Facebook conversation between my sister and an old family friend:

I wanted to get in on that conversation, but if I'd posted there, I'd have felt obligated to acknowledge forty-some-odd other posts by "liking" them, and I just didn't have the energy. I decided to put in my two cents here, where things are quieter.

I'm pretty sure the wild hog incident occurred in 1958, the second summer we lived in Texas and our second visit to Keith's parents' camp at Cow Creek. As former city girls, this was as close to roughing it as my sister and I had ever come, but nothing had prepared us for the wild hogs. I say "hogs," but they were pigs, really--big enough but not yet full-grown. And I say "wild" because they behaved wildly, even though it turned out they belonged to someone.

It was early summer, a month or two before my little brother was born. I was 15, my sister Judy was 11, and I believe Keith would have been about five. Here's a photo of Mother and me at the camp. Click on the picture and look how pretty she was, all happy and expectant. (She was 34. I was excited about the idea of a new baby in the family but embarrassed because people would know by Mother's obvious pregnancy that she'd been having sex at her advanced age.)

We didn't know that marauding pigs had invaded the camp while we swam and played all afternoon in cool, brown creek water. When we climbed up the bank at the campsite,  they greeted us, oinking loudly, racing here and there, rooting around in our overturned ice chests in search of one more morsel of food. They had already eaten everything we'd brought. (I think Judy was right about the number of pigs, but the way they were running around, it's easy to see why a little kid like Keith might have thought there were more of them.)

With dusk approaching and nothing left to eat for supper, the men talked each other into catching one of the pigs to roast. They found some rope and, through trial and error, eventually set up a respectable snare. They had plenty of time to work on it; the pigs didn't seem to be as afraid of us as we were of them and continued running around, making serpentine paths through the camp area. It didn't take too long before one pig stepped into the noose, and Judy or Keith or somebody pulled the rope and caught it, by one hind leg if I recall correctly. One of the men struck the trapped pig with an axe, and the other pigs went nuts.

You never heard such squealing.

That's when the men shooed us women and children away from all the unpleasantness. We didn't want to be there anyway while they finished killing the injured pig, then butchered it. I don't remember seeing the sheriff Keith mentioned, but I do recall encountering the old farmer as we walked down the narrow dirt road away from camp. He wore overalls, a long-sleeved shirt in spite of he heat, and a dirty, floppy hat. He had a shotgun propped over his right shoulder. He looked at us suspiciously as he passed by, striding quickly toward the camp, but he didn't say a word. Neither did we.

We didn't walk much farther after that, just stood around and toed the loose dirt while we speculated about what was happening between the men and the farmer. By the time one of the dads walked close enough to see us and shout for us to come back, the farmer was gone and so were the pigs, except for the one that was just being hoisted over the fire. Later that night I heard some talk about money that had changed hands: the agreed-upon market price of one half-grown pig minus the estimated cost of the groceries they'd consumed.

It would be another 14 years before Deliverance would come out in movie theaters, but I've seen that film half a dozen times since then, and the old man in it has always made me think of the scary-looking old farmer we met the day of our wild pig adventure. I've never forgotten the chaos or the squealing or the creepy feeling of waiting on that dirt road while the sun sank lower and lower in the sky. I remember that captured pig, too. I didn't intend to eat a bite of it, considering its unfortunate demise and the fact that I'd never before eaten meat that I'd met personally in its live form. It took a while for the pig to cook, though, and hunger, along with a sensational aroma, overcame my convictions. Best pork I ever ate!


If you can't see the Deliverance video below, click on Watch on YouTube. (And don't worry, this is the Dueling Banjos scene where the old man dances, not the horrible "pig" scene.)

Thanks to Floris Verschuren for posting the video on YouTube.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Most Beautiful Moon

It was the summer of 1959 or '60, and we were on our way to Kentucky, driving in our unair-conditioned car at night to beat the sweltering daytime heat. Daddy (my stepfather) was driving, and Mother was in the passenger seat with my baby brother, Joe, in her lap. (There were no child safety-seat requirements in those days; cars didn't even have seat belts.) My sister, stepsister and I were too close for comfort in the backseat.

Slumped low next to the right-side window, I could see over the front seats just enough to view the night sky through the windshield. What I saw was a dark orange moon that hung just above the horizon and looked as big as a wagon wheel. In the quiet of the car I leaned forward and spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear: "That is the most beautiful moon I've ever seen in my life!"

Mother, turned her head sharply toward Daddy and responded with a sneer in her voice: "Oh, Gawd!"

Daddy looked back at her, gave a little chuckle, and turned his eyes back to the road, the smile still on his face.

That was the entire conversation.

I leaned back in my corner and thought to myself, well, I guess I was being kind of overzealous and dramatic, but I didn't know I sounded that stupid. I made up my mind right then to curtail that kind of enthusiasm in the future. I was almost grown and certainly didn't want to be thought of as silly.

For more than thirty years--nearly forty, now that I'm doing the math--I thought of that incident every time I looked at a beautiful moon or, for that matter, at anything else that tempted me to speak effusively. I always tried to tone it down.

My stepdad died in 1996. One day a year or two after he passed, I sat on the sofa in my mother's East Texas home and listened while she talked about her two marriages. Paul, my biological father, had been a womanizer. She appreciated that Tommy, my stepfather, had not been one.

"Tommy never cheated on me," she said that day. "He came close to it once when I was pregnant with Joe. He'd gone to the boat club, and it was late, and he hadn't come home. I went down there and found him sitting in a car with some woman. He'd had way too much to drink, and all he kept saying to me was, 'That's the most beautiful moon I've ever seen in my life!'"


My stepsister and I talked on the phone yesterday about those days when we all lived together, and we talked for a while about our assortment of parents. It was the first time I'd ever remembered to tell her this moon story. She laughed hard at the end of it. When I spoke of my astonishment upon realizing that the two words mother uttered that had impacted my life for decades had had absolutely nothing to do with me, she laughed again. "And now," she said, "do you know what I'll think of for the rest of my life when I see a beautiful moon?"

That's what we storytellers do. We break our lives into bite-sized pieces, then we feed them to others and let them chew on them awhile.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"...In the Merry, Merry Month of May..."

Whoever sang that line of lyrics must have been talking about the month of May in an entirely different year; this one hasn't been particularly merry. I bet I could count on one hand the number of days it didn't rain this month. As I write this, the mid-afternoon sky is dark gray, rain is pouring down, trees are swaying in the wind, and thunder is making regular announcements. True, we haven't had flooding and tornados like some parts of the country, but I've been dealing with muddy-footed dogs for six straight months, and I'm sure they're as ready as I am for the backyard to dry out.

The microwave oven died one day this month, and the next day the refrigerator went on the blink. I ordered a new microwave online and called a refrigerator repairman, who didn't show up. Fortunately, just after I threw out all the iffy food, Kim fiddled with the fridge and it cranked back up again. Yay, Kim! The inconvenience of going without those two appliances for a few days resulted in a wonderfully healthy attitude adjustment.

In the good news department, I got to celebrate Mother's Day twice this month, first on the actual day with Kim, and a week later with Kelli and her big family. Kelli had been on a cruise with her hubby on the official holiday. Worked out well for me!

You would think, as long as I've been absent from this blog, that I'd have lots of things to write about. That isn't the case, and this isn't much of a post, but I wanted to put something up here so the entire month of May wouldn't be missing from my archives.

I also wanted to thank those of you who have checked back here from time to time and left comments. You're the ones who inspire me to write. The contents of my brain, much like the contents of my broken refrigerator, have not been fit for human consumption lately, but I hope to start posting again on a regular basis as soon as I've cleaned all the spoiled stuff out of my head.

Come on, sunshine, and come on, June. I'll see y'all then.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Up, Up and Away!

One day last week Kim and I sat out on the patio for a late-afternoon chat. The sun was in our eyes, so we raised the big umbrella. For one reason or another, we went inside without closing the umbrella and didn't give it another thought before bedtime.

The next morning I opened the back door and noticed that the small clay pot Kim uses as an ashtray on the umbrella table had tipped over and spilled half a dozen cigarette butts on the concrete. I hurried to pick them up before the dogs could get them, thinking all the while that something else seemed wrong. It took a minute to realize that the umbrella was missing.

A quick look in the backyard and the side yard showed that the umbrella wasn't there. I walked the width of the house, not really thinking that the umbrella could have blown far enough to end up in the driveway, and indeed it wasn't there. I had a clear view of neighbors' yards all around, could have seen a big green umbrella if there'd been one in any of them, but there wasn't.

Kim woke up a few minutes later, and I asked her to look around outside and see if she could tell what was different. She didn't register the missing umbrella immediately, either. Once she did, she looked in all the same places I'd looked. We both laughed at the mental image of a huge umbrella floating off into space.

Kim got dressed and went out the front door to look some more. Minutes later she came in giggling and said she'd found the umbrella. I followed her out that way and didn't see any sign of it until she told me to look up.

This photo shows the green umbrella, lodged upside down in a niche of the roof between the front of my house and the rear of our rent house across the carport.

Here's where it started from:

Apparently, on an otherwise clear, calm night, there was one gust of wind that was strong enough to lift the umbrella and its weighted pole high enough to clear our rooftop. Gosh, I wish I'd seen it happen! What fun that would have been.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

How Old Do I Look?

The other day I stepped inside the nearest gas station/convenience store and paid for a drive-thru car wash. The teenaged attendant glanced at the car wash code printed at the bottom of my receipt, looked at me for a long second, then turned the receipt over and wrote the code in large numerals on the back of it.

"There!" he said as he handed the receipt to me. "Isn't that better than those small numbers?"

I thanked him profusely. His intentions were good, the little s#*t.

Friday, April 03, 2015

April Already?

This year is whizzing by! Allergy season has arrived and has brought with it a couple of intense bouts of vertigo, during which I could do nothing but lie flat on the bed and watch my dresser and chest of drawers pass by again and again. Fortunately, antihistamines and this exercise seem to have stopped the spinning for now.

The new thyroid medicine has kicked in, and I'm feeling much better than I did a couple of months ago. The sunshine and warmer temperatures helped, too, of course. My spirits would probably be even higher if my summer clothes still fit. Thank goodness for the lightweight, stretchy knits we call "activewear." What a misnomer that is!

The weather this week has been beautiful, warm enough that the little anole lizards are out and about, which makes Gimpy just about the happiest dog on the planet. Every time he steps out the door, he closely inspects the drain pipes, the patio furniture, the spaces between slats in the privacy fence--all the places where lizards hide. He almost never catches one (thank goodness!), but it isn't for lack of trying.

Kim hosted a small dinner party last weekend, and my Goldendoodle boys seemed to think they were the guests of honor. Levi placed his ball in front of each person in turn, allowing everyone a chance to throw it for him, eventually narrowing the players down to one or two people who could throw the farthest. Gimpy played ball, too, but his main objective for the evening seemed to be making sure he left no chin unlicked.

One of Kim's guests had a charming accent (Mississippi, I think). When he spoke of "one feller who had a 'dee-limmer,'" I chuckled to myself at the quaint pronunciation and listened more closely, trying to determine what the fellow's dilemma was. Turns out Kim's friend was talking about clearing trees off some property. What the guy actually had was a delimber, a machine that removes the limbs from cut-down trees. My bad. Who knew there was such a thing?

Speaking of words, the Life Writing class I've enjoyed so much has been canceled, along with all the other LSU-sponsored classes in this parish. Our last class was Monday. It seems that enrollment was so low that the classes weren't cost-effective for LSU. That disappoints me, though I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that continuing education and artistic or intellectual pursuits aren't high on the bucket lists of many people in this small-town community. What delights me is that the members of our Life Writing class have decided to continue meeting and writing together on our own. We've found a meeting place and will start next week. Yay, us!

I'm looking forward to Sunday, when I'll get to spend time with kids, grandkids and great-grandkids all at one time. Those get-togethers are precious to me, and I hope you get to share the holiday with those you love most, too. Happy Easter, y'all!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I'll See You in My Dreams

I didn't imagine I'd be writing any new stories about Butch; he's been gone for three years now. But this morning, when I finally slept hard and late after a night spent tossing and turning, he came to me in a dream.

It was past time for me to get up, and in the dream I did that. I put on my robe, stepped out into the hallway, and there, where I expected to see Levi and Gimpy, I saw Butch instead. He was doing his familiar, happy tap-dance on the tile floor, wagging his tail so vigorously that his whole back end moved. In the way of dreams, I believed I was awake, but the sight of a living, breathing Butch made the wide-awake dream-me think I must be dreaming. I reached out first to touch the door frame, then the green, high-back chair, reasoning that if I could make myself touch real things, then I must be awake.

Butch didn't seem to have any such concerns. He was all over me, wriggling against my legs, pushing his face against my hand, soaking up all the loving he'd missed while he'd been away. I dropped onto the sofa and picked him up, holding him like a squirmy baby, running my hands through his soft fur, sniffing his ears and his popcorn-scented paws, relishing the impossible moment.

My grandmother walked into the room, she who passed away in 1988, and my daughter Kim, too, who is very much alive today but was a young girl in the dream. Still not believing Butch could be here, I asked them both if they could see him. They could not.

I turned to look again and saw him standing by my knees, his tail still wagging, then I looked across the room and he was there, too. He was everywhere I looked. Sometimes I could see four or five of him in different places at once, all of them moving, sniffing corners, exploring every part of every room the same way I would do if I could visit the house where I grew up.

Eventually the long dream changed into a twisted scenario involving a long bus ride with the child-Kim in New York City, and it ended almost immediately after that when I woke up for real. I lay quietly in bed for a long while, soaking up the joy I'd felt at the dream reunion with Butch. He'd seemed younger than he'd been at the end of his life. A little thinner, too, and much more agile. Every bit as affectionate. I've tried to remember whether or not he was still blind in the dream, but I can't recall. It doesn't matter; we could see each other just fine.

Later this morning, after I'd been up for a while, I noticed today's date: March 19th. Butch was a found puppy who came to live with us on the last day of April, 1998. The veterinarian who checked him over that day estimated his age at six weeks, so we counted back into the middle of March to choose a date to celebrate as his birthday. We picked a date we knew we'd always remember because it was my second husband's birthday: March 19th.

To the best of my recollection, this is the first time I've ever dreamed about Butch. Happy birthday, sweet angel--and thanks so much for sharing it with me.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Smart Cookies

Back in November I wrote about Levi's attention to bells and timers. At one-thirty the other night he stood by my bed and poked me awake with his nose. I scratched his head and told him to go back to bed. Instead, he stood up on his hind legs, placed one paw on the mattress for balance and used the other one to slap me repeatedly on the shoulder. When he was satisfied that I was wide awake, he walked to the bedroom door and looked over his shoulder, waiting for me to follow him. I did -- all the way into the kitchen, where he stopped and looked up toward the spot where my cell phone lay on the counter. At precisely that moment, the phone lit up and the text tone sounded. It was a wrong number, but Levi didn't know that. I like to think he'd alert me to an urgent call, too.


The arrangement of chairs on our patio looks odd but has a purpose. Two of the chairs sit facing each other with about a foot of knee room between them. The chair that looks out onto the yard is for sitting; the other chair is for propping feet on and is also used as a tennis-ball return spot. After we get tired of throwing the ball for the dogs, they get a little more mileage out of us by placing the ball on the seat of the chair, where a human foot hardly has to move at all to knock the ball off the to one side or another. Kim noticed recently that Levi and Gimpy understand spatial relationships well enough that they wait on the left side of the chair if her foot is positioned to the right of the ball. If she moves her leg to the left side of the ball, both dogs scurry around to the right side of the chair. 

They do something similar when we play coffee-table ball in the house. Once they've placed the ball under the low-slung table, they watch while I stick the broom handle under there, then they quickly map out some kind of mental trajectory and race each other to the exact place where the ball will roll out as soon as I give it a good whack.


Levi is the only dog I've ever had that understands to look in the direction a finger points instead of focusing on the pointed finger. This skill comes in handy. He rarely goes outside without a ball in his mouth, and he knows it's his job to bring the ball back in the house when playtime is over. Usually he does it. Sometimes, if he hurries back inside, I have to send him out a second time to get his ball. That's an easy task for him--unless he can't remember where he left it. Being considerably taller than Levi is, I can often spot the yellow-green ball that he can't see behind leaves or grass at a distant spot. That's where the pointing comes in: I point, and he finds it after a short search. Now, if I can only get him to understand what I mean by "warmer" and "colder"... 


Such shaggy dogs! Haircuts are coming soon, just in time for warmer weather.



Saturday, February 21, 2015

"...And always remember, the dark clouds pass with time"

On days when I walked the six blocks home from Phelps Elementary School alone, I sometimes sang out loud to pass the time. My favorite songs were hits from the radio, and in fourth grade (1951), one ballad dominated my repertoire:

When I think of this song, what I hear in my head is Johnny Ray's voice, but what I see in the visual part of my mind is a tree-lined sidewalk on which a skinny, blond-haired, nine-year-old girl swings a plaid, plastic book bag, paces each saddle-oxford-clad footstep to the beat of her inner music, and belts out the lyrics as unselfconsciously as if no one could possibly hear her from behind fluttering curtains and open windows.

It may be a sad song, but those memories are happy, happy ones.


The song is "The Little White Cloud That Cried," performed by Johnny Ray and The Four Lads.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to MrSherco12 for posting the video on YouTube.

One Step at a Time

On Tuesday, while many Louisianans were collecting beads at Mardi Gras festivities, I was at the doctor's office, collecting information, advice, and medication samples. A day earlier my younger daughter had gently and lovingly asked me what was going on and why I seemed to have "shut down" lately. Her sister had asked similar questions two days earlier.

The thing is, it had crept up so stealthily that I hadn't noticed it. I was well aware of an overwhelming physical fatigue but hadn't paid much attention to my emotional state until my daughters pointed it out. It was/is depression.

I should have recognized it. It runs through the DNA on my father's side of the family, so I've seen it before. I've experienced it before, too, but up to now, for me, depression has always been a response to one unfortunate situation or another. This time there was no obvious reason for it.

Then came the message from the doctor: the blood test I'd taken a couple of weeks earlier indicated that my thyroid gland isn't producing at the level it should be. To me this was good news: fatigue and depression are symptoms of hypothyroidism, so maybe that's my excuse for long naps and skipped showers. We'll see. It reportedly takes a few weeks for the thyroid meds to kick in.

As it happens, I'm already feeling somewhat perkier mentally. The credit for that may go to giving up diet soda, which I did about a week ago. Because I enjoy it so much, I've always been skeptical about the many articles linking diet soda to depression, but this is the second time in four years that I've broken a 4-5 cans per day habit with fast, positive results. Some of us apparently don't learn a lesson the first time.

Anyway, between the mood lift and the encouragement of a few faithful readers, I've decided to keep plugging away at this blog for now. With a little luck and some thyroid hormone replacement therapy, Velvet Sacks and I may have a fighting chance.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Neglect and Indecision

For years I had a recurrent dream in which I walked out my backdoor onto a short sidewalk that ended up at the door of a large, greenhouse-looking building that I had forgotten was there. It turned out to be an aviary for tropical birds. The enclosure was filled with cages containing birds like the beauties pictured in this post (photographed at the Greater Baton Rouge Zoo), plus dozens of small, colorful parakeets. 

The difference between the birds in the pictures and the birds in my dream is that the dream birds were dying. A few of them were already dead. All the food and water dishes were empty, the cages covered in droppings, and those birds that were still alive, lying on their sides and gasping for breath, had ragged feathers and bald patches.

I was horrified in the dream to find the birds in such dreadful condition and horrified even more to know that I was the one who had allowed it to happen. I loved the birds, but, feeling overwhelmed by life in general, I'd allowed one day after another to pass without tending to them. Now I was looking at the consequences of my neglect.

Every time I had that dream, the guilt I felt lingered long into the day ahead. It's been years since the dream has recurred, but I remember the lesson of it well.

I thought about it the other day when I was considering this blog. I've been neglecting it, I know, and I'm pretty sure it's dying. I'm not feeding it on a regular basis. The number of readers has dwindled down to a small fraction of what it used to be. My fault. 

I have loved the blogging experience and the people I've met along the way, but when days or weeks pass without new posts, I feel as guilty as I did in the dream about the birds, and I do not like that feeling.

My choices are to stop -- to scratch this blog off my to-do list so I don't have to think about it anymore -- or to pick up its ragged body while it has one breath left and attempt to resuscitate it, to nurse it back to health. At this point I don't know what I want to do.

Indecision feels almost as unpleasant as guilt.

PS: I once told a co-worker about my dying-bird dream. She then told me she had an almost identical dream, also recurring, except that the victims of her neglect were fish in an enormous aquarium. According to articles on the Internet, these types of dreams are fairly common. Weird, huh?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

"And run if you will to the top of the hill..."

I was first introduced to Rod McKuen's music in 1967 by the man who would later become my second (and last and best) husband. On the drive home from our first date, Richard plugged an eight-track tape into his car stereo, and the car filled with the sound of waves splashing on the beach, the gentle, seductive voice of McKuen himself, and the swelling music of the Anita Kerr Orchestra. That tape was The Sea. It made me appreciate Rod McKuen. More than that, it made me appreciate Richard because he could appreciate Rod McKuen.

Poet and songwriter Rod McKuen died on Thursday at the age of 81. So many of his songs provided background music for my life. My favorite of all of them was this one:

The song is "Jean," written by Rod McKuen.
Thanks to bernieb48 for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Deglamorization of the Sunday Special

If I were to turn on the news right now, I'm pretty sure I'd hear about violence in the middle east, one or more of the many politicians considering a run for the presidency in 2016, or speculation about who's to blame for the Patriots' underinflated footballs. By not turning on the news, I'm free to let my mind wander until it stops to ponder the decline in status of fried chicken.

All through my childhood, fried chicken was the star of Sunday dinner. Every single week after church, my grandmother would fry up a store-bought hen and serve it with mashed potatoes, thick white gravy, whole-kernel corn and Brown 'N Serve rolls. In the summertime the corn would still be on the cob (we called it "roastin' ears"), fresh from my grandfather's garden, and thick slices of home-grown tomatoes were added to the menu.

Frying chicken was messy work. It dusted the kitchen with flour and sealed it with a coat of grease, but Mammaw put on her apron and did it anyway, because she knew how much we all liked that meal. When I grew up and had a family of my own, I followed her example.

Once a week, every week, I fried chicken. I cooked it for an evening meal, though, not at midday, and it might have been a Sunday or it might not have been. The chicken was a favorite whenever we had it, but it wasn't as special as it used to be when it marked a specific day and time.

Somewhere along in my daughter's school years, Colonel Sanders came onto the scene. Once in a blue moon, usually if we were traveling, we'd stop at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant for a meal. Fried chicken eaten out, no matter how tasty it was, didn't seem special at all. I still cooked it regularly at home.

By the time we moved to Louisiana, KFC had locations all over the place. Soon afterward, Popeye's franchises came to town. When I considered the time and the mess involved in frying a chicken, the idea of stopping at a drive-thru and bringing home a bucket or bag of it fried elsewhere seemed too good to pass up. I traveled that greasy, slippery slope time after time, and it's been years since I've fried a chicken. I don't imagine I ever will again.

As delicious as fried chicken is, it's become fast food, no more special than burgers or tacos or pizza--something to eat because it's convenient, something to avoid if you care about your arteries. I like it still and eat it once every couple of months, whether I should or not. The delicious flavor is still there, but the magic that used to come with it never makes it into the box.

Monday, January 19, 2015


I've had a profound interest in the Civil Rights movement since the 1960s, and it's an ever-present thorn in my side that I've never found the courage to be an activist. This morning I commented to Kelli, my younger daughter, that I'd slept extra late today when I could have been out marching in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Well," she replied, "did you at least have a dream?"

Yeah, I did. But not an important one. The big dreams come when I'm wide awake. Now all I need is a backbone.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Murder of Crows

Today's Saturday Song Selection, as well as last week's, was introduced to me by FX's Sons of Anarchy. I don't watch the show (missed too much of it to start), but my daughter and granddaughter are loyal fans. Twice recently I've passed my daughter's bedroom and been captivated by the music coming from her TV. Both times she was watching SoA.

Today's song reminded me of this photo I took about two years ago:

I realize that two crows do not a murder make, but there's an evil, persuasive, talking crow in the song that I imagine looks very much like the one perched above. The same evil crow laughs and flies away later in the lyrics, so the photo covers that idea, too. 

If you're one of those people who was thrilled (as I was) at the tingling of your spine when you first read Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," I think you'll be as enthralled as I am by the story, lyricism and imagery of this song. Please give it a listen.

The song is "Come Join the Murder" by The White Buffalo & The Forest Rangers.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to Luca Desecrate for posting the video on YouTube.