Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Gift of an Icy Day

Weather is something that catches the attention of Texans, especially at this time of year.

Just five days ago, the temperature climbed so high(82 degrees) that I briefly ran the air-conditioner. This was Friday afternoon. I could have opened up the place, but then I would have brought in the wonderful mountain cedar pollen that blows in from the Midwest this time of year. So I used the AC instead.

Saturday, a norther blew in and the high was 36 degrees. Monday night, the temperatures plummeted below freezing and moisture--mostly fog and light sprinkles or drizzle--began to coat surfaces. While we have sand trucks, the occasional nature of icy roads makes driving really iffy. Snow? Easy to drive on. Ice? not so much. Sand trucks cover the freeway ramps, bridges and overpasses. In between is untreated ice. With several million people in the Metroplex, chances for trouble are innumerable.

This morning, it is 17 degrees. Respectably chilly. A sheet of ice over everything. The good news? The sun is out and temperatures are expected to get into the 40s this afternoon. Heh. This is our first serious ice storm in six years, one of the pluses of living in Texas.

I used to get out in the car in weather like this, find a deserted parking lot, and practice skids to remind myself how to react and steer. This recent bout is too short for me to do that, plus, 100 feet of ice-covered sidewalk to the car is not an encouragement. Note to self: stock some kitty litter in case of a recurrence this winter.

If one can stay home, days like yesterday are a gift--an unplanned day to do anything you want as you stay snug and warm, with an occasional hope that the icy rain falling will not accumulate on the power lines and pull them down. Not so cozy then. Yesterday was perfect.

Being a lazy person, I didn't rejoice in the opportunity to clean out my file cabinets or even write on my blog. Nope. I lounged about reading a good mystery novel and sipping strong, hot tea with a lump of sugar and a splash of milk. Ahhh.

Today things are back to normal. Or they will be in a few hours. The Fort Worth Exposition and Stock Show is going on now (an historic custom dating back to the days when winter was the only time cowboys and ranchers had to compete in the rodeo and in the livestock barns.) Since freezing, nasty weather is apt to manifest at this same time of year, episodes like the last couple of days are known in the Metroplex as "stock show weather." Remarkably, an outdoor carnival complete with rides and a Ferris wheel is a part of the show, and hearty Texas teenagers and adults will be on the rides again as soon as the ice has melted.

I have paid my dues. Every now and then, we have an unrelenting winter. I remember one where the ice and snow didn't melt for six weeks, and I would leave for work at 5:30 a.m. to avoid traffic.I could handle the ice. Finally, a morning came with heavy snow. Nine inches in a few hours. Eighteen wheelers were stalled. My boss told me to stay home. School, of course, was canceled. My son and I played and came in for hot chocolate, laughing, laughing. Another Texas gift day. I remember the next day, the weather suddenly changed, everything melted and we were back to normal.

Yes, the weather in Texas in changeable in the winter. In the summer (sigh) it simply is unrelentingly hot,hot,hot. Not even much rain for relief. Days like this will be wonderful to remember in July.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Learned It At Yahzee

Got this e-mail from a friend.

"Well, I would like to share this with you. Yesterday I went to throw out
an empty Reynolds foil box and for some reason I turned it and looked at
the end of the box. And written on the end it said, 'Press here to lock
end.' Right there on the end of the box is a tab to lock the roll in
place. How long has this little locking tab been there? I then looked at
a generic brand of aluminum foil and it had one, too. I then looked at a
box of Saran wrap and it had one too! I can't count the number of times
the Saran wrap roll has jumped out when I was trying to cover something

I'm sharing this with my friends. I hope I'm not the only person that
didn't know about this."

And I do appreciate it, but I knew it. Actually, tabs are on both ends for even pulling. We talked about this and researched at Yahzee. Stopped the game, went into the hostess' kitchen, and examined her boxes of wrap. And the little tabs actually do work and keep the rolls of wrap from jumping out of the box when you are trying to unroll a piece. None of us had noticed it. We laughed at ourselves and went back to play.

Just one little extra in our days.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Touch of Gentle Refinement

I just finished a delightful little book, "Wisdom of Donkeys" by Andy Merrifield. It is relaxing and contemplative, just like a donkey. It includes quite a lot about donkeys in literature through not just centuries but thousands of years. It slips in a lot of information about these unassuming but oh-so-useful animals.

He talks quite a bit about the soothing effect of rubbing a donkey's soft poll, and how in England some are used in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and retirement homes as therapeutic animals.

In the U.S., there is a small but growing trend to "employ" some dogs and cats with the elderly and with children with various disabilities. In my own county, a program trains therapeutic horses for disabled children to ride. Some have spoken for the first time after horse therapy, others have learned to walk or do other things.

Animals have a powerful effect on us. A new study has just announced what other studies have said in the past--that pet owners tend to be more calm, even have lower blood pressure, after petting their dogs or cats.

While this can be true for all humans, I think it is more striking in the United States, with its commercially sexual message on one hand and "don't touch hardly ever" message on the other. We humans have a lot of skin, all of it sensitive. We HAVE to have touch somehow.

I think about how hard it is today for renters to find housing for their pets in apartments or houses, and I understand the potential problems, but--more and more of us live alone. More and more of us have retreated to outlets like this computer, or our MP3 players or ipods or whatever. We interact--really interact--less and less with each other. It seems to me often that the more phones someone has, the harder they are to reach. And that is still not touching.

I wonder how many renters would be healthier, have lower blood pressure, with a pet? (And dogs have to be walked, which means more exercise, which is also beneficial.)
In my case, my dog has died, but I get lots of human hugs. Granddaughters are pretty good at that, and my sons hug me every time we part, or I hug them.
But to stroke the fur of an animal is special. Pleasurable. Soothing.

I would say meant to be. I smiled to read about this man walking about with his little donkey, sharing the journey, the donkey not intruding on his thoughts, giving him time to formulate what would become this delightful book.

A wise donkey indeed.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Old Folks Talking

"Life is a gift!" he said passionatly. "It is to be treasured daily, hourly, minute by minute."
"Aww," I said. "You make me feel guilty. I've spent so much of my life in depression or wasting time."
"Oh, Charlotte, we have all done that! It doesn't matter. We all waste our gifts. It only matters that we know them."
"Well, as I am aging, I should know better."
He smiled kindly.
"You are not old. You are just a kid. I am the complete adult."
He is right. He is 98. I am 65.
And I learn from him.