Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Affordable and Free add Quality to Living

I have been pleasantly astonished through the years that national parks and monuments continue to be priced where most of us can afford to go. Pessimistically, with all the frantic beaureacratic pawing for change under the sofa cushions, I keep waiting for the prices to go up.

Not this year, though--it's an election year.

Actually, we still have a fair number of free activities we can enjoy. Parades are one of my favorites.

With a goodly supply of universities and community colleges in the area, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has quite a few free art shows, science exhibits, and concerts both indoors and out. As do all cities, we have public gardens available for all. This is one of my favorite times to go to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens or the Dallas Arboretum. The Arboretum has a modest charge for its Dallas Blooms extravaganza, understandable with the massed colors of thousands of daffodils, iris, pansies, and azaleas, to name a few.

It is good walking weather in the Metroplex. The unusually warm winter is bringing out early blooming Bradford pears and budding redbud trees, wild plum and dogwood. We have some new light rail facilities which are making it easier to get around in this heavily congested area.

The word "always" is not one we can use very often any more in a rapidly changing world. Sometimes, though, we still run across delightful opportunities that are free or very affordable even in a world of hurt.

That makes me thankful. And that lifts my spirits.

More thankfulness. And so it goes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Smell of Spring is Different in North Texas.

I went to the store today--some ranchland on the trip.

I bet there were 7 dead skunks who had sprayed ther last surprise dead on the side of the road. This is 5 miles, folks.

I used to joke about all the male skunks being on one side of the road and all the females on the other. That was sexist of me. Both genders fall equally in lust. And seek each other. And tragically, as one gender or the other crosses the Farm-to-Market road, one of them dies. and sprays.

Lord, Lord, it's early spring in North Texas. The pungent scent of dead skunks by the highway emphasizes it. Underlines it. cough, cough. Makes it hard to breathe.
It will get better, and we will have a boatload of baby skunks. They are so cute, with their top hair curling into their eyes.

Skunks, coyotes, raccoons, beavers, possoms, squirrels, mice and rats--they all do well in urban settings, especially Texas. A bobcat has been killing chickens only a mile from here.

I remember sitting in a car watching the street traffic in downtown Fort Worth years ago and realizing i saw a subculture that those of us walking through back to the office never saw. This is the same.

How did I get to this oh, yeah, the harbinger of spring in North Texas is the smell of skunks sprayed.


It gets better, honey, it gets better,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thank God all critters sleep

A lot has been going on, and I haven't mentioned Gracie.

She is the first dog I have ever had to enter Toddler Terrible Twos. Sometimes, I think I am winning. Time will tell. I hear it gets better when she actually is two. She has four legs and really sharp teeth. Otherwise she's not that different from an obstinate 2-year-old humanoid. For now.

I smugly was reviewing my dog ownership and reflecting that I had never yelled at her yet. This was oh, 3-4 weeks ago. I didn't yell when she destroyed the address book I had kept for 40 years that had so many memories included. I didn't yell when she gently lifted down a pair of really good athletic socks from the table and I found them, chewed from the toes, of course,up to the instep on the rug. I didn't yell when she finished destroying her smancy $60 dog bed and I woke up one morning to foam rubber confetti all over the bedroom. I haven't yelled when she has pawed insistently, tug rope in mouth, at my arm as I lay sleeping at 2 a.m. (She's only done that once, though.) We haven't begun to address the holes in the lawn out back.

I didn't introduce her to human food. She found it all by herself. But one morning when I turned around to the table where I had just set down scrambled eggs for my granddaughter and me--I turned around from the sink, and there was Gracie, gracefully balanced on her hind legs, forepaws bent. She was carefully lapping in the edge of my serving plate of eggs.

"Gracie!" I yelled stentoriously. She didn't budge or quit lapping. That little....
I found a newspaper, rolled it up in a trice and whapped her on the buttocks. And I yelled,"Bad dog."

Sorrowfully, she backed up. This was not a penitent sorrowful. This was a "why would you interrupt my beautiful breakfast?"

Recently, youngest granddaughter brought home a Smithsonion compendium from the library that shows a lot of living things if not all. She left it on the couch briefly. Gracie ate about 1/2-inch of the cover on the top and on the bottom. Pages intact. But as a damaged library book, it cost $50. THAT time I came home and yelled unfairly at a sleeping puppy.

"You cost too much," I stormed.

She looked at me, got up and kind of got out of the way. Humph. and I let her outside.

That's another thing. We ARE thankfully getting rain. Which means wet grass and mud. Which means every time she comes in, it's treats and an all-over rub to clean legs and belly of water and rain. She's into the routine. We're down to 3-4 small Milkbone treats on a really wet day. She struggles less. It was something I forgot to factor in with the rain, but Gracie's muddy paws are worth the rain.

She is sleeping at my feet as I write and will sleep on the discarded old bedspread in lieu of her doggie bed when I go to bed. She insists I play with her several times a day. I do. We are making slow, but overall steady, progress on her yelling bark for attention and jumping up on people. Well, at least with my graddaughters, she calms down in a minute or two. That's progress.

She is such a young dog. She is so sweet. She has so much energy, she pulls me along.
Allergies lately have made me rather listless, and I need to vacuum and scrub the floors, but the rest is going pretty well. I've learned to keep all medications or dangerous substances (like peppermint, I shudder about that day, and what chocolate might do). She won't eat just ANYthing, but I've given up trying to figure out what she won't eat. Since she learned to walk on her hind legs and sniff all the tables, nothing is safe.

I've never had a dog like her. Gracie, I saved the best for last.

So it is no longer halycon. My baby is growing up. She loves to get and give affection, and with all her mess and headaches, I laugh more than I did,certainly do more than I did, and look forward to more with my beautiful Gracie.

She's coming out smaller than planned, though, and I blame all those cardboard boxes and cotton socks.

Junk food. It isn't good for any of us.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Making Choices for Happiness

I hate thieves.

Well, I don't like murderers or abusers much, either. But at the moment my attention is on thieves. I hate them.

Everyone knows copper has become really valuable. In my area, churches, schools, cell phone towers, you name it, have had copper wiring thefts. Today, though, thieves took the copper wiring to the kitchen facilities for Meals on Wheels. Workers came in to fix the meals for today's elderly, sick, impoverished or all of the above, and they couldn't cook. All the copper wiring was gone. Fourth time it's been stolen, despite ramping up security every time.

That is just....reptilian.

True. It will be repaired. The people who aren't getting their one hot meal today may have something in the pantry to eat for a few days. Maybe not. It just infuriates me.

Makes me think of the old story about the two rooms. One was heaven, one was hell. In both rooms, there was a big pot of stew. Each person had a long spoon, too long to feed themselves. In the heaven room, folks had figured out they could feed each other. All were well-fed. In the hell room, the folks kept trying to feed themselves with no luck. It never occurred to them to feed anyone else. They were in hell because they had plenty to eat, and they were so selfish, they couldn't get the food because they wouldn't share.

It's a pretty judgemental story, but I like it. There are reasons for kindness. It comes back on us in unexpected ways, I believe. So does selfishness. I get it that people are out of work and desperate for self-support. Boy, do I. I have actually admired some of the scams I have run across. What gets me is that so many of the crime victims seem to be people who tried to give someone down on their luck a hand and got that hand bitten rather badly.

What I can't figure is whether things are worse, with more, too many more, humans and too few resources to go around. That's part of it. I think the other is that as I age, I see the grift, the graft, the meanness and the ugliness, more clearly. At the same time, I am so much more aware of how many people are genuinely trying to make a positive difference, from smaller carbon footprints to gathering coats for school kids in the fall. Making sandwiches for families on the school lunch program in the summers. Rescuing dogs, cats, wild birds, rabbits, mustangs--you name it, someone cares enough to try to save it.

I feel confident that if kitchen repairs for Meals on Wheels take very long, volunteers will step in. It doesn't reduce the vicious indifference of the thieves.

Today is a gloomy day, in the 30s. It snowed last night and wasn't expected to stick, but I see the last melting off the iris in the back yard at noon. More water. Yea.

My youngest granndaughter wants to make supper tomorrow night for her family for Valentine's Day. I am overseeing as she preps and cooks from a wonderful cookbook by Mollie Katzen her mother gave her. It leans heavily toward vegetarian fare, which is fine with all of us. Today we--oops-she will prep beef and vegetables. Tomorrow after school she will put the pot on to simmer after school. Suppertime is after 7 p.m. and it should be ready. Meantime, she'll make this eggless, milkless chocolate cake that looks quite good. We're buying the rolls, thank you. A salad, I think, of chopped romaine, slivered nuts, shredded parmesan and Italian dressing.

All quite simple. All straight from the heart. MMM. Tomorrow night will be cold again. Hot homemade vegetable soup sounds really good. I warned her the recipe calls for mushrooms. She will be 10 soon and is growing more tolerant.

"As long as it is for my mama and daddy and they like them, it will be all right," she said assertively.

I don't expect to see any thieves--no copper around here, nor much else of monetary value.

Lots to treasure, though.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rain, rain, beautiful rain

The 4.5 inches of rain last week at my home was actually more in some North Texas places and filled a number of lakes by at least a foot.

I don't know if it was the long absence of roads flooding that caused so many errant drivers stalling out in four feet of water ormore, but parts of the Metroplex had their share. Reporters interviewing hapless drivers afterwards got inarticulate responses to the effect they did not think it would be as deep if they just drove slowly. I scratched my head over that one but heard the response from at least three persons.

Then there was the optimistic man who had to be rescued by the fire department from his car stranded in about four feet of water and didn't seem to understand that the water had to recede considerably before a tow truck could rescue it.

So the fire truck was heading back to the station when they learned this literally cockeyed optimist had gotten back to his car, was soaking wet in 42 degree temps and needed rescuing again.

They did pull him out the second time, this time adding a ticket for their trouble.
He declined interview, I believe....

This morning, however, the severe drought designation was lifted for the North Texas area I live in. That's good news, and rain is forecast again tonight and for tomorrow. However, a dry spring is also forecast so Stage One drought precautions (watering twice a week max) is staying in effect for most of the area.

Amazingly, January was the wettest one on record, starting 2012 off right so far as most of us are concerned. It is 72 degrees today as well. Last year on this date, we had ice, snow, a low of 13 and a high of 20 degrees.

Texas Monthly magazine noted that in the last 20 years, Texas has had 18 wildfires that singly burned more than 50,000 acres each. To give you an idea how bad the past year was, six of those 18 huge wildfires occurred between April and November.

What will happen in February? No one knows. It's the iffy part of the year. We've had snows in March. On the other hand, two or three years ago we had our first 100 degree day in April.

Poor Jerry Jones and Cowboy Stadium. This year would purely have been a beautiful one for the Super Bowl. Heard today the weekend will see four hotwings devoured for every man, woman and child in the country. Not sure I believe that, but if so, someone is getting a double portion on my behalf.

I can literally think of only one couple I know well who will A)give or attend a party and B) watch the game. The rest of us plan other stuff Sunday afternoon.
Especially if it's a sunny afternoon.

Maybe we all ought to be investigated.