Saturday, December 17, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is a New Left Knee

Shortly after my last post, I answered my phone to have a woman with an Indian or Pakistani accent tell me she was from Microsoft and there was a problem with my system.

I know just enough to be very stupid. It took her an hour and a half, but she finally guided me to a site where, once I willingly gave her a customer id number, she and her cohorts were able to take over my computer in the night. Microsoft is aware of the problem and on their IT chat site specifically lists the site I was guided to.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

So we unplugged my machine, and things in both my son's and my households have been a little busy lately. A friend who has worked in IT (she also can cook a mean venison roast and plays the piano for church beautifully) came over, cleaned me up and put in the recovery disc to have me up and running again.

sigh. As soon as they sell their house, and it's looking promising, they will move to California to be near grandkids. We'll wave and post pictures on Facebook, but it won't be the same. Her nickname among our friends is Wonder Woman.

She'll be at the hospital next Wednesday as well to spend the day with me after I get my left knee replaced. Yep, I got clearance and I'm going in before Christmas so I can boss my hapless grandchildren around the second week of school vacation to fetch and carry for me. Doctor says I should be home Friday. the 23rd. I didn't realize how many of us "seniors" stampede for the hospitals in December when our deductible is all paid up, but apparently I wasn't the only one to think of it.

The doctor has warned me all knee operations aren't the same and this might not go as well as the first. I agree. But it IS the season of miracles, and the knee really has to be done sometime, anyway. This time, I know how to lift the leg into bed, I know the exercises, and I already have a strong right leg. We all figure I can take my walker and walk over to Matt's house for Christmas dinner and I need to walk, anyway. And I'll get the rebaked potato casserole made in time to freeze it for Christmas Day. Not that my daughter-in-law's wouldn't be better; it's just a tradition we've fallen into, and I'd like to do something.(I HAVE bought plenty of black olives, green olives, pickled okra and cranberry sauce)

My friend Nancy and I ended with 11 for Thanksgiving. I took a piece of turkey over to the cat I was minding for some friends, and they said he wasn't even mad at them when they returned. It was good turkey.

Thanks to a strong right knee, I was able to attend the Caravaggio exhibit at the Kimbell Museum in Fort worth and also spend time at the Amon Carter Museum nearby. I was exhausted, but happy. Before new knee, I couldn't have gone at all.

Knee surgery has got to be the most popular surgery in the world. This summer when I went to the store in shorts, my pink scar showing, people would walk up to me, faces alight, to share their own transforming experiences. The improved knees allow increased activity. The activity is a huge reason many are living so much longer.

I will try to post again a time or two, but it will be difficult before Christmas. In the meantime, any suggestions for tree decorations that represent different faiths? I bought some six-pointed stars last year and have decided they are my first step towards a truly ecumenical tree.

Suggestions are welcome. Meantime, Merry Christmas, and Masel tov.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is your custom mashed or sweet potatoes?

Nancy and I are up to 11 for our Thanksgiving dinner, and some maybes.

Just as a division exists between Christmas Eve gift openings and Christmas morning, for Thanksgiving there is another. With your turkey, do you serve sweet potatoes or Russets? Many serve both, of course, but if they do, one potato or the other is largely ignored.

Nancy and I haven't gotten formal about the menu yet, but we were startled to find we differ on this important menu item. I'm a Russet, or Idaho, potato fan. I'll eat sweet potatoes, but only secodarily. For Nancy, they are an important part of the feast.

I've noticed restaurants advertising Thanksgiving menus sometimes offer only sweet potatoes and I always think, "I wouldn't go THERE!" Well, part of that is that if I'm paying $30 a plate, I want to enjoy every item on it. And I enjoy sweet potato concoctions. But "where's the mashed potatoes?" I don't even need gravy, because I seldom eat it.

We simply have decided she will prepare sweets, and I will prepare whites. I usually do rebaked, with sour cream , melted butter and shredded cheddar, because my grandchildren ask for it. Probably will do again as it can be done in advance. With no grandchildren present, i may add the chopped green onions.

You know, a lot of thankfulness goes into the preparation. I reflect on my mother and grandmother doing this, that my daughter-in-law and granddaughters will carry on, and it is such a sweet, loving continuation generation to generation.

Men join the stream--my father managed the turkey and the dressing. For a man born in the early 1900s, he was exceptional, I suspect. My sons can cook as well.

It is interesting that the United States has a Thanksgiving holiday. Remarkable, really. We are thankful for good friends or even just one, we are thankful for good fortune or even survival, we are thankful for a good family, or maybe our escape and survival from the bad. It can easily be a sectarian thankfulness, and it can easily be connected to religious beliefs.

The first Thanksgiving was among Indians with an entirely different belief, and English Christians. This is a national holiday, open to citizens of any belief whatsoever.

Isn't that neat?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where's My Shoe, Gracie?

I have needed a new pair of shoes for awhile. Just kept putting it off.

My shoes of choice are SAS (San Antonio Shoes) which are made here in Texas at the --you got it--San Antonio factory. They are well-made. They are comfortable. I think they are just dorky enough to be a bit funky, but I'm looking for excuses. They had their 15 minutes of fame back in the 1970s, when everyone wanted their sandals. I had been used to buying a new pair of sandals every spring because they would be falling apart by fall. To my delight, my SAS sandals lasted several years. That was really nice because, you know, handmade American shoes are expensive. When you can amortize over several years, not so much. Anyway, I got hooked on SAS.

A trademark of the store are their wonderful caramel and chocolate caramels. You get a handful with each purchase, and if you ask for more, you get them. They are REEELY superior caramels. As good as the shoes.

My pup Gracie is quite bored. She had her spaying surgery Thursday and bounced right back. I am giving her low-dose aspirin in peanut butter twice a day to keep her from noticing the incision and licking it. She is getting rawhide chews regularly. But she brought me her tug rope. I played gently but wouldn't throw it. She brought her squeaky ball, and I wouldn't throw that, either. She feels fine, but she has to let the stitches heal. BOR-ING.

I don't know why I have never put my SAS shoes in the closet at night with my other shoes, but these are what I wear, and they have routinely gone on a stand roughly 2 feet high. She has never bothered them till today.

I let her outside this morning, then pretty promptly let her in. She wanted to play. This was my computer time. So she played with her toys on the floor at my feet and fell asleep.

Awww, I thought, and glanced over to see one of my beloved SAS shoes on the rug. She had slobbered all over it, but it was unharmed. Its mate was nowhere in sight.

Still isn't. This is a tiny house. About 900+ square feet. Not much furniture. I can't get on my knees so I brought both granddaughters over to help me search.They looked under the beds, the couch, the chest of drawers. We looked behind doors, behind the recliner--nothing. And I KNOW she didn't eat it overnight. I would have seen her carry it outside, but oldest granddaughter searched the yard anyway. No shoe. The closets were closed tight, but I looked anyway. I had those girls look under the bed 3 times.

"No, grandma," they both said. "There's nothing there."

I asked for younger granddaughter first. She's a good finder. Sharp eyes. But she didn't find. So her big sister came over, positive her younger (lesser) sister had overlooked the shoe. She didn't find it either.

Gracie, where did you put it? She looks back with total innocense. What shoe? Is that what you call it?

Sooner or later it will show up. In the meantime, I have an extremely uncomfortable pair of flats to wear with dress slacks or my athletic shoes. I'm hard to fit,my size is hard to find, I don't like to shop and I don't have many shoes.

So today I drove 30 miles to the store where I have always bought SAS shoes. The recession was brought home with two blocks of empty, once thriving stores. And SAS wasn't there. Eek.

I went over to the MegaMall, and looked around. In this huge shopping center, only five shoe stores. One was Footlocker. I was looking for other options.

Eventually, I drove home, googled SAS, and got a live number for the store I was looking for. The address was on I35E, as was the former store, so that wouldn't have tipped me off. When I called, I learned they have moved. I can drive down on Monday and get my shoes. Reduced store hours mean no Sundays. So I guess I'll go Monday and hope I can snag another pair of shoes for no more than $135. Probably more now, come to think of it. I do really, really need those shoes.

Gracie continues to want to play. Maybe if she gets frustrated enough, she will bring out the other shoe, but I doubt it. Ah, Gracie. I'm glad you are feeling better, but you are cutting heavily into my Christmas budget.

Life was more peaceful before Gracie. More orderly. No one else to consider when I went out. And without the laughter, the irritations, the hugs and life of living with another living being.

I do love this blond and white Corgi. I know she loves me too. Her destruction is never malicious. It's like having a kid around, mostly.

She got me out shopping again. That's not a bad thing.

At all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Not Much to Talk About

Except for the summers, temperatures and weather in Texas are frequently changeable. I've enjoyed Thanksgiving meals eating al fresco in short sleeves and bermuda shorts. I remember one delightfully cozy Thanksgiving when it was sleeting, and we ate while enjoying the hearty fire in the fireplace.

The weather has been so up and down lately, the Barrett pears are confused and blooming. I notice a stand of them in a stretch I know was well-watered over the summer is not blooming. The blooms may have something to do with weather shock.

We already have been told the state is losing about 20 percent of its trees due to drought. That's a lot of trees. I took some pictures in August and September. They don't show up so much now that an early freeze has started yellowing the leaves and more are falling off. Frankly, a lot of us are waiting breathlessly to find out if we watered enough or started early enough to save some favorite sweet gums, pecans, oaks, magnolias. It will be spring when we know.

Folks who are particular about their lawns and flowers actually rake the leaves up. They want the landscape to show to best advantage. The rest of us may scoop a few around the bushes as mulch and let the rest go. Fall winds, due any minute, will whip most of them away. (I am aware, yes, that a number of the leaves in my yard are from someone else's trees because the trees those leaves came from don't grow in my yard.)

I still need a quick mow now that the yard is green again, more than half weeds. It was still so dry in September, I didn't dare fertilize, or put out pre-emergent. So let's see. The grass is maybe three inches in places. It hasn't been mowed in a full five months.

Meanwhile, need to dry mop assiduously. Don't know if it is her age or what, but Gracie now is shedding heavily. I hadn't really noticed on the hardwood until I dropped a sweater this morning and picked it up covered with hair. She's six months old and having a painful all-day visit to the vet on Thursday. It's going to hurt and I really feel bad about it. Another reason to mow--don't want her tender tummy getting muddy. A good corgi video I saw said, "Corgis are just big dogs with short legs." I'll agree with that.

I've got to buy more white cotton socks. Gracie has eaten the toes out clear to the halfway point on a pair I carelessly didn't pick up. (I'm learning, Gracie! I'm learning!) She can't have anything to eat after 9 p.m. tomorrow. I guess I'll have to police the place in case this includes rawhide chews, paper, cardboard or random cotton items. She's 16 pounds now. Sure feels like more when we play tug.

Almost no local news now except criminals. Yesterday a man running away from the police in a stolen car crashed into the home a family had lived in 40 years and burned it to the ground. The man was arrested.

At least he won't be released in a day or two due to jail overcrowding.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Welcome, and I Weep

I have research to do, but when the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico, was created in 1899, a square mile of township was created by Southern Pacific Railroad where the city bar was established a block from the tracks. It is now the town museum.

The community grew slowly, but steadily. I know my grandparents came, homesteaded, then bought a home in town and established a shoe store in the early 1900s. Lots of trees were planted in the city park, close to the train tracks. These included a pond, ducks, geese, and maybe swans. I don't know when the zoo per se began. I remember feeding Johnson grass to the deer when I was a pre-schooler.

The town was small. Cottonwoods were planted. Alamogordo means "Fat Cottonwood' in Spanish. The trees provided wide and wonderful shade. I remember Ninth Street with trees touching overhead in the street.

I haven't researched, but water came from somewhere early. And the climate was kind in the early 1900s. Grass grew belly high on a cow. Wherever the water came from, there were orchards in the valley. Apple and cherry orchards in the hills, but orchards in the valley. Even today, the apricot trees fluorish.

When I was under 3, we moved to a country home with a dying orchard. It HAD been alive, with all kinds of fruit. Mostly dying when we moved in. That would be about 1946.

Where did the water come from?

There was a small swimming pool-sized reservoir in the late 1940s-1950s. I think by then it came from Bonita Lake. Water was released into the irrigation ditches, never more than two feet deep. People had wood dikes in the ditches. When it was your turn for water, you dropped the wooden dam so the water would detour on your property. When the water should go to your neighbor, you left your dam up. People were pretty honorable about that. Most of the time.

The irrigation water would flood your lands, lawn and gardens for a few hours. So glorious to wade through. The flowers and vegetables were bountiful. My father grew 100 rosebushes and a blue grass and clover lawn, and a full half-acre of vegetables. Folks would come by in the afternoons to see all the green and flowers. The home snugged under the three cottonwoods that dropped cotton bolls and purple balls that splatched in the spring. They gave wonderful shade, long before air-conditioning. And sometime every May, I would wake up convinced for an instant we had snow because of all the cotton from the trees dropped overnight.

How beautiful our white frame house looked under the heavy cottonwoods with blue grass-clover lawns and roses, roses blooming all over the place with other flowers.

My father water-witched an underground river at least 1,000 feet deep to nurture his plants. He would have wanted the town to grow. Killing his gardens? Cutting down his trees? No wild asparagas in the ditches each spring?

The town has no ditches now. No life-giving water tumbling down shallow ditches to water the lawns, flowers and vegetables of the residents. The bewitched underground river serves the city.

There are too many people. Water costs too much. Few lawns, or flowers, or trees remain.

You see a desert. So do I. But when there were fewer of us, it was not such a desert. The grass grew belly high on a cow. The flowers bloomed. The vegetables fluorished. Lawns were green. Trees, big trees, cottonwoods, gave shade.

Exult in the lights of the night. And they are spell-binding. The valley actually flickers with them in the dark.

And I smile. It IS beautiful.

I mourn the green of the daylight, and the blooms. The smell of cut alfalfa. You did not know it then.

And I shall never know it again.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Even Now, You Can't Get Away With That

I've just seen the video of Judge William Adams beating his teenage daughter 7 years ago.

Should he be removed from the bench? yes. If legally. This is egregious.

Have I seen worse? Not in progress in an actual case I worked, but in results, much worse. In equally "respectable" homes.

Could he be right that his threat into withholding a Mercedes from a 23-yr-old daughter triggered this? And that matters, how? He hasn't beat her lately?

Great if he is screwed.

Do I think this abuse gives the daughter a free card on society? no. She doesn't have rights to the Mercedes (if ever) again.

I met worse stories in the break room at work. These were men and women who had grown up in neglect and abuse and chose to get out, educate themselves and get paid to stop it for others. And we talked easily, those with no abuse, those with abuse and neglect,in the break room, where we all griped about the price of cold caffeine.

A couple of reasons CPS workers don't get chosen for criminal trials: we might know some of the officers of the court, and we might be or know people who grew up in adversity and --surprise, surprise! have turned out to be law-abiding, college educated folks despite vicious, squalid cirumstances.

Actually, it's hard. A lot of folks can't do it.

Hard doesn't make impossible.

I used to be a newspaper reporter when that meant something. I always figured my job wss to let the public know what was going on, and live with what they, and I, voted at the polls. When it was this bad, the voters almost always voted the bad guys out.

Even as a kid, I knew the white hats didn't always win.

Then, I didn't know about the child beaters.

They never ever deserve to win.

Never ever.

Underage behavior? Never ever.

We clear about that?

Planned not Proactive (very early) Thanksgiving

For the first time in many years, I am excited about Thanksgivig.

Before the holiday occurs, a debacle or two may occur, but then, that has happened when I am NOT excited about Thanksgiving. AND had plans.

What I know:
For a number of years in the past decade, I was not healthy enough to serve Thanksgiving in my home.Then I was, but was disinclined. Then I was inclined but it was hard to fit my sons' schedules. then bingo, we all did. Then, last year, both sons shared a meal wih me in my home.(I made the best dressing of my life, I think). DIL and grandchildren were with family 4 hours away, and work schedules intervened for sons.

I have a good friend whose husband died this spring, and her also loving family is iffy about holiday plans. Never unloving. Never nonenclusive,but...

She and I like to be proactive. She suggested inviting friends over for cornish game hens for Thanksgiving. After my sticker shock reaction, I suggested a turkey as cheaper. And maybe leftovers for attendees. We'll invite some friends with few family connections, or difficult ones, difficult schedules like ours, or with a cold, or whatever.too.

Nancy warns me we can end up with 3 or 20. Sad but true, Many would rather sit home alone with beer and chips to good friends and good food. Remember that. Been there. I wore out the Tshirt. It didn't taste good! Have to be thankful...Amen here.

We don't know what will happen.

And both of us are thrilled.

The thing is, we're planning our own party. Not where we will attend. Not who will attend. Just--y'all come. And we both are beaming.

If it looks like her and me, we'll rethink the cornish hens.

But I'm making my dressing.

And count on it--We will give hard prayers for our blessings this year.
We both survived. She without a long=lived loving husband. Me? I coulda died, but I didn't. I survived. It is a hard year we survived, and thereby celebratory.

Isn't that what the first Thanksgiving celebrated?

Survival. With thankfulness. Amen, folks

She and I are planning a meal early,but if you have survived a hard year, my prayers and hopes for yours. Food in your belly A safe place to stay, and hope in your heart for a better year to come. Books for you and children. God bless.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

When you wish the vet lived next door

Call to vet:
Doctor, do I need to worry about my puppy's nutrition? I mean, I give her the recommended puppy chow. You approved it. Most of the time she eats it. But sometimes she doesn't.

What does she eat? Well, she gets a lot of fiber. Mostly, you know, from paper and cardboard. I worry about that. Seems to fill her up too much. Not enough vitamins. Well, and she eats pencils, and wallboard--not too much, you understand, but I imagine it is filling. And my rug has a hole in it.

Diarrhea? Constipation? Oh, no. No problem. She poops in the yard like usual. So long as the good Lord sends rain once in a while, she doesn't give me more work. I really don't need more work.

I never feed her from the table. Ever. But she keeps jumping up. Well, she's 6 months old now. If I keep saying no, won't she stop?

Does she need broccoli and squash? I mean, to counteract the book covers, you know, and the mail? She likes raw carrots, I know. When I make a salad, occasionally a slice falls on the floor.

Well, all the books she has chewed are new, so no lead poisoning there. As for human food, the other night I fixed green chile stew for supper with light toasted sourdough bread. She stole the bread. Twice. I never caught her. Is that too much carbohydrates?

And that time she ate the dark chocolate Dove bar? I always keep my purse zipped now, and it was only half a bar, honest. and she never got sick.

I'm sorry. I have to go now. She's beginning to chew on the wirin


Thursday, October 27, 2011

When you love the team, hate the game kinda

I remember being from New Mexico back in the 1960s and being startled my freshman year in college to find the World Series in baseball is played in October. Naturally, I didn't know who was playing.

Being a journalist, I tried to keep up with the facts thereafter, but I never did like baseball. Maybe it was too many jammed finger joints playing softball in phys ed, but nope, I never liked it.

When my sons were little, I let them play T-ball but gently guided them toward soccer later. If my sons played baseball, I would have to go to their games. Horror!
I never liked it.

Working as a journalist, I talked to a lot of sportswriters who told me it was the best of sports, intelligent, cerebral and requiring the most all-around athleticism. I watched a few innings and my eyes crossed. I never liked it.

I've been aware through the years that I had friends who loved the Texas Rangers. I was glad for their enthusiasm, didn't participate. I never liked the game.

Over the last decade, however, I have come to like the team, the staff, the owners.
They really are a team. All of them. It has been good to see. Or rather, the results have, because I still can't watch the game. The reason has changed.

What do they say about blind tedium interspaced with stark terror? Following the Texas Rangers has been like that lately. I've liked the Rangers, specially with Nolan Ryan as an owner and Ron Washington as the coach and a team that really seems to be a TEAM. Yeah. Just--still don't make me watch much.

Game Six tonight. Any number of Texans with the wherewithall have said what the hell and are in St. Louis. Nolan Ryan said we would win in six. Rained out last night. Tonight is six.

I've found all kinds of friends who are longtime fans. Years and years. When temps were in the 100s this summer, I know a couple who went seven times. And watch every game. And she refused to cook during the playoffs until they won. I know a retired English teacher who gets together with her friends in their Ranger t-shirts and caps for EVERY game and they have for 20 years. And many more folks.The Rangers don't lack longterm fans.

I'm astonished my younger son is staying home --if he doesn't join a watch party with some friends--to see who wins tonight. I mean, this is not a general sports fan, and unlike me, he will actually watch.

So many have followed the Rangers so long. There's hype, and there's winning and commercialism.

Somehow, tonight is full of expectations and hopes. I'm part of the fringe and it's still fun to watch. I understand the games have been particularly good.
I never really liked the game. But I've read the spots on these.

And I want them to win. I want them to win. I want them to win...

When I write this I don't know. When you read, you will.

These words are foreign to my tongue but--Go Rangers!

(If the Tai Chi instructor could say it this morning, I can only add my approbation.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Am I Overtly Sentimental Yet?

If Gracie survives puppydom, then dogs have guardian angels, too. I've always suspected it.

My granddaughters are of an age where "childproofing" the house is long behind me. In many ways, I'm safe there. Gracie is unlikely to stick her nose in a light socket--although chewing the cords that lead to them may be another matter.

My new computer has arrived, awaiting assembly in its box.

"Have you unpacked it?" elder son asked on the phone.

"Not till we assemble," I replied. "Gracie would eat all the wires before we could hook up."

"Oh, yeah,' he replied.

Maybe by nebulizer fell off the bedside table this week, but I doubt it. She is FULLY tall enough on her hind legs to reach...a great many things. I found her trying to chew on the case itself, fortunately strong enough to withstand her beginning chomps. The plastic top, however, is toast. I shudder to think what that medication could do to her. Periodically, I misplace something I fear could kill her, and find it later, often with teethmarks.

Since my rebuilt knee isn't up to kneeling yet, I am getting into a routine of asking youngest granddaughter to check under my bed every few days for missing books, mail, aerosol cans, you name it. ...I heard her munching just now and found she had half-devoured an old bill. Chewy paper? Tasty glue? I don't know.

Corgis are relentless chewers. Astonishing. She has not only gotten all the juice out of a large bag of rawhide pieces, she has digested half of them. Time to buy more.

She digs. My back yard looks as though small munitions have exploded all over. Footlong sticks litter the ground, except she is bringing them up, one by one, to stack by her water bowl--which, if she drinks it dry, she turns into a toy to carry around the now pockmarked lawn.

She has found two escape holes from my back yard, escaping once even after I thought I had erected a sturdy barricade. It wasn't. So far, she just runs around to the front yard, waits for me to discover she's gone, and looks for her treat without which she will NOT come in. There are cars, and big dogs, and other people out there, and I worry. Off leash, she doesn't obey commands, and sometimes finds the freedom more delicious than bits of chicken. She's only a six-month-old puppy. I have to remember that. And keep training.

She and TC, my tuxedo grandcat, are slowly becoming friends. Youngest granddaughter reported yesterday that the cat accidentally(?) stepped on one of Gracie's squeaky balls in the (now green) grass. It squeaked. Gracie grabbed it, tore off, ran back and dropped it in front of the cat.

"Do it again!" she begged, her whole rear end, sans tail, wagging.

But the insoucient cat simply sauntered off, leaving her alone with her toy. Aw.

As I write, she is stretched, chin on my foot, all four feet in the air. She just gave a deep sigh. I don't think it's contentment.

She's just marking time till she can inveigle me into the next invigorating round of fetch.

Oh yeah, I hope she survives her puppyhood, that I do, too.

Oh, the places we'll go!
The the things we will see,
Walking along,
Just Gracie and me!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Personal info about my underage dog

Training a dog, maybe particularly a smart herder animal, has changed me some, and I think it will change me more.

At class Tuesday, Gracie got many accolades, especially for her sit and stays, which she sometimes did better than the grown dogs. And she had only learned to let me back away 10 feet in class.

"Oh, she's sharp, that one."

"Very well. Oh, for a puppy, very well."

"She's coming along, yes, she is."

And one of my favorites, of course.

"You can tell you two have been practicing."

Which, actually, we have.

Last class next week, then Gracie and I will practice sit, stay, down, heel (sic), all the time. After the classes, comes the practice. It's a lifelong commitment to practicing good manners. (Help! I can no longer remember what the fork at the top of the plate is for!)

Gracie and I have practiced. She is always on my left except returning up the ramp past the unexplained threatening hedge on the left.She sits. She stays. Her eyes gleam when I put on my carpenter's apron, stuff the treats in a pocket, and clip on her leash. She gets to work. She gets to move. She gets treats. And really, she loves me.

(Lord, age-appropriate friends and I have shuddered over the full 1950s Sunday dinners after church with the Dreaded Wedge of Iceberg Lettuce with Thousand Island. And you couldn't use a knife. Failure was...wass....well, Gracie is just a puppy. Even as a dog she would never go through that.)

I will continue writing. We have a long way to go, Gracie and I. Training has made us both listen to each other better.

She was already teaching me, but training has made me relax and just enjoy, and maybe teach her a bit. I'm lazy. She gets the heavy teaching gig, usually.

The other night, after a busy day sans Gracie, I went out on the deck with Gracie and my cell. I eyed it, let it be. I thought about how her "yelling" is down to legitimate requests for attention when I have ignored her too long. Yep. And she gets off on hugs and belly rubs. All her toys were inside. I watched her play, eventually run up and eat her supper, come over for a belly rub. We shared the time. So peacefull. So sweet.

This morning, I awoke to hear her munching on the very book I set on the floor last night saying, "she's too old to eat this now." Tonight, as I was writing, I stopped to wrest away the ballpoint she had already chewed to pulp, found on a lower shelf I again thought was safe. Nothing under three feet is. I must learn this.

Neither my children nor grandchildren chewed so vociferously. On the other hand, they learned really fast. So does Gracie. She also can be redirected by rawhide. My kids and grandkids don't respond to it.

Actually, she is snuggly and loving. Her front legs are amazingly strong. She plays, and loves, with all her might.

Very sweet.

Just don't get in a tug of war with her rope.

She plays to win.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"My dear, you are simply blooming!"

You may have heard last week's news story of the new business two men have in Alabama.

It was a popular story in Texas and played big.

The men are taking orders--and cremains, if available already, and using them to make shotgun shells, rifle cartridges or handgun bullets. Or all three.

I already know a number of people who have expressed a wish for this in the past.
The Alabama partners say orders are pouring in.

Sorry, I don't know where in Alabama--but the name of the company is Holy Smoke.
I believe fully in the pursuit of happiness, including the right to have your remains lie right where some of your loved ones may visit most often, or at least for a ah, sendoff.

For myself, I want something else, probably harder to make happen.
I would like my cremains to be powdered, mixed with compost, peat, and potting soil, and sold by a company called "Pushing Up Daisies."

Well, it could happen. Makes me smile. That way, I could give back to the earth, a little.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Got Wet Yesterday, and I'm Thrilled

Back in the 1980s, I remember clearly, we had a spring full of wildflowers. The rains and sunshine came just right, and for weeks and weeks, the fields were covered with wildflowers that bloomed and bloomed and bloomed.

I remember telling someone at the time that at last I knew what great wealth felt like. Plenty, and plenty and more plenty coming. My eyes feasted on those flowers.

No, I didn't take pictures. I didn't need to. Those weeks of yarrow, Queen Anne's lace, Indian blankets, Black-eyed Susans, wild larkspur, bluebonnets, five kinds of daisies,fairy cups, primrose, honeysuckle, pink roses and so much more just fed my soul.

I like to think sometimes about the seeds that may still lie dormant and bloom again someday.

I once was very comfortable financially, That hasn't been true in decades, but I have been comfortable enough. But as I associated the extravagant spring with wealth, so the ongoing drought feels like poverty. Prices are going up--especially food, which now must come such long distances. My dollars don't go as far. Somehow the drought adds to it. The land, the very land around me, is in poverty.

A rain back in August didn't green the lawns but did partially green some of the pastures around my home. Native grasses jump to the opportunity to drink and grow. We've heard a lot this summer about how weeds are water hogs in tended beds, snatching the water from the thirsty roots of the plants we want to water.

This weekend we had rain that was overall, wonderful. I've heard totals some places of much less than an inch; we got at least three inches here. Further west, where the wildfires have been so bad, rainfall ranged from four to eight inches. The rain soaked rather than poured,and the ground was so thirsty, almost none ran off into rivers and lakes. I actually saw one puddle that lasted a couple of hours.

Weather experts say that's it for now. West Texas got the most of this and needed it. South Texas, which normally grows a lot of produce used instate, has been unable to deliver this year. About 20 percent of the trees across the state are dead or dying.

Rain was great. Dog Gracie got wet and muddy, prefering to stay outside for long periods to coming inside. I actually got WET running to the car! (I gave in to superstition recently when I saw a display of umbrellas and didn't buy one. Might jinx the rain.)

It was a wonderful respite.

I actually saw a few sprigs of green in the straw-like lawn this morning. The grass could green a bit for the first time in four months. That will make my granddaughter happy.She gets paid to mow for me, and she didn't mow, even once, all summer.

Maybe now's her chance.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Of Friends and Blogs and Water to Drink to That

I have no computer skills, basically. My "consultant" currently is not available to help me link to a couple of blogs I regularly read. (I need help putting that up, too.)

For my readers who have blogs, however, check out "What's In My Attic". Deb runs a great blog with magnificient pictures from the East Coast. Her latest warns of blog changes that may be coming. Info is from "Blogger Buzz.' Check it out.

Deb, between my computer and my tech ineptness, I haven't been able to leave several comments lately on your wonderful site. I'll figure it out AND get a better machine eventually. Meanwhile, I'll just comment here, if I can't there.

Claire writes "The Zees Go West", a New Englander's wonderful transplantation to a community just 70 miles from where I grew up. Hey, in New Mexico, that's considered close enough to drop over for lunch and return home. 'Course, sometimes you hit those traffic jams when you have wait while White Sands Missile Range shoots a rocket north, over the highway. At least, they used to.

Claire and family are just now completing their trip via Amtrak to Boston, where her own excellent photos and commentary gave a delightful feel for someplace I've never been. I almost feel I got to go, too, and it didn't cost me a dime. I just had to imagine their dinners of lobter, clams, etc., at America's Oldest Restaurant.
Claire, I said some of this in a comment to you after my last blog. The comment is there, but my computer doesn't count it. For some reason, my computer is undoing some of my typing errors I correct as well.

Definitely time for a new machine. Time for me to learn a little more to go with it.

Re Texas drought--Texas A&M University has announced Texas pretty much is going to stay in one, with maybe one or two years off, until 2020. Slowly, attitudes are starting to change. The biggest barrier seems to be the folks who figure they will just pay more, or pay fines, and have their water. The constant influx of more people into Texas strains the finite resources we already have.

I stumbled into an interview with the mayor of San Antonio on public radio recently, and will see if I can find a link. San Antonio was forced into conservation some decade or so ago and has learned to reduce their water usage significantly. They were forced into this by a blind little salamander whose habitat they were wiping out. They were furious. But they are now, the mayor said, so thankful. They even have fountains in use because they recycle the water. The mayor said Sea World Amusement Park has one the largest private water treatment facilities in use anywhere, and has reduced water usage monthly by several thousand gallons.

In extreme water curtailment, I am not sure commercial car washes are allowed to operate. Demand for swimming pools obviously will drop off, especially if you can't fill your pools. We are not there yet, but it may be coming. Forget watering restrictions. We are speculating if water use could become so stringent, bathing will be limited.

At least that might boost perfume sales.

Monday, October 3, 2011

And I thought walking the dog was a trick with yo-yos

Gracie and I will be going to class tomorrow night, and this time, I am ill prepared. I haven't been doing our homework.

Gracie no longer barks at the other dogs in class. (Especially when I am carrying shaved particles of steak as treats to get her attention.) She will sit and stay. It amazes me how 3 five-minute sessions a day can shape her behavior so quickly.

A Pembroke Welsh Corgi, she is much happier when she has a job to do, even if she doesn't like what I am teaching. We are interacting. I have HER full attention and she has mine. This is not a dog you should routinely leave alone in the back yard all day, even with a Kong toy full of peanut butter, which I haven't gotten yet. Maybe later. She's just five months old and craves company.

Sigh. maybe too much. I played tug and fetch with her this morning before getting on the computer. She then settled by my feet to play while I write. She just interrupted to "yell"--her loud bark that demands, "play with me." Or equally, "Pay attention to me." I told her no firmly and set her down (because she jumps up to do this.) After three such interchanges, she took her tug rope and went in search of another toy. Three times it took me. I can see trainers everywhere shaking their heads at my poor work with her. (Meanwhile, I am such an amateur I am just secretly pleased she eventually followed my order.)

I admit I don't have the detachment to be a good trainer. Yes, she's a dog. Yes, I did the alpha exercises, and she responded. She has so much vitality, so much intelligence and personality, however, that I play to her sensibilities. She does have them. Like all young things, she can also be sneaky. I have to be aware of that, too.

Last week they told me I shouldn't have fed her before coming to class, which ends about 8:30 pm. I ate a sandwich before training, and Gracie was right there, so I fed her a small meal of dry food. We ate together. She was totally responsive in class to her steak bits. I am not trying to train a competition obedience dog, and I see no sense in being austere. I am the novice, however, and almost everything they are teaching Gracie and me works well.

Spraying her in the face for barking or play-biting is one distinct failure. The bottle I found shoots more of a mist rather than a stream like a water pistol. The stream might work better. After I tried it, she backed away, barking furiously and would not let me near her. I haven't tried it since. Redirecting, or using "no" sparingly, seems slowly to be working. A snap of my fingers on her nose works well, but my blasted arthritis mostly prevents my being able to do so.

She seems to respond very slowly to hand commands and I believe I am consistent. I try to say certain words predictably before we do certain things. Right now I suspect she understands, all right--she's just waiting for the treat to appear first.

She will sit as I face her and remain sitting till I pivot forward and give her treat. Good. Then we walk and she is supposed to be heeling more stylishly. I haven't practiced near enough this week, and she hasn't improved much there.

I am supposed to say "down", making a down gesture with my hand, and get her on her tummy. She dodges my hand, knowing I am going to press her tummy down. She REALLY doesn't like this one but eventually will lie in tummy-scratching mode when I take my hand away and wait for her treat. I am not physically strong and it usually takes me two or three tries to accomplish this. So far, each success takes 2-3 tries, no improvement.

She's not mean, or even unfocused. She doesn't like it and will do so only after much effort. The trainer told me all that is required is that she go down--on her back, feet in the air is fine. It seems silly to me.

I thought surely corgis are so prized there would be no rescue groups, but there are, of course. Gracie was turning into a brat and still has her moments. They take a lot of work and interaction to become the wonderful family dogs they can be. I've been tempted twice by ads in the paper offiering free young corgi males to anyone who has the time foe them. Another dog would be company when I'm not here, and I'm not here a lot. BUT. I can keep up with her--barely. Two, I think, would be beyond me, plus I bet these dogs need some corrective training and I'm still bumbling along at fledgling grade.

We'll see how far we get. A nicely mannered dog I can take out in public is my goal. Gracie's goal has a lot to do with keeping busy and doing things with me. Let's see if we can do both.

I have a deadline--I am getting the second knee replaced before Christmas and I think it would be nice if Gracie didn't trip me up as I relearn using the left leg.

I do well with deadlines. I suspect Gracie will, too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Here's to the Microwave! Ding!

"They" say our demand for all things immediate began with computers. Indeed for the fortunate with lickety split machines, it may now be so. I will agree computers have encouraged our self-absorbtion. But nope, I think our first real interaction with immediacy began with microwave ovens.

After all, the microwaves reached the mass public sooner. And as I waited the eight minutes (yes, I said eight minutes) for my computer to boot up in this little corner of civilization I live in, I pondered about this.

Overall, microwaves renew our faith in immediacy. Unless you have a smart phone, no other electronic device gives more reliable instant ah, feedback (snicker).

It is a shame we don't use our microwaves for more--they certainly can do a great deal more than heat soup, defrost the meat and cook a baked potato. Best of all, they don't have to be updated, although they certainly can be. They work, and work and work, requiring only that you clean them to sanitary standards once in a while er, I mean regularly.

Actually, I suspect other than television sets, probably no other electrical device is more widespread in American homes. True, most homes don't have 3-4 microwaves and do have several tvs. But if the tv goes out or you forget to pay the bill, you can always go over to a friend's or read your graphic novels.

With a working microwave, you eat.

For folks who have computers and use them regularly, perceived reality is that everyone has computers. Nope. Forget retired folks, of whom I am one. We can do this sitting down, bozo. It's not rocket science (although sometimes when I click the wrong application, it certainly seems I am on another planet.) Many, many young families don't have them. Especially our poor young families.

If I hit 5 seconds on the microwave instead of five minutes, no problem. If I hit five hours, it's very likely I will catch my error long before time is up. The smell also might remind me. Computers don't smell, good or bad. They just sit there.

With my microwave, I can make lumpless gravy, cook chocolate pudding in the same time you fix that cookless stuff (mine is much tastier), fix baked potatoes for three, cook chicken for a spaghetti dish or pot pie, melt the butter and chocolate for yummy desserts and so much more. I can't believe some still steam vegetables on the stove, except those that contend microwaves are dangerous. Reheated pasta dishes are just as juicy and don't taste like leftovers.

A microwave doesn't heat up the kitchen in 100-degree weather, a boon to Texans everywhere this summer.

I can't play Angry Birds on it, but then, my son won't get off his own game long enough to give me game time on his phone or IPad.

With my microwave, a solid, middle of the road standard machine, I have never thought or said the words I have said to my computer or not-smart phone.

Wave your forks in the air, a tribute to non-conflicted instant gratification everywhere.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Texas Weather Affects

Unless you are interested in nature,anxious about enough water to drink, or care if Texans have it, this is a dull blog to read.

It is cooler. This morning Gracie was running mad circles in the back yard, reveling in the 61 degree F temperature. She felt frisky.

With the drop in temperature, I have to remind myself to water. A half-inch here, quarter-inch there rain is enjoyable. It does more good than the watering. It is not enough.

I was trying to explain to my fourth-grade granddaughter that yes, it rained, and yes, we are in a severe drought. She respects me. She doesn't believe me. Only time will prove what I say.

And I am afraid it will.

I will take pictures today of the almost denuded sweet gum and Barrett pear. I have tried to water, but that has been limited, too. My sweet gum has no leaves in the top third.

Here, in this climate, trees stay green and full till at least late October. Then, if we are lucky, the pecans turn yellow. Most years, the leaves turn brown and fall off. The winds come, and clear the leaves for us. Won't be as many to clear this year.

Fall gardens are doing well. Young trees, with watering, have come through.

I wrote a former Texas friend about a German Shepard puppy that fell in a "sun crack" and emergency services were required to get him out. Emergency services filled the large backyard cracks with sand for the puppy's future safety. My friend laughed, and said her Oregon friends would be amazed. It isn't uncommon in dry spells for the Texas clay to crack so much that small animals and even babies can fall in. Actually, it is so uncommon it seldom makes the news. The puppy, however, fell so deep it required attention to retrieve, which generated a registered call, which resulted in a short news story.

And you wonder about soaker hoses. They aren't for gardens, usually. They go around foundations or slabs built on this crazy Texas soil.

Looks like another La Nina is forming in the Pacific Ocean. La Nina created the first year of drought. This means a second year of drought in Texas.

What scares me is the cyclical nature of weather. In the 1950s, Texas endured the worst drought ever with four years of La Ninas. We have too many people now. OK. But we also have many more resources.

It may be a blessing we haven't had 28 percent of our water this year due to zebra mollusk infestation in Lake Texoma. Authorities think they can eradicate the mollusk this winter. And of course, all bets are off if people have no water.

One of our water districts that covers several million people has announced they are going into Level 3 water preservation on Nov. 1. This will include Home Owner Associations. No refilling private pools or running fountains. No watering lawns except every two weeks. Water in restaurants only if requested. This lasts until March 31. If spring rains are as dismal as predicted, the ban will continue.

Which would you rather do? have water to drink or have a shower every day? Next year, it could get that drastic.

Which is why a lot of Texans prayed for a hurricane. That would bring the water.

Federal assistance to rebuild? Well, guess not.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I've already checked-No remedial obedience school

Gracie and I went to our first obedience class last night.

Boy it was embarassing.

Imagine your taking your spoiled but beautiful child to a party where all the other children know their manners. The only reason your beloved doesn't spin out of control, spewing chaos, is that you are holding on so tightly. Yeah.

The others had attended class one (this was two). The others had already established alpha dominance and, I think, some were more submissive breeds. There was only one other puppy--a chihuahua. Gracie's barking scared him so bad he could perform as commanded, but couldn't eat his treats. Too nervous.

Gracie barks at home only to signify danger ("there's a strange flower arrangement in the living room! Beware! Beware!") or to play. Boy, did she want to play.

Bless her heart. She WAS intimidated. Most of the other dogs could step over her without stirring a hair. Off lead, she might, after all, have scurried behind my legs. But she barked. And barked. THEY, however, were smiling silently, tongues lolling, heeling fairly well, doing sit and stay nicely, and really focusing on their owners and the forthcoming treets.

"Yes," the trainer said mildly. "This one needs a LOT of training."

I knew that. (sigh)

Time to get to work, Gracie, before we get thrown out of class.

She's a really good dog. Stellar. The behavior is my fault.

Four exercises. No more than 5 minutes at a time. Three times a day. At least three days a week.

Gotta get a really big box of some really small, yummy treats.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gracie is Officially a Southwesterner (and just maybe I'm a slob)

Gracie keeps telling me and telling me:

Don't leave food or my purse (unzipped) on the floor! ever!

I guess it shows my priorities that the stacks of books I have always had on the floor are now in safe places. My purse--usually. And my groceries--not so much.

Bringing in four sacks yesterday, I absentmindedly put the sack with the green chiles and flour tortillas on the floor. And I didn't pick it up again.

Huh. No wonder she wasn't hungry this morning. She had eaten about a third of a package of 24 tortillas (They are Mission, and I bought them to go with some green chile stew, but I personally don't find them THAT good.) The sack of chiles she had, in her usual manner, carefully opened without puncturing the sack. Looks like she played with the chiles more than anything-an occasional toothmark, but they are scattered over two rooms.

Guess she is officially a Southwesterner.

Her behavior was nothing if not predictable. I know better.

Okay, Gracie.

But now it's time for walkies. I've studied this. I can do this. Just 5-10 minutes. That's ONE thing I did wrong. Treats. Thank God SOME of my clothes have pockets.

And that's the real lesson Gracie is trying to teach me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lord, give me patience and I need it NOW

Somehow, I don't think "Stay! You blankety blank piece of blank!" is suggested as a command in the instruction book of how to train your dog.

Gracie and I kind of went for a walk this morning. We probably covered a half mile, tops. At least I wasn't the only one panting at the end.

She was very agreeable at first. She chafed at my efforts to keep her on my right side. (I think it's supposed to be the left, but I liked the right.) Oh, she didn't prefer the left. It was just a pleasant and usually sudden alternative.

Tripping me? She gave me that insoucient adolescent look.

"Clumsy, aren't you? That wasn't MY fault."

There were some birds on the ground. She wanted to chase, and bark.

Many, many dogs in practically every house. She wanted to visit. We proceeded with my muscling her along (all four feet on the ground.)

She's a growing dog, approaching five months and 20 pounds of solid muscle and will power. She wasn't cranky about it. I was the only one cranky. She just tested, and tested, and tested limits.

How she got enough slack in the leash twice to run around me, leash totally tying my legs together, I don't know. I didn't fall, though. I think I said something about a piece of something again.

And when we started home on the two-lane highway, going south, well. Pretty good shoulder there, we were some distance from the road. Gracie made it perfectly clear that of the two of us, I was going to be the one closest to the motor vehicles. She was going to shelter in my lee, so to speak. And I didn't have the muscle to win that battle.

So we limped home. I flicked her with the leash when she yelled at the chickens. She's supposed to protect chickens, not yell at them. She proceeded with me and stopped lunging, but she barked several more times.

And this short little ramble took almost 30 minutes.

Guess I'll be reading up today.

Because, you know, having started, we have to do this again tomorrow.

What have I done?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Heat Isn't Finished Yet

Last week was lovely. Temps in the 50s in the mornings. Gracie loved it.

This week, back in the 100s again (true fall in Texas doesn't come until late November).

And the young fools living here are so happy. Dallas-Fort Worth should reach 105 today, making this the 70th day of triple digit heat. That beats 1980.

Texas already has the warmest average summer heat this year since the beginning of weather records in 1895.

I keep moaning about our 70th day. State capital, Austin, Texas, is now in day 93 of triple digit heat. Bastrop, near Austin, has now lost more than 1,500 homes, along with assorted beloved dogs, cats, donkeys, horses, etc. Fire sixty percent contained yesterday. School buses picked up the kids yesterday for the first time in a week to go back to school. Kids are at shelters, motels, hotels, with friends, etc.

No rain. None forcasted. Meanwhile, homeowner's associations require green, lush lawns and filled swimming pools.

Absolutely dumb.

It's time for me to investigate using my grey water to irrigate and invest in some rain barrels(also not allowed in HOAs). I suspect a lot of that is going to happen. Iime to look for another soaker hose or two.

We will get rain again. Sometime. But the size of the population will continue to grow. The amount of water is finite.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Can We Change the Script a Little?

Thank God THAT is over.

It is Sept. 12.

And yes, I've cried several times. My nine-year-old granddaughter saw a tape at school that sounds like it was pretty good. The school kids saw the new waterfalls and pools. She thought it was a nice gesture.

I tried to explain that yes, it was probably pretty nice, but the families still grieved.

Sept. 11 is supposed to be a day of commemoration and service. Didn't Obama and his daughter go help out at a soup kitchen or some such last year? Where was the service emphasis by Americans this year?

I went to church because I always do on Sunday, but I didn't go to mine. I went with some friends to theirs, and the adult Sunday School was participating in a four-week course on forgiveness.

It's healthy to forgive, of course. They also said no one should because they ought, but when they were ready. And then someone suggested I forgive the perpetrators of Sept. 11.

I don't hate the perpetrators of Sept. 11. The acts are too far over my ability even to understand. They are dead. We go on. We rebuild. But I don't forgive. I don't have to forgive evil. There's a dodge-ball organization I probably will never see with my own eyes to blame. That's all. I certainly am not mad at people of different faiths. I don't even agree with a lot of the people I'm supposed to share a faith with.

Would I let my grandchildren play with their kids? No. That's not hate.

Did we have to sit on our fat American rumps (and most of them are fat) and cry? Apparently. The news media entertained us with hours of maudlin reminescence and recapping and solemn ceremonies. And we accomplished zero good to offset the evil that still reasonates.

Next year, I'm cleaning up a park. Or I'm taking a page from the Egyptions and taking my broom down to sweep the streets around the city square.Or...something active, something good, something satisfying those good people who died might have enjoyed doing as well.

It happened in New York and changed their community profoundly. I understand in a more minor way that was not minor at the time.I lived in Dallas when John Kennedy was shot. I got out of class at noon and heard people talking. I began running towards my dorm and the television. And from noon that day till late Sunday afternoon on a college campus, I didn't hear a single laugh. Kind of like when we didn't see a single plane flying for days.

When I came home for Thanksgiving, I was shocked to hear old classmates away at other schools were given the day off to watch Kennedy's funeral. A lot of them slept in or used the extra time to go to parties.

Not in Dallas. And all these years later, we are still a little conscious all the time of the Fifth Floor of the Book Depository Building, from which an assassin killed a president.

All these years later, the pain is still there. More in Dallas, always will be. More on the East Coast for Sept. 11, always will be.

There has to be something we can do besides sit around and cry. Or glower.

Besides, I think it will be good for my soul.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Toughness is part of American DNA

How badly do Texans want rain?

Some are praying for a hurricane.

Really. It seems the only way we are going to get wet. But that isn't going to work, either. The winds don't favor us.

I do know my mouth watered as I watched Irene climb over the east coast. I keep telling you Texas is big. Irene would have covered Texas with just a little sticking out for our friends in drought-striken New Mexico and Arkansas.

That one hurricane would have ended our drought for some months, at least. After the ground was saturated, the runoff would have filled our rivers and man-made lakes. Ten to fiftheen inches of rain. Sounds delicious.

An examination of soil at the site of the Possom Kingdom Lake fires last week showed one percent of normal moisure. The fires in Bastrop County won't be truly contained, a firefighter said today, until there is rain. None is coming. The cooler temperatures and lighter winds help.

So far, about 1,000 homes burned just this week. Overall for this year in Texas? has to be several thousand. Some of these are old homesteads and Victorians that are 100 to 200 years old. Area burned 3.6 million acres, now about the size of Connecticut.

But as one man said this morning after the home he had lived in for decades burned to the ground: "I've come too far in my life to let this get me down. We'll just keep goin'."

Maybe this is my tribute to the 10th anniversary of the fall of the towers.
I remember that wonderful accent when a New York firefighter was honored for his heroism.
He gave a little shrug, a little smile, and said simply,"I'm a New Yorker."

Whether dealing with terrorists or misbehaving Mother Nature, we will survive. After ten years, the message to me is that we are a tough people, and we will survive.

That is a fact, a memory, well worth the knowing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I actually put on a sweater this morning to go outside--temp in the 50s.

Wonderful, even if the state is burning up, which it is. (More than 1,000 homes so far, this round.)

Gracie was glad to see me yesterday, and also glad to see my oldest son, who has done most of the feeding for the past week. As usual, she has set me an example for not whimpering, whining or sulking, and making the best of it. Honestly,I have thought, "What would Gracie do?" several times recently.

I have been in the hospital, an out-of-the-blue, couldn't have planned it situation.
Met some nice people, had some really good food, and am home. Have to spend some regular time with doctors for awhile. Fortunately, the docs are very smart, and also pretty funny.

Low potassium. No precursors. A doctor hired by the hospital to solve medical mysteries like mine seems to have done it. Fascinating work--I'd like to talk to him some more. Anyway, looking back, knowing how jumbled my brain was, I'm surprised I wrote any coherant blogs. With any luck I'll improve with a more fully functional brain.

My recovery depends pretty much on taking a dose of sodium bicarb, or baking soda, every day for the rest of my life. Not expensive, or much of an impact on life otherwise.

We always brood a bit over the close calls, and this was one. I suspect not too many years ago, I might have died. Nowadays, I didn't even qualify for acute care.

I think they let me out because I had started walking the halls to get some strength back. I only know that staff had my discharge papers ready 30 minutes after the doc signed off, and I don't THINK I had been that irritating.

I had felt so bad so long, my house really needs a good scrub. And I don't LIKE housework, yet I'm looking forward to this.

Maybe I'm still a little sicker than I think I am!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An old science fiction story becomes historical artifact

When I was a school girl in the 1950s, I remember having teachers telling me that petroleum was decayed dinosars preserved in the earth for millions of years. I mused in an earlier blog,"do I remember this correctly? Could this possibly be true?"

I heard from a number of contemporaries who said yes, that's what they were told , too. And we thought we were so advanced!(Wonder what silly myths we still believe today?)

Recently, my granddaughters and I were going to the used book store, and my oldest ran to her room for some books to trade. One was a juvenile science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein. The pages were VERY yellow.

"Oh, give me that!" I exclaimed. "I read everything he ever wrote and it will be fun to reread it now."

She sighed in relief. "Daddy gave me this and he really wants me to read it. But grandma," she turned a pained face to me. "I just couldn't get into it."

Well, rest easy, child. I almost couldn't get into it myself.

It was written in 1952. This family, living in Luna City buys an old spaceship and takes off for Mars, where there are several settlements. And live Martians.

Now, you youngsters, you don't know about the early 1950s and how the population romanticized Mars. People were still seeing UFOs--I saw one myself in 1947, and it's one of very few events the Air Force still lists as "unexplained."

When we looked at Mars, it seemed crisscrossed by regular, symmetrical canals. Connect UFOs with the canals, and you got some hopeful science fiction buffs who were itching to see what was there. An alien race? Oh, boy!

When better telescopes and better science came along in the mid-50s, we were told the marks were normal erosion, no sign of water--or air to speak of--and it was a big, ol' dusty planet, Well. We felt were bummed, majorly.

("Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury was written in 1950 and is still a lyrically written manuscript that might hold up.)

So I'm trying to read this book, and Heinlein was forward-thinking for his day. Everytime they went anywhere, though, they all whipped out their slide rules to calculate the orbit. Scary. The idea of computers, or artificial intelligence, was too far away for his mind to grasp. The grandmother in the story is a well-trained pilot who can't get a license because women can't have them. The mother is a physician, but she fixes ALL the meals, and of course, the author has them actually cooking in space. A passenger ship comes down with "neo measles" for anyone who hadn't had the measles earlier (Measles vaccinations also were beyond his imagination.)

There's quite a lot he does get right, but overall, it's kind of "Father Knows Best Goes to Mars." And a lot of you have never heard of the tv sitcom, "Father Knows Best."At least I lived through those years and had a referant. My granddaughter had none, and her eyes crossed.

Who knew a Robert Heinlein novel could become an nistorical artifact?

Actually, now I think about it, I hadn't planned on being a historical repository myself.

But I am.

Monday, August 22, 2011

We're Still A Contender

Those residents who were disappointed when Texas couldn't reach more than 43 triple-digit consecutive days have another record I hope we won't reach.

Average number of 100-degree or more days is usually 16 so far. We're closing in on 60 days. In 1980, the summer that would not die, we had 69.

Dare I hope it's another 30 years before the next one? I'll probably be dead by then.

You know, there are some things in life you just won't miss.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"The Help" is a reminder we have to keep working together

A friend and I went to see "The Help" last night. Critics are probably right. It's a predictable movie, no surprises, and the ending may be just a little too happy to be realistic.

Not to worry. It still focuses on a time at least two generations know nothing about but those of us over 60 remember. The theater was full. Movie managers, no fools they, had hiked the price up from $7 last weekend to $13 this weekend. There was a disclaimer in the credits that the women in the Junior League of Jackson, Miss., in no way resemble the characters in this movie. That made my friend and me chuckle.

I used to say I never went to a segregated school, but I found out a month ago my elementary was, until I reached third grade. We didn't have many blacks. But the hispanic kids were kept separate, too. That makes me blink.
In the Southwest, the bigotry is more subtle. I remember an hispanic friend in high school I wanted to go with to a certain restaurant.

"Charlotte," she said patiently, "I can't go eat there."
"Why not?" I asked angrily.
She just shook her head. And she wouldn't go.
And she was right. They wouldn't have served her, even with the blonda chica whose father was a town leader. THEN who knows where it would go?

When I was 16, we went to Florida by car. Mother, a history teacher, and Dad planned the trip so that we stopped at the state capitol in every state and photographed it.
In one of those buildings, I saw for the first time a water fountain labled "colored water". My impulse was to go integrate that water fountain, but Mother said no, and I didn't.

I remember thinking, "I couldn't live here. I'm glad I didn't grow up here."
It was a shadow of the grue I felt years later in Dallas when hooded Ku Klux Klan members approached cars in the intersection for donations. They had the right. And I rolled up my window and locked the door. I had never seen live Klansman in regalia, either, you see. I was in my 40s.

For me, this little movie made me remember a time I never want to see this country go back to. For those younger, really unaware, maybe in some it will awaken the same determination. There is much more to do.

Only a few things in life are worth saying, Never Again.

This just happens to be one of them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Living With Gracie--Chapter 1

When I was a new mom for the first time, I had taken a Red Cross course on how to hold a baby and how to wash the child without drowning him or dropping him on his head.

My son was a C-section baby. We discovered after about 36 hours of labor that the reason he wouldn't come out was that he had one foot on each sciatic nerve. This left his feet a little hinky and I was instructed to do some exercises with him every time I changed his diaper--cloth diaper with diaper pins, no less--and I did so competently.

Let me emphasize:I had never been around babies or other people caring for them. Nada.

My mother-in-law, a nurse and the oldest daughter of nine children, came by almost every day to give me support and help me learn how to mother this child I really loved very much.

She came by one day when I was changing his diaper and asked in astonishment, "Why aren't you talking to that baby?"

I was genuinely puzzled.

"Why?" I asked. "He can't answer."

I had read a number of books, but they discussed the practical. Not one of them told me about talking to your child. I learned a lot that day, and I started talking to my baby. And while it was a while before he could answer in words, he started answering me. A good time was had by all.

Sorry, son, but training Gracie reminds me of that old story.

Of course I talk to her, but apparently not enough. I've read enough to learn that if I don't get Gracie's manners under control, she is in danger of turning into an incorrigible brat. And one tool suggested was talking to her.

My youngest granddaughter has accustomed her to the leash by taking her out and running with her. Gracie loves it. She will follow me now without fighting the leash, but she does find my pace boring, and my refusal to let her run off to jump up on the UPS man mean.

So again I am talking to her all the time. A trainer I found on the internet suggested talking to her while she eats, and I did that this morning. She liked it. He recommended two feedings; I keep some kibble in her bowl at all times. She isn't greedy. She nibbles. When she is really hungry, she sits on her haunches and polishes it off.

Somehow, she has discovered human food on her own. I have not fed her, nor have the grandkids. Last Friday, however, I scraped two chicken drumstick bones into the trash and went outside. When I returned in a few minutes, she had overturned the trash and was finishing the last few bites of the second chicken bone. Note to self: her teeth are really getting strong. So. More changes in how I do things.

She loves her puppy toothpaste so much it is hard to get the brush out of her mouth.

Obedience classes won't start until September. I would like to teach her to sit, heel, stay down, not chew up my phonebook or poop on my woven Indian rug. Oh, and not bite. I leave her chew rope to the kids. I'm too slow. After my fourth half-inch bleeding cut from her faster reflexes and razor teeth, I've decided that isn't prudent.

I've learned a herder dog means very active. Want ads today advertised a year and a half Corgi male, crate trained. free to a good home. The owner said he simply didn't have the time the dog required.

I hear that. An intelligent dog means one that needs stimulation. Whew! We're working on her ear-splitting "YAP!"

"Inside voice," I tell her in a soft tone. "Inside voice."

I swear she gets it.

Right now, she's sprawled by my feet as I type. I love that her feet always stretch behind her. When she sleeps on her back, the hind legs stretch out and the front legs fold altogether like a child's. AWWWW. Her bed is in my bedroom, and she has begun to use it instead of the cool hardwood floor. She usually wants to be in whatever room I am in.

I think we're bonding.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Add 3 more inches to that skirt and I'll buy it

As goes Texas, so goes the country--so far as textbooks are concerned.

The state is so big, publishers pretty much sell other, smaller states the textbooks that our beknighted Board of Education select. (Briefly this year, Creationism arose again but thankfully was quashed.)

Anyway, Texas has hundreds of thousands of middle school and high school teenage girls.

You would think the clothing industry would like to sell these girls dresses. And they do sell a fair amount to middle class and richer kids who can afford to have dresses for parties and fun that they can't wear to school.

Because I doubt a single district in the state will let a girl wear a skirt three inches or more above the knees to school. Sundresses? Yeah. with a Tshirt underneath. No I said Tshirt. NOT camisole.

So the girls head for the trusty jeans again. No problems there and all their friends wear them, anyway.

But if makes me scratch my head. Obviously, the stores want to sell clothes. So why don't they make and sell clothes the girls can wear to school?

There's a lot of conservative school districts out there. A huge untapped market.
Oh, well, I've never been in retail.

It just seems silly to me.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rain? It's Rain? OMG!

It rained today. I don't know when it started, but probably a soaking rain for one and a half hours, at least. Maybe an inch?

Don't think it was supposed to be here.

Hope the farmer I saw haying yesterday afternoon got it in. In a good year, we get three cuttings. An okay year? Two. This is likely to be a one-cutting year.

Gracie, my three-month-old puppy, was amazed. She had never seen water fall out of the sky. Scared her, at first. Then she ran out in the yard, found all her favorite sticks and flimsy plastic garden pots she is demolishing, and brought them all up under the dry overhang on my deck. Then she finally ran around in the rain.

Good girl.

When I stepped outside and saw the wet, heard it on the metal overhang on my deck, I was astonished. What a lovely surprise.

Grandkids and mom are going to the lake cabin for the weekend--it won't have rained down there, likely. They will swim and maybe catch their supper.

It is going to be a might humid later. I'll nap, then research how to outsmart Welsh Corgi pups. Because so far this week, it is Gracie about 5, me about 1.

I can do better than that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Record Not Broken, and Souls Refreshed

My morning paper tells me the sweet smell of rain is called petrichor. When rain falls on the earth, it causes a chemical reaction, mixing with the oils from plants and trees.

It causes that wonderful smell that makes us say, "Ahhh! It smells like rain."

It didn't rain yesterday, just the veriest sprinkle, but we had clouds and thunder--and that wonderful smell. Best of all, the temperature dropped in the approaching gusts of wind from 97 to 77 or lower.

At 1 in the afternoon, my granddaughters were running around and shrieking in the first midday fun outdoors they have enjoyed without a pool attached in months.

"Grandma," my oldest shouted at me in glee, "We're geeks!"

Some areas did get rain. Most did not. We got enough to say we got sprinkles on our faces.

The record is broken. At day 40 in consecutive triple-digit days, we didn't reach 100.Did. Not.

Today? Oh, probably another triple-digit. And on through the next week.

In the paper, the reporter wrote that business workers and shoppers congregated on the sidewalks to enjoy the cool break and see if it would rain. The break was too important. So my grandchildren and I weren't the only geeks.

We were humans enjoying pure physical relief this world can give us. Only a couple of hours of it, but we are refreshed.

The rain will come. It will come. We smelled it.

The rain will come.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I think there's a cloud at the end of the tunnel...

Oh! Oh! Clouds!

Not rain on my spot of ground clouds, but maybe block out some of the sun and lower the heat a scooch clouds. Wonderful to see.

The heat is gearing down just a bit. 103 today. 101 tomorrow. Saturday? maybe 100.
Saturday would break the 1980 record of 42 triple-digit days, although all in all, 1980 will retain the record for total number of days.

Saturday, I'll abandon my vigil and go on to other things.

It has been worth it. Concentrating on sweat and discomfort has been better than wondering if any of my invested retirement funds will be left. Or brooding about the odd fact there is street violence in Great Britain. Or familiarizing myself more with sequestration--do I have the word right? What we get if Congress continues to refuse to do their jobs.

My spot of green is getting a bit larger. The St. Augustine definitely is safe.
I was reflecting recently that it is summer, and my oldest granddaughter has not had to mow in two months.

Texas summers, baby, in a home where we know the bermuda will come back when it rains again sometime.

I don't know if any critters are hitting my pan of water in the yard or not. Haven't seen any birds. Bet they don't like the shiny. I'd like a birdbath, but can't find one so far under $150. I will.

Today, the library.

Tomorrow, the pool, and while we still have our suits on, we'll wash the dust off my screened porch. It really needs it.

My mornings at the picnic table on the back porch have become a really pleasant part of the day.

Thank you, Gracie.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dreaming of Cool places

More humid today. Gee, must be at least 40 per cent.

Silly me. If we had more humidity, we might finally get some rain.

Physical therapy in an hour. BTW, the knee surgery was great, but the physical therapy the surgeon ordered after is making a huge difference. My right leg is definitely the stronger now. The still unfixed left knee is pretty wimpy, limiting the exercise that leg can endure.

My balance is incredibly better. I take normal, swinging steps when I walk, much as I did oh, 15 years ago.

I definitely will get the left knee done. I have hopes of being able to walk up to four miles again. THAT will jazz up my nature walks. Also with the improved balance, next time I'm at the ocean in Oregon, I'll be able to walk to the tide pools. Nice dreams, anyway.

This afternoon, we hit the $2 movies. That is the cheapest cooling experience I can find. Not bad, not bad.

I need another book with a mountain or winter setting.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A simple Pleasure to last all day.

I step outside.

The humid, smarmy heat slaps my face,wraps around my body.

It is 85 or more. It is 7 am.

I start the sprinkler. A breeze blows through, cooling.

I acclimate and am quiet.

Now the air is pleasant. It smells of wet grass.

Birds come to the water. They land--swick, swick--on the feeder just 10 feet away.

The morning seems to exhale.

So do I.

Peace settles lightly, gently.

I will carry it with me through this day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"We can cover your funeral expenses up to $10,000..."

Only 105 yesterday.

I'm grateful Gracie gets me up and out early, in the best of the day weatherwise.
It is after 8 now, and the most pleasant part of the day is sliding away. I think part of my discomfort in Texas heat is the sweat rolling down my face, my back.
When I came to the Dallas-FortWorth area my freshman year, I thought that first bead of sweat rolling down my back was a bug. In New Mexico, sweat evaporates as you go. I had never had sweat roll down my body before. I didn't like it. Fifty years later, I still don't.

I have to laugh at my mail. So much of it is aimed at infirmities and dying. One day recently, there were three different offers to pay for "my final costs". Isn't that delicate?

The letter that bemused me, though, is from--I don't know. I presume a branch of the pharmacy I use. Or maybe the manufacturer of my pills.

I am no longer taking blood pressure medication. My doctor okayed this.

The letter I got presumed a) I felt good so just stopped, b) was having trouble paying and here are some agencies to help and c) I don't remember what c was.

Imagine a world where we all ate better, exercised more and dropped a few vices.
The pharmaceutical industry would be horrified. They have college expenses for the kids.

I mentioned this letter to a friend who recently stopped another medication after her doctor observed she was developing some bad side effects. She got a similar letter.

This seems so much more intrusive than life used to be--and it is.

Back in the 1980s, I remember interviewing some computer researchers at the University of North Texas, and they said then that we were beginning to lose our concept of privacy. They said people who would never dream of rummaging through your wallet would get online and get the same information. This was 30 years ago.

Now? sigh. I grew up with a lot of privacy. I've watched slivers get carved away every year, and I wonder what effect this has on my freedom.

Probably not a lot. But some.

And that's a shame.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fun in the heat

It is warmer this morning than yesterday.

Yesterday, the town closed off downtown streets and had one heck of a good party, with several fun spots involving water, lots of vendors selling everything from snow cones to pretty good beef jerky (Texas, you know) One of the banks was selling $5 hamburgers with proceeds to go to the firefighters, police and library. There was the shoot out with blanks, of course. A good, sweaty street dance.

And armadillo races. I really wanted to see those. Those critters can RUN!

So far as I know, no heat prostration, and I do know it was a completely civil day. No arrests at all.Several thousand people. Not bad.

So, another hot day. Really, REALLY getting tired of 'em. This next week we stand fair to tie the 1980 record of 42 consecutive days of triple digit heat.

There are actually some sportin' people who are rooting for it.

My opinion shall go unvoiced.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

And the Heat Goes On....

It only reached 105 yesterday. Blessed relief.

No rolling blackouts yet.

A young man called a local radio station and laughed at us Texas weenies. He said he was just back from Afghanistan, and it was reaching 135 there (and I presume, no air conditioning). So humans CAN survive higher heat. We just don't want to.

Just as extreme cold can cause streets to buckle and push up, so can extreme heat. Hope my street doesn't--it was paved about 6 months ago and is wonderfully smooth. Our new light rail system just opened to my part of the Metroplex is running at 45 mph instead of the usual 60 because of concerns about warping rails.

Water is the other consideration. The severe drought conditions virtually destroyed Texas produce this year, at a loss of billions. Most of our fresh produce is coming from miles away (except, as I said, for the okra and black-eyed peas.)

Will the rains come? We don't know.

About a quarter of the area water supply is unavailable because zebra mussels invaded Lake Texoma and they aren't releasing that water downstream. Fort Worth sells its treated but not potable water to surrounding cities to use for irrigation. I know a few families who have set up the gutters and tanks to collect the rainwater for watering. I bet we see more of that.

And you folks thinking about moving to Texas? Stay home. The steady flood of people into the state makes the politicians happy. It also means less water to go around. It is hot and messy down here, and the legislature stripped our schools of so much money this year it is a wonder our upcoming kids will even be literate. Stay home.

At least another week of this high heat to go. I think I have my second wind now.

We usually get a good rain sometime between Aug. 20 and Sept. 10.

Hope we do this year.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Survival means hibernation after 2 p.m.

I guess I am journaling at present.It's 9:10, DST,and the temperature is starting to climb. Another couple of hours and it will be over 100 again.

We will find out if today is when the rolling blackouts start. A big stick, indeed, to get the population's attention, but a healthy proportion of Texans are stubbornly going to cling to 72 degree thermostats no matter what. I'm wondering if I need a battery operated lantern. What bothers me most is that with no power--no fans, either. During the cold, they were publicizing 10-15-minute cutoffs, but I had one that lasted two hours. My house is not well insulated. How fast will it warm up?

Last night at 9 it was 102. I assume I am meeting criteria--my thermostat is set on 73-74, but in the afternoons and evenings, only cools to 78 or 79. This with 16 additional inches of insulation. I'm using all appliances in the morning, and yesterday even shut down the computer. The plug to the TV is behind a bookcase I can't reach or I would pull that, too. I understand DVRs pull current even when off.

Until this week, I've gone about my business, pretty much, but now I guess I'm into heat fatigue. I'm watering my volunteer St. Augustine in the back, and it has greened considerably. I've started watering the privet hedge in front weekly when I noticed the leaves on top were turning brown. They may be just scorching, but I don't want to lose this hedge. Last summer, I didn't water it even once.

The bit of green in the back feeds my soul. I've put a pan of water out for the birds and more birdseed, which I see the fire ants are prowling through. I'm seeing more birds and butterflies, even a big old toad hopping along this morning.

Gracie goes in for more shots today, then to PetSmart while I get a new leash and her doggie toothpaste. Last night, I imagined I would have to cancel--couldn't bear the thought of being out in the afternoon heat, even in an air-conditioned car I would park mere feet from airconditioned buildings.. Today, well, is a new day. So we will go.

I not only cooked chicken this morning, I've boiled some squash to go with. I figure if all I have to do is spoon it onto a plate and microwave it, I may eat this evening.

Either that, or I'll eat it for breakfast.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Think that was hot? Try hotter!

And the heat goes on and on and on.

We had 110 yesterday, with a bit of humidity. Hard to breathe air that warm.
This morning, at 6 am it must have been about 86.

Today's paper sums it up for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex:

so far, 40 days reaching 100 degrees or more.
Typical summers have 16 days.
For instance, we usually have 6 days in July over 100. This year we had 30 days.
Did I say yesterday reached 110? Today is predicted to reach 112.
By the end of next week, we will have surpassed the record year in 1980, with higher temps.

Statistically, the heat starts subsiding between Aug 12 and Aug.20. We'll see.
If you like beef, think ahead. It's going to be cheaper this fall as ranchers who can't afford hay and hauled water now are selling off the beef they ordinarily would keep to breed next year's beef.

Next year? Yeah, baby. That steak is gonna cost ya.

As usual in high heat, the trees are shedding about one-third of their leaves. The lake water has gotten so warm, we've had several large fish die-offs due to suffocation. Wild animals and reptiles are slithering into the cities in search of water. Even snakes need a little water now and then.

Here, we had one rain in June. Before that, mid-May. We need rain. I just dread the humid heat the day after.

Today, they are beginning to discuss possible rolling blackouts. I don't understand why retail facilities aren't required to raise their temperatures, but we residents are being asked to use as few appliances as possible between 4-7 pm, the peak heat hours. It makes sense, but folks don't seem to be hearing the message much.

Yesterday I washed and dried a load of clothes before 10 and baked a meat loaf. As a matter of fact, I find I slow way down in the afternoons. Others tell me the same.

Gracie, my brilliant puppy, seems to have most of potty-training down. It's that visit outside at noon or early afternoon when we have problems. Sun directly overhead. Temperature already 100. She gives me this "are you nuts?" look, and sometimes she listlessly walks over to a patch of grass and squats. More often, she just sits, panting, looking at me now and then as I get hotter and sweatier. Usually doesn't take more than 5 minutes. Then we go inside to the cool.

I could get all hot and bothered about 'what if' the rolling blackouts start, but I'm hot enough, thank you. If it happens, we'll deal. Meanwhile, I have discovered a new survival tool called Blue Bunny Double Raspberry Frozen Yogurt. AHHHH.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sweat Time, Living in the City

"Summertime, and the living is easy...."

I hear some dissenting harumphs to this, including my own. Mother used to sing that to me as a lullaby. I remember no air-conditioning in New Mexico. The advantage there is, most always, the evenings are cool. They give relief. Mother had this really light-weight bedspread that went on my bed in late May, and that helped, too.

I could wear shorts and a shirt. I had swimming lessons in the town unheated pool at 9 in the mornings when it was really cold and I learned to swim to keep from freezing to death....

But business did slow down in the summers. There was always a pitcher of sun-tea around, and some mint sprigs to go with. The temperatures rarely topped 100, as I recall, which was good.

I remember a summer trip to Dallas with my father,mother and grandmother across the Texas desert in an un-airconditioned car. We had a big thermos jug of ice water in the car but it didn't help much. It was the 1950s, and my mother and grandmother, despite the heat, had on a slip with their hose and a girdle, else how would they keep their hose up? I remember in the privacy of the car, they pulled their skirts up a bit and knotted those hose under the knees to give them more breathing room. I remember eyeing this and telling myself, never, never,never. There must have been a lot of us in that generation...even now, when I insist at least on crop pants for church on Sunday, I don't wear hose in the summertime.

But always, in New Mexico, nearby are some mountains and cool air. Only 30 minutes away from Alamogordo. Too many days of oppressive heat, and off we would go, for an afternoon respite. I think, from the Metroplex in Texas, I just about need to drive the 600-plus miles to get to those same mountains to get away from the heat here.

This year, add extreme drought all over. Only here, in the Metroplex, did we get just enough rain to be merely near-drought conditions. This year, for most folks, the green beans and squash didn't make--too much high heat came on in June. Despite watering, the tender corn shoots just shriveled in the sun. But the cantaloupe are doing well. Resilient okra and black-eyed peas are going gangbusters. Tomatoes? We can still get some but our own gardens have dried up for the time being. They will come back in September, and with any luck, we will be picking batches of half-green tomatoes to finish on the window sills in late November. That's when we usually get a freeze.

The summer of 1980 is talked about a lot here in the Southwest. Our longest, hottest summer ever in history. And we didn't even have a drought then.

I remember the summer of 1980 vividly. I was in my 30s, worked out regularly, and still that summer seemed it would never end. Heard today that with another week of 100-plus temperatures, an absolute surety, we will have broken that record.

So it is summertime. The living certainly isn't easy. Thanks to Gracie, I'm up before 7 most days, anyway. Get in a little watering while it still is in the
80s. I run the sprinkler and Gracie runs through it like a mad dog, barking her version of a cowboy "Yahoo!" Good to see. Good to laugh.

The heat makes families cruel to one another. Parents kill each other. They leave their children in hot cars. They kill extended family. We have bodies all over the Metroplex. They are the minority, of course. Most kids are having a fine summer, even if they do notice the hot. Most adults seem to be behaving like adults and finding genuine pleasure in what is, for now, a sweaty life.

Note to you folks in Minnesota, the Dakotas, etc., who have also suffered horrendous heat. It is pretty horrible, isn't it? And hard for you to endure because you don't have the resources to deal with high heat. You don't need the resources because it happens so seldom.

Remember this the next cold spell when Texans are sliding over the roads due to inadequate sanding or salt operations. Years ago, when I was working for a Metropolitan paper,I remember a forecast for sleet. One of the reporters was assigned an article on how to handle it. The weather didn't materialize. His editor, an organized and thrifty person, stashed the article. Five years later, it finally ran. Ice at last. The reporter even still worked there.

Summertime, and I guess the living is the same in every season. It is as easy as we let it be.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Real Grownup Cries Sometimes

I worked for Child Protective Services for 14 years. I saw less abuse than neglect. And neglect kills or injures more than abuse. The nice thing about neglect is that it gives you a little time to remove the kids to better care.

But tonight I am crying, both for a kid found dead now,and a kid I didn't realize was being abused, and she's dead now. Years dead, It's just there are similarities.

Both were about the same age--2. One was a boy. One was a girl. One was with a parent. One was not.

Other than their deaths, and the way they died, perhaps there is little similarity. This boy in the news now was abused over weeks, months. One of the police officers, clearly upset, said it was hard to imagine how you could dehumanize a person enough to inflict the damage he found. This boy was never under public scrutiny.

The real similarity is that two children who could not defend themselves were killed by the very ones who should have protected them. One of these kids was my case, years ago. One is now someone else's. And whether the parents cry or not, we professionals do.

The similarity of both cases, beyond the ages of the victims, was the disbelief of the killers that they had killed. So they called 911. And ultimately were arrested.
I see that. I remember that. And it still hurts. It hurts the current officers and CPS workers, who took the untouched birth child of the killers from them as authorities sort out what they did and if possible, why they did, consistently abuse their cousin's child to death. We always talk about the victim. Have you read
"The Boy Called It"? I keep wondering what damage it does to the kids not abused or killed to see it happen.

The kid I remember is a pretty little girl with brown curls and a pretty dress who said little when I visited her. I had too many cases, but I saw this girl. She was unbruised, and height/weight appropriate. I met criteria. Cold, that, when the child is dead.

The mother actually called me on the way to the hospital. She said her daughter was not breathing from a reaction to strawberries, and she had strawberry marks all over.
Her daughter was already dead, though neither of us knew it, and the strawberry marks were beatings.

So I kind of understand the 911 call of the folks who brought this boy in. They had been abusing him for months. Why was he dead now?

Yes, I've seen it. It hurts. It hurts. We go on.

You know, caseworkers don't get paid much, especially in Texas. Police officers, more. Attorneys, most. And in the case of this current little boy,whatever the dollars, the pain is the same.

Doing the job means it hurts. And maybe I am not the only one who cries after.

(Addendum, one day later: there was a vigil to honor this abused little boy last night. It was arranged by the EMT who brought the boy's body to the hospital. No, I'm not the only one who cries.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cooking To Please

You know your granddaughter REALLY liked your garlic mashed potatoes when she carefully gets the pot out of the refrigerator and reheats a bowl of them for breakfast the next morning.


I cooked from childhood. I was always very good. From 1996 to 2006 I quit cooking.
And I am still trying to get my groove back.

That decade turned out to be seminal for many things cooking-wise. Foods disappeared, changed, became available only in pre-packaged form.

I've gotten much better. And I have gone back to my natural tendency, which, I hear, is a big national thing now (I'm never original) to buy local, in season. and as cheaply as possible. Duh/ It is at its peak. It is delicious. And your point is?

One of my things these days is to find old cookbooks from women's groups in the past 50 years. or longer. I have my mother's 1935 Joanna Circle cookbook from the First UMC of Alamogordo, NM. Stoves then didn't have thermostats. The cookbook also includes my grandmother's hominy chili pie. It requires grinding the round steak and hominy. Hamburger wasn't that available at the time. I've never made the pie. I am sure it is delicious; everything she cooked was. ( tapioca. don't get me started on tapioca.)

A friend of mine just had family visitors from the East Coast. They spent 6 hours at the Fort Worth Zoo. Their children did not require medical assistance. Boy, their hydration is GOOD!

Today, I just stayed in. Grandkids are home. Gracie is really bored.
She is peeing on outings, though. I have leftovers. No need to cook. (Note to single young folks: yes, I have Lean Pockets. Ech!) I have leftover rotisserie chicken, green salad, black-eyed peas with snaps, garlic mash, baked ham, bacon and home-grown tomatoes...not to mention fresh strawberry cake and dark chocolate...

You know, with all this heat, I was feeling a little down. After reading the above, though, life seems right good.

Ya'll hug, gnosh, visit, and chaw, y''all. Comfort is what it is. I enjoy the food channel. I just don't buy into lots of pricy ingredients.