Friday, December 27, 2013

Computers Are Wonderful-When They Work

If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed a gap in posts, starting after Thanksgiving. That was when my little computer gave up the ghost and just died on me. Amazing how much we take things for granted, isn’t it? The timing couldn’t have been worse; not only could I not post on my blogs, I couldn’t finish scrapbooks for the kids’ Christmas gifts, couldn’t type Christmas newsletters ( and we know how people just love getting those, right? Not.). I couldn’t load pictures on a flash drive to be printed for the scrapbooks and my yearly photo calendar gifts, couldn’t check my bank account or email- couldn’t do anything I was accustomed to doing on the computer.

Well, without boring you with more minutiae than I already have, ordering my new computer became my cover for getting a laptop for Bill for Christmas without him knowing about it. With the help of a new tech support person, I now have a new computer and so does Bill. We still have a few glitches to work out, but life is pretty much back to normal now. I am curious to see if the blog publishes in the same format, and if it doesn’t, bear with me. In time all will be back like it should be.


Christmas is history now; the big day has come and gone, Caroline and AJ and their respective families have gone home, but the tree is still up, a reminder of the pleasant day we all had together. So in spite of the computer crisis, we had a good holiday, much to be thankful for, and life is good.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving for Three; Black Friday for Non-Bargain Hunters

Everyone had something to be thankful for this year: Erin was thankful her parents made the drive from Sedona to share the holiday with them in Kyle; Caroline and Neil were thankful for a safe trip to and from the Texas Tech-Texas football game in Austin; we were thankful that Colten spent the weekend with us; Mari, Porche, and Peaches were thankful there was turkey left over for them.


IMG_1459Even though I only had to cook for three, I still made all our traditional dishes, just smaller versions.The table was full and the conversation pleasant but quieter. Three people just don’t make as much noise, right? We watched football, enjoyed a fire in the fireplace, just had a good day.

Friday while Colten and Chris Cage made a little extra money hanging Christmas lights, I ventured forth to Lubbock even though it was notorious Black Friday to have some photo enlargements made and framed. I went to Armadillo Camera and had the undivided attention of Larry, the man who prints the photos, for over an hour. While he printed a bunch of enlargements, I shopped a Wal-Mart that wasn’t all that crowded, a couple of other locally-owned stores, and was casually enjoying a chicken sandwich when Larry called that the pictures were ready.


At that point it was time to face my biggest challenge, Hobby Lobby, to frame the pictures. Imagine my surprise when I walked up to the framing counter and found no line of impatient customers; in fact no customers at all. The place was busy enough, but not at the framing counter. So again I had undivided attention, this time from Lisa, for almost three hours, who helped me choose mats and frames. A few people showed up as we worked, but someone else in the department was able to help them and we just kept on till the whole order was done. And then-you won’t believe this if you frequent Hobby Lobby-I found two cashiers who actually had the luxury of just visiting because no customers were ready to check out! On Black Friday, no less!

Elated with my good fortune, I made a couple of short stops, busy places but not overwhelming, and wound up at Sam’s, another bastion of the waiting in line syndrome, and found it not that busy, either.

So if you stay away from the malls, patronize local small businesses, and go later in the day, Black Friday can actually be a piece of cake.

IMG_1460Except for my football team playing  like a bunch of high school rejects later in the weekend, overall it was a nice Thanksgiving, and I was thankful for that.

And now, on to Christmas. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Snow Days

A blue norther, now days called a cold front, hit last Thursday, November 21st, bringing light sleet. Friday was really cold, Saturday and especially Sunday night brought anywhere from eight to twelve inches or more of snow. As you may remember, I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas where it consistently snowed about once every ten years, and still follows that schedule as far as I can tell. And then it was wet, not very deep, and only lasted about a day. So for me anything over three inches creates alpine conditions which invariably seduce me into bundling up, kind of like the little brother in A Christmas Memory, and trudging outside for snow pictures. This snow was no different, plus these two dogs just insisted on getting out in it to make yellow snow,  to play, and to hunt for that elusive jackrabbit who teases them unmercifully. So I thought I should share some of those pictures with you.


IMG_1311Thursday and Friday all the little darlings were content to curl up and stay warm in the house. It doesn’t show in the picture, but Peaches commandeered the chair in front of the fireplace.


IMG_1300Saturday brought a light snow and sleet. Porche and Mari decided we needed to walk in it anyway. Sleet had piled up, but not much snow yet. The wind was terribly cold, but it wasn’t a bad walk.

IMG_1327Everything was appropriately dusted with light snow and sleet, as was our carved bear.

IMG_1342 And then Sunday morning we woke up to a world of white.

IMG_1355So I bundled up again, two layers thick, and out we went again. This time, in the immortal words of Elmer Fudd, that waskically wabbit showed up but the dogs didn’t see him. He saw them, however, turned and bolted away in my direction, and headed right at me! No fear. I wanted to catch him mid-air leaping through the snow, but since he came right at me at rabbit-warp speed, I was lucky to get this shot before he passed me.




IMG_1348Porche had little trouble navigating in the snow, but the snow came up to Mari’s tummy, and she had to work harder to get through it. That didn’t seem to affect their delight in racing about, sniffing for rabbit scent or whatever else they might happen upon.

IMG_1413Today is the fourth day of the snow and the sun has finally come out. Out we went again. This time the maneuvering was a bit different, as the top of the snow had started to melt, wasn’t as deep, but had crusted over on top during the night. As the dogs walked their foot would be momentarily held up on the crusted top layer and they they would fall through, and their progress looked a bit choppy. Neither one of them asked to go in, though, so we wandered around long enough to flush out the rabbit again, and once again he evaded them.


Rabbit tracks are easy to distinguish from the dog tracks because the rabbit glides along on top of the snow and as he jumps his feet drag like this in the snow.

IMG_1440The sun is out, the snow is still sparkly and beautiful, but the melting has begun. Messy as it will be, the moisture it creates is most welcome. And the dogs and I enjoyed it, so I’d say the inevitable mess will be worth.

IMG_1443And if it snows again, we’ll be seduced all over again and go out in search of diamond dust and rabbits, and it will be just as much fun as the first time we ever did it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pecan Groves, Ditches, and Construction Workers

My dear husband has embarked on a new project, a pecan grove. It has been an item on his bucket list for a long time, but something that always lost out to priorities like making a living, raising kids, sending them to college, paying bills, taking care of business, doing the things that responsible fathers/husbands worry about taking care of first.

We may not live to see the first harvest, but doing what you want is one reason to retire, right? And West Texas can always use more trees. So why not?

IMG_1269But also, trees in West Texas need water, which means the first step is digging ditches to lay pipe for the water line. And the pipe has to be buried so the pesky jackrabbits and cottontails won’t chew it up, which we have learned the hard way they love to do. They make confetti out of black plastic pipe that many people use on top of the ground, so Bill is using buried PVC pipe. Bill borrowed son-in-law Neil’s skid loader with a digging attachment and went to work. After he marked off where the ditches were to go, Mari, Porche, and I were enlisted to help. Our job was to keep a running measurement of the depth of the ditch and to try to help Bill dig in a straight line.




And that’s where a new appreciation for construction workers and heavy equipment operators was acquired. I realize the pros have larger, heavier machines whose weight helps keep them on a steady course and they have gizmos that help them with depth and direction, but I guarantee even then, it’s still not that easy. Bill ran heavy equipment as a teenager when he worked for his Uncle Stanley building bridges in Oklahoma and Arkansas, but that was a lifetime ago, and a new learning curve was in order. The first ditch took us more than an hour and forty-five minutes; the second one an hour and a half; the third an hour fifteen; the fourth an hour ten minutes; the fifth an hour five minutes; and the last one, which was almost straight, an hour, period.

The last ditch. A pretty straight line, I must say!

The ground was uneven, the machine would get hijacked by wads of grass, dirt,  and dry stems of careless weed that were just nearly as big around as a Coke can. I kid you not. So overall I think we did pretty well, thank you very much. The depth went from 12 inches to 19 and all depths in between, but the pipeline can still be laid.

We used the golf cart to go back and forth to the house, and Mari took advantage of the ride sometimes as she is still working on her stamina and strength even after rehab. Porche, on the other hand, won’t ride in the cart and covers many miles with her long easy stride.

So the next time you look down your nose at construction workers, I challenge you to do their jobs. I don’t know what we would do without them. It is a dirty, dusty, unappreciated job that requires more skill than you realize.

Bill  is starting out with 50 seedlings, and updates will be forthcoming. But for now when you see a construction worker, don’t think of them as unskilled manual labor. I assure you there is more to it that meets the eye.

Good job, guys.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mari Update-Rehab is Over!


After three months of pretty much round-the-clock supervision, timed walks on the leash, a ban on jumping, playing, running, maintaining a weight loss, and  X-rays for one last look, Dr. Saunders said Mari is good to go, she now owns the TPLO surgery (“Mari Goes to Aggieland,” August 8, 2013), and chasing rabbits is now back on the to-do list.

IMG_1248During the last week of her restrictions, we kept finding her on the sofa, which means she was jumping up there on her own, and even though she wasn’t supposed to be jumping on things, we took that as a positive sign because before the surgery, she had stopped even trying to jump up there.

IMG_1253But I did catch her sliding off the sofa, so she is at least trying to take it a little easy.

IMG_1098I must admit I still cringe when I see her running willy-nilly or playing a bit too rough with Porche, and she still doesn’t have her stamina back, but that will come.

IMG_1616Now Mari can run and play and that one back leg will get here anywhere she wants to go. So that expensive surgery and lengthy recovery time? Truly priceless.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Maidenhair Fern

IMG_6127As far back as I can remember, at our house in Rosenberg maidenhair fern grew in our front porch flower bed. Mother had azaleas to the back of the bed with the fern filling in below and in front of the azaleas. In the Spring the bed was a beautiful mix of pink flowers with their darker green foliage and the small delicate bright green fern massed all around them. I was not into plants as a kid, preferring instead to raise tadpoles and catch hognose snakes. But I always thought that was a pretty flower bed.

IMG_6129Kitty Hunt, our backyard neighbor, was from New Jersey and had brought a start of the fern with her when she and her husband moved to Texas. She shared it with Mother, and it flourished, sometimes getting almost as tall as the azaleas, just a blanket of fern.

Bill and I lived in Arkansas briefly after graduating from Texas A&M and while I can remember that my interest in cactus was forming then, I didn’t think about taking any fern with me. When we moved back to Texas, however, eventually I started a fern bed at our house in Edna and did it again in Muleshoe.

I am not a fern expert, but it seems to me that fern needs growing conditions that would be the exact opposite to cactus, that West Texas would just be too dry and hot for fern to thrive. And maidenhair fern is so delicate and fragile-looking that it is hard to imagine that it could survive our wind, our sun, and in the winter, our cold.

IMG_1148But if you give it plenty of water and some shade and a little protection, maidenhair fern does just fine, thank you very much. It will die back to nothing when the really cold weather hits, which hasn’t happened yet, so right now it is still green and lush.  But in the Spring when the ground starts to warm up, wiry little black curls of stems will appear and magically turn into the leafy green fronds that make this fern so distinctive. Which means that out here in the wind and drought, I have touches of rain forest co-existing with desert dwellers. Neat, huh?

I saw  maidenhair fern growing at Westcave Preserve in Austin this summer.

Over time I have given starts to friends all over Texas, and I have seen the fern growing naturally all over the state, along river banks and in other wild places. I realize Mother could have could have acquired the plant right here in Texas, but what she started out with came from a colder state like New Jersey, so even though maidenhair fern has a delicate name to match its delicate growth pattern, it is no shrinking violet. It is strong enough to survive whatever weather is thrown its way-provided it has water. In fact, it has been my experience that it prefers an outdoor environment, regardless of the weather, because it just doesn’t do as well as a house plant as it does outside.

IMG_1150The fern bed is either a bright spot to enjoy in the back yard or a bright spot to anticipate as winter ends. Just one more thing I can thank my mother for. The legacy continues.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gershwin and the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra’s Blues to Beethoven: Beethoven & Gershwin concert Saturday night. Pat Angeley and I began our evening of cultural consciousness-raising with a lovely dinner at the Double Nickel Restaurant. We missed our first shot at sophistication when we passed up the wine list. I have never acquired a taste for wine, and Pat’s favorite was not on the list, but the glasses did look elegant and formal on the table, well, until our server removed them and used that space for food, which is what we came for in the first place.

The concert was at the Civic Center Theatre, where the level of refinement dropped a notch in favor of fun as patrons were presented with a glow-stick that turned into a blue bracelet to carry out the blue theme.

So, decked out in our cool blue glow-stick bracelets, we stood for the national anthem, which was emotional enough, but the program started with what are probably the best-known pieces penned by American composer George Gershwin, (1898-1937), An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue, which were the reasons I wanted to come to the concert in the first place.

And I was not disappointed. My mother introduced me to these two masterpieces, and I never tire of listening to them. In fact, I traveled to Lubbock in 2008 to hear one of them the last time An American in Paris was performed by the symphony. I have two CDs of Gershwin, one by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops; the other by Leonard Bernstein and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. I play them when I am home alone so I can turn up the volume as loud as I want to in order to anticipate and appreciate all the instruments and movements. And I love both these interpretations, but I assure you, listening to a CD is not the same as being there, having the music envelop and wash over you, fill you with its harmony and melody, and as it catches in your throat, you feel like your heart is going to burst as the music hits its final triumphant  notes, and the beauty of it touches your soul. At least it did mine. Tears were shed.

When Rhapsody in Blue was finished, guest pianist Jason Hardink played another short Gershwin piece for an encore, but I think I was only half listening; I was still reliving the last notes of Rhapsody.

After a brief intermission came the Beethoven part of the night. To tell you the truth, I already had my money’s worth, but I figured we should stay so we could be educated enough to be able to appreciate Beethoven and upon hearing his pieces some time in the future, be able to smugly say, “Ah, yes, Beethoven’s 5th…” Never mind that the whole world responds to da da da DA! but might not have a clue that it is in fact Beethoven they are hearing. It dawned on me as we were leaving that there is even a version of it on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack called “A Fifth of Beethoven.” See. You knew more about Beethoven than you realized! The symphony also played Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b, which I did not recognize, but did enjoy hearing.

The Beethoven selections were beautiful music beautifully played, but it is Gershwin that I can’t get out of my mind as I try to recreate the experience.

My two CDs are going to enjoy a renewed sense of purpose now that I have been reminded of just how much I like these two semi-classical treasures. In fact, one of them has already found its way into the car CD player…

But I will be impatiently waiting to hear this beautiful music again, live, in all its musical splendor. Maestro Cho, are you listening?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Don’t Like Litterbugs, Either

Litterbugs trash Mother Earth just like those spammers litter the Internet. So they’re next on my bad list.

The thing is, however, litterbugs have been around way too long and have just gotten worse. I don’t have any statistics to prove it,  but I suspect litter multiplied  with the growth of fast food joints. Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to call them restaurants. I mean, really. Real restaurants should be up in arms that fast food drive-ins denigrate the term.

But I digress. Or do I? If fast food places aren’t part of the problem, then why is the majority of litter I have to pick up  in my yard bags of leftovers and those lovely Styrofoam supersized  cups from places like McDonalds, Sonic, you name it. So is there a correlation between the mentality, sense of responsibility, initiative, and degree of laziness of people who buy their products? Can we profile these people and follow them as they pull out with their food and when they throw their trash out the window, gather it up, chase them down, and give it back to the them? Won’t happen, but it should.

Cigarette butts are also disgusting, and they never seem to decompose. They may be small, but they are nasty and make more of a mess than you might think. I really don’t appreciate finding them in my cactus bed by the road.

And beer cans and bottles abound. Drunks littering makes sense; they are under the influence, after all, but that doesn’t cut them any slack. If they are afraid of getting caught with the goods, then they shouldn’t be drinking and driving in the first place. It’s called making responsible choices, stupid.

In fact, that reminds me of one time where I actually was at the right place at the right time to put a stop to one incident. I was walking on my walk path one day and saw a car stop on the road that borders one side of the path. I watch this kid frantically pop the truck, and proceed to unload several boxes of something in the ditch. No matter what the boxes held, it was a clear case of dumping., I raced up to the car before he could finish only to discover it was an underage former student unloading boxes of empty beer cans and bottles, no doubt trying to ditch the evidence of a party that should haven't have happened.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I yelled at him before he was able to make a get-away. “ You might as well dump that stuff in my front yard! I’ll walk by this every day and have to pick it up for you! There are dumpsters all over town, three right over there at the country club. Put it there. Shame on you! You know better than this. Don’t you do this again! I can’t believe you did this!”

So while I am standing there, hands on hips, blathering on in righteous indignation, with lightning speed and a red face, he throws all the boxes back in the trunk, apologizes profusely, and speeds away. I would like to think he never pulled a stunt like that again, and I don’t think he did. At least not in my yard. Like what happens when most kids do something questionable, it just seemed like a good idea at the time, and he wasn’t thinking. 

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. And when litter is involved, it isn’t a pretty picture. I realize that the wind, especially our wind, can blow trash amazing distances and sometimes it really isn’t someone’s fault. But you and I both know that most of the time litter comes from lazy people. And heavy dirty diapers don’t find their way into the yard and street by accident, either.

So stop it! We are supposed to be stewards of the land. Litter is not responsible stewardship. Come on, people. Pick up after yourself. How hard can it be to wait till you get home to throw away your trash? And if you are tossing something to get rid of incriminating evidence, then perhaps you need to re-evaluate your behavior in general.

Now. I’ll put away the soapbox. For a while…

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Spammers Should Be Shot

No kidding. Spammers and litterbugs are two categories of irresponsible, reprehensible jerks that are just taking up valuable space and not contributing anything worthwhile to society. I’ll get to litterbugs another day. Today I choose to vent about the bane of my blogging existence: spammers.

When I first started the blog, I was delighted and encouraged when the stats would show the number of hits or visits to each week’s installment. I couldn’t wait each day to open the blog and see how many people were reading each article. I even signed on for a widget that showed the number of hits for the day and what country the reader was from.

Then every so often I would get a comment that was vague, banal, poorly written, or just made absolutely no sense. I mentioned it to my tech support person, and he gently informed me that just because the dashboard showed a hit, it didn’t mean the person actually read the blog. All the nonsense comments were simply a way of getting their own website’s name out there in cyberspace in what I see as a feeble and really lame attempt to increase their readership or get money for each view or whatever.

By then I had wised up and figured out how to delete the spam before it sullied my blog space and I hope before the spammer got much payback from intruding on my blog. And it is not as much fun to check the number of hits any more, although I have also figured out how to check and see which stories might have actually been read and how many were just a vehicle for the spam crap.

I know there is much about the Internet world and computers that I don’t understand, but how could anyone gain any respect or success from writing drivel like this: “I was suggested this website through my cousin. I’m not sure whether this put up is written through him as nobody else know such particular approximately my difficulty. You’re Wonderful! thank you ! Here is my web-site….”

Or “Hi there, yeah this paragraph is truly pleasant and I have learned lot of things from it concerning blogging. thanks also visit my web-site…”

And then there are the sex-related ones, like “Sexy looking –glass shots adultmovie erotica litature….”

And I could go on. But you get the picture. And these are actual spam comments taken right off the blog. Great spelling and lovely sentence structure, right? Now why would anyone with any sense be impressed or influenced enough to go and visit these websites?

I write my blog in good faith and work hard to produce something that someone would truly enjoy reading. I surely wouldn’t try to force my blog on them the way these spammers try to force their websites on me or whomever it is they are trying to reach with their insipid stupid little throw-away lines.

But then I will get a real comment, a nice, thoughtful reply from someone who actually read the blog and had something meaningful to say. And those are the ones that keep me writing the blog.

But I really resent being taken advantage of by these faceless, nameless, seemingly uneducated morons who clutter my comment box. I guess I should be prepared for even more spam now as payback for my lack of respect for these people. But then, why should I think any of them will read all the blog to see what I had to say anyway?

Doesn’t matter. Whatever I say won’t stop them from continuing their little devious little routine.

But at least I tried.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lucille Liles, 1920-2013


If you read last week’s installment, you know we traveled to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, to pay our last respects to Lucille, Bill’s dad’s second wife. She and Bill’s dad, also named Bill, married on the day of our daughter Caroline’s birth. She was always just his dad’s second wife, never my Bill’s step-mom; they only met after the marriage and never lived under the same roof as a family. But she fell right into the role of mother-in-law to me, Mamaw to our kids, and loved my Bill like he was her son. So it was important to us to say good-bye.

Lucille’s family: Bill, Alice, grandson Kenny, daughter Shirley, granddaughter Vicky and her husband Charles, great-granddaughters Morgan and Madison.

Stories and memories were shared by the family and her preacher of her loving nature, strong opinions, firm convictions, and her faith. One thing I appreciated about her was her commitment to her job at Winton’s IGA Grocery Store, where she had been a cashier.

I suppose to most people a grocery store cashier, or maybe they were called clerks in Lucille’s day, is considered unskilled labor, blue collar work. Well, Lucille elevated it to professional status, a noble career she perfected for 25 years. She knew her customers by name, always had a smile for them, inquired about their families, their lives, and tried to make their visit to the grocery store something to look forward to. I don’t know what Lucille’s formal education consisted of, but she was smart enough to know the value of hard work, the importance of making people feel welcome and accepted, and strived to be the best cashier she could be. Customers would wait in her line even when other lines were shorter; they may not have realized why they were drawn to her station, but that just stands as proof that she took her job seriously and worked hard to be the best cashier she could be.

She never knew it, but she was my example and inspiration when talking to my students about pride in one’s work. I tried to impress upon the kids that all jobs are important and necessary in a society. All jobs have their place, all workers contribute, regardless of the education needed to perform the tasks, regardless of the income generated by that job, regardless of whether the work is labeled blue color, white collar, manual labor, or professional. I told them that it didn’t matter if they were a ditch-digger or a doctor, to be the best ditch-digger or doctor they could be, to do the task at hand with pride and dedication. The world would run more smoothly, and they would enjoy a sense of satisfaction from a job well done. Just like Lucille.


Lucille was laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Ft. Smith along with Bill’s dad, who served in WWII.

I will leave you with two typical Lucille stories. When Rev. Edward Ellis first came to Calvary Baptist, she approached him with a flurry of questions about his life and his faith and more or less told him she would be checking up on him. He said it was only recently that she allayed his fears and told him with a smile that she had decided that he was a keeper. And then there was the Sunday that someone parked in her parking space. Rev. Ellis typically helped her with her walker and getting into church. This morning when he met her, he was informed in no uncertain terms that was her spot, everybody knew it, and that he was to find the person responsible and have them move that car out of her spot.

The guilty party was rounded up and the offending car was moved to a more appropriate space with lightning speed.

Enjoy your new heavenly space, Lucille.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Things Fall Apart. But It’s All Relative.

If you are a regular reader, you know there was no new blog post last week. And this one is a bit late. Computers are wonderful. When they work.

And mine was not wonderful and would not work So on Monday, September 16th, I gave up and took it to the techies at Five Area/Plateau telephone company in hopes they could work miracles and get it up and running again.

Then we received a call from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, that Bill’s dad’s wife, Lucille, had passed away. We drove to Ft. Smith on Tuesday, the 17th, attended the funeral on Wednesday, the 18th, and drove home on Thursday, the 18th. Took Mari, the still in rehab dog, with us, which just complicated the trip, but we felt like she needed the supervision. Keep in mind this is a 9-10 hour drive. Coming and going. But we wanted to be there.

All of this, mind you, right in the middle of the last room of the house update project, which was feeling like a lifetime project.  We left things as they were, unfinished, and took up where we left off upon our return.

The trouble, though, was that we were now working against the clock to finish in time for the already scheduled date for the carpet to be laid, and we were definitely ready for that almost final step in the plan. Divorce was not imminent, but nerves were getting frayed and individuals were getting testy.

Well, by September 24th we finished the painting, Pedro helped get  the tile down in the bathroom, I took care of touch-ups, and we were thrilled to see Jesus when he drove up to do the carpet. And the day before I even picked up the computer, all fixed and ready to go, but no time to actually use it. Because then we got to move everything back in, do paint touch-ups again after getting the carpet down, and then hang those  infernal Levelor blinds, which we had also put in the other redone bedrooms. I like the way they look and chose them over drapes or curtains, but they are a royal pain in the butt to hang. At least they drive me crazy. They are tedious and nerve-wracking, and I was not looking forward to doing yet another set of three units. But up they finally went, and now we are down to hanging pictures and completing other last minute details.

But it is not over yet. The rest of the story is that I get to refinish the bedroom furniture. But not before cleaning the barn and greenhouse in order to move all the cactus in for the winter, as the first good cold front is scheduled for this week-end.

Then Sunday Minnie the cat comes up with a honker of a huge abscess under her chin, so it is off to the vet again on Monday. The abscess was lanced, and she is fine.

I had to go to the dentist yesterday, always a fun activity, but no new cavities or root canals called for, so not a bad trip.

And then of course it is the first of the month and bills have to be paid. Which they were.

So now it is Wednesday, and I am finally sitting in front of the computer.

But you know what? All those things I have just bitched and moaned about-I should be ashamed. On Saturday September 21, I paid my respects and said good-bye to Ana Arzola Guerra, a 39 year-old former student, co-worker, and friend who died in her sleep. That same day a tragic wreck claimed the life of 27 year-old Yuri Aguirre Pacheco, her unborn son,  left  her two year-old daughter in critical condition, and injured her two other children. And remember, we had just been to the funeral of Lucille, who left a grieving family. My petty problems don’t even count.

Our dog will recover; we will enjoy the house renovation for years; we made the Ft. Smith trips safely; the cat is fine. the computer was given a new lease on life; my kids and grandkids are alive and well; I am blessed. Life goes on for us; for these families, life will be a challenge.

So the next time you are tempted to have a major pity party, perhaps you need to stop, like I finally did, count your blessing and thank God for the life you have. Put things in perspective.

Problems really are relative.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Love-Hate Relationship with Vogue Magazine

I have made it to page 580 of the gargantuan 902 page September issue of Vogue magazine, and I trying to remember why it is I’m still subscribing to this running advertisement for conspicuous consumption.

Initially I subscribed because it was one of the few magazines I thought I might enjoy from the list of magazines offered as the reward for taking some long forgotten survey online.

And I enjoyed the first year. Vogue was a new experience. I marveled at the fashions, coveted the shoes, and was impressed with the writing in the articles. The people depicted in Vogue live a fantasy life compared to my small town existence. Never mind that the haute couture that filled their pages would never grace a hanger in my new closet; I could look, just the same.

So I renewed my subscription for another year.

But as I labored through page after page of clothes I had no place to wear, let alone the big bucks to buy, read the articles full of name-dropping and about people who would think my life dull, I wondered if surely there is not a better way to waste my time.

And what about those ads? Now I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and taste is a personal choice, but some of the ads contain no beauty or good taste, as far as I can see. The really pretty models are never allowed to smile, but at least they look good. And then I turn the page and am face to face with some gaunt, really ugly face with terrible hair and make-up, and the clothes would be just as bad! Many of the ads don’t even show the clothes to any advantage, but the designer or name of the fashion house is proximately displayed.

The shoes are always seductive, and I would love to have a need for a pair of six-inch heels of fabulous design. And in every issue there will be at least one ad showing shoes worn with socks! America Ferrera wore socks with heels in Ugly Betty, but I thought that was just to keep her in character as a less than savvy fashionista. And to make matters worse,  in this issue a picture accompanying an article shows some hot-shot male designer in a suit, dress shoes, and no socks! Emulation of the no hosiery style rampant in women’s fashion, no doubt. I guess when his shoes get to smelling from his feet sweating, he just gets another pair. And if the shoe designer would put a pair of hose on that model with those heels,  they would feel and fit and look a whole lot better than heels with socks.

So it is becoming clear to me that the main problem is that I have absolutely nothing in common with the people, the lifestyle, or the clothes in this magazine. I guess  I just don’t get the world of fashion. And yet I dutifully turn the pages, alternately fascinated and aggravated with how the other half lives and dresses.

My subscription runs out in a month. I guess what I need to do is save my $19.97 and use it as a nest egg for a nice vacation. Or a new coat.

Or a pair of socks.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Legacy of Hunting

My daddy was born in 1913, third of six children, to a family who had to scrape to survive, and at a time when hunting could mean the difference in dried wild plums or meat for supper. So he grew up with a rifle in his hand and an appreciation for the bounty provided for the person who was willing to do the work and seek out the game. He became quite skilled, knowledgeable, and successful  at hunting.

Time passed, Daddy and Mother married and had a nice little family. Two daughters were just right because to a man who grew up in a large family where there never seemed to be enough of anything to go around, and where he was the son singled out of the five boys and one daughter who was expected to work, hunt, quit school, whatever it took to help keep the family going, large families implied ignorance and poverty. He build a successful pipeline construction business and provided well for his happy family. And he did not have to hunt to put meat on the table.

But hunting had become a part of his internal being. Far from being a chore or an obligation, it now became a favorite pastime that provided the pleasure of experiencing nature, the camaraderie of hunting with friends, the challenge of tracking the quarry, and the skill and thrill of making the clean kill shot. In his lifetime I think he must have shot just about anything edible- squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys and hogs, even opossums and armadillos were mentioned once, but he said they weren’t very good to eat. Deer and dove were his favorite challenges and also the best game in the eating department.

He tried to make a hunter out of me, and I did take down a doe on one hunt, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I remember the adventure of the tracking and the adrenaline rush of the fatal shot, which I was able to make a clean kill shot, but that was the extent of my hunting career. I had no trouble carrying on Daddy’s athletic attributes,  but I just was not a hunter.

Mother, however, enjoyed dove hunting with Daddy, which I always found an interesting contradiction in her constitution. She was scared to death of my horse, was a gentle soul in so many ways, but delighted in blasting doves with Daddy. She had her own gun, a  nice .410 gauge shotgun, generally simply referred to as a 410.

Bill was never keen on hunting. He grew up with the standard, at least in those days,  boyhood BB gun and later was given a .22 caliber rifle by his great-uncle Ray Schmidt, who lived in Brownfield, and has an interest in and appreciation of guns, but had a mother who was a keen fisherman, so hunting was not the focus. The two guns were passed down to our son, AJ, who did shoot a few snakes and prairie dogs, but was never exposed to much serious hunting.

When Caroline’s son, our grandson Colten, came along, Bill asked for the gun back from AJ and taught Colten how to shoot with it. And last Christmas Bill asked  for the gun back again and passed it on to our other grandson, Ben,  who had his own BB gun, but was now given more instruction using the heirloom 22 by his dad, AJ.

During this time and over the years.  AJ has developed a real love of hunting. He, like Daddy, likes getting out in the wild outdoors, enjoys the thrill of the hunt, and like his granddad, knows that if you shoot it, you eat it. Shooting just for the thrill of killing is just wrong, and is, like Atticus Finch declared about killing a mockingbird, a sin.

So now  AJ, who inherited his grandfather’s deer rifle (“The Deer Hunt,” November 30, 2010), has acquired a place to hunt, and is teaching Ben about hunting and guns and nature. And guess what? Ben is going to carry on the family tradition.

IMAG0688We gave Mother’s 410 to AJ, and he gave it to Ben. Ben went on his first dove hunt at the beginning of this year’s dove season. He used Mother’s shotgun, a pretty big gun for an eight-year old, and did quite well, as you can see in the picture.

The hunting tradition is also being added to the extended family since Caroline’s husband comes from a hunting background. Neil added to the tradition by giving Colten a rifle and a hunting bow and introduced him to trap-shooting.

What was born of necessity turned into a family legacy. Proper care and cleaning of the firearms; continued instruction in gun safety; appreciation of nature and its bounty; respect for the power of weapons; the importance of responsible sportsmanship: worthwhile values to pass down from generation to generation while also putting food on the table. Kind of sheds a new light on the right to keep and bear arms.

Thanks for laying the foundation, Daddy.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Oh, The Fun We Had! More Tales From School

I came across a picture from a faculty Christmas party the other day and just had to share it. I believe this would have been our 1995 party and gift exchange. Linda Marr was our high school counselor who would draw names out of a box to match us with a person to give a gift to. No doubt this year she rigged the drawing so she would get Shari Jenkins’ name, because she had the perfect gift in mind; not necessarily the best gift for Shari, but the best gift with which to  pay homage to Mr. Jenkins, who just happened to be not only Shari’s husband but also our good-natured assistant principal, and keep the whole faculty entertained at the same time. And by now your eye has already been drawn down and is riveted to the poster below. I’m not sure if it was the word SEX that grabbed your attention or the pretty-much naked man, but this was the poster the unsuspecting Mrs. Jenkins unwrapped, and to our delight and Mr. Jenkins’ chagrin, shared with us all. Needless to say, it was the most inspired and most popular gift of the evening.


The story unfolded that Linda had seen the poster much earlier in the school year and the wheels started turning. She took one of Mr. Jenkins’  yearbook pictures, had it enlarged to the appropriate size, and superimposed it on the poster. This was before the digital/Photo Shop days, way back last century, remember,  but the end result was very effective.

Mrs. Marr could get away with a prank like this only because we were blessed with two quality bosses, principal Al Bishop, who could appreciate a good joke,  and an assistant principal like Mr. Jenkins, who was not without his own brand of humor at our faculty meetings, and who, when he later became principal, was one of those special bosses who could create a working  environment that allowed for this sort of fun while running an effective, successful school. The kids appreciated his sense of humor and felt comfortable around him, but respected him and knew he meant business when it came to their proper behavior and education.

Linda was always thinking up devious little jokes to pull. Mr. Jenkins was not her only victim. This picture reminded me of one time when I was her target. it was right about this same year, maybe ‘94 or ‘96, when I was blessed with a student aide one period of the day, which happened to be the period before lunch. One of the best meals our cafeteria served was their Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey and dressing dinners, and I usually enjoyed their cooking on those days instead of my lunch from home. So this year I sent my student aide, Josie Cortez,  to get my tray and take it to the teacher’s workroom where many of us ate lunch. She did, and when the bell rang, I went down, looking forward to this meal. Several of us were enjoying the holiday treat when I realized  what I bit down on was not just dressing. I spit it out on my fork and discovered a plastic cricket. I set the cricket to the side, we all laughed, and with a little hesitation and a smile, I took another bite. Things went well until I had another surprise in the mashed potatoes. And the green beans, And again in the dressing. Not one to let a little plastic insect ruin my lunch,  the rest of the meal was a treasure hunt to see what else I would find. Six crickets later the tray was empty, my tummy was full, and I had not keeled over dead from eating after these little uninvited critters. I wasn’t about to let the perpetrator of this little crime get away with spoiling my meal. No sir.

I suffered no ill effects, we all had a good laugh, and I finally squeezed the truth out of Josie, who of course had been sworn to secrecy not to tell me that Mrs. Marr had caught her on her way to the cafeteria and convinced her to stop on the way back for the planting of the crickets.

Obviously Mrs. Marr must have had just too much time on her hands. I never could think up anything to get back at her. But it is always fun to retell the story. One of the crickets lived in my desk drawer for years as a friendly reminder.

And this last story has nothing to do with Mrs. Marr, but remembering that story made me think of one more concerning dear Mr. Gulley. On one of the many One Act Play trips to state with Mr. Gulley and  Dr. Kerry  Moore, then just Mr. Moore, the Texas Café, (I believe was the name, it’s been long enough that I may have forgotten exactly), was a fairly new and  popular restaurant in Austin, and they took the kids there one night for a meal. So the week after the group’s return from the trip, someone came into the workroom one morning before classes started and made a casual comment to Mr. Gulley about liking the Texas Café, to which Mr. Gulley inquired why he would say that, and the teacher said, well, the bumper sticker on your car says you like it. Mr. Gulley responded that he didn’t do bumper stickers, and the teacher assured him that yes, he did, because the one on his car said “Texas Café-Bubba Likes It!,” immediately after which Mr. Gulley purposefully rose from his chair, walked out the door and disappeared. In a minute, he was back with a serious face and on a mission to get that pesky bumper sticker off his car. Which he did, but in its place he earned the nickname “Bubba,” which we thoroughly enjoyed calling him in front of the kids, down the hall, whenever we could catch him in a crowd. And if you know Mr. Gulley, you know he is about as much of a Bubba as Queen Elizabeth is a Lady Gaga.

But he took it like a trooper and eventually, being  the good ol’ boy he is, begrudgingly acknowledged the greeting  every time he heard a gleeful Bubba! directed his way. Truth be told, I think he kind of liked having a nickname. Or not…

Oh, my, but we did make some memories.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Another Good Cat Has Gone to Heaven



We lost Black and White Kitty last Friday. Bill found her little body out by the barn. We don’t know what happened, but the fact that we found the body helped us have closure. Had she just disappeared, I would have found it much harder to deal with her loss.

IMG_5920Kitty came to live with us when Colten’s mother remarried and moved to Clovis. He didn’t want to change schools and an agreement was reached that he would stay with us to finish school in Muleshoe. Which was fine, but part of the deal was that his cat Poopie would move in with him. And if Poopie was moving in, it was decided that Kitty would come along since Poopie and Kitty had been together for most of their lives with Caroline and Colten. (See “Poopie and Black & White Kitty,” August 24, 2011.)

We tagged her Black and White Kitty because at the time we had another Kitty (“Kitty the Lap Cat,” October 4, 2010), the Himalayan that we inherited from Bill’s mother. But in 2011 we lost that Kitty (“Three Funerals and the Fourth of July,” July 5, 2011), so we could drop the black and white, but usually didn’t.


Kitty was a sweet little cat who really liked being around people. When we were painting Caroline and Colten’s house when they first moved back to Muleshoe, she quietly observed our progress. She did the same thing when I would work outside in the cactus bed, appearing out of nowhere and finding a spot from which she could monitor my work. She was perfectly content just to be there with me. When I moved to another location, she would move. When I walked across the road to dump a bucket of pulled weeds in the dumpster, she would escort me over and then back to the house.


In fact, that is my last fond memory of her. We tackled the weeds in the back yard rock garden. At one point, she was comfortably positioned on top of the very weeds I needed to pull, purring her funny little rattling song. Kitty was 15 years old and having kidney trouble, so thin and frail that I was always glad to see her every morning and be relieved she would be with us another day. So I am especially grateful that we spent her last day together enjoying each other’s company.


We decided to bury her next to Gracie Lou, another dear cat we lost before I started writing the blog,  near the grape arbor where they both liked to sit with us in the evenings. Just as I had done for Gracie, I wrote Kitty a good bye letter, included her picture, put both in a zip-lock bag, and buried it with her.

The letter helped me say good bye, And one day in the distant future when archeologists excavate the area, they will find evidence that a little black and white cat lived here and was loved.


Godspeed, Kitty.