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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

AJ Earns His Master’s Degree

IMG_0797We had the pleasure on August 3rd of watching our son AJ walk across the stage at Riverbend Center in Austin  to receive his Master of Education degree from Concordia University. He earned this degree while teaching elementary physical education for the Dell Valley ISD, overseeing his Green Dude lawn care business in Kyle, and being dad and husband at home. Quite an accomplishment, I must say.

IMG_0770The commencement exercise was quite impressive. Held in the Riverbend Centre’s church sanctuary, it was just the right size. A little over 200 students from Concordia’s campuses in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas received their degrees and had plenty of family and friends to cheer them on. Master of Education degrees were handed out to 147 graduates, along with other master and bachelor degree diplomas in business administration, liberal arts and sciences. Music was provided by a very nice five-piece band whose name I regret to report I failed to catch. I am not sure if they were connected to the church or Concordia, but their music provided the finishing touch to the program. They played pre-service music as well as the processional and recessional and the song of response,”Speak, O Lord.”


IMG_0790Mr. Bobby Jenkins, a Texas A&M graduate who owns ABC Home and Commercial Services in Austin, was the commencement speaker. He talked to the graduates about the importance of enjoying what they do while becoming involved in community improvement and giving back along the way, a relevant message we all needed to be reminded of.  Dr. Thomas Cedel, Concordia University president, gave a short and upbeat sending off of the graduates as he instructed them in the time-honored tradition of moving the tassel in recognition of their accomplishment.

IMG_0776Concordia University is a privately-held, accredited liberal arts university that started out  in 1926 as a high school for young men, became a junior college in 1951, went coeducational in 1955, became a four-year college in 1980, and attained university status in 1995. The university comes under the auspices of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which makes it a member of the Concordia University System which has more than 28,000 students nationwide.

Proud parents.

Ben, AJ, Erin, and Maya after the ceremony.

We were reminded more than once that the University's mission is to develop Christian leaders. The education received and the commencement that sent my son and the other graduates into the world are a good indication that the mission statement will most certainly be fulfilled.

IMG_0820Walking into the future, which looks bright.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mari Goes to Aggieland

IMG_0839Today marks the end of week one after Mari’s trip to Aggieland and the Texas A&M vet school where she received top of the line orthopedic surgery to repair the ACL and meniscus in her one hind leg that was about to go out on her. And this begins week two of our new job as home health care nurses for the next two and a half months while her TPLO surgery heals and she regains full use of that leg.



You might remember Mari, the three-legged Staffordshire bull terrier that Colten brought home one day to live with us. Over the past year or so we noticed she was not jumping up on the bed any more. Yes, she is allowed on the bed. Your dog isn’t? We just teased her about putting on too much weight. Then she couldn’t handle simple little steps, like the one connecting the back patio into the garage or the single step up to the front door. She would hold herself up with her strong front torso and front legs and then gingerly pull her one hind leg and her tail end up under herself when she sat down. Just lots of little things told us she was losing the use of that one back leg, so off to the vet we went.

The hip was suspected, but it turned out to be the ACL ligament in her knee that was the problem. Our vets here recommended taking her to a specialist, a certified orthopedic veterinary surgeon for the best treatment, and being the good Aggies that we and most of the vets at Muleshoe Animal Clinic are, it was decided that we should take her straight to the source and get it done right. So we did.

The referral was made, the appointment was set, and off we went. We drove down on Tuesday, had the consultation and examination with Dr. Brian Saunders and intern Kelly Oberschelp on Wednesday, and they did surgery on Thursday. Because we were also making the trip down there to attend our son AJ’s Master’s degree commencement exercises on Saturday (read about that next week), we decided for Mari’s best post-op and recovery we would leave her there through the weekend so she would be under their care and supervision and pick her up on Monday morning. That was a good decision and gave her a good start on her recovery.

This is what they did. After repairing and cleaning up her torn ACL, anterior cruciate ligament, just like those fixed on human athletes,  and cleaning up the torn meniscus, Dr. Saunders performed a surgery is called TPLO, tibial plateau leveling osteotomy. I won’t attempt to explain it to you, and if you are interested, I know you will Google it anyway, but suffice it say, it creates a more stable knee for the repaired ACL and meniscus by cutting some bone and inserting a metal plate to hold everything together.


Kelly called every day with a progress report, I think four times on surgery day, to keep us informed on Mari’s condition, and we really appreciated that. I think it was on Saturday when Kelly reported that she was doing well, but had been naughty and figured out how to pull off the soft protective e-collar put on to keep her from licking her incision, so they gave her  two collars, the soft one and a plastic one. We told them she was real smart, so I guess Mari thought she should prove it.

Dr. Brian Saunders and intern Kelly Oberschelp took excellent care of Mari.

IMG_0857Here she is on the way home wearing both her collars. It was a 9-hour trip, but the mild sedative they provided helped her relax.

Dr. Saunders told us Staffordshire bull terriers are genetically prone to this breakdown in their knees, even dogs with four legs, but that Mari’s recovery would be a little trickier because of having to put all her weight on the surgery-repaired single back leg. So our lives are now devoted to helping her recover successfully, which requires staying in her kennel the whole time and having only supervised short walks for the next 11-12 weeks. And she has to wear the collars or be closely supervised for the first two weeks to keep from licking the incision until it heals.

Which means that she is getting pretty much round-the-clock attention while everything else just has to wait. Like the three-foot weeds taking the place from the much-needed rain we have had lately. The good news is that it did rain; the bad news is that the weeds loved it as much as the trees, grass, and crops. I haven’t bothered to vacuum or worry about much housework, but I will eventually. We are trading off sitting with her and letting her out of the kennel in the back room with the door closed so she can’t take off down the hall. And I think she is beginning to take advantage of the short bathroom trips outside because she won't go to the bathroom until she just has to because that means she can stay outside just a little bit longer. Told you she was real smart.

The vets at Muleshoe Animal Clinic, in whom I have complete confidence-even those not Aggies!- will check her progress so we don’t have to make that long trip back to College Station, and that will make part of the process a little easier.

But still, it’s going to be a long 12 weeks.

So it comes down to this: The surgery? Somewhat expensive. The rehab time? Seemingly forever. Use of the leg again to run and play? Priceless.