Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Value of a "Free" Cat

If someone held up a cat in one hand and $4000 in the other hand, which would you choose?  I know that there are many variables to consider:  the age of the cat, the endearing qualities of the cat, and how much you owe on your Visa bill.  If the cat is a stranger to you, the choice is quite easy.  A free wad of bills is pretty fun to think about.  If the cat is a "member of your family," the game changes.  The choice is more emotional and guilt-ridden.  That's where our story begins.

About a year ago, Jonathan, our son who lives in Chicago, greeted us at the foot of the stairs that lead up to his apartment with a big grin on his face.  "I wanted to warn you before you come upstairs.  I've got something new!" he announced.  My mind raced...another tattoo?...a girlfriend?...a harem?  When we reached the top of the stairs, he turned and said, "I got a cat!"  Relieved, we expressed our happiness for both him and the cat, Pepe, a black and white lanky, playful feline.  We were smitten with him at first sight.  Jonathan had rescued him from an animal shelter a few weeks before.  Touring us around Pepe's room (an 8X8 "bedroom" in the front of the apartment which is too small for human inhabitants), he showed us Pepe's food and water bowls, his hideout made of old cardboard boxes, and his litter box which had been placed in the room's teeny tiny closet.  It was heartwarming to see Jonathan's "paternal" instincts when it came to the love and care of Pepe the Cat.

Alas and alack, a roommate moved into the tiny room taking over Pepe's space.  The roommate was a bona fide Cat-Hater.  He did not warm up to Pepe at all.  Pepe was his sworn enemy.  He constantly complained about Pepe's existence.  Then, one night at about 1:30AM, Jonathan and his other roommate heard a door slam followed by the cry of a cat in pain.  They found Pepe crouched down under a chair.  Knowing that something was terribly wrong with the cat, they rushed him to a nearby animal emergency clinic.  

Sure enough, Pepe's femur was broken all the way through.  Apparently, the roommate caught Pepe's leg in the door as he was slamming it.  The roommate vehemently denied any wrongdoing.  Long, long story short...orthopedic surgery for animals in Chicago is very, very expensive.  The orthopedic surgeon had to use pins to put Pepe's leg back together because cat femurs don't usually heal like a human's does.  Pepe's bill came to almost $4000.  Thus, the question:  cat in one hand....$4000 in the choose.  By the way, the evil roommate has moved.  Oh, how Pepe and Jonathan rejoiced! 

A couple of weeks after we brought Lily and Dixie home from a local animal shelter all those years ago, Alan woke me up on Sunday morning to tell me that there was something terribly wrong with Lily.  She was barely moving and couldn't hold her head up.  Bryce went with me to the vet.  Lily had some sort of virus and needed to be checked into the animal hospital.  I asked the vet how much hospital bills for sick cats ran and blanched when she told me $200-$300 depending on the tests that needed to be run.  I called Alan and told him the news.  His response, "How much would it cost to put her to sleep?  We can go get another cat!"  Nine year old Bryce was standing at my elbow listening to my side of the conversation.  Tears began to roll down his cheeks.  He tugged at my sleeve and whispered, "Tell Dad that I'll save up my allowance and pay for Lily's doctor bills!"  His voice carried through the phone lines into his daddy's ear.  "Check her in," Alan said tenderly.

Miss Lily Lackey
Lily has used up about five of her nine lives.  First, there was the $200+ virus.  Next, came a nasty mockingbird peck on the head which left her with a huge abscess that the doctor had to drain after putting her under anesthesia.  Then, Lily took a nap up under our neighbor's truck one afternoon...on the motor.  (Cats like to climb up under vehicles to explore.)  When Joe cranked up his truck, he heard a thunka-thunka-thunk.  It was Lily doing battle with his fan belt.  The fan belt shaved one of her thighs down to the bone.  At first, the vet thought that Lily would lose her leg.  Then, she said that Lily may never regain use of the leg.  Several years have passed, and we can't even remember which leg got the shaving.  We do remember that the treatment/hospitalization for the leg cost us both an arm and a leg.

I've heard of people who have taken their pets to Dallas or Houston for chemotherapy.  While  traveling afar for pet cancer treatments seems a bit much to me, I have learned to never say never.  You don't know what your pet is worth until you stand in the vet's office staring into their velvety brown eyes - or, as in Lily's case, mossy green eyes.  I can tell you for sure that if someone had our dog, Pepper, who went to doggy heaven this summer, in one hand and $4000 in the other, I would race across the room and grab Pepper up without even thinking twice.

Over the holidays, we told Alan's brother, David, about Pepe's $4000 broken leg and how shocked we were over the vet bill.  David's reply, "Tell Jonathan that I can totally relate.  I have a $300 turtle."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can-chew Fee-la Bran New Day?!

If you are unfamiliar with Baylor All-University Sing, click here for a quick tutorial:

I love Baylor Sing!  I've been a big fan since my high school days when I sat in the audience wide-eyed with my mouth ajar dreaming of the day when I could be up there on the stage.  It made perfect sense that I would be in Sing.  I was a drill team girl with a flair for the dramatic.  The lights!  The costumes!  The singing!  The dancing!  Bring it on!!  Alas, my high school wannabe's dreams came true a few years later as I pranced on stage and spun in a KOT 3-step turn.  My senior year, I reached Sing Nirvana when I was asked to serve as the Chi Omega Sing Co-Chairman with my best friend, Cindee Garner.  Oh, the fun we had coming up with a theme, the perfect songs, exciting choreography, and a big old back drop that was bigger than an Mac truck and weighed about the same!
Cindee and I give a pep talk before we all
head over to Waco Hall.
Alan, Bryce and I went to Sing last weekend.  They left after the first set of 6 acts (out of 17 acts) to attend the ill-fated Baylor VS Tech Men's Basketball Game.  A couple of cute sorority girls quickly came to claim the seats.  Their sorority had performed during the first set of acts, so they wanted to watch their competition.  Being the Barney Fife geek that I am, I ran my tongue around the inside of my cheeks, pulled up my britches, sniffed and said, "Well, you might like to know that 32 years ago, I was one of the Chi Omega Sing Chairmen."  They reacted in an appropriately impressed and awestruck manner.  "Yeah.  That was me all right.  I was a Sing Chairman.  In fact, you know that song 'Brand New Day?'  We were the first group to ever use that song.  The movie came out in the Fall of '78.  Yep.  We were the first.  It was our 'big ending' song.  People have imitated us many times over the years, but, no one can top our 1979 original 'Brand New Day' performance."  They begin to look amused, "Is that right?  You were the very first ones?!"  "Yep.  We were the first.  The best."  I realized that they were using the same tone of voice that I use when I talk to Mom's octogenarian friends at Raider Ranch.  ("So, you fought in WW II, did you?  Really?!")  "So, how did you place that year?" they eagerly inquired.  "Uh, well, we...ahhh....tied for 4th.  We got beat out by patriotic Tri Delts with sparklers," I said sheepishly.  "Ohhhhh, sparklers," they empathetically cooed.  "Yeah.  Sparklers."

Every time I sit in Waco Hall waiting for the curtain to go up on a Sing act, I feel like I'm 22 again.  My blood begins to pump, my toes begin to tap, and I begin to perform vicariously as the act unfolds.  Once a Sing Chairman, always a Sing Chairman.  I laughed to myself this morning when I wondered if the hundreds of Baylor students who are performing in Sing 2011 realize that there are middle-aged alums who have spent the week discussing and dissecting each of the Sing  acts.  We've already picked the 8 groups who will move on to Pigskin 2011.  We think we know who will win and why.  To aging alumni Sing Chairmen, Sing is the Superbowl.  The only difference is, you can't take snacks into Waco Hall unless you have a really big "old lady" purse.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Pledge Allegiance to The Fraternity

Alan and I spent the weekend in Waco with our Baylor boys, Bryce and Reed.  We celebrated Reed's 19th BD during one of his short breaks from fraternity pledging duties.  The boy wearing shorts and a t-shirt that we dropped off at Penland Hall in August spent most of the weekend in khakis, a white dress shirt, a tie, and a blue sport coat.  I noticed that his hair looked shorter than usual.  "Oh, yeah.  Mr. So and So (a frat active) said that it was too long and that I should probably get it cut."  Mr. So and So is now held in high regard by the parents of Pledge Lackey.

Here are some of the things that Reed has learned during pledging:
  1. How to tie a tie
  2. A man's belt and shoes should match
  3. Brooks Brothers no-iron dress shirts are amazing birthday gifts
  4. Being nice to the active's girlfriends is a good idea
  5. The fraternity takes great pride in it's 2nd highest on campus GPA
  6. Studying during study hall is important
  7. Being allowed to interview all of the frat brothers that live in the same house or apartment at the same time is a gift
  8. Texting his mom during study hall makes her happy
  9. His brother's apartment is a great place to take "sanctuary"
I had fun telling him about pledging back in "the day" which was comparable to walking-to-school-10-miles-uphill-in-the-snow.  Most of the following is now considered hazing:
  1. I had to carry a pledge book with me 24-7 or face the wrath of some greek goddess.
  2. Chewing gum and walking on grass were verboten.
  3. We had to go meet each member who would then send us on a pledge appointment or assignment which we would complete and then return for the member's signature of approval.
  4. Pledge assignments like "take a bubble bath" were much preferred to "make my boyfriend some chocolate chip cookies."
  5. Saying the greek alphabet while holding a lit match is pretty scary.
  6. Wearing a pledge dress on meeting day was an honor and a privilege.
  7. I'm still in counseling trying to work through my fear of "black" members - the ones who asked pledges to name all of the active members from Dallas or all the accounting majors or say the greek alphabet backwards.
  8. Running across the street to greet an active member (while staying on sidewalks) was really great exercise.
  9. Not being allowed into chapter meetings until we were initiated made those meetings seem really important to us.
  10. Entering a chapter meeting as a pledge to sing my original puppet song solo with my homemade puppet was terrifying.
  11. The fear of the chapter meeting puppet solos bonded our pledge class as we each, in turn, were reassured by the others that no one had ever died during a chapter meeting puppet song - that we knew of.
Those were some of my favorite days at Baylor.  When I get together with sorority sisters, we still laugh when someone mentions "Miss Walmsley."  Good times.  I'm happy that Reed is now creating these lifelong memories for himself.  

Pledge Lackey:
May all of your tests be open book this semester.
May your cowboy boots not rub blisters on your feet.
May your $9 Walmart watch keep good time.
May you remember that no-iron dress shirts are not no-wash.
And, may you enjoy each and every moment of this season of your life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 21 of the 17-Day Diet - The Chocolate Cycle

The 17-Day diet actually has 3 17-Day cycles:  Accelerate, Activate, and Achieve.  I'm still on Accelerate.  But, I'm down 8 pounds!  That's 32 sticks of butter.  According to the book's guidelines, I should weigh about 25 pounds less than I weigh right now.  That's going with the "large-boned frame" weight range.  I'm pretty sure that my bones are large enough to qualify.  I feel sorry for people who are 5'2" and have small-boned frames.  The chart shows that they should weigh in at 98 pounds.  Yowza!  I'm still on the the Accelerate cycle because I've taken a break from the diet for a total of 5 days between a Santa Fe trip and Valentine's Day.  

In my kitchen there sits a lovely box of chocolates that Alan ordered from Dean and Deluca for my Valentine's Day surprise.  Well, there are actually 3 boxes of chocolate.  I gave him a box of Dove dark chocolate chocked full of antioxidants.  He gave me the heart-shaped box of chocolates along with a box containing a 6"X6" slab of Dean and Deluca dark chocolate sprinkled with tiny bits of dried rose petals and lavender.  Right now, it's 10:12AM, and I am savoring a lovely chocolate from the heart-shaped box.  It's called the "Charlotte."  Each of the chocolates in the box has a lady's name.  The Charlotte is a milk chocolate heart filled with apricot and basil ganache.

These are the chocolates I've enjoyed since opening the box at dinner last night:
  • Hannah - a mysterious dark chocolate lady filled with burnt caramel and topped with a bit of Hawaiian sea salt
  • Kelly - a triangle-shaped lovely filled with strawberry-lemon-thyme ganache 
  • Helena - an irresistible coconut truffle rolled in toasted coconut
  • the aforementioned Charlotte

Miss Sophie with her fresh squeezed lemon marzipan and Elizabeth's passion fruit-ginger ganache topped with crystallized ginger will go missing within the hour.  I scoffed at the 3 Potato Gratin that we served to "the mothers," Helen and Mary, on Sunday night.  A large order of french fries limp from the fryer glistening with sparkling sea salt would hardly rate a second glance.  But, the siren's call of the delicate chocolate beauties that are tucked into their form fitting plastic beds inside the heart-shaped box is too powerful for me to ignore. 

I hereby add a 4th cycle to the 17-Day Diet which will be known as Chocolate [pronounced: chok - oh - LATE].  During this cycle, one will alternate between Accelerate and Chocolate each day.  On Chocolate days, breakfast will include a demitasse cup filled with rich sipping chocolate topped with a toasted marshmallow.  For lunch, a large piece of chocolate meringue pie will be accompanied with a 5"X5" square of lasagne.  Dinner will include a large slice of chocolate cake with chocolate icing and/or a large scoop of Sheridan's chocolate frozen custard.  The entree:  chicken enchiladas.

I'll get back with you on my cycle 4 results.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's the Little Things That Drive Us Crazy

Let me preface this blog by saying that I married the love of my lifetime.  He "completes me" blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah.  We have weathered many of life's storms together being tossed and turned by huge waves of uncertainty and fear.  We've survived just about everything that 3 teenaged boys could throw at us.  Together, we are a force to be reckoned with.  So far, nothing has been able to sink the ship of our marriage.  Nothing.  But, it's the little things that drive us crazy and set our teeth on edge.

The Dishwasher
I get highly offended when Alan rearranges the dishes in the dishwasher.  He has some very strong convictions when it comes to the proper loading of the dishwasher.  So do I.  Over the years, we have worked through some mighty loading issues.  Then, came our newest dishwasher with the dreaded "on door" silverware basket.  See the little dark gray hinged "lids" at the top of the basket?  I say that they are there to keep small items like pacifiers and baby bottle nipples from flying all over the place.  Alan sees them as fork and spoon organizers.  I shove handfuls of silverware into the basket all hully-gully.  He closes the little lids and neatly slips forks through the slits on one side of the basket and spoons through the slits on the other side of the basket.  All forks and spoons must face the same way with the tines and bowls up.  Knives are placed in the middle two compartments because they do not "spoon" with each other.  In the big scheme of all that needs to be done around the house, I feel like sorting silverware in the dishwasher is too time consuming and tedious.  First, I do not enjoy bending at the waist over the dishwasher door for a prolonged period of time.  Second, placing each eating utensil in an individual slot is like putting 30 keys in 30 keyholes.  Alan is convinced that spoons that "spoon" in the dishwasher do not get clean.  I counter with, "Just throw the dirty ones back in.  The second go-through will work like a charm!"  Oh, the debates we've had over this issue.  Statements like "Why do you to have control over my dishwasher!?  I don't come up to the bank and rearrange your desk!!" and "I guess you don't like having a husband that helps in the kitchen!" have flown through the air.  We have reached an unspoken agreement.  I cram the silverware into the basket by day.  He comes home from his long day at the bank and sorts spoons and forks by night.  It's craziness.

Washing Dishes
I have run this little eccentric behavior of Alan's by several of my friends, and they all side with me.  Just sayin'...  When filling a sink with water in which dishes will be washed, one adds the dishwashing liquid while the water is running so that the liquid becomes evenly disbursed throughout the water.  Simple.  Alan is the only person I know who fills up the sink with water without putting in the dishwashing liquid during the filling process.  He prefers to wait until the sink is full and the water is turned off before adding the Palmolive which he squeezes into one tiny area of the water.  He and I have "discussed" the benefits of equal distribution of soap throughout the water numerous times.  Alan reasons that he likes to be able to see the knives at the bottom of the sink.  With soapy water, one runs the risk of cutting off a finger.

In-Town Driving
A simple trip to Old Navy with Alan behind the wheel can get both of my eyes to twitching like a string of blinking Christmas lights.  Where do I even begin?  As a seasoned errand-runner, I have strategically mapped out the most efficient paths to every possible destination.  As a man who simply drives back and forth from home to the bank every day, Alan is unfamiliar with all of the shortcuts available.  I've got the routes planned out according to to specific lanes, the timing of stop lights, and traffic patterns.  With Alan at the wheel, I have to bite my tongue in half as he hangs in the middle lane until the last possible moment before executing a turn.  There are some exceptions to the Anticipatory Turn Lane Selection process.  If you are traveling going south on Slide Road and intend to turn west on 82nd at about 3:45 in the afternoon, I recommend that you stay in the middle lane until you pass Irons Middle School.  The right lane will be clogged with carpool vehicles waiting to turn onto 79th Street.  Next, there is the tricky turn off of Frankford onto 50th Street.  If you plan to turn left 1/2 a block later where 50th intersects the access road to the Loop/Marsha Sharp Freeway, stay in the middle lane on Frankford!  Trust me on this one.  There have been numerous times when Alan has missed a turn by lack of proper lane planning.  If you ever see us out and about with me behind the wheel, know that having me in the driver's seat is best for our marriage.   

Parking Lots
I am a no-nonsense parker.  I know where I'm going, and I get there lickety-split.  Alan pulls into a parking lot rather indecisively.  He takes his foot off of the gas and slowly rolls up and down the rows looking for a spot.  Once he has carefully chosen a space, he inches into it like he's parking in the china department in Dillard's.  Once parked, he turns off the car, looks around for anything that he might need - a grocery list, a return receipt, a piece of gum - for several minutes before he opens his door.  By this time, I have entered the store, made my selections, and am waiting in line at the checkout stand.  

Sometimes Alan decides that he will help me catch up on laundry.  "Catching up on laundry" means that he runs full loads through the washer and drier.  From the drier, each load is thrown on the couch in the living room...and goes no further.  I hate to fold cold clothes.  I usually end up "fluffing" them in the drier before dealing with them.  I rewash blue jeans that have cooled into crispy wrinkled wads.  That's all I have to say about that.
For those of you who are feeling sorry for Big Al right now, I'll confess some of my behaviors that irritate him:

  • I haven't balanced my checkbook in years.  (Alan is a banker.)

  • I keep my dollars wadded up and stuffed in my purse.  (Alan is a banker.)

  • I load silverware into the dishwasher with no regard to how they will spoon or not spoon once the door is closed.

  • I love towering soapsuds in my kitchen sink.

  • I tend to offer unsolicited advice regarding the most efficient routes when he is driving.

  • I am a total control freak when it comes to washing, drying, and folding/hanging clothes.  

  • Alan and I are crazy about each other.  And, we drive each other crazy.  He tells me that when he's gone on to the great beyond, I will miss him most when I'm doing the dishes, running errands, and folding towels.  He is right.  Can't help lovin' that man of mine.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    PV by OS...Interesting.

    Pageviews by Operating Systems
    3,934 (63%)
    1,099 (17%)
    976 (15%)
    126 (2%)
    45 (<1%)
    Other Unix
    26 (<1%)
    19 (<1%)
    6 (<1%)
    2 (<1%)
    2 (<1%)

    I was just taking a look at my blog stats.  I had some thoughts.
    1. Blogspot can tell what kind of computer you're using when you come here?  Really?  Does a computer leave some sort of footprint or something?
    2. It makes me want to ask my computer out loud, "What am I thinking now?!"
    3. The majority of my viewers are "PCs" which reminds me of those Apple VS PC commercials but with empty nester moms representing PC and their children representing Macs.  
    4. According to the Apple commercials, Mac people are people like my sons.  That explains why I have very view Mac pageviews. 
    5. A whopping 2% of my pageviews come from iPad users - the coolest of the cool people - which means that well...the other 98% are either visiting cooler blogs or playing Angry Birds.
    6. I don't know what Linux is.
    7. Less than 1% of the page viewers are Palm people.  Which reminds me of the first time I ever saw a Palm Pilot-type device.  While I was flipping through my calendar to write down a meeting time, the user (I'll just call him Jeff Baker) was scribbling away on the screen with a stylus.  I watched as the PP then add the event to his calendar.  With my chin on the ground, I may have said something like "Gah-uh-ALL-lee, how does it DO that!?"
    8. I immediately ran out and bought a PP for Alan's birthday.  He never could figure out how to use it.  Not figuring out how to use electronic-devices-that-can-save-you-time has become a pattern of his.  That's the way I inherit some pretty cool stuff.
    9. I have very fond feelings for Windows users.  They are very loyal people.

    It might interest you to know that...I'm a Mac. My oldest son, Jonathan, told me about 7493 times that a Mac was way easier to use than a PC and was NEVER EVER tormented by pop-ups or viruses.  When I finally decided to switch to a Mac, I felt like I was leaping into a deep, dark, bottomless abyss.  But, he was right.  Once I figured out that the little stamp icon, "Hello from Cupertino, CA," was for email and the compass icon was for the internet, life got a whole lot better.  Who's that cool middle aged la-dy?!  It's me!  It's me!

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Nekked Hot Tubbing

    Alan and I did something last weekend that Alan described as "surreal."  He couldn't bring the word "surreal" to mind at the time we were in the midst of the...uh, activity.  It wasn't until much later that day when we were wandering around in an art gallery.  We saw a piece of art that prompted me to say, "That is soooo surreal!"  "That's the word!  'Surreal!'  That's the word I couldn't think of earlier today!"  "Hmmm.  I guess you could say that the experience was 'surreal,'" I replied squinting with wrinkled brow.  "Yes, you could definitely say that was a surreal experience.  You and me.  Nekked in a hot tub in the woods."

    We drove to Santa Fe, New Mexico on Thursday of last week for a long weekend during which we attended the wedding of a friend.  On Saturday, Alan planned a little activity for us.  When he told me of the plan, I was really pretty excited about it.  I am always up for a massage and a good soak in a hot tub.  I had never been to Ten Thousand Waves, but we had driven past it numerous times on our way up to the ski area just above Santa Fe.  From the road, the place looks mysterious.  A parking lot, clumps of trees, and some signs are all that is visible from the road.  What hid behind the trees remained a mystery the blanks of which I mentally filled in with images of New Age nudists - fathers playing ancient native melodies on ocarinas while the hairy-legged mothers sat cross-legged on the floor breastfeeding their school aged children.  Truth be told, I was a bit afraid of whatever was going on at "that place."

    Pulling into the parking lot last Saturday, we saw a sign that pointed us towards a trail of stairs leading up into the woods to the spa.  We slowly trudged the 91 steps while trying to get our "Zen" on for the afternoon of pampering and relaxation.  It was a beautiful trail leading through snow covered rocks and trees.  Huff.  Puff.  "Now I know why they ask you to arrive 15 minutes early!" I gasped as we reached the summit of our climb and came upon a Japanese style group of buildings.  Entering the main building, we were greeted by a warm, friendly fellow who asked, "Have you ever been with us before?"  We assured him that we had not.  "Let me show you around and get you acquainted with all that we have to offer.  He pointed out the free "spa water" dispenser along with the area in which whole grain, organic sandwiches, sugar free, organic snacks and Odwalla juices were available.  "We'll keep a tab for you!  Just help yourself to anything you need!"

    He showed us where we would later wait for our massages.  Then, he lead us through a door into a courtyard area in the midst of several small buildings.  "There is the ladies' changing room.  The men's locker room is up those stairs.  We ask that you take a full soap shower before putting on these robes," he explained handing us our kimono style canvas-y cotton robes, "Here is the key to your bath, the 'Shoji.'  Once you are both bathed and ready, you may enter at any time and enjoy the bath and sauna.  You will be alerted on the intercom when you have 5 minutes left in the bath.  Then, you will proceed to the spa waiting area."

    Alan and I parted with our rolled up robes after exchanging uneasy, can-you-believe-we're-doing-this glances.  I cautiously entered the dressing room with my eyes to the ground hoping that there would be no stark naked hippy ladies with hairy armpits sitting immodestly akimbo on the wooden benches.  Fortunately, there were only a few equally modest normal looking women wandering around in canvas kimonos either fresh from the shower or heading to the shower.  Panicking, I scanned the area fearing a communal showering situation.  I'm sure that the other ladies heard my sigh of relief when I saw that there were individual shower stalls with curtains.  I prayed silently, "LORD, I'm not sure that it's appropriate for me to pray this prayer, but please let my assigned locker not be in the middle of the row where I'll be vulnerable on three sides!" Looking down at my locker key, I saw that mine was locker #1 which put me in the far corner of the dressing area.  I grinned as I looked towards the ceiling silently humming "How Great Thou Art."

    When it comes to stripping naked in a locker room, I become all fumble-fingered.  It takes me forever to figure out the logistics of going from fully clothed to naked-under-a-kimono all the while baring as little skin as possible.  (I'm modest to the point of hiding my bra under my folded clothes in the mammography changing room.  I wouldn't want to give anyone the impression that I'm messy or bra-less, for Pete's sake.)  After several minutes of mentally choreographing my moves, I took a deep breath and got busy with the task at hand.  Ten minutes later fresh from a 'full soap shower,' I walked out of the locker room to meet Alan in the courtyard by the koi pond.  Glancing sheepishly around all I could think of was the fact that we were surrounded by men and women who were likewise naked under cotton kimonos.  Some of the people were walking around with their kimonos loosely wrapped and tied with a single crisscross.  I had wrapped my kimono around my body making sure that the overlapping parts were completely and thoroughly overlapped and then cinched the sash around my waist tightly before finishing it off with a knot that only a sailor could untie.    

    Looking to Alan for courage, I followed him up the path to our private bath, the Shoji.  Unlocking the door, we came upon a very private, open-air area that was walled on 3 sides.  The walls of our bathing area were fashioned to look like authentic shoji screens.  To our right was a large, tiled hot tub.  To our left was the tiny cold plunge pool.  A door to the right lead into our own private wet/dry sauna.  The "fourth" wall of the area was bounded by a fence that separated us from a wooded area that was blanketed with snow.  I immediately scanned the outer perimeter  to see if there were any weirdos or paparazzi commando crouching behind rocks with telephoto lenses.  "Come on, Pinkie!  Live a little!" Alan said as he carelessly cast off his kimono.  Taking a deep breath, I chanted I-will-relax-and-enjoy-this-experience as I slowly peeled off my kimono.

    If you have seen the movie About Schmidt, you no doubt remember the hot tub scene in which Kathy Bates drops her robe and does the naked jump into the hot tub with Jack Nickolson.  It was kind of like that.  Alan and I laughed at ourselves as we sunk shoulder deep into the steaming bubbles.  "Can you believe that we're even doing this?!" I asked.  "I know!  It's seems like such a 'juxtaposition!'  No wait...what's the word I'm looking for...uhhhhhhh..." he answered.  "Weird?" I said.  "'s uhhhhh...what is that word?" he said in deep concentration.  We never came up with the word.  Over the next hour, we soaked in the hot tub, steamed in the sauna, and talked about how proud we were of ourselves for trying this new experience.  Alan, the Brave, even dunked himself in the cold plunge pool four times.  He declared it "invigorating."  From my steaming spectator seat, I declared it "insane."

    Waiting for the 5 minute warning intercom message, we sat there in the hot tub buck "nekked" gazing at snow covered trees.  We are both 53 years old.  We have been married for 31 years.  We have raised 3 sons.  We are beginning to wrinkle and sag.  Grinning like monkeys during that last 5 minutes, we felt really pleased with ourselves as we began to see the romance and adventure of Japanese bathing in the woods of New Mexico.  Our empty nest is full of all kinds of wonderful surprises.  

    For now, sayonara.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Dog Work

    Reed was 5 years old the summer we welcomed our border collie, Pepper, into our family.  Alongside his big brothers, he raised his right hand and took the oath administered by their dour-faced mother.  "Repeat after me.  'I - say your name - do solemnly swear...'"  Three boys in unison parroted "I - say your name - do solemnly swear..."  Ignoring their feeble attempt at humor and distraction, I, the dour-faced mother, continued, "...that I will willingly and happily..."  "...Will willingly and happily..."  "provide food and water for my puppy, Pepper Lackey....without having to be asked or my parents....Furthermore, I will take turns with my up the...poop in the backyard.  Amen."  Having been sworn in, they whooped out the back door to chase and be chased by our newest family member.  

    The week went as planned.  "Mom!  Pepper's water is getting low!  I'll take care of it right now!"  "How many scoops of dog food does Pepper like?"  "Bryce!  Reed!  Pepper pooped!  Come help me pick it up!!"  My thought, "Ahhhhhh.  They get it!  They are embracing the responsibility of pet ownership!  Add some chores and allowance, and they will turn into fine contributing members of society!  What a wonderful mother I am!"  Little did I know that in a few years I would find Pepper's water bowl filled with dry leaves on a fine fall afternoon.  Mm.  Mm.  Mm.

    During the summer of the new puppy, Jonathan and Bryce took it upon themselves to convince little Reed that his pet care skills were still lacking in each and every way.  "Gah, Reed!  Don't get the porch all wet when you're filling Pepper's bowl!  She doesn't like wet cement!"  "Reed!  That's way too much dog food!  You don't want Pepper to get all FAT do you?!"  With stars in his eyes, he took every criticism and instruction doled out by his big brothers to heart.  "'Bout this much, J-Sha?"  "Brycie, come show me how to hold the water hose when I fill up the bowl!"

    Then came the afternoon that "the brothers," as Reed fondly called them, were both at baseball practice.  He and I sat in the backyard loving on Pepper.  "Hey, Reed!  Why don't you get Pepper some fresh food and water?"  Grinning with the pleasure of being honored by the request, he carefully carried out the tasks.  I strolled into the house and returned with a popsicle for us to split.  Sitting at the picnic table licking away at his popsicle, Reed beamed at me and said, "You can SURE say this about me!  I am really good at dog work!"  The moment was so precious that I fetched my camera from the counter in the laundry room and led the boy and his dog to the shade on the side of the house.  And, took a picture that captured the sweet moment.

    I want to go back there.  To the warmth of the grass in the late afternoon shade.  To the little boy so proud and happy.  To the puppy so loved and well fed.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011


    We spent Christmas 2008 in Telluride, CO.  Pictured on the left is the icicle that was forming on the building in which we were staying.  The windows on the top right were in my Mom's room.  She became quite attached to those icicles as they grew longer every day.  She and I enjoyed standing at her window just looking at the icy daggers.  They were rippled, not smooth.  We discussed the dangers of walking beneath them without a helmet.  Then, one day, some rascals began to pelt them with snowballs.  It was all I could do to keep from running downstairs to scold them.  "Nooooooo!  Don't break them!  They're a form of entertainment for the Texans on the 3rd floor!"  Alas, one snowball did the deed.  It broke the longest icicle about 1/2 way up.  Mom and I looked at the fractured icicle and simultaneously said, "Awwwwww!"  Show's over, folks!  Go back to the living room for more cable TV!

    These are but some of the icicles decorating my home's eaves this morning.  They are protected by my backyard fence and big bad me.  I am surrounded by neighbors whose children are grown and long gone.  If the boys were home, these delicate fingers of ice would have been transformed into swords and daggers by now.  Under my strict protection, I intend to stare at them as much as I please today.  Oh, the satisfaction of having my own private icicles to enjoy!

    Bryce just texted me from Waco to say that the electricity at his apartment building went off this morning.  He is tucked away in a warm Baylor classroom right now.  His second text read:  "I left my water running."  The mother in me is hoping that he made sure to take the stopper out of the sink.

    After reading reports of "rolling power outages" in the Metroplex, I laughed when my friend, Lori, commented that it was interesting to think about "someone sitting at controls turning power on and off for groups of people."  I told her that I envisioned something like a huge pipe organ with someone using his hands and feet to run the controls.  She came back with a Dr. Evil and Mini Me comparison.  This is one of those times when I think of Kathy.  She and I would keep this line of humor running throughout the day and into the next.  We would become the "power czar" and speak in his voice, "Ha-HA!  People of Plano!  I was stuck in de traffic on your Seentral Express for an hour in your town last October!  NO POWER FOR YOU!"  Laughing, we would dial each other up randomly throughout the day, "It is I, ze Power Czar!  For all the times you pointed out my newest peemples ven ve vere in high school...NO POWER FOR YOU!"   Ring-ring-ring!  A whispering voice.  "I will give you back your heat eef you promeese to go out in the bleezerd and feel my automobeel with petrol!"

    I never get anything done on snow days.  The distraction of the amazing display outside my windows is just too much for me to resist.  And, so, I shan't.  Thanks, Lori, for the humorous volleys!

    This just in!  A peek at the control panel for the Power Czar in the Metroplex:

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    I Love Snow

    Snow fascinates me.  I can sit still staring at the patterns it makes for a long, long time.  Years ago when Alan and I were skiing at Lake Louise, we were skimming along a wooded run when quarter-sized thick flakes slowly began drifting down.  We stopped to watch the flakes as they nestled down onto the white branches of a towering fir tree.  Some of the flakes joined together in the air like sky divers linking up in well-planned formations.  The forest was silent except for the groan of the snow beneath our skis.  Only my aching, frozen feet could tear me away from the peaceful moment.  Alan and I still talk about that experience from time to time.  It made the list of Great Travel Moments.

    It's 9 degrees outside.  I think that I shall join the cats in a group snuggle on the couch while I finish up my weekly Bible Study.  A cup of "No Sugar Added" Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate sweetened with a dash of Splenda.  (Aha!  Take that you sugarless brown liquid!)

    Lily (the smudge on her nose is from sitting on the ledge
    outside my kitchen window and meowing for me to let her in) 
    Dixie, The Sedentary Wonder

    The sand dollars we collected on the beaches of
    Sanibel are holding back the wintery gale.

    Lily has come to lure me away from my blogging with a come-hither-you-pink-fuzzy-robed-human stare. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzlllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll  (She just typed that.)


    Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...