Friday, December 30, 2005

Keeping Out of Trouble

I've got a new project and I invite everybody to take a look at what I'm doing.

Some time ago I created a virtual cemetery on my website of the graves of relatives that I have visited and photographed. The only downside to that particular portion of my website is that you have to find the website by luck, search engines, or word of mouth. I wanted to also post my photographs in some general site that is more accessible to the casual family history surfer.

I finally found the right place. Thanks to a mention in Family Tree Magazine, I discovered Anyone can post a memorial, burial, photo, or bio with a few clicks of a keyboard. I've already uploaded over 50 photos, created 20 or so new burial records, and delivered virtual flowers to the graves of relatives who were already in the database. I had the satisfaction of being the first to enter burials in the Jackson Cemetery in Franklin County, Arkansas. I corrected a mis-entry for my great-great grandparents and got them entered in the proper place. I'm adding photos to existing entries. I'm having a lot of fun.

I will be adding a few burials at a time until I get my own virtual cemetery duplicated. I am delighted at the opportunity to provide photos of not only the tombstones, but also of the people buried there, in the hopes that some distant cousin will be able to visit the graves that they might otherwise never see.

We genealogists are a determined lot. We will take every opportunity to convert others to the addiction that is family history.

Stop by and drop off some virtual flowers. (Hint: search for Horace Hodge in Texas. Once you find one burial I've entered, you can click on my initials and see a list of all the burials I've entered, or a list of all the photos I've uploaded.)


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Little Surprises

It's funny how you can live with stuff for years and then suddenly come across something you've never seen and find something to add to the family archives as a result.

I knew the story behind the item. Grandmother Lucy had written about it in her memoirs:

"When old Highway 20 came through [Horace] worked helping build the road bed. They were still using mules and scapers to move the dirt. When I met him in March of 1928 he was working on the railroad. Section Hand. Laying cross ties and rales for $2.08 a 10 hour day. He never knew what it was to have any money to spend. He had to bring his pay check in and give it to his mother. He gave me a wrist watch for Christmas before we married. He told me after we married how he managed to pay for it. He worked on the railroad all day and then walked to town and cleaned and swept up a cafe at night for 50 cents a night. "

One day recently I was looking for something in my mother's dresser and came across a box with a watch inside. I had never seen it before, that I could remember, and when I asked Mother about it, she told me it was the watch her father had bought for her mother when they were courting. I have no idea when she gained possession of the watch and had no idea that that particular family treasure had been located for some time in the house with me. Needless to say, it has been moved to the china cabinet where other heirlooms reside.

The second surprise was a tiny newspaper clipping that was tucked inside the box. It was brittle with age and the full text was missing, but it was enough to tell me that at some point there had been a notice in the paper announcing the marriage of Lucy Mason and Horace Hodge.

So, yesterday, with a little time on my hands, I wandered down to the Bastrop Public Library and started reading the late 1930 editions of the Bastrop Advertiser on microfilm. I found what I was looking for in the November 20th issue, located in the middle of a column of personal notes from McDade:

"Same old 'Doxology' -- Dan Cupid 'stept' into McDade last Thursday evening, stealing from her midst one of her favorite sons, H. G. Hodge, wafting him on 'Love's wings' across to Red Rock and there was joined in the holy bonds of matrimony to Miss Lucy Mason, one of Red Rock's attractive daughters. Congratulations."

How much of these small bits of history we miss because we don't know to look for them. I have spent many hours cranking that old microfilm reader at the library. My family has lived in Bastrop County for generations and I can be assured that any time I start browsing the Advertiser, I will find mention of relatives in the personals columns. Indeed, in the brief two hours I spent yesterday looking for this particular item and for a couple of obituaries, I found several passing mentions of family members.

On January 18, 1918, for instance, I found the only printed mention of my great-great grandmother Mason's death:

"Deaths. Mrs. Mary Smith, died at Cedar Creek, December 18."

Thanks to the personals column of February 9, 1917, I found a printed mention of the death of Mary Brock McAfee, my great great step-grandmother:

"Mrs. Charles Weber of Carmine returned to her home Monday after attending the funeral of her mother, Mrs. McAfee, who died out at "the Lake" last week."

These three finds were enough to justify to me the time spent getting a backache yesterday. (Bastrop Public Library has a lot to learn about ergonomic work areas.) Such small finds, you might say. To me, they are buried treasure. That's the fine line that separates us genealogists from normal folk. Only genealogists can hyperventilate at the sight of familiar family names that leap out at us from blurry images in a darkened room.

Little surprises. They keep me digging.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Past

There was a television show on early this morning while I was sitting on the couch, drinking my coffee. It was a nice little retrospective on the toys of my childhood. I had some of the toys mentioned and brother David had some of the toys. But some of the more popular ones we did not have. Two of these were the official Barbie and GI-Joe dolls. They were probably a little pricey for the family of a Baptist preacher. But we had some really nice knock-offs.

About 1958, I would imagine.

I guess it was probably 1960 when the Barbie craze really hit. That year I got two teen dolls for Christmas. One was a very close Barbie copy, received from my grandparents. The other was from my aunt and manufactured by the Uneeda Doll company. I played them both to pieces. The first eventually lost the use of her legs. The second I still have, a little battered but, in my mind, remains much prettier than the actual Barbie issued the same year. (The show this morning gave an original Barbie price of $3. Try to find one of them now for that price.) I also received a huge wardrobe of home-made fashion clothes for my dolls that beat the heck out of the store-bought outfits. I still have most of those clothes, too. Some made by my aunt, some by my mother and a few hideous efforts of my own.

David had a knockoff GI-Joe made by Marx, named Stoney Smith. He later added to his collection two more action figures by Marx, Chief Cherokee and Daniel Boone. I think I was a little jealous of those three dolls (excuse me, action figures) because they came with a load of scaled accessories. Even then I was fascinated by things miniature. All three were left behind in the church nursery when we moved from Smiley. A couple of years ago I hunted down a vintage Chief Cherokee for a present for David and coughed up around $80 for the doll, the box and the complete set of gear. My parents would never have left those toys behind if they had known.

One year I received a "life-sized" doll, who could walk. If you held your mouth right, that is. She is still with us, too, and periodically gets new outfits to wear at Christmas. How I wish I had some of the other dolls of Christmases past, like my Betsy Wetsy.

Linda, Cindy, Joyce, Janice, about 1959

One of the toys that I especially remember from Christmas long ago was a top with a big bubble that contained a tulip. When the top was spun, the tulip opened and a ballerina spun in the center. Of course one of the first things I had to do was try spinning it upside down and the ballerina fell out of her place. (Toy manufacturers were not that smart back then and did not anticipate what children would do with their toys.) Upset me considerably, but my grandmother bought another one to replace it and I never tried that again. I have no memory what happened to that toy, but in trying to locate one on EBAY I discovered that it was made by J. Chein, whose tin toys have become quite the collectibles. I have yet to find one in working condition, but I've seen quite a few come on the market that mention that the bubble is cracked from the necessity of having to get inside and put the ballerina back in place.

An Ebay posting

One of the big Christmases was when I got my first two-wheeler. Another Christmas of note was when I got my first watch. Then there was the Christmas when we got board games. Two of the games we had were the tv tie-ins for Bewitched and Gilligan's Island. Again, I have no idea what happened to them, but they are fetching pretty pennies on EBAY these days.

This is just an ad that mentions both games,
and they are asking $25 for an opening bid.
I've seen the games go for upwards of $200.

It occurs to me that I might be in a good position to retire if I had just had enough sense to save my toys and their original boxes. But I played my toys to death. Which is why I and so many of my generation are out there looking for replacements of items that gave us so much enjoyment around long ago Christmas trees.

Ah, the good old days. Playing with pristine new toys while the smells from the kitchen become unbearably tempting. Now I cook on Christmas and the only toys under the tree are for the dogs. (With the occasional vintage toy that pops up from time to time for one of the adults. Usually me or David.) I invariably end up making a mental trip on Christmas Day, back to the days when we travelled either to Elgin or Gladewater and spent Christmas in the company of the kin folk who aren't with us anymore. Thank goodness the memories are.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Ray Owen Burch, 1912-2005, Rest In Peace

Word just came that my cousin in California died this morning. We met about 4 years ago, a connection made through the marvels of the Internet. Ray was the first cousin of my grandfather Hodge and belonged to a branch of the family that pulled up their Texas roots in the 1930s and moved to California. A few years ago, Ray and his wife Marykay came to Austin for a visit and I was able to spend an afternoon with them.

Ray standing with me at left, Marykay seated at far right

Ray did not know our branch of the family existed until our correspondence began. He was most generous with his memories and provided me pictures of his mother Rosa and his brothers. He and Marykay quickly adopted me as family. We emailed back and forth until his health began to fail last year.

Ray was 93 years old, so I knew the time remaining for him was short. However, it is never easy to hear of the loss of an elder member of the family. Ray was a true gentleman with charm running out of his ears. I knew him for a brief four years. I'll miss him forever.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

A little of this, a little of that

What a day. On the way home last night, I decided there was no way I could last until next Wednesday for a massage. I threw myself on the mercy of my massage therapist and got an appointment for today. The good news is that my back is not so much a pretzel tonight.

Tomorrow I take little Coco in to see her doctor for a similar adjustment. Little brother tried one of his judo throws last night and she came up hollering and has been limping ever since. Hopefully we are only dealing with a pulled muscle.

Otherwise, I am done with Christmas shopping so there is no way I'm going anywhere near a store where there are people who haven't finished. For a change of pace, I headed to Smithville, stuffed myself full of Tex-Mex at La Cabana, and then ambled on downtown to visit one of my favorite antique shops, Dream Train Antiques. I picked up an anniversary plate for Elgin, and rescued several antique photos at the new shop across the street.

This rescued ancestors thing I've got going is beginning to get out of hand. I have a pile of new old photos acquired last weekend at the Elgin Antique Mall that are waiting to be scanned. Today I picked up another love letter and three more photos. I've reached a point of having to expand the rescue area of my website to better organize the collection I've acquired. I sure hope these folks appreciate being rescued.

My adventures ended up today with a ride back to Bastrop through Rosanky, a drive I don't remember ever making before. I love back roads I haven't driven before. I particularly enjoyed seeing a field full of goats, one of whom was standing patiently while her little one availed himself of an afternoon snack. I think I'm a country girl at heart, which I confirmed by taking the test you can find here: .

Now the best part of the day. Everyone has been fed, I'm sprawled in bed with the laptop, and the puppies are snoring all around me. Day 1 of a 5 day stretch to be pretty much as lazy as I please. This is the best part of Christmas for me.

And as a footnote here, I am three days away from hitting my 1 year anniversary at the blog game. I wasn't sure I would be able to keep going, but I've enjoyed jotting down my thoughts. It's the closest I've ever come to having a diary. Think I'll keep going.

See you later. Same time, same channel.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Just for the Record

The other things I find attractive in a man:

Stability (hold a job and manage money well)
Loyalty (to a fault)
Concern (for the greater good, i.e. humanity, animals, environment)
Humor (the right kind of course; bigot humor and coarse humor is not allowed)
Intelligence (not necessarily the book learned variety, but that's certainly nice to have in addition to street smarts and good old common sense)
Old Fashioned Values (like my Grandpa Hodge had)
Manners (yes, open the door and pull out my chair, and help little old ladies in and out of cars)

That's the list for now. And some others that pass my physically attractive criteria:

Robert Redford (I like those craggy au naturel looks and he wears jeans really, really well)
George Strait (true cowboy material and a great voice)
Tommy Lee Jones (another true cowboy--I sense a trend here)
Harrison Ford (before he got that blasted earring)

Still thinking...


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's all in the Voice

I'm a confirmed old bachelorette, but I still get asked from time to time about what I look for in a man. I always get the feeling that the asker has in mind that surely there is somebody out there for the old crone. And there probably is, but he's going to have to find me. I'm not looking any more. Of course, if I fall over an attractive guy, I'm not saying I wouldn't take a second look. I'm not dead, after all.

I remember somebody years ago trying to zero in on what kind of guy I find attractive. They were coming up with names like Tom Cruise. (Ick, ptooie!) The prevailing opinion of the folks around that day was that I would be attacted to a suit. I laughed about it, but I couldn't really explain what kind of guy I did find attractive. Then old friend Marianna hit it on her first guess.

Keeping in mind that this was a few years back, she looked at me for a minute and then said, "I'll bet you like the older brother on Simon & Simon." Yep. I found Gerald McRaney 10 times more attractive than Jameson Parker, who played the yuppie younger brother in a suit.

My mother always said she liked men with a little dirt under their nails. I think I agree, but my definition is I like men who aren't afraid to get dirty when there is work to be done, but who can clean up good when the occasion calls for it.

Now that I've beaten all the way around the bush, the subject of this essay was supposed to have been about voices. Because that is one of the first things that attracts me to a man. I was reminded of that this week because I acquired a CD collection of the music of Mickey Newbury. I can't remember when or where I discovered his music, but I had been looking a long time for CD replacements for the albums I've had since college. He had one of the most arresting voices I've ever heard and he wrote wonderful songs, too. (Sadly, he passed away about two years ago, so the wonderful talent and that fantastic voice have been silenced.) I don't know if the man was handsome, plain, or ugly. He looks pleasant enough, judging from his album covers. But that voice! The man was attractive, mark my words.

I know a lot of folks don't agree with me, but if there is a voice I like even better, it is Kris Kristofferson's. There is something about that gin-soaked, smoky rasp that, to put it vulgarly, turns me on. The man is rough around the edges, top to bottom, inside and out. And sexy as hell. I recently bought an audio book simply because the narrator was Kristofferson. Don't remember much about the book, but I sure enjoyed listening to Kris Kris talk at me for 5 1/2 hours. I'm afraid if I ever happen to run into the old boy and he says "hello", it's going to get embarrassing. And considering that he's in Austin right now filming a move, it's not entirely outside of the realm of possibility. One can always dream.

There's other qualities I look for, of course. But the bottom line is that I might never give a second look to a man that by society's standards is a dreamboat. On the other hand, I might get whiplash if an interesting voice catches my attention. It's funny how such different things can weigh in a person's evaluation of another's level of attraction.

Now the second thing I notice? How he looks walking away in a pair of well-fitting jeans. Ooh, la, la.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Does Anybody Else Remember

The Andy Williams show with regulars the Osmond brothers? Back when Donny was a cute little kid and Marie hadn't come on the scene yet.

The Danny Kaye show and Victoria Myerink.

The Garry Moore show and Durwood Kirby. And Marion Lorne. And a young Carol Burnett.

Senor Wences.

Topo Gigio.

Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges.

World of Giants.

Uncle Jay and Packer Jack.

Cactus Pryor's radio show.

Promotional items sold by the Superior Dairies delivery man.

Wax halloween whistles.

One television station in Austin and there was plenty to watch.

Sitting on the ice cream freezer to hold it down while your father cranked.

Seeing the initial showing of Disney's Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.

The premiere of a new series of books with the first in the series being "The Cat In the Hat".

Seeing Mary Martin in Peter Pan on television.

Heavens, I'm getting old.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ice Day

Brrrr. It was 24 degrees on the deck when I got up this morning. We headed out the front door to get the paper and the dogs stopped short when they hit the frozen grass. They were glad to get back in and help me build a fire in the fireplace. It didn't take them long to get their little rears backed up to the warmth.

Ice days were always fun when we were kids and it meant a day home from school. But then you had to make the day up later. I like ice days as an adult better. I had intended to try and make my way to work once the temperature got to 32, but when the announcement came that Austin ISD and Bastrop ISD were closing for the day it became official that the office was closed as well. A free day with no obligation to work and it doesn't have to be made up. Yeehaw!

At noon, the ground is still frozen and the thermometer is hovering at 28 degrees. I ventured out to run a couple of errands, picked up some chicken for lunch, and wasted no time getting back to cuddling with the dogs. (I got to eat a little bit of the chicken, but I have the bruises to show that it wasn't easy to wrestle them for a few bites. As I was getting a drink, the last of my biscuit disappeared with Coco over the edge of the bed.)

Gee, what to do? I may have to take a nap and ponder that question.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Heat Wave a.k.a. Three Dog Nights

My hormones are driving me crazy. More accurately, whatever controls your inner thermostat has gone completely wacko with mine. How on earth does one deal with being too hot and too cold at the same time?

Pre-menopause, I was cold all the time. My winter nightwear was generally long pajamas and socks. Post menopause is a challenge. My feet and hands will be freezing cold, but my body and head will be glowing hot. If I wear pajamas or socks, I'll be tossing and turning all night, alternately too hot and too cold. If I try to sleep under just a sheet, I'm too cold. If I add a light blanket, I'm too hot.

Add to the mix 3 little dogs who like to cuddle because they are cold and it becomes a constant cover on-cover off proposition. My solution at this point is to get everybody settled under a blanket, which gets my feet and the dogs warm, and then start the fan, which keeps my head cool. With a blanket, two of the dogs generally move away from me. Mojo always cuddles, but he's a small warm spot. When three of them are cuddling, it's like sleeping in a sauna.

Generally the pros far outweigh the cons where menopause is concerned. No more cramps, acne breakouts and PMS mood swings. So far the temperature problem is the only real drawback. But it's a doozy.

On the one hand, I have no trouble following the energy conservation guide of setting the thermostat at 68 degrees. I can forego lugging along a jacket until the thermometer dips into the 20s. On the other hand, I have about 8 pair of boots and a collection of cotton sweaters that I can't stand to wear anymore. I don't have any desire to start a fire in the fireplace. I've stopped drinking so much coffee because it makes me sweat. I've developed a raging addiction to Diet Coke because it cools me down.

I have two fans in my office at work, a ceiling and a tower fan in my bedroom, and three of four vents in the car aimed directly at me. I have an extra fan I can aim into the kitchen when the stove is in operation. And just as I get comfortable one way, I'm soon switching off the fans because I've been hit with a chill. I feel like there's a tug of war going on inside.

Whoever designed women's anatomy was either crazy or a sadist. Whoever it was should be sentenced to sitting on an ice block with a heat lamp directed at their head. Because that's how I feel morning, noon and night.

Menopause. One of God's little jokes. Real funny. Reach over and switch on the fan, wouldja?


Monday, December 05, 2005

New Taste Sensation

I went to the mall at lunch today. On the way back to my car, I was contemplating what I should do about grabbing a bite to eat when I got back to my desk. About that time I spied the Pretzel Time kiosk displaying "pretzel dogs", so I stopped to get one. I also spotted a cinnamon/sugar coated pretzel. Being a cinnamon fiend, I asked for one of those, too.

The pretzel dog was ok. Nothing to write home about. Then I bit into the cinnamon/sugar pretzel and fell in love. It was a regular twisted pretzel, but instead of salt they had pressed in firmly into a vat of powdery cinnamon/sugar. Yum, yum, triple yum. I suspect I will have to make that stop every time I venture to the mall in the future. I had almost stopped at Cinnabon's, but I just really don't care for their gooey sweetness. The cinnamon/sugar pretzel was exactly right. Somebody was on a roll the day they came up with that one.

On a separate subject, I sent a company-wide email a few days ago, threatening them with coal in their stockings if they didn't take care of necessary system maintenance. One of the ladies replied with a report of a seasonal stocking stuffer she had happened across. Instead of a small lump of coal, a small sack of mini-marshmallows was provided and accompanied by the following poem:

You’ve been bad
So, here’s the scoop
All you get
Is Snowman poop!

I like it.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

San Marcos Sortie

I joined about a million shoppers swarming the outlet mall in San Marcos today. I don't usually go to San Marcos on the weekends after Thanksgiving. I know there will be hordes of Christmas shoppers there and I've reached an age where I despise crowds. But I needed to do some odd Christmas shopping myself and I wanted to get it over with.

I had a good time despite the parking shortages and the throngs of people blocking the sidewalks. There's a brand new section of the original mall (Prime Outlet), with Italianate facades and complete with a short canal where you can ride a gondola. I decided to explore this new section at the end of the day and it is probably a good thing I did, considering how much money I managed to spend in just a couple of hours.

My ongoing project to replace my wardrobe with more stylish options got a major boost today with a visit to Chico's. My only previous experience with Chico's had been unpleasant thanks to some overly predatory salespeople. But give me an outlet store and I can be persuaded to give it another shot. And I'm glad I did. I snared a great saleslady who pointed me to pieces I would never have noticed on my own. In the course of a couple of hours we enjoyed conversation about clothes, caregiving (she has taken her father into her home), cruises, and men. It was nice to have a chance to chatter with someone my own age about inconsequential girl stuff with no time constraints (little brother had rashly told me to take my time). I left happy from two hours of trying on flattering clothes and my saleslady was happy with a nice little sales commission. I'll be back as soon as my checkbook recuperates.

I got my comeuppance when I got home. Three little dogs who had been waiting an extra hour for their supper let me know they didn't appreciate the shift in their routine. Mojo sat down and howled at me, which came across as more of a good dressing down. He wasn't at all impressed with my shopping prowess. But he does like his mommy in a good mood, so once he got his tummy full he was glad to help me haul packages upstairs.

Not sure what my co-workers are thinking about my sudden wardrobe upgrade. But it sure has done my spirits good. You just gotta indulge yourself sometimes. At least if I end up in the poor house, I'll be well dressed.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Further Contemplation

What an oversight.

All Preludes, Waltzes, Etudes, Mazurkas & Polonaises by Chopin.
Symphony No. 40, by Mozart


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Friday Contemplation

Songs I'm glad we didn't have to do without:

Amazing Grace (John Newton)
Ashokan Farewell (Jay Ungar)
Battle Hymn of the Republic (Julia Ward Howe)
Faded Love (Bob Wills)
Greensleeves (reportedly Henry VIII)
In My Life (Lennon/McCartney)
Layla (Eric Clapton)
Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
Unchained Melody (Zaret/North, best performance by the Righteous Brothers)

Still contemplating. More to come, I'm sure.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rock 'em, Sock 'em Gospel Music

One of my current favorite CDs is a collection of gospel songs performed by Larry Gatlin and his brothers. It includes everything from Sweet Hour of Prayer to Do Lord. I defy you to listen to it without (a) singing along and (b) tapping your foot. That is, if you were raised Southern Baptist like I was.

I used to love request night at church. It was usually a Sunday evening service and members of the congregation would call out the songs they wanted to sing. Two verses would be sung of every request. I learned a lot of old-time gospel songs during request nights, as the older folks took the opportunity to request old favorites that had been put on the shelf by the choir director. If it were not for those request nights, I would have missed out on a lot of songs that instead became my favorites.

I got to thinking this morning while I was listening to Larry, Steve and Rudy about a time in the early 70s, when the Baptist church of Westhoff was invited to the black Baptist church for a joint fellowship. My father pastored two churches in those days; the First Baptist Church of Smiley, which followed normal worship times, and the First Baptist Church of Westhoff, which held its services an hour or two earlier. FBC Westhoff was a very small congregation of mostly older folks. My father usually provided the music for their services, playing piano and leading the singing simultaneously.

During revivals, however, I would be drafted to be the pianist for Westhoff. This caused some interesting opportunities from time to time. For instance, I can remember one revival that was scheduled the same week as finals. I lugged my school books along to church with me, did my thing on the piano, and then retired to the back pew and studied for the next day's test during the sermon. Nobody minded. They were pleased to have a musician on board for the week under whatever circumstances they could get one.

FBC Westhoff used to put on some of the best potlucks. They would make homemade ice cream out back. For a little congregation, we had more than enough food and would leave stuffed full of goodies.

(As a meandering thought as I write this, one night we were headed back home after one of those potluck suppers. As we neared Smiley, we became aware of a huge fire somewhere ahead of us, lighting up the night sky. The closer we got to home, the more aware we became that the fire was mighty close to our house. It turned out to be at the feed store just across and down the road from us. We were very anxious up to the time we turned onto our street. Some of us, namely me, stayed anxious until the fire was out. The history of the Smiley Volunteer Fire Department did not exactly inspire confidence. Another story for another time.)

But I digress. One evening the white folks of FBC Westhoff headed across town to attend a worship service at the black church. For piano-thumping, hand-clapping, joyous gospel music, that was the place to be. It was an eye-opening experience for me to see folks singing with such enthusiasm. Quite different from the sedate music I was used to hearing in church. I was having a grand time. Until...

In a polite gesture to include their guests in the service, someone got the bright idea that I should take a turn on the piano for the last song. No way did I want to put my pallid piano expertise up against the lady who had just pounded the heck out of that old upright. I pretty nearly had to be dragged to the piano, where I timidly plunked out the most boring few minutes of music you can imagine. Bless their hearts, they all dutifully reined in their enthusiam and sang like the staid white folks I was accustomed to providing music for. I'm sure I was the embodiment of a truly colored person for the duration. As in bright red.

Well, as the saying goes, "nobody will remember it in 30 years". It's been roughly 40 years since then and I sure hope nobody remembers. But I remember the utter joy as those folks sang their hearts out. Nothing can beat gospel music sung with joy and gusto. Amen!


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Everything Old Is New Again

Back in the late 60s, a trend surfaced for colored trees (other than green) and for aluminum pom-pom trees. It was cool to have an artificial tree. It was cooler if your artificial tree was obviously artificial by virtue of its color. We had the aluminum pom-pom version, with a color wheel that cast a rotating sheen of colored light bouncing off the silver strands. First green, followed by red, then yellow and finally blue. Each limb came in its own paper sleeve. There were more than 100 limbs to remove from protective sleeves and then pushed into holes in the central pole.

I was fond of that tree and it was usually my job to remove the limbs and hand them to Mother to fit into the pole. I was sorry to see it stay behind when we moved from Smiley. My parents decided to donate it for the church's use rather than move the bulky box to our new home.

The original tree, in the living room in Smiley

A couple of years back, I got to wishing I had one of those aluminum trees. I initially thought I would buy one from EBAY. That's before I learned that I wasn't the only one having nostalgic feelings for the things. Every time a vintage tree was posted that looked like the tree I remembered, the price would quickly escalate out of range.

Then last year I spotted a small aluminum tree at Hobby Lobby. Not a pom-pom tree, but it was silver and shiny and I wanted one. By the time I had made up my mind to get it, they were sold out.

So this year, when I saw them reappear, I grabbed one. It may not have the fluffy pom-poms and it may not be 6-1/2 feet tall, but it looks pretty good to me. I even found a color wheel light. So this year we are taking a trip back in time and having a silver Christmas.

The new tree

The tree and a few of the choice nativity sets from my collection are on display and, while I'm still having a hard time getting with the Christmas program, I'm enjoying sitting back and watching the fruits of today's labor. The two babies are completely mystified, but willing to sit and keep me company, wondering all the time what I'm up to.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Memories Light the Corners of My Mind

I spent today in the company of my kinfolk. We always have a good time when we get together at Thanksgiving. We share a similar weird kind of humor. We've scared a few inlaws over the years with our sense of humor. We zing each other. We tell tacky stories over lunch that would squash the appetites of normal people. Not to brag, but we are all smart and well read and quick on the comeback. In short, you should be so lucky to have us for family. We keep you entertained from start to finish.

My uncle lives only a couple of miles past the place where my grandparents lived and farmed during my childhood. Driving out to his house takes me down roads that flood my mind with memories at every curve. I pass the sandy field where my grandfather planted peanuts and where one day I learned a valuable lesson. We stopped on the way to their house one day when we spied them in the fields. Daddy lifted me over the fence and set me down in a clump of bull nettle. While I screamed in pain and my aunt ran for the water jug, my grandfather dusted my feet with sand, which helped take away the sting until we could douse my feet with water. From then on I avoided anything that looked even remotely like bull nettle.

Back all those years ago, it seemed like my grandparents lived way, way out in the country. I believe it was about seven miles from downtown to their house. Most of the way was a narrow gravel road with several wooden plank bridges. One evening as we headed out to the house, we crossed one of those little bridges, and some loosened nails in the planks worked themselves into our tire. We also picked up the plank, so we didn't get very far off the bridge. There we were in the boonies, after dark, with a flat tire. As I recall, we weren't able to change the tire (probably the spare was as flat as the tire with the nails). Daddy had to walk back down the road and find help. For years afterward, I cringed each time we approached one of those little bridges.

The bridges are gone, and the road has been paved almost all the way to my uncle's house. The paving is a new improvement and I had mixed feelings as I made my way. I didn't miss the bone-rattling vibration of driving down the washboard road, but I missed the feeling of being in the real country. I was a little relieved to find that the pavement gave out just as I reached my destination and the road continued on in the single lane, sandy form that I remember.

Lee County Road 302

It was this same country road where I would walk with my aunt, discovering large patches of "grandma's cornbread" (muddy areas where the mud would crack in large square chunks). It was this same country road that we drove down to escape a tornado when I was about 3 years old. It was this same country road where I almost tripped over a slow moving armadillo.

The old house where my grandparents lived and the barn are long gone. The land never belonged to my grandparents. I learned today that they had once had the opportunity to purchase the place and had decided against it because the mineral rights would not transfer. Awhile back I made inquiries when the land came on the market and would seriously have considered moving there if someone had not beaten me to signing a contract of sale. That patch of land holds many fond memories of past Christmases, summer vacations, horseback rides, digging for doodlebugs in the old garage, walking down to the cow barns and getting a lesson in milking, cutting watermelons under the big tree on a hot summer day, sitting before a roaring fireplace on cold mornings, huge suppers of chicken-fried steak and "round fries", baths in a wash tub in the kitchen, feeding the chickens down at the barn, and many, many more. It was one of the important places of my childhood.

It's a funny feeling, these gatherings of kinfolk just up the road from that little patch of land. A part of me at 50+ years still feels like a youngster when I'm in that little corner of the world. But I'm older now than my parents were when we spent so much time there. I've crossed into the ranks of the family elders, albeit the younger edge of that group. And that stretch of road has witnessed every phase of my life. The buildings of my youth may be gone, but the land is still there, calling memories from musty, cobwebbed corners of my mind.

Brother David viewing the old homesite


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

No, He's Not Spoiled

The latest report from the Kingdom of Mojo has our hero somewhat befuddled by the change in the weather. The little boy was born at the end of April and until this morning did not realize that the world had any alternate temperature to hot. He was also put out with the wind blowing across his bow.

I played hooky from the office today and went to the outlet mall in San Marcos. When I returned home, I assumed the dogs would enjoy helping me bring in my packages. Xana and Coco pranced around the yard, enjoying the crisp, cool air. Mojo ran out to the middle of the yard, did a 180-degree turn and made a beeline for the warm house.

With the door standing wide open and his three gals in plain view, King Mojo proceeded to have a hissy fit. Standing well inside the door, he put on a howling demonstration that would have coyotes shouting "bravo!". I had to make three trips before I had everything in the house, and every time I left the house the howling re-commenced.

His Highness is scheduled for an overnight trip to the vet next week. I don't know who has the job of checking on the invalids through the night, but I sure hope they have earplugs. He has no hesitation at setting up a howl whenever he feels insulted or abandoned.

Of course, his Mommy may be doing some howling of her own. I'm not looking forward to the separation any more than he would if he had any idea what's coming.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Playing Nurse

My little Coco is a born nurturer. This morning I let the dogs and the Taz cat out on the deck and a few minutes later I became aware of an air of excitement. Any time the dogs show an air of excitement, I feel compelled to check it out. There are snakes out here, for one thing. For another, I had to herd them away from a red wasp last weekend. He was stolling idly around on the deck, just daring somebody to come check him out. So I figured whatever it was, it was cause for investigation.

What I found was a bird on his side. I first thought it was a cat kill, so my first move was to keep the dogs from eating any of it. Then I realized he was still alive, breathing heavily and unable to move. I scooped up dogs and Taz and shoved them back into the house, pondering what I was going to do next.

He didn't seem to be physically hurt. No ruffled feathers or crippled wings. No blood. My guess was that he had flown into the patio door and had knocked himself out. So I decided to leave him alone and see what happened. I kept watch on him, in case a neighbor cat should come visiting, but otherwise kept my distance.

Coco was in a flurry of concern, wanting me to go with her to help the little guy. She stayed at the patio door, watching him, whining softly every so often. About a half hour later, he had righted himself, but was still sitting there with heaving chest. Another hour and his breathing was more normal, but he was fluffed up and his eyes were closed.

Coco made every trip to the window with me, checking on the patient. Looking at me and looking back, as if asking, "is he going to be ok?". Another hour and he was still sitting there, but opening his eyes wide and turning his head from side to side.

About two hours after the initial sighting, he tested his wings by flying from the deck to the railing, where he sat for another half-hour before flying away. The little sparrow must have had one heck of a hangover, but I'm sure a few more hours sitting in a nearby tree will probably bring him back to full health.

Nothing like good nursing. Her first trip outside afterwards, Coco investigated the area thoroughly and seemed satisfied to find him gone.

She would have been a great mommy. That's no longer possible, but she has a little brother, a big sister, a mommy and a grandmom she watches over faithfully.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dressing Up/Dressing Down

It's a good thing I'm not as modest as I used to be.

To digress a little, I've turned over a new leaf on office dress. I finally got tired of my docker style pants and mens' shirts. Watching so much of How Not to Look and How Do I Look? has taken its toll. I started feeling very out of style, not to mention dumpy.

In my younger days, I was accused of being a clothes horse on more than one occasion. I went through a few years there when I bought designer labels and dressed chez Liz, Pierre, Perry, Ralph and Christian. I had a lot of business dinners and meetings and client presentations and I enjoyed dressing to fit the scene. As I gradually moved out of the public aspect of our business and into the crawling on the floor finding the ethernet plug aspect, it made more sense to dress in a more casual style that allowed freedom of movement. I wore a lot of Bill Blass jeans in those days. I had a collection of designer jeans in every color imaginable.

Then the edict came down from the top, "No more jeans!". I had to find an alternative that was still comfortable, but that looked nice. Hence my conversion to twill pants. That's been my style for several years and until recently I thought I looked fine. Now I feel dowdy.

To add insult to injury, menopausal hormone shifts led to mood swings that led to borderline binge eating and I packed on a little more weight than I normally carry around. I'm still working on getting that issue corrected, but the bottom line is that I was depressed about my weight and didn't care much about how I looked.

Suddenly the hormones are shifting again, I feel better, and I'm getting that itch to dress nicely once more. On Sunday afternoon I skipped off to Beall's and decided I was going to buy myself some new clothes and lie to myself about what size I was buying. (Everybody knows that they are making clothes to fit snug these days, so if a gal wants to be comfortable she has to buy a size larger to compensate. Right? )

I found out I can still shop well. I located dress pants with matching jackets that were marked down in preparation for the incoming cold weather clothes. I found some Levi's that actually fit me. (A miracle in itself. When will the jeans manufacturers realize that most of us women have hips?) I left with 3 pair of dress pants, 4 jackets and 2 pair of jeans. A good start to a new wardrobe.

So today I wore my first pair of the pants to work. I paired them with a blouse that had been hanging in my closet unworn because I didn't have a good pair of navy pants. I looked nice in the mirror. I felt a little like my old self and began making plans for another shopping foray in the near future.

Pride goeth before a fall. I spent the lunch hour at Tuesday Morning, looking for some non-clothes bargains. I had been there about 5 minutes when a button suddenly popped off my blouse. Of course I had no pins or sewing repair kit on hand. But I was careful and managed to finish my shopping without embarrassing myself. I intended to do something about it when I got back to work.

An hour later, the missing button completely forgotten, I was sitting in my office chatting with the director of operations. I turned to get something behind me and button number two zinged across the room and landed at his feet. One missing button you may be able to do without, but two missing buttons? He handed me the button, pretended he had seen nothing, and left me clasping my blouse closed with my left hand and rooting around my desk for something, anything, that would hold the gap closed. A good samaritan co-worker coughed up two safety pins, thankfully.

So my first attempt to dress in a more appropriate manner has disintegrated into a look somewhat akin to Jed Clampett. I have a row of safety pins down my front, a red-faced boss, and a sense of gratitude that I wore my nice bra today. Somehow I think the world would have been better off if I had worn dockers and a man's shirt.

(By the way, the blouse was not too small. And my boobs are not big enough to put stress on the buttons. The thread holding the buttons on was just that rotten.)

Ah, well. The fashion world requires a certain amount of sacrifice of comfort to attain style. Not exactly the sacrifice of comfort that I was anticipating.


Saturday, November 05, 2005


They say if you have three of anything, you're building a collection. I have many, many collections and I invariably wonder at some point what got me started.

For instance, I have a large collection of cow items. At one point my kitchen was virtually covered in cows. And yet, I have no conscious memory of when I bought my first cow collectible. It seemed to mushroom overnight. And after friends and family found out about my propensity for black and white cows, the collection grew exponentially at every birthday and Christmas. I finally had to declare a moratorium on cows, took down all but the best and packed them away. But I still feel that itch when I happen across a unique cow. And I still buy an occasional cow that I just can't resist. Why cows? I have no idea.

I collect doll houses. I remember the start of that one. As a child, I always wanted a dollhouse and never had one. On a whim, Mother gave me several miniature furniture kits one Christmas. I very much enjoyed creating those tiny pieces of furniture and then I needed something to put them in. So I bought my first dollhouse kit. Then my second. I now have five dollhouses, numerous vignettes, and boxes full of furniture bought on sales at Hobby Lobby for future use when I get around to building the half-dozen dollhouse kits and dozen or so roombox kits that are still in boxes under my craft table. My guest bedroom has been dubbed the "house room", because the walls are lined with houses in all scales. I have more kits on hand than I will probably ever have time to build and yet I invariably drag in another kit whenever I happen across a good sale. (Maybe it's not only dollhouses I collect, but dollhouse kits?)

I have a very odd collection that I didn't even realize I was amassing until my sister-in-law pointed it out to me. I love desks. Full size. Dollhouse size. I just love desks. I have my antique birds-eye maple drop-leaf desk that my parents bought for me in Victoria about forty years ago. I have my antique oak desk in my study, purchased several years ago; a lucky find at the Round Top Antiques Fair. I have an oak student's desk that I use in my bedroom as a tv/dvd/dvr stand. I have a quaint oak drop leaf desk with built-in bookshelves that stands in the upstairs hall and holds my collection of turn of the century Amelia Barr books (that's another collection story for another time). I have custody of my mother's antique drop-leaf walnut desk. And I'm providing housing for my father's mahogany desk, which will eventually go to live with my brother. But for the moment it's desk number six in a single family home. No matter how you look at it, no house holding two people really needs six desks. But I can't help it. I love desks.

I'm currently working on a dollhouse vignette of a study with a genealogy flavor. I already had a mini computer desk for one corner and until last night was planning to use my mini oak rolltop desk in the same room. But it just didn't feel right. An idle search through a miniatures site last week gave me the answer. In yesterday's UPS delivery the perfect mini-desk for the project came along. A mission-style pecan desk with built-in bookshelves. My only regret is that I have not seen its full-size counterpart. I'm a goner if I happen across it.

What inspires collections? Something speaks to your inner self. My inner self could use a twelve-step program. I'm not out of control (from my viewpoint--others may disagree), but I have as many collections as Carter's used to have little pills. (Didn't they finally go out of business?) I have stores of books, yarn, glassware, family memorabilia, Christmas ornaments (that I haven't used in years, by the way, thanks to marauding cats and puppies), cats and puppies, and God knows what else. Within my miniatures, aside from the growing pile of kits, I have sub-collections of miniature pottery, mini hand-made sweaters, mini glassware, and the list goes on and on.

I guess at some point I will have to decide who will inherit my assorted treasures. Or maybe I am just setting myself up to have a supplmental retirement income in the distant future. I trust EBAY will still be there when the time comes. Or maybe I will just sit on my cloud with my harp and watch my poor heirs struggle to figure out what in the world the old lady was thinking.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tuned in

My first experience with portable music was a small transistor radio that I received for Christmas. Way back when. Best guess would be 1966. It was a gas station promo item, a red radio in the shape of a Sinclair gas pump. AM only. I spent many happy hours listening to KTSA and KONO in San Antonio, getting a new exposure to popular music as opposed to the vinyl collection of country music favored by my parents.

I've long since become disgusted with the Top-40 and with commercial radio in general, and spent several years recording my favorite album cuts to cassette tapes so that I could listen to my favorite tunes as I drove back and forth to work. The transition to CDs was a happy period. I could easily carry two dozen or more entire albums along with me. This was a definite improvement since my musical taste can run from Hank Williams to Beethoven in the course of a day.

Yesterday I entered the newest portable music market. I have a bright, shiny Dell DJ Ditty (Dell's equivalent to the IPod Shuffle). A quick enrollment to MusicMatch and I began downloading songs to my Ditty. I've found songs I haven't heard in years, songs that were on old cassette tapes that have been relegated to a box in the garage. And in CD-quality sound. I'm having more fun with this little gizmo than I've had with any other musical option since I opened that Christmas present so many decades ago.

I really didn't think I would succumb to the temptation to walk around with wires hanging out of my ears. But scratch that. I may look dumb (an old lady with an mp3 player?!?), but I'm enjoying blocking out the traffic sounds and the constant surrounding chatter at the office with the sounds of music I've missed for such a long time. And I can download audiobooks, too. Whee!

Goodbye unwanted noise and distraction! Me and my Ditty are making our own kind of music these days. Geez, I'm even thinking I may need a bigger version...


Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Road Less Traveled

Some days you just have to climb out of the rut.

This morning, bright and early, I bundled Mother into the car for a trip to Austin and a visit with her doctor. This afternoon I bundled Mojo and the cats into the car for a trip to Elgin and their yearly vaccinations. Hard to explain why those two events have me plumb tuckered out. Just let me say that wrestling little old ladies and little old cats probably burns up more calories per hour than biking or swimming.

On the way back from Elgin, I gave into the impulse to explore a country road that I've never had a reason to use. I've always wondered what lies at the end of the Old Sayers Road. I'm still wondering, because a few miles down the gravel road, huge construction machinery was blocking my way, so I veered onto Old Waugh Way and wound myself slowly back toward Highway 95.

I love to drive, but I particularly love to drive along two lane blacktops in rural Texas. I love the curves, the rising and fall of gentle hills, the barbed wire fences on either side, the grasshoppers suddenly buzzing out of the ditch, the odd roadrunner indulging in a brief race against you. I love the green, grassy fields, the tilting mailboxes, the cattleguards leading to distant farmhouses. I love being the only car on the road for miles.

There are a few diversions that I reserve for days when I need a pick-me-up. If I get desperate for a tranquilizing activity during a work day, I head to a book or hobby store. They can be depended upon to get me back on an even keel in a jiffy.

But on days when I am not tied to a desk and I find myself at loose ends for a few minutes, nothing satisfies like a drive down a previously unexplored country road.

Take me home, country roads
to the place I belong...


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Flickering Memories

We lived in little communities, surrounded by farm land. Many evenings we would be invited out for supper or fellowship with church members.

On the way home, I would be riding in the backseat. I was a pre-schooler, tired from playing and filled with good country cooking. Cars in those days had no air-conditioning, so the windows would be open, letting in the night air and the fresh country scent.

The headlights would cast an eerie glow on the trees ahead of us. To that little five-year-old, it seemed as if ghostly giants watched over us as we made our way home.

Fifty years later, I still feel the little girl inside when I make my way home after dark. My headlights flash on friendly ghosts, keeping me company as I drive.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Saturday TV

Back in my early days, Saturday morning meant three things: 1) my parents slept late and didn't want to be disturbed; 2) I made myself cinnamon toast for breakfast; and 3) the morning would be spent watching cartoons and children's programming. I sometimes wax sentimental about those Saturday mornings. These days kids seem to be up and out playing soccer or trying to reach the next level of a computer game. The children's programming today seems dull and wooden. We had Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Walter Lantz, Walt Disney, and other animation pioneers to entertain us. And no one was much worried about whether we were watching politically correct material.

I can remember piling up on the couch with my blanket and pillow and making my way through Mighty Mouse, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Deputy Dawg, Alvin & the Chipmunks, Mr. Magoo, Heckle & Jeckle, Yogi Bear and Woody Woodpecker. After a stretch of cartoons, the lineup would switch to Roy Rogers, Sky King, and Fury. About 11 AM, the kid programs would fade out, my parents would finally get up, and the weekend would commence.

Somewhere along the way I acquired a Mighty Mouse t-shirt, complete with a cape. I wore the tail off that shirt and then passed it down to David. Later on, when I started school, I carried a Deputy Dawg lunch box. I was such a fan of Fury that the horse became one of my numerous imaginary friends. Mother glanced out the window one day to see me passing by, remarking over my shoulder, "Fury, stop stepping on my feet!".

Who can think of Quick Draw McGraw and not remember the dog who went into paroxysms of joy over his dog treat? He would hug himself again and again until he shot upwards in ecstacy and then floated down with a satisfied "ahhhhh". Quick Draw's show also included the Snaglepuss character. Snagglepuss' "Exit, stage right" and "Heavens to Murgatroyd" became American catchphrases. You have to be a fifty-something to remember where those phrases started. Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy also got their start on Quick Draw's show. And I think Pixie and Dixie were in that group as well.

Yogi actually started as a part of the Huckleberry Hound show, but moved on to his own show. I always had a fondness for Yogi, since his girlfriend was Cindy Bear. I've always resisted authority figures, probably a characteristic I developed watching the ranger being outwitted by a "smarter than the average bear".

If you're a baby boomer and would like to spend a little time remembering the good old days, you can visit Toontracker (be sure to visit the old theme songs page); Toonpedia; and The Fifties Web. You will be reminded of the good old days, back when you had 2 or 3 channels to choose from on Saturday morning. In black and white. And the quality of those black and white cartoons, in my humble opinion, was far superior to what is available to the kids today in full color and chosen from 200 cable options.

This little stroll down memory lane was prompted by a recent Ebay purchase. I got to thinking about that Mickey Mouse tshirt and did an impulsive scan to see what was out there for sale. I ended up with a nice little patch to add to my jacket. A mouse in flight, wearing a yellow suit and red shorts and boots.

"Here I come to save the day!"
That means that Mighty Mouse is on the way...


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Feelings Alliterative

I believe it was Dorothy Parker who made the memorable comment about Katherine Hepburn's performance in a Broadway play to the effect that "Miss Hepburn ran the gamut of emotions from A to B". That put me in mind of the gamut of emotions I've run into this week. I decided to see how many of these emotions could be expressed by words beginning with the letter "A".

Agoraphobic - For a short period of time, Central Texas seemed as crowded as the New York subway. I certainly am glad that our area extended welcoming arms to the folks fleeing Hurricane Rita. It was just surprising how quickly you felt the effect of so many additional folks sharing your space.

Anxious - For all the pets who suffered along with their humans and the wild animals who had no way to escape.

Annoyed & Aggravated - Just when you think the world has made remarkable strides in the past thirty years, you run into a good old boy who can't stand it when an intelligent woman dares to consider herself his equal. When will they learn that they aren't hurting us smart girls nearly as much as they would like to think. To the contrary, they hurt themselves by destroying all respect they might have had before they opened their mouths. I still think it boils down to an insecurity and resentment that certain women are figuratively better endowed in the cojones department, let alone the mental department.

Argumentative - See the previous paragraph. I don't take that kind of treatment lying down.

Amenable & Agreeable - I'm really not that hard to get along with. Just treat me fairly and with respect.

Amused - It's really funny after you've slept on it. How pathetic they are.

Appreciative - Of the men in my life who have never tried to make me feel like I'm second class.

Amiable - There's nothing like getting together with a couple of old girl friends for lunch.

Affectionate - There's nothing like the greeting you get from a trio of adoring puppies when you arrive home in the evening.

Avid - The new seasons of my favorite television shows have finally begun. Something new to watch!

Anal - It drives me crazy when someone else gets in my kitchen and puts something in a different place than it belongs.

Apathetic - The only word for how you feel after a 30-minute reflexology session and a 60-minute massage. The rest of the world can go hang.

Aquisitive - Ebay, here I come.

I guess old Dorothy's assessment of Kate's acting might not have been as cutting as she intended. You can cover a lot of emotional ground without ever getting to the "B"s.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Along the Road

The constant flow of traffic westward on Highway 71 is steady and presented several interesting views on the way home today.

Every convenience store, every service station, every fast food joint, every campground and every hotel along the way was filled to capacity. At a service station about half way between Austin and Bastrop, where a small MacDonald's shares a portion of the building, about 8 bright yellow school buses from Wharton ISD were pulled into the edge of the parking lot. My first thought was "potty time!". Everybody knows that you can find an acceptable potty at MacDonald's when you're on a long drive.

I'll bet there's not a sack of ice at any place between Houston and Austin. There's probably a world record being set for the number of coolers simultaneously travelling west.

Every few miles you would see a group of two, three or four cars pulled over, their occupants conferring. A caravan of friends or family stopping to stretch their legs, or grab a drink out of the cooler, or walk the dogs.

The traffic was so thick through Bastrop that the State Police were out, over-ruling the lights and getting people on their way. The highway, the access roads, the back way through town - all were full of vehicles headed west.

This last issue caused me to change my mind about picking up prescriptions on the way home. No way was I getting off the highway and attempting to cross the road to get to the other side. So tomorrow morning I have to get out early and see if I can slip off to the pharmacy by taking the back way through town. I rather expect that conditions will be the same or worse.

I can't help comparing the Texas evacuation with that of Louisiana three weeks ago. For all that I have criticized Rick Perry as governor, the man has done well getting the State's resources pulled together. I also was impressed with the health care agency that handles my mother's care. They called all of their clients today, making sure that everyone would have someone staying with them and that they had sufficient supplies, including prescriptions, on hand.

It is a day of unusual sights and sounds and stories.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Battening Down

Today was my day to work at home. About 2:00, I decided to run to the grocery store for a few items. The impending hurricane, bearing down on the Texas coast, had everyone out buying supplies. To have a category 5 hurricane aiming for Texas so soon after Hurricane Katrina decimated southern Louisiana made even those of us who have experienced inland hurricane fallout a little nervous. My logical self knows that Bastrop will probably experience little more than some wind gusts and a lot of rain. My illogical self said to lay in a supply of non-perishable food and batteries.

I was not the only one reacting to those uneasy feelings. The long row of shelves that normally groan under the weight of bottled water were empty. Several people were carting those 5 lb. bottles that you can fill with filtered water at the machine outside the store. (Do those things really work?) People were loading up on canned goods and bread. It looked like HEB had been hit by a herd of locusts. The clerks said it had been crazy all day.

On the way back home, I was facing the traffic headed to Austin from the Houston direction. Two days before the predicted landfall, the road is already packed with people moving out of the storm's path. If there is anything good that came out of Katrina's destruction, people are paying attention to the evacuation orders and hitting the road in plenty of time to get to safety.

My first experience with hurricane weather was in 1961, when I was 7 years old. We were living in Oak Hill when the eye of Carla passed over Austin, and my primary memories of the event consist of driving rain and whipping wind. Many of my Frankum relatives lived in Texas City, Brazoria and Wharton at the time and they headed inland for safety. I guess that's the first Frankum family reunion that I remember; everybody ended up at Aunt O's and Uncle Shorty's in Central Austin. I remember lots of people, dominoes and music. I didn't understand the gravity of the weather situation and for years I associated hurricanes with a big old family party.

We were living in Smiley when Celia and Beulah visited Texas. I don't remember much about Celia, but Beulah dumped an enormous amount of rain in Gonzales County. Something like 22 inches in two days. Smiley was cut off from the rest of the world on three sides due to swollen creeks.

So I know to expect lots of rain and wind. I know there will be the possibility of tornadoes. But my relatives living in Texas City, Brazoria, Wharton and Bay City face much worse odds. They may return to find extensive damage to their homes. I would never be able to live under the spectre of hurricanes that is part of life on the Gulf Coast.

But in any event, we are ready to hibernate this weekend and avoid the weather. I have dog food, cat food, sandwich material, peanut butter, fruit and veggies. My pantry is full of canned food. I have shifted plants and lawn furniture into protected areas. We won't need to brave the wind and rain for days, if necessary.

But let's hope it's all done and gone by Sunday afternoon. I have an expensive ticket in my purse for the Sunday matinee of Chicago. Rain or not, I'm going.

Thursday postscript:
The exodus continues. Highway 71 is bumper to bumper while traffic makes its way slowly through Bastrop headed to Austin. Rita continues to slide inexorably toward Houston. This may be the one that becomes the new hallmark for hurricanes in Texas. Next year we may be saying, "Carla who?"


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fine Print

I read an article in the past week concerning the inserts in CDs. Those of us who grew up in the age of vinyl considered cover art and liner notes to be part of the whole listening experience. According to the article, the liner notes are getting little respect from the current crop of CD purchasers. Some shop owners report that buyers will open the package and discard everything but the CD before they even leave the store. And the rise of online purchase of just the songs you want, rather than the entire CD, is another blow to the folks who produce the cover art and liner notes for the inserts.

I can't understand this trend. I read all the liner notes for just about every CD I purchase. I like to know who wrote the songs. I want to know the name of the fabulous pianist on the third track. I want to be able to look and see what that stringed instrument is that I can't quite identify. I want to read the little anecdotes behind the songs. If a lyric moves me, I want to pull out the liner notes and follow along with the words.

I've always paid attention to the credits. Not just for the albums/CDs I've purchased. I read credits at the end of TV programs and at the end of movies. It annoys me no end that cable stations have started scrunching up the credits at the bottom or side of the screen in order to run ads for upcoming programs. They are robbing me of the right to read the fine print.

You get some surprises when you read the fine print. Do you remember the character of Adam Kendall in Little House on the Prairie? He was the young, blind man who married the older daughter Mary Ingalls. He was played by actor Linwood Boomer, who moved behind the camera after that series came to an end. I next caught his name as a producer on Night Court and he is currently the mastermind behind Malcolm in the Middle. I know all that because I read the credits. And he's not the only former actor who has "disappeared" behind the camera. Remember Tony Dow? He played Wally Beaver and later became a director. You have to be my age or older to remember the name Leigh French, a ditsy flower child character on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. She now does voice casting, a fact I learned from reading the credits. You just never know who you are going to run into when you start reading that fine print.

I know I'm not the only one that does this, but it sometimes feels like I am. Awhile back I went to the theater in Bastrop to see a movie and waited to read the credits to the end. For one thing, the music was pretty good and I wanted to get some information on that. But I would have read the credits regardless. By the time the film quit rolling, I was the only patron left in the auditorium and the cleaning crew was making their way up and down the aisles and giving me sidelong glances.

I've followed backup musicians from band to band by reading that fine print. Not long ago I was surprised to discover that Jon Carroll, a great pianist who backs Mary Chapin-Carpenter, was once a member of the Starlight Vocal Band. (I'm really not that old. I just have a good memory.)

People who don't read the credits miss a lot. I sure would hate to see the demise of liner notes. It would reduce my enjoyment considerably. There's a lot of good stuff buried in that fine print. Give credit where credit is due. Those folks in the credits deserve to be noticed for the good work they do.


Monday, September 19, 2005


I'm in post-vacation silly mode. Should be over by tomorrow. But for now, I'm indulging my silly side by reading the second in the Sweet Potato Queens' books. If you're a middle aged wild woman, these are your kinda gals. The books are a hoot to read. Apart from their rules for managing the men in their lives, these are Southern chicks who speak Southern with an unapologetic Southern drawl. I thoroughly enjoy reading true Southern dialect. Sort of puts me in mind of listening to the Designing Women when they really got going. There's a lot of Southern in my soul that likes listening to the no-bullshit style of Southern women in private conversation.

The Red Hat Societies are in full swing right now, which is much the same I suspect. Except the Red Hat folks are more generally American. The Sweet Potato Queens are definitely regional. All I can say is, if you want to laugh and you don't get your panties in a wad over chapter titles like "Men Who Need Killing", check them out.

The Emmy Awards were given out last night and I sat in front of the TV and missed most of them. They never give those things to the people I'm rooting for, so it really wasn't that big a deal that I zoned out during the proceedings. I did thoroughly enjoy seeing Donald Trump dressed in overalls, carrying a pitchfork and warbling "Green Acres". People either like Trump or hate him. I didn't care much for him prior to The Apprentice, but I think the man knows how to take a joke and that makes him ok by my standards. He was definitely having fun at his own expense last night.

I'm always amazed prior to an awards show how many articles appear in magazines and newspapers itemizing "Who Will Win" and "Who Should Win". What a waste of time. They are never right. I happened to have the TV Guide handy where they ran their version and I think they missed nearly every one. TV Guide has reached the point where their content is so worthless it doesn't even make good liner for the birdcage.

But LOST won for best dramatic series and the voters definitely got that one right. Score one for a bit of originality and actual writing of good fiction. Even though they frustrate me with the dangling carrot of mystery, I'll be right there on Wednesday night to see how season 2 starts.

One more plug for HOUSE. It's good. And the show before it, a new series called BONES has promise. I'll have to DVR that one, since it's opposite NCIS. How nice to have something besides reality drivel to look forward to.

Well enough about this and that. Back to the next chapter, "Sex, Fritos and the Talking Vagina". Really.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sunday Mornin' Coming Down

Well, not really. More like Sunday Mornin' Coming Home. Just back from 2-1/2 days in Houston. It's been a long time since I've driven in Houston and I was somewhat surprised to find that it was not quite as traumatic as previous trips. That probably means that Austin traffic has worsened to the point that it is good practice for driving in Houston. A sad commentary on the state of traffic in Austin.

We got lost several times, thanks to the rapid-transit rails and the one-way streets, but we've come to expect to get lost and actually get a kind of enjoyment in finding our way out of the maze. We stayed at a lovely B&B just a block or so from the Clayton Library. I finally got to explore a few of the resources of Clayton. Cousin Maxine Alcorn, who was once the head honcho at Clayton, has long told me of the many resources to be found there and at long last I know what she was talking about. We barely scratched the surface in the few hours we were there, but I now know where I can go when I need a genealogy quick fix.

This was the first time I had left the babies overnight. They weathered my absence with appalling nonchalance, content to snuggle up against Uncle David at night. They were happy to see me, though, and I slept much better with the scent of doggy breath in the air.

On the way back we hit a miniatures shop, Crickets & Caterpillars, located in a strip center of antique and hobby sh0ps. After two hours of carefully searching and selecting miniatures for our dollhouse projects, we wandered into a little antique/junk shop. I picked up several antique photos in my ongoing rescued ancestors project and a sample of something I had never seen before. In one corner of a cabinet were a small pile of war ration books. I've heard of ration books all my life and I am aware that my Great Aunt Fay worked for the ration board, but I had never seen an example. Last on the itinerary was a stop for kolaches in LaGrange.

Once in awhile you just need a break in routine and this was a successful one. Three days away from work isn't enough, but three days away from my babies is almost too long. Wallowing in shelf after shelf of state and county histories and aisles of miniatures is my idea of a good time. We also met some interesting folks around the breakfast table and had some mighty fine food at Damian's. I also discovered that I love amaretto and Sprite. Yum.

I still hate driving in Houston, but I think I can take it from time to time. The benefits outweigh the negatives. Next time I need a break, I know another place to find stress relief. After you get through the traffic, that is.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Fingers in My Ears

Lord have mercy.

It is my misfortune that I am too polite to tell people to shut up. Most of the time, anyway. Usually I can "uh-huh" at appropriate intervals, while my mind wanders far away from the conversation. But sometimes I just want to scream.

There is a lady of my acquaintance who knows full well that I read the newspaper and watch the morning news. Be that as it may, if there is a murder or tragedy in the news, she feels compelled to review the details with me as if I am incapable of "getting it" without her help. Usually the worst, most gruesome details. I've already mentioned in this blog that I don't care to know the gruesome details. I have perfected a method of scanning to get the gist of things without wallowing in the blood and gore. It helps me sleep at night. So I really resent being forcefed that information.

Yeah, I know. It's her way of processing the information for her own understanding. That doesn't make it any easier for me. I learned a long time ago that it is too easy for me to mentally put myself in someone's shoes. And from there develops a depression that hangs over me like a cloud for weeks at a time. So I try my best to maintain a mental distance to keep myself from sliding down into that black hole.

I've faced this barrage of unwanted details many times at work. Some people just have to replay and replay tragic stories. At this point, I seldom mingle at break or lunch times for that reason. It gets me a reputation for being stand-offish, but it's the best way for me. Some exorcise their feelings with these recitations, but folks like me internalize all those feelings of despair and then end up with irritable bowel syndrome.

Too bad there's no innoculation to protect you against these folks. Even with my pathologic fear of needles, I would be at the front of the line. I sympathize with the victims and with the feelings of horror that compel people to dissect the stories with their friends. But I'll gather my own information, thank you, so I can avoid walking through the valley of the shadow of another's death.

Add to my Christmas list a pair of earplugs.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I was sifting through my unheard audio books this morning and decided I would listen to Sackett's Land, by Louis L'Amour. When times are tough and the going is difficult, I feel drawn to cowboys. If you have a cowboy handy, you can get almost anything done.

At least that's what I grew up believing, thanks to 1950s/1960s television. Back in those days, westerns ruled the air waves. My favorites were Wagon Train, Rawhide, Sky King, Fury, Roy Rogers, Bonanza, Maverick and some whose names I don't recall. In the late 60s and early 70s came along Wild, Wild West, High Chaparral, Lancer and Cimarron Strip. Their stories were simple. Bad guy wears black hat. Good guy wears white hat, stops bad guy and gets girl. Moral conflicts were clear. Do good. Stand for what is right. Go to church. Treat your womenfolk with respect. Damn, I wish life were that simple.

Living in Texas gives you opportunities to know real cowboys. Not the drugstore cowboys, but the ones who really get up close and personal with the cattle and know how to sit a horse. And how to dig a post hole and run barbed wire. You run into an old cowboy and you still get treated like a lady and something worth respect. You hear "ma'am" a lot.

I spent many an hour following the exploits of my cowboy heroes. I would lose myself to daydreams where I was travelling west on a wagon train and being rescued by Flint McCullough. Or maybe Joe Cartwright or Rowdy Yates. They were some fine cowboys who could be counted on to always do the right thing, with unyielding bravery. They weren't afraid to get their hands dirty when there was work to be done. And they sure cleaned up nice for the Saturday night social.

I enjoy my current status as an emancipated woman, but there are times when I wouldn't mind being transported back to the 1880s and the company of cowboys. I would make a great schoolmarm. Of course, I know the romance of the period is mostly in my imagination and in the stories I watched unfold on television. I'm sure the real picture was hardship and danger, and that the cowboys were dirty and ill-educated. But the concept of cowboy will always bring to mind the guy you want around when there's trouble or there's work to be done. Or a Virginia Reel to be danced.

I guess I still look for a little bit of cowboy in the men I'm drawn to. Education and refinement are fine and desirable qualities, but I still want a touch of Flint McCullough, Rowdy Yates, Johnny Lancer, Sheriff Jim Crown, or James T. West. I want an intelligent conversation and good table manners, sure. But I really want a man who can stand tough and fight the bad guys. A man who will provide for his family and help his neighbors, instead of focusing on the size of his bank account.

Maybe it's time we turned our government over to cowboys. (And being from Texas and owning a ranch doesn't make you one.) Then we could get things done, done quickly, done honestly, and done with an eye towards making the world a better place to be for everybody. In short, a cowboy does the right thing, without the regard for personal gain.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Climbing the Family Trees

First things first. On the left are the two bosses.

Their official registrations came in today from the Universal Kennel Club. Being a genealogist, I couldn't resist ordering a 3-generation chart along with their registration. Their certificate of pedigree looks just like mine, printed in tree format on parchment. Mojo has great-grandmothers named "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Pocket of Freckles". Coco's include "Tuck 'Um Up" and "Hi Beam Dixie". She also has a military ancestor, "General George".

Today was the day for family trees in more areas than one. At long last I received a Hodge genealogy book that has been in development for about two years. This is the second Hodge genealogy to be published this year and I had the satisfaction of straightening out a long standing mis-interpretation of facts that had appeared in earlier versions of these books. So nice to be able to share photos and information from the long lost Texas branch of the family, and to be thanked in print. Makes me feel like I know what I'm doing.

Earlier this week I subscribed to a new service that includes many old newspapers and I unearthed one of those tiny family scandals that hit the Dallas paper. This situation involved a very distant relative, but I had him in my charts so I found it interesting back story for my records.

And Lana and I started planning next year's family research trip, which should send us on a road trip through Indiana and Illinois and allow us to visit more ancestral resting places. Only a genealogist could get excited about a trip focused on visiting cemeteries. Can't wait for April to get here so we can get started.

So the focus is on family this week. Including the extended branches that are of the furry persuasion. I've been thinking of all the family memorabilia and photos that are in my possession and thinking how devastating it would be to lose them.

I cannot fathom the losses of property and family members that have been suffered by the poor folks in New Orleans. And I mourn all the pets that were lost. I spent a lot of time over the past two years researching the disaster in Texas City in 1947. During the course of my research, I also studied some of the history of the great hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. One day life is normal, the next day life is forever changed. It really puts into perspective what is important. What if it was all gone tomorrow? What would be the greatest loss?

To that end, I'm beginning to consider what should be done with my collection of family data and memorabilia. Maybe it's time to ponder publishing my own family histories. One flood, one tornado, one fire, and 30 years of work could be lost, not to mention generations of photos and heirlooms.

It's time to ponder. Where do I go from here? First I'm going to go hug my furry children and be thankful they are safe and sound. Then I'm going to write a check to the Red Cross and/or an animal rescue organization to help the Katrina victims. And then I'm going to get back to work and figure out a way to share my family's history. Because tomorrow may be too late.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Graduation Day

Little Mojo has passed another milestone. Today he learned how to go down the staircase. He got the going up part down pat about 3 weeks ago, but the downhill part had him stymied. We've had to keep a baby gate across the stairs all this time because he loves going up, but then would sit and cry on the top step until Mom came to rescue him. And five minutes later he was in the same situation.

Coco has not attempted either direction. Whenever I've tried to teach her, she cowers on a step and trembles until I transport her to level ground again. Coco is a real strange rat terrier. She never barks or growls. A low whine now and again, but otherwise silent. I've never before met a rat terrier who doesn't bark at the slightest movement or sound. Almost eerie.

Coco is my little hippie girl. "Peace, man" is what I get from her most of the time. She's a smart little hippie chick. She learns new words rapidly and has me figured out. She knows when she's doing something I'm not going to approve of and takes off running before I have a chance to react. Runs like a little deer.

Mojo is smart, too, but he spends his time figuring out how to manipulate me to do what he wants. And he gets his way most of the time. If I don't cooperate, he throws back his head and howls like he's being tortured. It doesn't matter how many times he's pulled the stunt, I still run to make sure he's not hurt.

Mojo is 3.9 pounds of dictator. Coco is 5.4 pounds of laid-back mellow. I'm a big lump of mush who lets them get away with pre-meditated mischief. It's hopeless.

But at least I only have to carry one of them up and down the stairs now.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

Reasons why I hate dr. appointments:

1. Your appointment time is a fantasy. (I don't mind schedules running amok with drs who have emergencies. That I understand. But what's going on with the rest of them? I once was kept waiting in the exam room for 45 minutes by a dermatologist. I can't for the life of me think of a dermatological emergency.)

2. If you have to go to a doctor, and that doctor has offices in a building that charges for parking, couldn't they at least spring for a parking validation? (I was already in the lot when I remembered that I had very limited cash on hand. Thank goodness for the stash of change in the console.)

3. Speaking of parking, how about putting all the handicapped spaces on the level side of the building? Ever tried pushing a wheelchair up a hill? 'Taint easy, McGee. Not to mention how difficult it is to maintain control of a wheelchair going down a hill.

4. And, while I'm generally irritated by the vast plain of handicapped spaces at Wal-Mart, if there's anyplace that could use twice as many as usually available, it's a dr's parking lot. I seldom get to use a handicapped space at the dr.'s office. The thrill of unloading and loading first the wheelchair and then the patient in a space meant for a compact car at the bottom of a hill, about a mile away from the door, cannot be described with mere words.

5. Speaking of wheelchairs, wouldn't you think that a DOCTOR's office would realize the need for an area in the waiting room to accommodate their patients in wheelchairs? I am really, really tired of trying to negotiate a crowded waiting room pushing a wheelchair and lugging my purse and a bag of "what we may need" (e.g. water, medication, etc.). God forbid if there are two wheelchair-bound patients in the waiting room at the same time. Somebody is going to get a run-over foot.

6. Again on the subject of wheelchairs, try fitting the wheelchair in the tiny exam room where two hideous and uncomfortable chairs are fighting for space with the exam table, the dr's rolling stool, and assorted machines. Hint: pull the wheelchair into the room in reverse. Saves time on trying to get out of the room when it's over. Also, lose weight so you're skinny enough to squeeze back around the wheelchair and sit sideways on one of those hideous chairs because there's no room for your feet.

7. Now, with the situation as described above, and with an obviously disabled person perched in the wheelchair, to have an ever-so-cheerful nurse suggest that we "hop" up on the exam table, should be cause for a justifiable punch in the nose.

8. If a doctor asks you to call later in the day with a report from another doctor, and the other doctor actually volunteers to make the call himself, and the first doctor complains to the second doctor about how busy they are to be stopped to take a phone call, all I can say is WHAT THE HELL, LADY??

Okay, I'm done. I've decided that all these dr. visits I'm subjected to these days must be my version of purgatory. Surely, someday all this misery will be repaid with glory in the hereafter. Yeah, right.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

When in Texas

New Texas platitude picked up from another blog: "Never get into a pissin' contest with a skunk". Can't add much to that.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Birds of a Feather

We flocked together on Saturday at the Norris Conference Center. About 150 middle-aged (for the most part), avid genealogists. Our speaker was John Philip Colletta, whose latest book I had purchased a few months ago. We contemplated the topics of compiling narrative family histories from all the data we have collected over the years.

It's a subject I have spent time pondering. How does one present 35 years of research to the public in an entertaining format? I have 16 notebooks full of dry data that nobody would be interested in, unless they were trying to build their own genealogy.

But, sprinkled in amongst the births, marriages, deaths and burials are a few fascinating stories. There is my great-grandfather who left his wife and enlisted in the Navy under an assumed name. My great-great grandfather who was accused of child molestation during his divorce proceedings. My great-great grandfather who spent 6 months camping in the bitter cold as a volunteer cavalryman in support of Custer's pursuit of the Cheyenne in post Civil War Oklahoma and Kansas. And a few scandals that are still buried in the annals of my family history until enough time has passed to blunt the shame that was felt by the relatives. All juicy stuff with potential for spinning a good yarn for public consumption.

Mr. Colletta surprised us by pointing out how many books are on the best-seller lists that were inspired by family tales that have been passed down. A few years ago Cane River was published by a lady who wrote a fictionalized accounting of her family's history. It made Oprah's Book Club. It gets you thinking...would my family's history catch the attention of folks who had no blood connections?

This past year has seen a slump in my genealogy research. Too many details and problems in real life to spend much time on lives in the distant past. I've had to fight myself to produce any writing in the arena of genealogy. But I felt a flicker of interest stir as I listened to Mr. Colletta talk about the family legend that became the basis of his book Only a Few Bones . And yesterday I found myself jotting notes for a possible newsletter article. I'm hoping that the tide is turning and I will find my inspiration again.

Nothing like the association of like-minded folks to whet your interest. It's time to get back into that genealogy maze. Perhaps it's time to consider what format my book should take.

Hot dog. I'm back in the saddle again.