Thursday, June 30, 2005


They were mean and ornery all evening. Finally wore themselves out.

Coco still thinks he was an unnecessary addition, but he makes a pretty good chew toy.

Mojo thinks this house was seriously in need of someone to be in charge.

I think I'm seriously in love.


Blast It!

Dangnation, the fireworks stands opened yesterday. Highway 71 is littered with the things. I just don't get it.

For a week prior to every July 4th, my worry mode kicks into high gear. I live in a pine forest. And I live in Texas, which is usually dry as a bone this time of year. My yard has years' worth of mounded up pine needles around it. The grass in my yard is brittle and brown. One spark and it's poof. Surrounding counties have already issued burn bans. Grass fire burns are visible on the side of the road every few miles between Bastrop and Austin. And yet I know, come July 4th, that there will be idiots all around setting off fireworks. There oughta be a law.

Yes, the cities of Bastrop and Austin do have laws against fireworks. Not that it does any good. God forbid that our independent Texas spirit be forbidden to fire a bottle rocket whenever we damn well feel like it. So what if we lose several hundred acres of forest or a few homes. It's our God given right to buy and use fireworks.

How I wish that fireworks would be outlawed to the average American. I enjoy a municipal display, presented by professionals, as much as anybody. I can ooh and aah with the best of them. But to strike pure terror in my heart, all it takes is the moron down the street to light up a bottle rocket and aim it for the top of a pine tree. The first year I lived in the woods, I watched a guy down the road do exactly that insane thing for about an hour.

Yes, I live within the city limits. Yes, I could have called the cops. No, I didn't. I figured by the time they got out there, the ignoramus would have gotten his fill of it and I would have gotten that "yes, ma'am" followed by an eye-roll from the cop. And as soon as the cop left, someone else would start up on the next street. Believe you me, they don't like getting a second call in the same night from the same little old lady.

So I stay up late and keep an eye on the trees. My insides clench every time I hear a *bang*. I cannot believe that people are so stupid as to keep buying the things, let alone set them off. It's sheer stupidity and I'll say it to your face. Fireworks are dangerous. You can blow off a finger, blow out an eye, set a whole subdivision on fire. All for a snap, crackle, and pop. Big damn deal.

As many things that our government worries about protecting us from (can we say cheap Canadian prescriptions?), they don't seem to give a rat's patootie about really dangerous stuff like guns and fireworks. I'll take my chance with a Canadian pharmacist anyday if they'll run the fireworks manufacturers out of the country.

Now ask me what I really think.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Unforeseen Complication

Mojo Wilcoxen
born April 27, 2005

He's here! I picked up Mojo this afternoon. As you can see from the following, Xana's reaction was "Oh, my God!" I've promised her there will be no more. At least for awhile.

This little guy is teeny. He is so teeny that his breeder was having problems mixing him with the other puppies, so we decided to bring him home a little early. Thinking that Coco would welcome him with open arms and he would have more company than he's had. Coco welcomed him with open teeth, is more like it. She's jealous.

In response to Coco's jealous little nips, Mr. Mojo displayed a majestic temper. It had not really sunk in until now that Coco has not growled or barked since she arrived. Mr. Mojo has done both very well. Repeatedly. It's pretty funny to see this little bitty guy whale into his big sister until she backs down. I know they will be best friends before the week is out, but for now I'm having to watch them closely to make sure nobody gets hurt.

Sorta reminds me of 1959 when I lost my only child status to a little brother. Couldn't do without him now, but there for a little while....


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Puppy Update

She thinks she's cute. She may be right.

Her gran thinks so. So does her mom.

If you know Xana, this will give you an idea of Coco's size.

Little bro Mojo arrives later this week.

We may overdose on cute.

What a way to go.


Groans and Moans to Spare


How does that song go?
"How do I know my youth is all spent?
My get up and go has got up and went.
In spite of it all, I'm able to grin
When I think of the places my get up has been."

I'm sitting here today suffering aches and pains from yesterday's mission to beat back the red-tipped photinia menace. I'm either older than I thought or I'm way, way more out of shape than I thought.

This house came with a healthy hedge of red-tipped photinia surrounding the decks. I don't really dislike photinia, so long as I don't have to do the maintenance. The stuff grows at a frightening pace after a rain. I bought an electric hedge trimmer to help me keep ahead of it, but I finally had to admit that the photinia was edging ahead in the battle. So two weeks ago I came to the decision that it was time to resort to evil, drastic measures.

Sneaking out in the warm, humid morning of last Sunday, I made my attack on the southern photinia ranks. Armed with my trusty brush cutters, I ruthlessly cut the bushes down to a 3-foot height. (We started at about 7 feet.) Virtually no green remained. It took about 3 hours altogether to win the battle on about 20 linear feet of photinia. After the cutting, I had to drag the mutilated carcasses off to the ditch. By that time I was drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. But I could see my back yard again and it was good.

Monday I could barely move.

Yesterday, the pain and misery a dim memory, I sprang without warning on the northern ranks and reduced them to 3-foot stubs. Chortling all the while. "Take that. And that!" Laughing maniacally, and again drenched, I decided that the bodies could lie there until the next day.

The trouble started last night. I could barely walk, my feet hurt so bad. Which is probably the reason I took another tumble in the yard while playing with the dog. (Plus, I had those dratted flip-flops on again.) My shoulder ached and my hands throbbed. I had the beginnings of a heat headache. And the back yard is littered with photinia bodies that have to be dragged off today. I have no choice but to get my aching body out there and finish the job.

The old grey mare just ain't what she used to be. I've even started contemplating buying some tacky cotton housedresses to wear in the evenings, thinking comfort options. I refuse to go there. Must. fight. back.

So the question here is how does someone with no free time figure out a way to tone up a little? I refuse to give in and become a little old lady wearing a housedress, wandering the yard with a hose in hand. Maybe a Pilates class? There's a class starting not far from the house. Should I get the bicycle out of storage and cleaned up? That hurts to even think about.

Maybe I should just haul myself out of bed every weekend and continue to fight the yard wars. Five years of neglect have created lots of opportunities. A summer of brush cutting and weed pulling could rid me of those extra twenty pounds. Or kill me.

Beginning today: yard 0, Cindy 1. Let the war begin.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Lucious Lemon

Since I have not had a chance this week to go to the grocery store for supplies, I found myself short on breakfast options this morning. Fortunately, I always keep several boxes of muffin mix on hand and I quickly whipped up a batch of lemon poppy seed muffins. Suddenly I found myself thinking back to a time when I was about 5-years-old and first discovered how much I love things flavored with lemon.

There was a lady in our church (I think during the San Gabriel years) who baked me a birthday cake. It was my first experience eating lemon cake with lemon frosting. I fell in love and the love affair with lemon has lasted all my life. It became traditional for my birthday cake to be a lemon one. Over the years I've shifted my preference for gobs of gooey lemon icing to a lemon glaze over a lemon pound cake. It's wonderful (the recipe is on my website), and was a particular favorite of Bebop's, too. I usually make it once a year, between my birthday and his. That never happened this year because of his last illness, so I haven't had my yearly lemon fix for 2005.

It's not just lemon flavor that I love; I also love the scent of lemon. I bought a tiny highlighter yesterday at a teacher supply store and was surprised to discover that the ink is scented with lemon. I buy citrus air freshener (usually orange, but that's close enough). I love lemon scented dishwashing liquid and furniture polish. I've recently become addicted to Diet Coke with lime, which grew out of my initial hankering for Coke with lemon. Lemonade, lemon sherbet, lemon ice, lemon meringue pie, etc. Given the choice between chocolate and lemon for the rest of my life, I think I would choose lemon.

Don't you ever wonder why some things have such appeal for one person and no appeal at all for another? I know some people who despise lemon and all of the things I just listed above. To me it smells clean and fresh and tastes like a bite of spring.

Maybe it all started with that birthday cake long ago. I wish I could remember the lady's name. It's slipped out of Mother's memory, too. It was a highlight of my early years and little did she know that she would be remembered 40+ years later for a wonderful cake she baked for a little girl once upon a time.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Word Play

If you ever watch In the Actor's Studio, you know that every interview ends with the same series of questions. The answers can give you a glimpse into who the real person vs. the celebrity is. While surfing around last week, I happened across a blog that played a similar game. She admits to having stolen the idea from another blog, so I figure I can steal the idea from her. Interesting how difficult some of the categories were to complete.

1. List 10 words you like in your own language.

2. List 9 words you like in other languages.

3. List 8 city names that are fun to say.
Walla Walla (WA)
Ashtabula (OH)
Saskatoon (Canada)
Booger Hollow (AR)
Kalamazoo (MI)
Thermopolis (WY)
Missoula (MT)
Timbuktu (West Africa)

4. List 7 words that make you uncomfortable.

5. List 6 words that relate to your job.

6. List 5 words that describe someone that you love greatly.

7. List 4 words you would use to describe yourself.

8. List 3 words that describe your pet.

9. List 2 words that describe your higher power.

10. List 1 word to end with.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Veni, Vidi, Vici

Answer: One week. Question: How long does it take a rat terrier to take over her environment? She came, she saw and she's conquered. She has firmly wrapped herself around our hearts.

I had forgotten what it's like to have a baby around. Everything goes into her mouth to be tasted and evaluated. I spend a good part of my evenings chasing her down and prying various contraband out of her jaws. She has found innumerable candy wrappers that have been hiding under furniture. I've had to drape electric cords above her reach. When she goes outside, she immediately grabs a leaf or a piece of pine bark to carry around with her. I, who hate touching dead things, had to twice wrestle pieces of bird away from her. Leftovers from an afternoon cat snack. Surprising what you can manage to grab and dispose of when it's your baby that's in danger of eating something bad for her.

It's taken the better part of a week, but big sister Xana has finally started playing with her. Coco follows Xana around like a groupie, soaking up the knowledge to be a "cool" dog. Xana is being extraordinarily patient with her, allowing Coco to lay claim to the toys that I throw for them. She will occasionally growl and Coco will immediately roll over on her back in submission. I can almost see Xana's satisfaction that another lesson has been learned.

It's not easy to find a collar that will fit a 2 pound dog, but I finally located one at Tomlinson's. We started leash lessons this morning. We have a l-o-n-g way to go. She surprised me by immediately taking the leash into her mouth to lead me. That was a Bebop trick. Sometimes I think she's channeling the old boy. When I get home from work, she runs to me, wiggling her little bottom just like he did. She's claimed his spot in bed, tucked into my side, and she snores just as loud as he did.

From the first, Coco has liberally doled out lavish affection to Mother. She doesn't seem at all fazed by Mother's physical limitations. She will eagerly run up the bed and cover her gran's face with puppy kisses. A fall out of bed this evening resulted in Mother crying out for help. Little Coco was right on the spot, trying desperately to figure out what was wrong and trying to kiss away the problem.

I've always felt that somehow the right pet will find its way to our house. Coco came into the house and acted like she had known all of us before. She's already made her spot in the family, helping our hearts heal and bringing laughter back to the house. She's truly a special gift from heaven. May she rule the household for many years to come.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Fashion Maven--Not

I keep protesting that I don't watch reality shows. But, in reality, I've been watching quite a few lately. Just not the Survivor, Fear Factor, Big Brother variety. I'm often camped over on TLC watching Clean Sweep or What Not to Wear. (And lately I've been compulsively watching Dancing With the Stars on ABC. My defense on that one is that they put it in Lost's time slot and there's nothing else on.)

What Not to Wear leaves me with very ambivalent feelings. The premise is that two so-called fashionistas rework some poor shlump of a woman into the fashion plate that she could be if she had taste and an unending source of money. They drill the poor thing with "the rules" for her shopping, essentially throw everything away that resides in her present wardrobe, and give her a loaded credit card ($5,000) to restock her closets. The first day they hide and watch while the pathetic lady attempts to do their bidding and then the second day they force their clothing choices on her.

There's no getting around the fact that the before pictures are pretty awful. These ladies do need help. And there's no getting around the fact that in most cases they do look much, much better when it's all over. But my basic problem is that with $5,000 I could do just as well as they do and have 4 times the clothes in my closets. You can be stylish without buying $300 slacks.

The episodes I really love are when they get hold of someone like me who doesn't particularly care for the current style trends and the outrageous prices at Stacy's & Clinton's choice of shops and boutiques. Then it's really fun to see Stacy and Clinton pout about how their "expertise" is being questioned. They see no problem with building a wardrobe of dry-cleaning required outfits. First of all they don't live in Texas. Second of all, I don't see them handing out an additional check to cover the dry-cleaning charges for the next year. They are really big on jackets and cashmere and silk. Nice idea, but try living in those outfits when you live in a state with 2 days of winter per year and you're plagued with menopausal hot-flashes throughout each and every day. I don't think so. What I need is a built-in cooling system in every outfit.

Then the shoes. High, high heels and pointy toes. Good night, nurse. I would love to be around in about 15 years or so when Stacy has to deal with arthritic pains in her feet and see if she's still torturing herself with 3-inch heels. Quite frankly, I've been there and done that. Now I look for low heels and arch support. Every time I put a pair of heels on, I spend the next day massaging cramps out of my feet.

One episode dealt with a lady who works with UNICEF and sees poverty up close and personal. No way was she going to lay out gobs of money on a single blouse. In that case, Stacy and Clinton were behind the 8-ball and had to give in to a more conservative approach. They would have looked really, really bad insisting that it was more important to dress in high fashion than feeding starving children. In another case, the lady hated cashmere and refused to buy dry-clean items. I do love when the fashion-challenged victim digs in her heels. Stacy and Clinton puff up in high-dudgeon and don't look too stylish themselves with their pout faces on.

The one part where I would love to personally participate is in the hair and makeup redos. If anything makes a real difference in your looks, it's those two areas. I am so distrustful of strange beauticians, but Nick can have a go at my hair anytime and I wouldn't say a word.

The one saving grace for these poor fashion victims is that they are getting the American treatment. If you really want to see some fashion barbarism, catch the original version of the show on BBC. Those fashionistas are brutal. They ought to be followed by the reality show "Saving the Suicidally Depressed".

Poor ole Stacy and Clinton ought to experience this girl. I live in tapered leg pants (horrors!) and men's cotton shirts from Eddie Bauer (quelle nightmare), worn untucked to cover my old lady rear. My shoes come from SAS (old lady shoe suppliers) and my hair and makeup take a maximum of 10 minutes in the morning. I carry one neutral colored bag because I don't have time to switch out purses to suit my outfits. I may not be a fashion maven, but I'm comfortable and that's what's important to me. Stacy and Clinton can go sit on a tack.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Klutz 101

I've always longed to be a dancer. And/or an ice skater. I love when a dance or routine is perfectly choreographed to the music and the partners are in sync with each other. It's a beautiful thing to watch.

Instead, I can't dance a lick. And I shudder to think what would happen if I attempted ice skating. I really don't have time to sit around and wait for broken bones to heal. I blame genetics for my basic ineptitude. Nobody in my family (that I'm aware of) can dance, skate or do anything that requires physical agility. When klutz was doled out, we all went through the line twice. Probably thought it was the dessert line.

Waiting for David at Threadgill's the other day, I sat at the bar and sipped a diet Coke. When he arrived, I got off the stool without incident (no easy feat in itself), but when I reached back for my Coke, I knocked it over spilling ice and coke from one end of the bar to the other. They were really nice about it. Nobody even rolled their eyes.

Yesterday I was taking the dogs for a stroll around the yard when Xana asserted herself and headed off for her accustomed afternoon walk. She has not appreciated having her activities reeled in because Mom is busy watching the baby. So I scooped Coco up and headed off after Xana. Or intended to. What I really did was get my flip flop tangled up and I hit the ground. Thankfully I fell backward, with Coco tucked safely against my chest. Xana did roll her eyes. Coco was all bouncy and ready to take that ride again. The neighbors watching from down the street must have decided I was ok and acted like they hadn't seen anything. I took the cat approach of acting like I had meant to do that all along. I limped after Xana, blowing on the first skint elbow I've had in quite some time.

I can't dance, skate, swim, bat, throw, dribble, or bowl. I am really good at holding dogs. I think I'll just decide to concentrate on where my real talents lie.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Love and Blue Skies

Yesterday I drove through much of Bastrop and Milam Counties on my way to visit the puppy farm. It's country drives like that that remind me of how much I love Texas as only a native Texan can. It is already hot and humid. God help us when August rolls around. But there is something about driving down a straight highway with rolling green fields on either side, fluffy white clouds in the brilliant blue skies above and the heat visibly rising off the highway. My gut suddenly relaxes and I feel an internal satisfaction that I'm home.

When I go back and visit Smiley in the summertime, I hit that feeling when I head south from Gonzales on that two-lane blacktop road that takes you to beautiful downtown Smiley. Mesquite trees and chicken houses mean home to me. Heat, thorns and stink. How totally weird is that?

I saw some truly Texas sights yesterday. Between San Gabriel and Cameron I saw a buzzard convention meeting over the carcass of a dead deer. I very nearly stopped and took a picture. Later on I wished I had. Now who but a Texan would find a gathering of buzzards over a pile of rotting carrion to be photogenic? There was something about them that reminded me of board meetings or maybe deacon meetings. A group of elder statesmen, dealing with the day's business.

When I reached my destination, I turned onto a narrow dirt road, bumped over a cattle guard, stopped to open a gate, drove through, stepped out of my car to close the gate and had to pick my way around massive piles of steaming, uh, cow leavings. And I loved it. It's been a very long time since I drove down to an honest-to-goodness farmhouse and the smell of the stuff was a not unpleasant flash from the past. As I approached the house, a big white cow was lying across the road. She gave me a put-upon look, but lumbered to her feet and ambled off just far enough for me to pass. I can't remember the last time I was that close to a cow. The lady of the house apologized to me for my having to deal with the gate. I laughed and told her it was no problem - that I came from a long line of farmers and felt right at home.

Yesterday was so radically different from my usual activities that it felt like a real vacation day. I love rural Texas. I sometimes forget that there are parts of Texas that aren't yet covered by concrete. I temporarily stepped back in time to a simpler period of my life when I regularly visited rural families who kept gardens in their back yard and cows in the field just across the fence from their front yards.

The only thing that would have made the day any better would have been if it was cotton harvest time. I can remember driving through Thorndale as a child and smelling the cotton gins. It may sound odd, but the smell always reminded me of hot, buttered popcorn.

The day was a total success in any case, because I brought home a little package of brown fur that is about two pounds of solid love. Little Coco is lying at my side, in Bebop's old place, sleeping the sleep of the innocent. More about her at another time. Let me just say that she has already lifted the spirits of the house and reminded us that the circle of life continues.

Blue skies, buzzards, country roads and puppies. Take joy in the simple things. They are still out there if you look.


Friday, June 03, 2005

Another Stroll Down Memory Lane

June finally got here. I really wondered there for awhile if I would live to see it. But, as usual, the May work finally got done somehow and we are in recover mode. Which, for me, consists of trying to avoid any kind of mental strain for at least a week. I'm reading, going to bed early, and watching TV, when I can find something other than reality drivel to watch.

I have an appointment on Monday to see some puppies. Xana and I have decided we must bring aboard one or two new members to join our den and replenish the ranks. So I will be driving northward about an hour and a half, with the hopes of finding another rat terrier soulmate.

The breeder's location is not far from a small community where I lived for a couple of years back in my pre-school days. San Gabriel is but a small spot in the road, just a short distance from Rockdale, Thorndale and Cameron. When we lived there, the community still had its own school. Now it has a small quick-stop grocery, a couple of churches and a lot of farm land. The Baptist church and parsonage look virtually unchanged from the pictures in my memory.

I stopped by San Gabriel a couple of years back when a genealogical research trip took me within a few miles. I had not been there for many years, yet I drove straight to the Church as if I had been there daily. I was only 5 years old when we moved from there to Oak Hill, so my ability to find my early home was a surprise to me. You never know what your subconscious is holding onto.

A few things stand out in my memories of those early days. We lived in the parsonage, directly behind the church. It was (and still is) a white frame bungalow and at that time had hard wood floors throughout. Naturally we had a cat. I'm not sure whether that was Miss Tabby Gray or Buttons, but she earned the nickname "Thunderfoot" because of her penchant for running down the long hall, pounding that hard wood floor with her back feet.

One of our parishioners happened across a nest of baby skunks while we lived there. We ended up adopting one of them as a pet. Life in the country. How many people do you know who have had a pet skunk? Pansy was a cute little thing, who trailed after my mother constantly. To get a bed made, Mother had to shut her outside in the hall or risk stepping on her. Pansy would stand outside the door of the bedroom, stamping her little feet in irritation. As she grew older, my parents became concerned that her little anger fits might result in some spraying. So they arranged for her to be de-stinked. Sadly, she did not make it through the procedure. I'm not sure if it was a lack of skunk expertise on the vet's part or a reaction to the anesthesia. Now that I think about it, Pansy was probably the first in a series of black and white pets we've adopted. I seem to have a real weakness for that color combination.

The first Halloween carnival I remember attending was at the San Gabriel school. I was enchanted by the "fishing pond". I loved throwing the little fishing line over the counter and reeling in a toy. We had some friends in the country who we regularly visited and the older boys of the family would entertain their younger sister and me with a "fishing pond" at their house on a couple of occasions after that. I also remember a Christmas party at the church where my gift was a set of plastic dollhouse furniture. I can still see the yellow pieces of furniture clearly in my mind's eye. Perhaps that was my initial inspiration for my future hobby of dollhouse construction. My smell memory reacts when I come across the combination of oranges, apples and peppermint. The church passed out bags of fruit and candy to the kids that Christmas and the smell always takes me back to that party.

It was at San Gabriel that my parents made an attempt at becoming foster parents. We took in two girls, a few years older than me, from the Texas Baptist Childrens' Home. It was an experiment that didn't work out, but for a short while I had the experience of sisterhood. I can remember that they once surprised me by redressing one of my favorite dolls. The only time I ever had the opportunity to be the kid sister and I enjoyed being spoiled.

Some folks of my acquaintance have probably long suspected that I was dropped on my head as a baby. Well, I wasn't quite a baby but I did get a big bump on my head while we were in San Gabriel. The church was surrounded by long sidewalks and one day I was walking backwards on the sidewalk, talking to my foster sisters. My dog Sissy was dancing along with us and somehow got behind me and I tripped over her, cracking my head on the sidewalk. I had a real goose egg raise up on the back of my head. Nowadays you would rush a kid to the doctor for xrays, but that was in the 1950s and you didn't run to the doctor for a mere bump on the head. Thankfully, no lasting damage was done. I think.

I was quite full of myself back then. After all, foster sisters notwithstanding, I was an only child with lots of attention and convinced I was the center of my universe. It was the custom of my Sunday School teacher to have her class say a series of prayers, with each student saying a small prayer. I was generally the one chosen to begin the prayer chain. One day my teacher decided that wasn't really fair and started with another student and ended with me. I was incensed. When the prayers finally rolled around to me, I puffed up and announced "Mama don't pray, Daddy don't pray, and I don't pray neither!" I'm sure the teacher was non-plussed to hear such a pronouncement from the preacher's daughter. I have no memory of whether she tried putting me at the end again. I never did like taking the backseat.

I have many pieces of memories of the folks in the church. Mostly fragments that flutter just outside my grasp. It's the first place we lived that really exists in my conscious mind. The folks there were good people. I recall no bad incidents involved with our life there. I hope the community is still the quiet, friendly place I remember. Perhaps I will have to wander over that way on Monday and make a quick visit. I had some good times there.