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.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Eavesdropping at the Diner

On Thursdays I work at home. When lunchtime rolled around yesterday, I decided it was time to hit La Cabana for a Tex-Mex fix. After all, when you're stressed and need a strong dose of tranquility, what better than enchiladas? I arrived about 11:30 and settled in a booth and ordered the #2. I soon had my book open, a big glass of iced tea, chips and a perfect batch of salsa. I had beat the lunch crowd from Smithville and was congratulating myself on a good idea for a relaxing meal.

My plate arrived about the same time as three ladies claimed the corner booth just behind me. They were talking emphatically when they got there and they didn't stop the whole time I was there. It became crystal clear within a few sentences that they were ticked off at the boss. Whatever he or she had done to them, they spent their lunchtime discussing strategies for getting their frustrations addressed. I almost laughed. How many lunches have I spent listening to colleagues cussing and discussing aggravations at work? It doesn't matter if you work in the big city or the small city - it's the same all over.

I have a knack for happening into conversations between disgruntled co-workers. I'm always surprised how verbal people will be in front of total strangers. I've been standing at checkout counters, listening to the clerks trashing their supervisor when suddenly it occurs to one of them that I could very well cause them some trouble, if I were to ask to speak to a manager. The look of consternation, followed by a quick apology, always makes me smile. Heck, I've been there myself, I always tell them.

I try not to do my venting in public. At one point in my past, a former co-worker and I were chatting at lunch and I was catching her up on the latest excitements at the office, when I suddenly realized that the folks at the next table worked for our primary competitor. Fortunately I had not said anything derogatory or that would identify where I worked, but the possibility that I could have was unsettling. When I'm out to lunch in Austin, I do try to keep things generic, since you never know if your boss's cousin is at the next table. It seems like everybody in Northwest Hills is related or a friend of or a business associate to everyone else. I started taking a quick scan around when I sit down to see if I know anybody there. (I've spotted wives sitting within ear-shot.) This last caution is definitely hit-or-miss, since I'm horrible at remembering faces. I identify voices, but faces escape me if I don't see them every day.

I was amused yesterday, because I know how they felt. And their secret was safe with me. Sometimes you just have to get it out of your system. I'm sure they went back to the office, still frustrated, but a little less hostile than when they left for lunch. If for no other reason than they were full of quesadillas. A little venting and Tex-Mex. It's a good thing. But be careful to check who is in the next booth.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Case of Mean Reds*

I've spent most of the day with an internal mad going. You know how it goes. One thing on top of another on top of another and then somebody does something and you snap. And you spend the rest of the day with your juices at a low boil. And the straw that breaks your camel's back is generally some piffling bulls--t that's not worth your attention, much less letting your whole system go arse over teakettle.

The bottom line is I'm tired. And when I get tired, watch out. The folks at work have been warned for many years that if you want to know how I really feel, ask me when I'm tired. You will get the unvarnished, unadulterated truth with no attempt to apply diplomatic filters. And when I reach that point, I don't waste my time feeling any guilt over bruised feelings.

It's mostly the fallout of two months of unending work. Add to that a round of doctor visits with my mother and the threat of a hospital stay that I know would cause more troubles than it would solve. (Thankfully that one got nipped in the bud by a doctor with a conflicting view of the situation.) Then the crowds of people out buying school supplies and making it impossible for a lunch time shopper to make any headway at all. Multiplied by the number of drivers who go completely incompetent when they see a few drops of rain. Divided by housework that there is no time to do. And then the straw.

There are several blogs that I read that I've come to count on to lift my spirits for a few minutes during the day. Sometimes they give me a laugh, sometimes a thought to ponder, and sometimes a similar experience to commiserate. Yesterday, one of my favorite blogs turned into a mud-slinging fight over one of those subjects that is best avoided in mixed company. (You know what they are: politics, religion and sex.) A little venting of frustration over the economy and the war. And then all hell broke loose, thanks to a super patriot who blasted their opinion (in triplicate) that a real American does not criticize or question those in charge. The blogger in question finally had it and invited the pious patriot to exit the discussion if they couldn't be civil. Then World War III broke out.

Well. The fallout of all that was a very real possibility that someone whose writing I have thoroughly enjoyed will pull the plug on the blog. All due to a small-minded person who couldn't stand anyone to disagree with them. My vicarious anger over the situation pushed me into the Mean Red zone.

Thank goodness for little dogs. They are every bit as good for my spirits as a trip to Tiffany's was for Holly Golightly. Everything is beginning to settle back to an even keel. For now. I'm actually beginning to catch up at work. We didn't have to do the hospital thing after all. School started (just those college kids in the stores now). Yesterday's afternoon rain waited to start until I was turning into the subdivision. And I'm going to take a moratorium on reading that particular blog for awhile. When I need a lift, I'm going to grab a puppy and get some of those unrestrained kisses that they dole out so willingly. Good medicine for the Mean Reds. As Scarlett was wont to say, "I'll think about that tomorrow. After all tomorrow is another day."

*By the way, if you don't get the reference to the Mean Reds, you need to rent Breakfast at Tiffany's. Holly Golightly defined them as worse than a case of the blues. The Mean Reds for her was when you're scared and you don't know why. The only thing that would cheer her up was a trip to Tiffany's, because nothing bad could happen to you in Tiffany's. Of course, she only had a cat. What she really needed was a puppy dog.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Memories of Palmer

In keeping with the week I've had, this is my second composition on this topic. I'm sure the first was better, so bear with me. Nothing more frustrating than an hour spent polishing a blog entry, pressing the post button, and having the darned thing shot into God knows where. Not sure what to blame--my computer, Blogger, Roadrunner, a faulty ethernet plug or something else entirely. All I know is point A didn't connect to point B and all evidence of my hard work disappeared in the twinkling of an eye. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

This morning's Austin American-Statesman included an article on the imminent demise of Palmer Auditorium. I cannot quite conceive of an Austin without that familiar round building by the river. It is going to be odd the day I go over that overpass from Mopac to Cesar Chavez (1st Street) and there is no green domed roof to be seen.

Palmer Auditorium was relatively new when we moved to Oak Hill in 1959. My first time inside the building was on a field trip in first or second grade to see a live production of Sleeping Beauty (or maybe it was Cinderella). I was enchanted, and a spark was ignited that flamed into a love of live theater thereafter.

We moved to south Texas for several years and it would be quite some time before I again had a reason to be inside Palmer. But I would always look for it on our trips to Austin. That big green dome was a familiar friend.

My second visit to Palmer would be during my Freshman year in Smiley High School. I was in my second year of Home Economics, a subject that I was quite taken with and briefly considered as a possibility for a college major. (That idea was squashed the next year by an irksome Home Ec teacher. Nothing like a bad teacher to sour you on a subject forever.) My teacher that year was Miss Thomas, who I remember fondly for teaching me to knit. I was a member of the Future Homemakers of America and the convention was to be held in Austin at the Palmer Auditorium. A group of us and our teacher boarded a bus and headed off to the big city. Along about Luling, I found myself appointed to be the Smiley delegate to the convention. I had about 45 minutes to study the material I would be voting on later that day. I was all of 15, already taking myself way too seriously and worried about doing a good job for my school.

That day I discovered there was more to Palmer Auditorium than the auditorium. I spent the day walking up and down the long ramps to the various meeting rooms, listening to the presentations of the different options, and voting. I have no idea what the other girls were doing that day or what fun I might have missed. I did get a very extensive tour of the upper floors of the building.

When we moved to Bastrop in the early 70s, I had many occasions to walk the round corridor around the auditorium. Before the SAMI shows, there were Sertoma arts fairs and Mother and I spent many a Saturday prowling the booths set up in the auditorium.

I attended several concerts at Palmer. This was before the Special Events Center came to town. The acoustics were awful for music, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely. We sat about 10 rows away from Tom T. Hall when he came to town at the height of his popularity. One enjoyable evening was spent in the company of Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Billy Swan and Willie Nelson.

I descended the musty stairwell to the basement many times to attend the Book and Paper Shows. I attended my first doll show at Palmer. For several years my friend Marianna and I went to the Junior League Christmas Affair and hobnobbed with the society folks. My last visit to Palmer was a couple of years back when I went to a live production of The Music Man, starring Larry Gatlin. The audience was seated at tables in something of a dinner theater format. At the end, an orchestra from one of the local high schools marched in to 76 Trombones. I can't think of a better way to spend my last moments in the venerable old building.

Today's article mentioned that they plan to incorporate some of the green tiles from the roof into the new Long Performance Center. I find that comforting. After all, that roof soaked up the music of Elvis, the voices of years of school children, the words of governors and even a President or two. How appropriate that some of that history be retained. For years the important events of Austin took place in that round building on the river, under the green domed roof. The very air there vibrates with the history of Austin. There are many of us old-timers who will miss that place, bad acoustics and all.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Amen, Brother Beecher

I subscribe to a daily newsletter from Ancestry.com which includes a "Thought for Today" at the end. Yesterday's was a quote from Henry Ward Beecher, a man after my own heart:

"A little library, growing larger every year, is an honorable part of a man's history. It is a man's duty to have books. A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessaries of life."

I will no longer feel guilty about the growing number of books in my personal library. I'm only fulfilling my duty. Boy, am I fulfilling my duty.

Now I need a quote to cover my compulsive CD buying habit.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Yes, I said No

I'm channeling my parents, grand parents and great-grandparents today. I shooed Mojo out of one of my orchid pots (he was determined to string bark and charcoal around the floor), and when I told him "No!", he gave me that incredulous look he's so good at. And then I caught myself saying "Yes, I said no!" Egads.

We have rechristened our house the House of Poo. Not as in Winnie, but as in what I pick up constantly through the day. It amazes me what can be produced by two tiny dogs during a 24 hour period. Coco is beginning to get the idea that it belongs outside, but Mojo has the idea that he has to hold it in until he gets back in the house or he will be a great disappointment to Mommy. She does seem to collect the stuff, for some reason. Stores it in that big white porcelain thing in the tiny room in the hall.

On another front, I am still wading through a stagnant swamp of work. There are days when I wonder if I will ever again get to do something I want to do. I know it can't last forever, but right now I feel like I've been wearing waders for two months and the stuff is beginning to flow over the top and pool around my feet. What I wouldn't give for a day or two of twiddling my thumbs.

My kingdom for a clone. I would love to send some little android in to do my work while I get back to genealogy, miniatures and knitting. I have piles of things in each category that need to be dealt with, but instead they are collecting dust. I'm way overdue in constructing a new family newsletter, but time doesn't allow it right now. I have dollhouse kits stacked in my work room ready to become my next fantasy house or shop. There is a small mountain of fabulous yarn I have amassed, and a pile of tempting patterns, and all my knitting needles remain empty. Oh well, I guess when I end up in a room with padded walls, I'll have lots of creative therapy available. But, then again, they would probably take my knives, saws, scissors and needles away from me. Ya just can't win.