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.