Friday, July 28, 2006

Learning to Love Agatha

Many, many, many years ago I read a few mysteries by Agatha Christie because my mother thought she was a great mystery writer. I came to the conclusion that I liked her character Hercule Poirot, but only when he was assisted in his detecting by the pseudo-Watson, Captain Hastings. I was a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and, having exhausted the available stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was happy to find a substitute detective. I soon ran out of the Poirot/Hastings stories and tried a Miss Marple. I found her little lady detective boring and I did not care for the solo Poirot stories. So I dismissed Agatha Christie from my reading list, convinced that at best she had briefly provided a poor substitute detective for Sherlock Holmes and then screwed that up by phasing Captain Hastings out of the picture.

Over the years I watched my mother grab up the new books by Dame Agatha and wondered why on earth she kept reading the things. Mother admitted that she did not care that much for Poirot and not at all for the characters Tommy and Tuppence. But she loved Miss Marple. I tried her again and found her boring. So I gave it up and decided that Agatha Christie just was not my cup of tea.

I would from time to time watch a movie or episode of "Mystery" featuring Miss Marple and actually enjoy the story, but I guess I thought that the screen writers had embellished the story. Because, after all, Miss Marple was boring.

The funny thing is, I devoured a whole series of mystery stories by Patricia Wentworth, whose detective was an elderly little lady named Miss Silver, who knitted and quietly pieced together clues to identify murderers and who was highly respected by the local constabulary. I didn't find her boring at all. Not like Miss Marple, a elderly little silver-haired lady, who knitted and quietly pieced together clues to identify murderers and who was highly respected by the local constabulary. I just thought Patricia Wentworth was a more interesting writer.

Well, now I'm eating my words. It started when I picked up a couple of Hercule Poirot audio books. I found myself enjoying the stories, but again I discovered that I didn't really like Poirot without Hastings. Then one day I found a good buy on a Miss Marple audiobook. I was hungry for a mystery and the price was right, so even with my long-standing prejudice against the character I decided I would give it another try.

To my great surprise, I discovered that while I might not enjoy reading Miss Marple mysteries, I really enjoy listening to them. And I'm learning to enjoy the finely crafted stories that came out of the mind of Agatha Christie. The lady could weave a story full of false leads down various primrose paths and then miraculously knit them all into a solid conclusion that you don't see coming. It's real entertainment and that hour-long trip between Austin and Bastrop flies by as you listen.

So, I freely admit I was wrong all those years. Yes, the stories are a bit dated, but they are solid writing and the story lines are enthralling. Agatha Christie was a master of the art of the mystery. Now when I get hungry for a mystery, I know where to go for a good meal.

And Miss Marple is far from boring.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Get Set

I haven't gotten a chance to see it yet, but I'm looking forward to the new Pirates of the Carribbean movie. In preparation for that and for "Talk Like a Pirate Day" coming up on September 19th, you can start practicing your Pirate talk by visiting the Official Talk Like a Pirate website.

I particularly like the collection of Pirate Pick Up Lines.

Avast, me hearties! I'm off to grab a bit of shut eye. Aarrgh.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Well, not quite night. It was a dark and stormy afternoon. About 3 o'clock this afternoon a little storm cell settled right over our house and put on a fireworks show. My puppies, 'til now unaffected by thunderstorms, were unsettled by the loss of electricity and the ear-popping noises coming through the roof. They are probably thinking that Xana was right all along. Xana heads for the end of Gran's shower to ride out the mildest of thunderstorms. The puppies have always taken Mommy's word for there being nothing to worry about. Until today.

The storm having rattled it's fiercest and dumped a heavy 20-minute rain has finally moved along. The puppies have snuggled into bed with their Gran for a recuperative nap.

Poor dogs have had a rough day. Late last night Mojo had a major nightmare and woke us all screaming with fright. In his terror, he emptied his little bladder all over the foot of the bed. We were forced to move to the guest room for the remainder of the night.

Easier said than done. Xana was fine with the idea, but the puppies had no idea that they could sleep in a strange bed. It took a good half-hour of snuffling the entire bed before they could settle down and get back to a restless sleep. We're crossing our fingers that tonight will be an uneventful one. We all need the rest.

To backtrack a couple of days, let me briefly report on a dedication ceremony I attended on Thursday night. Over the past year, the Bastrop County Historical Society has done some restoration and improvement projects at Fairview Cemetery. This was the dedication of those projects and also of a new historical marker that designates Fairview Cemetery as a Texas Historic Cemetery. All of the local dignataries were present, including our local State Representative Robbie Cook. The ceremonies were conducted from the new pavilion, built from local rock.

The good-sized crowd sat under a large tree, enjoying a cool breeze and the opportunity to visit with neighbors and city council members.

The ceremony was well executed, the new historic marker unveiled, and the community has a newly refurbished cemetery to be proud of. One of the restored areas that is of particular interest is the War Babies section. (Follow the link here to see the photos I've entered in Find A Grave.) This section of the cemetery was donated by the city during World War II for the burial of babies born to wives of the soldiers stationed at Camp Swift who did not have the wherewithal to bury those babies that did not survive.

It's projects like these that make me proud to be a member in good standing of the Bastrop County Historical Society. This group of people is doing a good job.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Another Week Closer to Death

Yeah, I'm a little depressed. I'm in the 3rd week of yet another whirling cesspool of data that certain unenlightened people (read: non-programmer bosses) think will all be cleared up if you "just push a button!". They've smartened up enough in the course of 30 years to know not to toss that little phrase in my direction if they want to have all their teeth still in their mouth when they leave the building.

This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall freakin' pass one of these freakin' days.

It wasn't all horrible this week. Monday and today I indulged in Baja Shrimp Tacos from La Salsa. Gawd, they're good. Aside from that, not much of pleasant commentary can I dredge up out of the depths of my insane existence.

Except that Xana is doing well, Coco is now bouncing up and down the stairs like "what's the big deal with this", and Mojo is turning into a little tyrant. In other words, situation normal on the home front. Come to think of it, situation normal on the work front.

Countdown 3-1/2 months to vacation.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Comparing Little Apples and Big Apples

We've reached a major milestone. Coco has learned to climb the stairs to the second floor. I was beginning to think she would never conquer her fear of heights. I've bragged on her until she's turned pink and she's quite pleased with herself.

I spent last night and this morning in the company of three greyhounds. Well, make that two greyhounds and one saluki, a breed that looks very much like a greyhound only smaller. My friends Lana and Gary are involved with the Greyhound Pets of America and have two adopted greyhounds. (Their first adoption, Cici, recently succumbed to an aggressive cancer. Faye and Grappa are now running the household. Shelley, the saluki, is a houseguest while her foster parents are away.)

Faye, the little lady

Shelley, the houseguest

It's pretty funny to compare the three giant dogs with my three little ones. The only difference is size. Both sets follow your every footstep, sprawling on the floor when you settle in a room. Of course when the greyounds sprawl, there's not a lot of floor space left in the room. The greyhounds are every bit as spoiled as mine, though they sleep on their own beds and not with their humans. It's hard enough to fit my three on the other side of my bed. One greyhound would require the entire bed.

Grappa takes the couch

The greyhounds don't bark much. Mine barely stop. The greyhounds manage to walk among antiques and breakables and gracefully avoid dislodging anything. Mine tear around the house like wild dogs, dragging blankies and towels in their wake and generally making a mess at every opportunity. The greyhounds are faithfully housebroken. Mine? Let's just not go there.

Dogs will be dogs, whatever the size. They will take to spoiling like ducks to water. And I do love a spoiled dog. I had a great time playing with the big dogs, but I was glad to get home and have my little ones welcome me with plentiful kisses.

Dogs big or small. They are not just a good thing, they are a necessary thing. Even if you have to carry them upstairs to bed every night. Which I don't have to do anymore. Coco has graduated.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Once Upon a Time

This picture was once a most embarrassing moment. I remember being horrified when the picture was taken and I dreaded when it would pop up on those nights when slides were shown against the wall. I was a modest little thing back then. (But cute, huh?)

I have so very few pictures taken inside my grandparents' house. Most of what I do have are slides that have turned red. But with a little digital editing, I can almost remember what the real colors of the wallpaper were. The droopy drawers photo above was taken in the back bedroom.

In the living room was a fireplace. My grandfather would get up early on cold mornings and build a roaring fire. The picture of me and my parents was just to the left of that fireplace, while the photo below shows the menfolks busy. I think they were trying out a game that one of us kids got for Christmas.

And in the kitchen, the womenfolk doing the dishes.

Finally, the photo that I was looking for that started this trip down memory lane. In a conversation tonight with my uncle and cousin, I was reminded of a time when somebody rashly gave little brother a drum for Christmas. This photo is a reminder that love suffereth long and is kind.

This is fun. I think I am going to have to dig in the archives and find some more examples of that old house. Good times and good people. Good memories.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Mojo Learns to Purl

This is Mojo's first experience with Mom's knitting. He's perplexed. He's not at all sure what's going on.

It's been awhile since I knitted. In an effort to deal with a generalized burnout in the genealogy department, I've decided to take a summer break and return to two other hobbies that have been neglected in recent years - my knitting and my dollhouses. Yesterday was spent relocating pieces of a gift shop dollhouse that had been relegated to the garage during "the move". The dogs are always ready to help on any project that requires rooting around in the garage. I had way more help that any one person deserves.

The dollhouse project got an unexpected burst of motivation from an item I picked up in a Smithville antique shop last weekend. I've had a collection of miniature reproductions of certain of the "crown jewels" of England for many years now, a Christmas gift from Mother once upon a time. I've not ever had a good idea what to do with them, but when I saw this, I knew that the time had come.

As soon as my order of faux marble pedestals arrives, I will install crowns and jeweled scepters and the throne room will be the newest addition to the resident dollhouses. I already have two other projects in motion. It's fun to return to the world of miniatures.

It's also been fun returning to the world of knitting. I have multiple "in progress" projects tucked around the house and I'm hoping my motivation will last long enough to get a couple of them finished at long last. Mojo hopes that my motivation dies quickly.

He can't figure out how to avoid the dangling yarn. It tickles his ears. He shifts position and manages to wrap it around his paw. Mother has to put everything down and detangle him. He settles down and she starts again and it tickles his ear. Round and round and round we go. Eventually he will learn to lie under the knitting itself and enjoy the soft cover while he naps, but for now it's an aggravation and his little puppy patience is wearing thin.

But for my part, it's a rediscovered tranquility. Xana napping between my leg and the chair arm. Mojo in my lap. Coco snuggled against my foot. The steady motion of yarn and needles. An old movie playing on Turner Classic Movies. Peace.

Until the yarn tickles his ear.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Cindy is My Name, Blogging is My Game

Ok, it's taken me two days to crawl off my soapbox. I'll try to avoid politicizing for a little while.

April Fool! In case you need to start planning for the next governor's race, you can mosey over to and pick up a bumper sticker. He cannot possibly be a worse choice than the dunderhead that's doing the job now. As the slogan goes, "Why the hell not?". At least Kinky would put some personality into the office. (Damn, I miss Ann.)

In other news, I finally figured out how to list links on my blog page, so if you look at the bottom of the column to the left, you can find a few links to blogs that I read regularly.

Anytime you need a good reason to go "Awwww", try Cute Overload. 'Nuf said. You visit, you'll be hooked.

Electic Mind is a blog I happened onto awhile back that is written by another lady in a care-giving situation. That's not all she writes about, but it's why I started reading her blog. Sisters in a similar situation, dontcha know.

Yarn Harlot is a new find and probably won't appeal to anybody who hasn't fed a yarn habit in their lifetime. But if you knit or crochet, this gal is a hoot. And I'm unofficially considering her family since her name includes "McPhee".

Induljence is an intermittently updated blog by a former co-worker. She starts every post with a photo of her newly adopted home, New York City. The pictures alone are worth the visit. She's got a gift for photography.

For now we end the list with brother David's Raidho Flyer and if you think I'm politically opinionated, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

That's all for now. TGIF, double.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

This Land is Our Land

This is a difficult time to be an American. We are suffering from a severe identity crisis abroad, for one thing. We seem to have acquired the schoolyard bully reputation and I fear it will take us a long time to win back the respect of other countries. If we ever do. It all depends on the next administration, because let's face it, this administration has repeatedly shot itself in the foot and the patient is terminal.

But I still feel proud to be an American. Regardless of the efforts of the current bunch of bozos at the helm to rewrite the Constitution, our founding fathers established a great nation on sound principles that will no doubt stand the test of time for another few generations. The best thing about our country is that sooner or later the idiots get bounced and another group gets a chance to clean up the mess left behind.

It's our history that continues to give me a sense of pride and a reason for patriotism. So, it was with some consternation that I read the latest Dixie Chicks' symptom of hoof-in-mouth disease.

I'm still a Dixie Chicks fan and I understand completely why they are sitting in the corner with their lower lips pushed out and their arms crossed. The first mis-guided comment caused a small earthquake in the country music community when it should have slid by unnoticed. After all, they are not the first people to criticize the Prez and they certainly won't be the last and who cares what their political opinion is anyway. They are three 30-something girls that sing. Poor Natalie said what she thought, which by the way is the primary reason we all like being American. She didn't say you had to agree with her. Though I did, so it didn't bother me one little bit.

But God forbid you criticize the government say the pious ones. Since when? For pity sakes there are still Republicans out there that are pointing out the foibles of the Clinton administration and the man's been out of office for 6 years. Give it a rest, people, and get a life. Methinks thou doth protest too much and are trying to point the finger away from issues that really should be dissected in broad daylight.

When I read that Natalie had made another statement, again to a British audience, I just shook my head. But turns out it bothered me this time. "...I don't understand the necessity for patriotism. Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but, as for loving the whole country ... I don't see why people care about patriotism."

Poor Natalie must not have a feeling of her place in history. I understand she's pissed off because her basic AMERICAN right to speak her mind bought her a boat load of personal misery from the hands of some loud mouthed narrow-minded people who themselves do not "get" patriotism.

Patriotism is about feeling pride in the land you were lucky enough to be born in because your ancestors fought against forces that limited their freedom and won the right for you to be able to speak your mind any time you feel like it. Patriotism is about feeling pride that your country generally tries to do the right thing, even though it steps on its own foot trying to do so. Patriotism is feeling pride because even though the government fumbled in providing disaster relief, the PEOPLE stepped in and gave money, time and themselves to get things rolling.

Patriotism is also about recognizing that you have to extend the right of freedom to your fellow citizens to speak their minds, even when they disagree with you. They have an equal right to criticize the government when they think it is going down the wrong path. If there is any one freedom we should celebrate, it is that freedom of thought and speech. Without that basic freedom, you might as well live in the Middle East and let a few rich men tell you what to do with every waking minute of your day and imprison you or worse if you show the slightest tendency to buck their authority.

What makes this country the greatest on earth is that it is a government OF THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE AND BY THE PEOPLE. And you're not going to like everything and everybody all the time. But when you don't like what's going on, you can do your part to change things by getting out there and voting for the way it should be. Regardless of what some folks who are in office at the moment seem to think, their day in the sun will come to an end one of these days and things will swing a different direction and the United States of America will keep going so long as the PEOPLE take an interest and make their choices of conscience at every opportunity presented.

Why patriotism? Because you're damned lucky to live here, that's why. We may not be perfect, but the PEOPLE are the best collection of folks you can ever hope to find anywhere else on earth. Long may they govern.

LSW, United States Patriot