Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Can I Borrow $876,000?

Collecting is hard on the pocket book. I keep saying I'm not going to collect anything else and then before I know it, I have acquired 3 of something and the mad rush to get the rest of the set is on.

Back before the days of the Internet and the ability to find just about anything instantly, it was much more challenging to build a collection. It might be years between acquiring one item and finding the next. But now, you can rapidly build up your collection until you get to that point that there's just one or two more to complete the set. And, of course, those are the same two items that everybody else wants and the price of completing your set gets ridiculous. (For the record, if you know anybody else that collects the Take a Seat miniature chairs and has an extra "Sand and Sea" or "Peacock Splendor" or "Windsor Baby Chair", send them my way. Those are the last three I need.)

One of my collections that started back in the days when it took years to add a new item are books by the turn-of-the-century author Amelia E. Huddleston Barr. According to a great-grandaunt on the Hodge/Huddleston side of the family our Huddlestons are related to the lady. Even though I've never been able to tie down what the relationship might be, I have collected her books over a period of about 20-25 years. They are generally charming, Victorian volumes that are what one might call uplifting moral stories for young ladies.

Apart from the potential family connection, Amelia Barr is also interesting for the reason that she and her husband emigrated from Great Britain to Texas in the 1850s. The family lived in Austin for several years before moving to Galveston where her husband and sons fell victim to a yellow fever epidemic. Left a single mother with young daughters, she moved to New York and turned to writing fiction to support them. She ultimately became one of the most prolific writers of her time.

Her life in Texas is recounted in detail in her autobiography All the Days of My Life. The picture she paints of pre-Civil War Texas is fascinating. Naturally I wanted a copy of this book as soon as I heard about it. I was told at the time (about 1976) that the copies were so rare that I should be prepared to pay $250 if and when I found a copy. I finally found a reprint service and bought a copy for about a third of that price, but I still wanted the real thing. Many years later, along comes EBAY and sellers who did not know the value of that particular book. I now own four of the originals, my own collection within a collection.

It's gotten to the point that I have a copy of most of Amelia's books and I rarely add to that particular collection. I still monitor EBAY for the few that I don't have and for the odd autograph or photo of the lady. And that is the reason why I now need $876,000 to purchase the ultimate Amelia Barr collectible.

You see, her house in Cornwall-on-Hudson is up for sale. Yesterday when I ran my semi-regular check on EBAY, there it was. A 3500 square foot Victorian mansion constructed in 1886. It has 6 bedrooms, 4 baths, 3 maid bedrooms, 2+ acres and more. And this is where Amelia lived! See the listing here. I would even consider living in New York for that house.

Dang, the temptation. My collector's soul is in severe craving mode. {Groan}. Contributions will be gratefully received.


Monday, November 27, 2006

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

On the good side:
Sitting in the midst of relatives is always a blast. Even if you don't see each other but once a year, there's no denying the common bonds that family share that make you a special combination in the universe. Along the way, we observed that every one of the descendants of my grandparents has an innate ability to write well. We observed that while most of their descendants inherited the weight genes of my grandmother, one line inherited the weight genes of my grandfather and will always be that perfect, willowy thin that the rest of us battle to attain. (We love them anyway.) We observed that with no exception, all of us move to the beat of our own drummer. That fierce independent streak probably comes straight from the Scot-Irish strain, and I'm proud to be a part of it. We may be difficult to understand and especially to control, but we're never dull.

Grandparents Horace & Lucy Hodge

On the bad side:
Getting a call first thing Thanksgiving morning announcing that your father has fallen and broken his hip. Little brother caught the brunt of this festive round of hospitalization, since Mother can't be left alone. While I enjoyed the company of family on Saturday, he kept the vigil in the surgical waiting room. All is as well as could be expected under the circumstances, but the fact remains that our parents are in decline and the future for them is clouded. One bright spot has been the instant support received from my father's family in the way of emails and phone calls. Another unique family unit that I'm proud to be a part of.

Great-grandparents Will & Amanda Frankum

On the ugly side:
My house. The kittens are in total destruct mode. Things I put in wastebaskets are taken out and shredded into a million pieces. Boo is determined to explore the great outdoors and I have to dash out in my tattered nighty to retrieve him, which is no doubt going to get me a call from the neighborhood association to cease creating a public eyesore. They resent being shut out of my bedroom at night (I have to get some sleep, after all) and run down the hall to slam their little bodies against the door in protest. Sounds like hurricane BooScout has hit. They get into my clothes hamper and drag my underwear down the stairs. And then they crawl into my lap and start that crazy purring. Only thing that keeps their little hides intact.

Gee, I can't wait for Christmas.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Game Day Followup

My camera takes terrific pictures, which aren't really done justice by the time they reach the blog. However, there are a few more shots that I will share from yesterday's game. Two more of the bands: the UT band in the stands, with the tubas gleaming in the sun and the Aggie band preparing to take the field. And the video display screen in the end zone. The high-definition screen at UT has even earned a place in Wikipedia. Known as a jumbotron, or in this case a godzillatron, it is an awesome piece of electronics.

(That's the UT band during half-time.)


Friday, November 24, 2006

Getting Dumped On

It had been about 20 years since I last attended a college football game in person. There was a time, back during my high school and college years that my father had contacts with season tickets to Baylor and A&M games and we attended at least one game a season for several years. I was a UT fan in the late 1960s, when they had that wonderful combo of Wooster, Bertleson and Phillips. Later on, when I got to college, I switched to rooting for Baylor, since that was the closest kindred school to Mary Hardin-Baylor.

But I always had a soft spot for UT and would root for them, except when they were up against Baylor. And I still have a soft spot for UT, so when I was offered a chance to attend the UT/A&M Thanksgiving game this year I grabbed it.

I had forgotten how much different it is to sit in the stands, as opposed to watching on TV. (Though now you can watch it on TV at the same time, what with the huge video display that offers instant replays. And ads. Those I could do without.)

We were only a few rows up from the UT bench, in a stadium that was almost entirely orange.

The enthusiasm of the fans was worth the trip. From the time the players entered the stadium in a cloud of smoke, the cheering squads, the band and the fans were in constant motion and in loud support of the team. The Aggies made the scoreboard first, but the Horns came back with their own touchdown and led 7-6 for quite awhile. The mood of all concerned was fairly upbeat at the half.

The Aggie Band was in perfect form, as usual.

The UT Band is always the best part of the game for me.

And the crowd went wild. Particularly when a touchdown on UT's part was called back for some infraction that I did not understand and that really ticked off the die-hard Horns around me. From then on, the game went the wrong way for the Horns. With long times of possession by the Aggies, and during which they scored the winning touchdown, time just ran out for the Horns. But they kept trying and the fans kept their enthusiasm up to the end. Sadly, in the last 25 seconds of the game, the Horns' quarterback was injured and was transported off the field and to the hospital for evaluation. A troubling end to a difficult game.

I can only hope that my attending the game was not a jinx. Back during those days when our family travelled regularly to Waco or Bryan for games, it seemed like I always supported the wrong team. (Not that fans of Baylor weren't used to losing during those days, but it was still a disappointment to never see them win.) I even stopped watching UT in bowl games on TV, because they only won when I didn't watch them. I had hoped that the jinx was broken last year when I took a chance and watched the Horns win the National Championship. Let's hope today was a fluke, because I rediscovered today how much more enjoyable a game is in person and I don't intend to wait another 20 years to see another one.

Last, but not least, the perfect end to a day when your team loses. I decided to stop at a Sonic on the way out of town and pick up a Route 44 diet Coke with lime. (Love the things.) I wait for 10 minutes, pay my $2, and head out MLK toward Webberville. After I manuvered the traffic signal, I lifted my glass for the first swallow and discovered that the car hop had somehow managed to puncture the glass as she handed it to me and it had been leaking for several minutes. I had diet Coke pouring into my lap, the cup holder in my console was full, and I was in traffic that gave no opportunity to pull over and deal with the gushing, sticky fluid. Forty-four ounces of the stuff. I used my jacket to attempt to sop up the mess, but since the jacket is somewhat waterproofed that didn't help too much. I finally hit a stop light and dumped what was left out the window. Never even got to taste it.

I still had a good time today.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Just Plain Nauseating

These two heathen cats spent all afternoon sleeping on the back of the big chair, purring like crazy. I had intended to post a video clip, but haven't yet figured out how to get that accomplished. Suffice it to say that they've been purely sickening.

Nothing is safe anymore. They were up at 4:30 this morning racing up and down the stairs and throwing themselves at the bedroom door. A couple of nights ago they managed to turn over a dollhouse kit that was leaning against the guest bed and it sounded like someone had broken in.

On the other hand, they will crawl in my lap, reach up and pat my face and start that insane purring. When I was little and would get to giggling, Mother would tell me that my giggle box had turned over. These cats regularly turn their purr box over. They erupt with rattly purrs that you can hear clear across the room.

This is what I have to live with. You should have pity on me.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006



Twenty pounds gone.

Five to go.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Say It Isn't So!

A couple of posts back I mentioned that I have definite plans to enjoy a Mexican pig out after I drop a few more pounds. My plans involved La Cabana restaurant outside Smithville.

Saturday's Bastrop Advertiser carried a story that has me in shock. Seems a few days ago, along about midnight and shortly before the last of the employees were to leave for home, an electrical fire broke out in the ceiling. The fire department was quickly summoned. The fire was put out, but in doing so it was necessary to pull the ceiling down in the newer, non-smoking section of the restaurant. While the adjoining convenience store and gas station are still in operation, it was necessary for them to temporarily close the restaurant until repairs are made.

Holy taco cravings, Batman! While I'm relieved that the situation is temporary and that the main restaurant was basically undamaged, just knowing that their larrupin' salsa is out of reach has me pining for the stuff. I sure hope that the repair work is done post haste and within 6 pounds of today. I'm in pain here.



Saturday, November 18, 2006

Words to the Wise

A few years ago I bought one of those blank books you see in bookstores. I've never been one for journaling, until blogs came along, so instead of using it for its probable intended purpose, I have used it as a mini scrapbook. It contains interesting cartoons, obituaries of people I know but are not related to (the related ones would be filed in my family notebooks), articles clipped from newspapers, and a miscellany of quotes that could be used to fill in small gaps in family newsletters.

So, here is a sampling of my collection, for thought or a smile:

Every year is a souvenir that slowly fades away - Billy Joel

Your friends will know you better in the first minute than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.

Never confuse having a career with having a life.

Kids are like boomerangs -- the harder you throw 'em, the harder they hit the house when they return.

There's no need for a piece of sculpture in a home that has a cat. - Wesley Bates

Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog. - Franklin P. Jones

A skeptic is a person who when he sees the handwriting on the wall claims it's a forgery. - Morris Bender

It's all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you're finished.

Every murderer is probably somebody's old friend. - Agatha Christie

If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time. - Edith Wharton

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. - Edgar Allen Poe

It is the friends you can call at 4:00 a.m. that matter. - Marlene Dietrich

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's this day to day living that wears you out. - Anton Chekov

If you have an unpleasant neighbor, chances are he does too.

One of the greatest tragedies of life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts. - Benjamin Franklin

A good man will take care of his horses and dogs, not only while they are young, but also when they are old and past service. - Plutarch

Happiness is the art of making a bouquet of those flowers within reach. - Goddard

The wise man must remember that while he is a descendant of the past, he is a parent of the future. - Herbert Spencer

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. - Anatole France

And finally,

A closed mouth gathers no foot.


Out of Left Field

Sometimes you run across the oddest things.

This morning I was rearranging books in my office and came across a little volume I purchased on EBAY awhile back and had never had a chance to look at closely. It contained an essay on the efforts of the author back in the 1940s thru 1960s to have a marker erected at the grave of John Wesley Hardin, over the strenuous objections of some of the local folks in El Paso. I was idly flipping through the pages when I saw a reference to my old home town Smiley.

Upon closer reading, I discovered a surname that I was well familiar with. The referenced man's wife was the grand-daughter of John Wesley Hardin and had provided the author with quite a bit of information and support in his quest. The author had visited them at their home in Smiley. An old-timer I knew in Smiley when we lived there had the same unusual surname. He happened to be the grandfather of one of my close elementary classmates. My friend's grandfather had a different first name, but I knew there had to be a family connection and being the clever little genealogist I am, I set to work to find the connection.

In short order I discovered that my friend's grandfather was the son of the author's source and that, therefore, he was the great-grandson of John Wesley Hardin. Which made my friend the great-great-great granddaughter of John Wesley Hardin.

And I never knew a thing about this. I wonder if, given the notoriety of John Wesley Hardin, the family deliberately suppressed the information and possibly my friend had no idea at the time. Or, if the matter was discussed and I had no idea who John Wesley Hardin was and dismissed the information as uninteresting. Many years later, with a wider knowledge of Texas history, I was amazed to put all this together.

What a plum of a black sheep any genealogist in that family can claim! I can at least brag I once spent the night at the home of the outlaw's great-great-great granddaughter.



Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gobble, Gobble

Tomorrow is the annual company Thanksgiving pot-luck. I was trying to think up something I could take that would be generally acceptable as Thanksgiving fare and that I could eat. (Keeping in mind that the company springs for the turkey.) I gave up. I'm making homemade cranberry sauce that I can't have.

Thanksgiving this year is going to be a challenge.

No dressing.
No broccoli-rice casserole.
No sweet potato casserole.
No mashed potatoes.
No cranberry sauce.
No pumpkin or pecan or apple pie.
No hot rolls.
No pralines or peanut brittle (Hodge family get-together staples).

I can have turkey and salad and maybe a vegetable if there is no canned soup or onion rings or bread crumbs involved. Tomorrow I may not have anything more than turkey, because I know the kinds of things that show up at the company pot-lucks.

Well, pooh. I do love dressing and broccoli-rice casserole and pumpkin pie and hot rolls. But I am not interested in jeopardizing the diet. Just yet, anyway. I'm less than 10 pounds from my initial goal and I WILL MAKE IT or know the reason why.

So instead of anticipating the Thanksgiving glutton-fest, I am focusing on my own target. When I hit that goal that's just 7 pounds away, I am going off the diet for a day. I am going to my favorite Mexican food restaurant and eat my favorite enchilada plate and chips and salsa until I hurt. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

And the next day I'll consider what the next goal is. It's been tough some days, but it's sure nice to be a size and a half smaller than I was two months ago. I can live without one round of turkey and dressing.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Scenes from St. Thomas

Our first view of St. Thomas was pretty impressive. The weather was perfect. The sky and water were deep, clear blue. This was the scene coming into the harbor.

Our itinerary in St. Thomas involved a scenic bus ride into the hills, where we were offered several opportunities to take pictures. At one stop we had a beautiful view of our temporary home away from home.

At another stop, we had a terrific view of Magen's Bay Beach, which is on the list of most beautiful beaches in the world. It was rumored that Sir Frances Drake harbored his ships here. Once privately owned, the beach was given to the citizens of St. Thomas for their enjoyment.

We stopped for a tour of Blackbeard's Castle, which has very little to do with Blackbeard. We roamed through several historic buildings and museums. At the end of the tour, we were almost in the main shopping district, where we spent the next couple of hours exploring. To get to the shopping district, we descended a series of steps which took us through a small municipal park. The park had been claimed by a hen with her chicks and by these two old guys sprawled on a bench.They were not at all impressed with their visitors. They invited us to move along, which we did.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Island of Blue Dolphins

There seem to be some folks out there that don't believe I actually got up close and personal with dolphins. So here's the proof. Yours truly with Megara.

To answer the most common question I've heard so far: they feel like smooth leather. Not at all fishy. And yes, they are mammals. But no fur. They breath through a blow hole in the top of their head. The trainer got Megara to blow a big puff of air through the blow hole to demonstrate. Their ears are just behind their eyes and we were cautioned not to touch them there.

To begin with, we were taught how to cup our hands so that Megara could position herself in such a way that we could lift her out of the water for kisses. Afterwards, we held our hands palm down, parallel to the water and she rose up on her tail, let us hold her flippers and then she wriggled back and forth to dance with each of us.

I have to admit that I was a bit anxious, since I don't do well with fishy or crawly things. But interacting with Megara was somewhat akin to frolicking with a big, friendly dog. Some of the participants were allowed to toss her treats to her. That was when she would display a huge expanse of sharp teeth. We remarked on scraped places on her back and were told that it was marks received from the other dolphins as they play. At first we were taken aback, but he pointed out that dogs and cats bite when they play, and so do dolphins. It just shows up more with their smooth, velvety skin.

It was truly an experience of a lifetime.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me

So they gave me a shot and when I woke up I had a horrible bandage on my leg and a shaved butt. Where is the complaint department?


Post Surgical Report

Haven't gotten around to processing the trip photos yet, but I plan to get started this weekend. Things have been just a bit tense this week, as Mojo had surgery yesterday to correct some problems with his back leg. The report last night was good and he should get to come home tonight. The doctor said he has a bandage that is as big as he is, so I'm sure I will be waiting on the little guy paw and foot for awhile. (Like I wasn't already.)

Turns out that everything that could have been wrong with his leg was. He had torn a ligament that runs alongside his knee, the cartilage in his knee had shattered, and the groove that holds the kneecap in place was so shallow that the kneecap was sliding out of place. He has had an artificial ligament created, the pieces of cartilage removed and the groove deepened. No wonder the poor little guy was so touchy lately.

Mom was on pins and needles yesterday waiting for the doctor's call. She assured me that he was going to be sleeping through the night and loaded with pain meds and that someone would be there to keep an eye on him. I guess I'm improving a little, since I didn't insist they set up a cot in sick bay so I could stay with him. (The last time that Bebop had surgery, I was allowed special permission to sit in Recovery and hold him while he came out from anesthesia. When you spend the kind of money I do with a vet clinic, you can push your weight around a little.)

So I'm glad it's over and I'm looking forward to him being able to run around like a little boy should be able to do, without carrying one leg up all the time. I'm told it will be about 6 weeks before he's fully recovered, but the alternative was to never walk right again. I can live with 6 weeks of slavery. I'm sure he will take advantage of the situation.

In other news, the kittens grew about double while I was gone. They are at that lean and lanky pre-teen stage. And full of mischief. They've learned ways to get up to high places and prowl among the things I would rather they left alone. In other words, we are well on our way to having full blown cats. May God have mercy on our souls.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cloud Illusions

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
Ive looked at clouds that way

Coming back to Austin from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, we were warned of potential turbulence from thunderstorms. Above the storm, the clouds were fluffy and white, billowing up like whipped cream or maybe the 7 minute frosting that was so popular with my grandmothers' generation. Yes it was bumpy, but so very beautiful. And the words of Joni Mitchell sprang immediately to mind.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Brace Yourselves

I'm back and I have pictures.

The next few days will probably be a recap of my activities during the last few days.

But for now, just stopping by long enough to let you know I'm back safe and sound.

And tired.

But happy.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Cool Stuff

So yesterday I kissed a dolphin. Really. Me, the non-swimmer, who doesn't like fishy things in the ocean swimming between my feet. I actually got down in a pool with 4 dolphins, got kissed, gave a kiss, and danced with Megara. The only scary part was when they told us to get out in the pool and swim with them. I mentioned I don't swim. They said that's why they put life-preservers on us and to get out there. So I cautiously paddled my way over and hung on to Lana's life preserver to stabilize myself.

It was worth it. I also got to pet Megara and rub her tummy, which is somewhat akin to rubbing Coco's tummy. She had the same "gone" look on her face. Quite an experience.

Also, we got a half-hour to play on the pristine beach alongside the dolphin enterprise. The waves were very forceful and we got our noses rubbed in the sand several times. It turned us into little kids - giggling and running back for more. When we got back to our cabin later than night and peeled off our swimsuits, we had about a quart of sticky sand inside. This morning I was still scraping sand out of my ears.

The ride over to the island of Anguilla took about an hour by water taxi. It was a rough ride and we made the mistake on the way over of sitting in the outside portion. Exactly the perfect place to get completely soaked before we even got to the island. Anguilla is in the British West Indies and St. Maarten, where we started out belongs jointly to the Dutch and French. So I was in two foreign countries yesterday. Great experience, all the way around. We had a great day and didn't do one speck of shopping, which seems to be the primary motivation of a lot of people we are traveling with.

We are exhausted, but relaxed. Ready to get back home and kiss babies, but sorry to see the end of the trip.

But they are already talking about the next one. And maybe to Alaska....


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Pirate's Life for Me

So I went all the way to Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands, to see:

1) K Mart
2) McDonald's
3) Home Depot
4) Subway

Ok, at first it seemed like that was it. But then I saw:

1) Iguanas resting on a park bench
2) Mountains of bougainvilleas in every imaginable color
3) The view of an amazing harbor from a tramway
4) Pirate statues at Blackbeard's Castle (which, by the way, he never lived in)

It's a gorgeous place. It's a hot place. About 95 degrees and 95% humidity. It was getting to this ole Texas gal. Had to find a place in the shade and a cool drink.

The folks were nice. The scenery was unbelievable. Wouldn't have missed it for anything.