Friday, December 29, 2006


Out with the old. Here is the state of my old office on my last day at the old location. We spent about 25 years in the old building. During that time I lived in about a half-dozen different places on the second floor, with this being my home away from home the last 3-4 years.

Every where for a week before the move were piles and piles of yellow moving crates.

In with the new. Today was my first day in my new office at the new location. Still a lot of unpacking to do, but it's beginning to look like home. (I have a new roommate, you may note. The old computer, which is being phased out, will be living in the corner of my office until it croaks its last.)

The commute has increased by 10 miles one way and I now drive through farm land nearly the whole way on two lane farm-to-market roads. I'm still undecided whether the loss of bumper to bumper traffic offsets the increased mileage, but I'm thinking it may not be so bad in the long run. However, today's commute home was not an auspicious beginning. The rain began to pour down in buckets, with occasional peltings of hail. It's bad enough driving on divided highways with idiot drivers, but it's worse driving on undivided country roads with idiot drivers. It was white knuckle driving today. Of course, it can only get better now.

So ends an era. I've been with the company through two major moves now. I expect the next time they will do it without me. If there's a God in heaven.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

On the Plus Side

This office move thing has resulted in giving me the best Christmas present in years. I know it will be paid for in the unpacking that will be necessary next week, but for now I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy it.

Word came yesterday that the City of Round Rock has not yet cleared us for occupancy, so vacation has been extended yet another day. Thanks to all this extra time this year, I've managed to get some usually hard to schedule errands done and out of the way. I've changed my oil, seen my chiropractor and reflexologist, and today I get my hair done. With nothing on my schedule this morning, I plan to retreat upstairs with the dogs and cats and wallow in laziness until time to see my hairdresser. Good Christmas.

In other news, I've decided I don't need Amelia Barr's home. My new target is the biggest Victorian house in Bastrop, over on Church Street. Up for sale at an asking price of a paltry $1.25 million. If you would like to contribute, let me know and I'll give you my PayPal particulars.

On the other hand, I shelled out a massive amount yesterday for the taxes on my little house. I'm guessing the taxes on that historic estate would be a bit larger. But with your help, we can pull it off!


Monday, December 25, 2006

House Rules

Ok, here's the deal. If you get a Christmas present from us this year and it's purring, you must wait to open said present after you get home. No returns allowed. Regifting is acceptable, it you can get away with it.

Joy to the World!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two Days Before Christmas

And all through the house, the creatures are sleeping. A vast improvement from earlier this morning when the heathen cats were bouncing off the walls and the dogs were attempting to discipline them before Mom got any more irritable. Finally their energy gave out and they are fast asleep. I know the chaos will break out again, but for now I am enjoying the peace.

The office move has resulted in a couple of unscheduled vacation days, which gives me a stretch of 6 whole days of Christmas vacation. Yesterday I ran a few errands, but today I'm indulging myself in a day of doing what I want with no apologies. I'm liking it so well, I may keep to the same routine for the next 5 days.

It's been a long time since I have been in the mood to work on my family notebooks. This morning I finally got tombstone photos that I took during the April trip to Indiana and Illinois filed in the appropriate places. I have sorted the stack of "to be filed" into folders by family name and now I can begin evaluating the value of all this material I've gathered. I've taken one over-stuffed notebook and created two. In short, I'm finally getting some things done that have been long overdue.

Not sure what the afternoon and evening will bring. The rain dripping off the house is tempting me to crawl back into bed with the dogs and watch an old movie or two. Why not?

How nice to have several days with nothing that has to be done.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Just Plain Scary

Remember the scene from The Godfather when the fellow wakes up with the horse's head? Was it any less scary for me this morning at 3:00 a.m. when I ventured down the stairs and came across this grisly scene about half-way down?

Poor innocent little bear. Cut down in the prime of his life by a vicious attack of the heathen cats. They have no shame. Oh the inhumanity! Oh the horror! Oh how will I sleep tonight knowing the awful things that are happening under my roof?

Let the nightmares begin.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Now I Ask You

Just how is anybody supposed to get anything done around here? All activities are subject to "assistance".

(By the way, I don't usually take blurry pictures. However, most all of my pictures of the heathen cats are blurry. That should tell you something.)


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Heathen Cat

It seems like every time I casually refer to the kittens as the "heathens", some poor innocent gives me a look and says "how can you say that about those sweet little kittens?" Hah. Sweet, my you-know. Does this look sweet?

I present as evidence exhibit A. It used to be my piano lamp. This morning it became a pile of glass shards. Mr. Boo decided to explore the top of the piano this morning about 6:30. CRASH!!!!

I was not pleased to have to haul out the vacuum and sweep up glass before I even had my first cup of coffee. I was not pleased to discover about a half-dozen scars in my piano where the lamp bounced on its way to the floor. I was not pleased later in the day when I did some searching on the internet to discover how expensive it will be to replace the glass shade.

Boo beat a hasty retreat and did not resurface for an hour or so, at which time he strolled in, jumped in my lap and pretended he had no idea that he was in disgrace. And that insane purr.

Heathen, indeed.


Friday, December 15, 2006


I took today off - one of those irregularly scheduled mental health days. I decided to go to San Marcos and see what was going on at the outlet mall this close to Christmas. I had a couple of people left to shop for, so that was my excuse.

It was a good day. Nothing dramatic, just a series of small moments that gave me a lift here and there.

Sensory lift. When I left at 8 a.m., it was foggy. Pea soup, in fact. For most of the way between Bastrop and San Marcos, you could not see past the ditch on the side of the road. Traffic was light, so there were few headlights coming my way and the ones that did winked in and out of the mist like fireflies. I was listening to my new Celine Dion Christmas CD, which had lots of orchestral and choir effects. It struck me at one point that you could imagine you were floating in a cloud and hearing carols sung by a chorus of angels. It was a most enjoyable drive.

Inspiration. At my first stop (Hobby Lobby) I figured out how I could have some Christmas decorations this year that would not be subject to immediate shredding by the heathen cats.

Humor. Once the fog cleared, I passed two vehicles with bumper stickers that made me smile. On an RV was a sign like you would see on a gate to a ranch or estate--"Kramalot". On a small vehicle driven by fellow liberal came the message "Make Levees, not war".

Tripping down memory lane. I made a quick excursion to a music store at the mall. Surprisingly I found the item I was looking for and did not expect to find. I also found a newly released cd of the early songs of Rusty Wier. I had two of his albums when I was in college that I played until they were worn. I've been wishing they would release his early albums on cd, but his popularity is localized and it did not seem like they ever would. Today's find included remastered tracks of the best cuts from the two albums. I probably have not heard some of the songs for almost 30 years and as soon as the first guitar lick was played, the lyrics came back to me and I was tapping my foot and dancing in my seat. I had to play "Don't it Make You Wanna Dance?" and "Trouble" and "I've Heard You've Been Laying My Old Lady" twice through. Fabulous stuff. Felt like I was 18 again and learning to two-step with the girls on the 2nd floor of Ruth Stribling dorm.

Feeling like I belong. I've always had a soft spot for the non-conformists, which is why I like Austin. Cruising back from San Marcos I had two guys on motorcycles tailing me for quite awhile. We were on that stretch through Uhland and Niederwald where it's two-lane and no shoulder. Somebody about 6 vehicles ahead was poking along, in no hurry. Neither was I, so I just drove along, rocking to Rusty Wier, and keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror in case my companions got antsy and decided to pass. Traffic from the other direction was heavy and I knew I would have to make some adjustments if they suddenly pulled out. But they seemed content to cruise along slowly. When we finally got to an area where I could pull over on the shoulder and let them pass, here they came. Two guys about my age, waving a friendly salute as they drove by. I followed them for awhile and a little ways down the road, the fellow who had waved put his hand down to signal a stop at a place where there was nowhere to turn. I slowed and about that time 3 dogs came barreling across the road. I appreciated these guys not only for stopping for the dogs they could see and I couldn't, but also for warning me. I sorta hated to part company with them a little later down the road.

Life has been pretty sucky lately and it's nice to have a day when you go from one little lift to the next. Reminds you to appreciate the little things and to keep going. You're bound to drive out from under the fog eventually.


Thursday, December 14, 2006


I've been on a taste-test campaign lately, seeking the best tasting coffee to be had at the local grocery. I had this idea that the price didn't necessarily correspond to the best taste. I also decided to stick to ground coffee, even though I know that grinding your own beans would elevate the taste. I just don't wake up enough to be able to handle another chore in the morning, even the grinding of coffee beans.

First and foremost, all tests are done by making a full percolator of coffee. It just doesn't work to make coffee in smaller portions. Keeping in mind the following is my personal, humble, non-objective opinion, here is the tally so far:

Folger's isn't as bad as little brother thinks. It's at the high end of average.

Maxwell House, ditto.

Seattle's Best is yummy. I'm a little partial to Henry's Blend. Expensive, though, at the rate I guzzle the stuff.

Starbuck's is good, but since the price is about the same, I'll take Seattle's Best.

Stewart's I tried because it comes in a can with a Scottish tartan design, which appealed to my genealogical bent. I would put it at the low end of average.

Melitta. Ick. Bleah. Sucks. First can I was tempted to dump before I finished it. Gag.

Paul Newman's Gourmet Coffee. Average. At least it helps charitable causes, which makes it a little more palatable than feeling like I'm padding some CEO's Christmas bonus.

The quest continues.

From a slightly different angle, I've recently purchased a home espresso machine so I can indulge in lattes whenever the mood hits. I was so pleased to realize that I could enjoy a latte on my diet with no guilt. (It's a sacrifice to have to avoid milk and use cream or half-and-half, but one does what one must to toe the diet line.) A packet of Splenda added in and it's dessert in a big cup. So far I've used Alessi regular and decaf espresso roast and it is umm-umm-good. Of course with the Splenda and cream added in, the Melitta might even taste good, so it's hard to give an unqualified rating.

Don't bother telling me I should cut down on coffee. I've done all this testing on no more than two cups of coffee a day, with the odd latte thrown in about twice a week. My quest is to make those two cups of coffee a day the best possible.

And finally, whatever the dreck is that we have at work is at the very bottom of the heap. We've gone through several coffee services and the one thing they all have in common is the worst tasting coffee in the universe. Think dirty socks steeped in stagnant water. I really don't understand how they manage it.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wishful Thinking

I really don't like December. I usually go into a depression on December 1st and stay there until January 1st. It's complicated, but I dislike Christmas. Not the reason behind it, but the shopping and the over-eating and the crowds and the rushing around at the last minute and the wrapping and the juggling of schedules and, and, and.

I haven't really enjoyed Christmas since about 1972. After that year my grandparents began to decline and could not host the big Christmas get-together any more. Shortly after that my parents divorced and it became necessary to have multiple Christmas events. It ceased being enjoyable and started being work. Or maybe it's because I finally realized there wasn't any Santa Claus.

I still enjoy certain aspects of the holiday season - the music and the decorations - but for the most part I secretly long to disappear from the scene until it's over.

I just finished re-listening to Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham. The plot involves a couple who decide to escape on a 10-day cruise to avoid the first Christmas without their daughter, who has joined the Peace Corp and is stationed in Peru. They decide to cold-turkey the whole Christmas thing and refuse to decorate, throw their annual Christmas Eve party or even attend the neighborhood social events. In the end, they discover they can't escape Christmas and must rely on the kindness of their neighbors to salvage the holiday. It's laugh out loud funny in places and you find yourself beginning to panic that you yourself won't be able to get things done in time for your own Christmas.

So I ran around North Austin at lunch and bought all the token Christmas gifts I will need for co-workers. And happened into one of those stores where you're met by friendly staff who act like they have all the time in the world to visit with you and make you feel like they are glad you stopped in to chat. One of those bright spots in a dreary stretch of time. For a brief moment I almost looked forward to Christmas.

It will find you no matter how far you run to avoid it. Might as well figure out a way to enjoy yourself.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mrs. Bell, part 2

I found myself thinking about Mrs. Bell since that last post. She was a unique lady and for some reason she liked me. I don't think it was just because I had a fondness for Beethoven and Chopin.

When we were around 14 or 15, she invited a group of the girls from my class to her home for a slumber party. Most of us were piano students, but not all of us. I'm not sure why she thought to do this for us, but we had a really good time that night. We were given the run of her home and she went to her room and left us to our girl talk. I'm not sure I would have done such a thing for a group of giggly, boy-crazy teenage girls, if I had been in her shoes.

One year she took a group of us to San Antonio for Christmas shopping. Again, I don't have any idea why she put herself out for us. It was my first experience of independent Christmas shopping without the influence of my parents. I had a grand time selecting something for each member of my family and feeling all grown-up. It was a rare moment of semi-independence and it felt good.

Sometime during my high-school years Mrs. Bell took a tour of Europe. She brought each of her students a souvenir from that trip. I received two items: a dried sprig of Edelweiss (to commemorate my having sung Edelweiss from the Sound of Music during one recital) and a shiny sixpence that I was to put in my shoe on my wedding day. I still have both.

When I was a Senior, she arranged for a relative overseas to purchase a jade ring, which she gave me for my graduation present. She also arranged for me to have a Senior recital, which appalled me. I had intended to stop music lessons at the end of my Junior year, but she had her heart set on my having a Senior recital and my parents applied gentle pressure for me to continue on and make the old lady happy. I never in a million years thought anyone would actually attend the thing, but I was pleasantly surprised that a respectable number of friends, church members and relatives did show up for an evening that included Beethoven sonatas and a Chopin etude.

I disappointed her in one respect. She was always very complimentary on my ability to sight-read and on my touch at the piano. I refused, however, to memorize pieces. I just didn't see the point when it was easy enough to have the music right there handy. At this point in my life I would probably enjoy the ability to tear into a Chopin waltz, but memorization of music was never easy for me and I just never worked toward that goal. Even though I was frequently told about her daughter, who had studied music in college and could play all those sonatas without the crutch of sheet music, it just wasn't something that was important to me and she never could motivate me to feel otherwise. It wasn't for lack of trying.

I can remember music lessons in the frame building that sat just off the football field. There was no air-conditioning or reliable heat, so there were days that your fingers nearly froze to the keys or that you sweated a big wet spot on the old bench the exact shape of your butt. There were days I nearly suffocated, when the air was still and hot. Mrs. Bell was fond of lavish application of the perfume Tabu, and the strong fumes would surround my head and make me feel faint.

I can remember one afternoon when she showed up at the house with records of the Beethoven sonatas that I was learning for that Senior recital. To that point I had been learning the music, but had never heard the pieces interpreted by a concert-level pianist. She sat there on the couch with me as we listened through the Moonlight Sonata and Sonata Pathetique. It made a huge difference in my understanding of how the pieces should sound.

I can remember her rings. Her husband had been prosperous and she wore rings set with huge flawless diamonds. I've always lusted after diamonds, even at that early age, and those sparkling rings were particularly impressive.

Come to think of it, she probably did not need the fees she charged for piano lessons. And she certainly did not need the aggravation of a bunch of kids around. She had to have loved what she did to put up with us.

I never fail to think of her when I listen to a CD of Beethoven or Chopin pieces. Those two composers are firmly fixed in my mind with the lady who worked with me for so many years and who really thought I had talent. I just wish I had had a little more than I did. I wish I could have been the pianist she wanted me to be.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fifth Grade and Mrs. Bell

I've been listening to my very large collection of Christmas music this week. Several years ago I was in charge of switching out the music on our office telephone "hold" and I began acquiring a wide variety of Christmas CDs for use during December. Over the years the collection has grown until it's gotten quite obese. (There's that collector's fever thing again.) This year I was managing to hold down the purchase of new CDs until this past week, when I discovered a new seasonal album by Sarah Mclachlan (Wintersong - it's great) and one by Il Divo and a double album of Reba McEntire.

I was pleasantly surprised when I dragged the Christmas CD tote out from under the bed earlier in the week. Last year I had purchased a number of CDs on Christmas clearance and had never listened to them. So I've had a lot of new listening experience this week.

Today I noticed Jimmy Buffet's Christmas album back in the corner of the tote and immediately remembered why I had purchased it. The title track is Christmas Island. This is a cute little song that has been in the back of my mind since fifth grade and it periodically pops in and sashays through my mind and then saunters out. I had tried to find it on a Christmas album for years, but it wasn't until the last year or so that I found it.

Back in the mid-sixties the Smiley school hosted a Christmas program every year. All the classes participated, from 1st through 12th. There were skits, plays, soloists, and a variety of other offerings to entertain the community. (Keep in mind that Smiley had not much to offer in the line of entertainment. People actually looked forward to the Christmas program.)

The lower grades would practice for weeks in music class, singing along under the direction of Mrs. Bell. She had a wide acquaintance with music, both popular and classical, and would come up with some unique numbers for these performances. One year our song was Christmas Island. It was new to me and to my classmates and I liked it's jaunty tune and unusual lyrics.

Let's get away from sleigh bells,
let's get away from snow
Let's make a break some Christmas, Dear,
I know the place to go
How'd ya like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?
How'd ya like to spend the holiday away across the sea?
How'd ya like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?
How'd ya like to hang a stocking on a great big coconut tree?
How'd ya like to stay up late, like the islanders do?
Wait for Santa to sail in with your presents in a canoe.
If you ever spend Christmas on Christmas Island
You will never stray for everyday
Your Christmas dreams come true.

Whenever I listen to this song, I remember those Christmas programs. I remember one year, just after the Beatles became so popular, our teacher got hold of several of the 45 rpm records and assembled groups of us to lipsync to this radical music. We wore Beatle wigs and rocked out and probably shocked the heck out of that little community.

I remember one Christmas, when I was older, playing the oldest sister in a play that was presented by Mrs. Bell's piano students. I don't remember having to sing in that production, but I did play a piece on the piano. By that time the poor woman had accepted that I did not have a voice for solos and kept me on the piano. Thanks to Mrs. Bell, I learned a lovely arrangement of Silent Night that I used for years as an offertory during December church services.

There were many who did not appreciate Mrs. Bell and her drive to get the students to performance level. There were times when she pushed me until I was ready to scream. I took piano for nine years under her and gave nine recitals that she drilled me hard in preparation for. But it's probably partly due to her that I have never suffered from stage fright and am always willing to get up in front of an audience and make a silly ass of myself. She taught me to have fun entertaining others.

And she taught me an appreciation for all kinds of music. If not for her, I might never have that cheery little Christmas Island bouncing through my thoughts this time of year.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The High Cost of Health Care

I may not have to put any kids through college, but I sure haven't escaped the medical bills. Today I provided another car payment for somebody at the Elgin Vet Hospital.

This was some day. I started off first thing hauling all the animals over to Elgin. The two kittens had one more round of kitten shots and they shared a carrier. They did not go quietly. They fussed and fumed all the way to Elgin and all the way back. In usual fashion, the whole time they were in the exam room they purred so loud that the doctor and technicians were cracking up.

Coco went along for a pedicure. I promised her no shots, but then the tech managed to cut not one, but three nails too short and we had blood spurting everywhere. That was fun.

Mojo was there for a follow up on his surgery. And a nail trim. (I've found it's well worth paying to have somebody else have to deal with all the hysterics and hissy fits that happen when David and I try to do nail trims at home.) His incision is healing nicely and he's lost a wee bit of weight and has been pronounced to be doing well. His bald butt is gradually growing hair again, so he doesn't look like a mangy orphan any longer.

Xana ended up having to spend the day in hospital and will have to go back again tomorrow and Friday. She is having another sinking spell, probably related to her ongoing renal problems, and is getting fluids and antibiotics. We've entered the elder years when we will have to do these periodic hospitalizations to keep her going.

I really think we single folks with furry children should be able to put the little guys on our health care policy. This is getting expensive, especially when you have a surgery one month and a hospitalization the next month. Add to that the ongoing expense of Xana's nutritional supplement, heartworm preventive for 3, and Mojo's anti-inflammatory medicine until he is fully recovered. It's as much time and energy and cost to take care of the herd as it is to manage Mother.

It's no wonder we are greeted with smiles and open arms when we enter the clinic. We represent a steady cash flow. But, bottom line, my babies are well cared for. I'm a wreck and my checkbook is in shreds, but the dogs and cats are sleeping peacefully around me, secure in the knowledge that Mom will spend her last dollar on them if necessary.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Famous Kin?

Interesting time waster. Upload your photo to and see which celebrities you resemble.


Friday, December 01, 2006

In the Pink

I had to make a quick run to the mall today to pick up a present for a baby shower that is to be held at the office next Thursday. It has been a very long time since I'd been to a traditional mall. (That is, not the outlet mall which is an outdoor mall.) I had forgotten just how much I don't like being in the mall. At least it was a work day, so the crowd was not nearly as bad as it could be. I was able to get the baby shower present, make a stop at a Hallmark to pick up the card and gift bag, and pick up a Christmas ornament for the office ornament exchange.

To get these tasks accomplished I walked through Macy's and Dillard's and did some rapid window shopping between the two.

Now, I like the color pink. From the time I was a little girl, I knew I looked good in pink and I've worn a lot of it. I was even shopping for a gift for a baby girl and intended to look for something pink. I have nothing against pink.

But as I walked through the clothing departments I became aware of a plethora of the most hideous shade of pink imaginable. Somewhere in the fashion world some clown decided that the hot color for girls this year was Pepto Bismol pink. Every where I looked was more of the same nauseating medicinal color. It was enough to make a person immediately think of their last bout of diarrhea.

And I thought the lime green of two seasons ago was bad.