Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Own Peculiar Brand of Fun

I've spent the last couple of hours happily digging through a new online database called Footnote. This is a new collaborative effort involving the LDS church, the National Archives, and I'm not sure who else, with a commercial outfit that is digitizing some of their holdings. I've been monitoring the site for awhile, trying to talk myself into buying a year's access to the images and tonight I found something that finally made it a worthwhile investment.

For a couple of years now I've been contemplating a trip to San Saba to obtain a death certificate for my great-great grandfather Frankum. I knew from a cousin that his death certificate was on file in the courthouse there, but for some reason I could not find his name in the state death indexes. Without that magic index reference, I knew I would not be able to get a copy from the State Health Department.

One of the projects in progress at Footnote is the digitization of early Texas birth and death certificates. I was running some idle searches tonight and lo and behold up popped the missing death certificate. I had a subscription to the service in the amount of time it took for me to run upstairs and get my credit card.

I was delighted to find that I now have some official corroboration of James Jefferson Frankum's parents. I knew who they had to be, thanks to extensive census research, but now I have an actual document that gives their names. Yee-haw.

From there, I have spent a couple of hours downloading more early birth and death records for various family members. I've pulled copies of Confederate service records. I've got a nice little stack of paper that has already justified the cost of membership, if you count how much I would have had to pay the State for copies of these records or how much I would have had to pay for gas to go get the records from the pertinent courthouses.

Nothing I like better than a new pile of old records to explore.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Rural Texas is Alive and Well

I am continuing to follow my muse on this holiday vacation. This morning, with nothing particular in mind, I decided to go on a FindaGrave mission to Bateman Cemetery near Red Rock and then head back to Bastrop for a thorough car cleaning. On an impulse, I looked to see if there were any other FindaGrave requests open that would fit into my plans. There was a request open for some Cottle graves in Fayette County near LaGrange. Not exactly on my way, but then what are muses for anyway? I decided I would drive a big circle in the country. It was a beautiful day for a country drive.

The turn for the Fayette County cemetery just happened to be at the same crossroads where the Weikel Bakery is located, so I made my first stop and picked up some breakfast rolls for Mother. The little gift store that is located adjacent to the bakery is never open when I'm there, but the sign said it would be opening that day in just about 5 minutes. So, I sat and drank a cup of coffee, ate half a peanut butter cookie, and then checked out the little store. It was a delight and I purchased several things before I got back on my schedule.

The drive down to Pin Oak Cemetery is through rolling green pasture land. I love the Fayette County country, land of the Round Top Antique Fair (though this was the opposite end of the county from that). The German and Czech settlers knew a good thing when they saw it and proceeded to make it better through generations of farming. The cemetery turned out to be about 1-1/2 miles down a single lane road that had not seen much traffic lately. When I came to the cemetery gate and left the car, there was silence. Nothing could be seen except the cemetery and trees.

The cemetery itself is quite large, but there weren't that many graves. Within the cemetery fence were sub-fenced plots; somewhat like several cemeteries inside one big cemetery. One family would be buried within its own fence and then there would be a large open area before you came to the next little fenced off family plot. I enjoyed the walk in the crisp, cold air. I did not find the graves I was looking for. I enjoyed the second walk around the cemetery. I did not find the graves. By the third time around, I realized that a good number of flat stones had toppled over and were lying flush with the ground, making them difficult to spot. I enjoyed the third walk around the cemetery, this time cutting through the middle open areas. I did not find the graves.

I made an announcement to the silence "if you want me to find you, you had better speak up now!". I made a fourth trek around the cemetery, walking different paths from before. I did not find the graves, but I did find a few interesting stones for unknown soldiers who had died in the area many, many years ago.

By the end of the fourth circuit, I decided the stones were either buried under grass or had deteriorated beyond recognition. I don't regret the trip in the least, because I had a good time being the only soul alive in the middle of a remote area.

A mossy tree in the middle of Pin Oak cemetery.

I decided it would be no fun to retrace my route to LaGrange, so I consulted my Roads of Texas mapbook and figured out a route to Red Rock that would expose me to maximum country road travel. I first made my way to Flatonia, which definitely needs some exploring on another day (antique stores!), then turned north on Highway 95 and drove to Cistern.

Cistern is where my great-grandfather Elmo Hodge was born, so I decided to make a tour of the little burg. I spotted a sign to the Cistern cemeteries, so I drove down the little road and took a few pictures, then spotted another cemetery in the distance and made another stop. Another consult of the mapbook and I found a little road that would take me to Jeddo and McMahan.

This was an inspired choice. The road is perfect rural Texas travel. Just hilly and curvy enough to be interesting without requiring extra caution, lined on either side by green pastures full of picturesque cows and horses, and every so often a great farm house. I've decided that I would love to find an old (but sound) farm house in which to spend my retirement years. One could do worse than retire to rural Fayette County.

In due time, I reached the Bateman cemetery. These graves were easy to locate, so that stop was a success. Back to Bastrop, lunch, a brief stop at Starbucks and then back home. I barely beat the UPS man there. He was delivering my official Christmas present to me - a set of Royal Doulton Old Country Roses flatware. I wasted no time in opening the package and enjoying a fresh look at this indulgence. The cats wasted no time in exploring the package it came in.

A brief dog walk later and we are ready to pile into a big chair with my current genealogical mystery book and take it easy for the rest of the day.

I love driving in the country. Thank God there are parts of Texas where you can still find quality country to enjoy, with lovely old farmhouses and no hideous subdivisions in sight.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007


When Mojo is displeased, there is no doubt about it. He sets up a howl, telling the whole world how he's been mistreated. This frequently happens if his Mom leaves the house and he thinks he should have gone along. He knows when I'm headed to work, which is permissible, and when I'm headed out to work in the yard, where he feels he should be allowed to accompany me. You can hear him expressing himself for several minutes and before long he has Coco crying along in sympathy.

Sometimes he can set up his caterwaul for the simple reason that I left the room and he wanted me to sit and hold him. He will get to howling so hard that when I return, he can't stop himself and will continue his mournful cry until I pick him up. It's not really separation anxiety, but rather a little temper fit when he feels he's been slighted.

(It's no use telling me he's spoiled; I know he's spoiled and I wouldn't have him any other way.)

Anyway, a couple of nights ago he woke the house around 2:00 a.m. with one of his howling fits. It turned out that he was sound asleep and having a bad dream. It wasn't easy to wake him from his nightmare and he was eager to cuddle close and be comforted and assured that he hadn't really been left behind.

It's not easy being a very little boy in a great big world. Of course, he's been a little miffed with me ever since, with the feeling that somehow I've done him a wrong.


Christmas Cleaning, phase 1

We spent Christmas Day cleaning out the china closet under the stairs. It has been a job that I've put off and put off and yesterday I could not take it anymore. So with the background of "The Christmas Story" on TBS, we started hauling things out and separating them into the good stuff, thrift store stuff, fundraiser stuff and trash. I say we, because I had the constant and interested assistance of the heathen cats. They are fascinated by the little room under the stairs that normally is off-limits and they were eager to explore every time my back was turned.

At one point, I decided to move the replacement florescent tube lights I keep on hand for the kitchen to the hot water heater closet. You might have thought I had suddenly produced a rabbit from a hat. Boo and Scout had no idea that there was a room in the house they had not yet seen. They were awe-struck.

At the end of the day I had a straightened china closet, a straightened hutch (the jumble of cookbooks within are in a momentary state of order), a pile of things to take to the thrift store, and two boxes of items I had separated out for my aunt and cousin, who just happened to drop by late in the day to remove them from the premises. The house continues in a state of relative clean. Despite the best efforts of the heathen cats.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Scents

I have some very clear memories of Christmas when I was about 4 or 5. Before then Christmas is pretty hazy. Like the slide below:

A Christmas in San Gabriel I don't recall clearly.

The Christmas I remember was at San Gabriel. I don't remember very much about my Christmas at home, but I remember the church activities.

Santa with the church kids.

I can remember that the church prepared a bag of treats for each of the kids. These bags always contained apples, oranges and some candy and maybe a walnut or two. That is what I remember--the combined smell of apples, oranges and Christmas candy. Everytime I am in a store and I get that particular combination of smells, I flash back to San Gabriel.

I remember something else about that Christmas. When Santa handed out the toys to the kids, I got a card of plastic dollhouse furniture. I can remember holding that card so clearly, absolutely delighted to have received that gift. (See, I've always been enamored of dollhouses.)

To me Christmas will always smell like apples and oranges and hard Christmas candy.


Saturday, December 22, 2007


Way back in the dark ages, when I was a student at Mary Hardin-Baylor College circa 1975, I loved the walk across campus from Ruth Stribling dorm to Wells Science Hall. Especially in springtime, the sky would be a vivid blue and the clouds a blinding white. At times the clouds would be what I came to think of as "cotton clouds", because I was reminded of the effect you get when you take a batt of cotton and stretch it out. Everytime I see cotton clouds I flash back to good old MHB. Yesterday, as I left the massage therapist after a W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L 90-minutes massage, the sky greeted me with cotton clouds.

I was really floaty after that massage, so the sky seemed to be reaffirming that I should just enjoy floating through the remainder of the day.

Unfortunately I had to make a grocery run. That chore wasn't really so bad, considering I was completely zoned out. There were only two blights on the landscape. One was a hippie dude who kept intersecting my path and was seemingly oblivious that there was anyone else in the store. He would leave his cart directly in the center of the aisle, leaving no room to pass on either side, and then wander off in search of something - possibly hallucinogenic mushrooms. At one point he actually pushed his cart at an angle in front of me (as I was in motion, no less), abandoned it and meandered the opposite way. I was momentarily stunned, then muttered "oh, for crying out loud!", at which point his companion hastened up and moved the cart before I started playing demolition derby. They were lucky I was so out of it or there might have been blood in the aisle.

The second blight on my horizon was as I was unloading the groceries from the cart into my car. At some point either the clerk, or maybe it was me, mishandled the bottle of vinagrette salad dressing and the bottle shattered, soaking the entire sack of groceries with oily, fragrant goo. I gave the clerk the benefit of the doubt and bore the loss, picked the gooey bottle out of the sack and pitched it in a nearby trash container, but by that time the entire car reeked of vinagrette. I thought the mess was pretty well confined to one plastic bag, but this morning the car is still redolent of Italian herbs. Could be worse, I guess.

My cleaning lady did a bang up job yesterday and the house is thoroughly cleansed and I can be lazy without guilt for a day or two. I tested out the Christmas throw received from my friend and it was 100% rat terrier approved.

With very little to do today, except a small bit of cooking and gift wrapping, the three of us plan to float with the clouds as much as possible. The cats would like to join us, but Mojo has spoken and they are forbidden to share in the comfort. Day 2 of vacation is predicted to be a success.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Now I'm Merry

I am officially on vacation now through the end of the year. Best present I could have. I plan lots of down time, naps with puppy dogs and generally being as lazy as possible. My chiropractor approves of my plan, so I can truthfully say that my doctor told me to do it.

Another bit of good news is that the ailing central heat only needed a small switch replaced for a nominal fee. We now have lots of heat.

The family newsletter is in the mail. Last bit of necessary computer activity for the year.

Christmas gifts all bought (though some are still in transit), non-labor intensive wrapping materials standing ready in the wings, a low labor plan for a Christmas buffet luncheon, and a brand new bottle of amaretto in the cabinet.

I think I just might make it through the holidays.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Hooky

The Christmas spirit just hasn't hit me this year - too tired to care. However, my neighbors have enough for both of us. This picture doesn't do justice, but you can see they have their house draped in white lights and there are two lighted deer in the front who move their heads. Sorta threw the dogs for a loop the first time we went out for a late evening potty trip.

Despite my lack of Christmas cheer, I went on my usual last pre-Christmas shopping jaunt today. I always like to make a last trip after I have all my necessary gifts taken care of and the pressure is off. I always end up buying more gifts when I'm relaxed and able to wander aimlessly around with no particular goal. I decided to go to the San Marcos outlet mall to buy myself a present. Mother started and I am continuing the tradition of buying a piece or two of Royal Doulton Old Country Roses china to add to our collection. This year I decided to indulge myself with a set of their matching flatware.

Just as I reached the exit for the outlet mall, I made an impulsive decision to run down to Gruene. It's been a long time since I visited that little town and it seemed the place to go today. I thoroughly enjoyed checking out the antique store and the Gruene General Store. I've decided that I may just have to go down there some weekend and stay in one of the quaint bed & breakfast inns that have sprung up all around town. Business has definitely increased since I was there last and I found myself hoping that its quaintness isn't on the endangered list.

When I finally made my way to the Outlet Mall, I was surprised to find several stores having "Going Out of Business" sales. I picked up several bargains, but I puzzled over why the sudden departure of these long-time residents. I wonder if other folks have run away from the Christmas crowds as I have, doing their shopping on or other Internet retailers. There were plenty of people at the mall, but I was surprised that I never had any trouble getting a parking space close to the shops I wanted to visit. It was really pretty calm for the last week before Christmas.

I accomplished my goals of purchasing stocking stuffers and flatware (though I had to have it drop-shipped from the main office; they were sold out). My unplanned visit to Gruene was the best part of the day. I almost remembered when shopping was fun.

Tomorrow is my last work day of the year. Last night I finished the annual family newsletter and it will go in the mail tomorrow. Friday morning I have a nice long massage planned to kick off my holiday and I plan to make the most of the opportunity to get some much needed rest.

Ho, ho, ho! (Well, at least I'm trying.)


Monday, December 17, 2007

A Voice Silenced

His popularity was at its peak in the late 70s and through the 80s. I own quite a few of his albums, and while I stopped following his career as closely as I once did, I still enjoy those albums. My favorite was the double "The Innocent Age", that contained "The Leader of the Band" and "Same Old Lang Syne" among other truly wonderful songs that never got the wide-spread play of those two standouts.

Dan Fogelberg died yesterday of prostate cancer at the age of 56. His music never failed to please and at times it had true greatness. May he rest in peace. I, for one, will miss him.


Friday, December 14, 2007

A Case for the X-Files

Scout says that whoever that yellow cat is, it is NOT her brother Boo. She thinks that Boo was abducted by aliens, put through unspeakable tests, and then returned to us in some kind of altered state.

Scout thinks her Mom is incredibly stupid if she hasn't noticed that huge incision in the stranger's belly and the odd way he smells. He may purr like Boo, but that's not Boo.

Scout is not fooled. She tells me that she's checked and he has a weird microchip in his neck. (She's forgotten she has one, too.)

Scout will be stalwart and not accept the alien in our midst. Sooner or later he will be revealed to be the imposter he is.


Thursday, December 13, 2007


I admit that I suffer from obsessive compulsive behavior in some ways. Under control, but still it is there. That's one reason why I persist in appointing myself the company cookbook wrangler.

Speaking of which, early this morning I finally printed off the GOOD copy from which all other copies were to be made. In the past, I have been ultra compulsive and handled the process from start to finish, but I knew this year that I did not have it in me to manage the project without help. So I recruited a helper to do the copying and assist in the binding. She, in turn, recruited a bit more help, so there were several hands in the process.

While they copied, I pre-punched holes in the front and back covers and the clear plastic front overlay cover. I assembled one complete copy so that I could evaluate how well all the different papers and covers went together. The plastic cover was a bit larger than a standard 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheet, so I adjusted the punches to allow the plastic cover to overhang evenly all around. The inner title page, always printed on some kind of seasonal specialty paper, turned out to be slightly smaller than a standard page and I had to re-adjust the punch so that the title sheet was centered against the card stock inner cover. (What can I say? I'm good.)

By the time I had punched 100 back covers, 100 inner front covers, 100 decorative title pages and 100 plastic overlays on the old manual punch/binding machine, the first of the cookbooks were being delivered, pre-punched by my helpers on the newer, electric binding machine. I assembled the first official copy and found myself in an obsessive compulsive quandry. The electric punch was set at a slightly different position from the manual punch I had used for the covers and so the inner pages of the cookbook were not binding squarely to the covers. They were about 1/16th of an inch off and they had already punched about 15 sets.

For possibly the first time in my life, I gave myself a mental shake and said to myself "screw it". Probably nobody but me will ever be aware of this slight flaw. These folks are always very appreciative of my efforts, which gives them a comb-bound cookbook with recipes that have been reworked so as to be understandable to even the least experienced of the group, standardized formatting of measurements and full of decorative graphics. They would have been happy to get a stapled at the corner batch of un-adorned recipes with no editing at all. Of course they've been spoiled at this point, since I'm obsessive compulsive about this project, but I don't think anyone is going to go "eww, the pages aren't square".

With this happy decision made, we managed to get half of the required books bound today. I have lost my primary helper to a vacation day tomorrow, but I hope to get the vast majority of the remaining books done and possibly even delivered before the end of the work day on Friday.

I counted up today and my rough estimate is that I've spent somewhere between 60 and 72 hours on this project. This is my Christmas contribution to my co-workers. I think they are going to be pleased with the result.

Aside from the slightly off-set pages, I am. I'll get over it.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Mr. Boo Cat is home again, doing well. He is so happy to be home that he is following me around purring.

All the way home, he informed me of the evil and vile things that had been done to him. It sounded a little bit like the Scarecrow after the encounter with the Flying Monkeys. "First they took my legs off and they threw them over there; then they took my chest out and they threw it over there!"

Scout says he smells bad and has been hissing every time he comes near her. The dogs flooded him with happy kisses and the three of them have been comparing scary operation stories.

To add insult to injury, his belly is naked and it's cold. His front legs have been shaved and he looks goofy.

In a word, the whole experience sucked and he wants the world to know it.

Would that he would realize that the reason it all happened was that he didn't mind his own business and heed the old adage "curiosity killed the cat".


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Boo Kitty Update

The Boo cat is spending another night in the hospital. His appetite had not returned enough to please his doctor, so she decided to keep him for observation. Hopefully he will get sprung tomorrow afternoon. The word from the receptionist was "he looks ok". I guess that makes me feel better.


Sick Ward

Nothing like a little unplanned surgery to throw a kink in things. Boo cat took sick in the middle of the night Friday, vomited off and on all day Saturday, and continued to feel poorly through Sunday. He was a pitiful ghost of his normal heathen self.

Even though Mom has threatened daily to dismember the little devil, when your little devil is sick, you begin to miss the rotten behavior. I figured it was something he ate or a need for worming. I dropped him off yesterday morning at the vet clinic for an evaluation.

Xrays indicated something in his intestines that wasn't passing through like it should. So off to emergency surgery Monday afternoon. The good news is that he came through with flying colors and should be home sometime today.

He had swallowed a mass of sewing thread that had gummed up his innards. The doctor said she pulled thread out of him for quite awhile before she was satisfied that she had it all. Even so, there is still a bit that had gone on through to the colon and should appear today sometime. He spent the night on fluids and happy meds and if he gets up this morning with a smile on his face, a purr in his heart and an appetite, all should be well. (Now the odd thing is that I don't sew and I thought I had purged the house of Mother's sewing goods. I have no idea where he got hold of thread.)

Scout has been lost without her co-conspiritor. It's amazing how quiet the house has been the last few days. I think I will be glad when he gets home and starts bouncing off the walls again. Turns out that a little devil is a lot of entertainment.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Last Time (Maybe)

It used to be something I looked forward to every December. The Bastrop County Historical Society hosts a historical homes tour and it was/is a rare opportunity to get inside some of the old Victorian era homes for which Bastrop is somewhat famous.

There is always a house that just overwhelms you with the fabulous interior or for the fabulous way a fading lady has been restored to beauty. The Orgain house on Church Street has been on the tour several times and I usually make those tours because the house is just such a superlative Victorian mansion that was restored sometime back with no expense spared. The old Confederate academy house has also been featured many times and stands out in my memory because of its branching staircase, with two descents from the broad landing. There have been many wonderful houses on the tour during the years, representing a time when craftsmanship meant more than volume and singular character meant more than how fast a house can be thrown up.

I skipped a couple of the recent years because the same houses were being showcased that I had already seen many times. This year I was lured back because there were four houses on the schedule that I had never seen before and one of them belonged to my first step-mother once upon a time. This was well before she became my step-mother, so I had never had the opportunity to see inside until now.

This house was a cheerful yellow at the time she lived there, so it took me a minute before I realized this was the same place. The house has recently received some local notoriety as one of the main location shoots for an upcoming Julia Roberts movie Fireflies in the Garden. Julia's every movement was documented in the local gossip column for several months back in the spring. I will probably have to make a point to see the movie when it comes out, just to see this lovely house in the background.

The interior of the house is a real treasure and well worth the time and price of a ticket to see. Every room's doorway and windows was framed in wood with square corner decorations (can't remember what those are called at the moment). Every doorway had a glass transom. The stairway led to a lovely reading nook, flanked on both sides by huge, airy bedrooms. The upstairs bathroom had been remodeled for the movie shoot and the owners decided they liked it and left it that way, with a glorious claw-foot tub on a raised landing under a roof peak. Hard to envision from that description, but let me just say it reeked of character.

The back of the house has a wide, screened in porch that calls to the incurable reader or knitter. It must be a wonderful place in the spring time. It was by far the best of the tour this year.

I hit five of the nine places on the tour this time around. The musuem is always on the tour and is where I stopped to buy my ticket, so I took the time to drift around and look at the exhibits. It did not take me long to realize that I knew more Bastrop history than the tour hosts who were roaming around, but I always enjoy seeing the musuem and I discovered there are some new items for sale that I will have to go back and obtain on a less active day. They have issued a DVD on the subject of Bastrop's 175th anniversary and there are books, maps, and other tempting things that somehow I do not yet have in my collection of local history.

The Episcopal Church, old First National Bank and Kerr Community Center did not interest me, since I have seen them all on numerous occasions. I did visit 3 more houses on Pecan Street, one of them an active Bed & Breakfast that I could honestly recommend to someone who wanted a nice place to stay in Bastrop. It's quite a nice old house. By the time I had visited the 4th house, I was exhausted from the press of the crowds and the chattering of the tour hosts, so I decided I was done and went on to run my errands.

It's funny how ongoing stress can make being around people an exhaustive process. I just don't have it in me to be sociable these days. I did enjoy a conversation with an old neighbor I encountered at the museum, but that was before the herd of tourists arrived. I contemplated walking the street fair that was being held in downtown, but decided I just could not handle the noise and bustle of a crowd. It takes too much effort to focus and too much effort to remain calm and pleasant, when what I really want to do is snap, "Get out of my way, shut up and leave me alone". I smiled and made nice as long as I was able to and then beat a hasty retreat.

Before I went to the grocery store, I made an impulse stop at the local Hallmark shop. The lady who ran this store for many, many years died this year and I've not been in it since. I was dismayed to discover all the signs that the store is about to shut down. The attendant did not know the future plans, but what she did know and what I observed seems to point that direction. I coveted that little shop and always wished that I could acquire it. I guess it is another sign of my fatigue that I could not even get excited about the idea of calling the owner to see if she would be willing to sell.

Before I could escape back to the safety of home and my babies, I had to negotiate another crowd at the grocery store. At least you don't have to be quite so polite there. Everyone understands you don't want to be there, so a glower isn't taken so badly.

At long last, I was home. It seems odd the changes that age will cause. I used to relish the holiday events in downtown Bastrop. Perhaps I will again, but for now I just don't feel the need to partake. Right now my old dream of a mountain-top cabin in Colorado that is only accessible by snowcat for months on end (but of course well stocked with food and an uninterruptible Internet connection) has resurfaced. I need peace and quiet. Right now my favorite activity is the daily walk I take through the neighborhood with my best friends.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Twisted Like a Pretzel

It has taken 5 days of marathon typing, but the draft of the cookbook is done. The dogs will be glad when tonight rolls around and I head to the bed at a decent hour. The family newsletter I can type on the laptop while I lean against pillows. The proofing of the cookbook will be postponed until the weekend so I can rest my eyes. You know you are middle aged when you find yourself constantly bending over close to the page to verify whether you are looking at 1/2 or 1/4.

You also know you are middle aged when you can't sleep through the night any longer. When I'm not adjusting the fan on or off because of my internal thermostat issues, I'm having to get up and trek to the bathroom to pacify a nagging bladder. It used to keep quiet through the night, but I guess it figures if I'm going to keep it awake turning the fan on and off, it will retaliate the only way it can.

One benefit of longevity is that I am having to burn some days of vacation this month so I don't lose them. (Twenty years or more of service gets you 4 weeks a year and I never took my fall vacation this year.) Yesterday I went to Austin and followed my old commute route down 6th Street. Traffic has not improved at all, but rather the construction of the toll road has really screwed up Highway 71 at Del Valle. I'm having to drive a nasty area of Highway 79 these days that is also under construction, but it pales in comparison. Add to the traffic woes the Christmas rush and you have a mess.

But it was a beautiful day and I quickly completed my errands and did a little bit of playing at the Antique Mall in Elgin on the way home. Next door to the Antique Mall is a new homemade tamale joint and I picked up a dozen for supper. Funny thing is, when I asked the guy how long they had been there, he told me that was their first day. Until then they had been selling beside the road at the junction of FM1660 and Highway 95, the turn I make to take me through Rices Crossing every day. I had seen them, but never stopped because I have this theory that you can't trust food bought from roadside vendors. They were good tamales and so far I've had no ill effects, so maybe I was wrong about that.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Speaking of Hula Hoops

Once upon a time I actually could hula a mean hoop. (Maybe that explains all the trouble I've been having with my hip lately.)


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas Tunes

Many years ago my office was across from the closet that held the CD-player that played the music while our telephone callers were on hold. I got drafted to swap out CDs from time to time to give a variety of music to our listeners. When December 1st arrived, I would start the Christmas music. The Christmas music owned by the company was pretty stale, so I would switch it out with some of my own collection. Our employees could set their phones to play the music at their desks and they enjoyed having the option to listen to Christmas music during the month.

With that motivation, I kept acquiring new Christmas CDs every year for several years until at the moment I own an obscene amount of Christmas music. Every year I tell myself I will not buy any more Christmas CDs and every year someone comes out with a Christmas album that I can't pass up. I really try, but I just can't help myself.

This year I've already caved and bought 3 Christmas albums. Someone clued me in that Josh Groban had issued a Christmas CD and I decided that I had to have it. That's all I had intended to get, but then I discovered albums by James Taylor and Anne Murray, both of whom I like very much. (And Anne's was a double album, so that makes 4 CDs added to the collection.)

I mean, really, how many versions of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" does one person need? I may be addicted.

Anyway, I've been listening to Christmas music this week, taking a brief break from audiobooks. I really do have some good albums in my collection and I must say that the James Taylor and Josh Groban albums are very, very good additions.

My favorite songs are sprinkled across genres. My number one favorite song is "Greensleeves", so I love every version of "What Child is This?", particularly the instrumentals and especially the version by pianist Liz Story. After that, I love "O Holy Night" by Sandi Patti, "My Prayer" by Celine Dion and Andre Bocelli, "Mary, Did You Know?" by Kathy Mattea, "The Wexford Carol" by anybody and "Christmas Time's A-Comin'" by Emmylou Harris.

And the one that makes me laugh every time is "The Chipmunk Song".

"Me, I want a hoola-hoop..."


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Meant for Me

One of my errands last week was to buy raffle tickets. The local CASA group periodically raffles off playhouses and this year they have two. If there is any justice, I should get one.

The playhouses are built by the High School shop students and are usually based on local historical buildings. They have had some mighty cute playhouses over the years. This year, when I saw the newest offerings, I slipped into the sin of covet. Unfortunately they require you to choose which playhouse drawing you will participate in, so I chose the historic jail for all 5 of my raffle tickets. It is too cute and I would love to see it take up residence in my back yard.

First, here is the real thing. Back when we lived in town, I walked the dogs regularly by this building.

Here is the playhouse version. On the inside, there is actually a tiny jail cell, complete with a sliding hasp lock and that takes up roughly 1/4 of the interior. The "bricks" are blocks of wood. Notice the attention to detail, right down to the historical marker.

The other offering this year is based on a slave's quarters building, which location of the real thing I could not remember in order to snare a photo. It is also as cute as a button, with bead and board paneling on the interior.

I would be just as happy to see it in my back yard, but when forced to choose, I had to go with the jail. I figured it might be just the ticket for dealing with the heathen cats.

The drawing is next Saturday. Cross your fingers for me.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Over Extending

Every 5 years or so I do something idiotic. I let my co-workers talk me into spear heading another employee cookbook. The first time was back in the early 80s, when the company had maybe 35 employees. Now I find myself working on Volume 7 and the company has about 150 employees. About half of them are participating and over 200 recipes have been turned in.

It's my own fault. I just can't abide turning the job over to someone else, though I did take the precaution of recruiting volunteers for the task of binding and distributing this time around. I have this idea that I'm good at the job and I either don't want to be disappointed that someone else might not do as good a job as I do or I don't want to find out that someone else would do it better. Either way, I am busy sorting recipes and scouring the Internet for Christmas graphics to add atmosphere.

Almost the entire day today I have been hunched over the computer. After a long neighborhood walk, the dogs were content to pile up in the big red chair and nap while I worked. I put a volume of "Are You Being Served?" on the DVD player and had that thoroughly enjoyable insanity to distract and entertain me. The day passed pleasantly and I have completed the draft version of 4 sections of the cookbook. That gets me about half-way through the typing portion of the project. I just might get the bulk of the work done this weekend.

Which would be good, because it suddenly occurred to me that I also have a family newsletter due to go out this month and I haven't even started it. I'm just not happy unless I have deadlines.

Let the Holiday madness begin!


Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Have An Announcement

You are all invited to come over to my house and wash some clothes or use the bathroom. As of about 3PM this afternoon, I ceased being in the septic business and got myself connected to the sewer. It's taken every bit of the 8 to 10 weeks they estimated, with three different work crews appearing at distant intervals. Yesterday I arrived home to find the yard full of promise.

I told myself not to hope, because I've had bits and pieces of the WCID's property strewn about my yard for weeks, but lo and behold they reappeared this morning and kept at it until the job was done. There is still clean up to do and septic tanks to be filled, but as for me and my house, we are back in business. No more laundromat!

I am enjoying getting my backlog of laundry processed this evening. My crankiness factor has improved dramatically. This might just push me a little closer to some Christmas spirit.


It's Not Necessarily My Castle

Most everybody knows that it is pure hell to have two or more women sharing one kitchen. Mother and I were mostly able to peacefully co-exist in the kitchen, I guess since I grew up in her kitchen. It's outsiders that create havoc and there are days when I mourn the time when my kitchen was my own.

Mother's healthworker drives me completely batty. Most of the time I can grit my teeth and bear it, but when I'm tired and mentally exhausted, as I've been of late, it's all I can do to keep the peace. I do, because she's a good and faithful caregiver and it would be cutting off my nose to spite my face to stir up trouble with complaints about my way vs. her way.

For instance, she knows nothing about how to load dishwashers. I have to brace myself every evening before I open the dishwasher to load in the supper dishes. I know I will have to take everything out and start over. Plastics are in the lower rack, dishes are just pushed in haphazardly, with no regard for an orderly arrangement that would allow maximum capacity per load, and all the flatware used up to that point will be stuffed into one flatware cup at the front edge of the machine. I have to be careful repositioning the latter, since I quite often find sharp steak knives in the cup upside down, their blades poised just right to stab a careless hand. The upper rack is slanted so that tall items can be placed in the deeper side and cups and short glasses can be put in the shallower side. Hah. Invariably the tall glasses have been put in the shallow side and have fallen over, while all the cups are in the deeper side.

Next we have the issue of closure. I am stunned that the woman never, never, never turns down the inner sleeve of a box of cereal. Quite often she does not even close the box flap. Apparently she never had leftovers at her house and never had to worry about things going stale. Jars are put back into the refrigerator with the tops barely on, so that when I pick up that jar, the top comes off just as I lift it and the jar spills its contents and I scare the dogs with an abrupt oath.

Now we move to the refrigerator and freezer. I do not mind that she brings her lunch and puts it in the refrigerator. What I do mind is having two weeks worth of frozen dinners suddenly showing up in my freezer, taking up all available room. What I do mind is having boxes of cereal, crackers, cookies and what have you stacked all over the counter. What I do mind is thinking I have my supper all taken care of (theoretically hidden safe from view) only to discover that it's been rooted out of its hiding place and offered to Mother for lunch and now I have to come up with a new idea for supper after a long day at work.

Then there's the furniture issue. I rearrange the living room and find the perfect place for the wastebasket behind a chair that blocks it from view. She didn't like it there, because she prefers to reach to the right rather than the left to put something in it. So it's been hauled back out in the middle of the floor and I trip over it constantly. I have a rather pricy pastry holder for Mother's breakfast rolls that EVERY DAY I place well away from the edge of the table so the bad-ass cats won't push it off and break it, and EVERY DAY when I come in, it's hanging half-way off the table because she folds clothes on the table and God forbid that she should put the thing back where I had it when she's done.

The best part about having a two-story house is that at least the second floor stays the way I left it. Except for the decorative efforts of the bad-ass cats.

As I say, it's basically little stuff that I have to swallow and tolerate in the interest of the better good. But is it any wonder I have this weird little twitch above my eye?


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is It Just Me?

Am I the only one in America who is thoroughly sick and tired of Oprah Winfrey? So what if the woman has more money than God, does that automatically mean we should accept every comment and opinion she utters as words from the Divine?

Just for the record:

I do not care what Oprah thinks.
I do not care what Oprah reads.
I do not care what movies or television shows Oprah watches.
I do not care which candidate Oprah supports. (As a matter of fact, her voiced support turned me completely and totally off her candidate, who up to that time I had not formed an opinion about.)
I do not care what new charity Oprah has blessed with her contribution.

I wish Oprah would zip her lip and retire.

God, that felt good.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

North of the Border

That would be the upper border of Central Texas, namely the Brazos River.

This morning I arose at an ungodly 4AM to participate in a presentation to a potential client in the Dallas area. "Big D, little a, double l, a, s", as the song goes. I had to be at the office in Round Rock by 6:15 and it was still pitch dark, and cold, when I arrived.

Little brother spent the night with us to mom-sit while I was out of pocket for the day. Previously on "Woolgathering" , you may remember that I had rearranged the guest bedroom with the questionable aid of the bad-ass cats. This was specifically to return the room back to guest bedroom status instead of the junk pile crafts-in-progress room that it has been of late. It was looking pretty good when I left for work Monday morning.

When I got home Monday afternoon, it looked like a tornado had hit. The bad-ass cats had explored my crafts table, found the roll of paper towels I keep there for glue and paint clean up, and shredded it completely and thoroughly ALL OVER THE ROOM. I had to drag the vacuum cleaner back up the stairs to re-clean the room. My mood was not improved when I arrived back in the paper snowstorm to discover Boo lying sprawled in the middle of it with a look of utter satisfaction on his face, content that the job had been well done.

But I digress. I had gone prepared to be the only woman in a group of attorneys, knowing the conversation was likely to center on football, law school and politics. I had knit about two inches of a new afghan and was comfortable enough with the pattern to take it along to work on in the car. It was a great diversion and I had another inch or so completed by the time we got to south Dallas. Three hours of riding in the back seat had zipped by.

Then, just as I was complimenting myself on getting a handle on the complicated back and forth of the cable pattern, the unthinkable happened. My fancy circular needle broke and stitches went everywhere, laddering down the completed knitting so quickly there was no chance of recovery. Believe it or not, all the bad words stayed in my thoughts and I calmly pushed the whole mess into my bag and told myself that I would consider the nearly 4 inches of lost afghan practice for the real thing. I start over tomorrow. With a better circular needle.

I was along on this trip in the event that questions arose about how we would handle the client's data when it hit our office. As it happens, they had no questions on that issue and my participation was minimal. But I got a free meal, a day's outing in beautiful weather, and the chance to see how things have grown in Salado, Belton and Waco since I was in college. I enjoyed visiting with the two attorneys sharing the car ride and with a lady who works in one of our branch offices close to Dallas. On the way back one of the attorneys and I grabbed quick cat naps. So the day wasn't a total loss. Just the afghan.

And the heathen cats had the gaul to greet me at the door like old friends. I'm still looking for what they destroyed while I was gone.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

The War

The heathen cats and I are out-smarting each other today. Due to some particular nastiness on their parts last week, they were banished to the utility room at bedtime for several days. This did not please them, but it did fractionally reduce the amount of vandalism that was taking place in the midnight hours. (They can still do a considerable amount of damage during the daytime, carefully timed for when I'm in the next room. Crash! Bang! Tinkle of broken glass!)

Poor little Scout has been particularly upset about the sleeping arrangements. She had grown accustomed to waiting until the dogs got thoroughly asleep and then sneaking into our bed and curling up against my leg. She did not think that a bathmat on top of the washing machine was a comparable substitute. Add to that the mid-40s temperature the last few nights and she has not been a happy cat camper. But, the fact of the matter is that she is the primary culprit that has brought about this unhappy turn of events.

My heart softened a little this morning and I decided to give them a chance to redeem themselves. They almost scotched their pardon by helping me rearrange the guest room today. The guest room, as family and friends know, is the dollhouse room and is full of little things that just beg to be grabbed by pesky cats. It took twice as long as it should have to get the job done, because they were alternating their attacks and as soon as I would get one chased out, the other one had slipped in and was grabbing what I had just taken away from the first one. I was hoarse by the end of the afternoon from yelling at them to get out.

Unaware that they were being given a reprieve tonight, they put their heads together late in the afternoon and plotted to avoid capture and confinement. It was really kind of funny. Scout began slinking around, dashing under the beds when she thought I was getting too near. Boo went to the top platform of the cat tree and glowered at me, just daring me to come get him. When I settled down with the dogs for a bit of tv and internet, Scout slipped under the bed and began muttering under her breath, "you're not getting me tonight, lady".

So we are calling it a draw. Man, I'm looking forward to the day when they stop being teenagers and start being fat, lazy cats that sleep 23 hours a day.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Day Arrives

Our Thanksgiving meal will be this afternoon, so I was up and at 'em early this morning. Not being up to a marathon cooking session, I opted for a batch of the family dressing, a roast chicken, a pre-cooked and sliced ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, green salad and pumpkin pie. The only really involved cooking will be the dressing and the rest is coming out of pre-cut or canned foundations.

It is now 9:15 a.m. and I already have the chicken in the slow cooker, the cornbread and biscuits baked, and the pumpkin pie well on the way. I will be able to take it easy now until mid-afternoon. I feel some quality puppy snuggling in my immediate future. We have come to really love our new chaise and they are quite happy to snuggle down into a blanket and let Mommy read or knit or nap beside them.

Yesterday was another day of good luck. I make it a firm policy to go nowhere near major shopping areas on the day after Thanksgiving. However, I decided to take a quick dash into Wal-Mart to pick up the new Trisha Yearwood album, knowing full well the madness I would be entering.

But, I snagged a front row parking spot, threaded my way through the throngs buying toys and televisions and tool cabinets, found my album, threaded my way back to the front of the store and right up to the express lane clerk and out in under 20 minutes. A true holiday miracle. Then it was off to HEB to pick up a couple of prescriptions and I was the very first customer in the drive thru. Eerie, itsn't it?

I had allowed ample time to get my two necessary errands accomplished before the Artists' Harvest downtown would open. My good luck left me with a whole hour to kill before the gates would open, so I went over to Beall's and spent the time picking out a new purse, billfold, necklace and bracelet. That unexpected shopping excursion out of the way, I still ended up at the art show 15 minutes early.

Another piece of luck was that I had a nice jacket in the car. It did not seem so cold when I left the house, but at the Farmer's Market where the art show was to take place the wind was cold and bitter and there was just enough moisture in the air to make the tiny drops feel like ice. The cold weather did not dampen the spirits of the artists or the attendees, however, and everyone was cheerful and ready to browse.

I had no intention of actually buying anything, but I found two watercolors that spoke to me and 6 terrific photographs of Texas wildflowers. I decided the bathrooms could use some new art. One of the watercolors was of the guardian angel out at Fairview Cemetery who stands guard over the war babies. Naturally I could not resist and the artist was delighted that I knew all about the statue. The lady with the photographs had some outstanding closeups of dragonflies, butterflies and lady bugs and was friendly and informative about how I could improve my own attempts at bug pictures.

I was good and frozen through when I left, so I hit Scooter's for a vanilla latte and headed home to relieve my health worker who was taking off at noon for her own weekend Thanksgiving holiday. The afternoon was a stretch of unpressured piddling.

Sure wish I could extend this nice restful vacation luck a few more days, but unfortunately Monday is back to normal. But there's still today and tomorrow and I intend to make the most of it.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Boo Shows His Best Side

Heckuva view I have as I eat my breakfast.

(I actually took several pictures, but naturally this was the only one where he was still enough to stay in focus.)


Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Shoe Hasn't Dropped Yet

Day 3 of vacation still finds me enjoying a rare stretch of relative peace and tranquility. My first chore was to get the groceries purchased for our Saturday quasi-Thanksgiving meal. That is usually not a peaceful nor tranquil activity, but right off the bat I snagged a parking space close to HEB's door. The store was crowded, but not unbearable yet. I was back at home by 10AM, with all necessary items purchased and the rest of the day to indulge my fancies.

So, I headed to Smithville to check out my favorite antique stores. Along the way I ran into our old neighbor from downtown Bastrop and shared family news. It's funny - we always got along just fine when we lived next to each other, but we weren't the type of folks who were in and out of each other's houses. We would have brief chats when we were both out in the yard and we knew that we were each available to the other for emergencies. The odd thing is how much I miss the security of knowing there is someone within hearing distance who will come running if called. I'm friendly with my new neighbors, but there are stretches of weeks when we don't see each other or speak. I love the quiet space around me now, but there is something to be said for close neighbors who stay put for decades.

I found nothing to spend my money on in Smithville (well, I bought a tiny vase for a dollhouse), so I decided to head back home by way of FM 2571, through Upton. That gave me the opportunity for another Find a Grave mission at the Youngs School House Cemetery. As I finished up, I decided to explore a country road named Farris Lane and see where it went.

Turns out that it takes you out to Highway 304, which I didn't recognize right away and ended up going the wrong way for a few miles. (But that's the joy of being semi-lost. I love figuring out where I am.) When I finally got myself oriented and headed back to Bastrop, I followed another sudden impulse and took the Watterson Road turn off. My grandmother was born in Watterson, so I figured it was time I requainted myself with that area.

I had to get my Roads of Texas mapbook out to locate the Watterson Cemetery, and I was glad I took the trouble. It sits off the main road up a short gravel lane and is a lovely little country cemetery, with huge oak trees. I don't have any family buried there (that I know of), so I had never visited before. Now I hope that someone puts in a photo request at Find a Grave so I will have an excuse to return.

I did take a picture of the gate. While my attention was on getting the best angle, I was addressed from behind by some folks who were wondering what the heck I was doing. I risked poison ivy to get close enough to visit with them. Thankfully I was wearing heavy blue jeans, because I would not have missed the opportunity to get a few more pictures. I don't get many chances these days to be this close to the bovine population.

A storm, with wind and rain and cold, moved in after I was safely back at home. The day ended with puppy snuggling and a good roast dinner.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Moon is in the 7th House

Things are eerily working out for me this week. I'm beginning to anticipate the dreaded thump of the other shoe hitting the floor. But, I shall enjoy myself in the meantime.

Day 2 of vacation found me headed into Austin again. I had multiple stops in mind, but decided I would stop first in Bastrop and take a stab at getting the precious prescription filled locally. It usually doesn't work out for me because for some reason HEB doesn't generally have sufficient supplies to comply with my request and this is one drug they won't fill part way. I was completely blown away when they said they were able to fill it today if I could wait for 45 minutes. I, being the clever little professional caregiver I am, had my knitting bag with me and sat happily for about an hour quietly knitting. I did break once to check my blood pressure with their handy dandy blood pressure vise and was relieved to find that my blood pressure was in the normal zone - a rarity for me when I'm in HEB dealing with the pharmacy.

Skipping out of the store with the full 3 months supply of pills in my possession and a song in my heart, I headed on into Austin and made my next stop the State Capitol. My purpose was to purchase the remaining Texas Capitol Christmas ornaments that I needed to complete my collection. As I walked along the sidewalk to the front door, I thought to myself that every Texan ought to visit the Capitol once every year or so. It's an impressive place and I thoroughly enjoyed wandering along the halls to the gift shop and then wandering around the grounds on my way back to the parking garage.

Next up was a return to the Oakwood Cemetery Annex where I fulfilled several Find a Grave photo requests. To my surprise, just a few graves away from the ones I had come to photograph were 3 Willcoxon graves. I snagged pictures of them, too, in case they turn out to be kinfolk sometime down the research line.

Stops at Half-Price Books, Hobby Lobby, The Container Store and Whole Foods followed. My advice for the day is to never, ever, ever, stop at Whole Foods the week of Thanksgiving. I got what I went for, but I beat a hasty retreat as soon as possible. I scratched the next stop from my list, because at this point I had reached the understanding that this year I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in Christmas or Christmas shopping and especially in mingling with Christmas shoppers. What shopping I feel has to be done shall be done via the Internet or not at all. It's safer for my sanity and it's safer for the physical well being of the folks around me.

A quick swing by the office to drop a package off to a co-worker was followed by a leisurely drive down to the McDade Cemetery on another Find a Grave mission. (Now cue the Twilight Zone theme.) I had about 30 minutes left to my freedom and 2 graves to locate in a medium-sized cemetery. I pondered where best to start. I had intended to start on the western end and work my way east, but for some reason I kept rolling the car to the opposite side. I followed a second impulse to start my search in the far SE corner rather than next to where I had parked. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at that corner to discover the very graves I had come to find. Trust me, it was spooky. Though this has happened so many times that I shouldn't be so surprised.

Home again to a nice neighborhood walk with the kiddoes and another vacation day comes to a successful close.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Field Trip

Today was the first day of a week's vacation for me but, as luck would have it, it was also a day that required a trip into Austin to take Mother to the doctor. I pondered how I would keep it primarily a day of vacation and decided I would follow the doctor appointment by fulfilling two long-standing requests from distant cousins to obtain some tombstone photos at Oakwood Cemetery. I also followed a last minute impulse to take the dogs along with us and make a stab at showing them that not every trip in the car ends with a needle in the hiney.

The dogs don't particularly enjoy riding in the car, but they also don't like staying at home alone, so they were game and settled into their travel carriers in the back seat. We set off on our field trip.

We had one rocky point on the way in when I decided to swing through the Cedar Creek McDonald's for a Diet Coke. I'm not sure what their problem was, but after 10 minutes sitting in line waiting and making no progress toward the window, I did something I've never done before and cut out of line to leave after I had placed my order. No way was I going to risk arriving late to see this particular doctor, who has a pet peeve about folks who are tardy.

We arrived on time, got our prescription (which was the main reason for the trip), and then headed over to the cemetery on MLK Boulevard. If you've never driven by this cemetery, let me just say that it is one big cemetery. No way would you be able to walk this cemetery randomly to find a grave. I tried it several years ago and I ended up exhausted with sore feet and did not find what I was looking for. Since then some helpful folks have posted lists of the burials online, complete with lot numbers. I was prepared with the names and lot numbers and a map of the main cemetery and it did not take long to obtain the required photos for my Kentucky Hodge cousin.

The request from my Mobley cousin had me a little concerned, since I had not been able to locate a map of the Annex portion of the cemetery. I was a little more concerned when I discovered that the office is only open in the morning and there wasn't a soul around. But with true vacation luck, I discovered a map of the Annex on the bulletin board outside the office and was able to pinpoint where the Mobley graves were. Those pictures were secured and I ended the mission by snapping a quick photo of the Annex gate.

I noticed the graffiti on the sign as I took the picture, but it wasn't until I got home and took a closer look that I noticed the other marking on the fence post. One does wonder just what these folks are up to:

I can't say the trip was a total success where the dogs were concerned. I let them out of their carriers while we were at the cemetery and they weren't interested in smelling out the window or getting a drink from the water faucet. Coco ultimately decided to retreat back to her carrier where she felt secure. Mojo decided to ride home in Mommy's lap with his head tucked under my arm to hide his eyes from the big trucks passing by. When we took a swing through Wendy's to pick up a hamburger for Mother, Mojo did not lean out the window eagerly as Xana would have done to sniff, but instead took a dive for the back seat before the clerk could reach out and grab the cute puppy. I'm beginning to think they are hopeless candidates for travel companions.

The day ended with a unexpected gift. My Kentucky cousin, for whom I had made the cemetery trip, had sent me an email with scans of the marriage license and bond for my ggg-grandfather Hodge. I had heretofore only managed to uncover the registry entry for the marriage and now I have the documents, complete with his signature and the signature of his father-in-law, my gggg-grandfather Reese.

Vacation day 1 successful.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Gee, Mom

Mojo: You think she's ever going to come to bed?

Coco: She's gone back to check her email again.

Mojo: I'm so tired.

Coco: Maybe if we look pitiful she'll feel guilty and come on.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Dogs Are Tired

I'm not talking about my feet; my puppy dogs are tired. The subtle shift in the weather to fall has made evening walks desirable again. We buckled up the leashes and headed out to see what has been happening over on the next street this summer.

To walk a block in this neighborhood takes about 15 minutes, not counting momentary stops to sniff and poop. We walked hard and when we got back, two happy little dogs hit their bed under my desk and didn't say a word for a couple of hours.

And it only took once to establish a new routine. The next evening they met me at the door saying, "Let's go!".


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Shaking Things Up

Naturally I couldn't stand not having my new chaise where I could use it, so today I've been rearranging the family room so it could be moved in. After I bathe two dirty little dogs here in a little bit, I plan to stretch out and enjoy myself for an hour or two.

The heathen cats have been mesmerized by the shifting of their environment. They have clambered over everything that has been moved, checking each piece of furniture or knick knack. They have been frustrated that something may move multiple times before it comes to a final rest, so just as they think they know where everything is, Mom throws them another curve.

I decided to reactivate a little fountain temporarily and that really got their attention.

I'm sure by the end of the day all of the rocks will be lying in the floor. I would not wish my so called helpers on my worst enemy. They are beginning to think Mom has rechristened them "Stop that!" and "Get down from there".

If they knew I am planning to order in a supply of Soft Paws, they would probably be packing their little bags.

Dog baths, Mom bath, good book, amaretto and Sprite, chaise.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Early Christmas

It never fails that I always end up buying myself something big this time of year. When cool weather hits and I start thinking about the need to plan for Christmas, I start getting out and seeing things I didn't know I needed until I saw them.

I'm working up to a massive redo of the family room and when a local furniture store started a going out of business sale, I decided to take a look and see if there was anything that might give me some ideas. Two weeks ago I stopped by for a quick look and a certain flowered easy chair screamed at me from clear across a crowded room. I really wasn't ready to puchase furniture just yet, but I kept thinking about that chair. Last Wednesday I stopped for a second look and it was still calling my name from across the room. So I splurged. Today it came home and settled itself in my study with a satisfied grunt. Home at last.

The animals are not quite sure what to make of it. To make things more interesting, as I was paying for the chair, a chaise lounge winked at me. I've always wanted a chaise lounge in my bedroom and this one had been marked down to half price. What was I to do?

Now the bad thing is that there is no way the chaise will fit into my bedroom as it currently stands. One day I may have room for it, but until then it will have to live in the family room. It is so comfy that I anticipate many naps and pleasant evenings of tv watching. It's big enough to hold me and two little dogs and let us all stretch out. (No picture; it's draped in a large blanket to discourage cat vandalism until they get used to having it around.)

Today was the semi-annual fundraising meeting of the McDade Cemetery Association. Aunt Bill, cousin Lisa and I were able to attend for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Nothing like a small community potluck for the opportunity to eat some good, old-fashioned home cooking. (Diet? What diet?)

After the meal was a white elephant auction and I brought home two new plants, which I can't bring into the house because of the cat vandals. I'm beginning to wonder just who is in charge around here.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rambling Off the Beaten Path

The odd day working at home helps keep me from completely going berzerk. Today I cut through a bunch of little odd jobs that have been hanging over my head - like oil changes and financial paper filing and cat throttling. Well, the last is a joke. Sort of.

The heathen cats are systematically wrecking the house in retaliation for being shut out of the garage for the winter. I knew the plants would not stand a snowball's chance in hell of wintering inside with those two, so I opted to clear a space in the front of the garage where I could open the door and give the plants some fresh air on warm winter days. The cats are furious that their roaming territory has been cut back. So they are fighting back by tearing things up, running between my feet, chasing each other through the house and peeing on the dog beds. The odds are running about 50-50 which of us is going to win this new war.

In other news, I've hit the clothing sales and restocked for cooler weather. In the process I discovered that I am still slimming down, though not actually losing more weight. Things are still shifting around, it seems. The frustration level was high when nothing I tried on looked good on me and then it occurred to me that I might be trying on the wrong size. Sure enough, getting a size smaller fixed the problem and gave me an ego boost at the same time.

Today I found a great chair at a local furniture store and may have found my new sofa as well. That is the first sign that the living room redo has begun. Both just happen to match the new afghan I've started to knit, so I guess I'm fully attuned to my redecorating muse. (I'm guarding the new afghan against marauding cats. Wish me luck.)

My support of Jane Seymour on Dancing With the Stars was toppled last night as she became the latest to be voted out of the competition. Each season I pick out my favorite, only to have my hopes dashed along about this point of the process. Last season I stood faithfully by Billy Ray Cyrus, even though I knew it was a lost cause from the beginning. Jane actually did very well, but just could not overcome her English lady persona. The elegant dances suited her well, but she just could not produce the earthy element necessary for the Latin dances. Ah, well, I shall shift my allegiance to Marie Osmond, who will probably fall by the wayside next. Still, both of them have proved that the 40+ and 50+ folks are worthy competitors.

My latest genealogy exploits are centered on scanning ancient Elgin newspapers, looking through the personals columns for mention of my kinfolks. I have found my grandfather listed in the honor roll for spelling, my great aunt's graduation from McDade High School, my great and great-great grandmothers visits to other relatives' homes and various marriages and reports of illness. Tiny little glimpses into the past, circa 1910, 1916, and 1923, courtesy of the Elgin Historical Society which is releasing a year's worth of papers on CD as fast as they can scan them.

Life is settling back into normal patterns at last. Thank you notes have been dispatched following Daddy's memorial service, annual reviews for Mother's health care have been filed, I am once again tackling the pile of family papers, photos and memorabilia, and planning the next ancestral quest vacation. And the time has changed back to where it should be. Onward to the holiday season.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Private Burial

Way back at the first of the year, when I was beginning to explore the different routes to the new office location, it was just before the corn crop was beginning to grow. One day I tried an alternate route, turning off FM 1660 onto a little road that runs into Highway 79 a few miles east of Hutto. Not far from the turn was a historical marker noting a small family cemetery. I stopped to read the marker, but saw no sign of the cemetery itself. I assumed it had been lost to time.

Earlier this week, I followed an impulse to take this alternate route on the way home. It was the first time I had done so since the harvesting of the corn and cotton. I glanced over at the field as I drew up even to the historical marker and was surprised to see that there was a cemetery there after all. It had been blocked from view by the crops that were planted around it. It is smack dab in the center of the field, surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and looks to contain only three or four grave markers.

What do you bet that one of these days when I'm not wearing heels that I'm going to have to stop and trudge out to visit these folks? This has to be one of the smallest cemeteries I've ever run across.

Not a bad place to spend eternity - surrounded by the cycle of planting and harvest.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In the Doghouse

I am reminded of Hank William's song "Move it On Over", especially the line "move over little dog, 'cuz the big dog's movin' in".

Yesterday morning I took the wee ones in for a dental procedure each. Their teeth weren't in horrible shape, but were of some concern and I've been down the road you end up on when dental issues are ignored. I've become a believer in preventive maintenance for dog teeth.

Neither Mojo nor Coco likes car travel, to begin with. They shook and panted the entire 17 miles to Elgin, but that was nothing compared with the horror they felt when they realized where they had arrived. And then Mommy handed them over and left.

Sometime between then and 3:45 when I picked them up, a good bit of something foul hit the proverbial fan. They were still a little drunk when I picked them up, but they were all for leaving that vile place. So we staggered out to the car and settled in for another 17 miles of shake and pant.

It was when we got home and they knew they were back in safe territory that I was informed in no uncertain terms that I had fallen from grace. If I tried to touch them, they groaned. If I left them alone, they sat huddled in abject misery and looked daggers at me. I tried picking them up and the groans amplified. I finally resorted to putting them in bed with Mother and they settled down for long naps with the one person in the house they were still speaking to.

These are little dogs who never miss a meal, but they were too upset to eat when suppertime came. They were perfectly willing for me to carry them up the stairs to bed, but as soon as they were settled in bed I was warned off with growls and more groans. It was some performance, let me tell you, and I felt properly chastised.

This morning their world had realigned on its axis and they were a little more congenial. They consented to eat some of my breakfast and let me pet them a little (without groaning). But then, when it came time for me to leave for work, I saw Mojo give me that "If you loved me, you'd stay home" look. I'll probably be paying for that transgression this evening.

In a bit of good news from yesteday, Mojo is down 6 ounces. Doesn't sound like much, but at least we are headed in the right direction. Coco, however, eating the same diet for the same amount of time, has increased a small bit. Not sure what to do about that.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Call of the Earth

All those generations of farmers in my ancestry gives me an appreciation for a freshly tilled field. I was tempted today to take off my shoes and feel the dirt between my toes. Black dirt as far as the eye could see.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Gone to the Dogs

Ok, it's been awhile since I've bragged on my kids. Time to catch up.

We have an armadillo that comes around during the night and leaves the neighbor's yard pocked with holes. Mojo finds them fascinating.

Ah, the enjoyment of the first fall cool spell. One must frolic in the soft grass.

And when Mommy wants you to look at the camera and pose, you must of course turn your backs and present your best side.

Finest dogs in Texas.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Memories 35 Years Old

We will start this little walk down memory lane with a picture taken inside the First Baptist Church of Smiley, Texas, while we were preparing for my father's memorial service last Saturday. This is the church of my childhood. It has been recently refurbished with carpeting, a new ceiling and new lights, but the basic elements are just as they were back in 1964 when we moved to Smiley from Victoria.

I was told that the Hammond organ on the front right is seldom used anymore. It was the instrument of choice back when I was a regular musician for the church. If there was only one musician available for a service, it was accepted that the one musician would play the organ. Let's just say that I put in plenty of time on both instruments during my 7 or so years as church musician in Smiley.

I'm always a little amazed when I experience physical memory. That is, your body remembers actions that you have not consciously thought of for many years. For instance, I really don't know what my password is to my office computer. My fingers know it, but if I try to consciously recall it, I have no idea what it is. If I think too hard about it, my fingers will even give up.

After the service, when most folks had departed, I could not resist going in and sitting at the organ for a few minutes. Without thinking, I opened the bench and reached inside to where my fingers knew the key would be waiting. I automatically folded the lid back and flipped the switches in the correct order to begin the warm up. These were all actions I have not performed in more than 35 years, but my fingers knew exactly what they were doing. I set the stops and the tone settings and played a couple of songs. It was like I had been playing it regularly for all those years.

The organ was donated to the church in 1949 by Mrs. O. R. Culpepper in memory of her husband. Mrs. Culpepper was a very old lady when I knew her and died shortly after we moved away. She was one of those sweet little ladies you sometimes have the fortune to count as a friend. She liked me and I liked her. She would pay me out of her pocket to work part-time in the Smiley Public Library during summers, a job I would have been happy to do for free.

Awhile after we had moved to Smiley, Mrs. Culpepper approached my father and told him that she had had a dedication plaque made for the organ several years before and wondered what he thought about her having it mounted on the organ. It was a dark metal, like aged bronze, and tastefully unobtrusive. He told her to go ahead.

If you've ever been a member of a small country church, you can probably guess what happened next. The family that had donated the pulpit immediately had a plaque engraved to be mounted on it. It was metal, but hardly unobtrusive. Large, shiny brass and they had it mounted it on the front of the pulpit where it could hardly be missed. There was no way to tell them they couldn't put it there, since a precedent had been set.

Sooo, someone went and bought an artificial plant to place in front of it to block the glare. (Let the war begin.)

Nothing happened for a few weeks, but then one Sunday morning we all arrived to find that some mysterious visitor had slipped into the church and cut the plant off at mid-height. (Those were the days when it was not necessary to lock the church day or night). There was a lot of speculation over who had felt moved to perform such a thing and I was questioned as a material witness, since I spent a good portion of my free time over in the church practicing the piano or the organ. Everyone knew that if I heard someone come in, I generally slipped quietly back into my father's office and out the side door. That particular day I had not been around to see the culprit arrive and so was fortunately not required to testify against one of the church members.

You know, if I had a dollar for every song I ever played in that church auditorium, I would be set for retirement. To return to that auditorium after so many years was familiar, yet strange. Home is where your heart, and your memories, live.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Most of the time I'm a normal adult, but there are moments when I revert back to cave-dwelling programmer status. Sitting in a dark room, wandering around the Internet with only the light of the monitor breaking the gloom.

I can participate in conversations with people who wear black-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors and who are obsessed with the various incarnations of Star Trek. I only watched the first series, but that's enough for me to fake it.

Another sign of my geekiness? I monitor a website devoted to the release of old tv shows on dvd, and I regularly buy season sets of old tv shows on dvd.

In my defense, you have to admit that today's tv offerings are the pits. There are about four current shows I make a point to watch during the week and the rest of the time I'm generally watching old movies or TVLand or restlessly cycling through the channels with the remote. Or, I'm hauling out one of my sets of old shows and spending the week with an old friend.

At the risk of ruining my reputation, I will admit to having the following in my collection:

Two seasons of The Wild, Wild West (soon to be the complete 3 seasons)
Two seasons of House
The complete 3 seasons of I Spy
The complete 3 seasons of Greatest American Hero
The complete 4 seasons of Starsky & Hutch
The complete 5 seasons of Quantum Leap (my all time favorite)
Six seasons of X-Files (I stop there; the last two seasons were awful.)
The complete 6 seasons of Northern Exposure
The complete 6 seasons plus reunion movies of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
The complete 11 seasons of M*A*S*H
The complete Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
The complete BBC series Keeping Up Appearances, Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served? & The Persuaders
The complete PBS series of Sherlock Holmes
One season each of Here Come the Brides, Lost, Riptide, Night Court, Murphy Brown, Make Room for Daddy, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Doc, Picket Fences & All Creatures Great and Small

It may make me a geek, but at least I know I will always have something good to watch instead of the awful reality dreck that is the current rage. And no commercials.

I won't even go into the movies I own, but I will tell you that one of my friends has asked to be named in my will to inherit my video collection.

And I do not own a pocket protector.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Come and Take It

As you drive from Nixon to Gonzales, you pass through the little crossroads of Cost, Texas.

Any true Texan historian driving this route should stop and pay homage to the events commemorated by the marker that sits beside the road. It was the start of Texas history.

When this event occurred, my great, great, great-grandparents Lentz were in residence on a league of land in Bastrop County, obtained by a Mexican land grant through the colonization efforts of Stephen F. Austin.

It's my history, too.