Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Angels Hovering Around

I stopped today at the Oakhill Cemetery in Smithville to take a volunteer tombstone photo and spotted this gravesite from a distance. I had to get closer and check it out.

This is some impressive monument and having recently been involved with the purchase of a couple of tombstones, I can imagine just how much money went into this. It's beautiful from all sides.

I was so enthralled by this gravesite that it was not until I got back into the car and looked back at it before leaving that I noticed there were two other graves with smaller angels a little past this one. You can see them in the background of this closeup I took of the engraving.

I believe these angels were all in one big family plot. The Flint family must have had a special feeling for angels.


Everyone Fits in Somewhere

Ok, I have nothing against tattoos. I have many friends who have small, discreet tattoos to represent memorials, life milestones, beliefs and so on. They don't bother me at all. I, myself, will never have a tattoo because I don't like the permanence of them. My moods are changeable and periodically I throw out the old (except for heirlooms, antiques and family historical documents). There is no throwing out a tattoo that no longer pleases without pain being involved and I am not into pain.

That being said, I don't understand the segment of population that covers themselves with large, garishly colored and very prominent tattoos. They are distracting, for one thing. It's hard to focus on your conversation with a person who is head to toe a walking mural. I ran into one of them yesterday at the checkout counter at Half-Price Books. Both arms were covered with a variety of pink-hued flowers, quotations and I'm not sure what else because I was trying not to stare. Her hair was dredlocked and also colored in shades of pink to orange. There were piercings in places other than her ears. (Again, my objection is the instant mental impression that hits me of the pain involved in having these areas pierced. For those that don't know me, I've never even pierced my ears and I am definitely in the minority there.)

I am all for personal expression and whatever she wants to do with her body is her own business. But, I found myself pondering how likely she would be to ever get a job at a bank or a law office or even another bookstore, say Barnes & Noble. She was probably in her early twenties and I'm sure is very pleased with the state of her body art - but how will she feel when she's approaching 55 (a figure that is hurtling toward me at a frightening speed)?

I admire people for deciding their own paths and sticking to it, but I don't think people should get married before they're 30 because you don't have a clue who you are going to be until you reach that point and some folks could use a few more decades before taking the plunge. Maybe there should be an age restriction of 30+ for getting tattoos. I bet there would be a lot less of them if there were.

Since there isn't, thank heavens for places like Austin and employers like Half-Price Books and Whole Foods where the visual distractions of a person are pretty much overlooked during the hiring process. And, if I were starting over in my occupational path, I might look into specializing in tattoo removal. I think there is going to be a higher demand for that service in a few years.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Way Too Early for Sunday

I had intended to get up earlier this morning anyway. But then I ended up working for the office last night and tired myself out, so I wasn't moving very fast when I got up at 6:30 a.m. The dogs and I took their morning constitutional up and down the block and then I sat staring stonily at the computer until I could face going into the kitchen and trying to find something in there I can have for breakfast. It's always a challenge and I had gone and let myself run out of my breakfast material.

Then I heard a weird buzzing sound. I wandered around the house trying to get a fix on its location. It wasn't the car alarm coming from the garage. It wasn't the smoke detectors. It wasn't the little heater I keep in Mother's bedroom, but the sound was sure a lot louder in there. The light finally dawned and I stepped out on the deck and looked down the side of the house and, sure enough, the sewer pump alarm was going full blast with red light and annoying buzz. Wonderful. I am probably not the favored neighbor of the poor folks who live on that side of me, because there is no shutting it up until it's ready to shut up on its own or somebody disconnects it from its power source.

The good news is that I no longer have to put in a desperation call to the septic service people. Now it is the problem of the Water District, so I looked up their phone number and started someone else's Sunday way too early. I hesitated to shower or start laundry or any other water intensive activity until I knew if I had a real problem or not, so we piddled around and made a cup of hot tea and some dry toast and waited.

About an hour later I realized the buzzing had stopped. Naturally, this was just before the Water District truck arrived. Fortunately, my pump has a history with them, so he believed me, ran the tests on the pump and, yes, there was something going on, swapped out the pump and took off. All this by 8:30 a.m. Not my idea of the way to start a Sunday.

So much for the early morning chores I had planned. I've got to clock in for the office again here in a little while, so those will just have to wait for a window of opportunity later on.

However, the hour I waited afforded me the opportunity to go through another photo album and find some additional treasures that I haven't yet scanned. So I did get something accomplished. Just no laundry and no grocery run I had planned. Oh, well.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Brain and Back Checkup

Without warning this morning, a chiropractor and his minions showed up at the office to give complementary neck scans to anyone interested. Despite having a pile of work on my desk, I decided to take part. I think the world of my own chiropractor and have no intention of shifting my business to someone else, but free is free. Besides, I just had an adjustment yesterday and was feeling pretty good in the back department and I was curious to see if their little gizmo would give an accurate reading or would find all manner of horrible things wrong with me that needed their expert attention.

Well, Doubting Thomas that I am, my scan showed me to be in excellent condition, with only one area of concern. That area roughly corresponds to my sinuses and since I woke up with a sinus headache this morning, it was pretty much on target. I sneaked looks at several of my co-worker's scan reports and they were full of cautionary red lines. My lines were mostly clear, green and blue. The sinus area was the only blotch of red on my printout. I guess their little scan machine is on the up and up after all. And I guess my chiropractor is doing his job well, which I pretty much knew already.

Fast forward to this afternoon about 15 minutes before it was time for me to leave the office and one of my co-workers arrived in my door with a puzzle. She was being tormented by a snatch of a song that danced just outside of mental reach and was trying to remember not only the song but also the singer. Her three bull-pen co-workers had been enlisted to help and had come up empty. Since we come from the same general era, she decided to toss the puzzle in my lap and see if I could help.

Her clues were:
The song was bouncy, on the order of Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs".
The singer was popular for a few years in the 1970s and then faded from public.
He was about mid-twenties when the song came out, he had curly hair something like Art Garfunkel's but shorter and darker.
She thought he was English.
For some reason she kept thinking the name "Oliver".

My first thought was the singer who went by the name Oliver who sang "Good Morning, Starshine" and "Jean", so I Googled up a picture of him and she said it was not him.

I went through the obvious English singers I could remember from that period - Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdink, the lead from Paul Revere and the Raiders - and while I was casting about in my mind for more names, someone else called in the guess of Roger Daltrey. I Googled a photo of Daltrey, thinking that was probably the answer, but no it was not him.

From somewhere in the dim recesses of my memory all the clues came together and I blurted out the right answer - both the singer and the song. Her face cleared immediately and she said she thought I was right. I Googled again and found a photo and she was pretty sure I was right. I happen to have a copy of the song on CD and will take it in tomorrow and get the verdict.

I'm always amazed when the mind makes these little obscure connections and leads you to the right answer. I guess all those crossword puzzles, trivia games and programming pays off. I'm still keeping senility at bay for now.


(I considered torturing you, but the answer is Gilbert O'Sullivan and the song was "Alone Again (Naturally)". She at least had the right initial letter in her Oliver clue.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where's the Beef?

I love my commute. Just outside Coupland is a small herd of cattle I've been watching. It took me awhile to figure out how they were on one side of the highway one day and on the other side of the highway the next. It's a busy highway and I knew there was no way the owners were herding them from one side to the other across that traffic flow.

I finally realized that there was a cattle throughway below one of the bridges. Duh. Took me awhile to notice that the bridge wasn't over water. No flies on me.

Today was drizzly and slightly chilly, but I couldn't resist stopping at the cemetery next to their pasture and grabbing a couple of shots.

Belly up to the bar, boys!

What's for dessert?

Two tables for the in-crowd. Where do us dorks eat?


Monday, February 16, 2009

Time Travel

This evening I've been involved in another round of photo scanning. I continue to be surprised at some of the pictures I am finding. I know I've looked through these photo albums a thousand times before, but there are still a few surprises to be found.

Like this photo of my father performing a shotgun wedding. What a hoot. I would love to know who these folks were. They obviously had good senses of humor.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Odd Inheritance

Earlier this week I wrote a couple of memorials for my grandfathers over on Building Blocks. During the process of writing and selecting the photos to be posted, a curious question kept running through my mind. What did my grandfather Hodge call my grandmother? I could not remember one instance of anytime that he addressed her directly by name or pet name or even "hey, you".

I fired off an email to both my aunts and asked them for the answer. Both of them replied that they could not themselves remember one instance where he addressed her directly by name or any sobriquet. There were cloudy memories of him referring to her as "your ma" when speaking to the kids, but that was it.

Curious. There is no doubt in anyone's mind who knew them that they were devoted to each other, best of friends, life partners in a marriage that worked. This had to be some unique peculiarity of his. On reflection, I'm not sure he ever called me by name. He did, on many occasions, refer to me as "old hen". I have no idea why, except he once commented that I flitted around.

My father had a unique quirk in this area, one that I also adopted to some extent. He liked to pick out his own nickname or pet name for folks. Little brother was quite often "Pistol Pete" or "Davidian". While I am Cindy to almost everyone in my life, Daddy developed his own name for me, "Lucy Sue" and sometimes "Cindy Lou". Mother was almost always addressed by her middle name "Frances". A girl cousin was christened "Butch" (and not for the reason you might think), a young friend in Smiley was "Slats".

I have a small dose of this quirk. I tend to address folks by their full name, if they have a shortened nickname, or a nickname I manufacture myself if everyone else uses their full name. I guess it has something to do with wanting to stand apart from the crowd. I've always been a noncomformist.

It even extends to my pets. All of my dogs answer to at least a half-dozen names. I use their "real" name religiously until they have learned it and then I start addressing them by variations. Mojo is also "Moo-Juice". Coco is also "Coco Puff". (I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs! Does that date me or what?) Bebop was the "Big Bopper". Xana was "Xanadu".

It's a peculiar trait. But not quite as peculiar as never ever addressing a loved one by any name. That still has me buffaloed.


Saturday, February 14, 2009


First of all, I could not decide what to do with myself today. The cool front brought in enough rain to discourage dog walks and outdoor chores. I didn't feel like reading or knitting or watching tv. (Much to Mojo's displeasure. He was wishing for a nice long nap in Mom's lap.)

I ran my one necessary errand - to pick up a prescription - and on the way made a volunteer photo trip to the big cemetery on the hill. That was fun, but it did not take long and it was back to the house and twiddling my thumbs again.

I'm beginnning to get back into the genealogy mode, but that wasn't satisfying me today. (I did find my footloose Dr. Hodge in yet another Texas county today, which was VERY satisfying.)

I tried prowling EBAY. Nope.

I tackled framing a photo for which I had made a special trip to Hobby Lobby last week to get a frame and a mat and discovered quickly that I had bought the wrong sized mat for the frame. Grr.

I finally decided when all else fails - cook. I had all the makings for a big pot of stew, and there's nothing that calms my nerves better than a lot of chopping and mincing and stirring and tasting. Since Mother can't really handle eating soup anymore, I also put together a meat loaf, using a new recipe. It wasn't long before I had the house smelling really, really good.

Of course that doesn't always mean the food will be fit to eat.

However, the taste test for the stew rendered the verdict umm, umm good! I was glad, because I really don't care for meat loaf.

But, the taste test for the meat loaf was also umm, umm good.

I'm back to indecision. Which do I eat tonight?

I suspect I will have a bit of both. Along with the fruit salad I made (more chopping and mixing). And best of all - leftovers tomorrow!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Late to the Party

It's funny how you can sometimes miss out entirely on a television show, all the time griping about there being nothing worth watching. I have recently discovered one of those entertaining shows that totally slipped past me until it was over and done with.

There are other television shows I've missed out on when they were current. Star Trek, for instance. I don't think I ever watched it when it was on in prime time. We discovered it when it was in reruns several years later. Simon & Simon is another I discovered in reruns.

Lately I hesitate to get attached to television shows, since they no longer get the courtesy of being allowed to cultivate an audience before they are axed and replaced with another hideous reality show. It was with some surprise that I read last week's Entertainment Weekly and discovered that the few shows I follow with any regularity (NCIS, Two and 1/2 Men, Lost, House) are actually in the top 20 of popular shows. It's rare that the shows I enjoy stick around very long, much less achieve any degree of popularity.

Over the past two weeks I have discovered another jewel that escaped me back in its heyday. I did watch a few shows here and there and recognized it as well-written and well-acted, but I just could not get into it then. Now it is in reruns and just happens to coincide with the period of time I am eating breakfast and reading the newspaper.

So am I the last person to discover the terrific comedy of Malcolm in the Middle? The cast was wonderful, the writing was outstanding and every show makes me laugh out loud.

Did you know the creator of Malcolm in the Middle was Linwood Boomer? The same Linwood Boomer who was a big part of Night Court and the same Linwood Boomer who played Mary Ingalls' blind husband in Little House on the Prairie. Who knew that stuffy Adam Kendall had the zaniness of Night Court and Malcolm in the Middle hiding inside him.

It's a terrific show. I'm sorry I missed it back when, but I am having a great deal of fun catching up.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mumbling and Grumbling

I am way tired of coming home and finding yet ANOTHER phone book tossed in my yard. Why all the phone books? Aside from the fact that I despise the phone to begin with, one phone book from my phone provider is all I require. I do not need a regular size yellow pages, a reduced size yellow pages, a regional phone book, a phone book on CD, or a loaded with local ads phone book. If I want a number, odds are I will head to the Internet and let Google do the walking. Enough already with the phone books. The last two have gone straight into the recycle bin. They would have looked much nicer as a tree.

I am glad my job does not require me to stand out beside the road wearing a Statue of Liberty getup and wave to the folks driving by. These poor souls are out there in fair weather and foul, in the rain, the sleet and freezing temperatures. By the end of tax season, they are ready for anything. Including the intensive care ward. I feel for them. I would never use that tax service because my reaction is to duck and run the opposite direction. Any company that humiliates and tortures their employees in such a manner is not a company with which I want to do business.

I discovered today that the nice little independent local coffee shop has expired. It was to be expected, I guess. They did well to last a year after Starbucks took up residence in town. Starbucks + a crashing economy = the little guys are run into the ground. Sad. They were nice folks and they made good lattes.

The first sign of Spring has arrived. The lilting music of the teenage driver blasting up and down the street. My kingdom for a series of speed bumps on this block.

Thank heavens for the unbroken woods behind the house and the steady stream of customers at the bird feeders. When I can't take the teenagers any longer, I go to the back of the house and study the chickadees, the gold and red finches, the titmice, the lone woodpecker, the fat squirrel butts. There's always a smile to be found there.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Not Invisible

I took some ribbing when I featured my red shoes in a post awhile back. But, I will have you know, they do get you noticed.

Yesterday I had lunch at Cracker Barrel and was browsing the gift area for a few minutes afterwards. A saleslady came across to admire my red shoes. She had pretty good eyes, because I was wearing my wide-legged black pants and there wasn't a whole lot of shoe showing.

Today I went to Toyota to get my 10,000 mile oil change and tire rotation and decided to indulge in a vanilla latte. (Toyota has a Starbucks kiosk just off their waiting area. Who could ask for anything more?) I was wearing my other pair of red shoes and was just standing there waiting when another customer zoomed in to admire my skirt and "pretty red shoes".

It's always a little lift to get an unexpected compliment from a total stranger. To get two in as many days is quite nice.

Many times when I am in a bit of a slump and looking for a distraction to remind me that there are things in life other than work drudgery and caregiving, I will take myself to a department store or a mall at lunch, to browse and observe others. I've noticed many times that on such occasions I quite often get involved in an unexpected conversation with a stranger that turns out to be a highlight of the day. I blame my guardian angel for inspiring me to get out of the rut and go somewhere different and remind myself that I'm still me.

Perhaps all our guardian angels are buzzing around and working together to nudge their charges not only to get out of their boring, depressing ruts, but also to make contact with other human beings, letting them know they are not invisible and that something about them has stood out and been noticed.

I believe in guardian angels. These kinds of things always happen when I'm tired and depressed and need a small bit of confirmation that I matter.

Watch and see if it doesn't happen for you, too.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Holding Pattern

Just passing through to let you know I'm okay, but at a loss for words.

Enjoy it while it lasts.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And That's the Truth

I took myself to the Round Rock Antique Mall at lunch today for a quiet stroll. I quite frequently find some small little something to buy while I'm there and today it was a book.

The title of the book is "The Truth About Texas" by Lewis Nordyke. I was familiar with Mr. Nordyke because he wrote a book about John Wesley Hardin that mentions my old home town of Smiley at several points in the narrative. You see, John Wesley Hardin married a girl from Smiley and frequently visited the area. One of the small claims to fame for that little town that time forgot.

I bought the newly found book to acquire a mere two paragraphs on pages 7 and 8 and it was because Mr. Nordyke again told a story about Smiley:

"No one knows what really to believe about Texas. At least I didn't. If someone had come to my house a couple of years ago and told me that the residents of Smiley in Gonzales County, Texas, used their hot-water heaters to cool their water, I would have thought my leg was being pulled. While on tour, I stopped for a long, tall drink from the Smiley water system, and now I can't make anyone believe the true--absolutely true-- water heater story.

"Smiley, with a population of around six hundred, has one artesian well with such great force that no pump or storage tanks are needed. The water main screws right onto the well casing, and that's it. Not even any meters, since the price of water per month is based on the size of pipe leading to the house. A resident of the town could open every faucet and let them run full tilt all month, and his water bill would be the same as if he hadn't used a drop. This artesian water is hot, about right for bathing and washing dishes. So Smiley people do let the water stand in fireless heaters to cool for drinking and some other household purposes. When they want cold water, they turn on the hot faucet and vice versa."

I'm here to tell you that this is the God's honest truth. We moved to Smiley in the summer of 1963. Our first night in our new house, Mother proceeded to order baths all around. David was probably the first in line and discovered the water she had drawn up in the bathtub was too hot for bathing. You definitely could not cool it down by running additional water from the cold tap. I think we used up the available ice cubes to bring the temperature down. I don't know if we did the hot water heater trick for storing cool water or not, but I suspect we did. I have a dim memory of the taps being "backward".

Not only was the water straight from the tap the temperature you would want your coffee for drinking, it was loaded with the taste of sulphur. Straight from the tap you could not drink the stuff without holding your nose. It made wonderful coffee and steeped tea, but for plain glasses of water it was undrinkable unless you had boiled it or let the water sit long enough for the sulphur gas to escape.

Ice cold from the water fountains at school while holding your breath, it was possible to get a refreshing drink and we long-term citizens actually came to rather like the off-taste of the water in small doses. However, that did not mean we wanted to gulp big swallows of it. We lived in Smiley for 9 years and every night we drew up 4 gallon jars of water to sit on the cabinet overnight and by next morning the gas had dissipated and the water was perfectly fine. Four gallons was just the right amount to meet the needs of the the next day's drinking supply.

Shortly after we left and the school district was forced into a consolidation with the school from the next town, the City of Smiley was also forced to install filters on their water to eliminate the sulphur. The folks from the next town would not consider the consolidation if their kids were forced to drink our nasty water.

It was a joy to find this little mention of a forgotten piece of Smiley's history. The town has shrunk some since the book was written and now is home to somewhere between four and five hundred special people. Those of us old enough to remember when the cold water tap ran hotter than the hot water tap are a dwindling number.

Lord, I loved that town.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Poor Pitiful Us

I am hip-deep in old photos at the moment. It's been a nice diversion since my mind has been lately fogged from sinus, cedar fever and cold aftermath. I have been pulling photo albums out of the backs of closets and loose photos out of storage boxes. I have a dozen file folders strung across the desk that I am using in an attempt to sort this mountain of pictures.

I have a lot of scanning ahead of me. And certain kinfolks should start preparing to fork over big wads of cash to keep some embarrassing shots hidden from view.

Here's a picture of little brother and myself that always makes me think of starving children in third world countries. Little brother had the skinniest legs around until he was almost grown.

This was taken in the side yard of my grandparents' house and the watermelon was one grown by my grandfather. Every summer there would be a huge pile of watermelons under the shade tree just a few steps from the front door. All of us got spoiled for having a luscious ripe watermelon any time we wanted it. We would eat the juicy heart and then pitch the remainder over the fence to the hogs and go for the next one.

It gives all of my grandfather's descendants acute gas to pay $2.99 for a "personal sized" watermelon that has no taste, let alone the price of a full sized melon.

We didn't know how good we had it.

I take that back. I think we did know how good we had it. It was one of the joys of my childhood.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Remembering Fancy

A few days ago I posted an essay Mother wrote about a little dog who once ruled our lives for eleven years. You can read it over on the Mother's Words blog. Fancy was a humdinger of a dog and we still compare some of her antics to those of our current dictators.

Fancy, front, with Penny behind.
Fancy liked to join the family at meals
and would sleep on a pillow in a chair while we ate.

This morning I spent a good hour prowling through the storage closet in Mother's bedroom, seeking an old photo album. It wasn't until I had convinced myself it was not in the closet and it was not in the antique dresser where I keep family memorabilia (another half-hour of fruitless searching) that I discovered that at some point I had put the album on the bookshelf. And I still haven't found the photo I was trying to locate, so my searching is not over.

In the process, however, I have located a lot of old photos that I had not seen for a mighty long time. It will call for some scanning sessions to get more of these family treasures converted to digital format and you will probably be seeing a lot of them in coming days, here and on Building Blocks.

But, to get back to my original purpose for this post, I found some additional photos of Fancy hiding in the piles and piles of photos taken at the Renaissance Faire (you'd think we would have had enough photos of mud-eaters and belly dancers after the first time we attended, but you would be wrong - I could wallpaper a room with Renaissance Faire pictures).

Another meal, another pillow.
(Yours truly in a slovenly state of mind.
Evidence of my hillbilly ancestry.)

There was not much that could fluster Fancy,
but the lovebird on the loose was one

Every morning of summer vacation, Fancy and Mother
would water the plants on the front porch and
then sit and watch the world go by on Walnut Street.

We have had many wonderful pets over the years and fortunately I have pictures of almost all of them to nudge my memory. Fancy came along before our conversion to the Rat Terrier religion. She might have been a chihuahua/toy Manchester mix, but her heart was all rat terrier. She was one special little dog.