28 January 2010

My personal struggle to cancel out white noise

One of the [many] good things about having a partner in life is that they see you for who you are and sometimes verbally share their observations with you. Much to my surprise and utter dismay, the way that I act is not always the way that I think I act. What a revelation.

Cristy has mentioned to me on more than one occasion that I have an annoying tendency to verbally disagree with certain nice things that she says about me, particularly regarding my appearance. I know that I am not trying to be disagreeable; I am simply repeating aloud the noise that is in my head. But that noise is so loud and those messages are in such sharp contrast to what she says that instead of thinking for myself and selecting the most appropriate response, I allow the chatter to hijack my own voice.

Hmmm, another revelation. Slightly alarming, this one.

The first unfortunate effect is that my disagreement sends a message to Cristy that I do not value what she says to me, and that is untrue. Nonetheless, that is what I am doing.

The second effect is that the noise in my head acts like white noise, canceling out all the other incoming sounds, such as the good loving messages she verbally sends. Those chattering negative thoughts intercept the message before my brain gets a chance to register and deposit the confirming, loving thought in my consciousness.

So here is the question that I pose to myself: how much of my reality do I cancel out without permitting it to even register in my consciousness because of my negative thoughts?

I look to my own family history for an example. An observation.

My mom has said for many, many years that she cannot remember her own father ever telling her that he loved her. This weighs heavily on her very being. Since I was not around during those days, I simply accept what she says as fact; I am unable to dispute it with my own observations. One day, however, she said that my own father did not ever tell her that he loved her. And this one I was able to strongly refute. I lived in that house and remember very well that he told her aloud, every single day that he loved her. I remember the sweet names that he called her and the loving, affectionate things that he said constantly.

I suspect that my mom had so much negative chatter in her head at the time that she could not hear these wonderful things. I imagine that the same might be true regarding her experience with her father.

Everyone talks about living in the present. Appreciating the here and now. I strive to do it but am clearly setting up an internal roadblock to achieving that sought after objective. In this regard, I am my own worst enemy, indeed, my only enemy. I hold the key to serenity but am hiding it away, beneath layers of old dusty noise. The incessant chatter.

I have a colleague who shared with me a technique he employed once to try to clear out the irritating negative self-talk in his head. The noise reverberated while he was running in solitude. He decided that every time a negative thought emerged, he would laugh out loud. His logic being that the act of laughing would both interrupt the thought process and diminish its significance in his consciousness. He said that during his 3 mile run he was laughing aloud almost the whole way, but felt so much better at the end (aside from the fact that the other runners around him kept glancing nervously over their shoulders…).

In my quest to shed personal defects and replace them with behaviors that will permit me to live in the real present, not an artificial version that I create, I will need to adopt a method to minimize these pesky voices, verbally acknowledge the good incoming messages and respond in kind. Perhaps in time, acting in a new way will quiet the noise and allow me to see, feel and live in the true present.

27 January 2010

The messenger

Last Sunday after we hung up our two bird houses, we noticed a couple of medium sized hawks slowly drifting on the air currents overhead. Then later in the afternoon, as she was working on another outside chore, Cristy heard a soft noise and looked up to see one of those hawks (or another large raptor-looking bird of the same general dimensions) sitting in the tree very near to the birdhouses.


There are two bird feeders just across the fence in the neighbor’s yard that is a favorite snack stop for sparrows and wrens. Could the hawk be stalking the feeder?

I do have this innate tendency to associate omens to natural events or sightings. And, were this an isolated event, perhaps I might not lend it so much weight, but it is not an isolated event. Urban hawks have been making frequent appearances within the past week or so. One swooped down in front of my car as I was beginning my drive home one afternoon. I spotted another flying up to the low branch of a road side tree.

From a practical perspective, since it is winter, these birds are probably just on the lookout for a meal, and my sightings are purely coincidental. But that just isn’t very fun.

So I decided to check with my friend google, to find out what symbolisms are associated with the hawk.

It seems that the hawk is a good omen; it is a very majestic bird. Hawks are considered messengers in some ancient lores; they are alert to any movement on the ground. They remind us to be alert for the answers we are seeking. If we look around us, inside of ourselves, we will become aware of the answer.

Another hmmm.

And so it has come to pass. A question posed and an answer provided. On the wings of the messenger.

26 January 2010

Being mindful

A team of colleagues just down the hallway from me work with a variety of constituents and they all have a mail tray installed on the wall just adjacent to their door to receive any urgent paperwork if they happen to be out. They decorate these mail trays with pretty seasonal trinkets and it is a colorful addition to my frequent walks to the printer, elevator, etc. With the season of Lent soon upon us, the current decoration is a bright, feathery Mardi Gras flourish.

Lent is a particularly wonderful season in the Christian religion, because it is all about being mindful. [This is in the Christianity according to my own brain. I do not profess to be a scholar of religion, by any remote stretch of the imagination, so if my interpretations are incorrect, then I humbly stand corrected.] The phrase that resonates with me from a Lenten homily is “ashes to ashes,” encouraging us to be mindful of the finite nature of our existence and the enduring cycle of life.

Nature itself gives us an infinite variety of metaphors of this cycle. The ebb and flow of the tide, the dawn and dusk of the earth’s rotation, the seasonal changes of the earth’s revolution around the sun, the flowering and fruition of trees and plants. Even with the recent harsh freeze, there is evident damage to many of the tropical trees and shrubs around town. But Nature will repair what She can.

At the place where I work, acknowledging death comes with the territory. It does not make it a dreary or depressing place to work; it simply reinforces the importance of celebrating the life that we have. One of our board members passed just this past weekend and the wife of another board member passed not too long ago last year. These are people that have touched our institution and so many others with their time, love and generous gifts. Frequently the people with whom we work are suffering from the loss of a child and as part of their healing process, they will establish an endowment, or an annual fundraising event to celebrate the life of their loved one. Every loss is a loss. None of any more or less importance than another. Sobering and harsh.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with two colleagues a number of years ago. One was telling a story of working on a farm when she was a young girl and falling in love with the lambs. She did not want to eat lamb after that because of her connection with the animals for which she cared. I gently suggested that perhaps the fact that the lamb was special had not so much to do with her personal love for the lambs, but due to the fact that they were all creatures of God. God loves us all equally. Maybe it was inappropriate to say that out loud, but I felt then, and still now in my heart that it was true. Perspective about life in the larger picture.

So I set forth about this day remembering to keep gratitude and mindfulness in the front of my consciousness.

25 January 2010

Following the breadcrumbs to serenity

I’ve got a couple of things on my mind today. I dropped my car off this morning for a mechanical repair. Some kind of switch related to the transmission and the folks at the garage were kind enough to drive me to work so they can have it for the day to complete the job. But then I had a doctor appointment a couple of hours later, so I hopped a ride from the local transit authority then walked the extra block over to my doctor’s office. It is a very nice day, so no problems.

As I said, I had a couple of things on my mind and was just looking at the ground as I was walking. When I stumbled upon something that just made me want to laugh because of the sheer ridiculousness of the invention: a plastic spork. Right there in my path, a lonesome spork.

Reminds me of picnics, girl scouts, cole slaw, potato salad, bbq beans. No fine dining with a spork, no ma’am. Sporks are reserved exclusively for use at picnics. You can’t take yourself too seriously when your main dining utensil is a spork.

Must be a message from the ether – lighten up! OK, got it.

22 January 2010

Reflecting on a point in time

I was reading a thoughtful and introspective essay over at AbodeOneThree a bit earlier. I make up my mind before I click the link that takes me over to Matthew’s place that I need to prepare for what will occur afterwards. Hours of reflection, threads of long forgotten thought fragments, waves of gratitude. And today is no different. The subject of the essay discussed a precise moment in time when Matthew’s life changed by meeting the woman who is now his beloved wife.

The way that my brain works is by converting words and messages into diagrams, illustrations, charts. I think in terms of geometric shapes and free-form linear sketches. The illustrations inside my head that correspond with this essay look like overlapping spheres, or linear velocity diagrams (I am so making up this term). My internal illustrations make perfect sense to my particular brain, but that is just the way that thoughts congeal in my head.

My memories of meeting Cristy for the first time are compiled as a collection of still photographs. They are single images of random things: what I was wearing, the light outdoors, the food, the things she was holding, her shy smile.

Getting to that precise point in time, the place on the diagram where the circles of our lives intersect, where the lines cross, now, seems only like a prelude to what is now. A life that holds peace, laughter and joy. Where the circles overlap in a way that is soothing, comforting and loving. Where the lines cross each other in a supportive, happy way that augments the combination of our individual energies into something unexpectedly lovely.

21 January 2010

Trees and karma

Preparation for Arbor Day is under way. Let’s call it Arbor-Enrichment Day. Winter is short in Houston and tree pruning needs to occur during a narrow window between Christmas and Valentine’s Day while the trees are dormant. But today, the agenda calls for more than just tree pruning. A large crew of arbor professionals arrived at 7:45 this morning with trucks full of heavy equipment to remove trees in addition to standard pruning essential for promoting healthy tree growth, which, by the way, is long overdue in this particular landscape. As of this writing, they have removed 5 living trees and 3 dead/diseased trees.

I am generally not in favor of removing living trees, but had to make an exception in this case. Two of our ornamental trees are both planted within 12 inches of the house. While they’re still small now, in a few years their expanding roots will begin pushing against the foundation and I don’t think that will be a pretty sight, either from the vantage point of the house or our pocketbook. The other 3 trees are just a plain nuisance. They drip pine needles all over the roof and yard. I am relatively certain that we could plant trees in their stead that will offer shade to the yard without the unwanted debris.

We fully realize that our karma is in jeopardy at the moment. We’re taking out trees that offer habitat and food for birds, small mammals and insects. So in return, we have hung a squirrel feeder and will be hanging 2 bird houses this weekend. Then soon, we will be selecting a new tree to plant, to commemorate our first year together in this house. By continuing to keep the landscape healthy, we are hoping that our karma will start swinging back up.

Celebrate Arbor Day this year (April 30th) by planting a tree!

20 January 2010


I admit that I am a wimp and whiner when it comes to electro-mechanical technology. I hate it when things break. It causes my stress level to accelerate into the red zone. And we have had plenty of issues in the past 60 days. To wit:

• Oven
• Garbage disposal
• Garage door
• Ice dispenser
• Furnace
• Lawn sprinklers
• Memory board in pc

And now, my car. O, mother of God, have mercy on my sinful soul, I don’t believe I am fully capable of managing much more! But, of course, there IS more. They just don’t qualify for inclusion on this list because the items are not electro-mechanical. Not technophobe-worthy enough for mention: just your daily garden variety laundry list of aggravations.

Somebody just pour this girl a glass of wine and tell me to quit whining!

I needed that.

19 January 2010


There is some drama unfolding among family members and the ripples affect everyone. At the center is a relationship that has expired. Everyone has a bit of experience with this particular episode in the chronicle of living. And the nature of everyone else’s personal experience seems to taint the way that we view and react to what is happening now. There are equal amounts of fear, concern, anger and outrage. These feelings then trigger our tendencies to withdraw, take an offensive stance and/or place blame. I can see parts of myself all over that map.

About 7 or 8 months after my divorce I found myself out of town on business for a few days. In the evenings, I returned to my hotel room, and did some work addressing the things that I had never quite gotten around to processing about my own failed marriage. From that distance, I saw it as though all the players were outside myself. I saw the damaging behaviors, many of which were of my own creation. I even understood why I adopted that behavior. I saw the harmful effects over time and how it contributed to the erosion that finally took the life away from the relationship.

It was painful to put myself there and live it again as an objective witness. I spent most of my evenings in tears, accepting responsibility for so many mistakes, but I completed the work and gained some much needed perspective.

In the present tense, this ugly set of circumstances bears striking resemblance to my own experience. But I find myself unwilling to attribute blame to one party or the other, because the way I remember it, this ugliness, played out in the final act, was set in motion long ago through many other relationship missteps. I suspect in the current drama it is also true. But I can not know for certain, because I have not lived these lives. No one knows. Except for the two people living the experience now.

The rest of us experience it as a replay of the shadows of our memories.

16 January 2010

A trip to Hobby Lobby may be in order

While I am not terribly creative or crafty (as in homemade, not as in secretively clever), I do appreciate the benefit of investing in homemade projects to supplement home interior decorating. It can offer a completely individual look and save room in the budget for other priorities, such as repairing the garage door. Which we did. Today. With the help of an overhead door service team. Happily, it is now fixed.

But there was also room in the day to begin a few decorating projects. Two items are on the current agenda. Folding origami butterflies and making decorative book jackets. Sounds like a rainy-day project for a 4th grader, I know. The butterflies are pretty and there is a chance that they will fulfill my vision. We’ll see, I’ll need to do a little more folding before I know. In my opinion, origami has a better visual impact in a larger volume. I will need more than 8 or 9 folded butterflies to determine if I have a chance of achieving the look I desire.

But the book jackets have already captured my heart. I was originally inspired by Fullet, a book lover and inspired blogger who found a lovely illustrated paper book jacket for use on a new book. My homemade version features brown shipping paper as the wrapper for my old paperback books with a decorative printed paper stripe along the binding. The task of folding the book jackets, wrapping the books in brown paper, is very reminiscent of 4th grade.

Tomorrow and Monday (a state holiday) the projects will continue.

15 January 2010


Apparently there’s something going around. And to fully enjoy it, I’m going to have to trace it back and back through bloggyland, sort of like a scientist with the CDC, but without the germs.

It’s a game of tag and true confessions and my bloggy friend Paul over at
Adventures of a Grocery Clerk did a little bit of ‘fessing up earlier today then decided to share the love by tagging a list, a long list, I might add, of bloggers to play along. And he graciously included me on that list. The game rules appear to be to simply share ten things you might not know about me, but might possibly find mildly interesting.

  1. The fourth toes on each of my feet are bent, have been since birth.
  2. The only nickname I’ve ever had in my life is Poindexter. Courtesy of Cristy.
  3. I love homemade things.
  4. I was a girl scout, but that doesn’t mean I find camping even remotely appealing.
  5. I like to watch for satellites criss-crossing the sky on summer nights.
  6. During the techno-scientific part of my career, I once had a job as a controller in mission control.
  7. One of my favorite songs ever is Let it Be by Lennon & McCartney.
  8. I think I might have seen a UFO once.
  9. Sometimes I compose songs in my head to accompany my dreams.
  10. I am afraid of antique cartoons, I find them totally creepy.

I wish I had more time to read more blogs, but am slowly increasing the number of blogs that I read. There are four that have popped into my radar very recently and I’d like to pass this game along to them, to learn more about these blog authors. Just like in a real game of tag, I’m giving a tag to bloggers at

(1) Jay at
The Depp Effect
(2) Jeanne at The Raisin Chronicles
(3) Mr. Charleston at Termites of Sin
Irish Gumbo

and keeping my fingers crossed that they will play along. Pretty please?

12 January 2010

Mid-week rant

Many years ago, before I was born, the Salvation Army established a tradition with their red-kettle giving campaign each Christmas season. Donors contribute their spare change and when you add it all up, the spare change comprises a measurable portion of the Salvation Army’s budget for serving those in need. It is an anonymous donor relationship. You generally donate cash and don’t get a receipt. But you have the strength of the Salvation Army to rely on – you know that your donation will be funneled toward meeting someone’s basic human services.

Some years later, fire departments borrowed from that campaign idea and made it their own. Fill the Boot. Fire fighters around the country participate in direct solicitation by hitting the streets and collecting spare change from passing motorists. Again, it is a cash donation, but we all trust that our local fire departments are handling our contributions with the utmost integrity. Every year these boot campaigns fund generous donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and perhaps other worthy organizations.

OK, so what?

Getting to it.

On the drive home, I noticed a street-side fundraising effort aimed at collecting donations from passing motorists. I passed two such pairs of fundraisers within 30 minutes, at least 20 miles apart at busy intersections. Undoubtedly there was an organized city-wide solicitation effort. I could not determine what organization was asking for the funding or what the funds were intended to support. However, all of the fundraisers were dressed alike, in white suits that resembled marching band uniforms. I immediately thought of Harold Hill. Remember him? From the play The Music Man. Harold Hill was a con artist posing as a marching band leader. So naturally that tainted my impression of this overall fundraising effort.

That, and the fact that this organization lacks the basic credibility needed to successfully pull off a cash-based anonymous donor type campaign. This is an organization that is unknown to the general public. They do not have the recognition or the reputation of either the Salvation Army or our local fire departments.

Please, local band-uniform street-side solicitors, put on your thinking caps and develop a better fund raising approach. To the average passer-by, this is the equivalent of pan-handling. You are not doing your organization a service.


For the past couple of days I have had the unmistakably bizarre experience of riding in a rather full elevator with one or more people conducting a conversation, in a natural tone of voice, on their mobile phones. Perhaps this is not unusual. It just happens to be outside of my realm of personal experience. I think I would be hyper-conscious of stepping into an enclosed box in the close proximity of a few other individuals while conducting a personal conversation. But maybe that’s just me. Odd? Or not odd?

HLSR bling-bling

Publicity for the 2010 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has begun. The music entertainment lineup has been announced, ticket sales are poised to launch promptly at 10am this coming Saturday morning, and as I was browsing the website yesterday evening, I stumbled upon the official HLSR paraphernalia online store. Yes, my friends, I am on a quest to update my “look” while attending HLSR this year in order to appear, shall we say, somewhat more official. And one item from the online store caught my attention. It is a Committee Badge. An official committee badge that resembles a sheriff’s badge from an old western movie. But instead of a star, the badge is emblazoned with a spur. I am coveting this badge!

Now I am not quite certain whether to pursue it or not, since in all honesty, I have never served on a committee. But I may make an attempt. Apparently if you served on a committee at some time in the past, you may request and purchase a badge for that prior service. All you have to do is send an email to make this request, specifying the committee and the particular position in which you served.

I do not know how accurate HLSR’s records are back 10 years, or if they really care much about the authenticity of selling a badge to some scammer, like me, who just wants to amp up her rodeo garb with a little official-looking bling.

Worth a try?

09 January 2010

More excitement than I can handle

From the kitchen table I can see down the hallway through the dining room window and have a slice of a view to the driveway belonging to one of my neighbors. This morning when one of the dogs started barking I glanced up in time to see that neighbor looking over in my direction. It was more than a fleeting glance, so I walked toward the dining room. Some of the dogs followed me and they added their own barks to form a chorus. I figured he must be looking because of the racket. These animals can make some noise. Then he turned away and walked back toward his house and I returned to the kitchen table.

I was waiting for a call from a repair service providor to come out and take a look at our furnace. On the coldest day of the year, it decides to act up. Nice.

After an hour or so I get a call that they’re on the way. Fifteen minutes later I see a flash across that same window and I look outside. Nothing.

But wait, what is all that water? A big stream of water running down my next-door neighbor’s driveway. Maybe they’re draining their pool? Nah. Maybe they’ve got some sort of leak? Sheesh, I’m glad it’s not me. That river of water must be what the other neighbor was staring at earlier…

I decide to investigate anyway, stepping outside into the 40-ish degree morning in my flip-flops. I hear a loud wooshing noise and notice a pool of water standing in the lawn between our two houses. As I get closer and my feet get wetter, I discover with horror that there is a fountain behind the fence in my yard. Fear slices through my heart. I race through the house and into the back yard to get a full view of the destruction. It is not a pretty sight.

The fountain is coming from a white pvc pipe sticking up from the ground. It is near the ac compressor. I have no idea what purpose that white pipe typically serves. I see some levers on the pipe but in my state of mind (aka, technophobia) I decide after touching them and getting all wet from the spray of water that I cannot turn them. I dash inside to tell Cristy. She says we need to turn off the water and goes to pull on some boots and get a fleece pullover.

I am somewhat aware that there is a place to turn off the water at the utility meter, so I go outdoors again, still in those soggy flip flops to find our meter. I see that there is one in the neighbor’s yard, so I figure that ours will be positioned similarly on our own property, and it is. But there is a cover that I cannot remove with my hands, even though I’m really trying.

Then I find Cristy in the garage and she says that she’s already shut off the water by using the Emergency Water Main Shut-Off Valve. She shows it to me, and there is a tag proclaiming the purpose of this valve, in case, like me, you might be skeptical. I’m so glad she knows about this little secret.

But unfortunately, the fountain is still spewing like a geyser and water is pouring down the street at an alarming rate.

She heads back out to the fountain with a mallet, asking me if I tried to turn any of those levers. Of course I did. That was the first thing I tried, but I decided that they don’t move. I go back indoors thinking maybe I should try to call in another repair service request…. Cristy walks through the back door covered with water spray and says that everything is ok now.

Were you able to get the lever to shut off with that mallet?

No, I just reached down and turned it.

Oh, right.

Mr. Sandman

I was reading an essay by the lovely and talented blogger over at Gropius vs Eddie the other day on the topic of dreams. These things stay with me, the thoughts tumble and rearrange themselves in the back of my consciousness long after the catalyst, in this case, the blog, introduces the idea. So naturally I’ve been thinking about dreams for the past couple of days.

I tend to think I have an active dream world, but just don’t usually remember them when I awake. I rise around 5am with a predefined morning agenda and the dreams just stay in dreamland. But this morning as I was making coffee and tending to a few casual chores, several of my dreams from last night reemerged in a flash. The colors, the characters, the images, the feelings. It was a tangled mess, as dreams usually are, one situation merging with another seemingly unrelated one.

Some highlights:

  • A house with a barricaded stairway leading to an unfinished second floor. No doorway exists to the 2nd floor, but there is a small hole in that wall. Creepy.

  • My dogs sneak past the barricade, dash upstairs and squeeze through the hole. I peek up the stairway just in time to see the last one hop through the hole. Stress.

  • I’m rummaging through a kitchen drawer and find a dozen or so forgotten paring knives that I need to add to my own kitchen “knife” drawer that is already rather full of knives. Stress.

  • I’m walking down a sidewalk and come to a tree with lovely, gauzy, fragrant white blossoms. I feel compelled to lie on the grass beneath the tree and watch the honey bees darting from branch to branch. Relaxing, but creepy.

  • I’m walking down a nearby alley, picking my way between puddles in the uneven pavement, and my cell phone rings. It’s a fictitious woman that I met only once, but she’s calling for Cristy, not me. WTF?

  • I have meticulously arranged dozens of dinner plates and salad plates in stacks on a table, inside a storage rack that is not at all very stable. It might fall apart at any moment. What was I thinking?

  • I’m wearing panties and a little vest and a female police officer is swiping a baby wipe under my arms. Again, WTF?

All I can say is that I am glad I usually don’t remember my dreams. If this is a representative sample of my personal dreamworld, then it is just packed way too full of stressful and unnecessarily puzzling situations.

08 January 2010

Everyone loves lemonade

One of my favorite bloggers recently received recognition from a peer blogger for the way that she shares her reflections in an amusing, but heart inspiring way. And she, in turn, shared this recognition, none other than the Lemonade Stand Award. I happened to be one of the fortunate recipients.
Thank you Sue, for writing, for your amusing perspective, and for the inspiration that the rest of us take with us after visiting your blog. And thank you for this tangy, sweet award too! I love it.

One of the best parts is that I also get to share it with a blog author that writes with attitude and gratitude.

In appreciation for making me laugh on so many consecutive days, I'm sharing the Lemonade Stand with Paul over at Mostly Grocery - Adventures of a Grocery Clerk. He witnesses an endless array of raw human nature and after spinning it through his creative storytelling mind, it appears on his blog in an irreverantly funny anecdote.

Please visit Sue and Paul, if you have not already! And have a glass of lemonade on me.

Please stand by

Please stand by. Your regularly scheduled winter will resume in a moment.

Yeah, I know we haven’t gotten much (ok, any) real effects of winter here in the Texas gulf coast, but you know why? Because it’s the Texas gulf coast, southern latitudes. Even in winter, the weather is relatively mild.

It has not eclipsed my awareness that some parts of the country have been enduring suffering from severe winter weather conditions and the extent of the arctic front’s reach into this portion of the map is essentially just a dip in temperature. Granted it dipped into the twenties, cold enough to damage the tropical plants that so many of us have adorning the landscape, but no precipitation, no shoveling, no sand or salt, no widespread power outages. All in all, it’s good to be in Texas right now.

Still, this is not our regularly scheduled winter.

Usually, winter gets revved up near mid-to-late January with some gloomy, rainy windy cold. After 4 weeks of Texas-style winter, the migrating robins pop up in our yards to bring glad news. And by the end of February it will all be a memory.

07 January 2010

Family dinner recollections

I was reading an essay by The Blushing Hostess in which she promotes reclaiming the family dinner hour, the kind I (sort of) remember when I was a kid. Setting the table, fresh prepared food, serving plates, bread basket, a pitcher of tea. Reading her essay brought back so many startlingly clear memories that it inspired me to dwell on them for a moment or two.

Our family dinner table was the place where my mother taught us basic table manners. Placing a napkin in our laps, holding our silverware properly, passing the salad bowl, navigating the tricky combination of eating and conducting polite conversation. My father never failed to proclaim that the meatloaf was delicious and he ended each meal with a thank you.

Supper was not a leisurely activity because there were a variety of tasks that needed tending to each evening afterwards, homework among them. Our meals were simple; my father assisted by tossing a salad, my brother and I set the table and fed the pets, and we all participated in clean-up afterwards. Telephone calls, music, television, magazines or anything else that did not belong at the dinner table was prohibited.

As I grew older, I learned to appreciate how my mother cared for table linens, pressed the napkins and used pretty greenery and ribbon to set a festive table on holidays and other special occasions. Having a meal in the dining room by candlelight was an exciting luxury to be savored. I considered it a special treat to drink my water from a pretty goblet and noticed that the clink of our knives and forks against the china plates sounded ever so much nicer than our ordinary tableware.

As the Blushing Hostess points out, family dinner is often victim to competing priorities. But without family dinner, there is not much opportunity to glean the essentially important life lessons generally imparted around the supper table. I’m squarely in her corner on this particular topic.

06 January 2010

DIY wonderfulness

Before I started writing this blog, I browsed through a number of blogs without leaving comments. I’m not sure what that is called today. In a previous professional existence years ago, more than I care to admit, we would have called it lurking.

The kind of blogs I liked to read had a home interior decorating and design content theme. Most were produced by a content generating staff or were written by individuals who were professionals in that line of business. I still read them and they remain among my favorites. These days, I leave comments from time to time when particularly struck by a topic or item of interest.

I wish I could say that I have a flair for home and interior design, but I do not. In order to compensate for my lack of innate ability, I really pay attention to the folks who are in-the-know. And I’ve gained a little knowledge.

Well, not that much.

One of my favorite blog themes for decorating and design, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here, is the DIY: before & after. The kind of fabulous project that someone, just like me, accomplishes at home on their own, without a consultant, contractor or other design professional. Some of these blog posts are completely inspiring. I have taken a lesson or two and completed two or three of my own DIY projects. Not enough to start my own decorating blog, but had I taken some good photos of the before and after, they might (MIGHT) be comparable to similar projects that have been featured on said blogs.

Today, in a light-hearted attempt to remind myself that I’m not a professional, I present my latest DIY project. The homemade canine haircut. The subject is Jackie, my 14-year old mixed breed. Last Saturday, he was in dire need of a haircut. And he doesn't seem to mind the haircutting process. Much.

In the before image, we see Jackie with his nice fluffy fur. He had become a dog-hair shedding machine. Thus, the genesis of my DIY project.

And in the after image, the same dog, but with a choppy-chic new do. Hey, if Kate Gosslin can get the world's attention with a new hair-do....

Sorry Jackie, I promise it will grow back.
Some tasks are best left to the experts after all.

05 January 2010


True confession time. I’m a fugitive. Well, not quite yet. Truth is I have not yet been discovered for the scoundrel that I am. And if any Texas law enforcement officers should come knocking on my door after reading this tell-all confession, I will surely try to hide behind my dog, Jackie. Who is 14. And can barely stand up.

The back story: between the time that I was closing the real estate transaction on my old house and moving into this new house, I was living in a state of suspension. My belongings were packed up, but I did not have access to them. Day to day life proceeded, but I was just not grounded. Time was swishing by, almost on fast forward. By the time that we moved at the end of October, I had lived in this manner for about three months. The habits of managing some of the things in my own life had ceased, slipping unnoticed through the cracks. Things like updating the address on my automobile registration.

I was expecting a letter in the mail to renew my license plate. But of course it didn’t come. The sticker on my window says 11-09. That would be overdue. In December, I thought I might have a little spare time to drop by the appropriate government office to figure out what I needed to do about my tiny oversight. But, turned out that spare time was just a figment of my overactive imagination.

Yesterday I was studying that little sticker in my window as I drove to work. I’m hyper nervous that some eagle-eye big-brother radar instrument will spot me and I’ll be facing a fine the size of the state of Rhode Island. Which I can nary afford.

Then it dawned on me. That sticker is for my car inspection, not the license. Easy to remedy. Immediately. Tomorrow. Lunch hour, if not sooner.

Guilty as charged, of plain ordinary stupidity.

Blackout blues

At 6:26 this morning, I was running just a tad bit late. Still needed to get dressed, so I dashed into my closet to pull out a suitable outfit for this chilly morning. As I quickly contemplated my choices, the lights went out. I’m standing in the closet in complete and total darkness.

I found my robe and slippers, then felt my way through the dressing room, around the dogs still sleeping on the floor, to the nearest window to make a quick assessment. Was the blackout affecting any neighbors or did the condition appear to be isolated to our own house? Hmmm. Thankfully, the half moon was visible in the sky and cast a fair amount of light over the yard and beyond. Seemed rather quiet in the neighborhood, there were two visible lights in other yards, but most appeared to be without lights.

Decided to skip any interaction with the circuit panel and made my way through the interior of the house to the kitchen. Last time I checked, there was a flashlight in one of these drawers...one of them...somewhere. Sure would be handy if I could just switch on the lights to find it. Found it, thank heavens, and it still works. Cristy is such a genius to keep working flashlights in the utility drawers! That is one of the reasons I love her so - I would NEVER think of this.

Next, over to the pantry to pull out some candles and light a path from the exit door back to the dressing room. This circumstantial change made dressing so much easier. I just pulled out the first warm jacket I saw and added black pants and loafers. Nothing too fashionable today. A quick comb through the hair and spritz. Oh wait, is it safe to use hairspray around candles? Not sure.

Following the illuminated path, I tracked back to the door leading to the garage. The next task was to disengage the overhead garage door so I could get the car out. Being the technophobe that I am, I absolutely despise having to make a configuration change to any electro-mechanical device. What if I break it? But I cobbled together some fortitude, pulled the red cord, and tugged at the garage door until I got it open. Success!

Back indoors. 7:48am, 18 minutes late, darn! The house is already beginning to get cooler. Pour my thermos of coffee, deliver the flashlight to Cristy, say goodbye, pull on my gloves, get keys, backpack and make my exit.

I love having electricity. Note to self – send a thank-you note to HL&P tonight (assuming the power is restored when I return home).

04 January 2010

Holding in the luck

It was a quiet weekend. Good for doing some chores around the house. One of those chores, one that I don’t much care for, is the annual putting-away of the glorious Christmas decorations. I have so much fun getting them out and adding as much sparkle and glam to the house as possible, that their absence leaves me mildly depressed. I usually wait as long as possible for the putting-away task, but decided to get an early start, because there is just so much.

In exchange for putting away, I gave myself a little fun. I added some new things to admire in the house. Nothing quite so festive as the glittery holiday delights now resting in their boxes, but sweet, nonetheless.

First, was a horseshoe for luck. I gave it to Cristy as a housewarming gift. A used, antique horseshoe. It has a marvelous rusty patina and I hung it with an ordinary string over the back door. I’ve heard that you can either hang the horseshoe with the opening pointing up, to hold in the luck, or pointing down, to shower the luck down on those passing through the doorway. So, I left the choice up to Cristy. She said definitely up.

Next, I hung an antique key in the dining room. It is a large, ceremonial key, the kind that might be used in official “key-to-the-city” type presentations. I hung it suspended from a simple white ribbon over an antique print.

Third, I placed a clock over the kitchen pantry door. It is a simple clock, but easy to see from the kitchen table. Cristy likes clocks. As in, really likes clocks. She wants to know what time it is and have that information readily available with a mere glance in any direction. We have more than a few clocks in the house, but trust me, there is always room for more.

Last, I placed a decorative saucer on a easel in the living room next to some books. It was a gift from Cristy. She found it via Craigslist (I love CL!) and bought it from a couple who appeared to be in their seventies. They said the dish originally belonged to the woman’s grandmother. Cristy said the experience was a little surreal. They met in a parking lot of a Target, where the exchange went down. She handed over the cash and scored the dish. A true Miami Vice moment.

Hmmm. I wonder how many people actually even remember Miami Vice?

02 January 2010

Scrabble schmabble

I’m not very good at games. Really. Any kind of game at all. I lose interest quickly, complain about the total injustice of it all and probably, in all fairness, ruin the fun for everyone else in the process.

But Cristy loves games. She got me a Scrabble set for Christmas. She got it for us. To play together because I told her that I would play Scrabble. I don’t know what I was thinking.

We pulled out the Scrabble set on New Year’s Eve. Sounds like a rockin’ time, right? Well, I have to admit that my vanity got the better of me because I was thinking this Scrabble thing was going to be a slam-dunk. OK, so I hadn’t played the game in 36 years. But, I have an above average intellect, so, how hard could it be?

The answer is that it can indeed be hard. Initially, I was only concentrating on my 7 little tiles, trying to determine how many fabulous words I could imagine. I conveniently forgot that the point of the game was to integrate my tiles in the columns and rows of tiles on the Scrabble board. But more importantly, I forgot about this thing called s-t-r-a-t-e-g-y.

But Cristy didn’t forget. She knows all about it.

She would hone in on the triple point spots with the letter Z, forming a word that she could expand upon with a handy prefix or suffix on her next turn.

So, here I am forming a beautiful word with 1-point tiles, sprawled across the middle of the board, getting, say 10 or 12 points for my effort. While Cristy, on the other hand, churns out a 3-letter word crowded at the edge and reels in 38 points.

Total injustice, I say.