Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thanks (But No Thanks,) for the Memories, Cindy-Lou Who!

I didn't watch Grinchy at all this season...
I missed it on TV; and the OTHER reason
Is that my copy's a tape, for an old television.
Not a big, fancy set that views tapes with derision.

Nonetheless, I'm remembering that old green meanie
Who swiped all the goodies from Cindy, so teeny.
The child stood up to him, Cindy was tough.
And calm, in a crisis - he was taking her stuff!
(Or possibly colorblind, I don't know...
She didn't note "Santa" had a sickly green glow.)

But Cindy was stylin' in her nightgown so pink,
And charmed our green goblin, when she asked for a drink.
Antennae bobbing atop her blond head,
She accepted the water and went back to bed.

My question right here is, where was her mother?
Didn't she hear them addressing each other?
I guess she was tired from stuffing that hen.
Or perhaps, she consumed too much Who Brew, again.
(Daddy was also not to be found.
But rumors of Daddy's "diversions" abound.)

Whatever the case, whatever the reason,
After the Grinching, Whos welcomed the season.
Their singing attracted the green guy himself,
Who returned all the presents, like a good Christmas elf.
(I admit here, I have some food poisoning fright...
Remember, the roast beast sat out all night.)

"The Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day!"
Which sounds kinda scary, in a heart attack way.


I think I'll be getting a "Grinch" DVD.
I like it much better when it's not told by me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Are you Simple-Minded? Take Our Simple Test!

The Kitties and I have been on hiatus; moving all the Good Stuff from House A to House B, the Mediocre Stuff from House A to Goodwill, and the Not-So-Good Stuff (along with the I-Don't-Feel-Like-Dealing-With-This Stuff) to the curb. While simultaneously staging House A for sale and driving back and forth across two states from House A to House B looking for our stuff, because we can't remember if it is at House A or B; or whether we took it to Goodwill, or whether we just imagined that we ever had it.

So is it any surprise that I am currently simple-minded? That's the accusation, at any rate.

This morning, I was sharing a dream I had with a group of friends. I dreamed that I was with these same friends, at a zoo. Someone at the B&B where we were all staying had lost a banana python. We found the banana python at the zoo, under an alarm clock. It was coiled up, and one of us picked it up to take back to the B&B.

My interpretation of that dream was that I wanted our group of friends to go back to Bali (we traveled there together in 2001) and revisit the zoo where the giant banana python lives. I am very fond of that banana python. She is about 13 feet long, and beautiful. And she has her own display area, where people can pose with her draped around them, for photos. I swear, I have seen that banana python smile. And, although I have made many pilgrimages to Indonesia, it has been quite a while since the last one. Seemed like a pretty straight-forward dream to me.

That's when my dear friend, Professor and Certified Literary Critic, "G", informed me that there was much more to it. Snakes in dreams, said G, are always sexual representations. (She, being a Professor and Certified Literary Critic in possession of Colorful Vocabulary elaborated in detail that would shock The Kitties. So I'll let you use your imagination.) I protested, because I was sure I really want to go to Bali and see the real banana python. And G told me that I was being simple-minded; if I wrote a paper about my own interpretation of my own dream for her I would flat-out fail her class.

So I have decided to sharpen my skills in the realm of Real-But-Hidden-Meaning; and I developed this test, as a Public Service:

1. "This little piggy went to market" is

a) a story about piglets
b) a simple technique to count Baby's toes
c) a tale of lust (Piggy 1 used "market" as a euphemysm for brothel), repression (Piggy 2 was forced to stay home against her will), gluttony (the roast beef) anorexia (no roast beef) and Freudian toilet-training issues (wee, wee, wee all the way home.)

2. The Geiko Gecko is

b)a clever marketing tool
c)small and green. He is obviously green with envy, and has a clear case of "little man" syndrome. So he talks with that funny accent to convince himself and those around him that he is more special than they are.

3. Popsicles are:

a)sugar water on a stick
b)a waste of money
c)come on, do I have to explain EVERYTHING to you?

If you answered mostly "a", you just want to go to Bali to see the banana python. Mostly "b", you don't care what your results are anyway. And mostly "c"...well you got that A+ in Lit Crit in the bag. And I can recommend a good therapist.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Almost Giddy...Up!

I had a rocking horse. 1950's vintage, plastic with a nylon tail. My horse was well-loved; the springs needed to be replaced every six months. Daddy and I went together to Sears on a regular basis to buy rocking horse springs.

Our kids had a rocking horse. Circa 1980; springs, but no nylon tail. 100% palomino plastic...perhaps nylon tails posed some heretofore unknown risks to small children, and were discontinued between generations. When presented with this rocking horse, one memorable Christmas, we asked Son One if he liked it. His two-year-old response: "Be Fine." And BeFine, the horse, became a treasured family member.

BeFine also required lots of springs during his tenure. He went on to greener pastures with Nephew and Niece. Don't know exactly where BeFine is now...but I suspect he would not pass muster with today's parents or The Federal Government Rocking Horse Czar. Springs could pinch tiny fingers. Springs have probably been discontinued.

Fast forward to present: We have "real" horses. Living, breathing and slobbering equines in the back yard. Yet, I was determined that the Most Fabulous GrandBaby In The World should have a pretend rocking horse.

These days, when you shop for a rocking horse on line, you find yourself in the company of "Rocking Horse Experts" who ask a lot of questions (how tall is your granddaughter? Is she walking? Does she prefer blondes or brunettes?) and make Rocking Horse Recommendations based on your feedback. Said grandbaby is too big for "baby" rockers; but a bit young for "toddler" horses. Her height, however, throws her directly into the "toddler" camp. So, I bought a "toddler" horse.

It wasn't hard to assemble; aside from my little meltdown when it wouldn't whinny or gallop. A call to The Rocking Horse Experts assured me, correctly, that it needed only a Double A battery in the depths of its belly to resolve those issues.

Last evening I delivered the whinnying, galloping soft-n-fluffy spring-free toddler horse to The Most Fabulous GrandBaby in the World. She was semi-delighted; but confused. Horsey looked a lot like her two dogs, and she was not allowed to sit on top of them...yet people were clearly encouraging her to sit on this new arrival. And she has recently learned to "give kisses." She was strongly advised to "kiss the horsey"; which she did overandoverandoverandover again. Cute, but probably not a whole lot of fun. Eventually, she decided to walk around, dragging the rocking horse by a handle, and kissing it periodically. I'm not quite sure if she thought that was fun.

Ahh, artificial horses. They don't need apples or carrots or hay; and they don't smell. They are properly sized for users. They whinny and gallop at the touch of a button.

I hope no one ever invents artificial grandmas.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blackberry? Pre? IPhone? nope...Peek

I'm a Peekster! And until 5 days ago I didn't even know it.

You might recall that I was, at one time, the owner of the world's oldest cell phone. After being poked, and prodded, and cajoled and begged and laughed at, I finally got a new phone that FLIPS OPEN. I felt so 2000.

I had also recently upgraded to High Speed Internet. And then I installed a wireless router; and before you know it, I was some sort of techno junkie, checkin' my email on my (giant and very heavy and also beautifully purple) laptop by the pool. I could almost, almost understand my friends' lust for "apps" and "features" and "upgrades" and other (she casually bats the word around) tekkie stuff.

But the thought of pushing all those little buttons. And reading all the manuals to determine which buttons to push...well, I've had a migraine for a few days. I thought it might have been MSG in some Chinese food I ate, until just this minute. Now I'm not so sure.

Because the App Seed was planted. I don't need a phone to make videos, or map me a route to the vet or surf the web. I can't even read the text on my 17" laptop. I would have to enlarge it to one letter at a time on an IPhone. Don't need it to sing to me, or find Chinese restaurants. (Unless it could find the ones that don't use MSG...)

But, well, checking my email without powering up the aubergine (and fairly temperamental) laptop. Now, that would be an App! And as this silliness was running through my crowded head, I heard our Atlanta Consumer Guru, Clark Howard, explain something called "Peek". It looks like a Blackberry, so people think you are hip and cool and LinkedIn. But it just gets your email! No confusing cameras, or web-surfing, or Chinese Restaurant coordinates!

I was smitten. Went on the website, and it was so freakin' cute that I got a cherry red one. It arrived today.

Clark Howard said it took his 9-year-old 2 minutes to have it operational. Guess it's hard to teach us old dogs new took at least 3 minutes for me to get it up and running.

It is charging now, on the kitchen counter. It works great. I am already in love. Just one little problem - when it gets an email it kinda, um, hiccups. Foster the Kitty views it as electronic prey; and I am pretty sure it will be "retrieved" and delivered to me during the night.

If it makes it through to morning, I'll shoot you an email.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

(Wo)Man vs. Machine

There have been stories, this past week, that Scientists are worried. That's pretty much what Scientists do. They worry that something collided with Jupiter. And that people in New York City are exposed to too many trans-fats. And that Jon Gosselin has too many girlfriends. No, wait, that's "US Magazine." And now The Scientists are worried that we are making machines too smart, and that they are going to become smarter than we are; and very bad things will happen.

Well, duh. I guess The Scientists finally went to the movies. We've all been worried about this exact thing since Karel Capek coined the word, "robot", in 1921. Terminators, Transformers and The Evil Hymie, built by K.A.O.S. to kill Maxwell Smart, have been having their way with us Mere Mortals for decades.

And I am here to tell you - not only are machines smarter than we are. They have twisted, wicked, sadistic and totally not nice ideas about what is funny. We are often the butt of their cold, blinking, binary senses of humor. And we don't even know it.

For instance, everyone in the state of Georgia, except yours truly, has an imprint of their fingerprint on the back of their driver's license. I have an imprint of my thumb. Because machines make fun of people like me, who have Reynaud's Syndrome.

That is a not-funny affliction, involving a lack of circulation in the fingers and toes and nose and other exposed parts of the body. People with Reynaud's Syndrome are, essentially, allergic to cold. Suppose I had a pierced navel, which I don't. And a really cute midsection, without stretch marks. Which I also don't. And a super-awesome belly-button ring, which I could make in my jewelry studio if I wanted to. And suppose I was going to a concert in Minneapolis in February, at the First Avenue Nightclub. I love the First Avenue Club, but I digress. And I wanted to show off my belly button and the super-awesome belly-button ring, so I wore a crop-top in minus 10 degree weather; and stood outside until the doors opened because there is no advanced seating. My brain would say to itself, "My goodness, it is cold!" (Well, my own personal brain would use much more colorful language.) "So I think I will shut down circulation to the fingers and toes and nose and teeth of this body. They can all fall off, as far as I am concerned; we have to sacrifice something for that midsection with the awesome belly-button ring!" And those cold circulation-impaired fingers would no longer trigger the heat reaction necessary to fire the photo app of the cell phone inside the First Avenue Nightclub. Where cameras are not allowed, but everyone sneaks them in.

This means that, if I am chilly anywhere, touch pads don't work. And, unless it is August, something is the fingerprint sensor at the Department of Motor Vehicles thought it would be fun to confound the operator, and humiliate this writer. It refused to register Pointer Finger, Tall Man, Ring Man and Pinky. It finally caved at Thumbkin.

So, haha, all the machines got their jollies this evening. I needed a bag of lettuce.

Put the casserole in the oven, had 1/2 an hour to get lettuce and toss a salad.

First, I had to get some cash. Stood behind one person at the grocery store bank, which boasts two ATMs. The one on the right vacated. I stepped up to the plate, inserted my card, punched in magic numbers, was out of money.

Stepped back into line for the machine on the left. Where a sweet Asian woman was, no kidding, sorting through a veritable deck of ATM cards. Removing $200, inserting another card, depositing $200...we went through 6 sets of removing/depositing.

I was not the only one marveling at the volume of ATM cards in the possession of one person. The line snaked to the front of the store.

Two tellers asked me if I needed help. That has never happened, in the 35 years I've deposited my money with that particular bank.

Finally, finallyfinally, the Asian lady stopped taking money out and re-depositing it. IT WAS MY TURN!!!!!! I pushed the "start" button and the instructions popped Korean. Hit return, got a card left by the previous "resident." Saw her exiting the store, chased her into the parking lot, realized I had the bag of chopped lettuce just as it alerted the shoplifting alarm, flung it into a rogue shopping basket, raced to the parking lot, found the Korean lady, gave her the card, raced back in, grabbed the lettuce out of the rogue cart, got back in line for worked.

I had money. And lettuce. But the machines weren't done with me just yet.


Punched in my phone number for my "Customer Loyalty Discount." Got charged nearly $10 for a bag of lettuce. Because someone had "borrowed" my phone # to find out the price of something called "Wild Grass". But they didn't purchase it. Still, it turned up on my bill.

I pointed the problem out the the Customer Service Specialist on call at the You Scan. She informed me that she could not void the "wild grass" purchase; I would have to go to Customer Service, where manymanymanymanymany people were buying lottery tickets. I begged for an alternative. Sorry, Charlie.

Finally got to the Customer Service Specialist, AKA Lotto dispenser. After CSS looked carefully in my empty-except-for-lettuce shopping bag, got reimbursed for Wild Grass.

And, as I left, I HEARD the U-Scan machines chuckle.

They will be sorry.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Carbon Nation

I was born to be a part of the Pepsi Generation. That was the ad campaign that was most closely aligned with my coming of Soda Pop Age; and I was happy to climb on board.

Not that we were allowed to actually CONSUME sodas in 1962...unless, of course we were at Grandmother's house; where soda AND dessert were OK in the same meal.

Although we lived in Atlanta, the Land of Coca Cola, I proudly displayed my red, white and blue, insuring my outcast status among my young peers. And I was an early adopter in 1964, when Diet Pepsi came on the scene. Followed in short order by...oh, I shiver to think...Tab. I don't think I consumed more than two cans of the stuff in my life, but I can still conjure the taste. It reminds me of the smell of ether, just before I went under to have my tonsils removed.

The Pepsi Generation, boys and girls, aged gracefully; holding hands and singing. We grew our hair long and embroidered flowery patches on our favorite jeans. Some of us were too cool for school, and opted to "hang out" on 14th Street; wearing flowers in our hair. We read "The Great Speckled Bird" News (simply referred to as "The Bird") and sometimes The Pepsi Generation - um - enhanced the Pepsi with interesting substances. The Coca Cola crowd was enjoying their debutante balls. It was clearly cooler to drink Pepsi.

And then, a new campaign. Circa 1972, we became The Pepsi People! Feelin' free, feelin' free! All across the nation, (we were) the Pepsi Generation! Feelin' free!

I was OSoCool!!! Free! The Pepsi People! And I had an invitation to a concert at The Great Southeast Music Hall, supercool ATL venue, where Country Joe and the Fish were holding court. Opening act was some guy named Barry Manilow.

Who just happened to leave the world of jingles for the world of pop music. Penned The Pepsi People, and then...Mandy.?

Can't remember anything else about that evening except:

1. My shock that I was in the presence of The Pepsi People Genius, and
2. Country Joe got booed off the stage; Barry played a second set.

I was in the front row. I loved my Pepsi (even though I think I had white wine that night), I loved Barry Manilow, and I pretty much loved everyone in the world.

Important footnote: Other than a tawdry dalliance with Diet Dr. Pepper in the late '70s, due to David Naughton, star of "An American Werewolf in London" and the "I'm a Pepper" campaign, I have been FOB with Pepsi. Even when MJ lost his entire head of hair.

Until tonight.

I was out of Diet Pepsi, Vanilla; my favorite carbonated evening beverage. Stopped by the local grocery to grab a fridge pack and some dog food; and noticed...I am not making this up. "Pepsi Throwback." Sweetened with Natural Sugar.

So I'm wondering. Before Pepsi ThrewBack, what WERE they using to sweeten their beverages?

Unnatural sugar?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Two Things You Should Know About My Feet

First, I ALWAYS have silver toenails, even in the dead of winter when I am wearing two pairs of socks. Even when I'm on vacation. And even when I'm in the hospital for a colonoscopy. The only exception is when I wipe the old polish off to apply the new. I have 10 bottles of silver polish. One is the correct color (which has, of course, been discontinued) and the others are Emergency Backup Polishes, purchased when I had gone astray without the correct bottle. I have not yet had to use any of the Emergency Backup Polishes on a regular basis, but my last bottle of correct polish is getting kinda lumpy. It's been a while since it was discontinued. It is my fond hope that it will be New and Exciting again soon; and like leg warmers or platform shoes it will come back around before my last bottle solidifies.

Also, I am NEVER without my toe rings. You know how some people go on vacays and get tattoos to commemorate them? Usually because of too many margaritas? Well, for a period of time, I commemorated with toe rings. Not those cheap, adjustable ones with dolphins and rhinestones. Oh, no. I was drawn to heavy, hammered and twisted sterling silver numbers. Fitted, and requiring some Vaseline (Registered Trademark) to slide over the fleshy toe tops. My mother has been known to wear bangles in a stack up to her elbows. I guess that's why I developed the notion that toe rings should be piled on. And I ended up - eventually - with 3 on each, um, pointer toe?

Yes, I sleep in them. No, they don't hurt. No, my toes don't turn green. I don't notice them when I wear shoes, they don't rip through pantyhose. And they have been there for years and years and years.

(If I'm ever in a disaster, the fam doesn't have to look at the whole body for a positive ID. Just toes.)

So, last weekend hubby and I were sitting on the swimming pool steps after dinner. And he asked, "What is that silver thing on the bottom of the pool?" And the jewelry designer in me, who just loves to find random silver things to recycle into other things, looked down and remarked, "It looks like sterling silver! The same kind of pattern as my top right toe ring!" I was feeling pretty lucky, to score some silver. For a moment there...

Uh oh. No top toe ring on the right foot.

And the middle ring on the right foot is just a bit wiggly. Which is why I decided on the top ring to hold it in place. And now the top ring is...broken.

And we had no plans to go anywhere awesome that has sized and fitted toe rings; and the right side middle ring was surely going to fall off. I was suddenly very sad.

A cursory investigation of the broken toe ring confirmed what I suspected. It was fit for the meltdown pile, but not much else.

The next day, I searched the Web for a size 3 1/4 toe ring; plain hammered silver. No luck...lots of size 3s, which hurt; and size 4s, which I might as well just give away without wearing them. Because they are gonna fall off immediately upon toe placement.

That toe ring had been with me through a whole bunch of thick and thin. As had the toe ring beneath it; which was now unprotected and vulnerable. I was sad just thinking about it. I thought about booking a trip to Key West, where I got my first ring, but it is hotter than the grate over hell in the summer. And who would take care of the dogs while I was gone?

I considered clipping them all off. Brave New World without toe rings! But I quickly realized that I need them for ID in case of disaster; along with my silver toenails.

Ultimately, I decided to let nature take its course. If Toe Ring Number Two on the right foot was going to fall off, so be it. I slept soundly for the first night since the gruesome discovery of the bent and broken ring on the floor of the pool.

I was adjusting to the idea of 5 toe rings instead of 6; and facing the possibility of losing one more of the five. I was strong, and I was OK. I would survive.

Then, a whisper..."Nancy...?"

I took a deep breath, and listened:

"Uh, Nancy?" That darned voice in my head again...

"Don't you MAKE silver jewelry? You could make a toe ring. Size 3 1/4."


Why didn't I think of that?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Day Without Kitties is Like a Day Without...Hairballs

Aah, here's a photo of Nancy and The Kitties in happier times, last weekend. You can't see me, but I'm just to the right of the picture. With my trusty torch, melting metals. You can't see Foster, the Kitty, either. He was messing with the torch, and trying to catch his fur on fire. But you CAN see Bes. After conducting her morning bird census, she decided on a well-deserved rest in the salad bowl; as she coached Foster on the finer points of bothering Mom from the sidelines.

But now, NancyLand is a very sad place, indeed. There are no Kitties. We have reached the point in the renovations that involves toxic fumes, open windows and workmen who have no idea how to close a door. Consequently, the Kitties are "summering at the farm." And I can't believe how much I miss them.

Just today I let the dogs out - they are with me because they are immune to toxic fumes and would never exit an open door because they might miss a meal and they can't stay alone at the farm because they eat furniture - and in walks, bold as you please, a giant palmetto bug. For those unfortunates without southern roots, that is a cockroach on steroids. About the size of a lobster, but a lot uglier.

And all I could think was, if The Kitties were here, and I showed them the palmetto bug, and I pretended that I wanted to play with it, and perhaps sprinkled it with a little catnip; well, they might just poke it out the door. Then again, there was that recent incident with the mouse at the farm...six cats in the house, and my mother-in-law's little dog. Guess who caught the mouse? The Kitties didn't even feign embarrassment. In fact, I think they TOLD the little dog to get it, because they didn't want to ruin their nails.

Then, there's RatRat; poor filthy, fuzzy RatRat, favorite fetch fetish for Foster the Feline, forlorn in the foyer. I threw the damn thing upstairs just to hear it "thunk." But "thunk" was not followed by the sound of Foster skidding across the hall to tackle it. Oh, my heavy heart. I drew the line at fetching RatRat myself, so he is languishing upstairs in hardwood floor refinishing dust.

I have typed this entire entry without "help". No one has walked on the keyboard, erasing the entire piece; or spilled my Diet Pepsi, causing me to grab a throw pillow to absorb the liquid before it reached the grooves on the underside of the laptop. I have not stopped writing once to respond to that "haronking" sound, harbinger of the hairball. And I didn't have to open a can of smelly, oily fish eyes at dinner.

Sometimes it sucks to be me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Good Night's Sleep Is Hard to Find.

I'm worried. And I know I'm not alone...tossing, turning and fretting as the clock ticks through the early AM hours have recently surpassed baseball as the national pastime. The Top Ten Things I Am Worried About:

10. We are running out of celebrities. What a time for Jon and Kate to ditch the media. As two of very few People-Mag-Coverworthy individuals remaining on the planet, it is no time for them to gather their Crooked Houses and motorcycles and skis and spa treatments and other toys and go home(s). Especially with Kate being a prominent member of the Elite Haircut Icons. Losing Farrah was a blow to the EHI; Kate has a responsibility to carry the torch.

9. It is possible there is more to this Sanford/Palin story than meets the eye. Perhaps there was never an Argentinian lover. Could it be that Sarah just decided, after hooking up with Sanford at An Important Meeting for Governors, to fish in warmer waters?

8. The report that, in the Giant Cosmic Game of Pool, Mars could ricochet off of Venus and hit the earth is really true.

7. Michael Jackson is being buried without his brain. What will they do with it after all the testing is finished? I'd hate to see MJ's brain on eBay.

6. The only vegetable I eat all summer is tomatoes. Oh, and corn. Dump a small can of corn into a plastic bowl. Heat in the microwave. Top with cottage cheese, and salsa. (Tomatoes again.) I worry that one day I will leave red fingerprints; like the orange ones babies sometimes develop when they eat nothing but sweet potatoes and carrots. And I forget what causes scurvy and rickets. I hope it isn't excess tomato consumption.

5. Swine flu. I feel kinda sweaty, and cold. And I could really go for a good truffle hunt.

4. I don't drink enough coffee to prevent Alzheimer's. I promise to work really, really hard on that, going forward.

3. Bedbugs. A national epidemic.

2. The dogs had rabies vaccinations today. Municipalities say they need them every year. Vets say no more than once every 3 years. And maybe, only once in adulthood. Rabies shots, like speeding tickets, seem to be designed to raise revenue, not to protect public health. Slimy.

1. What if I wake up in the middle of the night and need to pee? With all our reno projects, I sometimes forget which bathroom is the "working" bathroom of the moment. Tonight it is not the "Master Bath", which is undergoing a "color refresh". (Get us OUT of the 1980s!!! No more white tile, and mirrors!) The "hall bath" is OK...slate's been laid, new pedestal sink. "Comfort height" commode.

Welcome to my Nightmare, apologies to Alice Cooper.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Suicide's Not Painless. Thank God for Fireworks.

Nearly twenty years ago - oh, my, that couldn't possibly be correct; but it is - I received an extraordinary "cold call" from an extraordinarily warm woman. I was working, at the time, as a counselor; doing my damnedest to help families overcome infertility. And, unfortunately, to live with it when necessary. Occasionally, the stress proved insurmountable; and families disintegrated into heaps of guilt, blame and misery.

Tina, a family mediator, had personal experience with infertility. She knew firsthand that terminal stage of marriage; and thought, perhaps, mediation might offer relief. And, as she was building a private client base, she thought someone in my position could be a source of referral. I heard her out, and agreed to meet with her for half an hour the following week.

Our initial meeting lasted 5 hours. Yeah, we talked business. We also talked about growing up in Pennsylvania (which we both did), cats (I had a herd, she had One-Eyed Calvin The Wonder Cat, adopted because he was FIV positive, and no one else would take him), politics (she was as far to the left as you can go without coming around the other way; I have issues with big government), snow (she loved it, I despise it), and Dunkin' Donuts. Because, by the time we wound down the conversation, we were both starving. Let the record show that I did not bring up the donut issue.

We swapped business cards, agreed to host workshops together, and hugged. As all good Pennsylvanians transplanted to Atlanta, Georgia learn to do. And, as I closed the door behind her, I was just a little in love; like women are when they know they've met someone who will become a very good friend.

I had mentioned my adult dance classes to Tina, and I mentioned Tina - because she was so much fun - to the folks in the classes...harboring a fantasy that one day they all could meet. And, I'm not exactly sure how that, in fact, happened. Suffice it to say, in very short order, Tina was on board with Dancin' Dynamics. And we we so happy she was there!

She quickly usurped my position as the leader of the class. When I talked, they talked. When Tina talked, however, it was like Charles Schwab and God were holding court at the same time. People listened. Tina always had a story, a barb, a self-deprecating anecdote. And we laughed so hard we worked our abs just fine, thank you, without curl ups.

Fortunately, Tina had her loyalties straight. When she, in one of her Pied Piper performances, led the crowd too far astray, I merely had to look pitiful and she would bellow, "Quiet! Back to your places!" Problem solved. They called her "The Henchperson". I grew to rely on that bellowing, since it has never been one of my skills.

Unfortunately, Tina was also very opinionated. One particular song, a crowd fave, always got her proverbial goat. She hated "Barbecue" by Mumbo Jumbo. Not because she didn't like the music. Because it was too long, and it - how dare it - made her sweat in exercise class. She tried mightily to lead a revolution against "Barbecue". It didn't work, so she resorted to bringing bags of freeze-dried apple chips to class, and opting out; crunching as we danced.

You are probably wondering about the point of this essay. Well, what we didn't know at first blush was that Tina - brilliant, funny, life-of-the-party Tina - was battling bi-polar disorder. As was her soul-mate husband. Probably not such a great combination.

Once Tina realized she was a part of a very special group of women, who have shared everything from birth to death and traveled the world together in the process, she let us into her world. We talked a lot about being bi-polar. We stood by her and prayed through several of her hospitalizations. We watched her try every treatment available. Some that worked, some that did not. And we knew...

It was a matter of time.

Almost 3 years ago, on the eve of my 50th birthday, Tina lost her battle. Our love, the love of her children, her precious grand children...none of us had the ammunition to overcome her disease.

But her humor lives on. She sent a letter, posthumously, to the minister who conducted her memorial service. Warning her that if she played any music, the Dancin' Dynamic contingent would burst out in spontaneous Macarenas. She willed her favorite art to me. As an artist, I adore it. As a friend, I mourn her passing every time I see it.

And, I should mention, Tina's birthday is the 4th of July. I always thought that was a strange day for Miss-Super-Left-Wing-Liberal to be born. Especially one who hated heat. But she loved snow. And, really, those silvery-white fireworks look an awful lot like snowflakes.

If you see a white "snowflake" on the 4th of July; please, think of Tina.

(Snowflake photo is courtesy of - a gorgeously fascinating site.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dad Might be the Road Warrior....

But the Kids Bear the Scars.

It's all over the news. Dad travels, bad things happen. Take Jon and Kate Plus Ei8ht and all their convoluted New Math...Jon goes to Utah with his 23-year-old NotBabyMama and Kate has to file for divorce and get a manicure and have the Hedgehog Hair trimmed in the same day. And that governor goes to the Appalachian Trail, no wait, maybe it was Buenos Aires for Father's Day weekend with his NotBabyMama and his four kids are left with glittery handmade cards and no one to bestow them upon.

Tragedies, for sure.

I speak from experience. My own personal father was often on the road. Consequently,

my mother served beets.

Tuna salad, which is a lovely Daddy-is-Away Dinner; and canned beets. Beets were never on the menu when Daddy was home.

Fifty years later, I feel compelled to speak out. Perhaps because my precious, precious granddaughter is sampling vegetables.

Beets are pretty, don't get me wrong. Such a lovely color. But they taste like dirt. Not that I've ever tasted dirt. They taste like pavement smells when a rain storm sets in. That's fine for the Great Outdoors, but a little weird for dinner. They are too big to swallow with milk (believe me, I've tried, even though I HATE milk...) You can sneak them to the dog, because frankly, what's a little dirt to someone who chews on sticks; but there will be purple stains on the carpet before she finishes them.

There is a really good book, entitled, "The Beet Queen", by Louise Erdrich. Enjoy the read. But please, don't foist that dirty dish on your children. They could be scarred for life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fool Me Once, Shame on You...

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me!
(Life in RenoLand...the Second Time Around.)

I always swore I would NEVER AGAIN live in a house undergoing renovations. Clearly, I am a liar. Because here I am, with my merry band of hounds, and Foster the Kitty; smack in the belly of the beast.

Because the hounds are extremely aged and high-maintenance, and because Foster is extremely young and high-maintenance, they cannot hang out at the already-renovated and usually-empty other house while I get this one ready for market. They need Staff. And that would be me, because I can work pretty much wherever I'm planted; as long as I have a torch to melt precious metals and a whole bunch of expensive bending tools that look eerily like bending tools at The Home Depot. So the six of us, along with Foster's precious stuffed RatRat, are hanging out here for a few weeks. And I am melting things, and serving as "Staff."

This is a four-point project. Part one, new appliances in the kitchen. Cake. Deceptively easy, in fact. So easy that the Appliance Switchers encouraged me to allow Foster the Kitty to "supervise", a role he takes rather seriously. They pulled the old cook top, Foster inspected the existing wiring for code violations. They installed the new cook top, Foster sat on top to test load recs. And he shared RatRat when they broke for Chick-Fil-A. There is something innately incongruous about a Fetching Kitty on a construction site.

Part two. The icky 1987 shiny-tiny white tile and peach entry marble had to go to its just reward. A Supervising Kitty and a jackhammer is not such a great combo; and the hounds insisted on "warning" me with every blow of the hammer...Danger, Will Robinson! So the six of us retreated to my basement studio. Where hounds found renegade beads and precious metals on the floor and consumed them; causing precious and quite attractive poop. And Foster, with his innate 1/2 Siamese wisdom, employed ancient feng shui principles to rearrange my workspace. My Sam's Club bottle of Acetominophen has seen a great deal of action this week.

We are now embarking on Phase 3. Refinishing floors gouged by a collective 80 dog toenails for a good ten years. None of which will TOUCH the finished product...the are going to wear socks from here on out. Because the fumes are quite unpleasant, we will vacate the property for a couple of days. Which means that tomorrow, between reveille and 0900, I have to gather absolutely everything we might need for the next 5 days and stuff it somewhere in the rental car. My personal car, an Audi tt, is really just a go-kart with a roof. I couldn't possibly pack five days of stuff for a herd of dogs, Foster the Kitty and myself in its minuscule self. I had to rent a Hyundai SantaFe or Similar Vehicle from Budget Rent-a-Car.

Then, finally, there will be Phase Four. We will paint the walls and trim floor to ceiling. I am certain that Foster will have our best interests in mind as he oversees the spraying process...

And then...through the magic of the Internet we will connect with the exact person who wants to inhabit our lovely, renovated Atlanta Zen Zone.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ice, Ice, Baby!

My cousin says that I "seem to have problems with things that are supposed to be cold." She says this because it took my Fix-It Guy a month to put in my new air conditioner; and that happened to be the exact same month I was under doctor's orders to stay cool and refrain from sweating, because I was mid-treatment for skin cancer BROUGHT ON BY MY AFFINITY FOR WARMTH. And then, not two weeks later, the ice maker in my nearly new and dreadfully stylish French Door GE Profile Refrigerator fritzed. And, of course, being a fan of Facebook, I couldn't wait to share this delicious tidbit with my family and friends. So my cousin came to her logical conclusion...

Not even knowing that, 20 years ago, the predecessor of the French Door GE Profile Refrigerator (may it rest in peace) had ice maker issues, too. Sears tried, unsuccessfully, to fix it on three different occasions. Son One, aged 10 at the time, claimed he could solve the problem. He was told, in no uncertain terms, that he was NOT to disassemble the refrigerator; which he did the next time I went to the grocery store. And fixed the problem so well that the predecessor refused to die. I finally pulled the plug. Without remorse. That thing was UgLy with a Capital L.

Anyway, the French Door GE Profile Refrigerator had been making ice cubes nicely since it moved in. Enough for drinks, and the occasional Reverse Hockey Game for Foster the Cat. (Ice puck on rubber floor. Smack, chase, smack, chase.) And then I left it alone for 3 days. Which generally resulted in an overpopulation of cubes, but this time...nada. Nothing. Zero.

A cursory quest for the refrigerator manual turned up...nada. again. I know I put it in a good place, though.

On line search: Gloom and Doom, and story after story about the failure of ice makers in the dreadfully stylish French Door GE Profile Refrigerators.

And helpful advice about "troubleshooting."

One article advised that I check to see if the "toggle switch" is in the correct position.

To find the "toggle switch", one must remove the "faceplate" of the ice maker. I figured that out.

Aha! A switch! Which, unless the Toggle Switch Fairy showed up to remove the faceplate while I was away, no one has touched since the fridge was installed.

But, just to be sure, I looked to see what it was set on. There are two choices:

O and

Or is it

0 and

"Off" and "Ice"?

"Zero" and "One"?

What the...

The article also advised that I check the "integrity" of "connections." I tugged on water lines. I wiggled the "sensor arm." I flipped the "toggle switch". I crammed the "faceplate" back into position. I said a prayer, I crossed some fingers; and listened carefully.

And heard the distinctive "thunk" of an ice cube in the "Harvest Cycle."

And, by the end of the day, I had a glass full of ice.

It might be a miracle; or perseverance. It might be plain old dumb luck.

But I have conquered cold. For the moment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Around The World In Eighty Years?

I have an intense fascination with beads. Quite possibly, an obsession. Beads have been around since the dawn of humanity. They were (and still are, in some places) our first form of currency. And, best of all, you can wear them! Our wise forefathers, deciding that the safest place to keep their valuables was under the woolly mammoth skin, on their very person; invented the hole. Which caused the bead. And eventually, led to Bling. Then again, it was probably our wise foremothers who invented the hole. After the forefathers whined one too many times, "Honey, have you seen my striated agate trade stones? I know I left them on the shelf by the entrance to the cave when I emptied my mammoth skin pocket. But they aren't there nooooooow..."

I love local beads. The ones made of recycled soda cans in Mexico. Lava, in The Ring of Fire countries. Moose poop in Alaska. (I did not make that up.) I have spent a great deal of time in Indonesia; consequently, I have a lovely collection of Bali silver beads, Indonesian "mosaic" beads, and recycled Java glass.

Indonesia - Java, in particular, has been producing recycled glass beads for a long, long time. These beauties can be found in a rainbow of colors. They are frosty and rustic; and I love to combine them with shiny sterling silver. It is a happy and balanced combination.

The last time I was on Bali, I stopped by a favorite beading haunt; where I found the yummy lemony-yellow beads I featured in my "Jumpin' East of Java bracelet", shown above. My shopkeeper-friend had only a handful of them; she had gotten them from a market on Java. They were clearly quite old; and not frosty, like typical Indonesian recycled glass. I was dazzled; I bought the handful. Made and sold several "Jumpin' East of Java" bracelets; kept one for myself.

Fast-forward to yesterday:

I have bunches of vintage crystals, and some of them have a secret. They are Vaseline Glass; which was made around the turn of the 20th century. For the amusement of those stuffy Victorians, who thought that having jewelry, and even tableware, that would glow under ultra-violet light might be fun. (Ooh, gut-punch to all the aging hippies - we did not invent black light to light up our Free Love posters! Johann Ritter discovered it in 1801! Way before posters!) So, glass artists added a little uranium to their glass recipes to make the glass glowy - no worries, it is not a dangerous level; and the glass is a natural barrier anyway - and made all kinds of fun stuff. Including some really awesome beads!

Most of the Vaseline Beads were made by the popular beadmakers of the times, the Italians, Bohemians and Czechs. Eventually, This War and That War gobbled up the uranium reserves, and Vaseline Bead production fizzled.

So, anyway. Yesterday I had this notion that I would like to make some Vaseline Glass earrings. I went down to the studio with my portable black light, to scan my box of crystals for glowy beads. Lights off, black light on, dozens of glowy crystals in the crystal box, and...whoa...what was that I saw out of the corner of my eye? The. Java. Beads. Were...GLOWING!!!???

Indonesia didn't make Vaseline Glass. I knew the shopkeeper who sold me the beads. I knew she got her stock on Java. How the heck did the Vaseline Glass get to an Indonesian island?

The plot thickens.

A little research turned up a strand of beads that matched mine exactly. They are Bohemian, made in 1915; for trade to Mali. Mali, with an "M"; close phonetically to "Bali" but far away, in Africa.

These rare little gems left Old Bohemia in the early 20th century, headed to Africa. Sometime between 1915 and 2007, they found their way to Java, and then to Bali. Then, via Singapore, to Atlanta, GA...and now they are scattered to the US winds. Oh, the stories they could tell...

Like I said,

I have an intense fascination with beads. Quite possibly, an obsession.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tough Medicine - The REST of the Story!

When we last saw our fair and quite splotchy heroine, she was clutching a prescription for - Hallelujah! - steroid cream that would stop - Oh, Sweet Heaven! - the chemical reaction that had turned her face into one hot mess. Let's follow her as she wheels the Audi tt to the pharmacy at the closest grocery store!

By now, my face had been naked for some two hours; and my major worry was that I would grin when the pharmacist handed me the salve, and my lips would split in two and my forehead would part like the Red Sea and I would ooze all over the pharmacy counter. I shouldn't have worried. THAT didn't happen. In fact, smiling was not a remote possibility. I waited semi-patiently while the lady in front picked up three prescriptions; two of which she thought should have reflected Senior Discounts, but did not; and one that wasn't hers. Which she did not discover until she had emptied her purse on the counter to find the flyer with the list of pharmaceuticals which SHOULD have been discounted (she didn't find it); and then, in agonizingly slow motion, wrote a check, messed it up, tore it into little pieces; asked for a trash can, wrote another check, signed for the medications and noticed that someone else's first name was on the third one. She decided she only had two things to pick up after all, and wrote another check. And slowly, very slowly, gathered up her purse contents, said "Hey" to some passersby (it was Senior Wednesday) and...LEFT...THE... COUNTER!!!!

I was dancing on the inside at this mere moments I could slather my face with yet another unnatural cream! Suddenly, there was no Pharmacist, there was no Pharmacy Tech, there was no Intern from the local pharmacy college. I was pretty sure it wasn't The Rapture; because there were still a lot of people in the store. Maybe donuts in the break room? Designated potty time?

No, there they were. Over there by the. Drat. Computer. With puzzled frowns. Pushing buttons, checking wires. Hello, my face hurts! Do you want me to ooze all over the counter? I think I drummed my fingernails lightly on the Formica. OK, maybe I pounded it a little bit...they sent Alexis the Intern over.

She tried not to stare. And told me that "Actually, the computers are down." I could leave my prescription, and retrieve it later in the afternoon.

At that point, I believe I channeled Thelma and Louise. I also harbored deep hostility toward people who use the word "actually."

"Alexis, I am in a great deal of pain. I do not intend to leave this store without my steroid cream. I am going to shop a bit, and check back. Hopefully, we can figure out a way for me to leave here with my medication, even if the computers are, actually, down." Not one of my finest speeches, but combined with the fact that my face looked like a Flame Broiled Boca Burger, it appeared to make an impact. Alexis all but bowed, asked me to give them half an hour, and I found myself in the produce section.

Let me just tell you, when your face is cracking like hard-boiled egg shells, salad dressing starts to look sexy. Ooh, just imagine the silky feel of Marie's Blue Cheese against this parched landscape. And, don't ever EVER find yourself with Chemo Face in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil section. Morality goes right out the window. The thought of breaking the seal on that sweet and lush potion...

And then, over the PA system: "Will the lady with the TERRIBLE, DISGUSTING SKIN RASH please report to the pharmacy?" In fairness, I think they used my name. But, judging from the faces of the folks I passed, I'm not entirely sure. Especially since most of them had cataracts.

The pharmacy had only one tube of the medication prescribed. And it was for half the amount my doc recommended. I should come back tomorrow.

I'm not sure if I grabbed Alexis by her lapel. The one that had her Pharmacy School Sorority Pins on it. But I did suggest that I was going to stand in line and look ugly until I got my half-sized tube. And that I would be more than happy to pick up the second half-sized tube another day. And then...Sweet Jesus and All the Archangels...I had it! The Cream! I signed some stuff, and I was free! With The Cream!

I made it as far as my car. Slathered...not

Tried not to cry, failed; which also stung.

My Great Expectation was to - today, one week post-chemo - post my pretty new face. But, patience is a virtue. Stinging is history. I still look like a prize fighter; but I am a cancer-free prize fighter. TKO.

Would I do it again? You bet. But I would lay in my supply of steroid cream before I needed it. And I would probably invest in a nice burka.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tough Medicine: The Sequel

So, today was The Big Day. The Day of Reckoning. Judgment Day. The Final Exam.

The day I was to find out if I had to do Round Two; a fresh hell of Carac Chemotherapy.

What was left of my face was a bloody, scabby, itchy, burny, dry, yet oozy, mess. My very own hand, the Applicator of Creamy Doom, had become my worst enemy. The voices in my head, arguing about whether we "Must!" or whether we "Can't!" smear the flesh-eating Horror in a Tube on the ravaged landscape yet another time, reached crescendo after crescendo; screaming like banshees in between. I was alternately ecstatic about my doctor's visit; and abjectly terrified.

I awoke 4 hours before my 8:30 AM appointment, so I would have plenty of time to fret. There was still product in my chemo tube. What if I hadn't used enough? What if I had used too much, and would now require surgery to repair the permanent scarring? And, what if...what if...I had to do this all over?

I had read the statistics. 30% of people prescribed the Carac treatment cannot finish the first round. I realized that NOWHERE in the literature is the failure rate of second rounds addressed. I would imagine that is because there are no known survivors.

CoffeeCoffeeCoffee; the whole time knowing that I had to wash my face, removing the chemo cream that was holding it together at the moment, and then refrain from applying sunscreen - the same sunscreen that stung and burned and made me want to climb in the freezer and close the door behind me and rest my head on the Double Brownie Lowfat Double Churned Active Culture Frozen Yogurt and freeze to death - and yet sunscreen was mildly moisturizing and seemed to hold some of the blood in where I had chasms that could hold full-sized rivers. No sunscreen for me this morning, no sir! Au naturel.

I did the math. It would take me exactly 6 minutes to get to my doctor's office. So, if I washed my face 10 minutes before my appointment time, I would only have 4 minutes of naked pain before I got my marching orders.

Of course, any medical practice worth its Biohazard Box is running a half-hour late before it even opens. So there I was, nakedfaced and burning; trying to read a book about quilts that just happened to be in my trunk, because a friend had given it to me the night before. No, I haven't got the foggiest idea how to quilt. And, even though I remembered my reading glasses (which hurt to wear, by the way,) I had read at least 2 chapters before I realized the book was upside down.

Weeks later, my name was finally called. Someone in polyester scrubs featuring woodland creatures, escorted me to my next waiting area; noting that, "WOW! That's quite a rash you have there! It must hurt!" Fortunately my pulled hamstring was aching...I have a pretty decent karate kick when I feel good.

The Woodland Creature Lady assured me it would be "just a sec" before Doc appeared. Let me pause to define "sec". A "sec" is the time it takes Doc to see Patient A and her Band-Aided chin, talk into the tape recorder regarding Patient A; see Patient B who was referred by her daughter, talk into the tape recorder regarding Patient B, talk in the hall to two co-workers, talk in the hall to someone, presumably the Woodland Creature lady about me, and knock on the door. I know this because the walls there seem to be made out of mostly thin air, with some small amount of fiber added to hold generic white paint.

My face, which is now sans any type of goo for a couple of hours, is pretty unhappy; not to mention flaky and so dehydrated that the corners of my eyes have drawn together. I have univision. I feel terrible. If I don't get a good report; well, let's just say it won't go well for someone.

Doc gasps when she sees me. She says, "You must hate me!" I assure her that "hate" is an awfully strong word. I am more in the "dislike" camp.

Sensing my hostility, she is quick to say that I have had an "excellent reaction." That I "really lit up." and that she is "so pleased."

That makes one of us.

She sends me off for steroid cream, to stop the chemical reaction, I am done. DONEDONEDONE. For two years!!!!!

All I have to do is go to the pharmacy, to get the 'scrip filled. What could possibly go wrong?

Ooh! Cliffhanger!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tough Medicine

It was never my intention to be born before the invention of sunscreen. And, in fact, if I had it to do over again, I would do things differently.

We had back then, of course, "Suntan Lotion". Our mommas shook it out of the Coppertone bottle and slathered us - and themselves, while they were at it - with the stuff, so that we would be as cute and berry-brown as the little girl on the label. The topless one, with the dog pulling her bottoms off. I think today that would be classified as child porn.

"Suntan Lotion" was some combination of sunbeam intensifier and cooking oil; which kept us nice and moist as we baked. The theory was that we would "tan", not "burn". That worked OK for my Italian and Greek girlfriends; but this freckled, reddish-headed, baby-blue-eyed, white-as-a-marshmallow body of mine, like a defective chameleon, turned only one color. Red. Very, very red.

Luckily, we didn't spend a great deal of time in the great outdoors while I was small. And when we went to the beach, my cousin and I were so scared of the legendary "undertoe" (gads!!! loose feet parts in the water that would haul you out to sea?) we usually stayed indoors gluing shells to tissue boxes and shopping at the 5&10.

However. My "sun-days" became numerous as I approached my teen years; thanks to an earthshattering new product which Changed the Course of Humanity. At least in the 12-year-old world. The introduction of Sun-In. Spray it on, sit outside for hoursandhoursandhoursandhours; wash your hair, wait for it to dry, and LIKE MAGIC! It would be at least a half a shade lighter! Repeat as necessary, until your mom decided your hair looked like vermin-infested straw and forbade you to buy another bottle (Which, of course, you did, when you went to the movies at the mall the next weekend. And we know now, Mom knew exactly what we were doing.)

On a side note, by the time my children were preteens, Sun-In came in a super-strength version. You could pretty much sit under a light bulb and end up with peroxide blond hair. A giant leap for boy- and girlkind, in terms of sun exposure.

But, once again, I digress.

Fast-forward to present:

NOW they tell us, because Sanjay Gupta and all his TV doc friends and Surgeon Generals and Oprah and, I think, Billy Graham, have read Very Important Studies About Teens Who Sat Outside Trying to get Their Hair Blond, we shouldn't have done that! Well, where were all those Einsteins when we needed them? Someone should have passed an Anti Sun-In Resolution ages ago.

And here is why.

Yeah, I spent most of the summers of 1969 and 1970 in the sun; buttered up, smelling like coconut and bleaching my head. But, as soon as it was cool, I was on the Sunscreen Wagon. I slathered. I didn't bake between the hours of 10AM and 4PM, and I didn't "work on my tan", which I never would have achieved anyway.

And yet, I am now in the middle of 21 days of hell, Carac treatment for facial skin cancer. My face burns/itches/hurts/burns. I have sores in my mouth, nausea, and a throbbing headache. I look like I fell headfirst into a fire ant hill. People at the grocery store stare. Every half hour I put an ice pack on my face.

And I am supremely grateful to my dermatologist; who, during a "skin scan" discovered my face full of "micro-lesions"; each one of which could have grown into a world-class problem. And will now be an EX lesion. Eventually...

Moral of the story: Get checked now. Get checked later. Do the time. You might look like this for a while:

And you might, like me, want to cry. But don't - it stings. And you'll be able to cry, and laugh, and live and love for years to come.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I weekended at the Country Estate; and, as usual, took a wander around the grounds with my morning coffee. It was a soggy, muddy venture. The edge of the driveway looked curiously muddier than expected, however...closer examination revealed:

displaced mulch.
scratchy marks in the dirt.
some poke-y holes in the ground.
funny footprints.

And there was some kind of snuffling/scuffling noise down in the ravine...

And then:


So much fun to see! Especially alive, and not mooshed in the middle of a road!

So I did a little armadillo research, and learned:

Armadillos are mammals. Not marsupials, not lizards.
They are related to anteaters and sloths.
There is only one type of armadillo in the US - the Nine-Banded Armadillo.
Armadillos live 12 to 15 years.
The Giant Armadillo is 5 feet long.
They are beneficial because they eat icky things, like fire ants and termites.
They are in constant motion while grazing, which is why all of my photos are blurry.
They grunt as they eat, and are so focused that you can walk right up to them.
Since they sometimes eat roadkill, they often become roadkill.
Armadillos give birth to 4 identical babies, conceived of 1 egg cell that divides.
If you find an abandoned baby, you must bury its food, so it learns to forage.
You can feed the baby armadillo cat food and lettuce.
Armadillos sink in water. They can cross streams by walking on the bottom.
Or, they can suck up a bunch of air, and float across the water.
Armadillos sleep 16 hours a day.
People eat them. In some locales they are kept as edible pets.
They taste like pork. (Hearsay. I will not be testing armadillo recipes.)
But you should cook armadillo meat well, because they can carry leprosy.
(The only other mammal that carries leprosy is...humans!)

Armadillos are really, really cute. And I would rather photograph them than eat them.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Results are In!

We received the results from the DNA test on our odd little dog, who is something reminiscent of a Keeshond. This is what we learned:

The above is 100% Keeshond.

Apparently so is:


Which is proof to me that someone almost always manipulates the data.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction

I never cared for math, so a TV show called "Jon and Kate Plus Ei8ht" with its embedded numeral (obviously a trick question) held no appeal for me. Wouldn't "Ten" have been so much simpler? And more user-friendly for the equation-phobic, as well?

Also, my idea of a great night of television is watching severe weather on the Weather Channel radar; and occasionally looking out the front door for tornadoes.

Now, it turns out, as I suspected, "Ten" isn't the right answer, after all. I think it has something to do with that embedded numeral. (Haha, embedded. I crack myself up.)

And money. Lots and lots of money.

I have seen snippets of the show. It seems to involve a lot of screaming. And the kids scream a lot, too. The amazing thing is that the kids always have BOTH SHOES on their feet when they are outside. And NO SHOES on their feet indoors. Even with only two children I only managed that scenario occasionally. For each of mine, we dedicated approximately 3 of their Formative Years to seeking lost shoes, and another 3 to scraping dog poop off the ones that were not lost.

So I had a feeling all along that this show was bogus.

Plus. They had one actress play the mother in the first show, and now there is the one with the Hedgehog Hair. And we are supposed to look the other way, and go along with that? We're not stupid.

But, what's really weird to me is that - unlike stories about that Spears chick going commando and the lady with the big lips who has 14 kids and Madonna and Jesus (is THAT a coincidence or what?) and Paula Abdul swearing on Taylor Hicks' new crossover country album that she never took a single pain pill through 21 back surgeries - I READ the stories about Prickly Mrs. Hedgehog. What's up with that?

I'm beginning to think it's the Sudoku. My Number Tolerance is improving. In fact, since the weather isn't at all interesting, I think I'll rent "With Six You Get Eggroll" tonight. And tomorrow, I'll break open the "Complete 'Eight is Enough' Gift Set."

And, perhaps, as I feel numerically stronger and stronger, I can watch a few J&K+8 reruns over the holiday weekend...and by the time the new season starts next week I'll be all caught up. I wonder how I'd look with Hedgehog Hair?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

There are Moments...

When you know you are in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time; with exactly the right people. And everything is, as Goldilocks would say, "Just Right."

Like the moment your brilliant and beautiful granddaughter is baptized in front of family and friends; in an historic and achingly pretty church. And, for that moment, there is no discord. Or turmoil. Or recession, or drought or flood, or flu. Just peace, joy, and the knowledge that life goes on.

And you can't help but count your blessings.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mystery Mutt!

For over 30 years, we have been involved with animal rescue. We have "specialized", if you don't count the cats, and adopted only one breed of dog - the Keeshond.

Keeshonden (plural) are the whole package. Smart, and beautiful; with lovely temperaments. They are wonderful with kids. They are vigilant to a fault, and will tell you about every leaf blowing across the grass. They are so pretty that people will stop you on the street to ask about them.

And they don't take abandonment well, at all.

These are not dogs to chain to a tree out front. They want to have conversation over a nice bottle of Merlot. They want to discuss preparation methods for cauliflower. They know that half of the bed belongs to them; and there is no good reason they can't ride along to the dry cleaner. Some people just don't want to have that level of involvement with a four-legged creature; hence the need for Keeshond rescue.

We have adopted puppy mill mommas who never heard a human voice until they were too old to have puppies; and have no concept of speech. We have parented a retired Canadian/American Double Champion, after her puppy-bearing days were behind her. We have gone tooth-and-nail with this beautiful, brilliant and extremely bossy brown version of the breed:

And then, there is Hope.

We got a call quite a few years ago, that a "Keeshond" was wandering around a race track in North Georgia. She had been taken to the local animal control shelter; and, well...let's just say her "expiration date" was fast approaching. Would I go get her? The rescue coordinator had been assured she was a "purebred."

Well, a "purebred" something. My two hour drive north was uneventful. South, it appeared, was going to be a different story.

This "Keeshond" was about 1/2 the size of a normal Kees. One ear stood up, the other did not. She had just about no fur, lots of freckles, a mouth full of broken teeth, and a personality as big as Montana. She also stunk to high heaven.

The drive south was excruciating. Stink and toenails. The stinky little thing wanted to stand on my lap, and clearly had no concept of manual transmission. I stopped by the office of my Sister-In-Law-The-Vet on the way back. Hope had diarrhea in the waiting room, got some antibiotics and a once-over. SIL asked, "What IS she?" My response, "I have no idea. How old do you think she is?" SIL looked at her broken teeth and replied, "Well, she could be two. She could be ten. I don't know." It was clear that she was not going to be the star of the Keeshond Rescue website.

That was nearly 10 years ago. We have been wondering and wondering about this odd, grumpy, feisty, rode-hard-and-put-up-wet little excuse-for-a-Keeshond. She has none of the attributes - although she is gray, as they generally are - and a whole bunch of "otherness" in her compact self. I have always referred to her as "a bag of sticks", because she has bones sticking out everywhere. But I just heard a better expression..."a bag of antlers." Which describes Hope perfectly.

For Christmas this year, my mother got a DNA kit to test the genetic makeup of her Great-Dane-With-an-Underbite mutt. Who would have guessed? Boxer - of course, underbite. And Rhodesian Ridgeback? Come on, how likely is it that a Rhodesian Ridgeback is just wandering around, waiting for a boxer to come along to make really odd-looking puppies? But I fell for it, swabbed the inside of Hope's cheek with the "polyester swab" guaranteed not to cause any lasting damage. And now we are waiting, waiting. I'm just not sure how I will explain to her that we are not her "real" parents.

Stay tuned. And feel free to place bets here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fun with Fibromyalgia!

Fibromyalgia is a collection of symptoms that result in widespread pain and fatigue. I know a lot about it, because I've had it for years; and I also have a lot of friends who hang out at health stores and watch infomercials. Therefore, in addition to having fibro, I know what everyone except people who have it thinks will cure it.

So I have put together this helpful fact sheet for long-time sufferers, the newly diagnosed, anyone with a family member battling this demon; and hypochondriacs. All in simple terms. No scary graphics, posters or newsreels; and no Doctor Scribble.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Within the last few decades, medical doctors noticed an alarming trend. People, mostly female people, swamped their offices, complaining of pain and fatigue. The doctors, of course, recognized hormones and hysteria, and prescribed appropriate anti-anxiety medications. Resulting in decidedly not anxious patients with widespread pain and fatigue, returning for follow-up visits.

So some of these doctors got together at a fancy resort, to discuss the trend. After a few martinis, they decided to have a Name-The-Syndrome contest. Some of the ideas floated about were "Fibrocystitis", "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" and "Fibromyalgia" (literally, 'pain in the fibro.') The votes were split evenly, and they decided on a Limbo Tie Breaker. Dr. Finartener, from Sioux City Iowa (who was only 5' 4" and some thought should have been disqualified because he had a genetic advantage) won the Limbo Contest. He cast the deciding vote for "Fibromyalgia", because he had used that word in Scrabble and swore on his Merck's Manual that it was a real syndrome and won the game. And now he could prove it.

What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Well, if you wake up in the morning and you feel like total poop, and everything hurts and you have stomach cramps and you are already menopausal or you are male so you aren't getting your period, and you had no idea your ears had joints except now something that seems to be an ear joint is throbbing, and you don't have a fever and you don't think you have been bitten by an exotic insect; you likely have Fibromyalgia. Another sign is if you are trying to explain to the dog how to start the coffee maker, because the thought of putting a foot on the ground makes your teeth hurt. And, come to think of it, lying here with those sheets TOUCHING YOUR SKIN is pretty painful, too.

What are the causes of Fibromyalgia?

My personal Healthcare Team have offered the following list of possibilities:

A physical or emotional trauma
A virus
An autoimmune response
A side effect of my thyroid disease

And my mother thinks I need a new mattress.

How is Fibromyalgia Treated?

What doesn't work: Everything ever invented for the treatment of pain. Like Anaprox, Aleve, Ibuprofen...all for "inflammation" that we don't have. Topicals, like Ben Gay, and Icy Hot; because even though you THINK your knees hurt, in 15 minutes it will be your elbows. Hello, the pain is not really coming from what hurts. It is coming from your brains!! They just want to trick you into believing your hips hurt, when it is really your Frontal Lobes! Haha, silly brains! You could play Smack The Gopher with a Thermapad all day and never land on the part that hurts.

You can take Vitamin B shots. You put the needle in your arm and, I am not making this up, inject the Vitamin B slowly over a period of 3 minutes. When a doctor demonstrated the technique (using my arm) I swore I would never be in enough pain to make THAT treatment worth it. He assured me that "one day you will crawl to me on your hands and knees to beg for a Vitamin B shot!" Good to know.

You can take drugs, off-label, designed as sleep aids. Is that brilliant? I hurt, so I will take something to make me sleep through it. And then my handsome prince will kiss me awake, and I'll find the glass slipper, and let down my hair and escape from the tower.

Or, someone call Billy Mays, you can try this NEW! BREAKTHROUGH! TREATMENT! I read about yesterday...a low dose "addiction" drug is showing some promise. So it can help crack addicts, and all of us "pain addicts." Come on.

Exercise appears to be a real antidote (perhaps because when you fatigue other muscle groups you don't notice the fibro?), and I think that "mind over matter" is a great approach; staying active scares the bejesus out of this syndrome.

And some people report relief with a bubble bath, and a nice chardonnay.

We won't die of fibromyalgia; but we can wither away if we don't fight back. 4% of the population suffers - I imagine this number is very low because most people who exhibit fibro symptoms think it is a natural effect of aging. It is not.

Fight the Fibro.

This blog expresses personal opinion and a degree of smartypantsiness, and is not a substitute for actual medical advice. Please consult your medical healthcare provider for real information. No animals were harmed in the process of this study, although the dogs resent the fact that dinner will be late.

Friday, April 10, 2009

This is a Test! It is Only a Test!

I am baffled. I am a very noisy person. I hang out with generally noisy people. I attract noisy people, I am attracted by noisy people. Especially noisily laughing people.


I have analytics on this blog. I know that lots of people stop by to Katch up Wit The Kitties. But, apparently, only shy, quiet, and keyboard-phobic folks visit, because no one leaves a message. This makes The Kitties unhappy, and very restless. And, let me tell you, life with Unhappy, Restless Kitties is no fun. I worry quite a lot about the Collective Power of Unhappy, Restless Kitties.

(I have considered, and rejected, the idea that my musings are so profound that readers are rendered temporarily mute.)

A tutorial: to leave a comment, you just click on the "comments" thing. If you are not a "Blog Person" you will make a little account, by filling in a couple of blanks. Then you type some words that are written in wavy text. Eazy Peazy. And then you can comment here, and on other blogs! You will be a Published Author! And the Kitties won't be Unhappy or Restless! Try it! (For my personal safety, please!)

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Oldest American Cell Phone Tells All...

6" x 3/4" of High Tech, chrome-look plastic!

RARE "Cingular" nameplate!

Elegant and stylish monochrome display!

Accessories readily available on eBay, or in the Vintage section of Etsy!

Streamlined operation! No cameras, games, Internet or music functions to interfere with your calls! No annoying "flip" to perform before talking! Six built-in ringtone choices! No model number to remember!

Okay, so am I anti-technology? Saving the planet by reducing, recycling, reusing? Just plain too lazy to shop for a new phone? Nope, nope, nope.

This model-numberless model featured a $10/month plan in 1998. Guess who's still down with that?

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I'm one of those people that everyone talks to. If I am in the grocery store, looking for okra, for example, five employees will ask if they can help me find it. Young men will see me selecting okra pods, and ask for advice for choosing the best ones. And for easy recipes to impress their girlfriends. When I wander into the cereal section, little old ladies will ask me to reach them the One-Minute Quaker Oats off the top shelf, because those canisters are fresher than the ones on the middle shelves. And I am tall, so I can reach.

I will put a box of quick-cooking barley in my grocery cart, and someone will ask me what I make with barley. The truth is, I am making dog food (barley plus salmon plus green beans plus cottage cheese.) But that is unglamorous, so I will explain how to make my famous barley-mushroom soup.

My friend, Maria, who lives in Baltimore, says that I look "approachable."

I don't mind. I'm glad to reach things, and hand out recipes. But I draw the line at underwear consulting.

Two days ago, I had the misfortune of shopping at the local Target, while the store was in lockdown because a 3-year-old girl was lost. The sales staff were sweeping their jurisdictions, while I was looking for black, french-cut undies. Along with a very confused, and fairly intimidated gentleman; who knew his Significant Other help in the foundation department.

Although he rang for assistance, employees were unavailable; as they were climbing under racks and canvassing dressing rooms in search of our 3-year-old Houdini. And there I was...approachable me.

"Um, excuse me? I am looking for undies for a woman, about 5' 2", and 125 lbs? Do you know what size she would wear?"

(The curse of the approachable woman. Again...) "Maybe a size 6?" said the nearly- 6-foot-tall-me.

"Uh, she wears those thongs. They don't look good on her. What would you suggest?"

Oh, man. Man-o-man. Why does this always happen to me??? "French cut makes your legs look longer...maybe she should try them?"

Out of the corner of my eye I see, at the front of the store, a joyful Mother and Child Reunion.

Yay, the saleswoman no longer has to search for a lost toddler. She saunters over.

The confused man describes his Significant Other to the salesperson, she shrugs and says, "Why don't you bring her in to try stuff on?" and scurries away to pat the once-lost 3 year old on the head.

"I'm off to the dog food department. Good luck!" I really mean it, too. Sort of.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I {{HEART}} Trader Joe's. I Really, Really Do.

My mother has been in the hospital for nearly a week. Other than the fact that Piedmont Hospital allows patients the luxury to choose meals from an impressive menu, and have said meals delivered by a tuxedoed waitron, it has not been remotely pleasant for any of us.

A couple of days ago, I stopped by the Trader Joe's closest to the hospital (Peachtree Road in Atlanta), to get some flowers and some caloric snacks, because my mother had lost a lot of weight. And she likes cookies, And TJ's has awesome pastries. I chose a lovely spring dish garden, with iris, hyacinth, tulip, daffodil and other goodies in bloom. And a decadent selection of mini yummies and chocolate-drenched almonds. When I set out my treasures for the cashier - John - to ring up, he asked who the flowers were for. I told him my mom was in the hospital...

And he said...

"Go over there and get another bunch of flowers, and pick out a card. From the Trader Joe's staff!"

John signed the card, "Get Well Soon, From the Trader Joe's Crew!"

I chose some glorious blue hydrangeas,

an indulgence (especially for this one-time-florist patient!) because their beauty is fact they faded by the following day.

But their splendor lives on in their story. A happily blooming respite for mom and daughter; and a tribute to John and Trader Joe's. Thank you for allowing us to feel special, in an especially unpleasant time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Children Should Not Be Left Unattended.

Neither should Teenaged Kitties. Especially if you are in the middle of crocheting baby blue leg warmers for the new grandbaby.

No matter how mature you BELIEVE your Teenaged Kitty to be, he is - at his core - a Kitty. Who WILL open the nightstand drawer, and uncrochet; simply because you are not there, and he can.

If you MUST leave your Teenaged Kitty overnight, I recommend a house-sitter to guard your stuff. Choose a house-sitter who does not like television, is agoraphobic and therefore unable to leave the premises, and doesn't need to go to the bathroom. Preferably one who does not sleep.

These measures cannot guarantee the safety of Baby Leg Warmers, of course; but they are a start.

Monday, March 9, 2009

You Think Herding Cats Is Hard? HA!

As an Expert Cat Herder, I am in possession of the coveted Six Claw Certification; meaning that I am often called upon to lecture (nationally) on topics such as "Herding Cats Into The Basement Because There is a Tornado" and "Herding Cats Into The Car Because There is a Little Fire in the Furnace and the Firemen Want the House Evacuated." Civic Groups, Garden Clubs and Children's Birthday Party Planners often incorporate my "Stuffing a Cat Into a Cat Carrier" lecture into their programs. (Children are especially impressed with the presentation if [my] blood is involved.) And I am frequently invited to Senior Citizens' Centers to perform my "Dressing a Cat in Cute Costumes, Using a Real, Live Cat" routine.

Which all of this is, to me. Routine.

Photographing horses, however, is...haha...a horse of a different color. Especially the horses who are camping out (Literally! They have a Horse Tent!) in the back yard, while their new barn is constructed.

I love my equine friends. They love horse treats and apples and carrots; proving that love is not necessarily a two-way street.

A friend, who has not met our house guests, requested photos. So I trotted (yeah, lame but irresistible) down the steps to the yard, camera in hand. Treats not in hand. Horses hurried over. Oh, great! An action shot! But, it was too late. Got this:

Then this; as I was being worked over, pockets, armpits, hair, by Horse Two looking for peppermints:

And, FINALLY, Horse One (as you can see, begrudgingly) allowed for some semblance of a portrait:

Horse Two sulked. Clearly hurt feelings:

It worked. I set the camera aside and passed out goodies. Did they toss their manes, smiles on their horsey faces, so I could take pretty pictures after treats?

Nope. Some snorts, foot stomps; then horse butts as they ambled off.

I think I'll stick to Cat Herding.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Why Smelling Good is Not Necessarily Good

Reed diffusers, candles; incense. Room sprays, plug-in oils; stick-up smellies. Glade air fresheners, carpet sprinkles; those things to insert into toilet paper rolls that release scent with every spin. Fresh flowers.

The lengths to which we'll go to fragrance our surroundings.

So I woke up the other day, slowly. Drifted in and out; and, mmmmm...the bedroom smelled lovely...

Lovely. But, wait a minute...that scent is not orange, like the reed diffuser. Not ginger-eucalyptus, like the linen spray. Not passion fruit-apple, like the yummy soap in the underwear drawer. More like lavender vanilla. Delicious, but incongruous.

Rubbed the sleep from my eyes, stepped into flip-flops; headed into the living room to let the dogs out.

Lovely! The living room smelled even more lovely.

Dogs came in; headed to the kitchen for their breakfast. And, oh my. Did the kitchen smell super-lovely! Something was very, very wrong. And it appeared to be coming from the laundry room. Aha:

Ooh. Mess. SOMEONE wrestled the lavender vanilla detergent from the top of the washer. But, who?

Note the sticky, spiky, laundry detergent tail...

Laundry room needs an overhaul. Feline needs a bath - but at least he's already soapy. I should be furious.

But how can I be furious, when he's SO cute?