Friday, February 29, 2008

Serendipity ... (part three) ...

My dictionary, circa 1976, gives the definition of serendipity as ... "the faculty of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for".

I have since, of course, looked up current definitions on Wikipedia, some of which include meanings that are very similar, such as: ... "the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely" ... "an aptitude for making discoveries by accident" ... "an instance of making such a discovery".

My second husband was 'allergic' to cats, therefore we could not have one. After our divorce, however -- and almost imMEDiately -- I went in search of a cat.

I found one. She was not found 'by accident' or 'while looking for something else entirely' ... and, when I did find her, I named her Serendipity. I thought she was my "unexpected pleasure".

And, truly, she was. She filled my heart with love.

She was Queen of the hill/rooftop, she followed me wherever I went (to the pool? -- she was right behind me all the way. for a walk? Ditto. if I drove away? -- she would not run behind. Rather, she would wait patiently for me to come back and then, hearing the sound of my vehicle's engine, greet me from wherever she was at the time with just a humongous meow [she was a tremendous talker!]).

She was just a wonderful companion and friend.

She was a 'one-person-kitty', or so I thought, until Butch appeared on the scene. Butch was the only other person I ever met that Serendipity seemed to be really attached to. She not only tolerated him, she liked him!

Serendipity died on Valentine's Day in 1995 ... thirteen years ago, for crying out loud! It seems like just yesterday. I couldn't even beGIN to get over my grief until I had composed a poem. ... ... ... here it is ... ... ...

My Valentine

Words cannot begin to describe how I feel
Now that my pretty one's insides have begun to congeal.

I cannot stop petting her -- her fur is still so soft
I suppose I'll continue to find fleas until summer -- even in the loft

I hated to leave her this morning ... she wanted to lay in the doorway -- ajar
(I guess) so she could see what she had (seems like just yesterday) chased from afar.

Queen of the fence, rooftop, trees
She went exactly as she pleased!

Now my lovely has died on my bed, her head near my pillow, her mouth open, quite dead.

I don't want her to awaken ... there must have been pain
I wouldn't want her to have to go through all that again.

Tears shed on my bed. I've dug the hole, but will have to make it deeper ...
Can't stand the thought of yukky bugs and God knows what all getting at my beautiful sleeper.

Oh, Serendipity! My unexpected pleasure!
You were such a wonderful treasure!

As I said, it's been thirteen years. I never replaced her with another kitty. As a matter of fact, I never even thought about the possibility of replacing her!

I was never home as a taxicab driver, for one thing. Well, I guess that's the main thing! Today, however, as of this writing, I am having second thoughts.

Serendipity ... (part two) ...

... (continuing on) ... I love cats!

"Pepsi", I think, was the 'tortoise-shell' kitty that we brought down to Houston with us from Columbus, Ohio.

My husband had already been in Houston for a while, and my daughter and I were driving down from Columbus in a station wagon filled with assorted items that we had not wanted the movers to be responsible for -- stamp collection, musical instruments, etc. Pepsi, of course, was in the car as well.

We stopped at Bellingrath Gardens, in Alabama -- just west and a little south of Mobile. I had heard of those beautiful gardens, and thought, "Why not? We've got time."

Then, when we got there, I thought, "Whatever are we going to do with Pepsi?" Certainly, I could crack the windows so that she could get air, but I was having some trouble with the idea of leaving windows ajar. I noticed a sign that said (something like) 'pet boarding'. I decided to check it out. Did it cost money? Had any of their boarders ever escaped? You know, stuff like that.

The money issue would not have been a problem. The 'escape' question really concerned me. (Outside of "Timid Timothy" -- see last post, all of our cats had at least equal to or more than their ordinary share of cat IQ.) We were assured that no animal had ever escaped from their care. SO, we deposited Pepsi.

When we returned from our tour (and it was absolutely GORgeous!) to pick up Pepsi, we were met with mortification ... they had been looking for Pepsi, and didn't know where she was ... it seemed as tho she had, indeed, escaped!!

DD and I spent several minutes walking through the parking lot calling her name with no response. More minutes passed, calling and calling, with no answer.

FINally, we decided that we just had to leave. As we were going back to the car, we could hear this very loud "Meow"! And it was Pepsi, of course ... we were so relieved! She was up in a tree, waiting for us to come back and claim her. Heavens!!

The mother of one of DD's best friends, a year or so later, brought 'Pepsi' to our house, saying that she must have gotten lost.

Well, that kitty wasn't Pepsi! She looked a lot like Pepsi, but was quite a bit smaller. We kept a pretty good watch out for a "lost kitten" ad, but didn't see one, and my daughter decided that we should call our new kitty "Cola".

The two of them really had a great time playing together! One of my most distinct memories is of them playing with a box -- one inside the box, the other outside -- there's a very small pinprick of a hole in the box, at first ... then, as the 'game' progresses, the hole gets larger and larger until you see a paw sticking out and reaching/batting. A FUN game!

I don't remember what happened to Cola. She probably was too small, and perhaps even abandoned by her original family. I don't remember. She was a real sweetie and just loved to be cuddled!

Pepsi lived on to be a ripe old age. She had to be 'retired', finally, by my ex-husband. She had gotten to the point where she felt she owned the house (ALL cats are so inclined, by the way, if they're anywhere near worth their salt!). --- --- However, this cat felt as tho she had the right to 'poop' in any area she so chose. In this particular case, however, the pooping was done in our daughter's bathtub!!

The last time I saw her, she leapt into my arms and we exchanged multitudinous hugs and kisses. Ex-husband exclaimed, "She doesn't let anyone do that!"

One of my bridge partners and a close friend, Frank Jones, was visiting at our home one day and holding Pepsi.

It was obvious that he was a cat lover ... Pepsi knew, instantly!

Frank related a story to me about one of his cats ... a Siamese, I believe. (I have never been fond of Siamese, but that's beside the point.)

Anyway, it seemed that his cat (male) had been getting into just all sorts of trouble! He was climbing the fence and terrorizing the neighbor's dogs, clawing his way up into the trees, chasing the birds and getting into their nests, mutilating the neighbor's screens with his claws, frightening passing children, etc.

Frank had been receiving complaint after complaint about his cat. FINally, he thought, something had to be done. He decided to have the cat de-clawed. He really didn't want to do it, but he felt he had no choice. And so, he took the cat to the vet.

Returning from the vet, cat meowing piteously, Frank felt just AWful!

Weeks passed.

Those pitiful sounds kept ensuing from his cat. He could barely move, much less take himself outside to 'go potty'. Frank had to carry him, all the while uttering words like, "There, there. It's going to be all right. Daddy's here."

Frank felt TERrible! Finally, in desperation, he went back to the vet and told him what was going on. The vet suggested that the cat was 'putting him on', that there was no way the cat could still be in pain after all this time.

Frank thought, "Whaaaat!?!" And then he thought, "Well, maybe I should just test out this vet's theory for myself!" And so he did.

One day, after carrying said cat outside to 'do his business', said cat meowing piteously all the time, dragging his hind feet so that he might possibly be able to get to a good spot, Frank said, "O.K. I'll come back outside in just a little bit to get you."

That said, Frank retired to what he thought might be a good hiding place behind the drapes to see what might actually occur.

What he saw was hard to believe!!

As soon as the cat felt that he was 'unobserved', he hopped the fence, terrorized the various dogs and children in the neighborhood, managed to snag a baby bird or two ... ... ... THEN, when Frank opened the back door to carry him back in, he sort of fell to one side, and -- meowing piteously, dragged his back legs as tho they could hardly support him.

Well, that was the end of that charade! Frank said, "I see you. I saw what you did. Get your body on in here!" And, of course, the cat did.

That's probably one of my most favorite stories.

I don't know where you might be now, Frank, but I hope that -- wherever it is -- you are still a cat lover!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Serendipity ... (part one) ...

I am a cat lover.

When I was a kid, there always seemed to be both a cat and a dog in the house. And, they got along. In fact, seemed to be best friends. They would romp and play, groom each other, and sleep together (the cat curled up right next to the dog's tummy).

I don't know how my folks managed to do that! I don't remember them ever bringing home a kitten and a puppy at the same time. Whatever they did, tho, it worked!

We had a cocker spaniel for years, and a collie, too (I really liked that dog!)... I don't remember what kind of dog it was that we had when we lived out on West Arndale Road in Stowe, Ohio. I think it might have been some kind of 'setter'.

Our cat, at that time, was just a tremendous mouser, which was a good thing. We lived out in the country a little bit, and raised Rhode Island Reds. (It's hard for me to even imagine such a thing, looking back on it, but I know it actually happened. I was there!)

Anyway, daddy came home from work one night and -- after eating, went traipsing all over the place looking for our dog, who was missing. (You know what? I think that dog was a setter ... a pretty good size, longish, reddish-brown hair, tail that wagged incessantly, and tongue always out [either panting or wanting to lick somebody].)

He was gone for a long time. Finally, daddy came back, tears just streaming down his cheeks, cradling our dying dog in his arms. Some awful person in the area had found it necessary to lace meat with rat poison. Our dog was not the only one that died that year. I don't think we ever found out who did it.

Years later, I'd come home from college to visit. I don't remember seeing a dog then, but there was always a cat. Daddy liked to walk home for lunch and then take a brief snooze on the couch before heading back to work. Their cat would wait patiently for him to settle on the couch, and then "Bingo!", up the cat would leap and settle right next to daddy's tummy and the two of them would enjoy their nap together.

I've had lots of cats. I don't even remember all of their names. One, tho, we had in Indiana, who -- while not formally tested for intelligence -- was certifiably (by me) mentally retarded.

We were renting a house out in the country, and there was a problem with field mice coming in through the stove, somehow. We had a cat, so what was the problem? I mean, I ask you! Well, the problem was that the cat was simply ignoring, not interested, not hungry, blind, wasn't in the mood to 'play' with the skittering toy that so willingly presented itself time and again.

Finally, I took matters into my own hands. I would 'lay in wait' for said skittering creature and then, "Wham!", would hit it as hard as I could with a broom. That, at least, would temporarily stun it. I thought, "Well, I can permanently dispose of it later if the cat still takes no interest."

It was at that point, would you believe, that our cat -- you know, I think this might have been the one we named "Timid Timothy" -- now thought that this looked like a really fun toy, and started batting it around and mauling it a little bit. I'm pretty sure this was the same cat that, if we moved his food dish an inch or two he couldn't find it. Heavens to Betsy! Maybe he had no sniffer??

"Buffy" came along in Ohio. I was teaching 1st grade, hubby was teaching at Ohio State University, and DD (Darling Daughter) was attending Columbus School for Girls.

Everyone had left the house except for me, and I was about to leave. I was frantically looking all over for Buffy. I had to make sure 1) Buffy was in the house and 2) that she was separated from and couldn't get to, even if she tried, our parakeet.

I couldn't find her! Just sick at heart, I made sure the bird was secure and headed out to the car. And there, just outside the back door, lay Buffy. She was gasping for breath! Her eyes were already glazing over. I didn't know what could possibly have happened, and visions of my daddy carrying our dying poisoned dog from years earlier came rushing back over me!

I called my husband, who was already at work, and -- sobbing so hard that I could barely speak -- told him what had just happened. He told me to go ahead to work, that he would come home and see what was going on, take Buffy to the vet and get an autopsy -- you know, all that horribly gruesome reality stuff.

I was only a few minutes late to school. I think my husband had called to tell them that I was on my way. When I got there, the principal was actually the one waiting in my classroom with the children.

He had already told them the story of what had happened. They all looked so sad. I was a mess! I've seen other people cry, and their eyes look luminous and kind of pretty. When I cry, my eyes get all red, blotchy, and swollen, and I can hardly see! It doesn't seem fair, somehow.

Anyway, we spent several minutes talking about losing one's pet and grief. Some of the children had already experienced a loss like that in their young lives. They knew exactly how I was feeling. They were so supportive and sweet. I love that age!

Later that evening, my husband told us that the vet said Buffy had not been poisoned, that she had been hit by a car, rupturing her diaphragm. The vet told him that there would have been no pain, that she would have died instantly.

We all knew that wasn't the case. Our house sat back perhaps thirty yards from the street, and Buffy had managed to get all the way to the back door -- she was trying to reach us, to get help. She came close!

Buffy was anything but slow. She was a mighty hunter, and would often proudly bring home her latest 'trophy' to show us. Usually it had been mauled so badly that we had no chance to save it. We would simply bury it in the back yard. We were never able to break her of this habit. (She would have had a 'field day' in Indiana, wouldn't she?)

We had a planter in the combination dining/game/family room that seemed to both fascinate and challenge her. She knew that she wasn't supposed to dig in it, so she would wait until we weren't looking, make a lightning leap up to it, and dig furiously because she knew she had only a few precious seconds to try and have a little fun!

Sometimes we'd notice her eyeing the forbidden object, her muscles twitching in anticipation of a quick leap and dig, and we'd warn, "Buffy!". Usually right after that she'd come over and meow and purr, and knead with her claws, showing us how much loved we were and what a good kitty she was.

We always thought she would meet her demise at the hands of a large wisteria we had right outside the back door. Somehow or another, tho, she never chewed on it ... must have been some kind of instinctive thing.

She challenged a car, instead, and lost her final dare.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Kindred spiritualism

Dear Lord, please accept this humble prayer for my very dear blogger friend, Tammy. She's at a 'low' point right now, and I hope that you might help support her as she tries to wend her way out of this morass that she's in. Surround her with your love, hold her in your arms, protect her from harm, and help guide her safely through this dark period in her life. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen

I publish this prayer in the knowledge that there will be many who will read this post, and perhaps some of those that DO read it will feel inspired to add their own private "Amen" -- maybe even have a supportive thought or two of their own.

I have never met Tammy or spoken to her on the telephone. I do not know what she looks like. I would not be able to recognize her if I passed her on the street.

In "Anonymity personified ... part one ...", published by me on January 30th of this year, I described some of my early blogging experiences. Tammy is first mentioned in that post.

Since that time, we have exchanged many e-mails ... you know, stuff that is of a more personal nature, not necessarily something one might want to include in a public post. In one, she enclosed a picture of her great-grandfather, who was a taxicab driver in St. Louis. In others, she offered little snippets of additional information, and sometimes asked questions about something or another in one of my posts. She was encouraging when I was 'down'.

Tammy homeschools her children, and most of her posts focus on those activities. I feel as tho I have gotten to know her whole family. Sometimes she includes just luscious-looking pictures of some food item or another that one of her children has made -- and, if I haven't yet eaten, my mouth will not stop salivating until I DO!

On February 21st, I was shocked to discover that she had passed on the "Spread the Love" award to me! In her reasoning for my award, she said that my blog either A) made her think B) made her laugh or C) reminded her that she had wonderful memories of her own ... all good reasons, she said, to read my blog.

That very same day, I posted "Heartfelt thoughts are ... ..." on this site, and mentioned Tammy for the second time. In that post, I included an original poem that was inspired, in part, by her.

It's really hard to believe that only a few days have passed since then! On the 25th, I sent her an e-mail asking if everything was O.K. I had noticed a variance in her posts, and was a little concerned.

On the 26th, yesterday (!), she responded with, "Yep, all's well. Just so busy!"

Later that same day, she posted her blog announcing to all of her internet friends that she was battling depression and retiring from the blogging scene for awhile.

I love you, Tammy. Talk to you again real soon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A child ... is an adult ...

Yesterday, Darling Daughter (DD) confessed to me that she had participated for the first time ever in a primary election!!

That thought is almost incomprehensible to me! I've been wracking my brain ever since, and I cannot remember (truly!) the last time I did NOT vote in an election.

In fact, I'm one of those obnoxious people who grab the "I Voted Today, Did You?" stickers/buttons/whatevers they are passing out at the voting site, and then go around for the rest of the day smugly sporting same, and asking darned near everyone I see or meet, "Did you vote today?" Then, "I did!"

She has really gotten personally involved in the primaries. That, in and of itself, is a good thing. It will make her much more aware of the democratic process, as a whole.

"How old is she?" you might well ask. Good question. She's in her mid- to late- forties, is the answer. "And she has never ONCE voted in a primary!?!" "Not even once," is the truthful response -- I guess! (At least, that's what she tells me.)

Obviously, she had other things going on in her life of more immediate concern, things that might best be described, perhaps, as 'NOYB" (none of your business).

When she was very little, however, her daddy and I were heavily involved in Barry Goldwater's campaign for the presidency. In fact, her daddy reminded me -- within the past year or so -- of the many hours he spent 'walking the streets and passing out brochures to anyone who would accept one'.

We were in Indiana at the time ... he and I were both graduate students at Purdue University. In addition to that, I was teaching full-time (1st grade, my all-time favorite --- just a wonderful age!) and trying to write my master's thesis ... on creative writing, don't you just love that one?!?

Our daughter couldn't have been more than five years old. What damage, I wonder, did we do in our inattention to her ... putting her needs on the back burner, as it were, to gratify our own short-term goals?

It didn't end there, either! No, no ... I continued on -- for many more years, as a matter of fact -- my merry way, blithely unconcerned about my daughter's needs and putting my own at the forefront.

I am proud to say that she has 'come into her own' in spite of it all!

Certainly no credit to me ... ... at this point, I am relegated to sitting on the sidelines and cheering her on, a luxury she is allowing me to enjoy.

Thank you, DD, for letting me do so in such close proximity.

Monday, February 25, 2008

On shopping ...

Generally speaking, I hate shopping!

I really don't much care what kinds of things might be on my list ... and I do make lists, lots of them! -- I hang onto them and keep them until I am finally forced to actually go into a store to look for something or make a purchase. Aargh!!

Maybe I am about to run out of food -- that's a necessary item, right? So, realizing that I MUST go and get groceries, I now get more serious about my list. I go into the refrigerator and start throwing out stuff (some it's hard to even recognize!), think about what I've eaten over the last week or so, what I'd like to eat in the near future, what's on hand, etc. I mean, now it's serious!

If you have young children -- especially a baby -- those needs are at the very top of your list, of course, and you must immediately run out to the store for diapers, formula, whatever! It makes no difference whether or not you 'like' shopping.

However, I haven't been in that situation for many many years. Now, I must admit --and am almost ashamed to say -- that I am much more self-centered.

One might think, from that last statement, that I like to shop for myself. No, no, and no yet once again ... I Do Not Like Shopping!

All that aside, tho, I'd like to share with you a true story from years ago (before I was a taxicab driver and when I was still a housewife and stay-at-home mother).

Even at that time, I disliked shopping and errands. HowEVer, I had this list of 'things' that absolutely needed to be done before I returned home in time to be there when my daughter came back from school.

It was close to 3pm, and I had one more thing on my list ... that of returning a pair of my daughter's jeans to a department store that, upon first wash, the zipper broke! I did not want to complete the list. I just wanted to go home, but something in my mind kept nagging at me to get it 'Xed' off my list ... then I could feel that I had really accomplished something that day!

So, I parked the car and went into the store (not in the world's best mood, either!).

Just a few seconds after entering the store, I could hear this man's voice inquiring about "ties". I stopped to listen, thinking that his voice sounded very familiar. I listened a bit more and thought to myself, "Gee, that sounds a lot like Dr. Wright [one of my major professors as an undergraduate in music at Northern Michigan]."

I peeked around the corner, and guess what? It was Dr. Wright!! Oh, what fun! It seemed that he was in town for MENC (Music Educator's National Conference).

I asked if he was available to come to our house that evening for dinner. He was, and we had just a delightful time. Talk about a serendipitous event!

Somewhere down the road, as the evening progressed, he turned to me and exclaimed, "Helen, something 'dreadful' has happened to your vowels!"

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Geez, I hope they catch that guy!

I was just interrupted in my most recent installment of an autobiographical dissertation of my many years as a taxicab driver by the incessant 'hum' of a police helicopter.

"How did I know it was a 'police' helicopter?" you might well ask. (Good question, actually!) Well, I didn't, at first, but then it kept droning on and on, until -- finally, I simply lost my concentration and had to go outside to see what was happening.

And there it was, the 'eye in the sky' (as we in CB "radideoland" used to like to say), circling, circling, circling.

I didn't raise my arms to call attention to myself, nor did I wave to indicate that a possible suspect was near. I simply watched as the helicopter continued to circle.

Nonetheless, I did go into my garage -- even opened the garage door to the outside world. Also, I checked out my back yard fence gate to make sure that it was securely latched.

All seemed well for my homestead. However, something was amiss ... else the police helicopter would not have been circling, right?

Anyhoo, today's incident reminded me of three others. The first occurred so many years ago I had almost forgotten it.

I was on the patio area in my back yard when a young black fellow climbed over the back yard fence gate. I don't think he knew that I was there, because when I asked, "May I help you?", he at first looked startled and then replied something about looking for a "Mr. _ _ _ _ _ _ . (I don't remember the name he used. It's just been too long.) He told me I'd have to climb over the gate. Is he here?"

I had the presence of mind to respond, "I don't think so." And then, calling into the house to a nonexistent male person, I asked, " Frank, have you seen Mr. _ _ _ _ _ _ today?"

Without waiting for nonexistent male person's answer, the stranger clambered back over the gate and made his exit, apologizing for the intrusion.

Well, I scurried out to the gate and made a note of the license plate number on his vehicle (small, maroon, a Japanese make -- that's the best I can recall at this point) and immediately telephoned first the police and then the homeowner's association to report the event.

Less than a half hour later, there was this helicopter going overhead -- circling, circling, circling. I figured it was looking for either a man climbing over fence gates or his car.

Another time, when I was driving my cab, I had picked up this gal from a grocery store and was in the process of taking her home when she suddenly shouted, "Do you see that?" "What?" I asked. "There, up ahead, on the left! Don't you see that man jumping from roof to roof on those townhouses? And it looks like he's being chased!"

Sure enough, a foot chase was going on right in front of our eyes with a policeman in hot pursuit. We must have been stopped at a red light at the time, because we watched for a few seconds but lost sight of them as they jumped to the ground. Next thing we knew, tho, they had reappeared, coming over a tall wooden fence and then out into and across the street directly in front of us. I remember shouting something like, "Lock your door!"

The chase continued on through a Burger King parking lot and over yet another fence into a large apartment complex. Meanwhile, of course, lots and lots of police cars had arrived on the scene, and you could hear the helicopter droning as it circled overhead.

You hear about this sort of thing on the news all the time, it seems. It's one thing, however, to just hear about it on the radio or see it on television. One feels 'removed', somehow, from what has happened. It's quite another to be an actual eye-witness! It can be very unsettling.

When I was a cab driver, I was on the streets most of the time. I saw a lot, not all of which I will include in my book.

My last story has to do with a time when I was dispatched to the West Oaks Mall to pick up a customer who'd be 'waiting outside of Foley's department store'. It was dark -- not late (just after 9pm, I think), but dark.

I arrived, he was there, and -- after he got into the cab, he told me that he wanted to go to the Westin Oaks Hotel, which is in the Galleria area. Off we went. He was in town on business, primarily, and asked me how long I'd lived in Houston. When I told him, "Quite a few years," he said, "Good! Maybe you can answer a couple of questions for me?"

I said, "I'll try", and we had a very pleasant conversation. (The trip, itself, would normally take about 20 minutes.) About three fourths of the way to his hotel, he all of a sudden said, "Geez, I hope they catch that guy!"

Alarmed, I asked, "What guy??", braking and looking frantically all around for some possible 'weirdo' on the loose, brandishing a gun, who knows what all!

He said, pointing, "There's been a helicopter circling and circling up ahead for the last few minutes. I just assumed that they were looking for someone. Don't you see it?"

Well, when I figured out what he was actually pointing to, I had to chuckle. What he thought was a helicopter circling was the beacon light at the top of the Transco Tower, a sixty-six story office building located about eight miles southwest of our downtown area.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Heartfelt thoughts are ... ...

... for you, my darling daughter ...

Without whom I would not be the person I am.

... for you, granddaughter ...

Whose bright light will continue to burn.

... for you, 'dreaded son-in-law' ...

Whose understanding and patience seem to be never-ending.

... for you, Tammy, my wonderful blogger friend ...

Whose postings, day after day, continue to be an inspiration to me.

I hope that you all will accept this humble offering from me 'in lieu of' actual poetry. Here we go ... ... (untitled)... ...

Hopes, dreams, whatever schemes
Our minds might concoct

Are as naught.

Truth lies in the here and now.
What the mind perceives,

It believes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In a different city ...

I was teaching first grade in a strange classroom, one I had never been in before although I knew all of the students.

It was a tiny room, and a few of the students were sitting on a long wooden bench against one wall. No one seemed to have all of their books, and so I was putting small groups together so they could share.

A man came in to observe, which was fine -- I've had observers lots of times. I showed him where to sit. The classroom noise seemed a little loud to me, but I ignored it, pretending it was normal.

One of the boys was sitting at his desk with no clothes on except for his briefs. I asked him where his clothes were and he muttered, "They took 'em." "Who's 'they'?" I questioned. He didn't want to say. He seemed embarrassed and even a little afraid.

Two of the other boys motioned me over and told me that there'd been some trouble recently with a group of older, tough kids. I went back and asked the child if he was cold. He said that he was O.K., so I told him he could stay. The rest of the class didn't seem to notice anything different, so we went on with our lessons.

While having lunch in my office, I decided I'd go out and walk for awhile. My calves had been sore, and I figured that I needed the exercise.

First, tho, I needed to put something on. (One of my favorite things is being in the altogether when I'm alone and in private.) So, I grabbed my robe and headed out with just a huge smile on my face! It wasn't quite noon yet and I had a little more than half an hour to enjoy myself.

Once outside, I went directly across the sidewalk into the Boy Scout building. For some reason, I had never been inside before. The first room I went into had lots and lots of dogs in it ... all different kinds ... some with their puppies.

It wasn't a dog show or anything like that -- no handlers, no leashes, just a very benevolent-looking man sitting on a straight chair towards the side of the room. I figured he must have been there to watch over the dogs and play "show and tell" when visitors arrived.

Several minutes passed before I was able to make my exit from the room. I was getting sniffed like crazy, and then there were all these doggie demands to be petted and held.

On the way back, I was going down the sidewalk when I noticed (what looked like) a road rage incident occurring right beside me. Two high-rise (don't know the proper terminology) trucks seemed to be trying to force each other to topple over. To make matters even worse, they both had trailers behind!

I scurried up on the grass to get out of the way and watched as one of them rammed into the other from the side. (My mouth was wide open, I'm sure, in astonishment!) I couldn't believe it when, just a few seconds later, both drivers jumped down from their cabs, grinning like crazy. One said to the other, "Gotcha!" Evidently a common occurrence with those two.

Well, time was now a factor. I only had ten minutes to get back to the school, and I had to make a stop at a locker where I'd stored something earlier. I sure hoped my glasses were in there!

Just before I got to the storage place, a man came up to me and said, "Excuse me? I've been hoping you'd come back. These are yours, I think." And there they were, my glasses! Evidently I'd stopped to have coffee and chat with him earlier, but I hadn't remembered. I'd been totally focused on getting back to my class on time.

Then he said, "I know we've just met, but I wondered if you're doing anything in particular Saturday night? The hotel just down the street hosts an 'open to anybody' event. People get together, talk, maybe have a drink or two, and dance. Do you like to dance?

I usually go by myself and have a good time. But, I thought, after our conversation earlier, perhaps you might be interested? It wouldn't have to be a 'date' or anything."

"What time does it start?" I asked. "9:00" I said, "Listen, I've really got to run. I'm going to be terribly late! I'll try and make it ... and, by the way, I love to dance!"

And I took off, running, clutching my robe around me. A few moments later, I stopped for breath and glanced down again at my watch. It was almost 12:45!! My class was supposed to have started at 12:30 ... ... ...

... ... I woke up with a start, but thank goodness I woke up. It would never do to be terminated in a dream!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Getting the flu ...

It seems like everyone either has the flu, or flu-like symptoms, almost, except me.

Every time I make a statement such as that, I knock on wood -- and knock on wood (kow) yet once again. I'm really not interested in jinxing myself at this point in my life, O.K? (See my post entitled, "Anonymity personified ... [part one]... ", published January 30th this year, for my opinion on superstition.)

My daughter is ill, my granddaughter has been ill, there are reports on television about large numbers of the population who are ill ... do you have the vaguest idea of what I'm doing? Why, I'm cloistering myself in my house is what I'm doing!!

My daughter told me, maybe a month ago, that she had gotten a flu shot for this year's anticipated viral season. I remember thinking, "Good! I hope it works."

Have any of you ever had a flu shot? It seems that they 'project' what-all viruses that they anticipate might be present in the coming year, and then throw all of them together into this one -- hopefully, all-encompassing -- dose of whatever it is that's in the shot.

Well, this year they fell FAR short of the mark (needless to say!) ... 40% is the figure I last heard. I've been straining my brain to try and remember exactly how it was they phrased it ... something like, "40% of ---- is better than 0% of ----". Anyway, it was just that sort of absolute nonsense that was on the news the past day or so.

When I was teaching -- in particular, first grade, when I wanted to just hold each child very tight -- I found myself falling ill towards the end of September (the start of each new school year). While I didn't have the 'flu', per se, I was subject to colds and -- it seemed -- whatever other germs the students had to present.

It was the same way in college. It's really kind of weird. When I was an undergraduate at Northern Michigan College of Education from 1955-1959 -- perhaps in my third year --, there was what was then called an 'Asian flu' epidemic. In fact, so many of the students were ill that the bottom floor of the dorm where I was living was converted to a kind of makeshift hospital. It was then, I think, that I discovered my disinclination to contract the flu (kow).

Anyhoo, to this day I have not gotten a flu shot (kow yet one more time!).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Getting involved ...

Well, the political 'season' is warming up nicely here in Texas. For the first time in many years, we are being courted by the candidates.

Our primary is in March. Usually by that time the race has been pretty well decided, but not this year. The next couple of weeks should see an increasing frenzy of ads on TV and radio. No doubt there will be a debate or two.

E-mails are being sent to everyone known to have a leaning one way or another, asking for volunteers at the precinct level, which is where it all begins.

Texas is a "grassroots" state. When I first moved here years ago, I was intrigued. I wanted to see, first-hand, what all that kind of local involvement might entail. The more I got into it, the more interested I became. I was active at the precinct level, then in a wider area of Houston, and then as a delegate to the state convention.

Volunteers are needed at every level of any campaign. They will be asked to become personally involved, to recruit other volunteers, to organize chapters in the particular areas in which they live, to attend meetings and strategy sessions & take notes, to contribute money and ideas, to stuff envelopes, to spend literally hours on the telephone!

It doesn't end on election day, either! You want to talk about FRENZY?? Now that you've talked to everyone you ever knew (and then some!), you've looked at all the printouts and identified those voters who are most likely to actually cast their ballots for your candidate on election day, you've walked the streets in your neighborhood and handed out just a 'ton' of fliers, you've walked the streets in a lot of other neighborhoods and handed out even more fliers, you've attended multitudinous meeting and strategy sessions, you know what? You're TIRED! -- and you think, "Just one more day and then I can relax. I've done all I can."

Election day is here. You're exhausted, but now is not the time for you to take a nap. Now is the time for you to make sure that all of those voters who have been positively (or even tentatively) identified as being for (or leaning towards) your candidate are personally contacted!

"Good morning/afternoon, this is _ _ _ _ _ calling from campaign headquarters. Have you had a chance to vote today?" (wait) "Wonderful! We're calling all of our people to see if they've had a chance to get out. I'm so glad you did. ... Yes, I can't wait, either, to see what the results are." (or) "Oh, you're planning to vote on your way home from work/on your lunch hour?" (wait) "Wonderful ... etc." (or) "Yes, we know that the traffic/weather is just awful. Would you like us to come and pick you up?" (wait) "What time would be convenient for you?" (wait .. and so it continues ..)

As important as all of the days leading up to the actual date of the election itself are, none is as critical as the day itself. You absolutely MUST get your voters to the polls -- even if you have to drive them yourself! Each person must be made to feel important and invaluable.

Oh yes, I know we all say that an individual vote doesn't matter. As an individual voter, perhaps not -- but, collectively, as a group, yes. Get out your vote!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Where am I?

I was working on the latest installment of my autobiography as it pertains to cab-driving just a few minutes ago, when I just HAD to interrupt my thoughts with this post.

How many of you have ever been "lost", literally, not knowing where you were in relation to a map? I've never had that experience, I feel fortunate to say, but it's really because of my father!

All throughout my early childhood, and extending thru the teen years, my father had this propensity for getting lost. Somehow,I became the designated map-reader, which is kind of interesting, in and of itself, because I am not able to read in a moving ground vehicle without becoming physically ill! He'd have to pull the car over and stop before I could focus on the map.

Once stopped and focused, however, we soon were able to extricate ourselves from this latest 'lost' situation and continue onward to wherever it was we were trying to get to in the first place! It was laughable then, and for many years thereafter, but those experiences in map location served me in good stead. I developed a very keen sense of direction.

There is one story, in particular, that I'd like to share with you. This one comes from the '70s or '80s. I'm sorry, I don't remember the exact decade. ANYway ....

.... I was traveling south from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (for the umpteenth time, it seemed) back to Houston ... going through either Indiana or Illinois, I don't remember which ... on the Interstate ... when

I got really tired of just driving on an Interstate and got OFF, deliberately! I was going to navigate on 'dead reckoning' and 'reason' .. you know, the sun rises in the east, sets in the west, ergo -- etc. and blah .. .

And so, I went on (my 'merry' way), until I was pulled over by some very official-looking vehicles. It seems that I was on government property. Actually, I think I was on an Army installation and training ground!

I explained to them what I had done, that I was simply 'self-navigating'. They were very polite, escorted me off of the property, and I continued south. Next thing I knew, I was in Shiloh.

It's so vivid in my memory!

It was September, mid-week, and almost no one was there. I wandered throughout the area, ducking my head as I would enter a cabin -- I'm not that tall (5'8"), but obviously they were somewhat shorter then -- , pausing to 'listen' to the battle raging around me at the various sites, absolutely in awe at the overall beauty and stillness of Shiloh.

I do not recall whether or not I said a prayer. I hope I did!

Sometimes, in our travels, we stray (deliberately or not) off course and wander into the most unexpected terrain.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Flowers ... #2 ...

... are for funerals. Whether or not they are used for mourning, or to try and uplift those in attendance's spirits, or -- perhaps, so that the newly departed may yet once more 'see' some of the earth's beauty before they must leave for another realm, they seem to have the unique ability to raise one's hopes, to renew one's beliefs, to restore one's faith.

Do you believe that a person lives after death in some form? For years after my mother died, I believed that she would actually be able to 'see' me, some way or another. I wrote her a letter (probably have a copy of it somewhere, if I know me!). In that letter, I vowed that, " ... when she saw me, she would not be ashamed ... " (My mother's death, by the way, was the catalyst for my moving back to Houston in the late 70's. I was no longer able to look at or live with myself honestly.)

While I would like to think that she is, somehow, still present -- and, of course, a very large part of her is in me in re DNA, upbringing, environment, moral, ethical and social standards, etc. -- I really have no way of knowing for certain that this might actually be so.

I probably do not want to definitively know, either. I guess I would rather continue in wonderment and awe, willing to learn or be shown while seeking answers. I would not dare to pre-suppose ... no, I would not dare!

... are for any reason ... any occasion.

I have not made a study of what each color or type of flower might be appropriate or supposed to represent, nor do I intend to do such a study any time soon.

I have been known to give flowers to casual friends, to people whom I've just met on the street (unusual, but I've done so!), to family, to those whom have invited me over for dinner or just a casual evening of conversation, as a "house-warming" or "welcome to the neighborhood" gift, as a "thank you" for an unexpected kindness.

Each floral gift was received with -- no exception! -- a very large smile and 'thank you'.

... are wondrous creations of God. They make us feel glad to be alive and a part of His universe.

Today, while shopping at Walgreen's, I passed by (for the gazillionth time, I guess!) their tiny little area showing pre-packaged fresh flowers. As usual, I stopped to admire the limited selections. And, as usual, I noticed that one could purchase a single flower (in most cases, a red rose) for $2.99 (+ tax).

It's not that I have never purchased a single flower -- I have, many times, to take to the cemetery to place on my "significant other's" grave.

The weather was kind of lousy (not new for this time of year in Houston -- drizzly, cloudy, rainy, just your normal mid-winter 'yukkiness' except, right now, we've got a pretty good-sized thunder boomer going on directly overhead, along with some hail!), and I thought, "Hey there, Goldenrod, why don't you take some of these flowers home with you? You're there now to enjoy them, why not?"

Why not, indeed! I did, and I've been smiling ever since. I'm going to have to change the water and try to keep them fresh as long as possible, but I'm just so tickled at myself I don't know how to begin to tell you!! (Brag, brag, my apologies, but I'm just about to burst with self-pride! You know, for many years I was a cab driver and was NEVER home to enjoy stuff like this ... it feels really good!!)

Flowers ... (#1) ...

... are for Valentine's Day, or any occasion when you want to express your feelings, perhaps even love, for another person. I've always been pretty much of a romantic when it comes to things like this.

Three years ago, I was involved in a romantic relationship with a man for the first time in almost twenty years. Having 'been there done that' many times over, including some failed marriages, I had snipped that potential aspect of my life right out of the picture. I had a number of friends who were of the opposite gender, but shied away from anything else.

I was really looking forward to Valentine's Day, knowing I would see him and we would look deeply into each other's eyes, declare our love -- you know, all those sappy, yet wonderful, things. Well, the day came. He had arrived at Hobby Airport's cab staging lot perhaps a minute or two before me. When I pulled in, I could see him entering the lounge with his set of dominoes under one arm. I don't think he saw my car.

I did not rush into the lounge. (If I had, probably, he would have seen me and wanted me to be his partner. We had a somewhat formidable partnership going back to a time when he was just 'visiting' the staging area. His new car was being painted and cab-readied w/decals, meter, etc., the old one having been totalled on one of our freeways by an idiot driver, landing him in the hospital for a while.

On that occasion, the one of his visit, we 'partnered up' for the very first time. [Dominoes is not really my game, and Houston's cab drivers use very different rules from those I was taught as a child!] And, we were invincible! Pair after pair tried to take us down from our lofty & unbeaten perch, but they were all unsuccessful. What a lot of fun that was!)

Instead, I simply parked my car directly behind his and waited for him to re-appear. I was not willing -- selfishly, I know -- to share him with anyone else that day, and I certainly did not want to spend it playing dominoes!

Well, he did re-appear, just before we were due to be called to the loading zone. He did a huge double-take when he saw me, asking, "How long have you been here?" I replied, "Since two or three minutes after you, maybe. I saw you going into the lounge as I drove in."

Many seconds of awkward silence ensued. No 'looking deeply', no 'declaring', not even a "Happy Valentine's Day" greeting from me to him (or vice versa). It was obvious to me that he had simply forgotten!

"Why is it?" I ask you, that we women -- or maybe it's just this woman? -- seem to always expect the 'significant other' in our lives to be the one to remember!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On walking away ...

In my opinion, this is quite different from 'turning the other cheek'. Literally, this is turning your back on whatever it is that's going on ... ignoring it, hoping it will go away or -- at the very least, not still be present when you next look around (or perhaps hoping that it 'never existed' in the first place?).

At one point in my life -- and quite recently, actually -- I was very close to a person who chose to 'walk away' almost every time a conversation (actually, it was most often an argument or a debate) presented itself wherein the 'close person' sometimes found himself at odds with whatever it was that was being discussed/argued/debated.

I asked him why he chose to 'walk away'. His answers differed, depending on the circumstances of his 'walkawayedness'. Mostly, he walked away because:

1. He had no real interest in the topic.
2. He was 'fed up' with the topic.
3. The topic was much too personal. ("Let's talk about the weather!")
4. He was tired, and only dropped by to say, "Hello!", with no further interest in any conversation/argument/debate/whatEVer!

Let's extrapolate on a couple of these answers. Number 1, I think, is self-explanatory. Number 4, as well ... just a simple "Howdy!" might have sufficed.

However, let's take a closer look at #2. WHY was he 'fed up' with the topic? Were there personal issues involved? Or, did not he and his cohorts spend multitudinous hours just the day before (and the day before that, and the day before that, etc., etc.) discussing/debating at great length that very same topic?

If there were personal issues involved, then it's none of your or my business, would you agree? THAT answer exhausted, let's move on to #3 ... "too personal". Well, that's the end of this discussion, isn't it?!?

Until next time, I remain, "Most sincerely/cordially yours .. .." Goldenrod

A child ... falls down ...

She grew so fast! She was speaking in complete sentences by the time she was nine months old. We said, "She's going to be the first woman president!" (Is there a parent alive who hasn't said such a thing about their child?)

She was insatiably curious -- and, as she became more mobile, we became quite concerned about her safety and well-being. Constant vigilance is required, isn't it, but is it even possible?

Well, one day she was left on her own -- it couldn't have been a minute! -- and discovered through her own lab experiment that, if she shook a Coke bottle hard enough (remember when they were made of glass?), it would develop this delightful 'fizz', all those nice bubbles. It was while she was still shaking the bottle and admiring the result when it exploded!

I can hear that sound to this day. Glass was everywhere! There was a large piece of glass embedded just below the knee on one of her legs. We were really fortunate that a piece of glass did not lodge in one or both of her eyes!!

We debated whether or not we should take her to the doctor for stitches, and decided, "No, a bandage -- albeit a large one -- should do." Well, it did, but -- as often will happen with children, she would fall, the cut would re-open, we would re-bandage, and so on. To this day, she has a fairly good-sized scar just below the knee on one of her legs. We should have gone to the doctor.

Once, in a very controlled situation, we allowed her to experience 'hot' -- not enough to be burned, but I know it hurt. One of our friends criticized us for doing that, adding, "Are you going to allow her to run out in the street and experience being run over by a car so she knows what THAT would feel like, as well?"

Of course we would never even consider doing such a thing, and we thought the remark was outrageous! At the same time, it did make us rethink our actions.

In her second year of life, she experienced just about every common childhood disease known to man, I think, even roseola. Except for the extremely high fever that accompanied the roseola, all were uneventful but the mumps. She was a chubby child, and we didn't even know that she was ill -- she wasn't 'acting' sick!

By the time we finally realized that she had the mumps, a secondary infection had developed (both sides) and abscesses formed. The doctor told us -- we had run to him immediately when it became obvious that something was very wrong! -- that two different scenarios might play themselves out here, the most optimum being that they would "pop" and drain naturally. Doesn't that sound just yukky?

We were to wait a few days and hope for the best. Meanwhile, the abscesses were getting more and more discolored. We were afraid to use a pullover shirt, positive that we would hurt her. The doctor assured us that everything was under control, that we should clothe her normally, that there was no pain. Indeed, she did not appear to have any discomfort. It just seemed impossible to us that she would not have any!

A few days went by, and -- as she was sound asleep one night -- one of the abscesses did 'pop' and drain (and yes, it was yukky, but it was a good yukky). The doctor advised us to wait another day or so for the other one to follow suit. It did not, and surgery was scheduled.

I detest hospitals! Hospitals are wonderful things when you need them, but I don't want to ever need one, particularly if my own child is involved. (Yes, I know I was in a hospital once to deliver my child, but that was a completely separate, joyous, and totally unrelated event!) In this instance, it was my child who was going to have anesthesia, my child whose body was going to be cut into, my child who would be at risk!

I was beside myself with worry. I paced up and down the hallways, trying not to cry, but felt tears streaming down my cheeks nonetheless. At the same time, I felt a little foolish. Parents were there whose children were experiencing far more serious problems than mine, some who might not fully recover (if they recovered at all!), but I was only vaguely aware of their concerns. I was totally focused on my own child.

When something (anything!) bad happens to your child -- particularly if you're a mother, I think -- it's like you've been kicked in the stomach, and the pain that ensues doesn't ever seem to want to go away. You castigate yourself incessantly with awful thoughts, like, "Should I have seen this?" "How could this have been avoided?" "I must be the world's worst mother!"

Well, she came out of the operation just fine. There's a scar, of course, but you have to be really looking for it. In both instances described in somewhat vivid detail here, I was, in essence, at fault.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A child ... is a miracle ...

Each child is unique. I guess the first thing new parents do is thank God for this living, breathing, teeny tiny beautiful creature. Then, they count the fingers and toes, and make sure everything is in the right place. Daddy passes out cigars, calls everyone he ever knew to tell them the good news, and Mommy falls asleep --
exhausted, relieved, and smiling.

I remember how I felt before my daughter was born. I was so scared! I was nervous about the delivery process itself. Would my child be 'normal'? Would I be a good mother? Would we be willing to allow this child to develop to its full potential? Would my child be happy? Would we be able to keep our child away from harm -- to 'insulate' the child from the world, as it were, keeping away every bad or hurtful thing?

I thought I wanted a boy, a miniature of my husband. He would have been called Mark Paul, names of two of my favorite students. My husband was a "II", and he wasn't all that interested in having one of his children saddled with the "III". If the child were to be a girl, we wanted to name her after my mother -- and there, we had a problem.

My mother had always threatened to 'disown me' if I named a child after her (she hated her name!), but we wanted to do so, and diligently searched through the books of baby's names looking for variations of the spelling that we thought Mom might find acceptable. Finding none listed that we liked, we made up our own, decided that would be our daughter's middle name, and then searched some more for a first name -- found one, finally!

In the delivery room, when the doctor told me that it was a girl, I said, "I'm so glad!" (Ha! And double 'Ha!' All I had ever wanted, really, was a healthy baby!)

The first few months were somewhat sleepless, as I'm sure all of you who have ever been around newborn babies can relate to. She was a 'colicky' baby, which we knew nothing about. The doctor assured us that it would be only a temporary condition. He was right, of course, but we were 'brand new' to this, and thought, "We must be doing something wrong!"

I just couldn't get enough of looking at her, touching her, feeling her softness, nuzzling her tummy, and being in awe at her every move.

In her very early years, my husband wrote a poem inspired by her, titled "Then and When". It goes:

Come small seed. Feel God's awakening shower
Grow our need. Swell, burst and root and flower
Warm moist earth
Sharp stones.

Blow soft wind. A pliant stem be gentle
Bend each limb. Love, forces elemental

Soft open leaves
Harsh hail.

Thrust great light. Thru forest arms protecting
Buds wet-bright. Send spectrum sparkle glistening

Cool green dawn
Forest fire.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Memories of my sister ... (part three) ...

Peggy lived about a block off of Cooper Union, and one of her very favorite browsing spots was 6th St., where she would spend hours in the used-book stores. (I've been told that there aren't nearly as many, now, as there were. She would be unhappy about that.)

She had a studio apartment (rent-controlled, thank goodness!) on the third floor. Her one window looked out on a lot of bricks -- but, if you stuck your head out, you could see a very small patio/garden area below. She liked to stick her head out.

She also liked parks. There was a small one, close to where she lived, and one time when I was visiting we spent a few comfortable hours there. (I hope one does not still exist, but there did at one time, a photograph of me in my bikini at that park. Heavens, but that was a long time ago!)

As introspective as she was, it might seem almost 'natural' that her religious philosophy would evolve. Zen Buddhism captured her heart and mind. She spent as many personal days as she could at a monastery in upstate New York. (In fact, after she was cremated, my daughter -- who lived in the area at that time -- took charge of the cremains and a quiet, and very lovely, ceremony was conducted. A few of Peggy's friends from the city were there, as well, and were witness to a scattering of some of her ashes.)

Peggy actually came to Houston one time to visit me. She didn't stay long ... it was "too hot" -- (Well, what can I tell you? You're in Houston!) ... she was allergic to cats (I had one) ... she couldn't stand the smoke (I am a smoker) ... truthfully, I think she missed the big city! Not that Houston's a small town. It isn't. I think Peggy just wanted to go back to where she was the most comfortable!

When I was in the art business (I realize that this will come as a surprise to some of you who really don't know me all that well), I traveled extensively (but not abroad) in search of artists whose works would be of appeal to my clients -- and, whose works they could afford. The two were not always compatible.

Some of these travels took me to New York City, where -- of course -- I stayed with Peggy in her tiny apartment. I slept on a futon, which was quite comfortable, in a little 'loft' area she had had custom-installed some years before -- accessible by a fold-down ladder. Clever! Her place was crammed with just a ton of 'stuff' -- books, journals, records, and tapes, mainly -- all extremely well-organized & neat.

A computer must have been there someplace, but I do not remember exactly where. She did not end up as an interpreter at the United Nations, after all. She had a "Typing To Go" business, which she ran mainly out of her home. Sometimes she would get extended temporary work for a business, but most often that would turn out to be 'unacceptable' ... it was too hot/cold ... co-workers were impossible ... she was allergic to the air fresheners that were in use, etc., etc. Working out of the home was the best case scenario for her, but that was not always possible.

Anyway, it was on one of these fact-finding art trips that I decided I wanted to give Peggy a -- for me, somewhat expensive -- gift. And, at the time, I could afford to do so. (The only really personal thing I had ever given her, to my recollection, was an afghan that I crocheted one year when I was in a crocheting and knitting 'frenzy'! I wonder whatever happened to that afghan, by the way?)

So, I broached my wish to her, and she was quite excited about the idea! Off we went to the Art Expo at the convention center (Javitz, I think -- I don't know what it might be called now!), where we spent literally hours wandering up and down aisles, meeting artists, and viewing their work.

This was in the day before cell phones, you understand (& yes, there indeed was such a period in man's history!), so we would "Yoohoo!" or wave to one another every so often. We had pre-arranged to meet later at a specific location, and we each went about doing our own 'thing'.

Well before our scheduled meeting time, Peggy found me and said, "I know whose work I want, I just don't know which piece to choose." So, we went back to the artist's booth, chatted with the artist for a few minutes, and I assisted Peggy with a selection that I thought would best complement her apartment's decor. Neat, neat!

Just a few months before her death, Peggy wanted to make sure that 'everything' was "taken care of". She gave many of her things away. (I wonder who got the afghan? I might seem to be obsessing here, but I'm not -- it was not in my color scheme -- just a curious question, O.K? And oh, by the way, my daughter has the piece of art, but that's another story!)

I scattered the rest of Peggy's cremains wherever I thought she might be able to see a beautiful sunset, a deer, a raccoon (& yes, even a skunk!), a waterfall, a river, a bridge. I scattered a few ashes at Presbytery Point in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where we had both gone to church camp as young people. A few were tossed into Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

Lastly, several were scattered over the family plot in Munising, where my brother, father, and mother are at rest.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Memories of my sister ... (part two) ...

Groton, Connecticut ... I believe that's where my sister actually sat on a nuclear submarine to try and keep it from being launched. She couldn't swim a stroke, mind you!

She and her husband were extremely active in the CNVA (Committee for Non-violent Action). The most descriptive phrase that I could come up with for her at that time was that she was an "active pacifist" ... I guess that's an oxymoron, but it was the best I could do. (By the way, I still cannot improve on that phrase!)

We (husband, daughter and myself) did make the trek to Connecticut one year to visit Peggy and hubby. It was a nice visit! I remember Peggy's having set out -- on some sort of line in the back yard -- food and water for the various 'critters' that she had become attached to, among them lots of raccoons and a skunk (!).

As it turned dusk, Peggy kept saying, "Sh ... don't move ... sh!" (We followed instructions ... did ... didn't ... did.) Said 'critters' appeared, and we were treated to watching them help themselves to all that had been offered. Looking back on this episode, I wish we could have captured it all on a video-camera.

My memories of my sister are not all that wonderful, I'm really sorry to write. There was a time -- and, for many years!! -- when one could not even mention the weather without her responding, "Yes/No, it's a good/bad day for 'marching'."

We drifted far apart. I loved my sister, but I did not feel "close" to her. We had, actually, very little in common other than our parentage.

To be honest, I think I contributed more to the estrangement. She made many efforts, over the years, to get closer. Most of the time I had little interest in what she was going on and on about in great detail, other than tucking away in my mind this latest fascination of hers.

She became enthralled with the TV series, "Northern Exposure", and kept trying to get me to watch it. She even taped a lot of episodes and sent them to me. I tried a couple -- just couldn't get into it. One addiction we eventually did share, however (but it was only after she kept badgering me to watch it), was "Beauty and the Beast". That one I enjoyed, perhaps, as much as she did, and we had many extended conversations about some of the episodes.

She re-located to New York City in the very early '70s, about the same time that my family and I were moving to Houston. She was a single gal now, and many of us thought that she would probably land a very good job as a translator at the United Nations (she was fluent in six languages!).

NYC was an optimum location for her. For someone who had never learned to drive -- (I kid you not, she never had! She had taken 'auto mechanics' in high school [!] but that was as close as she would ever get.) -- this was a non-driver's paradise. She quickly grew to love the city. In fact, she lived there until her death.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Trans Texas Corridor

Much of the focus in local (TX) news the past week or so has been on the so-called "Trans Texas Corridor". Hiyiyippeehooray!

Folks, we've been aware of this 'corridor' for MANY years!! Why is this all of a sudden in the spotlight?!?

You know what? I don't know the answer to that question! As a taxicab driver, I drove up and down US Highway 59 between downtown Houston and Intercontinental Airport (IAH) countless times, and -- for years -- saw signs (and they were pretty!) that said, "Future Intrastate Corridor 69".

I thought nothing about the signs (other than that they were attractive), because it had been my understanding that this "Intrastate Corridor" was part of a much larger interstate-type system that would extend from somewhere in upstate New York (probably originating in Canada, actually) in the Northeast to Mexico in the Southwest. US Highway 59, of course, which goes right through Houston, would be incorporated into this network.

This was a good thing, I thought.

Then, just a very few years ago, I noticed that the 'very pretty' signs for "Future Intrastate Corridor 69" were no longer there!

Originally, I didn't think too much about it. You know, I thought, "Well, road construction. They can't have all these signs up." "Vandals. You know vandals, they'll take anything and everything that's not nailed down."

NOW it seems, however, that there have been all sorts of "town meetings" going on, TV news cannot stop salivating at all the negative reporting possibilities, someone built their lifelong 'dream home' on the right of way (KNOWN to be a 'right of way' for many years!!).

I want to know, "Where does this misinformation end?" "Whom can we possibly believe?"

Selective memories ... of my sister ... (part one) ...

We remember what our minds want us to remember ... what our subconscious thinks is important.

If a memory is that of a child, it may be greatly skewed. Children are easily confounded, confused, astonished, scared, and shocked.

I can remember, as a child, having a recurring nightmare of a train throwing red hot coals at me. Another one of those awful dreams was of a driverless car that kept chasing me. Ridiculous, in retrospect, but I woke up screaming nonetheless.

My memories of my sister, however, are pretty clear.

I was the middle child -- older sister, younger brother. As the second girl, I felt as tho I was always being compared to Peggy, particularly in re school grades and conduct. She was salutatorian of her high school graduating class, I was ranked 5th in mine. She had one really good friend, I had more than one. She was quiet, I was loud. She loved to read. I liked to read, as well, altho I liked to do a lot of other things, including tree-climbing, singing, and playing the clarinet, cards and word games. She was somewhat introspective, spending a lot of her time observing, thinking, taking notes, gathering her thoughts. I wanted to spend my time DOing -- note-taking, if any, would come later!

(And yet here I am, years later, retrospectively thinking and writing ... full circle?)

In her mid- to late-teen years, Peggy developed an almost compulsive need to 'adopt' any afflicted animal, much to my parents' chagrin. This "need" continued on throughout her adult life ... to 'champion' another's cause ... to 'fight' against wrong for right ... to 'speak for/rally with' someone whose cause should not be fought alone.

In retrospect, I am able to see that these were, indeed, worthy causes. However, this was in the 1950's (and even early 60's). Our parents could not begin to understand this! Peggy was an embarrassment to them. She was a tremendous source of pride, as well! They simply did not know how to act around her, or react towards her. After graduating from Carroll College (WI), Peggy went to the University of Madrid (Spain) for a year or so, doing graduate work. (Being an overt Protestant at that time in Spain was very dangerous, by the way! Peggy had to be very careful.)

We heard that there was a romantic interest, a pilot, I think. That was kind of neat! Next thing we heard was that she was going to be living in a Quaker house in Chicago. I didn't know if the pilot had passed away -- or, perhaps he was a Quaker and Peggy was moving to Chicago to be near him?

We all got infrequent, but lengthy, letters from her, but we still didn't seem to know what was really going on. Was she to be married? Was she working? How was she supporting herself? The letters seemed to be full of all sorts of 'tidbits' about people she'd met, friends she'd made, etc., but still our basic questions remained unanswered.

Meanwhile, I had gone to college and got married. Christmas one year, hubby and I were trying to get down to Chicago from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to visit Peggy. We encountered REALLY bad weather conditions! As a matter of fact, at one point hubby refused to drive any further. I took over, as the self-designated bad/horrendous weather driver and kept going, thinking, "We'll make it!" Well, we didn't. Thank goodness, we were able to find a motel with a vacancy.

I'm pretty sure that it was while she was residing in the Quaker house that Peggy met her husband. We did not meet him until much later, after they had moved to Groton, Connecticut.

Memories of my brother ... (part three) ...

Forget the "-- and, remind me sometime to tell you about it --" (see 'Memories of my brother, part two') ... this story is just too delicious to make any of you wait until some later date. Besides, I'm dying to tell you!

Johnny and I were partners in a duplicate bridge game -- and, as usual, I was having a really good time in spite of my 'uncomfortableness' (I was 9 1/2 months pregnant, and could probably have balanced all four hands on my ex/distended tummy).

It was the last round of the evening, and our opponents were a husband/wife team. The whole room could hear him berating his wife almost the entire evening ... she hadn't made the right bid, hadn't returned his lead, had misplayed the hand, etc., etc.

The most unfortunate part of this whole thing was that she appeared to be in the same condition I was ... very pregnant and about to deliver any instant!

Each round consisted of two hands. The first was uneventful, and pleasantries were exchanged. The second hand, however, was a real puzzler.

I was declarer in a four heart contract. It was very difficult to play -- and, as I sat there trying to plan my strategy, a gallery of onlookers began to gather around our table. (Evidently this particular hand had posed problems for everyone!)

The play of the hand unfolded. Now, it was down to the last two tricks, and I was in the dummy -- not where I wanted to be! There was an outstanding trump out, and dummy had no trump to draw it. (I knew where the outstanding trump was. It was held by the other very pregnant lady at the table, who sat to my right.)

My only hope was to lead a card from dummy and, if she trumped, I would over-trump it, playing my good diamond for the last trick. Well, I did, she did, and I did, making the contract!

The gallery "Oohed" and "Ahhed". Husband 'threw' his cards on the table, screaming, "You blew another one!" She's almost in tears. I'm ecstatic. Crowd is enthusiastic in its praise.

Meanwhile, back at my brother's ranch, he is quietly trying to explain to me (for the gazillionth time, it seemed, before it finally "sunk in") that I had reneged!

You see, of the two cards in dummy that were at my disposal to lead, BOTH were diamonds!!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Memories of my brother ... (part two) ...

My brother, Johnny, was only 23 years old when he died. You know, if he were still alive today, he would be 64?!? I've been trying to picture what he might have looked like at 64, but have been unable to do so.

He was the baby of the family. My mother had been told that she should never try and have another child after me, but yet -- 5+ years later, there he was. He was brilliant ... absolutely brilliant!

At the time of his death, he was still a student at the University of Michigan. He had changed his major course of study at least two times. A couple of years earlier, one of his architectural renderings had been on exhibit in New York at the World's Fair.

As a young person, I recall being challenged by Johnny's wanting to play "word games" ... "younameitanytype" word games. One of his favorites was choosing a word, ANY word. Such word then chosen, each of us had "x" no. of seconds (we used one of those hourglass thingees to time ourselves) to write down as many words as we could think of using only the letters in the chosen word with no repetitions, unless the letter was actually repeated within the chosen word. Each word had to be at least three letters in length, and had to be able to found in the dictionary.

Most often, this game ended in a tie ... sometimes, Johnny even beat me! What I remember MOST, however, is the absolutely wonderful times we had. Just a ton of laughs!

The young man Johnny became was somewhat of a stranger to me. It wasn't that I didn't want to know him. It was just that I was at a very different point in my life and, while I was certainly interested in what was going on in his life, -- he was my only brother, after all -- I had my own things going on, my own problems 'to contend with', as it were.

Johnny actually came down to West Lafayette one time to visit my husband and me. Do you know how he got there? He hitch-hiked!! I kid you not. He would don a sports jacket, carry one bag and a large sign that read, "West Lafayette, Indiana" -- and within 30 minutes he had a ride to the next town on the way to his destination! It was his opinion that, if you looked dangerous or disreputable, your potential next ride would not pick you up. (He was correct, of course, but we were nervous about his hitch-hiking back. That phone call with the news, "I'm here!" was really welcome.)

Johnny was (as am I -- or at least, was!) an avid bridge player. (There's a delicious story I could share with you about one time when Johnny & I were partners in a game of duplicate bridge, but you'd really have to know something about the game to appreciate the story. That 'enticement' aside -- and, remind me sometime to tell you about it, it's scrumpdeliocious! -- we'll go back to the facts at hand.)

The night of Johnny's accident, it seems that he had driven his motorcycle over to the house of one his friends and parked it there, preparatory to having his friend drive him (& perhaps another person or two) to a bridge tournament 20-30 miles away -- Jackson? I don't remember.

Bridge tournament over, Johnny -- having arrived back at his friend's house, got on his motorcycle to return home to his apartment. Johnny's apartment was not that far away. BUT, along the way, Johnny must have looked up to see if a friend of his was home, and -- taking his eyes off the road for just an instant -- struck the back of a parked car. Johnny sailed over the top of same car and landed on his head, incurring irreversible head injuries.

I'm sorry to confirm that Johnny was not wearing his helmet. We found the helmet later, in his apartment, on a bookshelf gathering dust.

Memories of my brother ... (part one) ...

I remember being sound asleep when the telephone rang in the wee hours of the morning. My husband went downstairs -- as quickly as he could -- to answer it, hoping he could silence the thing before it woke up the rest of the family.

I had heard it ring and was in the process of incorporating a phone ringing into my current dream when my husband came back up and woke me. "You have to get up," he said. "It's about Johnny."

"Johnny!" I exclaimed. "What about Johnny?" "He's been in an accident," was the response, "and we have to go to Michigan right NOW!"

The next half hour is really almost a blur. I know we called our best friends to arrange care for our small child, packed as quickly as we could, and high-tailed it on out of there!

The year was 1966. My husband and I were both graduate students at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, plus I was teaching 1st grade. So many details needed to be taken care of, but our friends told us that they would handle everything.

We had no idea how long we might be gone. Hopefully, Johnny would recover from the accident, there might be a long recuperative term, we really didn't know what all we might be facing, but we had to be prepared for the worst. Meanwhile, we had to get to Ann Arbor as quickly as possible. We wanted to be there before my folks arrived from the Upper Peninsula (UP), which is a much longer drive, to find out Johnny's current medical condition and what the prognosis might be, and be ready to give Mom and Dad the latest update. We drove as fast as we dared.

But, when we got to the hospital, Mom was already walking towards us at a very fast pace, shaking her head from side to side. (I'm going to be paraphrasing here, because I don't remember her exact words.) "He's 'gone'." "We didn't 'make it' in time."

"In time for what?" I can remember thinking, along with, "However did you get here before we did??" The "He's gone" I understood completely.

My mother 'knew' (I guess) than Johnny wasn't going to make it, and had wanted to get to Ann Arbor before he passed. She wanted to hold him in her arms one last time and tell him how much she loved him. She wanted to touch him while he was still warm. At the time, that seemed terribly grotesque to me. Now, however, many years later, I 'almost' understand it.

Hours later, we drove back to Munising in two cars, hubby and I driving each with Mom and Dad as passengers. It was dark, and I was trying to be extra careful. I don't know how many of you have driven in deer country, but they will spring out at you at the most inopportune times!

I was driving, and Mom was sitting in the passenger seat beside me, seatbelt unfastened, pouring herself yet another drink (She never drank, but was drinking this day!), when ...

... a pretty good-sized doe sprang onto the road immediately in front of us! I tapped tapped tapped the brakes as hard as I could w/o throwing Mother into the windshield. I really didn't see any way to avoid hitting this beautiful creature, but I did want to alert the other two members of my family who were immediately behind us that something was wrong!

Well, we did hit the doe. Mother was distraught, I was distraught, hubby and Dad were running up to see what had happened. We all exited our vehicles to inspect the damage.

Doe, while all this was going on, was just lying quietly there on the highway.

Then, after a few minutes, doe discovered that she was still breathing, could still move, got up and disappeared (running!) into the woods from whence she'd come.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Thriving on other's misfortunes ...

Yet one more tragic story emerged this past week from Galveston, Texas ... that of an infant, only three months old, found dead -- and yes, again abandoned by the killer/s -- at the side of the road by a complete stranger!

ALL of our hearts, thoughts, and prayers went out to this tiny child. We could only imagine his last minutes/seconds of life. We could only hope and pray that God had embraced him in His loving arms before he could feel any pain.

Immediately, of course, a manhunt ensued for the 'alleged' father, one Travis "TJ" Mullis, who was (all of a sudden) nowhere to be found.

Then, yesterday, came the "Breaking News" announcement, followed by a live news conference wherein the Galveston PD, District Attorney, et al, were saying that "TJ" had turned himself in to a police station in Philadelphia, PA, stating that he had something to say about what had happened in Galveston, TX.

I happened to be watching local news on television when it broke to include the live feed.

At first I was fascinated, as I'm sure was almost everyone else, by this story. Then, as the questioning progressed and the news conference went on and on with the Q&A session, I began to get sickened by some of the incessantly probing (and quite intrusive, in my opinion) questions! I turned the TV off.

I had been reminded (hadn't even thought of the event for many many years!) of something that had occurred when I was fulfilling my student-teaching requirements.

It was a long time ago, and my memory might be a little faulty on this. Please make some allowances, if you would.

It seems, I remember vaguely, that an extremely popular young man (a senior in high school) had somehow taken his own life. The manner in which the young man chose to take his own life didn't seem nearly as important to the media (in this case, radio) as the fact that he was 21 years old, and still a senior in high school!

"WHY was he only a senior in high school?" was the seemingly never-ending question. (The answer, I think, was that he had been very ill for a couple of years -- in fact, in the fight of his life for his life. Then, when he WAS able to finally return to finish his high school education, he achieved a great deal of success ... until, of course, he chose to end his life. How tragic!)

The principal had little sympathy for the "Public's right to know", and I heard that he physically kicked (literally!) one reporter out of the door. "Hooray for him!" I say.

My question to YOU is, "Do 'we' thrive on other's misfortunes?"

Are we so insecure in our own lives that we must delve, uninvited, into another's, in order to ensure that our own lives are "better"? MUST we intrude to comfort ourselves? Must we know any and every particular??

I suggest to you that the answer is, "No."

Friday, February 1, 2008

Super Bowl weekend ...

Everybody wants one in their town. NO one wants it in their town. It brings a gazillion/million $$ in revenue to their town. We should all want to just run out and buy everything in sight so we can commemorate this momentous event. What are you cooking/serving for half-time? Do you have a large enough digital TV to encompass every single play/call/sideline feint?

Oh, my goodness, I don't know if my heart is strong enough to take all of the hype!

Tongue in cheek aside, I have a couple of strong (maybe semi-strong) views about this weekend ... ... ...

The first has to do with when, as a taxicab driver, Houston hosted a Super Bowl.

For weeks prior, "we" (cab drivers) were checked often for valid ID, our cabs were inspected for cleanliness, did we know the routes, etc. & et al. Did we know that we were never to leave our cabs untended? Did we know that we were 'restricted' from picking up in certain areas? Did we know how to speak English? Did we know how to open the door for our customers and smile? Did we know how to make change? Did we know where the stadium/customer's hotel was? Etc., etc., etc., etc.

I am not exaggerating here. The (seemingly) unending barrage of "How-to's", "What-for's", "Why-not's", "What-if's" went on .. and on ... and on .... and on.

"Houston is going to be in the spotlight!" was the watchword of the several weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. We (cab drivers) were well aware of that fact, as was every OTHER person living in Houston! There were a 'gazillion/million' $$ to be made ... needless to say, we were all in high anticipation! (Supposedly, this high revenue was to begin -- theoretically -- two weeks prior to the actual big day.)

Well, MY business slowed almost to the point of non-existence -- I kid you not! I had a number of "regular" business customers, at that time, who were forced to postpone or even cancel their projected trips to Houston because they could not be assured that a hotel room would be available should they have to stay overnight.

Meanwhile, back at Super Bowl "hype" ranch, we were supposed to be receiving all of these wonderful extra visitors to Houston from out of town. They would be needing cab service to & from their hotels/restaurants/etc. Well, we waited for the influx of new customers. Then, most of us waited some more. And waited even more.

Many of these new -- albeit temporary -- customers had already pre-arranged for limo/private car service. Some of the regular cab drivers (of which I was one, of course)actually had the opportunity to meet, greet and drive some of them.

There was nothing wrong with that, I hope you understand. It's just that there had been so much hype prior to the actual event, so much anticipation and preparation -- I think we all thought that there would be just a "ton" of business. (And there was, actually, but so many 'temporary' drivers/buses/limos/etc. had been added to the normal mix -- in fear of [I guess] not having enough drivers/transport to accommodate everyone -- that there wasn't nearly enough extra business to go around.)

ExCEPT for the weekend itself, which will be starting in Arizona tonight!! Boy, I hope all those drivers out there have gotten their sleep, because -- from here on through Sunday, guys, you are going to be busy!!! I don't care HOW many extras have been thrown into the mix ... go make that $$$$$!!

My second thought is, "I'm sorry, Patriots fans, but I hope your team does not win Sunday." I don't have anything against the New England Patriots, please hear me out on this! It's just that I was at Purdue in the 1960's, followed Bob Griese throughout his pro football career, including the "unforgettable, in my mind" year in which the Miami Dolphins went 16-0. I would not want to see that record eclipsed.

I guess you could say, "It's a personal thing."