Saturday, May 31, 2008

Houston Bridge & Games Studio

The B&GS was a thriving place in the '70s. Thursday nights were 'Unit' games. The competition was strong, and it wasn't a bit unusual to have between 40 and 45 tables in play each week on that night. No classes were held on Thursdays. We needed that room to accommodate all of the duplicate bridge players.

We were located on the top (6th) floor of an office building along the Southwest Freeway. There was a club at ground level, and sometimes a group of us would go down for a drink after the game. We'd listen to the music, talk a little, but mostly we'd dissect all the hands we'd played that evening.

I was delighted, but very surprised when Steve Honet, Paul's partner, asked me to work there part-time. In addition to my other duties (described briefly in my last post), I also match-pointed, adding up the scores and recapping the game's results so that winners could be announced and master points awarded.

In those days it was all done manually. Steve was probably the fastest match-pointer, but I wasn't far behind. Paul didn't like to match-point at all. You seldom saw him doing it.

One of the really neat fringe benefits of working at the B&GS, even part-time, was that I got to play for free. That was nice!

Because duplicate bridge is highly competitive, various rules and regulations have been drawn up over the years in an attempt to both maintain an atmosphere of civility and keep the playing field level for all contestants. Inflections of voice and secret partnership understandings are not allowed. Everyone has to play by the same rules.

In more recent years, there has been a more concerted emphasis on courtesy and even friendliness, particularly towards newcomers to the game. It was long ago recognized that we were going to die off, quite literally, if we didn't attract 'new blood'. Mentorship is encouraged.

A 'director' is in charge of each duplicate game. (At tournaments, particularly the larger ones, many directors might be on the floor at any one time.) The director's decision may be questioned, but there are proper procedures for that. At NO time are threats of bodily harm or verbally abusive attacks tolerated!

One night I was in the office working, Lucy (Paul's wife) was in the 'big room' directing, and Paul was teaching a class. The office door was closed, as usual. (We only kept doors open when nothing else was going on.)

All of a sudden, the office door burst open and Paul came in, just BEET red in the face, slammed the door behind him and shouted, "I'm going to throw the SOB out of the window!" (We were on the 6th floor, remember.)

It took me a few minutes to calm him down. I thought I knew who he was probably talking about. I had noticed who all was playing that night, but I had to ask. "Who?" His reply confirmed my suspicion.

It seems that Lucy had been called over to a table to make a ruling. "Ernie" (not his real name, but that'll be his name for this post) vehemently objected to the ruling, casting aspersions on her ability to direct, her intellect and anyone else's within hearing distance who was so thoughtless as to look over to see what was going on!

Lucy ended up running into Paul's classroom in tears, Paul had to leave his class to deal with Ernie -- and no, he didn't throw him out of the window, but he DID bar him from the B&GS for six months -- and that's when I came into the picture.

A really ugly event. I probably filled in for Ernie, who had been ejected from the game, but I don't recall.

It was the only time I saw Paul truly enraged.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Time to stop

The time to stop talking is when the other person nods his head affirmatively but says nothing. Henry S. Haskins, American writer and teacher, 1875-1957

I was searching for the source of another quote when I came across this one. It made me laugh, and I decided to go another direction entirely for this morning's post.

"What's so funny?" you might well ask. Well, not the quote itself, per se, but what it reminded me of.

A number of thoughts come to mind when you first read the above statement by Mr. Haskins.

Why is the other person nodding his head affirmatively?

... Perhaps he has fallen asleep. Are his eyes closed?
... Perhaps he is in total agreement with you and has nothing more to add.
... Perhaps he is in total disagreement with you, but is politely nodding and keeping silent out of friendship -- or, is too tired/uninterested to enter into a debate (you've had this particular discussion before, and he's nodding to try and encourage you to initiate a different topic).
... Perhaps he's daydreaming of a fun event he has planned later. His eyes are open, but his nods are anticipatory, only -- certainly not as any sort of response to what you've been saying.
... Perhaps his neck muscles have atrophied.

So what made me laugh? Well, I'm going to tell you. This is not a joke, and you don't have to be a bridge player to understand this story. What you do have to know, however, is that a deck of bridge cards consists of four 'suits' ... clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades. Sorting the cards into suits is always part of the very first lesson.

This particular event actually occurred in the 1970's, but it could have happened yesterday, could happen today, or even tomorrow. Timeless!!

In those years, I was working at the bridge studio part-time. Sometimes I'd be in the office doing paperwork, others I'd be either teaching beginners or directing duplicate bridge games.

This one evening I was in the office when Paul Hodge came in. He'd been teaching a beginning class, and had to leave to tell SOMEone the story before he lost it completely!

Paul's beginning bridge classes were usually filled to capacity, and this one was no exception. He had a wonderful way about him. Never felt the need to put anyone else down in order to build himself up, and always had an encouraging word. Students flocked to his classes!

The current class ran the usual gamut of eager, not-so-eager, apt, not-so-apt ... the norm. Paul was particularly encouraged by one gentleman in the class who seemed to be really 'getting it'. This gentleman never said anything, but he always paid close attention to what Paul was saying and every once in a while would nod sagely.

One evening (the night Paul almost lost it), the gentleman raised his hand to ask a question. It was probably the fifth or sixth week of class. Paul was really looking forward to his question. He thought to himself, "Boy, this is going to be a good one!"

Paul said, "Yes?"

The gentleman asked, "Paul, what's a spade?"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Even more bits & pieces ... ...

Health update ...

Finally went in for my blood test work, and got the results back earlier this morning. They are: Cholesterol normal ... Glucose normal* ... Kidneys normal. Who da thunk it?? Now, all I have to do is call the doctor's office to set up an appointment to discuss prescription medication in re my calcium intake.

Mosquitoes ... no mas, as of this writing. Sleep ... very nice, thank you. Nails ... extremely short now. They were driving me crazy with their varying lengths (most too long, actually, and getting 'caught' on various younameits). Now they look like they've been bitten all of their somewhat lengthy lives, which, indeed, they have been!

New subject.

Was cruising through some of my "Favorites" this morning (and adding a comment here/there) when I came across one that reminded me of a ride my first husband and I shared while at Coney Island many years ago.

It was a parachute drop. There was this very tall needle-like central structure with two (or perhaps three) parachutes with bench seats positioned equidistant from the center, projecting outwards.

As we passed by this ride, we could hear a LOT of giggles. We stopped to watch. The line of people waiting to get on looked like it extended around the corner. Geez, that looked like fun! (Not the line, the ride!) You go up slowly until you're at the very top. Then, after you've had a few seconds to enjoy the view -- and it was spectacular! -- you're suddenly in a free fall until the parachute opens and you 'float' gently to the ground.

I was SO tempted to go! My husband had been trying to get me to ride the roller coaster with him, but, to this day, I have not been on a roller coaster, chicken that I am. THIS ride, however, was very tempting!

As we continued to watch, we noticed these two 'little old ladies' -- maybe schoolteachers? -- in line, smiling like crazy in anticipation. We watched as they were seated. We watched as they kicked off their shoes. We heard them laughing all the way up to the top. We heard their delighted shrieks all the way down. We watched as they leapt off the bench, gathered their shoes, and ran back to get in line for another turn.

That did it for me! (And yes, it was a LOT of fun!)

The Astronomy Pic of the Day (5/29/08) shows a "fogbow" ... first time I'd ever heard of that term, how about you?

*Glucose "normal"?!? I thought I was hypoglycemic. Underwent just a horrendous sugar test in New Orleans perhaps 30 years ago. Will have to ask the doctor about this one when I next see him.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

When I grow up, I wannabe a ... ...

... teacher, a fireman, a nurse, a police officer ... Did you ever play the wannabe game when you were a child? I guess everyone has.

When I was very young -- maybe five or six years old, something like that -- the neighbor right across the road (see 4th through 7th paragraphs) and I used to like to play 'doctor' in the shade of a humongous tree in our yard.

[I can't believe I remember his name after all these years. David Gehringer. There were three things that David and I loved to do together ... help each other collect eggs, ride in his oldest brother's Model T (it had a rumble seat, and was that fun!), and play doctor.]

Mother always kept a very close eye on the two of us when we were play-acting this game. We weren't looking at each other's body parts or anything remotely resembling such risque behavior, as some of you might have been guilty of (tsk tsk). No, we'd take a blanket, a bunch of dolls, bandaids, Mercurochrome, cotton swabs, a make-believe stethoscope, etc. David would be the doctor and I'd be the nurse. (Of course! This was the 1940's.)

There were only a limited number of occupations 'suitable' for young ladies in that era. I avidly read about the various occupations available to women in the field of health, and at one point was absolutely positive that I wanted to be an occupational therapist. 'Teacher' was ALWAYS a choice, but I remember hoping to escape that fate by marrying a white knight in shining armor who would sweep me off my feet and carry me off to a house with a white picket fence where we would live happily ever after.

When I went off to college, I STILL hadn't decided exactly what I would eventually latch onto to support myself. The OT choice had long since faded from the picture. Thank goodness we didn't have to declare a major right off the bat! For at least the first year, courses were pretty much of a general nature, and most could be applied to any major we subsequently chose.

History was pretty much out of the question. I didn't discover my interest in history until MUCH later in life! The medical field 'ditto' -- there was interest, but I wasn't interested in what I at that time perceived would be a subservient occupation. [Note: I'm telling you what I 'perceived' at that time. It's not correct, but it's what I thought!]

I love music -- and always have. In fact, for my high school graduation my folks bought me the Pedler Eb alto clarinet that I still have to this day. I never imagined myself performing professionally -- I was good, but not that good! I mean, I could sight-read like crazy, transpose like nobody's business ... ... ... I'm going to break this reverie off here. I'll do another post or two (maybe three or four) down the road on my studies in music, actual performances, concert band, orchestra, pep band, marching band, composing, and the like.

I decided to declare a major in music. At that time, one had to declare a major and two minors. I chose music as my major, clarinet and psychology as my two minors. 'Knowing' that I was not quite good enuf to perform professionally, I focused on the teaching aspect of music. I would become only the 2nd female instrumental band director in the United States. I wanted to lead and direct marching bands!!

I'm going to re-direct you here to one of my much earlier posts (January 27th, this year) to give you the full poop on what happened after I graduated from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1959.

Now, here I am, MANY years later, still wondering what I'm gonnabe when I grow up. Oh, and by the way, the answer to your question is "No, I never did teach music in either public or private schools." Sang in and directed a number of church choirs over the years. Also performed on my clarinets (had acquired a Bb soprano, as well) both as a soloist and in ensembles, but more on all that another time. There are some good stories to tell, many of them quite amusing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More bits & pieces ... ...

Sleep update ...

Well, I went to bed too early last night to get the six hours needed before jumping into the shower, running a comb through my hair, and then driving down to get my blood test. Shuckeydurn!! I got only three, I think, and woke up with my mind completely filled with upcoming post ideas. In fact, one had been almost entirely written -- only in my head, you understand, entitled "When I grow up, ... ". Look for that one coming soon to a blogsite near you.

A question. It's not possible NOW, I don't think, but do you think that it will be, to record your 'dream state' posts? Would that be neat or what?!?

Phoenix Lander ...

Updated an hour or so ago. Nothing new to report. DO, however, check out my last post again, if you haven't within the past 10-12 hours. All of the links I had initially wanted to make are now in working order. A couple of things have been added, and a number of edits have been made in re grammar and wording, etc., anal retentive wonder that I am.

What's new on television? ...

NOTHING, THAT's what's new!! Keep in mind, now, that I do not have cable. So, what's new on MY television is reality shows, reality shows, and more reality shows, none of which interest me in the slightest!

What does that mean for you, dear reader? What that means is that you are quite likely to be subjected to even more postings on my blogsite. Heaven forbid!!

I'm thinking, now fairly seriously, of going out and purchasing that leather recliner I mentioned previously .

OK. It's now 3am. I'm going to try this act again. See if I can get six hours. Will let you know.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bits & pieces ... ...

Health update ...

Saturday morning I wrote about how I had gotten a seemingly unbelievable amount of sleep over the past day and a half. That was true. The term 'sleep', however, should have been a little better defined. Except for the aforementioned 2- and 3-hour stints on Saturday morning, it was more like (from Thursday evening) hit the pillow, toss and turn like crazy, grab for another tissue and blow like crazy, then repeat. I'd get tired of that and get up for 5-10 minutes, but my eyes ached so much I'd have to go back to bed and try again. I had a headache out the wazoo from all the blowing. Not much coughing, really. I use Vicks (formula E, an expectorant), which works pretty well for me. I always keep a bottle by my bed, and so it's handy if and when I have to take a little sip.

I never did take my temperature. Whatever for?? I knew I had a fever, otherwise my eyes wouldn't have been aching, right? I didn't take anything for the headache, either. For the most part, I must admit that I'm anti medication. I'll just have to 'get over' that, however, because my primary care doctor wants me to ingest pretty large doses of calcium each day -- in fact, wants to see me this week to discuss a possible prescription. THAT'll be interesting! I'm going to show him one of the little plastic baggies I use to put a large pill in before I smash it with a hammer --- then I can swallow it!

[I'm not talking about those little sandwich-sized baggies. I'm talking about a little dinky baggy that would hold -- maybe -- a couple of picture hooks. I still have bunches of these going back to my years in the art business.]

ANYhoo, I was looking forward to Saturday night. I thought I might get 4-5 hours of actual sleep in, and was eagerly anticipating such an event.

The mosquito ...

I hit the pillow around 9 or 10 that night, feeling mildly pleased with myself, and was about to drift off to sleep when -- all of a sudden, there was this incessant high droning sound that kept getting closer and closer. Yes, unfortunately, it was the unmistakable sound of a hungry mosquito wanting to suck my blood. "NO!" I thought.

Then, resigned to just waiting the thing out, letting it get close enuf to my ear so that I could just lambaste the thing into oblivion without rupturing my eardrum in the process (I almost did that once, so I know whereof I speak!), I waited. I struck. I waited some more. Nothing. "Terrific!" I thought.

Just as I was about to drift off to sleep again, there it was. I thought, "Shoot!" (Well, that's not quite the word, but you get my drift, I'm sure.) I got up and went into another room, turned some lights and the TV on, and waited for the vile creature to come after me. I thought if I could at least see it as it was about to try and drain one of my more vital bodily fluids that I would have better than a 90% chance of ending its existence! I waited. No such attack on my person occurred. I waited some more. Nothing!!

I decided to fumigate the bedroom. I checked over my sprays. I didn't want to use one that would repel the [expletive deleted], I wanted to use one that would exterminate same!

Well, never mind. Suffice it to say that I used two different sprays, NEITHER of which I was fully confident would work. (All of this to get rid of one mosquito?? SURELY there must be a better way!) Meanwhile, of course, I had made it absolutely impossible to go into that room for at least another two or three hours. Otherwise, I might be in very real danger of asphyxiating myself!!

Fast forward to LAST night, when I enjoyed (I kid you not, I enjoyed!!) a full six hours of uninterrupted sleep -- deep, actual, even a dream or two. Immediately upon waking, I called my primary care doctor's office, hoping they were open so that I could go in and take my blood test (having eaten, drunk, or ingested nothing for at least six hours), and guess what? They're closed today.

Well, perhaps the same quite fine situation might present itself tonite. More later.

New subject entirely.

Phoenix Lander ... (edited and updated early am 5/27/08) ...

We are now on Mars, in actuality. On Sunday, a simulation of the landing was posted. Yesterday THIS was posted on their website, showing actual pictures taken from Phoenix after its successful landing on Mars. Then, today, a split screen image ... one showing one of the lander's footpads, and the other Phoenix's descent as photographed by the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Fascinating stuff!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day

As often happens, I was inspired this morning by Charles Osgood. He had a wonderful segment devoted to Arlington National Cemetery, this one focusing on its history.

Did you know? I didn't! (The older I get, the more I realize I don't know. Is that true with you?) What I didn't 'know' ... well, maybe I heard it said once or twice, but obviously it went in one ear and out the other ... was that Arlington was once the home of General Robert E. Lee. Did you know that?

A real estate agent from Pearland (just south of Hobby Airport here in Houston) published -- and for several years -- a monthly newsletter. Some fact, some fiction, a lot of jokes ... think I have saved most of them. The following is taken directly from one of her newsletters.

Did you know ......

1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why? 21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why? 21 seconds for the same reason as answer number 1.

3. Why are his gloves wet? His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not? He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face, and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5. How often are the guards changed? Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to? For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5'10" and 6'2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30".

They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform (fighting) or the tomb in any way. After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin. The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt. There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror. The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis (the boxer) and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, (the most decorated soldier of WWII) of Hollywood fame. Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.

Funny, our US Senate/House took 2 days off as they couldn't work because of the expected storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported tonight that, because of the dangers from Hurricane Isabelle approaching Washington DC, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, "No, way, Sir!" Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930. We can be very proud of our young men and women in the service no matter where they serve.

The above was copied verbatim from a newsletter published less than five years ago.

My own immediate family's history has no war heroes. (In fact, my brother was a conscientious objector, and my sister sat on a nuclear submarine to try and keep it from being launched.) You have to go back to the Hatfield/McCoy era (my mother -- who was a McCoy -- always said, altho DD says that, in all of her searches through genealogical records, she has been unable to find that link [and believe me, her searches have been extensive!] to find any relationship or 'warring' at all! Another thing my mother always said was that I was eligible to be a member of the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution]. I don't remember whether or not I ever asked DD to check into that one! And, I didn't take any notes at all on whatever facts Mother might have had at hand to verify her statement because I wasn't the least bit interested at the time. I regret it now, of course!)

I have a tremendous amount of personal regard for all of the men and women, past and present, who have represented this wonderful country so well. I feel humbled that I am included as one of a huge number of recipients of their service and sacrifice.

God bless America, and let us not EVER forget those who have gone before! Amen.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Something got hold of me

I have slept probably 32 out of the last 36 hours. Not all at once, mind you. For many of those hours it would be sleep one hour, up five or ten minutes, sleep another hour, up another five or ten minutes, etc. My eyes literally ached. I could not keep them open.

I live alone, so exposure to invasive germs in my own house could not have happened. I had three customers going back and forth to the airports Tuesday and Wednesday, but they were not sneezing and wheezing on me.

The only thing I can think of is my visit to the doctor's office Tuesday morning. You may have read that I got a bone density test. It was COLD in that room! I remember thinking, "I should ask for a blanket." But then I thought, "No, you're not going to be in here that long." Thought myself right out of it.

I am almost never sick, but -- if I am, usually it's a cold. For some reason or other, I never get the flu! When I was in undergraduate school in the late 1950's, there was a pretty good-sized crisis on Northern Michigan University's campus. The whole bottom floor of our dorm was converted to a makeshift hospital as the Asian flu epidemic worsened. I was one of the caregivers.

Normally, I am able to ward off an impending cold with sleep, lots of oj, and stuff like that. This time NADA!

Anyhoo, I'm feeling somewhat better this morning. My last two sleep stints lasted two and three hours each, respectively.

It's getting to be about that time again, tho ... the pillow is calling.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Quote for 5/22/08

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.

I can think of a bunch ... ...

... Weddings (particularly if you're in the wedding party itself).

... Bar/bat mitzvahs.

... Graduation/award ceremonies.

... Proms.

... Halloween activities (unless you're creative with odds and ends, old stuff).

... Concerts, recitals, and other public performances, including plays and musicals.

... Power job interviews.

... A new job that requires a special uniform.

... Old clothes are too big/small/outdated or just simply worn out.

... Special birthdays and significant anniversaries.

... School/team colors have changed.

... Christenings.

... Pregnancies.

... Just because.

All sorts of reasons why one might want to get some new clothes, the great majority of them of a celebratory nature.

I laughed and laughed when I first read this quote. And then, I understood completely when I noticed that the author was Henry David Thoreau.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My 'primary care' doctor's visit ... (#3) ...

(continuing on)

SO, I went to see this person whom I'd never met before.

It's really close to where I live. Ten minutes (max!). I got there. All sorts of smiley faces, all looking sincere. (Highly trained?)

I had been expecting to be required to fill out multitudinous forms. I was ready for an extended delay. When I was asked to provide my insurance card and driver's license, I readily acquiesced. (I had called a month or so prior to make sure I was in their system as a 'primary care' person, but still I was anticipating a worst possible case scenario!)

Well, it couldn't have been more than 15-20 minutes later when I was face to face with David Bauer, my primary care physician. He entered the room quietly. There we were, face to face. He sat down (I was already seated) and listened.

Asked a few questions. Answered a few questions. I took notes. He looked at my wrist. (By the way, it was exactly as I had suspected. He felt all up/down and around the area, and confirmed my original 'diagnosis'. He really didn't recommend surgery unless the area bothered me more than it already seemed to -- and, it wasn't 'growing' in scope. He negated the possibility of cancer here. A really nice piece of good news!)

He looked at my callus. Didn't think I needed to see a specialist at this time. Recommended some things I should be doing to try and 'soften' that area, including a shoe recommendation that I have yet to take advantage of, along with gel-filled insoles, etc. Haven't started on any of those yet.

He made a few recommendations for tests, one of which (bone density) I took advantage of before I left the building. Another, that of cholesterol and glucose intolerance, was not completed because I had drunk some coffee prior to my visit. I really hadn't known what all I might be required to do or not do. Their office is so close that I should be able to accomplish that test within the next week, I would think.

Another of his recommendations was a mammogram. I've had LOTS of those over the years. My personal opinion is, "What's the point?" Irregardless of my personal opinion, however, I intend to schedule one soon. (Have the authorization.)

ANYhoo, that's my story of my primary care doctor's visit. I can't even begin to tell you how pleasantly surprised I was with Dr. Bauer. In fact, I told him so in those same exact words.

When we met in the hallway a short time later and shook hands (I had to Xfer stuff from my right hand to the left in order to free a hand to shake), I noted that he was just a touch shorter than I. I guess the only reason I mention this is ... you know what? I don't even KNOW why the devil I would ever mention this!! Ridiculous!

Suffice it to say that I left his office yesterday morning feeling REALLY good about 'discovering' another caring doctor. Went home, posted my "6s" story, and there's been nothing else posted until today.

Hope everything's OK, or as well as can be reasonably expected, your way.

My 'primary care' doctor's visit ... (#2) ...

(This is being continued from the last post. If you're interested in seeing what I wrote, please look it up.)

Other than dermatologists, I guess I have only a handful of doctor's visits over the past many, many years.

The eye doctor. What can I say? I have a wonderful eye doctor! He says I have cataracts, and probably should have some surgery, but -- as of this writing -- I have no intention of doing so. I see him (maybe) once every couple of years, and that's just to make sure that my eyeglasses improve my vision to where I can legally drive and -- at the same time -- allow me to view my favorite television programs and work all of my favorite logic problems. In other words, I wear bifocals.

(I didn't mention reading. I haven't even opened a book since last September, if you can believe that!!) I may or may not do a post sometime down the road on the history of my eyesight. Probably interesting only to me, huh? Well, it might be of some interest to you, as well, so I'll do one.

The dentist. (Ah now, there's another topic entirely!) All I can say to you, boys and girls, is that you should faithfully brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. Did I mention mouth wash? Should have.

All of the above (and on the preceding post) are not on Wellcare's list of providers, how do you like THAT?? I like that not in the least little bit.

SO, what made me finally decide to see a 'primary care' doctor and thereby get myself enrolled in their system? Two things, actually ... 1) I was a little concerned about what I could best describe as a 'wrist pointer'. I thought it probably occurred from my many years as a taxicab driver, whereupon I would rest my left wrist on the steering wheel. 2) A callus on the bottom side of my left foot (big toe). It had been there for many years, but I thought I should probably see a specialist to get an expert opinion on how to treat/get rid of it.

Let's face it. In all my many years as a taxicab driver, the only muscles I exercised were in my brain and arms. Don't laugh, I'm being serious here!! I knew, deep down inside, that I should be getting some exercise. At the same time, I also knew that I could not to so without a great deal of discomfort. So, something had to be done.

My 'primary care' doctor's visit ... (#1) ...

... was yesterday morning at 8:30. I had not been looking forward to going, but HAD to if I wanted to get this 'primary care' thing established and Wellcare's (my ins.) requirements met.

My history of visits to a doctor -- ANY doctor -- is sparse, to say the least!

A dermatologist has probably been the most frequented in the past thirty years.

'Emergency' surgery 15+ years ago to remove the world's ugliest growth (my description, not the doctor's) on my left wrist which had been exacerbated by my constant picking at it, trying to make it go away. Worse yet, I kept putting off calling a doctor about it because I was absolutely positive that I was going to lose my hand! (Isn't the imagination just the most wondrous thing??)

I don't even remember his name now, but he had the most wonderful manner about him! I think I got his name out of the phone book, initially, but it was a fortuitous choice. What WAS disconcerting was the fact that he kept calling various other of his colleagues into the examination room to see this monstrosity.

He said, "Helen, this has to go, and we're going to take care of it toDAY! First, tho, I'm going to take a biopsy to see if it's cancerous. The results will dictate what all has to be done."

At that point, having already resigned myself to whatever the doctor said had to be done, I was pretty darned composed all things considered. I waited for the lab results (they had a full lab right there on the premises). Negative! (?) He removed the ugly thing and put a large bandaid on it. (!!!)

What I have on my left wrist kind of looks like one of those old smallpox vaccination scars. I mean, it's there, but you have to be really looking for it!

He was concerned that, as a taxicab driver, my already sun-damaged skin (from MANY years of trying to be beautifully-tanned) was being constantly exposed to the sun, particularly from the left side. He advised me to wear long-sleeved shirts/blouses, collar raised to try and protect my neck, and recommended the highest possible sunscreen for my hands and ears. He gave me some lotion to try and cut down on the number of 'bumps' appearing on my fingers, and I took to wearing gardening gloves with finger tips that I had cut out. (Can you imagine such a thing in this Houston heat?) He advised me not to scratch. That's like telling a cat not to cover up!

Nevertheless, I did as he recommended. To this DAY I wear long-sleeved shirts and stay out of the sun as much as I can. Whatever yardwork I do is either done at night or on the opposite side of my townhouse from the sun.

A couple or three years ago, I tried to reach him for another visit. I was a little concerned about an area on my left hand that didn't seem to want to go away. And yes, I'm guilty. I'm a scratcher and picker, what can I say? However, I'm now a much more selective scratcher and picker. Not bragging here, just stating the facts, OK?

He was no longer in Houston. He had relocated to Hawaii. Lord love us, he must have more customers than he can possibly handle down there, wouldn't you think? All that sun. All those people trying to be 'gorgeous'. The thought of any of that makes me almost want to throw up ... truly!! (I feel entitled to make these statements just from my own personal experience, you understand?)

I asked the answering service, "Whom do you recommend?"

Enter Jennie Duffy, who practices at the Medical Center. LIKED her. Long story short, this one was cancerous. Removed. Bandaid. Scar about 1/3 the size of the one on my wrist. No recurrences or further outbreaks. (Guess who was not scratching or picking, either?)

I saw her several times over the next 1-2 years. Each time she found something that needed some attention ... freezing, cutting out, whatever was required -- mainly on my face and, again, on the left side.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Story of Sixes

It's not a terribly long story, but it does play an integral part in my behavior patterns over the past several years.

Everyone in my immediate family is long gone (except for my daughter and granddaughter, of course).

My brother was the first to go. The year was 1966. It was a motorcycle accident. He was 23 years old.

My mother was next. The year was 1976. She was 66 years old.

Dad was next. The year was 1986.

My sister (four and a half years older) and I both DREADED 1996. Which of us would be the next to go? When January 1, 1997 came around we breathed just a humongous sigh of relief. The "curse" (or whatever it had seemed to be) was broken.

Well, Peggy (sister) died at age 66. That left me. I'm now 70 (soon to be 71), and the year 2006 has seen its heyday. What the devil?!?

Since retiring from full-time driving last September, I've had time to go through bunches and bunches of papers and such, and guess what I discovered?? Peggy was only 65 when she died!!!

Ye Gods! Heavens to Betsy! (along with any other of my favorite expressions that you've seen me write over some of my many posts)

Not that I've been living the 'life of Riley' or holding up banks (having some sort of death wish) or anything else of that nature. I must admit, however, that I wasn't optimistically looking forward to much of anything. Not that I was unhappy. I've always been a pretty happy gal. I have a LOT of interests, and am quite content with my own company. But ... looking forward?? ... no. Maintaining the status quo would be a more apt description.

I think that any of you who have read my posts over the last few months have come to know me just a little bit. You know how much I love/like/dislike/hate this or that ... well, at least as much as I have chosen to confide in you.

I really dislike 'managed' health care, but last year I finally came to the conclusion that, as I was probably going to be living a whole lot longer than I had initially thought almost ten years ago (when my sister died), I was simply going to have to try and do something about maintaining and even extending the lifestyle that I currently enjoyed. (Not that it's a whole **** of a lot, mind you, but it's mine, it's familiar, and it's comfortable ... not 'monetary' comfortable, but more like an old couch comfortable, if you know what I mean!)

So, last week I took the bull by the horns and made an appointment to see my 'primary care' physician, a doctor by the name of David Bauer. (I had chosen his name, initially, because it was the only name I could pronounce amongst the listed primary care internists. Is that a sign of the times, or WHAT?)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stinky joke time

Actually, I think this first one might have some truth to it.

Do you remember the old drive in theaters? The ones with speakers that scratched your car all up and you could hardly understand a word that was being said? Or, maybe you weren't at all interested in what was being said because you were too busy making out?

Well, it seems that there was this drive in theater somewhere in the South that was segregated, whites on one side and 'coloreds' on the other. The white side had indoor plumbing facilities, the colored side outhouses. The white side had huge circulating fans, the colored side nothing.

One night a bunch of hefty coloreds decided that they were going to have a little fun. They overturned the outhouses right in front of the large fans, the contents spilled out (natch), and the stench overwhelmed the white audience.

They called it a case of the 'shit hitting the fan'.

THAT one strikes me as having some semblance of truth.

[I grew up mainly -- from 3rd grade on -- in the far north, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There was no segregation up there that I can remember ... perhaps because there weren't very many blacks, I don't know. I'd like to think that, even if there were, there would still have been no segregation. Dream world?]

This next story is so far removed from the truth that, unless you are just incredibly naive and believe absolutely everything you're told, you will snort right from the very beginning. Ready? Here we go.

There was this tremendously successful hunter. His home had had to be enlarged many times to hold all of his trophies, but still he was unhappy. It seems that there was one trophy missing from his vast collection. He had been trying for years to get it, but it had always eluded him.

Now, he thought he was getting a little too old to go trekking through jungles in search of this rarity, but he kept hearing stories about its possible existence in a remote jungle area that he had not explored before, so he thought he'd give it one last try. Off he went in search of this unique creature, the foo bird.

The second week into the safari, exhausted, hot, dirty, and itching all over from various bites and stings, he was about ready to call it quits when word came to his guide that a foo bird had been sighted!

However, his guide warned him that the nearby villagers regarded the foo bird as a sacred object. He would not be allowed to harm it in any way. The hunter was disappointed, but thought that if he could just SEE one, his trip would have been somewhat worthwhile.

They arrived at the village. The hunter looked all around, hoping to see a foo bird. The villagers watched him very carefully. All of a sudden his guide pointed and said, "There!!"

The hunter took off his safari hat to try and shield his eyes from the sun, and wouldn't you know it? The foo bird chose that very second to plop a big one right on top of his head.

As the hunter raised his arm to wipe the gob of you know what off, the guide quickly grabbed his arm and said, "No! The villagers say that if you wipe it off, you will die!"

Now what? The hunter had seen a foo bird, all right, but the only trophy he would be bringing home was the one he was wearing on the top of his head.

Why didn't he just remove it? Well, he wasn't at all sure that the villagers were not correct, and he really wasn't interested in challenging their claim.

And so, he returned home ... alone, of course. No one wanted to be around the stench. Weeks went by. He was very careful when he bathed. He ate alone. He walked alone. He was shunned.

One day he decided that he just couldn't take it any more. He reached up and, with one magnificent swoop, removed the offending object and immediately fell dead.

The moral of this story is, "If the foo shits, wear it."

(By the way, this post was inspired by Will. Note the 3rd paragraph.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My belated Mother's Day present

When I arrived in Katy just a minute or so before 3pm on Saturday, there were DD and my granddaughter shouting, "Hurry and up and park the car. We have to hurry!"

So I did and off we went. Not very far. Couldn't have been more than a mile or so.

We pulled up in front of one of the shops in this strip mall and went inside. It was one of those salons where they give manicures, pedicures, and all that good stuff, would you believe it?

DD told me that she'd not had the vaguest idea what to give me for Mother's Day until she read one of my recent posts.

Ha! There we were, the three of us sitting side by side with me in the middle, soaking our bare feet in this jacuzzi kind of thing, and leaning back in our massage chairs having our backs kneaded and pummeled and rubbed. My goodness!!

Fingernails and toenails were cleaned, pruned, and polished. (I have NO idea how DSL managed to keep from snorting out loud when I mentioned that I needed a nail file!) Feet, legs, arms, and hands massaged. I mean, we got the royal treatment. Just delicious!

So, now I have had my nails done. Thank you again, DD!

Car troubles update

OK. (continuing from last post) I woke up a little after noon and called Micky. He said, "Did you get my message?"

I replied, "No, I was taking a nap and just woke up. When I realized what time it was, I thought I'd better check in with you to see how everything was going."

"Well," he says, "it's ready, but Helen, we found that one of the engine mounts is cracked (there are four of them). Do you want us to fix it today?"

I asked, "Do you have time?" "Sure," he says.

NOW I'm wide awake. Enterprise's website had advertised that the rental places are open until 2pm on Saturdays. I thought, "Wow!"

So, I hustle my bustle around, frantically trying to locate all of the things that were on my list to take to DD's place. I glance at the time. Heavens! I don't know how long it will take to return the rental. I figure I might be delayed at the rental place a half hour or more, and it's now almost 1:00!

I decide to initiate the return of the rental car, and then get over to Micky's as soon as possible after that. First, tho, I have to replace the gas I used yesterday. Boy, is that thing a guzzler!

The rental place is closed. Sign on the door says they close at noon on Saturdays. Wonderful! There are a couple more locations at dealerships just down the freeway, but when I check at each of those they're not even OPEN on Saturdays. Cute?

Meanwhile, of course, I'm on the horn with Micky, letting him know what's going on. He comes back with the info that they were not able to replace the engine mount after all. They didn't have the right size.

All right. I make another executive decision. I decide that I will pick up my car from Micky (It was perfectly safe to drive, but it might be making an extra rattle or two.), leave the rental at his place, and return Monday to let them replace the engine mount while I return the guzzler to Enterprise.

By the time all of this was accomplished, including writing a hefty check, it was going on 2:30. I didn't even have time to return home. I just called DSL to tell him that I was on my way, but was probably going to be just a little late.

He said, "Come on!" I told him that I did not have my umbrella with me. (It was spritzing just a bit.) He said, "Don't worry. We have umbrellas." I asked if he would have DD locate her nail file. (I had a nail that needed to be filed. It was something that I would have done at home, but I had run out of time.) He said, "We have nail files. Come on!"

So off I went, unshowered, hair looking OK, missing almost ALL of the stuff on my list, and with unfiled nail. HowEVer, I was now driving my baby, and I was happy.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Car troubles

I had a day to forget yesterday. Took the car into the shop for a grease and oil change. Two and half hours later I was still there, waiting for someone to drive me home.

Seems that the mechanic, upon driving the car out of the shop, g&o change completed, thought that the tires felt 'funny'. He'd inch up a little bit, stop, frown, and then inch up some more. Another mechanic came up to look at it. The owner came out to size up the situation. I went over to see what the devil was going on.

It was the left front tire. Looked like it was shimmying when the brakes were applied.

Back up the rack she went, where three guys equipped with very bright lights looked over the undercarriage, poking and prodding here and there. Finally, the problem was located. The bushing (part of the control arm in the left front) was cracked. I was driving an unsafe vehicle -- an accident waiting to happen. Ye Gods!

I needed to get home and wash my hair, take a shower, and see what I could do about renting a car. I had two personal customers coming in at Intercontinental Airport at 5pm, and I would have to allow about an hour to get there at that time of day.

I guess I got back home a little after twelve. First thing I did was call DSL (Dreaded Son-in-Law) to get his recommendation about renting a car. Micky (shop owner) had already checked all over the city. NO dealership had that part in stock. It was going to have to be ordered (not what you want to hear going into the weekend), and it would probably be sometime Wednesday before I would get to drive my car again. Heavens!

I have scheduled customers coming in and going out Monday and Wednesday, in addition to a doctor's appointment Tuesday morning. Micky thought he probably could have the part 'overnighted' in by Monday. Then, depending on what time it arrived on Monday, I might have it in time for my mid-afternoon pickup at Hobby Airport.

Well, "probably" and "might" were really unacceptable terms, but there was nothing I could do about it except try to get a rental car -- until Tuesday afternoon, it looked like.

So, I started shopping online. DSL had recommended Enterprise, so I began there. I entered Houston, Texas and then my zip code. The answer came back that there was no match found in the US. I should try another country. (???)

I immediately called DSL and told him what had just happened. He told me that the computer was just trying to "help". I said, "Whaat!" Went back to the beast and entered my zip code only. Five locations within a 3-mile radius of my home quickly appeared on the screen. (Guess I had given it too much information the first time.)

I compared prices between the various locations. All were exactly the same.

The good news was that I could take advantage of the "weekend special" at the rental car place. The bad news was that, if I were to keep the rental until Tuesday, I would have one day at the normal rate.

OK. Armed with pricing information, I called the location nearest to me to reserve a rental car. I intended to rent a small car -- not teeny tiny, but not as large as my Buick LeSabre, either. The person at the other end of the phone said that they didn't have any in that size, how about the next size up? I'm looking at the screen as we're talking, and say, "OK, so that would be --$$ for the special + one day at the normal rate?"

He says, "No, that'll be --$$." I asked, "Where'd you get that figure? I'm looking at the rates on my screen." "Ah," sez he, "those are the rates if you reserve online." (The things you learn when you 'supposedly' know a lot already. Amazing!)

Then, just as I'm preparing to hang up to make a reservation online, he adds, "By the way, try to reserve a car in the size you want. If it's accepted, then we have to honor the reservation and give you an upgrade." (!!!) He didn't have to say that! Enterprise will probably have my business forever (not that there's much of it, you understand, but still!) due to that young man's thoughtfulness.

All right. I call Micky back one more time, trying to get a better handle on when my car might be ready. He says, "I'm working on it. Give me just a few more minutes. I'll call you right back."

Well, I was out of time. It was going on 1:30, and I needed to be at the airport by 5:00. That meant that I had to be picked up at my house no later than 3:30, so I could be at the rental place and have all the appropriate paperwork filled out and on the road no later than 4:00. Enterprise required (on their website) a two-hour notice for pickup. An executive decision had to be made.

I said "OK" to Micky, hung up and immediately made a reservation online for the smaller-sized vehicle. It was accepted. I then called the nearest location again to arrange for a pickup. All was well. I'll amend that by saying that all was as well as could be expected.

Three o'clock came around. I called Enterprise again to make sure that someone would be coming to pick me up. They said yes. I added that I would be waiting outside. They verified my phone number. All was well.

I had not heard back yet from Micky, but I was not surprised. I've known him for a number of years. When he says, "I'll call you right back," what he really means is that he'll call you back just as soon as he CAN, which might be tomorrow!

Meanwhile, I knew for certain that he was working on my behalf. He didn't need any reminder calls from me. Contrary to Will, I want to know EVERYthing that's going on with my vehicle. I'm positive that this relates directly to my many years of being a taxicab driver, when I would put (on average) 1,000 miles each week on the car. (Now, by the way, I put less than 3,000 miles in six months on it -- just an incredible difference!)

So, I'm waiting outside. No one comes to pick me up. It's now 3:30. I call Enterprise again, and am once more reassured that he's 'on his way'. I ask, "What color car is he driving?" (I can see a car parked down at the end of the street with a person in it.)

When the answer comes, I KNOW that that's my driver down there! While still on the phone with Enterprise, I stand up and begin waving frantically to the driver. Slowly, he exits from his parked position and comes towards me. He stops in front of me, rolls down his window, and I ask, "Enterprise?" He nods and I get in.

He says that he has tried to call me, two times! I say, "That's impossible," showing him my cell phone. "What number do you have?" (One of the digits is wrong, what can I tell you?)

OK. We get over to Enterprise. I'm not the only person in there. I start to get more than a little concerned about the time. FInally, it appears that I'm all set to go when the person behind the counter informs me that a $250 "hold" of some sort is going to be placed on my account. I say, "Whaat!"

I only have one credit card. (One of the main reasons I got into such financial trouble years ago was that I abused credit cards.) And, my one credit card doesn't have a very high limit. I "knew" that my card would not accept a $250 charge or hold of any kind!

I immediately got on the horn to DSL, positive that this gal at Enterprise was trying to overcharge me. He talked to her. She talked to me. I talked to DSL again, and he said to go ahead and put it on HIS credit card. Ye Gods! I hung up in utter frustration, ready to blow the scene and try to disappear.

Meanwhile, the gal behind the counter had been running my credit card and told me that it had all been approved. I was shocked! Glad, but shocked. Out we went to see and inspect the car for prior physical damage. And yes, it was the smaller car that I had initially requested over the phone but was told they didn't have any. (?)

How could that be? Do they have certain numbers that they keep in reserve for online customers? Or, does that 2-hour window allow them to transport one of the reserved size to the required location? I'm guessing that the latter is correct, but I don't know for sure. I don't care, either.

All I know for certain is that I had a rental, it ran, had some gas, and I was on my way to IAH.

I got there around 5:15. Customers' flight had been delayed, thank the Lord, and I called Micky. (Still hadn't heard back from him.)

He sounded very excited. "I was just about to call you. I think we might be able to have your car ready for you by tomorrow!" "Whaat!" I replied. "How is that possible? What happened?"

Well, to try and make what has now become a very long story just a little bit shorter, Micky is a shop owner who works VERY hard to try and make his customers happy. He scurries hither and thither all of the time -- one second he's on the phone, the next he's looking under a hood or at a left front tire, the next he's running out to the mailbox to post something. He's constantly on the move!

While I was having my own problems getting a rental car, Micky was back at the shop scrounging up the part my car needed. I'm supposed to call him back later this morning (they close at noon on Saturdays). He couldn't promise -- they would have to test drive it first to make sure all was OK and safe to drive -- but he was hopeful. Incredible man!

OK. It's now almost 7am. Have been up for awhile. Hit the pillow last night around 8:00. Was emotionally drained. Just as soon as I post this, I'm going to send an e-mail to DSL, thanking him for his offer and advising him to read this post so he knows what eventually occurred. I never did call him back, but he didn't call me back, either, so I guess we're even.

Then, I'm going to hit the pillow again for a couple or three hours, get up, and call Micky to see if my car will be ready today. Am supposed to be at DD (Darling Daughter) and DSL's place by 2:45. There's some sort of belated "Mother's Day" outing planned. (The belatedness due, she says, to an inability to get a reservation for the date that she had initially wanted.) I must remember to take my umbrella. It's not supposed to rain. It's just that my skin can tolerate NO sun at all!

Meanwhile, I am extremely grateful to the mechanic who spotted a problem before it had another chance to overwhelm me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In memory

Houston lost one of its most highly respected and well-liked citizens yesterday.

Ron Stone was a television news anchor for thirty years, the last twenty on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. When Ron was with Channel 2, he was most often partnered with Doug Johnson, who did the weather.

[5/15, 2am. I just finished reading a lengthy writeup about Ron. Doug's in there, as well. If you're interested and have the time, go to The accompanying videos that I enjoyed the most were the 3rd, a "Houston TV Legend", the 8th, "Reminiscences of the Front Porch", and the 9th, when Doug & Ron reunited for a one-nite stand in 2002.]

The nightly newscast always closed on a neat story, a piece of good news -- always.

Then, Ron would give his signature close with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, saying, "Good night, friends and neighbors."

He was a fabulous story teller!

We were members of the same church, as it happened, and I was fortunate enough to hear him speak on several occasions. He had one favorite story that he liked to tell. It's been so long since I've heard it that I'm not going to remember many of the details, but the crux of this story was the Know Nothing Party. (It was either that or the Do Nothing Party. Doesn't matter, really, either version would be hilarious!)

Ron had this knack of wrapping a bunch of fiction around a few facts, just enough facts to make the story somewhat believable, and the subject of all this hilarity, as I recall, was Millard Fillmore. I heard the story twice, actually, but I don't think it was quite the same the second time around. No matter. We laughed and laughed!

He had a way of knowing just when to pause, when to skip on ahead, which phrase would be put to best use. Never a miscue. It was obvious that he loved to speak, and we loved to hear him.

He always greeted everyone with a smile and a quick word, and looked you straight in the eyes while doing so.

While I never really knew him personally, I feel a sense of loss at his passing. At the same time, I feel lucky to have known him at all. Go with God, Ron.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I recommend ... #3 ...

I just finished watching (for maybe the 3rd or 4th time) a short tone poem that I highly recommend. I'll probably go back to that site MANY more times. It is truly inspirational.

You can view it here.

Supposedly, 20,000+ people have watched it every day since it was first released in July 2006.

May it enrich your lives as it has mine.

Strawberry Festivals

Local news this morning included a feature on the upcoming Strawberry Festival to be held this weekend in Pasadena, a pretty fair-sized city of a couple hundred thousand or so located just southeast of Houston.

It reminded me of many years ago when my daughter was about 12 years old. She and I went to a lot of festivals around Texas, including the one in Pasadena. Hubby usually worked on Saturdays, so it was most often just the two of us.

We both loved to go and watch all the people having fun. We'd ride the rides, play the games, eat whatever food was being featured, and just have a high old time. We'd come back home laughing, sunburned, and exhausted.

Texas has a lot of festivals. I don't remember for sure, but it seems to me that -- if we'd wanted to -- we could have attended a different one every weekend. Neat!

This one weekend, however, all three of us were in Schulenberg (perhaps one hundred miles west of Houston) for a bowling tournament. We finished early on Saturday. Maybe we were knocked out of the tournament? I don't recall why we finished early. ANYway, there was plenty of time to do something else. We'd already booked a motel room for the night, so we started checking around to see whatall else might be going on that we could take in together as a family.

We thought, perhaps a movie. Well, there was no theater. We thought about just taking a nice leisurely walk around the town to see some of the historic sights (Schulenberg is one of many communities in Central and West Texas that was settled by German immigrants). Then, we heard about a strawberry festival being held in a town maybe half an hour's drive up the road. We went.

This particular rural community was large enough to support a blinking red light in the very center. Wow! A law officer stopped us, and asked if we trying to get through on the state highway. (It seems that the blinking red light area had been closed off to traffic. They were having a street dance! We could hear the music and laughter, and couldn't wait to get there!!) When we told him that we were there for the festival, he gave us some hints as to where we might try to find a parking place. We found one.

Have you ever been to a street dance in a rural area? Well, it's something else!! Young people dancing with old, people dancing holding mere infants, people with no sense of rhythm at all (& who cared?) having just a wonderful time.

We quickly got into the spirit of things. Mostly, tho, we were immensely enjoying ourselves just watching the action. The atmosphere of good will, fun, and hilarity was contagious.

At one point, we were all straining to hear what this 'old coot' was muttering. We'd noticed him standing off to the side, slowly shaking his head and talking to himself. We didn't want him to stop talking. We just wanted to hear what he was saying!

So, we edged closer and closer until, finally, we heard, "Ah thought ah knew everyone in Fayette County, but ah guess ah don't."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Scattered thoughts ...

There are so many stories going through my mind right now, I hardly know where to begin. I hope that this will not turn out to be the world's longest post but, if it looks like it might turn out to be so halfway through, I'll simply do a "part 2", OK?

To begin, I just finished watching Charles Osgood's weekly Sunday Morning show. It was just WONderful!! All of his shows have at least one good thing to offer, but this one was especially memorable.

There was a lengthy segment about mothers adopting babies. I'm not talking about humans here. This story began in Burlington, Iowa, where the Humane Society had taken in a mother and her pups. All of the puppies were adopted out pretty quickly, and the mother was now all alone.

As fate sometimes has it, into the Humane Society's doors came a litter of teeny kittens, ALL of whom needed a mommy with teets full of milk. The Humane Society personnel didn't know how they were going to be able to spend the amount of time that would be necessary to hand bottle-feed each tiny creature.

One of the workers suggested that the abandoned mother might be willing to 'adopt' them. Altho all of the other co-workers scoffed at the idea, they had nothing better to offer, and so they tried it. It worked!!

Many wonderful mother/'child' pictures were shown, followed by a bunch of other "odd" (to say the least!) m/c combos, including a cat adopting a faun, a leopard with a baboon, and a goat with a horse.

To view some more 'neat' photos, those of a dog adopting a piglet, follow this link to Tammy's site. (You'll have to move fast on this one, however, because Tammy's going private, the direct result of personal attacks on her blog site. And yes, that was the reason I wrote yesterday's post.)

There was a fairly short segment on Neil Diamond's return to his original gig, which I enjoyed very much. Made me wish that I had actually met and gotten to know -- at least a little bit -- this man. (Maybe I'll do a post down the road on "Famous people I've met", we'll see.)

Myanmar ... my goodness, what else can be said about those poor people? If you aren't glad that you live in the United States of America, why don't you go to Myanmar? So much world-wide aid has tried to arrive in that country, so much manpower has been offered, almost ALL of which has been rejected by the ruling military junta, 'afraid' that their power might be undermined ... the best guesstimates now are that one a half million lives will be lost, perhaps even more. Unimaginable! Incomprehensible!!

Let's get away, FAR away, from Myanmar, OK?

I had absolutely deLIGHTful lengthy phone conversations with DD (Darling Daughter, and a wonderful mother in her own right!) this morning.

Now that I have your attention focused elsewhere, let me tell you what happened last night. First, tho, I'll ask you, "Do any of you have a fireplace?"

I'm not talking about a faux fireplace here. I'm talking about a REAL fireplace ... one where you have to make sure you have the flue open before you ignite your fire, one where smoke goes up and out an actual chimney ... have you got one of those? I do.

Well, last night, as I was watching Good Will Hunting (not for the first time), I heard sounds that seemed to be coming from within my own home. They were strange sounds! At first, it almost sounded as though there was some thing/one scraping, clawing ... I couldn't immediately identify the sounds.

I thought, "My gosh, those termites have had babies out the wazoo, and the house is about to fall down on me!" (No, that's NOT what I thought. I just made that up, OK?)

My actual thought was, "It's the TV. Something's wrong with the TV." (You all know that I'm a dinosaur. I have an old analog TV, and have been tentatively expecting it to 'retire itself' just about every time I turn it on.) I turned the TV off. The sounds, wherever they were originating from, continued. So, I went exploring.

I turned on the light in the back porch area, which illuminates the whole yard. Nothing there of any consequence. I then focused on the roof. Couldn't see anything amiss. I went through all of the rooms of the house ... found nothing unusual.

Just as I was about to give up, I thought about the fireplace. [I always leave the flue open -- this due, I suppose, to many years ago when I started a fire with the flue closed and you wouldn't believe the amount of smoke that filled the house within (seemingly) a millisecond!]

Sure enuf, that's where the noise originated. It was dark in that room, but I could clearly hear the fluttering of wings as this IDIOT bird kept trying to escape back to where from whence he'd come.

I dasn't turn on a light. I didn't want said idiot to intrude any further into my private domain. I went back into the other room, turned the TV back on, and enjoyed the remainder of the movie.

Eventually, the noises ceased. And still no Xtra lights were turned on. I went to bed thinking, "What if this idiot ----- on me during my sleep?" I didn't bother my head further about that possibility. I hit the pillow.

Well, it's now MANY hours later ... broad daylight ... I've heard no extraneous sounds other than those normal to my everyday abode ... STILL, I have yet to venture near the fireplace to see if there is a corpse lying there. (Am I a gutless wonder, or what?!? Don't answer that, OK?)

Let me conclude this post by wishing any and all of you would be/expectant/actually are/wannabe mothers out there a most "Happy Mother's Day".

Saturday, May 10, 2008

On blogging ... ...

Since January this year, when I first emerged onto the blogging scene, I have learned a lot about myself and even more about the Internet.

I would like today's post to reflect just a few of my observations.

[By the way, I have no intention whatsoever of referring you to any of my previous posts, wherein I may already have stated some of the same comments or even a similar opinion. If you're interested, you'll look. If you're not, you won't. So be it.]

I guess about the only thing I'd like to expand upon is 'personal comments'.

1) If you disagree with the author, and you're a new 'reader/browser', why not just go on to another blog site? (There are only about a gazillion others out there!!)

2) If this has been one of your favorite sites for some time, but you find yourself now vehemently disagreeing with this particular post, well -- either try to make a comment constructively, while at the same time making sure that you are not personally attacking the author, or -- delete this site that has all of a sudden become so objectionable to you!

3) If you're on some sort of personal vendetta, then I would strongly suggest that you "Get a life"!

4) Do you have your own site? If not, I recommend that you get one and publish your OWN feelings/thoughts/personal opinions ... kind of a "See how YOU like it" type of thing.

Unfortunately, there are MANY people out there who live to prey on others, to pounce when someone else stumbles or falls. I can only hope that you, dear reader, are not one of those. If you are, may I suggest a 'gazillion' other sites?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

In my perfect world ... ...

... I take naps whenever I please.

... The house cleans itself.

... I travel all over the world.

... I have all my teeth.

... My body has no aches or pains.

... I am a gourmet cook.

... I lean back in my leather recliner and read a good book by the fire.

... The car always starts and runs beautifully.

... I have a spinet piano.

... Money is never an issue.

... I have a regular duplicate bridge partner.

... The Astros win the World Series.

... The leaders of our country sincerely and honestly have the people's interests at heart and work amicably together to achieve their goals.

And there you have it ... concise, meaningful, but I don't know about profound ... for my 100th post, 100 words, exactly!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The 'Stros

Well, I feel just the teensiest little bit of excitement building. After an abysmal start, the Houston Astros are now over the five hundred mark.

Before I started driving a taxicab back in '89, I had only a vague interest in the Astros, and that only because they were the hometown team. It's not that I dislike baseball. Quite the contrary. In fact, I still have my bat! (Used to have my ball and mitt, too, but they have long since disappeared.)

No, the reason that I didn't pay much attention to the 'Stros was that I wanted to play, not listen to or watch someone else play!

But when you're in the car a lot, -- and, as a cab driver, I was in the car a lot! --more often than not, I would guess, the radio is on.

I channel-surfed quite a bit at first, but then found myself returning more and more to the station that broadcast the Houston Astros' games. They had a 'color' man, Larry Dierker, who really caught my attention. He had such interesting stories to tell! It was obvious that he loved the game. I found his enthusiasm infectious, and then one day I realized that I was well on the way to becoming a pretty hefty-sized fan.

At that time, the team was still playing in the Astrodome, and taxicabs did not have to pay a parking fee to enter -- the assumption being, of course, that they weren't staying, simply picking up or dropping off a customer.

"Well," I thought to myself one evening after I'd dropped a customer off at the Medical Center, which is about five minutes away from the Dome, "why not stop by at that hotel right next to the stadium? You see the words 'sports bar' advertised all the time. Check it out, and see what's going on. Then, maybe you can swing by the Dome after the game and see if you can snag a customer."

So I started dropping in there, at first from time to time, but then more and more often. I became one of the 'regulars'. Well, this one night I got there a little bit late, and the game wasn't on. I exclaimed, "Whaaat!" I was told that it was 'blacked out' locally.

I immediately exited the bar, got in the cab, drove around the corner to the Dome, and was waved in through the gates. As I got closer to the stadium, I noticed a vehicle or two exiting and thought, "Hmm, I wonder if there's a parking spot available up near the front?" There was, in the second row ... how sweet is that??

The next potential problem was that of entry. I could see that they were still taking tickets (!!) ... why would that be, it was like the 6th or 7th inning, for crying out loud. I wasn't about to pay for a ticket only to see two or three innings' worth of a ballgame! Then, I noticed that there was someone standing just outside one of the service doors smoking a cigarette. As I continued to watch, he put out his cigarette and went back inside.

I thought to myself, "Self, I wonder if you can get in the same way he did?" Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? So, I tried it. Empty hallway -- no guard -- leading directly to the mezzanine level. I was IN! Exhilarating!!

Thus began a pattern of behavior that became more and more frequent as the years progressed. By the time 1994 rolled around, I was a full-fledged member of Baseball Maniacs Anonymous. I couldn't sleep the night before 'opening day'. My AM radio station was automatically programmed to include every sports station within broadcast distance, and I practically lived and breathed baseball.

When I would arrive at the taxicab staging area each day, I would be greeted with either a smile or a groan, depending on how the Astros were doing ... sometimes a laugh, if the Astros had done poorly and the other person's team had done well. That's about all I was interested in talking about, baseball.

1994 ... the infamous year of the strike. I was at the game when Bagwell hit multiple home runs. I was at the game that went over twenty innings. I was at the game where the fans were chanting, "Don't strike. Don't strike."

It didn't seem to make any difference to the players what the fans thought. Then, Bagwell was hit by a pitch that broke his wrist. He was finished for the season. The players struck, the World Series was played out on computers, and I was madder than ... (well, never mind what I was madder than).

1995 ... I attended no games. I listened to no games. I watched no games.

1996 ... I thought to myself, "Self, what you did last year wasn't enough. You need to actively protest." So, I did. I actually bought a ticket (gasp) for a home game, got there early, booed the Astros in batting practice, booed the starting lineup as it was announced, and cheered for the opposing team (have NO idea who it might have been, but that didn't matter -- it was the principle of the thing!).

It's a really good thing that I didn't take my bat with me. I probably would have been tempted to try and run out on the field and actually assault one of the players. Then, I'd have been arrested and put in jail, my bat confiscated, who knows what other nasty things.

OK. So that was it, my 'protest game'. I was terribly unpopular in the stadium, as you might imagine, but I didn't give a hoot what anyone else thought. After the game was over, I realized that my anger was gone, like it had evaporated. What was left in its place was almost a complete and total lack of interest, just a touch below the level of what it was before I started driving a taxi.

And there it remained until, maybe a year or two later, the announcement was made that Larry Dierker was to be the new manager. That piqued my interest, and I started paying attention again.

[There'll be another post on the Astros down the road, I promise. So much has been left out of this story. I'll probably be publishing a post or two on football as well as at least one on basketball. Maybe one on hockey. Soccer is so far out of my realm of personal experience that I'll probably never address that one!]

Well, as I said at the start of this post, there's some excitement building. To be continued.

What's currently going on in my life

Well, #1 is that I was supposed to be attending a "job fair" today in the Galleria area. So, in preparation for that, I spent a good part of yesterday and even early this morning updating resumes, making copies of same, etc.

Then, I reread what was 'required' to attend. Altho the job fair was free and no pre-registration was required, resumes (countless numbers, no doubt!) were to be readily available and 'business attire' was to be worn.

The last dealiepop, that of business attire, threw me for a loop!

Well, needless to say, guess who is still at home?? However, her resumes have been updated and she's ready to face another day!

I'll latch onto something neat (or they'll latch onto me, one or the other) in the very near future, I really DO feel sure. I'm READY!!

#2. I took the time to watch PBS' two-part series on George Herbert Walker Bush.

I have a great deal of regard for the Bush family, I really do, but I fear that "W" may not have been up to the task of being President of the United States of America.

I am CERTAIN that, if GHWB had been re-elected, this country would be in a much better position at home (economically), and -- most definitely -- world-wide! I blame that little pipsqueak, Ross Perot, for Clinton's getting into office initially.

For eight long years, I hung my head and was embarrassed to say that I was an American, and that's the truth.

I really dislike political blogs, and am somewhat apologetic for putting this one out there.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Another rant

Two days in a row? What's going on here, anyway?!?

Well, I had the car radio on, that's what happened. Why was I in the car? Well, I took another set of customers to the airport, that's why.

All might have been OK if it hadn't been for the fact that all of the sports stations were discussing basketball, which is WAY down the totem pole on my list of interests. So, I started channel surfing and happened to catch the Laura Ingraham show.

A guest host, and what he had to say wasn't too obnoxious, so I thought, "What the hey! This might be semi-interesting, and perhaps not so mind-numbing that I would be tempted to take a nap while driving back to the house." I stayed tuned.

The main topic of conversation was, of course, the primaries being held today in North Carolina and Indiana. Some interviews were conducted, opinions expressed, etc., and then a commercial came on. (You know how the volume always seems to be louder during commercials? It not only 'seems to be', it IS!! Supposedly illegal, but everyone [and his/her proverbial aunt and uncle] does it.)

So what's got my dander up today?

The darned commercial, that's what!! (In retrospect, I guess I should have just listened to some good music -- I've got a bunch of my "Favorites" programmed in -- , but I didn't, and here we are.)

The commercial was about the school board elections coming up in Katy (a pretty good-sized city just west of Houston) this Saturday. "... ... if you vote for these three candidates, the Katy ISD will have a Republican majority for the first time in twenty years ... ... good old conservative values, against big government, lowering taxes ... ..."

NOwhere in this commercial did I hear anything about the candidates' qualifications other than their affiliation with a political party. Disgraceful, in my opinion!! I couldn't wait to get home to get started on this post.

Some 22-23 years ago, I was asked to run for the Alief (That's where I live. It's a MUCH smaller community just southwest of Houston.) ISD school board. I declined. I knew that I was fully-qualified, but I had so many other things going on in my life at that time that I didn't think I could handle one more.

I don't know if I would have had to declare a political affiliation to run. If that had been the case -- and, if I could not have stated 'Independent' on my application -- I would have declined simply out of principle.

It is my firm belief that politics -- as in 'Republican', 'Democrat', whatever -- should have absolutely NO role whatsoever in education!! I'll stand by that statement until I am unable to utter another word.

I cannot even begin to tell you how distressed I was by that commercial. It made me want to go out and run an ad! (And certainly, if I were a Katy voter, I would look at all of the candidates very carefully. The ad even makes me wonder if ANY of them are 'qualified'?!?)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Teaching to a test ...

... is, in my opinion, absolutely the WORST kind of 'teaching'. You're not teaching, you're taking the lazy man's way out!

My latest rant is based on a talk radio show that was airing as I was returning home from taking two of my personal customers to Intercontinental Airport this morning.

The host was referring to the TAKS, the ACT, the BS (I made up the last one, OK?), and -- at least the inferences I was getting -- he seemed to think, "How else can we measure students' progress or teacher competency/efficiency?"

Don't get me wrong here. There are instances when one must 'teach to a test' ... spelling competitions/bees, for example ... important dates in history, etc. Those things must be memorized.

There was a wonderful movie made some years ago -- based on a true story, I believe -- starring James Edward (?) Olmos, who portrayed a math teacher in (I think!) the Los Angeles area.

He did not try and teach to a test. Instead, he tried to instill in his students the major underlying concepts involved. The students 'got it'.

Test time came around. They scored so high that the results were thrown out, the students were accused of cheating, and another test was administered -- this one closely monitored, of course. As I recall, they scored even higher the second time! They understood and could extrapolate!!

He not only had taught them the underlying concepts, he had showed them how to think and apply same. Now, THAT is teaching!

I was reminded, on my drive back, of a M*A*S*H episode -- I love that series! -- , the one where Klinger, in his efforts to bone up on an upcoming test for a possible promotion, somehow gets hold of the answers and then proceeds to write them down on various parts of his body. Did you ever see that one?

Well, anyway, 'contortionist extraordinaire' becomes a little discombobulated in trying to locate the various answers. Not only that, but BJ has mixed up the order of the questions. Oh, no!!!

Mr. McGonigle, the principal of the school where I taught for several years, once told me, "Helen, I don't care if you have the children stand on their heads all day long! I've been observing you for some time now, have received many reports from parents, have listened to the second grade teachers' comments on the preparation their students had received (I was teaching first grade at the time), and have seen, first-hand, how much your students like to come to school and want to learn."

[Now, I must tell you the truth here. Mr. McGonigle NEVER came into my classroom to 'observe' -- at least, not that I was aware. At the same time, his office was right next door to my classroom.]

I LOVE teaching!! No two ifs/ands/buts/sixes about it ... there is, again in my own opinion now, nothing to equal it! See a couple of my earlier posts to get a little more background ... here ... and here.

There you have it, my 'rant' for the day. I'll probably have many more down the road, as teaching is my true love.

[I feel a great need to edit/add to this post, and it is this. I am not perfect, was not ever perfect, and for certain will not ever be perfect!! These are my 'imperfect' personal views, only, as of 5/5/08.]

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Scattered thoughts & spellings/definitions

I've been wracking my brain for a day or so now, trying to figure out what I'm going to publish on my 100th post (this is my 95th). I had wanted to write something 'special' for my 50th, but that anniversary passed me by before I even realized that I had written that many!!

[Have just looked up the various definitions for "wrack" in my out-dated dictionary and on Wiktionary, and BOTH use only such terms as 'misery', 'punishment', 'ruin', and 'destruction', all of which come from the "Old English" spelling. Jiminy Christmas, I hope I'm not destroying, ruining, or punishing my brain by wracking it?

But THEN I thought, "What if it's actually spelled 'rack'?" (!!)

So, I went to dic/Wiktionary again. Lo and behold, there it was!! The definition I had originally intended, which was, "to struggle to think of something".

Ye Gods!! So, now I'm supposed to 'rack' my brain, put it on a shelf somewhere? That's what it seems like to me.

All right, I give up. I'll compromise.]

Anyway, there I was, w/racking my brain, and I've come up with a few ideas, which are (with editorial comments included) ... ...

... 1) 100 things 'about me'. (Who cares? Too long, anyway. Give me a shortcut, PLEASE!) Besides, I think I already mentioned in a much earlier post that I would probably do a '71 things' on my 71st birthday, which is coming up next month.

... 2) The story of '6s' in my family. (While interesting and as yet unpublished, I don't think that would be appropriate for the 100th post.)

... 3) Good things. (Not much of a challenge, really. There are all SORTS of good stories out there! Too bad the media -- and John Q general public -- doesn't agree.)

I think I have FInally come up with a winner. Ready? Here it is ...

... 4) A post of EXACTLY 100 words that would be -- of necessity -- concise and yet meaningful, possibly even profound.

NOW, I believe that I have thrown down the gauntlet.

Am open to any and all suggestions. Will you or will you not accept the challenge?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I recommend ... #2 ...

... that you check out Tammy's post from earlier today ... absolutely GORgeous photographs of icebergs! Am not sure I've ever seen any quite like them.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Good news, bad news

Well, I guess I'll give you the bad news first.

It was bound to happen. So, when it did, I wasn't too surprised ... unhappy, but not surprised.

As all y'all know, I've been on this spareribs and sauerkraut 'kick' for awhile now. Last night, the binge continued. And, after gorging myself yet once again, made my way to the refrigerator with (still quite warm) very large baking dish held firmly by pot holders on one side and oven mitt on the other. I had a shelf in the refrigerator all set to receive the container.

I had always been careful to set the baking dish down either on the top of the stove or the butcher block counter prior to opening the refrigerator door so that I could accomplish the final act safely, and last night was no exception.

However, last night the refrigerator door chose to start closing again just as I was coming up to it. Guess who did not set the dish down again? Guess who, instead, tried to 'elbow' it back open, losing her grip on the dish?

No fair, you guessed the first time! Needless to say, spareribs, sauerkraut, and large pieces of what had been -- just moments before -- a very fine baking dish went EVERYwhere. What a mess!!

It took some time to try and gather all of the broken pieces (giving my thumb a pretty good whack and leaving blood all over the floor before I realized I'd cut it!), and then even more time to try and gather up all of the ruined food. Yeah, it was a mess.

OK. That was the bad news.

Spent some time talking on the phone with DD (Darling Daughter) yesterday, telling her that I was tired of using the same old recipes (altho I was still on my spareribs and sauerkraut dealiebop), and asked her what she was cooking up lately.

Then, after cruising through some of my favorite blog sites, I remembered that one had posted a website for recipes. My last two+ hours have been enjoyably spent there.

In other good news, I sure hope that some of you have heard about this really heart-warming story ... but, if you haven't, here's the synopsis.

Baseball ... girls ... high school. (If I don't have all of the following details right, please overlook my faulty memory. I only heard the story once.)

This one gal hits a three-run homer. In her excitement in 'running' the bases, she somehow hits first base wrong and goes to the ground. She's unable to get up again, having seriously injured her knee.

(Maybe it was college? The words "Oregon State" keep coming to mind. Whatever.)

The 'rules' stipulate that you must be able to round the bases without help from your teammates. So, what happened? Do you know??

What happened was that two members of the opposing team carried her around the bases. There were no rules against that! Is that scrumpdeliocious or WHAT?!?