Wednesday, November 30, 2005
A Stormii Day
My dear DIL, PresentStorm, is having some tests done today to be sure that the lumpybumpy things are nothing serious. Please say a little prayer for her, and then run over and leave her a message. Kind thoughts and good wishes are the best medicine in the world.

posted at 10:50 AM
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005
It's My Birthday And I'll Cry If I Want To
Okay, it's now the 40th anniversary of my 21st birthday, and my 21st was MUCH more exciting, believe me. But considering the rate at which I've been losing friends and co-workers, I guess I should just be glad I'm still here. But DAMN, I hate this getting old thing...

We took our whirlwind trip to Japan -- left the morning after Thanksgiving and came home Monday afternoon. It turns out there's even a term for this: mileage run. Apparently there are a lot of people who need one more trip to get or maintain a frequent flyer status.

Japan -- at least what I saw of it -- is lovely, much more mountainous than I realized. It was immaculate, and very safe. People park their bikes and don't put a lock on them. They are so friendly and can't do enough for you. And polite! Even the police did a deep bow when they had to stop the traffic. I noticed that people there can have a cell phone conversation right next to you, and you don't hear a word of it. I made a terrible faux pas -- I preceded the Professor off an elevator, while all the other women waited for him to exit first -- but even though I'm sure they were shocked, they did not show it. The Professor had to explain that to me later. In all the restaurants, he was served first; everywhere we went, I was expected to follow him. (Let me tell you, ladies, we have it a whole lot better here than we realize.)

Japan seems to have a love affair with the west. There were Christmas trees everywhere. My favorite was decorated with Hello Kitty cutouts. Store windows were showing white wedding gowns and formals. We saw a wedding party in one hotel; a couple of the guests were wearing kimonos with obis, but for the most part everyone was in western dress. And apparently if you don't have a pair of knee-high, high-heeled, black boots, you are totally out of style. I saw those boots with everything from skirts and sweaters, to frilly pastel dresses, to pants, to cocktail dresses. (You can bet I was scrunching down so my pants legs would cover my Reeboks. I was SO out of style!)

Now we all know that Japan is THE place for electronic gadgets. How do you like this one?

This little gem allows your ordinary everyday toilet to become a bidet or a -- um -- backside washer at the touch of a button. But I don't think this is found in every household. On the trains, the bathrooms are labeled "western style" and "Japanese style", Japanese style being a hole in the floor.






We didn't have time to do a lot, but we did get down to Hiroshima. ( For the record, the people there pronounce it He-ro-she-ma, not Hirosh-ema.) We went to Peace Park, which is very moving. I know in my brain that dropping the atomic bomb saved at least a million lives, and that ordinary bombs and even refinery accidents melt people's skin right off them, but when you see the pictures of Hiroshima before and after the bomb, and the victims, and the clothes some of them were wearing ... well, let's just say I cried my way through another museum. The most touching thing is a statue of a child which is covered with folded paper cranes in bright colors. A little girl got leukemia as a result of radiation exposure, and she believed that if she could fold 1000 paper cranes, she would live. She eventually folded over 1300, but she died nonetheless. The children of Japan made her into a symbol, and they replenish the paper cranes around the monument every week. This is 60 years later, mind you, and still they are folding those cranes in hopes that peace will come to the world.




I'm sure you've all seen this before, but this is one of the two or three buildings that withstood the bomb. It wasn't very far from here that a 3 year old boy was riding on his beloved tricycle. His father thought he was too young to be buried away from home, so he buried the child and his tricycle in his back yard. A few years ago, he dug them up and gave the tricycle to the museum. (They didn't allow pictures, but I doubt I could have focused through my tears, anyway.)

The reason the Allies picked Hiroshima as the 1st target was because it was thought to be the only place without prisoners of war. There were also weapons factories here. Japan takes full responsibility for Pearl Harbor, and for their treatment of Chinese and Korean captives -- slaves -- forced laborers -- comfort women -- any and all of the above. The Professor said he could take me to a museum in Tokyo where the mea culpa's are noticeably absent, but at least in Hiroshima they are not acting like innocent victims. They are just showing how awful war really is.

Well, aren't I cheerful on my birthday! Oh, and for anyone here by way of Guppyman, except for the times his sisters dressed him up in their old dresses, he only wore a dress and makeup once (that I know of, anyway!), and that was to a Halloween party. He did look adorable, though...

posted at 2:27 PM
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Wednesday, November 23, 2005
A while back I was whining about having to go to a sales meeting 12/6 - 12/8 and then a trade show 12/12- 12/15. Well, yesterday I was informed that I have to go to the factory 12/20-12/22! Can you believe this!!!!! I sent my boss an email and asked if I could skip the sales meeting, which we both know is a total waste of my time. I probably surprised him by trying to get out of the early meeting, not the one right before Christmas -- anyway, he said to let him think about it. This was a WAY better response than I expected.

But they're not stealing my Christmas, no matter how hard they try. For several days I've been getting up early and baking Christmas cookies (and freezing them) while I listen to Christmas music. In a few minutes I'm heading for Foley's, which is opening at 6:00 AM today, and which just happens to have something on sale that a certain grandchild wants. I only wish I had a tree already, and the house decorated. If I don't get a reprieve from the sales meeting, I will have 8 days in December that I get to spend at home. I love Christmas -- the sights, the smells, the music, the decorations, the opportunities to do nice things for people. So I will enjoy every second of it that I can.

Here is my recipe for Thumbprints. Except for a couple of weird people who don't like chocolate, everyone is crazy about these. I especially like to watch the reaction of people who think they're getting a Hershey's kiss on a sugar cookie.

Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla (Mexican vanilla makes them SO much better!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
2 tlbsp. milk
1/4 chocolate chips, chopped

Cream butter, salt, vanilla & brown sugar. Add flour & milk and mix. Stir in chopped chips.
Form in balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Form depression in each cookie with thumb. Bake at 375 deg. 10-12 minutes. I like to roll cookies in powdered sugar before placing on cooling rack.

















Filling

Melt 3/4 cup chocolate chips with 1 tblsp. shortening. Cool slightly; add 2 tblsp. light Karo syrup, 1 tblsp. water and 1 tsp. vanilla. Fill depressions in cookies.


I always make a double batch. It used to be that a small bag of chocolate chips made a single batch, and the large bag made a double batch, but I noticed the other day that they've changed the sizes.










Y'all should be flattered: this recipe is my most cherished, and my claim to fame in the cookie department, and I seldom give it out.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

posted at 5:06 AM
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The Day the World Changed
November 22, 1963. I was in college in Colorado Springs. I had just finished lunch. When I walked into the dishroom to return my tray, one of the food service workers ran up to me and said "L'il Bit, have you heard, the President's been shot!" It is with deep shame that I recall my flip answer -- "It was probably my daddy who did it" -- but I was Dallas-bred, a few days shy of my 19th birthday, and completely unable to grasp what had just happened. Our parents had lived through the Great Depression and fought World War II. They had conquered all the evils of the world, and used the peace and prosperity that resulted from their struggles to protect us from all harm and shower us with everything we wanted. If the President had been shot, it was no more than a graze to the shoulder. Bad things did not, could not, happen in the world we all knew.

I went on to my class. There was no professor, just a bunch of thoroughly bewildered students who had all heard the same news and were beginning to grasp that something profoundly awful had happened. After about twenty minutes, the professor came into the class. Looking back, I am sure he was dressed normally, but in my memory he was dishelveled, hair awry, looking as though he'd been struggling through a thicket. He said "What are you doing here! Haven't you heard, the President's been shot! Go home. Go watch tv."

We did go back to our dorms, and for days we watched tv. We saw Jackie Kennedy in her blood-stained suit, standing beside Lyndon Johnson as he took the oath of office. We saw her again a few days later, walking with amazing strength behind her husband's cortege. We saw John-John salute his father's casket. And we saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas City Jail.

As much as I grieved for the President -- because, despite my instinctive sassiness when I first heard the news, I had come to deeply respect him and believe in what he stood for -- the worst thing, for me, was Ruby shooting Oswald. We were studying Plato in my philosophy class at that time, and the contrast between a society of laws and the anarchy represented by Ruby's action was so stark, and so frightening, that it shook me to my soul. It was in those few days that I put together an ethical framework for my life. I believe that the only hope for civilization is a society in which laws are respected and obeyed. We can work to change laws we don't like, but we cannot pick and choose which ones we will obey.

The world changed that November day. That sense that nothing bad could ever happen vanished in the blink of an eye. The young President who inspired us to be better than we were-- "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask instead what you can do for your country" --and who challenged us to blaze new trails-- "A man on the moon in this decade"-- was gone. When the ideals of youth are extinguished so abruptly, bad things result, and so they did: riots, assassinations, excessive drug use, a breakdown of traditions and families.

John Kennedy left us with some good things, for those of us old enough to remember, and those young enough to discover him. He believed in democracy. He believed in the people. And he believed that if we would all put in the effort, we could accomplish great things.

May he rest in peace.

posted at 9:29 AM
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Monday, November 21, 2005
Travel, travel, travel
The Professor, who has a lifetime Platinum reward status with an airline (his father was a captain for that airline, so he got a head start), managed to get me Gold status last year by taking me to Africa. Gold is good. They automatically upgrade me to 1st class on domestic flights, and we can buy cheap coach tickets for overseas flights, pay a little money & a few miles, and get 1st class on most overseas flights. But this year I haven't accumulated enough miles to keep my Gold status; in fact, it looked like I wasn't even going to make Silver.

Well, the Professor didn't like that at all, so he set out to do something about it. He decided we should take a trip the day after Thanksgiving and return on Monday. (My vacation year runs May 1 to April 30, but I have to do this travel in this calendar year.) I suggested a lot of domestic destinations. Only Anchorage was far enough, and, I don't know, something about the idea of bitter cold and no sun just didn't turn me on. (Actually, Hawaii was far enough, but the flights are outrageously expensive at this time of year, at least when you're buying at the last minute.) So I suggested Ecuador, France, Spain, Portugal. I went to run a couple of errands. He called me, triumphantly, and announced that we are going to ....

Tokyo.

Tokyo???? I can't even get an anagram from the places I suggested! The Professor's explanation was that normally you can't get a 1st class upgrade on those flights no matter who you are, but apparently no one is traveling there at Thanksgiving. (Have I mentioned before that he is even worse about a bargain than I am?) So we are leaving Friday morning for a 13 hour flight to Tokyo. It will be Saturday morning when we get there, but he assures me I will never see the sun rise or set. We are coming back on Monday and will arrive in Houston 4 hours before we leave Tokyo. I'm not sure what we will do on our whirlwind tour -- either visit Hiroshima or catch a plane for Sapporo to see the snow monkeys. I'm inclined toward the latter, but since the Professor is better at making these arrangements, I'll leave it to him.

I don't want to sound like a spoiled brat, but I am soooo dreading this trip -- wrong time, too long a flight for my sinuses to handle, way too much to do at home and at work. But I know he won't give me any peace unless I go with him. I do intend to enjoy it. I'm not so spoiled that I'd get all pouty and ruin the trip. His son & family will be here for Thanksgiving. Sometimes they stay over, sometimes they don't. Well, they're welcome to stay as long as they want, it's just that we won't be here. Sad, huh, but his son grew up this way (travel comes first) and doesn't see anything strange about it.

While he was at it, the Professor made reservations leaving December 30th for Switzerland, coming back on the 4th of January. I have always wanted to ski in Switzerland, and now I will get to. I am excited about that trip. I guess we sound like jet-setters, but we travel more like Rick Steves (of PBS.) Pictures soon!

posted at 5:26 PM
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Friday, November 18, 2005
Deep in the Heart of Kenya Part 2

Here are a few more pictures from the Samburu Game Reserve.


This tree is full of weaver bird nests. They are very sociable and will fill a whole tree.

There was a whole troop of baboons living on the river. They didn't pay much attention to us. The bush in the picture is called a Thorn Bush -- those thorns about 4 inches long -- the Samburu & Masai use this as fences to keep the lions out. One afternoon we witnessed what was probably the aftermath of a coup attempt. One large baboon was chasing several others. He chased one into the river and patrolled the shore so the river-bound one could not get out. I have never heard such loud screams as I heard during that battle.

We called this the Stork Club. I hate to burst your bubble about storks (but I will!) They are scavengers. When the hyenas and vultures show up, so do the storks.

We thought this lion was dead when we spotted him, but he was just napping. Lions and cheetahs are so confident of their abilities that they will lie down anywhere they want, right in the open. Every other animal either travels in a pack for protection or hides.

Here are our guides, Joseph and Peter, two of the nicest men I have ever met. They don't get to see much of their families, and they have to put up with all kinds of tourists, but they love their jobs. Peter was sponsored as a child through Christian Children's Fund, and he said it changed his life, that he would not have been able to attend school without it. I sponsor a little boy in Senegal, and it only costs $288 a year. My little boy is not much of a writer, but he draws pictures for me, and I tuck stickers and balloons in the letters I send to him. Now that I have first-hand proof that CCF actually works, I try to recommend it to everyone. How often do we get a chance to change someone's life?


posted at 5:46 AM
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Thursday, November 17, 2005
She's Only Looking
Last night the Professor and I attended a private event at a museum. (It was put on by a company he owns a little stock in -- just 100 shares or so -- but they didn't restrict attendance to the wealthy ones.) It was actually pretty cool: we saw an Imax movie, had free drinks and food, and got to tour a new exhibit. We had to exit through the gift shop, and of course I stopped once or twice to look at something. That's where I heard this conversation:

HE (barely containing his anger): I've been waiting for you outside. I'm very upset. You didn't tell me you were going to shop.
SHE (very defensively): I'm not shopping, I'm just looking!

posted at 4:24 AM
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Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Deep in the Heart of Kenya Part 1
After seeing my acacia tree post yesterday, Star innocently asked "Do you have any more Africa pictures?" Does the beach have grains of sand? This was the most incredible trip I have ever taken, and I love to share it with others.

After a night at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi -- yes, that Norfolk Hotel, the one that was blown up, and where kings and authors and all kinds of famous people have stayed --we moved on to Sweetwater's Tented Camp. It is a private camp, so we were allowed to do a night drive. Two lionesses and four cubs were hunting. They got right up against the wheels of the Land Rover and used the headlights to help them drive game. First they chased a cape buffalo. He came tearing around the corner of the Land Rover, so close I could have reached out and touched him (if I had very quick reflexes) with a lioness is pursuit. You know how you see it on tv where the cat reaches out to the prey's hind legs and the next thing you know the prey is down?.... well, I saw that instant when she should have reached out, but she didn't. She let the buffalo get away. Then she chased a zebra. She let it get away. By now, the whole park was full of the smell of hunting lions and even the elephants were trumpeting and running away. Finally, the lioness caught a rabbit -- yes, a fluffy bunny. She toyed with it, she paraded it in front of her cubs, but she obviously wasn't hungry. We were pretty certain that she was only teaching her cubs to hunt.
In the morning we were able to watch the animals come to the watering hole. BTW, Animal Kingdom at Disney World does a good job of re-creating this, and the watering hole at Animal Kingdom Lodge looks just like the one at Sweetwater's. Our morning began with the sound of "Jambo!" accompanied by a knock on the tent flap. When I unzipped the flap, there was a woman with a tray holding a pot of coffee.
A cup of hot coffee, the cold air (because it's high elevation) an African sunrise and giraffes drinking right before your eyes -- incredible.

We stopped at Jane Goodall's Chimp Refuge, not the compound where she studied Fifi, Frodo, et al., but a sanctuary for chimps that were neglected and/or abused in captivity. They are all neurotic and several of them have physical ailments as well from being kept in small cages, but they are living out their lives in an area with trees and streams and tall grass -- and a big fence around it to keep out the predators, as they have no survival skills.

This is the lobby of our hotel at the Samburu Game Reserve. The cool, wet washcloths we received when we returned from our game drives, were so welcome to wipe off the dust.
We took two drives a day, leaving right after sunrise and getting back just in time for lunch, and an afternoon drive which got us back just about dark.






There were small monkeys everywhere, apparently very mischievious, because there were signs warning us to keep our cabin door closed. Samburu is in the lowlands, and it was the only place on our whole trip where it was hot. But we kept the door closed, anyway.






We traveled by Land Rover. The animals think they are rocks; they are totally unaware there are humans inside -- or maybe they think we're not worth the effort to kill. These seat 6, and there is room for everyone to stand and take pictures at the same time. [Side note: if you get the chance to go to Africa, you cannot take too much memory for your camera. Trust me on this.] The 1st day we were so awed to see one giraffe, or one elephant -- I even have a picture of elephant dung. After several days in Africa, while you're still snapping pictures constantly, you do develop some discernment.

Samburu has a lot of elephants. Elephants are known for having stong family bonds, and they will even gather around a strange dead elephant and apparently mourn for it, so when this baby was having a hard time scrambling up the river bank, I expected one of the group to come give it some help. But no. That little one had to do it entirely on its own, and it was only when the group started to move off that it got the strength to get onto shore. Who knew that elephants practice tough love?




One male impala, one harem. There is always a group of bachelors nearby, just waiting for their chance to steal some females, or to challenge the top impala to a fight. The female on the left made a run for it. The male first tried to talk her back with a "phffffft" sound. I'm still not sure if that was sweet talk or Woman, get back here!, but whatever it was, it didn't work. So he took off after her. As soon as he left, several others got the idea to run. The male was racing around, trying to herd them all up, and losing more of them with every minute. I just kept thinking, wouldn't this be a whole lot easier if you only had one female? (Oh, such a feminist!)

We visited a Samburu village one morning. They are related to the Masai. The government has turned most of their traditional hunting lands into game preserves, so they have had to find other ways to earn a living. Their chief was educated at Cambridge University (had a beautiful British accent), but returned to his village. He is not trying to change their culture, but he is trying to improve their living standard.
Visitors pay $20 a head to come to the village. The money is being used to build a school and a clinic and to improve sanitation. People here still die of malaria, or from crocodile or lion attacks. The women greet you with songs and dances; later you are invited to dance with them. The women in Africa do everything: build the house, grow the crops, raise the children, fetch the water, cook the food... The men take care of the livestock (until they have a son old enough to do it) and protect the family from lions. Now before you men think, gee, I should move to Africa, let me tell you that they are circumcised at age 10. Ouch, right? Unfortunately, the women are circumcised, too. The government is trying to mount a campaign against it, but the men will not marry an uncircumcised woman, and she has no status unless she's married, so........

The house in the picture is made of sticks. The roof is cow dung. This, to me, was a step up from the Masai, whose entire house is made of cow dung. We went inside this house. It is very dark and they keep a fire smoking all the time for mosquito protection. There was a bed about the size of a crib mattress in one corner. "This is where the man sleeps." In the other corner, maybe 3 steps away, was something the size of a chair. "This is where the woman and her children sleep."

I enjoyed dancing with the women (can you tell?) I didn't buy a necklace, but I did buy one of the headbands and a bunch of bracelets. I also bought a wooden doll, complete with hair and beads, that still smells of wood smoke. They are such beautiful, friendly people.






The children were the best of all. These are the elementary school-age ones; the older ones walk either 3 miles in 5 hours, or 5 miles in 3 hours, I can't remember which, to go to school. These children sang us songs, including one with a verse: "one two, comb hair; three four, brush teeth; five six wash face; seven eight, all clean!"
The boy in the green shirt had a gorgeous voice; he would sing the line and the rest of the children would sing it after him. (I know there's a name for that, but don't know what it is.) There are plans to build a school in the village; that's what the admission fee is for. The two little ones in the front stole our hearts. The baby in pink (it's really hard to tell if they're boys or girls) got shy, started crying, and ran off. The one in black left the group and fetched the other one back. He (maybe she?) held the other one's hand for the rest of the program and was so sweet.

I've typed all I can for now, and if anyone's read this far, you're probably worn out, too. I'll do another installment soon.

posted at 5:09 AM
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Monday, November 14, 2005
Thunder Storms
The other day there was a storm out in the bay that produced deep gray-blue clouds. The light filtering through made all the colors so intense. Everything stood out in relief, and it was almost like being inside a painting. It made me think of this picture.

I took this last year when we went to Africa. We had flown that morning from the Samburu National Reserve to the Masai Mara on the northern end of the Serengetti. Our guides were driving the Land Rovers and supplies to the Mara, so we had a different guide that afternoon. He didn't take us very far and we didn't see huge herds of animals, just small groups here and there. (Turned out they were all at the Mara River, but that's another story.) A storm was brewing, so he was heading back to camp when I hollered "Stop!"

Guide: Do you see something?
Me: Yes, I want a picture of that tree.
Guide: The tree?
Me: Yes. the tree. Can you move the truck so I can get a good shot?
Guide (obviously not believing this): You want to take a picture of THAT tree?
Me: Van Gogh would have painted this! It's the most incredible light I've ever seen. I have to have a picture.

One other person decided it was a good shot to take; the rest just sat there looking at me like I was a nut case. But it's one of my favorite pictures now, and I even enlarged it and put it in my office. What is it about the light when there's a storm brewing?

Ooh, maybe that's a metaphor for my life right now. The ex-DIL has been lurking on PresentStorm's blog and suddenly posted anonymous comments blasting Stormii. You know, if you're going to snoop, you probably won't like everything you find. There were a bunch of comments posted back and forth, including one of mine. The ex-DIL/roommate/alter ego accused me of having thinly disguised hostility. I have many, many reasons for hostility toward her. Whether she does it deliberately or accidentally, she has caused so much pain in my family. I'm not just talking about the divorce. I strongly suspect she's reading my blog, and she knows what she's done, although she probably doesn't even count all the times she upset my mother on purpose. But yesterday, in the midst of all this, she called and said the Little Angel had a fever, she had no medicine, the LA was too sick to go to the store, and she couldn't reach anyone. (She never even tried Guppy.) I went to the store, bought the medicine, GAVE it to her, and was as polite as I could be. And that is how it always will be. The Little Angel is the important thing. But I would have to be some kind of idiot to ever trust her mother again.

posted at 4:16 AM
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Friday, November 11, 2005
Friday Ramblings
I've decided that "#1 daughter" is just too complicated, so in keeping with Guppyman's underwater theme, and also because it's her birth sign (and some days her personality), she will henceforth be known as Crabgirl. Her surgery was a fundoplication, which makes the opening of the esophagus into the stomach smaller. She has coughed all her life from allergies, but lately the coughing is so constant and painful, especially after she eats, that she just couldn't live that way anymore. Apparently this is acid reflux in the extreme.

The surgery was laproscopic, so she has five tiny star-shaped incisions, and no big scar. Of course, Kritter & I started calling her a Star-Bellied Sneetch. If any of you don't know, The Sneetches is a charming story by Dr. Seuss about discrimination:

"The Star-Bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Bellied Sneetches had none upon thars."

The Star-Bellies thought they were "the best kind of Sneetches on beaches" until a con man with a star-off-star-on machine kept everyone running through the machine until they were out of money, at which point he left. No one could tell who was who anymore, so they all got along after that.

[Sorry, I digress. I just have a thing for Dr. Seuss.] Crabgirl is excited because the liquid diet she will have to be on for a while, plus her slightly smaller stomach, means she will probably lose some weight. Once upon a time, and when we were all adults, Crabgirl, her sister Dolphin, and I could have gotten on a scale together and it wouldn't have hit 300 pounds. Sadly, those days are behind us ... and in front of us... and on either side...

This morning I used my new hair straightener. I dutifully read the directions, including the safety warnings. One of them was "Do not use while sleeping." Doggone, I planned to save 30 minutes every day by straightening my hair while I slept! Another was "Do not use in the shower", so there goes Plan B, washing and straightening it at the same time. You always figure there's a lawsuit behind the stranger warnings, and wouldn't you love to know what caused the do-not-use-while-sleeping one?!

HAVE A GREAT DAY, EVERYONE!

posted at 8:34 AM
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Thursday, November 10, 2005
Surgery, Baseball & Hope
I got home at 10:30 Tuesday night from a professional meeting in a town about 1-1/2 hours away. Back up at 5:00 AM. By the time I got home yesterday I was worn out, and took a short nap before I went to visit #1 daughter in the hospital. She had surgery yesterday morning and was still partway in la-la land.

So we were all sitting around the hospital room staring at each other's navels when someone mentioned that Brandon Backe was signing autographs at a nearby Wal-Mart. Kritter's eyes lit up, as she has a Major Crush on Backe. #1 daughter complained, not fair! I want to go, get an autograph for me. So off Kritter & I went -- first to the wrong Wal-Mart, then to a humongous line at the right one. I realized on the way over that the perfect thing for #1 daughter would be a get-well card from Brandon Backe. I had plenty of time to shop for it! After 2 hours, we made it to the front of the line, where we heard Please have your item or your daughter ready. I think Kritter really considered jumping over the table and grabbing hold of him! She had a picture & I had the card & he was only signing 1 item per person, so I came away autograph-less. But that's okay; I don't know what I'd do with an autograph, anyway. Kritter is going to hang the autographed picture over the autographed baseball she already has. #1 daughter was really pleased -- heck, she even got up and walked!

Don't know if any of you heard about this, but Israeli soldiers accidentally shot a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, who was pronounced brain dead. His parents donated his organs, which saved the lives of six different Israelis. So with all the terrible stuff that's going on, there is a little hope. I am inspired by that kind of charity and forgiveness.

posted at 5:38 AM
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Pondering the Imponderables
I have always believed we are here to help others.
But what the are others here for?

If your nose runs, and your feet smell,
Are you built upside down?

I own a cordless screwdriver.
But when did I ever own a screwdriver with a cord?

Do geese get people bumps?

Why don't these words rhyme:

cough
through
although
enough

Hope everyone has a great day!

posted at 4:54 AM
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Monday, November 07, 2005
Happy Birthday, Kritter!


Today my #3 granddaughter is 15. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. Life hasn't been completely kind to her. Her father, an attractive, charming con artist, has spent years abandoning her, then turning on all his considerable charm to win her back, only to abandon her again as soon as she began to trust him again. She no longer falls for his scams. Her other grandparents have a time share on Oahu, and have taken her cousin there at least 20 times (even her cousin's friend), but they have never taken the Kritter. She no longer has any expectations from them.

Instead, Kritter realizes that there are a lot of other people who love her, and she concentrates her attention on them. She is easy-going, interested in other people's passions, well-behaved and polite. This means you can take her anywhere, and so everyone does. I took her to her first ballet before she was 3, and we've taken her to Disneyworld, the Indy 500, Aspen and Hawaii. (And yes, it was three islands, fancy hotels, uncrowded beaches -- we made sure to give her some experiences her cousin will probably never have. Nyah, nyah, take that!) Her stepfather made it a point to give her a Play Station to replace the one her father stole and hocked. His family showers her with gifts. A couple across the street considers her to be their other granddaughter. The Professor thinks she is the perfect child, and there's probably nothing he wouldn't do for her. And we all think we get much more from her than she gets from us.

When Kritter was 7 or 8, she had a flight from Houston to Seattle via Minneapolis. (Who schedules these things???) She missed a connection and had to spend several hours in the airport. Her mother and I were frantic and irate, but Kritter told us she had fun: she helped with the ticketing and got to see how things were done. She wouldn't have complained, anway, but to turn an experience that would have terrified most children into something fun.... well, maybe you see why everyone loves her.

There is a line from The Prophet, in the section "Children":

"You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you,

For life goes not backward, nor tarries upon itself."

I have introduced her to things I love, and her enjoyment has enriched my own. But her wonderful, accepting attitude and her ability to turn away from bitterness and toward the good things are her own doing. I am humbled by her goodness, and so incredibly proud of her.


posted at 1:34 PM
Comments (7)



Sunday, November 06, 2005
Mitey Mite Cooks!
We have a very prolific lemon tree, so at this time of year I am finding lots of ways to use lemons. Last night I made an old stand-by, Lemon Beef Steak.

Ingredients:
1 lb. sirloin steak
3 tblsp. butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cup beef stock
2 medium tomatoes, peeled & cut in wedges
2 tblsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp.salt
Cooked noodles

Cut the meat into 2-1/2" strips; brown quickly in the butter & remove from heat. Season with salt & paprika. Arrange onion & lemon slices over meat; add 3/4 cup beef stock. Cover & simmer 20-25 minutes. Add tomato wedges & simmer about 2 minutes more. Remove meat & vegetables from pan; keep warm. Discard lemon. Combine cornstarch, salt & 3/4 cup beef stock, stir into pan juices till thick & bubbly. Put meat atop noodles, pour sauce over all, sprinkle with parsley and serve.




It makes a nice presentation. Kids like this, I think because of the noodles.

The Professor is on a dive trip to Borneo, so I had Guppyman, PresentStorm & the Little Angel over to enjoy this with me.
The L.A. and I made bread earlier in the day, and we had pumpkin bread with whipped cream AND ice cream on it for dessert.



When I took a picture of the food before I served it, Stormii said she could tell I am now officially hooked on blogging. Poor thing, she was so stopped up she couldn't breathe, and then she put her foot in her mouth big time. She was telling me that some lady at work thinks Guppy has a sexy voice, even though "She's old enough to be his grandmother -- about 60." Um, Stormii, how old am I? I thought that was funny, but you can bet I'm going to give her a hard time about it for the rest of her life.


This is why I was in a good mood. I always enjoy spending time with the L.A.
And yes, that is a parsley bouquet she's holding. It was being sent home to the guinea pigs, but the L.A. discovered she really liked parsley and was eating it for dessert. She is at the age where she is going to give you goofy faces instead of smiles, but I still think she's adorable.

posted at 4:55 AM
Comments (12)



Thursday, November 03, 2005
Oh, What a Beautiful Morning







Ibegan my day at the dock with a cup of coffee and my camera. There is so much promise in a sunrise. It is a part of the greater cycle of the world: birth, maturity, death, and a rebirth.


Two verses from Collin Raye's song "Love Remains" say it all:

Kingdoms come and go, but they don't last.
Before you know, the future is the past.
In spite of what's been lost and what's been gained,
We are living proof that love remains.

We all live, we all die,
But the end is not goodbye.
The sun comes up, and seasons change,
Through it all, love remains.
An eternal, burning flame,
Hope lives on, and love remains.

I wish for all of you a day as magnificent as this sunrise.

posted at 6:36 AM
Comments (12)



Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Chula

As I pulled into my driveway today, I saw a squirrel chasing my cat. Now this is no ordinary cat. Her name is Chula (Spanish for "cutie") because she is adorable. I pulled her out from under a barn when she was a kitten, but it was obvious to her that she was a princess, and that barn thing was just an accident of birth. She knew she was meant to lie on soft blankets, and to be petted, and to have plenty of food delivered to her. But she's never forgotten her roots. She has always been a hunter. When she was younger, she would lie perfectly still in the grass until the birds flew down to eat around her. Then she would leap straight up, twist her body in the air, and come down with a bird in her mouth. (We live in a bird sanctuary, but she has never learned how to read the sign.)

Once, when I came home from a trip, I found feathers from the entrance hall to the back hall. The Professor said he had been shaving when he heard an awful racket. He went to look and found the front door open (that was another cat who loved to open the door) and Chula squared off with a grackle twice her size. The Professor said the grackle was getting smaller by the moment as it lost feathers. He didn't think he could adequately describe the battle to me, so he left the feathers for me to see. (Like the Grinch, he thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick.)

Chula is 13 now, and she hasn't taken on a grackle in years. She still catches lizards and an occasional bird, but that's about it. But she is no sedentary old lady. She is the fastest of our 3 cats, and even though she's small, she's the tough one in the house. I was astonished to see her run from a squirrel. But then I realized that our squirrels are a gang of thugs. They steal our pecans. They sit on a branch and cuss at us when we come outside. I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm afraid of squirrels, but I swear sometimes I think they're going to attack me. So while the squirrels are getting tougher, Chula is getting older and is no longer able to keep them all run off. But as testimony to her energy level, I tried 10 times to take her picture, but she wouldn't hold still. I finally had to put her on my lap, hold the camera at arm's length, and hope.




posted at 2:49 PM
Comments (5)



Tuesday, November 01, 2005
How to Stop the Hurricanes
I have a theory about how to stop hurricanes from forming.

As you know, first there is a tropical wave. Then it becomes a tropical depression. This can turn into a tropical disturbance, then a tropical storm, and finally a hurricane.

The problem is that no one waves back, so it gets depressed and disturbed and finally storms toward us. So send out a cruise ship full of smiling people to wave back every time.

Like you have a better idea?

posted at 1:35 PM
Comments (8)



Name:
Mitey Mite

Location:
Texas, United States

I am older than dirt, but I still feel pretty young & some call me the Energizer Bunny. I share a house with the Professor & 3 cats. Between us we have 5 grown children, all of whom are productive members of society (!), and 10 grandchildren. I have a job I love, a little money for the 1st time in my life, and so many more things I want to do than I will ever have time for.

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