25 August 2009

No, I haven't changed this to The Birthday Blog, but...

Happy birthday, Auntie Princess!

Auntie Princess is a tough broad kind-hearted woman with a wit as sharp as a meat slicer. She sends some of the funniest tweets you're ever going to hear on twitter, and she's not telling jokes - she's reporting on her life. Remember, we only have 140 characters.
  • BIL cut pictures out of calendars & put then in a 3 ring binder as bday gift for husbo. How did he not think we would just throw them away?

Because she's a princess, she needs a tiara to wear. This one seemed festive enough for a birthday.

Auntie is as unusual as an armadillo purse. If you are interested in the one shown above, visit Auntie's Etsy Vintage Store and snap it up. She specializes in the unusual.

She's as sassy as a pink vintage shoe.
  • 53 is a prime number, so I guess that means tomorrow I'll be in my prime!!

Sparkly and classic as an art deco chocolate pot.

She makes these beautiful cocardes for the adornment of women who have a taste for vintage. I have one that looks similar to this, although my vintage button has some rhinestones. I love it.

So, happy birthday, Auntie. Thanks for making me laugh!

The funniest thing I've "heard" her say this week?
  • I see drunk people.

24 August 2009

Happy birthday, Lydia!

Last week (was it only last week?) Lydia taught a number of us how a blog hop works, and we had fun writing posts about bacon. Now we decided to use what she taught us to celebrate her birthday. We have been sneaking around behind her back all week.

BTW, Lydia also gave me a lot of pointers on making a banner, so I put together the birthday banner using the cute little blue squirrel that Patricia Monkey drew especially for this occasion. Lydia loves blue. And squirrels and all other baby animals (except monkeys) too. (And if a monkey baby really needed her, I'm sure she'd get over her monkey fears for that instant. That's just the kind of girl she is.)

Lydia loves blue. She understands it. I've been shopping online all week for blue things. Here is the cake I found for her. I'm sure it's yummy inside.

Have you ever noticed how something blue in nature really catches your eye? The sky makes the earth more beautiful, and any little piece of blue among the greens of summer satisfies my craving for beauty. I think of Lydia when I notice a flash of this particular shade.

Lydia seems to have the bluebird of happiness riding on her shoulder. Although she can be fierce at injustice, she is just about the sweetest woman I've ever met. She is always busy, and yet she always has time for others.

I found Lydia some socks that combine two of her favorite things: cats and blue. She loves her furkids Maddie and Splotchy, and she even made Maddie famous by designing a rubber stamp and t-shirts depicting her. I know Lydia likes her toes to be free, but since these are virtual socks, she might wear them on a chilly night.

I recently saw a little squirrel sleeping on a branch. I'd never seen that before. I immediately thought of showing it to Lydia because she loves squirrels. I think blue squirrels are a symbol of creativity for her. Anyway, my photo didn't turn out so well. Someone else, however, took this wonderful shot that shows how a squirrel nap looks. As much as she accomplishes, I'm not sure if Lydia sleeps at all.

Lydia's birthday wouldn't be complete if I didn't include a piece of artwork for her.

Happy birthday, Lydia.
The next stop on the hop is a message from Brown-eyed Pea. Click here.

Birthday greetings from Brown-eyed Pea

You've reached the second stop on the UBlue birthday blog hop. If you didn't start at the beginning, you can go back to Angelique's post here.

What Do You Mean You've Never Met Your Best Friends?
Understanding BLUE

Sometimes I think back and wonder how it all happened?  How did we all meet?  Was it that little BLUE bird on Twitter who flew by each of us and guided us to Follow each other?  Whatever, the details are unimportant. 

 What IS important is the Friendship. The Bonding. The Communion of Like Souls. The Support. The Love.  
And that gets back to the query of How You Can Love Someone You've Never Met.

I found a group of Like People. Caring People who understood that fur creatures are just as beloved as flesh. 
~Witty people who make me laugh everyday. 
~Loving people who cheer me up when I'm sad and give me a hug when I need one.
~Creative People who express their creativity in many ways and know that you not only do not have to color within the lines but it is better to color outside them. And also that squirrels most certainly are BLUE!

And on your birthday, Lydia, you who "like to give giffies", have given us the most wonderful gift of all.
You have taught us to UNDERSTAND BLUE.


The next stop on the UBlue birthday blog hop is Leslie at The Crooked Stamper.

18 August 2009

Castles in my life

I've been lucky enough to have lived near two different castles in my life. It might be commonplace to Europeans, but in America we don't have that many castles. I have had more than my share.

In the very early eighties, I lived in the country near Camdenton, Missouri, at the Dead End of Spencer Creek Road on a defunct turkey farm. Our land backed up to a state park that contained Ha Ha Tonka castle, built by a wealthy businessman, burnt, and never lived in.

The castle sits up on a 250-foot cliff and looks out over Lake of the Ozarks. I used to take the Jaybird there often, because he was fascinated with any place where you were likely to see wildlife and plants and human ruins.

Down the road and around a curve was what the locals called "the slab." An enormous tree was uprooted and lay across what used to be the road; on its side, the tree was taller than I stand. The road was broken into six- and eight-foot pieces, and tossed up into a pile. The first time we came upon this place, Jaybird said, "Oh, wow. Something happened here." I have no idea what it was that had happened, but it was wild and beautiful.

Three or four feet of crystal clear water had gathered in the low areas. We could see the pebbles on the bottom and our feet on the pebbles. You could reach right down and touch crawdads and fish. The trees were so tall that they made a greeny yellow canopy above so even a fair-skinned lass like myself wasn't likely to get sunburned. On a hot afternoon, that place was heaven.

The first time I saw the castle here in Lexington, I had taken a wrong turn in the early morning and out of the fog, away in the distance, was a castle just sitting there. I thought it was a mirage.

This castle was also built by some wealthy person who never lived in it. You hear rumors of it changing hands, and it burnt at least once since I've lived here. I love seeing it sitting out there on the side of Versailles Road, but you can't take a decent photo of it because there's no good place to stop on the busy road. I've heard there's a back way but I don't know it. Supposedly someone is busy turning it into a hotel now.

I like a little magic in my life. What's more magical than a castle?

17 August 2009

The small ideas add up

In my family, we place a high value on Big Ideas, but most of the time it's the small ideas that go the farthest. Mama made a cheese slicer out of a piece of thread, and Dad cut gaskets out of a sheet of cork. We made clothes out of bigger clothes.

Sometimes I forget to look for improvements and continue to do something the same old way, even though it's tedious or obnoxious. I need to remember to look for those small ideas that improve your life in little ways and add up to a small pile of happiness.

For example, I need three keys to get into my office. One opens the door to the building, one opens the door to our area, and one opens my office door. For at least a year I kept the keys on my keyring in an order other than the one in which I used them. Every morning and every evening I would grumble and try one, two, sometimes three keys for every lock I encountered.

I did this for at least a year, fumbling through three nearly identical keys for every lock.

Then one day I had that small idea. I switched the order of the keys to reflect the order in which I would use them. My frustration level plummeted. Such a little thing to make such a big difference.

I also used to have cell phone anxiety. I'd worry all the time: will my battery run out today, will I forget to bring my charger to work, will I leave my charger at work when I need to use my phone at home? I worried more when I decided to give up my land line and use only my cell phone.

Finally one day while I was buying batteries at the Mart of Wal, I saw a phone charger exactly like mine for $15. My gosh, I've been torturing myself foolishly when all I had to do was have one charger at work and one at home! I thought. I bought it and took it to my office. I've probably saved an hour a week not having to obsess about the level of the juice in my phone.

So next time I find myself stressing over some minor irritation, I'm going to look for the small idea that will fix it.

I'll keep you posted.

16 August 2009

Twitter Bacon Blog Hop

Welcome to the first annual Twitter Bacon Blog Hop.

With apologies to my vegetarian friends, I love bacon. I have never been without bacon - sweet and salty, crisp and smokey. I was raised on bacon, and I have also raised bacon.

I would eat these donuts in a minute. You know how the yummy goodness of bacon flares up into culinary delight when paired with a sweet flavor like maple. That's the magic of bacon: it enhances and expands. Like a good partner, bacon makes anything more than it is by itself.

In my family, bacon was a cost-saving measure. Mom could serve a big pan of fresh green beans and new potatoes or soup beans with little slivers of carrot and onion and flavor a whole dish with six slices of bacon. Throw in a skillet of cornbread, and you have a meal.

In my childhood, bacon nearly always came with breakfast, my favorite meal. Mom believed in sending us off to walk the six blocks to school with a hot meal in our bellies: eggs and bacon, waffles and bacon, biscuits and bacon, bacon gravy over toast with little slices of boiled egg. You can taste it, can't you? Waking up to that sizzly smell made me feel as though we were rich, although later I learned that we were not quite poor.

When my mom and my aunts were feeling festive, bacon was always served up as an offering to the gods. Bacon was an appetizer, a garnish, a salad topping, the best part of the baked beans, the "B" in the BLT, a pan-liner for grandma's meatloaf. Party food. We cared nothing for calories or the glycemic index. We liked bacon: wrapped around chicken livers, skewered on kabobs, crumbled on a cheese log, one of the layers in the seven-layer salad, sprinkled on top of the melted Velveeta dip. My mouth is starting to water just thinking of it. Is yours?

As the women in my family grow older, they develop figures that look disturbingly like sparrows or robins, a heavy torso that absorbs the waist and consigns us to a life of fashion separates. Why? Because we love bacon! We make no apologies. I'll even eat that little piece of fatty pork they stick in the pork and beans. Every one of us pours bacon grease into a container and keeps it on the back of the stove until a recipe "calls for it."

I call for it. Bring me bacon! Not turkey bacon.

One more thing.

Dear Red the pig,

When we were feeding you all that good slop and buckets of corn and pig chow and scratching your back with a cob and riding you around the barn, we truly did not know that later that year we would eat you. But even when we found out, we couldn't help ourselves. The universe is a weird place. Thank you for the bacon.


Following is an easy quick recipe you can use to make a tray of what my dad always called horse doovers:

Bacon Scallop Roll-ups

Make as many as you want. People like to eat them.

For each appetizer, place a scallop on a water chestnut and wrap in a half a slice of thin bacon. Secure with a cocktail pick. Place on a metal pan about an inch apart. Bake at about 400 degrees (F) until the bacon is crisp. Place on paper to drain. Serve immediately. Smile as your guests make umm ummmmmmmm sounds and look heavenward.

Click here to visit Sarah's blog, the next post in the first annual Twitter Bacon Blog Hop. If you didn't start at the beginning of the hop, you can go back to Leslie's blog here so you don't miss one moment of bacony goodness.

Thanks to Lydia for getting me out of my blog funk. I'll be back tomorrow.

28 July 2009

My Dark Series

I have hit a bad patch and don't feel much like waxing poetic. Today my friend Cecile, who is from France, called it a dark series. That is exactly what I'm going through: a dark series. It sounds like a fantasy trilogy, and it feels a little like that too.

Ian Aspen's Really Good Thinking today was about being grateful. I realized that I've been so tied up with everything that's not working for me right now that I haven't stopped to look at it from the other side: Many things in my life are just fine. Still, it is a bit difficult for me to see it that way at the moment.

Go on over to Ian's blog if you are interested in increasing the quality of your life, reaching out to the world, and decreasing your stress level. I'm taking what he says very seriously, and while pondering it today I realized that I have lost the habit of looking at things from a positive perspective. And that's not the person I want to be.

So I have some work to do on myself. Big surprise.

Thanks, Ian, for the well-considered post you shared today. I'm sure I'm not the only one you've challenged. I'm grateful for how you made me think.

26 July 2009

Blog awards ceremony

Irene at the Green Stone Woman gave me a blog award. It's my first one, and I'm proud of it. Thank you, Irene.

Irene's instructions said to post it on my site with a link back to hers and to give it to 15 deserving bloggers. Well, I would be here all night if I were to try to find 15 awardees, although I know there are so many deserving bloggers out there. If I don't mention you and you want the award for your blog, let me know, or just claim it.

I know Irene will forgive me for not following the rules, because she doesn't follow them either.

The envelope please... a drumroll... and tonight's winners of the One Lovely Blog award are:

Gary at Excelsior
Rose at powdergirl

Don't feel obligated to display or pass along the award unless you feel like it. I just wanted to use this opportunity to mention some blogs that entertain and teach me.

25 July 2009

Birdie and I have a crash

I had a magnificently maddening day yesterday. Herein lies the story of my morning. There is a lot more to tell about the day, but I'd simply go into a coma if I had to tell it all at once.

I got out of bed with a neck ache more powerful than usual, and the day went downhill fast. I was late out the door for work, but I only work 2.2 miles from home, so I didn't worry much. I backed out of the drive and tooled the car in first gear out to Nicholasville Road, where I stepped on the brakes.

There were no brakes. Nothing but a hard pedal that would go nowhere. I stood on it.

Funny how your brain slows everything down when you think you're going to run into five lanes of morning traffic without control of your vehicle. I had time to think of shifting gears, and time to reject that notion on the grounds that there is nowhere down to go from first. I had time to realize that all I had to do was pull the emergency brake hard.

Which I did.

I drive a 17-year-old car, so I expect it to malfunction. Actually, the car holds up her end of the bargain better than I do because I forget to check her fluids and provide new supplies until she coughs or spits, but she cheerfully functions as transportation, book storage, canine wagon, and an extra closet for shoes and jackets. She rarely refuses to give me what I ask. And she has a super charger and a low center of gravity that makes her hug curves like a pro.

I don't own this car. I don't even think that the Woodsman knows she's a girl car. I call her Birdie.

So I'm dead at the stop sign with my blinkers on, trying to decide what to do. I carry my bags back home and call the service center just a few blocks away, where I've done business for twelve years or so, to ask if they have a wrecker. They don't, but they recommend one. I grab my little purse out of my bag and leave the rest of my work things in the chair. This is where I really went wrong, but I don't know it them. I walk back down to where the car is still blinking blinking blinking and waiting.

The wrecker comes and hooks her up and drives me and the Thunderbird a few blocks to the service station. But I'm a diabetic and I realize I don't have anything in my tiny purse to eat. I thought I was going to go straight to work and eat something there. I left my big bag of comfort sitting in the chair.

The walking and the stress have lowered my blood sugar, and I need a couple of starlight mints or a Coke. I start to feel like the wrecker seat is swallowing me, but I keep making small talk with the very nice wrecker driver because I want him to take a check from me, when a lot of times they won't. I have experience with wrecker drivers, and this is the way it's done. They have to connect with you to take a check; he'd already said how cozy and nice my neighborhood was, so we were well on the way to striking an understanding.

Oh, Mr. Wreckerman, do you have to write so slowly? He's so conscientious and neat on his invoice, but I start to wonder whether I should tell him I'm about to keel over or just let him find out on his own. Finally we're finished; he took a check.

Thank goodness I know the co-owner of the service station, and she fed me Fritos and let me sit around until I felt better. Boy, a big infusion of carbs when you haven't been having them sure tastes luxurious. I never thought I'd be waxing poetic over a lunch-size bag of Fritos. Lesson learned. A cowgirl never goes on an adventure without some high-protein snacks.

I got a ride home and sat around trembling and thinking of what might have been, which is never productive or calming. I got to where I couldn't tell whether it was blood sugar or shock that had me so disoriented. I finally emailed my boss to say I couldn't come in. I don't know if anyone ever used the excuse of being trembly and unsettled as a reason to take a vacation day.

Maybe I'm a wimp.

23 July 2009

What do men want?

Today our post is about makeup. But don't go running off, boys. You all can do womankind a great service if you answer my questions.

I got to wondering what men want when I started cutting my makeup requirements to nothing. My mama wears makeup every day. Because she has no eyebrows (allergic reaction!), she figures she may as well do the rest of her face after she draws on her brows. But I just can't do that full-face full-coverage start-from-scratch routine anymore.

For one thing, it's so blasted hot lately. Sweat and makeup don't mix. Well, actually they do mix, and then they run down your face and into your collar. Then - skip this line, guys - there's menopause, when some days power surges raise my body temperature to about 110 degrees F.

These days my makeup practices run somewhere between none at all and about one minute of color. I hope that my wardrobe of earrings will draw the eye away from my lack of makeup. If not, I'm out of tricks.

Here's the most I do: Moisturizer is a necessity when you get my age. I'm really pale, so blush is good. I have little bitty eyes, so a smudgy dash of eyeliner makes me a little more defined. I don't have any eyelashes to speak of, so mascara is a farce. And I love lipstick.

Some women wear a lot of makeup. And usually the complaints I hear are from men. They always say they don't like for a woman to wear too much makeup. But how much is too much? A lot of guys I know don't wear makeup, so how do they know what's too much? Let's get a definitive answer about the quantity.

Okay, everybody pick the appropriate question for themselves.

So, boys, what do you really want? Do you want a woman who wears no makeup at all and just goes around with her little bitty eyes undefined and her lips a nondescript flesh color and her cheeks pale and wan, but oh, so natural? Or do you want a woman who wears makeup but doesn't look like she does, thereby saving you from looking at the flaws and imperfections that we think you don't even know are there? Or do you like your girls a little slutty and fast, with blue eyeshadow up to the brow bone and nails to match her lips? Do you like that sparkly party makeup that we have a lot of fun applying for festive occasions?

Women, how much is too much? How long does your everyday makeup routine take? Do you care what your partner thinks about your makeup? Do you know what your partner wants to see? Do you look better with makeup or without? Do you sparkle up for festive occasions?

While I'm on this topic, I have a few more words about makeup.

We have these ghoul mirrors at work. They make your skin look sallow and your eyes look sunken and your hair look like it's barely covering your skull. You can look perfectly fine in your makeup mirror at home, and you go to work and see your zombie self looking back at you from mirrors that are probably as old as the building, which is old. Somebody needs to do something about that lighting (they won't) before some woman in a PMS rage breaks every last mirror with her shoe.

Another thing. Don't ever tell your friend that she wears too much makeup. I have done that twice, and they will not believe you anyway. I had a friend who wore make up that looked as though she applied it with a trowel. People were suggesting that I gently push her in the direction of the fresh-face look. I had to practice what I was going to say; it's not an easy thing to tell someone.

I screwed up my courage and blurted something out. I really don't remember now. But it didn't matter, because she just frowned at me and said, "Get outta here."

The second time I had to do it, my victim shook her head at me and said, "I do not wear too much makeup."

Yeah, I know. I should have learned the first time.

P.S. I have some friends whose lifestyles don't fit into the questions above. I'm sorry I couldn't figure out the wording to include you properly. You can answer any of the questions you want.

My baggage and the horse I rode in on - and a note on monkeys

My mind sometimes fastens on a metaphor and rides it to the very end of the road.

Irene, the Green Stone Woman, blogged about an image her therapist gave her. She "imagined me climbing on a healthy horse with my disorders as a little bit of baggage hanging off my saddle," Irene wrote. This metaphor struck me and hovered in the back of my head all day.

I started thinking about my baggage, which wouldn't be just a little bit hanging off my saddle. I'd need a big Pony Express bag to carry my stuff along. I know my horse would behave better if I'd lighten the load, but every time I start to discard something, I get bogged down in the provenance of the item. This is the anger I carry in the inside pocket, and a little bit of blame I keep because no one else wants it. Here's a chunk of stupidity that I've learned to live with, and the guilt from that one period when I wasn't a good mom. Down in the bottom I carry a heavy regret for a fork I took in the road.

I know everyone has baggage. I've been trying to get rid of some of mine. The funny part is that I don't need to have a rummage sale or take it to Goodwill or rent a storage unit to keep it in. All I have to do is take it out of the bag and drop it. Toss it over my shoulder. Ride on without it. But I hoard the things in my saddlebag like treasures.

The part that I dislike most about the baggage I'm carrying is that sometimes I try to make other people responsible for it. Some innocent action or response makes me angry or sad - because it reminds me of some resentment I've been hoarding in my bag. That's not fair to anyone, because I'm likely to take out one of those little stones and chuck it at the head of someone who doesn't deserve it.

I don't know why we cling so desperately to attitudes and pain that we don't need and would be better off without. My horse feels a little tired from carrying useless baggage and would appreciate my cooperation, so I'm going to empty this bag into the first convenient Dumpster. Wait - maybe I can just toss the whole saddlebag into the trash bin and ride on fresh and renewed.


My monkey post from a couple of days ago got me into trouble. So I learned that there are some monkey lovers out there, and they seem to think that I find their monkey teasing amusing in some way. People never seem to believe me when I say I am afraid of monkeys. Pictures of them give me the creeps. The noise they make is something I hope I never hear again. I won't even watch a nature program if there is a chance a monkey figures somewhere in the story. Otherwise likeable people can't seem to grasp this. (And I'm not talking about people who comment on this blog; I love every one of them for giving their opinions.)

Some people seem to think I'd like to participate in conversations about kissing monkeys, which upsets my stomach. I don't care one bit whether you couldn't tell a monkey kiss from a dog kiss if you were blindfolded (although I don't believe that for a minute). I said it was an irrational fear. I cannot explain it, and I wasn't writing an endorsement of my position. I'm sure a hypnotist could cure me, but since I'm not likely to encounter a monkey on my daily rounds, I don't feel that my fear reduces the quality of my life that much.

There are people who are afraid of water, and I wouldn't push them in the pond. Some people fear snakes to the point where a photo of one makes their heart beat faster. Others scream when they see a spider in the house. My aunt Thedis was so afraid of cats that she used to wet her pants if one got too close to her. I don't see the point of torturing any of them.

22 July 2009

Massage is the message

Have you ever had a therapeutic massage? I don't mean the kind where the masseuse plays tinkly music and powders your feet and tickles them with a feather duster. I once received a gift certificate for a massage, and it turned out to be a little more new agey than I'm able to appreciate.

What I experienced yesterday was nothing related to the bell-ringing incense-burning chickie who scared me. Her massage, although it made an hour seem like a day, did nothing but make me tired and cranky. My muscles didn't even realize they'd been massaged. It was a skin rub.

Today I visited Ollie Layne, massage therapist, at Elswick Chiropractic over on Custer Drive here in Lexington. I chose a half-hour treatment because I was skeptical. I have a combination of conditions that we'd both be bored to hear described. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of pain and can't go flying around on pain killers, much as I might like to, because I have things to do. So my doctor suggested I find out if massage could give me some relief.

I can't say that I really enjoyed the massage per se; it was painful, but the relief I felt was indescribable. And yet, I'm going to try to describe it.

The setting: The office is nothing special, just wood and black leather and short carpet. The waiting area is very green. Manly forest green. The office is up about a half a flight upstairs, and I always feel better upstairs. I grew up upstairs.

I met Ollie, and I had that feeling of recognition you sometimes feel with someone new whom you can't possibly recognize. It's usually a good feeling for me. So I liked her right off. She took me into a dim and quiet room with a comfy padded table and a soft rolled pillow to put under my knees. A boombox on a chair softly played a repetitive loop of music, and I found that calming.

Ollie applied some sort of warmish lotion to my skin, and this allowed her to stick her strong fingers completely through my skin and into the heart of my muscles to wake up whatever was in there. Really. I felt as though I were having a psychic surgery. And I mean this in the best possible way.

I was comfortable the whole time because Ollie spoke quietly during the process, telling me what to expect, warning me of pain. I don't know about you, but I'd rather know what's coming than be surprised. And there were only a couple of times when I found the pain intense. Most of the time it was less than the pain I have in my neck when I get up in the morning.

The first thing she did was push her arms under my shoulders and press her fingers into my back muscles (imagine me on my back the way the woman is in the photo above) while she pulled her hands up toward my neck. She had me at that moment, but then she did a thing that I would pay for every day: the pillow of heaven.

This pillow of heaven wasn't that pleasant of itself. In fact, I wanted at first to resist. I was on the edge of pain. Ollie pressed her fingers at the base of my skull and held my head up a bit on her fingers. But what was nearly unbelievable was that I physically felt tension releasing from my muscles. It felt as though a thick liquid was running out of the muscles, down and off the table. Like a magic trick. Within a few seconds. Heaven. Pillow. O.M.G.

I really can't describe the rest of the process. I just gave in to that wave of relaxation. Even when Ollie said, "This'll probably burn like fire" - and it did! - I didn't care. I just shut my eyes and listened to her voice and felt wave after wave of relaxation as she worked on various muscles that have hurt for years. In a few minutes I could move my neck much further to the right than I've been able to do for a year or more. I was amazed. She massaged my scalp and I felt the tension break into a million cold splinters.

I think I saw angels flying around the room. No, I think it was butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds. Or maybe it was just the glittering behind my eyes. I kept my eyes closed and leaned into the pain until I felt that release. Blessed release.

When the session was finished, I made another appointment. This time for an hour. I'm no longer a skeptic.

Here's something I find appalling. If this sort of relief is available to people like me, why won't my insurance pay for it? I'm not going to a day spa. This is really hard work, and the benefits are almost immediate. But according to Ollie, they only last for a few days, so of course I'll want to go back. I'll have to dig into my pocket, but therapeutic massage seems such a healthy, relatively inexpensive, drug-free solution to chronic pain. Why wouldn't it be covered by most insurance plans?

Ah, don't bother to answer that question. I have had dealings with the dicks at several insurance companies.

Which of the massages would you enjoy? The tinkly powdery crystal woman, or the deep, painful, joy-inducing hands of Ollie? I think it all depends on what you need.

A note about customer service: You know I've been bitching about how I hate the customer service at most of my local stores. They could take lessons from the office staff at Elswick Chiropractic. First, I was given directions over the phone covering every turn between my office and theirs. Easy peasy and I, known for making wrong turns and driving miles out of my way, was there in no time. When there was a mix-up about who was making my next appointment, the professional woman at the desk looked me right in the eyes and apologized for leaving me standing there while she helped a client on the phone. I swear I was standing there for all of four minutes. I really appreciated that acknowledgment, though. It makes me feel happy to go back. Take a note if you own a store: Treat people nicely and you won't have to spend so much money on television ads with dancing scissors and smiley-face - whatever.

I asked for a photo, but Ollie didn't want that. Still, I highly recommend her hands.

21 July 2009

Monkey fears

Have you ever had an irrational fear? I am afraid of monkeys. I can't even stand a monkey sock doll or stuffed animal. People think it's so funny to give me birthday cards with monkeys on them; they don't know I'm seriously afflicted with monkey fear. I don't think that this fear was irrational when it first developed. I blame it on my parents.

Part of the reason I don't like monkeys is because they look so much like people, and I find their little hands and their gestures and facial expressions to be a creepy mirror of human behavior. For example, this is me at my doctor appointment last Friday. Don't you hate it when they make you undress and put on one of those silly gowns?

And I particularly hate it when monkeys wear clothes. That is really too much. Then they look like little messed up humans, and that is also creepy. Remember that Lancelot Link show where monkeys chewing gum acted out the parts, and they dubbed in the dialogue? Oh, I could not stand to watch that. Lancelot looked exactly like George Burns.

Once when my son was about three years old, I left him with my mama and went over to my friend Nancy's house to see her newborn baby. He had been delivered prematurely, and he was this little bitty squinched up kid about the size of a Thumbelina doll. When I came back home, Mama said, "Was he cute?" I said, "No, he looked like a little monkey." The next time Nancy came over to visit, she was carrying little John wrapped up in a blanket. Jaybird tip-toed up to her and whispered, "Can I see your little monkey?"

Once I was in the mall, passing outside the toy store. A battery-operated monkey about a foot and a half tall came dancing out of the store and made a beeline for me. He was toddling along with his little hands raised up at the sides of his head like a baby. In fact, he was wearing a pair of white baby shoes and carrying a half-peeled banana. Before I even had time to think, I just kicked that monkey right back into the store. "Well, that wasn't very nice," the clerk told me. At least they didn't make me buy it.

Look at this little hand. It reminds me of my Dad's hands when he got old. See what I'm saying? Monkeys are just too human.

Now this one is almost cute, and I don't find him all that scary. You guessed it. It's because he looks like a monkey, not a kid.

Now, this is why I blame my parents for my monkey fear. When I was four years old they got me all excited about staying up past bedtime and watching a special movie. Mama popped popcorn and we all sat down to watch The Wizard of Oz. When I saw those evil flying monkeys, I went completely out of my skin. They tried talking me down. Then they tried threatening me. All the time they were bent over at the waist, holding their sides and laughing until tears flowed from their eyes. It served them right that Mama had to poke a broom under my bed and check in the closet and out the windows every night after that before I'd go to sleep.

Here's the kind of mama I am: I did the same thing to my son. We were snuggled up together on the couch watching the movie when the dreaded monkeys came on. I shivered and said, "See? I told you they were really scary!" Jaybird patted me on the cheeks and said, "It's okay, Mommy. They're only little people dressed up like monkeys."

Also, monkeys are biters. There's nothing you can do about it. They're wild animals. It's not their fault that people want to treat them like babies.

For some reason, just in the past few years I've been getting over my fear of monkeys. But I'm still not planning to go to any continent where they run around unfettered. My brother's girlfriend Julia went to India, and she came back with a million stories about the trouble monkeys can get you into. There they run around in packs like juvenile delinquents.

I've recently met a monkey girl I like. She paints wicked little animals that smoke cigarettes and act like humans, but they're so cute that I can't get mad at them. You can visit the Patti Monkey blog and see her little demons here.

Do you have any irrational fears, or am I the only one holding on to my little childhood traumas?

20 July 2009

Frankie is dead and there's nothing to be done about it

Cover the mirrors and stop the clocks. My dear Frank McCourt is dead.

The author who changed my life by making me want to write again, who taught my son that a good book is a good friend, who showed us all that no matter how mean or dirty or short your life is, there is always some meaning to the story.

"Imagine if you'd had Mr. McCourt for a teacher," my son said. "I'll bet you'd be a writer then."

That hurt. I was a little bitter back then, believing that I'd settled for editing and a paycheck when I should have suffered for my art and produced a masterpiece. And single parents don't do that. Then there I was, skating toward middle age.

Hey, wait a minute. Frank McCourt's first book was published when he was 66 years old. There were no rules about when you could be brilliant.

"But I did have Mr. McCourt for a teacher," I told the Jaybird. I realized that I'd better get busy. I started writing again the next day.

My mother, who grew up poor and ashamed of it, could not read half of Angela's Ashes. It pained her so. "Those worthless parents!" she raged, and I had to agree in a sad way. After all, I had read all of Angela's Ashes and McCourt's second book, 'Tis, so I knew a lot more than she did about just how worthless the parents were. But those worthless parents made Francis McCourt, just as my parents - who weren't shiftless but did have a rather unconventional approach to childrearing - had made me. Just as my sweet grandmother and her bigamist husband had made my mama.

"You just don't like to think about growing up poor without a father," I told her.

"No, I don't. Who would? But we weren't hungry, or dirty, or dressed in rags. My mother worked hard."

"Then you were lucky," I said.

She looked away so long I thought she wouldn't answer. She was known for that.

"Yes I was," she finally said.

Some people called Frank McCourt a liar, including his own mother. Well, that has happened to me too. And who cares if you lie a little if you write of the absurdity of your position in life with humor and goodwill? I don't. Even the saddest passages in a Frank McCourt book are underpinned with the music of language and the charm of a little laugh choked down behind the sorrow. So he hasn't written a history book. I don't care.

"I did not like the jackdaws that perched on trees and gravestones and I did not want to leave Oliver with them. I threw a rock at a jackdaw that waddled toward Oliver's grave. Dad said I shouldn't throw rocks at jackdaws, they might be somebody's soul. I didn't know what a soul was but I didn't ask him because I didn't care. Oliver was dead and I hated jackdaws. I'd be a man someday and I'd come back with a bag of rocks and I'd leave the graveyard littered with dead jackdaws" (Angela's Ashes).

See what I mean? The beauty is in the telling, and the Irish are famous for that.

Frank McCourt made the world better with his words. He made me better with his words.

Open one of his books anywhere, any page, and you will find something to cry about while you're laughing about it too. Life is hard. We agree on that. Life beats some people down; some people it enriches in the most amazing ways. You're lucky if, like Frank, like my mama, you get most of your beatings and starving and death out of the way during your early life so you have the rest to decide what it all means, if you can. And he did.

I cannot do him justice. I do not have the skills for eulogizing Mr. McCourt. I only tell you how his words ran through our family and caused us to pass our feelings from hand to hand, sharing them and giving them their freedom.

All of Limerick might have once been mad at you, but I love you for that, Frank McCourt.

P.S. Lydia at UnderstandBlue wrote a grand tribute, and her brother, Bob Blakley, traveled on a bus with the author for an entire week and took a wonderful photo of him. Lucky duck.

19 July 2009

Poetry for Sunday

It's that time again: this week's poetry post. I don't know if I can pull this off every week. I think I hear some of you saying, "Yay!"

I was inspired by one of my best blogger friends to write this poem. She's given me a lot of support, and she knows who she is, so we'll leave it at that. If you've given me a lot of support and don't see yourself in this poem, wait your turn. I'm a slow writer.

I also must admit that I've taken a bit of poetic license with the geography, since she's not really all the way around the world from me.

The Wolf of the World

A woman on the other side

of the world sleeps when I wake

wakes alone without map or net

and watches each way while I sleep.

A candle burns on both ends.

A harsh note on the other side

of the dark vibrates up my last nerve

and sets me humming in my spine.

Speak now. You will not be allowed

to forever hold your peace.

I must stand with the woman

who stands with me, because

women can do these things: pull

each other up by the boot buckles

carve each other out sin by sin.

I send notes to the other side

of the void to say: yes

I have not only heard of the wolf

I have seen him from the corner

of my eye, that sly worn devil

nearly toothless in the light of cold day

but often so large and so patient.

I hope your weekend has been poetic.

18 July 2009

Wanted: Big old personalities blogging frequently

I just love some of the blogs I read, and the bloggers who write them. I will share three of my favorites with you today. I hope you'll recommend others to me, because a lot of my regulars are taking it easy this summer, and I need a lot of reading to be happy.

As I've said before, I like a blog that is pinned to a big old personality; creative use of the English language and frequent blogging are also highly appreciated.

powdergirl. This woman - demolition expert, mother, sassy girl, big-shoe lover, and hell of a writer - is just GOOD. She is high-strung and good hearted and hails from British Columbia. Tough with a soft squishy heart in the center. This week she wrote about her regret at having killed a hummingbird. No tiny bird has received a more poetic eulogy. She has a fine sense of language and priorities. Every post is a delicious mixture of laughter and truth, and she is a master of the short character study. And she's got a mouth on her. The fuse is lit... and it ain't gettin' any longer.

Irene, the Green Stone Woman, writes about mental health. She does this by posting daily about her own mental state and her quiet life in the Netherlands. Irene has the added perspective of having lived in the states for a number of years. She is open, humorous, and deeply insightful. She is in tune with current events, and she comments on all manner of cultural and political phenomena, but most of what she writes is deeply personal. Her life has not been easy, and it still isn't. Because I suffer from depression and mood swings myself, I read with interest as she discovers and reveals herself. To read Irene's blog is to go on the interior journey with this remarkable woman because she has the ability to lay herself bare without apology. I don't suppose I'll ever meet her in person, but I deeply admire this strong and unique woman and would love to share coffee and cigarettes and a piece of cheese with her. I feel love and concern for her. I feel better because of her. I have learned so much from her. Thank you, Irene.

Lilly's Life. Lilly is an Australian woman with an interest in world affairs. She's smart and funny and has good journalistic instincts. She usually ends her blog posts with a question or assignment, which generates a lot of interesting comments from all over the world. She writes about Rupert Murdock and Mark Sandford and the world economy and her wonderful father. I'm half in love with Des, who is in poor health but not so that he can't play matchmaker and guest blogger. She also writes messages to her grown daughter and comments on the everyday things with humor and insight. The most beautiful post I've read on Lilly's blog is The Day Isaam Came to Live with Us. If you don't cry when you read this story, Lilly's probably not for you. She's on vacation right now, but there is plenty of good back reading there.

One of the things I love most about the blog universe is that it is global. Yeah, most of my life I've heard people lament the state of American education and how we don't place a high value on learning about other cultures. But I never realized the size of this lapse until I started reading blogs of people in other countries. The simple things I have to look up! Facts I should have known since sixth grade. I'm appalled at the gaps in my knowledge - and happy to learn. Always.

Next time I recommend blogs, I'll tell you about a group of crafty people I adore. In the past I've reviewed a few other blogs:

Tristan Robin Blakeman and his Enchanted Revelry
Dave King's Pics and Poems

So, who do you love reading?

17 July 2009

Casual Friday

It's casual Friday again already, so here are the pieces and parts for this week.

It's beeeeeeeeg! Yesterday I was sitting at the computer, frustrated because it wasn't working the way it was supposed to. Someone pounded on my door... once... twice... The dogs went wild but that didn't deter him. He knocked a third time. I looked out the peephole and saw a dirty smiling man of about thirty in a ball cap and coveralls. At the curb was a jalopy worthy of the Clampetts.

I went back to the computer. He began knocking again. The dogs were throwing their usual fits, and Pixie was furiously running circles on the rug in front of the door.

"I'm wondering if you want me to cut that oak tree," he said when I opened the door a crack and held the dogs at bay with my foot.

It's a huge beautiful tree, one of the tallest on the block, and it shades the whole front of the house. "Why would you want to cut that tree?" I asked.

"Well, it's BEEEEEEEEEEEG," he said.

I just stared at him for a moment, visualizing him driving his truck through the city toward the biggest trees he could find, then asking whoever was home if he could cut them down.

"I don't think so," I told him.

He looked so disappointed.

Janitors overheard. I heard our three janitors in the break room discussing the pros and cons of vampirism.

A: It would be great to be a vampire. You could live your life over and over again.

B: No! I'm too tired to have eternal life.

C: I guess it would be okay as long as you didn't have to work.

Mercury rising. When I was about nine years old, I broke a thermometer on the floor and picked up all the little balls and put them in a doll bottle. I played with that mercury whenever I'd think of it, and it took me a long time to grow tired of breaking the quarter-sized shimmer into BBs and then putting it back together. I eventually lost the bottle, or maybe it simply consumed itself.

Revenge. Never lie to your hair stylist about cutting your own hair. They resent it the way the cops on Cops get pissed when anyone lies to them. Okay, buddy. They take people to jail for lying.

If you break down and admit that you've been cutting on your own hair, your stylist may take pity on you and work with you to make it look as good as it can.

But if Bonnie Lee says, "Ummmm mmm mmmm... Who has been cuttin on this hair?"

And you say, "It's been awful dry. It's probably breakage..."

She will take her revenge by what stylists call "evening it up," which means cutting every hair on your head to match the shortest one you cut.

Speaking of hair. Growing older is like being in one of those fairy tale movies where nothing makes sense. Why can't I just keep the hair I like? I never had what I considered my fair share of hair already, and now it's disappearing in places I don't want to ask my friends about. And yet it continues to try to get a foothold in places it clearly has no business.

Strange beds. Usually when my parents went socializing, they took me along. I was well trained to be seen and not heard and to play games in my head and not call any attention to myself. If my parents stayed late, they would put me to bed in a strange bedroom with strange shadows and strange smells. That would give me the willies. I absolutely hated to lie there staring at whatever articles were on the night stand, trying not to breathe deep and almost wishing I'd fall asleep. And I hated to sleep.

Survey says. I hate surveys. I don't even know why. I guess because I feel inconvenienced for no return. I often lie if I can't get out of taking a survey. I got my one and only obscene phone call in the form of a phone survey.

My clinic sent me a survey. The letter accompanying it said that I'd been chosen to be in a small elite group of people who were asked their opinions on the clinic and its services. I didn't feel special, particularly when I saw that the survey was as long as the old grade school achievement tests. I threw it away.

Two weeks later I got the same survey booklet, and the accompanying letter was stern: explaining how the survey would only be valuable if everyone who had been chosen participated. I murmured something about how their survey wasn't going to be valuable then, and threw out the second mailing.

Two weeks later I received the third booklet, and the letter wasn't messing around: I was to return the enclosed survey in the accompanying addressed and postage paid envelope by such and such a date.

They reminded me at every turn of the process that it was completely anonymous. So... I did what I was told. I returned the survey booklet in the envelope provided. They didn't say anything about completing the survey, just returning. This petty little action made me feel better than it should have. I figure I wasted an hour dealing with the junk mail.

For at least a decade, Exley was scanning every purchase he made and transmitting it weekly by phone to some company gathering marketing data. He filled out surveys on products and services. He earned points that were worth prizes. I couldn't stand the thought of scanning every item I bought after I'd stood at the store watching someone scanning them all just a while before. Sometimes Exley would nag until I filled out some survey that was meant for the lady of the house. "Can't you just make up the answers?" I'd ask. Exley was like one of the Neilson families for shopping.

Just wondering. Real bad. How did Michael Jackson get white? Please don't make me read one of those thousand books that will be out next week. Someone must know the answer.

16 July 2009

I feel all twittery

I guess it happens to all bloggers who are fans of Twitter. Sooner or later, we have to blog about the social network that challenges you to answer the question What are you doing? in 140 characters or fewer.

I tried MySpace for a week. I skipped Facebook altogether. I signed up for Twitter because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Now I know.

And I still like it. I didn't think I would, but I do.

I get news by following my local newscasters and my national favorites. Often Twitter is the first place breaking news is discussed, and being able to tweet pundits and reporters makes the news interactive. People in trouble post amazing video. People fighting for freedom in far-off countries update us on their progress.

I learn about my city by following local go-getters and councilwomen and people who work where I work. I follow Governor Sarah Palin because she tweets hilarious things such as, "Mama bear's gutteral raw instinct" and "constant thumped-up ethics charges." Poor Sarah. A script would help her a lot, and I hope she finds one that's been well written by someone else.

I send a link when I update my blog, and some people who follow me go and read it; sometimes they even send a tweet of encouragement or tell me a story (very short) of their own experience. I've "met" numerous people that way.

Just recently two artists in my special group collaborated at lightning speed. @AuntiePrincess, one funny broad, tweeted one of her smart mouth but so true sayings. @crookedstamper shot back that she'd like to make a card using the sentiment. Auntie agreed. The next day, @crookedstamper has the card up on her blog. We all felt a part of it.

I make friends, and that's the part I like the most. Oh, sure, they aren't like face to face friends you meet in real life; they're much less annoying. By trial and error, following and listening, I've built a little community of people I like. A collection of minds who entertain or inform me. People who tweet about politics, and those who talk about art, and those who scour the internet for interesting visual delights.

And now we come to unfollowing. I've been in trouble for this. I really don't understand it; I feel that if we are entering into a twittery relationship, either of us has the right to discontinue it at any time for any reason. We're not married. I do not believe my unfollowing you gives you the right to demand a reason. But some do.

I'm a Gemini. Maybe my attitude is just a little too airy for some of you. I come and go. I change my mind. I like to take an independent approach. I unfollow people who bore me or offend me or make me angry, and I don't know why you don't do the same.

I've been told that I should follow back everyone who follows me. Now, why would I do that? I am not competing in a popularity contest, so I don't care about the numbers of people who follow me or whom I follow. I twitter because I find it enjoyable to cast a net and surprise myself with what I uncover. People can be very interesting. If they aren't, that's the reason for the unfollow button.

Following are my tweet peeves, the reasons I'll unfollow/not follow you:

Tweeting in all caps. I don't care if your name is Kirstie Alley. It's annoying.

Talking about Jesus. No argument. We're just not for each other.

Asking me to vote for any part of your body for any reason.

Tweeting only about the products you want me to buy. If your tweet stream looks like this:

Sold and relisted...
Sold and relisted...
New product...

I'm probably not following you anyway. Throw in something of value. Like an opinion. If you don't have an opinion, maybe you can re-tweet someone who does.

Using the term "I likey" or "me likey." Come on. If I already know you and love you, I will sigh and overlook that one, but it's not English and I am not amused.

Claiming to be doing something you can't possibly be doing while tweeting. Like changing a dirty diaper.

Squealing about how many followers you have, or asking for a few new ones to make a particularly significant (to you) number.

Sharing anything about bowel movements. Anything.

Not bothering to use a photo. If I see that little brown square that looks like a bag you'd wear over your head, I'm not following. Well, okay. A few relatives.

Never tweeting. What's the point?

Becoming tiresomely dramatic or overly quarrelsome. It's a social network, and I don't enjoy constant bitching. Except about politics.

Showing a photo of the meal you're about to eat. Unless it is the most beautiful arrangement I've ever seen. Or you are @understandblue and it's the Fourth of July and you have artfully arranged your hotdogs.

Advising me to go to your blog without including a link. I don't have time to look it up.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to report on my Twitter experience. I am not trying to convince you to take it up, because it is not for everyone. I know bunches of people who think it sounds stupid or who tried it and didn't like it, and that's okay with me.

Okay. About those hairless cats from yesterday. A lot of people were interested. Some found them creepy; some thought they were cute. (I'm in the latter group.) Because of the questions, I read more about them. These cats are called Canadian Sphinx cats. Tristan pointed out that they look like gargoyles (forgive me, Tristan, if that's not what you meant), and now I can't stop thinking that.

One thing I found absolutely heinous is that people in Moscow have these cats tattooed. Yes, needle and buzz, tattooed. I have been tattooed, and it is not really all that pleasant. I do not know how they would subdue the poor animal for several hours so they can do something that unnatural to a cat who already looks like it comes from another planet. I am not going to show you a photo of these "designer cats" I am so outraged about, although you can find them yourself online if you want.

Yes, Irene, you are right about them being very sensitive to temperatures. They need clothing when they go outside because not only can they easily catch a cold, but they also sunburn. They do have a little coat of peachfuzz, but not enough to protect them. Their skin is said to feel like velvet. They need to be bathed a couple of times a month to keep their skin healthy.