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Welcome to the BOMB.

The Blog Of the "Mother" of Bandit.
Bandit is my Hairless Chinese Crested--he's the "normal" one. I, on the other hand, am unrepentantly "pet-crazy." You know the type--the spinster who lives in the haunted house three blocks over with 72 cats...okay, so I don't have 72 cats, and my house isn't haunted--but my dogs wardrobe is better than mine! Need I say more? :~)
I've never been consistant at journaling, so the timing of my blogs will be sporadic at best. I just hope they are as entertaining to you as they are to me; however, be forewarned: Most of my blogs will be about The BaldOne. In spite of his Don King "do," I think he's just as cute as any of the Brothers B!
Now, if I can just remember not to get him wet--or feed him after midnight...

About Me

My photo
My bags are packed and I'm always ready to seek out an adventure with Bandit and Moggy in tow. Bandit is my thirteen year old Chinese Crested, who I frequently call The Bald One or The BaldOne Boy (like he was one of the Baldwin Brothers). Moggy’s full name is Pip-Moggy. He’s my two year old gansta-resuce kitty. I couldn’t decide between Pip (which are the spots on die and domino tiles) and Moggy (or Moggie when I mistakenly thought he was a she), so I combined the two. Moggy refers to the British term for "cat of unknown parentage .” So in essence, I have an almost bald dog, and I’ve named my cat “Spot.”

Fun Stuff (I'm doing now or have done)

  • Artistic Attempts weekly (alternating between Painting With A Twist, That Art Place, and Peniot's Palette).
  • Bunko with the Belton Bunko Babes monthly.
  • Participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge.
  • Spades and Liverpool Rummy with the Spadetts weekly.
  • The Mighty Texas Dog Walk, Austin (fund raiser for Service Dogs, Inc--they train shelter dogs to be Service Dogs, then give them free of charge to people with disabilities.)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

An Ordinary Life

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox. January 31, 2016 prompt:
"Last Line:  We started with a first line, so let's wrap up our month with a last. Give us the final sentence, paragraph, or chapter of your life story."

An Ordinary Life
My final sentence is:  She lived her ordinary life extraordinarily. I'm average. I may be slightly above average in a few categories; however,  overall I'm pretty everyday.

I'm the worker bee behind the scenes getting the work done while the beautiful people receive accolades for the same work, and in some cases, less work. Although I have been nominated for VA Woman of the Year. (I lost as expected--but I was truly honnored just to be nominated.)

I'm usually cheering and applauding as the parade passes by--except in High School when I was in Band, or since I've started walking Bandit in the Barkus Parade in NOLA.

I'm usually watching TV or listening to the radio rather than appearing on them--except when I was  interviewed by local radio stations in New Orleans and DeFuniak Springs Florida. Or when I was on local TV in Panama City Florida. Or national TV during a Rangers game (I didn't know I was on the jumbotron until a friend texted me she just saw me). Bandit and I have also been on the jumbotron at the Atlanta Braves games every time we've attended a Bark in the Park game--and our first game I played a game and won a vacation at a casino resort and a Braves goodie bag.

I've never had a newspaper byline, but I was interviewed by the Durant Democrat when Bandit and I attended a Rangers Dog Day game. And I made the Belton Journal front page in a color photo as a part of my Church Choir during our annual God and Country concert.

I've not become the globetrotter I wanted; however, I have lived in the Azores, and visited England, France, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Israel (twice), and I've driven to or through about 40 states, stopping and exploring wherever I had the urge.

I've not become a beach bum or retired to my mountain cabin in the woods (accessible only by hiking in or helicopter)--but retirement is still a few years away.

I've not become a mega star; however, my daily shower concert is SRO.

I haven't skydived....yet.  But if the former President I refer to as Daddy Bush can do it in his 70s or 80s I still have a couple of decades to join the club.

I never climbed Mount Everest, but I fell off a cliff.

I never became a race car driver. At least not officially--but a dozen or so cops might beg to differ.

Overall I've lived an ordinary life by many standards, but I think my ordinary life has been extraordinary.

Friday, January 29, 2016

I Write Because…

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 29, 2016 prompt:  “Write On:  Why do you write? What have you learned by facing the page? Did anything surprise you about your reflections this past month?”

I Write Because…
I write because I love to read.  As a child, Mama instilled a love for the written word in me and my Sister. Our tastes in reading material is worlds apart’ however, we love to read. As  a child people always complimented us on our vocabulary and we routinely tested at higher reading levels and comprehensive skills. I never saw Mama more angry than when a fourth grade teacher put me in a lower than average reading group because I didn’t pass a spelling test. The teacher incorrectly said, “You will never be a good reader because you aren’t a good speller. “  Mama told her to put me in the highest level reading group. I proceeded to blow the teacher out of the water. The following year we were in a read at your own pace reading program. I read everything and was introduced to the most wonderful room in the school. The Library.  By the way, my vocabulary and reading comprehension tested out at the mid-college level even in Junior High.

I write because it’s an easier form of creation and communication for me. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and focus. I like the order and sense of writing. Especially with the advent of the computer. In college and High School I struggled with writing papers. The content was always great. The form was not. Since most journals require APA style, we were always given the choice. When I discovered APA style I threw away the MLS manual and never looked back. During my oral exit exam from my Master’s program one of my instructors on the panel said, “We noticed about half way through the program your papers changed—the content has always been great, but the form is where you were marked off. What do you attribute that change to?” Without a heartbeat I told them. I finally had access to a computer. Before that time, I had manually typed on a type writer. Every time I found a typo or a misspelled word, or realized the flow was off, I had to retype the page.  After retyping the page 17 times, I stopped caring and turned the papers in w/typos.  To this day my favorite computer aides are: spell check and cut and paste.

I write because my friends encourage me.  I love to hear their praise about a funny story, or that they have passed my words of “wisdom” on to their kids or friends. It doesn't get any better than that for me, but even if no one ever read anything I wrote, I would still write because....

I write because it makes me happy.

What If…

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 28, 2016 prompt:  Alternative History:  Imagine how your life today would be different if an event in history would've gone another way. What if the British defeated the American colonies during the Revolutionary War? What if Prohibition never ended? What if the 9/11 terrorist attacks never took place? What if...”

What If…
I really don’t play the what if game. I am thankful I am who I am. However, I did wonder once, what my life would have been like had I been a boy. Mama was very strict and I grew up during the ‘70s, so there would have been no long hair for me.

I thought it would have been cool to be a “Junior” though.   As it was, I sort of am a junior—I was named after my Mama, GrandMother, and an Aunt. My Sister, of the enviable auburn hair and awesome figure, also has a feminized version of Daddy’s name. Some girls have all the luck.

I once asked Mama what my name would have been had I been a boy. I thought she would tell me I would have been Daddy’s junior. I was wrong. Very wrong.

Had I been a boy, I would have been named, Drexel Wayne—a name I had never heard before, so I asked about it. I liked the reason she gave for Wayne—which of course, was after The Duke,  John Wayne, who was all the rage. And it also alluded to Mamas maiden name of Duke. But I was puzzled over the Drexel until she told me…

It’s a street name in Dallas.

Yep, I would have been a dweeby outcast with a buzz cut and no facial hair named after a movie icon and a street.

I remain thankful I am who I am and there is no alternative history in my life.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Taking Notice

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 23, 2016 prompt: “Of Note:   What achievement – from a person, a company, a nation – captures your attention? Who did something admirable this year?” 

Taking Notice
Who or What I Notice…
The Janitor who comes in my office and dumps all the wastebaskets—even my personal basket. The Manager who takes the time to wipe off the menus between customers, when she could have delegated the task to someone else. My Service Advisor at the dealership, who always makes sure the Courtesy Van Driver comes in early when I have an appointment, to ensure  I still arrive on time at work. The grocery store Cashier who asks if I found everything, takes note of what I said I didn’t find, tells the manager, and then the Manager calls me to tell me they now carry the item.  Wait Staff  at multiple restaurants I frequent  who remember I like DDP (Diet Dr Pepper) and bring it to my table as I’m being seated—even when I haven’t been there in months! (I tip really well, often dine alone, and homestead while I read and linger over my meal—one, if not all, of those actions make me sort of memorable.)

But I also notice the people who do random acts of kindness—not directed at me…
The Supervisor who listens to her employees when they have a suggestion or complaint, takes it further, gives credit where due, and looks after her employees. The Physician, Nurse, Social Worker, Aide, Therapist, Dietitian, etc., who takes time to listen to the patient, involving them in their care decisions and plans. The Shopper who straightens merchandise that’s out of line, or picks up a piece of trash off the floor or parking lot and tosses it in the trashcan. The Driver that allows others a chance to get into their lane in front of them. The Hair Stylist that takes time with an elderly customer to show her how to style her hair so the thinning isn’t as obvious. The Teenager who opens the door for a date, a harried mom with kids in tow, or just the next person in line.  The Child who listens to the war stories of a Veteran. The Teacher who spends countless personal money and time making her classroom inviting or ensuring all her students have access to the resources they need. The Neighbor who calls to check on a shut-in.

What I do when I take notice…
I tell someone.  Sometimes I tell the person, “I saw what you did.” Or “Nice job!” Or simply, “Thank you.” Sometimes it involves telling their boss. Sometimes I leave a larger tip. No matter how big or small the action I see, I try to acknowledge what they did in some way. I try to let the person know they did a good job, or performed a kind act, and that it was noticed—and appreciated.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Prodigal Son.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 26, 2016 prompt:  “Influencers:  Did you witness someone influence others?  Perhaps you experienced it directly.  Share a tale of persuasion."

The Prodigal Son.
This month I came to hate the full moon. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful. The stars were bright. Five planets were visible. What's not to love—right?

Okay, perhaps it’s not really the full moon I hate. It's the gravitational pull of the full moon. I’ve been a Registered Nurse for over a quarter of a century, and I believe every one of the old wives tales I've heard about the full moon: The crazies come out at the full moon. Women give birth at the full moon. And, most importantly,  never ever cut or color your hair at the full moon. I’m living proof of that last one.

Every month, when the moon is full Bandit, my almost eleven year old Chinese Crested, decides to run the neighborhood. I know he's going to do it before I even look at the moon. Since we travel so much I keep his leash in the SUV--at least I do ever since we went to a doggie event 150 miles from home and I arrived realizing I had left his leash at home. I ended up going to a sporting goods store and purchasing an ill-fitting, color and style mis-matched collar and leash. From that point on I’ve left his main leash and collar, along with a giveaway leash, in the SUV.

Each month, just before the moon is full, Bandit warns me he's going to run--he starts getting hard-headed. I call "here." He turns a deaf ear. You would think, when he starts his warning phase, I would look up, see the moon was close to full, and open the SUV door to grab his leash, then hang it on the inside door knob for the next time we go out. That’s what I tell myself I will do. It’s what a reasonably intelligent person might do. So of course, as soon as I think it, I forget it. Or I think, maybe this month he’ll mind me—he’s more directable.
So this full moon Bandit takes off. I go after him. I bring him home, and before I can get him inside, he takes off a second time! I retrieve him yet again and when we finally get inside I find Moggy, our year old rescue kitty sitting outside the window--he has punched out the side-panel next to the window air conditioner three times. Every time I think it's fixed to where Moggy can't open it, he does. Moggy willingly  came back inside. I fixed it again then left for the day. When I returned, the panel was open and Moggy was gone. He never comes when called but I tried anyway. All through the night, every time I woke up I called. When I took Bandit outside for potty breaks I called. Before I left for work I called. When I came home from work I called. I drove around the neighborhood calling and looking to make sure he hadn't been hit and left by the side of the road. This morning I was awake when the 3:30 am train passed by. I hoped he had enough sense to stay away from the tracks. I was just about to get up to go call for him again, when  I heard a soft thud—and Moggy was hopping up next to me.  

The prodigal son hath returned.

I still need to figure out a way to cat-proof the AC panel.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Not a Good Deed.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 25, 2016 prompt: “Good Deeds:   Explore a good deed – yours, or one from someone else. How is the world better for it?”

Not a Good Deed.
When I read this prompt I was reminded that a good deed doesn’t have to be huge or wide sweeping to have a huge effect. It doesn't even have to be a true good deed...

I attended Junior High School (7th-9th grade back in the mid-70s), when we dressed out for  physical education class in uniforms. If you didn’t dress out, you had to sit on the bleachers with nothing to occupy your time. I forgot my uniform one day and had to sit out. I was in luck though, because a new kid in school didn’t have a uniform yet. I did something I rarely do because I tend to be shy and reserved—at least until I get to know you, then I’m loud and obnoxious. There is no middle ground in my world. My action?  The simple act of getting up and moving to where she sat, introducing myself, and being interested enough to ask a couple of questions.  I was just killing time. Besides, I always like to know where other people had been stationed—we were both Air Force Brats.

Robin and I talked for just a couple of minutes before the teacher split us up. I never thought anything of it. Robin went on to become a popular girl and I didn’t. Our paths never crossed again. Until the last day of school.

I boarded the exceedingly rowdy school bus, students and Bus Driver one and all ready to start our summer vacation. Robin got up from the seat she was sitting in and dodged a few people to come and talk to me. Until that day I didn’t even realize she was on my bus route.

Robin said, “You’re the girl from PE that talked to me my first day, when we sat on the bleachers—aren’t you?” I said I was and she said, “Thank you.”  I was puzzled and she went on to explain. “I was new and very shy. Because you said hi and took an interest in me, I opened up and said hi to other people. At my last school I was very shy and never had any friends. Because you were nice to me, I’ve made a ton of friends at this school.”

I was floored. I hadn’t done anything special. I know what it’s like to be the  new kid in school, the odd man out, the fifth wheel. All I did was say hello and ask a few questions, and try to make her feel a little less awkward.  And that was it—nothing big or spectacular. But she made it sound like I had saved her life.
W hadn't. But it made me realize, we never know what someone else is facing. We never know what our small kindness—in this case, a simple hello, and taking interest in someone else—can mean to someone. Just a word of encouragement, a small amount of spare change, stopping to change a flat tire—whatever the small act to us,  can mean the world to the recipient. It could be the difference between having a just getting by day, or a survival day, or  a fantastic day.

My simple act wasn’t really even really a good deed. But it made all the difference to Robin, and her telling me how much it affected her, made an impact on me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Everyone Has An Agenda.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 23, 2016 prompt:  "Media Frenzy:  Nervous at airports? Created your first protest sign? Taken on a different perspective? How has what you've seen in the media changed you this year?"

Everyone Has An Agenda.
I have never been "Politically Correct."  I try not to hurt others, but I speak my mind. Sometimes I'm spot on. Sometimes I'm dead wrong. Sometimes I go off half-cocked and say something I regret, or I don't understand the issue and I mis-speak. But, like Steve Harvey, I own it and try to make amends. What I don't do, is blindly believe the "news media." 

Reporters no longer objectively report the news, they push their thoughts and opinions. I am extremely cynical of all news media.  I question everything I hear, believe none of it, and find the "professionals" reporting the "news" to be repugnant. Everyone has an agenda. Whether it is to increase Neilson Ratings, elect their pupet to public office, or push change in societal mores. 

Don't tell me what to think--give me the unbiased facts, and I will come to my own conclusions--whether they are right or wrong they will at least be mine. I don't need to regurgitate the PC dogma of the day. In fact, I often refuse to do so, even when I think it may have some merit. 

Technologically we live in exciting times. Media advances enable us to live in a global community where everything is at our fingertips. But technology also exposes our lack of objectivity--even as it attempts to disguise itself as "news." 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Condo Life vs Cabin Life vs RV Life

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 21, 2016 prompt:  It's All About the Journey:  Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?

Condo Life vs Cabin Life vs RV Life
Four  summers ago, my BFF in NOLA took a vacation to Navarre Beach, Florida and she invited her sister, her family, and me to join her. Navarre is half way between Daddy in Pensacola (before he passed away) and Mama in Panama City, so I thought it would be a great place to visit. I grew up on the beaches of NW Florida, and love them. I believe with all my heart that the Miracle Strip (100 miles of sugar white sand between Pensacola and Panama City)  are the most beautiful beaches in Florida—and most of the world for that matter. Even though the beach front condo we stayed at was not pet friendly (at least not the condo unit we rented), I agreed to join them. We had a blast and I visited Bandit daily at the Vet office where I boarded him.  Three summers ago, we returned to the same condo, different unit.   I loved the sunrises and sunsets from the bedroom and balcony, and decided the Beachfront Condo Life is for me!

But then…
Two summers ago, Bandit and I took a huge loop of many of the western states (western Route 66, up Coast Highway 1 in CA, up to Oregon—with the possibilities of continuing to Washington  and possibly Canada—coming home to Texas with  stops in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado). During this trip, I tripped and banged myself up pretty good. After the fall, I decided to take it a bit slower than what I had planned. Then the steering in my SUV went out, and after that was repaired and we were on the road again,  a tire blew. On a Friday. In the middle of nowhere—it was almost 5pm by the time I found a WalMart with a sympathetic service manager and a couple of tire guys that stayed late to help out a damsel in distress. Even fraught with all that drama that was the summer I decided when I retire I’m selling everything, buying an RV, and traveling the remainder of my active years. I picked up an RV magazine and started comparing models and making retirement plans. I decided the RV Life is for me! 

This past summer I rented a hand-hewn cabin in the Georgia mountains. It was awesome. I chose this particular cabin for two reasons:  the hand-hewn aspect, and it was both cat and dog-friendly. In the past I’ve rented dog friendly cabins in Ruidoso NM. Since Bandit and I rescued and subsequently adopted Moggy, I’ve found travel to be slightly more problematic. Dogs go outside on a leash and the human scoops the poop. Cats on the other hand require litter boxes and extra training for the leash—which thus far has not been successful. I travel a lot and feel a travel kennel is too small for Moggy on long trips. Therefore, I placed a small litter box in a dog crate along with a cat bed. Because I was concerned with litter fly-out, I wrapped the lower half of the crate in a light-weight blanket. Now Moggy can travel long distance in relative comfort. This particular cabin was one of six that I found that were both dog and cat friendly. While the others were closer to streams or more secluded, I chose this cabin because all the others had logs that were too perfect. They reminded me of modular cabins. This cabin was quirky. I like quirky. So perhaps the Cabin Life is for me!

But maybe…
Can I have it all? I’ll need a home base anyway, why not a cabin in the mountains or a condo on the beach?  In fact, why not both?  I could rent them out when I’m traveling. They could be Retirement Income as well as a home base when I’m off the road. Even if none of my hopes and dreams come to fruition, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not a condo life vs cabin life vs RV life that I’m looking forward to, it’s the Retirement Life that’s for me!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

It’s a Small World After All…

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 21, 2016 prompt:  “Strange Encounter:  Share a story about a stranger this year. Was it something you overheard? Someone you accidentally met & bonded with? A funny...or strange coincidence?”

It’s a Small World After All…
The first time I realized we live in a small world, I was in the Fourth Grade. Daddy was career Air Force, but instead of getting to go to lots of exciting places, we were yo-yoed between the panhandles of Texas and Florida. Except one tour. We accompanied him to The Azores, a small chain of islands off the cost of Portugal. I was in Kindergarten. By the Fourth Grade we were bounced back to Eglin AFB. During a Show and Tell I brought something from The Azores. Afterward, one of the boys, who I always thought looked familiar, came over and told me he had been in The Azores the same time. We had been former Kindergarten classmates.  It’s a Small World After All…

A few years ago I went on my first trip to Israel. Our first day we stopped at the Stellar Mairs Church in Haifa. While my fellow travelers and I were oohing and ahing over the paintings on the rotunda ceiling, and Israeli said to us, “You are from Texas, are you not?” 

When we said, “yes.” He asked where. We told him it was a very small town in Central Texas called Belton, and he probably never heard of it. He surprised us by saying he knew exactly where it was—he had been a student at Baylor.  It’s a Small World After All…

My second trip to Israel we stayed at a different hotel. I went to the hotel shops on the way to dinner and one of the Shop Keepers, told me he thought he knew me. We talked and discovered he was an alumni of The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and while he graduated the year before I attended—he had seen a picture of me in the alumni magazine.  It’s a Small World After All…

More recently, I work at the VA Hospital as a Registered Nurse, Patient Care Coordinator (think Case Manager in the nonVA world). A big part of my job is meeting the Veterans on my ward,  and developing a care plan. I  recently met a guy from a town about 2 hours away. It’s a small town.  I happened to mention one of my Uncles lives there.  Turns out, he not only knew my Uncle—they play cards together from time to time. It’s a Small World After All…

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I have People

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.

January 20, 2016 prompt:   “Tickets! Tickets!  What (or who) did you shell out or stand-in-line for this year? Was it worth it? What made you wait in line, log-on early, or form a lifetime attachment?”

I have People

I don’t do lines—I have people for that.
I really am not that pretentious, but I truly don’t do lines. If at all possible, I shop during "off hours." I use the self-checkout at WalMart. I limit my groceries to 15 or less so I can go through the speedy check at H.E.B. (my Texas-based grocery store).  I still haven’t seen Star Wars—although in truth that has more to do with the cost of a regular movie ticket, popcorn, and a Diet Dr Pepper costing more than a dinner out. Not to mention, if I decided to purchase one of the reserved seats, and have a meal while watching the show, I would be spending close to $30. For a movie. Just me. I can wait ‘til it comes to the Dollar Theater, where I also smuggle in my snacks—I justify my brazen departure into lawlessness because they don’t carry DDP.  In truth, I haven’t even gone to see a cheap movie in over a year.

The last concert I attended was Michael Bubble’  back when his nose-bleed seats were still affordable at $85 a pop. And a friend went online to buy tickets for the four of us to be able to swoon over him. It was worth it.

The last professional football game I attended was my beloved Cowboys last Thanksgiving in Cowboys Stadium. I purchased packages for Daddy and me that included rooms at the same hotel as the team, attending the pre-game radio show the night before, a tailgate party in the stadium parking lot, nosebleed seats for the game, a post-game Thanksgiving Day Banquet, a tour of the old stadium the day after the game, and a drive over to Arlington to view the progress on the new stadium—what I call JerryLand.

In fact, the  only tickets I obtained this past year were season pass football tickets for my alma mater. And again, I didn’t stand in line for them, because a friend, who is on the Board of Directors, obtains the tickets for our cozy little group of nine. Go Cru!

So, come to think of it, I really am blessed to have people 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Catchy Phrase and Powerful Words.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.

January 19, 2016 prompt:   “Read Up:  Let's explore the power of words. Did a writer delight you, make you think, or impact you in some other way? Write a review, or share a favorite line from something you've read.”

Catchy Phrase and Powerful Words.
I love to read. Right now I have three books going: A Sookie Stackhouse (Vampire) novel, a cozy (light-weight fluffy mystery—think “Murder She Wrote” or Agatha Christie ), and I'm listening to a  fantasy audio book for the commute to work (LOL—its 15 minutes if that!). I haven’t added the fourth one (to replace the romance I just finished).  I like options. As long as they are different authors and genres I keep them straight. I made a mistake once, a year or so back—I had two books by the same suspense author I love and couldn’t decide which one to start. I ended up finishing a second book and still hadn’t figured out which one I wanted to read next, so I started both. I had an awful time keeping the characters and the plots straight. I had to reread passages everytime I pick one of them up. So from then on, I make sure they are four different authors and genres.

A line from the cozy is rolling around in my head, “The third time I screamed within twenty-four hours, I found another body.” Or something like that. I’m thinking that would have been a great first line. Maybe I can change the stalled novel start to something like that. Except I don’t have a protag with a knack for screaming…or finding bodies.  Still, it’s a great line.  Had I not known this was the start of a Murder Mystery Weekend and one of the bodies was a fake, I would have been wondering what kind of a murder magnet this chick was. Even knowing the details, I liked the line and the possibilities it hinted at. 

I love the power of words—written or spoken. They can transport us to other words, or real places we might never visit. They can convey our thoughts and beliefs to those around us. They can incite or calm. They can bind and discourage or they can provide a framework and encouragement. They can harm or heal. And because of that, we need to choose our words carefully.

Now, if I can just get about the business of choosing the right words to write.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Location! Location! Location!

I  love my 'hood. It's vibrant, transitional, and during the holidays, it's quiet.  I live "on the parade route," in a small town next to my college alma mater, and my church is two blocks away.  In New Orleans that first point is a huge selling point for homes. Here in Belton we usually just have the one big parade each year: Fourth of July, so it's not a huge selling point.

My church has activities everyday of the week. Prayer groups, Bible Studies for every different group, multi-generational groups, ministries to several different language groups, sports for mainstream as well as special needs people, coffee clubs, counseling services, day care,  and  a preparatory school that meets on our campus.  It's a busy place.

During the academic year the campus hosts a variety of activities: Art exhibits at the Visual Arts Center. Concerts, lectures, and conferences at one or more of the concert halls, auditoriums, or amphitheater. Fun Runs, fitness challenges, college and High School level spectator sports and competitions. The campus grounds are a much sought after photo shoot location for brides, debutantes, young/soon to be families, high school seniors, and alumni reliving memories. The neighbors stroll their kids and exercise their dogs, as they walk or jog the well-lit sidewalks and walking paths. It too is a busy place.

The downside to living next to the university is the high neighbor turnover because so many of the surrounding houses are rentals geared to the college population. And the high traffic flow as students arrive and depart for classes or activities. The two-edged sword of growth increases the energy vibe (which I love), but also increases construction inconvenience and debris (not so much love).

Right now, two of the rentals are vacant. Interestingly enough they are the two that have historically housed the party guys. Every weekend a party.  Sometimes well into the wee hours of the morning. This past year the parties tapered off--perhaps they buckled down and studied more as they advanced in their degree plans and the courses became more difficult. Or perhaps they have moved on, with or without their degrees in hand. For what ever reason, it's a wee bit quieter.

I kind of miss the weekend parties.

If you need a change of venue, I know a couple of parade route houses in a great town..."Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

Friday, January 15, 2016

"I've Gotta Be Me"

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 15, 2016 prompt:   “Life Swap:  Switch places with someone for a day. Who would you swap with. Someone famous? Someone anonymous? Tell us who – and why!”

"I've Gotta Be Me"
Reading the prompt, I wondered who might I choose? I truly can’t come up with anyone I’d rather be than me.
Rich, like Trump?  Nah, I’ve been a supervisor, been on national TV, and been responsible for firing someone. Besides, I already have my own hair issues, I don’t need his.
Powerful, like a politician? Don’t make me laugh!  There is no way I’d ever be PC enough for a life in politics. My motto is, “If you don’t want me to tell you the truth as I see it, don’t ask me for my opinion.”
Beautiful, like a beauty pageant queen? Outer beauty is subjective and fades.
Smart, like Steven Hawking or Marilyn vos Savant?—okay, smart might be okay.
Humanitarian, like Mother Theresa?  A worthy goal.
Philanthropic,  Like Carnegie? Again, another worthy goal.
Jesus?  No one can top Him.
Talented—There are so many talented writers, musicians, artists, etc., I can’t even begin to come up with the categories, let alone the actual people!

The "problem" is, I like who I am, and the life I live. If I changed anything, it might be wishing I had started my career earlier—but then I realize I would not be the same person as I am today. Every person I have come into contact with, and  every experience I have had, have shaped me into the person I am today. That means, even if I changed just the timing of college, I would not be the person I am today. I would have met different people, and experienced different events. I would be totally different than I am. So, in answer to the question of who I would swap my life with—even for a day, I say no one….and, because I’m an unrepentant dweeb, I break out in the Broadway song, “I Gotta Be ME!!!”  And even though it was sung by the likes of Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett, among others, I see Ethel Merman belting it out  (like when she sings “Everything’s Coming up Roses”).

I kind of like that idea. Maybe I could be Ethel Merman for a day. Or Gypsy Rose Lee—but not for the reason you think!  She was a burlesque queen that left them wanting more—and introduced the USA to the Chinese Crested.  Maybe GRL’s who I should be after all—besides, I already have the dog!

I’ve Gotta Be Me (Walter Marks)
Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I've gotta be me

What else can I be but what I am
I want to live, not merely survive
And I won't give up this dream
Of life that keeps me alive
I gotta be me, I gotta be me

The dream that I see makes me what I am
That far-away prize, a world of success
Is waiting for me if I heed the call
I won't settle down, won't settle for less
As long as there's a chance that I can have it all
I'll go it alone, that's how it must be
I can't be right for somebody else
If I'm not right for me
I gotta be free, I've gotta be free

Daring to try, to do it or die
I've gotta be me. 
I'll go it alone, that's how it must be
I can't be right for somebody else
If I'm not right for me
I gotta be free, I just gotta be free
Daring to try, to do it or die
I gotta be me

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Mommy Curse

I thought I dodged the bullet. The Mommy Curse bullet. You know the one—Mothers all over the world  bestow this curse on ungrateful, eye-rolling, attitude throwing, ego-centric teens in fits of frustrated desperation—usually after said teen has behaved outrageously. The curse goes something like this:  “I hope you have kids just like you when you grow up!”  Variations on the theme may include a specific number of  just like you kids. An example might be, “I hope you have thirteen kids just like you when you grow up!”
Since I never gave birth to children of my own, I naively thought I had dodged the curse. 
Until I adopted an 18 month-old boy.   

I soon realized 18 month-olds can be a handful—and mine was no exception. He could get into more trouble than I thought possible.  Certainly more trouble than I ever remembered getting into. 

Just before his second birthday, I was at my wits end.  I thought I had made a horrible mistake in adopting him.  A friend told me about a new "therapy" she had heard of that reportedly held a lot of promise.  It was a class where you bonded while mastering obstacles together.  It sounded an awful lot like a ROPES course. ROPES courses teach communication skills, foster a greater sense of trust, and enhance team building. They are great, but you have to give up some degree of control, and I didn't think that would be my cup of tea.  However, I finally became desperate enough to be willing to try anything—even an obstacle course.  I signed us up.

Surprisingly, we both enjoyed the class and it seemed to be doing the trick. I learned my communication style was rather ambiguous which resulted in my sending mixed signals. Once I learned to give clearer directions, he responded appropriately. We were bonding, learning to trust each other more,  and because of the physical nature of the class,  we were sleeping through the night.  Everything seemed to be working great—with one small exception.

He really didn’t like one of the obstacles.  This particular obstacle, the chute, gave everyone a bit of a scare at first. It was the scariest obstacle on the course. It required a new, deeper level of trust. It entailed going into a  chute whose far end was collapsed and dark.  The most similar obstacle is the tunnel, which has two open ends and, except when curved, you can see the light at the other end. After his  initial introduction to the tunnel it presented no further problems, even when the tunnel was curved diffusing the light.

The chute was a whole different animal. He wanted nothing to do with it. The opening collapsed , cutting off his sight line and all light. In order to navigate it, he would have to push against it blindly with his head, while crawling through. It would require a lot of trust. Even with me instructing him, guiding him with my voice, and encouraging him, it appeared he had met  his match. During one class, he almost got stuck in the chute; but, he finally figured out, he could turn around and get out of it. At first I excused  his lack of progress because he was obviously scared of it. Then I noticed one by one his classmates were getting the hang of it. I tend to be a little bit competitive, and I wanted to progress on to the next class, but in order to do so we had to pass all the obstacles during the skills test, so I started pushing him a little harder as we kept practicing. Now  I realize I should have stopped pushing so hard that it was no longer fun. But I didn't. I was determined we would pass to the next level. Then if we decided it was no longer fun, we would quit. But we would not quit as failures.

The last night of class, we arrived early to practice the chute for the last time. After a few tries something clicked. I don't know what it was. Maybe the fact that we were fresh and not frustrated. Whatever the reason, he trusted me and everything came together.  We briefly went over the remaining obstacles and  by the time class started we were rocking. 

During our test, the chute was our very first obstacle. That might be a bit daunting to most people;  however, I’m not most people. When I started my Master’s Degree, I asked that the first two classes be the classes I thought I would have the most difficult time with. My advisor cautioned me about taking those two classes together and first. I told him if I was going to fail out, I would much rather fail out the first semester—before I invested a lot of time and money in the program. Facing the chute first thing was right up my alley. I only hoped my boy would face the chute with the same attitude, and that he would persevere and be successful, just as I had.  Facing the chute, I took a deep breath, whispered a quick prayer, and gave the command. It was our moment of truth.

I should not have worried. He executed it perfectly!   I beamed. I was one proud Mama.  Even he started prancing and strutting around. He knew he had done well and his confidence was high.  We were both flying as our classmates cheered us on. There was no way we weren't on our way to the Next Level.

We came to the final obstacle and it was his favorite:  a simple jump. Barely even a hop. I instructed him to jump knowing we had this in the bag. Only, he decided he didn’t want to jump. And just like a  belligerent teenager, my 2-year old, threw a silent hissy fit—right there in the middle of the class.  He, who does not like to get dirty, actually sat in the dirt! He did not fall out and flail his arms and legs. He did not rant and rave, in fact he did not utter a sound; however, the belligerent look in his eyes spoke volumes:  His eyes said, “No!  I’m not going to, and you can’t make me!” 

I tried coaxing him over the jump. He sat ridged.

I reminded him we needed to do this jump so we could advance to the next class. He actually looked down his nose at me with haughty eyes. 

I appealed to his love of jumping. He looked away.

I bribed him with an inexpensive treat. He refused to even look and consider what could be his if he only did what I knew he loved to do.
It was clear to everyone in the class:  He had worked hard on the chute before class. He had executed the course run through flawlessly up to this point. But. He. Was. Done. 

Like a bolt of lightning,  realization jolted me:  the Mommy Curse had finally come to fruition—my 2 year old was acting  just like the teenager he really was—on this, the last day of Dog Agility Class.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Waystations of a Transitional Alien

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 13, 2016 prompt: "Habitat: What creates a sense of home for you? Explore the space, artifacts, or people who shape your habitat. When do you feel the most at home?"

Waystations of a Transitional Alien
Great question for the Blog Challenge today...When I consider the question, “What creates a sense of home?”  I wonder if it is a comfortable dwelling place? Being surrounded by family  and friends? The inclusion in a community of like-minded folks with shared history, experiences, or beliefs?  Setting down roots in one location? Pride of home ownership—having  a place that is mine alone—to rest my weary head at the end of the day? Or a place for amassing “stuff” designed to simplify or enhance my life as I race to “keep up with the Jones’?”  All of those examples?  None of them?  A static  combination?  Or maybe, depending upon the circumstance, it's a more fluid combination?

As a Military Brat, although we traveled a lot, my growing up years were not really gypsy-like or nomadic, since we were told where to go, but it was, in the very least, a transitional life in that every 6 months to 2 years we would move. Mostly we were yo-yoed between the Panhandles of Texas and Florida, but a move is still a move. I still get antsy every couple of years. Now that I’m responsible for packing and moving however, I tend to make smaller changes to curb that urge. Every trip I take to visit Mama in Florida I tell friends, “I’m going ‘home.’” Yet every time I come back across the state line of Texas, I let out a whoop ‘cause I’m “home again.”  Can I have two homes? If not, where is my actual home? I recently had cause to ponder this…

Two summers ago I took an epic road trip with my 10-year old Chinese Crested, Bandit. It was an ambitious plan.  In a two week time-span we would: 

  • Pick up the western half of Route 66 in Amarillo (my birth place), with a side trip to the Grand Canyon and an overnight at the pet-friendly Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas where I would see the Donny and Marie Show! (yeah, I’m an unrepentant dweeb—who still loves purple…and Donny).
  • En route, I would finally stay in the WigWom Motel in Holbrook AZ. (They don’t have online reservations and I’d  missed out staying there on another trip).
  • The day following the show we would rejoin The Mother Road with a planned side trip to Riverside CA  to visit a friend and see an art gallery.
  • Finishing at the “sentimental” end of Route 66  (the Santa Monica Pier –the real end is an unimpressive street corner), we would switch to the scenic Coast Highway 1.
  • Departing from the coast, near San Francisco, we would snap a selfie at the Golden Gate Bridge before crossing over and taking a side trip inland a few miles to Petaluma, where Bandit would enter—and lose—the Ugly Dog Contest (yes, we went expecting to lose—and as expected we did lose—because Bandit was the cutest dog there!).
  • The contest would be followed by a side trip through the Chandelier Drive Thru Tree, on the way to visit my Aunt Margie in Oregon, with the hopes of returning to the coast—at least at the northern end of the state—to see the results of a primo sandcastle contest on Cannon Beach.
  • If all went well, we would travel to Washington State  and maybe even have time for a daytrip or overnight trip into Canada (I found a pet friendly ferry and overnight  accommodations and made sure I had my passport and Bandits Health Certificate, just in case).
  • On the way home to Texas we would stop in Colorado to visit friends and the dog friendly Manitou Cave Dwellings and their resident wolveswho are also pet friendly!—I checked.

Whew!!!  I told you it was an ambitious trip. That was the plan anyway.

At the Flamingo, I took a dive walking Bandit. As a result, I ended up sore and moving a lot slower than normal. Sitting in the SUV on long stretches of driving did not enhance this condition. In an attempt to lighten the situation, and distract me from the pain I was feeling, I requested Siri sing “Puppy Love” to me. He replied, “I’d rather not” in his droll British accent. I never liked Siri.

I arrived in California in pain and well  behind schedule. I skipped Riverside—missing the art gallery and my friend, whose schedule conflicted with my new arrival time, found a pet-friendly hotel in Ventura,  took some Tylenol for pain, and went to bed. I decided the breakneck speed I had planned was not the speed I wanted to go, so I started cutting back on the activities I had planned. When my Aunt offered her cabin at the lake for a couple of days R&R in Oregon,I took her up on it and curtailed my trip even more. We never made it any further north than Klamath Falls. My time at the lake was one of much needed relaxation and healing. Canada would have to wait until a future trip.

Later that same trip the steering on my SUV went out forcing me to hole up in a small western town waiting on parts and repairs, providing me with additional rest, relaxation, and plenty of time to consider, what makes home, home?  I came to the realization that, for me anyway, although I claim both Texas and Florida as home, I really don’t see either as home—they are merely Waystations on my Life Journey.

I also decided, when I retire in about 7 years, I’m selling everything, buying an RV, and going to spend retirement traveling like a nomad gypsy—albeit at a more relaxing speed than I travel at now. 

But that’s not the end of the story. The question of “what makes home, home?” doesn’t end with the physical, social, and emotional levels, because we humans are a complicated lot—we are much  more than our physical, social, and emotional dimensions. We also have a spiritual dimension. As a Christian I believe the Bible to be the Word of God. In it we are told,  we—the Believers and Followers of Jesus Christ—are aliens in this world. For the Believer, our citizenship is actually in Heaven.

There’s an old gospel song, “This World is Not My Home,”  that says it pretty well:

This World Is Not My Home
This world is not my home—I'm just a passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

They're all expecting me, and that's one thing I know
my Savior pardoned me and now I onward go.
I know He'll take me through—though I am weak and poor
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Just up in Glory Land we'll live eternally
the Saints on every hand are shouting “Victory!”
Their song of sweetest praise drifts back from Heaven's shore
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore

“O Lord you know I have no friend like You
if Heaven's not my home, then Lord what will I do?”
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

I’ve always thought the gypsy life was a romantic life.  I’m not really cut out to be a gypsy because I do like the act of planning my trips, although I also love the ability to be spontaneous and veer from my plans. During my travels, I meet some extraordinary folks. We share many things in common, and we express vast differences. Even though I call Texas and Florida “home,”  they really are just my waystations. I look forward to my retirement when I become even more of a wanderer, in my transitional alien world—until I go to my real home—a home of true perfection.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How I Play

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.
January 12, 2016 prompt:  "Play Date: You know the story about all work and no play...How did you play with others this year? Let your hair down and share how you escaped for an hour, a day, or more."
How I Play
I work hard and I play fun!  I love Play Dates. Most of mine include some sort of game: board games with friends or my three favorite adopted kids (I haven’t adopted—their families have unofficially adopted me), a variety card games (Spades, Liverpool Rummy, etc.)  with the Spadettes—we named ourselves after our favorite game, a mindless dice rolling game called Bunko, informal quarterly get-togethers with College chums (that weren't quarterly this past year), cheering my alma mater to NCAA D3 football victory (we are usually top ranked going into the season and make it into the playoffs each year—and have gotten as far as The Stagg Bowl—Go Cru!), and creating objects d art at a couple of painting/crafting places (That Art Place Belton, and Painting With a Twist—I have painted with them all over the country—although some might disagree as to the art-worthiness of my paintings and art projects.

Since I love play dates and Bandit, my almost 11-year old Chinese Crested,  loves, loves, loves playing with the German Shepard or Yorkie on either side of us, so you would think a romp in the local dog park would be right up his alley. You'd be wrong. He has come a long way from the "scared of everyone and every dog" pup he used to be—but he still does not play well at the dog park. He would much rather walk the fence perimeter sniffing and peeing on every blade of grass, ignoring the other dogs.  You know how they say dogs take after their owners?  I don’t walk the perimeter sniffing and peeing, but I also  need my alone play time. 

However—I periodically Google “pet friendly activities” because my favorite Play Dates are with Bandit.  We have attended all sorts of Dog Activities:

  • Barkus (the only official dog parade in NOLAs Mardi Gras line-up)
  • Atlanta Brave Bark in the Park games (won a resort package during  one of jumbo-tron games, and lots of anonymous shots of him)
  • Texas Rangers Dog Day (didn't know he was on the jumbo-tron anonymously until a friend watching the game on TV called to say she just saw him, also interviewed for the Durant Democrat)
  • Fantastic Caverns in Springfield MO (the only one of four jeep toured caverns—which were found by a Golden Retriever and has a fascinating history as an underground honky-tonk during Prohibition),
  • Odessa Jackolopes Dogs and Ice Night
  • Flamingo Casino, Las Vegas (he didn't get to go to The Donny and Marie Show—but Mommy did!)
  • Austin Great American Dog Walk (benefiting an organization that takes shelter dogs and trains them as service dogs—win/win—saving two lives for the price of one)
  • The Manitou Cliff Dwellings (the grounds and resident wolves are dog friendly)
  • and losing in The 2014 Ugly Dog Contest in Petaluma CA (I told them we came to lose, because Bandit is just too cute to win that particular contest). 
And the list goes on!

Bandit has also accompanies me on all my vacations—New York for conferences, Maine, Oregon, cabins in Ruidoso NM and Ellijay Georgia, a yurt in Hot Springs, beach condos in Florida…any place that is dog friendly is open for consideration. 

One day we hope to make it to  Canine Camp Getaway and Blog Paws