Monday, January 31, 2005

Time for a game!

It's time for another episode of: "Grab a Book!"

Fellow blogger and friend The Downtown Guy -- -- whose entire blog is dedicated to the promotion of downtown Oklahoma City, a cause I support but a fetish I do not share, has launched one of those fun what-are-you-reading games. (This come via E.R.'s blog. Pass it on).

He wants Page 123, sentence 5.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. In a comment on this blog, and on your own blog, post the sentence along with these instructions.
(He's kinda persnickety about it. He says:)
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

Here's mine:

"Life as we have known it has been transformed."
--from Stephanie Marston, "If Not Now, When?" Chapter 6, "Growing Up Isn't for Sissies" (New York: Warner Books Inc., 2002.)

Editorial comment: As we approach middle age, we begin to experience losses that bring our own immortality into sharp focus. We lose friends, parents and others to death. We experience more serious illnesses, either our own or those of people dear to us. Sometimes, separation comes from fractured relationships.

Sometimes it's hard to understand that we are not alone in these life changes. As surely as puberty, this mid-life transition awaits us all. We can choose to wallow in the pain, impotent, or we can get a grip, face it down and claim our own lives, living more fully than we could have imagined.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Friday, January 28, 2005

All dressed up with no place to go

This day is almost as good as being 8 and hearing that school's been cancelled!

I was supposed to have an outdoor photo shoot for a landscaping story this morning. It was a rush-around morning, getting showered and dressed. I had heard on the late news last night that there was a chance for snow in some parts of the state, but as of 3:30 a.m., when I finally crashed, there wasn't any sign of it here.

So I dress warmly, if not professionally, and open the drapes in my living room as I gathered up my note-taking materials. And then, I stopped. And laughed.

My car in the driveway is playing hide-and-seek. "You can't seeeeeeeee me," I hear it taunting me. "Don't look! You can't seeeeeeeee me!"

There was no point in even opening the door. I made the necessary calls to make sure everyone was on the same page about cancelling the appointment and trying again on Monday.

Now, here I am, all cozy, warm and freshly showered and made up. Too bad no one can see me!

So I will have a great day all alone, sipping cocoa, playing on the computer, reading...

Nanny nanny boo-boo to those of you who had to go to work anyway!! THIS is why I DON'T make the big bucks any more!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A tasty treat

It's been a day of domestic activity as I ponder some major life issues. I've done my marketing, did a little kitchen cleaning, tossed a little trash from my office (the kitchen and office need considerably more work, but the point is I got started on them and did something towards the goal.)

I was unreasonably satisfied with the grocery shopping -- to the point of giddiness. I bought what I needed to fill out a month's worth of menus, and spent only $40. Yay!

Several meals will be made from Coke Roast, a recipe shared by a friend on a bulletin board. Give this one a try! It is wonderful!

Coke Roast

1 roast (I used a $7 arm roast. I'm guessing that was about 3 lbs.)
2 pkgs. Lipton beef-onion dried soup mix
12 oz. Coca-Cola (not diet).

Braise the roast -- dust with flour and brown in oil in a large, heavy ovenproof pan.
Sprinkle with the dried soup mix
Pour Coke over all -- enjoy the show, because it fizzes up like crazy!

Cover and cook in 350 oven for two hours, then remove lid, turn roast and continue cooking for another 40 minutes or so.

Near end of cooking time, cook noodles of your choice (friend used bow tie pasta and I used extra wide egg noodles.)

Remove roast from pan and allow to rest before carving.
Mix 3 TBS. flour with water to form a slurry and add to pan juices to thicken and use as a gravy. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with noodles and roast.

MMMMMMM good! It helps take your mind off your troubles to cook a good meal.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Loopy Lexicon

New Words for 2005

The Washington Post's Style Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners:
1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
And the pick of the literature:
16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

At second glance...

No, this isn't my laundry. Take a closer look.
This is another one of my phantom dogs.

Just loved
the picture too much.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Fable of the Antsy Blogger

Once upon a time, in a world controlled by electronic blips and bloops, there was a land known as Blogville.

In this kingdom lived all manner of people, known as posters. Some posters were wordy and would tell tales about anything and nothing, just for the sake of writing to entertain themselves and the other Bloggers.

There were also posters who would tease their fellow countrymen. Once a week they would spin tales so alluring that others would wait for the next story, often neglecting their other duties until their reverie was interrupted by other life obligations. The teasers would post just often enough to keep the flame of hope burning.

Another group of bloggers were the meanies. The meanies were enormously interesting people who spun some of the greatest of tales. Their magical writings about their own lives astounded their readers. Ah, but just as the readers heaped praises upon these writers, they would suddenly stop posting. They knew the power they wielded in Blogville and they used it to their advantage. Readers clammered for more stories from the meanies, only to be rebuffed by silence.

In the corners of the land were the minor Bloggers. They told good stories, but few readers ever saw them. The readers were always glad to read a minor story from a minor Blogger, but for some reason the power of the meanies was so great that the readers were pulled away from the minors, dreaming of being thrown a morsel by a meanie.

Scattered among the different factions in Blogville were stories of all types, on all topics. Many are serious, dealing with the politics of the day or matters of theology. "What would Jesus blog?" some ask.

Not all posters are so erudite as those who study history. But the universal truth about Blogville is that nearly all the residents like to read and write. And so they learn more about themselves, each other, and the world of blips and bleeps and bloops. And if you post enough, you can get out of washing a truck.

The End.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Going to the animals

OK, zits and chin hairs must not have been punishment enough today. I opened the mail about 1 p.m. and had a letter from Animal Control threatening me with a $175 fine for allowing my dog to run loose, without a current rabies vaccine. There was a hand-written note highlighted at the bottom saying my dog was aggressive towards the mail carrier, and mail service to the entire block could be suspended.

Sigh. I don't have a dog. Haven't had one since my dear Fefe died four years ago.

As soon as I read the letter, I turned on the TV, and my cable promptly went out. I called Cox Cable and they sent someone right over (within a half hour. He arrived an hour sooner than they expected, so hey, something went right.) He quickly diagnosed the problem: Squirrels had eaten my cable. Yep. Squirrels.

I think I'll be checking to see if an elephant is strolling down the street towards the grade school down the block. It's about the only animal I haven't dealt with the past couple of days. So far, it's donkeys, dogs and squirrels.

I hear Santa did answer some Christmas requests. For example, this tortoise got just what he asked for: He got a hippopotamus for Christmas! Hee hee!

Here's a bit of good news. There was a bank robbery a few blocks from my house today. The good news is I had just closed my accounts there recently, so I know he didn't get MY money!

Don't fret

I don't mean to distress anyone with my lengthy, late-night ramblings, so here's a quick morning glimpse of my life.

I'm at that stage in life where my morning ritual includes using my acne medicine and then plucking the grandma hairs from my chin. Somehow, that just sums up all that is unfair.

Part 2: Confidence

I've had a little time to settle down, quit shaking some and think.

There's another component to my distress tonight. Besides feeling a need for encouragement, I'm feeling a loss of confidence.

A lot of times we have to fake it until we make it... bluff our way through the tough times as we convince ourselves and others that we are, indeed, capable and successful people. Other times, we truly are on top of the world, secure in our abilities and fully knowing that God put us where He wants us to be, doing exactly what He made us to do.

I've got a foot in each of those worlds at the moment. I know I have skills, talents and abilities. What I lack for the moment is direction and a sense of purpose. Not good.

I think what may be happening is a shift, much like being on a sailboat as it is coming about to change the direction of its tack. That moment when the sail moves from one side of the boat to the other is a moment without direction, with the sail violently flapping as the boat luffs. It's a time when the boat could easily capsize. All it would take is for the crew to shift too far to one side or the other, or to take too much or too little time making the shift. For a moment the boat is without direction or power, pivoting on its own center as it finds a new path.

The wind can be a metaphor for encouragement and support. A supportive hand on our back can make the transition smoother and easier, like pushing the boom across the deck. If we don't have it, we can founder.

I want to say thank you to all of you who have supported me on this blog through the past several months. It is nice to have a group of people with such diverse interests who have become real friends, offering advice and encouragement.

And I think this catharsis tonight just means I should start getting out more and stop staying cloistered at home.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


This is one of those blog pieces I need to write to get rid of some intense feelings. I'm not sure if I'll be able to express this as I wish to, but I must try, even if I don't hit a bull's eye. Please forgive me if I fall short.

I'm so tied up in knots that my tremor is making it difficult for me to use my hands. Earlier I nearly had to sit on my hands to keep from slapping myself in the face unintentionally. (I have what's known as an essential tremor, which simply means I shake sometimes, but it's not caused by any diagnosed medical problem. It's something that runs in the family on my mom's side and is often mistaken for Parkinson's when it's bad. It's something I first noticed in myself about 1980 when I was working for DHS and had a client who was trying to scam me. I started shaking so hard while trying to take notes that I couldn't read my own writing. It flares up when emotions run high. Typing usually isn't a problem, but when this starts, I might as well just forget about holding a pencil or pen. That's one of the key reasons I use my Palm Pilot with a folding keyboard for most of my note-taking on assignments, or I type directly into my computer when doing phone interviews. Sorry for the long explanation, but I thought it might be relevant. I don't know.)

Anyway, back to the original thoughts. I think I've calmed down enough that I can write this without having to use words like @#*$#@!( and @%#*$*$$! to avoid offending my friends who are sensitive to bad language.

I think those of you who read this blog, at least the ones I am aware of, are in creative fields or have serious creative pursuits of some sort. Most of us are writers, which automatically makes us attention "hounds" (not the word I would have used before. I edited.)

We write because we believe we have something to share with the world. And we want (need) to know if we're hitting the mark and making a difference in the world. The only way we know is if we get feedback, right? We blog because the very medium of blogging invites response of some sort. We hope and pray for applause of sorts -- some kind word such as "WOW! That's profound." Or "Hey, that didn't stink!" Or "Thanks for posting that - you gave me something to think about."

There are even days when we'd be happy to hear "Are you out of your @#*$U mind?" "Are you @#$* crazy???" or "You be nutz." You get the idea. Even negative attention is attention, right? At least someone was reading, and they were moved enough to comment and let you know how much they hate you.

I don't think the need for feedback is limited to those of us who write. There are many disciplines where it's more than nice, it's necessary. I think feedback is in the same category as encouragement. We ALL NEED IT. Children often get it from their parents or teachers. As we start careers we get it from mentors and superiors (if we are lucky.) Other times, we just work for asses. (Sorry, that one slipped through. There's such a long list.)

Honestly, I don't think it's expecting too much to want to get some encouragement and an occasional kind word from those in our lives. We weren't built to be solitary automatons -- we ARE people, and as such we have needs for validation, belonging, affirmation, encouragement, appreciation and reward.

The cruelest action we can take against another, aside from physical abuse, is to ignore them. To pretend they don't exist, or they don't have a talent, or they have no right to participate. How much more succinctly can we make it clear to someone else that we don't value them?

An example: You meet someone, have a few conversations, then perhaps a first date. The first date is sufficient as far as one party is concerned. So, the second party inquires about future dates. What does the first person say? "Sorry, I'm busy that night. And that one. And that one." Maybe it seems less cruel than simply saying "Thanks, but I don't see this going anywhere." But what are we doing but letting that person know they have no place in our lives and we don't care how they feel?

It's also a lot like being the only kid in the class that isn't invited to the popular kid's birthday party, and yet the invitations are handed out during class, so everyone knows you are not worthy. (I have actually had this exact thing happen in a work setting. Worse yet, the "hostess" made a point of telling me, at lunch, in front of everyone else, that I wasn't invited because they would be having a pool party at her house and everyone knew I got sunburned very easily. You know. We wouldn't want you to be uncomfortable while we're all having a good time. That would be such a downer.)

There's a new book called "Shine: A Powerful 4-Step Plan for Becoming a Star in Anything You Do." It's written by Larry A. Thompson. I picked it up tonight after reading reviews and seeing a mention on TV. The inside of the jacket outlines the steps: 1) Identify your talent. 2) Summon your rage. 3) Assemble a team and 4) Learn to be lucky.

We all have natural gifts (point 1). And we need supporters, including mentors, professionals, role models, motivators (point 3). And I do believe I've found my rage. Hence the shaking tonight. Now comes figuring out a game plan and assembling the "team".

Before anyone makes the mistake of thinking that I'm talking about my current working situation, I'm not. I'm very happy with the work I do, although I will need to make some changes shortly to make more money. It's a simple fact of economics and not a sign of any discontent on that front. But "work" is not what this is about.

This is something I think we all need to think about as we deal with others. We're all in the same boat as far as needing encouragement and as far as being able to offer it to others.

If you want to destroy someone's personal passion, never offer encouragement. Never acknowledge that the person has skills and talents. Make sure you create a setting which denies them any opportunity to use their talents, if you have the power. At some point, if you're really good at this, the person will either become suicidal or so depressed that they'll stop trying. Or they will love themselves enough to leave the situation and go someplace where they can be who they were created to be.

Sometimes I think it would be wonderful if we were built in such a way that we didn't need support from others. I know it would make my life a lot easier, since support is not something that I have a big supply of. But I think that would also be a very cold, empty life too, if we were simply content to be "units" instead of being part of one body.

So here's my challenge to you. If you know someone who needs to hear a kind word, speak it. If someone needs to have a creative outlet, offer it. If someone needs a mentor, be one. If someone needs support, give it.

We'll all be richer for it as we become the people we were made to be.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

In Memory of Rosemary Kennedy

Rosemary Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy's younger sister, died on Saturday. She was 86.

Rosemary was mentally retarded. Her life was complicated when she was 23 and her family subjected her to an ill-advised pre-frontal lobotomy. At the time, medical experts thought such an operation would protect Rosemary and the family from her radical changes in moods and prevent behavior which could be "an embarrassment" to the Kennedy family. Read that to mean: Rosemary was a bit of a wild child at that point in her life. Her biological urges outraced her reasoning abilities. The Kennedys feared pregnancy and/or disease. She already had become adept at escaping from the convent where she lived at the time.

After the lobotomy, Rosemary was reduced to an infantile state, having lost the ability to think and communicate nearly entirely. Before the surgery (I so want to call it butchery, but it was considered the best option at the time), Rosemary had been able to keep diaries of her social activities -- not something every mentally retarded young adult could manage to do. It is so tempting to wonder "what if" the lobotomy had not been performed... what could Rosemary have accomplished with the skills she had been born with?

There's little point in wondering. What was done, was done. Of course, 60 years later it is easy to look back and say "how in the world!" But the decision was made with the best possible advice that was available at the time, we must remember.

As the President's sister, Rosemary brought a greater focus to the lives of mentally retarded people overall. Because of her, Special Olympics was formed by Eunice and Sargant Shriver, giving mentally handicapped children the ability to show everything they ARE capable of accomplishing.

Because of Rosemary, society and families have advanced in their treatment of the mentally retarded and those with physical disabilities. State homes that acted as warehouses were shut down. Families stopped closeting members who were handicapped. Society started looking at the gifts and abilities of all people and started making room for them to be used and shared.

Why does this concern me so much?

Because I had a brother, Bob, who was both mentally retarded and physically handicapped.

And because, today, on a bulletin board I frequent, some ass decided he would post "The Retard Kennedy Died." His post was filled with horrible, thoughtless, hurtful words, including "retard" and "gimp."

I so thought we were past that. So did a lot of other people who joined me in lambasting the fool.

He was offended that the moderators edited his post to take out the most offensive terms. His reaction, equally offensive, won him a week's banishment from that board. We'll see if he learns anything.

My Bob was a couple of weeks short of his 44th birthday when he died in 1997.

He filled his days listening to the police scanner for the town gossip,
figuring out how things work and playing with his beagle, Tippy.

Bob never worked; his job in life simply was to be who he was, and he did
it well.

We were blessed to have grown up in a small Oklahoma town. Bob had the
chance to be at home there, which wouldn't have been possible in a larger
city. People knew Bob, and were patient with him. They listened to him even
when it was hard to understand him. And that's all that really mattered
to him, because he liked to talk.

Education and training opportunities for Bob and his peers were severely limited in our hometown in the 1960s. Bob attended special school until he was 12; from that age on, he was at home, under our mother's care. There was no need for assisted living, or group homes, or institutionalization in our family. We were lucky that it was possible for Bob and Mom to live together and take care of each other.

He was fascinated with power tools and electricity, and his week was not
complete without several hours of how-to programs on public television.
Employees in all the hardware stores in town knew Bob and his latest

He finished few, but finishing was never the point to any of Bob's
projects. One work he did complete has a permanent home in my kitchen - a
simple wooden stepstool he made so I could reach my cabinets. I use it
every day.

Yes, Bob's main job was simply to be who he was. He needed no day planner;
scheduling wasn't important. There was no rat race, no corporate ladder
that needed climbing. He lived on God's timetable.

His needs were simple - eating a grilled cheese sandwich, visiting with
his bingo buddies, studying the displays at the hardware store, playing
the piano by ear.

But he had goals, and worked toward those until he achieved them. Most of
them were goals he had for helping someone else, including me. I learned
how to rewire lamps by watching him.

His last big goal was to help me buy a dishwasher for the old house I had
recently bought. His last Thanksgiving, he handed me an envelope filled with
money; he had saved his allowance until he could afford my
Christmas present, the dishwasher.

He wanted to make sure I bought it before Christmas. I did, but it remained
in the carton, uninstalled, for almost a year because I didn't made the time in my
over-scheduled life to get it put in. I wish he could have seen it work.

Christmas was the big day of the year for him, because that was when he
could give his presents. It was impossible for him to keep a secret, though,
so we always knew what was under the tree before we unwrapped our packages.

Bob didn't understand much about religion or theology, but he knew the
Christmas story, and he believed in angels and heaven. Before it became
physically difficult for him to attend, he enjoyed going to church,
especially to hear the music and to visit with his friends.

He prayed for people instinctively. I think that's why he loved gospel
music so much; the messages in the music were already rooted in who he was.

He died, peacefully, in his sleep. Mom tried to wake him so he wouldn't
miss hearing Paul Harvey on the radio, but the angels had already visited
in the night and told him the rest of the story.

It seemed right, somehow, that many of his bingo buddies heard the news
on the police scanner.

Here are a couple of photos from our preschool days, before and after he had surgery to correct his crossed eyes. How can anyone make horrible comments about such a loving brother?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Truth-telling at last

Longevity runs on my mom's side of my family. Most of the ancestors in my grandparents' generation lived into their late 80s or 90s. One great aunt lived to be 101 -- she was born in 1898, lived all the way through the 20th century and died Jan. 1, 2000, a few months after her birthday. I try to fathom the changes that took place in the world during her lifetime and it's so hard to imagine -- going from horse-and-buggy days to the Space Station.

If I maintained a noble heart, I would attribute the longevity to lives filled with kindness and love, with lofty goals for making the world a better place to be. No doubt good old-fashioned farm life, full of hard work, provided the foundation for these long-living relatives.

Yeah... that's what I believed. And then the alarm clock rang and I woke up.

Now I am pretty sure they were all trying to outlive each other so they could control who knew the truth about their lives. They were each too mean to die and let their lives be exposed for what they were.

After visiting with my cousins last week, I learned about infidelities; unknown children born of illicit affairs; lifestyles born of revenge; molestation; abuses; and hatred.

While going through my aunt's possessions, my cousins found a letter from one of the great aunts which confirmed things we all thought, and added more information that filled in a few missing puzzle pieces.

It's amazing what you can learn in a few moments of intense, truth-telling talking with your relatives. Since our time together was limited, we each took advantage of what stolen minutes we could find to share missing information with each other. Those bits of knowledge helped form a more complete picture of this mess that is my heritage.

Now I can almost understand the thread of alcoholism that has run through so many generations, because now I see it's not limited to one cousin. Now I think I may be the "odd" one in the family because I'm not chemically dependent. (Yeah. Not to say I don't abuse food the way they abuse vodka and other enhancements.) And maybe it's because I came late to the party and missed all the gory details of their lives, being so wrapped up in my own. Hey, it's hard to know about a cheating uncle when you're getting whupped up on daily.

Anyway, here's the truth as I know it, summarized:

Life can stink. Bad things happen in all families. No one's life is perfect, no matter what it looks like to outsiders. And eventually, truth will win out, even if it is ugly as sin. And ugly never can be hidden deep enough to pretend it's not there, just waiting for the chance to ooze to the surface.

But we also have a choice. We can pick ourselves up out of the ooze and move on to better things. With honesty and love, we can support one another and build each other up. And we can stop the cycle.

Truth is a beautiful thing.

Monday, January 03, 2005

No resolutions but this...

I was just chatting with a friend about how we seem to find ourselves surrounded by dysfunction. It's so true! My blog is full of it!!

My thought, relative to New Year's resolutions, isn't to eliminate that dysfunction. Heck, not even Dr. Phil would take this project on, I promise you. No, I think I need to take a different tack and just set some hard limits on how I allow the crazy folk to affect me.

After the past week, spent mostly with relatives, I have enough material at hand to write a best-seller. Horrible truths were revealed about close ancestors and their misdeeds. They range from Jackie Collins type stuff to Jerry Springer material. A lot of pain and sadness was revealed to me for the first time. And the truth has explained so much that has always been a puzzle for me.

The good news is that none of what was revealed has a direct impact on my life, although it certainly has stirred my sympathies. Now I understand why some relatives have acted in certain ways (though I don't think I would have reacted in the same way.)

I've had to step back and look at everyone as characters in a book, and I've seen them write my plot lines.

So there it is, the good news. All this dysfunction has turned out to be an inspiration for me. Maybe some good will come from all these generations of problems. At least maybe Dr. Phil will get some new material so others will know they are not alone in dealing with these problems! At most, it'll make me filthy rich.