Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Birth Minute

Happy Birthday my darling daughter!

I miss the ballet days, but I love where we are now, and what a beautiful person you've become.

Love,
Mom

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

To Breathe Again


I awoke Sunday morning to an ache beneath my left shoulder blade. Thinking I might have slept wrong, I tried to work out the muscle off and on during the day and slept on a heating pad that night.
Monday morning I woke up to even more pain. Bursitis? I wondered. I went to the drug store during my lunch hour to buy a heating pad and found one that can be wrapped around just about any body part with velcro. I returned to my desk, fastened the bright blue material around my shoulders, and plugged myself in looking like I was ready for take-off.

Breathing, coughing, laughing, and sneezing used to be an effort I undertook with very little notice. Except last week when my laughter produced a full blown fart as Double D and I watched Worst Week together. In 18 years of marriage I somehow managed to keep my flatulence contained until that TV show. Dangit! :)

Today is not any better. I miss taking those deep breaths to calm myself. I’m embarrassed to be at work acting like an invalid, incapable of the slightest movement. Reaching for a book off the shelf causes a Tourette-like outburst that I truly have no control over.
Sweet relief, please come soon!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Breakthrough

With Spenser's passing, our anniversary, and my mother being sick, I haven't had the desire to do my walks. Tonight seemed as good a night as any to return to my commitment. The weather is still mild, so I need to take advantage of that.

Chance and Sparky go into orbit when I reach for my sneakers. Lately, they've started showing signs of anxiousness when I approach the bureau and open the shorts drawer. It's funny how my little stalkers know I'm putting on walking clothes. My pj's hang on the back of the closet door and going for that article of clothing produces nothing more than a yawn from them. Those little boogers know the difference! Chance whines uncontrollably until I fasten his leash and open the door leading outside. Sparky twirls and pants. They're an odd little couple.

Anyway, we did our mile and I really wanted to do another one, but I was so worried about Sparky's heart murmur that I dropped him off at the house and kept going. I still can't believe I walked an additional mile without keeling over. Yay me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chipper

Decided to take some time off work, and went to Grapevine Botanical Gardens to relax and take pictures today. It's a small, quaint garden, so it didn't take long to go through it. As I was about to leave, a squirrel came out to eat some corn that was lying near a pumpkin. He was a pretty good distance away, but I continued to slowly creep up on him. That corn must've tasted really good because he kept munching no matter how close I got. Every once in a while he would stand straight up and look alarmed. Eventually, I switched to my 300mm lens and got about 10-12 feet from him. I was shooting like I had a machine gun, using the rest of the memory on my flash card - about 100 pictures just of him. I'm calling him Chipper. He made my day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thrown

Spenser's passing was much more difficult than I imagined, but it hit Chance the hardest.

The first night without Spenser, Chance slept on Double D's bed. All night. As some of you know, Chance never, ever, gets on furniture. We've never scolded him for it, but for some odd reason, he's always seemed frightened of it.

The next night, Callie came over to play. This made Chance happy, and was a welcome distraction.

Last night, the third night, Chance became confused on where to sleep. He kind of stayed out in the hallway, in between the bedrooms, with a lost look on his face. I know he was asking "What happened to my buddy? Where is he?" I coaxed him into my room and he jumped on the bed, but I could tell he wasn't comfortable there, so he jumped down and went to Double D's room. He wouldn't get on the bed there either, but kept poking his head out the door as though hoping to see Spenser.

Chance always took his cues from Spenser. Wherever Spenser went, Chance followed. He would not even poop until Spenser pooped. Would not eat until Spenser ate. Would not lie down to sleep until Spenser did. You get the idea. They were like peas and carrots. Like Bert & Ernie. Like Cheech and Chong without the pot.

Chance has doe eyes like Bambi. If you look into them for very long, they will melt your soul. His eyes have the capacity to soften the hardest heart. Sometimes I feel he is soul searching me. Dogs can do that, I think. He's also the mildest mannered dog you'd ever want to meet. His sweet disposition coupled with the inability to communicate what's happened, make this a somewhat difficult ordeal.

It's hard to watch Chance these days without his sidekick. I'm sure he'll adjust, eventually. In the meantime, I'll just take a little stroll down memory lane.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tripped Up by Xenu

Like many of you, I am fed up with our current political choices. As a result, I decided to research other candidates that are on the November 4th ballot. Ordinarily, I would go to the polls and vote a straight ticket. Stupid, I know, but I am now reformed and intend to be INformed for all future elections.

The Dallas Morning News has a candidate comparison mechanism on their web site which is extremely useful. I decided to give the Democrats a chance, comparing them to the Republicans. Guess what? They have similar polished crap as the Republicans, if crap can be polished. Out of sheer desperation, I clicked on Yvonne Schick (LIB) who is running for U.S. Senate, thinking, 'oh, what can it hurt'? As I read her answers to the questions, her views struck a chord in me. On a whim, I emailed her, basically saying what a breath of fresh air her views are. She wrote back almost immediately to thank me and said comments like mine "make the battle worthwhile". She also sent a youtube link that a supporter made for her, urging me to watch it and pass it along.

Unfortunately, in the "Related Videos" section, there was a glaring youtube about Mrs. Schick's Scientology beliefs. It is public knowledge that Scientology members have a history of infiltrating the U.S. government for the purpose of promoting the teachings and practices of Scientology. Schick is a ranking member of Scientology, Operating Thetan Level VI.

How can these people be taken seriously with titles like that? She might as well have stepped off an alien aircraft for all I know.

I debated whether to email her back or not. After all, I am a person of my word, so I felt I at least owed her an explanation. Her beliefs were not revealed on the web site and even though she may have no intention of "infiltrating" our government, she can't be trusted. Besides, if I'm now on some kind of list, I want to be crystal clear that I am not a Scientology sympathizer or supporter. So I replied back to her email thanking her for the youtube, but told her about the "other" video I uncovered. Scientology, I explained in no uncertain terms, is a deal breaker for me. Thankfully, I have not heard back.Googling unearthed this blog post entitled "No Money, No Xenu" which humorously explains how much of a money-sucking cult this organization really is. Two girls from Manhattan went undercover out of curiosity to see if there was some merit to Scientology. All they were told over and over by recruiters was how "life altering" Scientology is, but offering no other details to substantiate their claims. Books, dvds, and other paraphernalia were foisted on them time and again, even though they repeatedly stated they had no money. Excerpt: Without the means to purchase the endless LRH (L. Ron Hubbard) endorsed products, the secrets to living a “happier” and “better” life were not available.

Even though my first experience with Libertarianism was a bit of a shocker, I am still investigating their party. Libertarians seem dedicated to adhering to our Constitution, cutting government out of the private sector, and letting the free market take care of itself. This I like. It remains to be seen if I totally abandon the Republican party or not. Perhaps if I can just clear the engrams from my reactive mind. *ponders*

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Love of Dogs Explained

After being expelled from the garden, they missed God's constant company. So the Lord of compassion created an unconditionally loving companion for them. God said, 'because it mirrors my love for you, let's call it Dog'. ~ author unknown

More Butterflies

Despite a rocky start getting inside the Arboretum on Sunday (long story), I had an amazing time capturing all the beautiful Monarchs. I hadn't cranked out my 300mm lens in quite some time and from what I remember from previous attempts, the results were less than stellar. Not this time. I am so thrilled with the clarity and colors. I did end up touching up some of them, but tweaking was very minimal. The slide show is the best way to see all of them. Oops. How did he end up in here?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pic of the Day

Taken at the Dallas Arboretum with Canon Rebel XTi, 300 mm zoom lens. No post processing - straight from camera.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

LSU Lakes

These are some of my favorite photos taken last month in Baton Rouge at the LSU Lakes around sunset.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Chance!

Seven years ago today, I adopted Chance from a pet rescue organization in Lewisville, TX. He was one year old at the time; a scrawny, timid, worm-infested mess of a dog. They said he was part Finnish Spitz and part Golden Retriever. I had never heard of a Finnish Spitz, but I figured I'd study the breed and learn. I think he also has some Chow because his tongue has black markings on it.

Chance spent most of the first year of his life roaming the streets with another wild dog, who, it turns out, was not adoptable. But Chance (Rudy then) had something special that the rescuers felt would make him a good companion animal. And they were right. I'm so glad they took the time to get to know him because he is the sweetest dog I've ever had.

When I first brought him home, he had no manners. In fact, the first day in our house, he stood up to our kitchen counter and nabbed the sandwich Double D had just made for himself. Knowing this was probably a carryover from his life on the streets, we gave a gentle correction right away, and he never did it again. Same for potty training: he lifted his leg on our exercise bike (I felt the same way anyway about that machine), and after only one correction, he was trained.

Double D says Chance is co-dependent, but he actually has sheparding qualities. If one of us is upstairs and one is downstairs, he will get somewhere in the middle so he can keep watch. If one of the other dogs leaves the house, he whimpers, whines, and mopes until they return. He's also the house informant, keeping diligent watch at our window for any possible intruders. If a stranger is nearby, he alerts the rest of the pack with a high pitched bark, then an enthusiastic bite to get their attention. I guess he doesn't feel the bark is adequate enough.

I used to think that animals at rescue organizations were troubled mutts. This experience changed my views completely, and oh how glad I am to be wrong. I have rescued 3 dogs since Chance and they are ALL wonderful, life-enriching companions. Please adopt and give a shelter animal a chance!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Proud

Tonight I walked ONE MILE! Honestly, I couldn't believe I made it. Not only that, I was thoroughly enjoying it. Well, until I developed blisters on my heels 1/2 mile into it. If it hadn't been for the blisters, it would have been perfect. New shoes are in order.

Double D had Spenser and Chance on a two-lead leash and I had Sparky. The dogs had big smiles on their faces. It's true; my dogs smile when they get to explore the neighborhood. It truly made me happy that we were all doing something so healthy. And I didn't die. At first, when I got to the end of our street, I thought to myself, 'I'll never make it'. It really pissed me off that I was already struggling so soon. Then that other voice I've heard before told the negative voice to suck it up and DO IT. Suddenly, I hit my stride and forgot about dying.

Also tonight I tried to duplicate Chick-fil-A's Chargrilled Fruit Salad and I came pretty close. I left out the cheese, granola, and mandarin slices, but other than that, my version was awesome. Double D even remarked several times how good it was. If you know Double D, you know that some of his previous comments about my cooking caused me to go on strike for nine months.

If you'd like to try it, mix together the following (enough for 2):

4 Chicken breast tenders, browned with salt, pepper and basil, thinly sliced
Strawberries
Red grapes
Diced apples
Mixture of baby spinach greens, radicchio, carrots
Sunflower seeds
Croutons
Low fat raspberry vinaigrette

Chick-fil-A's dressing is called Berry Balsamic. The balsamic really has a nice punch, working very well with the fruit. The raspberry vinaigrette was okay, but didn't deliver the same wow factor. At any rate, it felt so good eating this for dinner. I wasn't weighed down at all, which is why I was able to walk a mile.

I'm really going to walk at least a few times a week and fix a healthy meal every night. My tuna lunch is ready to go in the morning, so no more fast food! With a little preparation, I should be successful. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quivering Tongue

As you all know, Izzy has an enormous tongue that dangles from her petite mouth. I inadvertently discovered a trick for her abnormality, and it was like I found a new toy. Yeah, I’m a dork and have no life. :-p

Last night, as I was reclining and smacking unladylike on my gum, she climbed on the chair and settled on my chest. Paws perfectly, genteelly placed in front of her, she watched intently, exuding an animated, hopeful expression. She knows I don't normally chew food for that long, so I think she may have been intrigued, especially since there was no plate or bowl in front of me. In any case, she was patiently waiting for some sort of handout, whatever it may be.

I blew a big bubble and then popped the gum, thinking it might scare her off my chest. Instead, as soon as it popped, her tongue seemed to flicker. At first, I thought I was seeing things. I wasn’t.

I spent a good part of Sunday evening trying to see if she would ever NOT do it. Every single time I popped the gum, her tongue quivered. Or maybe flutter would be a better description. I couldn’t stop laughing. She just sat there staring with that serious face. I swear it was like pushing buttons: Blow. Pop. Quiver.

Maybe you had to be there. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Nemesis

When we first purchased this torture device piece of equipment last year, I used it steadily for two weeks, hating every step. The slightest jog made me feel as if I would vomit and pass out. Watching Seinfeld DVDs and listening to my iPod did nothing to diminish that hatred. Even the ceiling fan and the built-in fan on the machine could not deliver me from the imaginary flames as I trudged along.

I have always detested exercise, except for the twelve years I played tennis. In 2001, when I could no longer play due to a skin condition, I became a lazy, food junkie, adding 5 pounds or more each year to my small frame. At 5’4” I should weigh 125 pounds, but two weeks ago at the doctor's office, to my horror, I nearly broke the scale. Even being nine months pregnant did not put this kind of weight on me. The next day I began eating healthier and I've already lost 7 pounds. I’m going in the right direction; I just need to add exercise to the equation.

Yesterday, I decided to push aside my intense aversion for the dusty black machine and get down to business. I reasoned that I would walk at a slow pace for at least 5 minutes. Simple enough, right? One would think so, but the thought of putting on a pair of tennis shoes seemed too big a chore. Even I thought this reaction was absurd. Nevertheless, I began to whine internally. ‘Craaaap. I don’t want to put on shoo-ooes!’ which was instantly followed by, ‘Good God, woman. Are you going to let a trivial task such as placing shoes on your feet stop you from getting healthy?!

After guilting myself into locating the !%#@!! tennis shoes, I was ready. Slip on and go – so easy, see?! It’ll be OH-KAY, I told myself. I walked into the newly painted room which housed the gigantic apparatus and saw that it wasn’t plugged in, AND it had an old comforter sitting on top of it. ‘Craaaap! I’ll have to bend down and retrieve the cord which is way underneath the machine and tangled up with the power strip. And where will I put the comforter? Lawdy, lawdy Miss Claudy. It’s hopeless’, I whined again.

I started to walk away; in fact I half turned to head toward the door when my brain started arguing with itself again. ‘Really, Gail, this is ridiculous. Just move the comforter to the floor, bend down and plug the thing in. It’s not that difficult.’ The other side of my brain quickly chimed in, ‘Oh, forget this [expletive]. It’s too much trouble. I give up'.

Seriously, I could not believe the exchange going on inside my head, as though there were two people taking up residence in that fuzzy, addled space known as my brain. One entity was acting in my best interest and the other clearly wasn’t. I finally succumbed to the more sensible voice and reached down to fling the comforter across the room, albeit angrily. After finagling with the cord/power strip and getting that untangled, there was no turning back. Power for the treadmill and more power to me. Victory!

Or was it?

After 2 minutes of walking on level 2 I began to think I couldn’t go another step. Pathetic, right? I kept going though, because the deal I struck was to walk for ONLY 5 minutes. Thirty seconds later I bravely bumped it up another level to slightly jogging. That lasted about 10 seconds and I was certain Double D would have to call an ambulance, but finally I was able to focus back on the #2 button for a more leisurely walk. Whew, okay, I can do this. Around the 3 minute mark, I thought I could try jogging again. WRONG! At 4 minutes I began cursing and feeling sick. Dismal, I know, but I pressed on. At 4:59 my finger was poised over the beautiful red STOP key. I did it!

They say it is supposed to get easier each day. I’ll let you know - if I live to tell the tale. Maybe Sparky will team up with me. Nah.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Suffrage

Sometimes I take my right to vote for granted. Many times I feel the choices before me are so poor that it would make no difference if I voted or not.

Recently, I received an email reminding me of the crimes against the Women’s Suffrage movement which was not all that long ago. To put it in perspective for me, this was taking place when my grandmother was just a young girl. Let’s take a look at what happened during the Night of Terror, November 15, 1917, when thirty-three women picketed the White House and were arrested for “Obstructing Sidewalk Traffic”:

Dora Lewis (b 1862)
Dora was one of the more outspoken suffragists and therefore, received the most brutal treatment. She was hurled bodily into her cell, knocked unconscious and feared dead when she collided headfirst against the iron bed frame. Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, thought Dora was dead and suffered a heart attack.



Lucy Burns (July 28, 1879 – Dec 22, 1966)
Lucy’s hands were chained to the cell bars above her head and she was left hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.






Alice Paul (Jan 11, 1885 – July 9, 1977)
As one of the leaders, Alice went on a hunger strike. This led to her being placed in a psychiatric ward where she was tied to a chair, a tube forced down her throat and raw eggs poured into her. She, along with several others, received torture for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.



It’s hard to imagine in this day and age that anyone would be forced to endure such horrific treatment for carrying a picket sign in front of the White House. I am humbled and deeply thankful for the bravery of these women; otherwise, we might still be under complete male domination today.

Reading these accounts, I have to ask myself: if I had been born during that time, would I have joined this movement and rebelled against the system, even if it meant being beaten, jailed, chained, kicked, choked, and worse? Would I starve myself for the cause? Although I am normally questioning and rebellious by nature, would I go that far? I don’t know.

Inez Milholland, who was a lawyer, World War 1 correspondent, suffragist and public speaker, was known as the martyr of the Women’s Suffrage movement. She died in 1916 at the age of 30 before realizing victory. Her last public words were, "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?"

Women were finally granted that liberty in 1920 as set forth in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Let’s honor the memory of those women who paved the way for us by casting our vote in this upcoming historical election.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Beast

Today I had planned to take Chance to the vet as part of my day off; however, Spenser has been panting excessively lately, and for the last few years he does this gagging thing where he makes hacking sounds and tries to lick every piece of furniture we own. We send him outside where he chomps nonstop on grass. Later, he upchucks and the episode is over until the next one.

So, I took Spenser in to Dr. Fred instead of Chance.

Spenser is a beast. He is very difficult for me to control physically and he becomes so excited when he knows he's going for a car ride that I can hardly focus on driving because he's all up in my face and plastering the car and me with drool like he's Beethoven or something. It's really gross.

Last year I bought one of those pet barriers for the SUV and had never set it up. Last night I was so proud, I got it all put together by myself. It felt very sturdy and firmly in place. Except for the fact that my car looked like a paddy wagon, I was thinking 'hey, this is gonna be a breeze'. NOT! I got about a mile away from the house and Spenser had pushed down the second bar with his big head wedged through, determined to get up front near me. I pulled over on the side of the road, put it back in place and dared him to pull that stunt again. I felt bad though, because he was really stressed out, but so was I. And I had the more important job of getting us to our destination safely.

We arrived at the vet's office and by the time I parked the car, he had pulled the whole contraption completely down. So much for being sturdy and firmly in place. He nearly jumped out the back window which caused me to start yelling. Not the calm submissive state I had hoped to achieve with my trusty pet barrier.

We had to wait almost an hour to see Dr. Fred. Thank God for that thick leather leash I decided to bring. I worked a lot of muscles in my arm keeping him close to me. Spenser finally settled down and things were going pretty well. He barked at a Shih Tzu and a Pit Bull that came in, but other than that, he was well behaved. Dr. Fred's patients are very friendly. Everyone was asking if Spenser was a puppy. I laughed as I told them he's almost 9 years old. No one could believe it. He really doesn't look 9 and he does indeed act like a spastic puppy.

Besides the fact the he now weighs 104.2 pounds and had a temperature of 103.6, turns out he has a condition called Laryngeal Paralysis. Laryngeal paralysis is a disorder in which the nerves that control the muscles and cartilage that open and close the larynx (voicebox) do not function properly, causing voice changes and difficulty with eating or breathing. The larynx is located in the back of the throat. Air moves from the mouth or nose through the larynx, and into the trachea (windpipe). Normally, the laryngeal cartilages (also known as the arytenoid cartilages) are pulled open during breathing. In laryngeal paralysis, these cartilages do not open and close properly, making it difficult for the animal to take in air normally. It is a disorder in which the nerves that control the muscles and cartilage that open and close the larynx. Finally, after almost 3 years, a diagnosis that makes sense.

Spenser's throat is three times the width it should be because of the swelling. Dr. Fred gave him a shot to help with the swelling and prescribed Prednisone. Dr. Fred said he likes to take a conservative approach first before doing surgery. We also have to elevate Spenser's food and water high enough so that he doesn't have to bend over.

Everyone knows Spenser is a challenge for me in every way, but I don't want to see him suffer. I'll do my best to make him comfortable and we'll go from there.