Saturday, December 29, 2007

Two Crybabies

I played this video on my laptop this morning and all the dogs jumped up and ran toward the sounds. Chance, my worrier, started whining as soon as he heard the baby cry.

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's a Wonderful (Dog's) Life

Horrendous breath odor and all, I adore this baby/dog/human hybrid, or BDHH. My "Spark Plug" is utterly devoted to me, unless the scent of food swirls into his orbit. At that point, I am unceremoniously dumped (unless I have the food), but only temporarily. I mean, what else does my sweet tater tot have to look forward to in his limited, boring little life? Over the years, I have attempted and failed miserably at trying to limit his consumption of our highly fattening, mostly non-nutritious American diet. Had I been successful, he would not weigh a startling and staggering 10 pounds. He should weigh no more than 7 lbs; ideally he should be around 6 lbs. We started referring to him as a rump roast with legs recently. Sometimes he's a pork loin with legs, depending on our mood.

He enthusiastically offers his services as a dishwasher and I must say, he is very conscientious at cleaning our dishes after a meal. That little tongue works feverishly to remove every last crumb, growling at the other dogs when they try to help. "Back off, you inferior morons. Mom has put me in charge of this important job."

Other than the food issue, he is just about perfect. If I'm at the computer, he likes to sit right beside the chair, sometimes begging to get on my lap, but my keyboarding eventually annoys him and he jumps off. If I'm watching TV, he cuddles beside me under his baby blanket. If I'm on the pot...well, you get the idea. Lately, he has decided that when we go out to the garage, it's time for a ride. Unbeknownst to us, he waits patiently in the dark until we realize that he is no longer at our feet and discover him there. When it's time for bed, he waits for me to put down my robe, which I place beside my pillow, and he settles comfortably into that. Well, it is the softest robe ever.

Izabella Grace (Izzy) is my other BDHH. She is a toot that makes me smile practically every minute I'm home.

What a little survivor! Orphaned at less than a week old in June of 2006, she was brought to the emergency clinic dehydrated and near death, along with her 2 brothers. Sadly, her siblings did not survive, but she thrived under the care of an exceptional vet tech, Amy, who tube-fed her every few hours. At 7 weeks, I took over, reluctant, but excited. At first, my husband was skeptical that she was even a canine. Weighing less than a pound, she looked more like a gerbil, but I was determined to give this little creature a good life. My argument was that she wouldn't take up much room. As a "micro dog", she didn't really qualify as a full size dog. She's now 1-1/2 years old and weighs 5 lbs, with an exuberant personality and oversized tongue that has no choice but to dangle happily out of her mouth.

Sparky, oddly enough, is extremely protective of her, growling at the other dogs on the rare occasions that they engage in play. Sparky has even allowed Izzy to sleep with us, as long as she stays away from the prized robe.

Izzy loves to play fetch and tug-of-war. She also goes into a frenzy when the Dyson vacuum commercial is on, lunging and barking maniacally. We dvr'd it for our own amusement, because we're totally not perfect parents and like to get a rise out of our baby/dog/humans from time to time. I'm sure Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, would disapprove of this practice. Twisted though it may be, it is quite entertaining.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Truly Great Christmas

I have such thoughtful, loving children. For Christmas this year, they gave me some pretty cool gifts: A guitar controller for my PS2; season 3 of The Office; a Mike Birbiglia cd; 3-D wind catcher that says Faith, Hope, Love; Jimi Hendrix dvd; The Song Remains the Same dvd; Italian made leather passport holder (it's so soft and supple, I wish I could wear it somehow); a Moleskine book of Rome; a Moleskine blank journal of which Hemingway and Van Gogh were known to use; a rocking digital picture frame; wine; and wall hangings of grapes/wine.

The love and thought that went into the gifts is truly amazing and heartwarming. The best part about the day was all of us together, playing Guitar Hero III, laughing and having a blast. If I had to choose, I would forgo the gifts and be completely satisfied sharing fun and closeness.

We recreated it all again the next night with my husband's children. We had so much fun, the presents were almost a chore to get out of the way so we could play our game! Well, maybe the grandchildren feel a little differently. I smile when I envision them chasing the dogs around, fake playing GH3 with the extra guitar, and just being adorable, each in their own special way. I was so in the happy zone.

Izzy clearly wanted to experience the fun and food as well. That oversized tongue of hers nearly got a piece of her daddy's pie.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


~photo by C.E. Courtney
In 1980, my future mother-in-law asked me how many children I wanted. After a momentary pause, I told her three. By 1983 I had those three precious babies. Since then, threesomes have been dear to my heart, with the exception of the ménage à trois; definitely not into that, thank you.

Observing the Holy Trinity as a devoted Catholic was deeply ingrained. I still have a compulsion to make the sign of the cross during a crisis, or at the sight of a racing ambulance, sometimes accompanied by the trinitarian prayer - In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I just say Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

I like jewelry with 3 stones, the 3rd week after a haircut, and the 3rd season of a tv show, when writing and characters are more developed. There were 3 wise men. On the 3rd day, Jesus rose from the dead. The 3rd month of the year is the beginning of spring. The first 3 months of marriage are blissful. Neapolitan ice cream has 3 delicious flavors. Three is the most beautiful number!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

La Mia Italia Cara

I don't get out much, so it is an understatement to say that my trip to Italy was the most exciting place I have ever traveled to. It-a was-a magnifico! So much for my Italian.

Double D has no idea how much I adore him for all he did to make this trip happen. I must also mention that three of our children got married the same year: Courtney in February, Mark in April, and Michael in June. We had planned the May, 2006 trip only aware of one wedding. *Sigh*

We toured Rome, Florence, Pisa, Verona and Venice. As much as I tried to prepare for all the walking, early mornings, late nights, heavy foods, and endless vino, it became evident early on, that we were ill-prepared. But did I let a little gas and exhaustion get in the way? Ha! No, I loved every minute.

Each city was amazing. My face had a continuous look of astonishment, oohing and aahing over each olive tree, ancient building, painting, and carving. The Vatican, especially, was more beautiful and elaborate than one can possibly imagine.

As incredible as all the cities were, Florence was the highlight of the trip. Seeing David, in all his glory, was nearly more than my 40+ year old heart could take. I had looked forward to seeing that unbelievable work of art for years. When I imagined seeing it, I felt I might stand there and weep like an imbecile. Fortunately, for Dennis and everyone in our group, I did not. I watched the art students sitting on the floor, sketching him so intently, thinking how lucky they were - lucky to have talent and lucky to be able to memorize every inch of his magnificence. Before we knew it, our tour guide was whisking us along, Pronto! Andiamo!

Regretfully, we did not go to the Uffizi Gallery. It peeves me to no end when someone makes callous remarks about missing it. "What! You didn't go to the Uffizi? You wasted your trip!" Um, no. First of all, how in the world can a trip to Italy be wasted?? Even if I went to the remotest part of Italy and was only able to eat olives off the trees, wander around aimlessly, and sleep in a vineyard, it would not be a waste. Secondly, there is only so much one can do financially and physically. In fact, it gives us a perfectly good excuse to go back. We're already planning for 2008. So there!

Note: Photo of colosseum by

Saturday, December 1, 2007

For the Love of Dog

Those who know me are fully aware of my love of dogs. Not many know the reason.

When I was almost 6 years old, my family was involved in a horrific car accident on Easter Sunday, 1967 which resulted in the death of my sister. Obviously, my life was irretrievably damaged from that day forward. The guilt I experienced for being the one who survived instead of my sister tortured me my entire life. When I tried to vocalize my feelings, I was met mostly with silence. The family's hush-hush approach, refusing to explain to me what was going on, caused deep insecurities. My parents became brooding, depressed, angry, and every other negative emotion you can fathom. I thought it was because they wanted Deanna alive instead of me. The thought plagued me for years.

This picture was taken a few hours before Dee's death. She's the cute, smiling one on the left; I'm the fearful one on the right. Today would have been her 44th birthday. I wish we had known each other longer and shared our lives. Maybe we could have comforted one another I'd like to think. Or, perhaps she would have been perfect, and I would have been jealous. Actually, nothing could be worse than trying to compete against an angel for your parents' attention.

Due to my mother's extensive injuries, I spent several months with my grandparents. In addition, I was late entering the first grade because of the accident. To add insult to injury, my parents did not enter me in kindergarten the year before, which made me feel even further behind my classmates. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Milton, gave me a big hug, being exceptionally attentive to me when I entered her class. I will never forget her kindness.

About a year after the wreck, my mom, dad and I were kneeling at my sister's grave site. I was fixated on the tears streaming down my mother's face. Suddenly, my dad looked at me, hissing through clenched teeth, "Stop staring at your mother." It was the most hateful tone I had ever heard. The look on his face was filled with fury, chilling me to the bone. Every time I recall that moment, it fills me with intense pain. Soon after, my dad left us. His visits were sporadic, and he rarely picked me up for any type of extended visit.

One positive thing that came from my dad was a little Beagle puppy he brought home. From the moment I locked eyes with Cocoa, my heart was overjoyed. When he saw me, his tail wagged wildly - for ME! Cocoa's happy face made me feel loved, and I had not felt anything like it before. He was my playmate and bicycle buddy, accompanying me all over the neighborhood. Cocoa became fiercely protective, snarling when others approached me. Sometimes he would even growl at my mother. One day, he bit a neighbor who had tried to take me for a ride on his new motorbike. The next day my dad came to get Cocoa, saying that he had found another home for him. I cried and cried and cried until I was completely dried out. I worried that no one would love and care for him the way I had. Worse, I didn't want him to feel that sense of abandonment I knew so well. Oh, how my heart hurt.

When I was about 16, I went with a friend to look at a litter of Shepherd mix puppies someone was giving away. I sat on the ground to get a closer look. "Dusty" curled up in my lap as though he had always belonged there. I took him home and hid him in one of my big dresser drawers until I had the courage to show him to my mother. I guess she finally grew weary of fighting with me because for once, she did not roll her eyes or scrunch up her face at the idea.

When I got married at age 18, Dusty came with us. We rented a little wooden house with a big yard, about 2 miles from LSU. While I worked, my husband went to school. One day, he came out of class, and there was Dusty, waiting outside the lecture hall, wagging his tail, greeting my husband with gusto! While the thought of him trotting after that bus was cute, it was also worrisome. He did it a few more times, so we started making sure that he was secure in the house after that. Dusty's devotion was particularly notable, considering my husband was not a big animal lover, nor was he particularly kind to Dusty.

When our firstborn came along, Dusty became too much for us to manage with work, school, and parenthood. My mother's good friend, Martha, had two little boys who wanted a dog, so we let Dusty live with them out in the country. A few years later, Dusty developed cancer. Martha spent a great deal of money trying to save him, to no avail.

I miss Dusty's kind eyes and sweet disposition. Seen here, wearing his sweater while donning my sunglasses and hat, demonstrates just how patient and loving he was.

Deanna, I still miss you after 40 years, and wish with all my heart that I could have traded places with you on March 26, 1967. For over 25 years, I put up my Christmas tree on December 1, in honor of you. I don't know why. It just seemed a good way to honor your memory. If you were watching, I hope it made you happy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Venus, Cupid and Me

This is one of my favorite paintings by Titian. It has been hanging in my master bathroom since the fall of 2004. My daughter and I had gone to a Renaissance exhibit in Memphis and I just had to have it. At the time, I was 20 pounds lighter. These days I look at it and think: My body really looks like her. Why can't plumpness be fashionable? Immediately, I start to feel bad about myself. What was once my favorite print, has become a source of disgust. If only I could disassociate my own flabby tummy from it and return to the time when I enjoyed this lovely piece. Why should my similarity to the woman's shape change the way I view it? Isn't she still beautiful? Yet Venus seems to say to me, "No one would paint you. I'm afraid you're past your prime, dear." Then she sticks out her tongue, lolls happily with the animals and angels, completely comfortable with her rotundity. Saucy wench.

Actually, there are many things I love about this painting. Initially, I was drawn to it because of the Papillon at the foot of the chaise. Venus' body seems to glow against the dark scenery, lending an ethereal quality. Cupid reminds me of a Raphael angel with his round face and pudgy hands. I always wanted a nude Renaissance print hanging somewhere in my house. Little did I know that I would soon take on the likeness of the nude and end up with a complex.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Puppy Mills

Taken from When we buy a pet or even shop at a store that sells puppies, we contribute to a heartless underground industry that forces dogs to spend their entire lives in cages constantly breeding to support consumer demand for puppies.

This video by Charlize Theron, explains a lot:

Please THINK about the big picture before you purchase that seemingly cute little puppy. The more people who support this way of "buying" pets, the more they will be forced to multiply in horrible conditions. Instead, think about all the abandoned pets that need homes.

Pets purchased from a store tend to be impulse buys. Failing to consider all the ways this precious pet will impact your life can lead to behavioral and other problems. The worst part is the poor health quality of these pups. Working at the emergency clinic, I have personally witnessed everything from Parvo to hip dysplasia to seizures, and worse. These are serious problems, forcing their owners to make serious choices. Be responsible and adopt from your local shelter.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

About Me

First and foremost, I'm the mother of three grown, wonderful children. The words "unconditional love" finally had meaning the day they each were placed into my arms.

Raised as a strict Roman Catholic I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and spent my summers in Sunshine, Louisiana with my maternal grandparents. After 30+ years of dabbling in Baptist, Presbyterian, and other bible churches, I am currently learning to become an Orthodox Anglican, along with my husband. I love the incense. I love the holiness and quiet reverence during mass. I love the responses and prayers we all cite together. It's like going back home after a very long, arduous journey.

My dad became a cop in the late 60s and was written about in the book Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972. He is tough as nails which is why he has his own web site. He and my mother divorced when I was about 8, so most of my formative years were spent unsupervised while my mother worked. She taught me a lot about working hard and being honest and not expecting a handout from others. We were a self-sufficient, cohesive little unit until I smoked my first joint at 13 years old. I went through a terrible, rebellious stage, which nearly killed my mother. Somehow we lived through that and I became a responsible adult. The best part? My mother forgave me.

Mama was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease over 20 years ago. I am always on the lookout for new treatments, medicines, or surgical developments. She doesn't tolerate her current medication well. Many times it causes nausea and other unmentionable symptoms. But without the prescriptions, she would not be able to get around at all, so it's the lesser of the evils. I talk to her every day at the end of my work day. Sometimes it's just a quick five minute conversation, and other times it's a 30 minute gabfest if she's up to it. It's about all I can do from 500 miles away.

I collect renaissance angels and fleur de lis objects. I love photography and wish I was better at it. Love, love, LOVE my dogs - any dogs, really. They are the epitome of loyalty and devotion, which are two traits I hold in high esteem.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Swamp Creature

My grandparents' property in Sunshine, LA
Today I started thinking about all the things I miss about Louisiana. What I miss most is probably my maternal grandmother, who was the personification of Cajun culture. Maw-Maw spoke in broken French often, usually in short phrases to us kids. The most common phrase was "Mon Dieu!" It was usually spat out in disgust over something that made her mad. If she felt pity for someone, she would say, "Shah, bébé". She had entire conversations in French with her sister, which was annoying because I was a nosy little girl.

Food is a huge part of the culture, and crawfish stew was Maw-Maw's specialty. It was chock full of the most succulent crawfish tails. She also made grits topped with redeye gravy. I wish I had asked her how she made that special gravy before she died. No one else in the family knows what I'm talking about. It was different from the roux she used in her other stews. It had a red color to it and a unique, bold taste. Her filé gumbo and crab stew were mouth watering as well. Although Maw-Maw didn't make this, I really miss boudin and fresh beignet's with powdered sugar on top. Outside at the bingo hall, there was a married couple that made jambalaya cooked in a huge, black kettle, with a fire underneath. There's something about cooking in black, cast iron that truly enhances the flavor of food.

The bayou was a scary place as a child. Maw-Maw told some pretty terrifying stories in an effort to dissuade me from venturing too far from the house. She instilled a lot of fear in her children and the grandchildren were no exception. Since I had to live with my grandparents for many summers after my parents divorced, I heard the warnings almost daily. Some days I would feel brave enough to climb up the levee, around the bend to a remote part of the river. A screeching bird or a twig snap would send me squealing back home in record time. According to Maw-Maw, beyond the bend in the levee lived a swamp man, covered in algae, that would eat me alive if he found me. I believed it too. I wouldn't advocate this type of deterent today, but looking back, I understand why she did it. After all, some people we knew had indeed drowned in the swamp, or been attacked by alligators. I just wish she hadn't painted such a vivid picture of the swamp creature. It makes me shiver to this very day.