Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Autumn!

And happy birth minute!

When I first brought you home from the hospital, Baton Rouge was experiencing a severe winter ice storm. We lost power and all of us had to stay snuggled in bed underneath the covers for a couple of days. That was okay with me because I was so tired and you were so snuggly. Good thing you were breast feeding because there was no way to heat milk for you.

Good natured from day one, the only time your temper flared was when one of your brothers pushed your buttons until you blew a fuse. Sometimes I think they just wanted to see if they could do it; other times it was probably an effort to prove to us that you weren't perfect. You loved to give me hand picked flowers and each time my heart melted. You didn't just read books, you devoured them. Playing with dolls never really interested you. Books and learning games were your passion which is probably why you're so smart today. You loved macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. Now your palate is so advanced that you eat stuff I wouldn't dream of eating. And you've become quite the chef! You have a graciousness and flair for making those around you feel special.

I'm so proud to have you for a daughter. It makes me sad that this might be the last birthday we get to be together for a while. But I want you to have that experience in Portland if that is what will truly make you happy. My one request will be that you have Skype running at all times.

Oh, and because I don't say this enough: I love you.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A White Christmas

Glory be, we had a white one this year! On Christmas Eve my boss was kind enough to dismiss me at 11AM. About an hour later it began to rain in a swirly pattern, then quickly turned to snow. It was so beautiful.

Every year since living in Texas I've wished for a white Christmas. One Thanksgiving we had snow, but not for Christmas. Finally, the snow gods bestowed our wish! It was Christmas card perfect.

My kids drove over that evening since we always spend Christmas Eve together. I prayed they would not get in some horrific car accident on the icy streets. Thankfully, they all arrived safely. We ate our traditional cajun meal: seafood gumbo from Nate's Seafood Restaurant, the only restaurant in Dallas that comes close to Cajun cooking. I buy a gallon of it every year and it's more than we can eat. It's a dark brown roux with chunks of lump crabmeat and shrimp. It makes my knees weak. We ate in the dining room with the blinds open, watching the snow fall. Someone looking in would have thought we were a perfect family. On that night they would have been right!

Unfortunately, Mabel doesn't have a good flash, so my pictures were no good. But the day after Christmas my husband's daughters, my daughter and her two friends, and the grandkids came over. It was during the day so I got some good shots of them. I guess I really need to upgrade the flash on Mabel.

Monday, December 21, 2009


First, I want to say that this will be my last post about The Wreck. At least for a while. It just seems all these threads keep unraveling and I need to trim them and try to secure them back in place, otherwise the whole garment will fall apart.

There are two songs that immediately affect me physically, hurling me mercilessly back in time whenever I hear them. One is Happy Together by The Turtles and the other is Dedicated to the One I Love by The Mamas & the Papas. Both songs were released in 1967 and played nonstop on the radio. My parents always had the radio on in the car, so these memories are quite vivid. I could almost swear Happy Together was playing when we skidded into the semi.

Whenever I hear these songs I sometimes get a lump in my throat. Other times there is a sort of tickle in my stomach which gives way to a sick feeling when the memories come flooding back. I love these songs and wish they weren't connected with that event.

Sometime after the accident my aunt and I were in her bedroom listening to the radio when Happy Together came on. I immediately burst out crying. She asked why I was crying. I told her it reminded me of the car accident. Aunt J ran out of the room shouting, "MAMA, GAIL IS CRYING BECAUSE THE SONG ON THE RADIO REMINDS HER OF THE WRECK!" My grandmother told her to turn it off. That was all. No discussion, no exploration of my feelings, nothing. Maw Maw continued to wash dishes as though I had only burped. I felt silly being so emotional, but it was purely instinctual. I needed to deal with my sadness. Why didn't my family ever want to help me with that? Well, what was there to say, anyway? Words, pity, hugs...wouldn't change a thing. When all is said and done, the loss lies there like a big gaping hole. Nothing can cover that up. Only time can make the memory less vivid, more cloudy.

Ah well, I'm moving past it slowly but surely. It only comes up every now and then, like when I heard Dedicated to the One I Love yesterday. I haven't heard that song in years and there was that old familiar feeling bubbling up in the pit of my stomach. The car swirling too fast, sirens, sterile hospital rooms, doctors in starched white coats. Isn't it funny how a song can trigger such deeply felt emotions, or bring back sights and smells?

Okay, pity party over! Here are the gorgeous songs from that time. Wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


When I was young we lived in a neighborhood filled with families. They were mostly Catholic families with lots of children. It was so easy to walk outside and just jump right into a game of jacks or kick ball.

My first BFF was Beverly. We went to summer camp together at St. Mary of the Pines in 1974. She came to all my birthday parties. We were like peas and carrots.

The following year government housing projects sprung up like a malignant tumor adjacent to our neighborhood, effectively destroying our little hamlet. In the wee hours our next door neighbor was almost raped and homes were broken into. It was terrifying. Me and the other kids were bussed to a predominately black school. While riding the school bus, the black kids would stroke my hair and get their friends to join in to feel how soft it was. I felt like a monkey in a zoo. The last straw was when strangers pounded on our door late one night demanding we let them in. Like the white flag of surrender, my mother promptly put the FOR SALE sign in the yard the next day.

When we moved from Monarch Street, I was heartbroken. And I never saw Beverly again. My mom moved us into an apartment close to the LSU campus which had a mix of crazy college kids and bookish professors. Everything I had ever known dissolved overnight.

The move was a step up socially from north Baton Rouge and my mother felt safe. But I felt alone, as though I had been dumped onto an alien planet without any earthly comforts. I cried deep sobbing cries every morning before school for weeks. My mother offered little comfort except to encourage me to go out and meet new kids. How? There were no yards like I was used to. Just a sea of apartments that looked like glorified hotels. Was I supposed to stand outside and wait for someone to come out? Even if I did the few kids I had seen hanging around didn't seem the type to let anyone just join in whatever they were doing. And at 13, I was way past riding bikes, jumping rope, or roller skating.

In order to fit in, I finally figured out that I should change my wardrobe. The tomboy stuff I was wearing wasn't up to snuff with the "cool kids". After much begging, I got some big bell bottom jeans and platform shoes with embroidery on the sides. I worked hard to fray the ends of those bell bottoms, too. In those days you had to distress your own stuff by LIVING and miles of walking.

Eventually, I made new friends. Unfortunately, they were the wrong kind of friends. They were dope smoking little delinquents from broken homes, no supervision, and no money. At least I had finally found a bond with other kids. And my mother, being completely clueless and the most naive mother in Baton Rouge, had no idea what I was getting into or who I was involved with. She went to work every day, cleaned our little apartment every Saturday, and went to Mass every Sunday. That was her life, but I thought it was boring and didn't want that to be my life.

Jo became my next best friend. She was the only one of my friends who did not come from a broken home or live in an apartment. Her parents were on their second marriage, so they were older than most of the other parents. They doted on Jo. I remember her mother serving us breakfast in bed on Saturday mornings. Her father would drink gin and tonic while reading the Bible. He seemed peaceful and adored Jo.

Jo became pregnant at 16. She begged me to be with her when she told her parents. They were livid. "YOU ARE NOT HAVING A BABY, JO!" Her parents forced her to get an abortion. Jo became pregnant again at age 20 and married the guy. I was her Matron of Honor, 8 months pregnant with my second child. Unfortunately, her new mother-in-law thought a baby was a bad idea to start the marriage and talked Jo into an abortion. The marriage didn't last.

Many other friends came and went though the years, but the next significant one was Carrie. We met on the local tennis league. She had flaming red hair with a temper to match. But fun! Oh, we had so much fun. Carrie was divorced with two kids and struggling financially. I was remarried by then, but Double D worked the night shift at the hospital which left me a lot of free time.

Carrie and I would spend hours on the phone every night having the most lively conversations. We'd go out to eat and shop every weekend. I wouldn't even think of going to a mall or a restaurant without her. Avid tennis players, we once tested the speed of our serves on a residential street using one of those police radar signs. To my dismay, she had the harder serve. Oh, and margaritas. We loved our margaritas and Tex-Mex food.

Several years into the friendship she started having some sort of mid-life crisis. Constantly whining about needing a man and bored with her job, she began to dress and act inappropriately. She would come to pick me up in midriff tops with her stomach exposed. I winced inwardly. Carrie was short mind you — about 5'1" and on the plump side — so this was a little embarrassing. Next she began to talk about getting her belly button pierced which was all the rage at the time — for young girls — not middle aged divorced mothers. I think I remember telling her that if she did that, I would not be seen out in public with her. She told me I was square and acting way too old for our age. Carrie also thought it was cool to go commando with her short little jean skirts. She became like an annoying, impetuous little sister. And it wasn't cute.

Carrie was obsessed with our tennis instructor. She spent hours devising ways to get him to notice her. She threw a party at her house in an effort to seduce him. With the aid of alcohol it worked, but she admitted that he wasn't really into her and acted like he couldn't wait to get out of there the next morning. I felt so bad, but also worried that she would get pregnant. During all of this I transitioned into some sort of mother figure instead of a friend.

One day I noticed her wearing a toe ring. I made some jokes about it, not really meaning anything by it, but she took severe offense and cussed me out. Later, she called to apologize, but this began a series of her dressing and acting inappropriately, then getting angry when I didn't fawn over her latest fashion statement. She wanted so badly to be sexy and attractive and I wasn't giving her that validation because I truly thought she looked and acted ridiculous. I was left scratching my head like WTF happened? Where's Carrie?

After more than ten years of friendship I was forced to reevaluate. The phone calls lasting hours were no longer fun since they were reduced to being all about her needing a man and her general unhappiness with her life. At the time, my 20 year old son had fallen six stories from a hospital parking garage. After three months in hospitals and rehab, my dining room was turned into a hospital room for about six months, complete with porta-potty. I was an emotional wreck. My life was in such a severe state of chaos that I seriously could not devote another ounce of energy anywhere else. Added to that, I had started working a second job. Did all of this make Carrie put her needs aside for me? Uh, sadly, no.

Once I made the decision to end the friendship she basically cussed me out and accused me of being jealous of her. I hung up the phone. Shortly after, I sent her an email and blamed myself, saying that I wasn't in a position to be the kind of friend she needed right now, but I wished her well and had no hard feelings. After things settled down, I felt enormous relief.

That was in 2002 and the only time I heard from her was a few years ago when she called to let me know that a mutual friend had died. I tried to ask about her family and her, but it was awkward and strained. Plus, I noticed that she had blocked her phone number making it private, so clearly, she did not want me to contact her. Fine. *sigh*

I miss having a best friend, but either I have bad luck in the people that I cross paths with, I'm terrible at choosing friends, or I am not a good friend myself. As I get older, it seems that making friends is not as easy as it used to be. So many women have come and gone throughout my life and I think now I'm just TIRED. Tired of pouring effort into building relationships only to have them disintegrate later, or see them move to another state, or worse, die.

I'm hoping that I will meet some nice women one day in my old age. I still have the occasional night out with an old tennis friend and others, but it's not that close BFF feeling. For now, I'm really pretty happy hanging out with my kids, husband and dogs. I hope that's okay.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I have a thorn in my side at work and her name is Noreen (not her real name). She is my main contact at one of our major suppliers, so when I am sending custom orders, she needs just enough acumen to read the instructions on my purchase orders and get the parts into production. You'd think this was a pretty simple task, but for Noreen, I might as well be asking her to map the human genome or balance the federal budget.

I don't want to come across as cruel, but facts are facts: Noreen is about as alert and intelligent as a box of rusty nails. When her stupidity surfaced during our first point of contact, I tried to be nice about it and not make her feel inferior by pointing out the obvious answers to her questions, typed neatly on our faxed purchase order. Right there in black and white.

Then there was a fleeting thought that I must not be communicating properly. Maybe it's me. But not having this problem with other suppliers, I quickly came to the conclusion that it's not me, IT'S HER. And that sort of realization wore my nerves down to a frazzled mass of tangled vessels, ready to explode at any given moment.

After months of dealing with Noreen I was through with being nice. I got to a point where I wanted her to feel my pain. I wanted to shove her idiocy right back down her own throat with force. My frustration levels were off the chart. In 21 years I have never encountered such daftness. So I stopped being nice and said things like:

"Just get it done, Noreen."

"I don't have time to explain every little detail to you, Noreen."

"Read the purchase order, Noreen."

"Look at the previous order, Noreen."

"It's right there on the order. Why are you asking me?" (after which I would read the answer to her inane question aloud from the PO)

"Whatever, Noreen. I'm tired of explaining this to you. We just talked about this yesterday. Do you not remember our conversation?" (she never remembered our previous conversations)

"Figure it out, Noreen."

These things were all said in very clipped, abrupt tones. Oh, and the curse words I wanted to spew were pushed way down into the depths of my belly. I'd pray they would stay buried there and not surface like projectile vomiting or a sudden case of Turette's. I'd be damned if Noreen was going to do me in after 21 years in this job, using her mind-numbing ignorance like a machete, chopping feverishly on my frayed nerves.

One day something came over me. Perhaps it was the realization that being blunt and to the point wasn't getting through, or maybe the vein that was throbbing in the side of my neck started to become worrisome, ready to burst through and cause a fatal heart attack. No way was Noreen getting the best of me, nor would she claim responsibility for putting me in the grave. Dear God, no, don't let it be Noreen.

So I changed tactics. I decided to be exceptionally nice. Not fake nice, but out of a place of true compassion. Perhaps with genuine patience and understanding I could make the situation better. For both of us. I would no longer point out obvious inconsistencies in her statements or thrash her for overlooking crucial details. It was difficult beyond belief and my tongue was sore from biting it. I patiently walked her through orders, politely answering her questions. And I'm proud to say it wasn't in a condescending way.

Niceness toward Noreen felt foreign and forced at first, but over the weeks, surprisingly, it came more naturally. In turn she also became nicer and more accommodating. She actually did me a favor today, which saved my company $150. Score! I win!

Did my diplomacy make Noreen any smarter? No. Did it make her remember things she had just told me the day before, but can't remember today? No. Did she suddenly figure out how to read our orders and process them without incident? No. Did my nicety make that vein stop throbbing in my neck? It's easing. Baby steps.

I think I'm on to something here. Never give up on someone. Remember that everyone is not at the same place in life — intellectually, emotionally, and physically — that you are. What I learned is that even when you don't feel like being gracious, if you try your best to put it into practice anyway, it makes life exceedingly more pleasant.

After 2 years of dealing with Noreen, it's doubtful that I will ever write her a recommendation letter or suggest to her superior that she receive a promotion, but I have created a little bubble of peace around us, fragile though it may be, and that's enough. I hope to carry this lesson into other areas of my life.

Peace and love,
Louisiana Belle

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Downtown Dallas

After a harrowing Thanksgiving with all sorts of family drama, I needed to decompress. Badly. A photo shoot seemed like the perfect solution. My daughter and her friend Jay (well, he's my friend, too) are the perfect companions for just such an outing. They're fun and relaxed and up for anything. Just remind me next time not to wear boots for walking around downtown Dallas. :/

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deanna Lynn

Today would have been my sister's 46th birthday. For years I put up my Christmas tree on this day in remembrance of her. The last several years I have neglected to do so due to various life struggles and interruptions, so today I turn to this blog.

I often wonder how different all our lives would have been if Deanna had lived. Maybe my parents' divorce wouldn't have been so ugly. I certainly wouldn't have felt the tragic consequences of my parents' brooding and grieving. No 5 year old should have to feel unwanted and unloved simply because they survived a car crash and the "baby" didn't. God, it brings tears to my eyes just writing that. But it's how I've always felt - guilty for living. Why didn't God take me? What is the lesson we were supposed to learn? That life is fleeting? That you shouldn't take one another for granted because you never know? When this type of thinking is ingrained in you at such a young age it creates a mindset of hurry up and do it because I may not see tomorrow; death is around every corner; you never know.

Her death 42 years ago has impacted my entire life. I almost wrote "negatively impacted" but I'm not sure that's completely true. I mean, I have a choice on how I cope, the paths I choose to follow, etc. I just really wish it had not happened and I wish from the bottom of my soul that God had not allowed it to happen. Maybe I'm angry because certainly "the accident" marred me, made me feel different, and caused deep insecurities in me. It also bestowed angel status on my sister, leaving me to feel less than worthy of love. It's kept me from giving and receiving love properly. I'm always afraid when I finally hand my heart and soul over it will be cruelly snatched away. I have no control and that's scary.

Well, I've gotten all morose when all I wanted to do was remember my sister's birthday. Sorry.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Addiction

Oh, y'all, I'm in deep doo-doo. I found a Coach outlet store about 20 miles from my house.

Let me rewind a bit. This past spring, I bought my first Coach purse, which I stumbled upon by accident in Marshall's Department Store. It was from the Hampton collection and it had a green, silk scarf daintily tied around one handle. After removing that, it was near perfect. If the handles had been a little longer, it would have earned "perfect" status. The organization was top notch, and the quality - both interior and exterior - are beyond compare. It was the purse of my dreams.

The Hampton WAS my dream purse until yesterday when I purchased my second Coach, the Signature Zoe, pictured above. Circling the newly found outlet store like a vulture, I made three trips around, salivating. I thought the store clerks were going to ask me to leave. Once I narrowed my selection to the gorgeous Zoe, it took 30 minutes to decide if I should get the red trim or chocolate trim. My sensibilities prevailed and chocolate won! However, for a serious moment, I almost bought one of each because they were an unbelievable 61% off ! A $348 bag for $135! Who cares if it's last year's model? Coach bags are timeless, anyway.

I'm very picky. I don't carry a ton of crap in my purse, so it has to be highly efficient and able to keep my things neat, or it makes me a little crazy. In the past, I have returned purses for being too big and too small. They have also gone back to the store if, after I get my things inside, it flops over, which the hobo bags are famous for if you don't fill them up. I really hate having to unfold my purse to get inside, and once inside, I dread seeing a dark, cavernous hole. Coach bags, at least the ones I've seen, do not have this annoying feature.

Purses have always been like a drug for me. I buy one and experience what I can only describe as euphoria - at least for an afternoon, or if I'm lucky, a week. Pre-Coach, I looked for bags that had a little organization but not too much, boasting the latest color and style. This was a once-a-month habit, sometimes bi-monthly. See, I'm saying WAS, because now I know that I can carry a Coach bag for at least 6 months, if not longer. It might even be cheaper for me in the long-run. At least that's the argument I gave Double D. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Just the other day I wrote how fiercely I would protect our precious Izzy from any holiday hazards. Somehow she went and hurt herself over the weekend. That's what I get for being so bold in my pronouncement.

When I first noticed that her back legs seemed a little lame, I initially blamed it on the rain. She was having trouble getting up the stairs and I assumed that because her feet were wet she was scared of slipping on the steps.

Wrong! The next day she was worse so I tried to recall my years working at the vet emergency clinic. There are questions you learn to ask depending on the situation when people call in, and I tried desperately to remember what they were. Getting into vet tech mode, I did the following:

1) Checked gum color. Nice and pink. Good.
2) Is she vomiting or having diarrhea? No. Good.
3) Is she eating and drinking? Not eating her own food, but will eat human food when offered. Drinks very little water.
4) Is she dehydrated? Lifted skin up between shoulder blades like a tent and the skin flattened back out instantly. Gums are not tacky. Good.
5) Is she eliminating normally? Yes. Good.

Exhausting my minimal knowledge, I knew it was time to call P-bird. Over the years I have come to rely on my dear vet tech friend. She has been such a calming presence during my many dog crises. She understands how quickly a mama can lose all perspective when it's one of her own.

P-bird had me press on Izzy's abdomen and run two fingers down her spine which resulted in no adverse reactions. I was instructed to keep her comfortable and as still as possible and get her to our vet first thing in the morning.

Dr. Fred diagnosed her with Prolapsed Invertebral Disc Disease. Basically, a disc ruptured which pushed the liquid from the disc onto her spine. This created pressure and caused her pain. She received a shot of Dexamethasone (steroid) and some oral Dex. Today she looks MUCH better. Now our problem will be keeping her still for one week.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Under Pressure

Thanksgiving is almost here and already I've been forced to start thinking about Christmas. I just want to get past Thanksgiving; then and only then, can I concentrate on Christmas. One thing at a time. Please.

Our house is small and our family is large. This creates problems. There are 6 adult children, two with spouses, and three grandchildren. Last year, for the first time in years, we had all of them at our little matchbox home to celebrate. Add Rockband instruments to the space and it gets a little hairy.

Last year, I knew something in the "unpleasant vein" would transpire during the festivities, and that is exactly what happened. Our baby Chihuahua, Izzy, got violently ill. At the time, we thought she had swallowed a child's toy; however, x-rays, IV fluids, an overnight hospital stay, and $1000 later, we learned it was from eating too much human food. Tiny morsels were dropped on floors and chairs and couch cushions. No biggie, you expect stuff like that with so many people, except for a 6 lb. dog, it becomes a huge problem.

The unexpected $1000 was pretty unpleasant, but the thought of losing Izzy was too horrendous to consider. I would have prostituted myself to get her well. Not really. I couldn't earn much at this age and with my current body shape anyway. I jest. :)

This year Izzy will be crated. There will be absolutely no access. I will hire bodyguards if necessary. I will whisk her away to an undisclosed destination. She will enter the Witness Protection program. Whatever it takes. She will not be carted around like a rag doll, drooling over human food. Not one speck of chocolate or a microscopic cookie crumb will enter her field of vision this holiday season. Nope, not gonna happen.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Babe I'm Gonna Leave You

Remember "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Led Zeppelin? Well, before Jimmy Page got his hot little hands on the song, it was sung by Joan Baez. Listen to her version and explain to me how Jimmy and the boys created their masterpiece as we know it today:

This sounds like opera to me. Her voice is beautiful, don't get me wrong, but how did Jimmy create Zep's version after hearing that? I'm gobsmacked.

The song was actually written by Anne Bredon, a student at UC-Berkley. She appeared on a live folk-music radio show The Midnight Special on radio station KPFA around 1960, on which she sang "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You". A fellow folk singer developed the song further, which came to the attention of Joan Baez.

In my opinion, the song was always meant to be heard like this:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Phone from Hell

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you all know that I love technology. I embrace it even. I think my gadget-buying spree back in the spring proves that. The Polycom SoundPoint IP 650, however, is my first technological nemesis. From what I can gather online, this is supposed to be the latest, greatest thing to hit small businesses since computers, probably. After giving it my all the last 2 weeks, I've come to the conclusion that it's a complicated piece of crap. Either that, or Apple's intuitive interface for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iMac has spoiled me rotten.

When a call came in on the old phone for my boss, all I had to do was press the HOLD button, intercom him and say something like, "It's Bob Vance from Vance Refrigeration on line 1." If he wanted to take the call, he'd thank me and press the blinking button. If he didn't want it, I would take a message. Yeah, the message taking part was a pain, so I was really looking forward to the promise of the PSPIP 650 because it was sold as the ability of transferring those pesky calls straight to voice mail.

Sounds simple enough, right? So NOT simple. When a call comes in and I hit the TRANSFER key a recording comes on and tells me I am unauthorized to do so. If I put the caller on hold, it will not show as a blinking line on my boss' phone. Some of the phones in our office can intercom hands-free, others cannot. Mine is in the no intercom category, naturally. There is also no way to tell if my boss is busy on another line. Just basic stuff you need to know or be able to do for simple phone routing. This system is anything but simple.

Today I had the solicitor from Let Me Pester the Hell Out of You Corp. who would not give up trying to get through to my boss. Because I couldn't transfer her, I had to physically walk into his office and tell him who was on the phone. His response? "Not interested." So I told her he was busy. She asked for voice mail. I gave the TRANSFER key a try. It didn't work so I decided to just hang up on her. With most solicitors this is a very effective tactic. She called back.

The phone does have one awesome thing that our other phone didn't have: caller ID. So when she called back the screen gave me the following options: ANSWER • REJECT • IGNORE. I chose REJECT. In theory, a rejected call is supposed to go straight to voice mail. Not my phone, oh no. It rang to another phone outside my office. I ran to that phone and hit IGNORE. I returned to my desk and she rang again. This went on two more times. I thought, 'well, at least I'm getting a little aerobics in'. There was quiet for about 5 minutes and I thought I had finally gotten the best of her.

Well, Bertha from Let Me Pester the Hell Out of You Corp. was having none of this runaround, so she called back, only my screen displayed "Anonymous". I answered the phone all cheerful, suspecting it might be her, and Bertha informs me, rather nicely, that she has been hung up on three times and she needs to talk to Mr. W. I explained that we had a new phone system and I'm very sorry but it appears our voice mail transfer is not working so I will have to take a message. This woman wasted all my time (and hers) to let my boss know about an upcoming Builders and Contractors Expo going on in our area. I felt like shoving my handset down her throat. And I am not a violent person.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hurdy Gurdy Man

This is probably my favorite song from the sixties. It has that Indian, Eastern influence which gives it a psychedelic, trippy sound.

For years I never knew the definition of a Hurdy Gurdy man, but I sang along anyway. It was obviously a song about love and peace - the dominate theme of the sixties - and I was content imagining that the Hurdy Gurdy man was some Ghandi-like hippie who went around making everyone feel loved or sat around a campfire at night and passed around a pipe. Oh, and he sang songs of love.

Apparently, a hurdy gurdy is a musical instrument. From Wiki: The hurdy gurdy or hurdy-gurdy (also known as a wheel fiddle) is a stringed musical instrument in which the strings are sounded by means of a rosined wheel which the strings of the instrument pass over. This wheel, turned with a crank, functions much like a violin bow, making the instrument essentially a mechanical violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard that presses tangents (small wedges, usually made of wood) against one or more of these strings to change their pitch. Like most other acoustic string instruments, it has a soundboard to make the vibration of the strings audible.

Thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I'm opening my eyes to take a peep
To find that I was by the sea
Gazing with tranquility

'Twas then when the hurdy gurdy man
Came singing songs of love
Then when the hurdy gurdy man
Came singing songs of love

Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy he sang
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy he sang
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy he sang

Histories of ages past
Unenlightened shadows cast
Down through all eternity
The crying of humanity

'Tis then when the hurdy gurdy man
Comes singing songs of love
Then when the hurdy gurdy man
Comes singing songs of love

Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy he sang
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy hurdy gurd
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy he sang

Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy he sang
Here comes the roly-poly man
He's singing songs of love
Roly poly, roly poly, roly poly poly he sang
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy he sang
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy he sang
Roly poly, roly poly, roly poly poly he sang

Monday, October 26, 2009

Close Call

Last night I was taking the last flight out of Baton Rouge with my youngest son, Michael, who was happily listening to music on his Shuffle. Halfway through the journey our "crop duster", aka American Eagle plane, took a sharp dive and started rocking from side to side. Michael's drink, as well as many others, flew up in the air and the sticky contents landed all over him and on my hand. Being drenched with Pepsi was the least of our concerns. Our hands became intertwined tightly, somewhat convinced we were going to plunge to the hard earth. It was like a roller coaster ride that seemed to last forever, when in actuality it only lasted maybe a minute or two. I was consumed with fear, hoping we would make it out alive.

Of course, we did make it through as evidenced by this post, but it made me think more about how fragile life is and how we take one another for granted, as though we'll always be able to see each other whenever we want, when nothing could be further from the truth.

I always thought that in this type of situation the first thing I would do is start praying to God. But I did nothing of the sort. Fear had truly consumed me and I am ashamed that I did not turn to the God I have leaned on and trusted my whole entire life. I think I need to reevaluate my relationship with Him.

After it was over Michael said, "I thought I was going to die listening to Lil Wayne. I mean he's from New Orleans and everything which is cool, but I wanted to go out listening to somebody of Jimi."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I go through these weird and wonderful moments when I MUST listen to Patsy Cline. It's very similar to the food cravings I get. Like the time I craved hot and sour soup every day for a week. I could not stop thinking about that soup until I had my fill. Once I did, I could stop obsessing over it.

As I was going through one of my Pasty-craving episodes not too long ago, I remembered the movie 'Terms of Endearment', one of my favorite movies of all time. The movie is set in the 1970s, yet Emma, the main character, listens to Ethel Merman when she is under stress. The night before her wedding she smokes a joint with her best friend and has Ethel Merman belting out 'Anything Goes' on the record player. When Emma and Flap move into a new house, once again, she plays Ethel, which her husband kindly tolerates.

I find Patsy Cline's voice rich, soothing, and pure. There is just something about it that immediately puts me at ease. Maybe it brings back memories of a simpler time, though I wasn't even born when most of her music came out.

When my children would misbehave in the car, I would threaten to play Patsy Cline and they'd be all, "No mom! Please don't play that!" It never really worked as a deterrent to bad behavior, but at least I had a little fun with them.

What's odd is that I don't like the country music genre AT ALL. Most days you can find me listening to The Shins, Jack White, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Incubus, Cage The Elephant, and Muse. Yet strangely, Patsy Cline speaks to me. Even while I'm listening to it and enjoying it, I'll be thinking, "This is really weird. What are you doing? Why do you like this?" While growing up, my mother had records like The Beatles, The Platters, and Sam Cook - no Patsy. I like those others too, but I don't ever yearn for those. Where did Patsy come from and how did she enter my orbit? I may never know.

I Fall To Pieces (1961, the year I was born):


Thursday, September 17, 2009


Cozumel is pretty close to paradise. There really is no other accurate description. The varying colors of the waters from turquoise to vivid blue to deep blue were absolutely stunning. I could not get enough of that view. As a result, my photos required very little retouching.

It was my first time on a cruise ship, sailing from Galveston on the Carnival Ecstasy. I don't know if it was just me or what, but I was rather underwhelmed with the whole ship experience. I had heard all these fantastic things about the food and all the things to do on board. On embarkment, I was so excited, looking forward to everything I had been told. I expected nothing less than a perfect time; however, that may have been the problem. I keep forgetting that there is no such thing as perfection.

The food was a disappointment, as well as the staff on the ship. Most of the time I had to smile and say hello to them first. They seemed rather distant. Maybe drama was going on behind the scenes, who knows? The shows, casinos, etc. were of no interest to me. We went to one dance show and I was sitting there like 'This is so lame. Get me out of here.' I couldn't sunbathe due to one of my prescription medications, so there was not a lot for me to do. At night, I thought it would be nice to sit out on deck and look at the stars, but there were no stars. And there was nothing to see but water. Thankfully, I did not get seasick.

When we arrived at the port of Cozumel, I could not get off the ship fast enough. As I walked along the gangplank and saw the island with the ocean in the background, I was suddenly transported to my own little heaven. It was glorious. Even better than Cancun.

I convinced Double D to go snorkeling with me (he was resisting) and we were BOTH so glad we did that; it was the highlight of the day - no, actually, the whole trip. The water was crystal clear and schools of different varieties of fish swam right alongside us. I now have the urge to learn scuba diving. Being just under the surface of the water was not only beautiful, but peaceful. I would imagine that going lower would be even more serene. Learning to scuba dive is now on my bucket list. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Coonass Heritage

**Warning: some strong language in this post**

When I started this blog, I wanted to use the space to recall memories from childhood and the Cajun experience. Somehow I veered way off track, so today I thought I'd revisit the notion and see what comes up.

I miss my Maw-Maw immensely with her superstitions, good cooking, and love of family. She was truly one of a kind. Maw-Maw spoke often in Cajun French, most of which was unintelligible to me, but she had her pet phrases and these are the ones that stuck with me:

Mais [Mah - A like rat] Beginning of many sentences
Mon Dieu! [Maw Dyuh] Good God!
Chère Bébé [Sha - A like cat - bay-bay] Sweet baby
Chère mon Dieu! [Sha maw dyuh] Sweet good God!
Ay yie yie [I yi yi] Ouch
Coo-yôn [Coo yaw] Stupid, idiot
Go do-do [Go dough dough] Go to sleep
Andouille [ahn DOO ee] Type of sausage
Mirliton [Mel lee TAW] A pear she grew in her garden
Parrain [Pah RAA] Godfather
Pralines [prah LEENS or praw LEENS] ~Not PRAYlines~ A sugary candy
Roux [roo] Flour and oil base for gravy, soups, and gumbos
Lagniappe [lan-yap] A little something extra
Coonass [coon-ass] A Cajun person (an insult if said by a non-cajun)
Rodeé [roe-die-ay] To run the roads all day, shop
Coo [coo] Said in astonishment like, "Coo, look at da size of dat crawfeesh!"
Hose pipe [hose pipe] The garden hose
Merde [maird] Shit

Sometimes Maw-Maw would curse in French, thinking it didn't count, but other times, if she was really angry at someone, she called them a 'shit-ass'. I've never heard anyone else use that term before or since.

She also brought up the subject of my underwear with way too much frequency. "Sha, pull up those drawz." "Let's wash those dirty drawz." "Make sure you put on clean drawz." And right behind that would be "Wash those filthy hands, Cher." Cleanliness was extremely important to her. I think this is where I get my germ aversion.

If Maw-Maw heard a storm brewing she would run to the chiffarobe (armoire) and grab the precious bottle of holy water, blessed by none other than the Pope. When the thunder and lightning came, each room in the house received a good sprinkling. Look how serious she is here; so focused on chasing away evil.
Hope you enjoyed your Cajun lesson today!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Remember Ditto machines? If not, I'm sorry you didn't get to experience this wonderful contraption with its accompanying odor.

It was always a huge treat when the teacher passed out fresh "ditto paper" with that pretty purple lettering. Mass inhaling ensued as each student immediately put the paper to their nose. It was even depicted in the movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Sadly, no other generation will be able to inhale that unique odor.

It was determined that the fumes from pure methyl alcohol might be a bad thing. Obviously, technology also had a hand in the demise of the Ditto machine.

Besides the smell of puppy breath, ditto machine ink is one of the best smells ever! If I could travel back in time, one of the things I would do is sit in Mrs. Grenfell's class as she's handing out ditto paper. Yes, I'm a simpleton and lame.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Supplement Update

Eleven days ago I began a regimen of health supplements in an effort to get control over my body and hopefully FEEL BETTER. I also cut out all diet soft drinks after nearly 30 years of consuming them.

The decision to nix diet sodas caused a bit of a setback. Although I never felt that I was over-consuming, drinking about 1-2 cans a day, it was slowly dawning on me that maybe this stuff was causing some of my problems. The more I read about saccharin and other artificial sweeteners, the more concerned I became about their effects.
Let me tell you that these evil, manufactured sugars did not want to go quietly into the night. Last week I experienced migraines so fierce, I thought I would need hospitalization. Accompanying those debilitating headaches was nausea. I kept telling myself: "You're stronger than these chemicals! Don't let them beat you!"

It was full-on war.

So I persevered, continuing to take my oil, vitamins, herbal teas, and eat sensibly. Guess what? I've noticed the last few days I haven't been as hungry. I can actually be satisfied with less food. Before embarking on this journey, I thought I might really have a tapeworm because I was hungry and craving foods all the frickin' frackin' time. I would eat and eat and never be satisfied.

Not only is my appetite under control, my memory has improved. The cobwebs in my brain have been brushed away, leaving me with clearer thinking. Speaking of brushing, my hair has never looked better. My acid reflux has calmed down. My energy hasn't been at this level since...well, I don't really remember when I felt this energized. Seriously. I am BLOWN AWAY by these results.

I know the supplements are helping me too, so I don't want to take away their role in this, but I think the biggest culprit was the diet soft drinks! I found this article today on mudphudder's blog and it was quite an eye opener. All this time I thought I was saving myself precious calories when all I was doing was confusing my body into thinking it was getting something sweet when it wasn't. Apparently, the body will rebel when constantly getting mixed signals. Excerpt:

When people eat sweet foods, the sweet taste signals an impending high-calorie bolus to the body, which registers caloric fulfillment of energy needs and also induces metabolic changes for use of the incoming energy. With use of these low-calorie sweeteners, these natural responses are disrupted because the body can no longer trust a sweet taste to indicate a high-calorie intake. After a while, the body can no longer accurately gauge daily caloric intake, causing a rise in appetite while burning fewer calories.

My poor body must've stopped trusting me! I hope after 30 years of this abuse that it can find a way to forgive me. And heal.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Elm Fork Nature Preserve

It was hot as Hades, but under the canopy of trees it wasn't too bad. The trails were padded with a nice cushiony mulch that felt good under foot. We were hoping to see some wildlife - there were, after all, signs every so often warning of poisonous snakes - but it was probably too hot. My compadres:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Well Oiled Machine

This week I have devoted some of my free time to researching Hypothyroidism and Auto Immune diseases in order to get a handle on my health. I learned that prescription medication alone may not alleviate the symptoms - which in my case it certainly hasn't - and is, in all probability, only masking the root of the problem. The last several years I have not taken care of myself properly and now my body is letting me know by raging a full scale attack - ON ITSELF. My diet has been crap and virtually no exercise to speak of. I've got to do something.

So I decided to add herbal supplements to the mix. I'm starting out small so as not to overwhelm the ol' bod, but so far I am pleasantly surprised at the results. This is my new arsenal:
Let's start with flax oil. I have it sitting in the fridge next to the bottled water so that I will remember to take it. Not only does it look like something that should go in my car engine, it is how I imagine a tablespoon of Valvoline might taste. I'm supposed to ingest 1-3 tablespoons per day. Right now I can barely get one down. And my lips feel oily afterwards.
My next dose was the B-complex in liquid form. You have to put it under your tongue and leave it there for 30 seconds. They might as well have said 30 minutes. It's the longest 30 seconds you will ever endure. I'd almost rather walk over hot coals for 30 seconds, but that won't help my thyroid.

Then I made myself a steaming cup of Yerba Mate tea. Have you ever tasted dirt? Maybe as a kid? I played quite a bit in the dirt as a child and I think I remember this same taste in my mouth at the end of the day. But you know what? I drank it all because I'm finally wearing my big girl panties and realize that this is good for me.

Thankfully, the primrose oil came in gel caps. The other supplements I decided to nix in favor of an organic multi-vitamin made especially for women. This vitamin had many of the supplements I was going to purchase separately such as D, Selenium, and Calcium.

Last night after the tasty trio of flax, Yerba Mate, and B-complex, I felt good enough to take the dogs for a walk. And this morning, I ingested the same cocktail again, along with the multi-vitamin, and now I'm going to clean the bathrooms.

Except for my mouth tasting like it just had an oil change, I feel great! I am worried, however, that Double D will mistake me for his Honda.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Google Garble

Last week I received my Google Voice invite. It's a really cool service that basically allows me to choose a personal phone number from a list of available numbers. With this new number, I can control where I receive calls, whether land line, work and/or cell. Simply tie your numbers to it, set up a contact list, and personalize where you want the calls to go.

There is a "send to voice mail" option for those annoying souls that always seem to call at the wrong time. Beautiful, right? For close family and friends, you can instruct calls to go to your work and cell. If someone leaves a message, you can listen in on the message while the person is leaving it and decide if you want to accept the call at any time during the message. Read more here.

But the COOLEST thing about Google Voice is the voice mail transcription. This cutting edge technology will send a text to your phone with a brief snippet of the voice mail, an email to your gmail account along with transcription, and also to the Google Voice account with the transcribed text and the actual recording.

I've had the number about a week only giving it to Jay, and that was simply because it came up in an email conversation. As much as I think this is the coolest thing I've seen in a while, I wasn't quite ready to send out the mass email to have everyone change my number. I was just getting my toes wet - you know - testing the water. Well, my daughter found out that Jay had my new number, so she called it tonight and left a voice mail asking me to explain why Jay had the number and she didn't. When I got the alert, this is what the transcription said:

hello apparently danny hi it's your new google order number but you're all in order to not you know i thought that was a bit of a travis he and if you gimme a call back and hopefully we can rectify that situation alright bye

When I read that I thought, 'now what kind of yay-hoo is leaving me cryptic messages on an otherwise boring Thursday evening?' When I clicked play and heard my daughter's playful voice, I fell out of my chair laughing. I laughed so hard, the dogs almost went into orbit, having never seen me laugh so hard. Here is what she really said:

SO, apparently, JAY has your new Google Voice number, but your OWN DAUGHTER does not (laughter). So, I thought that was a bit of a travesty. Give me a call back and hopefully we can rectify this situation (more laughter).

In conclusion, I highly recommend signing up for this service purely for entertainment value if nothing else. I told my daughter that whenever I'm feeling blue, I'm going to ask her to leave me a voice mail on Google Voice. Seriously, GO GET your Google Voice number!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, My First Born!!

When I was 19 years old, I became a mother for the first time. I remember reading all the baby books and feeling like this was a role I was ready for. After 26 hours of labor, my boy arrived, healthy and well. Relief. One prayer answered. Hours later the nurse placed him in my arms for the first time. An intense feeling of fear came over me and I gently handed him back to the nurse in tears. It wasn't that I didn't love him. Quite the opposite. I loved him so much that I was afraid. What if I dropped him? What if I let him down? Well, I did make many mistakes over the years, but once I overcame that initial fear, I loved being a mom.

He's my most resilient, stubborn child. At age 3 he decided he no longer needed me to tuck him in and kiss him goodnight. I was heartbroken, but I gave him that space. If I had that moment back again, I would kiss him and tuck him in anyway.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Raging War with Hashimoto

Last year I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Basically, my immune system developed paranoia, and thinks my thyroid is a foreign enemy, thereby attacking and destroying it.

There are two types of thyroid malfunctions: HYPOthyroidism and HYPERthyroidism. Of course I got the underperforming HYPOthyroidism which, among other things, has caused me to gain about 30 extra pounds. And I can't get rid of the extra weight - even with my medication. If I'm going to be cursed enough to get a disease, why couldn't it be the one that causes me to LOSE weight? I want hyperthyroidism, dadgummit! *pouts*

This butterfly shaped little gland wraps around the windpipe producing hormones that regulate just about every organ, tissue, and cell in the body. The pills I'm taking are supposed to mimic what my thyroid should be doing (I think), but if that's the case, why do I still feel so sluggish all the time? Why am I so forgetful? Why can't I lose this frickin' frackin' weight? It seems everything I eat is deposited permanently around my mid-section.

I'm trying to do my own research because, to a certain degree, I distrust doctors and prescription medicines. With so much information out there, maybe there is something else that can help me. One little click could change my life. So far, I've discovered that eating raw vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower are bad and must be consumed in limited amounts if cooked. Soy is bad, but I already knew that. Iron supplements are also a no-no. Before taking any supplement, it must be determined if it will interfere with the medication. *sigh*

When I start reading all the dos and don'ts, I feel extremely overwhelmed. And with the memory loss, how am I supposed to retain all this? Wait, what was I saying?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Hardest Part is Over

About a month ago, I set a goal to scan my entire photo collection. I am finally finished. What a relief! And what a chore! I almost wish I was one of those people who start things and never seem to finish. I am definitely NOT in that category. If I start a project, whether work or personal, it becomes a race to see it through to the end. I literally cannot rest knowing I have an unfinished project.

I had some name-saving issues along the way, but managed to figure out short-term, if not permanent solutions to get me through. For instance, I began saving photos into existing folders on my hard drive, but when the files started growing in number, I was encountering duplications, even when adding the year. Adding numbers or letters - i.e., 1, 2, 3 or a, b, c - behind the year or name didn't offer enough of a distinction and didn't look good, either. Another problem was having too many people in a picture. Having a file name like "joe_celina_gail_ray_betty_joanne_1968" was way too long of a file name, and added to that there was the dilemma of which folder to save it in. This forced me to create folders for events like, "Christmas 1968" or "Acaldo Family-Misc". That way, I could just keep the file name given by the scanner and go back later to add detailed descriptions. Basically, it just delayed the file naming chore, which I will some point.

Thus, the project continues, but the most tedious part is over.

I still can't decide if I should have the year first, then the primary person's name or event, or the person's name or event and then the year. There is still a lot to go back and perfect, but at least they're all scanned, which was the most time-consuming element. Whew! Glad that part is over. Yay me!

A small sampling: