Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Demon Toilet Roll

It must have been a demon, because Fred attacked and demolished it before I could even react. After clawing it seriously, he grabbed the end and went running out of the bathroom. It was early and it took me several seconds to realize the way to stop it was to tear it off, but before I did that he had made the circuit of the house! I guess it was his contribution to the Christmas decorating I haven't done yet!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Life with Fred

For such a laid back guy, Fred has certainly generated a lot of energy in this house. I wish I could be a fly on the wall and watch what goes on while I am gone, but whatever it is it wears them out. When I get home, they come greet me, get their head scratches, and petting, and then retire to their respective napping places.

There is still a little friction at times:

Fred in the basket

That's my basket!

This settled without fur flying, but it was pretty tense for a while.

Fred in some of his quiet moments.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cry Havoc!

Cry Havoc! and let slip the cats of war . . .
paraphrase, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

When I decided to add another cat to my household, I thought I had carefully considered all the pros and cons. One that I didn't consider was that two cats is not destruction doubled, it is cubed at the least. Bella is not a morning "person." She likes to ease into the day and is really ready to rock when I get home at 3:30. On the other hand, Fred appears to be, so far anyway, an all day "person." Ready to rock at the drop of a mouse. That means in the morning, we have lots of turmoil, with Fred trying to play with Bella and Bella reacting strongly.

Then there is the fact that Bella is a dainty, graceful, 5 1/2 pound female who never (or rarely) misses what she jumps for, balances on the narrowest ledge, and has done little damage in the house.

On the other hand, Fred is a klutz of a teenager and utterly fearless when it comes to trying leaps, often falling flat on his face, back, whatever with a loud "thump." Put them together and you have havoc.

The only casualty so far is a ceramic lamp that got knocked off the table with damage to the decorative parts of it and a bent harp. That is only because many of the things I have in the living room are wood or cooper, and the cooper is all antique so another dent doesn't even show. I have my great grandmothers mantel clock stuck to the shelf with museum putty and hope it is as good as advertised. I guess I will have to do the lamps that way also until they get over (hopefully) this initial stage of low grade warfare.

But with all that, I have never laughed as much in my life and I am not the least bit sorry that Fred has come to liven up our lives. It will keeps us from getting stodgy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cat Tales

We have been three for a couple of weeks now and it seems to be working well. Bella has quit spitting at Fred quite so much, and they are beginning to really play together. Right now they are chasing each other around the house, one time when they go through the sitting room, Fred is in front and when they come back, Bella is.

Fred is a real lap cat. He thinks no lap should be wasted, and last weekend when my Aunt Mackie stayed with me, he would sit on her lap for a while and then move to mine. Bella just lay in her chair and watched it all with wide eyes. A couple of times when he would leave my lap she would come over and sit for a minute as though she was reminding everyone that she had first rights to this particular lap.

I have had one battle fought over my body, in bed. I just pulled the duvet up over my head and let them sort out who would lie where.

I would take some pictures, but they move too fast.

Fred is afraid of the funniest things. I have a litter pan cover that looks like a planter with a fake plant on the top. He kept trying to jump into it and falling, so I took the plant out of the top and put it on the floor. He stalked it for about 30 minutes before pouncing on it and it is now his favorite thing to hide in. I think he is pretending to be a tiger, although I never saw a black tiger with a white blaze on his nose.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Together at last!

By the time I got home yesterday Fred was beginning to act like he had had enough of being in a room alone. So I took the towel from underneath the door and he and Bella "interacted" through the evening. This morning when I got up, he had one leg stuck all the way out to his shoulder, and was feeling around with his paw. So I picked Bella up and opened the door. He came out slowly and started looking around. I took Bella in the other room and put her down and they spent the next two hours out together. He was exploring and she was following his every step with a very watchful eye. I did hear one slight exchange of hisses while I was getting dressed, but they went back to their prowling mode.

I was beginning to worry about how I was going to get him back in the bedroom before I left when he obliged by walking in to his food dish. So I shut the door on him, to his somewhat vocal objections.

I think this is going to work!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Second Day

Well, we made some progress overnight and when I went in this morning to feed and water Fred, he came up to me and allowed me to scratch his ears and pet him. Unfortunately a little later, I heard a loud bang from the room and when I went in he has pulled the desk chair over and it evidently really scared him because he was back to the hissing and spitting stage.

After I got home from church I went in and although he hissed at me when I got too close, he couldn't resist the feather on a stick I had and he played with me for a good while. But no more ear scratching.

Bella keeps going to the door and trying to put her paw under it--I am unable to determine just what that means!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The first 24 hours!

Well, the first 24 hours with the new kitty has been interesting. He was totally freaked out by the one hour plus he had to spend in the carrier, beginning with 3 1/2 miles of rough gravel road.

Then, although I had a plan about what I was going to do when I got home, I didn't follow it, which caused much more confusion.

I had planned to take him directly to the guest room where there was a litter pan, toys, food, water, the curtains all pulled open so he could see out, etc. and leave him there to recover from the trip. But he was so distressed that I made the mistake of letting him out of the carrier in the sitting room. Bella immediately came up to investigate and he went up to her to touch noses and she hissed and spit at him. Smart boy, he just backed up from her, but they then spent the next several hours glaring at each other across the room in the living room. I was afraid to try to pick him up to put him in the guest room because I got hissed and spit at by both of them if I even went near them.

So, come bedtime, I took Bella (with a litter pan) into my bedroom and closed the door, letting him have the house to himself.

Things were no better this morning, but fortunately about 9:30 he decided to explore the guest room and I was able to close the door. When I checked on him an hour later, he was curled up on the pillows in the sun, napping.

I have gone into the room several times during the day and sat in the chair and read for a while. The first time I went in he ran and hid. The second time he jumped off the bed and watched me. The last two times he stayed put, and just watched me closely. I guess I have to get him used to me before I will try again with Bella who is being a witch. If I stay in the room too long with him, she comes to the door and starts scratching, he goes to the door and they hiss at each other through the crack at the bottom.

I think he is not as socialized as Bella was, of course, she was only about 2 months old and he is six months old. So I guess a strange house, a strange person, and an unwelcoming cat would be enough to put anyone out of sorts.

I think he has been named. June commented on the way back yesterday (she went along for the ride), that he looked like Fred Astaire because he was dressed in his tuxedo and spats. So I guess he is Fred--not the poetic name I was dreaming up but more and more he does seem like a Fred.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saint's Day - 2008

For all the Saints who from their labors rest . . .

Christ Episcopal Church in Little Rock has a tradition going back many years concerning All Saint's Day. On the Sunday before All Saint's, the children of the parish gather after church to make banners commemorating those who have died during the previous year. Then at the All Saint's Service and on the Sunday closest to All Saint's Day, the children carry these banners in procession with the choir (sometimes a rather amusing event), and the banners are hung around the sides of the nave. After the Sunday service, the banners are given to the family of the departed.

This is Daddy's banner from All Saint's Day 2004, They took my description of him as a gardener quite literally, hence the many flowers and veggies, along with the tools of his trade.

This is Mother's banner from this year. It has books and flowers on it. It was carried in the procession by Natalie Pettit, the granddaughter of a friend of mine. Natalie is six and not a very outgoing child, and Joan (my friend) was delighted when Natalie said she would carry a banner this year. She made two practice runs before church. Since the banners go in in alpha order she found out at the last minute that she would be the first one. The banner kept waving in the breeze and she kept tweeking it back into place, it was all I could do not to laugh, she was so intent on keeping it facing forward that she forgot to be scared.

As a part of the service the names of all those remembered including those from years past were read by our Vicar, more than a hundred of them. He did it perfectly, each name got the same amount of time and emphasis and he did not hurry through any of them, the last one was read the same way as the first.

After the service we had a reception in the gallery with food and wine (for the adults) and punch for the children and the drivers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New member of the household

Bella is getting a little brother! I was on the waiting list for another non-Standard Munchkin, female, not black. The litter arrived, all male, all standard (short legged) and no new litter is expected for several months, so I went back to the breeders web site and looked at the little black and white non-Standard male, the only kitten left from an April litter. Several visits later, and some information and new pictures from the breeder and I decided he would be a good companion for Bella. He is six months old now, used to being around older cats, and pals around with a two-year old neutered male. He is described as being outgoing and friendly, but still a little hesitant about new things (aren't we all!) and weighs in at 5 1/2 pounds so he will not grow to be a giant cat. He is at the vets now being snipped, better he blames the breeder than me for that. I will go get him on Friday, November 7 if all goes well.
The naming game begins. They have been calling him Midnight, but I don't think that fits since to me that means a solid black cat. He has a smudge on his nose and I am tempted with Smudge the Second. Those of you who saw my cat I brought home from San Salvador will know how appropriate that is. However, I am going to wait and see. Many cats name themselves with their behavior--hopefully, he will not deserve "Meanie" which is what a friend's children have named their cat!
I am open to suggestions.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Memoriam

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; even so saith the Sprit; for they rest from their labors."

You may have read or heard on the national news the story of the local TV anchorwoman who was brutally beaten in her home. After clinging to life for several days, she died Saturday evening.

I don't claim to be a friend of hers, although I would have liked to. I did have several encounters with her over the past couple of years that lead me to believe that she was an extraordinary young women. In the summer before my mother died, I began to go to our 6:00 p.m. Sunday Eucharist service, which is followed at 6:45 by Compline. Compline is the last prayers of the day and at Christ Church they are sung by an a cappella choir with sometimes heart wrenching beauty. One of those Sunday evenings, as I was leaving after the service, I noticed a young woman who had been sitting directly behind me that I did not know. I introduced myself and welcomed her. She introduced herself in turn and it was Anne. She was filling in at 5:30 for the regular Sunday evening anchor and had dropped in for Compline on her break because she had not been able to go to church that day.

I continued to see her occasionally at Compline and she came into the Bookstore a couple of times for cards or small gifts for co-workers.

Anne was one of those people who make immediate connection with you. She was full of life and promise having just been promoted to a morning show where she did all sorts of weird things with unfailing humor and laughter.

So today, along with many other people in this small community Arkansas, I grieve for her.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Isn't technology great!

I have spent the past week fooling with my computer at the bookstore. It all started last Tuesday when I came in and turned the computer on and discovered splashed across the desktop, obliterating most of my program icons, a message that I had malicious spy wear on my computer and there were fatal errors that would prevent me from doing anything. All I had to do was click on the enticing little link at the bottom of the message and "all will be well."

Well I didn't get off the train yesterday and I did not click here. I immediately backed up vital programs and then started trying to get the thing off. After running the two programs I had installed for removal of such things with no success, I called a friend in the computer business. He came by Wednesday morning and ran a couple more cleaning programs with no success. He then called other people who gave him other advice, but in the long run, Thursday afternoon we gave up and reformatted the hard drive.

I don't ordinarily come into the store on Friday since I have a volunteer and I decided to just leave everything until Monday. However, about 10:15 my volunteer called to say that she could not find the key to the cash register. It was not where it was supposed to be and she had looked every where. Since I was just getting ready to head in her direction I passed by the Bookstore and opened the cash register with my key and made another search. We have yet to find the key. Everyone claims no knowledge and I was the last one to see it because the Sunday volunteer had left it in the cash register and I found it Monday morning and put it in the drawer. So add that stress to the computer thing.

Monday morning to began assembling all the softwear I had to put back on and spent all of the day doing just that. I put the last piece on this morning, restored my backed up data, and am sort of back into business. Unfortunately, Outlook cannot "locate my email server" so I have no email, but that is minor compared to almost a week's worth of bookkeeping I have to do and a bank deposit.

Right in the middle of that I got a statement from one of my book suppliers noting that I had a rather large balance that was 120 days overdue! The invoice numbers on the statement matched nothing in my files so I called them and spent 45 minutes going over purchase orders and invoices, only to have the person I was talking to finally say she didn't know where the information on the statement came from and I should disregard it. I told her to send me a fax saying that--I have had dealings with their accounts receivable department before. Unfortunately, this suppliers is one I can't quit on, they are my supplier for Episcopal prayer books, liturgical supplies, etc. and while I could get all those things somewhere else, not with the 46% discount I get from them.

The strange thing through all this I still love being here. I think it is because even with problems, they are mine to solve with no one second guessing me or trying to tell me how to do it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A day of ups and downs

We started Sunday with a real downer. About 7:00 a.m., just as I was getting into the shower to get ready to go to early church, I heard a loud pop and then a whooshing noise. I knew immediatley what it was. The gas company has been working on our street for weeks, putting in new lines, and I could tell that something had given way. It was in front of the house across the street and just down one from me. The smell of natural gas was rapidly becoming strong, even in the house.

I called 911 to find that I was not the first to report it. I then started thinking about getting out of the house. Of course, the first item was to get Bella in her carry case before I spooked her and she went under a bed somewhere. That accomplished, I started getting clothes out, but before I could do more than pull on my jeans under my robe, there was a knock on the front door. It was policeman telling me I had to leave. He said I could take my car so I just grabbed Bella, the clothes I had gathered up, my purse, and got in the car and left. I went to cousin JS's house, where we stayed until after lunch when I finally got to come home.

I learned from a neighbor that it took the gas company almost 3 hours to get there, which seemed a little extreme for me, even on a Sunday. Don't they have emergency on-call lists?

Then we had a some good news. Victoria Lillian made her appearance at about 4:30 p.m. weighing in a 6 lb 2 oz, even though she was several weeks early. All appears well but they were going to keep her in the NICU overnight to evaluate her breathing.

In the midst of all this, one of my other niece's, was in the hospital with a problem that required some surgery. Since she has just moved to a new town and knows no one, I am flying out this morning to keep her company while she recuperates. That means Bella will have to go back into the dreaded carry case two times in that many days.

I have packed her food, dish, and some toys in a shopping bag and she has already taken the toys out twice. So I have just left them on the floor until we get ready to leave for the airport.

Fortunately I have a volunteer who loves to work in the Bookstore and she will cover as much of my absence as she can. I went in last night and got the bank deposit ready for today and did as much as I could on a Sunday evening. I ended my day with Compline which is sung at 6:45 on Sunday evenings at Christ Church. This always soothes my spirit and I was able to come home and finish packing and sleep last night without worrying unduly about anyone.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

In Memorium

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; even so saith the Sprit; for they rest from their labors."

For years I have placed flowers in the church on the first Sunday in September in memory of my brother, Benjamin. Some years this Sunday falls on his birthday and on others it is close, as this year, when it is three days past his birthday. When Daddy died, he was added to the list, and then this year, Mother.

I remember Benjamin as forever young, with a wicked sense of humor and a contagious grin. Daddy was a stern but loving father who thought I could do no wrong. Although he was not a demonstrative person, he grabbed me and hugged me when I got off the plane in 1957 when I came home from Washington for the first time for Christmas. Mother always favored her boys, but was there for me when it counted. I remember one year when she gathered yards and yards of ruffles by hand to make me a piano recital dress to die for and during the last years of her life we became closer than ever.

So today when the prayers for the departed were offered in church, with the three of them mentioned by name, it was a bittersweet moment for me but happy memories far outweigh the sad ones.

Friday, August 22, 2008

August is Back Again!

Well, it was really too good to be true. We now have our typical August weather back, hot and humid. When I went out this morning to get the paper it hit me in the face, 85% humidity with a high temp forecast of ner 90.

I got my first paycheck from the bookstore yesterday! It is already spent, I have a dental appointment this morning to begin the procedure to replace a removable bridge that no longer fits because of the extractions I had done in July. Even with dental insurance, my share will be huge so this extra money comes at a perfect time.

Sales at the store have picked up this month--thankfully. July was really dismal and I was afraid that we were getting into a new pattern, a bad one. But August sales are already near normal levels and the month isn't over yet.

I am busy now getting ready for Advent and Christmas. Retailers really have to think out of the box if they are ready. Since I am in competition with the big stores that already have Christmas items out, I have to put things out earlier than I would like.

After the dentist I will take my aunt to the grocery store, via my workout at the gym. That makes a busy "day off" but then my Saturday is free for what I really want to do, which at this point is very little.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Miscellaneous Musings

We continue to have much rain and cool weather here in Arkansas, most unusual for August. There are some of us that are hoping that we don't get the rest of August in September, but that doesn't stop my enjoying waking up in the morning to the sound of rain. No thunder, no wind, no hail, just soft gentle rain. They do have a flash flood watch on until sometime this afternoon because the ground is beginning to get a little soaked.

I noticed that the great ditch across my front yard has sunken in places, which means I will have to get someone to bring in some dirt and fill it in a little. I may be able to move enough dirt around to take care of the problem. I have transplanted some clumps of Bermuda grass onto the bare dirt from various places in the yard hoping it will cover it. If not, I guess I'll have to sow a little rye grass to keep it from washing away this winter.

The Vestry met Monday night and I have now moved, in the words of our Vicar, from being "unpaid" to being "underpaid." Since I was the one who set the salary, I don't feel particularly underpaid, it is what the Bookstore can support. It is interesting, tho, how now being paid for doing the job changes the dynamic. Before this happened I had a comfortable bank balance and could order anything I thought would be nice for the store. I now have a budget and I have to watch the bottom line pretty closely. It does make me more conscious of what I buy. So far most of my purchases have sold, if not rapidly, at least eventually. I just put in a big order for books for Advent and Christmas and I still have to get some Christmas cards.

I continue to look for a sister for Bella, she hates being home alone. When I come in after work, she is usually lying against the front door waiting for me, particularly if I am later than usual.

The breeder I got her from doesn't have another female right now but expects to have at least one new litter later this year and has said I can have the pick. So maybe I'll give Bella a Christmas present!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Oh What a Beautiful Morning!

I woke up this morning to the sound of gentle rain falling. Only someone who has lived through an Arkansas summer can understand how unusual that is for August. Yes, we get rain in July and August, sometimes, but usually with lightening or hail or wind or all of them together. This is just rain. It rained yesterday the same way and was cloudy and cool all day long. The farmers are ecstatic. With the cost of diesel fuel, having to irrigate was eating up any profit they might expect to make and irrigation is never as good for the crops as real rain that washes over the whole plant.

It is predicted that this state of affairs will continue through today and into tomorrow. The high temps in the 80s instead of the 90s and 100s we have been having feels like fall is already here. Of course, people who don't believe in global warming think this is proof. Those of us who think there is probably something to believe about all the scientific hype and who have read up on the subject, realize that global warming causes climate change-- up and down. Somthing to think about while enjoying this cool break. Because it will get hot again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hermione, Where are you when I need you?

I broke my glasses on Friday. I tried the "oculus repairus" spell several times, but either I am not saying it right or I am not holding my wand at the correct angle, because they are still broken. My own personal Hermione, Sharon the optician, is on vacation until Wednesday so I am wearing glasses with the temple piece taped to the frame.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

My curious cat

Everyone knows that cats are curious, but I have one that out snoops them all. I went shopping this morning and when I came home I put my packages on the bed and spread out my purchases. I put all the plastic bags away except one that had a pair of socks in it that I was planning to return because I realized they were not cotton.

I was sitting at my computer a little later when I heard some rustling noises and a pitiful little cry and I looked up to see this.

She had her head and one leg through the handle and was dragging that pair of socks around trying to get out!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Joys of Home Ownership

After months of fighting sluggish drains, I finally took action this week and contracted to have the sewer line from the house to the main replaced. I lost a shrub that had been planted over the old line, but the new one is on a slightly different course to keep it as far away from the neighbor's
trees as possible. I am worried about the cedar tree but I think they stayed far enough away from it that the root system should be okay.
Fortunately, I had no landscaping so this great gash through the yard didn't do anything but disturb the weeds.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Literary Outrage

Is anyone else offended by the TV ad for some kind of war game that uses Shakespeare's famous speech from Henry V as background?

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day

Not only did they use it, they edited it! Talk about arrogance.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Arkansas History Lesson and Pronunciation Rant!

This is my rant for May! We have a county in Arkansas named "Cleburne" after Confederate Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne. He is often referred to as the "Stonewall Jackson of the West." After serving in the British Army, he emigrated from Ireland to America and settled in Arkansas in the Helena area where is he was a druggist and a highly successful property attorney. He joined the Confederacy in early 1861 and led Confederate troops in some of the bloodiest battles of the War Between the States including the Kentucky Campaign, Richmond, Perryville, Shiloh, the seige of Corinth, and at Chickamauga. He was wounded twice before being killed at the battle of Franklin on November 20, 1864.

I am not a Civil War buff, in fact, I avoid reading books or watching movies about that war because I think it is probably the most tragic war this country has ever been involved in. However, I have great grandfathers on both sides of my family who fought for the south in this war, including one who died as a prisoner of war and I cannot deny that it is part of my heritage.

However you feel about this war, General Cleburne was a good soldier, a good Arkansan, and he deserves to have his name pronounced correctly! When I was growing up in Arkansas everyone "knew" that the correct way to pronounce Cleburne County was "clay-burn." Most of us didn't know why that pronunciation was correct, or who the county was named for but we all said it correctly. Now, no matter what TV news I watch, I get "klee-burn" over and over.

General Cleburne was Irish. In Gaelic the unaccented "e" is pronounced like "a" in "clay." The accented "e" is pronounced like the "e" in "klee."

As a genealogist, I suspect that if you went back in the family tree of some of our Clayborne and Claiborne families, you would find an Irishman named Cleburn. The Federal Census is notorious for getting surnames wrong.

I have just vented my frustration on the local ABC station with an email explaining all the above. I doubt it will change anything, but at least I have had my say.

I will add this disclaimer. I do not and have never lived in Cleburne County, but I bet somewhere in that lovely county there are people my age who feel the same way I do.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

My brother Benjamin

My brother Benjamin died young. He had one daughter, Tam, to whom I am Auntie. I was nine years old when he was born and I remember it well. The most vivid thing I remember about his birth was that he kicked our brother, David, out of the of the "only male grandchild" and "the baby" category all at the same time with some results that we will not go into since I value my brother David.

Benjamin was an instigator all his life. I use that word deliberately where some might use "trouble maker" but many of the things he instigated were not trouble. He had a good friend when we lived in Bauxite. What those two could not think up could not be thought up. We lived in a company house that had the whole Hurricane Creek bottom as a backyard and in those days children were free to roam as they pleased. We roamed. We did things I am sure my mother would have lost her mind over if she had known. But one vivid and I mean VIVID memory I have is of the afternoon Ben and his friend found and killed a huge black snake and then threw it at me.

His grin was infectious and he had more energy than anyone I have ever known. In adulthood that energy went into his career and his daughter, Tam. He made friends everywhere, he was very much like Daddy who never met a stranger and always knew all our neighbors no matter where we lived.

We kind of got out of close touch during the last years of his life, so I will treasure always Christmas 1984. I had been evacuated from Bogota because of a kidnapping threat against me so was home that Christmas just by chance. Because of that we were all at home for Christmas for the first time in years. I remember him that Christmas, particularly one day when he got a call from his office and he was standing in the kitchen at the Prattsville house of my parents in a green and while striped polo shirt, talking on the phone trying to explain something to someone who just wasn't getting it.
By the next spring he was gone, in body, but not in spirit. I see so much of him in Tam, the restless energy and interest in everything. He would have been proud of her.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I have seen many rainbows in my life and travels, including an awesome double rainbow one afternoon in Kent (UK) on one of those typical English days when it was raining on one side of the road and the sun was shining on the other. But last night's rainbow trumped even that.

I worked late at the bookstore and was coming come in a rainy twilight when the clouds in the west broke and the setting sun peaked through. Just as I came over the top of a hill I looked out to the east over a field with a tree line at the back to see a rainbow. It appeared to be rising up out of the trees and did not go high enough to actually form a bow, but there it was in the dusky rainy early evening, God's promise to the world "and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh."

I would imagine that promise is a little hard to believe for the people of this state who have been flooded out of their businesses and homes--with 3-5 more inches of rain promised for today and tomorrow.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Life on the Wild Side!

Yesterday was not a pleasant time to live in Arkansas. We had been warned from midday that severe weather was expected later in the day. I got busy doing something and did not have the TV or the radio on so I was alerted at about 9:00 p.m. by a phone call from a weather alert service provided by a local TV station that we were under a Tornado Warning and should take cover.

I quickly grabbed the portable radio, Bella's carry case, my purse and a telephone and we piled into the walk in closet in the guest room. It is the most inside room in the house and hence the safest place to ride it out. I have a stool in there and lots of pillows, blankets, etc. that are stored there. I put Bella in her carry case and we got set to wait it out. For the non-cat people reading this, cats freak out when their house blows away around them and frequently are never found, so I wanted to be sure she was closed up. The thunder got closer and closer and there was one particularly close lightening/thunder episode and then it was over and on its way toward JW and her family. I was not too worried about them, they have a safe room in the garage and use it when necessary. It was a little scary when I heard that the storm was moving right up route 107 which goes by their house.

Right at the end of our storm, the lights went out and that was when I discovered that in my haste I had forgotten to bring a flashlight with me. So we sat in the total dark for a few minutes. I felt a little pat on my ankle and put my hand down and Bella had her front paw stuck out through the grille door on her case and was patting me.

When we came out and I turned the TV on, I found out that there was significant damage in a neighborhood very close to my cousin and I called them to be sure they were okay.

I also discovered on the TV that the storm that had just gone by us was out in front of the main squall line and we had more coming in another hour of so. In fact, it was after midnight before things calmed down enough that I felt comfortable in getting undressed and going to bed. Then just before 5:00 this morning I was waked up by the sound of thunder and we had another little session.

We had 3 inches of rain in my area, and a lot fell on those areas of the state that are already under water. There was significant damage in a bedroom community about 20 miles to the west of Little Rock and in a neighborhood in Little Rock fairly close in. But thankfully no serious injuries or deaths. That can be attributed in a large part to the fact that the radio and TV stations do such a good job of warning people.

So since March 1, Arkansas weather has been:

Ice Storm
Snow Storm
Snow Storm

Makes me wonder why I live here--but not for long. Mild winters, long hot summers, warm, welcoming, friendly people, low housing cost, a growing economy, and a dropping unemployment rate. I could do a lot worse!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Little Madness. . .

"A little Madness in the spring Is wholesome.. ."-- Emily Dickinson

Spring has arrived in Arkansas, both officially and weather wise. It is hard to believe that the tulip magnolia that was covered in snow only two weeks ago is in its full glory in spite of heavy rains and wind. The little purple flowers that the lawn man calls "winter weeds" and I call spring flowers are thick in parts of my yard. He wants to cut them or spray them or something lethal, but I told him to leave them alone. It isn't as if I had real grass out there, and when you look down on them from the porch it is like a purple carpet.

With all the special services at the church for Holy Week, bookstore sales have been doing very well. I have all the Easter items on sale and have sold nearly all of it, even some of the very tacky things that I thought would never sell.

The NCAA is in town for some of its basketball games and everyone is going wild trying to make a good impression so they will come back again. So March madness is in full swing and I for one am glad. I am too cautious, however, to plant anything yet, I will wait for April 15 as recommended by the Extension Service. That doesn't stop me from drooling over various plants at the garden center and I may be forced to buy something and nurture it on the sun porch until it is safe to put it out.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Heralds of Spring

The heralds of spring are covered with snow! The magnolia soulangiana at the corner of my house with its fat buds ready to pop into bloom is covered with snow and the blooming daffodils in my neighbor's yard, (I'm too lazy to plant my own) are bowed down with snow. Snow in March in Arkansas is rare, two snows in the same week in March never happens, but that is what we are having this year.

The very old native holly at the other corner of the house is full of berries this year and the contrast with the snow is beautiful. I suspect it was planted when the house was built in 1957 and it continues to thrive even though it was planted too close to the carport and my neighbors have a privacy fence that crowds it on the other side. The beauty of native plants is that they manage to adapt to the circumstances.

I am sitting at my computer looking out into the back yard where the show is still falling, slowly at times, but right now very heavily being driven by a north wind so that it looks like real winter weather. It is supposed to taper off but it has started sticking to the streets and the temperature has dropped to 32 degrees and going further, so tomorrow is going to be difficult if you need to get out, which I do. I have a volunteer work day planned at the bookstore and I really hate to have to cancel it, particularly since I am not sure who is planning to come. I guess I will just have to play it by ear.

Bella is fascinated with the snow and has spent most of the afternoon sitting on the mantel where she can see out into the back watching it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Retirements and Career Changes

I have had more careers than most people. Right after high school I worked in the bonding department of a large insurance company, before going to Washington to work for the Department of State. I stayed there several years and then joined the Foreign Service. I made that my career for 30+ years until I retired and returned to Arkansas in 1987. A few months after coming back, I went to work at a large Catholic hospital managing the physician continuing education department, something very new and different and actually something I was not qualified for but I learn quickly, and ended up having an interesting well attended group of courses over a period of six years.

Because of the office atmosphere around me, I decided to retire again, making it retirement #2. I started my own business and found that it is true about being a small business owner, you can work half a day--and you get to decide which 12 hours that will be. So after several years of that, when Daddy died, I retired again, #3.

I soon realized that I would not survive without some intellectual stimulation and let one of my former clients talk me into coming back to work for her on a contract basis. That worked well for several more years, but this year while doing the annual mail out for the membership directory, I realized that I was sick of dealing with all the incompetent people that doctor's hire to run their offices, so, although I have not broken the news to my client, I have just gone into retirement #4.

As most of you know, back in December I took on a volunteer job at my church, running our book/gift store. It had gotten into a financial and physical mess over the past several years and was in danger of going under. The deal was five hours a day weekly and a little time on Sunday around the 10:30 service, for which I have a couple of volunteers that take one Sunday a month. Of course that rule about part-time work kicked in and I have been putting in 8 and 9 hour days, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have recruited more volunteers, done a complete physical inventory, and unloaded some of the worst of the gift items to various charity thrift stores, 75 stuffed animals went to various children's home, hospitals, some to the police to carry in their trunks for traumatized children, etc.

I have the bank balance back up where I don't worry about paying bills, and have discovered some rather sizeable credit balances with two of our main book distributors so things are looking up. I have begun to buy some jewelry and unique gift items. I went to the annual convention last weekend and sold lots of stuff, had a good time, and met lots of people. I haded out 75 business cards with all the contact info on them and have already had two people call with requests for special orders (an area where we make a lot of money).

So I am on career change number 5--anyone out there who can beat that?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chimney Sweeps

I have just had an encounter with a chimney sweep. It was entirely unplanned since my chimney was closed up last year in preparation for some unvented gas logs. I was expecting a man to install the logs that I bought last week and so when he called to say he was on his way I figured all was well. Boy was I wrong!

When I went to the door there stood a chimney sweep in a top hat and a ponytail. Obviously native American, not drug lord type ponytail. I was still assuming he was coming to install the logs so I didn't question his dragging in a vacuum cleaner and various tools, I just had the fleeting thought that I hoped he wouldn't make a big enough mess to need the cleaner.

When he said he was going up on the roof first to check things out I knew we were on two different wave lengths. I explained that the chimney had been closed up last year from both the top and inside the fireplace to correct a water problem, and I had assumed he was here to install the logs since that was what we had discussed when we made the appointment. He got this stunned look on his face and then said he had made a mistake and he had me in his appointment book for a chimney cleaning.

He is coming back tomorrow morning (with the logs) and hopefully they will get put in. It has been very cold lately and windy, and I thought last night that it would have been nice to have a little extra warmth without turning the thermostat up.

The thing that saved him from a temper tantrum was the fact that all the time we were talking he was cuddling Bella and talking baby talk to her. How can you get mad at a man who loves cats!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Count Your Blessings

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
As sung by Bing Crosby

Last night I was sitting at my computer checking email, with the radio tuned to a local "golden oldies" station when I heard this song. It has been running through my mind ever since, although in my mind's eye it seems to be Rosemary Clooney singing it instead of Bing. (I realize I have just dated myself pretty well for those of you who don't know my age.)

And I started counting my blessings:

Besides the obvious ones, a warm house, plenty of food, clothes for all occasions, etc. I have some more intangible blessings that I sometimes overlook.

My closest parental relationship through life was always with Daddy. I guess part of it was from being the oldest, the only girl, and the fact that I never married so that "home" was always wherever Mother and Daddy were. But after Daddy died, when I started caring for Mother, we became closer than we had ever been, and that made it possible for me to let her go when her time came, with no regrets about what might have been.

Although most of my family is scattered across the country, I have a brother who when he saw a national news story about bad weather in Arkansas called me to check on me.

I have a church "family" that knows my name. Don't ever discount the importance of the fact that non-family members know who you are. If you name something, it is yours. I never realized how many people at my church knew who I was until Mother died. I got cards from people that I could not put faces on without referring to the church photo directory. And now that I am working in the bookstore, I encounter people on a daily basis who know who I am.

And speaking of the bookstore, how many people at my stage of life get the opportunity to try new things--and I have two new challenges. I am managing a retail operation that in its best times paid a fulltime manager and still came out in the black. My goal is to get it back to that stage, although with the changing economic climate, I don't know how successful I will be. I will at least get it cleaned up and inventoried!

And I have the chance to try my hand at editing some fiction, something else new for me. I guess every reader thinks they know how it should be done, and I am getting the opportunity to see if I really do.

So as we begin the holy season of Lent, I am going to follow the calendar supplied with my mite box because it will certainly help anyone count their blessings. See calendar at:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

This and that

I discovered when I got my passport out of the filing cabinet that it expired January 20, 2008. That means I have to have the dreaded passport photo taken. The last time I did that I had to have three different photos, taken at three different places before I got any that I would use. This time, I'll go to place number 3, it was more expensive but they did three poses and let me choose the one I wanted. I need to do this now because with all the horror stories I am hearing about the length of time it takes to get a new passport, I don't want to take any chances.

We have been having fairly typical Arkansas winter weather the past couple of weeks. One day with a high of 73 and then the next day we barely got above freezing. It was cold Thursday, warm Friday and Saturday, it is raining today and supposed to get cold again tonight. I like to lay my clothes for the next day out before I go to bed at night and at least three times lately I have had to redo it the next morning because of the change in the weather.

We having a raging controversy going on here about a U S Department of State employee whose wife is in a permanent vegetative state and he claims that the State Department has not kept promises made about medical care. She had a heart attack and fell down in the street in some underveloped African country. Her brain was deprived of oxygen for quite a while due to the circumstances of the attack. They used a special treatment in South Africa and then again when she got back to Arkansas that supposedly brought her out of the coma, but her insurance would not continue paying for it because they said she was not actually improving.

Anyway to make a long story short, the employee says that he was promised free medical care (to listen to him for life!) when he was hired by the State Dept. What no one (including this man) seems to understand is that the medical program of the State Department covers employees and their dependents overseas, but in the US they have to have health insurance. Also, State Department coverage for things when you come back to the US is for "service connected disabilities" and that does not mean the heart attack you had in Timbucto. It means injuries sustained from a bomb thrown at the embassy, or injuries sustained in an automobile accident when you are on travel orders, or illness from being stationed where some weird disease breaks out.

It drives me crazy the way our culture has decided that "the government" should take care of everything and protect from everything. Whatever happened to personal responsbility!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cat Tales

If you are not an animal lover you may as well skip this post, because I am writing about cats, most particularly, my cat, the bella Bella. Those of you with cats or who have had them, know you never tire of watching them. The past few days I have spent more time laughing than anything else.

On Sunday she finally figured out that she could jump from the window sill to the mantel. It is pretty high and that jump is sort of around the corner of the chimney, but having made it once, she has done it over and over. The first thing she did was explore and check out everything I have on the mantel. Then, deciding there wasn't enough room to lie down, she proceeded to kick a pair of bronze candlesticks off. When she started getting too familiar with my great grandmother's mantel clock, I decided to move it. That gave her ample room to lounge, which she is now doing, waiting for me to tell her to get down.

Nothing in my house that is high has anything on the top. The bookcases have bare top shelves, the filing cabinets in the office have to be empty, and now the mantel is partially denuded.

But the cutest thing was this morning. Since I have been going to work at the bookstore 4 or 5 days a week, she has been alone more than she likes. Actually, being alone at all is more than she likes. This morning, when I started to leave I didn't see her anywhere and I figured she was sulking somewhere. But as soon as I opened the front door, she came out from under the chair by the door, with her favorite mouse in her mouth--packed and ready to go.

I had to put everything down and play with her for a few minutes before leaving. She has now moved from the mantel to my lap and is kneading my arm on the inside of the elbow making it very diffcult to type.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Saturday I participated in that time-honored ritual "going to WalMart." Don't get me wrong, I think WalMart gives good value for the money in most cases, but that doesn't mean I enjoy my infrequent trips there. My first mistake was in leaving WalMart until the last of several errands I had to run, so by the time I got there I was tired and seriously considering not even going but I needed a combination of pharmacy and grocery items and could get them in one stop.

I knew I was in trouble when I saw the parking lot, I had to park at the very end, about as far from the entrance as you can get. Ordinarily I don't consider that a problem, but Saturday was very cold and windy and the walk into the store was not pleasant. Neither was the shopping. It was very crowded and everyone was driving their carts at top speed and I nearly collided with two or three people just trying to navigate through the pharmacy department.

But it wasn't until I finished my shopping and started to the check out that the real trouble began. They had many checkout lines open but you have to be very careful or you end up in a "20 items or less" line, or a self-check line, both of which I could not or would not use. I finally spotted a line with one person just finishing and only one other in line and I zoomed up to take my place.

The person just infinishing was trying to use a card of some sort, credit or debit or possibly even food stamps, but every time he put his PIN in, the computer would refuse it and print out a little strip of paper the cashier would hand to him. I assume that was supposed to save him the embarrassment of having her announce to the world what the problem was. He kept insisting that the number he was using was correct and swiping his card and going through the whole thing again. After about the third time, I looked behind me to see if I could get out and find another line only to discover there were three people behind me and no way to leave the line without making a huge fuss. Finally the cashier called in a supervisor, who did little to help the situation, just going through the swipe, PIN input, print out the little sheet several more times.

It was only after about the third or fourth time with the supervisor that she finally did what she should have done in the first place, she cleared the sale from that position and took the poor man off somewhere to sort things out.

Then the man in front of me decided to pay for his puchases with the exact change which involved digging in his pockets, his wife's purse, etc. to find the exact coins. I was tempted to hand him my change purse but decided that would only probably delay things more.

The only thing that could have made it worse would have been that I had something that didn't have a bar code but I guess that has been saved for another trip, because I finally got checked out and headed to the car. When I got there some idiot had squeezed into a non-parking space next to me, making it impossible for me to get the driver's side door open. So after loading my groceries, I had to get in the passenger side and climb over the gearshift to get into my seat. Of course, just as I managed that, the person came back to his truck!

Trying always to look on the bright side of things, I suppose I should be thankful that at the advanced age of 71 I can still climb over the gearshift!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rainbow Dull's Challenge

Two things most people don't know bout me!

1. In my mind I have a grand voice, a la Kiri TeKanawa or Maria Callas. In fact I have a small, well trained boy soprano type voice well suited for choral music, but in the choir or in church or anywhere I am singing, my inner ear hears grand, glorious notes soaring ever upward!

2. In all those years (30+ ) that I was traveling around the world to new assignments, I was secretly terrified every time I took off for a new place. I never admitted that fear to anyone, but many times only the fear of embarrassing myself made me continue with the plans for the assignment. In the beginning it was only a fear of something new and different and that was easily overcome, but for my last few assignments it became real fear of survival, particularly after I had to leave Bogota because of kidnapping threats against me. To read your own name in a intelligence report is pretty gut wrenching!

I never thought of myself as particularly courageous over all that, I was of course doing something I wanted to do and could have stopped at any time, but looking back on it sometimes I am amazed at what I survived and still kept doing it! Coups, earthquakes, pestilence (yellow fever and cholera epidemics in Nigeria), narcotrafficantes, civil war, mortar attacks, CODELS (congressional delegations), and TRAFFIC!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Walking the Labyrinth

Happy New Year!

I spent New Year's Eve with friends. We began by walking the labyrinth at Christ Church, in candlelight with soft music in the background, all with our individual prayers for the new year.

The origins of the labyrinth are lost in the mists of time (I guess one of my new year's resolutions should be to abandon cliches), but in modern times many churches have them. They are a way to concentrate your attention in prayer or meditation. Several years ago when Christ Church restored our then "gym" into now "Bowen Hall," we decided to have a labyrinth painted on the floor. It is open on Friday evenings for anyone to come and walk it for whatever mental exercise it brings to the surface. For me, sometimes I never get my mind to focus on any one thing, but lately I have found it easier to concentrate on meditation or prayer. Maybe because my life has become simpler and more focused on me.

My prayers last night were for peace in the world, especially the Middle East, and in thanksgiving for my family and friends.