Saturday, April 29, 2017

Unconditional Love

There are kids we bring into the world, and "kids" who just find their way into our lives. I have had both. The kids I bought into this world were born six years apart...does that tell you anything? Over the years, we'e had a dog here or there, the kind of "kid" who wasn't desired, wasn't asked into our home, but nonetheless, made their way in and straight to our hearts.

The longest running of those fur-babies was a motley little peekapoo named Coco. He was about a year old when he began breaking free from the side of a house several blocks over in our neighborhood and somehow made his way to our house. We put a sign up at the subdivision entrance, and the neighbors came and picked up the dog. Turns out the little girl in the home when to school with our son, Joe. Time after time, the mutt continued to show up at our house, and we'd load him up in the car and drive him back home.

One day he showed up, covered in mud, which he promptly shook all over my kitchen floor. After hosing him off and wrapping him in a towel, I once again drove him home, both kids in the car. The dog's owner, the lady of the house, wasn't excited to see him. Instead, she put her hands on her hips and said, "do you want to just keep that dog?" My kids squealed with delight, screaming "yes, yes, yeeessss!!!!" "Tell you what," she said, "give me fifty bucks to cover the shots he's already had and he's yours." Before I really thought it through, Coco was ours. He lived with us 15 years before going out one night, never to return. He was blind, deaf and he limped. The vet said that old dogs will go build a "nest" of sorts, covering themselves up with leaves and pine straw before curling up to die. Our hearts were broken.

Not long before Coco left us, Roxie entered our hearts.

Joe used his high school graduation money to buy her from a "friend." He said she was full-blooded boxer. The vet said otherwise, advising us she was approximately six months old, probably mixed with a pit bull, and she had mange. Much money, a destroyed couch, countless shoes, computer and phone cords later, Roxie ended up being the love of my life. She is ten years old now, but she is still full of life, probably because of our latest acquisition, Paco the Chiweenie (part chihuahua/part dauchsund).

Paco was found at the Country Cub of Jackson. Seemed he hung out there all day Memorial Day before last, and at the end of the day, no one claimed him. Larry brought him home and we made every effort to find his owners. Days and weeks went by, and it became apparent he was ours. Roxie was not very welcoming to the new pup, but she learned to love him. That's a good thing, because Paco really loves her.

Paco loves to get his vitamin D each day...until the lilies came up, he loved to lay in this pot
So, now that my nest is empty of my children, we do coexist with two of the funniest, sweetest pups I can imagine. Their personalities are both hilarious. Roxie is neurotic about everything, barks at the UPS and FedEx guys like she'd tear them apart if she could just get past that front door, and she wants to talk more than any dog I've ever seen. She is very vocal about many things. Paco can turn from the sweetest love bug to Cujo in no time, baring and gnashing teeth, but back to his loving ways as soon as soon as I start rubbing those radar ears. They love us unconditionally, we we love them back. Our nest isn't so empty afterall...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Getting old rocks!

I used to dread old age. The word "old" just had a negative connotation. That was, until I got old.

I don't think of myself as being old, even though I will turn 60 on August 4 of this year (mark your calendars!). I still think and feel the same way I did at 30, 40 and 50. I love to do the things I always have, which includes having lots of fun whenever possible. But every now and then, I look in the mirror and see my mother looking back at me. Not that it's a bad thing, but it is often an unexpected thing. Because in my mind, I look the way I did decades ago.

My father recently turned 90.

That's a significant milestone, I suppose, since the average lifespan of an American male is 76.4 years. (In case you're wondering, the life expectancy of a woman is 81.2 years.) So, my dad has cheated death for 13.6 years. He is very tech-saavy and has both an iPhone and and iPad in addition to his fancy touch-screen Dell desktop computer. He loves Facebook and recently took a Facebook quiz that tells how long you'll live. He proudly announced he'd live to see age 99. Why not?!

Last weekend Larry and I went to a music festival in the Mississippi Delta (Clarksdale, to be exact). It was the tenth annual Juke Joint Festival, but it was our first time to attend. My experience with music festivals is that they are crowded with lots of lines to stand in for everything from refreshments to restrooms. I have been to my share of festivals over the years, but I guess it was that small part of me that was feeling a little bit old that resisted when I was asked by my friend Jonni Webb if Larry and I would like to go to the Juke Joint Festival this year. She and her fella, Tom Pittman, attended last year for the first time. Jonni (a potter, look up her work at and they had a blast. We relented and made hotel reservations months ago and when the weekend came, we packed up and drove the two and a half hours north through the cotton fields to Clarksdale.

Good thing we did! We had a wonderful weekend! Not really knowing what to expect, our expectations weren't that high. Even if they had been, the festival would have exceeded them! I'm not going to give every detail, but suffice it to say we heard some fantastic music by some amazingly talented musicians, saw some wonderful artwork, ate some delicious food in the most unexpected places, and had an overall great time. (The liberal use of adjectives should give a good indication of how much we enjoyed ourselves!) Most of the musicians were older, as well, with the exception of a cutie from Columbia, South America, Carlos Elliott, Jr, who I hope is the future of the Blues.

One of the things that struck me the most was the plethora of old people in attendance. By old, I mean people in their 50s, 60s and 70s  and beyond--not what I had expected to find at a music festival. I saw more men with long gray pony tails and women who, despite their wrinkles and silver hair, seemed so in their own skin. People weren't dressed to impress, because the fashion police weren't anywhere near Clarksdale. It was refreshing and relaxing to be around those folks. And even though I'm pushing 60, it took me a day or two to realize I'M ONE OF THOSE FOLKS!

I would be afraid to take that Facebook quiz, fearful that I might not like what it says (as if it means anything anyway...). But I can see hanging out in the many music venues at the Juke Joint Festival at the age of 99, listening to Blues artists who may just be pushing the same age, assuming their hard-living ways haven't caught up with them. If this is what being old looks like, I'm all in!

P.S. And then there was this...

While we missed the monkeys riding dogs (a reason to go back next year...) I did pick the winner at the pig races!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mater Sammiches

I don't know when I've ever been as excited about a change of season. It's been a COLD winter in the deep south, and I'm tired of coats, scarves and having Popsicle toes all the time.

The pear trees have been blooming for over a week now, and beautiful daffodils are spotting the roadside just about everywhere I drive.

Yet just this week, we had a frigid day (by my standards) with highs in the 40's. Today we'll be hitting  70. I'm not complaining, though. I saw footage of some serious snow in Chicago this morning. 

I'm ready to get out in the yard and dig in the dirt. This will be year three of my attempt at organic gardening. I've been really successful with herbs, Japanese eggplants, okra and peppers, but I've yet to reap a good harvest of tomatoes.

I dream of the day this summer when I'll be able to bite into a juicy tomato sandwich. Gluten-free diets be damned! Eating a "mater sammich" is a rite of summer! 

My first job out of college was working as a copywriter at WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg. Every summer we looked forward to "Mater Sammich Day," the day when Dubbie White would bring a mess of his succulent red, ripe, juicy 'maters to the TV station and treat everyone to 'mater sammiches. 

I haven't seen Dubbie in well over 25 years, but as with so many of us, we've reconnected through Facebook. 

He's retired from the TV station now, but he's still gardening. This morning I got a Facebook message asking me to call him. I was worried something was wrong. In addition to not seeing him in over 25 years, I haven't even heard his voice. I called him and he exclaimed "Hey Red! How ya doin'?" He then said he wanted to host the Grand Finale of All Mater Sammich Days this summer, and wanted to know if I'd drive down to have a 'mater sammich. He's inviting all the old anchors and reporters and "a few of you copywriters just for fun." 

Are you kidding me? I'll be there with bells on...and maybe even a 'mater bib. 

The perfect tomato sandwich is made with white bread, a smear of good mayonnaise,slices of perfectly ripened tomatoes and perhaps a sprinkling of pepper. Nothing more.

Dubbie couldn't give me a date for the event. He said the tomatoes decide when that will happen, but it will most likely be sometime in July. I don't care if the Queen of England comes to town. I'll be hitting 49 South to Hattiesburg for a bite of heaven on white bread. 

Blessings to all who read this!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wrestling Wednesdays

I was asked to do a guest post today for blogger Karissa Knox Sorrell's Lenten series, "Wrestling Wednesdays."

We've all had to wrestle with something, at some point in our lives. Whether it's faith, family, friends, or something else, we are sometimes challenged in ways that can often catch us by surprise.

It happened to me on a sunny Sunday morning at 30,000 feet. I was absolutely blindsided.

If you've ever felt the same way, you will most likely relate to my guest blog post. Enjoy!

Blessings to all who read this!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ain't Nobody Got Time for That!

I had eight hours of sleep last night. I should be not only well rested, but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as well. But I'm not. I'm looking at the clock on the stove--the clock that has not yet "sprung ahead" and realized no matter how you try to spin it, it's still 5:30am. I'm sleepy, and I could easily crawl back under the covers.

Ain't nobody got time for that!

I've got things to do! I have a busy week! Plus, I have a book to write! 

Finding the time to write a book is probably one of the biggest challenges for me. I've about decided I need to work on it first thing every day, before anyone else wakes up. Which means I need to get up early and get working. Of course, I decided that about the same time we lose an hour for daylight savings time. 

Even though I had a full eight hours of sleep, I still long for that extra hour. 

Why is it we always seem to want what we can't have? 

And why am I writing a blog instead of my book? I'm easing into it...this has been made a bit harder due to the fact that I'm also on a two-week cleanse that does not allow coffee. 

I know.

Ain't nobody got time for that!

Blessings to all who read this!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Celebrate Write!

Today is just one of those special days. It's a day to CELEBRATE!

For may of you, today is a day of partying and revelry before the solemn observance of Lent.

It's Mardi Gras, y'all! 

Parades, king cakes, beads and booze...been there, done that, had the t-shirt and gave it to Goodwill. 

In addition to being Fat Tuesday, today is also National Grammar Day. I'm not making this up! National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. I didn't make that up, either...they have their own little blog. And I'm one to believe there is a need for this in our world today. 

Katherine Dillinger is a copy editor at CNN, and there is a fun interview with her today on the CNN Living website. Her two biggest pet peeves? Writers who use dashes instead of colons, and the use of the word "probe." Hmmm....colons and probe? Maybe she's overdue for a colonoscopy? (Sorry.)

I've had the pleasure of proofreading two books recently, both by good friends, and both excellent writers and grammarians. The first is by Diane Williams, professional storyteller and gifted fiber artist. 

This is a fun, fun read no matter who you are! I strongly suggest you order your copy today! 

The other is a work in progress, soon to be released on Written by Belinda Stevens, it's a spoof of the infamous "Fifty Shades of Grey," but this particular story features the main character "Humphrey B" and his pals at the Doggie Bath. There's a lot of licking, sniffing, panting and growling in the book. More about that when it's released. Here's a photo of Belinda and "Hump."

On National Grammar Day, I feel free to say I'm a spelling, punctuation and overall grammar snob. I was fortunate to have some wonderful teachers in high school who stressed the importance of proper grammar and they taught me well. (I have to admit, however, that I hated every minute of it!)

Last year I had the pleasure of developing a curriculum for business writing with Tom Wagner of Wagner Consulting Group. We launched it in the fall for a group of electricians in Flowood, MS. I taught six men, ranging in age from 30 to 65, how to write more effective letters to clients. The first step was for them to identify their reason for writing the letter. What did they want to accomplish? They learned how to cut out the "fluff" and focus on the message. There was a strong emphasis on grammar. They had to write sample letters as homework between the three classes I taught (in three successive weeks). I watched with great pleasure as their confidence rose along with their writing skills.

There is power in the pen. When you have a bad customer service experience with a company, a carefully worded letter to the company president goes much further than a call to the black hole they call a customer service hotline. When someone does something worth noting, nothing means as much as a hand-written note telling them so. (Please note the use of the word "further" in this paragraph. Should it have been "farther" instead? I feel good about my word choice based on this explanation by Mignon Fogerty of the Grammar Girls.)

I am fortunate to be a member of a newly-formed writers group. We are all working on various forms of Creative Nonfiction, and in the coming months, we will read and critique each other's work. We call ourselves the Easy Writers, and we hijacked a logo from another group that we have adopted (there are only seven of us, so we probably won't print it up on t-shirts or anything...)
Before potentially thousands of readers read the works we've written, six sets of eyes will be scanning the copy for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Knowing that, I believe, will make my writing better.

So today, in celebration of National Grammar Day, please mind your spelling. Choose carefully when using they're/their/there and consider kindly the use of apostrophes when writing its/it's. The obsessive-compulsive editing freak in me will thank you.

As if Mardi Gras and National Grammar Day don't make for enough celebrating in one day, I have a special treat for you all! Today is also National Pancake Day, and the folks at IHOP are giving away FREE PANCAKES until 10pm tonight! The only thing they ask in return is that you make a donation to the Children's Miracle Network.

Blessings to all who read this!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Clone Me!

There was a time I was fascinated by odd scientific happenings. Like cloning. Remember Dolly the sheep? She was the first ever cloned animal, "created" in the mid-1990's. Dolly was a real media sensation, and she lived a very pampered life for a sheep. 

Lately, I've wished more than once that I could clone myself. If only there were two--or three--of me, I would be able to be more available to my family and friends. I could accomplish more. And I wouldn't have the stressful feeling of being torn much of the time.

The other day, my phone rang. It was Joe, my college kid. I don't have an opportunity to talk to him often, as he is extremely busy with classes, studying, fraternity and football. And in that particular phone call, he didn't want anything...other than to talk. He was telling me about the upcoming game and he was really excited. I was too. 

Then another call beeped in. It was Nicole. She was supposed to be on a train from New Orleans to Jackson, and I felt I had to answer the call in case there was a snafu. 

"Hold on Joe! Don't hang up..."

Nicole was calling from the train. She was fine. Just thought about something and dialed my number. Nothing important. 

OK, back to Joe...but before I could click over, another call beeped in. It was Larry, calling from work. Since he had major surgery less than a month ago, and is back at work on an abbreviated schedule, I was I answered the phone. Larry was fine...just had a quick question. 

Now back to Joe. No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He hung up! I punched in his cell phone number and got his voice mail message. Too late. My window of opportunity to have a conversation with my son had closed. 

What are the odds that all three of my immediate family members would call me at the same time?

I sat back, sad and disappointed because even though I had heard all three of their voices, the quality of our conversations was sorely lacking. I felt like they all thought I didn't have time for them. I felt pulled three different ways and it didn't feel good.

I thought that feeling would leave me when my kids got older. I think back to when I worked full time, Larry worked most nights, the kids were in school/dance/soccer/theatre....getting them fed, where they needed to be on time, and trying to be interested and engaged was a constant challenge. Now they are grown, and I still feel pulled...wanting to give each "child" 100% of me when I can. Yet, they still just get a distracted fraction most of the time. 

When Nicole had her accident, the world pretty much stopped. It's like time stood still as I sat in the corner of her room in the Neuro ICU at New York Presbyterian Hospital. There was nothing else vying for my time and attention. Just Nicole. I focused on her 110%. I learned then that it's possible. Back home, Joe had badly broken a finger, and it really needed surgery to re-set it. But I couldn't control that situation by phone from New York. And Nicole was in critical condition. She needed me more. I had to say a prayer that Joe could/would handle his situation on his own and forget about it. And he did. 

But when the situation isn't life-threatening, their "demands" for my attention are just as important to them. I feel like I let them down when I'm not there for them like they want me to be. But I'm realizing, slowly, that I'm not letting them down. They are adults. They understand that I'm pulled several different directions at any given time. I'm realizing that the disappointment is something I'm putting on myself...and it's causing me stress. And stress kills.

So, I'm working daily on doing what I can, when I can, but not beating myself up when I can't. I'm only human. It doesn't mean that I love them any less. It just means it's time to let them figure it out on their own.

Be kind to yourself today. 

Blessings to all who read this!