Monday, March 30, 2009
The theme of Carly's Monday Photo Shoot this week is Footprints. If you want to play too, click HERE.
I knew immediately what footprints I'd photograph: some of the dog and coyote prints that are found in the saltillo tiles in my house. These tiles are made in Saltillo, Mexico, and as they dry out in the desert a coyote, chicken, or dog may pass by and leave their foot prints on some of them. Businesses often discard these tiles, but I love the fact that the floors of my house include some dog and coyote prints, as well as the impression of a bicycle tire, in the saltillos.
You can judge the size of the animals that made the prints relative to Ike, who at 15 pounds is not exactly petite.
These prints are on my kitchen floor. Last week someone came over and exclaimed, "Oh! There are animal prints on your kitchen floor!" (As if I wouldn't have noticed, I guess).
I love this impression of a bicycle tire. I like to imagine a kid riding across the almost solid tiles in late afternoon, the sun low in the sky.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Today I did something I've wanted to do for a long, long, time: I helped build a Habitat House for Humanity. This is an annual volunteer project at the company where I work, and this year I decided I'd do it. I invited Chris and Stephanie to join me, and they accepted, and were as excited as I was about doing this. They were at my door at 6:30 this morning. After loading our gear into my car (we brought our own gloves and Chris brought knee pads; everything else was provided), we made a quick stop at Starbuck's for some necessary sustenance before starting on the hour long drive to Fort Worth.
We arrived at the site at 7:45. It was overcast and bitterly cold; in fact, there were snowflakes in the air when we arrived. The house was framed in one day (yesterday), and looked like this when we arrived:
Stephanie was amused that we could see through all the walls when we arrived. We've had a lot of rain recently, and the site got very muddy so the ground was covered in straw to keep us from having to slip and slide in the mud. Our job today was to sheath the house in OSB (oriented strand board). To warm us up, one of the crew chiefs set us to work unloading lumber from the storage shed as soon as we arrived:
Next, several of us we were given carpenter's pencils and assigned the task of marking the center of every stud in the entire house on the foundation (the vertical mark beneath the "X" in the photo below).
Doing this enabled us to locate the studs behind the 4' x 8' sheets of OSB that we were fastening onto them. Nail guns aren't allowed on Habitat sites, but the sound of a dozen or more hammers pounding away was sufficently loud that some of us used the provided earplugs:
Work progressed surprisingly quickly, and eventually we broke for lunch.
Then the sun came out, it warmed up, and it was time to go back to work. It was a lot of work to fasten the OSB to the center of every stud every six inches or so with #8 nails. Some people worked the top of the house, on ladders, and others did the lower work. That's Chris up on the ladder on the far right in this photo:
After the house was sheathed in OSB, it began to be wrapped in Tyvek, which was fastened to the OSB with staples:
Everyone who works on a Habitat House is invited to sign their good wishes for the homeowner on studs that are used in constructing the house:
Eventually, we were done for the day. We cleaned the site, putting away all tools and lumber, and then posed for a pic in front of the house, now sheathed and partially wrapped:
Was this a cool way to spend a Saturday, or what? A few facts about Habitat (taken from the website):
It was founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda. Since then, Habitat has built more than 300,000 houses around the world, providing safe, affordable housing for more than one and one half million people in more than 3,000 communities worldwide. Habitat offers a hand up, not a hand out. The houses are not given away, they are purchased. The cost of houses varies from around $800 in some developing countries to an average of $60,000 in the United States. Average time from start to finish in the US is 10 working days, which usually takes about 6 weeks to accomplish, as the work is done mostly by volunteers, who average 2 days a week. For obvious reasons, electrical work, plumbing, and sheetrock is subcontracted to professionals.
In addition to a down payment and monthly mortgage payments (mortgages range from seven to thirty years), Habitat homeowners are also required to pitch in and put sweat equity into not only their own house, but other Habitat homes.The house we worked on today is for a single, childless woman who has worked for the probation department in Fort Worth for five years. She was there today, working with the rest of us. She said without Habitat, she'd never be able to own her own home.
At the end of the day today, we were exhausted, but Chris and Stephanie and I loved doing this. If you have the opportunity to do this, I recommend it. The only thing you need is willingness to participate. For more information, click on the Habitat for Humanity website.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
photo from Google Images
So there’s this nurse at work, let’s call her Bev: mid-fifties, almost 6 feet tall, red hair cut in a pixie. She talks in this whispery, soft voice, very odd. I saw her this morning as I was coming in; she was exiting a colleague’s cube. I nodded my head and said hey. She nodded back and started to walk past me, then stopped, turned around and said, in her whispery, soft voice,“Annie has some good news for you!”
“Great!” I said brightly, “I’m always up for good news!”
I stopped outside Annie’s cube, which Bev had just exited.
“So tell me, what is it?” I asked, expecting to hear something about one of Annie's seven grown kids or her six young grandchildren. Annie’s eyes were dancing.
“Don’t YOU want to tell her?” she asked Bev.
Bev stood there, towering over me, and actually shut her eyes, thinking about it. Then a small smile flitted across her face.
I smiled. I wasn't about to fall for this one. “I know who he is,” I said, “but no, I don’t know him”.
Annie and Bev exchanged a look, and Bev began to beam, like the cat who has swallowed the canary. I waited expectantly…
"Waaaaiillll,” she drawled dreamily, “Ah know him.”
“Really?” I said. “You know General Petraeus? Good for you!” all the while wondering where this weird conversation was going, because, first, I don’t give a flip whether or not she knows General Petraeus, and second, since she’s never been able to keep anything to herself for more than about 5 minutes, I was having trouble believing that she’d managed to withhold a nugget like this for the 9 months she’s been working with us.
“Ah’m EMAILING him!” she announced proudly.
I looked at her, waiting for the punch line, but there was none. She actually looked so happy I thought for an awful moment she might weep. I looked at Annie, hoping for a clue, but she was grinning ear to ear.
“Isn’t it exciting?” she asked.
I looked back at Bev, who was still beaming.
“You’re emailing General Petraeus?” I said, thinking I must have heard wrong.
“YASSSS!” she whispered solemnly.
“Huh?” I said, then quickly, “Um, how…how...how did this come about?”
Bev smiled dreamily, closing her eyes again and swaying a little, which I found really disconcerting.
“Matchdotcom”, she said solemnly.
“We’re emailing on match dot com,” she said patiently, as if she were explaining something very simple to someone who’s very slow, intellectually, which is exactly how I was feeling at the moment.
“General Petraeus is on match dot com?” I said incredulously.
“YAAAAASSSSS!” she whispered with great conviction.
“Wait a minute, he’s identified himself as General Petraeus?” I asked, feeling like I was back in psychiatry again, interviewing a patient.
“Waaailll, no, he hasn’t,” she said, “But he told me all these things he’s done, and then he sent me his picture and Ah recognized him, and Ah looked up General Petraeus and confirmed all the things he said he’s done, AND..." she paused for effect... "He signs all his emails DP.”
She beamed triumphantly.
“Hmmmmmmmm,” I said, non-committally.
“Tell her the best part!” Annie said.
“Oh yeah, he asked me for mah instant messaging address!” Bev announced happily, looking at me as if that should mean something to me.
It didn't. I raised my eyebrows expectantly...one one thousand, two one thousand…nada.
“I don’t understand,” I confessed.
“Well, because he’s gonna be gone and can’t email for awhile,” she said carefully, as if talking to T H E S L O W O N E.
She and Annie then exchanged another excited look, and Bev exclaimed trimphantly, “So we think he’s probably goin' back to
“Huh!” I said.
Annie began talking: “And when he comes here from
“Wait a minute!” I interrupted. “He lives in
“Wail yaaaassss, of course!” Bev again, talking to T H E S L O W O N E (yours truly).
“When he comes here from
“Huh!” I repeated dumbly.
They both looked at me, expectantly.
“Isn’t that great news?” Annie said again.
“Yeah, wow, amazing!” I said doubtfully.
They both looked at me with pity in their eyes, no doubt remembering my December crush on the guy whom it turns out is living in his car. I could see that they thought that my lack of enthusiasm was due to jealousy. Uh-huh.
“Uh, good luck with that!” I said lamely.
Bev cast me a final pitying glance before exiting triumphantly.
As soon as she was gone, I sat down in Annie’s cube.
“You do realize, that is NOT General Petraeus!” I said.
“What d’you mean?” Annie asked. “How would you know?”
“Think about it,” I said, “Why on earth would General Petraeus be on match dot com?”
“I don’t know!” Annie said, “Maybe he’s lonely and wants to meet a nice woman!”
“On Match dot com? C’mon, that is NOT General Petraeus!”
“But it could be!” Annie said, stubbornly. “What about the picture?”
“I could get his picture and send it!”
“But think if it IS General Petraeus! Isn’t it exciting?”
“It’s not General Petraeus, and she needs to be careful,” I said, feeling like a real killjoy.
I went into my cube, sat down at my laptop, and opened Google. It took all of ninety seconds for me to confirm that General Petraeus is married, apparently happily.
I sent the link to Annie, waited a couple of minutes, and then went into her cube.
“Did you read it?” I asked.
Long face.“Yeah. You’re going to have to send it to Bev.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I wish I were wrong.”
I sent Bev the link, feeling like the mean 7 year old telling a 6 year old there's no Santa. I included a note saying I was sorry but I think she’s being scammed, and I wouldn’t be much of a person if I didn’t speak up.
In a little while I got an email back. She’d read the article, but didn't necessarily believe it. Meanwhile, Annie was re-reading it. She looked up as I walked past her cube.
“Boy, if it is General Petraeus emailing her, he’s not very nice,” she said.
Sometimes, even at 10:00 in the morning, a margarita sounds REALLY good.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
But there have been some bright spots, too. Chris called unexpectedly one night recently and said Stephanie had to study, so he wondered if I'd like to accompany him to the opera. Would I? I've never dressed so fast. In pouring rain we drove to Fair Park, where we saw Rossini's An Italian Girl in Algiers. It was great. I used to take Chris to the opera when he was in elementary school, and I'm happy to know that it "took". The Fort Worth Opera is doing Carmen in May, so I'm thinking of getting tickets to that for all of us. Last weekend, I went with a friend to see the George Segal exhibit at the Nasher, and was reminded once again how much I love living in the city.
In the evenings I've been vegging out with Netflix, where I'm currently working my way through The Wire - I have a pash for Dominic West. Actually, I have a pash for Netflix. Video stores overwhelm me, but to be in the quiet of my gameroom, browsing my options online, then queuing my choices, the top two of which appear magically in my mailbox a couple of days later to be watched when I choose to watch them...this is brilliant! If only my whole life could run like this...not just movies, but food and books and music, and people...yeah, there's a concept...
Friday, March 13, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
After some absolutely gorgeous warm, sunny weather, it's cold and rainy again today. I don't mind; I'm snug inside and anyway, we need the rain. I'm happily at home because I had jury duty this morning. It was just petit jury duty, and no one was called. We were dismissed a little before noon. I went to Luna de Noche, where I had a bowl of tortilla soup, then I ran some errands and came home, where the furnace is once again on and I'm in the long, involved process of switching out the brown velvet slipcovers of winter for the white duck slipcovers of summer. It's a long, involved process because I wash and dry the old slipcovers before packing them away, and I have to do some ironing to the duck slipcovers to make them look decent on the couches. Still, it always cheers me up to make this switch, and seeing the summer slipcovers on the couches reminds me that the warm weather will be back soon, I'm sure of it.
I put out bedding plants over the weekend, so my patio has once again come alive. I love to look out and see flowers, and I got a good start on all of that this weekend. Right now I have flowers inside the house too, beginning just inside the front door, on the hall table, I've placed a big blue glazed pot filled with scented jasmine; at the opposite end of that table is a big vase full of peach blossoms; on the secretary around the corner is a potted pussy willow, and in the kitchen, on the countertop, a blooming phalaenopsis orchid. Things are not so cheerful in the living room, where the banana plant has a strange sort of white, cottony mold, and I need to do more reading before I decide whether to try to treat, or dump everything and start over, complete with new soil.
And I know it's only March, but I can't help but think of eecummings:
when faces called flowers float out of the ground
and breathing is wishing and wishing is having-
but keeping is downward and doubting and never
-it's april (yes,april;my darling) it's spring!
Saturday, March 07, 2009
It's time for Patrick's Saturday Six again. The topic this Saturday is HAPPINESS. If you want to play too, click HERE.
1. You wake up and discover that it’s a rainy, dreary day out. Does this affect your attitude at all or do you tend to stay happy no matter what the weather is doing?
I'm generally happy no matter what the weather is doing. And for what it's worth, I LOVE rainy, dreary days!
2. What would you rather receive from a good friend: a specially-chosen gift or a quiet evening just spent together? No contest, a quiet evening just spent together.
3. Do you tend to be happiest in a crowd of close friends, with one or two close friends, or alone? Hmmm, this is hard to answer. I usually have a great time when I'm with a "crowd" of close friends (i.e., maybe 4 of us altogether), but on the other hand, I'm quite happy to meet or talk on the phone with just one friend for coffee or a glass of wine, and to further complicate things, I'm quite happy to be alone, too. So I don't know how to answer this.
4. If money were no object, would you remain in your current career? No way. If money were no object I'd retire, travel, and do regular volunteer work again.
5. Take the quiz: What Kind of Happy Are You?
You Are Affectionate
Your life is full of love and friendship - and you always have more to give.
You have an open heart. You are willing to take that leap and put your faith in people.
You see the good in everyone and everything. You are a very sympathetic person.
The people you love make you very happy. You feel warmly toward those around you.
I'd say that's pretty accurate; I am affectionate.
6. What single part of your life are you happiest with at the moment? My immediate family. I absolutely adore my kids, their spouses, and my 2 grandsons.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
For these 100 things, put things you’ve done in bold, things you’d like to do in italics, and
cross out things you wouldn’t want to do. What’s left are things you don’t have feelings about one way or the other.
bold = done it
italics = want to
strike = don't want to
Plus comments, of course
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars – a number of times; all of them wonderful.
Played in a band – No, but I’d love to play in an orchestra, not that I can play anything besides the radio.
5. Watched a meteor shower – I’ve had the pleasure of watching many, and hope to have the pleasure of watching many more before I’m through.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyworld in
8. Climbed a mountain – I’d like to trek
9. Held a praying mantis – what can I say? I’m a total science nerd.
10. Sang a solo – In elementary school, a couple of times. Which, considering my singing voice, is pretty damned frightening.
Bungee jumped. – I hate stuff like this.
13. Watched a lightning storm – many times. I love storms.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch – calligraphy…does that count?
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning – I think so, more than once. Not an experience I’d like to repeat.
17. Walked to the top of The Statue of
18. Grown your own vegetables – not much of a crop, but yes, I’ve done this with container tomatoes, etc.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in
20. Slept on an overnight train – many times. The trick is to get a compartment that goes across the car, not one that runs the length of the car. You’ll sleep better.
21. Had a pillow fight - If there’s anyone who can answer, "no" to this question, I pity you (I stole that comment from Paul, with whom I totally agree).
22. Hitch hiked – no, but when I was young and naïve I accepted rides from strangers a couple of times. I was very, very lucky that they were decent people.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill – I call those Mental Health days.
24. Built a snow fort – Hey! I grew up in
25. Held a lamb – I’ve bottle fed baby lambs, but not since childhood. Oh, to feel them tugging on the bottle…that’s a nice feeling.
26. Gone skinny dipping - Yeah, but not since I had my pool taken out. I used to always go for a skinny dip, late at night, in places I stayed. I’m pretty adventuresome that way.
27. Run a – there was a time that I wanted to do this. But no more.
28. Ridden in a gondola in
29. Seen a total eclipse – more than once, using the recommended indirect viewing technique, of course.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset – many times. I love both.
Hit a home run – baseball bores me.
Been on a cruise – judging from the comments of people I’ve met who go on cruises, I’m pretty sure I’d be ready to jump ship in about 5 minutes.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors – I would LOVE to go to
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language – I wish.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied – Hmmmmm, how much would that be? We have so much here in
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person – Nope, I’ve never been to
39. Gone rock climbing – Only indoor rock climbing, but more than once and I enjoyed it.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David – I’d love to see this.
41. Sung karaoke – yeah, at a party, and it’s NOT MY THING.
42. Seen the Old Faithful geyser erupt – I’ve never been to
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant – this doesn’t appeal to me for many reasons.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight – oh, yeah. J
Been transported in an ambulance – thank goodness, no.
Had your portrait painted – I would have liked to have my children’s portraits painted when they were young.
Gone deep sea fishing – I’m not sure why, but this holds no appeal for me.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person – another thing I’d love to see.
50. Been to the top of the
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling – I learned scuba in the Hull House pool in
52. Kissed in the rain – oh yeah, many times, and one of those was on top of
53. Played in the mud – many times.
54. Gone to a drive-in theatre – in my misspent youth.
55. Been in a movie – no, but I’ve visited a movie set between shoots, which was very interesting. This was in
56. Visited the
Started a business - - I admire people who do this, but it’s not my thing.
Taken a martial arts class – nah, not me. I’d like to take a Tai Chi class, though.
60. Served at a soup kitchen – well, I’ve distributed Meals on Wheels.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies – yeah, and hated every minute of it!
62. Gone whale watching – sign me up!
63. Got flowers for no reason – many times, from myself to myself.
64. Donated blood – a few times, but I have very low BP so I don’t do it anymore. The blood coagulates and isn’t usable, according to the blood banks.
Gone sky diving – I don’t even like roller coasters.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration camp – I’m not sure why I feel I should do this, but given the opportunity, I would.
67. Bounced a check – yes, and paid the overdraft fees to make it good.
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy – for years I had the button eyes of my teddy bear, but they are now long gone.
70. Visited the
71. Eaten caviar – mostly the cheap stuff, which I once consumed regularly.
72. Pieced a quilt – I doubt I’ll ever get around to doing this, but I think I’d enjoy it.
73. Stood in
74. Toured the
Been fired from a job – knock on wood!
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in
77. Broken a bone – major skull fracture that almost killed me when I was 6 (I know, I know, it explains a lot); and broke a toe when I was in my 20’s.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle – yeah, as a passenger, but not since my misspent youth.
79. Seen the
80. Published a book – no, but I’ve co-authored a chapter in a medical school textbook, ta dah! How cool is that? (The science nerd thing rears its ugly head again).
81. Visited the
82. Bought a brand new car – I feel guilty admitting just what a kick this is!
83. Walked in
84. Had your picture in the newspaper – a number of times, but not since I was young.
85. Read the entire Bible – I’ve never read the entire bible.
86. Visited the White House – now more than ever I’d like to do this. I’ve driven past, but never been inside.
Killed and prepared an animal for eating – not even a lobster!
88. Had chickenpox – when I was 2.
89. Saved someone’s life – I volunteered on a suicide/crisis hotline for a couple of years and talked to my share of callers. I hope I made a difference, but I’d never assume I did.
90. Sat on a jury – many times, and I’m scheduled again in March.
91. Met someone famous – I’ve met my share.
92. Joined a book club – not for a long time, but yes, I’ve done this.
93. Lost a loved one – you can’t live to be my age (59) without having had this experience.
94. Had a baby – had FOUR!
95. Seen the
96. Swam in the
97. Been involved in a law suit – Other than my divorce, which I’m not counting as a lawsuit, no.
98. Owned a mobile phone – Now I can’t imagine being without one!
99. Been stung by a bee – a few times in my life. And I’ve been bitten by fire ants too, and that’s worse, at least it is for me.
100. Read an entire book in one day – Oh yeah. Many times. This is a very great pleasure.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
I'm not mathematically inclined, but even I can appreciate the fact that today - 03/03/09...is SQUARE ROOT DAY! Yeah, I'm a nerd, I know it. Square root day is celebrated on dates where the day and the month are both the square root of the last two digits in the current year.
I love stuff like this. It only happens nine times in a century; the last square root day was 02/02/04 and the next one will be...TA DAH...04/04/16. In a similar vein, my favorite year was 1961. I was 11, and I figured out that you could stand on your head and the year would still read "1961".
Coming up...Pi day (03.14, of course)...
Monday, March 02, 2009
It's time for Carly's Monday Photo Shoot. The topic this week is CONDIMENTS. If you want to play too, click HERE.
I had a grilled salmon fillet and a tossed salad for dinner tonight, so no condiments there. To do this assignment, I opened the door of my refrigerator and pulled out an armful of my favorites: Chipotle Chile Ketchup; Dijon mustard; Knott's Jalapeno Jelly (good on black bean burritos); a jar of homemade candied jalapenos (a gift from a friend); Jalapeno Hatch Chile Jam (uh, I guess there's a theme here); and finally, red and green Tobasco sauce. There are lots more in the door of my fridge. I love my condiments.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
So my boss came by my cube a couple of weeks ago, as is her wont, sat down and said, “I saw a truck with, uh, balls hanging off the back of it this afternoon. Do you know anything about that?”
Do I know anything about, uh, balls? A little…but didn’t really wanna have that conversation with my boss. About trucks? Nothing, zero, nada…although the word “Hemi”, which I can’t define, did leap, unwarranted, into my mind. About trucks with balls? Even less than I know about trucks…and why was she ASKING me this? Or should I say, why was she asking ME this?
Then I realized, shoot, it’s probably because I'd recently had Ike neutered, which I’d discussed with her as I'd needed to telecommute that day, and like it or not, I'd therefore, albeit inadvertently, opened the topic for discussion. But really, I didn’t think I had (opened the topic for discussion). I mean, when I sent her an email about it, this was the pic I'd included of Ike, HELLO.
“Uh, whaddya mean, balls hanging from a truck?” I asked.
“I’m not kidding,” she said. “I was driving down I-35, and this big pick-up truck came up next to me and then passed me, very loud, and there were, uh…balls hanging from it’s rear.”
"Whoa. I’ve never seen that...”
“Yeah, I hadn’t either, and if I never see it again it’ll be too soon, but here’s the thing that I don’t get…it was a BIG truck…”
“Yeah, and the balls were…tiny. I mean miniscule.”
“Yeah! What’s the message there?”
I’m willing to concede there are testosterone challenged males who feel the need to do this (hang balls from their trucks). Obviously this is so, because the evidence is all around us. But who are they doing this for, besides themselves, I mean? Certainly not for women, because all of the women I’ve discussed this with have, like my boss and me, been thoroughly grossed out. And if they’re hanging them there for other guys to see…well why not have them in proportion to the size of the truck, or even BIGGER? Shoot, if I were a guy inclined to do this, I’d be looking for basketballs to make my point.
Since this interesting little late afternoon conversation, I’ve googled the topic. The things are called (yuck): BumperNutz, Car Balls, Truck Balls, Truck Nutz, etc. They’re sold online (of course) and come in a variety of colors and sizes, from small (4”), flesh-colored little biker nuts ($8.75) to BumperBalls Designer Series, “Big Boy Style” tumbled brass balls. Designed for bigger trucks and Hummers, those weigh 3 pounds and cost $55.00, but Key ring nuts are also available (I am not making this up!) for those nuts who are so insecure they have to have access, of a sort, at all times, to their masculinity.
I’ve concluded this must be a basic gender difference, because I can’t imagine a woman having a fake uterus hanging down from the back of her car.
Not under any circumstances.
But if a woman were to do that...say, a woman selling Mary Kay cosmetics, with a big pink Cadillac… how far do you think that woman would be able to actually drive, with a big pink uterus hanging out from the rear of her car, before she got pulled over and issued a ticket? I mean, seriously…
That’s all I’m gonna say about it.
OK, I have to admit, along the same lines...when we first moved to Texas, I admired that they’d done it, but wondered how it had come to be that the logo for the University of Texas was a line drawing of women’s fallopian tubes. It’s not, of course, the logo is Texas Longhorns, but just look at this, and you’ll see what I mean:
I rest my case.