Saturday, March 31, 2012

If it ain't broke.....

They are at it again!  This time its two of them, at the same time!  Google and Facebook, switching things around, changing what works, making changes for no apparent reason!!  Arrrggghhhh!!!

First, Google has posted this:
"Blogger is getting a new look in April. Upgrade Now."

And Facebook has posted this:
"This is how your timeline looks to you...
Use this tool to see how your timeline appears to a specific friend or the public. Remember: you can always change who can see any post that appears on your timeline."

Google, I do not want to Upgrade!!  What's wrong with the old look?    And Facebook?  I hate to tell you, but I don't even understand what this means!!

Oh how I hate when they "update" things!!! It has been a problem with computers since the very beginning of their entry into everyday life.  I cannot recall any new "release", update, revision, or software or hardware installation that did not create chaos!  It is bad enough when that chaos took place in the workplace, but at least, I worked for companies large enough to have an IT staff that I could call on to come and fix it!  But now when they diddle around with stuff, it affects not only the workplace, but the homeplace too. 
Enough!  Let us alone.  Let us keep our blogs up and running in the way we understand, please!  The same for Facebook.  Every new update and change, throws many of us all the way back to square one and we have to stumble around on our own for days (weeks, years??) to re-learn how to use what we already were using just fine! 

And the worst of it??  We are given no choice!!  It is imposed upon us with no recourse.  That just sucks swamp water!!

The amount of information provided on how things have changed and how to get up to speed on the new stuff is either incomprehensible or non-existent.   Why cannot these companies understand that many of us were not born computer mavens.  Many of us struggle and have been struggling for the last 30 years, trying to keep up with all the changes that just keep coming!  Stop!  Don't Do This Anymore!!  We are your customers (sort of), you are supposed to want to keep your customers happy....and this just ain't doing it!

I'm tired of having to re-discover the wheel every time computer designers decide to play fruit basket upset with commonly used programs, software, hardware, and what have you.   I'm tired, I tell you!  Tired to the core!!!

Can't they please go and play somewhere else?   Like maybe in quicksand or  in  a lightening storm??

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Things I Couldn't Say" ( aka Dear So and So)\

Dear So and So...

So today is Friday, and you know what that means!!  It's time to post a new batch of "Things I Couldn't Say" or Dear So and So.....because there are a few things I'd really like to have corrected please.  For instance....

Dear Writers Who Self Publish,

I have previously expressed my dissatisfaction with several things that go along with a Kindle e-reader, so you know that I am not and unqualified fan.  I like reading on the Kindle, its easy.  I like carrying the Kindle instead of big ol' heavy hardcover books, its easy.  I like being able to download several books to have choices at my beck and call, its easy (except for the navigating part....but that's a different rant altogether).  Because I am basically unwilling to pay more than $5-10 for a book on the Kindle (it must be a generational thing....even though I have access to the book, I do not feel that I have something actually in my possession), I find myself looking for things for $2 and under, which leads me to the free books and the $.99 books....and those frequently turn out to be works that have been self-published by their authors.

I can certainly understand the lure of making your book, or novella, or whatever available to the masses without having to deal with a publishing company.  Going directly to the consumer must seem so easy in comparison.

Unfortunately, however, the problem with not going through a publishing company is that although  you don't have to deal with the hassle, you don't get any of the services EDITORS, or PROOF READERS, or HONEST CRITIQUES of your work.

Independently published e-books are almost always filled with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, incorrect or missing citations of factual information, poor punctuation, uninteresting sentence structure, etc.  Some, of course, are worse than others, but really, would it be that much of  a problem to work with an freelance editor or hire a proof reader so that your book is not an insult to the intelligence of your readers?    I am speaking here of the nuts and bolts of the actual writing.  I am a fast reader, but even at my speed all those errors practically jump off the page, yelling, "Hey, look at me!  I'm a doozy of a mistake!  Did you see this one???"  They are like road blocks that bring things to a grinding halt while we try to figure out what you were TRYING to say!

As to the content, writing ability, plots, characters, plausibility, structure, and so on....well, all I can say to most of you is...."Did you ever consider that all those publishers who declined to publish  your book, just might have turned it down for a very good reason???

I'm sorry, but just because you can type up a 10,000 word manuscript that your mother and your BFF like, doesn't mean you are actually a "writer".



Dear Amazon,

May I draw your attention to the above letter, please?  Does anyone have any control over books that show up in your inventory of e-books??  And if not, why not??  Most of these self-published works are so badly written that they are painful to read, much less finish. 

I think you owe it to your customers to provide information on the ebooks you sell.  It would be very helpful to see annotations such as  Unedited, Self-published, Short Novella, Christian perspective, or whatever so we know what we are buying. 

Self-published books used to be known as Vanity Press,  Even though there is no paper involved anymore, its pretty much the same thing.


Dear M-t-G,

I know that you are going to  audition for next year's Middle School Orchestra this Saturday.  Try not to be too nervous, sweetie.  Just play your violin the way you have done at your recitals.  You can do it!!  All they are really trying to learn is the level you are playing at, so they can put you into the right group.  You will be fine!!  Really!

With love,


Dear Hammacher-Schlemmer,

My hat is off to you (if I was wearing a hat), you have outdone yourselves.  Your catalog has always contained unusual and strange merchandise that one would never expect to find.  I was very happy with the genuine Irish Shillelagh that I purchased for the Big Guy at Christmas, and the Christmas Popper orchestra was a big hit at our family's Christmas Day gathering.

But this time you have something truly unique, a one-of-a-kind, penultimate gift that could only be desired by an extremely discriminating buyer.  I commend your staff for offering this incredible piece of American History for sale in the open market.

......For those of you who don't receive the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog, the item being offered is unbelievable.  Really!  It is a genuine (though never used) , PT boat from WWII!!  The PT Boat was built in 1945, but was never commissioned to sea.  (I think the war ended before that could happen).

It is in perfect working order, is sea-worthy, and contains all of its original armaments (disabled, of course).  It is being offered for the tidy sum of  1,000,000 American Dollars!  (There was no mention made of any additional charges for Shipping and Handling!)

 Anchors Aweigh!


Dear Kia Dealer,

You remember a couple of weeks ago when I made several appearances at your Service Dept, with a "Check Engine" light that wouldn't stay off?  Well, guess what??  It's back on....again!!!

Consequently,  I'll see you tomorrow!  Get ready!



Dear Blogland, ), hook up with her Linky and add your own! It's a great way to blow off steam, and you can read lots of other letters even grumpier than mine!!

Your friend,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Easter, 2007
This is what Easter morning looks like in Texas

-- white gloves and a cowboy hat --

at least it does when you have a Texas-born Maddie-the-Great, like we do!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Cappella

When Maddie-the-Great was born, she had four living grandparents....Ratchlet's parents (Mikey and I) and T.A.'s parents, (Linda and Don D.).  That's not so unusual these days when people are living longer.  What is more unusual is that M-t-G also had four living great-grandmothers!  No great-grandfathers were still alive, in fact all four of them had been gone for quite some time, but all four of her great-grandmothers were still with us. 

M-t-G had the good fortune to actually know three of the four. 

My mom (Great Grandma J.) was the one in poorest health, as she had had several strokes and was not able to get around on her own, but she was still mentally present and remained so until the last few months of her life.  We had taken M-t-G to visit her in Phoenix when she was about six months old.  Obviously the visit made no impression on Maddie, as of course, she doesn't remember it.  But my mom remembered it and we have photos of them together.  Mom died at age 83 when M-t-G was about 3 years old.  I am very grateful that we were able to bring them together at least for a little bit.

Mikey's mom (Great Grandma D.) was the oldest and the only one M-t-G never "met."  She spent the last several years of her life living with one of her daughters in the Chicago area.  She was in pretty good shape physically, still mobile, and functional, but her short-term memory deteriorated steadily to the end when she no longer recognized her family.  I'm not at all sure if she was ever aware of Maddie's existence.  She was 99 when she died when M-t-G was about 7.  G.G.D. was the only one who had more than one great grandchild.

Linda D's mom, was in reasonably good health both mentally and physically.  Ratchlet and T.A. took M-t-G to visit her in Pennsylvania when she was about 8.  Great Grandma M. died about two years ago and I believe she was in her early 90s.  It was very fortunate that visit to Pennsylvania took place, because G.G.M. died not too long afterward.

Don D's mom, was the delightful Great Grandma May.  She was the great-grandma M-t-G knew the best.  She was in great health, mentally alert, physically active, and lived independently until just recently,  She traveled frequently (and alone!), she married her 2nd husband in her late 80s, and was a sweet, funny woman, who lived her life her way.  M-t-G had seen her many times over the years.  Sadly, she died on Saturday at the age of 93. 

So all four of these great-grandmothers are gone now.  They are missed every day.   It is such a shame that M-t-G didn't have the opportunity to know them all better.  They were remarkable women who lived through hard times when they were young....the Depression, WWII....yet they married happily (mostly, I guess), raised multiple children (among them they produced nearly20 children), managed their homes, were widowed, and lived independently for many years.  They considered themselves mothers and housewives and they succeeded at both.  They loved their families wholeheartedly and were well-loved in return.  They were the glue that held our families together

These women, and all the other millions of women like them, are the backbone of our civilization. They are nurturers, caregivers, pillars of strength, and an example to all the women who follow.   They are daughters, mothers, wives, grandmothers, and great grandmothers.  They gave us the best they had, they gave us everything.  They put us before themselves over and over and over again.    How could we ever thank them enough?

Without them, there would be no M-t-G, or any of us for that matter.  Through them the cycle goes round and passes on to the next generation and so on and on.  It's called LIFE and we, your children and grandchildren, and great grandchildren, thank you for giving us ours.  You were the best!

And so, Mom, Mrs. D, Mrs. M., and now Great Grandma May, we love you and we will miss you forever.  May you all Rest in Peace.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Younger Than Springtime"

I've always gotten along pretty well with friends of my daughter's and other folks I have encountered who are her contemporaries, not mine, but I seem to get along with them anyway.  I like to think it keeps me young....either that or it proves I have an arrested development!  LOL!

My daughter has a good friend, Mike,  from her high school days, a really nice boy who grew up to be a really nice man.  They were never an "item", their friendship was more of the brother/sister variety.  They have stayed in touch ever since.  In actuality he has become a friend of the family over the years, he was a member of Rachlet's wedding party, and we all have a mutual interest and friends in theater and performance.   

Fairly early on Rachlet's friend became a single dad and he and his son have always been very close.   Mike has been an involved dad and I don't think he could have possibly been more proud of his son (who has always been as cute as he could be, just like his dad). 

Mike's son had a birthday this weekend.  He turned 25.  Happy Birthday, Tommy!  Congratulations on your great son, Mike!

Sooooo, Mike is one year older than my Rachlet....and he has a son who is 25....which means Rachlet, technically, could also have had a child who could be 25...she doesn't, of course, but she could .....which means I could have  a grandchild who is 25....I don't, of course, but I COULD....

And that, my friends, makes me officially Older than Dirt!!!

"Younger Than Springtime??"    It's not as easy as it used to be!   :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


As I promised I will now reveal what my darling MtG and the lovely Mona Lisa have in common....drum roll please......both the painting and the girl were in PARIS, FRANCE last week!  Paris!!  France!! for six whole days!  Of course, Mona is always in Paris, but let's not quibble.  (I'm sorry, the "Irish" thing was a bit of a red herring....I thought if I could confuse you by trying to figure out the Irish thing, you wouldn't see the obvious.)

Anyway, going to Paris has been a heart's dream of Ratchlet's since she was about 14 years old.  I can't remember what specifically lead to that desire, but it was a goal that she would accomplish, no matter what.  Well, she finally made it!  The whole family went (except, of course, for FloraDora, who stayed with us.) 

I don't remember having anything in school labeled "Spring Break".  Getting Good Friday off was about as good as it got back in "olden times."  Today's school kids usually get one full week off school usually in March.  Last week was it for this year.  MtG was out of school for Spring Break!  Ratchlet and co. usually go somewhere for a few days.  Somewhere like Galveston or Padre Island, but this year they chose Paris! 

From all reports the trip  was everything they wanted it to be.  They went to the very top of the Eiffel Tower, they spent a full day in the Louvre, the rode the train into the French countryside to the Palace of Versailles and spent the afternoon there, they went to Notre Dame de Paris,  they took the water bus down the Seine, they took the Metro frequently. they went to the Musee d'Orsay, Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, they walked down the Champs-Élysées, they saw the Arc de Triomphe (did you know you can go inside that and walk across the top?? I always thought it was just an arch), they walked all around the City of Lights.  Ratchlet was in heaven!  I expected that.  What I didn't expect was that TA and MtG were in heaven too!  (Oh, by the way "chocolate chaud" is, indeed, hot chocolate in French.)  They all had a wonderful time.  They can't wait to go back! 

They stayed at a 4-star hotel, so they were pampered and French!  They ate in several different cafes and restaurants where they ate rich and delicious French food.  They bought crepes from a street vendor.  They had lovely chocolate creations and French pastries.  They took hundreds of photos, particularly TA.  We were at their house Sunday and we saw the "travelogue" in photos.  Just seeing the photos, I learned a lot I didn't know about Paris, like the Arc thing, and I always thought the Eiffel Tower was green!  It's not, it's kind of taupe!  The opulence of Versailles was even more grand than I had heard. And Paris has many things named "Madeleine" and they took pictures to prove it!  (Unfortunately TA has not put the photos online, so I have none to show you.)

Rachlet, being the Queen of planning and organization, had researched a lot before they went so they were able to get tickets and info for some of the things they wanted to see to minimize their waiting in line times.  Ratchlet had studied the French language in high school and college, so she had a bit more than a rudimentary familiarity with the language which was very helpful in conversing with the people they encountered.   She and MtG had worked on their French before they went and by their return MtG's accent and basic French had her sounding pretty authentic (at least to us).

None of them could identify one single thing as the "best", all three of them loved "everything." Their only complaint was there wasn't enough time to see all that they wanted to see.  It is almost impossible for me to believe but they did NO shopping!!  You have no idea how amazing that is!!

Part of Ratchlet's heart desire has always been to actually live in Paris!  I'm kind of worried that it could really happen.  Of course I want my daughter's dreams to come true....I just wish her dreams didn't require her living oceans away from us! 

All in all, this year's "Spring" break was a showstopper for my favorite people.  What wonderful memories they made!  A dream come true and the best Spring Break ever! 

Au revoir!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Mona Lisa"

Arguably, the world's most famous painting, the Mona Lisa (technically it is named La Gioconda or La Joconde, or Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo) was painted by Leonardo da Vinci in1503-1506.  The painting is owned by the French Republic and hangs in the Louvre Museum.  It is a relatively small painting and yet it has been the object of much discussion, study, and imitation for centuries.  I have only seen photographs or reproductions, but never the original.

Now of course, you know that the lovely lady does not really wear a green top hat nor is there a rainbow in the painting....but as it was just St. Patrick's Day when EVERYONE (apparently including the Mona Lisa) is IRISH.  I thought it would be a great CLUE #1 for the post to come.

Portrait of an Italian lady wearing an Irish hat

"Why??"  you ask....Well, here is CLUE# 2:

Here is a charming photograph of Maddie-the-Great taken last week by her Mom.

Portrait of an (1/8) Irish Girl drinking chocolat chaud

So what do these two beautiful ladies have in common??   Can you tell??  Do you know??

No?  Well, I'll tell you tomorrow!  I promise!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"

Despite having an Irish last name, I am not Irish.  I'm a mix of a bunch of things....Danish, German, Polish, and some long-time American (back to the Revolution, I am told.)  But I am not Irish.

Mikey is Irish, Ratchlet is Irish, even M-T-G has a tiny bit of Irish.  So in their honor, and in honor of all people scattered around the world who have a bit of the auld sod lurking around in their ancestry, and because it seems that on this day....EVERYONE is is my salute to to the wearin' o' the green!

When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy,
All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away.




P.S.   Here's a little hint about my next post, coming soon!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Bits and Pieces"

Just a few bits of this and some pieces of that in my world on March 14, 2012....

1.  Last week it was hinting at Spring.  Bare trees would pop into colorful displays practically overnight.  As I drove about the city.  I would suddenly see wildflowers that weren't there the day before.  Landscape nurseries appear to be filled with brand new plants covered in blooms and buds.  The temperature weren't terribly cooperative.  It would tease us with temps in the high 50s and low 60s and then dump us back into winter at night.  Then it would throw in a couple of cold, grey, rainy, dreary days in the mix and everything just seemed to lose its vitality and good cheer.   It's been a yo-yo effect, up and down, up and down.   It's almost impossible to know how to dress for this kind of mixed message.

But yesterday?  Yesterday it happened!  High temps in the mid-70s, bright sunshine, gentle warm breezes rustling through the trees and suddenly it felt like Spring!  Real Spring, clear, bright, comfortable, awakening Spring!   Ahhhhhhh............. It was still here today and  I hope it will still be here tomorrow!  I am really tired of my "winter" clothes!

2.  On a related matter, I just love Daylight Savings Time!  I know its an arbitrary choice that a lot of people don't like, but I'm not one of them.  Being a late riser (which results from being a late go-to-bedder) having more sunlight/daylight into the evening is very helpful to me and it just makes me feel good.  I think it is a good way to negate the affects of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder; it's why I get depressed in winter....not enough sunlight!!)  So from now until sometime in October, I should be a happy camper!

3.  Things I have learned about our house guest this week:
  • For a little dog, she sure takes up a lot of room in a bed!!
  • For a little dog, she sure puts out a lot of heat!
  • For a little dog, she sure can hear every little matter how quiet I'm trying to be!
  • For a little dog, she sure can jump fairly high!
  • For a little dog, she sure still wants to explore our whole big backyard repeatedly!
  • For a little dog, she sure has a loud bark!
  • For a little dog, she sure is a cutie!!

4.   Several days ago I wrote about helping stage a house for putting on the market and it's practically instant sale.  Well, today the seller of said house and I went with her realtor to see a few houses that are on the market.  The whole reason she was selling was to move to something smaller with less land and work!  But now with the sale, she has to find someplace to live!  She has some time, possession of her house won't happen until May or June, but she wanted to get started looking.  She asked if I would go with her when she looks at houses to provide another pair of eyes!  I love looking at houses, so I happily agreed to help out.  We saw four houses today one was a dump (really!!  icky!), a second needed some work, but was on a hill and the driveway and walk to the front were both very steep, a third was lovely, beautifully updated, nice yard, great layout, but it was kind of a split level and there were a LOT of stairs, the fourth was a bit small but very attractive; unfortunately, the neighboring houses were all practically on top of each other and it felt like there was no privacy at all.

 It was fun, but we didn't find her dream home.  From what we learned from her realtor, she can expect to have lots of choices coming up in the market very soon.  She'll just need to make a decision right away.  Evidently her house is not the only one that sold quickly.  All of a sudden Austin has turned into a hot real estate market.  Things are selling fast, so if you see something you like, you have to move on it right away or it will be gone.  According to this realtor it is anticipated that Austin will attract around 90,000 new residents this year! (I think that's what he said.)  90,000!!  Yikes!  The great news for home sellers, but there are all sorts of downsides to it as well!  But boy, what a change from the last few years!  Realtors are dancing in the streets!  Sellers are finally finding buyers!

The rest of us?  Not so much!  "Why not?" you might ask.  I can give you the answer in three words....traffic, traffic, and more traffic!   More traffic??  Peachy!

And that just about wraps it up for this version of  "Bits and Pieces."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Sooner Rather Than Later"

I'm not much of a car person.  Other than putting gas in it (when I can afford to!!), I'm pretty much clueless.  I just want a car that runs, gets me where I want to go and back again, is relatively safe and big enough to accommodate my shopping trips!  That said, over the years I have, however, had several pretty nifty little cars....a Corvair convertible, a Mustang, and a little red Fiero that I just loved!

Currently, I drive a 2006 Kia Sportage.  It's not a cute little sporty car, but it suits me now.  It's a comfortable car for me....not too big, not too small....I sit up a bit above regular cars which is helpful for a short.....uh.....little.....diminutive person such as I. It gets ok (not great, but ok) gas mileage. and all the seats fold over or back so that you can transport large objects. Very convenient. It's not as cute as my little red Fiero (or the Mustang or the Corvair), but I like it.

One of the selling features of the Kia (which originated in south Korea) is that it comes with a 10-Year/100,000 Mile warranty which covers all the major parts (the technical term is the "drive train", whatever that is). Now 100,000 miles is a lot of miles. It used to be that in any given year most people typically drove about 10,000 miles, so that 100,000 mile warranty would last a really long time. I don't know about most people, but I don't put 10,000 miles on my car in a's more like 15,000 miles! (I drive around a lot...from pillar to post, you might say, as everywhere I go in Austin seems to be at the farthest away opposite corner of the city.)

Anyway, in the 5 1/2 years I've had the car, I've managed to log almost 75,000 miles! At the rate I'm racking up the miles, that warranty, which should last about 10 years, is going to run out in about 7 years! Hmpff!

None of this would matter too much at the moment if it weren't for one very pesky little "Check Engine" light that has come on several times in the last couple of years. When it comes on, I dutifully take the car to the Kia dealer, they run their little scanner to decipher the code, and it turns out to be the same thing. A heat sensor in the transmission is giving off a warning. So the mechanics tear it all apart, check everything out, and can't find anything wrong, so they put it all back together, reset the connection to the "Check Engine" light thingy, wash my car (because they feel bad for wasting my time) and off I go. Nothing wrong, no charge, clean car, see ya!

Well, last week the silly light went off, they decided to replace the sensor and hopefully that would fix the problem. It didn't! The morning after the replacement was made, I went into my garage, walked to my car, and nearly stepped into a BIG puddle of pink, oily liquid....transmission fluid....all over my garage floor! Hmmmm, that can't be good! I don't know much about cars, but even I could figure out I shouldn't drive it when the transmission fluid was all over my floor!

So it was towed to the dealer and the upshot was that the guy that had worked on the car, hadn't waiting long enough for the sealant to cure before he finished off the replacement. Consequently, I had a pink, oily garage floor! Okay, they re-did everything, washed my car again (!) and away I went. All fixed, no charge, clean car, see ya!

Two days passed, driving home from somewhere in the late afternoon, minding my own business, when BOIIIINNNG! "Check Engine" pops up. Once I finished swearing, yelling, and pounding my fist against the steering wheel, I called the Kia Service Guy.

"Hi, Gene! How are you? You having a nice day? Before you ask, my day could be a lot better."

"Hi, Mrs. D, what's up?" he said warily.

So I told him. Took it back to them, they took it all apart and re-did, re-set and re-checked the whole thing. This shouldn't happen again, but if it does, they will replace the whole transmission. No charge, no change, no wash, no joy in Mudville! Bye.

So now I've got a warranty that will most likely run out within the next 18 months....and I'm trying hard not to kind of hope that if it's going to happen again, that it happen soon!! Do you have any idea what a new transmission costs???? I think you could buy a small country with that kind of dough!!
And once that odometer hits 100,000, it's all over...that's all she wrote....the fat lady has sung....and it's a diet of bread and water for us!

I feel funny about hoping that if it's going to happen, it happen "Sooner Rather Than Later"....but if it does  and Kia has to cover the cost to replace the transmission.....well, I won't even complain if they don't wash the car! 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Second Fiddle"

We have a house guest this week.  She is my favorite kind of guest because her visit requires no massive cleaning, no great amount of preparation, no need for elaborate meals, and not much change to our regular routine.  She is pretty unobtrusive actually.  But she is fun!

Our guest is of the four-footed variety....a very sweet fluffy little dog.  She has been a visitor at our house frequently, she knows us and our house, and so she just walked in and made herself at home.  I was a bit fearful that she would be pining away or feeling abandoned, but she doesn't appear to notice that her own family isn't around.  (Shhhh!  Don't tell them!)  No period of adjustment has been evident.  She is eating, she is playing, she is sleeping, she is doing just fine!  I am relieved.

The only thing is that I think the Big Guy is feeling left out.  She has adopted me as her best friend.  She follows me around wherever I go.  If I am sitting at the computer, she is lying around within a few feet of me.  If I go to the loo, she waits right outside the door.  If I sit down in the living room she hops right up on the sofa or chair and settles in as close to me as she can get.  She wants me to play chase or tug of war, or just pat her.  She sleeps with me.  She watches me.  She waits patiently for me to return from wherever I might have gone.  She is my shadow.

It isn't that she ignores the Big Guy exactly, but he is clearly the second place finisher in this relationship.  She'll play with him, or let him take her out, or let him feed her, but when that activity is done, she comes back to my side like a shot. 

This has never happened before.  Dogs, cats, and kids always like Mikey best.  Always!  All five of the dogs we have owned have been Mikey's best friends!  I have always been the second banana, clearly an also-ran in the ranking of preferred playmates!

And the love-affair has always been reciprocated by the Big Guy.  He loves dogs....completely, totally, unquestionably, wholeheartedly, without reservation, above most other things.  He was devastated when age and declining health would finally claim them.  That devastation and loss were very hard for him.  It was painful to see. 

We haven't had a dog of our own for about 2 1/2 years and Mikey, in particular, would really like to have another dog.  But we agreed (a bit reluctantly on his part) that having a new dog would not be a good choice for us now.  Mikey works long hours and the care and feeding of any addition to our family would fall mainly to me.  As much as we love dogs (and I love them too), having one can be very confining and demanding and after 30 years of various dogs in our lives, it really is time to make a different choice.

But Mikey surely was looking forward to having a little doggie pal for a short visit!  It's just not turning out the way he wanted.  This little doggie likes me more than she likes him. 

Now there is a reason for this.  She was a rescue dog and she had been abused in her former life.  Although we don't know the specifics, it appears likely that her abuser (the SOB) was a man.  She doesn't take to men easily.  She is wary around them and occasionally will bark or growl if a man she doesn't know gets too close.  Once she knows them, that wariness diminishes and she can be quite loving, but she really prefers women.

I don't understand how anyone can mistreat or abuse a dog.  They are by nature loving, giving, loyal, happy creatures who ask very little of their humans.  All they want is regular meals, a bit of playtime, and warm and loving care.  They love unconditionally and it takes a lot of mistreatment to change that.  Anyone who would abuse a dog (or any other animal) is about as worthless a person as it is possible to be.  The punishment for an animal abuser who is apprehended should be the same treatment as they inflicted upon their victims!!   They should also be removed from society permanently (I mean incarceration) so that they no longer have free rein to inflict hurt and pain upon any living thing!

(I'll get off my soapbox now!)

Getting back to our house guest....she is a sweet, loving, polite, well-behaved little visitor and she is welcome here till her own family returns.  She appears happy to be here with us and that is a very good thing.  Even though Mikey wishes he was her favorite playmate, I've got to admit, it makes a nice change that it's Mikey's turn to be "Second Fiddle!"  :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"A House is Not a Home"

I am not (nor have ever been) a professional decorator, but over the years many people have told me that I have good taste and that our home looks lovely!  That's always so nice to hear.  Frequently friends or relatives would jokingly ask if I would come and decorate their home.   I helped Ratchlet decorate parts of her home and gave her input when she recently re-did their kitchen and baths.  Now I have no credentials for doing such a thing, but I do enjoy putting a room together or updating as time goes by.  It's fun and it doesn't always cost a fortune either. 
Recently, I was contacted by T.A.'s mother.  She also lives here in Austin.  She is a widow and has been living in a rather large, very spread-out house on a huge plot of land for the last 8 years.  The size of both the house and the yard have gotten to be too much work for her and she decided she wanted to downsize.  A very logical decision.  She's very active, loves to travel and does a lot of it, and she'd rather do that than spend her time taking care of the garden and the house.  (I wouldn't mind doing that myself some days!)

TA's mom has never been one to spend a lot of time and effort on "decorating".  She freely admits she knows nothing about decorating.  This is mainly due to the fact that she and her husband spent nearly all of the married life serving in the  US Foreign Service.  He was an agricultural advisor and she was a public health nurse.  They have lived in many different countries, mostly in South America, Central American, and Africa. usually in the poorer countries where help is needed the most.  They always lived in Government owned housing, and had very little funds or need for decorating!

So when she decided to put her house on the market, she asked Ratchlet to help her "stage" the house for the listing pictures and for showings, but Ratchlet said "My mom is a lot better at that sort of thing than I am!!"  (Isn't she a sweet girl??)  So then TA's mom asked me if I would be interested, and I agreed to try and help.

T.A.'s mom and I spent a rather intense afternoon in talking about possibilities, making decisions and choices.  We rearranged rooms, moved accessories to different places, re-oriented the focus of some rooms.  After we did as much as we could with what she had, we decided to go shopping for a few things to help update the house.  We didn't spend a lot, but we did buy a couple of lamps, some colorful new towels, a coffee table to replace a wicker piece that wasn't working and so on.  There had been a small extra refrigerator sitting in the laundry room, but it wasn't really very workable in the space and it didn't provide very much extra cooling space, so it went out into the garage.

To fill the resulting empty spot in the laundry room, we bought some very pretty hanging hooks mounted on a decorative plaque.  The best thing we found was a small white bench (complete with seat pad) and three cubical sized openings below, suitable for baskets, or just open storage for gardening shoes, rainboots, etc.  It fit the open space perfectly and easily transformed the laundry room into a small "mud room" as well! 

All of our purchases were at Target.  I just love Target....they never let me down!  We were able to get everything we wanted to help warm up the space.

I had a creamy white Flotaki rug that had never been put back in place after its last cleaning, so I lent the rug to TA's mom, to put under the table in her breakfast area.  It really warmed up the space and made the space functional, attractive, and more than just an after thought.  I arranged her displays on the mantel, a baker's rack, and some small shelves.  All in all, we made no big changes, we just made a lot of little changes that brought the rooms into a more focused and usable arrangement. 

When we were finished, there were several additional things that needed to be finished, but TA's mom had house guests coming for three days and the rest of the staging work would be completed after the guests left.  I would go back one day this week to help if she needed it.  Evidently she was able to get the rest of it done on her own, because she sent me the pictures taken for the listing and it shows nearly everything finished just the way we discussed and agreed to. 

She seemed very pleased with the result and the house looks good in the photos.  (I'm not sharing the photos because they are not mine to share.)   I was so pleased to be able to help make her house feel more like a warm and inviting home!  

With the housing market and economy being what they are, it's impossible to predict how long it will take to actually sell the house, but she was being realistic though hopeful  that it wouldn't take too long. 

Well, it didn't take long!  Nope, not long at all!  She put the house on the market on Sunday (2/4), had several people come through, and received THREE bids on Monday, plus one MORE bid expected, but not yet received.  We got a call from Ratchlet today telling us that one of the bids had been accepted!!   In two days!!  For significantly over her asking price!!  WOW!  How amazing!!  I'm so happy for her!

Now I am NOT saying that my staging efforts really had anything to do with the quick sale, but on the other hand......I guess it didn't hurt either!  lol!  Maybe I should start a new career!  "Staging for a Speedy Sale!"     :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Long Time Gone"

Today, March 5, 2012 would have been my father's 93rd birthday. But we lost him in 1978 when he was only 59 years old.  This year will be our 34th year without him, that is more than half my life!  Oh wow!  I've lived more of my life without my dad than with him.

James Harvey Johnsen
1919 - 1978
He survived a childhood of divorced parents (a rarity at that time) and during the Depression.
He survived WWII, even after 4 long years in the South Pacific.
He met and married my mother and they were together for nearly 34 years.
He fathered two daughters who loved him (flaws and all).
He saw one daughter married, and one daughter off to college.
He knew and loved his first son-in-law (and was loved in return!)
He was able to enjoy his first grandchild until she was 11 years old.
He was gone much too soon and he has been a "Long Time Gone."

He missed so much!
He would have been so proud of Little Sis graduating from college and having a "real" profession.
He would have been proud to know that her daughter will soon have a "real" profession too!
He would have loved knowing he had two more grandchildren, especially a grandson!
He would be so proud of the person Ratchlet  has become, as well as her very successful career.
He would have loved knowing Maddie-the-Great, his great granddaughter, he would be so proud.
He would have loved hearing me and the trio sing the old songs in 3 part harmony!
He would have loved seeing the Big Guy on stage in the fabulous roles he's had.
He would have loved seeing me acting and directing for the stage.
He would have loved all the dogs (and probably the cats too) that have come into and out of our family over the years.

He would have been saddened at our losses.
He would have been supportive in our hard times.
He would have worried with us, cried with us, laughed with us, celebrated with us, and smiled his wonderful smile.
He would have been around much, much longer if it had been up to him.
He would have loved sharing his 93rd birthday with his family.

And so would we.

You've been a long time gone. We all miss you every day, Daddy! 
Your eldest daughter and all your loving family

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Words Don't Fit the Picture"

I want to tell you two short stories today.  They really have nothing to do with each other, except that the first story reminded me of the second.  The second story is a from my own life, but the first is "borrowed" from another blogger.  You should get at least a little chuckle from each.  Both stories illustrate how we can trip ourselves up when the "Words Don't Fit the Picture!"
One of the blogs I regularly read is called "Mom to 8" and its a lively little blog that looks into the controlled chaos that can come from a family with eight children!  I love their approach to parenting and the insight she provides to those of us who have never been a part of a large family.  Go and visit her at  She knows how to "paint a picture!"
Today "Mom to 8" wrote about a conversation she had with her husband.  I have quoted parts of it below.  I think its a hoot and I can easily see how the conversation would have come about....
I had to call my husband and .... reminded him the blind guy is coming so I can't pick the kids up. He says, "I know you probably told me this already, but who is the blind guy?" "The guy that is going to measure our windows." "How is he going to measure them if he is blind?" "No, he is not blind. He is measuring for our new blinds. He works for budget blinds."
                                                                       - AMP, "Mom to 8" 
Ba-da-bing ba-da-boom!!  :)  It's a perfectly natural mistake, I thought the same thing at first!  That's what makes it so funny!  (Thanks for allowing me to use it, AMP!) 

Now, on to Story II....

Some years ago, when we were still living in the Chicago area, we were friends with a couple (Bob and Jeanette) who owned a business selling window blinds, shades, shutters and the like.  We all happened to be attending an event one evening and the four of us were seated at the same table.  At some point in the conversation, Jeannette told us of an actual experience they had at their business.

The name of their business was the "Suburban Shade and Shutter Shoppe" and was incorporated into a logo that used an oversized letter "S" at the beginning, followed closely by the rest of each word.  I have made an example below, just to give you the idea of how it was done.  Believe me, their logo was MUCH more attractive than this!!

hade & 
Soooo, you get the idea???

Anyhow, on the night we shared a table with Bob and Jeanette, she told us that they had recently received a check from a customer for their purchase.   The check was made out to the......

(....scroll down....)

(....wait for it......)

Suburban Hade and Hutter Hop!!!

Ohh how we laughed and laughed!  I loved it!  Don't you?  For days afterward, out of nowhere, the phrase, Suburban Hade and Hutter Hop, would pop into my head and I'd laugh all over again.  (In fact, it still makes me giggle!)  Of course, after an explanation to the customer, the check was re-done, but Bob and Jeanette kept the first check, framed it, and the last I heard it was still hanging on the wall in their shop!

Isn't it odd (and kind of hysterical) what our minds see or hear when the "Words Don't Fit the Picture??" 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Going, Going, Gone"

We have been hearing from all kinds of sources that Google Friend Connect is going away as of March 1 for non-Blogspot bloggers.  It irritates me to no end when makers of computer stuff just make unilateral decisions to upset everybody's apple cart for no discernible or logical reason.  For those of us who know only just enough about computers (and by this I also include software, hardware, the Internet, and all such things) and their use to make the darn things work and not one pixel more, change usually leads to great difficulty in getting the new stuff to work right.  It is never an easy fix.  It is never as good as the "old" stuff.  Its more complicated, more complex, and more convoluted. 

I wish that computers were more like cars.  I can drive a car.  I don't know how to fix a car. If a car is broken there is someone to take it to for repair.  If a car is changed it is NOT changed so that it is unrecognizable.  They don't put the steering wheel in the back seat or print all the directions in Swahili!  I can still pretty much still get in and drive it away.  And if I encounter some change I don't understand, there are wonderful people called mechanics who can usually explain it to me, in English and everything!  No one needs to be a mechanical engineer to operate a car.   The computer industry could have learned a lot about making their products user-friendly from the auto industry. 

Oh, sorry, I got off on a tangent there.  It's a rant I've ranted before....and it obviously still rankles! 

What I really wanted to write about was the loss of Google Friend Connect might mean to us run of the mill bloggers.  Even in a best case scenario, it appears that following other blogs will become more limited and we will have to reconstruct the connections to the blogs we want to follow. 

I spent some time this evening trying to set up followers and following through Linky Followers, and as was absolutely no surprise to me, I couldn't get it to work for me.  It's that same old problem, explanations of new stuff make assumptions about the level of knowledge and expertise that a blogger would have .  Well, I don't have that knowledge and expertise.  I know just enough to make it work.

The new stuff will take time for me to figure out and learn and in the meanwhile, I fear that I will lose followers as well as those I follow.  If that happens, I will be very sad.  I love the blogs I follow and I feel like those folks are at least, "almost" friends!

So if at some point, I am no longer showing up in your comments or stats, it will not be for lack of interest, but only that Google doesn't want us to play together anymore!  I will try to find my way back, but I don't know how long that will take.  If I am never able to reconnect for whatever reason, I just wanted to tell everyone how much I have enjoyed the glimpses into your lives, your interests, your families, and your accomplishments.  And I wanted to thank you for your reciprocal interest in what I share.

I'm not leaving willingly, so don't ever take it personally.  I did want to tell you all at least a tentative goodbye and farewell before Google carries out its plan to sever our connection!  As it is now officially March 1, we'll soon see if it is "Going, Going, Gone!"

Au revoir, mes amis.  Vous me manquerez!

  [Goodbye, my friends.  I will miss you!]

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