Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Definition of "Chickenhawk" (Bush Twins Sit Out War)

Yesterday Pooks posted a link she found to the most amazing article about what "Support Our Troops" should mean.

The current spin by the Bush administration is: if you oppose the Iraq war, you are not supporting our troops; indeed, you are not even patriotic.

Go read this article - and please, read all of it - to see what real support and patriotism is all about.

Friday, May 26, 2006

One More Chance?

Out of the blue, we have another "buyer" for Maxwell House. He's thinking it over after seeing the place today. Like most of the others, he's an investor and it would be a cash deal. Said he'll let us know on Tuesday if he's interested at our price, in which case he'll get contractors' bids of his own.

Could it be, now that I've given up going to North Carolina for the next couple of years, now that I've taken the house off the market (after a YEAR), now that the tenants will be moving out by next Wednesday, now that I'm up to my elbows in paint chips, now that I'm putting in flower beds over there, now that I've got a new dining table, chairs and hutch being delivered next Thursday, and now that I'm starting to look forward to moving into Maxwell House in a couple of weeks, could it be that NOW someone will really, actually, BUY it?! Not back out at the last minute like the previous FIVE "buyers" did?


Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Good grief, are we finally done with the season finales ? I'm not sure how much more I could take. Whew!

Did you have a favorite? Mine was 24.

The series is the best drama for a reason. This season we were treated to Jean Smart's piognant First Lady, and Gregory Itzin's portrayal of President Logan was superb. They are both fine actors, but their characters were first drawn by 24's amazing writers.

I just can't watch a show, or read a book, with one-dimensional characters. Nor could I slog through a show or book with a weak plot. 24's writers have character and plot development down. Why else would people watch all 24 episodes every single season?

This season's cliffhanger: Jack Bauer has been Shanghaied. Literally. I can hardly wait to see how the writers get him out of this.

Monday, May 22, 2006

There's a Herd of Dustbunnies Under My Desk

This was in an email recently forwarded to me. There was no indication of who wrote the poem, which is a shame because she should get props.

Cleaning Poem

I asked the Lord to tell me
Why my house is such a mess.
He asked if I'd been 'putering',
And I had to answer "yes."

He told me to get off my fanny
And tidy up the house.
And so I started cleaning up..
The smudges off my mouse.

I wiped and shined the topside.
That really did the trick...
I was just admiring my work...
I didn't mean to 'click.'

But click, I did, and oops I found
A real absorbing site
That I got SO way into...
I was into it all night.

Nothing's changed except my mouse
It's very, very shiny.
I guess my house will stay a mess...
While I sit here on my hiney.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Our Southern Magnolia

Last night, Tomcat brought in one of the last blooms on our Magnolia tree, and my office is filled with its fragrance.

We're going to miss this tree when we move across town. It's an aptly named Magnolia Grandiflora, commonly known as the Southern Magnolia. About 30 feet tall, it dominates our courtyard. Whoever planted it trained its first set of branches to grow ten feet above the ground, so we can easily stand under the tree and enjoy its shade.

Magnolias are evergreen, so it's never bare. I can't say that we'll miss the tons of leaves it drops all year long. However, the Magnolia's many benefits outweigh the required maintenance.

We put our spa underneath it. The shade makes it bearable even in the summer. In the height of the summer heat, you can feel a marked drop in the temperature as soon as you enter the courtyard.

Of course, the best time is in the spring when it blooms and fills the courtyard with its magnificent fragrance, and when Tomcat brings me a fresh-cut blossom.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Profound Case of Inertia

I'm not lazy, I'm just ... inert.

We're moving in a couple of weeks and I haven't packed a thing.

I got halfway through writing Gino's Law over a month ago and haven't written another word.

There's a completed novel in my desk drawer which I need to finish editing. There's only about one-third left to do. My plan was to finish the edits, write a new synopsis, and start the query-go-round search for an agent. That was in January. This is May.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dr. Phil Today

Did anyone watch the Dr. Phil show today? About the "Divorce Experiment" with the husband from hell? I got a phone call during the show, and when I came back they were saying something about the daughter having been removed from the home -- what were the details? Anybody?

Gardening Isn't For Sissies

That's what Grace, the artist/gardener told me yesterday. My aching back agreed. But you know what? I had so much fun!

First, going to Home Depot's garden department with a gal pal instead of the hubster is a much different experience. Grace and I spent a leisurely hour and a half wandering around looking at EVERYTHING, choosing this, choosing that, changing our minds, putting things back, choosing something else, grouping things together to see how they look, finally deciding on something but checking all 47 specimens to get the best one ... I tell you, it was heaven. Someone said that men, being hunters, want to go in for a specific item, kill it with their credit card, and leave. Women, being gatherers, want to take their time and look at everything first.

Then we had brunch. (Men don't do brunch. They grab a bite to eat.)

Then we got to play in the dirt. The weather was great, for a change, and we had the morning shade to work in. We repotted some snapdragons that had somehow survived a year of neglect, then put in six holly bushes. She showed me how to fill each hole with water, let it sink in, then put the plant inside and fill the hole again, this time letting the force of the water loosen the roots. By the time I had one hole dug, she had done the other five because she is awesome.

We filled the two planter boxes with white petunias and a lovely little trailing ivy. I'm already thinking of what to put there in the "fall." (We don't actually have four seasons here, only two - hot and cold.)

We put the mulch down - did you know that you're not supposed to put the mulch against the trunk of the bush because it might rot? And did you know that hardwood mulch is the best because it won't float away during a heavy rain?

When finished, we tidied everything up, and stood back to admire it all. We were sweaty and had dirt under our fingernails. Note to self: I will have to get some big-girl gloves. Grace said the gloves I had on were for ladies who go out to the cutting garden of a morning. Sissies.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gonna Go Play in the Dirt

Gah! I watched the three-hour Survivor finale last night. Cirie couldn't win, which was obvious right away since she couldn't get that dang fire to burn high enough in the first thirty minutes. But did I quit watching there? No! I stayed with it, I survived. All the way to seeing Danielle win immunity (!) and make it to the final two. Then the other deserving member, Terry, was booted off. Why did I watch this? It wasn't like there was nothing else on! Oh well, at least Terry and Cirie got new cars. And at least Danielle didn't win.

Meanwhile, I was missing the finales of West Wing, Desperate Housewives, and Grey's Anatomy. Tomcat taped those for us, so don't tell me what happened!

Then I got an email from Grace, the artist, which said "OMG! Did you see Grey's Anatomy?" No. I was watching Shane being a jerk at Tribal Council.

So today I'm gonna go play in the dirt. Grace, the gardener, is going to help me pick out some plants for the front flower beds at Maxwell House. Tomcat and I prepared the beds on Saturday. I don't think we did it right, even though I had emailed and called Grace for days for instructions on compost-to-soil ratios and stuff like that. When we were finished, I called her to ask whether to put the mulch down then, or wait 'til after we put the plants in (wait.)

Then when I told her that I bought too much soil and had lots of bags left over, she said, "How can you get too much --" but then she didn't finish the sentence. She sounded a tad, um, exasperated. See, this is why I don't think we did it right.

I'm taking up gardening in my 50s (a late bloomer.) Tomcat and I spent most of Sunday in recovery. Well, Tomcat did get out and mow the front and back yards yesterday. He said this whole weekend - schlepping dirt around in a wheelbarrow and digging and mixing compost into flower beds and mowing and trimming - was conduct unbecoming an Episcopalian.

We're going to be moving over to Maxwell House in a couple of weeks. Can we survive? Wait - don't tell me!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there, especially my mil! Wish we could have been together in NC today!

Friday, May 12, 2006


It's Here!

I Give You

By Popular Demand
(okay, two people)


Dog Talk

There are all sorts of books out there to teach us how to interpret the body language of dogs. There's even a cell phone service that offers to interpret the sounds of your dog's barks. I don't need anything like that because Scruffybutt is very clear in her commands communications.

What astounds me, though, is the enormous amount of our words and body language that dogs understand. They take it all in.

I didn't know, until I learned this from both of our dogs, Scruffybutt and Sandy, that I take a deep breath through my nose before saying, "Okay" to them. Example: they're beaming "It's time for our dinner," at my brain but I keep working at the computer anyway until I've finished whatever I was doing. Then, I (heretofore unconsciously) take in a deep breath and say, "Okay," which means that I will then get up, go to the kitchen, and give them their dinner. They read me so well that now they don't even wait for my "okay" before they blaze down the hallway to the kitchen, with Scruffybutt coming back to pull on my pants leg a few times just in case I forget what I'm doing on the way (a real possibility.) It took me a while to grasp that they are actually teaching me my own body language!

Another example: Scruffybutt will get out of bed when I do (isn't that sweet?), but she doesn't want to run all the way down the ramp that Tomcat built for her if it's a false alarm (I'm turning over instead of actually getting up), only to have to run back up again. So, if I make a move that looks like I might be getting out of bed, she races to the foot and watches to see if my feet will stick out over the side. If they do, she knows that I'm getting up, and opposed to merely turning over, and she'll scamper down the ramp and try to nip my toes before I can get them inside my houseshoes.

Here are some words that my dogs understand: there's the usual sit, stay, no-no, and come. Those are the ones we taught them on purpose.

The rest are ones they've learned all on their own:



who's-a-good-dog? (meaning who "deserves" a treat, and then I usually say what? two good dogs in the same house at the same time? what are the odds!)

where's your squeaky toy? and variations, like gimme that squeaky toy or whose squeaky toy is this?

go outside

daddy's home


you're too silly (they assume this is a compliment)

nuff (meaning stop already)

go see daddy, or go see mommy (meaning stop bugging me)

PLUS they know each other's names, but will pretend not to know because they don't want the other one to get anything that should go to them. (Incidentally, the best way to get Scruffybutt to come and take her medicine is to call Sandy's name and pretend to give it to her. Or vice-versa.)

They're also good at technically obeying. We might be eating dinner and of course the dogs are sitting there beaming "We're starving," at our brains. After a while, the staring starts to bother us, so we'll say, "No - go away." And you know what? They do! They will turn and walk away. In a circle. Ending up right back where they started, sitting there and staring at us. See? We obeyed! Technically!

Scruffybutt has a few words of her own, but apparently only I can hear them:

Of course I'm a good girl, Mommy. I only wake up that way every day. Duh!


Oh, Mommy, get a grip.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Spring in Tornado Alley

Yesterday the high was 96, with a heat index of 108, and a cold front was on the way. Yep, it's tornado season. Last night's tornado skirted the northern edge of Dallas County. Three people dead (that we know of this morning), ten seriously injured, a hundred more with minor injuries. If the twister had hit just a few miles to the south, the toll would have been much worse.

Thanks to better forecasting tools, people had 22 minutes' warning (although it's not clear whether the unincorporated area where the twister hit had warning sirens.) The pictures this morning showed that even with warning, there wasn't much people could have done to save themselves because homes were scoured right down to the slab. Where there were no structures, the ground was scoured down to bare earth. They showed a large tree that had been torn out of the ground, roots and all. That's not unusual. What is unusual is that the hole where the tree had been was nowhere near the tree. They couldn't find it.

I'm a native of Tornado Alley, so I'm used to tornado watches and tornado warnings. I've grown up with them. But we did not have this much activity when I was growing up. Now we even have tornado swarm outbreaks every season. Last night's tornado wasn't part of a swarm, thank God, but the season isn't over. (Some reports say that there may have been more than one tornado last night, though.)

More severe weather is expected today, again just north of us.

I have something positive to report about springtime, though. Yesterday I saw the first bloom on our Magnolia tree.

Afternoon update: I'm watching the local news, and they believe last night's tornado was an F3 (maximum winds 206 mph.) They showed some flattened metal that the owner said was a jeep, and on top of that was an upside-down motor boat, and on top of that was his wife's Camero. The house and his wife's embroidery shop are gone. They also showed a concrete slab on which some kind of 50 x 100 ft. structure had been standing. The reporter picked up a corner piece of the slab and showed the rust marks where the structure had just been ripped right out of the foundation.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Speaking of Obsessions

In addition to my notebook obsession, I also have a handbag obsession. For some women, it's shoes. I love handbags, and the best place to find them in Dallas is Sam Moon's. What you see on their website is a tee-niny portion of what they have in the store. You walk into this enormous warehouse-sized space and you see mountains of handbags. They're mounded in bins, lined along the walls all the way to the ceiling, and stacked on the floor. It is absolute heaven because you could spend days in there just looking at everything. If you're a woman, this will make sense to you. The men that I know can't manage more than two steps inside the door before they have to turn around and head for the luggage department next door, or anywhere, as long as it isn't there. It's that great.

Today I had to have my Sam Moon fix. The prices are low because of the volume of business they have. I bought a humongous bag that's buttery soft and lightweight that I'll take to London with me. Then I headed for the wallet section, where I found My Big Fat Leather Wallet in a color called "Barcelona," which is a sort of metallic-olive. This wallet has a calculator, a mirror, a calendar, notebook, address book, a pen, and compartments for everything. The tag says, "Fill it up if you can." I love a challenge.

Sam Moon also sells jewelry, scarves, belts, and hats. Those will have to wait for another trip. Well, okay. I bought two scarves, but that's all.

Anyone else want to confess?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Research For Your Book

I just finished reading the very enjoyable historical novel The Queen's Fool by the incomparable Philippa Gregory. Ms. Gregory is known for her fabulous readability and meticulous research. A novel of the reigns of Edward VI and Queen ("Bloody") Mary, The Queen's Fool delivered. I'm no scholar, but I am always interested in reading anything about the Tudors. As far as I can tell, there were no historical inaccuracies in this book, nor would I have expected any from this author.

However, I found one little detail, one tiny omission which reminded me that no matter how much you research your novel, it's still possible for even the best authors to overlook something. When Elizabeth I was told of Mary's death (thereby making Elizabeth queen), she said, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." This phrase comes from the Book of Psalms, but the author of The Queen's Fool put the words into the mouth of Queen Mary as Mary's own clever saying, which Elizabeth later copied. Elizabeth was actually quoting scripture when she said that, whether she first heard it from Mary or not. The point is that it was not a phrase that Mary or anyone else would have come up with on their own.

I dread making an error in my writing because I did not research something thoroughly enough, or overlooked some small detail that was known to others but not to me. For Gino's Law I have research folders for Law, Medicine, Religion, Real Estate (with subfolders for Eminent Domain and Landmark Status), plus the esoterica of Gino's world, including such things as Rattlesnakes, Reindeer, Cryogenics, and Injection Molds (thanks very much to my father-in-law for that last one!) These are not all of the research folders, just a few. Obvy, the possibilities of my overlooking something are truly endless.

Gah! It's bad enough just worrying about spill chick and typos.

The Net is a great resource, of course. It's a good idea to put feelers out for people who have expertise in the areas you need, too. In addition to my father-in-law, I've found that a man in my writers' group speaks fluent Spanish, and he corrected the mistakes I had already made in my MS. I've been told of another resource for answers to the legal questions I wasn't able to find on my own. I've also spoken with a doctor about alcoholism and diabetes. I've already blogged about the trip Tomcat and I took down to Lampassas to get the feel of the land.

Everything is going to have to be searched and researched until the day (if I am so fortunate that it arrives) I send the galleys off. If I've done my job right, my heart won't thud to the bottom of my stomach with fear and doubt. Maybe I'll be able to say, "It is marvelous in our eyes." No wait - that's much to grand. I'll probably just say, "Well, that was a bitch." (That's not from the Psalms, btw.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Salvation Idiocy

One of our tenants, a Katrina survivor, applied to the Salvation Army for food-stamp assistance. When she first went down there they set up an appointment with a case worker for later in the month, and told her what she would need to bring with her. One item was a lease from her landlord. When she said she didn't have a lease, they told her to bring a letter from the landlord stating how long she had lived there, what the rent was, and whether she was current or not. So, I did that.

When she finally met with the caseworker, she was told that she had to have a written lease because the letter wasn't "legal." I called the caseworker and explained that a verbal month-to-month agreement is quite legal, and in fact that is what it's called in court whenever we've had to evict someone.

The caseworker could think of nothing but "it's our policy that all applicants have a written lease." I asked how "legal" was it for me to come up with a fictitious written lease for the period our tenant has lived there, when none existed before. Again, all this woman knew was that the policy said "written lease," so that's what it had to be. She opined that she had even checked with her supervisor and was told the same thing. Sigh. So, I did that, too. I hope that will satisfy them so our tenant can receive assistance.

This got me to thinking about how policies are arrived at in the first place. They're just guidelines for lower-echelon employees to follow. That's because these employees have no authority (or, in some cases not enough brain cells) to make decisions based on common sense.

We've all had experiences like this, although it's usually with government employees. Aren't you tired of this? I know I am. I'll have to think about whether I'll continue to send money to the Sally. I know they help a lot of people. But I wonder how many are turned away because of sheer idiocy, too.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

This Is How It Should Be Done

I want to share part of an email my friend Judith sent out:

"I must say that just last week, when the three Italians were killed in Iraq, their bodies were brought back home with full TV (live) coverage. Italy has never quietly shipped back their dead and wounded through the back door, at night, far from the cameras, and people here know what war costs in blood."