Friday, September 28, 2007

Coming full circle

When I saw Daddy yesterday, I was very pleased to note that he was no longer passive in his wheelchair. He was rolling it along and scooting with his feet. The nursing staff said he had taken a great interest in doing so, and since the words haven't been real positive that a) he'll walk again unassisted or b) he might not even be trusted in a walker, this was good news to me. It's only been 5 weeks since his broken hip and progress keeps a smile on my face.

But yesterday, he was heading out doors. I opened the door for him but wouldn't push him over the threshold. This he accomplished quite handily himself even if he did frown at me. He wanted to go to the end of the row of chairs which look out over the enclosed lawn and garden area. I thought we'd settle down together and coment on the trees, clouds, and weather, him in his wheelchair and me in the rocker.

But no. He wanted to make the sidewalk loop. And he wanted me to push him.

No way. I walked behind him, keeping him straight and encouraging him. I walked in front of him and urged him on. We did just fine until the slope became a bit uphill, no problem if you're walking, but pushing your 200+ pound self in a wheelchair was daunting. I gave in and pushed him over the hump until he could handle it again himself.

Then it struck me. I'd come full circle, from this man guiding me on my first set of bike training wheels and then giving me a shove to start my bicycling on my own. I was 5 or 6 and I was scared. Riding a bike has a big learning curve. He must have felt as I did yesterday, watching him struggle to push and wheel. I didn't want him to go off the sidewalk or tump over. He wouldn't have wanted me to fall and hurt myself, but he knew I'd have to learn. I knew he would.

From daughter to parent. Daddy and I are still in training wheels.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Experience is what you get

Last week the media was all over Professor Randy Pausch's "last" lecture. Part of a series of 'what would you say if it were your last lecture' from prominent academics, it was remarkable in that it was this professor's last. It was memorable, much lauded, gave those of us listening much to think about, and can be seen in its entirety at ABC News. Scroll in the section marked ABC News Programs.

While the talk was full of memorable one-liners, my favorite--and the one I re-listened to so I could write it down--went like this:

"Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want."

I've thought about this and don't know that I agree 100%. I think you can get experience with a situation even if it is what you wanted. That is, I wanted to go to Australia, I went, everything went very well, and I had a wonderful experience.

But still, I know what Prof. Pausch was saying. When things don't happen the way we foresee, when there's a brick wall thrown up in front of us (he talked about brick walls), then we have an experience we didn't know we'd get.

Perhaps, instead, it was what we needed.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Teaching an old cook new tricks

Say 'okra' in this part of Texas and the first dish which comes to mind is of the fried variety. Although there are many variations on the theme, okra pods, sliced crosswise, covered with cornmeal, salt and pepper, and fried in just enough oil to cover until golden brown, is the method of choice here. A distant second, is turing okra into a component for gumbo. That however takes considerably more time (hours) and fixin's (sausage, shrimp, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.)

But the other night, we were invited for hamburgers at a friend's house, and as we had a sack of okra, we took it along for the meal. Imagine my surprise when that child of the South suggested we grill some.

Really? Well, I can be a good guest--and I did prepare the rest of it for frying--so I watched the prep for grilled okra.

Long story short, I am now a convert. She skewered whole pods (they need to be slim), brushed them with olive oil, and generously shook on the Cajun seasoning. As the burgers cooked, the okra was turned a few times until it looked done. We slipped it off the skewer and bit.


Just one more food for which I can say: Why fry, when you can grill?*

*While this treatment went over well with the spouse, fried okra will not be falling off the menu.


Saturday, September 22, 2007


Where have I been? Walking out of Wal-Mart this week, I finally took notice of a big red box sandwiched between the buggies and the lose-your-coins-in-the-toy-machine game. It was a DVD rental box, dispensing your choices for $1 a night!

Wow! I can't even rent new DVDs at the local low-budget rental place for that. (It's $1.49.) Not that the choices listed on the front of the box were enticing me to stick my credit card in the slot, but the concept sufficiently intrigued me that I scurried home (had to, had frozen items) and looked it up.

Redbox is a joint venture of Coinstar (change your change into cash) and McDonald's, of all entities. Generally, they're to be found at McDonald's, but as I don't frequent our local McD's (no young kids, don't have to), I have to rely on the website's find-location feature to tell me that in my community it's at Wal-mart, not McD's. You make an online account, see what the choices are where you're going to be, go get it. If you don't return it after a month, it's considered yours, the charges having mounted up sufficiently on your credit card.

Interestingly you can return it to any redbox. That reminded of a system I saw at Cracker Barrel several years ago where you could rent an audio book at one Cracker Barrel and return it to any other place with the same system, CBarrel or not. I don't know if they still have that service and their website didn't mention it.

This would appear to be just another answer to the Netflix explosion. Competition being a good thing, I'll keep an eye on our redbox (now that I know it's there) and see what happens with content and staying ability.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007


It was time to renew our passports and so we set out to have our photos taken at a pharmacy/convenience/photo service location. Five minutes after stepping in front of the white background, removing the glasses, putting hair behind the ears, we each have 6 copies of what we didn't know we looked like.

By definition, passport photos are bad and I think I know why now. If you need a passport, you've traveled some distance. Maybe hours by plane. Who looks good upon arrival in Sydney when they've spent the night cramped in a seat? Not I, and I have the photos to prove it. So, if the passport photo is wedding-book-suitable, then it won't look like the person holding it out to the immigration official.

And that explains passport photos. The good, the bad, the realistic.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Upstairs, Downstairs

Watching a "best of" PBS documentary last spring which listed someone's choice for the best 12 shows ever on PBS, I found the British series "Upstairs, Downstairs" to be number one. While I certainly hadn't watched most of the rest of the top ones, I was only intrigued enough to hunt this down.

When I began my hunt I had no idea that I'd be in for 24 DVDs, each with 3-4 episodes, each episode 45-50 minutes long. That's without commercials! I needed something fresh (to me) to watch while I walked on the treadmill each morning, so this seemed tailor-made. It would last a long time (4 months) and if I didn't want to keep it, it would make a nice addition to the local library.

The library can find their own. I was immediately hooked, sucked into the lives of the Bellamys and their servants. I would even drag the ironing into the exercise area so I could continue watching. Now, after I've finished the series and watched the 25th anniversary show, I feel a bit alone, like good neighbors have moved off and left me!

I can console myself with "Thomas and Sarah", the spin-off series, which will last me a week or two. Then I shall have to move on, revisiting 165 Eaton Place occasionally perhaps, and remembering it always with a fondness for a great story well told.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tying up the loose ends

1. My Timex watch, aka my dad, has graduated to a wheelchair and is anxiously trying to get out of it. Guess he'll be walking again soon, which is a very good thing. His mechanic's mind kicked in and he wanted me to get him a pipe, 1/2 inch interior diameter, 18 inches long, so he could extend the brake lever and thereby unlock himself and take off. Go figure, he doesn't know Mother is dead but he's scheming to make a better machine.

2. Duchess the mama cat was trapped on the first night's try. She is awaiting her turn to be spayed. Whew! It took a bit more effort to capture four wiggly and very scared kittens, but they are safely tucked in and awaiting time at the vet also.

3. I put on my 'big girl knickers', screwed my courage to the sticking spot, and decided to activate my iPhone myself. It took about 20 minutes and there were no problems. So far, I'm in the honeymoon phase of it, ever amazed at the hand-held computer that will make phone calls. Now I just have to figure out how to use it.

Added Wednesday, Sept. 12:

4. We tried another Bertolli Skillet Meal--Shrimp, Asparagus and Penne. Lovely sauce, but there was so little asparagus they should have left out that ingredient. We won't be buying it again.

5. Bathroom survey: I've been going the same old places. Finally tried a new one: Blue Goose Mexican Cantina, Plano: 105 because they had a baby-changing area in the handicapped stall.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Rounding up the week

1. No problem on the iPhone credit from the store. Now I can open the package and get on with it.

2. Kittens: So far, have fished 4 kittens (3 different ones and one twice) out of the basement. They are crawling (being pushed, running) into (through) their hidey-hole around the a/c pipes and taking an approximate 9 foot dive onto concrete. So far, none are the worse for wear. They start crying and those pitiful little voices echo up the stairs and through the floors and I'm down there, laundry basket in one hand, flashlight in the other. Find the offender, grab him/her by the nape of the neck, put her/him in the basket and give it back to its mother who has not seemed particularly upset by the fact that one was missing.

Probably because I'm too quick.

Kittens, anyone?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My opinion on the iPhone

Everyone else is weighing in--and some quite unhappily--on the issue of Apple cutting the price of its iPhone by 1/3, so I'll give my opinion also.

I've been an Apple customer for 25 years. I am not an early adopter. I've wanted an iPhone and read on it and studied on it and decided that it would be a very handy little device to have, especially when one is not at one's computer. I piddled around and finally made the plunge and bought one Tuesday.

Yep, that's right, 24 hours before they lowered the price. Timing is obviously not my strong suit.

I hadn't opened it yet when I read the price reduction notice. I've talked with the store and I'm going to trudge back down the 90 minute drive and get my credit due. Worse case: I'll return it for a full credit and re-buy. But that won't happen. (If it does, you'll hear about it.)

But I should have known something was up. When I went in, they were offering a free one month subscription to One-to-One, the Apple lessons on their products. Having a problem or want to know how to make a movie, schedule a private lesson. I already have One-to-One, but this month offer was just for the iPhone. Okay. THEN, to put icing on the cake, if you wanted them to help you activate it, they'd do it.

Immediately, I had an answer to all this largesse: slow sales. I think the early-adopters, i.e., the geeks, among us bought first and then the rest of us, those slow-adopters who need a push and a little help, have held back. Hence, the free One-to-One and now the price reduction.

I expected the price reduction, but not so quickly, probably at Thanksgiving to gear up for the Christmas season. By that time, I would have been a 3-month user and all would have been okay.

Really, given all the unhappy people, they should have waited.


Monday, September 03, 2007

The saga continues

Duchess, mama cat in the previous entry, has moved her kittens once again, this time to the dubious place between the a/c units. It is probably easier to defend than the bushes, being in an L-shaped area, but is concrete and not soft dirt. She has all four of them with her and she has ventured no further than the driveway in 3 days. I have not seen the big tom that caused her anxiety earlier.

I am using a hands-off approach, although I will eventually have to capture the little darlings. I was hoping she would grab them up and find a new home for them as she did with last year's brood. I have even emailed friends and loops to advertise their availability. Amazingly, no one has replied in the affirmative.

This is not looking good.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Do I have what it takes?

A year ago yesterday I blogged about Animal Planet's Meerkat Manor and the fact that the second season was being elusive. The third season started a few weeks ago and we are once again attentive. But this year is harder: bad things are happening to our Whiskers family and the other meeerkat groups. It's a meerkat-kill-meerkat world in the Kalahari where survival is all we have on our minds.

So, how do the teams of researchers and film makers handle it? They set the cameras up and let them roll, let Nature and meerkat take their courses. There's even a disclaimer to that fact at the beginning of the half-hour. Meerkat Manor is not for the faint-hearted.

Our backyard is a crossroads for the feline population. Two years ago I adopted a stray kitty who was being abused monthly by the neighborhood tomcats. It took me two months of bribing her with food to get her close enough to the house to trap her. I had her spayed and inoculated. Amazingly, when I returned her to the backyard, she got over her snit and has stayed with me, finally allowing me to stroke her back and scratch behind her ears.

All was well, just she and me, until said neighborhood toms noticed where the freebie food was. Over the course of the last year, they all stop by for breakfast. They'll laze in the garden or on the furniture. They are, for tomcats, well-mannered. I do not attempt to adopt them.

There is also a female in the group, a calico we've named Duchess. I think she originated across the street because she wanders from food bowl to food bowl. She is in the family way every chance she gets. Last year, she wore herself out ferrying kittens between my house and her official home. Neither human could grab her and see that she ceased her prolific ways.

This years has been no different, although she no longer runs from me. I have hopes of nabbing her when her litter (location unknown until an hour ago) is large enough not to need her.

From my study window, I look down onto the backyard. And who should I see clutching a kitten in her mouth and disappearing under the lantana but Duchess. And who is entering the yard right behind her? A tom. He took her exact path to the bushes and stopped. I'd no doubt Duchess would defind her litter, but for how long could she hold out? He marked the bushes by spraying and then left. She emerged and took up a sentinel position.

I could stand it no longer, so I went down. She was now on the back steps. I gave her food and scurried over to check on the kittens. Last week there had been four of them when she'd given them a temporary stop in the rose bushes (the sprinkler system flushed them out on Monday morning). Today there are three. Has one died? Is she waiting for an all-clear to go get it?

Can I stand by and watch tomcats circling her litter and not interfere? Should Nature take its course? Duchess is not a first-time mama and she is bound to be savvier about the location of her 6 week old brood than I am, but do I have what it takes to be an impartial observer?

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