Happy Birthday, Connie

ConnieToday is my sister’s birthday. The only celebration of the event, however, will be in our thoughts. There will be tears shed, too, even though she has been gone now for almost 16 years. There will be tears of sadness, tears of pity — for ourselves and how much we’ve missed by not having her here. There will be tears of laughter as we imagine what she’d have to say if she were here, fussing over her birthday cake, opening gifts, chatting about the events of the day. One of her favorite sayings was that retro 60’s slogan: “Never trust anyone over 30.” At 36, she wouldn’t be able to trust herself and she’d be the first to get a kick out of that.

Now, we mostly imagine her chuckling as we make comments like: “Wouldn’t Connie just love that? Look, another Star Wars movie! Did you see the Lego movie on YouTube video with the…”

I’m sure what she’s enjoying now makes the best this world can offer pale into stupidity. I’m glad she’s safe. I’m so grateful she’s happy. I know she’s waiting for us. And that makes it all bearable.

Most days.

Happy Birthday, Connie.


Ay Ton’!

TonyAbout a year ago, our cockatiel, Data, died after having been with us over twenty years. Data literally delivered himself, flying out of the sky and landing on my sister’s head and refusing to leave. Although pushy about being invited in, he was the perfect house companion: he loved to be petted and danced to rock and country alike — except for Willie Nelson. For some odd reason, just saying “Willie Nelson” in his presence would set off a fit of screeching. ::shrug:: To each his own, I suppose.

Data’s death left a surprisingly large hole for such a small critter, but Sunday, my brother and his wife brought my mom a new cockatiel. Being the quintessential Sopranos fan, Mom promptly dubbed the youngster Tony. Since his arrival, Tony has been socializing and singing like a… well, like a cockatiel. Mom might as well be Dr. Melfi. Thank God, there are no Feds in the house. Sorry, DJ.

Welcome to your new home, Tony. We’re glad to have you in the family.

Waiting out tropical storm Edo…

Waiting out tropical storm Edouard. Not a hurricane, thank God, but pissed off nonetheless.

Sudden Death: book of the week

Sudden Death This week’s book was Sudden Death by David Rosenfelt. I’m keeping the reading on the light side while I’m taking classes. Between reading for classes and doing homework, Mind-Like-Water is threatening to become Mind-Like-Sieve.

I was attracted to this series for the simple fact that the cover of one of the books featured a dog. I’m a sucker for books with dogs, no matter how slight the reference. In my defense, I checked out reader reviews before actually making a purchase. Even so, I find that I’m guilty of reading this series out of order, having read Dead Center first (which should have followed Sudden Death). I managed to keep track of everything just fine, however.

As with too many mysteries lately, I had the who-dunnit figured about mid-way through, but enjoyed the characters too much to care, Overall, the novel was pretty tightly plotted for what was still a “relaxed” read, with just the right level of humor and cynicism. I think this would make a decent TV series. A kind of Perry Mason meets Eureka, maybe.

Or maybe not.

Poor Possum!

I found a half-drowned baby possum in my yard this morning. I put out a bucket to collect the run-off from the AC unit. I use the water for the flowers bed. Apparently the possum was thirsty, fell in and couldn’t get out. His nose was just barely above water-level and he was the most pathetic sight, once I got over the shock of looking in and seeing him staring up. He’s about toddler-sized. I frequently watch as he and his mom make their way from the field behind out house, down the side yard and out to the front yard where they spend the evening doing God knows what. It’s a good arrangement. I don’t bother them and I make certain the dog keeps her distance and the possums mind their own business, too.

Anyhoo, I got my dog back into the house and went back out, gently laid the bucket on its side and hid around the corner of the house. It took the little thing several full minutes to reorient. He was shaking badly and had difficulty walking, probably worn out from the effort to keep his head above water most of the night. He eventually made his way the short distance to the line of bushes that run along our side fence. It’s well mulched with plenty of shade to hide from the heat and wait for his mom (I hope). I’ll be keeping an eye out for the neighbor’s cats.

Sorry, no pictures. He’d had enough trauma, I think.

My Family Honor Roll

I will be working this Memorial Day. In my industry, it is not a holiday, but merely another day to sell a product. Such is life, but that doesn’t make it right, does it?

Anywho. I’m an avid genealogist and thinking about memorials always reminds me of the remarkable people I have found through my research. So this year, my memorial tribute will be in honor of the soldiers in my own family tree. The following list covers my family only back to 1776 and includes only those I have confirmed to have served in the military. The list also includes two living individuals who I will refer to only by initials to protect their privacy.

My Family Roll of Honor:

CDH – US Army, Vietnam
LEM – US Air Force
Robert Reed Baker – PFC US Marine Corp, World War II
Lonnie Ruble Markham – PFC US Army, World War II
Joseph N Slatton – Confederate Marines, Civil War, POW
John Westley Blakely – Arkansas Infantry, Civil War
John Wiseman Levillian – Arkansas Infantry, Civil War
Michael Sterling McGuire Levillian – Arkansas Infantry, Civil War, KIA
Charles M Markum – PFC Tennessee Calvary, Civil War
William M Ramer – North Carolina Infantry, Civil War
John Wesley Ramer – Tennesse Army, Civil War, WIA
Richmond Sullins – Pvt. Mounted Infantry, Union Army, Civil War
Adam Moore Self – War of Texas Independence
Thomas Ware – War of Texas Independence
Melchezedec Self – Tennessee Militia, War of 1812
John H Blakely – Pvt. South Carolina Militia, War of 1812
Michael Levillian – Sgt. Louisiana Militia, War of 1812
Jacob Williams – Pvt. North Carolina Militia, War of 1812
John Blakely – Pvt South Carolina Militia, Revolutionary War
Giles Powers – Pvt South Carolina Militia, Revolutionary War
George Slatton – North Carolina Infantry, Revolutionary War
John Williams – Lt. North Carolina Militia, Revolutionary War
Bedreadon Carraway – Pvt. North Carolina Militia, Revolutionary War
George Oliver – North Carolina Infantry, Revolutionary War
John Garrett Ware – Georgia Militia, Revolutionary War
Robert Jemison – Capt. Continental Army, Revolutionary War
Matthias Heinrick Bollinger – Georgia, Revolutionary War, KIA
Charles Carl Springer – PFC, Delaware Militia, Revolutionary War
Philip Philemon Prather – Pvt. Contintial Army, Revolutionary War
John Haas – Pennsylvania Militia, Revolutionary War
Henry Ware – Lt. Carolina Militia, Revolutionary War
William Blair – Massachusetts Militia, Revolutionary War
Israel Hobart – held in an internment camp as a suspected Loyalist, Revolutionary War
Michael Lorenz – defected from the British Army and joined the North Carolina Militia, Revolutionary War
Daniel B Ward – supplier for Layfayette’s soldiers, Revolutionary War

DB Ward’s assistance as a supplier (of beef) for Continental allies gives him revolutionary status. Considering more than one on this list were killed by their Loyalist neighbors for far less participation in the Continental cause, selling his cattle to the Continental Congress would have certainly made him as fair a target as any soldier.

I’m proud of all my ancestors. They were tough people who lived through tough times, most with great grace. And while Memorial Day has been set aside to honor our military, we would do well to remember, also, those who fight other battles just as fiercely: firefighters, law enforcement, EMTs, border agents (who are being kidnapped and killed by drug and human traffickers here in Texas).

The families of those who serve are equally important, supplying the personal support we cannot: spouses, children, parents and siblings.

My salute, hand to my heart, to all of them, living and past, who have made this country the finest on earth.

Thank you.


“Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.” – George Jackson

photo courtesy of crazyemt

Ashley’s Nicholas 1996-2008

We had to put our little Sheltie down this morning. Age had caught up with him and he suffered acute kidney failure despite all efforts to save him.

We’ve been blessed all our lives with some of the best pets we could ever hope to find: good companions all, each with their own marvelous personalities. But I can honestly say, Nicky was the finest dog we have ever had the privilege to know.

He was a true gentleman, fiercely protective but never unkind; responsive and accepting, never demanding, forever sympathetic to what was surely the bewildering drama of our lives and those of the other pets he lived with.

He will be deeply and truly missed.


“I miss the wagging little tail;
I miss the plaintive, pleading wail;
I miss the wistful loving glance;
I miss the circling welcome dance.”
– Henry Willet

Just another day in perdition

I bought two office plants last week. I don’t know about anyone else, but I like keeping a small plant in my office just to remind myself that there is SOMETHING alive in the office besides me.

Well, sure, TECHNICALLY there are 20-plus other people inhabiting other cubicles in the room, but I’m not altogether certain some of those bodies are still warm. I’m not a big CSI fan, but I’m sure Grissom and Company could get a work-out here. Most causes of death would no doubt be various degrees of boredom or complications of work-induced high-blood pressure but I’m sure any pathologist worth his salt could find at least one suicide, a couple of murders and three negligent homicides. And that’s just this week.

God knows I love my job.

So, why, one may wonder, would I bring in yet more unsuspecting prey by hauling office plants into this pit? Even if they are cacti equipped with three-quarter-inch spikes for self-defense? Frankly, I was lonely. Jeez, if my only comfort is blogging to total strangers (yeah, like anyone’s actually reading this drivel) shouldn’t that give you some kind of clue to my desperation?

Cut me some slack. I was honest with my new cubicle companions. Straight off the bat and out of the bag, I sat them on the desk and greeted them with a hearty “welcome to hell!” I got a distant “thanks” in response, which spooked me until I realized the voice came from a couple of cubicles over. Another warm body! Life in cubeville is improving already.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” -Unknown

I Sing the Life Electric

Unlike most of my co-workers, I was an adult in the 80’s and remember more than simply what my favorite cartoon was. The 80’s, at least in the US of A, was all about acquisition, big business, big real estate, and big hair. The mantra was, for many, “greed is good.” Underlying all this was the assurance that “you can have it all.” Indeed for the sake of the economy, you needed to have it all. Some advertising even went so far as to convince us that we deserved it; it was our right as human beings and our duty as Americans. Life, liberty and the pursuit of stuff was the new addendum to the Bill of Rights. And on the wave of this attitude, came the technological revolution: gadgets that could do damn near anything, and the certainty that you – yes, YOU — would look like a complete flunky if you didn’t own the latest model of each.

I’m no luddite. No really. In my closet is an Apple IIe, a mouseless generic DOS-based CPU, a box of whoppin’ big floppy disks (just in case I ever run out of styrofoam plates, I guess), two very dead high-end laptops (no, I don’t want to discuss it) and a couple of cell phones about the size of single-slice toasters. And that’s just the stuff I kept. My daily technological necessities are a Treo, two desktops (three, if you count my office computer), a digital notepad, an mp3 player (so it’s not an i-pod – deal with it), a digital video player, several flash drives, and a Kindle. Those are my workhorses. I’m not even mentioning the four televisions, the four DVDs, the DVD recorders, the Nintendo DS, or the Wii…. Well, I did, but never mind.

Back to the work horses. I might be able to get through the day without the notepad, the desktops, the video player, the flash drives (ouch!) and the mp3 player, but you’ll have a fight on your hands to get hold of my Treo or my Kindle. If the choice is my Kindle or my life, I’ll give up the Kindle with a scream. Make a similar demand for the Treo and I’d have to think about it a minute. Or two.

Sad isn’t it?

And no, I don’t work for Palm or Amazon, such is my bad luck.

But back on topic. I’ve decided the 80’s were wrong. Yeah, I still like the music — well, some of it anyway. I never had the big hair (a treasonable thing for a native Texan to admit), and the acquisition of money was never my forte (I’ve blown it all on technological advancement — see above). The truth of the matter is, you CAN’T have it all. Shocking, isn’t it? But here are three proofs in support of my theorem:

1. You can’t afford it. (Well, maybe YOU can, but I’m not talking to you. So there.)
2. You will eventually run out of room to put it. (If YOU can find the room, see #1.)
3. You will definitely run out of time to actually enjoy it.

We can quibble about 1 and 2, but I stand confidently on point #3. No matter how much money you have, no matter how large your residence (or your ease of access to the local Public Storage), no one — and I mean NO one — has more than 24 hours in a day. Not on this planet, at any rate. And frankly, how much can you squeeze into that kind of time slot? Family, friends, possibly a job, a little relaxation and/or entertainment, a bit of creative effort to keep your sanity…

You see my point.

I hope.

Sure, all those technological marvels can be squeezed into each day and still allow time for sleep. Lemme see: I listen to audio books (Treo, mp3, or Kindle) during my commute and sometimes at lunch; while working, I listen to music or the radio (Treo or mp3) or keep an eye on the news (Treo). During work, I make various notes regarding my “real” life interests (flash drive or Treo) and later transfer them to one or the other of my home PCs. For various writing projects where shorthand is a plus, I use the digital notepad. In the evening, I’ll read (Kindle or Treo, or ::gasp:: an actual book) or (rarely) watch a movie or TV episode (digital video player). Meanwhile, email, calendars, memos, telephone calls, references, etc, are all the domain of the Treo. And, yes, I have awakened to find it in bed beside me. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much space, never steals the cover and rarely snores. My dog should be so well behaved.

I say all this to make this admission. It’s all just too much. With all this influx of instant information, my brain is shutting down. Mid-sentence, I’ll lose the word I’m looking for. I’m forgetting names. Yesterday, I blanked on my own telephone number. I honestly cannot tell you what I had for breakfast this morning. It’s dawned on me that in my efforts to remain organized, in-touch and relevant, I may have inadvertently surrendered quality of life for quantity of stuff – and the quantity of (honestly) useless information all that stuff delivers.

I’m interested in life. Really, I am. And, as a Gemini, I dabble in a bit of everything. (At least I’ve been told that my sun sign is the reason. Maybe I’m just nosey. ::shrug::) The internet is a godsend to me: instant information (if not instant wisdom) combined with instant get-ification (if not inner peace) is the ultimate for this old 80’s lady. Instant pudding takes too damn long; just toss me a pudding cup. I like instant gratification.

Apparently, though, it doesn’t like me.

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” — Sir Winston Churchill

Photo credit: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase.php