Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I am so not maternal

The Little Kitty whose name has morphed into Taki is doing as well as can be expected. Her bodily functions seem to be working. I hate that during the day, her meals are constrained to my schedule, but in the evening, she snacks at will.

This morning, there was a large bowel movement in front of one of the bathroom doors: the evidence indicates it was from Taki.  She has really objected to my "helping" her recently, but she needed to do this. 

I am putting her in the litter pan when I think she might be ready to pee or poop, with moderate success.

Taki has taken to wandering through the house, trying to find me, when I am not in the computer room.  I will move her about, to decrease her stress, from time to time.  Other times, I keep her enclosed in the computer room.  

She has bonded to the towel that I use when I feed her: I am guessing the formula she spits out iand s drooling onto the towel is comforting to her.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Severe Weather

This has been a season of severe tornados: Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Joplin, Missouri, Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Oklahoma City area, including El Reno. Severe storms in the Dallas area, and so many areas in the south mid-west.

This is devastating. There are no words to describe how incredibly horrific this has been. We are grateful that there is a network of volunteers and emergency aid agencies who are able to respond to help: National Guard;  American Red Cross ;  Salvation Army, FEMA; and the Department of Homeland Security

The TV broadcast talked about hope and "we will be better."  That is the human condition: that we will be better. We can only hope. 

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Volcano in Iceland

Last year, a volcano in Iceland erupted, and that eruption interfered with air travel for many parts of the world.  This year, another volcano is erupting, and the concerns are present that the same problems will occur. 

Well, that may be true.  But no one controls those volcanoes and their eruptions.. As human beings we sometimes seem to act and think as if we control the universe and the natural events on the Earth.  But we occasionally or repetitively and consistently need a come-uppance to remind us that we do not control nature, and we need to learn to prepare, adapt, and otherwise be flexible about the adversities that weather heaps on us.

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Click it or Ticket

"Click it or Ticket" is the catchy national phrase used to encourage people to use their seat belts. I am a habitual seat belt user.  Sometimes, when I purchase gasoline at the Murphy gas pumps in the Wal-Mart parking lot, I think I will not buckle up to drive from the pump to the parking spot I choose.  Uh-uh.  By habit almost always I buckle up without realizing it. In some respects that is good, because I automatically buckle up.  But, on the other hand, am I paying attention to what I do? I think not.

Locally, we have been advised that the funding to have police officers patrolling for seat belt compliance has been decreased .

According to this story, the seat belt usage in Lubbock has decreased.  Why? I know seat belts are not especially comfortable, but the human damage to vehicle users who are using seat belts is so overwhelmingly less than the human damage to those in vehicles who do not use seat belts.  I know this is not 100% true, but the percentages do favor seat belt use.  


Hercules Poirot, Agatha Christie, and David Suchet

I am a fan of Agatha Christie, and especially her detective Hercules Poirot; other actors have played Hercules Poirot, I most identify him with the portrayal by David Suchet Those are great shows.

I also enjoy the Miss Marple shows, but not as much as the Hercules Poirot shows.


Saturday, May 21, 2011


I love baskets. Over the years I have accumulated a lot of baskets.  Many of them are unique, and gifts from people who know I like baskets. One person even gave me a framed picture of baskets that says:  "You can never have too many baskets."  I agree. At one point in time, I had the three walls around my dining table filled with baskets on the walls. I put a lot of my baskets into use, at one time in my life. 

Now, am a little more balanced. I do have many baskets on my wall. I left many baskets when I left a relationship, so I have fewer on the wall. I also have many baskets spread about being used for practical purposes, including cat beds, trash cans, and organizers in my pantry (I have a couple of baskets where I put pouched foods:  cat and person.)

There was a time in my life when I used wicker paper plate holders for "plates."  I rinsed them off and used them again. It made dish duty a lot easier. I do not know where those wicker plate holders are, or if I still have them.  Hmm. I may have to go looking for them.

I like wicker. I like baskets. I even made a basket. Twice, actually. I made a rope basket that came out very good. I make a market basket of strips of thin wood that did not come out very good, but I am using it: I have it on a shelf, and keep a box of Kleenex in it. I have baskets that hold cloth napkins, baskets that hold papers I want to use to remind myself about things, baskets to hold rubber bands, and baskets to hold sample toiletries.   I just like baskets.


The Wind

This has been a particularly windy spring. I think I have said that before. It was windy again today.  Living in town, sometimes it is difficult to estimate just how hard the wind is blowing, and if you do not pay attention to what the mph means in terms of its effect on  you, the impact of the wind can be surprising.

The horizon profile and footprint of Lubbock has an interesting influence on the wind. Central Lubbock is surrounded by a Loop.  Inside the Loop, the impact of the wind is largely mitigated. Depending where you are, and the direction from which the wind is blowing, the impact can be tremendous. This is especially noticeable when the dust is barely blowing outside the Loop.  Inside the Loop, the dust may be barely noticeable on the horizon, but not in town.

In the winter, for houses who have pipes on the north side of the house, the pipes are more apt to freeze, than if the pipes are on the south side of the house.  My house faces north, so a north wind is not felt too badly in the back yard.  Because of fences, trees, and my neighbor's houses, a south or westerly wind is very noticeable in the trees, but not too bad in my yard.  I do feel the east wind, though.

My front porch is enclosed on 3 sides, open to the north. It gets no sun, so is cooler than the sunny air sometimes. But unless the wind is from the north, it is stiflingly warm in the summer, especially at night, when the concrete and brick have been absorbing heat all day.

Throughout town, inside and outside the Loop, large buildings have the same mitigating effect on the wind.  It is amazing.

The building I work in is in the middle of large cotton fields. We are outside the Loop. The parking lot is very large, and the walk to the building in the wind can be bitter.  Especially because the parking lot is open to the north.   As people on the South Plains like to say, there is nothing but barbed wire between us and the North Pole.  That factor often induces me to wear a much warmer coat in the mornings than I might otherwise choose.

So, we live with the wind. It influences many choices in our lives. A friend and I went out to see if it was too windy to go kayaking today.  The lake we use in town is a "run off lake."  The playas and canyon lakes catch a lot of run off water.  That means garden chemicals, street chemicals and trash accumulate in the lakes.  We do not mind kayaking on top of the water, but do we do not want to be swamped with waves on windy days.  It is less pleasant to kayak in the wind. If the water were clean, I would not mind getting wet on really warm days. But not with that water.

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Friday, May 20, 2011


I have a dear friend with whom I communicate regularly.  When we were in college together, we frequently had such intimate moments:  we could finish each other's statements, or anticipate each other's activities, or some how be thinking and doing similar things at similar times.

Well, that has not changed.  We frequently call each other within minutes of when the other was going to call. We frequently email each other within minutes of when the other was going to email, or about the same topic.

It is wonderfully reassuring to have a psychic connection to someone.

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Fenway Park

I have been to Fenway Park  We were fortunate, when we were children, that we were able to get to Fenway Park once or twice a year.  We enjoyed the trip, which also usually included some other Boston experience: visiting the Sears store, the Boston Science Museum, or who knows.  And, it almost always involved stopping at a Howard Johnson's restaurant's, (which do not seem to have survived so much as the motels have) at least for ice cream, if not for a meal.

Well, Fenway Park celebrates its centennial anniversary on April 20, 2012, the same day the Titanic sank.  So, there will be a celebration: there have been lots of updates and improvements made to Fenway Park recently, very much anticipating the centennial.

Go Fenway!

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Lots of Baseball

Well, the blog follower knows that I am a Red Sox and Yankee baseball fan.   Living in West Texas, we do not even get good coverage of Ranger baseball, although may change, given the big TV contract they have entered into with Fox Sports

The last couple of years, I seem to be getting access to a lot of Red Sox and Yankee games. Traditionally, the national coverage has aired when the Red Sox and Yankees play each other.  Of course, sometimes, but not always, when one of those teams plays the Texas Rangers, I might see a game or two, especially if it is on the weekends. For some reason, the Houston Astros get better coverage.

If either team plays a Chicago team, I might get coverage on WGN.  And TBS or TNT might also cover games.

This year, I seem to be able to tune into a large amount of Red Sox or Yankee baseball. I am delighted. This has been a lot of fun.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Returning Phone Calls

I am usually very good at returning phone calls, whether they are personal or professional.  In the professional setting I try to return phone calls within 48 business hours, but really, much sooner. I think that is important.

On a personal note, I "lived" with my cell phone for a period of 6 to 8 years, for various reasons.  After my mother died, it did not seem as important to me to live with my phone.  I often leave it behind, or once I turn it off, it stays off for days, or I forget to check it for voicemail messages.
I am not trying to be rude about phone calls.  I am just not that connected right now.

One of my uncles did not have a telephone for a long time. And when he finally did, long before the days of answering machines, his philosophy was that the phone was for his convenience.  So, he only answered it when it was convenient to him.  He also said if someone wanted to speak to him seriously enough, that person would call back.  I tend to agree. For a long time, I answered the phone as soon as I could. I finally learned that I could let the phone ring for a while, or not answer it as all, as I wanted.

However, once we have moved into the world of answering machines, voicemail or message takers, once a message is left, my thinking is that the recipient has an obligation to respond. My reasoning is that if you have made yourself available to hear messages, then you have an obligation to respond to those messages appropriately.  And, I realize that there are some messages that are unsolicited, or do not require a response for various reasons. Having said that, I have often used answering machines or voice messaging as call screening. But, I do not ignore phone calls.

In a professional setting, I think that responding to phone calls is important.  I think it gives an indication of the professionalism of the recipient.  It gives an indication of how respectful people are of other people. It says "you are important."

I realize that people are very busy and can not always respond immediately to phone calls. And some professionals set aside certain times to make and return phone calls. Which means that phone calls may not be returned immediately. But professionals who do not return phone calls in a timely way send a message to me:  I have to wonder if they think they are too important to be bothered with me.  I have to wonder if they think they are more important than I am. I have to   wonder if they are serious about wanting to interact with me. I have to wonder if they are reliable.

On a personal level, I want to return phone calls to family and friends to stay connected. For personal business, of course I need to enter into dialogue so returning phone calls  is important. And certainly, on a professional level, I want to project a sincere image of being interested, engaged, and concerned and therefore, responding appropriately to phone calls.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Are You Kidding Me?

I recently opened a savings account at the Texas Tech Federal Credit Union  I have had an open account there for years: it was a checking account with interest.  But when I went to work at the prison, I could not access the account easily, and I moved my primary account to a local bank that was eventually bought out by Wells Fargo.   And even more recently, I set up to allow electronic transfer of funds to and from the Texas Tech Credit Union, and my primary bank, Wells Fargo.

After verifying the the account transfers were valid, I was in the process of setting up an electronic transfer from Wells Fargo to the Texas Tech Credit Union.  The transfer was going to cost me $3.00.  What!  Are you kidding me?  I can make the same transfer with a paper check (I do not pay for my checks) and a $.44 stamp. 

What do you think?


Wearing My Religion On My Sleeve

I was born and raised a Roman Catholic.  At one point in my life, I read at Mass, attended daily mass at St. John's Church  in Millers Falls , and frequently at Cornell University and the College of Our Lady of the Elms,  and even graduated from a Roman Catholic college, The College of Our Lady of the Elms

After graduating from Our Lady of the Elms, , I accepted a position at Catholic Family Service, Inc. for the Diocese of Amarillo, but was stationed in Lubbock, Texas. Eventually, the Diocese of Lubbock was created, and Catholic Family Service, Inc. in Lubbock was also created. I worked there ten years, before I moved on to other employment.  But my admiration, respect and caring for the agency has not diminished.

A few years ago, there was a 25th anniversary of the agency, and I attended. I was asked about being a committee or board member, and I applied. I am on the PR/Membership committee, and this year, was elected to the board.  I was delighted but intimidated. I am honored to serve, but do not have deep pockets, business or money contacts that board members are often asked to utilize. 

I am delighted that the new director has asked me to contribute in regards to professional areas: licensing, supervision, documentation training, and planning for counseling.  What an honor.

I do not wear my religion on my sleeve.  I do pray, daily. But I do not make a show of it.  I start my day with a thanks to God. I pray at other times during the day, but not do so that anyone would notice. 

I have several colleagues who wear their religion on their sleeve: they pray noticeably, and otherwise discuss their religious practices.  I am not comfortable with that. I think God knows what I am doing and why, and I do not need to proselytize, because as a professional social worker, using my influence to proselytize would be an abuse of power.  I am not criticizing my colleagues who pray openly.  I am just saying that my faith in God, which does not change, is private, and also offers others the opportunity to have private but hopeful interfaces with the Maker.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Going Back to Bed (This Might Be More Information Than You Want to Know)

Taki, the new kitty in my life, is growing and developing in amazing ways. This kitty was urinating in its sleep shortly after starting to eat well.  That has stopped.  Now, urination is occurring after a meal, and I am able to put her in a litter box to encourage its use.

Taki does not poop regularly, but with stimulation, does. The kitty did poop spontaneously once, when it was in the litter box. So, this is encouraging.

Tonight, Take wandered around and around, and after a meal, found the way into the sleeping basket.  This is amazing to me!

I am so hopeful this kitty will survive.

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Sunday is Sheet Washing Day

Sunday is sheet washing day, and today was no different.  I pulled the sheets and pillow cases off the bed early afternoon, at an opportune time when not one of the cats was on the bed.  All the laundry has been washed, dried, and what could be hung up or placed in drawers, was put away. The pillow cases are back on the pillows.  But, since about 7:30 PM, there has been one or two cats on the bed, constantly.  I try very hard not to disturb the cats to make the bed. But sometimes, it comes down to that. It is getting late. It may come down to that.

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Enjoying the Day

I have had some chores to do today, but for the most part, I have been able to sit back and enjoy the day.   I bought a lot of stuff to cook on the grill, and sat out to watch it cook, make sure a wayward cat did not try to get on the hot grill (some came around and sniffed) and in general enjoy the outside.   The weather started out grey, but became sunny, and remained cool.  I put on a light jacket when I was sitting in the shade.

I had planned to cook and then package some of the meat to freeze. I did not realize I did not have much foil, and I like to wrap the meat in foil before I put it in a bag.   Oh well, I decided not to get to the store today, and I can get there tomorrow on my way home from a meeting, and work on this one night during the week.

A few years ago, I was visiting my brother.  He was raised Roman Catholic, but eventually converted to being a member of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  He made the comment to me that he really tries to keep Sunday, and not do any commercial activities. He might golf on Sunday, but mostly does home or family things. We grew up in a part of the world where most stores were closed on Sunday, although movie theaters, bowling alleys, restaurants and the like were open. So, this is not really a totally foreign idea.

At the time I mentally scoffed at the idea. But, as time goes by, I have begun to adopt that practice more and more.  I still go to a concert, kayak, visit with friends, go to the library.  And, I do occasionally do commercial things, but have really decreased my Sunday commercialism. 

In addition to groceries, gasoline and the library, my other semi-regular weekend activity is to go to the craft store. I prefer Hobby Lobby to Michael's, Jo-Ann, or Hancock  It used to irritate me the Hobby Lobby is not open on Sunday.  Now, I do not even think about it.  If I am going to the craft stores, I am going on Saturday. No matter which one.

I appreciate having access to stores on Sunday, but Hobby Lobby is an example of a chain that can survive and be closed on Sunday.  So, while I like knowing I can have access to stores on Sunday, more and more, I do not access them.

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Soft Serve Ice Cream

I grew up in Western Massachusetts.  Massachusetts has a wonderful history of ice cream:  Howard Johnson's's was known for their 28 flavors.  Friendly's was another chain that featured ice cream as well as other foods.  There were many local producers of ice cream, including chain convenient stores, such as Cumberland Farms.   As time passed, there were even more exquisite producers of ice cream, such as Ben and Jerry's, the Edys brand, or or the commercial  kinds found in grocery stores.

We had soft serve ice cream. There were many individually owned stands that were open in the summer only.  Some were just for ice cream.  Some expanded to serving hot dogs, hamburgers and subway sandwiches. We had Dairy Queens, also, but mostly they were open in the summer.  They were called Braziers Dairy Queens  I loved soft serve ice cream.

Imagine my delight when I moved to Texas and I discovered that Dairy Queens are widespread in West Texas, and are opened all year round. My first job in Texas had me driving all over West Texas, and lo and behold, Dairy Queens were often found in these little towns, long before McDonald's or Burger King made it there. 

I do not eat much ice cream any more. But I still love soft serve ice cream.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Letter Carrier Food Drive

Lubbock, Texas has an internationally reknown food bank, the South Plains Food Bank:
and as an adjunct to that food bank, a food dehydration plant  I think the dehydration plant was the vehicle that vaulted the Food Bank to fame.

However it happened, it is wonderful that the South Plains can help with providing food to people all over the world, who otherwise would be in dire straights.

The Food Bank has many "food drives."  One of the biggest starts around Thanksgiving, and is geared to fill the coffers so families in need have Thanksgiving and Christmas meals worthy of the season.  The citizens of Lubbock respond generously, and I hope we do help most or all families of need.

Today was the National Association of  Letter Carriers Food Drive  I always try to contribute to this food drive.  I think this is a great plan.  The letter carriers distribute cards and bags so people are informed and have bags in which to put food.

I hope everyone who was informed of this food drive was able to contribute.

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A Disquieting Visitor

I suppose I should have written about this last night, but did not. About 9:30 PM last night, a young man came to my front door. He was on his cell phone. He asked very politely if anyone was living in my "back house." He was about 5'6" and had a long face. He was clean shaved, and his head was shaved. He was slim. I told him I do not have one, and he apologized, and left, but asked what street this was. Stupidly, I told him.  (It really is easy to get confused about the streets in this neighborhood.  I sometimes turn down the wrong street, trying to get home, when I am distracted.)

I had the house wide open: the front door was locked, but the windows were up.  I had windows up in the front, sides and back of the house. I immediately closed all those windows except in the bedroom, which I lowered and locked.

The truth be known, I have, from time to time, left the house wide open until the wee hours of the morning. I know this is very unsafe, but I am not able to sleep, and I like the fresh air. I have decided I have to be more security minded.

So, tonight, I closed the house just before writing this.

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I have now finished Travels in Siberia  by Ian Frazier  One of the author's recurrent themes was paranoia.  When he would get discouraged, disheartened, or just really tired, he would get paranoid.  Initially, when he was travelling in Russia, his command of the language was minimal, so he was left out of a lot of what was happening around him, including what his own fate would be, unless he was with English speaking Russians (and, the truth be known, there are quite a few.)  But he often expressed that he became suspicious and paranoid, not knowing what the plans were and what would happen next.

For much of his journeys, he had a guide, who came well recommended by someone he trusted, and who was in his employ, but seemed to be a little high-handed at times, and did not include him in everything that was transpiring.  It was probably for the best.  I suspect sometimes things were done colloquially and not by the book. And, one of the reasons he hired the guide, was to do just that. But, he had suspicions of the man's character.  Additionally there were long periods of being confined with him, and his helper, in an often unreliable vehicle that the guide procured, as they travelled across Siberia.  My suspicion was that the vehicle was as good as it would get, anyway. But it was not trust and faith inspiring. So, this contributed to the paranoia.

I work in a psychiatric prison, and sometimes, our patients experience paranoia based on basically the same thing.  They may not be English speaking. Or, they may be so naive and unaware of the prison culture, that they simply have no concept of what is occurring around them, and how people in prison are inclined to lie, extort, take advantage, and in general dominate others any way they can.

I never thought about it, but I can understand how this would contribute to paranoia, and I would be susceptible to such paranoia in those circumstances.

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The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend... Sort of

Neither Sake nor Haiku are very happy about having TLK in the house.  Haiku, being so much more mellow, is more accepting.   Sake is just mean and bitter.  Haiku is breaking the rules, and more and more, exerting her place, and sitting where Sake is: both on the sofa back, both in the open window in my bedroom (each on their own side), both on the bed at the same time, and not separated by as much bed as possible.  

So, either Haiku thinks the enemy of my enemy is my friend, or, since she is no longer "low man on the totem pole" she has more confidence that allows her to exert herself.

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Deadly Medicine

I have talked about going to the Texas Tech Museum to see the traveling exhibit "Deadly Medicine" from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  I went today to hear a guided tour.  The tour was okay, and then I went through part of the exhibit. I did not complete it due to time constraints, and am hoping to return, maybe even tomorrow, to complete it. There is a LOT of information in this fairly small exhibit. It is in Lubbock until August 7, 2011, so there is time. And, it travels elsewhere around the country, including Boston.

The sadness of this exhibit is that we do not learn:  since World War II, there have been so many incidents of genocide in Europe, Asia and Africa.  The United States was slow to desegregate the Afro-Americans, and even slower to elevate the Native Americans to a respected group.  We still have racism, and we still have prejudice, lessons we have not learned from our own history and the history of the world.  We are trying. I can not say how much better we are doing. Many of the women in one of my book discussion clubs thinks we are treating Muslims much the same.  In many ways, I agree. 

I think we have some personal and political hysteria that every Muslim is bad, and we are vulnerable to attack from them.  Lubbock has a mosque, and on multiple occasions, it has been vandalized. The community as a whole despairs at these attacks, but obviously, they have happened.  Many of the larger Christian churches in the community, after 9-11-2001, spent Sunday School time studying Islam.  That is such an enlightened response to that attack, it made me proud. 

I have learned some about Islam as many prisoners are Islamic. And, I am just interested in being more aware and open minded, if I can be, and education helps.

So, I am grateful to be able to view the "Deadly Medicine" display. I am grateful to learn about more about the horrors I of which I already knew, so maybe I can be more mindful if dignity, respect, civil and human rights as I deal with disenfranchised people in the course of my life.  I am grateful to keep alive the message we must work to stop people from going there again. 

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Medicine Droppers

I bought pet feeding bottles for TLK.  However, the nipples were very stiff. Even with a much enlarged hole, the amount of effort required to produce contents from the bottle through the nipple were such that I did think that TLK could successfully suckle from the bottles.  So, I used a large plastic medicine dropper that I had.

When TLK became constipated, and I thought mineral oil could help, I bought additional medicine droppers to use for the mineral oil: these were in a blister pack, glass, with one straight tip and one bent tip.  I got to thinking about it, after a few days (I am very slow) and realized, if something happened to the plastic medicine dropper, I would be stuck.  The glass droppers would do, but not as well as the large plastic dropper. 

I was in a grocery store last night, (a local chain that does a lot of community service, and amongst my list of to look for items was a medicine dropper.  I could not find one, so asked the pharmacy technician.  He informed me that the store gave those away, and they gave me one.  Wow!....


Friday, May 13, 2011

Doing Better, I Think

I think TLK is dong better.  Both eyes are now open.  The kitten can climb into and out of the shallow basket that has been her home.  The kitten made 3/4 of a circle from the basket and around the living room to get to me, to be fed. I was concerned because the kitten did not waken hungry, and did not waken until I woke the kitten for feeding.  Today, that has changed. I did not work today, and the kitten was in the living room with me as I was reading. More than once it awoke, and cried until I picked it up.  It was not consoled by being picked up, but the tenor of its cry changed.  Mmmm.

From almost the beginning, urinating was not a problem.  Until last night, bowel movements were few and far between, even with the help of mineral oil. But last  night and today, the bowel movements, while not large, have been consistent as to be expected for a baby.

I am feeling encouraged. I do hope this kitten survives.  I have no delusions that while it seems to be doing well, things can still happen.

The adult cats have settled in.  Haiku comes around to sit with me on the bed, on the sofa and at the computer, not quite as always. She does not use the chair to the right of the computer, as the kitten is on the floor in the basket, to the right. But otherwise, she is cool.

Sake is not happy. She will come into the living room when the kitten is there, but only with very vocal complaint. She is wanting attention, but in other rooms. And she hisses at the baby.

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Strange Spring

I do not know for sure, because I have not documented the weather in the past, but this seems to be a strange spring.  We have already had some 90 and 100 degree weather.  The wind has blown incessantly it seems, although the dust storms have not been as vicious as some I have seen in the past.  Now it is May, and we are having some cooler weather.  We have had minimal rain, and are in a terrible drought.

There have been killer tornadoes in the southeast, and the Midwest flooding is some of the worst it has been. 

Who knows what is going on. There may be some speculation and attempts at scientific explanations, but what happens, happens...

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Changing Plans

I had an plan to attend a mystery reading book last night.  I even read the book.  But I also had the opportunity to attend a lecture about the Roma,  "The Genocide of the Roma in the Holocaust," lecture by Ian Hancock, at the Museum of Texas Tech University   Do you know who the Roma are?  I have heard about gypsies before, and occasionally in writings, I have heard characters described as of Romany decent. But I never really understood what that was referring to.  I knew they were dark, and often described as swarthy.  But beyond that, I did not understand.  I also knew that Hitler and the Nazi regime wanted to eliminate them along with the Jews.  I had no idea how widespread they were. I went to the lecture. It opened a new part of the world to me, something I had little, peripheral information about.  Wow!  That was really exciting.

The lecturer last night explained how the people were from the Indian subcontinent, and how they eventually settled in Europe.  He talked about how they are very clannish, and do not encourage education. He also talked about how they do not usually identify themselves in public. He made a distinction between the Roma, and the Irish gypsies who are Irish and travel in wagons, hence the name gypsy.  He said the Roma were called Gypsies, because people thought they originally came from Egypt.; These articles explain about the Roma. They are consistent with what the speaker said last night. He is a college professor, and he is a Roma.

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I am reading a book for the Reading Circle of the Texas Tech Osher Lifelong Learning Institute  The books we read expand my horizon, as I generally only read mysteries, unless another book comes highly recommended to me. 

This month, the group will be discussing Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. I have struggled to read this book.  There are several reasons.  First, as most of us probably admit to, the variations of Russian names for one person is confusing.  Not unfathomable, but confusing.

Second, the author has a mishmash style:  Sometimes he uses "here we have;" sometimes he uses capitals and blocks of data. His grammatical style is often obtuse, very much what I would think might occur if someone was translating from Russian, and not doing it very well.

Third: There are multiple chronologies in the book. Some make sense, but many do not.

I am in hopes of completing this book before the discussion group next week, but if that does not happen, it does not happen. 

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So it Rained. Finally.

Well, we had a chance of precipitation, and early this morning, a storm line blew threw.  There was wind, thunder, lightning, some hail up to golf ball size, and rain. It started about 5:10 or so AM. I was wakened by the thunder and the weather radio.  I stayed awake, but moved to the sofa and just relaxed. Storms do that to me.  I had The Weather Channel on, for updates.  

My rain gauge, which seems to "under report" indicated a little less than a half inch of rain. The hail was so sparse, no damage occurred. By this afternoon, the wind, which blew all day, had dried the fields and dust was blowing, once again. 

Yesterday, I did not open the windows because of the heat.  Today, I have opened the house, in hopes of cooling it down, but it takes a while.

Thank God for the rain!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Rocking Chair

My mother had a Boston Rocker.  I loved that rocking chair.  We had some lawn chairs with rockers, and they were fine, but not the same. 

A friend of mine had an old rocker that was wonderful to sit in.  I really enjoyed it.  He also had a swivel rocking recliner that came nowhere near the rocking chair.

Later in life, my brother bought some rocking chairs for my parents, to use on their porch.  They were exquisite. 

I am not sure where those rockers are now.

I do not have a rocking chair.  I have told myself several times that I want a rocking lawn chair, but that has not happened.  But, I have never considered a real rocking chair as a piece of living room furniture.

I do not have the room in my livng room for a rocking chair.  But with feeding a baby kitten, I am more and more convinced I need a rocking chair.   Hmm, we shall see what we shall see.

A rocking chair can be exquisite.


Desert Snow

Writing about the desert brings to mind  a trip I made from Lubbock, TX to Phoenix, AZ in December 2004.  There was a slight winter storm, so snow covered the desert. 

I remember year after year of magical snows in New England: the snow, especially powdery snow, made the world look like a crystal kingdom.  It coated everything and sparkled in the sunlight. At night, in the moon light it still sparkled.

This trip into the desert was also magical. The snow was a fine accent on the geological and plant features along the way. It sparkled and highlighted the outlines with a sharp contrast to the features.  It was awesomely beautiful.

Years ago, when I still lived in New England, I read a story about a family who were spending Christmas in the desert. They missed the snow and cold, but found a tumbleweed tree, and decorated it, and shared their Christmas spirit with other folks in the campgrounds.  When I drove through this winter storm in the desert, it reminded me of that story and its message about relationships and human connections. It swelled my heart, and as I re-tell this tonight, it swells my heart again.

The desert is not devoid of life and human connection.  We just have to open our minds, our eyese and our hearts to know what is there.

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This is the Desert - Well, Sort Of

I am not going to write about the drought which we are experiencing, and which is making us all heart sick.  It is too sad to think about.

I am going to write about the night air.  It was in the 90s today.  It was hot.  But there was a brisk breeze, which ameliorated the intensity of the heat, some.  Not much, but some.

Until the sun began to sink, and the direct rays were no longer beating on us.  In the shade, and in the cooling influence of the breeze, the evening air was really, really pleasant.  This is an aspect of the South  Plains that is often over looked.  Until sometimes as late as July, the evening air in Lubbock is very pleasant. The cooling effect of the breeze is amazing, and it makes for sitting out in the night air so pleasant.  And, this year because of the drought, we do not have the mosquitoes bothering us like we do some years.  So nice.

We are not technically a desert region: we are considered "semi-arid."  I think the distinction is the difference in average rain fall.  But like the true desert, we experience the temperature extremes between night and day. Such as today and tonight.  

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Lazlo Toth and Corporate America

In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s I frequently wrote letters to corporate American, generally with complaints, but sometimes with praise regarding the way they conducted business.  I was a fan of Saturday Night Live, and the character by Don Novello, Father Guido Sarducci. At some point in time, he started writing letters to corporate and government individuals, using the name of Lazlo Toth, with some success of response  I told a supervisor about my penchant for writing to corporations about various things, and she turned me on to Lazlo Toth. He has a few books. I already own a couple, and am ordering another.

I do not write to corporate American with the frequency I used to write, but sometimes, I still do let corporate America know what I am thinking.  Maybe I need to do more of that.  (Maybe we all do.)

Most recently, I wrote to the people who market the Acura Their marketing campaign calls the car "aggressive."  I think we have too much aggression in society, and touting a car as aggressive will only add to our ills. An aggressive car begs for the driver to engage in road rage with no abandon, and no regard for consequences. 

I have sent a snail mail letter to the car company about my concerns.  But really, folks, are they not smart enough and wise enough to realize that advertising a car as aggressive is inviting road rage.  Are they not smart enough to realize that someone being sued for road rage will blame their advertisement as the precipitating or influencing factor?

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Change of Habits

I am a creature of habit.  One is that I tend to plan a kayak ride for later in the day.  I think this is because during the week, I go kayaking after work.  There has not been too much kayaking this year: the wind has been too strong, and the dust makes being outside uncomfortable.  But, I have had the chance to go.

I was thinking about kayaking later today.  But, I heard the weather report, and it send windy later today, with possible gusts up to 40 mph.  I decided to get out there and get it done.  I am glad I leave the kayak loaded for the most part during the summer.  It makes getting out to the lake quicker, one less thing to do to get there.  

I had a great ride around the lake.  Yesterday, I saw a sailboater loading up to go.  I would have enjoyed watching him on the water. Later in the day, I saw a fisherman launch a 2 person sit-on-top kayak.  Today, there was a john boat out, and the occupant was obviously fishing.  It is nice to get out.

I also enjoyed the birdwatching both days.  Some different birds, some the same.  And of course, the turtles were sunning.

I am glad I am flexible enough to change my habits.

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Proud to be there

This past week was officer appreciation week.  The Montford prison does it up right:  they prepare a meal for the staff.  And there is a ceremony dedicated to the officers who lost their lives in the line of service for the past year.  There were none in Texas this year. That was good. The ceremony was, as always, impressive.  In addition to the riderless horse, a bagpiper and drummer played Amazing Grace.  A bagpipe always sends chills and brings tears.  The article gives a good, if incomplete, description of the ceremony and the symbols involved.  Everyone did a good job.  Honoring our staff gives me pause to think, and proud to be a part of this unit, even though I am not a correctional officer.

I included in the labels "celebration."  While this was a memorial and a ceremony, it was also a celebration of life and the good that correctional officers do.

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It is a luxury not to have to do a lot today.  Many of my Sundays are very restful, for which I am grateful. Today started, as it does every day, with feeding the adult cats.  Added to that, I fed the baby, which went well. 

Sake was inconsolable about not being able to go out, so soon after I finished feeding the baby, we went out front.  After a while Haiku joined us.  This was fine with me.  It was a beautiful morning, and I read the newspaper and did the puzzles while they were out.

By the time I came in, it was almost time to feed The Little Kitty again.

So, much of my morning was taken up with cat care.  How blessed I am to be able to have this luxury.

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Little Kitty

I really do not want another cat. I have two, and the balance of acceptance between them is precarious at best. Even as adults, after 8 and a half years, they do not always get along.  It is rare they can both be on the bed at the same time.  It is rare they can both be on the sofa at the same time.  The only place they can both be at the same time regularly is the garage. I am not in there, so I do not know what kind of aggression or abuse occurs in the garage, if any.

Yesterday afternoon, I found a very listless kitten in my backyard. I knew of this kitten's existence for about a week, and the mother seemed to be feeding it, although the mother did not spend a lot of time with this kitten (and it's litter mate, whom I found dead, later on yesterday.)

I really thought the kitten was dead at first, and brought it into the house to wrap it to put it in the dumpster.  Dummy me. The kitten was alive.  I quickly made some powdered milk with melted butter in it, and dropped some food into the kitten after I finally found the medicine dropper. I put it in a cushioned basket, and went to a nearby pet store, where I got some kitty formula and nursing bottles.

I tried several times to get the kitten to drink, and it was very resistant. I could only get it to take drops.  Although the guides say to feed a kitten every 2-4 hours (depending on the guide), I decided to let it sleep through the night, and see what I could do in the morning. 

So, in the morning, I got drops down the kitten.  I was talking to a friend about this, and recounted, how, once when I was tending an orphaned calf, he did not want to eat.  We added Karo syrup (sugar syrup) to the formula, because I knew that farmers put molasses on hay for cows in the northeast, to stimulate their appetite.  So, I made up some sugar water, and used it for mixing the powdered kitten milk. I do not know if it was the sugar water, or strength from the little milk the kitten was consuming, or prayers answered by God, but the little kitten had a good dinner later afternoon.  

Early evening, I fed the kitten again, and again it had a good meal, as compared to the drops it was taking earlier today, and last night.  I have to think it is the sugar water, and our faith that what should be will be.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How Late is Too Late?

The Angels and Red Sox baseball game was scheduled to be on ESPN television tonight.  I had a meeting I wanted to attend, but turned the game on when I returned home.  Except, I saw "bonus coverage" including part of the Yankee vs. Tigers game.  A couple of times during the telecast, the announcers talked about the Red Sox vs. Angels rain delay, and the game was in the top of the 5th inning.

The game was scheduled to start a little after 7 PM Eastern Daylight Time.  It is now almost 11 PM Eastern Daylight Time, and they are getting ready to resume the game. There are a few fans left in the ball park. 

I understand why they want to restart the game.  It will not take much more to make the game a complete game, even if there is another rain delay afterwards.  Completing the game means that it will not have to be rescheduled, which chore sometimes is very difficult. My question is, how late is too late to restart a baseball game?

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Doing Better

Years ago, I was at a training of some sort, and the comment was made that life is a series of relapses.  It is an interesting concept, and one that I think holds true. And, it does not necessarily apply to drug use or alcohol use, or even illness, although that is the context in which we usually think of relapse.

We go through periods of taking really good care of ourselves physically, then we slack off.  We might diet very carefully, then not pay attention to what we eat, or we gain back weight we lost, or eat the wrong foods, or too little food.  We may have episodes of insomnia in our lives, then we sleep well.  We may exercise regularly, then for some reason, do not have the time, mental or physical energy, or have ill health that interferes with exercising.

The list is endless: we may be diligent about housework, then decide something else is more important. We may have a garden one year, and decide not to worry about the yard and garden the next.  We may become involved in a craft, but then lose interest.  We may study for a degree or pleasure, then decide not to tax our brain.  We may follow sports very closely, then decide to put our time elsewhere. Or, we become discouraged by the performance of a once winning team that is now in a losing cycle.  We may be very active in our community, and then we may decide we have had enough.

I am not sure if life is a series of relapses, but it seems to me, we do cycle a great deal.  And, knowing this, we can expect that there are times in our lives when we are in a down cycle. And, in an up cycle.  

And, being in a down cycle does not mean we are at rock bottom, just we are not doing as well as we would like.  Just like being in an up cycle does not mean we have "arrived," just that we are doing better. So, in a down cycle, we know we can work to turn the corner, and go up. As with when we are doing better, maybe it is the best we can hope for, but that is not so bad. And, we can try not to start a down spin.

Maybe thinking in terms of life going in cycles can give us a perspective on where we are today, and where we would like to be; what part of the cycle we are in, and what we can do to correct or maintain it.


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In The Spot Light

In this day and age of instantaneous news, it is amazing how many spectacular events are "in the spotlight."  Last week's tornado outbreak with the hundreds of deaths and untold numbers of injuries, and property damage of untold value.  I learned about this news story from The Weather Channel.

The "wedding of the century" between Prince William and Kate Middleton was another international media event. While I have seen or heard snippets of coverage on TV, the newspaper, the radio, and the Internet, I did not follow the story closely, nor watch the event.  I know this is a public couple and the publicity is to be expected, and maybe, hoped for, but I do not wish to follow their private lives.

The killing of Osama bin Laden is another international news story that I missed until the next day, because I was not watching TV nor listening to the radio.  I was on the computer, but not on the Internet, so I missed out until I was going to work the next morning. 

Many of the "big news" stories are peripheral to my life.  Am I a "bad citizen" because of that?  I hope not.  I get a hard copy of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal.  I read the headlines of the Greenfield Recorder,  the New York Times, and the Austin Statesman on line. So, I see the headlines, and a get information from a variety of perspectives.

I just do not study the news nor immerse myself in it.  I want to be informed, but I find the news distressing and depressing.  And, sometimes, I feel like a voyeur into the lives of people who are in the news.  I think some of them do not mind, because they put their stories out there. But, I mind. I do not want to know their personal, private business.  I deal with the personal, private lives of patients everyday.  I guess that meets my quota.

I am on Facebook, and I will tell you, I really am a voyeur there. I rarely post on my own page, and only seldom comment in someone else's.  I am thankful that my younger relatives share their lives so freely, as it has been a way for me to get to know them and keep up with their lives. 

I am just not that interested in sharing things with so many people.  If you want to know, send me an email, and ask.  If I am repeating myself, I know how to cut and paste, so it is not boring or tedious to me to answer you. But my life does not need to be in the spotlight.

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Human Beings vs. Human Doings

I wrote about doing the other day.   Sometimes, I find myself doing a lot.  Today was a day when I had several activities to which I wanted to attend.  But they were all manageable, and in between, I had some down time.

I am sure you have heard this before:  We are human beings, not human doings.  That can be applied in more than one way.  We do not always need to be doing anything.  We should allow down time so we can appreciate the world around, including other people, the flora and fauna of the world, the beauty and scenery around us, whether created by the supreme being, his universe, or by humankind.

Many of us place no value in our basic existence. We identify ourselves by various means:  how we are related to someone, where we live, what we do for employment, what we accomplish.  Those traits are all important factors in expressing who we are, and help to distinguish one person from another.  But those factors imply or relate directly to doing.  They do no relate the message that I am who I am, and have value as a human being, just because I am alive.

For those of us who can accept this message, it makes the rest of our life have a different meaning.  If I can no longer do what I do, be in a relationship that I want, have the material things I want, I am no less a person, and have no less value.

If we remember to think this way, it reminds us what we have been taught as Christians, by our Lord, that whatever we do to the least of our brothers, we do to the Lord.  It reminds us that no matter how dire the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we have value as a human being because we are alive.  And, because of that value, we have a responsibility to live our life to the best of our ability to do so, no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Although the United States Delcaration of Independence says "all men are created equal" it does not say we are all created the same.  Equal implies with the equal opportunity to strive for the unalienable rights with which the Declaration says we are endowed.  The Declaration does not say we all have equal talents and abilities to undertake that effort, nor will we achieve equal results.  We just have equal rights to be alive and live a human beings.

We ignore the lesser amongst us too often.  Their being means that they deserve our respect and dignified attention as do those with great wealth, power, prestige and fame or notoriety. We just forget that too often.  This is not a lesson to remember just at Christmas time, when we traditionally reach out to the lesser amongst us.  And, it is a lesson we should call to mind at Easter, when we celebrate the miracle of Christ's resurrection. 

But, it is primarily a lesson we should call to mind every day, when we see someone in lesser circumstances as ourselves.  Not to appreciate how much better off we are than someone else, but to look within, and see what we can do to offer that person some recognition of that person's worth as a human being. It may be a kind word, a blessing, a smile, an acknowledgement of their personhood, or it may be some sort of material help or assistance. It does not have to be much, just something to say "you are, so you have value."

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