Thursday, February 24, 2011

Items on a table

1. Table -- Mother and Daddy's drop leaf table which sat at the end of the living room in the house where I was raised. I'm fairly sure that they bought the table at the furniture store where Daddy worked in St. Louis when they got married in 1948. I wish I could remember the name of that store.

Our house did not have a dining room, so for Sunday dinner {I mean every Sunday} and for company, we opened it to its full size for dining. We set the table with good china, silver, and crystal for this weekly dinner. By the time we children were grown, almost all pieces of my mother's wedding china were chipped or broken. Mother didn't care -- it was about learning how to set a table, use and wash fine china, treat treasured guests, and celebrate the Sabbath.

2. Basket -- My childhood and long time friend Gloria sent flowers to my mother's funeral in that basket. One of the loveliest arrangements we received, she signed the card, "I will miss 'Hazel' too." Gloria and I called our mothers by their first names behind their backs. Her mother's name was "Barbara." We didn't do it to be disrespectful -- we did it for giggles.

3. Cat -- Tallulah

4. Alphabet needlepoint in frame hanging on wall behind the table -- Cross-stitched by my sister-in-law Sally and given to me as a Christmas present, the pattern has the alphabet, four cats, and three mice on it. She chose it all to match the colors of my house. :)

5. Black and white photos in frame -- On left, taken by my Aunt Ava, sit my Aunt Eleanor, my sister, and I on a bench outside a road stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia, 1961. On right, taken by my mother, my Aunt Harriett and I pose in front of the Little White House in Pine Mountain, Georgia, 1956.

6. Stack of old pocket Bibles -- Bottom one belonged to my grandmother and the others to my aunts. Top Bible has a wooden cover and given to me in 1960 by my Aunt Harriett; she bought it in Germany.

7. Random pottery -- Given to me by an assistant principal I worked for because I loaned her a book to read. I'm thinking she really liked the book.

8. Paperweight -- This sat on the washstand in my grandparent's house for as long as I can remember. Inside the glass on the left-- their church -- Salem Methodist in Spout Spring, Va, and on the right, the preacher. Date of both photographs on back of paperweight is now illegible.

9. Oil lamp -- This lamp was a wedding gift for my father's Aunt Josie and Uncle Gus in 1900. Some time later, they converted it to electricity.

10. Outgoing mail -- Three letters that contain a hilarious cartoon about Google addressed to my brother in Colorado, my niece and her husband in California, and my nephew in Texas. Also in the pile, a music CD [how archaic, I know] of songs I thought my friend in Florida husband would like.

11. Keen Kutter Kombination Razor Hone -- Extra Quality Simmons Hardware Co. Inc.-- Manufactured in the USA -- This tin belonged to David's granddad -- inside the tin, the "hone" is still there.

BTW: I took this picture today because I thought Tallulah looked so cute sleeping in that basket in our foyer. When I went to post it, I began to note the "items on a table " and what story they each tell.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Becoming Justice Blackmun

Linda Greenhouse, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for her coverage of the Supreme Court in The New York Times, writes an engaging, and rather fascinating non-fiction account of the inner-workings of the court from the personal correspondence and notes of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun in her book titled Becoming Harry Blackmun.

Blackmun, who was elected to the court in 1959 and retired in 1994, left behind in his personal papers more than a half a million items, contained in 1585 boxes, with the instructions they be sealed until five years after his death. Blackmun died in 1999, so the library opened his collection in 2004 --- from those Blackmun papers, Greenhouse weaves her story of Blackmun's life and some of the famous court cases under his judgeship.

Without interviewing family members or former law clerks, Greenhouse takes Blackmun's own notes and narrates a life of a "consequential" man whose life "spanned decades of the twentieth century and left its mark not only on the law but on American society."

A fascinating read from the grass roots origin of Blackmun's family to the hallowed halls of the nation's most powerful court, Greenhouse's work never bogs down. She wisely chooses to limit her focus and direction by following the "seams" of several significant and highly controversial cases including abortion, the death penalty, and sex discrimination as well as Blackmun's complicated relationship with his boyhood friend Warren E. Burger, who served as the fiftieth chief justice of the United States.

Blackmun, not only meticulous in his writing of his arguments [he was a stickler for exact writing and correct grammar and punctuation-- he corrected his law clerks and even other justices -- gotta love that], agonized and struggled over the court cases, wondering about the precedents set and the possibilities of decisions being overturned in the future.

Blackmun worked in service for the American people. At a speech at the Aspen Institute, he admitted that even though working for the court was a "privilege," "it has not been much fun."

Indeed, for as Greenhouse presents Blackmun's tenure as a Chief Justice, he spent long days, cloistered in a law office, alone for hours at a time, where he mulled over details of cases, rereading and reviewing the files until he felt he understood what direction to take.

Whether or not I agree with Blackmun's views is not important --- what I did understand is that Blackmun gave his life to his judgeship -- and performed his "duty" to the best of his ability. I admire that, regardless of whether I agree with his decisions.

Great book. :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sncky, Dolpins, and Shutters

Sncky parked in front of Laura and me at the Outlet Mall in Orlando.
There were so many languages in that mall that I felt like I was at the Tower of Babel.
Or should I say, Babble?
That place was a nightmare.
Large people, small people, kids who should be in school, people who should be working -- it was the middle of the day on Wednesday.
What the heck?
They were shooting some money into the economy.

Note to self: Never go to that mall again. Ever.
In fact, no mall ever.

I love these chairs at the beach bar, Dolphin View.
Note: We saw no dolphins viewing.

These shutters belonged to a defunct car repair.
I love the playfulness of colors in Florida --
everything here bleaches out so --
that this colorful array shows optimism by its artist.
I guess, that was before they went out of business?

Wait. Here's the front door -- maybe he's at the beach?

That's all I got.

The House of Gentle Men

As I put that title in the subject line of this blog, I thought how confused some of you might be who have been reading my blog since I have been in Florida.


House of Gentle Men?


The House of Gentle Men, written by Kathy Hepinstall, tells the story of Charlotte, a young Louisiana woman damaged by her rape on a riverbank by three soldiers who had been training nearby for "maneuvers" against the Germans during World War II. Struck mute by her experience, Charlotte lives as a recluse with her own "sin" and secret, with her younger brother, Milo, a violent young man still working through a childhood accident, of which he was responsible, that killed his mother.

Nearby the home of Charlotte and Milo live the household of the Olen family, a family who moved to the outskirts of the small, Louisiana town eight years before. Mr. Olen, whose wife ran off with another man, welcomes veterans of World War II, who traumatized by their war experience, seek an existence of quiet, rules, and "gentleness." These men, in turn, minister in a "gentle" way to the local women who had been hurt, abused, neglected, abandoned, or left lonely. As Hepinstall notes, "Past and present, crime and forgiveness, silence and words, sin and redemption [shall join] hands."

The novel's premise is quite imaginative --- almost myth like --- but the intent is clear -- life is empty and hopeless without forgiveness as Charlotte reveals at one point near the end of the novel:"I needed to be enemies with God. It helped harden my heart, [but]I forgive you. Because God forgives you."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Moon over New Smyrna

overlooking the ocean -- from the upstairs master bedroom

*shuffle, ball, chain*


Night. Night.

It is well with my soul....

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Last night, Laura took me to a beautiful pocket park to take pictures of the Indian River at sunset.
As I stood there, camera poised to attempt to capture the beauty of the water, the sky, and the light, I hummed that song in my head.

"... peace, like a river..."

Totally. Peace.

Spafford knew, didn't he?

Large bodies of water bring out the spiritual in me.

BTW: My Dad loved that song -- it reminded him of his Aunt Alice, his father's sister who had a beautiful singing voice. In the small county in Missouri, Callaway County, where my dad grew to manhood, there was high demand for her to sing at funerals. My father, who began driving at age eleven, drove her to and from the funerals of his neighbors and sat in the back of small, country churches and listened to her sing that song.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Seen" and "Unseen"

this morning's sunshine in Laura's dining room

When I [and David] are here visiting with our friends in Florida, I always take the opportunity to bless the wonderful food that Laura prepares. A fabulous cook, she swears she adores cooking for "one she loves."


As I say grace over the food she has made, I always thank God not only for his bounty, but for the blessings "seen" and "unseen," a phrasing that Laura loves.


If one ever doubts the presence of God, then look at these photos --- I think, you would categorize these as blessings "seen."

Monday, February 14, 2011

First Night

from the inside steps

East and West
6:15 PM

It shouldn't.

7:00 AM
New Smyrna Beach

The day beckons. Begs. Proclaims. Announces. Arrives.


What a greeting...

as I told my friend Laura this morning --- as I channeled Oklahoma --- "oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I've got a glorious feeling, everything is going my way," and if it gets better than this -- it shouldn't.


I am in Florida for ten days. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Meant to Be

As I read Walter Anderson's memoir, Meant to Be, I couldn't decide if Anderson wrote with the same voice as he does for the readers of Parade magazine, or if I was just expecting more from a book that promised to tell "the true story of a son who discovers he is his mother's deepest secret."

Nothing against Parade magazine, but I only flip through it if I have ten minutes to spare, and there is nothing else around for me to read.

Regardless, Anderson's elementary style does deter, for me, from what could have been a great story of what my dad would have called "rising above it."

Born on the wrong side of the tracks in Mount Vernon, New York, Anderson opens his retrospective work by describing one of the many beatings that he received from his alcoholic father. The youngest of three children, Walter learns to deal with his situation at home by escaping into the pool halls, the home of his best friend, his novels [which angered his father further], and, at one point, into being academically outstanding.

Dissatisfied and angry at his father's continued abuse, Anderson, however, quits high school at sixteen and joins the Marines, a move that took him to Vietnam and brought him back to the states able to face the demons of his past -- one of those demons being the father who beat him.

When his father died, Walter finds out from his mother that the man who treated him so miserably was not his biological father -- a secret that Walter would keep for the next thirty-five years.

This memoir is Walter's journey from being a abused young man into a successful editor of Parade magazine and an author of five books.

It's a good, decent read -- it's just not a demanding one. :)

BTW: A book that greatly influenced Anderson --- Elie Wiesel's Night.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

For the Love of a Cat


Our beloved cat Keats has had a hard week -- actually, she's had a hard couple of months. On Monday, Keats had surgery to remove a mass [about the size of a quarter] from her chest.

Since Thanksgiving, Keats has been on a licking binge. Cats lick a lot, they're fastidious animals, persnickety about their grooming, and usually, this would not be cause for concern except that she was licking small holes, little larger than pinholes, in her chest.

We took her to the vet.

Vet: She has terrible allergies.

We gave her allergy shots. We showed the vet the small pin holes she was making in her chest with her excessive licking -- licking that over time was breaking the skin.

Vet: She has terrible allergies.

David and I went with it: Keats has terrible allergies. Okay.

So, for a few days, the holes would heal -- and we would think, "good," and then a few days later, we would see the holes were back.

Back and forth this went: Holes, healed, holes, healed, holes, healed.

*sings "knees and toes" in head*

David called the vet.

Vet: Allergies are bad.

So, we tried behavioral modification.

When Keats began to lick for too long a period of time, we'd interrupt her. Distract her with "cat babble" or toys or we'd just place our hand on her chest and say loudly, "Quit licking."

Like all cats, she put us on "IGNORE."

Lick. Lick. Lick. Lick.

David plied her with a anti -itching medication, gave her an antibiotic for the holes she created, and tried to keep her craziness under control.


Last week Keats became lethargic; she slept a lot {what's a lot with cats?}, and, of course, licking when she was awake. At night, she sneaked in the bed after we were asleep and demanded to be by our heads, her incessant licking keeping us awake.

She began to hide in the closets.

She quit jumping on the bathroom counter for water from the faucet -- she quit demanding that the front door be opened so that she could survey the front yard for Stumpy and Lumpy. She slept. She ate some, but she wasn't being Keats.

On last Saturday, as I sat at my computer, Keats, who had been lying on the bed in the spare bedroom, came running to me and blood leaked from her chest.

I quickly grabbed a old towel [argh! my new carpet! my new carpet!] and put pressure on the wound. Keats made the most pathetic meow. She looked up at me and cried again. Her eyes practically glazed over. Keats was sick.

Tears came to my eyes.

I called the vet and then rushed her there. Since it was Saturday, a different vet examined her. He turned a mewling, pitiful Keats on her back, and then announced: "There is something bothering this cat under the skin."

Me: Allergies?
This Vet: I don't think so. She has a tumor or some kind of foreign body that she is trying to get out.

Me: Tumor?
Vet: Possibly.
Me: Tumor? Like cancer?
Vet: I don't know. We need to do some exploratory surgery to see. She has an abscess, and it will need to be drained. I'll do that first -- then you need to bring her back to see what's up.

My heart fell. Could Keats have cancer?

My baby Keats?

The vet took her from the examination room to get better light and to drain the infection, and I could hear Keats's cries.

Like a mother whose child is crying, my heart filled with love and concern. I held back the tears.

It was tough to hear her meowing like that, but worst of all, I felt guilty -- perhaps negligent. I had been too busy fussing with my carpet, rearranging my house, and other such trivialities to note that Keats was not being Keats.

I love Keats. Those of us who are childless -- really do love our pets like children, and those of us with children, might just like the cat better. I'm kidding, but I do have nephews.


But. Keats and Tallulah are our responsibility. We adopted them. We took them into our home -- made them house cats -- they depend on us for everything.

To love them, shelter them, feed them, clean out their box -- to see to them.

Keats was sick, and I was distracted.

Mea culpa.

We took Keats back to the vet yesterday to have the packing removed -- another anesthesia, another day of recuperation. When Keats got home late yesterday afternoon, she was still loopy and groggy from the gas. She tried to walk, to eat, to move about the house, but she couldn't do it. She meowed -- in such a way that my heart tugged.

Finally, I settled her on the couch --- when I sat down next to her, she came to my side and snuggled as close as she could get.

Her eyes dilated in big saucers, her black furry chest shaved close and four inches across, the sutures standing out on the raw white of her skin, and the hole where the packing was oozing and wet, she looked up at me and meowed faintly. She wanted to be next to me.


I petted her. I petted her, and I petted her.

After a while, she nodded off to sleep, her warm body and breathing a comfort to me as I comforted her.

Oh. I do love my cat.

What I would do for this cat.

Keats's pathology report came back negative. Keats had an infection that was so deeply embedded under her skin that tissue grew around it and attempted to make it part of her body.

For the next month, Keats will be on powerful antibiotics to counter the infection growing back.

Vet: Keats's digging at herself let you know that something was wrong.
Me: But, we let it go too long.
Vet: No, you did something about it when you were aware of it. Think of me -- I totally missed it.

Phew. We all missed it.

I didn't know what we were gonna do if Keats had cancer. David and I had discussed what we would do "for the love of a cat" and what we wouldn't.

*pets Keats*

Thank God, we didn't have to make that hard decision.


We hope to see Keats at the bathroom sink, at the front door itching to puff up at Stumpy, and begging for canned tuna.

Keats thanks you for reading. Meow.


Keats and Tallulah