Sunday, July 31, 2011


Homeboy, you’re gonna wish one day, 
That you were sittin’ on a gate of a truck by the lake
With your high school flame on one side, ice cold beer on the other
Ain’t no shame in a blue collar forty, little house, little kid, little small town story
If you don’t ever do anything else for me, just do this for me brother,
Come on home, boy.

That's the chorus to Eric Church's country hit, Homeboy. Homeboy is like the story of the Prodigal Son, only in this version, the Prodigal doesn't come home and the elder brother actually wishes he would, and would be perfectly happy not only to kill the fatted calf for him but pop open a few beers as well.

I like the song, and I probably would have just let the problematical lyrics slide over me while enjoying the melody, Church's voice, and the play on words in the first and last lines of the chorus, if it weren't that I have internet friends in this same situation. They've left home and the life that was all planned for them by well-meaning family, and their families aren't taking it well. "Come home", they say, and home is not just a place, but a mindset. "Just do this for me, stop being who you are and be the person I imagined you would be. Otherwise, you'll be sorry."

The song is sung in the first person, but the "I" and "me" of the song isn't the writer, Casey Beatherd. Mr. Beatherd is the son of an NFL general manager and now lives in Nashville and writes songs, so he hasn't been baling hay out in the back forty. It isn't Eric Church, either.  Eric Church has been singing professionally since his senior year in high school, and according to Wikipedia broke up with his first fiancee when her father wanted him to give up singing for a corporate career. Church eventually married someone else, apparently not his high school flame. So our narrator is a fictional character, which is perfectly fine with me, but I'm trying to figure out what to call him.

Let's go with Elder Brother. Elder Brother's love for Homeboy comes through in the song. He truly believes that sittin’ on a gate of a truck by the lake with your high school flame on one side, ice cold beer on the other is what will make Homeboy happy. Those of us looking at the situation from the outside know that if Homeboy were able to be happy with the truck, the lake, and his high school flame, he wouldn't have left that life, but this is what makes Elder Brother happy, so it should make everybody happy. Well, everybody except maybe the songwriter and singer who created Elder Brother, but I do know a lot of people who live this life and they are happy.

I could use a little help unloading these bales
I could keep you pretty busy with a hammer and nails
Ain’t a glamorous life but it will keep you outta jail,
Not worry us all to death

The song only makes sense if Homeboy isn't actually in jail. You can't tell someone who's doing 10-15 in prison to just "come on home boy", unless it's part of a deal you're making with him before you testify at his parole hearing. So while Homeboy's urban lifestyle worries the folks back home, we don't know from the song lyrics that he is doing anything illegal. He could be working at a tattoo parlor. Heck, he could own the tattoo parlor. Elder Brother disapproves of Homeboy's tattoo on his neck, but as I said, I live near a rural area, I know people like Elder Brother, and they have tattoos on their necks, too. Our nearby rural areas are also famous for meth labs. It's not like Homeboy couldn't find plenty of trouble for himself if he came on home, if trouble is what he wants, rather than simply space to live his own life and dream his own dreams. 

I don't know if you could write a song that goes, "Is there some way you could live your life, and I could live mine, and mama and daddy could live theirs, but we could still be a family? Could you come on home for a visit, boy?"  We don't hear Homeboy's thoughts on the subjects, but I've read the thoughts of several homeboys and girls on the internet and I know they aren't asking that question from their side, either, despite all my gentle prodding. I've decided there's no point in trying to give advice to people who've never seen my face.

If Elder Brother were to ask my advice, though, I'd tell him that a place that welcomes you for who you are, not for who they intended you to be, is what I'd call home, boy. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Access Applied? The Ecclesiastical Version

St. Anonymous has a new pastor. Dr. J is the extravert's extravert. She preached part of her first sermon standing on a ladder (something to do with perspective). We went to the welcome luncheon for her a few weeks ago, but in addition, she wanted to meet with church members in small groups. Last night we were part of a group meeting with her in the sanctuary.

Dr. J had three questions to ask us. The first was what we would like to see stay the same about St. Anonymous. The second was what we would like to see change about St. Anonymous. The third was how can we get people closer to Jesus.

I sat patiently through question number one. Before she had question two completely out her of mouth, I jumped in and said, "I am so glad you asked that question. I want to see St. Anonymous become wheelchair accessible."

As I outlined the barriers to accessibility that now exist and my arguments for at least installing automatic door openers, a gentleman toward my right, who has Parkinson's Disease, chimed in his agreement. "Those doors are too heavy for me to open." Dr. J took notes. She agreed when I pointed out that it's hard for people to feel welcomed if they can't get in the door.

The notes are for the article she will write for the St. Anonymous newsletter summarizing the ideas from her nine group meetings. I guess my idea will be buried in there somewhere. Whether anything will come of it, I cannot say. What I promised myself is that I would bring the issue up in an appropriate forum, and I've done that. I'll wait and see what the next move should be.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yesterday Was Anti-Procrastination Day

And I was going to blog about it yesterday, but somehow it seemed more fitting to wait until today. I actually did get something done yesterday that I had been putting off, dusting the other half of the bedroom. While I was off my feet, the dust piled up pretty heavily, and since I can't yet drag the vacuum around to vacuum up the top few layers, I went through three Pledge multi-surface wipes Tuesday dusting just three pieces of bedroom furniture.  One of them was my nightstand, which also needed to be decluttered. The top was home to several receipts, a plastic collar that was supposed to keep Truffle from ripping out his stitches and stayed on him all of two minutes before I realized it also acted as a megaphone for Siamese yowling, a bag of cough drops, and two books that I had started reading and then stopped months ago. So I stashed the cough drops on a shelf inside the nightstand, put the receipts in the plastic basket I use for holding receipts, and moved the collar from the nightstand to a chair. I put the books in the bookcase, and dusted it, the nightstand and my dresser. By then my foot felt sore, so I put the packet of dusting wipes where the cough drops had been and took a break.

That was how things remained yesterday, when a friend posted on Facebook that it was Anti-Procrastination Day. I didn't connect her post with the dusting, but I did notice some dust on an air conditioner vent in the bonus room, and in looking around to find something to reach it, I found a long forgotten lambswool duster. Armed with the duster, I dusted the bonus room, the living room and the rest of the bedroom. I even found a box to put the collar in as a start on a donations box, to which I will add other unneeded items as I come across them. So far it holds only the collar and occasionally Truffle.

When I retired I had big plans for de-cluttering and organizing my house, plans that did not take into account how much I hate housework. For instance, I was going to give one room a thorough cleaning each day until I worked my way through the whole house and started again. Unfortunately, I could never decide where to start. The dining room was the staging area for my photo sorting project, the bonus room has large pieces of furniture that need moving before I could give the floor a good cleaning, my office held boxes for the Boys and Girls Club collection, and so it went.

I did actually get four boxes and four large bags filled up to donate to the Boys and Girls Club, because they sent me a postcard telling me when they would have trucks in the area. I also filled two boxes with books and donated them to a book drive. I got the pictures that I took on my Africa trip digitized and put on disk. I started an ambitious exercise program, until I broke my foot.  I finally trimmed the bedskirt with the seam binding I made three years ago. Once I was allowed on my feet again, I de-cluttered my office and the top of the baking center in the kitchen*, and sorted through and tossed out old clothes that were literally falling apart. I haven't spent all my time since retirement sitting around eating bon-bons, or more recently carrot sticks, it just feels that way.

When you have no fixed schedule and no deadlines, it's hard to set a time to do unappealing chores because there's no reason to do them now rather than tomorrow or the next day, unless someone sends you a postcard saying a truck will be in the area. I get things done a little here, a little there, and when I look back, I often realize I've done more than I think, but my plan to turn into a whole different kind of person, one who is organized and focused and tackles Big Projects, is not going so well.

So having something like Anti-Procrastination Day roll around is really a big help to me. Could we maybe arrange to have it once a week?

* It's actually a base cabinet on rollers with a butcher's block top that's sitting where the unused kitchen desk used to be. It's where we keep baking pans, flour, rice, corn meal, and grits.  It also collects odds and ends, just like the desk used to.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Truffle as a kitten
Yesterday was Truffle's fifth birthday. While for the most part, I anthropomorphize my cat, who probably doesn't regard me as prey only because I provide him with easy access to food and water, I don't celebrate his birthday. We don't make him wear an annoying hat and sit around staring at candles while we sing to him. I did wish him a happy birthday, even though the only word he seems to understand is "outside". I carry on lengthy conversations with Truffle, his part as well as mine, and try not to act surprised when his behavior contradicts my version of his words.

Most of our conversations lately involve the impending arrival of a cat brother or sister from the local animal shelter. While Truffle promises me, using my voice, that he will be kind to the new arrival, I know exactly what is going to happen. He's going to try to eat it. Truffle is as territorial as a gang lord. It took him only a few hours after his arrival at our house to establish himself as top cat.

When hubby first proposed going to the shelter to select a new cat, I asked him what his plan was if the cats don't get along. His response was "They'll just have to get along." Yeah, chief, I'll start circulating the memo. Finally when pushed he decided the new cat could be an outdoor cat if need be.  Well, I told him I needed a plan, not that it had to be a good one.

Not getting another cat is not an option for hubby. Five is not just Truffle's age, but the maximum number of cats we've had at one time. Until Truffle's arrival, the only time we had a problem with a new cat was when the neighbor's cat adopted us despite all four of ours taking a dislike to him. When the neighbors moved and left Imp behind, he became our outdoor cat. When Imp died in a struggle with we don't know what, maybe a possum, he was replaced by Poppy, who became a favorite of the older cats immediately.

So hubby naturally concludes that it will be just as easy this time. I don't know where he has been the last five years of Truffle's life. I have a plan of my own, though. It involves a very large water pistol. If that doesn't work, I still have that gift certificate to the day spa. A spa day for mama while the fur babies battle it out on hubby's watch is my idea of a plan.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On the Mend

At my latest doctor visit, I got the happy news that my foot is mending well. I'm allowed out of my boot and in regular shoes for several hours a day, starting with two hours and working up to six by time I next see the doc in August. I'm also allowed to be on my feet on a fifty-fifty basis, half an hour up and half an hour resting, so I am now able to do my share of the laundry, cooking, and cleaning. I still don't feel ready to drive my car, which has a clutch, so I am housebound unless I get a ride, but hubby is good about that. I also don't feel ready to carry anything much heavier than the laundry or my iPad or dishes to and from the table, but other than showering, driving, and exercising, I've resumed normal activities. The wheelchair went back yesterday.

I've been thinking about a plan for resuming exercise. I had been meeting with a friend at the mall once a week to walk, and once my foot is completely healed, I think I'll resume that first, maybe starting with just one lap. Little Old Lady Exercise Class is going to require a few modifications, too, starting with going just one day a week, not two, and avoiding the moves that require me to be on my toes, or on one foot unless I'm leaning against the wall. The instructor won't complain; she expects us each to adapt the moves to what we can do safely. I'll work my way back up to two times a week as I feel ready.

Weight lifting will probably be the last thing I add, starting with lifts I can do sitting down, like overhead presses, biceps curls, seated flies, maybe even seated good mornings. It will probably be many more months before I'm deadlifting again.

Despite my lack of activity, I have as of today lost close to six pounds since May and seven since March. At this rate, it will take me about a year to get down to the mere overweight range, but one thing experience has taught me is that no matter what you are doing, in a year's time a year will have gone by, so you may as well make the most of it.


Recently, on the blog The Slactiverse, mmy wrote about her mother, a woman whose life sounds extraordinary. Mmy concluded by saying, "Being a hero is not a zero-sum game. The fact that my mother was exceptional doesn't mean that your mother (or your father) was not. I welcome reading comments from readers about the heroes in their lives."

The problem is, my family is somewhat deficient in the way of heroic relatives. My family is somewhat deficient in the way of normal relatives. My family runs more to, well, a charitable way of putting it would be "characters". 

Take my Grandma D, for example. Grandma was a woman of enthusiasm. She loved Friday night wrestling. She loved Friday night wrestling so much she had two autographed pictures of her favorite wrestlers framed and hanging on her living room wall. I was in college before I knew they weren't relatives back in the old country.

She was also devoted to her favorite soap opera, All My Children. She carried on a running commentary on the action, in Italian, as she watched. Despite the fact that I never learned Italian, I usually had a pretty good idea of what she was saying. The gestures helped.

That little matter of bigamy, however, was not really her fault. She thought her first husband, the father of her oldest three children,  was dead when he disappeared during the first world war, so she married my Grandpa and had three kids with him. Then she ran into her first husband. Whoops. And yes, she should have divorced him, remarried Grandpa properly and done something about the kids, but you needed to know my little Italian Catholic grandma. Living in sin was one thing, but divorce? 

Then there's my other Grandma, Grandma F. Compared to Grandma D, she was rather tame and colorless. Like Grandma D, she was an immigrant to this country and spoke mostly Italian. Like Grandma D, she had a large family, seven children, although only one husband. Like Grandma D, she was an excellent cook, only where Grandma D made simple to eat dishes like homemade ravioli, Grandma F made challenging foods like artichokes, and crabs (in the shell) in a red sauce served over spaghetti. I loved her crab spaghetti, but I've never been brave enough to try cooking it myself.

Grandma F was more into fashion and household decor than Grandma D. During the depression, the family lost the house Grandpa had bought in Brooklyn to foreclosure. Grandma just went around the block and bought another house in her own name which they owned until she died. It was a three story Queen Anne with a wraparound porch and a bathroom with cobalt blue fixtures. She kept a large glass goldfish bowl filled with strawflowers on the dining room table, and a flock of pink plastic flamingos in the front yard, next to the three-tier aggregate fountain. Unlike the cotton dresses Grandma D wore, Grandma F favored crepe with beading around the neck for Sunday wear. I get my fashion sense (or lack thereof) from Grandma D but my decorating sense (or lack thereof) from Grandma F. 

In honor of Grandma, even though it's not pink 

Grandma F, however, strayed from the Catholic faith. When she developed Parkinson's disease, she and Grandpa became involved with faith healers and became Pentecostals. I don't know if they got into speaking in tongues, since they spoke Italian and how could I tell, but Grandpa did love to sing hymns. Loudly. All day long. Despite being tone deaf.

Grandpa also took my nearsightedness as a sign of lack of faith and kept telling me how if I only had enough faith, my eyes would be healed and I would not need glasses. I tried leaving them off when he was around and just squinting a lot. Grandpa D was a whole lot easier to be around. He kept chocolate bars in his pockets for his grandchildren and otherwise left us alone. I really wish I'd appreciated him better when he was around.

So that's my gene pool. I grew up and moved halfway across the country to a spot where pink flamingos are the mascot of the  Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade, people eat crabs in the shell, if not in spaghetti sauce, the welcome signs at the state line are in a foreign language, decorating your living room with not just pictures, but the color scheme of your favorite sports heroes is seen as a reasonable thing to do, where the Pentecostals hand out Jack Chick tracts to the Catholics on Mardi Gras, and people drive around with bumper stickers that say, "I'd rather be casting out demons".

I'm home.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Safe Driving in Louisiana

The following is a story I wrote in 1986 or so for a short story contest run by Louisiana Life magazine. I didn't win anything. If I remember correctly, they chose 24 stories to run one each month for 2 years, but the magazine folded after 2 or 3 months. Since the story was written 25 years ago, there are some details that may be hard for people to relate to, but yes, people still had milkmen back then, Joy Browne had not been replaced by Dr. Laura on the radio, and Robin Leach had a television program called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Construction on the Interstate, alas, is with us always.

That was the name of the driver's manual I had to study  the first time I got a Louisiana license: Safe Driving in  Louisiana.  I thought it was named by somebody with a sense of  humor or either a basketball fan or possibly just somebody who had never been on I-10 at rush hour, but I passed my written test one point higher than my husband (now my ex-husband and I bet that was when the trouble began, with that test). I surrendered my New Jersey driver's license and joined the ranks of other Safe Drivers in Louisiana and if that makes you laugh, it should.
 Actually, having both family and friends scattered through at least six states I have had ample opportunity to notice that the two things everybody is convinced of are that (1) his state has the worst drivers in the country and (2) his state has the most crooked politicians in the country.  I mean there may be someplace (like preserved at the Smithsonian) a person who brags about how courteous the drivers of her state are or how  well governed the place is but I have never met this person and I don't expect to either unless it's as the result of a two car collision.  

What brings on these jaundiced thoughts is that I am once again stuck in traffic on the Interstate, the same Interstate they just spent four or five of the most productive years of my  life widening so that people would not get stuck in traffic on the Interstate.  If you live here in Baton Rouge you know what  I mean and if you don't you probably know what I mean anyway because the other thing no one ever says is how fast road construction projects are completed at home.  Of course, the nice thing about being stuck on the Interstate is that at least a deer is not going to attack my car, at least, not likely.  
Yes, I did say a deer and I know what you would be thinking if you saw me now, an ordinary middle-aged lady in an ordinary silver hatchback that there must be at least ten of within three miles of here, that I don't look like the kind of person odd things like that happen to but this did.  I was up on Highway 61 heading back from Wakefield on a job and not  expecting much in the way of trouble except the radio fading  out just as Joy Browne was getting ready to tell that woman with the two-timing husband what to do about it like it always does  although of course I knew what she was going to say, she was going to say "I know this is very painful for you but you can't change the past you just have to think about what you want out of this marriage for the future and be very specific about it", like she always does which is why I don't listen much to Joy Browne anymore but I did then and whenever I had to go up to  Wakefield WJBO would fade in and out like someone just learning  to play the accordion so that was the most trouble I was expecting.  

But I was on the Spillman road heading back to 61 when  this deer came running out of the woods and hurtled straight at  my car and of course I swerved to avoid him just as he leaped  to avoid me with the result that he landed right on the hood of my car and put a dent in it and I wound up in a ditch until two nice men in a pickup truck came by and pulled me out.  This was  not the car I have now but another one that I finally replaced with this one when the air-conditioner broke down in the hottest part of the summer which is the only time they ever do but it was time for a new car anyway what with the old one having 125,000 miles on it and the dent from the deer, and the air-conditioner would have taken more money to fix than I wanted to think about although of course so did the new car. I don't know what happened to the deer: he ran off somewhere and the two men couldn't find him.

Anyway, stuck here in traffic I don't expect another deer to come flying out of nowhere but the other drivers on the road worry me some and besides, I just want to get home.  Ever since I took this job as a representative for the PrettyGoods home decoration and gift supplies people I have just about lived in  this car and come the end of the day I've had enough of it.  If  you haven't heard of PrettyGoods you have probably heard of  something just like it: we pounce on some unsuspecting housewife or even working mom and convince her that she and her  buddies can have fun, do their Christmas shopping and beautify their homes simply by having a PrettyGoods party at her house with all of said buddies drooling over the merchandise and   whipping out their checkbooks eager to buy.  Of course I don't quite put it that way in talking to her because of course the PrettyGoods people have dreamed up some pretty little speeches  for us gift and purchase counselors (they really call us that,  they really do, gift and purchase counselors and the first time  I heard it I burst out laughing and it was almost the end of my career as a PrettyGoods gift and purchase counsellor before it had even begun, but I managed to convince the personnel lady I had asthma so that was all right.) Where was I? anyway, oh yes some pretty little speeches for us GPC's to memorize and they coach us on how to say them so it sounds like somebody just talking, almost.    

Friday, July 8, 2011

Target Practice

It occurs to me that when I post about my husband, I may seem unduly critical. I don't mean to sound critical. Florence King once responded to criticisms of her book Southern Ladies and Gentlemen by saying that she does not stereotype people, she just "points them up", the way Betty MacDonald "pointed up" country people in her book, The Egg and I. I like to think I just "point up" my husband.

Still, it is more than time I pointed up his many virtues, instead of his endearing faults. What started me thinking about his many virtues most recently is the Bruno Mars song, Grenade:

I’d catch a grenade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Throw my hand on a blade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
I’d jump in front of a train for ya (yeah, yeah , yeah)
You know I'd do anything for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Oh, oh
I would go through all this pain,
Take a bullet straight through my brain,
Yes, I would die for ya baby;
But you won't do the same
The first time I heard this song, I wondered how often Mr. Mars was likely to be called upon to catch a grenade for his girlfriend, as opposed to say, picking up his dirty socks, or maybe even running a load of laundry. Sure it sounds romantic to promise to catch a grenade for your lady fair, but that's not the kind of promise that can be easily tested. If he had said, "Honey, I love you so much that I'd even carry your purse for you while you try on clothes at the mall", she could reply with something like, "Does Saturday work for you? Because I need a new dress for your class reunion next month." That'll weed out the talkers from the doers. But what do you say to someone who promises to catch a grenade for you? "Let's go see if they have any at the Army Surplus Store"? No, the extravagant promises of the type Mr. Mars makes are the sort that sound impressive (if you're 18) but are useless in every day life.  

Mr. Mars' other complaint about his girlfriend, besides her unwillingness to make suicidal gestures on his behalf, is that:

Should've known you was trouble from the first kiss
Had your eyes wide open, why were they open? 
This is just a guess, but maybe she was checking for incoming ordinance.

My husband, on the other hand, is not given to making extravagant promises. This is what he does. When we first met, I had a job making home health visits, and a car in its death throes. I had known him for about a week when I mentioned I needed to rent a car to make a home health visit because mine was in the shop. He immediately loaned me his. We spent the rest of the weekend coordinating schedules so we could get the health visit, his grocery shopping, and my grocery shopping done, not to mention getting lunch and going to a party together that night. By the end of the weekend, we were like an old married couple. 

Then he repaired the broken clock on my oven, and exterminated a carpenter beetle that was making a hole in my front porch.

He didn't stop doing helpful things once we were married, either. Twice he made the twenty mile round trip to bring me my extra car key after I locked myself out of my car. Then he bought me a magnetic key holder for the extra key.

And since I broke my foot, he has done all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, chauffeuring, and pet care. I never doubted for a minute he would.

For that matter, I don't doubt that if it came right down to it, he'd catch a grenade for me.

He just won't sing about it.