Archive for June, 2008

Snakes Alive!
June 27, 2008

A walk on the wild side.

-Nelson Algren (1956)


Bailey does not like snakes. As we took our evening “stroll” down to the mailbox earlier this week, he startled at something in the ivy and sharply barked an alert. I say “barked”, rather I’d say he ROARED an alert. I’ve never heard such a tone from him, and it made me look. Tail aloft and rigid in attention, he was frozen in place, looking at something rustling in there. It was a snake! Probably 18 inches long, it was a striped garden-variety specimen, nothing to fear, but perhaps it brought back vague memories for him?


When he was a wee pup, we left him back at Kismet, the kennel from whence he came, as we drove Shannon up to college in the summer of 2004. It was like dog camp for him, cavorting with the other youngsters in the “puppy pen”.


The man who operates the kennel’s name is Guy, and he told us later that one evening he let the pups out for a final romp at night before they went to bed. He said he heard a lot of barking, but then when he heard yelping, he rushed out to find Bailey the brave (or dumb?) puppy, who had just been bitten on the nose by a copperhead as he defended the girl pups (cowering by the gate) against the large snake. Guy snatched Bailey up and called the emergency clinic; the folks there told him to give him Benadryl and put ice on his nose. Guy said he stayed up all night with Bailey in his lap, concerned that his nose would swell up and block his breathing. I remember he said, “I was more worried about him because he was YOUR dog, and not my own!” All’s well that ended well, and Bailey recovered physically.


But does he remember the incident? I do know that every time I uncoil the hose to water the plants, Mr. B. goes ballistic, and chomps away at the sinuous rubber tube. He growls and tugs, and has a grand old time shaking “the snake” into submission. As I sprinkled the dry plants today, I noticed a few pinhole leaks in the hose, thanks to somebody’s sharp teeth!


And so it was with a bit of trepidation that I saw this real live snake right by our driveway. I knew we weren’t in any danger, but I had a vision of Bailey’s going after it, and harming it. The snake was trying to kill a toad, which was almost comical, because the snake was so skinny, there was no way it was going to be able to consume the fat toad. I pulled Bailey away and kept going back to check on the situation. The snake eventually gave up, and I think the poor toad survived, because they were both gone after awhile.


Interestingly enough, it was only the day prior that I discovered a good-sized box turtle ambling down the driveway. I sometimes feel like we are running a reptile/amphibian farm or something, with all the snakes, turtles, toads, etc. not to mention the geckos, salamanders and lizards that are everywhere.


I guess that’s what happens when you live out in the “woods”, which is part of the charm of this place. To think that I live in the middle of a gigantic city and yet I can witness nature at its finest right in my own yard is pretty cool. I wouldn’t want to live any other way!


Play Ball!
June 21, 2008

If they don’t win, it’s a shame!

-“Take Me Out to the Ballgame”


We went to an Astros game out at Minute Maid Park the other evening. It was a firm function, so a number of folks from Joel’s office were there, along with their kids (watching them was the most amusing part of the evening for me). Our block of seats was on the Club level, way out in right field, which was a different perspective than I’m accustomed to.


I used to be an avid Astros fan in late 1960’s/’70’s, and would go to as many games as I could, whenever Dad’s season tickets were available to us. As a teenager, I had “crushes” on several of the players, and collected their cards or publicity photos to hang on my bulletin board. Norm Miller was my favorite; he played right field, and while not exactly the star of the team, he sure was cute!


(note: years later, at another firm function in a Skybox in the old Astrodome, there he was! I mentioned my teenage crush to someone, who proceeded to haul him over and introduce us. How embarrassing! But he was nice as could be. I think it pleased him to be recognized.)


This time, I was familiar with exactly two of the players on the roster. That was pretty pathetic, and made it not as much fun to watch (which is why I enjoyed watching the kids and holding the babies!). Since we were out in right field, we were unable to see the big scoreboard that had all the pertinent info about each player, etc., so most of the time I had no idea who was even at bat. 


We left the game when it was hopeless, and tuned in on the way home. It took us awhile to figure out which station it was on, and when we did, we both were amazed at how inept the two announcers were at capturing the action on the field. As clueless as I was at the game, I remained so in the car.


Thinking about those current radio announcers reminded me of a recent evening when Joel was watching the game on the TV. As I was listening to it from the other room, I was transported back through the decades to my grandparents’ den where Paw Paw used to tune in to the Astros games nightly with his transistor radio (note: prior to the team name change in the mid-60’s, they were the Colt 45’s).


Paw Paw would smoke his pipe and listen to the game, making notes on a scorecard, and we’d all join him as we worked on jig saw puzzles or played card games on the card table (it was a fold up table that just sat there; sometimes we’d eat on it if there was something special on the TV… a rarity back then!).


Shades of gathering around the radio! I discovered that the voice that took me back in time belongs to Jim Deshais, a former pitcher for the ‘stros. To me, his voice reminds me of Gene Elston’s, who broadcast the games on the radio in those early years.


I loved those evenings at my grandparents’ house and wish I could beam myself back to better appreciate them, much like Emily in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town wished to go back in time. If I could, I would savor every small detail of the room, and of my grandparents’ dress, smell, look. I would love on them way more than I ever did, and I would never, ever forget it.


But the truth is, I haven’t really forgotten much of it. I can just about visualize every piece of furniture in that room and all the items on the wall (prints, ceramic ducks, their collection of fire markers, photos, drapes, “Memaw’s chair” and “Paw Paw’s chair” with the small two tiered table between them where the radio sat. And then there was that funky old TV that was enormous in stature, but not in screen. Towards the end, the color was awful, but Memaw being Memaw, she just kept on watching it. How she would be amazed to see sister Mary’s gigantic flat screen TV! I would just love to see the expression on her face!


I’m not sure I’ll ever return to being an avid Astros fan the way I used to be, but I’ll always root root root for the home team, win or lose (and lately, that seems to be their habit!). It runs in the family, you see, and I’ll always cherish that.



Happy Birthday to You!
June 11, 2008

You are so precious to me, cute as can be, baby of mine!
-Mrs. Jumbo


This year, Shannon’s birthday falls on the exact day of the week that it originally fell, a Wednesday. I remember the preceding days with great clarity, and am thinking about them as I write this piece.


For some years prior to her birth, I had been unable to stay pregnant, and it wasn’t until 1985 when my doctor figured out the reason and corrected it with a surgical procedure. Because of that procedure, this particular pregnancy was carefully monitored from day one. And also because of it, I was told I’d always have to have C-sections, so as not to put stress on the scar that now criss-crosses my uterus.


Back then, I worked in the Medical Center, across the street and down a block from my doctor’s office. I’d walk over there for my appointments, never needing to go outside, but rather using the sky bridges and tunnel system. And so it was in April 1986, I was sitting at my desk and talking on the phone to the doctor’s scheduler. She said, “OK, your due date is Friday, June 27, so let’s subtract two weeks and look at June 13.” I thought that Friday the 13 would be a memorable day to be born, especially since I myself was born on a 13. But no, Dr. Carpenter would be out of town that day, so she said, “How about Wednesday, June 11 or Monday, June 16?”


I opted for the former, and she put me on hold. I remember looking out of the window for a long time before she returned to the line and said perkily, “OK, it will be Wednesday, June 11 at 6:30 in the morning.” I told her I’d be there, and hung up. We knew we had a little girl coming, and had her name all picked out. All I’d need to do was fill in her weight on any birth announcements I planned to send.


My last day of work was Friday, June 6. It had been a quiet final week at the office, as my boss had been out of town. I was a little sad to be leaving my job, which was really a very good one, but had made the decision long ago to stay home with all the babies that we hoped to have. So I was also excited to leave behind the stresses of the working world and start my new career as a mom.


The weekend passed uneventfully, as we finished preparing for Shannon’s arrival. On Tuesday, I went in for an amniocentesis test, just to be sure her lungs were good to go, and all was well. So I checked into the hospital and settled into my room. Joel had a bank board meeting to go to that evening, so he didn’t get in until very late. I remember worrying about him, but he finally showed up and promptly fell asleep.


Not me! I was basically awake all night, just thinking about the monumental event that was about to take place. I remember thinking that life as we knew it was now going to be irrevocably changed, and wondered how I would ever handle all the new demands of motherhood.


I asked the nurse to get me up at 3:30 that morning so that I’d have time to shower, wash my hair, shave my legs and do all the things I wouldn’t be able to do for a few days. That done, they took me downstairs for the “prep”, which actually took a lot longer than the procedure itself.


I remember feeling a little anxious about being awake during the surgery and wondering what it would feel like, but there was no need to worry. With a small drape to prevent me from seeing the “action”, I only felt a sensation of pressure. Joel actually watched the process, which was amazing to me. No way I could ever watch an operation!


Before I knew it, there Shannon was! It was 6:40 a.m. and all was well. A nurse took her to get cleaned up, weighed and all that good stuff with Joel taking photos of her all the while. I remained behind while they closed me up; I recall feeling queasy as they re-arranged my insides and very cold on the outside. But I did have a chance to hold that very tiny little girl who weighed 6’11”, born on 6/11. The only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been if she’d been born at 6:11!


Back in 1986, you got to stay in the hospital a long time after having a baby; those were happy days as we got to know our precious little girl and learn how to care for her. But the happiest day of all was when we finally went home that next Sunday, and tested our new parenting skills all on our own.


The past twenty-two years have absolutely flown by, and now our tiny baby is a delightful and quite capable young lady. What a wonderful adventure it has been! And how grateful we are to God for blessing us with such a precious daughter. Happy Birthday, Shannon!

The Past Continues to Haunt
June 6, 2008

Accidents will occur in the best-regulated families.

-Charles Dickens (David Copperfield, 1850)


Dateline: New Orleans, LA, Wednesday, August 30, 1961


In a letter to her mother in law, Minna, Camille Simpson wrote: 

“Last Friday began normally enough. Washing machine arrived back from its second trip to the shop in a month- but in good shape- and early enough for Helen to get us clean for the weekend. In the afternoon I was trying to get a little cooking ahead, since we had a rather full schedule- and right in the middle of getting chicken fried came a brigade of shrieking children, ‘Carol’s bleeding! Hurry hurry!’ Well, I had been moaning and aching around all day (note: she was 8-1/2 months pregnant with what turned out to be a 12.5 lb. baby boy)- but I know I ran the hundred yards in ten seconds- and sure enough, she was bleeding and bad. She’d been riding her bike and showing off in front of the older children by using ‘no hands’ when she and bike parted company and she landed chin first on the curb. A bad deep cut, so we stopped the bleeding and Helen held Carol on one knee and Mary on the other while I alerted the doctor and then we took off. Fortunately, he’s in the neighborhood, and they were ready for us when we got there- and bless her heart, sweet Carol needed seven stitches to get closed up, but she never peeped or even turned pale; just lay there with her little feet crossed and counted the stitches as he took them. Funny part is that I stayed and held her hand and even watched the whole thing without getting squeamish, but haven’t had the nerve to even change the bandage since!”


Fast-forward to Houston, TX, Monday, June 2, 2008


So there I was in the dentist’s chair with “my little feet crossed” once again, as I had more surgery to deal with the repercussions of the above accident, 47 years later! But this time, I have no idea how many stitches I’ve got; they’re not in my chin, but rather in my mouth. For, you see, in the aftermath of the original accident, the nerves in my front tooth “died”, and it turned a pale gray. I had to have a root canal at the tender age of 7, and then once I got a little bigger, I got a crown to cover it. Over the years, I’ve had subsequent root canals, new crowns, some other fancy dental work done, and now, surgery. When will it all end? The endodontist said that next time I have a problem, I may need an implant. Oh, if I could take that day in 1961 back again! I would take a vow to never ride my bike with no hands again.


After my surgery on Monday morning, I was a bit wobbly from the pain medication, and I SHOULD have had somebody drive me home, but stubbornly, I drove myself. Because I never take any sort of pain meds, I think I really reacted to these powerful ones, and I was totally incapacitated for the rest of the day, woozy and queasy. Horizontally, I was fine; vertically, I was a mess! But I soldiered through, making myself eat toast, soft cheese, applesauce and the like through my numb lips. Joel made me some tuna for supper, and I went to bed at 8 p.m., not arising until 8 a.m. on Tuesday.


Tuesday morning, I felt much better, although my mouth was still sore. But there was no way I was taking any more of that medicine! I’d rather be sore than queasy. I took things slowly and eased into my usual routine. By Wednesday, I was pretty well back to normal, albeit with stitches tickling the inside of my upper lip. I even ran errands, made supper and all that stuff after being a lazy bum for two days. And so it goes. My “vacation” is now over, and am I glad about that!


While I’m certainly not happy about having to deal with this life long problem, when I put it in perspective, it’s not so bad. Cosmetic dental work is way down on my list of “things I hope don’t happen to me”. If I look at it that way, it’s easy to count my blessings. I’m grateful for the technology that enables us to fix our teeth in a pleasing way, grateful for the dentists who have helped me do so through the years and grateful that we have the means to pay for it.


Having said all that, let me give you some good advice from someone who knows: do not EVER EVER ride your bike with no hands! And when the time comes that your children learn how to ride a bike, read this story to them. It’s either that, or invest in some good dental insurance… how I wish I had done both!