Archive for August, 2012

Tucker, One Year Later
August 31, 2012

How much is that doggie in the window? arf arf! ~ Patti Page

And the answer is FREE! Well, kinda, sorta…

Tucker arrived at our house this week, one year ago. He was all of 3 months old, an adorable and precocious little fellow who had been hand raised and was just about the happiest little dog I’ve ever known.

As all Tucker fans know, he also arrived with a cleft palate, of which the breeder professed to not be aware. Once discovered, Guy said, “just bring him back, and I’ll give you another puppy.” Well, we had had Tucker for all of three days and loved his sunny nature and the fact that he’d already learned three tricks (sit, shake, speak).


We knew that if we returned him, he would be euthanized. I mean, why would a dog breeder keep a defective dog? I doubt that he would have spent the money to correct the defect, only to keep him around. Once we had made up our mind, then Guy returned our check. So Tucker didn’t cost us anything! Ha ha!

We really do like Guy, from whom we have gotten all our Shelties; he really seemed to be soft hearted about Tucker, whose mother was unable to nurse them, so he was raised up sitting in Guy’s lap, a smart and sweet little fellow.

He was also an adaptable survivor who managed to figure out how to overcome his defect to grow and thrive in spite of it. Tucker drinks like a bird, delicately lapping up the water, and then holding his nose upwards, he swallows it… such a resourceful pup!

Did Guy know about the defect and hope we would be soft hearted about him, too? Maybe. If so, well then, his strategy worked. Tucker has had several corrective surgeries, with a final one yet to come.

At this point, it’s not a life threatening issue, but if his palate had not been corrected to this point, it would have been. He would have always been sickly and likely not long lived. Rather now, it’s a quality of life issue. When he drinks water, sometimes it gets up his nose, due to some lingering small holes in his palate.

Our excellent veterinarian, Paul Young, has really done a great job of repairing Tucker’s palate, but the last time he took a look, he admitted that he just didn’t have any more ideas about how to finish the job (due to lack of tissue to close those minute, lingering spots).

So he recommended that we consult a specialist, and the one name that we agreed upon was Dr. Heidi Hottinger over at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, the same veterinarian who helped us with Bailey, six years ago.

She and her staff all fell in love with our sweet Tucker, and she has made a plan, and is confident that the procedure will finally close up all the remaining gaps and heal quickly, without the need for a feeding tube. We are so encouraged!

Dr. Young mentioned that he would like to scrub up and observe the procedure, and she said that he was absolutely welcome to do so.

As this is not a life threatening situation, we won’t be doing this until sometime next month. But now there is now a final light at the end of the tunnel. We are all so very grateful that we live in Houston, where there are not only amazing medical resources for people, but also for animals!

Stay tuned for updates…


Lake Vista
August 24, 2012

No place is so dear to my childhood As the little brown church in the vale… ~from “Church in the Wildwood”, written by Dr. William S. Pitts in 1857

When I was a little girl, Dad got transferred to New Orleans, and we moved into a house in a neighborhood called Lake Vista, which as you might guess, had a vista of Lake Pontchartrain. It was a neatly planned neighborhood with all cul de sac streets, each separated by lanes that led to green spaces, parks, a community center and two churches.

One of those churches was Lake Vista United Methodist Church, which was where we belonged. It was small, but filled with young families and LOTS of children. I can still see it in my mind’s eye, because I spent a great deal of my time there.

(there I am, front row, second from right)

Before we moved back to Houston in 1968, the church built a new Sanctuary, then very modern, light filled and circular in design with elements of wrought iron scrollwork on the exterior to reflect its New Orleans heritage.

It was quite a contrast with the old, low slung and dark Sanctuary, which became a multipurpose sort of room, where we had our Girl Scout meetings once the new Sanctuary was built.

Why am I telling you all this? Because the other night I dreamed that I was back at LVUMC with my dad. We went into the Sanctuary, where there was a contemporary band playing (rather than an organ and traditional choir). We walked through, and Dad said he was going to go to the adult Sunday School class, which in my dream, was on the other side of the building.

But I said I wanted to go up the narrow staircase in the original wing to see my old classroom on the second floor. Back then, I remember feeling very proud when I “graduated” up to the youth floor as opposed to being the children’s wing on the first floor.

The classroom in question was where I spent my 5th grade year. It was the first one on the left side of the hallway. I remember it so vividly because we had a husband/wife team teach the class; their son, James, was in the class, and we were friends back then, and remain so to this day!

(and there is James, back row, second from right)

Mr. and Mrs. Clift were good friends with my parents, and I loved being in their class. Having a dad teach Sunday School was then rather unusual, so that year really sticks out in my mind.

In my dream, I never reconnected with my dad, but when I woke up, I dwelt upon my trip back in time and started a mental tour of the church buildings, remembering all the happy times there.

Little snippets of memories came back to me, such as the tiny library that my mother helped organize and develop, the weekly Brownie and Girl Scout meetings in the various classrooms and the Fellowship Hall where we’d have church suppers, shows and meetings…

In that Fellowship Hall, there was an ancient Coke machine that wasn’t upright like the ones now. This one was more an open chest where you could see the tops of the bottles in rows. You put your dime in and snaked the bottle out, and then of course, you used the attached bottle opener to open it.

In that same room, I remember singing silly Vacation Bible School songs as loudly as we could, and I also remember my brother Ray’s Eagle Scout ceremony being held there.

Interestingly, there is one memory I have totally blocked out of my mind, and that is that I actually played Beethoven’s Ode to Joy on the organ in a Sunday worship service in the new Sanctuary when I was in the 7th grade. The only way I know I did it was because  my grandmother saved the bulletin with the proof. I have always been a self-conscious person, and recitals were always painful for me. Why I agreed to play in front of the congregation is totally beyond me!

I have not been back to LVUMC in years, despite the fact that I am in New Orleans at least once annually. Mostly it’s because I don’t have access to a car, but honestly, since Hurricane Katrina decimated so many places in my childhood, I am reluctant to go back.

But now that I have had this dream, maybe I will go take a look next time. It was fun being there again in my dream, and it has been fun sharing my visit with you!

Multi Tasking
August 16, 2012

Music is given to us with the sole purpose of establishing an order in things, including, and particularly, the coordination between man and time. ~Igor Stravinsky

It must be nearing time for school to start again! While running over by MHS recently, I saw the football team going through drills, but what was more interesting to me was watching the marching band rehearsing across the street in the church parking lot, conveniently painted with ten yard increments like a football field would be.

The kids were segregated by instrument, and each section was learning their steps independently of the other. I was impressed! How on earth can they concentrate on the music they are playing while figuring out what to do with their feet?

Then I got to thinking about the kids in the youth choir I support at St. Luke’s. Pure Sound presents an annual fully staged spring musical (this year’s was “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) and an original summer musical revue called “Babes on Broadway”, both of which demand much choreography along with all the singing.

Sitting in at rehearsal this week, I was amazed at how quickly the singers picked up on the dancing. Because I am a visual person, I am prone to writing things down, lest I forget them. However, our ace choreographer, Lindsey, just demonstrates what her vision is, and they all go to town, weaving intricate steps without any train wrecks, all the while singing complicated music in four part harmony.

Again, I am SO impressed. I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time, nor pat my head and rub my stomach simultaneously.

How about those who play instruments while singing, or organists who play with both their hands AND feet? Same concept. The ability to do two different things well at the same time takes a special kind of person. The one thing in common that all these examples have is that these multi taskers are all musicians.

So next time you watch a marching band or a musical theater performance, be impressed, be very appreciative and thank a music teacher, choreographer and definitely the performers themselves…

(by the way, this year’s “Babes on Broadway” runs this weekend, Aug. 17/18 at 7:30 pm and Aug. 18/19 at 2:30 pm. Rotunda Theater of St. Luke’s, 3471 Westheimer, Houston 77027. It’s the best show in town!)

Chicago, Chicago
August 9, 2012

that toddlin town, that toddlin town… ~ as sung by Frank Sinatra and others

I had never been to Chicago before, and after my first visit there this month, I am wondering what took me so long! I LOVED Chicago. Truth be told, I had always checked off  Illinois when plotting the progress of my quest to visit all 50 states of our magnificent country. But that was only because I had passed through O’Hare or Midway, which really doesn’t count. So now it’s official!

I’m going to say it out loud. I like Chicago better than NYC. I think it has to do with the architecture, the wide streets, the building setbacks, the lakefront, the restaurants, the friendly people (except for one grump). Traffic was heavy to and from O’Hare, no matter what time of day. But it’s the same in NY from LaGuardia or JFK.

But other than that, we got around easily, either by walking or jumping into a cab. Perhaps if we had been more familiar with the train system, I’m sure that problem could have been solved… but our one attempt at taking the train on Sunday morning (from Hyde Park back to Chicago) resulted in a near miss. And when we realized it would be an hour until the next train, well then… TAXI!

As an art history major who focused on architecture, I loved the fabulous “skyscrapers”. Was it because of the Great Fire of 1871 that cleared the deck and resulted in such stunning buildings? And moving forwards, did that continue the trend of well designed skyscrapers that somehow, all look balanced and timeless?

If so, then perhaps the tragedy of that Great Fire gave way to a Renaissance of the ages in this marvelous city. I salute the Chicago ethos of style; it has served the city well.

NYC? Yes, there are some fabulous high rises in Manhattan, but also some really dismal ones that are just dingy, dirty, sad and totally unfriendly looking. Add to that the narrow streets with looming buildings, and NYC can often feel cramped and dark.

Chicago? Yes, we stayed in a hotel downtown, where just about every building has been carefully designed. We did travel north to Wrigleyville and south to Hyde Park. All lakefront… yes, and I’m sure the buildings on the way to and in these neighborhoods were also carefully designed.

I missed out on seeing any dismal buildings in Chicago, but I know there must be some. If so, I guess they are off the beaten path, to the west of the lakefront,  not on the way to or from O’Hare.

Let’s talk about food! We had some fabulous meals at various restaurants, such as Table Fifty-Two, Spiaggio’s and the Albritton “estate”. But what was extra special about these dinners were the friends with whom we shared the experience. To me, that sharing is the best part of the meal, and that is what we will talk about in the years to come.

The grump? She was a cashier at the CVS just north of Millennium Park. I had run over that way on Saturday morning, just to check out the Lollapalooza site. Running clothes don’t have many pockets. I had tucked my room card key in my shorts, and a $20 bill in my sports bra.

On the way back to my hotel, I stopped in that CVS to buy a cold diet coke and a Tribune. I said, “good morning” to the cashier when it was my turn, and there was a silence in response. After she rang up my purchases, I gave her my slightly damp $20 bill.

She said, “Why is this wet?” I explained that I had been running. She complained that she couldn’t put it in her drawer like that. I said, “It’s all I have.” She was totally bummed and grumbled that she would have to dry it out before putting it into her drawer.

Let it be known that the good folks at Walgreens didn’t have any qualms about accepting a damp bill the day before!

Favorite moments besides the fabulous meals? A private tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Hyde Park. We enjoyed making the acquaintance of a couple from Toronto there, and hope to reconnect at future ABA meetings.

Having Shannon and Kat there with us was extra special. I also loved seeing Laura Nash again at lunch, and enjoyed wandering up and down Michigan Avenue with Shannon and touring the Contemporary Arts Museum.

Then came the whoosh of a violent summer storm, with much thunder and lightning, which caused an evacuation of the Lollapalooza event in the middle of Saturday afternoon. The end result was cooler temperatures which made walking around even more of a pleasure the next day.

On the last evening there, we attended the section dinner in the Grainger Ballroom of the Orchestra Hall, right across the street from the park where the Lollapalooza was still going on. I knew that event ended at 10 pm, and wondered how we would get back to the hotel if our event ran past that witching hour.

Well, it did, and I have never seen such a swarm of humanity exiting the park and filling Michigan Avenue; they looked like ants whose nest has been disturbed! We managed to get on a bus back (we had walked to the dinner from our hotel, which was nearby). Slowly the buses crept along, heading south, which was curious, since our hotels were north. But they knew what they were doing, and diverted to Lakeshore Drive away from the hordes.

All good things must come to an end, and we headed back to Houston on Monday after our delightful visit. I’ll look forward to the next trip there, as I definitely plan to return…

(except not during the winter!!)