Thursday, April 30, 2009


I don't know if there is anything more amazing than reaching out and reconnecting with a childhood friend.

I have really vivid and joyful memories from my childhood. I lived in a tiny subdivision north of Houston in a town that was known for its tall, tall pines and not much else. Our little neighborhood was super close-knit, and it was a great place to grow up. There is even a facebook group for people who share adoration of our little slice of nostalgia.

But my memories of my home in that small, quiet neighborhood didn't begin util I met my first-ever friend: Brannon.

Our mothers were friends from the neighborhood's garden club, and they met one day at the pavilion in our neighborhood. Brannon and I met that day for the first time, drawing chalk figures on the cool concrete on that warm day. I remember that we talked a lot, but I have no recollection about what we talked. All I really remember is that I really loved hanging out with him. He was such great fun.

From then on I was always at Brannon's house. Yes, I had other friends, but Brannon was my first friend. My first best friend. We raced our bikes around the neighborhood, and I pedaled my pink Schwinn with the banana seat as fast as it would go. We jumped on their trampoline until our legs tired. We hung out in his family's large foyer playing Barbies and games we invented from our imagination.

And then Brannon changed schools. He didn't move just yet, but we weren't close anymore. We drifted apart like childhood friends often do, and we hadn't talked since we went to a mutual friend's birthday party. Brannon wore a Batman costume and played dress-up with us.

I love that he's followed his passion to New York City, and is still flexing his imagination. From what I can tell he's still the same creative, open and fun person he was when we were just children.

It's a beautiful thing to discover him all over again and see that the frienship we had never died.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blessings and curses


After being laid off from the newspaper I no longer have to worry about losing my newspaper job. This was a near-constant source of anxiety, and I'm really glad to be rid of it.


I'm unemployed. There are bills to pay.


My husband has health insurance, so I won't have to pay for the crazy-expensive COBRA premiums now that my health coverage is on the verge of expiration.


Health coverage in the U.S. is expensive at any rate, and adding me to my husband's policy means even less money we can expect to have to pay bills.


With no job, my full-time occupation is looking for a job and keeping myself from getting stressed out. This means I have more time for yoga.


I'm stressed out because I have no job.


I have a super-supportive family.


I'm the kind of person that, even though I appreciate the help, feels like I'm taking advantage of their kindness, even though they've made it perfetly clear that I'm not.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dirty hippies we were

We went to Old Settler's Music Festival last year and had a damn good time.

And then I proceeded to come home and get bitten by a mean-ass dog.

We had a damn good time this year, too, but there were a few elements that were less than optimal.

Remember last year, how Onion Creek was cold and clear and perfect for a nice dip (and a bath)? Well, this year it was dry. Bone dry. Nothing but smooth river rocks that had been washed over by water that has since evaporated. All that was left was a primordial-soup-like pool, covered in algae.

But mother nature thought she'd make up for all the missing river water in the first two days we were there. On Thursday it damn-near rained all day. On Friday it rained hard in the morning and sprinkled a bit later. It rained last year, all right, but it was like one of those freak incidents. The first day of the festival last year there was a torrential downpour on Thursday night. It came on fast without warning and pelted our camp into submission. But it was smooth sailing and clear skies after that. Not this time.

Because I'm short a steady job this year, we had planned to leave Dallas for Driftwood early on Wednesday so that we wouldn't have to set up in the dark like last year. Well, I ended up landing a contract, and I couldn't just drop it and say to the client "Well, I planned on going on this trip when I had a steady work flow, and we already bought the tickets, so..." I mean, I can't look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

So we left a little later than we wanted to. Actually, our original plan was to leave before noon. We didn't head out of town until close to 3 p.m. It takes about 4 hours to get to Driftwood from Dallas (Driftwood is just south of Austin) if you go as the crow flies and belt down Interstate 35. But, there are myriad ancillary and scenic routes that can get you across this swath of Texas more pleasantly, but you'll be driving through tiny, tiny towns with unpredictable resources.

I know that Dave had planned to make this drive at a much earlier time, and us leaving late really put a damper on his grand plan, which was to take the scenic route and give me an opportunity to take pictures. It was a nice thought, but since we left the house late we really should have gone as the crow flies. We ended up almost running out of gas just north of Lampasas, so we stopped outside a small, remote house on the state road, and asked for help. Luckily there was a nice guy inside with a nice dog and he offered to make a quick trip up the road to the farm where he worked and grabbed enough gas for little Honda Solo to make it to Lampasas to refuel. Now that's Texas hospitality!


We ended up crossing into Marble Falls just at sunset.


It was just about four and a half hours in the car. It was getting dark and we weren't even close to the campground yet. Needless to say, emotions and patience were wearing thin...


But we got to the campground, set up in the dark (again) and cracked open a few beers and chicken bratwurst (we're trying to eat less pork nowadays, but last year we had genuine beer brats) with saurkraut. We crawled into bed and passed the hell out.

The next morning was a little slow. It was overcast and cool, and we slept as late as you can in a small tent.


We had eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast just about every day. It was good, but even good things can wear out their welcome. I guess it was clever of me to slice up some fruit to go with breakfast, because heavy stuff like that can wear out its welcome on any beer-soaked belly.

We kept getting inklings that it would rain, pour at any minute. So we prepared for the inevitable by throwing a tarp over our shelter and cracking open beers just after noon. And we got to know our mascot for the weekend, Greedo. Is it just me, or does Greedo look awfully judgey?

"Miller Lite? This stuff is considered only slightly better than drinking urine in my galaxy"

Good for you, Greedo. But I'm not drinking Miller. We found Fat Tire and Shiner Bock in cans for this trip.

"Smart girl. I'll set my blaster back to stun."

Thanks, Greedo.

"What do you call this species?"

Uh, Greedo, he's human, but he's just listening to music.

"You humans are really weird."

Greedo was right. We were about to spend a weekend drinking lots of beer, listening to lots of bluegrass and camping out amidst huge fire ant piles in an un-mowed prairie next to a dry creek bed.


So, this is what we did when it rained.


With a broody gray sky above, there's not much to do besides drink up.


Good thing there was a show later that night and the sky was dark and dry enough to go to it. We went out to listen to The Gourds. Great outfit they are.






They have a VERY active stage presence.


We saw a couple more acts and we called it a night.

The next day it was rainy. So we tried to figure out how to fit in some time at the fesival grounds across the way. I didn't even bother pulling my camera out on Friday. Now that I have a great piece of equipment, I'm trying to keep it that way.

Saturday, though, was a lot more like it. The weather warmed up and the skies got clear after a brief morning rain and we partied ALL DAY LONG. We saw good acts and great acts and I danced and took so many pictures. Here are a few of my faves that I feel wrap things up better than I could:
















Found the OM symbol at a jewelry vendor. It's water buffalo horn.




OK, there is a little bit of a story behind this one. We talked last year about having a flag at camp, and this year we decided that next year we'd have the pirate flag, only I couldn't remember what the flag's proper name was. I knew it started with a J, but I couldn't remember the rest. Well, lo and behold, on Thursday night at the campground stage a guy in a trifold hat walked by, wearing rolled up knickers and sporting a very Jack Sparrow appearance with a cute little wench on his arm. One of our camp mates said, "Well, why don't you ask a pirate?" Brilliant! I ran him down and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, sorry to bother you, but are you a pirate?"
"I suppose so."
"Then, perhaps you can settle something for me. My friends and I are trying to remember the name of the pirate flag but no one can quite get it out. Might you know what it's called?"
"The Jolly Rodger."
"No problem."

And then come Saturday, I'll be damned if we didn't see another pirate, except this one was wearing a Jolly Rodger T shirt.







And this is our camp-mate, Tim. I teased him so much about this photo that I couldn't not post it.


And then we drove back Sunday morning. We missed the dogs and the chickens and the cats, too.

Want to see more pictures? Go here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New distractions

At my last job I had to multi-task like crazy. The phone seemed to always be ringing off the hook. I had to shift gears more often than a NASCAR driver. As a result, I always seemed to be distracted by something and most of my day was spent getting things back on track. I don't miss the constant phone-ringing, to be honest, but now there's a whole new level of distractions to deal with in my home office...

... and they all happen to be furry.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I must really love chickens

I've been worried about Jane today.


She seemed to have been in the nest box for forever today. Every time I went outside to take a break she was in there. So, this afternoon, when I went outside to check on everything in the backyard after the cable guy had left (that's another open letter coming...) I noticed that jane was sort of crouching in front of the water bowl, guzzling down water like it was going to evaporate before she could quench her thirst.

If I were to approach Jane on any other day she would have bolted in the opposite direction. Today, as I came up behind her at the water bowl, she just stood there. She didn't really even look over her shoulder. I knew something was wrong.

I picked up my girl, my favorite (we've made a pact to not tell the others, so keep it on the DL), and I headed inside to the chicken sickbay (the bath tub with the shower enclosure).

With chickens, it's really more like a flow chart than a guessing game. Check the symptoms and plug them in, more often than not it's a problem that thousands of people have already dealt with and you'll have an easy answer in no time. That's how it was with Elaine when she got fowl pox last year. So, I was pretty certain we had one or two maladies in play: infected crop or egg-bound hen.

These two illnesses are more of the wait-and-see type problems. Do something and then wait and see. Do something else, wait and see. So, first, after bringing Jane inside, we gave her some water with apple cider vinegar. This helps clear the crop of whatever funkiness that might try to take up residence. Still no improvement. The next step was to pour oil down her throat to loosen things up (as if chickens really need to loosen anything up. I would prefer they move in the other direction).

If you haven't tried to force feed a chicken with oil without really forcing her (I'm too nice for that!) it's a real trip. Timing is everything. You have to talk sweet and keep her calm, pry open the beak a little bit and then try to pour accurately and quickly before she closes her beak again. I know it sounds impossible, but, trust me, it can be done. Nonetheless, no improvement.

Next, it was time to check and see if she is eggbound. Basically, if a chicken is laboring over an egg and can't get it out, it can break inside and cause internal bleeding, which can lead to septicemia and death. No good. Can't have that happen to Jane. So you palpate her tummy to see if you can feel an egg. No dice.

Now, the next step is something that farmers have been doing for ages. It's a routine task for a lot of people who raise poultry. All of this did not make this task any easier.

I had to manually check the vent. We're not talking about an A/C system here, folks.

The messageboard I'm on said that putting oil on your finger and then feeling for cracked egg shells or stuck eggs was not only good for diagnosing the hen but the oil would help move things along. Ugh.

So, I did it, and nothing. Didnt feel a thing except two clumps of poo that made me dry heave. Chicken raising is apparently not for even the most hardened.

Later on we found a yolk, a white and a weird misshapen grey egg bag type thing. Jane is looking a litle perkier and is standing up now. She's had a little warm oatmeal and we're keeping her inside tonight just in case.

Jane, I really love you. But, please, don't do this to me ever again, OK? I'd rather get to know a little more about the side of you that doesn't poop.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Tax Man:

(Ed. Note: Notice the colon. This is a formal letter.)

While completing this year's government-sponsored ass raping that is also known as filing my 1040(attached schedules, natch), I noticed that you have got it in for me. Last year, even after all of that shameful witholding, you still asked for more. This year, you did it again, and you did it up big.

I know that taxes build the bridges across our mighty nation that have been steadily eroding due to congressional malfeasance. I know that they pay for all of the little things, like research projects so that scientists can make pigs glow in the dark. But it seems, Tax Man, that you're getting pretty greedy now that I decided to, heaven forbid, buy a starter home, an affordable and reliable car and insure both of them.

So, after mailing my check for the additional amount that you want from me and my baseball-addled husband, I propose a compromise: I'll let you keep the witholding that you snatch from our payroll, but I'm going to charge you for violating my sanity with your nasty little torture device: Form 1040. And, I'm charging hourly.

Let's see how you like that.

Very truly yours,

Miss Dallas

Friday, April 10, 2009

So, two Mormon misisonaries walk into a Hare Krishna temple...

... and on Tuesday, I was laid off.

Yeah, I know, it's a shock. Hell, I was shocked, too. I figured that, being the little fish that I was in the big media ocean, I would be safe from lay-offs.

Think again.

There are people that may delight in the demise of newspapering, and then there are the people who know that when there are no newspapers left we will be poor in culture and understanding. I fit into the latter, despite the fact that I was one of 200 journalists and employees cut from the staff of The Dallas Morning News.

It feels good to finally be able to say what company I worked for since I've been keeping it under wraps for so long.

I should also say that there are absolutely no hard feelings. I loved my job and I will miss going to work every day to produce the best newspaper and online content as possible, but I know what predicament newspapers are in and why they would let inexpensive employees go so that they might stay afloat, even though their boyancy might be short-lived.

Also, nothing about this transition will change the fact that I still believe in what newspapers do. I want to think that what happened to me and 199 other talented journalists was a forced reconciliation of new opportunities, although I'm sure that long-tenured reporters and editors will not feel that way, at least right now.

So, after having lunch at one of my favorite restaurants with one of my favorite people, I've re-examined life and what I've set out to do on this big blue-green marble.

And the image of the two Mormon missionaries being led through the Hare Krishna temple, which also houses my aforementioned favorite restaurant, was priceless. They wore fresh, close-cut hair, nicely pressed bright white short-sleeved shirts anchored with an austere black necktie while toting around snug-fitting backpacks to which their bike helmets were dutifully clasped. They tailed the Hare Krishna devotee, clad in yellow and white robes that skimmed the floor and his practical sandals. The mystic was their guide, though they didn't look at him with skepticism, I think. They, as mystics as well, had an understanding.

Good things will come, hopefully they'll follow closely.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The best thing about Easter...

... Marshmallow Peeps!

My sister, S., is infatuated with them. I just like to munch on their brains.

A very dear co-worker of mine presented me with three cheery, vacuous-looking rows of bright green bunny peeps. I'm thinking of doing a Peep-show diorama this weekend before munching on the cuties.


Quick Haiku for the Weekend

In need of good vibes
Crazy week; shopping ahead!
Retail therapy

Check out my mate's response at switching over to am.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


... is my niece not the cutest thing?