Thursday, December 23, 2010

Black Gold

I've called Krista our golden dog, particularly because of her early battle with the parvo virus. She has cost us thousands of dollars. But it was so much fun having a dog that we got a second dog last May. Surely, with our hard won knowledge on how to protect a puppy, Winston would be affordable entertainment.

Winston was my Mother's Day gift. He should be this year's Christmas gift as well and probably next year's birthday gift, too, because Winston has created a whole new set of expenses.

Winston is exuberant! A few inches taller than Krista, he easily leaps over the baby gates placed to keep him in the kitchen. He is still in the puppy stage of chewing. He has chewed numerous papers and boxes, dog beds, my new boots and the cushion of our brand new couch. Fortunately, the couch was new enough I could order a replacement for the cushion and the boots were on sale when I re-purchased them.

And then there are the little things. Winston chews through his leashes and pulls the stuffing out of his toys. I give him "bones" to chew but Krista, ever the boss, takes them away. Fortunately, Winston likes his crate, since that is where he has to be when no one is in the house. Krista won't follow him into the crate, so he can chew in peace when he has a favorite treat. We go through lots of treats, enough to justify our Costco membership, for sure.

The other line item now in our grocery budget is Cheerios. Need Winston and Krista to settle down? Throw a handful of Cheerios on the kitchen floor. Need to work on good behavior? Feed them toasted oat by toasted oat. I should buy stock in General Mills.

But mainly I just enjoy our dogs. They are gorgeous. (And here they're sitting, quivering, intent on the next Cheerio!)

It's a great Christmas week so far. Kelly's full time job is going great. (Man, that sentence sounds good!) All the kids are fine, as a matter of fact. Ricky finished the Christmas shopping yesterday - that has to be a record, done three days before Christmas. Can't say too much about that now, though.

All in all, we are having one of our most blessed holidays ever.

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Guest Post - Christmas Goodies

Time for a guest column!
My home growing up bore a strong resemblance to the June Cleaver house in that Daddy worked and the home was Mama’s domain.  She did all the housework, including especially the cooking (and we boys weren’t taught how to cook).  Now food was important in my house growing up – we planned car trips around favored restaurants on the road.  Dinner was always at 6, and we almost always had some type of a dessert.
Now Mama was a good but basic and straightforward cook.  The things she cooked were always tasty and well-prepared, but definitely not “gourmet.”  Our food was not very flashy.  But at Christmas time, the desserts did get a bit fancier, with a number of recipes my Mama accumulated over the years, ranging from divinity to teacakes.
Fastforward to my early years as a lawyer.  The first firm I worked at had a food feast for weeks leading up to Christmas.  Every day one or two of our group would bring in a treat, lawyers and staff alike.  And being competitive lawyer types, we didn’t buy stuff – we made it.  So I started learning how to make some of the really good treats my Mama made – pralines, divinity, etc. etc.
These days it has become my tradition to go candy and treat crazy during Christmas.  Beginning before Thanksgiving I start making candy, cookies and snacks until we almost can’t eat it all.  (Bear in mind that Kerry makes about 20 batches of her fudge for family, friends, and clients during this same time frame).  I use some of Mama’s recipes, some from my Grandma, and some from my mother-in-law.  I get new recipes from the internet and from the newspaper.  The first time I met my son-in-law’s parents, his father and I spent the evening comparing recipes.
So far this year I’ve made six batches of spicy Chex mix, two batches of peppermint chocolate chip meringue cookies, one batch of toffee, two batches of peanut brittle, one batch of divinity, two batches of Wyatt’s Cafeteria’s egg custard, and two batches of soft tea cakes.
Here’s what’s left to go (at a minimum):  more Chex mix, pralines, lots more meringue cookies (Kerry’s favorite), more toffee, more peanut brittle, white chocolate covered pretzels, more egg custard, at least two batches of sugar cookies (Kerry mixes the dough, I bake the cookies, and the kids decorate them), and I’m sure I’ll make more tea cakes.
Hungry yet?
If you read Kerry’s blog (and you obviously must!), you know our family moves at a ridiculous pace.  Now you know how we get the energy.  One of the things I enjoy about making all of this (besides eating it) is that every member of the family has their own favorites, and they seem to change over the years and even over the season as we gorge on one or another of my confection concoctions.
Merry Christmas from Ricky!  I love you, Kerry!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I'm going to the Ball - the 2011 Inaugural Ball celebrating the swearing in of a good man who has been my friend and client for more than twenty years. How cool is that?

This time my carriage will be driven by American Airlines, a nice break from the recent weekend trips. Starting at Halloween I have gone to Oklahoma twice, San Antonio twice, Indianapolis and Memphis. This weekend we are headed to Houston for a wedding and then one more trip to Oklahoma before the end of the year. So that's one plane trip (Indy) and 4,000 miles of driving.

The invitation to the ball could not have come at a better time, though. This holiday season started a little flat. I've had mild feelings of doom and gloom, feelings I couldn't shake off. Do I only have a few holidays left? Will my body ever return to "normal?" (There's nothing particularly painful, just annoying, lingering side effects from my colon dissection in June.) Am I fated to be that brave, stoic cancer survivor who eventually succumbs gracefully to a recurrence?

All stupid stuff.

Now the Christmas shopping is mostly done and even wrapped, the decorations are up and the first seventeen batches of fudge are finished and delivered. My oldest, after a year and a half of constant searches and interviews, just landed a full time job! My older son, a joy to have back in the house, has a renewed sense of purpose and optimism and is making serious plans for the future, determined to follow through. My married kids just received bonuses and good reviews at their jobs. My youngest has excelled at band (San Antonio & Indy) and soccer (Memphis), all while keeping up with his school work.

And right after the holidays, which are and will be awesome, I get to go to a ball with my own Prince Charming. Seriously cool!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How sick am I?

Just received a news flash.........

April 15, 2011 is on a Friday. However, that particular day is a holiday in Washington, D.C.

When a tax return due date falls on a holiday or weekend, the actual due date rolls to the next business day.

The due date for 2010 non-corporate tax returns is April 18, 2011.

Should I be concerned that my friends and I are giddy over having THREE extra days? That's at least 40 extra work hours to get done what has to be done.

It's a good thing, since our "dear leader" can't see fit to finalize (finalize, what a joke!) 2011 tax rates. Maybe by April 18th we'll know enough to make reasonable first quarter 2011 estimates, unless of course they decide to add even more holidays for the District.

Hmmmm.  More holidays in D.C. - could be enough side benefits to that to more than compensate for delayed and retroactive tax law changes.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Best Movie Preview Ever

We like to do a family movie over the Thanksgiving holidays, usually the Wednesday before. This year was no exception and we all went to see the "Deathly Hallows, Part 1."

It seems like there was at least a half hour of movie previews, the typical assortment of animation and action. Ho-hum.

Then a western scene popped up. A stagecoach is coming into town and the passenger, under guard, is......wait for it, my boy DANIEL CRAIG! Since his next James Bond flick has been postponed or cancelled, this ought to work for me. And then another scene with the sheriff, who is none other than HARRISON FORD.  It's not like I haven't watched these guys or anything.

The Daniel Craig character seems to be a wanted man who has lost his memory, and he has a funky wrist band on. Then there is another scene with a spacecraft blasting the town's main street with lasers while return fire from the wrist band defends the group. What!?!

"Cowboys & Aliens"

Coming July 29, 2011. Are tickets on sale yet?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Will we or won't we?

Forget the red jello.

Most of the time Thanksgiving Dinner is at our house. The meal is always the same.

Turkey & gravy
Store bought dressing unless my mom comes and brings her great homemade dressing
Potato casserole
Baked beans
Green bean casserole
Mashed potatoes
English peas
Crescent rolls

and red jello

While several of the foods on the list are kids' favorites now, there wasn't much on the list they liked when they were little, but they loved the red jello. Ricky's dad would always make red jello for them and we made it one of our Thanksgiving staples (along with always having Ricky's dad and mom join us.)

The last several years we have had issues with the red jello. Sometimes it has mysteriously disappeared from the shopping list. Other years it has hidden in the pantry until it was TOO LATE to make it and have it firm by the time we eat. Several times I have made the red jello Wednesday night only to remember it's in the back fridge on Friday.

In the past week each of my children have pointedly requested red jello for Thanksgiving. I'll be seeing all the kids today. They are to remind me to make the red jello. Then tomorrow it is their specific mission to remember the red jello before we sit down to eat.

That's all I can do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Humans 1, Winston 0

We spent the weekend wearing Winston out. He slept fine. Of course. And our older dog goes to bed around ten at night and usually sleeps until about nine in the morning. Nice schedule, if you can get it.

Monday was a little busier, so Winston did not get as much attention during the day.

Putting him in the crate at bedtime was fine. But as soon as his peanut butter was gone (doesn't everyone go to bed with peanut butter?) the yips started.

I chased my daughter upstairs for the night, told my son to not worry about keeping the dog quiet for our sakes, and then went to bed and shut the door.

About fifteen minutes later, the yips subsided and he (Winston and my son, too) stayed quiet the rest of the night.

It only took raising four toddlers to figure out how to deal with a puppy. One night in the recliner with special treatment is all you get.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back to normal

There is no normal, none at all.

You think it is waiting for you just around the corner, but instead there is only more craziness. Eventually you realize there is no set pattern for weaving through life.

I think I thought some day I would have the stress free lifestyle of Claire Huckstable* - with a professional career, a great sense of humor, a rich and entertaining husband, a gorgeous (clean) house and children that "oohed and aahed" over the wisdom I imparted.

Ha! Those TV shows and commercials and movies, they're all fakes. Even the more realistic shows can't mirror any one family's life, and certainly not mine.

I have almost eliminated the bad habit of assuming things will be simpler in the future.  I appreciate the classic story of "The Station," believing you just need to reach  your destination to have it made, but then realizing that the trip, the journey, is the actual destination after all.

With us, it's thinking that our schedule will get easier, more manageable.....after our jobs settle down, our kids can dress themselves or drive themselves, or after we've run out of life's surprises.

My first three kids are four and a half years, five school years, apart. I knew that as they moved in a pack through middle and high school that our lives would be hectic, but by the time our fourth child came through six years later, it would be a piece of cake. Right?

Now our baby is in high school. We've just finished marching band season, three months of 7:00 am rehearsals and extra evening and Saturday practices. And when your child does not drive, his schedule is your schedule, in addition to your own. In a two week period we made two round trip trips to San Antonio, several community rehearsals and performances and ended up last weekend for the final competition in Indianapolis. The band leaves on buses on a Wednesday night and arrives in Indianapolis Thursday evening after stopping for  a three hour rehearsal in Illinois. I flew up Thursday night, Ricky came up Friday afternoon. The band performed Friday morning and scored well enough to advance to the next round on Saturday. Saturday's performance put them in the finals on Saturday night. They finished third out of ninety plus bands. Each performance was better than the one before and Saturday night was awesome. After their final performance, the kids loaded up buses, leaving Indy about three in the morning.

Ricky and I floated back to our hotel room, pleased with the results and pleased with the end of band season. Life would once again be normal after our flight on Sunday.

At 1:30 a.m. the phone rang. Our son back in Texas had arrived home to his apartment to find the door kicked in and his electronics gone. Pretty devastating for a kid whose whole life is, or was, stored on his computer. Thank God he is safe and it was only stuff that disappeared.

Later in the day we got home (with only one TSA full body screening,) looking forward to no more 7:00 a.m. rehearsals. So the dog decides to go wonky on us. Winston, feeling ignored, quit sleeping peacefully through the night in his crate. It escalated during the week until Friday night, when I ended up rubbing his tummy for an hour, punctuated by putting him back in his crate, going back to my bed only to be summoned by his shrill, ear piercing yips. I ended up spending the night in the recliner, not that uncommon for me except this time I had a dog leashed to me. Unbelievable.

Now it's the weekend and holy crap! Thanksgiving is here! When did that happen? Obviously when I wasn't looking.

We made our major grocery runs on Saturday, the bird is in the house. And out of nowhere, a fabulous holiday is shaping up. My married kids had a change of plans so they will be able to share the day with us. My parents are heading down from Oklahoma. My older, single kids are a joy to have around, sharing in holiday jobs and dog duties. We are privileged that our older son is going to hang out here for a while, where it's safe and he can be secure while planning his next steps.

So life is back to our normal - a wonderful, wacky, wildly unpredictable normal.

* The first one of my kids to comment correctly on who Claire Huckstable is wins a prize.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


It's the end of band season and we are in Indianapolis for the final competition. Wiley, a trumpet player, has performed tremendously. Below is a link to the band's performance last week. Since then the band has added a beginning, changed some music and drill and changed the ending so that there is a band member kneeling before each headstone while Taps is played and the colorguard forms around the American flag. It has been a great season honoring our veterans.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Eating

I weigh the same now as I did thirty years ago. It's not that I eat "healthy" or anything. My daytime diet is mostly coffee, chips, coke and chocolate. I just can't help myself. Even after having cancer and vowing to "improve" my eating habits, I'm back to the beginning all over again. 
Feeling just a tad guilty about it, I've actually cut back on my Sonic Route 44 cokes, but that's been more to save money. I still drink a couple of cans of coke a day, at least. Lunch is potato chips or fritos, maybe with bean dip. Reese's peanut butter cups get me through the afternoon. Of course I'm home alone - no raised eyebrows here.
So now a nutrition professor has put himself on a twinkies and oreos diet. He has lost 27 pounds, feels great and has improved his cholesterol counts. 

All right, then. I am set.

You can read the article here..............................
CNN) -- Twinkies. Nutty bars. Powdered donuts.
For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.
His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most -- not the nutritional value of the food.
The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.
For a class project, Haub limited himself to less than 1,800 calories a day. A man of Haub's pre-dieting size usually consumes about 2,600 calories daily. So he followed a basic principle of weight loss: He consumed significantly fewer calories than he burned.
His body mass index went from 28.8, considered overweight, to 24.9, which is normal. He now weighs 174 pounds.
But you might expect other indicators of health would have suffered. Not so.
Haub's "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, dropped 20 percent and his "good" cholesterol, or HDL, increased by 20 percent. He reduced the level of triglycerides, which are a form of fat, by 39 percent.
"That's where the head scratching comes," Haub said. "What does that mean? Does that mean I'm healthier? Or does it mean how we define health from a biology standpoint, that we're missing something?"
Haub's sample day
Espresso, Double: 6 calories; 0 grams of fat

Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake: 150 calories; 5 grams of fat

Centrum Advanced Formula From A To Zinc: 0 calories; 0 grams of fat

Little Debbie Star Crunch: 150 calories; 6 grams of fat

Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake: 150 calories; 5 grams of fat

Diet Mountain Dew: 0 calories; 0 grams of fat

Doritos Cool Ranch: 75 calories; 4 grams of fat

Kellogg's Corn Pops: 220 calories; 0 grams of fat

whole milk: 150 calories; 8 grams of fat

baby carrots: 18 calories; 0 grams of fat

Duncan Hines Family Style Brownie Chewy Fudge: 270 calories; 14 grams of fat

Little Debbie Zebra Cake: 160 calories; 8 grams of fat

Muscle Milk Protein Shake: 240 calories; 9 grams of fat 

1,589 calories and 59 grams of fat
Despite his temporary success, Haub does not recommend replicating his snack-centric diet.
"I'm not geared to say this is a good thing to do," he said. "I'm stuck in the middle. I guess that's the frustrating part. I can't give a concrete answer. There's not enough information to do that."
Two-thirds of his total intake came from junk food. He also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. And he ate vegetables, typically a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks.
Families who live in food deserts have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, so they often rely on the kind of food Haub was eating.
"These foods are consumed by lots of people," he said. "It may be an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal. I just think it's unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits. It may be healthy, but not realistic."
Haub's body fat dropped from 33.4 to 24.9 percent. This posed the question: What matters more for weight loss, the quantity or quality of calories?
His success is probably a result of caloric reduction, said Dawn Jackson Blatner, a dietitian based in Atlanta, Georgia.
"It's a great reminder for weight loss that calories count," she said. "Is that the bottom line to being healthy? That's another story."
Blatner, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, said she's not surprised to hear Haub's health markers improved even when he loaded up on processed snack cakes.
Being overweight is the central problem that leads to complications like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, she said.
"When you lose weight, regardless of how you're doing it -- even if it's with packaged foods, generally you will see these markers improve when weight loss has improved," she said.
Before jumping on the Ding Dong bandwagon, Blatner warned of health concerns.
"There are things we can't measure," said Blatner, questioning how the lack of fruits and vegetables could affect long-term health. "How much does that affect the risk for cancer? We can't measure how diet changes affect our health."
I was eating healthier, but I wasn't healthy. I was eating too much.
--Professor Mark Haubie diet

On August 25, Haub, 41, started his cake diet focusing on portion control.
"I'm eating to the point of need and pushing the plate or wrapper away," he said.
He intended the trial to last a month as a teaching tool for his class. As he lost weight, Haub continued the diet until he reached a normal body mass index.
Before his Twinkie diet, he tried to eat a healthy diet that included whole grains, dietary fiber, berries and bananas, vegetables and occasional treats like pizza.
"There seems to be a disconnect between eating healthy and being healthy," Haub said. "It may not be the same. I was eating healthier, but I wasn't healthy. I was eating too much."
He maintained the same level of moderate physical activity as before going on the diet. (Haub does not have any ties to the snack cake companies.)
To avoid setting a bad example for his kids, Haub ate vegetables in front of his family. Away from the dinner table, he usually unwrapped his meals.
Haub monitored his body composition, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose, and updated his progress on his Facebook page,Professor Haub's diet experiment.
To curb calories, he avoided meat, whole grains and fruits. Once he started adding meat into the diet four weeks ago, his cholesterol level increased.
Haub plans to add about 300 calories to his daily intake now that he's done with the diet. But he's not ditching snack cakes altogether. Despite his weight loss, Haub feels ambivalence.
"I wish I could say the outcomes are unhealthy. I wish I could say it's healthy. I'm not confident enough in doing that. That frustrates a lot of people. One side says it's irresponsible. It is unhealthy, but the data doesn't say that."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Talking to myself

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the opportunity to think about topics in a comprehensive way. As I write, I try on different attitudes until I figure out which one belongs to me.

If you have read my blog for a while, you might think I am sentimental and mushy. But that's probably not the first, second, third or fourth impression you would get from actually being around me. I am blunt and no-nonsense. I like to think I am practical. I don't cry at weddings or births, just a little at funerals and when I'm really tired or watching the sweet or sad part of a favorite movie.

I write to share what I have seen and who I am, with "who I am" still evolving. (And I am learning, from comments on some posts, that what I thought I saw is disputable.)

While writing, I keep in mind that my friends read this blog. My children read it. My husband reads it. My parents read it. So there are some things I will never write about. I will puzzle out those areas on my own. Then there are the often funny things friends and family do, my boys especially. Yet if I told those stories, they would probably have to hurt me. They aren't little children who won't notice being used for laughs. What you read on this blog is a small piece of my whole.

What writing has done for me is reinforce the need to be skeptical when reading another person's thoughts or opinions, when studying history. You can't just read a headline and get the gist of it. You have to read the whole article, then read what someone else said and what another's opinion is....

Thinking about how we conduct ourselves, if you're like me, there are some things you only discuss with girlfriends, some things you only share with your spouse, some things you only share with one child or another. Yet to know me, you would need to know the whole. Even I, blind to some aspects of my personality, can't tell you why I've said or done some things. My actions would best be interpreted in context, using all the resources of those who know me, some time after the dust settled, hopefully with benefit of the doubt.

Our current political environment is filled with just the opposite approach. People want to take one sentence, out of context, and interpret it using only the mindset of their singular observation, or even worse, using the biased observations of others. There is no thoughtfulness, no study. How ridiculous! (How lazy!)

So read my little rant here as a gentle reminder to think before you speak and consider you may not know it all. Open your mind and take some time to consider. There are many mostly true sides to every story. Sometimes there is no truth at all.

In my own mind I am a warrior, fearless and tough, maybe just a little bit soft, maybe more soft than I want to admit. Check around and then take my word for it.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Anticipating my thoughts at the end of December, I believe I will look back on 2010 and consider the first couple of weeks of June one of the best times, if not the best time, of my life. So far.

I received my colon cancer diagnosis on Tuesday, June 1. Ricky, out of school for the summer, was with me. The next day we were able to meet with the surgeon and schedule my surgery for Friday afternoon, June 4.

The three days in between were busy, telling my children and parents, getting work and home squared away. There was no panic - just mild disgust that my body had betrayed me this way. It really is creepy to know that something wild with its own agenda is growing inside you. (And you won't be giving birth to it!)

But mostly I was smiling. Not sleeping well, I spent those three nights on the couch, going through the possibilities. I couldn't come up with a bad outcome, though. Even if it turned out the prognosis was grim, I have had a great life. And absent dying on the table, a quite remote possibility, there would be time to wrap things up in a good way.

So for those first couple of weeks of June, the mundane aspects of life slipped away and we were focused on the important, our relationships. Recently, our pastor, as part of his series on "the family," told a story. A husband, constantly annoyed by his spouse's clutter, considered what his life would be like with a neat house, but no wife. The clutter peeve vanished as he realized how much he cherished her.

The demands of daily life are so pervasive we usually forget to cherish each other. You get a reminder every now and then - the birth of a first baby or a child's wedding, for examples - that loving each other is what it's all about, and little else matters.

I am pleased to report that our wake-up call is still working. We have replaced thoughtlessness and indifference with an active thoughtfulness. I can misplace keys every single day and it's okay. He just grins and goes on (after finding the keys, of course.) He thanks me when I follow up timely on medical procedures, and I choose to do so because I know it relieves his anxiety. We are more considerate of each other's schedules. We are seeking ways to spend more time together.

The scars and pain of recovery are a small price to pay for this renewed sense of purpose and optimism. It has been a very good year.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We're all fans

Photo credit: Lindsay Goodreau

Friday, October 22, 2010

Resolving conflicts

It's Friday night in October, the last home football game of the year. Senior parents get introduced before the game. The team will clinch a playoff berth with a victory. The band's half time performance is its warmup for the competition on Saturday which should send the band to the Texas state finals in ten days.

It's Friday night in October and fall storms are popping up around the area. A rain shower has already wet the stadium.

It's Friday night in October and the Texas Rangers are still playing baseball. Game six of the American Championship League Series is starting just a few miles south, our team one victory away from its first ever thrashing of the dreaded Yankees.

Families head to the football stadium toting towels and umbrellas. The stands fill up nearly as usual, even with the iffy weather. But look around and cell phones are everywhere, tuned in to ESPN game tracker. Ricky texts Wiley to let him know the Rangers are up 1-0, then tied 1-1.

The Rangers have a breakout inning as halftime starts. The stands are murmuring during the band's  show, passing the baseball news up and down the aisles, but you can't be annoyed. It is all too wonderful. The stadium announcer lets everyone in the crowd know the home team, the team that has never won anything, is up 6-1.

By the end of the third quarter, the high school game is well in hand. The halftime only spectators are long gone. We hustle out, we've paid our dues of support to the kids, and catch the ending of the big game back in our living room.

What a great Friday night!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just wait 'till your father gets home......

Four days to go to the last deadline of the year.

Taking a short break last night with the dogs in the back yard, I stepped in fresh poo.

Left my office for a few moments this morning and came back to a cat's hairball on my desk.

Just now took the dogs for a brief walk to stretch my legs.

Returning to the front yard and taking a few extra moments of autumn sunshine, Krista got mad for some very good dog reason and started a fight, a war, really. Fortunately they each weigh less than twenty pounds, were on leashes and I was wearing jeans instead of shorts.

Now Krista is in her crate. Winston is in his crate. I'm back at the computer with an ice pack on my knee.

No more work breaks for me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fashion Statement

Check out the shoes. And now that it's fall, and they keep the school building so cold, he even has toe socks that go with.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A True Story

In the spring of 1995 my grandma died. A few days after the funeral my dad and mom, three of my dad's four sisters and their spouses gathered at their mother's senior citizen apartment to sort through her lifetime accumulation.

My grandma lived into her eighties and had a number of hobbies and interests. There were many items to reminisce over.

In among the bathroom towels, they found an unidentifiable object. It was perfectly round and smooth, looked like it was made of metal and had a large safety pin sticking in it. The consensus was that it was some sort of hot potato game kept around to entertain grandchildren (and great-grandchildren.)

One of the sisters tossed the game to my dad. "Here. You're the smart one. You figure it out."

My dad looked at it, turned it over in his hands, and pulled the safety pin out.

Orange smoke started fizzing out of the ball. Dad knew he was in trouble and ran toward the front door. He made it three steps before the ball exploded, covering the living room and everyone in it with a film of yellow and orange.

The concussion was powerful. Dad's palm and thumb were bruised so badly that blood oozed out the back of his hand. His stomach was peppered with fragments. His smart aleck sister Gwonda, who had tossed it to him, was bleeding from the face and neck. Everyone in the room was gagging and blinded.

Fortunately, two of the brothers-in-law were outside loading stuff when the bomb went off. My dad, mom and Dad's sister Jean piled into one car with Jean's husband Ted driving and Vadie, Gwonda and Gwonda's husband Lee made it to Vadie and Bob's car.

Heading to the hospital, my Uncle Ted was affected just by being in the car with them. He had to drive with his head hanging out the window, straining to see the center line. The other siblings took turns opening their eyes at intersections to yell out "red" or "green, go, go!" On the way to the hospital they drove past my cousin at work, who had never seen his dad drive so fast.

Arriving at the hospital they poured into the emergency room. Not for long. Soon the emergency room personnel were wheezing and coughing and had to shoo everyone outside, my dad and aunt on guerneys. Stripped and rinsed off by nurses and doctors in outside portable showers, the brothers and sisters could finally see again. My dad and aunt took a few weeks to recover from their wounds, but there were no serious injuries.

Everyone ended up in hospital scrubs, their own clothes ruined. Hospital staff wanted to burn the clothes, but couldn't because of the wallets, cash and other personal items. Back at Ted and Jean's house a few hours later, they set the bags of clothes on the lawn. The lingering fumes seeping through the plastic were still so strong it quickly killed the surrounding grass.

Lee, Gwonda, Vadie, Jo, Ted(dy Mac), Jean
So what the heck happened at their mother's apartment?

The bomb squad from nearby Fort Sill ended up calling in experts from Oklahoma City to determine that my dad had pulled the pin on a Korean War era tear gas grenade. Found in my grandma's apartment in small town Oklahoma. Nestled in the bathroom towels.

It turns out several of the grandchildren, now grown, remembered playing with the grenade. But Grandpa had told them not to pull the pin out. He had bought it at an Army surplus store, intending to set it off underneath the house to kill the bugs and spiders. For some reason he changed his mind. Wow. 

There are several lessons here.

Boys will be boys. This seems to be a recurring theme among my posts. My grandpa was probably in his fifties when he bought the grenade. I'm sure he enjoyed telling his friends about it. And I expect he intended to use it eventually, because explosions are fun.

Husbands should give their wives all the facts. Something tells me Grandma did not know she had a live grenade in her home. Keep in mind that Grandpa died twenty years earlier, so the grenade had been around for decades. He had told her it was important and to be careful. She carefully moved it from home to home and room to room. So men, even when you know it conflicts with the first corollary above, admit when you have something around that is dangerous.

Do not think of your parents naked and in an outdoor shower.

And, finally (this is for you, Dad)...........

Find the instruction manual before you pull the pin. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The (other) dog ate my homework

How quickly we forget, or block, those inconvenient memories.

Our six month old puppy is a chewing fiend these days. His adult teeth erupted at once a couple of weeks ago. They're all in, but he still thinks he's teething.

He has shredded his bed, the wall, three leashes and his toys. He would shred his sister if she didn't bite him on the legs. All for love, of course.

This evening Ricky gave Winston a new toy - a stuffingless snake with three squeakers inside, guaranteed indestructible. The squeakers would continue working even when punctured. Winston loved the new toy. Note the past tense. It took Winston about ten minutes to chew through the snake and pull out the first squeaker. The squeakers do not work once their ends are chewed off.

Watching "The Amazing Race," we left him in the kitchen to destroy the rest of the snake. I should have paid attention to the cessation of sound. Going to check on him, the snake, minus the second squeaker, had fallen over the gate. He was happily occupied eating the workbook from our Dave Ramsey financial class.

(The snake and the 2nd squeaker is re-placed in this picture.)

I made the mistake of setting the book on the kitchen desk. Winston can reach the kitchen desk. I have been warned. Perhaps Winston was concerned we might start cutting back on doggie treats while following Dave Ramsey's plan to become debt free.

Don't ya' love me?

Thursday, September 23, 2010


What I've done since September 8........

Helped my daughter celebrate her 25th birthday, with a trip to the jewelry store to pick out charms to replace those she lost along with a bracelet her friends gave her when she finished chemotherapy nine years ago. That makes for a great celebration, along with (Ricky) making her a traditional Balthrop birthday cake - a yellow cake with cooked fudge icing. We sent her home with the cake intact, much to Wiley's complaint.
Garrett, Wiley & Lindsay (Garrett helped give the original charm bracelet.)
Open house at the high school - checking on Wiley's teachers, grades and behavior. His history teacher returned to me the toy airplane confiscated earlier in the day. Sigh. Boys.

Met my 6th grade boyfriend, my first kiss, for coffee during his two hour layover at DFW airport. We only knew each other for that one school year. I found out he really liked me when he gave me a fancy Valentine's Day card signed "Love, Robert." We corresponded - with snail mail - through college. He spent the night in our Chicago apartment one time when he was passing through. (On a cross country motorcycle trip, he stopped in the south side of Chicago to call us and ask for directions. It's a wonder he's still alive.) Bottom line - hadn't seen him in about thirty years. That was fun. I am old.

Attended two high school football games - we won both games and the band did great.

Kept up with America's Got Talent. I only missed voting on one episode. I'll defer further discussion until I've been to the AGT Live Show on October 13. I can't wait - singers, dancers, magicians, illusionists, daredevils and acrobats, oh, my!

Watched Wiley play soccer.

Started our symphony season ticket series. We used to do that, pre-kids. It's been a while.

Finished my September 15th work. September 15 is a big deadline - the final deadline for corporate, partnership and trust returns. I'm averaging 70 hours a week September through October 15, the final deadline for individual tax returns.

Had my first official colon follow up. Not much to it - I just needed advice on how to deal with the rumbling and grumbling. We're trying some different things, but the bottom line is that recovery takes TIME.


Closed on our house refinance, dropping from 5.375% to 3.75%. That will help us be done with the whole thing in just a few more years.

Worked around the clock the last six days finishing up (an hour ago) the tax returns for an individual client who is running for Governor. So sometime in the next couple of days his tax returns are going on a public website.....with my name on them. Talk about pressure! He is someone I really admire, but unfortunately can't vote for, as he does not live here in God's country.

About God's country - went to the high school homecoming parade.

Met as part of a newly organized financial management team that is going to work with high net worth clients. It required some preparation, but all in all went well. I wondered what I could possibly add, but when you live long enough, you just end up knowing stuff that other people don't know. And I've also learned that if you speak clearly, others assume you know what you are talking about! I am used to high profile work, but it's usually done anonymously from the comfort of my home office. I actually had to bring the suit out of the closet this time.

Went to my daughter's in-laws' anniversary dinner across town.

Had a CT scan with contrast dye to make sure there are no cooties. And I thought I'd already had every test run. I knew I was in trouble when, at scheduling, they started asking me if I liked apples or bananas or berries. Try none of the above. They found a mocha flavored barium cocktail that I drank the night before, then again the morning of the scan. $650 later, I'm waiting on the test results.

The worst part, besides lack of sleep, is being on a reading kick with Ricky. We're reading through the same series of futuristic murder mysteries - crime solving by a sexy, rich and talented married couple. He's one book ahead. So lots of justification going on between us. The house is a wreck, meals are spotty, work is on the edge - but we're living it up vicariously.

And no, this is not me and Ricky.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

10 Two-letter Words

Feeling sorry for yourself? Wanting some of the handouts others seem to get?

If It Is To Be,
It Is Up To Me.

- Paul LePage, Candidate for Governor of Maine.

For a little personal motivation, check out the short video of his life story on his campaign website.

I think I'll put the pedal down and get my September 15th work done without complaint.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Brian stopped by today to pick up a few things and get a haircut - going from the "hawk" look to a number two buzz. As I cut his hair on the back porch, the dogs chased each other. Brian is still amazed that we have not just one, but two family dogs.

I snootily preferred cats over dogs for decades. I was woefully misinformed.

Our cats lounge around, tear stuff up when no one's looking and take over entire rooms. They only come around us when they want something or it's the middle of the night and they need to check in.

Our dogs play. They prefer to play with one of us. Next best is playing with each other knowing we are watching. Right now they are having a blast playing in the rainy back yard while Ricky is home base on the patio. They want to be with us or asleep. And they sleep in their beds.

Teenagers vs. toddlers.

Enough said.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Easy come, easy go

Lately, more people have been asking how I'm doing.

It has been three months since my colon surgery. It is fair to say I have made a complete recovery.

That doesn't mean there aren't one or two lingering "issues," some of which may linger for the foreseeable future, perhaps the rest of my life.

According to my surgeon, cut upon colons stay a little cranky, and mine certainly is no exception. The silver lining is that I can permanently retire the bathroom plunger.

I can live with that.

(And if you haven't scheduled your colonoscopy yet, what are you waiting for, my friends?)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Working for a living

I am a CPA, but as the cobbler's family has no shoes, I neglect our family's financial planning. That is starting to change, start being the operative word.

We have recently changed our primary bank, gaining some flexibility and better interest rates on car loans, but Ricky has had to do it dragging me along. The new structure involves personal checking and savings accounts, business checking and savings accounts, debit cards and new credit cards with different "reward" programs. It is more than my tiny mind can manage.

For twenty-five years we have run our family with one checking account. We don't have to consult the other before using it, either. And it has worked. All we've done over the years is raise the unspoken limit of how much one of us could spend without consulting the other. It started with $10, living as students, but of course has increased over the years. Long ago we reached the point at which one of us could buy a car without "checking in" first. That's kinda' where we've left least I think so.

We both hate "budgets." Instead, we have developed our own system. I usually make the deposits and keep the operating funds divided between checking and savings. Ricky pays all the bills. Our tasks are so divided, I have never used a debit card.

I assume he will spend everything we have and so I keep as much as possible tucked away. He pretends not to know whether we have enough and spends what he thinks he can justify (knowing that I input all our expenses into Quicken after the fact.) He only knows how much we "have" by checking the balance when he makes a cash withdrawal.

Our system has worked, probably because we're both competitive. Neither of us wants to disappoint the other. With new banking procedures, though, and some other changes Ricky has made in monitoring our long term savings and retirement accounts, we each need to be more involved with both the ins and outs of our finances.

I guess that means we get to be on the same team. I'm rather looking forward to it.

Tomorrow we - Ricky, Kelly, Brian, Wiley (when he can) and I - are starting Dave Ramsey's course on Financial Peace. Lindsay and Eddie are doing the class at a different location. I hope each of us will get some benefit.

I usually dislike structure, i.e. having a plan. But I have never turned down a shoe shopping trip, and that's all this is, right?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Call of Duty

Tomorrow is the first day of a new school year. Wiley the student has been in six-days-a-week, nine-hours-a-day marching band camp for the past three weeks. Ricky the teacher started back a week ago. Monday, an easy class day, will actually be a respite for both of them.

I usually dread the starting of school because of the exponential increase in laundry. Wiley shifts from wearing his pajamas all day, every day, to real clothes, while Ricky switches from shorts and a t-shirt to long pants and long sleeved shirts in addition to his shorts and t-shirt when he gets home.

But this year is an exception. With summer band, club soccer and rock work around the house, my boys have been sweating through two to three sets of clothes a day. Monday begins a respite for the washer and dryer, too.

Wiley also had to finish his summer reading and class assignments over the past few weeks. He has always done well in school, but high school steps it up a notch and I have been concerned how he would fit band, soccer, homework and sleep around his busy X-box schedule.

My prior efforts to minimize gaming time have been futile with both Wiley and his older brother. I have tried setting timers, keeping logs, or arranging rewards to get the boys to self-limit.

When that inevitably failed, I have unplugged or disconnected the TV or limited time spent in the den. But I have not had the stamina to follow through and enforce any of these schemes. Once my head is down working, the TV is on and a kid is in front of it. If I don't nag or yell, my silence (or grumble) is taken as implicit permission.

But with Wiley's understanding and agreement, I may have found the ultimate solution. At least it has worked for the past two weeks.

Brown paper and packing tape, that's the trick.

My goal is for us, Ricky and me included, to consciously choose when we watch shows or play games, rather than making the TV a companion to everything we do.

I have tried limiting the accessibility of the kitchen television as well, since that's where the most mindless TV watching occurs. I have been putting a pillowcase over the screen and hiding the remote control, but so inconsistently it hasn't mattered.

This parenting stuff wears me down. But that is what moms are called to - responsibility. And when we can't say "no" one more time, God answers prayer. The kitchen television died a natural death last night.

Now if He would help me out a little with the internet connections on our Ipods, computers and cell phones, my duty would be done.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What would you do?

We have a guest bathroom just off the living room, next to my office. I've been spending a little more time in there since my colon surgery. The other day I happened to look up and notice the Christmas ornaments hanging from the light fixture!

I've always hung ornaments from light fixtures, starting with the Victorian chandeliers in the house we had when the kids were little. The tradition carried over to this house and evidently carried over to our kid(s.) I know I didn't hang these. I'm usually pretty good at taking down the decorations that I put up.

But you know, they do match the wallpaper. And it's only three more months until I get the rest of the Christmas decorations out, so might as well just leave them up......this time. Christmas in August, anyone?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reaching for Hope

Reaching back to the past.

I was young and oblivious at the time, coming of age in the Carter administration and having three of my four babies during Reagan's presidency. (Brian was born on George H.W. Bush's election day. Ricky cut in line to vote before taking me to the hospital.)

I do remember our first mortgage at 16.25%, the second, in 1985, at about 8%. I was confident enough to start my own business in 1989.

Once again people are speaking truth to power. You may disagree, but it's worth thinking about.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Winning the game

Last week was such a blur - coming and going and spinning in place.

It started with a computer hard drive failure Monday morning. And I had such high hopes for my efficiency that day, too, wanting to focus on jobs that had to be done as I roll into the second stage of busy season 2010. Instead, I spent five hours at the Apple store, backing up my computer and paying the hundred dollars for priority service so I could have the hard drive replaced the same day.

The rest of the week included, besides work, supervising eighteen year old boys breaking rock in the front yard, setting up an ipod with appropriate music for my dad's birthday gift, worrying about my son's marching band audition, dealing with dogs on drugs, last minute packing and a plane trip that included a three hour unscheduled stop in Richmond due to bad weather that made us miss both lunch and supper.

Finally, arriving in Charlottesville after dark, we had to find our daughter's particular University of Virginia dorm parking lot. That last task was complicated, as Ricky was driving while I queried Lindsay on her exact location. Since Lindsay did not know that Ricky and my parents were also in the car, I had to repeat her instructions out loud so that Ricky could hear......."Okay, I need to turn around and come back because I went too far. Okay, it's not this light, it's the next light. Then I need to turn right, okay, I think I've got it......"

I have to admit, though, that I managed a most successful surprise. For months I had known we were all coming to her graduation, while she thought it would only be me. I nearly slipped up earlier in the week, mentioning something about taking the dogs to my friend's house, quickly covering my gaffe by saying it was to give Ricky a chance to sleep late a couple of days. But all's well that ends well, and she was stunned and delighted.

The funny (not in a ha-ha, but in a sweet way) part was the anxiety the ruse created for her husband, who was aware of our plans. He stressed over the details and fretted about keeping it from her. If you've seen the TV series "Chuck," he was "Awesome" to her "Ellie." Next time, I'll save him the agony and surprise them both. (Those are they things you have to learn when an adult joins the family. Sorry, Eddie, I didn't mean to make your summer more difficult than it already was, separated from your wife for twelve weeks.)

But the week was great, punctuated on Saturday with Lindsay's excellent commencement speech and an uneventful flight home.

The name of the game? Survivor!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting the kids ready for camp

Bedding washed - check.

Food packed - check.

Medicine packed - check.

Toys gathered and packed - check.

Nails clipped - Winston, check.

Nais clipped - Krista, no way. The groomer and then the vet together were able to clip one nail. Krista did not want her nails clipped, thank you very much.

Crates cleaned and packed - check.

I've enjoyed the last few years of family trips when everyone could pack themselves. Getting the dogs ready for "Camp Tami" was a harsh reality check.

We left Thursday morning for a short trip to Charlottesville to watch our daughter graduate with her Master's degree. Before heading for the airport, we took the dogs to my friend's house where she will spoil them with attention. I only hope they will take us back on Sunday without too much resentment.

We left Krista with Tami last summer while we went to London. She was going to keep Krista again and Winston, too, this summer for ten days, but cancer surgery wiped out our Florida trip. (I'm still bitter.) So the pups have to settle for three days instead. It's a good thing. Packing up two dogs seems exponentially more consuming than packing up one dog, and if I'd had to pack stuff for ten days instead of three...... Now I know why so many people take their dogs with them when they travel!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Diva Doesn't Share

Wiley is a trumpet player. Our shibas sing along - every time. You might say they have a racket going.

Krista is an outstanding yodeler. (I've posted about her "singing" before.)

Winston is figuring it out, but so far he just barks. And for a puppy he barks LOUD. I have to put him outside now when Wiley is practicing. But it doesn't matter where the dogs are or where Wiley is, they accompany him.

Today Wiley had been practicing outside, working on his combination of marching and playing. You could hear the dogs, in the kitchen, all the way to the street.

Wiley came inside to give them an encore.

But by this time Krista has just about lost it, she is so mad at Winston for ruining the harmonies.

Listen if you like, but you may want to put on ear muffs.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Obamanomics at work

This is my studly husband, laying flagstone to convert a dead space to useable patio. Several mornings our son has helped, and the dogs are always ready to dig in. Winston likes to get his nose up to his eyeballs in sand. We have to throw him in the pool before letting him back inside.

Ricky's also stained 220 feet of fence and helped our sons remove about 75 feet of shrubbery in an effort to update the looks of our 25 year old house. When we get ready to plant, he will do much of the labor then, too.

A few years ago we might have paid to have most of this work done. We have the resources to hire it done now. Our jobs are somewhat recession proof. Schools and, unfortunately, the IRS are permanent institutions. He's a teacher and I prepare tax returns.

But tax rates are rising, our retirement investments are a little shaky and we still have another child's college to fund. We also need to start saving for when we are in our 70's and have to go to Costa Rica to buy the health care procedures we won't want to wait for. So we are retrenching and doing more ourselves.

Government economic policies really do affect behavior.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Queen for (half) a day

We did have our garage sale a week ago Saturday. Our soccer team raised nearly $1,100. We sorted items the night before, having to wait until the temperature cooled some. It didn't cool enough, though. I ended up awake most of the night with chills and fever from heat exhaustion. But that's okay. It made it easier for me to justify sitting in my camp chair throne all the next morning, confirming prices and holding the money, while other parents did the hard labor.

Our signs, put up before dawn on Saturday, said the sale would be 7:30 -1:00. On Craigslist we posted sale hours as 8:00 - 1:00. Our first customer showed up at 6:45. By 11:30 we were virtually sold out and closed up shop.

We had an unbelievable amount of traffic stopping by, sometimes with ten cars in our little court. It helps when you have good publicity. It really helps when you have fifteen year old boys able and quite willing to direct traffic our way from the nearby intersection.

The boys used signs, hand motions and general hilarity to great effect. At one point they came back to the house for more poster board and markers. They made signs advertising hugs for a dollar. It worked, adding five dollars to the pot. Most of the customers appreciated the good humor of it all. Some curmudgeon didn't, though, and called the police. A cop gently (we think) reminded my son, the guilty one, to stay out of the street.

Whoever called the cops might have been from the family having the garage sale down the street. Our boys had been setting up in the intersection to hide their sign, which pointed the opposite way. That's definitely why we had an anonymous young man sitting in a chair across the street from our house, holding a sign to get customers directed back towards them.

The best part of a garage sale is pricing the items. We tagged the larger items, but everything else was subject to whim, the particular customer and the time of day. People in the first hour paid "full" price. As the morning wore on, the prices dropped.

Since I had the change and was most familiar with the inventory, I generally got final say on prices. What power! I sat in my chair and ruled. For the little girl who wanted a book and bag of crafts, the price might be fifty cents. It's such fun to see a little one deliberate and finally choose and carefully pull out her own money. One woman spent $134 on clothes, dishes, shoes ($2 a pair and we sold about 80 pairs during the day), bedding, a chair and a washer and dryer. My older son, with his pickup and another parent, delivered the items to her nearby apartment. It turns out she had recently moved here and has a husband in a wheelchair and needed everything she bought from us. That was sobering.

Another early shopper bought lots of clothing at $1 an item and then wanted a better deal because she was buying clothes to "send to Mexico." I told her no, this was a fundraiser to help boys afford competitive soccer, but I could make a deal at the end of the sale. She called me at noon and I offered all the clothing we had left, several hundred items, for $50. She agreed. Of course, when she got here, she suggested $40 should be enough. Nope. (I was still queen.) I told her the minimum was $50. Otherwise I would donate the clothes to our school district's clothes closet where I knew they would go to good use. She paid the $50 and we completely filled her car.

Now why was there so much clothing and shoes? Just think about all those fifteen year old boys who have grown 4-8 inches and three shoe sizes in the past year. We sold a lot of boys' and men's items.

My favorite negotiation of the day involved a well dressed couple driving an expensive car. They had stopped by twice, annoying me each time, arguing over a dollar here and there on their purchases. The third time they came by the woman was interested in a lap blanket designed like an American flag.

"How much is the blanket?"

"The blanket is $5.00 and I'll throw in the American flag pillow for free."

"Will you take $4.00?"


"Well, I don't want the pillow, so how much is just the blanket."

"It's $5.00"

"But wouldn't it be $2.50? I don't want the pillow, I just want the blanket."

"The blanket is $5.00, I'm just throwing in the pillow if you want it."

She paid $5 for the blanket, and I guess she did want the pillow, because she took it, too.

Garage sales can be a lot of fun with the right attitude. If you need to rent a queen some time, just let me know. I work cheap.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another day, another five hundred miles

The boys are off again today, visiting college campuses. Up until a week ago, Wiley had only seen one college campus, that of our alma mater Rice University. Before he narrows down his choices next year, we wanted him to get a feel for campuses of different sizes.

Last week, they went north, visiting Austin College in Sherman, Texas and the University of Oklahoma in Norman. They were gone about twelve hours, covered about 500 miles.

Today will be the same, except they've headed south - first to Baylor University in Waco, then to Southwestern University in Georgetown and finally the University of Texas at Austin.

A five hundred mile day trip is no big deal for a Texan. Throw some cold drinks in the cooler and head out. I have often gone up to see my parents for a day - three and a half hours each way. On other family trips, we will routinely drive 1,000 miles in a day, leaving Orlando or Tucson or Keystone at 6:00 am and sleeping in our own beds that same night.

One summer day, when the kids were a lot younger, I made the six hour round trip to Abilene to pick up kids at camp, then made another two hour round trip to pick up another child at a different camp, then headed north with the whole family to spend the weekend with my folks.

That's what you do if you live in the south - a land of vast open space and scarce urban areas.

When Ricky and I were newlyweds living in Chicago, our best friends had family in Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 150 miles away. They would plan their annual trip months ahead of time, it was such a long way to them. That was the first time I really understood cultural differences.

In England last summer, I visited with a woman on the train. She was quite smug about the British rail system, with its superiority to transportation in the United States. I agreed with her, to the extent you have towns, existing for centuries, every five or ten miles. Our country is quite young and nowhere near as densely populated. It will be centuries more before it is both cost and environmentally effective to build transportation infrastructure outside the packed cities. Give us some time, we'll get there.

I wish our current government leaders would realize that. Instead, we're led by a man who has lived either on a small island or in a large city. For the past five years, he has only traveled locally by cab or limousine, his driving limited to golf carts. He should take a look at a map. His concept of efficient transportation does not apply to the majority of us Americans, sprawled across thousands of miles, who want to remain independent, able to transfer at will from Point A to Point B.

That's why I've started a slush fund. At the first hint of the phaseout of SUV's, I'm stockpiling three of them.