Thursday, July 30, 2009

Here's what I love

Did you know that it rained on Wednesday? It rained so much all over the northeast, in particular New York and New Jersey, that numerous flights were delayed and many cancelled altogether. In the tiny Burlington airport, only three outgoing flights were still schedule on the departure board when I arrived. The others had the all-caps, red lettered word CANCELLED in the departure status column.

The departure status for my flight read Find a comfortable place to sit because you are going to be here a while.

When many hours later, that flight arrived in Cleveland, the gate agent told me, If you hurry, you can make the flight to Houston. So I ran. I ran through Terminal D, ran down the moving escalator, ran down a long corridor, ran up the moving escalator and ran to my gate in Terminal C. I ran, I tell you, I RAN.

After all that running, I learned when I arrived to the gate, panting and disheveled, I could have crawled and made it to the gate on time because that flight was going nowhere fast. The crew was stuck at La Guardia and the aircraft they were scheduled to fly to Cleveland was sitting on the tarmac at Washington Dulles. Our plane, however, was sitting right there at the gate.

Three hours later, after mulling about the dark and empty airport looking at all the storefront gates closed to any shopping or dining I might want to do, the last flight to leave Cleveland airport, my flight, finally boarded. I happily settled into my seat and promptly fell asleep.

What I loved about the whole experience was my patient fellow travelers and the gate agents who fielded questions and re-routed the desperate and booked back-up flights for many of us in case our flights didn't get out of Burlington, and then again in Cleveland. There was not a single self-important blowhard in the entire bunch. With a mother traveling with SIX children, and another mother traveling with young twin girls, and yet another mother traveling with an infant and toddler, and several business travelers, I was delighted that patience and compassion prevailed yesterday. It's a special combination of a calm and helpful gate agent, and a flexible, understanding traveler.

Everyone working together to make the best in a challenging time, that's what I love.

More about my trip later. After I reduce the volume of dirty laundry and increases my hours of sleep.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

The icing on the cake

TODAY'S BIRTHDAY (JULY 25). You develop a strong relationship with yourself this year and will sometimes prefer to walk a solo path to increase your connection to spirit. The deep well of power within you helps you make remarkable changes. August brings love. September brings a pay increase. Seeing new places in November leads to more business. Aries and Libra adore you. Your lucky numbers are: 4, 10, 22, 49 and 15.

This morning I woke up a different age than I was when I went to bed last night. And there you have it, one good night's sleep and suddenly I am a year older.

So, yeah, happy birthday. To me.


Friday, July 24, 2009

In which a Republican smashes my knowledge

My friend Augusta and I have known each other since she was ten and I was 13. Her parents, like mine were, are true conservatives. Traditional, living, breathing Proud Republicans. Except that her father is so conservative that he could make my parents look like Left Wing Liberals, even though my parents had the Republican Banner draped majestically over our piano in the entry way of our house for many, many years.

So you'd think I could say I knew her father fairly well. At least I thought I did until last night at dinner when I was telling Augusta about the man seated next to me on the plane yesterday. That man was reading a company directive on using Twitter to market your skills, More than being a professional, it is important that you use Twitter to promote that you are an expert. The man was in his late 60s and from the look on his face, I was pretty sure he wasn't envisioning his followers.

Augusta understood what I was saying: Oh, it's terrible for older people. Poor Dad let some kid at Radio Shack talk him into buying an IPod Nano so that he could listen to Rush, and Dad cannot at all figure out how to work that thing.

I was shocked. Your father likes Rush?

Of course he likes Rush.

I never knew that. How could I not have known that?

She looked at me. I looked at her.

And then I went there: What's his favorite song?

She looked at me. I looked at her. A lighting bolt of simultaneous recognition shot through our eyes.

LIMBAUGH, she laughed, Rush Limbaugh.

The champagne that I was sipping shot through my nose at that.

Good morning, from Vermont.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is it too late to rename her Marley?

Right about now, as the plane gained speed on the runway, I would be holding on to the cross that hangs from a silver chain around my neck. My eyes would be closed and I would feel a certain amount of stress fall from my shoulders as the tires lifted from the ground. Right about now, I should be on my way to a week in Vermont.

What's that saying about life getting in the way of plans? I'm officially changing that to LABS getting in the way of plans. One Lab in particular.

Here's another question for you: What do rum cake, boiled shrimp and potatoes, a box of Godiva chocolates, a wheel of Parmesan cheese, a five-pound tenderloin, a plate of brownies, a pound cake, a King Ranch casserole and a Christmas ham have in common with turkey sausage and Rigatoni?

I'll tell you what they have in common. They are all things that over the years Cheyenne has managed to drag off of counters and consume. The latest was last night.

On top of the stove, pushed back against the back splash, presumably out of reach, sat a foil-covered 9 x 13 Pyrex dish of innocent and yummy Rigatoni with turkey sausage, tomato sauce and a lot of cheese melted throughout. Somehow Cheyenne managed to get hold of it and move it to the edge of the stove top and then pull it crashing down to the tile of the kitchen floor. I swear that dog has thumbs. And of course after all that work, there was the reward splattered and shattered all over the floor. Glass be damned, she ate that cheesy turkey pasta right up.

In my cool and collected way of keeping calm and realistic when it comes to all things Cheyenne, I freaked. I didn't simply freak, I FREAKED!! I freaked the kind of freak that is all caps and two exclamation points. Then I called the emergency vet and asked if, given the situation, I should bring her in. Their response was in the affirmative and they suggested that I do so immediately.

On the way to the vet, Cheyenne gagged a bit and coughed up a splatter of drool and blood. Not much blood, mind you, just a little dot, but enough to launch me straight from FREAK into PANIC, which at that moment translated from driving the speed limit to the hell with the speed limit.


We spent the next three hours at the emergency vet, with activities including her vomiting a pound of spaghetti which contained glass, induced vomiting (what the vet referred to as decontaminating her stomach) which contained glass, x-rays confirming punctate mineral debris within the pylorus (aka, glass in stomach) and eating cotton. Eating cotton? Yes, they fed her cotton to snag the glass bits through and out. You get the idea. I learned last night that a dog that will eat Pyrex won't bat an eye when it comes to eating cotton, just soak cotton balls in chicken broth and present to the dog, it's that easy.

Cheyenne took all of this in stride, though I did some pacing and hand wringing.


This morning, instead of flying off to Vermont, I am in the middle of a prescribed 24-hour watch, which includes getting familiar with her poop. Vermont will (fingers crossed) happen for me tomorrow. The bottomless pit glass-eating patient with thumbs is curled up in a brown ball asleep on the chair at the moment, completely unaware of my shredded nerves and rearranged plans.

Monday, July 20, 2009


It's a Monday night that feels like a Saturday because Wednesday felt like Friday and Thursday felt like a Sunday and have you ever lost all awareness of the calendar because there is precious little in your life that demands a date to be known? This part of my life, this here and now, is like being on vacation, except for the part where I'm not getting paid for my time off.

Oh, and the part where my vacation actually begins on Wednesday, but more on that later.

In the past week I've helped someone buy a new car, lent a hand, folded clothes, burned my finger, wished on a star, kissed, taken two road trips, cleaned up a lot of dog poop, cuddled a five week old puppy, lost a shoe, had fresh strawberries for breakfast, played Scrabble with my nephew, thumped a friend on the forehead for making a cleavage comment, sent a serious email, arrived at a decision, pulled weeds, cooked dinner, savored laughter, walked barefoot in the grass, been stood up, admired a sunset, listened to the wind, smiled at young love, cried over a memory, watched a young red Cardinal sing, prayed for a change, gone swimming, played air drums to a great song, clinked glasses in a toast, lit candles, woke in the middle of the night and stayed awake to witness the night sounds, and slept in late a few mornings.

What I find to be true when it comes to the decision to be in the present is that the flavors of life taste so new, so fresh.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday, moving slow

Yesterday, Cheyenne and I went to visit her strappingly handsome boyfriend, Isaac. He had another girl, Bella, over already but Cheyenne didn't seem to mind that. The more, the merrier seems to be the motto with these dogs.


Although Cheyenne's personal addition to the more, the merrier seems to be, so long as the ball is mine.


Unfortunately for Cheyenne, and more unfortunate for Isaac, that's also Bella's personal addition.


As usual, because Isaac is such a gentleman and an excellent host, he accepted with good measure that his two guests were not going to allow him to get the ball often. When he was able to get the ball, well, Cheyenne would address that situation real quick with a body slam, ear nipping, or near drowning.

Cheyenne is not a very considerate guest.

But she was a happy one, that's for sure.


Friday, July 17, 2009

In less than ten minutes

Recently I was in Austin to help my niece buy a new car. I drove up Wednesday and came back yesterday. Because I have a screw loose in my brain, I had some weird notion that it would be cooler in Austin than it is in Houston. But guess what, not only is it NOT cooler, it's hotter. I almost melted about a hundred times or whenever I walked from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car.

On Thursday, it was 108 degrees HOT. Merciful heavens, that is hot.

The Austin trip was a good one on many, many levels. There were only two snags, and both of those were on the drive home. Impossibly, even with my occasional screw-loose thinking, in the heat of the late afternoon when we stopped off at a convenience store and parked the car, there next to us was a beautiful brown dog. A beautiful brown dog panting in the heat of the car he was locked in, with one window open about three inches. The hair on the back of my neck stood up in a chill. My friend went into the store and looked at the long line of people waiting at the cash register. She faced the line and asked who had the dog locked in the car. The man that answered it was his dog did so with a leer that said to mind her own business. He bought his items and left.

Later, we stopped at a McDonalds in La Grange to use the facilities. Inside a truck parked in the full sun were three chihuahuas. The truck was off, the windows rolled slightly down. The little dogs went crazy barking when we walked past. My friend stayed outside while I went in the restaurant, and I stayed outside when she went in. Looking at the poor dogs, I felt outrage. A woman came out the of the door and stood looking at me. Are these your dogs? I demanded. She answered that they were. It's very hot in your car, they cannot survive that kind of heat for long. She tilted her head and informed me that there was water with ice left for them. I tilted my head and informed her that it was not enough.

I realize now that in both cases, I should have written down the license plates and reported these people who were abusing their animals. I realize now that ours were the only voices those dogs had, the only voices to speak up for them. Saying something to the owner was not enough. Did those people intend to put their dogs at risk? I doubt it. But they were ignorant to how differently dogs handle heat than humans do.

I've done a bit of research on what happens to dogs when they are left in hot cars. It's not pretty. A car parked in the sun on a day where the temperature is 85 outside, can have its interior temperature rise to 160 in ten minutes. I wasn't sure what our options were but I know now that I should have gone to the manager of that store and of McDonalds. Or, I could have called the police. I thought I did what I could do. I won't be so misinformed on the subject again.

This morning, I apologized to Cheyenne for my ignorance. And then I let her play ball in the house.

Misc 057 Misc 060

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For a change

NYC 044 honestscrapaward

My friend Carmon over at Life at Star's Rest gave me a "Creative Blogger" award in June. I was surprised by the award and delighted to read her kind words: Ever since I discovered her blog, I have been an admirer of Alison's photography, writing, and amazingly generous spirit. I don't think she is very interested in awards so I am giving her this one mostly because she deserves it, and also to send people to her site in hopes that they will find a way to help a family that recently experienced a profound loss.

That was very kind of Carmon, and people did link from her site to mine. I appreciate her kindness most of all for that reason.

Then last week, another blogger, Nilla over at Rhymes with Vanilla, gave me an "Honest Scrap" award. Again I was surprised. Again I was delighted.

I waited until after our fundraising even to post about this because I didn't want to take any attention away from our focus.

With both awards, there are a few rules. The Creative Blogger award states that I am supposed to tell you seven interesting things about myself and then pass this award on to seven other bloggers. With the Honest Scrap award, the concept is the same but instead of interesting things, the request is honest things and the number is ten.

I'm going to opt for seven things. I don't think they're necessarily interesting but they are honest. Here goes:

1. I'm a list maker. I write down weekly or daily goals, and if I have errands to run, not only do I write them out but most often I write them out in the order that I'll make them, from a time-efficiency standpoint. I picked up this habit when I moved in with my parents to take care of my niece and nephew, and my mother would make notes for things she needed to do, or things she wanted me to do. She was a night owl, my mother was, and in the mornings, I'd wake to find her organization in all sorts of notes left for herself, my father, the kids and me in the kitchen. When I moved out, the note habit came with me.

2. I delight in putting a check mark beside the completed tasks on my lists; the feeling of accomplishment is way out of proportion to the actual achievement. I can't explain why I get so excited when I check off Dry Cleaner.

3. I used to bite my fingernails, and I mean down to the nub. It was a habit that drove my father nuts. When I was in 10th grade, he offered me $100.00 and a manicure set if I would stop. I don't recall what I spent that money on but I still have the manicure set. And decent fingernail length.

4. My middle name is Elizabeth, after my mother. I feel wonderfully connected to her because of my middle name. Both of my neices also have Elizabeth for their middle names.

5. The ceiling fan in the living room of the family cabin clicks three or four times every now and then. It has done so for years. I think about that clicking sound often. In my thoughts, I've attached that sound to the sound of passing time.

6. When Calvin Trillon was writing for Time Magazine, his essays were oftentimes on the last page. Whenever the magazine arrived, I would go to the last page first so that I could read what he had to say. I now read all magazines from back page to the front.

7. I have two projects in the works. One is big and will take my life in a different direction than I've been on for the past 20 years. The other might be big but right now is a seed of an idea and growing in the hands of another. I'm not ready to elaborate on either one yet. But I will soon.

Now for the part of passing these awards on to others. I'm only going to pass these awards, yes both of them, to one blog. My friend Dee is relatively new to the blogging world, and her blog, Soul Promptings, consistently provides new ideas to my mind and inspiration to my heart. Dee is creative, honest and has a healthy and loving relationship with God. I've learned a lot from her over my years of knowing her and I continue to learn from her through her writings.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Evening of Cause - The MVP edition

It's hard to put the spotlight on a single MVP from Saturday's fundraiser. I just cannot do it. There were so many people who went way beyond in their efforts for our cause.

It is the woman who made a personal donation through the event site, who had her company donate an auction item, and who drove the live auction beyond our expectations by insisting that she be the one to win Yao Ming's signed jersey. Yes, she is definitely an MVP. Her name is Susan and she showed up all over the place for this fundraiser. Susan's smile and her heart are equally big and bright. Hers is a shining personality, and she laughs loud and often. It's one of my favorite sounds.

Another MVP is Joel Limley. He's a professional auctioneer and he's also a big-hearted, nice-guy cowboy who wears a Texas flag tie and who donated his voice and his skill, not to mention his time, for the live auction portion of our event. He's the kind of guy who stands up and tips his hat when you and he are introduced. One of my friend's asked me later, Where can I find a man like that? He's a thrill to watch and hear and he's so animated when he does his job that only one of my pictures was in focus enough to include.

Stevens Event 130

Then there was the band. The band was A Dog Named Leo and they stepped in at the last minute when the originally planned for band stepped out at the last minute. I only knew one of the band members and hadn't seen or spoken to him in over seven years. He did not hesitate when we spoke. He pulled together his friends, recruited some others, and they all donated their time and equipment to our cause. And they were great! Their song selections were great, their volume was perfect and they not only tolerated but encouraged their new number one fan's obsession with their music and their equipment.

Stevens Event 188

MVPs were also each one of my committee members. This is a talented and generous lot. They know how to organize and get things done. They know how to ask for what is needed and they know how to deliver the goods. They also know how to make work fun. Carol, Carrie, Chris, Jacqui and Sharon. All MVPs.

Two other MVPs come to mind. Holly, whom I've never met personally but who is a internet friend of mine, a fellow blogger who read about our efforts here and contacted me with interest in donating a piece of her beading artwork for the auction. Sandy, another fellow blogger whom I've not met, sent me a similar note and then followed up with a package of her handmade jewelry. Both of these women are loaded with talent and their contributions helped us surpass our goal.

When I think about it, everyone was an MVP. All the friends who clicked on the PayPal button on the event site, all the friends who donated items for auction, all the friends and family who showed up at the event, and all those who bid and bid again and then raised their bid at the silent and live auctions.

Without you, we could not have succeeded.

There are moments in my life, moments when the Lord asks, what difference are you making, what are you doing with the gifts I've given you? I don't always have an answer, or a positive one, but sometimes I do. This event is one of those times. We all made a difference. We all used our gifts to help another. I believe that when we do this, when we join hands to help others, we are at our very best. We are all MVPs.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oh what a night, what a night it was

If success is defined as achieving something desired or planned, then my-oh-my were we successful Saturday night!

Stevens Event 032

I spent much of Sunday going through the pictures and the memories, talking on the telephone, reminiscing and laughing. It was that kind of night, the kind of night where you spend most of the day after talking about the night before.

Are you wondering how much we raised? I'll get to that answer, just not quite yet.

The reason why the evening was such a success is the people. Friends and family, co-workers, ex co-workers, children, cowboys, musicians, Republicans, Democrats, mothers, fathers, sisters, daughters, sons, brothers, girlfriends, cousins. Some people drove in from out of town, others flew. We had such a wonderful group of people, such a wonderful and generous group of people.

Stevens Event 125

Stevens Event 087 Stevens Event 085 Stevens Event 097

I got outbid on everything I wanted, which was okay because, have you heard? I have no job. At one point though, I was holding the bag, er, winning bid, for something I didn't even want but was not so cleverly trying to raise the bid amount, and in that very long moment I tasted fear and inner panic. And I can confidently say that bluffing at a live auction is not for the faint of heart. But I do admit it was fun to raise my hand.

Stevens Event 120

You are probably wanting me to tell you how much money we raised. Pick a number between one and twenty.

Stevens Event 064
Stevens Event 076
Stevens Event 048 Stevens Event 044 Stevens Event 035 Stevens Event 051
Stevens Event 130
Stevens Event 140 Stevens Event 152

There's something I believe in and yet I'm always amazed when I witness it. I believe that one person can make a difference in this world, and I believe that a small group of people can join efforts to make a bigger difference. I believe that a room full of people coming together for a worthy cause can make an even bigger difference. There is power in numbers, but those numbers are made up of individuals.

Speaking of numbers, what number did you pick? If you picked 15, then you are correct. On Saturday night, we raised $15,000.00 for a family in need. Oh yes we did.

And that, my friends, is what we did together.

Stevens Event 111

Tomorrow, I'm going to highlight the MVPs. There were many.

Sunday morning, her place in the sun

LBD 002

Friday, July 10, 2009


Last night, my friend and I met at her house and assembled some of the packages for the silent auction. Then we reviewed the values and minimum bids. Looking around the room at all we have managed to assemble, I struggled with my belief at what has transpired in such a short amount of time. Then we discussed what was left to be done and I struggled with the list I held in my hand, the list of finishing touches and tying loose ends that will be the script for today.

In case you haven't heard, tomorrow night we are hosting a fundraising event. I hope to see you there. And if you cannot be there, please consider a donation by clicking on the above link which takes you to the event site and a PayPal option. Together, we can make a difference in the lives left behind.

Saturday, July 11, 2009
Hilton Medical Center Hotel
6633 Travis Street
7 P.M. – 10 P.M.

We have live music, cash bar, hors de oeuvres, a silent auction and a live auction.

We have a lot of wonderful auction items, some for her, for him, for the sports fan, and for the whole family. Most of all, what we have is the efforts of many, the gifts of many, and a fun evening planned for the benefit of a family who lost their loved one to Cancer, a family who can use a little help from us.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Thursday heart-catcher

This not-so-little dog of mine, the one I still refer to as Little Brown Dog, or LBD, is truly a lover of the dramatic. She sighs, she groans. She strolls and trots and sniffs every interesting spot on our morning walk, tail wagging all along, and when we return, oh the exhaustion, the insult of the heat, the torture of being made to labor outside when there is cool air and a couch inside, a couch on which to nap for the rest of the day! She looks as if she can't move, as if gravity is holding her down, as if she is miserable with pain. Don't believe it for a minute. If I were to walk into the kitchen right now, she'd fly from this spot in a brown blur of movement, and get to me in two leaps in hopes of scoring a treat.

LBD 004

Her drama? It's one of the many reasons I love her. Who are you loving today?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Everybody knows one

When I was a young girl, my favorite person in my world outside of my parents was my Aunt Pattie. Aunt Pattie was my father's younger sister and she was the sparkle in my eye. She seemed more alive than other adults in my life, she laughed louder, hugged me tighter, talked to me more like a kid and less like an adult.

Cancer stole my Aunt Pattie's life.

Nature shows often make me think of Cancer. When I see the predator singling out and moving towards its prey, I always think, that's just like Cancer. Cancer relentlessly stalks its victims, cell by cell.

Cancer touches all of our lives in one form or another. We know someone fighting or, sadly, we've lost someone. We celebrate the survivors and we mourn those who did not survive.

This Saturday night, July 11th, is about a man who lost his battle with cancer. This Saturday night is for his family, his wife and two young daughters. The Saturday is about showing up and helping.

Friends of the Martin Steves Family present: An Evening of Cause.

Thank you to those of you who have donated money and your artwork to this cause. It takes one spark to start a fire of passion and change. Click on the link above for details. I hope to see you on Saturday night.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


This little brown dog of mine was gifted with the freedom to swim in my friend's pool on the 4th of July. And I had the freedom to spend the afternoon with good friends, enjoying good food, good drinks and some good laughter. On my way home, I drove over a bridge and glanced towards downtown and the fireworks lighting up the night sky, Cheyenne stretched out in the back seat, bleary-eyed and yawning. For that moment, that entire moment, every single thing in my world was free and perfect, embraced and celebrated.

003 005 004

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July

We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls. ~ Robert J. McCracken

Friday, July 03, 2009

Not my typical Thursday

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a tattoo is a lifetime of speaking. I love his voice.

019 027 032 053 065 083

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ah, the wonder of it all

Several months ago, I entered the world of Facebook. I walked through the door, checked the place out, and hung a shingle with my name on it. Since then, I have been found by many and found many others. And I've enjoyed every minute of it. It's an interesting avenue, Facebook is, it's a community, a living and breathing block party that crosses years and has no geographical borders.

One week ago today, I sent a note out to who I hoped was a friend I lost track of years ago. I hadn't seen her in years, and the last time I heard from her was a postcard, but that was also years ago and it was mailed to my parent's house, which, to her, was my address. I had no idea where in the world she was and, with her career, it could have been anywhere.

She sent a note back that it was indeed her.

And just six days later, I found myself sitting beside my years-gone-by-but-oh-so-wonderfully-familiar friend, beer in one hand, and my other hand waving in the warm breeze of the summer night, my ears filled with music and a smile all over my face.

Concert 001