Touch of Grey will, well, touch upon the rainbow that is life. Good music, good times, and good friends combine to make all the splendid colors. Touch of Grey will celebrate this beautiful rainbow.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

That Smell

Can't you smell that smell?

The smell of a stinky, rotten editorial by our local rag?

I sure can. And I think the whole crossroads area can, too.

Quick, before it's too late....go here for the editorial, and check out the reader's input before it all disappears, and commenting becomes disabled, as the VicAd is known to do.

I have never witnessed a newspaper that would not support its town's institutes of higher learning. Of course, I don't expect the editorial staff to agree with everything UH-V does, but to show such an appalling lack of support is beyond the pale.

Anyway, I voiced my opinion and was promptly deleted. But, see, I WENT to UH-V and am one of their proud alumni, so I'm smart enough to have saved the comment so that it could live in eternity here on my blog because I KNEW it would be gone in a moment's time. So here it is:

How disappointing to read an editorial opinion that does not support a local university, U of H, with a VERY good extension of same right here in Victoria. Oh, and nevermind UH-V has been here in Victoria, turning out THOUSANDS of educated graduates who have gone on to the medical, engineering, chemical, education, and so many other varied fields to lend their talents back to their hometowns.

Does the VicAd staff really not understand this? Do they not see that UH-V has actually been here LONGER than most of the editorial staff themselves, nevermind the cub reporters who were not even BORN when UH-V established itself so long ago? Where were these "editorial staff" and "journalists" when UH-V worked so hard over the years to educate and contribute to this community? Oh....that's right, they were in Ohio, Kansas, Illinois....

Why don't you consider for a moment that your and a certain commission's push to get UH-V out of this community just looks like a lot of strangers who were not even born and raised in this state who now think they know what is best for Victoria and its surrounding towns? What sort of power do you really think you hold?

U of H, and UH-V has been here much longer than you, has contributed more than you, has intertwined with these citizens' lives much more than you ever have or ever will.

I really don't think this comment deserved to be removed, but the VicAd thought differently. How very sad.

In keeping with the season, all I can say is, and I quote:




Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Year of Dying Dangerously

The recent posthumous pardon of Jim Morrison for his "lewd acts" in Miami, in addition to an email from a dear friend, has sent my mind on a journey that I haven't been on in some time. Some of the most talented rock stars, the ones we lost so prematurely, seem to have a grim statistic in common: dead at the age of 27.

Jim Morrison.

Janis Joplin.

Jimi Hendrix.

Kurt Cobain.

Their music, and my memories, have been swirling in mind the past few days. An odd, and sad, soundtrack underlying my flashbacks to MY 27th year. I died my own sort of death that year, with a crisis the likes of which I have never experienced before or since. The miracle of one singer, of one CD, pulled me through. And luckily, she is not yet dead. Alanis Morissette has passed her 27th year, as have I, and we are not statistics. Her "Jagged Little Pill" album single-handedly, slowly, pulled me out of my 27th-year haze and into the future. And, yes, I doubled up on the Alanis just because she and her music mean so much to me.

Because these artists have contributed so much to my life story, I offer here two performances by each that touch me and haunt me the most. I hope you like them. I will never forget.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. Much too busy for that. In fact, if I stay this busy always, the way I figure it, I won't have time to die either. Wouldn't that be nice?

We are slowly transitioning between fall and Christmas. The front of the house looks kind of funky, what with Santa Claus and two snowmen sharing our brick ledge along with still remarkably preserved pumpkins and gourds. The fall wreaths are still hanging on the doors, while a poinsettia garland drapes our front door. Pretty split-personality, actually. But little by little, we will get there.

The tree base is in the living room, just waiting for the tree to be put in it as it is every year, and so I must remind myself to put away the pilgrim figurine and scarecrow candle holder soon.

Has anyone felt as disjointed as I feel this holiday? Does anyone experience this duality of decorations, this schizophrenic seasonal malady which I seem to be going through?

At least dad is still bringing over the totes containing Christmas decor from his garage. He is really taking the lead this year trying to get things up such as lights. I get the feeling he is more excited about Christmas this year than I am. And that's a good thing. I'm glad to see him in the groove.

But I swear, if I hear "White Christmas" one more time........

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Just wanted to repost this past blog of mine; I can't say it any better than I already have. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

For all your readership this year and in years past.

For an opportunity to entertain, enlighten, confound, astound, and tickle you.

For the circle of friends I have made through the blogging world. You know who you are.

For the warmth you have shown me and my family.

For the good times.

For the bad times.

For all time.

Forever. I am most grateful.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

She once was lost, but now she's found

This blog was originally written November 26, 2007. Now that it has been almost three years, there are developments in this case and so many others that bear revisiting.

The remains of this precious baby have indeed been identified as Riley Ann Sawyers, and both her mother and stepfather have been convicted of murder and are serving life sentences. The island where her tiny body washed ashore has been renamed "Riley's Island".

Remains in North Carolina have been identified as Zahra Baker, a precious ten-year old murdered, after having battled loss of a leg to cancer and hearing loss.

Beautiful, innocent four-year old Emma Thompson died a horrible death, having been sexually assaulted, infected with genital Herpes by her mother's boyfriend, being beaten and abused, suffering a lacerated pancreas and a fractured skull. Her killer got life in prison, while her mother was sentenced to twenty years for failure to protect her child.

Teketria Buggs, or "Teeky Bug", as she was affectionately known, was only twelve when she was stabbed to death and dumped in the Brazos river by her stepfather.

I will not give the names of the perpetrators of these unimaginable crimes here; they DO NOT MATTER. The victims matter. The murderers do not deserve any more press. These beautiful, precious innocent children are only a fraction of those who are killed every day by the people they trusted with their lives. Baby Grace is just one of them, and I chose to tell her story long ago because she touched my and so many other's heart. She still does. There are too many victims to even begin to list, but I hope they know they are never forgotten. I still believe they must be in Heaven, if there is one. There must be for these children. The alternative is unthinkable, for they have already experienced hell here on Earth.

Baby Grace now has a name - Riley Ann Sawyers. The beaten body of a precious 2-year old girl found just off a desolate island in Galveston Bay has been tentatively identified, pending final DNA results, as Riley Ann Sawyers from Spring, Texas. Her mother and boyfriend have confessed to her torture and murder, according to the latest news release. If you can stomach it, go here for the rest of the latest news update.

This baby will not see another Christmas, another birthday, nor another nightmare perpetrated upon her by those she most trusted and likely loved with all her young heart. As a late Thanksgiving prayer, I give thanks to the dedicated law enforcement personnel and talented forensic sketch artist that made possible the tip that apparently came from Riley's grandmother in Ohio who identified these sketches as her granddaughter.

God be with the family members who will no longer have Riley in their lives, to hold, to cherish, to protect as she deserved to be. While little Riley is surely in a better place now, I cannot imagine a Hell that is, well, Hellish enough for the mother and her boyfriend, if this is truly of their doing (although it doesn't get much more watertight than a confession).

The Texas-based search team, Equusearch, vowed to help in the identification and swift justice needed in this case, as they have in so many others. A member of Equusearch crafted a cross by hand, and placed it in the spot where Baby Grace was found. He said that he looked forward to engraving the cross with her real name, once known, and was optimistic that would soon be forthcoming. He was right. Now her real name can be put on that cross that marked the end of her journey in a watery grave.

This story has touched so many people, on such a large scale, that I hope some good comes out of it. If just one mother gives an extra hug to her child tonight, if one life is saved by someone who recognizes themselves or someone they love in similar circumstances and acts to stop the violence and suffering, then Riley's undeserved and untimely end will not have been in vain.

If you choose to view this video of "Amazing Grace" by the incomparable Mahalia Jackson, as I hope you will, I hope you will also say a little prayer for Riley. This is the song that says it all, and I will forevermore think of Baby Grace when I hear it now. I know that she is in Heaven singing with the angels now, and how sweet the sound. God rest her soul.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What a Hip Daddy-O!

I have been so busy of late with work-related matters that I almost let my dad's birthday slip by yesterday. He is now 62 years young, and still going strong. Here, I repeat one of my early blogs from November of 2007, about 2 months before we found out he had cancer and he began the biggest battle of his life against a formidible foe. But he ultimately won, and is still cancer-free today. I know this much: not all superheroes wear capes. I love you, my daddy-O!

Today is a most special day - my father's birthday. In the lingo of his greaser days, he's a real gone Hep-Cat, a rockin' Daddy-O. How in the world to explain the coolness of a man who, like so many others of his generation, started work while he was in high school, supported a wife and daughter soon after high school, worked his way up through the ranks at an oil tool company by taking whatever shift was offered him, and taking classes at UH downtown whenever he could to allow him better opportunities so he could better support his family? And, contrary to so many others of his generation, remained true to himself and his family (though "the times, they were a'changin'"), became even more cool as the decades flew by, and never embarrassed his only child, even when she was a teenager, by being anything less than hip? The only way to explain to people who are not fortunate enough to know him is to simply say, "He's my daddy Douglas".

Who could have known that the rebel greaser with a treasured black 1958 Chevy (which saw many races down Jackrabbit Road, later known as FM 1960) who didn't do so well in English and Spanish in high school (promting his mother to tell him since he obviously couldn't understand either language, he should just hush up!) would so soon become a responsible family man who shouldered much more than many men ever do, and did it with determination and grace, teaching his child the most important lessons a father could pass on. His thirst for knowledge became mine; his determination to succeed against formidable odds became mine; his love of sports - well, I guess two out of three ain't bad! And his love of music - OH! His love of music.

Imagine growing up in a home filled with music, wonderful music. From The Doors to The Rolling Stones; from Creedence Clearwater Revival to the Beatles.....the soundtrack of my parents' lives became the soundtrack of my life. My favorite memories involve them and their music. Not many gals are lucky enough to have a father who is patient enough to pop in a four-track (yes, you read that right, there, was such a thing) of the 1910 Fruitgum Company just so his daughter can hear "Simon Says" for the umpteenth time while rolling down the highway in his 1966 Ford truck (souped up with mag wheels and loud exhaust, of course). It takes a special man to let his daughter attend her first concert at age 11, even though he worries she is far too young and naive (and of course, she was), and breathes a sigh of relief when she arrives back home safely from this and so many future outings. It is an incredible thing to be raised by a father with a sense of humor (actually putting a BIKINI on a snowwoman in our front yard during a rare Houston snowfall in 1973), and a keen wit. You have never seen a more patient man teach his daughter chess, poker, the necessity to trust and to be trustworthy, and other important facts of life. The love of education was instilled in me at an early age thanks to dad, and that is something that will remain with me the rest of my days.

Because it's your birthday, dad, here are a couple of musical treats for you. I want you to know that I listen to you, even when you think I don't, and remember our talk a few days ago about Dion and the Belmonts' "I Wonder Why". I hope you enjoy the video, and also your favorite song, "Satisfaction" by your favorite band, The Rolling Stones. For all you have meant to me, and all you will always be to me, I love you.

P.S. Thanks for bailing me out when my car died on the highway last night. Just goes to prove, a girl is never too old to need her daddy, Daddy-O.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Appropriate for Halloween, no? But this is a ghost story of a different sort. One with no easy ending.

Daddy-O and I visited our cousin, dad's first cousin and my second (or first once-removed, or however that works), Robert Wayne. It would have been a pleasant, wonderful little reunion. But due to the circumstances, it was not. Robert Wayne has been in the Michael E. DeBakey VA Hospital of Houston for some time, due to his leg being amputated above the knee. That operation was, in fact, a direct result of him not taking care of himself for some time now. But it's not even as simple as that.

Robert Wayne is a Vietnam veteran. He went, young and scared, to serve his country because he thought it was the right thing to do. He did as his father did, called to duty in the name of the United States. He served his time. He is still serving it, but in a far different way. Between the divorce, the drugs, the wounds you can see and the ones you can't, he returned and remained a changed man. Robert Wayne was as likely as close as my dad came to having a brother. I grew up with his and his wife's children and we were all close cousins. But Robert Wayne was always troubled, always on the "fringe". He never spoke of the horrors over there but I know he lived them every day. And seeing him Friday my dad and I had to fight back tears. The Robert Wayne we knew and loved and had not seen for some time was still there. Deep inside. But he was disoriented, confused, and broken on the outside. He enjoyed seeing my dad, and I know it lifted his spirits. But he could not understand who I was. I am not sure he ever figured it out. He lives with assistance when not in the VA, but can never live completely independent anymore. And he is my dad's age. And his generation. Funny thing is, or should I say, fortunate thing is, that could have so easily been my dad. When dad's number came up, the only two things that kept him out of Vietnam was that he was a full-time college student who also worked to support a young wife and baby daughter. So he was deferred. And he never went to 'Nam.

If he had, would he have wound up like Robert Wayne? We can never know. But I held my daddy tighter that day and enjoyed Halloween with him this weekend more than I ever have. We are so lucky that I can scarcely believe our good fortune at times. He is here, whole, and with me.

The thing that struck me like a bolt of lightning was that this was not the same VA I had become so familiar with in 1992, when my grandfather, my mother's father, was dying of lung cancer from the millions of Lucky Strikes he had smoked since WWII. He saw action in Germany and returned home to take part of the American Dream. He became one of the Greatest Generation and was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather until his passing. I knew Friday when I spent time at that same hospital that this was not my granddaddy's VA. We are rapidly losing members of the greatest generation. The bulk of the population of the VA is decidedly different now, being comprised of mostly Korean veterans (although they too are becoming fewer in number by the day), Vietnam veterans, and veterans from the Desert Storm and Operation Freedom wars (or police actions, if you please). They are younger, angrier, from my dad's generation and mine alike. They haunt these halls in a different way than my grandfather's generation did. Their memories and futures are far closer, and more distant, than grandpa's ever were. I went to a shop in the VA where caps, patches, and other paraphernalia for veterans was being sold. Very little WWII things, but I saw tons of things for Vietnam vets. I knew this was a whole new ball game when I spied a patch that said "Jane Fonda - TRAITOR BITCH!" on it and realized that the anger over Vietnam for so many people will never go away. They have not forgotten, and I hope the veterans understand they have not BEEN forgotten.

The faces I looked into that day had a different gaze, and the VA had a different feel than what I had ever experienced. The place was alive, bustling, but yet it felt like a tomb to me. The halls are haunted with so many souls. I wish for those souls to find peace, but I don't know if they ever will. I know our cousin faces his own ghosts, of a "war" (yes, police action") that should never have been fought, of a family ripped apart, of his drug-addled life, of the wreckage he left behind, and of the family who still loves him in spite of the damage done. I wonder if his ghosts will ever leave him to wander down the halls of the VA and give him a measure of comfort that he needs after all this time.

These are ghosts of man's making. And those are the scariest ghosts of all.

Happy Halloween, all. Don't let your ghosts haunt you.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hidden World

There is so much that exists beyond what the naked eye can see.

Aided by an incredible invention, the human eye can now peer into previously unknown universes. Check this out. You'll be amazed. Then take a look at this. Finally, you MUST see these amazing electron microsope images that are so beautiful, you would be forgiven if you were to mistake them for art.

Is it any wonder I love my microscope so? I am the luckiest gal in the world. I get to go to work every day and view another universe, one that is endlessly fascinating, one that mere centuries ago was unknown to man. I love my job.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

How rare it is to go to bed with a smile on my face and wake up the same way.

As the whole world watches, the first of the 33 trapped Chilean miners made his way to the surface just after midnight.

A weary world somehow needed this, a story of the best of humanity. In a world where so much is wrong, this is so right.

Who doesn't love this story? Who doesn't rejoice with these people half a planet away? I believe that every now and then we need a reminder that we as humans are all connected. Consider this your wake up call this morning.

I know that no matter how my day goes today, I will go about my business with a smile on my face. I know that whatever I go through will pale in comparison to what these brave men and their families have gone through for over two months. I know that I will never think of Chile in the same way again.

FINALLY, something to cheer about in this old, tired world. Blessings to those miners, their families, and the rescuers. You've made this jaded chick believe just a little more.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Darkened Nights

Do you like the black square? Not so much? Kind of depressing, right? Just sort of....there. With no real charm or inherent glamour.

This is a sight seen more frequently these days. I'll bet you have witnessed your very own "blackness" too.

The decreasing number of fireflies in recent years has been cause for concern to amateur observers, scientists, and kids of all ages. Many are asking the question: Where have all the fireflies gone?

In decades past, childrens' leisure activities took place largely outside, and when it got near dusk, excited youth, including myself and my friends, would wait to see that first flicker of light, ever so brief but unmistakable: the fireflies were starting to come alive. Here they would dart, there they would scurry, leaving a luminous trail of phosphoresence behind, thrilling anyone who was lucky enough to spot them. Caught in jars, with airholes so they could breathe (they were so special, one surely didn't want them to die), we would believe we had caught lightning in a jar. How we would marvel at their special ability to light up our nights. Even with the bright lights of Houston around us on all sides, this glow was special.

The news of the declining numbers of fireflies is indeed distressing. If we lose this most special part of summer, there will be nothing to replace the joy of watching fireflies. Is it too much man-made light pollution? Parasites or other biological invaders decimating the firefly population? Environmental changes? Or something else?

When is the last time you sat outside and watched lightning bugs just for the sheer joy of it? Did you catch fireflies when you were young? I remember well going to the drive-in theatre in Houston as a child, one of our favorite activities as a family, and as it got closer to twilight, the show began before the REAL show began; that is, the fireflies would start appearing in the bushes next to the fence, and there would be entertainment for all before the movie even began. To me, that was the best thing about the drive-in. Rarely did I pay attention to the movie. I would watch those fascinating flickers of light, and listen to the sounds of the frogs and cicadas, that unmistakable din of summer, and be lulled right to sleep.

Here is a good website to visit to learn more about fireflies and how to make your yard a friendlier environment to help boost firefly populations. You can even learn how to become a firefly "counter" to help monitor populations around the country.

So tonight, take the time to peer outside at dusk. If you see a flicker or two, consider that a sign that one of nature's treasures is still around, and hopefully will be forever. I believe that if we lose our fireflies, we will lose our childhood innocence. I never want that to happen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Tooth, The Whole Tooth, and Nothing but the Tooth

Or, bits and parts of it, anyway.

Four days off work to myself. Things to get caught up on, old papers to read, movies to watch.

How did I accomplish this? Just by having a little lovely dental surgery.

The lone wisdom tooth left in my mouth has finally made its way OUT, OUT, OUT, courtesy of my dentist, who, incidentally, is THE best dentist in the world. That sucker of a tooth has been hanging over my head and laying totally on its side, impacted in the bone, all these years. My dentist and I had decided it would be the "end of the line" after all the other necessary work had been done, spanning decades, innumerable extractions, veneers, crowns, root canals, etc. The other three wisdoms had been extracted, and, as far as wisdoms go, really no big deal. And at my visit in early September after he had redone two OLD crowns that needed updating, and a cleaning, he said "Okay, we're here." I had never heard such sweeter words. We were really DONE. Except for this one lazy tooth that refused to move. EVER. We had saved it for last because it would be the most involved. So, I said, "Let's do it to it" and proceeded to make an appointment for one major oral surgery. My dentist used sedation and gas, neither of which I had experienced for a long time, and wham, bam, thank you ma'am, after much breaking , cutting, and pulling the stubborn little SOB out in bits and pieces (the tooth, not the dentist), we were done. That was it. GONE. Finally. I slept nearly all day yesterday after arriving home after bragging to him that I didn't feel the least bit drowsy or hung-over, although I was glad that I followed his instructions to bring my dad to drive me home. So, I felt some pain but not too terrible after arriving home, but once I hit my bed to take a small nap (my dentist is in Crosby, by the way, hence a long drive there and back), I proceeded to sleep until 1 a.m. Guess those drugs did kick in after all.

So is my dentist a little like Steve Martin ("Little Shop of Horrors?") Mmmmm....maybe. He can be a sort of "Wild and Crazy Guy!" But GAWD I love Steve Martin. My dentist and I, we are almost like two peas in a pod. After nearly twenty years together, we know each other well, and who wouldn't love getting dental work done listening to the most soothing voice telling his patient of remembrances of college days, of seeing Sonny and Cher, the Lovin' Spoonful, etc. before they hit the big time? Of his travels to the Great Wall of China and Mexico? Of his brave story of beating renal cancer ten years ago against all odds? I would actually go TO the Great Wall of China for him, but I guess Crosby is good enough. He just left me looking like a little one-sided chipmunk. Wonder if they have those in China?

So now all that is left is routine cleanings and perhaps a professional whitening if I desire later. He said the next time he sees me it will be for lunch. No crises, no hard work. Just...enjoyment. The talk of supernumerary teeth is gone, no long-term plans, no big deals anymore. Just a more "normal" relationship. That's the nicest thing of all.

Except the "liquid diet" thing. At least a couple days after, I can't get any food caught in the big hole and stitches, lest I mess up the bone graft and clot that was put in; healing is most important above all. I have drank buillon, soda, coffee, snuck a little pudding. But I'm sure Steve Martin "the dentist" would understand......FEED ME! I'M HUNGRY!!!! Git me some LUNCH!!!!!

Noooooooooooo!!!!!!! NOT THE DENTIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Can I Cry Now?

Ay-yi-yi. Just when I think I'm sitting on top of the world, I get knocked down.

By the same person who knocked me down 30 years ago.

Jeez, life is just SO not fair. Want proof? See this.

Brooke Shields can STILL get into those Calvins.

I busted those buttons off my size ___ (none of your beeswax) Calvins a LONG time ago.


Imagine growing up in an era with Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley, Kim Alexis, and Gia gracing every magazine cover you looked at. Then imagine trying to live up to that standard. Impossible. So, I went from my Calvins and Jordaches to scrubs. Room for expansion, I like to think.

At least scrubs don't button.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Life's Sweet Circle

Have you observed how life sometimes gives us answers we weren't even aware we were looking for? How, in John Lennon's words, "life is what happens while we're busy making other plans"? If we live long enough, and if we are very, very lucky, our past will catch up with our future, and all will be melded into the sweetest circle, a kind of continuous joyful Karma that colors our relationships, our actions, and weaves into the fabric of our lives a golden thread that is more precious than we could imagine.

When I leave before dawn most days to drive to work, my father sees me off and tells me to have a good day, he being a night owl and still up from the previous afternoon. He helps me get my lunch ready and makes sure the porch and carport lights are on so I can see. It doesn't seem so long ago that a little girl would do the same for her beloved Daddy-o, making his lunch the previous day (his favorite was egg salad sandwich) and looking foward to the evening hours when he would arrive back home. I wonder if he is as proud of me as I always was of him; after all, he was a MANAGER and a big hot-shot boss, and this meant to his little girl that he was the equivalent of the President of the U.S. How I would love to see him get dressed up in a suit for his many business trips across the country, for seminars and trade shows and training sessions. I always hated to see him leave, but I got to know the Houston Intercontinental Airport VERY well, and in fact felt like it was my second home sometimes. The best part was when he would come back, and I could see him walking down the "connector" from the plane to the terminal. You never saw a happier daughter, because her daddy was HOME. He would bring all sorts of goodies for me and mom, souvenirs, freebies from the shows, etc. Mom would make her famous spaghetti, and things were right once again.

As I have traveled to different states now for the same things; i.e., conferences, training, etc., it always makes me happiest to return home, and I know exactly how he must have felt. I too, bring "goodies" from my trip, and fill him in on discoveries of the city I visited. Sometimes, after a trip or just a day at work, he will have supper waiting for me. The roles have been a little blurred, but I still look up to him, and always will.

How does one handle a situation in which one's former boss becomes part of one's staff? The previous lab manager, who occupied that title for FORTY years, has semi-retired, and, as most Medical Technologists do, become restless without the daily challenge that comes with working in the medical field. So, he is back working in the lab, PRN, and enjoying it thoroughly. I know he enjoys just being a tech, as he was not allowed to for so many years, acting as manager and having all those worries that go along with the title. He can now just work and not take anything home with him; he now has a supervisor that does that instead of himself. The role reversal here is sometimes strange to me, but he takes it in stride, and when I have to go to that monthly manager's meeting, he just smiles knowingly. He gives me a grin when I hurriedly place supply orders, try to calm down an irate doctor on the other end of the line, or when I let out an audible groan when I realize an instrument problem is more than I can troubleshoot and must call in service (anyone see dollar signs with wings flying off yet? I do...all the time) to fix the problem. He allows me to stumble and pick myself up, without ever saying "That's not the way I would do it", or "You're barking up the wrong tree". He will give me advice only if asked, and I couldn't ask for a better, employee. Gotta keep that straight. Gotta remember I'M the boss now. Weird.

The circle has come around once again, with an MLT student in training at our lab this semester and next. It honestly seems like yesterday that I was the student, and remember how green and inexperienced I was. The questions seemed too numerous to handle, and it seemed I would NEVER get it. I would never be a seasoned, comfortable, knowledgeable tech like those who trained me in my rotations. It felt to me like the world was just so big, so complicated, that little ol' me didn't even have a clue where to start. The techs that patiently trained me, answered my questions, guided me, cheered me when I did well, and gently corrected me when I didn't, made all the difference. I owe them, and my MLT teacher, everything that I am today. Twenty-three years ago, I never would have imagined I would be in the position of managing a lab and welcoming students, shaping their futures, and imparting the agony and the joy of my chosen profession. I pray each day that I do right by them, and I give them what they need to succeed. I find it so strange, but wonderful that I have been given the privelege to teach and to share my knowledge.

I am indeed lucky that my life has come full circle, and that I can look back and see my past entwined with my future. The sweetest days I spend now are those in which the echoes from my past color my present with their rich hues. The days that dad tells me, "Be careful going to work and I'll see you when you get home". The days that I am able to pass along knowledge from the techs that taught me. The days that I can ask my former boss "Did you ever have days like this?" and he just smiles at me without saying a word.

These are the days I treasure, and these are the days where I become almost dizzy from the ride on life's sweet circle. These are the days I hope will never end.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

And now for something completely different....

What were you expecting, the Spanish Inquisition?

Or just a collection of fun stuff for a drizzly Thursday?

Well, if it is the former, that can be arranged.

If the latter, then, you've come to the right place!

Enjoy, chaps!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


So the old saying is true. You DO learn something new every day.

Check this out and see if any of that fascinating information is applicable to your daily life. Me, not so much, but it was surely interesting.

Ah, the world of finance.....

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Fun

Go here for a little mind-bending entertainment!

I've always loved M.C. Escher's stuff, and this site is official, with many of his works, and interesting bio stuff as well.

Finally, go here to trick your eyes but good.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

For Your Pleasure, Amigos!

And mine, too!

I heard this little gem the other day, and it occurred to me that it doesn't get enough airplay. Oh, I'm sure there was a time, around 45 years ago that it did, but most folks nowadays have likely forgotten about it or never even heard it. I pity them. This is such a lovely song, and it got me to thinking about other foreign language songs, and how they became a part of Americana. So I would like to put some of them in one place for you to enjoy! First, the lovely song which started me down that road of nostalgia, with what must be the original video, which I had never seen until I went hunting for it. Even though I don't understand a word of it, it still makes me smile every time I hear it.

And along the same lines, but in a different language, comes this beautiful song that has the ability to transport one across the seas:

Es muy bueno, si?! As is this early rock and roll hit, in the same poetic language, with a decidedly different flavor:

Of course, one Latin language can be complemented by another, as you can clearly hear in this delightful tune here:

Bella, eh?! Lest we forget our other neighbors across the pond, we have this unique entry that was, against all odds, also a smash hit, the only song in Belgian to hit number one in the United States:

And, although the entire song is not in French, this lovely song is included because its title is foreign, and because, well, it's Nat King Cole, and I would listen to anything by him in ANY language. Even though he thinks his "French is not good enough", I think it's completely perfect:

Come travel the world with me! We still have plenty left to see and hear, so enjoy this song that was a huge hit and is still played at many weddings today:

As we travel the world, I would also like to travel time in a way. I have a trio of hits from the eighties, so imagine, if you will, growing up with these wonderful hits on the radio, and enjoying them in languages other than yours. The first was performed in German, and also had an English version on the radio, and both were hits, but most seem to prefer the German version. I think people understand the message in any language, even if "Captain Kirk" may be the only two words they clearly get:

And this video includes footage from one of the greatest movies of that decade:

And I'm allowed a cheat here simply because this song is SO awesome, and I love it as much today as I did all those years ago. The title IS foreign, if not the rest of the song, so have fun:

And, finally, this one's not really in any foreign language, but it is a song which I believe ANYBODY can understand and love. It is included here because it comes from one of my most favorite movies of all time "Lillies of the Field" starring my favorite actor Sidney Poitier. For those who don't know the story, a handyman (Poitier) happens upon a group of German nuns in the desert, teaches them some English, and proceeds to "build them a chapel". Even though their English skills are not great, and his German skills are nonexistent, they are able to sing this song together, as music is a universal language. In the movie, the singing was done not by Poitier, but by Jester Hairston, whom some may remember as ROLLIE on the TV show called ironically, "Amen". So here is that lovely song for all to enjoy from that movie that I so adore and have to watch every Easter, or it just isn't Easter for me:


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Goodbye to the Mom and Pop Store?

After a somewhat dispirited visit to my local Wally World yesterday, I thought of an old Victoria Advocate blog of mine and revisited it. I still agree with the words of that blog, and will repeat it here for you in its entirety. It does make one think about the smaller, family-owned businesses that are being gobbled up by the big-box stores, and just what is being lost along the way.

What happens if the day comes when the small family proprietors, the independent artists, and the local friendly shops no longer exist? I spent a bundle yesterday at Wal-Mart, more than I should, as is usually the case there; after all, with so much selection and inventory, why not fill up the cart? I know I also saved a lot of money, as I had many coupons to complement Wal-Mart's already LOW prices. But what have I really saved? Time? Nope. Hassle? Are you kidding me?

Maybe it's a good time to post this old blog, as back-to-school shopping commences. The largest place we ever shopped at in Houston for back-to-school necessities was Foley's, Weiners, and the little teacher-supply store down the road. We also would go the small hobby shop on Crosstimbers to buy art supplies for both myself and my parents, now that they would have a little extra time on their hands once I went back to school; mother would pursue her multitude of artistic endeavors, while dad would busy himself with his model building.

But I digress. Think of those little shops as you read this repeat, and ask yourself what has been saved, and what has been lost.

There has been an interesting thread on the VicAd discussion forum concerning Wal-Mart and peoples' experiences there. While I could jump in and join the fray, venting my frustration at the long lines and sometimes less than courteous associates at the big-box stores, I have been thinking all day about the smaller stores, the mom-and-pop stores, if you will, that seem to be a vanishing breed nowadays.

Contrary to one poster's sentiment, the mom-and-pop store is NOT yet gone, but is rapidly fading in the shadow of all the mega-stores, the Johnny-come-latelys of retailing. Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, and others have changed the landscape of the retail world, and have left their mark on American consumerism. Left in the dust are the smaller stores, the little guys who were always there, on the town square, to do business with a smile and a "How are the wife and kids? Have a good day, now, hear?". The days of walking in an establishment (not through a sliding, electronic-eye door, mind you), hearing that bell on the door announce your arrival, and being helped by a friendly and KNOWLEDGEABLE person are going the way of the dodo.

I recall even in Houston, we had a few small neighborhood stores that offered a welcome respite from the concrete jungle surrounding them. One grocery store in particular, Stutes' on Jensen Drive, was the one we would always patronize for small grocery items and meats. Mr. Stutes, the owner, knew every customer by name and would cut and wrap his own meat daily. He would cash a check for money for the customer, serving as the local bank in a way, as well. He always had a smile and a kind word for every customer. I remember well the old cash register, the kind that seemed to "talk" when the lever was pulled, not these modern electronic contraptions that have no personality. There was one cashier in particular named May, and whenever my parents would come in with me in tow, she would let me sit up on the counter while she keyed in the price of our groceries. She was always so kind and cheerful. I wonder if kids nowadays will have memories of this sort when they get older? It seems such an impersonal world now. In addition to Stutes', there was also a corner grocery called Doyle's and a service station (when service really was FULL SERVICE) called Jone's Gas. How I miss those small stores!

There are some small mom-and-pop stores left, particularly in the small towns. There is one place I love going to in particular, Morrow's Hardware, here in Yoakum. The wooden floors appear to be the original ones from its inception, and the shelving is likely the same that has always been there. The Gin and Feed in Yoakum has been transformed to a farmer's market but still has the original architecture intact. I must confess, I don't frequent these small stores as much as I should, finding myself in Victoria half the time and stopping by Lowe's or Home Depot, because it is most convenient.

I am reminded of an especially poignant "Wonder Years" episode where Kevin finds employment at the local hardware store, yep, the kind with the bell on the door and the wooden floors, just like Morrow's. But the lure of the burger stand in the local mall is calling to him, and he leaves the hardware store to work in a "cooler" place, the mall, where he can be around all his friends. Meanwhile, the little hardware store is dying day by day, and the old man who owns the place has nobody to pass along his knowledge and concern for good customer service to. We all know the unhappy ending of stories like these, even though the episode doesn't go into all of that. Kevin has a decent job, making even more at the burger stand than he ever could have at a local hardware store, and he seems cooler to his friends. But what of the things that have been lost? How to put a price on that? How to restore pride, care, and love of a business that has been built through generations, from the ground up? It seems that many of us are too busy nowadays to ponder these questions. Someday soon, the whole point may be moot, as we mourn the demise of the mom-and-pop store.

Friday, July 30, 2010

You're Welcome!

And glad to be of service!

No, no, don't thank me, that's really not necessary. The bears and I just wanted to brighten your day.

So, for those of you that are GRATEFUL, a song and a pun that has absolutely nothing to do with anything....

The music never stopped you say? I hear a patient consulted his medicine man about a pain in his stomach that had persisted for three months.

"For something as long as that," said the medicine man, "I have a more drastic remedy than the herbs I normally prescribe. Chew on this leather thong every day. It is 31 inches long; chew one inch every day, and come back at the next moon".

The patient dutifully did as directed, and at the next moon reported back to his medicine man.

"How do you feel?" the medicine man asked, to which the patient replied, "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on..."

And if that don't make you smile on this lovely Friday, nothing will!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

...And Her Brother

Meet Pumpkin. The brother, I am sure, to Lovie. He came into our lives just yesterday, but already it feels as if he has been here all along.

Making himself right at home with Lovie, he has shown an amazing similarity in personality to his sister. He has a non-stop motor, is loving and affectionate, and, oh, so playful.

Pumpkin almost wound up at the shelter in Victoria, after being refused for some reason by the Dorothy O'Connor Adoption center. The lady down the road had discovered him a few days ago in her yard, and my suspicion is that he is definitely part of the current couple of litters dumped in our yard a week or two back. How he wound up separated from the rest only he knows. The lady just couldn't keep another animal and so they took the sweet little orange kitty all the way to Victoria for a better life. They definitely didn't want him "put down". She had called me about him a day or two before, asking if we had lost a kitten; I told her, no, we had actually gained a few. She said she didn't know what to do with this one but would check out a few options. Then she called yesterday, sounding desperate, saying nobody in Victoria would even take this one, and they didn't want to resort to the "pound". She asked, could I? Would I?

Yes, of course. Bring it by here. It likely will have a happy family reunion with its siblings after all. So she brings the little orange one to me, and I was not prepared for a tame, sweet, twin (except in color) to Lovie. It was definitely used to being around people, so in the house it came. Lovie acted like she knew him all along, and so.....

Here we are again. Another addition to the family. Pumpkin will be seeing the vet for his first time next week, and life will continue to be a blessed adventure, thanks to the sister and brother team who continue to amuse and amaze us.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My New Love

is also my "mew" love. Once again, a grey and white kitty has stolen my heart. So meet Lovie, my new love.

She was "discovered" a couple of weeks ago under my dad's house, hiding out. Where did she come from? I guess she was dumped off, for I have since uncovered seven more kittens, 3 of which appear to be somewhat younger, and four around Lovie's age, which was estimated by the vet to be around three or three and a half months. She has the loveliest brown eyes, and the most playful and loving nature. I had forgotten how much energy a kitten has, since I have been "mom" to adult cats for so many years now.

The others vary in color. There is another grey one, four brown tabbies, two black ones (one with medium-long hair), and an orange one. I guess they were dumped off at the same time, but I never knew they were there until this past week. Why did Lovie make herself known first? She was definitely vocal, and although a little skittish at first (she even hissed at me a few times), she was in the house and sleeping along side me by that night. Ever since then, she has been a part of the family, winning over dad and grandma, and (eventually) all the other cats and the dog. We get a kick out of watching her play with her boundless energy, and hilarious pratfalls, since she's not so very coordinated yet. She will grow up too fast, of that I am sure. But every day with her has been a delight.

What about the others? They are much more skittish than Lovie, but I am slowly getting them tamed by feeding them and petting them. They will all have to be tamed down enough so that I can take them to the vet for their shots and to be spayed and neutered. Then, I suppose they will likely remain outside cats, probably taking up residence in my dad's garage (which is probably akin to the Taj Majal for a feline), along with our black garage cat, Potter. Of course, if one or two wanted to hang around the house, they would be most welcome and would be a part of our family too.

Why was Lovie the ONE to win my heart first? I don't know. I suppose that's her secret. But I'm so glad she's here. Her love has captivated me and she is truly my baby now. Even if she does tend to get into mischief now and then. After all, she is still just a kitten.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Isn't it? Just because....well, I'm in a pissy mood today. So here you are. Misery loves company, after all....

So by the way, which one's Pink????

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Whose Writing Style Influenced You?

Ever wonder if your favorite authors have influenced the way you write? I often wonder how much I have picked up from Asimov, Bradbury, Lovecraft, etc. It seems, more than I ever imagined, that my favorite author in the world has had a profound impact on me, coloring the way I write, not just everyday, but even the more "formal" scientific papers I composed while obtaining my degrees.

Go here and you will find out for yourself. It is fun, free, and, much to my shock, handed me the greatest compliment I could have received about my writing style. I typed in a few paragraphs from a paper I wrote years ago for my criminal justice senior seminar titled, "Theories of Law Formation: Correlation with Criminological Theories", and go here to see my "badge".

Wow! I know this is just some silly computer gimmick, but it certainly made my day. To be able to extrapolate from my scholarly writings a similarity to this author's writings is an amazing thing.

So try it! You could be amazed.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

That Year

Was 1976.

The bicentennial.

I remember it well.

Everything was red, white, and blue. The spirit of patriotism was thick in the air, and my family, like most others, got caught up in all the excitement of our nation's 200th anniversary.

The "Freedom Train" came through Houston on its country-wide tour that year, bearing either the original or a replica of our Declaration of Independence. We surely took time out of our busy bicentennial schedule to go see this American treasure. Being 9 years old, I don't remember so much the details, but I do remember the importance of the moment and my dad and I posing outside the train.

My elementary school was positively abuzz with the spirit of '76. I am the one in the school picture in the front row wearing white pants (gasp!) and the shirt with the flag on it. Of course, we had all sorts of programs that year at school, and I particularly remember our music class rehearsing and rehearsing a special patriotic show to be given for all the parents and teachers. The thing that sticks most in my memory about that show is that all during rehearsals, being third graders, we couldn't help but snicker everytime we had to sing about "Amerigo Vespucci". Could you imagine how hilarious that name was to a bunch of schoolchildren? We vowed to get it out of our system during rehearsals so that come show time, we could be serious and get through this fine program without the giggles. So did we? Not really. But when we started laughing, so did the audience, and, of course, a good time was had by all.

1976 was the year my family got a new vehicle, which I believe was the result of our extreme patriot pride in the bicentennial. Being good American consumers, we added to the nation's bottom line at the detriment of our own by taking off that summer to "see the USA in our Chev...." uh, well, in our orange and white Ford Pinto. That's right. We just knew we were ever so mod, though, and were as proud as could be, touring our country in an American-made (mmm....probably not so much as we wanted to believe) death, vehicle. Off West we went, riding into the sunsets until we reached the holy grail of all consumerism - Disneyland. Even the Magic Kingdom had gotten into the act with red, white, and blue bunting all over the place, and flags hanging from every nook and cranny, as can be seen in the faded photo. We toured Anaheim, Long Beach, and (of course) Hollywood, but the thing I remember most from that trip was the tour of the Queen Mary ocean liner. What an awesome sight that ship was, and I remember vividly how large its engines and propellers were. I had a hard time fathoming that something that huge and that heavy could actually stay above water. I had a blast on that ship, even more so than at Disneyland or even walking in the California surf.

Even my ballet and gymnastics class got into the act, performing all sorts of silly skits and programs meant to highlight the nation's birthday. There was I, the uncoordinated one, in a garish red, white, and blue costume with plenty of spangles and sparkles, feeling like a fireworks display, when the moment I remember most from that year caught my imagination: the ballet school's owners' daughter, who was (*SIGH*) a 17-year old MODERN dancer who had long graduated from the flimsy little slippers my age group still wore took the stage. Dressed in a yellow flowing dress, dancing barefoot just because she could, Ann Gurganis was the envy of all the youngsters that night. She was so important and so graceful, she merited the stage all to herself. And the main reason this moment sticks in my head: she danced a beautiful, free dance to Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle". A song about the future capturing my attention? You better believe it. That was the first time I had ever heard that song, and I knew at that moment when I grew up, I wanted to be like her. My own woman, dancing to her own song, paying homage to our past and looking ahead to our future.

And that, in a nutshell, is what I remember most about that year: a nation gratefully celebrating its storied history, and on the brink of brave new things.

Come to think of it, that's what America is all about, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

C'mon, Alex!!

Show us what you're made of!!

Huff and puff and blow us away! I dare you to have half the power of these songs, though! Talk about getting blown away, if you have never seen Neil Young in concert, particularly with Crazy Horse, you have no idea what REAL power is. He is, hands down, one of the single most awesome guitarists EVER. I have seen him play his guitar so hard, strings break. And then what did he do? HE KEPT PLAYING! Simply one-of kind. Witness for yourself as he gives his all on my FAVORITE Neil Young song:

And, of course, you could never possess the incredible talent of the Beatles, either!

Are ya gonna put some truth into Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Texas Flood"? Are you gonna wash us away, Alex? No? I didn't think so. No flood could compare to this one by SRV. The truth is already there in every sweet note of his guitar. You wouldn't understand.

And are you going to "Reign O'er Me"? I don't think you will. You see, The Who is most regal here. You, not so much. I'll let love reign o'er me anyday.

So go ahead and stir up those waters. I say, "Let It Rain", as long as I can listen to a little Eric Clapton at the same time:

And, maybe, a little hangover here from my last WAR blog.....STOP THE WAR.....but, "Who'll Stop the Rain"?

And, Alex, you will never be able to win my heart with your mighty winds. For the sweetest breath I've ever heard belongs to Robert Plant, and he knows how to speak to a woman. So go ahead and do your best, for "upon us all, a little rain must fall". But I have a feeling you won't stick around as long as Led Zeppelin. After all, they have always been the "sunlight in my growing":

And after you've given us all you've got, and you're diminishing, diminishing, diminishing, all we'll be left with is remnants of your memory. Your brother Ike tried to destroy this state's spirit. Alicia, Claudette, Rita.....they certainly tried to take all that is ours. But they couldn't. Neither will you. Even if it's raining in Texas (or Georgia), and it feels like it's raining all over the world, we will get through it. We will hear beautiful songs like this one by Brook Benton, and remember when you tried your best. But your best will never be any match for Texas.

So come on, Alex. We're not scared. We're Texans.