A Mortal Threat

We have little storms around here where lightening hits houses, windows break, thunder sounds like close range gun shots and trees get blown down. I used to wonder why anyone was afraid of thunderstorms but that was before I knew they could be a mortal threat. Fortunately, when we first moved here, the reality of tornados terrified me so I created a refuge in a big closet under our stairwell. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m used to theatrical weather. I’ll take an outrageously dramatic dust storm called a haboob like we had in Phoenix any day; it’s the devil I know. I just don’t know tornados or these kinds of thunderstorms at all.



Here are the contents of my shelter under the stairs:

  • water for humans and water/water bowl for dogs
  • snacks for humans and treats/chew sticks for dogs
  • a battery powered American Red Cross emergency weather radio
  • a battery powered, super mini flashlight
  • a battery powered lantern
  • two battery powered personal spray bottle/fan contraptions in case it gets really hot
  • back up batteries for all that battery operated crap
  • two heavy duty moving pads to cover the carpet in case we are in there for hours and the dogs need to go potty.
  • a blanket
  • a little nightgown for me in case it gets really hot
  • reading glasses in case I have to run in there without mine
  • 2 bottles of wine, a wine opener and doggie Xanax
  • a deck of cards for gin rummy in case Steve or Tim are in there with me and paper/pencil to keep score since we’ll be drinking all that wine and would no way remember the score

I’m not kidding. All that junk is beautifully organized in the closet under my stairs. In fact, when I showed it all to Tim, my adored retired corporate executive/dog walker/house sitter, he said, “Wow, you are really organized!” I’m pretty sure he meant, wow, you are really anal! Yeah, well, the next time the tornado sirens blare, I wouldn’t be surprised if he uses his house key and joins us in there!

Anyway, the last time we had this kind of storm with 90 mph winds, thunder following lightening after one second, debris flying dangerously near the windows and the loss of electrical power, the dogs and I took shelter in our closet. While Mother Nature raged, I ate a 200-calorie power bar while I would have preferred 1200 calories of Texas fried chicken, the dogs got decadent treats reserved for closet time so the psychological canine association with the closet is positive, and the three of us snuggled.

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After 45 minutes the storm blew over. Thirty-two hours later we got our power back and I threw away all the food in the refrigerator and freezer. Great opportunity to clean the fridge.

Wow. That Was Weird.

Life is so bizarre the way time marches on and next thing you know, you are not young anymore and things so foreign like not being able to eat onions, an occasional slight limp because of hip surgery, wanting to sit down and rest a little in the afternoon, avoiding crowds and noisy restaurants, the push up bra gathering dust, living in Texas and desiring sleep more than desiring dancing just somehow creep in.

Today is, of course, Valentines Day.  It is also my 17th wedding anniversary.  I cannot believe it’s been 17 years! While I have all the years of memories, in many ways my wedding day seems like a year ago.  I am blessed with a wonderful man who adores me and whom I adore and for the most part an amazing marriage.

The perspective of the young and that of the not so young couldn’t be more different.  I remember being young thinking I would never have a wrinkle and that somehow I was immortal.  That youthful attitude may be by divine design because young people have to stay very motivated to keep things moving as older people slow down and begin to realize the truth about living and dying.  I can’t remember who came up with the idea of Social Security, was it Franklin D. Roosevelt? Whichever president it was, he was thinking along those lines.   Once a few people you love die or survive something dire like the terrifying diagnosis of cancer and its treatment, your bad hair days suddenly don’t seem so tragic and your values and priorities shift tremendously.  Things that used to freak you out and that you were a control freak about like red wine on the rug, algae in the pool, a door ding on the car, a stain on your favorite sweater, a burnt Turkey at Thanksgiving or a broken fingernail are close to meaningless.

It is such a complete switch from what it felt to be young, that when people my age say, “I feel exactly the way I did at 29!” I have no idea what they are talking about.  I say, “Really? God, I feel the opposite of the way I did at 29.”  And for me, aging is not all bad.  I like slowing down, at the risk of sounding cliche, to take notice of a breathtaking sunset, to behold wildlife, to truly listen to someone I love, to watch the brilliance of ants at work, to write just for fun, to take that little rest in the afternoon and to tell my complete truth without fear.  I am also so comfortable in my own skin now that I don’t take notice of someone judging me because I am so clear that that judgment is not about me.  I no longer judge others and that is so freeing.  I naturally try to connect with people instead of compete with them.

Surely there is a method to this folly and I do believe in a higher power orchestrating this to some degree.  I think there are some people who are very clear on why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing.  I am not one of them.  I do the best I can but I’m bewildered a lot of the time.

My mom has a friend and somehow they got talking about what might be on their tombstones.  He knew exactly what would be on his.  Wow. That Was Weird.

Delusional Men

My current house is much newer than the one I had in Scottsdale and it’s also (unfortunately) a lot bigger. This is Texas. The one in Scottsdale was at that age where everything starts breaking for the first time and I lived with a revolving door of service repair people coming in and out with their dreaded 4-hour window of when they would show up.

“What if we both worked?!” I exclaimed to my husband. “Who would sit here and wait?! Do people hire a concierge to sit and wait or what?!  How do they afford that??” My husband has no idea what to say when I say things like that so he likely doesn’t say anything.

And if he does take the chance and say something like, “I know,” I would likely say, “Wait, you mean you know or you don’t know?!” which is precisely why he likely won’t say anything.

So the good news is, I don’t have to wait for service repair people nearly as often in this house because it’s so new, but when I do, I still have the problem of the 4-hour window and one other little thing. Every service repair man (and they are always men) seem to think I want to become an expert on whatever they are fixing.

The fridge guy gave me a “10 Point Understand your Refrigerator” course while my eyes rolled back into my head. The automatic awning man was positive my life would be enhanced by understanding the hidden mechanics unseen by the normal human eye, while I drooled. The handyman spouted the benefits of grout brands for the shower while I finished applying my mascara.

I want to say, “Just shut up and fix it! I don’t care how it works and I don’t want to hear you yak! I’ll never fix it myself as long as I live so I don’t need to know all this shit and I just want it to work so quit talking and fix it!” But, I don’t want to be a bitch not only because I am a nice person but also because these guys can be very passive aggressive and could put a scorpion in my ice cube bin, a paper clip into those hidden mechanics or use the crappy grout!

Recently Airtron was sending someone to diagnose and fix a problem I was having in my home office. In that room, I was freezing in the winter and way too hot in the summer. My window on the day the guy was to come was from 8 am to noon. They promised a call 30 minutes prior to arrival so I could zip home from the grocery store or wherever I might be and not just sit home and wait. I have never in my entire life had a service repair guy come in the first two hours of a window, so after staying up late with friends who came for dinner the night before, I set my alarm for 8 am.

Next morning, waddling in my bathrobe toward coffee, I saw the guy parked in front of my house in his van! OMG, my hair was in turmoil, mascara was all over my face and I hadn’t even brushed my teeth! Fortunately, he was typing on a device and I was able to get the mascara off, brush, put some clothes on, rein in the hair and by the time I opened the door I was in a reasonably presentable state.

Garth went directly to the attic. I’ve never had an attic before living in Dallas. I don’t understand why we need attics here when we never needed them in any other house I’ve ever lived in. And, I’ve lived in many.  (See one of my very early posts “I’ve got an attic??” )

He was up there a long time and finally came down and said with enthusiasm, “When they installed this baby, they reversed the supply and return on the vent which means hot air is being sucked OUT of your home office in the winter and cold air is being sucked OUT in the summer!”

“Okay, whatever,” I said, “did you you fix it?.”

Like the others, Garth was excited and said he did fix it but wanted to educate me and launched into a monologue about the mechanics of the evils of when supply and return are reversed.  OMG, I tried to employ body language to demonstrate I was not interested to no avail.  Once again, I was trapped.

I quietly seethed while visions of sugar plums and him being out of my house danced in my head.

Dominant Males

I was staring down at our new silverback gorilla, Subira, who just joined us at the Dallas zoo from a zoo in Canada when a family walked onto the viewing platform. This cute clan consisted of two little girls probably 10 and 8 years old and a boy around 6. They were beautiful kids with shiny blond hair, clear twinkling eyes and mischievous grins. Mom was very pretty and chatty, probably late 30’s and Dad seemed very reserved.

“There are three females and a new silverback in here,” I said. “He’s only been at the Dallas zoo for 3 weeks. We got him from the Toronto zoo. This is called a troop and is how gorillas normally live in the wild with one silverback, several females called a harem, and all of the silverback’s offspring with all the females. We eventually would like to see Subira mate with Megan, our youngest female in here and have a baby!

“That’s awesome!” mom exclaimed. “How are they doing together?”

“Pretty well,” I said. “It took some adjustment since it’s now an entirely new world for all of them. He’s coming on a little stronger than he needs to in establishing his dominance and the girls are pushing back on him more than is normal but the gorilla keepers are optimistic. In the gorilla world, the silverback protects the troop and calls the shots; when to eat, when to nest, when to move on; he’s the boss and females normally go with it, in the wild it’s all they know. But these girls are not in the wild and are still getting used to him since until 3 weeks ago, this was an all girl habitat and Madge was the dominant female.”

“What made Madge the dominant one?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, “Madge is the oldest and the biggest and is the mother to Shanta. Megan is relatively new here, joining us about 9 months ago. Madge and Shanta have never really accepted Megan and have treated her poorly and shunned her. It’s been kind-a gut wrenching. However, the minute you put a Silverback in with bickering females the bickering stops immediately. He just won’t allow it.”

“We need a silverback!!” the little boy shouted.


I couldn’t help myself and I burst out laughing while dad’s face flushed.

“Jake!” mom said, “We have a silverback!”

Where!?” Jake asked excitedly.

“Dad!” mom said, “Dad’s our silverback! Dad’s our silverback, Jake!”

Dad then started moving the family on it’s way like a good silverback. Mom looked back at me, rolled her eyes and under her breath said, “From the mouths of babes….”

I Hate Starbucks

I know I’m not the only one, but whether it’s Dallas, Texas or Scottsdale, Arizona, Starbucks rubs me the wrong way. Jus’ sayin’ ya’ll. I came in here just to blog about how much I hate it. It feels weird with the sterile clean counters, snobby baristas, muffins the size of baseballs and espresso machines that sound like steam engines from the railroad of two centuries ago. I haven’t been in a Starbucks for years.

For starters, the regular coffee tastes like someone cremated the beans on a barbeque until they were blackened and charred. I can’t choke it down. Then, a few years ago, like fifteen maybe, they came out with “lite” coffee that made McDonald’s Joe taste like Moroccan espresso. And that was before McDonalds beefed up the strength of their coffee. So, I’m screwed here in terms of a plain cup of coffee for zero calories. I’ll need to peruse my other coffee options.

Let’s see, how about the Cinnamon Dolce Latte? A quick Google tells me it has 290 calories. Or, maybe the Iced White Chocolate Mocha? 360 calories a pop. Better yet, I could just go for it with the Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha for a cool 470 calories.

I’m getting a sinking Starbucks feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s a conspiracy!! This is a cash cow scheme against unsuspecting citizens and the aforementioned citizens are falling for it! These are not coffees! These are decadent desserts, holiday treats, liquid pastries! Patrons are standing in a very long line thinking, yes, I’ll just have a little afternoon coffee pick-me-up. It’s not coffee, people! Why don’t you have that innocent looking, supposedly healthy, 640 calorie Zucchini Walnut muffin to go with it? Now your little coffee break is costing you 1,110 calories!

Okay, then we have the sizes. I can order Solo, Doppio, Short, Tall, Grande or Vente. What’s up with these size names? How about extra small, small, medium, large and so on? Are they trying to give this experience an ethnic feel or give the baristas a reason to laugh when I try to pronounce these? I resent having to learn foreign words to order coffee. Its like ring tones these days; what ever happened to ding-a-ling-a-ling? And why don’t “short” and “tall” get fancy, across-the-pond names? Are they discriminating against short and tall?

Finally, I hate the way these Starbucks customers stare at their screens, clicking and clacking trying to look like they are serious, important and working. If they had a job, they wouldn’t be here on a Thursday afternoon at 2:00 pm. It’s unlikely this many people are entrepreneurs! As for me, after years in the corporate world, my jobs now are volunteering at the zoo, playing tennis and working out, taking care of my house, husband and dogs and writing for my blog. That’s why I’m staring at my screen, clicking and clacking.

While you are now surely clear that Starbucks in Texas is as bad as anywhere else, you might be wondering what I ended up with. I’m drinking a tall, decaf, non-fat, no-foam latte. They call it the “Why Bother, Ya’ll”. Now that’s a cool name and it’s the only thing I don’t hate about Starbucks in Texas.