Big Boys

I was in the Gorilla Research Station observing two male gorillas, Shauna at 400 pounds and Juba at 430.  Shauna and Juba live together in a beautiful habitat with two other male gorillas in what is called a Bachelor Group.  The living arrangement is unlike the normal Gorilla Troop consisting of one silverback male, several females and all of their offspring.  

Today Juba and Shauna were pacing, playing rough and agitated and I knew why.  In an adjacent habitat there is a troop and it’s silverback, Subira had just returned from a long stay at the zoo hospital.  While Juba and Shauna will never be in the same habitat as Subira, they can smell him and a natural competition arises.  Juba suddenly pounded on the metal wall separating the two gorilla habitats making a deafening sound and then charged up the hill with Shauna close behind.

Just then a three year old boy ran up to the glass, pointed with his thumb at the apes and said, “I’m gonna go in der and wrestle with dem!”  I smiled and glanced at mom and grandmom who giggled.

“Really!?” I said to the boy. “Who do you think will win?”

There was a long pause as he watched the gorillas.  He finally pointed with his thumb again.

“Dem!” he said.


Judgment Day

Hi. I know. It’s been awhile. I’ve been busy with discs. A big herniated one in my case. I couldn’t even sit on my desk chair to write for the longest time and I was too preoccupied with pain to try.

Dr. Christy referred me to a spine guy who was so cute I had trouble staying focused on my own disc and not various discs, or things along those lines that might be on his body.

Dr. Christy said, “Isn’t he….”

“Yowza!” I interrupted. Of course she laughed and typed.

At 38 to 40 years old compared to my 56, I am technically old enough to be his mother, if I had started young, which I didn’t, but if I had, I could be. But he’s fun to look at nevertheless.

This is supposed to be a funny blog about living in Texas not a medical journal or a journal about the zoo. But medical stuff and the zoo have dominated my life lately. While I’ve have had 3 surgeries in under 3 years, the Dallas zoo has had two baby giraffes in under 7 months! Kapono is our 6 month old baby boy and Kipenzi is our one month old baby girl. Here she is out of the barn and in her habitat for the first time.

Kipenzi with her Mama

Kipenzi with her Mama

Pretty Baby Girl

Pretty Baby Girl

I remember, years ago, judging people whom I decided were having too much surgery. They should take better care of themselves, I would think. They need to figure out what they can do other than surgery. Too much surgery is terribly invasive and wears on the body!

Well, yeah, and then next thing I knew it was me and I honestly don’t feel like I had any choice about my surgeries. I would have ended up in far worse shape had I not had them than I am now. In fact, once I recover from this latest one, I might actually be relatively pain free which would be incredible! I thought my chronic pain was from botched hip surgery just under 3 years ago. Little did I know I had a herniated disk that Dr. Christy described as “huge” and that the cutey pie Dr. Canella said I might have had for a year and a half or more. Maybe my hip surgery wasn’t botched after all! Yay!

I don’t judge people anymore. I haven’t walked a mile in anyone’s moccasins except my own and my journey has made it very clear that this is not easy for me or anyone else. It didn’t take self-control, meditation or discipline to stop judging. It took the hard knocks of life.


Soul Sisters

“Her credentials are stellar and she’s super smart! She’s volunteered in hospice for years, which is rough stuff and at other facilities for the downtrodden. She is gentle but also tough! Her stepdaughter went to school with our cousin’s granddaughter so she is like family to us.” 

That makes you family? That’s a stretch, I was thinking. This guy is lucky I didn’t yet know I share a birthday with Dr. Christy. I would have been all over him about who is family.

“That’s wonderful,” I said trying not to be rude but nevertheless multitasking half listening to him while trying to get forms filled out the receptionist had given me, “yeah, I think she’s pretty amazing, too.”

“Well, that’s not all!” the old portly guy with a cane, swollen ankles and skin issues went on. “The first time I ever met her she put her stethoscope to my heart and went around once, went around twice but didn’t stop there which is normal operating procedure! I should know; I’ve had my share of heart issues! Twice around is when they stop!” I was still trying to get that damn paperwork done. “She went around a third time and by the fourth time around she was dialing a cardiologist and three days later I was in open heart surgery! That lady doc saved my life the first day I met her!!”

As I was just about to say he didn’t need to have the word lady in front of the word doc, Dr. Christy’s PA came out and said loudly, “Thompson!” The man’s wife jumped up while he started rocking in an attempt to achieve some momentum to hopefully get up off the couch.

Confused, I Iooked at the woman and said, “Is your name Thompson?”

“Tomlin,” she said.

I have noticed over the years that physician’s assistants are generally all business and take their jobs very seriously and Angel is no exception and she didn’t even bother addressing the confusion which she clearly noticed. “THOMPSON!!” is all she said, just louder this time and there were only three of us in the room. It made me chuckle.

I stood up. “Sorry,” I said to Tomlin, “I’ll be fast, I just need her to check a couple things.” I really wasn’t sorry and I didn’t intend on rushing the good doctor or myself. I was relieved to be away from that man so when Angel was done with the dreaded clothes-on weigh-in (NEVER wear boots!!) and my white coat syndrome blood pressure reading which is always traumatizing, I might be alone for a few minutes to finish that stupid paperwork.

I did finish it and in addition to the glamorous photo of Dr. Christy on her wedding day, (the only day in her life she ever wore make-up), I noticed a first place prize plaque she and her husband won in a sailing contest. Wow, I thought, not only is she a doctor, she’s a sailor who wins first prizes in contests, with her husband no less!! I cannot partner with my husband in anything competitive. It’s a complete disaster. I will play mixed doubles but he must be partnered with the wife of the other couple and I must be partnered with her husband.

Then I heard the file being taken out of that file holder thing on the outside of doctors examining rooms. Now, normally when you hear this sound you know you have 3 to 4 more minutes to un-sterilize tongue sticks and see what’s in all those drawers because most doctors do not review a patient’s chart until the 3 or 4 minutes before they enter the examination room. Dr. Christy on the other hand, reviews the charts of the people she is going to see that day in the morning. What a concept! So with her, I have to have my hands off those sticks and the drawers closed as soon as I hear the sound.

“Hello!” she said brightly as she entered the room before we even made eye contact.

“Hi!” I said, and we hugged a comfortable, real hug. “Your ears must be ringing,” I said, “that man out there is singing your praises!”

“Oh yeah,” she laughed, “he’s a geek that way.”

We sat down and that’s when I do the emoting and she does the typing, question asking and laughing. We have so much fun together. I got it all out and she asked me to sit on the examination table so she could check a few things. She walked over to me and I was jealous that she looked so thin, and I’m not fat. Jealously at my age of 56 when you are at least a partially evolved human being is nothing like jealous at 13, 27 or 36. At this age you are sincerely happy that your friend or doctor/friend is looking great, you just wish you looked as great. And you might; we are our own worst critics. Maybe the word isn’t even jealous.

As she approached to take my reflexes with that little stick with a rubber pointy thing that reminds me of a primitive tool, I brushed my hand on her stomach and I said, “God, you are so skinny!”

“Really?” She sort of squeaked, “no!”

“Yeah,” I said, “your stomach is so flat!”

“No it’s not! It’s these pants. They are too big for me so they make me look skinny.” She pulled the waistband of the pants to show me how big they were. “And, these scrunchy tops hide a multitude of sins.” She must have been getting what she wanted with the tomahawk because she gently smiled as my feet popped involuntarily toward her.

“Okay,” she said, “I’m going to give you a topical ointment for that little thing on your skin but that’s it. I’ll go get it for you now.” I followed her out of the room.

“No,” she said, “stay here, go back in there,” and she pointed to the exam room. She tries to avoid crowds at the PA’s desk because there are two other doctors and their PA’s in her offices. I saluted and dutifully returned to the exam room.

A minute of two later she burst into the room and excitedly exclaimed, “Now I know why I like you so much! We are soul sisters! I just saw your birthdate and we have the same birthday!!” She held her arms wide and we fell into a hug.

“That is so awesome,” I said, “we are both Scorpios and do you know how I found you?” She shook her head. I rolled my eyes around, held a finger in the air and twirled it around and then slammed my finger onto a framed photo on her wall to indicate how random it was.

“Don’t break my picture.” she said with a giggle.

“God, I can’t believe you and your husband won first place in the sailing contest,” I said.

“Yes,” she smiled proudly, “d’ya’ll sail?”

“No,” I said, “and we don’t say “ya’ll” either.”

“I do both!” she exclaimed.

We parted with a “love you”, “love you, too” and I headed down the hall at my normal determined pace to tackle the rest of my day.

“Andrea?” Dr. Christy called.

“Yeah?” I said.

“You are going the wrong way! The exit is this way.”

I did a 180 and I passed her as she took a chart off the wall of a door, made eye contact with me and said quietly, “Okay, in with Thomlin now.” I put my hand on her shoulder. “Good luck!” I whispered and then exited out the correct exit. ___________________________________________________________ *Reminder: My posts are based on true stories.  A few facts might not be completely accurate either because I couldn’t remember or I liked it better a slightly different way.  Names in most of my posts have been changed to protect the innocent.

Sparkling Celebrities

OMG! Leonard Nimoy aka Dr. Spock just died. I was never a fan of Star Trek, in fact, I’m not sure I saw one episode. I’m not a TV watcher. I only watch SNL and tennis and they must be taped.  I hate complicated, computerized, bionic remotes and I hate commercials. I have my vices; TV is just not one of them, which is weird because my father was in TV.

I was raised in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, my mom was a gorgeous model, my father, Robert “Bob” Miles was the stunt man for Michael Landon on Bonanza all those years and he continued working the few stunts necessary for “Little House on the Prairie.” Michael Landon and my father loved each other. Then sadly as we all know, Michael died of cancer.

My Father no the set of Bonanza

My Father on the set of Bonanza

My parents divorced when I was very young and I never got to know my father well. He had an exciting life with Hoss, Little Joe, Ben and Adam Cartwright and was into partying heavily with those guys when they got off set. They must have gone on benders because days would go by when we wouldn’t see my dad at all. He apparently had an IQ off the charts but wasn’t smart enough (or in control enough) to treat us well and his behavior when he did come home was scary and totally unpredictable. He slapped me around several times as a very young child, was drunk a lot of the time and was angry.

The Bonanza Cast

The Bonanza Cast

My oldest sister, Lisa kept tabs years later on him, bless her heart. She sent me documentation that my father is the one who taught pretty boy Landon how to fight. Really fight. Not just for the cameras. I’m not sure why my father thought Michael needed to know this but from what little I know of my father, he probably thought everyone needed to know how to fight. There had to be a reason for that and I suspect it stems back to his own parents, whom I know almost nothing about except that they were both stunt people in the very early stages of the industry. That takes tough, especially in those days. Like them, my father, an only child, was tough, rugged and one time punched the man hard right in the face he thought was stealing his family. I was probably 4 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday.

10 years ago by complete coincidence because of my husband’s job, we lived in Studio City, California for a short time like I did in my childhood. It brought back so many weird memories. It’s called Studio City because it’s where all the TV studios are (Duh to anyone from California but not Duh to people who aren’t) and so all the TV celebrities live there. We ran into Dr. Spock’s cohort William Shatner (among other TV celebs) rather regularly at restaurants and shopping malls. Shatner must have lived very near us. On one occasion my husband was out of town and I was dining alone at a restaurant near our house and I saw Shatner with a woman and a bald child and I heard the encouraging words Shatner was saying to them both. I’m pretty sure it was a “Make a Wish” Foundation meeting, which is utterly lovely.

To keep the yin and yang of life in perspective however, too often we would see him around town in a Jack LaLanne leisure suit. (See photo of LaLanne and note the belt! Look what he was telling people not to eat 50 years ago!!  He misspelled “Pastries”!  And even if he knew it, he probably didn’t care!  Look at at the motivational technique of his body language!  Talk about a guy ahead of his time!!)

The Amazing Jack LaLanne

The Amazing Jack LaLanne 50 Years Ago

Shatner would be drunk, belligerent, cruelly degrading service personnel, yelling at restaurant managers and just being an all around AH.  He was fat, red faced and hostile and he was a disgrace to himself. At this stage of my life, I am not one to judge people but he was SO mean to people.  A year or so later when I moved back to Scottsdale, I couldn’t figure out how they made him look as good as he did for the travel company commercials he was doing.

How He Looked in Person

How He Looks in Person

How They Make Him Look in Commercials

How They Make Him Look in Commercials

Leonard Nimoy was the opposite and may he rest in peace and have fun on the next journey.  I suppose William Shatner is doing the best he can like the rest of us but are certain celebrities exempt from behaving decently? Or do their accomplishments in one narrow field allow them to be the exception to decency?  Or do we reinforce the behavior by “letting them off the hook” more than we would others?


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.

IMG_1073 IMG_1067 IMG_1053

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.

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.

Tom Thumb (Aging Sucks)

I was minding my own business on a glorified version of a stationery bike at the YMCA while I played Words With Friends on my iPhone. Suddenly, a very old man approached me and in a raspy voice said, “I’d like to introduce myself! I’m Tom Thumb.” That’s weird, I thought, we have a grocery store chain here in Texas called Tom Thumb and isn’t that also a character in some kind of fable or fairytale?

eduardo-teixeira-coelho-tom-thumb-upside-down-1957_i-G-53-5397-AMOJG00Z                       IMG_1191

“I’m Andrea Thompson.” I said, and put out my hand.

“You’re always in black!” he growled.

“No, that’s not accurate,” I replied, “I’m often in black but I also wear my very bright tennis tops.”

“Once!” he almost shouted, “I’ve only seen you in blinding neon pink once!” Now, I knew something peculiar was going on and while I have my allotment of fears, people don’t scare me and I try to roll with them so I just hung in there.

“Wow, sounds like you’ve been keeping a pretty close eye on me, Tom Thumb.” I said.

“Well, you’re an attractive gal; are you married?” Yeah, he is 30 some odd years older than my 56 years so to his aging eyes I probably looked ravishing even though I was wearing black.

“That’s a very nice thing to say, Tom, and yes, I am very married.” I said. He suddenly looked distant, muttered something I didn’t hear and wandered away. I went back to my Words With Friends.

A couple weeks later I was working out with my trainer Karen and Tom Thumb walked by and blurted something incoherent to her.

“That’s Tom,” she said, “he had a stroke and he doesn’t have boundaries.”

“Yeah, I noticed that,” I said quietly. I felt sad for Tom Thumb.


Rockin’ and Rollin’ in Texas

My dogs suddenly looked disturbed as I sat at my desk writing. I looked up and wondered if they had to go pee. I just took them out an hour ago, I thought. Then, I heard a familiar jingling sound. I don’t know how else to describe it. I knew what was next; I was born and raised in California.

Earthquake, I said to myself. The house began to moan and then it started to slightly shake. Then there were two jolts among the shakes. The dogs started barking and looked alarmed. I have been trained from a young age to get under a door jam during an earthquake. I’ve never quite bought that because if the house falls down will the door jam really save you? And, when the dogs are totally freaked out how in heck do I get a 100 pound boy and 65 pound girl to stay under a door jam with me??

I’m the Accidental Texan, really I am, and I knew there would be lots of new things when I moved here. Many Texans told me about Tornedos, but no one mentioned earthquakes and I just assumed we didn’t have them here.

On jolt number one it occurred to me that this could be like something I’ve experienced in my past so I jumped from my office chair to an earthquake ready position. Unless you are from earthquake country, you probably have no idea what that is. That position is something like a quarterback ready to receive a hike. (You know, “HIKE, HIKE, GO!” and that one guy throws the football under his butt to the waaaay toooo cute quarterback who is married to a waaaaay toooo gorgeous skinny model.)

In an earthquake, just like with a quarterback who catches the ball in a hike, the next question that pops in your mind is what the hell do I do now?!? So, as I stood in earthquake ready position I asked myself that question. I have a “safe room” in a closet under the stairwell for tornedoes so that’s where I decided to go. The dogs love it in there because I have trained them that it’s a fun place and there are treats! The earthquake never took on California proportions and was over quickly. It took the dogs a while to settle down and I finally continued to write.

Over the next couple days, what utterly amazed me was what a big deal Texas made over an earthquake that measured 3.5 on the Richter Scale! It was on the front page of the newspaper, on the morning shows, on talk shows and Texans talked about it at the grocery store. They talked about the emotional devastation, the fear and the beloved trinkets lost to the natural disaster. In California, this wouldn’t have made the last page of personal ads. (Do personal ads still exist? Am I dating myself on my on blog? One of the reasons I’m blogging is to stay current, sniff. Is it all now?? I was married long before electronic dating started!)

I’ve been in 4 major earthquakes in my life. The first one was in 1971 and I was 12 years old. My whole family was sleeping at 6:01 am. First the jingling and then suddenly utter chaos as the force built.  In these huge earthquakes, everything shakes so dramatically you think the planet is being thrown off its axis. The end of the world occurs to you. It’s all you can do to crawl to a door jam hoping you don’t get hit from the things flying across the room as you hear dishes and glasses crashing to the floor from the cupboards in the kitchen. You find yourself screaming for your loved ones in other parts of the house. It is utterly terrifying. The 1971 earthquake measured 6.7 on the Richter Scale. Here are a few photos of the devastation.

CAoverpass1971     image-2 1971-san-fernando-earthquake-collapsed-everett            images

I hope to God no one was in that Chevrolet.  Obviously with earthquakes of that magnitude, electricity goes out, entire towns and cities are shut down for days or weeks and it takes a tremendous toll on emotions, costs and industry.

I hope I’m not messing with Texas, but these Texan 3.5’s are calves while California 6.7’s are Longhorns.