Saturday, December 31, 2011

And the Cat Ate the Christmas Tree

Happy New Year's Eve, my friends (and family).

Christmas was, as usual, in Houston and proved a bountiful and beautiful celebration. We really enjoyed having the love of family and dear friends around us.

The trip was half wonderful and half exasperating, mainly because I couldn't get over the December virus, even with the weather warm enough to do without a coat the entire time we were away. Sister-in-law also had the cold, but she manned up far better than I did. And finally we managed to have a small mishap with the rental car when we hit a curb and flattened a very expensive tire during a Boxing Day celebration.

One great reward of the trip was a bountiful gift certificate just for me a the Houston Penzy's spice store. I came home with fabulous spices for roasting, baking, and general cooking. I unpacked those immediately and put them on the shelves above the stove. I also have a new waffle iron to try out.

The dogs traveled well and were pretty even tempered guests. The Houston cat, at age 16, was not as thrilled to see intruders into his home -- and the pay back was a sneaky devouring of the beautifully decorated Christmas tree, which, of course, made the cat's tummy very upset. Vomiting ensued for several days. The Christmas tree had to be dismantled on Christmas night but we had already distributed the vast array of presents from underneath, so it was of no matter.

We got home safely on Tuesday evening and ever since I've been sleeping long hours and trying to find some good health. Each day I unpack either a box or a bag which currently leaves only one box of Christmas presents to unpack now.

When the mood hits, I rise from my bed and Hubby takes me to the movies. We've seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Mission Impossible since we got home and on Christmas night we took in The War Horse with family.

Weather here in the mid-west is unseasonably warm. I'm not sure I really like it being 60 degrees in late December. But I am ready to wave goodbye to 2011. It was not our best year and it's time, we hope, to move on to better health, happier moods, and a bit more prosperity. On that note, I'll have to go now and remind Hubby to buy a lottery ticket with which to ring in the New Year.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Lost


The Grinch has stolen our Christmas.

He came in the form of the "chest virus" that is going around, he dug himself in, and won't leave.

Six days absent from school.

Unable to lift my head from the pillow.

Got sick on December 2nd and haven't recovered yet -- today is the 19th and I'm still sick, sick, sick.

Missed the Christmas concerts -- couldn't get out of bed to go; would have made everyone around me miserable anyway what with all my coughing.

Hubby has been trying to shoulder his way through so others will have a Christmas celebration.

I still don't care.

Bah! Humbug!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Relaxed Celebration

It was a near perfect holiday, this Thanksgiving 2011.

The turkey dinner on Thursday has been eaten at every meal since, except for breakfast. Hubby has feasted on his dressing and my gravy (which came out so wonderfully that it didn't even require straining), along with two slices of sweet potatoes and a sliver of cranberries. Not a great fan of turkey meat, he even managed to eat a turkey sandwich on Saturday night. I, on the other hand, have dined elegantly on turkey sandwiches at every turn -- a simple concoction of buttered bread, turkey breast salted and peppered, and sweet pickles. Nothing better in the world! The dogs have their own quart ziplock bag of wings and leg meat -- and they can tell from any room in the house when it has been ripped open for a tasty treat.

The movie Hugo was viewed in all its 3-D splendor and was thoroughly enjoyed by one family member. The other was placated with a double dip of mint chocolate chip ice cream during the film.

On Friday we headed out around 9:30 for the nearest Dollar Tree store to find gifts for the kids' Christmas party. Hubby loaded his shopping cart with various interesting teen items while I loaded mine with funny sock gifts for the Houston crowd. Since the Dollar store was not having any sales (everything is always a dollar regardless) the store was nearly empty and we shopped in peace. By 11:30 we were back home in our PJ's.

All the rest of our shopping was done on-line and sent on to Houston for wrapping when we arrive at Christmas.

Multiple TV football games were watched by Hubby while I downloaded new literature to the Kindle.

We caught up on most of the laundry.

The PC went strange and we were unable to access the internet after Hubby spend Friday night web-surfing and game playing. But 20 minutes with Earthlink on Saturday solved the problem easily. These kind of things, especially on a holiday weekend, remind me why I pay Earthlink's bill each month.

An evening ride took us around town to see Christmas lights, which in Kansas City must include both the Plaza lights (on the right) and the mayor's Christmas tree (on the left). The new Power and Light district downtown also included some artistic window displays, which we enjoyed.

Sunday a sheering of my head is planned (and way overdue) which will keep me sane for the trudge through the weeks before Christmas.

We took a gander at the December calendar and planned out our attack on Christmas -- when to party, when to rent the car for Houston, etc.

We went to bed early and we slept late, husbanding our strength for the march up to Christmas. I think we are ready.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feasting

The local grocery (HyVee) has offered a free turkey if one purchases a whole Hormel Ham. Hubby came home with the ham and I studded it with cloves and baked it in brown sugar and sweet pickle brine. The ham was delicious -- but two people, one who should NOT eat ham because of the salt content, cannot eat a whole ham. For a week now I've make ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches every day for lunch but I'm done with it. I'm "hammed" out.

So last night Hubby made a Sam's run and came home with two loaves of Wonder white bread, a huge package of sliced cheeses and one of Sam's gi-normous pumpkin pies. He sliced up the ham, made containers of mustard and mayo, and then thinly sliced the pumpkin pie. This morning he loaded me up and off I went with a feast for the kids.

By 8:00 a.m. my room was packed with kids stuffing ham sandwiches into their mouths. And smiling. Second block my community teachers, on break, all filed in and made themselves plates of food.

Third block the ham was nearly depleted. I had thought we'd never eat all that much ham, but by third block we were adding in applesauce and mandarin oranges to supplement the sandwich supply.

Smiles all around. Everyone was delighted. And the ham was completely gone by 1 p.m.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turkey Trot


Wednesday I went shopping at the local Trader Joe's. We are lucky to have one just over the state line after waiting years for one to come even near the area. Last year the closest Trader Joe's was four hours away.

Hubby isn't crazy about the food there but he does appreciate the healthy dog treats and their cookies. I love the frozen dinners, the soups, the crackers and chips, the dips, and the nice array of rices available. Every three months or so I stock my freezer with their single dish meals -- all just for me.

I walked into the store on this early Wednesday afternoon (yes, I had cut a district meeting because, frankly, I was meeting-ed out and a trip to Joe's seemed much more fun) with Hubby and the boys waiting in the car for me. I was only going to pick up some frozen dinners, some lovely soup (the lobster bisque is to die for) and some interesting cracker assortments.

The store always plays very peppy, upbeat music -- not stuff you recognize or could sing to -- but light and dance-appropriate. At the entrance stood a small person, I assumed a young woman, wearing a turkey costume. She was completely ensconced in turkey gear. In her left hand she held a small box emitting, what I assumed was supposed to be, turkey sounds -- not gobbles but a kind of low pitched and drawn-out turkey moan. The turkey was doing a happy little jig at the doorway and I assumed was actually there for the children in the store.

I wandered past the bird into the fresh food and soup aisle and got stopped by a huge display of canned corn and cornbread mix. The cornbread mix looked wonderful and I was reading ingredients when I felt a presence. I turned sideways and there stood the turkey.

You could not see human eyes or expression on the turkey face - it was deadpan. The turkey was no longer dancing. The little box machine was still emitting the creepy long, low moan. The turkey just stood, patiently in front of me, obviously waiting for . . . something. And I had no idea what.

My mind froze. What do you say to a Thanksgiving turkey? Sorry? Your goose is cooked? Can I pull your wishbone? All I could think of was, "Happy Thanksgiving."

The turkey gave no response. Just stood, planted in front of me, with no reaction what-s0-ever while the turkey moans continued uninterrupted.

I was getting more uncomfortable by the moment. I loaded the cornbread I'd selected into my cart but that turkey never moved. We had now been staring each other down for over a minute.

I shuffled my feet, indicating my need to move on. After all, Hubby and the boys were waiting and I'd promised them only a quick stop at Joe's.

Feeling more and more ridiculous, and actually a bit frightened, I wondered what I was supposed to do to get this turkey out of my shopping path. Offer a can of corn? Do turkeys like corn? Can they open a can and get the corn out?

"Um, hope you have a wonderful holiday?" I offered up hopefully. Still the turkey stood in place.

Finally, I just grabbed the cart and pushed it around the turkey, who make a full circle turn with me, while that unblinking turkey face followed me the whole way. Thankfully, the turkey did not move. But that face watched me all the way down the aisle until I finally turned the corner.

I quickly selected the rest of my purchases but I had completely lost my nerve for going back for fresh soup -- one of the main purposes of my visit. All the while, I kept watch for the strange turkey but I never saw it again, even on exiting the store.

I'm sure most children would find the turkey entertaining, especially if it were dancing around. But a strange, unsmiling turkey just standing and staring at you can be a traumatic experience to a 65 year old woman just trying to get some soup. Especially at Thanksgiving time when a frozen turkey is sitting in her frig at home thawing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Twelve More Things


or Count Your Blessings (instead of sheep)

We have much to be grateful for this November. I gripe a lot about my current life situation (see my previous post) and I' not full of bubbly good cheer right now. But this does not mean that I'm not unaware of the things in my life that I need to be truly thankful for.

1. Hubby is chugging along. Last January we weren't sure that he would continue to be putting one foot in front of the other but his last big health reveal showed him doing pretty darned well, all things considered.

2. It's costing us a fortune to keep Hubby "pretty darned well" but so far we've been able to afford it and the new meds have brought his blood pressure down to near normal range. That's a real victory. So the meds are worth it and we hope to continue to be able to pay the bills.

3. Luie is thriving after his excursion into the wilds of Prairie Village, Kansas. I keep grabbing him and scolding him for sending his family into spasms of terror, but he just licks my nose and hangs his head further out the car window.

4. Gus has teeth. Every one of those teeth is now worth a pound of gold but he can chew with his back molars just find, even if he can no longer gnaw anything. And again, like Hubby's meds, we have been able to afford to pull his teeth when he needs them extracted.

5. Luie still has his eyes. They may produce even more limited eyesight than we initially suspected (he now stays close to walls and he's having trouble figuring out how to enter the house through the front door) but the hugely expensive eye meds keep him from suffering any pain (according to the ophthalmologist he visits every six months) and (once again) we have been able to afford his meds and doctors.

6. Our house is still standing and keeps us cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It may not be the house of our dreams but it certainly is the house we can afford and it serves the purpose of keeping us protected from the world.

7. We have phones -- both land-line and cell. We have DSL computer service with a company we like. We have a huge TV with DVR connectivity and 287 channels for TV watching. This really is a big deal -- considering many of my students are living without electricity because they can't pay their bills this holiday.

8. We have two running jalopies. When one doesn't operate, the other one does. The newer Lincoln (and I use the term tongue-in-cheek) has been towed twice this week but the old gray Lincoln has stood the drive across the state line and down the 18th Street Expressway both times the Lincoln wouldn't go (something about fuel lines and sensors). However, we've been able to afford the repairs on the pink Lincoln and right now it's running once again. Who knows for how long? But we don't have a car payment to make and our insurance premiums are low.

9. We own a lot of household conveniences. We have a fairly new stove which both bakes and broils. We have great little microwave and a lovely new slow cooker. The frig in the kitchen is small and old but it is subsidized by an even older frig in the garage. Still both chill and freeze and work just fine. We have a dishwasher we run every day and it cleans even pots and pans miraculously. Though I might gripe big time about having to up and downstairs, we have a washer and dryer in the basement and never have to schlep clothes to the laundromat.

10. We have family who loves us and shows us her caring in both big and small ways. We know she has our back even though we live 800 miles apart. It may not be a huge family -- but it is a strong tie.

11. I've had a job for the last six years that has allowed us to make substantial savings toward a retirement that I had done little to plan for. Now I have a tidy little nest egg (which may not last all that long in today's economy) put away so I can actually retire before I die. Moreover, this job has been mostly satisfying in a more emotional way. I'm glad I'm ending my career the way I started out -- as a teacher.

12. All three of the family members still have their "brains" in tact. We can think, laugh, joke, love, and remember most of the good times we shared. Two of us can write intelligent prose while the third one can figure out logic and spacial problems with ease. Together we make a pretty good little family unit.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Twelve Things


These days the current "touchy feely" trend to open meetings is to write one thing about yourself that no one knows and put it in a pile with the four to eight people you are grouped with and then people try to guess what your "one unknown thing" was.

Personally, I detest this particular opening gambit to what inevitably promises to be a boring meeting. But I hate all the "touchy-feely" openings for boring meetings. Mostly I hate meetings.

Then, why, you ask yourself, am I proceeding to list things about myself that no one knows?

My brain is fallow and boring and nothing really currently interests me. Hubby has control of the remote and is watching football and that's even more boring than listing the unknown qualities I possess (at least to me). Also, I HAVE to participate in this stupid meeting activity or look like a dork while you on the other hand, can quickly choose another, much more interesting blog to read and completely avoid knowing about the things listed below "that no one knows about me" -- except now you. Maybe I can use this as an excuse to opt out of this activity the next time it pops up? Anyway, read, if you choose. And if you want to tell me one thing about yourself that no one knows, I promise NOT to make fun of you for participating.

Things about me no one (or few people) know:

1. I am anti-social. I do not like most people and I really hate having to interact with them. The paradox is that I like "giving directions" to people which makes me a good teacher. I would NOT however be a good counselor. I mostly just don't give a hoot about your problems. I'll try to look interested but the real truth is, I'm usually thinking, "Oh just get over yourself and get on with your life." I'm not a private person -- I'm just not really fond of being in groups of people and sharing "me" with you.

2. I have almost no friends. My last "best" friend was in the 1980's. I loved her creativity and her drama and her talent. One day she got mad at me and we never intimately spoke again. I tried for a week to make it right -- and then I realized that all her friendships ended like this. I had just been too blind to see it. My "best" friend before that was one from college. We were inseparable. I loved her but I was never as smart or bright as she was. She left me when I met Hubby in 1973. We had been so close that I couldn't understand how she couldn't get over the fact that Hubby was of a different race. But she couldn't and she was honest about that. We have never spoken or met each other since that time. She would go visit my mother every summer though -- and Mother left her a goodly portion of her estate when she died. I miss having a best girl friend. But I honestly don't think I ever chose really good "best" friends so maybe it's just as well that I don't have one now.

3. I don't have any fingerprints. I had to be fingerprinted when I went back to teaching six years ago, and they couldn't get decent prints from any of my fingers. I'm old and I've spend 40 years typing frantically on a keyboard -- so I've worn off my fingerprints. (This actually ties into #1 -- I'd much rather write a response to something than have to talk with people about it).

4. I have long periods of time when I don't read anything but People, Time, and Newsweek magazine. I have lately added in the daily newspaper delivered on my Kindle and I read that about four times a week. I never have days where I don't watch TV.

5. I'm terrified of having to substitute teach. Subs have no control and children hate them and take advantage of them. I would rather walk on hot coals than sub. I will not sub in my building. After three years the principal's secretary won't call me to sub. This makes me very unpopular in the front office.

6. I truly believe that teachers who set up their classrooms in straight rows of desks are terrible teachers. They don't have a creative teaching juice in their soul.

7. I'd much rather eat snacks than eat a meal. Chips and dip make a fine dinner if they're topped off with brownies and ice cream.

8. I worry all the time about getting dementia. Both my mother and her father had it. Every time I can't call something to mind, I worry that I'm slipping into oblivion.

9. I've never been wild about driving. This may be partly because I get turned around directionally so easy -- and once I'm lost, I can't get found again, even when I find familiar landmarks.

10. I don't think other people believe it, but I think I cope with pain exceptionally well. I actually do hurt almost all the time. I have headaches every day. My back is in terrible shape from ruptured discs. My hips and knees are full of arthritis and sometimes I have to actually will my legs to move. My toes are very arthritic and I feel like they are frequently on fire. Standing for me is far worse than walking. Any stooping is nearly impossible. But except for the fact that I move slowly now-a-days, I don't think I complain about this much at all. Hubby probably hears the most. My kids at school know I don't go out on fire drills because the elevator shuts down and it's five flights of two levels of stairs to get to my room (that's 10 flights of stairs) -- but the kids protect me from having the administration learn I'm hiding away locked in my room.

11. I miss my mother much more than I thought I would.

12. I'm getting ready to retire at the end of this year. No one at school knows. I'm really sad about it but I hate this school year. Every morning I can barely force myself out of bed and into clothes and out the door. The entire situation is causing me a huge shift in my usually sunny outlook on life.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Looking at the Week


Nothing much important to write about but I'm sitting here at the computer and find nothing much I actually want to look up, or play (I like "hunt and find" computer games), or plan, or anybody I especially need to chat with (though I don't chat live, but only through email). So, I thought I'd write how my past week went.

The school week went okay:

  • We had 1.5 hours of advisory on Wednesday to prepare for the ACT PLAN for the sophomores and a run through of the ACT PLAN for the freshman. Little scheduled for the juniors and seniors to do. Then on Thursday we have three hours of advisory so the sophomores could take the ACT PLAN and the poor freshman could continue to "plan" to take the PLAN. The seniors got to go the cafeteria and interview college reps. But the juniors? Pretty much left hanging with nothing at all to do but groan, especially after the first two hours had elapsed. Both days were wasted.
  • The kids who are bad continued to be "tardy, disrespectful, recalcitrant, down-right ugly, and now-and-again suspended."
  • The kids who wanted to work, lived in my room, hanging on for dear life.
  • Friday, one of my Iraqi students (not on my caseload but an adoptee) brought in a huge fry-up of that she called "borac" and it was delicious -- fried filo pastry filled with yummy, well-seasoned ground beef.Full of grease -- a great way to start off a Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. -- but heck, I ate two just in case one wouldn't send me over the edge.
  • Third block is struggling with reading the novel "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote, which sounds good for a Kansas high school student, but in reality, for a SPED kid is just much too dense and dry for them. We're watching the movie and reading the SPARKS synopsis after struggling through the first 70 pages to get a feel for the writing. On Tuesday we ate Ramon noodles with our movie watching; on Friday we popped corn and ate Mandarin oranges. Thank heavens for a closet full of treats.Promises of food keeps kids awake.

The dogs got groomed but the humans didn't.

We ran out of milk, eggs, bread, and peanut butter at home but didn't bother to go shopping. Finally, Thursday night Hubby brought home some eggs so I could have tuna fish salad for lunch on Friday.

Luie has forgiven us - and probably forgotten that he ever got lost. He's back to hanging out the windows of the Lincoln like nothing ever happened.

The final payment was made to on Gus's dental work. Hubby's trying to convince Gus to have his teeth brushed. Actually, Hubby's trying to convince ME that I should brush Gus's teeth. Gus just laughs at us.

Hubby has the second cold of the season. He also spend Thursday at the doctor's for the quarterly check-up. Blood pressure still too high. More pills being added for that. Otherwise, all the other ailments check-out okay. He is now scheduled for fasting and blood work.

The weather is perfectly autumn (a word I discovered my SPED kids did NOT know) -- just chilly enough at night for a cover and warm enough in the daytime to go without a coat.

Our debit card lost it's magnetic strip and this is causing us untold problems. We have a new one on order but it won't arrive for two weeks. Meanwhile, no one can swipe the card - and at Sam's over the weekend they couldn't even enter the numbers. We finally had to resort to a real check - and when one on longer carries a purse, proving you are the owner of the checking account is quite an ordeal without photo ID.

No school on Halloween. It's great to have a three day weekend. The winter clothes are up from the basement, the summer clothes are down into the basement and actually hung up -- and the washing is nearly totally finished. Plus there is a bag of Halloween chocolates in the kitchen -- and no kids ever come to our house for trick-or-treats. Yum.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Final Irony


Last Friday a voice mail message was left on my home phone. I needed to call the local funeral home and make arrangement for Mother's ashes to be buried next to my father.

I left the task of making arrangements until Monday, assuming this would be a very simple procedure. Set up a time after school -- say 3:45 p.m. -- go to the burial site and watch the interment.

Of course, I was wrong. Dead wrong would be too much of pun, right?

Because the funeral home had received the instructions more than 30 days ago, they refused to proceed with the burial of the ashes without signature authority from the closest relative 24 hours in advance of any scheduled "service." I use the word service lightly -- no service was planned other than putting the ashes in a pre-dug hole. And they had to do it between 9 and 3 during a weekday, a time when normal people are working.

Now Hubby was not at all happy about the whole prospect of having to attend this "service" and was especially not happy about having to drive out twice (once to sign papers, once to inter the ashes) to do it. On Friday he was downright surly about it all, but by Saturday he had mellowed out and just shrugged and said, "Set it up how you want it."

The agreed interment was eventually planned for Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. -- the only time this week available. I would need to take half a day from school. And I had to show up 24 hours in advance and sign papers -- except I am a mentor to a first year teacher and I had a "mentoring" district meeting scheduled from 3:30 to 5:30 in Kansas City, Kansas -- meaning I could never make the funeral home in Missouri by 6 p.m. Monday night.

The funeral home was adamant but eventually I found my school teacher voice -- and though they wouldn't agree on my showing up 30 minutes before the interment to sign the papers, they did finally accept my showing up on 3:30 Tuesday afternoon for the 1:00 Wednesday event.

I notified my principal and the school secretary (the most important person in the school, of course) and Hubby picked me up at noon today. We made it to the burial plot with 15 minutes to spare.

The funeral home, attached to the cemetery, had gone all out: canopy, chairs, carpet, and the unctuous grief counselor (who actually looked a lot like Uriah Heep).

Now the lawyer who had contacted me to tell me Mother had died, had said repeatedly that the family that cared for her in the last months of her life would be bringing her ashes to Kansas City for burial.

Evidently, the money was not going to be provided by the estate for such a trip. No one came from Colorado.

The funeral home thought someone I had never heard of wanted to attend the interment. No one showed.

In the end, at the very last of Mother's time above ground, it was just me, the unctuous attendant, and Mother. Hubby sat in the car with the boys. All the people who claimed a piece of her during her life had drifted away. I'm sure she didn't foresee that it would end up being just me and her, alone at last. She refused in the last 10 years to see me. She claimed to friends that she didn't know where I was. She surrounded herself with varying assortments of "hanger-ons" while refusing to acknowledge the family that could have cared for and loved her. But for a brief time this afternoon, with a chill breeze blowing and the sun crisply shining, she and I were finally united in one last, ultimate goodbye.


Friday, October 14, 2011

How Could You?


A week ago Hubby rear-ended a car just three blocks from home. The car he hit sustained no damage but the Lincoln lost its front bumper (with license plate). Interestingly, the police blamed the other driver so on Monday Hubby took the Lincoln in for repair and picked up a cherry red Nissan, much smaller than our town car. Both dogs were required to sit in the back seat. Also, the back windows were NOT child proofed and rolled all the way down, while the Lincoln's only went half way.

Luie hangs out windows. It's his joy when riding down the road, rain or shine, broiling heat or freezing cold. The back windows are nearly always down and Luie's head is facing the breezes. We think, because he's blind, he likes to smell where he's going.

Monday evening and Tuesday, I complained to Hubby about how far Luie was able to stick out of the little Nissan, since the windows were so low and the car so small. Now I could make a sexist comment here, about men, but NOT all men think they can control their entire world -- just my husband. So he left Luie to enjoy himself, flinging himself into the wind.

Wednesday, Hubby and the boys came from home to pick me up after school -- a journey of 18+ miles one way. Luie and Gus started our riding happily in the back seat, enjoying the afternoon cruise.

I came from school, tired from doing hallway bulletin board duty (I agreed to put up the Health student of the month boards for the year), opened the back car door to deposit my rolling school bag, and only Gussie greeted me, quietly sitting in the corner of the car. Gussie was looking at the floor, not offering me a happy greeting, as he usually does.

"Where's Luie?" I queried.

"In the back, of course," snapped Hubby.

"Nope. No, Luie back here," I answered.

And Hubby had the effrontery to turn around to prove me wrong. Strike one for Hubby.

Of course, there was no Luie.

I quickly clamored into the front seat, belted up and we tore out.

"When did you last see him in the car?" I tried to sound calm.

"I don't know."

"When did you last hear them barking?" I responded.

"They didn't."

We tore down the road to the 18th Street Expressway -- a highway of bustling traffic, semis, speeding cars, and motorcycles.

No Luie.

We raced down the highway, frantically searching the side of the road. After all, he had only have been gone for less than half an hour.

No Luie.

We sped into Merriam, Kansas, a little shopping district with a huge grocery, a Wal-Mart, a McDonald's, and other like businesses. You can imagine just how busy that area was.

No Luie.

Down Roe Boulevard we drove the speed limit. Past the elementary school with all the parents picking up children.

No Luie.

Back into Prairie Village with the Mission Shopping Mall.

No Luie.

All the way home, we hung out the windows frantically searching, not talking. Because if I had said it word, it would not have been nice. Not nice at all. Actually it would have been searingly awful. How in god's name could not know that a dog was missing from the car? Why didn't you listen when I asked that those windows be raised? How could you have let this happen?

Now here's the part where I'm to blame. During the summer, Luie's tags had been lost. They had come loose from his collar and fallen off somewhere in the park and we hadn't replaced them. Being blind, Luie is always leased. Always! He never is allowed to wander at will like Gussie, who is tagged with 4 jangling hearts and circles on his collar.

So, end run -- we have a blind dog, lost somewhere on an 18 mile strip of highway and bustling suburban shopping centers, with no tags and no street smarts and no way to find him.

My world was ending.

We spend two more hours traveling back and forth, hunting. No Luie.

Finally, as it grew dark, we wound our way home. I immediately composed a "Lost Schnauzer" ad for the newspaper, printed up stacks of lost dog fliers, and listed Luie on every lost dog registry we could find.

Then I took the maximum dosage of tranquilizers, plus one more for good measure, and passed out. Anything was better than staying awaking worrying.

Next morning we got up at 3 a.m., loaded the car with the flyers and set out. We attached flyers to every metal light pole for 18 miles.

We checked web sites. We sent off money to have Luie's picture mailed to every dog concern within a 10 mile radius of where we thought he may have been lost.

And I prayed. All day at school, I kept thinking, "If anything in my world is ever going to be right, please, God, let Luie be in the car when I come out of school this afternoon."

I knew Luie had been lost in a suburb that is noted for dog ownership. This people ARE dog people -- they own them, they care for them, and I have seen them stop in the middle of the road and endanger themselves to help a lost animal. If things went our way, maybe they would call Hubby's cell and Luie would be returned.

However, if Luie went missing for 24 hours, the odds diminished greatly.

Thursday afternoon only Gussie was in the car, still sitting quietly in the corner, looking at the floorboards.

We drove home in silence. Hubby took Gussie off with him when we got home. I think he decided it might just be better not to be the same house with me. We hadn't really spoken since Luie went missing.

I went in the house, swallowed the two plus a spare for good measure tranquilizers and fell into bed. Still better to be zonked than crying my heart out.

The tranquilizers were prescribed for my insomnia. They are mild -- and if nights are really bad, I'm allowed two. I'm very susceptible to such medications, so it doesn't take much, honestly, and I've never before had two, much less three. The affects last just four hours, but usually that is enough to allow me to get some sleep on the bad nights.

Right on the money, after four hours of sleep, I woke up at 7:30. Groggy, I realized that Gussie was in the bed with me. Now, Gussie is unable to jump on the bed. We have to lift him up because of his bad back / hips and short legs.

"Okay, Hubby came home and left Gussie with me." Hubby was out again but I wandered into the kitchen for a drink, and honestly to take two more pills so I could stay asleep. But I thought, I should probably feed Gussie. So I opened a can of the gourmet dog food, mixed in some pumpkin, and thought, "Old Gus deserves a treat."

When I hollered for Gus to come and eat, I looked over and out into the kitchen bounded Luie.

"Man, I guess I'd better stop taking those pills. Gus looks just like Luie now."

And then, right behind Luie, trotted in Gus.

The screaming commenced immediately. Luie turned tailed and ran back into the bedroom. He wanted nothing at all to do with the hollering woman who had let him be lost and terrified for the last 24 hours. In fact, he was royally pissed at both Hubby and me.

Hubby had gotten the call at 6 p.m. from the Shawnee Mission Police Department. He had picked up Luie but in typical Hubby fashion, hadn't asked one pertinent question as to where Luie had been, who had found him, or why the police had him. He jut took the dog and brought him home. He didn't bother to wake me up, either. Better a sleeping wife than one who looked like she was going to threatened to end a 38 year union with a couple of evil words.

We don't know what actually happened or why.

We do know that Luie was really upset with us. He wouldn't cuddle. He wouldn't play. He did come when called, but then stalked off, with his head turned away and his tail not thumping.

He began to get over it this weekend. He'll have tags before next week is over. The next time we're at the vet, he'll be microchipped.

I'm begninng to get over it, too. Hubby and I are again speaking. After thirty-eight years, you learn to forgive even the big things.

Luie is home. My world has turned right side up again. The rental car is gone, the Lincoln with the safe windows is driving Luie around, and we have all learned a lesson. Now to have Luie completely forgive us . . .

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

My Poor Baby


Gussie cried all the way home, just like a hurt child. A constant, sad, just over the breath low sob of hurt. The blood mixed with his saliva dripped steadily down his little chin turning his beard a faded autumn rose. His butt was yellow from diarrhea and his tail was stiff from where he had sat in it. His eyes were unfocused but tried so hard to tell me just how miserable he really felt. He'd paw me, then his papa, and his voice kept up the steady hum of a sadly miserable pup.

Today Gussie had his teeth cleaned and then extracted. Six needed to be removed. We honestly didn't think he still had six teeth to pull -- but the vet assured us that he still has a few teeth left in his little head. We're afraid of hurting him even more by pulling open his mouth to check what's left. I can tell the bottom two canines are still intact, probably just waiting to cost us another pocket full of change. He may have a couple of back teeth but that's got to be it.

Gus has had problem teeth since he was two years old. Now he's eight - in fact the little boy's birthday is tomorrow. What a lovely gift he's been given -- nearly toothless and the pain of pulled teeth radiating throughout his mouth. Every year he's lost from two to four teeth and set us back a couple of hundred dollars. This year the vet quoted Hubby a price of over $800 and Hubby went through the roof.

I got a call from the school office telling me I had an emergency call from my husband -- and you know what my first thoughts were! Something dire and deadly, of course. But Hubby was calling to say he wasn't going to pay the vet any $800 just to pull a couple of bad teeth -- and he'd already told the vet that.

I'm no good at price negotiation but Hubby has clearly mastered the art. He gave permission to only have Gus's teeth cleaned -- and they could call with a quote as to the expense of extraction. However, if the price wasn't right, Hubby said, "It's time I found another dentist."

Now I love our vets. They are caring, compassionate, and extremely careful with their treatment. I know that Gus and Luie get the best care possible. Still . . . .$800+ for a dental is a whole heap of money. When the vet hospital called Hubby back, the price was substantially lower -- with a new price of just under $600. That seemed much more reasonable and the extractions proceeded.

Gussie is now home. He's nestled on the bed with his papa and his housemate. His butt has been thoroughly cleaned. A bit of water has been sipped. His bladder was been emptied by the big tree. The crying has finally stopped. However, those big, sad, brown eyes are still a killer. My poor baby boy. A lot of cuddling is clearly in Gus's future.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Staying Up Late Can Be Worth It

Wednesday night began the concert season for Hubby and me. We met friends for dinner directly across the street from the new Kauffman Performing Arts Center, then meandered down the glass-fronted walkway into our first peek at our newest and quite lauded KC building.

And W O W! It is a wonder. Soaring. Dramatic. Modern. Visually impressive both outside and in. From the reception hall, the Brandmeyer Great Hall, one looks out across the city. Green space fronts the building because the parking garage is underground and instead of seeing a concrete entrance, the builders planned for a green space with lawn and earth. Quite remarkable.

Inside the Helzberg Auditorium, which is the symphony hall, nothing impedes the acoustics. Everything is wood. The experts say is it is like being inside a cello. It felt more like an ark to me and I thought the space seemed smaller than I was expecting. The hall seats 1600 -- but it feels much more intimate than that. The orchestra tier is only 38 seats across but since seating is on all four sides (yes, three rows of seats are behind the stage) and there are 5 balcony tiers, I suppose that accounts for the number the hall can hold.

The feeling inside the Helzberg hall is very, very modern -- not cold, though. With the mid-toned woods employed -- and everything but the seat cushions is wood -- the feeling is kind-of Danish modern. The seats are cushioned in shades of medium to dark blue in a fluctuating pattern. Because the seats are tiered, everything requires wooden steps. This is not easy on arthritic knees and Hubby will have some problems attending future concerts there. For one thing, elevators are in scant supply and some only go up while others only go down so one has to hike to find an elevator.

The concert itself was a grand surprise. We knew the students were performing and so really didn't expect too much in terms of quality. However, the UMKC Conservatory Student Concert Jazz Band was conducted by the local jazz great Bobby Watson and performed Watson’s The Gates BBQ Suite. Ollie Gates is the barbecue king of Kansas City and these pieces were written to commemorate our barbecue heritage. Certainly not in Mozart's quality, the music was entertaining and we got to hear Bobby Watson perform with the Band. Everyone was bopping along and feeling upbeat about the performance by intermission.

The the PRISM Quartet, a saxophone group, performed William Bolcom’s Concerto Grosso for saxophone quartet and winds, a PRISM commission, along with the UMKC student symphony. This was my favorite piece of the evening -- a lovely melodic yet modern piece.

The conclusion of the concert though, showcased the acoustic wonders of the auditorium. I'm not sure I would ever want to hear this music played again -- but for the sheer excitement of it's first hearing and the maximum usage it made of the concert hall, this piece was creative, imaginative, and a spectacular end to a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The UMKC Conservatory Wind Symphony directed by Steven Davis performed Corigliano’s Circus Maximus, Symphony No. 3 for Large Wind Ensemble. And OH MY GOD! This was a circus for sure. Musicians were placed on all tiers of the Helzberg Hall. Four different levels of sound bombarded the audience. It was fun to watch the conductor hold up one finger and watch the musicians on the stage play. Then would come two fingers and the saxophone ensemble on our left would join it -- or solo. At three fingers the musicians behind us played and with four the instruments on our right joined in. Sometimes musicians on tiers two, three and four changed places. At one point they paraded across the stage. And some of them were in costume. Santa Claus was there in full beard and red suit, there was a beatnik, a naked swimmer, and several others. We were swiveling in our seats and trying to follow all the action -- until the final chords when a guy popped up from back stage fired a huge rifle -- with all the force of a loaded canon. It was hugely good fun: loud, dissonant, melodic, soft, fast, slow, merry, eerie, and unexpected.


Though we didn't get home until 11:00 that night (and 5 a.m. arrived very early on Thursday) Wednesday was a treat! I can't wait for more.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best Wishes and Happy Returns

She HATES having her picture shown -- so you only get the back of her head -- but Wednesday is the birthday of our favorite (okay, ONLY) true relative (which is funny since Hubby adopted her and she adopted him) and we needed to acknowledge the day.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Taking It Easy


The week was a tough one. Hubby has the terrible "summer-going-into-fall" cold / virus and he has been really feeling this one. There was a night in there where I suggested that maybe we actually did need an emergency room visit, due to his various health ailments, but if you knew Hubby, you'd realize that was never an option.

"I will tough this out!" is his motto for nearly everything. And tough it out he has. Finally this weekend he's beginning to act a tad more normal, even if he still sounds perfectly awful.

My stomach, due to a change in meds, has been acting up and somehow I have ended up feeling even more exhausted than ever (which is a pretty neat feat since I'm usually so tired all the time anyway). Wednesday at school was Family Advisory Day -- which in normal terms is parent / teacher conferences. Wednesday was extended until 7:30 p.m. -- and we were back in the classroom on regular schedule on Thursday. I also had two IEP meetings this week -- and six IEP's to write.

But.

My time with the kids was fine. At parent conferences I had more attend than usual and in our building we had a thundering horde. We've not seen that many parents in the last 20+ years.

One kid I'd been thinking of sending to the after school program so we just wouldn't have to fight him any more, suddenly turned himself around.

A cell phone was removed from a kid by a parent after I complained at the parent conference.

One of my collab teachers suddenly thought that co-teaching might be a "cool" idea which could be a good thing if he ever decided that we should do lesson planning together. Another thought that doing some work separate from her classroom might be successful -- and it certainly was! Not quite a co-teaching situation but it made my life a whole lot easier.

My learning community at school has become very cohesive and taken on a whole new outlook -- which I'm loving.

Tickets for some concerts at the new Kauffman Center arrived. The fall concert season has arrived!

The weather turned from hot to really cold but then swung back again to nicely mild and stayed there.

My salary raise due to reaching 30 hours past my masters in graduate studies was approved -- and was significant.

The new TV season started and I've been DVRing all the shows I wanted to try out -- with varying results, but some are keepers. I tried "Two and Half Men" but I still don't get the humor of the show and it still revolves around men acting like idiots. I have fallen in love with "The Big Bang Theory" and discovered that it was being shown at 11:30 p.m. starting with the first episode -- so I'm recording everything.

Today we took in a truly wonderful movie and I'm recommending it to everyone. We saw "Money Ball" with Brad Pitt. Though we're not baseball fans and we never attend games or watch them or even listen to them, this movie is riveting. Well written, well acted, well directed, it has suspense, a couple of heroes you can cheer for, a villain you want to see fail or certainly get "his come-upence," and a satisfying ending with no dead bodies anywhere in sight. The villain is not punished but instead comes to super "A-ha!" moment which actually proves even better than revenge. The movie is a "home run" all the way!

To round out the week, I received an e-mail on Friday from a long lost cousin. This was truly a nice surprise. With no children and as an only child, our family ties are down to none with Mother's death. It was a pleasure to hear that someone other than me is carrying on the "family." Though currently in Florida, it might be that we will continue correspondence. I hope so.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Finally Kansas City Has Reason to Shine


Of course, we were not at the opening night festivities. And we won't be at tonight's events. And just thinking of facing a 30,000+ crowd tomorrow is beyond our current physical scope -- but we do hold a set of tickets for upcoming events. And we are very, very excited to see the new concert halls. We've already started budgeting for valet parking -- it looks like quite a hike from the garage (even with handicapped parking). Our first concert is the end of September. We won't be hearing Placido Domingo or watching Tommy Tune dance - or even seeing a video of Prince Charles (yes! that Prince Charles) call Kansas City a burgeoning mecca for the arts -- but we will be there, proud that Kansas City finally has an outstanding, world class arts center.

Click on the the link and see all the action and read the story:

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

One of my favorite statements about this new building, is that the symphony members are ecstatic that they can finally (and the first time) hear each other playing (the acoustics in the old hall were so awful that each member had to play as loud as they could on nearly every number so the audience could hear the music).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tying up loose ends


I figured that Mother had handled her demise very competently, that my services would really not be wanted or needed at all. Lawyers were in place. She had made sure she had those she cared about at this time surrounding her (as the lawyer cryptically mentioned to me, "People seemed to come and go in her life), and everything possible would be done to insure that I was out of the loop.

Except it seems that "body disposable" (lordy, that's a cold term) actually does need a blood relative. So I got the call and then the e-mail, saying I needed to sign off for the funeral home to cremate her body.
Writing that seems so foreign. She was Mother, not a body. Even if I wasn't a chosen part of her final last wishes, she was still my only mother, not just a dead body.

The whole thing kind of threw me, not withstanding the cold language, and the fact that my services actually were required.

I knew how to get the proper signatures but our digital lives have now gone wireless. I actually have a scanner / copier printer at school -- but it's very old and slow. The one at home is now wireless and isn't equipped to fulfill multiple purposes. Neither do I own a fax machine. Faxes? In today's world unless you are a business? Most of us don't even own landlines anymore. Yes, I do . . . but that's because I don't like phones and cell phones, in particular (and yes, I have one of those but don't even know the number on it -- call Hubby if you need us quickly).

So Hubby stepped up to help me get Mother's final wishes granted. Wouldn't she have just loved THAT?

First we visited the local library. But no, they could not scan signed documents and turn them into digital files. However, they get so many requests for the service, they have a sheet of referral places. I glanced at it and saw that our second choice for scanning was on the list and off we went.

In the car, I dithered some more. "What if I don't know how to run their computers? Or scanners? Will they help me?"

"Silly woman. Give them your credit card, explain what you need, and go sit down."

So I did. And five minutes later I had all the files I needed, scanned and in PDF form. I had thought in advance and taken my trusty flash drive with me. I also had brought all the lawyer info, in case we had to resort to faxing. But I didn't need that at all, just the flash drive.

Back home, I sent off the files within 14 hours of receiving them and congratulated myself on a job well done -- and I hadn't had to explain to the lawyer that I really wasn't sure how quickly I could get the job completed.

Except, of course, I had left off an initial on a form line. The lawyer had sent absolutely no directions as to what needed to be completed on the forms, and though I had read them thoroughly, I had still left something out. You'd think for the amount of money my mother had spent on these lawyers, some directions would have come my way.

The funeral home called.

"We know you weren't close to your mother."

Gee, everybody knows?

"Do you want us to fax you the forms so you can initial the correct lines?"

"No. I do not. Just initial them for me."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

At home, after spending the PDF file off and answering the funeral home questions, I hugged Hubby. One more time he had put himself out for a woman who never liked him, never acknowledged his role in our family, and thought of him as less than a human being. One more time he had spent money to make sure her needs were met -- and with no acknowledgment in return -- other than my firm belief that his is the true Christian heart.

So now my part in mother's life (or end of life) is complete.

It would be the time to say, "and so her memories are put to bed." But, of course, it's never that easy or simple or satisfying.

Rest in peace, Mother. We have all done the best we could with the tools we were given. Even Hubby.

PS -- if there is an afterlife, please meet Mrs. Van and have a long, long talk with her. For those of you who knew Mrs. Van, you'll know why . . .

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Snap Shot Memory

In 2002, a little over six months after 9/11/2001 I asked friends to write me about their "snap shot" experiences. Snapshot memories are those that are so startling they are forever embedded in our memories. We remember what we were doing the exact moment we heard "the big news." Adi, my friend in Singapore, thought this might be a nice time to reprise that essay. It's long, be forewarned.

Remembering 9-11 -- Written in the spring of 2002

A term has been coined for the recollections we have that are so strong they are forever imprinted in our psyche – Flashbulb Memory. September 11, 2001 has been proclaimed by the media as one of those extraordinary days in history that everyone will always remember where they were and what they were doing, not unlike the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

My reaction to that Tuesday is still disbelief. I don’t bring any understanding to the breadth of the disaster. I have a great interest in the news events that occurred during and after the explosions. I’ve followed the stories of heroism and sacrifice. Because the media kept telling me the event would be imprinted in my memory like a “flashbulb” exploding, I do remember what I was doing and where I was when I heard the news of the plane hitting the first Trade Tower. I was standing in the bathroom combing my hair when NPR announced that a plane had hit the World Trace Center. I rushed to the TV. Twenty minutes later I rushed to my job at The We’re #3 Telecom Company, but my radio stayed on all day long – as did everyone else’s. Little knots of people met all around the floor, sharing information, speculating, trying to make sense of the senseless. Few people left the building to go to lunch. Instead we gathered in huge groups in the cafeteria to see replay after replay of the Trade Towers coming down.

I’m not at all sure that I’m emotionally invested in this disaster yet. It may be just too big for me to wrap my mind and heart around. My New York friend, Peff, kept me updated through the entire chain of events in New York. Through her I felt some of the pain. I never cried, though. I never had any nightmares about it. I never felt threatened in my own personal world. I’m absolutely sure I should feel more than I do. Others tell or write of feeling fear now, of being depressed, of finding life “forever changed.” I simply find myself unable to assimilate the magnitude of the tragedy that happened on September 11. I can’t imagine it.

Two deaths of public people did deeply affect me, enough to make a lasting impression of my own activities at the time. The first, of course, was the assassination of JFK. I was a junior in high school, in typing class, sitting next to Paul – the boy I had night dreams of kissing when no one was looking. He never even noticed I was in the same room, of course, much less within keyboard reach. The intercom came on and announced President Kennedy had been shot. It never really crossed my mind that Kennedy could be dead. Because of that announcement I remember that typing was the sixth of my seven period day. I have no notion of what the other periods were. I know that during seventh period we were told Kennedy was dead. I walked home and spent the next 36 hours glued to our black and white TV. For some reason it was in the dining room – the only time I can ever remember it being there. I sat immediately beside our TV peering into its screen during the funeral, learning words like cort├Ęge, trying to assimilate that someone so young could be so dead. When John-John saluted, I cried.

The other death that shocked me profoundly is one that nobody ever mentions as affecting them deeply. I’m not sure I’m so proud that this death rocked my core, but it did. It was a hot summer night and I was on-line, typing to internet friends when hubby announced from the bedroom that Princess Diana had died in a car crash. I remember responding, “That’s NOT a funny joke.” It took him several minutes to convince me it was true. Again I glued myself to the television, totally unprepared for someone so young and so vibrant to be irrevocably dead. But I never shed tears over her death, nor did it depress or frighten me.

One disastrous plane crash affected me on a personal level: the explosion of the jetliner over Lockerby, Scotland. Hubby and I were driving to Houston to celebrate Christmas and I felt so sorry that families were experiencing such devastation at the holidays. All the way to Houston we tuned in to the reports of that crash. I bring lots of emotion to Christmas which may be, for me, why this particular disaster has held more meaning. And somehow 250 people dead seems more manageable to me than the 6,000 that died on September 11. Maybe it’s the magnitude of the 9/11 disaster that has me stymied.

Anyway, because of my sense of remoteness from the events of September 11, 2001, I asked my readers to explore with me their “flashbulb memories” from this date, as well as others that hold significant impact. An even dozen readers responded – maybe that’s prophetic in itself.

Common themes throughout these remembrances include shock, disbelief, and the need to find space to try and get a gripe on a world gone haywire. We clearly get our news now from TV, but back in the ‘60’s we listened to radio, too. A disaster affects us more if we’ve personally met a victim. No one mentioned feeling personal fear or depression on 9/11. When youth die unexpectedly, we seem to feel greater shock. JFK’s death has affected us the most deeply, but that’s because the majority of my readers are over 40 years of age. None of us remember Pearl Harbor Day, but have parents that do.

Monta

The youngest of Milly’s readers, Monta is a mom with the most children. She has four beautiful tykes, Bailey, Sabrina, Jillian, and a new little boy. During my very first gig at The We’re #3 TeleCom Company, working as a temp, Monta took me under her wing and showed me how to get around and get along. We’ve corresponded ever since. She’s now a full time mom with a traveling husband and two school age children and lives in Overland Park, Kansas.

On that fateful Tuesday I was going about my usual routine of getting my two little ones ready for our weekly Tuesday play group. Of course, I had Dragon Tales blaring and all the other PBS cartoons but it was on my Direct TV so there were no TV news bulletins.

My neighbor Melinda called and said "Do you have the TV on? Turn on the news. My dad just called and a plane flew into one of the Twin Towers in NYC."

I still had no feeling of "this is real" but I turned on the news and saw utter chaos. I didn't understand what happened. My playgroup meets at 9:30 so I continued to get ready to go. Probably as I was walking my kids to the playgroup the second plane hit. I knew nothing.

At our neighbor's house, Carey rushed in, red faced, and ran straight to the TV. She had lived in New York and was a flight attendant! She said she had been calling and trying to e-mail all her friends on the East Coast. This was when it started to sink in that this was a real thing.

Then the Pentagon was being hit and who knew where else in the US they would send something to destroy us. Just then another girl, Cassie, ran in the door crying. She had also lived in New York and was terrified that friends of hers were dead. Someone said the school voice mail was reporting you could go get your children from school. I called my husband who was already on his way home from work and asked him to get the kids at school. I packed up and headed home.

Later that day I had to get away and let my feelings out so I took a jog. I jogged three miles that day but normally I only jog two.

I will always remember that day and the way I felt. I held my kids in my house like a mother hen. I wanted to go in the basement and hide.

I also clearly remember when the space shuttle blew up. I was in college at Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Ks). I was working in the Communications department and our job was typing dittos for the teachers. All of a sudden this flighty girl ran through the halls screaming, “The space shuttle blew up!” over and over and over. I thought she needed a tranquilizer. Everyone was asking “What?” and then we were all glued to the little bitty transistor radio that was in the secretary's office. When we got home, we watched it over and over on TV.

Cynthia

Cynthia is friend from Houston, Texas. We celebrated Christmas in her home for three years. She teaches high school in Houston and coaches her school’s golf team. She originates from New England.

The impact of 9/11 did not have the same effect of remembering what I was doing as the JFK assassination did. On 9/11 I was in school and did not have a class at the time. A message came over the intercom to check out TV as some of us were not working and we had been having a problem. Of course, being the good teacher that I am, I checked my TV. It was about five seconds before the second plane crashed into the Twin Towers. My first thought was, “This must be a replay of a mid air collision.” Even when they announced that this was the second plane to crash into the towers, I still couldn't believe what was happening before my very eyes. Within minutes there was talk of a plane heading to and crashing into the Pentagon and talk of another possible problem in Pennsylvania. I was blown away and in shock. Of course, we never shut the TV off and the rest of the day didn't get much better.

I remember the JFK assassination more vividly because I really felt like I had a personal relationship with the Kennedy family. The night before the presidential election, Kennedy was at Boston Garden at a rally. Of course, one was supposed to have tickets to get in. I was working for the telephone company with my rowdy friends who did lots of crazy things together. We decided that we were going to be there, tickets or no tickets. We walked around from entrance to entrance, trying to see what the possibilities were. Lo and behold, just as we were hitting one entrance and Kennedy was about to speak, a whole group of people decided to crash the door. We were swept along by mob mentality and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on the steps to one of the rows watching and listening to JFK in person. What a memorable event it was!

His assassination blew me away because the country was still being swept along by the same fervor I experienced that night at Boston Garden. Anyhow, I was working for the telephone company at the time I heard about JFK. We were having lunch in the cafeteria and playing Kitty Whist which we did every day during lunch (breaks, too -- you would be amazed how many games of cards we could play during a 15 minute break!). The women in the cafeteria announced that Kennedy had been shot and they were trying to get more info on the radio. Of course, TV's weren't the basic mode of communication in those days. When the shock settled in and we went back to the card playing mode, or at least to pick up the cards, someone had just played the ace of spades and it was still sitting there on the table. I will never forget this.

Micki

Though a New York resident for six months of the year, Micki was on Fire Island when the attack occurred, where she lives the other six months. She reports that most of her information about 9/11 came from Peff, her best friend in New York City. She defers her account to Peff. Micki is an internet friend, owned by two Chihuahuas, Sadie and Comet. She has two businesses, an employment agency in New York and a house cleaning concern on Fire Island.

When I heard that JFK had been assassinated, I was a college student and only had classes in the morning. In the afternoon, I had a job at a real estate firm attempting to get listings on the phone. Our office was in a storefront on a busy street. Through the plate glass windows I saw people "rushing about" and talking in small groups outside but I didn't know what had happened until a salesman who had been showing a house came in and told us. The rest of that afternoon is a blur.

Nancy

Nancy lives in a suburb of Washington, DC. Nancy is owned by numerous pets, including three white German shepherds. Another of my e-mail pals, her internet name is Vixxen – typical of Nancy’s irreverent humor.

I am amazed at how totally incredibly STUPID I was, looking back. I had had the sound off on the TV, but the picture on, in my bedroom. I got up out of bed to use the bathroom, glanced at the TV and saw one of the replays of the first plane hitting. As I made my way through dogs and cats, I thought, "Gawd, look at that plane hitting a big building! What happened/When/Last night?/What?"

When I came back, I turned the sound on, and heard it was the World Trade Center. I thought, "JESUUUZZZ! Isn't that building big enough to be missed!!!??? How stupid was that pilot!!"

I threw some clothes on and ran down to let workmen in and turned the front room TV on. Then I heard of the second plane. (Now, brace yourself for the most incredibly stupid thoughts a human could have, okay?) I thought, "JESUSZZZZ!!! What's happening here? ANOTHER pilot must've been distracted by the first plane and look what he did!"

I went to the front and called to the workmen. They'd come to fix my house intercom “thingie,” I dunno what ya call it. I opened the front door and said, "C'mere, c'mere! You won't beLIEVE this!!"

When they saw the TV, it was ONLY then and ONLY when one of them said to me, "It's gotta be terrorists", that I thought it could be.

When I heard the reporter on the Today show, reporting from the Pentagon, saying he felt “something” like a bomb, I thought he must've been overreacting, or something.

Then our lives changed.

On the day Kennedy was assassinated, I recall our principal coming over the PA system (do schools still use those?), and saying our President had been shot. I went to Catholic grade school, St Sebastian's, in Pittsburg. She asked for our prayers. Sister Marietta led my class in prayers. I'll bet hardly any of us knew then that Kennedy was the first Catholic president, and that that in itself was a Very Big Deal.

Later, Sister Honoria addressed the school again. She was crying as she told us that President Kennedy had died. Seeing Sister Honoria in tears, now THAT made me realize that something awful had happened. Were we let out of school early, I am now wondering?

Anyway I ran home from the bus, with news for my mother (stay-at-home mom and big-time school volunteer): "Mom! MOMMMM!!...DID YOU HEAR..." I was cut short, as my mother was looking at the TV and she was crying.

That was how I learned that Bad Things happen.

I'm crying now. This is too much to write.

Peff

A dancer and ballerina, Peff lives year-round in New York City. Her continuous stream of e-mails kept a huge group of friends connected during the 9/11 disaster. As a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, she volunteered her massage services for weeks to the rescue effort. She is owned by an apricot poodle, Rose Etoile. Her poodle Harry died during the 2001 holidays.

I was watching TV in my New York apartment about eight miles north of the Trade Centers. I saw on TV the second plane hit. I ran to the telephone and dialed my friend Micki on Fire Island and told her I was okay, and I would contact her later in the day.

Then I dialed my other friend in Florida whose son worked on the 80th floor of the Trade Towers. She said he had gotten out. Then my godson Rui called from Greenwich Village and told me his company had gotten out of #7, which was across the street. He had run ahead of the dust cloud.

I spent the next two days without phone service, although I could get onto the internet through the same phone lines that wouldn’t dial across the street. Somewhere in the archives of our internet group are my daily reports. New York will never be the same and yet the vitality sprang back very quickly. We have such gumption here.

After the events of 9/11, I think I will always remember writing down 16 names of people to find, including my own son, and two godsons. I will always remember how beautiful the day was, so sunny and bright. After the tragedy, whenever I took Harry and Rose out for walks, people were eating, eating, and eating.

During the time of Kennedy’s assassination, I was in South Bend, Indiana on the Camelot tour. The news was on TV and the hotel staff was so angry that our producers would insist that we open and do the performance that night, they turned off the electricity in our hotel and wouldn’t serve us in the restaurants or shops. The only thing to do was to stay in our hotel rooms until it was time to go as a group to the theatre. I left the TV on and read Jonathon Livingston Seagull from cover to cover that day.

The theater was full and totally silent when the curtain went up. At the moment when Sir Lancelot raises Sir Dinadan from the dead, the actor refused to move. Sir Lancelot prayed twice and we all prepared to run for the exits if there was a riot. But when he rose from the litter, suddenly the audience started to shout and clap and cry and applaud. They stayed through the whole performance.

When we got back to the hotel there was a dinner in every room, clean towels, hot water and the electricity was back on, a miracle for us that night, because we all needed a beautiful miracle.

JFK loved Camelot, and the theatre has always been where people could come to see overwhelming emotions expressed and be moved or carried away or healed in some way.

At the time of the Martin Luther King assassination I was teaching black, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian teenagers to be living, dancing artists in the high school of Performing Arts

When John Lennon was assassination I was in New York and had just finished a performance at the Metropolitan Opera. By the time I came out of the theater, 72nd street, where his apartment building was, had been cordoned off. I didn’t find out until I saw the news later that evening.

Elaine

Elaine is the mother of one son and tends to two rescue dogs, Midi and Dancer. She and her husband live near Detroit, Michigan, where she works as a full time wife and mother. She grew up in St. Louis, MO.

In the spring of 1968, I was completing my freshman year at Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Cape is a small city about 130 miles south of St. Louis so we were all surprised when we were told that Bobby Kennedy, who was running for President, would be coming to Cape for a rally. My friends and I were really excited. That morning, we arrived very early and were able to stand right in front of the stage. After speaking, Bobby reached out to shake hands and I was pushed aside but still got to "brush" hands with him. I was so thrilled!

A few weeks later on the morning of my American History Two final, I awoke to find that Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated a few hours before. I went to my final in a sort of daze. I remember my professor, who knew of my support of Bobby, asking me if I would like to take the final later. I took it anyway because all I wanted to do was go back home to St. Louis.

Sarah

Sarah and her husband Doug are members of the church we attend. Sarah owns a spunky little rescue dog, lives in the historic Northeast section of our city, only two doors from her mother (this is one fabulous mother/daughter relationship), and works at a local hospital

It used to be "people of a certain age" always asked each other: “where were you when?” Since I am forty something it was always: “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” I remember being in second grade at Briarcliff school. Miss Lovell was crying and trying to explain to all of us that the president was shot. It was a clear crisp day in November and Miss Lovell had on a blue sweater set and her hair was in a flip (the Marlo Thomas from That Girl look). I remember wondering why the sun was shining and it was so pretty if everyone was so sad. It was on television for days and they showed us so many details and personal things about the Kennedy family. I remember as a child feeling sorry for them because everyone was watching them all the time. I also remember being out of school for a long time, with the funeral, a day of mourning, and Thanksgiving. It was as if time stood still for days.

As for the trade center, it was strange that morning. I was running late for work and in the car with the radio on when an NPR spokesperson told in a shaky voice what had just happened. That was plane one. I ran into the office and someone had the TV on and was watching, as was everyone, in disbelief. When we saw plane two hit the other tower, we thought it was a replay and no one could speak. The people in our office sat and watched all morning what was on TV. No one could move. One of my best friends is a retired flight attendant for TWA. She flew for 30 years and her daughter is currently flying for United. I tried to contact her to see if family was okay. It felt like an obsession to reach her.

It is odd about death and events we remember. Closure sometimes does not come. As a child my father was taken ill suddenly. I went to a friend's house and two days later my mother came over to get me and told me my father was dead.

My stepfather died suddenly of a cerebral aneurysm on New Years. Again I had no time for goodbyes. Doug's mother was ill for a while, but was fine when we went to have dinner at my folks on Thanksgiving. We were called in the middle of dessert. She was taken to the hospital unresponsive. She never woke up.

My mother’s father lived into his late 90's at home alone. One day he fell and broke a hip and was taken to the hospital. He was told he could never go home alone again and live in his house. He died that day.

I often feel this lack of closure in my life. I tell my mother and husband all the time how much I love them and what they mean to me. I do not want to leave any more doors open in my soul when the time comes. I need closure.


Donna

Another Houstonian, Donna has been a friend for over 20 years. She currently works as a director for a university school of nursing. Also, she’s a six foot something slim, gorgeous, dynamic “broad” who takes in stray cats and is leading a passionate internet life.

I'm not going to be much help in this project as I live way too much in the current moment and make very little effort to remember where I was when . . . however 9/11 is close enough. I first learned of the event in the lobby of my office building as I was walking in to work. A TV monitor was on in the lobby and I walked in just in time to hear what had happened and then see the second plane crash into the tower.

The following day was the groundbreaking ceremony for my new building and the first executive committee meeting of the community volunteers who raise money for the School of Nursing. I had to struggle all day to keep my assistant focused on the job of getting the final touches put on the groundbreaking, including changing the program and the speakers' scripts to include references to the event and the people. Also, I had to try to keep the volunteers focused. No one else in my office was working -- just watching TV-- all day. By the end of the day I learned that the president of the university and my dean had serious conversations about canceling the groundbreaking. You can just imagine what I thought of that -- after the fact. We did have a record breaking crowd the next day.

Robert

Every writer must have both sexes represented in her reading public, and Robert’s my male voice –he represents everything male one could wish for (sports enthusiast, speed freak, and owner of all things dark and masculine). He’s also an employee of The We’re #3 Telecom Company where we met about six years ago. He’s the father of an active son and two very large and well trained dogs. He lives in the country on acres of land, where he houses his motorcycle, sports car, skies, and speed boat.

OK, here's the stream:

I don't know if I will remember. There are key events that at the time I did not know would be so firmly etched in my mind.

One was when I heard that Elvis had died. I was driving my father-in-law's RV down I-35 on a sunny day. It's a bit odd, in that while I like Elvis, I'm not a big fan. At the time, I had only a couple of 45's. It just seemed so unexpected.

The other thought that comes to mind is when John F. Kennedy died. What struck me was the affect on those around me. To understand this you need to know the situation. I was only seven, and living in Bergamo Italy.

American's were not well liked. At each recess, I was in “protective custody” to keep me from being in fights. Yet, when this American died there was a big display of emotion and sadness. A little hard for a seven year old to process. We heard the news at night.

Wendy

Wendy is little sister to hubby. She lives in Houston with two foundling cats. We spend EVERY Christmas with her and she spends Thanksgiving with us, and if we’re really lucky we might get some time together in the summer. Wendy’s the BEST family! She’s just moved into new digs, so she’s a bit scattered at the present. She’s retired from a big oil company. By the way, Wendy’s memory of the JFK assassination is probably correct, since it occurred in 1963 and she would have been in seventh or eighth grade at the time.

I was sleeping when the towers were hit. Cynthia called me from school and said "Turn on the TV!" My brilliant response was "Huh?"

"Turn on the TV! They've hit the World Trade Centers! Turn on the TV! I'll call you back later!"

So I fumbled my way to the TV and woke up to an agitated newscaster reporting disaster.

I might not remember these events for eternity but my seared memory is probably more of sitting at home watching the planes hit the building over and over and over again. Moving from couch to recliner to Lazy-Boy and then reversing the restless cycle. No improvement by changing the perspective. And only the cats to share the restlessness with.

I was too young to remember Pearl Harbor but I do remember Mom's story about Uncle Stuart coming home from college for his birthday (that day) and no one remembering it.

It's funny, I have a very clear memory that I have long associated with hearing about JFK's death, but in thinking about it for this exercise I realize it can't possibly be the right one. I remember being in my elementary school and an announcement being made over the PA system and I was extremely upset. One boy started to make jokes and I jumped (verbally) all over him. I know I was practically the only kid in that school from a Democratic family and I remember feeling pretty isolated in my grief. But I graduated from high school in 1967, so I was no where near elementary school age for JFK's death... I wonder what did happen then. And I wonder what I was doing when I heard about JFK's death.

I remember the Robert Kennedy assassination well. I was living in the college dorm and I was walking from my room to the showers. I heard a radio news announcer talking about the tragic death and its circumstances. As I progressed along the hall one radio would fade out and another would become audible. Some just barely audible. It wasn't normal to have news instead of music as the dominant dorm wake-up and it was eerie. And even though I never heard his name the scraps of information I did hear made me suspect the victim's identity. I slowed and slouched more all the way to the showers. When I got back to the room I was glad that my roommate was still asleep so I could put off knowing for sure for a little longer.

Re assassinations in general: I remember when it seemed that murders of prominent leaders were happening on a regular basis. When I talked about being upset about this with friends, I included some right wing baddie. My mind is mush right now (been headache lately so the synapses are probably misfiring) so I don't remember the exact details of who it was. Norman Lincoln Rockwell? (I remember it sounded like, but wasn't the painter.) He was the head of the American Nazi party or the KKK or some such. I had heard that he was also assassinated and I felt it was just as big a problem that the bad guy leaders were getting killed as the good guy leaders. My including him seemed to mystify my friends.

There are things that I remember vividly but the more vivid the more intensely embarrassing or intimate the moments, so they aren't ones I share in writing. I do think the dearth of my answers to some of these specific questions just proves my sister's and my contention that we have wiped out a major part of our early memories. And I seem to continue doing it. Don't know much about myself over three or four years ago.

Emily

Emily lives in San Francisco and has a whole den of “pound” doggies that she mothers. She’s taken early retirement, for which I envy her greatly. She’s an internet friend who exchanges dog advice with me. Emily has a vast and valuable LP collection. Her list, though briefly described, contains the longest list of memorable events.

I was engaged in these activities when I heard the news of these deaths:

9/11: occurred while I was sleeping

Kennedy: heard at work

Mayor George Moscone: heard at work

Elvis: heard at home

Challenger Explosion: heard at work

Muddy Waters (my favorite Blues musician): heard while driving home

Anwar Sadat: learned from the news

Adi

Adi is my international friend, living in Singapore. She’s married, has a new miniature Schnauzer pup, and is the only professional writer among us (which you’ll immediately recognize when you read her thoughts). She’s the second youngest of the group and the only one with "sometimes” pink hair and a yen for a tattoo. Oh, yeah –she’s the artistic type, too – she’s the one with a MAC. And she spells British.

I work as a newspaper copy editor. September 11 last year was an uneventful working day. At 9 pm, just an hour before the paper would be closed for pre-press and printing, I was casting an idle eye on the wires. I don't do this every night but as the foreign editor was off that day, and I had already finished my work, I just kept an eye on the wires for the want of something else to do. I didn't expect any major breaking news. I expected we would knock off in an hour and we could all go home soon.

A news flash from AP caught my eye. It was just a one-liner: A light craft had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

I alerted the night editor and we decided to make a little space for it on an inside foreign page. At that time, there was no news of injuries or damage. Because the news flash said a light craft, I thought it was a Cessna. I was thinking of the German guy who landed one at Moscow's Red Square some years ago and thought some idiot must have tried to do it in front of WTC or tried to fly between the towers or something.

Nothing could have prepared the night crew for what would happen next. Reports started coming in thick and fast through the wires. AP would file, so would Reuters and AFP. Someone turned the TV on to CNN. The information was coming so fast, we hardly had time to digest a report before another update came in.

I saw the second plane crash on CNN. I thought at first someone managed to get a shot of the first crash and they were replaying it, the way news stations often do. It took a while to sink in that there was a second crash and I was watching it as it happened.

And when I couldn't believe what I was watching on TV, minutes later, a news flash on the wires on my computer would confirm what I couldn't digest from the TV.

When I saw it on the TV, I felt like it was a disaster movie. That it wasn't real, somehow. And since the TV cut from New York to the Pentagon and back again, it felt more like a movie than anything. I felt like part of me had detached away from my real self in the newsroom, like I was part of a sound stage of a disaster movie.

I sent an email to my group of friends on the Internet. We're a closely knit group of dog lovers, most of them are in the US. Over the years, this group has shared my joys, held me through my sorrows and if anyone could put my feet back on reality, this group would.

I still remember my message. It was a very terse: "WTF is happening in the US???"

People whom I've worked with know that I can swear a blue streak when I'm stressed or irritated. But I've never used this language with this group of cyber friends whom I respect very much. If anybody was shocked, they didn't remark on it. Their answers came back, one by one. Yes, they were watching it on TV. Yes, they were shocked, confused, upset.

By now, it was three, four hours since that single-line newsflash I first saw. That little space the night editor reserved for the news now became front page, two inside pages and a wrap-round.

Stories were constantly being re-written as more news broke and more reports confirmed. We worked without stopping for those four or so hours but we didn't realise so much time had gone past. When the paper was finally off to pre-press, nobody went home. We gathered round the TV, glued to CNN, till the editor came to pry us away from it. Go home, he said, rest up, there will be more shit tomorrow.

Yes, I will always remember what I was doing on 9-11. I will never forget that single-line news flash and what unfolded after that. I won't forget the images that came over the picture wires and on TV and the horror and despair. Even half a world away, we felt when the towers fell.

In conclusion –

I believe Adi gave this piece an adequate conclusion. I’m certainly not able to add any other deep thoughts. If, like me, you’ve had difficulty adjusting to what the media now calls the “new world – the world after 9/11” maybe the writings of these friends will help you assimilate. We’ve had the six month anniversary. Those of us not directly affected seem to have resumed our lives, pretty much as before. The financial news says the economy is beginning to rebound. We hear reports of rebuilding in New York. The Pentagon is open and doing war business as usual. The airplanes are flying but with increased security and frustration on the part of the passengers. War began in Afghanistan, but certainly never reached the proportions I feared it could. Now we hear that war is winding down, but may begin again in another terrorist outpost. Still, the wars are fought on foreign soils. Because I’m old now, my generation isn’t fighting. I seem to be “untouched” by all the misery caused on September 11, 2001. Fireballs erupted as planes crashed into skyscrapers. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center crumbled into dust. Grime-encrusted New Yorkers ran for their lives. The tireless heroic effort by New York City's firefighters, police, rescue workers and Good Samaritans from around the globe continued for hours, days, and months. Certainly, I can claim that horrific images are shown on television over and over have become part of my flashbulb memory, but my life continues, pretty much business as usual.