Friday, August 10, 2012


Dear American Home Shield, thank you so very much for your follow up call and generous offer of the gift card for the next service call.  Adrian Rodriquez was here this morning from AZ Plumbing and fixed the hot water heater.  It is working, knock on wood.  We have hot water and I plan to take a nice long shower in a few minutes and wash some clothes.  Mr. Rodriquez is very pleasant and seems to know what he is doing.  I would recommend him to anyone and hope he will coninue under contract to you.
This has been aggravating, for sure, but there is nothing that could have been helped and again, I have to be grateful that clean water is available to me 24/7 by the flick of a wrist...more than many in this world can say.
Thank you, AHS...until the next time and I hope that is a long way off.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hello again American Home Shield

Dear American Home Shield,
     It's me again.  Still no hot water.  No part arrived but I did get a phone call telling me the part should arrive tomorrow, Thursday.  Rather strange as it was supposed to be sent by overnight Express at AZ Plumbing's expense on Monday which should have put it here by today, Wednesday, at the latest.  I received another call telling me the technician will be here Friday to install it so at least two more cold showers are ahead.  I have such a hard time understanding the caller I have to get her to repeat several times.  Geez...where is she?  Pakistan?
     Now the good news...for some reason I received a check for $22 from American Home Shield.  There was no note saying why I was getting it but I will indeed cash it.  I just wish it were big enough for us to check into the new Hilton down the street and enjoy a hot shower, a loooonnnnggg hot shower.
     We have had no hot water since a week ago last Sunday.  I would like to say that I am getting used to it but spoiled woman that I am, I'm not.  I'm trying to think positively and be really grateful that I have clean water knowing that there are many in the world who do not.  We do have a tub but I'm too old and stiff to get in and out of it so any suggestions of heating water on the stove and carrying it across the house are not valid.  Besides I don't think I can carry a big tub of anything all the way across the house but maybe two of us could.
     I can't point a finger at anybody in this.  It is what it is...what's broke is broke.  But word to the wise:  Do not buy a Whirlpool hot water heater.  Replaceable parts are unavailable at Home Depot, Lowe's and local plumbing supply houses.  Parts must be ordered directly from Whirlpool which frankly sucks for everyone but Whirlpool.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Geez louise...still no hot water

Dear American Home Shield, I know you consider me a liability at this point and I am beginning to wonder about you.  But I live in a house that is nearly 50 years old and shit just seems to happen through no fault of mine or yours BUT I still have no hot water.

The plumber was here Saturday, bless his heart, really, really nice guy named Adrian Ramirez who is truly doing the best he can with what he has.  It seems that he can't install the new part to the hot water heater because there is another problem concerning the baffle.  Evidently when it was installed a few years ago (by a plumber you, AHS, sent) it is minus some clips that hold up the baffle.  I recall the installation being done by an old guy and a young helper.  We were relieved he had a helper as he struggled to get up the ladder in the attic and we were afraid he might have a heart attack up there.  Evidently the clips were knocked off in the installation and I guess he didn't notice or figured it would last a while without them.  Well, it did until now.  So now we need another part in order to replace the previously ordered part.

Adrian called the "emergency parts" department of Whirlpool, the maker of the hot water heater.  They have the parts but can't ship until Monday. So even overnight the parts won't arrive until Tuesday or Wednesday.  Once again I am to call when the part arrives and pray that Adrian can come back ASAP to make the repairs.  I'm trying to think positively but past experience makes me wonder "Oh geez, what if they aren't the right parts?"  Here we go again?

I am learning to go with the pun intended or maybe it is.  I have figured out that if I wait to shower between 3 and 5, the water pipes in the attic are so warm that if I jump into the shower quickly, the water is hot for a few seconds before it turns lukewarm.  So I shampoo quickly, soap fast and then brace for the cool.  Hey, it works for me thought the rest of the family aren't  happy campers.  Granddaughter tried heating several kettles of hot water for her bath but by the time each kettle had heated, the water in the tub had cooled.   Hubby and daughter are just gritting their teeth and going for it.  We're using paper plates which ecologically bothers us but we do heat water for pots and pans, etc.

I am so happy to report that the light on my ceiling fan has been repaired, is better than before and the electrician was so polite and courteous.  That problem is fixed, thank you very much, American Home Shield.

Now the question:  back to the hot water this what is happening to everyone who has to deal with repairs?  Or is it just the tradesmen under contract to American Home Shield?  Up until this year we have never had a problem.  We've used AHS for years, used it for rental property.  Does this happen to everyone who lives in a house that is over 20 years old?  So frustrating.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Here we go again...

Hello American Home Shield...are you listening, Ms. Cameron?  Now it is our hot water heater.  A Whirlpool which you installed a few years ago when the old one went out during Christmas dinner and leaked through the ceiling onto the bar filled with pies.

Sunday night we had no hot water.  Early Monday morning I called AHS to report the problem.  I asked for AZ Plumbing who had just done a great job unstopping the tub.  I was to hear from them within a few hours. 

Tuesday, no call as yet.  I call them and was told a technician would be out Wednesday between 8 and 1. Cold showers it has been for our family of dishwasher, etc.

I had to leave at noon and left my 40+ year old intelligent daughter in charge.  The technician arrives at 12:45, goes into the attic and comes back to say we need a thermal coupler which will have to be ordered.  It could take up to 2 weeks but we can order overnight shipping at our expense.  No estimate on how much that would be.  I return at 3 and call AZ Plumbing and explained I needed to know how much the overnight would be. Two weeks with no hot water is not a pretty picture, spoiled rotten woman that I am.   I'm thinking it could be cheaper and easier to go to Home Depot and get one but it turns out it also needs a converter for the way it threads which has to com from Whirlpool.  Not available anywhere else.  I was told to call Simon, the Supervisor.  I call Simon who asks me to hold while he checks something.  He comes back and says I need to call the number I just called.  I told him I just called it and they told me to call him.  He says "Hold on while I check."  He comes back and says a dispatcher will call shortly.

The dispather calls 30 minutes later and says the overnight will be $30 but it is too late to overnight it today and it will go out tomorrow.  Reluctantly I give my credit card.  Why do I have to pay for the shipping when it is something the plumbing company should carry?  I am to call when the part arrives at my house.  Is this sounding familiar?  Holy moly! 
I insist that the dispatcher arrange that when I call with the newly arrived part, a technician be available to put the part in on Friday.  She sounds very skeptical but agrees to make a note.
I DO NOT want to go through the weekend with no hot water! 

Tomorrow the electrician is to return with the light kit to fix the ceiling fan.  Wanna take bets on how that is going to go?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Last Tuesday with no warning jack hammers started tearing up our street beginning on our side at the end of the block.  This was followed a couple of days later with a front end loader that was breaking up the cement and loading it onto large trucks.  Quickly we and all our neighbors snapped to the fact that we were not going to be able to get out of our driveways.  Duh!  My daughter and I raced off to the city office to complain and ask what were we to do.  We have a curfew in our neighborhood that no one can park on the street after midnight until 6 a.m.  The city secretary (it is a small village) apologized, explaining that the contractors showed up 3 weeks early before they could get notices out.  Our choices are to park at the end of the street (a pain in the you-know-what if you are hauling groceries) with a promise of no tickets or to buddy up with our neighbors across the street either in their driveways or on the easement between the curb and sidewalk.  Oh lovely!  I knew I would hear from my neighbor across the street...the realtor put a For Sale sign in her front yard the day the jack hammers started.  She offered her double driveway which would handle two of our cars but not the third.  She begged me not to park on her easement and I agreed to try though if I wanted, it is legal as the city owns the easement.  So far that is what we are doing with one car going on the easement to the house next door to her.

But the problem is our street is now one way and crossing the broken up concrete and dirt to get to the other side of the street is tricky for us old fragile folk.  So we are being very careful, very, very careful.  This is supposed to go on until Aug 14.  I'm just glad our street is the first of 17 and will most likely be finished complete with new and better drainage before any possible hurricane threat.  But right now it discourages any unnecessary trips out or company coming in.  I don't think my neighbor is going to get many house lookers until this is all over.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Murdered by Chocolate and the Gospel

Well, too bad I don't have photos...just memories of a very interesting, slightly weird evening of I'm not sure what at a new venue in Clear Lake called Murder by Chocolate, upstairs in a building on Egret Bay.  I went to hear what I thought was going to be a poetry reading for a couple of hours. I had made myself attend after a busy day in order to support a young poet who is working really hard to create a strong poetry scene in the area. I joined my friend, John, professor of creative writing and poet extraordinaire, on the sidewalk.   Bless John's heart, he is so supportive of poetry.  The young host was waiting at the bottom of the stairs ready to collect our $10 cover charge. We had no change and promised we would pay after buying a cup of coffee upstairs. 
        At the top of the stairs we were ushered in and stood in the entry hall facing a wall with a mantel over a fake fireplace.  A small button  on the edge of the white mantel beckoned a push and suddenly the wall swung back creating an entry into a large room carpeted in red with round tables and high back chairs upholstered in a patterned red, all under crystal chandeliers...very Adams family decor.  Cool, huh!  To the immediate left was a bar with a large blackboard behind it listing all the coffee drinks and other beverages and desserts available.  In cases along the bar were tempting chocolate sweets of all kinds.  A cute young woman in a white blouse and blond pony tail greeted me and asked to take my order.
        "A medium decaf sugar-free hazelnut latte."  She repeated it minus the decaf.  I stated once again "Decaf, sugar-free hazelnut latte."  She began taking John's order and after we both paid, she repeated my order again.  A couple of men were seated at a table and one got up to greet us...I gathered he is the manager.  The barrista indicated she would bring the coffee to me.  After handing the organizer our ten bucks, John and I made our way to another door where the poetry would take place. It is a giant room with big draped windows, deep red carpet and more round tables with upholstered chairs.  In the middle of each table was a large hurricane glass sitting on a metallic red scarf and a large magnifying glass.  In one corner was a large black man sitting at a keyboard and another sitting in the corner with a set of drums.  In the opposite corner was a black man sitting behind some electrical equipment talking with another black man.  
           John and I settled at a table near the microphone and band and opposite a long table against the wall where a beautiful young blond had her eyes glued to a lap top.  Finally someone we recognized came in...a young local poet who always dresses like one of the Blues Brothers with a hat and sunglasses.  The next time I looked over he was in a passionate embrace with the blond behind the computer.  I gather they know each other.
       The barrista came running in the room and to our table.  "Do you want whipped cream?"  "Of course," I replied.  She disappeared only to be replaced by two large black women and a teenage black boy in charge of a small camcorder.  They appeared to be related to the band.
       Whew...our poet friend, Carmen, joined us at the table.  So far we three were the audience and the host kept peeking in the door as he was sweating bullets hoping more folk would show up.  I felt sorry for him and was glad I made the effort.
       The star of the evening, Kamara, came up and introduced himself.  Very charming and explained that his show would be interactive and he would be addressing each of us.  If we were uncomfortable with that, we should probably leave.  We didn't move and why would we...we had paid $10 for this whatever it is.
       The band started playing and a pretty slender black woman introduced herself as Lady Emerald and began the show with what might have been funny stories and jokes but she had the mike cranked up so loud that I couldn't understand what she was saying.  She would address our table and I just had to nod like I knew what she was saying.  Finally I leaned over to Carmen and asked if she could understand her.  She said no and was relieved to learn she wasn't alone in the difficulty.  Lady wanted to know if John and I were a couple.  I said, "No, I'm his mother."  John didn't seem too thrilled about that...he must have a more refined mother...and explained that we were poets.
       Lady grandly introduced the first act...the man who had been at the back of the room.  The band cranked it up a notch or two and he began to sing a gospel song all about Jesus and being saved.  Oh my, it was all I could do to keep a straight face and I didn't dare look at John or Carmen.  Before the next number he encouraged us to follow God, be kind to one another, etc.  The man has a beautiful voice and I keep thinking he is a candidate for American Idol if he could give up the religious stuff.  He obviously had been "saved", from what and for what I'm still not sure.
     Lady Emerald with her crazy microphone pranced around the room telling what might have been jokes if I could have understood them.  She introduced Birdman...a tall, nice-looking black man who had earlier introduced himself and showed me his poetry publications.  He read a couple of poems which were commendable and a couple more from his latest book.  Applause, applause and off he went with the keyboard and drums playing his exit.
      Enter Lady Emerald again to do another round of non-understandable comedy relief.  She introduced Zack, the passionate Blues Brothers imitator, who read on and on pages and pages of poetry that made no sense to me at all while his girl friend kept her head into the lap top.  The band tried to provide a little background music for his poems but they struggled.  Their wives to my left kept perfectly still as their eyes glazed over.  I tried valiantly to keep the smirk off my face and look attentive with only a couple of furtive glances to my watch.  Finally Zack tilted his head back, gathered up the pages he had cast to the floor and gave up the mike.
       Enter Lady Emerald again but this time she must have received some feedback on the mike and I could actually understand her.  But looking to my left, Carmen had disappeared and a black couple had joined the audience.  I was a little jealous of Carmen's departure but determined to hear a little bit of the headliner.  Lady explained that this was her debut as a stand-up comedian.  Really...I never would have guessed.  She told a couple of humorous stories about her mama and asked if our children had ever cooked for us.  Then went on to tell about an awful cup of coffee her child had fixed for her.  A strange choice I thought as we were in a coffee house and not that funny.  Ah well...
          About two hours into this whole program Lady brought on the star, Kamara, who is originally from New York and has a radio show somewhere.  A very good looking guy, he began be going back into the history of rap and hip hop and explaining the difference and talked about the base of hip hop in poetry.  He was very entertaining but by 9:30 I had had enough and left John to finish out the evening.  I met Lady Emerald on the stairwell and thanked her for her performance and wished her luck.  Damn, but she is going to need it.  I have to wonder where in the hell did our host meet up with these folks?
I chuckled all the way home thinking about Dr. John and how many hours he has spent listening to some really bad poetry even some of mine.  Bless the man.


Monday, May 21, 2012

It's only a microwave

April 12
         "Thank you for calling American Home Shield.  Para espanol marque nueve ahora.  If you want to hear an introduction, say introduction.  Otherwise stay on the line for our menu.  If something in your home isn't working, say service request."
         "Service request"
"What is the item that is broken?"
          "Please hold while we connect you with a service representative."

           "This is Imran.  Can I have your contract number?" (note the accent)
            "And to whom am I speaking?"
            "Kathryn Cox."
            "Can you verify your home address, Mrs. Cox?"
             917 Broadway, Seabrook, Texas, 77586."
            "And what can I do for you today, Mrs. Cox?"
            "Our microwave is making very strange noises and won't turn on."
            "I'm sorry to hear that, Mrs. Cox.  What is the brand and model of the microwave?"
             "Sharp and I don't know the model number.  It is built in.  I think it is about 8 or 9 years old."
             "I see.  Can you please hold while I see when a technician is available to come out?
                        (long pause)   A technician is available Monday between 8 and 12.  He will call prior     to his visit.  Will someone be home? "
              "Yes, thank you."

April 16
         Call from Sears repair service on contract to American Home Shield.
         "Our technician has been delayed and will be at your home between 8 and 12 on Thursday, April 19."

April 19
         Technician calls.  He is on his way.  Technician arrives, takes one look at the microwave, takes off interior shield which is fried and gets on his computer and phone.  "I will have to order the part and I can show you how to put it on when it arrives."
       "Great, that is easy enough.  Thank you and when should the part arrive?"
        "Within 3 to 5 days."
 He climbs in his Sears truck and leaves.

April 23
          Box on doorstep with new part.  But alas, this shield is less than half the size of the original.
          Call to American Home Shield.
           "Thank you for calling American Home Shield. Para espanol marque nueve ahora. If you want to hear an introduction, say introduction. Otherwise stay on the line for our menu. If something in your home isn't working, say service request."
      "Service request"
      "What is the item that is broken?"
       "Please hold while we connect you with a service representative."
       "Please remain on the line.  Our representative will be with you shortly."

        "This is David.  May I have your contract number?" (note the accent)
        "And to whom am I speaking?"
        "Kathryn Cox."
        "Can you verify your address for me, Mrs. Cox?"
        "917 Broadway, Seabrook, Texas 77586"
        "And what can I do for you today, Mrs. Cox?"
        "A part arrived and it is way too small...less than half the size of the original."
        "I'm sorry to hear that, Mrs. Cox. What is the brand and model of the microwave?"
        "Sharp and I don't know the model number."
       "Can you hold while I look up your request?  (Long pause)  I have contacted Sears and they will send another technician out to take a look."
         "Thank you."
 Phone call from Sears:
      "We have scheduled a technician to arrive at your home between 8 and 12 on Saturday, April  28."

April 28
         Technician Robert arrives and looks at the part.
         "This ain't gonna work.  It is way too small."  (DUH!)
          Robert declines coffee and gets on his computer and on the phone with Sears parts research department.
          "Mrs. Cox, this ain't even the part that was ordered.  I've ordered you another part and it should be here within 3 to 5 days.  Please call when the part arrives.  It should be fine."
          "Thank you, Robert" and I watch him climb in his Sears truck and drive away.

May 3
         Box on doorstep.  New part, this time in a bigger box.  The part is in a box in a plastic bag, in another plastic bag and under lots of bubble wrap.  I'm hopeful.  Alas, this one is bigger than the last one but half the size of the orginal.  I am SO frustrated and begin again.
     "Thank you for calling American Home Shield. Para espanol marque nueve ahora. If you want to hear an introduction, say introduction. Otherwise stay on the line for our menu. If something in your home isn't working, say service request."
"Service request"
"What is the item that is broken?"
"Please hold while we connect you with a service representative."

"This is Gloria. Can I have your contract number?"
"And to whom am I speaking?"
"Kathryn Cox."
 "Can you verify your address for me, Mrs. Cox?"
  "917 Broadway, Seabrook, Texas, 77586."
"And what can I do for you today, Mrs. Cox?"
"Another part arrived that is the wrong size."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Mrs. Cox. What is the brand and model of the microwave?"
"Sharp and I don't know the model number. It is built in. I think it is about 8 or 9 years old.  This has been going on since April 12 and I'm getting very frustrated.  So far we have two wrong parts and two technicians.  You could buy a new microwave for what you are spending on parts and labor."
"I am sorry for your inconvenience, Mrs. Cox. "

May 4
         Answering machine:  "This is Sears, please give us a call."
         "This is Kathryn Cox.  I'm returning your call regarding service to my microwave."
          "May I have your home phone number, Mrs. Cox?"
           "487 773-6945"
           "And your address, Mrs. Cox?"
          "419 Broadway, Seabrook, Texas, 77586"
           "And what is this about?"
   By now I'm beginning to lose it...."My microwave" and then proceed to recite the saga of visits and parts. 
         "Just a moment please while I transfer you to the research department."
              (long pause...10 minutes roll by)
         "This is Denise.  How may I help you?"
          "This is Kathryn Cox.."
          "May I have your home phone number, Mrs. Cox?"
          "487 773-6945"
           "And your address, Mrs. Cox?"
          "419 Broadway, Seabrook, Texas, 77586"
           "And what is this about?"
          I explain the whole history again along with my frustration and my voice is getting louder and louder and higher and higher.  My daughter steps in and says "Mom, it's not her fault."
           "I'm sorry.  It's just we've been dealing with this since April 12 and getting no where."
           "Let me see what I can do and get back with you."
           "When will I hear from you?"
             "Within 24 hours."

May 7
           Phone call to American Home Shield:

           "Thank you for calling American Home Shield. Para espanol marque nueve ahora. If you want to hear an introduction, say introduction. Otherwise stay on the line for our menu. If something in your home isn't working, say service request."
"Service request"
"What is the item that is broken?"
"Please hold while we connect you with a service representative."

"This is Susan. Can I have your contract number?"
"And to whom am I speaking?"
"Kathryn Cox."
"And would you verify your address for me?"
"419 Broadway, Seabrook, Texas 77586"
"And what can I do for you today, Mrs. Cox?"
I relay once again the history of the service request.
"Another part arrived that is again the wrong size."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Mrs. Cox.  Let me set up a conference call with Sears."
      (another pause)
Sears is on the line and I listen and the rep goes through the record they have of the technician and the visits and the parts.  Susan thanks Sears and hangs up.
      "Mrs. Cox, this sounds like we are going in circles.  Let me put our research department on it and see what we can come up with."
       "Thank you and when can I expect to hear back?"
       "Within 24 hours."
      "And if I don't?"
      "Call us back."
      "What do I do with these parts that don't fit?"
       "Seal them up and I will call UPS to pick them up.  Thank you for using American Home Shield."

May 14

     Message to call Sears which I do but give up part way through the menu when no one seems to know why I am to call them.
May 15
      A message on the answering machine from a very tired sounding Sears rep. 
           "Please call Sears at 1-800-776-4663."
     "This is Kathryn Cox. I'm returning your call regarding service to my microwave."
       "May I have your home phone number, Mrs. Cox?"
        "487 773-6945"
        "And your address, Mrs. Cox?"
        "419 Broadway, Seabrook, Texas, 77586"
         "And what is this about?"
         "My microwave...the wrong part was sent again."
           "Can you hold for a moment while I check the record?"
          "Do I have a choice?"
          "Mrs. Cox, I need to transfer you to the research department.  Please hold."
         "Please stay on the line.  A representative will be with you shortly."
               (long pause)
           "Hello, Mrs. Cox.  What can I do for you?"
    I tell the story again while gritting my teeth and refraining from screaming into the phone.
             "We are in the process of checking into another supplier.  Thank you for your patience.  You should hear from us in 24 hours"

May 16
        A message late in the day from a very tired Denise saying that they have ordered another part and to call when it arrives within 3 to 5 days. 

May 21
        No UPS.  No part as yet.  By now  I can see the humor in all this ...the absolute absurdity of bureaucratic systems.
       I really don't want a new microwave as it will mean making the cabinet fit all over again so wish me luck.  Crazy world we live in!
       I have to say that in the 40 plus years we have used American Home Shield Insurance on all our appliances this is the first time I have had a problem.  They have replaced the stove, the dishwasher, the washing machine, the garage door opener and saved us thousands on plumbing and air conditioning problems.  But I can't say the same for Sears repair service with whom they contract.  Sheesh!




Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

I am a choosey mother...that is, a mom who got to choose my babies.  After 5 years of marriage, somehow a spineless sperm never managed to find any of the eggs I was hiding and it wasn't for lack of hunting.  I hid them quite well behind some strange looking fibroids.  But we really, really wanted to be parents and weren't willing to give up so easily.  Hey, it was the 50s; Ladies Home Journal said that was what we were supposed to do. We both like kids.  We looked into Chinese babies but the paper work was daunting and my doctor suggested we stick closer to home and we did.  Finally I was a mom.  And so blessed and still being blessed. 
I look at today and realize how much I miss my own mother and think about what she gave me...the advice and a lot of love, a whole lot of love.  I had a truly wonderful childhood...she saw to that through thick and thin...she and my grandmother who came to live with us when my dad was drafted into WWII.  I never went hungry, always had clean clothes ( machine), was treated with kindness and probably spoiled.  Mother was forced to enter the work force to support us and day care was nearly impossible.  She and I rode two buses to get to day care and she then rode another back to the office at Internal Revenue and then repeated it all in reverse to get us back home.  We were both miserable with the day care situation...enter Grandmother Bonnie from Oklahoma who had been widowed at 32 with 4 children and supported them all by working in a general store in a little town in southeastern Oklahoma.  She left her home and friends of many years and came to Austin to be there to give me breakfast and send me off in the morning and when I returned, banging the screen door after school. 

With a great love or music I wanted desperately to learn to play the piano.  My friends were learning but we had no money or room for a piano in our little two bedroom house.  My resourceful mom made an arrangement with the old lady next door who had a piano for me to practice on hers.  I was thrilled, rode my bike to Mrs. Sheely's house for lessons a couple of miles away and came home to practice.  I have never been sorry that I can read music and play a little still.  Thank you, Mom.

From the two of them I learned that women are strong, courageous risk-takers who can support a family and be independent.  I learned the importance of kindness and compassion, to care for family, friends and neighbors.  Though not from the deep South, I learned the value of good manners, a love of fabric with an appreciation for fine clothing even if created by ourselves.  I learned to stand up straight and keep my chin up.  I learned to find the humor in the midst of chaos and disappointment.  I learned the difference in loving someone and not necessarily accepting their behavior.  I learned never to wear white before Easter or after Labor Day...especially white shoes, white blouses and sweaters were the exception. I learned how to be a good friend. I learned to brush my hair every day and how to make breaded veal cutlets with white gravy. And fudge, of course.  I learned never to suck loudly on a straw and that it was naughty to stick my tongue out at someone.  I learned how to set a proper table with silverware in the proper order.  I was supported in my passion for reading and in creating art (until I got to college when I was channelled into pre-law/pre-med liberal arts as "You will never make a living as an artist.").  I was told to study Latin in high school and found it to be my favorite and most memorable class.  My grandmother told me to never marry until I was 30 and to go out and see the world.  I was told that only gypsies and Mexicans pierce their ears.  Paradoxically, I learned to question everything.

I didn't follow all those admonishments.  If Mother could only see the piercings in my granddaughter's ears and it took me 15 years to get past that admonition and get two piercings in both ears.
I married at 21 and did get to see the world after my children were grown. 

Most importantly out of all of this I learned to love and be loved unconditionally and hopefully my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have learned or will learn to do the same.  But I can't help but wonder what my children and grandchildren will take with them as good advice or some little silly nonsense about how to live their own lives.  What have I passed on from the generations before me?  Only they can answer that.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Double Vision

Double Vision

Being married to an identical twin has had some interesting moments in the 54 years I’ve been in this family. We grew up on the same street one block away from each other on a short street north of the UT campus in Austin, Texas. My husband is six years older than me which now doesn’t seem like much (well, maybe some days it does) but growing up, it was a huge difference. He was starting at the University of Texas when I was beginning junior high and he was friends with the older brothers of my friends in the neighborhood. I occasionally would see him playing football in the street with his brother and was only vaguely aware that there were twins in the next block as I passed their house on the way to the bus stop.

That all changed when I graduated high school and joined a sorority at UT. I was in a liberal arts program called Plan II and was living at home until the beginning of my junior year when I moved into the sorority house. I had two wonderful roommates, Pat and Linda. I had broken up with my Aggie boyfriend and had had a few dates with guys I had met in classes but didn’t really know anyone to ask as my date to the sorority’s Christmas dance.

My roommate Linda had started dating an older guy named Allen who shared a house with two other men. One of them, Kenneth, had been dating women in my sorority for several years and usually had a date for this event. Linda suggested that I invite Kenneth since, for some reason, he was dateless. She gave me his last name and I made the connection to the boy I had seen playing football in the street. She explained that he was now teaching engineering at UT while working on his Master’s and was without a date. I agreed to consider the invitation if he would first ask me out for coffee. He did and I did and the real story begins from there.

Kenneth’s twin brother, Keith, was also sharing the house so when I would visit, I had to learn to which was which. Most of the time I did pretty well but their voices are so similar it was and still is difficult to tell their speech apart. So there were times when calling the house, I would get them mixed up. Face to face I was always grateful that they didn’t dress alike.

After we married and were living in Dallas in a small apartment north of SMU where I was finishing up a degree, Keith and some other guys would come up to Dallas for the OU-Texas game and stay with us. I do remember charging into the bathroom thinking it was Ken in it shaving and being so embarrassed to learn it was Keith.

It continues to amaze me how linked these two brothers are in totally unconscious ways. Keith married a high school friend of mine and they moved to Ohio and we moved to Denver. We began to collect a little furniture and one big purchase was a Paul McCobb desk from a dealer in Littleton, Colorado. Unknown to Ken or Keith, Keith purchased the exact same desk in Ohio. They both are still using the desks. They like the same music and collect the same CDs. They both are avid newspaper readers even though in different professions. And they both ended up in Houston, Kenneth to get a doctorate at Rice and join Nasa at JSC, Keith to join the marketing faculty of the University of Houston.

A few years ago Keith invited us to meet him and his wife at a faculty reception. We arrived before they did and you can only imagine the stares and chilly looks I got as “the other woman” on Kenneth’s arm. Thanks goodness for all of us it was all explained when the other twin arrived.

Each couple had two children, all within a couple of years of each other and we were able to spend fun vacation days together. The children were continually getting them confused. Evidently even at knee level they look the same. If a child approached the wrong dad saying “Dad?”, the man in question would just point to the other twin and say, “Over there.”

My husband grew a beard and for many years that really solved the problem…solved it until Keith grew one as well.

The mix-ups are still going on. At a party the other night at their home, a couple was really confused after Keith had met them at the door wearing a flowered shirt and black shorts. A few minutes later they found themselves talking with Kenneth and wondering why he had changed into khaki pants and a different shirt. Later they saw “him” again in a flowered shirt and the black shorts. It took them a while to figure out what was going on.

We stayed the night after the party and my sister-in-law and I had a big laugh. After getting ready for bed, the twins showed up in matching pajamas, exactly the same purchased a year apart from J.C. Penny with no knowledge of the other’s purchase.

I can’t help but wonder if there is any research going on about the long term connections of twins. These two are now in their 80s, are a little easier to tell apart, both with PhDs and still active in their fields and still very connected at some deeper level that continues to surprise their wives.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


It's Easter Sunday and I went with my son's family to their Methodist church packed with worshippers and a beautiful choir, screens to show you the words to hymns, etc., the cross in white and gold.  Beautiful!  Wonderful talk by young pastor who evidently doesn't shy away from taking on political issues.
       But there I was again with all these questions running through my mind.  Every time the Apostle's Creed comes up to Jesus being the "one and only son of God", I choke.  I can't buy it.  We are ALL children of God, every last one of us.  All of us living things.  All of us imperfect beings with good and evil in our hearts.
       And we are all connected at a soul level...connected with each other as we try to manage our lives in this manifestation, connected with the animals roaming through the forest, critters in the deep blue sea, the grass we walk on, the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. 
     Granted Jesus was a great teacher and the Bible is a great book full of tales of lessons on relationships but it ain't the only great books or Jesus wasn't the only great teacher.  We have had others...Buddha, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Saint Francis..the Koran, the Torah...the list could go on and on.  And there will be more.  Who knows but what someone is writing today another great book full of lessons or new thinking as to how we might better our lives and relationships with each other and the planet. And God is looking over all this and changing as part of her ultimate plan as we truck along doing the best we can with what we got. 
      Guess I've just been a Unitarian too long to ignore some of the exclusiveness of language that occurs in some of Christian and other doctrines.
       I have to look inside at why it bugs me and take care that I don't do the same or feel exclusive toward those who use it.  WE ARE ALL ONE in Spirit.  I'm sure I will get some comments on what some readers may consider blasphemous anti-Christian remarks.  I'm really not anti-Christian, just against the thinking that the-only-good people-in-the-world-are-Christian.  I have met some wonderful Muslims, compassionate caring Buddhists, loving Hindus, wonderful Jews, all of whom practice a different faith but believe in caring loving relationships with all of God's creation no matter what they may call God.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Too many strawberries

Well, it looks like granddaughter overdid with the strawberries.  A bright red splotchy rash showed up on her yesterday afternoon.  She had eaten about 2 lbs by then....what can I say, she really likes strawberries...and paid the price I'm afraid.  Benadryl saved the day but I don't think we will be doing that adventure together again.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Strawberries and estrogen

I have always wanted to go to pick strawberries at Froberg Farms in Alvin and with my granddaughter's addiction to the fruit, we finally went yesterday.  What a gorgeous day...cobalt sky and bright green acres with rows and rows of beautiful plants dripping with the white, pink and red heart-shaped globes.  We were instructed to pick only the reddest and there were plenty of those.  Obviously the birds had also discovered the luscious jewels as we found quite a few they had tasted but they left plenty for the crowd of pickers that came for the afternoon.  I want to go back even though my back was aching last worth it.  Three plus pounds for $7 something fresh off the vine. 
I took Taylor and two of her friends to the skating rink last night.  A safe (I think) place for teens to meet up and hang out along with a little exercise.  At nine I picked them all up and headed at their request to McDonald's for the first of the feedings then home with a car full of screams and giggles.  Certainly brought back memories of my teen years and those of my daughter and son though boys don't seem to gossip or scream and giggle like girls.  Oh my, I heard more about who was kissing whom and who shouldn't have been and why.
Tori, Taylor, Holly (the dog) and Brianna
      So much for the strawberries.  They must feed the estrogen as the house was full of it last night.  At 1:30 they were all in the kitchen having strawberry shortcake.  I peeked at them all asleep in the same bed like a pile of puppies this morning and that was the last I saw of them until we got home from church about 11:00 this morning.  Cute, cute girls.  Even Holly behaved herself.  But I need a nap!  Whew!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The garden is in...tomatoes, peppers, green beans and squash.  We are experiementing with some new tomatoes (Mexican heirloom) and a white scallop squash.  The temp is supposed to set a record today...87 degrees, highest since 1907.  I hope that isn't an indicator of the summer to come and that these plants can survive the heat for a while.  At least we can water since we are no long in drought conditions.  I even washed down some windows yesterday for the first time in months.  The monarch caterpillars are having a field day on the butterfly bushes.  I hope they will build their cocoons where we can watch a couple. 
Granddaughter and I are off to Froberg farms this afternoon to get strawberries.  Yummm...then 2 of her friends are coming to spend the night after skating.  Should be a busy weekend for sure.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Interesting dream last night.  I dreamed in was at a car mechanic's shop getting my car repaired and began talking with a guy whose truck was there.  He told me all about his dark red truck and I told him I wanted to buy it.  He sold it to me for $1500 and drove it away.  I loved this truck's interior with its plush seats and upholstery and was trying to figure out the elaborate setup on the dashboard...lots of buttons and digital stuff.  I drove back to ask its previous owner how to operate it.  He wasn't there but a woman gave me a chain of small different colored plastic fish with different words on them.  She told me I was to insert them in the dashboard gizmo for different stuff to happen.  I thanked her and left with the chain still wondering what I was going to do with all the gadgets.

I so love it when I have one of these really vivid dreams and will spend some time reflecting on what it might mean.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

For 15 years I went from doctor to doctor before finally being diagnosed with Lyme Disease and getting proper treatment. Part of my healing process was to paint a series of self-portraits about the disease and my process. I have finally a venue at my church to show these works and will open a show on Dec. 2 with my good friend, Adelyn Cooper, fabulous portrait artist, at the Bay Area Unitarian/Universalist Church.
This portrait I painted showing my frustration over feeling so terrible all the time and not finding a doc that could really help. First I was told I had Chronic Fatique Syndrome. Then maybe Lupus. But then got worse and my heart starting going crazy. I was so tired I could scarcely carry on a conversation and ached all over. Luckily I remembered someone telling me about an infectious disease clinic in Houston. The first thing I was asked after looking at my symptoms was had I ever been a camper. Oh yes, many times. Thank God for Dr. William Harvey, a victim of and a specialist in Lyme Disease who led me through the months of recovery. I continue to have a compromised immune system and an irratic heart but considered myself cured and so lucky.
Lyme Disease has many symptoms and is frequently misdiagnosed. I met some patients in wheel chairs, others had fallen down with seizures, others had cognitive impairment. This disease goes through generations as the borelia bacteria is carried in the placenta. It is not only carried by ticks but also by birds and research shows that it is also sexually transmitted. Testing is more conclusive now and is usually done through blood and/or urine. Treatment is done with heavy duty antibiotics. Some patients are known to go into Chronic Lyme Disease where even though testing does not show evidence of the bacteria, symptoms reoccur.
 Having Lyme Disease is like being the canary in the mine.  Thus the portrait below.
If you are bitten by a tick and a red rash appears around the bite, run, do not walk to a doctor, preferably one informed about Lyme Disease. Believe me, not all of them are.
Hard to believe I'm a Great grandmother but isn't it fun!  Here is that precious Sophie at 10 months.  With both her parents working crazy schedules, we don't get to see her often and she changes so quickly.  Seems like such a short time ago that her daddy was a little older than she is and playing in a sand box in our back yard or with the hose spraying water around.  She will being doing the same soon.
        It makes me feel old seeing how quickly the time has passed.  Goodness, I will be 75 next month and what I used to think of as being a really old lady.  But now I have friends in their 90s which I guess we can call really, really old.
        It is is hard being old in some ways.  I hate the loss of friends I've known for years and family.  My son's sweet father-in-law just passed away after a long, long illness and it seems a month doesn't go by that we don't lose a friend.  Big reminders for me to get off my ass and do all that stuff I said I wanted to do. 
      So what am I doing at 3 am?  Stressing a little over a multitude of things I can't do or fix so I might as well go back to bed.  Not doing too well at this writing stuff either.