Wednesday, September 30, 2009



Scooby-Doo, Great Danes, and Nonresistance. Think they have nothing in common? I'm here to tell you they do! Having moved here in June, I have found so much to be delighted with that I could not believe I would let two wonderful dogs spoil my peace of mind. But until the last two or three days, that's exactly what was happening.

You see, next door to me, along with a couple of adorable little "all boy" boys there live two Great Danes. Jade is the reigning queen of the family and is around nine years old; quite old for a Great Dane I'm told. You can see by her grizzled muzzle that she is showing her years. The family decided to get a "pup" to train in her place, should she decide to depart. Enter Piper. Piper was somewhere around nine months of age when I moved here and had been banished to the pen outside my bedroom window until she "learned to behave" inside the home. How she was supposed to learn to do that when penned up I wasn't told. In the meantime, Jade sleeps indoors at night, and is allowed to stay in the front yard, free to roam at will during the daytime.

When the children are out playing, Jade is having a great time with them, while Piper barks and whimpers from her fenced-in prison. She stands a good head and shoulders taller than the enclosure, and I know it's only a matter of time when she will be up and out of there lickedy split! I am secretly rooting for this day! The pen is too small and usually too nasty for any animal to have to stay in, much less a Great Dane. The sun beat down on it when we suffered so many brutal 100+ temperatures this summer, it gets muddy when it rains, and I cannot imagine the little tin lean-to being much in the way of shelter in a cold winter.

My first indication of problems was when I kept having to fill the small birdbath I put in my front flower bed. I hadn't noticed many birds in the front yard as the bird feeder is in the back, so where was the water going? One day I happened to look out and see this miniature "horse" in the flower bed lapping up every drop of birdbath water. As it was hot, and no one was home at her house, I felt sorry for Jade, and watched her mosey back towards her own yard. Then, to my surprise, she stopped and left a big pile of poop for me on my side of the fence! That evening I pointed it out to my neighbor and she acted very surprised, saying Jade usually never left their yard! She promptly cleaned it up.

Next, my neighbors took a four-day vacation and left both Great Danes in the one small pen. Jade barked the entire first night they were gone, and of course, Piper joined in! This is right outside my bedroom window, so I could not ignore them. I was up and down all night with a flashlight, certain there must be some kind of wild animal roaming in the yards. To make this "vacation" even more unbearable for me, a friend of my neighbors came over to feed, water, and exercise the dogs. She brought her own large dog, too, and let them run and play for a couple of hours. It was after they left that I discovered all three dogs used my front yard for a bathroom!

After reminding my neighbors of the doggy deposits in my yard three or four times, it got to the point that they now avoid me. I let my anger simmer, and even looked up the City Ordinance on animals and found they were in violation of almost every single point of the ordinance. What to do? I know I will be living here for many good years, and I don't wish to have conflict with neighbors over anything. One day recently I noticed Jade back in my yard -- right outside my front door. I had long since moved the birdbath to keep her away, but there she was. When I opened the door, she faced me and started barking in the deep, woof-woof sort of way she has. I kept telling her to go home, and she kept woofing at me. I stepped outside the door, thinking I might get the water hose (I know she hates water), when I heard a deep, rumbling growl coming from this beloved family pet! I stopped in my tracks. We glared at each other. Jade just squatted and peed right there on my front stepping stone, then took her time going back home.

I obviously am not going to turn my new neighbors in to Animal Control, and they obviously don't want to believe that their beloved pet doesn't mind them in the least, so I have had a couple of really sleepless nights wondering what to do. I finally had the theory of nonresistance pop into my head. What if I stop being angry and just send love to these animals and young family? What will happen? Will my yard eventually look like a barnyard full of excrement? Will I have to resort to cleaning it myself? I sometimes think that Jade must have something against me and this is her way of punishing me! Maybe if I start smiling and praising her when I see her instead of running her off my property, she will like me again.... You think?

In the meantime, Scooby-Doo, where are you? These two Great Danes could use a good role model and mentor!

I wish you poodles living next door!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Have you ever had a gut feeling that you need to do something important, but you aren't sure if it will turn out all right? I know a precious young woman, like a daughter to me, who is badly in need of a boost to her self-esteem. This woman is a gifted writer, but doesn't believe in her ability. Here is an example of her talent. I know you "guys" won't be interested in this... I promise to do a "guy story" next time... or at least one you can read through without embarrassment or boredom. At the end of the story, I close with a cute little anecdote of my granddaughter Kelly.

Ladies (or guys), after you've read this, please give me some positive feedback I can share with this dear friend to give her encouragement, and the knowledge that she DOES have something to offer the world. One never knows when something as simple as praise can turn someone's life around, and give them hope for the future.

(Copyright by an anonymous author)

Aunt Cece comes to my wedding and sits next to my mother on the satin-covered bench in the dressing room. In the mirror, I am watching my mother who is watching a blank wall. The light in the room is dim, and the warm air smells of the gardenias in my bouquet. She speaks to my mother, who turns her head in the direction of her voice, but is unable to tell where exactly Aunt Cece is standing.

“Oh, Cece, I didn’t know you were here,” says my mother loudly, as Cece squeezes next to her on the narrow bench. My mother’s hand gropes, unseeing, for Cece’s shoulder. “Did you have trouble getting here?” Aunt Cece sighs.

“Waaay - uul,” she says, drawing the word into two syllables. “You know, we had to wait on those people that was wantin’ to buy the store.”

At the sound of her voice, my shoulders slump. I watch her reflection as she talks softly with my mother. I adjust the lily of the valley on my satin cap. It looks like antennae. I bob my head up and down to see if the cap will stay on. My sister snickers and mimics me, exaggeratedly. I fix her with my eye in the mirror, not smiling. She looks down, starts humming to herself, then turns away and reapplies lipstick to her already pink lips.

I am wearing a bustier, garter belt and stockings, tap panties and a full-length slip, all in a carefully coordinated champagne hue. My stockings are studded with miniature bridal bells, and my dyed satin pumps have peach shoe clips from which tiny strands of artificial flowers sprout helplessly.

“Well, look at you, Georgia,” Cece remarks. “Hmmm.” “All grown up now.” She cocks her head to the side and looks me up and down. “Hard to believe you’re the same girl that dressed up in my hats, and crossed your eyes and stuck out your tongue for them pictures.” Her voice is breathy and trembles slightly now with age.

I feel naked standing before her and turn to unzip the pink plastic cover from my dress. I slip my wedding gown on quickly, catching the diamond solitaire of my ring on the lace. Aunt Cece steps behind me and pulls out the train, and then zips up the back of my dress. I watch her eyes in the mirror. She has an amused, tight little smile on her lips. “Turn around,” she says, and waves her small, plump hand at me.

I turn for her, trying not to step on the train, but do anyway. “You’re swaybacked, honey,” she pronounces, a flaw I had not known about. “Stand up straight.” I turn and look down at my backside, and begin sweating. I fan my face with both hands, fearing my makeup will run. My mother smiles blankly, at nothing in particular. Aunt Cece crosses her arms under her considerable chest.

“’Member the last time you was at my house?” Cece doesn’t wait for my reply. “Didn’t wanta go to Sunday school; didn’t even wanta go fishin’ no more,” she tells my mother, turning towards her. “She wanted to go off to the rodeo with this little gal whose mother had run off and left her.” Cece fusses with the back of my dress, which seems not to hang as crisply at it had an hour before.

“Dusty was her name.” I remembered aloud. “You wouldn’t let me go with her.” I had spent one afternoon at Dusty’s house, and for some reason, Aunt Cece never let me go back.

“That girl’s father was a drunkard.” Cece says firmly to my mother, nodding. She steps back to the bench and sits next to my mother again. She leans towards her and straightens my mother’s corsage, which lists to the side and looks like a large fried egg. She pulls it gently by its net bow. “Who’d y’all get to do your flowers?” she asks, without expecting an answer.

When my sisters and I were little, we spent summers with Aunt Cece. She had closets stuffed with dresses, shoes, purses and hats from various decades. She took pictures of all three of us dressed in her clothes with a Polaroid camera. In the photos, my sisters are posed in various glamorous model-stances, while I am blowing bubbles with my gum, crossing my eyes or sticking my tongue out. One afternoon she took us shopping in Corsicana, and bought us each the nicest dresses we ever had. After a first-time trip to a beauty parlor, Aunt Cece had a portrait made of the three of us, which is probably the only photograph of me as a child in which I appear somewhat civilized.

She and my uncle drove us to Sunday school, at the small Baptist church she had belonged to for decades. She had a new Cadillac which made me carsick, as opposed to my parents’ humble and rough-riding Volkswagen. The church my sisters and I had sporadically attended in Dallas was the Unitarian church, which Aunt Cece likened to not attending church at all. The Baptist minister, in a vain attempt to bring us into his fold, asked us to illustrate the posters for vacation bible school. He claimed that he needed good artists, and since our father was an artist, he was sure we would make the best posters the church had ever seen. My sisters and I, not knowing what else to do, drew huge exaggerated crosses and bibles all over the posters. We didn’t realize that we might have added some non-secular illustrations to make them more appealing to children.

I loved the afternoons when Aunt Cece took us cane fishing at the stock tank. We wore straw hats, shorts and sneakers, which Aunt Cece called “tennie shoes. I learned to catch grasshoppers and bait my hook with them instead of the slow-moving worms from the bait store. The fish preferred the grasshoppers, especially if they were still hopping when I dropped them into the muddy water. The rhythmic sounds of cicadas and our whispers were the only sounds that punctuated those hot afternoons, as we knew the fish wouldn’t bite when we were talking. Although Aunt Cece tried all summer long to make God-fearing, well-dressed Christian young ladies out of us, the only thing I became really proficient at was catching fish.

The last summer I was there, I was fourteen and restless in the little grocery store she and my uncle owned. I brooded when older black people came into the store and called her “Miz Henderson,” and she called them by their first names. I walked up and down the aisle, irritated, straightening cans and bottles of condiments. When I walked back behind the meat counter and reached into the cooler for a bottle of Dr Pepper, I could feel her bright brown eyes, behind her glasses, examining me. “Don’t you have any brassieres?” she asked me, looking at my chest.

My face flamed. I looked sideways at my uncle, ashamed she had asked me in front of him. He didn’t look at us, just took out a roll of luncheon meat and set in on the meat cutter. “I don’t like them,” I snapped. After begging for a bra all through sixth grade, I had stuffed mine in the back of the closet and wore only jeans, old oversized shirts and an occasional pair of faded, baggy overalls. I was not going to be a lady. I refused to wear makeup or roll my hair the way the hateful, two-faced drill team girls at my school did. I could never get it to look right, anyway, and I abandoned my hot rollers in favor of a frizzy, blow-dried Janis Joplin hairstyle.

Aunt Cece crossed her arms and tilted her head towards me. “Georgia, you need a bra. You’re too old to go without one. I want you to go on down to Ms. Loller’s and get you one. I’ll call her and tell her what you need.” She walked towards the phone which hung above the freezer on the wall. The meat cutter thumped and shuddered as my uncle switched it on. She refused to discuss it any further, and instead began talking on the phone with Hillie Loller, who ran Wortham’s only clothing store. I bolted out of the store to avoid hearing what I knew she would say about me, out onto the hot sidewalk. I stood under the metal awning, crossed my arms and stared out into the street. The white summer sun blanched the few cars that were parked there. I was the only person outside in the mid-afternoon heat.

I don’t have to, I told myself. She can’t make me. But I didn’t have the courage to defy Aunt Cece to her face. I marched angrily towards the dress shop at the end the block that was the entire downtown. I shoved open the door and a little bell tied to the door handle tinkled. Miss Loller was waiting behind the counter for me. She had stiff, sprayed hair and wore a lime green sleeveless polyester pantsuit.

“Well, Cece was sure right. You sure do need a bra. You can see right through that blouse. Come on back here, honey,” she said, not hesitating to direct me to the dressing room.

I couldn’t speak. She handed me several bras and led me to a curtained cubicle. I hesitated, and then took off my blouse, making sure she had pulled the curtain closed. I unhooked the first bra and spent several minutes trying to hook it in the back. Eventually I gave up and turned it around, biting my lip while fastening it in the front. It felt terrible – stiff and pointy. I could hardly breathe and the straps were scratchy. Each one felt worse than the last. Miss Loller’s voice asked through the curtain, “How’d we do, honey?”

“They’re too tight,” I said, irritably.

“I’ll get a larger size, but you’re not that big.” she added helpfully. I listened to her walk away, her pantsuit making little scuffing noises as she walked.

She came back humming “Trust and Obey,” and poked some more bras through the curtains. I grabbed the bras, trying to cover my breasts with my arms.

I hated those bras, too. I put my shirt back on and walked out of the dressing room. Miss Loller was rearranging some dresses near the front of the store, singing in an annoying voice, “For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” I loathed that hymn, remembering how the older women in church hit screechy shrill notes in the middle of that verse.

I looked through the lingerie until I saw a lacy bra in black. I pulled it off the rack and felt the soft, stretchy fabric. It had no hooks or complicated straps. Behind the black bra was a red one. I grabbed the red bra and high-tailed it back to the dressing room. I pulled my shirt off quickly and slipped it on. It felt soft and smooth and didn’t cut my shoulders or bind my ribs. I smiled at myself in the mirror, triumphant.

When I handed it to Miss Loller across the counter, without a word, she stared at it. “Well, honey, this will show through your blouse. It will show though everything, unless you’re wearing something dark.”

“I don’t care. It’s the only one that fits. It’s the one I want.” We both knew that was the only bra she’d be ringing up for me.

“Well, I just don’t know.” She touched her chin with her hand and shook her head. The little chains on her bifocals jiggled. I added another item to my list of things I would never wear. She sighed and looked at her register and began writing on her little ticket pad. “But you can bring it back. You’re not going to be able to wear it with much.”

I brought my purchase back to the store, and waited for Aunt Cece to ask to see it. I guess it never occurred to her I would find something other than a pure white virginal little undergarment. She just nodded at the little paper bag when she saw it. It wasn’t until later that evening that she saw it, when she came into the little guest room I slept in.

“What in the world have you got here?” She picked the bra from my messily made bed by one strap. “A red brassiere?” She seemed truly baffled and, for once, at a loss for words. “I tried,” she said, rather sadly, to herself, and laid the bra back on the bedspread. She walked out and closed the door without telling me “not to let the bedbugs bite” or “remember to say your prayers.” I told myself I didn’t care; she wasn’t going to make me into her.

Aunt Cece pats my mother’s knee and slides off the dressing-room bench and walks to the mirror. She tilts her head towards the mirror and smoothes the sides of her hair. Behind her, I can see my sister in the mirror, trying not to laugh. We both roll our eyes. “Are you going to church now, with this young man?” Aunt Cece asks, not smiling, and not looking at me.

“Some.” I tell her. We have been to his church and my church one time each, but seem to have no common ground, thus eliminating a possibility of joining either one. Our wedding is at the university chapel, with a rented non-denominational minister I found in a magazine.

Frowning, Aunt Cece looks toward my mother, but decides against saying anything regarding our heathen big-city ways. My mother’s head is still turned towards Cece. I look back at my sister in the mirror and stick my tongue out and cross my eyes.

“There, she’s still doing it” Aunt Cece smiles. She comes to me and kisses me on the cheek and pats my fanny. “You always made me laugh.” I hug her, hard, tears suddenly aching in my throat. Aunt Cece stops to fuss with my mother’s hair on the way out to the chapel. My mother is startled at first, but then smiles. After Cece leaves, she reaches under the bench for her cane. My sister goes to her and finds it and places it in her right hand, sitting down at the other end of the bench. In the sudden quiet, we can hear footsteps on the marble floor outside the dressing room. The photographer knocks on the dressing room door and tells us it is time to go upstairs.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'll bet each of us knows or has an "Aunt Cece" in our life!

Speaking of girl things, I have to tell a funny story about the youngest little girl in my family.

As you all know, we recently had a memorial service in Plano for my late sister, Jean. My son Matthew and his family stopped by on their way from Austin to pick me up for the journey. As it was a long drive, the children were asked to take potty breaks before we left my house.

Kelly is at that age (three and a half) where she demands her privacy in the bathroom. This time that included locking the door. When she was ready to come out -- you guessed it, she could not unlock the bathroom door! All the coaxing and instructions given from this side of the door were to no avail. She could not unlock the door!

Time now was of the essence, as there were storms in the area and we needed to be on the road. Matthew showed more patience than any man I know as he sweet-talked his baby girl, while at the same time trying every alan wrench I brought him from my tool box to open the lock. I was approaching with a screwdriver when I heard him sternly say, "No, Kelly! No makeup!" I couldn't help but bend over in laughter! Apparently he had experienced a "makeup event" before! He finally had to remove the entire door handle to retrieve our precious little angel -- sans makeup!

There is nothing like a father's love.