Monthly Archives: June 2012

Packing for a Trip


Tomorrow, Jack and I are going to escape this infernal heat in Texas and venture to California to visit family. But first, we have to pack.  I’m not a neurotic packer, but I am a very careful packer. I make sure to check the weather reports at the place I am going to make sure that I have appropriate clothes, and even pack alternatives in case the meteorologists are wrong.

A week prior to our departure, I begin making a list of things that I need.  I do this partly because I love going on vacation and I am very excited. But I also do it to maximize the likelihood that I will remember everything that I need. It doesn’t come to you all at once, you see. Your brain needs time to remember not only the camera, but the charger, and the the cord to upload the photos. Jack does not understand this, but he appreciates the good job I do packing. I think this attention to packing stems from my childhood…

I was about four years old, and we were going to visit my grandparents in Houston.  My mom pulled out my suitcase. —-Let’s pause a moment so I can describe this suitcase to youfirst, it was purple & pink. That alone was enough to endear me to the suitcase. But, it was also just my size and had my name written in cursive on the front. It should be obvious to anyone who knows my family that this was a gift from my grandparents, not a standard-issue family suitcase. My clothes were probably toted in grocery bags prior to this suitcase’s arrival. I loved that suitcase dearly.

Anyway, back to the story: Mom pulled out my suitcase and asked me what clothes I wanted.  I told her that I wanted to pack my suitcase. Now, my mom believed firmly in independence for me. I regularly styled my own outfits, and created my own food concoctions. So, with a small amount of fear, but enough strength to show me that she had confidence in my abilities, she told me I could pack the suitcase myself. And, she even drew a list for me. She had a little yellow pad of paper and wrote down each piece of clothing I would need, as well as a picture, because let’s remember folks: I am four years old.

So, I loped up the stairs, shut the door to my room and began assembling my wardrobe.  I guess there was a lot going on, and my mom simply forgot to check my suitcase before we got to my grandparents house. But, when she opened up my suitcase, she saw how well I had remembered to pack everything. Except shirts. I forgot to pack shirts.

So, after a good laugh at my expense, my grandmother took my mom to Wal*Mart to buy some suitable clothes for me.

Before you condescendingly laugh at me, though; this was not the most embarrassing suitcase mishap in my family. The year prior, the adults forgot my entire suitcase in Austin and had to buy me a suitcase-full of clothing. And it was my third birthday. So they wrapped up the clothes, put bows on the top, and I got about 8 birthday presents that year.

That is possibly why I am a careful packer.


The Little House Books


I found a cure for the hot weather blues last week: rereading the Little House books. Not only are they interesting and easy-to-read, but you begin coming up with a long list of things that you are thankful for. Here is a list of my observations

  1. Do you know how much work it is to get anything made?! It was crazy!
  2. These people had meat and corn/cornmeal/cornbread at basically every meal. Not only would that get boring, but that is a lot of meat! I guess when you spend all day every day working, cholesterol is the least of your worries.
  3. I am so glad that I have a door that closes and locks.  For weeks, the Ingalls family stayed in their newly built cabin with just a blanket over the doorway. And there were wolves around!
  4. Laura had not seen more than two houses together until she was about 6 years old. By the time I was 6, I had been to over 10 states.
  5. Every man, woman, and child in prairie times should be awarded a bachelor’s degree in something or other.  Pa had to know how to shoot, build a house, milk a cow, build cheese molds, construct a fireplace, build a well, test for toxic gases while building the well, plant and harvest crops. Ma knew how to make butter, cheese, sweep a dirt floor clean, create a mattress using straw, milk a cow, sew all different types of clothes. Children knew how to wash dishes, lead animals from one place to another, fetch water, babysit, and assist their parents in tasks.
  6. Children were looked at as a different species that adults. Their thoughts, feelings, ideas were not to be shared until they reached a certain age.
  7. Clean water, ready access to doctors, air conditioning, and relative safety are not to be taken for granted!



Now that Jack and I have a house in the country away from I-35, we are enjoying getting to see birds in our backyard each morning while we eat our breakfast. One of the great things about our home is that we have windows covering the back wall of the house, so we have a great view.

When we lived at our apartment, we also had windows all along the back wall of our place, but the view was of the parking lot, the ice cream trucks that delivered drugs, and the house that had a fiesta each Friday evening. There was not much room for petite feathered creatures.

Here are some birds that we regularly see at our bird feeder



Blue Jay




The Case of the Mysterious Gift


This morning, I headed off to Sylvan Learning Center, where I work during the summers as a tutor.  I pulled into the shopping center where I work and parked in the little parking lot designated for Sylvan and Waterloo Ice House. I thought I made sure to lock my car door and went inside to begin work.

After my tutoring appointments were done, I went out the door and walked to the little parking lot. When I got to my royal blue Prius, I went for the door handle but stopped short. Someone had put a black and gold geometrically patterned sweater in my car! I thought about who would do such a thing and why.

I opened the door to see if the sweater came with a note like, “I saw how poorly you dressed and wanted to give you a quality piece of clothing” or something. The car door wouldn’t open. I spun around and saw another royal blue Prius on the other side of the little parking lot.

I immediately assessed the scene to make sure that I had not been observed and then skulked over to my car, which had no gifts from kindly strangers, but did open when I tried the handle.

Then I went and bought air filters for our A/C.

I can see clearly now…


So this post is about Lasik. But, I was not about to subject my one or possibly two readers to a picture of Lasik being done, because it makes even me pretty queasy.

Jack and I decided that it was worth it to us to get Lasik while we were young, so that we could be glasses/contacts-free for at least 20 years. Lots of people get Lasik right before they have to get readers, and only have a few years of completely clear vision.

Let me be clear about this at first: Our doctor did a good job. Our vision is clear, our eyes are not dry, we had minimal pain for only a minimal time.

But Lasik is probably the most slimy branch of medicine out there. And that includes plastic surgeons. We visited two clinics before choosing one, and the outfits were run the same way.  First, you don’t meet the doctor until fifteen minutes before the surgery.  His time is very valuable ($500 for a 2 minute consultation before the surgery and a 15 minute procedure). So, they hire a stooge to look at your eye scans and wax poetic about Lasik. Even people who get plastic surgery meet their doctor beforehand.

Second, there is a giant observation window in the surgery. This is not a carnival sideshow. This is a medical procedure. Why on Earth, then, would you allow spectators?!

Third, the stooge you meet with ahead of time is very careful to paint a rosy picture of lasik and all its benefits and how the surgeon is the best surgeon in the whole, wide, world, while not making any guarantees or promises. You walk away from this with the notion that you will love life without glasses or contacts. Then you read the contract you are required to sign. Not only do you need to initial about all the side effects, but you have to write down in your own handwriting: I understand there are risks and no guarantees. I understand that I may still need to wear glasses.


I thought I was paying thousands of dollars so that I wouldn’t need to wear glasses. I know the surgeons want to escape malicious prosecution, but I think these statements absolve him of all responsibility, which is too much.

I think the surgeon should have to write that he will do everything in his power to create perfect vision for the patient, and any misstep or misleading on his part will result in a full refund and payment for all damages.

But, like I said, it turned out well. And now I never have to deal with those people again.

Things That Go Plop in the Night


Last night, at around two in the morning, I woke up to an incredible “thud.”  Now, I’ve watched Rescue 911. I know what makes a thud in the middle of the night: burglars. So, I sleepily roll over to tell Jack that there is a burglar in the house, and that he needs to catch the man.

Jack is not in the bed. He must have heard the burglar too, and has already descended the stairs to investigate. Then, I hear a little noise in the bedroom. I call out,


A head bobs up from the side of the bed.  I wonder what Jack is doing next to the bed. I ask him, “Are you OK?” to which he answers

Yes, I just fell out of bed and went “plop” on the floor

I respond, “oh” and roll back over to continue my night’s sleep.

Fast forward to about 7:30 today. I go in to wake Jack up for his eye drops (you will hear more about the eye drops soon) and casually ask if he’s feeling ok after his tumble out of bed. He said, “That was last night?” I replied that yes, and then began recounting the story. By the time I was through with the story, we were rolling on the bed with laughter, tears streaming down our faces.

I didn’t want to embarrass him too bad, so I said that I fell out of bed years ago, and didn’t even wake up. But, he remembered my mom telling that story, which took place when I was only three years old, so it was a cold comfort to him.

Technology, Entertainment, Design


There are two nursing homes near our house.  Sometimes, when we pass by them, I think about how I don’t want to get old. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease and died of it about five years ago. I remember going to the veteran’s home in Temple to visit him. Walking in was no picnic. There were a bunch of men in rocking chairs hooked up to oxygen machines. But as we go to my grandfather’s wing, it was grim. They had to lock his unit up so that the residents didn’t escape.

The men in that unit sat like lumps of clay, repeating vulgarities on a continuous loop and trying to make a pass at  any female who was in the wing.  The nurses told me that all the residents thought they were still nineteen-year-old airmen, so chatting up a teenager wasn’t odd to them.  Now that I’m a bit older, I think that I could take this behavior in stride, but as a sixteen-year-old, I simply found their behavior abhorrant.

I’m afraid of getting Alzheimer’s when I’m older because of the family history.  Doctors have explained to me that my grandfather did not take care of himself and that keeping the mind active is integral to the fight against Alzheimer’s. I already read many books, exercise a bit, and try to limit my screen time. But, when I feel like I want to open new horizons while still being a couch potato, I turn to TED.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED talks are short (18 minutes max) lectures given by experts in science, nutrition, law, comedy, you name it. The point of TED is to share ideas, and many of the talks are riveting.

Here is where you can access many TED talks:

They are also on Netflix watch instantly.

Here are some of my favorite talks:

  1. Sheila Patak clocks the fastest animals
  2. Paul Bloom on the origins of pleasure
  3. Philip Howard: Four ways to fix the legal system
  4. Arthur Bejamin does “Mathemagic”