Tuesday, July 28, 2009


My daughter, Dot, and her boyfriend, Pete, spent my birthday week with me.  The birthday was just an excuse; I really wanted them to build bookcases for the living room and my bedroom.  With all the books I have, I just can't have enough bookcases.  And, even with these two wall-to-wall, I still need more for the rest of my books, half of which are in storage.

When I asked them to do this, I envisioned some oak or pine, nailed professionally to the walls.  What I got, instead, are two beautiful bookcases built of a mix of South American hardwoods Pete salvaged from a floor installation.

Here's a picture for those who haven't seen my Facebook photo album:

Books in Place

Sorry--the picture is slightly crooked, and you can't see the top shelf, but you get the general idea.  This is the living room; the bedroom, unfortunately, is too dark, and my camera doesn't have a flash.  The bookcase in the bedroom is about half as wide as this one.  Both are seven feet tall.

They measured, cut, sanded, stained and waxed every shelf and support.  Each of the shelves in the living room is made of three pieces of wood, as are the side supports.  The books glide on the surface.  I'm awed every time I look at them.  The bedroom shelves have a slight variation--the middle piece of each shelf has four different, shorter pieces of wood.  The picture, below, shows these shelves before gluing.

Shelves 3

They put so much time and effort into these; it's almost a shame to put books on them.  But, now, I feel as though my books have a worthy home--support that's as beautiful as their contents.  I love them.

Thanks, Dot and Pete!  This is one of the best birthday gifts, ever!  And I loved the company, too!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"And that's the way it is..."

Walter Cronkite, the iconic journalist and news broadcaster, died yesterday at the age of 92.  The best of broadcast journalism died with him.  He was, after all, "the most trusted man in America" when he anchored the CBS Evening News--more people tuned in to hear him than any other anchor at the time.

I remember so many historic events to the voice of Cronkite...the assassination of John Kennedy, where Cronkite almost broke down...the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr...the 1969 moon landing, when I saw and heard the joy and amazement in his voice...the Vietnam War--Cronkite in the trenches, bullets whizzing by, and bodies carried out of the rice paddies in color.  This wasn't a newsreel war--it was blood and guts and horror.  Through all of this, Walter Cronkite delivered the facts with honesty and controlled emotion. 

That's not to say Cronkite didn't express his opinion.  His assertion that the Vietnam War could not be won drove Lyndon Johnson to despair--he knew if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost the American middle class.

Look at who brings us the news these days...Anderson Cooper, reporting from a devastated New Orleans in Prada; Katie Couric, a former morning talk-show host; the revolving talking heads at CNN and HLN, who spend hours repeating the same stories until some new "crisis of the minute" stirs up the broadcast.   On other cable networks, we get pundits so far left or so far right, that any "dialogue" degenerates into a screaming match--instead of listening to one another, these people are so intent on making their opinions heard that they overtalk, yell, and blatantly ignore what anyone else has to say.

I blame us, the people who "watch" the news.  We don't want to hear the "facts" or the "truth," we just want to hear whatever confirms our fears or our beliefs.  Personally, I won't listen to a thing Anne Coulter says.  She's a poster girl for the far, whacked-out right; the words she spews make no sense to me.  She's a hate-monger, intent only on controversy for the sake of book sales.  On the other hand, I'll listen to Al Franken all day, as a comedian or a senator.  See what I mean?  I'm not interested in your point of view--just confirm mine.

And many people I know--not all of them, mind you--I know better than to spout generalities--don't want to hear about Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Iran.  All that drama, all that money committed to death and destruction, all those civilians and soldiers dying--how depressing; how real!  These days, the news from "the front" comes from "embedded" reporters.  Because the government "lets" them report, they can't show us the true horrors of what's going on.  They can't show us soldiers being carried off with missing limbs and their guts hanging out.  That's not the picture the government wants us to see.

The news channels can get away with running the same footage of an ambulance whisking away Michael Jackson's body every five minutes because that's what people want to see.  We don't want to think about some war in some far-away country--we want gossip!  I'm thinking of Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry"--"Give us dirty laundry." 

We want our "bubble-headed bleach blondes," our "talking heads" to look good.  They don't have to be able to write cogent, elegant journalism--they just have to be able to read without stumbling over the words on the tele-prompter.  They don't have to have any personal interest in what's going on, as long as they have a smooth delivery.  I wince when I listen to these people--whoever writes that copy can't...grammatical errors abound.  But it's not just that--most of the newsreaders can't be bothered to learn how to pronounce anything correctly.  They don't care about the news they report; they just read it.

And that's why I miss Cronkite.  He delivered the news, yes.  But he wrote his copy; he was elegant; he was interested.  He knew what he was talking about.  He was a hero to me and the main reason I minored in journalism in college.  If I could "be" anyone else, I'd want to be him.  His passion for life and for delivering the news to America--I could feel it.  When he retired, I stopped watching the news on a regular basis.  Yes, Dan Rather was good, but he eventually let his own desire for greatness bring him down.  Walter Cronkite never put himself before his news...and his passion for his profession helped him become "the most trusted man in America."  He had integrity, and I think that's what most newscasters today lack--it's all about the next big scandal and who breaks it first.

As Cronkite would say, "And that's the way it is..."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Random Thoughts...

How is it possible that a company can send me a package that arrives from Indianapolis in four days for $5.95, but the package I send to Georgia to arrive in 2-3 days costs me $12.70?  This is why I pay most of my bills online.


Hand-feeding a kitten is no different from bottle-feeding a baby.  Same schedule, same sleep-deprivation factor.


Current temp at 10:01 AM is 87 degrees; with the heat index, it's 94 degrees.  Can you say "global warming"?  High today projected at 102; I have no idea what the temp will be with the heat index.  I'll get back to you on that.


Update: 6:04PM, 103 degrees, 111 with the heat index.


Working at home during the summer is great.  I only drive when I have to.  I save up errands until I have enough to justify the drive.  I haven't put gas in my car since Father's Day.


When I was in Houston in May, I broke off a piece of an Angel Trumpet plant (with the owner's permission!).  I put it in a bottle of water for a week, then stuck it in a pot and forgot about it.  It's growing.  They get HUGE and have the most beautiful flowers.  Hummingbirds love them.


I hate footnotes in novels.  I just finished Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and the footnotes drove me bonkers.


I've been trying to read regularly this summer.  So far, I've read three novels.  I've just begun The Time Traveler's Wife.


I've buried seven kittens this summer.  The vet says it's not my fault they died.  I wish I could believe that.

I'm going to move my garden to the back end of my property.  I've buried kittens everywhere else, and I'm afraid to plant where I've buried them.  I don't want to unearth any kitten bones.


I love watching birds in my yard.  In the evenings, I sometimes have 20 Cardinals flitting around.


Any day can be improved with a nap!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

"Can't" is a four-letter word...

If you had told me a year ago that I would paint almost every room in my house, paint furniture, make curtains, pull up carpet and padding, and strip floors by myself, I would have laughed hysterically.  Then I would have looked you in the eye and said, "No way.  I can't do that by myself."


I think, many times, we have no clue about our capabilities.  I have no idea what possessed me to do this...oh, yeah, I do.  First, I hated the dirty hall carpet.  After a visit from a colleague and her son, I just ripped it out.

Then, my sister offered me a bedroom suite--French Provincial--and I just didn't think it should go into a bedroom with white walls.  I hadn't planned to start the renovations quite so early, but my sister brought the furniture to me, and I had to put it in the living room.  I got tired of it, so I started moving  the books, bookcases, and my desk out of the office/soon to be bedroom, ripped up the carpet, then painted the room (very badly, I should add) a burgundy.  With a little cleanup, it will be fine.  The floor needs to be refinished, too, but I won't do that while the kittens are still too young to move out. [My cat had four kittens on June 16].

Another sister brought me a can of gold paint.  I painted the back bedroom, the room that used to be my bedroom, with that.  Then I ripped up the carpet and painted all the furniture that I wanted to put in the room, recovered a chair seat, and made shades for the room.  The floor in that room is fine--no need to refinish it.  From walls to windows, I did it all.  If I may brag, it's a good-looking guest room.

Then I bought two gallons of "Clay Pot"--almost a terra cotta, which I wanted, but it's more coral.  I painted the living room and the hall.  And then I started pulling up the carpet--yuck!  The carpet padding has melted into the floor, so I'm having to scrape and strip the floor as I go along.  It's awful.  So far, I've managed to pull the carpet and padding from about half the room.  I don't look forward to the rest of it.  I will need help moving some of the heavier pieces of furniture--I know I "can't" do that without hurting myself!  I have to acknowledge my limitations.

Another sister offered to help me on the weekends, but I have time during the week to do this.  I'm teaching an online class this summer, but it doesn't require every moment.  I didn't want to wait until Saturdays to paint the walls when I was capable of doing it myself.  So, I'm just doing it.

My daughter and her significant other are coming in July to build bookcases in the living room and my bedroom.  I'm hoping to  have space for all of the books still languishing in the garage.  Then I can clean out the garage--again!

Is it possible to become addicted to renovation?  I'm already thinking about painting the dining room and kitchen.  My next "big project" will be a wood floor for the kitchen and dining room.  But that might have to wait until next summer. 

I think I'm shocked that I did all this.  Too bad I'm the teacher...this could count as my "What I did on my summer vacation" essay!