Crimes in suburbia

Something bad happened at my place sometime between the hours of 3 pm Tuesday and 7 am today.

My sweet little garden rabbit got his head bashed in. 

I sure hope it wasn’t a hate crime.

Who could hate this guy?

Someone apparently did, because they roughed him up good.

Poor rabbit. 

His ears were sheared right off his head. And there’s no recovering from that kind of head wound.

No one is talking. I guess they’re afraid of recrimination.

This guy stands sentry at the front door, and has been quite attentive for years to the goings-on in our little patch of the neighborhood.

He is getting old, though, and perhaps he dozed off.  Or maybe he didn’t cry out for fear of dropping his basket of flowers. I’m sure his hearing isn’t what it used to be, so perhaps he snoozed right through the incident and didn’t even awaken when the poor rabbit got whacked.

The frog couple who live in front of the sentry dog were too busy canoodling to notice any wrong-doing. 

The pink bird of happiness had a birds-eye view of the incident, yet claims she didn’t see a thing. Not sure how she could have missed her fallen comrade, but birds are fickle creatures, and she is a bit of a birdbrain. Good thing she’s so pretty, because she’s definitely not long on brains.

I sure wish someone had let me know that the rabbit was in trouble. He’s had a few run-ins with the neighbor’s cat who likes to creep through the flower beds, but nothing this serious; usually the cat just knocks him off his feet, and Garden Rabbit typically manages to collect himself. I’m always temped to let Harry loose when I see that mangy old cat sneaking around my flowers, but I try to be the bigger person.

Garden Rabbit’s friend, Sir Lops A Lot, was shocked and saddened to hear the bad news. 

As you can see, Loppy has suffered a similar injury, albeit not fatal. Thankfully, through the marvels of Super Glue, Loppy’s ears were saved and reattached, and he made a full recovery. There’s no such happy ending for Garden Rabbit, unfortunately.

I had high hopes that perhaps Angel Dog might have seen or heard something, but clues are scarce. A.D. stands in remembrance of our dogs who’ve gone to the great dog park in the sky and has always been very quiet. I suppose it comes with the territory in that business. Solemn and silent. And a little rusty.

The third rabbit in our warren had nothing to say about the crime, either. Always a little shy and usually half-covered in flowers, I shouldn’t have expected much from her. 

Maybe she was jealous of Garden Rabbit’s height and gleaming white hide. She is pretty dingy and diminutive. Sometimes it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for the most.

Crackle Frog is way too out of it to be relied upon for any useful information. He’s spent his entire life sniffing pool chemicals, so no one believes a word he says anyway. 

Not even Ellie the Water Girl had any information, and she’s usually the source of the best gossip. You know what they say about elephants. 

The last remaining hope for some insight into this brutal crime rested with the piggies. With the most smarts in the animal kingdom, I knew I could count on these two little pigs to solve the mystery of the Garden Rabbit attack. 

The Winged Thing promised to confer with Black Betty.

Surely with the brainy girls on the case, we’d catch a break and find the killer, restoring peace & order among the yard art.

The brainy girls studied the clues and meticulously retraced the steps of the assaulter in hopes of cracking the case. Working mostly unassisted and with free range of the front and back yard, the brainy girls identified a suspect.

Here’s his mug shot:

I never quite trusted that shifty-eyed, booze-swilling flamingo. He always seemed like a bad seed.


Find the good

It’s another muggy, overcast day in H-town today. I was starting to grumble to myself as I headed to the store for more Mucinex because sickness won’t leave our house. This time it’s Payton who has been felled by the sore throat/congestion/fatigue bug that has some admirable staying power. I was grumbling at the grey day in which, as Jack Johnson would say, the horizon has been defeated. There’s absolutely no delineation between horizon & sky, just endless layers of grey. I was grumbling because I’m longing for a shot of sunshine that we winter Texans take for granted in the “winter months.” I was grumbling because it’s another day in which I can’t open the roof on my beloved little car.

Just as I was perilously close to becoming awash in grumbles, I remembered the 2 promises I recently made to myself, and suddenly I sat up a little straighter (albeit in my closed-roof car) and resolved to be less grumbly. The first promise–to be more warm, loving, and huggy–was short-lived. Those of you who know me well: go ahead and laugh. It’s ok. It was a ridiculous idea and I’m not a bit surprised that it never got off the ground. I’m much too snarky to re-invent myself as Little Miss Sunshine. Snarky and with a bit of a sharp edge is how I’m wired. I’d really like to be more gooshy and emotive but I’m also realistic. So instead of this you get this

and this

and this

and this

and always on the lookout for this guy:

Thank you, Roger Hargreaves.

It was a good experiment, to be sweeter and hug more, but I tend to identify less with Little Miss Sunshine and more with this:

Moving on.

My second promise to myself was to find the good. I want to look for and to find a little bit of beauty everywhere, no matter how grey the day. It’s a bit of a mind shift, I suppose, from crotchety and snarky, but I think I can do it. I’m pretty sure I have a better chance of finding the good than becoming a hugger.

Yesterday I noticed the blooming plum trees at Costco. Beautiful, spindley trees inside a big-box store, bursting with delicate purple flowers made me smile. I actually stopped, pulled my giant cart to the side, and looked closely at the burst of spring in front of me. Inside the store. When I got home, I noticed a few more bursts of spring, right in my own backyard.

The next round of coral roses is a-coming!

The dewy drops on the rose’s leaves caught my eye. Each little drop was shimmery and lovely.

The pink gerber daisies never fail to make me smile. They’re cheerful and jaunty at the same time.

Same for these guys. Can never remember what they’re called but I think of them as Blackeyed Susans. Whatever their name, the bright yellow blooms can stand in for the sun, just for today.

Then there’s the lantana. The teeny little blooms pack a powerful punch of color. The pink, yellow, and orange combo is my favorite, and I have it in not one but two pots in my backyard.

Those powerhouses of color will suffice for the lack of a pinkish-orangeish sunrise today.

And last but not least, the cute little ornamental kale that we bought for Piper, thinking she’d like to munch on its curly little leaves and explore its purple center. It’s not a showy bloomer like some of the other cast of characters that comprise my landscaping, but it has its own quiet charm. 

So there you have it: I found the good.

Oh, I’ll still be snarky today. You can count on that. And I will likely be a little stiff-limbed when it comes to hugging. But I’ll still be looking for the good and wishing everyone a good day.

Pride goeth

“Pride goeth before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”

Proverbs 16:18. Heard it a million times, because I’m a prideful person. Ask any of my tennis buddies about me being at the net when a heavy hitter comes in fast to deal with a high, slow, floating ball. Common sense dictates that the player at the net back up, lest she get pegged at close range. I, however, prefer to stand my ground knowing full well that I’m a sitting duck. Seems too much like an admission of defeat to back up, and I’d rather get pegged than retreat. It’s stupid, I know. It’s dangerous, for sure. And yet, once dug in, I stay. Too proud to retreat. Somehow in my prideful, haughty brain, it makes more sense to get hit–hard and at close-range–than to back off.

Pride equals pain sometimes, but that’s the way I’m wired.

I was mighty prideful, and perhaps a bit haughty, about the fact that everyone in my house has been sick–two members of my family got the creeping crud twice–yet I remained healthy. Escaping unscathed from the bevy of germs that invaded my house for several weeks wasn’t easy, but I did it. And I was a bit smug about it, so I guess I should have been ready for the fall.

I hate being sick.

I hate being incapacitated.

I hate being dependent on others.

I hate resting when I could be doing. Something. Anything.

I really hate having my daily routine up-ended.

The tennis season has just started up again, and I’ve been making some serious progress in the gym lately. No to mention the colossal clean-up that’s been going on at home; closets organized, pantry emptied out & re-stocked, piles of debris chucked onto the recycling pile. This is no time for me to be sidelined.

Sore throat, fever, congestion, cough, and fatigue be gone! I’m done with you.

Tomorrow will be a better day.


So I’m minding my own business on a rainy Saturday morning. On a morning in which the thunderstorm woke up my favorite girl, and her hungry little piggy, at 5 a.m. While that’s not my ideal start to a Saturday, we made the best of it: a huge mug of coffee for me, some hot tea for her, a blanket for each and a snuggle by the blue-green glow of the TV. I didn’t really want to be up that early, and I certainly didn’t want to be watching “Hillbilly Handfishing,” but I’ll take the quality time with my girl.

The last thing I expected on this rainy day was to be blindsided by grief. It happened innocently enough, as it tends to after several years of loss. After the sun rose and the handfishing concluded, I was searching through the cupboards in the game room for a small paintbrush to touch up some paint. No paintbrush to be found, but my search did turn up something I didn’t expect to find: a hospice booklet left over from my mom’s cancer “journey.”

For those of you fortunate enough to be uninitiated in grief and loss, you may not understand. For those of you who have been initiated in this dreadful state, you know. You know exactly how grief comes out of nowhere to blindside you.

I remember reading this booklet, in the fall of 2005 when my mom’s cancer “journey” was coming to a really yucky end. The hospice people were wonderful, providing much more than just care for my dying mama. They had care packages for my two young kids and for my niece and nephew. The oldest of YaYa’s 4 grandbabies was 8 when she died, the youngest (who happens to be my favorite girl) was 3. The teddy bears and coloring books given to them by the hospice workers probably didn’t register in the same way the “Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience” booklet did with me.

Because the whole experience of my mom dying was rather surreal, I don’t recall feeling strange about being handed a booklet with such a title. I don’t recall wondering what The Dying Experience was all about, because we were living it. How ironic to be living The Dying Experience.

I do recall being grateful for the booklet’s upfront, go-at-your-pace approach to grief. This is the one thing I know for sure: no one can dictate another person’s grief, and no can anyone dictate another person’s death experience. As the booklet so aptly describes, “Each person approaches death in their own way, bringing to this last experience their own uniqueness. This is simply a guideline, a road map. Like any map, there are many roads arriving at the same destination, many ways to enter the same city.”

Hmmm, I certainly never likened death to a city, but it sure makes sense. Of course, I never thought I’d be facing thoughts like these, much less the death of my sweet, beloved mama. My own life as a mother had barely started, with a 3-year-old wild animal disguised as a very creative and outside-of-the-box little girl, and a headstrong 6-year-old boy who would astound me in the years to come with the memories he retained of his YaYa. How could my sweet mama be leaving me just as I was starting to learn to navigate this not-always-tranquil motherhood?

How could she be leaving me? “In her own time, in her own way,” as the booklet told me. Reading on, I learned another truth: “Death is as unique as the individual who is experiencing it.”

The booklet goes on to say that there is a shift that occurs within the dying person, which takes them from “a mental processing of death to a true comprehension and belief in their own mortality.”

Another thing I learned the hard way.

I’m certain that my sweet mama knew she was dying. Being told by the gurus at MD Anderson that the clinical-trial drug didn’t work to arrest the cancer that was eating her alive is rather concrete. Being told that the only thing left to do is call hospice is rather concrete as well. She knew. But in her quiet way, she didn’t talk about it. No bitching or moaning, no complaining, no ranting or shaking her fists at the heavens for being dealt such a rotten hand.

Instead, she hugged each doctor (she was really good at that, and I wish I’d inherited that trait; I’m not much of a hugger). She gathered herself and without shedding one tear or divulging her true feelings, she thanked the docs for trying so hard to save her. And she went home to plan her funeral.

For real. She wanted to plan it all–from the psalms read to the hymns sung to the outfit she would wear–so that those of us left behind wouldn’t be stuck trying to figure it all out. At a time when she could have stuck her head in the sand and said to hell with it all, she buckled down and spent her remaining strength on making things easier for her family. That’s the kind of person she was, and it’s a damn shame that she is with us no more. A bright and precious light went out when she died.

I thought I was prepared. I’d had months to wrap my head around it, after all. Watching her go from a vivacious, outgoing Nosey Rosey who never met a stranger to a wisp of herself should have prepared me. Seeing the life slowly fade from her immensely bright soul should have eased the transition from her being the center of our lives to her being gone. Being witness to the slow yet certain creep of cancer’s all-encompassing grasp of all things Barb should have steeled me to the reality I was facing.

And yet, none of those things happened. As Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience so succinctly explains, “Focus changes from this world to the next, as the dying person loses his/her grounding to Earth.” She lost her ground to Earth, and we lost the glue, the sweetness, the center of our family. There is no preparing for that. There is no transition, no steeling. Although I knew it was happening and had accepted the fact that my beloved mother was dying, I was not prepared.

Just as I was not prepared for the onslaught of grief that hit me today as I came across the hospice booklet. In the middle of a perfectly normal day, while searching through a cupboard for a paintbrush, I was instantly transported back to the awful, wrenching reality of her death. I had no idea the booklet was in that cupboard. More importantly, I had no idea that the magnitude of grief, the bottomless pit of despair, could come back so quickly. In an instant, the swirling eddy of loss surrounded me, as heavy today as it was 6 years ago. As Kate Winslet said as she dedicated her Emmy win for the HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce” last fall, “It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you do in your life. You never stop needing your mum.”

The last page of  Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience contains a Henry Van Dyke poem unfamiliar to me. I don’t remember reading it when I received the booklet; my guess is that I didn’t make it that far. But now I have, and I’m glad I did.

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear the load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: “Here she comes!”

And that is dying.



6 stores, 2 hours, no deal

My favorite girl needs some new kicks.

Her feet are officially bigger than mine. Not a big deal, really; I’m not a sentimental mom who gets upset at the idea of the little kids becoming big kids, and let’s be honest: my size 6 1/2 feet aren’t too hard to surpass.

But a big deal because we looked at a gazillion pairs of shoes, and she didn’t like any of them.

6 stores, 2 hours, no shoes.

And not for a lack of trying.

This kid has always had big feet. We could see them in the sonogram images a decade ago when she was still percolating in my belly. We referred to the baby as a jackrabbit, and she did not disappoint.

Last year, in third grade, she started wearing some of my shoes. Mostly TOMS and tennis shoes, which she respectfully asked to borrow and usually remembered to put away afterward.

Those were the good old days.

When she told me that her tennis shoes were too small, I showed her every pair in my closet, hoping she would wear a pair of mine and buy me some time so I didn’t have to rush out and shoe shop right away.

Silly woman.

Should’ve known that wasn’t going to fly. One pair was too white. Another had a pink swoosh, and she doesn’t do pink. Yet another had too much red in the trim, and she despises red. The last one was just “blech” as she put it.

So off to the mall we went, with visions of shoes that are not too white, no pink, no red, and no blech in our heads. She said she prefers Nike, and she thought she might want black tennis shoes, so we looked at black shoes.

This one has a little net inlay in front of the swoosh that did not meet her approval.

This one was a “weird shade of black.”

This one looks too much like cleats. 

This one looks too much like lace.

This one might have worked, and actually made it onto her feet, but was a little too small and there wasn’t another pair in her size.

Moving onto shoes that aren’t black.

This one was too silver.

This one was too white, but the stripes were kinda cool.

This one had too many holes. 

This one almost worked, but the blue is too royal.

This one might have worked if the yellow wasn’t so bright.

This one was too dotty.

This one would have worked, but the swoosh looked suspiciously like it might be red.

Oh, mercy.

Maybe it’s time to try another brand.

Reebok is good. Lots of kids wear them, and their design isn’t quite as elaborate as Nike’s: no lace, no mesh, no strange colors of blue. But no, none of the Reeboks were quite right, either.

Moving on to Asics. Super cushy and comfortable. Nah, not crazy about the 4-way stripe.

Ok, fine, let’s try Under Armour. Lo and behold, there was a pair of Under Armour tennies that warranted a try-on. Looking good, I’m thinking; maybe this fruitless search isn’t so fruitless after all.

Big sigh. The Under Armours were a little big and slipped on her heel when she walked.

My last hope was Adidas. Come on, Adidas — don’t let me down.

Yowza, there’s a black pair with greenish-blue stripes that she likes. Woohoo! And they’re on sale — even better.

Oh wait, there’s only one box for the black pair with the greenish-blue stripes in the whole store. And it contains a pair of size 12 shoes. All sorts of cuss words were running through my head at this point. Turns out, that pair was the last one of the previous year’s model; there are no more. The current model, however, is readily available. And it has a tangerine-colored trim with a teeny bit of yellow. Tangerine is THE color right now, which Little Miss Fashion-Forward Jackrabbit knows. I’m thinking this may work, I’m getting my hopes up.

But not for long: the tangerine is deemed too red, not the vibrant, trendy tangerine at all.

Which brings us straight back to Square One. Without new shoes.





Happy hearts day!

Because I love you all so much…

today, on this day of love and hearts,

instead of ranting about the injustices of the cancer world,

here’s a small sampling

of some of my favorite things,

which I hope will make you smile

and set your heart alight

and remind you

of all that is good

and all that is right

and all that is to be cherished

Happy Valentine’s Day!

And now, one last thing:

Really, Bratz??

MGA Entertainment, maker of the controversial Bratz dolls, introduces its latest addition to the line at the Toy Fair in New York this week. Because the regular Bratz aren’t trashy and offensive enough, now MGA claims to be committed to and supportive of the fight against cancer by rolling out bald versions of the Bratz girls under the “True Hope” campaign.
Bratz girls before:

Bratz girls after:

I thought the pinkwashing of products for breast cancer awareness was bad. Wait, I still do. But this takes the “charitable” marketing scheme to another level. At least the bald Bratz don’t look like hookers. Although the super-short plaid skirts, the over-the-knee socks, and the platform heels come close.

I don’t even know where to start. The blatant misspelling? The idea that being a brat is a good thing? The over-the-top tartiness of the original line of dolls? I’m not a fan of the original Bratz, so it’s no surprise that I’m not embracing the new line, either.

For those who are a fan of Bratz, whether the slutty version or the bald version, you may not get where I’m coming from. I will also allow for the possibility that a pediatric cancer patient may find comfort from a bald doll, albeit one that portrays a completely unattainable version of feminine beauty and one that might suggest to said child that heavy eye make-up is do-able during chemo. Bratz fans may find nothing wrong in the messages conveyed by the original Bratz gang to little girls, and perhaps will similarly find nothing wrong with bald Bratz dolls being sold under the guise of children’s cancer charities. But I have a problem with both.

Bratz dolls, IMHO, encourage impressionable little girls to focus on their image over all else. They introduce little girls to the idea of dressing like women, which is rife with problems and causes little girls grow up even faster. I’m not the only one with this opinion.

“When young girls have an open-ended toy—like a generic baby doll—it encourages creativity,” says Diane Levin, a professor in the early childhood education department at Wheelock College in Boston. “But the scenarios of Bratz dolls tells them how to play—to dress up, do your hair, go to fashion shows. The dolls encourage girls to think about themselves as sexualized objects whose power is equated with dressing provocatively.” While we women have come a long way, baby, in terms of equality, these dolls have the potential to reverse our course and send us back into the “mommies don’t go to college” mentality. If little girls get the message that they must be sexy to be valuable, we’re in real trouble.

The American Psychological Association did some research on this very issue and released its findings in the Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Girls are bombarded with images and messages that are not age-appropriate, which the APA Task Force says can have a negative impact on self-confidence, body image, self-esteem, sexual development, and mental health.

All that from a doll? You betcha.

Yet MGA’s CEO, Isaac Larian thinks otherwise. Shocking. He says that girls want Bratz because they are “beautiful,” and he denies the idea that there is anything sexual about the dolls. “I’m looking at a whole wall of them in my office, and I don’t see them wearing sexy clothes,” he says.

And from the Baby Bratz line:

Huh. Perhaps Larian needs to get his eyes checked. Or do a quick google images search, which is what I just did. Or perhaps his version of “sexy clothes” is different from mine. Since when are fishnet hose and over-the-knee boots part of the dress code for girls ages 4 to 8, which is the demographic targeted by Bratz? Since when are red lipstick, beauty marks, and adorned, itty-bitty panties cool for babies?

And what of the Bratz Web site, which promotes major superficiality and vapidness? While waiting for the transition from one screen to another, the message flashes “Please wait … it takes time to look this good.” Each doll’s “profile” used to include her “favorite body part” but that nifty little feature appears to have been axed.

More insanity from Larian, who says that “MGA’s mission is to provide joy and happiness to kids around the world. We believe children are our legacy and want them to be healthy, have confidence in their imagination and build their dreams into reality.” Like the reality of the body images of these dolls? And we thought Barbie’s proportions–estimated to be 39-21-33 and without enough body fat to menstruate, were totally whacked. At least Barbie preaches the message that girls can do anything they want to do, pursue a variety of careers, have financial and emotional independence from men, and become who they want to be rather than who society, or Isaac Larian, tells them they should be.

Larian says “We [MGA] have a responsibility to children and we take that responsibility very seriously.  The “True Hope” dolls are designed to support and comfort young girls and boys who so bravely endure cancer treatments.  MGA also wants to be an active supporter in the fight to develop lifesaving treatments for children.”

Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but it seems to me that if MGA really wanted to be an “active supporter” in pediatric cancer treatments and research, they’d donate more than the $1 from the sale of each doll, as currently planned. With a suggested retail price of $14.99 each, that $1 donation amounts to a pittance and reminds me of the pathetically paltry amount (an estimated 19 percent) of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s proceeds that go toward breast cancer research. If you really want to make a difference, skip the dolls and send the $14.99 directly to a cancer charity. For pediatric cancer, I recommend St Jude or Alex’s Lemonade Stand. For breast cancer, you know I love The Rose, located right here in Houston. If you’re not sure which cause to donate to, check out Charity Navigator.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and the True Hope dolls will become a major tool in the battle against cancer. Maybe they will be the linchpin on which cancer research hangs. Maybe I’m cynical from the deluge of pink products purported to help eradicate the disease that kills more than 40,000 women in this country alone every year.  It’s estimated that more than 12,000 kids younger than 15 are diagnosed with a childhood cancer in the United States each year. I’d love to know how many of those sweet babies would want a True Hope doll.