Elizabeth Lloyd: you’re an idiot

I’d use a more colorful name but she’d probably sue me. Like she’s suing an 11-year-old boy for throwing a baseball. In a dugout. At a Little League ball field, where presumably baseballs are thrown and sometimes not caught. But wait, if Elizabeth Lloyd has chosen to insert herself into the media, in her money-grubbing way, she’s a public figure, right? So I can call her whatever name I like and she has to take it. Perhaps I need to brush up on my libel knowledge, but in the meantime, I’m going to call her Asshat.

Here’s the story, in case you were paying attention to real news that actually matters and missed it: Asshat was at a Little League game in New Jersey two years ago, watching her son play, and was hit in the face by a ball. She was sitting on top of a picnic table next to the fenced dugout where a catcher, Matthew Migliaccio, was warming up his teammate, the pitcher. Migliaccio overthrew the ball and it hit Asshat in the face. According to the local newspaper, He ran over to her to ask if she was ok, and she told him she was fine. Says Matthew: “I went over to see if she was okay, and she said that she was fine and not to worry about it. About like three weeks after, she came and gave me a hug and she told me that it wasn’t my fault.” Asshat said to Matthew, “I know you didn’t do anything wrong.”

However, two years later — just days before the statute of limitations would expire — Asshat decides that errant ball was thrown “intentionally and recklessly” and she needs half a million dollars for it. WTH??

Asshat claims that Matthew assaulted and battered her.


This claim is insulting to anyone who has truly been assaulted and/or battered. I’m sick.

So is Matthew. Poor baby was minding his own business, probably playing MW3 on the Playstation like the 13-year-old boy who lives at my house, when the doorbell rings and he is served papers. A 13-year-old child was served papers. Matthew said, “I think it’s pretty mean to sue someone after you told them that you knew it wasn’t their fault.”

Pretty mean indeed.

Matthew’s attorney, Anthony Pagano, says the case is bogus and the family will not settle with Asshat. “What are we gonna do, take his bike? He’s 11,” Pagano said.

Does this look like a malicious person intent on inflicting injury? Not hardly.

Fact: 11-year-old kids overthrow balls. Fact: 11-year-old kids do not always catch overthrown balls. Fact: Elizabeth Lloyd is an asshat.

The overthrown ball traveled more than 60 feet before it hit Asshat, who was sitting 5 feet from the fenced bullpen. Reports conclude that while Matthew is an avid gamer, playing on 3 different teams, he was 11 years old at the time of the “assault” and didn’t exactly have a cannon of an arm like one sees in the major league. Matthew’s father says ”It’s absurd to expect every 11-year-old to throw the ball on target. Everyone knows you’ve got to watch out. You assume some risk when you go out to a field. That’s just part of being at a game.”

Hear hear. Guess what, Asshat — life is risky; get a helmet.

Apparently Asshat’s husband is an asshat, too, and he’s also suing Matthew, for the loss of “services, society, and consortium” of his wife. I guess that means he’s a shameless money-grubber, too, and Mr & Mrs Asshat are demanding a jury trial. The suit claims Matthew’s actions were negligent and careless through ”engaging in inappropriate physical and/or sporting activity” near Mrs Asshat. She claims she continues to suffer “pain and anguish, incur medical expenses and has been unable to carry out her usual duties and activities.”
I’d like to show Mrs Asshat some pictures of the hole in my chest wall after a post-mastectomy infection wreaked havoc on my body. I’d like to explain to her what real pain and anguish is all about. I’d like to enumerate the ways in which a month of hospitalization from that infection screwed up my life and prevented me from being able to carry out my usual duties and activities. I’d like to tell her what it feels like to be on powerful, gut-wrenching antibiotics for nearly one full year, so that she gains a scintilla of an idea of what it means to really suffer. I’d like to lament the fact that that damned infection caused me to undergo a heinous reconstruction that will likely never achieve the results I want and deserve, despite everyone’s best efforts. I’d like to show her what it means to live the rest of one’s life scarred, scared, and dissatisfied. I’m pretty sure there would be a long line of cancer victims with similar stories to share. But do we sue the hospital for contracting infections? Do we sue the doctors because something went wrong? Do we sue the hospital personnel for not better protecting us from possible harm? Do we sue cancer for afflicting us? Nope, we chalk it up to rotten luck, wrong-place-wrong-time, shit happens and get on with our lives.
I’ve spent a lot of time at Little League ball fields in the last 8 years since my kid started playing. I’ve been hit by a baseball and I’ve been nailed by a tennis ball hit by a grown-up. It hurts, but you get over it and move on. You don’t sue the kid who threw the ball. Sheesh. Even an Asshat should know that.
Maybe Matthew’s family should sue Mr & Mrs Asshat because she intentionally put her face in the way of his ball. Or maybe they should sue the Asshats because she was willfully and intentionally misusing the picnic table. Asshat’s ass should have been on the bench, not on the table. She was asking for it, really.
My blogging idol at People I Want to Punch in the Throat wrote an open letter to Asshat. Read it. She’s much more adept than I at saying what she really thinks (I know, shocking, right, that someone would write more openly and with less of a filter than I?). I hope Mr & Mrs Asshat read it, too.


The news of our beloved Red Sox trading Kevin Youkilis got me thinking about loyalty. It’s an under-appreciated trait, IMHO, and its value tends to be most noticed in its absence.

Youk was one of my favorite players, both for his on-field production and for his feisty attitude. He spoke his mind and took the heat that ensued from fans and press who prefer their players to shut up and play. He was part of the Red Sox from 2001, and was an integral part of the roster that my family fell in love with in our early days of Sox indoctrination. I’ll never forget this little Sox fan asking me what his beloved Nomar did wrong when he was traded in 2004. This loyal fan didn’t yet understand that baseball is not just his favorite game, but a business as well, and players are commodities that are moved and used to ensure financial success. It’s a hard-learned lesson and one that removed forever a piece of my little guy’s innocence.

Despite Youk’s last name, he’s not actually Greek but this Greek girl considers him an honorary countryman. In the wildly successful book Moneyball, author Michael Lewis christened Youk “Euclis: The Greek God of Walks” and the nickname stuck. I appreciated Youk for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was his record for most consecutive errorless games at first base (until Casey Kotchman came along, anyway). He’s scrappy and intense, and as Boston Globe writer Jackie MacMullan so aptly described, “He does not look like an MVP candidate; more a refrigerator repairman, a butcher, the man selling hammers behind the counter at the True Value hardware store.”


I’m thinking he could easily pass for a crew member on “The Deadliest Catch” as well. All part of his charm. His Gold-Glove-Award-winning, three-time MLB All Star, and two-time World Series champion self will be greatly missed by this member of Red Sox nation. Upon my first visit to Fenway, a decade ago, I couldn’t understand why fans uniformly booed Youk when he came up to bat. I quickly realized they weren’t booing but chanting “Yoooooooooouk!”  I hope to see many jerseys sporting #20 when we go to Fenway in August. I’ll be wearing mine.


Is it strange to feel so sad seeing our current favorite player hugging an outgoing Sox mainstay? Is it weird to feel bereft about a player’s departure from a favorite team? Is it naive to want everything to stay the same? Sometimes loyalty brings great sadness; to pledge oneself opens one up to vulnerability. And unfortunately, loyalty does come and go. I learned this firsthand when given a cancer diagnosis.

A crisis, whether health or other, galvanizes some and chases away others. Friends show their true selves, for good and for bad. Some of the people I most expected to be there for me upon diagnosis and in the trying days beyond were the first to depart. The reasons are as varied as the people. I imagine fear is top among the list of reasons people flee when a close friend is given shockingly bad news. While everyone knows in their rational brain that cancer isn’t contagious, the proximity of a dreaded disease causes some people to distance themselves from the afflicted person. Personally, I don’t get that, as I was brought up to believe that a time of crisis is the best time to be by a friend’s side. This lesson was reaffirmed and underscored tenfold as new friends appeared on the scene in my hour of need. Y’all know who you are, and I thank you, again and again. Another reason for the exodus is lack of loyalty. My sweet mama used to tell me it’s easy to be a good friend when everything is peachy, but the real friends, the loyal friends, will be there when things aren’t so peachy. As usual, she was right.

Confucius said, “The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures, but loyalty and good faith.” I’m not much of a scholar, but I do treasure loyalty.



Adventures in air travel

If our annual reunion weekend of my Duke girlfriends had a theme each year, this one might be “Making a Silk Purse from a Sow’s Ear.” But seeing as I have a mini sow at home, who is such a valued member of our family that the idea of using her ear, or any other body part, for a purse is utterly repulsive, we’ll go with another cliche. Perhaps “Making Lemonade from All the Lemons We’ve Been Given.”

In the 8 years we’ve been gathering each June for a long weekend of catching up, we’ve never been rained out. Until now. Thanks to Tropical Storm Debby, we spent maybe an hour and a half on the beach this trip. Total. One evening walk and one brief session on the lounge chairs. The beach umbrellas were dutifully erected by charming young beach attendants but served as a shield from rain more than sun. As Winnie the Pooh would say, “Oh, bother.”
Instead of lounging lazily at the edge of the surf, being bronzed by the sun, we resorted to Plan B: curling up in front of the TV to watch seasons 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey. Thank goodness for quality entertainment from across the pond! None of us in our little group are big TV watchers, but we all were mesmerized by the Crawleys, et al and their upstairs-downstairs life.
We still managed to get ourselves to our favorite Captiva Island restaurant, The Bubble Room, for dinner and a piece of the orange crunch cake. It sounds like an odd combination: white cake with an almond-streusel filling tinged with orange zest and frosted with an orange buttercream. Trust me, it is beyond delicious. Great, just typing that description made me wish I had more now. Right now.
The beach washout wasn’t the end of our troubles, as the flights out yesterday were a mess. Half of our party was flying Delta to Atlanta and then points beyond, and were met with a mechanical issue that delayed them 5 hours and would require a stay in an Atlanta airport hotel. The other half of our party was on United to Houston direct, trying not to feel smug about heading home no stop. That smugness was rudely interrupted, however, as out takeoff was aborted because of faulty brakes.
The faulty brakes issue was not to be resolved because of a lack of a mechanic in the area, so it was off to the airport Hilton for us. Oh, bother.
We’re booked on the same flight today with fingers crossed. If all goes according to plan, we will land in Houston at the tail-end of rush hour and will face the 50-mile trek from the airport back to the ‘burbs, a full 24 hours after our originally scheduled homecoming Oh, bother again.
Meanwhile, we’re killing time in the hotel until they kick us out and will then kill time at the airport until our flight (hopefully) takes off. Oh, the joys of travel!

A tale of 4 cousins

I had every intention of waxing poetic about my dad for Father’s Day, but the words aren’t flowing in a way that will allow me to do justice to the topic. Instead, I’ll resort to letting pictures do the talking for me. A picture is worth 1,000 words, right?

My brother and his kids arrived from New Jersey on Saturday for a long-overdue visit. My dad is in hog heaven with all 4 of his grandchildren together. My parents waited a long time for grandkids, then got 4 in 5 years. My brother and I both had a boy followed by a girl, just as my parents had. While these 4 kids have never lived in the same state, they enjoy each other’s company as if they have grown up next-door to each other.

In the beginning, there was Payton (far left), Andrew & Megan.

Then came Macy, and the cousins were complete.

They don’t often sit down for a meal together, but when they do, they have a ball.

This visit has been full of fun. Nothing makes my dad happier than being surrounded by his grandkids. It’s a mutual adoration society.

Splashing in the pool, riding amusement park rides, and hanging out — good times.

This was the day of my mom’s funeral. Words fail me when I see this photo. The looks on each kid’s face speaks volumes.

We miss you, YaYa, but promise to have fun and to love each other nonetheless.

Happy Father’s Day!

Greetings  from the lovely San Luis resort in Galveston, TX. I’m sipping a cold one poolside with my dad & brother and celebrating their special day. My bro & I haven’t spent a lot of time together since his move to The Garden State a few years ago, so this is good stuff. Our dad has been itching to have all 4 of his grands under one roof, and it’s finally a reality.

My dad is pretty awesome. From him I learned many things, not the least of which is the value of hard work, sticking to one’s guns, and marching to one’s own beat. I could wax poetic on this subject, but blogging via iPhone isn’t my forte, so I’ll leave you with my favorite of Dad’s many saying (It’s just what you do), with promises of more to come.

Susan, science, and stagnation

I’m not sure “stagnation” is an actual word, but I like the alliteration so it stays. It’s my blog, after all, and I can make up words if I want to (but I’m still not comfortable ending a sentence with a preposition, hence the parenthetical aside).

Ok, with that out of the way…on to the news.

Susan Love announced that she’s been diagnosed with leukemia.

My immediate response to this news: Dammit.

Dr Susan Love is someone I respect and admire, and she’s done more for the breast cancer cause than a room full of Komens, IMHO. Her book, Dr Susan Love’s Breast Book, is considered the bible for those with breast cancer. Her focus is on research, not ribbons. The mission statement for her organization is this: “The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation works to eradicate breast cancer and improve the quality of women’s health through innovative research, education, and advocacy.” She mobilized the Army of Women to get women of all ages, races, and stages involved in research. I’ve participated in several AOW studies, from simple online surveys to blood tests, and believe wholeheartedly in what she’s doing. Love says, “The key to ending breast cancer is to learn how to stop it before it starts.” YES! She also says,

“I have spent my whole life working in the field of breast cancer. At this point I am frustrated that we are still doing the same treatments with about the same results as when I started thirty years ago. Now that we can get to where breast cancer starts we have the opportunity to eradicate it. I am excited and impatient. The road is clear. We can go slowly or quickly, but everyday that we delay another 592 women will be diagnosed and 110 will die. The cost is too high to hesitate. This is our job not our daughters’, granddaughters’, nieces’ or nephews’. We can do it and we have to do it!”

When Love announced her diagnosis yesterday, she was resolute in facing the bad news, saying “As many of you know, I have never shrunk from a challenge.  I plan to bring my indomitable drive and energy to overcoming this and will be back to work as soon as possible.”  Go get ’em, Susan!

Next, the science news. A 45-year-old Bay Area man has been cured of HIV and the cause of his cure is a bone marrow stem cell transplant. My friend Katie at Uneasy Pink sums up the science of this breakthrough much better than I; check it out. Long story short is that the guy, who tested positive for HIV in 1995, also battled leukemia and underwent a bone marrow stem cell transplant in  Berlin in 2007. The donor was immune to HIV, and as those cells were transplanted, so was the immunity.

Famed AIDS researcher Dr. Jay Levy, who co-discovered the HIV virus, said this case opens the door to the field of “cure research,” which is now gaining more attention. “If you’re able to take the white cells from someone and manipulate them so they’re no longer infected, or infectable, no longer infectable by HIV, and those white cells become the whole immune system of that individual, you’ve got essentially a functional cure.”

I am all kinds of fired up about this incredible news.

There is great potential, and the idea of cure research is exciting. I would love to see if spill over into breast cancer. As Katie puts it, “I understand that HIV/AIDS and cancer are very different diseases.  But look at the progress that has been made over several decades.  In 1983, the idea that we would be deciding whether someone was cured or not of AIDS, that we would be debating how few cells mean cure, was unthinkable.  Back then, virtually everyone who contracted AIDS died of it, and in about 9 months from diagnosis.  Now the average survival time after diagnosis is 24 years.”

Survival time of 24 years. Remember when AIDS first hit the scene in the early 1980s, and a diagnosis was the same as a death sentence? Now, 30 years later, AIDS experts are talking about cure research? Amazing.

Why isn’t this kind of thinking being applied to breast cancer research?

I’m guessing the reasons are many, but can’t help but think that one reason is because we’ve made breast cancer so pretty. It’s one of the most heavily funded cancers in terms of research, yet as Dr Love points out, treatments and results are the same now as they were 30 years ago. I know, I know — cancer is incredibly complex and varied, not just in terms of the different types (breast, colon, etc) but within each type, there are immense differences. Then there are the differences in each person who’s diagnosed, as well as the differences in each cell. I don’t expect a panacea, but I do expect cure research.

It’s funny — not ha ha funny but peculiar — that in trying to de-stigmatize breast cancer, we’ve ended up trivializing it. The glamor disease is marketed as rosy, fun, and celebratory, when in fact, it’s deadly. And in the cases in which it doesn’t kill its victims, it nonetheless maims them and messes them up in untold ways. Even the “lucky ones” who “caught it early” and “enjoyed the best possible outcome” are scarred, physically and emotionally.

I saw this ad in a magazine recently, and had to rip it out and put it on my desk so that I’d remember to blog about it. This is what I’m talking about, people. 

Do we really need ads like this?

What does this accomplish, exactly? As a woman, this makes me mad. As a woman diagnosed with breast cancer, it infuriates me. And as a woman who has undergone reconstruction and is facing the hard truth that no amount of surgery will ever restore what I once had, it makes me want to strangle someone with my bare hands. Maybe I’ll start with those models then move on to the jackass behind the ad campaign.

If you zoom in on this dumb ad, it’s not entirely clear what’s going on here besides lots of skin, perky breasts, and a hand. This is what passes for breast cancer “awareness?”

Did the ad execs behind this think the hint of lesbianism would sell? Did they consider that the woman of color in the middle would be completely shafted should she be diagnosed, because black women die from breast cancer far more often than white women?

Then there’s the text of the ad: Connect, communicate, and conquer? Could this be any more vague and vapid? What the hell are they even selling? I had to look closely and read the fine print to see who put this ad out there. It’s on the very bottom of the ad — the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, which is run by Estee Lauder. Again, what the hell are they selling? Remove the pink-ribbon bracelet and this could easily be an ad for a plastic surgeon hawking breast augmentation.

I’ve had it with this side of the “awareness” campaign. Can anyone tell me what this kind of marketing does to actually  help our cause? I know the research dollars have to come from somewhere, but surely we don’t need naked breasts to plead our case.

A quick google search turned up plenty of these kinds of ads.

These last two are my favorite. The boxing girl, who I’ve written about before, because the idea of being a fighter when it comes to breast cancer is so pervasive, and the flip side to that idea being the ones who die from this wretched disease somehow didn’t fight quite hard enough and “lost the battle.” The “Expose the Truth” ad, from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, because the “truth” has nothing at all to do with the model they chose to represent their message. The truth is, ads like these perpetuate the idea that breast cancer is a sexy, pretty disease.

Why can’t we have more ads like this?

Or this?

Or this?

Or this?

We sure don’t ever see ads like this, do we?

The last installment

There’s a line in the movie Ice Age–during the fight between the dodo birds, Sid, and Manny over some melons–that applies here. The animals are scrambling to scoop up the melons, which are in short supply, and their bumbling leads to the melons being misappropriated. Sid the sloth gets the final melon but drops it when he’s swarmed by dodos. Manny grabs the melon with his trunk, but loses it when a dodo bites his tail. He throws the melon into the air and the dodos make a final play for it, but Sid catches it and the dodos fall over themselves, exclaiming, “The laaaaast melon.”

What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Be patient, I’m getting to it.

Just like the laaaaaast melon, this is the last installment in the northern Louisiana series. Our trip last week has provided such good blog fodder, like this post about the trip itself and this post about puttin’ up corn and this post about skeet-shooting and this post about the best practical joke in a long time, maybe ever.

This wrap-up features a FEMA trailer, my favorite girl acquiring a new skill, yet another cute dog, a slave grave, and wisdom gained from the country. To say that this trip was a huge departure from the everyday minutia of my normal life — kids, pets, suburbia, and searching for the new normal after breast cancer — would be quite the understatement.

The FEMA trailer sits behind Mama & Papa’s house. Bought at an auction after its displaced residents no longer needed it, the outside looks what I imagine it looked like while being used as temporary housing after Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans in August 2005. The inside, however, has been outfitted with some custom woodwork and a few of Papa’s special touches to create a mighty fine fishin’ trailer. In fact, on the table is Papa’s computer-generated shopping list of supplies he’ll need for the next fishing trip. 

The last of the 145,000 FEMA trailers used to house displaced people in Louisiana and Mississippi after Katrina was recently removed from New Orleans. Many of the trailers were sold by FEMA at auctions, and some were used to house workers assigned to clean up the Deepwater Horizon/BP mess in April of last year. After housing some 770,000 newly homeless who were displaced after Katrina destroyed 75 percent of housing units in New Orleans, the trailers have been snapped up by outdoorsy folks who need a place to hang their hat after a long day fishing or hunting. 

It was cool to see this piece of history. FEMA trailers were such a ubiquitous part of the storm, and will remain a symbol of the size and scale of the damage Katrina inflicted. Living along the Gulf Coast myself makes me patently aware of the power and fury of hurricanes, and Katrina was a doozy.

On a much lighter note–Macy’s new skill. My favorite girl learned how to drive a 4-wheeler. All by herself. As ubiquitous as FEMA trailers were in NOLA, 4-wheelers were everywhere we went, and at age 10 my girl was a bit long in the tooth to be just learning. That’s what you get as a city-slicker, however.

Macy wasted no time in learning, and did well for a city girl. With Molly the dog leading the way, Macy explored the trail that winds through our hosts’ property. Wish y’all could have seen her face as she had her lesson from Amy. It was a curious mix of wonder, excitement, concentration, and reverence all stirred together. Like the complex and many-faceted girl she is, I suppose. A lot of kids would take that 4-wheeler and gun it, tearing all around the property, but this girl was careful and methodical about driving. I hope that’s the case when she turns 16!

Another cute dog was on hand, bringing the total of new furry friends to at least 7. We met this little charmer at Gina’s house as we sipped a glass of wine by the pool before dinner. She belongs to a neighbor but comes to Gina’s to visit. No bigger than a minute and so meek she crawled on her belly to greet us, I couldn’t resist pulling her into my lap. Her name is Jill, but the charming northern Louisiana pronunciation is “G-eeeeeel.” She reminded us so much of our sweet doggie friend Lima. Perhaps they’re distant cousins.

It was also at Gina’s that we saw the slave grave and expounded on the story of Josephine. On one of the many nights Amy stayed with me in the hospital during my countless hospitalizations thanks to mess that is cancer, she told me the story of Josephine, and it was amazing to be on her turf after hearing so much about her. 

Listening to Amy tell me about Josephine while I endured yet another night on scratchy hospital sheets fighting that dadgum post-mastectomy infection was a memorable escape during a time of hardship. It’s the story of a young girl who lived and worked on the Shelton Plantation in the mid-1800s, which is now the site of Gina’s beautiful home and acres of beautiful woods. It’s believed that Josephine’s father was the plantation owner and her mother was a slave. Deep in the woods lies this grave marker. It’s a simple yet beautiful grave marker, and an interesting piece of the past. Coming across the grave site in the woods was a profound experience that reminded me that life is fragile and fleeting. This girl was just 19 and a half when she died–curiously enough, at the same age as Amy’s brother, Sam, who is also buried on Gina’s property. The family decided in the wake of Sam’s tragic death to officially designate a portion of Gina’s land as a family cemetery. It’s a beautiful and serene patch of woods that invites lingering, contemplating, and remembering. My mom’s gravesite is the last place I’d go to feel close to her, and to me the conventional cemetery does precious little to invoke a sense of connectedness to the departed one. If she were laid to rest in a beautiful and sacred spot like this, however, it would be a different story, and I can imagine sitting under the tall trees and talking to my sweet mama like we used to do every single day.

I’ve heard a lot about Sam and know by the way his sisters speak of him that he was someone special. Losing someone you love is hard, hard, hard to take, and when that someone is young and killed unexpectedly like Sam was, the tragedy is especially long-legged. I’ve learned on my own that grief is a heavy and long-lasting thing, and I felt that lesson keenly while in the woods the other day. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, one of my all-time favorite books, John Irving writes:

“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time — the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers.”

I know this must be true of Sam, too. It was a privilege to be present in this lovely place, and the feeling of being there will stay with me.

The woods seem never-ending, and the blanket of trees served as a rugged and insular backdrop as I contemplated Josephine and felt the absence of Sam in this close-knit family. I never got tired of looking at the woods. My favorite girl kept saying, “The trees go on for days!” Indeed they do. 

I learned from this quick trip is that it’s good to get out of town and savor the purity and goodness of the country. Oscar Wilde wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray that “anyone can be good in the country.” What a fantastic thought! As if the fresh air, wide open spaces, and relaxed pace in the country aren’t enough! Spending time with a family that truly and genuinely loves and treasures each other is a beautiful thing; being enveloped by such a family is an honor. I’ve always wished for a sister, and after being around Amy and hers, now I really wish I had one.

More wisdom was to be gained from the framed saying that Mama has hanging in her house:

And then some more from the napkin displayed under a magnet in Papa’s shop: 


The wolf in the bathroom


That’s what the wolf in the bathroom is all about. Hijinks.

He’s a coyote, not a wolf. My bad. But let’s not become distracted by the matter at hand, which is hijinks. My lovely hostesses got up to some hijinks on our last night in Louisiana, and everyone was in on it but me.

A coyote in the bathroom is par for the course for these girls. In fact, they’ve been pulling this trick on unsuspecting houseguests for years — literally. Is it any wonder I love these girls?

A little history: Sister Wendy, whose bathroom is pictured above, has a friend, Hanks, who is a biologist. Hanks and his wife, also a biologist, have access at their workplace, the Monroe branch of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, to some fine, preserved animals. “Choppa” is one such animal. Apparently Choppa was due to be retired after 30-some years baring his teeth, but was too fine a specimen to be thrown onto the trash heap. Hanks rescued Choppa, and like many other wayward animals, he came to reside at Wendy’s house.

Sounds like a nice, altruistic story of coyote adoption, right?

Nuh-uh. While Wendy & her hubs Lester are the epitome of altruistic when it comes to rescuing abandoned animals, having amassed quite the menagerie of strays, their altruism is certainly equaled if not outmatched by their mischief. Hence the coyote in the bathroom.

Allow me to introduce the current cast of Wendy & Lester’s menagerie. I really should let Sister Wendy tell this part because she’s much more amusing than I (again, hence the coyote in the bathroom), but she’s probably busy at this very moment in the OR helping someone transition from an old, worn-out hip or knee to a new and improved body part. So, you’re stuck with my version with bits of Wendy’s version sprinkled in for flavor.

There’s Brown Betty, who’s in charge of the pack. Don’t let that sweet face and those soft brown eyes fool you — she rules her pack with an iron fist, but I like to think she imparts her authority with love not tyranny. She had the good sense to show up at Wendy’s house, and the agreement was to foster her for a few weeks while Sister Holly found her a home. Sister Holly also has a soft spot for stray dogs who could easily star in the Island of Misfit Toys. In fact, we’ll now refer to Sister Holly as King Moonracer.

So King Moonracer finds Brown Betty and says she will find her a home while temporarily placing her with Aunt Wendy. That was 8 months ago. I’m guessing Brown Betty is a keeper. Wendy refers to BB as “a work in progress” and her main talent is identifying things that belong to Lester to chew. 

Next in the lineup of rescued dogs is Baby Gretchen. On the Island of Misfit Toys, she’d be the Dolly for Sue. Cute and cuddly but teeming with psychological issues.

Baby Gretchen showed up Wendy & Lester’s as a tiny baby. So tiny it was hard for her benefactors to tell if she was a kitten or a pup. She was small but mighty and mean enough to bite right through Lester’s palm. Gotta love a tiny girl with big spunk. She has a permanent sneer from a previous injury, which is just plain funny. It’s hard to get a photo of her because she’s a little nervous about people pointing things at her, and my iPhone-attempt to snap a quick pic of her freaked her out.

Then comes Disco, whose main nickname is Biscuit, and somehow I managed to conflate the two names to create Bingo, much to my favorite girl’s chagrin. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out why I kept flubbing that sweet dog’s name. Bingo didn’t mind the flubbing. She survived being shot or stabbed in the mouth as a young pup, so she’s pretty forgiving of a city-slicker who messes up her name. I love Bingo for that, and also because she has the softest face, which reminded me of my sweet Harry. And because she likes to sleep all the way under the covers, which reminds me of our little piggie

Disco/Biscuit/Bingo has perhaps the most colorful story of all the mules in the pack. Wendy and Amy saw her running down the highway the day after Thanksgiving and noticed she had a collar so they called her over to get her owner’s info off her tag. Wendy says Disco came right to her, but jeepers creepers she was dripping pus from her jaw. Her jaw “was obviously caddywompus and not quite aligned as one would expect.” Intrepid rescuers were not deterred, however, and loaded her into the truck but had to stick their heads out of the windows because the smell was SO BAD!  (emphasis Wendy’s). They cleaned her up and had Papa give her a penicillin shot, then brought her to Camp Langley (aka Wendy’s place) for a bath and some TLC. After her bath and her medical treatment, you might think that Disco was on the mend. However, as Disco shook her wet coat in the kitchen, Wendy says that “something went flying! I found some jawbone in the living room. Yes, I said jawbone.” Yikes. Wendy started Disco on antibiotics and flushed her jaw wound several times a day. “That girl was hooongree and thirsty! By Monday she was a new girl.” A trip to the vet confirmed a big bullet in her shattered jaw. Wendy reports that “most of the bone was dead, and the vet removed the jaw on one side and sewed her lip together so that it wouldn’t sag. She felt better than ever that night and has been our cutie pie since.” Talk about being luckier than a dog with two tails. As if having the most colorful back story isn’t enough, Disco also has the best nickname: Yellow-bellied-lilly-livered-long-eared-speckle-bellied-cat-head-biscuit.

At the bottom of the pack is Wayne Gretzky. About WG I have two words: sweet. heart. At first he scared me a little bit, I’ll admit, because he’s big and rock-solid. My first impression was that I wouldn’t want to meet up with him in a dark alley, but after scritching him between the eyes and having him flop at my feet, I realized he’s a lover, not a fighter.

Wayne Gretzsky showed up at Camp Langley and Wendy says that “after various attempts over a few days of Lester trying to make our home not-so-hospitable, I told him that if he tried one more time and the dog didn’t go away, he was ours. Immediately, WG ignored Lester’s latest attempt and came right up to me.” Smart dog. WG has also endured a run-in with a gun and had “a 22 graze” down one side. Not being a gun person, I can only assume this means he was unlucky enough to be shot by a 22-gauge gun and lucky enough to have been grazed rather than punctured. For some unexplained but likely equally awful reason, WG was missing part of his tail, and one of the other dogs in residence bit him and broke his nose right away. That dog, Ally, is no longer with us but like all Camp Langley dogs, has a story. Says Wendy, “Ally had a tracheostomy and no voice and poor WG did not know how to read her signals…..but she is a whole ‘nother story).” Indeed. Wendy says they tried lots of names on this dog but King Moonracer “got naming privileges on the day that her dog Cooper died. She picked Gretzky but we called him Wayne Gretsky because he looked like he had been in a hockey fight.”
So the discarded coyote is in good company at Wendy’s house. Wendy & Lester’s friend Hanks was involved in the culling of some of the worst taxidermy work at the Wildlife & Fisheries office. When he saw the impressive choppers on that coyote, according to Wendy, Hanks said to himself, “Lester needs that. It looks like a werewolf with dentures.”
Because of his impressive choppers, the coyote was crowned “Choppa” and has been instilling fear and inciting pants-wetting every chance he gets.
Here’s how Choppa’s attempt to scare me went down: I showed up at Wendy’s house for what I thought was a cook-out — burgers for the carnivores, portabellas for me, squash fresh from Papa’s garden for everyone, and Wendy’s special meringue cake.

newsflash: yum!

It seemed like a normal cook-out, with kids swimming in the pond and adults chatting and sipping. Instead, it was a wily plot to lull me into a sense of security and well-being then scare the pee-waddle outta me. This is how people get their jollies in northern Louisiana. Food was consumed, liquor was drunk, and a good time was had by all. Unbeknownst to me, everyone around the patio table was waiting with bated breath for me to excuse myself and go to the loo. For once in my life, my bladder outpaced my drinking — that never happens! So it was a long wait for the tricksters that night.
When nature finally did call and I moseyed to the powder bath, I didn’t even notice that the entire household — kids included — was following me to the bathroom. I flipped on the light and saw this:

Choppa, in all his glory with his impressive dentures flaring menacingly!

I can only surmise that the proliferation of adult beverages, including this delicious dill-pickle martini, is responsible for my less-than-creeped-out reaction to finding a snarling coyote on the vanity. If I recall, instead of a blood-curdling scream followed by a frantic fleeing from the scene followed by a need for a change of clothes, I uttered a small yelp that most likely disappointed the mischievous band of spectators. I’d give myself a 3 out of 10 for my reaction to Choppa. I was more alarmed by the fact that every single person knew what was going on but me. That kind of a hoodwinking following right on the heels of a full-blown surprise birthday party worries me. I’m afraid I may be losing my edge and will endeavor to become more observant, suspicious, and paranoid straight away.

Meanwhile, I need to get this photo blown up and framed as a memento of one wild & crazy night. 

I’m gonna get one for Amy, too. 

Annie’s got her gun!

Well, my middle name is Ann so I guess “Annie get yer gun” kinda works.

I’m not terribly familiar with guns, not having been raised around them. I’ve shot a handgun before and I think I recall shooting at tins cans with a rifle at some point (college maybe?) but in general guns give me the heebie jeebies because they’re unknown to me. But in northern Louisiana, where we spent a few blissful days, guns are as common as mosquitoes on a hot summer night.

The wise George Washington said ”Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the people’s liberty’s teeth.” I always liked the idea of liberty teeth. In this case, the firearms weren’t about liberty but about an afternoon’s entertainment.

My favorite 13-year-old has been itching to shoot a gun for a while. He talks about wanting to go deer hunting, and his vegetarian mama and his city-slicker daddy look at him like, “Good luck with that.” I will make him watch Bambi a few hundred times before I’d turn him loose with a gun in a deer blind.

Shooting clay pigeons, though, is another matter entirely and one I wholeheartedly endorse. 

We pulled into the private shooting range with our expert guide, Evan. He’s Amy’s nephew and while he’s new to the sport, he’s already a state champion. I knew we were in good hands.

Evan hopped out to unlock the gate across the driveway to his own shooting range, and I was charmed by this little house at the mouth of the property. 

The scenery surrounding the shooting range looks like this:

And like this:

I wanted to take a closer look at the picturesque pond, but as it was in the direct line of the shooting range, I thought I’d better stay put.

Evan schooled us on the basics of gun safety — keep it cracked, engage the safety, don’t point it at people, etc. 

Then we got a little lesson on skeet shooting and trap shooting. All I knew about this sport prior to meeting Evan was that it seemed cool to yell “Pull!” Now I know a lot more.

I also dug around a little and discovered that the sport was created in the early 1920s when the industrial revolution crowded out hunting land and hunters had to work harder to find both space and game to hunt. Skeet shooting became a form of practice, and its popularity spread. The act of shooting the clay targets simulates actual hunting, and accounts for the targets’ being called clay pigeons.

A skeet shooting range is typically comprised of 7 positions arranged in a semicircle spanning 21 yards. There are two houses that launch the pigeons. The “high house” launches the pigeons at a 10-foot height, while the “low house” launches from 3 feet. 

In the “high house,” the targets are neatly arranged in a dealy-bob like this:

Once they’re all loaded onto the dealy-bob, you can shoot away to your heart’s content. I took a quick peek out the window of the “high house” to get a bird’s eye view. Or a clay piegeon’s view, as it were.

Straight ahead, out the “high house” window, is the “low house.”

We had two different guns, but truth be told I didn’t pay much attention at that point. Once we’d covered the safety info, I turned my attention to the afternoon’s refreshments.

My favorite girl spent her time not shooting but getting to know Evan’s sister, Ellis, who is not only the same age but also owns the same outfit as my girl. Kismet! The girls enjoyed the beautiful day at the shooting range playing the iPhone version of the game of Life.


Watching Evan shoot, it was easy to see why he’s a champion. He has the mark of a great athlete in that he makes his sport appear easy. There’s a grace and effortlessness to the way he shoulders his gun, squints his eyes, and tracks the target. Amy & I watched the kids shoot and hollered at the top of our lungs when a clay pigeon was struck mid-air. Evan made it look easy, but upon further inspection,I learned that hitting a target that measures 4 5/16 inches around and is barely an inch thick is a bit harder than it seems. It took my favorite boy a few tries but he nailed one, and the grin that split his face apart was worth the trip in and of itself. 

After the boys had all shot, it was my turn. The gun might have been a little long for me, but I managed to nail a clay pigeon on my third try. My expert advisor noticed I was pulling the trigger before the target had a chance to crest, and my impatience the first two tries got the better of me. Once I slowed down, that pigeon was history. 

Rudyard Kipling once observed that “a man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition.” I’m not going to argue with that!

Come back tomorrow to hear the story of Choppa, the wolf in the bathroom.


Puttin’ up corn

This is one of those posts that I feel needs a disclaimer right up front, because I already know I won’t be able to convey the fun we had, the experiences we gained, and the relationships we forged. The disclaimer should be something along the lines of the ubiquitous drug companies’ list of side effects for the various prescription drugs that populate print and TV advertising. Perhaps something along these lines: This post is intended to document the immense fun and incredible experience of a few days spent in northern Louisiana with an amazing family. This post should not be read while enduring a dismally empty social calendar or a puny vacation fund. This post may cause severe envy among readers who were not invited. Consult a psychotherapist if the side effects persist for more than four hours after reading, or proceed  to the nearest emergency room if you find yourself entertaining thoughts of showing up in Bastrop, LA, unannounced.

Ok, I feel better now.

The more I think about it, the expanse of this experience cannot be contained in one simple posting, so there will need to be multiple installments. This, the first installment, is gonna cover the trip itself and the corn. Oh, the corn.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not a fan of car travel and try to avoid it at all costs. That said, I would get in the car right now — not even 24 hours after returning home — and make the trip again. That’s how great this trip was. My favorite girl and my best boy and I packed up the car and headed out of Houston Tuesday morning, not knowing what lay ahead in the 400 miles between our house and our destination. Little did we know that we were in for the experience of a lifetime. 

The first time my dear friend Amy invited me to her family home in Bastrop, LA, the timing didn’t work out; never again will I allow another event to stand in the way of going to Mama’s house.

Mama and Papa and the infamous Sanders sisters — Gina, Holly, and Wendy — rolled out the red carpet and put on the dog for us. First stop when we arrived at Mama’s house was a tour of Papa’s garden. I’d heard about this little slice of heaven and was beyond happy to see it with my own eyes. My iPhone photos do not do it justice. The first thing we saw upon entering Papa’s garden was asparagus, and I’m kicking myself for having missed its harvest.

Once it’s past its prime, the stalks grow tall & reedy while the tops run to fern. Beautiful, IMHO.

I will be back in the spring for the asparagus. Mark my words, Papa!

Next is the cabbage. The plants are huge, and the ruffly leaves are pretty enough to be part of an elaborate floral arrangement. The heads, however, belong on a plate, sliced and simmered to perfection.

There’s okra!! Be still my heart:And eggplant. Good grief, it just keeps getting better!

Our little piggie would lose her mind if she saw this watermelon, growing fat and ripe in the sun.

There are scores of bell peppers and tomatoes. If there’s anything better than a homegrown tomato picked from the vine, you let me know.

And then there’s corn.

Sweet corn.

My favorite girl couldn’t wait to get her hands on some of Papa’s fresh corn.

Amy took a step into the thick of things —  literally.

The corn was the star of the show, and one of the main reasons we drove to Mama’s.

We were going to get to help put up corn.

For the uninitiated, “putting up corn” refers to the process of picking, washing, blanching, de-kerneling, and freezing the delectable veggie. We’ve been on the receiving end of some of Mama’s corn, lovingly transported from Louisiana to Houston and carefully guarded and doled out upon special occasions.

This is good stuff, people.

There’s a reason Mama’s corn is referred to as “liquid gold.”

Here’s how it works: Papa picks the corn early, early in the morning once he’s deemed it ready. He can tell when it’s ready by looking at it on the stalk and by experience.

Know how many ears of corn each stalk produces?

Go on, guess.

Think about how tall and wide each stalk of corn is, and guess how many ears are waiting to be picked.


Yep, just two ears per stalk.

(I guessed 6. Silly city-slicker).

So the fresh-picked corn is piled up, ready to be shucked.

My favorite girl couldn’t wait to get going on this part.

Awwww, shucks!

As we shucked, Papa had his knife ready to deal with any soft spots on the corn.

He also handled any interlopers.

The pile of shucks grows.

As we shucked, we tossed the ears into a bucket, ready to be toted into the house.

A few ears didn’t pass Papa’s strict inspection. Not quite up to snuff for us, but perfectly suited as a tug-of-war between Molly & JoJo. After all that tugging, JoJo needed a snack.

Before long, the shucking is done…

…and buckets full of corn are in the kitchen, ready for the next step.

After the shucked corn is toted inside, it’s got to be meticulously washed. First the sink is scoured, then each and every ear is scrubbed and de-silked under hot water. While this step is the most laborious part, you know this germophobe loved it.

Scrub-a-dub-dub! It’s early, early in the morning and my hands were already pruney from all the scrubbing.

We brought in some extra help for the last of the cleaning. My favorite girl and Amy’s youngest, Carter, were happy to assist.

The cleaned ears pile up in the sink, ready to go into the boiling pots.

Finally, the last ear is cleaned!

After a quick 3-minute boiling, the corn goes into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The smell in the kitchen at this point was quite simply intoxicating.

Once cool enough to handle, we ran the ears through the corn cutter. It removes the kernels and the milk. This is where the magic happens, people.

The container of water to the left of the cutter serves an important purpose: we dunk the shaved ears into the water, then run them back through the cutter in the opposite direction, to collect every drop of the milk. 

As we ran each ear through the cutter, Mama’s giant metal bowl slowly began to fill with liquid gold.

Time for a little break, to rest our arms and replenish our flagging energy. I truly can’t remember the last time I had an ice-cold Coke, and glory be, it was delicious. Even without any rum.

A few of the prettiest ears were spared the cutter and put up whole. 

The rest, though, went into individual bags to be frozen.

We processed 192 ears, which translates into 17 quart-sized bags of liquid gold.

Each bag was lovingly placed into the freezer, like putting a baby to bed. 

If Mama and Amy weren’t looking, I might have been tempted to kiss that corn good-night.

Once the corn was put to bed, we loaded up the discarded cobs onto the 4-wheeler’s trailer. By the time they’ve been de-kerneled and milked for every drop of goodness, they look like a foam roller used for painting a wall.

Usually Papa takes the used cobs into the woods and leaves them for the local wildlife. This time, however, the cobs went to Papa’s friend’s house to feed his wild hogs. My favorite girl wasted no time wrangling an invitation to go see these hogs for herself.

These guys look a little different than the wild hog who lives at our house!

Stay tuned for a full report on our day of skeet-shooting.