Puppy Love

Sure, you can take my pic.

Sure, you can take my pic.

Wonder what’s been keeping me away from blogging and up at night? Introducing…Phoebe, Brittany Spaniel extraordinaire. She is as cute as a bug’s ear and sharp as a tack. After our beloved Duncan passed away last year, I said that I had one more puppy in me but we needed to wait til the warm summer months. That was a genius move on my part given that we had 3 blizzards this winter, each delivering over a foot of snow.

Now, the warm summer months are currently unseasonably cool, for which I am eternally grateful since I spend A LOT of time outside. However, as it turns out, I didn’t have one more puppy in me.  Um, I grossly miscalculated my actual-energy -to-expended-effort ratio. Oops. I discovered that when we got Duncan as a pup 9 years ago I was apparently 20 years younger than I am now. You do the math. Fortunately, I have two amazing kids who have taken on the task of raising her. Whew!

I apologize in advance if this space turns into a dog blog. She’s pretty charismatic already at the tender age of 8 weeks. We are all completely and utterly under her spell.

Seriously, just try not to wither under the spell of my puppy-dog eyes.

Seriously, just try not to wither under the spell of my puppy-dog eyes.


Blizzard of Oz-Round Deux

Heavy, wet snow clings to trees, causing power outages all around. Not a fun way to spend a blizzard,

UPDATE: Heavy, wet snow clings to trees, causing power outages all around. Not a fun way to spend a blizzard,

You know, you really haven’t lived until you have been witness to the pre-blizzard shopping habits of Midwesterners. Since this current blizzard gave even more advance notice than the one last week, people had all weekend to contemplate the couple of days they are going to spend sheltering in place when it drops another foot or so of snow down on the bone-dry streets.

Another foot of snow beginning to fall. Note the bird in the dogwood tree. Bird block party going on at the feeders all week. Downy woodpeckers, cardinals, black cat chickadees, tufted tit mice, phoebes, bluejays, flickers, robins, mourning doves...you name it, it was chowing down on suet and seed.

Another foot of snow begins to fall. Note bird in dogwood tree. Bird block party going on at the feeders all week: downy woodpeckers, cardinals, black cat chickadees, tufted tit mice, phoebes, bluejays, flickers, robins, mourning doves…you name it, it was chowing down on suet & seed.

I ventured out to Costco late yesterday morning, a Sunday, only to find it a veritable mob scene. Normally, it’s pretty quiet at that moment during the weekend since most people would be at church, possibly praying for an alternate weather pattern.

On this day, however, the parking lot was packed with more than a few cars parked cattywampus–yeah, you heard me right—abutting giant snow mountains deposited by snowplows about its perimeter.

The critical driving issue in most lots is the blindspot created by these snowpiles, which conceal the frantic shoppers lurching from behind them and make competition-level space-spotting in the narrow plowed paths fairly treacherous.

So, when I surveyed the Costco lot, I knew the local media had whipped everyone into a frenzy with their European Computer Models and snowfall calculations in the double digits and shrieks of keywords, like “Bread!”, “Milk!”, “Eggs!”.  Then when the national press descended to scoop existing snow with their mittened hands on camera before the first new flake had fallen, well, that’s never a good sign.

Throughout the rest of that day and into today, stores were packed with panicked shoppers and carts careening down aisles at Daytona speeds. Predictably, shelves were bereft of bread and freezers devoid of milk and eggs.  Hardware stores reported near rumble conditions among the men circling the few remaining snowblowers.

We’ve taken all precautions: snow implements are cleaned and at the ready for use during the post-blizzard dig-out. Vast quantities of bread, milk, and eggs are stored and the pantry is bulging with all manner of food for any potential blizzard condition with or without power.

I’m guessing no one will need to grocery shop again for at least another month.

Snow falling again after we just moved 1 foot of it off the upper deck!

Snow falling again after we just moved 1 foot of it off the upper deck: argh.

Shoveling ahead...when the snow stops. We'll clear this first, then rake snow from the roof. That will dump a couple of feet here and then we'll shovel it off the deck again.

Shoveling ahead…when the snow stops. We’ll clear this first, then rake snow from the roof. That will dump several feet and then we’ll shovel it off the deck again.

Blizzard of Oz Redux

Flat Rock Creek snowfall

Today brings a well-publicized winter storm, already living up to its hype. This serene view from Flat Rock Creek belies the vehicular chaos reigning on area highways, many of which are now closed down and littered with abandoned cars. Schools, malls, bus routes, and even the airports have closed as the snowfall per hour ramps up.

This has been named Winter Storm “Q” by the Weather Channel because they couldn’t think of an actual name beginning with the letter “Q.” I suggest they root around the archives of early Sesame Street episodes during the next break between storms.

I guess I’m OK with a storm that sounds like the name of a James Bond villain. I am not so enamored of one inspired by the name of the transit line a national weather celebrity back east took to get to work.

Thanks anyway, Weather Channel. I am going to stick with a moniker that resonates in these parts and recycle the one we used two years ago, the last time this kind of storm dropped more than a foot of snow and brought the entire region to a halt: Blizzard of Oz.

It fits and offers just a bit more metaphoric bang for the buck.

Stay safe and warm throughout this storm, my fellow Midwesterners!

(See my daughter wield a mean snow rake below. Oh, yes, there are such things and they really work by pulling snow off your roof to prevent dreaded ice dams.)

Snow Rake 2013

Fast Forward

By all means, let me cut to the chase. This is my new phone case:

New Image

It would suggest a target demographic to which I do not belong and likely have not been a member of for the past 40 years. It is lively in its cheap, plasticky design, and, importantly, it fits my seemingly archaic phone, which now clocks in at slightly over one year old. This—by industry standards—is prehistoric.

When I sought help loading my contacts and pics onto the new phone, the Sprint store associate could hardly mask his scorn when I asked about a new case. He took one look and held the phone up to the light, transfixed by its apparent ancientness. He shook his head and with thinly veiled snarkiness assured me they hadn’t had a case for this phone in the store for the past 6 months because that’s when they had CLEARANCED them out. In fact, he was pretty sure they hadn’t sold that phone IN ALMOST A YEAR.

So this little number just arrived from Amazon where I paid a whopping $1.26 after enlisting my teenage daughter to help me locate one for my newly replaced phone which I purchased—with insurance, mind you—for $100.00. Trust me, I am a far more savvy consumer than I appear.

But I was talking to my sister about our parents on my cell while grocery shopping, which means I attempted to cradle the phone in my neck while examining a pack of stupefyingly-out-of-season-strawberries. Said attempt resulted in what my kids would deem an “epic fail” when the phone sailed from my shoulder squeeze and went airborne, soaring in a perfect arc toward the case of organic vegetables where it turned and spiraled downward, landing at my feet in a thunderous splat. When I turned it over, I could still hear my sister talking, blah blah blah, but immediately noted the black screen of death behind the spider web of shattered glass.


“Not here, not now, I don’t have time for this,” I sputtered into the phone. I knew all too well from a mere 2 months prior what the cost, both financial and convenience-wise, was going to be. Because my teenage daughter had accidentally/carelessly? let her cellphone slip from her fingers and launch from an even greater height: the loft hallway where it wafted onto a carpeted family room floor but only after its glass face nicked the wood cabinet on which sits a flat screen TV, which was mercifully spared in the phone’s unceremonious descent.

Honestly, each event lasted nanoseconds and could easily have been a featured problem in a high school physics textbook: if a dense object launches from a height of x and flies through the air to crash land at point y, what is the projected trajectory of flight?

And let this be a lesson to you, adults: you actually need 2 hands to grocery shop!!! Get off the damn phone. Words once spewed at me by impatient siblings years ago when I had nightly talkathons with my best friend Kate despite spending every waking moment with her all day every day at high school, I now utter as a mantra whenever I enter Hen House or Target. This is not, after all, some harvest gold receiver with a 10-foot coil that will snake across the kitchen floor at high velocity and snap into a wall when dropped.

But this is:

pink retro reciever 2nd view

Yes, a thoughtful and useful Christmas gift from my sister, which my daughter found hilarious. She gave one in black to our older brother who planned to use it on his 12-hour drive back to Michigan. We estimated that if he got pulled over in states where talking on the phone is illegal, the ticket would probably cost $5.00 instead of $500.00.

From what we heard, he chatted up old college buddies and long-lost friends for hours to keep himself awake during the onerous drive, incurring nary a wince from passing motorists and no retro tickets.

Stay tuned for the next post, in which I blurt my philosophy of technology to my teenage daughter whose attention, surprisingly, was less than rapt.

Do tell, what was your most heart-breaking, phone-break mishap requiring replacement and just how dearly did you have to pay for it?

Here’s Looking at You, Kid

MU vs Texas dustup: Sept. 29, 1979

On the day we met, my husband took this picture of my younger brother and me at Faurot Field the morning before a football game, remembered more for its record-breaking crowd than for the sports event that occurred therein.

Look closely: I’m inside the stadium, about 20 people in on the top right side of the photo, and my brother is also in the stands but nearer to the field.  My husband is hanging out of the door of a Highway Patrol helicopter.

He said:

Mizzou–Texas, Sept. 29, 1979. First game working for the University of Missouri PD. Maj. Mick Deaver arranged for me to ride in the MO Hwy Patrol helicopter to photograph the maximum capacity crowd (surpassed only by Penn State the following year) and surrounding area (to assess parking lot capacities and firelanes). My pics were used for years by the athletic department in Mizzou promotional media.

Met Phil Bradley (the ORIGINAL dual-sport athlete before Neon Deion and Bo Jackson) after he retired from baseball and, while he was signing an autograph for me, he recognized that pic as they same one hanging on his office wall.

Oh yeah….and on that day 33 years ago I met my bride to be.

She said:

For purposes of full disclosure, I will confess that my husband and I met at an MU-Texas gridiron dust-up 32 years ago, when the two colleges were tossed together as a non-conference event back when Mizzou was a member of the collection of Midwestern colleges known as the Big Eight.  I don’t even remember who won because, well, I might have had my mind on something other than the game.  Like, I don’t know, a handsome, dark-haired, newly-minted Missouri grad who was working at the game.  I do know, however, the Tigers vs. Longhorns game on September 29, 1979, drew the biggest crowd ever recorded at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri.

And it was definitely recorded—by my future husband, who, as a University employee and rookie in its police academy, hung out of the open door of a Missouri Highway Patrol helicopter as it circled on its side around the stadium, shooting photos of that packed venue that were used by the university in postcards and posters for the next 15-20 years.  Be still, my heart.

As for my brother’s account, well…let’s just say it’s best told in person—our family has a tremendous story-telling capacity that way—with all parties present to ensure sufficient embellishment.

The illustrious day ended with a tiki-torch party at the house where I lived. As it happened, my husband and his best friend, later the best man at our wedding, stopped by upon my loose invitation, which was issued after my brother struck up a casual conversation with him at my behest while we waited on the field for the crowd to exit the stadium: “My roommates are having a party tonight.  You can come if you want.”


I suppose I should let you know that my narrative theory leanings are perhaps best captured in the preface to a final exam question I wrote for a Sam Shepard play I was teaching in Intro to Drama about 25 years ago:

“The stories we tell about ourselves and the stories others tell about us are almost never wholly true…”

Hole in My Heart

This dog was all about power naps.

Words fail at the sudden and quite unexpected loss of our beloved 8-year-old Brittany Spaniel yesterday due to a ruptured abdominal tumor. So I give you the eloquence of my teenage daughter instead:

Got into the trash almost everyday? Check. Constantly taking shoes? Check. Jumped the fence? Check. Barked at everyone who walked by? Check. Ate my favorite necklace? Check. The list could go on. Sound familiar? He was a Marley and Me kind of dog…but better. Because he was my dog. He was meant for my family. Love you, high maintenance dog. You will be missed.

Yeah, he was all that and much, much more. Here’s how I know he made it to dog heaven despite his earthly shenanigans: On the way to share the sad news with our college son in another town, I stopped by a Starbucks there to mitigate a crying-induced migraine with caffeine.

Head down, I went to pay and looked up through my tearful stupor only to see the barista’s white plastic nametag emblazoned with black capital letters in bolded block print.

Her name was a British name, that of a Shakespearean heroine, and the very one we had carefully chosen for our female dog who passed away shortly before we got this guy.

Of all the gin joints…

Game Over: Permanently, I Hope

And not a moment too soon. Or perhaps even at exactly the now controversial moment it should have ended. But, yes, the longstanding rivalry that marked college sports for Missouri and Kansas ended last Saturday in the final 3 seconds of an overtime period in a heart-wrenching, gut-clenching basketball game.

from The Kansas City Star, Feb. 26, 2012

Jayhawk Country erupted in the kind of revelry they generally reserve for when they take all in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. Tiger Nation collectively wrung its hands into the wee hours over a call that didn’t get called and the one that did, both game-changers.

Sportcasters were all but apoplectic, labeling the whole affair “epic” and deeming it the most exciting game in the history of the sport. Seriously?

I have other, less generous labels, and not for this game but for the purported rivalry between two schools I happened to have attended. I use the term “happened” by design. You see, in-state tuition was a lure for me as an undergraduate and even moreso when I was footing the bill myself as a graduate student.

Funny how AP polls and recruiting sweepstakes never figured into my decisions and my personal bottom line trumped all other considerations given that both schools had stellar academic offerings in my areas of interest.

Rivalry seems a gross understatement as a means of capturing the intense and utter hatred of fans by fans that fuels this competition allegedly dating back to the Civil War. I detailed a few of the most unseemly elements of what’s called the “Border War” in a post here when the Big12 conference began its slow-moving implosion two years ago, which coincided with my epiphany that the entire country needed to be cited for unsportsmanlike behavior.

Frankly, I’m not sure it’s possible to fully appreciate this insidious cultural beast unless you’ve lived smack in the middle of it and endured the heinous trash talk that marks the week preceding MU-KU games, which is cleverly called “Hate Week.”

By “middle”, I mean literally the middle. As in the Kansas City metropolitan area which straddles the state line, dividing two states and numerous municipalities therein. Because the unseemliness doesn’t rise up out of a wheatfield in western Kansas or from a tobacco farm in the Missouri bootheel quite the way it does in KC.
Here in the heart of America it gets real ugly, real fast.

Schools and workplaces all over the KC metro area will not be full of good-natured banter and ribbing, but, instead, bitter, biting, hurtful comments lobbed from and at both sides. And sadly, no one will bother to say, “Oh my gosh, wasn’t that just a terrific and exciting nail-biter of a game?” Nope. Nobody. Not even me.

‘Cause that’s how we roll now as a sports culture. Just check in on the Twitter chatter from the weekend or some other social media venue that permits instantaneous knee-jerk reactions that blossom into screeds or that fosters sheer vitriol in discussions that are but thinly veiled cyber-bullying. I guarantee the hatred will be palpable.

And since it virtually begins at birth when parents start inculcating their children with this hatred through bibs and ballcaps, it plays out on the playground before anyone ever gets to college.

Conspiracy theories abound now that multiple colleges are exiting the Big 12 to go to other conferences not governed by the Lone Star State. But politics, posturing, predators and power grabs have defined this league in recent years, much the way they define all of college sports, even the upcoming beloved bracketology of March Madness.

So by now you’re thinking, “Hey, it’s just a game, people!” And, in another part of the universe you might be right. But not here, not now. And you don’t have to go all the way back to the Civil War to figure it out.

Just go as far back as thwarted proposals to rebuild after a devastating 1951 flood demolished parts of the KC area right before the Civil Rights movement and study the history of local city constitutions, real estate covenants, and a 35-year saga of public school desegregation and you’ll discern more than you ever wanted to know about how this rivalry reflects far more about the policies of Reconstruction than abolition.

Then, against that tense historical backdrop, toss in the carving up of limited resources, refusal to cooperate on bi-state efforts, endless poaching of businesses from both sides of state line. To that toxic mix, introduce the current climate of college sports, which historian Taylor Branch so masterfully outlined in his Atlantic article, “The Shame of College Sports”, last fall, and, finally, add on the economic bust that is felling higher education across this region.

You get the picture. This heralded, bally-hooed sports rivalry, deemed historic by its sheer longevity, is a not-so-covert expression of the worst kind of ill will, the arrogant kind that perversely revels in the demise of others in all forms and forums: political, social, cultural, racial, economic, educational.

A time-out lasting at least several years is in order just so people might learn to live together before they even think about playing together again.

A glimmer of hope turned up on my doorstep a few days before that final game at the height of Hate Week. Ferocious prairie winds ripped a rotting rope in half on the flag pole in our yard, liberating an oversized team flag I’d given my husband as a Christmas gift, sending it sailing down the block while we were away.

An unknown neighbor, most certainly one who favored the other team, found the flag and tucked it, neatly folded, inside our door.
That, in my book, is true sportmanship.

So, is MU-KU hatred an anomaly? What is the sports rivalry like in your neck of the woods?