Friday, September 28, 2007

Not a Keeper

When my in-laws brought the little black dog home and opened the pet carrier, she jumped into Mom Z's lap and sat staring into her face, tail happily wagging. My father-in-law said, "That dog's a keeper!" And so a name was found.

After Dad Z passed away, Keeper provided some noise and life to the quiet house. She was good company. Whenever we made the drive down to Corpus Christi to visit my mother-in-law, Keeper kept my sons amused all weekend.

If she was under a blanket and they touched her, a rumbling came from the covered-up lump. If they continued to poke her, the growling would become more menacing until finally, with a loud bark, she'd threaten to bite.

The strange thing was that if the blanket was suddenly yanked off of her, she'd look up with innocent eyes, as if to say, "what? It wasn't me!"

When Mom Z had to move temporarily into a nursing home last year, my sister-in-law went to the house every day to feed Keeper. When we visited, we took the dog with us to the nursing home so she could see her "mama".

One weekend, I went down to Corpus alone to visit Mom Z at the home, and stayed at her house. Keeper kept me company and rode along as usual when I went to see Mom Z. On Sunday, I packed and stacked my things by the door. Finally, I was ready to carry everything to the car. I found Keeper curled up next to my suitcase. Her ears perked up when my keys rattled and she jumped into a sitting position, tail wagging, big brown eyes hopeful. I just couldn't leave her behind.

It was only temporary, after all. Mom Z was recovering from a leg amputation (!) but-after physical therapy- would eventually return to her own house. We brought Keeper back and forth to Corpus to visit her mama at the nursing home, but when the weekend was over, she returned to our house with us.

One morning my husband called from work. Mom Z had suffered a stroke and was being transported to the hospital. Before he could even get on the road to Corpus, he got a call that she had died.

Life can change in an instant. One day she was working, living on her own and the next day she was disabled. Now, suddenly, she was gone.

After the memorial service, we packed some mementos from her house and carefully placed her ashes in the car. As I walked around, I realized Keeper was following close behind me. I picked her up and held her close. "Guess you belong to us now,' I told her.

Back at our house,when someone played the "under the blanket" game, the sounds Keeper made were the sounds of Grandma's house. And when she hopped into my lap, staring at my face with those big, thankful eyes I thought about Mom Z: the smell of her good cooking, my kids on the floor counting the change Grandma saved for them and above the noise of football on TV, the latest news about her friends. Grandma and her house. It was all there in Keeper's face.

A few months passed. Keeper got along just fine with our dog, Sparky. But she started to become possesive of me. She followed me like a shadow around the house all day and growled quietly if anyone else tried to pet her. We thought she was afraid they were going to take her away from me. We laughed it off. She was all talk as far as we knew. She had never bitten anybody.

One night this past June, Keeper was sleeping on my bed and I bent way down to scoop her up, putting my face close to hers as I told her it was time to move. Suddenly, she was all teeth and snarls, attacking my face. I screamed and fought but couldn't get her off. My son ran in with panic in his voice, "What is it?!!" and then ran to get my husband.

And then I was holding my face in my hands, sobbing as blood splattered on the floor on my way to the bathroom. We went to the Emergency Room and I came home with my face bandaged. No need for stitches, thankfully.

We had to put her to sleep. It was hard to do, because after the attack she was on her best behavior, acting extra-cute and contrite. We were told by my doctor to wait 10 days to watch her for signs of illness, just to be sure that I'd be OK. So two weeks after we put our beloved Sparky down, we laid Keeper to rest.

No more soft, warm fur curled up against me on the couch. No more greetings at the door. Our two-dog home is now strangely quiet and lifeless. A big box of a house, full of silent furniture. I miss those silly dogs every day.


I wasn't going to post the photos of my face all bloody and swollen after the attack because...well, I look really bad! But then I thought a little gratuitous gore might get me a bit of sympathy. ("Oh, poor Caryl! Look how she's suffered!") Yeah, like that. OK, bring on the sympathy:

It's funny, though. Ever since the swelling went down, I think I look better than I did before the attack!

And my breasts got bigger, too. Go figure.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just Because It's My Birthday

I can get away with anything today because it's my birthday. So I'm gonna be completely immature and silly and send this song out from me to Taylor. Wee-hee! Enjoy!! (Play it! Do it for me. For my birthday!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oh, Canada!

I finally got to accompany Greg on a business trip! And it only took 25 years of patience. He had meetings in Calgary, Canada, Monday through Wednesday, so we went up early and spent the weekend.

Calgary: (the locals pronounce it, cal-GARY)

I've always loved Canada. Greg grew up 15 minutes from the Canadian border (outside Buffalo, NY) and we both went to college about three hours from Niagara Falls. I don't know how many times I've been to the Falls (the Canadian side is more beautiful), but I've also spent time in Toronto and Quebec.

The people are friendly, the roadways & parks are very clean and it's fun to hear French spoken occasionally. Heck, even Canadian money is prettier than ours:

Even with the prettier money and the occasional French, tooling around Niagara Falls, Toronto and Quebec never really felt like a whole other country. I guess because we could drive there, or as Goldie Hawn says in the movie, "Protocol", "it's like, attached." Calgary would be a new experience for me because we have to spin our globe to find it (and it's pink!).

We got in late Friday night and stayed at a lovely hotel at the airport. (No, it really was surprisingly nice!) We woke early, picked up our rental car and headed out for Banff. Banff is about a two hour drive north and is in the middle of the Canadian Rockies.

I took about a hundred pictures because every sight seemed to be more beautiful than the next. I tried my best to get it down to a manageable number. These are from our drive:

The white stuff in this photo is a cloud!

The white stuff in this photo is snow!

Here is our hotel in Banff:

The heart of downtown was within walking distance, so we spent the day walking around.

We also explored a famous, old hotel which looks like a castle:

The Fairmont Banff Springs

By the way, the weather was delightfully chilly, about 55 degrees. Not really cold, just fresh and crisp enough to make you feel alive. Being outside even in September in Houston is not life-affirming. It's life threatening! After 30 minutes outside, if you don't drop dead from heat stroke, you want to kill yourself.

That night we ate at a fancy-schmancy restaurant in Banff where I had wild salmon and Greg had elk. Both were delicious. (Sadly, I didn't have the guts to take a picture!)

But wait! There's more! About a five minute drive away are the Banff Upper Hot Springs. We took the waters before calling it a day.

Their (edited) Story:

"Canada's Native people were the first to soak in the hot springs. These were sacred waters - a place to cure illness and maintain health. The new bath house opened in 1932 and rivalled other world famous spas of the time.

Groundwater makes a long journey deep into the earth's crust. It is heated, pressurized, loaded with minerals and travels back to the surface along the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault. The temperature at the source of the spring reaches 47.3° C (117.1° F) in the winter and is cooled to make it comfortable for bathers. The water is slightly cooler in the spring due to increased ground water from snow melt."

Sunday morning we drove up to Lake Louise. We walked along the lake, past the shaded area in this photo:

It was just beautiful. There's another famous old hotel facing the lake (behind me as I took this photo) called the Fairmont Lake Louise. (These "Fairmont" people know what they're doing!)

We drove back to Calgary and checked into the Sheraton. This hotel room was on Marathon's dime because Sunday night is when Greg would have arrived for his Monday morning meeting. The room was gorgeous! Probably the nicest hotel room I've ever stayed in. You had to swipe your room key in the elevator just to gain access to our floor.

Greg was annoyed that the company spent that much money on his room, but he said it must have been the only room available. You'll get no complaints from me:

Monday morning I had about two hours to kill before I had to leave for the airport, so I walked over to the park. I didn't do a dang thing except watch the ducks paddle by, listen to the wind and smell the pine trees. I gathered a few pine cones and noticed the trees had some tiny buds, like a whisper of the winter to come. As I walked back to the hotel I noticed I was smiling.

Say what you will about Canada, but it's a beautiful place. They seem to value their outdoor spaces more than we Americans do. There are recycling bins everywhere, flowers everywhere and the Calgary Airport is "green". All things that are good for your soul.

I knew it would be hot back in Houston. It was. I got into my car at the Houston airport at 7:00 in the evening and cranked up the air conditioning. It was 90 degrees outside.

No worries. Let's just enjoy my photos, shall we?

Taylor Tuesday

Taylor Hicks Opens for Earth, Wind and Fire at the Jones Beach Amphitheater

Sunday night I got a call on my cell phone. When I answered it, I could hear the muffled sound of Taylor Hicks singing "Gonna Move". Brian's exquisite sax solo was next and then Taylor's voice finished it off. A loud roar erupted from the crowd.

"Caryl?", my brother-in-law, Bruce, yelled into the phone, "did you hear that?"

Oh, yeah, I heard it, alright. The grin on my face was proof of that.

"Here, say 'hi' to your sister", he continued, as the crowd quieted down.

"Hi, Caryl!" Cathy said. I could hear Taylor's voice in the background, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. "I'll talk to you later," Cathy added, obviously pre-occupied. Then the phone went dead.

Well, that was fun, I thought. Nice of them to call. I'm so happy that they seem to be having a good time. Damn! I wish I was there.

I bought Cathy and Bruce tickets to see Earth, Wind and Fire for their 25th wedding anniversary. I told my sister that Taylor was the opening act, but we kept that fact a secret from Bruce. He'd been giving me a hard time about being a TH fan: "He's like Neil Sedaka! Only not as good!" It didn't matter what I said in return. I knew he'd have to experience Taylor live to see how wrong he was.

I spoke to Bruce after Taylor's set and his voice held the sound of a smile. "Yeah, he puts on a good show," he said, "and the women love him."

Cathy sent me an e-mail the next day with some more details:

"Thanks again for the tickets. We really enjoyed the show. Taylor was very entertaining. He always seems like he's enjoying himself. The women around us were SO into him. They were on their feet, dancing, clapping, singing and shrieking when he wiggled his butt. PS At one point he tripped over a wire and almost fell but he didn't miss a beat!

Interesting thing happened... As we were walking through the parking lot toward the theater a group of women asked us to take their pictures. Taylor music was blaring out of their stereo and 3 cameras were thrust into our hands.."take another picture, take another, thanks alot, enjoy the show." As we finally made it to our seats I spotted someone from work (pretty remarkable, considering the place has thousands of seats.)

Tom and his wife were seated in our row, a few seats away. His wife was talking to one of the picture women from the parking lot. Turns out the picture women had won a backstage pass to see Taylor. After awhile the other women from the parking lot showed up and at least one other of them had also won a backstage pass.

I'll see if I can ask Tom about the pictures, if they have a website or something where you can see them.

Thanks again, Love Cathy"

I guess Cathy means that the women won meet and greet passes. You wanna hear something that's enough to make a grown TH fan cry? Remember, I bought the tickets for my sister? Well, I WON A MEET AND GREET, but I couldn't go. The show was in NY and I live in Texas. Oh well, I'll live. I meeted and greeted Taylor a couple of times out by his bus, so I'm not TOO bitter.

Here is a segment of "Big Boss Man" from the Jones Beach show, shot by Diane from HQ. Watch how he flirts with the camera...I mean with YOU. Enjoy!

Friday, September 7, 2007


My husband and our dog didn't get along most of the time. It's ironic, really, because Greg was the only one Sparky liked at first.
We surprised our two boys with the Dachshund puppy about 13 years ago. Unfortunately, when Greg put the dog carrier down to let them peek inside, this ball of brown fur growled menacingly at them. Even I couldn't get near him.

Dachshunds are fiercely protective and slow to trust anyone new. But after a week of Mom feeding him and the boys rolling around with him, Sparky decided he liked all of us. But he still preferred Greg.
He missed him so much during the day that he was beside himself when he heard Greg's truck pull into the driveway. Sparky would run around the house, under and over the furniture doing what the boys call his "doggie dance." When Greg finally walked through the door, Sparky was so overcome that he gave Greg the best greeting a dog could think of. He peed on his shoes.

Because I love dogs, I'll tolerate a lot, but I didn't appreciate Sparky's token of affection. Greg appreciated it even less. While he was yelling at the dog, Sparky did a peculiar thing. He peed some more. That bought the dog a ticket to the yard for the night.

Our vet told me that this was Sparky's way of showing submission. If he's relieving himself, he can't attack. In other words, Sparky was showing Greg that he's the leader of our pack. It was really a compliment. Then, if Greg yelled, Sparky assumed he wasn't doing it right, so he'd do it some more.

By this time, the boys were calling Sparky their brother. It became harder to consider giving him away. We found that the less Greg interacted with the dog, the better. Over the years, Greg learned to ignore Sparky and I learned to use a carpet steamer.
Actually, we all mellowed with age. Sparky did his doggie dance less often and finally had trouble walking altogether. When Greg came home, Sparky would lift his head in acknowledgment, but that's about it. Greg will plop down in a chair, look at him with a heavy sigh and quietly say, "I hate that dog." No more big outbursts, no big scenes.

Last year, Sparky's health spiraled downhill. Sometimes he couldn't even stand and if he did manage to get up on all fours, he walked around and around in circles. One night, as Sparky lie on his bed, I heard Greg talking to him in soothing tones. Peering around the corner I saw my macho husband sitting on the floor, stroking the dog's fur. Sparky managed a limp tail wag in return. The old bond was still there.

Later, we were awakened by the sound of Sparky howling. I found him on the kitchen floor, laying in his own poop, unable to get up. It was obvious that the moment we'd been dreading was here. As our final act of kindness, we'd have to put him to sleep.
I made the appointment and carried him to the car. Before we went into our vet's office, I let Sparky finish off my Starbucks coffee (which he always liked). While waiting in the outer office, Sparky paced in wobbly circles, around and around with no particular destination in mind.
They called us in and when I saw the operating room atmosphere of this room I had never been in before, I burst into tears. The vet's assistant told me she'd give me a moment, so I picked up that fat, confused dog, rocked him on my lap and told him I loved him. I placed him carefully back on his feet and left.
I feel badly that I couldn't stay with him to ease him into the next world, but I just couldn't do it. I didn't want to see his lifeless body. I wanted to keep that memory of him doing his doggie dance, laughing as he flew, under and over the furniture, full of life and happy that the whole family was there with him.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Taylor Tuesday" Spillover

I feel compelled to comment on the results of our most recent poll. Wow! I did NOT expect voters to choose Loren as King of the Groupies. He's married!

I saw Boogie and Brian "working" a couple of boobilicious women after a show and expected the two of them to come in as a close tie in this poll. But I've also heard stories about Loren flirting with the ladies in the front row during shows.

I took this photo and was startled to find Loren looking at me when I looked in the viewfinder. He wasn't flirting with me (I'm not boobilicious), but it still made me feel self-conscious:

So let's talk about why you voted the way you did. Got any dirt?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Austin Soccer Tournament

This past weekend, my son and I motored off to Austin where his soccer team participated in a tournament. My husband had obligations elsewhere, so this trip was all me.

The team stayed at a very nice hotel. So nice, in fact, that I considered holing up in my room all weekend and skipping the games. But no, that wasn't an option. Even though I'm not a sports fan, I'm a huge fan of my son and will watch him do anything.

Lanky number 11 is my little baby. He requested, "No photos, please!" That's why I'm showing him from the back.

So, to make a long story short, the weekend basically sucked for me. I got lost just about every time I got behind the wheel of our car and whenever I did stumble upon the correct field, it was freakin hot on the sidelines. (Luckily my son rode with the team to the games and was always on time!) I wound up with a headache one night, missed "Big Brother" Sunday night and drove home in a rain storm on Monday:

My son, on the other hand, had a blast! His team took first place in the tourney and he enjoyed hanging out with the guys at the hotel. *sap alert* That made it all worthwhile.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Taylor Tuesday

Something's been nagging at me for a while concerning Taylor Hicks. It's a subject which clearly annoys him whenever it's mentioned, but I feel something must be said. Let's stop speaking of it in hushed tones, in darkened chat rooms and bring it out into the light for discussion. (deep breath) It's his hair.

I don't care that it's gray. In fact, Taylor's hair is such a beautiful shade of gray that it shimmers silvery under the lights. It's lovely. It makes you want to slide your fingers through it What were we talking about? Oh right, his hair.

I get the impression he simply doesn't want to be bothered with some kind of a trendy style. But whenever Taylor is left to his own devices, he falls back on that little boy haircut with bangs:

My favorite photos of the T-man show him sporting a bit of product just right there in the front:

Of course, since Taylor's an impatient kinda guy, I'm afraid if he attempted it himself, it would probably look like this:

So here's what I'm thinking. Taylor needs to add a stylist to his entourage for the next tour. And since it was my idea, I think it should be me. ;)

*Editor's note: The original title for this piece was "Banging Taylor Hicks", but the moderator of this blog (me) noticed the author (again, me) had difficultly concentrating on the body...of...uh...what? Something about bangs. Oh, right, "Banging Taylor Hicks." I mean like this:

Keep it clean, people!