Monthly Archives: July 2011

Avoiding meltdown, in 3… 2… 1…

So far, this has been a wretched summer with epic heat. Enervating record-breaking triple-digit heat that fuels scattered short-lived afternoon storms wherein even the raindrops are hot. Hot steamy rain that saturates the air and leaves it so thick you feel as if you might drown on the next deep breath.

It’s making me cranky.

Today was unusual. Today a “cold” front passed through and not only did it rain, it rained all afternoon. Thick clouds thwarted the sun’s intensity and the outdoor temp dropped into the mid-70s. And stayed there for hours. It was dark and gloomy and I didn’t even bother to turn on lights, just basked in the dim filter of day-long dusk and enjoyed it. Because tomorrow, and every day next week and every day the week after and every damn day for the next two months, is forecast to be back into the upper 90s, flirting with 100.

I hate summer in the South. It is pure relentless wilting misery and I hate it with a passion.

But it occurs to me that complaining about the heat just makes it seem worse. So let’s think about a different time. And a different kind of rain. A rain that felt cool and refreshing and life affirming. Yes, we do have that kind of rain down here. In fact, I wrote about it a couple years ago and am re-posting it today — mostly because I like it but also because I’m focused on other writing just now (please forgive the repetition).

I hope it will be a nice break from the stifling heat of summer and that you all can let your imagination wander to a quiet moment on a cool weekend morning when I paused to enjoy a . . .

Rainy day in spring

It is dark and raining here this morning. The kind of hard heavy steady rain that says, pay attention, and no matter what you thought you were going to do, you stop and listen instead. Too many drops to count, yet you can hear the rhythm of each one. The small steady slap of it on the roof and leaves and street, the music of it running fast through eaves and downspouts, in the fleeting splash of a car driving by.

A quick gust of wind waves dense leafy branches through the flow, disrupting the steady downward path, diverting drops like a hand testing the temperature of a shower. The gust moves on and the thick drops fall harder, crowding together in a pale gray sheet.

The back door is open and the smell of wet comes through the screen. Sodden chlorophyll and damp ground, giving up the hot sweat of the past week’s growth, rinsing off leaves and bark and blades of grass to run down the slope of the next yard to the creek, filling the air with the ripe earthy scent.

The torrent is timeless and ageless, full of significance yet devoid of meaning. The rain is all there is. No crackle of lightning or rumble of thunder. Nothing moves under the onslaught, there are no other sounds, only the steady soaking drum of the rain. And you are still, listening.

The gloom lifts slowly as the rain tapers off, the symphony ending not with a crescendo but a soft reprise as a cool damp breeze gently teases small drops down in a light patter from the high branches where they linger. There is movement in an upstairs bedroom and you recall the tasks at hand.

Soon the air is redolent with the smell of freshly sliced melon and frying bacon. Outside, the birds resume their springtime songs.


Filed under miscellaneous bits

Kids and Dogs and Cookies, Oh My!

My daughter was in town last week for a highly anticipated visit, part of which was spent at the beach. Hey, it’s summer. Time at the beach is practically a requirement down here. She left The Intruder Cat behind in New Orleans, but brought along her five-month-old black lab puppy, Jenny. Which was fine. Well, it would have been fine. Except Jenny wasn’t the only pet in residence. I’d also agreed to take custody of Quincy The Wonder Dog for the week. Plus my own ancient curmudgeonly cat. I know, what was I thinking?

So my daughter dropped off The Little Terrorist, as Jenny quickly became known, and she and her brother went to the beach in SC with their dad for several days. Luckily, Jenny is crate trained and I still had a dog crate in the basement.

Now, I love black labs and all three of our dogs have been labs, either purebred or some kind of lab mix. So I KNOW how hyper they are. And after 11 years of dealing with The Wonder Dog, I know exactly how BAD um, that is, how wild ass crazy they can be.

Even so, I was surprised by Jenny’s sheer exuberance. She SO wanted to be best friends with Quincy (and my cat, when she could find her) and was convinced that if she just tried a little bit harder, things would all work out. She was mistaken. Surprise. But the big shock for me was realizing that, in comparison, The [Sadly Maligned] Wonder Dog was a model of calm well-behaved patience and tolerance. Made me feel old.

I tried to take some pictures, but mostly they were a dark blur of moving dog parts. My cell phone is my only camera these days and it pauses for several ominous seconds between when you push “take” and when it actually takes the damn picture. My old cell phone didn’t do this, so I assume this is some fancy new technology, even though I have no idea what’s going on in there. Maybe it’s contacting Homeland Security so they can run the image through a facial recognition program. Probably notifies MI-6 and the Mossad as well. Whatever. But during that time, the tableau has completely changed and I find I’ve taken a picture of . . . carpet that desperately needs to be vacuumed.

My son took this pic, wherein Jenny is attempting a submissive attitude. That didn’t last longer than it took her to notice The Wonder Dog had taken possession of her bone.

Here she is taunting him with her massive hunk of knotted rawhide. No, that is not a euphemism. Quince is not allowed to have rawhide treats — he’s too strong. He tears off huge chunks and swallows them whole and then I end up scraping a slimy fetid mess off the carpet in the middle of the night while thinking up horrific tortures to inflict on whoever invented the damn things.

Here they are together, promising to be good if I’ll let them come inside. If you’ve ever wondered, this is exactly what it looks like right before all hell breaks loose.

And here’s Quincy pouting. Wondering when His Favourite Person is coming back to rescue him. Poor baby.

But mostly we had fun and the cat didn’t inflict too much lasting damage on either dog. A little canine therapy, perhaps a few sessions of shock treatment, and they’ll be good as new. And then the kids came back from the beach and I discovered they no longer had any idea how to fend for themselves, given the amount of food I cooked for them and their friends during the rest of the week. Ahem.

My daughter did make the blueberry pie featured in the last blog post. As an early birthday treat for her brother. Who promptly laid claim to the leftovers and said, “You’re not going to eat this, are you mom?” and took it home with him (which was the plan). And then my daughter somehow talked me into staying up past midnight on her last night here to bake Monster Cookies to take with her on the 13-1/2 hour drive home. Honestly? There was very little persuasion involved.

[I mentioned Monster Cookies on twitter and received a request for the recipe. Rather than add it to this already lengthy post, I added a page called “Misc.” and put it over there. Hope you enjoy, Adrienne!]

So now my house is quiet again and the dog hair has been vacuumed up, narrowly escaping inclusion on the list of Superfund sites, and the cat has emerged from pissed-off seclusion. I’ve already eaten the handful of cookies allotted for my own personal consumption. Although they were satisfyingly large, they didn’t even come close to filling the empty aching void that opened up again when my daughter left. Given her penchant for spending time in far off places, you’d think I’ve have gotten used to that by now. You’d be wrong.


Filed under just for fun, Quincy the Wonder Dog

Independence: FAIL

In the spirit of the holiday, I decided I would declare my independence from STUFF this weekend and indulge in a mini-writer’s retreat sort of thing. Enjoy three whole days away from the office, detach from the monotony of the familiar, cut all ties to distractions. Make some real progress with re-write number– whatever, I’ve stopped counting.

In theory: Yay, go me! In practice? Yeah, not so much.

Of course, due to budget constraints, the “retreat” part of the weekend mostly meant sitting on the other end of the couch. Which, oddly, wasn’t nearly as comfortable. Apparently I list to the left.

So I made the bold move of relocating to the couch in the other room. This caused my elderly cat to think I had died or something, given that she perched on the back of my regular spot in the family room and yowled like her little heart was breaking. What the hell does she do when I go to work? Poor thing. So, back to the same old spot, where she promptly curled up at my hip, purred and went to sleep.

Then I tried sitting at the kitchen table. This offered a nice woodland view through the bay window, but odd arm/hand angles for typing. Horribly uncomfortable, but at least I wouldn’t doze off. Not that that’s ever a problem, my writing is absolutely riveting. Ahem. Then my cat came in to sit on the floor like a dark blot of indignation just at the edge of my field of vision, glaring at me like a feline Basilisk of Doom. Sigh.

So much for trying to physically retreat from the same old rut. Well, I could still detach from all the other distractions, right? Like the internet. I’ve heard about a program called “Freedom” that irrevocably disables your internet connection for a set period of time. But that sounds so . . . restrictive. Imposed freedom. Sort of the antithesis of independence.

Besides, this seemed like such a good time to catch up on all those oh-so-informative blog posts I’d been meaning to read. I had three whole days, how long could it take? And of course I had to comment on a couple. But no twitter. Well, okay, maybe a little twitter. But no email. Everyone could just wait. Only there were a few that really couldn’t. ARRRGH!!

But the phone, I could ignore that! Except for those three people whose calls I will never ignore. And sure enough, they all called me. Or texted me. Some more than once. But it was a long weekend, certainly I could devote a few minutes, or an hour or two, to family?

So here it is late on the third day and I’ve actually made good progress in spite of the universe and my cat trying to thwart me, but not as much as I’d hoped. And I’m sitting here thinking those rebels had it easy 235 years ago — they didn’t have to worry about gaining independence from the internet or their cell phones. Probably not from their cats either. No, all they had to do was write a little declaration thing. Not like it was an entire novel. Oh, and also fend off an attacking army and kill a few thousand of their oppressors. Piece of cake. Or pie.

Oh, PIE! Something shiny! Let’s have pie! Sour Cream Blueberry Pie to be exact. It’s a July 4th tradition in my house. But wait, I’ve declared my independence from that sort of thing. Plus I figure I still have several hours left of this long weekend. Plenty of time to defeat my oppressors and be all productive.

I have an idea: YOU MAKE PIE! My daughter made this one last weekend and texted me a picture of it. She’s so thoughtful sometimes. Doesn’t it look delicious?

Here’s the recipe. My sister-in-law gave it to me years ago, but I’m pretty sure she got it from Southern Living. No idea where they got it.



1 egg, beaten
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (I use a bit more)
1/4 tsp salt

2-1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
(you’re going to want to use a deep pie dish for this one)


3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp butter, softened (room temp)
3 Tbsp chopped pecans or walnuts

Combine first six ingredients, beat 5 min at medium speed of electric mixer or until smooth.

Fold in blueberries (with spatula). Don’t over-stir, you’ll damage berries.

Pour filling into pie crust (I’m assuming you know to put the crust IN the pie dish before this step).

BAKE at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Combine remaining ingredients (use pastry cutter to mix flour & butter, it will be a sort of crumbly texture, not smooth, then add nuts). Remove pie from oven, sprinkle this mixture over top, return to oven.

BAKE for 10 additional minutes (or so) until topping sort of melts.

CHILL before serving. (also, store leftovers in the fridge, not that there will be any)


You’re welcome!

So tell me, what traditions did you embrace over this long holiday weekend? Also, any advice you have for getting away from it all without actually, you know, going anywhere would be appreciated . . . now that my weekend “retreat” is almost over. Sigh.


Filed under goals, holidays