Sunday, May 23, 2010

Four “P’s”…

My weekends are usually boring…in a good kind of way. 


My friend Kathy Beaumont often does a “pink” page on her blog.  I’m not much of a “pink” person, so I decided that “pink” is the color of Bessie’s tongue hanging out in the 93 degree Houston “springtime”.


“So…got any treats?”

How hard is it to get three Border Collies to pose for a picture?  You be the judge….



I love hanging out on my patio.  It’s one of my great “simple pleasures”.  It needs repair; it’s falling apart; I don’t much care, it’s comfortable.

The entire 30 years they lived in Malvern (the last time), Dad always had red geraniums in the two urns in front of their door.  As they were walking out to get in the car to leave forever, he grabbed the last one.  Last year, he gave it to me.

This is today:


The mother-in-law tongues (a.k.a. Sansevieria) have a history as well.  The variegated one was Mother’s.  I don’t know how long she had it, but she gave me some of it when I lived in Houston the first time (1979).  The solid green was given to Mother by an elderly relative, who had gotten it when she was a housewife in the teens or twenties, to go on the front porch of their new bungalow in Dallas.  She bought a pot for it at the dime store and potted it.  She was 90 when she gave it to Mother.  Mother repotted, gave away, repotted again, split, gave me some, gave my sister some, gave all her relatives some.  When they moved, the pot remained on the back porch in Malvern from August to February, when Nathan and I went to get the rest of their stuff.  It looked dead.  I cut the tops off and replanted the live bits.  So, this is like, “great grandchild” of the original plant, but I know for a fact that the lady who gave it to Mother did so in 1970; she was 90 then; the pot was purchased during the teens or 20’s sometime.  So arguably the green one (with a little help) is 80-90 years old, give or take.  I must be doing something right; they’re both blooming.




Two Saturdays ago, I said goodbye to an old friend.  I bought the first Craftsman mower at the Sears store in Hot Springs.  Mowed my and Dad’s yard for years with it.  Like me (and like many things at my house), it became old, decrepit, and worn, with frequent breakdowns.  Two weeks ago, my neighbors had a garage sale.  I rolled the old lawn mower over there and said, “If someone will haul it off, I’ll be happy.”  They got $25 for it!

So, off I went to Sears (Bank of America threw a fit because I used my debit card; it’s a relatively small purchase; I got a great deal on a big sale.  I hate Bank of America, but they’re all just as bad…).  Say hello to my new friend!  I took the pic because it will never look this good again (and it doesn’t now, it’s dirty ;-).  So Saturday, I got up at 6:00 and fired it up; it did a beautiful job (with a little help from me).




Two items.  One, H-E-B had pork loin the other day for the amazing price of $2.00 a pound, so I bought two and froze one.  I’m using this easy Crockpot recipe from, and the smell is unbelievable! 

Not having it tonight, because I have a steak left over from the other night (I really love H-E-B, they always have terrific prices on their “meat special”; the T-bones were cheaper than the hamburger).  My friend Debra gave me her East Arkansas Delta Grannies' recipe for Kale.  I’d never cooked Kale before but was intrigued, and the price is sure right ($0.99 a bunch), so I tried it and it’s great.  So tonight I’m having Steak and Kale (and yes, I miss the late, great Steak and Ale). 


  • Cut stems from Kale (it folds; use sharp knife and it’s fast and easy).  Cut to bite-sized pieces.
  • Place in large pot, cover Kale with water
  • Two tablespoons black pepper into the water
  • 2-4 slices of bacon (or fatback if you have it)
  • Boil for 30 minutes
  • Drain, plate, garnish, salt, pepper, eat.


  • Chop one medium yellow onion
  • Place in small bowl, cover with white vinegar
  • Set aside and let those two work while the Kale is cooking

Drizzle the Onion/Vinegar mix over the Kale.

There’s another aspect to the “Pork” bit:  SEC Sports has all of last season’s Razorbacks games on their website.  I’ve got the Auburn game queued up and ready to go.

So that’s my boring (but pleasant) weekend.

Have a good week everybody!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Since I’m out of ideas right now, I’ll just steal one….

My friend Joyce over at From This Side of the Pond frequently puts up a “Random Dozen”.  This is another blog she follows; some of the questions on some of the pages are decidedly female, so usually I just read.  Some, though, are universal.

So, a random dozen:

1.What was the last thing about which you procrastinated?

This blog has space limitations….

2. How long does it take you to fall asleep, and do you sleep through the night?

True tragedy:  I generally fall asleep in front of the TeeVee, wake up somewhere around midnight (the dogs always know when it’s time to go to bed, as the TeeVee makes a decided “click” when I turn it off.  Aside for those under 40:  In the old days, when you did this, you woke up to a “test pattern”, which is what showed on the TeeVee station after it went off the air for the night.  When was the last time a station went off the air at night?

Me falling asleep in front of the TeeVee used to drive my Mother bonkers.  “GET UP AND GO TO BED,” she’d shout, using her “I’m your Mother and I mean what I’m saying” voice.  This was only a few years ago…Me middle-aged and her in her 80’s…

One more thing on sleep:  Thank God for CPAP.

3. Which decade would you choose to exemplify your favorite fashion styles?

Hmmm.  I’ve worn the same basic outfits my entire life (excluding my dreadful early 70’s brightly-coloured polyester phase.  I actually owned a pair of platform stacks; they were wing-tips---navy blue patent leather lower, cream patent leather uppers.  And they were my FAVOURITES and I wore them OFTEN.  In PUBLIC).  Khakis, loafers, polo shirts, button-down oxfords, navy blazers (gold buttons, no crest, that’s ridiculous, but can be single-or-double-breasted), shorts, sandals, Hawaiian shirts, bowling shirts, jeans, tennis shoes, ball caps.  Not sure there’s a decade to associate there.

4. What is your personal best dish to feed a crowd?

Spinach dip, steaks, mashed cauliflower (it’s better than potatoes), dessert by House of Pies.

5. Are you an impulse shopper? What was the last thing you bought on impulse?

I have to stay away from DSW Shoe Warehouse.  Can’t go in there and come out empty-handed.  Call me Imelda.

6. What is one wish you have for your own funeral?

I don’t want one.  I used to want a big one with all the trimmings, then I pared it down.  Now, I want to be cremated, with half my ashes scattered over my parents’ graves in Malvern, the other half over the Gulf of Mexico. I’d then like my friends (if I have any left by then) to have a party; wine, women, and song, and tell funny stories about me, remembering me fondly.  That would be best of all.

7. If it's true that joy is in found in the simple things in life, what does your joy look like today?

Community Coffee, Dark Roast, fresh ground from whole bean, with heavy whipping cream.  Best way to start the day.

8. What is your favorite type of bread?
Since I’m a low-carb person, I’m not supposed to have it.  I love pumpernickel (really, i do).

9. What trait do you fear developing the most? (Laziness, greediness, grumpiness, etc.)

I’ve already developed them….

10. What trait would you like most to develop?

Self-discipline (same answer Joyce gave).

11. Which room in your house best reflects your personality? Why?

It’s my house.  They all do.  And they’re all messy.

12. How do you maintain balance in your life regarding, work, family, church, other organizations and activities, and blogging?

I’m not doing very well…..

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day

I really miss Mom.

By hook and crook, Mom wound up with an heirloom rose bush.  It’s a fairly old-fashioned double tea rose, but Mother loved it and wound up with it.

It stayed in the back yard (where she could enjoy it), between her shop and the back door, for about 20 years.  When we moved them to San Antonio, they didn’t take the planted things, like “Grandma’s Rose”. 

Nathan and I went back to Malvern when the house sold to “clean up” and get any remaining items, and I saw that rose bush.  I knew the house had sold, but…I went and borrowed a shovel from the neighbors, dug it up, and brought it to Houston. 

The first year, it almost didn’t survive.  The second (last year), it made a few small but pretty blooms, and the foliage looked better.

Mother died in January.  Now, intellectually, I know that it was the particular combination of harsh winter + sudden spring that bump-started it---but I like to think Mother was saying "Hello” to me this year, through “Grammie’s Rose”.





Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Change, and Assurance

Had a nice long conversation yesterday with my friend Robert.  Robert and I have been friends practically our whole lives, and we talk frequently about practically everything.  Yesterday, we covered various items—our digestion (we’re middle aged now…), our weight (same deal), upcoming television programs, the Gulf Oil Spill (and some of the ramifications), and such.  We almost always wind up asking, “How on earth did we get here?”

My grandfather, Jester Jones, moved to town (Malvern) when he was in his early 20’s, and started to work at the Bank of Malvern as an Assistant Teller.  He wound up being de-facto President (the titular President was a Board Member) from 1955 till he retired in 1971.  He worked at that bank for 50 years. 

My Dad joined the US Army Air Corps in WWII.  After the War, he was in the USAF, then worked a couple of other jobs before going to work for the Department of Defense.  He retired from DOD in 1982, putting in over 30 years.

Mother worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company for 16 years before deciding to stay home with the kids.  Aunt Joy and Aunt Joydean put in over 30 years apiece with SWBTC.

Robert’s dad, Ed, graduated from TCU and went to work for National Cash Register.  He retired from NCR around 1982 or 1983, after well over 30 years.

Robert’s mom, Betty, stayed at home while her kids were little.  While they lived in Houston, she went back to school, got her degree, and began her teaching career.  She worked for HISD, then in Baton Rouge; then, when her husband’s career took them to San Antonio, she taught 5th grade for Northeast Independent School District for 30 years; retired, and is still substitute teaching at 82.  You go, Miss Betty, I hope you’re still teaching young minds when you cross the century mark.

Aunt Shorty worked for the Department of Defense for over 30 years.  Uncle Cal flew for the USAF for 25 years, then taught at the University of Arkansas for 20 years.  Pop Fink was an MD for the VA from the end of WWII until the early 80’s.


When Robert and I got out of school, the times, they were a changin’ (thanks, Bob Dylan).  Suddenly, you weren’t “job hopping” if you changed jobs often; in fact, you were kind of a dolt if you didn’t.  Liberty Mutual was paying me $12,500 a year with a company car; Alexander and Alexander offered $20,000 plus a car plus air travel and a dee-luxe cubicle in the sky (21st floor, Diamond Shamrock Tower, with a west view, Dallas).  I mean, look at the size of that increase!  Yeah, I took it.

Over the years, I’ve worked for various insurance organizations.  For those who don’t understand anything about it, your hometown insurance agent is one small piece of the grand insurance puzzle.  Other than 2 years, I’ve never handled personal lines (and hope I never do).  This means:  no, I can’t get you a better deal on your car insurance (I buy it just like you do, and know just about as much about it).  No, I don’t sell life insurance.  I don’t sell anything.  I handle commercial insurance claims, specifically products liability, general liability, commercial auto, and my specialty, Workers’ Compensation.  I have dealt with treaty reinsurance, Lloyd’s, multilayered excess and surplus lines, and workers compensation in 40 states.  I’ve worked for major insurance carriers, brokerages, self-insureds, and Third Party Administrators.  I’ve been part owner of a TPA, as Vice-President.  Each one of my career moves (save one) has been for what I consider to be a good reason; more money, better job, desired location.  I say “save one”, because the billion-dollar company for which I worked, the large self-insured, laid me off in December, 2008.  That’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been involuntarily separated from a company; the rest have been at my own behest.

Rob, too, has worked for all kinds of companies.  He started in sales, then made a mid-career switch to real estate appraisal.  He, too, made each one of his moves for “a good reason”, whatever the case may be.  One of his big things has been to stay in Texas (I’ve moved all over); he’s a good son to his parents.


Why all this verbiage about dull-as-dishwater business resumes?

This last Thursday, the employer which moved me to Houston, the one that laid me off in December, 2008, filed for bankruptcy.  Their stock was trading at $0.58 a share, too low to be traded on NASDAQ.  It was over $15 a share when I joined the company in 2007.  The Great Recession got them.  I haven’t talked to anyone over there, but I’m sure this means heavy-duty reorganization, probably with some layoffs or spinoffs.  I know many people lost a fortune (literally) on the stock.

As Robert and I discussed this yesterday, it dawned on me:  of all the employers for whom I’ve worked over the last 31 years, TWO (2) out of the TEN (10) are still in business under their original names (at least the name they had when I worked there), doing business as and owned by the same organizations.  The rest?  Defunct.  Subsumed into another organization.  Spun off.  Bought, sold, name changed, bankrupted, morphed, combined, uncombined and split, recombined, spun off.  Several were victims of the Great Recession.

My friend W (not sure she’d want this on my blog, she’s very private and I respect that), started in the same office one year before I did, 31 years ago (our first jobs out of college).  She worked for that company her entire career.  Didn’t matter.  They closed their Houston office (it opened in 1912) and shifted everything to Dallas.  They offered her a new job (demotion, same pay) in Dallas with no relocation package.  She has lived here 31 years, her husband has about 5 to go for full retirement, their house is paid off, her adult daughter also lives here.  What do you think she did?


All this change has been, to say the least, unsettling.  Finances shot. Retirement?  HA!  I’m incredibly lucky I found a job where I could eat and stay in my house (even if I have to drive 20 miles each way on the Katy Freeway to get to it).  An added bonus is that I actually like the company and the people with whom I work.

Even as late as 2007 (just 3 years ago), who on earth would have thought GENERAL MOTORS would go bankrupt?  I mean, yes, they were in trouble, but somehow I thought they’d pull some kind of rabbit out of their hat.  Who could have foreseen 9/11?  Well, in an abstract way, of course---we all knew it could have happened, and may happen again at any time, but like our own deaths, it’s “out there” somewhere in the future.  Same with Hurricane Katrina---it’s the Gulf.  Hurricanes happen.  New Orleans is below sea level.  There was a huge levee system holding back Lake Pontchartrain.  Think about it.  I lived through Hurricane Ike (with very little personal trauma).  The fact that we had a major hurricane 2 years ago does not preclude us from having another one this year.  It happens.

Now we have this huge oil spill in the Gulf, which has the possibility of being the worst man-made ecological disaster in history.  (It’s fascinating, from a Risk Management standpoint---Enterprise Risk Management---what did the BP Risk Manager do to prepare his/her organization for this?  What insurance coverages did they have?  What are the contracts between them and Transocean?  What did the RM do to prepare the organization from potentially fatal litigation?  This one will go down in insurance lore like Bhopal and the Union Carbide asbestosis claims).  I claim to be a semi-environmentalist, but then, you’ll get my 21 mpg van when you can pry the keys from my cold, dead fingers.

Then, of course, there is the Great Recession.  In hindsight, it was easy to see that it was coming.  At the time, not so much.

How on earth would you have predicted all this stuff?  If you did, why didn’t you tell the rest of us???  And, would we have listened if you did?

I’ve had a pretty crappy last few years (with a couple of years of lovely exception).  Everybody I know has had a crappy last two years, without exception.


As I write this, I’m sitting on my patio.  It’s early morning Sunday morning.  I’ve got a cup of steaming coffee on the table beside me.  My dogs are lounging in their most lazy fashion.  The doves are calling back and forth (this is south Texas), and a mockingbird is singing in a nearby tree.  There’s a little light breeze off the Gulf.  I’ve got some hibiscus and bougainvillea to pot this morning (to replace those which were destroyed this last harsh winter), and a new hosta to replace the one that finally died in my Grandmother’s old wash pot (it was the same age as me, and I managed to kill it).  It’s going to be hot and muggy in Houston today (news flash). 

The sun came up.  Life goes on.  What’s next?


It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

(click the title of this piece above if you don’t know the history)