Calling all Parakeets — Ready, Aim, Fire!

Oh my gosh! Imagine my surprise at opening today’s newspaper and seeing my picture staring back at me!

Some time ago, our newspaper sent a reporter and photographer to my home office to interview me for a careers feature that runs on a regular basis. Now, I knew they were doing the article, but I’d forgotten which day they said it would appear.

It was today!

Small businesses like mine rarely can afford big-time advertising. We do what we can — phone book, online, etc. — but it’s far too costly to do TV (and even newspaper advertising is out of reach for many).

So to have this much exposure can be a real boost to a business.

It could prove to be overwhelming, too, but I’m not going to think about that. I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts, realizing (as a former newspaper-person myself) that today’s paper too soon becomes tomorrow’s bird cage liner!

My Flighty Muse

Why is it that, when my mind and body are at their busiest, my Muse decides to inundate me with writing material??

Maybe I’m in the shower, or exercising, or driving to an appointment, or even just dropping off to sleep. Maybe I’m up to my ears designing Websites for clients or making updates on already-designed sites.

Regardless, it’s then that my lovely Muse appears, and I learned long ago never to ignore her!

She’s a flighty thing, my Muse. Once I tuned her out, and she punished me with too much time on my hands and no ideas. Couldn’t even write a simple Thank-you note!

So I don’t ignore her any more.

I stop what I’m doing, grab paper and pen (or my computer), and frantically get down everything she gives me, with all the detail I can recall. This I stash away in a secret place, to be pulled out when the well runs dry.

Many times, I’ve found her “gifts” questionable. That’s probably my fault more than hers. We mortals often don’t understand or fully appreciate intuition, and ideas can vanish like smoke; then, too, what sounded plausible at one time might, upon deeper contemplation, appear silly.

Nevertheless, you won’t catch me without a notepad and pen — in my car, at my desk, beside my bed. You might call it a journalist’s curse; I call it being prepared.

For when my Muse does show up, I don’t want her to catch me slacking!

Age is Just a Number

Earlier this month, our local newspaper interviewed me for a careers feature they run periodically on businesses in our area.

After my name, the first question was, “How old are you?”

Now I can’t speak for others, but that’s a question I never answer — ever!

It’s right up there with “How much money do you make?” and “How much do you weigh?”

After a certain age — for women, I think 35 — you shouldn’t have to answer it. I mean, my son is 19 so you do the math! If you want to think I had him at 16, be my guest!!

Probably because I work in a traditionally young person’s field, I don’t want to age myself out of business. Nor should I have to.

Age is a funny thing, really. When we’re kids, we’re always looking forward to the next birthday. We’re not “twelve-and-a-half;” we’re “almost thirteen!”

And when we become young adults, we never feel compelled to fudge on our age. Any time I got carded for trying to buy a drink in my twenties (yeah, I know — young and dumb!), I couldn’t fish out my drivers license fast enough!

So when is it that we become more secretive about our age?

For some, it’s “middle age.” While a few flaunt it without shame — letting their hair go totally gray, embracing their “spare tire” or bald head — others re-double their efforts at chasing youth. They join gyms, invest in hair dye and Botox, or dump their spouse for a younger model.

I’ve known people who’d never ask for a Senior Discount and others who think even buying gasoline should qualify for one!

Perhaps the truly old people are the luckiest. They can commiserate about their age-related aches, joke about their “senior moments,” spend countless hours reminiscing about the Good Old Days, and remind us that “age is just a number.”

Don’t Touch my Stuff

Did anyone read “Dear Abby” in the newspaper or online this morning? Go ahead, read it; I’ll wait.

No? Okay, then, I’ll summarize: The writer (Kid 1) said he’d left his college dorm room unlocked for a short time to retrieve something in a friend’s room. Upon his return, Kid 1 found his laptop, cell phone, and several books missing. He panicked because it was close to final exam time. Later that night, another friend (Kid 2), appeared at his door and “confessed” to the deed, saying he was trying to teach Kid 1 not to leave his door unlocked.

Kid 1 pressed charges. Kid 2 was charged with misdemeanor theft, lost his scholarship, and told to do community service. The two are no longer on speaking terms, and Kid 1 says Kid 2 is harassing him and telling his friends lies about him.

Abby called Kid 2 “emotionally disturbed” and said Kid 1 is not to blame; she advised Kid 1 to report Kid 2 to the authorities if he doesn’t stop the harassment.

Doesn’t this smack of overkill?

I mean, c’mon, people, it takes two to tango, and both these young men share some blame.

Kid 2 shouldn’t have removed Kid 1’s things from his room (but at least he returned the stuff shortly after); Kid 1 shouldn’t have spun into overdrive about it.

I mean, really, how many college kids don’t sneak into somebody else’s room and swipe something, usually in good fun?

Heck, I’ve done it myself. My roommate one year had a stuffed animal that she slept with every night. One afternoon, it “disappeared,” and NO WAY was she going to sleep unless and until it reappeared!

So it did, and that was the end of that. I can’t imagine her reporting me to the police and the university!

Maybe a stuffed animal isn’t the same as a laptop, cell phone, and books, but it was just as important to her at the time.

If Kid 1 was so “touchy” about his things, he should’ve remembered to lock his door; why shoot the messenger?

What I’m trying to get at is this: college kids prank each other. Most times, it’s just because they’re bored and think they’ve dreamed up something interesting to do at someone else’s expense.

Pranking continues throughout life. What office worker hasn’t returned from vacation to find green things growing from his keyboard?

Or a cubicle filled with balloons? Or everything covered in Post-It notes or aluminum foil?

Part of life is learning to get along with others; having a sense of humor diffuses many a bad situation.

Unless there’s real harm involved — to someone’s person or things — shouldn’t the adults stay out of kids’ petty disputes?

Sheltie Paws

Like many other long-haired breeds, Shelties require at least periodic grooming.

They’re naturally clean, but you still have to bathe and brush, as well as trim excess fur in places like ears and feet.

Normally, I do my doggin’s grooming myself. His breeder has graciously mentored me and, while I’m no expert, my dog comes away looking like a Sheltie should look.

It also gives us a chance to bond, accustoms him to being handled, and saves a few bucks!

But last week, after returning from Gulfport, I decided to take him to a local groomer, one he’s been to several times before, one who usually does a decent job with him.

Until this time.

This is what his front paws look like after her grooming:

Bad Sheltie paw

Eeek, ugly!











Notice how the nails look like talons and the fur is “sliced” back to expose the claws? Notice the sprigs of hair sticking out all over? You can’t really tell in this photo, but it’s cut in layers, almost exposing the foot.

Nothing close to what a true Sheltie paw should look like. She must have used straight scissors, when you’re only supposed to use thinning shears to blend the furs.

So what does a true Sheltie paw look like? This:

Pretty Sheltie paws, thanks to Sheltie Nation for the image










See how the nails don’t stick out? See how the feet look like tight cotton balls?

It’s not easy to do, but if you’re going to capture that pretty Sheltie look, you’ve got to make the feet right!

In all fairness, my boy’s groomer admitted to feeling lousy with a head cold; she didn’t admit (or deny) having a flunky sub on the grooming for her, but what else can I conclude?

No, my Sheltie isn’t a show dog, but he’s MY show dog. And I know he knows he’s not at his prettiest with paws this ugly.

Still, fur grows out eventually, and his will, too. When that happens, count on me to do the trimming!

That’s “Miss Debbie” to you

The South has a custom I wish the rest of our country would adopt.

Little children down south are taught from an early age to call adults “Mr.” or “Miss,” followed by the adult’s first name.

Think of it! Sam Jones becomes “Mr. Sam.” Stephanie Green becomes “Miss Stephanie.”

No more difficulties in knowing what to call your elders. It would even work for people in my generation, who aren’t prepared to call the adults in my parents’ generation by their first names, even when they insist on it!

Look, people marry, get divorced, take back their maiden names, marry again, etc.

That’s confusing enough for adults; why burden our kids with it?

One of my son’s little friends used to call me “Mrs. (my son’s name) Mom.”

A standard naming practice would eliminate that. Rarely do people change their first names, and those are the names the kids hear all the time anyway.

How many adults refer to the grocer on the corner as Mr. Malone or the dental hygienist as Mrs. McCoy?

No, it’s simply “Henry” or “Molly.”

Haven’t you cringed when you overheard the kids blurt out “Henry” or “Molly” while talking to those adults? Wouldn’t it be easier if they grew up referring to the grocer as “Mr. Henry” and the hygienist as “Miss Molly?”

I suspect the kids would adapt easily. After all, most day cares and preschools call their teachers and aides “Miss,” followed by a first name.

It’s only when they get into elementary school that they’re expected to keep up with Teacher’s marital status and last name.

Why should they have to?

And while we’re at it, let’s go whole hog and have our kids call adults “ma’am” and “sir” when speaking with them.

Doesn’t “yes, ma’am” or “no, sir” really sound better than “uh-huh” or “uh-uh?”

When My Favorite Domer was little, I tried to get him to do that. It sounded so charming when my niece and nephew, both native Southerners, did.

MFD picked it up fairly quickly, but dropped it just as fast when he didn’t hear any of his friends speaking like that.

Too bad.

Maybe he’ll pick it back up when he starts interviewing for jobs!


Illinois, stop taxing us to the poorhouse

Political wrangling in Illinois stooped to new lows yesterday, when Democratic lawmakers (by a single vote) approved a 66 percent hike in income tax. The measure now moves to Gov. Pat Quinn for approval (and he’s indicated he will sign it).

I can’t speak for others, but that makes me MAD!

This vote came in the waning hours of a lame duck session; not a single Republican voted for it, and the new, more Republican General Assembly apparently can’t do a thing other than squawk about it.

Sure, we have a budget deficit in the Land of Lincoln. Sure, we haven’t been able to pay our state’s bills in a long time. Sure, our bond credit rating is in the pits.

But come on! Now they’re going to raise personal income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. Corporate tax will go up nearly 50 percent, from 4.8 percent to 7 percent.

How the heck do they think they’re going to be able to keep residents and businesses here with taxes that high? As one lawmaker quipped, My advice is to invest in moving vans.

No kidding!

A person making $50,000 a year will see his state taxes increase from $1,500 to $2,500.

This, during an already-lean and difficult economy.

No wonder officials in both Indiana and Wisconsin are reportedly salivating about luring some of the Illinois businesses seeking to flee such a tax burden!

The really aggravating thing about this cowardly move is that it’s not going to stop the rampant spending that got us into problems in the first place. Every resident, every small businessperson, knows you can’t dance like there’s no tomorrow — eventually, the piper must be paid.

And you can’t blame one political party any more than the other. Both got us into this mess; both will have to work together to get us out of it.

It’s bad enough having our “dirty laundry” aired for the entire nation (our last two governors — one from each political party — got into high-profile legal troubles for one reason or another). Now we have to be known as a deadbeat state taxing its residents and businesses to the max.

Lawmakers estimate the new taxes will generate $6.8 billion a year, money that will be used to ease the state’s $15 billion deficit. They say they need to fund pensions and make up the federal shortfall, not initiate new programs.

And they say the measure is temporary. After four years, the rate drops to 3.75 percent.

Ya think??

Realistically speaking, which taxing body ever rescinds a tax once it’s in place??

Enough Snow Already!

Once again, we in the Midwest U.S. are getting inundated by piles of snow.

And while shoveling some of that mess yesterday, I started pitying residents of other parts of the country who aren’t used to snowy winters yet are suffering through some of the same conditions we are.

For you “snow newbies” here are my best tips for dealing with the white stuff:

  • Buy some boots, assuming you can find them. Strappy sandals and stiletto heels are too-cute-for-words, but terribly impractical on snow and ice.
  • Buy an insulated parka, a hat, and mittens. You want a coat material that repels water yet keeps you warm. You need a hat because we lose most of our body heat through our heads. And yes, gloves are more stylish, but mittens are warmer (something to do with having all your fingers together rather than separated, or so I’ve been told!)
  • Try to get your groceries, refill your prescriptions, and do your necessary errands before the snows come. You have to assume it might take days for the snow plows (or Mother Nature) to clear the roads sufficiently for you to travel about.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full. Who wants to stand outside freezing while pumping gas?
  • Buy a snow shovel. A snow blower looks cool but works best on the light, fluffy kind of snow. What, you didn’t know there are different kinds of snow? The heavy, wet variety is hardest to shovel, whereas the fluffy kind blows and drifts best when the wind kicks up.

Hospital emergency rooms see a lot of winter-related injuries. Don’t be one of them! Don’t stay outside more than is necessary and be sure you cover exposed skin to prevent hypothermia.

Snow and ice are two different things. The former is a nuisance, but the latter can be deadly. Walk gingerly; drive defensively, assuming the other guy can’t/won’t stop before slamming into you.

Don’t risk back injury by shoveling snow the wrong way. You want to push the snow out of the way, not scoop it up, turn, and toss it to one side.

Stand your shovel on the sidewalk or driveway (about a 45-degree angle) and push until the load becomes nearly immovable, then give your shovel a good kick to unload it. If the snow is particularly wet, you’ll need to tap it off between pushes. I don’t know for sure, but I think this is pretty good exercise for legs and derrieres!

If you must pick up a shovel-full of snow, bend your knees, squat, and scoop, rather than keeping your back rigid.

Don’t shovel after eating a big meal. Take frequent breaks and get out of the elements periodically. When you’re done, reward yourself with a cup of hot cocoa beside the fireplace!

“But I’ve Always Worn a Small!”

Is it my imagination, or are clothing manufacturers doing their darnedest to make things on the cheap these days?

Take sizing, for instance.

While today’s average-sized woman is a 14, thankfully I’m the same size 6 I’ve been for years. I don’t consider that “Large,” but rarely do I find tops that fit nowadays unless I buy a Large.

Or s-q-u-e-e-z-e into something that makes me look like a tramp or a stuffed sausage.

Manufacturers might say they’re cutting clothing more generously, but they lie. Just go into a store, any store; browse through the racks and try a few things on.

Everything is clingier. Flimsier. And adding Spandex so women will assure themselves they’re “still a size 8” or whatever isn’t fooling anybody.

Tight clothing that shows everything isn’t flattering on anybody and doesn’t make you look thinner.

Yesterday I was going through my closet trying to find something appropriate to wear for a special meeting. I stumbled upon a white, crew-neck, long-sleeved T-shirt I’d bought a few years back but never worn.

Finally the occasion I was “saving” it for had arrived!

I tried it on and Wow! It fit perfectly, had just the right amount of breathing room, was of substantial thickness so my undergarments didn’t show through, and felt soft and smooth, just like this style shirt should.

Out of curiosity, I pulled a similar T-shirt off my shelf. One I’d bought this year, earlier in the season; one I hadn’t worn yet, either.

Same manufacturer, same style, same size, same material, different color.

But the new one felt entirely different. Thinner. Clingier. Cheaper.

If I had to choose which one would last longer, guess which I’d pick?

Yep, the one I’d bought first.

Maybe that’s the idea. Make things so cheap they quickly fall apart and force women to buy new things.

Wonder if men have this same problem?

Go Rebels!

Don’t you just love checking out the new stores you see when you go on vacation??

Over Christmas, I visited family along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and, while far too many things are gone, some interesting shopping experiences remain (yeah, that song was before Katrina, but it’s sadly true today).

One of my more successful shopping experiences took place at Academy Sports. While they have NO stores outside the South (and parts of the Southwest), and their Website lacks online shopping capability, they have the most amazing selection of sports and fitness wear, as well as NCAA and pro fan gear.

I went in looking for a nylon warm-up suit (I found dozens!). What I came out with, though, was this:

Col. Reb will ALWAYS be my mascot!!











Cool, huh?!

Best of all, they had ONE of these T-shirts left. And it just happened to be in my size!

Woo-Hoo, Happy Dance!

It’s like they knew I was coming or something and saved it just for me!

Now that my alma mater has supposedly switched to a black bear as its mascot, these Col Reb shirts are scarcer than hens’ teeth!

But I got one. And, Rebel that I am, I’m gonna wear it with pride!

Shoot, I wish I could dream up an excuse to go to Oxford and flaunt it in the administration’s face.

I’d love to see their expression!