Truth in Blogging

A couple of nights ago, I was trolling Blogland, trying to see if I’d missed someone interesting to follow, when I chanced upon the photo of a friendly-faced woman who unabashedly admitted her gravatar picture was 10 years old.

Well, actually more than 10 years, or so she said.

My first thought was if she’d fudged on her age, she might have fudged on everything else!

And while something like that carries little importance in the overall scheme of things, all of us have come to rely on the veracity of the bloggers we regularly read. We see their picture and instantly know what to expect — whether it be a snarky retort, a thoughtful comment, an encouraging word.

And we expect them to look like their pictures. Not to have grabbed the photo of an unnamed stranger from a photo frame at Wal-Mart and pretended to be that person.

Still, if I were going to fudge on my photo, which year would I choose?

Easy — the year I turned twenty-two.

I can still see 22-year-old me after my parents settled me in my first apartment. I’m seated at the kitchen table, fresh-faced, expectant, hopeful.


Twenty-two-year-old me was a clean slate, right out of the sheltering womb of college, ready to take on the world.

To right wrongs, expose corruption. The stuff good journalists were trained to do.

Twenty-two-year-old me didn’t have to agonize over programming languages because she wasn’t running a Web design business.

Nor did 22-year-old me need to finish her novel. Oh, she’d started many a one, and she and her colleagues often joked about wanting to write The Great American Novel one day. But she didn’t really think she could. Hadn’t countless English teachers throughout school told her as much?

Besides, wanting to and doing are two different things.

And it would be years before she summoned enough courage to create, to say something meaningful, in a novel.

But 22-year-old me didn’t have Domer. Or Darling Doggie Dallas. And without those two special boys, my life would be infinitely dreary.

So while I might prefer showing 22-year-old me to the world, I’m not doing it.

The gravatar I use is me — me and Dallas — and it hasn’t been Photoshopped. I’ve always been a “what you see is what you get” kind of person. No sense changing now.

Out of curiosity, though, how recent is your blogging photo??

Love Thee, Notre Dame

What is it about the University of Notre Dame that evokes such passion?

People who love Our Lady’s University and those who abhor it can rest assured they share one thing — they aren’t sitting on the fence.

I graduated from a state school (Ole Miss — Hotty Toddy!!), so I know about rivals. We had our share of them, and we knew they “hated” us as much as we “hated” them.

But our SEC Conference was the uniting force.

If one of our rivals was playing a football bowl game against a team outside the SEC, why, we’d up and root for our rivals. We wouldn’t necessarily like it, but we’d do it.

Probably because Home and Family are strong concepts in the South.

Kind of like your momma telling you not to make fun of crazy Aunt Lulu behind her back because she’s family and Family Sticks Together.

Notre Dame has long prided itself on its independence. The drawback, of course, is independence equates separateness.

And for many who hate ND, separateness equates aloofness. Haughtiness. Exclusivity.

Anyway, I was poking around Twitter the other evening, the same day as ND former linebacker Manti Te’o held a news conference in Indianapolis. To further explain how he was a victim of “catfishing.”

And the media had a heyday with it. So did Twitter users.

Frankly, I was embarrassed by many of the comments.

What is it about a football player, a 21-year-old kid, that draws such rage? Such hatred?

I guess none of the tweeters had ever made a mistake. Done something that in retrospect they’d have done differently. ‘Fessed up earlier and taken their licks then.

Perhaps it’s the anonymity of the Internet that lures folks to strike out against others, to leave biting, cruel remarks without regard to the consequences.

Don’t they know the Internet is forever? That all their comments can be rounded up and will paint a picture of just who they really are? That someone they’re trying to impress — a potential employer or that cute girl in their Botany class — might just cast them aside when their true colors are revealed?

So while I understand rivalries on the athletic field, I guess I’ll never understand meanness. Hatred. Pettiness.

Or how trying to bring someone else low somehow elevates you.

It doesn’t. Never has, never will.

Q’s Remains

When I took Darling Doggie outside yesterday, I could tell a storm was on its way (The Weather Channel only confirmed it). How did I know?

This is what greeted me:

Sun dogs often predict rain or snow.

Sun dogs often predict rain or snow.

So it didn’t surprise me when the snow started falling mid-afternoon. Falling fast, like feathers swirling in a pillow fight.

And after we’d had between three and four inches of the white stuff, we got some freezing rain.

So when I arose this morning, I saw the result:

Ice covers the buds on this silver maple tree.

Ice covers the buds on this silver maple tree.

And this:

Snow, snow everywhere!

Snow, snow everywhere!

And this:

A snow-covered bush

A snow-covered bush

And this:

Tire ruts show how deep the snow is.

Tire ruts show how deep the snow is.

Now, I much prefer having snow at the end of the year, rather than the beginning. Something about a White Christmas is very appealing, and what’s a New Year’s Eve without a definite chill in the air?

But nobody asked me. And now we’ve got this snow on the ground. Just when everybody is starting to think Spring.

Even the flowers!

These are going to be yellow daffodils.

These are going to be yellow daffodils.


You Gotta Have Friends….

Sometimes we have to accept the fact that we can’t do everything by ourselves.

As a Virgo, that’s not something I embrace. I tend to believe the more people involved in a project, the greater the likelihood of errors.

BIG errors. Messy, even.

But as 2012 wound down, I found myself at wit’s end with a project designing a new Website for a client. They wanted me to create a form, something to let their customers choose different-priced options and see — via a running total — how much they could anticipate paying for a certain service. This form also needed to capture the customer’s contact information so they could follow up and clinch the sale.

Not an easy task.

Hiding my head in the sand comes natural for me, so I designed the entire site (including the form) and got everything looking and working to their satisfaction.

Then they asked if the form worked.

Not yet, I stammered. But it will.


Did I admit I had no clue how to make it work?

Of course not. I’m a Virgo, remember??

What I did know was it involved programming. Yuck.

Back when I was taking Web design classes, programming really wasn’t part of the equation. So I went to the drawing board.

Or rather, the learning board.

I tried online how-tos, bought computer books, searched for code I could copy-and paste, and consulted my go-to gurus.

To no avail.

Now I felt pretty sure I could eventually figure out how to code the form, but there loomed a fast-approaching deadline.

And I believe in bringing projects to completion on time.

So I went begging for help.

I found a company on the West Coast that does expert programming on a contract basis.

Just what I needed!

We corresponded via e-mail and phone, and they assured me this piece of the puzzle was right up their alley.

And they even made me feel better about it.

Designing is a right-brain activity, they told me. Programming calls upon the left side of the brain.

Well, no wonder!

My project is now finished, and I feel relieved. Still, I shudder at how many places it could have blown up in my face.

Am I the only person in the world who finds collaborating on projects tricky?

Getting My Irish Up

This is a copy of the e-mail I sent this afternoon to one of the myriad organizations whose list I’m on to solicit for funds.

As you can see, it really “got my Irish up” when it arrived. Good thing today is “Grouch Day,” ha!


Dear Sirs:

Once again, I have received in the mail a package from you requesting a donation. This time, it was marked “Second Notice.” What’s that all about, I ask???

“Second Notice” sounds to me as if you’re a bill collector, and I’m a deadbeat. I am not.

“Second Notice” implies that you’ve tried before and failed. That tells me you’re doing the same thing — sending out multiple notices in hopes of guilting people to give — and that’s a waste of everybody’s time and somebody’s resources.

“Second Notice” has a coercion feeling to it, as if I’m expected to donate. I am not.

I’m self-employed. Thus, I don’t have a wealth of surplus money lying around for me to dole out willy-nilly. I work hard for my money and am frankly tired of all you organizations trying desperately to cut me out of the picture and grab some for yourselves.

Yes, I donate to charity, plenty of charities. But I’ll do that on my schedule, not yours, thank you very much.

I’ve had it up to here with your organization and regardless of how much I donate, yours won’t be on my list. You might as well STOP sending me stuff and save your efforts for somebody else.


(my name)


Will it help? Will it stop the onslaught of “dunning” notices I receive?

I doubt it. But if I can make a dent in the stack, or remove a few from the list, I’ll be happy.

Most of us receive far too much junk mail, whether it’s in our home postal box or via e-mail. We complain about it, throw it into the trash, and move on to something else.

Today I decided I’d had enough. I don’t begrudge an organization for trying to solicit funds. Many times, that’s how they keep afloat. But forcing people to give isn’t charity.

It’s coercion. And that’s against the law.

What do you think?

Why I Don’t Write Memoir

Earlier this week, I went hunting in my closet for something from my youth (another post for another time).

I didn’t find it, but what I found stunned me.

A big box filled with my past.

There were old newspaper clippings, journals, my diary, and letters.

The topmost letter was in a hand I didn’t readily recognize. Nor did I remember the address.

As I opened it and started to read, it dawned on me who it was from — an old boyfriend from college.

One who’d broken up with me for reasons I didn’t understand then (and don’t recall now).

I read the next letter — also from him — then a poem I’d printed lamenting the demise of us.

Two thoughts immediately came to mind:

  1. Why did I save this stuff?
  2. Who else in my family had seen it?

Feelings engulfed me and once again, I was 21. A very young 21. Who thought knew she was in love.


I read his words, silly words, funny words, and I remembered his face. His eyes. How smart he was.

How good for each other I thought we were.

But he wasn’t ready to settle down. He had a career to begin, money to make, growing up of his own to do.

Sorority sisters all around me were getting pinned or engaged. Planning weddings, choosing silverware and dish patterns. Poring over Brides Magazine for gowns and attendants’ dresses, anticipating honeymoon destinations.

I thought I was missing out. Little did I realize that those things would come to me, too.

In time.

But not with that guy.

One nice thing about this Internet Age is the ability — if you’re somewhat savvy — to look up just about anybody.

To satisfy your curiosity over “What became of old xxxxx?”

I’d rather not do that. I’d rather leave him as I remember him — young of body, charming, witty, boyishly handsome, a good friend. Though nothing more.

Note: And now you all know why I don’t write memoir — it’s too painful. I admire writers like my friend Kathy who dig deep, unearth buried feelings, bring them to the surface, examine them beneath a magnifying glass, and glean something of substance from them. Something that others can learn from.

Not me. Perhaps I’m too private. Or too sensitive. But I’d much rather write suspense/mystery stories where I can “kill” people off, manipulate facts in favor of a good read, create neighborhoods and characters to my heart’s content. And entertain.

Tell me, if you’re a writer, what’s your genre of choice? If you’re a reader, what kind of stories keep you spellbound?


The house across the street from me is vacant.

A “For Sale” sign advertises what we neighbors have long suspected — the owner is staying in a nursing home. Her kids already have homes and don’t need another one.

It’s a big house, too. Three bedrooms, three full baths, fireplace, patio.

The lawn is manicured, reminding me of a person all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The drapes are open to let sunshine into the windows, which look like eyes staring off into the distance, seeing nothing.

I’m told there’s a fresh coat of paint and a new roof. That’s Realtor-speak for “whitewashed tombs” — pretty on the exterior but hiding a wealth of problems within (Matt. 23:27).

Not that there are major problems. No, it’s just that this home is no longer new.

There’s no new house smell. No immense bathrooms with spa tubs. No squeaky-clean, unused appliances.

How can one erase 50 years of Life from a home? Families ate meals in its dining room. Children studied their schoolwork or practiced musical lessons.

People argued. And made up.

They laughed and cried.

I remember that house from when I was little. We neighbor kids used to love playing Hide-and-Seek, and one of our favorite places to hide was right on its front porch.

(I know, we’d never get away with that these days — who wants giggling kids hunkering down outside their front door?)

This porch was ideal, though. It has a brick wall with several decorative open squares partially concealing the front door from the street. Squares that are perfect for little child-eyes to peep out without being seen. To wait for “It” to run away from the “safe-spot,” clearing the way for “the hiders” to get there.

Fast-forward a few years, and I remember that house being a place My Favorite Domer avoided when he was learning to ride a bicycle.

Its sidewalk had crumbled, leaving a treacherous spot for new (and experienced) bicyclists.

Even now, Darling Doggie switches to the grass when we walk there. Because of the sidewalk.

So the house sits vacant. Alone. Lonely.

Waiting for a new family to move in. To bring Life once more to its walls. Perhaps to fix it up, hanging pictures, putting in new carpet and flooring.

And fencing in the backyard for a dog or a child’s birthday party.

We neighbors wait right along with the house.

What to Wear??

It’s months off, but I’m already starting to stress over what to wear to My Favorite Domer’s Commencement.

This tear-filled occasion celebration falls in May. The weather, I hope, will be clear, sunny, calm, and warm.

But I’m not counting on it. After all, we’re talking South Bend.

Home of PermaCloud. And bucket loads of snow, thanks to something called the “lake effect.” And gale-force winds with thunderstorms.

A few years have passed (well, okay, more than a few!) since I was the college grad. It was hot but sunny. I wore a dress.

If I didn’t have pictures to mark the event, I wouldn’t remember that my dad wore a suit; my mom, a dress.

I haven’t a clue what other parents wore.

Now that I’m the mom, I know how important it is not to embarrass your kid in public.

Certainly NOT at his Commencement!

So I’ve been scouting online forums to determine what’s “proper” attire for such a momentous occasion.

Here’s what I’m finding:

  • Parents should dress nice.

What’s nice? I wear jeans just about every day, and they look nice. But something tells me they won’t fly for a commencement.

  • Parents should dress as if they’re going to Church.

Oh, no, don’t get me started on that! I’m Catholic, remember, and we believe dressing for church is pretentious. So we wear jeans, sweat pants, T-shirts, cowboy boots, shorts, you-name-it. Priests have long complained, but their complaints fall on deaf ears. I think they secretly fear that if they complain too loud and often, nobody will show up at all!

  • Parents (especially moms) should wear comfortable shoes.

Really? Isn’t “comfort” relative? I mean, my Nikes are comfortable; so are my moccasins. But they wouldn’t be appropriate at a commencement, would they?

  • Parents shouldn’t dress in a risque’ manner.

Well, okay, that one I get. No plunging necklines, no slit-up-to-here, no see-through anything. Perfectly doable.

  • Parents should be mindful of the surroundings. Long sleeves for indoor ceremonies; sunscreen and hats for outside.

Right. I can already see me sitting in a summer frock atop Notre Dame Stadium, wearing a baseball cap and shades, snuggled beneath a plastic rain poncho, and warming my bunny-slippered feet with my heavy winter coat!

That about covers all bases, don’t you think?

P.S. Seriously, if anybody reading this has any concrete, viable suggestions for taming the “Battle with the Closet” for Commencement, I’m all ears!

Throw Me Something, Mister!

We traveled to Gulfport, MS over My Favorite Domer’s month-long Christmas Break.

Visiting family, shopping, trying new restaurants, walking outside in warmer temperatures — all that sounded pretty good. Besides, Domer had to fly from there to Miami for the sorry lousy miserable National Championship slaughter game.

One fascinating difference between Central Illinois and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is their propensity to partay. Not that Illinoisans don’t like to have fun; just that we’re a bit tamer about it!

Anyway, as soon as New Year’s Day is over, folks down south bring out their Mardi Gras decor’ — and it’s especially obvious when Lent begins early as it does this year (Feb. 13).

It’s like they put Christmas back in the attic or storeroom and haul out Carnival.


They bedeck their houses with purple, gold, and green garlands; hang lavish wreathes on their front doors; begin attending (and hosting) fancy formal parties; and some scramble for cheap plastic beads and other collectibles during a plethora of parades.

Of course, that’s easier there than here. After all, they don’t have snow on the ground!

Another thing that’s popular during Carnival season is the King Cake. This delicacy happens to be one of Domer’s favorites, and his grandmother never fails to make sure he gets one.

This year was no exception.

And guess who else happens to love cake? Any cake, not just the King variety?

Dallas! Witness his patience while Domer partakes of a hefty slice:

Please? Can I have a taste??

Please? Can I have a taste??