Bring Me That Horizon

Welcome to jennyweber dot com


Home of Jenny the Pirate



This will go better if you

check your expectations at the door.


We're not big on logic

but there's no shortage of irony.


 Nice is different than good.


Oh and ...

I flunked charm school.

So what.

Can't write anything.

= Jennifer =

Causing considerable consternation
to many fine folk since 1957

Pepper and me ... Seattle 1962



Belay That!

This blog does not contain and its author will not condone profanity, crude language, or verbal abuse. Commenters, you are welcome to speak your mind but do not cuss or I will delete either the word or your entire comment, depending on my mood. Continued use of bad words or inappropriate sentiments will result in the offending individual being banned, after which they'll be obliged to walk the plank. Thankee for your understanding and compliance.

= Jenny the Pirate =

Hoist The Colors


I am a Blue Star Mother




Insist on yourself; never imitate.

Your own gift you can present

every moment

with the cumulative force

of a whole life’s cultivation;

but of the adopted talent of another

you have only an extemporaneous

half possession.

That which each can do best,

none but his Maker can teach him.

= Ralph Waldo Emerson =



The Black Velvet Coat

In The Market, As It Were






Contributor to

American Cemetery

published by Kates-Boylston

A Pistol With One Shot

Ecstatically shooting everything in sight using my beloved Nikon D3100 with AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR kit lens and AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G prime lens.

Also capturing outrageous beauty left and right with my Nikon D7000 blissfully married to my Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D AF prime glass. Don't be jeal.

And then there was the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f:3.5-5.6G ED VR II zoom. We're done here.

Dying Is A Day Worth Living For

I am a taphophile

Word. Photo Jennifer Weber 2010

Great things are happening at

Find A Grave

If you don't believe me, click the pics.


Dying is a wild night

and a new road.

Emily Dickinson



When I am gone

Please remember me

 As a heartfelt laugh,

 As a tenderness.

 Hold fast to the image of me

When my soul was on fire,

The light of love shining

Through my eyes.

Remember me when I was singing

And seemed to know my way.

Remember always

When we were together

And time stood still.

Remember most not what I did,

Or who I was;

Oh please remember me

For what I always desired to be:

A smile on the face of God.

David Robert Brooks



 Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.


Keep To The Code








You Want To Find This
The Promise Of Redemption

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I BELIEVED, AND THEREFORE HAVE I SPOKEN; we also believe, and therefore speak;

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

II Corinthians 4

Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it, have never known it again.

~ Ronald Reagan

Photo Jennifer Weber 2010

Not Without My Effects

My Compass Works Fine

The Courage Of Our Hearts




Daft Like Jack

 "I can name fingers and point names ..."

And We'll Sing It All The Time
  • Elements Series: Fire
    Elements Series: Fire
    by Peter Kater
  • Danny Wright Healer of Hearts
    Danny Wright Healer of Hearts
    by Danny Wright
  • Grace
    Old World Records
  • The Hymns Collection (2 Disc Set)
    The Hymns Collection (2 Disc Set)
    Stone Angel Music, Inc.
  • Always Near - A Romantic Collection
    Always Near - A Romantic Collection
    Real Music
  • Copia
    Temporary Residence Ltd.
  • The Poet: Romances for Cello
    The Poet: Romances for Cello
    Spring Hill Music
  • Nightfall
    Narada Productions, Inc.
  • Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
    Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
  • The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion
    The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion
    by William Voegeli
  • The Art of Memoir
    The Art of Memoir
    by Mary Karr
  • The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems
    The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems
    by Emily Dickinson
  • Among The Dead: My Years in The Port Mortuary
    Among The Dead: My Years in The Port Mortuary
    by John W. Harper
  • On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
    On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
    by William Zinsser
  • Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them
    Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them
    by Steven Milloy
  • The Amateur
    The Amateur
    by Edward Klein
  • Hating Jesus: The American Left's War on Christianity
    Hating Jesus: The American Left's War on Christianity
    by Matt Barber, Paul Hair
  • In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms
    In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms
    by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
  • Where Are They Buried (Revised and Updated): How Did They Die? Fitting Ends and Final Resting Places of the Famous, Infamous, and Noteworthy
    Where Are They Buried (Revised and Updated): How Did They Die? Fitting Ends and Final Resting Places of the Famous, Infamous, and Noteworthy
    by Tod Benoit
  • Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays
    Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays
    by Candace Savage
  • Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans
    Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans
    by John Marzluff Ph.D., Tony Angell
  • Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!
    Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!
    by Andrew Breitbart
  • 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative
    11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative
    by Paul Kengor
  • Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
    Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
    by Bernd Heinrich
  • Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits
    Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits
    by Matthew Rolston
  • Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt
    Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt
    by Todd Harra, Ken McKenzie
  • America's Steadfast Dream
    America's Steadfast Dream
    by E. Merrill Root
  • Good Dog, Carl : A Classic Board Book
    Good Dog, Carl : A Classic Board Book
    by Alexandra Day
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
    by Lynne Truss
  • The American Way of Death Revisited
    The American Way of Death Revisited
    by Jessica Mitford
  • In Six Days : Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation
    In Six Days : Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation
    Master Books
  • Architects of Ruin: How big government liberals wrecked the global economy---and how they will do it again if no one stops them
    Architects of Ruin: How big government liberals wrecked the global economy---and how they will do it again if no one stops them
    by Peter Schweizer
  • Grave Influence: 21 Radicals and Their Worldviews That Rule America From the Grave
    Grave Influence: 21 Radicals and Their Worldviews That Rule America From the Grave
    by Brannon Howse
  • Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow: The Tragic Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore
    Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow: The Tragic Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore
    by Eleanor Alexander
Easy On The Goods
  • Waiting for
    Waiting for "Superman"
    starring Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee
  • The Catered Affair (Remastered)
    The Catered Affair (Remastered)
    starring Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Fitzgerald, Rod Taylor
  • Bernie
    starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
  • Remember the Night
    Remember the Night
    starring Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi, Elizabeth Patterson, Sterling Holloway
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
    The Ox-Bow Incident
    starring Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Mary Beth Hughes, Anthony Quinn, William Eythe
  • The Bad Seed
    The Bad Seed
    starring Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Henry Jones, Eileen Heckart, Evelyn Varden
  • Shadow of a Doubt
    Shadow of a Doubt
    starring Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey, Patricia Collinge, Henry Travers
  • The More The Merrier
    The More The Merrier
    starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn, Bruce Bennett, Ann Savage
  • Act of Valor
    Act of Valor
    starring Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano
  • Deep Water
    Deep Water
    starring Tilda Swinton, Donald Crowhurst, Jean Badin, Clare Crowhurst, Simon Crowhurst
  • Sunset Boulevard
    Sunset Boulevard
    starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich Von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark
  • Penny Serenade
    Penny Serenade
    starring Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Edgar Buchanan, Beulah Bondi
  • Double Indemnity
    Double Indemnity
    starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather
  • Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged
    Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged
    starring Gary Anthony Williams
  • Fat Sick & Nearly Dead
    Fat Sick & Nearly Dead
    Passion River
  • It Happened One Night (Remastered Black & White)
    It Happened One Night (Remastered Black & White)
    starring Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert
  • Stella Dallas
    Stella Dallas
    starring Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley, Barbara O'Neil, Alan Hale
  • The Iron Lady
    The Iron Lady
    starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Harry Lloyd, Anthony Head, Alexandra Roach
  • Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection (4 Disc Set)
    Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection (4 Disc Set)
    starring Peter Sallis, Anne Reid, Sally Lindsay, Melissa Collier, Sarah Laborde
  • The Red Balloon (Released by Janus Films, in association with the Criterion Collection)
    The Red Balloon (Released by Janus Films, in association with the Criterion Collection)
    starring Red Balloon
  • Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition)
    Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition)
    starring William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck
  • The Major and the Minor (Universal Cinema Classics)
    The Major and the Minor (Universal Cinema Classics)
    starring Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland
  • My Dog Skip
    My Dog Skip
    starring Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson, Kevin Bacon
  • Sabrina
    starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Walter Hampden, John Williams
  • The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer
    The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer
    starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee, Ray Collins
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
    Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
    starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport
  • Now, Voyager (Keepcase)
    Now, Voyager (Keepcase)
    starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper, John Loder
  • The Trip To Bountiful
    The Trip To Bountiful
  • Hold Back the Dawn [DVD] Charles Boyer; Olivia de Havilland; Paulette Goddard
    Hold Back the Dawn [DVD] Charles Boyer; Olivia de Havilland; Paulette Goddard
That Dog Is Never Going To Move



Columbia's Finest Chihuahua

Simple. Easy To Remember.

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Let The Stable Still Astonish

Let the stable still astonish;
Straw-dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain.
And then, the child, rag-wrapped
And laid to cry in a trough.
Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said: "Yes,
Let the God of all the heavens
and earth be born here, in this place"?
Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms
of our hearts and says, "Yes,
Let the God of Heaven and Earth
be born here -- in this place."


~Leslie Leyland Fields


It's December ... Merry Christmas, everyone!


Chicago, Chicago ...

For some reason, today and for the past few days, I can't stop thinking about Chicago. Several things have prompted this. For one, you might as well know, I love that city and even though I consider myself a Southerner, the quintessential Midwestern metropolis is never far from my mind. I have said many times that if I could live anywhere in the world I wanted, I would live right in the middle of downtown Chicago. Maybe in a swanky condo at the Marina Towers on the Chicago River, or better yet, at One Magnificent Mile, overlooking Lake Michigan. I could shop at Bloomingdale's every day! Oprah and I could be neighbors! Sounds crazy, I know. Traffic's awful; weather's even more awful; it's an expensive place to live. I could never afford it. Yeah, yeah, I know all that. I still love it. I don't even really know all the reasons why I love it, but since you asked, I'll try to tell you.

When I was a little girl we lived all over the place. Always running here and there, like crazed gypsies. Poor, itinerant, and displaced. We lived in Phoenix, Arizona; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Hollywood, California; Seattle, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida ... just to name the places I distinctly remember. We lived in most of those places more than once, and I think there were others too, but you get the general idea. I was in college before I went to the same school two years in a row; the trend was for my sister and I to be on the rolls of two or more institutions of learning during any given school year. Although I went to only one school per year beginning in tenth grade, I attended a different school for each of my last three years of high school. It was the norm for me; I seldom if ever questioned it. Always the new girl. Always the outsider. Always the one who had no idea what was going on.

My stepfather, even though he despised cold weather on account of his sinus problems, would always point the car toward Chicago when we were really down and out. Which was most of the time. He used to say that you could tool into Chicago around noon and by nightfall you could have a job and a place to live. My mom was a professional waitress, and apartments in our price range (I'll thank you not to snicker) did tend to be plentiful in the early to mid-'60s. We'd cruise into town in our stolen baby-blue Nash Rambler and stop at the A&P (where with our grocery order we got a sheet of perforated S&H green stamps, the sheen of unlicked glue on the back just crying out to stiffen a gridded page) to purchase a loaf of bread, a package of bologna, a quart of milk, and a copy of the Tribune. If Mama was in a good mood and if we had the funds, we might also get a Spanish Bar cake. Holy moley, was that ever good with the cold milk! Dense dark raisin-studded molasses cake with sweet white frosting thickly blanketing the top in a wide-wale corduroy design ... I can taste it!

While dining in our car or, in clement weather, in a neighborhood park or something (this was before the age of gangs), the "want ads" would get decorated with pencil circles. Feast over, research done, we'd locate a pay phone, make a few calls, drive around some more, and sure enough ... by bedtime we'd be the occupants of a few shabby furnished rooms in a tenement building, with plastic curtains hanging at the grimy windows above oily linoleum, and a few big-city roaches already comfortably en suite. Home, sweet home. The next day pretty Mama would leave for a while and come back with a couple of scratchy rayon acetate uniforms and aprons in a size four. She'd wash and set her hair in sponge curlers, carefully apply her makeup and smile at herself in the medicine cabinet mirror, dress in the uniform (accessorized with gartered nylons and nursey shoes), and traipse off to her job. Sometimes Mama rode the "el" to work, and she told me that once, on a summer day when she sat in her seat beside an open window, a beggar-type man spit on her right through the window. She never knew why.

As for my sister and me, we were swiftly (to our great chagrin) matriculated in whatever art-deco rockpile of a school happened to be nearby, where we were once again awkwardly cast in the role of "new girl." I have vivid memories of Goudy Elementary School on the north side, near the lake ... I think I was in third grade. My teacher was Mrs. Sullivan. It was exceptionally cold and snowy that winter, even for Chicago. A few years ago my husband was interviewed for a job in Schaumburg, Illinois, about 25 miles west of Chicago. We were there several days, and one night my husband took me for a drive into the city. We were pretty far north, and as we approached the inky void of Lake Michigan, my husband turned south on an avenue maybe one or two streets over from Lake Shore Drive. As we drove we neared an overpass type of thing, and suddenly I was gripped with a sense of profound recognition. I KNEW I had been there before! I could "see" Mrs. Sullivan walking under that viaduct on a frigid day, the entire landscape white and gray, she a drab-coated and heavy-booted figure trudging along, shoulders hunched against the icy wind. I know that's where it happened; I remember seeing my teacher on that street!

When I got home from the trip, I spent a long time studying maps of Chicago until I concluded to my satisfaction that we did indeed live in that vicinity at that time. I located Goudy Elementary School at 5120 North Winthrop Avenue, and I could tell from its proximity to the lake that we had lived around there. We used to walk over to the lake shore all the time in warm weather; the fluffy golden dandelions that nodded in the dense grass seemed to me to be the size of saucers, and their perfume was like a cross between honey and butter. I can still smell the breeze off the azure-blue water and feel the shimmery buzz that cloyed the atmosphere when warm weather returned to the great northern city. As soon as summer came, my sister and I would start clamoring for a trip to Riverview Park. Chicago was electric and vital; it suited me; I felt at home there. I was always certain that whatever I wanted or needed could be found in Chicago. It was not my home, really ... but I wished that it was and I imagined that it was. I was always sorry when the only view I had of it was out the back window as we once again moved on.

When I was seventeen I went to college in Northwest Indiana, about thirty miles from Chicago. I met my husband while living there, and our first date was in Chicago ... at old Comiskey Park on the south side, for a major league baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals. After marrying in 1979 we continued to live near Chicago until 1991, when we moved back down south. I have such wonderful memories of the years my husband and I worked and lived in Indiana, but played in Chicago. We went to the city often and developed many "haunts." For several years he was a student at DePaul University in the downtown area, taking night classes to earn his Master's. We used to get a babysitter and I'd go with him, and after class we'd go out to dinner. Our favorite places were R.D. Clucker's in Lincoln Park (no longer there) and Hamburger Hamlet on Rush (no longer there) ... we also loved Giordano's on Rush for pizza, and Bennigan's across from the Art Institute for eclectic dining. For infrequent "formal" dates, we'd get a reservation at Lawry's the Prime Rib on Ontario Street. Those were the days. My mouth is watering.

Shopping in Chicago -- whether at Marshall Field's on Wabash and State, or at any one of the hundreds of marvelous stores at Water Tower Place, or on Oak Street, or at all the shops in between -- is all a shopper could ask for, and then some. And I'm a shopper. I shopped early and often, alone or with others ... it was so much fun to ride the South Shore Line to the end of the line (Randolph Street), debark, walk over to Field's, and take in the bargains, stopping only for coffee breaks and lunch. Heavenly ... the people there are so nice. Someone will always talk to you, discuss a subject with you -- not just blow you off -- in Chicago. People are not snooty there; they'll help you in a heartbeat.

As you might imagine, I could go on and on. I could write reams about the delights of a picnic and open-air concert at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, just north of the city, during the summer months ... the air show on Oak Street Beach in July, which my husband and I rarely missed ... Navy Pier, where you can catch a boat for the wonderful architectural cruise on the river ... the Wendella boat ride, down the river under all the bridges, then through the locks and out onto the lake, the vast, luminous city so breathtaking from there ... the lights of Buckingham Fountain turning colors under a starlit summer sky ... the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, and all the pigeons ... reading the "stones" that dot the gothic splendor of the Tribune Tower ... the Wrigley building in floodlit white-marble magnificence at Michigan and Wacker ... standing in front of Grant Wood's American Gothic at the Art Institute ... seeing Les Miserables at the Auditorium Theater and Annie at the Shubert ... Brookfield Zoo, where we used to take the kids every Memorial Day ... walking in Grant Park listening to music floating from the Petrillo Bandshell as the sailboats bob in the harbor ... the great museums, the planetarium ... Wrigley Field on a hot day, Comiskey on a hot night ... all of it. All of it. I love all of it.

We're going for a visit in June of 2008, God willing ... I promise plenty of pictures, and I promise I'll be smiling. I promise I'll look right at home.


Confessions Of A Retail Cynic

Okay. If you've been paying attention, you know how I feel about Wal-Mart. One might describe my relationship with that particular retailer as equal parts love and hate, but here lately, I am (sort of) sorry to admit, there is more hate on my part than love. Or if not hate, then at the very least, unmitigated ambivalence of the most profound variety. Wal-Mart remains oblivious to me in any case; we may even be breaking up soon. Allow me to explain.

If anyone reading this shops at Wal-Mart, they should immediately know to what I am referring when I say that the Wal-Mart folks have a real problem keeping enough personnel on hand to ensure that a sufficient number of checkout lanes remain open at any given time to deal with the multitude of customers wishing and hoping for speedy checkout. In fact, "speedy checkout" is a concept with which the good people at Wal-Mart seem to be wholly unfamiliar, if they are not actually out-and-out opposed to it. Speedy checkout is in fact so rare an occurrence at Wal-Mart that I would be tempted to put it on a par with the likelihood of Johnny Depp joining me for breakfast in the morning. To be perfectly concise, I am probably twice more likely to find diamonds pouring out of my Cornflakes box while sitting across from Johnny on the French Riviera tomorrow morning, than I am to experience anything approaching speedy checkout at Wal-Mart. Let's face it: if you were looking for an appropriate synonym for Wal-Mart, "efficient" would be among the last to spring to mind.

You feel the undeniable pull of forces beyond your control drawing you to the Wal-Mart StuporCenter. Cupboards all over your house are bare, so reluctantly you obey. You hock a few valuables so you can afford the trip. You drive over there; you apply starch to your upper lip; you park; you go inside. You grab a 200-square-foot sticky-handled cart with a creaky, wobbly wheel. You paw through the assortment of belongings pooled in your handbag until you locate your shopping list, which consists of anywhere from ten to seventy-five items. You make the split-second decision whether to start in health and beauty aids or the produce department, resisting the impulse to go straight to the posters and ogle Johnny Depp. You begin trolling the cramped aisles, marking items off the paper as you plunk them in your basket. When you've been there about a half hour and the floor of your cart is littered with eighty dollars' worth of everything from dental floss to lightbulbs, it's time to sashay over to the grocery side and begin foraging for something your family can eat.

Later, another half hour to forty-five minutes of your life irretrievably gone, you consult your list one last time while deftly dodging massive flatbed thingies bulging with boxes of merchandise that the "employees" insist on placing strategically in the aisles so as to block your access to the very items you wish to pluck from the shelves and BUY. You give up and head for the checkout lanes. As you round the corner and begin your final approach, your eyes drift upward, up in the atmosphere above the registers, to the white plastic numbered rectangular boxes that conceal -- presumably -- an electrical socket and a lightbulb. What you are looking for is one ... ONE ... white plastic rectangle that is actually illuminated, indicating that an "employee" beneath it stands ready to process your order. You begin praying that, against all odds, this transaction will be completed before the start of the next calendar day. It looks good; after all, you arrived on the premises before six in the evening! It makes sense to plan ahead.

What you see as with bated breath you scan 225 potential checkout lanes for one that might be open is that, in fact, TWO are! Your options are doubled! That is, if you don't count the lanes that are there for the convenience of the solitary customer who comes to the Wal-Mart StuporCenter in any given week and buys fewer than ten things, or the "self checkout" lanes that are available for those who don't mind adding insult to injury by actually doing Wal-Mart's work for them and paying for the privilege! I would not be one of those people. I won't go near a self-checkout lane; it's a matter of principle. I would rather wait with my heaped and groaning cart in one of the two available lanes behind six to eight other patrons with heaped and groaning carts, than do Wal-Mart's work for them. But while I wait I have time to reflect upon the strange reality that, as actively as Wal-Mart courts your patronage, when it comes right down to it they are in no real hurry to actually take your money out of your hand. If you figure that out, please send an email and 'splain it to me, 'k?

What prompted this rant is a commercial that Wal-Mart began airing on television in the last week or two. Maybe you've seen it. At least thirty neatly-dressed and smiling Wal-Mart "cashiers" are depicted standing beneath the white plastic rectangles at their registers, flicking the lights on and off to the tune of "Ring, Christmas Bells." The white plastic rectangles are flickering as merrily as if, instead of housing lightbulbs that rarely if ever see any action, they contained happy little hearts just singing away at the prospect of marking the spot where a loyal Wal-Mart customer might reach retail nirvana in the form of finally realizing the elusive dream of speedy checkout.

But before the viewer goes all cynical and judges this commercial to be a mere dramatization (NO!) with little if any basis in fact, the voiceover person hastens to specify that more lanes will be open to make it easier for us to accomplish our Christmas shopping. Oh, I see ... eleven months out of the year it is perfectly acceptable for us to grow old while waiting in line to hand over our dearly-earned cash to the disgruntled cashier manning whichever of the two open lanes we chose to languish in. But this one month -- the largest month of the year for retailers everywhere and certainly a month of extra merriment for Wal-Mart -- they will bite the bullet and open a few more lanes. But I'll bet you a bowl of diamond-studded Cornflakes that no matter how early or how late I shop at Wal-Mart, or how often I go or how long I stay, I'll never see a light above a register flickering for any other reason than that the line is dead in the water ... and that will be the line I'm in. Because for us retail cynics, the line always forms at Wal-Mart.


Justin Time

It's no secret I'm a devoted fan of Johnny Depp.

That's not to say I admire everything about Johnny, but there is plenty about him to admire. As someone once said, "I like the cut of his jib" (nautical term), but it's more than that.

One of my favorite bits of Johnny lore is the story he tells of himself as a 17-year-old newly-minted uncle to his sister's newborn daughter. Seems Johnny had just heard of the phenomenon of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and he was terrified that his tiny niece would be struck by the mysterious malady.

So what did he do? Why, he slept in the floor beside her crib, of course, holding onto her little hand all night so she'd "remember to breathe."

Ah ... you've got to love a teenaged boy who would even think of such a thing, let alone do it.

That's the Johnny who inspires my fangirl devotion. Also there's that pirate ... but I digress.

Thanks to my mom and her very neat, if slightly dysfunctional, Louisiana family, I have several truly wonderful uncles and aunts. My father was an only child, so my mother's two brothers, her sister, and their spouses were it for me, growing up. And because of our strange and peripatetic life with my mother's second husband, I saw relatively little of my aunts and uncles until I was myself a teenager.

It would be impossible for me to pick a favorite from among them; they're all awesome.

My Uncle Sherrill, a very talented, artistic, graceful and handsome man, had a first wife that I don't remember knowing. But his second wife, my Aunt Nancy, was so kind to me. She treated me like one of her own on the many occasions I stayed at her house. Unfortunately she didn't go the distance with my uncle, but he now has another lovely wife, my Aunt Judy, who is a marvelously warm and loving lady. I saw her recently and we fell to talking as if it hadn't been years since we'd seen one another.

My Aunt Linda and Uncle Don were like second parents to me. Uncle Don passed away in 2001, but I still remember how funny and original he was. I'll never forget the genuine interest he took in me throughout my life. He was good to my children too.

Aunt Linda's one of those people who is just easy to talk to, and as you don't find many of those, she is counted as a special blessing.

My mother's youngest sib, Dodie, was only ten when I was born. This past June when we all gathered for my mother's 70th birthday, Uncle Dodie told my kids that when I was a baby, he played with me just like I was a doll. I'm sure I caused more trouble than any doll would have, but he does not seem to remember that part.

I recall the adventurous and fun-loving boy he was, and I especially have fond memories of his first wife, Jean.

Uncle Dodie married Aunt Jean when they were both still teenagers, and although they were married for a long time, too many of the years were not happy ones for them. He has now been married for quite a while to his second wife, my Aunt Leslee, and she's a gem too.

But Aunt Jean was a good and special friend to me when I was growing up, and she explained a lot of important things to me. I was saddened to learn of her death a few months ago. Although I had not seen her in over thirty years, I miss her.

My sister had two little daughters at the time I got married, and in the few days before the wedding, the younger of them occupied a crib in the room where I slept. Only, she didn't sleep.

Genevieve required very little sleep!

I can still remember waking up in the night to her baby babblegurgles and, after giving my eyes time to adjust to the darkness, seeing her standing up in her crib, staring over at me. She was really something! I lay there hoping all babies didn't do that, because I'm attached to my sleep time.

Today Gena is a lovely young woman, but I always remember her as The Baby Who Wouldn't Go To Sleep. I hope she thinks of me as a nice and not-too-crazy aunt. My sister has seven children, ages 30 down to 13, and they are all important to me.

My husband has one brother and one sister, and between the two of them we have five nephews and four nieces. Through certain circumstances of life we have had an opportunity to get particularly close to two of our nephews, and they are like sons to us.

A third nephew is a favorite of mine, not because I have had the chance to get to know him all that well, but because the infrequent times I have been around him, he strikes me as a special young man. A young man of quality and integrity and goals, and a notably kind and considerate person.

His name is Justin.

Justin is college-age and at the present time he makes his home with his grandparents -- my mother-in-law and father-in-law -- in Northwest Ohio. His parents live too far from his college for him to stay with them, and he prefers not to live in the dorm, so he saves money by living with Grandma and Grandpa.

He also manages to be a great help to them in many ways.

One of the things Grandma made clear to Justin when he came to stay with them was, when Aunt Jenny and Uncle Greg come to visit (about twice a year, and never for very long), they get your room. You have to find somewhere else to stay while they are here.

I always feel badly about this -- kicking Justin out of his room -- but he never seems to mind.

This past Wednesday we moved into Justin's room for a two-day visit. As I was getting situated I noticed a piece of notebook paper lying on the bedside table. Because I'm nosy, I picked it up. Turns out it was a note to me and my husband:

Uncle Greg and Aunt Jenny,

You always seem to leave a note to which I seldom if ever have responded. This time I wanted to rest assured you were left with a greeting. It should be noted that you are in no way intruding and that if I had my own house you would be welcome any time. I'm not sure if our paths will cross this Thanksgiving. I will be in and out of town all week. We will be in touch I am sure some time soon. Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, Justin


I regret that our paths did not cross with Justin's this Thanksgiving. I left Justin a note, however, telling him we had missed him and that we are proud of him, and wishing him a Merry Christmas.

When I saw his mother, I told her that although I love all of her children, I have a special place in my heart for Justin. She replied that he feels the same way about me, and I can't tell you how much that meant to me. I hope my husband and I get a chance to encourage Justin in some way as the years go by, and I hope someday to be a great-aunt to his children.

On the May night three and a half years ago when our daughter, Stephanie, told us she was expecting our first grandchild, our other children were not there to hear the news. Before they arrived home I made a small card for each of them and folded it over once. When I gave them the cards I said, "In your absence you've all been given new names. Open your cards to read your new name."

One by one they obeyed, and this is what they read: "Uncle Andrew," "Aunt Audrey," and "Aunt Erica." As each of them "got it," they got all excited, and it's been fun to watch them interact with their little niece, Melanie.

So far they've worn the title well, and I'm glad, because the unconditional love of an aunt or an uncle can sometimes make all the difference.


Musical Cars

Recently two of my children, daughter Audrey and son Andrew, took in a performance of the Knoxville (Tennessee) Symphony Orchestra. When the concert had concluded and they were heading for their car, they became confused in the maze of levels that comprise the huge State Street Parking Garage. You know and I know that it’s best to memorize the level you parked on when leaving your automobile in such a place, but somehow it never occurs to “kids” … (yes, when you are 24 and 18 you are still kids) … that they will forget where they parked. Remember those days, when your memory was still a friend who came running whenever you called? Anyway, they had entered the garage at street level and were attempting to find their car when they noticed a very elderly couple huddled together off to the side, presumably in the same predicament.

My son and daughter (I am proud to report) approached the couple and asked if they could be of some help. They learned that the lady’s name was Doris and the man’s name was Dale, and that they had been husband and wife since 1944. “Sixty-seven years,” crowed Dale. “Sixty-two years,” corrected Doris. Not sure it matters. At any rate, when my son asked Dale what kind of car he was driving, Dale responded “A ’92 Buick.” Andrew began scanning the rows of cars for something that fit that general description. Sighting a possibility, he pointed and asked Dale if that was the car he and his wife had driven to the concert. Dale said it wasn’t, but just to be sure, he aimed his remote keyfob at the car and pressed a few buttons. Nothing happened. Andrew began to suspect that perhaps a 1992 model would not have a working remote keyless entry, so he asked Dale for his license plate number. If necessary, Andrew was willing to run up and down the rows of cars until he found Dale and Doris’s ride. After all, it had turned very chilly and Doris had forgotten to bring a proper coat.

Dale could not remember his license plate number but he fished in his wallet and produced a dog-eared card decorated with some spidery writing. Andrew scanned the card quickly with his excellent 18-year-old eyes and saw that the Buick owned by Dale and Doris was actually a 2002 model … but they also owned a 1992 Jimmy. Dale was apparently a mite confused. I know the feeling. Andrew took off to locate the car while Audrey put her arm around Doris’s shivering shoulders. To pass the time she asked Dale if he had served in World War II, and he responded that he had “worked on the Manhattan Project.” Very interested in that response, Audrey pressed for details but none were forthcoming. By that time Andrew had located the couple’s car and was motioning for Audrey and the elderly folks to join him. Audrey guided Doris and Dale to the stairwell and took Dale’s arm as they began to ascend, but he informed her (in a nice way): “I don’t need any help.”

As Audrey and Andrew came to the aid of Doris and Dale, they made a welcome discovery: in helping someone else, they had helped themselves. Their own car was parked only two spaces away from Doris and Dale’s! Much is made of the generation gap, and surely there is some justification for that. But on a cold November night in Knoxville, the young and the old made a connection. And even though neither thought they needed the other’s help, as it turns out, they did. And help was received, and everyone got home safely. Another victory for what some like to call “random acts of kindness” … but even more, as a mother I am happy that my grown children were in tune with their surroundings enough to offer assistance to someone who needed it. Because as sure as springtime returns to the Smokies, the good (and the bad) that we do comes back to us, and I believe the favor will be returned at exactly the right time.