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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According To Plan

Andrew's flight from Gulfport, Mississippi, left on time Wednesday morning, as did his connecting flight from Atlanta. He was on the ground in Columbia fifteen minutes ahead of schedule! We were so glad to see him.  You may remember he had told me to wear my red hat ... "As you command, your nibs ..." we took a picture of ourselves while waiting outside for Greg to fetch the car.  Then it was on to school to see some friends and former teachers.  Afterwards we held hands as we drove to my favorite restaurant, Harper's, for lunch. Once seated, we did a self-portrait.  We ate pulled pork sandwiches with all the fixings while we chatted about many of Andrew's tech school experiences.  It was great fun and all a mother could ask for on a beautiful day at the end of October.  This morning before it was light, Andrew drove to Greenville to see his grandmother, grandfather, aunt, and a few cousins, plus (of course) Alicia, before reporting for weekend duty in Knoxville.  Below is a video I made of the pictures!


Literal ... Not Liberal

I have a tendency to be literal. As a kid, I was terrified by those tags that came on pillows. You know ... the ones that say you're breaking the law if you remove them. I used to stare and stare at the tag, all scared, wanting so badly to rip it off the pillow. I just knew that if I did, within moments I would hear sirens. That would be the police, coming to get me and haul me off to jail for breaking the law!

I also thought that when we listened to the radio, all of the singers and musicians were there in the radio station, lined up, waiting their turn. When the announcer said "Here's Bobby Vinton with Blue Velvet," for example, I imagined Bobby (who I envisioned as quite handsome indeed), with all the musicians crowded around behind him at the microphone, singing Blue Velvet as best he could. As I got older I had a niggling suspicion this could not be the case, so I asked my mother about it. (I believed my mother literally knew everything.) She clued me in to the concept of phonograph records and how they were used at radio stations. After that, whenever the announcer gave the name of the next song, in my mind's eye I literally "saw" him plopping a big black record on a turntable and placing the needle carefully at the edge to play the song. It was a great feeling to be so "up" on how the world worked! I was in the know.

Growing up, I literally thought war was a never-ending fact of life ... as commonplace as homework or thunderstorms or riding my bike. Every night when Mama or Daddy turned on the evening news, there on our old dinosaur of a set would be the Huntley Brinkley Report. I remember only two things from the news: the gray, grainy images of soldiers running through the jungles of Vietnam, and the second movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which I will forever associate with Huntley and Brinkley. I didn't give war much thought because although it was always there, I didn't understand it, and it did not directly affect me. But if I had thought of it, I know I would have considered war a constant. As the "funny" music (I asked my mom what kind of music it was, because it was as different from what I usually listened to as chalk is from cheese. My music was Petula Clark belting out Downtown or Sonny & Cher crooning I've Got You Babe. This music was strange; I was intrigued. "Classical," my mother informed me. Again I was in the know.) poured from the TV set while the Huntley Brinkley Report credits rolled, I literally believed that at any time, anywhere in my life, I would be able to turn on the TV and see the furry gray and white soldiers with leaves stuck into the webbing on their helmets, running through the jungle.

As a youngster I was not taken to church, but somewhere along the way I acquired a small New Testament that I used to thumb through from time to time. I think I had a very literal idea of prayer as being something along the lines of, look up at the sky and put in a request and if God likes you or is in a good mood that day, whatever you asked for will fall down onto the ground right in front of you. I must have tried this a time or two and it didn't work, so when I read a certain verse in the gospel according to Matthew, I was encouraged. Here was some insider information. It said: But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. So, of course, I went directly to the closet of the little room I shared with my sister. I sat down on top of all our shoes and closed the door (even though I was afraid of the dark) and offered my version of a prayer.

Our stepfather taught my sister and me that the Communists were literally poised, 24-7, to press a red button located somewhere in the Soviet Union and blow us all from the face of the earth. Being somewhat flighty I did not give over a great deal of my time to wondering what I would do when and if this happened, but it was always in the back of my mind. To all of us who became (however dimly) aware of world events during the height of the Cold War, the threat of sudden nuclear destruction provided an ominous undercurrent to all of life. My stepfather was a criminal -- literally -- but in that distinctly dichotomous way unique to human beings, he was one of the most pro-establishment people I have ever known. He was an arch-conservative, a law-and-order type who nevertheless was always looking for creative ways to break the law and get away with it. A paragon of vice who preached a somewhat skewed kind of virtue. Don't ask me to explain that; you'll just have to trust me that when I tell you these things, you may safely take me literally.

Funny how childhood's literal lessons are etched on the heart. I don't listen to music on the radio anymore, but if I did I would still "see" the announcer gingerly placing the needle onto the edge of the big black phonograph record. I've torn a few tags from pillows but still listened for sirens. More than ever I realize that some things are worth fighting -- and even dying -- for. I'm glad I now know that God answers prayer every day ... even prayers not prayed from closets. I need faith in God and literal belief in eternal truths to guide me not only through the gloom of night, but through the blazing light of day. My stepfather was a misguided soul in many ways, but he was prescient in that he foresaw an America stripped of its common sense, and what was worse, its conscience. His impassioned ranting against the evils of communism, socialism, secular humanism, and especially liberalism, were right on target and I'm thankful for them. I'm grateful that I learned that much from him. If I hadn't, today I might be a liberal ... and in my opinion that would be a tragedy. Literally.


Bout Of The Blue

Last spring, our son, Andrew, was inducted into the Tennessee Air National Guard. Starting in January 2008 he'll be attending college in Knoxville and training for a career in ministry, but in addition to his college education, he had long wanted to be part of the United States military. Becoming a reservist in the Air National Guard -- which, after completion of basic training and tech school, involves serving one weekend per month for six years -- made sense. "Freedom isn't free, Mom," he reminded me when I expressed concern over all the possible ramifications of his joining the Air Force. Although as usual I had some cogent arguments (and they were fully argued), I could not argue with that.

Early on the morning of Sunday, April 15, 2007, with our nephew, David, providing moral support (and taking pictures), Andrew swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to obey the orders of the President of the United States. We were proud of him. He had to finish high school, which he did on May 25th, then await his orders. They finally came, and in mid-July he was shipped out to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for six weeks of basic training. Andrew distinguished himself while there and, again, we were very proud of him. He was sent on to technical school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he studied space command communications, and tomorrow he will finish his work there.

Andrew will fly home on the morning of Wednesday, October 31st, for a short leave. I'm excited about that. He is required to travel in his dress blues, in which he looks quite handsome, and I can't wait to see all six-foot-one of him stride down that corridor into the waiting area at the airport. He has told me I am to wear my red hat to meet him (maybe so he'll recognize me), and that afterwards he is taking me out to lunch at my favorite restaurant "... and we're gonna hold hands, Mom." First stop, however, will be his alma mater, where he wants to see his friends and teachers (or rather, he wants his friends and teachers to see him) and let them know he survived fourteen whole weeks of full-time military life. And he has the stripes to prove it.

During these weeks of intense training and of being away from home, Andrew has learned a great deal about people in general, about himself, about submission to authority, about his faith, and about the advantages he has had since birth. Not just the great advantage of having been born in America (although that would have been enough), but the advantages provided to him by both his immediate and extended family. I guess if I were to say what makes me most proud of Andrew, it would be that those lessons, so freely available to him via these recent experiences, were not lost on him. He is still a young boy -- with all that implies -- but I have seen glimmers of the man of character I fervently hope he will someday be. I think he has learned things that could not have been imparted to him any other way ... at least not at this stage in his life. And in order to learn them, he had to be teachable, and he was. On a list of Things Parents Should Be Thankful For, that would be very near the top of mine.

Throughout the coming years I pray Andrew will do what I told him to do the day he decided to enlist: serve his country with honor. My heart goes out to those mothers whose children are serving in Iraq, bravely fighting the war on terror. What great Americans they are ... both the children and their mothers. How fortunate we are that they are willing to make these great sacrifices in order to defend our precious freedoms. God bless America! Freedom isn't free.



























Take Time ... Please!

Yesterday, all day, I thought it was time-change weekend. Why? Because my desk calendar said so! I bought my 2007 desk calendar at Barnes & Noble, and every other date on it up till now has been reliable and accurate as far as I could tell. I mean, if my desk calendar was wrong about Wednesday, April 25, being Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand, I guess I would not have known about it because it would not have caused me to alter my routine. But time change weekend is on my radar (and how) because I adore that extra hour of sleep. Plus which, I don't want to show up for church a whole hour early!  So all day yesterday, as I went down my list of things to be done, I looked forward to climbing into bed, looking one last time at the green digital numbers on the cable box across the room, and knowing that as I slept, Time Warner Cable would change the time and give me a whole extra hour to snooze.

I woke up at some point during the night and looked over at the cable box. I think it gave the time as 5:45 or thereabouts. I then glanced at my bedside alarm clock. It said 4:45 or thereabouts. I was confused. Very confused. I unplugged my bedside clock and plugged it back in, because it is the sort of clock that never requires setting. If the circuit is broken, once the power is restored it will automatically set the clock back to the proper time based upon the time zone you live in. My clock, upon being plugged back in, went right back to 4:45 or thereabouts. It at least, like me, thought it was time change weekend.

My grandmother used to say that she hated time change weekend because it was so difficult for her to wait up until 2 a.m. to change all the clocks! She could be pretty funny ... because she was serious! She really thought she had to do that! But then again, I have Time Warner Cable to change the time on my cable box, and she did not have that. So anyway, when I woke up at my regular time, between 7 and 7:30, I noticed there was still a disparity of one hour between the time according to my cable box and the time according to my bedside clock.

I guess everyone but me knew that time change weekend is next weekend! All day I have felt the psychological effects of losing the hour I thought I was going to gain. Even now as I write this at 2:45 in the afternoon, I want so badly to go lie down and take a two-hour nap ... to make up for the hour I lost plus one for good measure! It will likely take me the whole of next week to recover ... just in time for the real time change weekend. No doubt I'll spend that whole extra hour next Saturday night just trying to get to sleep.


Fall In All

Tonight I walked two miles in my quiet neighborhood under the bland stare of the full moon. I could not stop looking up. Charged with silver light, gauzy shreds of clouds drifted over the glowing sightless cyclops that has seen it all ... everything there has been to see, since God put it there. So many falls! So much is falling. Night is falling faster each day, causing sleepy eyelids to fall. Temperatures are falling; leaves are falling; sleeve lengths are falling. From the huge oak, the elderly sentinel that stands watch over our house, the acorns are falling so rapidly that I imagine the fat squirrels in the branches are playing a toss game. The acorns hit hard and bounce-roll the length of the roof's pitch, doing a sprightly tap dance in staccato Morse code. Occasionally I can even hear the plish as one hits the pool and settles languidly to the bottom, where it will pass the winter in the deep end.

October is falling from the calendar and from all time, like the year. The year started and progressed as they all do: with the brittle skittering sunlight piercing the thin air of winter, which softened into the fickle winds and cosseting warmth and gentle color of spring, which deepened into summer's long siege of oven-hotness perfumed with nodding honeysuckle and punctuated with the whirring of ten billion tiny wings. Now the year is so fragile, so far gone, any moment now and the final snap! of a twig will send it toppling from the world like a plump raindrop sliding off a bird's beak.

As I walked tonight, in the velvety rustle of still-green leaves I imagined I could smell both the loamy deciduous decay of dwindling fall and the cool, delicate verdancy of future springs. Life and death were all around me and I was not afraid of either. In the near distance I heard a long melancholy bleat torn from the throat of a train, and as I listened to the strident subtext beneath that music, the dakdak-dakdak of iron wheels on iron rails, I imagined that the cars bore the freight of years away into the darkness. When I hear that sound, if I look closely I can see the sorrows before me as clearly as the sorrows behind me ... so I don't look. But still, sometimes, tears fall. They fall for bells that cannot be unrung as much as for bells that will never be rung. Sorrow squares off against joy in an endless showdown, determination writ large in the tense and eager stance of each.

The moon's indifferent gaze followed me home, its milky light becoming the buttery light pouring from my windows. Grateful for that sight, I closed the door of my happiness against the certainty of fall and all that follows.


There's Romance And Then There's Romance

Today I drove fifty-plus miles round trip to get my hair trimmed, as I do once every four weeks. My hairdresser, Alan, is worth the drive and then some. He understands my hair and does exactly what I ask him to do, and he charges a reasonable rate. I could not ask for anything more and if he ever retires I guess I'll have to shave my head and wear a wig. His "salon" is actually a small shed ("Tha Cut'n Shed") that sits in the middle of a dense pine forest. His house is supposedly down the dirt lane but the trees are so thick, I've never seen it. Alan is several years older than me. He is an ex-Navy man who wears an earring, loves to ride motorcycles, and is devoted to his wife of over thirty years. They are parents of a fine college-age son of whom they are very proud, and rightfully so.

As Alan and I chit-chatted a couple of months ago during one of my appointments, he told me a story I can't forget: he told me all about making his wife's wedding costume. As in, sewing it. Himself. For her to wear on the day she married him. I wish you could have heard Alan describe the outfit. "We were flower children," he said with a twinkle, "so we didn't want anything overly traditional." Apparently the wedding ensemble consisted of a long skirt and matching tunic in bleached muslin, with a special slip/liner that Alan designed to go under the whole thing for the sake of modesty. He picked out a picture-frame hat for his girl to wear for the outdoor ceremony, and selected shoes with ribbons that tied in a criss-cross pattern all the way up to her knees. He even designed and made her bridal bouquet. Alan's face glowed as he told me all about it, and you won't believe this but I was completely silent for, oh, all of ten minutes.

For someone who loves romance as much as I, it was a wonderfully sweet story to hear. I am a sucker for anything romantic. I listen to love songs all the time, and if I am not listening to one, I am usually humming one under my breath. I read love poetry several times a week. I cherish my volume of Sonnets From The Portuguese. I can safely say that, even when I am doing something else -- even something as mundane as vacuuming the floor -- romance is not far from my mind. I guess you could say it is a dominant and deeply ingrained trait.

My husband of twenty-eight years, father of my four children, does not know how to sew. If I trotted into the TV room right now and poised myself between him and the ball game and demanded to know what I wore on our wedding day, he would probably say: "A white dress." (Yes ... yes, I wore a white dress. Sure did.) I have never heard him sing a love song and he couldn't quote a line of a love poem if the Cubs winning the World Series depended upon it. Although his practicality and dependability and stoicism come through loud and clear, his romantic sensibilities tend to be slightly muffled.

But apparently they are there nevertheless.

I have noticed that if You've Got Mail is playing on TV and my husband cruises by it while channel-surfing, he will always go back and watch the last five minutes of that movie. Yes, Meg Ryan is cute, but I think it's more than that. I think he likes the romance of Tom Hanks and Meg catching sight of one another in the park, the sweet moment of recognition, Tom saying "Don't cry, Shopgirl," and Meg replying with a tear in her voice: "I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly."

So what if my husband didn't sew my wedding dress ... how many men can say they've done that? Clearly Alan is a throwback! He is a phenomenon that cannot be explained! My husband showed up on our wedding day, and although he's got a few (minor) flaws, he has showed up every day since then. He puts up with me, supports and encourages me, and believes in my dreams. And besides ... I wanted it to be him. I wanted it to be him so badly, and he says he wanted it to be me. And even if I have to listen closely, there's romance.



One Can Only Hype

If you live long enough and pay attention, it is my belief that you have a good chance of seeing just about everything. Or at least, just about every sort of thing. You'll eventually stop using expressions like "Now I've seen it all" because you'll know it's beyond redundant to keep on making that same inane verbal observation. But that may not keep you from thinking to yourself, from time to time, "I cannot believe what I am seeing (or hearing, or reading)." This still happens to me occasionally and I feel like talking about it.

All over the news this week was the story of King Middle School in Portland, Maine, whose extinguished board voted to allow the school nurse to dispense oral contraceptives to girls as young as eleven without the knowledge or consent of the child's parents. Needless to say, there has been a bit of controversy over the issue. My hero in the whole thing is Benjamin Meiklejohn, one of the two (of nine) board members who voted against the ridiculous plan. Rather than giving up once the votes were counted and his side lost, Mr. Meiklejohn has continued to fight. He has now submitted a counter-proposal that will give parents (slightly) more control over the drugs shoved down the throats of their young daughters. I hope his proposal is adopted, although it would still allow the school to provide oral contraceptives to 14-year-old girls. God help us.

An online forum where the issue was being hotly debated yielded this brilliant comment: "Just a glance at the national sex offender registry, and you will see there are commuties teaming with predators." Uhm ... I guess I can be gracious enough to chalk "commuties" up to tired fingers or a tired brain or both, but "teaming" with predators? Sure hope the writer meant "teeming" but honestly, if schools are giving contraceptives to 11-year-olds, the communities may very well may be teaming (as in, teaming up) with predators. In fact they may be the predators. Just a side thought.

It occurs to me that in our rush to be politically correct and so very tolerant of every kind of nonsense imaginable, in addition to the last shreds of innocence, we have said goodbye forever to the elusive but fascinating concept of mystique. Everything is out in the open now -- no matter how personal or how private -- and it's "okay" to talk about it and even crow about it, with no sense of reticence. And reticence, according to Miss Dove of the wonderful old movie starring Jennifer Jones in the titular role, is "the sine qua non of gentility." Who cares about gentility anymore; right? We're too concerned with sexuality -- not its sacred mysteries, but rather how common we can make it.

I still remember when mail-order companies who peddled merchandise of a personal nature offered to send purchases to the consumer in a "brown paper wrapper." This was ostensibly so that the mailman who delivered the package would be unable to draw any conclusions about you from what you received in the mail. Now, although we may order our "health aids" from a secure site online and may still receive them in a brown paper wrapper, we practically shout from the rooftops about whatever happens to be ailing us. It doesn't seem to matter how far the itemization of those ailments fits squarely into the category of "overshare." Make that "nauseating overshare."

Nowhere is this trend toward crassness more rampant than in prime-time TV ads. To cite just one example, I have been more than appalled in recent days by the ad that depicts several men jamming in what appears to be a dusty old barn. There's a keyboardist, a lead singer, a guitarist, and I don't know what all else. What I do know is, they're all grinning like hyenas and singing at the top of their lungs: "Viva Viagra." It's really hard (sorry) to make out the actual lyric, but maybe that's because of the morbid fascination that results from seeing a group of relatively young men sitting around singing about ... what they are singing about. When their song is done they all head outside, do a bunch of high-fives, and peel out in macho-looking pickups and cycles ... presumably heading home to their lucky women.

Oh please! Please tell me this is not really happening! If I could cringe any more when this ad comes on, I would. I can't get to the remote fast enough to change the channel. It makes me feel icky. First of all, I can't believe the ad is even on TV. Why are we subjected to this? I am aware that Pfizer Pharmaceuticals has a product to sell, but surely -- surely if a man needs this sort of medicine, he will ask his doctor for it without having to be prompted by this asinine commercial? Let's be realistic. The Cialis ad, which shows two people (thankfully, one of each gender) occupying identical-twin claw-foot tubs, apparently sitting at the edge of the ocean, is bad enough. But now a jam session with six men singing Viva Viagra? Forgive me if I close my eyes and pretend it's all a bad dream.

Lest you think I am a heartless woman, allow me to clarify. If a man is married to a woman and he needs this type of medicine, I hope he will go to the doctor without delay and get some. Although it is difficult for me to believe that men as young as 40, as depicted in the Viagra ad, actually require this medication, I am no doctor and won't quarrel with anyone about that. I have been married for over 28 years to a man who would be a perfect husband if he would just put the toilet seat down. That's all I would change about him! Honestly! He will be 56 in January and when that Viagra ad comes on TV he still looks puzzled. Good for him. Good for us. We are very happy, very normal, and very fortunate. If all of that should change tomorrow, and there were a medicine that would help, I would send my man straight to the doctor to get his prescription. But no matter what he brought home from the pharmacy, I would draw the line at anyone in this house singing a jingle about it.

And in a world where at least some feel comfortable with the tasteless public hyping of what should be kept private -- as in hawking Viagra on television to the tune of an Elvis song -- is it any wonder we think nothing of dosing 11-year-olds with oral contraceptives? I for one see a sad connection.


Six Pounds Of Sweetness

Last night I allowed the family dog, Javier, to sleep curled up behind my knees in the bed I share with my husband. This is not our usual practice. I'm not even sure why I did it except I felt sorry for him ... Javier, I mean. Javier is a six-pound Chihuahua; he has belonged to us since a few days after his birth. He came into the world under the watchful eye of a breeder in Zanesville, Ohio, early in August of 1999, and when I first saw him he was so young, his eyes were not yet open. I held him in the palm of my hand and if I had needed to hold something else at the same time, like maybe a pack of gum or a small Cute-Puppy-O-Meter (on which he would easily have scored 29 out of a possible 10), I'd have had room to spare.

I had called and made an appointment with the breeder, Theresa, because I was told by one of her satisfied customers that there was a new litter for sale. When I got there, however, only two puppies remained to choose from. They were both way cute but I immediately chose Javier (who had been pre-named by my children). He was black with tan markings, and I especially liked the two little caramel-colored dots over his eyes. I was introduced to his father, Danny, a feisty little long-haired Chihuahua, and his mother (whose name I don't recall), who had short hair. Javier had inherited his mother's short hair but according to Theresa, he had his father's personality. Theresa told me that Javier became her favorite of that litter.

See, on the day I picked Javier out and we started paying for him, he couldn't actually come home with me. He had to stay with his dog family for five more weeks, and in that time, Theresa got to know him. When I took possession of Javier on a stormy day in mid-September, she said she'd sure miss him. It took nearly two hours to get home from Zanesville that day, and the whole time Javier lay in the crook of my arm, looking soulfully up at me. He had grown but he was still so small that if I grasped him gently by his midsection and held him up, his legs barely cleared my hands and hung over. His head was the size of a small plum. He was utterly, incredibly, and undoubtedly the cutest little puppy I have ever seen that wasn't a Beagle. (We have owned several Beagles and are very partial to the breed, but our hearts have been broken by all of them. I can't talk about it.)

Although Javier has a few maddening personality traits (not the least of which is, 99 percent of the time he is on the wrong side of the door, scratching, begging for admittance to the opposite side), he has been a near-perfect pet. He's small and portable, which is handy when you are traveling. His crate is always the first thing to go in the trunk when we take a car trip. We position it against the pass-through with the door open so that he can go from the cave of the trunk to the relative freedom of the backseat without anyone having to help him. Of course, he never wants to be in the crate on trips, so generally someone is holding him. He doesn't care to look out the window; he just wants to be held. In fact, aside from the standard begging for a morsel of anything that anyone is eating (and he is world-class in this endeavor), Javier never asks for much except to be with you. He just wants to be with you.

Javier's general demeanor swings wildly between that of a bump on a log and a speeding bullet. If I or any of my children are sitting in a chair or on a sofa, he will be snuggled by our side before we can get properly situated. If a human is not available to share space with, he can usually be found curled in a tight little ball on his blankie (indoors) or his towel (outdoors). If he has been in his crate and someone lets him out, he begins hurtling through the house as though he has been shot out of a cannon. The sound of Javier's little claws skittering along the length of the ceramic tile in the kitchen is followed by the plunkety plunk of him swiftly taking the carpeted stairs down to the TV room. Then there is a final plop as he flings himself down one more step into the sunroom, where his blankie is. Likely as not he'll tear around the sunroom madly for several seconds before catapulting himself back up the step into the TV room. He repeats this process several times until he finally collapses on his blankie to lick his paws and, eventually, sleep.

Javier knows several words and phrases. There may be more, but I am certain he understands these: "Want to go get in Mommy's bed?" (because he runs right to it) ... "Want to go outside?" (because he goes directly to the closest door and stands there, wagging his tail, until you open it) ... "Are you hungry?" (because he goes straight to his food dish and waits) ... "Go to your crate." (because he goes right to his crate and gets in, and he can even bat the door open if it has swung shut) ... "Go get on your blankie now." (because he does) ... and "Do you need a bath?" (because his ears go back flat and begin trembling, and he hides his face in your neck).

Since I am the one who takes care of him, Javier's favorite human should by all rights be me, but his soulmate is in fact our youngest daughter, Erica. From the day we brought Javier home, he and Erica have been special buddies. They truly seem to understand one another. However, she has been away at college for over three years now and he's had to be satisfied with my company ... and that's why once in a while I take pity on him and let him sleep in my bed. Plus which, it was cold last night.

Below is a vid -- taken nearly three years ago -- of Erica putting Javier through his paces. If you knew him, you'd have no doubt that he was loving every minute of it.


Fishful Thinking

When my sister and I were in grade school, our stepfather took us fishing a lot. Not because we wanted to go fishing, mind you. I can't speak for my sister but I am most definitely NOT the outdoorsy type. I like going outside and I sometimes go outside just to go outside, and I even take a long walk about five times a week -- outside -- but I don't care for the kind of stuff people normally think of when you bring up the subject of outdoor activities, such as hiking and sports. I'm not athletic, not adventurous, not coordinated, and I haven't got all that much stamina. I enjoy nature but I don't like getting hot and dirty and I have a strong aversion to bugs. My husband knows better than to suggest a family camping trip! Not gonna happen. So you can imagine how much I loved it when our stepfather would issue an order for us to round up the rods and tackle and something for lunch, and get ready to go fishing. Yuk. I knew every bit of what that meant! It would involve Cleaning What You Caught So You Could Eat It For Supper. Yuk.

Our "fishing hole" was really just a creek running under an overpass in the Idyllwild area of Fort Lauderdale. I thought "Idyllwild" was such a pretty word but it was ruined for me on account of its association with fish. We'd stop somewhere for bait (disgusting worms, if memory serves ... but then as now, I'm against thinking about it), get there, park the car down beside the creek or whatever it was, and get the rods and reels out. I had to bait my own hook and everything! At least I think I did, when I actually fished. Most of the time I made excuses to go back to the car and plunder our provisions, which usually consisted of a loaf of white bread, a package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and a quart of milk.

The cream cheese (which I hated then but learned to love later in life) and the milk were nestled on some ice in our Coleman camping cooler. The bread was in a bag on the seat. I loved the bread. I still love bread. Back then there was no such thing as "healthy" wheat bread at the store; it was all white. Pure white. I used to eat the crust from my piece of bread real slow, then wad up the center into a doughy ball in my palm, and eat that part like it was a rare delicacy. Or I took two pieces of bread and ate it like a sandwich, pretending I had remembered to put cream cheese in (which I hadn't). And of course I loved my milk. All white foods on fishing day! It was unique.

In the course of the day we'd catch a few dozen measly little old fish that had dared to swim as far as that puny creek, or who'd had neither the energy nor the inclination to leave it. My sister and I had to remove the bloody hooks from their blank staring faces before they were even dead! We had a separate (styrofoam, I think) cooler that served as a portable morgue for the silvery, scaly, smelly fish bodies. By the time we got home the fish cadavers had gone through rigor mortis and were out the other side again. Then it was time to clean them, and that's one job that won't wait. And it's one job our stepfather never did ... because he had us to do it! Yuk.

What we did first was, we dug a hole. That was for the fish guts, plus their heads and tails and fins and bones and skin. Everything you couldn't eat. Then we each grabbed a scaling tool, grasped the slimy things as best we could, and began scraping. I can still remember what it felt like when the fish scales hit your face. They'd land in your hair and on your nose and forehead, and if you were very unlucky, on your lip. They felt clammy and dry all at the same time, and wherever they landed (except your hair) it itched. You'd use your sleeve to try and get the scales off, but by the time you'd scaled five or six fish, there was no use fighting it. Their scales were becoming your scales! They didn't need them anymore and they wanted you to have them.

Next step, we took sharp knives and cut slits in the white fish bellies. At that point the fish looked like pockets. Inside was something I don't even want to think about, much less write about. It smelled just like you'd think fish entrails would smell ... only ten times worse. We'd rake out the contents of the fish into the hole. Then you had to cut off their heads and caudal fins and dorsal fins and whatever other fins they happened to have, and into the hole those went. The hole, because it contained what our stepfather called "fertilizer," was always near our "garden" (a few tomatoes). I avoided eating the tomatoes fertilized with fish guts. I just really had my doubts about how that would work out.

At some point what was left of the scaled and gutted and beheaded and de-finned fish (and believe me, it wasn't much) was brought into the house where we gently washed them and they got fileted (by our stepfather, using a really, really sharp knife). Then we had to gingerly remove the delicate grid of bones from the bifurcated fish and carefully help them out of their skin, which always looked to me like tinfoil. In the end you had about three square inches of edible flesh per fish! What a feast! So worth the investment of your time that day! A bite ... maybe two ... and of course you never got all the bones out ... but those bites had been something We Didn't Have To Pay For. The tiny filets would get dunked in beaten egg and dredged through some seasoned flour or cornmeal, and cooked up in the black iron skillet which was smoking with oil. We'd eat the fried fish pieces with waxy white hominy and white bread and milk. Our fish expected all accoutrement to be white, and who were we to argue? After all, they had given up everything so that we could have a free dinner.


I Bought It ... Why Can't I Have It?

Yesterday as I drove home from Aiken, before I met the lady who thought my bumper was two different colors (purple with green polka dots, from the look on her face), while never taking my eyes from the road or my left hand from the wheel, my right hand began rooting around in my purse for a stick of gum. I always have several packs of Ice Breakers Cool Mint on hand, both at home and away. Usually there is an open pack lurking in one of the pouches built into the lining of my handbag. My groping fingers identified a few packs but, as fate would have it, neither of them had been opened. So I activated my blinking hazard lights, pulled over to the side of the road, popped the trunk, got out, opened the wheel well, located a crowbar, and proceeded to pry open the pack of gum.

Well, I guess you know that everything after "neither of them had been opened" is a little bit of an exaggeration, but have you ever tried to operate an automobile at seventy-eight miles an hour and open a pack of Ice Breakers at the same time? Perhaps I should explain. The nice folks in the Gum Package Design Department at Hershey Foods, which makes Ice Breakers, have thoughtfully put a little "tab" ... (code for "paper padlock") ... near the "top" of the pack of gum, but then -- no doubt during a brainstorming session so intense and protracted that they had to call for Chinese takeout -- they inexplicably decided to glue the little tab down so that, even cleverly employing fingernails and teeth and any other sharp object at hand, the consumer finds it all but impossible to lift the tab and free the tiny red ribbon that, once pulled, starts the process that (ideally) releases the top of the pack so you can actually get to the gum. That you bought. So you could chew it. In the first place.

The brilliant and innovative folks at Ice Breakers, possibly channeling the Marquis de Sade, not satisfied with the havoc they had already wrought by gluing down the tab so you can't open the package without first opening a toolbox, apparently decided to advance this exercise in futility one step further. The happy result of their diligence is that once you have frustrated yourself to the point of despair getting the pack open, for some (I'm sure very good) reason, the first stick of gum you try to extract has itself been glued to the package. No kidding! No matter which outside stick you choose, after you've bent it out slightly, when you grasp it and pull, nothing happens. Well, occasionally the top eighth of it pulls off, leaving what's left of the stick embedded securely in the package. I have actually been known to use scissors to cut the whole package open so that I can get to that one piece of gum and chew it.

Why, you might ask, don't I simply choose one of the other four sticks -- since they are in fact all alike -- pull it out, and commence chomping it, sans the puerile drama? Surely all the sticks can't be glued to the bottom of the pack? Well, that's a good question, but maybe it's because I have the strange idea that once I've purchased the pack of gum, I ought to be able to pull out any stick I want, at random, without requiring dynamite to blast it from the package. It is a matter of principle! Perhaps I am being unreasonable; perhaps not. Let me chew on that awhile.