Afternoon Light

My friend Sandy Rankin died this summer on July 6. I never met her in person, but we bonded on Facebook when we discovered that I was from Austin living in Little Rock, and she was from Little Rock living in Austin. She wrote a book called Pearl Street Memories, a fictional but semi-autobiographical account about growing up in Little Rock, and sent it to me when we first became Facebook friends.

Sandy moved to Austin and worked as an ICU nurse at Brackenridge Hospital for over thirty years. She was delighted to find out I was born at the same hospital. She retired before we became friends, but she still had a passion for her former coworkers, sharing in their joys and sorrows. We had arranged to meet in 2017 on my last trip to Austin, but she felt sick and wasn’t up to having company or meeting at a restaurant.

We had another connection besides living in each other’s hometowns. I am a fan of singer/songwriter Carolyn Wonderland, and her son plays drums in her band! Sandy told me to go say hi to him when I saw her in concert a few years ago, but I couldn’t get up the nerve. He’s a phenomenal drummer, and I know she was proud of him. I’m still beating myself up for not trying to meet him, if only to tell him I knew his mom. (My son tells me I know everyone’s mom.)

In her Facebook posts, she talked quite a bit about her life at the Boca Chica apartments in Austin. She posted numerous photos of the wooded area around the complex with the caption, “Afternoon light.” She also posted photos of wildlife she spotted, especially the foxes. In May 2019, the Austin American-Statesman published an essay she wrote about Boca Chica called “Life, death and mysterious burnt feathers” in the Tales of the City section. Her essay starts out, “It was a sunny day when I finally moved to Boca Chica in 1997,” and from that point, Boca Chica seemed to become her muse.

After she was admitted to the hospital in late June, she posted, “Good morning my friends. I am still having troubles. But your kindness and my belief in me gives me strength there are no words we simply know life begins. There is a middle and an end. Some of us have a difficult time accepting that. Well (ha ha) I am one of those! I’m fighting!!” There are those out there who are endangering innocent people!! Get a mask. Wear it. Follow the guidelines!!! Wtf is wrong w you!! Stop hurting innocent persons.”

Sandy’s health problems didn’t stop her from lighting up Facebook, though, especially when #45 became President. A few days before her death, right after she came home from the hospital, she posted “Good morning. It’s a little daunting. Entering the world of politics. Horror. But I am going to try. My body is trying to heal. I need your help with that. I am trying to look out and see the big picture and hide the anger I continue to feel at tRump [sic] today. . . and I am going to maybe share some profanities.”

The next day, her last post read, “Good morning! How is everyone? A new day for sure. I am breathing deep, taking meds, and looking out at the hillside, no foxes yet. . . they must be asleep.” I’m glad she found peace at Boca Chica during her final days of life. Her son said she saw three baby foxes and their mama before she died.

Sandy also posted in her final days that she was going to write a book. That post gave me hope that she would recover, but she didn’t, and I miss her.

Rest in peace, Sandy, and know you were loved by many.

Photo taken by her good friend and neighbor Jeannie Taylor; used with permission.

Cats, Ninjas and Some Assembly Required

Today, August 7, is my mom’s birthday. It’s also the one-year anniversary of my divorce. I hate that my divorce was final on my mom’s birthday, but I discovered that judges are like surgeons. They give you an appointment date and time, and you make it work.

This year has been difficult, but despite challenges, I have become a stronger and happier person (although I do swear more). Some good things have happened this year, and three defining moments helped me realize I’m “going to make it after all” (cue Mary Tyler Moore theme song).

Shortly after my ex-husband moved out last May, I needed to take my cat to the vet to get his nails trimmed. I have friends who trim their cats’ nails or put tiny coverings on each claw. I don’t do that. I gladly pay $12 every other month to avoid being maimed for life.

Until this time, I relied on Paul or our son to help me put the cat in his carrier. We would trap Charlie in the game room, Paul or John would catch him stuff him into the soft sided carrier, and I would zip it up. When I realized I was going to have to wrangle the cat by myself, my first thought was to enlist a neighbor to help me. Our son was recovering from a knee injury and couldn’t help, so I was on my own. Instead of calling my neighbor, though, I decided to try to capture the cat by myself.

My first attempt at cat wrangling was a complete failure, and I gave up. A couple weeks later, I noticed Charlie was on the screened porch, which is a much smaller area than the game room with no places to hide. I took the carrier to the porch, picked up my unsuspecting cat, and tried to stuff him through the top of the carrier. He jumped out, and instead of quitting in frustration, I tried again. The second time, I picked him up more confidently. I have heard that dogs smell fear, but I think cats smell anxiety. This time, I stuffed him in the carrier and zipped up the top with authority. He didn’t have a chance to escape. I was so proud at having persevered at capturing Charlie without help. Since then, he hasn’t given my any problems when I need to take him somewhere (usually the vet).

My next adventure occurred when I tried to make a cilantro pesto. The recipe said to use a food processor to chop the garlic and cilantro. I rarely use a food processor because I hate cleaning all the pieces, but I reluctantly pulled out the Kitchen Ninja food processor attachment. I ran the food processor a few times and noticed some garlic and cilantro chunks near the top of the container. Without thinking, I stuck my finger in the container to try to move the chunks downward. Fortunately, I had turned off the Ninja, but unfortunately, my hand slipped, and I quickly discovered how sharp the blades were when I felt a deep slice and saw blood. I was home alone, so I wrapped a wad of paper towels around my finger, grabbed my purse and drove myself to the nearest urgent care center. Four stitches and a big bandage later, I went home, threw out the pesto and was very thankful the cut wasn’t any deeper.

Another defining moment occurred when I purchased two small shelves for my closet. I knew I would have to assemble the shelves, but the picture on the box gave me the impression that the process would be simple. Two long pieces of wood and two short pieces of wood—how hard could that be? I found out when I opened one of the boxes, and a plastic bag of screws spilled out with the shelf pieces. I glanced at the instructions, got a Phillips screwdriver from the toolbox, lined up holes and got to work.

Assembling the first shelf was tricky, but I did it. Then I realized I put the shelf together backwards with the unpainted part of the wood facing the wrong way. I was so angry and recently acquired swear words flew out of my mouth. I thought about quitting and asking my son to assemble the shelves for me. Instead, I took a deep breath, took the shelf apart, and put it back together the correct way—by myself. Putting the second shelf together was much easier, and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment for keeping at it, even after my failed first attempt.

Looking at my finished shoe shelves in my closet not only gave me a sense of accomplishment but also seemed to symbolized putting my life back together after a failed marriage.

Completing these three tasks alone when my husband moved out have been key milestones during this tough year. I got married when I was 19 and went from relying on my parents to relying on my husband. When that safety net disappeared, I felt vulnerable. Catching a cat, handling my own medical emergency, and assembling small shelves by myself gave me confidence I desperately needed. Don’t even get me started on light bulbs.

Chocolate Cake

A friend and I discussed chocolate cake today, and I immediately thought about my dad’s drool-inducing chocolate cake that he made so many times over the years. Dad spread cream cheese over the top of a finished chocolate cake and then poured fudge over the cream cheese. This wasn’t just any fudge. Dad perfected a fudge recipe over nearly five decades, and I could taste the love with every bite of this cake.

It’s funny how a conversation about chocolate cake could bring up so many memories of my dad.

The weekend before Dad took a bad turn that resulted in hospice care, the occupational therapist at the nursing home asked Dad what he liked to do, and he said, “Cook.” Mom picked up the ingredients for his award-winning (and also drool-worthy) fudge pie, and Dad got to spend an afternoon doing what he loved the most.

I’m so glad Dad had one last chance to cook, and I’m also glad Mom saved a few pieces of pie for me.




How (Not) To Lower Your Blood Pressure

I haven’t written a blog post in a few months and noticed that one of my “recent” posts was about slowing down. I’m sure you are wondering, “How’s that working for you?”

According to recent blood pressure readings, not too well. At a doctor’s appointment a couple weeks ago, a nurse checked my blood pressure and mentioned that my blood pressure was higher than normal.

I was too afraid to ask what she meant by high, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I went to a local grocery store to get my blood pressure reading at the machine in the pharmacy department. After sticking my arm in the cuff and pressing the start button, I nearly fell off the seat because the machine started yelling.









While I appreciate the accessibility of the machine for visually impaired users, I believe the volume is a bit excessive. Not only did the machine startle me, but I imagine shoppers across the store and possibly in the parking lot heard the instructions.

Why the machine didn’t yell my results for all of west Little Rock to hear is beyond me. Yes, I know all about HIPAA privacy rules, but if people can’t see the instructions on the machine, how can they see the results?

My results weren’t terrible but not great either, so because of my recent milestone birthday and a family history of heart disease (both sides), I decided to make some changes.

I have made a conscious effort over the past two weeks to eliminate obvious stressors such as checking Twitter every ten minutes or reading comments after news articles, especially comments related to the current presidential campaign. In fact, I can imagine that the demand for blood pressure medication is at an all time high.

Today though, after two weeks of working somewhat consistently on better eating and exercising habits and trying very hard to relax more, I expected a good result when I stopped by the grocery store.

I have been out of town for a week and completely forgot about the loud volume of the blood pressure machine. My result, 143/81, was not a total surprise since the only thing keeping me from jumping completely out of the seat was my arm stuck in the blood pressure cuff.

Time to find a new grocery store.


Image found on, Mark Turnaukas, licensed under Creative Commons

“Funny the Way It Is”

“Lying in the park on a beautiful day
Sunshine in the grass and the children play
Sirens passing, fire engine red
Someone’s house is burning down on a day like this.”


Dave Matthews Band. “Funny the Way It Is.” Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. RCA. 2009. Audio CD.

I heard this song by the Dave Matthews Band when it was released around 2009. The contrast of life and death present throughout the song makes me think outside my own little world and regain a bigger perspective. I usually think about this song on September 11 every year and post it to Facebook because it seems to fit.

This time, the song has been on my mind since December 26, 2015, when I heard the news that a former classmate of John’s from middle school died suddenly. He was 16 years old.

This afternoon a precious mom buried her only child, and this evening I’ll be going to watch my 16-year old son in a wrestling match.  “Funny the way it is.”

Source: SoDamnLucky27. “Dave Matthews Band, Funny the Way it Is.” YouTube. YouTube. 17 July, 2009. Web. 5 Jan. 2016.

“Slow down, you move too fast…”

Yesterday I was walking to the parking garage after work and noticed I was walking fast for no reason.  This wasn’t the first time; I think I’ve been in a hurry since birth. I slowed down, and the Simon and Garfunkel song Feelin’ Groovy popped into my head, “…Just kicking down the cobblestones. Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy” (Simon and Garfunkel). This song makes me smile.

So does You Can Call Me Al, also by Paul Simon. “If you’ll be my bodyguard, I will be your long lost pal….” See the video below. You may smile too.


Simon and Garfunkel. 59th Street Bridge Song. Columbia. 1966. LP.

Here is a video with Paul Simon and Chevy Chase featuring Call Me Al.

JohnParr. “Paul Simon-You Can Call Me Al.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 December 2013. Web. 9 July 2015.

Three Years (But who’s counting?)

John and I have been in Little Rock now for three years as of June 15. It’s hard to believe John had just finished sixth grade when we moved here; now he has finished his freshman year of high school. Catherine was 18 when we left Texas; now she’s 21. I was still in my mid forties; now I’m not.

Paul and I have moved to different cities or states eight times in almost 30 years of marriage (the kids came along for the ride beginning in 1994). Our average stay per move used to be around two and a half years, but that is closer to four years now. Living in Belton for six years and Little Rock (the first time) for five years bumped up our average.

Mentally adjusting to a new location has usually taken me anywhere from six months to two years. This time, however, I’ve been in denial for nearly the entire three years. I would tell anyone who asked (or who didn’t ask) that I planned for us to move back to Texas as soon as the ink on John’s high school diploma was dry. I had big plans to move to the great city of Waco and buy a condo downtown. Seriously, Waco has everything I need: taquerias, Belk, paddleboards to rent downtown, quirky shops, and proximity to family and friends.

A week or so before our third anniversary here, however, I had an epiphany. It dawned on me that Paul might want to retire at Blue Cross, which would keep us in Little Rock another ten to fifteen years. If my life were a comic strip, a light bulb would have appeared over my head. I finally got up the nerve to ask The Actuary if working at Arkansas Blue Cross until retirement was his plan, and he confirmed my suspicion.

I wasn’t surprised or angry, and I realized that I have moved from denial to acceptance. Not resignation but genuine (for the most part) acceptance. I’ve had some bouts of anger, bargaining, and depression, but denial has been my main coping strategy this time around.

To quote (and take slightly out of context) Philipians 4:11, “…for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Chuy’s down the street didn’t hurt (thanks, God).

Happy third anniversary, Little Rock. I think I’ll stay here awhile.

Almost Spring and Cats Drinking Water

I can’t believe today is March 11 (which reminds me I need to donate to the late Joey the Garden Cat’s “catpaign” – see the link to his Facebook page if you are interested) which means spring is almost here, the semester is about half over (yikes!), we’ve met our $4000 deductible, and I’ll be fifty in ten months and two days (gifts are encouraged).

The older I get, I find time seems to fly by faster than it used to. When my kids were toddlers, I remember thinking they would never be old enough for Kindergarten. Now my oldest is 21, and my youngest is 15 and a freshman (not for much longer) in high school.

How can I slow down the next three and a half years before he graduates?timeflies

When John was three, I heard a lady mention the quote, “The days are long and the years are short.” One of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin, also uses that quote often in her books and in social media. The quote is a great reminder that time is flying (I just heard a whoosh), and I need to catch my breath, slow down, and enjoy life.

One thing that helps me relax is watching my cat drink water from his bowl. He positions himself carefully behind the bowl, dips a paw in to check the freshness of the water, “combs” his fur, and then hunkers down for a drink. He stands so still, and only his tongue moves in and out of his mouth as he drinks. I wish I had video to post. It’s the cutest thing! I usually stop what I’m doing and just watch. Charlie is such a dainty drinker.

My mom told me a long time ago (I think I was 11) that I needed to stop and smell the flowers. Watching my cat drink water (don’t even get me started on how cute he is when he’s sleeping) is my equivalent of stopping to smell the roses.

Countdown to 50

I will be 49 tomorrow. Because I overthink and overplan, I have been trying for at least six months to figure out what to do this year as a countdown to my 50th birthday. At first I thought of making an Arkansas bucket list. I ruled that out quickly because I don’t like the term “bucket list.” I also thought about going back to NYC, but the timing is bad with grad school and finances. Someone gave me an idea about doing random acts of kindness, but turning that into a project seemed to defeat the purpose of being random.

I finally decided that I don’t need to make this year a production about turning 50. I have enough to do without putting pressure on myself to come up with something creative and unique that could possibly go viral.

Instead of getting sucked into the “make every milestone spectacular” movement that social media seems to propagate, I will enjoy my 49th birthday and the last year of my fourth decade. All I need is cake.CatBirthday

Scooters, crutches, and automatic doors

I have been off crutches for three weeks since having surgery. Since I tend to go from 0-80, I had to use one crutch for a few days at first because it forced me to slow down. My mom says I’m hyper, and my sister calls me Type AA. I just don’t know how to move slowly.

Fortunately, I only needed to use crutches for three weeks after surgery. In that short time, however, I had difficulty getting around in some public places.

I won’t lie. I was excited to drive a scooter at Kroger. After a few halting starts, I quickly got the hang of zipping around the store. I kept my crutches in the cart but had to be careful while turning. I almost took down a Monster drink display when going around a corner too sharply. I also became conscious of people behind me, and I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible. I gave the right of way to parents with the huge kiddie grocery carts too. My only problem at Kroger was not being able to fit the scooter in the aisle that carries the cane, crutch, and walker accessories. I had to park the cart, get out, and hop over to look for crutch accessories because the aisle was too crowded with store displays.

Automatic doors became my best friend. I liked using a crutch to tap the button, and I could boogie right in with my crutches. I noticed that most places do not have automatic doors, including the Tax Assessor’s office on Rodney Parham. Some, like the Thompson library, have automatic outer doors but the inner doors are manual. I was at the mercy of a kind person to help me, or I had to cheat and put some weight on my left leg to get inside.

Some retired gentlemen that regularly meet at the McDonald’s where I get my tea during the summer were especially helpful. They would carry my tea to a table (I like to drink tea and read the paper in the mornings away from the cat) and check on me if they left first. I call them the Charlies because I’m pretty sure at least three of them are named Charlie. I have another name for the self-absorbed business people on phones or laptops at a west Little Rock Starbucks. The Charlies could teach them a thing or two.

I’m lucky. I only needed crutches for three weeks. I can’t imagine a permanent disability. I’m planning to call the City of Little Rock about the Tax Assessor’s doors. I think Little Rock can do better by it’s temporary and permanently disabled citizens.