Category Archives: AKA Gomez the Unremarkable

Gender Divorce Gap After Illness Strikes

Gender Divorce Gap After Illness Strikes.

I read this article on WebMD this morning and found it interesting, highly pertintent and unfortunately from personal experience sadly true.

You see I am a two time NON-smoking lung cancer survivor. In addition I have multiple chronic health problems including several autoimmune disorders. In 2001 my spouse of 27 years, Gomez the unremarkable, walked out on me for a wealthy co-worker of his. My case goes to prove that the length of a marriage doesn’t innoculate you from this sad happenstance of life. One thing Gomez said when he left me…besides he had been used up by our son, my family and the church…was the fact he was tired of taking care of me. The thing he mentioned was bringing me (an occasional) glass of tea.

Not too long after Gomez abandoned me I read a statistic that 97% of men with ill spouse walk out on them but 97% of women with ill spouses stay with their spouses.

What this says about devotion and vows is sad to see…

Please take the time eto read the article especially if you are a woman…

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Health, WebMD, Women's health

The Last Widows of the Confederacy, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The Last Widows of the Confederacy

By Beverly Hicks Burch

It happened on the Friday before Labor Day 2007. Tall and Handsome and I were driving back to Knoxville from another lovely Southern city. We’d been in this city for about two weeks…well at least Scoot, AKA Watson the Wonder dog and I had been in this city with T & H for that long. Tall and Handsome had been there since about the first of August working. We’ve been checking things out for a possible move.

Anyway, the Friday before Labor Day we’re heading back to Knoxville to take care of a few things and check things out at the house there. Before we leave this quintessential Southern town, Tall and Handsome pulls into a gas station to fill the tank up before we hit the road. He pulls up to the pump, whips out his card and reaches for the nozzle and faster than you could say ♪ “Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton…”♪ an attendant appeared and said…

“I’m sorry, suh, but this is full serve. Self serve is on the other island.”

Whoa! After I did a double-take, cleaned my ears out really well and watched a stunned, wide-eyed, disoriented T & H mumble “Thank-you” and stumble back to the Jeep…I mean this had seriously broken his stride and routine…I made the comment to him when he got back in the Jeep…

“These pumps must be for the last widows of the Confederacy.”

I must have intoned some special incantation, because, I kid you not, within about 45 seconds a little blue-haired lady in a little car pulled up to the full serve island and had her gas pumped. You have to admire her…and the Confederate pension she receives must be substantial because the dang stuff on that side of the station was impressive…well over $3.00 a gallon…approaching $4.00. The petrol on our side was much more to our liking…almost a dollar a gallon less…well under a $3.00 gallon. I can say one thing for her, she had full command of that little wagon she was driving…I truly admire her moxie!

Well, we have a running joke in my family with my Momma…about pumping gas. When I saw this full serve gas, I picked up my cell phone and called her while T & H was out there slaving at the pump squeezing that handle, pumping the gas into our Jeep.

“Hey, Momma.”

“Hey.”

“Well, I have a reason you’re going to want to move where we might be moving.”

There was alarm in her voice. I guess she though this was some kind of new sick prank phone call…you know like, “M’am, is your refrigerator running?” or “Do you have Prince Albert in the can?”

She responded with, “Is this Bev? Who is this?”

“Mom, yeah, this is Bev and I have a really good reason you’re going to want to move where we might be moving!”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Now I must explain that my momma and Daddy are in the midst of moving themselves. It’s the first time they’ve moved since the middle of the 1960’s when I was 12 years old! Needless to say this has been a very stressful time for them. They are moving into a really great home up on a mountain top not too far from my home in Alabama. They’ve had a fantastic home built, but it’s been a stressful process none the less.

They’re having to move because their current neighborhood, an extremely nice and stately neighborhood in its day, has become increasingly dangerous. Not too long ago their front doorbell rang, Mom answered the door, and an unknown young man was standing there…sweating bullets…and quicker than Momma could think “Toto, were not in Kansas anymore” the police came up behind him and apprehended the unknown young fellow at my parents’ doorstep!

Sadly, this isn’t the only alarming occurrence to happen to them lately. One fair day, after hearing a rather loud commotion outside, they looked out their front window to discover that a drug dealer’s car had rolled down the hill and landed in their dogwood tree. Hum…I feel like I should be playing the theme song from Cops here and I guess it kind of looked like it that day.

So now, they’re in the midst of this move and I’m hundreds of miles away caught up in a transition of my own…a stress of it’s own for the oldest daughter who wanted to be the perfect daughter all her life…

So, back to the phone conversation…

“But, Momma, wait till you hear why! They have full serve gas here!”

She just chuckled and said, “I looove full serve gas!” As she put in one time, “I’m worth the few extra pennies.” Spoken like a true magnolia and GRITS! But, don’t let that fool you…that was in the days when the difference was a few pennies and not almost a dollar! My Momma knows a deal when she sees one.

I’ve always said Momma was born out of her time…she should have worn a hoop skirt and sat on a veranda with a mint julep in her hand. To be fair though, she would have given Scarlet, Rhett and the Yankees a run for their money, especially when it comes to her family.

Momma did her future daughters a really big favor when she picked out their Daddy…she picked out the best in the world and then set the example of how to honor him and love a guy with balance. They have been married for over 50 years. Daddy still calls her “my little sweet thing” and Momma worries over him when he’s sick like there’s no other in the world…and there’s not…they are a life long love story.

Mom taught us about loving sacrifice everyday in how she loved us. When her baby daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and doctors wanted her institutionalized, Momma said her days version of “No way, Jose!” and kept Yvonne at home…a decision light years ahead of its time.

Momma was housekeeper, chauffer, cook, accountant, nurse and all the other hats a stay at home mom wears. In the 1970’s she was the youth leader of the youth group at church and she gave us a place on Friday nights to hang out and have fun. Most of the time Momma and Daddy provided the money for the food out of their own pockets…but, they wanted to make sure the kids had a safe, fun, loving place to hang out. We all had a blast.

When Gomez the Unremarkable walked out six years ago, I was distraught. My little Momma (and Daddy of course) made sure I saw my worth and that my life would go on. It was not uncommon during that time and when I’d come home from work to have something in the mail from Momma…usually a word of encouragement or Scripture…handwritten.

I get impatient with Momma when she doesn’t realize how smart, talented, valuable, bright, savvy and great she is…so Momma, know this you are wonderful! I love you Momma. Enjoy your new home big time…you deserve it!

Back to Labor Day Weekend and that gas station…to be fair, I admit I looked over at the full serve island and saw a young guy…a big ol’ galoot…in a gi-normous SUV having his gas pumped and his tires kicked and checked by an attendant. I guess it takes all kinds…big ol’ galoots, the last widows of the Confederacy, and well deserving Mommas…not everyone is self serve in this day and age…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Family, Fun, Gomez, grits, Humor, Life, Mothers, Photography, Southerners, Tall & Handsome

Hatched…It’s Not an Egg, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Hatched…It’s Not an Egg

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Well, it’s finally happened. You know that green chilies have becomes a really big thing when Southern Living, the Bible for all true GRITS (Girls Raised In The South) does a six page full color spread in their magazine with accompanying recipes. I on the other hand was ahead of this trend and knowledge when I married Tall and Handsome, a Native New Mexican, but, I must add…he is a New Mexican with very Southern roots. Yes, I had foreknowledge of the chili revolution.

Bev is going to let you in on a little secret here. T & H and I met in a rather unconventional way. Yes, we met online…*gasp*…there I said it. No, it wasn’t in a chat room or anything like that…it was playing an online game. My very Southern momma will be very chagrined to know I’ve told that, although she is quite fond of Tall and Handsome. Daddy was afraid I’d met an ax murderer. Now, he, too, is fond of T & H and thinks he is head and shoulders above the ex, the regrettable Gomez the Unremarkable.

I was very cautious and we courted long distance for almost a year before we met face to face. Then, he had to meet me on home territory which meant meeting my former-mechanical-engineer/project-manager-retired-turned-pastor-father, mom and son who was returning home from duty in the Middle East. You could tell Tall and Handsome was raised by a Southern momma…he came bearing gifts from the southwest for each member of my family. (My gift was a beautiful silver and turquoise Cross hand-crafted by local Native Americans.) No wonder he’s been called the Silverfox…

I can tell you this…if he is an ax murderer he is the most patient one in the history of mankind…he’s still waiting to make his move five years later…

Well, after his visit, he returned to New Mexico and I planned a trip out to visit him and see some sights in the southwest. He made plans and squired me around the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on a VIP pass. We drove up to Santa Fe and actually got engaged there. And, I had some fantastic food…I learn about chilies…both red and green.

la-ristra-hot-air-balloon.jpgNew Mexicans don’t like chilies…they are passionate about chilies. Everywhere you go you can see chili ristras hanging…for sale in different sizes…for decorations, for use, and yes even a hot air balloon at the Fiesta, which I thought was rather bizarre looking and anywhere else would have been considered obscene. Those big blown up red chilies stacked on top of each other floating in the sky just looked…wrong…

red-green-chili-peppers.jpgEven though a chili is technically a fruit, it is the official vegetable of the state of New Mexico. They like `em green and they like `em red. If you can’t make your mind up which you want…no problem…ask for Christmas on the side and you get both.

There has been some competition between New Mexico and Texas over who is the chili state winner, but, I think New Mexico and New Mexicans pretty much win by default and the amount of Capsaicin per cc of blood. Let’s put it this way…if there was a way to measure chili intake like alcohol with a breathalyzer…well, most New Mexicans would stay three sheets in the wind on chilies.

This is not necessarily a bad thing though because unlike alcohol…chilies do have some health benefits. For example, one fresh chili pod has as much vitamin C as an orange, and a teaspoon of red chili powder has all the daily requirements of vitamin A. Capsaicin, the chemical in a chili that makes it hot is used in products to relieve the pain of arthritis and it’s used as an additive in bird feed to keep squirrels out…they really don’t like it, but the Capsaicin doesn’t affect the birds…other than that it will help the Cardinals turn really red.

They take the chili so seriously in New Mexico…as seriously as the South takes football…that there is the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. The Institute does not have a football team…but, they do study Scoville units, or how hot the dang things are. They range from mild to “scorch you eyes out and melt you sinuses” to “blow out the back of your head”. T & H likes his somewhere in between the last two.

Like Georgia and their Vidalia onion, New Mexican swear there is only one sacred place to get the “right stuff” and that is in Hatch, NM. You can get the fresh or canned kind from there. When Tall and Handsome moved South from New Mexico for our nuptials, about 75% of his U-Haul was filled with Hatch canned goods. That was the only thing I had to sign a pre-nup on…just kidding honey…those puppies didn’t last long and the poor baby had to resort to buying other canned chopped green chilies that will remain nameless.

There is a big festival in Hatch every September during Labor Day weekend. During the fall in Hatch and in most of New Mexico you can buy a big burlap sack of chili peppers that weighs about 40 pounds and then have them roasted over an open flame in a big chicken wire barrel. It will cost you about $15. The scent permeates the air during the fall.

One year around September, not too long after T & H and I got married, we treated our neighbors in a sleepy little northwestern Alabama town to this exotic scent…for a very long time. Oddly, one day I found this HUGE brown box on our doorstep. It was emitting a very strong pungent scent. Since it wasn’t ticking, I went ahead and brought it inside, opened it up and…Viola mon amis…stuffed inside was a whole box of fresh green chili pods. Yep, one of T & H’s buddies had shipped him a box all the way from New Mexico.

Well, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on those puppies and roast them, but, he had a small problem. There wasn’t any chili roasting people with big ol’ chicken wire drums in Marion County, Alabama. Being the resourceful chap that he is, he decided to do them himself…you got it on the grill! Now mind you, this was in the days of pre-Weber grill. All we had at the time was a very small table top, camp size propane bottle powered grill. The surface top was about the size of a pin-head, but by Jove he roasted those chili peppers…and roasted those chili peppers and roasted those chili peppers. We finished just in time to put up the Christmas decorations…that is after removing the skins, placing them in plastic freezer bags and putting them in the freezer.

Now, I make chopped green chilies a staple in my pantry. Want to borrow some high quality chili powder? No problem. This is what happens when you marry a Tall and Handsome cowboy from New Mexico…with Southern roots and who grew up in the South…

As I was browsing my Southern Living I found this recipe. It had Tall and Handsome’s taste buds written all over it. I read it to him and his eyes lit up like a little boy at Christmas. We’re planning what meal we’ll have it with. Thought you folks might like to try it, too…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under "New Mexico", AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Birds, Bread, Cooking, food, Gomez, Grilling, grits, Humor, recipes, Southerners, Tall & Handsome, The Story Behind..., Vegetables

The Little Green Box, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The Little Green Box

By Beverly Hicks Burch

There are two months that can be particularly hard for me…June and August…and not for the reasons you might think. Although I am a true Southern belle, I hate heat and summer. Mild, temperate summers are something I am envious of say…Alaska! My idea of fun is not scrapping the summer humidity off my skin with a table knife…and this summer has been truly juicy. I am actually more of a spring, fall and winter person.

In reality, these months, June and August, mark certain events…one a birthday and one a very tragic event. They always give me pause for reflection.

I’ve been very fortunate to have some very special, important women in my life. In addition to my mother, I had two maternal aunts, Mom’s two sisters, my Aunt Korinne and Aunt LaRue. They have at different times in my life been like Rocks of Gibraltar for me…and that’s what family is all about. Some aunts are distant non-involved aunts, but not these two.

juanita-korrine-larue.jpgMom was the oldest of the three girls and I must say, they all three were lookers and bright, smart, talented gals.

Juanita Nov 1951I love my Momma. My Mom knew early on what and who she wanted…my Daddy…it was kind of love at first sight for them. Once she laid eyes on that tall, dark haired, handsome looker in a church service in East Tennessee, there was no turning back. Daddy has always said he was drawn to those “big ol’ doe eyes” of Momma’s…translate, big, soft sensual brown eyes, which she passed on to two of her daughters. My baby sister got Daddy’s big ol’ soft sensual gray eyes and all three of us got his long luxurious eyelashes. Momma was 15 and Daddy was 16. They dated four years, all through high school, got married and eleven months later I was born. At first Mom thought she had a virus, but, surprise, it was lil’ ol’ me and I think I’ve been making her sick ever since…just kidding Momma…

Daddy was the “bread winner” and Mom was the stay-at-home mom…raising three girls in the `50’s, 60’s and `70’s. Yes, it does sound a tad like Ozzie and Harriett or Donna Reed…and actually it kinda was. I have no complaints with my upbringing…it was basic, normal and I received what I needed plus I was raised to be independent, a thinker and to take my education seriously. We were raised to believe we could be just about anything we wanted to be…even if it was to be a stay at home mom or a professional.

Momma was the oldest of the girls and the “artsy” one who was kinda quiet and shy. She, like her sisters, was a voracious reader while the other two were more musically inclined. Mom dabbled in art and painting and the textile arts…she sewed many a dress for her little girls. She even took up quilting after I did in the `80’s. Mom has made sure my mentally and physically challenged baby sister stayed home with the family and lived with dignity…a decision that was light years ahead of its time. She’s had health issues and kept on plugging away. She had a way of passing on the desire to cook without making it seem like a chore and she showed us how to be furiously loyal and devoted to a husband and how to like men…yeah, we were Daddy’s girls.

Korinne McGee RoseMy Aunt Korinne was like my grandmother, the educator of the three sisters. She loved kids and taught elementary school. Little boys in her class would fall madly in love with her and hang their coat by hers in the cloakroom and try to play matchmaker with her and their single dads. She had a beautiful alto singing voice and could play the piano and organ and her classroom was the joyous precipitant of that nurturing skill. Along with my Aunt LaRue, Aunt Korinne sang with my grandfather at church in a trio and it is a little girl memory I will hold with me forever.

I was the beneficiary of her skills too, and as a result I could read and write a long time before a lot of my contemporaries thanks in part to my parents fostering reading at an early age…they started giving me books when I was a baby and Aunt Korinne was a strong supporter with her educational skills.

Aunt Korinne was always whisking me away for outings and adventures…even if it was for a ride on a bus…a big thing for a little girl, who thought the bus doors were magical. She took me to see Gone With the Wind for the first time in a theatre in Chattanooga…intermission and all…she actually lost a contact on the way to get refreshments.

I loved my Aunt Korinne. She often told me we were alike and she encouraged me and took the time to listen to me. She read a lot of my writing and encouraged me to continue and pursue it. We talked about traveling to New York and other places together when I graduated from high school. Usually, I would spend two weeks or so with her in Tennessee during the summer. I think I had pizza for the first time during one of my summer visits with her and we were known to mix it up in the kitchen on my visits during the summer. We had many a late night pajama party, sitting up talking girl talk, watching old movies, eating popcorn or snacks and just having a blast. The first time I ever saw the movie Splendor in the Grass with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty was with her and we both cried our eyes out like two teenage girls…which of course I was… We would be sobbing then look at each other and burst out laughing and then start crying again.

Guys called her a heartbreaker, (as I was called later) but it wasn’t a deliberate thing with her…so many just fell in love with her and it took her a while to find the one to fall in love with…when she did, it was the wrong one and it ended divorce. She had one son she dearly loved from the marriage. It seemed history repeated itself we me because I later became the only sister of three to end up divorced. Yep, I had picked wrong…but, I did end up with a son I dearly loved and I did find Mr. Right when I married Tall and Handsome. She never found her Tall and Handsome…that makes me sad…

Aunt Korinne was a June baby…born on the 19th. Unfortunately, 36 years later she was taken away from us on August 21st just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to everything else she did Aunt Korinne taught a middle school age Sunday School class and they and some more youth from the church were on their way to Six Flags Over Georgia…and they almost made it. Aunt Korinne had driven a blue Ford Mustang and it was loaded with kids. Somehow, someway, a car hit her from behind and when it did her Mustang was thrown into the next lane of the interstate in a 90 degree angle…into the path on an oncoming 18 wheeler truck. There was nothing the truck driver could do. They said he stripped every gear in the truck trying to stop it, but in the end it was futile. Aunt Korinne and every child in her car but one was gone…on impact.

I was 19 years old when that hot August day infringed upon my life and changed it and I was never the same. You always miss the person you loved when they’re gone. For sometime after she was gone, I had very vivid dreams about Aunt Korinne.

Over the years we gather around each other and held on to the family that was left. So, my Aunt Korinne gave me the gift of the years of bonding with my Aunt LaRue…hurray for Aunt LaRue! She is an August baby…born on the 13th so that gives me a joyous reason to look forward to the month. I love my Aunt LaRue!

aunt-larue-28-nov-1974.jpgI could fill pages about Aunt LaRue. She was 15 when I was born…yes, I’ve grown up with young parents and aunts. She is my confidant, best friend, partner in crime, second mom, travel buddy, angel and anything else thrown into one. Like me, she suffers from many of the same autoimmune aliments…proof that they do cluster in families…so we can commiserate on treatments, flare ups, good days, bad days and medications and what not. When my son was born sick and was in neo-natal intensive care, Aunt LaRue was there…when I had lung cancer surgery, Aunt LaRue was at the hospital…

She was the first person I call when Gomez the Unremarkable walked out after 27 years of marriage for a co-worker. She was as stunned as I was because she had just been up and spent some time with us. She told me then she knew something wasn’t right with him. When we had taken her home to Florida, Gomez had spent a lot of time in her back yard among the citrus trees…on his cell phone. Phone records later showed he was calling his girlfriend’s work extension and personal numbers.

Aunt LaRue like her sisters is talented and smart as a whip…and she’s people smart and savvy, too. She’s quick with numbers which doesn’t surprise me, because she is very musical. She had a four octave range voice in addition to playing the piano. Like Mom, she’s dabbled in art. For years, she worked in the family clothing business and can make just about any alteration you need to clothing…men’s suits included.

The woman can cook!! She’s known as THE cook in the family amongst a family of cooks. Chicken and dumpling…to die for! Fried chicken and gravy…yep, to die for. Egg custard pie…yum!

Aunt LaRue and I are known for our marathon talk sessions…yes, long distance that last for three, four, even five hours…that’s why I have that one rate long distance plan…and we usually have these gab sessions in the middle of the day or late at night when Tall and Handsome is out of town on business. My Uncle Johnny says he doesn’t know how two humans can have so much to say…lol! He’s a man of few words, but we do gab and giggle like girls. We talk about books, and recipes and movies and life and anything that comes to mind. One year when Aunt LaRue came to visit, she brought a bunch of pictures for me to scan for my family genealogy files. Sometimes we talk about that. We both share a love for reading and love to read Ann Rule books.

Two of my favorite memories of my Aunt LaRue were a trip with her to the US Virgin Islands and a trip to San Antonio, TX. In the Virgin Islands we saw the second place where Christopher Columbus landed in the New World at St. Croix. We took a hovercraft from St. Croix to St. Thomas and shopped in the beautiful harbor village of Charlotte Amalie. At our hotel that evening, we sat and dined at the open air café on wonderful gourmet food and looked out down over the harbor and watched as the cruise ships quietly sailed back out to sea in the setting sun.

We still chuckle at the memory of traveling across the big ol’ state of Texas in my Explorer at the time. I tend to get tunnel vision and at times food is the last thought on my mind when going cross-country like that…at least until I pass something that really jumps out at me and catches my fancy. Way east of Dallas I heard my Aunt LaRue say, “Beverly, I’m going to have to get down in the floor board and find me some crumbs to gnaw on if we don’t stop and find a place to eat.” I knew that was her way of saying she was hungry.

I had such a blast getting to travel with her and I hope we can do more of that in the future…she deserves it.

In the 1980’s Aunt LaRue moved to Florida from Tennessee…my uncle was transferred down there. I’ve been able to go down a few times and spend a few weeks with her…once when the orange blossoms were blooming. That is a heavenly fragrance. Another time, we decided to do some painting and stuff. We had a blast. Once when she came and spent some time with me I made some of my home-made banana pudding. She said it was the best she had ever had…and coming from my Aunt LaRue, that was one of the best compliments I could have gotten.

So, my friends, are you wondering what on earth caused Bev to rattle on and reminisce like this? The answer is simple…a little green box…my Aunt Korinne’s little green recipe box. For some reason I picked it up and was browsing through…I had been thinking about her Fudge Pie recipe and the moment I popped the box open, there was her handwriting and her printing…just like the perfect second or third grade school teacher that she was…just as if she had left it there yesterday. That little green box will always be a cherished treasure of mine.

I hope you enjoy a little gem I share with you from the Little Green Box…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Cooking, Family, genealogy, Gomez, Sisters, The Story Behind...

The Tax Man Cometh, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The Tax Man Cometh

By Beverly Hicks Burch

I bet you’re reading the title of this blog and thinking you know what it’s all about…well, you do…and you don’t…kinda…sorta… Clear as mud isn’t it? It’s like taxes and a lot of other things in the good ol’ US of A at the moment.

Let me explain and give a little background and tell you where I’m coming from and I will share a couple of personal experiences with you to illustrate. But, first let me ask you a question. Do you know how long you worked this year to pay off your taxes? How long did you work for the government…to pay for the taxes imposed by various governmental agencies? According to the Tax Foundation this year’s Tax Freedom Day was April 30th…four days later this year than last year…but, surprisingly down from previous years when the average American had to work well into the month of May to pay off their tax debt. The idea of an income tax is a relatively new one in this country. The concept was accepted and ratified by Congress in the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. This amendment gave Congress the right to impose a permanent income tax on the American public.

Every pay check a big chunk of your check is taken out in what is called FICA taxes. Do you know what FICA taxes are? A simplified definition would be – those are you Social Security (6.2% of your wages) taxes. These taxes are part of FDR’s New Deal of the 1930’s Depression relief programs and promises. In the 1960’s Medicare was added to be covered by the FICA taxes.

Why on earth is Bev thinking and writing about this subject? Well, I read something the other morning and it also reflects back on a personal trial I had to go through. Let me share with you…sounds “touchy feely” doesn’t it?

One morning I was going through some magazines, sifting through, throwing out, etc. In a news magazine I came across a couple of articles juxtaposed on the same page that I found very interesting. One was by John Stossel and the other was anonymous.

Mr. Stossel was making the point of how large government has become. He made some interesting points:

  • Springfield, NJ economist, consultant and forecaster Gary Shilling reports that 52.6% of Americans receive substantial public (read governmental) aid, assistance or monies. This is up from 49.4% in the year 2000. In the year 1950 that number was 28.3%. Mr. Shilling predicts that by the year 2040 60% of Americans will be living off taxpayers. That my friend is you and me and our children and grandchildren. The funds will come out of our pockets and we will work how many hours, how many months it takes to pay for that? It would be interesting to know if those numbers are based on current population factors and/or if they factor in the possibility of adding 11 – 12 million illegal aliens to our burgeoning entitlement system and government trough.
  • 1 out of 5 (that translates into 20%) Americans work for the government, or a firm that depends on taxpayer funding.
  • 1 in 5 (or 20%) draws Social Security or a Federal pension. This number will grow as the baby boomer generation ages and moves on to Social Security.
  • 9 million people are on food stamps
  • 2 million receive housing subsidies
  • 5 million go to school on federal taxpayer dollars – many student loans are defaulted and many are paid off at a discount
  • The Cato Institute estimates nearly 1,700 federal subsidy programs spending billions of dollars each year.

Now, also on the same page was another article. This article reported a survey conducted by the Mexican daily El Universal. The results were interesting at least and stunning at worst. According to the survey:

  • 45% of Mexican citizens have at least one relative living north of the border in the USA
  • 61% said the money sent back home to Mexico from those relatives is “very important” to their welfare

Whether here legally or illegally, authorities estimate Mexican nationals living in the USA send $23 billion back to Mexico in “remittances”. These remittances are Mexico’s second largest source of foreign income…behind their petroleum income. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that many US banks and credits unions are now setting up programs to help legal and illegal nationals send these remittances back to their homeland. Author’s note: If these nationals are paid “off the books” as is done with many day laborers, house help, child care workers, farm laborers, etc. they are paid in cash and therefore, no taxes are paid on these monies.

First, don’t get me wrong. I am a student of history. I have seen our regal Lady Liberty in New York harbor and she is inspiring. I have been many places in this grand big country of ours and I can tell you one thing. We are truly a melting pot. We are a land of immigrants…English, Irish, Italian, German, Polish, Russian, French, African, Asian, Spanish, Mexican and more… All of you reading this at this very moment had ancestors that came to this country from some where…some earlier than others…even our Native Americans probably crossed the Bering Strait to become the Native Americans.

But, our ancestors did one thing…they had a different attitude than we see today. They began to merge…to meld…to become one, to make one country…this United States of America.

We do have a problem with illegal aliens…regardless of nationality. Let me ask you this question…Do you think you could go to any nation on this planet and behave like the illegals do in this country? Take the same liberties? Take advantage of the system? Of the people? Of the economy? Of the government? Not in a New York minute…

To be remedial let me make a point here: If I had some flour, some butter, some apples, some sugar, spices and a few other ingredients that’s all they are…separate ingredients, each to their own, by themselves, alone in separate stacks and locations. But, if I combine and meld these ingredients together, I have not diminished them. No, I have made a wonderful, juicy, tasty, succulent apple pie. And what could be more American than Apple Pie? That pie is the sum of its parts just like America is the sum of her people when we meld together and become one nation.

One of the points in the debate on the illegal alien situation has been the point that they are honest, hard working people, paying taxes and contributing to our economy. I have no problem if that is true and with legal nationals in the country doing so. I have serious questions about that when I see $23 billion of our economy being hijacked to another country and with the issues I raised above…monies being paid “off the books” and taxes avoided. I would pose this question: Would the government of Mexico or any other country allow the reverse to happen? Would they allow $23 billion of their economy to be sent North of the border in remittance by legal or illegal aliens in their country?

Now, let me tell you a dirty little secret. This system, the “Great American I’m Going To Take Care Of You System” doesn’t work…at least not for everyone. I know. I found out the hard way. Let me share a very painful experience and at very eye opening time in my life…in more ways than one. Please bear with me here…there is a point…

So, what does a middle class white woman know about being disenfranchised? Well, here’s just part of my story… On May 24, 2001, my son’s 21st birthday, after almost 27 years of marriage, my ex, Gomez the Unremarkable decided to walk out. He had a new honey in his life. A co-worker, Morticia…one with money…that’s really important to him. After much deception, lying, cover-up and just general over all low life behavior he finally confessed to the fact they had been carrying on for about 18 months.

When I looked back over those 18 months, I realized there was a point when he tried to convince me sell our home and buy a home close to her and her then husband and three children. She had confessed to her husband she and Gomez had planned on staying with us until she had seen 12 year old son through college, THEN they were going to dump us and finally get together. If Gomez and I had moved down by them it would have been more convenient for Gomez and Morticia. It was also about this time that Gomez would go on rants about how he couldn’t understand why my father couldn’t “gift” us with large chunks of cash…like $10,000 at a time like a co-worker had done with his family. (It wasn’t enough my dad had given us the down payment for our home to begin with…I look back now and see that if he could have gotten his hands on those larger sums of cash, he could have moved into the neighborhood closer to Morticia,)

When our parting of ways happened our son was out of state attending SERE training in conjunction with the USAF and the Alabama National Guard. It was a grueling time for him…and for me. I was in a type of SERE training myself…for those of you not familiar with SERE it is a type of survival training.

Here is where it gets interesting…and this is why I told you all of that. When Gomez left, he cleaned out the bank accounts…yep, he was one of those. He also told me he didn’t give a f**king g*damn what I did for healthcare. You see, I had already had lung cancer twice and had been diagnosed with multiple autoimmune disorders, Raynaud’s syndrome, Fibromyalgia and other chronic health problems.

I was what they called a displaced homemaker…and Gomez was on a tear. I had worked full time years earlier, but after our son was born, stayed at home, other than some occasional part-time work when I paid into the system. I had helped Gomez run some home-based businesses (one he started with funds from my father) while he worked at the office (at a job my dad had a hand in getting him) and for an extended time I did free-lance work for a former employer at home. All the time, I paid my taxes…even in our home based businesses. I had also home-schooled our son for several years so he could take advantage of the opportunities of travel associated with the ex’s work. I had been a very busy, very involved wife, mother and woman.

In addition I helped Gomez restore and renovate two homes and add onto one home. I was the caretaker, chauffer, bookkeeper, nurse, cook, assistant renovator and any other job needed of the family. Gomez went to work, cut the grass and on occasion took the garbage out.

Then, my health began to take its toll and he didn’t like that…he told me so when he left. He said, “I didn’t want to take care of you, I didn’t like taking care of you, but, I did, so there.” Compassionate cuss, huh? (Really big newsflash – uh, no, Gomez you didn’t take care of me. Remember that little thing called a vow? Sorry little guy, you failed the test.) I guess he forgot I took care of him when he broke his neck in a car accident after we had been married only 18 months.

I had skills, but very poor health…and he knew that.

And, there is a reason I tell you all of that. You see, during the divorce Gomez got himself a lawyer whose father was one of the only three judges in our little county in Alabama where our divorce was being adjudicated. Yep. Bet you can see this train wreck coming. I got a good attorney and dectective that caught Gomez and Morticia in the act of very compromising situations. But, because my attorney wasn’t part of the county good-ol’-boy system a lot of my contempt charges against him and other papers against Gomez were “lost”.

In addition, during the hearing for temporary support after my attorney made the point that I was a woman in poor health and had been out of the workplace for over 20+ years, the ex’s attorney got up, waved his hand and said “oh yeah, you’ve had your gall bladder or something removed” which at the time I still had, but, have since have had removed while being married to Tall & Handsome. Let me tell you…surgery with a man like him is a totally different experience! It’s all about compassion which T & H has in spades. At the time of the divorce, I’d only had 60% of my left lung removed and a portion of my right lung removed because of cancer (and I was a non-smoker). Gomez knew that but, allowed his attorney to bellow on about “gall bladders”. Disingenuous and mendacity…they were birds of a feather.

Gomez became very upset that I hired a lawyer…he felt that he should have been the only one to have legal representation. He told me, “I told my attorney you were reasonable and would get your legal help off the internet.” He marched up to the house with an offer for my dad and me to look over and said, “If you don’t accept this by such and such time, it won’t be here for you.” In other words…I’m playing hardball and will break your back. My dad knew I needed legal help.

When I got an attorney, Gomez went ballistic. He played voodoo economics with the support the judge mandated…got away with it and left me penniless. One month he mailed me two dollar bills and three coins taped on a sheet of paper. (That’s when he decided he wanted one of my sewing machines.) He told my father I needed to be taught a lesson and he said he wanted to see me “wrong” for once. Huh? Newsflash…I was wrong big time…on November 27, 1974. Yes, girls, I learned the hard way…love shouldn’t hurt.

I had no income and he knew it…and reveled in it. He was on a tear to destroy me. He called my aunt in Florida and told her that without him, I would be dead in five years. (Question: If he really believed that, does that sound like attempted premeditated murder or unbelievable self importance?) He also told her that my elderly parents had deep pockets and could take care of me, but forgot to mention the fact they have a mentally and physically disabled daughter at home full time.

Why am I telling you this? Remember the “system”? “The Great American I’m Going to Take Care of You System”? Well, it doesn’t work for everyone. I know. I tried to avail myself of it during this traumatic time. When I needed my meds, food, doctor visits, utility bills paid…but, nope…uh huh, not for Bev…I tried more agencies, both non-profit and government, than I care to remember…and the response was the same…“You don’t fit the profile.” Huh, what the heck does that mean? I had a need, I’ve paid my taxes, I’ve donated…now, why don’t I fit the profile? I was up to my eyeballs in need!

My next “light bulb” experience came a couple of years later. I had gone to work for a large insurance company in their hybrid claims/call center after my divorce. I loved the job. It was a job with purpose. It was also a job with high stress and demands…a job that takes it toll on a person with autoimmune disorders and Fibromyalgia and the company itself was not very concerned with the disabled. Fortunately, I did have long-term disability coverage.

I gave it a valiant try, but my health really started to decline. I collapsed at work one day and had to be taken to the ER…that little ride cost me over $1,000 out of pocket…money I didn’t really have…you see, I got the first and second mortgage (which included paying for a Ford Explorer Gomez added to the second mortgage about six weeks before he left)…and one morning on the way to work I blacked out and rear-ended the vehicle in front of me. Fortunately I was coming to a stop sign but, since I was in the process of coming to a stop there was no damage to either car.

By the time my specialist removed my from work, I was in unbearable pain, had gone almost a week without sleep, could only manage to sit at my station without an ice pack and was on steroid treatment. I went through my FMLA, short term disability and then started the process for my long term disability. It was a tough haul.

One of the things I had to do during the process was apply for my Social Security Disability. And, this my friends, was the other light bulb moment. Remember me telling you about all of those taxes? And all of those years I paid into the system? After filling out numerous forms, going through several interviews, sending doctor file after file (which I had to pay for), I finally got my verdict. Denied. Why? I hadn’t worked enough quarters before I was declared disabled to get my disability…even though I’ve paid thousands of dollars into the system…and even though there are people that have never worked…and aren’t citizens that are getting some kind of Social Security, Medicare, Aid for Dependant Children for themselves or their family. Gee, wish I’d known that years ago!

I also discovered that all those years I sat up through the night getting an engraving job finished while Gomez slept or I sat on a John Deere tractor cutting a soccer field…well, Gomez took the full self-employed FICA tax credit for that instead of dividing it with me in our home based businesses. The income I would have gotten from my SS disability would have supplemented my long term disability and made a big difference in my life…and I paid into the system for years. C’est la vie…

These have been extremely frustrating lessons to discover. I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog and seeing the right thing done. To see the system not work…not just once, but on several occasions in my case has been, well, it is disheartening. But, I am a survivor. So far, I have beat cancer twice and on a daily basis I deal with other chronic health issues. I almost died in October 2005, and I survived that episode. I’ve had a support system in faith, family and I met and fell in love with a man with big blue eyes and a heart as big as the sky in his southwestern home state. Compassion like his is rare not only in men…but, in most people nowadays.

I fear for people who do not understand that the system does not and will not always work for you. Just because the tax man cometh, doesn’t mean your fair share will be there should something go awry in your life…and that’s wrong…very wrong. Yes, this should be a land of equal opportunity and chances, but we do not promise equal outcome…that is left up to the individual. We have to fix the system so that it works for all Americans and so that America continues to be the great nation our Founding Fathers laid the foundation for.

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under "Big Government", "Gary Shilling", "Illegal Aliens", "John Stossel", "SERE Training", "Social Security", AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Disability, Divorce, FICA, Gomez, Immigration, Taxes

I Wanna Go Back…, by Beverly Hicks Burch

I Wanna Go Back…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Back in 1991 I went around for about a year with an earworm stuck in my head. What was so bad is I only had one phrase of the song stuck in my head and then the rest of the melody played on…you know…kinda like those dorks in the Holiday Inn commercial. Well, my earworm was, …I wanna go back to my little grass shack in Kona Hawaii…♪

Yes, in 1991, thanks in part to Daddy who gave me first class airplane tickets, I got to spend 10 wonderful days in a spot on this Earth that can easily be described as Paradise. Of course, the fact that 85 giga-trillion Japanese tourist were walking around very quickly with very big wallets crammed full of trillions of yen buying up everything thus driving up prices kind of tarnished the golden glow of Paradise. It was a big concern for the Hawaiian economy at the time. But, that was the 1990’s. Later, the Japanese economy hit a bump, inflation and all, and that presented a new set of problems for the Hawaiian economy.

It also presented a personal snafu from time to time. You see, my former surname was “Ling”. No, Gomez is not Asian…far from it. Occasionally we would have to queue up for something…a dinner table etc. Well, you can imagine the look people gave us when we stepped forward when the name “Ling” was called. Imagine someone setting off the largest stink bomb in the world in the room and you’ve got the look on their faces. They were all thinking, “Yeah, sure”. We were branded. We were posers.

This was a trip of a lifetime. It’s unfortunate it had to be with Gomez, but if I lobotomize the part of my brain his memory lives in, I can still manage to have some wonderful memories of Hawaii.

For me the biggest problem was getting there…I hate to fly…do not call me Amelia Earhart. It’s not the travel, I love to travel, or the new places…it’s that little thing called the distances between me and terra firma. This particular flight involved two of my “Monkish” phobias…flying *shiver* and water…flying over water…oh my gosh! Now, to all of that mix, add the fact that I get motion sickness, yes, and air sickness…Bev needs a barf bag. Bev got sick riding the ferry from Battery Park in New York City out to see Miss Liberty! (See how much I love you guys to share this?) So, in the days leading up to my departure, I wrestled with my fear of flying like Jacob with the angel…“Had I rather die during the take-off, landing or drop out of the sky and plunge into the Pacific Ocean?” I just attributed my fear of flying to the fact this East Tennessee mountain girl come Alabama transplant loves terra firma in the form of giant chunks called mountains so much that she hates to defy gravity and leave said terra firma. Other people call it being scared poop-less.

Anyway, Bev is not one to drink “spirits”, but, baby, I love those Dramamine. I “Dramamined” my way across the Pacific, in first class. Talk about being in high cotton…yeah, baby! I do apologize to the person who got the leather seat with drool all over it after me. Wish I could remember more about that flight…

I do remember arriving in Honolulu and flying over Pearl Harbor and some sugar fields before landing at Honolulu International Airport. I remember the sugar fields because they burn the fields off during harvesting and we had to fly through the smoke. It was a point the pilot took a moment to note for us.

I had chosen three islands to visit: Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii. Of course Oahu is the most populated of the islands and is where the big city of Honolulu is located. Kauai is known as the Garden Island and the Big Island is known for, among other things, its still active volcanoes.

I did many things while in the Islands, some things others might have found uncharacteristic for me, but, I was determined to experience the whole enchilada or as much as I could. And each island brought specific and unusual treats.

Bev at the luau, Hawaii April 1991Oahu was the more “touristy” island. I did a luau there. I took a tour around the island and saw some things and places that would be considered rural stateside, but, with an exotic Hawaiian beauty. There were pineapple plantations and some of the sweetest pineapple I’ve ever had in my life.

Famous Diamond Head, the dormant volcano dominated Waikiki Beach, where we stayed, like a sentinel watching over it. I’m a lighthouse enthusiast and was delighted to discover the Diamond Head Lighthouse. I got to experience the winds of the Nuuanua Pali Lookout where King Kamehameha experienced a great victory in Hawaiian history. The winds are so great here, it can seem almost chilly, yes, even in a tropical paradise. You are warned to remove hats and hold onto valuables and small children’s hands. The view will take you breath away.

My one break-out experience on Oahu? Bev went on a submarine ride! Yes, the one who can not swim, only sink in H2O went on a submarine ride and I have the certificate to prove it. Huzzah! It was several feet down, really! I had to ride a catamaran to get to the sub and once we boarded, the hatch was closed and under we went. I had the chance to see some amazing sea life, but, the thing that astonished me the most was to see where the ancient lava flows had rushed into the sea and rested at the bottom of the ocean floor. This is how the Islands were born.

On to Kauai, the Garden Island. I was saddened a few years after my visit when Hawaii was hit by Hurricane Iniki and little Kauai bore the brunt of the damage. Kauai is very rural. At the time of my visit, it was still a sleepy little island, full of tropical delights and waterfalls. We rented a car on this island and explored our heart out. I saw the waterfall from the opening credits of the TV show Fantasy Island, and a beautiful area known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”…Waimea Canyon. Yes, it was a real canyon, maybe not as big as the one in Arizona, but just a spectacular given the location…in a Hawaiian way. (Waimea is 10 miles long and one mile wide.)

I discovered another magnificent lighthouse, Kilauea Lighthouse. It stood on a little finger of land that jutted out above the blue Pacific. It was an absolute vision to behold and I still carry it with me. From the distance I saw it from, it left a very lasting surreal impression. I can still see the white of the lighthouse column glimmering in the Hawaiian sun and the bright red roof seemed suspended above the lens housing. If I could, I would live there.

My break-out experience on Kauai? Bev took a helicopter ride around the Island! Oh, my gosh!! Yes, the mountain gal that hates to fly took a helicopter flight. It was like riding on a leaf, at the whim of the thermals. When we first took off, I thought I was going to have to take up a collection like a pastor, but instead of passing the collection plate, I would be asking all of the other passengers to pass their barf bag to yours truly. My eyes where shut tight and “eau de helicopter fuel” was wafting up my nostrils. Then it hit me, “Bev, O gal, you may never do this again. There are places on this island you can only see by boat or helicopter. Get ahold (a very Southern term) of yourself girl, and enjoy this.” So I did.

And, did I ever get to see some marvelous sites! We flew into that “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” I told you about. Our whirly-bird looked like a little bitty dragonfly against the backdrop of the canyon wall. I saw the Napali Coast, a very rugged terrain. You might even recognize the area…parts of it have been used in movies like The Thorn Birds and South Pacific. The pilot flew us up to what seemed like the top of the world, and we were in thick clouds…we were in one of the wettest spots on Earth. We flew over taro fields and all too soon, we were back at the airport. Darn.

I was so glad I did the helicopter trip…would I do it again? I don’t know. Not too long ago a tourist helicopter crashed on Kauai and there were fatalities. Scary.

The Big Island of Hawaii was next…and another one I explored with a car. There are two main coasts on Hawaii…Hilo and Kona…and, hence my earworm. I stayed in a wonderful hotel that looked out onto a lagoon surrounded by blue Pacific water and black lava…it was breathtaking…and on the Kona side.

One of Kona’s claim to fame is an impossibly smooth coffee that is grown there on the island. It can be a little pricy, but well worth it. It is fabulous…just be cautious…do not get a blend passing itself off as a true Kona…it’s just not the same thing and it won’t taste the same! I went into a little Kona coffee shop and had Kona coffee and some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts…see what I mean about Paradise?!

The Hawaiian Island chain is actually a group of mountains rising from the bottom of the ocean floor. They were created over years from volcanic activity. The Big Island is still volcanically active thanks to Kilauea. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the tallest mountain in the world is actually part of Hawaii. Yes, taller than Mount Everest if you count from the bottom of the ocean floor. That mountain is Mauna Kea. Mauna Loa is another giant volcanic mountain on the Big Island. Mauna Kea *gasp* is on occasion snow-capped. While I was visiting Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks, I actually had to wear a sweater because it was chilly. One thing I remember about exploring Kilauea and the Park…the unpleasant stench of sulfur. If you need a “volcano buster” in your backyard call Bev…I’ll never forget that smell.

Well, I had a break out experience on the Big Island, too. I went on a dinner cruise. It’s not what you think…just give me a minute. This was to be a nice quiet, romantic dinner, with sunset views on the Pacific accompanied by great food, Hawaiian music and entertainment. Some of that was true (forget the romantic…it was with Gomez the unremarkable) but, things did get a little interesting.

Keep this one thing in mind…remember I said, “Bev is not one to drink “Spirits…adult beverages”…at least until Gomez tucked tail and abandoned his family, then I did try to recreate something I’m about to tell you.

When we arrived on the boat, we were ushered to our table. Already on the table were glasses, with what I thought was this wonderful fruit drink. Yum! As I enjoyed my glass of vitamin C I glanced around the table and noticed that Gomez and I were the youngest people at the table. I also remembered that we were about to set sail and I had forgotten to take my beloved Dramamine…I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s dinner, so I didn’t waste time taking one. Well, it didn’t take long for Bev to develop what some might call a “buzz”. Whoopee! Evidently, my great fruit juice drink and something “extra” in it and I had added Dramamine to the mix. Well, light my fire and kiss my grits!

It was now time for the entertainment. The hunky young people from the cruise company were picking people from each table to become part of the entertainment. Oh my freaking gosh! As I resurveyed my table and surmised I was probably the youngest one there able to move, I say my fate coming at me like a big ol’ Peterbilt going 100 on US 40. And, I wasn’t wrong.

Bev and the Big Kahuna, Hawaii May 1991Before me was the Big Kahuna in a little bitty skirt thingy, all bronze, bare chested, dark headed grabbing me and dragging me up on the table. He wanted me! He wanted to teach me to hula. I have pictures. Then, he dragged me into a conga line that went around the boat. Well, being the good wife that I was, I felt kinda sorry for ol’ Gomez sitting back at the old folks table so I ducked into the ladies room as the conga line passed by the door that said something cute in Hawaiian for “girls”. It didn’t work. Big Kahuna followed me into the ladies room and dragged me back into the conga line.

Darn, if I had know what Gomez was going to do 10 years later, that might have been the beginning of a beautiful relationship…Bev, the Big Kahuna and the ladies room. Hindsight really is 20/20. (By the way, the thing I tried to recreate after Gomez left 10 years later was the “fruit drink”. A word to the wise…do not try that at home…the Big Kahuna did not reappear after imbibing…darn. That’s ok, because a few months later, I met Tall & Handsome…and the world is good. I got a long, tall cowboy instead…yee-haw!)

So, what got me to thinking about all of this? I was thinking about and craving Banana Pancakes with Coconut Syrup. Yep, sounds good enough to rub all over yourself doesn’t? There wasn’t a lot of food in Hawaii that really wowed me with the exception of the fruit, and some mahi mahi…but those pancakes…umm…umm…umm.

So, maybe this weekend I’ll fix these and ♪…go back to my little grass shack in Kona Hawaii…♪ Aloha…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, food, Gomez, Hawaii, Humor, Travel

My Rocky Road to Feline Companionship…No, it Wasn’t Sweet…,by Beverly Hicks Burch

My Rocky Road to Feline Companionship…No, it Wasn’t

Sweet…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Lately, I feel like maybe I have been slighting my feline friends, and since I want to be “fair and balanced”, open minded and just down right American about it, I decided it was time to dedicate a few words to feline friends. First, let me be up front in saying the road to this point has not been sweet…it has been a little rocky.

I did have a cat as a child. Her name was Mrs. Whiskers. I have a sneaking suspicion my Aunt LaRue might have had something to do with me getting a cat in the first place. She lived across the street at the time and she’s always been a cat freak.

Aunt LaRue had a cat name Heathcliff one time that grew to be the size of a Volkswagen and lived as long as Methuselah. She called him “Heafy” and loved, loved, loved that cat. She could walk around with him draped around her neck. If I walked around with the weight of a Volkswagen draped around my neck, I would be a hunchback by now, but she did it for years and is straight as a stick. My aunt is a strong woman…in more ways than one. When Heathcliff died, Aunt LaRue and my baby cousin Montee (yes, girl, you’re still my baby cousin even though we’re all grown up now) were grieved. It hurt them…I can understand that…I hurt for them.

Back to Mrs. Whiskers…I was in first or second grade when we had her and something happened. She had a litter of kittens. Well, I know what happened to cause that…it’s what happened after that was strange. She ate one of her kittens. Momma and Daddy didn’t think it was appropriate for little girls to have an offspring eating feline mother as a pet, so Mrs. Whiskers went to live somewhere else.

I don’t recall owning anymore cats until I was married to “Gomez the Unremarkable”. To be perfectly honest, I was always kind of scared of cats. They have pointed little teeth and pointed claws…and those instruments of destruction hurt! I hated those feelings as a child…I still do. Cat scratches do not rule. *shiver* And, it kind of freaked me out that cats don’t have eyelashes like people…and dogs, but other than that, I have no problem with cats at all…really! They do have soft fur and can purr and are great mobile mousetraps.

After Gomez and I married and were living in our first house, we were working out in the yard one evening. We were the shame of our friends…we were a petless and childless couple. As we toiled away in the yard this one particular evening, an animal control truck slowed down in front of our house and then came to a stop.

The driver got out of the truck and approached us. He told us that he had just picked up a cute little kitten and hated to take it in to the pound…he had a bazillion reasons why. Long story short, he wanted to know if we would be interested in taking the kitten and giving it a home. Now, remember, Gomez is the one that hates cats. If you recall, he shot and killed the neighbor’s cat (About Dogs and Cats).

Gomez agreed to take the kitten in. The driver went to the truck and brought back a sweet tiny, ball of fur that fit in the palm of my hand. This was truly a baby. I was in love. The driver admonished us to take care of the kitten…we assured him we would…and he drove off into the sunset…literally.

Within a very short time we realized something was seriously wrong. I was playing with the kitten in the den and suddenly the little fellow started spazzing out. At first, it wasn’t too bad, I thought he was just playing, but very fast it escalated until the kitten was ricocheting around the room, bouncing off of everything…walls, furniture…you name it. We had to take the kitten to a pet ER. We were told there he had a rare neurological disorder that was terminal. The kitten died…and so did our checkbook…we were young marrieds…we barely had money for our own healthcare…sad, but true. I was heartbroken…it was one of the saddest things I had ever seen.

Actually, this little kitten was our second attempt at cat ownership. Some how I had found this beautiful cat name Benji…yep, like the dog (this was the `70’s after all), and we adopted him. Benji was beautiful…all black…big ol’ green eyes and fluffy coat. He was declawed, so he wasn’t destructive and he was well mannered. We had Benji about a year or so and when I had a male cousin come to visit. That cat was just never the same after that visit…and I just never figured exactly what happened, because I never saw anything happen…poor old Benji. I think my cousin must have bedeviled him a lot when I wasn’t looking. Benji wasn’t use to that.

After the cousin left, I started a new job and unfortunately, didn’t have the spare time to give to Benji to baby and pamper him. Gomez wasn’t going to, so I found a cat-adoring-person who had boat loads of time to give him and nurture him back to his Benji-ness. He deserved that. I heard from her later and she said Benji was thriving again…that made me and I’m sure Benji very happy.

Then, we got Daisy a little gray tabby with big green eyes. My son named her after Daisy Duck. Miss Daisy was featured some in the blog About Dogs and Cats. She was the cat with litter box issues….she refused to poop in one. No matter what we did, no matter what the vet suggested, or the pet psychologist…no way, no how was that cat going to poop in a litter box…tinkle, yes…poop, no.

I think it was because we adopted her from a shelter and the cages there were lined with newspapers. That was her potty preference…newspaper…either that or she was awfully tricky and she wanted to see what was going on in the world and the comics.

Daisy mellowed with age. When we first got her, she wanted to climb the curtains. Ok, confession time. Confession is good for the soul. I am OCD…I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder…a slight case…in some things. I don’t go around washing my hands 58 times before I go out or anything…it’s 127. Got ya…I’m just kidding! I really don’t do that…I’m not like Monk or anything…but, in my younger days, I was a kind of a neat freak. Autoimmune disorders, lung cancer, Fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome and a few bazillion other health problems kinda cured OCD…although it’s still there, running in the background like a computer program. Daisy climbing the curtains kinda freaked out the neat freak in me…and the worry wart in me. I think I was afraid she was getting sick like the little kitten from the animal control guy. Thank goodness, she didn’t…she was just being a kitten.

Well, she grew up, we had her spayed and she really calmed down after that little procedure. She actually got quite fat and happy. Her abode most of the time was the unfinished basement…mostly because of the litter box issue and the fact that my son is allergic to cats. The longer he was around his beloved Daisy…the worse his reaction. One morning after she had spent several straight days in his room he woke up with whelps on his legs. She had been up on his bed. Yes, I walked a tightrope with those two…

Then, the “Great Tail Episode” happened…it was nothing like American Tail. I went down to do a load of clothes and was greeted by Daisy’s usual purrs and leg rubs. I looked down and nearly fainted. About two inches down her tail it looked like it had been gnawed and was raw. It was exposed almost to the bone! I couldn’t imagine how on earth that could have happened…my cats are always indoor cats. I rushed to call the vet.

The vet had no idea what happened either. He advised to let nature take its course and keep that purple medicine on her tail and try to keep it bandaged. Well, good luck there! (I remembered the bandage ordeal when she was spayed. Ugh!) Eventually, she went around with that portion just dangling from the rest of her tail. (I don’t handle blood and dangling parts well.) It bothered us more than it did her. After a while, it fell off, Daisy had a makeover and a new shorter tail.

Kramer - Yeah, what ceiling…Well, that brings us up to Tall and Handsome and the Dynamic Duo, Kramer and Winfield. We all know about Kramer and the wax warmer…but, let me give you a little more background.

Shortly after coming to Alabama, T & H was working in a small town in northwest Alabama and I was living and working in Birmingham about 90 miles or so away. He was staying in a hotel room and looking for us a place for our upcoming marriage. I had agreed to keep his cats for him.

Let me explain the layout of my house there (I still have it and we’re renting it out). It covers two stories and I have two kitchens…one up and one down. The kitchen down has acoustical tile ceiling and fluorescent lightening…as does the whole floor. (There is a purpose in Bev telling you this.) The bottom story has a kitchen, den, guest room, bath, office pantry and storage. So, I decided that would be the cats’ domain, especially while I was at work. What could go wrong there, right?

NOT!! To begin with…Kramer thought everything was his own personal jungle gym, including the china cabinet down there…so, score one for cat scratches on the china (almost antique) cabinet and broken dishes…and one for Bev, who kept smiling.

Then in April of that year, Alabama had an earthquake…yes sirree…an honest to goodness rock n’ roll earthquake…I slept through it. It caused a few of my dishes in the china downstairs to fall forward and some of the pictures on the wall to become cockeyed…other than that, I didn’t notice anything else…everything else was ok.

Uh, huh…it was kitty cat subterfuge. Evidently, the tremor had popped up one of the tiles in the ceiling some where and Kramer found it and he decided to go exploring. He also lured his brother Winfield into his life of waywardness.

One night, I was sound asleep and I heard a noise that would have awakened the Dead from the Afterlife…I know because that’s generally how soundly I sleep. I thought a 747 had dropped through the house. When I realized there was no gaping hole in the roof, and I gathered my wits, I realized the noise had come from downstairs. Then I jumped out of bed, ran to the door, went down the stairs…and could not believe my eyes… When I had that hot cup of tea before bed, had I inadvertently snorted the leaves?!!!

The noise I had heard was the ceiling and fluorescent light downstairs in the kitchen falling down…as into the floor! I felt like Hinny Penny…”the sky is falling, the sky is falling…” What I saw next was even more unbelievable. As I walked around, the ceiling had come down in the kitchen, bathroom, part of the walk-in closet in the bedroom and hall. As I survey the damage I looked up and saw four green, slanted, feline eyes. I might have said a very Un-Disney version of “Those Darn Cats!!!! They didn’t want to come down either. (Note: words like “I want to snap your necks!” are not good cat calling words. They don’t work like “Soouie” when you call swine.)

Yes, unbeknown to me, while I was laying innocently in my bed, sleeping contently like a baby, about 45 pounds worth of cat flesh was walking around on my suspended acoustical tile ceiling downstairs. My ceiling didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hades.

Kramer was really nonchalant about it. He was like, “Yeah, big deal so what. Screw you”. That’s his whole attitude toward life. Winfield on the other hand knew he was in deep caca. It was all over his face. It screamed, “Kramer made me do it”. I think he vowed from that moment on to correct the error of his ways and win me over.

It is a testament to Tall & Handsome that he is the kind of man he is. I married him any way…cats and all. Aunt LaRue told me cat men are more passionate. *wink wink* I can attest to that after being married to Gomez…and that is another blog.

So, with that in mind, T & H and I got married. Kramer went on his search and destroy missions and Winfield went on his win Bev over missions. T & H said Winfield always picked me to be his person. He was always bringing me things, fireplace gloves, my quilting fabric, my Boyd’s bears, my Romanian lace, dish towels…and every time he would be very verbal and announce he was bringing something.

Winfield - I know Kramer’s around here somewhereThere have been some changes. Kramer’s fur was becoming more of a health issue for me and he was just becoming too much of a bully…to Winfield and Watson. Winfield and Kramer always fought. Kramer beat the poop out of Winfield almost every day and together they bother beat the snot out of Watson. They both should have been only cats…and now they are. Kramer has a fantastic new home. And I now have an adorable, ecstatically happy, neurotic Tuxedo cat who is the master of the litter box, food bowl, water bowl, tuna cans, cat perks, cranberry treats and snuggles he wants…he is a happy camper…and life is sweet on the rocky road…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Cats, Gomez, Humor, Pets, Tall & Handsome

It Was Memorial…by Beverly Hicks Burch

Cape Cod, MA 1989

It Was Memorial…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Before the ravages of ill health wrapped its icy fingers around my body and started wrecking havoc, one thing I really enjoyed doing on a more routine basis was travel. I still enjoy traveling, I just don’t do it as often. I have to pace myself when I travel now and sometimes there is a price to pay for the fun and adventure. I may have a bad flare up and I may have to be confined to the bed for a few days…but, I consider it an even payoff.

I’ve often thought of words to describe myself. Mom used one once that surprised me. In January 1988, my paternal grandmother, Versie Allman Hicks died. Mamaw was one of a kind. She had been born in Cherokee Co., NC and it was said her heritage was mostly Native American…Cherokee. She certainly looked the part. Mamaw had long jet black hair that at age 85, when she died was just beginning to become salt and pepper. Her features looked like classical “Indian”. Her three boys lovingly called their mom “squaw”…and they inherited her black hair.

In doing family research and genealogy, I have learned Versie also had a good dose of Irish and German thrown in…the names Allman, Whitner and Killian are in her ancestry. I tell you that to let you know she was as thick-headed as a pine knot…that’s East Tennessean or mountain for hard-headed and/or stubborn. Her boys had their favorite Versie stories…she never quite believed a washing machine really got clothes as clean as taking them down to the local creek…she’d rake leaves in high heels…she hated to fly, so she’d take the bus from Maryville, TN to Birmingham, AL and it would take HOURS twice or more than it would to drive the distance. Daddy would brew a pot of coffee and Mamaw would bring out her jar of instant (JFG if I remember correctly) and put about three spoonfuls in a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Daddy always said she liked her coffee strong enough to stand a spoon up in it, shellac wood with it or grow hair on your chest with it. I guess you can call that multi-purpose coffee.

I tell you all of that as background. When Versie died, she died during one of the worst snow and ice storms in the South in a LONG time. She was not leaving this world quietly or without aplomb and notice.

My dad was still a project manager in engineering then, and was on the job site in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. When he got word that she wasn’t doing well and the end was near, he tried to fly from Florida to Knoxville, but the weather was so bad in the South he couldn’t get a flight. He eventually got a flight to Knoxville…via Philadelphia! He was separated from his luggage in the process.

Well, of course, those of us on the home front in Birmingham were going to get there to support him! Here’s how it is with Southern women…we love and support our husbands and usually we’re Daddy’s girls. (Yeah, I own up to that one.) So, we loaded up the van. It was me, Gomez (the ex), my son, my mother and my youngest sister who is disabled, and we headed out for East Tennessee…at the speed of about 15 mph. We were literally driving on what seemed like a glacier…a sheet of ice. I was a nervous wreck because there were accidents everywhere…and cars and trucks off the road. I was sitting in the back of the van, mumbling and I was saying something like, “This is just like Versie, dieing during one of the worst storms of the decade. I sure hope we don’t end up as blood spots on the road under a big truck…”

My mom (who would walk on hot coals for my dad, as I would Tall & Handsome) said, “Bev, I thought this would be nothing to you. You’re so adventurous.” Huh?

“Why do you say that, Momma?”

“Because you like to travel.”

“But, Mom, that’s different than dieing as a blood spots a glacier!”

“Silly girl.”

Ok, maybe she didn’t say the silly girl part…but, she did say the adventurous part…because I like to travel. I had never thought of it that way.

I have seen some pretty neat and amazing things…things off the beaten path…those are the kinds of things I like to see. Gomez had a knack for getting lost in every ghetto in any city we went to…hopefully, I’ll be spared that now. That got scary a few times…

Carlsbad Caverns were magnificent and one place in New Mexico I’ve been that hubby hasn’t been…imagine that, he’s a native New Mexican! I’ll never forget my trip to Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Tall and Handsome treated me to VIP treatment at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta…a lifelong dream. I saw so many beautiful wonders on that trip…the gold of the aspens and cottonwoods in the Jimez Mountains on the way to Santa Fe. The wonderful food and the magic of getting engaged in the land of enchantment…

One goal I’ve had is to visit all 50 states and as much of Canada as I can. I’m about eight or nine states short of that goal, and I’ve seen Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec in Canada. One area I fell in love with is New England.

During Memorial Day weekend 1989, I had a uniquely special, uniquely American and uniquely Norman Rockwell experience. My family had been staying in Rumford, Maine. The ex was on a job assignment. I had decided the weekend would be a good time to take a little trip and explore, so I planned a trip to Cape Cod. It wasn’t a long drive from where we were staying at the time.

We headed out that weekend, driving from Maine to Massachusetts. After we drove through Boston, I suggested we get off the interstate and drive the rest of the way up the scenic route to the Cape. Little did I realize that one suggestion would indelibly mark a living color Norman Rockwell postcard scene in my memory for the rest of my life.

The route up the coast is peppered with quaint little New England towns. Most of them are several hundred years old and many of them are centered around a rotary…that’s a type of traffic configuration that’s confusing a best and bizarre at least. (A historical note here: on a tour in Washington DC, the tour guide mentioned the traffic rotary and said they were designed to confuse troops and troop movement! Ooo-Kay!) One little town on the Mass. Coast is Plymouth…yes that Plymouth…and I did get to see Plymouth Rock.

As we came to one little town, there was a hold up. Of course Gomez grumbled…he was never one to stop and smell the roses. This hold up couldn’t be avoided, and I’m glad it couldn’t. We were in a little New England town (I don’t even remember the name) and they were having their annual Memorial Day celebration. There were high school bands, the Shriners, and the Vets…proud old gents, mostly World War II veterans decked out in uniforms and there was red, white and blue everywhere. American flags fluttered in the warm May air. It felt like if I would have turned around I would have seen Norman Rockwell at his easel, painting the whole scene for the rest of the world to see. I felt privileged to have been able to have witnessed such a pure example of Americana…and I was truly proud to be an American that afternoon.

We went on to Cape Cod that weekend. I visited lighthouses…one of my passions, explored a cranberry bog, tasted cranberry chutney, experienced the beaches of the Cape and learned a little bit of the history of the Cape, and one of my favorite pictures of my son and I together was taken that weekend on the Cape. All in all…it was Memorial…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Allman, Family, genealogy, Gomez, Hicks, Killian, Life, North Carolina, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee, Travel, Whitner

Little Girl Lost, by Beverly Hicks Burch

It’s been two weeks now. Two long, grueling, agonizing, heart-rending weeks. That’s how long the world has angst over the fate of British tyke Maddie McCann, age three. Two weeks ago, while the family was on vacation (or holiday as the Brits call it) in Portugal, Maddie’s parents left her and her twin siblings, age two alone in their room while they went to dinner. Maddie’s fourth birthday, May 12th, came and went while the baby has been missing.

Celebs around the world, mostly notably footballer David “Becks” Beckham and author J. K. Rowling, have come forth to aid in the search. Pleas have been issued and reward money has accumulated.

Unfortunately, this incident is evidence that child predators are everywhere, not just in the USA. The most recent development in the case involves a British man, living in Portugal with his mother. This person has been involved in the local searches for Maddie…and has strangely and sickly, joked about being a suspect in the case. Well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire as the old saying goes and the police have indicated this man as a “person of interest” (read possible suspect). Police have searched his home…and they have discovered a secret chamber secluded away in his house. Only time, and more investigation will tell if he is truly involved with the disappearance of little Maddie and what the fate of Maddie is.

There is one thing I don’t understand…I can’t fathom. But, first let me give a little background here and explain. When my son was young, there was one thing that was paramount to me…his welfare and well being and safety. He was born a month early and suffered Fetal Breathing Syndrome…in other words, his fetal breathing system did not shut down…something I have learned is not uncommon in eight month babies. As a result, he spent the first two weeks of his life in NICU…neo-natal intensive care. This was one of the scariest times in my life. (Unfortunately, the emotional support I received from Gomez was negligible. He had a very hard time connecting emotionally, and his son was no exception. While my son was in NICU, Gomez spent so little time there that the doctor and nursing staff didn’t realize he was the father…they thought my dad was my baby’s father…sad, but true.)

As my son grew, I was always concerned about his welfare…he was my most precious treasure. Sadly, the world grew increasingly dangerous as his grew. I often wished he could have known the safety of the world I grew up in. One day when he was a pre-schooler I read an article I will never forget. It was an article about John Walsh and the disappearance of his son, Adam. I’ll never forget the day I read that article…it made me literally, physically ill. I could only imagine what the Walsh family went through, and it terrified me to no end. That day all I could do was hold, love, squeeze, kiss, and thank God my little fellow was alive, well and safe. I made a vow that day that I would do what ever I could to protect him…sometimes to his chagrin.

A few years later, we were sightseeing in Boston. We were at the waterfront and harbor area. My son and I were sitting on a bench waiting on Gomez to purchase tickets to take a cruise of the Boston Harbor. My little fellow, always a curious type, wanted to go see what it was like where is dad was…and check out the drink vending machine. Always wary and conscious, I cautioned him to go straight to his dad…no stopping, no talking to strangers. All he had to do was walk about 20-40 feet and turn the corner around the ticket booth…I would watch until he turned the corner…and then he would be within sight of his dad.

A few very short minutes later, Gomez walked toward me alone, looked at me and asked where our son was! I answered I thought he was with Gomez, and he said he hadn’t seen him! My knees went weak; I got sick to my stomach and started trembling. My son had vanished! I retraced my son’s steps and didn’t see him. I panicked and started calling his name. It was all so surreal…the people around just stared blankly as I continued calling out for my son…their look spoke volumes, “If I don’t get involved, her misfortune won’t touch me.” In a couple of minutes (it seemed like agonizing hours), I saw his little head round the corner of the ticket booth. Evidently, as he gotten to the booth where his dad had been, his dad had left to return to us and my son had been wandering around looking for his dad. I went weak with relief and thankfulness. I wanted to sob…but, I knew he wanted to continue with the day’s adventures, and I didn’t want to spoil for him.

Now, with that said, there is one thing I can’t understand. Why and how could, in the name of God, two adults…two parents leave a three year old baby girl, and a set of two year old twins alone…by themselves, unattended in a strange country while they dined?! That act is beyond my comprehension. It seems so utterly irresponsible. So many scenarios of what could go wrong…and did go wrong fill my mind. It’s just more than I can wrap my head around. Reason would tell me if they can afford a vacation at a resort in Portugal, surely they could have afforded a bonded sitter to watch over their children while they feasted…oblivious to danger.

I know this is probably not a “popular” view to take right now and I don’t wish to kick someone when they’re down. I know these parents are grieving over their little girl lost. It just amazes me that people will take more care to lock up valuables in a safe than some people will take in the protection of their most precious treasure…their children. I hope and pray that Maddie is returned safe and sound and unharmed; but, also hope and pray that her parents will watch over their precious twins and never, never, never place them in this kind of harm’s way again. One little girl lost is one little girl…one child too many.

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Child Welfare, Children, Current events, Gomez, Madeleine McCann

About Dogs and Cats, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Are you a dog person or a cat person? Well, convention would tell me most guys are saying dogs and most gals are saying cats. But, that’s not always the case. I found that out when I married my Tall and Handsome.

I’ve always been a dog person. I’m under the firm conviction all dogs go to heaven (well, at least most). On the other hand, I have a time or two borrowed a sentiment from my son on his feelings about cats…they are the spawn of Satan. Ok…Ok…that’s a really strong sarcasm on my part…his feelings, well, you’ll have to take that up with him, but he did have a big ol’ gray tabby cat named Daisy when he was a little boy…she was named after the duck. I think he really did like that cat, but in fairness, I would have to say he was slightly allergic to cats. Every time I suggested finding a new home for Daisy, he became very upset, so I was caught in a catch (or cat) 22 because his Dad “pure dee” hated that cat and I had to listen to his constant bitching about the cat. Poor Daisy had one major disability…she refused to poop in the litter box…no matter what we did…it just wasn’t her thing, and even though she was suppose to be his cat, my son had an aversion to cleaning the litter box. So, the basement was her domain most of the time. I never figured out why my son developed such a dislike for cats unless it was from his dad, my ex.

My ex, from this point onward known as Gomez, absolutely hated cats. It was almost pathological and it was there from the day we married, but I never thought too much about it. A few years before we divorced I knew something was seriously wrong when an incident happened that was highly alarming to me. I have been a birdwatcher and bird feeder for many years. This year, it was in the 1990’s, and where we lived, we had some very beautiful decks that were conducive to bird watching and feeding. The neighbors two doors up had several cats and they didn’t do a very good job of keeping them home. Their cats like to visit my bird feeders and feast upon my little visitors and friends. (Unfortunately, Gomez had latent racial prejudices and the neighbors were black; Gomez’s father had been on the Bull Connors police force in Birmingham during the 1960’s so his feelings came naturally. The poor neighbors didn’t stand a chance.)

Anyway, one day, one of the neighbor’s cats had come up to the house and was on the banister of the deck. The cat was young, maybe about 10 or 11 months old and pure, snowy white. When Gomez saw it preying on the bird feeders he became infuriated and went and got his pellet rifle. He said, “I’m going to take care of this problem once and for all. “I immediately began begging him not to do what he was about to do. I even reminded him it was illegal to discharge a firearm within the city limits and this was some one’s pet. He loaded the gun, pumped the rifle up has much as he could, took aim and…and then I heard a “Whoosh” and a crack. I saw the little white cat jerk, then, wretch and twist up in the air twitching as brilliant, scarlet, crimson blood started mingling and trickled down the pure white fur. The little cat fell off the deck, roll down the hill to the bottom of our backyard and died. Gomez turned to me with a gleam in his eye, proud and said, “I went for the kill shot. Right in the heart.” He was stunned when I asked him with tears in my eyes, “How could you do that? You could have just shooshed him away!” He just turned away, walked down the hill, picked the cat up and put it in the garbage can. When we moved a few years later, the first thing he did was to put Daisy outside. We had moved into a new home on a mountain, in a rural setting that was being developed. The area was still surrounded by wildlife like deer and mountain lions. Again, I begged for him to at least allow Daisy to stay on the screened deck since she had never been outdoors, but it was to no avail, she disappeared into the dark that night and we never saw her again.

So, based on those past experiences, I didn’t know quite what to expect when Tall and Handsome told me he had two cats. My first thought was, “oh, Lordy!” And then I thought ok, let’s be fair. In all fairness, he is an animal person. He just has a good kind heart. I guess the old saying is true…don’t trust anyone that isn’t kind to animals and children. My husband and his sister are major animal lovers. One of the reasons I love her so much, besides the reason she loves my husband so much, is the fact she has three lovable golden retrievers and a fantastic husband…oh yeah, and a cat. Those three dogs are the children, rulers, clowns and entertainers in the family and they’re a hoot.

Like I said I grew up with dogs…mostly large dogs…Collies, Boxers, German Shepherds…yep, those kind of dogs for little girls, and we loved it. Butchie was our boxer and our protector. She would follow me around the block when I rode my bike and if another dog charged at me as if to chase me, Butchie would lower her head and butt the dog out of the way. My sister liked to play doctor/vet…she even had her own doctor’s bag. Well, Sis even took Butchie’s temperature with a twig…and I don’t mean orally! Butchie, patiently allowed all of that “doctoring” and usually she was dressed up in baby cloths! She had a favored delicacy…bumble bees. Every summer, without fail, we could find Butchie around shrubbery with flowers, catching bumble bees, and without fail, every summer, Butchie went around with bee stung lip. She invented the pout before some starlet in Hollywood…so Angelina eat your heart out!

I had a collie name Lassie, a part Maltese-part Shih Tzu name Gidget, and a German Shepherd named Major. We got Major from a great-granduncle who had fought in Germany and had brought Major’s ancestors over from there. Major was a beautiful dog, black and silver and we WERE his family. He watched over us and protected us. If daddy had to be out of town on business overnight, mom let him sleep in the house. Once or twice in the middle of the night he would get up and patrol the house, making sure everything was in order and his girls were ok. One night, my folks had gone to mid-week church service and my sisters and I were home alone. We were working on homework. My parents had left the garage door open…in those days, it was a “safe” thing to do. During the evening, my sister and I were in the kitchen, working away at the kitchen table when all of a sudden, we heard the basement door start rattling and crashing like it was going to be ripped off the hinges. It was Major! He was barking and snarling and growling and tearing at the door with all of his might…and believe me at 100 pounds, it was great. His commotion was followed by the shouting of two intruders. My sister and I heard them say something about a dog…get out of here…and that was it. We called the church…our parents came home…and Major saved the day. Major had a hobby, too. Carrying rocks in his mouth…sometimes, the biggest boulder he could find in the back yard. We never could quite figure out that one…why on earth he took up that little hobby.

After I was married I had a part Collie, Beagle, Basset named Snoopy. I believe he was mildly mentally challenged because he got lost two blocks from home and couldn’t find his way back. He was gone for months. He was the strangest looking dog. He had the face, tail and coat of a Collie; color of the Beagle and the body of the Basset hound…I called him a bagel. He loved popsicles. He would chase cars…in our fenced back yard…there was a little track from one gate to the next. It was curved and even had a bank like a race track.

I had a schizoid Irish Setter named Rusty. He was absolutely and amazingly beautiful, but he was the most hyper dog I’d ever had…and boy, did the dog love to dig. When I had him, my back yard looked like a bombed out war zone. Not a good thing for someone taking horticulture at the time. I had to find Rusty a new home when he just wouldn’t get along with poor ol’ Snoopy. One day he bit him so hard it broke Snoopy’s leg and we had to have surgery performed on Snoopy to set and correct the damage. Nobody messes with my poor ol’ bagel and gets away with it!

And, then one day an angel came into my life. Her name was Lady…and she wore a halo. Lady was a little roan (red) English Cocker Spaniel. When Lady came to live with us, she was on her second or third owner. Evidently she had been lost a time or two. The owner who had her before we took her was a true animal lover, but Lady was a face in the crowd at his place…one of many. He had done right by her though…when he took her in she had developed heartworms. He made sure she received proper treatment to cure heartworms…and she survived. The treatment can be kinda rough on some dogs, but my lil’ Lady was a survivor…like her Mom. But, after giving her the heartworm treatment, he wasn’t too careful with her diet and fed her “people” food like fried chicken livers, ham, etc. Well, guess what happened? She developed pancreatitis. He really need someone to take her in and asked if we would. At the time, he was paying our son ten dollars a week to walk Lady. I’ll admit at first I was against it because I’d never had a totally indoor pet. But, Lady was smart…she knew who to butter up…the pseudo-harda**-no-way-is-this-going-to-happen…moi. It also helped that she had the good Lord above working with her and for me (He knew I would need her in the future).

On the weekend she was suppose the go home to her former owner after her littler trial visit with us, the Great Blizzard of 1993 hit Alabama. Yes, you heard me…a blizzard. No, I’m not talking about an inch or two of snow…I’m talking about 18 inches and more of snow. I had drifts of snow in my backyard that measured 24 inches. Now, if you say the “S” word in most places in the south, you will invoke certain reaction…from mild elations and joy on seeing the white stuff, to major panic that cupboards are not stocked accordingly. People make the required rush to the supermarket, stand in line for HOURS…usually to buy bread and milk, and then sit in major (like hours of) gridlock to get home. An inch of snow can close school, an ice storm can wreck major havoc…but a blizzard, but an all out honest to gosh wind blowing white-out blizzard…OH MY GOSH! Let me interject a small disclaimer here: In all fairness, normally, most places in the south, especially the Deep South are just not prepared to deal with that type of weather…they don’t have the need to or are equipped to deal with it…most of the time. While most of the US deals with the deep freeze and snow and ice, I have been known to run my air conditioner on Christmas Day.

So, back to THE blizzard of 1993…Lil’ Lady was a true lady. How can I put this delicately? Ummm… I know! She had no desire to make yellow snow! No matter how many times the Gomez trotted her outside, the little thing would not tinkle or poop on the snow, so, he had to go out and shovel through several inches of snow to make a doggie potty just for Lady…and it work! Tell me my dog didn’t have manners … when she came in from the snow, she looked like a little Clydesdale pony…there was so much snow in the fur around her paws and it was all fluffed out. We were the fortunate ones that year…we were only without power about 12 hours. Many in the Birmingham area were without power at least 10 days. My net gain was that Lady got to stay…and she did…up until she went to doggie heaven…actually she outlasted Gomez, proving that dog is woman’s best friend, too.

Lady saw me through my last cancer surgery. When I was sick, she wouldn’t leave my side…she was my little red shadow. I believe she knew how sick I really was before I did. Some research has shown recently that some dogs can “sense” or even sniff out cancer cells.

After I came home from the hospital after having 60% of my left lung removed, I’ll never forget seeing it take my dad, son and Gomez to hold back that little 24 pound cocker spaniel because she was overjoyed and beside herself to see me coming home. She became very gentle with me; she knew something was wrong. Because they either break you ribs, or saw out a section of your ribs, during the type of thoracic surgery I had, you end up with broken ribs…and it makes it difficult to breathe…on top of everything else. So, I had to sleep sitting up, or in a semi-sitting up position, and the Lazy-boy, made that possible. Lady would usually settle in right by my side on the floor, but late one night I woke up with a surprise…in my lap was a little red, furry bundle…my little red Lady…I guess she knew I had been having a particularly hard time and she had hopped up to make sure I wasn’t by myself.

I called my little Lady “love on four legs”. When she went to doggie heaven, it nearly killed me. She had seen me through an illness, the end of a marriage and the starting of a new life. Her big ol’ brown eyes had been the only thing to greet me when I came home from work, tired and sick…after being out of the workforce for over 20 years and having to go back into it disabled. She was smart as a whip, playful and charming…to me she was the picture of perfect…my angel.

So, when Tall and Handsome told me he had two cats, I thought, oh my, oh my…will the twain meet on this one?

Let me tell you about the cats. Cats are perceived as being aloof, cold and calculating. They are independent…to a point, and I had never seen many warm, fuzzy, cuddly cats. Well, read on…

Tall and Handsome had two. My reaction…insert the picture “The Scream” and you will know my private hell…hehe…just kidding…kinda sorta. One cat was a humongous, orange, furry tabby named Kramer. My pet name for him was that Big Orange Abomination. He was the pretty boy…a gorgeous cat, and he knew it. Picture bitchy valley girl…bitchy head cheerleader…wall street mogul…anybody that is your idea of someone that needs to be cut down a size or two because their head is way to big for the doorway. Well, that fits Kramer. Kramer loved to beat up on his brother, cause havoc and go places he wasn’t suppose to…and eat everyone’s food…he weighed 21 pounds. He was a feline bully…yes, he was Garfield living and breathing, oh, but he looked sooooooo innocent. His purr was loud and lusty…I called it a weedwacker purr. I have so many Kramer stories, but, there is one…yes, one that sealed his fate.

Not too long after hubby and I had moved to our current location, I decided it was time to wax my eyebrows. (Remember, I told you I’m a do-it-yourself-er.) This particular bathroom has a pedestal sink…no vanity, so I had set the wax warmer on the toilet. I was busy looking in the mirror and pulling back my hair when I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and there he was…the Big Orange Abomination sniffing around the wax warmer. I shooshed him away and assured him he didn’t want to tangle with the wax and wax warmer.

I returned to my task at hand…my eyebrows…and had just gotten one brow waxed and the required flesh from my face ripped off with it when I heard the most ominous, chilling sound…a giant thud and thunk. I spun around just in time to see Kramer amidst the dumped wax warmer and…wax spreading everywhere. Kramer was covered in gooey, sticky, viscous wax…his paws, his tail, his body…EVERYWHERE! There would be no “wax on, wax off” for that kitty…no sir…

He immediately knew he was in deep dodo and took off…with me right behind him, calling in a calm, sweet tone and voice, “Kramer, baby, come back here you piece of crap so I can kill you.” It didn’t work…my words must have belied my tone and he was gone…spreading wax everywhere. I knew he would come back…all criminals return to the scene of the crime, so I returned to the bathroom to survey the damage. It was a good thing the little mobster was out of my reach!

And, then I looked in the mirror and realized…I had only one eyebrow waxed and all of my wax was on the floor. How do you spell grrrrrrrrrrrrr ? But, I was right about one thing…the little villain did return to the scene. I pounced, picked him up and surveyed the damaged. Not only was he covered, but, he had waxed his tail to his body…smack dab glued that sucker flat…and there was no way he was going to be able to poop. I knew then we were all in deep dodo. I tried pulling it loose, but there was no way, no how his tail was going to budge. I managed to confine Kramer in the pet taxi. Keep in mind, too, this all happened about 4:45 PM.

Well, the next thing I did was call Sally’s Beauty Supply and explain my situation. (I had gotten my warmer and waxing supplies at the Sally’s in Alabama.) Surely they had some “takey off” stuff. I can tell you this…you learn to find small blessings in times like this…mine? I’m so thankful I don’t have a video phone…I just hate wearing paper sacks over my head. I’m sure, at first, the clerk thought I was one of those phone calls yanking her chain…but, I reassured her I was sincere. Maybe she detected the hysteria in my voice. After she finished laughing and telling the other clerks in the store what was going on, she essentially told me there wasn’t anything there that could help me. Ok, Plan B…

I found a vet…one just for cats…and called them. I got kinda the same reaction with a couple of additions. They were about to close and could look at him in the morning, but it sounded like he needed help this evening (ya think?!) She also recommended I place paper napkins or paper towels on Kramer where the wax was so he wouldn’t “accumulate things”. Wwwhhhaaattt?! I had visions of Kramer lugging the dining room table and chairs around as he accumulated them in the wax. So, I get Kramer and “place” paper towels over the wax. You know that bridal shower game Toilet Paper Wedding gown? (Attendees break up into groups and are given toilet paper and their mission is to design and gown one of their group.) Kramer wouldn’t have won…and he wasn’t very happy. The vet’s office also recommended we take Kramer to an emergency clinic…sigh.

So, Plan C and time to call hubby at work. I had to retell the tales of Kramer (no pun intended) once again…and he knew it was time to come home. I wish I had a picture of Tall and Handsome’s face when Kramer sauntered out of the pet taxi, dragging his paper towels behind…and bedside…and on… He was speechless. He loaded Kramer back up in the pet taxi and off they went to the pet ER. (Where’s George Clooney when you need him?) I was talking to hubby on the cell phone all the way and I could hear Kramer putting in his two cents worth. Once at the clinic and in a room, T & H takes Kramer out of the pet taxi and I hear him say, “Oh, this is ugly.” (That’s Tall and Handsome speak for ‘OH MY GOSH!!’) I wished then I had sent him off with his own personal paper head sack. I took a deep breath and ask, “What’s wrong?” Long story short, on the way to the clinic, Kramer had tinkled…and now his paper towels had accumulated cat tinkle…sigh.

So, once again, long story short…Kramer had to be sedated and shaved…from his neck to the very tip of his tail. A cat tail is an ugly thing and not meant to be seen by human eyes. He was so denuded of fur, we were warned by the vet that if he went outside he would sunburn. When hubby and what now looked like a big field rat with a cat’s head attached arrived home, the other cat freaked out and started spitting and hissing and batting at him…my feelings exactly.

And then there is Kramer’s brother, the other cat…Winfield. They are as different as night and day. Hubby had Winfield a few months before he acquired the Orange Abomination. Winfield is a Tuxedo cat…charcoal gray with white makings…and he’s a big cat, too. Somehow, hubby manages to grow big cats. Winfield has a little upside down white heart on his face, a pink nose and white paws. Tall and Handsome rescued Winfield when he was a kitten and he found him abandoned and nearly frozen to death. He had a rough start and as a result was a little neurotic. He’s the only cat I know that would suckle himself…when I first saw him do that, I told hubby, “I just didn’t feel quite right watching him do that. I feel like I should leave the room.” And the poor little thing was purrless…it was months, if not a year of more before I heard Winfield purr.

Winfield was smart…he pulled a Lady…he knew what side of the bread to butter as the old saying goes. Hubby says Winfield was always smitten with me…I don’t know about that, but he set about winning me over. He would bring me things…fabric, a fireplace glove (that was as big as he was, and he carried it up a flight of stairs), and my Boyd’s Bears…sigh. He knows his place…like we don’t get up on top of the refrigerator, do we…unlike Kramer and he learns quickly. Now, Winfield purrs…a deep happy, earthy, content purr. And yes, he is cuddly and affectionate. Hubby says I’ve taught Winfield to do something he’s never seen a cat do, and that is eat out of my hand…I just thought that was normal…dogs do it.

One thing really sealed Winfield’s fate and place in the family. A few months ago we inherited a little Miniature Schnauzer puppy…can we say boundless energy, smart, affectionate, stubborn, playful, little clowns? Not creatures welcomed into a cat’s world with open paws. I think I might have determined Watson…our little tyke…was the alpha of his litter. Well, even more angst for two ol’ territorial, set-in-their-way cats. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth…and paws…and claws.

But, I began to notice a little pattern developing. Kramer was going to have nothing to do with this new creature, no way, no how. He vanished into the walls. Winfield was different. If the paths of the three happened to cross and Winfield felt Watson was bullying Kramer (hard to do since both the cats are twice the size of Watson), Winfield would charge Watson and beat the snot out of him. Kramer would scoot away and watch the fray from afar. If Winfield was the one getting the perceived pummeling once again, Kramer watched from afar, never lifting a finger, hum paw, to help out his life long buddy. Well, I’m really BIG on and admire loyalty…score a big one for Winfield. Then after about two or three weeks, Winfield began to show back up in the room at the same time as Watson…all be it perched warily in the edge of something . But, he made his little point…this was HIS family and he was going to be part of it. Hubby has always said Winfield picked me to be his person, and I guess that proved it. Score another for Winfield. I admire tenacity in the appropriate situations also. Winfield was set.

So, in all seriousness we knew some changes had to be made. Kramer didn’t fit in, plus he beat up and bullied Winfield. His fur was killing my allergies and harming my health and the circle just didn’t fit Kramer any more…never really did. He needed to be in a family that could adore him and him only, he needed to be an only cat…and so did Winfield…and Watson needed more stability. We found a fantastic home for Big Orange and get periodic updates and he is as happy as a Cheshire cat.

As I write and look around me, I have my laptop in my lap and Watson and Winfield are curled up on the bed…and they have come to an unsteady peace, one only cats and dogs could broker. So, we have our little two member menagerie…Watson and Winfield…and they are content, happy, healthy and thriving. They add cuddles and smiles and nudges and purrs and warm hearts to our lives, and that, my friend, is all about dogs and cats.

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All rights reserved. WatsonKramerWinfieldLady

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Cats, dogs, Gomez, Humor, Life, Pets, Tall & Handsome