I Draw the Line At Attending Nine Zebra Showers

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Gentle Reader,

So last fall sometime, we introduced a male zebra into our herd here at The Ranch.  We had previously had a few males mixed in with the ladies, and then for various reasons (keeping genetic variety in the stock, old age “attrition”, etc.) we had gradually shifted to an all-female herd.  Nine gals.  Which had its own share of biological…drama.  Hormones be real, y’all.  Anyway, last fall, Zeb the zebra came to live at The Ranch (I have no idea who named him, but CREATIVE GENIUS, right?) and began to get acclimated.

We had seen no evidence of Zeb’s…proclivities…and frankly I had begun to worry that perhaps zebra IVF or zebra adoption were going to be the only ways that our zebra families would be complete.  And dear heavens, I don’t want to see the bill for a zebra infertility doctor.

But we did notice that several of the girls had been getting “fluffier”, and that the whole herd seemed to be spending the day close by the feeding trough.  (Which is what a certain Labrador used to do, too, and believe me he was NEVER in danger of reproduction…thankyouverymuch…)  So we began to wonder a bit.

And last night, we talked to the Animal Lady (I’m pretty sure that’s her official title), and we have nine, NINE, confirmed pregnancies.  All of the lady zebras.

Zeb’s been adjusting VERY well, apparently…

So in May, with any luck, we’ll have NINE of these:



Running around The Ranch.

(Unless one of them has zebra twins.  Which-UGH!  Can you imagine???)

Come see us and them!



Three Pieces of Pizza and Some Cinnamon Bread

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Gentle Reader,

I realize that I haven’t been the best at updating this week.  I wish it were for a good reason but the reality is that the days kind of blend right now.  🙂  We’re in a holding pattern, and given our medical history, we’re both QUITE used to holding patterns and know that this is not always a bad thing.

Daddy isn’t making any progress at the facility he is at right now.  (Please pretend that sentence was grammatically correct.  I haven’t the energy.)  He isn’t using his O2, he isn’t eating.  (Like, two tablespoons a day would be an aspirational goal right now.)  He isn’t doing his therapy.  And to give him credit, this place is depressing.  The lighting is terrible, and they took one look at his medical history and put him on a low-sodium diet.  Which would make sense except for the fact that at this point, getting him to eat something (ANYTHING) is far, FAR more important than making sure he makes optimal nutritional choices right now.  (Those of you who know us will laugh at the thought of him ever making an optimal nutritional choice, but he is capable of making “better” choices when he is stronger, healthier, and less hypoxic…)  Also, this place is a skilled nursing facility, and those of you in the medical profession know what that is code for.  They are geared toward a level of patient for whom swallowing and chewing aren’t easy.  So we have both low-sodium (which in an institutional setting also means extremely low-taste) and soft, chopped, and pureed food.

I wouldn’t eat, either.  And I have the strength to make optimal nutritional choices.

So we’re at sixes and sevens trying to figure out a plan.  We have found a better (MUCH BETTER) place for him, bright, cheery, clean, well-lit, excellent food, people to talk to (people who CAN talk), etc.  There is a dog that is in residence there, and Cody can come visit ANY.  TIME.  (This was the immediate selling point for daddy.)  But it is going to take a few days to get him there, so we’re hoping to kind of keep him going until we can get him transferred.

Tonight, we took him out to our favorite pizza place here in town.  His favorite pizza place.  I anticipated we’d get a half a slice (they aren’t the big fold-y slices like some places…this is more like a Chicago-style, only not as deep dish…) in him, but at least he’d drink a real, fully loaded Coke, and hey–calories.

But!  Three slices of pizza, two Cokes, and three cinnamon breadsticks later, he decided he was finished.  Three!  Slices!

I’m betting it was just getting out of that place, fresh air, people to smile at and talk to.  So we’re going to take him out for at least one meal a day until we can get him to the new place.  I’m hoping this encourages him to eat like he did tonight, because begging my daddy to eat and watching him withdraw makes me feel so helpless.  And I don’t do helpless well.

Anyway-that’s the update here.  Cody is getting used to the new normal.  He still misses Cooper and looks for him, but he is getting RIGHT into not having to share his evening snack…  Mama is sleeping better and next we’re going to work on eating enough.

Tomorrow, my cousin E is getting married to her beau, S.  I wish I could be there, but instead, I’m helping her celebrate by going shopping.  I’m optimistic that between these two things, you’ll have something more entertaining to read about than the pureed food diet.  (Because seriously, lamest topic, EVER.)



Through the Clouds, Lower Intestines Appeared

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Gentle Reader,

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for your love and thoughts and prayers and concerns and “How Are You?”s.  I want to reply to all of you individually, and that will obviously take a bit of time.  So in the interim, a general update…

Yesterday I went in to Dallas for a date with my sweet friend Candace and her two boys, A and A, who are two of my favoritest male-childs.  A, The Elder, was previously totally missing his two front teeth, but while I was gone the Big Kid teeth started growing back in.  Whatever, he still must never know the power that his toothless grin holds over me, as it could result in disaster.  Or a brand new car.  I’m putty like that.  A, The Younger, CRACKS ME UP with his use of words.  He enjoys the English language nearly as much as I do, and thus we are tight.

We went to the Perot museum, a favorite of theirs.  I had never been, and let me just say…it is excellent.  It’s just truly heartwarming to see a tiny little museum succeed so magnificently given all of the challenges and odds overcome.  What with the blank check for funding, the engineers clamoring to help design the space, and a massive corporation providing scientific and engineering volunteer staff to help the kids learn and such…despite all of those obstacles, the museum is truly wonderful space.  Every inch is well-thought, every iota designed for the singular purpose of educating the target audience (kiddos) in a way they both understand and enjoy.  Watching the kids swarming around, interacting, it was fascinating.  And exactly what I needed.

The Younger took particular interest in showing me an exhibit about the intestines of herbivores versus carnivores.  Proving that no matter what is going on in the rest of your life, poop is ALWAYS entertaining.

After all the learnin’, we went to El Fenix where over approximately 73 gallons of salsa and a margarita or three, we talked and talked.  Good times were had by all.  Except The Elder, whose iPod tragically ran out of batteries.

Anyway, Daddy is getting stronger, less confused.  He was able to see Cody and Scout The Ranch Cat/Trained Killer today, which was good for all three of them.  I’m still not sure what the long-term plan is.  Mama is getting a bit more rest at night now, and that’s a good thing.  Once we give up being concerned about the escaped felon hiding in the woods behind The Ranch, and can turn off the outdoor lights and a few more lamps in the house, I’m sure she’ll rest even better.  (I’m not entirely sure why escaped felon=leave on all the lights, because it’s not like we could do much to combat an armed and dangerous escapee even if we saw him coming.  And frankly he’d take one look at Cody and know we are total amateurs when it comes to home security, but whatever.)

Today my plans include laundry, so clearly the exciting life has resumed here at The Ranch.  I’m getting used to missing The Sir.  Several of you have asked about another beastie, and the answer is obviously yes, just not right now.  For a lot of reasons.  Our old vet once told us, when we showed up with The Boys (we had previously been Cocker Spaniel people, and girl-dog people, so it was a bit of a shock when he first saw us with C & C) that we would never work harder with a dog than with a Lab, but that we would also never have more fun.  He was totally right.  And particularly a dog with as stubborn a personality as The Sir, but also as big a personality, if he could only be with us for a short while, I’m so glad he picked me.  And I want another one of those.  (Or another pair of those-we’ve established that Labradors come in pairs, at least to our house.)  But Lab puppies are adorable and roly-poly and fat and little and have puppy breath and can’t climb stairs–for approximately ten minutes, at which point they turn into adolescent Labradors.  And an adolescent Labrador is big, gangly, uncoordinated, and headstrong.  A daily choice to love him in spite of himself.  A full-time job.  We can’t handle that right now-we already have one of those in the house with Daddy.  So as soon as the time is right, I will.

Back tomorrow, go out and enjoy the pretty weather, people!



Same Song, Different Verse

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Gentle Reader,

You know it’s been an altogether awful weekend when the phone call from the Henderson County Sheriff, alerting you to the presence of an escaped (armed and extremely dangerous) felon in the woods behind your house, is the best part of it.

I’m still in shock, I’m still reeling, and I still don’t quite know what to do now…but on Thursday, as I was making my way back from Moscow to The Ranch to help mama take care of daddy, Cooper died.  My Boy, The Sir, my buddy, my Cooper died.  It was sudden, it was unexpected, and the pain I feel right now is unlike anything I have ever had.  I am incomplete.  Sounds that are a part of my world (ears flapping, collars jingling, sighs, snores, barks…) aren’t there, leaving a quiet that steals my breath.

He did not appear to have been sick, frightened, or struggling.  And I am glad that The Sir didn’t have any of those, alone, at the end.  He had his brother, our beloved Cody, right beside him, as they have been for nearly all their lives.  Suddenly, The Boys…aren’t.

Cody is restless.  He, moreso than Cooper, needs a pair, a pack, someone that goes together with him.

And I can’t talk about that anymore.

As far as Moscow goes, I knew that I would know when it was time for me to make the call and go home.  On Thursday, I had an unshakeable knowledge that I had to come home-RIGHT THEN, NO WAITING.  My future plans right now include trying to sleep for more than an hour or two at a stretch, and to get rid of the screaming nightmares that have come roaring back.  When daddy gets home, I intend on helping mama care for him so that he can be here, with his people.  I don’t know how the situation with daddy is going to play out, but my plan is to go back.  I doubt that I will be teaching this semester.  Beyond that, I am absolutely unsure–I do believe I’ll know when it is time to go back, just like I knew when it was time to come home.  I did not leave because I hated it there, or because I didn’t want to be there.  The timing of daddy and the three-week syndrome (hitting the wall) was calamitous, and I wish I were a person who could do everything and do it effortlessly.  I am not, and the whole range of All The Feelings is being explored.  Usually on an hourly basis.

And with that, I’m going to try to sleep.

“…And Grace will lead me Home…”



Some Whining, Some Pictures, Followed By Some More Whining

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Gentle Reader,

An old professor once termed it, “Hitting the Russia Wall”.  And she said it happened about three weeks into your trip/stint, and I thought that we had hit it last week.  When I dreamt about a Whataburger.  Extra pickles, no onions.

I hadn’t.

Last night, I hit it.  Hard.  And I’m still slammed up against it.  Daddy, the apartment, the kitchen, the no washer, EVERYTHING.  I feel (because I should be keeping things real, right?) like I can do one OR the other, but not both.  Daddy or Russia.  I feel trapped, and like I can’t escape.  I’ll spare you the hysterics because at some point, probably after my blood pressure leaves what I’m sure is totally euphemistically called, “The Stroke Zone”, they will be inconsequential, and I’m sure after my good humor resumes, and with the help of adequate hydration, I’ll be able to laugh about this.  SOMEDAY.

Not.  Today.

Today, I’m stuck 6,000 miles away from my people, in a place where I do not speak the language, and I am frankly miserable.  I love this place.  I want to love this place.  This place is maddening.  In ways that the Ugly American Sochi Reporters can NEVER understand unless they want to try.  Just like any country.  There are things that are different.  There are things that are great.  There are things that are baffling.  There are things that are better than America, there are things that I just.  Do.  Not.  Get.  There are things that I would do differently.  Ergo, life here?  A LOT LIKE LIFE IN ANY OTHER PLACE.  (On the other hand, it’s snowing BIG FAT SNOWFLAKES outside my office window right now.  It is gorgeous.  And the distant grind of the snowplow lets me know that this place?  They understand winter and the city isn’t about to shut down over some snow.  Russia, FTW, there!)  (Silver linings.)

So let’s finish our little tour of Red Square and then I’m going to make a list of the things in Texas that right now I would chew through my own leg if caught in a trap to get to.  Because writing about them is the only thing I can do.



And I forget which Kremlin gate this is.  But I’ve always liked it and will take more pics of it, so get used to it.  Bishop’s Gate? I forget and my little book is back at the apartment.



The (newer) Kremlin wall, and you can see some of the leaders that are buried there.  (There is an older Kremlin wall that I didn’t get over to photograph.  I’ll do that later-it’s REEEEAALLLLLY old.  Compared to my “I like this Starbuck’s better than that Starbuck’s because it’s newer” suburban-mindset, it’s like, GEOLOGICALLY old.)



And ever since the “Titanic” movie, I avoid going TOWARD things I know are only going to make me sad, so you’ll hopefully understand why I passed on this particular gastronomic delight.

And, finally…



I’m BEYOND EXCITED that this place is open again!  It was closed last time I was here for renovations, and seriously, I cannot wait.  (I would have taken a better pic, but there were a bunch of important-looking military types marching up and down the square–Monty Python reference–in front of the Bolshoi when I took this, and as I’m not fully fluent in my Russian Military Barking, and they had both guns and knives, I practiced an avoidance strategy here.)

Okay, so on to the “I Miss It” portion of the post:

(And, obviously, my people and my boys are at the top of the list, and if pushed into it, that free cat.  But this is a selfish, whiny, first-world list, so NONE OF THAT FUZZY STUFF HERE.)

1.  Iced tea.

2.  Water, in addition to your beverage du choix.  In a big glass.  With ice.  For free.

3.  Whataburger. (see above)

4.  Taco Bueno.  (A bean burrito and a beef nacho salad with a Diet Dr. Pepper.)

5.  Hines, I’ll even take a Taco Bell if I can’t get my way on the Taco Bueno.

6.  Mattito’s beef chile relleno with red sauce and extra raisins.

7.  Brisket.  Of the Pioneer Woman (with my modifications) or the barbecue variety.

8.  Breadwinner’s Queen of Hearts Salad.

9.  Babe’s chicken dinner.

10.  Northpark.  Sweet, sweet Northpark.

11.  Target.  Where they sell All of The Things, ONE STOP SHOPPING.

12.  Ranch salad dressing.

13.  (I’m ashamed even before I write this…)  Kilroy’s on Kirkwood’s pizza breadsticks.  With nacho cheese dipping sauce.  What day was it that they were on special so they were, in fact, cheaper than beer?  (And yes, this is an Indiana thing not a Texas thing, blah blah blah, but it’s my list and I make the rules.)

Okay, that’s enough of the self-pity and whining.  Thank you for listening to the story of How The Ugly American Hit The Russia Wall.

Let’s hope tomorrow nets you something more entertaining to read!  It will be a better day, I just know it.


Russian Bar Runs Out of Vodka, And No Hashtag Hijinx Ensue

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Gentle Reader,

Daddy is doing quite a bit better today!  Yay!  And I’m about to book tickets to come home for Spring Break so I can see him myself.  (Because clearly, my professional medical opinion is a VITAL CONTRIBUTION to the situation, what with the only seven or eight doctors that he has on his case.)  I’m excited, and glad I can give mama a bit of a break, too.  I have no idea where he will be at the time, but at peak performance, Daddy and I are high-maintenance people.  We need near constant entertainment or we get noisy.  Sometimes, we’re noisy even when we’re entertained.  In sum:  Mama needs a nap or twelve.  And a new Lab puppy.  She’s going to be so surprised!

(I kid, Mama.  Call the locksmith back.)

So the other night, we went out to dinner after classes ended to a restaurant here whose name translates to, depending on who you ask, “Fiddlesticks”, or I think I’ve heard it translated to “Hokey-Pokey”, too?  Or maybe I’m just transliterating that.  (I’m exhausted-is “transliterated” even a word?)  Anyway-it’s decorated in a way as to please nobody’s aesthetic and has an authentic-ish Russian salad bar featuring all manner of mayonnaise-based salads and other delights.  The only pickles on it, however, were pickled garlic and garlic shoots.  To wit:

1.  Pickled garlic shoots look a LOT like pickled green beans.

2.  They are delicious.  But they do NOT taste like pickled green beans.

3.  They, erm, stay with you for a L-O-N-G time.  Do NOT, and I cannot stress this enough, plan on pickled garlic shoots for your Valentine’s Day dinner.  Unless you are trying to communicate a fantastically unsubtle message to your soon-to-be-former beloved.

4.  They would be, however, AMAZE-BALLS in a Bloody Mary.  Like, I’m fantasizing about it now.  Mmmmm.  Someone go try it and report back to the group, m’kay?

So anyway, after deciding to order the salad bar, we were then trying to decide the rest of our order.  Which took awhile.  First, two of us decided we needed booze.  (Why do you automatically assume I was one of them???)

Vodka was ordered.

They were out.

(Give that a minute to marinate, there.)

Moonshine was ordered. (The Russian equivalent-I have no idea…)  (Perhaps, in a country with no recognizable tort law, I should be more discerning, but I was thirsty…)

They were out.

Beverage abandoned, we moved on to food.

They were out of one of the soups.

They were out of the stroganoff.

They were out of the lamb.

At this point, the waiter was asked what they DID have.  And we all had the pork shashlik.  (Which is what I had planned on ordering all along, FTW!)

At that point, the night was reaching surreal, and so we ended it.  But please do not start hashtagging things with “porkshashlik” or “canweeat” or anything.  Because hasn’t every restaurant had a bad night?  I just got SO TICKLED that a Russian restaurant/bar ran out of vodka…and then even the Moonshine…

Maybe it was really tasty Moonshine, B?

Anyway-just a brief interlude on our tour of Red Square to tell you about dinner on Saturday.  (hashtag lamelikethat)



Wordie Goes to Red Square, Takes Pictures of the Tops of Interesting Buildings

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Gentle Reader,

Daddy update-we’ve had a bit of progress.  He is a bit more alert, his color is apparently better, things are still in a wait-and-see mode.  Thank you for your prayers and thoughts and everything you are doing.  In ways you cannot know, we are forever grateful.

So last week before the big fun began, I went to Red Square one afternoon.  Outside the “main” entrance to Red Square there have always been random folk dressed up like Lenin, a vaguely Tsar-like person, a vaguely Russian literary-like figure, etc., earning what I hope are supplemental rubles by posing for random pictures with tourists.  Nothing officially sanctioned, obviously.  This time, I was confronted with a bevy of Sochi cartoon characters.  And while I did not photograph them, I assure you that while the official Sochi cartoon character mascots are creepy?  The unofficial, knockoff Sochi cartoon character mascots are nightmare-inducing.  I’m already in therapy.  (Is anybody else wholly weirded-out by the concept of a cartoon mascot for the Olympics?  Official or unofficial.  It just doesn’t smack of authenticity to me.)

Anyway-the pics:


The top of the Historical Museum.  At one end of the Square.


The Kremlin wall and what I’m pretty sure is Nicholas’ Tower (Look-geography and map reading have never been my jam.)-looking into Red Square.


The facade of the Historical Museum.


The GUM.  She is 120.  (That’s an ice-skating rink in front.)  (No.  I didn’t.  Because NOBODY needs to see that.)


Kazan Cathedral–my favorite cathedral on Red Square.  (It is apparently closed for renovations?  I haven’t tried to go in yet.)



And the more famous Cathedral on the other end of the Square.  (I didn’t go in there, either.  I’ll go later-when it isn’t so cold out-and take lots more pics.)


One of the Seven Sisters as seen (really really zoomed) behind St. Basil’s.

Okay, people.  The internet here is being really crabby, so I’m going to end today’s episode.  Stay tuned tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of last week’s trip to Red Square.  (Wow.  Lamest English-language sentence ever composed.  Ever.)