A few years after Daniel first wore the snow leopard costume, TG decided to wear it for the elementary school's Halloween parade (a tradition I enjoyed but then it was deemed inappropriate and changed to a Book Character parade in November, which was okay until they started telling the kids who they had to be...sorry, back to the story...)
Of course, TG being TG, she dug around in the dress-up boxes and added her own special touch to create something even more unique. I'm pretty sure she's still the only kid who's ever been a snow leopard...ballerina!
"What do you want to be for Halloween, Daniel?"
"A snow leopard."
A snow leopard? What the heck is a snow leopard?
Daniel found me a picture.
I gathered materials and stayed up until 3 am the night before his pre-school Halloween party hot-gluing black strips of felt (and occasionally my fingers) onto a white sweat suit, trying to keep them from looking too much like cow spots. White felt turned a nebulizer mask into a snout and recycled a red devil's tail into a snow leopard tail. Ears evolved out of pipe cleaners and more white felt.
Daniel was one very happy snow leopard. I was one tired, finger-blistered, but proud, mom. I knew I wouldn't win a prize for "craftiest", but the only judge I had to please was Daniel. From him I got a blue ribbon.
Here he is on Halloween 1993, joined by Jason (Tommy gave a friend a quarter for the mask - best deal he ever made - he's still using it), and TG the Bunny (white sweat suits are great!)
BUSY! That's how today felt, but looking back on it from this end, it wasn't any more full than other days - I certainly didn't get any more accomplished. It was the same old Wednesday routine - work at home, exercise, shuttle Kendall to school, take care of dogs and guinea, job #1, lunch, shuttle Kendall home from school, job #2, Kendall's soccer practice (read this week's lecture), Target, take care of dogs, polish up the kitchen, fold some clothes, (blog), then early to bed so I can get up before dawn and start over. (Tomorrow I skip job #1 and go to job #3. I have to pay close attention to my calendar these days.)
One surprise - I could no longer ignore the dust and clutter this morning and decided that CLEAN HOUSE should move to priority position #1 on Saturday's agenda. I came home for lunch and, wouldn't you know, Tom had started cleaning the floors (he had the day off.) We think so much alike sometimes. And then other times, we so don't.
Halloween is almost here! Here's Daniel, ready for the Halloween Carnival, 1996 (the black hoodie/ghoul face was a favorite for many years...)
I had to grab my gloves and insulated jacket for my walk with the dogs this morning. Another wave of winter rolled in from the north last night. This one was serious - it dropped into the forties! (That's winter in Texas, y'all...) Of course, with the help of the sun, it was back up into the high seventies by the afternoon.
Winter here is like waves on a beach, stretching farther and farther with each push until finally, at high tide, the beach is covered.
Okay, here's another metaphor...
Winter is twirling its lariat, trying to lasso us and tie us down with cold temperatures, but so far it's missing the mark - the rope just hits us without catching, and winter has to roll it up and try again. Sooner or later, though, we'll be roped and tied up for, oh, two or three months.
I'm sure there are other metaphors...if you think of one, email me or leave a comment. This is a lot more fun than trying to think of foreshadowing for my screenplay (no, I haven't finished this past Friday's assignment yet. Don't tell my kids.)
But now I really am going to get to work...(wish me luck! And Byron, thank you for suggesting Story by Robert McKee...he embellishes and enriches everything I read in my lesson and textbook...)
When I was little, it was horse books and statues, rocks, shells, and Liddle Kiddles. A few years later, I was drawn to Nancy Drew books, candles, shot glasses, spoons,and all things related to cats. I also have more than a person needs of Texas, Civil War, and old Tarzan books. I have crosses, nutcrackers, beer steins, pewter wizards, and heart boxes. Small vases and unique teacups. Teapots. Vintage souvenir plates. Any vintage china that I think is pretty, especially if it has wildflowers or this one particular floral pattern...
You get the picture. I am a collector.
I've never spent much in the gathering of my collections (except for a couple of signed and numbered Windberg prints years ago), but I've never MADE money on them, either. Until now, anyway. I've accumulated an assortment of part-time jobs. I'm up to four now...if you don't count my blogging and fiction-writing. I think that qualifies as a collection.
My latest is a little farther commute by about five minutes. But the lake view on the way is spectacular, and there's no traffic to contend with - only a few deer to dodge.
I'm off to my next one, but first, here's the Dread-Pirate-Tommy in 1988...
My habit these last few cool, clear nights while feeding the dogs has been to stand at the railing and gaze at the night sky. Tonight I was blessed with a shooting star.
All those long nights working at the chemical plant and I NEVER saw a shooting star. My first was in Colorado about twelve years ago, and since then I've seen dozens. The worrier in me whispers that it's a sign that our world is dying or something, the pragmatist says it's just because we're away from the glare of the city lights, but the optimist in me is louder, telling me it's magic in the sky, a blessing. I choose to believe her.
Each time I see one I feel it's a special gift, sent directly to me, because, after all, what are the odds of looking at just the right spot in the sky for just that split second?
This quote popped out at me this morning...
Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles, and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self confident, and more and more successful. (Mark Victor Hansen)
Great motivation for a Monday morning, whether you're seventeen, twenty, twenty-two (the ages of my kids), or hitting your fifties, like me, Tom, and most of my friends, or even if you're in your seventies and eighties, like my parents...We all have something we need to get started on, or want to do with our lives. I think it's never too late to start....whether it's getting healthier, starting to school, writing a book, learning to play the drums, or rediscovering old hobbies or friendships.
On a totally different note, HALLOWEEN is coming! So in keeping with the season (and because I'm so sentimental), I'll post a picture from past Halloweens every day...this one is probably my favorite...Kendall and Daniel trying to be as fierce and scary as big brother Tommy, circa 1992...
Sunday afternoons are made for soccer - hours and hours of glorious sunshine. It felt like summer again today. My umbrella and cherry snowcone helped me cool off a little, but I was still sweating on the sidelines watching TG and the Cosmos whoop up on the other team (6-1...TG scored one and almost scored two others.)
I love watching those girls play. They are so tough! I love that they are out there on a Sunday afternoon, working together, pushing themselves like that.
We didn't have soccer when I was in high school - leagues were just starting to form for little kids about the time I graduated - but I wish we did. I wasn't into playing volleyball or basketball, but I think I would have liked soccer. A couple of years ago I practiced with TG's team and did something horrible to a muscle or nerve in my leg that took months to recover from...but I did it right at the beginning of practice - my first kick defending the goal - and just kept playing anyway because I had SO gotten into the game.
Hmmm...maybe it's a good thing we didn't have soccer when I was in high school...
TG has been playing for twelve years now...four years on the Cosmos with Coach David. These weekend sideline sessions will be ending for me in a few months. No more driving for an hour or two, sitting and sweating (or freezing) on the sidelines for a couple of hours, screaming "Go Cosmos!" and biting my fingernails and growling at the refs for one-sided calls.
I'm going to miss it...
The evolution of a soccer player... TG and best bud Tara around age 5 and then TG, in red, fighting for the ball at her game in Lampasas (I love that field...surrounded by old oak trees...LOTS of shade, unlike today's game.)
This Saturday has been a shining beacon to me all week. Its little square on the calendar was completely empty! I dared to hope that perhaps...perhaps...I would be able to sleep in. No buzzing alarm, no ringing phone, no barking dogs, no squawking guinea, no early knocking lost wedding guest trying to find Villa Antonia...I was sure it was too much to dream, but I held onto it anyway...
And, oh! what delirious JOY to crack open my eyes and see that it was 11am!
But then, immediately, a tad of depression because I knew a Saturday morning like this won't come around again for a LONG time.
I won't think about that.
Instead, I'll forcus on the fact that I've already scratched off #1 on my to-do list for today:
Sleep until I wake up on my own, and then lie in bed a little longer.
2. Go to the grocery store.
3. Get caught up on my screenplay lesson for this week.
What a sense of accomplishment!
Of course, there are tons of other things I need to do (clean house)...things I should do (move the VHS tapes out of boxes and onto the shelves that attacked me last week)...and things I want to do (finish The Other Boleyn Girl that I started in May), but COME ON!...when you sleep almost till noon then piddle around drinking coffee and watching Rick Steves pointing out things to do in Bath and York, there's not a lot of time left in the day.
And I already face another obstacle in getting much done (at least in the house) - it's a gorgeous day! I share this philosophy with Nathaniel Hawthorne..."I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying on the house."
So I prefer to look at it this way...I've already completed a third of the things on my list for today, and I refuse to stress out about the rest. After all, there's always tomorrow...
My dear friend Ann turns fifty today. Ann is fifty....Ann is fifty?
No....no matter how often I write it, or how many more years go by, Ann will never be fifty..or fifty-five...or sixty. Ann is and always has been ageless...her spirit is simultaneously young and old...fun-loving, adventurous, spontaneous, mischievous, passionate...marbled with wisdom, peacefulness, charm, practicality, and common sense.
We became friends through our boyfriends when we were around sixteen. The boyfriends eventually went by the wayside, while we became closer, despite the fact that our lifestyles have pretty much always been on different tracks...as far as married/single, kids/no kids, little kids/older kids, working/staying-at-home goes, anyway. We rarely see each other and we'll go months without talking (although now that our kids are older we're working on that.)
But Ann is more than a friend - she's a part of me. There are no pretenses between us. We can be ourselves with each other and not have to worry about being judged. We share good laughs over our screw-ups and problems and memories. We've shared so much over the years, know so much about each other, that I no longer worry about us drifting apart or losing our friendship....although I'd never take it for granted. One of the beautiful things about her is that I'm not the only one who feels that way...she has many friends who feel just as close to her as I do.
I am grateful to her for her amazing strength - she's had challenge after challenge in her life that would have broken most women, but she somehow turns those challenges into trampolenes, using them to bounce into something bigger and better. She's realized one of her dreams already - owning an antique shop/tea room in her little town of Weston, Missouri, and she's currently working on a book of her assemblage art to be published by North Light. She reminds me of those purple flowers growing in the bend of our road - despite all the trials in her life, she continues to bloom and brighten and inspire lives all around her.
Her creativity and energy amaze me. It's because of her that I'm even writing this blog - I enjoyed hers so much (isla) that I wanted to try. She encouraged me and answered my questions. Her photography reawakened my love for capturing the images around me, and she was just as supportive and helpful with that.
Artwork is another thing - years ago she tried to teach me how to sew and make some of the craft projects she's so good at, but we both gave up on that...
Now she's writing, and her creativity and natural sense of beauty are obvious in her words. I'm trying to be just as helpful to her as she has been to me. It's nice to be able to give back in some way.
So here's to Ann...may your day and all the days to come be glorious, and I hope they include more chances for us to spend time with each other. I miss you, love you, and I'm so glad you're my friend.
Here are some blasts from the past....Carey (whatever happened to her?), me, and Ann at South Padre Island, 4th of July 1977 (look at those tans...and the terrible quality of 70's photography)...
...Ann and I climbing Mt. Timpanogos in Utah a few months later...
...and at our 30th high school reunion pre-party last year...
I can't wait for the next 34 years of friendship with you, Ann...HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
Okay, I admit Charly's eyes look a little creepy in this picture...I don't have a good photo editing program yet.
But his intense look - the watching, waiting, full of hope and faith that I'll head to the front door any minute to go on our walk - is irresistible. This is the look that got me started years ago on my daily walks. If it weren't for Charly, I'd be in terrible shape right now. He's my exercise partner, the one who doesn't let you slide when you think you're too tired or too busy. He doesn't have to nag me - that look is enough.
And Frankie has picked up on it, as you can see. He doesn't want to go on a walk - he just likes me to come out and talk to him and watch him peck at bugs - real and imaginary. He's a little bit of a show-off.
When I was growing up, my dream was to own a ranch where all homeless animals could live. I've always had a pet or two - growing up we raised Beagles, had several parakeets named Pete (in succession, not all at the same time), some horses and hamsters, plus a few random animals...Brenda cared for an opossum once, and I remember a duck in the backyard, although I'm not sure now where it came from or what happened to it. I became a cat person in my teens when Brenda brought home Char, a displaced antisocial Siamese that turned my mother from a cat..."disliker" (a cat killed her pet rabbit when she was a kid)...to a cat lover.
I don't know what I would do now without Charly, Max, and Frankie to keep me company and entertained. Now that my kids are older, it's nice to feel needed and appreciated in the way only pets and small children can show.
But I don't want more pets - that dream of adopting all strays faded fast (especially since I'm allergic to them.) At least one of my paychecks goes toward Max's food and medicine every month - he has one of those German Shepherd elbow problems. And Charly's on thyroid medicine. Frankie's pretty cheap, but he's developing a taste for bird seed.
There's no such thing as a free pet.
But a few people in Lago Vista must have had the same dream, and they didn't let allergies or money stop them from fulfilling that dream...as much as possible, anyway. With volunteers, donations of land and materials, and some city funding, they built a large shelter. Volunteers take care of the animals and hold fund-raisers.
For a little over ten years now Lifelong Friends Pet Adoptions, a no-kill animal shelter, has been taking in stray dogs and cats and finding new homes for them...trying to, anyway. The problem is every year there are more and more strays, fewer potential homes, and less money. Between the pet food recall last year and recent bad publicity and controversy over city funding and conditions at the shelter, their days may be numbered..both for the shelter and, consequently, for the dogs and cats living there. They will have to be moved to another shelter...and probably euthanized.
When Max first wandered up four years ago, the last thing I needed, wanted, or could afford, was another dog. I called the shelter, but they were already overcrowded and asked me if I could just keep him here long enough to find a home for him. Of course, I fell in love and he's never left.
If he hadn't wandered up to my house, if someone less of a softy had found him, Max could be one of those dogs living at the shelter, his future uncertain. So I'm going to scrape up some money to donate. They made my dream come true...they gave the strays a home...so the least I can do is try to keep it, the dogs, and the cats from being euthanized.
However, I don't dare go donate in person...one sight of all those eyes and I'd have to adopt them all. Thank goodness they accept online donations - I just have to go to their website and click a button. I hope some of you can pitch in a little, too.
It's only Wednesday, but these last few days have been so long and hectic that Sunday seems like years ago. That's when I took my own advice about slowing down... I spent a few hours with Daniel doing nothing but laugh at his new Flight of the Conchords Season 1 DVD (his birthday present) and eat ice cream cake (which should be named Extreme Cookies and Cream because there's not really any cake involved - just neopolitan ice cream, Oreos, chocolate syrup, and Cool Whip.)
Okay, that's not exactly true...the part about doing nothing else, anyway (the cake part is true)...we'd watch an episode, then I'd get up and "accomplish" something...laundry, cleaning off my desk, or something...then we'd watch another one. It's the closest I can come to being a couch potato. But we watched six or seven episodes over the weekend, and by the last one Sunday night, I knew I'd be going through withdrawals...they are so funny! It makes me wish I had HBO. I'm going to miss Bret and Jermaine.
What a weekend! Daniel was home AND I went to my first University of Texas football game, courtesy of our friends Mary Kay and Joe, whose son Ryan is part of the UT Band. What an experience...Texas Memorial Stadium was a sea of burnt orange (except for a few splashes of yellow...the brave University of Missouri fans.)
We were at the very tiptop of that sea - the very highest point in the stadium - which are actually great seats (except maybe on a cold night!) We could see everything on the field, in the stands, and on the highways. The UT Tower was eye level and the city lights spread out around us. So when the three-quarter moon emerged from the horizon to watch the game - wearing burnt orange, of course - we had a perfect view of that, as well.
And what a game! Texas zoomed way ahead in the first half and stayed there, winning 56-31. The icing on the cake was the halftime show - a tribute to Led Zeppelin - very cool. The UT Marching Band is amazing.
I admit, I'm not a huge football fan, but even I got swept into Longhorn mania Saturday night...
The moon wearing UT colors...
Here's a rare picture of me with all of my siblings - Brenda's holding me, Donnie is lying behind us, and Buster, the big brother of us all, is on the right.
Yesterday was Buster's birthday - it's hard for me to imagine he would have been sixty-one. It's hard for me to imagine I'm now older by more than a decade than he was in my last memory of him, when I stood beside him in the hospital, kissed him, told him I loved him, and told him good-bye. We knew he wouldn't be coming out of his coma.
Even now I cry when I think of it. I can't imagine, don't want to imagine, how it feels to my parents, losing a child.
In my earliest memories, Buster had already left home. There's a memory of us visiting him at his Army Boot Camp graduation in Louisiana, and one of him taking me to a carnival, where he won me a soapstone bank shaped like a cartoonish hound dog."Grumpy" is still with me, sitting high on a shelf in the livingroom, a reminder that my big brother loved me and spoiled me. On his visits home, he doted on me...a trail of small footprints meandered across the ceilings in our house because minutes after coming through the door he would comply with my demands to "Walk me on the ceiling!" He would grab me, flip me upside down and hold me up (giggling and squealing) so that I could walk in that imaginary topsy-turvy world. Mama says he was crazy about me when I was a baby...he would even wash the styling grease out his hair so I could play with his dark brown curls. I can't remember that, but I do remember sitting on the front row of his wedding, crying. I must have sensed that things would change between us.
Through most of my life he was in the background, a shadow...Buster was busy with his adult life and I was busy with my childhood and they rarely intersected. He became a father and I loved being an aunt. He went to Viet Nam - twice - and we hung a map up on the hallway wall, keeping track of his whereabouts with pushpins. He divorced and gave up custody of his son, and I didn't understand.
Our lives collided again just before Christmas in 1973. I was watching television in the darkened livingroom, the colored lights on the Christmas tree splashing a kaleidoscope on the walls, when the phone rang. I heard Mam-ma's voice talking, then her silhouette appeared framed in the doorway. "Buster's been shot."
I remember Brenda and I pulling in to the dark parking lot of Houston's Ben Taub Hospital, rushing through the glaring white halls, dodging solemn faces overflowing from the waiting rooms, just in time to see Buster, his body bruised and bloody, being wheeled in on a gurney. He disappeared through the white double doors of the operating room.
Mama refused to leave the hospital for ten days, until she knew he was going to make it. She slept in stolen snatches on a hard wooden bench in the lobby. Daddy brought her fresh clothes and she washed up in the ladies' room.
My once tall, muscular big brother was now a quadriplegic. He came home from Viet Nam only to be shot in a bar just outside of Houston. One of the bullets severed his spinal cord.
Over the next few years he was in and out of hospitals...he attended the University of Texas and then Victoria College, getting a degree in business...he started a guard dog business and learned to drive with hand controls...he wrote poetry and loved debating with his friends about religion and what ever else got them stirred up. He could be moody, unpredictable, and gripped by bouts of depression - just like me, a teenager during those years, too consumed with my own life to pay close attention to what was going on in his.
We didn't get along very well. He loved to tease me and embarrass my boyfriends. Except Tom...Tom just let it roll off of him.
Just before his thirty-fourth birthday, Buster went in the hospital for surgery. The next day he went into the coma. Within a few days, he was gone and I realized how much I loved him, and how much I would miss him. I wished I had told him I loved him more often when I had the chance.
Not long after his death, I woke to find him standing in my room. Standing. We didn't speak. Perhaps it was a dream, but it doesn't matter...in my heart I knew he was sending me a message because he knew I loved him and would want to know that he was once again tall and strong, healthy and whole, just like he was in my childhood.
They started as unimpressive green-brown clumps plopped along the side of the road and mixed in with the taller prairie grasses spreading into the trees. The tips turned yellow, but I still thought of them as some kind of weed.
Then one morning, I paid closer attention...lo and behold, the yellow tips were tiny buds, unfolding into dozens of beautiful miniature daffodil-ish flowers. What a surprise! Then it hit me that these flowers were like people...they can seem dull or ordinary and easily overlooked, but if you take the time to really look, try to get to know them, you discover no one is really ordinary - there's something special, something worth noticing about everyone. We're all miracles, all full of hidden beauty or talent, just like these wildflowers. Sometimes we have to remember that it's true for ourselves, too.
Buddha said, "if we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole lives would change."
I think if we could see the miracle of ourselves and those around us, our whole lives would change even more.
I attended my first rock concert in about 1965...I was six when I saw the Herman's Hermits rocking the stage at the Houston Coliseum. Aunt Peggy took me, my sister Brenda who was fourteen, and another teenage girl, a co-worker's daughter. I was in love with Peter Noone (Herman) at the time.
Brenda noticed they were coming back to Houston on October 25 and thought it would be fun for us to go, for old times' sake. But one look at the ticket prices and that thought came to a screeching, SMOKING halt: the cheapest are $152 each! If we were really crazy, we could splurge and spend $388 each. Peter Noone was cute, but...are people really willing to pay that much for nostalgia?
I'll be content to replay my old memories...I wore a new outfit - all pink. Pink stretch ski pants (totally IN at that time), a pink shirt, and even pink Keds tennis shoes. I wish I had a picture.
Waiting in line outside to go in, we talked to a teenage girl in a wheelchair who had seen the Beatles. I wasn't that impressed - my favorite groups at the time were the Beach Boys and Herman's Hermits, and here I was about to see Peter Noone himself - Peter was SOOO cute and I had such a crush on him. I loved his shaggy bowl cut and his cute British accent. (I still refuse to pay $152 to see him today - the crush has cooled off a little...)
The warm-up group was the Animals, but...(again)...I was too excited about seeing Peter Noone to be impressed by them. Brenda and I were a little surprised that the Animals would have been the back-up group, even though that's what we both remembered, but she communicated with a music buff named Tom Tannahill at Rice University who told her even the Who and the Rolling Stones frequently back up Herman's Hermits during that time.
Tannahill has a really cool website called Houston Rocks, all about the live music scene in Houston in the '60's, '70's, and '80's. Looking over it brought back so many memories for me. Tannahill has listed many of the concerts of those years, but there are a LOT he has left out.The Herman's Hermits were the only rock group I saw in the '60's (except for Elvis Presley in 1968 or 1969 at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with Daddy), but starting in 1975 I went to zillions...well, it seems like it....Humble Pie, Lynyrd Skynyrd (he listed that one), Ted Nugent (Ted Nugent, Ted Nugent...he came to Houston a lot), KISS, Black Sabbath, the Eagles, the Beach Boys :), the Turtles (who sing one of my all-time favorite songs "Happy Together,") Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt, Cheap Trick, Bad Company, Pat Benatar, Bruce Springsteen...I can't remember them all...
I'm going to drag out my scrapbooks where I have taped bits and pieces of my life, including ticket stubs (unless my alter ego came along and tossed them all after saving them for twenty or thirty years - I do that sometimes...) and shoot him an email so he can update his site with my memories.
And I guess on October 25, I'll settle for slipping in a Herman's Hermits CD to listen to Peter croon my favorites... "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter"..."I'm Into Something Good"...and of course, "I'm Henery the 8th"...
The minute I spotted them at the Oktoberfest garage sale Saturday, I thought they would be perfect for displaying our old VHS tapes (I'm watching some of them for my class)...better than the cardboard boxes we have them in now, anyway. For $15, it was worth the gamble; I could always donate them back to the garage sale if they didn't work out.
One of the men carried them to the van for me, but I lugged them by myself down the stone path into the house and set them next to the stairs. Last night, Kendall helped me carry them downstairs, but I figured I could maneuver them into their final spot without assistance...after all, I got them out of the van and into the house by myself, right?
I think the problem was the rug...either the shelves snagged on it, or I tripped on it...no one will ever know. Whichever it was, suddenly I realized we were both falling. We landed together - it on my left shin, then my chin on it. The impact jarred my head, snapping my neck to the right as the rest of me hit the ground.
It hurt. I started crying...from pain, but also from anger and fear that I had really hurt myself. I was too busy, had too many things going on to be REALLY hurt. Gingerly, I rolled onto my back and took stock...although I hurt in several places, I decided nothing was broken. At worst, I'd given myself whiplash and possibly a Jay Leno chin.
Kendall handed me an ice pack, but I couldn't decide which part of me needed it the most - my shin, my chin, or my neck.
I ached all night, and today I'm still sore, but I was so relieved that I didn't see Jay Leno staring back at me from the mirror this morning and my shin doesn't have an egg swelling under the surface. My neck is a little stiff...just a reminder that to remain relatively healthy and fit, I need to learn to ask for help.
Tommy went to the University of North Texas in Denton. It was only four hours away but that was too far...I never got to see him, never really spent much time up there...although there was one year I drove him back on his birthday, treated him to dinner, and got a quick tour of the frat house. I cherished those few hours I got to spend with him, knowing it could be a long time before I saw him again.
The good thing about Daniel being at UT is that we can pretend he's far away, he can pretend he's far away, but in an emergency (like needing to see him on or around his birthday) he's just a short drive away. And I love the campus and the area of Austin surrounding it...especially Guadalupe St., known as 'the Drag.' Interesting shops, interesting people. Daniel and I ate at one of his favorites, Potbelly's, where the counter guy, Marcus, knows Daniel and starts making his sandwich as soon as he sees him. We sat by the window looking onto the street, watching people pass by, including one guy carrying a sign that read "The problem with the world is not enough people laugh at fart jokes," or something like that.
I wasn't fast enough to get his picture, but I did get these...Daniel near the huge "Bevo" Longhorn outside the Co-op...the street vendors set up between beautifully painted buildings...Daniel at Potbelly's with Marcus at the counter...
"Be silly. Be honest. Be kind." When I came across these words by Emerson a few days ago, I immediately thought of Daniel, my middle child who turns twenty today...not so much of a child anymore, I guess.
Daniel is all of these things...one of those amazing people that doesn't realize just how special they are, how gifted and talented and smart, that has high standards and refuses to change for anyone...one of those people who doesn't try to impress anyone and so sometimes gets overlooked in favor of those who do. He is what you see, but so much more, too...there's much more to him than he lets on to most people. He has the kindest heart...a quandary for a mother, because a kind heart is easily hurt and can be hardened...I pray he can protect his heart, can remain kind without becoming jaded.
In kindergarten, his teacher called us in tears. He had gotten in trouble for something, but instead of acting remorseful when scolded, he just acted silly, which of course got him in more trouble. It took us awhile to understand it from his point of view...his teacher was upset and he was just trying to make her laugh...make her happy. I think we finally convinced him that when he got in trouble, the WORST thing he could do was try to make the teacher laugh.
He still does it with me, though...and it usually works. He makes me laugh even when I don't want to...which is why I thought of him when I read this quote, too..."A good laugh is sunshine in a house."(William Makepeace Thackeray) He's always been that way...in his baby book, under "Two months old" I jotted, He's a real joy. Smiles, laughs, and 'talks' a lot. Really entertaining. Tommy says 'Dan'l's funny!'
He did finally learn that being entertaining in school could get you in trouble, so he always kept a book with him to read when he finished his work (ahead of everyone else)...ironically, he sometimes got in trouble for reading too much! It's hard to get sympathy for that from other parents.
I knew I wouldn't be able to see him today, so yesterday I went downtown and took him to lunch. He'll be able to come home next weekend and we'll really celebrate - he requested an ice cream cake (ice cream and Oreo cookies and whip cream) and dinner at True Grits, a local restaurant that serves chicken fried chicken with cream gravy...his favorite. He's also one of those skinny people that can eat whatever they want and not gain weight...
Here's Daniel around 18 months old...my dad called him "Rooster" because of his wild curly hair just on the top of his head ...
For months Daniel always wore this denim jacket, hat, and bicycle gloves - he was and still is such a character - but such a wonderful big brother, too, here giving Kendall a ride on the tricycle...(tomorrow I'll post the pictures from lunch yesterday)
Happy 20th Birthday, Daniel!!!
We huddled on the metal steps near the top of the stands, tucked between the marching band on our left and whooping spectators on our right. There were no seats left in our small stadium - it was Homecoming in a winning season of high school football in Texas.
But we were oblivious to the game being played on the field, or even those around us who might be able to hear our voices over the cheering fans and the clanging cymbals. She was pouring her heart out to me; I was doing what she needed me to do...listening.
Although she was one of the first friends I made when I moved here thirteen years ago, and quickly became one of my best...one of those who becomes like a sister, one you click with again no matter how much time has passed...I hardly ever see her anymore. As our children got older, our lives went in different directions.
She was a volunteer way beyond my league. She didn't do all she did for praise or prestige, but out of love for her family and friends, for her belief in the organizations she was helping, and the knowledge that she had gifts to use.
Then one day in her forties, like so many others, she woke up and realized she still had dreams and goals, and she started working to fulfill them. Unfortunately, she is having to do it without the support and encouragement she craves. It breaks her heart, especially after the sacrifices she made.
I'm lucky Tom at least tries to be supportive - I understand he can't help worrying about the financial strain we're under with me only working part-time so I can write and take my college classes. I worry, too, and so I try to be practical and patient, but I feel this URGENCY that tells me not to let go, not to set my dreams completely aside again. It's been hard to explain to him, but he's starting to understand it...I think probably because he feels a similar urgency about things in his life.
I wonder if that urgency is what a mid-life crisis is all about? So many of my friends are feeling it right now (although not all of them, and it's hard to explain it to those that aren't.) Has it always been this way for people going through their forties? Why isn't it talked about more - in a positive light rather than a negative one?
One friend refuses to call it a crisis, but instead says it's a re-birth...an awakening. I like that. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. But problems arise when those around you don't understand the changes you're trying to make in your life, don't support them, don't try to see how important they are to you or expect you to stay the same, keep making compromise after compromise. Change sometimes scares people, makes them nervous and defensive, forces them to come out of their comfort zones.
I'm lucky and I know it. My heart goes out to my friend. I pray some luck goes her way, too. Soon.
Don't my drums look lonely sitting there in the corner, all alone? (And please don't even mention the dust on the floor or the unfinished closet and baseboards...)
Someday....someday...there will be time...
I think I was wise to extend my deadline for being a real drummer to my fifty-fifth birthday, instead of my fiftieth...
"Are these for me?" Kendall asked me this morning, referring to the muffins cooling on top of the stove.
Of course they were for her - no one else was home. Why was she asking? Oh!!!
"I forgot to put the blueberries in them! I'm so sorry!"
"Mom, they ARE blueberry muffins."
Blueberry? Not the chocolate chip that she likes? (Martha White chocolate chip with blueberries added on top as opposed to the Betty Crocker chocolate chip that Daniel likes...Tom is the one who likes blueberry. I'm the muffin queen!)
But how could they be blueberry this morning? Then I saw it, as clear as day...my hand pulling the blueberry mix from the cabinet and mixing it up, working entirely on automatic sans my brain. Someone watching would have believed I knew what I was doing, just as if my brain was actually focusing on my actions and not drifting far away, in a world all its own. My automatic pilot must be out of whack.
"Oh, Kendall...I'm so sorry!"
"That's okay, mom. I'll just eat Cheerios."
A few minutes later I realized I neglected to set the timer on the coffee pot at the church when I left yesterday. I'd need to go in a little early so the coffee was ready when Father arrived.
Once at church, coffee made, I pulled my glasses out of my purse to get to work...except, there were no glasses - just my empty green Mickey Mouse case. I must have left them at my other job yesterday afternoon!
"Father, I'll be right back!" Thank goodness the insurance company is just down the road. But...they weren't on my desk. I busted in to the morning meeting, out of breath..."Have any of you seen my glasses?" No, but one lady loaned me her extra pair...
Where could they be? Then, again, that flash of memory...last night at Kendall's soccer practice, sitting in the van doing my homework, wearing my glasses...the phone ringing...setting my glasses on top of my work bag...Kendall getting in the van...heading off to the mall shopping...hmmm...
Yep. There they were, right in my bag where I put them.
No doubt about it...I've reached overload. Maximum capacity.
The first time I had to admit to myself that there were limits to what I could handle...face the fact that I'm not superwoman... was years ago when Tommy was still in middle school. A parent asked me to give his daughter a ride home after school.
I remembered, but not until the next day...
My concern overrode my embarrassment - she was fine and had found another way home - but I was SO embarrassed.
That's why I have lists all over my kitchen counter - I don't try to rely on my memory. It's not reliable anymore. Some days, I even forget to look at my lists!
The silver lining to the blueberry muffin incident is that I had promised to donate something to the church Oktoberfest Bake sale this weekend...I had intended to make brownies, but of course, forgot all about it, and don't have the right stuff at home to make any. I think muffins will work just fine...
After all these years, after all the zillions of times I've looked at that photo of my dad in my bedroom of 1970, I have NEVER noticed that there is a hand coming out of the closet! There's something about seeing photographs on this blog that makes me look at them as if for the first time - unfortunately, it's usually after I hit the PUBLISH NOW button. I tried to go back and crop out the hand, but this old computer was too tired and froze up on me. By then, I thought, what the heck...it's very intriguing...I suppose at some time I knew who that was in my closet and why they were there, but that tidbit of knowledge was displaced in my brain long ago. I'll have to make some phone calls today and see if anyone remembers...
In the meantime, it's good for a laugh.
Today, I long to be in Pasadena with my Daddy, celebrating his 82nd birthday...celebrating his life and the fact that I am still able to celebrate with him. I will celebrate with him...I just won't be able to do it in person today. But all day he'll be on my mind and I know I'll be rewinding my memories and replaying them over and over and over...most of them I mentioned on Father's Day, so I won't repeat them all here, but I was thinking the other day how so many of my memories about Daddy involve food - our trips to Whataburger for hamburgers, fries, and chocolate shakes; warm cashews or fresh malted milk balls in Sears; and my favorite meal growing up: cornbread, pinto beans and ketchup, all mashed together, which was one of his favorites and that's how we got started eating it. It's so delicious, but looks like someone threw up on the plate - I loved trying to get my friends to taste it.
Many of my memories of Daddy involve big, old houses. I don't know if it's because of him that I love them or if we just happen to share the interest, but one of my favorite things to do is tour historic mansions - I've lost count of how many times I've been in the Bishop's Palace in Galveston. But we didn't just go on authorized tours...my first experience with the ritzy River Oaks neighborhood of Houston was driving through it with Daddy, looking at the houses, even creeping up a driveway (in the car) just enough to catch a glimpse of a mansion behind a tall wall or hedge.
Years later, when my high school friend Laura married Bob Sakowitz and lived in one of those mansions right on River Oaks Boulevard (only 8000 square feet...it was one of the older, smaller ones...), and Laura gave us a tour after one of our girls' night outs, even tiptoeing through their bedroom where Bob was sleeping, I thought of Daddy and the times we had driven through the neighborhood, wondering what the houses looked like on the inside. Now I knew. And they were pretty cool, just as we suspected...
...I called this evening and wished him a happy birthday and told him I love him. The party will be at Sudie's Catfish House in Pasadena tonight - in fact, they're there now...my sister, brother, their families and my parents...later they'll head back to Mama and Daddy's for cake and ice cream.
I wish I was there.
Here's Daddy with his mom and dad, just getting started...
Here he is, still a teenager in WWII - I'm sure the most handsome sailor in the Navy...
Circa 1970...caught him in my room...
With Mama, in 1973...
Daddy and I graduate from Square Dancing Class together...1981
With most of his brood...Donnie, me, and Brenda, on this past Father's Day...
I hit the wall around 3:30 am Saturday night/Sunday morning. I was feeling wide-awake until then, thanks to several cups of coffee, working on my next screenwriting assignment while simultaniously guarding all exits and keeping an eye on the handful of teenagers who were fighting sleep. The other chaperone had crashed on her pallet on the floor, but another parent had arrived at 2:30am to relieve us, so I pushed my homework aside and folded my upper body across the table, cushioned by my pillow, just like I used to do when I was working in the chemical plant lab...except back then I didn't have a pillow.
By 6 am I was wide awake again...I felt like I had gotten eight hours of sleep. I even stayed awake during Mass. But as soon as I got home, I ate a cupful of banana pudding leftover from the retreat and melted into my bed. Within minutes I was out and slept all day. I woke up for a couple of hours in the evening, then by 9:30 was out again.
The retreat was a great success, though. We had close to thirty kids show up (for our small town, that's a great turn-out!), plus twenty from the University of Texas STRONG group (Sharing the Rewards of kNowing God). We had plenty of parents helping out with food, serving, and cleaning. The band that performed was wonderful (Justin Graves), the food was delicious (Firehouse Subs for lunch and for dinner we had brisket cooked at a Rudy's restaurant - not technically Rudy's BBQ, but it still tasted as good and we even had little bottles of sauce and banana pudding!), no one got hurt, no property destroyed, and although we did have one toilet leak, just a phone call brought a parishioner running who had it fixed within the hour.
Now I'm covering for the church secretary, who very wisely took vacation on this week before our church Oktoberfest - it's crazy! Phones ringing off the hook, lots of emails, and visitors dropping in. The bonus is I'll be here for the garage sale on Friday...
Here are some glimpses of the retreat...
Extreme musical chairs - one of the favorites - enough to make the mom in me scream "Stop before someone gets hurt!"
Mmmmm....soon-to-be two pans of banana pudding...
I don't know what this game was called, but it involved lots of running and laughing - it was a gorgeous day...
Kendall and some friends in the late-night ice cream social...the boy with the banana, Evan, is a very talented artist - he designed the retreat t-shirts for the second time - the theme was rock band...
Kendall found a verse to go on the back..."The voice of the Lord rocks..." Psalm 20:8. Perfect!
No one can resist a dirty van window. Every day I've noticed a new message scrawled in the dust. This morning a big smiley face greeted us, proclaiming "I (heart) dirt!" I hate to deprive people of this creative outlet, but, alas, I've decided that Monday afternoon I'll swing by the car wash between my stint working at the church and picking up Kendall from school. I'll have thirty minutes - I should be able to get most of the dirt off...I'll do my best, anyway. Then it begins again...
You know when you're swimming and you feel those currents of warm water splicing through the cold? (No, I'm not talking about when someone upstream of you relieved themselves, but natural temperature differences...) Well, this morning I felt air currents like that when I was walking the dogs...a cool breeze, then a swirl of warmth, like I was in the middle of a battle between summer and autumn. Yesterday I was actually cold on my walk - I zipped my hoodie all the way up, stuffed my hands deep into the pockets, huddled over, and walked fast. Summer made a small comeback this morning - it's fighting hard, trying to hang on - but we know how this story turns out.
The youth retreat starts tomorrow - I'm really excited about it now; everything is falling into place. The challenge will be staying up all night Saturday as a chaperone. I have plenty of homework and writing to catch up on and other chaperones to talk to, but I am REALLY tired! I have "SLEEP" written on my calendar for Sunday. I'll try to channel my inner fourteen-year-old that had no problem staying up all night at slumber parties. How did I do it when I worked twelve-hour night shifts at the chemical plant? I think the trick was to spread out my work, take a walk through my area once an hour, and bring lots of busy work - that's when I worked on genealogy, read books, wrote letters. (I used to get a lot accomplished when I was a working mom!) I think the other secret was food - we ate a lot! Sunflower seeds, grapes, and lots of popcorn...food that keeps you busy. But if I remember right, about 4 am, my body would suddenly feel like it weighed 1000 pounds, from my eyelids down to my toes, and it was a battle staying awake until shift change at 6 am. Wish me luck!!
Here are some glimpses from nature's portfolio from the last couple of weeks...a breathtaking sunset (again, I'm not skilled enough at photography to really capture it), some strange new purple flowers that sprang up on the side of our road, and some dainty yellow ones that I couldn't resist photographing...
We have a new ceremonial tradition in our family...yesterday Kendall came strolling out of her bedroom and tossed me a couple of bras (to be specific, a white one and a pretty mint-green one)..."Here, these don't fit me anymore. You can have them."
Flashback about thirty-five years...I came strolling out of my bedroom and tossed my mom a couple of bras (most likely just white - they didn't make them in cool colors back then, at least not where I shopped!)...I told her, "Here, these don't fit me anymore. You can have them."
Ah, I remember my smugness, how proud I was that I needed a larger bra size than my mother! Are my boobs really smaller now because of breastfeeding three babies and (much more recently, losing twenty pounds?) I'm sure those played a role in the shrinkage, but I'm convinced now it's mostly just karma...pay-back for pride.
The sad thing is, I think I would appreciate a larger cup size now. Back then, I was more modest, more uncomfortable with drawing attention to that part of my body. I rarely wore halters or spaghetti straps in public - I couldn't go without a bra, and Lord, help me if my bra showed (again, no pretty colors...) However, I don't care enough to go under the knife, although I better understand now why some women do.
Breastfeeding - that's a whole different thing, but just as unfair when talking about size. I thought of my breasts much like the mother of a bottle fed baby thinks of the bottles. They were just milk-holders conveniently attached to my body and, sometimes inconveniently, ready to go...I bought breast pads by the case to deal with leakage. Hey, facts of life and motherhood...
What it boils down to is I never appreciated what I had till it went away. So right now I'll remember to appreciate the little - the VERY little - I have left, and be grateful my daughter has good taste in bras.
I remember sitting in the class circle in 4th grade Spanish, trying to imitate the suave, casual way you crossed your legs and chewed thoughtfully on your thumbnail. You were so smart, athletic, and popular, and seemed to be oblivious to all the guys who had crushes on you.
We became friends, connected at first by our love of books and boys. Because of you I discovered Nancy Drew. Because of you I tackled Gone with the Wind in 7th grade - if you could do it, then, gulp, I could do it, too. I was never again afraid of a thick book. Because of you I worked harder in school, determined to make straight A's, just like you.
Christmas caroling parties at your house with hot chocolate afterward; trick-or-treating in our jeans and white "hippie" shirts that shouted PEACE and LOVE in colorful liquid embroidery colors; memorizing sign language and practicing Spanish so we could talk to each other "secretly"; babysitting Julie, reading Dr. Seuss to her, and keeping a butcher knife and a can of bug spray handy in case someone broke into the house; the night Jim Croce died...
...then there was our cigarette phase and friendship with Jan Shelton; our turnaround the next year, carrying our Bibles, and having crushes on the singers in "Hope of Glory"; church choir trips, laughing at Howard and Don; the "Little 6's"; the NAPCO company picnics at Rockin' R Ranch where we met Jose and ...I can't remember his name! Was it Fernando?
...Galveston Beach where we took pictures with all the cute guys we could find; walking all over Deepwater when it snowed; Astroworld over and over and over...
These memories seem like yesterday - we can't really be turning 50 this year, can we? Madeleine L'Engle said..."The great thing about getting older is you don't lose all the other ages you've been." So Patti, my "friend forever," I know that somewhere inside of you the fourteen year old pictured below is still alive and well...
For more information about my photography, go to Barbara Shallue Photography