Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.
Love... it surrounds every being and extends slowly to embrace all that shall be.
~ Khalil Gibran
Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.
Love... it surrounds every being and extends slowly to embrace all that shall be.
~ Khalil Gibran
Wednesday afternoon a friend and her husband braved our dirt road to deliver a huge bag of Christmas goodies to my family. They do this every year. Seriously, they're crazy!
They give each of us something and there are always lots of cookies and other treats. We've just learned to accept the gifts with gratitude.
But this year, my friend went overboard. Besides a couple of cute Texas ornaments, she gave me a ticket to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in February! I'm pretty sure she has one for herself and that two other friends received them, as well, because last year she treated us to a Harry Connick Jr. concert!
Crazy friends are the best, aren't they?
(I really have to figure out a way to repay her. Any ideas? She's nuts about Matthew McConaughey and Josh Groban.)
I was able to be on the other side of a Christmas surprise this year, too. A friend's kids wanted to surprise their parents with portraits of themselves, and approached me about taking the photos.
So last month we spent a few hours at a beautiful wedding venue near my house snapping photos. (Thank you, Lynn, at Villa Antonia!) This friend always coordinates our annual Port Aransas trips - no easy feat! So I was happy for the chance to do something for her.
Now that the surprise is over, I can reveal the photos. I'll post the rest on my photography blog, but here's one of them...
Aren't these kids gorgeous? They are so photogenic, it was an easy job!
Here are some other sweet!s from the past week...
Monday: nurses who are proactive about treating your mom's cough; seeing one of the 'kids' you've watched grow up and meeting her husband; one of your son's student loans being forgiven; a gorgeous sunset when you leave the grocery store
Tuesday: prayers for your mom when she's diagnosed with pneumonia; Christmas partying with your mom at her nursing home, including a visit from Santa and gifts from the staff to the residents
Wednesday: children performing the Christmas pageant; watching "It's a Wonderful Life" while baking cookies; Mucinex, so you can sleep without coughing when the cedar pollen count tops 3000
Thursday: sleeping in; breakfast, courtesy of your son; Shirley Temple movies; a phone visit with your mother-in-law, goddaughter, and other friends and relatives; celebrating Christmas with your mom, husband, and kids; a ticket from a friend to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in February; watching a movie with all of your kids for the first time in ages
Friday: introducing your mom and her roommate to the movie "Elf"; time to catch up with friends on Facebook; yellow wildflowers still blooming in December
Saturday: sleeping in three days in a row; finally straightening up your laundry room, like you've been wanting to do for months; physical therapists who are willing to give your mom a second chance
Sunday: a cousin who visits your mom, bearing Christmas gifts, and getting to see her when you visit your mom; making someone's day by finding their lost glasses; helping yourself and someone else by weeding out stuff to give to Goodwill; sunlight-woven gold on a late afternoon walk through the woods
Even when there are plenty of sweet! moments, the holidays aren't protected from sadness. A classmate's mother passed away earlier this week and a dear friend's sister lost her battle with cancer today. Please keep them and others who are suffering in your prayers, that they may still find something sweet in these days.
Christmas — that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.
~Augusta E. Rundel
Mama and I were visiting in her room yesterday when the sound of Christmas carols reached our ears, even over the high volume of her roommate's television. I stepped into the hall. It was coming from the dining room.
She wanted to go listen, so a couple of aides helped get her situated in the hoyer and into her chair. It's a lot more difficult than it sounds, requiring Mama to roll from side to side as they get the canvas sling beneath her. The large mechanical lift itself has to be retrieved from another hall.
Consequently, just as we reached the dining room, the performance ended.
I wheeled her back to her room. It was time for me to go, so I gathered up her laundry basket, gave her a kiss, and headed down the hallway. But on a whim I made a detour into the dining room. Sure enough, a few carolers lingered.
Five minutes later, the carolers crowded into Mama's small room and gave her a short, private performance. She beamed and sang along.
It was much easier to tell her goodbye after that.
My tree still stands naked ... boxes of decorations are gathering dust in the middle of my livingroom ... I have yet to order my Christmas cards, much less address and mail them ... I've done no shopping, and have barely thought about what we'll have for Christmas dinner.
But when holiday stress over these yet-to-do's starts building, I'm going to remind myself of those few moments with Mama and of those carolers who agreed on a private encore just to make her happy. Those are the memories that make Christmas special.
Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. ~Peg Bracken
Mama has only been back in her room a couple of days. She made another trip to the emergency room on Tuesday. Not a fall, but just as scary: She choked on a tater tot. Her nurse said they couldn't get her breathing under control, and she even turned blue on them a couple of times.
However, by the time I caught up to Mama in the ER, she was breathing without wheezing and her color was great, thanks to numerous nebulizer treatments and a steroid IV. In fact, she was her twinkly, flirty self.
Even though her chest X-ray looked fine, they decided to keep her overnight for observation, in case she aspirated some of the tot. It would irritate and inflame the lungs, causing a type of pneumonia.
Thank goodness the follow-up X-ray the next day looked okay, and she passed a swallow test, but it was already so late in the day by the time they finished, they felt they should watch her another night just to make sure.
Everyone made a big fuss over her when she arrived back at the nursing home the next day. I didn't even nag her about eating lunch in bed.
It was a huge relief that she suffered no ill-effects from the incident, of course, but the surprise blessing is she gets a brand-new session of physical and occupational therapy, thanks to the stint in the hospital.
I'll keep trying to stop by there or call her early each day to nag... um, encourage her to get out of bed when physical therapy comes calling. It will be a Christmas miracle if she's strong enough to leave the home and celebrate at our house, but then, I believe in miracles.
Despite the unexpected visit to the hospital, there were plenty of sweet!s this past week....
Monday: being able to slow down enough to let a roadrunner cross the highway in front of you safely; your mom moving herself through the halls to see the Christmas tree in the foyer of her nursing home; being able to spend lots of time with her; an orange egg-shaped moon playing peek-a-boo on the hilly horizon with you
Tuesday: calls on your listings; finally having a closing date for one of your new home buyers; caregivers who act fast getting her to the emergency room when your mom chokes on her food
Wednesday: a glorious sunrise; meeting your new neighbor; the doctor determining your mother did NOT aspirate any tater tot; your mom released from the hospital; your daughter making the four dozen cookies you need for a cookie exchange because you're too busy with your mom; cookie exchanges
Thursday: morning sounds... your feet shuffling through dried leaves, the distant crow of a rooster, and the chirps of birds just waking up; a glimpse of the moon peeking through morning clouds
Friday: hitching a ride on a golf cart from the parking lot when you're wearing heels; dancing at Christmas parties with friends; photo booths; a shooting star flashing right in front of you; enjoying a meteor shower with your daughter
No silly ones - I had a tough enough time trying to figure out where to look!
Saturday: meeting a new client while trying out a new coffee bistro; stopping by their home for a visit with your son, daughter-in-law, and grandpuppy; the sight of Santa riding down South Congress on a horse; catching up with old friends at a Christmas party
Sunday: enjoying Christmas music with your mom; carolers who will give your mom a private performance; the rain waiting until you're in the grocery store to start, and then stopping before you come back out; a son who will cook dinner; a call from a dear friend
I hope you have a blessed week full of love and miracles, no matter what holiday you're celebrating this season. Be sure to share your sweet! moments from the past week in the comments! I'm sure you can think of something!
When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?
I didn't become Catholic because they consider it okay to dance and drink, but I have to admit, those are great fringe benefits!
Every year I look forward to our parish "adult" Christmas party, where there's always great food, great dance music, a huge dance floor, and a mostly older crowd who make me feel young and old at the same time. There are some 80+-year-olds who can out-dance me!
Tonight I expected to go, eat, and leave, because I had so much work to do. I didn't even bring my big-girl camera. But I met new people at my table, saw some old friends, and this great band was playing...
The next thing I knew, I was one of the last ones there, as always.
There were four of us women still on the dance floor when the band said good night. We convinced them to play an encore. They acquiesced, choosing "Don't Stop Believing", the perfect lead-in for the post I'd already written for today...
It's been almost a year since my mom made the move from Houston to Austin. Things haven't gone quite as well as I hoped ... she's had two trips to the emergency room and is much weaker now than when we made that 4 hour road trip last year.
But she is still my mom. I can talk to her about everything that's going on in my life, just as I always could. I am blessed that way. She's still a great support and sounding board. And I think it helps her to know I still need her that way.
But in the same breath, she'll refer to my dad as if he's alive. We're on a totally different playing field, and it's taken some getting used to. She knows he's passed on, but there are times she just refuses to accept it.
In her previous life, my mom was a CPS - a Certified Professional Secretary. It was a big deal. You had to pass a test. She worked all while I was growing up, and then beginning in 1975, she also took care of my quadriplegic brother in the evening when she got home from work.
Her nature has always been that of a nightowl who loved staying up late and sleeping half the day, unless she had to get up for work or some other good reason.
It's unfortunate that nursing homes don't operate on that time schedule. Physical therapy comes by in the morning. She refuses them. By the time she's awake enough to participate, they're gone for the day.
Consequently, she's gotten weaker and weaker. This week, they categorized her as a hoyer-lift patient because they say it took four people to weigh her. A hoyer-lift patient is pretty much a jellyfish, not having to use any muscles to get in and out of bed, or even to the bathroom.
However, when they said they had to move her to another hall because she was now a hoyer patient, I reminded them that she did fine with two people assisting her until one aide ignored the "Two Person" assistance notice and tried to move her on her own. Consequently, Mama landed on her knees. The very next day, it took four people to weigh her.
So, they gave me a week. If she shows improvement and cooperates, she won't have to move.
I am now officially her coach.
Yesterday morning I arrived at 11:30 and she was still in bed. I pushed the button to call the aides to get her out of bed and when they asked her if she would eat lunch in the dining room, I answered for her: Yes.
She eats really, really slow. We were the last ones in the dining room. Her nurse had her nebulizer treatment already set up, so I got her started on that, then went to find a portable oxygen tank. When she finished her treatment, I hooked her up to the portable tank so she could take a "stroll" down the hall, using her hands and feet to propel herself, rather than someone pushing her.
I want her to build her strength. I don't want her to be a jellyfish on the other hall, and she doesn't want to be, either. I told her she had to want that in an active way, not just a theoretical way.
That's true for all of us, isn't it? If we want something, we have to take the action that will get us there, not just wish for it to magically happen.
I was there four hours yesterday, and two today, but most days I can only be with her an hour. So please, please, please keep my mom in your prayers, as well as her aides and nurses. They have a tough job. I'm depending on them to keep her moving and gaining strength.
Don't stop believing... (and please keep her in your prayers!)
Being there for my mom and dancing tonight are definitely both sweet!s of this week.
Here are a few more...
Tuesday: property tours that include lots of lake views; singing Christmas carols with your mom; investor clients; online classes you can attend at your convenience
Wednesday: your son's 29th birthday; remembering the day you became a mom; spending time with your own mom
Thursday: the silence of a foggy morning; showing properties; bathroom inspiration; discovering new restaurants with your daughter; remembering your sister's wedding 10 years ago; hanging out with twenty-somethings
Friday: showing more properties; seeing results from nagging your mom; reaching the halfway mark in your new class; watching a full moon climb up through the tree branches
Saturday: the company of house-dogs; working out six days in a row; getting to spend four hours with your mom; sunsets in the hill country; quick catch-ups with friends; new clients
Sunday: walking through a carpet of autumn leaves; enjoying beautiful Christmas and gospel music with your mom; an evening spent visiting with friends, making new ones, and dancing
I hope you had a week full of sweet! moments, and the next is overflowing. Share them here!
And remember, don't stop believing!
When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I did. I feel especially blessed that in my 55 years I've only been responsible for the whole dinner a handful of times, thanks to my mom and, more recently, my son and daughter-in-law.
For the second year in a row, my son did an amazing job on the turkey, a huge 21-pounder! There was a ton of other delicious stuff... gorgeous appetizers, casseroles, desserts.
I brought the cornbread dressing, my mother's recipe. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving for me without it.
(I also brought a green salad, but it was mostly for show. It takes up way too much room on a plate!)
Even though my mom wasn't strong enough yet to join us at my son's, she was too stuffed with turkey and dressing to eat any of the goodies we brought her on our way home that evening. I'm grateful for that, and for the staff of her nursing home who made sure the residents celebrated.
The next day we celebrated Thanksgiving again with friends. No skipping work-outs for me for the next few weeks, that's for sure!
Thanksgiving was just the first in this season of celebration. Yesterday was the first official day of Advent, a time when we (as in Christians) reflect on what we need to do to prepare for the second coming of Christ while commemorating his first coming - Christmas. A season for reflection of the past and the future.
A few years ago I googled "Advent" for another post and found a description on Spirit Home that I thought was perfect. I've chopped out bits to save space, but here it is...
Advent is a season of preparation. So's Lent, but it is a different kind of preparation. Lent is very adult and serious, because it leads to a death; originally, Lent readied new Christian adults for baptism. In Advent, we thank God for Christ's first coming, prepare for his final coming at the end of time, and celebrate Christ's presence among us today through the Spirit. God loved us and wanted to share that love. But this existence isn't well-suited for a god; it's too broken, evil, painful, unjust. So, to rescue the created world from this evil, God chose to come here and walk the earth, to grow up, to live the truth, and to die. The only way to start such a thing is as a baby, and the only way to be a baby is to be born. Hence Christmas. Because Christmas is centered in the new hope brought by a baby, it's a very child-oriented holiday. Because Advent leads us up to that baby, Advent is also child-oriented.
There's a time to get ready by focusing on your own sinfulness and wrongdoing, a time for personal transformation and following Christ to the cross. That's Lent. There's a time to get ready by rejoicing that our God is not far away and unfamiliar with the struggles of human life, that Christ is here right now among His followers, that God has already begun to bring in the Kingdom, and that Christ will come again to make it clear who really runs the place. That's Advent. "Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the age", says Jesus.
"There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is."
~ Albert Einstein
I love that quote. And I do believe each day is full of miracles.
Keeping track of my sweet!s has helped me recognize them. Here are a few from the past week...
Monday: being able to start a new week and every new day with a morning walk; your mom agreeing to do her physical therapy
Tuesday: starting a new real estate class; a happy hour at sunset with friends
Wednesday: a blogger/writer friend's op-ed published in the LA Times; open parking spaces and short check-out lines when you procrastinate grocery shopping until the day before Thanksgiving; a pre-Thanksgiving phone call with your mother-in-law
Thursday: only being responsible for the cornbread dressing and green salad for Thanksgiving dinner; truly liking your daughter-in-law's family; creative appetizers; no traffic when you hit the road for Thanksgiving; another Wes Anderson movie with your son
Friday: the smell of fresh-baked brownies; sons who love to visit their grandmother; Thanksgiving Part 2 with friends
Saturday: three days in a row with no alarm clock; a "hello" from a raven on your morning walk; learning the difference between a crow and a raven; a silly movie with your son; finishing the edits on a special photography job
Sunday: referrals from friends; a spring-like day in winter; a glimpse of a Great Blue Heron disappearing over the treetops; two walks in one day with your puppy; your son calling to see if you need anything from the grocery store on his way home
Monday: the sound of the wind dancing in the treetops; your puppy running and running and running with joy and exuberance; spending a morning with a client viewing properties; a shadow-puppy/guard dog who follows you from room to room; your son getting a fire going when winter returns to your hollow
Beginning this Advent, I'm also going to work on being more aware and more supportive of my friends and family who are currently facing huge challenges. Time to pay it forward.
Whether you think about Advent or not, I hope your next few weeks are full of reflection, hope and joy.
Like my Daddy, and his daddy before him, I have a coin collection. My coins aren't categorized into small blue books like theirs, though. Mine -all wheat pennies - jingle around in an old bourbon bottle.
This doesn't look like much of a collection after fifty years, does it?
I'm not sure when or why I became enamored of wheat pennies. Maybe because they stopped being minted the year before I was born. Maybe because, as far as old coins go, they weren't that rare when I started.
Whatever the reason, I'm sure it was Daddy who introduced me to them and contributed the majority of them to my collection. Daddy had an eye for coins. He gave me every wheat penny he found, and his excitement at finding one in his change was contagious. I scoured every penny I came across for years, searching for those two stalks of wheat.
For some reason, whether lack of time (kids? life?) or lack of luck finding them, I stopped.
But earlier this week, on a day when my heart was feeling pretty heavy and wheat pennies were the last thing on my mind, I was reaching for my computer bag on the backseat when I spotted one resting alone, wheat-side up, smack dab in the middle of the rear floorboard hump of my car.
I think somehow Daddy put it there for me, encouraging me to hang in there, reminding me that he always believed in me, and always will.
Thank you, Daddy.
Here are a few other sweet!s from the past week...
Monday: finding out your kids survived their road trip, despite hitting a deer and encountering icy conditions; the knowledge that you did your best, even if things don't work out as well as you hoped; finding a wheat penny and feeling your daddy nearby
Tuesday: your mom agreeing to get out of bed, at least for a little while; meeting a new client in person; not having an accident in terrible stop-and-go traffic; a fun photo shoot with photogenic siblings
Wednesday: puppy kisses; continually learning; being able to offer support when loved ones lose their daddies
Thursday: free food and drinks, music, and a chance to catch up up with a sweet friend while touring beautiful new subdivisions; sunsets in the hill country; a Google City Expert event downtown with your son and daughter-in-law, where you get to sample some of the food, drink, and fun several Austin businesses have to offer
Friday: a Thanksgiving pot-luck gathering with your colleagues and time to visit with friends; clients ready to make an offer; still being able to talk to your mom about things weighing on your heart
Saturday: rain, rain, and more rain, but none of the dangerous thunderstorms that were predicted; watching yet another Wes Anderson movie with your son
Sunday: waking to sunshine and clear blue skies; the trickle of a little waterfall; a cousin who visits your mom and brings her gifts; a sliver moon floating on a sunset
Monday: watching the sun set treetops ablaze with golden morning light; forgiving yourself for not finishing your blog post on Sunday, as you intended; crossing a huge, dusty to-do off of your list
What was the sweetest moment of your past week? I hope this next one overflows with them for you.
Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.
~Ruth E. Renkel
Belle is snoring behind me, curled up on a purple and pink fringed blanket TG gave to her. The past couple of nights she's slept beside my bed on a small rug. She's getting better about sleeping through the night without waking me for attention. Just like a baby.
I've never had a house dog before now. For one thing, I'm allergic to dogs, and it amazes me that I'm not a sniffling, wheezing mess right now. I haven't even taken an allergy pill.
Way back in the '70's, when I first brought my Siamese kitten home, I sneezed constantly for a week. Then, like magic, I was fine. Maybe I built up a tolerance for Belle during those weeks she and Max lounged in the laundry room, out of the summer heat.
As much as I loved my cat (and miss having one) I have to admit that house dogs - especially country ones, used to being outside - are so much easier. No litter boxes to clean, for one thing. And when we leave, Belle just goes outside and guards the house from her bed on the porch until we return.
She follows me from room to room, and I'm really enjoying her company. It's eased that place in my heart that still misses my Max.
I dreamed of him two nights ago. He was lying beside me and I ran my hand through his long fur. It was a sweet dream, and having Belle near has been a calming, sweet comfort in a crazy-busy week which culminated in a crazy-busy, but fun, fun weekend.
Friday night I helped celebrate the anniversary of Waddle Auctioneers by dancing with friends to the music of Groove Knight, an awesome band, in my friend Rachel's airplane hangar. It was bittersweet, though, since it was probably the very last party in that hangar. It's currently on the market.
(Know anyone who wants to buy an airplane hangar with a 5 bedroom home attached? You can catch some beautiful sunrises and sunsets!)
Saturday I spent the day pouring beer for customers and taking photos at my church's annual Oktoberfest. A friend's son works at a local brewery - Live Oak - and they donated a keg to our cause. (Thank you, Live Oak Brewing Company!)
The weather was perfect, I saw tons of familiar faces, and we ended up raising a lot of money that will be given back to our community.
Sunday turned out all different than originally planned, but I'm learning to be flexible and it turned into a wonderful day, as well.
I had registered to run 5K in the Run for the Water downtown. However, by this weekend the rest of the family made plans to be out of town, and I realized there wouldn't be anyone home to feed or walk Belle!
So instead of driving downtown to run 5K at 7 am, I slept until 7 am and then ran a mile with Belle at dawn. I figured the Gazelle Foundation benefited from my entry fee and it didn't really matter where I ran.
All in all, it was a good week. My mom made it through surgery just fine, and even though she isn't getting the quality of care I expect at the moment, I'm grateful she's close enough that I can step in and raise a little, um, heck until it gets on track.
(Don't mess with my mama!)
Here are some other sweet!s from the past week...
Monday: pink clouds in the morning; a message from a potential new client waiting in your inbox when you wake up; your husband home safe and sound from his roadtrip; watching a family of cardinals have a bedtime snack at your feeder
Tuesday: catching up with friends and learning about personal safety at your office meeting; moving forward on a contract; a text from one of your mom's nurses, checking on her after a fall and ambulance ride to the hospital; being able to be by your mom's side when she's in great pain from a broken femur and facing surgery
Wednesday: good wishes, thoughts, and prayers from all over the world (thanks to Facebook!) for your mom as she undergoes surgery; laptops, smart phones, and wi-fi so you can work and stay in touch with loved ones while you wait; calls from potential new clients
Thursday: cousins who visit your mom in the hospital; watching old movies with your mom; nurses who show special care for your mom
Friday: your mom making such great progress she's released from the hospital earlier than you expected; dancing with friends in a hangar to the awesome band Groove Knight
Saturday: working with your son in a church festival booth; a visit from your oldest; being close enough to see your mom every day and be sure she's getting the care she needs
Sunday: cutting yourself some slack by not trying to do everything; running at dawn with your puppy; watching an old, silly movie with your son; new real estate leads
Monday: waking to another new lead; hearing that your son and husband made it to their destination safe and sound; visiting your mom twice in one day; cheese popcorn; a dog snoring beside you as you work
I hope you all had a great week and this next is even better!
Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
Tuesday afternoon around 3, I got a phone call that derailed the rest of my plans for that day, and shifted all others for the rest of the week...
My mother had fallen, the nurse said. EMS was on its way. What hospital did I want her taken to?
Frustration with her welled up inside of me. Why did she let impatience with the response time of aides cloud her judgement of her own strength and mobility, despite so many "lucky" falls over the past two years? Why did she risk it?
But concern for her, of course, far outweighed my frustration. And I also could put myself in her place, imagining how tough it had to be to have to ask for help for almost everything after a lifetime of independence and always being the one who helped others.
I suspected this was just another 'lucky' fall - her bones seemed to be made of steel! - but nevertheless, I gathered up my phone charger, some snacks, a notebook, and jacket before heading out the door.
She was already loaded in the back of the ambulance when I arrived at the home. I just had time to give her a kiss before they started for the hospital - sans sirens, thank goodness - with me following not too far behind in my own car.
Fast forward to this morning. Mama's luck ran out, dang it. Her femur fractured close to the hip when she hit the ground. She had surgery yesterday to repair it... which means they stuck a long rod down the center which is fixed in place with the medical equivalent of bolts and rubber bands.
The surgery went well, but she had to spend a lot of time in the recovery area. The heavy pain meds they had given her were slow to leave her system.
It had taken a lot of pain meds. I had never seen my mother in that much pain. Every movement was agony for her, but they had to move her to another bed, insert a catheter, and set the leg in traction that first night, bless her heart.
When I left last night, she was still having a tough time keeping her eyes open, but if asked, she said it didn't hurt.
I'm so grateful for all of the prayers, good thoughts, and well wishes that were sent on her behalf the past couple of days, and for Facebook, email, my laptop, smart phone, and the hospital's free wi-fi.
I may have looked alone, sitting in that waiting room, but in reality I was surrounded by friends and family. Thank you.
And Mama, I wish you weren't going through this, but thank you for reminding me to have patience ... to be kind to my body ... to weigh risks and ask for help when I need it. Too often I try to cut corners to save time. I forget my body is getting older and that I need to treat it with respect, which often means letting others help me do things I once did alone without even thinking.
A mother is always teaching, isn't she?
Please continue to keep her in your prayers. I'm afraid she's at the start of a long road of healing and rehabilitation and it won't be an easy one.
Each morning since my old puppy Max passed away, Belle and I have ended our walk in the little cemetery where he, Charly, Chewy, Ruthie, and Frankie are all buried. It may seem like a bittersweet way to start the day, but I believe it has helped me, and maybe Belle, transition to life without him.
The cross above is actually the one marking Charly's grave. I need to find another one like it for Max.
I started the week determined to keep track of my sweet!s again. Although by Tuesday, I knew my heart was soon going to break, I was determined to keep making note of at least one sweet a day.
On the darkest days, it helps to remember the sun is still shining somewhere, right?
Monday - an executed contract on one of your listings and finding a home for a family relocating from Illinois
Tuesday - your husband's plumbing and construction skills
Wednesday - your daughter calling you as she's driving to school to tell you to go see the blood moon; your friends praying for your sweet old puppy
Thursday - being able to spend your puppy's last hours beside him, petting him and telling him you love him; a vet who will travel to your home so your puppy can transition in his own home, surrounded by his family
Friday - seeing old friends while passing out flyers to your church's Oktoberfest; crossing heavy items off of your to-do list
Saturday - sleeping late to the sound of rain outside your window; finally cleaning up piles of paperwork in your office
Sunday - hearing rain outside your window two mornings in a row; submitting an offer for a client; seeing a friend's grandbaby for the first time; Blue Bell's Spiced Pumpkin Pecan ice cream; your husband's safe arrival at his mom's for a visit
I hope no matter what troubles or heartbreak you're experiencing, you're able to see the rays of sweet light shining in your darkness.
Two days ago I knelt beside Max and whispered in his ear that it was okay if he just let go. I told him he had trained Belle well, and she would take awesome care of us, and if Charly was close by, asking him to come play, that it was okay. Go play with Charly.
That's how weak he was, lying there on my laundry room floor. He hadn't eaten in a couple of days again.
We thought we'd discovered the secret: vienna sausages and potted meat. In his last weak spell, we'd tried everything, trying to get him to eat, and he had gobbled these right up.
But I guess even dogs can get too many vienna sausages. He was turning his nose up at them, and everything else we offered, including real beef Ballpark weiners.
However, the next morning, instead of huddling in the dark of his huge doghouse, he was up on the hill in the woods in front of our house, taking care of business (which is always a good sign) and he's subsequently spent the last two days lounging on the front porch, seemingly loving the warm breeze and the sound of birds gossiping at the nearby feeder.
It was Tom who suggested giving him some of Belle's dry food. Max has been eating expensive Science Diet food targeted at joint issues all of his life, while we give Belle a cheap-in-comparison Purina dry food targeting weight issues.
We tried it... and Max loves it. (At least, for now. I'm worried he'll get sick of it, too, and then what will we do?)
For now, we're taking it a day at a time, watching him for signs of distress. So far, there have been none. If we see them, we'll know what to do.
But I'm earnestly praying it's taken out of our hands, that when the time comes... before there's any pain or distress... this sweet old boy of ours closes his eyes and drifts off to some woods very similar to ours to go exploring with his Charly dog.
Maybe Frankie, the guinea hen, will tag along, too, like he used to. I like to think so.
Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really.
~Agnes Sligh Turnbull
Today is life - the only life you are sure of.
Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you.
Live today with gusto.
On my left, a chuck-will's-widow sang to the sliver moon hanging in the dusky sky. On my right, a frog answered from the pond in a deep baritone. And in between cicadas chirped a staccato rhythm.
Belle at my feet, I rocked in my chair, adding my own squeaks to the evening symphony.
A strong breeze playing along the deck.I thought it was sweeping the mosquitoes away, but when I finally stepped back inside last night, the tiny bites on my arms let me know I had been wrong. But those brief moments catching my breath were worth a few little bites.
There's no definitive line between work and play for me anymore. My phone is never far away and I wear my Keller Williams name badge just about every where I go... because you just never know when you're going to meet the next person you can help.
But there are times I don't answer my phone, like during visits with my mom or in church or meeting with a client...or at a Shake Russell concert, like Sunday (although I did wear my name badge! You just never know....)
Shake Russell is a Texas music icon, one of my favorite artists for several decades, so I treated myself by going to an afternoon concert at the Saxon Pub on Sunday with my friend Maggie. She's been a fan of Shake's even longer than I have and had been urging me to go for over a month.
I'm so glad she did. It was long overdue, just like the rest of these sweet!s, so I'll get right to them...
Wednesday - a class on Facebook and a Realtor/happy hour/networking event, where you bump into a friend of your son's who you've known since they were in middle school
Friday - an afternoon spent visiting with a friend at her sister's house that has an awesome view of the Colorado River, aka Lake Austin; dancing under the stars with friends at Steiner Ranch Steakhouse; finding a parking spot when the lot is technically full
Saturday - your son putting together a dresser for your mom; watching him with your mom, along with a half dozen episodes of "Who's the Boss"
Monday - the joy on your old dog's face as he swims in a pond on a summer morning; word that ground is breaking on your client's new home
Tuesday - fawn triplets following their mama; a meeting with a buyer in the afternoon and a seller in the evening
Wednesday - giving thanks for lasting friendships with amazing people...whispering "goodbye" to one and shouting "happy birthday" to another
Thursday - working while cheering on the U.S. in the world cup with your daughter; celebrating a friend becoming a U.S. citizen; watching the sun set on Lake Travis with colleagues; evening breezes; dancing with friends on a Thursday night
Friday - a friend reporting to you about the memorial service for another friend, because he knows you wanted to be there but couldn't; great finds at Goodwill, thanks to your daughter's sharp eye; celebrating a dear friend's birthday; Siamese cats and sweet dogs
Saturday - touring model homes; being able to stop and visit your mom on your way home, no matter where you've been; grilled chicken for dinner, courtesy of your daughter
Sunday: Shake Russell's distinctive voice; the face of a dear friend you've missed; still being able to vent to your mom; a roadrunner couple crossing the dirt road in front of you; fajitas for dinner, courtesy of your son
Monday: new leads; showing cute houses to friends; your daughter keeping up with the laundry, dishes, and the home invasion of ants trying to escape the summer heat; your husband making it home safely after working 24 hours
"This is a big step for me - putting my thoughts out there for anyone...or no one...to read. Why am I doing it? I think it's to satisfy my conflicting needs of writing (a solitary journey) and connecting with other people. I really have no idea what I'm doing yet, so it will be fun to see how it evolves..."
That's what I wrote in my very first blog post ever, here on "Long Hollow" six years ago this month. And it has been fun to see how it's evolved, and to think about how it expanded my world, connecting me to wonderful friends around the world.
Happy birthday, Long Hollow!
I had completely forgotten about its birthday until someone wished me a "happy work anniversary" on LinkedIn. I'm so glad LinkedIn is keeping track!
Many of my posts were short and sweet back then. I need to get back to that, instead of waiting until I have two weeks' worth of thoughts to dump on you.
Nevertheless, I'm going to leave you with one of my first, and favorite, posts, because rediscovering it this morning was another sweet!
I needed the reminder.
Coming back from the doctor this afternoon, tired from the weekend and too little sleep, and feeling depressed because I always believe the worst-case scenario when something is wrong, I stopped at HEB.
"How's your day going?" the check-out boy asked. He was only about seventeen, tall, thin. Shaggy-ish brown hair.
"It's great," I said, but he was still looking at me. His question had been a real one, not just an automatic greeting. "I'm just a little worn out," I added.
"I thought so. I see it in your face."
I couldn't bear to spread this "down" that had taken control of me, and especially not to this sweet kid. I was ashamed that I had let it get to me - I have so much to be grateful for.
I smiled at him. "Every day is a great day." That's what I believe, even if can't always feel it. But he made me remember. So...I said a prayer for him on my way out.
God has a way of dropping gifts in our path. Somehow, he knows just what we need. God bless that check-out boy.
And God bless all of you today! Thank you so much for stopping by to say hello, whether you've been coming around for six years or this is your first time.
Don't forget to share your sweet!s with me in the comments!
“It was an odd friendship, but the oddnesses of friendships are a frequent guarantee of their lasting texture.”
~Ford Madox Ford
First thing this morning, my heart was broken.
I was preparing to do my homework for a class, had barely started eating my cereal, when I checked my email and saw the message from my dear friend Ky's son, letting me know he passed away on Monday.
And thus began a day of tears.
I just saw Ky in January at our second DuPont Old Farts Club reunion. Sure, his hair was all white, but otherwise, to me he hadn't aged a bit since we first met in 1982. He was energetic, all smiles, so happy to be there and reconnect with the rest of us.
I never, ever suspected that would be the last time I saw him. Maybe some of the others. But not Ky.
After all, I've actually seen him two other times since we both hung up our hardhats, at the weddings of two of his seven sons.
He loved to talk about those sons and his wife on our long twelve-hour shifts. He would also tell stories about having to leave his home in China when the Communists took over, and then years later having to flee Viet Nam with his young family for the same reason. He told me he learned English from reading Reader's Digest magazines.
I loved his stories.
Ky never called me "Barbara". It was always "Barbie." And that was okay. I can hear him even now.
I don't remember how or when we became such good friends. It just happened. As odd as it seems, there was something inside each of us that transcended gender age, nationality, religion...even language.
There was something that was the same, allowing a forty-something Chinese Buddhist father of seven sons and the twenty-something Texan Baptist newlywed woman to form a friendship that would span decades.
Ky enriched my life. The tears that flowed today were in sorrow, of course, that his open and honest smile would no longer shine in this world, but they were also in gratitude for knowing him and relief that I didn't miss an opportunity to see him when it was given.
Ky knew how much our friendship meant to me, which gives me peace, and my memories bring me smiles. I guess I can't ask for more than that.
Thank you, and may you rest in peace, Ky, my dear, dear friend.
Ky's death wasn't just unexpected to me. It caught his family by surprise as well, so please keep them all in your prayers. He left an awesome legacy...as good men always do.
...I slept in a little this morning, until the impatient sunlight pestered me awake.
...I walked with the dogs along a country road, safe and free.
...I'll spend time with my family, maybe play some ping-pong with my kids or watch a movie.
Thanks to you...
...I grew up in a country where I (mostly) make my own choices.
...I live in a land where my dreams are limited only by my own lack of creativity, ambition and drive.
...my children face a future where almost anything is possible.
...I'm free to live my life because you gave your own.
I promise I won't forget. I promise I won't take it for granted.
I promise your sacrifice won't be wasted on me.
I wrote that post a few years ago, but it sums up my feelings so well, I wanted to share it again.
Memorial Day always triggers a little extra gratitude in me for a completely different reason, so here's another slightly-altered repost...
We spent that Memorial Day in 1998 with our kids and other families, swimming in a cold river, eating fresh pineapple, grilling burgers. That night we laughed and danced to Johnny Dee and the Rocket '88s.
Then a phone call early on Tuesday morning made me realize how much I had been taking for granted and how quickly life can change directions.
That Tuesday was sixteen years ago today, but at times it feels like yesterday. Tom left for work, expecting it to be like any other day, but it wasn't. He didn't expect the other car to come into his lane, didn't expect to spend a week in the hospital or the summer trying to heal and recover instead of building our home. He didn't expect to live with pain for the next sixteen years.
But that's what happened, whether he expected it or not. And the thing is, we got through it. We built our home... not that summer, but there were other summers... and I'm grateful for that.
We've spent more days swimming in cold water with family and friends, and evenings laughing and dancing. I don't think a day goes by when Tom isn't in some degree of pain, but somehow he moves on and doesn't let it stop him from doing what he needs, or wants, to do.
It wasn't the last unexpected detour in our road we've encountered, and I'm sure there are more waiting for us. I can't say I'm grateful it happened. I'd love to tell you something positive that came from it, but honestly, I haven't been able to see that ray of light yet. Perhaps it's shining where I can't see it. I can only hope so.
But life is just too short for grudges and regrets that burn holes in your heart, for dwelling on the past or the future so long that you miss your today.
It's too short not to pursue your passion even if you only have a few seconds free each day to do it.
Too short to sit back and wait for things to happen, or for someone else to do it, or to make excuses.
Too short not to love with your whole heart, leaving no room for pride or selfishness, always trying to understand, listen, forgive, and ask forgiveness.
Too short not to take care of yourself and those you love.
Life is just too short, period, and too wonderful to take for granted.
Happy 16th anniversary of a second chance, Tom. I love you!
(I've spared you the most graphic images of Tom. His face was split open. You're welcome. I took notes during those long days and turned them into an essay... "In the Aftermath of a Car Crash" )
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
~Gladys Bronwyn Stern
What are you grateful for?
We shared Easter dinner with all of our kids today, no small feat once your kids get married and other families expect to see them on the holidays, too.
It's been a busy week. Besides Mama's hospital adventure, I started an intense 7-week real estate training course, which includes journaling and other homework, like contacting at least 100 people a week voice-to-voice about their real estate needs.
To reach my hundred before the deadline, I even stopped at a gas station Wednesday night and asked all the patrons in there if they knew anyone who was in the market to buy, sell, or invest in real estate.
I made six contacts and got one good lead from it! You just don't know until you ask who needs help... and they don't know you can help them until you tell them.
(Would you believe I used to be shy?)
Anyway, I didn't have time to decorate for Easter until last night, pulling out the beautiful hand-painted eggs my mother gave to my kids every Easter for years...
...displaying Easter photos from the past...
...and setting a few ceramic bunnies around the house.
I have tons; the Easter Bunny always left one in each of my children's baskets... every Easter for years and years...
I'm not sure what he was thinking. Most of them stay boxed up these days. I have more bunnies than I have surface space to put them on!
They're cute, though, aren't they? I'm really not sorry the Easter Bunny left them.
We had planned for Mama to join us for Easter, but had to settle for visiting her after dinner because of her gall bladder surgery earlier this week. The trip down our bumpy dirt road and rock-paved front walk would have caused her excrutiating pain.
She got plenty of goodies, though. I gave her some chocolate eggs yesterday, then my cousin stopped by with a basket of treats and some chocolate-covered strawberries.
My son and his wife took her another basket today. I know the biggest treat for her was getting to see them, though.
Seeing them was a treat for me, too!
Easter is the ultimate sweet!, isn't it? It's proof that we are loved and that miracles can happen... a source of hope that even simple things we believe are dead - a friendship or a dream - can come back to life.
Sweetest of all... the assurance that we can see our loved ones again someday.
Here are a few other sweet!s from the past couple of weeks (playing catch up!) ...
Thursday: investing and believing in yourself; becoming part of a team
Friday: attending a Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the restaurant where you used to work; catching up with your former co-workers and friends you never get to see
Saturday: finally getting a chance to gather up your tax documents
Sunday: the relief you feel when the ambulance takes your mom to the hospital you requested; smart, caring emergency room doctors and nurses; being able to be at your mom's side in an emergency
Monday: your cousin taking off work to be at your side during your mom's surgery
Tuesday: lunch with a sweet friend; the flexibility of working from a hospital room so you can be with your mom
Wednesday: your mom well enough to be released from the hospital; friends who remember your mom at Easter
Thursday: challenging yourself to grow; helping clients find just the right home; the humbling experience of having your feet washed by your priest in a Holy Thursday ceremony
Friday: photographing a cute couple getting married at Chapel Dulcinea (they're ringing the bells after the ceremony in the photo above); recognizing and talking to the chaplain who married your son and daughter-in-law last year; finally seeing a dear friend after 22 years
(I spent hours and hours talking to Terry in the control room of our chemical plant. He's the one who introduced me to Rick Steves! He talked a lot about his kids - what a shock to see them all grown up. Really hit home how long ago those talks were! His daughter is the lovely bride...who looks just like him!)
Saturday: getting two real estate leads in two different grocery stores in two days; a husband who knows how to fix plumbing problems
Sunday: Easter Mass; Easter dinner with your husband and kids, and a hug from your mom; chocolate
I hope all of you who celebrate had a beautiful Easter ... and that the peace and hope of Easter remains in your heart forever.
Here's a snippet of one of my new favorite songs that I think reflects that peace, hope, and faith. I find encouragement, assurance, and inspiration in the words during these days of new beginnings and great unknowns. I hope you do, too.
"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand"
~ Hillside United
Mama lies in a hospital bed beside me, still groggy from anesthesia. I listen to her breathing, every now and then glancing up from my laptop to the monitor above her bed to check her oxygen level.
For me, it started with a call yesterday morning at 4:30. Mama was having difficulty breathing and an ambulance was on its way to the nursing home to transport her to the hospital. Where did I want them to take her?
Just a few weeks ago an elderly couple from my church told me about a nearby hospital that had released the husband when the wife felt he was still very sick. Sure enough, later that evening she took him to another hospital where they found he was running a high fever and had a severe urinary tract infection.
I told them to take Mama to that second hospital.
It took several breathing treatments and steroids through an IV, but within a few hours her breathing was under control. That's when the internist examined her and discovered she had a tender spot on her right side. A few tests later, surgery was scheduled for today to say goodbye and good riddance to her gall bladder.
I never thought I'd be grateful for an asthma attack.
Please keep my mom in your thoughts and prayers as she begins the road to recovery. With 24/7 oxygen and limited mobility, she has a high risk of developing pneumonia.
P.S. Another blessing...she smiled at me before I left, despite the pain and lingering fog.
"You're so happy," the technician told Mama as she wheeled her to pre-op.
"Laughter is good for you," said Mama.
She's still teaching me: You can always find something to smile about.
I have a confession: I often forget to write down my sweet!s right when I notice them.
...if I even notice them to begin with.
That's when composing this weekly post of mine becomes a real challenge, but even more important to accomplish.
It forces me to stop and reflect on the seven days just passed ... to dig out the overlooked sweet!s from under the rubble of too-busy-days and a bad memory, to polish them up and set them in a place of honor, befitting special gifts from above, where I can see them and remember.
I encourage you to try it, especially if you've had a week that seemed full of one disappointment after another. I guarantee there were sweet! moments in there, too, waiting to be noticed, to brighten your day, to make you smile or give you hope if you're running dry.
Here are the ones I managed to dig up from my cluttered mind, which I think often resembles those dead weeds up there...
Tuesday: exploring gorgeous homes; enjoying fresh-grilled hamburgers outside near a lake in springtime; your lease clients' application being accepted; your friends sending your mom "Happy St. Patrick's Day!" cards
Wednesday: discovering castles; numbing medications when you're having the second part of a root canal; the balance of your bill being a fraction of what you were expecting to pay
Thursday: a mostly-full moon accompanying you on your morning walk; showing houses to lease clients; driving through Austin on a perfect spring day; news that a friend is pregnant; bluebonnets on the roadsides; helping a friend celebrate her birthday with Chinese food and a movie; discovering Muppet movies
Friday: support, encouragement, and ideas from colleagues; showing houses to buyer clients; beginning the second season of "Game of Thrones" with your son
Saturday: sleeping in; lazy days at home; the redbuds rebounding from the ice storm; more "Game of Thrones"
Sunday: Garden of Eatin' inspiration; your mom feeling better after a night of nausea; someone else cooking dinner; more "Game of Thrones"
Monday: a whole week of sticking to your new morning time-blocked routine; visiting with friends you haven't seen in a long time; puppies and horses; friends who take the time to send your mom sweet cards
“I love finding gems. However I’m not talking about ludicrously expensive diamonds, or priceless sapphires. I mean the impetuous, primitive rushes of passion and love we experience so rarely that they become impossible to ignore.
That overwhelming sense of selflessness and beauty. Hope and desire. Happiness and strength.
These are the moments that define us as people. As individuals.
Should it be falling in love, playing a guitar for the first time, donating to charity, meeting new people, staying up till three in the morning listening to old Bob Marley Vinyls or beating the elite 4 on Pokemon.
Whatever it is, it’s moments like these that are worth more than any gem or diamond. Treasure or material goods.”
― George MacDonald
The simplicity of winter has a deep moral. The return of Nature, after such a career of splendor and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere, is not lost either upon the head or the heart. It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread.
~John Burroughs, "The Snow-Walkers," 1866
Tuesday morning, just days after spring-like temperatures which tempted yellow flowers and redbuds alike to blossom,
I woke to a world sparkling in tiny icicles.
That's like life, isn't it? Things are progressing quite well and we take it for granted it will continue.
Then winter returns.
A friend said goodbye to her mother today, so mortality was on my mind more than ever on this first day of Lent.
For my peers, this past year has been one of saying goodbye, of watching loved ones laid to rest, including my own precious Daddy. I guess we've just reached that age.
Ah, if you knew what peace there is in an accepted sorrow!
~ Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte Guyon
Sorrow sits on my shoulder. You might not see it, but it settled there more than a year ago when we said goodbye to my father-in-law, and remained as we watched the steady decline of my parents.
I've come to accept its presence. After all, death is part of life, and feeling sorrow is just proof that we love.
But I've learned that sorrow and joy can live together. In fact, the presence of sorrow often heightens the feeling of joy, by reminding me that life on this earth is short. Time is precious, not to be wasted by half attempts at anything or on things that aren't important in the grand scheme of things.
We offer You our failures,
we offer You attempts;
The gifts not fully given,
the dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
give our visions wider view,
An offering of ashes,
An offering to You.
Lent is a time to reflect, to consider what is important in the grand scheme, so you don't waste time on what isn't. To step back and see how well you're doing with the gifts you've been given ... to recognize the rough edges that need sanding ... to take a breath, and refocus ...
... to vow to love fully and completely.
And what could be more important in the grand scheme of things?
"Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor... Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting."
-Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Steve and Lisa, a couple in my church, took it upon themselves to form what they call a "hospitality" ministry several months ago. Almost every Sunday they prepare and offer some special brunch item after each Mass. Just the two of them.
Today it was French toast. Yum!
They also offer fruit in waffle cones, muffins, chocolate-covered strawberries...with culinary presentation the best restaurants would envy. And they do it all through donations or personal funds. The church only paid for upgrades to the kitchen area.
Lisa has turned our once-drab Parish Activity Center into a delightful bistro, with cute wine bottle centerpieces on the table and whimsical artwork on the walls. Thanks to her and Steve, parishioners now linger over coffee, getting to know one another better, instead of rushing home after Mass.
But one of the things I love best about their ministry is the sign above, where Lisa writes a different inspirational, encouraging, motivational message each week. You don't see it until you're leaving the PAC.
A sweet! to send us back off into the world, well-fed and inspired.
A funny thing about this particular message... Before seeing it this morning, I had just thanked another parishioner who I don't know very well for sending a card years ago when Tom was in his serious head-on accident. That little gesture meant so much at the time, and still occupies a large part of my heart, reminding me how important those little things can be to others.
Here are some other sweet!s from the past week...
Monday: friendly, helpful people in the Social Security Administration office; having an iPhone so you can catch up on email when you have a two-hour wait
Tuesday: being able to work from home on icy mornings; finishing a project you've been working on for weeks; restoring email to your iPhone without having to visit the Apple store; earning $300 worth of free jewelry just by hosting a catalog party
Wednesday: a cardinal's morning serenade; your son visiting you at work so you can show him off to your colleagues; a glorious sunset after days of gray skies
Thursday: resolving your mom's banking issues; touring vintage homes; a happy hour at your office; Deep Eddy's Cranberry Vodka
Friday: Yellow Cab vans with wheelchair seating; news that your mom's knee doesn't need surgery, only time to heal; dancing for hours with friends to Disco Inferno (and other great dance songs)
Saturday: sleeping in; enough free time for a leisurely walk with your puppies; peanut butter-chocolate chip muffins, courtesy of your son; your new jewelry waiting in your mailbox; getting to visit with your mom and oldest son at the same time
Sunday: the Garden of Eatin'...food, friends, and inspiration; warm brownies; helping a friend by posting a link to her Etsy shop, where her beautiful driftwood crosses are for sale
(this is the one she gave me for Christmas)
The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
P.S. Philip Seymour Hoffman, thank you for sharing your talent with us.
I'm sorry we couldn't help you with your problems.
May you find peace now.
Let's just say...
I found this card in my mailbox yesterday. Inside it says "Hang in there, girlfriend," with a sweet note of encouragement from my friend Rae. She knows me, she knows my mom, and she knew this transition wouldn't be without some bumps.
It's perfect and made me smile. Thank you, sweet Rae! And thank you to all of you who have offered words of advice and support...or just prayed.
I still feel in my heart that moving my mom closer to me is the best thing for her, which will help me in those times when unhappiness over her life's recent turn of events overwhelms her...and she takes it out on me, while I'm also trying to take care of my family, myself, and my infant business.
Here are a few other sweet! moments from the past week...
Monday: driving into the sunrise and the sunset in one day; bringing your mom to live closer to you, with help from your daughter and son; friends who drop by to offer hugs and words of encouragement; the gift of a handmade driftwood cross from a friend; sharing burgers and fries with your mom and daughter in a Whataburger parking lot; your husband building stone and wooden ramps to make it easier for your mom's wheelchair to get into your house, and his foresight to build doors big enough to accomodate it
Tuesday: your husband's help getting your mom settled in a new place; watching "It's a Wonderful Life" with your husband on Christmas Eve; your kids waking you both up in time to attend Midnight Mass; attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve with your family
Wednesday: "Merry Christmas" texts from friends first thing on Christmas morning; the silence in a house when everyone else is still sleeping; your son and daughter-in-law picking up your mom so she can spend Christmas with you; your son and daughter cooking a bacon and egg breakfast for you, and then chopping and grilling all of the peppers and onions to go with the fajita dinner; a game of ping-pong with your son
Thursday: spotting a Mallard duck couple swimming on a nearby pond; being able to stop and see your mom on your way into town to deliver earnest money, and on your way back home; watching Shrek 1 and 2 with your kids
Friday: joining your mom for lunch and meeting some spunky ladies; helping your mom get her hair cut and styled for the first time in months; watching a funny movie with your son and husband
Saturday: visits with your mom becoming part of your daily routine; exploring model homes; a sweet card from a friend in your mailbox; chopping away at much-needed projects; another movie with your son
Sunday: making up for missing Mass by taking a long walk with your son and puppies; watching a funny movie with your mom; nurses who take a personal interest in their patients; great hamburgers, courtesy of your husband
Hoping you can spot silver linings in those inevitable gray clouds life blows our way.
"'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise."
Pumpkin bread is baking in my oven as I type. Several small loaves and one larger Texas-sized ceramic dish I bought years ago near Round Top. My friend Ann bought one just like it.
Would you believe I've never used it for baking until this year? I made a Texas-shaped gingerbread earlier this week, and now pumpkin bread.
Who knew, so many years ago when I bought it, that I was preparing for this Christmas season, when Texas-shaped bread would be such a cute gift for my real estate clients?
The spicy scent drifts to me from the kitchen, making me eager for a taste. Most of the loaves will be gifts, but I know we'll cut into one of them right out of the oven.
I've been in a flurry of preparation, lately, trying to prepare for Christmas and the new year. Kind of like spring fever jitters or pregnancy nesting.
I've been getting systems, a budget, and a 2014 plan in place for my business...sorting my stuff into "sell", "give", or "keep" stacks...taking steps to move my mom closer to us...planning another reunion with my old DuPont gang...and preparing for Christmas in all of the outward ways - the cards, the tree, the decorations, the gingerbread and pumpkin bread.
Advent is a time of spiritual preparation, though, so I've been working on that, too, with prayer and daily readings, but I keep stumbling over patience... with myself, with others, with results.
At a party Saturday night, a friend told me how she illustrated Advent for the children in her Sunday school class by baking gingerbread. She showed them how you take different specific ingredients, how you measure them and blend together just right, how you prepare pans and an oven for the baking, then you wait, while the house fills with that heavenly scent of ginger and warmth and spices, making your mouth water and your tummy growl in anticipation.
The smell isn't the end, just a sign that it is coming, one that makes you eager to see and taste the finished results. But you have to be patient.
And so I'm reminded to open up my spiritual senses, to be aware of the miracles and blessings and signs of God's presence that I encounter every day...signs of something greater to come...although too often I don't notice them in my busy-ness.
I'm reminded to prepare, to be awake and to be patient...because patience is rewarded.
"Patience with others is Love, Patience with self is Hope, Patience with God is Faith."
"May your coming year overflow with love and blessings and wishes come true!"
Last year I wrote that in my oldest child's birthday post, in honor of his 27th birthday. A few months later he married the love of his life, honeymooned in Italy, and bought a home in a city he loves. My wish for him came true.
Now I've blinked and he's somehow a year older, as of yesterday, around noon. He celebrated first thing in the morning by running 10 miles from his home to the state capitol building and back, stopping at the State Library long enough to say hi to his little brother, who works there.
Considering his struggle with asthma when he was younger - all those hours I spent giving him nebulizer treatments, waiting in doctors' offices, keeping up with medications - his ability to run long distances (his second marathon is coming up) is definitely a wish come true for me.
I'm not sure how he's going to top the highs of the past year, but my wish for him is the same, for overflowing love and blessings and wishes come true, because he deserves them.
I would say that even if he wasn't my son. His thoughtfulness and compassion for friends and family - especially my parents over the past year - inspire me to be a better person. What more could a mother ask for?
I didn't get to see him yesterday, but that's okay. I saw him on Thanksgiving and on the weekend when we both visited my mom and I know I'll see him again soon, because for the first time in ten years, he lives in my city.
Just another one of my wishes come true, although it doesn't top the one that came true the day he was born, making me a mother, the toughest and best job I've ever had.
So, Tommy, sweet son, may your coming year overflow with love and blessings and wishes come true!
We couldn't have asked for better weather in Austin, Texas on Thanksgiving Day. Clear blue skies, a touch of autumn in the breeze...perfect for throwing open the doors to cool off a small kitchen full of cooks trying to get dinner on the table.
I'm so grateful we were able to stay here and celebrate in my son and his wife's home, along with her family, christening it with love and gratitude and wishes for many happy Thanksgivings in the years to come.
I'm also grateful my sister, niece, and nephew made sure my mom had a wonderful Thanksgiving in her home, and that I was able to hop in the car the next morning with my kids and drive to Houston to spend time with her myself.
We didn't repeat Thanksgiving dinner. Instead we ate Mexican food and kolaches on our old kitchen table, drank lots of coffee, and spent hours reminiscing, laughing, watching the squirrels in the back yard, and looking at photos.
I missed Daddy's smile and hug, of course, but I felt him with us, and all things considered, our visit was a sweet memory to tuck into my heart.
I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was full of sweet memories for you to tuck away and savor.
Here are a few other sweet!s from my past week. Share yours in the comments!
Tuesday: exploring houses with friends; sunshine after days of rain; your first transaction approved for payment; finding your first holiday card in the mailbox
Wednesday: making your mom's cornbread dressing; your son volunteering to chop all of the onions and celery for the dressing; leftover pumpkin pie filling baked by itself in a small casserole and enjoyed warm from the oven
Thursday: helping your son and daughter-in-law celebrate their first married Thanksgiving in their home; teaming up with your son in a game of beanbag toss (otherwise known as 'corn hole'?); your grown kids still loving to color with markers and pencils
Friday: a road trip with your kids; your mom's hugs and kisses; staying up late with your daughter watching ConAir and Tombstone; Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday
Saturday: kolaches for breakfast; fixing your mom's hair; a surprise visit from your mom's old neighbors; home again, safe and sound
Sunday: frogs singing to you on your morning walk; leftover ham and cornbread dressing and pumpkin pie; an afternoon free to finish sorting, cleaning, and (fingers-crossed) decorate for Christmas
Thou hast given so much to me, give one thing more - a grateful heart; not thankful when it pleaseth me, as if Thy blessings had spare days, but such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
~ George Herbert
P.S. The mother of some of my dear friends was in a bad car accident yesterday. She's in serious condition. Please say a prayer for her!
I'm up late, waiting for pumpkin pies to cool enough to go into the fridge until tomorrow. Fresh, clean, asparagus spears and cornbread dressing (my mother's recipe) are already in the fridge, waiting to be popped in the oven first thing in the morning.
It's not the first time I won't spend Thanksgiving in my childhood home, but I can count them on one hand.
But as much as I hated not being with my mother on this first Thanksgiving without my dad, it's also my son and daughter-in-law's first Thanksgiving as a married couple, and they're hosting in their new home. How could I miss that?
Among a zillion other things, I'm grateful for my sister, niece, and nephew who live near Mama, and will do whatever it takes to let her have one more Thanksgiving around that old kitchen table.
Wishing all of you a happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you live, because each and every day we can find at least one thing to be thankful for, can't we?
...a breath, a raindrop, the sound of a friend's voice or even a smile from a stranger when we're feeling lost and alone in this big world.
Remember, you're never alone.
God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. "
Today is the 10th Blog Blast for Peace Day, a worldwide plead for peace...a responsibility not put on governments alone, but on each one of us.
Dona Nobis Pacem...grant us peace.
We are the seeds of peace. May we all allow ourselves to grow, and by our example, spread the message. Peace walks hand-in-hand with love.
Here's an example of someone who has peace in his heart and knows he is called to share it...
Peace be with you...
...and may peace flow out of you to everyone around you, so that they may share it, too.
"Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me."
~Seymour Miller & Jill Jackson
When it rains, you grow.
~ On a local church sign
I woke to the sound of rain Sunday morning.
Such a sweet sound when you live near a lake that now resembles a creek after months...well, years...of too much sunshine and too little precipitation.
Tonight the frogs living near our pond are singing in celebration. Another sweet sound.
The rain has slowed for now, allowing the half moon to come out and smile on us tonight, but more rain is expected to continue off and on for the next several days.
I admit if we're going to have too much of something, I would rather have too much sunshine, but I realize that to be healthy, whether you're human or the Earth, you need some of each.
Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.
Here are some other sweet!s from my past week...
Monday: working out before letting your day get away from you; pink and blue variegated sunrise skies; brisk mornings and frisky puppies; discovering Asian Fusion; warm Turtle brownies, courtesy of your daughter
Tuesday: your husband making an old, dirty rug you love look brand new with a pressure washer; a sale from your etsy shop; free lunches; property tours; a friend calling to check on you
Wednesday: discussing marketing strategies with your son; photo shoots; getting to see a dear friend while she's in town, meeting her colleagues, and finally (sort of) riding a mechanical bull
Thursday: making new connections; chipping away in all to-do areas; a check in your mailbox; being able to talk to your mom at least once every day
Friday: new buds on your crape myrtles; learning something new and making new friends every day; making time to work on your children's story for the first time in a couple of months
Saturday: free training; your son's friend arriving just in time to help carry groceries into the house; joining your writing group at an ice cream parlor to celebrate meeting our writing goals; watching "Cactus Flower" while making cyclops cookies with your son
Sunday: waking to the sound of rain; being able to wish your son a happy 25th birthday in person; your son wanting to help a stray dog; being able to make someone happy with simple gifts like fried chicken tenders you only make once or twice a year on special occasions; making it to a writer's group meeting for the first time in ages; watching Galaxy Quest with your son
Monday: yellow and purple wildflowers decorating the roadsides; a second day of rain; the healthy birth of a brand-new niece; getting to know members of your church better through a Bible study; capturing the sight of a frog hopping in your car headlights
What sweet!s did you collect this week? I hope all of you have a balance of whatever you need to help you grow!
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?
~ Laura Mixon Story
Usually the Monday following four incredible days full of sunshine in Port Aransas with twenty friends is a Monday in every sense of the word. But today hasn't been bad at all...except that it's too short.
With everything going on in my life right now, I really didn't have time to slip away and lounge on a Gulf of Mexico beach, but I did it, anyway. It's tradition...as in, this was the 14th or 15th year 10 to 30 of us have taken over a certain condominium complex with sigh-inspiring balcony views and someone else washing our towels.
So now I'm sitting in front of my computer after a full day of traffic jams coming and going, classes, communications with clients, grocery shopping, unpacking, laundry, and grilling. Bills still wait to be paid beside me; I'm considering waking up at 4 to take care of them tomorrow morning, but that Procrastination Warning is sounding in my head.
Unwritten thank-you's, birthday, and sympathy cards wait to be written and mailed on my desk... I still have real estate homework to complete... I'm drowning in emails... I need to close a Silpada party... I'm longing to lose myself in editing the hundreds of photos I took the past four days... but my eyelids are heavy, my brain is foggy, and my head is nodding.
I think I'll skip my regular sweets, share a few photos here with you that I've already edited, and then crawl off to bed, ignoring the Procrastination Warning Bells...
The two rules of procrastination: 1) Do it today. 2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow.
A view of the coastline from our condo.
Just one of several glorious sunrises!
We ate dinner at a restaurant next door to this marina, with a clear view of the sunset.
What's a weekend with girlfriends without a night or two of dancing?
Sharkey's is THE place on the island. Nevermind that it's usually empty - we have the dance floor to ourselves.
This talented tye-dye fan got up on stage and hoola-hooped through several songs.
Even a two-step. He was amazing!
This was my view 3/4 of the weekend...
Four of the wonderful ladies who were there with me......Rae, Sandy, my sweet sister Brenda, and Jackie.
Another sunset. You're welcome.
The sky, a perfect empty canvas, offers clouds nonetheless. They shift and drift and beg interpretation... such is the nature of art. ~Jeb Dickerson
P.S. Today was my friend Patti's birthday. She had planned to join us at the coast, but those procrastination bells were ringing something fierce in her knees. She couldn't put surgery off any longer.
We missed her, but I look forward to having her and her new knees join us next year, ready for dancing!
Here's a photo from last year and a post I wrote a while back in honor of her birthday. Dear Paquita...
I leaned on a railing, watching couples swirl past on the dance floor below, feeling very alone because my boyfriend of five years wasn't with me.
I can't remember where he was. Probably with his buddies. Maybe with another girl. I worked most weekends, so I was fuming - and hurt - that he didn't want to go out with me on my rare Friday night off. And I was disappointed that none of the regulars I had counted on were there, either.
Then you approached and asked me to dance. It was a Michael Jackson song - again, my memory is foggy and I can't remember which one, but I know you do. Your memory has always been so good. In fact, now it often annoys me how good it is.
Anyway, you asked me to dance, and I was in such a grumpy mood I intended to say no, but yes came out instead, and next thing I know, we're on the dance floor. When Michael stopped singing, a country song came on and you asked me to dance again.
We talked a little. I was surprised you were older than me. You looked like a teenager with those mischievous blue eyes, freckles, and tousled sandy-blonde hair.
You invited me to sit at your table. I met Chris, Karin, and Karin's friends from New York. We talked a little, but Karin kind of monopolized your attention.
However, when closing time came, you walked me to my car, asked me what I was doing the next night (going to Gilley's to see the band "Alabama") and if you could meet me there. I said sure, and you gave me a little peck of a kiss before saying goodbye.
Was it on the cheek or the lips? I can't remember. But I thought it was sweet. And I thought you were fun. And sweet. And cute. And I hoped you showed up the next night. (You did.)
And that's how it happened (according to my memory, anyway) thirty-two years ago this evening...
Thank you for that first dance...and all that have followed. My memory may have faded about details, but I'll never forget that on a night when everything seemed to be going wrong, God proved he had my back, all along.
He gave me just what I needed:
"Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end."
I spotted it when I stepped out onto the front porch one morning this past week, in between trips to Houston. I noticed the fossil first, thinking it had fallen from its spot on the windowsill above the bench where it now rested.
Then I realized it had been placed there to hold down a handwritten note.
"...I wanted to drop you a note and let you know you and your family are in my prayers..."
It was from my longtime friend George. He has been making multiple trips from Houston to San Angelo to see his mother-in-law, who they discovered had lung cancer earlier this summer, and tries to vary it by taking different routes.
He left the note on Sunday. On Monday, a few hours after I found the note, his mother-in-law passed away. On Tuesday, while I said my last goodbye to my Daddy, he was on his way to San Angelo again, to help his wife say goodbye to her mother.
Considering my house is a mile down a dirt road, off of a small highway that twists and turns and isn't a shortcut between San Angelo and Houston by any means, it's a huge honor that he took the time to go that way to ease my pain over losing my dad, especially when he knew I wasn't home.
A few years ago in a post about friendship, I spoke of it as a garden that needs to be watered. Ever since then, we've referred to our infrequent emails as 'watering the garden'.
So on the back of the note he sketched a flower and added these words: "You are a daisy in my garden...May God continue to shine through you and give you Peace...Can you feel the water?"
All those years ago, when we worked on the high school yearbook together and planned to go sky-diving, we never imagined that one day our friendship would include these days of mourning each other's losses. And I'm glad we didn't.
However, I am so very grateful we're still friends, flowers in each other's gardens.
(Please keep George, his wife, and their family in your prayers!)
A good friend is a connection to life -
a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.
Here are a few other bittersweets from my past week...
Sunday: joining with your siblings to support your mom after your father's passing; a safe journey home after a heartbreaking weekend
Monday: a day to immerse yourself in images from your father's life that will become a slideshow memorial; a safe journey back to your childhood home with two of your kids, and the safe arrival of two more
Tuesday: helping your mom prepare for your dad's funeral; an ice chest full of eggs, bacon, and biscuits waiting on your parents' doorstep, courtesy of a friend; a limo driver named Paul, who provides just the right amount of conversation on a tough day; friends who help you mourn your father; "Day is Done" by a solitary trumpet, in honor of your father's service to his country
Wednesday: breakfast, courtesy of and the friend who left the ice chest full of food on the porch the day before, and your son, who took his Granddaddy's place at the stove; fitting the huge schefflera plant from your Divas and other plants from friends into your car trunk; a safe journey home; Whataburger in LaGrange at sunset with your kids
Thursday: winning a book you wanted in a contest in your lead generation class; love, in the form of cards, waiting for you in your mailbox
Friday: lunch with new friends/colleagues; your new business cards waiting for you on the front porch; a walk with your puppies at sunset
Saturday: a day at home to catch your breath; your cousin traveling to see your mom and take her to lunch; tiny purple flowers shaped like Easter lilies
Sunday: Mass with your kids and hugs from your friends; cleaning and organizing sprees, even if they only make a dent; your husband making it home, safe and sound, after his own long journey to support his brother during a sad time
I hope your week has been full of more sweet!s than bittersweets. Share them here! If nothing else, look around at those you call friends, and give thanks.
“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”
~ Shauna Niequist
Saturday morning my dad finally got an answer to his prayers: He went to be with the Lord.
In his honor, I'm reposting this letter I wrote to him here a few years ago...
All of my life, you've been right here, holding my hand - loose when I needed loose, tight when I needed tight - but never letting go.
I disappointed you at times over the years (Oh, yes I did and you know it!) but you never stopped believing in me, never stopped wanting the best for me or wanting me to be the best I could be.
You believed in me even when I stopped believing in myself.
You taught me what unconditional love really means. Even when I knew I had disappointed you...
(Remember when I hit that parked truck with my brand new Toyota Celica, my graduation present from you and Mama? Remember when I decided to flush my scholarship down the drain and drop out of college to work in a chemical plant?)
...I never once, not once, doubted your love.
You never said a word, never chewed me out for being stupid and irresponsible (even though I deserved it) but just kept holding my hand, offering whatever help and support I would accept.
Like you, I love reading, watching a good Western, history, traveling, kitschy tourist spots, pecans, rocks, and sweating in the sun. I inherited your silliness, impulsiveness, teasing/mean streak, and flash-fire temper.
I hope I also inherited your generosity, loyalty, and tenderness.
With Mama, you raised me to be confident, courageous and independent, willing to test myself, push myself, try new things, truly believing I could do anything I wanted to do because you believed it.
You raised me the same as you raised the boys, with no discernible difference related to gender. No matter what I did, or still do, your pride is palpable. It's a fuel that keeps me chasing my old dreams and discovering new ones.
Memories tied to you are the treasure of my life...
...Thank you for my sunflower garden, my orange and green painted bedroom, introducing me to ping-pong, Black Beauty, Leon Uris, James Michener and National Geographic.
Thank you for taking beginner square dance lessons with me and letting me chop down that tree when I was sixteen.
Thanks for teaching me to drive, to play tennis, and for trying to teach me to bowl and play golf. Thanks for shuttling me and my friends to the movies and basketball tournaments, and for finding some of them jobs at your chemical plant.
You never thought you were special - you still don't - but let me assure you, you are, and I thank God every day for making you my Daddy and giving me (and now my kids) so much time here on Earth with you.
I look forward to the day I again feel your hug and see the twinkle in your eye, but for now, I carry them in my heart.
Rest in peace, dear Daddy. You deserve it.
I love you.
He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
~Clarence Budington Kelland
Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.
~Ruth E. Renkel
I love my father as the stars — he's a bright shining example and a happy twinkling in my heart.
Thank you all for the many prayers you've offered for him and my family this past year. Now please continue to keep my mom in your prayers as she faces life without him by her side after almost 64 years together.
I'm grateful I've been able to spend so much time with Daddy this past year, even if a lot of it was in ERs, hospital rooms, and doctor's offices.
I'm especially grateful that I was able to tell him I love him (and hear him say it back to me) on the telephone Friday.
Don't ever take the time you have with loved ones for granted or miss a chance to say "I love you!"
Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes. ~Gloria Naylor
I am kicking myself every day that I didn't become a realtor years ago. And I haven't even made any money yet! (Call me!)
(Thanks to my sweet sister-in-law for the blingy name badge!)
I believe juggling real estate, my blogs, photography, writing, and family responsibilities is going to be harder than I thought it was...at least at first...but I'm going to keep trying to do it, anyway.
It's September, yet we're hitting triple digits every day, as if it were still summer! Consequently, my house smells like country dogs and my allergies are going crazy because of it.
Our 'big' pond is now a marsh. We need rain.
This is the original creek bed. In a good year, the pond level is ten feet above the banks of the creekbed.
We experienced a family tragedy this week, in the true sense of the word. It isn't my story to tell, other than a broken heart because people I love are suffering, so I'm not going to share details here.
But I will ask that you lift them in prayer.
Sadness flies on the wings of the morning and out of the heart of darkness comes the light.
Linking with Nancy's Random 5 Friday
September has always been one of my favorite months.
The air feels a little drier, crisper...summer temperatures begin their slow (and short, in Texas) descent into winter...the sky sheds its faded denim and dresses in vibrant azure. I'm eager to spend every minute of September outside, enjoying it all.
But there are other reasons I love September...
I first met Tom on a September evening, thirty-two years ago. We spent the last week of that month getting to know each other and falling in love.
It was in September fourteen years ago that I first gathered a group of other exhausted moms for what became an annual retreat in Port Aransas. September is the sound of waves washing onto a sandy beach, the last kiss of summer sun on my skin, hours of reading or wandering with my camera, four days of laughter and a night of dancing with girlfriends.
When I was growing up, school didn't start until after Labor Day and three months of summer...enough free time to grow weary of the same neighborhood friends and Monopoly games that last for days...so September meant new clothes, new friends, and new beginnings.
Now that I'm in a state of reinvention as a real estate agent, September is still a time for new beginnings and new friends. Every day I'm pulling on seldom worn 'nice' clothes, attending classes and training, and meeting so many people, both newbies like me and experienced agents, willing to help me along this path.
It's just making Septembers even sweeter.
Here are a few sweet! moments I noted from the past week. Please be sure to add yours in the comments!
Monday: a pond full of Snow-On-the-Prairie; your husband's help getting your puppy into the car for her check-up; people who are willing to share their methods of success; the comfort of friends when you hear of another friend's death
Tuesday: continuing to learn new things when you're 54; krispy kreme donuts; offers of help in your new career
Wednesday: helpful salesmen; your very own laptop; the arrival of your official real estate license; potential clients; spotting a bunny on your evening walk; your puppy not spotting the bunny
Thursday: the glint of morning sunlight on a dove's wing; meeting new people; cake and cookies and learning; friends who help you mourn the deaths of a two friends in one week; a letter in the mail
Friday: soft gray mornings; your old puppy running and playing with his puppy; your son sending you marketing tips for your new real estate business; spotting a creative sign while you're stuck in traffic; new purple flowers
Saturday: a long overdue haircut by Michael; walking at dusk with your puppy; making progress on your real estate to-do list, even if it feels like you're crawling along; nagging checking up on a longtime friend with some help issues; reconnecting with two old friends on Facebook, one from your chemical plant days and another from high school
Sunday: attending Mass with your husband and 1/2 of your kids; homilies that touch on things that have been on your mind the past week; being able to delegate puppy care when you have tons of stuff to do
I hope this September overflows in sweetness for you!
"The happiness of life is
made up of minute fractions - the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss or
a smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment, and the countless infinitesimals
of pleasurable and genial feeling."
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
I was walking up our front path to my car one morning this week when I heard a banging noise coming from a camper shell sitting to one side of the driveway/parking area at the top of the walkway.
The shell mostly rests on the ground, but one side of it projects over a small rock retaining wall. Somehow a roadrunner had found a way in, probably chasing after some delicious wild tidbit that ran in trying to escape it.
Unfortunately, the roadrunner couldn't find a way out! It was trying, though...flying up and hitting the roof then the sides, over and over and over.
I set my bags on the ground and leaned all my weight on the edge of the shell hanging over the wall. It took a couple of tries, but it finally raised up enough on the other side for the roadrunner to dash out and disappear into the woods.
Now that was sweet!
Here are a few more sweet!s from the past week. Be sure to add yours in the comments!
Monday: participating in the jury system...even though you're relieved you weren't picked for this particular jury; old courthouses; walking in downtown Austin near the Capital; remembering a friend's birthday without a Facebook reminder; spotting a hummingbird flying nearby
Tuesday: finding an agency that fits just right with your real estate career goals; dinner and a movie with friends
Wednesday: prayers for you as you take your real estate state exam; passing!; learning how to use mapquest on your phone; finding the Vitamin K1 serum you won on a friend's blog in your mailbox
Thursday: your puppies safe and sound after a night of howling coyotes too close for comfort; signing with the agency you visited on Tuesday
Friday: a road trip with your daughter; hugs from your Mama, Daddy, and sister; reading in bed with your daughter before going to sleep; a friend placing a Silpada order from you
Saturday: breakfast with friends at a hometown restaurant (photo by TG); visiting with your brother and sister-in-law; being able to help your parents; a letter from a friend
Sunday: sleeping in and going to late Mass for the first time in ages; a report that the dead deer by the creek is picked clean, thanks to nature's teamwork of coyotes and vultures, so you and your husband don't have to figure out what to do with it
I hope the coming week is full of opportunities for you to help those in need, time with family and friends, and quick and easy solutions to your problems!
He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
I had to report for jury duty on Monday. It was in the old Travis County Courthouse, which to me is what a courthouse and jury room should look like...straight out of an old Perry Mason episode.
It was a wonderful process. The judge was very passionate and took lots of time explaining the process to us. I didn't really want to get picked (I'm in the middle of the whole real estate license thing and need to start making money!) but I decided to just be honest and see what happened.
I didn't get picked. Maybe I was too honest.
I was relieved in a way...but by then I was involved and interested in the case, so I also felt rejected!
But since I didn't get picked for jury duty, I was free to take the State Exam for real estate on Wednesday.
I passed! I barely crossed the line on one part, but what matters is I did cross it. Whew! Now the real education begins, so I kept the momentum going and signed with an agency yesterday. Training begins next week.
I'm ready to hit the ground running!
There's a dead deer lying half in, half out of our creek, with a huge chunk of its rear-end missing. I'll spare you the photo of it I took to send to Tom.
Well, I'm not sure how much of the deer is still down there, actually. For the past two days coyotes have been fighting over it all night, yapping and yapping and making our poor puppies feel obligated to bark at them from our back deck.
I'm glad they don't feel obligated to run down there!
During the day, vultures circle round and round, so close to the house that I hear the whoosh-whoosh of their wings. They glide down under the trees to where the deer is (I can't see it from the house, thank goodness) and then I hear a lot more loud noises.
Of course, the puppies feel obligated to bark at them, too.
I've taken a lot of photos of "interesting" scat on our road lately (scat = poop). There's a great site I discovered where you can identify what animal it came from. I'll spare you those photos, too. You'll just have to trust me that we've had coyote and fox and owl...and something much larger...crossing our road lately.
...Which makes me very nervous for Max with his wobbly hips and legs, poor old puppy, what with the dead (full-sized antlered) deer down there by the creek .
Do you get songs stuck in your head? I have one running right now, and I'm grateful for it.
It's "Help Me Find It" by Sidewalk Prophets. Here are some of the lyrics playing in my head...very reassuring and calming in these days when there are so many things going on and decisions need to be made...
If there's a road I should walk
Help me find it.
If I need to be still
Give me peace for the moment.
And here's the song itself, below. If you're feeling stressed and /or need help figuring out what direction to head, I recommend it!
I hope you have a wonderful Friday and a beautiful weekend!
(Linking up with Nancy at A Rural Journal's Random 5 Friday)
A year ago today, I whispered goodbye to this man and promised him I'd help keep an eye on his beloved wife.
It's hard to believe a whole year has gone by without him...until I stop and think of all that has happened in that time. So many changes.
Much happiness and laughter, but also much heartache, heartbreak, and many, many tears.
So for today's Five Things on Friday, I'm sharing five things about Pop:
1. I can still hear his voice. I'm grateful for that.
2. When he picked me and Tom up from the airport years ago, he always had a couple of cold beers waiting in the car for us. Later, Pop and I both switched to wine about the same time, and he was quick to offer me a glass as soon as we arrived for a visit. Cheers, Pop.
3. His eyes twinkled more than anyone else's I've ever known. He was such a flirt!
4. Nothing got my husband moving on finishing projects around the house more than an impending visit from his dad. And if there was something he couldn't get to in time, Pop would take care of it.
5. He never let anything keep him from going to Mass each week.
I love and miss you, Pop! I give thanks that you were in my life and honored to be among your daughters.
He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
~Clarence Budington Kelland
I made another quick trip to see my parents this weekend, accompanied by a son and daughter this time who pitched in to help with dishes and cleaning.
I'm so blessed that I still have my parents...that I only live four hours away so I can make quick overnight trips to see them...and that I have kids who don't hesitate to give up a weekend to go see their grandparents and help them out.
When we arrived and I leaned in to give Daddy a hug, he embraced me so tight and fierce, held on so long, and I relished every second of it, reluctant to break apart from the warmth of him and the strength in his arms. I'll carry that hug in my heart the rest of my life.
A hug like that, especially from your daddy, is one of the sweetest things ever, ever, ever.
Here are a few other gems I tucked into my heart this week...
Monday: Rudy's breakfast tacos, especially when they're free; managing to stay awake in your night class, after spending all day in another class; your caliche road glowing in the light of a full moon; your son home for a visit
Tuesday: your son volunteering to feed your puppies so you're not late to class, since he has a day off; finally reaching your mom after playing phone tag; passing the test for your third real estate course; the full moon playing peek-a-boo with you through the trees
Wednesday: spotting a painted bunting on the birdfeeder; only getting a warning instead of a speeding ticket on your way home after night class
Thursday: breakfast frittatas and homemade hash browns; passing your fourth real estate course exam; remembering to slow down on your way home
Friday: beginning to check out different real estate agencies so you can decide which one to work with; finally connecting with an AT&T representative who takes the time to do the math and, therefore, correct your phone bill, after at least four unsuccessful attempts with other reps; another road trip with 2/3 of your kids; staying up late, laughing at old episodes of "Friends" with your daughter
Saturday: being a help to your parents; your Daddy's hugs and your Mama's laughter; sons and daughters who enjoy spending time with their grandparents; watching your son shave your daddy; Whataburgers and salty french fries
Sunday: discovering that some of your customers are fellow parishioners of your church; hunting for a blue-tailed skink with your husband and camera, even if you don't find him, because you see another cool lizard and notice that your crape myrtle is finally blossoming!
I hope you all have a pockets full of sweet! moments you've collected along your path!
"Kiss your life.
Accept it, just as it is. Today. Now.
So that those moments of happiness you're waiting for don't pass you by."
Most of us don't need a psychiatric therapist as much as a friend to be silly with.
I just staggered in from the annual Diva gathering at my friend Rae's house. Two nights and days of margaritas and non-stop talking, too much food, and too little sleep. The sun barely made an appearance, but just being together lightened our spirits.
What's a "Diva", you ask? Here's a snippet of a definition written by Diva Patti...
What Is A Diva?
She’s the girl you’ve known since kindergarten, or 1st grade, or 4th grade, or 6th grade, or high school.....
She’s the girl you giggled and danced with at girlhood slumber parties....
She’s the girl you talked to every night for hours on the telephone about anything and everything..mostly
She’s the girl who was shy when young, and is now confident and sassy and fun...
She’s the girl you sang Christmas carols with out in the cold December night.....
She’s the girl you cheered with, danced with, played sports with....
She’s the girl who marched in the band or sang in the choir or performed on the stage...
She’s the girl who blushes at the mere mention of the name Coach Bondy....
She’s the girl who was homecoming queen and Miss Deer Park....
She’s the girl who thought she’d married the love of her life....and then found the true love of that life 30
She’s the girl who was always the clown, the tomboy, the rebel, and now, a strong and faithful voice for the people of the town we love....
She’s the girl who overcame the heartbreak of betrayal, the grief of loss, the shattering of dreams and still laughs and loves.....
She’s the girl who fought, and continues to fight, a deadly opponent who would take her too young, but she won’t allow it....
She’s the girl whose child was born with a troubled soul, and yet she is there to listen and comfort others when they are down.....
She is each one of us....all of us....separately or together....now grown into women who live and love and laugh and cry with each other....and amaze many others with the strength of their bond....
~Patti Stringer McPeek July 2013
I also spent a lot of time with my parents. An MRI revealed Mama broke her tailbone and fractured her spine in that fall last week. It will be a bumpy road for awhile with her and Daddy. Please keep them in your prayers.
My sons came with me, and while I was off in group therapy with my girlfriends each night, they cleaned my parents' house and washed their clothes.
I mean it when I say I have The. Best. Sons. In. The. World. Amen!
Oh, and look what Tom did while I was away...
Nothing like a Cyclops Cookie (or two or three) to perk you up when you arrive back home after a long weekend of highs and lows.
Here are a few other sweet!s from the past week:
Monday: traveling back in time via photos and journals
Tuesday: dinner and shopping with your daughter on her birthday, even if it's just the grocery store and Subway sandwiches
Wednesday: weekday Mass; rainy days in a drought
Thursday: time at work to study for your next real estate class
Friday: a road trip with your sons; helping your parents; girlfriends; margarita machines
Saturday: how laughter lightens a heavy heart; a few rays of sunshine on your skin; your sons cleaning your parents' home while you have fun with your friends
Sunday: a few more hours with your mom and dad and sister; your twenty-something sons reading for hours in the car, just like they did when they were little
The next few weeks are going to be really challenging, but I'm going to do my best to keep track of the sweet! moments. They are the best medicine (along with a weekend with my Divas!)
I hope your week is full of them!
twirl into your life
a sweet pink rush
of kisses and hugs and giggles,
petticoats and tiaras,
soccer cleats and mudpies,
baby dolls and bicycles,
makeup and skinned knees,
spitfire and swallowed tears.
They're a wonder to behold,
an ever-changing blessing.
At 6:59 pm, twenty-two years ago this evening, I beheld my own baby girl for the first time.
There have been tears but mostly laughter, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude and amazement, as I watched her grow into the beautiful young woman she is today.
My parents are both still in the hospital. I'm not sure if they realize today is her birthday, but I am sure that they love her more than she can imagine.
Happy birthday, baby girl.
Today and everyday, I love you!
We've been on a rollercoaster ride with my parents the past two days...my sister, Brenda, on the front lines with them, dealing with EMS and emergency rooms...me on the receiving end of texts and phone updates from her.
It started yesterday, when Daddy apparently had a mini-stroke. The sweet! of it is he made it home from the grocery store before it really hit, and by the time EMS arrived, he had recovered.
But during the excitement, my mom fell. She seemed okay at the time, and EMS helped her back into her wheelchair, but this morning when Brenda checked on her and Daddy after church, Mama couldn't put her weight on her left hip. EMS made another visit to the house, but this time whisked Mama off to the hospital, Brenda and Daddy in a car close behind them.
Thank God (literally!) Mama's hip isn't fractured. (I tell you what, that woman has bones of steel!)
But while there, a nurse noticed Daddy looking a little saggy and droopy on one side of his face and body. Sure enough, he was having another mini-stroke. They admitted him, too, and for a time the texts and calls I received today from my sister made me think I needed to head straight to Houston right after work if I wanted to tell my Daddy goodbye one last time.
But...another sweet!...his CAT scan showed no blood on the brain. Daddy perked up, talked to my sister, and asked for a glass of milk. The doctor was concerned about his blood sugar and blood pressure, but that's a broken record I've been listening to, and singing along with, the past ten months.
Seeing as how my Daddy doesn't think he needs his diabetes or heart medicine, the record is bound to start skipping more and more. We're thinking it's time to get firm with those two about moving out of their home of 50+ years into some kind of assisted living.
Please tell me...how do you practice tough love on your parents?
I would appreciate your prayers, but the good thing is, we don't have to do anything about it tonight, so I'm just giving thanks that Mama doesn't have a fractured hip and I don't have to rush to Houston.
Those are the sweet!est things I can imagine right now. But here are a few others from the past week...
Sunday: time between church and work to take your puppies for a swim in the backyard "pool"; a chance to meet with your writing group again after several missed meetings
Monday: working in your church again; watching rain pouring down outside of your window; starting your second real estate class, moving closer to your goal; a successful Silpada party, where you earn enough to pay 1/4 of your real estate class expense, plus get a beautiful silver bracelet for free; photos of your bff's brand-new grandson
Tuesday: people who volunteer for your church; church bells that play "How Great Thou Art" and other hymns; your son and daughter-in-law buying their first home
Wednesday: realizing the coral snake lying a few feet away is dead; visiting with retirees who hang around after communion services, drinking coffee; a gift of tomatoes, squash, and eggplant, fresh from a garden; your story about your dad published on savvydad.com
Thursday: a 95 on your second real estate final; a classmate with jumper cables when you discover your car battery is dead after class; a gorgeous sunset keeping you company on the way home
Friday: plants that smell like spearment; cardinals playing tag all around you; arriving at work early enough to receive communion; a long therapeutic girl-talk visit with a friend
Saturday: great customers all day long; an overnight visit with your son, daughter-in-law, and grandpuppy
Sunday: after a rollercoaster day of texts from your sister about your parents, by the end of it your mom does NOT have a fractured hip, your dad's CAT scan looks good, and you don't have to be torn about whether to take off work to see them; your husband making brownies while you're at work
This morning at church we had a visiting priest, originally from Nigeria - Father Justin Udomah. He told a great story about a pickpocket stealing his wallet, leaving him stranded in a small town...how he asked for help at a local church but was turned down.
He said he was tempted to get angry, but instead, decided then and there that he would never turn away anyone in need. He used the experience to illustrate the story of the Good Samaritan and how we should help each other, but he also stressed the importance of turning the negative in our lives into positive results.
I really liked that.
If you find you have a hard time finding the sweet! moments in your day, or turning the negative into positive, I recommend a book that will help: Basket of Blessings: 31 Days to a More Grateful Heart , by Karen O'Connor. (Full disclosure: this is an Amazon Affiliate link, but I wouldn't offer it if I didn't really recommend it!)
I received it in a box of books Tom brought me from my mother-in-law. It was the first one I read, and now I'm re-reading it, even though I've already developed the habit of looking for those sweet! moments in my day. I'm always looking for inspiration. This book helps you learn to recognize the blessings all around you and make gratitude part of your every day life.
I hope your week overflows wth sweet! moments...a basket overflowing with blessings.
Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture.
I'm home from my first real estate class.
I don't count the one Tom and I took when I was pregnant with our firstborn. That was almost thirty years ago...and to be honest, it just didn't click with me at the time...maybe because I was pregnant, attending class after working a twelve-hour shift.
Neither of us intended to become realtors. We were taking the course for an overview of Texas real estate; we knew we would be buying and selling soon.
But now it clicks. Helping people, looking at houses, getting outside, being challenged, always something new to learn...
Tonight, in between taking notes on my energetic instructor's lesson, highlighting text in my book, and sipping coffee, I was tempted to mentally kick myself for not doing this last year. Or thirty years ago.
But... I know in my heart I really wasn't ready until now.
"Like this," Ann said, showing me how to weave the strips of bread dough around a Pyrex dish to make bread dough baskets like the ones we'd seen at Houston's Westheimer Art Festival. It was circa 1977 in her mother's kitchen.
She made it look so easy, but when I attempted it, my fingers got in the way. The strips stretched too thin and broke.
She laughed. "You better be a career woman!"
I nodded. That was already my plan. I was going to be a chemical engineer...
"Why don't you have a real career?" my daughter asked me about ten years ago.
I can't remember what triggered the question - probably some issue about money. As far back as my kids can remember, there's always been an issue about money, because there's always been only one major breadwinner. First me, then their dad. For them.
I'm not sure how I answered her question. It required a complicated explanation, and even though I have a tendency to give long, drawn-out answers, I bet I didn't mention how I never planned to be a stay-at-home mom when I was growing up, or how, all through three pregnancies, I longed for the day I didn't have to leave my babies behind and venture out to work a twelve-hour shift at a chemical plant where I might die in an explosion.
(Worst-case scenario, but it happens, and I'd fought fires out there, and when you have babies at home, that possibility always hovers in a corner of your mind.)
I probably didn't tell her how I'd had to go up the chain of command at the plant to fight for the right to use some of the three weeks of vacation days I'd earned to stay home with her big brother when his asthma first appeared.
Or how I would arrive home some mornings after working twelve hours to nap on the couch in between her brother's nebulizer treatments and take him to see the doctor as soon as the office opened, my eyes foggy with sleep.
I might have tried describing how rewarding it was to be home with them as they grew, to have the flexibility to focus on my family and its needs, to be with them when they were sick, to volunteer my time for a dozen worthwhile organizations, to chaperone field trips...to just share memories of time spent together.
I'm not sure what I said. All I remember is the pang I felt in my gut when she said it, because that's where I still carried the dream of finishing my degree and having some kind of career.
"If you're a realtor, you will be showing properties on the weekends..." my son told me just last week. "You'd have to be a workaholic for awhile to gain some territory."
Working weekends? Workaholic? I realized my kids know nothing about my work history...or my work present.
I had a plan when I dropped out of college: I'd get a job where I could make enough to support myself and go back to college on my own. The only job that fit that description was "Chemical Plant Operator", so I went from plant to plant, all along the Houston Ship Channel, turning in one application after another.
Long story short, at nineteen I was hired by DuPont to help start up a new methanol plant. After a few months in portable buildings, learning about the process, it began: twelve-hour shifts, almost seven days a week.
For thirteen years, through my wedding, my husband's college career, and three pregnancies, I worked nights, days, weekends, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter...twelve-to-sixteen hours at a time. I've had a mortgage payment since I was twenty.
I went back to school during my last pregnancy, taking writing classes at night at the community college, swapping shifts or using vacation so I didn't miss a class.
But of course, he wouldn't remember that. And he probably doesn't remember me going to class when he and his siblings were young, staying up for hours after reading them their bedtime stories to do my homework or to study for a test, munching on popcorn to stay awake.
And he probably doesn't realize that now...mornings, nights, weekdays, weekends, 24/7...I'm either working at a paid part-time job, working on a photography or jewelry gig, blogging, marketing myself in photography or jewelry or blogging, slowly making progress on one of my many fictional works-in-progress...or reading up on how to improve in all of the above.
But how would he know? When my kids are home, I still focus on them.
Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older too.
Seasons have changed. I feel it in the air...I feel it in my heart. This is the path I'm supposed to take. If I'm going to work this hard, I'd like to have something to show for it.
It's time, and I'm ready. And I know how to work.
Belle and Max dashed off in the direction of a dry pond this morning on our walk, triggering a loud commotion as a mama wild turkey flew for the safety of a tree on the other end, squawking the whole way. Half a dozen small turkey-ettes followed her...squeaking, more than squawking.
Of course, it could have been a daddy Great Blue Heron, for all I know. Suffice it to say there was a lot of racket, then a big bird shot skyward followed by a bunch of little ones, and just seeing it was pretty cool, especially since everyone survived the encounter.
I didn't get a photo. The action was behind a screen of trees with just a tiny clear view before Mama/Daddy was out of my line of vision. Besides, I was busy calling to my puppies not to hurt the babies (in case there were stragglers) and also...I was just pretty much in awe, as I am any time I encounter one of God's not-so-ordinary-for-me creatures sharing the Hollow with us, usually sight unseen.
(So out of curiosity, how many of you thought I was going to talk about Wild Turkey bourbon?)
And now for some of the other sweet! moments of my past week:
Tuesday: your puppy waiting patiently for a glimpse of you through the French doors; margherita pizza
Wednesday: morning sunlight kissing weeds, turning them into art; finding a Shabby Apple dress in your mailbox that you won on a blog giveaway at Over 50, Feeling 40; a pot-luck fajita dinner and margaritas with members of your committee
Thursday: long morning walks on soft summer mornings; puffy white clouds in a blue sky; watching your puppies cool off in a tiny spring-fed pond
Friday: the AT&T tech coming closer to the 8am projected time than the 8pm; a potentially cheaper telephone and internet bill; joining friends to celebrate the life of someone we were all blessed to know
Saturday: weddings; tiny flower girls and ringbearers; Mandolo's Italian food and carrot cake; capturing photos of the full (super?) moon
Sunday: lingering after church to visit with friends; dancing to the music of a Rolling Stones cover band (the Stone Rollers) on the shore of a lake; Rudy's BBQ and frozen sangria margaritas; helping friends celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary; support and tips from experienced friends for your latest idea to get a real estate license; Siamese cats; celebrating a dear friend's birthday
Monday: finally setting up your Etsy shop; more encouragement about real estate school from another friend; inspiration from your grandmother
Tuesday: feeling rested despite not getting a lot of sleep; surprising a flock of wild turkeys...or herons...or somethings; a good preliminary report on your annual check-up; coming across a good blog post you wrote five years ago but forgot about; winning free passes to a new Steve Carell and Toni Collette movie screening
Okay, I have one more sweet! to share...
Last night I was feeling pretty discouraged about being broke and not being able to find a (substantial long-term career-type) job. So I finally set up an Etsy shop, where (fingers-crossed) I can sell pieces of my eclectic collection of books and junk odds and ends I've gathered over the years, as well as some of my photographs.
It felt good scratching that off of my list, but here's the sweet! part: on my way to bed after setting it up, I spotted a framed poem I inherited from my grandmother. It's a little cheesy, but I love it, so I guess that means I'm a little cheesy, too.
This is the part that resonated with me last night...
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
It goes on like that for two more stanzas, but you get the gist of it. Sweet encouragement straight from my grandmother when I really needed it.
I hope all of you are finding plenty of sweet!s to lighten your load, too!
Do any of you still have your landlines?
I've been so tempted to cancel ours...but then I remember the agonizing two months we lived without it when we first moved into this house in the country, and how our cell phones only worked outside, up the hill a little bit.
How I would stand up there, sweating and swatting mosquitoes, when I needed to made a call. How I had to sneak calls to the telephone company when I was at work, pushed to tears of frustration trying to cut through the red tape.
The telephone poles lining our road may be unsightly, but I'll tell you they were beautiful to my eyes when they first went up. I swore I'd never take my land line for granted, ever again.
So even though my iPhone works just fine inside the house now, I'm just a little hesitant to let go of that landline.
Thank you, Pam and Shabby Apple!
That's Tom's Aunt Marg in front of Gilley's Nightclub, circa 1987. Yes, the original Gilley's in "Pasa-get-down-dena"...where "Urban Cowboy" was filmed. (I wonder if John Travolta ever sat on that bench?)
Aunt Marg was visiting from Wisconsin, and of course we had to take her there. She even rode the mechanical bull!
Tom and I met at Kenny Stabler's Diamondback Saloon, but we fell in love at Gilley's the very next night. He met me there to see the band Alabama.
We danced. We talked. He seemed safe enough, so I gave him my phone number, and he kissed me goodbye in that horrible, pot-holed parking lot, next to my car. Our first real kiss.
Gilley's burned down a few years later, but word has it from Mickey Gilley's own mouth that he's going to rebuild a Gilley's nightclub in Pasadena.
I loved Gilley's, horrible parking lot and all. It had a great dancefloor, and the club itself was large enough to lose someone you didn't want to dance with. After the movie, it became too commercialized, but it was still a fun place to go dancing.
So, true redneck Texan that I am, it warms my heart that it will rise again. As I told a friend, "If they build it, I will come."
Our diocese is celebrating "A Fortnight of Freedom" to draw attention to the whittling away of religious freedom in our country, to the changes our federal government is mandating that force religious institutions, including the Catholic church who historically has been a pioneer in charitable health and education services, to go against their beliefs when providing those services.
Religious liberty is being threatened, and it scares me. No matter what your beliefs about abortion or gay rights, it should scare you, too, that our government is slipping sideways into these areas and issuing mandates where they should keep their distance. Separation of church and state, remember? It works both ways.
And if we accept this without speaking up, if we consider it fair and reasonable, what's next? You know it won't stop there.
On a happier, more hopeful note, we went to a wedding today.
I guess it should make me feel old that kids I've watched grow up are suddenly old enough to get married...but it doesn't. Weddings overflow in love, joy, and hope, and how can those ever do anything but make you feel young and hopeful yourself?
Congratulations, George and Danielle! May you always remember the love, joy, and hope you felt today! Thank you for sharing it with us.
I hope you're having a wonderful weekend! I'm off to ponder the full moon...
Friday my mother thought Daddy was having a stroke. She's seen enough of them to recognize the symptoms in him.
He wouldn't let her call an ambulance, so she called my sister, who in turn called me en route to their house.
The kids and I already had plans to leave early yesterday morning to celebrate Father's Day with Daddy. I hoped we wouldn't be visiting him in the hospital, instead.
With my sister's next call, the relief in her voice soothed my worries. Daddy's blood pressure had already dropped and he seemed okay. She would stick around a little while, but didn't see a need to call an ambulance. Thank you, Lord!
So yesterday we were able to celebrate Daddy with lunch at Applebee's, just as he requested, and then hang out with him and Mama in my childhood home, talking around the kitchen table, dozing in front of the television...
...and giving thanks every single second.
We'll head home early today so the kids can spend time with their dad, too.
I'm wishing Tom's Pop a happy Father's Day in my heart. I can still hear his voice echoing in my mind. I hope it never fades away.
My heart goes out to his sons who are missing him so much today, this first Father's Day without him, wishing they could give him a call and tell him "I love you".
So I'll give mine an extra hug and "I love you" for them, and for all of you who are missing your fathers today.
In honor of Father's Day, I gave Daddy a print-out of "Why I'm My Father's Daughter". I'm re-posting it here. I'm so honored that it was chosen for "Best Lessons from Dad" - a slideshow on Huffpost 50 of posts about fathers. Hop over there and see what other daughters had to say about their fathers.
If Daddy answers the phone when I call my parents, our conversation is a quick one.
"I can't talk," he'll complain.
"You sound fine to me," I'll tell him.
"What? I can't hear you. Here's your mother."
And that's that.
Strokes have taken their toll on his vocal chords. The effort to speak is too much for him and his voice gives out after just a few words. Perhaps his hearing loss can be blamed on strokes, too. (Although hearing aids could help with that. Sigh.)
But he was never one to talk much, anyway, and especially not on the phone. If I wanted or needed to talk, I went to my mother. I could talk to her about anything, and I'm very grateful for that.
Daddy and I communicated in other ways, though. We teased each other and toured old houses. We fought over who was going to mow the yard.
He chauffeured me and my friends to the movies and high school basketball games before I got my license. He taught me how to drive, and tried to teach me how to play golf and be a better bowler...without much luck.
Instead, I tagged along with him on the golf course, satisfied to watch him and admire the beauty of the courses. We took road trips to visit his mother, traveling along the back highways with the windows down, stopping often to visit historical sites or other interesting places that caught my eye or his.
But words still formed our greatest connection. I was seven, maybe eight, when I uttered that inevitable childhood chant: "I'm bored."
"Bored? Here, read this," he said, handing me an old, mildewed copy ofBlack Beauty, "You'll never be bored again."
Well, I'm not sure if those were his exact words, but they should have been. I was hooked, and as long as I've had something handy to read (and I try to make sure I do), I've never been bored again.
Besides Anna Sewell's Black Beauty - and hence, every horse book I could get my hands on - Daddy got me hooked on historical fiction via James Michener and Leon Uris. It's still my first love.
He also introduced me to Leon Hale and his Texas-flavored, rambling, memoirish columns in the Houston Post (and then the Chronicle)...the inspiration for my own personal essays and blog posts, I'm sure. I still read his columns online.
Because of Daddy, I surround myself with books, and I'm partial to old ones.
I read our ancient copies of Black Beauty, Call of the Wild, Daddy-Long-Legs, and A Girl of the Limberlost over and over and over, and to this day the smell of a musty book takes me miles away in my mind to those stories.
When I enter an antique store, I head straight for the book section. Not to buy, necessarily, but just to breathe, feel, and say Hello, you're not forgotten.
Our house overflowed in paperbacks, too, though. Daddy always had one in his metal lunchbox, usually a Louis L'Amour, and when I followed in his steel-toed-shoe footsteps years later, I always carried a paperback with me to work.
Today neither of us consumes books like we used to. Daddy reads the morning newspaper, but then turns his attention to the television when he's not doing laundry or other household chores.
I'm always somewhere in a just-for-fun book, but it takes me forever to finish them, only cracking them open to read while I eat lunch. When I'm at home. And don't have something else I have to read.
But all of those books and words and voices still bind us, and despite the miles between us, and the words we cannot say, I feel him with me every time I open a book.
Thank you, Daddy.
Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.
~Ruth E. Renkel
Tom and I don't have a lot of money, yet we are blessed with riches, thanks to our fathers.
Happy Father's Day to all of you who fills the role of father to someone!
I said goodnight to Tuesday out on the porch. As I rubbed Belle's belly, the sun slipped below the horizon, leaving a smudge of orange above the trees.
I'm almost ashamed to tell you I wasn't sad to see it go. Despite my vow to not wish time away, to be grateful for every minute, blah, blah, blah...I've struggled to hang on to my smile today. First thing this morning I got an email letting me know the job I'd been crossing my fingers AND toes for since March wasn't available after all.
It was a writing job. One where I could finally put all of my experience at the chemical plant to good use, doing what I love, and get paid to visit my parents in Houston for a week or more each month, instead of having to take off work to go. Paid well enough to get us out of debt, I should add.
A friend tried to help me out, but she just couldn't get that door open. This is where a degree in English or Journalism would have come in real handy. Years and years and years of creative writing and newspaper reporting just didn't cut it.
I guess the big lesson is, if I had stuck with Chemical Engineering, if I hadn't dropped out, I wouldn't be writing this right now.
Of course, if I hadn't been a total stay-at-home mom, devoted to volunteering and only working part-time jobs for the past twenty years, I wouldn't be writing this, either.
Although, honestly, I don't really regret those decisions or feel they were wrong.
My email inbox tried to cheer me up. These were the two quotes-of-the-day I received:
Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to his love, and the future to his providence.
~ St. Augustine
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Another coincidence was a book Tom brought back to me from his mom: Basket of Blessings, 31 Days to a More Grateful Heart, by Karen O'Connor. I glanced through it this morning. It reminded me of my collection of sweet!s, although she digs a little deeper about what we can be grateful for.
This one made me really stop and think:
We can be grateful for pain: the death of a loved one, divorce, or illness...each a gift in its own way if we take time to see it.
I was still pondering that when I received the email, which for me heralded the death of a dream, of a glimmer of hope and help for my family, and smashed my self-confidence.
So I've spent the day praying for a grateful heart, thinking of those poor people in Oklahoma who have been hit so hard just recently and reminding myself of all the blessings in my life.
For starters, I was able to walk my puppies just as the sun rose on a clear summer sky, to run with healthy legs and heart and lungs on my treadmill, to shower with hot water, to drive in my car to a job in a beautiful location where I work with nice people and get to meet others.
But it's not a career. It's part-time. It's fun in a way, but I've learned all there is to learn. It's not going to evolve into something else. And it's definitely not enough money.
So I'll keep searching, keep trying to adapt my eclectic work and volunteer experience into the requirements and explain why I don't need a college degree to do the job, of wondering if I'm perceived as too old to learn anything or start a career.
But not tonight. To paraphrase Sister Golden Hair..."...I tried to make it Tuesday, but I got so damn depressed, that I set my sights on Wednesday and I got myself undressed."
Goodnight, Tuesday. No hard feelings?
"Life's about changing, nothing ever stays the same." ~
Patty Loveless, "How Can I Help You To Say Goodbye"
That Memorial Day weekend in 1998 was one of the best we'd ever had. We had laughed with friends and danced to Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88's. Spent a glorious day swimming in a private stretch of the pristine San Marcos River with our kids and friends.
We were young and happy and blessed, living in Paradise in the Texas Hill Country, preparing to build our dream home. We thought the tough times were behind us.
But fifteen years ago tomorrow morning, the phone woke me. A nurse on the other end let me know Tom was lucky to be alive. He was in Brackenridge Hospital, preparing for surgery. She urged me to get there as fast as possible.
It had only taken a split second for us to be pushed along paths we didn't want to travel. Our lives changed. We ourselves changed.
But then, that's what journeys do to you, and what is Life but one long journey? How dull a trip would be if the scenery always stayed the same. Unfortunately, on every trip, there's good scenery and there's bad scenery.
The potential for change is constant. Some of it we have control over. Big decisions like dropping out of college. Getting married. Having children. Moving to a new town.
But even little ones can trigger huge changes. Having one more drink. Angry words you can't take back. An opportunity you let slip by without grabbing it. Saying "yes" when you should say "no", or the other way around.
Perhaps it's unfair that we can't control what other people do, even though their decisions can send us reeling. We didn't know the kid who hit Tom head-on that morning, but even if we did, we couldn't have stopped him from making one bad decision after another.
All we can really do is pray for guidance in our own decisions and be sure they are rooted in love, with a desire that God's will be done.
We can't waste our time worrying about the changes ahead of us. All we can do when the road turns unexpectedly is what we did back then...count our blessings and carry on, noticing the beauty on the new path before us. Because it's there.
When you find it, don't take it for granted, thinking it will be there forever. Relish it, cherish it, soak it up, because, after all, life's about changes. It can be no other way.
Happy 15th anniversary of your second chance, Tom!
Through the ups and down that have been, and the inevitable ones to come,
remember my love is constant.
Linking with A Rural Journal's Random 5 Friday
This card, full of words of love and encouragement and inspiration, waited for me in the mailbox earlier this week, a precious gift from my friend Rae.
How could I not share them with you, because the words are true for all of us, aren't they? Take a minute to read them and believe them. You are very special.
Thank you again, sweet Rae!
In a previous life, Jeannie was my kids' high school Spanish teacher. A few years ago she retired to follow her dream of becoming a missionary in Honduras through SAMSUSA.org.
I subscribe to her newsletters and in today's I found this note that made me really stop and think. I thought it was worth sharing with you, too...
Dear Mission Partners,
I’ve been thinking a lot about what we pray for. I hear so many people resolve their problems and say, Oh, if God would just.....let me pass the exam, give me the dream job I want.... everything would be good and I could handle it from there. We want Him to hand our desires to us and back off. We want the control back. We think we know what’s best for us. When he doesn’t answer our prayer we feel abandoned. God doesn’t care.
We often never consider that He has other plans for us, probably much better plans that we have concocted to solve our problems and make us happy. Usually he makes us wait for His plans and the waiting is very hard when we see our solution just within our grasp. The solution is so obvious! Why won’t He just give it to us?
His plans are so much more comprehensive than our solutions. We don’t see His huge map. Like Sara with Abraham, we tire of waiting and substitute our plans for His. But the true solution is His. What we have done in the meantime may only complicate things.
I’m pretty clear on what I want. I work toward it and pray I am in line with what He wants. But I am praying that His Will, not mine, be done. I am praying to be obedient. Because I know He’s in control. And I have found his plans to be much better than mine. For His Sake,
Jeannie does amazing work there with the poverty-stricken, transporting children to doctor's visits, among tons of other things. If you're interested in donating to support her mission, send me an email and I'll send you hers.
"If you're lost and alone...or you're sinking like a stone...carry on.
May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground. Carry on."
It rained all day today, and I didn't mind a bit because I had no where to go. That's one of the good things about not having a real job beyond writing and a fledgling photography company. (The bad thing about it is the lack of a paycheck, of course.)
Anyway, rain makes me pensive, so I flipped through a few of the journals where I noted details of our lives for about twenty-five years.
There were some tough times, I'll tell you, but one thing I noticed was how I always ended with a positive note...using words like 'faith' and 'prayer' and 'blessings'. I remember some of those times vividly, the ache and the worry and the fogginess of the road ahead of us.
I love seeing it from this perspective, how the paths opened up and the sun came out again. I was reminded again that God has a plan, that he's got our backs, which is a helpful reminder right now when the road ahead has gone all foggy again.
Tom says I live in La-La Land, where there's always a silver lining and everything is hunky-dory. He says it like it's a bad thing.
But if we've prayed for God's guidance and truly trust him, how can we not think everything is hunky-dory, even if we can't see it from where we're standing at the moment?
The proof of that hit home when I read through my notes written during my oldest son's heartwrenching high school years...and compare them to the joy and love I see on his face in the short video below of The. Most. Beautiful. Wedding. Ever. Amen. by amazing videographer Adam Grumbo. (I can't wait for the full video!)
My prayers of so long ago have been answered. My mother-tears were not in vain.
(It takes a minute to buffer, so take my advice - go grab a tissue while it loads...)
When the rain started around 3 am, pounding on the house like we were under a giant faucet, Tom remembered he left his car windows down. A mad dash in the rain up the hill in the middle of the night isn't the greatest way to start your birthday.
I think the worst of it came through our area just as he left for work. I prayed for his angels to stick close to him while he maneuvered the wet highways in his little Suzuki Samurai, trying not to think of another wet May morning in 1998 that changed our lives.
He'll be working late tonight (still catching up from those days off for the wedding) and so we have no special plans. Last night he met the boys for beer and pizza after work, though. His kind of celebration, for sure.
Before writing this, I glanced over some other posts I wrote in honor of his birthday. I had to shake my head when reading this in Grateful for #53:
So I wasn't surprised when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he said: "Don't get me anything. Just pay off the credit cards."
I'm trying. I've made progress. Substantial progress. But it's a constant tug between needs, wants and finances, a battle we're intimately familiar with - we've been a mostly one-income family since soon after we married, when he quit work to go to college. We just switched places after our youngest was born.
Now that we're Empty Nesters, I've doubled my "paid" hours. The catch is, without a college degree, my pay ... and my choices ... are limited. I try to make up for both - the pay and the fulfillment - with my writing. Blogging brings in a little bit of money; my play and my book, not so much ... yet. I joke that they're our retirement plan - once they're finished, I'll make a million dollars and we can both retire. But the only way that can happen is if I write, and the trick there is finding time to write. Between the 'paid' job and life, there's not much time left without dipping into my sleep, and when I skimp on sleep ... well, I'm back where I started, full circle: Tom worries. About me.
But I haven't given up. If being broke and juggling finances for years has taught me anything, it's to be creative and frugal. Being frugal just gets so tiring. But Tom's worth it.
I feel bad that I won't be able to give him what he asked for this year, but I'll do my best for #54. I have a feeling he'll be asking for the same thing, anyway."
I shook my head because he still hasn't gotten this wish. But I haven't given up doing my part to see it come true by finding a job that will do more than slow the sinking. I know it's out there!
(Are you hiring? Contact me! I can do anything - seriously!)
Anyway, I'm wishing my dear husband sunshine on his birthday, even if it's only in his heart and not in the sky. A lightness and sense of hope that comes from faith. And I'm giving him all of my love, as always, and thanking God for letting me share my life with him for so long.
Happy 56th birthday, Tom!
The sun still yawned under a light gray blanket this morning when the puppies and I headed out for our walk.
Josie, my grandpuppy, took the lead as usual; she's still excited about her visit to the country. Belle, my sweet companion, fell into step near me. She never strays too far from my side for long. Max lagged behind, probably worn out from trying to keep up with the youngsters all week.
Tomorrow evening my son, the newlywed, will be coming to take Josie home. I'll miss that little girl. We've had some great conversations and cuddle-time, but I look forward to seeing Tommy and hearing about their adventures in Italy.
This will be my Mother's Day visit from him, since I'll be in Houston visiting my mother on Sunday. I'll probably see the other two on Saturday. One might even travel with me to Houston, but it's still kind of iffy.
When the kids all lived at home, Mother's Day morning found me lying in bed, pretending to be asleep, listening to pans banging and Tom coaching them through fixing me a big bacon, eggs, and toast breakfast.
But once they started leaving the nest, it was rare to see them - especially all three at once - much less have a kid-cooked breakfast, because college finals usually fell around Mother's Day.
But I'm grateful I can spend that special day with my mom, trying to make up for way too many Mother's Days that I spent with my friends on a Galveston beach instead of with her. (Kids! Sigh.)
I also go see her because it would be wrong not to, when so many of you would give anything to be able to tell your moms Happy Mother's Day in person, just one more time.
Anyway, back to this morning's walk...
I spotted a butterfly clinging to a low juniper branch. It fluttered a bit but stayed put as I snapped one photo after another, drawing ever closer.
The fact that it didn't fly away worried and concerned me. For some reason, I got the impression it was stuck to the branch, trying to get loose. Wanting to help, I put my finger out to help free it. It climbed onto my finger, but then fluttered to the ground, wings out, lying still.
Oh great, I thought. Now what I have I done?
I shooed the dogs away from it and started to continue on my walk, but worry and guilt got the best of me. I returned to the butterfly, found a small twig, and put it near its little feet. It clung to the twig, so I lifted it back up to where I first found it. It returned to the juniper branch, so I dropped the twig, and, again, started walking away.
But...what if it really wanted to be on the ground? Maybe I helped it the first time and just messed things up the second time. What if...what if...what if...?
I said a prayer for the little thing, and kept walking, trusting God to fix whatever I might have screwed up.
Then I thought about my kids (because that's the way my brain works and it is almost Mother's Day, after all) and about all the times I tried to help them. So often I just seemed to mess things up instead of making them better.
What if...what if...what if...?
And that's when I told myself to just shut the heck up, because what's done is done. I can honestly say my kids are awesome people, and whether it was despite me or because of me, it doesn't matter.
I know I did the best I could along the way for those beautiful creatures God put in my life's path, just as I did the butterfly, always with lots of prayer. So I'll just keep trusting God to fix whatever I might have screwed up with my kids, too.
What more can we do, as mothers and fathers, and hikers in the woods?
So.... at the grocery store a little later, I indulged and bought some chocolate-covered strawberries.
Happy Mother's Day to me!
And Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers out there!
May you indulge yourself with forgiveness for any past (or future) parenting mistakes. You know in your hearts, as I do in mine, that you did the best you could, and most likely, you did a whole lot more right than wrong. Amen.
Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn't know you had, and dealing with fears you didn't know existed. ~Linda Wooten
Through the window, I see my brother-in-law's SUV pull up in front of the house. Several younger men gather to help maneuver my mother down from her seat and into the waiting wheelchair.
For a moment exhaustion pinches her face from the three-hour road trip and constant struggle to breathe, but then I see that familiar smile bloom wide, right to the edge of joyful laughter, so contagious that everyone around her smiles, too.
She said she wouldn't miss her grandson's wedding, and by golly, she made it.
I sigh in relief. Maybe she didn't have doubts about her attendance, but I sure did. Eight months ago, for reasons that still haven't been clearly diagnosed, her muscle strength and balance disappeared. Walking was already a challenge because of her asthma, but now she couldn't even stand without support.
At first she fought it, believing she just needed to push herself to build up her strength. She accepted the wheelchair as a temporary accessory, but if you turned your back for a second, she would jump up and try to walk. Upon waking in the morning, she would automatically head down the long hallway, alone and unassisted, to the bathroom.
Consequently, she fell. A lot. I witnessed a few of the falls myself, including one in the middle of the night when she took my dad down on top of her in the bathroom (he tried to stop her fall) and we subsequently spent the night in the emergency room.
I'm not sure how many other falls there were. She and Daddy tried to keep them secret.
"Mama, stop trying to walk without help. You don't want to miss the wedding, do you?"
She didn't. But it still took a few reminders before she started behaving and playing it safe, using the wheelchair to go down the hall and letting Daddy hover nearby when she needed to stand.
It's been a tough transition for all of us. Mama has always been the caregiver, so strong she makes the Steel Magnolias look like a bunch of wilting lilies. She's the Serenity Prayer and "where there's a will, there's a way" all rolled up in one, put into action. When something needed to be done, she just did it, without any whining or woe-is-me-ing.
She spent sleepless nights nursing us through the usual and not-so-usual childhood illnesses and injuries...encephalitis, whooping cough, dislocated hips. Later, in her forties, Mama maneuvered my quadriplegic brother's six-foot-frame in and out of his wheelchair, despite her petite size. And just a few years ago, in her late 70's, she took care of my older sister following her hip surgery.
Mama was with me to welcome my firstborn into the world, watched him while I worked and his dad went to school, and attended every special event of his life. There was no way in hell she'd miss his wedding, even if it meant relying on others for a change and accepting life in a wheelchair...at least for a little while.
God, grant me the serenity...
In honor of Mother's Day, Generation Fabulous asked us to talk about that other fabulous generation - our mothers. Whether we like it or not, and whether we knew them or not, our mothers helped shape us into the women we are today. I realize I'm blessed with an amazing mother and the chance to know her through the eyes of an adult, and I'm happy I got to share a little bit about her with you. To read more mom stories, go HERE.
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I lingered on the back porch this morning with my coffee after the dogs finished their breakfast, listening to birds chirp their confusion over the unseasonal cool temperatures and the wind play rough with the trees.
The sun was shining, and I could see the surface of our little pond sparkling through the new spring leaves of surrounding trees. I sat in the middle of a dream-come-true started thirty years ago, and wondered how I was going to say goodbye.
We're going to have to sell out and go somewhere else. Barring some miracle, along the lines of me writing a million-dollar bestseller or one of us winning the lottery, it's the only way we're going to climb out of the debt-sinkhole we've slipped into.
Tom figures it will take him two years to get the place in shape to sell. We started on it almost twenty years ago, moved in almost ten years ago, but it's not finished yet. Once we moved in, we weren't in a rush...until now. But Tom wants to see it the way he envisioned it in the beginning, so he's not rushing through doing a halfass job.
In my heart I know God led us here, so if it's his will we stay, we will, even if we don't see how right now. Maybe we've done what we were supposed to do here and he has some other job for us elsewhere. If so, I'll just give thanks for the time we've had in this little piece of heaven. We've been blessed and nothing can take that away.
Meanwhile, I'm going to linger and cherish and soak as much of Long Hollow as possible into my soul. I don't think I've ever taken it for granted, but I especially won't now. I'll push thoughts of goodbye off to the edge, only close enough to remind me to appreciate this day, and the next, and the next, and then I'll cherish the memories.
...While I pray for a miracle.
It was a gray morning, the sun not yet able to break through the clouds above the Hollow or the dark thoughts clouding my brain. Worries and what-ifs mingled with sorrow for the people of Boston and scenes of the explosion in West were fresh in my mind.
My feet tread a familiar path through the woods, but I hardly paid attention. My camera dangled, forgotten, around my neck because I was too distracted by darkness to look for light.
Then, as I stepped into an area surrounded by tall trees, I heard it, the wind moving through their branches, singing a lullaby. A song straight from God to my heart.
That night, after a day of to-do's and running later than I'd hoped, I'd already forgotten that feeling of peace when I arrived at my meeting. Soft music and candlelight greeted me, thanks to the committee member in charge of our opening reflection.
"Be still and know that I am God," she read to us (Psalm 46:10) and once again I heard the trees' lullaby and God's voice: "Be still. Don't worry. I've got it."
For the next fifteen minutes or so, she guided us through a centering prayer, where we focused on interior silence, using a single sacred word to pull me back when those distracting thoughts try to pop back in and get me all rattled.
"Be still." The words have continued to echo in my heart, so simple, so full of love and comfort and security.
It's on the darkest night that you see the most stars, isn't it? When the moon and sun are both resting, the darkness provides a black backdrop to stars you would never even notice with a full moon on the stage, or when the sun rules the sky.
I think that's the way it is with sweet!s. When times get tough, that's when the sweet moments of our lives shine against the darkness. Once again we pay attention and give thanks for the simple things we all too often take for granted.
This past week, the shadows cast by terrorism and tragedy made me look closer for those bright spots I knew were there.
Monday: a day off to play catch-up; a morning walk with happy dogs; turtles; cardinals at the birdfeeder; prairie verbena spreading everywhere; witnessing (via television) ordinary people becoming heroes
Tuesday: time for a long morning walk; a just-right day at work...not too busy, not too slow; spotting a Painted Bunting on your bird feeder
Wednesday: the sound of trees singing to each other; puppy kisses when you're feeling blue; praying with others for a small community hit with tragedy
Thursday: spending time with your baby girl, even if it's at the DMV and doctor's office; Five Guys cheeseburgers; arriving right on time everywhere on a tightly-packed day
Friday: trainees who catch on fast on a busy day at work; UPS and FedEX deliveries; your photos turned into beautiful greeting cards and prints; spotting a hawk out your kitchen window
Saturday: time for a long walk with your puppies and son before work; weddings, even on the sidelines; a belated birthday phone message from a friend; philosophical discussions with your son late at night
Sunday: sleeping in, late Mass with your son, and breakfast with friends; a walk with your son and puppies; the sun's kiss on your legs and arms; making a clean dent on a dirty house; your son making a delivery for you, saving you a trip into town
Monday: a forecast for absolutely perfect weather on your son's wedding day
A crazy, busy week awaits me, with one of the happiest days of my life ahead - the wedding of my oldest son. Talk about a bright light! But I'm determined to keep my eyes open and appreciate the simple blessings each day provides. I hope you do, too. Please share yours with me!
For more information about my photography, go to Barbara Shallue Photography