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
He doesn't take himself too seriously.
For instance, this is his latest post on Facebook...
"I jogged through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel... To Bangers for a beer."
It makes me so happy to know he's secure enough, and fun-loving enough, to dress as an elf and run through the streets of Austin on an Elf Pub Run. Also, that he can quote Will Ferrell in "Elf".
Of course I'm also proud that he's an awesome insurance agent who was smart enough to fall in love with that gorgeous redhead beside him.
He volunteers to host Thanksgiving for 20 people.
Including roasting the turkey. Yum.
He doesn't let things shake him up.
After an 8 hour drive, which included hitting a huge deer on a dark highway 30 minutes outside of Lubbock, and then only 4 hours of sleep, he ran 14 miles in freezing weather with his wife because it was important to her to keep up with her marathon training.
Plus , it was her birthday weekend.
"Ninja training: 8 hour road trip, 4 hours sleep, 14 mile run. Now endurance tailgating with Tx Tech girls."
Can I brag some more? He's an Eagle Scout, he visits his grandmother regularly, runs marathons despite having struggled with asthma all through his childhood, has the before-mentioned successful insurance business...
All in all, he lives life to the fullest.
But it's still hard to believe it's been 29 years since this...
Who knew then that he would be my hero?
Yes, I'm a proud, extremely grateful mom.
Happy 29th birthday to my Sunshine Boy.
You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes. ~Walter M. Schirra, Sr.
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
After a long day of driving and showing houses to clients all over Austin, then a never-long-enough visit with my mom, I arrived back home yesterday evening just as the sun started its goodbyes. The light was golden, the sky a crisp and an ever-deepening blue.
I set aside the list of things I still needed to do and headed down my caliche road with Belle, feeling lighter with every step.
"Solvitur ambulando, St. Jerome was fond of saying. To solve a problem, walk around."
"The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand."
~Frederick L. Knowles
Along the way, our new neighbors overtook us on their 4-wheel drive ATV, their golden retriever running alongside them. Belle and I heard them coming, stepped off the road, and waited.
When the golden spotted us, he veered over to investigate. I'm ashamed to tell you that Belle wasn't very friendly to him. However, she responded to my commands and stayed beside me.
The golden couldn't help himself. He kept coming around to investigate. They finally all turned and headed back to their house, and we continued on our walk, once again enjoying the last rays of the sun and the peace of the Hollow, despite the interruption.
Then, as usual, Belle and I headed out again this morning for a walk before church.
Near the curve of the road, we encountered neighbors who live up the hill. They like to walk their three dogs on our road.
This time Belle minded her manners and stayed friendly. Unfortunately, two of theirs weren't so friendly. One - the largest one - even lunged at Belle. No actual contact was made, thank goodness.
The owner scolded it, grabbed it by its collar, and they headed on down the road in one direction while we continued on our walk in the other.
Sigh. Our road is getting much too crowded. And perhaps I'm becoming a snob. Or a hermit.
Belle is a fast walker. To keep up with her - and to get in a little work-out, not to mention save time, on busy mornings - I've started jogging.
I stopped jogging on our road a few years ago because it's made of caliche... essentially gravel and loose rocks on top of uneven solid rock. It's tough on the feet and there's a high risk of tripping or twisting your ankle.
But (did I mention this already?) Belle walks really, really fast. She needs the exercise, and I need the exercise, and this past week has been so crazy busy that there was no other time to work-out otherwise.
I never saw that rock. The one that reached up and grabbed my toe, sending me flying and slipping an anticipatory curse word into my Rosary.
I mostly landed on my forearms, sliding a few centimeters along the gravel. I'm now sporting huge bandaids on my elbows and one knee, and bruises are still popping up on my arms and left leg.
But...nothing was broken, except skin. Not even my phone.
That's pretty amazing and sweet! when you get to be my age!
Here are a few other sweet!s from the past week...
Tuesday: a new client and a referral from a colleague; dinner and reminiscing with your sister, her friend, and your cousin; a sweet card in the mail from your work family
Wednesday: taking classes so you can stay informed about your business; your puppy barking in her sleep behind you as you work; new clients
Thursday: not breaking anything except skin when you trip and fall while running on your caliche road with your puppy; closings and happy clients; finally meeting a client in person for the first time after helping her relocate from Illinois to Texas; networking with friends/colleagues and meeting new ones; bumping into a high school friend of your son's; trying new restaurants with your daughter
Friday: watching the sunrise color a gray world; corn chowder a la the Avenue B Grocery, eaten outside on a gorgeous autumn day; a text containing a photo of your sweet great-niece dressed up for Halloween
Saturday: helping the daughter of a high school friend find a home in Austin; exploring homes all around the University of Texas with college girls; finding out your phone isn't completely dead; a walk on a country road at dusk with your puppy after a long day
Sunday: discovering your husband and son made it home safe in the middle of the night from their Arkansas canoeing adventure; a glimpse of their adventure through their photographs; your son relocating a turtle to a pond with water in it; commemorating All Soul's Day with a candlelight ceremony outside of your church
"Is death the last sleep? No, it is the last and final awakening. "
~ Sir Walter Scott
As always, please share your sweet moments from the past week in the comments!
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.
On Monday my middle son turned 26. He celebrated by taking the day off from work, sleeping in, and then relaxing on the back porch with Belle, reading and drinking his coffee.
He's definitely a child after my own heart.
The day started out a rainy one. But by the time Belle and I went for a walk, the sun was fighting for the day and we were blessed with a rainbow.
Of course, Daniel missed all of that.
He had originally planned to meet his brother for dinner... until both of them realized they would have to fight traffic to do so, with one coming from the north side and the other from the south.
That's no way to celebrate your birthday.
So, since the rain pushed past and it turned into a gorgeous day, he, TG, and I headed away from traffic into the hill country to Marble Falls, where we celebrated with an early dinner at Doublehorn Brewing Company, which I happened to catch on an episode of Daytripper.
Daniel appreciates beer. I love trying new places. TG likes to eat. It was a win-win, all around.
Later, I made the traditional birthday Cyclops Cookies. Yum.
(Tom's in Florida visiting his mom and a few brothers. He missed out.)
I admit that when these two kids moved back home after being mostly gone for a few years, it required quite an adjustment. We had gotten used to, and actually really, really enjoyed, our empty nest. Less laundry, less cooking, more quiet, more, um, freedom.
On top of that, when kids leave, they accumulate stuff. When they move back home, their stuff no longer fits in their old bedrooms. It kind of overflows into the rest of the house.
But the move home is temporary, so you don't want them to get rid of the stuff. Consequently, my house feels a bit like a warehouse.
The past two years have been a real challenge for me, though, and having these two kids home has been such a blessing, for me, besides a way for them to save money. Not only do they help out around the house, but they've provided emotional support as I've dealt with my dad's illness and death, my mom's issues, starting a new business, and most recently, dealing with an aging puppy.
When twenty-something kids come home, it's not the same as when they were teenagers. It's more like having roommates. They pay rent and they're expected to pull their weight.
Mine have specific jobs around the house. Plus, without being asked, they help with my mom's laundry, visit her, and help with the dogs. If I have any special requests, they are on it.
Most important of all these days, they make me laugh.
Your kids are always your kids, of course. You worry about them. You want to give them advice. But if you're lucky, like I've been, they're also now your friends.
When the stuff - or the noise - irritates me, I remember that before I know it, they'll be gone again, only coming home for a day or a few hours every now and then.
So I will ignore the extra boxes, tune out the noise, and cherish these days with them now, before they're just memories.
P.S. Thanks to all of you for your condolensces and prayers for my old puppy Max. I appreciate all of you who say you'll miss him, too.
I worked in a chemical plant for thirteen years, where all kinds of explosive and flammable materials swam through the pipes surrounding us. Propylene, hydrogen, syngas, and methanol, to name a few.
For the first decade it was a DuPont plant, where safety and proper procedures were taken very seriously and drilled into us daily. We still had a few explosions and fires, and unfortunately, two fatalities, although they weren't DuPont people and they didn't die in an explosion, but during a shutdown. They didn't follow the rules about using plant air for breathing air. (It's backed up by nitrogen.)
I quit that job on my first day back following the birth of my third baby. I had planned to wait a few more months, but I had a nagging fear about being killed in an explosion and leaving my children motherless.
An extreme thought, perhaps, but it wasn't that farfetched.
Fast forward twenty-three years...
I'm happy to report there haven't been any more fatalities at my old plant and I'm now a Realtor.
...and this past week a Realtor in Arkansas, Beverly Carter, disappeared while showing property to someone.
It hit me that my job as a real estate agent is quite possibly much more dangerous than my job as a chemical plant technician, despite the nicer clothes and smiles.
It just doesn't seem possible, does it? But think about it. All the hours I spend on the road probably put me in more danger than walking in that pipe alley years ago.
And then consider the open houses, where you're in a house with strangers milling about (if you survive putting up the signs on busy corners)... listing appointments with complete strangers you often meet for the first time in their homes... showing property to strangers, either meeting them at vacant homes or driving them around in your car.
Granted, Beverly was probably one of about a million agents around the world doing the exact same thing she was at that very moment, and most likely they finished up and joined their families for dinner.
From what I hear, she was an experienced agent and had taken some safety precautions before showing this home. Not enough, it seems, although I'm not blaming her at all.
There's been a lot of discussion and sharing of safety tips and ideas in Facebook real estate groups this past week. I already practiced quite a few of them, thanks to my Keller Williams Realty training, but I've gotten a lot of ideas.
One agent snaps photos of the ID's of every visitor to her open houses and texts them to her office. Another has video cameras placed throughout the open house.
When showing property, I already insisted on having a signed Buyer/Tenant Agreement. I figure if someone refuses to sign, they aren't serious about buying... and are thus a waste of my time.
Recently I also made it standard procedure to copy my client's driver's license and email my itinerary to Tom and the kids.
But through the discussion, I found many more tips, not the least of which involve basicly arming myself with different products and weapons.
It's not fun to think about, when your main objective is to help people, either to find a home or sell a home, so they can move on to the next adventure in their lives.
But no matter how much I enjoy meeting new people and helping them, I can't forget my first duty is to my family. I owe it to them to play it safe. As my cousin said, there are too many crazies out there.
I need to remember my DuPont days and be sure I follow the safety rules and procedures. I need to be aware of my surroundings at all times and never assume anything. Sometimes the greatest danger lies in complacency.
Please keep Beverly Carter in your prayers, that despite the odds, she is found safe and well, very soon.
And also, please don't give your agent a hard time if they ask you to sign a contract or send them a copy of your photo ID. Cut them some slack. It's not personal; they're just trying to be safe in a dangerous world. Thank you.
(I just heard on GMA that Beverly's body has been found. It's not the result that was hoped for, but I pray it brings some relief to her family.)
Tom asked me to dance for the very first time 33 years ago tonight.
I was at Kenny Stabler's Diamondback Saloon in Houston on a rare Friday night off, in a bad mood because my boyfriend of five years "had other plans" that night.
That wasn't unusual - he wasn't a very good boyfriend. But to top it off, none of my friends I expected to see were there that night, either.
I felt very alone.
I guess that's how it is with miracles, though. When you least expect it, when you feel like nothing is going right, one pops up out of the blue, or, in this case, a blue-eyed miracle steps up and asks you to dance.
This is what happened that night. At least, this is my version...
A Michael Jackson song was playing. I can't remember which one, but it was one I didn't care for and wouldn't normally dance to, even in a good mood.
I saw the guy coming toward me and had the "no" ready on my lips, but to my surprise, I said "yes" when he asked me to dance. I had no choice then, but to follow him onto the dance floor and wait for the song to end so I could go back to my spot at the railing and brood some more.
But when the song ended, a country-western tune started right up and he asked me to dance again. I hesitated - we had conversed enough for me to know he talked funny, which meant he was probably a Yankee and wouldn't know how to two-step.
And I hated teaching guys how to two-step.
However, he didn't wait for my answer. He just took me in his arms and started dancing. Two-stepping, no less!
While we danced, we talked. I learned his name, that he was from Maryland, and he was twenty-four even though he looked about eighteen.
By the time the song was over, I had agreed to sit at his table.
He was with an interesting mix of people... a friend's Welsh wife (the friend was a Pasadena cop who was working nights), her New York friends, and Chris, a redhead from Maryland who preferred punk rock to country-western music.
When it was time to leave, Tom walked me outside, asked what I was doing the next night (going to Gilley's to see Alabama perform) and could he meet me there?
Sure. (Why not? My boyfriend had already told me he didn't want to go.) Then, with a peck of a kiss, Tom walked away to join his friends, leaving me to wonder what the heck had just happened.
I told my boyfriend I was meeting someone at Gilley's. He didn't care - he wasn't worried. We had a pretty loose relationship by then, you can tell.
I was worried, though... that I wouldn't recognize Tom. I couldn't remember what he looked like!
That night I stood at the bar where I could see customers streaming in the door to pay. Wait... was that him?
"Tom," I called, testing. He glanced in the direction of my voice. I smiled and waved. He smiled and made his way to me. Whew!
Now, I don't know if I believe in "love at first sight," or if there's such a thing as "someone for everyone," soul mates destined to meet and live happily ever after. But I do know that something changed in me that night at Gilley's.
Tom and I talked, laughed, and danced. Later, he walked me to my car, and we really kissed. He asked for my phone number and I gave it to him.
I didn't know at the time if this was something that would last forever, but I knew I wanted to see him again and spend more time with him. I knew I would be telling my boyfriend good-bye, no matter what happened between me and Tom.
But I didn't dwell on it, just started taking things a day at a time. The next two weeks were a blur of emotions and fun and firsts...
After working the night shift that week, I would find cute cards resting on my doorstep that said he missed me. Was this guy for real?
I dragged him to meet my friends and family, to get their opinion. Maybe there was something I wasn't seeing. But they all liked him. I liked his friends. They liked me.
Where was the glitch? I couldn't find one.
It was an emotional happy high with an undercurrent of deep sadness. Admittedly, my now ex-boyfriend had been a pretty bad boyfriend most of the time, but I loved him. We just weren't good for each other. I hadn't thought I could fall for anyone else until I met Tom.
As jealous as he'd always been, I guess my ex thought I would never fall for anyone else, either, and it hit him hard. One morning soon after meeting Tom, sound asleep after working the night shift, a banging on my door woke me up.
It was my ex. He went straight into my kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife. Before I had time to be scared, he marched across the living room to a small Norfolk pine he had given me. Jerking it out of its planter, scattering dirt all over the carpet, he lifted the knife and began hacking away at the trunk, telling me the tree was a symbol of our love.
(To his credit, a few months later he called and apologized for how badly he had treated me and wished me well. I had already forgiven him. We were just kids, after all.)
Two short weeks after that first dance, Tom and I spent a perfect day at the Renaissance Festival outside of Houston with my parents, my brother, his girlfriend, and Tom's best friend. That evening, it happened:
"Will you marry me?"
Wait! What? Was I crazy?
"But don't tell anyone," I added. "Ask me again in a couple of months, and do it right, with a ring, even if it's a Cracker Jacks ring."
Two weeks was just too soon. I had to find out what was wrong with him. There had to be something - he was just too good to be true. Two months should be plenty of time.
But he called all of his brothers and friends, anyway and told them, "I'm getting married!"
They couldn't believe it. At his older brother's wedding just two months before we met, everyone had teased him he'd be next in line.
"No way! I'm too young. I'm not getting married until I'm thirty-five."
The two months later I had ordered landed on Thanksgiving Day. We celebrated at my parents' house, after I had worked all night and only squeezed in a couple of hours of sleep.
I was sitting on the couch in the living room when he dumped a dozen boxes of Cracker Jacks on my lap and told me to start looking for a ring.
"What? You're nuts. They don't put rings in Cracker Jacks boxes anymore."
"Okay, you open these two and I'll open these," he said, somehow still smiling at me, despite my crankiness.
Grumbling, I opened the first box and dug out the prize envelope. I felt it before I opened it... a ring!
My mouth dropped open. "Is it real?" But I knew it was. "How did you do that?"
I might have been a little foggy from lack of sleep, but I swear the box and envelope had both been sealed.
He took the ring from me, then offered it back. "Will you marry me?"
Of course I said yes - again. The rest is history.
Aren't we cute? I first posted this in 2008, but the story remains the same, and will always be one of my favorites.
"I knew the second I met you that there was something about you I needed. Turns out it wasn't something about you at all. It was just you."
~ Jamie McGuire
About this time last year, I was on a walk of faith. I began a new career.
It coincided with dramatic and tragic turns in my parents' lives. The changes that have taken place in all of our lives since July 2013 are mindboggling when I think about them too long.
Despite his illness and circumstances, Daddy wanted to hear all about my real estate school. I'm so grateful I made that leap so I could call and report on the passing of each and every class, and finally, the state exam.
I always hoped my daddy would see me graduate from college or publish a book before he died, because I wanted to make him proud.
Oh, I know my daddy was proud of me, just the way I was, because that's the kind of daddy he was. But I still wanted to do it for him. I felt I owed it to him for dropping out of college all those years ago.
When I told him I passed the state Realtor exam, I could hear the pride in his voice, but also confidence that I would do well. That confidence he projected on me - a belief in me - has carried me through this past year.
I've not only faced the challenge of starting my own business, but also the responsibilty of helping my mom get through her own challenges. It helps that she's closer to me; those exhausting, frequent long drives to and from Houston are behind me.
I didn't kick ass and take names in real estate this year, but I did meet a lot of fantastic people, made new friends, felt myself stretching and growing in ways I haven't for years... plus managed to help quite a few people find new homes, which was the ultimate goal anyway.
Well, that and make some money so that my hardworking, long-suffering husband can dare to dream about retiring...one day.
My writing and photography (and yes, blogging) have been forced back on to a shelf to gather dust for awhile, but I have managed to be there for my mom, and for the most part, my kids, friends, other family, and church.
I appreciate those of you who still come around for my infrequent posts, and forgive me when I don't make the rounds for a week or two to your blogs. I had been warned that real estate was a 24/7 job, but I didn't realize that meant the to-do's really never ended, even if you stop taking calls at 7pm.
I've gotten used to dreaming about real estate.
The perks? Quite often free food and drinks (we have to network!)... and every once in awhile, ping-pong. Great stress relief.
And I know Daddy is smiling - he taught me how to play.
It's a strange mix of heaven and hell. But I like it. Happy anniversary to me!
I can't wait to see what the next year brings...
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
~ W.H. Murray
Thirty-two years ago today, Tom and I dismissed superstition by getting married on a Friday the 13th. We were so sure of our decision, so confident of our love and our future together, that we challenged those centuries-old superstitions to a duel.
Well, of course they just turned tail and ran, because they could see for themselves what we already knew - Tom and I were meant to be together. Love trumps superstition any day.
But being meant for each other doesn't mean you can just join hands and skip into the future through a field of daisies. It's more like joining hands and jumping off a ledge together into the unknown. You have no idea what's ahead of you but you decide to take that leap together, trusting the other one to be there with you whatever happens.
It doesn't mean you're always going to like each other, much less see eye-to-eye on everything. All it means is you have someone to share your joys and your sorrows, someone that is going to love you at your worst, physically and mentally, someone that believes in you and wants the best for you, and who, with one look, can ignite a warm tingly feeling inside of you that sets your heart to beating fast and makes you smile for no apparent reason.
And you can see without being told that you have the same affect on them.
But how did we know this was IT? Now that our own kids are reaching the age we were when we got married, how do we explain it to them when they ask us how they'll know when they've found "the One"?
I've scrambled around for the words, but I realize I can't tell them how they'll know. That's something between them, God and their hearts. All I can do is pray that they'll know.
And I can repeat the Story of Us, how after just a week of seeing Tom I got a feeling inside that this relationship was more than just the two of us having fun.
For me, it was a scary feeling, not a warm bubbly one. What was going on? I knew Tom was going to ask me to marry him, and I knew I would say yes, and that scared the hell out of me.
But once I said yes, I shooed all those tiny doubts out of my mind. They served no purpose except to block the giving and receiving going on between us. And that's why I was so sure of us that I was able to turn Friday the 13th into a day to look forward to, rather than fear. From that point forward, it has been our lucky day.
You can have many loves in your life, but there are some loves that lift you up above yourself, that make you believe in yourself and want to be a better person. The best person possible. For a marriage to work, both of you have to feel that way. It could happen when you're a teenager, but it might not happen until you're in your fifties.
But whenever it happens, both of you have to treasure that feeling, not take it for granted. Don't just show the best part of yourself to the world, and the worst to this person because you know they love you anyway. They deserve the best of you, not the worst, because they love you.
I admit that hasn't always happened with me and Tom; I'm glad we're both stubborn enough to have held on to each other over the years despite ourselves.
So I think what I would tell my kids is this: Concentrate on living your life, on being the best possible "you" you can be, on searching for and following the path that has been laid before you.
But keep your eyes and heart open, because when you least expect it, you'll realize someone else's path has connected with your own, blending with it. If they make you better than you were before, or maybe just more "you" than you were before, chances are that's the One.
At least, that's how it happened to me. But then, I got lucky.
Happy 32nd Anniversary, Tom!
I'm so glad that when you crossed my path, I had my eyes and my heart open.
I love you!
(This is a slightly edited re-post from another anniversary a few years ago, if it sounds familiar, but it's all still true!)
They grow so fast, don't they? One minute they're crawling around on your stylish-at-the-time-rose-colored carpet, exploring and investigating... picking on their older brothers, trying to stir things up...cuddling in your arms because they're still shorter than you and easy to pick up...
...and then suddenly they're wanting to explore far beyond your carpeted floors. And while they may still be picking on their older brothers, and every once in awhile they'll snuggle their head on your shoulder, they're now several inches taller than you and impossible to pick up.
Yes, one minute you're holding them in your arms, counting tiny toes and fingers and praising God for the miracle that is a baby girl, and then somehow in the next you're wishing them a happy 23rd birthday (but still praising God for the miracle that is a baby girl, all grown up.)
Gosh, they grow so fast. And what a sweet! it is to witness the jouney.
A daughter may outgrow your lap, but she will never outgrow your heart.
Happy birthday to my baby girl, my hero these days, who does such an awesome job of taking up my slack around the house so I can focus on my real estate business. May she always believe in herself and her gifts, and see her own dreams come true.
Here are some other sweet!s from this past week. Despite my intentions of writing less more often, the week got totally crazy...but in a good way. Be sure to add your sweet!s in the comments!
Wednesday: precious five-year-old boys who talk to you at Starbucks and tell you about their birthday parties; roadrunners
Thursday: moonlight glazing your hollow; authentic Indian food on a beautiful evening with friends and laughter after a long day; your client's offer accepted after ping-pong-ish negotiations; two new listings
Friday: helping your son's friends find a new home; watching a movie with your son when you've hardly seen him all week
Saturday: meeting the neighbor to one of your new listings and his dog, Otis; the neighbor putting the "For Sale" sign up on the lot while you visit with Otis; watching "Fiddler on the Roof" with your daughter
Sunday: a slow-paced morning; watching your old dog swim and dragonflies play tag from the bank of your pond before church; inspirational boosts from Joel Osteen and the Garden of Eatin'; Reuben sandwiches; brave friends who will spray wasp nests for you; hanging out with dear friends all afternoon
Monday: joining others on committees to make things better; taking time to work out on a crazy, busy day; completing things that have been weighing on you; sisters, for a million reasons
Tuesday: discovering a Deepwater/Deer Park girl in Spicewood, Texas (Debbie, DPHS Class of '71!); rain falling through sunshine; visits with your mom; potential offers on your listings
Wednesday: reflecting on all of the ages of your beautiful daughter, and giving thanks that she's yours
As you twirl through the coming week, I hope you find tons of sweet! moments to treasure!
A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour.
Following up on my vow in yesterday's "Happy Birthday, Long Hollow" post, I'm going to try to share more "short and sweet"s here rather than dumping it all at once on you. We'll see how that goes...
I can't describe how it feels to help someone move closer to their dreams...especially someone you've known for almost twenty years...
... someone who helped you get a job when you needed to pay for kids' braces and drivers education...
...someone who is just one of the sweetest people you've ever met.
When I got the phone call this evening letting me know my friend Kim's offer on an adorable home was the one accepted out of a four-offer situation, I really couldn't believe it. In fact, my phone rang three times before I answered it, because I expected to hear "I'm so sorry, but..."
Instead, I heard, "Congratulations..."
Pinch me. I must be dreaming!
This was actually the second house we'd tried for. The first went into multiple offers right away, as well. Would you believe this latest house had only been on the market 1 day?
It's crazy around here, folks, I'm telling you.
Before getting into real estate, I asked all of my Realtor friends to share their input. One friend had loved it, but had eventually gotten a job with a steady paycheck and set hours. "You work 24/7", she told me.
But I was already working 24/7, and not making any money. It was worth a try, especially in a job where I could help people.
Some days are tough, I'll admit. But days like today make it all worthwhile.
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.
Tom and I were driving up to Maryland for the first time so I could meet his family and childhood friends before our wedding. It was my first time in Tennessee, the Carolinas and all of those other states between Texas and Maryland.
What a fabulous trip - seeing the sunrise just outside of Nashville, driving through the Smokies, the Blue Ridge, and the Shenandoah Mountains, seeing the lights of Washington D.C.
But I think it was soon after we crossed the Virginia state line that I started scavenging for food in the car - I was getting really nervous about meeting his family, and that's one thing I do when I'm nervous. Eat.
When I ran out of food, I pulled out my "practice" photo, the one of Tom and all of his eight brothers - yes, I said "eight" - taken at a recent wedding, and started testing myself on the names. Thank goodness I'd only be meeting five on this trip.
I was mostly nervous about meeting his mom. I would be the first non-Catholic daughter-in-law! We had written back and forth and she seemed to like me, but I couldn't keep those worries out of my head.
Now I can't believe I was ever nervous. Mom welcomed me with open arms and her beautiful bright smile. She and Pop treated me like their own daughter from the very start.
Over the years, I've seen and heard tales of horrible mother-in-laws, and I realize how very lucky I am...not only did I snag the best husband ever, but he came wrapped in a package with this fabulous woman.
She raised nine boys into nine good men without losing her sense of humor, sense of self, and sense of fun. She's the kind of mother-in-law who was quite willing to turn the care of her sons over to their wives, thank-you-very-much. There was never any kind of test to see if I was "good enough" for Tom - as long as he loved me and thought I was the right one, she did, too.
She's always been quick to help and quick with advice...when asked. I've learned by watching her and my own mother how to generously give of myself to my family and my community, but ensure I retain something for myself.
Today is Mom's birthday. Tom is with her. He's been there all week, along with Steve, the Arizona brother, alternating between painting and playing cards, depending on the rain. She raised good sons.
I wish I could have been with her, rather than just sending my happy birthday wishes over the phone... and in a slightly altered blog repost. Maybe next year.
But the wishes are true whether given in person or over the phone, for showers of birthday blessings in the coming year.
I love you, Mom!
With the first seven.
I really can't even imagine this, can you? Those two imps on the far right are the ones who have been busy painting this past week.
"...Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man.
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can."
From "The Victor" by C.W. Longnecker
Yesterday, at long last, with "Pomp and Circumstance" playing in the background, my name was called.
I walked to the waiting dignitaries, shook hands, hugged, accepted my "diploma" and took my place with the other graduates.
It was BOLD graduation day! Whoo-hoo!!
These are just the graduates from my market center...only about half of the total graduates.
I've spent every Thursday for the past seven weeks with an awesome group of people who shared a common goal of moving their real estate business to the next level. I was a proud member of the BOLD Avengers, competing against other teams in various Realtor events.
But Keller William's BOLD program ("Business Objective: Life by Design) turned out to be much more than just a real estate training class. Many of my classmates were taking BOLD for the third, fourth, or fifth time. For a few, this was their tenth time through the program, because each time it helps you to a new level of thinking and business.
It's Positive Thinking on steroids. It's learning to be responsible for the choices you make...and to make choices that direct you to the life you envision for yourself, rather than accepting the default version.
If you've read my blog for long, you know I'm a positive thinker, looking ahead instead of behind as I hit hurdles and have to put my other passions on a shelf... my books and screenplays, blogging, photography...
You patiently tag along, offering encouragement and support.
That's what BOLD is... a huge support system that moves you past your fears and self-doubts... only up-close and personal, with greater challenges, bigger goals, and practical tools.
So when, during the second week of the class, my mom was rushed to the hospital and ultimately had her gall bladder removed, I still achieved my weekly goals by keeping my "attention" on my "intention". No excuses. This is my business.
It's true: You can have a life by design, or by default. It's your choice.
"Aim high, act bold, and live large."
And now it's on to more growth and knowledge: I start a new weekly training on Tuesday...
I spent a long, lazy weekend with friends I've known since high school (several much longer than that)... just lying around a pool, eating, drinking, talking about our health issues, our parent issues, and whatever other issues happened to be on our minds.
(Hence, I learned a whole lot about the benefits of extra virgin coconut oil! Apparently it cures just about everything!)
We took morning walks through the rural neighborhood, explored junk shops in town, and danced on the back porch when the sun went down.
It was absolutely just what I needed... but would you believe I almost backed out, thinking I had way too much work to do?
The call of the Frio River turned out to be louder than the call of responsibility.
I fell in love with the sight, smell, and feel of it the first time I visited Garner State Park more than four decades ago, and couldn't resist the chance to dip my toes in its frigid waters once again.
I've only been back once since high school, and I knew I may never get another opportunity.
Of course, time with my girlfriends is always precious. News that another one of our classmates passed away this week reminded me that I'm not guaranteed other chances to spend time with them, either.
It was a weekend full of sweet moments to treasure, and even though it had me playing catch-up ever since (posting my Sunday Sweet!s on Wednesday!), I know I made the right decision.
Here are some other sweet!s from this past week...
Monday: the sound of rain outside your window as you work; rain that lasts all day and night
Tuesday: glorious, cool clear-sky mornings; your puppy waiting patiently outside your French doors for a glimpse of you; raindrops glistening in the woods like jewels; free pizza when you're really hungry
Wednesday: motivated clients; listening to interesting people; a haircut when you really, really need it; finding out about the Christ Child Society; fundraising dinners with fun ladies, margaritas, live bands, and dancing
Thursday: your husband celebrating another birthday; listening to an expert in your field give away his secrets; lunch on the patio at Kerbey Lane with friends/colleagues
Friday: a road trip with a friend; relaxing by a pool with friends, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin; remembering to pack your sunscreen and hat for a weekend by a pool
Saturday: the sight, smell, and feel of the Frio River; the way just the smell of a river can take you back a few decades to your youth, to dances under the stars and summer love; exploring junk stores with friends; spending an afternoon being lazy around a pool; dancing on a porch with friends on a beautiful night; unexpected jewelry orders
Sunday: baby deer; your friend's Prius, because it only used 1/4 tank of gas on a road trip; getting back to eating healthy after a weekend of sweets, dips, and carbs
Monday: spotting a spider web across your path before you walk right into it; picking up a new client; helping women find closure after the loss of a friend; a client referral from your son
Tuesday: property tours that take you from Lake Travis and the hill country to downtown Austin; Panera Bread's Asiago Steak Sandwich; therapeutic and educational discussions with colleagues; referrals from friends; double fortune cookie inspiration; a request to photograph a wedding
Wednesday: watching the sun break through morning clouds; hanging out in your office, working, venting, and learning from colleagues; saying thanks to your team leader with a big send-off party; seeing a friend you haven't seen in a long time; discussing men and marriage with your mom and her friends
I hope you all have an awesome week! Share your sweet!s in the comments!
“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Somewhere in Seattle tonight, one of my favorite couples in the whole wide world are sipping champagne, gazing into each other's eyes, and thinking back to that magical evening exactly one year ago when they said "I do" under the limbs of the big oak tree at Barr Mansion.
It's hard for me to believe my son and his bride are already celebrating their first anniversary ... until I think of all that has happened in those 365 days since The. Most. Beautiful. Wedding. Ever.
If you look to the left of the preacher in the photo above, you'll see my mom in red and Daddy beside her. I'm so grateful they were able to share in the joy of that evening.
"Do not be afraid.
Do not be satisfied with mediocrity.
Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."
~St. John Paul II
That is such a great quote for marriage, isn't it? Or really anything we feel called to do that requires a leap of faith.
I'm adopting it as a daily inspiration for my real estate career, where I have to overcome my natural shyness and remind myself that by helping others I'm helping my family.
Speaking of Saint Pope John Paul II....besides being my son and daughter-in-law's anniversary, today is also his canonization day, along with that of Pope John XXIII. I'm happy about that because each of them deserves some credit for my conversion to Catholicism. And I think everyone who has known me since at least my junior high days will know that my conversion might just qualify as a miracle.
Saint Pope John XXIII was responsible for Vatican II, which among other things, allowed Mass to be said in a country's native language, instead of Latin. He was Pope in 1959, when I was born, but since I was born into a Baptist family, that didn't mean a thing to me.
I really didn't pay any attention to Popes or Catholicism until 1978, when John Paul II became Pope. I was working shiftwork at a chemical plant, and one slow night, I discovered a Time magazine stashed in the boiler lab with a feature article about the new Pope. He fascinated me, and I read everything I could about him and the Catholic church.
I met Tom in 1981 and we married in the Catholic church, but I didn't officially join the church for another thirteen years. Once I did, I could see how my path to Catholicism began all those years ago on a slow night in the boiler lab.
Or maybe on the day I was born. Maybe before that. Who knows?
Whenever it was, I'm grateful to these two for the example they've given on how to live a life of faith and love.
"The future starts today, not tomorrow."
~Pope St. John Paul II
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
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
1. This is my new favorite quote:
“The woman had laughed the hard times into wine.”
I'm not sure if it's possible to laugh hard times into wine, except theoretically, of course... but I love the imagery of it. Thanks to Jennifer at Ripplespeak for posting it. (And for all of her own beautiful words full of imagery and inspiration!)
2. I've had to spend a lot of time dealing with the Social Security Administration and other agencies lately, trying to get things straightened out for my mom. It can be pretty frustrating and confusing.
So when I was having trouble getting my mom's birth certificate last week at the Bureau of Vital Statistics, my son Daniel moved up to total Rock Star status with me when he provided the information and advice via text that I needed to help the Bureau employees figure out what to do in only one trip!
I forgave him any headaches he gave me when he was little.
3. Have you heard of Sundown Syndrome? I hadn't until my mom started showing signs of it. Sigh.
4. I just created a Nextdoor.com group for my neighborhood. It's kind of like Neighborhood Watch, only online.
"Nextdoor is the private social network for you, your neighbors and your community. It's the easiest way for you and your neighbors to talk online and make all of your lives better in the real world. And it's free." (from the website)
I heard about it in a real estate class and thought it would be perfect for my little area where walking next-door is a bit of a hike and the potential for wildfires is very, very real.
(photo from the Duluth Animal Hospital Facebook Page)
5.And last but not least, just in case I'm NOT the last person in the world to meet this adorable couple, I'm introducing you to Roo and Penny, best buddies who were both adopted by Alicia Williams of the Duluth Animal Hospital. Daniel introduced them to me.
I have fallen totally head over heels, wanting to reach in and cuddle both of them, in love with them!
If you're like me and can't get enough of their cuteness, go HERE to learn more about their stories.
God bless Alicia for saving them.
Joining with Nancy's...
Beginning in my teens, I dreamed of renovating an old house. My aunt joined in on the dream project, picking out potential projects in the countryside around Killeen, where she lived.
Tom picked up on the dream. We loved touring Victorian homes that had been lovingly restored...or sneaking into neglected ones and imagining their potential.
We ended up building our country home from the foundation up. It's a perfect fit and I no longer dream of renovating anything.
But roomy front porches, leaded glass windows, metal roofs, spindle railings, clapboard siding...they still make me swoon. So when I saw that the one home on our office property tour Tuesday before last was this gray-headed grandmother of a house, the raindrops falling from that steely sky couldn't dampen my excitement.
The original house was built in the '30's, but the current owners added a two-story section onto the rear which included more bedrooms, bathrooms, and a huge playroom upstairs.
I doubt the view out of this kitchen window has changed much at all in the past 80 years.
This bar with the gorgeous metal counter and sink are in the huge upstairs family room.
The perfect front door for this house, dont' you think?
I couldn't help lingering on the front porch a little while before running back out into the rain.
All it's missing is a swing right over there.
This property is listed by another agent, so contact me if you have fallen in love and I'll play matchmaker for you!
And stay tuned for my property tour adventure out into the hill country from this past Tuesday. I'll post it this weekend.
There have been mornings when, after snapping photos of birds or leaves or bugs, I turn and discover Max and Belle are nowhere in sight.
They've slipped off in a different direction, distracted by an interesting smell or a glimpse of a squirrel, assuming I will follow them (as I often do.)
So I backtrack, calling their names, until finally we're back together, headed along the same path.
Relationships can be like that, too. You each have your own interests or responsibilities - which is a good thing, of course - but sometimes you forget to check on each other.
You get caught up in what you're doing as if it's all that matters, oblivious to what the other is going through, assuming they are right there with you...until you look up and find you're all alone.
If you're lucky, you can backtrack and find each other. But often, that isn't the case, as we all know.
There's a perception that love conquers all. It does, but it's not that simple. It doesn't just happen automatically.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I didn't just assume all knowledge about pregnancy and motherhood would come naturally. I bought books and subscribed to parenting magazines. I wasn't taking any chances.
And when Tom decided to build a house, he didn't just trust his vision or his gift for woodworking. He bought books and subscribed to magazines about construction, tools, and building. He wanted to make sure the house was done right and could weather any storm.
Yet we didn't treat marriage the same way. It never occurred to us when we decided to get married thirty-two years ago that we should educate ourselves beyond the few "Engagement Encounter" sessions the Catholic church required.
We didn't even think we needed those. After all, it was pretty much love at first sight for us. We were meant to be together, totally in sync, thought alike, had the same visions, opinions, and goals...
We were in love. We didn't need anything else.
If you've been married very long, you're probably laughing by now. You know it's not that easy.
Before we knew what was happening, we found ourselves drifting off on different paths, seeing issues from different perspectives, backtracking, compromising, giving in, or digging in.
But despite some pretty tense times in our marriage, we never considered counseling or workshops of any kind along the way. We were special, more in-tune with each other and more in love than anyone else in the history of the world had ever been. We could work it out ourselves.
However, several couples who I thought were special like us have recently fallen apart, or come close to it, after decades together, which made me realize Tom and I have really just been lucky that we've made it as far as we have.
Two friends separately told me about one particular book that helped save their marriages. I became curious, and because my marriage is very precious to me, I ordered a copy to read myself.
The premise of "Love and Respect" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is that women's basic need is love and men's is respect. Unconditional love. Unconditional respect.
I admit that made me stop and think. I've always believed respect should be earned. How do you respect unconditionally?
But...if love can be unconditional, then I had to consider that respect could be, too. So I kept reading.
I admit, there were times while reading that the feminist in me clenched her teeth, rolled her eyes, and ranted over certain passages. I need respect, too, for crying out loud! I have a brain!
But I had been forewarned by one of the friends...a very independent, outspoken, strong woman...that that would happen, and to give the book a chance. To read it all the way through.
So I kept reading. And I'm glad I did. Sure enough, by the end, he mentions all of the exceptions I thought of and addresses my questions.
I wish the book had been around and someone had recommended it when we were newlyweds. If we'd read it way back then, maybe we would have avoided most of the bumpy roads we've taken. The book opened my eyes to many mistakes I'd made over the years that created a lot (but not all!) of those bumps.
Mostly he points out what triggers the "crazy-cycle" couples often get into and give good advice on how to avoid it, or how to get out of it when you forget and slip back into it.
Eggerichs theory is Bible-based and the book is laced with verses, but even if you're not a Christian, I think you'll see that what he suggests is very practical. It's actually good advice for any relationship...between you and your children, your parents, your co-workers, your boss...
So this is my Valentine's Day gift to you...a recommendation to educate yourself if you're in a relationship, whether it's through this book or or a workshop or some other way that helps you communicate and smooth out the bumps...or avoid them altogether. Otherwise you might find yourself at a dead-end, staring at a stranger.
Treat your love like the precious treasure it is. Love deserves that much.
(If you're not in a relationship with someone else, you're still in a relationship with you! And that's still a precious treasure! Treat yourself accordingly!)
Happy Valentine's Day!
If you've got a recommendation for a book, workshop, or just something you've discovered that helps relationships grow stronger, please share in the comments!
(Disclosure: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you buy it through this link, I get a few pennies. But that's not why I'm recommending it. )
Looks like the sun found its way out of
That dark cloud that keeps following me around
At least for today
I've got a ray of hope
I've opened doors and I've burned some bridges
I'm still looking for my fairy tale ending
There’s a lot of time left before the credits roll
So quit trying to guess the ending, and enjoy the show
I'm still reaching for the stars but I'm dancing in the gutters
Time's the only thing that’s ever flown
And I still have faith in things unseen, but sometimes I wonder
What it is that keeps me hanging on
Another December gone.
~Jarrod Birmingham, from "December's Gone"
Just heard this song on the radio tonight. The lyrics reached out and wrapped around my heart.
I had to share.
I'm sure we passed each other in the hallways of our junior high and high school. We might have even shared a class or two. Perhaps we even spoke once or twice.
But if we did, I don't remember.
So even though her face and name were familiar, I truly didn't know Debbie until Facebook revealed that she, too, lived in the Austin area and I invited her to a Shake Russell concert.
My first memory of speaking to her was at that concert in the Saxon Pub about five years ago. That's when I realized what a sweetheart she is...quiet, smart, and strong.
Since then we've shared many evenings dancing and listening to live music. She's always one of the first to give me encouragement and support, or offer prayers and a shoulder to cry on, even as she went through some heartbreaking times of her own.
I could waste time lamenting all those years of my youth when I didn't make an effort to know her, but instead, I'll be grateful to Facebook for eventually bringing us together so that I could help this wonderful woman through tough times and celebrations...
...such as the one for her birthday this afternoon with other friends who walked those halls with us so many years ago.
Happy birthday, Debbie! I'm so very grateful for you and your friendship. Better late than never!
Monday: getting an issue resolved at the Social Security Administration even if you have to wait three hours to do it; meeting people in waiting rooms; a real estate referral on Facebook by someone you've watched grow up; seeing your mom twice in one day; dinner and dessert, courtesy of your son and daughter
Tuesday: puppy kisses; touring properties with friend-colleagues; fajitas and margaritas; the happiness in your mom's eyes at the sight of you
Wednesday: the return of birds to your hollow; time for a quick visit with your mom before heading to a meeting; grilled chicken, courtesy of your son
Thursday: Realtors who share their knowledge with associates and their lasagna with hungry colleagues; making new friends every day
Friday: a call from your mother-in-law; a day at home with your family; watching funny movies with your kids; heating your whole house with just your wood-burning stove, thanks to your husband's awesome design; the God made a Realtor video
Saturday: blue skies and balmy breezes after too many days of gray skies and freezing temperatures; French toast, courtesy of your husband; your mom feeling better after being hit with a stomach virus; two walks in one day with your puppies
Sunday: the morning sun kissing your Hollow and shining through the stained glass in your church; Mass with your husband; new church directories; the anticipation of helping a dear friend celebrate her birthday
Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive.
Today I went to a friend's Facebook page to wish her a happy 90th birthday, and that's how I found out author/artist Frances Nail passed away, sometime before Christmas.
So she probably didn't see the note I scrawled on my Christmas card to her..."I hope to see you in the coming year!" If she did, she probably just laughed, way too familiar with my good intentions.
Once upon a time in Houston, a special magazine came with the Sunday Chronicle. It was just named "Texas", and included a column called "State Lines" where each week you could read stories about Texas (of course!) - personal essays written by a different writer each week, as wide and varied as the state.
I read them voraciously.
"State Lines" was my first paid publishing gig, way back in 1991, with "A View from a Catwalk". I went on to publish two more essays in "Texas" before the Chronicle stopped publishing the magazine.
Soon after "Catwalk" was published, I read an essay by Frances about things she had lost, which included the words to one of my favorite poems from childhood - "Little Boy Blue", by Eugene Field. She could only remember a few lines.
Immediately I typed out the poem and sent it to editor Ken Hammond, asking him to forward it to Frances. Within a few weeks, I received a letter from her, thanking me for the poem. And thus began our friendship.
By that time several more of her essays had been published in "State Lines"...
...so many that I couldn't help feeling discouraged, comparing my words and stories to hers. Mine seemed flat and lifeless, hers rich and vibrant, but she was always full of support and encouragement for my writing. After all, she pointed out, she didn't even start writing until she was seventy.
(I admit, that's more consoling to me now that I'm in my fifties and still struggling on my writing path, than when I was in my thirties and had it all figured out.)
When we moved to Austin, she invited us to the publishing party for her first book, a collection of essays, of course, named "Crow in the House, Wolf at the Door". It was held in a fabulous old Victorian home downtown.
TG was barely 4, Daniel around 6, and Tommy no more than 9, but when Frances read from her book out on the screened-in porch, with her distinctive soft, soothing, Texas accent, they sat still and listened. She was that good. Austinites enjoyed listening to her read her stories on pubic radio station KUT for years.
I wish I could say we grew closer once I moved to Austin, but we didn't. We kept in touch with occasional Christmas cards and phone calls, and in 2005 she invited me to a play based on one of her books, "I'm Not the Woman I Was".
But we lived on opposite sides of Lake Travis...I was busy with my three kids and building our home and broke.
I didn't go see the play, just as I didn't take her up on an invitation for lunch when we first moved here, or follow through with any other good intentions I had to see her, except attending the Texas Book Fair panel she was on years ago, along with authors Leon Hale and Liz Carpenter, two of her good friends.
I really wasn't half the friend she was to me.
Frances was truly a remarkable woman. I have wasted many opportunities in my life, but I think one of the biggest is not taking advantage of the chance I was given to know her better.
I still have her words and her stories, though, and thanks to Jim Swift, I can still hear her voice...
Godspeed, and thank you for leaving a part of yourself with us, Frances!
I know the angels are enjoying your stories as much as we always have.
I look forward to seeing you again... and I mean it.
The last home we bought (and later sold) was a foreclosure. We first lost it in an open HUD auction, but later won it by sealed bid.The home had been stripped of everything that could be removed - light fixtures, switch-plates, you name it. Even the carpet was ripped up in most of the house.
What we thought was the foundation for a storage building in the backyard turned out to be a swimming pool covered with rebar and plywood...and partially filled with thick, green, slimy water.
I was afraid of what we'd find hidden in that water.
But we wanted this house. I was pregnant and we could see this would be a great home for a growing family. That backyard had so much potential, even before we realized it had a swimming pool! We bid high to make sure it became ours...and we never intended to leave.
Famous last words, right?
My husband, Tom, is a master handyman, but even with him doing most of the work, we put a lot of money into the house before we sold it ten years later. New carpet, light fixtures, switch plates, paint, French doors to replace the back door, a laundry room with cabinets, custom bookshelves filling the walls on either side of the fireplace...the list goes on. I can't even remember most of it.
Out back, we planted crape myrtles and miniature roses. A deep covered deck ran the length of the house. After acid-cleaning the pool, Tom built a beautiful curving fence around it and the foundation for a gazebo. The kids also had a cool tree fort and swing set.
It was tough to leave that house. It's where we raised our three children for ten years. Christmases. Birthdays. Swimming parties. So many memories and so much time, money, and effort went into making it a home.
We weren't just emotionally attached: we also wanted to get some of the money back we had sunk into that home over the years, so we argued with our Realtor about the price. Bless her heart, she gave up and listed it higher than the comps suggested for our neighborhood.
Thank goodness, the right buyer came along who recognized the house had great features that would cost a lot more anywhere else. But now that I'm seeing it from the perspective of a Realtor, I know we just got lucky.
But I still dread the day we have to sell this home we built from the foundation up...
What about you? Have you made any of these mistakes?
Data provided by ActiveRain.com. ActiveRain is an online community of real estate professionals who exchange best practices, write real estate blogs, and get free education from the industry and their peers.
Tuesday I drove to Houston for a reunion of the DuPont Deer Park Old Farts Club, an exclusive group of people who helped start-up the DuPont Syngas/Methanol plant and worked there in its infancy. I was part of the second group of plant technicians to be hired (#43) in November of 1978, when the plant was still under construction.
The reunion wasn't just for us plant technicians who operated the plant, but also for the engineers who guided us, the maintenance and instrumentation crews, the office staff...you name it. We were a team and shared the adventure.
Too many have passed on, and that's why we decided a couple of years ago it was high time to get together. This was our second reunion. Why have it on a Tuesday? Ky was returning to the U.S. from vacation abroad the day before, Oscar was scheduled to fly out to Saudi Arabia for work the next morning, and Ken was returning to Panama, where he now lives, on the 10th.
It's amazing it worked out, when I think about it.
Even though some don't seem to be interested in the get-togethers, many of us cherish those friendships and memories and enjoy seeing each other again.
Still, it can be a bit of a headache sending out emails and getting people to commit. Thank goodness Mark, one of the engineers, stepped up to reserve a spot for us. Thank you, Mark!
Oscar sent an email the next day that made all of the preparations totally worthwhile.
Tuesday: a pond reflection framed in ice; frisky dogs; your husband getting a fire going in your woodburning stove for you before leaving for work; a friend letting you crash at her house when in town for a quick visit; your mobile mapquest app guiding you around a traffic jam so you're in time for your reunion; hugs and visits and laughter with longtime friends; staying up late visiting with your sweet friend
Brian and Cliff - these two guys could make me laugh till I cried - and probably still could!
Ky introduced me to classical music while carpooling, along with Brian, and Chinese/Viet Nam history during breaks on nightshifts; Howard and I shared books, and he had my back when I voiced concerns about fumes in the lab while I was pregnant. (If you've read "A View from a Catwalk", he's the friend who was knocked off of his bicycle in an explosion.)
Henry and Donnie...oh, I have lots of stories about Donnie. Unfortunately, most I can't share.
Groundbreakers. Imagine us all in hard hats and safety glasses. Well, and thirty years younger. These are just a few of the interesting, smart, talented women I worked with.
Wednesday: a deal coming through you thought was lost; breakfast at a friend's restaurant with another friend and your sister; making it home safe, despite constant rain and traffic; being able to stop and visit your mom on your way home; your daughter making you a quesadilla for dinner
Thursday: making lots of progress on a project; finally taking two boxes of stuff to Goodwill
Friday: a glimpse of the Mallard couple, even though you don't have your camera; feeling optimistic about your listing; your son surprising you with a ticket to see George Strait in concert
Saturday: an evening at home with your mom, husband, and kids, eating hamburgers and watching "Enchanted"
Sunday: attending Mass with your husband; another day hanging out with your mom; Realtor friends who think of you when they need someone to cover for them at an open house
I hope you remember to notice the sweet! moments in your week!
"Do not take anything for granted — not one smile or one person or one rainbow or one breath, or one night in your cozy bed."
"When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted."
I greeted 2014 in my home, watching goofy movies (Napoleon Dynamite and Mystery Men), eating popcorn, and drinking champagne with my kids.
(I revealed a lot about myself in that one sentence, didn't I?)
I'm ready for a new year. 2013 wasn't all bad - remember The.Best.Wedding.Ever.? And I have no illusions that 2014 won't carry it's own mix of highs and lows. But I'm ready to move forward, even if I have no idea what's ahead of me.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.I do not see the road ahead of me.I cannot know for certain where it will end....
My word for 2013 was "Faith", which turned out to be just right for this past year of constant change.
"Faith to keep moving forward, even when my path is obscured. Faith that I'll have the wisdom I need. Faith I'll find a way to be a light for others...that I'll be flexible in the pushes and pulls to come in this next year...that I will know when to fly and when to perch and rest for awhile. Faith that there will be enough money, enough love, enough time. Enough respect and trust. Enough whatever...which shouldn't be hard, because we've always had at least just enough in the past."
Faith is a lifesaving weapon in any year, and I plan to keep it handy, but this year, another word has brazenly stepped forward, volunteering to accompany me through the year...
That's my word for 2014. It actually came knocking halfway through the year, when I took a U-Turn and became a Realtor.
“Leap, and the net will appear.”
Caught in a mix of restlessness, a sense of too little time and too much I want to do, I also feel a strange sense of calm and peace and acceptance of my own limits; I know I don't have to rely on my own strength...
...kind of like when Belle barks into the darkness, feeling big and brave because she hears Max barking behind her.
Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears.
Life is too short to listen to the whispers of our fears, isn't it? And really, our fears are the only limits we have.
Boldness is a mask for fear, however great.
Yes, I do hear those whispers...those ugly whispers casting doubts on my knowledge, my abilities. But I've learned to shush them, to remember I've been lead upon this path, that time is short and options are few and help is there when I need it.
That others depend on me to cast my fears aside and do my best. To be bold.
Put a grain of boldness into everything you do.
~Baltasar Gracián, translated from Spanish
Do you choose a word? Did you make resolutions? Share them in the comments.
My gift to you for 2014 is Thomas Merton's prayer...perfect for a new year.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and will never leave me to face my perils alone.
~ Thomas Merton
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."
I was on the road early Monday morning with TG, heading east to Houston. We gathered my mom's belongings from the nursing home, spent a few hours at the house gathering more things and visiting with my sister and friends before loading up and heading west into the sunset, back to Austin to start a new chapter in both of our lives.
Tom helped me get her settled in her new room on Tuesday. Her roommate is a character. The two of them together might be trouble.
This was the first Christmas my son and daughter-in-law spent as a married couple, the first in their new home.
I think they felt tugged and pulled by all of the family celebrations - his and hers...we all live in Austin - so I am grateful we had so much time to celebrate with them on Christmas Day, including a game of ping-pong.
This was our first Christmas without my Daddy.
I know Mama felt it more than the rest of us, but, as usual, she kept a smile on her face, only fussing about getting too many presents.
To better accomodate Mama's wheelchair, Tom added a stone 'ramp' to the pathway leading to our house.
He is amazing in both his skill and his thoughtfulness. He truly loves my mom and, believe me, the feeling is mutual.
I saw Mama twice today, first on my way into town to deliver earnest money to a title company and stop by the grocery store, and then on my way home, dropping off snacks and picking up her laundry.
I wish she could just stay with us, but this is the next best thing, to have her so close.
In honor and encouragement of my new career (and because she's nuts and goes overboard at Christmas), my friend Mary Kay made me this ornament/wreath. It's on the tree now, but will have a place in my office once the tree and other decorations are boxed up.
My first closing as a Realtor is Monday. Another first to close out 2013, a year that brought us much happiness with Tommy and Kirby's wedding, hope and faith in the future with my new career, but also heartache in the passing of my sweet Daddy.
I wish all of you the peace and comfort of Christmas throughout the coming year, and sweet memories to treasure the rest of your life.
Well, these were actually taken last night, Thursday. I traveled with a bunch of Keller Williams colleagues via bus to Fredericksburg for a day of shopping, a wine-tasting, and then a stop in Johnson City on the way home to ooh-and-aah over the lights.
With temperatures below freezing and a wind chill pushing it into the teens, it really felt like Christmas all day. The shops and restaurants were warm, the company was awesome, and it was a fantastic day. And hallelujah, there was no ice on the road.
Sure, there were tons of other things I probably should have been doing yesterday, instead of roaming through shops taking photos, but it's good, especially during Advent and the Christmas season, to just slow down and do something purely for fun, don't you think?
I'll post more of the photos tomorrow on Confessions. Meanwhile, tonight most of us met again for a company Christmas party.
I know it's hard to believe, but I didn't take one single photo at the party! I did jump in a photo booth with friends twice. Photos to be posted later. Maybe.
I danced, though. That was at the top of my priority list...and way overdue.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I'm grateful it's supposed to be cold and icy/rainy here in Austin. Time to get Christmas cards ready to mail and a tree, glistening with memories, standing in my livingroom.
How will you spend your weekend?
"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!
The index card is yellow and splotched, the ink faded, but considering all of the action it's seen over the past twenty years, it's amazing it's still around at all, much less legible.
When not in use, I keep it tucked in a small recipe box with other favorites, mostly one-pan wonders where you toss all of the ingredients into a casserole dish or a pot and walk away for a few hours. When my kids were little, that was top priority...right under taste, of course.
Terry Boer is the dad of five kids. When I worked shifts with him at the chemical plant years ago, those kids were all really young. He knew a thing or two about pleasing a pack of picky palates on a budget and generously shared his expertise with me, a new mom stretched on time and money.
His Chicken Casserole has been a favorite in our house ever since. I especially love it because, well, it's delicious! But also because it has so few ingredients - chicken, rice, dried onion soup, and Cambell's Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom soup. I've always kept cans of both on hand. I added them to almost everything when my kids were growing up, so that they'd eat.
My kids are now young adults, adventurous eaters who even like vegetables, but they still request Terry Boer's Chicken Casserole.
Something good is always better when it's shared, so I'm sharing Terry's recipe with all of you, just as he did with me so many years ago...
Terry's Chicken Casserole
2 teaspoons of butter
2 cups of water
1 cup of uncooked rice
1 whole chicken, cut up
1 can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom soup
1 packet of dried onion soup
Pour melted butter into a 9 x 13 pan. Add the water, then the cup of rice evenly. Place chicken skin up. Pour soup over the chicken. Sprinkle the onion soup over it all. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Take off the foil and bake another 15 minutes.
I hope your family loves it as much as ours has!
For more recipes your kids will love, be sure to check out Campbell's "The Wisest Kid in the Whole World™" page.
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.
Yesterday I drove to the other side of Austin to wish my daughter-in-law a happy birthday in person for the first time, grateful that they finally live close enough that I can do that. It comes in handy for someone like me who always forgets to put birthday cards in the mail in time to arrive by the actual birthday.
I first met her when she was in high school, and have watched mostly from a distance as she grew into the beautiful, smart, fun 26-year-old woman she is today...
(photo by Bloom Photography)
They're settling into their new home and I love being able to see the progress. Tommy even installed one of those pull-down stairs to the attic in the garage, all by himself! And every time I go, Kirby has added new decorative touches.
It was pretty early in the morning - I was on my way to a new listing on that side of town - and they wouldn't let me take any new photos of them. But my grandpuppy Josie was willing to pose for my camera!
Here are a few other sweet!s from the past week...
Monday: open roads when you're running late; support and guidance in your new job; figuring out problems on your own; your son cooking dinner for you
Tuesday: signed contracts; exploring cute little flipped houses; riding in a car full of women realtors
Wednesday: clear skies on your drive to and from Houston; giving your mom a birthday hug and kiss, and joining your brother, sister, niece, and nephew in helping her celebrate
Thursday: lunch at Mandolo's with your daughter; traveling to Munich and Prague via your son's photos
Friday: finally buying a new printer/scanner/copier, thanks to your thoughtful writing group; taking a break from everything to read a few chapters of "Game of Thrones" for the first time in weeks
Saturday: your name and number on a For Sale sign in front of a listing; water in the Pedernales River, despite the major drought; soaking in views of the Texas Hill Country; helping raise money for the sons of a friend who died way too young; seeing the full moon slip above the horizon as the sun sets in fiery glory behind you; celebrating a friend's 60th birthday
Sunday: a walk with your puppies before Mass; selling something on Craig's List; driving around Austin on a beautiful day; setting up your new printer; catching up with a friend/neighbor/client over a glass of wine; moonlight on a caliche road
Whew! That was quite a week. I hope yours was full of sweet! moments! Share them here!
"There are exactly as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate."
I've been driving in, around, and through Austin for almost 20 years now, but for the most part, I have traveled the same routes over and over and over.
Lately, I've been venturing out into unknown territory so that I'm better acquainted this wonderful city and its neighborhoods, and that's how I discovered this vintage grocery store, now operating as a sandwich shop.
It's situated only a few blocks from familiar roads in all directions, but I never knew it was there until yesterday. I snapped this photo with my iPhone and drove on...but then turned around, parked, and stepped through those awesome screen doors.
Right away, I had a flashback to a small grocery store my grandparents ran so long ago I could barely see over the counter. The register, the counter, the shelves behind it were all in the exact same place. It was weird, in a very cool way, and I had a sudden urge for a candy cigarette.
Instead I wandered to the back and grabbed a Texas Tea from a cooler and started conversations with other patrons who were waiting on sandwiches. Alas, I had already eaten lunch, but vowed to return.
So I did today. TG and I shared a chicken salad sandwich (with cheddar cheese, avocado, and bacon!) and a small serving of quinoa salad, because the owner (I guess he is, anyway) gave us a taste of it when we first arrived.
Oh. My. Gosh. It was all so good! I can't believe it's been there all this time and I never knew it.
The neighborhood surrounding the shop is perfect for Halloween night. Tall oak trees, picket fences and porches. It reminded me a lot of an upscale version of Scout and Jim's neighborhood in "To Kill a Mockingbird".
Most of the houses were dripping in decorations. I had to snap some photos with my iPhone...but not enough to have the cops called on me.
The owners of this house mixed Halloween and politics, Austin-style...
Do you decorate? I used to, but in these empty-nest, pre-grandchildren years, this is the extent of my decorating...
Sigh. Where did the time go?
We won't have any trick-or-treaters - we live too far down a dirt road - so I think I'll just settle down with some popcorn and watch "Young Frankenstein" to celebrate.
What are your Halloween plans? Whatever they are, have fun!
Halloween wraps fear in innocence,
As though it were a slightly sour sweet.
Let terror, then, be turned into a treat...
Austin real estate in a nutshell:
Number of people moving here, wanting houses > Number of houses available
Consequently, it's important for an Austin real estate agent to be acquainted with builders and new homes.
So today I attended a class on helping clients find and purchase new homes. We even had a field trip to this cute little subdivision only 10 minutes from downtown Austin.
The homes had small yards and detached garages...some with small apartments on top.
(We had fun imagining who would stay in the apartments. Older children returning home? Visitors to ACL or SXSW, needing to rent a room? In-laws?)
It is so cool that part of my job involves exploring new homes, opening closets, cabinets, and drawers.
And getting free lunches.
I loved the pops of colors and Craftsman-style touches on many of the homes.
A MetroRail Station is adjacent to the neighborhood and all of these homes face a small dog park.
Very urban without being right downtown.
Yes, I love my job.
(Contact me if you want more information about these urban gems!)
Long ago I dreamed of having the job I have now...only I didn't know what it was at the time. Does that make sense?
As with any entrepreneurial endeavor, it's agonizingly slow getting started, but I'm confident in my abilities and that I'm on the right track. That's sweet! all by itself. (But if you, or anyone you know, needs/wants to buy, sell, or invest in real estate, please send them my way! I can use all the referrals I can get!)
Anyway, this past week I attended the Realty Roundup in Austin, a conference sponsored by the Austin Board of Realtors that brought together people in all different areas of the industry.
And people in the real estate industry are some of the friendliest, most giving and supportive people I've ever met. In fact, just a chance encounter on the stairs turned into a friendship with an agent from another Keller Williams market center in Austin. We hung out together the rest of the day, going from booth to booth picking up freebies, talking to vendors, and tossing business cards into fish bowls in hopes of winning a drawing.
She won a big basket, but my name was never called. However, I don't hold a grudge. We look forward to getting together again soon.
Dr. Jim Gaines from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University was one of the main speakers at the Roundup. Using lots of charts and graphs, he assured us the Austin market was just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger.
For an Austin Realtor, the news that everyone wants to live in Austin is pretty sweet! As good as a gift basket any day!
And here are some other sweet!s from my past week...
Tuesday: spotting old trucks when you're out on a property tour with friends; photo shoots; meeting clients
Wednesday: rush hour traffic in the rain when you share it with your daughter; rain; a random encounter with a stranger turning into a friendship; great news about the Austin real estate market
Thursday: walking at sunrise; meetings with vendors over morning coffee and lunch; an afternoon walk with your puppies; baby geckos; playing around on MLS; a longtime friend getting married; homemade pumpkin bread, courtesy of your daughter-in-law
Friday: friends becoming prayer warriors for other friends; dancing under a full moon with friends and strangers in your church parking lot; making it home in time to watch the end of "The Lost Boys" with your daughter
Saturday: sleeping in; walks with your puppies on crisp autumn days; butterflies and fall wildflowers; sipping on a Bloody Mary while you work at your church bazaar; cake walks, washer tournaments, and ziplines; watching Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail for the zillionth time with 1/2 of your kids
Sunday: waking early without an alarm clock, in time to walk your puppies before Mass; chipping away at your to-do list; working on your laptop on the back porch, watching the sunset, listening to the little creek below you singing its gratitude for the recent rain; a good report from a friend with cancer
Last, but not least, getting comments on your blog even though you haven't had time to make your rounds lately.
Blogging is a give-and-take thing, and I'm so grateful to those blog friends who continue to have patience with me as I try to find my balance in this new time-sucking career of mine. I miss making my regular blog rounds, but I'm finding my footing and will be back soon.
The essence of true friendship is to make allowance for another's little lapses.
Please share one of your sweet!s from the past week in the comments! And don't forget to keep your eyes open for them in the coming week. They're there, I promise!
Wildflowers are blooming like it's springtime instead of autumn. Plants I thought had died are sprouting blossoms again.
Maybe it's like this every year, and I just forget. That's okay. I love the surprise of it!
Waller Creek runs through Austin down to Lady Bird Lake. Near downtown, it's dirty, stinky, and can be dangerous during flash floods.
Thank goodness there are people working to change that. A representative of the Waller Creek Conservancy spoke at our office meeting last week, describing the tunnel which will control flooding problems, as well as the walks and green spaces planned that will help Austinites and visitors enjoy the creek.
I can't wait to see the finished product!
If you're planning to sell your home, here's a tip: make sure all of the toilets have seats. You're welcome.
I'm still bringing my camera to work, using it to take business portraits of fellow agents for their business cards. It's a great way to get to know my colleagues. Photography can be a useful addiction!
I grew up in Pasadena, Texas, and spent a lot of Saturday nights at Gilley's, but for some reason I never sat my bottom on that mechanical bull Debra Winger made famous in "Urban Cowboy".
So of course I had to change that by climbing on the one in The Trophy Club Wednesday night for a photo with my friend who was in town for the City Government Convention.
We just wanted our picture taken, but the operator started moving the bull a little bit, setting us to giggling.
Now I can say I rode a mechanical bull without being thrown off! Yay!
Linking with Nancy at Random 5 Friday.
"Reinvention" is the theme for Generation Fabulous's blog hop this month.
Considering I just started a new career as a realtor, seemingly out of the blue, "reinvention" is right up my alley.
Or is it? Can it be considered "reinvention" if it's something you once loved, and spent hours doing, long ago?
You see, when I was little, my favorite section of the Sunday newspaper wasn't the comics - it was the Homes section.
I loved looking at the homes featured on the front page. I would study the floorplans of the huge houses on the back page, imagining myself wandering through them.
I was ten the first time Daddy and I toured the Bishop's Palace in Galveston, triggering my love for snooping through houses which carried on into my teen years, when my boyfriend and I knocked on the door of a house I loved and asked for a tour..
...and then into my twenties when Tom and I and two friends knocked on the door of a renovated old house in LaMarque and asked for a tour, and Tom and I and two friends explored a condemned Victorian house in Galveston, and Tom and I pushed babies in strollers through old homes' tours in LaPorte, and explored new construction in every town we've lived in...
I began designing floorplans when I was ten. My mother would bring home special paper from her job as a secretary at a construction company. I came up with some pretty good plans!
Television houses have always triggered my imagination. Back then I tried figuring out the floor plans of the houses on "Bewitched" and "The Brady Bunch" and "Dark Shadows", and even taped pages of typing paper together into large sheets so I could sketch out the floor plan of the Munsters' and Addams Family's mansions.
I thought I wanted to be an architect...but the idea of having to include the plumbing and wiring and placement of supporting beams in a structure bored me to tears.
I just liked the parts of houses you could see. And secret passageways.
But I'm not sure I'd ever heard of real estate agents back then. However, considering my obsession with houses and the list I made when I was ten of every single person I had ever met (my first "contacts" list!), it's obvious that (besides being a strange child) I would eventually grow up to be a Realtor, touring properties and reminding everyone I know that I can help them buy, sell, lease, or invest in it.
(There are also conventions!)
Why that didn't become obvious to me until I was 54 is a mystery, but I'm sure the journey to this place wasn't wasted, but was, instead, an invaluable trek to self-awareness.
Perhaps the midlife "reinvention" we talk about so often now is more about getting back in touch with who, or what, you really are and what you enjoy than becoming something altogether new.
What do you think?
Have you experienced "reinvention"...or are you longing to? Share your story in the comments, and read the other GenFabbers' posts to hear more. If you're a blogger, join the blog hop!
(By the way, who do you know that needs to buy, sell, lease, or invest property...anywhere in the world? Contact me!)
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
Back then it was slumber parties...scary stories...dancing...eating junk food...wrapping houses...riding bikes...prank calls...boys...
Back then Rae was the life of the party...always on the move...full of ideas...as playful and mischievous as a puppy...
Fast forward forty-four years and things haven't changed very much, thank goodness!
We're still having slumber parties where we tell scary stories about menopause and loss. We're still dancing, eating junk food (but not as much!), and even occasionally wrapping houses.
The boys are still around...and Rae and I are still friends.
I admit...there was a long gap in there where we weren't a part of each other's lives, except for reunions every five years and occasional Deepwater/Deer Park girls dinners. But rather than drifting further and further apart, we grew closer and closer as time went on.
Now I hate to imagine not having her in my life.
Rae has seen enough dark times to recognize every blessing she receives, and she generously shares those blessings with everyone - even strangers if she sees there's a need. She keeps her eyes open for chances to help.
Rae has a way of bringing people together - people who have nothing in common except loving to be around her. She can be a ham, a clown, the center of attention...and yet make everyone around her feel special. She's comfortable in her own skin without ever being "full of herself" - in fact, she exudes so much confidence that it spreads to those around her.
Rae is classy and earthy - lipstick and tomboy. She embraces life, savors it, lives it passionately and adventurously, not taking one single second of it for granted...and she wants to make sure no one else does, either.
She is a vortex, pulling us into her whirlwind, taking us all along on the ride, not wanting any of us to miss a thing. Making us not want to miss a thing, either.
Yes, ten was a lot of fun, but fifty-four is even better, because of the friends I'm sharing it with...friends like Rae.
Happy, happy birthday, sweet Rae!
This is an updated re-post from a few years ago.
Rae is the kind of friend who always has a zillion things going on, who is always doing something for at least half a dozen people all the time. She has been there for me too often to count, checking on my parents, taking them food or just giving bringing them the sunshine of her smile. She sends me cards of encouragement and when she visits, always comes bearing gifts...even for my puppies!
And yet, I didn't even get a card in the mail in time for her birthday!
Okay, there's really not even a card in the mail, yet, period, but I do hope to see her this weekend and help her continue her birthday celebration. There will be at least a card then!
In the meantime, my gifts to her are my words and assurances that I know I am blessed to call her friend, and that she can call on me anytime she needs me.
Happy birthday, Rae!
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 got a letter this past weekend. A real letter, written just to say hi, how are you, I'm thinking of you, and catch me up on the doings of my friend's life. What he's working on, what he's reading, what he's thinking about. It wasn't a required letter - a thank you or a filler around something he needed to send me.
It was just a letter.
Once upon a time, I wrote letters like that. And received them. Lots of them. It was how I kept in touch with my cousin, my grandmother, the teacher who left mid-year to move to the Dominican Republic, the boys I met at Garner State Park, the friends who went off to college...
I loved getting letters, so I wrote letters. Sometimes on pretty stationery, but more often on plain notepaper, because I could write pages and pages and pages!
Now, after just a few lines my hand and fingers are tired.
I never had great handwriting (I specifically remember getting a 'B' in 4th grade, Ms. Haygood!) but at least it was legible. Now, even before my hand gets tired, I have limited control of the pen or pencil; it'll go zigzagging off on its own wild adventure across the page.
The letter was from a writer friend. He has decided too much time on the internet has made him lose focus and it has affected his work. He's getting back to plain old paper, for his writing, communication (when possible), and for leisure, as in reading books with pages of paper.
Perhaps tonight I'll pull out some paper and re-train my fingers to hold a pen, to tame it to create legible words on a page once again.
What about you? Do you write letters the old-fashioned way? When was the last time you received one?
Before I could publish this post, I received a phone call that required me to add a little bit here on the end.
My friend's letter mentioned a plan to get together with Joe, a classmate of ours from high school who was visiting Los Angeles. Joe, too, had sent me a Facebook message letting me know he'd be seeing my friend. I told him to tell him hi for me.
That evening Joe posted a photo of them on our class Facebook page, smiling, toasting their friendship and life.
The next morning, Joe died of a massive heart attack.
What's the moral of this story? I'm not sure.
I know I'm grateful for all of the ways I've been able to stay in touch with my longtime friends and get to know some of those faces from my past as adults. I'm grateful for letters, for email, for Facebook, and for phone calls that draw us together in times of joy and sorrow.
Perhaps the moral has something to do with living each day to the fullest, for not letting opportunities slip by to spend time with a friend or loved one.
Maybe it's to present a smile to the world at all times, like Joe did, no matter what's going on in your life, and in that way inspire others to find a way to smile, too.
I don't know. But I do know I'll miss seeing that smile.
Rest in peace, Joe.
“My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges.”
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)
For more information about my photography, go to Barbara Shallue Photography