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
First of all... Happy New Year! I can't believe this is my first post of 2015. I have had so many ideas for posts, but alas, no time to write or publish them.
Have you picked a word for 2015? I have, but I'm going to save it for another post. I hope you don't mind. I just hope I actually publish it before 2016!
Yesterday was my dear friend Darla's birthday. We spent hours on the road together Friday driving to Houston in the rain to be by another friend's side as she said goodbye to her sister. I enjoyed getting to spend time with Darla, and see my other friends Rae and Ann, and Ann's kids face-to-face (for the first time in 20 years!), even if the reason was bittersweet.
My mom is much better, thank you, and by all reports is progressing in her physical therapy. She still has a long way to go before she can come to our house again, but I'm grateful for a move forward, however small.
I broke down and ordered a new iPhone, just in the nick of time. My old one had been warning me it was getting sick (rebooting in the middle of a phone call!), but I ignored it as long as possible. Yesterday, it was really acting whacky, moving in slow motion, but just like the cavalry coming to the rescue, the FedEx man drove up with my new, shiny gold one. Whew!
Photography has, by necessity, fallen by the wayside over the past year. I admit I've missed the camaraderie of my photography friends. So I was elated to receive an invitation to join a 365 FlickR group by a friend I first met years ago in my first 365.
The same day another friend tagged me for a 5 day black & white challenge on Facebook. I'm not going to pressure myself to post something on FlickR every day this year, but these challenges are great motivation to pick up my camera and see things in a different way, and to reconnect with my blog and photography friends.
Putting on my Realtor hat, I have a long-awaited closing coming up Friday for a client who has been waiting months for her new home. Also, I spent a day last week exploring a ranch and learning more about farm & ranch real estate. And I'm almost finished with my luxury real estate online class.
My Christmas tree and decorations are still glittering throughout my house... however, technically we're still in the Christmas season until this weekend. I put off decorating, so I might as well enjoy it as long as possible!
Anyway... here are some other sweet!s from my past week and a half...
Monday: getting back into your daily routine; a walk on a frosty dawn
Tuesday: experiencing a taste from your childhood again... La Colmena Mexican candy from 40 years ago that is being manufactured by the same family again and available online
Wednesday: exploring ranches with a client; listening to stories about old Austin; greeting the new year with sparklers and good friends
Thursday: a visit from your brother-in-law and his family, including your goddaughter; sister-in-laws; a house full of kids and dogs
Friday: knowing your brother-in-law and his family made it safely through the ice in West Texas on their way home to Arizona; joining with other friends to help another say a final farewell to her sister
Saturday: the sun returning after days and days of wet, cold, and gray; watching "Cat Ballou" with your mom
Sunday: visiting with friends after church; getting to spend time with your oldest and his wife while helping another friend celebrate her 50th birthday
Monday: your new iPhone arriving via FedEx just as your old one is giving up; invitations from photography friends to join in 1) a 5-day black & white photography challenge and 2) a FlickR 365 Photo Group with friends you met via FlickR years ago; making time for photography
Tuesday: light from the pre-dawn full moon splashing into your house; news that your mom is making progress in physical therapy; a creative handmade greeting card from a friend in your mailbox
Wednesday: watching your puppy hunt for lizards on a crisp morning walk; finally posting your overdue sweet!s
Here's to new adventures and overflowing blessings to all of you in 2015!
One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.
Wednesday afternoon a friend and her husband braved our dirt road to deliver a huge bag of Christmas goodies to my family. They do this every year. Seriously, they're crazy!
They give each of us something and there are always lots of cookies and other treats. We've just learned to accept the gifts with gratitude.
But this year, my friend went overboard. Besides a couple of cute Texas ornaments, she gave me a ticket to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in February! I'm pretty sure she has one for herself and that two other friends received them, as well, because last year she treated us to a Harry Connick Jr. concert!
Crazy friends are the best, aren't they?
(I really have to figure out a way to repay her. Any ideas? She's nuts about Matthew McConaughey and Josh Groban.)
I was able to be on the other side of a Christmas surprise this year, too. A friend's kids wanted to surprise their parents with portraits of themselves, and approached me about taking the photos.
So last month we spent a few hours at a beautiful wedding venue near my house snapping photos. (Thank you, Lynn, at Villa Antonia!) This friend always coordinates our annual Port Aransas trips - no easy feat! So I was happy for the chance to do something for her.
Now that the surprise is over, I can reveal the photos. I'll post the rest on my photography blog, but here's one of them...
Aren't these kids gorgeous? They are so photogenic, it was an easy job!
Here are some other sweet!s from the past week...
Monday: nurses who are proactive about treating your mom's cough; seeing one of the 'kids' you've watched grow up and meeting her husband; one of your son's student loans being forgiven; a gorgeous sunset when you leave the grocery store
Tuesday: prayers for your mom when she's diagnosed with pneumonia; Christmas partying with your mom at her nursing home, including a visit from Santa and gifts from the staff to the residents
Wednesday: children performing the Christmas pageant; watching "It's a Wonderful Life" while baking cookies; Mucinex, so you can sleep without coughing when the cedar pollen count tops 3000
Thursday: sleeping in; breakfast, courtesy of your son; Shirley Temple movies; a phone visit with your mother-in-law, goddaughter, and other friends and relatives; celebrating Christmas with your mom, husband, and kids; a ticket from a friend to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in February; watching a movie with all of your kids for the first time in ages
Friday: introducing your mom and her roommate to the movie "Elf"; time to catch up with friends on Facebook; yellow wildflowers still blooming in December
Saturday: sleeping in three days in a row; finally straightening up your laundry room, like you've been wanting to do for months; physical therapists who are willing to give your mom a second chance
Sunday: a cousin who visits your mom, bearing Christmas gifts, and getting to see her when you visit your mom; making someone's day by finding their lost glasses; helping yourself and someone else by weeding out stuff to give to Goodwill; sunlight-woven gold on a late afternoon walk through the woods
Even when there are plenty of sweet! moments, the holidays aren't protected from sadness. A classmate's mother passed away earlier this week and a dear friend's sister lost her battle with cancer today. Please keep them and others who are suffering in your prayers, that they may still find something sweet in these days.
Christmas — that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.
~Augusta E. Rundel
The pitter-patter of tiny feet woke me early on Christmas morning, but it wasn't the sound of excited little children as on Christmas mornings long ago. It was Belle, letting me know she was ready to go outside.
I granted her request, then crawled back into bed. That's one good thing about Christmas mornings when the kids are grown - you get to sleep in if you want to.
Another is that they are old enough to fix you bacon and eggs for breakfast, like Daniel did for us.
But our celebration began on Christmas Eve with the Children's Mass. There's nothing like seeing little ones all dressed up in their fancy holiday outfits and a group of them acting out the Christmas pageant to fill you with Christmas spirit. So cute!
I spent the rest of that evening baking cookies while watching "It's a Wonderful Life". I think it's my favorite Christmas movie of all, because of its message of hope and faith and friendship, and the beauty of the simple things in life, period.
Christmas day itself was slow and relaxing. Sleeping late ... a walk with Belle ... that huge breakfast, courtesy of Daniel ... phone calls and texts from loved ones and friends ... last minute gift wrapping ... catching bits and pieces of a Shirley Temple movie marathon..
Late in the afternoon my oldest and his wife met us at Mama's nursing home, where we all squeezed into her little room to share cookies, visit, and open a few gifts.
Back home a couple of hours later, we shared a not-so-traditional fajita dinner, opened more gifts, and then ended the day stretched out around the television watching "A Christmas Story" - the "you'll shoot your eye out" one.
I wish so much that Mama could have joined us for dinner at our house. However, mid-week a chest X-ray confirmed she had pneumonia. They caught it early and started antibiotics, but she's still weak and has a bad cough. Please continue to pray for her - and thank you in advance.
Today I followed through on a promise by watching "Elf" with her. She and her roommate loved it.
I hope no matter what else is going on in your life, you've experienced some joy and laughter during the holidays, too.
May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;
The spirit of Christmas which is peace;
The heart of Christmas which is love.
~Ada V. Hendricks
A friend shared this on Facebook yesterday.
It was so moving, so glorious, and such a beautiful illustration of Love, that I knew right away I wanted to share it with all of you, as well.
Searching for it on You Tube just now, I discovered it's actually 5 years old, so perhaps you've already seen it.
But if you haven't, please watch it through to the very end... which is only 5 minutes.
You won't be sorry.
Naomi Feil, founder of Validation therapy, shares a breakthrough moment of communication with Gladys Wilson, a woman who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2000 and was virtually non-verbal.
More info: www.memorybridge.org
Love is so powerful and each of us can do so much if we allow it to work through us.
Mama and I were visiting in her room yesterday when the sound of Christmas carols reached our ears, even over the high volume of her roommate's television. I stepped into the hall. It was coming from the dining room.
She wanted to go listen, so a couple of aides helped get her situated in the hoyer and into her chair. It's a lot more difficult than it sounds, requiring Mama to roll from side to side as they get the canvas sling beneath her. The large mechanical lift itself has to be retrieved from another hall.
Consequently, just as we reached the dining room, the performance ended.
I wheeled her back to her room. It was time for me to go, so I gathered up her laundry basket, gave her a kiss, and headed down the hallway. But on a whim I made a detour into the dining room. Sure enough, a few carolers lingered.
Five minutes later, the carolers crowded into Mama's small room and gave her a short, private performance. She beamed and sang along.
It was much easier to tell her goodbye after that.
My tree still stands naked ... boxes of decorations are gathering dust in the middle of my livingroom ... I have yet to order my Christmas cards, much less address and mail them ... I've done no shopping, and have barely thought about what we'll have for Christmas dinner.
But when holiday stress over these yet-to-do's starts building, I'm going to remind myself of those few moments with Mama and of those carolers who agreed on a private encore just to make her happy. Those are the memories that make Christmas special.
Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. ~Peg Bracken
Mama has only been back in her room a couple of days. She made another trip to the emergency room on Tuesday. Not a fall, but just as scary: She choked on a tater tot. Her nurse said they couldn't get her breathing under control, and she even turned blue on them a couple of times.
However, by the time I caught up to Mama in the ER, she was breathing without wheezing and her color was great, thanks to numerous nebulizer treatments and a steroid IV. In fact, she was her twinkly, flirty self.
Even though her chest X-ray looked fine, they decided to keep her overnight for observation, in case she aspirated some of the tot. It would irritate and inflame the lungs, causing a type of pneumonia.
Thank goodness the follow-up X-ray the next day looked okay, and she passed a swallow test, but it was already so late in the day by the time they finished, they felt they should watch her another night just to make sure.
Everyone made a big fuss over her when she arrived back at the nursing home the next day. I didn't even nag her about eating lunch in bed.
It was a huge relief that she suffered no ill-effects from the incident, of course, but the surprise blessing is she gets a brand-new session of physical and occupational therapy, thanks to the stint in the hospital.
I'll keep trying to stop by there or call her early each day to nag... um, encourage her to get out of bed when physical therapy comes calling. It will be a Christmas miracle if she's strong enough to leave the home and celebrate at our house, but then, I believe in miracles.
Despite the unexpected visit to the hospital, there were plenty of sweet!s this past week....
Monday: being able to slow down enough to let a roadrunner cross the highway in front of you safely; your mom moving herself through the halls to see the Christmas tree in the foyer of her nursing home; being able to spend lots of time with her; an orange egg-shaped moon playing peek-a-boo on the hilly horizon with you
Tuesday: calls on your listings; finally having a closing date for one of your new home buyers; caregivers who act fast getting her to the emergency room when your mom chokes on her food
Wednesday: a glorious sunrise; meeting your new neighbor; the doctor determining your mother did NOT aspirate any tater tot; your mom released from the hospital; your daughter making the four dozen cookies you need for a cookie exchange because you're too busy with your mom; cookie exchanges
Thursday: morning sounds... your feet shuffling through dried leaves, the distant crow of a rooster, and the chirps of birds just waking up; a glimpse of the moon peeking through morning clouds
Friday: hitching a ride on a golf cart from the parking lot when you're wearing heels; dancing at Christmas parties with friends; photo booths; a shooting star flashing right in front of you; enjoying a meteor shower with your daughter
No silly ones - I had a tough enough time trying to figure out where to look!
Saturday: meeting a new client while trying out a new coffee bistro; stopping by their home for a visit with your son, daughter-in-law, and grandpuppy; the sight of Santa riding down South Congress on a horse; catching up with old friends at a Christmas party
Sunday: enjoying Christmas music with your mom; carolers who will give your mom a private performance; the rain waiting until you're in the grocery store to start, and then stopping before you come back out; a son who will cook dinner; a call from a dear friend
I hope you have a blessed week full of love and miracles, no matter what holiday you're celebrating this season. Be sure to share your sweet! moments from the past week in the comments! I'm sure you can think of something!
When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?
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.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I did. I feel especially blessed that in my 55 years I've only been responsible for the whole dinner a handful of times, thanks to my mom and, more recently, my son and daughter-in-law.
For the second year in a row, my son did an amazing job on the turkey, a huge 21-pounder! There was a ton of other delicious stuff... gorgeous appetizers, casseroles, desserts.
I brought the cornbread dressing, my mother's recipe. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving for me without it.
(I also brought a green salad, but it was mostly for show. It takes up way too much room on a plate!)
Even though my mom wasn't strong enough yet to join us at my son's, she was too stuffed with turkey and dressing to eat any of the goodies we brought her on our way home that evening. I'm grateful for that, and for the staff of her nursing home who made sure the residents celebrated.
The next day we celebrated Thanksgiving again with friends. No skipping work-outs for me for the next few weeks, that's for sure!
Thanksgiving was just the first in this season of celebration. Yesterday was the first official day of Advent, a time when we (as in Christians) reflect on what we need to do to prepare for the second coming of Christ while commemorating his first coming - Christmas. A season for reflection of the past and the future.
A few years ago I googled "Advent" for another post and found a description on Spirit Home that I thought was perfect. I've chopped out bits to save space, but here it is...
Advent is a season of preparation. So's Lent, but it is a different kind of preparation. Lent is very adult and serious, because it leads to a death; originally, Lent readied new Christian adults for baptism. In Advent, we thank God for Christ's first coming, prepare for his final coming at the end of time, and celebrate Christ's presence among us today through the Spirit. God loved us and wanted to share that love. But this existence isn't well-suited for a god; it's too broken, evil, painful, unjust. So, to rescue the created world from this evil, God chose to come here and walk the earth, to grow up, to live the truth, and to die. The only way to start such a thing is as a baby, and the only way to be a baby is to be born. Hence Christmas. Because Christmas is centered in the new hope brought by a baby, it's a very child-oriented holiday. Because Advent leads us up to that baby, Advent is also child-oriented.
There's a time to get ready by focusing on your own sinfulness and wrongdoing, a time for personal transformation and following Christ to the cross. That's Lent. There's a time to get ready by rejoicing that our God is not far away and unfamiliar with the struggles of human life, that Christ is here right now among His followers, that God has already begun to bring in the Kingdom, and that Christ will come again to make it clear who really runs the place. That's Advent. "Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the age", says Jesus.
"There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is."
~ Albert Einstein
I love that quote. And I do believe each day is full of miracles.
Keeping track of my sweet!s has helped me recognize them. Here are a few from the past week...
Monday: being able to start a new week and every new day with a morning walk; your mom agreeing to do her physical therapy
Tuesday: starting a new real estate class; a happy hour at sunset with friends
Wednesday: a blogger/writer friend's op-ed published in the LA Times; open parking spaces and short check-out lines when you procrastinate grocery shopping until the day before Thanksgiving; a pre-Thanksgiving phone call with your mother-in-law
Thursday: only being responsible for the cornbread dressing and green salad for Thanksgiving dinner; truly liking your daughter-in-law's family; creative appetizers; no traffic when you hit the road for Thanksgiving; another Wes Anderson movie with your son
Friday: the smell of fresh-baked brownies; sons who love to visit their grandmother; Thanksgiving Part 2 with friends
Saturday: three days in a row with no alarm clock; a "hello" from a raven on your morning walk; learning the difference between a crow and a raven; a silly movie with your son; finishing the edits on a special photography job
Sunday: referrals from friends; a spring-like day in winter; a glimpse of a Great Blue Heron disappearing over the treetops; two walks in one day with your puppy; your son calling to see if you need anything from the grocery store on his way home
Monday: the sound of the wind dancing in the treetops; your puppy running and running and running with joy and exuberance; spending a morning with a client viewing properties; a shadow-puppy/guard dog who follows you from room to room; your son getting a fire going when winter returns to your hollow
Beginning this Advent, I'm also going to work on being more aware and more supportive of my friends and family who are currently facing huge challenges. Time to pay it forward.
Whether you think about Advent or not, I hope your next few weeks are full of reflection, hope and joy.
There's a small pond tucked into the bottom of a hill down the road from our house. It can be counted on to hold water when the others have all dried up, deep enough that our Max puppy could really swim in it sometimes, not just wade. He loved it.
One morning on our walk a few weeks before he left us, Max started up the trail that leads to the pond. I was nervous, because the sides of the pond are so steep and deep, and his legs were so weak, I knew if he went in, he'd never make it out by himself.
But after just a few steps in the direction of the pond, he stopped and looked back at me, as if he was thinking the same thing.
"Let's just go back to our pond, Max," I told him. "You can swim there."
He must have agreed, because he immediately turned around and headed back down the road to our house.
I visited that little pond yesterday morning for the first time since Max's last swim. I thought about him and all of the mornings Belle and I stood on the trail above the pond and waited for him while he soaked and swam.
I wondered if the last time he swam there, he knew it might be his last. (I know I didn't. He kept surprising me.)
Whether he realized it or not, I bet he cherished every minute of it, and gave thanks in whatever way dogs do that it was there.
We rarely know when we're experiencing the "last" of something ... the last conversation or hug or kiss. The last walk with a beloved old puppy dog. Or the last Thanksgiving with a loved one.
All too often, we take it for granted there will be a "next time". We're human, after all, and life moves fast.
Last year we traveled to Houston to celebrate Thanksgiving a day late with my mom. I knew it would be the last time we celebrated in my childhood home, and that knowledge weighed on me every minute.
It was also the first Thanksgiving without Daddy. I was grateful for the chance to be there for Mama, but it was definitely a bittersweet celebration. In fact, I completely forgot about it until my sister reminded me yesterday.
I'd rather remember all the Thanksgivings there that came before it.
Today I'll be celebrating with my son, my daughter-in-law, and her extended family, just as we did last year. It might be a new tradition. It might not.
But it will be the "last" in some way, that's guaranteed, although I don't want to think about it like that. I just want to slow down and savor, to imprint the people I'm with and the moments of the day into my memory, and give thanks for them and all of the many blessings in my life...
...which includes you. I'm so grateful for you, and wish you a blessed Thanksgiving!
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
My mother, who was born with a spirit of independence and "where there's a will there's a way" ... who was my quadriplegic brother's primary caregiver even while working full-time ... who others (not just family) always turned to for help ...
... well, now she is dependent on a machine for oxygen, a wheelchair for mobility, and other people to help her with practically everything else.
She tries hard not to push that little white button that will summon help. Not because of false pride, but because she doesn't want to abuse the assistance.
She knows from personal experience how exhausting it can be, mentally and physically, to help a person with all of their basic needs, and she truly appreciates the aides who help her with hers. She hears other residents complaining, whining, constantly asking for help, so Mama tries to make sure she only calls when it's a real need.
(Sometimes she misjudges - and breaks her femur.)
When the aides and nurses come to help, she jokes with them and smiles often. So naturally, it seems they stop by to see her more often than the other residents. Wouldn't you?
She's a smart lady, my Mama.
But she has no ulterior motive in being pleasant. She just truly appreciates how hard they work.
They're not gray hairs. They're wisdom highlights.
Today is her 83rd birthday. We had a little party on Sunday, but the celebration has continued with cards and cookies arriving in the mail, and visitors bringing more sweets and balloons. I think she stayed in bed all day, which has always been one of her favorite pasttimes.
On her 77th birthday, I listed the things she had taught me in a blog post, and I've added to it every year. So without further ado, here's the list...
Things Mama has taught me...
"Lord, if your people need me, I will not refuse the work. Your will be done."
~St. Martin of Tours
My big brother Buster was headed to Viet Nam, saying his goodbyes, when I stood beside him in this photograph and smiled. I had no idea what was ahead of him. This was probably taken before his first tour of duty and so he had only a vague idea himself what to expect.
When he volunteered for his second tour, however, he knew full well what he was stepping into...but he did it anyway.
My dad was in high school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He joined the Navy soon after high school graduation because his country was at war and "it was the thing to do."
In the next twenty-two months he traveled a long way from Texas aboard the U.S.S. Geneva...to places like the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, China, Burma, Japan.
Before he turned twenty, he had seen cities that had been destroyed by war and piles of dead bodies waiting to be buried.
A few years later, his little brother Bobby followed his lead and joined the Navy, and many years later, so did my brother Donnie and two nephews.
Pop, my wonderful father-in-law, missed out on World War II, but joined the Air Force in time for the Korean War. He worked base supply in Okinawa, supporting bombers flying missions to Korea...about 100 aircraft every day.
He re-enlisted, got married, and hopped around the globe...living in England, Germany, and over a year in Pakistan, separated from his family (the other heroes - Mom had 8 teenage and younger boys to deal with by herself!)...visiting a dozen other countries...eventually staying put for awhile in Maryland, working with NSA (and a second job at the bowling alley to make ends meet), until his retirement.
A lifetime of service and sacrifice for this country.
My husband Tom was raised in that military family. For him it was normal to move every few years to someplace completely different...by the time he was eight or nine years old, he had lived in three countries!
He grew up on a tight budget ... hand-me-downs, powdered milk and only two cookies a day...period! And yet as soon as he could, he joined the service...the Coast Guard. Among other things, he helped rescue fisherman off the coast of Alaska.
Four of his brothers also joined the service (three career Air Force, just like their dad, and another Coast Guard) and the youngest joined the Army Reserves. Now the next generation is following in their footsteps: two Air Force and one Coast Guard.
I think it's very fitting that Veterans Day shares November with Thanksgiving, a day when we slow down to remember and be grateful for things that we usually take for granted, because veterans, despite the sacrifices they make for all of us, probably don't even make it onto our Thanksgiving thank-you list.
That's how much most of us take them for granted - as well as the freedoms they protect for us. Even when our country isn't at war, they go where they are needed to unfamiliar places, away from extended family, often living on a minimum salary.
To many, they are a symbol of war, not peace, and sadly become targets of derision, scorn, blame... and even violence, like the sad incident at Ft. Hood a few years ago.
They deserve to be thanked every day of the year. A friend of mine says that when he's in a restaurant and sees a man or woman in uniform, he secretly pays their bill. What a wonderful idea! I think more of us should go out of our way every day to show our appreciation, but I'm glad there is at least one special day where we shine a spotlight on them, remember their sacrifices and make clear our gratitude.
Thank you Daddy, Tom, Pop, Buster, Donnie, Uncle Bobby, Uncle Howard, Kenny, Steve, Joe, Robbie, John, Sheila, Michael, Tom, Lynn, Robbin, Evan...and all of the other Veterans, past and present, out there! Because of you, we're free to go about our daily lives, without a thought in the world to how much that freedom costs or how much you've given.
But let's hope we do remember the price, as well as those who, through their actions, say "Don't worry. I got this."
(If this sounds familiar, it's a re-post from last year and the year before and the year before, with just a few tweeks. With the passing of Daddy, my Uncle Bobby, and Pop in recent years, and my brother Buster years ago, this day feels especially poignant. I don't want their service to be forgotten.)
This evening my family commandeered the sunroom where my mom lives to celebrate her 83rd birthday a few days early. It was the only day we could all be together, but besides that, when you're turning 83, you really should start celebrating early, don't you think?
I know Mama loves being with all of my kids, but I also know that if her birthday wish had come true, we would have been sharing fajitas, chocolate cake, and stories around our old kitchen table in our house in Deepwater, and Daddy would have been there with us, too... in body, not just in spirit.
When you live long enough, there's often bitter mixed with the sweet.
But I think it's important to focus on the sweet, which for me was having my husband, my mom, every one of my kids, and even my grandpuppy Josie all together this evening. That doesn't happen often enough these days.
Here are some other sweet!s from the past week...
Monday: morning skies; working out for the first time in a week; the arrival of your new boots in the mail
Tuesday: catching up with a friend while on a property tour through the Texas hill country; the tug on your heart when you see the final resting spot of some beloved pets nestled under a tree; the freedom to vote, and standing in a line to exercise that right
Wednesday: walking in the rain with your puppy, the sound of raindrops on your umbrella your soundtrack; new clients; winning a gift card to Panera Bread
Thursday: customer service people who truly care about customer service; a husband who knows how to find great deals on Craig's List... in particular treadmills and ellipticals so you don't have to run on your caliche road
Friday: the return of sunshine to your Hollow; trees dressed in their autumn colors; finishing something you've wanted to do all week; not having to wear huge bandaids on your elbows anymore
Saturday: discovering a living jewel crawling on your road; baby showers; watching a movie with your mom; an overdue get-together with friends
Sunday: a walk through the woods with your puppy before Mass; talking real estate with Realtor friends; celebrating your mom's birthday early with all of your kids and your grandpuppy
Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the wide world over.
What were the sweet moments of your past week? Please share them in the comments. I hope you have twice as many in the coming week!
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!
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.
Each morning since my old puppy Max passed away, Belle and I have ended our walk in the little cemetery where he, Charly, Chewy, Ruthie, and Frankie are all buried. It may seem like a bittersweet way to start the day, but I believe it has helped me, and maybe Belle, transition to life without him.
The cross above is actually the one marking Charly's grave. I need to find another one like it for Max.
I started the week determined to keep track of my sweet!s again. Although by Tuesday, I knew my heart was soon going to break, I was determined to keep making note of at least one sweet a day.
On the darkest days, it helps to remember the sun is still shining somewhere, right?
Monday - an executed contract on one of your listings and finding a home for a family relocating from Illinois
Tuesday - your husband's plumbing and construction skills
Wednesday - your daughter calling you as she's driving to school to tell you to go see the blood moon; your friends praying for your sweet old puppy
Thursday - being able to spend your puppy's last hours beside him, petting him and telling him you love him; a vet who will travel to your home so your puppy can transition in his own home, surrounded by his family
Friday - seeing old friends while passing out flyers to your church's Oktoberfest; crossing heavy items off of your to-do list
Saturday - sleeping late to the sound of rain outside your window; finally cleaning up piles of paperwork in your office
Sunday - hearing rain outside your window two mornings in a row; submitting an offer for a client; seeing a friend's grandbaby for the first time; Blue Bell's Spiced Pumpkin Pecan ice cream; your husband's safe arrival at his mom's for a visit
I hope no matter what troubles or heartbreak you're experiencing, you're able to see the rays of sweet light shining in your darkness.
"Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really."
~ Agnes Sligh Turnbull
He wandered up to our house from the woods almost 11 years ago, a not-so-small puppy with crooked ears and a face so black you could barely see his eyes. We never found out where he came from, but within days, we didn't care. We knew he belonged with us.
His timing was just right; he brought Charly-dog back to life after the death of his brother, Chewy, and distracted me as my eldest prepared to head off to college.
Max was an angel, straight from heaven. I truly believe that.
But I guess angels can't live forever on earth, at least not when they take on mortal bodies. Max's finally wore out, and his beautiful spirit took flight yesterday as we whispered See-you-later and Thank-you and I-love-you-Max.
I spent the last few hours of his life beside him in the laundry room, working on my laptop, reading, and at times just sitting silently on the floor, watching him, petting him, remembering...
He would have tried to hang on, no telling how long - his devotion was so strong. But any doubts about our decision were squelched with one glance at him. He was nothing but fur and bones. He wouldn't eat and could no longer stand, much less walk.
He went downhill fast and I knew there wouldn't be another rally.
I'm grateful to our wonderful veterinarian and her assistant who braved the rough road to our house to ease my sweet Max into the next world, where I'm certain Charly welcomed him and he's no longer limited by that old, lame, beloved body, but able to run and pounce and play like he used to.
When my legs grew too weak to carry me, And my tired eyes could no longer see,
When it pained me to struggle for each new breath,
When my heart beat weaker, and I drew closer to death,
You did me the kindness of letting me go.
You didn't make me hang on when I was suffering so.
I promise I don't think that you loved me any less,
And I love you all the more for your selflessness.
You freed my spirit from its body so wracked with pain,
And let me run the fields of Heaven, where I'm sure we'll meet again.
nor speak of me with tears,
but laugh and talk of me
as if I were beside you…
I loved you so –
‘twas Heaven here with you.
Isla Paschal Richardson
"You think dogs will not be in heaven?
I tell you, they will be there long before any of us."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson
“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog that comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be a dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they.”
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
Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say; and
Keep me out of your way.
- Fr. Mychal Judge, FDNY (died 9/11/01)
Every year in late September, early October, I head to the coast with a group of friends for some beach therapy. Our annual adventure is coming up soon, in fact. We've gone every year since 1999 - except one.
That September of 2001 we were counting down the days until we could wave goodbye to our families, ready for some alone time.... a few days not having to do anything for anyone but ourselves.
But on the afternoon of the 11th, we changed our minds. We no longer wanted to wave goodbye to our families - we wanted to wrap them around us, so close and tight we could feel their breath and smell their familiar sweetness.
It wasn't a decision driven by fear. We knew the odds of some terrorist targeting our little Texas Hill Country town, or the little fishing town on the Gulf where we sought some peace and quiet, were slim to none.
But as that day progressed, we were reminded not to take our loved ones or the time we have with them for granted. Not to let a day go by without making sure they knew they were our whole world. Not to forget that every morning we may be opening our eyes to our very last day on this earth.
So that autumn we soaked up our families instead of the sunshine. We stayed close to home, pondered the changes in our country and our world. We prayed for peace.
But the next year we packed our swimsuits, sunscreen, magazines, Bloody Mary mix, and vodka, and headed for the beach. We've done so ever since. We continued our lives, relished our freedom, refusing to let fear mold our lives, for that would allow the terrorists to win.
But we haven't forgotten the lessons we learned on September 11, 2001 and the days that followed, about the things that truly matter and the steel-strength of this nation. We haven't forgotten how we overcame our differences, although some days (especially around election time) it's hard to believe. We haven't forgotten those ordinary citizens who were called to be heroes - and accepted the call.
We haven't forgotten that by going about our lives, speaking our minds and sticking up for one another, we are fighting a war - and winning.
"This day and every day. Tear us down and we WILL rebuild. Knock us down and we WILL arise. We are people of diverse faith, ideologies, and color. We may be distracted or divided by internal matters, such as politics, but we are America and we will remain."
~Johnny "Happy" Valentine, veteran and teacher
(A repost from 2012)
“God put us here, on this carnival ride.
We close our eyes never knowing where it'll take us next.”
There are good surprises, and there are bad surprises.
Years ago I met a woman who impressed me with her beauty and bubbly personality. I didn't know her well, and haven't seen her in years, but back then we shared a lot of laughs at monthly PTA bunco games (not as innocent as they sound!)
Today I attended her memorial service. She was barely in her 40's. Learning of her death earlier this week was a bad surprise.
I spotted many friends at the service who I haven't seen or spoken to in years...not since our kids grew up. We all agreed we need to get together, under better circumstances.
I hope we do.
Yesterday I drove to a small town near San Antonio to help surprise my dear friend Nancy for her 50th birthday. I liked being part of a good surprise.
Nancy was my first friend in Lago Vista, then later agreed to be my Confirmation sponsor when I finally decided to convert to Catholicism after years of attending Mass with Tom and the kids, and months of discussing it with our priest.
Within a few years she had to move away from Lago, but we've somehow held onto our friendship, despite the distance (and age difference!)
Happy birthday tomorrow, Nancy!
"May your September be spacious like a long, slow bloom..."
I've been reading Jennifer Richardson's beautiful, evocative, inspirational prose and photographs on her blog Ripplespeak for a few years now, so when she announced she was giving away a copy of her monthly zine, I crossed my fingers and tossed my comment into the bag.
What a great surprise to hear I'd won! She sent two copies - one for me and one for my mom.
Her words are like sunshine and fresh air, and I know I'll keep her zine close by to read often. You can get your own at her Etsy shop, Ripplesongs.
Wolf is actually a pseudonym. Besides being a gifted writer, he's an anesthesiologist. He wrote about it in an e-book "Breathing for Two" last year. I immediately bought it, of course, but months turned into a year while it sat unread on my computer. (Who has time to read for pleasure when they're starting a business?)
So I finally broke down and bought the audio book last week. Wolf himself read it to me while I worked out and drove around Austin. (Why didn't I do this before?)
Here's my review on Amazon...
"In "Breathing for Two", Wolf Pascoe does a wonderful job weaving his story through the dry medical stuff, making even the history of anesthesiology come alive for the reader. He compels us to care about his patients and root for him when things go wrong. And he's very honest and upfront about his mistakes. I felt I was standing right beside him in anatomy class, and then later, as he watched over his patients. He relates the lessons he has learned in his decades as an anesthesiologist in such a way that they can be applied to everyone and to all areas of life. This is a book I could read over and over again, because I feel each time I'll get something new from it. I recommend the audio version - Wolf is a wonderful reader."
In short, go buy this book!
I wasn't surprised I loved the book, but I never thought I would like audio books, so that was a great surprise. I have two other e-books written by friends getting dusty on my computer. I'm going to see if there are audio versions for those, as well!
A week ago, Tom and I were discussing making that decision about Max. This morning, he made it to the top of the walkway before I did, and while we didn't go on a long walk, he did prance around and play with Belle.
I believe in miracles. They are the best surprises, aren't they?
"I wish you hopeful eyes, fresh wings, and a second wind in the living."
~ Jennifer Richardson
Two days ago I knelt beside Max and whispered in his ear that it was okay if he just let go. I told him he had trained Belle well, and she would take awesome care of us, and if Charly was close by, asking him to come play, that it was okay. Go play with Charly.
That's how weak he was, lying there on my laundry room floor. He hadn't eaten in a couple of days again.
We thought we'd discovered the secret: vienna sausages and potted meat. In his last weak spell, we'd tried everything, trying to get him to eat, and he had gobbled these right up.
But I guess even dogs can get too many vienna sausages. He was turning his nose up at them, and everything else we offered, including real beef Ballpark weiners.
However, the next morning, instead of huddling in the dark of his huge doghouse, he was up on the hill in the woods in front of our house, taking care of business (which is always a good sign) and he's subsequently spent the last two days lounging on the front porch, seemingly loving the warm breeze and the sound of birds gossiping at the nearby feeder.
It was Tom who suggested giving him some of Belle's dry food. Max has been eating expensive Science Diet food targeted at joint issues all of his life, while we give Belle a cheap-in-comparison Purina dry food targeting weight issues.
We tried it... and Max loves it. (At least, for now. I'm worried he'll get sick of it, too, and then what will we do?)
For now, we're taking it a day at a time, watching him for signs of distress. So far, there have been none. If we see them, we'll know what to do.
But I'm earnestly praying it's taken out of our hands, that when the time comes... before there's any pain or distress... this sweet old boy of ours closes his eyes and drifts off to some woods very similar to ours to go exploring with his Charly dog.
Maybe Frankie, the guinea hen, will tag along, too, like he used to. I like to think so.
Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really.
~Agnes Sligh Turnbull
For the past week or so I've been living vicariously through a couple of my kids. Again.
My son and his wife have now experienced the beauty, beer, food, art, sights and sounds of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Amsterdam. And through the wonders of technology, I've been able to tag along through their photos and words, posted on Instagram and Facebook.
Having your kids visit the places of your dreams is the next best thing to seeing them yourself.
They're safe and sound, back in Austin now, although I haven't spoken to them to know that. I learned it while snooping in mom-fashion for updates on their Facebook pages tonight.
I am so very grateful for Facebook and all of the hours of worrying it has saved me.
Besides Facebook and kids arriving home, safe and sound, I've had a pretty sweet-filled week. Here are a few more....
Monday: adolescent cardinal triplets playing "King of the Mountain" on the birdfeeder; much needed rain on your hollow; staying up late, laughing over old clips of Robin Williams with your son
Tuesday: your client closing on her new home; sharing a private dinner at Franklin Barbecue with your son, courtesy of Google; watching the Austin Bomb Squad in action (and surviving!)
Wednesday: making the final payment on your car; reflecting on, and celebrating, the past 32 years with the love of your life
Thursday: watching your old puppy eat, without having to coax him or feed him by hand; dinner at Eddie V's with dear friends you haven't seen in a while
Friday: sitting outside on a clear night, listening to live music with friends; a glimpse of the baby fox living in your hollow
Saturday: receiving an offer on one of your listings and writing an offer for one of your buyers; watching "Sons of Katie Elder" with your mom, then later another movie with your son
Sunday: a taste of biscuits and gravy, thanks to a friend who doesn't mind sharing; helping old homes have a chance at new life; inspiration from the Garden of Eatin'
If you think hard enough, I bet you can think of some sweet! moments from your past week. Be sure to share them in the comments!
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!)
I was 19, living alone in my first apartment, relishing the solitude and the freedom of having my own space. Many nights I sat on a second-hand loveseat watching my very own television, bought via the Sears Easy Payment Plan.
Thanks to my sister, who worked in the Sears credit department, I was building my credit, $13 at a time, each and every month.
"Mork and Mindy" was one of my favorite shows. That's how long Robin Williams has been making me laugh. So hearing that he gave in to his demons today brought me great sadness.
Years and years and years ago, I almost gave into those same demons who steal the reality of hope away. Afterward, I could see what a selfish act suicide truly is.
When you're eighteen, it's sometimes tough to believe things can get better. When you're 63, you've already survived so much, you should know better.
However, lest I start becoming too judgemental, I remember "There, but for the grace of God..." I remember to be grateful for the chance to see it that way. Grateful for a second chance to live and love life.
But dang it. Robin Williams.
My kids know him through Mrs. Doubtfire and Disney cartoons and Hook. He's been making them laugh their entire lives. At 63, he still had so much living and giving yet to do.
With a heart already missing the craziness of Robin Williams in this world, I also learned this evening that a treasure of my childhood may be destroyed.
The old Capitan Theater, built in 1949, has been languishing for years, waiting for an investor to restore it to its previous glory. I remember elegant velvet loveseats, carpeted stairways, ornate murals and decorations.
I can still see a young Elvis Presley dancing on the screen ... can still hear him singing "Viva Las Vegas" straight to the five-year-old me.
But peeking through the glass front doors in recent years revealed years of neglect. It once sat in the center of town, close to the newspaper office and the post office and City Hall, but now gathers dust on the outskirts of a town that continually boards up building in favor of bigger, better, and newer, rather than trying to preserve its history. The ornate old post office was left behind years ago.
And yet I still held on to hope that someone would come along and fix up the old theater. Instead, according to a story in the local newspaper, it's been sold to a chemical company and expected to be destroyed.
However, despite what Robin Williams obviously felt in his last minutes or hours, because of my own experience I believe there's always hope as long as there's breath. It's too late for Robin, but I'm holding out hope for El Capitan.
Holding out hope that the city realizes its history is a treasure and starts to treat it as such.
But may you rest in peace, Robin. Thank you for decades of belly-aching laughter and heart-aching movies.
Perhaps you were just afraid you'd become a dusty relic, and decided to make your exit while the neon lights still shone.
It would have been intimidating growing up with such a beautiful big sister if she had been the type to criticize or belittle.
But I was blessed with Brenda.
Sure, she liked to tease me sometimes, and even lost her temper with me once or twice, but given that I was a brat for at least the first ten years of my life...okay, twenty... the way she treated me could qualify her for sainthood.
How many teenage girls let their baby sisters tag along on dates? (Did I mention I was a brat?) How many volunteer to go on school field trips? How many take their little sisters and her friends to the beach, or Astroworld, or on crazy fast spins through the neighborhood in their Volkwagon Bugs? (Don't tell anyone about that one!)
How many buy their family a green artificial Christmas tree and new ornaments to hang on it without being asked because their little sister ended up in the emergency room the year before with asthma triggered by a real tree?
When their parents are overwhelmed with worry and care over their recently paralyzed son, how many big sisters go overboard with gifts for their baby sister to make sure she still has a Merry Christmas?
When their nineteen-year-old sister finishes a stupidly scary book (Amityville Horror!), how many big sisters not only allow her to spend the night, but agree to sleep in the same room with her, as well, despite her husband's grumbling?
Yes, growing up with a big sister who is your best friend is one of the sweetest sweet!s ever. And since today is her birthday, I hope the coming year is jam-packed and overflowing with sweetness for her, because she has given everyone around her so much sweetness all of her life.
And here are a few more sweet!s from the past two weeks (how did I get so far behind?)...
Friday: lunch with a dear long-time friend, and then surprising your mom with a visit from her
Saturday: sleeping in, when you're exhausted; a visit with your mom and son and grandpuppy, all at the same time
Sunday: Garden of Eatin' inspiration
Monday: your old puppy waiting for you on the porch, stronger and eager for a morning walk; the miracle of arriving on time when you've left late and hit lots of traffic; finding just the right place for two of your clients after a long search
Tuesday: watching your old puppy swim again; a friend reminding you to stay positive; seeing your coach on television during her mission trip to help the children on the border; exploring east Austin with your son, including free food and drinks, courtesy of Google; learning how to be a DJ
Wednesday: singing along to the Cowboy and the Princess with your mom; making it to your belly-dancing class after missing two weeks; the neighbor to your lot listing helping you hammer your sign back in when some other useless being has pulled it up and tossed it onto your lot
Thursday: your old puppy's appetite returning, slowly but surely; a friend taking the time to teach your mom how to create newborn knitted caps
Friday: an offer on one of your residential listings and a call on one of your lot listings; issues with Russia calming down as your son and daughter-in-law prepare to leave for a vacation in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Amsterdam
Saturday: negotiations; two more calls on your listings; getting together with long-time friends you've known since high school or beyond
Sunday: catching a young fox in your headlights; Facebook, so you can enjoy photos of your son's trip to Russia
Monday: saving a wolf spider; a closing for one of your buyers!; just the inspiration you need waiting for you in your mailbox, thanks to a dear friend
Tuesday: hiking around two Texas Hill Country acres with a client; Chinese food with friends and great fortune-cookie fortunes
Wednesday: meeting Leon at HEB who give you a free car wash because your car really needs it; finally getting the hang of some of your belly-dancing moves
Thursday: joining forces with other parishioners to make your church Oktoberfest a success
Friday: learning more about the Circuit of the Americas racetrack at a local Chamber of Commerce meeting; getting a tour of the wedding venue that happens to be your neighbor
Saturday: getting to drive your own car after two days, thanks to your husband fixing your flat tire (yes, another one!); a gorgeous sunset and then moonrise over your hollow
Sunday: being able to wish your sister a happy birthday, and let her know how grateful you are for her
An older sister is a friend and defender - a listener, conspirator, a counsellor and a sharer of delights. And sorrows too.
Earlier this week I let you know that my old puppy Max had slid downhill, health-wise. Thank you so much for all of your well wishes, both here and on Facebook.
There is power in well-wishes. I truly believe that, especially after watching Max rally the past few days.
His rally isn't 100%. He's an old dog, after all. But he's eating again, and for five mornings in a row, he's been waiting for me on the porch at sunrise, ready for our walk.
Monday morning, we only made it a short way down our road before he decided it was time to head back home, but that was an improvement!
The next morning, thinking it was going to be a repeat performance and we wouldn't step foot into the woods, I skipped my routine dousing in mosquito spray for the first time in months.
And so naturally Max decided we were going to take a long walk, all around our property. We went to the far side of the big pond, up the hill, back down to the little pond, where he wobbled his way across the stone dam and then went swimming.
I was ecstatic. I didn't rush him, just let him wander where he wanted (except not through the fence bordering our property, even though it was tough telling him no about something), grateful I didn't have anywhere I needed to be for a few hours.
That long walk must have worn him out; Wednesday morning was another short jaunt to the dumpsters and back. But the past two days he's ventured farther once again, checking out all his favorite places.
I realize he still has congestive heart failure. Cataracts. Hip Dysplasia. Elbow Dysplasia. He's having a tough time controlling his bladder, like so many other older men and women.
But I know he can't stay with me forever, so I wash the blankets over and over, and keep an eye on him for any signs of real distress or discomfort. The day will come, I know, and I know what I'll need to do, and I'll do it.
Because I love him.
Until then, you'll find me heading out the door each morning just as night gives way to dawn, carrying a fragile hope in my heart that Max is waiting there for me, ready for our walk, just one more time.
Whether it's the heat or just old age catching up to him, Max has gone down a pretty steep hill lately.
Just last week we took the long walk, around the curve and down into the creekbed. But now he can't walk far before having to stop and rest. Our walks have gotten shorter and shorter. This morning we barely made it past the next property before he was ready to head back home.
I'm not sure if that's due to his congestive heart failure, or because he hasn't eaten much of anything in several days, despite our coaxing. TG even tries to feed him by hand, a trick that has always worked in the past. (He's a little spoiled.)
He's still drinking and "marking his territory", if you get my drift, so that's a good thing, but I sure wish he'd start eating again.
I'm hoping it's just the heat. We're keeping him and Belle inside all day and half the night. It hasn't made a difference in his appetite, but it obviously makes him happy, and I'm grateful for the chance to repay some of the happiness he's provided me in his short life.
It's only been about ten years since he wandered up to our house and adopted us. Sure, he's a big dog - a German Shepherd/Great Dane mix, our vet guessed - and typically they don't live long lives, and yeah, the orthopedic doctor who diagnosed his elbow dysplasia when he was 18 months old said he could be lame by the time he was 7 years old even if we fed him the right food and gave him all the supplements.
But still ... ten years just isn't enough time with that old puppy.
However, this is a sweet! post, so I'll focus on the sweet moments with him over the past week...how happy he is to see me first thing in the morning ... how eager he is to get started on our morning walks ... the joy in his eyes when Belle kisses his whole face ... the pride in his eyes when he watches her run circles around us ... the way he snuggles against me, almost knocking me down ... his "Look how cute I am" pose, with one paw looped over his nose ...
It's amazing how they fit right into places in your heart you didn't realize were empty, isn't it?
I talk to him when I'm lonesome like; and I'm sure he understands. When he looks at me so attentively, and gently licks my hands; then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes, but I never say naught thereat.
For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes, but never a friend like that.
~W. Dayton Wedgefarth
Here are a few other sweet!s from the past week or so...
Wednesday: spending hours with your mom; celebrating your baby girl's birthday with pizza and chocolate cake; laughing and reciting lines while watching "Goonies" with your son and daughter
Thursday: discovering your aloe plant survived the winter after all
Friday: your mom winning in dominoes; an evening with all of your kids, your husband, and your brother-in-law from Arizona; a message from a longtime friend; a beautiful bracelet from your goddaughter
Saturday: showing houses in the morning and again in the evening; bridal showers; your brother-in-law wanting to visit your mom; playing 3-13 with family
Sunday: when everything falls into place, despite some disappointments along the way; steady traffic at your open house; visiting a dear friend from church with your mom
Monday: your husband noticing, and fixing, your flat tire, even though it made him hit traffic on his way to work
Tuesday: getting to work early and accomplishing a lot before lunchtime; the flexibility to run home and let your puppies in the house on a hot day; sharing cookies and watching "Andy Griffith" with your mom
Wednesday: a morning walk with your puppies for the first time in five days; time with good friends you don't see often enough; coconut milk chocolate mint ice cream with pecans and hot fudge
Thursday: the feel of raindrops on your skin; cancelled meetings that allow you to work from home; lots of showings on your listings; social time with your colleague-friends; ping-pong, ping-pong, ping-pong (especially when you win!)
I hope you've had a week full of sweet!s (share them in the comments!) and this next week you find so many more your cup overflows!
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.
After a long day, I pulled up to my house at dusk and stepped out of the car, my brain whirring with the day's events and to-do's still left on my mental list.
Then the chuck-will's-widow sang to me, pulling me back into the moment and the beauty around me...
...the dusky blue horizon ... the glint of our metal roof, peeking out from the hollow, surrounded by cedars and oaks ... the quiet of the dirt road, and the soothing sound of a night bird's song.
Between grandpuppy-sitting and the 4th of July... and winning a multiple offer situation, yay!... this has mostly been a great week, so I had another title in mind for this post, involving puppies and parades (I like alliteration.)
But after spending a few hours with a friend who is mourning her dad, followed by a visit with my mom, I knew when the chuck-will's-widow sang to me this evening that he would get top billing.
Birds sing after a storm;
why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?
~Rose F. Kennedy
And here are a few other sweet!s from the past week...
Tuesday - going on a property tour for first time in awhile; watching your mama walking, even if it's with the help of her awesome therapists; having your client's offer on a home accepted over three others
Wednesday - a backseat full of dog; your daughter's help taking both of your puppies to the vet for check-ups; clean reports on your puppies from the vet; surprise parties; taking a belly dancing class with a good friend you never see otherwise
Thursday: pancakes; accountability meetings that keep you on track for your goals; getting another year-long promotional price on your phone and internet service; visits from grandpuppies
Friday: celebrating your country's birthday by sleeping in and walking your puppies; watching fireworks pop above the horizon from your back porch
Saturday: riding on a float and sipping mimosas in a 4th of July parade in a small town; your friends' Model A painted Longhorn Orange; finally meeting someone in person who you met via your blog, who has property in your town he wants to sell; bobbing in a lake on a gorgeous day for a few hours while catching up with a friend
Sunday: knowing your kids arrived home safe and sound from a weekend in Chicago; spoiling your grandpuppy; showing houses; a great inspection report on your client's new home
Monday: your husband fixing your favorite shoes for you; lunch from Yummi Tacos with a friend; seeing friends you haven't seen in awhile; getting a hug from your oldest
Tuesday: office meetings and free lunches; La Grange, Texas; memories of road trips and eating at the Cottonwood Inn restaurant with your Daddy; being there for a friend who is mourning her daddy; seeing a longtime friend and the parents of another friend who you haven't seen in decades; a neck massage from your son
What made your heart soar, or at least sigh, this week? Share it in the comments! I hope this next week is sprinkled with sweet! moments for you!
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.
Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes.
For the first Father's Day in years and years, I don't have a phone call or road trip to make. Tom and I have both lost our dads, and, well, I have kind of a lost feeling today.
I'm glad I took the time the last few Father's Days to travel to Houston so I could spend the day with Daddy, and be sure he knew how grateful I am that God allowed me to be his daughter. The photo above was taken last year. In my heart I knew it was probably the last Father's Day I'd spend with him.
I didn't get to see Pop as often, but we talked a lot on the phone, especially the last year of his life. I'm sure he, too, knew how grateful I am that God allowed me to become his daughter through marriage. I didn't realize the photo above would be the last one I took of him.
This year I focused on Tom ... on getting a plan in place to celebrate him, so he knows how grateful I am that he's the father of my children. It was low-key, the way he wanted it. Just us, the kids, and my mom enjoying hamburgers fresh off the grill.
And all around us, the memory of two other very special fathers.
The greatest gift I ever had
Came from God; I call him Dad!
Last Friday I made a quick road trip to Houston to take care of some business for my mom. My friend Debra graciously opened her home in Seabrook to me and TG for the night.
On our way to meet friends for dinner, I was mesmerized by the sunlight bathing pastel houses...the cloudless sky...the gulls swooping and singing...
Tension melted away.
I came to just in time to snap this photo over my shoulder and out of the passenger window. I'm pleasantly surprised it came out as well as it did, considering it was an afterthought.
Sometimes gathering my sweet!s is a lot like this photo, a blurry afterthought.
The beginning of last week was especially blurry. The days were so similar that I'm lumping Monday through Thursday all together.
There were walks with my puppies, new listings, classes and trainings via phone and webinars, watching "Ellen" with my mom, and the first blooms of the Mountain Pinks...
By the weekend, everything became clearer...
Friday: a road trip with your daughter; Panda Express fortunes; sunset on a watertown; the song of seagulls; Mexican food and margaritas with dear friends
Saturday: sorting through decades of memories with your sister and daughter; a visit with a dear friend; the way you can count on finding a Subway sandwich shop in whatever little town you're passing through; the movie "Happy Feet", especially when shared with your son and daughter
Sunday: waking without an alarm clock; Mass with your son; your husband cleaning all of the travel bugs off of your windshield; "Game of Thrones" with your kids; your advice about being a mother-in-law included in a friend's Huffington post article
Monday: window-screen-cleaning squirrels; dreaming of helping a client buy a million dollar property; a son who stops to visit his grandmother on his way home from work; getting another new listing
Tuesday: glorious, cool summer mornings; winning a door prize; property tours; catching up with friends; a call from a friend asking for your help in finding a home for her dad; the generous and helpful spirit of colleagues; a wiggly puppy happy to see you home
There are whole years for which I hope I'll never be cross-examined, for I could not give an alibi.
Time to slow down, focus, pay attention to and give thanks for each and every moment.
(Don't forget to add your sweet!s in the comments!)
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.
...I slept in a little this morning, until the impatient sunlight pestered me awake.
...I walked with the dogs along a country road, safe and free.
...I'll spend time with my family, maybe play some ping-pong with my kids or watch a movie.
Thanks to you...
...I grew up in a country where I (mostly) make my own choices.
...I live in a land where my dreams are limited only by my own lack of creativity, ambition and drive.
...my children face a future where almost anything is possible.
...I'm free to live my life because you gave your own.
I promise I won't forget. I promise I won't take it for granted.
I promise your sacrifice won't be wasted on me.
I wrote that post a few years ago, but it sums up my feelings so well, I wanted to share it again.
Memorial Day always triggers a little extra gratitude in me for a completely different reason, so here's another slightly-altered repost...
We spent that Memorial Day in 1998 with our kids and other families, swimming in a cold river, eating fresh pineapple, grilling burgers. That night we laughed and danced to Johnny Dee and the Rocket '88s.
Then a phone call early on Tuesday morning made me realize how much I had been taking for granted and how quickly life can change directions.
That Tuesday was sixteen years ago today, but at times it feels like yesterday. Tom left for work, expecting it to be like any other day, but it wasn't. He didn't expect the other car to come into his lane, didn't expect to spend a week in the hospital or the summer trying to heal and recover instead of building our home. He didn't expect to live with pain for the next sixteen years.
But that's what happened, whether he expected it or not. And the thing is, we got through it. We built our home... not that summer, but there were other summers... and I'm grateful for that.
We've spent more days swimming in cold water with family and friends, and evenings laughing and dancing. I don't think a day goes by when Tom isn't in some degree of pain, but somehow he moves on and doesn't let it stop him from doing what he needs, or wants, to do.
It wasn't the last unexpected detour in our road we've encountered, and I'm sure there are more waiting for us. I can't say I'm grateful it happened. I'd love to tell you something positive that came from it, but honestly, I haven't been able to see that ray of light yet. Perhaps it's shining where I can't see it. I can only hope so.
But life is just too short for grudges and regrets that burn holes in your heart, for dwelling on the past or the future so long that you miss your today.
It's too short not to pursue your passion even if you only have a few seconds free each day to do it.
Too short to sit back and wait for things to happen, or for someone else to do it, or to make excuses.
Too short not to love with your whole heart, leaving no room for pride or selfishness, always trying to understand, listen, forgive, and ask forgiveness.
Too short not to take care of yourself and those you love.
Life is just too short, period, and too wonderful to take for granted.
Happy 16th anniversary of a second chance, Tom. I love you!
(I've spared you the most graphic images of Tom. His face was split open. You're welcome. I took notes during those long days and turned them into an essay... "In the Aftermath of a Car Crash" )
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
~Gladys Bronwyn Stern
What are you grateful for?
This adorable, freckle-faced, blue-eyed boy turned 57 today. Can you believe it?
If you've read much of my blog, you know I never take birthdays for granted, but I'm especially grateful for each one of his we get to celebrate.
I've spent too many hours sitting in hospital waiting rooms praying for him ... come too close to losing him too many times. I know there are dozens of close calls I'm not even aware of, times I'm sure his angels kept him from falling off the roof or wrecking the backhoe, the motorcycle, the car ...
And then there's his heart, the time bomb in his chest that he inherited from his grandpa. The grandpa who died of a heart attack at 56. The father of Tom's aunts who died from heart attacks before their 50th birthdays.
When we were in our twenties, 56 seemed so old. Not so much, anymore...
I'm grateful Tom listens to his body and doesn't hesitate in seeing a doctor when something is wrong. We wouldn't be celebrating his birthday today if he hadn't insisted more than a decade ago that the pain in his chest was more than just a pulled muscle, even though a stress test and EKG said otherwise.
Hallelujah! his wonderful cardiologist listened to him and ordered an arteriogram. She saved his life! An arterial blockage hid in the one spot a stress test couldn't find it. They popped in a stent and sent him on his way - with plenty of prescriptions and requirements for yearly blood work and check-ups, of course.
I support his efforts to take care of himself ... to eat right and exercise. I buy the things he should be eating, not ice cream or cookies. I make sure we have plenty of raw fruits and vegetables on hand.
What I wish I could do better is help him with stress. He worries, and not without reason, over finances, retirement, our kids, our cars, our land, our house.
Mostly over finances.
And that's why this post is mostly a repeat of one from a few years ago, because I didn't have time to write a new one. I'm working hard to build my real estate business ... to be so successful that Tom's able to stop worrying about finances, once and for all. I knew he'd appreciate me using this time to get another closed transaction than write about him.
(But I couldn't just ignore this special day.)
Now, time to get back to work...
Happy 57th birthday, sweet Tom!
"If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you."
~A. A. Milne
For most of this day, I sat at my kitchen table, close to all of my kids plus my mom, constantly giving thanks that I could do so.
I can't think of a better way to spend Mother's Day. I am blessed and I know it.
"I got to grow up with a mother who taught me to believe in me." ~ Antonio Villaraigosa
There were so many things I wanted to write posts about this week. But because there were so many things, I didn't have a minute to spare, and those posts didn't get written.
I've consolidated them a little bit here in my sweet!s. It's a great way to remember the good things that happen...and good practice for squeezing sweet! out of something that seemed totally sour at the time.
Tuesday: purple thistle; discovering catered food in the company break room when you're starving; touring the new high school and seeing old friends at the same time; strawberries and blackberries straight out of a friend's garden; a bag of onions to take home
Wednesday: a good morning text from a friend; cactus blossoms; a room filled with love and laughter, celebrating the 20th anniversary of your priest's ordination with friends
Thursday: being part of a company that completely shuts down one day a year to give back to its community by helping a nonprofit business in the area; helping to build a memorial garden in a local no-kill animal shelter (Texas Humane Heroes - so many precious animals waiting to adopted!)
Friday: getting to the other side of the mock listing presentation you've been dreading; puppy kisses; the soreness that comes from physical labor
Saturday: sleeping in, then taking a leisurely walk with your puppies; spotting a fox; clearing away the piles of paperwork that were growing in your office; joining your mom in a Mother's Day reception
Sunday: Mass with your kids and husband; a huge bacon and egg brunch, courtesy of your son; kids who are always willing to help out; spending Mother's Day with your mom and all of your kids; seeing your brother and his wife; a bouquet of yellow and purple flowers from your son and daughter-in-law
To all mothers, in all shapes and forms, I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend.
To those who couldn't be with their mothers this weekend, or with their sons or daughters, remember their love is always with you, inside and out.
“Being a mom has made me so tired. And so happy.” — Tina Fey
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
Mama lies in a hospital bed beside me, still groggy from anesthesia. I listen to her breathing, every now and then glancing up from my laptop to the monitor above her bed to check her oxygen level.
For me, it started with a call yesterday morning at 4:30. Mama was having difficulty breathing and an ambulance was on its way to the nursing home to transport her to the hospital. Where did I want them to take her?
Just a few weeks ago an elderly couple from my church told me about a nearby hospital that had released the husband when the wife felt he was still very sick. Sure enough, later that evening she took him to another hospital where they found he was running a high fever and had a severe urinary tract infection.
I told them to take Mama to that second hospital.
It took several breathing treatments and steroids through an IV, but within a few hours her breathing was under control. That's when the internist examined her and discovered she had a tender spot on her right side. A few tests later, surgery was scheduled for today to say goodbye and good riddance to her gall bladder.
I never thought I'd be grateful for an asthma attack.
Please keep my mom in your thoughts and prayers as she begins the road to recovery. With 24/7 oxygen and limited mobility, she has a high risk of developing pneumonia.
P.S. Another blessing...she smiled at me before I left, despite the pain and lingering fog.
"You're so happy," the technician told Mama as she wheeled her to pre-op.
"Laughter is good for you," said Mama.
She's still teaching me: You can always find something to smile about.
Bridget Shallue was just 52, younger than I am now and already a widow, when she said goodbye to Ireland in 1852 with her grown children...chased away by the potato famine, I'm sure.
If she ever returned, it isn't mentioned in the family lore.
Accompanied by two daughters and two sons, Bridget first arrived in Quebec, traveled to New York, and finally settled in Wisconsin in 1856.
One daughter died on the passage from Ireland and was buried at sea. Two older sons chose Australia over America to begin their new life. I doubt if she ever saw them again; her goodbye to those sons was probably as final and heartbreaking as her goodbye to her home, her homeland and her husband Thomas's grave - he had died just a few years before, at age 45.
And then the added heartbreak of watching a daughter's lifeless body disappear into the ocean...heartbreak I just can't imagine.
My own Tom Shallue and I found all of this out shortly after we were married, by talking to relatives and researching in libraries. We traced his family back to Ennistyman, County Clare...to that first Tom's grave, but that was as far as we could go. There was no Internet twenty-five years ago, no Ancestry.com, and we couldn't afford a trip over to do our own research or to hire a professional to do it for us.
It hit me that I knew more about the Shallue history than my Wilson's, so the next few years I focused my genealogical fervor on that line and other branches of my family ... for example, my great-great grandfather George, memoir writer and protagonist of (one of) my book-in-progress.
But today is St. Patrick's Day and my thoughts are green...drawn toward the Shallue family and Ireland. Tom and I dream of traveling there one day, visiting the places that are only names on a map to us right now.
The photo above isn't the final resting place of a direct descendant - it was taken by an aunt or cousin on a visit to Ireland several years ago - but it's no doubt a relative because every Shallue is related. There just aren't that many!
Even these very names...James, Margaret and Denis Shallue...are echoed on tombstones across the ocean in America.
The Australian Shallues were always a mystery to the American branch. Rumor had it those brothers got on the wrong boat...they went to Australia totally by accident!
The funny thing is, the American and Australian Shallues have connected on Facebook, of all places, but I still haven't gotten any clear answers about how they ended up there.
I have no big celebrations planned today, unfortunately. If you do, have fun and be safe!
Here's wishing all of you a happy St. Patrick's Day!
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...
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. )
Steve and Lisa, a couple in my church, took it upon themselves to form what they call a "hospitality" ministry several months ago. Almost every Sunday they prepare and offer some special brunch item after each Mass. Just the two of them.
Today it was French toast. Yum!
They also offer fruit in waffle cones, muffins, chocolate-covered strawberries...with culinary presentation the best restaurants would envy. And they do it all through donations or personal funds. The church only paid for upgrades to the kitchen area.
Lisa has turned our once-drab Parish Activity Center into a delightful bistro, with cute wine bottle centerpieces on the table and whimsical artwork on the walls. Thanks to her and Steve, parishioners now linger over coffee, getting to know one another better, instead of rushing home after Mass.
But one of the things I love best about their ministry is the sign above, where Lisa writes a different inspirational, encouraging, motivational message each week. You don't see it until you're leaving the PAC.
A sweet! to send us back off into the world, well-fed and inspired.
A funny thing about this particular message... Before seeing it this morning, I had just thanked another parishioner who I don't know very well for sending a card years ago when Tom was in his serious head-on accident. That little gesture meant so much at the time, and still occupies a large part of my heart, reminding me how important those little things can be to others.
Here are some other sweet!s from the past week...
Monday: friendly, helpful people in the Social Security Administration office; having an iPhone so you can catch up on email when you have a two-hour wait
Tuesday: being able to work from home on icy mornings; finishing a project you've been working on for weeks; restoring email to your iPhone without having to visit the Apple store; earning $300 worth of free jewelry just by hosting a catalog party
Wednesday: a cardinal's morning serenade; your son visiting you at work so you can show him off to your colleagues; a glorious sunset after days of gray skies
Thursday: resolving your mom's banking issues; touring vintage homes; a happy hour at your office; Deep Eddy's Cranberry Vodka
Friday: Yellow Cab vans with wheelchair seating; news that your mom's knee doesn't need surgery, only time to heal; dancing for hours with friends to Disco Inferno (and other great dance songs)
Saturday: sleeping in; enough free time for a leisurely walk with your puppies; peanut butter-chocolate chip muffins, courtesy of your son; your new jewelry waiting in your mailbox; getting to visit with your mom and oldest son at the same time
Sunday: the Garden of Eatin'...food, friends, and inspiration; warm brownies; helping a friend by posting a link to her Etsy shop, where her beautiful driftwood crosses are for sale
(this is the one she gave me for Christmas)
The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
P.S. Philip Seymour Hoffman, thank you for sharing your talent with us.
I'm sorry we couldn't help you with your problems.
May you find peace now.
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?
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Tomorrow is my cousin Patricia's birthday.
She's always held a special place in my heart, beginning when she was a teenager. Unlike some of my other teenage cousins, she was consistently nice to me when we went to visit, even though I was a brat.
I haven't forgotten.
Her dad was one of my favorite uncles, too...a self-taught artist and musician who made me laugh and triggered my interest in antiques and family history.
However, even though Pat doesn't live far from me, we've only gotten together a few times over the past twenty years, for an occasional lunch or hike through a cemetery. (We're both into genealogy.)
But soon after Daddy died, she made a one-day trip to Houston, just to see Mama. Then she sent Mama a care package around Thanksgiving, full of cookies, snacks, and I don't know what else. And as soon as I brought Mama up to Austin, Pat was there...bearing gifts, of course.
Love is, above all else, the gift of oneself.
So this afternoon, Mama and I took Pat out to dinner. It's just a drop in the bucket of repayment, and pales in comparison to her thoughtfulness (especially since she brought another basket full of goodies for Mama) but I hope it helps her understand how much we love and appreciate her.
She's a sweet! all by herself, for sure!
"I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich."
~Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford
Here are a few others from the past week...
Monday: finally having your camera when you spot ducks on a pond; learning the tricks of real estate photography
Tuesday: time to walk with your puppies and pray before getting caught up in the busy-ness of your day; a friend saving you a seat at a meeting when you're running late; sponsored lunches; interest in a beautiful house you just posted on MLS
Wednesday: your first closing; a hug from your sister who travelled up to see your mom; finally getting all of your Christmas decorations boxed up; taking time to watch a gorgeous full moon rise from behind the hills
Thursday: safely spotting - and photographing - a gorgeous coyote; saving ducks from getting eaten by a coyote; obedient puppies
Friday: getting a lead while on phone duty; making progress on some to-do's; a movie with your son
Saturday: catching the end of a Shirley Temple movie and traveling to Wales with Rick Steves while eating breakfast, checking email, and sipping your morning coffee; your tall son helping you hang portraits in your mom's room
Sunday: helping your cousin celebrate her birthday with your mom; Green Chili Tortilla Soup and spicy salsa that opens your sinuses when you're suffering from cedar fever; a quick phone visit with your eldest; selling one of your many "For Sale"s
What were some sweet! moments from your past week? I hope you've been paying attention!
Oops! I almost forgot one of the sweetest moments of the week. (My days blend together so much lately. That's one reason it's important for me to sit down here and count my sweet's! at the end of the week.)
Anyway, on Wednesday my sister and her husband took an overnight road trip to Austin so she could spend time with Mama. I didn't get much time with her, but enough for a sister-hug and a quick visit.
Very, very sweet!
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."
For more information about my photography, go to Barbara Shallue Photography