End of the day goodness

End of the day goodness
Backyard travel

Sunday, December 28, 2014


2014 I finally started my blog.  A few weeks later, I read the blog is dead.  Gone the way of newspapers, all but the best shopping malls and jeans without at least some stretchy in them.  This made me laugh; I had started my blog in 2009, written one entry and then suffered from laziness and writer’s block for 4 years.  How typical that I would finally get into something once it is passĂ©.  I have been enjoying my ghost blog regardless.  With no one reading I am free to be as over the top with sentiment, silliness and rants as I want.  It is the diary I always tried to keep but would loose 6 pages in.  I tend to start a lot of things and there are very few I actually stick with.  So sticking with this for a year is probably the first commitment I have ever kept to myself.  I am sure my poor OCD husband would be happier if I could keep the pantry or closet clean for a year.  In fact, I am not popular when discovered curled up writing while two days of dishes sit in the sink.  Thank goodness a New Year approaches, I have a plethora of goals from which to choose.

For this year however at least one goal was met and since my word for the year was create, hooray!  I created something.  Create was a very ambitious word for me.  I knew at the end of the year my mind would be more focused on the things I did not create.  And there are of course plenty.  I wanted to do more art.  I think I did one puny little picture all year.  I wanted to actually learn to sew and spend hours of quality time creating outfits and doll clothes for the girls.  I did not create one of these things and I continue to be scared to death of my sewing machine.  I wanted to cook exciting meals (I stuck with the basic 10 and ventured out only once to cook something in my tagine).   I had grand plans of sending out Christmas cards.  That plan has now turned into hopefully getting out happy New Year cards, which will turn into Valentine’s wishes of love to my friends.  I already have a cleaning coach and Personal Trainer.  I may need to have a seasonal person standing behind me poking me in the head with a ballpoint pen to get me to do cards.  I could go on and on listing everything I meant to create BUT, I have a lovely group of friends who would be saying, “Tisk, Tisk, stop that and focus on what you did create.”  And of course they are right. 

So, in January I wrote a short story that was fiction.  I had never done that before.  I didn’t think it was in me.  No, I did not do this on my own, I did it for a writing group I am in and it was great fun.  So this year thanks to the writing group I wrote a love story and a ghost story and did a few writing exercises.  I was completely surprised by the fact my middle age brain could go in a different creative direction.

Speaking of my brain, I also spent time this year trying to create some quiet there by meditating.  I am a horrible meditator.  I kept bombing at it.  I thought geeze, it is only 5 minutes a day Jeanette, you can do this.  Well apparently no, I cannot do 5 minutes.  Luckily when Melissa had our meditation group bump up to 20 minutes I learned that it actually takes my brain 5 minutes just to stop and get over itself.  The next 15 minutes are great so hooray!  I was finally able to create quiet. Sometimes.

I don’t know if it had to do with meditating or what but probably the best thing I created all year was a new since of happiness in my marriage.  This is one of those things that cannot be faked.  It has to come from some true place.   I am so thankful that my brain stopped picking at all the things it saw as being wrong in my marriage and started enjoying all the things that are right.  Part of the issue was not seeing myself as a frumpy old troll.  I got some high heels.  Really obnoxious over the top five or 6 inch heels that could result in a broken ankle, leg or hip if I walk on anything other than a very flat non slippery surface.  I don’t care.  I look fabulous standing in them, even if I am holding on to the wall for dear life.  I chemically altered my hair into submission and thanks to Melissa and Felicia, got my ass moving twice a week off the couch.  This was the year I realized I am as young as I will ever be so I need to enjoy it and stop feeding the idea that women in their forties are as alluring as spiders.

One of the things I really fought creating this year was a new GS troop.  I loved our troop last year in Richardson at the old school. Even though it was completely unfeasible to keep it up this year, I really wanted to.  Since I couldn’t, I pouted.  I just wanted to stick the girls in two existing troops.  For Lauren, this worked out fine.   For Helen, no luck; so in October I gave in and started a troop.  I have decided this is hard, stressful, a lot of work and it is usually one of the highlights of my week.  These girls are so delightful.  One week Julia walked up to me, “Ms. Jeanette, I have an idea about our meetings.  We can meet everyday of the week but Monday and Wednesday because I have other activities.”  She likes our meetings so much that she would meet 3 days a week.  At that moment I realized if I created nothing else all year long, creating joy would be enough.  Joy for these kids.  Joy for my kids, my parents, my husband, my friends, myself.  Creating joy and love.   And I usually do not create on my own.  My most creative moments are either with other people or because of other people.  It took me so long this year to get the most important aspects of my word that I am tempted to repeat it next year.  But another word has already tapped me on the ear.  What I have noticed is just because the year ends the word doesn’t.  I still find myself savoring, trying to be kind and wanting to grow.  Hopefully create will stick with me and flow a little easier if I continue to pay attention to it.  As for my dead blog, of course I will continue writing here.  For one I can't loose it like a journal and two, writing always trumps getting on the treadmill or cleaning the kitchen!                           

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Race

I love Indian food.  I do.  It ranks almost up there with Mexican food.  In fact, I have an Indian Bizaar rewards card on my key chain right along with Kroger and Tom Thumb.  So when John suggested Roti Grill for lunch, I was all on board.  This would be perfect and relaxing before tackling the American Girl store for the $30 Dalmatian puppy plus magnetic bone Helen has had on the top of her Christmas wish list since October.  I am a hideous procrastinator.  That is why 3 days before Christmas, I was sitting in a very, very long line with other procrastinators, inching my way towards the galleria.  But, unlike the other procrastinators, I had gone overboard with the coffee.  Then I had sausage and eggs.  Top that with Indian food and you have intestines that are set to rebel.  Let me tell you, when my intestines declare Viva Revolution! the vitamix has nothing on them.  They go from 0 to liquefy in about 60 seconds. 

I sit in the long line of cars weighing my options.  I can bail and try to make it North to my nice comfy bathroom.  The worst that can happen is I shit myself before I get there.  I can stay in line, park and try to make it to a restroom.  Again, the worst thing that can happen is a shit myself in the mall trying to get to a toilet.  I decide to stay in line.  What can I say, I had already been in this stupid line so long I felt compelled to chance an explosion of epic proportions.  It doesn’t help that there is an asshole who doesn’t follow the rule of every other car merging into one line as directed by the two police who have just positioned us to do this.  I was very tempted to leap from my car and explode right on her hood.   Once I am done cursing into my steering wheel about the spirit of Christmas rudeness I spend the next several minutes trying to focus on my breathing.  Okay, Jeanette, DO NOT listen to that gurgling noise, listen to your breath.   Focus on this moment that you are not shitting on yourself; focus on your sphincter muscle.  It is a strong and mighty sphincter.  It can hold off the revolt until a parking spot and lady’s room are found.  I am not sure if my Meditation coach would be pleased about this scene but when you are sweating in your car with men in red jumpsuits and santa hats directing you through a parking garage you will try anything.

Somehow the universe smiled on me.  I parked at level 2 right across from the walkway straight into Belk’s.  I have never been in a Belk’s before but I love them.  I love them so very much for putting a restroom to the right as you enter from the parking garage walkway.  Sweet merciful heavens there was only one other human in the restroom and they were at the end dealing with a kid.  I flew into the stall because the law of impending dookie had struck.  This is a scientifically proven phenomenon.   Once your body realizes you are within close proximity to a toilet, it forgets to man the fort, the flood is going to come so it is a race.  Thank God I won the race.  I am not proud to admit this but I flushed that toilet about 30 times.  Yes it is wasteful but it is the only protection other people have from the violent butt grenades erupting in the stall next to them.  No one wants to hear or smell that.  No one. 

20 minutes later I was able to slink out of the restroom alone.  I guess everyone in Dallas was in the parking lot or as I was about to discover, The American Girl store.  2014 taught me a very important lesson.  Three days before Christmas, no spicy food or coffee until after I have parked the car.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

No, it’s not the light, our tree is purple.

Christmas Trees are a very personal thing.  I have friends who pop up at the crack of dawn the day after Thanksgiving to be one of the first let into the tree farm to chop down their own tree.  I have other friends who are so allergic to pine that a real needle would never be allowed through the door.  My own family stopped allowing real trees when I was twelve.  My Dad decided burning the whole thing after Christmas in our double-sided fireplace was a good idea.  Did I mention we had a wood shingled roof?  Did I mention that sucker was dry as a bone?  Bright red pine needles were popping everywhere on the carpet with my Mom madly stomping them out.  Attached to every stomp was a four-letter word directed at my father.  The next day my Mom bought a $300 fake tree and that was the end of Dad’s fun with the fireplace.    I have another friend whose family always got a flocked tree.  My 7 year old self thought that was the ultimate.  A tree that looked covered in snow, right in the living room.   I even saw one of those crazy first generation silver white bottlebrush looking trees once in Bowie.  But just like Mr. Pine and his purple house, I had never seen a purple Christmas tree until we bought one.

It all started the year we realized we would be spending Christmas in London.  We had packed up the kids and 6 suitcases on the first day of September and thought we would be home by Thanksgiving.  But, as luck would have it, John’s contract was extended through January, then February, and then March.  You get the picture.  This meant we would be spending Christmas in our cozy flat on Monk Street.  Christmas in London is pretty amazing.  It really looks like those little villages people put on their mantles but of course a lot bigger.  Our flat on the other hand was looking rather pitiful in the Christmas cheer department.  What we really needed was a tree.  But, we had no car and the idea of sweet-talking a cab driver into letting us haul a tree on or in his cab was about as likely as asking for a ride to the moon.  Option B was the Tube.   Instead of irritating one cab driver we could go for half of central London.  We had practically given up when John called me one evening on his way home from the office.  This was unusual because his commute was about a four block walk.  I picked up the phone.  “What are you doing?” John asked.  “OH, you know, usual evening stuff, I am giving the kids a bath.”  “Well,” he says, “get them out, get them dressed, and meet me downstairs at the weird store with faucets and guitars.  I may have found us a tree.”

The building we were in had a very handy little grocery store if you walked to the right and if you walked to the left there was a strange place that had really beautiful bathroom faucets and electric guitars in every wild color you could imagine.  Apparently during the Christmas season they added trees in every wild color you could imagine.  Now came the hard part, which wild color to choose.  They had black, orange, salmon, purple, red and yellow.  I think we might have asked about green to which the arty Asian woman who ran the store gave us a look like we were going for boloney over pate.  Right away we ruled out the black.  I have heard these look very chic all done up but we are not chic people.  The orange might be fun in Florida, the salmon was actually kind of sickly, the yellow was very…..yellow and the red simply did not have two little chubby fingers from two little girls pointing at it madly.  The purple one did.  It was settled.  For the low low price of 20 pounds, we had just purchased a purple tree.  We had to go to the warehouse to get it.  Apparently the warehouse was more like a storage room and no more than 20 feet from the front door of our building.  It came packaged in a box that was easier to manage than a day’s worth of groceries.    

It is amazing how a small purple tree with lights, chopsticks and toys on it can transform a room into Christmas.  And what an amazing Christmas it was.  We walked to Trafalgar Square and listened to carolers under the giant Norwegian Spruce.  We took the kids to see the Pantomime The Snowman.    We rode rides and bought paper stars at the Hyde Park Christmas Market.  We ate Christmas dinner at a fancy restaurant with crowns on our heads and I tried real Christmas pudding (once was enough).  We sat in our flat on Christmas day, by the tree watching the children play and looking out of our wall of windows at the city.  It was a Christmas to remember always. 

Months later, when it was time to leave London for good, our little purple tree put us over on the items we could bring back on the plane.  It was going to cost us a lot more than the 20 pounds we paid for it so we had to leave it behind.  Fortunately, by that time we had really good friends who kept our tree until John was able to retrieve it. 

Since that year, the purple tree has been part of our Christmas.  It is a reminder of a very special year but more than that; it is a reminder that every year is as special as you make it.  We have kept the tradition of hanging crazy things on the tree, just like the year we were short on real ornaments.  This year we have a page filled with stickers from Lauren’s school achievements, three circles of cheerios representing solids, liquids and gas from Helen’s science class.  There is a pair of Elvis glasses and normally, underneath one naughty cat who thinks that this purple tree is perfect camouflage.  Sorry Mr. Farkus, had you been able to stick your paw in and vote, I am sure you would have gone with the orange. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thank you Mr. Church. I still believe in Santa

There are certain stories and poems that I cannot read to my children without crying a little; the Velveteen Rabbit, You are my I love you, The Little Match Girl.  I get it, sweet sentiments go directly to my tear ducts.   But, I have been trying to figure out why The “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter does it to me.   I think I will make it through.  I make myself all stoic and like a tear bomb, BOOM!  Every time I get to the “Ah, Virginia, in all the world there is nothing else real and abiding”, the bomb releases itself.

The first time I ever had the letter read to me I was four.  My Aunt and uncle gave me this beautiful Christmas book and my Mom read it to me every year.  I loved it as a child.  It was proof, it made sense, of course Santa exists how could he not?  Even at the bitter age of 9 or 10 when I confronted my Mom first about the Easter Bunny, then the Tooth Fairy and finally the biggie, this letter comforted me because I understood then it was the spirit of giving that lives in the embodiment of Santa.  So the letter stayed true.  It still made sense to my 10 year old heart.

The book stayed with me, packed away in a box of things I could never let go of, even through college years, 1st jobs, marriage, and finally when I found out I was going to be a Mom myself.  By this time it was buried in a mountain of newer memories so I went franticly through the attic looking for it.  In the 30 years since I had read the book, life had happened.  I had discovered the world is not such a joyous giving place.  People blow up other people on purpose.  People shoot up schools.  People often spread fear and hatred.  Cynicism had entered my brain.  I plucked the dusty book from the box and went off to read its contents to my babies.

There is no better feeling then sharing the things you really love with your children, even when they are still to young to realize it.   I opened the book and slipped into the blissful state of overlapping childhoods.   The illustrations are old school, intricate etchings of fairies and elves with a few full color photos that pop in the perfect Technicolor way.  I read Twas’ the Night Before Christmas as if recorded years earlier from the sound of my own Mother’s voice.

I turn the page and start into the story about a young girl who wrote to the New York Sun to find out if Santa really existed.   I start to read Francis P. Church’s letter but I realize, something has shifted.  I am no longer reading this from a child’s perspective.  I am reading it as an adult.   For the first time ever, I am reading it from the perspective of the writer; a writer who had been a war correspondent during the Civil War.  Francis P. Church lived through one of the worst times in our nation’s history and he saw it first hand on the battlefields.  I can imagine nothing worse.

For the first time ever I feel every word of this letter.  This letter reassures a little girl that Santa exists and it reassures 1897 New York that hope exists.  I cry because in 2014 I am assured hope exists.  The world is full of a lot of bad stuff but it is filled with good to.  As long as we see the good, as long as we share love and kindness and generosity, Santa, will always be real.   

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy!

At last night's GS meeting, the girls all at different times got very excited thinking next week we were going caroling door to door.  It is actually the week after but it made me realize that they are really looking forward to that activity.  As the leader I am always trying to come up with activities they will like and it is hard not to get sucked into the bigger is better mode.  The caroling thing I threw into our Holiday meeting because the girls in this troop are all hams and I thought it might be a good way honestly to have them use some of their never ending supply of energy.  I did not realize how excited this would make them.  I think it is because it is one of the core old joys.

I have realized that as modern and connected as we are to our computers and phones and the virtual world, there are certain intrinsic joys that were here at the start and will be here 500 years from now when technology has leaped in directions even Ray Bradbury could not anticipate.  Singing and sharing that joy with other people I think has been around forever.  Even the word carol means dance or song of praise and joy.  Apparently people use to carol year round in celebration of each season and this has gone on for 1000's of years.  I figured someone thought it up in the Victorian age, apparently that was just when it was given manners.  We certainly would not be popular with my neighbors if we showed up half naked dancing around a torch with earthly drums doing an ancient style interpretive dance to The Little Drummer Boy.

Still, these core old joys survive, even watered down to appeal to modern day humanity.  The stories that were once told around a fire now jump at us through the big screen, often right next to or over the fireplace.   Man's best friend is still here, even if he smells better and has a nicer bed then most of our great great grandparents slept on.  In the summertime the smell of someone cooking on the grill will get my saliva glands going even if I just stuffed myself with at one of the 42 restaurants on the other side of 75.  There is something about food cooked on a grill that screams to my inner barbarian.  It really is hard to beat gnawing on a good rib.  Facebook brings images of new babies and I look at my computer and feel that core joy for every one.  I read all the new Moms experiencing that first child love and wonder and I know my Mom felt it.  My Grandmother felt it.  My Great Grandmother felt it.  They could not share it with as many people as we do now, but that feeling has always been there.

Life changes.  We get more information and distractions but when I think of all the things that really seem to bring happiness and joy, they haven't really changed. Fa la la la la, la la la la!!!!!  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In the beginning

Helen:  “Mom, how did you and Dad meet and fall in love?”
Me:  “Through Ms. Shelley.”
Helen:  “Yes, Mom I know that is how you met.  But how did you fall in love?  And do not leave out any details.” 
Me:  “Alright.” I lie.
“So, Ms. Shelley had been telling me I needed to meet your Daddy forever.”
Helen:  "Why Mom?  Why had Ms. Shelley been telling you that?  Did she think Daddy was handsome and that you would want to kiss him and be romantic?"
Lauren:  “Helen that is embarrassing!  Stop talking about kissing and romance.”
Helen:  “Lauren!!!  I am trying to find out all the details!”
Me:  “Because Daddy and I are both strange.  That is why Ms. Shelley wanted us to meet.”
Helen:   “Mom, seriously.”
Me:  “Helen, seriously Ms. Shelley had once told me that she had never met anyone who thought about things in an odd way like I did until she met your Dad.   So maybe she did not foresee kissing but she did think we would be friends.
So, one day I went over to Mr. Mike and Ms. Shelley’s apartment and sitting on the couch was your Dad.”
Helen:  “Was he the most handsome man you had ever seen?  Was it love at first sight?” 
Me:  “Hmmm, it was kind of dark.  He was being cool and aloof.”
Helen:  “What is aloof?”
Me:  “It is what guys do when they want you to feel like it doesn’t’ matter if you are there or not.”
Helen:  “Dad!!!!!”
John:  Shrugs. 
Me:  “After that, the four of us started doing things together.  Mr. Mike and Ms. Shelley were married and John and I were just two friends doing things with them.  Your Dad was very nice to me.  I was looking for a job and I lived an hour away from Dallas, he traveled a lot and would let me stay in his apartment when he was traveling and I would interview for jobs.”
Helen:  “That is not a good plan.   How do you fall in love inviting someone to stay with you when you are not there?”
Me:  “Remember the word Helen?  Aloof.”
Helen:  “I see.”
Me:  “He was also very nice when he was in town.  We would go to concerts and dinner.  Daddy would pay for me because I didn’t have any money.  I felt terrible.  He would always tell me I could take him to Ruth Chris once I got a job. …John, we could go to Ruth Chris for our anniversary.”
John: “eh.”
Me:  (I look at Helen) “Aloof.”   (Helen nods her head up and down eyes closed.  She gets the picture now)
Me:  “This went on for awhile and all of a sudden Ms. Shelley had to travel for a few months.  Our fabulous foursome would have to halt for several months.  Suddenly I realized this was terrible.  I would not see your Dad unless I took drastic measures.”
Helen:  “Did you tell him you loved him and that he should stop being aloof?”
Me:  “No.  I called him.  I was never good at taking the first step but I called with the revolutionary idea that he and I could go out just the two of us.  To my surprise he seemed enthusiastic about the idea.  Daddy liked Eastern art so I saw there was a Japanese art exhibit going on so we went to it.  There were like 400 Japanese screens, after about the first 10 they all look alike.  We had the audio tape and Daddy kept adding his own dialog which was so much more entertaining than anything the guy on the tape was saying.  ‘It was during the Ming dynasty that silk screen printing was revolutionized by artists painting fat samurai hiding in the bushes taking a leak, you can tell this is what is going on because of these swooshy brush strokes that seem to be flying out of the bushes.’
Helen and Lauren:  giggles  “Did Daddy really say that?” 
Me:  “Oh that was almost twenty years ago.  I don’t remember exactly, I just know he was being very witty and making what could have been a totally boring date into a really good time.   After the museum, we had lunch at CafĂ© Express on McKinney Avenue.  The weather was perfect big beautiful blue skies.  It was September or October so warm, but not too warm.  We ate outside, my favorite and Daddy told me a story he had written.  It was at that moment I realized I was smitten; a funny, witty, smart tall guy with a great voice, my weakness.  We were there for a long time, neither of us wanted the day to end.  Daddy took me to a new apartment being built by a lake where he thought he might live.  We stood in the living room that was only in the framing stage, so it was chili.  The sun was starting to set…and then…..”
John:  “Nothing happened.  We went home.”
Helen:  “Daddy!!!!!  You kissed!”
Lauren:  “Daddy kissed Mommy!” 
Helen:  “You kissed, fell in love and got married.”
Me:  “Exactly.”
We all look around at each other.  Happy, satisfied…
Helen:  So Mom, how did Daddy propose?  I want all the details. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why I love my bonus parents.

This weekend has been planned for a while.  A nice Fall visit from John’s parents.  October is my favorite month; not too hot, not too cold, not too humid, not too buggy.  There is a good selection of inside and outside activities.  I am the kind of hostess who likes to give a smorgasbord of options and the weekend before Halloween is full to the brim with possible outings and back porch sitting.   

Thursday I cooked an edible meal for weary travelers and kids who needed to attempt an early bedtime with the excitement of celebrities being under the same roof.  Friday morning went smoothly, depositing the little darlings without a 4th tardy in 4 weeks which could apparently get my in big trouble (3 has me needing to grovel before some AISD people).  That left me and the bonus parents time to catch up and figure out the rest of the day. 

We opted for a small trek to McKinney to a restaurant on the Square.  Everyone’s food was good.  We made sure to eat only enough to leave room for pie.  A day that includes pie is an excellent day.  We topped it off by sitting in the middle of the square under an extra blue sky listening to old guys playing Blue Grass. 

I gotta tell you, at this point I am feeling pretty darn good about myself.  I had succeeded in that ever so brief feeling of creating a “perfect” relaxing weekend for people I love.  I had also succeeded in parallel parking my mini-van right on the square.  It took me a good ten minutes.  I got a standing ovation from two veterans with white hair and Army hats.  I failed parallel parking twice back in the day and I hate to admit my skills have not improved in 30 years.  In fact, I am not exactly known for my ability to maneuver a car.  I have run into the garage door and knocked my back window out.  I have run into the side of the garage and knocked the numbers off the brick.  I have run into shelves and caused a giant wire spool to fly onto the hood of the car.  However, none of these compare to what happened yesterday.

As I was saying, I was busy putting this weekend into the slam dunk category.  We came home, John succumbed to the afternoon pie coma while Jeanette and I had a wonderful conversation on the back porch.  As evening rolled around, we decided a pick up from Rudy’s would top off the day.  So, I blissfully backed out of the garage thinking all was right with the world when “BAM!!!” Into my MIL’s car I slam.  You know those moments where you wish you had a giant time eraser, a do over?  That was my brain.  My mother in law who is just cool looks at me and says “Let’s go get the food and worry about this when we get back.”  I can’t.  I have to look.  I do not have a big time eraser so my second hope is that there is no evidence of my crash on the CRV.   You know that thing Charlie Brown does with his mouth wide open going “ARGHHHHH!”, insert that here.  There was a bump, a scratch, and panel popped out that wasn’t going back in.  No, it was stubbornly there letting everyone know that yes indeed, a Honda Odyssey had made contact. 

There is no hope of a weekend being a slam dunk when you run into your in-laws car.  No hope at all. 

The next step was going to suck.  Telling John 1 and John 2.   Again, thank goodness for the wisdom of my MIL.  “let’s tell them after dinner.  It is just a car.  It will be fine.”  Her plan was perfect, no one had to deal with the indigestion of this horrible event through dinner but me, the responsible ninny.  Finally when we were done eating but sitting around the table I burst out “I HAVE DONE SOMETHING!!” and I covered my eyes.  The whole thing came out of my mouth and I actually watched the happiness drain out of my FIL’s face.  Of course my husband who has been around this particular block with me for 15 years just shakes his head.   My Father in Law makes the long walk out to take a look.  I irrationally hope the fix-it-fairy has come to the rescue.  I can tell from the look on his face when he returns, no such luck.

Now this is why I love these people.  I was a complete dumbass.  I backed out of my car into a parked car.  I had plenty of room to avoid it.  I had been avoiding it all day.  The only reason I hit it this time, as stated, I am a dumbass.  I know they were irritated and angry.  They had every right to be.   BUT, with great, great reserve, no one actually said out loud that I am a dumb ass.  No one said any of the true but horrible things they were thinking out loud.  Everyone took a giant bite out of their tongues and decided to let the weekend go on, making the best of it.  In fact, only a few moments ago Jeanette announced that today was a great day.  And it was.  I did not create the slam dunk weekend I wanted but my bonus parents did.  It is easy to know you belong when everything goes perfectly; it is something entirely different to be loved and forgiven when you screw up.

That said, I will have the left side of the garage cleaned out before their next visit.   I have never run into anyone parked next to me.  Okay, just to be safe I will park in the other garage.                   

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Same Time Next Fair

The Mom looked around.  She was balancing 2 giant lemonades filled to the brim, a ridiculous camera with the lens extended almost to her knees, and 7 and 8 year old girls with bright pink punch mustaches.  The Mom thought the yellow would be a nice addition to the pink that was already there.  Every table had at least one person sitting there, hmm, which to pick.  The guy at the far end made eye contact and did not seem to be wishing they would sit somewhere else.

“Can we sit here?”
“Please do.” said the man.

The woman sat and smiled to realize how welcoming a hard picnic bench and some shade can be after walking the state fair for a few hours.  Especially the Texas State Fair where everything being bigger isn’t always a good thing.   One of the girls started clapping the syllables out to le-mon-ade, clap clap clap.  Crun-chy ice, clap clap clap.  She made up a hand game that she coerced her Mom into playing.  Her sister was too busy drinking lemonade like a fish to be bothered with this silliness.  And it was silly and obnoxious, so the woman apologized to the poor man who was probably regretting sharing the table.

The man looked at her with amazingly blue eyes.  He had the look of almost every man she had seen as a child in west Texas; the men who would tip their cowboy hats at her and wink.  She winced a little, thinking how these men were a dying breed. So, she lingered a little longer in this man’s company than she normally would have.  In fact she was in no hurry at all to scurry her children off to the next crowded fair activity.

The 7 year old who could be shy whispered to her mom while looking at the man.  “She likes your hat,” said the woman.

“I wish I could give it to her.  I would rather wear my navy hat but some person in charge of things decided we should all wear the same thing.  52 different food businesses out here but we all have to wear the same thing.  All because this guy was a big shot at Six Flags so he thinks that is what we should do.  It confuses people.  They all think we work for the fair but we don’t. “ 

“Do you like working out her?” asks the woman.
“Been doing it for 25 years,” he says.
“Wow, have things changed much?”
“Yes they have.  Use to stay open until 2am and beer was served until closing.  It was only two weeks long…….it was just different.”  The woman could see him looking back.  She understood.  She wasn’t a young Mom.  She remembered how things were 25 years ago.  There were no bag searches and body wands.  25 years ago there had been the cool police riding on horseback smiling down and waving.  Now, there were serious police with reflective sunglasses every ten feet on high alert.  25 years ago had been a freer time. 
The man looked at the children and smiled.  “I took some breaks on and off during the 25 years.  I had my own business.  I had a massive heart attack.  I had a heart transplant.  My heart is only 31 years old, I just wish my 67 year old body could keep up with this young heart. “

The woman looked at him and thought he seemed younger and older than his 67 years.  Of course, someone who goes through that would have a worn face and young eyes. 

“Can you do everything you could do before?  Are there any problems or limitations with a new heart?  I guess if everything is working as it should you can do more.”

He shrugs, “Doesn’t seem to function any different.  I feel different, but that is because I am grateful.  I am grateful for everything.”  He says this with a depth that resonates like a note held indefinitely on a cello.   “Right now I am at 11 years.  I get to know 5 grandkids.  I got to see the oldest graduate from high school.  Of all five grandkids only the oldest girl will ride with me on my Harley.  The rest always say, ‘Not this time’, but with her, I never have to ask twice.  She has to wear pants.  I don’t allow shorts on there, too much chance of a leg burn.” 

The woman takes all this in.  It is a lot.  It is not often that life leads you to a picnic table with an easy going stranger who shares life’s core.  “It must be wonderful to ride around with your Granddaughter on your Harley.”  He nods.  They sit for a minute.  “My husband wants a motorcycle.  I told him if he can make 75 disappear he can have a Motorcycle.”

The man chuckles.  “Yeah, I am never that worried for some reason in traffic.  I get in my own zone and stay there.” 

“I am sure your zone is pretty safe but I don’t think there is a safe zone against texters,” says the woman.  For the first time since they started talking the man’s face goes dark.  Apparently he was run off the road by a woman texting.  She never knew she did it either.  He was too shaken in the ditch to catch up to her and have words.

The conversation lightens back up when they start complaining about Dallas traffic.  “I moved here from Houston.  I thought Houston traffic was bad until I drove to McKinney.  My daughter lives in McKinney.  I complained about this to her.  ‘Father, she says..’ when she calls me Father, I have crossed a line.  Rest of the time I am Dad, Daddy, but when I get Father, I have done it.  ‘Father, you are 200 miles closer than you use to be.  You can endure 30 miles of traffic.” 

The woman loves the amused twinkle he gets relaying his daughter’s frustration with him.  They sit for a moment more, but the kids are getting antsy and it is time to move on.

“Thank you for sharing your table with us.”

“Of course,” he says, “Lets get together for lunch.”  The woman, who is a bit devoid of wit looks at him confused. 

“Same spot next year?” he grins.

“Absolutely!” the woman beams, the light finally going on.   She hopes her smile conveys that nothing would make her happier.    

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Be Kind to the Cat Lady

Yesterday was a fairly disorganized morning even for us.  We are never the poster family for a great morning routine even on our best day but yesterday was worse.  I did not have the lunches made.  Back packs were not only unpacked but somewhere in hiding.  Thank God for my Mom and instant breakfast.  Over the weekend Mom had washed and folded clothes so my children went to school with matching socks for possibly the first time ever. And even I can stick chocolate flavored nutrients in milk for the kids to slurp down.

So by 10:35am I am shagging my happy ass up to the school in something completely forgettable and frumpy carrying two lunches that are only slightly better than the instant breakfast.  I am also carrying a bag with a $10 bill, a $5 bill, a $2 bill and 8 quarters.  This is the shirt money that was due on Friday for Be Kind shirts.  Ms. Patel, the nicest school receptionist I have encountered was kind enough to give me an extra day.  She also excepted my strange assortment of money with a smile and not even a hint of eye rolling.

I get back home, do some things on the computer.  NO!  Not FB, okay, a little FB but mostly I am actually doing something productive.  I glance at the pile of school papers and think to myself, oh, this would be a great time to stick all those school things on my calendar so I don't miss them.  First Paper I pick up, Get to Know your school breakfast meeting September 15th at 8:15am.  Hell, it is 11:15am.  Obviously putting all these events on my calendar is a great idea I should have done last week.

Second set of papers I find I had already filled out.  Yay me!  Oh, both are due today with $20 per kid.  Boo me!  Once again, I am shagging my happy ass back up to school (at least this time I went to the atm and got reasonable money).  I present two bright pink forms with some unidentifiable greasy substance on them with the money, to Ms. Patel.  I find in situations where I am a complete moron the best thing to do is say something charming like, "I guess the secret is out, if I did not have a husband and two kids I would be that crazy lady with all the cats."  I did say this, and while not exactly charming, with the state of my frizzy graying hair and wholly t-shirt everyone could see my point.  The thing was, they did not look at me like I was crazy cat lady.  Ms. Patel and the lady next to her made me feel like a rock star for doing the papers at all.  Even last minute.  Even with scary greasy crap on the form.  "The library is really going to appreciate that you did this.  Thank you so much!"

In the middle of feeling the exact opposite of June Clever, this beautiful sweet woman did not focus on all the imperfections that I was seeing, she was seeing something good.  It is so easy to get caught up in wanting to be perfect and miss what is really important.  This is where I quote a song off Olivia Newton John's Totally Hot album, I am totally okay with not being cool, "Perfection is consuming and it seems were only human after all..."

We are only human.  On my 3rd day of gratitude, I am grateful for the Ms. Patels of the world who overlook our imperfections.  I am full of gratitude for my friends and family who love me and my flaws.  I am full of gratitude that I love being me.....even knowing a FB quiz would give me the soul name Ezmirelda, absent minded cat lady.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cause and effect.

Today I would like to talk about chain reactions.  Cause and effect.  Night before last, I woke up around 3am because I heard a noise and it dawned on me, something was missing.  What was missing?  The cat.  I panicked.  I went outside and called his merry little name several 1000 times.  Okay, about 25 times.

Then, I remembered, earlier in the day I had followed a trail of toys to the spare room, to the spare room closet, to the attic door which was wide open and letting hot air in.  I immediately went to beat the children.  Farkus did not come out of the attic when I screamed at the top of my lungs.  Nor did he appear later in the day when a friend and I heard weird noises from the ceiling.  So yesterday evening as I watched a coyote cross Watters Road, I figured it was a sign that poor Farkus had ventured out of the backyard and been eaten.

Fast forward to 4am this morning.  I hear another noise.  I get up and go to the bathroom where I distinctly hear faint meows coming through the wall.  I go outside.  I hear Mr. Farkus on the roof.  Wait no, that is Mr. Farkus, inside the roof.  In a part of the attic there is no hope of ever getting to.  Have I mentioned we have a big fucking attic.  When you walk into our attic it is a giant space that would make a super bad ass studio apartment, with apparently very small openings leading to places that only a cat could get to.  At 4am John and I are sweet talking the little vents along the eaves of our roof trying to coax the cat back to freedom.  We put a bowl of tunafish at the furthest corner of the attic we can get to.  Thank God for the internet and their stinky solutions.  It didn't lure the cat out but there is a bit of our attic that will always smell like white albacore.

After an hour of John talking to the roof and me squatting in insulation doing my best cat in distress imitation, we give up.  We try to go back to bed but Mr. Farkus is now in the attic above our bedroom meowing his own distress call, pissed as hell at our failed rescue attempts.  We lay in bed wide awake coming up with Plan B.  Which does in fact include living in a house where the final resting place of Mr. Farkus happens to be, right above our bed.

After getting the kids to school I discover,
A. The Fire Department draws the line at kittens in trees.
B. Animal Rescue does not open until 11am (by noon the attic will be 400 degrees and the cat mummified).
C. The a/c people will not come undo their work to rescue a cat, they will only come repair the damage once I break it.  Thank you and have a nice day.

In desperation I call the only person I have been able to trust since we bought our house, the guy who actually built our house and did the walk through with us.  He is no longer working for Darling homes but he is still a rock star.  He gives me the name of a General Contractor who happens to be about 3 minutes from my house.  I take this as another sign, although a better one than the coyote.  Rock star number 2 shows up at my house 10 minutes after I call him.  He arrives at the scene with the promising sounds of trapped kitty squawking from the return air duct chamber.  After we discuss a few options, he cuts a nice manageable hole and said kitty picks this moment to go silent, underground, vanish.  Shit balls.  Okay, so now the entire.....whatever that big silver squishy thing is that takes the air away is completely sawed off so that Rock Star man can through some crazy builder magic, fit his sizable frame through a hole my 7 year old could barely fit through.  Up he goes, into the inferno, and he spots Mr. Farkus.

"Farkus, it is your savor, a hero who has gone above and beyond to save your skinny little kitty ass. What, no!!!  Do not run from your rescuer!!"  And he disappears.  Shit balls.

After several attempts to locate ninja kitty, we just give up.  This is why people hate cats.  Dogs, dogs would not do this shit.  They would roll over, wag their tails, "Thank you, thank you for saving me!  I am an idiot, how did I get myself in this predicament.  Can I lick you?  Worship you like a God?  Seriously, I will love you forever for this."  It is a happy touchy feely moment with the photo finish.

Cats, not so much.  Mr. Farkus was all, "Okay, the hole was exactly what I would have done.  But coming up here?  You idiot!  Go away!!!  I can handle things from here.  Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."

20 minutes after Mr. Rock Star left, Mr. Farkus came down.  Of course he will be back this afternoon to patch the hole.  At which point Mr. Farkus will hide in the closet and spit at him if he tries to get a look at the good deed he did before 9am.

So, cause and effect.  I am the cause.  All of this and more would have been avoided had I just locked the attic door.  Had I just thought ahead to what the effect might be with a seven year old imp and cat adventurer in the house.  At least I can hope whatever chain reaction goes off next will not involve sitting in insulation or waking up at 3am.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When it is about me, not you.

One of the things FB has done for me, aside from being a delightful diversion and my own personal time sucker; it has made me aware of my pettiness, hot spots and happiness triggers.  For example, a daily post about a run use to bother me.  I know, I know, this is completely stupid.   I never posted on FB, “I am so over seeing people post about their run.”  The reason being, I knew from the start, this was something defective in me, not them.  And of course it was, I figured out that I am a lazy slug who should be doing something.  The daily reminder was making me feel bad about myself, not happy for them.  It is weird, but once I looked that demon in the face, I was able to be happy for people getting up and doing something. 

The food picture phenomenon, it bothers a lot of people, that one has never really phased me.  I look at some stuff and think yum, especially vacation food or special occasion food.  Every day food is more mundane but I am not offended.

Game invites, how someone has leveled up in their Candy saga, yes honestly, this stuff annoys me, but I never responded to any of it and apparently this pleased the FB Gods because all that crap has mostly disappeared.

Things that are a real hot spot for me, things that simply make me angry, I use that fabulous little button in the right corner of the post.  Please do not show any more articles from Iamapinhead.com.  This has upped my enjoyment of Fb by about a 1000% .   After all, this really is just Social Media, a very personalized People magazine of the people we know or slightly know.  It is fluff.   If it is not fluff, I want it to resonate and bring clarity, not raise my blood pressure.

Bottom line, more times then not, when I have a shitty reaction to something on FB, it is my issue.  I see no reason to publicly flog an idea, a movement or what is important to someone else.  Just because it does not matter to me, does not make it unworthy.  I should be happy for the happiness, not petty and mean.  Not to mention, there is nothing more ridiculous than complaining about being tired of something showing up too much and wasting my time on the world’s biggest time waster. 

Friday, August 15, 2014


I have been reading a book and I am almost done.  This will come as a complete shock to people who know me.  It is the second this summer.  I read so slow and infrequently I do well to finish one a year.  It is actually one of the things about myself that I find quite embarrassing.  Most of my friends are avid readers.  It makes them interesting, well informed, it keeps their vocabulary sharp where they can throw out words other than “right?” every five seconds.  So for me, this is a huge success.

Which lands me on the word I am concerned with, success.  The book I am reading is by someone who lives life constantly in the raw.  Raw is the place most of us visit from time to time but hell no!  I would not even consider taking up full time residence there.  My Mom spent time in the raw when my Grandmother was dying of cancer.  Pregnancy is time spent in the raw.  To me, these are places where life and death are sitting in my lap.  My brain shifts under the weight and processes differently.  Everything seems to be in Technicolor.

The man who wrote this book functions under these conditions pretty much full time.  He is a Jesuit priest and has lived in the middle of the largest gang area in the world for over 25 years.  To me, this in and of itself is a huge success.  People do not stay in hard jobs.  When the book was written, he had buried 168 young people in his community.  Most of them he knew or knew of.  He has been the guy who knocks on the door of the loved one most of those times and watches them crumble.   It doesn’t get much harder than that.  When that much death and sadness pervade in a community, how do you measure success?      

One of the stories he told was about a woman who raised four sons in the projects.  Her son Ronnie evaded joining a gang, success; graduated high school, success. He went into the military and served in Afghanistan, success.  He came home and was shot because he did not give the code answer for not being in a gang.  He said he was a marine.  Fail.

Eventually her son Angel pulled her from her grief, just in time for her to be happy and then devastated when Angel was shot and killed in his front yard.   A gang lost the guy they were chasing but figured Angel would do.

As luck would have it, this woman ended up in the ER, right next to one of the kids in the gang who killed her boys and was possibly involved.  He had been shot himself and was fighting for his life.  Pause here:  how many times on the news, on FB, in front of the school have we heard of a situation where a good person has been wronged and we form our own little revenge gang.  “Let that heartless no good so and so die.  He deserves it.”  I have done it.  I have sat right here on my little couch throne and wished another person dead because my third hand perspective knows everything.

This woman prayed with all her heart that he would live because when she looked at him, blood spurting from everywhere she did not want his mother to endure her pain.  She could never wish that on another person.  Success.

I was so mad when I read her second son had died.  I was so angry when this boy ended up beside her.  I was instantly diffused and left in awe of her grace, so much more powerful than the first tendency for revenge and punishment. 

There is a reason the Mother Teresa’s and Gandhi’s and Father G’s of the world are so revered.  They reject what the rest of us think of as success.  They walk a path where the undesirables of this world are embraced.  Where others would lock their doors and put a gun by their bed, the holy of the world leave their doors open and invite everyone in.  They do not let fear and hate drive them.  They succeed living in the raw because even there, they find love and compassion.