End of the day goodness

End of the day goodness
Backyard travel

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Drive Time Therapy

This morning we were very late to school.  So late that the Junior High bus had already left.  Helen remarked how great it was that we would have an entire extra hour some day to make that bus.  The thought catapulted us into a topic that terrifies my children, the future.  They are so scared of getting older, of me getting older, of having to leave home and venture into the world.  It is a terrifying thought at 7 & 9.  They can't imagine their lives being so different from how they are right now.  I have tried many times to make them feel better but the future might as well have horns and vampire teeth.  They simply don't like it.

So today I tried a different approach.  I said, "Girls, there is this passage in the bible, that is, well it is a poem really.   It says to everything there is a season.  A time to live, a time to dye.  A time to be happy, a time to be sad.  Right now is your season to be 7 & 9.  That is why this feels exactly right, why you can't imagine being any older.  You probably wouldn't want to go back to being a baby either.  No teeth, no talking, baby food.  You have moved beyond that, that season is over.  I remember thinking I could never be happy living away from my parents.  But then, I went to college and I loved it.  And I loved sharing the experiences with my parents.  In fact, when I first moved to San Marcos, Mom and I were at a popular restaurant looking in the jammed up parking lot for a place to park when this guy looked right at us from inside his car and made a giant muscle with his arm in his car window.  It was so big it took up the entire window.  Mom and I died laughing.  If you ask her about it sometime she will remember.  It made quite an impression on both of us."
Helen - "Mom, why did he do that?"
Me - "I am not sure."
Helen - "I think he did it because he thought you and Grandma were cute."  
Me - "Ha, you might be right.  The point is you grow slowly into adulthood.  You won't wake up 18 tomorrow, it happens slowly, gradually so that you are ready for it.  Right now, your job is to enjoy today, that is the best way to prepare for tomorrow."

They thought about this a moment and I could see them both nodding their heads in agreement.  It was good we were all in such a happy philosophical place because today was our time to be tardy.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Southern Snow Day

Here's the deal.  All of us in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, etc. we know the rest of the US has been buried in snow and bad weather.  We know this.  I have looked at the news and I have been mortified at the thought of having to remove 18 inches of snow off the roof.  The idea that it could collapse into the living room is beyond terrifying.  You guys are troopers and this year you are dealing with an abnormally crazy winter.  That said, I still feel justified complaining about 2 inches of sleet and ice in North TX.  Why?  Because we are caught completely unprepared for this shit.  We have been listening to the weathermen promising snow since we were 6 and most of the time it is a big fat nada.  That is why at least 1/2 of all the kids who had a snow day in Texas today went outside with socks on their hands.  You think I am kidding?  Imagine, that Saturday your kids were outside barefoot in swim suits pretending to be trapeze artists on the swing set.  Two days later the same kids who wish for just one teeny tiny little bit of snow all winter wake up and realize that there is exactly enough sleet and ice on the ground to justify a snow day.  First, you slam yourself against the door preventing them from running outside barefoot in their pj's.  At 7 & 9 it has been a full year since the last 10mm of snow and they have completely forgotten the proper protocol; which involves, lots and lots and lots of layers.

At this moment, we bribe the kids with anything we have on hand.  Hot cocoa, skittles for breakfast, anything to distract them from the white stuff between bits of brown grass outside.  We are buying time to look through every drawer, closet, nook and cranny to scrounge up the winter crap we haven't needed in 377 days.  While shoving the skittles in, we start trying on mittens that are never going to fit.  I don't know why it is always the toddler gloves that show up.  Well yeah, I do, that was the last time I was paranoid enough to try to shove coverings over their hands on a regular basis so there are at least 30 pair.  The closet under my staircase is a horrible place.  It is home to everything.  If the zombie apocalypse ever got in the house I would tell the children to hide in there because they would never be found.  Ever.  Sadly, this is the most likely hiding place for winter gear as well.  I start throwing pool noodles, backpacks and goggles in the hall.  I know I can only put them off for so long and it has now been at least 35 minutes.  Fuck.  Why didn't I get gloves and some sort of boots at Walmart Sunday when I was busy buying four gallons of milk, three brownie mixes and three cartons of eggs?  It is because people in the south won't spend one day without snacky cakes but we figure we can dart out real quick while the dog pees or to drag the trash to the curb in flip flops.  After all, we aren't going out if there is ice.  We have seen the news, we know what happens to foolish Texans who think they can walk or drive on that stuff.  They end up closing 75 because of those people.

Finally, after an hour of scrounging I have a giant mound of winterish stuff to turn my little darlings into mummy's with.  At one point Helen tells me, "Mom, everything feels stiff, it is hard to bend my arms."  "Yes dear, that means you are warm enough.  Go outside and have fun."  Of course there is no such thing in our closets as warm enough.  The rain boots are fantastic vessels for holding at least a gallon of snow a piece inside.  I do not know how they can get this much snow in their boots when there isn't enough to cover the grass but they manage.  There is a never ending cycle of people going outside, playing in the snow (aka sleet and ice), people coming inside, striping down to their underwear, wanting food, getting warm and instantly wanting to be re-mummified in something warmer and let back out to start over again.  This is a messy process.  One that drives my OCD husband insane who is also not venturing out on the ice.  This is how cabin fever starts.  This is why the Scandinavians brilliantly invented glogg.  We are fresh out of glogg but who says a frozen margarita isn't perfect for a frozen day.  And even if we loose power, I am sure I can shake enough sleet out of a kid boot for something tropical.  Día feliz de la nieve!     

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Listen to your Grandma

I don’t write much about my Grandparents and my Great Grandparents but I think of them often.  They have in many ways shaped who I am and shown me what it is to live a full life.  My Mom’s Mom was intensely alive.  She was never old, full of mischief and happy until her last breath.  My Grandfather was deeply in love with her.  She was the beautiful girl on the War Bond poster he had been going on about for ages.  He ended up seeing her one night during WWII in the Panama Canal Zone.  In the midst of big bands, dancing, drinking, smoke and the sweaty tropics one of his pals said “Jack, there is the girl you have been pining over.”   I think from that moment on he was the happiest most grateful man on the planet.  Four kids and a lifetime later, I watched him kiss her goodbye and it was the most intensely loving moment I have ever witnessed.

My other Grandparents were just as wonderful but very different.  It never dawned on me as unusual that I grew up calling them Edison and Margaret.  Or that they did not own a couch but instead had modern white vinyl swivel chairs with chrome legs in the living room.  They were pretty modern for Bowie TX, but they were old school as well with tractors and ponies and one of those old black rotary phones upstairs.  Edison had lots of contraptions he designed and built himself.  He was always the one to put me to bed at night.  He would scratch my back until he fell asleep and started to snore.  Edison disrupted the airstream with his snoring.  Seven year old me would say “Edison, Edison, you’re snoring.”  He would apologize and give me a whiskery peck on the check and thud off to go snore in his vinyl avocado green recliner downstairs in front of the tv.  Edison was quirky in a wonderful way and he made the BEST coke floats ever.  His birthday is coming up so March is Coke Float month at my house.

All of this brings me to Margaret, who is actually the person I was thinking about this morning and last night.  I have a cookbook addiction.  I am pretty sure I inherited this from Margaret.  I think she actually made a lot of the recipes and was a fantastic baker.  I tend to just read the cookbooks and make a big mess with about twenty of them scattered everywhere.  It is great fun thinking about what I could cook outside my ten staple recipes.  Several of my cookbooks are from Margaret.  When Edison passed away we went through the ritual of going through photos and finding keepsakes throughout the house.  I wanted the cookbooks and Edison’s air compressor. 

So yesterday while planning our weekly menu I grabbed a large cookbook called Bayou Cuisine.  It is fabulous.  It is divided into an Indian, Spanish, English, and of course French section.  The recipes are involved and indicative of the way people cooked and ate 50 years ago.  In fact, they were so different from how we eat today that I had to look at the copyright date, which was 1970.  1970, it dawned on me that I was two and Margaret and Edison had come to Luling, La. where Mom and Dad and I were living for a visit.  Margaret had gone to a new and different place that she enjoyed and she was taking a bit of it home with her via this very cool cookbook.  I would have bought the exact same book on such a trip.  Margaret died when I was 19 so connecting with her now that I am firmly settled into adult life is a unique gift. I could imagine her trip to see us, and how much she would have enjoyed it.  While Grandma Sandefur was full of life, Margaret filled everyone around her with life.  She did this by listening.  Margaret was the single most engaged listener I have ever met and as a result, people blossomed around her.  When you talked to Margaret, she wasn’t thinking about what she was going to say next, she was experiencing what you were saying right there with you, feeling it, enjoying it.  I always felt so happy in the warmth of her attention.  I feel sad now that I did not listen more and talk less, although I am not sure she would have said much.  Margaret had chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis and focusing on herself might have amplified that misery.  As it was, I never remember her complaining.  Now that I am bumping up to 50 and have an assortment of minor aches and pains that I complain about, I find this even more amazing.  She loved the people in her life enough to set her own issues aside and listen.

My word for 2015 is listen.  I didn’t even associate it with Margaret when I selected the word and made my manifesto back in November.  But now, I realize I am figuring out something she knew all along.  Listening connects us.  My kids are in heaven when my parents listen to their horrible knock knock jokes.  My husband’s clients are assured when he honestly listens to their complaints.  My friends are comforted when I stop trying to fix what is going on with them and actually listen to their frustrations and fears.  It seems like such a small thing but it is huge and hard to do.  This year, I am going to try.


Listen to your heart.  Hear the love.  
Listen to your mind.  Hear the conflict, the worry, the doubt and address it.  
Listen to your body.  Hear what it needs, feed it.
Listen to the quiet.  Embrace it.  Let it unfill you of the clutter.
Listen to your soul.  Give it comfort.
Listen to your husband.  Enjoy the person he is.  Do not put words in his mouth.
Listen to your children.  Enjoy the people they are.  Do not speak for them.
Listen to your friends.  Enjoy who they are by listening closely to their hearts.
Listen to the world.  Hear the birds, the thirsty trees, the swooshy grass, the traffic, the wind, the sun, the night.  Here all of it and rejoice in being part of it.
Listen to your dreams and make them part of your life.
Listen to joy.  Let it drown out the anger.
Listen to possibility.  It is so quiet it is often missed.

Listen to the universe.  It knows a lot more than you do.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Even from very early on in the girl's lives, love is the example I use to prove that things you don't see exist.  I sit here today, on the big day of love thinking how much it impacts our lives.  Of course this feeling actually comes from yesterday, not today.  Yesterday was a birthday party day.  Not some random kid, my kid.  That meant I had to plan it.  Anyone who knows me knows I am not a planner.  Every year about a month before each of their birthdays I get this big knot in my stomach just knowing, shit, I am in charge of this thing happening.  Phase 1, I don't even worry about something going wrong with the party, I worry about it not actually happening because I am a slacker.  The first few years I did the parties at the house and actually made the cakes.  I am not a baker.  After I made the poor decision to create castle towers out of angel food cake (tip:  angel food cake is structurally unsound, do not build anything out of it), I decided Target makes an excellent half sheet cake for $29.99 and I do not have to stay up until 4am cleaning a destroyed kitchen.  Target has also eliminated the despair of watching things slide in an unnatural way off a cake two hours before the party and trying to make quick toothpick repairs.  But why did I even attempt something I have no skills at? Love.

Love makes us do crazy things.  When I was young, love made me take up mountain bike riding to impress John.  I never stopped being terrified of even the smallest hills.  And to be fair to him, he has tolerated a fair number of museums which are not his thing because I love them.  The desire to be with the people we love is stronger than the dislike for certain activities.

This is certainly true of all the unpleasant things that accompany parenthood.  Diapers honestly never bothered me that much, other than again, I am not a planner and was occasionally caught ill prepared simply because I did not properly forecast the amount of shit that could come out of one 10 pound baby during a 3 hour outing.  No, my gross out thing is saliva.  Kids go through this whole phase when they try to kiss you with their mouths wide open.  They often cover your mouth, eyelids, ears, everything with giant gapping mouths filled with drool.  It is honestly at least number two or three on the most disgusting things I have ever experienced list.  Even writing about it I can feel my gag reflexes gearing up. BUT, because I love my children and knew they were trying in their very, very young way to show me affection, I tolerated it and tried not to grimace.  Love gets us out of our comfort zone.

I try to remember this with every party I plan.  I love my children.  This is getting my out of my comfort zone.  All those self help books say do things that scare you.  This is a silly thing to be scared of but I just did party number 9 for Helen and yep, all the same old dread is still there.  In my Hall of Shame I was 6 months late having a party for Lauren once and just combined it with Helen's.  The people at Pump it Up told me they had never seen a half cake before.  The second birthday moment to go on in the Hall of Shame happened yesterday.  I actually sent invites for Helen's class out to them yesterday.  I will tell you the return on 20 invites sent out the day of a party, 1.  I was actually extremely impressed with the one.  Fortunately the return on other invites sent out a week ahead of time is about 14/20 so it wasn't a total disaster.

So for the planning challenged, once Phase 1 is complete and I have actually reserved the place, gotten a lame email out to people in way of an invite, Phase 2 begins.  The "Oh crap, now I have to do things" phase.  Things like show up to the party with pizza ordered, all supplies, something to light candles with, candles, plates, drinks.  This is where having parties at your house during the early years comes in handy.  You can usually scrumage around your kitchen and find things that you forgot you would need as they happen.  This is impossible at a natatorium.  Which happens to be where the party was yesterday.  I have been spoiled in recent years by going to the places where everything is done for you.  You just show up and a little army of teenagers cuts your cake, feeds the kids, pours drinks, cleans up and and runs the time table with military precision.  The natatorium supply's a room for one hour.  It is up to the person hosting the party to have some party planning skills.  Of course the person in charge yesterday happened to be in the water playing chase with 14 kids instead of getting a cooler out of the car, getting the cake from behind the front desk, tipping the pizza guy.  I. am. a. slacker.  Things would be a complete disaster if I did not have such good friends who bail my ass out when I am in charge.  They took care of everything.  Seriously.  When I got out of the water I was dripping wet corralling kids to get them in the room.  When I walked in the room, everything was in there and set up.  I am crazy lucky.

Thanks to great kids and fabulous parents party number 9 worked out.  It is hard, it will always be hard.  I reveal to everyone how imperfect I am.   But, I am willing to get it all wrong because I love my kids so much.

Love is beautiful because it makes you grow.  It makes you vulnerable.  It inspires artists to paint, writers to write, musicians to muse.  It is the gift of reaching inside and doing things we never thought possible.  I always use love as my example of what exists in the unseen world because it is so powerful.      

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The UnTexan.

I consider myself a Texan.  My parents lived in South Louisiana for six years or so and I happened to be born during that time, but other than tiny memories of picking sugar cane with my Dad, fresh crab and watery ditches in front of our duplex, all my memories are from Texas.  I love bar-be-cue, pinto beans and cornbread, George Strait, the flatness of West Texas, cowboy boots and iced tea.  I am bonified in all aspects except one.  I don't love guns.  I know, I know.  Some of you will stop reading because after that statement, I might as well be from Berkley.

The deal is, I remember the stoic old cowboys of my youth taking their riffles out to put the dog down when he got out and got mostly killed by a car.  There was no happiness in this, it was simply what people did who lived in the country and didn't want their animal to suffer for 30 minutes going into town to be euthanized.  It was a practical way to get rid of other critters creeping into the garden as well.  I remember riding in pick up trucks with guns in the gun rack and never thinking twice about it.  Of course these were also the days of heading down a two lane road with a Budweiser between your legs.  Shocking today, but probably no more dangerous than texting at 75 miles an hour in 5 lanes of traffic.  Sorry, I digress. The point is, there seemed to be more people who shot when I was a kid and far fewer people talking about it.  It wasn't a thing, it just was.

I was fine with guns just being.  The people I knew who had them were the same people who would stop on the side of the road to help someone who was broken down.  The people I knew with guns would tell the neighborhood kids to get a bucket and pick berries off their fence.  The people I knew who had guns just had 'em.  It was no reflection at all about the fear and hatred they had for 95% of the people on the planet.  When guns were part of the average household, I was ambivalent towards them.  It is when people started seeing them as a necessary defense against "the ever present evil in society" that I started to dislike them.

Of course I hate the crazy people who take their hatred out by shooting up schools and malls and movie theaters.  I want them stopped.  It doesn't mean that in response I am going to start wearing shirts that say "I am a packing PTA Mom.  Rely on me to go old testament with my 9 millimeter if I see an unidentified twenty-something male in the 3rd grade hall!"  It doesn't mean I am going to spend every Lady's night at the gun range honing my skills to kill the masses who are threatening me.  I am not going to buy a semi-automatic machine gun so I can shoot all the people who could possibly attack my car when I go buy groceries.  Even if my lifestyle warranted paranoia, how much life is a gun going to get me?  The gang lifespan doesn't seem to be getting longer since they are all packing.

The crazy in this world does not mean I have to adopt the attitude of basing my life on the fear of being attacked.   I would never want to be a person whose collection of weaponry and thoughts of protecting myself from the evil in the world consumed me.  That would be...well....crazy.  I would rather spend my time eating bar-be-cue and pecan pie, on a float in the middle of a pool, celebrating the fact that in the almost half a century I have been here, no one has ever tried to kill me, even when I have been a self righteous asshole.  I love life.  I love people.   Humans are going to kill good people and bad.  Guns are a very efficient way to make that happen.  That is why I don't love guns.  If ya'll think that makes me a bad Texan, well, I suppose I can have Tex-Mex shipped to Berkley.