Posted in family

Wordless

An odd title for a scribbler’s blog post, I suppose. As I sat down to compose this post, I discovered a scarcity of words that surprised even me. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am rarely, if ever, at a loss for words. Fortunately I rediscovered my words, so here we go:

I’m full of emotions right now. Emotions threaten to knock me off my feet the same way a wave knocks you on your backside when you venture too far off shore when the Gulf is choppy chocolate soup. The emotions vying for my attention spring from what seems a multitude of sources: preparing my childhood home for sale, readying my daughter to move into her first apartment away from home, and observing the first anniversary of my mama’s passing.

The house is coming together finally. Now that it’s been almost completely emptied of all the things that made it “home,” I don’t get quite as sad when I walk through the front door. I still have vivid memories though, and I remember lying on the green 70s’ carpet in my bedroom — a first grader trying to stay out-of-the-way while my parents moved all our worldly possessions into our brand-new house. Lying on my stomach, I read fairy tale after fairy tale from the hardcover copy of The Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales my mother had given me. It was protected by a glassine dust jacket that still allowed the colorful illustration centered on the front of the navy cloth binding to show through. A companion volume of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, bound in burgundy cloth, completed the set. For some reason, I always preferred the Grimm Brothers. They were a little darker, a little more melancholy.

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Mine are similar to these, but I didn’t have a slipcase. I’d take a photo of mine, but the college girl is sleeping and I don’t want to wake her up.

My college girl is scheduled to move into her apartment two weeks from Friday. Two weeks. How did the time fly so quickly??? Yesterday we went to IKEA, where we bought a small desk, swivel chair, bedding, and a few other small things. After grabbing a late lunch at Buff Burger, we stopped at Homegoods and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Truthfully, I think she has just about everything she needs for now. We have the luxury of only being an hour down the road, so if she forgets something or gets in a bind, it won’t be too difficult to help out if she wants our help. The challenge will be leaving her alone to figure things out herself. It’s part of the process, and so I’m going to sit on my hands, hide my keys from myself, and resist the temptation to call three times a day to see how things are going. Isn’t this what we’ve been preparing her (and ourselves) for the last 20 years?

I’m dreading tomorrow. Actually, today because it’s after midnight. So it’s August 3.

A year ago today, mid-morning, I got a phone call from my sister. She thought our mama had a stroke. Because our mama didn’t like the hospital in Clear Lake and any EMS that served her area would take her there, we drove her to the hospital in Pearland, at her request. The initial symptoms that we thought were symptoms of stroke must have been related to the cancer that had metastasized to her brain several months before, because after a little time passed, the symptoms were gone. Sitting in the triage area at Pearland, we made little jokes and she requested that they allow her to keep her underwear when they helped her into a hospital gown. As doctors and nurses came and went, she asked when she could go home, and they explained that they needed to send her to a hospital with a neurologist consult. So they made arrangements to transfer her to Memorial Hermann. I wish I’d known that would be the last time I saw her awake and cognizant of her surroundings. I wish I’d made sure to hug her before they took her in the ambulance to Memorial Hermann. Little did my sister or I know that around 4:25 am the morning of August 4, we would say our final goodbyes to our mama.

Truly, our mama had very definite ideas about the way things should be done, and as I’ve spent the last year going through things from the house — reading letters, mementos and the like — I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the high standards she set for us were rooted in her own heart-felt desire to be better than she believed herself to be. Growing up in a small east Texas town, her family lived on land leased out around the South Liberty oil fields. Her parents were good, hardworking folk who loved and did well for their kids, especially considering neither of them went past grade school. We knew our mama was sharp and talented because of the things we witnessed her do for us throughout our childhoods — she was very active in our classrooms when we were small and she eventually worked hard to establish a library (properly organized by the Dewey Decimal System, no less) at the private school my sister attended.

Surprising things we’ve learned this year or so:

  • Our mama was a member of the homecoming court when she was a freshman in high school.
  • Our mama was president of the library club at Liberty High School, and she served as regional president when she attended the state convention of high school library clubs.
  • Our mama wore ladies’ dress gloves (we found white and black gloves, elbow and wrist length), beautiful heels with thin spike heels, and she had a black cashmere coat with a detachable mink collar that makes me think of Audrey Hepburn.
  • We found a snapshot of our teenage mama standing in front of the Christmas tree at our grandparents’  home — Mama wore a Norwegian style sweater with black pants. In my entire life, I never saw my mama wear pants.
  • Mama worked at the Liberty County courthouse after she graduated high school, but before she got married, and her supervisor liked her to fill out the marriage licenses because she had such beautiful handwriting.

Mama was a stickler for honesty — she disliked untruthfulness with a passion, so we were a little amused to discover our mama had sticky fingers, at least as a teenager, when it came to hotel souvenirs. The Library Club attended a couple of conventions and we found a shoe box with odds and ends from a hotel in San Antonio, the name of which escapes my memory. The mother lode was a cache of goodies from the Shamrock Hilton in Houston, Texas. We are now the proud “owners” of an ashtray, a seafood fork, a teaspoon, and a room key with brass Shamrock Hilton key chain attached.

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Photo found on Google — our key chain has the key still attached.

There was something entertaining, reassuring, and comforting in realizing our mama had been a silly teenager, just like us. I can almost imagine my mama, who I always thought of as very prim and proper, getting excited over Elvis’ latest song.

Today, when I’m tempted to be sad, I’m going to focus on that teenage girl growing up in Liberty, Texas — getting dressed up, with hat and gloves to shop at Foley’s Downtown and eat apple pie with rum sauce at the Azalea Terrace upstairs.

I miss you, Mama. Thank you for everything, including the stories and the seafood fork. I love you.

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Mama in high school. I think she told me she was 16 in this portrait, so it would have been 1959.
Posted in anger, family, life, love

A Special Kind of Jerk

Be prepared.

If it were in my power, heads would roll.

If I could unleash my inner “mama  bear,” I would let loose with a fresh hell like no one has ever seen.

Hide the can openers, because I definitely want to open up a can of whoop-ass on a college professor who does not deserve his title or position.


That night in early April was particularly bad — my daughter’s dog, Evelyn threw up three times in the early hours, and then again as my girl started to put her in the car to take her to the vet. She’d lost a tremendous amount of weight for a dog her size in only a month, and she struggled to keep the boiled egg or diced chicken down that we cooked for her. The once spunky pup had no energy and spent the majority of her days lying quietly on the floor or the couch. She’d had X-rays that indicated an enlarged heart, and some suspicious masses that could be cancerous. There were additional tests that could be run, but no guarantee, and in the meantime she was suffering.

My girl had to make the very difficult decision to have her sweet Evelyn put to sleep that afternoon. With the vet’s counsel, it was agreed this was the best course of action, to save her any additional suffering. In the middle of the heartbreaking decision, Jami sent her professor an email explaining that her dog was very ill and she was having to have her put to sleep. She asked if she could reschedule the exam she was supposed to take later in the day.

The professor responded with a  very curt “You can take it at 5:30 this evening or get a zero. Sorry.”

There are those who might say, “It’s just a dog. It’s not worth flunking a test or damaging your grade point average.” Whatever. Jami saw her puppy being born into this world, and eight years later, she stood by the examination table holding her precious pup as she slipped away, tears streaming down her face. She told me that she had thought about it and taking the test or skipping the test wouldn’t matter — she would not do well either way.

At her request, I left her there to grieve her loss.

Some time has passed and we are doing better, but even now we will get a little weepy when we think of that crazy sweet girl we love so much.


I guess you can imagine how angry it made both of us when we discovered the “professor” read my daughter’s email aloud to his class this semester as an example of how “there is no excuse that will persuade me to let you take a makeup exam.”

He did not read her name, but a friend in the class recognized the email as hers.

If I could have his job, I would. I want to write a letter to the administration, but my girl said that if anyone writes a letter, it needs to be her. I asked her if I could blog about it, and she gave me permission.

So here I am, Mama Bear, venting my fury on the interwebs. He exploited my daughter’s grief to make himself look tough and powerful. It’s a special kind of jerk that can take joy in someone else’s pain. I’m not going to call him out by name, but his last name starts with an “S.” I think it may stand for “Sorry Excuse for a Human.”😡

Posted in faith, family, life, love

Happy Birthday, Mama.

Today is my mama’s 73rd birthday. Last year, when we were in the middle of battling her cancer, we tried to celebrate her 72nd birthday with a family dinner. The details are a little vague because we were so overwhelmed by what we were dealing with. We asked her how she’d like to spend her day and she tried to muster up a little enthusiasm, but it required so much energy — energy she didn’t have.

I remember we got sliced brisket, fried okra, coleslaw, and the trimmings from a local barbecue place that we’d frequented for years. My sister and my girl both made desserts. I can’t remember what my sister made, but my girl made an “Orange Slice Cake” that Mama had asked for.

We really hoped Mama would be able to enjoy the day, but I think her illness had progressed much further than any of us realized at the time. She was tired and the radiation treatments she received in May had fried her tastebuds. It didn’t help that the barbecue place we’d always enjoyed seemed to be slipping, with the brisket being half fat — and I’m not exaggerating. It was terrible. If we hadn’t been so worn out from everything else, one of us would have taken that styrofoam box of fat back and demanded a refund. The cake my girl made was delicious, but it was a very rich and heavy cake — more suited to a wintertime dinner than a summertime birthday party.

After the so-so birthday dinner and cake, my sister started feeling poorly and within about thirty minutes, she was shaking with chills and fever. Her symptoms were so frightening I, along with her kiddos, took her to the urgent care center while my guy and girl stayed with Mama. I can’t remember what the final diagnosis was, but meds were prescribed and she began to feel better. By the time we got back to our mama’s house, it was late and time for everyone to call it a night. I remember being sad that it was more than likely our mama’s last birthday with us.

Today, on the anniversary of that day, I’m sad. I miss my mama and I miss the sound of her voice (my sister and I chuckled about that earlier – that we missed her voice, except for when she was nagging us about something she thought we needed to do or not do). I have her voice on a recording from my voicemail and every so often I will listen to her say, “I was just calling to see what you’re up to. I love you.”

Like I said, I’m sad. But I’m also happy, too. Because today is my mama’s first birthday in heaven with the Lord. And she is with her mama and daddy, whom she has missed since they passed away in the mid 1980s’. I like to think they are enjoying a family dinner with the best food (it is heaven, after all) and lots of good conversation and love.

Happy birthday, Mama. I expect being healthy and surrounded by love is the best birthday gift of all. I love you.

Posted in adventure, Brazoria County Flood 2016, faith, family, life

Hanging In There

This is really just a token post to say I am still around, I am still high and dry, and I will be posting something more interesting (and better written) soon. A quick run down of what’s up:

  • I’m grateful that the cooler head of my husband prevailed — if my less collected self had her way a few days ago, I would have been sleeping on an air mattress at my mother’s house in less than optimal conditions. The house is in renovation mode (nothing fancy, just repairing and replacing things that should have been repaired or replaced twenty years ago to prepare it for sale), so it’s virtually empty and not super comfortable. Because my husband is not a panicky kind of guy, I’ve waited out the Brazos River Flood of 2016 in the much more pleasant setting of my home sweet home. Thank you, Boo!
  • For the last few days, my most precious things have been packed in the back of my car. Not things of material value, but things that can’t be replaced: my wedding album, my daughter’s baby album, the cross stitch stocking that I’m determined to finish before Christmas (I’ve only been working on it for twenty years…)
  • The rest of my precious things (aka “photos”) have been moved to high shelves in my house.
  • I am ready to go at a moment’s notice if we get the alert that water is crossing the highway and headed our way. All I have to do is grab the chihuahua and drive. My girl will grab the cats and my guy will grab his golden retriever and we are OUT OF HERE.
  • I am hopeful that it will not come to that, though.
  • But I am heartbroken for all the people I know and love who have been displaced by the insane amount of water that has flooded the lands surrounding the Brazos River. Here is a drone video of some of the surrounding area: Jones Creek Flood – Marco Echartea, Videographer  We are on the opposite side of the highway from what is shown in the video, and are in pretty good shape right now. The fact that it rained for about 30 minutes earlier this afternoon does not make any of us happy, though.
  • I am thankful that so many people in the community are pulling together and helping each other out. God is good.
  • And I’m off to take care of some things. I’ll be back in touch soon.
Posted in family, life, love

Rainfall

My beautiful daughter’s most recent post. I love this girl.❤

sempiternal heart

I keep thinking, “God said he wouldn’t flood the earth again.”

And then I chide myself, remembering context, and throw some more clothes in a bag.  Pack up the embroidery projects.  Grab the copy of Les Mis that The Tall One gave me, the one with the poppies dried inside.  The dress I wore to New York.  The journal that Molly helped me make in print making, even though I wasn’t actually enrolled in the class.  Stare at my plants for ten minutes, trying to decide if I want to risk their lives on the floorboard of my car.

I remember my wild turns and inconsistent speeds when I’m tired at night, and leave them where they are.

“Don’t love anything that can’t love you back.”

Nikki told me that.  At Passover dinner, when I broke a piece of crystal.  Because I dropped it or something; I can’t remember.  But she…

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Posted in life, writing

A cold day in May…

Despite the grey felt sky raining light, heavy, and again light but constant raindrops on the grey earth below, I had a lovely coffee date this morning. My friend is getting ready to go on a road trip with her sister — a road trip full of family, babies, and opportunities to make memories. I look forward to hearing about it when she gets back and we meet for coffee again. Whether that day is a rainy grey day again, or one full of sunshine and puffy white clouds, I’m sure our visit will be as lovely as today’s.

She has left and now I’m sitting at my favorite table, in the corner next to the electrical outlet (an important detail for my laptop’s energy needs). This table is perfect because my chair is in the corner and I’m not in anyone’s way. I can see everyone in the shop, if I choose, or I can look down at my computer and pretend I’m here all alone, thanks to headphones that aren’t even playing anything. They are an excellent “Do Not Disturb” sign, allowing me to hear the life swirling all around me, participating only if I choose.

I’m debating on what to work on. There really shouldn’t be a debate. I should be working on my novel. I should be reworking Kate and Sam’s first chapters so I can move forward. Originally a friend said, “Just keep going from where you are, and then go back and fix the first part later.” But I can’t do that. The messy mess that is the first 100 pages must be reworked because it affects the rhythm and flow of what comes next. My OCD tendencies (compulsions) won’t allow me to shift gears midstream.

It frustrates me so much — this need to go backwards before going forward. I suppose it’s important to resolve past issues before moving on, though. If your baggage is full of dirty laundry, it makes it difficult to pack clean for a new adventure.

Posted in life, writing

Stick A Fork In Me…

I’m done.

I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. But I did. And that’s a relief.

Recently I started writing for a magazine that covers the communities throughout our county. They liked my first submission on the Alvin Historical Museum so well, they’ve asked me to do a continuing series on museums throughout the county. I was flattered, and honored, to say the least. But somehow time crept up on me and the article I planned on having finished a few days ago JUST. WOULDN’T. COME.

I started getting a little panicky last night when I’d rewritten the opening paragraph six times and still wasn’t all that happy with it. I pounded away at the keyboard for a bit more and then decided I would finish it today. After all — the article and photos were due on May 15, and last I checked, that doesn’t end until midnight, which is still more than an hour from now.

We went to church and then went out for lunch with some friends. When I got home, I sat down to see what I could do. And I checked my email. And Instagram. Because there’s a new baby in the family, don’t you know? And then I took a brief peek at Facebook… because there’s a new baby in the family, don’t you know???

I finally got back on it around 5:30 pm. And had to look at the photos I’d taken to refresh my memory on what I hadn’t yet covered in the three paragraphs I wrote yesterday. You’d think I was a sixth grader doing everything I could to avoid my homework. BUT I finally got back in the groove and finished up around 9:30 pm

As painful as it was at the beginning, I’m pretty pleased with the end. I sent it to one of my writing buddies and she gave me a comforting “thumbs up,” so I think I’m in good shape. I’ll have to see what revisions the editor makes or wants me to make. It’s in the correct word count range, though, and I have some good photos to go along with it.

I have a couple of client appointments tomorrow afternoon, and I have a morning coffee date with an old friend (that would be a friend I’ve known a long time, not that either one of us is old…) I am looking forward to that, because it’s been too long since we’ve had a good visit.

I think I’m going to call it a night. When the magazine comes out, if my story is picked up, I’ll be sure to post information here. It’s so weird. Getting paid to write. I’ve been writing online for YEARS for free. The thought that someone finds my words worthy of cold, hard cash is still mind boggling. And grin worthy. Cheshire cat grin worthy.

cheshire cat
Only the insane equate pain with success.

Of course, he was spot on with that quote. Because writing is painful, slow and painful work. And yet, the success is oh, so sweet.