Truth be told, I didn’t have anything good to report this morning, and then put off writing anything at all until this evening. Saturday evening our twelve year old golden retriever died. We’d gone to Galveston for the day, first to attend the Greek Festival and then we hung around for ArtWalk. Dinner with the fam and when we got home late that evening, my husband found her in the backyard. He said she looked like she’d been lying in the sun (it felt good to her old joints) where she’d just fallen asleep.
Early Sunday morning, before church, he dug a grave for her next to our daughter’s Chorkie, Evelyn, who passed away in 2016. They are both under the sycamore tree, side by side, which seems appropriate. When Evelyn was still alive, she would climb on top of Hurley and use her for a cushion. Hurley was the sweetest dog ever, and mothered Evelyn, even though they were not biologically related. So I like the idea of their final resting places being so near each other.
I think at some point we are going to put a little birdbath out there as a marker. Or maybe some wind chimes in the tree. But there’s no hurry.
Be joyful, y’all. Even in loss there is joy for the memories.
In my purging/organizing frenzy, I’ve run across a disc that holds most (if not all) of my blog posts from Xanga, when it was still a thing. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to import them here, so I’m going to go through and copy/paste entries that might entertain you. This one is especially poignant for reasons that don’t need to be explained — a simple reminder to keep praying for all those in the Caribbean, that they will recover and come back stronger than ever.
Tuesday, August 3, 2004
The green-eyed monster has me by the tail . . .
This is where my sister-in-law is right now. And where I am not. While the average Jill might be a little green with envy, a tiny bit jealous . . . I am CONSUMED.
This is St. Croix, U.S.V.I., and St. Croix is where I spent 15 of the most glorious months of my life when I was a teenager. In fact, this picture that I copied for your viewing pleasure happens to be of Cane Bay, where I made my certification dive when I was 15. Yours truly swam out to sea and dove a deliciously scary 80 feet down the Cane Bay Wall (which continues to drop a toe-curling 3,200 feet before hitting bottom — think phosphorous glowing fishies a’ la “Finding Nemo”). I saw the most amazing creatures, collected the most beautiful shells, made the most wonderful memories.
While it has been 24 years since we returned to Texas, I am positive this is the condominium we lived in the first three months we were there. The name has changed — it was called “The Barrier Reef” when we lived there, but the view is the same, the design of the condo is the same, I’m certain this is it. In another photo on the website, I identified the condominiums next door as Mill Harbor, hence my confidence. I learned to snorkel off this beach before advancing to my scuba adventures. The reef we explored was full of sea life and named “The Barrier Reef” because it resembled (on a much smaller scale) the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.I remember wandering through the 300+ year old streets of Christiansted and shopping in store fronts that were built by Danish settlers in the 1600’s. My best friend, Cindy, and I would roam the shops and then grab a sandwich at Reed’s Deli followed by a trip to Steele’s Smokes and Sweets. Did you know that the aroma of flavored tobacco mingling with the sweet scent of chocolate is intoxicating? We bypassed the smokes (although the antique lady’s pipe with a pink coral bowl and long ebony stem made smoking a pipe seem almost elegant), indulging in the chocolates that were to die for.
I don’t know why, but many of my memories are tied to scent:
Each morning, our school bus drove past the Cruzan Rum distillery. Even now, at the age of 40, when I smell rum, I think of Good Hope School and the school bus . . . weird, I know.
It was an awesome school — a private school built on beachfront land donated by Laurance Rockefeller. We had a rotating schedule, which was geared toward making sure that we were wide-eyed and bushy-tailed at least one day a week for each subject. (So, if you had Math, English, and Science on Monday, you’d have English, Science, and Math on Tuesday, and Science, Math, and English on Wednesday, etc., etc., etc.) I had one open period in my schedule and I often spent it in the art classroom pretending to be talented or sitting on a rock down on the beach until my next class started.
I met probably the most intelligent and interesting educator of my life while a student there. Richard Collings was my European history prof and even now, I occasionally correspond with him. An amazing man, he was born in England and travelled all over Europe and other parts of the world. He was able to teach history with so much more depth and make it so much more interesting because he’d actually been all the places he was telling us about. While he managed to keep us on track lesson plan-wise, he still allowed us time to discuss issues that were important, confusing, or interesting to us. One topic that came up repeatedly was the hostage crisis in ’79 – ’80, when Americans were held prisoner for months on end in Iran. We were 9th graders, and for the first time in our lives, we realized that sometimes things happen that our parents might not be able to protect us from, or even themselves.
In my mind’s eye, it seems almost like yesterday when we left. Three days after my sixteenth birthday, we boarded a plane and came back to Texas. It was really difficult for me, because I’d made some very close friends in the brief time I lived there. I wrote some heart-wrenching poetry (thank you, teenage angst) and slowly but surely readjusted to life in the “real” world.
Someday, I hope to return. I’d like to take my husband with me and share “my” island with him. If I’m feeling particularly generous, I might take my daughter, too . . . but it would be an awesome “just the two of us” trip. Jami might have to stay with her MoMo.
A lot has changed since I wrote this — our girl is grown and finishing college. My mom passed away two years ago. As much as my mom was a homebody, I think she enjoyed our adventure as much or more than we did. She settled in to life on the island really well, learning to drive on the left side of the road quickly and was not hesitant to get out there and explore, even while my dad was at work — taking care of us, running errands, participating in the HOVIC women’s service league. She bought cookbooks to learn how to fix the crazy things Dad brought home from his snorkeling and diving adventures — I can still see her standing over the stove, frying conch fritters and letting my sister and I make “creatures of the deep” with the leftover batter. Sometimes I think she adapted to life there better than any of us. I know if she were here now, she would be praying for the islanders, too.
I have borrowed photos from a variety of sources discovered through Google Search for the purposes of this blog post. As best I can tell, they are not copyrighted.
A good and faithful man lived in the white brick house next door to my mom. Retired, he took care of his house and he watched his grandchildren when they got out of school each day. One day he decided to mow my mom’s yard when he mowed his own. Mom looked out the window and was surprised to see him pushing his mower across her backyard. If I remember right, she opened the backdoor and waited for him to see her there — at which point she said, “Jose, you don’t have to do that! My son-in-law mows it when he can.”
Jose just smiled and nodded his head and said something to the effect of he didn’t mind helping out today.
Eventually, my husband stopped taking his mower to my mom’s because Jose never let the grass get tall enough for my husband to be able to mow. Every time Jose mowed his yard, he would just keep on going until Mom’s yard was mowed, too. It wasn’t just a blessing to Mom. It was a blessing to my husband because he didn’t have to load his riding mower onto the trailer and make the 80 mile roundtrip to mow Mom’s yard.
Mom always said, “We need to do something for Jose. He is so faithful. We need to get him a gift card, bake him a cake, or something.” This was around the time Mom got sick for the last time, and we were preoccupied with doctors’ appointments, radiation treatments, and chemo pills. So we never got around to doing something for Jose.
The day of Mom’s funeral, we were so comforted by the people who came to pay their respects. The person who surprised us, and possibly touched our hearts in the most unexpected way, though, was Jose, sitting in the back row of the funeral home chapel. He smiled and shook our hands and told us how sorry he was for our loss.
Not long afterwards, my sister and I both agreed, “We need to do something for Jose.” Once we decided on selling the house, we made plans on how best to utilize the funds we would earn after the sale. At the top of the list was “something for Jose.” Our commitment to that grew even more, because our good neighbor remained faithful, continuing to mow our yard while we worked on the house.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a thank you note for everything he’d done and my sister went to the bank and withdrew some nice, crisp bills to include with our note. We both agreed that while the sum seemed quite generous by some accounts, we wished it could have been more.
We met up at his house on a Saturday morning and rang the bell. Jose came to the door with his usual smile and we both hugged him and gave him the envelope. He didn’t really look at it at the time; we chatted for several minutes and he told us he had meant to mow the yard before the new owners moved in, but his mower broke down. I told him it was alright because my husband had stopped by with his own mower after doing some yard work for his mother in Dickinson. He just hadn’t been able to mow the backyard because he couldn’t get the mower back there. Jose smiled and said, “I got it after I got my mower fixed. I wanted the new owners to start out with a nice yard.”
After chatting a few more minutes and emphasizing how much Mom (and we) had appreciated him over the years, we hugged again and said we hoped we would see him sometime. We started walking back to our cars, and then had the thought that maybe we should tell the neighbors on the other side how nice their new neighbors were, and say thank you for being good neighbors all these years. We rang their doorbell a couple of times, but no one ever answered, so we started walking back to our cars to leave. At that moment, we saw Jose trotting across the front yard of our old house.
“You made a mistake! You made a mistake!”
Jose thought we’d accidentally put money in his thank you note that was supposed to go towards a bill! We started laughing and told him that it was for him, at which point he said, “Oh, NO! It’s too much! I never did that expecting to get paid!”
We reassured him that we knew he didn’t, that he was a good and faithful neighbor and we wanted to bless him the way he had blessed Mom and us. He shook his head, and then told us a story:
When he first bought his house, he didn’t have a mower and wasn’t able to get one. All he had was a weed wacker. So he used the weed wacker to keep his yard as trimmed up as he could. While he was trimming his yard, he said he prayed to God. He told God, “If you’ll help me get a mower, I will use it to help someone else.” He got a mower and then he said, “I had to keep my side of the bargain.” He didn’t want to ask, and he hoped she wouldn’t get upset or “call the cops” — he just started mowing a little bit of Mom’s yard, and then a little bit more, until he was mowing the entire yard.
And so that’s how Jose started mowing our mom’s yard. He did more than that, though. He kept an eye out for her. One day he saw her taking her trash bag to the outdoor can and she stumbled a little. He jogged over to make sure she was okay, and then he told her, “Just put your trash bag by the front door and I’ll put it in the can for you.” From that point on, he took care of that for her every week.
He is definitely a good and faithful man, and maybe a little bit of an angel, too.
I’ve been needing to write this for quite a while now. Until today, the words just wouldn’t come. The events described below occurred over the course of roughly eight years.
Have you ever been acquainted with, or even friends with, Someone who is obliviously careless in the way he or she treats people? For all intents and purposes, Someone is great — professing a love for God and people, and usually getting it right.
Until Someone gets it wrong. Repeatedly. And there seems to be no going back. No chance of recovery. Because Someone is completely oblivious to what he or she has done.
In the beginning, I thought I was at fault because I was putting too much value on things. It started with a table that I’d donated to a cause — a piece of furniture that had been in my family for decades, but for which I had no room. All seemed well, until one day I noticed the table sitting outside the building, the mid-century formica curled up by the recent rainstorm, ruined beyond repair. It made me so angry to see the table misused and cast aside — wasted. I regretted donating it, but then I told myself, “You don’t know who did this. And it’s just a THING. It’s not worth getting so angry.”
And so I tried to let it go.
A couple of years later, Someone asked if they could borrow my “old” camera to take some family portraits. It was not my primary camera any longer, but it was still a good camera, one my daughter was beginning to use. I took joy in passing it down to her, and I asked her before loaning it out, since it officially belonged to her. When the camera was returned, I didn’t think to inspect it, but the next time my daughter tried to remove the memory card, the eject button was broken and I had to pry the card out with my fingers. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the contact pins for the memory card were damaged. The camera was ruined. And Someone didn’t say anything. Again, I stifled my anger and reminded myself, “It’s just a THING. Maybe it was an accident.”
And so I tried to let it go.
Most recently, though, the carelessness has had nothing to do with things, and everything to do with people. Someone promised to be there for one of MY people. To fill a parental void left by an absentee parent. Someone made promises. Promises to go visit my person at college and to stay in touch. To step in where the absentee dad had left a void. Someone broke those promises. And my person was left yet again with a wounded heart.
It was getting harder to let it go.
Another one of MY people went through difficult times a couple of years ago. I’m glad to say my person is on the backside of those difficult times and joy fills her face more often than sorrow. But in the dark days she sought counsel from Someone she should have been able to trust. Someonebroke her trust because she did not follow Someone’s timeline — she did not heal in the way, or as fast, as Someonewanted.
It was getting much harder to let it go.
Someone else claiming to be her kindred spirit, her soulmate, told her with all seriousness she was going to hell for things done in the dark days, and then turned around and did similar things, if not worse. All the while, Someone else pretended to be one thing around one group and another thing around another group. My person struggled to be transparent, to stop being all things to all people — she finally sought to discover who she is in Jesus Christ. In the discovery of who that is, she opened up her heart to forgiveness and reconciliation. Someone else gave her hope, and then snatched it away, telling her their friendship was ended, that they would never be friends again.
Suddenly all the pieces began to fit together for me. The carelessness with the things. The carelessness with the promises. The carelessness with the confidences. The carelessness with the “rules” — “it’s okay for me, but not for thee.” The carelessness with relationships.
And in that moment, it became easy to let go. To leave those someones behind, to realize that maybe these things happened for a reason because that place, those someones, were not where I (or we) belonged.
Each and every time I think of those someones, I try to ask God to help me forgive the hurts inflicted, however obliviously, on my loved ones and myself. I try to remind myself that those someones probably have no clue how their actions hurt me and mine. And I remember that I am someone, also — to make every effort to treat others with care and loving kindness.
There’s a cliche that goes something like this: “The devil is in the details.” When googling the quote I discovered there’s also a version that states “God is in the details,” and today I found this to be exceptionally true.
A few months ago, a dear friend, Sonja, called me to ask for details regarding the house we were preparing for sale. A young woman had come into the office where she works, along with her mother, and in the course of their conversation my friend discovered the young woman was looking to buy a house in Alvin. I remember my first reaction was, “Oh, we are NOT ready!” So with the disclaimer that we still had a good bit of work to do, I gave her the address to pass along to those who inquired.
With so much left to do on the house, I didn’t really think about it anymore. My sister and I kept working on the house and finally listed it with the realtor. We had a false start the day before the house actually went on the market — a young couple expressed interest in it, but in the course of walking through the house, a problem was discovered with the brick walls: they were a little loose with age! We immediately contacted masonry companies for repair quotes and hired a company to secure the walls around the entire house. We were relieved that the repair was not horribly expensive, but still well done. By the time the work was done, however, the young couple had moved on to another house.
I don’t really know the order in which things happened after that — my sister had more contact with the realtor during the sales process than I did. But I do know that in a very short period of time, we had two offers made on the house. One was our listing price and the other was several thousand dollars less. We were thrilled to have two offers and it didn’t take long to agree to the best offer. After inspections, some minor repairs were indicated and we offered a repair allowance which was accepted and we had a deal.
So today we met at the title company in Pearland to sign all the papers. We found out for certain that our buyers were twin sisters, one of whom had been the young woman who inquired about our house when talking to our friend, Sonja! They were absolutely delightful young ladies — hardworking nurses who’ve been raised with a view to the future. In visiting with their mother, who came with them, we learned at the age of 24, they decided they wanted to invest in a home, rather than throwing hardearned money away on rent. And here’s the crazy, “oh my gosh, it is such a tiny, tiny world” bit of the story.
We exchanged our stories — where we were from and what we did. I mentioned I live near Lake Jackson, the mother mentioned her son worked at Brazosport College. I said, “Oh! I teach photography there in the Community Education department!” She gasped and exclaimed, “My oldest daughter is in your class!” I asked if her name was Angela, and “Yes, yes it is!”
So several months ago, this very sweet young lady called me to ask about what kind of camera she needed and told me how much she was looking forward to the class. Several months ago, her mother and one sister walked into my friend’s office and mentioned they were looking for a house to buy in Alvin. And today we discovered all these paths that seemed completely separate were actually very close indeed.
I would definitely say God is in the details. I take a great deal of joy in knowing these sweet young ladies, fellow Christians, will be making their home and memories in our childhood home. I am pleased that such good people will be the new neighbors of the neighbors we have been so fond of for so many years.
I think our mother would be so happy. I know she would. I know I am.
I ran by the Alvin house earlier this afternoon to do a little “cleaning” in the garage before the closing next Monday. There were some odds and ends left on the workbench that needed to be thrown away or taken home. It didn’t take very long to sort through everything, and as I worked, I found history repeating itself in a way.
I can’t count how many times I saw my daddy stop working on whatever project he had going in the garage — building an instrumentation panel, cutting lumber for a project, or working on one of the vehicles — to walk out in the front yard and stare up at the sky. He’d scan the blue, shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand, listening to the hum of an airplane making its way thousands of feet above us. It would only take him a second or two to spot it, and then he would impress me by identifying whatever kind of plane it was by the shape of the wings and the sound of the engine.
Today I stood in the front yard and stared up at the sky, scanning the cloudless blue, for the source of the familiar sound. I’m pretty sure it was a single engine prop, and I am certain it had two wings, but other than that, I’m sorry to say I didn’t inherit my daddy’s magic gift for plane identification. I do know the sun glistened off the fuselage as it turned and headed out toward FM 1462, and it was a beautiful thing to see. My Grandma Power, Daddy’s mama, once told me that Daddy would build airplane models when he was a little boy, before he could even read the instructions. She said he would look at the pictures and figure out which pieces went where.
He graduated from a small high school in East Texas, where the number of seniors allowed each a quotation in the high school yearbook. Daddy’s quote was, “Pluck out his flying feathers, and teach his feet a measure.” I always thought that was so funny!
A few years later, his passion for flying would be the thing that saved him, though. His daddy, stepmama, and little brother asked him if he wanted to go visit some family out of town. He had some work to do on an airplane at a little country airport and said, “Not this time.” On the way home from that visit, there was a terrible car accident and my daddy’s daddy didn’t make it. There’s no way to know for sure, but if my daddy had gone with them, he probably would have been driving. The loss of his daddy made him so safety conscious when it came to vehicles — he ordered seatbelts and installed them in his car because back then, they were not standard equipment. He would not even begin to drive until we were buckled up safe and sound, and he passed that on to me. He teased me that the car seat AJ and I bought for Jami looked like it was designed by NASA. He may have teased us, but I know he was pleased.
He lives in New Orleans now, but I’m pretty sure when a plane flies over his house he stops whatever he’s doing and walks out to the backyard where he can see the sky. He shields his eyes with the palm of his hand and looks up at the blue for the Cessna he knows is there.
My guy and I, along with our girl, spent years 1997 – 1999 living in Huntsville, Texas. We moved there, where we’d originally met in college in 1985, when AJ accepted a position in the Human Resources department with the state prison system. Though short, those were good years for us, in large part because we became friends with another married couple who would prove to be more like family than friends.
We visited a church called Family Faith one Sunday and really liked it. The worship was powerful and the sermon series on family was spot on for what we needed at the time. I don’t think it was very long at all, maybe two or three weeks, that one of the ladies there, Lucy Arnold, told me, “You need to meet Alena. I just know you will be great friends.”
I am so grateful for Lucy’s intuition, because she was 100% right regarding Alena. I was 33 years old, Alena was 24 — we immediately hit it off and became fast friends. We both loved to read, we were both relatively new mothers since we had toddlers and she had another baby while we lived in Huntsville. I loved how easy it was to talk with Alena — about anything and everything. She always took her life experiences and turned them around to what God had done for her, what He had taught her. Even though she was younger than me, I learned so much from her!
The bonus of our developing friendship was the friendship that grew between our husbands, too. When two married women become close friends, friendship between their spouses is not always a given. The fact that the four of us enjoy each others’ company so much is a real gift and one we do not take for granted, and it was Clyde who officiated at our wedding vow renewal a few weeks ago. A two hour drive now separates us, but when the opportunity to fellowship presents itself, we are delighted to rearrange schedules, whatever is needed to be able to spend that time together!
Today is Clyde’s 60th birthday and with his characteristic spontaneity he decided to take a day trip to his favorite place, the beach. Alena contacted us to see if we could meet them and their kids out there and, of course, the answer was “yes!” We made it out to Peregrine, going toward San Luis Pass, and the guys got the little portable grill going for hot dogs while Alena and I took a walk down the beach. Such a sweet visit catching up with each other! Upon our return, a fire pit had been dug and a small wood fire was burning in preparation for s’mores. We sat around the fire and talked, and then Clyde wrapped up our evening by leading us in a couple of worship songs.
How I miss having these people nearby! I love you, Tauriainens! You are the best! ❤