Friday, November 28, 2008

Changing of the Guard

You may remember Jenny, the family dog, from this post:
Due to circumstances beyond their control, it was time for K and J to return Jenny to C.
Jenny is once again a Texan dog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving 2.0

Today, I made my pre-Thanksgiving pilgrimage to the grocery store before dawn. I got the last box of brown sugar and the last loaf of white bread. There were empty spaces on the shelves that you could curl up and take a nap in. I don't complain: I'm just glad to be in and out before the crowds. I was one of only a handful of customers lost in a sea of stockers. Who were already clearly loosing the battle to keep the shelves full. So, I was quite surprised with my first verbal exchange with the checker. "Good Morning!" I chirped. I am very much an early morning person. "Well, I guess all I can say is it IS morning, " she did not chirp. Oh, my. I helped her bag my groceries and then she took me to task for not scanning my debit card quickly enough. "At least there is no one behind you yet." Note to those who shop at my H.E.B.: Avoid checkout #3 at all cost today. Thanksgiving does not bring out the best in everyone.

My sister and I split the cooking duties on holidays. She does the turkey on Thanksgiving; I cook it on Christmas. The side dishes are also clearly defined. On Thanksgiving six years ago my husband and I were in separate hospitals having serious surgeries. My sister was caring for my children and running between hospitals to take care of everyone. She suggested that the unhospitalized family members should all just eat out that year. Nothing doing, said the non-cooking members of the family. She bravely cooked the turkey and sat down to a table missing two relatives. After the blessing, the first words spoken were, "Where are the mashed potatoes?" A job I was not able to complete from my hospital recovery bed. I think that is when she cried. The first time. I also think the speakers were lucky to not be wearing the gravy.

So, now we find ourselves at Thanksgiving 2008. Two out of our four children will be here. A 50% return on children scattered across the nation is something to be thankful for. I love Thanksgiving. There is not the pressure or expectations of Christmas. You get to visit and hug and eat. My husband got a good report from his MRIs and doctors today. Yes, we've come a long way from Thanksgiving 2002. Thankful for the grace and mercy God has shown us through His healing and provision. Thankful for the mashed potatoes. And thankful for all who will be at the table blessing them this year. And for those who will join us on other holidays.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Momma said there'd be days like this....

Guess who came to visit my classroom last week?

I have known E since before she was born. (The one on the right.)She has always had my heart for many reasons. Not the least of which was that she has always wanted to be a teacher. You may know that teachers have a special place in my world.

E graduated last spring and took her first teaching position this fall. She spent the summer preparing her first grade room. Making plans and creating a workspace. Painting over a huge (and ugly) tree left on the wall by the teacher before her. Such dreams and visions she had for her first classroom!

This lasted for the first four weeks of school, when E was told that she was being relocated. There were not enough students to support the number of first grade teachers. E was last hired. So she was first to go. Her students would be divided up between the other classes. And E would be at a new campus. Teaching a new grade. Second grade this time.

It was suggested by more than one of us that E should repaint that ugly tree on the classroom wall before she left.

She did not, to her credit.

She did, however, pack her room up and relocate to a new school with new students now 6 weeks into the school year. Students "handpicked" by the other teachers for her, if you know what I mean. I'm sure they were all the calmest and most polite students the teachers had. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

The initial weeks were difficult. The students were not happy about relocating at first. And E also found out her new classroom location was temporary: she'd be moving into a portable room in a few weeks. If you are doing the math, the school year is almost half over. Both E and her students have been moved around a lot.

Last week, E did what any sane teacher would do: she took a personal day. Or, what is commonly referred to in the teaching profession as a "mental health" day. She needed to regroup, refresh and refocus. She and her friend, A, took a road trip to Austin and made a pit stop in my classroom.

She returned to her classroom after a long weekend. She held a Grand Opening in her newest classroom location complete with a ribbon cutting and balloons.

I don't know that they prepare us in our college education classes for the kind of first year that E has had.

But this I know for sure: If she can make it through this year and still love teaching (and I feel certain she will), she has a blessed career in front of her. And a great story to tell years from now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Goodbye, Miss M!

I have been teaching for 20 years, but for some reason this is the first time I've ever had a student teacher.
Why did I wait so long?

Having Miss M was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my teaching career.

Every day I got to watch her gift for working with children grow and grow. The children who get her as their teacher will be blessed. She will make their classroom a great place to spend a year.

This picture was taken on her last day in my classroom. She is posing with her precious mother who drove to Austin to share this very special day. I have a daughter the same age as Miss M, so I think I can imagine the joy they were both feeling as one era ended and another one began. Miss M stepped onto the threshold of her future.

Godspeed, Miss M. You'll never know how much I appreciated your professionalism, hard work and joy in teaching! You filled our room to the brim with your enthusiasm.

Life is good in the first grade, isn't it?

Friday, November 14, 2008


Recently, one of my former students invited me to see HSM3 with her.

Well, YES!

That weekend it had set all kinds of records for tickets sold. We went on a Monday evening and we were the only 4 customers in the theater. Obviously, the HSM3 crowd is a bit younger than the usual audience: this was a school night and that limits attendance. Good for us: we had the place to ourselves to sing, laugh clap and cheer!

I'm new to the phenomenon that is HSM. I wondered if I'd understand it since I'd missed 1 and 2. Not to worry. Troy and Gabrielle apparently picked up where they left off, and I was swept into the party like I'd been invited all along.

To be honest? If M had not invited me, I probably would not have attended the movie. I found it funny that there were adults a teeny bit jealous that they did not have someone like M to invite them. They felt like they had no legitimate reason to go alone. Need some reasons?

Well, Troy and the boys can sing. They can dance. They can look intense at all the right moments.They can warble lyrics like this and make you believe:

"This is the last time to get it right,
This is the last chance to make it or not.
We got to show what we're all about:
Work together!
This is the last chance to make your mark:
History will know who we are.
This is the last game so make it count:
It's now or never!"

So, thanks M, Troy and Gabrielle for an evening of pure magic.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keeping a Straight Face

My husband is a master at pulling people's chains. He can totally pull off a joke without cracking a smile. I'm always laughing so hard in the background I tend to tip off the others to his little ruses.

The first year he was in the family, we were getting ready to go to my sister and brother-in-law's house for Christmas. When I came out dressed and ready, D was hidden behind the newspaper "reading". When he lowered the paper, I shrieked when I saw he had on a black turtleneck dickey under a thin white stretch sweater. He was a perfect imitation of cousin Eddie from our favorite Griswald movie, "Christmas Vacation." I couldn't wait to see the relatives tentative (and scared) smiles as they sized up this situation to see if he was serious or kidding with this newest fashion trend. We let them sweat for quite a while.

The summer we went on our first blended-family vacation, all the children were in elementary school. They had wanted to go to Six Flags, and we were staying at a nearby hotel so we could be there early. Dave was the first dressed. He had chosen his outfit weeks ago. He was wearing a 1980s running outfit that quit fitting in 1990. And this was 1997. The three girls were horrified that he would even think of wearing the outfit in public in the same hemisphere. C, the only boy, was so anxious to go he actually let me photograph him next to D in all his seam-busting glory. The girls declared they would never go to Six Flags if D was going to wear THAT. C was overjoyed to seemingly be the only one getting to go to Six Flags (more money for souvenirs!). The irony was that no one "got it" until we explained it was a visual joke. Preteens can be so huffy about some things.

I thought he had reformed until recently. I was speaking at a dinner and needed to look nice. What should I wear, I asked him, the red or the blue top? His enthusiasm for insisting on the red should have tipped me off. When I came out dressed and ready for this semi-dressy evening, this is what D was wearing:

We matched long enough to laugh loud and hard, take a "Facebook-type" picture to post and embarrass our now-adult children, and appreciate the sweetness of laughter.

And to be thankful that life goes on.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Party of Six

Recently, my husband went out of town for a few days and I decided to have a dinner party for five friends collected from different corners of my life: sister, college roommate, high school friend and former teaching colleagues. They didn't really know each other well: they'd bumped at weddings and showers, but this was the First Official Meeting. And we all had a blast. (Helped immensely by foods that contained way too much butter and cheese.)

We had appetizers first. What is not to love about hot artichoke cheese dip? There is a reason that it keeps Friday's Restaurant in business.

Next we moved to the dining room. Table pulled out with extensions just like it was Christmas or Thanksgiving. (The only two times a year all the leaves are added.) As M said, "We work so hard to make our homes nice. And then we meet friends at restaurants!"Obviously, time to do this more often.

And time to pull out all the stops. Field green salad with sugared pecans, cranraisins, orange slices and feta cheese and a Raspberry Vinaigrette, served with a recipe for Green Pasture's famous cheese crackers. Chicken breasts stuffed with crab meat covered with a wine and mushroom sauce. Wild rice pilaf and fresh vegetables.Desert of warm iced sheet cake and homemade vanilla ice cream.

Coffee outside on the first cool autumn evening in the Austin area. Decaf coffee and afghans for all by the firepit. A firepit I've owned for 6 years and never used before. A good time was had by all. Actually, a GREAT time was had by all.

Why don't we do these things more often? We could order pizza with the same great fellowship. Heck, I'd even serve it on the good china.

I remember when my grandmother passed away and we were cleaning out her home. She had been given some fine goblets for wedding gifts in 1935. When she moved into town in 1961, she carefully wrapped the unused goblets in newspaper, and stored them for a "special occasion". The glasses were still in the brittle 1961 newspaper when we unwrapped them in 2001.

I don't want to be guilty again of saving things for a "special occasion". What could be more special than today?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

But wait, there's more!

Several friends told me they had not seen The Wedding pictures yet. After a year? Are you kidding me? Well, if you know our family, you know a few things have been going on this past year...So I'd be delighted to share a few more pictures of wedding bliss!

(And thanks again to Allison at for such wonderful photographic memories!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Happy First Anniversary

Dear J and K:

Happy First Anniversary! It seems impossible that a year has already passed. I want to share with you something I wrote the week after your wedding last year:

"It's been a week today since The Wedding, and I will have to admit that I'm surprised to see dates on the calendar that go past November 3. Somehow, time stopped for me with that date. The accompanying jolt has been that it has taken me a while to get used to the fact that there is not always one more detail to take care of or one more list to make. My mind stays on high alert and I'm constantly reminding myself that we are done with wedding planning. It reminds me of when a newborn stretches its arms looking for the safe boundaries of the womb. No containing walls. What to do with all this free time? My nephew has suggested Frisbee golf. I look more to the newly empty bedrooms that no longer look like a Hobby Lobby wedding outlet. Perhaps there WILL finally be a scrapbooking room, or sewing room...the possibilities are endless.

"The journey to The Wedding was a faith building one. Dave's operation was two months before the wedding date. I am here to tell you, that if you can have peace in planning a wedding through this surgery (literally addressing invitations from a hospital), then this peace is definitely "surpassing all comprehension"!

"Friday was a day to decorate the church and reception hall. Crowds of helpers arrived and got to work like a well-trained army. We had so many people helping out with little pieces that I did not even know how it would look until it all came together. It was elegant. And autumn-y. And perfect. Let the celebration begin!

"The rehearsal and dinner that night were about fun and family . The first tears as we watched a preview of the slide show that would be shown at the wedding. Slides beginning with K and J's baby pictures and chronicling the journey to each other and this day. And the two of them among us: so happy it almost made your eyes hurt to look at them. The way J kept looking at my K like he had just won the lottery stole my heart. May he always see her that way.

"And the clock continued to tick and it is The Day and we are meeting in a salon in Georgetown for hair appointments. My sister has laid out a spread of food that is truly amazing. That is a picture of the day: beautiful surprises each and every way we turn. And now it is time to go to the chapel.

"There is a sharp focus that the important things in life are faith, family and friends. Family has traveled from all over the country to be here and we are so honored. A friend of mine from college has driven from west Texas to surprise me: the gift of her presence is the best one of all. The gift of everyone's presence as they come to witness this covenant of marriage to these two young people we love so fiercely.

"My son, who is now a man, walks me down the aisle. My husband, D, is waiting on the front row. And finally the moment that the door opens and K is walking down the aisle to become J's bride. J still has that awed look that is now accompanied by tears in his eyes. K is glowing. My brother-in-law, M, walks K down the aisle and then lets D give her away. A family prayer circle follows at the front. D is almost too overcome to speak. But we all know and we all understand that that in itself is a prayer of thanksgiving. They are pronounced man and wife.

"We had a reception where the bride and groom graciously included everyone in the room with love and laughter. They left to bubbles with huge smiles on their faces.

"I'm sure there were parts in between, but I will have to wait for the wedding pictures to completely remember them. My mind is a blur of blessed images. The pictures will help us remember this day over and over and over.

"For me, this day will always be a faith builder. An example of how God will provide for all our needs according to His riches in glory. Not just the physical needs like the flowers, cakes and buffet foods. But the spiritual needs for faith, family and friends. Because, in the end, that is what is eternal and lasting. The flowers have already faded, but the spirit of the hand of God on that day will be forever. And we are forever grateful."
And now, J and K, it has been a year. Each time I talk to K on the phone I ask her, "Are you still madly in love?" And she always sighs and says, "YES". Once I forgot to ask and I soon got a text that said, "YES: we are still madly in love." May it ever be for you both.

The happiest of anniversaries to our favorite newlyweds.

Love, Mom and Dad

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Be a Dandelion

The virtual world of blogging is fairly new to me. I am wading in the shallow end, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. There are several "mommy" blogs I read daily that leave me laughing and reflecting.

One of my favorite daily reads is by a mother of preschool-aged triplets. No, I've never met her (and probably never will), but her thoughtful posts always challenge me to slow down and feed my soul in quieter green pastures then I usually seek out on my own.

I encourage you to read one of her most recent posts:

It will challenge you if you think being successful is achieved by being busy, or if you think that you are "too busy" to give any more of yourself away.

She has three 4-year-olds. I have an empty nest. What is my excuse?

She is creating the time to find joy in the journey. To quote Luke 10:38-42, I think she has "chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." How does she do it?

Well, I will end quoting Dylan (as in Bob): "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind."