Sunday, April 25, 2010

Start Spreading the News....

So, I've been home from New York for a week and I'm just putting up a post about it. (Manhattan)
Why you ask? Because it has taken MeMaw the entire week to catch up on sleep. (Times Square)
I went on the trip to be a chaperone for a choir trip for a private school where I used to teach. (Sidewalks of New York.)
I had taught many of the students years ago. (Ground Zero)
Now they are in high school and able to pull off 6:00 am-11:30 pm days on this trip. (Central Park)
I kept up pretty well while I was there--it was just the return to a normal schedule that laughed at my sleep deprivation. (Saw Broadway shows "Mary Poppins" and "Momma Mia".)
Some favorite parts of the trip? Finding my great-grandfather's family names on Ellis Island where the immigrated from Sweden.
Seeing the memorial for 9/11. (Foreground graphic shows where the twin towers used to be located.)
"Give me your tired and poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." (Teaching fifth grade curriculum drilled that poem into me years ago.)
Being a teacher also caused me to have my picture taken at FAO Schwartz next to a life sized statue of Chewbaca from Star Wars fame. I was the star of Show and Tell upon my return to first grade.
The teacher in me also could not resist visiting The Plaza, setting of Kay Thompson's Eloise series.
There were so many great things about New York. (View of the Empires State Building from the top of 30 Rockefeller Center.)
But the greatest? Getting to spend it among old friends: Quality Friend Connie who has been a constant throughout this roller coaster life, and three former students. I taught these girls in kindergarten and then third grade. They are now 17 year olds who drive, and are about to become high school seniors in a few weeks.  One of the greatest joys in life is watching children grow up well in the Lord. (Thanks R, C and G: you are all still such a blessing to me!)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Virtual Scrapbooking

A few years ago, I was in the midst of a deep philosophical discussion with myself: "To scrapbook or not to scrapbook?", that was the question. Until I attended a Scrapping Soiree with a room full of hardcore scrappers. One lady admitted that she'd go to Target, find a darling, brightly colored outfit for her toddler, and then go next door to Michael's to buy matching scrapbook papers and stickers. Later, she'd go home with her props and stage her daughter in  pre-thought-out layouts. 

It was then  I knew that if I entered the Wonderful World of Scrapbooking, I would never recover. Because I could easily be That Girl.

So, it was no surprise that I found myself in Walmart yesterday composing a consumer-themed  blog in my mind as I shopped for food and a trip to New York. (Felt good to drop that phrase.) There was a running mental monologue about "travel sized" ( 4 oz Carry-on Ready!) contact lens solution that cost twice as much as the 10 ounce size. Salt-free soup that cost three times the amount of regular soup to leave the salt out.  Wildly expensive,  premeasured 100-calorie snack packages, like we are incapable of measuring out our own snacks. Just a little continual consumer commentary in measured, pithy phrases. 

I think I have become That Girl, in a bloggy medium. (And I just read that Lil' Wayne (and what is up with his teeth?) is blogging from prison during his incarceration for loaded guns on the tour bus. Our tax dollars at work.)

But here's the deal: I think blogging is cheaper than therapy. I seem to be working my life out through the reflection that leads to the posts. (And OH! the ones that don't make it through the filter to the "publish post" button.)

I read an article recently about a large group of senior citizens who were asked, "If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be?" The overwhelming answer was that they would have spent more time slowing down and reflecting on their lives. Thinking it over, sorting it out, committing the happy things to memory.

And after all: isn't that what blogging is?

And I don't have to buy matching paper and stickers.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Guess where I went last night with Loyal Sister? 
That red sign in the background, upon magnification, provides the clue:  an Elton John concert in the nosebleed section!
We only decided to go a few weeks ago, and were amazed that there were a few seats left. (And our tickets actually put us in a perfect location for viewing, listening, singing along and remembering.)

There are a few observations I need to make here:
  • Elton John was the soundtrack of our teenaged lives in the 70s. We listened to him using record players and albums. Since then, we have seen the evolution from albums to 8 tracks to cassettes to CDs to Ipods. We have kept up with more technology than any generation. But we still had to take naps before the concert.
  • I sometimes have difficulty remembering phone numbers these days. But I remembered every word to Tiny Dancer, Levon, Daniel, Crocodile Rock,  and happy playlist of other songs at the concert. 
  • We wore sassy dresses and strappy heels to concerts in the 70s, much like the young(er) girls at last night's show. We now wear sensible tennis shoes for the mountain climb to Section 67 where the air is much thinner. And our feet thanked us for it this morning.
  • We don't wave lighters at concerts anymore: now we sway with cell phones. After calling our now-adult children so they can hear "Good-bye Yellow Brick Road" and cringe. 
Loyal Sister begged me to not disclose the following facts on the blog, but I feel that I must be truthful to the readers: A now 62 year-old Elton uses a teleprompter to remember the words to his songs. (Shown in picture above piano.) But I have to hand it to him: he put on a three hour show, and at one point haltingly stood on his piano bench. (We all held our breaths collectively. He made it down OK to finish the set. Heavy sigh of relief.)

We exited happy and proud of ourselves for trying something new and totally enjoying it. And who do you think we ran into outside in the crazy Austin traffic?
Our favorite Peddicabber! Young Son (who will graduate from college on May 14th using dollars earned peddling Austin tourists through the jungle that is downtown) was working the after-show crowd, and stopping his mother and aunt's hearts as he wove through traffic. He was returning concert goers to their hotels and cars. We heard him tell his passengers, "That's my mom and aunt in that car," making a connection with his patrons. Who, he later texted, gave him a $100 tip for a ride of a few blocks. (Matthew McCaughney, one of his first passengers seen here, allowed a picture as a tip--which does not pay for books and tuition for my son, Matthew.)
So, Elton, we've all aged just a smidgeon since the 70s. But we never lost the thrills we got, doing a thing called the Crocodile Rock.

Apologies to my adult children.

Now I'm going to go catch up on my sleep. I hear Hall and Oates are coming to town soon.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Broken Roads or Intended Detours

About a month ago, I finally sat down and did my income tax alone for the first time since I married D. To my delight, it took me less time to complete it then the amount of time I spent worrying about completing it. To my even bigger delight, I was getting a healthy chunk o' change back from the government. And my first thought? Wonder where I'll be needing that money...

Does that happen to you? A pile of money mysteriously heads your way, followed by circumstances that will immediately suck up said money. You know: emergencies, home repair, car repair...Oh, were we speaking of car trouble? Let's do.

So, I go on a road trip two weeks ago and my car dies in front of an antique shop in The Big Middle of Nowhere. Timing: the sun was going down, and the sidewalks were rolling up on this small town. Antique owner stays with me way past closing and lets me use her phone. To add layers of misery to this story, my cell phone died. And it took all its phone number memory with it. (And who memorizes phone numbers anymore?) Local men can't start my car, so we call in the big guns: AAA, who sends Johnny the Tow Truck Driver my way. He relocates me and my car to a town known for its kolaches and German food, but not Hertz or Avis outlets. It is glaringly apparent that my car will be living in Kolache Land for a while. No problem, says Johnny the TTD, he has a rental car I can rent. And the angels sang and the heavens parted. Because I just went through Worst Case Scenario on a road trip alone, and all my needs were met by amazingly wonderful people. In a town the size of your thumbnail. I'm full of faith that this will all turn out OK.

Larry the Car Repairman in Kolache Land stays in contact with me several times daily for the 10 days it takes to get my vehicle fixed. My car even got to go on a vacation to a Waco dealership on Johnny's Tow Truck when the problem was more complicated then first anticipated. Everyone was kind, professional, and on the ball. I got the call to come get it after school yesterday. I was not at all, not one little bit, surprised to learn that the repair bill was exactly the amount of my tax refund. Two roads diverge in the woods and I...decided to take the road that says "Be thankful you have the money to fix it."

Loyal friend and fellow teacher J hears that I'll be making the Car Retrieval Trip as soon as the final bell rings, and says she'd like to go with me. It would be fun, she says. A true friend is someone who has just spent 8 hours teaching small children, but is willing to make an additional 5 hour round trip to get a car. And call it "fun". Well, guess what? She was right: it was mucho fun. (Throwing in the espanol because we made a pit stop at El Chico in Waco on the way home. Sour cream chicken enchiladas, you are also my friend after lo, these many years.)

Let's take a screeching right turn onto that subject of friends. A gal from the galaxy of the internet had been commenting on my blog posts for a long time. I don't know her, or anything about her, except I can tell she has a sweet spirit through her comments. One day I put up a post about my hairstylists with Too Much Information, and she recognized them as HER hairstylists. We started comparing notes via blogland to discover: we live in the same town and went to the same church! Small world afterall? You bet. We met up for coffee yesterday at "our" neighborhood Starbucks, both ordering tall skinny decaf cinnamon dolche lattes. We had a great time comparing shared friends and blogs we enjoyed reading.

Sometimes, those wrong turns and unexpected happenings? They take you to exactly where you are supposed to be. And bless you enormously. Taking those roads less traveled by? They can make all the difference in happiness.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The One in Which My Friends Are Concerned For My Sanity

While I was in Pennsylvania with my daughter and her darling husband last month, we were hanging out and watching TV on my last night there. The show "Hoarders" on A&E began, and we were transfixed. Totally unable to look away from the train wreck of homes with trash filling every room of a house, stopped only by the confines of walls and ceilings. At one point, Katy and Joseph got off in a side conversation and tuned out a little. Not me: the lady being featured said these words, "I have not emptied my garbage in a year." And being totally amazed , I repeated her words out loud, "I have not emptied my garbage in a year."

There was a violent wind in the room as the newlyweds whipped their heads around toward me and Joseph said (kind of loudly for such a mild-mannered young man), "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" And the look in his eyes? Priceless. He was totally and completely concerned with my life and mental health in that moment. I explained, gently I hope, that I was only quoting the "hoarder" on the screen. But I was touched by the immediate level of concern they had for me, and my far away homelife in Texas.

I was reminded of this concern this weekend when a sweet friend dropped by with a gift on Saturday morning. I was showing her my tarp covered rooms, as all walls and ceilings are being repainted. Actually, the house resembles the hoarder's, but the tarps give it a fair sense of order. When we came to my bedroom, my friend saw the stacks of clothes completely covering my bed. They would soon be dropped off at Goodwill, but there was no way she would have known that. "WHERE DO YOU SLEEP?" she asked in a voice that was so full of concern I wanted to hug her to make her feel better. I assured her the clothes had only been added to the bed that morning, and all this clutter was temporary.

So, dear friends, if you are concerned about my sanity during this walk through grief, I want you to know I appreciate it. But I do empty my trash. And I use a comforter on my bed to stay warm. Not piles of clothes.

But I am blessed that you care.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Just so you know upfront, most of my blogs are thought out and even edited so that My Crazy does not come screaming through. This post is being written in "real time" and I am just not feeling much of a filter.

This week had several hard bumps in it. My car broke down in a mapdot town, and had to be towed. Miraculously there was a rental car available late at night when the sidewalks were already rolled up. I spent time with a friend in turmoil due to a set of circumstances that were unimaginably horrible. There was way too much drama at my workplace that forced me to draw some hard lines. Amazingly, I felt very peaceful as I walked through each of these situations, and felt the presence of God near. 

There were also several very wonderful moments. Fellow teachers who took me out for my birthday at my favorite Italian restaurant, with much laughter that fed my soul. The parents of my students gave me a surprise birthday party complete with superior chocolate cupcakes, and a generous gift certificate. (I think I gave my teachers soap on a rope in elementary school. These parents are  like friends to me.) Fifty Facebook birthday greetings from every corner of my life. I "graduated" from my second g0-round of Grief class and was asked to think about being a facilitator in a future group.  And I let myself believe that maybe, just maybe, life was going to level out and feel normal again.

So, of course: the bottom fell out. And I found myself in a heap on my birthday yesterday remembering last year when Dave was well. And blissfully unaware of the fact that his life would end three short months later. Asking myself how in the world have I lived almost nine months without him?

The day was a school holiday, and Loyal Sister had come over to spend the day with me doing anything I choose. My choice? Move furniture for the painters. Everything I own is under tarps as the renovation of the house continues, and I'm tired of it. And I'm tired of dust and disorder. And I just want it done already, without having to go through all the inconveniences. Kind of the way I'm feeling about grief right now: could I just be done with it already?

More friends took me out last night for my birthday with my laughter among tears. And I woke up today knowing this was The Day. I had wondered how I'd know when it was time to give away Dave's clothes. Painters are coming to tackle my closets next week. The statue of limitations seems to have run out: I have no more space to store them amidst the tarps and clutter of renovation. Best to just clear them out.

I spent the morning sorting and remembering. Feeling that now-familiar but never comfortable mix of pain and joy. They co-exist, but just barely. I figured the easiest way to load the clothes was to back the rental car up into the garage  and cram it all into a compact car. (Yes, one week later my car is still in the shop in Mapdot, Texas. The mechanics have called me several times daily, and have been more then kind, but I'm painting anything in my way with a wide brush of wrath today.)

Of course my neighbor across the street picks this exact time to blow leaves off of his driveway and DOESN'T HE KNOW I NEED TOTAL QUIET AND PRIVACY TO DO THIS DEED? I totally fill the car and trunk and head for the new Goodwill in town, praying that attendants would ask me no questions. The first attendant headed for my car and told me I  entered the drop-off the wrong way. So I ran over him. Backed up and did it again. 

Well, I wanted to. As he unloaded the car,  I looked straight ahead, not watching. Remember Lot's Wife. And  I had an immediate need for food that was bad for me. Spied a KFC, zoomed toward it, and heard Matthew West's song "Save a Place For Me" come on the radio. Of course. You read the words (or listen to it here )while I begin the Ugly Cry:

Don't be mad if I cry
It just hurts so bad sometimes
'Cause everyday it's sinking in
And I have to say goodbye all over again
You know I bet it feels good to have the weight of this world off your shoulders now
I'm dreaming of the day when I'm finally there with you

Save a place for me
Save a place for me
I'll be there soon
I'll be there soon
Save a place for me
Save some grace for me
I'll be there soon
I'll be there soon

I have asked the question why
But I guess the answer's for another time
So instead I'll pray with every tear
And be thankful for the time I had you here
And I wanna live my life just like you did
Make the most of my time just like you did
And I wanna make my home up in the sky
Just like you did
Oh, but until I get there
Until I get there.

And now? It is time for a looooooooong nap. After I take care of the guy daring to loudly mow his  yard on my street when I am in need of quiet. Kidding. Sort of.

Glad that Easter is coming, and that all things can be new.