Monday, September 20, 2010

Baa! Baa!

The glass carafe on my coffee pot broke this weekend. This is not too much of a problem since I had changed over to hot tea this summer after spending time in Ireland. But company? They insist on coffee stateside. I made the trek to Bigbox Wallyworld for a new carafe, and guess what? The glass pot replacement costs almost the same as an entire new machine! To add injury to insult, the only color they had the replacement in was black handled, and my machine is white. Can you say "consumers are being led around like sheep"? We have no choice anymore but to change to what The Company says is the New! and Improved! model or color. And it makes me kind of ticked. All this "going green" is made impossible as manufacturers make items and color schemes obsolete.

And one of the scariest recent changes? I just replaced all the hardware in my entire home to oil rubbed bronze. ("The newest thing!" my helpers at Lowe's promised me.) Sunday night I heard from a good source that (wait for it:) GOLD fixtures are coming back in again. It wasn't pretty in the 80s and it won't be pretty in the 10s. Or whatever we are going to call this decade.

And then? I walked through SteinMart tonight and saw my entire 1976 wardrobe on display for this fall's purchasing pleasure. Sometimes I get a feeling that all unsold merchandise is warehoused and then put back on the salesroom floors about 35 years later. Like we could forget cowl necks and long knitted sweater vests. Again: wasn't pretty then, isn't pretty now.

But during this little tour o'stores after school today? Something wonderful happened. For the first time since July 13, 2009, I had the thought that I like my life. I mean, to misquote Sally Field, "I like it, I really like it." I've moved past feeling disloyal to D if I begin to enjoy things without him here. I appreciated having time to leisurely clean my classroom for tomorrow after school today. Then I did the WallyWorld stop, followed by Target, Steinmart and Bed, Bath and Beyond. (Oh, shower curtain that matches my new bathroom scheme: you are apparently going to be somewhat of a challenge to me.) Not having to rush home made even after-school shopping fun. Obviously, I would not trade this new freedom for having D back. But this is where I am in life. And I'm starting to warm up to it.

And speaking of change: where is Young Son in his bicycle ride across America? Holbrook, Arizona: 1015 miles from his starting point of Austin, Texas. He just saw the Petrified Forest and is heading on to Flagstaff.

The temperatures in my neck of the woods are dipping into the 80s this week, just in time to welcome Fall-- Texas style. Welcoming the "cool". And welcoming the changes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Just Say Yes

If you will indulge me a little bit, I've been deep in memory of what my weekends used to be like when D was alive. The cancer limited his mobility and stamina, and he was a creature of habit, so our plans rarely varied from weekend to weekend. Friday night brought a trip to a great Mexican food restaurant (and even there D would order something healthy and not touch the chips and salsa!). We'd end the evening by swinging by Barnes and Nobles to get a magazine and playing, "Where's Tamborro?" This was an updated version of "Where's Waldo", except we'd look for a man who was there every Friday; the grandfather of a boy my kids went to school with. (Our kids thought we were pitiful for continuing this game weekly and even texting them when we found him.)  If D found him first, he'd stand next to him in the books and look interested in whatever book was nearby until I found him lurking there. I'd usually have to back out of the aisle chocking laughter. And hoping that sweet older man did not know he was part of our game.

Saturdays usually brought us to a local movie chain that serves food. D's energy level could usually handle a movie or a meal. This theater gave us both. Following a late afternoon show, we'd go home and D would catch up on a TV series he was watching on NetFlix. (Boston Legal, Mad Men and Army Wives were favorites.)

Sundays found us the the back row aisle seat of church so D could maneuver in and out easily with his walker. We went to Sunday School where a sweet man always had  Post-It notes with our names on them stuck to the two chairs nearest the door. After that, we always went for brunch at a restaurant in a cute little town near us where D worked. They, too, saved the booth nearest the door so D would not have to travel as far with his walker. After a great meal, we'd take a tour of the town and look at all the great restored bungalows. It was our dream to buy one and fix it up. It honestly never occurred to me that would not happen. Sunday afternoons were my time for a delicious nap, with D fussing that I was wasting the weekend. I was gone teaching during the week, so he spent quite a bit of time home alone. On the weekends I think he just wanted me close by all the time. 

The routine was very soothing to him as his cancer ramped up. I tried to replicate that journey last night: getting food to go from that same Mexican food restaurant and grabbing a magazine from Barnes. (Alas: no Tamburro in sight.) It made me remember when Married Daughter was about 3 and her dad used to share a snack with her. Believe it or not, it was smoked oysters on toothpicks with crackers. I remember she asked for them one time when he was not home. When she tried one, she seemed visibly disappointed that, "They don't taste the same without dad eating them with me." I could say the same about my travel last night: just not the same. Obviously.

I have found that more and more of my spare time is being spent in my classroom after school and on weekends.  I'm in a new grade, so it is somewhat like a new job in many ways: quite a learning curve.  There is just no reason to hurry home for the first time in my life: no husband or children waiting or needing something. So, my second grade classroom and students are the recipients of more attention than usual. I'm pretty sure this ramped up classroom caring will result in many of them getting early admission to Harvard this spring.

Kidding. They are totally Princeton types.

So, I'm still looking for balance in life. And I continue to take the advice of Married Daughter: "Mom, you say "yes" to anything anyone asks you to do." Those "yeses" have led me places I've never been before; many a little odd.

And saying "yes" to life? Young Son is still cycling across America and has covered over 850 miles from Austin, Texas to Grant, New Mexico. He updates with location and photos often from his iPhone onto Facebook. I "swiped" these pictures from his Facebook for my blog. He'd be impressed with my high-techness.

And here is Young Son wearing one of D's cycling jerseys in front of a field of sunflowers in New Mexico. Triumphant and saying "yes" to life.

Godspeed, Chris. You are a great companion on this road of life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the Road Again

Young Son has always been a very determined guy.

When he was 8, he asked me to buy him a shovel because he (and I quote) "wanted to dig a hole big enough to put him bike into." And he did.

When he was 9, he and three other boys in his classroom smuggled digging tools onto the playground every day for months to unearth a bolder. Into the mystery and adventure fiction genres, they were convinced there was treasure under that impressively large rock. When the stone was finally moved and no plunder was uncovered, he simply moved on to the next big challenge.

I could plot a timeline for this that included almost every single year of his 23 years on this earth. I was most impressed when he cycled in a 100 mile cancer benefit ride in D's honor one year (found here), and in D's memory the next. In August. In Texas. "No big deal, Mom."

It should have come as no surprise to me when he said he was leaving September 1st to ride his bike from his home in Austin to California. (CALIFORNIA, people!) He and a friend were setting out to complete the feat before student loans came due, accompanied by the necessary Real Jobs.

They headed to the Dallas/Fort Worth area first for a pedicabbing gig at Arlington Stadium to pay for the first leg of the trip. They finished that job and headed for the panhandle of Texas. He said one evening they were eating at a local cafe in a mapdot town. They asked the waitress if they could camp in the city park. "Sure, honey!" she declared. Her brother was the "director of parks" and she could fix them right up with one phone call. They were given permission for  camping, but someone forgot to tell the person in charge of the park sprinkler system. Which went off promptly at midnight and soaked everything they owned.

There was  a call from Roswell, New Mexico to let me know they were headed to Albuquerque next. They'd hit a few days of hard rain, blown inland courtesy of the last hurricane. He said the rain was a welcome relief from the heat. The hardest part had been the headwinds they were running into. (I asked him if he'd considered that there was a (how do you saw it?) desert on the way. "YES, Moooooom." If you are the parent of a 20 something child, I'll bet you can hear that tone of voice in your head right now.)

Anywho. Apparently: California, here they come.

I've loved watching the comments on his Facebook page. Friends encourage him on as if he is completing this journey on their behalf.  This quixotic trip has captured the imagination of so many, and they are along for the ride via iPhone updates.

Ahh, youth. Peddle hard, Young Son. You may never pass this way again.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Thousand Points of Light

I was in a hurry to get to school on Wednesday morning. It had rained very hard the night before, and we'd been under a tornado alert. The roads were covered with debris, and there seemed to be traffic cones everywhere on the way out of my neighborhood. Streetlights were out, so my early morning departure was pretty dark. I kept thinking how odd it was that there were so many school buses pulled over to the side of the road. My quick evaluation of the problem was that they were probably early for their route and waiting until time to start picking up students.

How wrong I was.

Twelve inches of rain had fallen in my neighborhood in the past 10 hours, and the street behind mine had become a raging river during the night. One man was quoted in the news as having a kayak in his living room in case he had to evacuate. When the evacuation came, in the wee hours of the morning, the flood rushing down the road was not kayak-friendly. The fire department, police and national guard worked for hours to get everyone to safety. The middle school at the end of my street was closed due to flooding. And I slept through the entire thing.

How could I have driven out of my darkened neighborhood on the way to work and missed all that?

The city showed up immediately with dumpsters that were filled, emptied and refilled several times a day. These people lost everything in their homes. The morning after looked deceptively peaceful.
I cannot imagine just putting all my belongs on the front lawn to be hauled away.
Or to be scooped up by front loaders to be dumped and taken away.

On Saturday morning, the clean up continued. This time I was not going to miss it.
My backyard backs up to these homes, but I had no damage at all. I went to the neighborhood elementary school, where a community wide effort had come together to help these people get their homes emptied. Churches set up tents with food and water. Organizations showed up with practical items from industrial strength trash bags to heavy duty gloves for clean up. Hundreds and hundreds of families showed up to clean yards and pull water logged carpet and insulation.

My church (which is on this same street, but was not damaged) supplies shirts to our members that say "See the Need, Meet the Need". These t-shirts are worn for community projects. Our pastor is continually telling us that we should be "Jesus in skin" when our neighbors need help. I know that friends wearing those shirts were at my home many times during D's long battle with cancer, helping us with everything from yard work to making our home handicap accessible when D lost his leg to the disease.

This was the first time I'd worn the yellow shirt for a project, and I know that I received so much more than I gave. I was amazed to see complete strangers going door to door to find out if the homeowners had flood insurance, and when finding out the answer was "no", handing over a big check to help the family out.

Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I don't care what anyone says: the spirit of unity in our communities is still alive and well. I know: I saw it in my own backyard.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Wonderful Weekend

This weekend, Loyal Sister and I went to "Trade Days" in Wimberly. (If you are central Texas locals, you really should meander on down there some first Saturday of the month.) The weather was almost cool, and I'm beginning to believe that our hot summer has lost its deathlike grip on this area of the country.
What is not to love about these quaint displays? Doesn't this make you want to explore?
Or buy big, chunky turquoise jewelry? (No, thank you very much.)
Alas, the puppies were not for sale. Just tired husbands hoping they'll make it home for the University of Texas game. 

After we filled my van, Loyal Sister and I drove on down the road to a wonderful place called the Nutty Brown Cafe for sandwiches without peer: SBLTs (blackened salmon BLTs) and Fajita sandwiches on focaccia. Refreshed, we drove back into Austin for a tour of some of our favorite antique stores where we made a startling discovery: there were many displays of 70s furniture nestling their way into these hallowed halls. This is just wrong on many levels. First off, it's the furniture of our teenaged years. How can that be considered antique? And secondly: 70s furniture is just dark, chunky and ugly. A bad era of decorating that did not stand the test of time. I cannot even imagine a college student considering it retro-cool. (And I'm sure I've dated myself with that adjective, but PEOPLE: the 70s were not a pretty time!)

Sunday I got up and drove to a town two hours north for the happiest of occasions. Almost 24 years ago, I hosted a shower for my special friend P. Her baby grew up to be a lovely young woman who is now having a baby of her own.
Don't you just love those full circles of life? S looked glowing and the shower was such a special time to connect with old friends and remember when.
Here is S with her precious sister, A, who designs my blogs. A was in my first grade class and now has a daughter who is nearing that age!  So proud of these sweet girls and the wonderful lives they've created for their sweet families.
(And let's not forget the guest of honor who will make his appearance sometime in October: Baby Nolan.)

And today? A lazy Labor Day at home. I have some friends coming to help do some minor repairs. Sweet friend, fellow teacher, and  co-Ireland wanderer, B, has called to ask me to go see a movie later on this afternoon. Yes, please!

I don't even know how to describe to you how this weekend felt to me. One thing I learned about grieving for the last year is that it is very tiring. It takes a lot of energy to heal from a loss. To be up and around and doing so many great things in one weekend makes me feel like I'm getting back to my old self in many ways. As I've worked through a year of saying goodbye to D, I realize I'm beginning to say hello to my new life. And that new life? It seems to be a full and happy one.

I have so many good friends that I've known since high school and college. And more that I've acquired on this road of life. I have a job I love at an exemplary school. My colleagues are a joy to work with. And, HELLO! I teach seven-year olds who love learning. My house remodel is almost complete, and mi casa is a very comfortable and cozy place to live. I have been able to travel a lot (my favorite thing to do!) this past year with family members. Maybe, just maybe, the cool and refreshing fall weather is blowing in just as my new life is taking off. 

 Because, isn't the promise that "surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life..."?

 And that's the promise for your life, too.

Have a Happy Labor Day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Joy Coming in the Morning

Do you know what this magical cup contains?


 You may think that the first sign of fall has something to do with leaves turning colors; I know it occurs when the Pumpkin Spice flavor arrives at Starbucks. I was tipped off to this Happy-Dance News by my friend D on her blog found here.

I planned to savor one when I met my friend MA there this afternoon after school. Rain blew through this morning and sliced our 100 degree  weather to 90 degrees. Know what we call that around central Texas? A cold front. I am not making that up. Pumpkin Spice Latte+90 degree weather=Texas Fall y'all!

Some other things blowing through here? My grief class began again last night. But this fourth session? I am not a class member but a facilitator now. The other leaders/trainers warned me last night might be rough. Dealing with the fresh, new grief of others can be difficult, they said. I'm sure there will be some tough times in the sessions ahead, but last night I realized I am a good way down the road to healing. I looked around the room and was full of hope for the new members that they, too, would come out on the other side of their pain eventually.

"Would dare you, would you dare, to believe,
that you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain you've been feeling,
can't compare to the joy that's coming.

Come on, you got to wait for the light
press on, just fight the good fight
because the pain you've been feeling,
it's just the hurt before the healing
the pain you've been feeling,
is just the dark before the morning."


Amen and amen.