August 28

The Importance of a #2 Pencil

Outside my bedroom window, just behind the giant oak tree, I watched as children passed by on bikes with training wheels, carrying backpacks bigger than their backs. The brightness of new school clothes lit up my sidewalk. The anticipation obvious as they chattered about this thing and that. The older kids sharing solid advice to the elementary school newbies.

I don’t know if there is anything more exciting than the first day of school and a pack full of new school supplies. The other day I gave Saydee Grace, still a pre-K girl, a perfectly sharpened yellow #2 pencil with a fresh pointy eraser top.

She couldn’t contain herself.

“Look, mommy! Grammie gave me a new pencil. It’s perfect. I’m gonna take it with me!”

Chelsea looked at me and laughed, “I wish I got that damn excited about a pencil.”

I told her she did and reminded her of her very own pencil box obsession. Just then Saydee hugged her #2 and repeated, “I love my damn pencil.”

The cover up sentences that followed were unsuccessful.

“I love those dang pencils so much!”

“Hot dang! I love pencils.”

“Just stop,” I said to Chels as Saydee watched both of us, taking it all in like the sponge she is.

I changed the topic to talk about her muchilla, one of my favorite new Spanish words that means backpack.

When I think back to my girls and their new school enthusiasm, I always recall Tara’s first day of school and the outfit heard around the world. She had a fresh bob haircut, white t-shirt, and blue patterned gaucho pants. They were fantastic!

Here’s a little tip for all the new moms. Never, I mean never, ever, ever in your long legged life make your kids wear something they don’t want to wear. Especially on the first day of school.

You will hear about that misguided fashion selection every holiday, bad day or any other day when you need to the be the sole reason that life sucks.

I can still see Tara standing on the green grass outside of our failed renovation project on 33rd St., smiling for my pre-digital camera with not so much as a smile but a disgruntled smirk.

Totally I would call do-overs on that day and let her wear the outfit she wanted. It was fuzzy with pink stripes in varying shades and as I recall there was a brown vest we bought to put over the top. I thought it would be too hot.

And I’m mad about airy gaucho pants with pockets. A perfect place to put the happy face and star stickers she was certain to achieve.

His mercy is new every morning. 

What misstep are you needing to forget?

It’s a new day. A fresh start. Every day can be like the first day of school if we look at it like that.

Another chance for a brand new beginning, new friends, experiences and something new to learn.

In my perfect scheduling for today, I imagined I’d get up super early, way before the school traffic started. I wanted to pray in this exciting first day, lifting up teachers and students, custodians, nurses and lunch ladies.

Four times I hit the dueling snooze buttons on my alarm and phone. I set both when it’s really important.

Tomorrow I will rise and start with a freshly sharpened #2 pencil with a really big eraser.

And this &^%# keyboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 25

Changing Perspective

Cora was her name.

This adorable fourth grader with her hair pulled back into a disheveled pony. She had perfectly placed freckles and dimples so descriptive, I couldn’t stop staring.

She sat across from me at my most favorite picnic table ever, the one at the Cibolo Nature Center that sits just outside the gift shop and turtle aquarium. It’s placed in such a way that you can closely view the wooded area and the colorful birds flocking to the feeders. The center is one of my most happy places, with architecturally cool buildings, hammocks and tweet full singing from the tops of the trees.

I volunteer as craft person and was there to help the kids with a project before the drone presentation. I’m also a nice diversion for the parents who need a punchy adult beverage on a sticky Thursday night. There are different presentations monthly and it’s super fun. Check out the next date in September or the new painting class at the Farm!

Back to Cora, who loves music, wants to be a veterinarian and loves horses.

Her sisters were equally beautiful, the oldest, Sophia, exhibited early signs of leadership the way most children do when they are at the top of the sibling pecking order. She helped her baby sister put the pieces together on her collage.

“Let me know when you’re ready to glue,” she told her in the kind voice I used on my brothers when they were little.

In his mid 20’s, I drove one brother to the Greyhound station and put him on a bus back to Iowa for eating my Chinese food in the middle of the night. In my defense, not his, I was 8 months pregnant and clearly labeled the take-out container with the foldable flaps before going to bed.

It was a more harsh version of Alice’s Eat Me cake.

I believe I wrote, Eat this and die! 

Those who know me, know me well. They also know I can get crazy dramatic over Kung Pao.

“Sayonara!” I likely said as I waved his bus out of the downtown station in San Antonio.

The three sisters who sat before me would never be so petty. They were from Canada and I don’t think Canadians get wound up like that over such silly things as missing meals.

We were making aerial mosaics, an idea I stole from a craft lady on PBS I think.

With a Hobby Lobby supply spread, we began with a black foam background. Next, we added pre-cut shapes of blue or aqua felt, squares of corrugated cardboard and many different shades of construction paper. The tiny green pom-poms made perfect shrubs and trees.

I remember the first time I flew over the quilted fields of the Midwest. I was in awe at how different it looked compared to driving those same roads in a car. The way the purposely planted fields showcased themselves like patchwork, the sections varying in shape and color, each one unique and different, just like us.

It’s a perspective we don’t often see.

As I watched Cora and her sisters carefully place the pieces on their own designs, I thought about God and all his creation. I thought we probably look to him, the way the fields below look from a drone or a plane. In Christ, I don’t believe he sees our every imperfection the same way we do. The way we focus and worry, stress and regret all the misplant-ings, sometimes afraid we’ve ruined the harvest.

Then again, maybe that’s just me.

I imagine God sees his handiwork.

It made me think how much I want to live my life like that, in a way that is still determined to trust that he is able to bring beauty from all of the mismatched pieces.

At any age.

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August 21

A Room with a View

I grew up surrounded by corn fields.

Fields that are mostly flat to very gently rolling.

As much as I love a big, huge vista views of the hill country, the switch-back roads it takes to get to the top sometimes terrify me.

When the girls were young, we took a road trip to Ruidoso so we could ski and stay in a beautiful mountain lodge. After stopping in Roswell to check out the scientific proof of aliens, we made it to the cabin.

Knowing that I am scared of heights and my stomach gets queasy and my brain begins to feel off balance, I was very proud of myself for getting us safely to our destination. Until the next day when we set out to ski and realized we were not anywhere near the top and had much further to drive.

Every time I looked to the side, where the pine trees grew and the road dropped off, I was certain we were going to roll the white suburban into the steep ravine.

We got to the top but didn’t get to ski, because they didn’t take credit cards and I left the cash in the cabin, so I didn’t lose it. Of course, I nearly lost it when I had three disappointed daughters to drive back down the hill.

And it had begun to snow.

I was literally frozen in my tire tracks with fear as we began the descent. My pre-teen, temperamental daughter, was wearing her baby blue cable knit sweater, the one that made her blue eyes pop like the brightness of the sun.

“Oh, my God! Just drive.”

“I’m scared. And it’s ‘Oh, my gosh!’ “

I’d never been so high up in all of my life.

“It’s not that serious. Just drive.”

The other two girls sat patiently in the back, Natalie’s eyes wide with winter wonder and Chelsea, apprehensive about a possible power struggle in the front seat.

Before we left for our bear dodging adventure in the mountains of New Mexico, I told all my friends I was going to meet God on the mountain top. I needed some Moses kind of one-on-one time, but when you’re looking for God, you really have to be looking sometimes. You have to pay attention the same way you do when you’re afraid of heights and driving down a dangerous road.

We have to notice the subtleties and the miraculous in the simple things.

“You’re going too slow!”

At that moment, I looked down at my speedometer for an exact speed but what I noticed was my odometer.

77777

Seventy-seven thousand, seven hundred and seventy-seven miles.

That had to be a good sign. Surely we were not meant to die on the mountain that day.

I turned on the radio and Third Day was singing, Show me your Glory. 

This weekend, standing in the living room at the top of Summit Loop, I thought to myself, I need a room with this kind of a view. Then I stepped out onto the balcony with views as big as God and I remembered the mountain in New Mexico.

I thought of all the blind hills and the switch-back, sometimes dangerous roads we’ve traveled.

My friend Ryan used to tell me trees don’t grow on mountain tops, but in the valley. I think trees with a strong root system can grow pretty much where ever they are planted, but I’m not a dendrologist. Yes, I looked that up.

I’ve also noticed that I am most afraid when I’m looking down.

Instead of up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 18

Remarkable

Boxes of plates, cups, and kitchenware were scattered all over the living room. The new 43″ flat screen was carefully placed in her bedroom where no televisions have been allowed for nearly 20 years.

It’s a rule that has been argued, discussed and challenged on more than one occasion.

26 pairs of shoes have been carried to the car. I’m almost certain three of them look exactly the same. I questioned the purchases as much as a parent can question the way an adult child spends their own hard earned money.

She has bussed tables, served food, dealt with unruly, non-tipping customers, dog sat and baby sat to earn her way to pay for college. I’m very proud of this girl and thankful for people like Dora and Ms. Klaener and Mrs. Smith and Shelby Watson and the entire town of Mason and her loyal Dennys customers in Boerne for helping me raise a girl we could all be so stinkin’ proud of.

Except…

She’s taking the white lacey shirt that hangs on the pink plastic hanger where it doesn’t bother me half as much as it does on her body.
Because I don’t believe in bellies showing unless you’re going to the beach or trespassing in a neighborhood pool.

Her sister, who is the queen of generosity, purchased every Pioneer Woman product on the shelf. I tried to steal the towels and the other spatula I have a desperate need for as we were sorting through everything, ooohing and aaaghing with every bit of envy I could not quite contain.

Natalie made Dean’s list both semesters last year at Texas State and is now completely freaking out over her major and the indecisiveness she has been battling since May. She is highly opposed to wasting money and needs to plan her entire life now.

Right now.

She doesn’t listen when I tell her I’m 50 and still don’t have a life plan.

I found a picture of her the other day and can’t believe the time suck. She was in sixth grade and just finished her Christmas program because we lived in a small town that still knew how to rock a Christmas program. Before you blink, it’s another year, Easter and then the fourth of July. I spent a lot of parenting years trying to put out fires.

Except…

This girl has always lived like a handful of sparklers. Her very presence lights up every occasion.

Right now, she is carrying the last of the stuff out to her car while I’m writing this blog. We were Girl Scouts. We believe that if a girl can do it, she should do it. So she is.

Which is probably why we are all so giddy over the Pioneer Woman products. We’re adventurous like that. But still, at that age, we do not want to be anything like our mothers. We don’t want to stand in their shadow but make our own light.

John is her boyfriend and muscle back-up to haul the tv, because, well, we are southern now and chivalry is not dead. I can tell by the look on her face that he is taking way too long. We are also bossy. She is in the early stages of the relationship, so she tries her best to contain that characteristic.

The other day I caught the awkward exchange between two sisters as they were showcasing the shower curtain, towels and all the new stuff. “I’ve had my towels for about 20 years,” I mention. “They now double as both a towel and a loofah.” They don’t fit around my body anymore either.

“Oh, mom, you should have seen her while we were shopping. She wanted everything to be like yours.”

An evil glare silently shouted, “How dare you!” from Natalie’s face to Chelsea’s.

“I’m sorry, sister.” We laughed.

There was a little bit on the inside of me, that felt like I did something right. It’s not what I carry around on a lot of days when I’m weighted by the worry and the screw-ups.

Except…

This girl is something I got right. She is remarkable, worth remarking about. She was hired on the spot at Red Lobster in her new college town when they heard she has had the same waitressing job since she was a freshman in high school. She is every wonderful thing I would want her to be. Blessed from the beginning and shockingly capable of a cuss word on a Twitter feed.

She has been the Moon over my Hammy since the day she was born.

I love you Goosie.

 

 

 

 

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August 14

Fairy Tales and Mermaid Tails

“I want to read a fairy tale,” Saydee said last week.

Secretly, every girl wants to be a mermaid.

So Saturday, at the safari party, while her mother was busy with a yellow ball and a game of monkey in the middle, I helped my granddaughter with her deep sea swimming skills.

Four adults splashed and shouted and looked the other way, while I took note of the inner bravery of a little girl who really, really wanted to touch the bottom of the pool.

She just learned to hold her breath under water this summer, but I had already been informed she didn’t like the deep end. Getting her tiny body to the bottom the pool was impossible without a little help and a head shove from Grammie.

When no one was looking, that’s exactly what I did.

Saydee held onto the side of the pool, taking in every breath of life she could contain. I placed my whole hand on top of her head and pushed her with enough force that she could deep sea dive her way to the bottom.

You would think the girl found a sunken ship and lost treasure booty as excited as she was to have felt the deep end with her tiny feet. “Do it again, Grammie!”

And for the next few hours that’s exactly what we did. She tried it on her own, in more shallow waters, springing up and out like a power boosted space rocket. She cannon-balled and belly-flopped and swam all the way to the other side.

I thought about that ecstatic inner feeling we get when we do something we didn’t think we could do or were too scared to try. I remember the total terror of standing on the edge of the high dive like it was yesterday and the exhilaration of finally conquering that fear with a giant splash.

Surfacing.

Doing one brave thing, helps you do the next brave thing.

And I thought about fairy tales, bedtime stories and the courage it took for the first little billy goat to cross the bridge, knowing there was a hungry troll hiding out just below.

Trip. Trap. Trip. Trap.

Who’s that tromping over my bridge?

He outsmarted the troll the way we outsmart our scared, with wisdom and recall, remembering exactly what it felt like the last time we did something we thought we couldn’t do.

Sitting in the sports bar with my friends Jeff and Judy, in between delicious bites of steak nachos at The Brass Tap, I thought about how great it felt after I worked so hard to get my broker’s license while I was a single mom and the girls were still at home, in school, demanding snacks and rides and help with homework.

Who is tromping over your bridge? Where is it you want to go? What is it you want to do?

I think sometimes we are our own trolls.

Find your own shoe. Walk through those woods. Swim the deep waters. Don the red cape. Deliver those muffins.

Why read the fairy tales when we can make our own?

 

 

August 11

Peeling Back the Layers

Everyone told me it was a pain to make.

Tedious and time consuming.

I pulled the delicate phyllo sheets apart one by one, so elated to be learning how to make a dish that I have always loved but never attempted.

My cooking instructor was orginally from Turkey, feisty in the way I admire strong women to be and sweet like the baklava her husband raved about last week. They introduced me to new food at the Turkish Mediterranean Grill behind North Star Mall.

Lucy stands about two feet shorter than me, or that might be an exageration. Her personality is three feet larger than life. We are as mismatched as two women can be, but somehow we are exactly the same.

I brought all of the ingredients over to her beautiful home where she had the necessary cooking supplies laid out neatly on the granite counter top, including an old fashioned nut grinder I’d never seen before and a plastic mopping utensil I decided I must have.

Sometimes I’m forgetful and had forgotten she told me the dough was frozen and to be sure and get it the day before. It’s delicate. My backup plan, once I remembered, was to drive around showing property for three hours with two packages of phyllo dough and a box of butter thawing on the dashboard because I am more determined than delicate.

Forget texting at stop lights.

That is the perfect time to gently turn the dough that is cooking just under the windshield. Carefully grabbing each end of the tube, I rolled it to the colder side as I caught a little side-eye from the driver in the lane next to me.

Cautiously lifting and placing each sheet into the 9 x 13 pan, pretending to be in Martha’s kitchen, I began to spread the melted butter, making sure to get it all over.

“Don’t skimp on butter.” she instructed with her accented voice. “Some people skimp, don’t skimp.”

I tried again, adding more butter like it might have been a work of culinary art. “Oh, no! We’re going to be here all day. You are trying too hard. It’s not perfect. You slap the butter on like this,” grabbing the baster from my hands.

“Okay,” I said, letting my sloppy shine.

“Very good. That’s right. That’s the way. Just like that.”

I buttered layer after layer, after layer.

“Don’t skimp on the walnuts either. I do two layers. You can do three if you like.”

More layers. It seemed like a 100. And then it was finished. When the color was just right, we removed it from the oven and added the syrup mixture to the top.

Gene was right. It was the best baklava I’ve had in my life. It was also one of the most fun days I’ve ever had in someone’s kitchen. I can’t get enough of this woman.

Standing over a stove and stirring, you learn more than how to make simple syrup. You learn about falling in love with an Air Force captain, coming to the United States, shopping sprees and mother-in-laws.

“She taught me so many things. She was a good woman. An angel.”

It takes spending time with someone to see the depths of who they are, all those layers that make a person. They come together  to make them sweet and solid, so delectable to be around. The color of friendship with people who are not the same as us is the same as knowing when the baklava is ready to come out of the oven.

It’s golden. Never skimp on it.

 

 

 

 

August 7

Life’s Little Surprises

They told me at the drive-thru pharmacy I could save money if I came in and signed up for some kind of customer card.

So I pulled around and parked in the empty space next to the Porsche in the Walgreen’s parking lot. “I hope he doesn’t scratch my car,” I said to no one in particular.

A hip man in a teal shirt and khaki shorts had just come out of the front doors and right about the spot where the red kettle people stand at Christmas time, he and I crossed paths.

“Hi!” I said cheerfully because I’m mostly cheery these days and he said, “Hi!” back.

I knew immediately that he was the owner of the super sporty luxury car parked next to mine, the 2003 blue Lincoln Aviator, with a giant piece of an oak tree in the back. I had to move it to the hatch back part of the car to show property the day before.

“Can we just ride with you?” my spunky Turkish friend asked.

“Umm..” I said stalling.

“Yes. You can. But I’ve got to get the log out of the back seat.”

“You have a log in the back seat?”

“Yes.”

And 7 overdue children’s books…in Spanish, three large pieces of trash I’ve retrieved from some random parking lot because I despise littering and the book Bill W: A Different Kind of Hero – The Story about Alcoholics Anonymous. I devoured the short read in just a few sittings and was saving it to pass on to a friend who’s name I will not mention.

There are also four auto bingo cards because when I have kids in the car, I insist they put away electronics and look for railroad crossings and No U-Turn signs. On the floor board was a scattered mess of trail mix leftovers from the land tour last week and one of the Ziploc snack packs came open, throwing peanuts and raisins about the car. I retrieved the M & M’s, because, well, it’s chocolate. No one wants a melty mess in their car.

Saturday, at the last minute my plans changed and I reached back out to a prospective customer to show the land I love at Settler’s Ridge in Mason. We made plans to meet up in a few hours and after a beautifully peaceful drive, I pulled off RR 1723 and onto the crushed granite country road at Settler’s Ridge.

Sitting in front of the new home being built, was the Porsche. Standing in front of the Porsche, was the same man I met the day before. I recognized his white beard from a 1/8th of a mile away. Whaaat? How weird is that?

“Hey! I saw you at Walgreens yesterday!”

Later that afternoon, I was driving back, wondering what to do next.

Go see Chelsea.

So I took the back roads to Kerrville and semi-surprised my daughter and grand daughter where I spent the next 27 hours in family bliss reading stories, playing pool, eating good food and making homemade cotton candy.

I also previewed the new home at the top of Sumac. Someone who wants a new home and loves gorgeous vista views should call me about that. My real estate assistant is four and an expert light turner-on-er and off-er.

She does not come with the house.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Grammie,” Saydee said out of nowhere.

We need to make plans, but we need to be flexible. We need to create more space and margin in our lives, allowing time to embrace amazing moments we don’t expect.

The WOW factor is crucial to our contentment. What sweet surprises await us when we take the time to allow for last minute change of plans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 4

The Green House

On this day 2 years ago, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog announced their break-up on Twitter.

I can’t believe I missed that.

Just a few days ago I learned how to write and text on my Iphone’s blackboard screen and sent my daughter the text, “It ain’t easy being green.” It was funny because we just played Cranium that night and the other team beat us by knowing who said it. Because of that, and, well, she didn’t know what a blimp was.

If you’ve ever been called one, you know.

It’s been a good week. I finally finished a story I’d been working on for way too long, intimidated by scientific words like stalactites and stalagmites. I can only remember which is which by using elementary clues like “g” is for ground and “c” is for ceiling formations. My science experience includes making rock crystals on a string with my girls and blowing up Mentos in a soda bottle.

I’ve been scrambling for something super interesting to write about today, but other than the jaw dropping gorgeous views through Wimberley and my cursing outburst at a Dooley driver who nearly ran me over on Highway 16 out of Fredericksburg, it’s been mostly calm.

So I went to the internet looking for other interesting news and found out that on August 4th, 1944, Anne Frank was arrested. It did not escape me that she was a child in hiding who feared for her life and still managed to write every day.

I have no excuses.

Prince’s Purple Rain took the #1 spot on the charts in 1984 and stayed there for about 6 months according to the On This Day website that tells you what interesting things happened in history.

That was the year I wrote a review of his concert in Dallas for my high school paper. It was, to this day, one of the most awesome concerts I have ever seen. It was also the review Mrs. Rodewald, my newspaper advisor and journalism teacher, submitted for consideration to the Quill and Scroll Honor Society.

I lived and breathed that album for two straight years.

On days when I feel like I’m losing my mind, I hear Let’s Go Crazy in my head. It was the first thing I thought of when I was previewing a home a few weeks ago that had an elevator shaft, but no elevator.

And if the elevator tries to break ya down, go crazy. Punch a higher floor.

We need higher, greener ground to stand on. Kermit was supposed to be the Frog

Kermit was supposed to be the Frog prince of Miss Piggy. What kind of world are we living in when stringed puppets can’t even get it right?

This week, I’ve been out previewing land, walking the Guadalupe River, taking photos and texting videos of scampering baby armadillos. It’s in this green space that I realize how good life is. Really, really good.

Then I come home and find Natalie and her boyfriend, John, in the kitchen…again, laughing and preparing a delicious meal to enjoy together.

It ain’t easy being green.

“Do what you love,” I tell the girls all the time.

Tonight I’m having a friend who needs a friend over for dinner. No strings attached.