Grace

I’ve been in business for almost seventeen years. In that time, I’ve put thousands of window blinds, shades, and shutters in the windows of homes throughout Brazoria County. I’ve only partly joked that each project is almost like a pregnancy: I never feel completely at ease until each “baby” is delivered safely and satisfactorily into its new home. It’s always been very important to me to provide quality products, excellent customer service, and the promise that if my clients ever have a need, all they have to do is call me.

Every so often, though, there’s a hiccup. A speed bump, a hitch. This particular hiccup occurred because we’ve gone through a rough patch as a family, with illness hampering already stressful, but normal transitions. Without the illness, without the stressful transitions, I would have been on top of my game a bit better and the ordering, delivery, and installation of a single blind would not have been delayed.

Let me preface by saying this: we provided the entire house of blinds, but the opening where this single blind will reside had not yet been completed when I took the original set of measurements. It was unknown when the window sill would be installed, and it was unknown if tile would wrap inside the opening — requiring cut outs on each side for a truly custom fit. So the client paid for all the blinds and I made it clear that I would not be able to order the single blind until the window was finished.

At one point I called to find out if the opening was finished and was told, “yes.” I took time out of my day to drive over to get the measurements to discover that the window was NOT finished. (The house was still in the last stages of construction and when I arrived the door was open and no one was to be found.)

So I had to go back a second time to get the measurements, when the window was finally finished. I was a little disappointed to see that they had, in fact, put tile around the inside of the opening, requiring the cut outs, the wholesale cost of which is more than a standard blind. Cost that I had not included in my sales price, since I never charge clients for something “just in case” — and I don’t go back and increase prices after the fact, after the quote is delivered.

Between the time I got the measurements and ordered the blind, my daughter became very ill with pneumonia the week she was supposed to move to the University of Houston. Obviously, I was a little distracted, being worried about her illness in general, and how it would affect her first days at the university. Everything is okay now, but the last eleven days have been rough, what with worrying about her and trying to get things back on track in general.

Thus my reason for thinking about “grace.” This afternoon my client called to ask about the blind and in a conversation that started out pleasantly enough, I was told that if the blind wasn’t installed by Tuesday, the order would be cancelled. The order that clearly states “no cancellations” right above the place where the client signs to initiate the order. I explained that I was not at home, but working on another project and that I would check to see if the blind had arrived as soon as I got home. I explained that I was pretty sure the blind should be arriving any day, and that we’d had these health issues in the midst of trying to move our daughter to Houston.

I was reminded of “how many referrals” had been sent my way through this client, and then I was told that my daughter had been off at college for two weeks. I can only guess this was an assumption based on when other college kids left for school. However, I’m the one (along with her dad) who took her furniture to Houston while she rested here at home. I’m the one that fought with the apartment complex when we discovered the apartment had not been made ready, and stank like a litter box because of cat urine soaked carpet. I’m the one who lovingly bullied my exhausted daughter into moving to the apartment four days later than her roommates, and starting class the third day of the semester so she would have a little more time to recover. Basically, I was shamed for being human, having illness in my family, and not keeping it all together for a single blind.

Today. Today I was in serious need of a little grace.

THE Apartment

With a bit of a delay, thanks to an unexpected battle with pneumonia and some additional drama, the College Girl (formerly known as the Teen Girl) is finally settled into THE apartment at the University of Houston.

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Talking to The Tall One and Supervising the Parental Minions from the comfort of her bed.

In the days leading up to August 19th (also known as Move-In Day), we started making lists of things needed to set up housekeeping away from home. Since the College Girl is living in a college apartment, rather than a dorm, she needed furniture. After seeing the one bedroom “model” apartment, it was clear that we would have to be mindful of furniture size because she is sharing a bedroom with another college girl. We had an extra twin bed to send with her, but she needed a desk, so we went to the place where all in need of cheap, DIY, flat-boxed furniture go: IKEA.

Thanks to their website, we’d already done some reconnaissance and knew which desk would allow for the most storage and the smallest footprint at a reasonable price. She tried out some chairs and selected a desk chair conducive to sitting “criss-cross applesauce” that was on sale, hallelujah! We also picked up bedding (high thread count, but on sale FTW!), a table top ironing board, canisters for coffee beans, and a few other things.

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It was so hard to keep her from picking up a French press, knowing her aunt had gotten her a very nice one as a going to college gift!

When we got to the checkout, we were all chattering until the cashier mumbled the total. I swiped my debit card and then glanced at the total again:

$1,600.00

WHAT? I was pretty sure that we had NOT purchased enough cheap, DIY, flat-boxed furniture to achieve that lofty total. The young man started going through the list and discovered the plain jane, wire paper towel holder my husband had dropped in the cart — the paper towel holder with a $1.99 tag — had scanned for over $1,000. Corrections were made, I scanned my card again, and we were on our way.

The week before Move-In Day, the College Girl had one of her dearest friends fly down from upstate New York for a visit. We had a wonderful time (I love this girl and want her to move to Texas — Powerpoint promotions are being designed to convince her husband that Texas is their destiny)! The visit ended much too soon, and the College Girl and I took my new daughter to the airport to fly home.

A few miles from the airport, my girl became increasingly quiet and by the time we reached Pearland, she was feeling very poorly.

I felt her forehead and she was burning up. Because I’ve always let fevers do their thing (kill the bad guys) unless they get too high, I didn’t give her any Tylenol or Advil. By the time we got home, she was running between 101 and 102 temp. It was shocking because she had been blowing and going with her friend for five days without any sign of impending illness. When her temp went up to 102.3, I gave her some Tylenol to control it through the night, and we headed to the Altus Emergency Center the next morning since it was Sunday. They checked for flu and strep which were negative, said it was viral and to use Tylenol and Advil to control the fever and make her comfortable. So we did.

For two days we followed their advice, but every time the medicine wore off her temperature would go back up. On Tuesday night it went up to 104.3, scaring us pretty badly. The Tall One advised a cool bath in addition to the Tylenol/Advil regimen, and so after conferring with my sister, The Nurse, who agreed, we convinced the College Girl to put on her swimsuit and take a “swim” in the tub. She hated us for making her get in that cool water because it was so uncomfortable, but it brought her temperature down until we could see the real doctor the next morning.

Thank goodness we went — after blood work and chest x-rays, we learned she had pneumonia in half her right lung. The doctor prescribed TWO antibiotics, and within twenty-four hours she was running a normal temperature again without any Tylenol or Advil. She was exhausted, though, and not in any shape to take care of last-minute shopping or move to THE Apartment.

What in the world did we do before smartphones? While she rested at home, I ran errands to find the last few things she needed. I probably took at least a dozen or more photos of things, sending them to her in text messages: “Do you want the purple or the blue toothbrush holder?” “Is this shower curtain okay?” “Do you need a butter dish?” Thankfully I managed to get everything she needed before my phone battery died!

Because she was still feeling pretty rough on Move-In Day (August 19th), College Dad, the Tall One, and I took her furniture up to THE Apartment. I am SO GLAD she was not with us, because I would hate for what we found to be her first impression of her first apartment. We walked into THE Apartment and almost gagged. The previous resident had apparently had cats… and based on the smell, no litter box. It was just terrible. Considering the residents of this two bedroom apartment are paying a combined total of almost $2,000 monthly, there was no way we were going to allow our daughter (or these other young women) live in that filth. After filling out the condition sheet with “filthy,” “filthy,” “filthy,” “broken,” “broken,” “filthy” — I marched down to the laundry building to turn the sheet in and get the College Girl’s gate key. But I did not just hand the sheet in and take the key. When I walked up to the table and the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed student helping out asked if she could assist me, I said “Yes. You can send someone to THE Apartment to see the cesspool you expect these young women to live in.” She looked a little startled and then directed me to the woman sitting next to her, who apparently had some authority.

The condensed story is: by the next morning THE Apartment had a fresh coat of paint and they were in the process of installing new carpet. Before they put the carpet padding down, I sprayed the concrete slab with an enzyme to break down the cat pee that had soaked through the old padding. And throughout the day we stayed on their case about other things that needed to be addressed. I still have a couple of things I’m nagging them about (like the non-GFI rated outlet under the kitchen sink next to the pipe that was leaking before the College Dad fixed it with some tools he brought). But for the most part, THE Apartment is livable and the College Girl and her roommates have settled in and seem pretty happy.

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She makes this cheap, DIY, flat-boxed furniture look GOOD.

So why do I call it THE Apartment, rather than “her” apartment? Because as exciting as this adventure is, as anxious and excited as she has been to move on to this new part of life, every time she refers to THE Apartment at the University of Houston, she refuses to call it “home” or even “my apartment.” I told her it was okay to call it “home,” but she disagreed. And I have to say that meant a lot to this College Mommy’s heart — it’s good to know that she is enjoying her weekdays at the university, but she looks forward to coming home on the weekends. We’ll still have Sunday lunches with the Tall One and the Texan Who Claims to be from Oklahoma, we’ll still have Brew-n-Bake coffee dates, and when time and studies permit, we’ll marathon our favorite shows like Alias, Doctor WhoFriends, and Warehouse 13 while we do cross stitch and embroidery.

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The Tall One, the College Girl, and the Texan/Oklahoman

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My College Girl

No matter how  many things in life change, she’ll always be our girl. ❤

A Special Kind of Jerk

Be prepared.

If it were in my power, heads would roll.

If I could unleash my inner “mama  bear,” I would let loose with a fresh hell like no one has ever seen.

Hide the can openers, because I definitely want to open up a can of whoop-ass on a college professor who does not deserve his title or position.


That night in early April was particularly bad — my daughter’s dog, Evelyn threw up three times in the early hours, and then again as my girl started to put her in the car to take her to the vet. She’d lost a tremendous amount of weight for a dog her size in only a month, and she struggled to keep the boiled egg or diced chicken down that we cooked for her. The once spunky pup had no energy and spent the majority of her days lying quietly on the floor or the couch. She’d had X-rays that indicated an enlarged heart, and some suspicious masses that could be cancerous. There were additional tests that could be run, but no guarantee, and in the meantime she was suffering.

My girl had to make the very difficult decision to have her sweet Evelyn put to sleep that afternoon. With the vet’s counsel, it was agreed this was the best course of action, to save her any additional suffering. In the middle of the heartbreaking decision, Jami sent her professor an email explaining that her dog was very ill and she was having to have her put to sleep. She asked if she could reschedule the exam she was supposed to take later in the day.

The professor responded with a  very curt “You can take it at 5:30 this evening or get a zero. Sorry.”

There are those who might say, “It’s just a dog. It’s not worth flunking a test or damaging your grade point average.” Whatever. Jami saw her puppy being born into this world, and eight years later, she stood by the examination table holding her precious pup as she slipped away, tears streaming down her face. She told me that she had thought about it and taking the test or skipping the test wouldn’t matter — she would not do well either way.

At her request, I left her there to grieve her loss.

Some time has passed and we are doing better, but even now we will get a little weepy when we think of that crazy sweet girl we love so much.


I guess you can imagine how angry it made both of us when we discovered the “professor” read my daughter’s email aloud to his class this semester as an example of how “there is no excuse that will persuade me to let you take a makeup exam.”

He did not read her name, but a friend in the class recognized the email as hers.

If I could have his job, I would. I want to write a letter to the administration, but my girl said that if anyone writes a letter, it needs to be her. I asked her if I could blog about it, and she gave me permission.

So here I am, Mama Bear, venting my fury on the interwebs. He exploited my daughter’s grief to make himself look tough and powerful. It’s a special kind of jerk that can take joy in someone else’s pain. I’m not going to call him out by name, but his last name starts with an “S.” I think it may stand for “Sorry Excuse for a Human.” 😡

Adventuring – College Style

I was on pins and needles the first part of the day. My college girl, my beautiful girl whom I love more than anyone (except maybe her daddy) informed me a couple of days ago,

“I’m going to visit Tara on Tuesday. I’ll be back on Thursday.”

She’s twenty now, she certainly doesn’t have to ask permission. But my heart did a little pitter-patter at her announcement, because her cousin lives three hours away and she would have to drive through Houston to get there. My college girl had never driven in Houston before today.

Her daddy told her yesterday to run her car by Firestone to get it checked out before she hit the road. So she set her alarm early enough to be there when they opened at 7:00 am. Good thing she did, because she needed two new tires. Everything else checked out fine, she ran back to the house to gather up her things, and then it was time for her to leave.

I hugged her really tight, told her to be careful, to get all her stuff situated before she hit the road — no playing with the radio or iPhone while the car is in motion.

She laughed and promised she would be careful. I hugged her again and when she started to pull away, I said, “I’m not done yet.” God has granted that college girl an abundance of patience with this mommy, because she hugged me back and then I was done. Out the door she went.

I sat down at the table, staring at my computer screen, trying to organize my thoughts and all I could think of was my BABY on the Houston freeways.

“Forgot my sleeping bag,” she laughed, dashing through the kitchen to the closet where such things are kept. Hooray! A chance for another hug, but then I realized how ridiculous I am. I kept myself firmly planted in the chair, despite the irresistible urge to hug her again.

And then she was gone.

An hour and a half later, the phone rang and it was my girl letting me know she’d made it to the gas/convenience store on the other side of Houston. We’d agreed it was a good midway point to stop, top off the tank, grab a snack. She sounded so bubbly, so excited to be navigating her solo road trip with success.

“Gotta’ get gasoline, Mommy. Then get back on the road.”

“Okay, Jami-girl. Call me when you get there.”

“I will.”

About the time I should have gotten a phone call, I got a Snapchat instead. A photo of my college girl and her college cousin, with huge grins on their faces, so I knew she made it just fine.

I just checked Snapchat again. Those crazy kids! To quote my college girl,

“In a sudden turn of events, we found ourselves in Louisiana!”


1985 — It’s a hot summer day in Huntsville. The a/c in our dorm on the third floor of White Hall is not working and we’re glistening — which is a pretty way of saying we’re sweaty. I look at Karen and she looks at me, and we both say, “We’ve got to get out of here!

Racing down to her car, we hop in and take off in no particular direction. We just drive. Somehow we end up on Highway 19 and at one point see a sign for Crockett, Texas. Neither of us has been there, so why not? We cross the Trinity River, not far from where it pours into Lake Livingston, and then continues southward toward the east Texas town where I was born. I’ve always been intrigued by proximity of things — it amuses me that I’m driving across a bridge across water that will flow within miles of the place where I was born twenty-one years before. In Trinity, I buy an IBC Root Beer, more for the old-timey looking bottle than for a irresistible desire for root beer. It tastes pretty good!

I don’t remember much more about that day, other than driving around Crockett, checking out the sights. But I do remember wind in our hair and loud, energizing music pouring from the car speakers. I remember feeling free and without obligation, even if just for the day. 


I totally get how my college girl ended up in Louisiana this evening.

Why not?

Our Sweet Evelyn May

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The Three Musketeers…or Stooges. You decide.

We have always loved our furry babies. In the 24 years that my husband and I have been married, we have never been without pets. Our babies have added so much joy and laughter to our family. It’s never easy when our journey together ends.

The photo above was taken about five years ago. I love it, though, because it’s such a perfect illustration of our dogs and their relationships with each other. Hurley Monroe, the golden, is my husband’s baby and this shows her laid-back, even tempered nature. She just goes with the flow and doesn’t let anything upset her. Sweetie, the chihuahua, is mine. She’s independent, and her pose in this photo shows that. What she doesn’t let on is that she’s actually very affectionate and loves attention, in spite of her independence. Sweetie will turn eleven in June, and Hurley will turn eleven in September. It’s hard to believe they’ve been part of our family for so many years.

The little girl lying across Hurley’s back, though. That little girl is who I hope to honor today. Evelyn May was Sweetie’s daughter, but her father was a Yorkshire Terrier. Evelyn inherited her mama’s big ears and soulful eyes. Her fur was this crazy long/short business – long yorkie hairs randomly popping up from shorter chihuahua-like hairs, and all yorkie markings. Her birth was a science lesson – our daughter watching her come into this world, and immediately wanting to keep her. We couldn’t say no to the roly-poly little pudge ball.

Sweetie was a good mama, and Hurley would fill in for her in a pinch. I can still see Evelyn rolling over on her back so Hurley could groom her if Sweetie wasn’t nearby. It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen. The pups truly seemed to love each other, playing with each other and on more than one occasion, I’d discover Evelyn using Hurley like a bed, and Hurley peacefully obliging.

My girl adored that spoiled little dog and they had the joy of each other’s love for almost nine years. A few weeks ago, though, Evelyn began to have some health problems and preliminary tests indicated an enlarged heart and issues with her spleen. If that weren’t bad enough, there were also indicators of cancer. We hoped, really hoped she would get better, even if to have her with us just a little longer, but when she couldn’t keep her food down, we knew our time with her was at an end.

I was incredibly proud when my girl made the hard, but right decision. She let her beloved Evelyn go. She was with her when she was born, and she loved her as she left this world. I don’t have any scriptural backup for it, but I just can’t help but think that our beloved pets are waiting for us in heaven. I’d like to think Evelyn and my Australian shepherd, Sydney, are waiting for us – running in a spring meadow with lots of other dogs waiting for their families, too.

I miss you, Evelyn May.

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Jami and her sweet Evelyn May.

Pop Tarts

I must confess, I borrowed this image from Google . . . and sadly, the blog where it first appeared no longer exists, so I have no way of crediting the photographer.
I must confess, I borrowed this image from Google . . . and sadly, the blog where it first appeared no longer exists, so I have no way of crediting the photographer.

Received the loveliest email earlier today.  When my girl visited her aunt in Washington, D. C. in July, her aunt took her to a little diner called “Ted’s Bulletin” the first night she was there.  Jami loved the food and was especially impressed by their homemade pop tarts.  So much so, that when she flew home a few days later, they stopped by to pick up a few “to go” for her to bring home to us.

The pop tarts were so yummy that I scoped out their website and ended up sending them an email to say how much we enjoyed them, and how we hoped to visit the diner in person someday when we visit my sister-in-law.  They replied that they were glad we enjoyed them, and they hoped to meet us in person someday.

But that’s not the email that I’m referred to . . . a second, unexpected email arrived today requesting our mailing address.  It seems that Ted’s Bulletin may be considering the sale of homemade pop tarts by mail order.  They need to test shipping methods, to see if the pop tarts will arrive at their destinations still looking like pop tarts, or just a box of sad pop tart crumbs.  So Ted’s Bulletin is mailing us some pop tarts and would like our feedback on how the pop tarts look when they arrive, and how they taste.

Maybe I should get a t-shirt that says “Ted’s Bulletin Pop Tart Shipping Research Analyst” or “Ted’s Bulletin Pop Tart Shipping Tester” . . .

Really looking forward to that box of homemade pop tart goodness.