From the Drafts Folder

I remembered this evening that I have a blog, and discovered this bit of unfinished business in the drafts folder, sitting there quietly since October 2016. It’s a bit of nostalgia, a bittersweet remembrance I don’t want to lose, and therefore I am sharing it with you four and a half years since scribbling it.


After a busy day at my desk trying to get some business things resolved, I drove up to my mother’s house to paint some trim work for a few hours. We are definitely making progress, but sometimes we feel as though we’re spinning our wheels trying to get the house finished and on the market.

I managed to get a second coat of paint on the trim around the kitchen window, the utility room door, and three doors in the hallway. I had greater ambitions when I initially arrived, but getting up and down from the floor to do the lower bits was taking a toll so I called it a night. Remembering three things I needed to drop by the post office mailbox, I headed across town before turning toward home.

The “new” post office (which has been there for decades) is right down the street from the old Wellborne Shopping Center. As I passed by the empty parking lot that stretched for several blocks along the length of what had been the preeminent shopping destination for Alvinites, I was overcome with nostalgia, mingled with more than a little sadness. In the dark, I could see brightly lit signs announcing an auto parts store, and less bright signs for a little strip center church, a Mexican restaurant, and a Hispanic grocery store.

After I dropped my letters in the mailbox, I turned back towards the shopping center and pulled into the parking lot. It was almost completely empty. A lone car sat in front of the closed restaurant and farther down the row of spaces, a truck was parked in front of a SnapFitness establishment. Other than that, I don’t think there were any other vehicles. I looked back toward the building overcome by emotion.

The first emotions to hit me were very recent and connected to the little Mexican restaurant. Las Flores. The last time I ate there, I was with my mama. On those days that I took her to M.D. Anderson for doctors’ appointments and the timing worked out right, we would stop and get a late lunch. What I would give to be able to take her to lunch again! It’s difficult to believe that was over two years ago. Before that, my memories are much more distant.

It’s hard to remember the exact order of shops. My memories are from the early 80s’ and before. I can remember general locations, though, and looking at the end of the shopping center where the Mexican restaurant is, I remember Swanson’s Music store, a beauty supply shop, and a Christian bookstore called “The Potter’s Wheel.” My first record album — Donny Osmond — came from Swanson’s. And my best friend used to buy supplies from the beauty supply shop to do her own acrylic nails. One time she was driving somewhere and decided to fix a cracked nail at a stoplight. She opened the nail glue with her teeth, and, you guessed it. Got nail glue on her lip. Fortunately she didn’t glue her mouth shut!

The Hispanic grocery occupies what was once Perry Brothers — a five and dime store where my mama would take me to pick up art supplies, Trixie Belden books, and toys. If I’d done well in school, she would take me to pick out a prize. I’d walk up and down the aisles, looking in the compartments created by narrow sheets of glass held in place by silver metal brackets. Rubber balls, sets of jacks, crayons, Big Chief notebooks — and I think we may have bought one or two Halloween costumes there before we stopped observing Halloween. We’d pick up $5 gifts there for the gift exchange at my school Christmas party, and I’d spy the jigsaw puzzles with disdain, hoping I didn’t get one in return. I almost always did.

Christmas was the best time to visit the shopping center because it was the only one in town that put up Christmas displays in the windows. We would walk past each storefront and pause to enjoy the animated characters moving slowly as “Silver Bells” or “Here Comes Santa Claus” played over a speaker somewhere. Rolls of cotton “snow” covered the tables set up for the wintery scenes, and Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus moved their arms a bit stiffly as a train set ran around an oval track surrounding them. Brightly colored Christmas lights, the large bulbs glowing like illuminated bonbons, framed the windows edged in snow that came in a spray can.

Now the huge sheet glass windows are covered with burglar bars, a complete reversal from the innocent make-believe of my childhood. I never thought of this part of town as particularly dangerous, but I guess they must feel the need. It makes me sad to see what was a happy destination for my eight-year-old self reduced to such an ominous edifice. I hear the engine of the lone car crank up and decide maybe I should make my way home, to a place warm and familiar and constant. Pulling out onto the street, I mentally say farewell to yesterday and continue onward.

Smash Glass Love

Normally I steer clear of art classes. I get frustrated when my work doesn’t look the way I think it should look, or when I struggle to achieve the precision needed to draw, paint, or cut something exactly the way it should be. There are two media with which I am comfortable: words and paper. I enjoy creating with words, and I love to cut and paste beautiful papers into cards, scrapbook pages, etc.

When I venture into the worlds of paint or glass, I can feel myself getting  a little anxious.  One of those “Painting with a Twist” classes was fun, except I struggled to keep pace with the instructor. “Okay, now take a bit of yellow on your brush and swirl it around…” WAIT! I’m not finished with the blue! I finished the painting, but I was exhausted when the class was done.

I took a mosaic class a couple of years ago and trying to cut the glass into the right size bits and then glue them down on the glass block was stressful. It just didn’t look the way I thought it should look. I still haven’t finished that project.

Friday night I think I found my jam when it comes to artsy creation, though. I signed up for a “Smash Glass” class at The Center in Lake Jackson. Taught by Linda Strickland (a lovely lady, I must say!), the class was so much fun!

Each of us selected a canvas on which to arrange our designs. If we wanted to, we could embellish our canvases with paints and use a hairdryer to dry them before getting down to the business of glass arrangement.

Linda set up a table before we arrived. In a neat row, plastic tubs held generous selections of broken glass, sorted by color. Purples, cobalts, aqua, red, gold, green, clear, silver mercury glass — smooth glass, textured glass, frosted glass. Shards of different shapes and sizes, sparkling under the lights of the art studio. I had fond flashbacks to my visit to the Corning Museum of Glass last summer and all the beautiful glass I’d seen. We were each provided with a plastic tub to put our selections in. Plastic gloves helped protect our fingers from any little slivers that might prick us.

After gathering a good assortment of glass pieces in my favorite colors, I went back to my spot and decided to paint my canvas first. Using a foam brush and four metallic craft paints, I swirled them around the canvas in circles until the entire canvas was covered with pearlized shades of blue. After drying the paint with a hairdryer, I began laying the pieces of glass on my canvas in an abstract design. I knew I would get frustrated if I tried to create a picture of some kind, so the abstract route seemed to be the safest way to go.

Linda provided advice on design (my original layout was a little too ’round’), and I ended up with a piece of art that made me smile. When each of us finished, we carried our work over to a table where it would wait until later in the evening when Linda would pour resin over the entire work, adhering the glass to the canvas and giving the canvas a glass-like appearance as well.

I picked up my creation the next day and I can’t wait to add picture wire to the back so I can hang it on the wall! One of my classmates said it made her think of pirate’s treasure underwater and I love that description. I’m looking forward to another class where I can finally enjoy a form of art that feels very free and relaxing.fullsizeoutput_89cd

Twenty-Two

I became a mom twenty-two years ago today. I could wax poetic about what an amazing and beautiful young woman my daughter has become. I could share with you the mixed fear and pride I felt when she traveled (with great excitement) to a Central American country to serve in missions. I could tell you how smart she is and that the creative gene is stronfullsizeoutput_8522g in her. We could chuckle over how she curls up on the sofa in comfy clothes and teaches herself new embroidery stitches while watching episodes of Doctor Who, like she’s a really cool granny. I could rattle off her literary accomplishments — completing NANOWRIMO four times, having her poem published in the college literary magazine, rocking it like Noah Webster in the writing department.

 

But then I’d just be bragging.

 

 

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My girl is twenty-two today and I love her very much.

 

Happy birthday, Jami-girl!

Image Magazine

The first issue of 2018 is now available and yours truly has THREE contributions within its pages! My first story in the spring of 2016 was about the Alvin Historical Museum, and readers enjoyed it so much that I was asked to continue with a series on the museums throughout Brazoria County. A few months later I pitched the idea of a series of short articles on the historical markers throughout the county. Thus were born two regular series: Museum Go-Round and Park at the Mark.

Park at the Mark: The Confederate Cemetery (page 28)

Out of the Storm: The Marguerite Rogers House Museum (page 30)

I also have a Writer’s Reflections  piece in this issue, thinking back on the half marathon I walked in 2017.

The Friendship Race (page 36)

I hope you enjoy my articles, as well as those of the delightfully talented writers I am honored to work with!

Keep choosing joy!

Laura

P.S. — In addition to writing our articles, we also do all our own photography, unless otherwise noted.

 

Good Intentions and Well Laid Plans

So today has not gone quite as I’d hoped. I planned to really tackle some of the finishing paintwork (doors, trim that could use another coat), but I’ve been busy attending to other matters. Balancing checkbooks, returning phone calls, scheduling appointments, and working up a blind quote for a repeat customer.

I did a little googly detective work, too. There is a lovely home in Alvin, over one hundred years old, that I have loved since I was a little girl. Before I was old enough to do so myself, I would ask my mom to drive by so I could gaze upon the fanciest house I’d seen in my young life. Older, running errands for my mom, trips to the grocery store somehow always required sidetracking down South Beauregard Street. Even now, when I return to Alvin for whatever reason, I manage to find an excuse to drive past that elegant Victorian. Thanks to the internet (and my hardheaded persistence), I located the name of the owner and carefully penned a letter of inquiry on nice stationery, asking if I might write an article on the home and its history for Image Magazine. I enclosed my Image business card and I’m hoping my handwritten letter will open the door (literally) to a visit.

The key to a successful interview will not be asking the right questions or taking nice photos.

The key will be not passing out from unbearable excitement.

A Tuesday Reunion

Yesterday I spent some time filling out my planner for the week. One of my goals is to be more diligent about scheduling my time. That encompasses responsibilities and fun! So when I sat down yesterday and entered appointments and to-do’s in my Agenda 52 Planner, tomorrow’s entry was especially exciting.

Years ago when I worked at the law firm, I had the pleasure of working for a legal assistant named Sallie. We were a good match and I enjoyed working for her until life took us in different directions. We lost touch for many years, and then one day I decided to see if I could reconnect with her through Facebook, and was happily successful!

Tomorrow (or today, depending on when you read this) we are meeting for lunch and I think we both are as excited as little kids. It will be so nice to catch up with each other after such a long time. She is a wordsmith, in addition to many other things (a lawyer, a realtor, a homeless animal advocate), and I look forward to hearing all about life since we worked together back in the day.

I’m not sure lunch is going to be long enough.

My House and “The Buoy House”

I’ve been working pretty hard the last couple of weeks. Because I have a difficult time keeping my workspace tidy, I asked my husband right before New Years if we could switch spaces. He has had his very orderly study in our spare bedroom, while I’ve had my disaster site in an open area just off our entryway. I asked if he would mind switching so I could close the door on my space when it gets out of control. He was agreeable, but before I could do anything our daughter got wind of the plan and asked if she could switch her bedroom into the room my husband had been using. It is slightly larger than her room. I said, “Sure. Why not?”

So I moved my stuff to her old bedroom and she moved her old bedroom to my husband’s old study and my husband is now where I used to be.

Shuffling tons of stuff around is so easy, I decided to make it a little more complicated by painting EVERYTHING beforehand. Ha!

So my husband’s new study (and the adjacent hallway) is painted “Cottage Hill,” a lovely shade of green by Behr. Our daughter’s new bedroom is painted “Amber Moon,” a warm yellow, also by Behr. And my new study is painted “Watery,” a really pleasing blue from Behr’s Cottage collection of colors. Actually, all three colors are from the collection. I like them because they are colorful without being aggressively so. All the trim work throughout the three rooms has been painted with Behr’s Ultra Pure White in Hi Gloss enamel. That was a task all its own, because a number of years ago, I got the clever idea to paint our trim BLACK. I’d seen it done on a number of Pinterest boards and it looked very sharp.

Not everything on Pinterest is advisable.

Three to four coats later, I have beautiful white trim. The paint has a primer built in, but that black is a bear to cover completely.

This evening I took a break to go to the Surfside Beach Chili Cook Off with my husband. By the time we got there, it was starting to slow down, but there were still some artists and craftsmen offering their creations. We wandered into a little booth run by an artist and I fell in love with one of her paintings: The Buoy House. I love the theme, the colors, the stories to be found in all the interesting details. There was a less expensive print of the original painting, but it was smaller and just didn’t have the same effect on me.

Guess what my sweet husband got me for an early birthday gift?

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The artist, Kathryne Brayton Lieser, and me with my new acquisition!

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Had it hanging over my desk within 30 minutes of arriving home! 

Here are a few photos of the painting projects I’ve been working on since December 30:

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This is my study (my desk is behind me in this shot).

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I got the clever idea to paint the recessed panels of the doors Garden Rose White (also a Behr color). I really like the little bit of contrast to dress things up and provide some interest.

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My husband’s new study — since taking this photo he has replaced that chair in the corner with his Morris chair and ottoman.

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The other side of his study. He is a neat and organized person, so whenever visitors walk by, it will look just like this. It NEVER looked like this when I was in this space.

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This is my daughter’s new bedroom “in process” – the walls have already been painted, but you can see the black trim I had to cover.

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Almost done. The trim is painted glossy Ultra Pure White now and so much prettier than the black! In a few days we will be getting an IKEA daybed that has three drawers for storage. We are going halves on it for her birthday.

Last, but not least, and certainly not final — the backseat of my car is FULL of boxes of things I will be donating to the Salvation Army. In the midst of the shuffling and painting, I thought it couldn’t possibly hurt to do a little purging. It’s difficult to make the decision to let go, but even moving the stuff to my car was freeing. I can’t even imagine what it will feel like when I drive away with an empty backseat.

Grace’s Beauty Shop

When the blue-haired ladies of Liberty went to Grace’s for a shampoo and set, they entered the East Texas beauty parlor through the door located on Hawthorne Street. When I went to my MaMaw’s beauty shop, it was always after hours and I let myself in through a swinging door hinged along the top, which separated the shop from MaMaw’s home. We were never allowed to go between the house and the shop during business hours. We would have to go out the back door, through the carport, down the sidewalk and back up to the door on Hawthorne Street. Health department rules or some such nonsense.

When we’d go for a visit, MaMaw and my mama would sit at the kitchen table drinking coffee and sharing recipes MaMaw had collected from her Eastern Star sisters. The shop was much more interesting than their recipe-trading, and MaMaw never minded my playing in there as long as I put things back where they belonged. I remember pushing that strange swinging door with all my six year old might, making just enough space to slip in, letting go quick enough so I didn’t pinch my small fingers when the door swung shut with a loud smack.

Once I’d navigated the dangerous door with all my extremities intact, I found myself in a shop that was a treasure trove of grown-up beauty for a little girl just recently allowed to use Tinkerbell “cosmetics.” The mingling fragrances of shampoo, setting lotions and hairspray were intoxicating, and to this day when I smell the laquer-y scent of Lamaur Vita/E hairspray — still sold in the same brownish-gold can — I’m immediately transported back to MaMaw’s.

Two black vinyl chairs beneath two slick black porcelain shampoo bowls were situated to the left of the swinging door, opposite MaMaw’s chair where she took care of her clients. A tiered stand stood nearby; its bins held pink, blue, purple, yellow and gray Toni perm rods of varying sizes. The nubby plastic rods were thinner in the middle than on the ends. Little stretchy bands attached to one end and connected to a stopper that plugged into the other end once hair and perm papers were wrapped around the rods. I enjoyed putting all the plugs in the ends of the rods. Now I realize it might have made MaMaw’s work a little harder the next day. At least I made sure to keep the colors separated!

My beautiful pictureMy short legs didn’t need the foot rest on any of the chairs, but a telephone book worked fine the time MaMaw gave me a shampoo and a pixie haircut. (My daddy didn’t speak to her or Mama for three days.) I sat in MaMaw’s chair when she took care of me, trimming my hair with the precise snip snip snip of her shiny hair shears. Sometimes she’d use a little Dippity Do and curl my hair with brush rollers and long white plastic picks that held the rollers in place. Those picks were a little uncomfortable, but I felt so grown up, I didn’t mind. MaMaw would perch me on the trusty phonebook and I’d stretch as tall as I could when she lowered the hard plastic helmet of the hair dryer and the warm air flowed over my head.

There were two additional chairs near the dryers — I can only assume other beauticians worked there at times, although I don’t remember them clearly since I was usually there after hours. A small rolling table used for manicures stood in the corner. I’d get the nail buffer out of the table’s little drawer and rub the soft chamois across my bitten nails. MaMaw would sometimes give me a quarter for the slider Coca Cola machine across the room. Standing on my tip toes, I could just barely slide the Coke along the rail to the opening on the left which allowed removal of the bottle after depositing my coin. MaMaw would help me clamber back through the swinging door opening where I’d sit at the kitchen table and drink my Coke, feeling every bit as special as those blue-haired ladies of Liberty.

Where Did That Come From???

I’m almost 54 years old and I can count the times that it’s snowed where I live on one hand, with fingers left over. I’m not talking about flurries or a scant dusting on the deck. I’m talking about a good blanket that allows you to make a snowman and requires the wearing of rubber boots. I’ve seen that less than five times in my life.

Today’s surprise snowfall would have allowed for snowmen, except we’d already had several days of rain, so there’s mud under that pretty white blanket. Who wants to build a muddy snowman? Then there’s the fact that it’s December 8 in Southeast Texas and it was almost 80 degrees less than a week ago. The ground is still too warm for this to hang around for any length of time. In fact, it started melting just a short time ago, so I’m really glad I got out there and took these photos while I had the chance. (Click on each for captions.)

This may be all we get this year/decade… the last time was in 2003… or 2004. I forget. But when it’s here, it sure is pretty.

Re-boot

I’m in the middle of a re-boot of sorts. Moving stuff around in my office, hoping to make things a little more user friendly. One of the things I’ve done is move my computer to a standing desk. I find that when I’m working on the computer, I sit way too long without getting up and moving around. My hope is that I’ll move back and forth between the computer and my desk — doing some work standing and other work sitting, and reduce the amount of sedentary time each day.IMG_1215

It’s a quirky setup, but so far it seems to be working. I’m moving around more and I’m becoming a little more conscientious of my posture. Which is terrible. But won’t be for long. The other bonus is I now have a five foot table that is for the most part clear. The goal is to keep it that way. If I have business to take care of, I have room to spread out my papers and prepare quotes. Then the papers get filed and the table is clear if I want to work on a photo project (organizing, scanning, scrapbooking). But I have to put things away when I’m finished for the day. The trick will be disciplining myself to do that. I’m not always good at putting things away. But I’m working on it.