Our wedding photographer is still working on Jami and Dustin’s wedding photos, but she shared a little “sneak peek” with us via Facebook. (When I get the USB with all the files, I’ll share some better quality images – FB does a little compression thing that reduces quality on downloads. I couldn’t wait to share these, though.)
This one of my guy with our girl gets me in all the feels. There are no other people on this planet I love more than these two. He is the light of my life, and she is the sparkle.
And I guess I’ll admit that this new guy that joined the family last Sunday has a pretty special place in my heart, too. Even though he’s a bear at 6′ 5″, I’ll call him the “twinkle” that goes with my “sparkle.” Our family isn’t huge, but it’s a mighty fine blessing, and I’m so very grateful.
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.
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 strong 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.
My girl is twenty-two today and I love her very much.
Truth be told, I didn’t have anything good to report this morning, and then put off writing anything at all until this evening. Saturday evening our twelve year old golden retriever died. We’d gone to Galveston for the day, first to attend the Greek Festival and then we hung around for ArtWalk. Dinner with the fam and when we got home late that evening, my husband found her in the backyard. He said she looked like she’d been lying in the sun (it felt good to her old joints) where she’d just fallen asleep.
Early Sunday morning, before church, he dug a grave for her next to our daughter’s Chorkie, Evelyn, who passed away in 2016. They are both under the sycamore tree, side by side, which seems appropriate. When Evelyn was still alive, she would climb on top of Hurley and use her for a cushion. Hurley was the sweetest dog ever, and mothered Evelyn, even though they were not biologically related. So I like the idea of their final resting places being so near each other.
I think at some point we are going to put a little birdbath out there as a marker. Or maybe some wind chimes in the tree. But there’s no hurry.
Be joyful, y’all. Even in loss there is joy for the memories.
The last few days I’ve been engaged in a debate on another blog. I’m not going to go into the details of the debate, but suffice it to say I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated, and agitated over this social justice warrior’s inability to see the other side of things. When I asked a question that chipped a rather large chunk from her foundational argument, she responded with “This conversation is going in circles, so I’m going to step out. Thanks for the discussion.”
Which basically said to me, “I have no answer for your question, so I quit.”
And that’s fine. But it still frustrated me that so many of this particular generation base their beliefs and actions on feelings, feelings which can change with the wind, because Truth is not absolute in this day and age. There is your truth, and there is her truth, and his truth, and supposedly my truth. I don’t understand how there can be multiple truths for any given situation.
Anyway, while I was feeling frustrated and agitated and irritable about all this, my husband pointed out that he’d been much less stressed the last few days because he’d been consciously avoiding any discussions that hinged on politics or social agendas. Which reminded me of something rather important.
See the title of my blog up there? ↑↑↑
Not “A Scribbler & A Shutterbug”…
“Persistently Choosing Joy”
I think I’ve slacked up a bit in that area. And I need to refocus. On my agenda.
To persistently choose joy.
Because if I’m persistently choosing joy, my focus is on the future.
Not the past. Adios, depressing blog posts.
And not even the present. Au revoir, social justice warrior debates.
My focus is on the future and what I can do, how I can serve, to live a joyful life for the benefit of myself and those around me. Positive actions (not feelings) actually produce positive feelings. Now isn’t that interesting?
After seeing so many posts online regarding the “Day Without a Woman” protest, I honestly thought the world had gone stark raving bonkers. Seriously, who would have thought we’d see women walking around a few weeks ago in pornographic craft projects gone bad in protest?
Then my daughter, Jami, posted a link to this article on her FB page, and I was encouraged and reassured that there are still intelligent, responsible women walking this planet.
The article and the numerous responses of levelheaded women it documents give me great comfort in knowing there ARE strong women out there who don’t whine and complain about perceived injustices. They know they are strong and capable of taking charge of their own destinies, choosing their own paths. It makes me incredibly proud to know that my daughter recognizes what a truly strong woman does and is making her own path in this world without expecting accommodations, but by doing the work needed to achieve her dreams.
To continue the protests, this came out: Some Women Are Striking From Smiling Today. Apparently, smiling is a form of “emotional labor” — and women are tired of being forced to appear pleasant and/or happy. According to the article, “emotional labor” is a term that was coined in 1983 (a year after I graduated from high school) and it refers to putting others first in order to keep things going smoothly and make others happy. Supposedly, women walking down the street are being commanded by passersby to smile, and cautioned that an unfulfilled request can escalate into something undesirable. I’m trying to remember the last time I was out walking about that someone demanded that I smile. Oh, that’s right! NEVER.
Here’s a question for you, whomever you may be, whatever you may be (male or female): Why are these people so determined to be miserable? Whatever happened to taking one’s circumstances and making the best of them? There’s a good chance that, in the process, those circumstances will improve thanks to the effort. I’ve found that when I think of others in a kindly and caring manner, it is often returned to me. Treat my husband like crap? Refuse to think about his needs? I’m pretty certain I’ll reap the harvest of what I’ve sown. But care about him, do what I can to make his day a better day? I find he returns the love.
We just celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and my husband surprised me with a wedding vow renewal at the beach in Surfside, Texas. He spent a year planning an event that was perfectly us. He had the beach as his background (as a Galveston BOI, it’s his favorite place) and with our sisters’ help, he made sure I had the “pretties” I enjoy so much. Our road to that day (and to the future ahead) has not always been smooth. There have been times that we both thought “what the hell have we done?” Thankfully, we’ve never thought it at the same time, and we’re both too stubborn to quit on each other. So here we are. And here is the blog post he wrote that proves to me success is to be found in focusing on and loving others, not whining and complaining about how life isn’t fair. He said,
When I look at Laura, this is what I see. After 25 years, I do not see a beautiful, young, sexy thing. I see a part of me that has consistently withstood the trials of life and yet remained true and has stayed the course. To me, that is more beautiful and sexy than anything else in this world, and the stories we can tell!
I cannot think of any more beautiful words than those. Of course, a third wave feminist will take umbrage at the phrase “a part of me” — the outcry will be “I am my OWN person, not a part of any man” — and for those who can’t see the forest for the trees, I feel sorry for you. You get so caught up in the minutia that you can’t see this is a man who will give his life for me, who loves me as much or more than himself — who remembers every thing he’s ever heard me express an interest in and does what he can to make sure I have the enjoyment of that thing, the fulfillment of my goals and dreams. On the flip side of that, he is a part of me — I am committed to him with equal fervor.
If I’d only focused on the negatives, and refused to see the positives, odds are great we wouldn’t have lasted and I would have missed out on a ceremony that truly means more to me than the one we experienced in 1992. The first wedding was nice, there’s no doubt. It was in a church, I had the beautiful dress, we were surrounded by friends and family, and there was a big cake and punch. But the truth? Our renewal says this:
I kept my promise, and I choose to keep it again.
So on the days that aren’t perfect, the days I roll my eyes and think, “What have I gotten myself into?” — I choose to remember he may be thinking the same thing. And then I remind myself of the good times and the promise of more. I choose joy, no matter the circumstances. Choosing misery and complaint only produces more of the same, and is rooted in selfishness. My prayer for all these confused women is that they try joy for a change. Focus on others and see if things turn around. You might be surprised.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 Who, Friends, and Warehouse 13 while we do cross stitch and embroidery.
No matter how many things in life change, she’ll always be our girl. ❤
An odd title for a scribbler’s blog post, I suppose. As I sat down to compose this post, I discovered a scarcity of words that surprised even me. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am rarely, if ever, at a loss for words. Fortunately I rediscovered my words, so here we go:
I’m full of emotions right now. Emotions threaten to knock me off my feet the same way a wave knocks you on your backside when you venture too far off shore when the Gulf is choppy chocolate soup. The emotions vying for my attention spring from what seems a multitude of sources: preparing my childhood home for sale, readying my daughter to move into her first apartment away from home, and observing the first anniversary of my mama’s passing.
The house is coming together finally. Now that it’s been almost completely emptied of all the things that made it “home,” I don’t get quite as sad when I walk through the front door. I still have vivid memories though, and I remember lying on the green 70s’ carpet in my bedroom — a first grader trying to stay out-of-the-way while my parents moved all our worldly possessions into our brand-new house. Lying on my stomach, I read fairy tale after fairy tale from the hardcover copy of The Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales my mother had given me. It was protected by a glassine dust jacket that still allowed the colorful illustration centered on the front of the navy cloth binding to show through. A companion volume of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, bound in burgundy cloth, completed the set. For some reason, I always preferred the Grimm Brothers. They were a little darker, a little more melancholy.
My college girl is scheduled to move into her apartment two weeks from Friday. Two weeks. How did the time fly so quickly??? Yesterday we went to IKEA, where we bought a small desk, swivel chair, bedding, and a few other small things. After grabbing a late lunch at Buff Burger, we stopped at Homegoods and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Truthfully, I think she has just about everything she needs for now. We have the luxury of only being an hour down the road, so if she forgets something or gets in a bind, it won’t be too difficult to help out if she wants our help. The challenge will be leaving her alone to figure things out herself. It’s part of the process, and so I’m going to sit on my hands, hide my keys from myself, and resist the temptation to call three times a day to see how things are going. Isn’t this what we’ve been preparing her (and ourselves) for the last 20 years?
I’m dreading tomorrow. Actually, today because it’s after midnight. So it’s August 3.
A year ago today, mid-morning, I got a phone call from my sister. She thought our mama had a stroke. Because our mama didn’t like the hospital in Clear Lake and any EMS that served her area would take her there, we drove her to the hospital in Pearland, at her request. The initial symptoms that we thought were symptoms of stroke must have been related to the cancer that had metastasized to her brain several months before, because after a little time passed, the symptoms were gone. Sitting in the triage area at Pearland, we made little jokes and she requested that they allow her to keep her underwear when they helped her into a hospital gown. As doctors and nurses came and went, she asked when she could go home, and they explained that they needed to send her to a hospital with a neurologist consult. So they made arrangements to transfer her to Memorial Hermann. I wish I’d known that would be the last time I saw her awake and cognizant of her surroundings. I wish I’d made sure to hug her before they took her in the ambulance to Memorial Hermann. Little did my sister or I know that around 4:25 am the morning of August 4, we would say our final goodbyes to our mama.
Truly, our mama had very definite ideas about the way things should be done, and as I’ve spent the last year going through things from the house — reading letters, mementos and the like — I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the high standards she set for us were rooted in her own heart-felt desire to be better than she believed herself to be. Growing up in a small east Texas town, her family lived on land leased out around the South Liberty oil fields. Her parents were good, hardworking folk who loved and did well for their kids, especially considering neither of them went past grade school. We knew our mama was sharp and talented because of the things we witnessed her do for us throughout our childhoods — she was very active in our classrooms when we were small and she eventually worked hard to establish a library (properly organized by the Dewey Decimal System, no less) at the private school my sister attended.
Surprising things we’ve learned this year or so:
Our mama was a member of the homecoming court when she was a freshman in high school.
Our mama was president of the library club at Liberty High School, and she served as regional president when she attended the state convention of high school library clubs.
Our mama wore ladies’ dress gloves (we found white and black gloves, elbow and wrist length), beautiful heels with thin spike heels, and she had a black cashmere coat with a detachable mink collar that makes me think of Audrey Hepburn.
We found a snapshot of our teenage mama standing in front of the Christmas tree at our grandparents’ home — Mama wore a Norwegian style sweater with black pants. In my entire life, I never saw my mama wear pants.
Mama worked at the Liberty County courthouse after she graduated high school, but before she got married, and her supervisor liked her to fill out the marriage licenses because she had such beautiful handwriting.
Mama was a stickler for honesty — she disliked untruthfulness with a passion, so we were a little amused to discover our mama had sticky fingers, at least as a teenager, when it came to hotel souvenirs. The Library Club attended a couple of conventions and we found a shoe box with odds and ends from a hotel in San Antonio, the name of which escapes my memory. The mother lode was a cache of goodies from the Shamrock Hilton in Houston, Texas. We are now the proud “owners” of an ashtray, a seafood fork, a teaspoon, and a room key with brass Shamrock Hilton key chain attached.
There was something entertaining, reassuring, and comforting in realizing our mama had been a silly teenager, just like us. I can almost imagine my mama, who I always thought of as very prim and proper, getting excited over Elvis’ latest song.
Today, when I’m tempted to be sad, I’m going to focus on that teenage girl growing up in Liberty, Texas — getting dressed up, with hat and gloves to shop at Foley’s Downtown and eat apple pie with rum sauce at the Azalea Terrace upstairs.
I miss you, Mama. Thank you for everything, including the stories and the seafood fork. I love you.
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.” 😡
Lagnaippe: 1. Chiefly Southern Louisiana and Southeast Texas. A small gift with purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus. 2. a gratuity or tip. 3. an unexpected or indirect benefit.