Becoming A Marshmallow

I do not think I have very many pet peeves.  I cannot STAND price tags on ANYTHING — including cleaning supplies under the sink, and, as I have previously and recently mentioned, people who start holiday seasons too early.  Despite its origins, I love Thanksgiving.  With each year that passes it seems to diminish under the weight of skeletons and Christmas trees.  It was a chilly night this Thanksgiving and I love a nice fire; particularly a piñon one because of its heavenly scent.  It transports me straight to Santa Fe.  I had a fire blazing and had given in earlier and bought marshmallows for my little one, particularly since they’re gluten free.  So, when she asked if she could have some, I thought why not roast them in the fire?  I got a long stick and wet it before placing the giant, spongy confection of sugar on the end of it and holding it above the flames.  My little one was in awe.  I never got to be a Girl Scout and I only went camping a few times in the summer with my church youth group.  So essentially I had no prior marshmallow roasting memories, having grown up without a fireplace.  The result was an unexpected culinary delight, and I was immediately asked to make more.  The next thing I knew my little one wanted me to sing Christmas carols.  We were all still digesting my gluten free pecan pie and already I was pressed into singing my favorite hymns.  “Once In David’s Royal City” melded into “What Child Is This” (my two favorites) and then I found myself being requested to sing every Christmas song I ever knew.  No “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” though.  I do enjoy some secular songs but for Christians it is a sacred time leading up to and commemorating the birth of Christ.  On the secular side, however, my little one began wondering when her scout elf from Santa (Noel Magique) and her reindeer Chestnut Jingles would arrive.  (Yes, I named them and yes, I snicker a little every time I use Chestnut’s full name.)  I had already decided they were not going to be returning to our home until December 1st.  (I cannot possibly maintain that Martha Stewart level of creativity past 24 days.)  However, I had just broken down and bought us a new tree this year after a decade of our rotten cats housing themselves in our old one.  By the end of last season it stood drunkenly and swayed violently — plus the bottom half of the pre-lit lights decided to just give up about three years ago.  I looked for a new one online early; just checking to see if there were any good deals.  Turns out there were and we got a lovely tree that looks like our old one (silver and pre-lit with white lights) for half price plus no tax and free shipping!  Woo hoo!  So there I was, looking down into the fathomless, deep brown eyes of my only child, so much like my beloved’s, and I thought about the magic of Christmas.  It is one of the few times as an adult I still feel the giddiness and wonder of childhood.  The American actor Edward Norton said, “The more you can create that magic bubble, that suspension of disbelief, for a while, the better.”  In that moment I decided we could all use a little more magic and so we put up the new tree early — amid glass-breaking screams of excitement from our little one.  The Holy Family is not going outside though until the start of advent; I’m not becoming a marshmallow.


Nature’s Heart

I believe I have mentioned my little one has gotten big enough to go on longer walks with us now.  We talk, and for once I’m not staring into my iPhone.  Around a creek we make a circuit, simply enjoying nature, as we delight in her mysterious, fresh, earthy smells.  Right now is a very precious time because autumn in Dallas is such a fleeting season.  The leaves on our many trees are turning red, orange, and yellow.  As we walk, the wind will gently blow a few down to earth in front of us, laying them at our feet like precious gems.  We have found acorns, pecans, and different types of seeds and pods from trees which I lament I do not know.  There is a little bridge we cross over where we like to pause and reflect.  I told my little one that creeks were the highways for wildlife, and she was fascinated as I explained to her that they used them to traverse the city, seek shelter, and to eat and drink.  I have seen coyotes, owls, raccoons, turtles, songbirds, possums, armadillos, hawks, and tree rats — which frankly are adorable.  We have heard the rustle of frisky squirrels chasing each other around the barks of large trees, and have witnessed the majestic sight of a predator bird’s broad wings spread gracefully in ascent.  When the creek is high we have heard ducks quacking, and this time of year we have seen the V-shaped flight of wild geese silhouetted against the sunset.  Having a child has helped me rediscover slowing down and savoring time … especially outside.  We have examined rocks and felt the first chill of fall in the air.  It’s a time to tune out and tune in, to feel alive and savor the wonders of Mother Earth.  My little one found this leaf on the ground and handed it to me exclaiming, “Mama, look!  A heart!  I want you to have it.”  “Thank you so much!” I said, thinking she already had mine the moment I knew I was carrying her.  John Muir, the Scottish-American naturalist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States once said, “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.  Wash your spirit clean.”  I hope we all remain close to nature’s heart.


A Whole New World

I have always loved libraries.  In college I relished the feel of being surrounded by the hush and the smell of old tomes.  One of my earliest memories is in elementary school when we were ushered into our library and introduced to the awe-inspiring card catalog.  For those of you too young to know what that is it was back in the days before computers were prevalent in our every day lives.  I can almost hear an audible gasp from somewhere.  Anyway, it was this massive piece of furniture with tons of little square drawers.  Inside the drawers were cards containing bibliographic information, including the title of the book, the author’s name, and approximate location on the library shelf.  I did some research and discovered that around 1789 the French began collecting books from churches and decided to use them to build a system of public libraries, including creating an inventory of all books.  The backs of playing cards were used to write each book’s information.  Leave it to my beloved France!  Around the mid-1800’s Melvil Dewey and other American librarians began to champion the card catalog because of its great expandability.  In some libraries books were based on size or the author’s name.  Dewy devised a decimal system where books were organized by subject and then alphabetized by the author’s name.  Each book had a “call number” which identified the subject and the location.  The decimal points divided different sections of the call number, which matched a number written on the spine of each book.  I can remember the librarian telling us we would need to know this our entire lives.  Since telling my six year old about it she has begun referring to everything in my childhood as “the olden days.”  (I predict her mind will explode when I explain to her about corded phones.)  Of course now libraries have replaced card catalogs with online public access which is digital.  My shock came when the hubs and I attended our little one’s book fair at her school and I could not find a laptop or a desktop anywhere.  Gaping like a slack jawed yokel, I stumbled into my discovery:  iPads were affixed conveniently on pillars around the library.  It is the first time I have actually felt old.  Like a cat staring at a shiny object, I felt compelled to take this picture.  I never could have forseen this day as I stood on that shag carpeting with my bell bottom jeans all those years ago.  I can still remember the feel of back-breaking weight of all those heavy books crammed into my backpack.  Now each child at her school has an iPad which contains them all.  The Norwegian historian Christian Lous Lange once said, “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.”  I hope we never stop using actual books.  It’s more than the rustle of a page or the creak of a spine but I cannot precisely put it into words.  However I also love to read digitally and it is much better for the environment.  It is also very convenient.  At least people are still continuing to read; now it’s just a whole new world.


A Cut Above

My husband really needs for his hair to be clean-cut at all times.  Fortunately he does not insist upon a buzz cut, but he will freak out if one curl starts to form at the base of his neck.  I say this without bias:  my husband has hair most men would kill for.  He is 44 and it’s still not grey, it’s not receding or thinning, and it is incredibly thick, dark brown, and with a slight wave.  For years I have begged him not to cut it every two weeks.  Hair does not even grow that fast!  It has taken an entire decade, but I have gotten him to go from two weeks to three and now (drumroll) to four!  His bangs no longer look like “Dumb and Dumber” since I’ve convinced him to stop going to cheap, walk-in places where he did not get the same stylist twice.  I have forbidden the use of clippers on his glorious hair and I have actually gone down to police whatever girl was making the back of his head look cheese shaped.  The trouble is, by the time he got an actual trained stylist, in my opinion it was way too much for us to be spending.  I knew how important his hair is to him so I’ve just tried to budget for it.  He never loved the place but at least he also never came out butchered.  (Cue the sound of angels singing.)  And then I discovered an “upscale barbershop.”  They’ve got old white guys, younger black men, clients with beards, no beards; you name it.  We decided to give it a try and I fell in love.  All the place needed was cigars!  Our little one did not have school that day and the receptionist, who was beautiful and sweet, led our six year old into a lounge/TV room and proceeded to put on My Little Ponies.  “May I get you something to drink?” she asked as I felt my eyes widen when I noticed the bar.  I whispered to my husband that men had finally cracked the code.  It’s the go-to-the-salon-and-have-a-glass-of-wine-so-you-can-relax-secret.  Only they had my kind of drinks — vodka, whiskey and gin that I noticed.  Burk had a gin and tonic (I call it the anorexic white ladies’ drink) and I had a whiskey with 7up.  They even had an orange juice for our little one.  Lounging in the big, leather recliner my little one peeled her eyes away from the television long enough to remark, “Now THIS is the life!”  “Kiddo, you have no idea,” I said, thinking of the special mother/daughter spa days we would have when she is older.  I knew I liked my husband’s stylist instantly.  She was sharp and I had no doubt he was in great hands.  When I booked his appointment the receptionist had actually taken notes!  Now that’s impressive.  Back in the TV room my little one remarked, “Mama they have massages here,” and I explained they were only for men.  I felt so comfortable sitting there, drink in hand, inhaling the gentle aroma of sandalwood.  It reminded me of my Daddy.  And I was so thrilled they let us stay!  As he was being shampooed my husband was treated to a steaming hot towel wrapped around his clean-shaven face.  I watched him visibly slump in the chair.  That is really saying something, because he doesn’t unwind very easily.  Other than his hair, he is highly concerned about his shoes looking nice.  Imagine our surprise when we discovered members can sign up and have their shoes shined for free at any time!  “He’d like to sign up for the year” I proclaimed as I watched my husband emerge actually relaxed and happy.  And here’s the kicker:  it is HALF the price of the salon he used to go to!!!  I appreciate the details and this place had it in spades.  Most importantly, his hair turned out great.  I think the American writer Greg Behrendt was on to something when he said:

“I do think that you can dress yourself out of a problem.  The way that a haircut and a new pair of pants can make you feel is better than any therapist, because when you look in the mirror, you see a different person – you are a different person.  It’s superficial change that can lead to real change.”

His two best girls were proud to see him looking so confident and handsome.  I have decided to go with him from now on … not because his stylist needs any supervision; I just want to relax and enjoy a drink!  This place is definitely a cut above.