Boogie On Down

We were at Walgreen’s the other day when we discovered Fred here.  As I took his picture I remarked the Skinny Popcorn must be working.  At first my little one was afraid of him until I named him and had him shake hands with her.  Nervously, she giggled and by the time we got home she wanted to help untangle Fred from the passenger’s seat.  I like spooky Halloween stuff but not demonic looking things or gore.  Fred here is just about my speed.  I want my little one to be “good scared” versus scared out of her mind.  This was also the first year I involved her with putting up the decorations.  I think it helped her realize they were just inanimate things and hopefully it allayed her fears somewhat.  She said she had the best time decorating and I was so glad I just didn’t do it all myself.  This morning on the way to school she said, “Good-bye Fred” and absently patted him on the head as she went to the car.  I can also now joke that without digging I have a real skeleton in my closet.  I love what the Irish critic George Bernard Shaw once said:  “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”  He may be X-ray thin, but I’ll bet Fred can move his old dry bones to the Silly Symphony of “The Skeleton Dance” and boogie on down.

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Carpool

Coming from the ’70’s, I always thought to carpool meant to ride-share.  These days I think it just means a great pool of suburbans idling in line to pick up their kids from school.  I don’t mind waiting, as the campus is located on a creek and I enjoy seeing the serenity of the crosses, Japanese maples, and the flowers you see here.  Generally there are bees buzzing around them, butterflies pausing prettily to land, or dragonflies zooming about.  It is a rare few minutes out of my day to savor the quiet without the distraction of a cell phone.  I still get tickled thinking about the scene in the movie Mr. Mom where the dad goes the wrong way to enter taking his kids to school.  He’d never done it but his wife was now the one “working.”  It IS true, you can always tell the dads because invariably they go the wrong way, garnering glares from the moms who are desperately trying to get their kids to school on time.  The “other parents” are essentially attempting to cut a very long, winding line.  At our school there is a police officer who directs traffic.  Last week no mom would let the Wrong-Way-Dad in so the cop had to pull out his whistle to halt the bumper to bumper turning cars; essentially forcing them to stop and let him in.  At first I was afraid of the carpool line but it really is no big deal.  I have attempted several times to explain it to my husband, on ride alongs, who still cannot seem to grasp it.  *SIGH*  The American businesswoman and transportation entrepreneur Robin Chase said:

”Transportation is the center of the world!  It is the glue of our daily lives.  When it goes well, we don’t see it.  When it goes wrong, it negatively colors our day, makes us feel angry and impotent, curtails our possibilities.”

I believe that to be true.  Get to where you’re going on time and your day goes smoothly.  Run late and you’re behind all day.  I can tell you one thing, I strive to always be on time for the carpool.

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Nature’s Recycler

Because of my deep love of wolves, I have often wondered how some animals throughout history have been chosen to be demonized while others have been revered.  It seems to have carried over in our collective conscious for centuries.  Even the animals that are eaten vary around the globe.  My feeling has always been why is one life more valuable than another?  That is also why I love St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment.  I think he gave animals far more credit than most and famously preached a sermon to the birds.  Speaking of birds, I have noticed a lot of decorations going up for Halloween with crows, owls, and vultures.  I know different stories around the first two from Native American culture and they do involve the spirit world.  Perhaps their stories and myths made their way into Western culture.  I also realize people can be repulsed by vultures.  We saw one soaring recently and I explained to my little one they simply ate animals that were already dead.  They don’t kill; they just clean up the mess.  They serve a vital purpose in our world and I think they are interesting creatures.  “Mama, like recyclers!” she exclaimed and decided they were cool.  Then today I came across this young fellow as he was feeding on a squirrel some thoughtless driver ran over.  He was just doing his job and surviving and I stopped to talk to him.  He never moved and watched me with a keen eye.  Finally he resumed eating and I got the shot you see here.  If that poor squirrel had to die, I was glad to see its body was being used to nurture another one of God’s creation.  The only positive quote I could find about vultures was from the American lead singer of the new wave band Blondie.  Debbie Harry said, “I’m a culture vulture, and I just want to experience it all.”  I really like that.  We fear what we don’t know — much like our friend the vulture:  nature’s recycler.

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Nailed Down

The American journalist Frank Reynolds once said, “Let’s nail it down, let’s get it right.”  My Daddy was just about the best at everything … but he was a horrible grocery shopper.  If Mama asked him for bread, he’d come home with milk.  God bless him, he just almost never got it right.  My husband, on the other hand, is an excellent grocery shopper.  He is incredibly specific and will call if he cannot find exactly what I have asked for.  However, on this fateful occasion, I asked him to please pick up some nails when he went to the store.  “Sure thing,” he said as he made his way to his favorite destination (the grocery) to eat unchecked.  He knows if I go I police the amount of sweets he consumes before he even checks out.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen him hand over crumpled up wrappers for the cashiers to scan.  He gets home and says, “Your nails are on the bar.”  “Where?” I ask.  “On the kitchen bar” he replies.  All I can see is a box of French tip press ons and I yelled back upstairs, “The nails aren’t here!”  A few minutes later he comes trudging down the stairs.  Handing me the box of fake fingernails he says, as if I am simple, “Here you go.”  I felt my eyes widen in disbelief.  “I ASKED YOU TO GET NAILS SO I CAN HANG SOME PICTURES ON THE WALL!” I found myself shrieking as I shook my late father’s hammer at him.  “Oh,” he relied.  “And when have you ever known me to use press on nails?!” I exclaimed as he stood there looking genuinely perplexed.  I do in fact get a French manicure so I guess he must have paid attention to SOMEthing.  We both stood there looking at this box of nails and then started laughing.  This time Burk didn’t quite get it nailed down.

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A World Of Adventure Awaits

Our little one started kindergarten this year and it was our first carnival at her new school.  This year’s theme was traveling the world.  They had a giant globe, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and a red phone booth from London all greeting us upon our arrival.  Before I got married I had never been to any of those places.  I silently marveled that now I had been fortunate enough to make all three.  Our daughter got her first passport when she was around one year old.  I got my first passport at 35.  The school spirit shirts were cleverly designed, with the Eiffel Tower worked into the “w,” Sydney’s Opera House was inside the “o,” the “r” contained the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the “l” was fashioned from London’s Big Ben, and the Taj Mahal formed the inner part of the “d.”  At the first booth you could have a color picture printed and pasted in your own passport complete with a colored lanyard.  Then as you went around to each of the other booths you got to have a stamp in your passport.  It was brilliant.  Our little one’s favorite was the animal hospital where they picked a small stuffed animal, named them, and then bandaged them up.  Ours chose a tiger whom she named Tigress and the poor thing had a lot of maladies.  The first was bound with pink, of course.  Fortunately Tigress must have recovered because by the end they had all fallen off.  It was fun running into classmates and getting to know their parents a bit more.  There were bounce houses and the playground took on a festive feel with a DJ blaring all the current hits, which the hubs remarked all sounded the same.  I tuned them out until Justin Beiber’s “Despacito” came on.  My daughter and I LOVE that song!  It was fun to see priests and teachers all out and having a good time.  They had food, snow cones for the littles, and margaritas for the grown-ups.  As our girl sucked down her mixed snow cone, I thought to myself a frozen margarita is sort of like an adult mixed snow cone, and I savored it appreciatively in the heat.  No one can control the weather, but I would say the temperature resembled a trip to Cairo.  We were all thankful for bottles of ice cold water.  Having my little girl really has brought my childhood back, and I found myself making sand art for the first time.  I let my mind go and was reminded of watching the Navajo and Tibetan monks making incredibly detailed sand art; suddenly gaining a small understanding of the calmness and meditative aspect of it.  The great South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  I am so proud and so grateful my only child gets to experience a great education from the very beginning.  A world of adventure awaits.

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Confidence In My Faith

For those of you keeping track, you will have noted I have been behind on my blog since summer.  I dislike not writing in a timely manner and think I have stumbled onto a case of writer’s block.  So I decided to get current and then work my way back.  As I checked the date I paused when I realized today was Friday the Thirteenth.  I do not consider myself to be superstitious.  I have owned black cats, walked under numerous ladders, and have opened too many umbrellas inside to even count.  The thirteenth day falls on a Friday at least once and year and can happen as many as three times annually.  But why the superstition?  One suggested origin occurred on this very day — a Friday the thirteenth in October — only instead of 2017 the year was 1307.  This is the day the Knights Templar essentially fell.  The order was founded in 1119 and remained overtly active until about 1312.  A Catholic military order, its role was for the protection of Christian pilgrims.  At its peak, it consisted of fifteen to twenty thousand members; ten percent of whom were knights.  They also went under the Order of Solomon’s Temple and the Order of Christ.  Their motto:  Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give glory.  They wore distinctive white mantles with red crosses and were the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades.  In addition, the order became among the wealthiest and most powerful.  Non-combatant members managed a large economic structure throughout Christendom.  The Templars could pass freely through all borders, were not required to pay any taxes, and were exempt from all authority except for that of the Pope.  I was taught in college they developed innovative forms of financial techniques that eventually became the foundation for the world’s banking systems.  The knights also built fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.  King Philip IV was deeply in debt to the order and, it is said, took advantage of the situation to gain control over them.  On this day at dawn in 1307 he had many of the order’s members in France not only arrested, but tortured into making false confessions, and then burned at the stake.  I found this quote quite profound from the Irish journalist Marguerite Gardiner, the Countess of Blessington, who said:  “Superstition is only the fear of belief, while religion is the confidence.”  So why did I hesitate to resume writing in “real-time” today?  Was my fear rooted in the belief that I wasn’t doing things in their perceived order — a superstition of sorts?  Perhaps.  I will say my writer’s block has been resolved and taking this silly picture for today’s post gave me another topic to write about; stay tuned … In the meantime, I would much rather place my confidence in my faith.

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Trashed

As a professional petsitter, there are some things which I simply dread.  What you see pictured here is probably the worst — yes, even over poop.  An accident I can clean, but I cannot reconstruct tattered mail, mangled books, scratched furniture, broken lamps, or whatever else it is the critters under my care may have destroyed.  Fortunately, it does not happen often.  Thankfully, their owners have never failed to be understanding.  I don’t believe the animals mean to be bad and I feel the responsibility falls greatly upon me.  During the time I visit I try to exercise them, snuggle with them, stimulate them, and provide them with stability and dependability in their parents’ absence.  OK, and I subject them to multiple kisses.  I love my job.  It is immensely fulfilling and brings me great happiness.  Most gratifying is when I am able to hear from owners how thankfull they are because they KNOW their fur babies were loved in their absence.  You cannot fake love and one cannot take time or attention for granted — especially with animals.  Their unconditional love is so humbling.  The American author Alfred Montapert said:

”Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal.  Difficult standards for people to live up to.”

A saying comes to mind that goes something like I hope to be as good as my dog thinks I am.  It is indeed a worthy pursuit.  In the meantime, I shall endeavor to keep the critters from getting trashed.

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Salad Days

The term one’s “‘salad days'” refers to when one is young and inexperienced.  I used to love cooking for my parents once I got in college.  I was never more than footsteps from them.  First, I went to an excellent community college and then I went to SMU which is still in the city.  My mother seriously used to make every meal from scratch until the day I was graduated from high school.  I can still see our tiny, windowless apartment kitchen where I spent the majority of my childhood.  She always had a cloth calendar hanging on the wall and an apron around her waist.  She made the best meatloaf and stuffed bell peppers in the entire world.  I STILL cannot believe I got upset because the other kids got the cool, new “TV dinners” while my mother was making every meal by hand.  We did not even own a microwave until I was graduated from high school and I will never forget the fateful night I asked her what was for dinner.  “Whatever goes ‘beep beep beep'” was her reply.  How COULD she?!  Well, I was seventeen and she had been making dinners at least five days a week for Daddy and me for all those years.  The adult mother in me not only does not blame her; she marvels at her.  The youth in me was hurt and outraged.  It was then that I began cooking for them.  My father taught me his grilling techniques and I found I loved having them over for dinner.  When I got married I felt like I was starting all over.  My cooking was being compared/contrasted with someone else’s, including staff that worked for my husband’s parents.  Then we were fortunate enough to have a child and it added her opinion into the mix.  Something as simple as a SALAD became a big deal.  Somebody didn’t like this; somebody was “freaked out” by the texture of that.  FINALLY I settled our family of three upon Romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, heirloom tomatoes, and a celebrity’s olive oil and vinegar dressing.  Everything is organic and all of the profits of the salad dressing go toward charity.  Heaven help I am TRYING to add more ingredients!  The Ethiopian-born Swedish-raised chef Marcus Samuelsson said:

“Salad can get a bad rap.  People think of bland and watery iceberg lettuce, but in fact, salads are an art form, from the simplest rendition to a colorful kitchen-sink approach.”

I agree.  I would like to add SO many more ingredients!  Avocado, onion, Mandarin oranges, pecans, chickpeas, spinach, black olives, sunflower seeds, jalapeños, and so much more.  For now I guess I shall content myself with the simple salad days.

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Pumpkin Time

OK, I have some pretty opinionated thoughts about decorating for the holidays.  They are as follows:  First:  pumpkins are NOT to be placed out until the month of October — no matter HOW much anyone may wish for it to be autumn.  Second:  Halloween decorations should not be placed out before the middle of October.  Like it or not that’s plenty of time to scare the crap out of your neighbors.  Third:  pumpkins (note:  not jack-o’-lanterns) may stay until the first day of December.  Christmas decorations may ONLY be placed out once Advent has begun.  If you are a practicing Christian, you should know this — it begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day.  Christmas decorations are to REMAIN THROUGH EPIPHANY!  That means January 6 — not the first day of the New Year you heathens!  It took the Magi that long to see the new born King.  If you really want to get technical — the baby Jesus should not make His appearance in nativity scenes until Christmas Day; the day on which He was born.  It makes me personally CRAZY to see Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving and then stripped bare right after the New Year.  No wonder so many people become depressed!  If I were someone like Martha Stewart, I swear I would seriously try to implement this as an accepted standard.  The American businesswoman and television personality (Martha Stewart) is credited with having said:

“The ultimate goal is to be an interesting, useful, wholesome person.  If you’re successful on top of that, then you’re way ahead of everybody.”

I hope to be all of those things.  However, I would settle for everyone adhering to pumpkin time.

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Three Is A Magic Number

Today was my birthday.  When I was little I looked forward to my cake (from the same bakery my parents used since my birth and I would use for my wedding 35 years later.)  One year I had a rollerskating party and I thought it was the greatest.  I had my Jordache jeans, my pink Polo shirt, and I can say without conceit I was the best roller skater around.  I will never know how much my parents sacrificed to give me that party.  But I do know our little girl is growing up vastly different than I.  What I want her to know, more than anything, is that everything she has is a PRIVILEGE — versus a right.  To have a party is not a given — it is special and requires money.  Every year since our daughter has been born I have written on her invitations, “Your presence will be her presents!”  She has not liked that recently and has questioned me as to why we buy gifts for other kids’ parties but she cannot have any for her own.  I hope I am not being too harsh.  I just want her to know that she doesn’t need more stuff to feel she has had a good birthday.  Only one parent has told me she thought it was great, and she had her child bring a homemade gift as their present.  I will confess her favorite present was from my friend Angela who bought her Mulan and Li Shang as a birthday present.  Angela happens to be one of the most thoughtful, caring friends I have.  But what if she did not have the money to buy them for my daughter?  Would that make her daughter any less of a friend?  Of course not.  I doubt our family knows it, but for years we have planned and sacrificed to try and buy them nice gifts.  I have come to realize there are people fortunate enough not to need anything.  As I have grown older I have made the realization that peoples’ presence are the real presents.  The Canadian-born American motivational public speaker Brian Tracy said, “The greatest gift that you can give to others is the the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.”  Oh, how LONG it has taken me to realize this!  Perhaps I was spoiled because I grew up always knowing I had that from my parents.  Not everyone is so lucky.  Today I celebrated my birthday with the two people whom I love the most in all the world.  It used to be my parents, but now they are both shining in light perpetual in the glory of the Lord.  God, in his graciousness, has given me my husband and my precious miracle daughter to celebrate with.  It would seem that for me three is a magic number.

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