Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It is written

Before a recent flight from Lubbock to San Antonio, I got pulled aside at Airport Security. The man checking my bag, after issuing instructions that I refrain from touching any of my belongings said to the person working beside him, “It’s probably the books.” 

“Yes," I said, gesturing toward the Erasmus quote on the side of the carry-on I had purchased at Barnes & Noble. "Read what the bag says.”

“Read what is written,” he said.

“Pardon me?”

“Read what is written. The bag doesn’t say anything. The words are written on it. So you read what is written.” Then he added, “My mother was an English teacher.”

I, Miss She-who-corrects-your-English, while subject to Airport Insecurity—the imperious, impersonal and oftentimes invasive of U.S. Constitutional rights, which prohibits unlawful search and seizure—learned a lesson. 

A man who treated me not as an anonymous traveler responded to what I had said; he heard and then he taught me something.

I should have hugged him, freaked him out, invaded his space. Instead I thanked him. I really did. I felt grateful, almost giddy in spite of the irony. 

What is written? And where? And who validates what is written that people should pay any attention?

So much information, too much white noise and so many voices vying for consideration.

In a matter of days, the calendar page will turn to 2010. It is written, 2010, or soon will be. How will the numbers scrunched together sound to the ear?

Will you say two-thousand and ten? Or two-thousand-ten? Or twenty-ten? Or two-zero, one-zero? Or does the ring of this New Year remind you of 90210? 

I kind of like the rhythm of two-Oh, one-Oh. How about you?

It is written in Luke 2:1 that in the days of Caesar Augustus a decree for a census set in motion the events surrounding the birth of a person whose life and death changed the way the world tracks time.

Quibble over exact dates or the time of year or change B.C. to B.C.E. [“Before the Common Era”] to dismiss or diminish the significance of that single birth, the sounds at Christmas remind us that Jesus Christ still brings Joy to the World. 

Christmas, before the year changes to 2010, adjures everyone: Read what is written.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tears On My Pillow

Last night's ABC News featured a follow-up story on Susan Boyle. The release this week of her debut album, "I Dreamed a Dream," went straight to the top of the pop charts––best-selling female singer debut ever.

Susan Boyle Shakes Up the Music World

Later, after returning from a meeting, I found this surprise on my pillow.

My husband had gone out in the cold, dark night with snow falling on glistening streets to make my birthday hold as much happiness as possible. I cried.

Thank you, sweet James.

Kudos that here the music-loving world has recognized in this video-driven age of celebrity illusion that talent comes in all sorts of packages.

A music industry spokesperson said, "She's not the most beautiful flower in the bouquet, but she's a special flower." Indeed.

She is, as my husband said, "the real deal," not a studio creation, but a testimony to the Creator's creativity.

Inside the CD cover, Susan wrote:
  "I would like to dedicate this Album to my beloved Mother, to whom I made a promise to 'be someone.'"

Her Mum lived to age 91.
Mid-life, Susan has become emblematic of dreaming dreams that may yet come true.

Our best dreams distill the hope of being someone, not to the anonymous masses, but as Victor Hugo wrote, to those who love us in spite of ourselves.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

The pie was yummy.

A new family favorite: Chocolate Silk Pie, recipe from the Blue Bonnet Café in Marble Falls, TX.

Ummm. good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twilight Mania

Twilight series author, Stephanie Meyer, admitted she is “a little burned out on vampires right now.”

Actually, I was encouraged to hear Stephanie say that her first books were not well written. She wishes she could go back and make changes. For me, it felt like wading through adverbs, irksome.

More than 85 million copies of Twilight books have sold. The first movie grossed $385 million.

What has captivated people enough to incite another cultural phenomenon, a book-reading and movie-going maelstrom?

As the release of the second movie, New Moon, sets in motion another fan-crazed, media-covered blitz, well-meaning people will react like Don Quixote fighting windmills, censors and censorious.

That’s disconcerting. And it makes me sad. The way it embarrasses me to look back on church crusades against Barbie and Disney and Colgate, to name a few.

Freedom to think, to create and to discriminate represents a vital core of human values.

I read the books so I could evaluate for myself, as I did when reading all 7 Harry Potter books. I didn’t view any of these books as inherently evil, though reservations about role models abound. I don’t believe the devil made them do it, either the authors or characters.

My objection as I slogged through the 2000+ pages stemmed from the uneven, at times poor writing. “Ponderous prose,” as my English teacher friend once described a well-known author’s book. But popular fiction does not christen literary giants.

What got me to the last page of the saga despite wariness and weariness, I wanted to dialogue with my daughters, my eldest son and granddaughter about how and why the books, originally intended for Young Adults, intrigued each of them.

I confess. It was a good story.

Creative. Imaginative. Not entirely original, but certain portions shined, “like the top of the Chrysler Building.”

Despite mistakes, Stephanie Meyer held the story-strands together, from beginning to end, like a weaver using numerous shuttles, colorful threads and a complicated pattern.

A good editor should have caught where Bella fed her father pancakes for breakfast in one paragraph, and a few paragraphs later, she picked up his cereal bowl.

Portraying vampires as real, with certain sects of vampires as “good guys” as well as werewolves who keep the vampires in check, belongs in the realm of fantasy fiction. Keep it there, and you can deal with the story on its own terms.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shame on You

Does shame still function as motivation for good behavior?

“If you can’t be a good example, you will just have to be a terrible warning.”

Mary Engelbreit illustrated that quote by picturing a little boy standing in the corner, the object of a discipline intended to produce shame.
Do parents or teachers today make disobedient kids stand in the corner? Do eyes of disapproval wield an invisible rod of correction? Does public reproof cause culprits to feel shame?

I don't think so.

In our culture, as in Jeremiah’s message to a hard-hearted Israel (6:15), people have forgotten how to blush.

Why should we? Tabloids portray celebrity as both wicked and enviable. Newspaper headlines proclaim the best and worst of times, a pocked landscape devoid of leaders who once inspired us.

Banks failing. Job losses. Wall Street piranhas devour the very companies that feed them. Investors get left holding an empty bag.

No longer is the threat from without­—bank robbers like Bonnie and Clyde or Jesse James or The Hole in the Wall Gang—but from scavengers within, people devoid of a sense of shame.

And in turn, we have learned to gauge our sins relative to our neighbors'.

“Well, I’m not that bad.”

With the increasing public exposure of skin and secrets––you could get on Oprah––shame hangs in the closet like an old garment, unworn for decades. No Scarlet Letters, thank God, but who wants to look out of style?

Still, can a person be made to feel ashamed?

My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Claussen, taught me a lesson about shame.

When another girl in my class and I fought on the playground, Miss Claussen forced us to face one another, the heavy classroom door with its plate-glass window between us.

“Stand nose-to-nose until one of you apologizes.”

The stiff-necked me—heels dug in to resist both Miss Claussen and my enemy—self-righteousness clung like a scent, my fierce attitude more apparent than the clothes I wore that day. I was prepared to watch the sun go down.

Until she spoke these words: “The bigger person will apologize first.”

I fell over my feet to get around the door to surrender to my enemy. Capitulating, deflating like a balloon, I could hardly get the words out fast enough.

“I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Pride had motivated me to humble myself.

On the long walk home, I remember feeling ashamed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tiny Dancer

Our revered "Miss Jeanne" retired this past May after teaching dance to Pampa people for more than 6 decades.

Miss Jeanne taught my eldest daughter for more than 15 of those years and my youngest daughter for a couple of years, too. Now my five-year-old granddaughter is taking ballet.

At a recent reception, a crowd comprised of former students, their families and members of the community gathered to honor a tiny dance teacher with massive heart for her art.

Pictured here, mother and daughter, Linda and Laura, both among Miss Jeanne's numerous "children," smile for the photographer. Me.

Jeanne Willingham's Beaux Art Studio functioned from nursery to graduate school for dancers she taught to perform on stage under the spotlight, learning to cultivate audience awareness. The Nutcracker Ballet in December and a Recital in May, dancers practiced to make perfect.

Along the way, Miss Jeanne improved the posture, poise and confidence of her students.

Referring to the chest area below the base of the neck as "the necklace," she instructed ballet students at the bar how to carry themselves erect.

"Show me your necklace," she said.

Instant transformation from the slouch of everyday posture to a graceful pose, dancers breathed in and pressed their shoulders back. This move elevated a dancer's stature and gained Miss Jeanne's coveted approval.

The gift bestowed by the Civic Ballet Board suited the occasion. A gold necklace to commemorate how she has enriched our lives, a delicate strand that sparkles in the light.

As a clasp that links a circle of otherwise disparate lives, scattered now all over the country, Miss Jeanne continues to inspire those who love her because she loved what she did and it showed.

Bravo, Miss Jeanne.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dear Diary

Our recent move unearthed a lot of things that could have or perhaps should have gotten lost or discarded long before now. But the discovery of my diary—which contains a few snapshots of me at ages 11, 14 and 15—transported me to forgotten times, times that if I hadn’t written this stuff down, I would not have believed I was so goofy.

These random ramblings remind me of my intermittent blogging of late, but attest to the fact that I have tried to write about my life for a very long time. Thus I decided to share unfiltered this one sequence of events.

Feel free to relate, critique my writing and laugh out loud. Punctuation, spelling and caps used for emphasis appear close to as written. Squirming, I apologize for all the ampersands since today I cannot permit myself to use text-messaging abbreviations.

U readers R 2 smart 4 that.

This boy is different: Different from any boy I’ve ever liked or loved in my whole life. Really different—

I met him first over Xmas vacation 1964. I can remember the very first day when I saw him, I didn’t expect much because my aunt just told me a real cute boy lived across the street from her. I said to myself—I’ve heard that line before & they’ve all turned out to be ugly pigs.

Monday morning Dec. 28 Joe & Mike [my cousins] & me went over to the school across the street to play basketball. I don’t remember just how “he” was there but Joe went over to “him” & whispered “that’s her.” And I started laughing my head off—like who else could it be? It was funny, I didn’t think too much of him at first, but we did sort of hit it off fast.

I guess it was because his hair all slicked down, he didn’t appeal—OH but does he now—hair slicked down or not.

We walked around sort of dumbfounded looking at each other sneaky like, then finally we got used to each other. Then we skated boarded. He made me have nerve because I hadn’t done it before, but I figured if he could, I could. And I could.

Down a sidewalk hill by the school all cracked—I never once wiped out. He did, but he took it in stride & laughed too. It was funny. We’d get bored of skate-boarding & after lunch we’d come back to the school & play basketball. Joe always bragged how great he was & then I was on Bobby’s team & I’d get the ball away from Joe & Bobby would make fun of him—say “Joel Roe” HA HA HA HA, etc.

One day while we were playing basketball Clayton walked by & Bobby yelled out to him, “What movie star do you think you are today?” It was really cruel as he [Clayton, a man about 40, known by everyone in town] is mentally retarded.

Bobby let me ride his bike while Joe & he played a game of horses. He won of course. He hardly let anyone ride his bike. By the way, he & I won the game of basketball.

John Anderson would come & play sometimes too but we’d still win. Joe & Mike got a tetherball for Xmas & we’d play tetherball, too. I think we only played one game & I won so I’ve always felt guilty & I want the chance for Bobby to beat me. I’ll let him.

That’s most of what happened the first day. That night Joe & I sneaked into the living room & talked about Bobby. I just couldn’t admit to anyone I like him. I didn’t know I did. It was just a challenge to get him to like me. Joe & I found out later that my aunt had been listening to us. Nothing bad had been said except BITCHEN’—but it’s just bad to grown-ups.

The next morning brought about the same patterns of events drawing us closer to each other, though. (I think; I know for me). We went home for lunch & I stood in a daze by the stove & submitted without thought: “I’ve decided. I do like him as a boyfriend.” Also I had this furry little orange necklace & said, “I’ll name it Bobby.”

After lunch we went back to the school to play basketball & blabber-mouths Joe & Mike told him. I tried to deny it but he knew, but it was really good because it caused him to show his feelings more. He blushed though, he’s the type.

Michael got a “GIVE A SHOW” for Xmas & that afternoon I had the brilliant idea to stage a little show. I had some money so I’d buy some KOOL aid & candy. We charged admission, 1cent & then they had to buy the candy. KOOL-AID was free. We invited all the kids across the street: Connie, Mug, James, Calvin, Ruth Ann & of course BOBBY. They all came.

I wore my blue straight skirt & blue shirt. I didn’t look very good, but he like me in spite of it (I think). My aunt & uncle commented when he left how slicked up he was & he was—just the most handsome thing in the world.

Everyone was wild while we showed the films. He showed them some, too, as he has to be top-guy; but he deserves it.

When it was over & they were ready to leave, it was snowing & I went out & ran down the street as I love snow so much. He walked out and talked to me. When I went back in the house, I heard popping. I peered out the door-window & it was him shooting fire crackers. I like to think it was for me. My aunt & Uncle told me to quit as it would seem I was chasing him. So I went into Joe & Mike’s room & watched in the dark. It was wonderful. And I knew in my heart it was for me!

The morning things got started off bright and early. It had snowed all night & there was lots of snow on the ground. We trudged over to the school to skate-board & we did for a while—then we began to have snow-ball fights & before we knew it, we were throwing [snowballs] at cars going by.

I was the worst. I demanded 2 snow-balls & Bobby made one & Joe the other. I put them in my coat pocket to wait for the next car & look innocent. A lady was in it & she stopped for me because she thought I wanted to cross the street. I told her, No you go on. I had about decided not throw at her. Then she said Thanks & I threw anyway right in her windshield. She went off laughing & I about died laughing myself. We all did. I about died. How could I be so mean?

We continued to throw them. Me doing the most. We threw one at one car but missed, but there were TEENAGERS in it & they stopped & boy did we take off. Bobby had the most nerve. He went back. It was nothing because they were stopping because of something else. But we were sure scared.

Later on John Anderson & his friends came over & raided us with their squirt guns. They shot at everyone but Bobby, because even though he’s smaller he could beat everyone of them up. Besides he was on their side. They got bored and left.

After lunch we came back for more. Traffic had died down some so we just skate-boarded. Little by little, the gang died down. I didn’t notice it. Mike went off with Calvin. James got tired & left, & I think Joe left on purpose.

But suddenly we were all alone. We talked. We talked about different things, school, grades, friends, my trips, etc. It was marvelous. He con’d to skate-board & I stood there praising him.

All I could see was how beautifully handsome he was. The most beautiful eyes in the world. Blue, Blue, Blue surrounded by coal black eyelashes—maybe not coal black but against those BLUE eyes they might as well be. Though nothing really spectacular happened, it was the most wonderful time of my life!

I got home late for dinner and walked in, in sort of a daze. And Unc teased me, said I’ve got a boyfriend.

I guess I dreamed of him the whole time I was there.

The next day we didn’t do too much. We were shadowed all day, everyone making fun.

On my last day, I came out dressed to go to the airport & he talked to me before I left. He talked about writing to me, but I was such a fool. I hate myself for it [telling him not to write].

We walked around the yard & Unc came out & went to talk to his dad (Bobby was right there on his bike). Unc said he was going to take me to the airport & Mr. Carothers said, “Bobby will ride her there on his bike” or words to that affect. We were both utterly embarrassed & I thought that was cruel.

When we got in the truck to leave, he was standing out in the yard with James, & he put his arm up to his forehead & waved. I returned the wave. Auntie said quit that & I said he waved first. That’s our own private little wave good-bye.

If only I could have stayed longer I’d know for sure the answer to all my questions.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Apple Pie Season

My grandson asked me to bake an apple pie for his birthday. You think you know something until time to use what you think you know. Like which apple makes the best apple pie?

As soon as I started peeling Gala apples, I thought, this apple will turn to mush when baked. So I went on a search, not to my revered cookbooks, but to the net.

Here's 2 sites that offered timely help:

I've already made the crust, so now it's off to the store for better apples.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Toffee Torte

It occurred to me late in the process to take pictures. Maybe next time I will think to show the steps … and the mess. But this cake is worth the extras.

A recipe for Toffee Torte, adapted to make it my own, or as my daughter says, "I strayed." I usually do.

2 2/3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 c. softened butter
1 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. cocoa
2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs
[recipe calls for 2 t. instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 c. boiling water but I used espresso from a coffee maker and added water to equal 1 cup]

10 Skor or Heath bars, or use a bag of the crushed toffee for between layers and 2–3 crushed candy bars for the top of cake
2 cups whipping cream, whipped
1/2 t. coffee granules in 1/2 teaspoon water (optional; I use strong coffee that has cooled)
3 T. light brown sugar

Grease and flour 2 cake pans, 9" round or as pictured, square.

If you dare, use 3 8" pans and cut each layer so that you will have a total of 6 layers. I have done this, and the cake is a lot harder to handle.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with buttermilk. Then add slowly the 1 c. boiling water/coffee and beat on medium for 2 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees until cake tests done (springs in the middle), about 25-30 minutes.

When cake has cooled completely, slice layers in half.

Next beat whipping cream. Add the teaspoon of coffee, then continue mixing, adding 1 T. of brown sugar at a time, beating until stiff.

Place first layer of cake, top side down. Frost with whipped cream and then sprinkle generously with toffee bits. Repeat, ending with top side up of second layer. Whipped cream covers a multitude of mistakes, even uneven layers:)

Frost the sides of cake with the Chocolate/coffee icing first, and then put the remaining whipped cream mixture on top. Cover with crushed toffee candy.

Here's where I change things up. Instead of frosting the whole cake with whipped cream, I make a chocolate/coffee icing.

Frosting for sides of cake:
3 T. melted butter
3 T. cocoa
dash of salt
3 T. half and half
3 T. strong coffee
4 + cups of powdered sugar, blend until consistency for spreading

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Yum. And if you have left-over cake, be sure to put it back in the fridge. You can eat it for breakfast.

Made for special friends on a special occasion, I decided to use my square cake pedestal. But round works, too.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Julia Child inspired me to cook breakfast.

My first effort:

Now how hard was that?

I didn't get the giggling, flipping part down. My husband said Julia probably practiced a hundred times, a reference to the onion scene in the movie, Julie & Julia. She was obsessed, and I love her for it.

I forgot to add the parsley, but the omelette was light and tasty and my husband didn't even add picante sauce.

The incredible, edible egg–Julia style.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

As the Dryer Tumbles

In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen. And it hardly ever rains in Lubbock, America.

Greeted by the sound of thud-thud-thud coming from the laundry room as I walked in the back door, my daughter’s face told a story before the words came out.

“The twins left their tennis shoes outside. Both pairs.”

The rest of the story: It rained overnight. Older brother, Dax, had gone searching this morning with a flashlight. He found 7 of the 8 tennis shoes, two pair by the trampoline and the other pairs by the riding toys.

Thud-thud-thud. Hard to keep from laughing.

Since their dad is out of town for Corporate Convention, I had come to help with morning routine.

You may know the drill, the frenzied hurry up and eat and dress and get your lunch box and jacket and backpack and out the door by 7:35 am.

The older children have to be at school by 8:00, the twins by 9:00 (same location across town), and the mother at her Bible study Leader’s meeting by 9:15.

Oh, and Dax had to turn in a special project, a 5-foot crane on wheels that his dad helped him build. But Mom had to get it out of the car, in the building, up the elevator and to the classroom.

Harrowing hardships hardly happen when both parents are at home.

Finding a Church

I posted a blog on today.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Fair to Remember

Last Friday, I entered this picture of Mt. McKinley in the Amarillo Tri-State Fair. I still get goosebumps thinking about our flight in a small plane and the miracle of seeing the mountain at all, much less capturing this image. Mt. McKinley in Alaska is the tallest peak in North America.

The judge awarded a 2nd place ribbon; prize money gets divided among all entrants. Yippee.

But I also entered in the Portrait category. When my daughter told her husband that the picture of them did not win, he said, "This was not a Fair to remember."

Friday, September 11, 2009

L'chaim or Death

What’s up with this? Nine out of 35 of this week’s NYT Mass-market paperback bestsellers have the word “dead” in the title. Several others allude to death as the subject matter.

One reason this caught my eye has to do with what I read yesterday in Philip Yancey’s book, Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church.

In the chapter about G.K. Chesterton, Yancey writes, “Chesterton himself said that the modern age is characterized by a sadness that calls for a new kind of prophet, not like prophets of old who reminded people that they were going to die, but someone who reminded them they are not dead yet.”

Pow! That bullet whizzed past my head, waking me up.

Back in 2005, when I read Soul Survivor for the first time, I had seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption (1994) on television the night before I came upon this enlightening paragraph. In the margin of my book, I noted what the character played by Morgan Freeman had said.

“Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.”

I was in seminary at the time. I thought I was gonna die. I decided to act on the truth: I'm not dead yet.

So what’s up with this post-modern preoccupation with death in music, movies and books? Can you feel the sadness? Smell the despair? Feel the pain?

Some funereal tone signifying approaching apocalypse threatens to eclipse the light of the message that Chesterton upheld to his own generation. He was jovial, full of life rather than preoccupied with gloomy forecasts.

Writer, philosopher, humorist and Christian apologist, Chesterton sparred with contemporaries George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells and Sigmund Freud to defend the faith. Yancey said, "He took on, in person and in print, anyone who dared interpret the world apart from God and Incarnation."

Chesterton wrote Orthodoxy, which Publisher's Weekly classified as one of 10 "indispensable spiritual classics" of the past 1500 years.

Philip Yancey carried that same light-dispersing torch when he highlighted the life of G.K. Chesterton, a man who understood that “a stern prophet will rarely break through to a society full of religion’s cultured despisers.”


I just read a poem on The Writer's Almanac called "Home by Now."
Its author recounts her move to New Hampshire from NYC, ending with these chilling lines.

… Your friends in the city
say they'll miss you but don't blame you--they
still cringe each time a plane's overhead,
one ear cocked for the other shoe.

Praying there will never be another shoe …

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Why don't she write?"

A few weeks in our new house, built in 1973, most of the boxes have made it out the door. We can park one car in the garage. I should be doing a happy dance.

While I no longer wend my way through manmade canyons, it’s the little foxes that threaten my undoing (cf. Song of Solomon 2:15). My computer working, but I do not. No chunks of time set aside to write. I feel guilty.

In Frankfurt, my husband lived in an apartment across the street from a university named for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—Germany’s counterpart to Italy’s Leonardo Da Vinci. Goethe wrote Faust, which begs the question, did the author consider selling his soul to the devil?

I told my husband that two things hinder me writing fiction. One, I have spent my life determined to tell the truth. He said, “You’re the only person I know who footnotes conversation.”

“That’s right,” I said, “because I want people to know that ideas and words wise and wonderful did not originate with me.”

“So what’s the second reason?”

“You know how I hate to be misunderstood.”

While unpacking boxes in the dining room, I came across a wine bottle that my husband’s friend from Germany had brought for my graduation. A thoughtful gift to encourage me to keep writing, this unique bottle has a 4x3 inch porcelain cameo of Goethe, a keepsake both for its beauty and sentiment.

The Writer’s Almanac spotlighted Goethe this week, and I liked this quote:

“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Looking at its sad appearance who would think that those stiff branches, those jagged twigs would turn green again and blossom and bear fruit next spring; but we hope they will, we know they will.”

The Daily Literary Quote on Google from a couple of days ago, I copied to a sticky-note.

“A creation of importance can only be produced when its author isolates himself; it is a child of solitude.” Goethe.

Solitude. That explains it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy—and he died.

Perhaps you have had the experience, as I have had, of attending a memorial service where the eulogies made you question whether the speakers accurately described the person who had died.

But by devoting 12 minutes, 30 seconds to hear his son, Ted Kennedy, Jr. talk about the person whose politics polarized, stunned and inflamed his opposition—a man who wore the face of the Democratic Party for the past 46 years—the son’s tribute caused a wall of prejudice to crumble.

Son Teddy had bone cancer at age 12. As he described how his father helped him believe that he had a future after having his leg amputated, this story alone made me see a man, not a monster.

Teddy spoke of the hours he spent with his dad preparing for sailing races.

“Why are we always the last ones out on the water?”

“Because the others are smarter and more talented. But we will win because we will work harder than them.”

Teddy, Jr. said that one of the harder lessons his father taught him was how to like Republicans.

His father said, “Republicans love this country just as much as I do.” Edward Kennedy recognized the incredible shared sacrifice involved in public service, Republican or Democrat.

Ted Kennedy, Jr. said that his father loved history, biographies and was a Civil War buff, visiting sites of battles to better appreciate the soldiers’ sacrifice because he “believed that in order to know what to do in the future, you had to understand the past.”

I believe that, too.

The passing of Edward Kennedy telescopes the drama surrounding the Kennedy family, a saga I have watched unfold for most of my life, and his death may signify the end of a political dynasty.

Every eulogy, true or false, reminds me, though, that being loved covers a multitude of sins.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

From a Distance

From so far away that I wondered whether my point and shoot camera (a Canon G10) could record anything, this one picture captured the bride's joy.

As the couple entered their wedding reception, we gathered among guests who this past weekend made the drive to Canadian, where the bride's ancestors first arrived in the Texas Panhandle during the mid-1800's. Those great-great grandparents later settled in Pampa where the bride's parents have lived all of their lives and where we had lived for 25 years.

A serendipitous occasion for my husband and me, we knew two-thirds of the people who attended this lavish event. Like something out of the movie Sabrina, everyone savored a picture-perfect evening that people who live in Dallas or Houston or San Antonio might enjoy 2 times a year--once in the spring and once in the fall. Like ice cream on top of cake, it tasted yummy just being there.

Weddings bring people together from a distance. Back in the Panhandle, traveling a shorter distance to see people we know and love and have missed makes Lubbock feel like coming home.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Consider the Birds

Two weeks, 10 pounds of sugar and about 200 snaps later, these pictures from our vacation in Cloudcroft, NM capture the fascination each of us had with the hummingbirds who every day visited our porch from dawn until nightfall.

Cursory research suggests that hummingbirds remain a few hours from starvation at all times, so I considered syrup-making serious business.

4 cups boiling water to 1 cup sugar, let it cool. Fill feeders.

Consider the birds, how would they fare after we had gone?

Which reminded me when my friend Sheridan said as I instructed her how to avoid the 30-foot tree while backing out of my driveway, "How do I get along without you when you are not with me?"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stick out your tongue

Turns out the movie Ice Age gave Dax the idea to stick his tongue inside the freezer.

Note the chocolate on his face revealing that at this point, he can eat, drink and talk about the incident.

I'm still cringing even as I marvel at the body's ability to heal.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Right off the tip of his tongue

If you ask an 8-year-old why he stuck his tongue in the freezer, don't expect a rational explanation.

"Where did you get that idea?"

"I don't know," he says.

Was he trying to cool off in this 100 degree heat?

And then you think about the bazillion ways boys have of exploring their world.

We don't know how long Dax cried for help before deciding he had to break away, and running in the back door with his tongue bleeding, I was the first to meet this crisis.

After lapping running water for five minutes, a cold rag and Tylenol soothed the tip of his tongue. Oowie.

Anticipating possible dangers challenges the most vigilant parents who wish they could run interference between their offspring and everything that threatens their safety.

Remarkably, Dax had an appointment with the pedodontist this morning who said that it would take two weeks for his tongue to fully heal. Like a bad burn.

So controlling the tongue, I'm reminded, includes not only what we say but where we place this tiny muscle known for its strength.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No Small Feat

Forget the move to Lubbock 8 days ago that demanded of me grit and sweat and long day’s journeys into night. Yesterday a trip to the shoe store to shod the youngest 3 of my daughter’s 4 kids made me think that branding cattle might come easy.

Rope and tie down one boy long enough to slap one foot on the measuring device—there’s one at the ready for right or left foot. Grab a pair of new socks from the display, lace and tie up one foot on the slowest boy, cut that kid loose to hobble around the store to investigate every item within reach of a person 35 inches tall while the other two take a turn choosing or being convinced they like the style they will go home wearing, mother bent at the waist to assist the poor sales person who has to pretend she enjoys her job, and I with my camera capturing chaos. Ta-dah.

So many shoes and so little time. Stickers and a quarter dropped in a gumball machine got us out the door. I can only imagine the calm after our fury.

“Handsome shoes,” one of the twins said as he lifted his foot so I would take a picture. Then he said, as he always does, "See it. See it," waiting for me to show him the viewer.

The feet are small but growing, each step into the next size appears enormous at the time, and the challenge of keeping feet confined to shoes in summer seems futile.

But for a day, every kid wearing a new pair of tennis shoes feels more like Cinderella than a cow branded or a horse shod, and that is no small feat.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

An American Idol Experience

What do you get when you don't get what you want?


That's what I told Rose before she began the American Idol audition process. Although she was not sure she wanted what she sought, we decided beforehand that the trouble was worth the egalitarian experience.

An aphorism that applies when things fail to turn out the way we hope, I had to admit that everyone there had their hopes, if not dreams, of a "golden ticket." American Idol has tapped into a vein of desire in enough people to produce 9 seasons of the number one show in television.

People will stand in lines, sleep in parking lots and come from all parts of the country for the slice of a chance at a recording contract, a glorified emblem of the American Dream. A compressed cattle call audition, typical in New York and L.A., is how I would describe the process. But hey, nobody made anybody suffer for their art.

We can always choose to take with us something that contributes, informs or otherwise enhances subsequent experiences, each forming a portion of our unique stories.

Rose and I sat in the crowd of 10,000, among the first persons to occupy the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium, an experience in itself. Since I cannot foresee myself attending one of the upcoming football season's games, taking pictures inside made my day.

When the towering glass doors opened, sliding and stacked to the sides like a hero sandwich, massive amounts of air conditioning poured into the atmosphere.

Rose said, "That was cool."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Waiting Experience

At 6:30 a.m. yesterday, Rose and I found our way to the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium in Arlington to wait for wristbands so that she can, hopefully, audition tomorrow for American Idol.

I said, "I can't believe there are this many people who think they can sing."

But the huge crowd was well-behaved, and standing in line felt more like waiting to enjoy a ride at Six Flags or Disneyworld rather than the masses crowded into cattle cars or waiting for the gas chambers at Auschwitz, mainly because we had a choice about being there.

So after a couple of hours, all but the last 10 minutes in the swelling heat under a red alert air advisory, we left with two tickets for tomorrow's main event (each contestant can bring only one person with them), wearing paper wristbands that we cannot get wet.

So until tomorrow …