Monday, December 21, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS

McNeil High School Choir
from Round Rock, Texas
What a treat the residents and their families had recently at the assisted living center my friend Jane's mother lives in here in Burnet. A wonderful buffet dinner was served to 150 of us, and we were pleasantly surprised by such a professional presentation of Christmas carols given by these talented high school students. I was taken by surprise, but quickly put my camera on video and got a couple of short versions of their performance that you can go to YouTube and view if you wish:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UlT_d9YqQ8


My grandson Cameron, who is an opera student at LSU, came through Burnet the following Tuesday on his way home to Dallas for Christmas. He had picked up his girlfriend Sarah from school in San Marcos, and delighted this grandmother by stopping by for dinner and a visit. He had seen the videos on YouTube, and informed me that two of his biggest baritone rivals for singing roles at college were formerly from the McNeil High School Choir! He said they must have a very good choir program there.

Back to the Christmas party. Santa traded in his sleigh for a wheelchair to get around in when he dropped by for a visit. The seniors enjoyed his visit as much as their grandchildren and great-grandchildren did! My friend Jane and her husband Joe, her sister Sharon, and niece Gail helped to make a happy celebration for Jane's mother Evelyn, who turned 96 earlier this month.


She and Jane were really enjoying the cupcakes, and the memory lingered on for Jane! Her tongue and teeth were green the rest of the day! This was an especially happy occasion, as Evelyn had been ill the week before, and thanks to Jane's wonderful nursing care at her home, the doctor gave a thumbs up on her health. Jane even learned to give injections so she could give them to her mother twice a day. We all should be blessed with such loving care by one of our children in our "old age".
I cannot leave the image of Jane with a green tongue without letting everyone see what a normal looking, very pretty woman she is! She and her hubby Joe have blessed my life so much this year -- and I am grateful. At right is her mother and sister Sharon.
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If you have noticed the new slideshow at the left of the blog, you can see photos of the glorious event we attended the following night. Main Street Bethlehem is "a Christmas gift from the members and friends of First Baptist Church of Burnet. Begun in 1993, it is an annual event" the first two weekends in December. There is no charge because of the generosity of visitors and others of the community who donate time and money.

The line of people waiting to go through this recreation of a street in Bethlehem at the time of the birth of Jesus stretched for blocks, and it was crowded inside as well. It was the last night of the production, and the weather was great. It was well worth the wait.

This was like stepping back in time. The actors were not only in period costumes, but they stayed "in character" if one tried to talk to them. We mingled with Roman soldiers, shepherds, merchants, shopkeepers and the like, witnessing people being brought before the tax collector, and some even being thrown into "jail"! The innkeeper informed us quickly that there were "no rooms in the inn", but pointed out the strange bright star in the sky and the area on which it shone. We followed the "star", and a hush came over the crowd as we approached a "cave" with the manger scene of Mary, Joseph, and the babe, Jesus. I cannot explain what an experience it was... If you are ever in the hill country at this time of year, you must make an effort to walk the Main Street of Bethlehem.
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This happy, friendly face is another one of my dear, long-term friends who lives in Denton. Her name is Pam Livingston, known by her grandchildren as "GoMo" (God Only Made One). She truly is one of a kind, and an inspiration to so many. I met Pam in the early nineties when she began going to the Unity Church of Denton. Newly divorced, Pam was determined to improve her life. She was on an exercise regimen the military would be proud of! A mother of three beautiful daughters, one still at home at that time, she returned to college and worked nights as a manager of a large hotel. During this time, Pam took up drumming. She not only became a regular around Denton at various drumming circles, but she eventually played the conga drums in a band called "Baloney Moon" (I never did find out where the name came from!) at venues in the Denton and Dallas areas. She also began to play drums at church in the late nineties.

Pam got her degree and went to work for the Denton Small Business Center, where she has remained for over ten years, helping women and men start businesses of their own. Pam is such a positive, supportive personality, she must really be admired by those she assists.

Not satisfied with her many accomplishments, Pam has now branched out into writing children's books! She has started a series of books about a wonderful little character named "Frendoval". Like his creator, Frendoval is truly a friend of all, and the first book published is about his travels around the world and how he discovers all the ways we as humans are "all alike". This is such a beautiful little upbeat book for children of all ages, but especially the little ones. Pam says another one is ready to be published, and I think she told me she has three more in the works.


She tells me a Frendoval website is also in the works.

Circumstances in my life led me and my little dog Fancy to share Pam's home with her and her daughter Chrissy for about six months in 2000-2001. We had such a good time. Every evening we would take turns choosing a CD to do our exercises to. We danced all over her living room and dining room... each making up our steps as we did. I wish I was in that good a shape now! While I was there, we had a wonderful New Year's Eve party for our Unity friends. Memories I will carry with me always. Thank you again, my dear friend, Pam. (GoMo!)

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I am looking forward to sharing an early Christmas celebration this Wednesday with my son Matthew, his wife Amy, and Travis and Kelly. We are sending up prayers for little Kelly, as she began coughing and running fever yesterday. We are surrounding her with light, and know that she will be well in time to perform in her church Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve.

I haven't heard from daughter Carajean and family since they left for their adventure in Mexico. I hope they have someplace (besides the top of a volcano) to spend some quiet time on Christmas Day. And Ashlyn -- Happy Birthday!

Son Craig is in his element with his son Cameron home for the holidays. To have him and Hannah both home for Christmas is one of the best gifts possible.

Dear loved ones.... family and friends, may your Christmas be blessed with more love, peace, and good food than ever! And may your New Year be filled with abundance in all things. I'm signing off for now. I have some gingerbread men to make!




Peace and love to y'all,
Marilyn

Sunday, December 13, 2009

'TIS THE SEASON

By now you all probably have done a little decorating for Christmas and the holidays, and maybe even shopped for those special someones. I thought I did well doing some of my shopping as well as decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving. Then, the weather decided to throw a kink in my plans for getting things done early this year.

I looked forward to moving to the Hill Country, as I thought the climate was so much more temperate than the DFW area or Ballinger. Two days after I moved here, we had a horrendous storm that did a lot of damage to the area. My friends lost many trees on their property... some old oaks that had been there 200 years were severely damaged. I even had a lot of tree limbs scattered in my yard.

That was the last rainfall we had for most of the summer. The drought in this part of Texas, and the lower lake levels were record-breaking, as were the 60+ days of 100+ degree temperatures. Now, we have had more record-breaking temperatures! This time for colder temperatures, earlier than usual. I'm asking myself, "What happened to fall this year?" Houston even had snow last week. That had only happened 34 times in the recorded history of their weather.
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My daughter Carajean, her husband Branch, and their three children are going to join with one of his sisters, her husband, and their four children on a wilderness adventure in Oaxaca, Mexico for 10 days before Christmas. The way I understand it, they will be hiking to the top of a volcano in the area, bicycling down the mountain, and finishing their adventure by kayaking. I don't know the exact timing on all of this, but I was so scared as CJ was telling me about this, all I could do was ask how wide the road was and how high the mountain was from which they would descend!

The adventure tour company is the same one who booked their trip to a rainforest in Costa Rica a few years back. They "flew" on cables through the tops of the trees, and also did some white-water rafting on that trip. This is my adventuresome daughter that ended upside down in a ditch when their SUV skidded on ice while returning from a skiing trip in Colorado winter before last! They narrowly missed a dropoff that would have been even more disastrous. (Audrey, Tanner & Ashlyn at right.)

Carajean has always been one to seek out extraordinary thrills! She did not get that attribute from her mother. She frequently suffered the consequences of her forays such as the time she fell out of a tree and broke her arm. She petted a squirrel on the side of our house when she was 6-years old, and got a nasty bite for her curiosity! When she left home and was on her own, one of her girl friends and she took lessons to learn how to sky dive. I was a nervous wreck when it came time for her first (and only) jump. Thank goodness, she came through her jump with "flying" colors, but her friend broke her leg. I know why I get so nervous when she tells me of the next event they are going to experience.

At left is Tanner, straight A student and future tennis pro, as he played a cello solo of La Cinquintain this fall. His mom informed me that he also sings in the honors choir. His choir teacher recently had him do a cello solo, and even sing a solo at a performance they held at a nursing home. This is the young man who was painfully shy and retiring when he was younger. He now loves to perform. His mom did the right thing "making" him practice all those times, even though he protested furiously!

The photo at right is of Tanner and his cousin Race as they dressed for the Cotillion Sock Hop recently. Instead of being "cool" and dressing like The Fonz, they went as "nerds", and each won a gift card for their efforts.

Craig's daughter Hannah made straight As on her report cards this semester at the TAG (Talented and Gifted) school she attends in Dallas. She was not too keen on leaving her old school, and says that this one is "hard". Can't be too hard for this bright little girl or she wouldn't be making all As! She really enjoyed spending time with big brother Cameron when he was home for Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Cameron, he leaves tomorrow to go home for the Christmas holidays. He wrote me the following:

"I got the part of Paris in Gounod's Romeo et' Juliette (he's the jerk that they want Juliet to marry). (A spring production at LSU) ..it's the French operatic version of the play and the music is beautiful. While it's not a huge part, I still have a bit of solo singing I'll get to do and I'm flattered to even get a part considering it's mainly grad students who will be alongside me." (Cameron is a sophomore this year.)

I asked about his grades this semester:

"As far as grades go, it's been a rough semester overall but I had a really strong finish. Because music stuff was over, I actually had time to study for my finals and managed to get As on all of them so I should be finishing with a 3.8 for this semester (I think it's good enough to get me on the Dean's list again)."

Needless to say, this has Cameron's parents and grandparents popping their buttons, we're so proud! His cousin Audrey, who is attending SMU hasn't checked in with me yet and given me a report on her grades.
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Ashlyn (at right) made 7th chair violin in the Regional Orchestra this year. (Yay, Ash!) She loves athletics, and plays both volleyball and basketball, as well as making straight As! It's hard to believe this young lady will be 14 years old in a few days! The beautiful gown she's wearing was for her role as a bridesmaid at a recent wedding. She may not be a tomboy much longer from the looks of this photo!
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Yesterday, I attended a fun Christmas dinner and party at the assisted living center in which my friend Jane's mother lives. Delicious food (and desserts) and great music by McNeil High School Choir from Round Rock, Texas. These teenagers were dressed in custom made period costumes, complete with hoop skirts, top hats and tails, and really knew how to entertain a crowd. I will post photos from this party in my next blog.

Tonight, Jane and Joe and I went to see "Main Street Bethlehem" on the grounds of the First Baptist Church. I will upload the pictures I took at that event and post them closer to Christmas. This was an amazing recreation of the town of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus's birth.
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Recently my grandson, Travis, made an excursion of a lifetime (to me) with his Cub Scout troop to spend the night on the U.S.S. Lexington, docked at Corpus Christi. His dad, Matthew, went along. He said there were 500 Cub Scouts on board that night. A large portion of the ship is now a museum, but most of it is kept as it was when still in use. It originally had 5,000 sailors on board! Matthew said they pretty much had the run of the ship, and he and Travis were down in one of the engine rooms late at night, after most of the scouts had gone to sleep -- in the original bunks with the same 40-year-old mattresses! It's a good thing they all brought sleeping bags to place on top of the mattresses. Matt said there was only about 18 inches between bunks, and the bunks were stacked three deep! I'm too claustrophobic to have enjoyed even a couple of hours in one of those. I can't imagine being at sea for sometimes 6 months at a time, and having to endure those conditions!

The last time Travis was here for a visit, he read a book to me. The book said "Level 3", and he informed me he could read a "Level 20".. Hmmm. He never missed a word, though. I was very impressed with his skill, and I told him so.

While Travis and his dad were in Corpus, his mommy and little sister Kelly were having a good time at a Christmas party in Houston with grandparents.

Here's Miss Kelly in her pretty new Christmas dress!

More updates in my next blog post. I've fallen behind due to some minor physical problems with my hands. In the meantime, a lot of things happened in my family. Let me hear what's been happening in yours!

Get ready for Christmas.... Santa Claus is coming to town!

Peace and love to all,

Marilyn

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A TIME TO GIVE THANKS

Recently, on one of the morning shows, I watched an interview of the author/newspaper columnist Mitch Albom. You may remember his books Tuesdays with Morrie and the five people you meet in heaven. (Both wonderful books. I bought Tuesdays With Morrie for all my sons to read. I highly recommend both.) Albom has written a new book about the time he has spent with the aging rabbi of his youth. Although he professes to not being a religious man anymore, Albom captures the wisdom of this old man to share with us. The title of this new book is Have a Little Faith.

I haven't read the book yet, but I was intrigued by the interview. I found the little pearl of wisdom the rabbi left as he was on his deathbed to be so simple, yet so profound. It is nothing we haven't heard before, but I think that at this time of year -- and in these difficult economic times -- it is a gentle reminder we can all be blessed to hear again.

When asked about the secret of being happy in this life, the old rabbi told Mitch, "Be satisfied."

Those two words stand out in my memory. It is something that we are constantly being told to ignore by the commercial world around us. From early childhood, the media is programming us to want more or bigger or better. In fact, as we get older, we are often made to feel guilty if we don't want more or bigger or better. We are sometimes made to feel lazy or inadequate or somehow lacking if we are not constantly striving to improve ourselves or our lives. "Lack of ambition" is often akin to a moral handicap!

I'm sure I sound like this is a sore point with me, and I do speak from personal experience. I was made to feel inadequate during all my growing up years. From my looks, to my grades in school, to my achievements.. I never seemed to measure up to my parents' expectations. And as I suffered one failure after another, I began to believe the worst about myself.

At one point in time, I began learning to be my own cheerleader, acknowledging the small things I accomplished or acquired. Maybe not much in the eyes of the world, but the little baby steps I took were satisfying to me! This doesn't mean I quit trying to improve my lot in life, just that I took so much more pride -- and pleasure in where I was in life at the moment, and what I already had acquired, no matter how menial the job or simple my surroundings.

A good friend of mine from Unity shared a little phrase she used when she was tempted to buy something beyond her means, "Just because a thing is beautiful, doesn't mean I have to own it!"

So many beautiful things in this world cannot be owned, but are there for our enrichment and joy. I do not have to list all the wonders of nature that surround us. And those of us who have children and grandchildren know the experience of great love and gratitude when we look into the faces of our loved ones, and know we brought them into this world and feel blessed by their presence. Good friends also give more meaning to our lives. Our treasures are in the heart.

This Thanksgiving, we might feel gratitude for having employment or good health. For having family or friends in our lives to share a meal with. More than anything, to have a home in which to celebrate and feel safe. We can see pictures daily of the war-torn countries.. of children who are displaced and perhaps starving. As imperfect as it seems at times, we still live in the greatest country in the world.

And "I'm satisfied"... Happy Thanksgiving!

Peace and love,Marilyn

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ETC., ETC.

The following was sent to me by my former classmate, Dottie (Bishop) Rogers. Dottie lost two sisters this past winter, both passing away on the same day. As if that were not shock enough, less than six months later I got an email that Dottie's dear sweet husband Grady had died from complications of shingles. He had been battling more than one ailment, including skin cancers, for a long time and his system just couldn't take anymore. Dottie's strong faith has seen her through many tragic losses through the years, and she remains a happy, fun-loving woman. I want to share what she recently wrote to me -- proof that for some people, 70 is the new 60 -- or even 50! She wanted me to assure our mutual friends that she is doing well, and planning to move back to Arizona to be near her children and grandchildren. The townhouse she is considering is on a golf course! One of Dottie's favorite activities used to be golf. Now she can take that up again... and I'm certain she will! You can pretend the eye patch is part of your Halloween costume this year, Dottie! Ahoy there, mate! (But here's wishing you a speedy recovery.)

"I just returned from a lengthy trip to New Jersey to be with my only remaining sister (the oldest of our clan of 5 girls) on her 86th birthday. My trip .. was a hoot! From my quiet little village of Midland, Texas I was thrust into a large Italian family, fed pasta for at least ten more pounds on my already plump body, was in two large traffic jams in Manhattan, gambled in Atlantic City and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, danced the night away in a sports bar where my nephew's band was playing, and was attacked by a lovable pit bull in the middle of the night when my door was left ajar. Scared me to death! But...he was only interested in licking lotion from my arms and giving me a kiss goodnight. They all scream, yell, drink, and eat but are a wonderful full family that cares deeply for my sis and her husband (age 90) who are the monarchs. I returned home on Monday with a full blown case of Bell's Palsy. The left side of my face is paralyzed and I must wear an eye patch because I cannot blink that eye. Just call me Captain Hook!!! I'll survive, but I won't allow any pictures...

I reread your blog and it was wonderful, as usual. I had to laugh because just over my desk is a picture of John Nance Garner and my husband's grandfather at a Democratic rally in Greenville, Texas, when he was stumping for President Roosevelt. It is great, with the sacks of grain and homemade sign saying "DEMOCRATIC HEADQUARTERS". Grady's grandfather was the representative from Hunt County during the 30s. Small world, huh?"
...Dottie
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I wish to thank everyone who responded to a couple of the recent blog posts. The short story drew lots of good, constructive comments that I forwarded to my friend, the author. She said they really helped her a lot. I'm hoping she will submit that story or write something new to be published soon. I will inform you when that happens.

Most of the Scooby Doo responders were pretty adamant that I was not going to be able to do much about the Great Danes other than turn my neighbors in to Animal Control, or as Vince suggested, I could do as a character in one of his favorite books did to a dog who was killing his livestock. I could shoot it and bury the body in my back yard! (The book was Hardscrabble Times, I think. I tried to check it out at our library - just to see how the rancher handled it, but they didn't have a copy.) Needless to say, this advice is my least favorite, but there is a funny coincidence here... the neighbor's husband's name is Vince as well.

Someone else suggested I "make friends" with the dogs by giving them dog biscuits. Not only would that encourage them to come "visiting" more often, but I don't think their digestive systems need more to dispose of! I did find that if I can get to the water hose in time, when I see Jade in my yard, just the sight of the hose makes her run home! She hates water! The sweet little wife, who does most of the cleaning up after the dogs, told me they were going to fence the yard. We'll see. In the meantime, Piper (above) spent a miserable weekend with rain making a giant mud puddle of her pen and the tin roof leaked water into her little shelter. I was on the verge of calling someone, when the neighbors came home and let her out to dry off on a covered porch.
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As for the killing of animals and the mounting of trophies, I got a lot of sympathetic replies, but no answers that were really suitable for publishing or telling my grandson. A couple of them might explain it to him somewhat, but I feel he will have to be much older than his 11 years to understand that some folks take great pride in showing off what they have killed. For this type of hunter it's like saying, "Look at this great big scary bear (or mountain lion, etc.) I killed. Doesn't this make me big and powerful in your eyes?" (Thanks to Jack for that observation.) And one that surprised me was from another former classmate, Jimmy, who wrote about one of the football players in high school catching a bobcat, getting pretty torn up in the process, and swearing he was going to tame it. According to Jimmy, this guy did it "to impress the girls!"

That reminds me of the one and only "coon hunt" I was taken on while in high school. This was a group of FFA boys and their dates. The "hunt" was led by their AG teacher. I was as excited as everyone when the dogs started baying and racing through the mesquite woods, indicating they had a raccoon on the run. We seemed to run after them forever, finally ending up with the dogs having treed the raccoon. As I caught up with the chaotic, noisy bunch of dogs and boys, I saw the raccoon in the tree. It was terrified, and I immediately felt sorry for it. I asked what they were going to do next. When I was told that the dogs would be allowed to kill it, I wanted to go home -- NOW! I started crying and I did not stay to view the "kill". It all seemed so unfair and cruel to me. As I got older and read about fox hunts, I felt I had participated in something cruder, but similar... and it was definitely not for me! I did not consider it a "sport" at all. I don't think I ever went out on a date with that boy again. For that matter, he probably never asked me!

As I remember stories such as this from my youth, I wonder if I passed on something in the gene pool to my children and grandchildren who are not into killing animals. But then again, I think the consciousness of the planet is being raised bit by bit. A kindler, gentler human race? I hope so. I see some indications of this, don't you?

If you'd like to make a comment, just go to the end of this post and click on "comments".

Peace and love,
Marilyn

Thursday, October 8, 2009

MINE'S BIGGER THAN YOURS

(This one is for my grandchildren.)

While in Dallas for my sister's memorial last month, my son Matthew wanted us all to go to dinner with his best friend from junior high school and his family. We loaded up in two cars and met them at a restaurant Matt had heard had excellent food. Upon entering the restaurant's foyer, we came face-to-belly button with a stuffed grizzly like the one above. It was HUGE - at least 8 feet tall. I was first in line and as I stumbled past it and took a step up into the restaurant, I saw that the walls were covered in stuffed animal trophies of all kinds. I turned to look behind me and noticed my grandson Tanner was visibly upset, and trying to keep from looking at the walls. His mom Carajean was trying to console him. It took a moment for it to register with me that he was upset about all the animals people had killed. This is my tender-hearted little vegan, who probably has never been exposed to any kind of killing or violence in his life. If he has, it might have been on a video game or TV show -- make-believe. The dinner was ruined for some of us, and Tanner didn't eat a bite. As we left, I held on to him and told him to do nothing but look at the floor where he put his feet until we were outside. Later, I wished I had had the presence of mind to try to explain why people put "trophies" up. Then I realized that I didn't have a good explanation. Why do people continue to hunt animals and display them? This Grandmama came up with the following story by piecing together what little I know about evolution and the history of mankind.

We all know of a time when man was forced to kill or be killed by the predators roaming the earth. Not only for the protection of his family and tribe, but for the food provided by the animals when there was no edible vegetation available. The pelts, of course, were also beneficial as clothing and bedding. Men were the hunters, protectors, providers. Women were the gatherers, nurturers, and child-bearers. These traits of males and females were ingrained in humans and remain so until the present time. Men were aggressive -- even war-like, by necessity. Now, though, we all agree that killing animals in the wild is not a necessity. So why do people do it?

I suppose the "killer instinct", or aggression, is still so ingrained in men that it must be released in some fashion. Some men accomplish this by playing contact sports. Others go to war to feel justified in killing. And then others hunt wild animals. I hear all kinds of reasons for hunting. Some say that the deer population would get so out of hand that many deer would starve if hunters didn't keep them killed off. Others tell me that the deer leases that so many ranchers now have allow them enough income to stay in the business of ranching when times are tough. Most of them have agreed with me that the ones who kill only for the "prize"... the huge rack from the deer... the stuffed head for their fireplace... those are the ones to be frowned on. Many mutilated deer were left by the side of the road in West Texas. Shot, their antlers cut off, then the body left to decompose. Now that's sad.

Men are notoriously competitive, and therefore, I believe that's why they want to hang their trophies from their kills for all to view. "Mine is bigger (or better or rarer or scarier) than yours!" Some people still stuff and mount the fish they catch. I was surprised when my son Matthew told me he had joined a bass fishing club in Austin a few years back. As a scuba diver, he learned to love the underwater creatures. When I expressed my surprise, he told me his fishing club was known as a CPR club. Catch, Photograph, and Release! Ahhh. Now that makes sense. If only we could somehow prove that the hooks don't hurt the fish when they are caught!

Come on, all you hunters and nonhunters! Help me out here. Give me more information to pass on to my grandchildren who don't believe in killing animals. Pros or cons.

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Speaking of bears... When I was growing up, I was in awe of my maternal grandfather's second wife, Neva. She was a perfect match for my granddad.. a tough, brave lady. In his younger years, Granddad broke horses for the forest rangers in northern California, and was gone frequently. During one of his absences, the story goes, Neva killed a bear in their back yard, skinned it, and had bear steaks in the freezer when he returned! This story stuck with me, and when I was in my 40s, I wrote to Neva and asked her about it. I had always envisioned her protecting her little children against a "big monster" of a bear! I told her she was a heroine in my eyes all those years. She wrote back in typical Neva fashion, "Oh, Marilyn, it was just a little bear!!"

Granddad was 78 when these pictures were taken. She was the love of his life! It was a sure thing that he knew his family was safe with her tending the home fires.

May the grizzly in your life be "just a little bear"!

Peace,
Marilyn

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU?

JADE

Scooby-Doo, Great Danes, and Nonresistance. Think they have nothing in common? I'm here to tell you they do! Having moved here in June, I have found so much to be delighted with that I could not believe I would let two wonderful dogs spoil my peace of mind. But until the last two or three days, that's exactly what was happening.

You see, next door to me, along with a couple of adorable little "all boy" boys there live two Great Danes. Jade is the reigning queen of the family and is around nine years old; quite old for a Great Dane I'm told. You can see by her grizzled muzzle that she is showing her years. The family decided to get a "pup" to train in her place, should she decide to depart. Enter Piper. Piper was somewhere around nine months of age when I moved here and had been banished to the pen outside my bedroom window until she "learned to behave" inside the home. How she was supposed to learn to do that when penned up I wasn't told. In the meantime, Jade sleeps indoors at night, and is allowed to stay in the front yard, free to roam at will during the daytime.

When the children are out playing, Jade is having a great time with them, while Piper barks and whimpers from her fenced-in prison. She stands a good head and shoulders taller than the enclosure, and I know it's only a matter of time when she will be up and out of there lickedy split! I am secretly rooting for this day! The pen is too small and usually too nasty for any animal to have to stay in, much less a Great Dane. The sun beat down on it when we suffered so many brutal 100+ temperatures this summer, it gets muddy when it rains, and I cannot imagine the little tin lean-to being much in the way of shelter in a cold winter.

My first indication of problems was when I kept having to fill the small birdbath I put in my front flower bed. I hadn't noticed many birds in the front yard as the bird feeder is in the back, so where was the water going? One day I happened to look out and see this miniature "horse" in the flower bed lapping up every drop of birdbath water. As it was hot, and no one was home at her house, I felt sorry for Jade, and watched her mosey back towards her own yard. Then, to my surprise, she stopped and left a big pile of poop for me on my side of the fence! That evening I pointed it out to my neighbor and she acted very surprised, saying Jade usually never left their yard! She promptly cleaned it up.

Next, my neighbors took a four-day vacation and left both Great Danes in the one small pen. Jade barked the entire first night they were gone, and of course, Piper joined in! This is right outside my bedroom window, so I could not ignore them. I was up and down all night with a flashlight, certain there must be some kind of wild animal roaming in the yards. To make this "vacation" even more unbearable for me, a friend of my neighbors came over to feed, water, and exercise the dogs. She brought her own large dog, too, and let them run and play for a couple of hours. It was after they left that I discovered all three dogs used my front yard for a bathroom!

After reminding my neighbors of the doggy deposits in my yard three or four times, it got to the point that they now avoid me. I let my anger simmer, and even looked up the City Ordinance on animals and found they were in violation of almost every single point of the ordinance. What to do? I know I will be living here for many good years, and I don't wish to have conflict with neighbors over anything. One day recently I noticed Jade back in my yard -- right outside my front door. I had long since moved the birdbath to keep her away, but there she was. When I opened the door, she faced me and started barking in the deep, woof-woof sort of way she has. I kept telling her to go home, and she kept woofing at me. I stepped outside the door, thinking I might get the water hose (I know she hates water), when I heard a deep, rumbling growl coming from this beloved family pet! I stopped in my tracks. We glared at each other. Jade just squatted and peed right there on my front stepping stone, then took her time going back home.

I obviously am not going to turn my new neighbors in to Animal Control, and they obviously don't want to believe that their beloved pet doesn't mind them in the least, so I have had a couple of really sleepless nights wondering what to do. I finally had the theory of nonresistance pop into my head. What if I stop being angry and just send love to these animals and young family? What will happen? Will my yard eventually look like a barnyard full of excrement? Will I have to resort to cleaning it myself? I sometimes think that Jade must have something against me and this is her way of punishing me! Maybe if I start smiling and praising her when I see her instead of running her off my property, she will like me again.... You think?

In the meantime, Scooby-Doo, where are you? These two Great Danes could use a good role model and mentor!

I wish you poodles living next door!
Marilyn

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A SHORT STORY

Have you ever had a gut feeling that you need to do something important, but you aren't sure if it will turn out all right? I know a precious young woman, like a daughter to me, who is badly in need of a boost to her self-esteem. This woman is a gifted writer, but doesn't believe in her ability. Here is an example of her talent. I know you "guys" won't be interested in this... I promise to do a "guy story" next time... or at least one you can read through without embarrassment or boredom. At the end of the story, I close with a cute little anecdote of my granddaughter Kelly.

Ladies (or guys), after you've read this, please give me some positive feedback I can share with this dear friend to give her encouragement, and the knowledge that she DOES have something to offer the world. One never knows when something as simple as praise can turn someone's life around, and give them hope for the future.

SALVATION
(Copyright by an anonymous author)

Aunt Cece comes to my wedding and sits next to my mother on the satin-covered bench in the dressing room. In the mirror, I am watching my mother who is watching a blank wall. The light in the room is dim, and the warm air smells of the gardenias in my bouquet. She speaks to my mother, who turns her head in the direction of her voice, but is unable to tell where exactly Aunt Cece is standing.

“Oh, Cece, I didn’t know you were here,” says my mother loudly, as Cece squeezes next to her on the narrow bench. My mother’s hand gropes, unseeing, for Cece’s shoulder. “Did you have trouble getting here?” Aunt Cece sighs.

“Waaay - uul,” she says, drawing the word into two syllables. “You know, we had to wait on those people that was wantin’ to buy the store.”

At the sound of her voice, my shoulders slump. I watch her reflection as she talks softly with my mother. I adjust the lily of the valley on my satin cap. It looks like antennae. I bob my head up and down to see if the cap will stay on. My sister snickers and mimics me, exaggeratedly. I fix her with my eye in the mirror, not smiling. She looks down, starts humming to herself, then turns away and reapplies lipstick to her already pink lips.

I am wearing a bustier, garter belt and stockings, tap panties and a full-length slip, all in a carefully coordinated champagne hue. My stockings are studded with miniature bridal bells, and my dyed satin pumps have peach shoe clips from which tiny strands of artificial flowers sprout helplessly.

“Well, look at you, Georgia,” Cece remarks. “Hmmm.” “All grown up now.” She cocks her head to the side and looks me up and down. “Hard to believe you’re the same girl that dressed up in my hats, and crossed your eyes and stuck out your tongue for them pictures.” Her voice is breathy and trembles slightly now with age.

I feel naked standing before her and turn to unzip the pink plastic cover from my dress. I slip my wedding gown on quickly, catching the diamond solitaire of my ring on the lace. Aunt Cece steps behind me and pulls out the train, and then zips up the back of my dress. I watch her eyes in the mirror. She has an amused, tight little smile on her lips. “Turn around,” she says, and waves her small, plump hand at me.

I turn for her, trying not to step on the train, but do anyway. “You’re swaybacked, honey,” she pronounces, a flaw I had not known about. “Stand up straight.” I turn and look down at my backside, and begin sweating. I fan my face with both hands, fearing my makeup will run. My mother smiles blankly, at nothing in particular. Aunt Cece crosses her arms under her considerable chest.

“’Member the last time you was at my house?” Cece doesn’t wait for my reply. “Didn’t wanta go to Sunday school; didn’t even wanta go fishin’ no more,” she tells my mother, turning towards her. “She wanted to go off to the rodeo with this little gal whose mother had run off and left her.” Cece fusses with the back of my dress, which seems not to hang as crisply at it had an hour before.

“Dusty was her name.” I remembered aloud. “You wouldn’t let me go with her.” I had spent one afternoon at Dusty’s house, and for some reason, Aunt Cece never let me go back.

“That girl’s father was a drunkard.” Cece says firmly to my mother, nodding. She steps back to the bench and sits next to my mother again. She leans towards her and straightens my mother’s corsage, which lists to the side and looks like a large fried egg. She pulls it gently by its net bow. “Who’d y’all get to do your flowers?” she asks, without expecting an answer.

When my sisters and I were little, we spent summers with Aunt Cece. She had closets stuffed with dresses, shoes, purses and hats from various decades. She took pictures of all three of us dressed in her clothes with a Polaroid camera. In the photos, my sisters are posed in various glamorous model-stances, while I am blowing bubbles with my gum, crossing my eyes or sticking my tongue out. One afternoon she took us shopping in Corsicana, and bought us each the nicest dresses we ever had. After a first-time trip to a beauty parlor, Aunt Cece had a portrait made of the three of us, which is probably the only photograph of me as a child in which I appear somewhat civilized.

She and my uncle drove us to Sunday school, at the small Baptist church she had belonged to for decades. She had a new Cadillac which made me carsick, as opposed to my parents’ humble and rough-riding Volkswagen. The church my sisters and I had sporadically attended in Dallas was the Unitarian church, which Aunt Cece likened to not attending church at all. The Baptist minister, in a vain attempt to bring us into his fold, asked us to illustrate the posters for vacation bible school. He claimed that he needed good artists, and since our father was an artist, he was sure we would make the best posters the church had ever seen. My sisters and I, not knowing what else to do, drew huge exaggerated crosses and bibles all over the posters. We didn’t realize that we might have added some non-secular illustrations to make them more appealing to children.

I loved the afternoons when Aunt Cece took us cane fishing at the stock tank. We wore straw hats, shorts and sneakers, which Aunt Cece called “tennie shoes. I learned to catch grasshoppers and bait my hook with them instead of the slow-moving worms from the bait store. The fish preferred the grasshoppers, especially if they were still hopping when I dropped them into the muddy water. The rhythmic sounds of cicadas and our whispers were the only sounds that punctuated those hot afternoons, as we knew the fish wouldn’t bite when we were talking. Although Aunt Cece tried all summer long to make God-fearing, well-dressed Christian young ladies out of us, the only thing I became really proficient at was catching fish.

The last summer I was there, I was fourteen and restless in the little grocery store she and my uncle owned. I brooded when older black people came into the store and called her “Miz Henderson,” and she called them by their first names. I walked up and down the aisle, irritated, straightening cans and bottles of condiments. When I walked back behind the meat counter and reached into the cooler for a bottle of Dr Pepper, I could feel her bright brown eyes, behind her glasses, examining me. “Don’t you have any brassieres?” she asked me, looking at my chest.

My face flamed. I looked sideways at my uncle, ashamed she had asked me in front of him. He didn’t look at us, just took out a roll of luncheon meat and set in on the meat cutter. “I don’t like them,” I snapped. After begging for a bra all through sixth grade, I had stuffed mine in the back of the closet and wore only jeans, old oversized shirts and an occasional pair of faded, baggy overalls. I was not going to be a lady. I refused to wear makeup or roll my hair the way the hateful, two-faced drill team girls at my school did. I could never get it to look right, anyway, and I abandoned my hot rollers in favor of a frizzy, blow-dried Janis Joplin hairstyle.

Aunt Cece crossed her arms and tilted her head towards me. “Georgia, you need a bra. You’re too old to go without one. I want you to go on down to Ms. Loller’s and get you one. I’ll call her and tell her what you need.” She walked towards the phone which hung above the freezer on the wall. The meat cutter thumped and shuddered as my uncle switched it on. She refused to discuss it any further, and instead began talking on the phone with Hillie Loller, who ran Wortham’s only clothing store. I bolted out of the store to avoid hearing what I knew she would say about me, out onto the hot sidewalk. I stood under the metal awning, crossed my arms and stared out into the street. The white summer sun blanched the few cars that were parked there. I was the only person outside in the mid-afternoon heat.

I don’t have to, I told myself. She can’t make me. But I didn’t have the courage to defy Aunt Cece to her face. I marched angrily towards the dress shop at the end the block that was the entire downtown. I shoved open the door and a little bell tied to the door handle tinkled. Miss Loller was waiting behind the counter for me. She had stiff, sprayed hair and wore a lime green sleeveless polyester pantsuit.

“Well, Cece was sure right. You sure do need a bra. You can see right through that blouse. Come on back here, honey,” she said, not hesitating to direct me to the dressing room.

I couldn’t speak. She handed me several bras and led me to a curtained cubicle. I hesitated, and then took off my blouse, making sure she had pulled the curtain closed. I unhooked the first bra and spent several minutes trying to hook it in the back. Eventually I gave up and turned it around, biting my lip while fastening it in the front. It felt terrible – stiff and pointy. I could hardly breathe and the straps were scratchy. Each one felt worse than the last. Miss Loller’s voice asked through the curtain, “How’d we do, honey?”

“They’re too tight,” I said, irritably.

“I’ll get a larger size, but you’re not that big.” she added helpfully. I listened to her walk away, her pantsuit making little scuffing noises as she walked.

She came back humming “Trust and Obey,” and poked some more bras through the curtains. I grabbed the bras, trying to cover my breasts with my arms.

I hated those bras, too. I put my shirt back on and walked out of the dressing room. Miss Loller was rearranging some dresses near the front of the store, singing in an annoying voice, “For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” I loathed that hymn, remembering how the older women in church hit screechy shrill notes in the middle of that verse.

I looked through the lingerie until I saw a lacy bra in black. I pulled it off the rack and felt the soft, stretchy fabric. It had no hooks or complicated straps. Behind the black bra was a red one. I grabbed the red bra and high-tailed it back to the dressing room. I pulled my shirt off quickly and slipped it on. It felt soft and smooth and didn’t cut my shoulders or bind my ribs. I smiled at myself in the mirror, triumphant.

When I handed it to Miss Loller across the counter, without a word, she stared at it. “Well, honey, this will show through your blouse. It will show though everything, unless you’re wearing something dark.”

“I don’t care. It’s the only one that fits. It’s the one I want.” We both knew that was the only bra she’d be ringing up for me.

“Well, I just don’t know.” She touched her chin with her hand and shook her head. The little chains on her bifocals jiggled. I added another item to my list of things I would never wear. She sighed and looked at her register and began writing on her little ticket pad. “But you can bring it back. You’re not going to be able to wear it with much.”

I brought my purchase back to the store, and waited for Aunt Cece to ask to see it. I guess it never occurred to her I would find something other than a pure white virginal little undergarment. She just nodded at the little paper bag when she saw it. It wasn’t until later that evening that she saw it, when she came into the little guest room I slept in.

“What in the world have you got here?” She picked the bra from my messily made bed by one strap. “A red brassiere?” She seemed truly baffled and, for once, at a loss for words. “I tried,” she said, rather sadly, to herself, and laid the bra back on the bedspread. She walked out and closed the door without telling me “not to let the bedbugs bite” or “remember to say your prayers.” I told myself I didn’t care; she wasn’t going to make me into her.

Aunt Cece pats my mother’s knee and slides off the dressing-room bench and walks to the mirror. She tilts her head towards the mirror and smoothes the sides of her hair. Behind her, I can see my sister in the mirror, trying not to laugh. We both roll our eyes. “Are you going to church now, with this young man?” Aunt Cece asks, not smiling, and not looking at me.

“Some.” I tell her. We have been to his church and my church one time each, but seem to have no common ground, thus eliminating a possibility of joining either one. Our wedding is at the university chapel, with a rented non-denominational minister I found in a magazine.

Frowning, Aunt Cece looks toward my mother, but decides against saying anything regarding our heathen big-city ways. My mother’s head is still turned towards Cece. I look back at my sister in the mirror and stick my tongue out and cross my eyes.

“There, she’s still doing it” Aunt Cece smiles. She comes to me and kisses me on the cheek and pats my fanny. “You always made me laugh.” I hug her, hard, tears suddenly aching in my throat. Aunt Cece stops to fuss with my mother’s hair on the way out to the chapel. My mother is startled at first, but then smiles. After Cece leaves, she reaches under the bench for her cane. My sister goes to her and finds it and places it in her right hand, sitting down at the other end of the bench. In the sudden quiet, we can hear footsteps on the marble floor outside the dressing room. The photographer knocks on the dressing room door and tells us it is time to go upstairs.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'll bet each of us knows or has an "Aunt Cece" in our life!
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Speaking of girl things, I have to tell a funny story about the youngest little girl in my family.

As you all know, we recently had a memorial service in Plano for my late sister, Jean. My son Matthew and his family stopped by on their way from Austin to pick me up for the journey. As it was a long drive, the children were asked to take potty breaks before we left my house.

Kelly is at that age (three and a half) where she demands her privacy in the bathroom. This time that included locking the door. When she was ready to come out -- you guessed it, she could not unlock the bathroom door! All the coaxing and instructions given from this side of the door were to no avail. She could not unlock the door!

Time now was of the essence, as there were storms in the area and we needed to be on the road. Matthew showed more patience than any man I know as he sweet-talked his baby girl, while at the same time trying every alan wrench I brought him from my tool box to open the lock. I was approaching with a screwdriver when I heard him sternly say, "No, Kelly! No makeup!" I couldn't help but bend over in laughter! Apparently he had experienced a "makeup event" before! He finally had to remove the entire door handle to retrieve our precious little angel -- sans makeup!

There is nothing like a father's love.

Marilyn

Monday, August 24, 2009

"I THINK that I shall never see..


A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree."...Joyce Kilmer


Remember this one? How many of us had to memorize this lovely little poem in school? It's only as I've grown older that I really appreciate the view through Kilmer's eyes. The magnificent old oak tree pictured here is across the street from me and can be seen from my living room window. A friend of mine had an arborist look at similar ones on her country property, and he said they were in the neighborhood of 245 years old. This one is probably close to 200 years old.
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Many ancient traditions and philosophies in every culture on earth espouse symbolic meanings for forests and trees. As the oak is the mightiest of trees, it symbolizes courage and strength. Socrates considered the oak as an oracle tree. The Druids ate the acorns of the oak to prepare for prophesying, and they also believed that the leaves contained the power to heal and renew strength.

One of the many perks of my new home is a troop of little boys, ages 6 to around 9 or 10 who live on this block. You can tell these boys are from homes full of love and encouragement. They are quick with a smile and a few words of conversation; and they are right at home anywhere in the neighborhood, traipsing from one yard to another, over fences, through front and back yards, chasing grasshoppers and cicadas to feed one's pet lizard, riding bicycles, and climbing the wonderful big old trees. Even giving a boost to the three-year-old little brother of one. I like to think the oak tree is empowering these future men, imparting some of its strength and wisdom and courage as they spend their time crawling amidst the ancient gnarled branches. I also feel as though any scrapes these little climbers suffer might quickly be healed by the leaves, as the Druids believed.



My friend Jane and her husband Joe recently bought themselves a new house. She and I still manage to get together once or twice a week for lunch or a shopping trip into Austin for things for both our new homes. Last week we were working the linen aisle at Tuesday Morning, when Jane motioned for me to listen to the Muzak being played. On cue, we both broke into a chorus of "Tweedly, Tweedly, Tweedly Dee.... I'm as happy as I can be!" Not too many people were close by, but those that were seemed to be slowly moving away from us!

JANE AND JOE
When he arrives home from work, Jane's husband now asks her if she has had lunch. He knows by now if we have eaten lunch together he may not get more than a cold sandwich for dinner! Jane stopped by for a "quick" lunch today. I had prepared a salad plate for us of Albacore tuna, stuffed avocado with cottage cheese and sunflower seeds on a bed of lettuce, fruit salad, and white tea with pomegranate juice. A healthy lunch -- right? It was the fresh baked French bread and oatmeal/raisin cookies from the deli that Jane brought with her that did us in. Upon arriving home, she called me and said, "Do you realize we ate for an entire hour??" Of course, that time included lots of good talk and laughter! After all, we go back 50 years now, and have lots to talk and laugh about!
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The cutie pie to the right is my granddaughter Ashlyn, who is thirteen years old. She has been designated the family archivist, and has done a fantastic job of learning to put all the family photos on their SmugMug internet site. I have been complaining for years that her mom doesn't send me
nearly enough current photographs, as she hasn't mastered the art of downloading them to her computer. Last school year Ashlyn and her brother Tanner were placed on an allowance. All their school lunches, purchases, and entertainment must come out of the allowance. When it runs out, there will not be any more money until the next "pay period". However, they were both allowed to do extra chores for bonus money. Both jumped on the bandwagon in anticipation of the extra bucks! Cagey Ashlyn is employed now, and has worked diligently in putting lots of family albums on the photo site so this Grandmother can pick and choose when I need a good picture of them. These two were taken on their Florida vacation a week ago! Hot off the press, as they say! What a beautiful place to vacation, too.

Ashlyn is so much more than a pretty face and a budding entrepreneur. I recently asked her mom to fill me in on some of her accomplishments this past year. Ashlyn is our social butterfly, as was her mother Carajean when she was growing up... to the chagrin of some of her teachers! Carajean's response to me was as follows:
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"You asked about Ash. She has been socializing 24/7 ALL summer! She cleans her room, does her laundry, practices violin (without fuss), and asks for extra chores for money. This of course, allows her to go and do with many friends. I don't know all of their names. I have never known anyone so social. She is very trustworthy with high morals...just worried about everyone else! I do have to mention that she was Concert Master at their summer music camp, and also performed as first violinist in an 'Honors Trio' ensemble as well. Meaning...she is the best in Amarillo's Middle Schools. Oh yeah....I'm proud! But, she really loves volleyball more."
Ashlyn will be in her second year (I believe it will be 8th grade) at the same academy her big sis Audrey attended and graduated from as Valedictorian. Ashlyn got a good start last year, and was an honor student, following in her big sister's footsteps both academically and musically. WAY TO GO, ASH!
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I have to tell a funny story on my daughter. This past year she joined her oldest and youngest children in becoming a vegetarian. Not just a vegetarian, but a vegan. Carajean is an excellent cook, and her hubby Branch will eat anything she puts in front of him. Therefore, at home at least, he is also vegan. Ashlyn is the only real holdout, but she will go along with most of the vegan meals. Now, every summer Carrie's dad and his family spend at least one vacation somewhere with them. This is usually a huge crowd... I'm even there sometime, but not this year.
Bob is her dad, and we all agree he is a great cook! However, the vegetarians in the family are throwing him for a loop lately when it comes to preparing meals. He usually, to the delight of all the women, is happy to do most if not all of the cooking. Now Carajean never does anything halfway, and she is very passionate when she is onto a new course. She told me she walked into the kitchen on vacation in Galveston and saw her dad frying bacon and eggs. She said she told him, "Ooohh, Dad, that's a real no, no!" He turned to her, put his hands on his hips, and said, "Carajean! Just how long do you want to live, anyway??" I'm sure she just cracked up on that one!
(Honey and Papaw Bob )
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MAKE NEW FRIENDS, BUT KEEP THE OLD

I have moved around quite a few times in my life, and made some wonderful friends along the way. I'd like to do brief profiles of some of them from time to time. I think you will find I have met some very interesting characters.. some you may even recognize. The first is someone I met 21 years ago this summer at Unity of Denton, John Nance Garner, V, affectionately known as Jack. If the name is familiar, it's because Jack's great-uncle, John Nance Garner, IV was Franklin Roosevelt's first vice-president.

Jack is a man small in stature with a great big booming voice. He has been an actor in community theater for most of his adult life, and is a well-known fixture in the Denton Community Theater. That wonderful voice of his was utilized as a disk jockey for a small radio station on an Oklahoma mountaintop for many years before moving to Denton in the late 80s. We became friends almost immediately, having found we have a lot in common. (He and I commiserated on the number of failed marriages we both suffered!) Jack was even a charismatic preacher for a short time. He has been known to get into the "pulpit" and "preach" again when something pushes his buttons! Most recently, he has kept the Denton Record-Chronicle informed of his well-versed political opinions on the Letters to the Editor page. The softer side of his vocal abilities has been as a frequent lay leader at church; and no one who has ever heard his rendition of "Conrad's Christmas", an annual performance by him at Unity, will ever forget the emotions he is able to command from an audience.

As a DJ on that mountaintop, Jack first discovered he had an artistic ability. He whiled away the lonely midnight shifts making rag rugs. Many years later, when he was in his mid-50s, he took a watercolor class, and lo and behold! A great talent emerged. Jack now does beautiful pastel portraits that often sell for hundreds of dollars, and have won many prizes in art shows. A couple of them are displayed here, painted from photographs Jack took on the streets of New Orleans. His musicians are a real favorite of mine. If you are interested, let me know and I can give you more details of these, including sizes and prices.

"Fiddler in the Cold"














"Morning Coffee"

Jack and I have shared a lot in the past 21 years. We've been there for each other at the losses of good friends and family members. And he was with me when we went to see my first grandchild as he came home from the hospital! We shared lots of tears and laughter. And stayed in touch as I wandered around the last seven years. Ask him sometime about cutting the ping pong balls and putting them over our eyeballs to try to assist us in meditation! And getting caught doing this by my son's girlfriend, who couldn't wait to "tell on us", as she thought we were losing our minds!

The latest from Jack is that he is a school bus monitor. At 71, and with his slight build, that can be a challenge. Jack told me of one of the "boys" who rides his bus who is 6'5" and weighs over 350 pounds. Jack asked the driver what happens if this kid "loses it", as some are apt to do. The driver said to just sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to calm him down. "Does that work?" asked Jack. "I don't know, I've never had to try it!" was his response! Jack said he spent the weekend learning the words to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"! Good luck, Jack.

I'm going to close with this photo of my youngest grandchild, Kelly, age 3 and a half. She is showing Grandmommy her latest accomplishment -- how to use the computer. Really!


May your life be full of loving family, good friends, and a big oak tree!

Peace and love,
Marilyn

Thursday, August 6, 2009

GREETINGS FROM THE HILL COUNTRY

Overlooking Lake LBJ

I finally made it! After two and a half months of packing, moving day was June 8th. My son Matthew and his good friend and neighbor, Chris, drove to Ballinger the night before to assist me with last minute "guy things" like disconnecting appliances and packing the computer and heavy items I couldn't manage alone. After a fun night of good Mexican food at Alejandra's, a little beer and wine, and lots of good conversation and laughter, we called it a night and got up early the next morning, planning to take our time finishing the packing. Were we ever surprised when the movers showed up an hour earlier than we expected! After about two and a half hours of steady work, the guys had it all loaded, and we followed the moving truck in a caravan to my "new" little 50s style house in Burnet. My dear friend, Jane, was waiting for us with food and cold drinks!

Jane and Joe picked out the perfect little three bedroom house for me! Jane is not happy at all with some of the colors the previous owner chose -- starting with the exterior, which she calls "baby poop yellow"! I told her that I think I can live with that for awhile. The bathrooms are painted in what I describe as puce...Jane calls the color "puke". You can tell the sense of humor this lady possesses. She has been over frequently the past couple of months to help me settle in. Her energy level is amazing! She's landscaping the back yard with some wonderful easy care, drought resistant plants to try to hide the neighbors' yard on one side of me. As she's been working on the yard, I have made myself at home inside the house. It suits me to a "T", and I look forward to many happy years here.

The house has lots of trees surrounding it, but unfortunately they are deciduous. We will eventually have more evergreen plants and shrubs if Jane has her way. She's already put in some small palm trees in the back yard. There are big pecan trees in the front and back yards. Across the street there is a magnificent old oak tree that I will soon photograph up close.

Then there's the view from my breakfast table where I like to sit and read, watch the birds, or just daydream. I'm finding that I like to do that a lot lately. The months of preparing, packing, and planning this move; and then, the grueling work of unpacking over 200 boxes and making everything "work" in my new home left me drained of energy to do much other than the absolute necessities of daily chores! Besides, there is the record heat wave and drought this part of Texas has been suffering! It's not conducive to a lot of outdoor activities. I am looking forward to cool fall weather to familiarize myself with the beauty of the hill country and the historic little town of Burnet as well as the surrounding towns. There will be lots of photo ops. In the meantime, as Emerson said, "..the mornings are too precious to be out and about", so I take advantage of the time to soak up nature from my window and catch up on some reading.


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The end of school in May presented some special achievements by a couple of my grandchildren.

Hannah, who had her ninth birthday in June, had the good fortune to land one of the five openings at the Dallas School for the Gifted and Talented. She scored the highest marks in the third grade classes at her school this past year. She will remain in the school through the eighth grade, at which time she will be eligible for entrance into the Dallas Gifted and Talented High School which is rated the number one high school in the United States. As you can see, she is also a real beauty. Her dad, Craig, tells me she has a good singing voice, too. She may follow in her big brother Cameron's footsteps.

This is my grandson Tanner receiving his award as spelling bee champion at his school in Amarillo. He also made perfect scores (100 on math, reading, and writing) on the TAKS test. This summer he is taking tennis lessons, and appears to be extremely talented in that area, too. This he gets from his Papaw Bob, who played on the tennis team in high school.

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I checked in with the oldest two of my grandchildren to see how their summer has been going.
Audrey (Tanner's big sis), who lives in Amarillo and attends SMU, decided to do some serious studying this summer. Here's what she wrote:


"I am taking summer classes at West Texas A&M University. (Chemistry I and Chemistry II). Cramming an entire year's worth of chemistry into two months is, needless to say, a lot of work and stress. To my surprise, I understand the material quite well and am pleased with my grade in Chem I. I'm halfway through Chemistry II -- so far, so good! I just have to keep reminding myself how awesome it will feel to have these two tough classes behind my back. I returned to my dance studio, Landance Conservatory. I was able to dance a lot in the beginning of the summer, but eventually Chemistry became more difficult, and I couldn't dance anymore. I have, however, been able to play the violin quite a bit. My mom and two friends and I get together once or twice a week to work on some quartet music. We have a good time working on difficult pieces together."

She continues: "
As for next year, the hard work continues. I'll be taking Physics II, Calc II, Bio I, Environmental Science Seminar, and Animal Rights. The science classes are requirements for my major, Environmental Science. I've taken two philosophy classes since my start at SMU and fell in love with the subject; so, I decided to make it my minor! (The animal rights class is actually a philosophy class)! I made a big step last semester in deciding that I want to go to law school to be an animal law attorney. I am confident this is a good decision, as my passion for animals and will to defend them has increased exponentially throughout the past six years of my life."

WAY TO GO, AUDREY! It is such a joy to see this young woman grow up into such a remarkable human being. This was a "preemie" baby who weighed less than 4 pounds (that's a sack of sugar!) when they brought her home from the hospital nineteen years ago. She had a huge personality even then! Those big eyes that followed me everywhere made me suspect she is a very old soul.

Audrey has more to say about the animal rights group she belongs to that I will share in future posts.

Cameron, who attends LSU, was home for the summer and was overjoyed at getting to spend so much time with sweet Sarah, who will attend college this fall in a different state from his. He spent as much time with her as possible, and performed with a community theater group one weekend. Mostly, he worked at the School for the Deaf in Dallas. Here's what he had to say about his employment:

"Instead of your run-of-the-mill retail job people my age usually get, I've been blessed to have a job working as a part-time preschool teacher. Getting to spend time with 3-, 4-, and 5-year olds every day is beyond enriching. The kids bring me to life, and help me become more lighthearted. Not only that, but they make me shape up my act because I know that anything I say or do can and will affect them in some manner. Most of all, they have a lot of love to give. So, though it hasn't been one of the most eventful summers for me (no vacations, no big activities), it's been one of the most meaningful. And it'll change how I approach things for the coming school year."

(I was thinking these children were deaf, so I wrote back and asked him if he had to learn sign language.)

"
Part of it is a school for the deaf, but the deaf kids aren't there during the summer. Essentially, it is the UT Southwestern Medical Center daycare... so they're the kids of the employees there. The kids are a blast. Working with them keeps me in touch with my own childhood, and they keep me aware that I am a role model for them. And in all honesty, the conversations I have with little kids are by far better than the ones I have with adults. They tell it like it is... and oftentimes what they say will leave you on the floor laughing. It's really a fun job."

Cameron, you know, I'll bet those little ones are having a blast having you for their teacher this summer. Little ones just seem to gravitate to you. And I know they love you like I do!


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LORDY! LORDY! MY "BABY'S" 40!!

Nothing can make one feel old faster than seeing the "baby" of the family turn 40 years of age! However, nothing can make one prouder than to attend a surprise birthday party for that 40-year old and have people come up to you and thank you for giving them such a man to share in their lives! This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Others told me how amazing he is, and that they consider him a "people magnet". My answer to that was that I knew that when he was two and a half years old and started tooling around the neighborhood on his tricycle, meeting all the neighbors, and coming home to tell me about it. He never met a stranger from that time on.

Matthew was totally surprised by the wonderful birthday bash his wife Amy threw for him.
His sister Carajean flew in from Amarillo, but big brother Craig was unable to make it. (He did send a text message during the party.) Friends from the Dallas area came to help him celebrate as well. The highlight of the evening was a wonderful DVD presentation Matthew and Amy's next-door neighbor made with pictures from Matthew's scrapbook of his growing up years interspersed with photos of his life with Amy and their adorable children, Travis and Kelly. Many of us had tears in our eyes at this beautiful, moving presentation complete with music. "Over the Rainbow" was so perfect for parts of it! Their friend Katy did such a superb job. (Makes me want to try it.)

(Mom, Matt, and CJ) There were many good photos and a few videos that I threatened to put on YouTube, but too many to put on this blog. Instead, you may go to my Picasa Web Album and view all the stills I took at the party:

http://picasaweb.google.com/marilyn.moragne/LORDYLORDYMATTHEWS40#

Matthew, you are a well-loved man, and we are all blessed to have you in our lives.


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This has been a lengthy blog post, but I had so much joy in my heart I just had to share it all. My life is wonderful, mostly because of all the loving family and friends I have.

Just one more thing before I close. It's late and the day is almost over. It is a very significant day in history. 64 years ago the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. As a child of twelve I read a short book detailing the effects the bomb had on the city of Hiroshima...and I cried. Today I read of the memorials held in that city and I cried again. May we never ever again witness such an event on this beautiful planet of ours.



Peace and love,
Marilyn