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.
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!

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!

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:
"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!
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 )


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,

Thursday, August 6, 2009


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.


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.


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!



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:

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


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,