Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cocooning In The Dead Of Winter

This is the time of year I love most.   It is the time of year when we take a much needed break from Summer and Fall and all the hustle that goes with them.  It is the time for a vacation from the routine and the mundane rituals that go along with work and school.  We sleep in a little longer, live more spontaneously and breathe more deeply.  We relax.

This Winter break, as it is called, has been as close to perfect as I can recall.  It's pace has been slow and each day never more than I can handle.  This particular break is my customary cocooning time. I do it every year.  Its a time when I retreat from the world and most of the people in it.  I hibernate, I focus on home and family and the world is no bigger than the house I live in.  I can stay in my pajamas all day and makeup is never required unless I fancy to apply it. I keep my existence small and introspect.  I heal my soul with reflection and savor the freedom of my time.

Today is the middle of this vacation, the midpoint, the best part of my time off.  I am still walking into this day without the gnawing thoughts of work creeping into the recesses of my mind.  It's coffee and writing and thinking of anything but that grueling drudgery that is my gainful employment.  Today is still "my down time" and that feels as good as slipping on my favorite soft sweater on a cold day.

I do have a "might get to it today" list floating around in my head.  This list is far more hospitable than the "must do" list that flashes like a neon sign in the forefront of my brain when not on a break.  But for now, I'll enjoy my first and only cup of coffee.

This I have found to be true, on a cold Winter's morning, nothing is finer than that first sip of coffee.  I could never drink coffee without it's wonderful companions cream and sugar.  This picture of bliss has been modified however as I no longer partake of refined sugars.  So my beloved coffee is adorned with vanilla cream and Stevia.

This morning, Pinterest gave me this notion to ponder:

I must admit, I drink coffee and I do stupid things and indeed I do them with faster and with more energy.  Therefore, I deem this statement to be true.  Not drinking coffee would not strip my world of the stupid things I do, but there is no doubt they would be done more slowly and with more labor.

But today, I can commit my fouls at my leisure even though my fuel allows me to perform them at a higher speed.  After all, it is the middle of the vacation and yet another day that is mine to design and enjoy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Eve And Ever After

We have made it through Christmas Eve.  While our hearts were not in tune with the season, for whatever the reason, we made it through.

My Son had been asking for a video camera.  This amazing 12 yr old man child is driven to make, direct and produce his own films.  Like most children, I have watched him pass through one phase of interest after another.  For years, and I do mean years, he loved Transformers and then the movies.  But what I saw was that he was as much intrigued by the making of the movies as the movies themselves.  Slowly, the topic went from wanting to watch the movies to wanting to make the movies.  He learned how to shoot videos, edit them on the computer and create his own short videos.  His passion to do this has only grown with time.

When his used camera failed, all I heard was how he needed another camera.  They aren't cheap and I knew Christmas was coming.  I decided to do my best to get him one if I could afford to do so.  As the months went by and the holidays grew closer, the questions from him regarding a camera increased.  I think he was trying to make sure that I knew he needed one.  Like I could ever forget!

The week before Christmas, we were able to secure the video camcorder.  It was my goal to never let him know it was coming.  The questions about whether or not he would get one continued.  I explained that we had looked for one but the prices were just too high.  I told him if we couldn't get one for Christmas, maybe in the spring we would try again.  This darling  young man would say, "Ok, I understand."  I have been blessed with a very understanding child who while wanting something understands when it doesn't happen.

Christmas Eve finally arrived.  The children were absolutely beside themselves having whipped themselves up emotionally into a frenzy that defies logic.  While My Son knows the deal about Santa, the younger child believed that only good girls and boys would be visited.  And that was true.  During the day, the children did everything they could to jump from the Good List to the Naughty List.  They simply couldn't help themselves.  It was as if they were determined to sabotage the only chance for Santa to come and bring gifts.  They fussed and fought, everyone was fighting with everyone and oh BA HUMBUG was growing in our house.  More than once, we called Christmas off due to the arguing.

As evening fell, we decided to force the children to watch a movie to kill time and to give them a final chance to coexist in some sense of harmony.  We made pallets on the floor in front of the TV and made sure there were pillows and blankets so they would be comfortable.  They were close to each other but not too close. Plenty of opportunity to blow their last chance.

We watched "A Christmas Story", a movie well known for the Red Rider BB Gun and "you'll shoot your eye out."  The children did well and when the movie came to the part where Ralphie opens up his present but never sees the prized BB gun, I thought of my son.  I watch as Ralph sat in mature disappointment at Christmas coming and leaving without a BB gun to call his own.  I watched his dad spy some present tucked beside the furniture and Ralphie open it to find what he's been wanting for so long. That part brings a tear to my eye as for a moment, I remember what it's like to be a kid on Christmas Eve.  I can remember disappointment and joy even thought I can't recall wanting something as badly as Ralphie wanted the BB gun or My Son wanted the video camera.

After the movie, we did the Santa deal and then the children were opening their gifts.  My Son opened his gifts with no idea that what he wanted was there.  I saw the face of delight and joy, just as I had seen in the movie only a short time earlier.

While we had felt a lack of Christmas spirit all season long, while we had struggled to make Christmas happen, while we fought to keep the kids on the Good List, we found something we did not expect.  We didn't expect the quiet enjoyment of a movie in a room decorated with a beautiful tree and shining white lights.  We didn't expect time together void of anger and frustration, but we had it.  We didn't expect an evening of laughter and surprises and we found it.

If things had been any different, if we had done this evening any other way than what we did, we would have missed those things in the hustle and bustle of activity.  For us, a quiet Christmas and what it gave us, was the best gift we could have asked for.

We hope that you and yours had a very Merry Christmas and that the New Year will bring the promise of endless possibilities.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Best Gift

Every day at work, I hear the morning announcements read over the loud speaker to the students of my campus.  Notices of group meetings, event instructions and various items of interest are read with repetition each day.  As of late there has been an invitation of writing submission to the campus newspaper and the topic was "The Best Gift".

Normally, this would be an activity that would start my writing wheels turning. And I did try but this simple topic had me stumped.  I literally felt my brain wander through my own memories and stumble and wobble this way and that.

My journey took me to a time when My Son was almost 2 yrs old.  We did not have much money that Christmas.  We lived in an apt on the bottom floor of the complex.  The living room had a nice fireplace but we could not afford the wood to burn, so that Christmas Eve night, we burned phone books to warm the room.  My son was already sleeping and I sat there in the brown rocker and stared out the patio door at the small framed area and the fence surrounding it.  Suddenly, I saw a Santa hat appear over the top of the fence and then the smiling face of a boy.  He looked at me and then over the fence he dropped bag after bag filled with things I could not see.  Finally he dropped a small bike on the patio floor and then disappeared.  I sat there quite in shock, not sure what I had just seen and not sure exactly what to do.  Finally, I opened the patio door and brought the bags in the house and began unloading all the carefully wrapped presents.  Clothing, shoes, watches, toys for My Son were unwrapped.  It was a bounty I never expected and I frustratingly sat there with no one to thank.  What a Christmas Eve that was, one I will never forget.  But was it the best gift?

What about the Christmas a few years ago, when a secretary in my building played a part in a wonderful Christmas.  Nancy had mentioned to me in our conversations that fall that the refrigerator had gone out, the AC had gone out and money was tight.  I did the usual encouraging thing and that was about it.  As Christmas got closer, I found myself hearing her more clearly.  There would be no money for the children's gifts this year and money was a struggle.  One of the last weekends before we broke for the holidays, I left work with Nancy on my mind.  Now when I say I had her on my mind, I mean she was heavy in my thoughts.  I didn't have extra money myself but all I could think was "if I had a hundred extra dollars, I would give it to her".   I woke up Saturday morning and instead of the thought fading, it was only stronger.  I told my daughter about Nancy and I said to her "if I only had a hundred extra dollars, I'd give it to her".  I told my son the same thing.  The idea and the need was so strong, it dominated my thoughts.  Sunday rolled around and it was the same level of intensity.  It was a thought I could not get out of my head.  "If I only had a hundred extra dollars, I'd give it to her".  Over and over again, the sentence went through my head, my thoughts, my  heart.

That following Monday, I went to work as usual, sat at my desk and within a few moments, the wife of my landlord came in and we chatted a bit.  She handed me an envelop and told me that the money inside was for my kids for Christmas.  I thanked her for it and tucked it away in my desk drawer.  After she left, I thought, I should see how much money I have to use for the kids for gifts.  I opened her envelop and there is was, 100 dollars.  There was the hundred extra dollars.  My hands shook.  I called my daughter, told her what had happened.  She said, "you know what to do".  I took the envelop up to Nancy's office and pulled her aside.  I told her slowly about my weekend and I saw tears well up in her eyes as I spoke.  Then I handed her the envelop with the money and she naturally declined to accept it.  I was emphatic and I explained to her that after this extraordinary weekend and this obsessive thought that had dominated my mind and heart for days, I had no doubt that this money was never mine, it was hers.  She needed to have it and I was the vehicle it took to get it to her.  Through hugs and tears on both our parts, she accepted it.  To this day, that day is our extraordinary Christmas, hers and mine.

But perhaps the best gift isn't a memory.  Perhaps it is a memory in the making.  We have struggled this year not only with money but with our health and in the wake of the wildfires of the fall, we have found it difficult to look forward to what has always been our favorite time of year.  I love the holiday decorations and the smells of Christmas.  I love giving and seeing the joy in the faces of the children, family and friends.  But this year feels very different.  The Christmas tree is up but it was not done so with the normal enthusiasm. Holiday decorations are tossed around as if it was a chore to place them instead of a pleasure.  Holiday music isn't welcome and I actually just want the time to pass instead of feeling that intense desire to make the white lights and atmosphere last.  So what is it?  What has stolen the Christmas joy?  What am I missing?  What message am I overlooking?

So where did Christmas go and more importantly, how do we get it back?

As we slide into the final days of this Christmas season, I will be listening with my heart for that one thing I'm suppose to do.  That could quite possibly be our game changer.  Maybe Christmas is hidden in a package I have not yet seen, waiting to be opened like some surprise illustrated on the page of a Dr. Seuss book. Maybe the best gift is yet to be revealed.

We have so much to be thankful for and we are thankful.  Perhaps we are simply humbled by the path we must now walk upon.  Perhaps Christmas is no longer glitzy and bright this year for our community. It's most definitely not business as usual.  Its softer and more subtle.  More serene and holy.

And maybe that's just how it should be.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Every Bully Has His Day

Forgive my delay in writing.  I always said that I would write when I had something worthy of telling.  Well, I've been waiting and day has finally come.

In a prior post, I spoke of My Son's daily drama with bullies at his school.  I've heard it said that those middle school years can be vicious.  Last year, My Son's first year in middle school was great.  He loved school, loved every day, nary a complaint.

This year, its much different.  Every day, my "hello son how was your day" is met with a long agonizing detailed description of all that happens to him.  Very seldom is a good.  It tugs at my heart to know that this exceptionally kind young man is tormented each school day by the words and deeds of kids and groups of kids.  I could see it wearing My Son down.  I began to notice he would tell me he didn't feel well and that he was trying to get out of going to school.

Last week, My Son told me he had prayed to God the night before to please let the bullies give him a break.  There is something desperate about a young man praying in the night for relief and respite from chaos and evil.

After the last few days, I have no doubt that God heard his prayers.  He heard the cry of the kind, the generous, the compassionate, the innocent.  He heard the cries of one boy who in the midst of desperation, laced his fingers together and began calling out to his Supreme Being, to his Savior, to his God for help.

Through a series of events, My son's situation came to light.  It didn't just come to light, in a matter of hours, a thousand spotlights were pointed at him and those that torment him.  From many directions, Angels mounted winged stallions and flew to his rescue.  They came to his campus, they went to the haven of his tormentors, they dragged the darkness into the light til there was no place to hide.

This was My Son's day of vindication.  Today he did not walk alone, instead, others came to his side.  Today,  the emotional sword he carried each day was matched by a hundred others.  Today, the bullies had no place to hide and no place to run.

In this world where we easily pass off the cruelty of our adolescent children with phrases like " kids can be cruel" and "boys will be boys" as if almost in an effort to justify their actions, there must come a time when we do not look the other way.  If you ask anyone about the bullying issue, mostly likely you will receive the highest condemnation of it yet when it comes down to it, very little is done to stop it.

That did not happen this week.  This week, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, all came together to stop what should never have started.  Mothers and sons, teachers, coaches, Principals, counselors, friends and family all gave the bully problem the full court press.

It humbled me.  It humbled My Son.  It also made me very proud and hopeful that perhaps at last, we will no longer just say there is no place for bullying, we will actually intervene and demand it be stopped.

My Son's life is worth it.  Every child's life is worth it and we can make a difference all the while knowing that the game isn't over in a day.  The watchful eyes and heart twinged ears must be ever vigilant for the next move, the next quarter, the next play.  When it comes again, the press will be back on again.  Angels will mount their steeds once again and a thousand swords will be drawn in defense of a boy.  My boy who just so happens to be my world.

My sincerest thanks to all those that stepped up and demanded something be done.  Children who live daily with the wrap of tormentors will know better days because of your actions.  You are my Heroes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Tis that time of year again. That uniquely American holiday is upon us.  Thanksgiving.  The stores are filled with holiday cooking items and even Christmas trees adorn the entrances.  We are in full fledged holiday mode.

Waking early this morning, I found myself reflecting on the rapidly approaching holiday season.  As I sat on the back porch, sipping my favorite coffee blend, I thought about Thanksgiving.

We are taught as children that the first Thanksgiving was shared between those brave Pilgrims and the native Indians.  We saw in our elementary school textbooks pictures of a feast and really nothing more.  People sitting around a table, eating and sharing time together.  Of course back at that first Thanksgiving, it was an effort to build a cooperative between two cultures.  It was a leap of faith and a token gesture wrapped with the hope of survival.

Today, we are bombarded with "how tos" and "you shoulds" and "having the perfect meal" notions.  There is stress in the holidays.  I rather like the idea that as long as you are gathered around a table with those you love and care about, it is already the perfect meal.

As we gather around the feasting table on Thursday to celebrate yet another Thanksgiving, we do indeed have much to be thankful for.  Thankful that all the chairs are filled with family we love and adore.  Thankful there are no empty chairs this year and no losses that come to steal the day.  Thankful for the food before us and the effort that went into its preparation.  Thankful for the comfort of a home filled with love and laughter.  Thankful for the children that give promise to many more Thanksgivings to come.  Thankful for yet another opportunity to hold a hand and feel the touch of family.

Personally, my gratitude is boundless.  In this year of extraordinary drought and fires, one can only look to the many blessings we enjoy every day.  The sublime cup of coffee in the morning, the quiet of the house before everyone awakes, the sunrise giving light to yet another day and so much more.  I am eternally grateful that little Max, the lost kitten, has found a permanent home and a family to call his own.  I am grateful for yet another day to gaze upon my children and grandchildren, to hear their voices and to know the day is filled with  promise.  Come good or bad, it is another day, a blessing denied many.

Too bad we are only reflective of our gratitude during the holidays.  Too bad our hard days throughout the year are wished away as quickly as the tick of a clock.  Too bad we don't take more time to be thankful.

Perhaps if we did take time to reflect each day, those hard days would seem less harsh, the demands of life less heavy and the moments of our lives more rich.  It reminds me of a question I came across not long ago.

"What if you woke up this morning with only the things you thanked God for last night?"

I try to remember this "what if" daily.  I don't need a gratitude journal, I simply need a few moments to reflect, to appreciate and to be thankful. It doesn't take long and its far too simple yet we struggle to manage to remember one final task each day.

So to each and every one of you, I wish you time.  Time to be still and quiet.  Time to hear your own personal  thoughts and time to feel your life with your heart.  I wish you gentle peace and patience and joy.

Have a tender Thanksgiving and a holiday season filled with time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Boomerang Felines

Thought  you might like to know what has happened to the little 'under the shed' kitten that wandered into my world.  She has turned out to be a he and his name is Maximus, Max for short.

Max has become social with us humans and all the other felines and one dog that call my  house a home. This has happened because he is fearless.  Perhaps I should have named him Spartacus.  He is full of life, loves to play and seems to have endless energy.  He was given to someone in his search for a new home but the family's existing cat would have no part of Max.  So Max came back home to my waiting arms.  Things happen just as they should.

We are still looking for the right home for darling Max but he wont endure another temporary transition, after all, hes been through enough.  And if he goes nowhere, thats perfectly fine too.  We love him.

This morning, Max is out of his confinement and playing with Baby Kahn.  I've not seen my Bengal play like this in such a long time.  Perhaps, Max is good for all of us.  And we are good for  him.

Here's to the little things in all our lives.  They do make a difference, bring joy to our existence and continue to define our ability to be compassionate.

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Since you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me"

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Cold, Lost Kittens And Leaves On The Ground

This past week the cold winds blew and our temperatures dropped.  It felt like Fall as the north wind blustered it's way into my part of the world.  Our teeth chattered and we bundled up as the thermometer readings fell.

The first night the temperatures fell into the 30s.  For Texas, in early November, that's more than cold enough.  I scrambled to make sure the plants were watered and covered.  I have this one Poblano pepper plant that has finally produced it's first pepper and since they have struggled through the searing heat and drought, this single piece of produce is very important to me.  Of course, it looks alot like a bell pepper but we shall see the final product in a few weeks.

The next morning, the normal get ready for work routine was disrupted by the sound of distress outside.  Braving the cold, My Son and I sought out the source of this perilous sound.  It was the sound of a cat, a cat crying.  It was cold but this was more than that, this was the sound of pain and the sound of being lost.

The hunt took us through shrubs and hedge, the morning still dark without the sunrise.  In and out of the shadows, we finally saw it, a very small kitten.  Being cat people plus one dog, the cold coupled with a lost kitten was heart wrenching.  We tried to quickly secure the kitten but she eluded us disappearing behind the garage.  We ran out of time, gathered our things for work and school and left.  Kitten would be on her own until we could get home.

The cold winds continued all that day.  The chill was enough to find us bundle in warm sweaters and jackets.  When I arrived home, there was no sign of the kitten.  I walked to the last place I had seen her and began to give out short "meows" in hopes she would reply.  She did.  She had survived the day.  I wasn't sure where she was, but I could hear her and that meant there was hope.  The forecast promised a freeze and little kitten was still out there in the cold and the dark, still crying for it's Mom, still  hungry and scared. I took the first bowl of food and water and left it behind the garage.

I went out before daylight to call to her the next morning.  It was so very cold out and was sure she did not survive the night.  The temps fell into the upper 20s, I called to her with my very best chattering teeth "meows", but heard nothing.  It was silent.I continued to call to her until I  had to return to the house and get ready for work.  My heart heavy, I left the house and went on to work.  My daughter called me on the way to her job and said they had heard the kitten just before they left the house.  My Son had gone looking for her but didn't see her.

That night, when I returned home, I took more food and water out and started calling the kitten.  It was not as cold and as I called, I was delighted to hear her call back to me.  I saw her at the farthest part of the yard, in the corner.  She came from underneath the small shed in the yard behind me.  She cautiously walked between the fence posts and looked at me.  I spoke softly to her but as I approached, she darted back through the fence and under the shed. I would have felt comfortable with her plight if it weren't for the five very large dogs that live in the yard in which the shed stood.  They are inside dogs but are let out into the back yard off and on during the day and evening.  I left the food and water near the opening at the post and went back in the house for the evening.

The next morning, I went out, called to her, she replied and the food dish revealed that something, hopefully the kitten had eaten.  Water level was lower so that was a good sign.  The weather was warming up and the night would be much warmer.

It had become a ritual to arrive home after work, toss my purse and empty lunch dishes aside and head to the corner of the back yard.  I had grown comfortable walking in the space that has been not traveled.  I called to my little friend and she answered,  hopped up on the various building items that lay against the fence and began watching me.  I was able to get closer and closer to this little baby that had either wandered too far from  home or been coldly discarded by a former owner.  By the end of the evening, I was sitting only inches away from the food and water, leaning against a tree, talking to her, calling to her and hearing her call back.

Now at my age, sitting on the ground is not something I do.  That's why man invented chairs, so people would not have to sit on the ground.  I tried sitting on a small stepping stool at first but it was not convenient to a fluid situation which required adjustments to distance and space.  I was moving closer to her as the comfort level increased.

I suppose that my desire to help this little kitten stripped away my grown up notion of where and how to sit.  Sitting on the leaves that covered the surface of the ground, leaning up against a tree near the fence in the corner of the yard now seemed perfectly acceptable.  Time passes very quickly when you are in a quiet place talking to tiny kitten.  Dishes don't get done nor do the other household tasks.  My maternal instincts were focused on one place, one kitten and the one chance I might have to get her to safety.

I began enjoying the time I spent back there.  I was alone, isolated from the routine and the normal evening activities.  Alone except for the kitten that had started to play just outside my view.  Her occasional visit and her precocious nature were refreshing to watch.  From where I sat there on the ground, there at the tree by the fence, I began to see the world as she saw it.  I understood how over the course of a few days, the building materials, the shed, the fence, the large stone and the leaves had become her whole world.  Over the course of a few days, they were becoming mine as well. I saw the world from a different perspective sitting there on the ground.  I saw how big the fence must have seemed to her, how tall the stacked rock stepping stones she climbed on were and how familiar the lay of the piping and other materials had become.  I liked seeing the world from that level and I began to wonder why I had abandoned it with age.

This afternoon, I braved the ill timed release of the dogs and found my way back to the corner of the yard once again, only this time, I had a small live trap with me.  I called to the kitten and she called back, loud and strong.  I placed her food dish inside the trap and sat it at the opening between the posts.  We talked in our "meows" and I watched her play.  It seemed she had no interest in coming through the fence to my yard.

I decided to let the trap stay overnight as it was getting dark and I couldn't see well inside the trap itself.  I got up off the ground and began to slow walk away, talking to her as I did.  As I moved away, she moved to the fence and it was obvious that she didn't want me to go or perhaps she didn't want to be alone.  I continued to walk away slowly, still talking to her and I saw her approach the trap.  I couldn't see her enter it but it was only a few seconds and I heard the trap close.

It was just that simple.  The kitten was frightened but safe.  She is now inside in a very large crate with everything she needs, food, water, small litter box and a soft old shirt to sleep on.  She even has a piece of yard tied to the top of the crate for her to play with.  She has much to learn in the "socializing with humans" department but I've held her, felt her purr and even doze in my arms.  It will take a few days but she will be fine.  I have already found her a home to go to and when she is ready, she will begin the next journey in her already very full young life.

As for me, I will sleep well knowing she is warm and safe and that no matter when the dogs are outside, she won't be frightened or cornered.  I am also walking away from the experience with a new found talent.  I now look forward to sitting on the ground, seeing the world from the bottom looking up.  The perspective is amazing and if you are like I was and only sit at chair level outside, I encourage you to take the dive and plant yourself on the ground sometime.  It's simply amazing what you will see, what you will notice and what you will learn about the Earth and about yourself.

 The lone yellow rose blooming in November.  Less than perfect after the long hot, dry summer, but most fragrant.

                                         The crepe myrtle found life enough to bloom as well.  

   And finally, the plant I lovingly call Miss Maria named after one of the most amazing women I shall ever have the good fortune to know and call friend.  This hardy, stubborn plant has also survived this most costly of summers.  Today she rewarded us with her blooms.  Thanks Maria!

*Footnote - My daughter informed me that the neighbors probably thought I had lost my mind as every day after work I immediately grabbed my cat food and water and proceeded to the back far corner of the yard to start meowing.  She thought them releasing the dogs might have been their way of deterring me from such behavior.  And here I thought I had a profound experience.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Night

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition.

Tonight is the night children anticipate nearly as much as Christmas itself.  Ironically, the significance of the two events couldn't be further from each other as far as meanings go.

I've always enjoyed the ghoulish night, the children in wonderful costumes shouting "Trick or Treat!"

Age has changed that a bit for me.  Since my son has gotten older, the excitement has faded.  Now that doesn't mean that he is not out there participating tonight, however, to see this big man child dressed in a Zombie mask and gloves wielding a bloody machete does take away from the childlike, harmless visions of Halloween I've known in the past.  I miss Darth Vader, Batman, Spider man and my favorite, the V character from V for Vendetta.  

I sent them out to do their deed and am enjoying the evening of quiet.  I suppose there are advantages to Halloween as long as you are not participating in the preparations, the walking, the crowds and the late night.  Since Halloween falls on a school night this year and my work day was beyond exhausting, I will sit out this year and let it pass as quietly as it possibly can.

My Town has a large festival in the Main Street area.  I've been numerous times.  It's simply dizzying.  I shall not miss that either.

I am grateful to my daughter for taking the children out on this evening.  Thank you Thank you Thank you!

Now I never realized, when moving into this neighborhood, what Halloween was in the downtown area.  I remember the first year I lived in this house.  I bought three big bags of candy, a really cool Halloween bowl and My Son, small at the time, prepared to hand out treats to the visitors.  People had said it was a BIG DEAL.  They did not lie.

First, the groups were small , a few kids at a time at my door.  Then with a small gap of time, there was a knock and the familiar shouts of TRICK or TREAT!!  I opened my door, toss candy into bags and looked down the sidewalk.  Honestly, it looked like a third world country had come to my house begging for food.  I gave away candy until it was all gone.  Disgruntled spooks and goblins walked on passed my house as I shamefully turned out my porch light, the universal sign of total surrender.

The houses on the street behind me must honestly spend  hundreds of dollars on candy.  People from everywhere come to the downtown area to send their children trick or treating.  Its an annual pilgrimage.  Cars filled with children stop, groups of kids exit and begin the quest for candy and treats.  Its an overwhelming sight.

But aside from the expense, the crowding and the conflict of a school night, Halloween has descended upon us.  It signals the span of time between Fall and Winter.  It is a necessary ritual of the ages, designed for the young and the young at heart.

For me, I'm heading to bed as its almost 8 pm.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One Fine October Day

This October day was ushered in by a strong cold front complete with strong winds and sparkling blue skies.  The warm 90 degrees of yesterday was replaced with a refreshing if not blustery 71 degrees.  Its simply amazing what the first cool day does for the body and soul.  There is new found energy and the uncontrollable desire to be outdoors.

Today was spent with my dearest brother.  He picked me up at 11:15 and off we went to a small town twelve miles to the southwest.  Smithville is a charming town with rustic buildings and friendly people.  Small town Americana at its finest.

Timing it just right, we arrived at the Back Door Cafe just before the lunch crowd filled the dining area.  My brother is a frequent guest at this fine cafe and is known by the owner and chef.  There is a delightful charm to this cafe and you often forget you are in the company of other guests.

We found a table for two on the side wall of the cafe and began talking about how amazingly delicious the food was.  As I said, my brother frequents this restaurant at least once a week. 

The cafe is located in a very old building.  Most buildings in the downtown area are original buildings from the turn of the century or older.  The culinary delight is sandwiched between a cabinetmaking shop on the left and an antique shop on the right.  The downtown area has many antique shops to browse through while visiting the town.

The brick interior of the cafe adds another dimension to the rustic environment.  You can feel the age of the building and while the staff is busy meeting the every need of the customer, you never feel the hustle and bustle.  I found it a most delightful environment.

I ordered water and my brother ordered fresh brewed ice tea.  After ordering, we helped ourselves to the salad bar and the cup of pinto beans.  It was interesting to serve beans instead of a soup but it worked!

Now one thing to remember when visiting the Back Door Cafe is that the menu changes daily.  There is only one staple on the menu and that is the Chicken Fried Steak.  The remaining entrees are determined by the most capable owner and chef.  This being my second visit to the cafe, I have not yet been even slightly disappointed.

My brother ordered the Baked Cod with cilantro tartar sauce, side of mixed vegetables and seasoned potatoes.  He did share a bite with me and oh my gosh, it was amazing.

I ordered the Southwestern Chicken and Pasta, side of mixed vegetables and fresh fruit.

This lunch entree was simply amazing.  That's angel hair pasta, chicken in a light sauce that is out of this world, tomatoes, cilantro, black beans and feta cheese.  I simply don't have the words to describe how delicious it was.

We savored each bite and when finished, we ordered dessert.  As recommended by my brother, two pieces of the chef's Jack Daniels Chocolate Pie came to the table.

Another feast for the taste buds, this pie has light as air handmade whipped cream.  Simply delicious!

All this amazing food, four courses and a bill of 12 dollars.  You can't ask for a more wonderful lunch.

After our meal, we took a walk around the downtown area, in and out of the antique shops, walking up sidewalks, looking at old buildings and sneaking seeds from interesting looking plants.

            Star Biscuit Company, one of the many inhabitants of this building downtown at one time.

        In interesting piece of decoration, one of many that beautify the downtown Smithville area.

                                 I loved this old building and the plants residing beside it. 

Another old building in historic downtown Smithville.  You can see all the different companies that have called this building home.

If you ever get a chance to visit Smithville, Texas, be sure to visit the Back Door Cafe.  I promise, you wont be sorry you did. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Visitor And The Vine

There is no doubt the seasons are changing.  The long dry summer didn't leave much variety to the landscape and if our leaves change colors they will simply be to different shades of brown.  Leaves have been falling all summer due to the stress of the heat and drought.  It did indeed look like Fall for most of August and September, just not as colorful.

Two weeks ago as we were driving to work and school, I noticed in the sky, the familiar pattern of geese in formation.  This delightful sight of birds, harbingers of  Fall, were headed south.  Their journey in progress with seasonal changes chasing them to warmer regions.  Seeing them was as good as hearing them.  Anyone that has heard geese on their migrational route knows their sound.  Their fluttering coo is unmistakable.  The sound makes one look up and around until finally you find the flock either in formation or in complete albeit temporary disorganization.  A sign and sound of Fall.

Listening to a radio gardening program brought a migration recording site to my attention. is a place where people can  record migrational sightings of various birds and insects.  It was not long before I saw the first Monarch butterfly in my back yard.

I joined Journeynorth and soon began recording the sightings of the Monarchs as they passed my way.  I would only see one butterfly at a time but really, one is magnificent enough.  These darling creatures, alone or in massive groups, are a sight to behold.  There really is nothing like the Monarch. 

Every child knows a Monarch when they see one.  There are thousands of other kinds of butterflies but you know a Monarch instantly.  Their brilliant orange and black colors stand out more than enough to catch one's eye.  Monarchs flying solo have fluttered around my back yard, passing through, checking out the landscape and resting on this one  particular vine growing on my side fence.  Each sighting was reported and recorded on the Journeynorth site.  There seems to be a great deal of participation as this journey has been charted for all to see.

This evening, after work, I noticed yet another lone Monarch flitting and fluttering around my back yard.  It lingered around the vine and the fence.  Flexing it's lovely wings, it inspected this vine that the summer could not kill.  I begged my daughter to grab her camera and within minutes we had the following photo of our visitor.

The camera revealed what my eyes could not detect.  This hardy vine that has endured searing temperatures and only one rain in six months had growth.  Perhaps it is the making of the little purple flowers I have seen on the vine in the past, perhaps it is simply stretching to new lengths.  Whatever it's doing, the Monarchs love the vine.  Love it enough to linger and spend great amounts of time inspecting and resting on it.

The Monarchs make their annual pilgrimage from the USA to Mexico following a route they have never followed before, heading to a destination they have never seen.  Driven my instinct, they fly thousands of miles to one single place where they remain protected from the harshness of Winter.

It's a fascinating notion. A mystery flying delicately before us for a short time, then on to another yard and another vine.  If you happen to see the Monarchs this Fall, take a moment to ponder their journey and soak in the sight.  Soon they will be gone and we will have to wait until Spring to see them again.

A simple yet remarkable gift from Mother Nature.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Value Of The Familiar

Love them or hate them, they have been a part of our lives for 70 plus years.  Most women remember having seen them at least once, for many, they are seen each day.  I speak of the beloved Soap, the daytime dramas that used to permeate the airwaves of daytime TV.

I can remember growing up watching the Soaps with my mom during the summer when school was out and the drama was on.  I recall it went like this, Young and the Restless, Guiding Light, Edge of Night and then dinner. We would stay busy getting the housework done so we could relax and watch our favorite characters wrestle with those grown up problems like gossip, mayhem, infidelity, amnesia, car wrecks and comas.  There is nothing like them and their era brought an escape to the real problems of our every day life.

When I was grown myself, a family of my own, I didn't stay glued forever to the daytime dramas.  I eventually went to work and the chaos of Genoa City and Springfield spun daily unbeknownst to me.  For decades, I let them go.

I was delighted to be reunited with them several years ago and thanks to the Internet and replays in the evening, I soon found myself lost in their worlds and lives again.  I could come home, get everything done that needed to be done, and then turn on the day's episode.  I was thrilled to see so many character from long ago, still played by the original actor and actresses.  They had aged as had I.  But they still had the same problems only now they carried their cell phones and got information online.  They had evolved as had the real world.

Just when I thought all was right with the world, the axe fell upon my beloved As The World Turns.  The longest running daytime drama with millions of fans.  It seemed women had left the home during the days to labor at a place of employment and no longer watched the Soaps or their sponsor's commercials.  It was so hard to say goodbye to all those characters, to know they would never grace my view again.  A year later, Guiding Light came to an end.  It was like watching the slow death of a family member.  The end of an era that tied me to my youth and to my mom.

Searching for the link to what was, hungry for what used to be,  I found myself back with The Young and The Restless.  There they were, the same characters I had grown up with, characters I had watched with my mom.  It took very little time to catch up with the mayhem of all those years I had not watched.

And while you might say that it is a waste of time every day when it is obvious that daily viewing isn't necessary, I beg to differ.  It is not the action or the talent of the players that brings us to watch.  It is the constant.  The assurance that the familiar will be there.  That the link to the past is still in tact and that repetition of watching is comforting.  It is me and mom sitting on a summer afternoon, watching a soap and talking about the story.  It is me and I'm sixteen again and mom just brought us a snack for the next show.

I would imagine those that see the dirty bottom line of the daytime drama see little value in those little shows.I wish they could have had great summers like I had and those years spent at home cleaning and cooking, all the while keeping a watchful eye on those reckless, spirited and sometimes villainous people of Springfield.

They reminded me just how calm and tame my life really was.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Looking Magnificent in Yellow

The word magnificent came to mind and the only one that seemed appropriate.  Glorious was adequate but just did not capture the moment.

After almost a year of no measurable rain, a month of wildfires, a weekend of high winds, I awoke to the sound of thunder early this morning.

Knowing that thunder meant lightening and lightening on dry terrain meant nothing but trouble, I kept the fire dept scanner going throughout the night.  Having another fire start while our world slept is one of my worst nightmares.

Everyone knew that the rains on the radar last night out to the west of us had the potential to give us rain and just as likely the potential to pass us by.  It was the lightening that worried us most.  We watched the last night's radar and the lightening strikes and held our collective breaths.

I laid in bed in the wee hours of this Sunday morning thinking about that Sunday morning not long ago and the series of events that created the most frightening day I can remember.  Ordinary days that become extraordinary.  Extraordinarily awful and terrifying.  I thought about the smoke, the fire, the sirens and helicopters, planes, radio transmissions, packing essentials and the day to day worry of the next fire that was just waiting for all the right elements to converge in that next game changing moment.  I held my breath as the I listened to the thunder and watched the flashes of lightening dance on the curtains by my bed.

Then I heard it.  The sound of rain hitting my window.  Softly at first then I heard that low roar of rain pouring on the roof.  I exhaled.

I waited for the morning light to go out on the porch and see what I've been waiting to see for the better part of a year.  Isn't that simply unimaginable?  Anyone waiting for almost a year to see rain.  Can you even imagine?

By the time I could see the back yard, water had already begun to stand in places.  This would indicate that it was a good rain indeed.  Prior to this morning, when I had set the sprinkler in the yard, it would take hours for water to puddle on that thirsty powdered soil.  All I could think when I saw the water standing in the back yard was that it was all going to be absorbed into the ground, into the plants and into their very thirsty roots.

I noticed my rain barrel was overflowing, another wonderful sight.  In my world, there is no such thing as too much rain.  While its too late to undo all that has been done by it's absence, so much has been prevented by it's presence today.  Today, not one person in My Town will worry about a fire starting.  Not one single person. 

To find My Town, locate Austin on the map then look for the little circle with the plus sign inside.  That's me in all that magnificent yellow.

I must admit, we look magnificent in yellow.