Monday, December 31, 2007

Shall Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

New Years Eve is a celebration of “out with the old, in with the new!” At midnight the day, the month, and the year flip over to the next notch. In one discrete and infinitesimally small point in time, 2007 will be over and a new year will begin. But that’s just how we measure time. Time itself and how we live through it is a continuum that we simply tick off as it flows by, and one moment, in general, is very much like the one right after it, barring cataclysmic shocks of any sort.

People are also analog. I can make a decision at one point in time, but it’s not so much a particle as the peak of a wave, with a build up of thought and feeling and sensing and observing all going into informing the decision I’m about to make, then all the work I have to do to put that decision into action and achieve an actual change.

Psychologically, the end of the year seems like a perfect time to say good bye to the bad habits of mind or body that have kept me from progressing and growing this year. And I do feel like I’ve been kept from growing in many ways. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve done a lot, but I don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything. I’m still in very much the same place I was at the beginning of the year, if not even farther behind. And I didn’t want to be there this long.

Blogs are a wonderful thing. I just looked back to see if there were any New Year’s Resolutions I’d made, and maybe forgotten. I don’t see any. But I see a sort of optimism about this year in some of my posts and I just don’t feel like 2007 was what I hoped it would be, and maybe it’s being sick right now, but I don’t feel great about next year. I’ve got such a long way to go, and I don’t feel like I got anywhere this year.

I’m doing a few little things that may seem silly. I washed all the dishes left in my sink and have started the dishwasher. I’ve done a lot of laundry lately. So I’ll start the New Year with lots of clean clothes and dishes. There are other things I need to do for spring-cleaning, but those will have to wait until I purchase some organizing equipment. I’m taking Kevin’s suggestion, to, and I plan to burn some candles and watch this year melt away.

More profoundly, I’ve made some decisions, and I’m hoping that the time that has passed this year, while it hasn’t propelled me onward and upward, has been the slow building of a wave in which I’ve finally come to the point that these decisions are ready to be made, and that this next year will be a year of hard work to carry them out.

It’s a process, a continuum of constant assessment and growing conviction and steady effort. It’s analog. And it’s hard. I have a lot of bad habits, and I’m not going to get rid of them all at once, all in one moment. I’ve picked a few very personal hang-ups to try to overcome. I wish it were as simple as turning the page of the calendar. I wish that the old ways that I’m so well acquainted with were that easy to leave behind. That the past could be completely separated from the future at that tiny point in time, instead of always being connected to it and coloring it.

This New Year’s Eve, my hopes for the next few weeks, even months, are pretty modest. I already see ways in which the things I wanted to leave behind back in this year are going to bleed over into the next. Hopefully, though, I’ll get past that quickly. My real hope is that some New Year’s Eve years from now, this will seem far away and time long since gone by. That I’ll be so far away that I’ll have to work to remember the things holding me back, instead of having to work so hard to get away.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Christmas Vacation 2007

Was just drifting awake on the morning of Thursday, December 20 when my cell phone rang. It was Kid wishing me happy birthday.

"Are you at work?"

"No, I took the day off."

"Oh no! I woke you up, didn't I?"

She hadn't, really, and it was time to get going. Two hours of tossing stuff into bags and checking stuff off of impromptu packing lists, and I was on the road. Was eating lunch at Frank's in Schulenburg when Uncle John called to wish me happy birthday.

Got to Biscuit Hill Bed and Breakfast a little after 3pm. Was greeted by Deana, who runs the place. She showed me around, we settled my bill in advance, and she said I'd have the house to myself until the other couple got in the next day, and breakfast would be at 9:30. Seemed silly for her to expect me for breakfast, since I'd much rather sleep in at least the first day, and when I said this she said that was fine! And she sent me up to my room with these amazing cinnamon crumb muffins and apple juice. I ran out that night for crackers, cream cheese, salami, and wine for my dinner. I took a walk down the creek bed under the wary gaze of the four whitetail does had come up for the corn that I'd tossed out for them. The rest of the evening I spent curled up in my room or soaking in the huge jacuzzi tub, eating my crackers and cheese and such and reading. And reading. And reading.

The next day I went driving around the hills. I drove by my old home, but everything was changed. The trees had grown up and blocked the views I remember, and it didn't feel like home any more. But I saw Mrs. Schultze in her driveway as I drove by, so I pulled in and talked with her for a while, and it was great to see her.

Drove back up by the lake and stopped to take some pictures, then came back to the B&B. Was once again a lazy bum with a stack of good books. The next day I did go down for breakfast, chatted with Josh and Marlena from Katy, checked with Deana that I was good to leave when I was packed, then headed out just before 11am.

Got to Mom's and we finished cleaning and setting up the Christmas decor. That night we had Kid's boyfriend and his parents and younger sister over to join Mom and Kid and Grandma and me for dinner in honor of my birthday. It was fun. The next day Kid's boyfriend installed a new back door with a little doggie door for Abby, and I wrapped presents. Yes it took me most of the day to do that. We had the food network on, too, and then after dinner we opened Christmas presents by the tree. I don't know what's going to run out first... red kitchen gadgetry for Mom to buy me, or kitchen for me to put red gadgetry in. :-P

Christmas Eve Grandma headed on to Kerrville and we headed to La Grange. I left first, but I took my time, and I stopped to visit Dad's grave. A lot has been going on, and I miss him, but crying with my cheek against his headstone for a while felt as close as I'm ever going to come again to crying in his arms. I got tears all over the stone, and felt the way I would if it had been his shirt I'd soaked. I wish I could tell him everything, just to hear him say how proud he still was of me, and that of course I've never disappointed him. It's what I know he'd say, deep down, but never hearing it leaves me still doubting sometimes.

Kid and her boyfriend beat me to Momo's, and Mom got there a little afterwards. That evening, like always, we went to the Christmas pageant mass. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great for the kids to be the ones to celebrate the Word, but I think I need to find a new way to worship Christmas. It's too much spectacle. And choir is just horrible. No, really. And the congregation doesn't join in very loudly, even though everyone knows the words. So it just kind of hurts. I guess I shouldn't be such a snob; it's about worship, not performance. But kids reading through the scripture as fast as they can and a choir that never starts at the right time and parents snapping pictures... I needed something more this year. Something deeper. Oh well. I'm also going to start booking a hotel room. With all the kids and grandkids and spouses and great grandkids and significant owners, the house is getting kind of crowded. And kind of noisy.

We had Chinese Christmas that night like always. The Crown Royal was a popular item, and my cousin Shane and another cousin's boyfriend worked out a strategy where they both managed to get and freeze the two bottles up for grabs. It was highly amusing. And fairly brilliant. I'm ashamed to say the only miffed feelings this time were mine when Brooke stole the neat faux leather storage footstool I'd got, but most of that was for show. Still, Greg stole a tool set from Mom to freeze it for her, and then Mom stole the footstool back for me, and Brooke ended up with colored cordial glasses that she really likes, so it all turned out okay.

Anyway, today we had a big dinner, and I drove home, and so now I'm watching my new CSI Las Vegas videos. No more red wine in the apartment, though. I spilled my glass, which wouldn't be so bad, only then I mopped it up with a green wash cloth that bleeds. Red and green. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekend in Nawlins

I'm sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home. I have a LOT of time here, owing to the fact that I couldn't check out much later than 1pm, my flight isn't until 3:40pm, and there was no traffic on the way to the airport. So I'll take this time to recount my adventures.

December 15, 2007

I sleep in as late as I can. Why would you spend so much time sleeping when you're in NEW ORLEANS??? Because you need the sleep. Desperately.

Up and out and around the French Quarter before 1pm. Wonder where I can get a cheap lunch that isn't an absolute tourist hole. Wander up Royal Street. Wonder if I can find Croissant D'Or, a patisserie that Jonathan had recommended as we passed by on the Vampire Tour, and which I have a vague feeling is between Royal and the convent on Ursalines. Wander in that direction, resisting the temptation to look at my map. Find it right where instinct said it would be. I'm just that good. :-P

Eat a quiche Lorraine and a chocolate eclaire for lunch. I love this city. Read my book sitting at a counter in the window. Finish eating and meander down toward Jackson Square. Three weddings in the cathedral, so interior inspection has to wait until I attend mass on the morrow.

Wander down and across the windy streets to the riverfront. Sit in the sunshine as the barges slide by and read. Lock eyes with a young man walking slowly down the sidewalk, stopping now and then to gaze at the river. Watch him covertly over the pages of my book, turning my head to watch him watch the river, and every so often look my way. He knows I'm watching him and knows I know he's watching me as I sit still and he drifts past and we both gaze across to the other shore. It's a moment of human connection that dispenses with introductions and awkward courtesies, the connection of parallel sights and sounds, thoughts and feelings akin that would recognize each other at the first meeting. Then we turn away completely and I read.

And read.

And read.

Stop to watch the sunlight on the blue and brown ripples, and to watch a freighter pass under the highway bridge. Feel the rising wind and the dimming sun, and glance back west to see the gray clouds creeping over the city.

Get up and drift back into the Vieux Car
ré. Find my way to Pat O'Brien's and snag a Kier Royal and a Diet Coke just as the rain began. Wind my way upstairs to a quiet table and chairs outside of the ladies' powder room, and sip my drink and read my book, reading faster and faster as the rain falls and passes and the sky clears to darkening twilight, and the tale spins out in the last pages, cut off at the end like the Fates' thread.

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:-- Do I wake or sleep?
~Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale"
This is how I always feel when I lift myself out of the pages of a good book at its finish. Floating, disoriented. Still drifting between the world around me and the world in the pages. My goal for the weekend is accomplished.

I decide to take a Haunted History ghost tour, now that the rain has stopped. My drinks finished with my book, I pop across the way to Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop, and for once see through the door someone I do actually know, not just a revenant wreathing a stranger in familiarity. I rush in to say hi to a friend as surprised to see me as I am to see him, who has met some friends of his from Florida at this best of half-way meeting places. We part ways after a few words. We'll meet again Wednesday at my birthday party.

The tour is fun and this time I have the cash to buy the book. Perfect timing, too, since now I need another book to read. I head to Fiorella's, because it wouldn't be a visit to New Orleans without fried chicken from Fiorella's. This has become more integral to me than Cafe du Monde. I suppose I do like fried chicken more than I like beignets.

I sit in the dim restaurant eating my chicken, absorbed in ghost tales, until I decide that this is VAMPIRE weekend, and I'll read the ghost stories later. I flip to the vampire section and begin working my way through that, until my meal is done. With chills running down my spine that have nothing to do with the cold north wind, I leave the restaurant resolved to get to my warm and well-lit hotel room as quickly as possible.

And I find myself in a deserted, if brightly-lit side street with no open shops heading towards the Ursaline convent, where they say vampires are boarded up in the attic. Lovely. I walk faster until, panting with my speed, and not a little self-induced terror, and relief at the people once again all around me, I turn into Royal Street and head to my hotel. But those two blocks have changed the color of the evening, and when I get back to my room, I can't shake the urge to look over my shoulder, or NOT look out my window, for fear of seeing a ghastly pale face hovering on the other side of the glass. Great.

Fortunately for my night's repose, there are friends on line to chat with, and LOLKatz at I haven't creeped myself out that thoroughly since I watched X-Files by myself for the first time. Geez. Finally, sleep.

December 16, 2007

Up before my alarm goes off and out on the streets before many of the shops open. Down to my new favorite place, the Croissant D'Or for breakfast. Eat my way through a delicious croissant filled with ham and cream cheese and an almost-as-delicious croissant filled with chocolate. Wander around a bit more, and find myself at 11am mass in St. Louis Cathedral.

Notes from the organ float amid the columns, drifting from one hymn to the next fluid and clear until voices begin singing "Wake, O wake and sleep no longer." Then "O come, O come Emmanuel" as the archbishop and his priests ascend the aisle. He welcomes us all, even, perhaps, some people from Arizona, come to support the Cardinals. He reminds them with sweet pastoral slyness that while we in the Roman Catholic church certainly have much respect for Cardinals, God considers it much better to be a Saint. It's a lovely mass in a beautiful church, not so grand or ornate as those in Europe, but full of light and richness and color. He ends his homily with words he treasures from a freeborn black woman who began to teach the coloreds and founded a religious house for them in the early part of the century.

"God, I believe in you. I hope in you. I love you. I want to live and die in you."
He calls these words his guide as he continues his ministry of 50 years, when his human weakness and failing strength would have him retire, but his church and his God call him to carry on where he's needed.

Only time to do some quick Christmas shopping in a shop I spotted earlier, then back to the hotel to check out. I hop a cab to the airport, and the Saint's game is on the radio. As we pass the Superdome, I'm struck by the thought that all that I'm listening to is going on just behind those curved walls. The commentators begin to gossip, as we exit I-10, about a large bird that just flew in front of them. "Was it a pigeon?" one asks. "No, those hang around your house," the other responds. "An albatross?" "No, those hang around your neck!"

I laugh out loud to hear a sports commentator referencing Coleridge.

Then it's the airport and paying the cabby and settling at a bistro table to fire up my laptop, and here we are!

I'll be home soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interview with the Hair Stylist OR My Date with the Big Easy

This weekend’s theme is vampires. My whole reason for staying in New Orleans is to read Interview with the Vampire in its setting. That and I’m in love the French Quarter.

Got my hair dyed on the first floor of One Shell Square by a stylist who was once personal assistant to Anne Rice. He had several of her books at his station, and when he offered me a magazine while I waited for my hair to finish turning Warm Celtic Copper, I explained my weekend project and asked if instead I could... He took his copy from the shelf and said, “Do you know where you left off?” <3

I was the first patron for dinner at Petunia’s. I don’t recommend. The food, for the price, not so much. My waiter… Okay, a very few men may call me “Babe” and not raise my hackles. ONLY my father could ever call me “Baby” without incurring the icy glare of doom. A waiter who calls me “Baby” on multiple occasions, and continuously bugs me about what I’m reading while I’m very obviously… busy reading… does not win points. The finishing touch was when he brought the check and said, “I’d love to talk with you more, but that book must be really good.” Grrr.

Next, the Haunted History vampire tour of the French Quarter. VERY fun. Lots of spine tingles, and not just because of the cute tour guide. :-) I love a creepy story, even if it does make me walk really fast back to my hotel. And I love the history of this city, the lore and the legend. I love to lose myself in it. To stare, eyes wide, ears focused on the tales the guide is spinning, breathing in deeply and soaking up everything I can as it swirls around me. I’ve been happy with both my Haunted History tours through the French Quarter, and I highly recommend that company.

I’m more than halfway done with the book, so I expect I’ll finish tomorrow. I intend to buy the book of New Orleans ghost and vampire stories that Jonathan (the guide) recommended.

The witching hour has come. Back to my dreams.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hi Dad, it’s Me

I tried to go to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. Then I was revisited by a thought I had shuffled away earlier. Earlier today, earlier this weekend, I can’t really remember when I had it, but it came back. When I think about my dad, I think of having him back that one last time, to pour out all of the things I wanted to say. Or I think of how I had him and never really… had him. Didn’t spend time with him the way I should have. Which is not to say we didn’t spend time together. But I’ve changed so much and grown so much, and I feel like I’m a different person, and this person, he didn’t know her the way I want him to.

I spend so much time thinking of having him back just one last time. But earlier, and now, I’m struck with the thought of having him back for life. Not one intense, emotional and meaning-packed capsule of time. For days. Months. Years. The years we could have had. I want to call home this weekend and hear him answer. To hear him say, “Hi, Lady!” with the warm every day sort of joy in his voice that says, “This isn’t a special occasion, but it’s special all the same, because I love you.” The next words would be, “You want to talk to Mom?” not because I didn’t want to talk to Dad, but because of course it was Mom I needed to talk to. She’d be the one to help hammer out logistics for my next trip home. She’d be the one to have all the family and neighborhood gossip. Dad would plunk himself back down in front of the television, secure in the knowledge that his baby girl had put in her weekly phone call, was alive and sounded happy, and would call again next week. Would be home a few weekends from now. And that was time enough for everything. I want that back.

But I do want more. I do want the chance to spend time getting to know him like I never did, and letting him get to know the person I’ve become. He loved to shock me with his profanity and his off-color jokes. How would he react if I spun some of it back to him? What would he think of this me who doesn’t mind admitting to being the most fabulous person in the room? Daddy and I, we had good banter. It would be even better now, now that I’ve found my feet, gotten a little cocky, and am no longer afraid to be unrestrainedly… myself. I feel like he’d see the woman he always knew I could be, and that as proud as he always was of me, he’d be even more proud, and happy in my happiness.

I want to feel like I belong again. Going to Momo’s for Thanksgiving Sunday, it was great to see them all, but I feel so out of place among them. The women, they’re all married, domestic, settled, except for my sister, and I actually spent the most time with her and her boyfriend. Different as they are from me, I felt most at home with them. And with my mom. The truth is, I know I belong, but I’m not sure where I fit, so I ended up following Mom and Brooke around a bit, and trying to hide my being awkward. At one point I even wandered into the room where the men were shooting the breeze, but I didn’t fit there either. But that’s where Daddy would have been. And if he’d been there, I would have fit where he was. I would have walked over and pulled up the chair next to his, and he would have said, “Hey, Baby-doll!” and put his arm across the back of my chair, and I could have sat and said nothing. Just listened to them talk, and not felt out of place. I would have felt more fit in than ever, with the new knowing myself and the old sitting at Daddy’s side. Because after all, knowing myself has been mostly realizing how much like him I am. Sure maybe I wouldn’t see him any more often than I did back then. But I want those every-so-oftens back. I want back not heart-wrenching moments of making the most of time, but the comfortable assumption that the time will always be there to be made the most of.

I so want to just spend that sort of time with him, slowly continuing to grow up and grow and grow old together as father and daughter, slowly sharing with him who I am now. But who I am now… When I look back, I know I am who I am now because he died. That his leaving us was the kick in the stomach that jolted me out of the self-defeating, self-effacing, self-denying rut I was in. I hate that it took that, but I have to admit I might not have gotten my act together without his death. And while I know that he would have given everything for my happiness, it sucks so bad that he would have been so thrilled to have stayed around and seen the gift he gave me by his leaving.

Perhaps that should have been my first clue that the Fates had begun to weave this tremendous, sticky, stifling web of irony that seems to have engulfed my life. Daddy helped me get it together, and would be so proud of the person I am now, only the only reason I’m this person I am now is because he died. I was married for four years and only wanted kids in the theoretical sense, and now that I’m divorced, the hormones have kicked over and make that far off wish a physical demand that I have no way of appeasing. I finally love myself completely, am thrilled about who I am, after years of trying to be someone I wasn’t, but thought I should be, and all those years it was easy to find guys interested in that person I was trying to be. Now that I’m someone I love completely, and I feel like I can give my heart more fully than ever before, I can’t for the life of me find a real relationship.

There are things I don’t want to go back to. I can say I wish my father hadn’t died, but I don’t have it in me to wish I was still the person I was before his death. I can only say I wish I’d learned it some other way, but would I have? Existential paradox aside, though, I want my father back. And for once I’m not asking for that “just one more day” crap. I can’t have him. I can’t. But if I’m going to beg for the impossible, I’m going to be unabashedly greedy. I don’t want one more day. I want years and years, wrinkles and gray hair, decades, the rest of a real, not-cut-off-short, long healthy life.

Not so I can squeeze every last drop out of every minute. But so I can let every minute ripen in its own time and fall into my hand like a blessing freely given, not clutched at and wrung dry. I want to call home this weekend for Mom, like I try to do every week, and hear his voice like it used to be. To say, just like I’d said it the week before, and would say it the next week, and for all the weeks of my life, the weeks I always thought I’d have…

“Hi, Dad! It’s me!”

Sunday, November 25, 2007

First Frost

I looked in the mirror after washing my hands for dinner at Momo's, ran my fingers through my hair, then stopped, and looked closer. I leaned forward, lifted a hand, and gently sifted a single strand of silver out from the rest of my hair. I called Brooke to come with me into the bathroom light, and looked again, and asked, "Is that really...?"

"A gray hair? Do you have a gray hair?" she asked.

"I think I do!" I replied, and I laughed. I must be the first woman who noticed her first gray hair, and thought about *not* dying her hair any more. I probably will keep it up, because I do like being a red head. But honestly, I remember seeing the strands of silver at Michael's temples, and thinking how pretty they were against the dark of his hair. This one strand on my head shines against the rest and glitters in the light, and for all it might mean in terms of my surrendered youth and the inexorable march of time, it is beautiful to me, and precious in a way I don't really understand.

I laughed, and rushed out to tell my mother, and they probably all think I'm insane. How can I explain to anyone who clings to their own youth as a golden age that my twenties have been the hardest time of my life, and I can only hope to rise out of them into the rest of my life like a phoenix. I know in my soul that I have the strength and grace for this. That in fact this is what I do every day that I get up and greet the world with an open heart full of faith and hope and love. This is what I intend to do all my life, and I hope that life is a long one. Long enough for every hair on my head to turn.

So bring it on, gray hair! I'm ready!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

New blog, new blog, lah lah lah lah laaaaah lah

I have a new blog at

Give me some time, I'll start posting good stuff.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The List

I haven't ever had this sort of list before, and I didn't really think to sit down to make one, but slowly I've been thinking of things. The world is so big, and I'm so small. This year I'm going to travel, and hopefully see a lot of things I've never seen. Daddy was so alive, and then he was gone. I'm not sure when I'll reach the bottom of my glass, but I hope to drink deep and savor every drop. So here's my list of things I want to do before I die.

  • See the Northern Lights
  • Hear a nightingale
  • See New England in the fall
  • Write a novel
  • See Times Square
  • Visit the Grand Canyon
  • Take the tour at Alcatraz
  • Make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  • Visit Gettysburg
  • Go into the catacombs
  • Visit Ellis Island
  • Read every Agatha Christie mystery novel
  • See the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam
  • Eat Chicago deep dish in Chicago
  • Visit the Guggenheim
  • Relax on a black sand beach
  • Stand in the middle of Stonehenge
  • Visit Delphi
  • Drink tea and eat fish and chips in London
  • Ride a paddle boat on the Mississippi
  • See the St. Louis Arch
  • Visit Death Valley
  • See the sun set over the Everglades
  • Sing a solo on stage in Jones Hall (Done)
  • See Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower (Done)
  • Watch elephant seals on a beach in Big Sur (Done)
  • Play the slots in Vegas (Done)
  • Eat beignets in Cafe du Monde after drinks on Bourbon Street (Done)
  • Pray in St. Peter's Basilica (Done)
  • Listen to blues on Beale Street (Done)
  • Wine tasting in Napa Valley (Done)
  • Watch Old Faithful erupt (Done)
  • Visit the Monterrey Bay Aquarium (Done)

Thankfully I've got some of them out of the way. I hope I have enough time for the rest...

Monday, October 29, 2007

I Recommend Fiori

I was telling my friend Kevin last week about how I’d pulled something and my neck and shoulders were sore. Kevin told me in no uncertain terms that what I needed was a massage. He sent me the link to Fiori, a spa near the Galleria, that he had visited with Kari. I was impressed by the website, thought the prices were reasonable, and was thrilled to learn that they had Sunday appointments. I made one for this past Sunday, between lunch and the HCB concert. Granted, a relaxing afternoon at the spa isn’t something you should squeeze into your calendar with a shoehorn, but I had no choice if I wanted to do something about my neck any time in the foreseeable future.





I got there early for my appointment, as requested, filled out a form that asked me some very pertinent questions, such as my gender preference for people providing my services, whether or not I bruise easily, allergies to foods or herbs, etc. Then I was shown to the ladies locker room. Which was palatial. It had wood paneled lockers with key pad combination locks, sinks made to look like basins of glass on top of marble counters, two large showers, two large toilet stalls, a steam room, bottles of chilled water, towels, towels, and more towels, and in my locker, a stack of towels, some washcloths, and a soft, fluffy, chocolate brown robe. The attendant brought me my spa slippers, and told me to find her in the shop when I was done changing, and she’d show me around.

I put on my swimsuit, just in case, wrapped myself up in that warm, thick robe, and padded off to the shop for my tour. The attendant showed me the pool (too cold), the underground mineral bath (YES in HOUSTON!), and the Jacuzzi hot tub. That’s about as far as I made it. She said she’d send someone down to get me when it was time for my manicure and pedicure (after wandering over Italian cobblestones in the dust of Rome and Tuscany wearing sandals, my feet needed some pampering). I soaked in the warm, foamy water, relaxed by the sound of water flowing all around me in the small, rock-walled room. I had the place entirely to myself at the time. I closed my eyes and cupped my hands along the water’s tumbling surface, feeling the fizz of the bubbles as I trapped them in my hands. It reminded me of a dream I had where I lay along the hill side of my old home as clouds skimmed along the ground, and I reached out to catch them as they raced by.

I kinda got bored of sitting around after a while, so before anyone came for me, I went back to the locker room to towel off and put on dry things again before padding along in my robe to the shop again to figure out where to go for my nails. The attendant sent me to the top of the stairs to find the quiet room and wait for the manicurist to collect me. I went up and found some soft comfy couches and chairs, and sank down into an armchair to wait.

In a bit Tracie came to get me, and took me to the manicure and pedicure room. She told me to pick out an enamel, but I asked if I could get a buff shine instead, and she said of course. (I really don’t like nail polish much. It’s fun, but it chips too easily, and I don’t have the patience to let it dry properly.) We started with my hands, and while I was quiet, she just let me be quiet. Eventually I got over my usual shyness, and asked how long she’d been a manicurist. She laughed and said too long, since high school, but that she’d always worked with people, and was glad she had this to fall back on. After a number of other jobs, all requiring more patience than I certainly have, she had come back to this, and enjoyed her job very much.

We talked about how beautiful the building was, and the attention to detail in its décor. I haven’t really mentioned this, but the spa is a rock and timber building with slate floors, for the most part, or warm tile, covered with sisal mats or rugs. The walls are painted warm colors in some rooms, or a soft ivory, with decorative patterns painted inside the archways or around the wooden doors and wooden doorposts and lintels. The windows are shuttered with thick wooden blinds, and the lighting is soft and indirect. As Tracie gave me my pedicure, I could look alternately into a small, sunny courtyard, or at the bronze and amber chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The room with the mineral pool had a blue ceiling and red ceiling painted over with beige lattice that reminded me of a ceiling in the Vatican museum. Warm woods and leathers and ceramics were everywhere, and the whole looked quite a bit like the pictures Summer showed me of the villa they visited near Siena for a stargazing trip.

After Tracie told me what not to do to my nails in the future (I did rather hack at my toenails recently, since it had been so long since my last pedicure), and buffing all my nails to a lovely shine, she released me for my massage. I went back up to the top level, and finally found the quiet room, though all the ottomans were taken, so I didn’t go in, but instead sat on another plump armchair just beside the curtains that separated it from the corridor to the massage rooms.

My masseuse, Maziel, came and led me to a dim, wood-floored room and a soft massage bed. She asked if there was anything in particular I needed her to work on, so I told her about my shoulder. She let me choose between eucalyptus, orange, or lavender oils (I chose orange) and left so I could get myself situated. The massage bed was warm (I think there was an electric blanket somewhere in there), and the sheets covering me were a cotton so rich it felt almost like silk. She came back in and started my massage. She was pretty shocked at how tight my shoulders were. I think at least 30 of the 50 minutes I got were spent working out the tension there.

The knot in my right shoulder felt like a golf ball-sized lump of pain that she kneaded and kneaded at until it finally broke up and dispersed back into the muscles of my shoulder. She did my legs and arms, and kept coming back to that shoulder to work it around some more, stretch out the muscles, loosen the joints. It hurt pretty bad, at times, but it’s the sort of pain you grit your teeth through because you know it will only get better by getting worse. She told me I’d be sore today, and I was this morning, but I also have full mobility in my neck and head again, in spite of slight bruising over everything between my shoulder blades. I did check off on the form that I bruise easily. Still, it was worth it.

She finished off by massaging my neck, my temples, and all through my scalp, then waited outside while I robed and slippered up, to take me to the quiet room. She handed me a glass of water with a hint of lemon and lime, and settled me into one of the tan, micro-fiber covered ottomans in the dim room behind a chocolate velvet curtain. There was a rich brown blanket to cover up my legs, and two huge candles on the center table, melting into soft golden curves beside a bunch of stargazer lilies. The lamps were dimmed, and I didn’t bother with the books on the tables, but closed my eyes and let my mind drift along with the music playing softly from somewhere.

After some number of minutes, I began to hope that the music was computer generated, and that no real musicians had been forced to sit in a studio for hours playing subtly shifting chords. I don’t care how celestial the sounds are, pages full of whole notes would just be cruel and unusual. I think it was mostly synthesized, at least, but still, if a person had to sit there and push the keys, I pity them, and hope it paid well. It was just background music, and thoroughly innocuous, but still!

By the time I’d gotten completely lost in the sounds, found myself again, and finished my glass of water, I decided it was time to refill the glass (“Drink LOTS of water, okay?” Maziel had said) and go sit in the steam room for at least ten minutes, like she’d recommended (“Otherwise you’ll be really sore tomorrow”).

So I slipped back down to the locker room with a fresh glass of ice water, wrapped myself in a humongous towel grabbed a chilled, damp, lavender-scented washcloth, turned the steam room dial to ten minutes, and went in. I sat on the caramel colored stone-tiled bench listening to the dial outside tick, which fortunately drowned out the sound of those interminable major chords, until a strange rumbling gurgle in the wall made me open my eyes to watch this new novelty: steam pouring from a spigot near the floor, filling the little room, clouding the air until I couldn’t see my own hands on my towel-covered lap, and the light above and the light from the door were just a gentle glow through the haze. I shut my eyes and breathed deeply in and out through my nose. Breathing through my mouth made me cough on the warm dampness in the air. My nose filtered most of it out, and (forgive me for reporting a less than graceful and sophisticated detail) the steam made my nose drip like a faucet. I found this amusing, intriguing, and thoroughly predictable, once I thought about it, but still, it surprised me.

Ten minutes wasn’t enough in the steam room. When all my lovely humidity had seeped away, I went out and reset for another 10 minutes. This time was better because the steam was warmer to start with and I found the spray bottle of eucalyptus and citrus scented something or other that made my nose tingle. I decided after 20 minutes of steam that I shouldn’t push things, because I still needed to shower and go change into a black formal for my concert.

I don’t think I got any more than half of my massage oil off in the shower, but didn’t mind going to the concert smelling slightly fruity, so I dried off, dressed, and paid my tab. The entire afternoon, gratuity included, cost me $188.80. Not bad at all for 3.5 solid hours of luxury!

Now, how do I get rid of thing lingering pain in my trumpet playing muscles that made me have to come home early from jazz band, and how do I get rid of the lingering guilt for spending so much money on luxury and not on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and defending the widow and orphan? I think that's another blog for another day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


You know, there's not really a lot that I've done or not done that I look back on these days with regret. I've made some mistakes that have had a pretty significant impact on my life, and it's taken a lot, but I've learned to live with them, knowing that I made the best decisions I could based on what I knew and felt at the time, and I've come to realize that 1) it's not my fault I didn't know everything I ended up needing to know, 2) all I can do, any given day of my life, is my best. If I do my best, and it doesn't work out, that may be cause for frustration, sadness, even grief. But not regret.

I can live with the things I've done, for the most part, without regret. There's just this one thing. What bothers me isn't missing out on the chance I had. I wish I had done things differently now, but it's a pretty fair chance that things happened for the best. What bothers me is *why* i missed the chance. I could have decided to stand back because of a million reasons why it was the smart thing to do. Not that the smart thing to do has much pull with me. After all, the smart thing, as I've found, isn't always the best thing. But I didn't decide to pass. I missed my chance because I was... afraid.

By the time I got things sorted out in my own head, and realized that I was stalling, not deciding, and that I might decide to do things differently, well, my chance was gone. Or at least greatly reduced. Or just much more complicated. I don't know. I'm back to sorting, because things changed. Life didn't wait for me to make up my mind. It moved on without me. I understand that happens. It's my job to keep up, not the world's job to wait.

So this time, I'll stay on the sidelines, I guess. And I imagine it's for the best. Things tend to work out the way they're supposed to, whether I'm out there trying to make them, or just letting them make themselves. But I hate that it was fear, uncertainty, insecurity, and lack of confidence and self-knowledge that made me miss my chance.

If I'd made an actual decision, I'd be better with living with it. The fact that I pretty much just dithered and waffled away my chance...

That's what I regret.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Du Jour

Soup! Of course!

It would be a pretty silly idea, since I'm singing in a huge concert on Tuesday next, to go to the Rice football game on Saturday. I don't feel like anywhere near half a fan if I'm not yelling my guts out, and face it, that's just a baaaaad idea at this point.

So instead, I've decided I will make soup. Yesterday's (rather ephemeral) cool snap put me in the mood for thick rich hearty soupy goodness. The question becomes, what kind of soup?

I have a bag of navy beans in the pantry and ham and venison sausage in the freezer. That has worked well for me in the past. But I'd really like to make chicken noodle. I can't get my egg noodles from Weikel's, though. Well, you know, I could. I could get up early on Saturday, pack a cooler, drive out to La Grange, grab some noodles, and while I'm there, really I ought to buy the chicken from the city market. Because it will be about 20 times as fresh as anything I'll get here.

But that involves getting up Saturday morning. Hah, sooooo not happening. I bet I can find egg noodles and a reasonably fresh fowl this side of Highway 6. Then some cheese cloth. A large onion. Carrots. I have spinach leaves. I like to boil them in, then pull them out. I don't really like spinach, but it adds something.

Yeah. Chicken noodle soup. That sounds like a good sort of day.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Always an Adventure

I clomped down the stairs of my apartment this morning at 0-too-early and out onto the sidewalk. I glanced up and was stopped dead in my tracks by the brilliance of the stars. In Houston, you don't normally see stars. The air was crisp and clear, and the sky was dark. All the defining points of Orion were visible, my favorite constellation. He rises high in the sky for the autumn and early winter, my favorite part of the year, with Canis Major and the Dog Star. The brightest star in the sky. Venus blazed in the east with two other planets. I haven't been following my astronomy reports, so I don't know which one, but they were like diamonds. I was floored.

Of course, I still had that flight to New Orleans to catch. I got to the airport in plenty of time, and decided that a breakfast taco from the Pappasito's in the airport sounded good. Better than one of the bagel sandwiches from the counter in the Hudson News. So I got one and wandered down to my gate. I sat down to eat it. It tasted really good, but about halfway through, the foil at the bottom got really hot, then my knee felt hot. The eggs were... a bit runny. :-(

So I set some stuff down and grabbed some napkins. I had my computer bag on my shoulder, and when I picked my taco up and put it on the bag it came in to contain the dribble, my bag slipped down, jerked my arm, and bag and taco went flying, and, I kid you not, they did a 360 degree flip together, and the taco landed on top of the bag on the ground.

Splattering my shoe, pants cuffs, and computer bag with egg water. I sat down laughing with my head in my hands. What else ya gunna do? I mopped up, and since my taco landed face-up, so to speak, I finished eating.

I got on the plane right on time (i.e. way too early), got all settled, and looked around me, and noticed something funny about the overhead bins. They were blue, and had... pictures of... Shamu... and... the Sea World logo... and... one of them *said* Shamu!!! Was it really....???

I looked out my window at the rotor.

Which was encased in a smooth cylinder panted in black and white! I was on a Shamu plane! Eeeeee!!!!

I was in the sky before the sun was. That's a hard way to start the day. But the sun was bright in a blue sky when we landed. And the traffic on I-10 was a swamp. And my cabbie was *nuts*. It was like that scene in Office Space when the lane the guy isn't in is always the faster one. But my cabbie was undeterred. At one point he went across all three lanes, then went right back. At some point I started pondering why on earth I would feel complicit in his insanity, just because I was paying for the transit. Huh.

Another thought to ponder came from a bumper sticker I saw on a flatbed. "Our trucks don't run on Citgo" it read. Anyone know what's up with that? Is there something I should know about Citgo?

My meeting went well. My mission to get us set up with an application the Shell folks keep wanting us to use turned out to be a wild goose chase. Ugh. Spun my wheels on that all afternoon, then dragged myself out the door, into another cab, slightly more sanely driven through a similar traffic tangle, and into the airport, where I walked calmly and quietly to the nearest Popeye's. Did I mention that I was chasing geese so intently that I didn't eat or drink anything at all the entire day after my breakfast taco and diet coke? Oy.

At some point during my morning meeting my phone had gone off and I'd quickly shut it up. I finally remembered to check my voice mail, and the message was from Kid saying she'd be coming to my concert so to save her a ticket!!! Yay!

I'd IMed Frank during the day and found out he was in New Orleans, and would be coming home in the evening too, so I agreed to meet up with him at the airport for a drink. It was fun to chat with him, though I hate it when he starts razzing me about going home early after HCB. Just because *he* doesn't get sick when he doesn't get sleep... grmblgrmblgrmbl pout.

Frank had to leave earlier than I did. And then my flight was late. The 6:30pm to Houston is ALWAYS late. Ugh. So I was up in the sky after the sun had left for the day. The stars were faint in a dark hazy sky when I got back to my apartment. And I'm home and I'm tired and my throat hurts. Not a good sign. Done with adventures. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

October Sky

I decided this evening that I didn't need enough in the grocery department to justify getting in my car and driving to the Krogers. I only needed a few things I could get from Walgreens. And Walgreens is not but a mile away. I could just walk. And for good measure, I took a shoulder bag to carry my groceries home in.

Of course, when I stepped outside of my apartment building, it was raining. But not all that hard. No big deal. So, I just kept walking. There was a tree on the far side of the bridge near my apartment dropping thousands of tiny yellow flowers that smelled like clover honey from a late summer harvest. The bayou looked like it was covered in embroidered lace, with light dimpling off of the surface as the water rippled by. It was such a calm and peaceful evening. It took me about half an hour to get up to 18th Street, then I got my groceries and headed home.

And started wishing I had a real camera with me. A scrap of rainbow floated in the southern sky.

The sunset over the pine trees in the White Oak Bayou park started out radiantly beautiful...

...and only got more glorious.

So my cell phone doesn't take the best pictures. Some of the houses in the neighborhood north of my apartment have started putting out Halloween decorations, and in spite of the heavy damp warmth of the evening air, they made it feel like autumn. Especially when I stopped to watch a bat, fluttering like a black rag through the air, swooping and leaping after it's tiny prey against the stone gray clouds.

One of the things I got was popcorn, which is such an autumnal, after-harvest sort of thing, that I think I'll go pop some and settle in for the rest of the evening.

Fall is my favorite time of year.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Happy (Early) Birthday to Me!

So, I know it's more than two months off, but I got the idea, and it seemed like a really good one, so I acted on it. I have tentatively bought myself a birthday present. The tentative part is because my boss hasn't said yea or nay to my request for vacation Thursday, December 20, and Friday, December 21.

Provided I get those days off, here's the plan. Party Wednesday night, yo. My last night of being a 20-something. I don't plan on getting wasted, so sorry, but I want to be surrounded by all sorts of friends and well wishers and fun folk.

Then, the next morning, I do what I pretty much always want to do (no, besides that). I drive west. I head for the hills. I bury myself in the Hill Country for two days. Two days stolen away from the weekly routine of work and band. Two nights hidden away, quietly recharging before for a whirlwind holiday season with family and friends and travel and celebration. My soul is tired in ways it never has been, and I haven't been out to my hills nearly enough. My birthday present to myself is two nights in a bed and breakfast near Canyon Lake. This B&B, to be precise. This room, to be very precise.

No concrete plan yet for those days, of course, but I'd like to spend some time doing a little family Christmas shopping in Medina, Boerne, Fredericksburg, and circle back to Canyon Lake in time to check in between 3PM and 5PM. I'll take some books. My laptop. I'll do some writing. I'll walk out at night into the cold crystal air to bask in the starlight, provided it isn't cloudy. I'll eat German food and explore little nooks and crannies. I will REST. Really and truly rest.

Then it will be off to Mom's house, not really so far away, where I can celebrate my birthday with the incredibly woman who was there before they started, and the amazing young lady she gave me as a sister. Then on to La Grange for Christmas with Momo and aunts and uncles and cousins, then back to Houston for work, ugh, and in a few weeks a couple of weddings, yay!

It's so far away, unfortunately. But it will come. I'll tell Mom and Kid and Grandma that instead of a birthday present (I always get more than enough for Christmas anyway) they can help send me off for these two days of peace. Or welcome me when I get there with some of the extras I could request. Would you look at this list from my confirmation e-mail!!!
  1. Vintner Dinner Basket: Basket filled with smoked salmon, assorted hard cheeses, and cheese spread, assorted seasonal fruit, artisan bread, olives, and cheese cake for dessert. A bottle of wine from our local vineyard, Dry Comal Creek is also in the basket for your enjoyment. $95
  2. Sweetheart Tray: Cheddar Cheese, Cream Cheese with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, Seasonal Fresh Fruit, Box of Chocolates, Gourmet Crackers, and your choice of sparkling grape juice, or champagne. All served on a sliver tray with flowers. $75
  3. Romance Tray: (same as above, but in smaller quantities and no flowers. You can not keep the glasses as well) $55
  4. Hot Tub/Jacuzzi Tub Spa Pack: Your spa tote is filled with bath pearls, Safe Liquid Aroma Therapy for the spa, After Spa Lotion & Body Mist, an acrylic body massager, and jell candle. $45
  5. Fun Spa Pack: Your spa tote is filled with 2 bottles of Safe Liquid Aroma Therapy for the spa, Soy Candle Travel Tin, Bath Spa Pearls, and acrylic body massager. $35
  6. Cosy Bath Robe & Slippers: Take your experience here at Biscuit Hill home with you when you order our robe and slippers. Our robes are so soft you don't want to take them off. $75 for robe & $10 for slippers.
  7. Guy Goody Package: Your special guy will love this one, a thermal 6 pack tote stocked with all the goodies a guy loves, beef jerky, mixed nuts, 6 pack of his favorite beverage, popcorn, and much more, you can see all the details on our Celebrations Page of our web site. $65
  8. Bubbles & Berries Package: Great way to kick start your romantic stay at Biscuit Hill. The service is light and refreshing after your drive. Sit back enjoy your Champagne or Sparkling Grape Juice and a plate of Fresh Strawberries and Sweet Dipping Cream. $25 Add flowers & vase - Total $45
  9. 6" Mini Cake: Just the right size for your stay with us. Make this Birthday, Anniversary, or Proposal very special with this cake. See our Cake Page on our Celebrations Tab at the web site for details. $15
  10. King Cup Cakes: These are the size of 2 cup cakes in one. $5 each
Shame I wouldn't have any way of really using one of those acrylic body massagers all by myself, but even if I had someone to take, taking someone would kind of defeat the purpose of a luxurious, restful, just-me getaway. Still, the aroma therapy for the spa and the floofy soft robe and slippers do sound incredibly tempting. I think at the very least I owe myself a birthday cake, no? :-)

Sigh. It's blissful just to think about!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Quality of Life

I’m sitting here curled up on my couch. I called in sick because I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by an old Chrysler with its muffler dragging. In the back of my mind for the past few weeks I’ve known that something has got to give, and I was just hoping it wouldn’t be me. Well, I guess we’ve found the weakest link. Now it’s something else’s turn.

By all typical standards used to define quality of life, I’ve got it made. I have no chronic or incurable illnesses. My income exceeds my expenditures, and my expenditures are enough to put me in a very comfortable apartment. To surround myself with a sufficient number of beautiful, entertaining, and educational objects. I have plenty of clothing, much of it fairly expensive (which wouldn’t be the case if I could wear jeans to work every day). I have plenty of food. I have clean hot water to shower in and clean cold water to drink. I have a car that isn’t in the habit of breaking down. I can afford to put gas in it, and I drive it down the street to work or across state lines to New Orleans with the same lack of concern or consideration about whether or not the car can make the trip. I’ve traveled to Europe twice now, and have the luxury of enough time off from work to make several trips a year. And to call in sick when I need to. I have enough and more than enough to the extent that I’m currently examining ways in which my more-than-enough can help shift someone else’s not-quite-enough into at least just-enough. I have wonderful friends. I am blessed with more than the average share of brains and talent. For all this, if you asked me right now if I have a good life, I’d have to say that while it sure looks like it, it sure doesn’t feel like it.

I am officially the poster child for Over-committers Anonymous. I play trumpet for three bands, sing in my church choir, and now in a performance chorus. I have one night during the work week that I’m not committed to be somewhere. Leaving out my actual full time job, which might occasionally require overnight travel, my schedule looks a little bit like this:

  • Monday: Jazz Band Rehearsal 7-10pm
  • Tuesday: Choral Rehearsal 6:30-9:30pm
  • Wednesday: Dinner 5:30-6:30pm
  • Wednesday: MOB Rehearsal 7-8pm
  • Wednesday: HCB Rehearsal 8:30-10pm
  • Thursday: NOTHING! WOOHOO (Oh, but I could be at MOB rehearsal 7-8:30pm if I were actually going to be at a game)
  • Friday: Valhalla and Dinner 5pm-whenever
  • Saturday: Probably dinner with folks, and maybe a football game, and maybe a chorus retreat
  • Sunday: Choir Practice and Mass 9-11pm, maybe a chorus rehearsal, maybe an HCB concert

It’s just a little bit insane. It’s not that I feel obligated to see my friends, but I like to see my friends, you know? So I put them on the schedule. Those are the things I do because they’re fun! So, I’m thinking, maybe I should make a matrix, and rank all of my activities based on three factors:

  1. How fun they are
  2. How they help me grow
  3. How obligated I feel to be there

Then I think I need to pick at least one thing to quit. It’s hard, because I do all of these things for good reasons. But there are so many things outside of my control that could lower the quality of my life, why on earth am I doing this to myself? Not only do I not get enough sleep, to the point that I start to get sick, I’m constant feeling like I have somewhere to be and something to do. And that kind of stress, that feeling of being put upon (by myself, ultimately), has started giving me heartburn and frantic dreams and emotional spazing that are keeping what sleep I do get from being restful.

I don’t have enough time for just me. I don’t have any time for anyone but me. Even when I start feeling like meeting new people, going on dates, I really can't at this rate. I won’t ever have time. I mean, I could try to squeeze a date into, like, Thursday. But it’s hard enough for me to meet new people. It takes so much out of me. I’m so painfully shy. If I start shoehorning people into my last ME evening, I know I'll just start resenting the intrusion. And resenting some poor guy for just being there? Yeah, that sounds healthy. That doesn’t sound self-defeating at all.

So I need to cut back. To simplify, let's say there's:

  • Jazz Band
  • Chorus
  • HCB
  • MOB
  • Friend time (including Wednesday dinner and Friday celebration)

All of these are high on the fun list, probably in this order: Friend time, MOB, HCB, Jazz Band, Chorus

The growth as a person list goes: Jazz Band, Chorus, HCB, MOB, Friend time

The obligation list is: HCB (I feel a loyalty to my section), Chorus (I've got a solo, after all), Jazz Band, MOB, Friend time (the last three kind of tie for last)

Hmm, so if we do a straight vote from 1 to 5, Friend time gets 7, MOB gets 8, HCB gets 11, Jazz Band gets 10, and Chorus gets 9. Friend time is NOT going out the window. (I'll need to do this more scientifically, weighting fun more heavily and maybe refining my definition of "obligation" to differentiate feeling involved vs. feeling put upon.) MOB is pretty much already almost not on my radar. That leaves Chorus. But in Chorus I get to sing a solo in Jones Hall, and might get more if I stay with it! I've also been looking for a singing group for ever. This is not going to be easy. :-(

But I have to do something. When it comes to life, it really needs to be Quality. Not Quantity.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


I've really been meaning to post before this. I wanted my next blog to be some sort of trip journal, but I've been too busy! I figured pictures would be worth my usual thousand words, so I've spent my time on those, and I think I'll post my trip journal on my actual web page, anyway.

So let's see, while I'm apologizing, what are my other excuses? Pretty much ever since I stepped off the plane life has been nuts. First I had to put my place back together, of course.

It kinda looked a lot like this...

And the bed I really wanted to sleep in, and the path to the bathroom I really wanted to use looked something like this...

But at least the new floor they put in after creating this chaos looks really really nice...

So, anyway, putting the place back together took a few days, and once I got back, it was back to work, back to band, back to choir. I had given up on the idea of auditioning for a solo for the Sing for the Cure concert, only the newsletter that went out on Monday said auditions were still going, so I sent the director an e-mail and started working up the bit I wanted.

I auditioned Tuesday, and then on Wednesday Amy and Katy hit town, and I ate dinner with them and the HCB crew. Then rehearsal.

Then on THURSDAY after I got back, September 13, 2007, the really really big event took place. Kerri IMed me in the morning and said she might have gone into labor! (She wasn't sure. As she pointed out, she's never done this before.) :-)

Well, it was labor, and at 3:20 that afternoon Dylan was born! Hooray!!! Ever since then it's been seeing friends, rehearsing, and seeing the new baby! And unpacking. And doing laundry. And cleaning my apartment for this past week when my buddy Dave got into town, and I've been giving him house room. (He let me drive his sweet little silver BMW convertible, yay!)

Dylan had his first Friday celebration on September 21. It was great to see him, and even better to see Kerri out and about! I've missed her! I got to hold Dylan on Friday...

And again today when I went over to watch the UT game at their place...

So, yeah, I haven't had just a ton of free time, so no travel blog yet. Soon. At least there are pictures. Check them out! I'll be posting more as events warrant. You know, my free time being what it is. Life does just seem to be getting in the way these days.

God, I'm loving this ride!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Welcome back, Laura!

Welcome back, Laura! I got back from Italy about, ohhh, an hour ago. I haven't slept since 9pm last night, local time. (Got up at 4am this morning, Roman time, and been chasing the sun all day. I think it's finally about to set.)

I had a fabulous trip, and none of my five jars of pesto, two jars of salsa di rucola, one jar of olive pesto, or bottle of olive oil were broken! (I pretty much expected to open my suit case and be regaled by a tantalizing/demoralizing aroma of basil.)

Tim carried my suitcase up, such a nice boy. I unlock my door, and it smells kinda funny, but then I've been away a week with the A/C set higher than normal, so maybe just stuffy?

Hmmm. My kitchen light is off, but maybe when Tim checked on the place Tuesday...

Wait... why the HELL is every book I own piled in front of or on top of my couch?

Wait... where the hell's my coffee table? Why...

Okay, good, laptop, television, all in their normal places, but why... did someone steal my BOOKCASES???

No.... They're still ther-- HOLY CRAP! NEW FLOOR! WTF???

Tim indicates the folded note, marked with my complex number, that I barely noticed stepping over as I came in. "Maybe it says something in there?"

It does. Okay, well, new floor. Tim opines that I shouldn't worry about it until after I've had plenty of rest. Smart guy, that Tim. I peek into my bedroom.

And wail.

My bed is covered with various contents of closet and washer dryer alcove, not to mention a pile of clean underwear I'd left on my couch. Great. The flooring crew was kind enough to move my pile of underwear... That's... disconcerting.

Then another wail, "I can't even get to my bathroom!"

Tim is much better mentally equipped to deal with this than I am at this point. He clears off my bed, forges a path to my bathroom, then leaves to fulfill some prior engagements, but not before giving me a hug and telling me again not to mess with it tonight.

Like I said. Smart guy, that Tim.

So, I'm home, I'm safe, I'm exhausted, I had a blast, I'm now highly amused at the state of my apartment, and I'm going to bed.

I'll post links to travelblogs and photo albums when I get them up and running.

There's no place like home!

P.S. (Added Sunday, September 9) -- I'll say this for the flooring people. Upon closer inspection, they've added a quarter-round wooden molding around the baseboards, BUT... they were incredibly nice and cut it away where they put my bookshelves back in, so the shelves all still fit. That's quality work.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Last Blog Stateside for a Bit

I may write briefly once I get to Italy, just to say I got there, but I'm going to try to avoid computers and give my wrists a break. Know that I will miss all of you at least a little, and I hope everyone has a great week!

To those who have demanded I take lots of pictures... Well, I intend to take a few, it's true, but don't be surprised if my photographic record is sparse. I'm not a fan of seeing life through a camera lens, so I may opt to simply gaze and bask and absorb and not record the unprocessed visual data. I can almost guarantee, though, that there will be a series of journal entries to blog when I get back. That will be my way of taking you there, not just letting you see through my eyes, but think with my thoughts, feel with my heart.

I'm still not quite packed. That spell Hermione does on her little beaded bag would be *so* useful. Even being minimal it looks like a lot of stuff. I think I will eat lunch, and get back to it.

I love you all! I'm so excited! If I could pack you in my luggage, I would!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rude Awakening, but Things Got Better

So. Interesting day.

Flew to New Orleans for a meeting. The morning did NOT go well.

Of course, no morning goes well when one has to wake up at 5:30am. I dunno, maybe some of you people are early riser morning people. Yeah. Not me.

Just as I was about to head out, it comes to my mind to check and see if my badge is in my computer bag.

Can't find it. I rummage all the pockets again. Nope.

I start pulling things off the coffee table to check beneath the clutter. Nada.

Under the couch. No.

In my backpack. No.

End table.
Other end table.
Desk drawers.


For the heck of it, I stick my hand in my shoulder bag I bought for my trip. No badge, but something soft... small... almost silky... and... crunchy... and... and... smelly...


I sort of threw the whole thing across the room and went to wash my hands.

Yeah, yeah, I'm *awake* already.

I search the car. No badge. I drive to work. No badge. Thank goodness the office is close to home, but if I put off driving to the airport much longer, I'll be late. Come back home. Look all over again. Grab some granola bars for good measure. Hurry nervously to the car. Get in, one last check in my computer bag.

After a cockroach, a drive to the office and two trips on the office's abysmally slow elevators, after adding twenty minutes to my estimated head-to-the-airport time...

There's the badge in a front pocket I hadn't checked because I never put anything in it.


Get on I-10.

Traffic skids to a halt. Nice. Now I'm *really* nervous.

Turns out there was a wreck in the dead-center lane. It cleared up after that, though, and the rest of the morning's travel was completely uneventful.

I'd just cleared the security turnstile in One Shell Square when in walked Frank. Greeted him, pointed out my colleague, was pointed out to his people. Went upstairs, got set up, worked for a while, then got an IM from Frank and went down to meet him on the 11th floor for popcorn. Now I know where to find the lounge with popcorn, free coffee and soda and water, and chairs and TV. Yay!

Meeting was a non-event. Everything as expected. Though I managed to be asked about my academic history and to thoroughly impress one of the engineers with my multi-talented-ness. W00t. Evening travels were routine. Got to fly in over Rice and see Reckling Field with the grass all gone and the new sand.

Land, drive home. Big fire just south of downtown. Drive through a bunch of smoke. Get home to see a cop talking to a guy over by building 3. I assume if it's something I should worry about, someone will tell me. Unlock the pad, grab the shoulder bag, take it outside and shake out the cockroach. It comes out in two pieces. Nice.

I call the building management. This is, after all, the second roach in 3 days.

And now I'm writing a blog! Yay!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Thy will be done.

Lately it seems, sometimes, that the things I’ve felt most sure of are the things I seem most likely to be wrong about. The dreams that feel the most right, so many things point to them being wrong, impossible, not for me. Do I trust my heart and the feelings inside, or do I trust the outward signs that speak to my mind. I know I act with confidence. I probably look like I know what I’m doing and where I’m going. But in truth, I’m pretty much winging it. I’m doing what I’m doing and I’m exactly where I’m at. And I’m trying to trust the tides that move around me for where I’ll be and what I’ll do next.

You see, something in me is letting go, I think. Dreams I’ve cherished are fading, and other dreams are new, but they aren’t as clear and strong as what I’m letting go. I pray to God to guide me, to give me a direction, and to thank Him for at least giving me this renewed trust in His will, so that I haven’t been as frustrated lately with the dreams I want but can’t act on.

And I’ve prayed to God that if the dream is not to be, that He will take away my longing for it. That He will gift me with resignation and acceptance, and finally, peace. I think it might be happening. I think I might be learning to let go. And there’s something comforting in that, but there’s also something so sad. Am I growing and accepting and moving on, or am I giving up?

There are still many things that I know are right, even when they seem wrong. Even when there are signs that might have made me refuse the path years ago, before I grew in some of the ways that I’ve grown, I see them, and I accept that they change my path a bit, but they aren’t road blocks, and while I have a road open before me, I will take it to see where it leads, and trust the feeling in my soul that here, at least, is where I need to be. That there’s some meaning to my presence on this path at this time. I have something to learn. I have something to teach. There’s a reason.

But other things that seemed so certain once… That still seem right to my mind, I feel gently leaving my soul. Maybe I’ll never be married again. Maybe I’ll never have the family that I know I could love and nurture with all my heart. I don’t feel like I’m giving up. I’m trying in the ways that I see to meet the person that will make that possible. But for the most part, it’s completely out of my hands, and I feel like I have to be prepared for the worst.

More than prepared. The worst will need to become the best. The path I never thought I’d be able to bear taking could become the road I take with more than resignation. With joy and with triumph, with more giving and sharing than seem possible right now.

I still want so badly to be a mother. I’d be such a good mother. And I’ve been reminded that technically I don’t need to meet someone to love and spend my life with for that to happen. I’m keeping an open mind about that, I guess, but all the same, my children deserve the absolute best, in my opinion, and that includes me making the choice to give them the very best father I can find for them. I want that for them as much as for myself.

Everyone says he’s out there somewhere. I trust God that when the time is right, if he is, I will find him. And if I haven’t found him yet, that simply means the time isn’t right.

But there’s a still small voice inside me saying he might not be out there. That I might have been born to stand alone, and in the strength that will take, and that God’s Spirit will surely give me when I need it, in that strength I will be able to become most fully who I am supposed to be, and give the gift of myself most fully to this life and this world.

There is comfort in that. But the dreams I’d have to give up are so beautiful. To watch them fade… It’s a grief just like the grief of slowly losing a friend to time and change and distance. More than that, it’s the grief of watching someone I love die by inches.

The two constant prayers in my heart and mind and soul, the words that well up from within me daily are, with a burning longing, “Please, God,” and then, with sorrow and with trust, “Thy will be done.”

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Proving Herrick Right the Hard Way

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
I left one rosebud on the vine.
Old Time is still a-flying;
I thought we had world enough, and time.
And this same flower that smiles today
I wasted today in fear and pride.
Tomorrow will be dying.
I waited too long and my rosebud died.

My Day in the Sun: Thought without Analysis

Clear the wide belt of stop-and-stop traffic surrounding Houston. Wind through small town coastal flat Texas as the sun sets. Is the Navidad River is supposed to be that wide. Fields of cotton and sorghum, green and scarlet under a blue sky as far as eye can see.

Sleep and then sand and sun. Watching the waves skim around my ankles, mesmerized by the glimmering ripples and the small fish darting in and out. Digging my toes into the sand to unearth the clams under their little sand-blowing stacks. Sinking to my ankles as I gaze over the blue waves to the horizon. Wading into green swells half-hiding golden sands and fish and rich brown seaweed. Catching my breath as an incoming wave splashes to my waist. Large pipers and small pipers huddle apart from each other on a stretch of empty sand.

Rinsing off and floating in the pool surrounded by the voices of people I love. Drip drying on the edge, then curling under a towel on a chaise-lounge to read a book under palm shade. Wandering souvenir shop shelves that hold the same shells and plastic animals and cheap picture frames they’ve held every year I come. Carrying corn on the cob and potatoes and fajita steaks up from the barbecue pits to the suite. Eating and laughing and eating and laughing.

Sleep and sun and the smell of bacon. Breakfast and packing and waiting for the ferry. A long drive home through bright skies into a storm and back out again. Drop the bags on the apartment floor, call Mom to say I got home safe, and back to laundry, housework, and life as usual.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Galleria Adventures

So my Italian classes are every Tuesday night in the Galleria. In the hidden corner between the old Macy's and Sacks Fifth Avenue. So today and last week, I decided to go explore the mall a bit. Have some grand adventures.

Get my watch batteries changed.

Buy a few things I need.

There are so many beautiful things in the shops. Rich fabrics, sparkling jewels, fragrant perfumes. And so many beautiful people walking around wearing what they've bought shops like these. I'm easily the least expensively turned out person I saw the entire time. I think even the girl in a tank top and running shorts spent more on those clothes, the sandals, and the make up and styling products than I did on my ensemble.

And the shop people can see that about me. I was looking for a pair of Ecco sandals I've seen on line, and would like to buy. Funny how busy all the sales people are when I walk by. If I stop and ask directly, "Excuse me, do you carry Ecco shoes?" They answer me, but it seems to be a great condescension on their part to do so.

Empty, futile, pointless little snobs.

I know it shouldn't bother me, but it's disheartening, a bit. I want to wear soft, luxurious, beautiful clothing, but I can't afford the quality my tastes lean towards, and a lot of that stuff only looks good on sticks. I am not a stick, and I've always been given reason to be happy with my, ahem, shape. :-P

I feel like screaming that the emperor has no clothes. The only person who I think would have understood was the hired pianist in the Nordstrom's, who played beautifully and seemed bored out of his skull. Bored enough to start his next song in tempo with the service phone ringing over the intercom. I was the only one who noticed, and he noticed my noticing, as I almost stopped dead and laughed aloud, moving on with just a stutter-step and a silent chuckle. Nordstrom's doesn't seem to be the place to laugh aloud.

I was even more unsettled as I wandered into the corner between the Ninfa's Express and the Coldstone. I was overcome by the memory of standing in just this spot watching a CNN report on il conclavo, the conclave, after the death of John Paul II. I remember crying a little for the Pope familiar to me from childhood. A man who, in spite of his authority, seemed gentle, thoughful, loving, and open. Deeply prayerful, quietly wise. I didn't know him personally, but he seemed so much warmer and more fatherly than Pope Benedict seems to me now. Tonight I wept again a little inside.

After a while I got sick of the whole charade, and found a quiet corner to read in before my class started. And I wept a little externally for the unfairness of it all. Have you BEEN to the Galleria lately? Versaci, Armani, Kenneth Cole. There are people in this world who go hungry while these beautiful people buy their beautiful clothes, and the shoe sales man in the casual shoe section, who seems lower in the totem pole than the man selling women's dress shoes, sneers at my request for a $70 pair of sandals.

I'm not an ascetic, and I'm not an activist, and I don't think any of the people in the Galleria are evil heartless bastards.

There's just so much I don't understand, and it doesn't seem right, and it overwhelms me sometimes.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Andy Roony is Always Spot On

I'm horking this from someone elses blog because it made me feel good this morning.


If you will take the time to read these. I promise you'll come away with n enlightened perspective. The subjects covered affect us all on a daily basis! They're written by Andy Rooney, a man who has the gift of saying so much with so few words. Enjoy.......

I've learned.... That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

I've learned.... That when you're in love, it shows.

I've learned.... That just one person saying to me, 'You've made my day!' makes my day.

I've learned.... That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

I've learned.... That being kind is more important than being right.

I've learned.... That you should never say no to a gift from a child.

I've learned.... That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.

I've learned.... That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I've learned.... That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

I've learned.... That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

I've learned.... That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

I've learned.... That we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I've learned.... That money doesn't buy class.

I've learned.... That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I've learned... That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I've learned.... That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.

I've learned.... That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

I've learned.... That love, not time, heals all wounds.

I've learned.... That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

I've learned.... That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

I've learned.... That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.

I've learned... That life is tough, but I'm tougher.

I've learned.... That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.

I've learned.... That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

I've learned.... That I wish I could have told my Mom that I love her one more time before she passed away.

I've learned.... That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.

I've learned.... That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

I've learned.... That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you're hooked for life.

I've learned.... That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

I've learned.... That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. And just finished with the requisite sobbing my heart out. Oh, wait, not *quite* finished with that, apparently.

Book seven came in the mail today. I haven't even opened it. I didn't sleep well last night, and I promised myself I'd go to bed at a decent time tonight. Meaning, of course, right after I finish this blog. So I should probably leave it in its package.

Tomorrow I have my first Italian lesson, so I might take my book with me to read while I get myself some dinner in the Galeria food court and wait for my class to start.

Or, well, I still haven't seen the new movie. Didn't manage it this weekend. Maybe on Wednesday I'll go do that instead of hanging out at the Volcano. Even though I haven't played pool in forever. Who knows.

Somehow, this time as I read, Dumbledore's blue eyes became my father's. I saw Ruddygore on Sunday, and there's a song about a little flower that shelters under an oak tree until the tree is torn away.

That's how I feel right now. Five years after his death, these things remind me of him, and how he taught me and sheltered me and loved me.

And left me.

I'll be fine. Really I will. It's just... It never goes away.

A thought came to mind recently. Probably not original, but somehow it made sense. I was thinking about how this will never go away. It may smooth itself out, and become less jarring as the years continue to pass. It's already less acutely painful than it was. At least most of the time.

But it's not something I can eject from myself. I can't leave it behind, because it's now part of who I am. I can't live away from it. I can't live apart from it. I have to live through it, with it, around it.

And the image that came to mind was the grain of sand that becomes a pearl. How painful it must be at first. Sharp, jagged, a focused little dot of agony. And slowly time and faith and love and life begin to smooth it over, round it out. Sometimes it remains knobby and awkward, but maybe it can grow into a soft brilliance of perfection. Always lodged inside of me. It can't ever be comfortable.

But maybe it becomes a thing of incredible value and beauty. I've felt for a long time that Daddy's death wasn't something that had some absolute message, given to me from outside. I do believe in God, and I do believe he is here with me, and has a plan for me. But I do NOT believe that my God killed my father to open my blinded eyes, or to test my faith.

I do believe that God calls to me through this pain, though. And helps me to create my own meaning, gives me the strength and patience to slowly make my grief, and my father's death, something of worth. Something that happened not in vain. I'd still have rather it hadn't happened, of course.

But it did. And these things will happen. Life is as much about losing as it is about gaining. But you can turn the tables, gain a little with the loss, and you *can* beat the house, I believe.

And thinking of this brought me to one of those recurring ideas I have sometimes, and tend to bring here when I'm ready. The idea from John Keats' letter to George and Georgina Keats from February 14th to May 3rd of 1819. (You can tell I'm an English major. I always cite my source.) Keats' presents his ideas as an alternative to the Christian view, though the two aren't mutually exclusive. I've linked the entire letter above for anyone who's really curious, but I'll end with the essential passage, and leave you to ponder how this fits in with my pearls:

The common cognomen of this world among the misguided and superstitious is 'a vale of tears' from which we are to be redeemed by a certain arbitary interposition of God and taken to Heaven-What a little circumscribed straightened notion! Call the world if you Please "The vale of Soul-making". Then you will find out the use of the world (I am speaking now in the highest terms for human nature admitting it to be immortal which I will here take for granted for the purpose of showing a thought which has struck me concerning it) I say 'Soul making' Soul as distinguished from an Intelligence- There may be intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions-but they are not Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself. I[n]telligences are atoms of perception-they know and they see and they are pure, in short they are God-How then are Souls to be made? How then arc these sparks which are God to have identity given them-so as ever to possess a bliss peculiar to each one's individual existence? How, but by the medium of a world like this?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Smaller Magic

I took a walk this evening, and on the way back I saw beautiful things.

A rainbow, brilliant, lurid, like a heavy brushstroke across the gray sky, with a secondary bow, fainter outside the arc like an accidental smudge.

Clouds, bulbous and creamy, dipping down from the sky like giant fingers dimpling the air below.

Quieter enchantments after the storm has torn the sky with dazzling forked light.

But that was on my way home, with my heart already thrilled by a beauty closer and smaller. Granted, I do see beauty in the strangest things.

The sun hung low in the sky as I walked along the bayou. A lone sunflower stood beside the path like an unabashed eye staring down passers-by like myself. I stopped to admire it, stooped to put my eyes on its level. The sunlight shone warm and golden on the tall grass, rising off of it in a scent of hay and honey. I shaded my eyes and looked out over the gleam of tall blades and slender stalks gilded by the sun’s midas touch.

And everywhere I caught more brilliant glints, like diamonds stretched to silken strands, woven amongst the grass. And everywhere, suspended in the grass, were small movements, scurryings, dippings and dancings. I stood up and leaned closer, examining the minute perfection of a spider’s web, with the spider still working furiously, rebuilding after the storm. I took a few more steps gazing across the grass into the sunlight, as it sparkled and waved over more webs, and more, and more.

Everywhere, as far as I could see, dime-sized, narrow, pale green spiders were spinning webs no bigger than dessert plates between the grass stalks. Everything glimmered and trembled, shaking in the slightest breeze, and shuddering under the lightest little eight-legged touch. For a quarter of a mile I walked, and never saw an end of those webs and weavers, glistening in the light of the setting sun.

I’ve never seen so many. It reminded me of fireflies in the evenings back home, when they’d light the brush and the trees like strands of sparkling lights. But this was a warmer, homier magic. A labor of survival made beautiful in the minute and fragile symmetry of every close-woven web.


And humbling.