Those We Know

My friends’ parents are part of the soundtrack of my childhood.  In junior high and especially high school, I spent many more nights than I can count at the homes of Sarah and Mary Linda.  I lived 25 miles away from where I went to school, so overnight stays after football games or play practice or before big trips were often necessary. Plus there was way more to do in Monroe.

Sarah’s dad passed away last night after a 30+ year battle with cancer in various shapes and forms.  Her parents were and are every inch of what you would call “A Class Act.”    I always think of Mignon as elegant and put together–her Louisiana drawl, her laugh–and Mike, her dad, was the kind of man who remembered your name, used your name, and made you feel like you were JUST the person he was wanting to see at that exact moment, and that your specific presence in his day had made it worth living.  They  just recently celebrated 50 years of marriage.

Now, obviously, being close friends with their daughter gave me the inside scoop on how they and their family functioned.  I learned many lessons from the Rileys, and although they may not seem super important they are part of my life, and it makes me smile to remember them.  Some, but not all, are:

  1. Fresca was a drink that was always cold in their fridge.
  2. The Rileys had a picture collage wall as early as 1983 and LONG before Pinterest.
  3. Music playing in a home is a very good thing.
  4. The toenails of a Shih Tzu on a tile floor is a happy, peppy sound that you do not forget.
  5. You can be A Class Act and still drive a Harley (or ride the back of one if you are Mignon.)
  6. The importance of timing and physics when learning how to spit gum out of the sun roof of a moving car.
  7. Hondas are good vehicles.
  8. You do not call someone’s home after 9:00 pm. (This is a hard-learned lesson to which I still ascribe, and when I have to break it, I apologize profusely.)
  9. The meanings and appropriate usage of the the phrases “Katy, bar the door” and “Hie your skirts about you and run.”
  10. Having one’s blood pressure and voice volume escalate due to bad drivers can be an art form.
  11. Your own voice volume should GREATLY decrease after 10:00 pm (this was a challenge for me) unless you are at the other VERY FAR end of the house in the play room.
  12. Don’t sit OR lean on the footboard of the bed.
  13. If you are the one driving, you have ONE job.  FLY the PLANE!
  14. Someone’s own name is the sweetest sound they can hear.
  15. Your friend’s parents love you.  A lot. Even when you are loud after 10:00 pm and call after 9:00 and drink their last, cold Fresca and lean on the footboard of the bed.

In the fall of 2009, there was a chorus reunion to honor one of the teachers we had in high school.  The morning of the event, I went to the school to help decorate with Sarah and others, then we spent the afternoon together and ended up at her parent’s home to get ready for the evening.  This was the same home in which I had spent so much time as a teenager–same bathroom with two sinks–same tile floor (minus the Shih Tzu)–and as we bustled about and got ready and talked across the hallway and laughed, Mike showed up at the bathroom door (the same one where he had once delivered a stern lecture to us both regarding the fact that Sarah could have driven to Bastrop SEVERAL TIMES to talk to me IN PERSON for the price of the ONE phone bill he had just retrieved from the mail box and was currently holding in his hand and waving for effect) with a huge grin on his face.  “Man, it sure has done my heart good to hear you girls (we were 40  at the time) laughing and talking and getting ready in this house again. I’d forgotten how happy that makes me.”

It made me glad then, and now, I’m the parent who is happy to hear her daughter and her daughter’s friends back in my own home on their breaks from college.  And it made me understand that I was just as much a part of Mike Riley’s life as he was of mine.  He is home now–no longer sick–singing at the top of his lungs and greeting all of those who have gone before like they are JUST the person he was wanting to see on his first day in Heaven.






Today is the first day of the rest of our Christmas break.  It involved teaching, napping, cooking, driving, reading, (not all simultaneously) and now writing followed by resting followed (tomorrow) by shopping.  Sunday will be more driving and then visiting my family in Louisiana.

This year has been busy and full and hard and exhausting, but we are all healthy and under one roof and blessed beyond belief.

I left all school work at school.  My desk is as unburied as it has been all year long.  There are still papers to grade–and other papers to SAY I will grade until the end of the nine weeks when I will recycle them and suffer the ensuing guilt.  But, for now, for today, I have a two week vacation staring me in the face, and I plan to enjoy every second of it.  I can say in all truth and honesty that I have EARNED it.



I recently traveled to Louisiana to spend time with my friends MaryLinda and Stephanie.  We get together once a year (although this year we decided twice would be better), so for our lagniappe trip we chose New Orleans.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 089 flip

This photo is more of what MY Louisiana is like.  The northern and southern parts of the state are quite different, but we both have bayous, Spanish moss, cypress trees, and good food.NOLA Trip, November,2014 140ps

Speaking of food, we pretty much ate our way through part of the French Quarter.  I cannot say I am sorry.  That would be a lie. This billboard speaks truth.1NOLA Trip, November,2014 100ps crop

NOLA Trip, November,2014 101 crop

Unfortunately, we only made ONE trip to Cafe Du Monde for hot beignets.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 025

And I “did” it wrong by having a Diet Coke rather than cafe au lait. . .but I was happy. . .and ML and Steph didn’t have coffee either.1NOLA Trip, November,2014 027New Orleans is OLD.  Really, REALLY old. . .1700’s old.  The first time I visited New Orleans was in 1985 WITH, interestingly enough,  MaryLinda and Stephanie (and a bunch of other friends).  We were in high school, and our undefeated football team played the state championship in the Dome.  I remember thinking at that time how OLD it looked.  I think it has to do with the color of the stone. . .the erosion of edges and corners.  It was also DIRTY. . .two and a half centuries of grime in the Louisiana heat takes its toll.  Katrina did a lot to wipe some of the grime away, but at a high cost.  I would LOVE to know exactly how old this building and those chimneys are.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 004

Most of the major streets in the French Quarter had signs similar to these.1NOLA Trip, November,2014 005

We were out in the morning, and they still wash their sidewalks and stoops to clean them off.  As pretty and historic as the French Quarter is, there are many who sleep on or against stoops like this each night, hence the washing.1NOLA Trip, November,2014 003

NOLA Trip, November,2014 048I have never been to Mardi Gras, and can honestly say I ever want to go. . .but here is a quintessential shot on Bourbon Street that tells the tale.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 002

Come with me on a weekend stroll through the Quarter. .

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 001 ps

“New Orleans ladies. . .all the way from Bourbon Street to Esplanade, they sashay by. . .” I didn’t see any of the “ladies” that the group Leroux immortalized in song, but I liked this sign.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 085

I cannot begin to describe the way this gal plays the clarinet.  Brought me to tears. Seriously have never heard anything like it.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 084 crop

A place we actually did NOT eat.  If it’s on MaryLinda’s list, we WILL eat there someday.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 080

And this lovely, lass just appeared out of nowhere with her Robin’s egg blue bike, dark red lip and hair, and wrap skirt.  It was like she stepped right out of the early 1960’s. I barely had time to snap this shot. She was on a mission.1NOLA Trip, November,2014 079 ps

Caricature dude with a tale on Jackson Square

Blog NOLA Trip, November,2014 024

The Louisiana Supreme Court building 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

Blog NOLA Trip, November,2014 054

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 010 ps

The three steeples of the St. Louis Cathedral

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 022psToo dark to take a photo, but I tried anyway.  They are getting ready for Christmas.Blog NOLA Trip, November,2014 031

Transformer Dude was pretty amazing to actually see.

Blog NOLA Trip, November,2014 070

NOLA Trip, November,2014 072 crop   1NOLA Trip, November,2014 074 crop

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 060If I’d had room in my car (and a boat load of money), I would have taken this set of lions home with me.

Blog NOLA Trip, November,2014 063ps  This one is staring across the threshold at his twin–maybe they are discussing how to eat that lamb that is just feet away. Also, it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the “do not photograph in our show room” placard.  I’m such a rebel, but I was on the sidewalk anyway. . .1NOLA Trip, November,2014 061 bw

Traditional French Quarter Horse Head Hitching Post.Blog NOLA Trip, November,2014 093

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 076

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 094

This is one of the views from our room at The Ritz Carlton New Orleans.  We had two windows–this one looking down Canal. . .

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 045

. . . and this one with a view towards The River.  Old Man River.  The Mighty Mississip.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 036

Our 12th floor room gave me the PERFECT vantage point to photograph the iconic Ritz Lions.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 044 crop[

I think this might be my favorite photograph of the entire trip.

1NOLA Trip, November,2014 044 crop[ bw

And being the photography happy yokel I am, I couldn’t resist this shot.


1NOLA Trip, November,2014 103There is never enough time,  so when we discovered we had taken NO photos (but one failure of a selfie) together, we had  the valet who brought the car take some shots of us. . .all blurry. . .all hurried. . .but here we are–happy to be together.Blog NOLA Trip, November,2014 115

So, we were all “home” in some sense of the word–MaryLinda still lives where we all grew up, Stephanie was born in Texas but spent most of her growing up years in Louisiana, and I was born there and moved away.  It matters not–when we are together, we are home.  We carry it with us.






It’s been a busy break. Tonight, the kids and I were more than a little overly tired and giddy as I’ve been using Power Tools and Stud Finders and Laser Levels to hang things like shelves and curtains in their rooms. Both spaces having been thoroughly mucked out and straightened over the course of the week.

After I got Victoria’s pink shelf hung tonight, she was sorting and arranging her gee-gaws. I was handing her things. Thad was sitting on her bed alternating between his own world (where he was pondering the meaning of the universe) and the world in which Victoria and I were present (where he was bombing her with his Clark Kent and Superman stuffed Sonic tater tot toys). As a tot flew across the room, I reached into a basket and pulled out a heap of pink and white ribbons all strung together like a wreath.

Victoria said, “I want to keep those, because Mrs. Stephanie made it for me.”

I said, “Mrs. Stephanie from Arkansas?”

“No. Your other friend Mrs. Stephanie. She brought it to me when she and Mrs. Mary Linda came to see you.”

“Mrs. Stephanie made you this???” (Neither Mrs. Stephanie is a pink kind of girl and BOTH have two boys each and two Zanes among the four male offspring. No pink to be seen.)

“Well, whoever stayed in my room made it. She had a Kindle.”

“Oh. . .THAT was Mrs. Mary Linda,” I said as I stared at the array of pink and white ribbons trying to figure out exactly when and where Mary Linda ended up with THIS MUCH pink ribbon.

Actual pile 'o pink ribbons. . .notice the lady bugs?

Then it hit me, “OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. . .THAT explains it–all the Phi Mu lady bugs!!!” I exclaim. (Mary Linda was and is very active in her Phi Mu chapter.)

To which Thad replies, “FIVE MUTE LADY BUGS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!”

Evidently the portal between his universe and ours must not have good acoustics. Either that or he has NO schema for Phi Mu but DOES have some for five and mute. Or he just trolls between the two worlds waiting for something as interesting as five mute lady bugs to catch his attention.

The Sunshine State Part 2

After arriving in Homestead, Florida, Momma got a job as a teacher while Daddy performed his duties as a “nozzle jockey” for the air force. He refueled planes, which basically meant riding up and down tarmacs on fuel tanks that amounted to humongous bombs on wheels–not the way one would prefer to spend their early 20’s. Since Daddy was a good shot, having grown up with guns, he was eventually given the opportunity to be certified to train men in small arms instruction. This meant going BACK to Lackland in San Antonio.

Mom, of course, went with him this time. She told me they rented a tiny efficiency apartment, and she set to work scrubbing and cleaning trying to make it like home. The floor seemed a very difficult task as the more she cleaned the dirtier it got. She eventually realized she was scrubbing the vinyl off the backing. Much like her life of petty crime, that sojourn in San Antonio began and ended her life of housework.

While they were gone there was a hurricane that hit the lower Florida coast. Momma said she was worried to death about. . .her coat. She had visions of their little trailer floating off into the Atlantic Ocean with her lovely black wool, fur-collared coat inside. Why in the world she thought she NEEDED her woolen coat while living along the southern tip of Florida is beyond me, but she HAD bought it with her very own money–her first pay check as a teacher. And it DOES get cold in Florida occasionally. That’s why they have smudge pots, you know. To save the oranges. OR Momma could have just draped her coat over a tree or two.

Either way, they made it back to Homestead eventually to their little trailer (Momma’s coat was safe and sound) and while Daddy busied himself with small arms instruction and Momma busied herself as a kindergarten teacher, together they busied themselves with making a big sister for me. Momma was due at the end of December, and they both wanted to get my sister here in time to count on 1964’s income tax statement. To this end, Daddy did several things. First of all, he kept Momma in banana splits from the Dairy Queen in Florida City. There WAS a Dairy Queen in Homestead, but their banana splits just didn’t taste the same. So to Florida City they would go. Not ONLY did they get plenty of banana splits, but they also got a free baby carrier. Evidently a couple had left a pink baby carrier in a booth, so one day the owners of the Dairy Queen gave it to Momma and Daddy. I spent some time in it myself. I don’t know if my brother, Hal, did or not as it was pink. Luckily all the photographs of him in ANY baby carrier are in black and white, so only Momma knows the truth. 🙂

My mother ALSO loved (and still does love) chocolate covered cherries. Someone told her that since she was pregnant, if she ate too many, she would get fat. Poor Momma–she didn’t need to worry about getting fat, but she dutifully ate only ONE chocolate covered cherry per day. She did, however, eat a fair amount of home-made floured French fries. And banana splits. So I doubt if two chocolate covered cherries would have hurt her much. Along with the chocolate covered cherries and bananas and icecream and French fries, Daddy also tried to bring about my sister’s arrival by taking my mother for frequent spins through the Florida Everglades in an air boat.

Something must have worked, because exactly two years and ten days after their wedding, my sister, Suzanne, was born. I have written about her birthday before–she was a New Year’s Eve baby. And had ANOTHER baby not been born shortly after her, she would have been THE New Year’s Baby–which meant lots of diapers and other prizes. Alas, she had to settle for being the daughter of Harold and Glenda Watts–and my big sister. But she DID and DOES get fireworks every year for her birthday.

She was born in the military hospital on the base. Momma was alone when Sissy came as Daddy had to work, and Granny and PawPaw had not made it there yet. Daddy didn’t get to see Sissy until the next day. Momma had already told him he’d better not show up unless he had a dozen red roses. She’s a smart gal, my Momma. That may have been the last dozen roses she got from Daddy as I don’t remember ever seeing any in our house while I was growing up. Where is one to find a dozen red roses in a tiny military town on New Year’s day? Well–Daddy managed to find a florist who was closed but in their shop preparing for a wedding. Bless her heart, the florist listened to his story, then fixed him up a bunch of roses so Momma would let him into the hospital room.

To be continued. . .

Me in a pink baby carrier. Pink sponge curlers in my sister's hair.

Here I am in the Florida City Dairy Queen baby carrier. This photo HAD to have been taken on a Saturday night AFTER my Sister’s bath, or on a Sunday morning before the curlers were extracted for church. If I sniffed hard enough, I might be able to smell the Dippity-do. You can also see her perfectly cut bangs. Momma managed this by putting a piece of Scotch tape across our bangs so that she could cut a straight line even if we moved. I TOLD you she was a smart woman!

The Sunshine State

My parents married at the end of December, 1962. They took off for a honeymoon in Colorado leaving my Granny in tears, because Momma had forgotten her winter coat, and Granny was just SURE she was going to freeze to death. It was a nice coat too–very expensive black wool with a fur collar bought from THE store in a nearby town. They made it to Colorado where Daddy hunted, they experienced their first ever white Christmas, and Momma (much to her own delight) threw caution to the wind and ordered a hamburger for Christmas dinner. It was what she wanted, and there was no one to tell her she couldn’t.

Within two weeks, Momma was back in Wilmot, Arkansas to finish her first year of teaching, and Daddy went into the Air Force. While Momma was teaching 5th grade and renting a room from a someone, Daddy was at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio later moving on to Amarillo. During the course of that (I’m sure long and frustrating) winter and spring, they managed to see each other twice. Daddy was able to fly into Shreveport one weekend. Granny accompanied Momma on the (then) three hour trip–more then likely to make sure she didn’t forget her coat this time–and stayed with her sister, Georgia Bea, while Momma and Daddy holed up in a hotel room. Later on Momma flew to Amarillo–the only time she’s flown in her life–where she also began and ended her life of petty crime by taking the fork from her airline meal. The lady next to her suggested it saying that if Momma put her napkin on her plate when they came to take it away, they’d never miss that fork. I guess they never did. . .but the fork still lived in our silverware drawer when I was kid.

Daddy came home about week before Momma’s school year was done hauling an 8’x40′ trailer with him. He had purchased it in Amarillo with insurance money he’d gotten from his registered quarter horse that had died. As soon as she packed her 5th-graders off for summer, they hooked the trailer up to Daddy’s truck and took off for Homestead, Florida with Daddy’s sister, my Aunt Sue, following behind them in their car. That’s a long trip with a 40′ travel trailer. When they were crossing the Old Mississippi River Bridge which was all of two lanes, they met a tractor trailer rig going the opposite direction. Daddy said the man STOPPED his rig in the middle of the bridge, then covered his face with both hands afraid to look. Evidently there was about a one or two inch clearance. Daddy had to tell Momma about it. She didn’t see that part. She was too busy hanging out the passenger window to make sure they weren’t scraping off the side of the bridge. She probably didn’t tell Granny about that until much, much later–if ever.

Oh. . .and when they GOT to Florida? Trailers JUST LIKE the one Daddy hauled from Amarillo to northeastern Louisiana, then down to the southern tip of Florida–very NEARLY the entire breadth of the country? They had ’em there for, as Momma says, a dime a dozen.

To be continued. . .

Aren’t they cute? I love this picture. . .which is a photocopy, so Momma, I need a better copy. 🙂

What I saw THIS Sunday

Which, by the time you read this, will be yesterday. (And, Sarah, the car was either STOPPED at a red light or PARKED while taking all of these photos.) Last Sunday was sunny and in Texas. . .this Sunday was cloudy and spanned two states. I’m a gypsy, I tell ya!

I ACTUALLY saw this at about 6:15 on Friday evening.

A barn on the Perryville road. I would like to move that oak, and I was too well brought up to scale the fence and trespass to get a better shot.

Plus, this stallion was in the paddock, and though I am not traditionally scared of horse, I think he might have been cussing me out. He was, at the very least, snorting. His mare was nearby.

This does not even do it justice. I will try again this summer. . .it's a lovely curve.

Directives AND Directions from the Louisiana Highways Department

And all of that information is at the border of Morehouse. . .

. . .and Ouachita Parishes. (That is "Wash-ih-taw" –short i in "ih"–for those of you that live in counties.)”

This is BARELY over the border into Texas. I coveted.

Overlooking the gorgeous wisteria, I do believe this house has a story.

Wish I knew what it was.

This particular visit was like good medicine. . .and I missed the kids being with me, but it was nice to have Momma all to myself!!!