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.

 

 

 

Friends

I am incredibly blessed to have many, many friends.  I have been granted these gifts by God, and I got to see one of them back in the fall AND again a few weeks ago.

Before Tony and I built our new home, we were attending church in Houston.  A couple of years after we arrived, they hired a children’s minister named Jennifer.  I had been helping out with VBS for a couple of years before Jennifer’s arrival, and I had kids who were still under the children’s ministry umbrella, so Jennifer and I became fast friends.

I can’t even remember how or why. . .we just did.  Really–I know how or why–it was God.  It’s ALWAYS God.

Eventually, we built our home and moved to a new town and a new church home, but Jennifer and I remained friends.  She STILL has “World’s Best Babysitter” status with my kiddos–the only one that comes close is their Aunt Christy–and she’s family.

The long story short is that through several of us walking through doors that God help open, I was able to introduce Jennifer to her husband.  They dated (mainly through text message) and were married a mere 9 months later.  During this time, Jennifer and I helped each other through many, MANY difficult life issues.  Tony and the kids were in Magnolia that year for school, but I was still in our old district.  It was a weight to bear to be away from my family, and it wore on me that year especially. I cannot count the number of Frito Pie burritos and large Sonic Diet Cokes she brought to me at school during my lunch time.  She seemed to have a 6th sense for when I needed her to show up. She was my personal grocery shopper on more than one occasion–just MADE me give her my list and went and bought them all, then brought them to me at the end of the school day.

She spent nights in our guest room when she and Greg finally started dating in earnest.  I’d keep a ready supply of bean salad, Tostitos, Oreos and peanut butter for her. We would talk on my way in to work or on my way home,  and I was with her on her wedding day–going to get her hair done, getting an emergency Diet Coke from Sonic, and being a general runner and taking pictures here and there.

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One of the engagement photos I took of them at our house.

March of this year will make 7 years this sweet couple have been married.  In that 7 years, they have produced FOUR precious babies. . .sweet Jack, and triplets Lillian, Harvey, and Matilda.  I have not gotten to spend much time with her or her babies as they moved to Dallas shortly after they married, then recently moved to Georgia.  What with 6 babies between the two of us–and Jennifer with four ages 5 and under, we don’t get a lot of time to chat–or text–or even send telepathic messages.  But that has not lessened our bonds of friendship.

In September, Jennifer’s brother-in-law (who is our youth minister) was getting married in Dallas.  She had texted me the day before to see if I could help her corral the triplets during the wedding.  I was thrilled to do so and came armed with stickers. That was the first time we had been in touch in about a year.  No matter. . .friendship knows no expiration date.  Which was proven when we were 45 minutes away from arriving in Dallas.  I received a text.

“Are you close enough that you can stop by a Walmart and get some socks for the kids?”  Now–it may sound odd–but that text made my heart happy, happy, happy!  Seriously.  The time and the distance meant nothing at all, because who can you ask to get socks for your kids if you can’t ask your friend?

I had not seen Jennifer in probably three years at this point, but when we arrived at the church, I walked through the door, hugged her husband and the one triplet who was nearby, handed her the socks with no fanfare and said, “I’ll be back in 45 minutes to help with the kids.”

We DID get to talk a very, very little bit at the reception–but it was all okay–we had seen each other.

In late January, Greg’s grandmother passed away.  They all headed to our little town for the memorial service, and I was on hand to keep the kiddos in the nursery!  So fun!!!  On my way to the building, I texted Jennifer, “On my way. What Sonic drink would you like for me to smuggle into the nursery for you?”  Her reply, “Large Coke Zero.  You are my hero.”

In all of our bounty of time together over a few months, we had neglected to get a photograph of the two of us together.  In fact, this one below (from her wedding shower in February of 2010) was the most recent one I had of us.

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My very good friend, Jennifer. She’s ten kinds of awesome.

So that Sunday morning after the memorial service but before church started (and I got to be in the nursery with the four kiddos again–such sweet, sweet babies–and they LOVE their Rice Chex and Cashews) I made a mad dash into the auditorium so that we could take this picture together.

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The lighting isn’t great. . .the weird ceiling we have in our church auditorium is on display. . .there are a few more wrinkles on both of our faces, and we still don’t get much time to talk, but oh how I treasure this friend of mine.  She is a blessing and a treasure and a gift–and I can’t thank God enough for her!

2016: Perspective

IMG_7373I am sitting at the breakfast table across from my son.  He is 14 1/2, and has a set of glowing blue headphones on his ears.  We both have laptops in front of us.  He asked what I was looking at.  I told him my blog, then said, “I haven’t written anything in 7 months.”  At which point he applauded.  I asked why he was applauding that, and he said, “Well, at least you aren’t blogging every day like you used to.  You used to spend HOURS on the computer.”

Ah. . .how things have changed.  Now HE spends hours on the computer, and I was just pondering trying to write a post each day to get back into the swing of things.  I am not even really reading blogs anymore, but I need to.  It offers a different perspective on life–what people ponder and reveal and think.

So, on this first day of 2016, I will say that writing is a priority this year.  So is drinking plenty of water, getting good rest, continuing to take care of my body and spirit as well as the bodies and spirits of my little family.

This year is a biggie–Victoria will graduate in June and be off to college in August.  That is not a change I look forward to for me, but it is an adventure I look forward to for her. Thad begins high school in August–without his sister here to guide him and encourage him and make him laugh when we can’t.

Last school year, our principal (young guy) chose one word for 2015.  His word was “finish.” He was working on his doctorate, in the middle of his first year of being a principal, etc.  So, FINISH.  That was a good word.

I have thought about one word for 2016.  There were a couple in the running:  Endure, Faithfulness. . but sitting here just now with me bemoaning my lack of writing and Thad applauding it, I think I have chosen my One Word for 2016.  Perspective.  Much like a just right Christmas gift, or a new pair of shoes, I knew it when I saw it. It fit. It was right.

Perspective.  Perspective on the past and on the future.  Perspective on how my children, my husband and I all view a situation, an event, a memory.  Perspective on them growing up and us growing older.  Perspective on where I live and what I do and how I do it.  Perspective on the students I teach and how we interpret the same information differently.  Perspective on how long it’s taken me to develop or break habits. Perspective on events and choices and decisions.

There is a song by Garth Brooks that most people don’t know.  It was from his ill-fated, short-lived adventure as Chris Gaines.  The song is “That’s the Way I Remember It.”  It’s a song about perspective.

It’s only natural with time
Details can somehow slip your mind
Something so sweet, though incomplete
You fill the spaces in between

It never will be that way again
Maybe it wasn’t, way back when
To my heart and soul
This is the way the story has to be told

That’s the way, I remember it, I remember it that way
From the day, I was living it, I remember it that way

Some of our stories fade as we grow older
Some get sweeter every time they’re told
That’s the way, I’ll remember it that way.

2016:  Perspective

 

 

The Same

Romans 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

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Long time ago when Thad was barely 3, and I first went back to work, I drove Tony’s truck.  It was a five-speed, on the floor, Ford F150.  I also drove it when I was pregnant with Victoria which was interesting enough. . .but by the time it was “my” vehicle again, both the babies were born and riding to school with their Daddy every day.

Each morning, I would get up, get dressed–get the kids downstairs and fed and hugged and hugged some more, then I would leave for work dressed in  my cute, home-sewn skirt and some pastel top–teacher flats–hair coiffed, makeup applied, perfumed. . .and off I’d go.

More than once at a particular traffic light at FM1960 and Jones Rd., I would have to stop and wait several minutes to turn left to head to my campus.  During those times, I got more than one strange look.

Everyone from teenagers to truck drivers would look over at this beat up, faded, rusty, beleaguered pick-up (like people do who sit at four minute traffic lights), yet inside sat a  relatively young AND relatively plump lady dressed nicely for work–NOT the doo-rag/baseball cap wearing, scruffy, flannel-shirted geezer they expected to see.  (Nothing against doo-rags, caps, flannel, OR geezers).  Their faces registered sleepiness or boredom, then shock, then either surprise or humor–and quite often I received a wave or a thumbs up with their chuckles–a head shake as if to say, “Well, if that don’t beat all!” A curly-haired, 30-something lady was not the status-quo for a vehicle of such. . .character.

And that is how we are isn’t it?    To the outside world, at a glance, we are beleaguered.  Worn out.  Scarred.  Dusty.  Rusty.  Bent.  “Hard-pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. . .” (II Cor. 4:8&9) There is an expectation of how we will behave–respond–react.  Many days we, ourselves,  feel each dent and scratch.  We stutter and stop when the clutch is released rather than move along.

Yet a closer look–a time to stop and ponder–one more turn of the key with a firm foot to the gas shows those nearby and reminds us that we are NOT crushed or in despair or abandoned or destroyed.   “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made HIS light shine in our HEARTS to give us the LIGHT of the knowledge of the GLORY of God in the FACE of Christ.” (II Cor. 4:6) The LIGHT of the knowledge of the GLORY of God in the FACE of Christ is to shine from OUR  faces–from our smiles–from our eyes–from our souls–clean, shiny, dressed up, and smellin’ good!

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (II Cor. 4:16)

Rusty, dusty, bent? Yes.  But on the inside–renewed, clean, whole, sanctified, and purring like a kitten!

 

Turning to a New Page

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The school year is coming to a close, and about three weeks ago my principal asked me to teach a new class this year.  And it’s not Language Arts OR Reading OR any combination thereof.  I was shocked and amazed–and honored and appreciative.

This has been a year in which I have grown and stretched and learned as a teacher.  And now, that will continue next year as well.  I keep on telling my kids that you will have to learn ALL  of your life.

In the mean time, I am ready for summer.  I am ready to go through photographs (like the one above) and tell their stories.  This one was from October, 2012 when Tony surprised me with a trip to Round Top–which is a big antiques fair nearby.  It was all his own idea and it was a wonderful trip.

Hopefully this new page I’m turning at work will give me a little more room to breathe–but even if it doesn’t, summer vacation is on the way and the year ahead is going to be full of endings and beginnings.  I need a nice, long break before we begin.

Perfect

I have not written in a long time.  There has been no time, I say.  Of course, there has been time. . .I have just used it differently–in other ways–walking, cooking, creating test questions, calling parents, running errands.  I just read a book where the main character is an artist who hasn’t done art for almost two decades.  She writes to an old friend–a lengthy, rambling letter–and the friend says to her, “Stop this.  You must create or you will become a menace to society.”  I think I might need to hang that up over every door I walk through on a daily basis.  I must create or I will become a menace to society.

Photo with different filters.  (I don’t know this little girl, nor did I ask her mother’s permission to photograph her or put her on the internets–however, I will say that she looks like any 15-18 month old little girl on the beach from a distance.)  This falls under the category of creating–not being a menace to society.

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Louisiana

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.

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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“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.

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

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

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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

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The Louisiana Supreme Court building 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

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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.

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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

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

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

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

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

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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.