Friday, November 30, 2007

On Friday, everything looks good

I love a Friday; it's my favorite day of the week. It holds the promise of the weekend - no work, no getting up early, just taking it easy. I have three evenings to take it easy.

Not that I'll be taking it that easy - life does not work that way when one has three children. Tonight I am being forced to see a high school play. Alison isn't even in the cast - she's on the crew. But in my official capacity as publicity mom for the drama booster club, I feel obligated. I'm sure it will be fine, but I could live with staying home. Tomorrow we have various and sundry activities, and tomorrow night is the Big Game.

Do not tell me you know not to which game I am referring. Go Tigers! ESPN's Game Day airs from San Antonio tomorrow - look for Gary's college friend Pat Forde to provide commentary.

We may even haul out the Christmas decorations. I love the holidays; I love the decorations. But it has become a chore. I remember when we lived in our first house, all our Christmas stuff fit in one box. I think we're up to about a dozen - and they ain't small. A high school friend and his family had something like 45 Christmas trees at their house - some sort of perverse hobby. Every year, as I unpack our four trees and all the miscellany that accompanies four trees, I think of them. With some empathy. And think to myself wow, they must have really loved the holidays. It takes all the energy I can muster to unpack all this stuff. And it takes a couple of days before all the empty boxes are returned to the attic.

As I said, it's a lot of work. The kids are good for, say, 30 minutes. Then they have had their fill of saying, Ooooh and Aaaah, and, Oh! I remember that one. Then they're done.

When it's done, we usually stand around and feel the love as we admire our main tree, which is truly lovely. It's designed by Yours Truly, and I am always moved by the ornaments, many of which were made by the girls or gifts to them. I love the little church, an exact replica of the one my great grandmother gave my older brother. I like our Weihnachtspyramid, a beloved souvenir of our German Christmases. I love my miniature Christmas village, comprising actual buildings in Lafayette. I love the old tree, which now sits in the game room upstairs, covered by toy ornaments; I love the small tree that sits on a landing above the front door - a second-story tree. And I love the Evergleam - what could be kitschier? And nothing says Merry Christmas quite like an aluminum tree. And I smile at Sylvia's personal decorations - a special request to Santa when she was about three. She still puts them up in her room .... I suspect this is our last year to have an actual Santa believer in our midst.

It's all charming; it's all beautiful. And when it's time to put it all away in January, it's a huge relief. One month a year is enough to have our house overrun with red and greenery, displacing furniture. It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also the most hectic. As glad as I am to see it come, I'll be equally glad to pack it all away.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The excitement builds ....

I have spent much of the last two days figuring out our New Year's schedule and all the possibilities - namely, how will we manage traveling to a bowl game?!??

If Missouri wins Saturday, it's easy: We go to the BCS Bowl in New Orleans Jan. 7. If we lose, then it's all up in the air - we could end up at the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Alamo Bowl (all doable), or at the Orange Bowl, Holiday Bowl or Fiesta Bowl (which really aren't - too far away). I've sent out some feelers to friends. If we go to the BCS Bowl, then my brother can't come. But if we end up in Dallas, then he and Barbara will drive down.

So, do I root for Missouri to win? Or to lose and end up at the Cotton Bowl, where we can meet up with John and Barb?

I know, I know - it's really not even a question. Much as we would love to hang out with John and Barb, I really want to go to New Orleans and vie for the national championship. But tickets may be hard to get ... John and I will talk Saturday night or Sunday after the game.

I got a remarkable amount done today - for me. Lately I am more than a little lazy. Hint for the day: Target is very un-crowded at 8 a.m. on a Thursday, even if it is in the weeks before Christmas.

I think I may forgo Christmas cards this year - I'm not feeling up to it. But I've been known to change my mind. I really love getting them, even those holiday newsletters that others find obnoxious. Of course people only write about the good stuff - what do you expect? A detailed treatise on the family's travails of the past year? Maybe the people who resent them are people who don't like to write or are not good writers. Or maybe it's envy. Or they are easily annoyed. Who knows ... I happen to love them. (And often write one of my own ... though I've made them shorter over the years - Gary's aunt writes one that is two full pages, and she could use a good editor; we don't really need to hear every detail of her bike riding trips ("... then on day two ...") I'm down to half a page, and I think it's long enough.)

In other excitement:

• Cleared some clothing out of my closet today. Prompting me to wonder whatever encouraged me to purchase these items in the first place.
• The closet is not noticeably emptier.
• I found my favorite peppermints at the grocery store yesterday - seemed worth noting.
• Have not figured out how to purchase replacement vacuum piece - my e-mails to the company have gone unanswered.
• Where is my check? For work finished weeks ago? I'm getting testy - those e-mails are also going unanswered.
• It's in the 70s again.
• My favorite TV shows are running out of new episodes. Give the writers what they want!

Must make the tennis lesson pick-up. Sigh. A mother's driving is never done.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thoughts for the day (warning: extremely random)

When does wanting justice shift to revenge?

This crossed my mind as I read an article about a woman whose daughter was killed in a car accident and the driver of the car - who was intoxicated - left the country, returning to her native Peru, thus avoiding prosecution.

The driver was a college friend of the girl who was killed. A group of them had been out partying, and the driver was drunk. The accident killed one girl, paralyzed another. The penalty that was in plea bargaining negotiations was for manslaughter, which the mother wanted to reject.

I understand all of this - the mother's feelings, the outrage that this girl (now woman) is back in Peru and facing no consequences for her actions - she did kill someone (extradition did not cover her specific crime). But I also know her daughter was in the car and had also been drinking. Underage. Had she been the one behind the wheel, would the mother feel the same way?

I'm not suggesting people should get away with drunk driving - we need to educate our kids better, and penalties need to be stiff. But I'm just curious about the mother's motivation.

And while I'm at it, why is the death penalty seen as justice? Isn't it more about revenge? I am surprised at how many Christians I know are all for executing criminals, when the Bible I read seems to stress forgiveness ...

Further, I'm not blaming Mitt Romney for the ex-con who killed two people, just because he was furloughed (or released or paroled or whatever) by a judge who was appointed by Romney; I am not going to hold him personally responsible. If he were using his crystal ball then OK, he's to blame. My guess is we're all human and tragedies happen - if we could all act differently and make amends I'm sure we all would - who hasn't made a decision that in retrospect may not have been the best one? Yes, this one is more tragic, but as I said, I'm sure it was unintentional. Should someone pay? The criminal, sure. But how high do we want to go? Should we hold responsible all the voters who put Romney into office? His campaign manager?

Hillary (does she even need a last name?) is in town today. (It's Clinton, in case you're not sure.) I am not going. I kind of wanted to hear her speak, but I'm on the fence about her. I don't hate her, don't even mind her. But she isn't my No. 1 choice at the moment. And seeing/hearing her was going to require a hefty donation, and I'm not sure I'm prepare to shell out that sort of money for her. Yet.

I was, naturally, flattered to get a personal invitation. But I'm not so deluded that I think I'm really that special - please, anyone they thought might pay got one, I'm sure. But I can pretend, just for a moment, that they went to only an elite few.

And for my final thought: Thank GOD that Marie Osmond got booted off first last night. Dancing with the Stars - sorry. At first, I thought she was fun to watch. But she began to get on my nerves. I watched her on Larry King and she bugged the hell out of me - she is all about not taking any responsibility for what goes wrong in her life. The twice-divorced Ms. Osmond said, If only her parents could rear all the men in the world ... OK, I get it - you are divorced - twice - because the men are to blame. You are without fault. Nice. Spoiled brat, more like it.

And on DWTS, she could not accept criticism graciously - she would defy the judges, saying, I refuse to accept that. Excuse me? And as one blogger pointed out, I do not want to hear her say, I'm a doll designer! I'm nearly 50! or I have 50 kids! ever, ever again. Good riddance!

And even worse, people who watched that show live had to endure Celine Dion singing not once, but TWICE! Thank goodness for TiVo ...

Happy Wednesday, all!

Monday, November 26, 2007


The cleaning woman broke my vacuum.

Of this I am absolutely sure. She was the last one to use it. Trust me - I didn't even to have ask the girls if one them didn't sneak in and use it without permission; I just know.

Naturally, I am annoyed. I called her, the owner of the company, to complain. Which I say I hate to do - I don't like to be a whiner, someone who's never satisfied.

But the fact is, I have complained about the cleaning woman before. I have complained several times. One week, she totally skipped the half bath. Another week, it was our bathroom. One week, all of the sinks looked dirty; yet another week, the floors did not look as if they had been mopped. The trash was taken out in half the house (I would prefer that she didn't take out any of the trash, but why, then, only half? When I had asked them to leave it be?). Underneath the desks was not vacuumed.

I sound really picky. But I also know the size of the check I write, and I think I should get what I'm paying for. She's a very nice woman, but she does not clean well. I can only be nice for so long before I get resentful.

Looks like I'm out whatever the price of a new vacuum piece is. It's big piece. They offered to pay for it, but still, it's a pain.


An acquaintance of mine told a story in a blog. This is someone I've known for a long time (though I no longer see this person) and she told a story that I know, for a fact, is not true. It hearkens back to our youth; I was there, and she totally distorted what happened.

Why do I care? Good question - I suppose because it makes her out to be someone she isn't, someone much more important. And I know she is only being half truthful. I suppose it could be the way she remembers things, but I doubt it.

I have decided not to call her on it (and I doubt if she read this, which she doesn't, she would recognize herself - she is too self-important to read this, and I'm guess she believes her version of events). I am not one to leave mean comments - why bother? When people write things I dislike or find fault with, I am not inclined to comment - I so rarely leave positive feedback, why bother with snippy comments? I guess I prefer silent loathing.

But to clarify, the vacuum story? Totally true.


I grew up with a friend who was a bully.

This came back to me as I read about a workshop held in the Houston schools to help girls identify with bullying. Girls who make unkind comments about their friends, belittling them, making them feel inferior, these girls are considered bullies. And one of my "friends" displayed this behavior.

There was a group of us - at one time four, then three - and the one who somehow considered herself the most *important* constantly made cutting remarks about the rest of us. I'm not sure why we tolerated it, but we did.

And they were mean remarks - insults about how we dressed, about our houses (which never lived up to hers - though I don't recall that her house was amazing), about our families. She called my brother names, made fun of what I wore. She made fun of another friend's parents, of their jobs, their pets. We did class reports in Spanish, talking about our parent's jobs, and when one guy said his dad was a mail carrier, she somehow found that funny. (I told my mom later, and my mom, who worked in personnel at the post office at the time, said she should watch it - that boy's dad probably made more than her dad did.) Another time I mentioned going shopping after Christmas when things would be cheaper and somehow she found this worthy of her disdain - the idea of having to save money was beneath her.

(This was a not wealthy family, just so you know - she was a middle-class kid, just like I was, who grew up in a modest three-bedroom ranch house. Nice parents.)

She moved away in junior high, and when I look back at how she behaved, why she treated us, her friends, that way, I am at a loss. Why would you want to make your friends feel badly about themselves? How did this make her feel better?

I saw her a few years ago, and I am happy to say she has changed, that she outgrew this destructive behavior. I keep an eye on my own girls, and I would not care to see them participate in this behavior. Girls needs to support their friends, not victimize them.

Such a waste of energy. And for what?


Must go online to order new Missouri sweatshirts ... we'll be needing something to wear in New Orleans ...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

We're No. 1?!?!?

Could be ... No. 4 (or 3) defeats No. 2 Kansas, leads the entire game. OK, so they had a few too many penalties, so they could have held Kansas back, not allowed so many long passes. But it doesn't matter - they won! And they could be No. 1 this week.

Missouri will play Oklahoma in San Antonio next weekend. We likely will not go, but it will be exciting, none the less. Go Tigers!!!

Hola! from San Antonio

San Antonio is touted in the guide books as a charming city, known for its mingling of Native American, Deep South, and Old Mexican cultures. The eighth largest city in the United States, it boasts the lovely downtown Riverwalk, museums, restaurants, and the history of 300-year-old missions.

Each of these features is a true delight. Each is undoubtedly much more enjoyable when it's warmer outside than 45 degrees. And not raining. But I'm not complaining - we are actually quite enjoying the cooler weather, a welcome break after so many months of really hot days.

None the less, we are loving it. Thanksgiving day was spent at home, where Gary, the girls and I cooked for our guests: turkey, stuffing w/prunes and apricots, sweet potato casserole, green beans w/bacon (I cringe from the recipe that calls for cream of mushroom soup and those fried onions - can't do it), Gulliver's corn, baked mashed potatoes, cranberry chutney, rolls, pumpkin ribbon bread, and pumpkin pie. None of it is low-fat; all of it is wonderful. Gave us a chance to use our seldom-used china in our rarely used dining room. We started the day with the neighborhood Turkey Trot two-mile walk/run and finished by playing lots of Mah Jongg and drinking. Can't think of any better way to spend the day.

All I'll dispense with listing the many things for which I am thankful - I know how fortunate I am.

Friday morning we left for San Antonio. (Can you believe I drove away from all those leftovers? We'll have plenty to eat when we return home ...) We have a lovely hotel on the Riverwalk, and everything is within walking distance. Yesterday we walked to the Alamo, past the historic Joske's department store, the Menger Hotel, La Villita, St. Joseph's Church, Hemisfair Park, and the Riverwalk. It was lovely. And it was cold - 45 and drizzly. We did dress properly, but wow - that wind can go right through you.

Dinner was at Hard Rock Cafe when we realized the kids had never been there, and we figured Alison would get a kick out of it - never mind that we have one in Houston. Man, there is a lot of pointless rock "memorabilia" out there.

Last night was the lighting of the holiday lights on the Riverwalk and the parade of barges down the river. We considered watching from the hotel balcony, but it was very windy out there, and we were up high enough that it was hard to see well. So we went to the Riverwalk right behind out hotel and were able to watch from there. It was great - the lighted barges all had music - some had live bands - so it was more of floating concert to the strains of Jimmy Buffett, Van Morrison, Freddy Fender, Los Lobos, and countless showtunes. Such fun - we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Today we drove out to see several of the missions on the outskirts of the city. We only toured one - you get the idea - but we did like the movie about the development of the missions and the way the indigenous populations were treated by the conquering Spaniards - interesting stuff. We went to lunch at the Liberty Saloon, a funny little place in a building that lists - noticeably - to the left. The food was great and the atmosphere fun, even if you did have to make sure your things didn't roll across the room (!) Their pies were fantastic.

The girls wanted to check out the Children's Museum, so we did, and I'm sorry to say that we have nearly outgrown such places. Came back to the hotel, went to Happy Hour and played Yahtzee - four Yahtzees, four dances (you have to do the Yahtzee dance, even in public), and Alison tested all of my and Gary's drinks - we are so proud of her knowledge of mixed drinks. It should serve her well should she continue her interest in drama and need to sideline as a waiter or bartender - !

We are now watching Kansas v. Missouri - we saw one of Gary's college friends on Game Day this morning who now works for ESPN. Truman the Tiger Webkinz is watching with us for luck ... I am really hoping I can e-mail my former colleague who went to KU, giddy with victory. It's a little too early to gloat - I'll just keep my fingers crossed.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Little bits of nothing

Fall has come to Texas.

By fall I mean that temperatures are below 75, with the nights down in the 40s. It is really lovely. And I am just crazy enough that I actually wish it were colder.

I like warm weather - truly, I do. I love swimning, the beach, summer dresses with sandals. But I love warm weather when it's appropriate. And being one who grew up in the Midwest, with four distinct seasons, I want fall. And winter. When we moved here, I thought I would relish the warmer temperatures - I was thrilled to leave the cold and snow behind.

And now? I realize that I actually miss the change, that i do not want to wear sandals in November, capris in December. Chalk it up to lessons learned.

I had to smile the other day. It was mid-60s, and I saw a woman at Target wearing capris and flip flops, another wearing a turtleneck and boots. Another guy had on a parka - ! Gotta love the Texan reaction to the "cold."

The weekend has been somewhat less productive than I might have liked. Gary came home, so I once again have a co-parent (handy when Alison called at 3.15 am that she was home from Fort Worth and needed someone to pick her up at school). Maddie decided she wanted to see Psycho, and as it was the one weekend of the year when it was not on cable - naturally - we cashed in a video rental coupon in order to enjoy some classic Hitchcock, complete with a "Making of ..." documentary (I love those) and the theatrical trailer. It remains one of the scariest movies I have ever seen - even when I know what is coming. I love it.

Bought new black boots to replace the ones I bought several years ago that have officially worn out. I've been looking for years (I am very picky regarding heel height and style, and while I can always find the characteristics I seek, I am not always willing to pay the requested price). Last year, I found the perfect pair, but I opted to buy them in brown, as my brown boots were hurting my feet (they were clearly purchased before one of the girls was born). I didn't particularly want the same boots in two different colors, so I waited. Now, out of absolute necessity, I made the black purchase. And they are stunning.

By this point I would imagine you are regretting logging on to read this - who finds the minutiae of others' shoe shopping even remotely interesting?

But it gets better: We went to a party last night with great live music. But we had the two younger girls with us, and they were "too tired" by 10 pm. (read: bored) so we had to leave. Made a mental note next time to leave them at home.

Made my shopping list and to-do list for the week, in order to get ready for Thanksgiving here on Thursday. Not a huge crowd - just us and the grandparents - but I do enjoy hosting. I love to cook for this holiday - I have a fantastic set of recipes from a class Helen and I took. The best part? It can all be made ahead of time. So I'll be busy the next couple of days, cooking in advance to that Thursday morning is not a frenzied mess. I only make the pie on Thursday (and the turkey, of course) - everything else is done early.

But I will have to clean off the desk in the office - slash - guest room, which is piled high with my works-in-progress. A semblence of tidiness will be in order.

This, sadly, is my entire list of accomplishments for the weekend. There is much more I could have, should have, done. But I no longer beat myself up about these thngs. Life is short, and some days, it's OK to just take it easy, watch Missouri football on TV, watch a movie with the kids or play Yahtzee (all of which we did). We all enjoy life in different ways; sometimes, a little enjoyement is worth a lot.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stress relief

Lots of ways to put off doing what I should be doing. Lots of ways to deal with stress.

Like blogging, for example. Or shopping. Which I did today - nothing like a stop at Ann Taylor to make me feel better. Plus a run through Dillard's. I need a dress for a Christmas party. So I looked, a bit, got some ideas. Found lots of separates, lots of spangly tops with sequins. But I'm not sure that's the look I'm going for. I browsed in Dillard's, found a stunning coat (that I would wear once a year), a couple maybes. Then I hit the part of the store where the sweaters have large cats on them ... I was done.

Who wears those? I mean, really?

I am already down one husband this week, and tomorrow I'll be minus a daughter, as Alison heads off to Fort Worth for the thespian convention. It will be strangely quiet around here.

Saturday night, we went to dinner, the entire family. I ordered a drink, and the waiter asked for ID. You are kidding, I said. No, he was completely serious. I complied, and he returned it, saying, You don't look that old.

Flattering, naturally. But I'm thinking that it's not so much a testament to my youthful glamour as it is a sign of his cluelessness. I mean really, what did he see? A couple with their three daughters? Or Gary with his three daughters and his teenage girlfriend?

Scary stuff. But it's always nice to know I can pass for my daughter's elder sister.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Youth Lust

Or: Yes, I watched The Osmonds on Oprah today - how about you?

I know, I know - I have a jillion things to do. But I could not resist weighing in. The Osmonds! And I was never a huge fan, even.

When I saw the promos, I knew I'd be tuning in - how could I pass up an hour of traveling back in time, watching Donny and Marie - and little Jimmy, too? Takes me right back to fourth grade - I have distinct memories of watching this show at a friend's house. Though my memories go back much further - I remember listening to Puppy Love on a 45 at my friend Debra's house in first or second grade, and I remember my friend Janet having a major crush on Donny (it must have been her post-David Cassidy phase).

Besides, who couldn't love those shots of the Osmond jumpsuits? The 70s. They were one happening decade.

And I have to give them credit - they seem like a nice family. You only get to see the public side, but still. And Donny has aged well - he looks better now, at 49 (!) than he did as a teenager. (And he wore a purple shirt -!)

But. I'm not really one to lust after my lost youth. First of all, it isn't lost just yet - I feel fairly young, and the parent of one of Alison's friends told me, at pick-up one night, that I looked like one of the students (flattery will get you everywhere, sir ...) And secondly, I live in the present. And for the most part, things today are pretty good. Or they could be worse, anyway.

None the less, it is always fun to revisit parts of my youth. It's a little surreal to watch it through the filter of time - and I have to gently remind my giggling children that they, too, will have this experience - all those clothing styles they love will, one day, look equally dated. Trust me.

I have equally fond feelings for most TV shows I watched all those years ago: That Girl. Batman. Partridge Family. Brady Bunch. What's Happening. Maybe because it's like watching your childhood - we weren't armed with round-the-clock video surveillance, so watching those shows is like taking a step back in time. Or perhaps because it takes me back to a simpler time - a time when life was easy, when my only worries were which friend to call, which game to play. No job, no bills, no real responsibilities.

I wouldn't trade places, mind you - no need to return to the days of track shorts and tube socks, feathered hair and shag carpet. But it's fun to take a peek.

This is the second time this week I've watched Oprah - probably the second time this year. I had to check out yesterday's show where she covered dressing for the ages. As with most makeover shows, those women looked fantastic with some fashion advice. I had to laugh with - not at - one woman, who was wearing clothes she had had for years. I laughed because I recognized every outfit they showed as something I would have worn in 1990. (And I confess, guiltily, a few of those items still hang in my closet ... unworn, but they're there ... ) One woman, who was in her 60s, looked amazing in her before shots - maybe the tops were a little low and the pants a little tight, but she could get away with it. I hope I look that amazing at 60.

But really, I'm OK with the age I am. It's great to be 29 ...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Surfin to Success

I could title this - yet again - something along the lines of Wow, I have so much to do, and so little time in which to do it.

But that doesn't exactly make me special - everyone is busy; everyone has stuff to do.

Yet it's no less true. I've added an additional project, and it is taking up much of my time. So when I'm done, I'll have more time to dink around. In the meantime, I'm busy with some ... stuff.

But before I sign off, let me leave you with this image:

Picture, if you will, an elementary school auditorium. It is designed for a maximum capacity of, say, 350 people. But there are 200 third-graders in the school ... you et the idea. Chairs are set up for about 350 people, and another 150 stand, lining the perimeter of the room. The 200 afore-mentioned third-graders take the stage, all outfitted in bright colors (my own third-grade participant had on a bright red dress and a brightly colored lei - a birthday party leftover favor). And we are entertained by the sound of the Beach Boys, but for the lyrics "Surfin USA" substitute instead, "Surfin to Success."

Ah, yes - butchered Beach Boys - as if they aren't unbearable enough in their original form?

And still, with all its campiness, the evening was charming. Botched music, too many people (they need to schedule one more than one performance), parents with cameras blocking the view - all those annoyances were canceled out by the delight on the face of my daughter. She was front and center - and we were there early enough to get good seats - with a huge smile on her face the entire time. She's been practicing the lyrics at home for weeks and was so proud to sing for us.

I won't be sitting through elementary school performances for too much longer - only two more years. There's plenty of time for me to be cynical. For now, I'll just relax and enjoy the childhood of my youngest daughter. Surfin' to Success, indeed - she is well on her way.