Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sentimental journey

It's early Thursday morning and I'm not a morning person. I haven't even had coffee yet. The kids are in the kitchen eating breakfast. My dog is in the hallway thinking whatever it is dogs think when they lay there looking at you.

Yesterday was my mom and dad's anniversary. Maybe their 39th, I'm not sure. I remember looking at their pictures in a photo album when I was growing up. He was handsome and cocky, she was beautiful and in love. They made a very striking couple.

I've been thinking about my dad a lot lately. He died four years ago, the day before Valentine's day. I was a huge daddy's girl when I was very young. I would run to him when he got home and jump in his lap when he sat down to visit with mom. He had a deep, rumbly voice and I loved laying my head on his chest while he was talking so the vibration of it could roll through my head.

As I got older, I still met my dad at the door with a hug. He was a machinist and always smelled like hard work and beer. I learned to figure out right away what level of drunk he was when he got home. If it wasn't too bad he'd just had a beer or two and would stay in a pretty good mood. If his eyes were really red and he and mom were fighting, he'd been hitting hard liquor. That was never good. And if he started off making snide remarks and being sarcastic and mean, he was three sheets to the wind and would pass out as soon as he sat down in front of the TV.

I don't think he ever thought he would end up being a machinist, but I'm not sure. We never talked about it. He was intelligent and articulate. The star quarterback in high school from a small town in Texas. He'd been the golden boy when he was younger. Went to college on a football scholarship and dropped out when he blew out his knee. He studied theology and was going to be a Baptist minister until he became disillusioned with the church and fell away altogether.

Drinking and smoking eventually destroyed his health, though he hid it pretty well right up to the end. We came to terms with each other before he died. I quit blaming him for my mistakes and he accepted me as I was. We'd disappointed each other a lot over the years, but in the end we realized we each were imperfect, flawed human beings, and that's okay.

The day before he collapsed we had a barbecue at my parent's house. It was wonderful. My sister and her family and all of the grandkids were there. We played dominoes and told jokes and laughed. And my dad told me he was proud of me for the first time in my life. We never spoke again.

We had him cremated, like he wanted. Actually he wanted us to bury him in the backyard, but we figured it would poison the tomatoes (just kidding, Daddy.) He's in a Pier 1 box on a shelf at my mom's house. He would have thought that was funny. And so do I.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

In a perfect world

Okay. I've tried really hard, but I have nothing witty to say. I'm pretty bland right now.

The kids and I and my sister and her family went to the Liberty Jubilee last weekend. It was fun but uneventful. No throwing up this year. The kids got to ride a camel - their favorite part was watching it pee and poop. I ran into Tiffany, my news director at the radio station, and we hugged. That was good.


I miss the action of breaking news.

But not that much.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

If the shoe fits

I have stepped completely off the career hamster wheel and it's nice. Life is slower and things are starting to make sense again. I've actually been making the kids' breakfast before school and not hustling everyone out the door so I won't be late. Savannah told me the other morning, "You're being like a real mom!"


But it's true.

I'm catching up on laundry, working on a budget, and planning meals. My body is shaping up nicely with the walks and Weight Witches. Detoxing after a year and a half of working away from home is not an overnight process. I almost have things under control enough to delve into a daily writing schedule.


I'm simultaneously excited and nervous. But mostly excited.

I watched "You've Got Mail" for the hundredth time the other day, but I noticed things in it I never noticed before. In one of the opening scenes, Meg Ryan's character questions whether she's made the right choice in deciding to run her mother's bookstore as her life's work. This was way before the big chain store loomed on the horizon. It was from the very beginning, when things were still going well financially. Then, when her business was threatened by Fox Books, she fought tooth and nail to hold onto it because she thought it was the right thing to do. But in the end, she lost her bookstore and found her true calling, writing children's books. If she hadn't let go of the past, she would never have found what it was she truly wanted.

I've been beating myself up because every job I've had since I went back to work, I've left badly. Punctuality is a problem for me, I'm not a morning person, and procrastination is an art form of mine. I loved covering breaking stories for the newsapers, but couldn't work with an incompetent editor. I was okay at radio and I loved most of it, but I refuse to work holidays. I enjoy exploring and experimenting with what can be done with more time to write magazine articles, but I forget deadlines. Maybe it's not because I suck, though. Maybe it's because those jobs were not for me.

Maybe I'll write a book. Maybe I'm supposed to be just a mom. I don't know.

But somewhere out there is a destiny for a chronically late night owl procrastinator who can spell really well, with a heart of gold and a taste for Flaming Hot Cheetos.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Week in Review

Hi boys and girls! Did you miss me? My kids have been on Spring Break this week and all kinds of other stuff has been going on, so I'll fill you in with my synopsis-style Week in Review:

Saturday, March 10th - I don't remember.

Sunday, March 11th - The time change threw me for a loop. I started getting ready for my friend Tina's son Cameron's 6th birthday party late. Raced to Walmart, spent too much money, got to the party late, had fun, and walked the track afterward. Then it was off to my mom's in Houston with the two youngest of my children for a few days. We kicked off the visit with an evening of Borat (for me and my Mom - kids shoud NEVER see this movie.) I had the nagging feeling I'd forgotten something.

Monday, March 12th - I slept surprisingly well for a night at Mom's with Savannah. She may only be six, but she has legs that can reach across a bed of any size and kick the crap out of you all night long. One of my best friends in the world, Lorna, and my cousin Marilyn came over and we had a day filled with girl-talk, dominoes, and movies. We took everyone out for a really good dinner and the kids had a great time. Still, the undeniable sensation that something important was being neglected kept knocking on the back door of my brain like a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses on an early weekday morning.

Tuesday, March 13th - I couldn't have gotten more than two hours sleep all night. Between my octopus daughter and not being able to stop worried thoughts everytime I tried to drift off, there was no rest for the weary. I watched some more movies with Mom and got ready to go home with Savannah. Joseph stayed for a few more days. It was a really nice visit with my mom and I realized I've been neglecting her. We got home late Tuesday afternoon and began the process of decontaminating the stuff we took. My mom smokes in her house and everything gets so saturated it takes a week to get the smell out. That evening, I'm contacted by an old friend I haven't seen in 20 years. Her younger sister and I had been BEST FRIENDS through junior high and most of high school until they moved after their mom died. We talked on the phone for over an hour and discovered we live within about 15 minutes of each other. What a treat!

Wednesday, March 14th - I spent the day with one of my favorite people in the world. That night we went to see the friend who'd contacted me and had a great time. It felt wonderful to finally slow down and enjoy life. I haven't spent so much time with family and friends since I started at the radio station. In the midst of everything though, for some reason, the story of the ant who played all summer while the other ants were working kept popping into my mind.

Thursday, March 15th - My re-connected friend came over with her 5 year-old twins and they played with my kids. We chattted and had a nice visit before they had to leave in the afternoon to pick up her older daughter. Then I got to hit the track with Momma T and Jen - hurray! Only my runaway mouth got more exercise than it should have. Tina's birthday is coming up on Tuesday, and I was so relieved because I've been hanging onto her gift since I bought it months ago and it's been pure torture. It's the coolest thing I've ever gotten anybody. A while back, she told me all about the book "Wicked" and how much she loved it. The day I found out the Broadway show was coming to town, I started trying to find tickets - not an easy task, but I got two. And I'd kept it a secret all this time. So while we're walking the track I say, "Thank God your birthday is almost here. I bought those stupid tickets all the way back in January and had to keep it to myself this whole time..." And she says, "Tickets? What tickets?" She guessed they were musical and then Jen says, "Wicked?" "Yes, dammit. To Wicked. And by the way, I think it was actually the end of December when I got them because it was before I put my notice in at the radio station." Then my cell phone rang. It was my dear friend and editor, Trish. She's checking up on me because I've been out of touch, not blogging, etc. And suddenly that nagging little worry that's been plaguing me all week becomes manifest. My deadline for the two articles in this month's Liberty County Outlook was the day before. And there's no leeway, because it's being put together this weekend and going to the printer on Monday. Summer is over, the winter winds are blowing, and the little ant has nothing.

Friday, March 16th - After pulling an all-nighter (I ended up going to bed at 5:30 am) sorting through 178 pictures and sifting through statistics, I finished the first story. A few hours of sleep later I was up making phone calls and hitting brick walls on the second one. I took a break and had lunch with my newly re-found friend (where when I tried to pay, my credit card was declined - yay me), then started again. Somewhere between missing my deadline, having my card declined, and getting the slap down on my second story, I decided I suck and I never want to write another magazine article as long as I live. My last article was finished - as well as it could be - by about 9:30. I put the kids to bed, drank half a bottle of wine, and stuffed myself with pretzels and Reeses Pieces.

The moral of the story is this: If you fiddle while Rome burns, grab a stick and shove a marshmallow on the end. But don't try to pay for it with a credit card, and keep your big fat mouth shut.

Friday, March 09, 2007

On Not Writing

Today I babysat my friend Martha's used bookstore.

It was a silent day spent reading and communing with a very sweet momma cat and her five new babies, punctuated by three customers and a lively visit with a saucy 72 year-old pot head. She was a spitfire.

I was there for an hour this morning before I realized I hadn't turned one of the "Open" signs around. Oops.

Being surrounded by books was cool. I finished a novel I'd been reading and picked up the companion to Stephen King's "On Writing," called "The Secret Window." It's very good. I feel very authory now.

I've also been feeling sad and lonely lately. Maybe it's a prerequisite for writing the Great American Novel (although, honestly, I'd be happy writing a Harlequin romance at the moment - anything that's finished would be good.) Maybe it's hormones.

It's nothing a tropical vacation wouldn't cure. You think I could get somebody to write a prescription for one?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Philosophy 101

Nothing much going on since The Great Backyard Fire of 2007.

I went to Weight Witches yesterday and discovered I've lost 1.4 more pounds. Yippee-skippee. The liquid diet's going great.

I tried a new track today for my walk and discovered all tracks are equally boring.

And I spent another day not writing.

Yay me.

Joseph, my 9 year-old, asked me yesterday what he said he considers to be one of the hardest questions known to man. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

This is the kind of question that annoys the crap out of me. I'm sure it was first posed by a stoner existentialist who thought he'd come up with something profound.

I explained to my son that sound is a law of nature and nature does just fine on its own, with or without anyone around to hear it.

Then I told him a wise person once replied to that ridiculous question: "I don't know, but the squirrel it fell on probably did."

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Right in my own back yard

Evidently I haven't had enough excitement lately, so yesterday my husband decides to start a burn pile in the backyard on a dry, windy day.

The excitement begins.

At about noon, the back door flies open and he yells for Nathan to bring buckets. We look out of a window and see the back corner of the yard on fire. Our back yard is very large, nearly an acre, with a hurricane fence that borders it from the three acres of wooded area we own behind it and our next door neighbor's yard.

My mom, brother, and cousin are still here. We all race outside to carry water from the pool to the fire, which is a good 30 yards away.

I repeatedly suggest that we call the fire department, and repeatedly get told not to. But that's another story for another day.

We get the fire out. The chair that was in the burn pile is still crackling, but I'm treated as though I'm being naive for thinking it could rekindle. (See above note - another story for another day.)

Two hours later, I hear the back door fly open again. This time the fire is almost up to the outer building in our yard we call the "pole barn," and has spread into the back woods and our neighbor's yard. There are already two firefighters in the yard, one I knew, the other I didn't, and I have no idea how they got there. The trucks could not make it into our backyard because the ground was so marshy.

Nathan jumped the back fence and started fighting fire back there with a rake, I grabbed another rake and started helping the two firefighters closer to the house. We had brooms, shovels, rakes, anything to keep it from spreading toward the houses.

Momma T's husband Paul - the Tarkington Volunteer Fire Department's chief -was already there but I didn't see him until later. I think he's the one who saw the smoke intially when he was driving by and called it in, but I still don't know for sure.

I called Tina and she was there in minutes, jumping the fence and helping me so the other firefighters could go elsewhere. It was a family affair. There is no greater bonding experience than beating the crap out of a smoldering tree limb that won't get dislodged from a barbed wire fence. We took turns pretending it was the men in our lives, and finally got it out.

Thank you, Tina and Paul.

Three fire departments ended up paying a visit to my house yesterday, and the Texas Forestry Service. I was the object of lots of mirth, seeing as how most of the guys knew me from my news reporting days covering fire scenes. Oh they had great fun with it. And they didn't let me get away with giving the forestry guy - who didn't know me - the name of Rita Hayworth for the fire report.

The best part was having wine with Tina afterwards. And I apologize for any of you who fell victim to the resulting drink-and-dials.

Also, Nathan is now seriously giving thought to becoming a firefighter. More than one of the guys yesterday said he made a hell of a stop on the fire where he was, and they all want him to join their departments. He needs 15 college credit hours to get in the Marines, so he's thinking about fire school to help him get there. Sorry Cleveland VFD - he's pledged his loyalty to Tarkington.