Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My Precious Cowboy

I really don't care what anyone says, this here is the cutest PJ Clad Cowboy in the entire state of Texas. In his big sister's boot, no less.

part of me wants to throw myself on the floor and beg him not to grow up. To please, Please, PLEASE stay so little and sweet. please...

but that's not my job. my job - as painful as it may be - is to raise this precious creature into a man.

but for the time being - before all the raise'n is done - I'm gonna snuggle and tickle and love and hug and hope it goes as slow as Father Time will allow. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Few Pictures

Here is a sampling of photos I took on my trip home. Even as I review these and try to decide which to include - it is still so hard to comprehend that I saw this destruction with my own eyes. That this is really, REALLY real.

We'll start off with some of the easier ones - relatively speaking...

This is my sister in law's new school. These two rows of mobile classes constitute TWO schools' (pre-Katrina) Middle Schools. Her class is the third on the left. We went in the class. They were enjoying an early Thanksgiving meal. Of the 20 some odd students in the class, about 6 of them were NOT in FEMA trailers. FEMA has provided thousands of travel trailers to families that are displaced - HAVE NO HOME.

There are port-o-potties located between mobile class rooms. One of the classrooms I visited had new computers on every table - they weren't hooked up yet and the teacher did not know who donated them. But they were there and they were beautiful!

There has been such a reduction in student population, a reduction in teaching staff is inevitable. And there she is - smiling and carrying on like the professional she is.

These are my two girls playing with their Mississippi cousins in their Grandparents' back yard. Those trees in the background - if they had fallen in the other direction would have blanketed my parents' home.

This is the razor wire that runs along the north side of the railroad tracks in Long Beach. At each crossing, there is a national guard post. You are not allowed into the area unless you have a pass proving your residency. It was this railroad track and the berm it sits on that protected much of the coast - including my brother's home - from the storm surge.

The house is on top of the car!!!!!

This lot, a block off the beach near the Long Beach/Gulfport line once held a home. This home was once owned by my friend traveling with me today.


I took the following two pictures on Highway 90 between DeBuys Rd & Long Beach.

That sidewalk, those steps - they lead to a slab - where a home used to be...

That's a FEMA trailer in the background - right behind the stairs that lead to nowhere.
The sign says it all...

Friday, November 18, 2005

Too Much For Words

Made it to the coast. to the beach. we weren't going to go to the beach. my friend and I. we decided early in the trip that we really didn't want to go that far. but the newspaper office we visited was less than a mile off the water. Highway 90 along the beach reopened two of four lanes just recently. at the last minute, we turned right, toward the water. we drove about 10 miles of it today. it is simply incomprehensible. it was as bad as I expected. it was worse. it was as all the media images have shown in the past 2 1/2 months. complete and utter destruction. the debris piles. the stench. the flies. the FEMA trailers on lots that once held majestic million dollar homes. American flags flying. bull dozers. razor wire. checkpoints with armed national guardsmen. the stench.

and somehow, I was numb. not unfeeling - but completely surreal. I expected to cry. as I have done so many times since Katrina hit. for the first three weeks, I couldn't even talk about my family and hometown without shedding a tear. but not today. not a single tear. how could I emote when I could not begin to mentally process the magnitude of the devastation.

overload? yes. disbelief? complete. sadness? overwhelming.

once, I allowed my imagination to wander and then to wonder what it would have been like to have been in one of those now non-existent homes during the storm. self preservation halted that brief interlude into "what if?"

my traveling companion today was the nurse in the ER at Gulfport Memorial Hospital during Katrina. this was the first time she had been to the beach since the storm. She said several times she couldn't believe how huge the devastation was - and only blocks from where she rode it out. She shared bits and pieces of her experience. I didn't ask many questions. I wanted to. but I know she will tell me what she can when she wants.

it was a day full of images I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Welcome To Mississippi

Nine and one half hours, four bathroom stops, one fill-up, four Happy Meals, two DVD's, five death threats and six CD's later we have arrived in South Mississippi to visit my family for the weekend.

This is my first trip home post Katrina. My Mom told us not to pull the truck and trailer through the front yard because of roofing tacks. That's code for "WE GOT A NEW ROOF!" Apparently they are in the minority as I saw countless blue tarpaulin covered roofs immediately after crossing the Mississippi River into Vicksburg all the way to home. Was joking with my dentist yesterday about making blue tarp curtains to match the roof. He thought it was a brilliant idea. As do I except I missed my 'window' of opportunity with my parent's house...

Every third tree is down or broken or clipped off. All power and telephone poles are brand spanking new. The back yard is still full of downed trees.

But some things are certainly back to normal. There is food on every flat surface at my Mom's house. The kids have already spread toys and books from one end of the house to the other and Uncle Sam has willingly played the Boogie Man - a role my girls demand each and every time they are in this house. Who knew having the pee scared out of you could be so much fun??!!

So tomorrow I go to the gulf coast. To go by my sister in law's new school and to meet these two fella's that kept me informed, entertained and sane (relatively speaking) post Katrina. I anticipate an emotionally exhausting day. If I'm lucky.
stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

had to share...

I am partial to only posting original material (MINE) here. But I got this today and thought it entirely too funny to keep to myself...

A husband was in big trouble when he forgot his wedding anniversary.
His wife told him "Tomorrow there better be something in the driveway for me that goes zero to 170 in 2 seconds flat."
The next morning the wife found a small package in the driveway.
She opened it and found a brand new bathroom scale.
Funeral arrangements for the husband have been set for Saturday.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My Most Favorite RedNeck Girl

With her very own ticket to NASCAR at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend. We didn't plan to send her to the race - it just kind of happened...

DH's family owns numerous seat licenses. They buy season tickets each year. and this year - for the BIG race - there was an open seat. None of the boy cousins had earned the privilege - via good grades - to go to the races. Samantha did.

And off she went. In the dark of night with her very brave, very crazy father to camp at the tracks with his family the night before the Big Race on an air mattress in the back of the pick-up truck under the topper. (Mother - I had no idea they were doing this....)

And she LOVED it. Absolutely LOVED it. I am told she got up to go to the bathroom TWICE during the entire race. She gets up that many times during dinner at home - just to make sure she's not missing something in another part of the house!

So here's Dad and Daughter at the Big Event. She got her own radio headphones - so as to keep up with her driver. And I am told - by my sister in law (also the photographer) that she DID keep up with her driver - much to her father's annoyance.

"Daddy, where's # 9?"

"He's over there."


"Right There."

"I don't see him!"

"Eat your sandwich."

I am told this conversation was on a loop...

Yep, that's my little redneck girl.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Made in Scotland

That's how the box of Triple Milled Victorian Rose Soap Collection reads. My friend from Houston visited this weekend and as all good southern girls do, arrived with goodies for each of us. My treat is "created with care by Highland Aromatics, Scotland." via Houston. however it got here, I am going to smell so very good...

I am often in awe of how wonderful, unique, thoughtful and up-lifting my friends are. And I have such a special place in my heart for those friends that are good to my kids - as this friend always is.

And my Houston friend was here for a monumental occasion. I am so glad she was able to share in the excitement with us as I uttered - for the milestone five thousandth time -

and the irony - every single time this phrase comes from my mouth, I can still hear each of the 5,000,000,000 voices that told me the exact same thing while I was growing up (last week).

And this afternoon we are scheduled to try to get another family shot for Christmas cards. I am just begging for punishment. DD#1 has a fever again. Brother fell off the horse yesterday. Both have scratches on their faces. I was out way too late last night and therefore am operating on a sleep deficit. But we will attempt, once again to complete this project.

I am sure by the time night has fallen, I will have ensconced myself in the bathroom - door locked, lights low - with my new sweet smelling rose soaps, a glass of red wine and wish myself somewhere else. Anywhere else.

I hear Scotland is nice this time of year...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I am such a B - - - -!

That proclamation runs through my head this morning. almost proudly...

This morning, up and going to get DH and DD#1 off for their day. First and foremost, this involves packing their lunch. So off to the kitchen I go, bleary-eyed and dragging - as is the case most mornings. To the sink to wash DD#1's water bottle. Turn on the faucet and that hose thing - the nozzle you can pull out and rinse and spray with - aimed directly at me - begins to shower me. continues to shower me. my reaction is slow - it's early. regain my senses and instead of reaching over and turning off the water, I place my hand over the sprayer - which only serves to give the output a larger radius of execution. once my face is wet, my brain works and I turn off the whole D*** thing.

And then a flash - a vague memory flickers through my recently awakened brain. Last night cleaning up after dinner, DH is rinsing dishes. I remember hearing him mutter to himself that the sprayer won't go off. It does stick in the ON position sometimes and he often harasses me b/c I can't use my thumb to tweak this way or that - to make it go OFF. I went on with my business assuming he would figure it out and turn it OFF.

You know what they say about assuming...

So off I march, soaking wet, DRIPPING to the rear of the residence to explain to DH if the nozzle was stuck ON last night when he put it up - it will be stuck ON this morning when I turn the D*** thing ON!

Oh, and he thinks this is sooooooo funny. I am not mad, but I don't get the humor either. not at all. not yet. He starts carrying on about how he wishes he had been there to see it and did I scream and jump and flail - laughing the whole time. now I am Pissy. and proceed to give him a big wet HUG! Now we can both enter the Wet SweatShirt Contest.

He follows me back in the kitchen - to check out the scene of the crime and retrieve some cough drops. He then made a huge tactical error. He stood too close. as in - within spraying distance close. so yes, nozzle in hand, I turn the water back on, and give him a taste of what he left for me this morning.

Now this is funny! Really funny to me. Not so much for him.

"What, I'm already sick! You want me to get pneumonia and DIE??!!" His exact words.

My first, immediate and only thought - "DON'T YOU DARE DIE AND LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THESE KIDS!!!"

Monday, November 07, 2005

child's play

A little girl can be sweeter (and badder) oftener than anyone else
in the world. She can jitter around, and stomp and make funny
noises that frazzle your nerves, yet just when you open your
mouth she stands there demure with that special look in her eyes.
A girl is Innocence playing in the mud.
Beauty standing on its head,
and Motherhood dragging a doll by the foot.
~Alan Beck

my middle child - darling daughter #2 - had a friend over today after school. kind of a non-event - to most grown-ups anyway. I made every effort to watch and monitor from afar. And all went pretty well until DD#1 got home from school. Three girls is never a good idea - there is always an odd man (girl) out. And of course the odd girl was DD#1 - whom I am especially sensitive to as she is odd all on her own. I pay very close attention to how people treat and interact with her - due to the speech delay thing. I am thrilled and touched (deeply) when people make an honest effort to converse with her. I am ecstatic when they actually understand her - without my translations. So maybe I am the sensitive one. Okay, I am the sensitive one. She's actually pretty tough.

and while sisters are inherently mean to each other - and I am somewhat growing accustom to this, I still cannot tolerate the divisive behavior when a friend is thrown in the mix. because you see - I know what it feels like to be a little girl and to often be odd girl out. There is this huge desire to fit in, be accepted, to be liked. Heck, I'm not sure I can honestly say I ever out-grew those needs...

and the popular girls. sometimes I was one. most times, I was the one with my face up against the glass. I clearly remember one young friend telling me in third grade during recess that she was still my friend - albeit only because her mother told her she had to. I had a WONDERFUL dinner out with this friend a few years ago - at one of those casinos that got washed away - and I can sincerely say that to this day, she is still my friend - and without being told to do so by her mother (at least to my knowledge). And her mother - she's a saint.

so I know there are happy endings to the injustices of childhood. And I wish the exact same for my daughters - lots and lots of happy endings. And in truth, I would be perfectly happy if my daughters reveal themselves as the Popular Girls. But I wish this for them only if it is because they are kind, tolerant, funny, compassionate, loyal, loving and accepting of others.

ALL others. especially each other...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Channeling Grandma

there are moments, days even, when I am certain I am channeling my Grandma. Today is one such day. Cleaning up and putting away - I find things I have stashed - school supplies, empty boxes, post cards, pictures and letters - tied together with faded ribbons and such. sooo Grandmother. and often times I find myself dropping a paper towel on the floor to mop up a spill, wiping with my foot and then leaving it on the floor for the next inevitable drip or drop. Grandma never had less than two paper towels "in-progress" on her worn wooden kitchen floor.

I am thinking of her a lot lately. I forgot her birthday last month. October 2. She doesn't mind. I do. It hurt my heart when I realized it had passed without me acknowledging it in some way. I should have called my Dad, at least. I do hope someone - likely my much more responsible cousin - took flowers to the cemetery.

February will be two years since we let her go. And it was time. to let go. I missed her before she left. I miss her now.

I was with her when she left. Holding her hand, whispering in her ear. I don't remember exactly what was said - I know I told her she was the best Grandmother in the world. I reminded her for the gazillonth time how much I loved her. "don't be scared" and something to the effect of "it's okay for you to go." My two cousins were on her other side. I heard one of them praying with her. She was at home amidst her things and people that loved her deeply. Grandma left us in the exact same spot where she gave birth to my Dad. there must be some significance to this but it escapes me...

I am going home in a few weeks and will visit her grave. When she was alive, it was so important for her to go to the cemetery for occasions - or to make sure all the family plots were in order.

it would please her for me to do the same.
and I will.

Pictures for Mom and Dad

Our precious angel boy

Savvy being Savvy

This is such a Sam Look

Maybe for the Christmas card

They look so sweet - how deceiving....



Thursday, November 03, 2005

To My Mother...

Why every day is Mother's Day for my Mom...

You know how to make ice cream from snow.

You brought me two beautiful baby brothers home from the hospital.

You let me sleep with you and Daddy when I was a little girl - just how did we get those baby brothers???

You sent me off to explore and conquer the world - and you brought me back home when the world had conquered me.

You supported the high school band because you knew how much I loved it.

You carted me to piano lessons, art lessons, dancing lessons, theater workshops, the dentist, orthodontist and Lord only knows how many doctor visits. . .

You let my friends spend the night - guys and girls - and you acted like it was no big deal.

You treat me like I matter.

You taught me to blow my own horn.

You value honesty, hard work and responsibility - and now - so do I.

You woke me up early on Saturdays - I still haven't forgiven you that one.

You taught me that housework and chores would not kill me - might make me sweat - but that it is a noble and necessary task. Because of this, I can now take care of and nurture the home my family lives in.

You taught me to respect, love and cherish my Grandparents. To worship, love and adore my Father. And to love, value and appreciate my Brothers. And that my loyalty to my family supercedes everything else. absolutely everything!

You also taught me that there are bonds of love and family that are stronger than blood and that these 'chosen' families are to be acknowledged and treasured.

You made peppermint wreathes and hand-painted Christmas ornaments for all my home rooms. Do you know these people tell me that they hang their ornament on their tree every year?

You and Daddy could not get to the Jr. High fast enough to hold me when Sol Britt was shot.

You did not banish me every time I yelled, "I HATE YOU!"

You let me cry (and made Daddy cry) to teach me a lesson about being on time.

You would only let me spend $20 at the County Fair - for the whole week!

You always made sure we had the newest, coolest, neatest costumes for Halloween EVERY year!

You were able to give me my freedom when it was time - and only now I can appreciate the wisdom it took to know when that time was actually upon us.

You taught me that there is such a thing as unrequited love. If only you could have made it go away... I know you wanted to.

Christmas is a celebration.

We took a vacation to the beach every summer that I can remember.

You always had to know, and usually speak to, at least one of the chaperones at the high school dances I attended. I get it, now.

You tell me I'm not crazy - not sure how much value that has considering the source.

You didn't preach when I thought smoking was cool.

You supported and encouraged me unconditionally and without a trace of smugness when I footed the bill - the second time - for straight teeth.

You let me 'mother' Sam Ethan.

You let me wear your jewelry and forgave me when I broke it or kept it or both.

You cried with me and held my hand when my children were born.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Out Late On A School Night

One of my favorite things about being a grown up is having the option of going out on a school night. When I was a kid - that was TABOO! Bed time was a mystic ritual not to be negotiated, tested or questioned. So to go out to dinner at a fine restaurant and be seen with one of the coolest friends I have on a Tuesday night is truly a guilty pleasure.

There is something almost magical about spending time with a friend that knows all your secrets - warts and all - and loves you anyway.

And in this magic, something occurred to me last night. Another friend recently asked me if I was proud of myself. This question has sent me spiraling through numerous hours of self-examination with the resulting answer most often being a disappointing "No."

However, last night I came up with a "YES" answer. I've been told that your friends represent the best in you or perhaps they mirror who or what you wish to be. Don't know if either of these theories are completely accurate - but if I am judged by the company I keep - my friends - then I am a pretty AWESOME person!

So there. Yes! I am hugely proud of the friends I have. My Dad has always told me that you will be able to count your real friends - in life - on one hand. My brother says you find out who your real friends are when you move or go to court. There's truth in all this.

But you also find out who your truest friends are when you have your second baby. She shows up and takes the Big Sister for the entire weekend. Takes her on Friday night - returns her Sunday night, bathed, fed and in her PJs - ready for bed.

True friends pack up all their belongings and move to Colorado with you simply because you tell them - "You have to do this! You are crazy if you don't go with me!" And they go. With you. And you have the time of your lives while living larger and surviving more than you ever bargained for in less than two years.

These same friends knew I was so homesick in Baltimore I could hardly catch my breath. They loaded up, drove 10 hours from Chicago one way - with barely $20 between them - to surprise ME at work, take a nap, join me for dinner and drinks, sleep - then drive the 10 hours back to work.

They love my kids - and I know beyond any doubt if anything happened and I weren't around to raise them - these friends would make certain the task was completed to MY standards. They also know I WILL come back and haunt them if anyone other than my immediate friends go through my personal effects after I am gone. I have made them swear to this - on more than one occasion - usually each year at my birthday dinner.

They keep my secrets. They entrust me with theirs. They laugh with me . They cry with me or even for me when my tears have dried up. My friends tell me I'm not crazy - which really does make a huge difference in my day to day.

There have been weddings. Divorces. Babies born and babies lost. We have buried parents, siblings and grandparents. I have welcomed new friends into this circle. Celebrations and sadness. We dance this dance together - my friends and I.

My bestest friends forgive me when I forget their birthday. And I do this oftener than I'd like to admit.

My friends showed up in force after Katrina. I got cards, calls and gifts of cash - with the instructions - "Use this for your family - however you see fit." From friends I see every day to those special people I haven't shared more than a Christmas card with for several years. They reached out from all around the country and even beyond to share my pain, heartache and loss.

I have friends from childhood - I have known since age four. Three friends in particular. One, her father lost his home in Pass Christian to Katrina. She rode the storm out 45 miles in-land at her mother's house with her divorced (some 30+ years) parents and swears she'll never stay for another one. Have to wonder if it was the storm or the divorced parents that brought her to this conclusion.

The second friend is the nurse (hero) I mentioned at the hospital in Gulfport on duty in the ER throughout Katrina while her young daughter was sent to safety two states away with family.

The third, a guidance counselor at a larger high school on the coast. Two weeks after Katrina, she was back at work - no students - but counting text books. Obviously not a great use of her education and expertise but she was thankful to have her home, her family and a place to go to work.

I can pick up the phone and talk to any one of these phenomenal women for hours - as if we left the dance recital just last night.

And then there is my bestest, dearest friend from high school and beyond. The hair. The makeup. the boys - and the one we fought over. Yes, I still remember exactly which one he was. the summer visits to Atlanta. more boys. no more fights - we learned the first time. trips to New Orleans, the beach, Canada, Nashville, Wal-Mart, dances in Seneca. more boys. broken hearts. mended souls. absolute unconditional acceptance. Me always trying to lose weight - her acting like she was trying to gain. Her as a part of my family. Me in hers.

When my first daughter was born, I called her and told her that the angels had brought me this beautiful, perfect creature and I was having a very hard time graciously accepting this gift from Heaven. I told her that I had done absolutely nothing in my entire life to deserve this child. And she should know. I was expecting her to console me and correct my misgivings. Her response - something I'll never forget - "You are absolutely right. You don't deserve that baby. That's God's Grace." When exactly did she get smarter than me???

Finally, there are my new best friends. Friends that make living out in the middle of this Texas Prairie tolerable - even enjoyable! My friend next door is the best sport ever - she lets me send my girls over to 'visit' and help feed up the animals. She picks up DD#1 at school on her way home from the office at least once a week. She mentors, encourages and mothers me. And I love it.

My other 'local' friend understands and shares my obsession with coupon and bargain shopping. No matter what store we go to - she KNOWS where the clearance aisle is and how to spot the best deals. A woman after my own heart. She trusts me with her personal pain and her triumphs. I am honored. We create crafts together and remind each other often what fabulous mothers we are and how every teacher would be lucky to have someone like us as their Room Mother. We have no shame... Did I forget to mention that my four year old daughter is in puppy-love with her five year old son?

So to Carla, Donna, Katy, Lolly, Lynn, Mary, Michelle, Mistie, Paula, Paulette, Sheri, Siun and Sonya - I am thankful, proud and honored to call you my friends. I aspire to be the kind of friend to you that you have been to me.

all my love ~t

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