Tuesday, August 31, 2010

why there?

This is a blog about a candle. Sort of. And with many digressions. And not a lot of point.

I frequently blink and find myself, just for a fraction of second, somewhere in my memory. Of course, it lingers on as I get back to present day life and makes me wonder, "why there?"

Yesterday, it was standing at the door of a storage room in the building where my first grade class was held at Easthaven, looking into the room filled with boxes and boxes of candles. This room was the one with the windows looking out on the small playground area where the first graders romped, before the big gym was built. In the center of the playground was a big pole, perhaps that once had a tether ball attached, but now was there solely for climbing. I've had a moment of flashback at the top looking down on the playground, too.

But back to the candles.

These are what I now call, at least in my head, Catholic candles, mainly because the only time I ever see them for sale anymore is in that little section in the grocery store, right near the tortillas, with images of the Virgin Mary and Christ on the cross.

Easthaven BAPTIST school, however, had a fundraiser with these candles that were devoid of any iconography. But they were the same shape, cylindrical, and exactly the same size as a tennis ball can, made of a thick glass. They were not scented.

So there I stood, yesterday and in 1976 at the same time, at the door to the room with the boxes upon boxes of candles that had to be sorted and given to the children to deliver.


And then, of course, being me, I had to find out if I had a picture of one. They lasted forever because I don't think my mom remembered to burn them very often. Mostly they sat as decorations on bookshelves except at the holidays. Surely somewhere in the background, I could spot it again.

In the piles of scanned Christmas slides, there it was.

This picture was taken at Christmas 1984 and, sure enough, there's one of the candles, with the prancing deer in the forest. I hadn't attended Easthaven in three years and we hadn't sold candles since the late 70s, so this thing had been a fixture on the shelves for years. But I'd completely forgotten about it until that brief second yesterday.

Then, studying the picture, all sorts of objects take on memories. There's my first SLR camera, with the only camera strap I've ever used. It looks far less bright and clean now, but that hippy looking thing holds my current digital SLR to this day. There's the Thompson Chain Reference King James Bible (with blue bow and bible cover) that was a gift that year, bought at the Baptist bookstore over by the Toys-r-Us that had all those cool little toy prizes Mom and Dad would buy for children's church. The bible had my name in script on the dark blue leather cover.

I see the old Sign Language book I would pour over, trying to decipher the static images with arrows into active, recognizable signs. (Never worked, 2D graphics are Greek to me.)

Peeking over the top of the piano are the recital busts of Mozart and Bach. I had Schumann and Brahms, too. But only Mozart was gold. My piano teacher must have had a rush of craftiness one year before the big recital.

I still have that horse blanket, although it's seen much better days.

And the paneled walls and rust colored couch (which I now note my dress seems to have been made out of) was a giant sectional thing that ate up the entire living room.

Whenever I dream, I'm very often back in this house. But these details are lost in the fuzziness. So it was a pleasant respite from an overwhelming day yesterday to return to being 6, and 14, and back "home" for just a moment, even if I don't understand why.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I look at pictures of my past dogs that have passed on, ones whose graves we have dug or whose ashes we carry with us. Shelby, Lady, Ian. Our Katy is 10 this year and the gray in her muzzle reminds me of Ian's face that turned from black to salt-and-pepper as he aged. It struck me as we were playing fetch for the millionth time that our routine now that seems so settled and fixed will doubtless pass away faster than we can hold on to the memories. So for posterity's sake, here is a taste of what the daily fetch habit looks like. If you visit, this is your primer on how to correctly play.

There are three basic components of Fetch:

First, we must find the ball. If we've stuck to our routine, that is easy. At the end of the last fetch, I have traded Katy the ball in her mouth for a cookie and placed the ball on the shelf near the door. If I haven't been vigilant, then we have two options:

1. Walk outside and say, "where's the ball?" in my puppy voice (this is a pitch higher than normal) and see if the dogs will actually locate one in the yard. If I spot it and point from the deck, they run to get it. If there is one within their sight under the deck, I suddenly have two dogs with just their backsides visible, as they point and stare at the ball just out of reach.

2. If there is no ball in the yard or under the deck, we must now watch me play fetch, checking the usual places like under the couch and under the beds. We've discovered both dogs like to squirrel away tennis balls near their sleeping spots. I found a nest of four balls once behind Evan's pillow up under my bed.

Second, we must throw the ball. This may or may not involve some false starts on my part to see how quick their reflexes are. This also allows me to give them both a chance to get to it. You see, Katy insists on staying behind Evan when the ball is in my hand. This gives her the best chance to get to it first when I throw. So when she's being a ball hog, I can get her moving in one direction and let the ball fly in the other so Evan can get to it first.

Third, we must return the ball. If Katy gets it, she immediately brings it back to the deck, pokes her nose through the slats, and drops it to roll toward me. However, if she gets too excited she can drop it early and miss the deck. This is especially true if she sees me moving toward her to take it. So I stand still until I hear the familiar thunk of the ball hitting the deck before I step forward. If Evan gets it, we have another step. Because Evan will not poke his nose through the slats. I don't know if he has some aversion to this or thinks it is always Katy's job, but he will run back to the starting point and lay down with the ball between his paws. If Katy does not quickly retrieve it from him and take it to me, he will bark at her. At any point if the ball is on the grass and I am on the deck, all I have to do is say, "I can't reach it" and she goes after it.

Then we can start the process over again. And again.

Finally, when I've had enough (because the dogs will never have enough) I say, "Let's get a cookie" at which point they head for the door. If Evan has the ball in his mouth, he drops it at the door and walks with me to where we keep the cookies in the laundry room. Katy will then pick up the ball and wait for me to bring her a cookie to trade for the ball. If Katy comes in with it, she she simply waits until she is presented with a cookie, right at the door. Evan's spot for eating his cookie is on the rug in front of the sink. Katy's is on the rug in front of the door. I'm not sure when or why I've cultivated such obsessive/compulsive behavior in my dogs, but we do it the same way every time, every day, without fail.

And to end where I began, it will not always be this way. But this is the way it is for now and I don't ever want to forget.

Spring and Summer 2010

Just threw together some favorite shots from this year so far, starting in the cold of February through the warmth of August. I like the way it turned out.

8/28 Sunrise

The swallow's song and the blowing curtains overhead roused me. The windows stay open from some nights in May (depending on cold fronts) through September. The breezes always make the blinds slap against the window frame, so the blinds are pulled partway up to minimize the noise at night. It also causes the room darkening curtains to billow up. And since our bed is directly under the window, if I don't have the pillow over my head or can sleep like the dead (Bob), the first morning light shining down is a natural alarm clock.

For whatever reason, the first sliver of light this morning drew me out of bed to skulk about the dark house, peeking out the windows.

When I was 16 I remember waking in the middle of the night to discover the small bathroom window was perfectly framing a bright and fat full moon. The thrill of quietly sitting in the dark shooting what turned out to be hopelessly fuzzy pictures stays with me even now.

Above is just before 6:00 a.m. from my couch. Over the next few minutes the small patch of light began to throw wonderful colors into the clouds.

I can't frame a full moon in the bathroom window anymore, partly because of the glass in the windows and partly because they face southeast. This means the sunrise is angled into the waves of glass, though, so there are some fascinating colors to be captured here. I kept waiting for a bleary-eyed Bob to come stumbling in asking what in the heck I was doing in the dark, standing in the shower with my camera. (Didn't happen. Sleeps like the dead, remember?)

Looking west out of the guest bedroom window, the light is still that deep morning blue.

But if you check from Sammi's room on the other side, more northwest in angle, you can see the sunrise is about to take over the sky. Luckily, Sammi is spending the night at a friend's, so I didn't have to step over her on her bed to get the shot.

Looking directly downward from her window is the darkness of the backyard.

Couch check, circa 6:15

By this time, Evan is growing weary of being patient, so we step outside and I spot the clouds getting ready to put on a show.

The above is looking to the right from the back deck. To the left, the waning moon kept watch on the clouds as well. My deck lizard seems to be staring up at the moon himself.

Back to the couch, 6:30.

Faith has taken up residence on the back of the couch to watch the sunrise herself, so if you note a dark blob here, that's her.

One last look to the west. The noise of the screen in these shots annoys me. However, balancing that against the annoyance Bob would have in trying to put the screens back in place constrains me from trying to pop them out.

There is something deeply satisfying about greeting the sunrise alone in a darkened house, in your pajamas and bare (cold) feet, quietly moving about without a word. It didn't strike me until I went to the computer this morning marks one month of being 40.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And I could tell what form my dreaming was about to take

Feeling quite full-moonish this morning, we set out on a rambling walk, purposefully taking routes backwards or in large circles around the regular trails. The sunshine did me good. It's been just a crazy week and it's still only Thursday. So it was very therapeutic to soak up the warmth and listen to the sound of my flip flops along the pavement and see the happy faces of my dogs.

Now the trees are blooming fruits rather than flowers. The branches are heavy with them. Apples or no, these sights always cue the sound of Robert Frost's New England voice reading "After Apple Picking." (click the player at the top of the link to hear)

There are still some hardy blooms, though, at least until the first strong cold snap.

So many leaves in the early stages of turning color.

So much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

19 Years Later

The mission: find a picture of the two of us together for each of our 19 married years. This was tougher than I realized, especially during those little kid years. Thank God for holiday family pictures! Here's what I managed to dig out of the archives.

August 24, 1991

Bob and I met and ended up sitting next to one another on a long drive to a college retreat on Sept. 28th, 1990. Five days later, he proposed on Oct. 3. Everyone thought we were completely insane. We were together for three months and then Bob had to leave for Ft. Knox and Army Officer training for the next five months. During that time Desert Shield turned to Desert Storm and his orders were to head for the war once training was over at the end of May. Two weeks before he would have left, Desert Storm was over and he got to come home. We had three more months together and then there we were, knowing each other less than a year, tying the knot.

Thanksgiving 1992
I am 7 months pregnant. Bob was working as a correctional officer for TDCJ and we were living in the Turner's little rental house with no central AC. I was in graduate school working as a TA. And we were so dirt poor. We scrounged in couches (not just ours) for change one week to buy groceries. This was the year of Shelby, my first shelter dog who was supposed to be Nana Shelby to baby Nicholas. She died in my arms in the middle of the night Jan. 7. Nick was born Jan. 9. She had slept in his nursery since we'd decorated it.

Christmas 1993
Baby Nicholas is already almost a toddler. We moved into a little apartment (with central AC!!) in Hunstville. Bob was working two jobs, both at TDCJ and as a security guard at the little mall in town. I was finishing my thesis and deciding to move into teaching instead of continuing on with the PhD.

Valentines 1994
One of the few couples pictures we can find, just the two of us, for the next decade. In a few months we'll be moving to Navasota to a little rental house with three bedrooms (palacial!) once owned by Bob's high school football coach. It is the start of a long stay in a very small town.

September 1995
And Baby Samantha makes 4. She is born full term at 4 pounds and the stress of the bedrest and near death is one of the deciding factors deciding these precious babies were going to be it. Bob has transferred to a unit outside of Navasota but has to work the graveyard shift. I am teaching English part time at Blinn. Muna takes care of the kids when one of us isn't home.

August 24, 1996
5 Year Anniversary and our big trip consisted of going out for dinner and a movie and spending the night at a suite at the Hilton in College Station. Livin' la vida loca.

October 1997
Dressing up for a visit to the Texas Renaissance Festival, although Sammi stays behind with Muna. We're in the same house, but Bob has moved into Internal Auditing for TDCJ, driving back to Hunstville everyday.

Christmas 1998
The kids are growing like weeds. Nick will start kindergarten this coming year and is wild into all of Bob's childhood hero, Batman. Sammi is all about the Wizard of Oz. These are the magical kid years.

Thanksgiving 1999

Disney World, Christmas 2000
I finally had moved into a full-time teaching position at Blinn. (hurray!) Bob was still traveling for auditing work and driving to Hunstville. This was the year we finally bought our own house, moving all of one mile across town.

Christmas 2001
We've had Ian as part of the family since 1997, but Katy joins us this fall for Sammi's 6th birthday. Bob gets the job as the Aggie Bucks/Card office director this year and cuts his commute in half by travelling to College Station every day.

Disney, Christmas, 2002
Hey! It's just the two of us in the picture! The kids are old enough to operated the camera now.

Christmas 2003
The year Nick started playing football, was still playing baseball, and Sammi was in gymnastics. This is the only picture I can find with both Bob and I together. We were always splitting time at sporting events.

Disney, Christmas 2004
We go every other year at Christmas until the kids have left home. That means this coming Christmas will be the last one for Nick.

Christmas in Colorado, 2005
Mom and Dad have moved to Colorado Springs earlier this year and we are visiting as often as possible. It was nice of them to schedule snow for us.

Christmas 2006
Probably the most honest family picture we've ever taken. Bob has an interview with the Colorado School of Mines on Jan. 2 after this Christmas, which will take us out of the small town our kids have called home their whole lives.

Thanksgiving in Santa Fe, 2007
In March we moved Bob to Colorado and we joined him three months later in June. It was the longest we'd been apart since those five months before we were married. I am teaching part time at a local community college. Mom and Dad take all of us to Santa Fe for the holiday.

November 2008
I have left teaching after 14 years. Colorado woefully underfunds its higher education. The majority of people are educated out of state, even though we boast one of the highest number of degreed people in the U.S. Time for a new career.

Christmas 2009

Today, August 24, 2010

Half a lifetime together and counting.

Happy 19th Anniversary my Pooter Muffin!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Last First Day of School for both

This year will doubtless be filled with "lasts" that are bittersweet. This morning was no exception. Today both kids headed out for the first day of school. Sammi's freshman-only stint yesterday wasn't actually classes. It reminded me of the picture I snapped the morning they were headed out to first and fourth grades in fall 2002.

So they gamely played along again this morning for one last shot of the two of them leaving for the first day of school one last time, freshman and senior. (They're my kids. They are used to stopping for pictures every other second.)

In elementary school, the campuses were divided into two grades apiece. This marks the first and only year the two of them will be in the same school. And, to my delight, it's the first school year I don't have to drive into the madness that is school drop-off.

Bittersweet indeed.