Monday, October 15, 2018

Game On

We worked in our garage last weekend, on what were, I believe, the last two hot days of the year. Isn't that how it can go sometimes? The garage organization is really the last big piece to fall into place at the new house. In 2017, I stumbled onto a blog post that showed using The Container Store elfa System and fell in love with it. It then became a cat and mouse game of getting it designed and waiting for their fall sale that offers the discount on installation as well as the elfa shelving. We got to the purchase point and then installation day came and went, and we were left to work in the garage on our days off to get all of the items put into their new home. And oh my mercy, do I love my new garage storage system, or what? I may have gone out and just stared at it a few days this week.

But sometimes the getting to where you want to be from where you are involves a little blood, sweat, and tears. In this garage organization project, surprisingly, it involved two of the three. If I bled, I don't remember it. See, sitting in my garage, waiting to be gone through and dealt with for years now, were about 5 bins of memorabilia. These bins of memorabilia were in our last garage, so it's not like I haven't been avoiding the obvious for years now. But, right sizing the house has us dealing with things that a big expansive home can hide and handle. Less square footage? You prioritize and deal, and purge and divest. 

And while Steve triaged the bins of actual items to stay in the garage and sorted out what was already quasi-organized into a seasonal sort of semblance, I sat with my bum knee, and he would bring me bins to go through. I think one bin held both 4K and 12th grade for my oldest son, and some years in between. That bin was certainly one to go through. Not only did I deal with school and art work, I dealt with years and years of Christmas cards. It's amazing how the range of emotions can be connected to seeing a card from a long deceased aunt, or  neighbors from 1999, or high school friends from the 1980's. 

And while I sat in that hot, steamy garage working through all of these pieces of paper and the memories and emotions associated with them,  I actually had moments of just recalling and remembering our various homes and our various garages. Quite candidly I will advise you - never go from a home with a three car garage to a home with a two car garage! Those three car garages spoil you! We have had attached garages, detached garages, the old house in McAllen with NO garage {this was the worst!}; all of the garages were two car garages, with our prior home being the exception with that beautiful third bay. 

Some of these garages held two cars, and not much more. Some of these garages held tricycles and that battery operated Jeep the boys were so cute riding around in. Some of these garages held bicycles that we used to condition ourselves for the walking on our first trip to Walt Disney World. Some of these garages held ski equipment and golf equipment and lots of tools, all seldom used, but somewhat necessary to hang onto. And one of these garages momentarily held a ping pong table.

I will confess that I love giving surprises. I love giving what is on a wish list, but I like to throw in a little extra. And one year I got the brilliant idea that the boys should get a ping pong table for Christmas. This was exactly what they needed as a surprise gift! And ever the adoring husband, he supported my surprise. I envisioned lots of ping pong games, and laughter, and time together. The boys were still in middle school, and we were often the gathering place for their friends. This would be perfect, yes?

Well, in the mayhem that followed Christmas Day, we didn't get around to putting it together until New Years Eve {and by we I mean they}. ;-) And at the time, the only place it would fit was in the garage. It was a fun evening. I remember it was, of course, cold in the garage, but the boys were interested and helpful to their dad and the three of them quickly got it put together. 

They were funny to watch play. Steve and I both come from families that love to game and compete, and win. Competitiveness is bred into our sons, I guess. I especially love the grimace I caught on Philip's face in the photo on the right. Seems like he might have just been bested on that shot, or was working up some fierce serve. We played off and on that New Years Eve, and after Steve's schedule settled down, the ping pong table made its way up to the boys' retreat. It dominated the room. The boys at this point had taken over the family media room and watched their TV and movies and gamed in there, so the ping pong table commandeering their retreat was fine.

I didn't expect the ping pong table to be such a flop though. It was. It was a catch all for things. The electronics' siren call dominated the time, and it wasn't often that you could hear the cadence of the ball going back and forth, and ultimately bounding onto the hardwood floor and skittering around. Unretrieved ping pong balls became the cat's toys, and were often accidentally squished under the size 12 shoes that bounded around up there. If someone did want to play, it was hard to find those ping pong balls that had been neglected and more than likely squished.

Sometimes you try something and it isn't what you expect, or it doesn't turn out like you planned. When I was younger, guessing incorrectly would have bothered me more. While this ping pong table reality didn't leave up to my fantasies about it, it's no big deal. The times we used it and had fun with it were worth the hassle and inconvenience of carting it upstairs, and ultimately back down. 

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You can never know until you try. And if modeling anything to my sons was paramount, it was that it was okay to try new things. And succeed. Or fail. It was okay to adapt and adjust. And in life, you sometimes need to just roll up your shirtsleeves and try. You might win or you might lose, but you get one shot at this thing called life. You may as well go for it. Game on.

Ping Pong ~ Garage Gaming ~ December 31, 2009 

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Simple Stories
Title: Silhouette cut file

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Thankful & Blessed

Our first cool front is moving in now, right behind the rain that is falling. Autumn in Texas, much like winter, is more a state of mind than a significant shift. It's a gradual conversion, and fall to us is when it falls below 80 degrees, and the breeze is no longer hot. If we get any color change on any trees, we count it a bonus. Living in north Texas, I get as much fall as the state offers, and if you select your trees well, you can conjure up some "fall color" and tease yourself into thinking you have a fall season.

I was chatting with my daughter-in-law and my youngest son's girlfriend in August, and we were talking about our favorite season. It was humorous to reveal that each of us picked as our favorite season the one which held our birthday. So, yes, as a Scorpio, my favorite season is fall. To me it represents all the good feels: the coming back home after the vacation months, the settling in to the keeping of the house and the ensuing preparation for company coming for the holidays, the anticipation of family gatherings, and the simple joys of football, slower paced days, shorter days, glorious sunrises, and cool evenings spent on the porch or patio watching the sun go down.

Growing up, fall was a kaleidoscope of togetherness - the annual trek to Denton from Houston to be with family for Thanksgiving, the side stop at the farm, the smorgasbord of food at both houses, the sounds of family laughter, the setting of the one household television constantly broadcasting the football game de jour. It was like Christmas, without the cold (which I hate), and without the presents (which always seem to add stress), and for more days (because we always had Thursday to Sunday for this annual trek.) Yes, Christmas 2.0 definitely. The improved and better version!

And then there was my November birthday! Early years were family parties that morphed into adolescent slumber parties, that morphed into my birthday being somehow recognized whenever we gathered for Thanksgiving. In our house, my brother's birthday was five days after mine, and my dad's birthday was eight days after mine, so growing up we had a trifecta of birthday celebrations, and while theirs both sometimes fell on Thanksgiving, crowning them officially as turkeys, mine never did, and that added to the joy and the fun of it all for me. I never had to share my day, and I could never be called the turkey. Win win.

As I transitioned from high school to college, fall meant the imminence of Thanksgiving break, and the real homecoming - the trek from central Arkansas back to coastal Texas, and bringing with it the relief from roommates, dorm life, professor quirks, unending assignments, and most importantly, cafeteria food. Ahhh...the food of fall! Chili, casseroles, chicken fried steak, fried eggplant, hot water cornbread, pies, cookies. There's nothing better than my mother's cooking. I come from a family of good cooks, and it really spoils you to the savory goodness of family favorites. To me, home cooked meals are quintessential to the adoration of all things fall.

As a young married gal, fall turned into planning a multi-family gathering in Houston which was followed by a marathon shopping day. Yes, we were Black Friday gals. My mom, my sisters, and I started Black Friday shopping when I was in elementary school, heading to the budget basement floor of downtown Foley's, back before malls existed. When Gulfgate Mall opened up, we shifted to that mall, and then we moved around over the 30 years (~ 1970 to 2000) of Houston Black Friday shopping to whichever mall was the newest, or had the best Foley's. When my sisters had toddlers, we would head to Toys 'R Us first, and then move on to Foley's. Walmart and Target folded in there along the way, the newer version of Gemco.

When we moved away from the Houston area in 1997, we were initially able to head back "home" to Houston for family Thanksgiving while we lived in San Antonio. However, in 2000 when we moved south to the border town of McAllen, our Thanksgivings changed and we began the new tradition of having our own Thanksgiving, and welcoming whomever was willing and able to travel to be with us. {Having a husband in retail has its benefits, but also its pitfalls. No traveling on the holidays definitely falls into the latter category. But like with much of life, we adapt, choose joy, and press on.}

By the time we moved to Dallas in the summer of 2005, we were adjusted to our new routine, and began recruiting early for guests to come join us for our fall feast. And with that came the anticipation of the company, and the preparation for their arrival. We love to welcome guests to our home. And part of the whole fun of fall, to me, was in using the golden days of September, October, and November to prepare my home, hearth, and heart for the influx of holiday guests. Since I am a natural planner, and since hubby works so much during the holiday season, we learned to start early, especially as we have aged! We don't move quite as fast as we used to. ;-)

And as some years were spent alone, with the travel rotation of friends and family committed elsewhere, we duly learned to be thankful for the years when we did have company, and we also truly learned to enjoy the quiet years where it was a table set for four. {And having spent one year with a table set for two, I can truly appreciate now setting down four plates.} Every fall seemed to be a shift and like the leaves falling in the wind, a varied and enjoyed moment to take in.

Across the space of time and locales and age, I think the biggest shift I've made regarding fall is to take it from a celebration of the season to become a spirit of awareness, a spirit of gratitude, an acknowledgement of being thankful and blessed. Sometimes I hate the word "blessed". It brings out, in some circles, a sense of smug bragging, as if "I've lived such a good life - see my rewards?" and I hate that. But the "blessed" that resonates within me is the acknowledgement of all the incredibly good things in my life that are pure gifts, because they are completely undeserved. And I try so hard to be so thankful for them, not only in the fall, but year round.

This little layout captures just a snip of what some might call my "attitude of gratitude". These are just some random photos taken by me in the fall of 2014, in the fall that turned out unexpectedly to be our last fall at our beautiful home in Murphy. Me sitting with my dog on my patio on a beautiful October afternoon. My husband working hard to clean the outside of windows as we prepare for company. The beauty of a changing tree in my front yard that I paused to notice when headed out for a walk. The cart full of special groceries on our foodie run to Central Market. Thanksgiving isn't just a day. Thanks giving is a way of life. And I want to recall, this year, this first November without my dad, this Thanksgiving holiday most of all, that I am thankful and blessed. I want to remember. Help me remember. Thankful. And blessed.

I Heart Fall ~ Fall Bliss ~ October 2014

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Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Simple Stories
Title: Simple Stories

Monday, April 23, 2018

I Love Coming Home to Truman

219 days. That's the span of time from my last blog post dated September 17, 2017 to today, April 23, 2018. There's a lot of story in that gap. A couple's ten-day escape, a weekend escape to Florida, eight holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Martin Luther King day, Valentine's, Presidents Day, Easter), one family vacation during spring break, too many work days, youngest son home for a week during his term gap, year-end and tax season, three calendar seasons (fall, winter, and spring), road trips to Houston and Tennessee and Florida, traveling to Washington for a week of work, another winter with a case of the flu, lots of every day living, and then the horrible, no good, very bad day in January when I got the 11:07 p.m. phone call that my dad had unexpectedly passed away, and it's twin horror that followed five days later when we laid him to rest at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Houston, Texas. Yes, lots of story in that gap.

When I think of the blur that 2018 has been since that terrible phone call received in the remnants of  January 29, there are gaps that I cannot make pieces and parts out of, and there are quiet moments of normalcy where I can shelve the grief and keep the lifetime of memories at bay, and can live in this day - of right here, right now, life is good mode, and then there are moments of deep sorrow where I feel much, and remember much, and then feel even more. This grief thing is organic and raw, and honestly, quite puzzling. My dad always expected much of me, and I dealt well with his expectations, I think. Or at least I was always attempting to deal well with them. We had a rough love, but a real love. As a family of deep faith, we rest in knowing he is now in heaven, and we live out our days here until one by one our family chain that was broken in January begins rebuilding on the other side. I think what bothers me the most is that his participation in family events is over, and life as my extended and immediate family knew it is forever gone. There are so many traditional and cherished things that are now forever no more. And we worry about my mom, being alone, living alone, grieving, and everything we are feeling and thinking and doing and pursuing is quite normal, I suppose.

As I muddle through these days, one thing that has been constant (besides my amazing, tender, loving husband) is Master Truman. 

He's such a funny little human trapped in a fur body. He "talks" to us with any one of his 100 different moans and whimpers and groans he makes, not to mention his many varied barks, or just his wagging tail and his mouth parted in his tooth-showing smile. Saturday I sat for awhile in my living room, with him resting on my lap, both of us staring simultaneously through the wall of windows, and through the panes of glass in the front door. Just a girl and her dog. We both love sitting in the brown leather chair because it affords the total panoramic view of the house - everything downstairs - and through the windows and door, everything outside in the side yard, and everything on the sidewalk and street. What I love most about him is he is content to be. To be himself, to be with, to be left, to be greeted, to be walked, to be adored, to be left to nap, to be loved. To just be.

That message has resonated with me of late, as I have allowed my heart to feel, and my mind to remember, and my soul to ponder. It's okay to just be. To wade through each day with its own challenges, to seek the joy, to process the sorrow, to handle the daily minutiae of the ever pressing life. I had a fairly good weekend. I got some fun and productive things accomplished this weekend, and there were big gaps of time that felt normal and where my heart was light and joyful. And it was palpable. And that made me smile inside. Because I could finally feel some hope through the pain and through the sorrow. Not that in any measure am I done grieving, but that, much like storm clouds breaking to showcase the hidden sun, I could see gaps in the pain, and know that the storm of sorrow is transient and mobile, and this weekend I welcomed the break where I could feel the bright light of whatever it is called when you are grieving that you might call non-sorrow, or the absence of sorrow. Yes, it felt like I could see the sliver of shiny silver sun and feel it's warmth and know some joy, sense some hope of the lift from the weight of grief.

And of many things I have wanted to resume these past many weeks, my blogging has been one of them. And as I thought about where in the world would be an appropriate place to pick up the tattered fragments of my blog, I though about my one temporal and real constant during all of this, my sweet dog that has been with me every moment I've been home, and who has been with me on many of my trips this year, including funeral week to Houston, my sweet little Westie. And it seemed fitting really, to circle back to him, as if in some way to pay homage to dad, who made us a lover of dogs, who always had a dog, or wanted a dog, or fought mom so we kids could have a dog (that chapter did not end well), or who was a part-time dog breeder of more than one breed through the years. There was one segment of life of late where dad, both of my sisters, my brother, and myself all had a dog simultaneously, and many of us have had varied dogs over the decades. {One sister's dog is now gone; the rest of us remain dog homes.} And they are/were all house dogs. We are a family of dog lovers, and I can still recall fondly the litters of puppies that were in our childhood home, and know that way back when, our love of the pup was planted in our hearts.

Dad found out about the Westie breed through me, and he quickly got a Westie not too long after I did, or who even knows or remembers...I think he may even have bought his first Westie before I got Truman. And as I think on it, I believe he did because I think I remember being exasperated that he got his Westie before I got mine, when I had been longing for one since 2006. Dad was that way - impetuous to a fault, and to the end. And as dad battled cancer and fought to recover from it, his dogs were constantly at his side. And as Truman has tended my heart these last 3 months, I know in a small measure how much comfort dad drew from Layla and Belle during the last 13 months of his life. And as Truman has tended my heart, Layla and Belle have tended mom's. Belle is at my sister's now, with a litter of 5. I told my sister that dad would be so jealous that he missed such a big litter, and I know my sister worked hard to get all those pups here, as one final tribute to the dog breeder hat that dad wore.

When we were compiling photos for dad's service, a photo of him with his two fur babies in his lap was unanimously a definite addition.
He did love his dogs, and they loved him. And his Layla is now forging her bond with mom, and I know that they are very good for each other right now, and watching mom care for Layla and talk to Layla rips a hole in my heart, and simultaneously makes me smile so big. 

And I like to think that the love our dogs have for us is a shadow or a glimpse of the unconditional and unfettered and ever forgiving love that God has for us. I am reminded when I see Truman wagging his tail that God adores me just as much. And that's the best thing in the world to come home to at the end of day. Yes, the love of Truman has been such a balm for my heart these past 12 weeks. I just love coming home to this little white fur ball boo. I love coming home to Truman.

I Love You from Your Wet Nose to Your Wagging Tail ~ Master Truman's Life ~ Spring 2017

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Photo Play, Imaginisce, Bo Bunny
Titles: Photo Play journal card