Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bullying the brat

On page 24 of the front section of today's Houston Chronicle is about four inches of filler under the Around the World header that caught my eye and gave me my first What's the world coming to? thought for the day. Seems that Kim Jong II is fond of all sorts of pricey lifestyle toys. Our current administration wants to use trade penalties to (I'm going to quote) "personally aggravate the foreign leader." So, here's how we're going to hit him where it hurts: No more cognac, Rolexes, cigarettes, artwork, ipods, plasma tvs, expensive cars, Harley Davidson motorcycles or Jet Skis.

Oh yeah, that'll show him. Leadership.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Change in the air

And what a telling title that is, but more on that later.

Fall hit Houston so suddenly that on Friday morning it was all over the yards and roads in the form of fat flat yellow leaves that were not even threatening to drop the day before. The reds and oranges are holding on - the tree outside my office window is showing off a full crown of red. While it's not quite (okay, nowhere near) what I experienced in Vermont several weeks ago, it is what we get here. They don't always arrive, the colors, but they're here now, and they slightly change, slightly punctuate the whole of this city. And me.

And then, there's this little change:


Jingle Girl!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Little brown heart healer

Cheating mechanism Little Brown Acorn Hunter Turning Returning Chasing


The first freeze of the season set upon us last night. This morning, the little brown dog and I set out at sunrise and discovered frost on the grass, steam rising from the bayou. All around us, little treasures everywhere. Acorns on the ground, browning leaves, a feather. Quiet, and the two of us.

Morning path Ray of hope Looking good Heavenly scents A different set of colors Roller coaster

Monday, November 20, 2006

Raise a white flag if you love me; a black flag if you don't

I sat in my father's footprints Sunday morning, with my hands in the moist soil of the flowerbeds in front of my parents' house. He liked those beds filled with flowers of the season. On Friday morning, I had looked a the Vincas and Begonias that had grown tall and leggy over the summer and decided to do something about them. On Sunday morning I planted pansies. The little brown dog slumbered in a select patch of sunlight while I dug and planted. I felt close to my father, felt him with me. For an hour, my morning was peaceful and sweet. It felt good and steady to have my hands in the soil, and my heart with my father.

When I went inside the house, I reached for my phone. A message waited for me, one with tone of voice that flipped my stomach upside down and gave me a dark and cold feeling. It was just a minute or two after I returned the call and left a message that he called back. He was cold, distant, spoke very few but direct words. Words so direct they went straight from my ear and into my heart, where they exploded and the bleeding began.

Just like that.

I learned pretty early in life that love can be painful, that while love is a tremendous joy, in loving we are vulnerable to heartache. And that is where I am now, heartache. In rapid time I went from the mysterious and wonderful experience of love living on, the awareness that I can keep my father in the present and live out loud the love I have for him, to that very same heart being ripped open, torn of hope, forced to feel the light and life fade on itself. Broken.

And yet it beats on, the love alive. Amazing thing, the heart.

I could have done without the sadness of yesterday, and I could do without it today for that matter. And tomorrow. And so on. I could have done without that phone call and all the questioning and doubt it leaves behind for me to sort out alone. But maybe, just maybe, I was not alone when my heart broke. Maybe through the time spent with my father near me in heart and spirit, he was somehow with me when I received the phone call that changed everything, again. Maybe I wasn't alone when I hung up the phone. And maybe it's him reminding me that whatever pain goes with loving, for a brief spell I lived it again and loved a certain someone again, and for that, I would not have changed a thing. Save the outcome.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

For the love of Labs

I was tooling around ebay this morning when I should have been working but admit right here and now to the world wide internet that while I may have been sitting at my desk and I may have been on the computer and I did have a phone in my hand, I was not working. I wasn't, okay?

What I was doing was searching for Christmas gift ideas for a particular friend of mine. One thing we have in common is a love for Labrador Retrievers, so I started there. Way too broad, something like 14 kajillion results and that started with a sno-globe described as Real wood looking resin labs nestled in a snowy atmosphere for year-round special memories. Read that again. Where does one begin?

Moving on, I found a quilt (with matching shams) of different scenes with Labrador puppies. To the word, it was horrific. For a moment, I thought about getting it, you know, as a joke. But never have I seen a homelier item priced so high, so I had to rule that out. The next item was socks with Labs all over them, and believe it or not I have that exact pair of socks, but I know there's no way this friend would be caught dead wearing them.

I clicked onward.

At this point, I was jumping around from link to link, obsessed with the oddities I was finding. Somehow, I landed on decals. I liked the one that said, If it's not a Lab, it's just not a dog, [insert here a respectful nod to JustGolden] but is the 13" size really necessary to make the point? I also liked, My lab is smarter than your honor student, but in the case of both labs in mind, friends would laugh us out right out of the city limits if either of us tried to pass that off.

The thing that stopped me in my tracks though was a 2.5' x 3.8' decal that screamed in a sort of in your face font "Labrador Retriever on Board" with menacing bear-like paw prints to each side. A basic enough message but the font and size making it a tad high volume. And right here, buried at the bottom of this post, is the reason why I started writing in the first place. The decal was shown on the back window of an SUV. The vehicle in the photo? A HUMMER. Ladies and gentlemen, let me say right here that Hummers and Labs don't go together, okay? They just don't. That's like lions sleeping with zebras, like loud strolling with soft, like bling courting sophisticated. Labs are old school and Orvis, over-stuffed beds and bellies, rattling snores and enormous paws stretched out by the fire, old trucks and cold air, leather collars with brass tags. They're wagging tails and eager eyes and they are never, ever brazen. Labs are too refined and their breed-representing owners (hopefully) more reserved than to have their presence hollared from the back window of the biggest joke of a gas guzzling, environmental trashing, ego boosting, piece of pecker-extender on the road today.


I suppose it goes without saying that the seasonal thrill deserted me at that, and today was not the day that I found my friend a Christmas present.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Reaching into confusion

That chill across my elbow, along my arm, circling my cheek, is that you? I’ve waited a thousand nights and still you do not come. I skip a stone across the surface of dark water and know the thud with which it drops through the wet, murky color to the soft mud beneath, but I can’t keep my eyes or my dreams off the ripples across the surface.

I stand still, gaze down at the concrete path beneath my feet. Which crack is you? Where does it come from and where does it lead? How can I help you? Which door, which path out of the dark?


You bleed late into the night, without a sound, not even a whimper. And there’s nothing for us to see but dark stains and the shadow in your voice, the saturation of your thoughts. I call. Your answer is there, I know it's there. But you don't speak out loud. Not to me, not to her. Not for you.

I would crush the light in my heart, throw it onto the street, hope for a few sparks in the skids to light your way. Isn't that what friends are for?

There is no answer, save what’s caught up in your mind. Your beautiful, unreachable mind.

Not what you do with children, or unwanted bits of paper (or, two easy steps to ruining the morning)

At the red light we waited, Cheyenne and I. I was scratching her behind the ears when I noticed the man in the school parking lot beside us. Faded orange t-shirt, a blue number three on the back. Jeans, sandals. His young son was standing on the running board of his gray Suburban, two A&M stickers on the back windows. From inside, I heard a little girl yell, presumably at the young boy, Mooove! The man grabbed the young boy at his elbow and flung him off the truck. The child landed on his feet, immediately in tears and rubbing his elbow. The father looked at him and harshly told him to Grow the **ck up. I couldn't believe my ears. The little girl got out of the car and stood perfectly still, her eyes fixed on the ground. It was evident they were familiar with this behavior. The man leaned into the truck, grabbed the young boy's backpack and tossed it to him. The boy did not move. The backpack landed on the ground. Put it on! he barked. He retrieved the young girl's backpack and tossed it to her, harshly demanding, You too. She scrambled to put it on as fast as she could and, I imagine, get as far away from him as soon as possible.

When the light turned green, I yelled, Way to raise your children, nice guy, and moved forward slowly. He knew the words were for him, turned around in huh, what? recognition, but I was already past him by then. And flipping him off wouldn't have made a difference in the end.

In line at Starbucks, the woman in front of me rolled down her window and tossed out an empty packet of cigarettes. My window was down, the radio off, I heard it hit the dirt in the landscaping. Right there. WTF? I had a small meltdown in my car.

I don't put that man and that woman in the same category, I don't, but because of their behavior, after only being awake for about fifteen minutes this morning, I not only had tears in my eyes, but I was sick to my stomach. Six hours later, I'm still shaking my head.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Happiness is Sycamore trees and a brown dog

I could talk about the fire, which by now in my mind is blowing out of proportion as strongly as the winds on Saturday morning. I could talk about how beautiful the drive down to the cabin was, how settling I found the views. I could write about how deeply I sleep there, with the windows open and the cool air blowing across my face. So many options, but right now, I just want to post some pics of the one who undoubtedly had the best time at the cabin this weekend, the one who wore herself out playing so hard the past two days that she slept the entire drive home, and is snoring on the couch as I write this.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Walking backwards and keeping strong

I thought I would, I knew I would. Everything about me said I would.

I did not.

I did NOT vote.

I know, I KNOW.

I went there. Well, I went within a mile. I intended to exercise my voice, speak my freedom, my belief of, well, my beliefs. But when I took a right on the street that leads to the school, I realized how much my single vote had to do with my heart and how much the big bad world.

On scale of said world, not much.

My teeny-tiny life is not city-wide, state-wide or even country-wide. Forget the worldwide repercussions of that. To me, it's much larger than the enormity of now, the expanse of borders. It's about my broken heart. It's realizing that one single line could turn me upside down. One single line in a sign-in sheet in a single school cafeteria in a single voting district. One.

I couldn't do it. I could not face his name present, or his name absent. My father, understand, is not here. I did not, I do not, want to see his name and have the voter registered reminder that he's not here. I already know. And I did not want to experience the absence of his name and be reminded in a way that would scream to me that his death has reached the details. His name, present or absent, is still ever-present to me. If you think that's circular, then you are here-and-now blessed with the in-the-flesh presence of someone you love.

Later in the day when I could still vote but knew there was no way I was going to face that particular monster, when I knew I should but didn't feel bad and therefore was wondering what was wrong with me because surely anyone who is breathing and has at least a single opinion floating across their brain would go out and vote, and if they didn't should at least be made to make amends by being forced to listening to the Paris Hilton's CD while picking up discarded political signs throughout my neighborhood, well, after a sentence like that, I have to breathe. Pause. But my point is that later in my day, I heard some supporting words. Granted, I pay him to support me, but it's deeply validating to hear that when you've been doing well, feeling strong, regaining your personal power, that it's best that you preserve that and not provoke situations, that it's best that the decisions you make are in your best interest.

I scribbled his words in my notebook. To me, it was a permission slip I've worked long and hard to earn. Still, from the time I've first been permitted to vote, I've done so. My father today would be disappointed in my choice. I'm wrestling that within, this emotional and passive response I've coughed up today.

I believe that whatever I do is based on the lessons he taught, even those he would not have supported.

And so it is.

Let's go back to the cafeteria. Did I mention in my previous post that after lunch we were given 15 minutes to rest our weary little heads before returning to our lessons?

Right now, I would like a carpet square to sleep upon and awake later in the day to see what other people have decided for me.

Some of you, a few of you, I'm sure you understand. The few who do not? With all my heart I say to you that I'm so sorry that one day you will.

Looping my signature across election day memories

To one end of my elementary school cafeteria, a stage upon which we produced annual Christmas pageants. I remember being an elf one year. Never breaking out of supporting cast, I was a stocking another year. Both years, Jingle Bells was a featured song and like every other kid, it was one of my favorites. I'd sing my heart out, seeking my parents' proud faces in the audience, singing right to them, for them.

We ate lunch by our grade. Our plastic lunch trays were sectioned and pink. We were offered milk or juice. Sitting on the bench of the lunch tables, we were too young for our feet to rest on the ground. I remember swinging my legs back and forth while I ate, my first memory of a lifetime being for the most part unable to sit still.

Through reasons that are more about staying connected to the neighborhood in which I was raised, and less about procrastination, it's to that same school cafeteria that I go to vote. It never escapes me that I go to a room from the past to cast my two cents for the future.

There were a couple times that voting was a family outing. I'd meet my parents at their house, and Dad would drive Mom and me to the school. Afterwards, we'd return home, have a cup of coffee, then move out into our days. A couple times, I arrived after them, smiling at the signatures there that I recognized as their own. We all took particular pride when my niece voted and placed her signature there among ours for the first time.

I'll return today. Sitting in my kitchen this morning, I'm anxious about what I'll find there. Will my father's name still be beneath my mother's? I'll pause at the blank signature line. And if his name is not there, I know it will hit me and I'll be saddened by seeing three names and not four. This year, the niece has voter apathy, and my mother isn't able to vote. It will be my signature alone in the little group of names that says family. And so it goes in this little room in my life, this room that has been the backdrop to lunches, pageants, and now voter signatures both present and remembered.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday colors

Returning to the rumpled and still warm bed with the Sunday paper in hand, and reading it by the light through the window: cream, and sleepy

Breakfast with my mother this morning: yellow, and musical

Cleaning the house: grey, and sweaty

Shopping at Target with my niece: purple with yellow stars

Grocery shopping with my niece: Okra and squash

Laundry going all day: white, and clean

A connected phone call: gold and orange, lifting

Making green tea for my niece and her boyfriend: blue-green, nurturing. Putting honey in the tea: silver, and sweet

Talking with my nephew on the phone: Sky blue, and happy

Coming home on a night after so many Sunday nights away: All the absent colors of a cool and cloudy day, but shimmering

Today was not a mountain top ecstasy, or a stunning show of dawning colors, but a middle ground of chores, solutions, smoothed wrinkles. Today was the calm in the normal. The connections between high and low. It's been a day of satisfaction and feeling well. A day when I'm reminded that the views from the middle ground, the views from an average day, those colors are deeper, richer, more meaningful than any fleeting glimpse of what might be perceived as knock-your-socks-off otherwise. Yeah, it's good to be back to the normal of my home.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The underside of leaves

The coolest thing about tonight - and there were many cool things about tonight - would most certainly be the love she gave, the words she spoke, her hand reaching for and connecting with mine, the compassion, the excitement in her eyes. Sometimes the dice you roll, come right back to you in spades.

Have a little faith, that's all. I hope that I return that to her as well.

And this song I've listened to over and over again tonight has nothing to do with that, but everything to do with me.

For you, there'll be no more crying,
For you, the sun will be shining,
And I feel that when I'm with you,
It's alright,
I know it's right

To you, I'll give the world
To you, I'll never be cold
cause I feel that when I'm with you,
It's alright,
I know it's right.

And the songbirds are singing,
Like they know the score,
And I love you,
I love you,
I love you,
Like never before.

And I wish you all the love in the world,
But most of all,
I wish it from myself.

And the songbirds keep singing,
Like they know the score,
And I love you,
I love you,
I love you,
Like never before,
like never before.

` Songbird, Fleetwood Mac

Blond moments

Her: I got a new monitor today, it's flat screen. Seems so much bigger, makes things look cartoonier.


Her: Is that a word?

Me: No. It would be cartoonish, more cartoonish.

Her: Oh. And it tells me when I have new email.

Me: Um, I think that's the settings in your email program, not your monitor.

Her: Oh.

She's one of the most intelligent people I know. And at times, through absolutely no effort on her part, also one of the most amusing. I like my friends this way. Unfiltered.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Oh hell yeah

New black car. Little brown dog. Happy blond girl. That's it, that's all I have for show and tell today.

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