A Texas October

It’s October. A month known for gorgeous fall colors and cool, crisp, sunshiny days. – Here in north Texas, it will be a cool 92°. A month for crackling fires in a firepit, roasting marshmallows and telling tales. In October, we break out the plaid sherpa blankets and the plaid, flannel shirts. – Nope, still wearing shorts and flip flops. We light fragrant candles that add warmth to our lingering evenings. It’s the coziest of months. All filled up with scent and ever changing color. – In mid-November, our leaves will change from green to brown and become an overwhelming pile of chores.

October is the month of apples in all their amazing varieties of glory. Peeled and sliced in pies and breads, in warmed cakes and cobblers, and brand new mason jars. Or sticky and sweet, carmel covered and rolled in nuts on a thin wooden dowel. – Still way too hot for baking here. Maybe next month.

October gives us pumpkins worthy to be carved and painted and stacked on our front porches. Miniature ones decorate our table tops. Pumpkin spiced lattes fill sturdy paper cups. Pumpkin pies await that perfect dollop of whipped cream. And little ones cannot wait to dress up as princesses or princess warriors, as wild west cowboys or Dallas Cowboys, so their magic, plastic pumpkin can be filled with tooth decaying candy. – But not from my house because the dog goes hysterical if anyone rings the doorbell.

We love October for the state fairs where you find roasted corn dripping with butter and scribbly funnel cakes topped with powdered sugar. We love it for hot chocolate served at high school football games where the homecoming mums are as big as Texas. – So BIG y’all! For hay rides, Oktoberfest (- yay for beer!), and for trips to the crafts stores as we prepare for the holidays to come.

And of course, we love October for baseball! For the Boys of October swinging for the fences as they battle for the right to play in the World Series. Ace pitchers and base stealers and amazing grabs in the outfield. Watching our favorite players doing what they do best while we snack on peanuts and Crackerjack.

October is the time of the year to appreciate our surroundings, to see the vibrant colors, to taste the comforting flavors. To slow down a little bit before we rush headlong into an often commercially driven chaos. And while here in Texas, we may not experience a complete fall season, October still brings us all the bright imaginings of hearth and home. 

*Photo of Homecoming mum, courtesy of Rene’ Natali’-Diebold and Marty Crisler Frank who spend hours making these beauties.

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9/11 – 20 Years

This week we have been watching some of the shows covering the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

For the 13 year old, who had only heard about this unbelievably tragic day in a history class and seen a video or two on YouTube, these more in-depth stories from a survivor or about one of the heroes have been eye-opening. But I don’t know how much you can understand about this day if you didn’t witness it.

I remember my mom called me to tell me that a plane had crashed into a building in New York. She had woken me from a sound sleep and I just didn’t know why she had done that to update me on a news story. Assuming it to be some terrible accident, I sat up in my bed and turned on the news. I’m talking to her and trying to listen to the news anchor as I see the smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center. And then I clearly see the 2nd plane crash into the 2nd tower.

We knew then that this was not an accident.

And the news did not get better. The Pentagon. The empty field.

The 24 hour restaurant where I worked, actually closed because we were so near to the Dallas World Trade Center, and no one knew what to expect. When or where or if another attack was coming.

And then the skies were cleared. It was eerily quiet.

Glued to my television set, as was everyone else in this country, I didn’t even realize there had not been one commercial interruption in news coverage until some 3 days later, when one finally aired. Over and over we watched the towers tumble. We listened to every word from Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather. We were shocked and stunned and so sad. And we somehow needed to hear every awful thing the news anchors could share with us. There was no discussion anywhere except the discussion of this terrorist attack on our country.

Perhaps being so far away from the terrible scenes of the day, here in Dallas, life began to move on a little sooner than those places where the events of 9/11 had unfolded and continued to surround its people. Still, the first time I saw a plane in the cloudless sky, it was mildly distressing.

Only 12 days after the attacks, I got on a plane myself and headed with a friend to the sunshine and sandy beaches of Cancun. Many thought us crazy. We felt that airline travel had never been more safe. The immediacy of changes made in airport security, of baggage checks and identity checks, was assuring. Escaping from the horrors of the previous two weeks was restoring.

It is curious to me how much of this day I clearly recall. Now, 20 years since the tragedies of 9/11, watching the reading of the names of all those lost on that terrible day, it does not escape me how much those more closely connected to it must remember. The mothers, the fathers, the siblings, the children, the besties. The lives of those lost and the lives of those who survived. All of the people to whom this day marks only the date of something and someone that they remember every day.

My heart breaks for those who lost their someone. For those whose lives were forever changed on that horrific day 20 years ago.

As we pause today in memoriam, my hope is that those affected can feel the love coming to them from across the country, and across the world, and that they may find comfort from that. Comfort in knowing that we too, will Never Forget.

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Turning ’21

Let’s face it. 2020 was NOT the year.  Not for any of us. And I don’t know anyone who isn’t more than ready for it to be over. 

The words pandemic and coronavirus have been permanently and boldly inscribed in the book of 2020.  But it wasn’t only about the complete awfulness of covid. A pandemic doesn’t change the basic things we still have to get through in life – kids, families, mortgages and bills, birthdays/ weddings/holidays, housework, laundry, cooking! The virus just amplified the stress. Less work equals less money equals more stress over mortgages and bills. Kids in online school equals more food to cook (although it might give you a laundry break). Cooking 37 meals in one day wears you out. Anxiety over not being able to see or hug family members for fear of being asymptomatic, makes you sad. Our emotions have run rampant in this past year and it has driven us to the brink of our sanity.

And right here is where we find the silver lining. Because we didn’t actually lose our sanity.  We didn’t give up or give in and let everything fly right out the window. In this time of extreme difficulty, of constant change, of overwhelming stress and genuine fear…we are standing here at the end of this nightmare year for several reasons. 

For me the biggest and most important reason I didn’t just curl up into a ball and lay crying these past months is friends.  We somehow learned to build better friendships in 2020. Closer connections.  We became more supportive,  more sympathic, more understanding of each other’s lives.  Maybe because we had more time to do so without all of the hurriedness that the virus forced us to leave behind. Maybe because in the midst of a worldwide pandemic we learned to reach out more when trying to cope with things out of our hands.  Or maybe being able to laugh at life together just adds an intangible to the mix.  And we did laugh – at  killer hornets, at weird packages of seeds, at dogs eating dentures (after we cried), at meth-gators and angry otters. We laughed at our bosses, our families, and each other. And memes. We laughed a lot at memes. 

Friendship & Laughter

Another reason we made it through this terrible, horrible, awful, very bad year is because in the midst of the chaos that was 2020, we remembered to be grateful. Yes, it was a hard year. Yes, we struggled to just get through some days. Yes, we lived in our yoga pants and pajamas. But how grateful and thankful were we for the days that went well, for the return to on campus school, for our teachers, our healthcare providers, Amazon deliveries? How grateful for healthy families, for a day watching your kid play baseball? How grateful for toilet paper or being able to get a haircut? And how grateful for those who have watched over us and blessed us with their love, who have somehow been able to ease our struggles? Or the ability to help others? We learned how to look at things differently, to change our perceptions of what mattered most. I know that not everyone learned these things. There are still people wasting their breath every day complaining about having to wear a mask. I can certainly think of worse things, but I am choosing to see better things.

It’s the end of a most unforgettable year. A year we are eager to see behind us. But this pandemic isn’t going to go away for awile, so I hope we can take the lessons of 2020 with us into 2021. I hope that we can build on them and share them and grow into being better humans in this new year. To more laughter, stronger friendships, and more gratitude. Cheers 🥂 ! And a very happy 2021!

Personality Speaking

Funny the things that pass through your mind when you are simply minding your own business, just having that first cup of coffee in the quiet pre-dawn hours.

This morning my mind decided to take to me to the far away place of my birth, and it asked me, “Would I be a different person if my parents had chosen a different name for me?”

Man, did my mind go wandering off along all the merry little byways upon thinking that thought.

My given name is Patricia, although I have only been called Patricia if I was in trouble. For all of my memories, I have just been Trish, which is a good thing because I am definitely not a Patricia. Patricia is ladylike and proper. Patricia is delicate, refined, calm. I am none of those things.

And this is where my mind went wandering. Had I been called Patricia, instead of Trish, would I be those things? Or if Patti ( most definitely with an i) had been my nickname, would I be a Patti – bubbly, outgoing, outrageous, a hugger? Would a Rose by any other name still be like our not so bright Golden Girl?

Originally my parents thought to name me Elizabeth. Who would I be with that name? Probably more like a Liz than Lizzie, but most certainly not a Betty.

I sometimes think that we are partly who we are because of our names. Certain names hold certain qualities within them and when those names are given, the person so named just has to have those qualities within them.

Take the name Debbie. I have never met a Debbie that I did not like. Debbie is sweet, a good friend, caring and fun. Debbie understands. Or Robert. Never met a Robert I didn’t like either. Robert is a joker who knows when to be serious. Robert is emotionally strong and sees below the surface of things. Bob? Different guy. Bob is still a joker, fun loving, friendly, warm. He’s a beer and BBQ guy.

Is my Will going to grow up and carry the strength of William? Or because we call him anything but William, will he grow up to be friendly, consistent, steady, the comic relief?

Then there is the family name influence. Is there a weight to that on our personalities? William is a family name – goes back generations on my side. Does having a family name put pressure on you? Is there an obligatory sense hiding deep down that says you must live up to the family name?

My middle is a family name. I never really cared for the name, though I loved the woman so much I gave the same middle name to my daughter to honor her. I’m not sure I ever felt a need to live up to grandma’s standards or even to be like her. But I will say that I do have her hardworking nature and I hope I’m as brave as she was.

Celebrities often like to name their children quite unusual names. Their names have no qualities associated with them, so how do they know who to be? Who will Apple and North and Blu Ivy grow up to be? I always feel sorry for these kids anyway. The uniqueness of their name alone tells you who they are – a child of the rich and famous – and forever they are trapped into being someone’s child instead of their own person. If you were to meet Moon Unit, you would immediately think, “oh yeah, Zappa’s kid”.

Names from the past are becoming popular again. Girls names like Grace, Emma, and Lily are filling up the kindergartens. All while Tiffany, Brittany, and Taylor are past being soccer moms and are soon to be grandparents. I’m guessing they won’t be called me-maw.

At the end of all these musings upon names, I have to say that I do believe the name you are given does somewhat define who you are. Maybe it’s because the people who chose your name have certain expectations for you and your life, or maybe it’s just one of those unexplainable phenomenon in the world. I also know that while being named John, Mary, Cecil, Dorothy, or Seven may contribute to who you are, it also doesn’t keep you from being who you want to be.

Grown-ups Need Villages, Too

The quote that “It takes a Village to Raise a Child”, popped into my mind today as I was thinking about my friends, my support people, and my family members. The people who are holding me up and holding me together in this time of separation and fear.

Thru all of this social distancing, I am clearly seeing the people in my life who are showing themselves to be my village. I am seeing them in those terms.  The people who have formed around me, to build and grow. The ones who are raising me up – teaching me to be a better, stronger person. A kinder person. A more positive person. They are showing me who they really are and who I hope to be more like.

My sister. My sister, the Textile Ranger*,  has always been a strong force in my village. The one who has been with me since the beginning, who made up bedtime stories for me and played paper dolls with me. A smart and talented woman, she is generous and funny and she always has a shoulder for me to cry on. We enjoy each other’s company and we share a common background, a history, so we understand each other. We have inside jokes. We appreciate each others creativity. She is still the one I turn to for advice and wisdom. She is still the one who listens to me and hears what I am saying. I respect and admire her. I am sometimes in awe of her. There is a peacefulness when I am with her.

My work posse. A varied lot, these three women who have come to mean so much to me. Each with their own unique character and attitude and style.  We started chatting thru texts every morning during this pandemic.  We joke, we laugh, we bitch …we check in with one another.  The truth is, we all had things going on before Covid-19 flipped our world upside down. Not just business stuff, but life stuff.  So we awaken each day to our new little pattern. Coffee, tea, and texting.  It’s something I look forward to – their perspectives, their humor, their positivity in this time when so much out there is just plain scary. I see something in each one of them that I would like to better emulate. Strength, energy, generosity, perseverance, joy. These are the types of women who unexpectedly walk into your life and just make you feel so blessed because they have.

Then of course, there is my BFF Jill**. Only her name isn’t really Jill – her name is Mama Jo. Friends for years, thru thick and thin. Since she moved out of Texas, we definitely don’t get to see each other very often. She is part of my long distance village.  Long phone calls, Facebook sightings…. Jo is the girl who teaches me how to be a friend. The one who is there at 3 in the morning, who goes out of her way to rescue you, who sits for hours in a hospital waiting room with you or in a hospital room for you because you live 1200 miles away and your dad is really sick.  I wish that everyone could have a friend like her.

Teachers.  The real ones, who under normal circumstances would be suffering my kid’s inattentiveness and charming attempts to not do his work in a regular school building.  This year, this thing that we are all trying to do online, these teachers are a huge part of my village.  And not just because of what they are doing for the kids, but because of the support they are giving to me and other frustrated parents everywhere.  We have three teachers here in the land of 6th grade.  They call me.  They email me.  They check on me. Am I doing ok? How is it going for me? Do we need anything? Is there anything they can do to help? I know very well that they are working harder than ever to keep us going, to keep teaching. I know they have their own families and are as equally affected by this quarantine as anyone.  But they have inserted themselves into my village and I could not be more appreciative.

We do not lose the need to learn and grow and be supported because we become adults.  We still need people to pick us up when we fall down, to help us become better as individuals,  to remind us of the good that is already within us.  Here and now, in the world we are living in, we need our villages more than ever. We need these people in our lives – the ones who listen and laugh and love and live through the daily ups and downs with us. 

Maybe we can’t be physically with them right now, but knowing they are right there makes getting through this time so much easier. 

*Deep in the Heart of Textiles, Textile Ranger’s Blog

**In case you want to see that commercial. https://youtu.be/4nIUcRJX9-o

Finding Joy in the Little Things

This morning I was thinking about joy. I remembered hearing Marie Kondo, expert organizer, saying that you should keep only the things that bring you joy. That may not always be the practical thing to do; my dish set does not give me joy, but I really need my dishes. But the idea of having things in our lives, in our homes, that bring joy, that I love.

Right now we have so much need for joy in our lives. The days run together as we try to just get through another day of schooling at home, working at home, cooking every 10 minutes…. It’s stressful. It wears on your soul.

But also, we have that awesome set of towels in the linen closet or guest bathroom, just sitting there waiting to be used and admired.  Great grandma’s beautiful china, put safely away in a hutch. A bottle of wine we are saving for a special occasion. A lucky t-shirt in the drawer. Things that bring us joy.

Isn’t it time to use those things? Just think of getting out of a nice, hot shower and folding yourself into your best towels. Put on your lucky t-shirt and think about today as a special occasion and open that wine. Serve your mac’n’cheese in grandma’s china bowls. Then savor it. Savor the moment and the time and let it bring you joy today.

The truth is, as this virus continues to spread, we really don’t know if the perfect time will come to use the things we cherish. Sheltering in place, quarantining, has been extended across the nation. While we look forward to returning to a place where we can move about more and hug our friends and family tightly, we have today to make a place for some joy.

I have a friend who is really great at creating joy around her. For Easter, she donned her very best Wal-mart housecoat and sent greetings out to everyone.

Photo used by Permission

Maybe we can’t do the things we are used to doing. Maybe we have to do some things differently. But we can add joy to the things we do just by changing our attitudes about it.

Whether it’s using the things we hold on to and treasure, or creating a new way to do something traditional – joy is there for us to find. So go pull that feather boa out of your closet and dance in the living room. Turn on some twinkly fairy lights. Make a birthday cake even if it isn’t anyone’s birthday. Go outside and sit in the sunshine for 15 minutes and just breathe. Find your joy. It’s in the little things we do and we need it now more than ever.

Now excuse me while I go pour some coffee in my favorite cup and find my own joy today.

The Lost Season of Baseball

Since I post as Baseball Gal, I decided I really should step up to the plate, so to speak, and put down some thoughts on the season that isn’t.

Isn’t it just amazing how the world has come to a screeching stop? How did we get to this place where America’s National Pastime has no opening day in Spring? Stadiums around the country just sitting there, empty. No cheering fans. No hot dogs! No one robbed of a homerun by some amazing catch at the wall. No razzle-dazzle on the mound. No batters going through a five minute ritual at the plate. (Okay, that one we can live without.) But no baseball – not anywhere?!?

For the fan it is unthinkable. It is heartbreaking. Not hearing the beautiful sound of the ball connecting to the bat and watching it sail through the air to meet it’s destination…not seeing our heroes on the field. Baseball is where our passion meets our hopes. And now in the midst of this terrible pandemic, baseball, like so many other things, is lost to us.

And certainly the fans understand the reasoning behind the loss of what may be an entire season of baseball. We understand the need for so much of our world to be shut down right now. We know that for the greater good, we all must be patient about so many things and baseball is one of those things.

My team, the Texas Rangers, was to open a brand new stadium this spring. It’s not that pretty, kind of looks like a big ol’ metal barn from the outside. And the front is way-too-modern glass and orange? To the creative minds behind this building, let me just say the Astros play a bit further south. Oh, and it’s turf. On the plus side for many here in the 100° plus Texas summers, it is air conditioned with a roof that closes. So, no rain delays.

Personally, I love the brick beauty that is known as the Ballpark. We made so many memories there over $1 hot dogs and $2 t-shirts. We had all of our favorite players: Moreland, Hamilton, Kinsler, Young, Pudge, Elvis, Joe Nathan, Darvish, Cruz (and his boom stick), Choo, and of course, my man Beltre. It’s where we witnessed Sammy hit his 600th homerun and Beltre making his 3000th hit.

And maybe this year there is no season at all. I cannot imagine life so quickly returning to normal when, even as I write, stricter guidelines for staying at home are being put in place and across the country we are beginning to put on masks. When in America did you ever expect that to happen?

Maybe this year, no one hears the roar of the home crowd. Maybe the vendors won’t be calling out “hot dogs here”. No foul balls going home with a proud kid, no autographs of a favorite player. And players may not have that great season we know they are destined for. We may not see our team make a run for the pennant this year. There may not be any stars in October.

As a fan of the game, I truly hope that we will get whatever shortened season we can get, with boldly asterisked numbers filling up the record books at the end of it. I truly hope that after this period of isolation and anxiety, fans will have the chance to ” root, root, root for the home team”. I hope we get to pay $10 for a lukewarm beer while wearing our team logo and that we get to see one of our guys diving for a catch that will save the game. I hope we get to stand shoulder to shoulder and sing our National Anthem as a huge American flag is unfurled on the field. And wouldn’t that be an amazing thing?

School and the New Normal

I really am not fond of the term “new normal”. And yet it is what it is and indeed, we are all having to adapt and make changes to what was our normal.

For me, the biggest challenge has been adjusting to schooling at home. Less than a week in and I have already determined that this is going to kill me. I am frustrated. The child is frustrated. A war that I am not prepared to fight has erupted right here in my dining room.

To begin with, I must be able to navigate an iPad. I am not. I am perfectly comfortable on my smart phone, but just figuring out how to connect to wifi on this vile piece of technology took me over an hour and the intelligence of someone much younger than I. Then this morning, I could not even get it to cooperate long enough to turn it on.

The teacher has said that the child should be leading this experiment in education. She tells me that he knows how to operate the system and maneuver his way through it. The teacher says that the child has been using this exact iPad at school and understands how to use it. The teacher, a wonderful source of support and therapy, who immediately responds to every email and phone call, is not here.

The child said that part of his problem in school was not understanding how to navigate through things like turning assignments in. The child says he needs help. The child says that he doesn’t know.

And here I am just wanting to get from point A to point B. I want the iPad turned on and ready for 9:00 Zoom meetings (something else that’s new) and I want the child to be able to complete the work assigned to him. I want for there to not be a daily battle as we struggle through schooling at home. I want peace to drink my coffee, like I had when he went to school. I want the arguing and yelling and the general onslaught of frustration to cease.

I already knew that I was not called to be a teacher and what almost every parent/grandparent/caregiver knows by now is that you should never have to teach your own child.  There is an entirely different attitude that your child presents to you than to their teacher. At home, their self-doubts and fears realize into anger and blame. I have already been told that I am not very smart about this iPad  – something I know he would never say to his teacher. Also, it is my fault that I need clarification on the questions that he haphazardly throws my way. In the very best of circumstances, I will never be smarter than a 6th grader is about technology.

We are having to learn and adapt very quickly to the changes happening all around us. And by we, I mean students, parents, teachers and administrators. I am more than sure that the people who work in my school district are having many more sleepless nights than I. The planning and support required to convert an entire system of normal to something new in a matter of days is unimaginable. I thank my lucky stars that I do not have to be part of that process as well.

A new normal. It isn’t something that we will achieve while pretending that everything is ok. It will be hard. It may be brutal. But I am sure that we will get through it. Things being what they are, we don’t really have a choice. If the 6th grader and I are still speaking to one another at the end of each school day, I will have to consider it a success.

Note: I say schooling at home because we are not homeschooling. That is a whole different basket of eggs.

Anxiety Meet The Coronavirus

So much anxiety out there in the world today. This pandemic has caused even the calmest to freak out a little bit. I get it – it’s scary. Everyone should be concerned. Someone you know, a parent, a child, a friend, will probably contract this virus. And the unknowns of it make it all the more worrisome.

Never in my lifetime has government across the country asked us to “shelter in place”. Nor have I ever had to send my children to school on-line to keep them safe. I never before thought my job in the restaurant business as one that would be defined as essential. So many things from our normal world have changed so quickly. It is unnerving. It is anxiety causing.

By nature, I am an introvert, not very social, somewhat hermitty. I like time by myself and after dealing with the public or social gatherings, I need time by myself. Social distancing is not something I fear. But even for me, someone who works only part time and is self- capable, the disruptive force of the coronavirus on my limited contact with people is more than maddening. In full, I don’t know what I feel. Some loneliness? Some alone-ness? I am not worried about the virus as much as I am worried about the people being shut away from one another. At a time when we as people most need a comforting hug, it is not safe to give each other one. There are people who feel alone or lonely when the world is not turning on an axis of quickly spreading infection. How do they feel now? Do they have people to help them thru this? Do they feel as safe as they can feel? Is there someone who is reaching out? This is my anxiety. Is everyone being looked after? And the answer is no, not everyone.

I know that what I can do is to purposefully stay in contact with my friends and family thru phone calls, texts and emails. I can reach out to the anxious and try to lessen their fears or make them laugh or just listen. I can support them with my love. And doing that takes away the extreme-ness of our distancing for me as well. We are all still here. We are together. We are just not in the same room.

Esther’s Face

I am starting to look more like my grandmother every day. Just a quick glimpse of myself in a mirror tells me this. This is not the person I want to look like. Not the grandmother I was close to and felt warmly loved by.

But there they are, the sagging jowels, the heavily lidded eyes. Yep, definitely my dad’s mom in that mirror. And aside from the skillful use of a medical scalpel, there isn’t much I can do to stop it. I have always favored that side of the family. I just wish more of my me was showing through those dominant family genetics.

It’s funny how we turn into other people overnight. We reach a certain number of years and the mirror no longer reflects the face we have always seen. Suddenly, you are your own grand-ma. Your face, the one from your 20’s and 30’s, maybe your 40’s, is surely somewhere behind this one. It’s just not visible to your own eyes. All you see now is grandma.

Maybe it would feel better if it were my other grandmother’s face. The one I loved and adored – the one whose hands I have. Oh yes, these are very certainly Jean’s hands. I love these hands.

And yet, this face…Esther’s face. There is something there. Something recognizable and strong. It is a link to my heritage and to the women who came before me. Women with stories who travelled far from their homelands to come here to America, who lived through world wars, the great depression and decades of changes in industry and technologies. Women who raised families on farms and in cities. And who cooked and baked amazing foods and did beautiful needlework. All of these things, I can see in this face in my mirror.

It’s the face that will continue on with me for the rest of my journey. And in the end it will tell my story.