Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Merry Christmas

What a wonderful day. I hope everyone had as merry a Christmas as I had with these three precious babies.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Unwanted Gifts

Everyone has received an unwanted gift at some point in their life. That junky knick-knack gadget, a fruit cake, or a sweater that wasn't quite right. What do you do? Thats easy, you smile and thank the giver.

But what do you do when your loyal beloved housekeeper of umpteen years gives your daughter not one, but two, parakeets?

I smiled and thanked the giver.

Although I wasn't thrilled at first, it didn't take long for me to warm up to the birds. They're young, slightly smaller than adult parakeets, and both male. One is a delicate pale yellow with gray-blue feathers across the top of his chest and tucked beneath the wings on his back. Middle named him Pip. The second is a mix of snowy white and turquoise feathers. His name is now Buddy.

Pip and Buddy. My housekeeper probably paid around $15 for the both of them. Throw in the $15 cage and she was out around $30. But of course Middle's research on parakeets quickly revealed the inadequate size of the cage that was gifted. Over $120 later (my expense), Pip and Buddy are now enjoying a quite spacious abode. Throw in another $40 for food, chew toys and treats, and now I'm out a whopping $160.

But guess what? We love the birds.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nathaniel Hawthorne Quote

"Easy reading is damn hard writing". 
          - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Friday, December 19, 2014

Remembering a Rainy Day

It's a rainy day in Houston, and for some reason the memories of another rainy day popped to mind. It's funny how the mind works. You can be going about your business and something completely random pops into your head. 

It was August 2013. Superman and I had taken the kids to Costa Rica and we were rafting near the Arenal Volcano when it started to rain. What a rush to white water raft the rainforest in the rain.

Here's what it looked like.

And here's how much we loved it. This is Youngest. Middle is in the background.

NaNoWriMo What?

I spend too much time surfing the internet on how to write, what to write, when to write - you get the idea. But I came across an interesting website devoted to helping novelists (and aspiring novelists) write a book in 30 days. It's, short for National Novel Writing Month.

The national writing month is November, but I'm sure the techniques can be used to complete a novel in any calendar month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word rough draft in 30 days. It's a very intriguing concept that I might look into when I'm ready to start my own novel. I'm not quite there yet. Still reading, researching, etc.

Maybe January will be my nanowrimo. I'll push my prep work these last couple weeks of December and see how much I can get done. Wouldn't that make for a fun New Years goal?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Stephen King Quote

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.  -Stephen King

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Case For The Common

Critics and scholars disdain popular success. Look no further than Danielle Steel who has entertained thousands successfully for decades. They can't stand her, yet she laughs all the way to the bank. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Why I Am

"We are what we repeatedly do." -Aristotle 

That's one to ponder on so many levels. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Call Me Scrooge

Call me a Scrooge, but I'm not a big fan of the 'zone,' the period from Thanksgiving to New Years. I love the holidays, its just that I wish they were farther apart. They're so close together, and there's so much to do, that it's hard to think of one without the others looming in the background.

Take Christmas decorations... some years I do (most years I do), but some years I don't. Same with Christmas cards. Then there's gift wrapping - bahumbug. But I've found a way around that. Years ago I started hiding my kids's gifts and then writing clues as to their locations, turning the whole ordeal into a fun scavenger hunt. Now, what secretly started out as a way to get out of wrapping presents, has turned into a cherished family tradition.

Ever the economist, I try to find ways to cut corners. Online shopping is a big one. I avoid malls at the holidays like the plague. Gift cards is another. Everybody loves gift cards, don't they?

I told you, call me a Scrooge.

UPDATE: (Note to self) Don't post about the holidays when I've had a long day and am very tired. I've heard a few Christmas songs on the radio and am now in a more festive mood. But still no work toward decorations or cards. TBD...

Monday, November 24, 2014

No More Friday Night Lights, Until Next Year

Friday night, Stratford's playoff run came to an end with a disappointing loss to Temple. I have to admit, Temple was the better team, leading the entire game. But the Spartans fought valiantly until the end. They never gave up.

So just like that... that's it... the season is over. Everyone leaves the stadium and goes home. It was a great three months with exciting plays we will talk about for years. But for now, it's over.

The end of a high school season is different than the end of little league or middle school seasons. A whole group of boys will move on. The seniors won't be there next year. The team, while many of the same players will be back, will never be quite the same.

This year Oldest was a junior on the team. He will play again for the Spartans next year. But he will surely miss the boys who won't be there when practice starts up once again.

There's something sad about knowing a group of boys will never play as a team again. But that's life. Never static. Always changing. We must accept it and move on. But for a little while, it's okay to be sad and regret what will never be.

With the end of next year's season, it will be Jordan's time to say goodbye. But I can't think about that right now. I'm not ready to think about that.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Recharging My Creativity

I want to write a book. As a matter of fact, for as long as I can remember I have wanted to write a book. There have been two fits and starts where I have outlined stories and written a few chapters, but to no avail. Distractions set in; real life intervened. So no completed manuscripts.

I did manage to write over 150 pages of my first book, a multi-generational family saga. I still love the story, but no one reads multi-generational family sagas anymore. I think that was too ambitious for a first attempt anyway.

Years passed.

Next I wrote a handful of chapters of a young adult story. Again, I think the story is good, but my kids, who are currently the age young adult books are marketed to, are only interested in reading sci-fi thrillers like The Hunger Games or vampire stories like the Twilight series. I have NO interest in writing books like these. Discouraged, I set my young adult book aside.

A couple more years passed.

Now I've got the itch again. I've been recharging my creative neurons. I'm purposefully getting more sleep, reading book after book, getting used to being absorbed in stories populated with fictional characters, and opted for more music and less talk radio. I think it's working. Every night I dream elaborate, and sometimes bizarre, dreams.

I'm not quite ready to start formulating my own story. For now, I'll keep feeding my brain things that stimulate my creativity. I have mentally penciled in January 1 as the day I'll start my book. Until then, I'll keep cultivating a creative mindset. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Old Friends

I had such a nice surprise yesterday. One of my childhood friends contacted me through Facebook. Except for one phone call to catch up when we were in college, I hadn't seen or heard from him since we graduated from high school in 1986.

He was a close friend, you know, one of the handful of childhood friends that spring to mind when you reminisce about 'the good ol' days.' An important friend. He shared some of the more memorable antics and adventures of my youth.

It was fun to catch up. He's doing well, still playing in a rock band and living with his same-sex partner of many years. Yep, he's gay. That was a little bit of a surprise, but not much. Looking back, he never really had a girlfriend that I can remember. But I chuckle to myself when I think of all the years I wasted harboring an elementary school crush on a gay friend.

How fun to reconnect with someone who populates so many of my childhood memories. I told him that he made my day. Actually, I think he made my week.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Weekend

My last post was a little bit of a downer and I didn't want to go into the weekend on a sullen note. So I'll share the exciting news that, after 7 years of driving my Suburban, I ordered a new car today - a white extended Lincoln Navigator. I'm so excited!

The bad news is that it won't be ready for 6-8 weeks. The good news is that it is being built to my exact specifications. Now all I have to do is wait.

Another positive for the weekend is that Stratford plays in the first round of high school football playoffs tonight. Stratford won district and so is first seed in the playoffs. We are favored to win, but you never know. Keep your fingers crossed!

At game time, it's supposed to be 48 degrees. Poor Oldest. Burr.

Here's to a happy weekend!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Off to the Lake

I never wanted a lake house. Not that I was against them, I just never thought about having one. As an 8th generation Texan from a long line of ranchers, I always imagined a place in the country some day. Funny how things turn out. We bought a lake house last spring, and I love it!

It's considerably smaller than our house in the city, but doesn't feel cramped. It's almost like a cocoon enveloping us when we're there. It's so peaceful and inviting, set amongst the large oaks, pecans and magnolia trees that rim the slow-moving waters of the Guadalupe River.

When I'm there, it's like life slows down a bit and lets me catch my breath. We sit outside on the deck together. Or we go down to the dock and sit beside the water. We do a lot of talking at the lake. The older my kids get, the more I cherish the time they will sit and talk with me.

We haven't been there since a weekend in late September. Since then there have been lots of work days, football games, volleyball games and various social functions we needed to attend. But this weekend will be different. We're off to the lake.

Here's Youngest and Stella enjoying an evening last summer at the lake.

lake house remodel

Monday, November 3, 2014

Can I Teach Myself to Write a Novel?

Ina Garten taught herself to cook using Julia Child's book  Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Now Garten is one of the most revered chefs in the ever-growing pool of food glitterati.

I'm wondering if I could teach myself to write a novel by studying the books of a successful author? Maybe. Could someone really learn to write a novel by studying the plots, settings and characters of a successful novelist? Hmm. The idea is intriguing.

First I would have to choose an author. There are so many I love to read.

John Jakes jumps to mind. The North and South trilogy novels are some of my all-time favorites. But a lengthy family saga filled with decades of history would probably be too much to cut my teeth on.

There's James Michener, but I would have the same issues of complex multi-generational characters and buckets of history as with the Jakes novels, even worse.

J.K. Rowling? I love her books, but lack her outlandish imagination.

Dan Brown? No way. Trying to study and imitate Dan Brown would be the literary equivalent of weekend hiker trying to scale Mount Everest.

No. I think I'll study Sandra Brown. Brown has a lengthy list of bestselling romantic suspense novels I can read and study. I've read several already - Envy, The Allibi, and most recently Mean Streak.

Her stories are fast paced and highly entertaining. Not too heavy on research, but rich in plot twists. I just might be able to study Brown's technique and produce something humbly similar.

But the sex scenes might be a little tricky.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Three Most Influential Books

Last Friday another high-profile politician had a cringe-worthy moment in an interview.

Senator Mark Udall of Colorado was asked what three books have been the most influential in his life. The Democrat Senator stumbled for an answer before asking to re-tape the question and admitting he was currently "brain-dead."

I'll be the first to admit I probably wouldn't have escaped the question any more gracefully than Senator Udall. But after the initial discomfort of watching a fellow human flounder at what wasn't even a real 'gotcha' question, I was intrigued by the query.

What have been the three most influential books in my life?

Now that I have had the luxury of ample time to come up with a response, here are my three books (aside from the Bible):
  1. Where the Red Ferns Grow by Wilson Rawls. I read this book in probably the fifth grade and it sparked my love for reading. It's the touching story of a boy and his dogs and their adventures together. I still love stories about dogs. Greyfriars Bobby is another dog story I had an emotional response to as a child and will never forget. 
  2. Texas by James Michener. As an eighth-generation Texan, the history of my great state has always intrigued me. But when I read Michener's Texas, the history came alive. I remember reading an interview with David McCullough once where he stated something to the effect that history wasn't just names and dates, it was people and their stories. Texas humanized the history for me and deepened my appreciation for it. I still enjoy reading Texas history books.
  3. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Aside from the Book of Proverbs, Franklin's autobiography is the greatest self-help book of all time. I enjoyed it thoroughly when I first read it in my 20's. I have picked it up and thumbed through it numerous times sense. A few bits of advice from Franklin that stand out: "Never confuse Motion with Action," "There will be sleeping enough in the grave," "There are no gains without pains," and "When the well is dry we know the value of water."
Well, there they are. The three most influential books in my life. Should I now run for the Senate?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Quick Thought On Hobbies

No kind soul ever asks a full-time mother about her hobbies.

About ten years ago Chris and I officially joined the church we had attended for years, and one of the prerequisites was answering a few personal questions on a membership form. The answers were shared in the church bulletin as a way of introducing new members to the congregation.

One of the first questions on the form was, "What are your hobbies?" I remember staring like an idiot at the question.

For a part-time working, full-time mother of three, "What are your hobbies?" is a humiliating question.

I was still in the diaper stages with our third, which meant I had changed well over a couple thousand diapers. Should I put ass wiping as my hobby?

What about the scores of burp-up and projectile vomiting stains I had meticulously cleaned from clothing and carpet? Could cleaning be a hobby?

Then there were the hours spent examining and analyzing the endless varieties of baby food. Baby food in jars, baby food in boxes. Crackers that help teething. Juices that replenish electrolytes. (What the hell is an electrolyte?) If I put "shopping" as my hobby, maybe people would assume it was shopping for Valentino gowns or Hermes Birkin bags? That answer had some possibilities.

What did I end up putting down as my hobby? Reading.

I just didn't tell them what. What to Expect When You're Expecting, Baby's First Year, Good Night Moon...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Night Lights

Tonight is the big game. Stratford plays Brenham in football, and Stratford is expected to lose. But just maybe this will turn out be one of those great "Underdog Wins" stories. Keep your fingers crossed.

Oldest is a junior at Stratford. He's also the starting tight end.

Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts graduated from Stratford. Now Oldest might not be Andrew Luck, but he's pretty darned good. He played both ways on varsity last year as a sophomore.

At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Oldest hasn't met a defender he couldn't block. But the Stratford Spartans go up against some pretty big boys on the Brenham Cubs tonight. I'm nervous.

I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: The Spartans pulled off an upset win of 56-31, including Oldest's 44-yard touchdown reception. Stratford advances in district with a record of 3-0. It was a great night.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Trying Out This Blogging Thing

I want to write, but my kids don't approve.

What does Mom know?

So my blog is a secret. I'm not sure how long I can keep it a secret, but it'll be fun trying.

I'll write at night, and when they're at school. Maybe I'll write in my closet sometimes. I will for sure write about them some. They would really hate that.

But for now, it's a secret.