Archive for July, 2010

Not So Sweet Dreams
July 31, 2010

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
 

-Traditional Scottish Prayer

Over the years, I have had a recurring dream in which it feels like I am being levitated up over my bed and floating around a bit before awakening and wondering about the sensation. Virtually always, it occurs when I’m alone. Not long ago, it happened again when Joel was out of town. I felt that familiar prickly sensation of being lifted up as if I were as light as a feather. This time I was determined to keep my eyes open and observe the phenomenon. 

I saw that I was in a strange room with some other person in the bed with me (another woman…). I floated up to the ceiling and then flipped over to gently land face down in a pile of  laundry (?) in the corner of the room. At which point I awoke and found myself back in my own bed. 

The thing about this recurring dream is that I actually physically feel like I’m being lifted up and floating. It’s an eerie but not unpleasant sensation, and so very real. Why does it keep happening to me? What does it mean? 

The reason I mention this strange phenomenon is because there is a slightly different version of it that happened to me just last night. This one involves someone getting into bed with me; I actually felt the sensation and awoke with a start, knowing that Joel was not there.   

The burglar alarm was on, and of course, there was nobody there. Not even the cats, that have been roaming the house at night since our ongoing kitchen renovations. 

I once read a book called “Aliens” which suggested that people were actually being levitated up to spaceships to be examined and experimented upon. Thinking about that is creepy, but I don’t believe for a minute that it’s true. 

Ghosts? I recently discovered some interesting  background about our 1850’s full tester bed. We inherited it from Joel’s first cousin once removed, Eddith Crow Cooke; she was like another mother to him, and we called her “Tootsie”.  

The bed was purchased in the early 1900’s for $7 by her grandfather Crow in New Orleans. Upon getting it home to Texas, he discovered that it was too tall for their room, so HE CUT THE TOP OFF. Ack! How I wish he had kept it to reunite it with the four posters! 

I learned that not only was Tootsie born in this bed (in Henderson, TX), but that her grandmother had died in it. Is it her spirit which hovers around and messes with me? Am I not making the bed up right? Was she the woman in my dream? 

Not long after Tootsie was born, her father, Douglas, was shot to death at the courthouse by his estranged brother in law. Maybe it’s he who is messing with me? Something to think about. 

Looking at the clock when I awoke, it was right at 4 a.m.  Because I was so intrigued by it all, it took me awhile to get back to sleep. Happily, I had nothing pressing this morning, so I was able to grab a few extra winks. 

I think I’ll journal this phenomenon over the years to see if there is some pattern I can discern. Has anyone else out there experienced this same sort of thing?  I would love to compare notes!

Note: pewperson will return on August 13

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“Stuff”
July 24, 2010

BEFORE

I count life just a stuff To try the soul’s strength on, educe the man.       – Robert Browning (1855) 

Pewperson regulars are aware that we have been remodeling our kitchen; these past few weeks have seen a TOTAL upheaval of our normal routine. 

After 14 years, every item has been removed from all the kitchen shelves/cabinets/drawers, as well as the laundry room, pantry, bar and worst of all, my desk. Oh, and let’s not forget the powder room. 

Happily, we have new neighbors who have just moved from Calgary, Canada, and their discarded boxes have been such a blessing! No need for wrapping each fragile item, as the royal “we” (which means me, myself and I) just toted boxes into the other room. Our dining and living rooms are now randomly stacked with boxes filled with “stuff”. 

I need not mention that quite a large number of trash bags have also been filled with other “stuff” and discarded. It’s almost purifying to take the drastic step of clearing it out! Shannon was appalled at some of the expired spices in our pantry, and we found “stuff” in the far corners that I should have documented. 

What’s the grossest thing in your pantry? I dare you to look! 

At this point, I thought the hardest task on my part was complete. Then came the demolition of the countertops and backsplash, which was a source of major dust, as was the sanding/spray painting of all the existing cabinetry. There is no way to keep things clean; it has been a daily battle to keep the dust at bay. 

DURING

But why bother? I got to the point where I just wiped off the things that were important. In a way, these were the leisurely days, because I couldn’t do much of anything else. 

Did I mention that Maria (my fabulous housekeeper) is away on her annual trip home? Part of me is glad she isn’t here to dodge the workmen, but the other part of me wishes she were here to help me create order out of this chaos. 

July 5 was the day we lost our kitchen sink and dishwasher. Ever since then, we’ve used paper goods and not cooked anything other than microwavable stuff that doesn’t require washing. Or we went out to eat. The only source of water downstairs was the bathroom sink! 

Well, there was the tub, too, but that is where the cat food bowls are (so that the dogs can’t get to them). The dog bowls are in the living room, and the cat box is also tucked into a corner of the bathroom. I must say I kept trying to be grateful for the fact that I had a source of running water in my house,  as opposed to those who must trek to a water source with a jug balanced on their heads.

The new counter tops have finally been put into place, and this past Tuesday was a red letter day, when we had the sink installed and dishwasher re-connected. I never thought that I would be so happy to be able to cook and clean again! 

Not Quite After

But the workers are not yet finished; we still have the backsplash to create among other things. Unfortunately, our tile order went to Maryland, but it is now on its way back to Texas. 

I did get an interesting architectural tile from Adkins Architectural Antiques to be the focus of the backsplash. It’s only fitting in our home filled with so many antique architectural treasures. 

Slowly “we” are putting things back into place after swabbing out each shelf/cabinet/drawer, and washing each item.  It’s harder than I thought it would be, because I keep trying to analyze a more efficient layout. Besides that, I am trying to achieve a more artful layout, particularly as to my desk and shelves. Keep it simple is my mantra. The pile of things I don’t know what to do with is slowly growing and must be addressed.

So tonight we had stir fry veggies and coconut shrimp. I had to go find the skillets, the peanut oil, other ingredients, the pie plates to mix up the ingredients, the utensils to cook with, the platters to serve them on. I did wash a few loads of plates and flatware, and I even washed some wine glasses, so we didn’t have to use plastic for the first time in weeks! 

It’s truly a scavenger hunt to find the necessary things we need, and it’s almost comical to watch me doing so. One of these days, I know we will be back to what passes as normal, but until then…   

…if I appear scattered, just consider my situation and have mercy! (for instance, tonight I mentioned a “bice rack” when I meant a “bike race”)

And if I could find my keys, I would be the happiest person on the planet.

Mother of the Bride, Chapter 6
July 15, 2010

You look neat; Talk about a treat, You look dapper from your napper to your feet.  – Charles Collins (1911)

It was February 11 when I last posted “Mother of the Bride, Chapter 5″, and while not a lot has happened since then, we are making progress! One of the biggest decisions was that of the wedding reception venue. We researched many, drove by several, toured a few, and finally made the decision to reserve the Cohen House, which is the Faculty Club of Rice University.

It is a lovely space, with a blend of both old and new; the transition from the older historic rooms to an open, light filled modern space is seamless and flows well. The Club is surrounded by a grove of live oaks, and it features a wall of glass overlooking a gorgeous garden with a fountain.

What does the Cohen House have that the others don’t? Beautiful surroundings, not far from St. Luke’s, self parking (no need for a valet), an exclusive reservation (no other functions that day), the run of the entire building (except the kitchen) and a variety of menu options, from passed hors d’oeuvres to a sit down dinner. The manager suggested how we might set things up and showed us a number of photos as an example. She walked us through how it might work, from the arrival of the guests to the arrival of the bride/groom, to food stations, to placement of musicians, and such.

All things considered, it came out on top, so we put down the deposit, and checked that item off the list.

After that was done, months went by with no forward momentum; there were other issues to attend to, moving logistics, family matters, remodeling headaches. But now that all of these things are semi under control, it is time to turn our faces towards June 25, 2011!

Once our kitchen is put back together, Shannon and I will sit down with our coordinator extraordinaire, Joyce, to look at where we are and what we need to focus on. But in the meantime, Shannon was invited to go with her friend, Elizabeth, to lend moral support as she tried on wedding dresses for her own wedding (also next year). They and Elizabeth’s mom, Shirley thought it would be fun for me to come, too, and I’m really glad I did! Shirley was very helpful with recommendations about other bridal shops to go to and/or avoid, which will save us a lot of time.

Who knew that one is supposed to make an appointment at these bridal shops? I’m sure Joyce would have told me so, but just observing the entire process was helpful, so we’ll know what to expect when we venture out. Elizabeth tried on eleven or so dresses, and we learned what to look for and what to avoid. For instance, one dress was so complicated that to create a “bustle” (to affix the train to the waist during the reception) would have cost over $800! Ixnay that one!

Many had elaborate details down the back, because during the ceremony, that’s the angle the guests see. I remember going to a wedding back in the 1980’s, where I saw a dress with buttons all the way from the neck down to the edge of the train. It was a gorgeous dress, and I thought that detail was so clever! I imagine it was quite expensive (comparatively speaking), but now I wonder if the bride and her family regret spending all that money after the marriage didn’t last?

As we journey towards “W Day” (345 days from now, plus or minus a few, depending on when I post this!), our goal is to keep things as simple as we can, and focus on the most important aspect of the event, which is the ceremony itself.

Sure, our bride will be radiant, and I will defer to her taste; it’s what she feels good in that matters most. But Shannon has inherited her mother’s sensibilities, and I predict she will eschew the folderol and select a dress that is elegant with a touch of whimsy… it’s out there somewhere, we just have to find it!

Note: pewperson is having her kitchen remodeled, and will be unable to access her computer for who knows how long! I hope to be back on July 23, but have patience, if not…

She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain!
July 9, 2010

Oh we ain’t got a barrel of money, Maybe we’re ragged and funny, But we’ll travel along Singin’ a song, Side by side.        Harry Woods (1927) 

Road trips! I love them… but when you’re in a UHaul truck towing a trailer with a car affixed, it’s just a tad stressful, particularly when you are driving in the mountains of Colorado. Our particular truck was ill equipped to deal with the terrain; stomping on the accelerator would maybe yield a top speed of 40 mph on the bigger hills. UHaul “suggests” that one must not go over 55 mph with a trailer, but honestly, we had to build up our speed to at least 70 mph to gain enough momentum to make it over the summits. 

The scariest point was at the Raton Pass on the border of Colorado and New Mexico. The climb is steep, and all the 18-wheelers crawl along in the right hand lane. We were right there with them as all the cruise controlled cars sailed by us. I had the accelerator pressed to the floor, and I think Shannon had her foot pressed to the floor, as well, trying her best to help propel us forward. 

The speedometer needle kept sinking lower and lower, down to 30 mph, as the truck strained to move forward. I kept channeling the Little Engine that Could (“I think I can, I think I can”) while my hands perspired nervously, and I worried about the engine blowing out there in the middle of nowhere. We actually detected a burning sort of smell, which REALLY made us anxious. 

And some 18-wheelers passed us. 

When we crested the summit and headed back down the other side, the relief that flooded through the cab of the truck was palpable. We both knew that it was mostly downhill from there through the panhandle of Texas over to Amarillo. 

Having no rearview mirror takes some practice, but the extra convex side mirrors helped make up for it. Still, it was often startling to have a car whiz by from the blind spot when my attention was elsewhere. So getting off the interstate was a big relief, because the roads in the panhandle are quite lonesome.   

Speaking of mirrors, I failed at our first pit stop to check them. Being woefully inept at backing up our truck/trailer, I vowed to only use two gears: Park and Drive. No Reverse. My plan was to begin looking for appropriate gas stations once the gas gauge registered 1/4 of a tank. It was in Pueblo, CO where we first pulled over at the perfect gas station. 

I expertly made a wide swing into the bay, only to discover that it was a diesel only pump. Rats! So I drove forward and made a  U-turn into another bay, when BONK! Both Shannon and I were startled to discover that I had managed to clip one of the free standing signs with the front fender of her car (which was on the trailer). How in the heck did I do that? By not watching my mirror. You can bet that I learned a lesson from that little scrape! 

Shannon had hooked up her iPod so we could enjoy music during our trip. She played all sorts of interesting things, including opera, which you definitely do not hear in the Texas panhandle. But there was a NPR station in Colorado Springs, I think, that was playing Handel’s “Dixit Dominus”, a piece that Shannon sang with the Bard Chamber Choir in 2007. She sang right along with it! 

Did I mention that Emma, the cat was with us in the cab? She was a perfect traveling companion, only piping up every now and then. Even in the motel in Amarillo, she was well behaved and quiet; only once did she jump into bed with me in the night and inspect my face. 

We went to bed at 9 that night and slept like rocks. The plan was to awaken at 6 am, but the alarm clock didn’t work, and we awakened at 7 instead. The end result was that we got a really good night’s sleep, and made up the time on the back end. In a way, it was a blessing, because we had a fairly relaxed drive into Houston. 

(except winding through Fort Worth on 287, traversing two interstates and having to change multiple lanes while not really sure where one is supposed to be in a truck with a trailer is no fun!) 

Houston traffic? We arrived right about rush hour, but we were heading into town, so it wasn’t too bad. All the construction around Conroe has been completed, so we sailed on in. Yes, cars were speeding all around us, but the difference between Houston traffic and Fort Worth traffic is that I knew exactly where I was going in Houston and in exactly which lane I needed to be. Anticipation is key! 

There could be no happier people in town than we two travelers were when we arrived that evening. Yes, we had another hard day of unpacking the truck to look forward to, but we were home, and were so grateful for safe travels. 

We made Joel back the car off the trailer, and the first thing the next morning, I drove the truck and trailer (minus the car) to the UHaul store to ditch that darn trailer! And later that day, I was so relieved to turn in the truck, after we had unloaded it and cleaned it out. 

Someday, Shannon and I will look back on this experience and remember it fondly, maybe even laugh about it. For now, all I know is that I am very thankful to be driving my good ol’ Donnie Ray again!

Notes on a Special Person
July 2, 2010

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.    – Henry Brooks Adams (1907) 

Recently, my 5th grade Sunday School teacher passed away due to complications of Alzheimer’s. Bill Clift was 91 years old and had lived a full life. He was one of the most gentle people I have ever known… one of those “quiet people” who lived out his faith. 

It was unusual for men to teach Sunday School back in the 1960’s, but Bill and his wife Evelyn taught the class together; their son James was a classmate and a dear friend. I do not recall a single other Sunday School teacher from my childhood years (with the exception of my own mother). That is a testament of their impact on me. 

At Bill’s memorial service over at Chapelwood UMC, we heard stories that encompassed his life over the years;  his brother spoke of his WWII escapades, his son spoke of his strong family ties, his grandson spoke of his fond memories of a special grandfather, a granddaughter read a scripture, and then a great-grandson shared his rendition of the 23rd Psalm. 

Young Campbell Eaton brought the house down with his joyful and heartfelt reading. I could tell that he had worked hard to honor his great grandfather, and I know that Bill would have not only loved it, but would have laughed out loud with joy right along with the snaggle-toothed Campbell! 

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not….. long pause…… want.” Head thrown back in laughter. And so on. The psalm went on with some hesitation and stumbling over pronunciation, but Campbell persevered with his joyful presentation. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me… long pause… all the days of my life. (peek at his notes) And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord… long pause… FOREVER!” And then he exclaimed, “YEAH!” At which point there was applause, that some might have thought inappropriate, but I loved it as he radiated his delight. 

The presiding pastor threw out many words that characterized Bill, and I had to agree with each one. But did he mention “modest” or “unassuming”? I can’t remember, but that was Bill. He was one who really made a difference without calling attention to himself, and was a fine example of that “greatest generation” that lived through the Depression and served in WWII.

I can still recall that 5th grade classroom upstairs at Lake Vista Methodist Church (before we were “United”). We’d go up the stairs, and it was the first room on the left. LVMC was a very small church with a young post war membership who were doing their duty to repopulate the country. Kids swarmed everywhere, and our class had lots of  students who went to the various elementary schools out on the shore of Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans. It was an idyllic time and place to be a child. 

Along with my dad, Bill worked for Exxon (or Humble Oil & Refining Company as it was back then), and likewise, he traveled the world. One of my distinct memories is that when Bill went to Holland on business that year, he had each of us 5th graders trace our feet on paper. Bless his heart, he brought back a pair of wooden shoes for all of us; I still have mine! (see photo above) 

After that year, the Clift family moved to the Hague and several other locations before returning to Houston. I lost touch with James, but whenever I’d see his folks, they would always let me know what he was up to (and vice versa). As it turned out, we live not far from their house, so I’d see Evelyn and Bill on occasion; the last time I saw him was at my own father’s memorial service last year. 

It was great to catch up with James after all these years; he and his wife now live in San Francisco, so we hope to connect when Joel and I are there in August. It’s interesting to me how deep our roots go, and how easily we talked about things, with our similar background, upbringing, and ultimately, our fathers’ shared diagnoses and their experiences as a result of it. 

Godspeed dear Bill!  You and my dad set a standard that is hard to measure up to, but I will aspire to be a positive influence on young people, just as you both were.  I hope someday that someone recalls me just as fondly as I do you…