Archive for November, 2010

Great is My Gratefulness
November 26, 2010

Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.Sam Walton

On the occasion of Thanksgiving, most folks give thought as to what they are thankful for. The usual list includes such things as family, friends, good health, faith, a means of making a living, safety, security, a warm bed on a cold night (or a cool bed on a hot night) and plentiful food. Don’t forget living in the greatest state in the greatest country in the world! (Texas!) 

This is my own personal list; I’m sure you can think of other things to add. I’m also well aware that there are vast numbers of people out there who can’t include some of these items on their own lists, if any at all. 

So it is with extra appreciation that I give thanks for my many blessings in a year that has snatched away several beloved family members and friends. Thinking about Bobby, Polly and Fred in particular, how grateful I have been for their presence in my life; I will never forget them. 

With Bobby and Polly, I was able to tell them how much they meant to me, but Fred’s death was totally unexpected, and I never had the chance to let him know just how special he was. 

This is a lesson to us all to take the time to appreciate those who touch our lives in some fashion, because you may never have another opportunity to do so. It means so much, and I can truthfully say this from the vantage point of one who has just been appreciated by others in the span of one week. 

After our last Bible study group gathering at our house, a fellow “heathen” described me as such to the others, “She is a real shepherd.  She looks after each of us, gathers us in, makes sure we are fed and watered, and that we don’t stray too far.” All this was said because I am the one who keeps track of the schedule and reminds everyone of it. These kind words were very generous and gratefully received. 

The very next day, I went to the Fine Arts staff meeting at our church, where my job is to promote the arts events. Totally out of the blue, they  presented me with a personalized platter in appreciation of my work. I’ve got to be honest, this surprise came on a day that I was feeling somewhat discouraged, and their gesture has been hugely motivating as a result. 

Thinking about such things in relation to Bobby, Polly and Fred, often times the kind words and gestures aren’t extended until after it’s too late. I have renewed my commitment to make sure that I let those who deserve it know how much I appreciate them. 

Appreciation and thankfulness go hand in hand. Saying “I appreciate you” to people is one thing, but likewise, it is important for us to say “thank you” to our God who has so richly blessed us. Make both a regular habit, and when the time comes, you will have no regrets.

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A Sampler of Soups
November 19, 2010

Soup should  be sipped silently and not slurped.                                          -Amy Vanderbilt 

Recently we enjoyed attending a rehearsal dinner honoring my “other daughter” Courtney and her fiancé, Rob at one of my favorite restaurants, Ouisie’s Table. The menu selections included a salad or soup; I opted for the former, and Joel the latter. But I did want a taste of his soup, and lacking a spoon, I dipped my fork into his bowl. It worked just fine. 

Doing so brought to mind something my mother wrote about me when I was two: 

“Miss Carol is about the cutest little bundle you can image. She’s really a tyrant, tho, and rules us all with an iron hand! She’s talking like a big girl and tries to do lots that she can’t- but she is the only person we know who can eat jello (and occasionally soup) with a fork.” 

So you see? I knew that talent would come in handy someday!! 

Another soup story involves another wedding celebration, long, long ago. We were seated at a table for 10 in all our finery, but knew not a soul. Small talk can be a little awkward in such a situation, and this was no exception. 

The table was formally set with an array of silverware to be used for the various courses. In addition to these utensils, each place setting had its own very small sterling salt and pepper shakers for personal seasoning of the food. 

The first course was soup, and the young man at my right proceeded to sprinkle some salt into his bowl. The shaker was tiny, and his fingers were clumsy. You can guess what happened next. Yep, he dropped the whole thing with a splash into his bowl! 

I tried not to laugh (as did others who noticed what had happened). He looked down glumly at his soup and said, “I think I have just committed a major faux pas.” His deadpan delivery cracked us all up, and the ice was broken. We then proceeded to have a lively evening, all thanks to the soup! 

The third and final soup story hearkens way back to my childhood days, when we six kids would gather round the table to eat dinner together to eat as a family every night. You can imagine what a production it was to make and serve dinner for eight people, especially on Mom’s tight budget. 

This particular evening we had tomato soup for the first course. Once everyone was served, it was time to say the blessing. Dad asked us to bow our heads, and so we did. Sister “Dee Dee” complied with extra enthusiasm and bowed her head with such gusto that her face splashed into the bowl of hot soup! 

Of course, she immediately lifted her head up, dripping tomato soup, and then came the tears. I suppose Mom came to the rescue, while the rest of us continued eating. Did we laugh? I can’t recall. But whenever we siblings get together and play the “remember when” game, this is one of the stories that comes up, along with the time that same sister sprayed Danny Ketchum with milk when she burst out laughing after taking a big drink. Ah, what memories… 

Funny, I don’t much eat soup nowadays. Maybe it’s because my psyche is warped, and I’m fearful of some sort of blunder? I wonder what Amy Vanderbilt would think about my soup stories? I hope that she would see the humor in them and laugh, and I hope that you do, too!

Mother of the Bride, Chapter 8
November 12, 2010

You can tell quite a lot about someone by how they dress…               Louise Stjernsward, costume designer (2010) 

We are experiencing a flurry of weddings among daughters of friends; the first one happened on October 9 when Shannon’s friend Courtney married Rob. Next year comes Natalie, Elizabeth, Catherine, Caroline, Shannon (yeah!) and finally, Chelsea’s turn. There must be something in the air! 

Shannon was a bridesmaid in Courtney’s wedding, and will be one in Elizabeth’s. All the dress shopping has been fun; we were invited to accompany Elizabeth and her mom, Shirley, as Elizabeth tried on dresses at a certain bridal salon. This was most helpful to me, because I had no clue how to do such a thing. I mean, my mother made my dress, so what did I know? 

I learned that you must make an appointment to try on wedding dresses. With my experienced MOB’s (mother of the brides) guiding us, we made an appointment at a recommended bridal salon. Our consultants were Courtney and Elizabeth, the aforementioned bride/bride to be. 

What fun we had! The three of them selected assorted dresses with a variety of short, long, big, poufy, tailored and sleek ones. 

Interestingly enough, Shannon’s initial vision of her bridal ensemble was that of a short dress, something out of the ordinary. She did try on several that were absolutely perfect, but some of the traditional gowns were also calling to her. 

Of course, in this day and age, each dress that she tried on was documented digitally to peruse at leisure after the fact. The girls also played around with various head adornments, such as traditional veils, flowers, feathers and “birdcage veils”. Oh, and then there were the shoes. 

Me? I loved one particular short dress that was perfectly suited to Shannon; I could just envision her being a “different” bride, with a short and sassy dress, rather than a staid and formal one. On the other hand, I also loved seeing her in a traditional dress with a train, which was a totally opposite style from the first one. 

My parental approach has always been “hands off” fashion-wise. When Shannon was capable of dressing herself, I let her pick her own outfits, sometimes biting my tongue if  I felt like I might help her “pull it together” better. To me, the most important thing was that SHE felt like she looked good, not if I felt she looked good. 

The same goes with the wedding dress. If she feels like she looks good, then that’s the dress she should wear! 

And so we went back to re-try on dresses. Much buzzing amongst the girls had transpired in the meantime. The fact that the salon offered 15% off all purchases in the month of October tempted us to go ahead and seal the deal. We knew that Shannon had numerous options to be a radiant bride, no matter which dress she selected. 

Elizabeth was there to help make the final pick, and Courtney was a text away. We discarded this one, tried a new one, looked again at a different one. 

At this point, in came another bride to be, with her mother. This young woman had obviously been to the salon before and had selected a dress that she liked, and wanted to show it to her mother. So there we were on one side of the room, witnessing this exchange. 

I can’t begin to describe the unpleasant reaction by the mother towards her daughter’s favored dress. It was a totally self-involved and judgmental attitude. She did not consider her daughter’s feelings, and worst of all, she stormed out to go pick something that she thought was more appropriate! 

The poor girl was reduced to tears, and the consultant gave her a hug. We all told her that we thought she looked beautiful in her dress; who knows what the end of her story will be. 

As for Shannon, she selected a traditional gown with a train; who would have thought it! It is flattering to her, and she will be radiant in it. And just like the hokey pokey… that’s what it’s all about.

The Aftermath of a Crash
November 4, 2010

Accidents will occur in the best-regulated families.                                –Charles Dickens (1850) 

Last week, I was heading in to work in the Pumpkin Patch when I got one of those e-mails with a red exclamation point (IMPORTANCE: HIGH!!). It was from my sister, Kathryn (aka “Tetot”) who reported that our mom had been in a wreck and had been taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital via ambulance. 

Mom had been on her way to her bi-weekly bridge club; these ladies have been meeting every other week since high school days, and she will not miss it for anything. When she arrived at her destination, she accidently hit the accelerator instead of the brake, clipped a brick wall, then careened across Buffalo Speedway and hit a tree. 

Doing so broke her arm, and the airbag smacked her in the face and bloodied her nose. Thankfully, she didn’t have anyone else in the car with her, nor did she hit anybody else. A pedestrian ran to her aid, helped clean up her face and made her stay still until the EMTs arrived. I’m not sure if anyone got his name, but I am so grateful he was there to be with her. 

Tetot headed to the ER, and once I covered my responsibilities in the Patch, so did I. Not being familiar with Memorial Hermann, I wasn’t sure where to park, so opted to use the valet, figuring they could point me in the right direction. 

Emergency room waiting areas offer a primo opportunity to people watch. I ran into my other sister, Mary, and we waited until Tetot came out, at which point Mary and I took turns going back to see her. They made us all leave while they set her bone; I am fairly certain I would have keeled over in a dead faint  if I witnessed that, which, of course, is why they made us leave.   

While in the waiting room, I spied a woman who looked to be about 10 months pregnant, shuffling along and breathing laboriously. I’m glad she made it to the hospital! Then there was the mentally unbalanced woman who came to sit right by me (there were many other places to sit), tried to engage us in conversation and gave us a wad of papers with gibberish writing all over them. Thankfully, they called her name, and she disappeared behind the doors. Others huddled together with family members, some speaking in other languages. 

Finally, Mary and Tetot had to go back to work, so I settled in to sit with Mom until they found a room for her. While we waited on one side of the trauma room, the staff twice brought in injured people to the other side. Swarms of ER staff, doctors, EMT’s and policemen crowded around one particular fellow who was quite a mess. They were asking him many questions about his health, allergies, food intake and such before whisking him straight to surgery. I thought it unusual in this day of privacy controls that there wasn’t even a curtain to keep us from viewing the bloody scene or overhearing their conversations.

I helped Mom eat a sandwich for supper, and we waited and waited and waited some more for that elusive room. My sweet niece Megan arrived, at which point I headed home for a late dinner. Mom finally did end up in a private room overnight, but the next day we all got to play the “where’s Mom” game, as she went from that room to surgery, to the recovery room and finally to another room of her own for 3 days. 

Once she scored a room at “the Plaza” (the assisted living wing of the Buckingham where nurses and therapists can help her learn to maneuver and take care of  herself with one arm), she was cleared to go “home”. 

So on Friday morning, I zoomed to the hospital, hoping she would be discharged quickly. No luck. Thankfully, another sister, Camille said she could drive her, since I had a 2:00 appointment back out this way. I stopped by Mom’s apartment at the Buckingham to take care of Bucky, the cat and get toiletries and such that Mom would need down at the Plaza. Then I picked up Shannon to go to the Houston Bridal Gallery (more about this next week!). 

Afterwards, I dropped Shannon off at home and drove back to the Buckingham, found Mom’s temporary room and tag teamed Camille, who had to turn around and leave. The other sisters materialized, but all were going to the Rice soccer game, so I stayed behind to help Mom eat dinner and get her comfortable in bed.

FINALLY I headed home where I enjoyed another late dinner procured and prepared by my family, for which I was very grateful. I am also grateful for my sisters, each of whom brings a special talent to take care of legal, medical, therapeutic, transportation and  logistical matters for Mom on top of providing good old TLC. None of us are overburdened with the total responsibility, and all can interchange when one is unable to cover. It is such a blessing. 

So for now, Mom is on the mend, feisty and anxious to get back to being independent once again. She has sworn off driving, and actually is relieved about her decision (another blessing!). She is on the upswing, and I am hopeful that it won’t be long before she is totally healed. 

On the flip side, I’m also hopeful that it will be a VERY long time before I receive another red exclamation pointed e-mail!