Archive for April, 2011

Left Behind
April 29, 2011

I don’t believe in email. I’m an old-fashioned girl. I prefer calling and hanging up.  Sarah Jessica Parker

After having been told that I needed to do it, I dutifully subscribed to Facebook in order to communicate with the younger generation in the church choir that I support (since they seldom use e-mail). Honestly, I didn’t think I’d use it much, but now I enjoy keeping up with what everyone is doing and love seeing their photos posted. I also get most breaking news via FB, whether it’s local (like sports scores, weather, etc.) or international (earthquakes, space shuttle politics and such). 

Come to find out, the baby boomer generation really enjoys this social media outlet more than the youngsters do. Because it now appears that they have moved on to using a new language/vehicle to speak to each other in ways that leave old people like me in the dark. For instance: 

“@jacobpaulbreeze:@freshairpoet@adameverett yes! I won’t tempt with a pic.”// wonton soup, general tsos, and crab rangoon- the best!

What does this all mean? Something about enjoying Chinese food. I think it’s in “tweet” mode, which I have not gotten into at all, since I don’t think that anyone wants or needs to know what I am doing every waking moment of the day. 

Here’s another one:

 “@crowderband: Presale for our fall tour w/ @gungormusic @chrisaugust & @johnmarkmc is happening now! http://t.co/RmYs2lT” // @hubastank 

Um, a band is going on tour, and you can buy tickets? TMP! (too much punctuation!). Any young person who is reading this is probably LOL-ing at me. 

What’s next? Technology is advancing in wild leaps and bounds, and sadly I am being left behind. But you know what? Maybe it’s time. Do I really want or need to learn this new thing? Joel bought a new stereo system. I am afraid of it. And I still don’t know how to turn on the new TV. To turn on the old one, I’ll have to consult the written instructions my family wrote down for me. 

Aps? They boggle my mind. I’ve got the ones my phone came with, but I can’t imagine I need any others. It’s overwhelming to even begin to think about the options out there. 

My sisters and I all laughed about this subject at our lunch last week. We write checks, and we have land lines. Our kids have to help us with our cell phones, iPods, televisions and other such technological equipment. Someday maybe I’ll graduate to on-line banking, but not just yet. By the time I do, it will probably be retro fashionable to balance bank statements by hand, and I’ll be right in style! 

We sisters threaten to move in with each other in our old age and laugh together every day. We’ll all become a Memaw (our grandmother who eschewed all modern kitchen conveniences like dishwashers, microwaves, etc.). Just give us good books to read, some paper, ink and stamps… 

We’ll leave it to our grandkids to muddle through the rest of the new fangled social media advances, and gaze in wonder when they get a real piece of mail from us in the mailbox!

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Bailey, 2004-2011
April 22, 2011

The last photo of Bailey, April 2011

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together…

-Author unknown. 

On this Good Friday morning, our precious Bailey passed away after battling kidney failure, rare in a dog so young. Just a month ago, I wrote about him in this space: Bailey, on the Occasion of his Seventh Birthday. There I expressed some concern about his not being as perky as usual. Now we know why, but who would have guessed kidney failure?

There is no telling how this failure manifested itself, but we were hopeful he would pull through, given his age and physical fitness. Perhaps the autopsy will give us a clue. 

We are absolutely heartbroken. But we can’t help but think that HE was also heartbroken after Shadow’s death. Ever since Shadow passed away, Bailey has never been the same… Many have commented on it. Who knows if that’s the root cause of this? Grief can be very powerful physically. 

The night before he went to the vet’s for what was the last time, I slept on the couch with him on the floor right next to me, so I could keep my hand on him to make sure he was ok. How I wish I could have been with him every night at the vet’s to reassure him that he was loved and not abandoned. How do you explain these things to a dog? 

Over the past few days, I visited him at the vet’s, where I just sat on the floor of an exam room and loved on him. He had perked up from his earlier weakened state, and I was encouraged by this fact. At one point, he sat in my lap, as if to prevent me from leaving. I even brought him one of my running socks (which he loved to chew on) to keep with him in his kennel, hoping that he would be comforted by it. 

Each day, the vet said that his bad numbers decreased, which was a good sign, but they were still elevated too high to bring him home. So we elected to continue the antibiotics and flush his system, which bought him some time, and gave us some hope. 

But in the end, he didn’t make it, and passed on his own accord in the early morning hours of Good Friday. I pray that he was in no pain and comfortable… Certainly now he is no longer suffering. Joel and I went to be with him one last time afterwards. He was so beautiful and peaceful looking; we both cried at our loss, but also at his passing alone in a place far from home. 

My constant companion, Bailey was such a comfort to me. Wherever I was, he was, and I talked to him all day long. He’d just listen and cock his head when he heard a word he recognized, and sprang to comply whenever I asked him to do something like, “Bailey, let’s go to the mailbox!” He was ever smiling, ever obedient and ever affectionate, with a little bit of scamp thrown in. 

I’m just not ready for this, especially so soon after losing Shadow. At least when we lost Shadow, we had Bailey to comfort us. There is no more lonesome feeling than walking into an empty house with no smiling, joyful dog there to greet us. 

Last night I dreamed that I heard a bark and looked out the window to see Shadow. I let him in the door, and following right behind him was KC, our cat who died when Shadow was just a puppy. Was it a premonition of things to come? Were they telling me that they were waiting to welcome Bailey? It  has comforted me in my grief. 

And Joel said he experienced a sensation overnight that was hard to describe, but felt like a sense of relief following a stressful experience. Was it Bailey’s spirit passing through on his way “home”?

Godspeed, my precious Bailey…  I’ll see you on the  Rainbow Bridge.

Mother of the Bride, Chapter 12
April 15, 2011

The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make/ not just on your wedding day, but over and over again/ and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife. – Barbara de Angelis

Lists, lists, lists! There is one for completed tasks and another for things yet to do. There is one that includes all the guests invited to the wedding, and then there are others for the assorted showers and parties that will all kick off, starting next weekend. Here we go! 

Back in the olden days, I had a little bride’s box that held index cards, all filed in alpha order with the names/addresses of the guests, RSVP’s, gifts received (complete with little number stickers that I sometimes still find on things), and whether or not I had sent a thank you note.

Fast forward to today: I am very thankful for excel spreadsheets! We have a variety of them going for the different events, and are beginning to fill in some of those blanks that list gifts received. This week, the doorbell rang, and there was the delivery man from Bering’s bearing a package for Shannon! It was from a friend who is unable to come to the first shower (a kitchen shower), and it was totally unexpected. 

I distinctly remember receiving our very first wedding gift, which got the coveted number 1 sticker. It was a gorgeous cut crystal water pitcher from the Carlton House from Mr. and Mrs. Harvin. We hadn’t registered for it, but it was something we have used for years and still do. I think Mrs. Harvin knew that we would! 

Shannon and Kat’s number 1 gift was a graceful footed glass salad bowl. It is a real classic, and I know they will vividly remember receiving it, just as I remembered our first one. I told the delivery man that we would be seeing a lot of each other between now and June, and he laughed in agreement. 

Recently completed list?

  • Limo vs. Town Car decision. What bride and groom need a limo that looks like this?

              Seriously, this is what the limo man suggested. We opted for a classic black Town Car (above). Check.

  • Bridesmaids’ dresses. All ordered. Check.
  • Wedding band purchased. (Shannon will be wearing one of her great grandmother’s eternity bands. Interestingly, both of her great grandmothers had the exact same band, and we have both of them). Check.
  • Photographer visit to discuss options/preferences. Check.
  • Invitations picked up and delivered to calligrapher. Check.
  • Red shoes purchased. Yes, she is wearing red shoes. Check.
  • Make up tested. Check.

  • Hairdo tested. Check.

           

              (obviously, this was taken early in the process!)

Yet to do list?

  • follow up with cake lady.
  • follow up with flower lady.
  • visit reception venue and decide on menu selections.
  • block rooms at the chosen hotel.
  • finalize wedding ceremony music.
  • collaborate with co-officiants to determine order of worship.
  • go to pre-marital counseling.
  • purchase stamps for invitations. Stuff, seal and stamp.
  • think through rehearsal dinner and visit with caterer.
  • finalize hostess and attendant gifts.
  • create program for service.
  • make appointments for dress fittings.

 I think that’s about it, although I know we’ve overlooked something. Thank goodness for LISTS! And thank goodness for my friend Joyce, whose guidance has been priceless, and whose calming presence has made this journey painless and stress free. She will make sure that we haven’t forgotten anything and that everything is completed by June 25. 

Exhale.

A Soft Answer
April 8, 2011

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. ~James 3:10 (NRSV) 

During this season of Lent, our church has offered a coordinated study of the New Testament Book of James to all classes and small groups. It’s a pretty cool way to really delve into the scripture, beginning with the Sunday sermon, followed by a video presentation and discussion, based on a study guide. 

James is one of the “general letters” included in the Bible. Supposedly it was written in about 62 AD by James, the brother of Jesus; it is one of the earliest written books in the New Testament. Only 5 chapters long, it is filled with admonitions on how to behave as a Christian believer.

The theme of our study is “A Hard Look in the Mirror”, which is a most apt subject during the introspective season of Lent. Study topics have included resisting temptation, being obedient, showing no favorites, controlling our tongues, exemplifying peace and discerning God’s will for our lives. 

This past week, we had a lively discussion about controlling our tongues. What comes out of our mouths can be hurtful to others, as well as hurtful to our own hearts. Speaking positively raises people up; speaking negatively brings them down. Changing our bad habits will have a positive effect on our attitudes. 

For instance, when Shannon was growing up, she spent many an hour in the car with me, watching as I maneuvered through Houston traffic. Sometimes this is a hard thing to do, which can result in a great deal of frustration. My little tattle tale once told Joel that “sometimes Mommy drives on the grass!” 

When things would go wrong in the car, I would more than likely shout out loud to an unhearing fellow driver, “COME ON, YOU STUPID IDIOT!!!” I, of course, drove perfectly, unlike all those others out there. And boy, sometimes I would get so angry that I would experience all the physical manifestations that anger brings to one’s body. Stress is very damaging physically. 

Fast forward to the day when Shannon got her learners permit. At that point, we changed places in the car, and she would drive while I clutched the armrest and stomped on the floor, trying to find the brake pedal. 

One day, I was shocked to hear her shout, “COME ON, YOU STUPID IDIOT!!!” to someone who wasn’t paying attention when the traffic signal turned green. And I didn’t like the way it came out of her mouth. I then and there resolved to not raise up a rude driver. 

From that day forward, whenever I encountered a driver who was not paying attention, I would prompt them sweetly, “Come on, sweetheart, let’s go!” Or, “Here, see? I’m letting you in!” Or, “Whoa, someone is in a hurry!” And so on. 

You know what? It works. Years later, I don’t find myself angry anymore when out in traffic. I try to visualize why someone might not be paying attention or driving too fast or erratically. Perhaps they are from out of town and are totally lost, or frantic to get to a particular exit that popped up sooner than they expected (this is probably not a likely scenario for people who drive fancy cars with a GPS, but I try to ignore that fact). Maybe their wives are in labor and they are driving 90 mph to the hospital? Could be! 

The point is that simply changing the words that came out of my mouth has changed my heart. That is what chapter 3 of James is all about! Try it and see if it works for you, too.

Texas, Our Texas
April 1, 2011

Oh! Where have gone those happy cowboy days?

– Adolph Huffmeyer (my great-grandfather) 

After you live in one place for a long time, you eventually stop noticing the details of such things as art on the walls. To counter this phenomenon, we sometimes like to shake things up to create a fresh new look. 

Except that at our house, there is a carved stone frieze cemented in place over the fireplace. There is no changing it ever, and although I REALLY loved it when I initially saw it, I honestly hadn’t stopped to study it in a very long time. 

Recently, as I was passing through our living room, my eyes  were drawn to the piece. Supposedly it was created  by one of the stonemasons who created all the fantastic carvings on the campus of Rice University in the early 20th century. I have no proof, but I cherish the concept. 

Why did I suddenly notice it again? Perhaps I was still somewhat in a rodeo frame of mind. Or maybe it is because our friends, the Caos just had a baby, and you guessed it… everyone is referring to little Sabine as “the Caogirl”. 

Anyway, the frieze depicts two cowboys on horseback driving a herd of ten longhorn cattle. I remember the first time I saw this stone carving when I visited the house as a prospective buyer. 

It called to me because of my Texan heritage; my great grandfather Adolph Huffmeyer was a cowboy who drove cattle from Frio County to “Fort Sill in the Indian Territory”. He wrote about his adventures, and his memoirs were published in “The Trail Drivers of Texas” (copyright 1924). I am privileged to have a copy of this book, passed down through his grandson (my dad). 

The title of his article is “Catching Antelope and Buffalo on the Trail”. It tells of his experiences during three years of trail riding (1876-78). Eleven men and a cook drove 1600 steers for seven weeks in 1876; in 1877, it took them four months. 

In 1878, they had 2000 head of mixed cows and steers; it was a wet season and they had numerous problems as a result. He recounted that while they were waiting for the rise in the Red River to ebb, 

“… a severe thunderstorm came up, and rain fell in torrents. While it was in progress, I could see the lightning playing on the brim of my hat and the tips of my horse’s ears. Suddenly a terrific bolt of lightning struck right in our midst and killed nine of our best cattle. It stunned my horse, and he fell to the ground, but was up in an instant and ready to go. The cattle stampeded and scattered, and it was all that we could do to keep ahead of them. After running them for a mile or more, every man found that he had a bunch of his own to look after, they were so badly scattered and frightened. I managed to hold 236 head the balance of the night, and when daylight came, we worked the bunches back together and made a count and found that we had lost over three hundred head, which meant some tall rustling for the boys. Before night, we had rounded up all of the strays except about forty head, which we lost entirely.” 

I can’t imagine how exhausting that episode must have been for all the cowboys and their horses, as well. The whole concept of a months-long trail ride boggles my mind, cooking and eating whatever you could catch while on the trail. When I think about modern cowboys, there is no comparison. 

For instance, when we were driving through Idaho a number of years ago, we came to a stop on a lonesome road while a rancher drove his cattle from the field across the road to the barn. He was on a four wheeler with his kids on the back, and his dogs were having a blast herding the cows home. It was charming to watch. What would Granddaddy Huffmeyer have thought about that?

And what would he think about the extravaganza known as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo? Modern “trail riders” that come to town for this annual event ride their horses during the day, then sleep in their climate controlled  RV’s at night. 

Rodeo cowboys? In my book, they are mostly show cowboys, not working ones. They may practice their one area of skill, but is it job related? I know there must be some out there that actually do use their skills in real jobs, but it is my impression that most of them work the rodeo circuit rather than punching cattle for a living.

Certainly, no real cowboy needs to ride a bull in the real world. Broncos? Maybe that skill might come in handy when teaching a horse to accept a rider, but in my book, gentling is a better method. Would Granddaddy Huffmeyer scoff at me with my 21st century attitude?

From what I know about him, my great grandfather was a very interesting man, born in 1855, orphaned at an early age and raised up by his Uncle Louis Oge of San Antonio (his home in the King William District is now a fancy bed and breakfast inn). Adolph graduated from St. Mary’s College there in San Antonio, and after his trail riding days, ended up in the mercantile business in Bandera, where he and his wife Mattie Rugh Huffmeyer are now buried there in the cemetery.  They were founding members of the Methodist Church there, and their daughter, Minna Lena Huffmeyer Simpson was my grandmother… my dad’s mother. 

At the time of his death in 1945, he was the oldest graduate of St. Mary’s College, and was mentioned in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” in 1942 because he rode his bike 10-12 miles daily at age 87. Other interesting facts about him are that he never lost a tooth nor had a toothache (neither did my dad, or me… at least not yet!), and that he worked well into his 9th decade, collecting bills for a San Antonio firm, while riding on the aforementioned bike, dressed in a formal suit, complete with a fedora.

He submitted an article to the “Frontier Times” magazine ten days before his death, and his picture was featured on the front cover as a tribute to him. The editor wrote, “Thus passes another fine old frontier character, whose death is mourned by hundreds of friends throughout Texas.”

My great grandfather’s stories remind me why I cherish and celebrate the stone frieze above my fireplace. I am grateful to have written documentation of his experiences, and it goes without saying that I am very proud of my Texan heritage! 

Oh! Where have gone those happy cowboy days?

And where has gone the old historic Chisholm trail?

And those jolly wide-open cattle towns,

Where the frisky cowboy played his part?

Alas! All have vanished like a dream,

In the long and silent past-

Never, never more to return.

– Adolph Huffmeyer