Archive for March, 2012

Like Mother, Like Daughter
March 30, 2012

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The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. ~ a common idiom 

Now into its sixth year, the churchlady blog keeps on rolling! It must be pretty apparent by now that I enjoy writing, and I am grateful to have been raised up in a home that valued such a skill. This blog serves as a weekly journal of sorts for me, and provides a way to impart motherly wisdom to my daughter, Shannon, who is a regular reader. 

My mom wrote many letters over several decades that served as a journal of our growing up years, and thankfully, she kept carbon copies of them, which are such a treasure for all us kids. She admits that she typed the letters because her handwriting wasn’t all that great, and by using carbon paper, she could re-read what she wrote to her family and friends, so as not to repeat things. 

It was a red letter day (ha) when my dad gave her an electric typewriter for Christmas! You can read in her letters about how excited she was, especially after sister Camille somehow damaged the letter “e” on her old manual typewriter. It’s pretty difficult to type without using the most common letter of the alphabet. 

Writing on a computer is much easier, especially when drafting pieces; the backspace and delete keys sure beat using white out or worse, ripping out the page and starting all over! 

Interestingly, I recently discovered that my sister Mary keeps a handwritten journal, which she shared with me the other day. I admired her work, especially so because it was done in freehand with a strong and neat penmanship and few if any cross outs or white outs. How does she do that? I was impressed. 

Another writing outlet has come to me through our church. For over a decade now, I’ve done writing for its Fine Arts Ministry to promote its programs and events. It has been a labor of love, especially because our family has been extra blessed by Shannon’s participation in the choirs there, which has given her a lifelong love of sacred choral music and worship. 

As an Art History major, I especially enjoy writing about pieces in our church’s permanent collection and visiting artists in our gallery. For some reason, I like to think I’m using my degree for something!

During Shannon’s college days at Bard, the church actually paid me to write contract pieces and post them to its website. She would watch me work at home or from wherever I was; have computer will travel! It is a job that you can do no matter where you live.

Has my writing “career” influenced Shannon? Maybe so! She is an excellent writer, and has been trying to establish herself as a free lance writer/editor while her husband is in law school in a small town with few job opportunities. Because I know that this career would be perfect for her, I support her dreams and aspirations, and appreciate that she has been working hard to make them a reality. 

And so it has come to pass! She landed one client there in Lexington, writing blog pieces for an art gallery. Next came a contract position with my college (formerly Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, now Randolph College in Lynchburg). She’ll be interviewing alumnae for the development office and writing feature pieces for their website. 

I am so proud of her! I hope this is just the beginning of a successful writing career, doing what she enjoys and continuing in the footsteps of her grandmother, mother and aunt. Congratulations, Shannon!

Our House
March 23, 2012

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There’s no place like home… ~ Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz) 

How do you say goodbye to a house? Or rather, to a home? Home to my family for the past 44 years, 1626 South Blvd. will soon pass into new ownership. It will seem very strange not to automatically turn down that street off Greenbriar, as I have instinctively done for so many years. 

My parents bought the house in 1968 when my dad got transferred back to Houston. Interestingly, this one wasn’t his first choice; from what I understand, he preferred to move out to the Memorial Villages area where many of his fellow Humble Oil (Exxon) co-workers were settling. Dad was always a “modern” sort of guy, and 1626 was NOT a “modern” sort of house in 1968.  

But Mom won the day; this was her old stomping ground, and when Mom was happy, then everyone was happy. 

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1626 South Blvd, circa 1972

According to my sister Mary (who has lovingly presided over “our” house in recent years), back then the asking price was $58,000. It was built in 1935, and I really don’t think it had ever been updated much between 1935 and 1968. 

There was no central AC/heat system, and the original “butler’s pantry” was still there, with a system of buzzers that corresponded to certain rooms in which there were surreptitious buttons on bookshelves or door jambs to “call the servants” when you needed something.

Moving from a small, one story New Orleans home in which bedrooms were shared with siblings, we six kids thought we had hit the jackpot. To finally have a room of my own was such a big deal, I can’t even begin to tell you. And it was a BIG room. I even got new bedroom furniture from Sears (in a white French provincial style with a canopy bed!). I was in thirteen year old heaven. Before then I’d slept in a triple bunk bed that my dad had crafted himself in order to save space in a room that three of us sisters shared. 

1626 has three stories, and there are four full baths in the main house; all were original to the house. The bathtubs were the best (and still are!). Modern tubs just don’t compare to the deep, long and sloped tubs that were the fashion in the 1930’s. One can stretch out and sink under a cloud of bubbles with nary a knee or shoulder to be seen. 

The third floor was unique. It was a 40 foot long room, complete with a finished  hardwood floor,  dormer “nooks” with window seats, a full bathroom (albeit with a shower), and a large closet. There were also storage wings to the east/west/south that were hidden behind paneled doors. THAT was the primo bedroom for all to covet. But it did get warm up there in the summer, and it sure was a long haul downstairs. 

There was a wall rotary dial telephone up there; I remember that there was a way to dial some number to make the downstairs phone ring, sort of like an intercom. But I can’t quite recall how that worked…

The garage apartment, in hindsight, was in horrible condition, but what did we know back in those bohemian days? The garage itself was decrepit, with a tumble down wash room in the back. Probably because of that situation, one of the first things Mom and Dad did was add on a laundry/utility room to the house, in addition to updating the kitchen and installing a central A/C system. 

Mary says that the garage was actually built in 1929 before the main house, but because of the Depression, it took six long years before the entire project was complete. 

Anyone who lived in that garage apartment (and over the years, most all of us kids did) had to deal with the fact that there was absolutely no insulation above, below or around. The floors, walls and ceilings were all hard as a rock, shiplap boards. If you jumped up and down, everything shook. If you spilled ice cream on the floor, it dripped down onto Dad’s car (he hated when that happened). 

There was a window A/C in one of the rooms, and it was the sole source of cool air in the summer months. In the winter, you had to use a gas heater (one of those old fashioned fireplace looking ones that hooked up to a spigot source from the wall), and you had  to be sure to crack the window to make sure you didn’t suffocate from the fumes.

In the bathroom was an wonderfully deep claw foot tub; it was totally awesome, but as there was no heat or air source in that room, once didn’t ever linger in there much. There was just one light fixture over the sink, and only one electrical outlet attached to that fixture. 

Site of innumerable parties over the years (including four wedding receptions), our house was always the place the family gathered for whatever occasion. In recent years, Mary has continued this tradition of hospitality, and I know that many, many friends will miss this happy spot as much as we will.

When Mom and Dad moved to the Buckingham in 2005, my sister Mary and her soon to be husband, Bobby bought the house from them. They demolished that old garage and rebuilt a new one, complete with an apartment that was an absolute aerie. What a difference! I could live in that new apartment forever and be totally happy.

And then they stripped away the old from the main house, saving the bones and spirit of it, and transformed it into a showplace worthy of royalty, and yet mindful of its history, they carefully preserved certain elements (like the tubs and tile in several bathrooms, and the creaks in the stairs that we all knew and loved) that hearkened back to its original construction, mostly thanks to Mary and her history there. 

Sadly, Mary’s husband Bobby passed away almost two years ago, and now Mary is looking ahead and moving on to a smaller, but still historic home, in April. And so it’s time to say goodbye to 1626. I still don’t know the answer to the question of how to best do it. I suppose I’ll walk through each room, take a deep breath to inhale the familiar aromas, study each corner, open each closet, walk around the yard, take many photos and listen very hard for the echo of 44 years worth of laughter of family and friends that filled this very special house. 

It just hasn’t sunk in yet.

Now What?
March 8, 2012

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Pray you, undo this button.  ~William Shakespeare (King Lear, 1605)

When things hum along as they should, they are soon taken for granted. Only when they go haywire do we ever stop and appreciate the everyday “normal” we come to expect. Whether it’s your good health that is compromised in some way, or your car that needs work, or one of the most frustrating situations, your computer… when things are not working right, your world wobbles on its axis. 

For me, this week it’s my computer. I depend on it daily to communicate and write on a personal basis but also in my line of work, which is public relations. Most days I spend quite a bit of time on it, working on current and future events, writing articles, press releases and such. I post things on our church’s website and write my own personal blog on a weekly basis (this is it!). 

Tuesday I had spent hours with my mother in law, taking her to various doctors to try to alleviate a sudden onset of back pain. When I got home, the first thing I did (after greeting Tucker dog and letting him out) was go check in at my desk, to see what had been going on for the past few hours. Hmmmm, that’s funny, the computer was turned off. 

It was turned on when I left; my e-mail account, Facebook and Google maps were the only tabs that were running. What happened? Whatever! So I hit the on button. Nothing. I hit it again, holding it in longer. Nothing.  I told myself not to panic, that surely there was some simple explanation. I thought maybe the breaker flipped outside? There had been some electricians outside working on the new irrigation system. Nope. All was normal.

Had something just come unplugged? I crawled under the desk with a flashlight to check connections. All were in place. What could it be? Joel was out of town, so I figured I’d just wait until he got home to show me what to do, because he knows much about these things. But, you guessed it, he had no clue. Dang! 

For some reason, I am strangely calm about it. Although I still had a few necessary things on my list of things to do, I realized that if they didn’t get done, it would not be the end of the world. There are far more important things than this to get upset over. 

I’ve got to admit, in a way, not having my computer at my fingertips is freeing! I can’t do some things that I normally would fritter away my time doing. Using Joel’s computer, I did manage to cobble together a reasonable substitute for a weekly newsletter, and I also managed to post some website items and promote a few others on Facebook. With all that, plus my (sorta) smart phone, I will be ok in the short run.

My only lingering worry is whether or not my backup system worked, but until I can turn the darn thing on, there is no way of knowing. This has happened once before to me, and I lived to work another day. I can do it again if need be. 

So tomorrow, it’s off to the computer hospital we go. Fingers crossed that the next pewperson post will originate from my own computer that had a simple explanation for its contrariness. 

Pewperson will return on March 23.

In Sickness and in Health
March 2, 2012

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform… ~William Cowper (1731-1800) 

Oh, what fun we four sisters had recently at lunch, along with our Mom and my niece Catherine (daughter of sister Camille)! I had a gift certificate to a really great restaurant (that shall not be named here) for a lunch for six with a value of  “up to $150”, so we decided to splurge and go there to celebrate while Camille was visiting. 

Divided by six, that amounted to $25 per person, which is a LOT of money to spend at lunch. But nobody was keeping track of how much money anything cost; we just figured that if we went over that amount, we’d all settle up. 

First we ordered some appetizers to share (crab cakes and pork dumplings), and one sister got some soup. All ordered various entrees; mine was a seafood cobb salad. And then came the dessert sampler! UMMMM! Chocolate cake, bread pudding and bananas something or other (I hate bananas, so I didn’t try that one!). 

We got the bill, and incredibly enough, it came to exactly $149.95! I am not kidding. We were amazed! We sure got our money’s worth; all we owed was the gratuity. 

After I dropped Mom off, I went home and felt like a python which had just eaten its monthly meal. URK. Who can eat like that at lunch? I later asked Joel if I could beg off making dinner, as I simply could not face any more food after that enormous feast. 

Little did he know it would be three days before I would be able to make dinner for him again! 

The next morning, I still felt like a newly fed snake. It was as if my entire meal had just sat there fermenting in my stomach all night. I gamely tried to eat my normal cereal for breakfast, but I didn’t take two bites before I knew something was wrong. 

And then it started. Let’s just say that I had explosions from both ends and leave it at that. It continued for an entire day and into the next. I was totally exhausted, drained and unable to do anything but lie on the sofa or in bed. For whatever reason, I took my temperature, and it was slightly above 100 degrees. 

Food poisoning. A classic case. Ugh. 

Of course, life goes on, and there was Tucker to deal with, he with his own health issues that needed addressing. Joel had to go to work, so it was up to me to literally drag myself up and take Tucker outside, feed him, etc. I think that if we didn’t have a dog, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed for two days. Except to poop or barf.

 Then there was the fact that this was the week I had made a dentist appointment and an eye doctor appointment. I gamely made it to both, amazingly enough, without tossing cookies on anyone. I still can’t believe I did that. 

It was in the middle of Tuesday night that I realized that I was finally totally empty of all substance in my system. All the poison had been expelled one way or the other. Too bad I couldn’t have called my colonoscopy doctor and asked if he could fit me in the next day! Unfortunately, I’ll have to do that next month. Double Ugh. 

The next morning, after another attempt at eating breakfast (cream of wheat), I had one last barf, and all of a sudden, I finally felt normal. Weak, for sure, but not nauseated anymore. So I went and got my hair cut. Can you believe it? But I really needed it, and knew that if I didn’t go that day, I would have to wait another whole week. 

Other than that, I just flopped on the sofa and snuggled with the dog and cats, all of whom rallied around me. I think they know when things are not right. 

With some trepidation, that afternoon I nibbled on some crackers… and held them down. I sipped on some Sprite, and held it down. For supper, I had one warm soft flour tortilla with butter. And held it down. 

Weak and trembling for sure, but still totally disinterested in food, I slept like a rock that night, and woke up ravenous. But even better than that, I also woke up with no more RA aches and pains in my hands or feet!

I cannot explain it. But I’ll take it. And I’ll take that bowl of Cheerios and those bites of tuna for lunch and that baked chicken and brown rice for supper! And I’ll hold them down and revel in just being feeling normal again. 

And then I RAN a few mornings later! I didn’t run far, but I actually ran for the first time in two months. God sometimes works in mysterious ways, and just as a virus brought on my current RA flare up in December, another one has apparently removed it in February. 

 I’ll take it! Praise God, I’ll take it.