Archive for April, 2013

Fare Thee Well
April 18, 2013

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Fare thee well! and if for ever,

Still for ever, fare thee well. ~ Lord Byron

2013 has not been a very happy year thus far. Besides my mom’s various health travails, I have recently lost and mourned four amazing women, who were all well loved, very strong, totally capable, fearless, influential and memorable. Pat passed away in January, and the other three earlier this month. Attending three memorial services in the span of one week was hard.

Afterwards, it occurred to me that although I thought I knew them pretty well, I really didn’t. At their memorial services, I learned so much more about who they actually were. It was a lesson to me to take the time to get to know my friends better and appreciate them in the present.

Pat: I thought I was her favorite person ever. She always made me feel as if I were. Her nature was always affirming, welcoming and complimentary. Plus she loved my dog to pieces. She was a faithful usher at St. Luke’s, always smiling at her post, 85 years old, but you wouldn’t have known it. Pat was slim, trim, with a ramrod straight posture, and so energetic! I discovered that she took  on the responsibility of preparing the Sanctuary for worship early every Sunday morning, making sure every little detail was perfectly completed. She didn’t do it to make herself seem important. She just did it because it needed to be done. She did a LOT because it just needed to be done. And she was very happy to do it. I also learned that everybody thought they were her favorite person ever!

I aspire to be just like her.

Louise: My mom’s friend for decades, dating back to the forties, when they were classmates at Lanier Jr. High School, where they learned to play bridge and formed a club that lasted until death did they part. I knew she was a lot of fun and that my mom loved her to pieces, but I didn’t know that she was a masterful and charismatic English teacher at St. Thomas Episcopal for years. Why didn’t I know that? One of her former students spoke of the influence she had had on her life. All I can say is that I was so impressed when I learned of her passion and legacy.

I aspire to be just like her.

Carol: Our dear neighbor, a joyful, giving, laughing and loving person. When we moved to this street 17 years ago, she was so welcoming, and we have loved her ever since. She was a faithful and devoted friend to many; I was privileged to be one of them. She truly celebrated life, and we will miss her every day. Plus she (also) loved my dog to pieces. Did I mention that she was one of the “quiet people” (like Pat) who serve without expecting accolades? Not only did she sing in her church choir, but she also dedicated herself to the youth of the church, by being an MYF and choir camp counselor. And there was so much more mentioned by her family and one of the pastors. Why didn’t I know that?

I aspire to be just like her.

Skippy: The final memorial service last week was a joyful one in many respects. It was high church, but also very personal, because the officiants really knew and loved her. Skippy was the mom of two sons, good friends of ours whom we’ve known for years. She was hands down one of the most welcoming, gracious, hospitable and charming people in the world. The stories shared about her generous nature and thoughtful deeds humbled me. She was a woman of deep faith who loved her church greatly. In fact, after she had had a stroke and couldn’t speak, her family discovered she could sing, and so they all sang the old familiar hymns that she loved so much. I love that.

I aspire to be just like her.

My hope is for happier days ahead, but for now, I will cherish the memories of these four inspirational women and learn from their example how to live my life in a manner that may cause someone someday to aspire to be just like me.

Quite a challenge…

Pewperson will return on Friday, May 3

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Spring Cleaning
April 11, 2013

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Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day. ~Simone de Beauvoir

I can’t remember exactly when I first hired a housekeeper to help clean our house once a week. I know it was when I worked full time in Houston once Joel and I moved back after his law school years at SMU. Justa was wonderful; she had been working for our friends, and came to work for us, as well.

After Shannon was born and I wasn’t employed anymore, Justa continued to work for us and saved my sanity. Not having to take the time to scrub, clean, vacuum, dust, polish, etc. is a real luxury. I never take it for granted.

After we moved to west Houston, it was hard for Justa to travel that far, so I went and picked her up! She was that good, and I appreciated her so much.

Years went by, and sadly, Justa passed away. We were lost for awhile, but thanks to another recommendation, Maria came into our lives.

Once again, we were blessed with another wonderful woman who never ceases to amaze me with her ability to whisk through our house and clean it all within the span of one day.

When she is not here and I try to do it, I fail. I’m of the “take small steps to eventually get things done” school. She is a “Mrs. Clean” tornado.

Every Tuesday, the cleaning tornado does her thing, and I try to stay out of her way. It is always a blissful feeling to return to a clean house with fresh linens and clean towels, dust free furniture and vacuumed floors.

At some point, once again, I can’t remember exactly when (MY BAD), Maria began working for my mom on Wednesdays. Likewise, she is thorough there, and Mom’s apartment shines after Maria is done.

But lately, Mom has been in the hospital and is now in rehab, so there has been no need for Maria to clean Mom’s apartment. Sometimes she helps my sister on Wednesdays, but other times, she comes back to my house (two days in a row!) for special spring cleaning projects.

Wow! When Maria comes two days in a row, it’s like living in a hotel with fresh sheets and towels every day! But what I really am appreciating is having clean windows, outside doors and shutters. And a clean bathroom cabinet that hadn’t been cleaned since we moved in 17 years ago!

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She removed 3 shelves worth of “stuff”, cleaned the interior and replaced the shelf paper. That night, Joel and I tossed half of the “stuff”; Besides the numerous duplicate products (who needs 5 boxes of assorted bandaids?), there were many expired products (the oldest one I could find expired in 1991! Why did I even bring that when we moved to this house in 1996?). It was like an archeological dig.

The next Wednesday, she cleaned the insides of both refrigerators (last time that happened was five years ago when we lost our power after Hurricane Ike), the range hood, the microwave interior and the garage apartment. Then she and I moved the living room furniture and rotated the oriental carpet. After she vacuumed it, we put all the furniture back.

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In addition to the special spring cleaning tasks she has tackled, without being asked to, she also re-cleaned the cat box, re-emptied the trash cans, re-made the bed, dusted the blinds, and straightened up Joel’s study’s “piling system”.

Next up is the biggest project: remove furniture and small rugs from the brick floors, vacuum and damp mop, then buff the brick with a sealer… and then put everything back. It is a mammoth task, and it’s long overdue!

I could really get used to having Maria come twice a week. But honestly, my most ardent wish is that Mom will return to her apartment soon and that Maria will return to helping her each Wednesday.

Counting the days!!

The Pet Minister
April 4, 2013

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Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer. ~ Dean Koontz

Before Tucker’s time, we had two other Shelties (Shadow and Bailey) who were “official” pet ministers at St. Luke’s. We’d go visit the patrons of what was then called “The Seniors Place” (now called “The Amazing Place”), a day care facility for Alzheimer’s patients. The dogs would visit with each person, enjoy lots of petting, and do silly tricks to make everyone laugh.

However, Shadow passed away in 2010, and then Bailey seven months later, and I haven’t been back to the Amazing Place since then.

I gave some thought to bringing Tucker to visit there, but after inquiring, I learned that the pet ministry team had disbanded, so there was no point in starting up again.

But Tucker has his own little ministry. It’s called the “Happy Dance Ministry” and he shares it with anyone who is special to him. While out walking, he’ll stop when people approach and wait for them to notice him. If they do and make a fuss over what a pretty dog he is, well then, he’ll dance for them. And they laugh and continue on with a smile on their faces.

We have two special neighbors whom all our dogs have loved. They are best friends and would ride their bikes together just about every morning. In particular Bailey loved J, and whenever we’d see them, he’d go straight for her. He’d always give C a cursory hello, but J was his favorite.

Now Tucker likes C best. When we would see them from afar, I’d say, “Look Tucker, here come your friends!” And he’d pick up the pace, dancing furiously all the way until we met up with them. They’d stop their bikes and give him a good loving, and if a dog could beam with pleasure, this one would!

I think it warmed C’s heart that Tucker would go to her first. She is special to him, and vice versa.

So it was quite a devastating blow to learn that C now has an inoperable, terminal cancer diagnosis. She had had a bout of cancer five years ago, but had been doing fine up until recently. This resurgence came on very suddenly, and now she is comfortable in hospice care at her home.

I asked J what I could do (besides bring food), and wondered if I might bring Tucker to visit her. She asked C if she’d like that, and she nodded and smiled.

So this week, Tucker and I went to see his favorite friend. I was a little anxious about how he would behave in a new place, thinking that he might not recognize her in a different setting as opposed to being outside, and definitely not understand what her situation was.

Her husband explained that she would experience brief moments of awareness before she would slip back into unconsciousness. So I picked Tucker up and held him close to C’s face, as her husband gently woke her up. Her eyes opened, and I said, “I’ve brought Tucker to see you.” She looked over at him and just beamed! Then she reached out her hands and took one of his paws in one and buried the other one in his ruff. It was one of the most touching things I have ever witnessed.

Bless Tucker’s little doggie heart, he didn’t struggle or pull back. My arms were getting tired of holding him up, but we persevered. Finally, C’s eyes slowly shut again and her grip loosened. It was time to leave.

We visited with family members for awhile afterwards and then headed for home. I was so relieved that Tucker had behaved perfectly and so grateful that C had obviously been so happy to see him. I think Tucker knew exactly what her situation was and acted accordingly.

In his own way, he ministered to her. And I was very proud of him.