Saturday, March 11, 2017

That Perfect Mom and Max Trip

Before all my surgeries, I loved driving.  Just about anywhere.  Just about anytime.  Trips large and small are things of joy for me.  I love the dreamy anticipation of reaching the destination while driving there, the pure joy in living in the moment once I've arrived at my desired place, and then having the time to quietly reflect on the memory just made in the car on the way back.  How could I not love that kind of magic?  It is the purest form of combined experience and reflection all rolled up into one.  My son, Max, and I used to take "Mom and Max Trips" a lot before I had all these surgeries that have prevented me from driving myself places for far too long now.  Every time we went somewhere, just the two of us, we announced that we were taking a Mom and Max Trip and reveled in the opportunity to bond for a while without anyone else.  I've begun the tentative (and not fearless) process of driving myself places, alone, again as of a few months ago.  I cried the first time I did it, so overwhelmed by the experience of that independence and freedom again.  I still don't venture out too far alone because my muscles that keep me upright get taxed very easily, and sitting for long periods without being able to recline is still way harder than I'd like.  I've written about that before, so I won't belabor it here.  But I am improving, and I'm able to do more and more all the time.  I drive to work downtown, to doctor's appointments, and to physical therapy alone now with good frequency, which I call a gigantic victory and a huge step in the right direction. 

This morning, something beautiful happened in a moment that for most people would risk being simply mundane.  You see, this morning, we were out of coffee.  Which could have been a bummer or an annoyance.  But it wasn't.  There's a Starbucks a little over a mile from my house, so I decided to make a run to Starbucks to fulfill my selfish need.  Plus I have had a Starbucks gift card in my wallet for quite a while that needed using.  So I threw on some shoes and a bra, tamed my ridiculously large curly mop of hair a tiny bit, and kept on my PJs and decided it was time.  Time for a Mom and Max Trip.  It was a short trip, but I hoped he would be excited, not really about the hot chocolate I was going to buy him, but about the mere happening of a Mom and Max Trip.  And he was.  He was literally jumping for joy.  He didn't want me to take Dad's car, even though it was first out in the driveway.  Nope.  He wanted to ride in Mom's car because that's the car we always used for Mom and Max Trips.  So we backed out the other car and took mine.  We rolled the windows down, and I put on my sunglasses and some upbeat Saturday morning music.  On the way to Starbucks, he recounted to me his memories of prior Mom and Max trips, especially the ones where I took him to swimming lessons at the Y when Eva was a baby, which is when he discovered he loved Somebody I Used to Know by Gotye, which is still his very favorite song.  At Starbucks, I let him take off his seatbelt and carefully procure the cups from the drive-through window as he stood leaning out the back window.  When we'd secured everything in cup holders (without spilling anything, thankfully, because I only told him about five times to be so careful because they were sooo hot), and he was buckled up again, on our way home, he said this:  "Mom, I want to tell you something.  I love you more than video games.  And you know how much I love video games."  The whole way home, we talked about how much we loved each other (it's about a five minute drive, but a very precious five minutes, obviously).  And he said as we neared our house, "Mom, I will always want to take Mom and Max Trips with you.  Every time you ever ask me if I want to take a Mom and Max trip, do you know what I'll say?  YES!"  I, too, will always and forever want to take Mom and Max Trips.  And I wanted to write this all down to document it so I can remind him when he is a stinky teenager and I ask him to go somewhere with me and he would rather hang out with his stinky friends or his girlfriend (who I'm sure will be lovely) that he said he would always say YES to Mom and Max Trips.  But somehow, despite the teenage years, which will be here before I know it, I have a feeling I won't have to remind him.

 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

That Perfect Dream State


I attempted to write down everything I could recall of the dream I had this morning just before waking instead of letting it fade quickly, as I usually do, before my day begins. Here goes....

I was trying out for this Fluevog film/variety show of some kind. I was a finalist with 5 other interesting, odd folks. We chatted a bit in a small room and then began wandering around. Then somehow, briefly, my kids were in it instead of me, but that didn't last long. Then when I was back in the show instead of my kids, I kept sneaking off to smoke cigarettes (which I haven't done in many years, which was also true in the dream, but I couldn't stop myself despite knowing I was supposed to stay on set). I kept sneaking off to a bistro place that was full of oddities and antique junk - kind of like this old weird kind of a mall place with a bumpy brown brick floor in my old hometown (which was called MacArthur Village, but which doesn't exist anymore), but it was way more filled with stuff (so much you could barely get through, like an upscale flea market) and creepier - like if that old space had become an overwhelming junk boutique. And there were French doors and patios off this one part, where I kept trying to get, that felt like New Orleans, but I knew it was Alexandria.  And that part was upstairs, and there was a creepy elevator I had to use because I was using my old platform walker thing to get around again (the one I used right after hip surgeries), so I couldn't use the stairs. And there was an old sales lady in a red suit with a sparkly brooch, who moved slowly but who had long manicured nails, who kept trying to call the elevator for me, and it didn't ever come when you wanted it, and when it did come, it was slow and you weren't sure if it would even move or if it would trap you in. But I was late getting back to tryouts and managed to get into the elevator, but I accidentally left my platform walker outside of the elevator doors upstairs. I didn't have it in me to go back through the ordeal of the elevator and go back to get the walker once I made it to the first floor because there were a few fat flying spiders in the elevator that kept attacking me, and one got caught in my big curly hair for a moment which freaked me out. So I managed to limp around the first floor and find a cane amid all the weird junk in that place and hobbled myself back to the Fluevog tryouts. When I got back there, I found there was this carpet-like thick fake snow everywhere (tons of it - it looked fake but tranquil), and we were about to have some fancy esoteric photographer do a photo shoot of us each individually. And then we were going to have to do a short stand-up monologue of some kind after that, and I had no idea what I was going to say. But I convinced myself that surely I could think of something interesting to say on the spot. Then the guy in charge started in trying to tell us all the important stuff we needed to know, and this other finalist guy who looked like TJ Miller wouldn't stop loudly talking to me and showing me his iPad, interrupting the important guy, and he wasn't getting my eye-dagger hints to shut up. The director guy got mad at him, and I backed away to distance myself from the trouble. Then we were back to waiting on the photographer guy, and it was dark now with spotlight-lit areas and I started playing with the snow blanket stuff they had spread out for the photo shoot - even covering whole cars and large swaths of land - and then I accidentally ripped it while rubbing it around to see how thick it was, so I mushed it back together to pretend I hadn't done anything, and I walked into a Fluevog store that was part of the set somehow, and I tried some pretty shoes, with diamond-shaped designs in the leather, on my hands. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

That Perfect Road Trip


This perfect road trip hasn't actually happened yet. But I've learned that the reality you want in life doesn't ever come unless you dream it first. And so I am dreaming.

***
 
The window buzzes quietly as it glides down into its slender compartment in the car door and settles down in there with a gentle thump. 

I wonder how many trees there are in these stretches of pine that seem to roll on and on for miles. From above, I’ve seen that the seemingly vast forests surrounding these roads actually only just line them, maybe only ten or twenty jaggedy rows deep. I was disappointed the first time I flew in an airplane and saw that. Can wild animals live in such a shallow arboreal home? I can’t imagine anything interesting living in a fake forest. Why do we even have these? Who plants them? Maybe they were actual forests once upon a time and have been pruned this close to the roads to make room for farmland plots. I think this is probably the case. But I pretend anyway that I am in a deep piney jungle, and a feeling of childlike safety envelops me.

My hair whips my neck over and over with each wind gust I have quietly invited into my car through the open window. It’s amazing how bugs smack and bleed on the windshield without sneaking in through the side window, like a giant mouth open wide. I’m thankful for that. I hate getting a bug in my hair. Or worse, my mouth.

It is a comfortable tumult, this air whirling through the car all around me, though I know there is probably poison from the pollution it carries out on this highway from all the behemoth rigs growling down the road, which bully all the rest of us in our person-carrying cars, and from the refineries in the distance, and the burning piles of trash in rural yards scattered on the landscape here and there, but which only seem to exist down here in the deep south on these lonesome highways. Do people burn trash everywhere? Or just in the nearly empty southern non-cities where there’s nowhere else for it to go and no one who will pick it up and take it any place else? At least fire is cheap, I suppose. Landfills aren’t. At least morally.

Anyway, aren’t so many things that fill us with joy actually killing us slowly? Killing us slowly is better than killing us quickly. We all have an expiration date, ultimately. I wish I could know mine but am also grateful I cannot know. And I wish wishes could stop time. Could freeze moments. Ones like this. Where the wind hugs me, where a stunningly shadowy voice calling through the speakers in a private duet with a gentle guitar burrows straight into my heart and wakes up my belly with a welcome pang, and the road lays itself out before me – calling me and gifting me with a safe path to anywhere I want to go.

I am leaving the window down. I take a swig of still warm coffee, pull my sweater into my lap, and flip on the seat heater to warm me as the cool front begins to settle in. It’s a wilder wind now that plays with my hair more aggressively as it becomes colder. And it stings my cheeks and makes my nose run a little. Harsh, but in the most beautiful way.

I settle into my seat, feeling it against my body, aware mostly of the vibrations of this car flying along on the pavement. It is supporting me, and I feel it there under me, but it doesn’t hurt. My right foot is gently pressing the gas pedal as I pass the car that just merged into the right-hand lane after clogging up the left-hand lane before it finally got over, and my left foot is just resting, knee bent freely, leaning against the comforting interior wall of the car door. I remember when cold air like this would make my muscles scream. But right now, my muscles feel lazy despite the chill. And I am grateful.

I should buy some beef jerky next time I stop. It hurts my jaw if I chew too much of it, but my sentimental nostalgia yearns for it here on the open highway. And it will probably make my stomach hurt. I probably won’t care.

I never thought I would get to do this again.

They ripped open my hips. That’s when I really fell from grace. Or fell from life but found grace in the end. Twice on the left side, and once on the right side. I paid good money for them to slice into me. I was so broken. I used to drive a twelve minute surface street route home from work and was certain I was dying this time, so many times, on that otherwise repetitive drive. I pulled over more days than I want to admit, succumbing to the dizziness that was overtaking my brain as it tried its best to shut out the pain filling my body, like a hot liquid lava spreading and leaving burned and cracking surfaces, but inside me, in its wake. I suppose the passing out from pain phenomenon is an evolutionary mechanism we have developed so that our brains don’t fry like an overheated motherboard while trying to survive intense pain. I wonder if animals other than humans experience this sensation.

I learned my left hip was dislocating every, single, fucking time I sat. At least that explained it. I’m not overreacting. Or exaggerating. The surgeon explicitly told me that after he’d sealed me back up after the first hip surgery and left me with three scars littering the front of my thigh where he had sliced into me. He was shocked it was so bad and unstable in there. The doctor drew an exclamation mark after he wrote the word “Instability” on the drawing he had made of my hip to show what he had found during surgery. I wasn’t surprised at all. But I was relieved there was a legitimate reason I had become so incapable of even performing the mere act of sitting, which meant I also couldn’t do the higher level things I’ve been trained to do, and had gotten so good at over the years, either. And yet I welcomed the concrete news that the cause was mechanical and not me losing my mind.

After many months of physical therapy and slow, slow healing after surgery – slower than the slowest molasses dripping, slower than the laziest snail – my left hip stopped dislocating. But then I had to allow them to cut into me again, not too many months later, this time to repair a tear in my right hip that happened when I was forced to over-rely on my right leg when my left one had become so fully and entirely dilapidated. So I got a brand new matching set of three scars scattered on the front of my right thigh when they sliced into that one as well.

But then, despite a year of hip surgeries and recoveries from those operations, after having already endured many tortuous months of diagnosing and conservative hip treatment (after four previous shoulder surgeries I won’t even let my mind acknowledge right now), I still couldn’t sit. Although I could stand again without feeling like my torso would slide off of my pelvis, a miraculous development to be sure, the intense pain and feeling of needing to pass out just from sitting did not leave me. My pelvis felt like it was ripping itself apart. Turns out it was. My doctor looked me in the eye and said it isn’t cancer, but what most people won’t understand is that what you’re going through is kind of like that. This is big, he said. Fuck, I thought.

After more months of tests, manipulations, oohs and ahs from interns and residents watching intently but with a cold astuteness as I lay on tables while doctors manipulated my leg around in the air in various positions as they examined my dysfunction, and waiting for a surgery date, I underwent a femoral derorational osteotomy on my left side. Much bigger scar this time. A big slice was made through my muscles in the back of my hip. Through this incision, my femur was sawed all the way through, and the top of it was rotated about twenty degrees from where it had been my whole life, and then reattached to the rest of the bone – its other half – with a titanium rifle-barrel-like rod shoved into it and now running the entire length of my thigh, with screws at my knee and hip to hold the rod in place. I’m told I shouldn’t set off metal detectors. I was also told I was lucky they know how to fix this problem nowadays. People with my hip rotational problem used to have back surgeries, knee surgeries, and hip replacements after their hips imposed far-reaching destruction on distant body parts, and a lifetime of pain pills. At least I have a shot at avoiding that.

All the muscles that attach to my pelvis and femur finally stopped feeling like they were a wrap dress tangled and being pulled with immense and wrong tension while strung up on a hanger, hampering and hindering my movement and making me want to just sleep and drug away the pain. Even though I used to be the girl who refused to even take ibuprofen. I hate taking drugs. I cannot count how many days I lost. How much of myself I lost. But, after the osteotomy, a peace settled into my muscles that had been at war for years. But they were so weak after the long, invisible battle. Shaky and fragile. And there was so much strengthening to be done. And my own body scared me to my core. The thing holding my very soul and all my potential, and with it, my identity, the very thing tying my me to this earthly world and those I love, threatened to be my unraveling on the deepest level. Deeper than any heartbreak I’d ever felt, deeper than any other fear that had ever shaken me. And surgery to repair such physical brokenness, even when it works (and sometimes, it doesn’t), does not erase the fear that builds up over years of bodily failure once it embeds into your psyche. Not quickly anyway.

But I slowly gained strength. After the bleeding, the limping, the swelling, the dizzying drugs, the endless hours not being able to sit or roll over or, at first, to get up at all to even pee… after entirely too many empty moments, tears of frustration, and hours of physical therapy yet again, I began to make progress. I ate calcium tablets with the pain pills, wishing the bone to heal. I was warmed by love letters, calls, and trinkets from friends. Please, please let it be soon. I need a miracle.

I tried not to ask Why Me? But I did sometimes. That never helped. When I did, I just resented my disabilities more and more, while I knew I needed to just be with it and let it exist. Fighting it only hurt me more. I consciously tried to slow my breath and my heart, a lot. Tried to grab calm from the air and swallow it whole. But that was a skill that I took years to learn. And I still forget it sometimes when I need it most. I can be really fucking bull-headed sometimes. I love efficiency too much. And achievement too much. But less now. Out of necessity.

Sometimes I pretend to smoke an imaginary cigarette, and by some miracle, I am able to force more air, with a strange ease, into my lungs. Funny how such a poisonous habit from my youth, abandoned so many years ago, helps me now when I feel too anxious to consciously breathe properly.

And I thought so many times that I would never drive again. Not alone anyway. I’ve been stuck before. I’ve thought I was at my end too many times. I developed a deep-seated fear of a thing I once loved. In my youth, I adored road trips. Three to four, or even more, hours of my time in a car seemed a luxury – a music-filled, daydream-wrapped journey to somewhere new, somewhere exciting, somewhere I longed to visit. I always loved the drive. But as my stamina left me, in my thirties no less, my love of the road became tortuous. What if I got stranded somewhere because I couldn’t go on and my body finally decided to try to give all the way out in some unpredictable place? Who would save me? Or would it just be the end? I don’t want to end with a whimper, but I was certain sometimes I just would.

But here I am. Wheels spinning, comfortably hitting seventy. Humming along. Flocks of birds changing direction in a symmetrical dance in the vast sky above me.

And, of course, I notice the bored, road-weary expressions on the faces of all the other drivers I pass who appear to lack the capacity to fathom how special, how wonderful, how amazing it is to drive anywhere you fucking want. I cry just a little, feeling sorry for myself for all the years I couldn’t do this. Swells of emotion always make me cry. Always have. Maybe it’s raining somewhere now because of it. I missed feeling like this, this free, for so long. I dreamed of taking road trips again. I wished on stars for the ability to just go anywhere while not wondering if I would make it there.

And here I am driving. Reveling. Relishing. Just breathing instead of hurting. Not even having to pretend to smoke or to convince myself I’ll survive this moment, too. I already know I will.  





Monday, July 25, 2016

That Perfect Ennui

I remember my sophomore year of high school being assigned the task of drafting an essay on a word. I was to write a paper detailing the etymology of a single word. What I don't recall is how I decided upon the term on which I would write, but I do recall being given the freedom to choose any word I liked. The word I chose was this:

ennui

Webster's defines it as lack of spirit, enthusiasm, or interest; a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction. The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that it was derived in the 1660's as a French word in English and was nativized in1758 from French ennui, from Old French enui, or "annoyance" (13c.). And Google concurs that it arrived mid-18th century to French, from Latin mihi in odio est "it is hateful to me." 

I can tell you this. High-School-Sophomore-Me had no inkling of how apropos that word choice would be as it floats to and bobs on the surface of my mind, arising from my depths, in recent days and very much so today.

Those of you who know me -- I mean really know me -- would never question that I possess as strong of a spirit as there is.  I persist beyond comprehension at tasks and goals, frequently confounding even the hardest workers I know.  I dream every night -- vividly.  I create all the time.  I write, I read, I draw.  I love learning and discovering and reaching deep down more than anything.  I love achieving new things; learning and mastering new skills; reaching new heights; connecting with kindred spirits; finding new things to smile about; discovering what stirs my soul and opens my eyes afresh.  I love digging in and conquering whatever it is to which I set my mind. And I am so grateful for the love and gifts I have had throughout my entire life.

But I feel the deepest dissatisfaction, the most dreaded lack of spirit -- a perfect sort of ennui -- stemming from these cracks in my body, my vessel, that undermine my plans, that inject chaos into my dreams, and that lead people to leave me in insufferable silence entirely too frequently for simply a lack of knowing what to say to me as my body fails the me they (and I) expect me to be.

I have so far endured six surgeries. I like to think that number should have been three rather than six but for an incompetent surgeon masquerading as an esteemed professional who first operated on my left shoulder. Not knowing better, I let him re-repair it when I should have moved on to a different surgeon (which I ultimately did).  But that is neither here nor there.  To date, the number is six.  Four surgeries on my left shoulder. One on my left hip. One on my right hip.  All "minimally invasive" arthroscopic surgeries. And years and years of physical therapy.

I should be on my way now. I should be on the up and up now. I should be highly successful by now. I should be able to walk down the street by now. I should be able to sit in a regular chair by now. But I'm not.  And I can't.  I have worked so damn hard to get where I am, and my body is spoiling it. People have been so patient, hoping for the best, but I can feel the weight of the disappointment that I'm not better yet from everyone as the years pass and I am not at my peak, as expected. Worse yet, I can feel that disappointment coming from within. 

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my hip doctor along with a new hip doctor - a hip trauma specialist. My team is supposed to set in motion the plan for me, which I'm told will be what's called a femoral derotational osteotomy on my left hip.  Try saying that three times fast.  The surgery I'm advised is on the horizon, the femoral derotational osteotomy, will consist of intentionally breaking my femur and reattaching the top of it to realign the femoral head so that it actually, for once in my life, fits into my hip socket.  I'm told this will resolve my back pain, will allow me to walk normally again, and afford me the pleasure of sitting again.  (Don't ever take for granted the pure fucking joy of sitting.)  The surgery I had on it a year ago stopped my left hip from dislocating, which it was apparently doing every time I sat, and probably many other times, too.  The surgery stabilized the joint in many ways.  I can balance on my left leg now, even with my eyes closed, whereas before the surgery I felt like my torso would literally slide off of my pelvis if I even shifted weight to my left hip while standing if it weren't for the skin and other tissues fighting to keep me in one piece.  Before that surgery, I'd been told the minimally invasive procedure on that hip would bring my hip's grade up from a low F to a B or a C.  For someone who is still pissed about the three Bs she earned in undergrad that kept her from having all As, and who is still a little disappointed at graduating fourth in my law school class instead of first, a B or C grade for my hip sounded pretty great, all things considered.  It wouldn't be perfect, but we hoped it would be livable. 

But it isn't. 

Now my femur, being about twenty degrees rotated from where it should be (and it's likely always been this way, slowly wreaking havoc as I continue to move through my life) is yanking my pelvis out of alignment when I sit, and all the dysfunction is taxing my abdominal and back core muscles so much, I have trouble standing on top of the trouble I have sitting.  This new impending surgery is not minimally invasive like the others.  I am guessing (and will learn more tomorrow) that, rather than the puncture type scars that litter my left shoulder (thirteen, in all) and both thighs (three on each leg), I will have a long incision along my outer left hip somewhere so the surgeon can get to the femur he has to break and reattach.  I don't care so much about the scars anymore, I just want normal life back. Granted, normal used to be exceptional, so I may be asking too much. I probably am. But I have always asked for too much so that I could be at least satisfied with the returns I get, even if they aren't as high as I had hoped.

Only one month before my left hip surgery, when I could hardly stand, in June of 2015, I was awarded the Romina L. Mulloy-Bossio Achievement Award - Outstanding Young Bankruptcy Lawyer, awarded by the State Bar of Texas.  And it wasn't a pity award - hardly anyone knew I could barely stand (I hid it that well until I couldn't stand, or even drive myself home one day).  The past two years in a row I have been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star. I have taken my show on the road and have spoken at many conferences in Texas and Louisiana and have now published three law review articles. And all this after earning four degrees - two undergraduate degrees, a graduate degree, and a doctorate.  And while raising two amazing children.  And making artwork.  And being active with leadership roles in the arts community in Dallas.  I am so proud of what I have accomplished.  

But I did not get this far to only get this far.

That last line sounded like my usual optimism and gumption peeking through the ennui that has settled in today. I think I am just incredibly trepidatious about the surgical fate that tomorrow will officially set into motion. I cannot yet know precisely what the doctors will advise me tomorrow or what recovery from this surgery will be like.  However, I anticipate it will be rougher than the minimally invasive ones I've endured to date. Which were no walk in the park, of course.  It will test and strain everything.  Again.

I just hope that those in the legal and arts communities with whom I have close relationships will not give up on me. And I hope that my kids will get to have a Mom back who can run (or even walk) with them at the park again (it's a good thing I like drawing, reading, and board games so we can at least do those things together right now).  And I hope I can finally fucking stop disappointing those I love with all my frailty and struggles to get my vessel back in some semi-functional condition.

I want so deeply to have high hopes about the femoral derotational osteotomy.  It sounds like it should solve the mechanical dysfunction that keeps causing my body to feel like a wrap dress tangled up in itself, trying desperately to stay on its hanger. But I've been hopeful before and have been disappointed too many times to be naive now.  But I am not angry.  I was angry.  I was very angry some time ago. I wondered why I was so afflicted. I even wondered who had a voodoo doll of me somewhere and how I could possibly apologize for whatever it was I did so I could make all the pain stop and just get back to business. Maybe I secretly believed in karma. But I've grown past all that. I am calm. I acknowledge where and who I am. But just because I acknowledge my limitations, that doesn't make me accept less than I want from my self: this self that I have worked on so diligently for thirty-nine years.

It's hard to come so far and fear not getting as far as I dreamed.  It's hard to disappoint people who have come to rely on my skills and prowess.  It's hard to disappoint those I love. Again and again, despite every fiber of my being wishing wishing wishing to be better.  The confluence of all those disappointments, with a new surgery circling like a treacherous cyclone on my path ahead, creates a fog of ennui that sits heavy over most everything in this moment. Just like with fog on a highway, there are breaks in it, thankfully. But sometimes it's so thick you just have to pull over. I don't always feel like this. But today, I can't help but pull over for a while as I wait, and hope, for it to dissipate.







Saturday, July 9, 2016

That Perfect Wisdom

When I was a mere seventeen years old, I resided in the land of soul searching. I was as passionate and inspired as a young woman could possibly be. I wanted to try and learn everything I could. I was a seeker of wonder, a seeker of experience, a seeker of love.  I didn't want to miss a thing that would fill my mind with new perspectives and thoughts and envelop my body with new sensations and feelings. And, indeed, I found so much wonder, experience, and love on my journey. That woman amazes me to this day, and I am deeply pleased she is a part of the woman I have become.

But I could not have been so free and open to experience and learning, could not have been so passionate about finding myself and my place in the world, without my father.  He is, to this day, the wisest person I know.  It's perfectly fitting that it is he who gets to wear the black robe in the federal courthouse in my hometown these days.

That seventeen-year-old me wrote my Dad a letter.  Let that sink in.  That seventeen-year-old angst-filled, driven, passionate, artistic, independent, rebellious me wrote my Dad--who was then a well-respected lawyer like I am today--a letter.  Trust me when I say there was some serious angst or disagreement that drove the letter.  When I need to say the most important things, I frequently find I can't say them out loud.  I turn to writing to articulate with precision the things that matter most.  And I did then.  My memory of the letter I wrote isn't as clear as I wish it was, so I am not sure if it was about religion or my then-boyfriend or something else, but I do know we must have been in conflict about something that burned in my soul, and I felt I needed to communicate something momentous to him, or it would not have been in writing.  What I do remember is that in the letter, I made reference to a song by Tori Amos called Winter.  Here are the lyrics:

Snow can wait
I forgot my mittens
Wipe my nose
Get my new boots on
I get a little warm in my heart
When I think of winter
I put my hand in my father's glove
I run off
Where the drifts get deeper
Sleeping beauty trips me with a frown
I hear a voice
"You must learn to stand up for yourself
Cause I can't always be around"
He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

Boys get discovered as winter melts
Flowers competing for the sun
Years go by and I'm here still waiting
Withering where some snowman was
Mirror mirror where's the crystal palace
But I only can see myself
Skating around the truth who I am
But I know dad the ice is getting thin

When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

Hair is grey
And the fires are burning
So many dreams
On the shelf
You say I wanted you to be proud of me
I always wanted that myself

He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses have gone ahead
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change
My dear

I am now a parent.  I cannot imagine the head-to-head heartfelt disagreements I will surely one day have with my own children when they are seventeen and doing things of which I disapprove or which scare me.  But I know this.  I want to be like my father when that happens.  My father could have gotten angry, could have stood his ground, could have said I was wrong for whatever it was I was feeling or doing.  Though I had been a debater in high school, my father was a lawyer.  He could have bested me with his experience and inherent authority.  But the wisdom he embodies won out over all those possibilities.  Instead of anything hurtful or authoritarian in response to my letter, what he did was this.  He bought me a copy of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.  He wrote the following inscription inside:


And here's what page 54-55 says:


Instead of imposing any other view on mine, my Dad tenderly acknowledged my searching and encouraged me to find my truth.  My soul.  That's a hard message to gift to your child who is growing into adulthood and may be varying from a path you might choose for her if only you could. That, my friends, is love.  That, my friends, is wisdom.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

That Perfect Love

Despite the miles, they just know you need a little compassion on a rough day they didn't even consciously know was rough for you.  They wake you up with your coffee just the way you like it and even put it in one of your favorite mugs.  They remember the names of the first boys you ever had a crush on and the names of the few you actually loved.  They actually know you can (and love to) sing despite your modesty.  They know the little things mean Everything.  They look at weird bumps in your mouth or other places you can't see on your own very well... when you ask them to just to reassure you that you are okay.  They fix your friend's broken stuff.  They love how you nerd out.  Their happiness makes you happier than your own.  Watching them do what they do best thrills you.  They want to know what you think about things that they don't yet understand.  They knew it just by your laughter.  They tell you that you are the best Mom in the whole entire world, out of nowhere while playing a video game in which you thought they were one hundred percent absorbed -- apparently not.  They recognize where you belong.  They sit in the hospital with you.  They somehow believe that you're the awesome one when it's clear that they are the awesome one.  They demand that you don't give up just when you were thinking maybe you should.  They tell you they've been thinking about you and that you probably felt it.  They know your Pictionary drawing from a couple of lines.  They would rather sit by you than anyone else.  They see themselves in you.  You are the one they need to be with them at the funeral.  They are thinking the same thing as you and tell you so with just a look, and you both, and only you both, understand.  They know you never lie when it matters.  They answer your questions about what their favorite things are even when they don't want to, just to make you happy.  They appear in your dreams, and you wonder if you appeared in theirs the same night by some mysterious dream power.  They send inappropriate texts with reckless abandon and remember the best Cards Against Humanity jokes.  That damn song makes them cry, too.  They give you back scratches and play with your hair.  They give you something they love for you to keep.  They share their creations with you without fear of being criticized (never in a million years).  Seeing them love their children makes you feel warm inside.  They tell you that you have the right grey matter.  They make you breakfast when they don't give a flying fuck about eating breakfast themselves.  They include knowing undertones in their word choice when they write to you.  They hug you with words.  They give you nicknames.  Their Moms love you and believe in you.  They keep the art you made them hanging up in their house.  They want to know what song inspires you this week.  They already have some of the most important old favorite songs in common with you.  They can cry in front of you anytime for any reason, which will make you cry, too.  It wouldn't feel right if they didn't show up.  They read the book just because you loved it, which they know means they will love it, too.  They pee in front of you without thinking about it at all.  They sincerely believe you are amazing.  They already know where the forks and the extra toilet paper in your house are.  They send you surprise packages and letters telling you that you are their hero, and mean it.  They tell you that you are the best daughter on the planet.  They genuinely want you to have inescapable happiness.  They play with your kids but not because they usually like to play with kids.  They bring over donuts in their clothes from last night.  They tell you they'd do it all over again just to see you feel good.  They watch Girls with you (again).  They entrust you with the knowledge of their childhood traumas that have broken parts of them, and you love them even more for trusting you and for being honest and real with you.  They tell you that you are stronger than the ages, and you believe it.  They scratch the itchy spot you can't reach.  They laugh at all your jokes, and they inspire you to be funny even when stuff hurts.  They think of you when that song comes on.  They dream of traveling somewhere with you.  They aren't embarrassed to be seen with you when you have a walker.  They give you extra kisses.  They stay on the line when you really need them to.  They recognize what is so special about you -- you know, the stuff you secretly think is special about yourself but wait quietly for someone else to finally notice and appreciate.  They wonder what you are doing right now.  They like sitting in the same room with you even when no one is talking.  They always loved you, never forgot you, and in their youth, they had the world, because of you. They inspire you to be better.  They just know you miss them without you even saying it.  Better yet, they know you love them no matter what because they KNOW you. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

That Perfect God-Shaped Hole

I just finished reading God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo.  To be more precise, I just finished wiping away tears that fell helplessly down my face after reading God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo.  I started it yesterday, had it running in the back of my mind all day at work today, and then could not put it down until I finished it just now.  I have a pit in my stomach--a glorious, gnawing pit in my stomach.  I complain frequently, mostly to myself, that I never meet people who are real enough, feel enough, appreciate enough, realize enough, dig deep enough or who see how those things are Everything to me.  With this book, I felt like I met people I have been longing to meet or to remember from my past, in this life or some other.  I might be forced to begin re-reading it really soon just to re-absorb the feelings it aroused in me, even though I think it did leave me with a God-shaped hole, or reminded me of one I already have.  Thank you, Tiffanie DeBartolo for letting such a beautiful story pour out of you.  Thank you for stirring up shards and loves and wisps inside of me that needed prodding.  Life is bigger and more glorious than we remember to give it credit for on most days, especially Wednesdays.  Who thinks to appreciate the really important subtle things on Wednesdays?  But this.  This book is memorable.  This particular Wednesday is now very special.  I want to scream to someone that they must read it.  Now.  But I won't scream it anywhere to anyone.  I'll just quietly put it here, where words are King.  And maybe those who should read it will read this and then they will.


Friday, March 18, 2016

That Perfect Me

How is it possible to be nothing but me and yet miss me so terribly?  Seven years and six shoulder and hip surgeries later, I only partly recognize myself.  The confident, independent woman I became through years of love, encouragement, support, and studying is still around... somewhere.  She must be.  But where did she go?  Maybe that old trunk I stuffed away in the attic but can't get to now because of all the damn stairs.  Maybe under the bed in that box of old journals and sketchbooks.  Maybe I left her tromping around in the greenness of Ireland.  Or on that daunting but dominated mountaintop in Big Bend National Park.  Or in one of many libraries I spent so many hours in.  Or in scattered pieces in each of the homes I've left behind.  Or in that first doctor's office when things started to go wrong.  Or in the office of the one doctor who botched a surgery and could not bring himself to admit it.  I was so strong.  Stronger than the ages, I was once told.  I reveled in my strength.  I never questioned it.  Until I did.  New moments have warped the steel girl I was.  That perfect me.  But does perfection consist solely of confidence, strength, and independence of body?  Dare I adjudicate my old self "perfect" for possessing those things I lack now?  For about five years, I think I believed that, at least when it came to how I saw myself.  I held myself to the highest standards, never failing, always exceeding expectations.  Never and Always.  As my body fell apart, it scared me to my core, and I incessantly grieved who I was becoming and who I was failing to be; struggling, ripping at the seams, to fight this decrepit yet young person into whom I was transforming against my will.  And then a couple of years ago, I stopped.  And remembered to breathe.  I changed.  I finally let myself be the person I am, scars and all.  Old and new.  I quit the me struggle and just focused on checking things off of lists in the hopes that when I check off enough of them, I'll escape the nightmare -- getting all the broken parts fixed, and fixed right by amazing doctors (check); letting myself rest when I need it (check (though this is way harder than I would have thought)); riding my stationary bike 30 minutes a day, five days a week (on the days I don't have physical therapy) (check); going to my office and putting in more hours than I intended when I left the house every time I go (check); remembering to thank my husband for the millions of tasks he helps with that I can't do, all the while trying to do more and more things for myself (check); being present for my children, playing with them, reading with them, asking them questions about what they think and how they feel, cuddling with them, being proud of them for each new thing they discover and become, and having my heart hurt for them every time they stub a toe or have their feelings hurt (check); remembering to reach out to far away people I love (check... sometimes, but I think about it often); reading and writing personal things again after so many years of reading and writing only legal documents, articles, books, court opinions, emails, and children's books (check).  I am endeavoring in every way I can think of to find me again, but she's not fully back yet.  I won't even judge her if she's not the perfect me anymore when I do find her.  How could she be?  But I hope she loves more dearly than ever; thinks as deeply and clearly as ever; continues to see beauty in unlikely places; is as open to experience as she ever was; appreciates the very many things to be grateful for each day; speaks her mind no matter what; and lifts up her children so they can be the best versions of themselves they can be.  In writing this, I am recognizing and understanding that I have, in fact, found pieces of her, or maybe they are just pieces of her that never left and have finally begun to be able to peek out from behind the pain curtain -- and I am thankful for that.  And in the process of lamenting the loss of former perfect me, of course I realize deep down that perfection is illusory, except the kind of perfection that lies in unique imperfection, which makes us lovable to others.  No, I don't think physical strength is the epitome of perfection, but I think it's my missing piece right now.  That thing that is keeping me from the perfection I had and want so badly to have back.  My body needs to heal and regain its power.  My spirit is ever strong and bubbling under the surface, so ready to emerge in full force as soon as my vessel is strong enough.  Thank God my spirit never quits.  And I couldn't care less anymore about my crooked tooth or my baby belly stretch marks or even all the surgical scars I've amassed.  And I love my curly hair, the color of my eyes, and the shape of my hands.  I just want to take a really long walk, or even a really long drive.  Alone.  Ever.  And enjoy it like I used to.  Not scared of lacking the strength to finish the task and being stuck somewhere.  I don't think that's too much to ask.  For now, my body is too tired to thoroughly consider whether this stream-of-consciousness bit of writing is even worth posting because I went to work today, rode my bike, spent time with my children while my body rested, and I have physical therapy in the morning.  Which all feels like a lot right now (though old, workaholic "perfect" me might have scoffed at that thought). Maybe I'll find another piece of me tomorrow.  Maybe it'll even be one I've never seen -- strength bigger than I've ever known in this much more challenging terrain.  Getting this perpetually injured body back to normal (whatever that is) is even harder than that time I literally climbed a mountain.  But I have to believe I'll arrive at my destination -- an older and wiser perfect me.  Maybe I already have, sort of.   

Sunday, November 15, 2015

That Perfect Melancholy

I am feeling a perfect sort of melancholy today.  I have been reflecting on my time in one of my passionately favorite cities -- Paris.  I went in early 2007 and sincerely loved that place and did not want to leave (but couldn't afford to stay longer).  My soul melded with its essence in a deep and personal way.  If a city could embody my loves, my passions, my perfect visions, it did.  So much so that I blew off the rest of my itinerary in different European destinations to remain in Paris, soaking in as much of it as I could in the two weeks I had.  I've said many times that the most beautiful people I have ever seen were in Paris.  And not just some of them.  All of them.  And I am remembering so many perfect things:  from the delightful casual enjoyment of crepes in the street, to the breathtaking views of Notre Dame, to the cafes, flowers, and fruit stands of Montmarte, to the grandest cemetery I've ever trodden, to the majesty of Versailles, to the modern impressive beast that is the Pompidou, to the vineyards mid-city, to the best cassoulet and creme brûlée I had in the middle of a gorgeous rainstorm, to the historic neighborhoods where legendary artists lived and painted, to the superfluous stairs in the metro made up for by the beautiful metro signs and metalwork, and to the nearly infinite mind and soul boggling abundance of Art everywhere that makes the city just exhale aesthetic experience into every breeze.  And right now, Paris is hurting.  That perfect place has been ravaged by angry people who have preferred death over such beautiful life.  The melancholic perfection I feel isn't the usual perfection I write about.  It is instead "absolute or complete" or "free from defects."  A perfect melancholy is the worst kind.  And I feel it today.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

That Perfect French Toast

It's been ages since I've posted, but I was inspired by my Sunday brunch this past weekend to once again sing the praises of something here in this special place meant for celebrating perfection.  I posted once about Shipley's chocolate filled donuts, in which I disclosed that I am not typically a sweet-toothed girl when it comes to breakfast.  But I must now concede there is another sweet breakfast treat that I have woken up craving on more occasions than I care to admit.  I will say that I, personally, make a mean French Toast.  It's my grandfather's recipe.  And it's pretty damn amazing.  But it was honestly better when he made it than when I do.  Food made by someone else always tastes better, probably because of the dash of love thrown into the mix.  In any event, even though I love my GP's French Toast recipe, today I'm celebrating the French Toast at Yolk in Dallas.  They make it with Challah bread, and it's, well, perfect.  It's soft and warm and a little gooey, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and maple syrup.  (And their bacon and strawberry orange juice are pretty awesome accompaniments, too).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

That Perfect Book That Makes You Feel Something Deeply

I have that not-sure-what-to-do-with-myself-feeling as reality slowly fades back in.  And, as that is the case, I am turning to my old blog to tell faceless you about how and why I find myself in this state.  I just began a book today that pulled me in so deeply that I also finished it today.  This particular story has me feeling hyper-aware of my mortality.  It has me focused on the tragedies and celebrations I have already experienced and those I cannot yet foresee.  It has me feeling thankful for the loves in my life, from the grandest to the smallest, the longest to the shortest, the longstanding and the fleeting.  It has me realizing how much more patience with others I have gained from my own struggles with my painful, long-standing shoulder issues that have impacted my ability to be the super-human I used to imagine myself as being.  It reminds me how much I appreciate intelligence and quick wit.  It has me appreciating the quiet-only-you-and-I-understand-looks,-sighs,-and-metaphors I have shared with others through the years.  It has me in awe of how deeply we humans feel.         

Front Cover

Sunday, July 7, 2013

That Perfect Brisket

When I go for barbecue, I always choose brisket.  Often times, it is in combination with other smoked goodies (like ribs or sausage), but brisket is really my favorite of the barbecue meats.  And I thought I had already tasted my all-time favorite brisket years ago at the Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas.  But today, something unexpected and momentous happened.  My husband made the ultimate brisket.  That Perfect Brisket, to be precise.  Behold:



To be clear, I much prefer an orange-colored vinegar-based sauce to dark sugary sauces, and even then, I use sauce sparingly.  Indeed, the meat should speak for itself.  And, to be fair, he did use Salt Lick barbecue sauce (albeit, warmed and mixed with the brisket drippings) (which, luckily, we are fortunate enough to be able to buy off of the shelves of Central Market here in Dallas).  But this brisket was nothing short of amazing.  My brother joined us for dinner, and when he took a small pinch-bite of falling-apart brisket from off of the cutting board after it was freshly sliced, he was so taken aback by the wonder of the brisket that he said "Wait, I need to think about what I just tasted for a minute."

In a nutshell, from the fingertips of one who enjoys my husband's cooking immensely but who cannot take credit for the tastiness (except for whatever help I can provide by chasing kids around while he cooks and cleaning up when he is done), here's my best description of how he accomplished this little miracle.... He rubbed the brisket down last night with a rub of cayenne, salt, and black pepper and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  Early this afternoon, he took it out to let it sit and get up to room temp.  Then he smoked it in the barbecue pit using apple wood chips for the smoke.  That took 2 or 3 hours.  Then he finished it, foil-wrapped, in the oven for another 3 hours.  Then he let it rest, out of the oven, for at least 30 minutes before slicing (which made it fall-apart-moist-and-not-at-all-dry-like-much-ordinary-brisket).  It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.  It had the absolute perfect blend of smoke, salt, heat, fat, and plain old meat goodness.  And then he served it alongside bacon-infused kale (superfood!), fresh roasted corn on the cob (which I like to eat in sliced sheets of corn kernels (see below)), and smoky beans with cumin.  Delish.  I think I even sang a song about how good it was while I ate it.  Yeah, I know I did.  And while the pictures are tantalizing, they really don't do justice to how gooooooood this was.  Here's a picture of That Perfect Brisket (with a splash of sauce) alongside the perfect veggie accoutrement:




Tuesday, May 28, 2013

That Perfect Edge and Sweetness

I am encroaching on my old self.  For those of you who know me personally, at least sometime in the past nearly 10 years or so (God, has it been that long?)... you know I am an attorney, that I work in a very tall building, that I am very busy, and that on some days, I am even important, and maybe even in the grand scheme of things... at least sometimes.  But having three days at my disposal this past weekend (even if I was feverish for part of it) has afforded me some precious moments in which I have been privileged and inspired to delve into an old passion.  I sat for about four or five hours yesterday, alone... with a mechanical pencil.  Well, not entirely alone.  I also had an eraser.  And a sketch book.  And some inspiring images on my laptop.  You see,  I am working on some drawings for a project I have been invited to work on, and it delights my senses to be working, in earnest, on an artistic goal of my own.  I have carte blanche authority to make any visual choices I want in this project, which is quietly thrilling.  You see, in this life, I have spent a great deal of time facilitating others' art.  I have spent time as a serigraphy printer - printing other artists' works in precisely-printed editions, as an art teacher working in a variety of settings with children of various ages, and I am only in the past couple of weeks gracefully floating back to Earth after an amazing experience orchestrating an art project and fundraiser for the benefit of others.  But, this time, the art project is mine.  It's all been utterly worth doing, of course, and I have been rewarded with personal and deep-running benefits from all of the the work experiences I have lived and toiled through for the benefit of others, but there is simply nothing quite like creating in solitude, enveloped only by music of my choosing in my squishy, external, massive headphones and sitting and working for hours that feel like mere minutes.  Just creating.  And, by the way, I am only cognizant that I was drawing for about four or five hours based upon my after-the-fact internal count of how many times the album I was listening to resounded and echoed in my mind as I sketched away, entirely in another world yet physically present at my hard and heavy reclaimed wood dining table seated upon a velvety upholstered chair.  When I was invited to work on this project, I was told by my project-partner that my work has a certain "wonderful combination of edge and sweetness that's just perfect."  So I suppose this post is about that perception of my work as possessing that perfect edge and simultaneous sweetness.  I am honored by his comment, and I hope to live up to it as I complete more drawings for our joint effort.  Truth be told, I'd like to embody this description in my own personal being in this world as well as in my artwork (and think sometimes that maybe I do), but I'll take what I can get.  Through all of this, my mind is swirled away on waves of memory reminding me what it was like to "live" my art.  Late night conversations with dear friends about our experiences of the most-important-thing-in-the-world-which-was-expressing-all-this-passion-and-vision-inside and countless hours, at all hours of the day and night, in various UT art studios smelling linseed oil and turpentine and feeling the exquisitely smooth trail of a fan brush on large personally stretched and primed canvases, covered with caked-dry-but-once-wet-clay and not caring and still carving away for hours, or reclining in the unearthly pale light of the print lab darkroom eagerly awaiting the results of the image in the photo emulsion after the appropriately timed exposure on the light table.  Wow, it's been such a long time since those days, and I am a more grounded, and more "accomplished" version of myself now, and yet less... well, less something I don't know quite how to put my finger on... but maybe, just maybe, encroaching on my old self while going forward in my present life will create a sort of perfect harmony, which perfection I can potentially blog about down the road.  Balance, after all, is golden.  In the meantime, when I have the time, I'll scratch my pencil on that soft but solid paper surface and work on crafting those perfect images of edgy sweetness. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

That Perfect Authentic Moment in Time

As I sat this evening with some colleagues over beers at the Old Monk, our conversations traversed many topics that struck a chord somewhere within me.  This prose will never fully be able to recreate for those reading it the precise feeling I have at this moment, but at least it will attempt to articulate a thankful and thoughtful reflection on but a few moments.  At various points in the cool evening over a long deep orange wooden table and some beautifully rich beers (and, as an aside, I was lucky enough to have the bartender drawing hearts with grenadine in my beer foam), a small few of us in the crowd talked among ourselves.  When we began, there was the usual work chatter, the usual commentary and suppositions about the about the economy, the usual banter about politics.  But then things pleasantly turned.  Somehow, our conversation managed to flow effortlessly into how important it is to tell people that mean something to you, that you respond to, that you connect with, that they and those moments with them are meaningful to you, and how it lingers with you throughout life when someone acknowledges such a shared authentic connection with you... how critical it is to keep your own light on no matter how bad it gets and to acknowledge and reconcile with yourself the unimaginable, but real, bad things in life and to live with purpose through and after them... how music can pull you in so deeply you literally cannot process or think of anything else... how philosophy and curiosity about this wide world have fueled what is now known as science... how intuition is a crucial ingredient in success, albeit tempered with personal testing of such intuitively felt conclusions...  and many more personally important yet fluidly evolving thoughts we all considered and shared before they transformed into other and more interesting thoughts... and then we all bonded over our common incessant need to produce, create, or DO something meaningful, nearly all the time.  It runs counter to my very being to waste time.  Time can be wisely used in accomplishing a task or in connecting with a kindred spirit.  But to sit idle without either accomplishment or meaning is something that turns my stomach and contorts my soul.  I find myself wonderfully pleased when I get to have moments like those I had this evening where I and those in my company are able to free ourselves from the mundane sorts of conversations that all too often dominate adult working life and instead explore the larger ideas that dominate my private thinking most of the time.  It's tricky in this world connecting with others, and I am deeply thankful for moments in this life when I do.  Here's to more real moments.        

Thursday, March 29, 2012

That Perfect Kind of Good for You Chocolate Fix

I am very pregnant right now. That might explain (a) why I haven't written a post in some time and (b) why this one is about chocolate. It might also explain my excitement over something that is chocolate and good for you at the same time. I have found during this pregnancy that the meal that is most important to me is breakfast. It's the only meal of the day I really crave anything in particular. And, oddly for me, I crave something sweet in the morning every day. Those of you who know me well know that is strange indeed. Be that as it may, I am thrilled to report that I have discovered a wonderful way to satisfy my sweet tooth and still feed my growing baby something good for her. It's my chocolate breakfast smoothie. And, it is sooooooo easy.

Add the following to your blender:

1 C. lowfat milk
1 individual serving sized container of yogurt
1 packet Carnation instant breakfast - milk chocolate flavor
approx. 1 C. crushed ice

Blend. Find a straw and a big cup. Enjoy.

 The only variable is the yogurt. For my loyal followers, you already know I'm going to advise using Brown Cow cream top yogurt. It is truly the best. I've tried a few Brown Cow yogurt flavor variations in this smoothie, and the following are great: chocolate (duh), cherry vanilla, vanilla, and strawberry (ranked in that order). I'm guessing I'll still be drinking these long after I am no longer pregnant, too. YUM.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

That perfectly timed crescendo

Building... slowly... perfectly... to a resounding, soul-shattering crescendo. Sadly, too few musicians master the timing of the crescendo, which is both a shame in that they are not more easy to come by and also lovely in that when they are found unexpectedly, they arouse that much more delight and charm from their scarcity.

It was love at first listen for me. Some many months ago I discovered Mumford and Sons and their album "Sigh No More." It was, indeed, some happy, fortuitous months ago that I first heard them. Although they are relatively new to the music scene, they have already mastered the art of the perfectly timed crescendo.

Imagine the first leaves of fall, which cause excitement in their scattered state because they signal cooler weather to come. And imagine leaves upon leaves that coat the ground more and more fully with each passing day until finally, the ground is coated completely with a crunchy, brown blanket. Or imagine standing at the water's edge with tentative, tender waves lapping lightly at the tips of your toes. And imagine them washing further over your feet with the passing minutes and hours, and growing, until the tide has enveloped your ankles and shins with warm, lovely bath-like waves. Or imagine just a simple outline of a sketch with pencil or charcoal. A mere gesture drawing, showing action and promise but not yet alive. Then imagine layers of paint lovingly applied. Layer upon layer upon layer, blending, darkening, highlighting, tightening, until finally the true image appears, and you reach the pinnacle of that image and know it is final, it is finished. Well-placed and timed crescendos in life are something to strive for and to be celebrated, and when music manages to get them just right, I simply cannot help but sit up straight and notice.

Mumford and Sons tactfully employs crescendos that move my soul both in individual songs on "Sigh No More" and in the full album as a whole. Individual songs you should absolutely try if you have an deep affinity for perfect crescendos like I do: The Cave, Little Lion Man, and Roll Away Your Stone. But it is an absolute must that you listen to the album in its entirety to appreciate the perfect cadence and appropriate crescendos and decrescendos in the course of the album in its entirety; the album has utterly intimate and quiet moments that are balanced perfectly with the magnificent crescendos that have the capacity to bring tears to my eyes because of their emotion-stirring perfection. Especially moving moments that counterbalance the perfect crescendos are in Timshel, Awake My Soul, and After the Storm.

I have listened to the album probably hundreds of times by now and have even seen the band perform it live, but my favorite experience of the music is probably listening to it while driving, alone, very loudly. The quiet beauty in the nuance of each of the songs as well as their magnificent crescendos can be fully appreciated through crisp speakers that have the power to surround and envelop you in solitude.

And while I am applauding the grand crescendos so expertly mastered by Mumford and Sons, I would be remiss if I failed to also share with you some samples of the stirring, haunting, gentle, and thoughtful lyrics that blend beautifully with the amazing use of crescendos. Here is a small compilation of but a few of them:

.... And you have your choices; and these are what make man great: his ladder to the stars.... The flesh that lived and loved will be eaten by plague, so let the memories be good for those who stay.... And I have filled this void with things unreal, and all the while, my character it steals.... And so I'll be found, with my stake stuck in this ground, marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul.... Weep for yourself my man, you'll never be what is in your heart; weep little lion man, you're not as brave as you were at the start; rate yourself and rake yourself, take all the courage you have left, and waste it on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head.... In these bodies we will live; in these bodies we will die; where you invest your love, you invest your life.... Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

That Perfect Soup In a Can

Soooooooooup. I am such a soup lover. I get giddy ordering a demitasse or a cup of a chef's soup du jour (especially if it has some cream swirled in it or some sort of peppers). One of my very favorite meals on this planet is a particular tortilla soup that my husband makes (which is derived from the recipe used at a Mexican restaurant in Austin where he worked while in college). And La Madeline's tomato bisque is just heavenly. The cream of shrimp soup at the Cottage in my hometown evokes a craving I wish I could fulfill long distance from Texas. I even gleefully tote soup in a can to work for lunch quite frequently, and I am even happy about it when lunchtime at my desk inevitably rolls around. I keep a pottery bowl I made on the bookshelf in my office to jazz up the canned soup a bit to give it that little something extra on a Tuesday. It fits perfectly and keeps it warm just long enough.

I am a soup girl through and through - always have been. It makes me feel a little warmer when I'm chilly, a little more comfy when I'm stressed, a little more home when I am away, and a little more delicate when I'm just not.

The funny thing about my soup predilection is that I do NOT like to use soup spoons. Sure, the shape is pleasing - round and appealing like the headlights on a VW beetle. But my upper lip happens to be shaped in such a way that I get little spoon-cuts on the edges of it when I eat with a soup spoon (unless I slurp it out of the soup spoon, which just about ruins the experience of eating soup if you ask me - both the aesthetic experience of the soup consumer and of the accompanying meal attendees). Am I the only one with this plight?

As you can imagine, I have tried many soups... and many of the varieties available in cans are not good. Not even worth the $1 or $2 price tag they bear. There are a select few I routinely buy, and I am frequently disappointed with much of what is out there. But, one soup has stood the test of time - the Stonehenge of soups - and my palate has never tired of it. As a child, I remember my family eating it out of mugs with blue daisies on them as the accompaniment to BLT sandwiches. Sometime in my pre-teen or high school days, I began eating this soup on its own and discovered that it doesn't need the BLT accompaniment; in fact, I prefer eating it all by itself. (Not to slight BLTs in the least - I like them very much. They have bacon and mayonnaise, come on.)

That Perfect Soup In a Can is not even one of the fancier-don't-add-water types that seem to fill the supermarket shelves these days. Nope. I've never even seen any kind of advertisement for this soup. This one is old school condensed soup in the small can with a label that comes close to the old Campbell's Tomato soup label Andy Warhol appropriated for his serigraphs (albeit with some recent unfortunate modernization of the styling). And, yes, you definitely have to add water to it before cooking.

Alright already, what kind of soup is it, you ask? The Campbell's soup that apparently no one besides my family seems to know about when I talk about it. The flavor no one else has heard of when they come into the breakroom at my office, smell the lovely scent of it cooking in the microwave, and ask "Ooh, what is that? It smells so good!"



Bean with Bacon (or Bean and Bacon, which I've always called it). Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, mmmmmmmmmmmm, good, as the old Campbell's jingle goes.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

That Perfect Out of the Norm Breakfast

I don't particularly like donuts.

Given a choice between a salty breakfast or a sweet one, I nearly always choose salty (enter my favorite: breakfast tacos, for instance). As a child, I even turned up my nose at homemade pancakes and waffles that my Dad so sweetly rose early to make for my brothers and me in our childhood. They're just not my thing. Despite my savory breakfast predilection, to be completely honest, most mornings my breakfast consists of either oatmeal, yogurt, or a banana (yep, eating sensibly as a responsible adult...).

But if I had my druthers... if there were no consequences for a crappy diet, I would have memorable savory breakfasts way more often. Still, every now and then, I am compelled beyond explanation to make an exception from both the sensible good-for-me-routine-breakfast and even the beloved occasional savory breakfast. Today was one of those days. There is but a single brand of flaky, sugary, circular goodness that holds a special place in my heart. My whole life, the only donuts I have cared even one iota about are Shipley's. To be more specific, the only donut I care about whatsoever is a chocolate-filled donut from Shipley's.



Witness the extraordinary, intoxicating power of a chocolate-filled Shipley's donut. I recall staying up through an entire night in high school in my old bedroom at my parents' house just jabbering, gossiping, belly laughing, and probably even crying a little, in the dark with a dear, dear girlfriend (absolutely the norm for a weekend night in high school)... and then being utterly exhausted and delirious sometime in the neighborhood of 5:00 a.m. and realizing that Shipley's would open in about one more hour... and convincing my poor friend to stay up with me just one more hour until it opened so we could go get a donut or two... (nevermind that I was wrong about their opening hour... so we even more deliriously finally collapsed into sleep after making fun of ourselves for staying up all night plus the extra hour for a donut store opening that was definitely a few more hours away yet, quite beyond our sleep-deprived reach). Shipley's, dear readers, is a donut worth losing sleep over. At least at the age of 16 it is. Although I can confidently say I wouldn't stay up all night for it these days, there's not much I'd stay up all night for nowadays, so don't let that discount your impression of the magnificence of a chocolate-filled Shipley's donut.

A few small details: the chocolate tucked inside that donut is the perfect flavor, a little sugary-gritty in texture, and is, pure and simple, oozy, gooey sweet happiness, and the glazing is just the right amount of sticky, flaky sugar that you have to (or get to) lick off of your fingertips. Ah.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

That Perfect Stain Remover

Bye bye blueberry dribble... off of a dry clean only Banana Republic top. Whew! I think that feat was the most amazing one I've seen accomplished by a humble little Tide To Go Pen. At some great, old-aged birthday celebration with my grandfather in New Orleans some years ago, I first discovered Tide To Go Pens. My Mom and I had ordered some lip-smacking good blueberry dessert that we were splitting and then I did it. I splorked blueberry dribble all over the front of my blouse. Behold my charm and elegance in that moment - of spilling the ultimate staining ingredient down my front-side. Mom and I made our way to the ladies' room (with me already bidding farewell to any future with this shirt of mine), and lo and behold, Mom whipped out this little orange paint-marker-looking detergent pen, rubbed it on the purply mess, and voila. Stain gone immediately. I.M.M.E.D.I.A.T.E.L.Y. Sounds like fairy tale stain solving, but it truly isn't.

It's purely awesome chemistry in a little orange pen. It is amazing to me how many people haven't yet tried this little maestro of on-the-spot cleaning. I stow one away in my too large purse - always - just in case. When I offer it to folks in the aftermath of a new stain, I find almost no one realizes the awesome power of these little sticks. So here I am singing its praises so maybe some of you out there will be ready when a mess makes its way to your outfit.

I wouldn't go anywhere without one now. Next time you're in the check-out line at the grocery store, and you see it in the register aisle, just toss it in your cart. Go ahead. You won't be sorry you did.

Here's what the Tide To Go Pen website advises:



What is Tide to Go?

Tide to Go is a portable stain removing pen from Tide that instantly removes many fresh food and drink stains.

How does it work?

1. Remove excess residue from the stain.
2. Press the tip onto the stain several times to release some stain remover solution onto the stain. [*like a paint marker*]
3. Rub tip gently across the stain to remove it. When necessary, add more liquid and continue rubbing gently.
4. Important: If treated area will be exposed to direct sunlight, wipe with a damp cloth or napkin to remove excess solution left on fabric.
For tough stains, place a paper towel under the stain while treating or wipe excess liquid or residue away with a damp paper towel, or reapply as necessary.

Does Tide to Go work on all stains?

No. Tide to Go is designed specifically for removing fresh food and drink stains. Stains that Tide to Go works best on include ketchup, BBQ sauce, grape juice, tomato juice, coffee, soda, chocolate syrup, tea, and wine. Tide to Go does not perform as well on non-food and drink stains including ink, grease, blood, and grass stains.


I've never tried it on anything besides food stains, probably because if I'm doing something intentionally messy, I dress for it and couldn't care less if I get stains on what I'm wearing. Food is the eternal unknown. You never know when it will jump off of your spoon into your lap and on to your favorite (and probably most expensive) trousers. Better safe than sorry...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

That Perfect Wind Down Your Day With a Laugh Show

Whether you've had a great day, are in a jovial mood, and are letting the excitement of the day go to settle contentedly into bed by the glowing light of a television... or you've had an exasperating day, your feet hurt, you couldn't drink enough wine to wind down, and you're finally getting to lay down after a trying day, which would feel good if only your body didn't hurt so much, and you absent-mindedly turn on your television... that perfect wind down your day with a laugh show is Chelsea Lately. I mean, really. That chick is so very funny. She's cheeky, witty, smart, honest, subtly rude, openly rude... she's a natural comedian. Her show comes on E!, which I only watch to see her show, nothing else. And I don't habitually watch it. Honestly, I don't habitually watch much. But I've never regretted flipping on the television and catching Chelsea Handler in action on her show. Who couldn't use a laugh at the end of a great day, or better yet, a crappy one.

I'm having trouble finding a clip on youtube that accurately reflects how funny the show is... so just watch it. Funny stuff~

Monday, January 17, 2011

That Perfect Serum

Ah, skin. At different times in my life my skin has been a thing of beauty or a cause of frustration. I've outgrown most of my acne, apart from the minor hormonal blip of a blemish, quite thankfully. But, as I age, I find I am prone to patchy dry skin, like some of my dear immediate family members. In the space of the last 6 to 8 months or so, I've had episodes of strange, patchy, dry skin on my face that was crazy itchy and felt irritated and generally put a damper on my mood. No clue what triggered it either. Luckily, there are plenty of good make up products for covering up such unsightly blemishes, but ouchie.

Even if they weren't in fact screaming in neon letters "Look at me!" they sure felt like they were. Leave it to me to think of these little dry patches of skin as personified, ruthless, punk rascals shouting things at others. I just felt like the world was staring at my glaring, screaming dry spots (though my rational side is certain that (1) there were, of course, no screaming skin cells, and (2) folks have better things to do than that). I went to the doctor and was given topical medicines and a steroid pack... I tried cortisone, lanolin, dandruff shampoo, Vaseline, everything you can think of with some remote chance of working. Alas, nothing did. Nothing. Enter frustration.

And then, one day in November, I think, I was frequenting my local Lush store, perusing the bath bombs and melts as usual when I noticed these facial "serums." Hm. Worth a go. It looked like it would be seriously moisturizing, a bit oily, smelled lovely, and promised help for sensitive and dry skin. MAN, was it worth a go. I tell you this with all sincerity... if you've got any pesky skin issues, rub this magical serum on it and they will vanish. For those of you easily swept to emotion - it is pure magic. Or, for those of you more logically inclined, it is a highly effective balm. Either way, I'm in love and ever so thankful to have the dry skin completely resolved. I just use it as my facial moisturizer each night, and that's it. Easy as that. Plus I think I am becoming addicted to the smell. It's called Full of Grace, and I have captured a little grace back for myself, indeed, since discovering this serum. I was feeling sheepish about my skin a mere three or four months ago, but a woman I don't even know passed me on the way out of my office building a few weeks ago and smiled, kept walking, then stopped, and turned around and then stopped me just so she could tell me she thought my skin was beautiful.

It is such an unexpected delight when things actually make you want to tell the world "wow." I am remembering why I started this blog in the first place.



Here's where you can get your own and read more about it: http://www.lushusa.com/shop/products/face/serums/full-of-grace