Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolution

The topic of the day is New Year's Resolutions.

Do you make them or not?

Do you keep them or not?


I do not make New Year's Resolutions. I've found that there are too many variables in my life, too many little things that can change the picture every day, to be able to see whether or not some goals can be kept. If I make resolutions that are too specific I feel as though I've failed if I need to change that goal later in the year. If my goals are too general it's hard to tell if I've met them or not and too easy to just not bother trying.

Making New Year's resolutions makes me feel like I'm just setting myself up for failure. And heaven knows I tend to be too hard on myself as it is.


I think we make resolutions every day.

Every day we wake up and decide what kind of person we're going to be.

Will we carry the pains and regret of yesterday's wrongs with us and let them weigh us down?

Or will we start the day with a clean slate and a new determination to do our best?


Will we focus on what makes us angry or afraid?

Or will we focus on the positive and look for ways to make a difference for good?


Will I see in myself the best I have to offer or will I see only my limitations?

Will I see in you only your limitations?

Or will I see your need...

for love...

forgiveness...

understanding...

a second chance....



May our focus improve this year.




Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best Christmas Present Ever

Looking around my living room I see bits and pieces of wrapping paper and ribbons still littering the floor. Presents freshly unwrapped are stacked in one corner, waiting to be put away. Holiday candles and Christmas tree lights are glowing as the snow swirls outside my window and a favorite old movie is on TV.

It's almost bedtime on the day after Christmas. Family and friends have come and gone and soon the goodies will be, too, if not the extra pounds.

What was your favorite present this year?

Was it something homemade? Something you'd longed for or something you didn't even realize you wanted?

I've discovered the older I get, the less I remember the gifts I received and the more I remember the gifts I gave. I remember most the planning, the plotting, the saving, the shopping, even the clever wrapping of that perfect gift for someone special. Those are the memories that stick with me, more than what was in those boxes with my name on the label.

The gift is in the giving.


Last year we flew to Texas the week before Christmas for the memorial service for my mother-in-law. My husband, a Baptist minister, led the service. His sister and her daughters sang “It Is Well With My Soul”. I don't know how they managed to hold it together, unless it was the thought that their mother believed they could do anything and would have expected nothing less of them.

My mother-in-law was a great lady who made things happen and who also knew the value of a quiet, unplanned day.

When we visited her she gave us wonderful home cooked meals

whirlwind shopping trips

laughs

love

and time.

Thinking of her I realized what my favorite gift was this Christmas.


Time.


Time with my daughter, who no longer lives under my roof. I'm so grateful she's close enough to visit now and then. Time to get to know someone special she brought home with her this year.


Time with my younger daughter who is finishing high school in a few months, to watch glimpses of the little kid she once was before it's her turn to take on the world beyond our door.


Time with my husband, to see his burdens briefly lifted by the presence of our daughters, knowing that for a little while he's not thinking about the job hunt that continues to drag on much too long or a hundred other worries that weigh heavily on his mind during his long commute to his “in-between” part-time job every day.


Time for phone calls full of laughter

with relatives who live too far away for visits,

yet they are always in my heart.



Time to tell my daughters about them and

share memories of my childhood Christmases,

introducing them to family members they never got the chance to meet,

loved ones I sometimes see in their smiles

and hear in their laughter.



You can't wrap that up neatly and stick a bow on it.


Time and love.


I hope your life is full of both in the new year.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NYC October 2010 Part Two

(This continues the account of my weekend in New York City for Crystal Chappell's fan events that I began in NYC October 2010 Part One)

On Sunday, October 24th, my gracious roommate, Valerie, who had attended the Venice luncheon on Saturday, decided to go with me into the city to play tourist for the day. I was very glad she was able to navigate our way on the PATH train from our hotel in Jersey City to a station just a couple of blocks from Brother Jimmy's. We said goodbye there with hugs and many thanks since she was not attending the CCandFriends luncheon .

I checked my bag, got in line for the luncheon and got my CCandFriends tote bag with a nice little button with Crystal's picture on it that looked very familiar (I had made these at the request of @Cubfnatic just a few days earlier). I greeted friends, some old and some new, as I looked around for a place to sit. Then a group of CarBo fans I'd met at the RF Lounge the night before spotted me and waved me over to join their table. My place next to the wall gave me a great vantage point for taking pictures and I tested out some angles and checked exposure settings.

To understand what this was like for me you have to know that I worked years ago as a freelance photographer. Besides casual portraits and stock photography, I worked for the Public Relations department at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, taking pictures of campus events for the alumni magazine and the local newspapers and doing all their black & white darkroom work. As a volunteer I did the same thing for my church. I love shooting an event, getting a feel for the interactions between people, anticipating expressions and watching for the shots that will tell the story. It had been a long time since I'd been able to do that and I finally had the right camera for it. I had appreciated pictures others had shared of fan events I was unable to attend and I really wanted to be able to return the favor this time.

It wasn't long before Crystal & Kimmy arrived. @Cubfnatic welcomed everybody and started us off with an emotional toast to Cathie Wagner, Crystal's long-time fan club president who passed away last year. Crystal got a little choked up as she said a few words about Cathie, too, and thanked us all for coming.

I watched Crystal start making her way from table to table, greeting everyone in turn, having her picture taken with them and signing autographs and I began to take pictures. I noticed that with each person in turn, she listened intently and spoke to them as if there was no one else in the room. Some people had brought things for her to sign and she was happy to do that for them and shared lots of hugs and laughter with everyone. Crystal never seemed rushed or distracted as she gave each person her full attention, always thanking them for coming and for their continued support.




Kimmy was also moving through the room and everyone was excited to meet her. She did her share of signing autographs and posing for pictures, too. She liked the special graphic I'd made for her to autograph that said "My Life Is a Soap Opera... What Would Kimmy Tweet?"  I gave her the gift I'd brought for her: a “Team WeBreakSh*t” t-shirt and she threw back her head and laughed! I think she was having as much fun meeting everybody there as they were having meeting her.



Let me say a special thank you to my table-mates, the CarBo crew, for being so tolerant of me and my crazy photographer ways. They were very understanding when I'd stop practically in mid-sentence (mine or theirs) to snap a photo, then pick up right where we'd left off or just wander off randomly to get a better angle. Thank you, ladies, I enjoyed talking about soaps and getting to know you! Save me a seat next year!

When Crystal got to our table it was easy to see how much she appreciated all the efforts of the CarBo fans on her behalf. I loved photographing all those smiles! When it was my turn to talk to her I gave her a “My Life Is a Soap Opera...What Would Gina Do?” t-shirt and she laughed and said she loved it! There's so much I would love to have said to her, but I felt like I'd already gotten a wonderful “Crystal moment”, complete with hug, when I saw her as she first arrived at the RF Lounge the night before and with so many others waiting I didn't want to take up any more of her time.


Some of the best pictures I got all day came when @OliviaGotJokes stopped by our table. She arrived just in time to sample the appetizers and picked up one, thinking it was a hush puppy. It was a fried pickle slice and I captured that moment of discovery in a stunning series of close-ups! Unfortunately, she's more than a little shy about having her picture shared, so I can't show them to you!

After Crystal had worked her way around the room and back again there was a great commotion near the entrance and we saw that Jessica Leccia had arrived. I looked up and saw Kimmy greeting Brian, Jessica's husband, with a big hug and I turned on my flash and fired off a few shots. I like shooting without flash better but I wasn't going to take a chance on missing that moment!


People began to line up to get Jessica's autograph and have their picture taken with her and Crystal. I finally gave in to my instincts and climbed up on a chair to get a good angle and I'm glad I did. That's when I got what I think was one of my best shots of the day, this picture of Jessica:



I was watching for the moments just after a posed shot is taken because that's when people relax and you can often catch some great expressions and interactions then. I also got a couple of shots I liked of Crystal and Jessica during quiet moments here and there.

At one point I saw Brian tap Jessica on the shoulder and she turned to hear what he was saying. I just happened to have my camera focused on Jessica at the time and I'm guessing that he must have pointed out to her that the crazy lady standing on that chair over there was the one who made the purple teddy bear and the “Dimples” design because she turned around quickly and looked right at me. Click! She smiled and waved at me and said, “Hi, Donna!” I knew I'd get a chance to talk with her later because Brian had told me she'd stick around for me to get an autograph if there wasn't a chance during the luncheon.


The line for autographs and pictures was dwindling so I stopped shooting and got in line myself, handing my camera to @Cubfnatic to get a picture of me with Jessica and Crystal (Thanks, Cubbie!). I'd printed out some of my graphics to be autographed and Crystal signed the “What Would Olivia” do one. I told her I had some ideas about using those designs for fund raisers and she said that was great, that they'd be doing more of that in the Spring.


By then it was time to leave and folks were gathering upstairs to hang out or say goodbye. I'd seen Jill Lorie Hurst slip in and say hello to Crystal (wish I'd gotten a good shot of the two of them together!) just before they started moving everybody back upstairs. Jill assured me she was content to wait for me while I spoke with Jessica and bid farewell to everybody. I talked with Jessica for a minute and got her autograph on my “Dimples” design and said goodbye to Twitter friends I'd finally met face to face.

Jill had mentioned, as we were making plans for the weekend, that she had another friend coming to town the same weekend, a former writer for Soap Opera Digest. But when my Twitter friend, Donna (@shallotpeel) introduced me to her partner, Melissa, during the luncheon I had no idea that Melissa was the friend Jill had been talking about! The four of us had a great time as we wandered around the streets of New York. As always I had not a clue where we were headed but it didn't matter because I loved the company!


Donna and I have had some interesting discussions online and never run out of things to talk about. She lives in a town where my mother grew up and where I used to visit my grandparents. We both have roots in the Southern Baptist church so we had fun talking about faith and Otalia and our personal journeys relating to both while Jill and Melissa got reacquainted. After a while we found a little cafe and decided that it was as good a time as any to have dessert, so we did. What happened next was the cherry atop my wonderful weekend!

The four of us had a fascinating discussion about Melissa's dissertation …sociology... social media... soap opera trends and the discussion veered into their personal memories of the soaps, too. (I understand she's written a chapter in a new book, The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era.) I've been watching soaps for over 45 years so I loved hearing their memories of working on and around soaps and knew all the shows and actors they mentioned and couldn't resist jumping into the discussion from time to time. I even asked Melissa about something I'd always been curious about. Has the increasing serialization of primetime shows had an impact on the viewership of daytime soaps? That's one she hadn't thought about but I'd love to see if there's a correlation.

After a while they decided to call an old friend of theirs to come join us, Tom Casiello. Tom has two Emmys for writing for As The World Turns, a Writer's Guild Award for the Young and the Restless, Emmy and WGA Award nominations for his work on One Life To Live, was Associate Headwriter for Days Of Our Lives and is currently writing for the Y&R (I think I got all that right!) . So I found myself caught up in their shared memories and discussion of current soaps and friends who were coming and going. When they talked about their friend, “Danny” Cosgrove joining the cast of All My Children again, I loved being able to tell them that I had watched him as Scott Chandler years before and was looking forward to having him return to that role. Since none of them are watching AMC these days I told them a bit about what the character had gone through and the way they are writing the transition to bring him in. They were very interested to know what I thought about the soaps I watched and I was delighted to share my opinions and talk about the changes I'd seen over the years.

After a while I took a deep breath, sat back and thought to myself, “How the heck did I end up HERE?” Sitting around a table in a little cafe in New York City with the former Guiding Light editor of Soap Opera Digest, the Emmy and WGA Award winning former Headwriter of Guiding Light, and a multi-Emmy winning writer who is currently writing one of the soaps I watch! At the same time, I felt like I was hanging out with a few old friends that I'd just met. It boggles the mind. I felt very blessed to be in their company and was in no hurry to leave. But I had a train to catch.

As Jill and I were saying our goodbyes to the others I told Tom that I was on the leadership team for Eden Riegel's official fan club, Absolute Eden. He had some very nice things to say about Eden and said they had good things in store for her. Before we left I asked if I could take a picture of the four of them together. It seemed only fitting that we document this reunion of old friends and they were delighted to pose for me. I think this last picture I took was one of my best shots of the weekend!



When @KiaRene contacted me about using some of my photos in a video she was making about the weekend's events I was honored and delighted and of course gave my permission. She did a wonderful job with the video and if there's such a thing as whipped cream or sprinkles up there with the cherry atop my wonderful weekend in New York City that's how I'd have to describe seeing my photos in the video and my name included in the credits at the end!

You can see more of my photos of these events here: http://ccvenicenyc2010.shutterfly.com/  

You can watch the video that includes my photos here: http://youtu.be/GRbHHvb-Ylo

Thank you, Crystal. Thank you, Kimmy. Thank you Jessica & Brian. Thank you @Cubfnatic and @OliviaGotJokes and @LesliePenny and all of Crystal's Team Venice! And thank you to all of my friends who shared the weekend with me!

Let's do it again soon!








Sunday, November 21, 2010

NYC October 2010 Part One

It's been a month since my trip to New York City for Crystal Chappell's fan luncheon and I'm just now blogging about it. It took me a while to come back down to earth and edit all the photos I took there and decide what to share online. But more about that later. First, let me tell you how the weekend unfolded.

I met my friend, Jill Lorie Hurst in front of Brother Jimmy's restaurant on E 16th St. I'd first met Jill, former Headwriter of Guiding Light, via Twitter and Facebook and finally met her in person when we took our daughter, Jackie, to New York City to celebrate her 18th birthday a couple of months ago. Jill met our train at Penn Station and spent the day with us and we couldn't have had a better tour guide. Jill has become a wonderful friend and an honorary member of the family. I could say more about her, but I'll save that for another blog post!

Brother Jimmy's on E 16th street is a great barbecue restaurant run by Jessica Leccia's husband, Brian Malloy and that's where the Venice and CcandFriends fan luncheons were being held. I saw Brian there and he called me by name when he spotted me. He recognized me from my picture on Facebook (he accepted my friend request after I'd sent a handsewn purple teddy bear for Ivy) He talked to me about the teddy bear and how he liked the photos I'd included of it in progress as a sort of biography of the bear. He also talked about the "Dimples" design I did for my Zazzle shop. He said when he first saw it he thought it was really cute, then he did a double take and said, "Wait... that IS Jessica's smile!" I told him how I'd done a pencil sketch of Jessica's smile from a photograph first and then finished it up in my graphics program. He told me Jessica would be at the CCandFriends luncheon the next day. I was hoping she would be because I really wanted to meet her.

The Venice luncheon had been over for a while but some of the fans were still there. I saw some people I knew from Twitter and Jill and I talked with them for a while, then she took me out to dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. I have no idea where we were walking but it's always fun to wander and explore and my favorite thing to do in New York City now is to just spend time with Jill! We walked through Washington Square Park and I could have spent a day or two just taking pictures there but I didn't take even one. I had my new DSLR, but I was trying not to go into "crazy photographer" mode too soon!

After a lovely dinner and delightful conversation, Jill walked me to the RF Lounge, the lesbian bar where the free Venice event was held. (She wasn't staying for that but we planned to meet at Brother Jimmy's again after the luncheon the next day.) We had just arrived and were standing at the top of the stairs in front when Kimmy and Crystal came in right behind us. I tugged on Kimmy's coat sleeve because I've talked with her a bit on Twitter and via email and I didn't think she'd mind but I didn't want to bother Crystal. Kimmy turned around and recognized me, presumably from my Twitter avatar, called me by name and gave me a big hug. She thanked me for everything I'm doing to help Crystal. Then Crystal turned around to see who Kimmy was talking to, saw it was me and she also knew who I was and gave me a big hug. She thanked me for everything, saying she sees what I'm doing, that she's keeping an eye on everything (and I have no doubt she is... she's a very smart lady). If I'd had to leave right then, after an afternoon and dinner with Jill, plus hugs from Kimmy and Crystal, I would have gone home happy, but the weekend had just begun!

Outside in front of the RF Lounge I found Sasha (@Cubfnatic) the CcandFriends president, and @Winwitter and @catikins9 (who might actually be a cousin of mine!), longtime supporters of Crystal. I also met @oliviagotjokes (Venice Fan Club president). She was dancing around and talking to other Venice fans. I went up to her and said "Hi, I'm Donna". She stopped and just looked at me for a second and said in a little voice, "You're Donna?" Then she grabbed me up in a big hug, lifting me off the ground, and said "You're so tiny!" OK, she's about a foot taller than me, so I'll give her that! It was great to finally meet all of them in person because we've had some amazing heart to heart talks via Twitter and email and the CcandFriends weekend chats.
As I made my way through the crowd at the RF Lounge now and then somebody would say, "Hey, you're Donna!", again, recognizing me from my avatar on Twitter. I recognized most of their Twitter names when they identified themselves. I had a couple of really interesting talks with girls there (and also at Brother Jimmy's earlier) thanking me for being involved with this fanbase, since I'm a minister's wife, telling me about the issues they'd had with their faith and their churches when they came out to their families. I really appreciated what they shared and told them there are a lot more accepting "church people" like me around, you just don't hear as much about them as the anti-gay ones.

I also met Leslie Penny, Crystal's publicist and Cindy Tingley, who is part of the technical/website part of Team Venice (aka "Team WeFixSh*t"). They found me before I had a chance to look for them and introduced themselves. They were very gracious and I was delighted to meet them. Each person I met who works closely with Crystal was really as sweet as could be. Very welcoming, too, putting everybody at ease, making sure everything was taken care of at the events. And all my new friends took very good care of me as I was looking for the lady who was letting me share her hotel room. We had planned to meet there but as it turned out, she'd gone on to the hotel. But my new friend and native New Yorker, Betty, got a cab for me (thank you, Betty!) and it whisked me away to the hotel where I met my very generous roommate, Valerie. We stayed up talking for at least a couple more hours about Otalia, Guiding Light, Venice, politcs, religion, and horse farms (she manages one in Kentucky)! 

This only covers my first few hours in New York City that weekend and there's plenty more come! But for now, I'll leave you with a few of the photos I took at the RF Lounge. I decided to shoot with available light as much as possible to try to capture the feel of the place and show what it looked like if you were really there.

 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eunice

Her name was Eunice.
It had to be with that hair. It was 1940's chic, like one of the Andrews Sisters or Joan Crawford. A few strands escaped their bonds and matched the randomness of the thoughts she shared with anyone who would listen.
Her cat's-eye glasses were blue with rhinestones in the corners and rested halfway down her nose so that she never quite looked through them, but not over the top of them, either, making it difficult to really look her in the eye.
It was 1983 and Eunice and I worked together at a Baptist Bookstore Mail Order Center in Arlington, Texas, with  a retail store out front and the warehouse in back. It was a very gray office. Gray steel desks populated by women with steel gray hair. Most of the women had been working together for 30 or 40 years, at least. They knew each other well, often fought like sisters, and played tag with the thermostat, changing the temperature depending on who was having hot flashes when.
I'm sure they hired me because I was young and healthy and could substitute for each of the women as they took turns having surgery. And they needed fresh ears for their stories. Mostly for Eunice's stories.
When Eunice had a story to tell she would stand up at her desk and start talking. Then she'd look around and see who was looking at her and that's how she chose her target. Later, while passing through the warehouse on an errand, we'd see Eunice there, telling the same story to someone there. And then it was on to the retail store. Then in the breakroom. And back to the office, etc. One by one, everybody had the opportunity to hear Eunice's story, even if they'd obviously been within earshot when she was telling it to five other people earlier in the day.
To really appreciate Eunice's stories you'd have to hear them with an accent. I think she was from Georgia and you knew her story was really getting good when you heard a phrase like, "... and then she says to me, she says...."
Once Louise, the most senior employee, stopped Eunice as she began one of her stories and said, "Eunice, why don't you just tell everyody all at once!" Eunice promptly sat down in a huff and uttered not a word for at least a half hour. (And that was a long stretch of silence for her.)
Eunice's stories were often about the sillyness of life. It was easy to tell she was an expert on these matters. Quick with a smile and a giggle, it seemed silly things happened more often to Eunice than to the rest of us.
She came to work once with her dress on backwards. She sat down on the floor to look for something in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet in the back room and we found her there later, sound asleep. At 5 o'clock one day, as we all started filing out the door, Eunice was looking for her missing shoe.
Things like that happened to Eunice all the time. And when something silly happened, instead of hoping that nobody ever found out, she'd laugh and tell us all about it. One by one.
One day Eunice came back from lunch with a brand new story. As had become our habit, none of us wanted to look up at her as she spoke, knowing that if she spotted us first we would become the chosen target and be forced to give her our full attention for the duration of the (first telling) of the story. But this time we all stopped and paid attention because she told us that she had lost her lunch.
Literally.
We all stared at Eunice and finally someone said "You mean you were sick --"
"No, no, I feel fine. I just lost my lunch!"
"What do you mean you lost it?"
And Eunice began telling her story to her now riveted audience.
"Well, I made myself a boiled egg for lunch and I was just about to sit down and eat it and the phone rang. It was my daughter, calling to find out what time the church picnic was next weekend and I told her I thought it was at three but I couldn't recall for sure so I checked the calendar on the refrigerator but I didn't have it written down there and then I remembered I still had the bulletin stuck in my Bible so I told her to wait just a minute and I'd go find out. Then I went back to my bedroom and found my Bible right on the nightstand where I'd left it and there was the bulletin tucked right inside the front cover and I found the announcements with the time of the picnic and instead of going back to the phone in the kitchen I just picked up the other phone there in the bedroom to tell her yes, it would be at 3:00 and she asked if I wanted her to come by and pick me up---"
"But what does that have to do with your lunch...?" we asked.
"Well, when I finished talking to her I went back to the kitchen to eat my boiled egg and it wasn't there!"
Silence... two... three... four....
"What do you mean, it wasn't there?"
"I mean it wasn't there! I couldn't find it anyplace!"
We told her she must have remembered wrong and just thought she'd prepared it but she insisted she had boiled that egg, the pan was still warm on the stove and there was one less egg in the refrigerator. The egg had just disappeared.
We tried to help her backtrack and think again of everything she did but we never could get her to remember anything else that would help solve the mystery of the missing egg. She said she finally gave up and made a sandwich for her lunch so she wouldn't be late getting back to work.
We kept waiting for the punch line, thinking she'd finally giggle and say "And then I found it under the...".
But there was no punch line. Just a lost lunch.
The phones on our desks began to ring and we had to give our attention to churches calling to place orders for books, hymnals and supplies, and the mystery of the lost lunch was set aside for the moment. But now and then throughout the afternoon we would look up at each other, shake our heads and with a giggle say, "Wonder what ever happened to that egg?"


The next morning as we gathered in our steel gray den and began removing typewriter covers and sharpening pencils for the day's work Eunice greeted us with, "Y'all remember yesterday when I said I lost my boiled egg...?"
"How could we possibly forget?"
Well, I looked all around the kitchen again when I got home yesterday and still couldn't find any trace of it. But then when I went to bed last night and I put my feet under the covers I felt something ha-a-a-a-a-a-ard and co-o-o-o-o-o-o-old....!”
"Eunice! How did your hard boiled egg end up in the bed?!"
Well, I guess I had it in my hand when I went back to the bedroom to get the church bulletin and I must have set it down while I was sitting on the bed talking to my daughter on the phone. And then when I hung up the phone I saw I hadn’t even made my bed that morning so I spread up the covers and I guess that’s how it got in there!”
And that solved the Mystery of the Lost Lunch.



Eunice was full of surprises. Just when I thought I had her pegged as an absent-minded ditz who stumbled through life by God's grace, I found out that while working to put her husband through seminary and raising four children she decided to get a seminary degree herself. And she did.
Sometimes Eunice's little surprises really hit the spot. She often brought flowers from her garden and placed them in a vase on a shelf near our desks. They were the only spot of color in an otherwise dreary, windowless office. One day she brought in a couple of stems of large bearded irises, big purple and white ones, like the ones that lined the backyard of the house where I grew up. When I commented on them she said she just loved flowers and told God that if He helped her garden grow she'd always be sure to share them. The other ladies in the office confirmed this, saying they'd seen it for themselves and she had the lushest garden of anyone they knew.
A few days later Eunice came in carrying an armload of purple and white irises, dozens of stalks with buds on most of them, in a huge glass vase. I knew that, with a little care, they would continue to bloom for weeks. She came over to my desk and quietly said, “Now those are yours. You take 'em home with you today and you can bring the vase back to me when they're gone.”



I thought of those irises years later when I got a call from my husband saying that Eunice had passed away. At that time I was working at the seminary print shop. The call came at a busy time as classes were changing and there were several customers, friends and co-workers within earshot. They could tell by my words and the tone of my voice that someone I cared about had died. They began to quiet down and gather around me to offer their support as I listened to him tell me what had happened to Eunice.
She had finally retired and went to visit her son who lived in Germany. They'd gone to Israel together to tour the Holy Land, just as she'd dreamed of for years. That's where she was when she had a fatal heart attack. I felt tears come to my eyes and told him how she had been so sweet to me when we worked together. Then he told me the rest of the story.
Eunice's body was being flown back to the United States for burial.
And they lost it.
Really.
Somehow the airline sent Eunice to the wrong city!
BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!
I burst out in hysterical laughter, collapsed against the wall and slid to the floor trying to catch my breath! My friends, still standing around, waiting to comfort me, thought I had lost my mind!
When I got off the phone and finally regained my composure I told them the whole story of this sweet, ditzy, intelligent, compassionate woman named Eunice and the two reasons why I laughed.
If it was going to happen... it was going to happen to Eunice!
And I have no doubt she would have been the first to tell the story!






Monday, October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. If you're straight, like I am, you might think that doesn't have much to do with you. But today might be a good day for you to come out, too, as a straight ally.

The Human Rights Campaign website says “A straight ally is someone who is not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) but personally advocates for GLBT equal rights and fair treatment.”

As my circle of friends has grown to include many gay and lesbian people I've gotten a glimpse into their world and it's limitations. I don't think I would like to live there and because I care about them, I don't want them to live there, either. I want them to be free to be who they are and love who they love without apologizing to anyone or jumping through legal hoops to protect their families.

I find it ironic that National Coming Out Day comes during a month when we dress up in costumes and pretend to be someone we're not.

I remember when I was a very little girl and I spent every day outside with my big brother, playing football and baseball, climbing trees and riding bikes all over the neighborhood just like all the boys. (And I'm very grateful that my mother never tried to limit these activities!) But every now and then, and always on Sundays, I had to dress up and no matter how pretty my parents told me I looked I never quite felt like myself in all those ribbons and bows and petticoats. Once I got home I'd put my jeans and tennis shoes back on just as quickly as I could and breathe a sigh of relief and just be myself again.

I know that what I felt as a kid is only a drop in the bucket compared to what so many feel every day as they live closeted lives or face the limitations of the legal system, struggling to just be who they are. I hope someday we will all live in a land where even those who do not share our religious beliefs are free to live their lives without limitations. I want to be someone who helps us move in that direction.

Because it's not about religion.

It's about acceptance.


Accepting the fact that not everyone is just like you.

Accepting the fact that the world is big enough for all of us.

Accepting the fact that when my neighbor is safer, I'm safer, too.

Accepting the fact that I have a responsibility to vote in a way that helps assure the safety of all of our citizens, not just the ones who share my beliefs.

So, Happy National Coming Out Day to all of my friends and family.

And Happy Halloween.

Who are you going to be?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Charlotte

I had a visitor yesterday.

Ordinarily she would be an unwelcome one but this time she didn't bother me at all since she never came in. I didn't even know she was there until I opened the curtains and looked outside. I don't know much about spiders, so I can't say for sure if my visitor was a she or a he but but my daughter said we should call her Charlotte and I don't think she'd mind.

When I opened the curtain I saw the spider web covering most of the bottom half of the glass door. The photographer in me couldn't resist grabbing my camera and taking some pictures. Moving furniture around to minimize reflections, crouching and then lying down on the floor to find the best angles (because a good photographer will do whatever it takes to get the shot) I took a dozen or so photos. My subject didn't seem at all self-conscious.







Sometimes nature amazes me.



So delicate

So intricate



Functional

Beautiful



Just a spider doing what spiders do. Nothing special.



Is this web a trap...

...or is it a home?

The answer is


Yes.



This morning I opened the curtain, thinking I would take more pictures in the morning light.

The web was gone.

Without a trace.

It must have taken a great deal of Charlotte's time and energy to construct something so large and so detailed. I wonder where it went. But school and jobs and appointments won't wait for me to spin any more webs in my mind and it's time to face the day .


I'm glad I took those pictures when I had the chance. Now I have evidence that it did, indeed, exist.

What if I hadn't taken the pictures... or even taken the time to notice Charlotte?


What is

valuable

beautiful

useful...?



Is something more precious because it lasts a long time or

is it more precious because it is so fleeting?



The answer is


Yes

Friday, September 17, 2010

Like Home



I've been thinking a lot about As The World Turns and Guiding light this week. The last episode of ATWT airs today and today marks one year since the GL's finale. It's still a little hard to believe that next week we will be without both of these American institutions that have given us so much for generations.

Last week I listened to a DayplayerDish podcast with Tina Sloan and JIll Lorie Hurst and called in to join in the discussion about these shows and the changes in the industry. Tina mentioned a story she'd just written about Lillian and Buzz, one year later. She said she was imagining sitting there in Company with Beth and Buzz and thought, "We can't go back there again."

That's when I realized why these shows have meant so much to so many for so long and why it is that those of us who haven't watched in years, maybe even decades, will feel the loss of As The World Turns along with viewers who never missed an episode.

It's like going home again.

When I go back home to Texas I see that so many things have changed. But I'll see the familiar among the new and I'll know it's still home.

I've been watching ABC soaps for decades but I tuned in to ATWT about a year ago and Dr. Bob Hughes was still there in Memorial Hospital, right where he belonged.I saw many new faces but some had familiar names like Hughes and Snyder. As long as Nancy and Lisa and Susan and Kim were there with Dr. Bob, it was still my Oakdale.

It is like going home again.

You know the town, the places, the names.

You know it's never going to be the same, but you still want to visit now and then.

You may not visit often, but it's comforting to know you could if you wanted to. If you needed to.

It made you happy just knowing it was still there.

In a fast moving world where changes often come before we're ready for them shows like As the World Turns and Guiding Light have been a constant as generations have followed the stories of generations on TV. During the past year Guiding Light fans have taken some comfort in being able to watch classic episodes on YouTube and Hulu.com, but the announcement has come that these will no longer be available after October 21, 2010. Watch them while you can. (edited to add: So far, these classic episodes are still available)

I think it is appropriate that this week has also brought us Tina Sloan's new book, "Changing Shoes" that talks about dealing with changes in life.  Thanks, Tina. We need this now.




Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Little While

Today I've been preoccupied with things I can't change.

So many people I love are

hurting

worried

feeling lost.

I've carried them with me in my heart all day

hurting for them

hoping for them

praying for them

wishing I could help.

Some are far away and I can't get to them.

I know if we had the time

just to sit for a while

to listen

to hug

to hold a hand

I could help lift a burden

    if only for a little while

bring out a smile


    if only for a little while

share a giggle or two

    if only for a little while.



I want to fix it

    once and for all.

But sometimes

    even a little while counts.



Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hair, Part Two

See my previous blog entry to find out why I decided that if I ever had a daughter, I would never get between her and her hair.




The summer before her senior year in high school, my daughter dyed her hair hot pink and joined an all-girl rock band.

I figured if my kid wanted pink hair she could deal with the consequences. After all, she was the one who'd get all the stares and funny looks and stupid questions, not me. I tried to tell her that people pay a lot of money to have their hair dyed her natural shade of strawberry blonde but she wanted hot pink.

I remember trying to explain it to my mother...the one with all the Toni home perms and sponge rollers.... "You know, Mom...it's a good color for her!"

It was true. When I'd show up at the high school to pick my daughter up after school I saw other kids with wildly colored hair. Now and then I'd spot one and think "Oh, honey...that's the wrong shade of green for you!" But my daughter's pink hair looked really good with her skin tone.

I used to tell people, "She's always had a bright, shining personality. Now you just see it even more!"

My daughter liked all the stares and funny looks. She enjoys shaking things up, and I like that about her. I'm glad she doesn't settle for the ordinary, that she wants her life to be an expression of who she really is inside.

Besides, when a teenager is 5" 10" with hot pink hair, it makes her really easy to find in a crowded mall!


Oh, and about the all-girl band.... This was a group of her friends from school and she went to all their shows, knew all their songs (they're originals, with a couple of covers thrown in) and cheered them on as they won the local Battle of the High School Bands. She was also as disappointed as all their fans when their bass player quit the group. The remaining girls hoped they'd be able to find another friend to take her place and looked at Becky and said "It's a shame you don't play bass". She told them I'd taught her some bass runs on my guitar once. They said "You don't sing, do you?" She always sang in her church and school choirs in Texas before we moved to Maryland. So they gave her a tryout and she was in the band.

All she had to do was learn all the lyrics and vocals to all of their songs...oh, and learn to play the bass guitar parts, too. Good thing she had three whole months before their next show!

She did it.

Just like that.

Using a borrowed bass guitar.

Every evening she went to the home of one of her band-mates to their basement practice studio. We didn't see as much of her at home, but we always knew where she was and who she was with.

My assignment in all this was to serve as the band's official photographer and make publicity flyers for them. And to find her a hot pink bass to match her hair.

A little research told me that no hot-pink bass guitars were currently in production. (Daisy Rock Guitars has one now, though.) But I was sure that somebody back in the psychodelic '70's must have made one. So I took her to a guitar show, like a guitar flea market and sure enough...there it was. (I know in this picture, it looks more red than hot-pink, but trust me...it's the same color as her hair!)

My daughter's featured solo with the group was called "Datin' Satan".

Sounds appropriate for a good little Southern Baptist girl, huh?

For a couple of years, until the band fizzled and the girls went their separate ways, we had a wild ride! Pink Hair, rock bands and all!


I wouldn't trade it for anything!


Oh, and about the hair...it went back to her natural strawberry blond when she started managing a video game store while still in community college. The corporate world tends to frown on hot pink. So did the bank where she worked as a senior teller after that. You can spot her here, in the "Living Social Team" photo, still strawberry blonde...so far!

But here she is, my 17 year old pink-haired rockstar, singing "Datin' Satan"....


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hair, Part One

When I was a little girl my mother was in charge of my hair. I couldn't care less what my hair looked like as long as it stayed out of my way when I was playing ball and climbing trees with my big brother and the other boys on the block.

I liked the pixie style best as it required only a little trim now and then, which was all I wanted to sit still for anyway. My hair was very thin back then and so blonde it was almost white. A friend of mine once said I had only 10 white hairs on my head and that wasn't much of an exaggeration. It was also very straight.

As I got a little older Mom let my hair grow. Apparently, all straight hair was supposed to be curly and a great deal of time and effort went toward that end. Pincurls gave way to brush rollers and a hair dryer that fit over my hair like a shower cap and inflated to at least three times the size of my head. That style of hair dryer afforded some freedom of movement as long as I didn't wander beyond the reach of the hose attached to the base unit. Later we got one with a fixed hood that you had to sit under like the hair dryers in salons.

My most vivid memories of hair styling in those days are of Toni home perms and hairspray. I learned that beauty must be accompanied by some degree of discomfort. The stench of the solutions that came with the Toni home perms are seared into my brain. I'm sure there must be some corellation between the use of hairsprays and the development of asthma and/or allergies later in life.

After standing still for what seemed like hours to an 8 year old, I would emerge from a cloud of hairspray... a vision of beauty... gulp in deep breaths of fresh air and go running outside with the echos of my mother's warning to not mess up my hair ringing in my ears.


When I was a teenager I let my hair grow out and it became thicker and began to turn darker blonde. My mom still did her best to keep it curled. But I often pulled it back in a pony tail to keep it out of my way, especially when playing softball for the girl's church league fast-pitch team. (Shortshop, if you were wondering....) I could satisfy my mother and the world of fashion by tying a ribbon around it or the thick, colorful yarn that was trendy at the time. Much better than a home perm or sleeping on sponge rollers. I would curl it now and then with hot rollers or a curling iron but my hair was so thick the weight of it would straighten out the curls pretty soon so why bother?


When I was in college I worked summers at a Baptist camp south of Dallas. I worked there five years in a row and looking back at the pictures taken then, you can see my hair getting a little shorter every year. It was just too hot and there were so many other things to do at camp than stand at a mirror with a blow dryer for as long as it took me to dry my thick hair. Shorter and layered was better. I started growing my hair out a couple of times after I got married, but always grew impatient with it and cut it again.

The problem was that during my second pregnancy my hair had developed some odd cowlicks and gotten a little wavy in places. I'd have it cut in a salon and it looked fine at first, but later I could see that it was cut unevenly because the stylist didn't know the way these odd cowlicks behaved. Once when my hair was in need of a trim I got really impatient and decided I could cut that long part myself, so I did. I discovered that it was much easier to keep it trimmed myself than to keep running back to the salon.

As I've gotten older I've simplified everything... hair, make-up, clothing. I find that the more time I spend looking at myself in a mirror in the morning, the more self-conscious I am about my appearance the rest of the day. I also don't want to end up like Aunt Gawdy, a little old lady with way too much make-up and hair dye. (That wasn't her real name, we just called her that because she was.)



So now I give you my two main philosophies of hair care:

1. Find out what your hair wants to do and get out of the way.

2. Never get between your daughter and her hair. (More about this next time!)


I know I won't be the most fashionable woman on the block. I just hope I grow old gracefully.





Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Unexpected

"She's waking up, sir. We haven't told her anything yet."

These words have been rolling around in my head for the last day or so. It's the first thing I heard as I was waking up after the birth of my second daughter by emergency c-section.

I don't recall being alarmed by those words at the time. Obviously there was something I didn't know. Did I have a boy...or a girl...maybe a litter...? Somebody would have to fill me in.

Then I saw my husband's face and he said, "She's doing better. But she's a fighter."

He said "she". I had a daughter. I knew something wasn't quite right because he said "better"... not "fine". I didn't ask him for more details at the time. I knew if there was more he could have told me, he would have, and I drifted off in a drugged sleep again.

Later, I was to learn that something severed a vein during the delivery and she had lost about 80% of her blood. After 45 minutes of CPR, they finally got a pulse. The pediatrician who revived her took note of all the normal infant reflexes but said only time would tell if any lasting damage was done.

They brought her to my room briefly, just so I could get a look at her, before they took her to the NICU of a larger hospital across the highway. I didn't even ask if I could touch her because I was afraid they'd say no. I figured I could hold it together if I could just look at her, but felt like I'd fall apart if they said I couldn't touch her. So I just looked.

She was lying on her stomach and her face was turned toward me. Then she lifted her head up just a bit, with one eye closed...looked for all the world as though she was giving me a wink. Amazing moment.

We would visit her as she spent her first 11 days in the NICU. I would study her every movement and listen to her breathe. Her cry was like the sweetest music as she let the world know that she was here and demanded attention.





And in quiet moments alone, I silently wondered how long we would get to keep her. During the next few months as we fell into the new routine of her two hour feeding cycles and I learned to care for a newborn and a third-grader, I would watch for signs of something the doctors missed. Was she really okay? With every little sniffle or bellyache I'd wonder, "Is this that one thing the doctors forgot to check for...?"

That was almost eighteen years ago. She'll start her senior year of high school soon... a strong, smart, talented, beautiful young woman. And I am a very grateful mom.


I found myself reliving all the drama of her birth and her first few days with us this week when I found out that a family friend had a baby boy last Monday night. He appeared to be perfectly healthy, but a few days later, he stopped breathing and all attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Please pray for these young parents and their extended family and friends as they try to cope with this devastating loss.


Life is precious.

Cherish it.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Simple Song

Driving home today I was flipping stations on the radio and stopped when I heard the Beatles, "Hey Jude". Beautiful song. Beautiful, simple melody, with lyrics that touch on universal themes. I can't help singing along. It never grows old.

That's what it takes to make a timeless song. A simple melody that carries you along and lyrics that touch your heart.


Take a sad song and make it better…

don’t be afraid…

let her into your heart…

begin to make it better.


A simple song about life.


The past couple of years I've seen soap operas resort to more and more stunts in order to grab the viewers attention and hope they'll stick around. Tornadoes, explosions, and train wrecks of the literal variety as opposed to the figurative kind where a show seems to be falling apart at the seams.

The latest trend seems to be to cast a well-known primetime or film actor for a limited story arc, which makes it difficult to truly invest in their character's story because the viewer knows they won't be sticking around for very long.

But all we want is a simple melody that touches the heart.

A simple story of

love

family

forgiveness

redemption

hope.

These are the elements of our everyday lives and we are pulled into the story as our favorite characters experience these things.

Consider the stories you remember as your favorites, the ones you're thinking of when you say "Why don't they write 'em like that anymore?".

A love lost ... forgiveness granted ...love regained. A family shattered by mistrust comes together in a time of crisis, forgives, and is restored. Despair slowly gives way to faith and hope and reaches out to grant it to another. Uncertainty and fear seek answers and explanations, discovering those who are always there to offer support whether those answers are ever found or not.

This is life. These things can be found at the root of every successful soap story and every memorable character. The rest is just window dressing.

I wish soaps would be more concerned with the stories and pay less attention to the drapes.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Welcome to Rural America

When my family moved from the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex to the small town of Belton, Texas it was the weekend of July 4th. We moved into an old fixer-upper house (which we never quite fixed up) just one block off Main Street and one block up from the traffic light that really would start blinking at 10:00 at night.

The first day my then four year old daughter woke up in her new house she looked out the front window and said, "Mommy, why are all these people parking at our house?" I looked out the window with her and saw a variety of vintage automobiles, a flatbed truck full of little league ball players, a handful of Civil War re-enactors in uniform, and a hook and ladder truck from a nearby community's volunteer fire department.

Our street was a feeder street for the Belton Independence Day parade, the largest in the state of Texas by some reports. It would take hours for all the floats, vintage cars, ball teams, and such to wind their way through town.

My father, who grew up in Temple, recalls going to Belton for the July 4th parade when he was a child. He was delighted to hear that my daughter and I sat on the swing on our porch and watched our part of the parade as other floats and riders on horseback joined the assembly. Then we all walked a block over to watch the rest of the parade from the lawn of the church.

Welcome to rural America.

Each year the parade assembled in front of our house and I learned where the best vantage points were for taking pictures as I began my career as a photographer. I also learned to shoot fast and get out of the Texas heat. So, here is one of my favorites. (By the way, I do hope God blesses America, like the church sign says. I hope he blesses other countries, too).

Monday, June 28, 2010

Daytime Emmys 2010

I don't pretend to know how the votes are determined for awards shows. There's no accounting for taste as evidenced by the many shows I've loved that have been cancelled. And any given year, for any category of any awards show, there are no doubt several nominees who are deserving of any particular award and probably a few deserving of nominations who were neglected.

But I still wanted to see Crystal Chappell and Beth Chamberlin win Emmys last night.

I've been a fan of Crystal's since she was on One Life to Live as Maggie Carpenter. Her character was memorable because she wasn't a typical soap heroine and she played the character differently than most soap actresses would have. She was more real and I loved that. I was sorry when she left the show. But I did not follow her to Guiding Light when she moved on to that soap. I watched All My Children and One Life to Live whenever I could and didn't want to add more at the time.

It wasn't until February of 2009 that I watched Guiding Light for the first time because some of my online friends had told me about the wonderful way the story of the relationship of Olivia & Natalia was being played out on that show. I decided I'd tune in and see what Crystal was up to and maybe I'd watch, just for her scenes.

What I saw took my breath away. It was the day when Olivia was in a panic about Phillip coming back to town and Natalia had to get right up in her face to help her calm down. Grasping her hands and making Olivia look her right in the eye, Natalia told her "Trust me. We won't let anything happen to your daughter." I was amazed at the intensity between Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia and with the way the production style enhanced the story, bringing the viewer right into the room with the characters in a way that other soaps did not. I was sold, a confirmed "Otalia" fan.

What really surprised me, though, was what happened when I watched the rest of the show. The story was all about Coop's death. Now, I didn't know who Coop was or what his relationship was to other characters in the scenes or who they were to each other. Mother, daughter, sister, son, etc. didn't matter to me yet. I knew I wasn't crazy about the green walls of the hospital and the cheap look of the sets, but I didn't notice that for long. I was completely swept up in the remarkable performances of the actors. I didn't know who Buzz was or what his history with his son was all about, but I hurt for him as he watched his son die. I didn't know who Beth was or what had happened between her and Coop before that day, but my heart broke for her. I wanted to tune in the next day to make sure she'd be okay and to see how she and Buzz would rebuild their lives after such a profound loss. Again, the production model put me right in the middle of the scene and brought it all home to me much more effectively than the traditional style of other shows.

I was a Guiding Light fan.

I never missed a day of the show after that and was continually impressed by the quality of the writing, the performances of the actors and the creativity of the producers and directors as they brought us the show in new and different ways, challenged by their limited budget. That they were all able to present such compelling stories, such memorable characters, day after day under such constraints is remarkable. Other shows with many times their budget can't seem to get it right.

Which brings me to the Daytime Emmys that aired last night.

I do appreciate the fact that somebody, anybody, was able to bring us the Daytime Emmys and on a major network, too. But it was still sad to see that no network bothered to show any red carpet footage of this major industry event. It was also sad that there was no memorial segment to give tribute to stars like Frances Reid, James Mitchell and Helen Wagner after all the years they have entertained and comforted and challenged us.

I have always looked forward to seeing a glimpse of performers on shows I don't usually watch when the nominees are presented, but last night, no clips were shown as the names were announced. Instead we had a commercial for the city of Las Vegas and the travel industry. I'm glad they paid tribute to Dick Clark, a man who has truly changed the industry. More than just American Bandstand, he has produced numerous game shows that have aired on daytime television and this program was not just about soap operas. But I wonder if cutting just a bit from this segment would have left enough time for a decent tribute to As The World Turns, a show that has been a constant for CBS and millions of viewers for over 50 years. The tribute that was presented was less than Guiding Light received last year, which wasn't nearly enough. And although I hated the way the ovation for the cast of Guiding Light was rudely cut short by a commercial break last year, at least they were allowed to take the stage and be recognized by their peers. Not As The World Turns.

I was delighted to see Agnes Nixon honored and although I would love to have seen more time given to this segment I thought they made the most of the time they had. Susan Lucci's emotional speech on behalf of this amazing woman who had literally made all the difference in her life was perfect. And to see Agnes herself stand on the stage and deliver her own (beautifully written, of course!) acceptance speech brought a tear to my eye.

But I still would have liked to see Crystal Chappell win an Emmy last night.

Every soap opera fan can name two or three unforgettable moments in their favorite soaps, performances that are seared into our memories, some because of the pivotal point in the story, some due to the actor's performances, or maybe both. I think the one scene that has been played over and over again as an example of the best soaps have to offer is the scene of Karen Wolek's meltdown on the witness stand, as played by Judith Light on One Life To Live, a scene that is still used in acting classes.

Crystal Chappell's performance as Olivia Spencer, finally declaring her love to Natalia is one of the most riveting performances I've seen on television, daytime or primetime. I read the spoilers, I knew it was going to happen, I could feel the tension building during the scene. But when she screamed "I'm in love with you" I still came up out of my chair and screamed, too. And the way her hand shook as she said it again, this time with a whisper, laid bare the soul of this powerful woman, suddenly powerless in the face of true love.

Crystal connected powerfully with the hearts of the viewers as she portrayed Olivia Spencer, one of the genres most memorable characters. And isn't that what actors are supposed to do?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Daddy Story

Once upon a time when I was a little girl my daddy told me a story.

It was bedtime and he stooped down while I climbed up on the couch and reached my arms up as high as I could, all the way up to his shoulders. He grabbed my hands and pulled me up the rest of the way and I wrapped my arms around his neck and peaked over his shoulder as he gave me a piggy back ride down the hall and around the corner all the way to my room and swung me around to land softly in the middle of the great big bed I shared with my older sister. And when I was snuggled under the quilt my grandmother had made he began the story in his slow Texas drawl with that rumbling baritone voice of his....

O-o-o-nce upon a ti-i-i-me ....when I-I-I-I was a little bo-o-oy....

I was transported to a different place and time and tried to imagine what the world looked like through my father's eyes when he was young. The story was always about something silly that happened to him and it always ended with a giggle.

And I went to sleep feeling safe and warm and the world was full of fun.


I thought a lot about my daddy as Father's Day approached. Not only because of Father's Day, but because he'd just told us he'd been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and we were waiting to find out more details about his condition.

I had just made a donation in support of Crystal Chappell and Michelle Carter as they ran a half-marathon to help raise funds for Leukemia/Lymphoma research when I heard about this. At the time I was thinking of my neice who was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was four. She just got her masters degree and started a new job in her field. I had no idea my father would be facing this in only a matter of days.

I typed the news of Dad's diagnosis into Twitter and Facebook, reaching out to friends I talk to every day online to share my concerns with them and ask for prayers. I was overwhelmed by the response. In a matter of minutes people all over the world were praying for my dad. Hundreds of people, from all walks of life, offered me their support and I'm grateful for each one of them and the many ways they have blessed me. During the next few days, as we waited for more news, they continued to ask about him and offer me encouragement.

There are few things my father enjoys more than meeting people and making new friends. I can't count the number of times I waited with my family, long after a church service or banquet had concluded, while Dad was still talking with someone, hearing his booming laughter ring out even as the lights were being turned off in the building. Well, usually, the others were waiting in the car while I was tagging along with Dad because I wanted to meet them, too! Maybe it was on one of these occasions when he told me to live life on tip toe, like a little kid peering over the crowd at the parade to see what all the excitement is about.

People and their stories fascinate Dad and he's been collecting them both all his life. It's only fitting that he's on Twitter and Facebook now. Not many almost-81-year-olds can say that, I'll bet.

I remember when my dad first told me he thought I could be a writer. I don't recall how the conversation started exactly. We were driving home from church and I was leaning up from the back seat, peaking over his shoulder as he drove. He looked at me in the rear view mirror as though he'd never considered the possibility before and said, "I think you'd be a good writer. Yeah, I can see you doing that!" He talked about how I noticed things and that's something a writer does.

Now he says he shudders to think of what stories I might tell about him in that book I'll write someday!


On the Friday before Father's Day, my brother called me. He was visiting Dad and got him on the phone with me and my sister so we could all hear the oncologist's report at once. This story has a happy ending. Dad's lymphoma is the "easily manageable, slow growing kind". They'll do an MRI and CT scan, just to be sure, but no treatment is required. He'll go back in six months for a check-up and they'll keep an eye on him.


Once again, we listened as Dad told us his story.

And there was laughter.

And I went to sleep feeling safe and warm

... and the world is full of fun.


I can see it if I stand on tip toe.




Saturday, June 12, 2010

There's One In Every Family

I got a phone call from my Aunt Becky today. She is perhaps the most "twinkly" of all the women in my family. (Read my previous entry in this blog if you don't understand that reference.)

Aunt Becky is single and never had children of her own so she has always borrowed her nieces and nephews for child-like play time. My family lived in Dallas and when I was a preschooler she was in seminary in Ft. Worth. She later moved to Dallas where she lived for most of my childhood. I recall clearly my earliest memories of her.

Here was this woman who looked remarkably like my own mother, but she was ...bigger. I'm referring to her presence, not her size. She told wonderful, loud stories with funny facial expressions and silly voices and big gestures and her laughter filled up the room.

Most grown-ups who visited, including relatives, would speak to the other grown-ups most of the time and eventually get around to asking us kids questions like "What do you want to be when you grow up?" before returning to their conversations as my brother and sister and I went back outside or to our rooms to play. But Aunt Becky would get right down on the floor and play games with us for hours. I remember being fascinated by her and watching her to see what she'd do next.

When Aunt Becky was attending seminary in Ft. Worth she would occasionally have to take time out from our visit to work on her homework. One day she looked up from her work to see me standing at the door, just watching her. She said, "Donna, I can't play right now, but if you want to come in and keep me company we can play when I'm finished." And I did. I sat quietly and watched her while she finished her class assignment and then we went back to playing. Since then I have always been her "Company Girl."

Aunt Becky and I had an exciting adventure one day when I was about four or five years old. She had taken me with her to go pick up the last of her things at the dorm in Ft. Worth as she was moving to Dallas. I recall the big, stately buildings on the campus and the map on the floor in the enormous rotunda and the big smiles on the faces of her friends as she introduced me to them.

The rain started on the way home and it came down in sheets. We couldn't see the car on the Turnpike in front of us and the windows kept fogging up. This was back before laws about kids riding in the backseat, before most cars even had seat belts. I spent most of our drive back to Dallas jumping from the front seat to the back seat to wipe off the inside of the windshields so Aunt Becky could see better.

Then we both heard and felt a loud bump. I jumped to the back seat to see what it was and I saw a trash can in the road, the big metal kind we had in our backyard by the alley But this one was sort of ...crunched in the middle. Apparently, we'd just run over it. Now in some families that might be told and retold as a scary story. But when Aunt Becky tells it we always end up laughing about how ridiculous we must have looked with me climbing back and forth over the seats to wipe off the windows and her running over trash cans.

In my family, almost every story ends up being funny, whether it started out that way or not.

Back to the phone call….

During my conversation with Aunt Becky we somehow landed on the topic of my grandmother's colonoscopies. (I chose not to retrace our steps in an attempt to discover how we arrived at this topic. Some things are better left alone.) Aunt Becky began to giggle and made me get pen and paper ready before continuing her story, saying "You're going to want to write this one down!"

Aunt Becky helped take care of her mother/my grandmother during her declining years and told me about the last time she took her in for a colonoscopy. Afterwards, as they were leaving my grandmother turned to her and said, "If I'm growing anything in there, I'm takin' it with me. I'm not goin' through that again!" Aunt Becky and I collapsed in laughter as I struggled to dutifully write down that quote for posterity.

I could just see the twinkle in my grandmother's eye as she said that.

And in Aunt Becky's as she told the story.

Sigh.



I don't know how old I will be when I breathe my last...

or how feeble I may become before I get there...

but I hope I never lose the ability

to find the funny.

Thanks, Aunt Becky!

I love you!