Friday, May 30, 2014


            The elusive wannabees.  No, not the Brazilian African Honey Bee invading America via grapefruit transported innocently across the Mexican American border at the Matamoras/Brownsville crossing by a sixtyish matron dressed in a pressed jean skirt carrying a paper bag on her way to the bus stop where a city bus will pick her up and  deposit her at a sprawling  ranch home.  The bee will fly out when she puts the bag on the kitchen table and grabs the fruit to rinse it off before slicing the coral orb.  Around the corner and down the hall to the last bedroom, the home’s occupants will wake to the piercing smell of fresh cut grapefruit which will be set out in cereal bowls on breakfast linens accompanied by serrated grapefruit spoons and fresh hot coffee set on a well-polished mahogany dining table in a beige dining room diffused with the early rays of a Texas morning falling through paned windows onto the flat beige carpet that runs throughout the 3500 square foot home.

            Eating a section of grapefruit, the man chews the semi-sweet fruit while reading the headlines of the morning paper, which jump out in big black letters Elusive Wanna Bees Invade America.  A type-o, he says, out loud to the other person at the table who is engrossed in watching Good Morning America on the TV which has sat on the sideboard in the dining room ever since a silver and white anniversary present was unwrapped three years.
            Yes, she says, dabbing her nose with a breakfast napkin where the juice of a wild spurt leapt from the mother fruit and the biting edges of the serrated grapefruit spoon.  She places the linen napkin back in her lap, relieved to know Joan Lunden won’t catch her with grapefruit juice splashed across her washed but unmade face.  While the couple finish their grapefruit and toast, the morning program dives into the topic of  “Wanna Bees” with an expert who has recently published the book Wanna Bees or Will Bees : A Self Help Guide which will be in bookstores next week. 

            Oh, I get it, she says, not even noticing a bee perched on her grapefruit shell, instead brushing toast crumbs into her napkin with the unconscious precision developed over years of cleaning up after men and children and dry, unbuttered toast, a light sweeping action by a hand beginning to tighten up, with nails tipped in a classic shade of pink beige which is slightly chipped after the previous day’s gardening, putting out new tomato plants for her famous chicken salad stuffed tomatoes served on lettuce leaves for a luncheon with intimate friends who will linger after the last Club cracker is gone, sitting back in the mahogany dining room chairs talking about new grandchildren over the tinkling of ice cubes melting in sparkling crystal as sugar and lemon are splashed together with a long, slender ice tea spoon indigenous to a proper silver place setting which is included in the dowry of every proper Southern bride or wrapped in a soft blue felt bag tied with string waiting in a dark drawer in a side board owned by a much-loved grandmother who no longer drinks ice tea.     

            A much-loved grandmother who never worries about wanna bees invading her home.  She just is where she is, every day and that is enough.  She doesn’t know her granddaughter lies in bed at night dreaming of what she wants to be, glancing at the clock as the hour changes, less time left to sleep before the baby wakes.  Not ready to get up and not ready to quit thinking, the new mother never realizes or stops to remember that a year ago she lay in the same brass bed feeling the movement of the baby close to her heart, wanting to be a mother, ready to be a mother.  A year later, an evening’s entertainment is spent sorting through old magazines tearing out pretty pictures of perfectly decorated rooms that she wants to have someday.  Another torn out stack of recipes she wants to prepare and taste someday.  The baby sleeps but rolls over, a little foot moves against her lullaby lambie-pie turning a wind up key into a brief sleepy note or two, assuring that the baby is still breathing and moving quietly under her blanket.  In the next room, the granddaughter/ new mother lying awake in the dark, rearranging furniture and picking paint color for the inspiration needed to clean out the extra bedroom now piled with everything which was in the nursery – the exercise bike, the card table, the broken club chair, two milk crates full of albums which don’t sound good anymore because of the strange crackle in the right speaker sitting on the dresser missing a leg but propped up with a textbook from the bookcase full of used textbooks which is next to the old broken down sleeper sofa used for company. 

            Three hours distance down a two lane highway running into a town overpassing the train tracks, taking the third left road which travels on the west side of the big white two-story house the much-loved grandmother “who just is every day and that is enough” is lying in her bed listening to the clocks in four different rooms chiming at four varied times the same early morning hour.   The tick tock chants “go to sleep” but she ignores the clock which came from her girlhood home.  Bats.  Wasps.  But the wanna bees have never invaded her home.  She is elegant and simple, simply elegant with a quiet style which doesn’t need flash to be noticed.  She hasn’t needed wanna bees. 

            The granddaughter hangs pictures in her sleep on newly painted walls - by spring.  And something clicks while she’s lying there next to a snoring husband.  Your wanna bees should be where you are right now.  The self-acceptance of   “just being where you are every day and that is enough,”  like the much-loved grandmother who has been chanted to sleep by the tick tock of her clock sitting across the room on a maple dresser by the door.  A good role model for solid guidance,  instead of reading in the newspaper or hearing on the TV while you wipe grapefruit from your chin that wanna bees have invaded America.    

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Although you are young, Facebook, cell phones, Instagram and Twitter are even younger!  This is my snapshot of your life as if it were recorded on FB and a blog in real time.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD BABY GIRL!  You arrived early but who is complaining?  Your Daddy fashioned this pic into a tie tac and wore it to work for a few days.  As your birth announcement read "Nothing this great has ever happened to us!"

THERE SHE GOES!  We call her Baby Bird because she is just like a little bird in the nest, always going peep, peep, peep waiting for the next bite.  She is a delight!

MY FIRST MOTHER'S DAY!  I absolutely love being your mother.  I can't believe you are almost a year old (and still not walking!)  But you are already talking.  We have had a wonderful year, all three of us.

CHOCOLATE HEAVEN!  This is her first birthday.  I think she loves chocolate! We had lots of family and more cake the next day.  She loves to wear her party ribbons in her hair!

Can't believe we just celebrated three years!  This was the year we discovered The Wizard of Oz (at least 2x a day).  Glenda The Good Witch made sure you had your very own custom pair of ruby red tennis shoes just in time for your party.  A big wind blew up during your party and we thought "Oh No!"

AND SPACEMAN IS DRIVING ME CRAZY!  And you are wearing what we call a Get-Up as you tell anyone who will listen about the adventures of your life as Spaceman's wife.  Definitely a fashion maven ahead of her time!

Age seven

We have survived our first dance recital.  Pure misery until our little precious hits the stage!  She is 4 1/2 and wants to be "a doctor, a ballet and a dancer."  Last night we were singing Christmas carols and she wanted to know what "joyful, triumphant and faithful" meant and then asked me "What color is God?"

THIS IS PEPPER!  We finally got a dog!  Tonight, you asked your Daddy where our new puppy came from - before we got him at the Humane Society.  He told you it rained cats and dogs one night and that’s where Pepper came from.  “No it didn’t” you said, but not sure.  You ran to me.  “Mama, it didn’t really rain cats and dogs?”  Then you told your Daddy you believed only me because I know everything in the world.  Ha!!

SIXTEEN YEARS FLY BY!  That was fast!  All of the sudden, it's high school and driving.  It just seems like yesterday.......We must be very careful about how we behave when we are in public together.  She makes us tow the line.

???????   She met this boy over the summer at Governor's School.  He is very nice.  They are always laughing and having fun.  They are so young but when she came home and said to me, "Mama, there is this boy...."  We'll just have to wait and see.

OFF TO THE BALL.....She is off to the Debutante Ball, standing next to the pics of me and another Ball a few years ago....Love her red silk chiffon number.  And you know who is her escort!

WPS!!!!!!  Enjoying the game, all four of us!  (But too hot!)

MR. AND MRS.  "Mama there is this boy...."  and they lived happily everafter!

PRINCESS TO PRINCESS    Where does she get this "shoe" thing?  She knows she can't afford one but she can hold one!  Someday......Known to follow the daily fashion trends of Princess Kate !

CHRISTMAS 2013   Bringing the Zeke home to meet the family!



Monday, May 26, 2014


                                   THE STONE SOLDIER

In a country graveyard
near two centuries old
One monument catches every eye
A Soldier made in stone

He died for "Peace on Earth" they say
But where on Earth is peace today
Man kills man in war and then
It must be done again again again
What was he thinking
in that faraway land
There by War's chance
     surrounded by Buddies in Argonne France

              As he stands in lonely vigil
              could we see a stony tear  
             For all the stones about him bear
           no name of wife or children dear.


"For Amy" written by my grandmother, February 12, 1995
                                                            The Stone Soldier was a relative.
The Stone Soldier died October 1918 of injuries received in the Battle of Argonne Forest, France.)

Saturday, May 24, 2014


We arrived on Friday night, Memorial Day weekend, driving to the home of the one aunt and uncle who had not been in the path of the tornado.  The weakening tornado had been just a few miles to the south but still close enough to leave pieces of debris in their yard.   From their house, we drove into Joplin.  Heading west, our first view of the damage in the city was at the intersection of a once bustling commercial area and a four lane highway.  There is a slight rise in the road just before the traffic light.  As far as we could see to the west, it was black, as if we had left a campground and climbed up a hill, looking down on the campground where most of the fires had been doused and the only glimmer was from banked ashes at a few of the campsites or the glow of a flashlight in the hand of the last one turning in for the night.  You could hardly speak.  In the dark, there appeared to be no shopping centers, neighborhoods, nothing.  For miles.
Neighborhood around St. John's Hospital.  Hospital on the far left.  Electrical plant to the right of hospital.  
In the light of morning, as we drove back into town through a security checkpoint, my heart ached for our aunts and uncles and my husband's parents and the tremendous loss they were processing. Thankfully, no one had been injured in our family.  A large part of their hometown, the part central to their growing up days, gone, almost unrecognizable.  At certain points, a maze, as every natural and man made landmark was blown away or partially hanging on, except for the concrete streets still attached to the earth.

Tornadoes have always been one of my biggest fears. You really can not imagine such a scene until you are there. I have not written about the experience because there was not enough time between the words and the world that stopped on that Sunday afternoon.  The worse pictures I took from inside the car.  Still, I felt intrusive, capturing somebody's tragedy.                     

A green jacket and a black coat wrapped around trees.
Going back and looking at my pictures, I remember a house where people perished.  In thirty-eight minutes, the twenty-two mile long tornado had taken 161 lives*.  When we arrived on Friday, there were still people missing.  Clothing was caught in the limbs of bare trees.  Any spot of water might reveal a lost person.  I had a fear of seeing something but also the thought that it would help a family. Horrible things happened.  A baby was pulled from its mother's arms.   The tornado pulled a high school senior from his car as he raced to get home. He and his father were returning from the graduation ceremony. His body was found on Saturday.

Five days out, the main storm streets had been partially cleared.  6, 954 homes** were destroyed along with churches, schools, shopping centers, large and small businesses and the hospital.  An iron cross still stood straight next to an almost demolished St. Mary's Church and school. Mangled cars littered every scene, pitched and tossed at odd angles which would speak volumes about the safety of any vehicle during such a storm.
Convenience store where people took cover in the cooler and lived.

National Guard Hummers blocked off the very worse areas.  The law enforcement presence was huge, joined with local, statewide, and assistance from states and cities from around the country.  Insurance companies, non-profit organizations and church vans were set up in the parking lots of areas in town not affected by the storm, cooking food and taking donations.  Semi trucks full of food, water and clothing seemed to be on every other corner, out of the zone.  Additional satellite tents were within the zone.  Back-hoes were everywhere.  On through streets that were open, cars lined both sides as city officials and utility workers walked around taking care of business in their dayglo vests and hard hats.

In this part of town, there was no power although company trucks were everywhere.  Only daylight through the window.  One room was missing a part of the roof.  And yet, in another room lifetime treasures were in pristine condition as we worked to pack away the possessions before the home was declared unsafe.  We were lucky.  There were possessions to pack.   It was strange to walk in one part of the house where everything looked normal except for knowing it had been lifted and ever so slightly put back down.

Any room with a broken window or windows looked as if someone had stood in the middle of the room, spraying the walls and surfaces with sporadic coats of a brown substance like partially dried paper mache - everything the tornado had churned up and pulverized.  In some places, shattered glass, as fine as sand, could be shaken out of belongings just like sand from a blanket at the beach.

Saturday afternoon I took a break.  I stepped out back.  The air smelled different, all the broken trees and the exhaust from saws.  We are not used to seeing destruction of this magnitude.  I don't know how first responders and others, who work in these areas for weeks following such a disaster, are able to handle the constant immediacy of need.  It is just a small part of my history, very small when compared to the thousands who survived it.  But still closer than I ever want to be again.

My precious area
I looked down at the ground littered with paper, junk, pieces of wood.  Everything coated in the brown muck. A picture caught my eye.  Amazingly, a small black and white picture with the old fashioned decorative border was still intact.  I kept looking.  Glass was everywhere.  Of course, I knew to watch every every step in order to avoid a nail or another sharp object.  On my first hunt, I didn't even take gloves.  The collection grew as I carried it caught up in my t-shirt like I was harvesting wild berries.  Almost as soon as I first leaned over to pick up a piece, my mind hit on the term "Precious."  I was gathering precious pieces of  lives upended.

The precious pieces became almost sacred to me.  How would I feel if everything I own had been blown away?  Especially the pictures.  I wanted to gather up even the small bits.  A picture with a family but only one with half a face.  A cheer team from the 1970's.  The only intact photo was the older one.

I picked up half of a five dollar bill, wondering if the storm had ripped it in half, so neatly.  A child's plastic ring, possibly a favor from a birthday party.  Each item had been a possession.  A "No-Fail" chocolate chip recipe cut from a Blue Bonnet Margarine package.  A puzzle piece - the State of New Mexico.  A torn page from a personalized child's story book.  "Y le dijeron sus siervos: Que es esto que has hecho? " 2 Samuel 2:21, the page ripped from the Bible and folded up in the storm.  Probably from an attic, a twenty year old canceled check for a car payment on a '93 Lincoln.  The baby blue one inch square tile. One and a half ducks marching across a shard of pottery looking for coffee.  How far did these pieces travel?  If these are the pieces, what about the kitchen and the attic and the child's room?  Hard questions. That is why they are precious to me.  Someone should save them away, to mark the place and the time.  Souvenirs.

The last piece I picked up from the pile of a house that had been finished off by a bulldozer.  This was another visit. Weeks or months later, it doesn't matter.  But the white piece of curled wrought iron was picked up as a token of the place - the house Burt remembers as a child.  The house his grandparents built and owned while their daughters were young.  Pictures of two sisters posing, in front of the stone fireplace, wearing beautiful, new formals.  Dances, parties, weddings.  A grandson playing in the basement.  A home full of memories.
Only one story.

Much of what I found was unrecognizable - a mere fragment.  I didn't keep those pieces.  The picture pieces I found, I sent to a clearing house in Joplin which was posting lost pictures.  Heirloom family pictures.  Recent pictures. Wedding pictures.  Graduation.  New house pictures.  Sports pictures.  Cemetery pictures.  Disney pictures. Lake pictures.  Baby pictures.  Every part of life caught for one second of preservation.

Just pieces.  Precious pieces that speak of a place that existed on Sunday evening, May 22, 2011.   Missouri has the reputation as the "Show Me" State.  I think the city of Joplin has turned it around.  Ever since the disaster, people have worked to rebuild the city in new ways and different areas.  Yesterday, The Resilience Butterfly Garden and Overlook was opened at Cunningham Park - at the same time the tornado occurred three years ago.   The day after the tornado, the people of Joplin rolled up their sleeves and said "We'll show them!"  We'll rebuild - piece by piece.

Rangeline Road

*Beloved family pet, Grady


Wednesday, May 21, 2014


My box of precious

I have seen the very spot, the very start of something awful, afterward.  The beginning of endings.  A notorious addition to the history of horrible things which can happen to a nation, a state, a town, a street, a home and a life.  Spring may be a season when the heart turns to love but the warming weather which brings greening grass is a different kind of season for those living in and around Tornado Alley.  A season of waiting.

Not everyone is waiting.  There are folks who scoff at the plethora of meteorologists adept at issuing the weather notifications.  The state map laid out in county lines like a patchwork quilt - pieces of green, blue, red, and yellow depending on the weather of the moment - hail, wind, thunderstorm, tornado.  But once you have experienced a tornado or have seen the destructive aftermath, the watches and warnings become a saving grace, giving you time to take appropriate action.

 Just weeks ago, an EF-4 tornado (10 MPH short of an EF-5) devastated two nearby towns.  My plane was boarding when I got the call that the tornado sirens were going off at home.  The bright Texas sun was setting behind me as I looked out of my window.  To the north, mountainous storms climbed higher than we flew.  Gold lightening played across the storm face, weaving in and out and down.  The cabin lights were dimmed except for the individual lamp overhead.   The pilot announced we might have turbulence and everyone was to stay seated.  The man across the aisle from me was sitting with his head in his hands.  I told myself I wouldn't scream if we were to plunge a few hundred feet.  In my head, I tried to say the books of the Old Testament (bad student) and sing Dan Fogelberg songs (good student.)

Never one to hide my eyes, I looked out over the wing only to see the engine bobbing through wind and rain.  Moving up and down.  With much metallic give, I could only hope.  I really didn't want to be on that plane but there I was.  You could almost feel the plane sigh in relief when the pilot announced we were making our descent.  Our descent - we were all in this together.  No problem.  When I walked out of the plane, I told the attendant to kiss the pilot for me.  If he had been standing there, I would have pecked him on the cheek.

As the plane taxied to the gate, word of the tornadoes and power outages spread, upsetting those living near the affected areas.  Of course, right after such an event, nobody really knows what is going on. Strangely and thankfully, my most eventful moments had been while up in the air.  Preferably, nothing eventful in the air or on the ground would have been best.

The media coverage of the devastation brought to my mind the tornado in Joplin.  Not that I really needed reminding.  It is unforgettable.  The people in the nearby towns affected this spring will always know where they were.  The pictures in their mind will become before and after.

I took plenty of pictures Memorial Day weekend 2011.  But I hadn't looked at them in over two years. Maybe three years is enough time to write about it, complete with pictures.  I opened the file. Viewing the still shots and especially the few videos, brought new tears to my eyes.  I had never resided there but I had shared hundreds of hours visiting and staying with my husband's family.

On Sunday, May 22, 2011, the news broke while I was watching another program.  We were able to call a relative and find out they were okay but had a lot of damage, then the call dropped.  The rest of the night we waited for information about other relatives in town.  I turned on CNN and began watching.