Monthly Archives: September 2015

Tales From Times Past, pt. 2: Barbie’s Dream and Her House

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Second in my Facebook Recovery Posts (FRP). For the first, and an explanation of exactly what an FRP is, read here.

History is fascinating to me. I love the million, billion interesting and important stories of humanity’s past, to see where we were, what we’ve built, conquered, and accomplished- those are stories I could listen to all day long. However, in a recent Imprimus essay, “History, American Democracy, and the AP Test Controversy,” historian Dr.Wilford McClay laments the dismal state of historical studies today, citing, among other issues, the propensity for modern scholars to divide history into micro-oriented grievance groups and to look at everything of the past, no matter how noble, with a jaundiced eye. In other words, since (and because of) the 60’s we’re only allowed to look at the past and be angry, particularly if we happen to be a minority in any way, shape, or form. I am saddened that this is so, for I am angry. I am angry that I can’t simply “enjoy” our common history anymore because, now, everything is tainted by modern man’s need to Monday morning quarterback.

Case in point: We have amazing historical neighborhoods in Houston, thousands of beautiful lots with stunning homes from the 20’s and 30’s. Be they small craftsman and Tudor-style bungalows or massive mansions on finely manicured lots, these houses, many of which have been either well-maintained or meticulously restored, are quite simply lovely. The era in which they were built, an era that included      The_Public_Enemy_1931_Poster
trans-Atlantic flights, the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Great Depression, Mae West, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, Bonnie and Clyde, the Olympics of Jessie Owens, and the rise of Adolf Hitler, saw many old conventions fall away and opened the door to both miraculousp5436_p_v7_aa progresses and never before imagined horrors. To some degree, I look back and think of those years as, in Dicken’s words, the best of
times and the worst of times
. And the people who built and lived in those homes saw it all. How cool is that!?

Sadly, that was also the era when Jim Crow reigned, with no small thanks to that progressive demon Woodrow Wilson, mind you. In all likelihood those grand homes had “negro” nannies and servants, and every last one of them rode in the back of the bus, drank from separate water fountains, and sent their kids to “separate but equal” schools. More broadly, children died from diseases we nip in the bud so easily now, there were few social safety nets to help the poor and the destitute, women had little control over their own lives, abuses occurred without laws or law enforcers willing to support the victims of rape or incest, Indians languished on reservations, South Africans were brutally oppressed, Britain ruled India, and Belgium the Congo! Western imperialism was in its heyday!

See how I dip5920_p_v7_aad that? Despite the fact that people talked to one another, neighbors knew and helped each other, movies were unrated, and children got to roam freely, to be children, though at a certain point it was expected that they would put away childish things, marry and start families of their own, because of inequalities everything was awful. Regardless of the fact that the nuclear family was the only norm, children of all colors, were largely born within the bonds of holy matrimony, divorce was uncommon, as was abortion, and people worshiped at church on Sundays, instead of at the mall. But according to those in charge of the academy, we’re not supposed to remember any of the good of those days gone by, only the bad.

As usual, I refuse to comply.


April, 21, 2014

Today, today, I am waxing poetic.

What a good morning I had. Brownie is taking a class at MFAH’s Junior Art School this week. So, everyday at 8 a.m. we’ll be heading to the Hermann Park area for a class that runs from 9-11. This
morning I took a long stroll around the neighborhood, reveling in childish fantasies for the better part of two hours. The ‘hood directly behind the building, which is off of Montrose, is rife with 30’s & 40’s era apartment buildings and quaint homes that have often been converted into apartments. Of course, there are also some newer, sleeker patio homes, with lots of frosted glass, metal trim, and art deco numbers affixed to their facades. The older places just scream “starving artists live here,” while the newer, pricier builds are more demonstrative of the choices common among the young urban singles with high paying jobs. BMWs and Range Rovers were not uncommon sights in those driveways.

Following the homes back a few blocks, the narrow, “mulit-family dwelling” lined streets gave way to a wide, tree-lined boulevard featuring a median divided in half by a long, broad walkway made from terracotta pavers laid in a herringbone pattern. Massive century old oaks sheltered what was Oaks North Blvdessentially a linear park in the middle of row of 1920’s mansions, sitting on lush, well-landscaped lots of four or five acres each (by my estimation). I felt like I had stepped back in time to the Golden Years of Hollywood. All that was needed to complete the image in my mind was a platinum blonde Greta Garbo look-alike outfitted in a designer red silk dress, dripping with furs and jewels being driven up one of the long drives in a silver Rolls Royce by a tuxedo clad chauffeur.

North Boulevard captured my heart & took me back to the days when my family would drive through the equally august Monticello and Westover Hills areas of Ft. Worth “just for fun” on Sundays. For a young girl living in a mobile home with orange shag carpet and vinyl couches out in the sticks, my mind would soar during those drives! Goodness, how I wanted to live in one of those special homes.

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Yours for a mere $3.8 million!

After the mansions, came the more “modest” homes on more “modest” lots. The next block or two had beautiful multi-story villas of Tudor, Spanish, and Craftsman design, and a few of those stylish contemporary homes, too—the ones where it was obvious the original home had been razed to make way for a twenty-first century variation on a theme: contemporary conveniences, sleeker styles, no rusty pipes, knob and tube wiring, or window units, but generally, with a few exceptions, enough charm to fit in with the original models. Yes, my fantasies did just fine there, too.

Further along, the lots got ever smaller, and the houses began to shuffle closer together, as if they were lining up to be photographed and had to squeeze into the camera frame. The appeal of these smaller bungalows did not diminish in relation to their size though. In fact, I loved them even more for their small yards, narrow drive ways, garage apartments, lush greenery, and brightly painted front doors. Not to mention the fact that I might someday actually be able to afford a mortgage on such a property. After

Event this small shack would run you about $600K

Event this small shack would run you about $600K

all, Fantasies are all well and good, but in the end, I’m a realist.

Eventually, I reached a block where the lots gave up on sidewalks, as the front doors were just a few feet from the street. At that point, sidewalks apparently became less important than a tenuous, but necessary finger hold on green space.Sadly, it was at that moment the outside world intruded into my day dreams, just as the street had intruded upon the front yards of these fanciful doll houses. As I glanced a little farther along my path, I recognized the familiar golden arches of Mc Donalds on Kirby; the noise and industry broke the spell the trees had cast upon me, and my imagination could go no further.

But wait! I remembered something very important at that moment: I still had to turn around and go back to get Brownie.

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As an aside, there was something I couldn’t help but laugh about on my walk, strike that, my stroll, today, and that was the sidewalks. They were simply hilarious to me. The few people 007I did encounter in the hour I was out were not walking on the sidewalks, but in the street! The roots on those massive old oak trees had pried up large sections of concrete with the ease, if not the speed, of a 50 ton bulldozer.
Every time I came to a curb cut, I smiled. Seriously, if the idea of a curb cut is to take away the need for one to step-up, or make it possible for a wheel chair bound individual to roll across a street and back onto the safety of the sidewalk, making them was a huge waste of tax payers money. Huge! No grandma or gandpa with any sense of joint preservation would dare attempt to walk anywhere BUT the street! LOL. I’m so grateful I get to walk this area every day this week. But, tomorrow I think I will check out South Boulevard instead.

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Progress is a Series of Small Steps in the Right Direction

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The word disciple comes from the Latin meaning “a learner,” and the older I get the more aware I am of that status within myself. When I think of my kids’ approach to life, the term “intellectually curious” is often used when it seems they are engaged and actively seeking answers to their daily questions. Conversely, “lazy” is the term employed to describe them at rest, and I don’t mean during periods of recovery from life; Lazy happens when they opt to fully disengage from everything…and drool on themselves, rather like I used to be with Facebook! In the former mode, it is less difficult to get things done around the house and to get school work accomplished; they are enjoyable and deep, meaningful discussions occur. However, when they are in the latter state, I’m not even sure they can hear, and I sometimes question if they are still breathing!

But we all have those moments, don’t we? ‘Lazy’ is a much easier state to reside within for long periods of time than ‘intellectually curious,’ which is a shame. Looking at society, particularly my own American society, it appears to me as if Lazy is a huge part of what we prefer to be, of what we choose to be, and there is really no good reason for it. Sure, some are afflicted with naturally short attention spans, but most of us have opted to have such. We want to be disengaged. No wonder the world is in the state it is in (although, I wish our legislators and this president would spend more time on social media or binge watching America’s Got Talent reruns rather than finding new ways to meddle in our daily lives!). Perhaps if we all embraced the truth that we were sent here to be or become disciples, perpetual leCSLewisProgressarners, whose job it is to forever be moving forward with our education, particularly of spiritual things, and even more particularly of things (and people) other than ourselves, even when that progress seems terribly incremental, things here on Earth would be better for all. But, of course, that’s only a dream until we graduate to a higher place. Truly, until such time, I suppose we are doing better than most by simply being aware of our obligation to learn, to progress, to make the most of our finite time on this tiny ball of rock, and to do a little more, serve a little more, study a little more each day.

Some observations on my own improved awareness lately…

Recently, I went to spend a week with my dearest friend in the world and my youngest daughter came, too. As I desperately needed a break from the kids and the house, I was not pleased to have a tag-along for this much anticipated visit, but she was going in order to give my BFF’s granddaughter, who was there for summer vacation, someone to hang out with. The two pre-teens had known each other in early childhood and the last visit (nine years ago) which threw the girls together for any length of time was anything but restful. I was not hopeful that this outing would be much better. Thankfully, I was very, very wrong. They had a blast, and so did I!

What I learned on this trip:

1) When separated from each other, my kids can be so very different from who they are a home. It was nice to see my girl blossom as a friend, an individual, and a daughter during our short vacation together. Maybe she needed the break just as much as I did.

2) With the right person, having and being a friend, even a “bestie,” doesn’t require constant contact. My closest, oldest friend, my BFF, the “aunt,” the “sister” to whom my children are bequeathed should any harm come to me and my husband, once lived walking distance from me, then she moved a quick drive away; then a plane flight became the fastest way to get to her door. Two years ago, she moved back within Texas’ borders and we can be on the others’ couch within three hours, but neither of us make that drive more than once or twice a year. We don’t speak on the phone often either, maybe quarterly if something important comes up. Neither of us are too keen on that phone thing. She and I email slightly more frequently, when there are things to communicate, but even then our messages are the antithesis of verbose.  In truth, I’d love to see her a little more, as for me she’s the big sister I had but never had; the only big sister I have to go to for advice when I can’t think straight, and depending on the day, it seems I have hundreds of questions that only she can answer! In the years we lived close to one another, she helped me out of more than a few jams (and keys locked in cars) when I was a clueless, overwhelmed young mother; she helped me feel almost sane when I was dog paddling in the depths of depression, and she was there for me when my mother died suddenly. She was and is the aunt il_340x270.734204678_171gI wanted my kids to have, to trust, to love, and to know they can turn to if I’m not there or they need another ear.

Still, within the last six years I developed a friendship that was everything I thought I had missed out on from my own sisters and friends over the years, even my BFF. Both fortunately and unfortunately, that relationship burned hot and burned out quickly. And when it died, it died hard. While it lasted, it was nice to feel truly wanted and valued as a friend, like I wasn’t only taking, but giving as a friend. It was nice to feel a close sisterhood with another woman and to have someone with whom to do things; in many ways it seemed like everything I’d missed out on with my own sisters or seen in other female friendships was being fulfilled with this woman.

Alas, our relationship became the living breathing example of the old line, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.” She had to be in constant daily contact ( even when I was on vacation!) to the point it was nearly suffocating. When I complained of the list of things I had to get done, never was, “Maybe we should spend less time together or talk on the phone less frequently,” the answer. No, it was always, “You should give up X,Y, and Z, (but never me).” I knew on the day I announced that I would be homeschooling my youngest the following school year and her reaction was, “But we won’t get to spend as much time together!” things were wrapping up.

In the years that I’ve had to ponder the painful oddities of that relationship, I’ve come to be grateful for the time, short though it may be, that I do get to spend with my dearest friend. Every visit is like coming home again, picking up where we left off. I still have a hundred questions, but I save up the most important ones for our visits, though lots of them go unasked, and that’s okay. When she moved so far away that it took a plane ticket to get to her, I learned, over time, that I really could find many of the big answers myself; I could dig myself out of some ditches, and I could even call my own locksmith. She is that big sister, she is that aunt, but she is not my mother, and I am not five years old.  Conversely, neither of us are leeches, sucking the life out of the other, or parasites who require the life force of another for sustenance—or validation. Perhaps some women need friends like that, need to use friends like that, thankfully, I learned I don’t. Our is a friendship of the best kind: the self-sustaining kind that doesn’t fade with time or distance. In other words, it is just what I need.

3) My Uncle Leslie, my mother’s youngest brother, is quite wonderful. In the forty-four years we’ve shared on Earth together, I don’t recall ever having any uninterrupted one-on-one time with him. As he lives within thirty miles of my BFF, and my visit with her was going to last longer than a millisecond, I thought it would be nice to get together; and it was.

Like my grandfather, Leslie has always held a special place in my heart; and perhaps because of the rarity of our visits, which seem to have always been predicated upon baptisms, deaths, births, and family reunions, it has been easy to put him on a pedestal. It didn’t hurt, of course, that his was the only example of what seemed to be an intact, well- functioning nuclear family among my blood relatives, which was something for which I yearned desperately. In his house there were no out of wedlock births or divorces, no drug abuse, extra marital-affairs, sexual abuse, or screaming matches. And Leslie’s family, from what I knew, had no welfare queens or shot gun weddings. His family was always active in the church (not that that makes everything all better, but it doesn’t hurt!), his kids went to on to college, married in the temple, served missions, formed cohesive families. In other words, they did all the things I wished my family did, but mostly they just seemed to love one another without reserve. How he and Aunt Linda managed all that when mine couldn’t even figure out the rudiments of society most of the time was baffling.

Similar to the list of questions I always have for my BFF, the list I have for Leslie is at least twice as long. During my sixteen years of motherhood, fourteen of which I myself have been motherless, I have become terribly curious about my mother’s life, the choices she made, the trials she endured, the role my grandparents, aunts, and uncles played in her life, and how they saw her. My visit with Leslie proved a mix of all of those things, and I learned more about him as an individual; I walked away wishing we could make such lunches a weekly event. But regardless of whether we do or don’t ‘do lunch’ again in the future, I am sure that two plus hours we sat together over pizza is going on my short list of “Life’s Best Moments.” Thank you, Uncle Leslie.

Finally, there is this:

4) It is easy to focus on spiritual things when you don’t have to focus on a hundred other things, too. I started a book entitled Walking with the Savior: 365 Days of Miracles by Rena Petterson…three years ago. And never made it past the first two weeks. I restarted it just before my trip, worked on it during the trip, then came home and forgot about it for a week and a half. What is it about the two week macs-lewisrk that keeps stifling my progress on this 365 day journey? Oh, yes, I remember now: life. Well, I’m trying to get back on track with it. Clearly, I need the time within its pages (which also includes time in my scriptures) just as much as I need food and rest on a daily basis, yet “things” come up. Mostly, though, we simply get lazy (see above), and taking the path of least resistance, as we are want to do, leads to binge watching Netflix or any of a number of truly time-wasting endeavors that carry no celestial significance. How easily we get distracted; how easily we seek for things of lesser “weight” on which to spend our precious time. Very often these days I am reminded of a poem I read aloud during a sacrament talk years ago. It is called “The Devil’s Convention,” and is readily available on a hundred different websites. The unknown author echos many of the same things C.S. Lewis captured in his small but important book The Screwtape Letters, and to a lesser degree in The Great Divorce. It reads as follows:

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, he said,

“We can’t keep the Christians from going to church. We cannot keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We cannot even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can’t gain that relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do angels: Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!”

“How shall we do this?” shouted his angels.

“Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their family fragments, soon their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work! Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. Keep the TV, VCR, CDs, and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ. Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes. Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so the husbands will believe that external beauty is what is important, and they will become dissatisfied with their wives. Ha! That will fragment those families quickly! Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week. Do not let them go out in nature to reflect on God’s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and movies instead. Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions. Go ahead, let them be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.”

“It will work! It will work!” his angels cried.

It was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

I guess the question is has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the judge!

Does ‘busy’ nean: B-eing U-nder S-atan’s Y-oke?

so-busyHere’s to hoping you & I find a way to be less B.U.S.Y. this week and more focused on life’s truly important things.

Tales From Times Past, pt. 1: The Importance of Three Simple Words

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So, earlier this week I fired up my old primary Facebook account again. But, unlike my previous breaks from social media, this restart will be short lived, serving only as a precursor to a complete shut down before the weekend is over. Since suspending that account on May 18th, I’ve thought long and hard about the posts that have accumulated under the name of Darling Sam since 2008, and while it would be ideal to just delete every.single.posting from the past seven years and wipe the slate clean, there were a few that sprang to mind that I didn’t want to lose forever. They were important, or sentimental, or something, but most of all they mattered to me. I’m sure there are many more that deserve preservation than I can recall. Alas, I’ve slept since 2008…

With that in mind, I’ll be transferring the selected Facebook Recovery Posts here under the title “Tales From Times Past.” Mostly, I’ll simply post them in their original form with a little background info, but occasionally they’ll get a light polish for the form. Here are my first fruits…

From March 18, 2015: The Car Wreck

My oldest learned a difficult lesson today about staying up late when one has to be up at 5:30 a.m. Trying

My big girl had a rough morning

My big girl had a rough morning

to get this girl to go to bed at night, regardless of the coming day’s events is like pulling teeth. Unfortunately, today her sleep debt came due…and the Buick is no more. Totalled on Gosling Road some where near Rayford. She had driven to and from Seminary this morning with no problem, but the hour between our arrival home and our next trip out for her 9 a.m. Lonestar class allowed her adrenaline to drop & she didn’t tell me she was too drowsy to drive.

 

April 3, 2015: The Day Before Knee Surgery

Ok, time for another nap, but a quick story first.

Blondie went from being a very emotional, exhausting, high energy child to a calmer, more introspective, less emotional kid in what seems like the blink of an eye. Because of this massive shift, it is often hard to read her. She so hates to display emotions or lead on as to how she is feeling, particularly if said feelings seem to display a vulnerability or demonstrate a lack of self confidence. Even in expressing her fears, she refers to talking to me or her dad as making her feelings “public,” like we’re both just part of the ugly masses. Getting to the quick with her in regards to the wreck has been very hard- on her and us. She feels regret and remorse, but she has yet to go through through the “public” sobbing and wearing of sack cloth that hubby and I would have…appreciated or expected. Her “I’m sorries” have felt very forced.

Well, last night, as I was trying to get in the tub to relax before bed, she had several tasks she need me to do for her. She and two of her BFFs have been planning to go to Matsuri, which is like a Comic Con, but it is centered around Anime, and of course they must dress up, I mean Cos Play. Little Miss was trying to pull the rest of her mess together between 10 & 11 last night…at the same time I was trying to rest & hubby & I were having a little “Come to Jesus” meeting with our youngest.

By the time the meeting had broken up, Blondie wanted her turn. So, I helped, though it hurt. As she was leaving my bedroom, she turned back around and said, ” You deserve a hug.” I asked if that was just permission for me to hug her, or if she was actually doing the hugging (never happens). She assured me, she was hugging. I almost fell over. To top it all off, as she was leaving I said, ‘I love you,’ just as TJ and I do nightly. In reply, she actually said, ” I love you, too!” When I asked her to repeat that into a voice recorder, she laughed and walked away.

In all seriousness, as I don’t think she has told me she loves me in over four years (maybe five), that moment with her was the best present I’ve had in a long while. Sniff…

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