24 March 2009

Oh! to be in south Texas in Spring!

Springtime in South Texas from Cheryl Drennon on Vimeo.

Mike and I decided to drive up to Brenham and Chapel Hill last Sunday afternoon. It's bluebonnet season here in south Texas and believe me, it is NOT a sight to be missed! We had thunderstorms about a week ago and evidently that was the nudge nature needed to bring forth this glory. Growing up in Lubbock, which has high elevation, is flat as a pancake and all trees were planted by man, getting to witness the bluebonnet explosion down south was simply incredible to me the first time I saw it - and it continues to be incredible to me still. Folks were out in droves looking for a "lush patch" to photograph their children in, but there are plenty of bluebonnets to go around. We took a winding path up State Hwy. 36 and then onto 105 before heading back to Katy via Hwy. 290, 359 and then Hwy. 90 back to Katy. Took about three hours total but it all passed in a flash - a gorgeous flash of blue.

I didn't know if my photos would turn out or not - I had my prime lens attached and it's not really for moving car photos. But I think I lucked out and am quite pleased with the result. And being a music lover, "August's Rhapsody" from the movie "August Rush" came to mind to pair with the photos. If you click on the lower right (looks like a 4 petal flower) it will enlarge the screen to your monitor size if you're new to this like me...

Enjoy! And if you're in south Texas the next couple of weeks, get out there and see this for yourself - it's unbelievably gorgeous!!

iHeartFaces...no flash...

I haven't entered iHeartFaces contests in a while so thought I'd throw my jpeg into the ring! This week's theme is "No Flash" which is pretty durn easy when you have a nice, fairly new prime lens. Okay, maybe that's supposed to be "lense" but old habits die hard and I never got that whole "colour", "favourite" or "alunimium" thing down...

This is my grandson Benjamin - who was part of the "surprise party" of last week's fame. We were hangin' by the pool and enjoying the warmer weather we finally got in south Texas. And like his mama, he has lashes to die for.

Not that I'm prejudiced or anything. I'm just saying...

For other entries, head over to iHeartFaces.com and check them out. And the guest judge this week is Teresa Norris, one of my favorite photographers and I follow her blog to get ideas and inspiration. She and her daughter have also teamed up to form a business - her daughter designs and constructs adorable girl's dresses whilst (okay, so I do "whilst", just not "lense") mama photogs them! How cool is THAT??

23 March 2009

The best gift EVER...

...is when your children and grandchildren, who live in Keller and Pflugerville (Fort Worth and Austin for you non-Texans) mysteriously show up on your doorstep in honor of your birthday!

Last Tuesday, Mike had invited me to lunch. Originally he'd asked to "do lunch" on Monday but called on his way to work to say he really "didn't have that flexibility today - can we do it Tuesday instead?" (Yup, that's how Mike speaks - of "flexibility", "changing your processes" and "focus". We are nothing if not professional in THIS household!) Fine with me - Mondays are busy around here anyway - I have to do important things like catch up on my Sunday night shows on TiVo, check my Nespresso coffee pod levels and refill the espresso machine water reservoirs. No bon-bons and soap operas in THIS house!

I'd hosted a shower the previous Sunday so the house was still spotlessly clean. And I'd ordered new quilts and pillows for a trundle bed up in the grandchildren's bedroom upstairs which I was happy to have received on Saturday so I could get that all fixed up before the shower on Sunday. Laundry had been done the previous Saturday. All that would prove to be very fortuitous.

Tuesday. Mike comes home and we head out - anywhere I want to go for lunch because he has a LOT of the aforementioned "flexibility" in his schedule. We decided to try a new place (Baker St. Pub). Mike warned me that he was expecting a phone call from one of his overseas managers. Sure enough, before we'd even ordered, the phone rings and he says, "Just a minute - I'm going to have to head outside. It's very noisy in here" (and it was, truthfully). After a bit he comes back and I ask him if everything's okay. He gives me a story about how the "important rig" is now functional and blah, blah blah as my eyes glaze over with the "supportive and interested but not as invested as I should be probably" look. Lunch is served. Lunch is delicious. Lunch is...leisurely. THAT should have been my FIRST clue!

Then we drive home. "What are your plans for the afternoon?" says he. Shopping - returns, laundry, that sort of thing - I reply. Phone rings again and he starts talking. I'm used to this during the day and sometimes in the evening if he knows it's coming. Rigs are all over the world. In different time zones. It's kinda like being married to a doctor - you never know when one of them is going to get "sick" and he has to be called from Kazakhstan at an ungodly hour. He finishes and I ask, "Was that Jennifer?" as I could hear a voice even with his bluetooth but didn't understand what was said. "Oh no! That's (name of manager) and he has a very deep voice! Must be the bluetooth." Hmmm, I could of sworn it was Jennifer and that the word "Chick-fila" was mentioned but that's not the sort of thing she'd be calling her dad in the middle of the day about so I let it go.

We get home and he says he's going to come in for a bit to get something. Probably I should let the dogs out before I head out. I'm a bit annoyed at this point. Is he trying to micro-manage my afternoon? I'd even set the car up with the laundry to take in, my items for return and even a tumbler of ice water so I WOULDN'T have to go in an let the dogs out for crying out loud! But he's still there so I decide to stay at least until he heads back to work. He finally says he has to get back to the office, kisses me goodbye and wishes me a good shopping afternoon. Now THAT should have stopped me right there. He WANTS me to (a) go shopping and (b) be happy shopping? That's like me saying, "Watch 24/7 of baseball, dear - it'll be FUN!" Mike never used the words "happy" and "shopping" in the same sentence because for ME, happy and shopping means $$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Not what guys like at all. Still, nothing was really screaming "UNUSUAL" yet.

He leaves. I'm getting the dogs put up so I can go. Decide to refresh tumbler of ice water and write out my list so I can be efficient.

Doorbell rings multiple times. I'm thinking, "Okay, Mike, what did you forget and why didn't you just pull into the garage and come in?" I answer the door and my brain just froze.

I saw four of my five grands but my brain couldn't wrap itself around the fact that they were HERE! Then I saw Megan and Jennifer hiding (literally) in the bushes, one with a camera and the other with the video. "Surprise!" they all said - and boy, was I ever! My first thought was, "They can't be here! They're in Plugerville and Keller!" and the SECOND thought I had was, "Boy, I'm glad the house is clean..."

They came for the week leaving Friday after lunch and we packed a lot of playing, visiting, eating and Disney planning into the week. We went to the park, TWICE, to play. We had a picnic. We ate outdoors at two restaurants. We went to Bible class Wednesday night. We sat by the pool and drank tea and even put a fire in the fireplace outside when it was chilly. We went to Story Time at the local library. We went to Mike's office (and you can see the photos here). And we had a blast! It was fun. It was unexpected. It was marvelous!

So thank you, Jen and Megan, for cooking up this delicious scheme. And thank you, Jason and Tim, for giving up your families for a week so they could spend it at our house. And thank you, Benjamin, Kennedy, Lleyton and Luke for all the stories, kisses, hugs and story-times.

As Candice Olson always says, "How DIVINE!"

12 March 2009

Nuthin' Says Lovin' Like....an offer from your BANK??!!??

Today is my birthday. Why, thank you! I will do my best to have a happy one! And I've been enjoying the tons of greetings on facebook (gotta love facebook!) as well as emails, ecards and phone calls.

I've been receiving free dessert coupons from local restaurants - I could have free dessert every day for two weeks, I think, based on the number of offers from places like Babin's Seafood, Johnny Carrino's, Landry's Seafood, The Taste of Texas and Buca di Beppo's.

But this one "takes the cake":

Happy Birthday from ING DIRECT!

We want to help you celebrate your March birthday with 15% off at the ING DIRECT Shop.

You'll save big on items like:

  • The QuickFinish Shredder — protects your identity as it quickly shreds documents, credit cards and CDs.
  • The Savings Machine — a great learning tool that works just like an ATM machine and teaches kids how to save.
  • The book, Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck — a simple and easy to understand guide to financial success by Michael B. Rubin.

And that's not all! Check out all the other cool ING DIRECT gear like mugs, bags, books and more at ingdirect.com/shop.

Be sure to enter the Coupon Code MARBD1509 and your Customer Number at checkout to get 15% off your entire purchase.

That is SO what I wanted...an ING mug.

That shredder thing looks interesting though...

09 March 2009

Hello, "Crazy Butt"...

Call me crazy, but I did not expect to see this headline this morning on my internet news:

"Martha Stewart's Dog Killed in Explosion"

Now, I'm not trying to be insensitive about the loss of a pet - far be it. I know how I'd feel if Shelby or Izzie "bit the bullet" in any shape, form or fashion.

But I guess I've just become so used to headlines like "Trillion Dollar Deficit", "Major Auto Makers Request More Bailout Money", "Obama Overturns Bush Directives", "Unemployment Sores as Recession Deepens" (I guess that's really supposed to be "Soars" but if you're unemployed, both work...) or "Pastor Shot During Services" that a blurb on Martha Stewart's dog made me snort a bit.

I guess it's easy to forget there are other things out there.

Oh, and my sincerest condolences to Martha on her pet, Genghis.

I guess it would be insensitive to say he went out with a bang.

Yeah, it would be.

I was actually awake at sunrise...

Something rare and beautiful happened today - I was actually AWAKE at sunrise! (Okay, so at least "something rare" happened.) Anyway, as I struggled to surface to some level of cognitive awareness, I let the dogs out, since it was hard enough simply being upright an HOUR earlier (wow, thanks DST...) without risking doggy accidents.

Opened door, let doggies out and - BOOM! - there is was - the site I'd always HEARD about but seldom seen. SUNRISE!

There was a misty fog rolling over the golf course. If I squinted just the right way (and ignored the Home Depot in the distance on the far left), I could make believe I was in Tuscany. I went to make myself a capuccino and by then the fog had burned off, my "cognative awareness" was much heightened and Tuscany was once again far, FAR away.

That Home Depot? Unfortunately, still there.

But I'll always have my memories.

06 March 2009

Oh, those crazy rich people!

Several bloggers have a "Fashion Friday" which I enjoy reading. But I've never been moved to do one of my own till today when I saw THIS:

How absolutely darling, I thought. It's a swimsuit cover up. Very modest. Lovely. Colorful. Might even double as a shirt with a nice pair of capris.

Then I saw two things which caused my lovely train of thought to have a violent crash:

1) It's $340. Yup, you read that right. THREE HUNDRED FORTY smackeroos! But wait, it gets worse....and funnier....

2) The washing instructions?

"Dry clean only". ON A SWIMSUIT COVER-UP???

This is clearly for people who have hand-embroidered swiss-cotton hankies in their Kleenex box...

04 March 2009

Genetically speaking...

I've been going through my photos and trying to get them in some semblance of order. And as usually the case, I end up NOT getting them more organized because I end up looking at them and playing "remember when" in my mind. Which is why it was such a WONDER that I ever got the Texas basement cleaned up and organized because the boxes with photographs, wedding planning papers, grade school reports for the kids, my Girl Scout leader days were all beckoning me to come and sift through them and float back in time...

Whoa! almost had me again there for a minute!

In going through these photos, two in particular really got my attention. When we talk about genetics, we usually are referring to hair color, eye color, face shape, etc. But these two photos, father and daughter, really made me take notice because one typically doesn't think of "laugh lines" as a genetic trait. But for your consideration I present Tim and Kennedy:

Like Father, like Daughter? So no, Tim, those are NOT age-lines. They are "I'm just a happy person!" lines. Either that or Kennedy is much older than we thought...

Reprint from London Telegraph

As promised, here is the first of my two "encouragements" I found in my Texas basement this week. Both are "Meditations" written by Everson T. Sieunarine who I believe is a vicar in the church of England but I'm not 100% sure.

"A legend has the devil putting up his tools for sale, each with an appropriate sale price. Some of the tools were hatred, dishonesty and jealousy. But isolated from them was one well-worn tool marked at an extremely high price.

The name of the tool was discouragement. When asked why it was priced so high, the devil replied, "Because it is more useful to me than all the others. I can pry open a man's heart with that when other tools don't work. Once inside him do whatever I choose. It is badly worn because I use it on everyone, and the price is so high that it cannot be bought from me."

Discouragement afflicts the best and brightest among us. Spiritual growth can be stifled through a discouraging word. Many important projects came to a halt and many talents are wasted because of the devil's favorite toll - discouragement.

There are many incidents in the Bible where God's servants fell into this abyss of discouragement, especially after they achieved some victories over evil. For example, the prophet Elijah boldly denounced idolatry in the kingdom.

When the queen turned her fury on him, he fled to the wilderness and prayed that he might die. Even Moses, when he led his people out of Egyptian slavery and brought them to the wilderness became discouraged when the people began complaining of their deprivations.

Maybe you once began a good work and are now discouraged. You feel trapped in a cage of deceit and pride others have fashioned. You can re-assess your position and you can find new strength and enthusiasm.

The humiliation and discouragement you now experience may not be a reflection of your character at all. This can be a time to test your character so that your faith can be strengthened for greater trials.

In the book of Acts, which describes the beginning of the early Christian church, the apostles re-named on of their helpers, Barnabas, which means "son of encouragement." Just think how much parents and teachers can encourage or discourage by their words of approbation or condemnation. All of us have beautiful memories of some person who gave us a second chance, went with us an extra mile, tolerated a temper outburst, forgave us for something said or done unwittingly.

This kindness encouraged us and made us see a new greatness in them and new possibilities in ourselves. This is (one of) the ministry Jesus extended to the sinful and hopeless of His day.

Sir John Reith, the first director of the BBC used to say, "I do not like crises, but I do like the opportunities they provide." Do you have a word of encouragement in a crisis?"

What I found in this, re-reading it yesterday, was a bit of conviction as well. Doom and gloom are all that are on the newscasts these days. Watching the Dow Jones is like watching the final drop on "Splash Mountain" at Disney World it seems. It would appear at every turn we are bombarded with negativity - recession, joblessness, higher taxes, debt, foreclosure, greed, warnings of DOOM. It consumes talk at work, Starbucks, with friends, on blogs even. How much am I allowing myself to "buy into" this pessimism, while very real challenges in our nation and our personal finances, a cloud of self-imposed depression based on worldly, out of my control, situations does seem to be whirling aroundme? And how much am I reflecting off this negativity to others?

I admit that it IS easy to become discouraged. It has almost become "patriotic" to be a harbinger of doom and wear our "sackcloth and ashes" just to fit in with the mood of society. Never in MY lifetime has being a light been more important. "Bad times" can bring out the best and worst in us and the struggle is to let the best win over the worst. For those of faith, this is just a blip on the radar. Our generation has been incredibly blessed materially - and I have to ask myself if I've become reliant on these "things" rather than the One who made all things and blessed us with them?

Am I going to be Job's wife...or a Job? I do have a choice. Will I abdicate to the winds of discouragement? Or will I make a conscious choice to encourage and BE encouraged? As in the words of the commonly called "Serenity Prayer", God grant me the serenity to change what I can, accept what I can't and wisdom to know the difference.

02 March 2009

Buried Treasure (or "You never know what you'll find in the attic")

I cleaned out my "Texas Basement" recently. What is a Texas Basement you ask? Well, if you live in the far south of the state, you find the water table is too high for basements (unless you want bragging rights to an "indoor swimming pool" of dubious water quality). So the typical basement is not found down here. And due to the heat and humidity, an attic isn't the best solution either. The first time we lived in Houston (back in 1979), I found a fabulous 4 wick candle at an after Christmas sale and packed it away in the attic with all the other decorations. The next Christmas, all I found was a box with a candle-shaped void in it with a wick laying on the bottom. Naive young adult that I was, I wondered WHO had stolen my candle but left the wick?

Oh I miss my brain sometimes. I'm convinced that, though I'm an American, my brain is Australian because it "goes on walkabout" sometimes.

Back on the road of "what point are you trying to make about what a Texas basement is"-ville, a Texas basement is a room upstairs (not down below), usually an attic room or an unfinished "bonus room" that you dry-wall, add heating/air-conditioning to, put down flooring, doorway and electrics to make an Uber-attic - not nice enough to be a proper bedroom but not primitive enough to die of heat or freeze to death when working in there. It utilizes space that would not work for living space due to, say, the angle of the ceiling or awkward room layout or location over a noisy garage door - or in our case, room access is through another bedroom, through a closet and then being located over the aforementioned noisy garage...

And mine is a doozey! It not only has deep shelving with tall spaces in the center of the room, it also has lots of space under the eaves and around the periphery so I can stack, store and pile things and STILL have room to walk around those center shelves. And I also was able to put in a desk/table so I can do gift-wrapping, scrap-booking, etc. Which brings me (finally) to why I'm posting.

All our photographs and "warm fuzzy" family keepsakes are up there - letters received, letters from the kids pushed under doors late at night when they were children, "atta boy" notes to Mike from his Amoco/Bp days, that sort of thing. And I liked to clip interesting magazine and newspaper articles. I was searching for a poem I knew I'd kept somewhere when I came across two newspaper clippings that caught my attention. They not only caught my eye, but I had to sit down and read them through - twice. And I decided to share them because now, more than ever before, did they seem to really speak to not only me but the US in general.

So my next two posts will NOT be authored by me. They will be "reprints" (re-types?) of these two clippings in the hopes that YOU find them as encouraging as I do.

And we all need a little (LOT???) of encouragement these days, right?

And a Texas basement. Definitely a Texas basement.