Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Little House in the Big Woods and Dark Nails

I have a collection of books from my childhood. National Velvet, Secret Garden, Little Women, Heidi and Carol from the Country are favorites of mine from many, many years ago.

Toward the end of the last school year, I started reading from those familiar friends to the girls before bed. We tried to do a chapter at a time -- truthfully, some nights we only made it through a few pages. We started with The Hundred Dresses, went to Heidi and then Carol from the Country. The latest was Little House in the Big Woods. Ah, Laura, Mary, Pa, Ma and don't forget baby Carrie.

My girls could not believe that sugar snow and dolls made out of leaves and branches could keep children entertained all day long. And, how could listening to the fiddle each evening be entertainment. Well, the Adams girls bought in to the Big Woods country life. And, they bought into it hard. Talk of threshers, venison and calico happened throughout the days and weeks it took us to get through the 13 chapters. The black and white line drawings in my copy of the book helped them focus on the story. Not every page had a picture . . . the story required imagination. Imagine, that?

My first, second and third parts of the day all work toward a fourth part for me, yes. But, I'll tell you reading to the girls during that last part of the third part is something to treasure. It's been a pleasure re-visiting these stories I loved and read and read and re-read and re-read while I was growing up. It's been fun talking through the stories with the girls. Plus, some of the books were from the Devine library where my grandmother served as librarian and I spent many a summer shelving and sorting books. While I'm not quite sure how I ended up with Devine library books -- out of circulation -- I know it was a pay-it-forward, future gift from my grandmother to share with the great-granddaughters she didn't get to meet.

It seems when I settle into my fourth part of the day after I've read to the girls, I feel a bit calmer and more grounded. That's the best start to a fourth part, right? Sitting and pausing, relaxing and enjoying the activity set ahead for me.

Tonight, we finished Little House . . . knocked out that last eight pages in Chapter 13. I had stacked up a few 'nexts' -- National Velvet and Heidi Grows Up. After I said, 'the end,' Camille let out the sweetest sigh. I knew that meant she felt it end and had enjoyed the book. When a bit of time soaking up the last few pages set in, she said, 'Can we read Heidi Grows Up next?'

It worked. They want the next part. They want to continue the reading. They are connecting to the stories I loved so much when I was their age.

All this after a late arrival home tonight (leftovers were already in order for dinner) and a dash to the nail salon because I travel the next couple of days and the nails were looking really ragged. Not an ideal third part on a day that is an activity-free, no football game day. A 'you can get your fingernails and toenails painted, too' promise helped get everyone out the door for a 6:30 p.m. walk-in appointment.

The girls picked four colors each -- two for the toes, two for the fingers. All four for each of them were neon shades of orange, pink, green, purple, pink and blue. Full-on, can't let summer go kind of colors.

I picked a dark, slate gray. Summer, over. Fall, here. Since I'm traveling to a new place Friday, spending time with work people who don't know me yet, I went with a more subtle color, rather than my dark-Baylor green or sapphire blue.

Then, Nancy picked me. The nail tech was new to me. And, it was meant to be that she and I were paired up for the hour. She shared her story with me and for a third part that was really a fourth part, I soaked up every moment and didn't want the hour to end. Even my girls patiently sat without electronics, books or crayons while I listened to her story.

She's from Vietnam. She's been here three years. She's a single mom. Her middle-school-aged daughter and high-school-aged son just came to America six months ago. Six months ago. They were separated from each other for two and a half years. Then, her children come here and all she does is work for them.

She shared that her son has adjusted a bit more quickly and has found his niche -- computers and science. He has permission (she said it was a permit) to use his phone in class so he can have the teacher's words translated.

Her daughter has struggled. She has made friends, but the homework drives her to tears most evenings. Nancy said she is in tears along with her because she can't help. At the beginning of the school year, Nancy met with the school counselor who said she should email the teachers. Nancy said she doesn't know English well enough to write and spell. She tried and the teachers could not understand her daughter's needs.

Last night, Nancy had meet the teacher night at the middle school. She said she met the young science teacher and knew that things would be OK. The science teacher said she would help, tutor and be available to her daughter whenever she needed her. Nancy said this teacher is in her second year of teaching.

Nancy wrapped up the story (after the third coat of polish) by telling me she explains to her children that they have so much to be thankful for here in America. Schools, freedoms and opportunity. She also tells them they have to work harder than American children but they can achieve and be successful. She kept touching her chest where her heart is and teared up and she spoke to me. I teared up, too.

Chris had an assignment earlier this week about what it means to be an American in light of politics and the topic of immigration law. He wrote about the refugees and immigrants he went to high school with and that being an American was about opportunity and chances and freedom.

Nancy believes that and is passing that to her children. I don't know if they are going to be citizens, if they have visas or green cards or what. I do know they are productive and working hard to be successful.

The third part today, which was supposed to be an errand became a lesson for my girls and a reflection for me. I know teachers touch lives (my husband, right? My dad, my sisters, my brothers in law!) and I know some students work harder than others. Yet, this story hit me. Nancy's story -- right down the street from me -- is as real as real can be. It made me stop, take a breath and be grateful for all I have.

At the end of Little House in the Big Woods, Pa fiddles and sings 'shall auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind.' Laura asks what days of auld land syne are and Pa replies with 'they are the days of long ago.'

Laura continues to listen and looks around the little house and thought to herself  'this is now.' 

"She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.'

Now is now. Nancy's family is here with her now. My family is here with me now. I'm typing with dark gray finger nails and watching the third part of the RHONY reunion. I look around my cozy house, see my husband, hear my son, know my girls are tucked asleep and they won't be forgotten. First part, second part, third part or fourth are all just parts of now. Parts of each day. Each part won't be forgotten.

Now is now.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Braids and 290

Today was a travel day for work. It was an easy day trip that was a simple drive up the busiest highway on this earth, IH 35. Even leaving home two hours prior to my meeting (a trip that should only take about 45 minutes to one hour) had me arriving only a handful of minutes early. Yeah, I arrived at 9:21 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. meeting. I left my house at 7:33 a.m. I was in standstill traffic for oh, about half the journey.

(Those of you who live in Houston or Austin are saying to yourself right now -- cry me a river Petri.)

(And, in case you were wondering, I was headed to Austin. I even used my beloved shortcut taking a back road to get to the very unfriendly IH 35 and that cut little time off the trip.)

(I think IH in IH 35 should stand for something such as I'm in Hell.) (Clever, I know.)

Done with parenthetical statements for the moment. It's my way. OK.

To get out of the house by 7:33 a.m. I have to be on my game. I mean along with gas being in the car (praise God, G had filled it up this weekend), and having a Styrofoam for coffee, I had to be dressed in work clothes (no jeans), hair done and bags packed.

Detail that I found out about night before -- an early morning meeting taking place for G Adams which means I needed to take the girls to school. Hold up, wait a minute. I had to be ready and out the door at 7:06 a.m. . . . precision, yes. Avoiding the long line of cars by the patrols, yes.

Boy, that's an earlier wake-up call, an earlier get up and go, an earlier get moving -- to get out of the door. To take the girls to school. And, to get on the road by 7:30 a.m. (or 7:33 a.m.).

Darn, long hair that is day-two clean and needs to be curled and doesn't require the standard run-out-the-door ponytail. Ugh.

And, rats for the having to wear real work clothes which means I had to wear travel shoes for driving and then bring real shoes for working. That may sound like I have a job that requires a certain type of shoe. I work at a bank. I have to wear pumps -- or something like that. Today, I chose a lovely pair of chunky heel shoes with an open toe. I had to tuck in a blouse into a skirt. My first-world work problems are real people.

All this to say, I hate IH 35 and knew I would not be driving home that way. Fortunately, my afternoon lunch meeting was out a bit and led me to a lovely back road named 290 that took me to a road I mentioned before, 281. The country version of 281. Not the in the middle of SA traffic 281 that I hate, hate, hate.

This 290 was as pleasant as a drive could be. For a moment, I thought I was on a lovely Sunday afternoon drive (remember, people used to do those) and could stop at shops, wineries and distilleries (yeah, I passed a few of those on the way home) along the way. I couldn't because it's Wednesday, not Sunday. It's a school night. I've third part to do and a fourth part to have.

I made mental notes to go back this way one day with friends or family. Nice little stops along the way. I'm thinking a future fourth part in the middle of the day might be a Sunday drive up 281 to 290.

My go-to 'part' planning didn't initially take into consideration the 290 route, but after discussion with co-workers and the realization I could be home by 5 p.m. in a normal, unharried, unfrenetic mood -- 290 won. Bye IH 35. I won't see you for a while. (Wait, I have to visit you Saturday when we drive to Waco to see my Bears! That's a happy drive with a Styrofoam cup filled with something other than coffee. Relax, I know open container laws. I have a driver. Oh, wait it's G. Does that count? He has a commercial license?)

Back on topic.

So my third part today was nice. Eased into it. Had a plan for dinner -- thanks Blue Apron and chicken I remembered to defrost. Girls had finished homework for the most part. No real chores, if you will, for me to take care of this evening.

The bath. The hair washing. Not me, my girls. Two of them, in case you forgot. That means tomorrow morn, they can wear their hair down. No, no curling or anything Pinterest-y fancy like that. But we do try braids. And, when I write try, I mean try. With a straight haired daughter and a curly haired daughter, the braiding techniques are different. Very different. I mean, quite different. Super different. Yes, different.

The straight hair should be easier to pick up the strands and braid away. Yet, the hair is a bit slippery and when the braider doesn't really know the French braid or any other nationality braid, it's tough. I usually go with the 'how about pigtails' approach.

The curly hair usually 'sticks' in place and I can fake the style.

Like 35, I hate the Pinterest videos of braids. The pictures looks so simple, the technique so quick and yet, I only have two hands. I have a friend who can get her daughter's hair done so beautifully. Wait, she has two daughters (first grade and preK - and, a baby boy). And, each Sunday, she and her girls stroll in with the most darling braids. I wish. I need to learn the skill. I've many, many days ahead requiring hair styles and braids.

I have a major amount of envy for good braiders and those chipper early risers who get things done. I don't hate them like I do IH 35, but I struggle with being so happy for their skills and being so frustrated over my lack of skills.

In my devotion this morning, it spoke to not having guilt as a driver of moving toward Jesus. Guilt shouldn't motivate us to follow Him, love others, accept His grace and mercy. We should move toward Him, because guess what, He wants us to -- regardless of our skill and knowledge. He wants our pure simple faith to drive us toward Him.

All the attempts on our own, all the tries we put forth are just that -- human attempts and tries. How about I put my faith in Him, accept my place and what I can do, and then, be a mom who can laugh about her attempts and not compare.

And, take the scenic drive home because there were some pretty amazing, God only created sights along that way -- and no cursing other drivers and 35.

No guilt. Just faith. Maybe a few braids along the scenic route.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Thursday Night Lights and House Keys

We love high school football. We love college football. My husband loves the Dallas Cowboys but struggles each season to maintain the feeling.

Lots of football games to go to, lots of football games to listen to on the radio and lots of football games to watch on TV.


This I know how to do. Obviously, each Lee and Baylor game gets entered on to the family calendar by mid-summer. And, we put game times and venues on our mobile calendars. I also put together the 'what Baylor tickets am I selling' schedule. It's a piece of paper slipped inside the season tickets packet. Not so fancy, but it works. (Oh by the way, I still am trying to sell the tickets to the September 24 Oklahoma State game. With a parking pass. Great seats. $100 each. Covered.)

As you know, we've not so many other fall activities in our house, but we do have that thing called life. The thing I have a first, second and third part of the day for -- each day. The list of which you are familiar --  including laundry, homework, meals, cleaning (we put our cleaning lady on hold -- good idea? Not sold yet, but we are saving money.)

Bedtimes, baths, hair washing, outfit planning and bed making. Projects and play time. And, the only scheduled activity is Camille's tumbling. (We cannot convince Caroline to participate in anything -- no acting, no singing, no tennis, no basketball -- yeah, I even went there.)

Friday high school games are a breeze. They begin at 7:30 p.m. which gives us plenty o' time to eat dinner, get dressed, fix hair and pack a big tote bag of goodies -- and, then get to the game in time to see G and sing the school song. (All before kick off thank you.)

Saturday high school games, even easier. We can do nothing all day and get to a 7 p.m. game no problem.

Saturday Baylor games require a bit of planning. Organizing a sitter for the girls, pulling together the tailgate food and beverages and loading up the car with all our needs (STYROFOAM CUPS!). But, in the end, it takes about three hours to get to Waco so we can figure out a Saturday. No other activities -- OK, G has to work most of those days -- but we've nothing else to do (except that cleaning of the house -- what was I thinking!!).

So what happens when there is a Thursday night football game and a Friday night Baylor game. Sell the Baylor tickets. Yeah, figured that out. Find the channel the game is on. Well, that was a challenge. I mean who knew there was a StufTV and that is the channel a sweet Baptist university plays on for their season opener.

Oh, the Thursday high school game. And, it's an away game. Not too far away -- just down the highway, but away enough, that we need to leave a bit earlier than usual to make the hello to G and school song singing. And, even with that earlier leave, you are up against a 7 p.m. kickoff and hitting SA traffic.

No worries. I'm a planner. I write a blog about it. I have calendars and check lists to prove I've got those skills.

Homework finished up earlier in the week. Game clothes planned for and laid out day before. Bath done the day before. Lunches put together early in the day. Dinner plans include a visit to the concession stand to snap up a hot dog and some nachos (with a side of candy).

But what about the late bedtime?

No planning can help you with that. Because that next morning comes really early. And, the 4000 percent humidity should have required a bath, but there is no time for that with Thursday Night Lights. Should have brought the PJs in the car. I used to do that when the girls were little. Missed that step in the planning.

Also, how do you handle the son who wants to stay later than you at the game and he rode with you? Well, you find him a ride -- easy to do because one of his best friends was at the game. Then, you see his house key in your car as you park which means you have to leave a house key under the mat -- at night!! -- until whatever time he decides to come in. And, that's late because he doesn't have class the next day and you really can't sleep until he gets home and because the KEY IS UNDER THE MAT.

I couldn't take any sleep aids and I also have this tendency to kind of stay awake until G gets home from the game -- which is later than my normal bedtime. He also didn't know the garage door had been fixed so he needed a house key, which he had, thankfully. Remember, KEY IS UNDER THE MAT for the son not the spouse.

Yes, we love football and we have the outfits and gear to prove it. And, we also usually have a sore throat or lost voice to show we had some big-time enthusiasm during the game.

I also love sleep. I love easy school mornings (hence the planning). I highly desire fourth parts which slip away from me with Thursday night high school games and Friday night Baylor games. Well, because, football.

With that in mind, it's Labor Day weekend so bonus, I have a stress free Saturday (no Baylor games to make me anxious) and an extra day Monday. I've got a lot of fourth part opportunity.

And, a lot of football watching.

Thank goodness, this upcoming weekend is a Friday night high school game (at a home stadium) and a Saturday mid-day start Baylor game. That's a fall. That's the football I love. That's my fourth part.