Sunday, April 29, 2007

Happy Weekend!

As I'm on a quest for All Things Happy, this weekend has definitely been a success.

Friday night: Dinner with The Girls at Chili's and then Bronco Bonco at Rita's house...where everyone who witnessed my Full Body Freakout on Rita's deck (I walked into a spiderweb--it stretched right across my face and hair!) enjoyed lotsa laughs.

We'd sipped Kahlua mudslides during the first few rounds of Bonco when the ladies took a dessert break; since I was still full from dinner and wanted to avoid Sugary Temptation, I asked Rita if it was okay to go out on her beautiful lakeside redwood deck. She got the key to unlock the deadbolt and let me step outside...into the most enormous, mouth-filling spiderweb in Abilene. It was in my hair, on my lips, caught in my was ALL OVER MY HEAD!! In the spasms of Gross Out that came next, the sunglasses that had been resting on the top of my head flew a good six feet across the deck while I repeatedly hit myself, trying to knock all the spiders and web off of me.

And while my hysterics were funny to everyone who saw them, the part that really made us lose it--me, included--was Libby's reaction. Libby, right behind me, witnessed my Freak Out and unsure of what was going on, wondering what kind of seizure or episode I was having, DECIDED THE MOST PRUDENT COURSE OF ACTION WAS TO STEP BACK INTO THE HOUSE. Libby, the only one of us with medical training, decided to abandon the poor fool out on the deck, slapping herself silly and stamping her feet and dancing wildly across the deck screaming nonsense syllables.

It took ages for Libby, Rita, and me to regain our composure, and I can honestly say that I haven't laughed that hard in MONTHS! I didn't win a single dollar, but it was still fun, fun, fun.

Then Saturday morning, after BodyPump class and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on NPR, it was time to take May Bee for a walk & run. (Now that Gold's Gym has dropped my favorite Saturday morning PowerPump marathon...step, weights, and Awesome Abs classes back to back...there's no aerobics in my weekend workouts unless we go to the park.)

IT WAS SO FUN!!! It was March of Dimes Walkathon Weekend! Balloons! Boy Scouts! Baby strollers! Teams of pregnant ladies walking/waddling together, supporting and encouraging each other! Free stuff! An inflatable air castle! A climbing wall! A big blue mascot!

And although signs like this one were kind of depressing...
...signs like this one were encouraging:

I quickly learned to avoid the sad signs and slow walkers by walking and running in the opposite direction of the teams. This way, I wasn't bummed out by the sad signs (did you know that 100,000 cocaine-exposed babies are born EVERY year? Yikes!), and May Bee and I could run our traditional fast stretches.

Oh, and check this's the free UNMANNED water station #2:

If this had been Houston, the March of Dimes people would have returned to find that chest, water bottles, and folding chairs...had been stolen. (I LOVE MY HOMETOWN!!! Abilenians who weren't thirsty or who weren't registered MOD walkers skipped by this table without stopping, even though it was HOT yesterday; official team walkers who needed a drink took one...and only one...on their way back to the YMCA.)

May Bee received a free lei from the men at the Precision Heating and Air Conditioning tent, set up on the back stretch of the park. She took only seconds to demolish it. (It's amazing how much plastic is in those little things!!) For the rest of our walk, May Bee had streamers blowing in the wind behind her...the ruins of her red lei...

Well, it's nearly time for "Sunday Baroque" to go off KACU, so it's time to get a leash on my favorite walking buddy and hit the track again. Tonight is church at Hope Church of Christ, and I have a "wedding present" for Kayla & David...a DVD and a package of microwave celebrate the renewal of their vows.

Oh, and that reminds me! You know how last Sunday was Mission Sunday at S. 11th and Willis? We were hoping to raise $10,000 dollars to build an orphanage in Kenya...and at last count, they were up to $17,000!

God is good, all the time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, Bessie Lou!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Bethany Gail!

With Uncle Russ and Nanny...

With your first boyfriend, Brad...

With Cousin Ricky at WurstFest...

With the Easter Bunny (NOT a bell that flew in from Rome!)...

With Houston on his first day of Kindergarten...

With Max...

With friends who have to kiss your nose on a dare...

Everyone loves the Birthday Girl...

...especially her mom. :-)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Weekends.

Last weekend, Kayla and David renewed their wedding vows in the Wooten Ballroom at N. 3rd and Cypress...a beautiful location hidden in the heart of downtown. It was lovely and touching, but I nearly fell out of my chair when Brother Hubbard opened with the word "mawwiage." His ceremony was touching and thoughtful, Kayla's dress was beautiful, the cake was the coolest I've ever seen, and I had a lump in my throat throughout the entire wedding.

By the way, there is no lonely like attending-a-wedding-by-yourself-lonely. After Kirsten's son gets married this summer, I'll never go to another wedding by myself. (Except for Bethany's wedding...I would do anything for that girl, and I can bite the bullet for a day.)

Thank goodness for girlfriends! They pick you up when you're down, encourage, sympathize, administer advice, and give you a swift kick in the britches when you need it. They also pick you up and take you to San Angelo for a little Retail Therapy...even if you're broke and just browse and oooh and ahhh and try on ridiculous sunglasses.

My cheapest purchase of the day? A Billy Graham book for a quarter. My most expensive present of the day? Dad's birthday present, a signed copy of Texas C.S.A. for, well...not a quarter.

For lunch, we ate "Skinny Enchiladas" at Fuentes Cafe and enjoyed the best, strongest margaritas any of us have had in ages! It was just the fuel we needed to hit the pavement and breeze in and out of more thrift stores, book stores, and boutiques.

We happened to hit San Angelo the weekend of a Classic Car show. We got to see lots of cool old cars and were treated to free music all day as bands played in the parking lot between Sassy Fox and Cactus Books.
And today is Mission Sunday at S. 11th & Willis Church of Christ. This morning's special contribution will attempt to raise $10,000 for Sam's Place Orphanage, we will pray for the safety and success of Stephen Greek (my cousin) and Simeon Ongiri and Charles Otieno, and the Kindergarten-2nd grade girls made cards and are sending money for Hollye Conway to buy dolls or toys (or medicine or breakfast bars and milk or whatever she thinks is best) for the little girls of the Nairobi Street Kids Ministry.

Life is so good. Thank you, Father.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Happy News. All happy. All the time.

Need a hug? You're not alone.


Have you seen this? Apparently, this guy Jacob lost a bunch of weight and pledged to himself that he'd finish the Boston Marathon. It's no spoiler to tell you that he did...and DEAD LAST, nine hours later. He joked that the Kenyans were already back in Africa celebrating as he crossed the Finish Line...and as of 4:45 this morning, he had eight pages of positive, encouraging comments from fans. :-)


EXPLANATORY NOTE: Last night, my heart ached after watching the news...the hospitalized Virginia Tech kids, a package of insane hate sent to NBC's Rockefeller Plaza, the preacher's wife beginning her murder trial, a string of local burglaries, and the lead story, a three-car wreck on Buffalo Gap at about 6:45 last night caused by a (possibly alcohol-impaired) woman going 80 miles an hour. (Guess who else was on Buffalo Gap road last night at 6:45? Just ten blocks in the other direction, and she might have hit "Miss Kristy," on her way to photograph kindergarteners for our package to Kenya...)

And the thought of the upcoming 2008 campaign Media Onslaught? Yikes. Mud slinging. Posturing. Posing. Criticizing. Hilary. Sniping about John Edwards' $400(?!) haircuts. Debates. Dread.

It was hard for me to get to sleep...and then I didn't STAY asleep. (Personal problems didn't help the situation.)

WARNING: So prepared to get lots of Happy News from the blog above. And cute pictures from Flickr. And funny YouTubes. And NetFlix recommendations. (I just returned _Seven Up/Seven Plus Seven_...two good documentaries on one DVD. _Les Choristes_ was amazing. I bought two happy movies recently, too: _Danny Deckchair_ and _Bride & Prejudice_!)

Taking a break from bad news,

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tiny Bubbles.

Hawaiian crooner Don Ho died this weekend, and in NPR’s salute to him, they mentioned that he called Hawaii “his partner.” That’s no veiled reference to his status as a Confirmed Bachelor (Mr. Ho had multiple wives and TEN children!); he just really loved Hawaii, completely and passionately and faithfully.

I know how he feels…some of us are lucky in love; some of us aren't. As one of the Have-Nots in the romance department, I can honestly say that TEXAS is the love of my life.

Reasons to love Texas? Way too numerous to list. (I’m not kidding. Where would you begin? Seriously! Where could you even begin?)

Just trying to think of where to start, my brain is *overwhelmed* with SMELLS and VISIONS and TASTES and MEMORIES--Harold’s, the Alamo, ACU, Nanny’s courtyard on Lake Travis, Yummy’s in Denton, Padre Island, Doggie Splash Day, Cactus Books in San Angelo, canoeing with Bethany on Town Lake, WurstFest, inner tubing (and getting the worst sunburn of my life!) on the Blanco River, Eeyore’s birthday, the O. Henry House (and hearing William Sydney Porter's RECORDED VOICE in the Austin Library), Whataburger, Six Flags (the only real Six Flags, btw, in the *only state* that actually flew those six flags), Luby’s, the creepy slow-action movie in The Modern (which opened to the public on my birthday in 2002), chigger bites, the River Walk, the deer of Lago Vista, Dr. Pepper, bluebonnets…ARGH!…brain overload!!!!!!

If researchers would watch a Texan’s brain scan when she thinks about the state she loves, the screen would be a cephalic kaleidoscope of color and frantic mental activity.

Narrowing down my favorite Texan cities is pretty easy: Abilene, Austin, and Fort Worth. (Fort Worth is one of Texas’ best-kept secrets. I always joke with Karen and Falisha that a person could go from cradle to grave on Camp Bowie & Hulen streets and never miss a thing in life except for the joy of travel.)

The museums of Fort Worth are so cool, and I’ve loved the Omni ever since Linda (college roomie & previously mentioned “Imaginary Friend”) and I *crawled* our way up the stairs to see _Behold Hawaii_ during Spring Break of 1985. These days, I can go up the stairs and find my seat without having to grip the banister or climb the stairs on all fours, but it’s SO disorienting on your first visit. (And we *may* have had a margarita or two before the movie…it was Spring Break, after all.) :-)

P.S. All this being said, when my alarm went off at 4:40 this morning, I was dreaming of Plymouth. Our car was driving down Main Street, getting ready to make the turn up Highland Street, to our house two doors down from the Rounds Hall clock tower...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

At least it's interesting.

This weather is krazy with a K.

Recent tornado drill in the library.

THURSDAY, the dogs and I took a walk in the park (their last walk together, btw...I have BLISTERS on my hands from trying to control a Lab and a "Weimador" simultaneously!), and it was HOT. Really hot. (When we got back to Traveller, the Tribute, all three of us drank and drank and drank and panted and tried to cool off.)

FRIDAY after school, a dust storm dropped the temperature by at least twenty degrees and made me rip the contacts out of my eyes.

SATURDAY morning, whipping winds woke me up and made our morning trip to Canine Corner of the yard particularly miserable. All the Dumpsters in the alley are lying on their sides, and it's FREEZING in this house.

Dallas had it worse than we did yesterday--tornadoes touched down there, and the Metroplex had at least one death. Last night, my college roommate Linda called me accidentally, trying to check on her other friend (named Cristy) who rode out the storm lying in her bathtub. Linda (the one my family calls "Kristy's Imaginary Friend" because I've been talking about her since 1984...and yet, they've never actually *seen* her) was having dinner with another ACU friend (also named Linda, because all my Imaginary Friends are named after my mother) when their waiter escorted them to the kitchen. All of the Olive Garden patrons spent the worst part of the storm in the kitchen of the Olive Garden, ready to enter the walk-in if the tornadoes got any closer.

Linda laughed when I told her I'd LOVE to take shelter in an Olive Garden kitchen..."I call the shelf next to the Alfredo Sauce!!"

No Alfredo Sauce here...but plenty of books to protect your noggin!

So, anyway, Linda and her friends all escaped unscathed (even Cristy in her bathtub), and May Bee had a fun Friday, too...she celebrated her first birthday with BRISKET mixed with kibble for dinner.

Happy Birthday, May Bee!!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Easter, 1990

From Vigan Guroian’s book, Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening:

Several summers ago my children found two turtles and put them in the vegetable garden. During a thaw the next February, as I was digging up the soggy soil where the peas go, I lifted a heavy mound with my shovel, and then another. The two turtles had burrowed down for winter sleep, and I had rudely awakened them too soon. So I carried them to a corner of the garden where I would not disturb them and dug them in again. When my wife said that she feared the turtles might be dead, I said I did not think so (though I wasn't as sure as I sounded). I insisted that in spring they would come up. And they did in Easter week.

Lilies and hyacinths signify the resurrection, and I can understand why. But I have a pair of turtles that plant themselves in my garden each fall like two gigantic seeds and rise on Easter with earthen crowns upon their humbled heads. With the women at the tomb, I marvel. For "Christ did arise, Christ did awaken/Out of the virgin tomb, out of the tomb of light" (Armenian Ode for Ordinary Sundays). And he leads us back, back into the garden of delight.


Happy Easter, everyone!

For the full Speaking of Faith interview of Dr. Guroian:

And finally...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Josh & Misha got married.

That's right.

I couldn't bear to clean all of Joshua's hair out of Misha's dog I buried some of his hair with Misha's under the beautiful Bridal Wreath Spirea that's in full bloom right now. (Karen told me the name of it; I don't know a thing about plants.)

What Karen *didn't* tell me is that the delicate blooms fall apart if they're touched. As I tamped down the dirt where Misha and Joshua's hair now lies entwined, my elbow must have bumped into the flowing branches, and lovely white petals fell like confetti all over the newlyweds.

(Lump. Throat. Can't swallow...but am somehow smiling from ear to ear...the two best dogs I've ever known are now husband and wife!)

Happy Good Friday, everyone,
The Hopeless Romantic


UPDATE: It's now Saturday. And it's snowing. SNOWING!! It wasn't snowing this morning when I took the dogs to Special Corner, but the steps were a little slippery and sparkly. If it sticks, I'll post some pics...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Goodbye, Aunt Judy.

Aunt Judy was a medical miracle. She had a brain tumor removed as a small child, and one Baylor physician always called her “his miracle baby.” No one ever doubted him…brain surgery was still in its infancy back then, and her prognosis had not been good.

Aunt Judy, the urchin magnet.

The news came this weekend that Dad’s little sister passed away. Sad news for Uncle Clyde and the family, but happy, too, because Aunt Judy is finally restored after years of battling poor health. I have tears in my eyes and a burning lump in my throat as I think about her life-long struggle with the earthly body she was given.

My grandmother told me the story of Judy’s diagnosis only one time. How doctors kept coming into the examination room and frowning. And leaving. Returning with colleagues…and collectively engaging in more frowning. My grandmother, a master storyteller, wove a mother’s pain and worry and agony throughout the story like threads in linen, and at one point, I couldn’t even swallow or blink my tears away. That story was a hard one for Grandma Fowler to tell, and I’m grateful for the gift.

Aunt Judy grew up to be quite a character. She stayed with us in Plymouth, New Hampshire once, much to her nieces’ delight! She was like a third daughter for my mom to supervise…raiding the kitchen cabinets late at night, playing Old Maid and Go Fish and board games until way past our bedtimes (“Mystery Date” was everyone’s favorite! Aunt Judy would cackle hysterically if anyone got The Dud!), dressing and undressing and playing with Barbies...and not always cleaning up afterwards. I don’t *exactly recall* her stealing rhubarb from the neighbor’s garden with us kids…but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if she joined us under the wild grapevine arbor that hid us from the adult world with the fruits of our ill-gotten gains.

One particularly vivid memory from that visit was that Judy would hang her wig on the footboard of the beautiful antique bed we had in the guest room of the parsonage. She often wore a scarf when her wig was off to cover the scars and baldness caused by her childhood surgery…but not always. Karen, two years younger than me, noted that Aunt Judy’s patchwork scalp resembled some of our less fortunate dolls’ heads.

Before she married Uncle Clyde, Aunt Judy worked in a department store (SO GLAMOROUS!) and drove a 1969 muscle car called The Judge. (“The Judge” was actually painted on the side of the car.)

Some TV show back then (“Flip Wilson”? “Laugh In”?) had a catch phrase, “Here come da judge!,” and it quickly caught on in the Fowler Family to describe Aunt Judy driving up.


Judy was a great babysitter--she genuinely liked Disney movies. If you asked to stay in the theater to watch *the same movie* play again, she would actually say yes…UNLIKE ANY OTHER GROWNUP UNDER THE SUN. (I think she may also have had a thing for Kurt Russell, too, because I distinctly remember her taking us to The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes AND Now You See Him, Now You Don’t…really above and beyond the call of Aunt Duty.)

Don’t get me wrong…Aunt Judy was no angel. She had a little bit of a mean streak once in a while, but most kids (and adults who are still kids on the inside) do. Maybe it was the red hair. Brain surgery may have ruined that gorgeous head of red hair, but it couldn’t extinguish the fire in those roots. In our family, we have our fair share of redheads, and the stereotype runs pretty true…but they’re as quick to chuckle or embrace as to spark or flare, so it usually works out in the end…

Aunt Judy making everyone laugh.

I’ll never forget the time we girls were sent out to help Aunt Judy and Uncle Clyde unpack their car as the family gathered at Grandma & Grandpa’s “Camelot” home in Maine. We were about fifteen feet from The Judge when we froze in our tracks. Aunt Judy was having a conniption fit and fussing at Uncle Clyde, complete with hissing. HISSING! We had NEVER heard our Sainted Mother have a conniption, and she had certainly never hissed.

Karen and I stared at each other, unsure of how to proceed. To return to the house empty-handed would have been to disobey a direct order from a grownup and would have ensured a spanking…but to take another step towards a fiery bewigged Fowler Woman who apparently spoke Serpent seemed unnecessarily death-defying.

As I recall, we stood like statues until Clyde and Judy made up and smiled at us, loading our skinny, 1970s polyester-clad arms with a bushel of Macintosh apples and Kodak Flash Cubes. (I’m sure we carried other stuff, too, but these two items are seared into my brain for some odd reason.)

In 1989, Baby Bethany and I drove all the way from Texas to Maine to spend some time with Uncle Clyde and Aunt Judy. We had so much fun…Acadia State Park and York and Nubble Light and feeding seagulls and riding “Tony the Pony” and enjoying the lobster dinner Uncle Clyde made.

After Clyde blessed the food and we released each other’s hands, Bethany unexpectedly grabbed one of the red “monsters” from the platter and attacked it with vigor! I’d been afraid she would be scared of the prehistoric-looking creatures, especially since she kept calling them “monsters” instead of “lobsters.” Not to worry…fearless Bessie Lou used her sharp little toddler teeth to crack through a claw!

(Uncle Clyde came to the rescue, as usual, to show us how to *properly* crack and eat the odd-looking creatures.)

And then lots of years went by and an occasional Christmas card or phone call seemed to be all I had time to give. Aunt Judy was a much better *aunt* than I was a *niece*, to my shame. I didn’t write or call as often as I should have.

Oh, and my Uncle Clyde is an amazing man--a model of faithful, steadfast love--a rock! I should have been a better niece to him, as well. Maybe it’s not too late to show him how much we all love and admire him…

If there’s any consolation to be had, my nephews and nieces tell me that I’m a good aunt and that they love me. Maybe having Aunt Judy for a role model made me a better aunt for the precious children God placed in my life…and that would be enough to make her smile down from the Northeast Corner of Heaven…

Goodbye, Aunt Judy. Thank you…and I’ll always love you!