Why I love Texas

When I was driving home today, after dropping the littlest at preschool, I thought about how much I love living in Texas, and how that truth seems so weird – at least for people I talk to who are not from Texas. I am not the media stereotype of a Texan. I don't believe in secession. I don't believe everyone should have a gun. I don't have a Stetson. I think Rick Perry is the biggest tool in the history of tools. I am afraid of horses. And yet… here I am. If given the chance, I might even put a bumper sticker on my MacBook emblazoned with Davy Crockett's famous quote: You can all go to Hell, I will go to Texas. And I would only mean it as a little bit ironic.

So, as part of the mission to shine a brighter light in dark days, I bring you:

Why Texas is Great: A List

1.  It doesn't matter where you are, if you turn on the radio and flip through enough stations you will always find a Willie Nelson song playing

2. It's not that difficult to find someone riding a horse down the street

3. The sky. When I stand on my porch, or drive down the highway, or wait outside at school pick-up, or hurry through the parking lot at the grocery store, the sky never fails to stop me in my tracks. It stretches forever. The colors are brilliant. The clouds are fast or ponderous, skittering or towering. The sky is huge in Texas. It makes you think you are something special, to be allowed to behold it.

4. The weather. Yesterday, on December 18th, it was 83 degrees. Some people might not like that. And, I agree, it doesn't feel very Christmasy, but that's OK. Because when you live in Texas all it takes is 48 hours and it will be 30 degrees with gale force winds. Sometimes, it only takes 20 minutes. We have summer and winter all in one day. We have gorgeous thunderstorms that light up the sky from one end of the horizon to the next. We have ice that sparkles on still green trees. We have haboobs that overcome entire towns in slow motion ferocity. Texas weather is a microcosm of the world.

5. Nice people. You can go anywhere in Texas and walk into a store or a restaurant, sit down, order an iced tea, and another Texan will start chatting. It doesn't matter if you hate guns and he has on a holster. It doesn't matter if you are a stranger ordering a burrito in a town of 300. Someone will come over and say hello. They might be leery of you. They might be checking things out. But they will offer a chat about the weather, a chat about football, a discussion on the merits of sweet vs. unsweet tea.

If you are in line at the grocery store and make a remark about the price of eggs or the weather, and if the people around you are not transplants from other places where talking in line is a hideous social WTF, you will often find yourselves in an uproarious conversation about God only knows, before it's your turn to check out. My favorite was when two of my kids were acting out because they wanted gum, and a guy teasingly asked them to please behave for their mom. He then smiled at me and said that kids these days don't know anything about hardship. My son proceeded to tell him about Ike and his trach and how we do, actually, know about hardship. Then the guy said his mother was recently trached. We talked about that. And hardship. And gum. And we all made a new friend. In line. Buying eggs.

6. A commitment to crazy. Texas is full of crazy people. We do crazy the way you're supposed to do crazy – full on, no holds barred. We have state legislators who would put M40s in the hands of every teacher. Students across the state get the first day of (various) hunting season(s) off from school. We will allow you to shoot feral hogs from a helicopter. You can only buy a car on one day of the weekend, because you should be in church, not buying cars. In many towns if you want to go out to dinner and have a beer, you have to bring it from home. But you can bring your gun.

Now, I'm not saying I agree with these things, and I'm not saying that I don't roll my eyes, or heave deep sighs or wring my hands or march on the Capitol about some of these things, but you have to give Texas credit: we know how to do crazy. It's historical, really. Texas wouldn't be Texas if it weren't for ornery crazy people. Or maybe I should say ornery people committed to their beliefs.

You might think that this would be a reason to NOT love Texas, and yes, Texas politics are exasperating. But Texas politics also gave us people like Ann Richards and Molly Ivins.

I also think that, given a chance, the equal amounts of passion and commitment on the other side of the fence might just give the current crazy a run for their money in a few years. It will, of course, beget a new slice of crazy, but that's OK. Like I said, Texas does crazy pretty well.

7. The flowers. Have you been to Texas in the springtime? It is like living in a rainbow. The most vivid blues and yellows and reds cascade up and down hills in the most gorgeous displays of color you have ever seen. Just driving down the highway is sometimes enough to take your breath away. Thank-you, Nature, and thank-you, Lady Bird Johnson.

8. Space and science. In one four hour drive, I can show my kids the wide open sky, a side of the road taco shack, a guy on a horse loping along, fields of bluebonnets, a huge metropolitan city, and the heartbeat of the American space program. Awesome.

9. Breakfast tacos. They are everywhere. And they are different everywhere, so you're always on the hunt for the best breakfast taco. Potatoes, eggs, chorizo, avocado, black beans, pico, cheese, bacon, mashed potatoes, whatever you want, it's in a breakfast taco. It's usually around $1, and it's usually the best thing you'll eat all day.

10. Road trips. North to south, east to west, you have some beautiful country ahead of you. Start off in the piney woods, end up in Big Bend. Start off in the prairies of Dallas, end up at the crashing waves of the Texas coast. There is so much to see, even when there is so little to see. It's a gorgeous state to drive through. I highly recommend it.

So there you have it. Why I love Texas. There are a lot of things I don't love, but just as in any head over heels relationship, I feel like I might be able to help change those things over time. We'll see. Until then, it's wide open spaces, chats with strangers, breakfast tacos, and a healthy radius around random horses.

Texas. Yee haw.

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Trying to voice the unspeakable

Tonight I had a conversation with my 5th grader about Newtown. I didn't want to say anything. I didn't want to tell him. I didn't think he needed to know. I didn't want to scare him. I didn't want to chip even further away at the innocence I see losing ground within him everyday. I wanted to keep watching America's Funniest Videos and read a longer chapter of Goblin Secrets and have extra dessert and go to bed and wake up and have a regular, boring Monday.

But.

I know he will hear about it at school tomorrow. I don't know if the teachers will bring it up, but I know the kids will. Kids do. They are just becoming aware of the bigger world around them, especially when they're ten and eleven. So I decided to play offense. I decided to tell him the truth, answer his questions and to let him know that the things he hears from his friends or other kids at school may or may not be true. I thought about when I was kid and there was an unthinkable tragedy that touched our school. Not like this, but still gruesome and terrifying. There were (what I remember as several weeks, but it might have just been several days) that, once at school, we were not allowed to leave the classrooms unless it was the whole class together. If someone had to go somewhere like the nurse, we had to go with a buddy. It was a sort of proto-extended lockdown, I guess. The teachers were subdued, the kids animated with rumors.

Before I talked to my son I thought about how those rumors bounced around the halls like high bounce balls, smacking you in the face, knocking you down. I can't remember what grade I was in when all of that was happening at my school, but I do remember thinking that the other kids must have known more about the situation than I did. They didn't. We all had the same facts. But rumors were born. They are born. That is the nature of people, and it's the nature of trying to explain something terrible.

So I talked to my son tonight to try to protect him a little bit from whatever he might hear. It was a devastating conversation. He visibly paled when it dawned on him that the school in the faraway land of Connecticut was much like his own. He asked where the kids would go to school now. He asked if they would ever go back to their school, and expressed his hope that they would never, ever have to and that it would be torn down. He asked "Why?" many, many times. He asked who did it. He said it sounded like something you would read in a graphic novel. He asked if anything like this had ever happened before. He said he felt worried about going to school tomorrow, and that hiding in the corner couldn't save anyone from evil. (This statement came from the fact that they had had a lockdown drill at school on Friday, and part of the drill was hiding in the back corner of the classroom. After he said that I explained that hiding did in fact save a lot of people. I told him the teachers were heroes and saved so many students by following the protocols of their drills and hiding the kids.)  He asked if he could wake up his sister and give her an extra hug. He asked if we could not tell her about any of this. He said he wished he was our dog because dogs have simpler lives.

I did my best to answer his questions and to make him feel safe and calm. We talked about the national outpouring of grief. We talked about the President's repsonse (which my son did not watch, though I relayed a few of the broader points). We talked about how there's nothing we can do to ease the pain of the families who lost someone, but how, maybe by feeling our own pain we can try to show them that we would bear some of their burden if it was possible.

It tortures me that he feels less safe now. I feel terrible that he's up past his bedtime because he can't sleep for thinking about it. But I'm glad we talked about it before he was blindsided with it. I asked him to please not blindside anyone else.

I don't know if I handled this the way one is supposed to handle these things. My husband and I decided we would not say anything to our first grader. I am less sure if she'll hear about it in class and, to be perfectly honest, I cannot fathom how to broach the subject with her. I really just can't fathom any of it. If she asks questions, we'll answer them. But I can't bring it up with her. I just can't.

It was hard enough to talk to my fifth grader. It's hard to think about it at all.

Remember when I got all huffy with that guy about equal pay?

First the binders thing got me all riled up. Then the equal pay and contraception thing got me all riled up. All of this riled-up-ed-ness earned me an email from an outfit called Learn Stuff. They've put together a kickass infographic on the earnings gap between men and women, and I thought I'd show you guys.

See? I'm not just making stuff up! 

The economy will IMPROVE if women get paid equally. Poverty rates will go down! Less people on the public dole! The amount of money you get paid for your job should not depend on your lady parts or lack thereof! Why is this a thing we're still discussing in 2012?!

ARRGH! I'm getting all riled up again! 

 

Equal_Education_Unequal_Pay

Bad face day

You know how on some mornings you wake up and there is just nothing to be done about how haggard you look? Something about your aging face just won't mold back together into that charmingly quasi-wrinkled visage you're used to staring at in the mirror. 

I am not sure what happened while I was sleeping last night. Did I smoke a hundred packs of cigarettes while laying in a tanning bed in a room dehumidified enough to preserve Mayan mummies? Did a twenty year time warp happen directly over my sleeping face? Did I just… not sleep very well? I don't know. But whatever it was swooped down upon me and did a dance of the Devil just under my eyes.

Now I know I should be all feministy about this and be like, "I AM BEAUTIFUL NO MATTER WHAT." and "HUGE GAPING DARK CIRCLES UNDER MY EYES AND WRINKLES AROUND MY MOUTH MAKE ME LOOK GORGEOUS AND REAL AND LIKE A TRUE LADY."

But fuck that noise.

I looked terrible when I got up this morning, and that feeling of looking terrible settled into me like some kind of seeping, sad-inducing face plague. I don't even care if no one is going to see me today. I don't even care if my only jobs today are to ferry my kids around town while trying to write about getting a pack of grouchy gnomes into and out of a forest. (Coincidence? Hmm.) Even if no one is going to see my face, I will see my face. And I don't want it to look like a sad old lady with face plague. I don't care if that is un-feministy. Some days I'm cool with being tired-looking and wrinkled and whatever. Today is not one of those days.

So. What to do?

I opted to settle for a nice hot shower, some eye cream and eyeliner, and then a cup of cold brew coffee. The shower and the coffee worked out OK, but something went off the rails with the eye stuff. I'm not sure what happened, but now, instead of looking like a haggard 36-year-old woman, I look like a combination of Brian Williams from NBC News when he had those negative-Raccoon eyes from wearing ski goggles, and Cleopatra. 

(two side notes: 1) I don't know if Brian Williams's negative-Raccoon eyes actually come from getting a suntan around ski goggles, but this is how I imagine they appear. They seem to be seasonal. 2) when I wrote 36-year-old, I accidentally first typed 360year-old, which might be closer to true.)

Next time I should probably drink the coffee and then do the eyeliner. This has been noted.

Now I sit here at my computer, with my Brian Williams/Cleopatra eyes, my highball of iced coffee (leaving a ring of condensation on my son's school folder that states very plainly "return folder to school" even as it lays helplessly on the couch) and I am wondering if I will be able to get anything done today. Can I successfully ferry the kids home from school? Will I get the gnomes into and out of the forest? Why isn't there anyone in the house to feed me? What is wrong with my voice today? I think that last question can work both figuratively and literally. (I have Brian Williams/Cleopatra eyes and a Bea Arthur/gravel truck voice. I AM A HOT MESS, Y'ALL.)

Is there a conclusion to this blog post? I don't know. I just wish I knew that, as I aged, bad hair days would be one-upped by bad face days. No one tells you about bad face days, do they? Just like no one tells you about sex farts or how when you get older and get those wrinkles on your face from sleeping on crumpled fabric, the wrinkles take FOREVER to go away instead of going away instantly like when you are a supple young thing.

So, supple young things, listen up: bad face days are going to happen. Come up with a game plan. Augment the game plan with coffee. Good luck.

I am off to write about gnomes. And maybe I will yell some choice Golden Girls quotes at the dog, because really, this voice should not go to waste.

Happy Wednesday, nerds. Enjoy your faces while you can.

 

Update! Update! The One True Ring!

We just got back from returning the ring. I won't make you wait until the end of the post to see the picture.

Photo (23)

So much grinning, you guys. None of us stopped smiling for a second. When Tom and Mollie saw the ring they both audibly gasped. It's so much wider than the replacement ring. The engraving was bigger than they remembered. The ring size was bigger, too. "Am I smaller now?" Tom asked, laughing. "I guess I'm smaller now!" They turned the ring over and over marveling at what good shape it was in. I wanted to leap on both of them and envelope them in a huge sniffly hug, but I knew that really this was their moment. Best not to be pounced on by a veritable stranger in their living room.

I want to write something about how all the years of being buried under the recess field at school must have fed the ring and made it grow so that it emerged like a budding flower, shining its love and begging for discovery. But that will make me seem even sappier, won't it? Oh, heck. I don't care. The ring wanted to be found, don't you think?

Sam told them how, on the day he found the ring, he saw a flash in the sunlight and thought it was a quarter. He kneeled down and dusted off the shiny thing, determined it wasn't a quarter and had to find a stick and a rock to really dig it out of the ground. Once it was out, he used the stick to knock the dirt away from the inside of the ring so he could read the engraving. (He didn't tell me that part! Here I was thinking *I* was the one who showed *him* the engraving. Silly mama.)

Mollie told us how she and Tom had been out playing baseball 29 years ago and the ring must have come off when Tom pulled off his mitt. They didn't realize it was gone for a few hours and then they couldn't find it. Time passed, they replaced the ring, and they moved out of the neighborhood. Time passed more and they moved back into the neighborhood, always wondering what had become of the ring.

And now they have it back. Their 31st wedding anniversary is this week and Mollie has special secret plans for the ring. She wouldn't even let Tom wear it – it's secure on her own hand now. At least for the next few days.

In separate emails to me, while we were sorting out when to get together, both Tom and Mollie told me how much they still love each other. Tom said he'd marry her all over again. In the email I got from Mollie she said she would marry Tom all over again. There were a lot of exclamation points from both parties. And a lot of sniffling on my part.

Despite (my) protest, they gave Sam a modest cash award (that goes immediately into the Xbox fund) and we absconded with some pumpkin bread. We also have plans to get our families together for dinner sometime soon, with hopefully a star party in the backyard. (Sam and Tom are both fascinated by astronomy. There was much talk about water ice on Mercury and the upcoming NASA press conference regarding the new discovery on Mars.)

It was a lovely morning. Even lovelier than expected, and I expected it would be awfully nice.

And as a final note: Mollie asked why, once I found out their last name, I didn't use the phone book to look them up. "We're the only ones in there with our last name!" she said.

It never once occured to me to use the phone book. Not once. A sign of the times, I guess. But maybe there was some greater force that propelled us into making this a drawn out scavenger hunt. Maybe some universal power lengthened the process so that this would all have a happy conclusion mere moments before Tom and Mollie's anniversary. I don't know. I think we're all happy how it turned out, no matter what the journey was to get here. The journey itself has been so much fun!

So the ring has found its way home again. The Sauron in our hearts has been vanquished. And now we await a star party with our new friends.

Who knew a Minecraft obsession would turn up real gold? 🙂