Remains of the Day

I think that we started with over 200 photos. And we were charged with the task of narrowing it down to 25. That was my budgeted amount – 25. It’s hard to pick the best of the best of the best when they are all absolutely wonderful.

We sat on an ottoman in a den and stared at a 60-inch screen, eyes glued to it. We took in the delight of all the variations. We had our breath taken away by a few. We chuckled over the silly in-between shot expressions that even the photographer had loved enough to snap candidly. And I, of course, teared up over some of the absolute best ones. Over the whole process. Over having to narrow down what we took away from the day. It seemed not enough.

Some shots were absolutely “YES – we must have that!” As we got closer to 25, the debate loomed longer. Hubby and I wanted the ones “we wanted” – the ones that spoke to us. And he was adamant about the 25. Narrowing it down – 200 to 25 – was like torture. And not only to us. I think in final desperation to have us out of her house, our photographer caved and tossed in 7 extra. 32 shots. 13 years in the making. 5 outfits. 3 venues. 8 backdrops. I’m praying its enough. That the remains of the day are enough for this mama’s heart.

When I sat down to scrap the photos, I wanted to scrap them all. And I hope to. But, I needed to get some of them down and so I chose predominantly the ones used on the graduation invitation, and threw in a couple more that I liked. I thought about the title I would use. “Oh the Places You Will Go” is common, or “Adventure is Out There”, or “Way to Go, Grad”….and it seemed as though I wanted to say more to him than that. I happened upon the WRMK sentiment and thought it expressed perfectly this mama’s sentiment for her boy out there now in the big ‘ole world. And I thought, too, the little Hello World sticker perfectly embodied my boy’s heart longing. He was ready to go long before I was ready to let him go.

I am thankful for my remains of the day. And every once in a while if I want to just punish my heart a little, I will troll through the 32 images and just remember. Togetherness. Joy. Laughter. Big boy hugs. Little boy tears. Scraped knees. Bruised hearts. Life. Our life together. My remains of the day.

Be Forever True to Your Heart – Senior Photo Shoot – April 2013

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IMG_7872IMG_7874Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation http://scrapbookgeneration.blogspot.com

Papers from Echo Park, Simple Stories, We R Memory Keepers
Font: Collegiate Inside

Trick-or-Treating

I looked across the table at my husband one day and I could see in his eyes the weight of the nest emptying. Back-to-back boys has been a ride – joy, terror, bliss, chaos. I have known for a few years that my honey would take hard the hit of the college drop-off. And I was right. And he did. We decided that we would take a little trip. You know – embrace the change? Start a new ritual? Being the mouse fans that we are, we thought we would head to Orlando. But, as fate would have it, the places we wanted to stay were booked, so we looked toward Anaheim.

We had gone there together for the very first time ever together. Back in 1986. We were both visiting friends in Fresno and they took us. That was so long ago. I don’t even think there are any photographs of it. If there are, they are on film somewhere with Miss Ginny in Fresno. But, I have faint memories of the park. We then took the boys there for the first time in 1999. Our little family of four headed west. To see the mouse. Toon Town times and little blonde boys falling asleep in their mouse-eared nuggets were the order of the day. And I have a few photos of that trip. And negatives somewhere. It seemed like a circle to book-end the trip with the boys with a second trip for the two of us.

We stayed at The Disneyland Hotel in 1999 and opted this time for The Grand Californian Hotel. As the trip got closer, we became more and more excited. I would text hubby little images of the parks and we would do countdowns. During all of our anticipation, a friend asked if we were going to the Halloween party. I told her we weren’t planning on it. She talked about how much fun she had at it. So, on a whim, we decided we would buy hard tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. And we ended up trick or treating! And it was so much fun.

Biggest moment – being blown away by all of the reworking in the Haunted Mansion to convert it to embody The Nightmare Before Christmas. Biggest let down – the main PM parade didn’t showcase the villains like I thought it should. But, it was a little bit of magically ghoulish fun. And just the thing we needed to help ease our hurting hearts.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – Disneyland – October 2013

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Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation http://scrapbookgeneration.blogspot.com

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For the Love of the Game

If I were to be completely honest, I would have to save that I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with these men. And that is so unlike me. I am usually fairly consistent, painfully loyal and stoically steadfast. I’ve never been one to play the field….Chalk it up to my childhood, or our nomadic married life, or just my yearning for the “real deal”.

Football started for me as a young child, and goes as far back as I can recall. You see, it’s always been there. Back in the days of “Luv Ya’ Blue” and Bum Phillips’ prowess as the leader of the Houston Oilers, I was in the hey days of my teenage life. And as a native Houstonian, the Oilers were always on in the background. So very many Sunday afternoons spent as a young girl, laying belly down on the carpet reading the Sunday cartoons, football game playing on one of our three TV channels, and the roast in the oven warming up the house with its aromatic, heady scent. I didn’t care much about the football game, but it was part of my Sunday trifecta of family fall bliss.

I headed off to Arkansas for college. And shut down on football. Our college team was insubstantial and the Razorback fans were beyond my comprehension. Saturday and Sunday afternoons were saved up for fun road trips, campus leisure, last minute studying and the ever present piles of laundry. Young married life had us back in Houston, but Bum was long gone and the chants of “Luv Ya’ Blue” were gone with him. In fact, before long, the whole team was packed up lock, stock and barrel and shipped off to a greedier fan base in Tennessee.

They left town the same year that we did. Our Houston days turned to San Antonio days turned to McAllen days  and we spent almost a decade in regions that didn’t have an NFL franchise. It didn’t matter. We were busy with the boys and Sunday afternoons were set aside for naps or time at the park or family days spent crafting or playing games. I’m really practically thrilled that for those eight years we lived outside the scope of “Game Day”. We crafted Sabbath memories and traditions and reveled in together times.

When we moved to Dallas in 2005, I wasn’t anticipating falling in love with the NFL. I had flirted with The Cowboys in my childhood during Christmas visits to family in Denton. I always had aunts and uncles and cousins that were rooting for their hometown team. I was around them often enough, but it was never okay for me to love them given the divisive rivalry in Texas between Oiler fans and Cowboy fans. I didn’t know then that my observance from afar of Tom Landry’s gentlemanly coaching of the Cowboys would lay the groundwork for my own fan base. And I didn’t fall in love fast once here, either. My Cowboys crept up on me much like my sweetheart…just a little bit here and there over time, until suddenly I had to admit I was in love and needed them in my life.

Having lived so long outside the scope of the NFL, I had never gone to a real game. I had never really even aspired to. But when Jerry Jones launched the new stadium with the 2009 season, I was already an avid fan and my curiosity was peaked. Attendance in early 2010 to a state play-off football game at Jerry’s World to watch my sister’s school district drew me in. The chance to go to the stadium for the $10 admission was a chance we couldn’t pass up. And, the stadium rewarded our attendance – it was truly amazing. I was still content, though, given ticket prices, to watch the home team games on our television.

As luck would have it, the season opener for 2013 was at home…against our division rivals, the New York Giants…the pre-season roster was looking good…Jason Garrett was gelling as a coach…the ante for a home win was up…and we needed a little something fun to do. Sometimes I get a wild hair…and I just had this gut feeling that the Cowboys were going to win for the first time against the Giants in the new stadium…and I wanted to be there! I just felt like, given our recent launch of our oldest to college, that we needed to get out of the house, we needed to do something different, we needed to stir up some fun.

I found the tickets online via StubHub, reserved and prepaid for parking…and kept the secret from my honey for as long as I could. I was bubbling inside and so very excited that I had to tell him on Saturday before the game the next day – I just couldn’t contain it anymore. I wanted him to have the chance to look forward to it as much as I was! The words to NBC’s Sunday night game never rang more true – “I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday Night!” We woke up Sunday morning almost giddy. I couldn’t help but tell our pastor where we were headed that night. See, everyone’s a fan. Most anyone you run into is proud of our hometown team – regardless of their record. It’s just a club we’re all in together.

We planned to leave the house around 3. We’d drive over ahead of the traffic, eat at the nearby Pappadeaux, and then head into the stadium to catch everything. We got there around 5:30 and were truly entertained for the two hours leading up to the game. And I can tell you this – it was the PERFECT game to have as your first NFL game.

We were the NBC’s Sunday night football. We were in a division game. We were up against our rivals. We were going for the first home win. And win we did! There’s never been a faster game that I watched. Four quarters rolled by, down after down, faster than you can say “How ’bout dem Cowboys!” We beat the Giants solidly – and at that moment all of the rest of the season didn’t matter. For that moment, we were winners and we were so excited to be part of it all. We were there. For the team. For the win. For the fun. For the game. For the love of the game.

I’ve Been Waiting All Day for Sunday Night – The Cowboys vs. The Giants – September 2013

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Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation http://scrapbookgeneration.blogspot.com

Papers from Little Yellow Bicycle
Chipboard Letters from Bella Blvd.

My Borrowed Year

I am about to enter a new demographic. I wish I felt great about it. I wish it was one you auditioned for, or interviewed for, or longed for…or even really just wanted. I cannot speak for the scores of others that have entered this demographic before me. I can’t track the path of their heart or read back into their thoughts. I can only speak for me as I muddle through the processing of my own heart and thoughts.

I think back to 1994 when this idea birthed and to 1999 when I launched it, when I drew the line in the sand and committed. I held back. I cheated. Could you blame me? My baby boy should have started school in August, 1999. 5 seemed far too young back then to send them off for 8 hours into the care of others. Whose crazy idea was this, to start school at 5? What is so significant about turning 5 that allows you to loosen the apron strings? I couldn’t see it then, anymore than I can see it now. So, I cheated, and I’ve been living in and wallowing in and reveling in my borrowed year.

We must all pay the piper. My dues come up for payment soon. High School graduation is two weeks from tomorrow. Then we begin the whirlwind of “final” senior high trips and closure with all friends and local haunts, amidst the act of walking the tightrope toward college – the high wire act of summer orientation and registration and early enrollment for freshman. I don’t care for this tempest of activity at all. I don’t want to be one of those, one of those mothers of high school graduates and college students.

In my effort to stem the tide, to stay the execution, to defer the payment, I procrastinated on finishing his school days scrapbook. As long as I didn’t look at all the years, they weren’t really acknowledged, right? As long as I didn’t begin the Senior Year in the scrapbook, it couldn’t end, right? This past Friday, able to put it off no longer, I took a vacation day from work and settled my heart and head into a 4-day work weekend on the scrapbook. Two weeks to finish, two weeks. I’ve got to get this done now so I can move on to the party preparations. Two weeks? How can it only be two weeks away?

Thanks to my newfound friend, the Combi patch, my raging hormones cooperated and I focused on the work at hand and ignored the underlying meaning. I paced the work out. I had daily goals. I bought one bag of m&m’s to ration out rewards to myself each day as I hit the 25% completion goal for that day. I drank coffee. I moved around to stay awake. I watched every Audrey Hepburn movie that Netflix could offer me. I moved on to Cary Grant afterwards and followed the cues of recommended watchings at the bottom of the Netflix screen, in a robotic mental state so as not to upset the tender applecart of emotions in my heart. I plowed on through all the pages to do, all the grades to remember, all the stories that sum up a child’s school years.

As Monday wound down, as lunch time passed and dinner time approached, I could put off no longer the finality of the project, the finality of the weekend, the finality of his school years, the finality of my nest being full. And as a trade-off, I have this one souvenir,  one 2″ scrapbook, 40 pages of memories that are called up by pictures and tidbits of stories. I looked at the album cover, thick and full, and somehow felt both a sense of accomplishment and a trickle of devastation. I got it done! I could pass the hallmark test of a scrapping mom – I had spawned a childhood memory book, on time and done. As elated as I could allow myself to feel, I also battled the other side of my heart and head that wanted to just lay my head down and weep over the end of an era.

As I waged my own war of emotions in my heart, my son came in from a friend’s house. My words were limited, as the thick choking sensation in my throat prohibited verbosity. I could merely push the album toward him as some message, some offering, some sense of finality. He said, “That’s it, then? It’s done? It sort of makes it all real now, doesn’t it?” I nodded, unable to say much of anything. I pushed the album toward him and managed to push out, “Would you like to see it?” He slowly said, “Sure” and took the album and settled into a chair, turning the pages at differing rates.

I could not really watch it and turned my back on him to face my computer monitor, fighting for some sense of order and control over my emotions, willing the tears to stay dammed up in my head. I turned at one point to watch him and noticed him taking a picture of a picture with his phone. Kids are so funny these days. We are all instant and prolific photographers. He finished looking at the book and got up and came to me, silently, and just hugged me. I was crying, but I could feel that he, too, was crying. We just sat there, hugging, dealing with our emotions, and weeping over the thoughts we were processing and the facts that continue to present themselves – that he will leave in about 70 days, forever changing the mix of our family life and in one fell swoop eradicating the home and life I have fought to protect for them and offer to them.

Ah, these big ‘ole boys with legs that take them up taller than their mother, with wit that challenges our humor and debates our morals, with eyes that see beyond our own horizon. These big ‘ole boys that want to take on the world. It’s easy to forget that they are in there, too, guarding their hearts, their little soft baby hearts, the heart that you have nurtured for every day of every year of their life.

I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I wouldn’t trade any of the days. I don’t have any regrets. I’ve loved every minute of it all. But I am most grateful for my borrowed year, the very best year to have.

There Be Dragons Ahead

I have watched the movie The King’s Speech 4 times now. It is so compelling to me. I am drawn in by Bertie’s struggle, by the roles his life people play to him, by his inability to give up and let go. And every time that movie ends, I want to cheer for him. And watch his speech again.

As I think about why that movie haunts me, I am able to pinpoint the reason it calls to me: the precise moment where his story echoes mine. It is the scene where he is preparing for the coronation and Lionel is sitting in the chair, baiting him. Bertie escalates in tone and emotion until he cataclysmically yells in Westminster Abbey, “I HAVE A VOICE!”

I have no throne to ascend, no Lionel in my life, and my Westminster Abbey is a far less famous sanctuary. Nonetheless, there is a Force at work in my life goading me to the point of acknowledging that I, too, have a voice. Life can get in the way. Choices are defined for you by immediacy and needs and commitments and the beloved familial duty. What comes naturally, the path of familiarity, is not always the path we are to stay on.

As Bertie stepped outside the lines to become the first successor to ascend with his predecessor alive and well and loved, perhaps we, too, are all meant to step outside the lines. It’s a bit treacherous, this contemplation of a new path. I told someone last night, “I like my rut. It’s a comfortable rut. I know it, it knows me.” But, as much as I hate to admit it, my rut may be evolving into a grave – a death of what my heart needs and longs for, and certainly a silencing of my voice.

I heard a song yesterday called Awaken. I am fairly well versed in music. I listen to it often and I had not ever heard the song before. I looked it up last night, only to find it is perhaps as old as 2007. Natalie Grant records it. I know, for me to hear it yesterday for the first time, when shackled with the weight of the words, was a message. To my heart. To my voice. Awaken.

I can’t help but think of the ancient maps, the ones where they didn’t know what lie past the edge. They would write, “There be dragons ahead”. And while I am certain there are NOT in fact dragons ahead, I do not know what DOES lie ahead. But, I will press on in this journey to awaken my voice.

Dorothy Got It Right

Today is the last day of my vacation week. It is, actually, the first day of my back to work week. But I won’t think about that now. We had eight wonderful days in New York City. Steve and I had been to NYC back in 1997. I scrapbooked that trip – and good thing – as I don’t remember too much of it. We went with a group and were chartered around everywhere. This time, no carriages and balls – we were hitting the streets and rubbing elbows with New Yorkers. And it was interesting.

We saw four shows, in this order: The Addams Family, Wicked, Memphis and The Phantom of the Opera. We had intended to see only two shows. But, Broadway woos you in like an expensive and irresistible lover. Steve – with all his stamina and ever willing to stand in line – ended up at TKTS three times in the scorching heat. You see, we went with no plan other than to hit TKTS and see what they had. The deal of the first day ended up as The Addams Family. While he was at TKTS getting those, I was at the Wicked box office, paying prices for a matinee that were true to the name of the production. But, the boys really wanted to see Wicked, so we sucked it up and paid the going rate for those. {And they were worth it!}

The Addams Family was kitschy cute and sentimental for me – I remember watching it as a child on black and white television programming. I thought Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester and Lurch to be extremely odd, but definitely amusing. The Broadway production proved the same. Memphis was the show of 2010 and all the rage. It was a strong production musically and choreographically, but it was not a feel good production. How could it be when it was the hybrid of Hair Spray and The Clash of the Titans. Nothing like a racially charged chorus to entertain you. Phantom is Phantom. Prolific. Iconic. Classic. It was slightly sloppy, but the music is so strong, even when poorly done, the production delivers. Listen to me sounding all Broadway critic. But, the cornerstones of the trip were the four productions. I was extremely excited to expose the boys to Broadway ON Broadway and for them to see four shows and love them was so very validating for their theater loving parents.

We saw the big sites – Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Plaza, 5th Avenue, Trinity Church, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Modern Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park. We ate fabulous food. We shopped at Macy’s Herald Square. We hit the 24/7 Apple Store on 5th. We bought a pound of m&m’s on Times Square – and consumed them over the next few days. The boys took in the Harry Potter Expedition. We found delicious cheesecake on 5th at the Magnolia Bakery. We ate all kinds of pizza. We found Italian food so good that we ate there two nights in a row. We rode in countless cabs and walked blocks and blocks. We took the carriage through Central Park.

Vacations are funny. You spend so much effort securing the date, planning the details, deciding on destination, comparing lodging, pricing travel. Then the date looms and you begin the packing lists and the evaluation of what you have in your closet, what you weigh right now, what looks good on you, what the weather will be, how many days’ clothing you will need. It is, frankly, exhausting. Then, heaven help you if you need to help others in your family do this. Say, two young men and a husband. Yes – exhausting. But, when I think of why we make the effort, I hear the young Ellie in UP saying, “Adventure is OUT THERE” and I agree with her.

Vacations break up the every day, the mundane, the ritualistic chores. They bring you together as a family. {When else will I get my two teenage boys to eat every meal with me and be with me every waking moment?} They entertain you. They lighten your load. They can if chosen correctly, refresh you. I love our family trips. I do. I take scads of photos and then spend hours editing and ordering and then ultimately scrapping them into an album. I want to remember the trips. I want to capture great shots. I want to tell the story.

But, at the end of the day, when I’ve had enough nights of bad sleep and days filled with crowds and heat and being out of sorts over living out of a suitcase, I’m ready for the vacation to end. I’m ready to come home. Back to my cocoon. Dorothy got it right. There’s no place like home.

You Smiled Back

It can seem like a very silly holiday.  Especially if you factor in the balloon bouquets and carnation teddy bears at the local big box or the footie hoodie commercials on the little black box.  But, I think there are enough of us out there that have a deep-seated romantic penchant that likes to peek out every once in awhile, if for no other reason than to sustain its existence.

I know that with two teenage boys in the house, romance is on my list, oh let’s see…never.  Now if you want to talk about them doing their laundry or getting their bedroom floors visible, that turns me on.  Date nights?  Our last date was a Friday night disaster: it was a fast dinner and a walk around Wally World that was totally sandwiched in between homecoming football game drop-off and pick-up.

Married to the reality of life with my two darling, albeit messy, sons, is the deep-seated routine of sharing a life with the same man for all these years and sharing 24 Valentines.  There’s a lot of poetry in living life and loving your mate through time.  Life doesn’t come with everyday lace hearts and Belgian chocolates.  Somewhere, though, along the path of moves and sugar cookies and soccer games, something organic and rich grows.  My life and our love is richer and deeper and fuller than I could ever have predicted.

Steve and I met January, 1984, in the dimly lit lobby of Cathcart Hall.  He was the new guy in town.  We become fast friends and I liked that new sassy sweet red-headed Yankee.  I think a part of me then that he would someday be mine.

“When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.” William Shakespeare

Thanks, baby, for the smiles, and the tears, and the life that we live, and the love in the years.

We Are Best Valentines – Valentines Day

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Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation http://scrapbookgeneration.blogspot.com

Papers from Crate Paper
Font: Pacifico

uncle pody

I can’t tell you his middle name.  I can’t tell you my first memory of him.  I am not sure how we turned his given name from Cody to Pody and he’s not really my uncle.  I can tell you that when he smiled he reminded me of Santa with his rosy cheeks and twinkling eyes.  I can tell you that his moustache tickled.  I can tell you that I used to love the smell of his cigarette smoke. 

He lived next door.  He was our neighbor and we went to the same church.  His wife died from cancer when I was 3.  I was the 3rd girl born to my parents and about the time Aunt Lucy died, my younger, long awaited little brother was born and I think that Uncle Pody and I kind of became two lost souls that grafted together.

He worked at a local plant and would come home in grease stained blue coveralls that were worn and had worked hard.  His hard hat was yellow and it would be tucked under his arm and in his other hand would be his metal lunch bucket – the kind with the hard black plastic handle.  He’d get out of his truck to find me greeting him there.  You see, I watched for him.  He’d stop in his tracks, spread his legs out into a stance and say something like, “Well, what do we have here?” or he might say, “HEY, Penny Rooskie!”.

I would follow him in the house and I’d watch him put away his hat and his lunch bucket and then we’d curl up on his brown nubby fabric-covered corner sectional, facing each other as we sat on the opposite sides of the angle.  We’d talk about our days and sometimes we would take a nap together, too.

My parents knew if they couldn’t find me at dinner time, to come knocking next door.

Uncle Pody loved me.  He needed me.  He was always there for me.  Sometimes all we need is a friend that will watch for us, let us curl up on their couch, and share the day.  The naps are always optional.

Uncle Pody is gone now.  He eventually remarried and moved to a neighboring community.  I of course grew up and went to school and married and moved on.  He was at my wedding – in a blue seersucker suit.  It meant so much that he was there.  I would go see him when home for Christmases.  He’s gone now.  I couldn’t bear to go to his funeral.  I like to see him in my mind – coming in from the truck in his blue coveralls, happy to see Penny Rooskie.

crafting the life i love

I have been toying with blogging for awhile.  I am working on Jessica Sprague’s Stories in Hand and she told me to try some new method of writing, so, on the eve of my 44th birthday week, I am diving in.

Life goes fast.  The boys are teenagers.  Where has time gone?

I hope to write and remember that every day matters – and sometimes all we can write about are those mundane little minuscule everyday matters.  Whether the moments are big are small, I want to be intentional about remembering how I am focused on crafting the life I love.