Monday, May 30, 2011

"If This Ends Up On Your Blog"

Reed, you threw down a gauntlet that I just couldn't resist.  

So, this weekend, Alan and I made a quick trip to Waco in our gas guzzling Suburban to help Bryce and Reed move into their new apartment.  The back of the Suburban was filled with "stuff" that had been piling up in Reed's room - books, posters, clothes, a TV - in preparation for the move into his first college apartment, a bookcase, two old barstools rescued from the pile of garage sale stuff, and buckets of cleaning supplies.

I told the men on the outset that I did not intend to darken the door of Bryce's old one-bedroom apartment during the move.  He and Reed have been holed-up there since mid-May so the place was sure to be you say...gag-a-maggot filthy.  Instead, I appointed myself Official Unpacker and Arranger of the New Abode.  

If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times over the course of 2 days, "Hey!  Where did you find that?!  I thought it was lost forever!" or "I thought Reed had jacked that!" or "I was sure that Bryce had permanently borrowed that!"  or "I thought someone had stolen it!"  Lost and stolen items tumbled out of laundry bags stuffed tight like extra firm Beauty Rest pillows, boxes of junk that hadn't been opened in over a month, and obvious places like messy dresser drawers.

Which brings me to an bit of "college ingenuity" that I stumbled upon - not in the bottom of a laundry bag, but hanging on a hanger posing as a clean dress shirt.  Apparently, Reed hadn't seen his "stolen" cufflinks for quite some time and was forced to solve the problem creatively.  I knew that all those years of Destination Imagination would serve him proudly one day.

When I first polled the boys via text message about whether or not they wanted us to bring the red barstools which, according to the Target ads, have "adjustable height hydraulics."  Bryce replied via text, "No."  Reed replied, "Yes."  So, I brought them.

It turns out that the barstools are a pretty fun bachelor pad accessory what with the adjustable height hydraulics.  Thus, the video.  Thus, the gauntlet throw-down.

Reed, consider the barstools, new bed, desk, loveseat, chair, and piles of groceries housewarming "gifts" to you and Bryce from your loving parents.  I will consider your "soundbite" a gift to me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Love Him Real Bad

A couple of quick stories about my "baby."

He was my little buddy during the long days while "the brothers" were off playing with other kids at school.  Light-hearted.  Funny.  Always smiling.  Easy to be with.

One morning, he raced into the kitchen and informed me that I needed to come quickly.  

"My potty is bwoke!  Huwwy!  Come see!"

"What do you mean 'broke'?" I inquired.  Fixing broken potties was not my forte, to say the least.

"The water is weally high in it!  I keep flushin' and flushin', but it doesn't have the 'thrength' to take it all down!"


"The potty isn't stwong enough, Mom!  It can't take it all down!" he piped.

"Reed, go back in there, put the lid down on the potty, push the lock button on the door, and close it.  Daddy will take care of it when he gets home," I sighed silently cursing the wimpy toilet.


We had shared a busy morning running errands hither and yon.  At noon, we took a break to meet Alan downtown for lunch.  "Just me, Mom and Dad," Reed smiled.  

Driving away from Dad who was waving as he walked back into the bank, Reed grew very quiet.  I drove a few blocks and then looked over to see tears silently slithering down his little pink cheeks.

"Reedie, what's wrong?!"

Sniffing he replied, "I miss my Dad so much.  I love him weally bad, and I just like bein' with him."

My heart melted with love for my tender, sweet baby boy.  I love him really bad, too.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Toby Flenderson, the Scarecat

When Reed came home for a visit last week, he brought me a little sumthin-sumthin.  Mimi's armless little boy mannequin.  I had forgotten that he took it to Baylor for fun college boy pranks in the dorm.  Apparently, it spent most of the year bumping around in the trunk of his Nissan with half empty rolls of duct tape and shirts he thought were lost forever.  Now that he is beginning his sophomore year as a college man, he is letting go of the toys of his freshman "childhood."

I don't really want to donate, trash or sell the mannequin.  For more than 30 years, it has been a part of our family.  Last fall was the first time in years that Mom didn't set him out as a decoration for Baylor Homecoming.  However, he's still wearing the decorative sunflower yellow "by Beaufort of Texas" cotton jacket with the arms dangling loosely at his sides because he...uh,...has no arms.  And, either the jacket or his head have been put on  backwards.  

"Re-eeed, are you sure that you don't want to keep it to scare Bryce with now that you're going to be sharing an apartment?  Kathy and I used to LOVE to scare each other!" I implored.

"Nope!  It's all yours!" he insisted.

The next morning when Reed stumbled out of his room headed to the bathroom, the little boy - let's just call him Toby Flenderson -  fell towards him as he opened the door.  It was the perfect set up what with the "fall into the room" effect combined with Reed's customary "fall out of the room" morning stupor.  I wanted to show him just how much fun he would be missing if he left little Toby in my care.   A while later, I discovered the Tobers "hiding" in my closet behind some clothes.  When I called Reed into my room to see how calm I remained when I discovered young Master Flenderson, he re-enacted the way he THOUGHT I would react.

"Let's see...let's see..." he said mimicking my soft soprano lady-voice, "What WILL I wear today?  No, not that, it's too tight.  No, I wore that last week.  Hmmm.  Let me see..."  Working his way down the rack he pushed aside pants, robes, and my token dress until he dramatically uncovered Toby who was staring blankly at us.  "OH, MY!  What is this!  Help!  Help!  There's a strange boy in my closet!" he screamed.  Apparently my reaction to his reenactment was as much a disappointment to him as my reaction to the initial discovery had been.

Yesterday, I strolled into the alley to check on my garden.  As I rounded the corner of the fence, a flock of miscellaneous birds swooped from the garden up into nearby trees and began to curse me quite loudly.  Shaking my fist at them, I began brainstorming ways to keep those pesky birds away from my tomatoes.  "What I really need is a good old fashioned scarecrow..." I thought.  Then, came the lightbulb moment...TOBY FLENDERSON!  I stood there between the 'maters and the brussels sprouts trying to figure out how to affix the armless mannequin to the fence in a "lifelike" manner.

After several minutes of eyeing the possibilities, it occurred to me that some rapscallion might pedal down our alley, straddle Toby's little legs over the horizontal crossbar of his back, and ride off into the night.  I simply could not stand for that.  I don't really want the mannequin, but I sure don't want it to fall into the hands of some devilish child that might do God only knows what to our family heirloom.

Ambling into the backyard, I saw a stray cat streak out of our garage, scramble up the side of our fence, and then, leap out into the great beyond.  We have a neighborhood full of brazen cats that enjoy snacking on our cats' Meow Mix.  One of those confounded cats is a very territorial male who has taken it upon himself to "mark" every wall in our garage multiple times.  He has even called dubs on the freezer and the extra refrigerator.  While glaring at the streaking cat and trying my best to detect its gender when it went airborn, I had a delightful a-ha moment.

Here, kitty kitty!
Surely, Toby Flenderson will scare away stray cats.  He scares me every single time I walk out onto the porch.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dancing Queen

Cue Music...

Substitue "old and sweet, only eighty five" in the chorus.

The ringtones on my cell phone:
Alan - the theme to Superman
Jonathan - Chicago (sung by Sinatra, of course)
Bryce - Skiin' in the Mornin' 
Reed - Rock and Roll, Pt. 2 (a sort of jock jam tune)

The ringtone that heralds my mother's calls?  Dancing Queen.

Back in the 40's when she was a college coed - wait...I'm not sure if they called college girls "coeds" during the war since there were no boys around - anyhoo...Back in the 40's when my mom was a college coed at Stephen F. Austin, the kids gathered on the 3rd floor of some building when they had time between classes to dance.  Put a nickel in the juke box, pick L3 for a Glen Miller tune, and the makeshift dance floor filled with girls energetically swing dancing with each other.  She waxes nostalgic when she shares her memories about all the frequent "real dances" after the "boys came home."  The end of the war marked a time for better dancing in my mom's dreamy eyes.

Little Miss Helen has evening dresses and a fine pair of dancing shoes stored in a plastic box on her closet shelf in case she ever gets to go to a "fancy dance."  She actually wore one of the outfits on New Years Eve.  The next day, she called to tell me how much her dancing shoes hurt her feet.  "I'm going to have blisters!  Where did we put the bandaides?"  Then, she loyally tucked those dancing shoes away in the dancing attire box in case they ever stop hurting her feet.  The lucite pumps with lucite heels that "go with EVERYTHING" are still "perfectly good dancing shoes!"

Last Friday night, the boys and I went to visit Mother during Happy Hour at Raider Ranch.  She called about four times during the week to remind us that on Fridays they have live music, free wine and beer - but not for grandsons (her words) - and free hot appetizers.

"You won't need to cook supper!  I always fill up on appetizers!  I get PLENTY to eat."  

A day later..."Did I tell you that we're having Happy Hour on Friday?!"  (They have Happy Hour every Friday.)

A day later..."Do you think that the boys will come to Happy Hour on Friday!  There's free wine and beer - but not for grandsons - and free appetizers!  You won't have to cook supper!  You can all eat for free!"

A day later..."Kenny Maines is going to be here!  You need to come hear Kenny Maines!"

My mother has had a schoolgirl crush on Kenny Maines since the first time he came over to her table and introduced himself.  "When he got back up to sing, he said, 'This song is for HELEN!'  He dedicated the song to ME!  Wasn't that SWEET?!" she brags with a big grin spread across her precious, soft-skinned face.

Last Friday evening at 5:30, Bryce and Reed (Jonathan was in Chicago, and Alan was out of town) went with me to Happy Hour to delight Miss Helen's little 85 year old heart.  Before we left the house, I told them that in appreciation of their giving up time on a perfectly good Friday night to thrill their grandmother, I would pay them $5 per dance with Mimi.  Reed quickly said, "I'll carry her if I have to!"

And, oh, how they danced!  Well, tried to step-ball-change in a sort of side to side hop to keep up with Mimi.  I should have tipped them an extra buck every time she said, "Spin me!"  During one particularly hoppy dance, Mom's arms dropped to her sides. "Dance with your mother now," she said abruptly leaving Bryce alone on the dance floor.  She was just about hopped out.  Reed flexed his muscles making ready to step-ball-change with Mimi in his arms.  Five dollars a dance was a pretty sweet deal.  

Bryce waved me onto the dance floor, and off we step-ball-changed trying to come up with some sort of sloppy 2-step.  Mom was right.  Dancing on a Friday night at Raider Ranch's Happy Hour to Kenny Maines is fun.  Especially when your partner is your handsome, gallant middle son.  Thanks for the dance, Bryce!  And, thanks for not charging me to dance with you.

Oh, let's just let the $5 dances be our little secret.  Let the Dancing Queen revel in the thrilling feeling that "the boys came home."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Son, the Librarian Who is Masterfully Ingenious When it Comes to Wearing Tiny Socks

Last Monday, Bryce and Reed came home from Baylor wagging along large, fully stuffed laundry bags.  Reed admitted that it wasn't his best "packing job" - meaning that the laundry bags doubled as luggage.  Gradually, during the week I've washed load after load of stinky college laundry making mental notes to explain things to the boys like the relationship between mildew and wet towels.

A few random child-size socks came tumbling out of the last drawstring laundry bag along with musty towels, wadded up underwear, and stained Brooks Brothers polo shirts.  I spied a couple of snipped off toes from child-size socks.  My head was still cocked to one side with my eyebrows knitted in puzzlement when I saw the corresponding cut-off sock heels. 

My voice echoed through the house, "Reeeeeeed!  Can you come here for a minute?!  I need to ask you about something!"

"Yeah, Mom?" he innocently said entering the kitchen.

At this point, I must admit that I am forensic scientist mother.  I can detect obscure details that hint at larger "issues."  I've got a nose like a blood-hound as well as keen x-ray vision.  I can read facial expressions with pinpoint accuracy.  Those severed child socks had me strapped.  Try as I might, I couldn't interpret the behavior associated with the evidence given.

"What can you tell me about these socks?"  By now, Alan and Bryce had joined us in the kitchen and were waiting anxiously with big grins on their faces to hear what Reed had to say.

"Welll," he began with a sheepish grin on his face, "You know how stinky my feet get?"  

We all nodded.  Yep.  His feet are a family legend of epic proportions. 

"Sometimes, I just go get new socks and throw the stinkiest ones away."

We were intrigued.  "Uh huh?..."

"One time when I went to Target, I just grabbed the first 3 bags of socks I saw.  Turns out, they were too small.  (They would have fit a kindergartener.)

"Sooo, I figured out that if I cut the toe off of 1/2 of the socks...

"And, combined the heel part with a another sock.  It worked just as well as a regular sock."

After we laughed heartily over Reed's college freshman ingenuity, I said sternly, "Don't move!  I'm going to go get my camera.  There is some serious blogging that is about to happen, young man."

Bryce and Reed both have new on-campus jobs at the Baylor library beginning this week.  They have told me to refer to them as "the librarians."  I guess that would make my youngest son "the librarian who is masterfully ingenious when it comes to wearing tiny socks."

I may keep the cutoff toes that I gathered from the drier in one of my "treasure boxes" along with soft locks of baby hair and tiny white baby teeth.  Awww!  Isn't hims a big boy!?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Shall Sail the Seven Seas in Search of Pen Pals

I've become totally enamored with mail art.  At night while Alan and I are lounging in the living room watching mindless TV blah-blah, I have a lap tray straddling my chair.  The lap tray is a hot mess of trimmings from "mazagine" pictures, scattered colored pencils, my "good" scissors, and a pot of rubber cement.  

I've just about consumed all of my copies of Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Bon Appetite, and The Baylor Line.  They now look like the remains of a paper doll chain cutout.  Last night, I decided that I need to head to some estate sales in search of interesting old coffee table books and piles of frayed National Geographics.

From the estate sale expedition, I need to spend an hour lolling around in a scrapbooking store picking out interesting paper for making envelopes.

Then, I shall sail the Seven Seas in search of exotic, artistic pen pals with a goodly amount of leisure time during which they can write long, chatty missives detailing their strolls along pristine beaches in search of pirate treasure chests that frequently wash up on the shore alongside exotic seashells generally only found in souvenir stores.  I can't wait to see their cleverly sketched envelopes with deliciously foreign stamps!  In turn, I will feverishly be jotting down all of the compelling drama that unfolds here in Lubbock, TX, doodling on envelopes, and sticking them with Liberty Bell Forever Stamps.

This is a thank you note to my dear friend, Dallie, who is proposing a doctoral thesis on the lost art of the handwritten letter.  She sent me a beautiful book of illustrated letters from the Smithsonian's archives.  It's called More Than Words.  Thanks, Dallie!!! The front juxtaposes the difference between my loop-de-loop, la-ti-da, unmedicated ADD personality and Dallie's elegant, smooth, peaceful, brilliant demeanor.  Actually, the "cartoon" me should have a smile on her face.  I'm in a pretty good mood 96.3% of the time - a genetic trait that I attribute to my mother.  

This is a little sumthin-sumthin that I sent to my firstborn a couple of weeks ago.  He has yet to receive it.  He told me that it might have accidentally got mixed in with junk mail and tossed out.  I'm going with the theory that there's a postal worker in Chicago who collects...  It would make total sense.  The handwritten letter IS almost extinct.

I posted the back of this letter to my brother-in-law last week.  Today I figured out how to blur the address, so I posted the front and back.  It's all about the wrap around eyes.

For my little niece, Kelly, who is Kathy's daughter.  Kelly is 17.  She's taller than me.

Sincerely yours,
Carolyn E. Lackey

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crystal Lake in the Piney Woods of East Texas

We spent many a summer Saturday at Crystal Lake - a small lake somewhere near enough to Carthage, TX to make for a good day trip but enough of a drive to keep a 6 year old lounging on the back dashboard watching the telephone poles whiz by asking "are we ALMOST there?!" about a thousand times.  Yes, indeed.  It was a very special place back in the day to kids who thought of visiting Disneyland as an unattainable pipe dream and a day at  Six Flags as the trip of a lifetime.  It was way more likely that Frankie Avalon would ring your doorbell and kiss you on the lips than it was that you would hop on an air-o-plane and head to the wilds of California.  Mom's announcements of upcoming trips to Crystal Lake were always met with enthusiastic shrieks of "Gee-yaaaw!  We're going to Crystal Lake?!!!  We're taking a picnic and a cooler of bottled Cokes?!!!!  Yipeeeeee!"

After 40-plus years, this is how I remember Crystal Lake.  It was a small lake about the size of two city blocks that sat next to a little two lane highway in the middle of the Piney Woods of East Texas.  There was no parking lot.  No boat dock.  An attendant stood on the shoulder of the highway taking "by the carload" entry fees from the cars lined up just off the pavement.  What made the lake special were the "aquatic amenities" - none of which would pass any sort of safety inspection in the year 2011 amongst young parents concerned about whether or not plastic sippy cups are full of toxic BPA.  What made the lake tricky was the fact that it tended to be a bit stagnant and filled with gallons of child urine, so there was always the chance that we would all end up with nasty pink eyes after one glorious day of splashing about it its murky waters.

There were paddle boats and tall metal slides that sat in the shallow water.  These were the good old slides that had no handrails until about two steps from the top.  There were 3" lips on either side of the actual slide that acted as some sort of "safety barrier" - wink, wink - that kept our tiny wet bottoms from flying out into deep space and shallow water prematurely.  On a blazing 4th of July afternoon, those slides and paddle boats were hotter than the griddle at Joe's Cafe making the lugging around of a metal sand bucket filled with lake water necessary for temporary quick cool downs.

There were big metal "water tops" floating on the water that were basically huge top-shaped drowning devices that lured small children into the depths of no return.  In the middle of the tops were steering wheels that were about chest high on the average 6 year old.  The trick was to hoist your body up out of the water onto the tipsy turvy top.  This hoisting had to be perfectly synchronized with your spinning partner to keep the top from tossing you into the drink like the Titanic.  From the laying-on-the-belly-holding-on-to-the-"steering column"-for-dear-life position, you and your partner would slowly, carefully slither to your knees before rising to a standing position ready to make the top spin with the steering wheel.  The process usually required 4-5 "false starts."  [See "Titanic toppling" above.]

It would have been really helpful to have a couple of responsible adults there holding the top upright and boosting our bottoms up to a standing position.  Hmmm.  Where were all of the adults?  Let me think...  Oh, I remember!  They were in the shade sitting in a circle of green and white webbed lawn chairs around the red "Coca Cola" cooler filled with beer.  The men smoked cigarettes and flicked their ashes onto the ground where the pitter patter of little bare feet followed by screams of pain were soon to be heard.  Every now and then they would scan the horizon and yell out, "Where's your little sister?!"  Our squeals of "Mo-ooom!  Da-aaad!  Look at us!!!  We're spinning!!!" were met with a quick glance, "Uh-huh!" and a wave.  If they were secretly concerned that we might knock out all of our teeth on the slides or water tops, it was a very well kept secret.

The biggest, scariest attraction at Crystal Lake was the 1960's style "zip line" that we called The Pulley.  At one end of the lake stook a tall wooden tower.  I don't remember if it was 20 or 200 feet tall.  According to my little girl memory it was about as tall as the Empire State Building - give or take a few floors.  We ran on tiptoe along the soft mud path to the tower as fast as our little tiptoes could fly to climb the steps to the top.  There was no "you must be this tall" sign of warning to be found.  I guess the assumption was that a kid would figure out soon enough if he or she was up to the challenge - the hard way.

At the top of the platform was a little wooden rail that encircled three sides leaving the lake side open for zipping down the rope.  A guy with a cigarette teetering precariously on his bottom lip used a rope to haul the pulley with handlebars attached back up to the platform.  When your turn came, he would blandly instruct, "OK, kid.  It's your turn.  Don't drop off of the pulley until you're way out over the deep water.  If you drop too soon, you'll break your neck in the shallow water."  Turning back in fear was out of the question.  The peer pressure on the platform was palpable as the kids in line were hissing, "Huuuuuury!  Just go!!!  What are you, chicken?!!!"  With a blook-curdling scream and a jump, you'd be hurtling through the air shocked by the weight of your own body which was totally dependent on your sweaty little child-sized hands clutching hotter than heck metal handlebars.

Once in flight, there were two choices to carefully consider:  1.) drop from the pulley when you were over water that seemed to be deep enough to avoid being paralzyed from the neck down for the rest of your life, or, 2.) hold on for dear life for the last 6 feet of the ride being dredged through lake water that grasped your bathing suit bottoms pulling them down to your ankles.  Paralysis?  Public nudity?  Paralysis?  Public nudity?  In the 10 seconds it took to zoom down to the water, the choice loomed heavily.  I generally opted for nudity over being the only quadriplegic second grader at Libby Elementary School come September.

I could tell you about the time that a huge splinter imbedded itself into my tender little girl foot sending me hopping on the other foot howling for my mother.  And, how Daddy released the splinter back into the wild with his none-too-clean pocket knife.  But I shall end my story here for the time being with a glide down the pulley, a giddy scream, and a big splash of Crystal Lake water.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cupcakes, Mimi, & Mail Art

I've been preoccupied with life lately.  There WILL be a garage sale in my very own garage sometime in the next...uh...60 days.  The problem is that I'm overly organized when it comes to displaying my garage sale "merch."  I have friends who can throw together a garage sale at the drop of a hat.  And, walk away with $578.  I usually net around $200 after working for days on end.

I took time to bake cupcakes last week for a friend who had surgery.  They turned out to be my all time favorites.  I used a run of the mill pound cake with a lemon glaze recipe.  I kept adding fresh lemon juice until it was mm-mm good.  Before applying the glaze, I laid a mint leaf (or a piece of one) on the top of each cupcake.  The first round of glaze didn't quite hold down the mint leaves, so I did a second coat.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze and Fresh Mint

I took Mom to get a mani-pedi on Monday.  That's always interesting.  She's becoming like Goldilocks in her advanced years.  "That water is TOO HOT!"  "That HURTS my finger!"  "Show that color to my daughter.  She knows what color I like!"  After the 2 hour "spa venture," I loaded Mom up and prepared to drive her back across Milwaukee Avenue to Raider Ranch.  

"Do you know of a place where I can get breakfast, and you can get lunch?" she began.

"Here we go..." I thought.  "Not real close," I replied.

"What about that place we went after my doctor's appointment?" she continued.

"It's way across town from where we are right now," I said looking at Raider Ranch which was just across the street.

"Hmmm," she murmured.

"Hmmm" is her codeword which means "this ain't over."

"I had a little bowl of cereal early this morning [9:00...], but now, I'm hungry for bacon and eggs!"

"Hmmm," I murmured.

"Hmmm" is my codeword for "you'll live without bacon and eggs."  It was 11:30.

Suddenly, I spied Cracker Barrel which was also across the street.  Taking a deep breath and shoving my lengthy "to do" list out of my mind, I said, "Cracker Barrel!  They have breakfast all day long!"

"Sounds great!" she squealed.  

And, off we went to Cracker Barrel.  She had bacon, eggs, grits, toast, and gravy.  I had beans 'n' greens.

Oh, I also sent some mail art earlier this week.  This is the back of the letter I sent to my dear brother-in-law, David.  I made the envelope by tracing an opened up envelope onto my favorite brown paper.  Mail art is becoming an obsession.

That's all the news from "Lake Wobegon"...


Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...