It was Friday, September 29, 1989. I remember the twang of the B-52’s on the radio that morning: “If you see a faded sign at the side of the road that says ‘15 miles to the Love Shack.’ Love Shack, yeah, yeah….” Except I wasn’t headed down the Atlanta highway or headed for a love getaway. Nope. Not this day. On this day, I got in my Honda. I was big as a whale. Nine months earlier, I had spent my time at the Love Shack. On this particular day, I headed down Highway 51, having contractions along the way to the hospital in Stillwater.
Twelve hours later…
It was 11:56 PM. The doctor said, “Do you want to have this baby on September 29th or the 30th?” 9/29/89 had a ring to it, so I plucked up strength enough and gave another push.
And with this little baby Andrew Riley, 8 lbs. 8 oz., came a love and joy and pride I never knew.
Looking back over thirty years, I remember so many moments of greatness, and I realize how often you have to keep plucking up strength enough and giving yet another push.
And today Happy 30th Birthday to my love and joy and pride, my courageous and strong son Andrew!
The first time I fell in love, I was five—and I fell in love with a monster. The Monster at the End of This Book starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover. The illustrated Grover would read the title page, and when I turned the page, he would freak out in all caps:
“WHAT DID THAT SAY? On the first page what did that say? Did that say there will be a Monster at the end of this book??? IT DID? Oh, I am so scared of Monsters!!!”
Overcome with fear, Grover would muster the strength to politely ask me not to turn the page, which of course, I did. I knew Grover’s words by heart, and in my five-year-old mind, my impersonation of his Sesame Street voice was spot-on. I flipped pages as he tied them together with rope, nailed one page to the next, built a brick wall, and BEGGED me to stop turning pages. In the end Grover finds himself at the end of the book. He. Is. The Monster. And this Little Golden Book taught me some important life lessons.
Lessons from Grover: Labels lead to misunderstandings, and even monsters can be furry and lovable. Fear can be crippling, and more often than not, outcomes don’t turn out as bad as the build-up in your head.
I suppose my love of a good story started here with Grover, and I suppose that same love compelled me back to school to become an English teacher. I suppose this love is why I’ve spent the last twenty years in the classroom, and I suppose it compels me now to write stories of my own. And most of all, I suppose I owe the lovable, furry old Grover a huge debt of gratitude for forever changing my life.
For so many years, my students have studied and discussed George Ella Lyons poem, “Where I’m From” and then written their own.
So many years later, I wrote mine.
Where I’m From
I am from wide open spaces, from endless horizons and Oklahoma skies. I am from dancing lessons on Main Street. (Pirouettes and plies and a shuffle ball change, it felt like Broadway.) I am from faith and gratitude, peace and hope.
I’m from banana bread and books, from Sharon and David. I’m from “Treat people how you want to be treated” and “Participate.” I’m from “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “When you know better, you do better.”
I’m from Ada and George, Catherine and Ed, many more books and second-hand shopping. From lifelong friendships and hometown happenings, hard work and hellos. From mistakes and heartaches and forgiveness.
Turned pages of my history bookmarked to guide me through the next chapters of my unwritten future.
The morning of August 27 began with two feet of water inside and out of my house. That was two years ago, but the memory is unforgettable. (You can read my first ever blog post about our Hurricane Harvey evacuation by clicking here.)
When I meet Houston locals and reveal my fairly recent relocation, the conversation usually goes something like, “How do you like Houston?”
“Well, we made it here just in time to flood and lived in a La Quinta for ten months.”
“Oh, Man! I’m sorry to hear that. Welcome to Houston!”
I always exhale that monosyllabic Ha! “I know, right? Thank you. It’s okay. Other than that, I really like Houston, except I do miss my friends. We were in Dallas for over twenty years.”
Anyway, if I’ve ever given Houston a bad rap, today I count my blessings. Welcome to Houston!
While living in the La Quinta, Kody and I dined out for almost every meal, often eating at restaurant bars, making friends, and changing up the conversation. In this way we met Moriah Alise, an up-and-coming, young local artist/former high school art teacher with the drive and determination to open her own District Art Gallery. Moriah invited us to her gallery opening, and her artwork Silence spoke to us. I needed the calm, and I feel blessed to know Moriah and share this piece of her [he]art. Did I say we brought it home? (Well, technically many months later when we finally moved home again).
While returning to District Art Gallery, we’ve enjoyed getting to know another top nationally-known emerging artist, Shawn Artis. All of his pieces have stories, he’s a storyteller, and the one above spoke to me.
Elevation 80 ft., Houston is the most populous city in the state of Texas and the fourth largest in the United States. We have a large and growing international population, a Chinatown, a Mahatma Gandhi district, and an estimated 1.1 million residents born outside of the USA. Houston is a cosmopolitan destination with world-class shopping and award-winning dining at every turn, and there’s always something to do, even for free (Wikipedia and me).
This is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. I probably stumbled across a photo on Instagram one day and then Googled with intrigue. For followers of Hinduism, the Mandir is a place of worship and prayer and a house of God. No matter your views, you will feel His LOVE and ACCEPTANCE, PEACE and HOPE in this place.
Welcome to Hermann Park Conservancy, Houston’s 445-acre urban park, situated at the end of the Museum District. This past spring, I chaperoned around 400 high school students here for a day of freedom and a break from school at the park. You might think that would be a problem, but everyone made it back to the busses on time and unscathed. Our kids explored the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The Hermann Park Golf Course is right there, too. Then there’s a reflection pool and a recreational lake with pedal boat rentals and a train and picnic areas and statues and walkways and gardens galore. You can kill a whole day here, no problem (Wikipedia and me).
Then there was that time when my Alma Mater’s symphony came to Houston. I’m a sucker for the symphony, a blessing indeed.
And there was that time when the Indigo Girls came to town and the Houston Symphony accompanied. Um, WOW, and I may or may not have almost been kicked out for not-so-covert, banned recordings.
And speaking of concerts, we attended a couple of more this year. Matt Heckler is a banjo/fiddle-playing genius, who opened for the Lost Dog Street Band in an intimate, standing room only venue upstairs at White Oak Music Hall on Mother’s Day. We returned to the White Oak lawn for Texas songwriter Shakey Graves just a few nights ago, and what a performance! If you don’t know these guys, give them a Google or click here for Matt and here for Shakey.
Then there’s the theatre: high school, college, or professional musical theatre. So many performances, so little time.
So I love the arts. One of my all time favorite outings here in H-town includes feeding my soul at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. ProTip: Thursdays are free. (Oh, and photo cred to Wikipedia for museum façade below).
My friend Misti accompanied me to Van Gogh earlier this summer, and it was amazing, but crowded as the exhibition was grinding to a halt. Now I know. Don’t wait. Go early. Besides Misti and I had a mini-road trip planned to Galveston, just an hour from Houston for beaches, relaxation, more feeding of the soul, and Mexican food for our stomachs.
Then there are professional sports, which I don’t really do, but we have the Astros and Texans and Rockets and Dynamo. And there’s the rodeo, which is sort of a big deal with big name concerts every night for the month of March. Tickets are already on sale for 2020. And there’s NASA, maybe I’ll check that out one day.
It’s the morning of August 27, and today I’m thankful for so much. Welcome to Houston!
I’m not a frequent flyer. Sometimes I forget the rules. As I approached the security checkpoint, I removed all items from my pockets, placed my carry-on items into a bin which I left on the conveyor belt, then waited my turn in line. When the Transportation Security Administration agent called me forward, I stood on the designated foot outlines and struck my pose, hands above my head, inside the imaging portal. The electromagnetic waves detected a potential threat.
“Ma’am,” the TSA officer addressed me, “I need you to see what we see on the screen.” She pointed to the digital image and a non-descript mass on my lower abdomen. “I’m going to have to pat you down. Would you prefer a private screening?” She gestured to a partitioned screening area.
“No, this is fine,” I responded, having never received an
authoritative pat-down in my life.
She advised me of the procedure and then traced a gloved
hand up each inner thigh ending quite intimately into my groin.
I exhaled a squeal of exaggerated delight, due I suppose, to not knowing what else to say or perhaps attempting to defuse the awkward situation or maybe just trying to be funny.
She held back her laugh as she held up her gloved hand. “Now I’m going to search the inside of your waistband,” and she proceeded with two fingers around my entire perimeter to find nothing.
“Whew! That’s the most lovin’ I’ve had in a while,” I said—fully acting, feeling on a roll.
My intuition told me the officer secretly appreciated my attempt to make light of the situation that most despise, or maybe it was her hand over her mouth concealing her laugh and smile. “Ma’am…”
I don’t remember her exact words, but I felt a slight admonishment for joking about airport security. I realized a little too late that the TEA is serious. More serious than me. And I appreciate the extra security measures. I really do. But sometimes I forget the rules.
As I walked away from my near incarceration somewhat perplexed, another realization dawned. My jeans, when I bought them, sold me with the phrase “miracle tummy tuck control.” My jeans, made with built-in flattening power, had transformed not only my tummy, but me—from the most non-threatening person on earth into a potential security risk. Note to self: Wear something else on my return and all subsequent flights. Note to the ladies: beware of body shaping garments. (You’re welcome!)
A few weeks ago on my last trip to Oklahoma, I met up with
my beautiful forever friend Starla who happened to be visiting at the same time
from California. We’ve been friends since second grade, and when you’re 49 like
us, that’s forever, right? Even with the distance, we make an effort to see each
other every year or two, our phone visits in between are always good for the
soul, and there’s nothing like those special friendships that encourage and uplift
you, make you laugh and let you to have a good cry, and always pick back up
right where you left off.
“Your skin looks fabulous,” I said, mesmerized by her radiant face.
“I’ll tell you my secret as long as you don’t blog about it,” she responded. I’m just kidding, you guys—she didn’t say that, and I did later ask if I could share her BIG secret. Truthfully Starla said, “I’ve been eating collagen protein since April, every morning in an açai bowl with frozen cherries and coconut. You can buy the açai as a puree in the frozen section of the grocery store.”
When I arrived at my local HEB, the details of our conversation escaped me, so I bought smoothie ingredients—bananas and strawberries and unsweetened vanilla almond milk and a one-pound cannister of the anti-aging factor. At home I threw that all (not the whole pound, just one scoop) into my blender with some ice and frozen blueberries, and voila! Health in a glass. Today is Day 7, and I kid you no more, I can see a difference in my sun-damaged hands and my nails, too.
One scoop of collagen peptides includes 18g of clean protein, 18 amino acids, and a B-vitamin complex to support metabolic energy. It’s gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, non GMO, and both KETO and PALEO certified, not to mention my extra servings of fruit each day.
Benefits of Collagen Peptides (according to supplementpolice.com)
Collagen improves the health of skin and hair.
Collagen reduces joint pains and degeneration.
Collagen helps in weight loss.
Collagen improves the health of nails and teeth.
Collagen detoxifies the liver.
Benefits of Forever Friends (according to Mrs. Ward, my 9th grade English teacher and me)
Forever friends encourage and uplift you.
They make you laugh.
They don’t mind when you cry.
You can always pick back up right where you left off because you’ve known each other forever.
They are the fountain of youth, literally.
Starla has one more secret. She’s a Plexus distributor and swears by the Joyōme Illuminating Day Serum and Intensive Overnight Repair. For more information go to https://plexusworldwide.com/home. Starla’s sponsor number is 2876670, which should give her credit if you place an order. Sending good vibes your way! Thanks for reading today!
I try not to think too hard about my blog statistics, but sometimes they amaze the heck out of me. Today the blog passed 5000 views for the year, more than 1000 over my entire 2018. I just wanted to say thank you to anyone who has stopped by to give me a chance and to those of you who continue to return and for the writing support and for the friendships made. All of this means much more than the stats and much more than you know.
A List of Praises
by Anne Porter
Give praise with the psalms that tell the trees to sing, Give praise with the Gospel choirs in the storefront churches, Mad with the joy of the Sabbath, Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun, Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes, A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry living wild on the Streets through generations of children.
Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning, Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh Of the wind in the pinewoods, At night give praise with starry silences.
Give praise with the skirling of seagulls And the rattle and flap of sails And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor. Give praise with the humpback whales, Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.
Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas, Give praise with hum of bees, Give praise with the little peepers who live near water. When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries We know that the winter is over.
Give praise with mockingbirds, day’s nightingales. Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle And glossy tulip trees On quiet side streets in southern towns.
Give praise with the rippling speech Of the eider-duck and her ducklings As they paddle their way downstream In the red-gold morning On Restiguche, their cold river, Salmon river, Wilderness river.
Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow. Far, far from the cities, Far even from the towns, With piercing innocence He sings in the spruce-tree tops, Always four notes and four notes only.
Give praise with water, With storms of rain and thunder And the small rains that sparkle as the dry, And the faint floating ocean roar That fills the seaside villages, And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains
And with this poem, a leaf of the vast flood, And with the angels in that other country.