It was still two days until payday, and my wallet was empty, so it was scrambled eggs and pancakes for supper. There’s something about eating breakfast food at supper time that incites a little bit of giddiness and lightens the mood. Kids especially love it.They are thrilled by the idea of mom breaking the rules. It turns their little world upside down and kids love going upside down. It’s almost like being on vacation. Almost. I too loved it as a child, and now, as a single parent, with a more mature view on things like money, groceries and stretching a dollar, I was still enamored with eating pancakes at night time – but mainly for the joy it brought my bright-eyed, tow-headed spitfire of a daughter.
After supper and bath time and brushing our teeth and story time and snuggles, it was lights out for my four year old. I was looking forward to vegging out in front of the TV and watching my new favorite show, Northern Exposure. I had a mad crush on John Corbett who played Chris Stevens, the town’s ex-con, philosophical DJ in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska. I also had a connection with Alaska due to my own skirmish with the law, and there was something about watching that show that helped me begin to come to terms with some demons in my not-so-distant past. Continue reading →
This mystery photograph was passed around at a family reunion I attended this summer. No one there could positively identify anyone in the picture (that was found in my great aunt’s photo album) but I haven’t been able to take my eyes off of it.
The first, and most notable thing that strikes me is that the small boy in the foreground seems to be smoking a cigarette like all the men (the one on the left probably has one between the fingers of his left hand, and the one leaning against the wall may be holding one to his lips). The second thing is that they’re all wearing newsboy caps…maybe it’s a fashion statement, or maybe that’s what was on sale at the five and dime, we will probably never know. But besides the obvious, there is so much more to be divined here.
Based on my family history, this photograph was most likely taken in Oklahoma, probably in the 1940’s – during the Great Depression and the worst of the dust bowl days. I’m sure there were serious issues being dealt with on a daily basis, like having enough food and water, and finding jobs; and while there may be an ounce of sadness here, I don’t see defeat.
I see grit and sincerity. There is a sense of family and purpose. I see community, and faith and ingenuity. I also see pride and joy and love. These are salt of the earth folks and they have pride in their country and faith in mankind. They take care of each other and do the right thing more often than not. The women are probably in the kitchen fixin’ a pot of pinto beans and cornbread for dinner and they all go to church on Sunday morning.
These men work hard and take their responsibilities seriously, but they know how to laugh, even on the toughest of days. They are handsome and strong. This boy has a place in the family, and even though he’s young, he matters and is cared for and loved. He helps where he can and does what his mama says most of the time.
I may not know for sure who these men are, and I don’t know what they’re working on here – in what looks to be someone’s front yard – but I believe that they care and that they can be trusted. They will survive and thrive and be successful. They will fight in wars and marry their sweethearts and grow their families. They will provide for their wives and children, and say their prayers. They will be knocked down and they will get back up. They will do the best they can with what they have and they will help their neighbors because that’s what you do.
Note: This is an excerpt from my book, More Than Everything – the true story of my life on the run from the FBI. This scene takes place in Chapter 2. My husband (at the time) and I have just moved into an apartment in Fort Worth after living in Cleburne, Texas for a couple of years.
Shane’s cousin, Robert, helps us move from Cleburne and then Shane has to take him back home around midnight when we’re finally finished. Shane and Robert set up the king-size waterbed when we first get to the apartment and it has been filling up for a couple of hours. Before they leave Shane says he’s turned off the water, but instead of turning it off he has mistakenly turned it on full blast. Continue reading →
When I was in high school I worked as a waitress for ninety cents an hour plus tips. On top of going to school, I worked seven days a week at the Village Inn Pancake House. Monday through Friday it was just me and the cook from 3p – 10p. On the weekends, I worked the breakfast shift with several other waitresses (one being my older sister), serving eggs over easy and buttermilk pancakes to GI’s from the nearby Air Force Base. On a good Saturday I’d bring home $60 in tips. For a sixteen year old in 1976, that wasn’t too shabby.
On the occasional Sunday I’d work a double shift. After working from 6a – 2p, I’d pick up the 2p – 6p shift and literally work all day. One such Sunday, driving home from a double shift sent me through the windshield of a Volkswagon, but that’s a story for another day.
In the summertime, there was no school, and I didn’t have to be at work until 3p during the week so I could sleep in and still have a few hours of down time. I had recently gotten my driver’s license and had my own car – an orange 1973 Chevy Vega – and had been promising my younger sister that I’d take her and some friends to the lake. They wanted to swim and I wanted to lay out and get some sun, so we packed up the Vega and headed out one morning.
There was only one other car parked in the beach area when we arrived at around nine. There hadn’t been anyone at the guard gate to take our three dollars and I found that odd. The other car was a dark green Chevy Corvette. I’m pretty sure it was a ’72 because I noticed the two rectangular exhaust pipes and split bumper. Daddy taught me a few things about cars, including how to tell what make and model I’m looking at, fueling a lifelong admiration for design and details.
I zipped the Vega into a spot a decent distance from the Vette because there was a big burly dude standing next to the car with his arms crossed. I glanced around and saw one head bobbing in the water a short distance from the beach. I figured they were together and didn’t think too much about it. Continue reading →
Friends, family and loved ones gathered at the end of a beautiful July day, in overwhelming joy, to witness the exchanging of heartfelt vows, celebrate love, and to dance our butts off. All of that and so much more! Everyone ate, drank and got merry, just as intended. And now two extraordinary young people are a brand new family because they chose each other!
There was so much love and joy floating around this place for three full days, I thought I might burst. Every time I turned around there was another smiling face or a hug or a special conversation waiting for me. Not only did the gorgeous bride choose a bright, fun, caring and thoughtful man to share her life with, but he came with a warm, loving family that has embraced us all and now we are bound together too….an unexpected and totally awesome benefit of our children coming together.
My three sisters and I often spent summers in Oklahoma with aunts, uncles and lots of cousins. The excitement of summertime filled us with so much light and joy we thought we might burst.
The days were barefoot lazy, and except for meals, blissfully structure-less.
We’d get up early and put on yesterday’s bathing suits – sometimes still damp from being washed out in the sink the night before. Hours were spent running through the water sprinkler, laughter filling the air. Later we’d ride bikes, play games, lay under a shade tree making whistles out of blades of grass.
Once a week Aunt Cookie would load us all into the car and we’d go to the laundry mat down the street. In our bathing suits, we found ways to occupy ourselves while the clothes tumbled in the machines.
After the clothes were dry and folded, we’d go across the street to Wig’s Wag-a-Bag for tiny brown bags of penny candy and an ICEE!
Barefoot, bathing suits, crazy hair and an ICEE. Those were the days.
So, have you been roped into had the pleasure of playing a game of Settlers of Catan yet? Perhaps with a nerdy twenty-something in your life?
“It’s a board game Mom, come on you’ll love it. It’s pretty easy once you learn the rules.”
Oh the rules…. We’ll get to those later, but first the premise: Each player is a settler trying to build settlements and cities by acquiring and trading resources. You get victory points as your settlements grow and the first one to get ten victory points wins. Sounds easy enough.
“Ok! Count me in. I’ll be blue.”
As I sipped a second glass of wine, the kids proceeded to lay out the hexagon-shaped board pieces with pictures of grass, bricks, rocks and wood on them, placed some number tokens (seemingly randomly) on top of those, divided up some cards into stacks and handed me the dice.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a lonely wooden man standing on a board piece that looked like the desert. Continue reading →
Tell the tale of your most prized possession. Use as many words as it takes.
My red scrapbook is old, musty and bulging with a lifetime of love letters, keepsakes and photographs. It is where I keep the Apollo 17 pin that I wore while watching the last rocket (that would ever land on the moon) launch from the white sands of Cocoa Beach in December of 1972. Nestled among the yellowing pages are my blue and gold embroidered Presidential Physical Fitness patch, and my nickel-plated Vietnam POW/MIA bracelet; the very bracelet that I wore religiously for months until it broke in half. I secretly worried that the breaking of that bracelet meant my soldier might never return home.
When you’re thirteen years old, you can get carried away with magical thinking.
But the very first page of my scrapbook, the one with my baby pictures, is where my heart lives. There are four black corner stickers hugging my most prized possession in the world – a photograph of me and my daddy. The caption reads: “Vanessa 9 months, with Daddy”. My childhood scrapbook is not neat, organized, color-coordinated or of archival quality. But it’s mine, and mama’s handwriting under that fading photograph is proof we were once a family. Continue reading →
Free Writing. Write at least 400 words and once you start typing, don’t stop.
A few short days after announcing her engagement, I had already bought a dress and the perfect shoes. As mother of the bride, I wasn’t going to waste a single moment. At first the happy couple was planning on a fall wedding, after the heat of the summer has released its death grip on us and allowed that first northern to blow in with its promise of lasting relief. But after visiting several wedding venues, a sense of urgency developed. Some venues were astonished that the bride was inquiring about a date for this year and not next. “Oh, you’re talking October, 2014? That might be a problem.” Imagine my surprise when this call came: “Mom! We found a venue and set the date! We’re getting married outside in July!!!” July had plenty of dates available at a great venue, and a discounted price. Not their first choice, but we’ll make it work. We’re not going to let a little Texas heat in the middle of July scare us away. Continue reading →