Lead foot

I’m not much of a criminal. It isn’t because I have a strict moral code.  Although I have a conscience, my moral behavior is fenced in with a fear of consequences.  I don’t want to be caught and I certainly don’t want to go to jail.  My thinking leads me to the edge where my fear snatches my hand and jerks me away.

2014 marked the beginning of the Crosby St. crime spree.  The year started out hectic.  Although my work gets busy when I’m bidding a job or doing billings, most of my 40 hour work week is low key.  Just before a bid and at the end of the month when I’m doing billings, I am nose down at my desk.  Otherwise, I can answer a text or a call with impunity.

We started this year with work and with opportunities for more work.  Some days I get into the office, start the coffee, get a call from the field with a hair on fire problem, look wistfully at the pot of coffee, lock up the office, and leave to see what’s up on the job.  Before I get to one job site, there’s something happening on one of the other sites.  I find myself driving like a demon, jaw and bum cheeks clenched, mind darting from project to project to project.

Go Speed RacerI was in that crazed mindset as I dashed to our Portland job and noticed a DPS trooper slowly arc around and turn on his lights.  76 in a 60.  The trooper was nice, of course, explaining that I needed to make contact with the JP and that I could take defensive driving so the ticket wouldn’t impact my car insurance rates.

Should I tell Bob about this ticket? Fifteen years of single life weigh in:  Why bother  him about the ticket?  You’ll be taking defensive driving and it won’t show up.  Pay for it out of your personal account.  He doesn’t need to know.  He’ll just get upset and yell at you.

Bob yells at me about my driving all the time.  It sounds like this, Baby.  I was following you back from the meeting and you just slowed down at the 4 way stop signI worry about you when you drive so fast.  Please be careful.  I don’t want anything to happen to you.

I didn’t say anything to Bob and made plans to take the course.

Ten days later on the way to a project, lead foot kicked in as I tried to make up 20 minutes in 10.  It was the flashing lights in my rear view mirror that made me glance at the speedometer and wince.  78 in a 65.  I was too demoralized to try to talk my way out of the ticket.  I told my boss, Max, about the tickets in a rehearsal speech for Bob.  If Bob yelled at me like Max, I’d never tell him anything.  Woman!  What is the matter with you?  Are you trying to kill yourself?  You didn’t tell Bob?  Dios mio!  Are you stupid?  He won’t stay married to you if you lie to him.  Not telling is the same as LYING.  Mentirosa!

Really, Bob wasn’t that upset.  It might have helped that I started out with “I have something terrible to tell you.  I’ve done something just awful and haven’t told you the truth.”  He looked relieved that it was only two speeding tickets.

Posted in Corpus Christi, Driving, Jobs, Relationships, Sober Life, Texas, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Primarily Texas

Our parents thought that one of the most important things they could do as citizens of Texas and the U.S.A. was to vote.  That’s a little unusual since our ancestors on both sides of the aisle immigrated in the 18th century or before.  Such patriotic fervor usually belongs to naturalized citizens;  long time citizens seem to take voting as irrelevant.

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”
― Larry J. Sabato, Pendulum Swing
(Only 12% of Texans showed up to vote in the 2012 primary election.)

I’m not sure what our parents’ party affiliations were.  The privacy of the ballot box was strictly adhered to although I think that was because they had at least one blabby daughter.  I have long ago learned to say “NO!” when asked if I can keep something a secret.  I suspect like most Texans in the 60′s and 70′s, our parents were southern Democrat which would roughly equal moderate Republicans today.

I am a bleeding heart liberal Democrat.  That isn’t a point of argument or discussion.  I am liberal Democrat like I am left-handed and consider cold fried fish the breakfast of champions.  I listen to other folks’ POV with tolerance, often thinking how dumb they are if they don’t agree with me.  I avoid exhorting too strenuously since I doubt I can change their minds any more than they will change mine.  My friend Glenda observed, “Have you ever said, OhmyGod!  I have voted wrong for the past 40 years!  Thank you for setting me straight.   

"Win or lose, we go shopping after the election."  Imelda Marcos.  IOr we go to Dairy Queen.)

“Win or lose, we go shopping after the election.” Imelda Marcos. (Or we go to Dairy Queen.)

I like voting. I don’t subscribe to the feeling that it doesn’t matter whether I vote or not.  Living in a small city, I can see the difference my vote makes in the school board and city elections.  It’s probably less of a difference as we move to statewide and national elections, but I’m not going to take a chance.  My son Jack’s first election was the presidential election in 2008.  We had glare contests through the primary elections since he was an Obama supporter and I backed Clinton.  I watched him caper up to the voting booth to vote in his first national election.  He woke me the morning after with the front page of the paper as he exclaimed, “We won, Mom!  We won!!!”

My granddaughter Savanna texted me that she’d registered to vote when she got her new driver’s license.  She was so excited that I had to smile.  The Texas primary election was Tuesday, 3/4.  Savanna looked up her precinct so I could take her to vote after school.  I live in a different county so I voted earlier in the day.  I promised to take a friend who is a resident at an assisted living center to vote.  When I went to get her, she had 2 friends with her.   I joked that I’d only give them a ride if they were voting my way, but it was only a joke. I’m a Democrat and democratic.

The ladies and I had to make 2 precinct stops and then got DQ blizzards before I took them home.  Savanna and I went to a CCISD elementary so she could cast her ballot.  She found out how voting machines when she tried to select language preference and started poking “English” harder and harder.  Nothing happened.  The election monitor startled her when he touched her shoulder and whispered, “They’re not touch screen.”

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Posted in Bleeding heart liberal politics, Corpus Christi, Family, Philosophy, Texas | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye, good neighbor

Last week, there were 2 Portland police cars, a Guardian ambulance, and a fire truck parked in front of my house.  I didn’t see a fire and wondered which of our older neighbors was sick.  Mostly, I choked back a rising sense of deja vu since the same arrangement of emergency responders parked in front of the house 5 years before when Jack was dying.

Not wanting to get in the EMT team’s way, I got in my car and drove away thinking, “I’ll call Mark and find out what happened.”   A few hours later Whitney, Mark’s stepdaughter, called to tell me Mark had suffered a massive heart attack and was dead.

Mark lived across the street with his wife, Jeannette; he was curious as a cat.  There was little that happened on Crosby Street that Mark didn’t see.  He’d early retired and supplemented his income by doing home repairs and renovations.  And making sure that the street stayed secure.

He was the first person I met when we were working on my little house so it would pass the loan company’s inspection.  The previous owner had been a cat lady.  And a dog lady.  Dog and cat fur covered the house, it smelled like a litter box, and had last been renovated in the mid-80′s.  It looked like that was also the last time it was cleaned, too.

GE, Jack, Claire, and I brought in borrowed and bought loads of tools and supplies to strip wallpaper off the living room walls, repaint, and sanitize the house.  “Howdy, neighbors!” Mark called through one of the open windows.  After watching our feeble attempts at foil wallpaper removal, he excused himself and returned with his wife, Jeannette, and a bucket of tools.  The two of them had just finished removing wallpaper and repainting walls at an Ingleside apartment complex.  What they didn’t know about stripping wallpaper wasn’t worth knowing.

My hired workers were residents at the Good Sam Rescue Mission.  The first day I lined them out; that evening I came home to see that they’d done something completely different.  Seething because MY instructions weren’t followed , I approached them and asked through thin lips, “What happened?  I thought I asked you to start painting.”   (That fellow across the street said we needed to take off the rotten wood before we painted.  He brought over this lumber, nails, and hammers.)  When I asked Mark what I owed him, he said it was all scrap.  Just bring back the tools and anything leftover.

Nobody on the street started a project without Mark walking across to check the work and offer suggestions.  They were always good ones; Mark was quick to offer advice and tools.  He remodelled several of our neighbors’ houses and knew construction materials used, plumbing and electrical weaknesses, and probable slab construction.  When it came time to repaint my  house, he agreed to do the work.  It wasn’t the doing the work part that was a problem.  It was convincing him that he needed to take money for it.  Jeannette joked that Mark would do work for the neighbors for free to keep from finishing work at their home.

If Mark noticed a delivery left on the front porch, he’d pick it and text me that he had it at their house for safe keeping.  (I’ve seen some weird looking people walking down the street and don’t want one of them to decide they want your package.)  A few days before Bob and I got married, their granddaughter, Beetle, brought over a beautiful Christmas wreath that Jeannette made.  The day before my family arrived for the wedding, I came home to a fresh mown lawn.  (I figure you and Bob have too much to worry about.  This is one thing I could help you with.)

The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.  William Wordsworth

The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love. William Wordsworth

At the memorial service on Saturday, friends told their stories of how many times Mark had been the emergency locksmith, ladder carrier, tool loaner, repairman, and installer for our neighborhood.  Jeannette said with a wistful smile, “Mark was a stubborn, feisty butt.  And he wasn’t sarcastic.  Noooo.  Not Mark.”   We all laughed.  For all his goodness, Mark was human.

Mark started January 16 in the usual way, waking at 4 a.m. to finish a pot of coffee before making fresh.  His last actions were to take Jeannette a cup, give her a good morning kiss, and tell her he loved her.  It was a beautiful way to end a life and a sad way to be left behind.

Posted in Corpus Christi, Family, Grief, Relationships, Sober Life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

In one day

In one dayIn one day?  There are times when life can only be endured from moment to moment to moment if truth be told.   January 15 will be the 5th anniversary of my son Jack’s death.  It all happened in one day, 1826 days ago.

How strange that I could fall asleep worrying about him and his future, mildly annoyed with him, and wake up, sucked into a black hole of loss.  In one day.

I think “black hole” is apt, too.   A black hole absorbs all light, the end point of a star.  Objects falling into a black hole can’t come back. Never.

After Jack’s death, I heard phrases like “God has a plan” and “He’s in a better place.”  Behind my nod and murmur of thanks was a big old “Go to hell!”  I don’t believe God plans for any of us to lose our children.  I refuse to believe that.  I believe the free will of others can crush us, though.  And as far as the “better place?”  The jury’s still out about whether there’s any place after we leave this one.  Somehow, heaven seems to me like an eat your vegetables and THEN you can have dessert kind of proposition.  I like the idea; I just can’t hold out and endure in hopes for a magical better place.

Do you know how very often a shy child will come to you if you just sit quietly and wait?  That’s the way God was with this heartsick hurt mother.  Waited and gave me time to turn back.  I had plenty of God’s people to listen to me and hold my hand and tell me I wasn’t alone.  Meanwhile, God withheld lightning strikes when I screamed into the night, “You filthy bastard God!”  God just waited until I was quiet and surrounded my heart with peace, muffled the voices in my head that shrieked blame and regrets. Time takes time and nothing happens in one day when it comes to grief.

One of the things people said that I dearly hated was that I’d have to learn a “new normal.”  Really?  I think you get a new normal if your company closes down or you retire or get a divorce.  Losing your child?  That’s abnormal.  And it never gets a texture that feels like normal.  In the first few years, I hated being asked how many children I have.  What should I say?  And if I say a daughter near Austin and a son in heaven, will I have to  endure “What happened?  I mean, if you don’t mind talking about it”?   I want to say that I was a normal mom thinking I had problems with my son and then my son died.  That’s what happened.  No, normal goes out the window and abnormal flies in.

In one day.  Everything changes.  Anything can happen.

A few weeks ago my friend called to say her husband suffered a cerebral hemorrhage after taking her mother back home.  She’d just enjoyed a breakfast and was relaxing when the earthquake hit.  Instead of doing chores, making time pass until her husband got back, looking forward to an evening with her love, fear and decisions smacked her.  Life turns on a dime, not in a day.

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.” ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

On this 1,826th day after Jack the Crazy Head, my silly son, moved on, I don’t know what will happen.  That’s the way grief is for me.  I am as powerless over this loss as I am alcohol.   Will I have flashbacks to that day when I drive to work?  Relive the race behind a speeding ambulance carrying my dying son?  Will the doctor’s cruel words echo in  my head when I sit at my desk?  Who knows?

I endure the grey noise of sorrow, but joy seeps into my life.  Jack’s unremitting YES personality makes it hard to summon a memory that doesn’t end in a smile.

Posted in Family, God, Grief, Relationships, Sober Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


The first time Bob called me, he was looking for a rent house and wanted information about one in my neighborhood.  We’d met a year or so before at a recovery meeting; he remained more acquaintance than friend.  I don’t like getting attached to newcomers at meetings; experience tells me that they are not likely to stay.  Experience has also told me that I’m not likely to stay if I start picking up newcomer men at recovery meetings.

Bob with Halo

Bob with Halo

I think he really wanted help putting a “Roommate Wanted” advertisement on Craigslist.  He didn’t have a computer at his house, no smartphone, no IT experience at all.  Ever the helpful busybody, I helped him out with the ad, texting him when I got confirmation it was submitted.

I was more comfortable texting Bob than talking to him.  My son Jack was the person who introduced me to texting.  We carried long text conversations especially when we were angry with one another.  After Jack died on January 15, 2009, my phone was silent.  No longer did I get “I need cigs” or “Come get me” texts.  I missed them like crazy.

It was awkward talking to Bob.  That’s not his fault; I just steered clear from men.  My husband, John, died the first year I got sober. My M.O. with men was to look for someone, anyone to restore my life.  Money, men, food can all look like great solutions to problems in my life.  I had to ditch that thinking if I wanted to have a future with my friend God and learn that the solution is within me.

Bob preparing venison

Bob preparing venison

My conversations with men were limited to either recovery or work subjects.  We might branch into family topics if we talked to one another much.  Talking about anything beyond that didn’t happen.  Twelve years of keeping men at arm’s length had left me out of conversational practice.  It was much easier to text Bob than talk to him.  I didn’t have to see his facial expression if he thought I was saying something dumb.  I also had time to deletedeletedelete before sending a text.  That’s not an option with face to face communication.

We blew up our phones texting with one another.  It was fun to look forward to getting texts again.  When Bob got a roommate nibble, he texted that he’d like to take me out to dinner in thanks for helping him.  For some reason, Bob was as easy to talk to, eat dinner or ride in a car with as he was to text with.  He slowly transitioned from being my text buddy to being my friend and love.

Talk about marriage in the early years was dismissive.  (Been there, done that, got the divorce papers.)   Why would we want to complicate things?

We lived together at Bob’s house, but I wouldn’t let go of my house.  I resisted all talk of OUR house.   Three and a half years down the road, we decided to simplify our lives and move into my small house.  The house payment was half the cost of his lease payment.  It just seemed practical.

Bob introducing me to fishing

Bob introducing me to fishing

A few months after that, we got a cancer scare.  Bob had bronchitis and a chest x-ray showed suspicious shadows.  While we waited for the MRI, I told Bob that we HAD to get married if he had cancer.  I didn’t want to be waiting outside the room while he listened to medical catastrophic reports.

As it turned out, the shadows were nothing.  Bob asked, “Would I have to have cancer for you to marry me?  I’d like to marry you, anyway.  Would you marry me?”  Yes was the only possible answer.

December 21 I married my best friend in a ceremony at our local AA clubhouse.  I almost got cold feet as we were waiting to walk up the makeshift aisle.  Listening to David Ramirez’ sing, “There are things I have lost in the fire of time, things I thought again I’d never see,” I became fearful.  So many things lost because I didn’t value them.   Would my love for Bob become one more thing that became tarnished and devalued by my ungrateful heart?  My best friend hugged me as I choked back a sob and whispered, “You are marrying your best friend.  It’s okay.”

I listened to Bob’s vow, “My Margaret Rose, I love and cherish the magic we have together, you are my friend forever.  When I am not with you, you are in my thoughts.  I am blessed beyond measure by God.  I commit myself to you before our precious heavenly father.”

Our wedding rings

Our wedding rings

I answered with mine, “My Bob. You are my friend and my love.  I commit myself before God who is beyond my understanding, who healed me and guided me into your arms and your heart, who gives me the freedom to be happy.”

And I know my BFF is absolutely right.  It is okay.

Posted in Celebrations, Family, God, Gratitude, Relationships, Sober Life, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Silence

God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

 But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope that I have that desire in all I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

 Therefore, I trust you always though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death.  I will not fear,  for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

For all that you have given,
For all that you have taken,
For all that remains.
I thank you, God.

The first 3 paragraphs are by Merton.  I know this because I search engined a few lines and came up Merton.  Someone else added the last 4 lines.  I don’t know if they come from something else that Merton wrote, but they fit the prayer for me.  I got a prayer card with this quote and the added lines when I’d been sober for a couple of years and attended a retreat sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas for people in recovery.

I remember how I focused on the line “For all that you have taken” and thought bitterly how much God had taken from me.  It took a few years in recovery for me to appreciate what was taken, what is given, and what remains.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my blessings!  Because I make a daily gratitude list-and don’t have to list the same thing twice for a week-I know what they are.  And, more than that, I know who they are!

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” (Thomas Merton)

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” (Thomas Merton)

Posted in God, Gratitude, Grief, Relationships, Sober Life, Texas | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Over the river and through the woods…

Are we there yet…to Grandma’s house we go.

In our case, it was just an 80 mile road trip up Hwy 281 through Three Rivers, Whitsett, Campbellton, and Pleasanton from George West, Texas to San Antonio.

Growing up, my family customarily travelled to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day, and Mother’s Day.  A portion of the Christmas holiday, Easter, and 4th of July were generally spent with our dad’s family in Uvalde.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we left as soon as possible after we got out of school.  Early out was 2:30.  We usually walked home from school, my two sisters and me, but on that day Mother would pick us up.

I never thought about the logistics of those trips until I grew up.  We always seemed pretty put together.  I don’t remember ever picking the clothes I’d wear for those few days so Mother must have packed us.  As a parent, I generally let my kids pack their own things once they were school age.   The kids and I were generally travelling into the wilds of Montell so color co-ordination wasn’t a high priority.

007South Texas weather is changeable in the fall.  Shorts one day, coats the next. We were usually driving a portion of the trip after dark often as a Texas blue norther roared south, a hard cold rain splashing against the windshield.  We said the rosary as soon as we started on our trip so, in my child’s mind, we had protection from the hazards of travel.  Car trips were easier when I believed that guardian angels were circling the car with swords of light.

From the car we’d race across Grandma’s yard, chilled air whipping our legs, into the warmth of her home.  The yeasty smell of potato rolls rising on the stove greeted us before Grandma could get from the kitchen to the front door to wrap arms around us.  There was a huge pan of enchiladas, cheesy and fragrant with onions, bound for the oven as soon as we got there.

Mom's brother, sisters, and parents.

Mom’s brother, sisters, and parents.

On Thursday morning, Mother set a children’s table in the kitchen after the kitchen table was no longer needed for breakfast and food prep.  Aunts, uncles, and cousins, who all lived in San Antonio, arrived just before noon.  There weren’t many of us. My mom had one brother and two sisters.  One of the sisters, the youngest in the family, was a nun and couldn’t come home at Thanksgiving.  Our four cousins, all boys, were split between Mom’s brother and sister.

We weren’t together frequently enough to be comfortable with one another.  I remember feeling awkward, but that’s my reaction to most gatherings. I’m the middle sister in my family of girls with an incredibly poised, clever older sister and an amazingly cute, funny younger sister.  Then as now, I wished for invisibility as a super power.

I connect family celebrations with food and laughter, remarks caged in kindness and reserve, hearty hugs, mumbled answers, averted eyes.  The familiar warmth of disfunctionality makes me smile. In the rear view mirror, the memory is reassuring.

Posted in Celebrations, Family, Food, Gratitude, Relationships, Sisters, Texas, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment