Monday, August 31, 2009

This is Unbelievable!!!

So, dear friends, I have big news for a Monday. Many of you have already heard the news, since I could not wait to spill the beans here and there...something unbelievable, absolutely inconceivable and amazing has occurred...

I received this envelope in my mailbox Friday afternoon. I figured it was my "rejection" letter from the State Fair photography competition. My heart sank a little, knowing the anticipation was now over as I opened it. I mean, I only entered for the experience, but still, when it's over it's over and I was a little sad to be at that moment.

Then, this letter was inside... says, in code that relates to the creative arts classifications, that the "bovine baptism" photo placed 10th. They only give ribbons to places 1-4, so it was not a "winner." It will not be on view at the State Fair of Texas.

It also says that this photo - the rubber ducky photo - IS A FIRST PLACE WINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Woooooooooooo-hoooooooooooooooooo! Oh my goodness! I was (and still am) beside myself. Are you kidding me? Really? No joking?!?! One of MY photos (that YOU helped me choose, by the way) is going to be ON DISPLAY at the GREAT STATE FAIR OF TEXAS!!!

AND....AND....AND! And, it will have a FIRST PLACE blue ribbon attached. In the very competitive STATE FAIR category. Whoa. Let me catch my breath. I feel like I won the lottery. Seriously, people, I do. This is quite possibly one of the most exciting things that has happened to me in all my life. This is a really big deal for me in my little ol' life, and I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! I mean, I could probably enter this competition for the next ten years and maybe never get another ribbon, so the fact that I received a blue ribbon is very cool to me.

Wordle: state fair 3
A word cloud of the Facebook congratulations I received.

I immediately started calling everyone I knew. Then I realized maybe people wouldn't really care to hear from my on a Friday afternoon about this so I stopped with the phone calls. I got on the computer instead and posted it on Facebook, where I had so MANY wonderfully nice replies.

I should point out that my oldest brother Bob, who voted for the butterfly photo when the polls were open, when I told him the news, said, "Well, if you would have entered the butterfly you could have had TWO photos displayed at the fair." It's good Bob has a high self esteem, isn't it? You gotta love the guy.

Let's go back to that little part about how YOU helped me get to this place. You did - remember that week back at the end of July? (Cue the descending harp music.) Think back - you know, when I asked you which photos to enter, and you voted, and I took your ideas into account and finally chose two to enter? So, really, I give you all the thanks. My neurosis would have left me undecided and un-entered. You saved me from myself. And look at the wonderful results! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Big Tex Logo [via]

So, dear friends, if you are planning a trip to the State Fair (beginning in 25 days, running September 25-October 18 - there is still time to purchase that 21 day advance plane ticket, in case you were wondering) you will be able to see my photo displayed in the Creative Arts building! I will be spending way too much money to go to the fair to see it as many times as I can. I'll stand near it, sign autographs and pose for photos. You know, the regular state fair stuff.

Where will it be located? The Creative Arts building is on the "back side" of the Cotton Bowl, on Nimitz street, east and behind the Hall of State, leading to the animal buildings, near the Embarcadero. If you're coming from the Hall of State, it'll be on your right. The photographs will be displayed in there, near the canned peaches, the quilts, and the test kitchen. Yep, that building. Here's a map if you want it. See you there. And, really, you can be sure we'll talk more about it here come fair can be sure.

Happy Monday and Happy Last Day of August. See you tomorrow, if I can come down from my blue ribbon high long enough to write about something else. It will be touch and go, but I'll try my best. Have a great day.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Steve

Steve, at our cousin Candy's wedding.

I know I said I was getting out of the birthday business. And I am. But, Steve's birthday is today, and he's the only one of my brothers that hasn't been highlighted on his birthday on my blog. So, this is the last birthday post, in honor of my little brother Steve.

Terri and Steve at their wedding.
I have this one still framed in my house. I love it.

Steve is two years younger than me, so when we were kids I picked on him a lot. Until he got bigger than me, of course. And, to hear him tell it, I was a raving horrible monster that destroyed his childhood.

Terri and Steve at his graduation from electrical school.

I mean, all I used to do was all the things an older sister is charged with doing. I traded him nickels for dimes. You know, because nickels are bigger. I once talked him into putting his gum behind his ear for later like Flo did on Alice. He did it. I got in trouble. But, beyond that, ask him. I don't really remember it, but I know he does. I think his oldest daughter Veda gets the raw end of the deal sometimes because he's paying me back.

Steve and Terri showing off their "baby weight."
Pregnant with Veda.

Steve is, as I've reported before, one of the smartest people I know. Hands down. The guy is smart. And, he has this uncanny ability to pay attention to the smallest detail. His son has this same sort of knack. He's a fabulous dad, as far as I can tell. And, he can remember a joke like no tomorrow and tell it so that it's actually funny. This is a trait I do not possess, so I find it most amazing.

Becoming a father - Steve with Veda as a newborn.

Steve demonstrating he's a "hands on" dad.
(he really IS a hands on dad...)

We have similar - not the same, mind you - but similar senses of humor - I can start a remark and he can sometimes finish it. We "get" one another - isn't that the great thing about siblings? That someone on this earth "gets" you?

At Veda's 1st birthday party.

Steve and Veda at Amber's wedding.

When we were kids and we were making too much noise in the back seat of the car, my mom or dad would tell us to, "straighten up" - we'd go straight as boards (and quiet for a second) and then laugh and laugh. We also had this strange game we dreamed up where we would tap each other's head and then the other one would have to beat the seat back that many times - not real creative, but we played it all the time.

The whole family the day Deacon was born.

I was a "cheerleader" for his bantam football team - my only forte into that sport. All the other "cheerleaders" were younger, cuter sisters. I guess I just had nothing else to do. ;-)

Three month Deacon and Steve

The two blue eyed guys together.

Steve had a birth defect on his chest as a kid - he had a "sunken in" place right there in the middle where he could insert his fist. He could make that sound that other people make with their armpit with it. Anyway, there was nothing wrong with it being there until he started to grow...then his lung function could not keep up with the rest of him. They didn't have enough room.

Back when I used a flash.
They just opened tickets to the monster truck rally with Unk and Isaiah.

So he had surgery at Riley Children's Hospital, where they went in and basically broke his sternum to "fix" it. He had a long recovery, and afterward he GREW by leaps and bounds. FAST! Like a freight train. His body was lovin' that oxygen! I remember, though, seeing him sleeping in his hospital bed with tons of tubes coming out of his chest, bandages, pumps, etc and hoping he'd be up and around and bugging me again soon.

Deacon and his Dad.

He seemed to have a way of getting in the worst trouble when he did something stupid but then ran into bad luck that made it worse - he and his friends once decided to drive up into another friend's yard in high school - yeah, that friend lived next door to the assistant superintendent of schools, who just happened to have eagle vision and took the license plate down lickety split. Uh-huh, that kind of luck. (My spell checker doesn't like "lickety" - um, hello - that IS a word...duh!)

Steve and Cora, brand new.

Steve and Cora just a few days ago on the first day of kindergarten.

He also lit a match and burned a piece of paper in his college dorm room. He put the ashes in the bottom of his metal trash can and left the building - they were completely extinguished (he even doused them) but the scent remained. When he returned - and I might get some of this incomplete - he found they had evacuated the building because of the smell of "fire" and "smoke" and they were beginning to believe he had purposely tried to burn the building down. That kind of luck.

Deacon took this one.

He is an electrician by trade, and came down to Texas before his third child was born to help S re-wire our house. In July. When it was God-awful hot. I appreciate him doing this every time I turn on a light.

By the Christmas "fire."

The family on the occasion of the childrens' baptisms with the pastor.

Speaking of luck, on a job site once, they had a construction elevator that was very persnickety. It seemed to break down at the drop of a hat. Steve joked, in an elevator full of co-workers, that he bet if he snapped his fingers the elevator would stop working. He did and it did. Yeah, took a long time to live that one down.

Playing "Wimbledon style" basketball at Bob's house with Ryon and Veda.

But, don't get me wrong, he's an exceptional employee who is valued by his company and has a lot of respect and responsibility thrown his way. And, because he's got a great sense of humor and laid back personality, he's able to take these "lucky" events with a grain of salt and laugh about them later.

He's quite a guitar player.

Installing the pinata for Cora's party.
With some excellent onlooker help, no? ;-)

Last Halloween's costume.

He's the youngest and tallest of all of my siblings at 6 ft 4 inches. When he was a kid he used to bet our Paw Paw and my Unk that he'd beat them in height one day. Paw Paw was 6 ft 2 inches and Unk surpassed his dad by 1/2 an inch at 6 ft 2 1/2. They would tell him there was no way he'd make it, but of course, he did.

Gratuitous shot of my three handsome brothers.
Bob, Rick, Steve

And, as you know, he and his lovely wife Terri have three beautiful children, Veda, Deacon and Cora, who have been featured on the blog with regularity.

Photos taken...
...while trying out the new camera...
...then posted on Facebook where I snatched them.

I know it's hard to believe "discipline" is engaged after those three photos, but it is. His children are very well behaved. He sounds eerily like our mother when disciplining his children. He and my mother - they are a lot alike in many ways. We are also both good "mixes" of our parents, I guess. I just remember one night when we were over at my dad's house and the kids were playing but it was time to go. Steve told them to get their coats on and to get ready to go - they live in those Midwestern winters - and Veda said, "But I wanna play with this *some toy* more." The toy was large and stayed at our dad's house. Steve said, "You can do that all you want - in the car." Boy oh boy - flashback!

Me and Steve at our oldest niece Amber's wedding

So, here's to the last birthday post on the blog, (until I change the rules again) and to wishing my dear little brother a wonderful day. Happy Birthday, Steve, and the very warmest wishes for many, many more happy birthdays. I love you to pieces.

And, best wishes to all of you for a lovely last weekend of August. See you next week.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The End of an Era?

So, Ted Kennedy died yesterday. And the whole world is mourning him, it seems. And you're probably totally sick of hearing about it because that's what the media does - run anything like this into the ground until you're so tired of hearing of it you turn off the television, the radio and close the curtains. But, no matter how you feel about his politics, you must be struck by his zeal for his craft. He was dedicated to it. May he Rest In Peace.

(Standing on Soap Box)

As I was listening and watching the remembrances, I was struck by something I'd like to share with you. My accounting of it here won't be eloquent or life changing, but I need to get it off my chest, so here goes. I was struck, my friends, by how shocked and awed the news media sounded when they reported that, while he was very liberal, he had friends on all sides of the political spectrum and he often co-wrote and co-presented legislation from people that were of all sorts of political persuasions.

People, what I have to say is - why is this shocking? In the United States of America? Clearly because it's rare? We are a (representative) DEMOCRACY of people who are supposed to have the freedom to express their views, etc etc. I think it speaks to the current (and for the past several years) political environment - the pundits, the news channels, the talk shows - that beg people to hold radical left or right views and dog anyone who feels differently at every turn.

I'm sorry, just because I may not agree with you, that does not mean, in AMERICA, that I should vilify you, your children, your neighbors and maybe your whole state or that you should do the same to me. It does not mean that I should hate you or you should hate me. It does NOT - I repeat - does NOT certifiably guarantee your stupidity or mine.

We are (supposed to be) a nation of individuals. Of individual freedoms. Of differing views that are all acceptable unless we are harming another. And - truly, truly - my thoughts, or your thoughts, generally speaking - our mainstream thoughts on the right, left or center - they harm no one. They are ours as Americans. They frame this place where we live as unique. And, in my opinion, we should respectfully allow one another the freedom to think differently, vote differently, live differently.

Maybe in this modern age we are overly busy - overly distracted - and are just looking for a way to easily categorize thoughts - people - into buckets. "Good." "Evil." "Right." "Wrong." Maybe it's a mechanism of the times. I don't know.

I am not trying to be a Pollyanna. I am not trying to say, "Why can't we all just get along?" But, I do worry about this notion - this movement, even - of demonizing those with opposing views. Maybe that's why Mr. Kennedy's legislative record and list of friends was so shocking. Because, no matter your politics, out of his flawed human state - you know, the same sort of state which we all find ourselves in - he clearly showed respect and intermittent humility for his fellow man, for his fellow senators, for his fellow humans - more often than not, no matter if he did not agree with their point of view. Or he would not have had their respect.

Respect. For one, believing that person across the table has and deserves the same rights and esteem as you would give yourself. That's what's often missing, IMHO, from the current political climate. From the talk shows and the radio shows and the screaming and yelling and blaming (oh, the blaming-make it stop) and from the interactions between you and I and the stranger next door. And, sister, that's a slippery slope we might be on. A slippery slope.

Perhaps, on this one item, no matter your views or mine, Mr. Ted Kennedy, (there are others just in the Senate that do this, at least at times, on both sides of the aisle - Sen. Lugar, perhaps; Sen. Feingold at times, Sen. McCain, even - but since Mr. Kennedy is/was an icon on the national scene...) in total, could be a good example. No matter your point of view, having respect for your fellow man, showing a little humility, listening to differing points of view, and leaving some space for the fact that it's OK to disagree would be a good use of one's time. In our form of democracy, I believe showing respect might go long way on the path to understanding. I tend to believe choosing not to polarize or politicize or demonize - or proselytize - every point, every day, every moment would be a refreshing change of pace. And good for our country. In this way, I hope the era is not over. Amen.

(Standing down from the Soap Box)

Of course, my friends, please feel free to disagree. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Check out the Czechs!

Get it? Huh-huh. Check out the Czechs? Hee hee - ho ho - ha ha - ahhhh. Ohh.

OK, I'm a dork. I admit it. I'm completely OK with that. Let's move on.

Today, a look WAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY back at another video from the trip to Europe we took in March. We were in Prague during the Easter Festival, you might remember. Don't worry if you don't remember. I almost don't remember.

Actually, I'm not too sad it's taken me so long to get around to some of this stuff from that long ago trip. It lets me relive it a little bit each time I delve into the photos and video. And, that IS nice. Very nice. I mean, don't you like to remember all the good stuff? This trip - definitely the Prague part - it was all good stuff!

Anyway, we were there during that time, and these fellas were entertaining the crowds. And I used my oh-so-steady hand and my little purse camera video setting to capture their performance for you. So, go on up there and push the play button and get your Czech on already!

What great fun they were! I like the "call and response" format of the song. There's the main song, and then there's the guy sprinkling in the "good stuff" during the long notes. What do you think he's saying? I don't know, but maybe it was, "Happy Easter!" or "Stay away from Olga's sausage." Or maybe, "We'll be here all week." or "Kiss the Girl!" Who knows. Invent your own words. They'll be better than mine and oh so entertaining to you!

And, don't you love the couple dancing? At an outdoor street fair? THERE'S something we don't see on the streets of Dallas every day - not that kind of classy dancing, anyway. Fabulously entertaining. Why don't they book these guys anywhere in town? Huh? I mean REALLY! They need a new agent!

OK, so I hope they brightened your Wednesday. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Half Baked Texan

Sometime on or around this date - this month, anyway - exactly half my life ago, I moved to Texas. My mom and my Aunt Sally drove me down here to move me into a dorm room a thousand miles from my home so I could attend school at Southern Methodist University.

My freshman dorm room - tiny!
And my freshman roommate, Tricia.

When I was in high school and looking at colleges, for some reason I really wanted to go someplace "far away". I was interested in studying music. Within an hour of the home where I grew up, there are at least two fine universities that offer well regarded music degree programs. These would not do. First, I had spent six years traveling to one of the campuses once a week for lessons, so it seemed like I had already "gone" there. Please remember we're talking about the logic of a 16 year old girl, here. Don't get too hung up on it. Anyway, the other one - Indiana University, where lots of my friends were going - it was just too close to home for me. It was about forty-five minutes away. I don't really know why, but it wasn't going to work for me.

Work-study in the band hall.
Mickey, Don and sweet Becky, Anne

My parents entertained this notion and allowed me to explore universities far and wide. We even took vacations around visiting universities - I visited, applied and got accepted to Oberlin, Northwestern and Michigan State, to name a few. (Actually, I think I had ruled Oberlin out before applying.) And, I visited SMU on a trip to Texas because my bassoon teacher had a friend who went there once.

Photos I took of the campus my freshman year.

I fell in love with the campus. And with the idea of going to that school. It was THE ONE. I applied to several schools and waited to see what sorts of scholarships were awarded. SMU, while when you add in travel, was not the cheapest on the bottom line, did measure up quite well. They offered me several scholarships and some work study money. So, sister, I was going THERE. I started packing my bags and was ready for the adventure!

Tricia and me, at Universal Studios.
Tricia is from Florida, and we went there for spring break.

I took a potluck roommate in the co-ed "honors" dorm. My freshman roommate ended up being Tricia, my good friend to this day. I joined the marching band, mainly at the time because they offered me a scholarship to participate. I was not that interested in participating in the marching band otherwise, to be honest. But, in the long run, I'm glad I did because I have lifelong friends from that organization.

Mustang Band collage.
I played sax my freshman year and percussion the rest of the time.
The costumes were for a Pigskin Revue skit.

So, my mom and my Aunt Sally drove the thousand miles with me and moved all my stuff up three flights of stairs in Morrison hall. They got me all situated, bought me toiletries and food, and said farewell to drive back to Indiana.

More band friend photos.

These were the days before email really - well, we had one computer building on campus where you could write email to your friends at other colleges on a green screen - pretty much the only people with email were at other colleges - and you might check it twice a month or something. People still wrote letters and used the telephone. When my mom left, for the first three weeks or so of school, I was miserable. M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E. I would call and tell my mom I had made a terrible mistake. I hated the marching band, and I knew no other soul in several hundred miles. I felt I had made a grievous error in judgment and I wanted my mom to come back and get me. Now!!!

Sophomore dorm room.
Cathy was my roommate this year, and the rest of college.
Yes, I was in love with Harry Connick, Jr. It could have worked out for us.

But, then a funny thing happened. I couldn't go home - I was too far away - and I settled in. I made friends, started classes, began performing in the arts school and with the marching band, and I started to like it there. At my dream school. So, I stayed.

At home in Indiana while in college - that's Austin in my lap on the left.
Brother Rick in the background, brother Steve on the right.

One summer - the summer after my freshman year - I went back to Indiana and worked "down at the Lilly" in their summer intern program. Since I was a music major, that meant I worked in the mail and copy room. I met a lot of interesting people there and it was a great job for the summer. Other than that, I did not return to Indiana for even the summers in college.

Me and S in college.

Then I met a boy. From Dallas. So, when I graduated, I looked for jobs in Texas. This was because of the boy, but also because there were way more jobs in Texas than in Indiana. And, I got a job in Texas. Then I married that boy. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Meadows Wind Ensemble at Caruth.
Meadows Wind Ensemble in New Orleans - there's Marcia on the left!

So, this month, I have lived in Texas as long as I've lived in Indiana, if you don't count those months at the Lilly, which for ease, I'm not counting. This little fact doesn't seem possible to me. And, it doesn't seem possible that Texas has left the same sorts of indelible marks on my character as Indiana did in my formative years. I'm pretty sure it has not.

Tenor saxophone section of the Mustang Band, freshman year.

But, I'm sure it has to some degree. I mean, I am not equipped for, or really even remember really what a Midwestern winter is like. But, I have also not, after this many years, acclimated to a Texas summer. I've gotten used to the drawls and the hair and the plasticity of the place where I live and at times long for the down home, no nonsense style of the place where I grew up. I visit there as often as I can and soak it in as well as savor moments with all my Indiana family.

I have no idea what this "group" was.
Mustang Band friends during Pigskin Revue.

I've also, however, gotten used to and love living in a big city, with the culture, shopping, restaurants and general availability a big city offers. I've come to love and appreciate the entrepreneurial business environment, the larger than life personas and the can-do attitude - the gravitas - Texans exude from their pores. I love the three seasons that are not summer. And I have lots of friends and my in-law family here. And, of course, ahem, S lives here too. And I still love that Texas boy!

Another grouping of band friends at Pigskin.

So, I guess that makes me a half baked Texan. I'll never be a real Texan, because, as any Texan will tell you, I'm not from here. I don't really fit in, and as I've said before, that's OK with me too. Half baked is good enough. I'll savor the half-and-half point this year brings and reflect on it often, I'm sure. Time flies, doesn't it? Boy, does it. Time flies.

Me, Cathy, Tricia, Marcia, sophomore year.

So, this half baked Texan will see you again, right here, tomorrow. Happy Tuesday.