Saturday, November 30, 2013

November, we hardly knew ye.

Christmas has come to Fort Worth. 

It's not quite December yet, 
but it was snowing inside Bass Hall tonight.

Outside, folks were enjoying the new Sundance Square. 

From the big Christmas tree to the snowflakes projected on the pavement, there's no doubt: We've officially entered this holiday season.

And so, this crazy November draws to a close, and NaBloPoMo ends with it. Usually I'm able to catch up on old events throughout the 30 straight days of posts. But this year, I was either too overwhelmed to edit old pix or too distracted by random thoughts to catch up with back-blogging. Even though I still have months' worth of events to record, it was nice to have an excuse (albeit a lame one) to blog again. It felt good to have my little online journal, and as crazy as this month was, from football to dentistry to desperate prayer requests, I'm thankful I had this "cheap therapy," this place to record my nonsensical musings. It's so appropriate that NaBloPoMo is during this season of thanksgiving. There's something about writing every day that forces you to acknowledge all your blessings. For that, I'm thankful.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Turkey time.

We are so blessed, and never is that more evident than on Thanksgiving. Great family, food, fun, fellowship all around. 

A few highlights:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ATX: Katie's turn.

For months Katie had been begging for me to take her and her bestie to Austin. This summer, I told her. We'll have time this summer. While Katie was at one of her camps, Ryan and I had made a quick escape to ATX, but Katie's busy-ness threatened to get in the way of her trip. In July, though, I finally got to make good on that promise.

Our first stop was to see Cara and her babies.

One of the few pix of Addie. She was too busy
to pose for photographs on this day!

Later we headed downtown to see the bats at Congress Avenue bridge! While down there, we visited the new Toy Joy location and had dinner at Austin Java. Then we were off to the bridge.

 Here they come!

If you've never seen Austin's bats, you MUST. May to November is the best time to see them. They leave their bridge home typically 30 minutes before sunset and head out for a night of foraging.

Since it's pretty dark, it's hard to get decent photos. That's why you need to GO. See for yourself. You just can't imagine how it sounds and feels to have thousands of bats circling under your feet.

That black smoke above the trees? Not smoke.

Before heading back to our car, we enjoyed the gorgeous sunset and our views of Austin in the early evening.

But our day didn't end there! We also went to Pinballz, our favorite arcade, where the girls played several video games and this old-school bowling game.

We topped off our evening with some Amy's Ice Cream and a visit to the Arboretum cows.

Such a fun day! But our adventures in Austin would continue...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thirty days of thanks.

Every year, a number of Facebook friends post their daily thanks. I'm always late to the party, but better late than never, right?

So here are 30 things for which I'm grateful.

First, the obvious:
1. My God, my Father, my Rock.
2. My family: husband, children, parents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and the greats.
3. My friends, "the family I chose for myself."
4. A job that's a true vocation, a calling.
5. Ample food, clothing and shelter: the perfect house with electricity, heat, air, and even wi-fi.
6. Two dogs and a cat who round out our family perfectly.

Next, the luxuries:
7. Longhorn season tickets and a great tailgating spot.
8. A decent camera.
9. A new(ish) car with Longhorn plates.
10. My iPhone.
11. U-verse.
12. Longhorn Network.
13. Bean and cheese stuffed sopapillas from Chuy's.
14. Creamy jalapeno from Chuy's.
15. Just about everything else from Chuy's.
16. Two University Co-op stores within 30 miles of our house.
17. Burnt orange everything, from watches to purses to paint on my wall.

Then there are the groups and gatherings:
18. Our church family.
19. Our Praise Team and booth gurus.
20. Our church leadership.
21. My "lunch bunch" at work.
22. Book club.
23. Bunco.
24. Football buddies and tailgating friends.

And finally, my entertainment faves:
25. Lyle Lovett.
26. Billy Joel.
27. Amazing Race and Survivor.
28. Friends.
29. The Brady Bunch.

Lists like this are always so ridiculous because really, they could go on forever. But that's also the great thing about making lists. Even in the midst of our struggles, this exercise forces me to admit that our cup runneth over.

Monday, November 25, 2013

This is only a drill.

After 23 years of teaching, I felt like I'd seen it all, but today, I experienced something brand new. Today we had a lockdown drill.

I've been through two actual lockdowns. We had one because somebody thought a student had a gun. Turns out he just had a bullet, and unless he threw it really, really, really fast, we were never in actual danger. Better safe than sorry, right? Another lockdown happened because of a bank robbery near our campus. Since the suspect was on the loose, police locked down our building just to make sure the bad guy didn't try to use our classrooms as his hide-out. Again, we were never in danger. The threat was outside, and our entrances and exits were secure. That lockdown happened during our lunch, and I was one of the lucky ones sequestered in the teachers' lounge with good conversation, not to mention plenty of vending machine junk food. We guiltily worried about our colleagues stuck with cafeteria duty, charged with keeping all those kids in that big room calm, but a few hours after it began, we were free to get back to work.

In spite of those riveting experiences, I'd never been through a lockdown drill. And even though we knew it was coming, and even though it was made perfectly clear that it was just a drill, it was still unnerving. 

When the loudspeaker announcement came, we were ready. We followed our procedures quickly, and our students (the ones in my classroom, at least) responded perfectly—just as I knew they would. After several minutes, we got the "all clear," and class resumed. But it took a while to shake that uneasiness, to let go of the thought I'm sure we all shared: What if this were real?

Columbine back in 1999 was my first real eye-opener, and I struggled to overcome my knee-jerk fear. Columbine was not just A high school; it was EVERY high school. I'm sure we weren't alone in thinking that could've happened to us. Just days after that tragedy, two of my students joked about the shooting, even saying how THEY would've acted if they had been in the shooters' place. I was really scared. When I started teaching, I knew I'd be nervous about greeting new classes, assumed I'd be anxious when dealing with certain behavior problems, but I never dreamed I'd be afraid to enter my own classroom. A couple of conversations with my administrators and a whole lot of prayer helped me find the courage to get on with the important business of teaching. But wow, it was tough for a while.

In the years since, with every school shooting, my colleagues and I have been through lots of "what ifs." Virginia Tech and then Newtown—oh, Newtown!—led to plenty of what-would-I-do scenarios. While I'm thankful for my school's clear lockdown plan, I know that there's only so much I or anyone could do. 

I guess a drill like today's should help me feel a little more confident in our preparedness, but really it just makes me sad. I'm sad to think that extra security measures didn't save those babies in Connecticut. I'm sad that lockdowns have to be part of our educational lexicon. But I'm determined to do whatever is necessary to protect my students, just in case next time, it's not a drill.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Beautiful reminders.

Not even 24 hours since my desperate plea for prayers, I'm awash in relief. Once again I recognize the truth: We are blessed in countless ways. We're still not out of the woods, but we've turned a corner. And no matter what, He never lets go. We just have to hold on.

Our church family is so good to us. It's comforting to have friends willing to love us through whatever trouble we're facing. And it's incredible to have a Father who loves us even when we doubt His power.

Singing this song this morning was the perfect reminder:

Thank you, friends, for your prayers, and thank You, God, for hearing them.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Ever have one of those weeks where you feel like your troubles will never end? We're in the midst of one of those. I can't say anything more specific, but we're at a loss for how to deal with this latest trouble. And we're so very tired.

I'm struggling, friends. It's hard to "see the light that is coming for the heart that holds on." Where's the end? When will we find relief? Can we hold on?

Everything feels so difficult right now, and my own prayers seem empty. Please pray for me, that I'll be able to praise Him in the middle of this storm. And please, please pray that this storm will pass!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Canine cousins.

For our Friday family fun night, we paid a visit to Chuck and Coal. Don't let those calm faces fool you. These fellas were rambunctious tonight! So thankful to have family close by!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thrill of victory.

My friends' daughter is a superstar on the volleyball court. Tonight her high school team won its semifinal in the state tournament, 3-1. The exuberance these girls showed throughout the match, and especially at the end, was contagious.

What a fun night!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ten things.

The latest Facebook meme: Little-known facts.

  1. My all-time in-person game-watching record is 157-64-2. In DKR, I’m 116-38-1. For Texas-ou games, I’m 12-14-1. Of all those 223 games, you can probably guess which one was my favorite.
  2. My mom was one of my kindergarten teachers. We lived in Premont, a tiny Rio Grande Valley town, and all the kindergarten kids rotated among the three K teachers in the afternoons.
  3. In addition to being a minister, youth minister, deacon and elder, my dad was a song leader at our church in Tyler. I think that’s a big part of why I’m drawn to the AV stuff at Heritage.
  4. When it was time to pick teams in elementary school, I was always picked first—if we were having a spelling bee or class review game, that is! Kickball, not so much.
  5. As a senior I won the UIL state newswriting contest. I came away with a gold medal and a $4,000 college scholarship. For years my winning story was in the UIL journalism handbook.
  6. I graduated valedictorian of my high school class. That achievement got me the chance to lead the pledge at graduation and a year of college tuition, but that’s about it!
  7. Our high school band played in the 1983 Aloha Bowl (nearly 30 years ago! WOW!). It was a great trip, made extra fun because we could share it as a band. The fundraising effort was almost as cool as the trip itself. It felt like the whole city pitched in to get us to Honolulu. Then the summer before my senior year, I joined a group of American band students and performed all over Europe. Over the course of three weeks, we played in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and the U.K. My favorite memory is talking to some Parisians after we played “Stars and Stripes Forever.” That song brought a couple of them to tears since it reminded them of when Paris was liberated at war’s end. My parents made a lot of sacrifices to pay for that trip, and I’m certain I never said thanks enough.
  8. As a mom, I’m thrilled that both of our kids are in high school band. I knew that if they got half as much out of the experience as I did, it’d be worth whatever time and money it cost. And I can barely talk about seeing Ryan march in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade without choking up! I’m so grateful that Katie and I could be there to see them parade down Colorado Boulevard.
  9. Now that my mom and dad have passed away, I’m struggling with a bit of an identity crisis. It’s like in that scene from Back to the Future when Marty starts to disappear from his photograph. There’s no one who truly shares my childhood experiences, and it’s lonely to carry those memories by myself. I anticipated profound grief, but I never expected to feel like I’m losing my history, too.
  10. My husband’s my hero. But that’s not much of a secret, huh?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

T-shirt fail.

In spite of the animal print bodybuilder outfit I saw the other day, I don't think I'm mean enough to do a "People of Walmart" post. However, I do feel compelled to offer this entry: THE T-SHIRTS OF WALMART!

At first glance, this seems like a shirt that was made for me:

I do, in fact, love Texas. And yes, I seem to collect items adorned with that familiar steer head silhouette. You'd think this fairly cheap UT shirt would be an automatic addition to my wardrobe. But you'd be wrong.

For one, the T-shirt has a band shako (hat) on it. Everybody knows the Longhorn Band doesn't wear shakos; its members wear Stetsons.

Then there's the list, "My favorite things to do" at UT. If I wore this shirt, I would be LYING.

For instance, that #7" "Cheering 'Yea Texas! Go Horns!'"? While I have certainly said those words at many a game, I'm certain I have never, ever said them in that particular phrase. That "cheer" is not part of a chant or our fight song. So put a big X on that one.

Take a look at #1, too. "Telling Aggies fans to 'Read the Rest'!!!"? What. The. What. Now I'm all about saying "goodbye to all the rest," but READ the rest? (There's a joke in there about aggy not being able to read, but...) Um, NO. (The T-shirt maker capitalized aggies. I can let that error slide.)

But the real kicker: As much as I love UT, I am not a fan of the "Univeristy"!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Time flies, take 2.

Our last "first day" pic with both: 2013

Way back on Aug. 26, we celebrated yet another first day of school. Since Ryan's a senior, this year's "first day" photo was poignant; it's the last one with both kids.

To commemorate the occasion, we did a little "then and now":

Our first "first day" pic (2001) 
It's hard to believe that our eager little kindergartener is now a seasoned veteran of this whole school thing. And that brave little preschooler who so desperately wanted to join her brother at school? She's now a sophomore.

Ryan doesn't know it yet, but I'll be expecting a "first day" picture to mark his first day of college!

(For some more "old school" [heh] first day pix, check out this post from 2008.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Time flies.

It seems like we wait forEVER for football season to start, but once it does, it flies by! Yesterday was our last football Saturday in Austin. There's just one more home game left, and since it's on Thanksgiving, we won't have our full crew on hand.

Football-wise, it's been a disappointing season, but it's been fun to share tailgating with friends and family alike. This time around, Brett and Ryan tagged along, joining us for lunch before scooting off to our grandnephew's first birthday party.

Some scenes from our fun Saturday:

Endurance challenge at the Bell County Safety Rest Area

Hook ’em donut: only in ATX!
My guys at the ’gate

Good to see Anne again (and meet her friend from high school)

Pregame flyover

Decent crowd


LHB as the USA

Iwo Jima pose

Lovely view from the DKR ramps
(For more pix, check out this week's Spell Texas post.)