Monday, 30 July 2012

London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

Even though it's been three days, I'm still blown away by the Olympic Opening Ceremony.   The director, Danny Boyle, left no doubt as to his talent and artistic genius.   I've seen some of his films and I was able to see a broadcast of the play, Frankenstein, he directed in 2011.   The opening ceremony had his artistic stamp all over it.   The "set" was incredible, with a lush agrarian landscape that changed before our eyes to industrial England.   As the set changed, so did the characters and performances, reflecting the incredible history of England during those years since the Industrial Revolution.

Boyle has an incredible ability to see meaning and beauty in that which might be dismissed as ugly or messy by others.   Then, he portrays it with his unique sensibility which manages to combine urban and industrial with beautiful.   Surely, his working-class upbringing in Manchester influenced him.   He was also raised Roman Catholic and considered the priesthood as a young man.   Regardless of where he is in his faith life/journey at this point, a Catholic eye for rite, sign, and symbol is unmistakably part of his genius as an artist in today's world of theatre and cinema.

My favorite moments were the lovely children's choirs from the Home Isles, Kenneth Branagh reciting Shakespeare, the forging of the Olympic rings from a molten river than imitated the path of the Thames, the internet homage to British pop music, and the unique caldron lighting with copper petals from each country.   I would agree with Boyle when he was asked to name his favorite moment that he was very moved by the construction workers who built the stadium as they formed an honor guard for the last leg of the torch's journey into the stadium.   Oh, and I couldn't help but like the army of Mary Poppinses (Danny Boyle is the man who made the world ask, "What is the plural form of Mary Poppins?) who vanquished the nightmares from the children's sleep.    And of course, the Queen with James Bond and Mr. Bean: classic, and dare I say, epic?!

 It was a proud moment for England.   I wondered if it was a cathartic moment for the nation.   Though our history runs parallel to theirs, the everyday lives of individuals in England was much different than those of Americans, especially during and after WWI and WWII.   We lost lives during the Great War, but the troops who returned came back home to a physical home basically unchanged and familiar.   After both wars, there was optimism and even prosperity.

England, as in the rest of Europe, saw the physical scars of war on their land, especially during the Second World War.   The scars mirrored the emotional, spiritual, and physical ones of their returning troops.   Their world was turned upon its head and nothing would ever--could never--be the same as before.     It's not surprising that we see a huge change in art, literature and politics in Europe after the First World War.   After WWII, our country expanded the suburbs, bought new cars and appliances, while England was left economically depressed and physically scarred as she faced re-building, with her energy so depleted from the long fight that was the war.   As Americans, we can sometimes look at things narrowly, without taking into account the difference of experience that shaped Europe in the twentieth century, compared with our own experience.

When I was in England for the second time, the trip was very much a pilgrimage for me.   In addition to churches and cathedrals, my favorite place to visit was the WWI exhibit in the Tate Modern.   It was sacrosanct for me as I saw before me the artistic portrayals which attempted to capture the loss, horror, turmoil, faith, despair, and hope of those who were a part of the Great War.    I could only stand and ponder, then pray, making a feeble attempt to understand and empathize.

I had similar feelings as I watched Danny Boyle's Olympic production.   It was heart and soul, pastoral and calm, industrial and scarred.   It was a brave, tough people always keeping on and moving ahead, as best they can, still with triumphs and spirit.   It truly brought me to tears as I felt that I was privileged to witness it before me on screen.

Even for those who didn't enjoy the artistry, though, there was something to enjoy with the parade of nations and the grande finale.   I thought of the movie Amadeus.    Boyle remedied what Salieri saw as Mozart's neglect.   Along with sign and symbol, he gave the audience a big bang at the end so they knew when to clap.

Just A Little Trip

Since we chose to spend money on the house rather than a big trip this summer, we just took a few little day trips and one overnight trip for a bit of a vacation.   Our overnight trip was to Houston, where we visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.     I'll just go ahead and say that I enjoyed the Museum of Fine Arts best.   I have loved learning about dinosaurs since I was a child and it was exciting to see the new exhibits.   With three kids in tow, though, the other exhibits and the size of the museum made for a long day.    The Museum of Fine Arts was more my speed.   I am always impressed with the range and quality of exhibits there.

We have a poster from the museum that features this beautiful piece, The Elder Sister,  by WILLIAM BOUGUEREAU:

The children were so excited to see it in person, in all its glory.   E was especially impressed by the array of art before her young eyes.    I tried to let her just experience it.   It irritates me beyond measure to see children being drug through a museum and subjected to a lengthy lecture about each piece.   Children should want to return to art museums!   So, I did some gentle guiding.   One painting had incredible textures achieved and I had her put her head near the wall, so she could observe the difference in texture from the side and then notice how it was achieved when she looked at it from the front.   I would ask her where she thought the sun was in some paintings with beautiful shadow and light work.   There was a grouping of paintings depicting the Annunciation to the Shepherds and she was able to see how different artists could interpret the same subject.   We also played a game as she named paintings as landscape, portrait, or still-life when I pointed out some of them to her.   She enjoyed the various fashions portrayed in the portraits.   She's been trying to copy them from memory since we returned.   My tour wasn't as good as the one I observed with schoolchildren at the National Portrait Gallery in London, but E said it was her favorite museum and she talks about a return trip, so I'm pleased.

These little trips are perfect for our family right now.   The two youngest are too little for a long trip and we need to make our funds really count when we take big trips.   

6 Years Old!

Shame on me; this is a late post!   We celebrated C's birthday July 5.   We had a huge party last year, so we kept it smaller this year.   We met her godmother and "godbrothers" at our neighborhood pool for swimming, pizza and birthday cake.   It was so much fun and it was rather fitting.   She was surrounded by people who saw her the day she was born!

She has changed so much over the past six years.   She's still full of spunk and passion, doing everything with gusto!   She's such a good swimmer.   She likes to please, but also knows how to dig her heels in when things don't go as she wants.   She is kind-hearted and always the first to share or help someone who has a need.   She's a great helper and a really great "finder" when I've lost something.   She loves her baby dolls and the Avengers, especially Thor.   Life was never the same after Clare and for that we're thankful!

Sweet newborn

with godparents, Leslie and Ray

hmm...who does she look like?!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

More Home Improvements--Summer 2012

This summer, we've crossed out a few more items on our to-do list.   The kids' bedroom hall got a paint job.   We decided to go ahead and give each of the children his/her own room.   It was sad for me, because it seems as if we are not to be blessed with another child.  We bought a house with four bedrooms in hopes we'd need more space for more little ones, but  I am very thankful that with my health issues we have three beautiful children.   We still have room for room-sharing if needed, though!

E chose a beautiful lavender for her room.   It looks so pretty with the wood floors.   We also changed her bed to a full-size so her room can serve as a guest room for overnight guests.   When I was little, I always had to move out of my room for guests.   We also bought her a headboard.   The kids have never had headboards.   I found great deals on-line on sweet antique-looking metal headboards for the girls.

So pleased with the color.   Now to figure out where to hang things!


Update: New desk and Emmeline chose lovely fashion prints for this wall (50% off at Hobby Lobby).   I spray painted the inexpensive frames.

I love the vintage look, but I thought it was practical, too.   As they grow older, they can paint it a funky, fun color.   Painted black, it can look more sophisticated as they're older.  It will be easier to paint than a wooden headboard.    It should be something they can take away from home and get use out of.


I plan to reattach the door on the dresser and paint the piece turquoise.   It is not solid wood and the veneer has some damage, so I do not feel guilty about painting.   I have green curtains waiting to be hung:)


C chose pink for her room.   It was originally T's room, but we changed things a bit.   The girls had a pink room at the other house, but this shade is even prettier.   She loves her room and her headboard is scheduled to arrive any day.

Now to get brother's train table out of there & hang some things on the walls!

Next step: organize bookshelves!!!!!

The hallway itself got a new paint job, too.   Before this house was put on the market, the owners covered up bad painting with a neutral flat-finish paint.   Horrible with children in a house!   Smudges everywhere and nothing wipes off easily!   So, every room needed help!

It's a pretty taupe, slightly lighter than our living room.   I was so proud of the runner for the hallway: only $20 at TJ MAXX and it matches the rug in the living room perfectly!

Then, I was inspired to change the bathroom a bit.   I love adding color to every room, but in this case, I painted a room WHITE!   I was inspired by a bathroom remodel on Pinterest where the homeowner painted cabinets black in her white bathroom.   The paint was starting to flake  and the cabinets were starting to warp a little in those spots, so they needed to be painted.   The homeowner in the Pinterest re-model went with a subtle beach-inspired theme, but I think I'll hang some graphic London, probably typography-type, prints.  I think London will be calling in our "loo,"  with pops of red and black.  

Our "new" bathroom so far.   The black cabinets are just so sharp-looking!

 T's room will, hopefully, be painted a slate blue this week!   He's so excited to have his turn!

As I was walking through Lowe's I found this lovely glass shade.   I've been looking at a vintage-inspired hand-blown glass fixture on-line for over a year.   It was something I would never buy because it was almost $300, which is way too much for a fixture to hang over our kitchen sink!   Then I found this one.   Look at that amazing price!!!  It's got the hand-blown-bubbly look and when it's lit, it's a beautiful shade of green.   And that price!!!!

Shade on our existing fixture over the sink.   It's a great pop of color and it perfectly matches one of Mama's old glass jars I have in my kitchen.   Did I mention the price??!!

Our front door got a face-lift.   It's a beautiful mahogany door, but the stain was worn in places and the previous owners drilled house numbers into the door (crooked, by the way).   Normally, I hate to see beautiful wood painted, but the damage in the door required paint.   I love red doors.   We had one at our last house and I couldn't wait to see this one red.   It reminds me of the brightly colored doors in England.   One of my friends told me that sometimes convents paint their front doors red, to represent the Sacred Heart of Jesus.   It's meant to serve as a reminder upon entry of entering into the Sacred Heart.   I like that as a reminder each time we enter the door to our family's home.

We also added the metal element above the porch.  Next: black shutters on the windows!   I won't have to custom-order so they're much cheaper than I'd imagined!   Yea!!

More pictures as we progress!!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Life Lived & Celebrated

Today would have been Mama's 75th birthday.    Part of me reads that as "should" rather than "would."   I want her to be here.   I need her to look at me as only she could and I need her to tell me what I should do in so many situations as a mom.   I need to know more about what I was like as a child and how much of that is reflected in my own little ones.   I need her to tell me all the old stories again as the names and faces of those relatives so distant to me are fading.   I need my children to have a grandma.   I just need her.   Here.

Here and now, that's okay for me to feel.   I've given myself permission to let the tears flow today and indulge in a good cry, without any pep talks or attempts at pulling at my own bootstraps.   Because my favorite memories of Mama are her just being there.   There in that moment.   Sitting with her friends and laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her face and she couldn't speak.    I get that from her.   Pacing and having to finally leave the room during March madness basketball games and then sitting and crying for the losing team who lost at the last second.   Bringing out pictures of Greg on his birthday and letting the tears fall as she remembered her first-born and all his suffering that she couldn't take away.   Her face, beaming, as I caught sight of it in the crowd at an assembly or awards ceremony.  

I think of her every time I read this now-favorite passage of mine from author, Heather King:

When a person dies whose existence has been all comfort and ease, we might be envious of the comfort, but we also sense that he or she had missed some essential point.   When someone dies who has suffered, on the other hand, we might feel compassion, or pity, or even that the person brought the suffering upon him or herself.   But we also think: Ah--that person lived. 

Mama lived.

Mama lives.   Lives on.   She lives on in the faces of my children, especially in my middle child, whose resemblance brings me to tears sometimes.   She lives on in their personalities.   Emmeline is creative and sees things with an original artistic eye, just as her grandma did.   Clare is pure passion and spunk.   She is fearless, but is the most easily hurt and most sensitive to others.   She loves to serve when she sees a need.   Thomas is my social butterfly.   He loves to meet people and play with them.   And he loves a good laugh and making others laugh.  And he's affectionate, always ready to show others that he cares.   There are moments when I stop and see my children as I think Mama would have seen them.   And I appreciate something new in them; it's like she's showing me.

She lives in the stories that I tell my children and friends about her.   She lives on in my friendships with beautiful women who are there to laugh, cry, and just be with.   She lives on in her paintings and the antiques she refinished.   She lives on in her recipes as I share them with others.

She lives because I live.   She sacrificed and accepted sufferings so they wouldn't be mine.   My time is not my own.   My life is not my own.   It was bought by Christ on the cross and it was bought by my mother with her own crosses.   I need to live this life.   Here and in every moment--in the beauty, the sorrow, the joy, and even the monotony.  

In the midst of the tears today, we celebrated Mama (& Grandma).   The grandma who is synonymous with heaven for Clare.   She wants to go there because she never got to see Grandma, but more importantly to her, Grandma never got to see her.   She sees you, honey, I reassure her, but she still feels the need.

Today, I needed Mama to be here.   And her grandchildren needed me to make her memory alive to them. Her memory doesn't need to hide in tears, but it needs to live--in me, in them--as she lived.  

We bought some gladiolas.   Glads--for me--tidings of comfort and joy.   One of Mama's favorite flowers.   She grew pink ones on our farm and shared them with friends and neighbors.

Kentucky Fried Chicken and grape soda in a bottle.   

Mama and her friend Carmel liked to stop at KFC after shopping or going to garage sales.   They also used to make regular visits to one of Mrs. Carmel's relatives in a nursing home in Natchez, MS.   She loved being taken out for lunch and her favorite place was KFC.   When someone criticized Mama and  Mrs. Carmel for taking her out for such an unhealthy meal, Mama's reply was, "It's not going to kill her and even if it did, she'd go happier than she would left in that nursing home."

Three blessings--and daily glimpses of Mama
 Mama loved Grapette soda as a child.   She said it was the same price as Coca-Cola, but it came in smaller bottles, so it made for what was an agonizing decision for a child.   She preferred the taste of Grapette, but a coke was a rare treat, so she wanted to get the most for her money.   She usually went with the Grapette, though.   After all, she lived!

Oh, how this little boy would have melted her heart.

And dessert for this celebration: the heart of a watermelon and the centers of cinnamon rolls.   Mama always said if she was ever rich, she would eat the heart of the watermelon and only the centers of the cinnamon rolls.   That's what we did, because life's too short.

Happy Birthday, Mama. 

Another Piece on Pie

My latest piece is up at Bourbon and Boots.   This time, I'm sharing three of my favorite recipes for summer pies and cobblers, along with some of my memories:

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Fan Zone

 This post has absolutely nothing to do with football stadiums or sports spectator seating.

Our new home has one flaw.   It can get hot.   Really hot.   Last winter, we rarely had to run the central heat, except for maybe a cycle or two first thing in the morning to take away the chill.   Yea for the winter utility bills!  Oh, wait a minute.   This is Texas, so that really only affects two--maybe three--utility bills?

We have no mature trees anywhere near our home, so our large roof just soaks in the heat.   Thermal curtains are on the front windows for the morning heat (when our door handle gets too hot to touch) and solar screens are on the kitchen windows, on the back of the house, where the evening sun comes bearing down.   I complained about our lack of trees to a friend from Louisiana.   She told me the new neighborhoods cleared all the trees and people had cut down trees because of all the damage done by trees during the past few years when hurricanes came ashore. we're not alone!   Actually, I hear the same complaints about hot houses from most of my friends.   In our last home, we had lots of shade, so the sunlight was not as intense.   I was so spoiled.

So, as I wrote above, we have solar screens on our kitchen windows.   We added them a month ago and they made a HUGE improvement.   We can sit at the kitchen table between the hours of 5 and 7 now!    It's still a hot kitchen, though.   If I turn on the stove and/or the oven, the temperature rises even more.   In our last house, we had electric wall ovens and I think we felt less heat from them than we do from our gas range oven.

My next plan was to switch our existing light fixture over the kitchen table with a ceiling fan.   Then, I saw an ad for a pretty floor fan and decided that might be a cheaper route.   We could move it around where we needed it.   Plus, it wasn't going to be an easy or cheap job to replace the light fixture.   Every person who has looked at it--electrician, handyman, friends--just looked at the existing switches on the wall, made a face, and tried to explain what they would have to do.   That's when my eyes would glaze over and I would start thinking about what metal finish and blade color I wanted on my new fan. I put together the new floor fan and it's wonderful!   Such a relief in my hot kitchen.   Plus, it's pretty and a little retro-looking:)    And the finish is oil rubbed bronze.

It makes me remember elementary school days.   The south Louisiana school I attended for kindergarten through sixth grade was not air conditioned.   Did I mention it was in SOUTH LOUISIANA?   And it was the 1980s, not the 1880s?!   Well, that's not entirely true.   I mean about the lack of air conditioning, not the Louisiana location or the century.   The office had a window air unit, as did the several temporary buildings (T-buildings, we called them) that served as classrooms for some second and fourth grade classes and special education, including Gifted and Talented.   Boy, did we miss second grade when we left for third.   And boy, did we enjoy going to G/T pullout classes on Wednesdays!

All the other classes in the main buildings made do with a wall of windows, which were great on breezy days and on stormy days.     I still remember stormy days.   There's nothing like a south Louisiana rainstorm as it builds.   The sky would get darker, changing from darker shades of blue to a deep violet-blue.   The temperature would drop, making it almost chilly right as the rain began to fall.   We would rush to find things to hold down our papers as the wind began to pick up ahead of the rain.   Then the mad dash of the strongest boys in the class as they raced to close the old windows before too much rain entered the classroom.   

In addition to the windows, some classes had FANS.   Fans were glorious things to me.   The only fan in our house was our large attic fan.   We ran it in March and April before the temperature required us to turn on the central A/C.   I used to love to sit in my bedroom in the evening and read under my window, tucked away in my private world, as the closed lace sheers and curtains, pulled by the attic fan, billowed around me, closing me off from everything else.

When it came to fans, some of our classrooms had none, while others might have multiple ones.   The teachers must have hated dealing with them.   Imagine trying to find just the right location so papers and people weren't too disturbed by them.   Then, there was the noise.   We didn't care, though.   It was exciting to be in a classroom with at least one fan.   Sometimes the teacher brought the fan.   Other times, students would bring one.   Now, those were some special people: the fan people.   See, if you brought the fan to school, it was always placed near you so you could benefit from it.   I remember one year, the teacher let the seating arrangement change so the fan people could choose friends to sit near them--in the Fan Zone.   I remember the first time I got to sit in a Fan Zone.   I don't think I could concentrate from the pleasure and excitement.   I mean, we had central air at home, but all that faded in the hot days of school, especially in those beginning months of August and September.   All that seemed to matter was the heat and humidity right then.   I felt a little guilty as I looked at my classmates outside the Fan Zone.   We had our own little sweaty hierarchy and it was all based on who brought the fans.

In seventh grade, we moved into a brand new school complex that housed K - 12 on one campus.   It was a beautiful modern, two-story building.   It was divided into three distinct wings for elementary, middle, and high, each with its own color scheme, reflected in the carpet that changed as you left one wing and entered another.   Now, we all had central air.   There were only one or two tall windows in each classroom.   It was actually a problem for some of the students without air conditioning at home because they were sick at first as they transitioned from the cool school back to their hot homes, day after day.

I never forgot those hot school days, though.   It made me feel a link with the children in historical novels I read.  Those old-fashioned classrooms, with their walls of windows are still the architectural ideal for me when it comes to schools.

And, maybe best of all, it gives me-- not even forty years of age and a child of the computer age--a chance to tell (nag at) my children, "Well, you should be happy.   When I was your age, we didn't even have air conditioning in school..."   And in the South, that's just as good as a story about walking ten miles to school, in snow up to your waist...with no shoes, yeah, no shoes...and I had to...
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