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  • The Ubiquitous Jacket

    August 4, 2009

    One of the highlights of this past weekend at the She Speaks conference was meeting my blog friend Shelly who writes My Life on The Wild Side.

    I had not met Shelly in person before, but when I met her on Friday, I connected with her immediately.  I felt like I had known her since high school.  The conversation was easy — we both grew up in the Midwest, both love words and are just similarly wired.  Since we were both on the speaker’s track, we attended some of the same sessions and enjoyed some meals together.

    The afternoon of The Big 5, which is lingo for The Big 5-Minute Speech, because I’m all hip and into the use of super hip lingo, we snuck away and gave our 5-minute speeches for each other a couple of times — which was tremendously helpful to me.  She told me to slow down, I told her to not say ubiquitous.  She didn’t say ubiquitous and I didn’t slow down.  She has a more teachable spirit than I.

    Anyway, the day of The Big 5, Shelly was wearing this awesomely cute little black and white tweedy type bolero jacket. It was very Jackie, which is lingo for Jackie O.  It’s hard to be as cool as I, what with all my lingo. Anyway, I coveted that jacket just a little bit.  It was covetably cute.

    Well, after The Big 5, as I was passing through a crowded hallway, I spotted that awesome jacket and I was thrilled to see my new friend and report how it went.  So I went up to her and put my arm around her and put the side shoulder squeeze hug move on her and said, “Oh I’m so happy to see you!”

    And then a lovely, lovely girl turned around who was not Shelly. In fact it was a girl I had never seen before.  She was either terribly kind or terribly frightened, but no charges were pressed.

    As I was saying, it’s just kind of hard to be as cool as me. With or without the lingo.

    The Mentor

    June 2, 2009

    Way back in 2000, AD and I had just moved to the home we live in now.  At that time, we were doing a lot of church hopping in an effort to try and figure out where to park it on Sunday’s.

    To make a short story long, also at the time I was taking a seminary course on the Gospel of Luke from a friend of ours who is a professor of theology at one of the southern Christian colleges.  The class was comprised of eight or ten young men hoping to become preachers. And me. Not hoping to become a preacher. I was just there in my never ending quest for knowledge and something fun to do. I know.  Knowing that makes you want to party with me, doesn’t it?

    One day, a particularly handsome young man with a terrific smile turned around and asked me where I attended church.  He was the first and only of my classmates to acknowledge my presence.  “You know,” I said, “That is a really good question.”  And then I told him we had just moved to the area and that we weren’t settled anywhere.  He invited me to his church where he was the youth minister and several Sunday’s later, we went.  At the time, this was a church without a church. It was basically a bunch of folks meeting in an office building and that was wildly appealing to us because we are renegades and offbeat.

    As we made our way to the door of the cafeteria where the believers assembled, I was greeted by a tall silver haired woman with piercing dark eyes.  There was something about her presence that was all business but at the same time oozed a sense of fun and ornery.  As she handed me a bulletin, she looked me in the eye and introduced herself. She had a charming west Texas accent.  Her name was Glenna.  She said she didn’t believe she had seen me before and asked about me.  As we talked briefly, she blocked out the buzz and flurry that happens before a church service and focused completely on me. In the short space of time that we spoke, I knew that I had found a friend. I didn’t know yet that I had found a mentor.

    Since that Sunday, Glenna has been my friend when I needed it, my mother when I needed it, my sister when I needed it, my babysitter when I needed it.  She has brought me meals, she has prayed for me, she has cried for me, she has listened to me, she has defended me, she has comforted me and she has made me laugh.  She has given me advice when I needed it and not given me advice when I needed it but didn’t want it.  She has encouraged me when I needed it and she has called me out when I needed it. I don’t think I’ve ever asked something of her that she said no.  Every woman needs a Glenna — a mentor, another woman to guide and nurture her in a way that girlfriends and mothers can’t.

    I didn’t go looking for a mentor that day, but I sorely needed one.

    A lot has happened since that day in 2000 and Glenna has been with me the whole way.  Glenna and her husband Skip continue to mentor AD and me in so many ways – especially in our faith and in our parenting.  But beyond that, they mentor us in the example of their lives. In their every day walking around lives, they are Christ to everyone they see, everywhere they go, every day.  And that not only mentors us, it inspires us.

    * * * * *

    Do you have a mentor? If so, how did that come about?

    Age Before Beauty Backfires

    February 19, 2009

    Awhile back, Antique Daddy and I went out to dinner with my friend Jennifer and her husband to a fancy steak house.

    As I may have mentioned before, Jennifer is nearly 6-foot-tall, skinny, has long blonde hair, perfect nose, perfect teeth.  And if that weren’t bad enough,  she’s smart, kind-hearted and funny.  She used to be a pediatric ICU nurse caring for the sickest of the sick children before she retired to have her own children.   And she’s 14 years younger than me.  When we hang out,  I choose not to think about how I could have been her babysitter.

    Normally, people like Jennifer intimidate me.  Normally when I’m around someone like that I’m painfully aware of what a dork I am and I get all nervous and develop a spontaneous case of Tourettes.  But she’s so nice and totally unaware of herself.  Therefore, it is impossible to hate her. Trust me I have tried and I just can’t.  Even when I went swimming at her house and we were both in swimming suits, I tried to work up a little jealous resentment.  But no,  couldn’t muster a drop.

    Anyway, while the men folk parked the car, Jennifer and I made our way into the restaurant.  When our table was ready, I followed the host to the table and Jennifer walked behind me.  You know, the whole age before beauty thing.  Since it was a steak house, it was packed with tables of manly meat-eating business men.  And as we walked by, the heads, they were a’turnin’.

    My little ole wrinkled-y ego inflated mightily.  I tossed my hair back and did my best run way walk and tried to act like I didn’t notice all the stares.  Until I realized that nobody was looking at me.  They were looking right over my head.  At Jennifer.  Who was oblivious to the men who had nearly fallen out of their chairs to get a look at her.

    As I took my seat at the table, I fluffed out my napkin and put it in my lap and then I neatly folded up my pride and tucked it into my purse.

    Tonight Jennifer is taking me out to dinner for my birthday, which was awhile back. We will enjoy a nice meal prepared by someone else and cleaned up by someone else and we will enjoy girl talk interrupted only by the waiter asking if one of us would care for another glass of wine (answer: Yes! And bring the dessert menu too!)  I am SO looking forward to it.

    But this time, when the maitre d’ escorts us to our table, I shall insist that she go first.

    River Rats

    August 3, 2008

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    I spent the weekend with 15 of my favorite people on our annual river expedition in Arkansas.  (Shhh!  Let this be our little secret, but Arkansas is one of the most beautiful unspoiled states in the union.)  If you can’t tell, I’m the giant strawberry in the front.  I was elected to be the person to hit the timer on the camera and then run down a slicky muddy slope to get in the picture.  Due to the tricky nature of photography, I appear to be two times bigger than even the men.  Believe it or not, this is our before picture.

    In this crew are two airline pilots, one labor and delivery nurse, one home builder/home schooler, one videographer, one telecommunications specialist, a consultant, two bloggers, one speech pathologist and an assortment of children.

    Even though it was 192 degrees, fun was had by all on the river.  Hope y’all had a good weekend too.

    Strikingly Unconventional

    April 17, 2008

    You may recall that Quirky, who writes Quirky Is A Compliment,  won my recent meme contest, chosen randomly among the few who correctly guessed that I was not related to Laura Bush, set apart from those of y’all who think I am tall and have big feet. And not that bright.  I’m not all that bitter really because it stands to reason.

    Be that as it may.

    The so-called prize for this so-called contest was a guest post by me.  Some prize, eh?  Anyway, she has not backed out, so that’s where I am today.  Click on over to Quirky’s lovely and cheerful orange place and read my post, Strikingly Unconventional,  where I make my case for why quirky is a compliment.  Por favor and gracias.

    In other news, the winner of the Lands End swimming suit has been selected and emailed and as soon as I get confirmation back, I will tell you who it is!  And for the 298 of you who did not win, I know how you feel. I’ve never won a thing in my life.  I loved loved loved reading all of your comments and after each one I would think, “Wow, I hope she wins!”

    I have another really super groovy give away coming up May 1st in time for Mother’s Day.  Trust me, it’s cool and you want it, so if you are not a regular here, be sure to check back.

     

     

    Pa Palmer

    May 15, 2007

    Friday afternoon, Antique Daddy and Sean and I were on our way to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend with Memaw when we got the phone call. The father of one of our dearest friends had passed away unexpectedly.

    Pa Palmer, as everyone called him, was 85-years-old. On Monday, we returned him to the sandy East Texas soil from whence he came.

    Except that we all will miss him terribly, it is no tragedy really. Pa Palmer lived long and he lived well. He loved others and was loved in return. He lived by his faith and he died by his faith. In that there can be no tragedy.

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    Pa Palmer was a mild and unassuming man with smiling eyes that turned downward at the corners. I remember the first time I met him. He was a greeter at a church I was visiting and he reached out to shake my hand as he handed me a bulletin. His hands were large and warm and soft and perfectly matched his face. As I got to know Pa Palmer, I learned that the only thing larger and warmer and softer than his hands was his heart.

    Pa Palmer made his living working with his hands, but he made his life serving with his hands. Someone told the story of how one time when he was delivering a meal to a shut-in, he spied a rusty and broken fan in the trash. He took it home, fixed it and returned it the following week. A fan is a blessed thing to have in Texas. One time I mentioned in passing that a lamp I loved had quit working. Not long thereafter, he showed up at my house and fixed it. As I watched him sit at my kitchen table tinkering with mysterious lamp parts, there was an unmistakable light and glow about him that came from within. To do for others was a joy to him. But perhaps the memory most deeply etched in my mind is watching him pull his 4-year-old great granddaughter up into his lap and those large hands of his patiently and tenderly combing the tangles out of her wispy white angel hair.

    As we filed past the coffin, I reached out and touched Pa Palmer’s hands for the last time, the hands that had touched so many lives in the past 85 years. They were not soft and warm this time, but hard and cold. He was not there. The spirit and and energy that had fueled his life’s work had flown away home.

    Tears filled my eyes and overflowed. I patted his hand one last time. Farewell Pa Palmer. Until we meet again.

    Last Weekend In July

    July 28, 2006

    Mosaic_2It is from the shards of broken dreams that the mosaic of life is created.

    The last weekend in July was to be one of celebration. A young bride was to meet her groom at the altar, and before God, pledge to him her love, her body, her eternity.

    The plans had long been in the making. Caterers had been hired. Rings had been purchased. Gowns had been fitted. Pictures had been taken. Parties had been given. Gifts had been wrapped. Promises had been made. Dreams had been launched.

    A phone call can forever alter the course of a life. The groom has had a change of heart. With little explanation there will be no wedding. No one tells you how to keep your knees from buckling in a moment like this. No one tells you what to do with broken dreams and five pounds of wedding mints.

    I have no words of wisdom to offer my young friend.  Nothing to assuage the sting of humiliation or to numb the pain or to assure her that someday she will be happy again.  What I have to offer her, she does not want or need right now. What I have to offer her is my confidence that some day she will lie in the arms of a man who never doubted for a second that she should belong to him, never doubted that she should spend her life with him, never doubted that they should weather life’s storms and grow old together — a man who never doubted that for him there could be no other.

    I know that someday she will sometimes think back to this last weekend in July, if for only a second, and whisper this prayer: Thank you God.

    Cherries

    June 12, 2006

    Small4cherriesjpt Cherries are in season.  Cherries as gorgeous and red and decadent and as seductive as any apple in Eden there ever was. I saw them at the store and brought them home. I rinsed them under the cool water of the tap and then without even bothering to turn on the lights, I sat down alone in my kitchen and ate them one by one. 

    It was May of 1991. I was 31-years-old. My first husband and I, along with another couple, were in Europe. When you decide to take a two-week car trip with another couple, you know it will either go very well or very badly. The stars were aligned. The four of us spent two carefree weeks tooling around Paris, Aosta, Milan, Montreaux, Florence, Nice and Monaco having the time of our lives. We went to all the famous museums, walked along the shore of Lac Leman, stayed in a castle and sunbathed in Monaco. Things happened on that trip that are hysterical to us, but would be puzzling to others in the retelling.

    Towards the end of the trip, as we were making our way back to Paris, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand in the French countryside. We impulsively purchased a bag of cherries – lovely, juicy, plump, fresh French cherries.

    As the four of us sat under the shade of an ancient tree eating cherries and spitting the pits, my senses were unusually electrified. Every sensation was magnified. Perspiration, perfume and car exhaust riding the currents of the morning breeze, the blue of the sky and the blood red of the cherries, the gravelly French accent of the vendor, the laughter and chatter of our group, the humming of the nearby traffic. All of these sensations combined into a crystallizing moment in time and lodged into the cool deep of memory.

    I remember being acutely aware of the moment, as though somehow outside of myself. I remember thinking that I always wanted to feel as intensely alive as I did in that moment. In fact and detail, eating cherries on the side of the road is an insignificant event but it represented one of those rare moments in life when all seems well with the world. I thought it would be like that forever, the four of us.

    Three years later, my first husband died very suddenly. Soon thereafter, our friends divorced after more than twenty years of marriage. The photos of Provence are boxed up and stashed away. The memories have been swept up and put away as well.

    Nothing more remains of that one morning in May but the sensation of cherries.

    Eleven Dudes Who Did…

    April 15, 2006


    and one who shouldn’t have. And it’s not who you think either.

    My dear friend Glenna, and one of Sean’s surrogate grandmothers, recently gave him a children’s book about the twelve disciples called “The Twelve Dudes Who Did.” Each page offers a verse of scripture and a little rhyme about each disciple.

    When we got to the page featuring Matthew I read, “Matthew loved money and always wanted more, until he met Jesus – then he left it for the poor.” To which Sean responded, “That not a good idea.”

    Oh dear. What would Jesus do — with a tight-fisted toddler?

    EB Claus

    February 9, 2006

    My friend EB is an over-indulgent grandmother and an over-indulgent friend and I adore her. Her grandson is a year or two older than Sean. About once a month she shows up at my front door with bags (yes plural – bags) of clothes and toys that her grandson Preston has outgrown. Preston must have a closet the size of Old Navy. We have started calling her EB Claus because when she comes over it’s like Christmas. I remember the day EB gingerly asked me if I would be offended if she brought over some “gently worn” things for Sean. My response was “Would I? How fast can you get here?”

    I love hand-me-downs because they come with a history. And they remind me of a simpler time. When I was growing up, I thought the only store in the whole world was K-Mart and that was where the rich people shopped. To get a brand-new store “boughten” (I thought this was a word until I moved out of the mid-west) dress was a very rare thing. I grew up wearing hand-me-downs that came with the history of an entire neighborhood. It was always exciting to see Mom come home from down the street with a brown grocery bag packed with “new” things. With no sisters, it always made me feel cool to wear a dress that I had seen one of the older girls in the neighborhood wear.

    A bag of clothes would travel from house to house, season after season as kids grew. A dress that originated down the street would next year go across the street. The following year I would get it and the year after that it would go back across the street. If all the kids in the neighborhood put all their class pictures in a box you would probably see the same dress on a different girl a number of times.

    There were many things besides the hand-me-downs that glued this neighborhood together. Like my parents, most of the couples moved into the neighborhood in the 1950s when they were first married. All of them were blue collar. Most of them were Catholic and second generation Italian immigrants. My family is not Italian, although I didn’t know this until I was about seven. I often thought we should buy a few vowels for our last name to keep up. Most of them had at least three kids but some had more. And all of those baby boomin’ kids grew up going from kindergarten through high school together. It was like having 25 brothers and sisters. There was no such thing as a “play group.” If you wanted to “play” then you went outside where there was a “group” of kids playing Freeze Tag or some made up game. Everyone was united in a common struggle to raise decent kids and to get by. Fifty years later, most of those post-WWII couples, including my parents, are still married and still live there on the same street in the same houses.

    While my parents could not afford to give me “store-boughten” clothes, they did provide me an environment of stability and steadiness that can only be bought with time. Now as I struggle to figure out how to create a sense of community for Sean, I realize what a rare and tremendous blessing that was and how hard it is to do these days.

    Sean really enjoys his hand-me-downs from EB Claus. Next year when he has outgrown them, we will pass them along, but probably not to anyone who lives across the street or down the block. I love my neighborhood and care deeply for our many friends here, but there is not the glue of common ethnicity or faith or circumstance. There is no real common struggle. And part of me holds something back because I know that there will be no history to be built over the course of Sean’s childhood, because by this time next year, many of my neighbors will live some place else.