Monday, December 14, 2009

1 Meet me at Demeris. . .

For as long as I can remember, my Daddy has eaten lunch on Monday's at Demeris Barbecue on Shephard. The same group of men have come in at the same time and sat at the same table since 1978. Without fail, the owner, Gus Demeris, ambled over at sometime during the meal to shake hands, trade jokes, or just give out an extra cookie or piece of pie. Demeris Barbecue was not only a restaurant but walking into the building was almost like walking into a friend's kitchen. One of the reasons was the predictable behavior in every part of the experience. Helen was always behind the cash register asking, "What'll you have?" As she yelled the order, the kitchen immediately got started cutting the meat. A Demeris son was always behind the counter and by the time you got your tea at the end of the line, you had been greeted by at least three different smiles and felt right at home.

Over the years, Demeris Barbecue has become my Dad and my "date" place. Anytime I met my Dad for lunch he always said, "Why don't we meet at Demeris" and it has become our tradition. It was always the same, Greek Salad for my dad, Garden salad with Turkey for me. . . and, of course, two large teas! Since I was little, I have loved hearing my dad tell the story of how Gus came from Greece, worked his way up and eventually owned such a successful restaurant and catering business. The story never got old. As a little girl, it showed me that anything was possible and as long as I worked for my dream, I could achieve it. As I got older, it only made me more proud of my country and the "American Dream" that could be attained. Demeris Barbeque has been a staple in my life for the past 28 years. Gus always used to be there when we went but since his retirement and especially in the past year his sons have been the ones who have held down the fort.

Sadly our friend passed away this Thursday. When my dad emailed me at work, he concluded his email with "the end of an era." It truly is. It seems that this past year, I have learned more about Gus than I ever knew throughout my lifetime. The continuing theme throughout each story has been his heart for others. It seemed only fitting that "his heart for others" was portrayed on Thursday as everyone who walked in the door of Demeris ate free.
I will miss seeing Gus' sweet smile when I am on dates with my Dad, or just stopping by Demeris to grab a large tea while running errands. But I know that I am not the only one. All of Houston will miss this first generation immigrant, who through a Cinderella story, grew to be an icon and fundamental part of Houston restaurateurs!
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Every holiday, I try to find a new fun recipe! Cranberry Bread was my Christmas staple this year! It served its purpose. . . from being a delicious snack before dinner to a great gift for co-workers and friends. . . everyone raved about this recipe!

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons shortening
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cups Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, coarsely chopped (If using Frozen Cranberries, do not let them thaw! Just chop them up frozen!)
1/2 cup chopped nuts

DIRECTIONS:Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in orange juice, orange peel, shortening and egg. Mix until well blended. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Spread evenly in loaf pan. (I used two or three foil loaf pans that you find on the baking aisle. I also love the miniature loaf pans! This looked better when giving as a gift!) Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Wrap and store overnight. Makes 1 loaf (16 slices).

PER SERVING (1 slice): Cal. 211, Fat Cal. 54, Protein 3grams, Carb. 37grams, Fat 6grams, Chol. 18mg., Sodium 313mg

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1 How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise,
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints -I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! -and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Some of my sweet girls came into my room on Monday with HUGE smiles on their faces! The last one in the group was carrying flowers! After lots of squeals . . . they begged me to read the card to them. . . "Just Cause!". . . which immediately resulted in more squealing! Nate never ceases to amazing me.
On Wednesday, I came home to find a HUGE poinsettia in my house . . . another sweet gift!!. . .
THEN on Thursday, he surprised me at school with Hot Chocolate for me and some friends I work with!

I love it when my girls get to see or hear about what a "prince" Nate is. I tell them that one day some cute boy is going to fall madly in love with them and spoil them rotten! And as I told Nate the other day, he has the characteristics of the man that little girls dream about falling in love with someday! But he far exceeds anything I dreamed about! :-)
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Monday, December 7, 2009

0 God's plan is BEAUTIFUL!

"Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths!" Proverbs 3:4-5

For two weeks, we had our engagement pictures scheduled for Friday at 3:00 pm. My hair and makeup appointments were made and since I was taking off school, I decided to register for my china at Bering's that morning. The day was packed with wedding plans! Monday or Tuesday, we begin to hear that it was going to rain all week. I was devastated, considering the fact that we were going to take our pictures outside. For two days straight, I ran around town trying to come up with a great place to take our pictures indoors, all the time hoping that was a farce and it was going to be a perfect day! Nate and I wanted to have our dogs in the picture and there aren't too many places that will allow a 75 pound lab to barrel in for a photo shoot! We couldn't postpone the picture and reschedule due to the fact that we had a deadline to make with our Save the Dates. So, Friday was the day, rain or shine. On Thursday, after discussing sites again and again, my mom reminded me to slow down and pray about it! After I hung up, Jesus and I had a little one on one time in the car! Later that day, the news began to report that it might snow on Friday! We decided on an indoor place to take the picture (with an outdoor option for the dog picture) and waited to see what the weather would do! God is so good.

Houston had a record snow fall the day of our engagement pictures and we will have incredible memories to keep for a lifetime! After taking pictures indoors around a beautiful Christmas tree and outdoors as the snow was falling with the dogs, Nate and I looked at each other with thankfulness at the blessing the Lord had given us!

After the photographer packed up and left, Dad took Nate and me to the country club to take a couple pictures while we waited to go in for dinner. It could not have been a more ideal day.

"Jesus, immediately reached out and grabbed him. 'You have such little faith,' Jesus said. 'Why did you doubt me." Matthew 14:22 -23

"Oh child," the Lord must think . . . "My way exceeds your wildest dreams. Just trust me."
I am forever overwhelmed by God's grace, mercy and forgiveness. . . One of my favorite verses is, "But go your way, tell your disciples AND PETER that he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." Mark 16:7

Father, like Peter, I am forever doubting your perfect way! Let these pictures be a constant reminder of your faithfulness! Yes, Lord, you do provide!
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Monday, November 30, 2009

1 Just call me Betty!

When Dave Riggle asked me in premarital counseling, "What is your expectation of marriage?" Nate and I looked at each other and had to laugh! I proceeded to share my expectation of myself as Nate's wife. . .

Think of Paula Deen, Betty Crocker, June Cleaver, and Florence Henderson all rolled up into one and. . . drum roll please. . . that is my outlook on being Nate's wife!

I want the white picket fence, the 2.5 kids and the dog! I want dinner hot and on the table, the kids perfectly dressed and seated, and me in my apron, high heels, and pearls when Nate walks in the door with, "Hi Honey! I'm home!" Basically I was born in the wrong decade! (I know my married friends are at this point sighing and rolling their eyes!) But I can dream, right?
I adore being a hostess and serving others! Nate gave me the best "Thanksgiving" present this year. We ate lunch on Thursday at the Petroleum Club and because of that, had no leftovers. Friday afternoon, Nate was craving leftovers and I told him I would just "whip up" a Thanksgiving meal for us! I have always wanted to cook a WHOLE Thanksgiving meal and Nate gave me the perfect opportunity!
I baked the dinner on a smaller scale, minus the 18 pound turkey! :-) I even timed everything perfectly so that the second Nate put his fork down, the timer went off to pull the blackberry pie out of the oven! :-) (now how Carol Brady-ish is that!)

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0 My Cup Runneth Over . . .


A time to go around the table and express your proverbial wisdom by trying to come up with an original answer to "what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving!"

Each year, I am overwhelmingly blessed but this Thanksgiving was different. This Thanksgiving, my heart felt like it would burst from happiness. Looking around the table at lunch, I silently lifted up such a grateful prayer for those who were surrounding me! My Gigi is alive, kicking and still sassy at 88 after being in a major car accident which left her in the hospital for a month! My parents grow more in love with each other every year! I am blessed with a hilarious and fun-loving brother who makes every situation he is in better because of his presence! And then there is Nate. . . Words cannot express my thankfulness to the Lord for placing him in my life! We were missing someone this Thanksgiving, but I was grateful for the fact that Parker was not with us. He got to spend quality time with his girlfriend, Emily's, family which was well worth his absence at our table! One more thing to be thankful for. . . Emily! I could not have dreamed up someone more perfect for Parker! Emily challenges him, encourages him, has childlike faith and unwavering character. All in all, my cup runneth over. . .
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

7 "When I fall in love. . . "

I am marrying the most amazing man in the world on June 5th! I keep pinching myself to make sure that I am not dreaming and really am spending the rest of my life with Nate!

On Wednesday, November 4th, Nate told me that he was going to come to my house and we were going to go to dinner! After spending some time together, Nate told me to go and look upstairs because he hid something for me in my room! I looked and looked and after having to get some hints from Nate found. . . a 25 WSSM Super Short Mag!!

I was SOOOO excited! This gun is not made anymore and it is virtually impossible to find new! Nate found me a new one and it is beautiful!!!! Deer season starts this weekend and I was thrilled!!!! This past deer season, I used our friend, Chris' WSSM and did really well with it! Since then I had been looking for one with no luck! He kept telling me he was going to take pictures to show Chris! Nate kept taking pics and telling me to turn around and point the gun so he could see all of it.

I turned back around and Nate was on one knee with a RING in his hand!!!! I was in total shock when he asked me to marry him! I kept just yelling "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!"

Numerous people knew the day it happened including my sweet roommate, Amy!

After calming down, I tried calling my parents but they would not answer. They told me earlier that they were going to a Sunday School party that night! After literally calling them for 30 minutes, Nate told me to call other people! He said we had dinner reservations at Maggianos at 6:30 so we left for dinner with me still in shock!

Still not being able to believe what was happening, we walked into Maggianos and saw my family, Gigi, Elizabeth Mayfield, and the Hutkas! I could not believe the Hutkas drove in from Navasota just to have dinner with us! What special friends! My family was so excited and that excitement has not worn off for any of us! I am forever thankful for the Lord placing Nate in my life and in his perfect way leading us to this point!

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

0 Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

This is an incredible recipe that I made for Nate on Thursday night! It is from my all time FAVORITE recipe book: Warm Welcomes River Road Recipes IV by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Warning: It makes a TON of food! I used two 13X9 Pyrex pans! Enjoy!

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

(Whole wheat tortillas are relatively new on the market. The aroma and flavor are wonderful, and the texture is smoother than traditional corn tortillas.)

6 cups chopped cooked chicken (I just boiled 6 chicken breasts on the stove top)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
6 cups salsa
2 (15 - ounce) cans black beans
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 bunches green onions, chopped
2 dozen whole wheat flour tortillas
12 ounces reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I used 16 oz and probably could have used more)

Saute the chicken and garlic in a skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking sprayed for 3 minutes. Stir in the salsa, undrained beans, bell peppers, cumin, salt and pepper; reduce the heat. Simmer for 7 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the green onions.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the cheese. Roll to enclose the filling. Arrange seam side down in a 9x13-inch baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the remaining chicken mixture evenly over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the cheese melts.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

1 "Daddy, do you want to go on a date?"

I have never had a problem imagining my heavenly Father's unconditional love for me, because my earthly Father has provided such a great example!

Today is my Dad's 62nd birthday! That might seem old to some but in spirit and life, my Dad acts like he is in his 20's! He has incredible friends, a wonderful personality, and can literally light up a room. He exudes "life of the party!"

I have a special bond with both of my parents. My mom is who I go to when I need to "talk." My dad and I normally "do" more things together!!

Daddy and I both share a love for animals. . . I'm the one petting the rattlesnake at the Hunting Expo and Dad is the one who picks up the 6 foot rat snake while he is hunting (just so he can get a better look at it!)

I have always loved going on dates with my dad. Just us! Growing up, that normally included going to the pet store, the bird store, or going to the Baker's ranch to feed the horses!

When I was in middle school, Dad and I began running together. Due to knee surgery, Daddy can't run anymore but he is the one who I can attribute my love for running to!

Once Parker and Clark got to high school, Dad stopped coaching their baseball teams. He taught me how to keep a book and instilled in me a love of baseball! All through high school and college, I would keep the book at Parker and Clark's games and "talk with Mom" and discuss strategy and skill with Dad! This time together with my parents is one of the main things I miss about Parker playing at A&M.

Dad and I spent so much time together training Gus! On Thursdays, we would drive to Katy to visit Gus at the trainer and learn about his progress. From hunt tests, to 'real' hunting, we have been thrilled with Gus' drive and desire to please! Every morning when I drop Gus off at 'Grandparent Day Care', Dad has a biscuit waiting for him. . . just because he is a good boy! Dad is so obsessed with Gus, he takes him to the office periodically! (I can only imagine what he is going to be like with 'real' grand kids!) Driving to the trainer and hunting together have also created great memories!

My parents love Emily and Nate! Mom and Dad have such a welcoming spirit and have literally included them into our family! I will never forget two weeks after I met Nate, my Dad called me and told me that he wanted to invite Nate to watch the A&M baseball game with he and my mom. (I couldn't go that night!) So, Nate went to the game, sat IN BETWEEN MY PARENTS and was literally GRILLED the entire game! Nate said afterwards that he had so much fun and loved my parents. . . AND it has been downhill from there. Nate and Dad are so alike! From playing golf to fishing, they just enjoy being with each other!

One way my Dad has shown Christ to me is through his love for my mom! My parents are more in love with each other now than the day they got married! They still kiss in the kitchen like teenagers when my dad comes home from work! My dad treats my mom like she is a princess and has provided a wonderful example for the boys as to how you treat a lady! My parents are the essence of a godly marriage and I am so thankful for that!

Today, 62 of my Dad's friends emailed or called him and at the end of the conversation told him their number! I hope that today, Dad feels just a fraction of how much he is loved by so many people!

"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." -- Clarence Budington Kelland, U.S. Writer

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

3 My Prince Charming

There are many characteristics about Nate that I love. . . his humor, his smile, the way he leads in our relationship, his unquestionable love and respect for the Lord and his constant devotion to me. I thank Jesus daily for putting such a wonderful man by my side.

One particular characteristic that Nate has shown in our relationship is the ability to swoop in and "save the day!" Many stories come to mind but three particular ones show this 'princely' quality of my man!

Through a miscommunication at Erin Bailey's wedding, I lost my bag that I took to the bridal dressing room. The day after the wedding, I realized that no one had it or had seen it and needless to say, I was distraught. Not only did it contain some jewelry from Europe, that was irreplaceable, it also had my AG jeans, my Chi, and ALL of my Bobbi Brown makeup. My LIFE was in that bag! After realizing that it was gone, I just sat in my hotel room and wallowed in self pity. Nate, on the other hand, immediately took charge and scoured the hotel, questioned almost everyone at the wedding, took me to where the wedding was, and to the where some of my friends went after the wedding. He would not rest until he found my bag! On the car ride home, I burst into tears (Nate cannot stand to see me cry) and he just kept saying we will find it! We found it the next day and I will never forget Nate's tireless search!

Let me set up the stage of the next story . . . I had been on jury duty for over two weeks. The lawyers were giving their closing arguments and I was headed to the courtroom. As usual, I allowed extra time, due to the fact that I hate being late! While driving on Allen Parkway, right before Waugh, I hit a curb, popped the two right tires, and my airbag deployed. I was sitting on a blind curve and immediately begin watching cars come to a screeching halt before they almost slammed into the back of me! I called the always reliable AAA and then my next call was to Nate. He was at his weekly Bible Study with my dad and literally got to me in 10 min flat! After calling 911, talking with the tow trucker and discussing the best plan of action, he took me to court, met the tow truck driver at the VW dealership and proceeded to take care of everything having to do with my car for the next month. His famous words are, "Don't worry about it! I'll handle it!"

My hero will also come to my rescue this week! We were in College Station on Saturday with my family watching my 65 year old aunt sky dive (a story for another day!) and on the way out of town my car broke down. Once again, Nate just went into his 'save the day' mode! Since nothing was open, Nate called the Gayle's and they graciously allowed us to park the car at their house until Monday! Luckily, my parents could take us back to Houston and Parker is playing ball in Michigan, so I am currently driving his car. Nate is going to College Station, first thing Monday morning, to once again, take care of everything!

Somehow, he has helped everyone in my family! His expertise and advice ranges from redecorating to dating! He is truly loved by all of us!

Every girl dreams that one day her Prince Charming will come . . . through the Lord's PERFECT timing, mine 'rode' into my life one special February day! Thank you Jesus for Nate!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

1 "'Woodrow, quite a party,' Augustus said."

Browsing Barnes and Nobles. . . finding the perfect book (or 5) . . . heading home trying not to get in a wreck as I attempt to begin the book at the red lights. . . Getting home and snuggling on the couch with a blanket and turning to the first page . . . I am immediately immersed in another world, another time, and another place.

Reading has been my passion since I was a little kid. When I was younger, I would start a book and not stop until I reached the end. . . Books have been my avenue to foreign places, my peek into famous lives, and my quest to the history of magical times. Some day I want a library in my house. Dark wood and floor to ceiling bookshelves around the circular room with a ladder on a track like in My Fair Lady.

Books are like old friends. . . when I look at my bookshelf I remember their contents with a smile and I run my fingers over the many spines remembering the places I was when I first read them, the memories they left in me, and the lessons they taught me.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I read Trinity by Leon Uris. "When all of this was done, a republic eventually came to pass but the sorrows and the troubles have never left that tragic, lovely land. For you see, in Ireland there is no future, only the past happening over and over." The best part of historical fiction is that it gives you the history of a certain time or place with romance and action intertwined! Trinity is still one of my favorite books and Leon Uris is by far my favorite author. This book started my obsession with Ireland! I contribute Trinity with pushing me toward a private study of Irish history and eventually to St Thomas University where I will graduate in December with my Masters in Irish Studies. A great book sticks with you and in some cases changes your life.

The Velveteen Rabbit is such a staple in a child's library and every child (or adult) longs to be loved the way the stuffed rabbit was loved. (every child secretly wishes their special stuffed animal would miraculously become Real) Throughout the book, we smile when the Boy and the Rabbit have long days in the garden, we listen intently at the Skin Horse's wise words, we cry with desperation when the Boy gets sick and the Rabbit must be burned and we rejoice when we read, "He was a Real Rabbit at last. . . ". What an incredible lesson and parallel of Christ's love. He loves us so much that when our time comes, He, like the nursery magic Fairy, comes to make us "Real" in heaven!

The book jacket or the back of the book either makes me want to read the book on the way home from the bookstore at the red lights, or makes me immediately dismiss the book. One of the BEST book jackets ever written is The Tale of Despereaux, which is also one of my favorite books!
"This is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in darkness but covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and ultimately, into each other's lives. And what happens then? Reader, it is your destiny to find out."
How could you possibly resist such a fabulous invitation? I'll admit it, when teaching 5th grade Language Arts, there was many a time that I read a little longer than necessary just because I, along with the kids, could NOT stop at the end of the chapter!

Then there is the DELICIOUS, sometimes slightly risque, but all the more appealing "poolside" reading! My personal favorite of this category is. . . The Devil in the Junior League. "The Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas is tres exclusive, one of the oldest and most elite women's societies in the country. And we work hard to keep it that way. Outsiders need not apply." How wildly entertaining! Again, a book you cannot put down until you turn the last page!

Very few writers can compose a memoir that is truly entertaining and not just self-reflecting! Every dog owner can relate to Marley and Me! "Our rambunctious, wired dog stood with his shoulders between Jenny's knees, his big, blocky head resting quietly in her lap. his tail hung flat between his legs, the first time I could remember it not wagging whenever he was touching one of us. His eyes were turned up at her, and he whimpered softly." How many times have we looked into the wise eyes of our 'rambunctious,' goofy dog and had them quietly reassure us with their silent comfort? Great books allow you to dive into another person's life while discovering the parallels of theirs with your own.

Of course, one must read and study the "classics!" Along with Moby Dick, and far too many others to name, one of my favorites is A Tale of Two Cities. "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." Again, Christ sacrificing his life for another's is magnified in this incredible book. A Tale of Two Cities is one of those books that end and you realize you have been holding your breath for the whole last chapter.

One Day in My Life and A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier are two of the greatest and most graphic autobiographies I have ever read. These books make you outraged at the living conditions of these authors and open your eyes to the reality of cruelty in other countries. Both infuriated me and took me across the world to experiences that I didn't believe existed. Books like these broaden the 'bubble' we live in and educate you about conditions in other countries. "I find it startling to hear myself say that I am prepared to die first rather than succumb to their oppressive torture and I know that I am not on my own, that many of my comrades hold the same."

One great thing about discussing books or being in book clubs is that it introduces you to new authors! Bex recently chose Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult. I totally disagree with a key part to this book but it made me think about my views and helped me to specify my thoughts on certain issues. Although I disagreed with the decision of the main character, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book which led me to read My Sister's Keeper. Again, Picoult makes you think and again nail down your thoughts on controversial issues. She is definitely an author that when you turn the last page, you have to sit and reflect for a while before coming back to the real world!

Being a Texas History teacher, two of my favorite books are Lonesome Dove and Not Between Brothers. My dog and my chickens were named after the main characters in Lonesome Dove, which is based off of the Goodnight/Loving cattle trail drive. Not Between Brothers is the BEST book I have ever read and follows Texas History from the time of the land grants to the beginning of the Civil War. Again, romance, betrayal, violence, and unforgettable friendship brings these historical stories to life!

Slowly, I turn the last page and close the book. It is over! The journey has concluded and I am thrown back into reality. I sit and reflect over what I have just read and it takes me a few minutes to organize my thoughts or fully take in the ending of the book. I let out a massive sigh and in disappointment return the book (alphabetically, of course) to my bookshelf.

After a few minutes of reflection and melancholy thoughts about the fact that the story is over. . . the fun begins again, as I pull a new book off the shelf. . .
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

2 MORE chickens????

"Elizabeth, turtles belong outside." "No, we will not buy you a two thousand dollar parrot." "That cat has mange! Get it out of your bedroom." "MORE chickens??" "HOW many puppies are you bringing home?" "Elizabeth, you may not bring anything home that breathes without calling first."
My love for animals started early. I remember riding a massively big horse every time I went to my Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lucy's farm. (I found out in college, I was really riding a Shetland Pony) But my love for animals was not entirely cultivated on my own. . . my daddy was always there to spur me on! One of my first "animal" memories was Daddy catching ducks for us at Conroe so we could pet them. Feeding the ducks was a highlight when we visited Gigi and Pop's lake house!
Daddy also used to bring back Horny Toads for us every time he went hunting in South Texas. I loved those little lizards and am sad that they are endangered. Both of my parents taught us to have a compassionate heart for animals, but I learned early, that DAD was the one to go to when I wanted to keep a pet I had found! Mr. Baker had a birthday party at his farm when I was really little. Each family invited was supposed to bring a farm animal for him. It was so much fun for all the kids when Mr. Baker opened each "crate" to see what animal would come out! I was in HEAVEN! Recently, I thought that if I am so blessed to have a ranch some day, that would be my DREAM birthday party! (hint hint) One of my FAVORITE animals the Baker's had was their pet goat, JOB! Dad would take me with him to the Baker's ranch when he went fishing but we would always have to stop to get carrots on the way so I could feed the horses!

At Second Baptist in third grade, each class hatched chickens from eggs in an incubator. I am sure you can imagine 20 3rd graders excitement when the chicks finally started to peek out of their shells! Well, of course I HAD to take my two chickens home with me. Luckily Mom and Dad allowed me to keep my chickens in the backyard in our Memorial home. Dad would catch June bugs at night and feed them to the chickens by hand. Needless to say, my chickens had a pretty ritzy life. How many chickens are hand fed bugs?? The time came when they started crowing and we took them to Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lucy's farm. I wasn't as sad when I saw the chickens running around eating as many grasshoppers as they could catch! They were pretty funny!
More than anything in the world, I wanted a dog! We lived in a small house in West University and my parents wanted to move to Memorial before we got a dog. I will never forgot being at Second Baptist on a day when everyone was supposed to bring their dog to school. Well, I had my stuffed animal dog and I still remember how sad I was that I didn't have a REAL dog like everyone else. We FINALLY moved and Daddy and I went to C.A.P and immediately found our dog! We raced home and brought the whole family back and KNEW that Charlie was the one! I finally had the dog I always dreamed of! Charlie was a special part of our family and our childhood would not have been the same without him! He was so cute with his under bite and his ferocious barking (from behind the couch!)

I rode when I was little but didn't have horses so it was sporadic. I found a beautiful horse in a magazine when I was really little and kept the picture well into college JUST in case anyone wanted to know what kind of horse I wanted! :-) I remember watching National Velvet and totally identifying with Velvet's overwhelming desire for her own horse! When I was 11, I went to Camp Waldemar and got to ride 2 hours every day! There was an elite riding group called Connie's Cowgirls and my counselor told me that if I worked REALLY hard, I could make it into that group and ride for 4 hours every day! I worked so hard and memorized (literally) every part of the horse anatomy (which i have completely forgotten now!) and made it into Connie's Cowgirls! I was probably one of the only girls who didn't have my own horse and was probably the least experienced rider. . . but I tried my best every time and it paid off! I took riding lessons for a while after I quit going to Waldemar, but high school got in the way. I still love riding but, again, it is sporadic! I hope one day to have a ranch and be able to have my very own horse! Since I have waited so long, I think I will appreciate it so much more!!

Throughout my years at home, I had fish, canaries, and Charlie! Much to my dismay, I was not allowed to get any other pets! Not that I didn't try! My favorite date with Daddy was to go to the bird store and look at all the beautiful parrots! Emily Jochetz and Ashley Suddarth also helped me in my endeavor to have as many animals as possible. Emily and I found a cat with mange in a friends front yard. We took it to the animal hospital and quickly realized that we didn't have the five hundred dollar deposit needed for the cat to be examined, so naturally we took it back to my house! I put it in my room with some milk and tuna and put a note on my door that said, "Do NOT go in my room" and then left to hang out with friends! When I got home, my mother told me that whatever was in my room needed to go outside immediately! I COULD NOT understand why we HAD to put the cat outside! It was gone the next morning and I was so upset!
Ashley, Mrs. Suddarth and I also found a turtle! Mrs. Suddarth crawled in a ditch to rescue it for us and . . . of course it came home with me! It lived in the backyard for a while before Dad took it to the Arboretum. I wanted to build it a huge habitat in my bedroom, but had to settle for the "outside" habitat Dad helped me make! From getting to go behind the scene at Sea World to babysitting a litter of pointer puppies for a week, my childhood was filled with animals!
Kanakuk brought lots of new animal experiences! From baby deer, raccoons, and wolf pups, there was always something interesting being nurtured at Kamp!

My love of course did not stop when I went to college. When Amy Hardy got chickens for her birthday, she knew who to call! I took them to my parents house and they took care of them until they were too old and had to go to the farm! For some reason, the Lord must have thought it was funny to keep putting chickens in my path because a later year in college David Schwarz had 4 baby chicks he needed to get rid of! Well, of course, I knew where to take them! They were beautiful and turned out to be Rode Island Reds. I named them after the four girls in Lonesome Dove: Laurie, Peach, Clara, and Elmira! It was after I "surprised" my parents with the third set of chickens that my mom gave me the lecture which included, "You may not bring things to our house that breathe without our permission." These were my favorite set of chickens and had such funny personalities! Dad made them a whole roost area outside and every night they would follow each other up the ladder to their branch, where they would cuddle together! Dad would also get a shovel and dig up the compost pile to look for worms. Well, the chickens got to know the routine and when Dad went for the shovel, they came running. It got to the point that he could barely put the shovel in the ground because they were all around his feet looking for bugs and worms! He also, OF COURSE, hand fed them June bugs! My mom even admitted when the chickens had to go to the farm that she missed seeing the colorful birds out in the backyard!

My junior year in college, I lived next to some Sigma Chi's that had two labs! I loved those labs so much and braved running in Cameron Park when I had both of them with me! Duke's personality was a little wary of strangers and I knew if someone ever messed with me, Duke would kill them! He was a pretty big lab and was red because his parents had been chocolate and yellow. Darla was the sweetest thing! She was chocolate and smaller and LOVED to cuddle! She thought she was really a lap dog. Senior year, I begged Kyle and Cole to let me breed Duke and Darla. I said I would do all the work as long as I could get a puppy! Finally, February 11th came and the puppies were born! I immediately picked out Gus! He was the only "red" boy! There had been a massive discussion with my parents about me getting my own dog because Charlie was very old and Mom didn't want a puppy aggravating him. Well, the Lord works in mysterious ways and Charlie passed away before Gus was born. So Spring Break, I loaded Darla and the 11 puppies into my Tahoe and headed to Houston! Cole was going skiing over Spring Break and of course I volunteered to take the puppies to Houston with me! Dad had so much fun playing with all the puppies for the week! Mom, thought they were cute, from a distance! :-) When the time came, I finally got to take Gus home and we have been best friends ever since! There is nothing like having a wagging tail and a goofy smile meet you every time you come home! He is so funny and it is debatable whether he like food or being in the water more. . . the jury is still out!

My travels have also led be to some pretty fun "animal" experiences!
Holding a sea urchin in New Zealand

Petting sheep in Australia!

We got picked to hold the cow in a farm show in Australia. . . I think they knew we were from TEXAS!

Feeding kangaroos in Australia!

Feeding the Asian elephants in Australia
Feeding the monkeys on the Rock of Gibraltar!
I will always have pets. Right now, I am limited to Kappa, my Betta, and various fish in my fish tank, and Gus Gus! Gus is my baby and we do everything together! His personality is like Duke's and I can't take him certain places for fear that he will EAT someone! (he is just trying to protect me!) It has been so much fun going through hunt test with him and going with my Dad to watch his progress. My family is obsessed with him! Gus goes to "Grandparent Day Care" every day while I am at work! One of my favorite stories is when Gus was a puppy and Mom and Dad were taking care of him, he had to stay in the laundry room at night time. Parker was home one weekend and felt so bad for him that he slept in the laundry room with Gus all night! Dad is by far the most obsessed! He even takes Gus to the office sometimes! Every morning when I bring Gus to "Grandparent Day Care," Dad gives Gus a biscuit and takes him outside to throw the ball! It is like clockwork! Nothing can ever compare to the love of a dog!

One day I would love to own a ranch so I can REALLY have my own Noah's Ark! Can't you just see it!??!! A cow named Norman, two donkeys - Eeyore and Donkey, pigs - Wilbur and Babe, goats, horses, rabbits, cats, and, of course, chickens!
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

1 Miss D, what is a canta lupe?

As the kids pile into my classroom, they noisily take their seats. The bell rings and my name suddenly changes to MEEZ.
"Damond, get your book out." "Cheri, stop writing your boyfriend's name on your arm in marker." "Gaven, please don't hit Candy." "Ramon, stop calling D'Andre 'gay' in Spanish."

Yes, I am teaching summer school. While the rest of my colleagues are lounging by the pool, I am molding the minds of America's youth. . . the ones that couldn't make it through the year with a 70 average. I truly love my kids and I am a firm believer that when your kids know you love them, they are more inclined to like you too! So, I am pretty sure the feeling is mutual. My kids know that I will "go to bat for them" and that I care! I care. . . a lot of these kids have only a handful of people in their lives that really care. I would say that half of the kids are in summer school based on laziness. They can do the work and are smart but just didn't do their homework THE WHOLE YEAR or in the case of the few Memorial Middle school kids, decided that projects did not apply to them! It makes me sad that they are having to waste their break in summer school when they really don't need to be here. BUT, hopefully one summer will make them never want to come back! The other half of the kids literally are grades behind. They have severe gaps in their learning and it would take a miracle for them to catch up. Each of these students have a different story. Growing up in Mexico, not going to school while living in El Salvador, not really knowing how to read and write in Spanish or English, and the list goes on. These are the kids who really need my attention! Although we are in summer school, we manage to have fun while learning! I have attached two DESCRIPTIVE stories, we wrote as a class. There are only one or two girls in each class which attests to the graphic nature of the stories! Hey, if they are learning how to make a descriptive sentence using sensory words, I don't really care what the topic is! After reading these, you can imagine how much fun the boys had trying to "outdo" the other class with the 'grossest' story!

The Cockroach

The girl screamed as the cockroach emerged from her mouth.
Horrified, she realized the cockroach had been in her mashed potatoes.
She feels the antennas as they flick her lips.
The girl spits the cockroach out and tastes bile as it gushes out of her mouth.
The smell of vomit reaches her nose and she throws up again.
As she is gaining her composure, she sees the cockroach waving its antennas mockingly at her. Then it turns and runs away.
By Miss Dalton’s 1st period class

The Foot Fungus Incident

Shocked, the boy looked at his white, cracked-open feet.
Foot fungus had overtaken them.
Green puss oozed from the cracks between his toes.
He looked out into the ocean where all his friends were splashing in the salt water.
He slowly stepped onto the beach.
As the sand scraped into the cracks in his feet, he screamed with pain and ran to the water for relief.
He dove into the water, and he came back up like a blasting firework.
Looking like Fat Albert, he waddled out of the ocean not wanting to put weight on either foot.
As he collapsed on a beach chair, all he could think about was removing the salt water from his cracked feet. Disgusted by the skin peeling off between his toes, he realized there was only one way to remove the painful salt water. Slowly he leaned down and started licking the salt water off his fungus-covered toes.
By Miss Dalton’s 4th period class

Sadly, I have heard from one student, "I really have nothing better to do over the summer." Some of these kids are so lost. Teaching middle school for 3 years has taught me that MANY kids that age are lost. They are staring at "two roads [that] diverged in a yellow wood." Kids make life changing decisions in middle school especially who their friends are. The world and Satan are doing everything they can to capture these kid's attention. To give you an example of the reality of this, there are two pregnant kids in summer school. Yes, KIDS. Some of the girls come to school and you wonder, "Did your mother see you before you left?" SOOO many of the girls put all their worth into attracting guy's attention. In a story we are reading aloud as a class, one of the main character's parents just got divorced and she is waiting for her dad to come and get her. (Remember, reading comprehension is NOT a strong point for these kids.) I put my book down and asked the class, "What do you think is going to happen." Like a chorus, the ENTIRE class said, her dad isn't going to come get her. I said, "Why do you think that?" More than one kid piped up that all dad's break promises and disappear. That literally broke my heart. These kids need Jesus! God is the Father who will NEVER disappears and NEVER break a promise.

These past two weeks have made me think why these kids are at this point in their lives. Why are cuss words a permanent part of their vocabulary? Why do ALL of my kids know the difference between red and blue (and I am not talking about in the crayon box)? Where do they get that hard and defiant look in their eyes? Why do they not care about their future?

I believe it all points back to their parents and their environment. In thinking about that, it made me reflect on my childhood and my middle school years. My parents instilled in us the value of our relationship with Jesus and becoming involved in our church. We went to Beach Retreat and Kanakuk which only furthered our walk with the Lord. My mom was at the school in 5 minutes if I ever needed her. One particular instance comes to mind when she DEMANDED that the paramedics take me to Texas Children's instead of Memorial City after a fall from a cheerleading pyramid. My parents were so involved in our lives! Dates with my dad were always so special! It was fun to hang out with him when it was JUST us! They also pushed us to do our best in school and have a love for learning! I remember my mom reading the first chapter of 'Tuck Everlasting' to me when I thought it was boring. Well after hearing HER read it, I took it away and fled to my room, anxious to finish the book and find out what happened . . . needless to say, that is one of my favorite books of all time! In reflecting. . .

My mother made us learn Bible verses ever since we were little kids.
My mom made us have learning time and quiet time when we were little EVERY day in the summer. We had to sit on our beds and read before nap time.
My mom and dad made us have FAMILY time and play games together.
My parents still have traditions at Christmas time like my dad reading The Christmas Story, me reading "Joseph, I had a dream", etc. (Don't worry, Nate has a part in the tradition too now!)
They wouldn't let me go over to a friends house until they had met the parents.
We always ate dinner as a family, even if it meant eating at Luby's at 4:00 so Parker and Clark could make it to their baseball game on time.
My parents always needed to know where I was.
They always wanted to know who I was hanging out with.
My parents sacrificed so they could send us to Kanakuk every year.
They gave us a curfew.
We were taught to love each other and got in MAJOR trouble if we didn't stick up for each other!
Family values were taught.
When I was grounded, there were no exceptions. Not even a friend's birthday party.
I was spanked when I was little.
Parker, Clark and I weren't allowed to fight.
Mom was always there when we got home from school, ready to hear about our day.
We went to church every Sunday.
They told us that their love was like Christ's. . . unconditional.
We had to give 10 percent of our allowance to the church and 10 percent to our piggy bank!
My parents demanded respect.
They disciplined us, held us accountable, and taught us right from wrong.

With all of that said, one word comes to mind. . . BLESSED!
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

1 Play Ball


This word means so much to me! I love driving to the field and anticipating what kind of game I will be watching! Will it be a "track meet" or will it be a nail biter? (literally) . . .

I used to live next door to Second Baptist's baseball fields. My favorite thing to wake up to in the spring was the sound of batting practice!

Where did "the love of the game" start? Well, after being dragged to one million baseball games for my brothers over the years I came to love the sport. I learned how to keep score and to this day truly enjoy doing it! Keeping score is almost like a challenge to me. . . will the scoreboard agree with my judgement on the play? Will I know how to score all plays on the field? Sitting next to my dad all those years taught me quite a bit and I rarely make a mistake! :-)

Baseball has taken me all over the US! From the Bronco World Series in California to Spring Training for the Dodgers in Florida, most of our traveling was due to baseball. Baseball also forged incredible relationships and friends. . . sadly, baseball has ended for most of Parker and Clark's former teammates. . . the older you get, the fewer the players left in the journey towards the "big leagues." God has also taken away some of our baseball friends which makes us just trust in him, trying not to question why. . .

It is even through baseball that I met my man! God's perfect timing led me to a cute Aggie at the Minute Maid Classic!

I have so many fond memories of the game. . .

  • I remember Parker and Clark in their little baseball uniforms heading off to tee ball practice.
  • I remember the Twins with both sets of twins on the team.
  • I remember Mom and I walking up and down the streets in Monterrey eating and stopping in restaurants for a soda. . . just doing whatever we wanted while the boys practiced!
  • I remember when Parker was warming up to go in and pitch and broke Dad’s nose.
  • I remember eating at Luby's at 4:00 before a baseball game JUST so we could eat dinner as a FAMILY!
  • I remember Parker and Clark's senior year when they played second and short. . . "Dalton to Dalton for the double play!"
  • I remember when Parker signed with A&M and we all went to the MHS library to make it official.
  • I remember Mom and Dad letting me go to LSU to see Baylor play at the Super Regionals!
  • I remember going to the College World Series with Clark and sharing a suite because that was the last room left in the hotel! What an incredible time with my bro!!
  • I remember driving 24 hours (it sure felt like it) to go see Parker (the Mayor) in Mineral Wells. Clark and I kept asking how much longer because we were DYING!
  • I remember sitting next to Mom at ALL the A&M games talking about a million different things while trying to keep up with the game! One of my most favorite memories in baseball!
  • I remember when Dad texted me in the fall, “Call me,” and then learned that Parker had cancer.
  • I remember learning that Parker was cancer free.
  • I remember watching Parker have the best season of his life after defeating cancer.
  • I remember when Parker got Big 12 Sportsman of the Year and the following fall got in a fight that cleared both benches.
  • I remember watching Thebeau throw a 9 inning game to pull A&M to a regional win.
  • I remember watching the draft religiously and not believing my eyes when I saw Parker Dalton - Dodgers.
  • I remember going to my first Spring Training and seeing Parker make a triple play.

Baseball will come to an end at some point for our family. The day will come when Parker will either get released or pass the baseball down the bench with "For Love of the Game" written on it. But it has been an incredible journey while it has lasted. . . The Lord has provided some kind of adventures! I am just thankful that I have had the opportunity to be a fan of this American pastime!

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

1 My Gigi

My grandmother chose to be called G.G. (after Grandmother Goodman) and I adapted that to Gigi! She has been an integral part of my life and we are two peas in a pod! She is 88 years young and acts like a 21 year old. . . minus the binge drinking! Gigi is a social butterfly and you have to make plans with her WAY in advance or she will be booked with parties, bridge, plays, movies, trips, etc. A perfect story about Gigi is one she told at lunch on Sunday. The fire alarm went off in her condominium and the building turned the elevator off. Well, Gigi was hosting a party at Cafe Annie, the flowers were in the car, and she needed to get to the restaurant! So, Gigi walked down the 5 flights of stairs so she could make it to her party on time! That is VERY Gigi! She has helped make me the person I am today. From the Junior League to culture, nice restaurants and trips all over the world, I am forever indebted to her. To sum up Gigi's personality. . . today, we spent most of our time together discussing her 90th birthday party!
I went to lunch with her today at "our place" (Barnaby's)! After she received her massive hamburger and fries, she turned to me and said that Pops would have been 95 on Sunday. Pops was my grandfather . . . not by blood but by everything else! We talked about how he was planning a trip (at 89) for him and me to go to Antarctica because that was the one continent he had never been to. We remembered how he used to slip the grand kids 20 dollar bills under the table! It was good to talk about what an impact he had on both of our lives and relive some of our fondest memories of him!
I dropped Gigi off with a date set for us to go to tea at the St. Regis! (one of the reasons we are so alike!)
In looking back over our lunch, it amazes me how much one person has effected my life in such a positive way! As I told her today, she has aged gracefully and with vim and vigor! I only pray that I can be half the person she is when I am 88!
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