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Thursday, July 24, 2014

For Me!

After I started elementary school in Jacksonville, TX in 1945, I never took my lunch to school because our house was on the same block as West Side School so I walked home almost every day for lunch.  Rarely I was given a quarter to buy my lunch at school which I considered a nice, if infrequent, treat!  If by chance I needed a sack lunch for something, it was just that - a waxed paper wrapped sandwich in a small brown paper sack.

When our sons started their years in Davis Elementary School in Plano, TX in the 1970's, lunch room prices had increased considerably, and most of the time they still had homemade lunches. They just carried them to school in cartoon character or superhero embellished metal  lunch boxes which had their names marked with indelible markers. Since plastic sandwich bags had been introduced in the late 1950's, their sandwiches most often were snugly enclosed in a baggie (no zipper on top), a Ziploc bag, or Tupperware!  If I stopped to do the math X 3 boys for making sandwiches, bagging them and assembling said sandwich, some fruit, chips, and a cookie or three into the corners of those rattly dented lunch boxes, it might make me feel tired, so I will just propose that over those years that happened thousands of times.  Often I tucked a note inside to send a little love along with lunch. I am pretty sure by first grade they did not let their friends see those notes.

In May, I started going to our youngest son's home to take care of my newest granddaughter. Her other grandma and I are sharing time, so I go every third week for my days with Nora, now 4 months old.  On the first Monday, I arrived at 6:00 a.m. to give them time for departure for their jobs by 6:15.  As they kissed their little one goodbye, picked up their things and started to leave, Ben turned around and said.  "Oh, Mom...I made your sandwich for lunch.  It is in the frig." As my eyes filled with tears and memories, I gave him a hug and thanked him before holding his daughter a little closer and breathing her sweet baby scent.

I am keeping that sandwich bag.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lifelong Friends

I have been working lately at clearing clutter in our house and garden, reducing the number of things I need to clean and care for.  Cleaning out closets, clearing shelves, sorting out the pantry and organizing cabinets is not so much house cleaning - more a spiritual and physical reorganization, I think. But I am loyal to my friends, and many of my books are lifelong friends.  Books like the one in the photograph have been with me ever since I was old enough to read. Then there are the books our sons loved and read over and over again. Add to those the classics, mystery series, poetry, memoir, writing books, and the shelves of books which have been Bible study and spiritual formation guides. I know that the key to reducing the numbers of books lies in beginning to give them away and to stop buying anymore, but I am not making much progress.

I may be able to fill boxes for the Friends of the Library book sale by taking stacks of paperback mysteries, perhaps even some of the series of books written by an author I enjoyed.  But many others I will choose one at a time to introduce to a friend or a granddaughter.  I have always believed in practicing hospitality and  introducing my friends to each other. It pleases me to know that my lifelong friends can become the same kind of friend to someone else.

I previously mentioned my book friends in this post:

Thursday, July 10, 2014


My husband, Joe Parker, recently retired from work as a well respected geophysicist after 52 years in various positions in the oil industry. I love him deeply, and am proud of him for many reasons. I  look forward to his having more time to spend enjoying our family and friends, working as a stained glass artist, capturing beautiful moments with his camera, gardening, and indulging in some well earned fun and rest.

During these weeks leading up to and following the actual retirement date, I have heard one person after another thank him and talk about the ways he mentored, encouraged, and impacted lives.  But the following, written by our oldest son, Sean Parker,  so beautifully paints the picture that I wanted to share it here.

Today is my dad, Joe Parker's first day of retirement after a brilliant and well respected 52 year career in exploration geophysics. His work has taken him (and us, as his family) around the world.

I'm so proud of my dad. His career has been executed with the finest appreciation for the value of driving love and care and attention into the most basic tasks. He is an artist and an authority in his field and should rightfully be proud of his accomplishments, but the humble and accomodating spirit he extends to his peers at every level is something I sincerely hope I can emulate. I'm so grateful to him for the way he's always shared his love for his work with me and the positive impact that's had on my experience of living my own work. When I feel proud of doing something well, it doesn't take long to realize that it's his influence on me that made it so, and he's usually the first person I want to share it with.

I've tried to imagine what it must feel like to reach the summit of a life's work. I can imagine there could be a sense of work being "over" and that a chapter is ending. For my dad, though, there can't be an "over" or an ending...there's only "complete", and the fact that the inspiration and love he poured into his work has grown into me, and my brothers, and the hundreds of others whose lives and work he's touched. The hands that do my work were formed by his, and I'll proudly bear his legacy forward.

Congratulations, Dad. Job very, very well done, Sir

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mother's Kitchen Stool

I have several pieces of antique furniture that once belonged to my mother and her mother before:  an oak china cabinet of Civil War vintage, a wash stand, a library table, a rocking chair that I myself was rocked in when I was a baby, my dining table, Grandma Terrell's bureau.   I have written about the dining table, and will probably write about some of these other things at another time, but this kitchen stool with its worn edges and chipped paint, has been "talking" to me lately.  It belonged to my mother for as long as I remember, and she painted it this pale green when she repainted her kitchen cabinets in the house on Sunset Ave. where I grew up.  It went with her to the little brick house on Tena Street she and Daddy bought in the 1970's, and when she sold that house over 20 years later, the stool went to her tiny apartment in Jacksonville.  There, where the kitchen was not big enough for a stool, it sat in the corner with a circle of lace over it and held the Bible that had once belonged to my father.  In 2002, Mother's dwindling possessions and the stool moved from East Texas to Sugar Land,  to another small apartment where the lace cloth and Bible were unpacked and put back into place.  

In mid July of 2006, Mother began receiving hospice care so I began the sad task of clearing the rooms where she had spent her last years. The kitchen stool came home to another kitchen, mine. I once thought of repainting it with cheerful colors and patterns, but somehow that didn't seem right. I had grown to love every chip and scratch, and in these last 8 years it has taken on a new dignity and task. Now, this stool is where my granddaughters perch to help me cook. When they stir and taste and laugh, I feel my mother's joy blending with mine.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The happiest times on my calendar right now are the days I care for my granddaughter Nora! Every third week is "our" week.  At 3 months, there are certain constants: feedings, diapering, and naps. I love the tending that requires. And I love the joy of the in between times - the cuddling, conversation and cooing, the rocking and singing and togetherness that refills her and comforts her and is important to her as well as those first 3 essentials.

She doesn't mind my crackly voice singing "A, You're Adorable."  We make it through that song every diaper change. If there is an entire clothing change, we sometimes get through several songs from The Sound of Music!  She talks to me with her eyes to say thank you, and flashes a coquettish grin when I brush her hair.

Yesterday we walked outside to catch a raindrop and she smelled a basil leaf when I made my lunch. She likes dots and patterns so I choose the blouse I will wear for her. We play peek a boo and pat a cake and chant nursery rhymes. When I rock her to sleep, I sing many of the same old hyms that my mother and grandmother sang to me. We have discovered that Christmas carols are wonderful lullabies!

Our other granddaughters are a joy to me and teach me just like she does that there is so much to look forward to. They help me remember some favorite lines from a poem by Mary Oliver:      "Pay attention.
   Be astonished.
    Tell about it."
 - all so much more fun when we do it together!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Gift

Last week Joe received cards, gifts, hugs, and celebrated with our sons who are also fathers as we gathered around our full table (once the place where my Grandma Terrell gathered her own clan to share meals).  This drawing was a gift to him from our oldest son, Sean.  Joe had hinted to him that he would like one of Sean's drawings.

The "canvas" for this work of art is a plain paper table napkin!  Sean has done hundreds of these, all unique, for tucking into his daughter's school lunch box!  What began when she was in preschool continued for several years, each morning bringing a representation of Skye's choice the night before.  When I was little, my mother used to ask me what I wanted for breakfast this next morning.  I would tell her "cinnamon toast" and that is what was on the table the following day before I went to school.  Skye would answer the question "What do you want for your napkin tomorrow?" And there would be seahorse,a dragonfly a tiger a mermaid, bees or a wolf!  All for Skye,  all containing "I love you, Dad."

Joe didn't tell Sean what image he wanted. The image is a gift in that way too. Joe's July birthday makes him a Leo.  But Sean's love of The Lion of Judah and Narnia's Aslan shines through his offering to his Dad, Sean's own dear Lion King.

This "I love you, Dad"  is a to instead of from.  I love it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I never once called him "Father."  He was always my Daddy. In this photo where everyone looks down and squints from the sun , Daddy proudly stands in his Sunday best with Mother and me,  most likely on a Sunday after church. I was about 4 years old, which makes him 34. The year was 1945, about the time he proudly purchased their first home and we all moved into the small white frame house on the corner of Sunset Avenue and Pineda Drive in Jacksonville, Texas.

The suit and tie were saved for church, weddings, and funerals. The rest of the time he wore khaki pants and a button front work shirt, both starched and freshly ironed, covered during the times when he worked in his cafe by a large white apron  - work clothes.

Today I am remembering Daddy's hands, hands that picked me up, soothed my hurts,  made bread dough and shaped pie crusts, flipped pancakes, griddled hamburgers, worked with rake and hoe and planted seeds, grafted pecan trees,scattered hay for his cows, gripped a pickup's steering wheel, tipped his hat to passersby, held a Bible, opened doors for my mother, and applauded each tiny accomplishment of his daughters. Those hands poured coffee, fried bacon, waved goodbye, worked a factory assembly line, scraped ice from windshields and broke ice on stock tank surfaces, doctored animals, Those hands trembled when he gave me away in marriage and wiped away tears when I lost a baby, the same hands that reached for each of my sons after they were born and held them close.

When Daddy's hands trembled from Parkinson's instead of wedding nerves, his coffee cup rattled in the saucer  (he said coffee always tasted better in a cup with a saucer). Tomorrow is a day for remembering fathers,.  I salute the fine father of my children, and celebrate the excellent fathers my sons have become.  And I am grateful forever for my own Daddy, whose hands still remind me of the best ways to work and live and love..