Bullock: Blinded by Love

Hope Floats. Sandra, you float. The role that won Oscar for Best Actress stands eclipsed by the real life drama we watched since that auspicious night Sandra Bullock stood in shimmering gown holding the Hollywood honor of honors, husband Jesse James by her side. Walking the red carpet, glowing above the gown, smiling for photographers, we were awed.

Suddenly, the unthinkable: beauty, glamour, artistry, not enough. Just as suddenly disappearing from public eye, we wonder, “Is she living out the drama she played when a ludicrous scene in a movie gone by left her shocked before the world and bereft of will to rise?”

Not this Sandra, not this place, not this time. Blinded by love. The cries and giggles of  new life sustain her and move the mother protector inside. Not as though, she didn’t struggle. Together with Louis, her son, she will. She will rise and stand: compassion and dignity. No “Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” for Sandra. Let the others play that tired song.

 Welcome, Sandra to new life. Welcome to new love.  Thank you for continued grace and style. Thank you for giving us the joy of sharing yours.

From BJ to Sandra.

Kate, I Hope You Dance

Kate Gosselin, I Hope You Dance! You and Toni Dovolni ROCK!

Kate-Promo picture for DWTS

Enough. This media Hate-Kate stuff bores me. Who made them god to judge? 

“Might as well, can’t dance,” our mantra in the Bible Belt where I grew up. Then my son married a Czech-American girl. The mantra in their town, “Polka ‘til you drop!” Two weeks before my daughter-in-law’s brother married, I took my first polka lesson, hoping to “polka ‘til I dropped.”

Two weeks later, I held on so tight, I nearly tore the arm off the only gentleman who asked me to dance. But I was hooked. A move to the mountains of North Carolina where ballroom dance is king And queen changed my life. Soon I was dancing three to five nights a week and feeling ecstatic.

“Center of gravity,” “frame light,” “little steps…little steps” “head high, boobs up” “suede soles,” “glitzy gowns,” Wow! No one, no one can know what is required of ballroom dancing until–they dance ballroom. It looks so glamorous. It is so much work! Yet, the best aerobic and psychic booster.

Ballroom dancing takes old women from sick beds of depression to life again. Ballroom dancing lets young men and women feel like stars, and older men and women feel young again.

How many of us get to dance like we were born to it? Mastering it takes months, years of discipline and commitment. Kate did well. To come from a novice in this amount of time?…Of course, she looked uncomfortable. She was. Only a very special coach waltzed her past the first night on Dancing With the Stars. They both have my greatest respect.

Toni Dovolni, you are the best. Kate, I hope you keep dancing…dance with your kids…Bon Voyage.

From BJ to Kate and Toni.

Mimi’s Rules

Uh…arg…oh my gosh,

Oh…Mimi…What rule is this?

     Freckled faced, handsome in spite of his pug nose, thirteen-year-old Carl stared blankly at me across the bar that separated the kitchen and the family room. One, maybe both of us, mouths suspended, said nothing. What rule was it? Our rules suddenly so cumbersome neither could conjure a guess.

     Carl shrugged; his pause stole the urgency. Then off to the solace of his room and whatever game currently captured his attention. Betty followed to hers, pleasingly content that her brother had not exactly won their latest squabble.

     Sinking back into the comfort of an easy chair now molded to the contours of my body from long hours of reading, grading papers and pondering, I asked myself, “What rule is it? How many rules do we have anyway? There weren’t always so many.”

    My freshman year in college our orientation teacher explained that rules are made because someone’s boundaries are not respected. Right on! So when children learn responsibilities and boundaries, how do we define them? Are ten enough? Do we need as many as, say, Congress? 

      Are rules made to help, or rule? …Sobering…

      Nightfall came. The questions nagged and gnawed at my brain.

     Finally morning dawned. Ahh, mornings. Everything looks brighter with yesterday in the backdrop. Settling into my chair before the kids began another cacophony: “Get out of my room!” “Why don’t you mind your own business?” “I’m bored.” “Do I have to?” new thoughts emerged. Quickly penning a note with squigglies and smiley faces, the new sign on the fridge read:  

      Take care of yourself.

      Take care of your space.

      Make a contribution.

      Easy rules to follow. Umm, well…sorta.

     The kids figured the first two out pretty fast. The third one was a kicker. Three teens and one almost, tried quickly to map out the shortest and easiest possible contribution. After all, biking in the park and running with their friends was lots more important. 

     “Not so fast, what one person feels is a contribution may not be so to another.  A contribution is a compact! We both agree,” I chided, deciding we could get to Random Acts of Kindness later.

     Well, we stuck by those simple rules. Now they have wings. Little one’s of their own occupy new hopes and dreams.

     Bon voyage! From this Mimi, BJ, to four very special grandchildren.

Riding an Elephant


 “Lo-o-ook, Mimi, Look!!” five year-old Charlie shouted out of breath. Putting down the cookie cutter, dusting off my hands, I took his while he hurried me out the front door into the yard. “… what to my wondering eyes should appear?” How could this be? The only circuses I knew anything about were set up under big coliseum domes with bright lights, sound systems, and…

Here in our little town was a circus parade! Down the street marched a small band stepping high in rather worn uniforms; the drummer pounding out his cadence, and the bugles blaring. Next came the animals: lions, tigers in their cages, a man on high stilts, another playing with monkeys perched on his shoulders while two others held his hands laughing and sneering at the audience gathering next to the street. The monkeys, switching places with each other incessantly, looked more like they were leading the man, than he leading them.

Finally, we saw the elephants, not like Zenobia drunk with ale, but friendly elephants with babies holding their mothers’ tails by their trunks. A clown whirling cartwheels, ran over to the sidewalk handing out leaflets. My grandson and granddaughter grabbed the papers, then almost tore them from my hands. “What does it say? Where will it be? Can we go, oh, can we go, Mimi?”

Amazing! The leaflet invited us to watch, even help, as the circus set up. Just to entice us even more, they offered a ride on the elephants. Who could resist? Sugar cookies can wait. We piled in the car and drove to the circus set. Electricity filled the air. Jubilation soared! Stifling smells of animal dung and sweaty men coarsed our nostrils, but no one cared.

The tent lay flat on the ground; clowns, gymnasts, every member of the troupe worked hard. Brittney, almost three now, grabbed my hand. A scruffy looking man walked over, “Would ya like a ride little girl…little boy?” Two children jumping up and down on tippy toes two minutes before, suddenly became wimps, hiding behind their grandmother on either side.

Looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, the man assured us, “Lucy can take all three of you right up there. I’ll put the little girl on Lucy’s head after you are up, you can hold onto her, and I’ll lift the little feller. He can sit behind and hold onto you.” That’s the way we did it. Lucy gently wrapped her strong trunk around my body, lifting me slowly onto her shoulder.  With Lucy’s strong, tough trunk around my waist, floating up onto her back felt primordial. Spiritual. Our motherhood, once girlish youth seemed one. She was calm and confident. So much so, I, too, felt confident, trusted and trusting. It seemed Lucy, the children and I had entered a nether world, still and quiet like a dream, calm and soothing. The cheers of the crowd, the yells of the working crew faded.

Lucy took us for a slow ambling lap around the park. After a second lap around, our matronal Lucy lowered her front feet and trunk to the ground as the kindly scruff helped us off one by one. We patted and hugged her saying good-bye, assuring her we would be back for the evening show.

Standing for a moment, we watched as she sauntered slowly away with another set of children, turning her head and batting her eyelids fondly toward us. Waving in reply we turned toward the supine tent.

Even filling water buckets for the animals was fun. Of course, we didn’t know if we were stepping in spilled water or something else. Soon everyone in the troupe took their place around the tent. The elephants were staggered around the corners with ropes placed around their back legs. Slowly as they moved forward, the tent seemed to magically float into the air. We watched in amazement as the tent grew stable and inviting. We left knowing that however great the evening might be, it would not surpass our experience this morning. Unsuspecting in our waking hours, we lived that day joyfully in a time warp, now faded history.

From Mimi, BJ, to Kay and Charlie.

Wake Up Call

Sunrise-Photo by Hud

“Everybody asleep, raise your right hand.” Sunlight creeping through sheers and bottom windows shone just a little brighter as a small right hand slipped from under the cover high into the air on each bed in the cozy bedroom sisters, Nancy and Judith Harkins, shared. “Everybody asleep, raise your left foot.” Two little left feet flew out of the covers high into the air.

As sure as morning dawned, Mr. Harkins began stropping his straight razor while his wife, Susan, prepared breakfast. The smell of biscuits in the oven, frying bacon and fresh perked coffee wafted through the house across the pretty pink yo-yo quilts where Nancy and Judith lay possuming in the front bedroom down the hall. Without opening their eyes or budging, they listened to sounds of crackling bacon and the rhythmic swish, swish of the razor as their dad turned the handle on his safety sharpener.

Morning delighted the Franz Harkins’ household. Standing in the bathroom doorway, Franz announced, “Honey, I know that everyone in this house is asleep.” Down the hallway, two little girls snuggled deeper under the covers, stifling pint-sized giggles. Once their hands and feet were teased out of the covers, Franz ventured, “Well, Honey, if everyone is asleep, then no one will win the race.”

Four little feet instantly hit the floor running. Off to the bathroom, scrubbing faces, running to the closet, changing into freshly ironed dresses for school, pulling up anklets and tying brown oxfords, sheets and quilts pulled tight while pillows received a quick frump and fluff. Finally PJs were tucked underneath. A quick glance around the room for any stray clothes or dolls left out the night before told the sisters which one would make it to the hallway door first.

Daddy looked up, “Oh, it’s Nancy.” Daddy cupped his hands to his mouth provoking an imaginary trumpet sound, “Toot, too, dooo!” “Nancy is the winner of the first race!” Nancy literally slid in across the kitchen floor next to her Daddy. Together they trumpeted and shouted, “The winner of the second race,” Judith slid in all smiles, too.

Then Dad ran across the room to the doorway, while Judith and Nancy stood together trumpeting and shouting, “Toot-too-too!” “The winner of the third race.” Daddy slid all the way across the kitchen floor to his chair. He never won the first or second race. It was always the third race. The girls figured that out some time later. Back at the table, he paused, “Honey, is everything ready?” “Goodness gracious, Franz, you’re going to break your neck someday sliding in here that way.” With a gentle pat to her rump, Franz held Mother’s chair and then took his seat. Holding hands around the table one family member one day, and another the next, thanked the Lord and asked God’s blessings for the day ahead.  

My cousin and forever friend shared this true oral story about her childhood during Easter. Thank you, Nancy. Wish I had been so imaginative with my boys.

The Legend of the BlueBonnet

Photo by Hud

Lush blue horizons burst in profusion across Central and South Texas this April, creating a feast for travelers’ eyes. Our cold, wet winter gave us one of nature’s grandest shows. Delayed March winds rustle in undulating patterns through fields of blue buffalo clover. Wading carefully trying not to crush even one precious head, the fragrant scent so subtle and unique leaves a memory never to be forgotten.

Legends of the blue phenomenon abound in this land held precious by all who live on it. The Indians knew that buffalo were drawn to these delicate fields they called buffalo clover. They and the flowers were here before Europeans from Spain and France, then Mexico and later Germany, Holland, Ireland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, England and others set foot on this land. Enclaves and sometimes quaint communities still exist where the flowers bloom while customs and languages of these countries thrive just miles from booming industrial giants. A cultural mélange savoring its differences.

Yet the legends survive. The Tejanos called the flower conejo because it reminded them of the cottontail rabbits. Pioneers called them bluebonnets envisioning the sun bonnets worn by the women.  The most popular legend and civil by all means made immortal believe it or not, by a yankee. MS Word red lined this word, am I supposed to capitalize? 🙂 Now, what Texan would do that?

When Tomie dePaola came to the LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center outside of Austin, I drove to Austin, bought twenty something Legend of the BlueBonnets and Legend of the Indian PaintBrushes which he graciously signed. They are now in schools and the hands of children I love. Who knows, maybe he will come again. The beautiful story of an unselfish orphan sacrificing her prized doll for the good of her people is cherished by children all across the nation. The bluebonnet legacy left by her treasured doll’s blue jay feathers is just reward for such a noble act.

Yet other legends also survive. J. Frank Dobie, born in Live Oak County, Texas famous for writing about Texas Legends asked Mrs. Bruce Reid to share her collection in his book, Legends of Texas: Pirates’ Gold and Other Tales. These are not for the fainthearted, and the link here does not include the end of the last story, (A purchase, maybe.) but one can garner the many facets of the legend. During my tenacious search for the quintessential bluebonnet legend, my favorite find is the story of the Pinks which shows so vivily the inner conflict of the Tejanos during the revolution. I’m still trying to locate a 1926 copy of Mary Dagget-Lake’s book. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas immortalized her work. They have a library on the Alamo complex that houses many wonderful artifacts and historical archives.

And so the legend lives on. May our children, theirs and theirs continually enjoy the beauty we see today.

From BJ to everyone who loves the Texas Bluebonnets.

Final Four and Wedding Bells

Wedding Bells

Now just how does a wedding tie into a basketball story? Read on.

My youngest and his bride married on March 6. She is from a little town just about 20 miles south of my original home town. She and Sam met on the internet. Imagine that! They grew up so close, but never knew each other until someone invented a new world of communication. Alto is a wonderful little community of loving people. I am so happy for Sam to have chosen to make his home there with Patti.

She belongs to Hilltop Baptist Church, a church which bought the original school grounds. The school was razed, but the church decided to keep the gymnasium facility which included the auditorium stage, home economics department, where we had the rehearsal dinner, the ag department classrooms and, of course, the gym.

A beautifully modern reception hall welcomes members and friends where once half of the gym, the bleacher space, the cafeteria and the stage served eager teens. As we took our rehearsal dinner foods to the home ec area through the hall, we were suddenly in the other half of the now antiquated gym which is waiting for its facelift. I didn’t think much of it at first.

The next trip through that gym, there was time to look around. There to my complete astonishment, was the gym I used to play in with my high school team. We either played the Alto Yellow Jacket girls team or others in tournaments, not at all auspicious like the Baylor Lady Bears or the men’s Final Four, but we had fun. Trouble is, the Alto girls usually beat us. Alto had a harder time with our boys’ teams, but we girls just couldn’t hold a light to theirs. Looking at the aged floors, I could almost hear the sounds of voices echoing up and down the court. Somehow some pretty sweaty smells came into that journey down memory lane, ugh! However today, football reins king for the Jackets.

After Sam walked me down the aisle the next day, he took his place with Charles, Jacob, Dan and Patti’s brother. Hud and I sat down and looked up there to see our handsome men looking like Il Divo. It was just too much. The tears welled up and poured down. How stupid! The bride’s mother is supposed to cry, not the groom’s. The only way to hide it was to laugh at myself. Someone had thoughtfully placed a pretty square box of tissues at the end of each pew.

Sam and Patti brought both her mother and me a lovely long-stemmed rose. Now this is one of the other great things about a small town. Two weeks later, that rose from the Alto Florist  remained beautiful even though it didn’t get water for at least nine or ten hours. Roses usually wilt by the next day. What a great surprise! Well, Patti’s brother pronounced Sam and Patti man and wife in spite of the weepy groom’s mother and the ring bearer who wouldn’t come to the altar.

Thanks Sam and Patti for a beautiful wedding. May you raise a basketball team and have many beautiful years together.

Final Four-A Contagious Fever

Dr. James Naismith saved me. That’s what he did. Even though he died in 1939, long before I was born.

The Navy extended my husband of just five months instead of discharging him at the appropriate time saying he was soon to be on his way to the Mediterranean. Not wanting me to be in Florida alone, my husband drove our boxer and me across a treacherous mountain trip over frozen highways and black ice from Jacksonville, Florida to West Virginia, so that I could stay with his parents until Uncle Sam relented.

I soon began substituting in the one and two room school program still existing in the mountains of Wayne County, WVA at that time. First assignment: one room school up on Big Lynn, a hollow formed by a creek running down off the mountain. My first day was one of those rare days in February when the sun is shining. The eighth grade history lesson brought all the classroom into the circle to hear more about the history of basketball. The little guys just kept inching up closer until I motioned them all to join us. The book said, basketball began with a real basket. Points were made when the ball landed in the basket. Someone had to climb a ladder to retrieve the ball. (Guffaws from the kids.)

Hey, we had a basketball. One of the boys went home at lunch for a bushel basket. He cut the bottom out before returning with our new found goal. During our afternoon recess, we measured to just the right spot and nailed the basket up high on the back of the coal bin next to the playground, divided into teams, and you can imagine the rest. Even the little ones stood on the periphery to catch the ball and throw it back to the players in the middle.

We must have made a lot of noise. Pretty soon, my husband’s cousin, Bobby and a couple of other farmers from over the hills showed up in their pickups. When they joined us, the game went into overtime, just like our recess, as we played the first basketball game on Big Lynn. Now who wouldn’t love teaching or being a student for that matter with a start like that? Every pretty day, and some that weren’t so much, after that, each recess spawned a new game of basketball.

1936 American Gold

Dr. Naismith conceived his game in 1891. He would be amazed to see us click on these highlighted phrases to retrieve his full story, as much as he would by March Madness. After inventing this game ,that gives us heart attacks in March and April as we go madly toward the Final Four every year, Dr. Naismith watched the first Olympic basketball competition in 1936, at the Berlin Olympics.

From BJ to all those wonderful students on Big Lynn, cousins too :), and everyone with March Madness!

Final Four!

 Three points!! What’s more exciting than winning in the last seconds with a long distance shot through the net? Or more hair raising than watching a dull thud against the backboard, descend into a reverberating roll, in and out and around the rim while that orange orb makes up its infernal mind to go in or pummel off the side! Every breath in the stands hangs suspended while the big guys (or gals) vie for possession before the squeak of Nike Hypermax follows a sudden instantaneous trajectory. Nothing moves so fast or can change so quickly. Skill, discipline, practice and heart rolled into one conglomerate with talent. That’s basketball.

Basketball fans wait for the Final Four  each year. This year, however, is exceptional. There is warranted pleasure in seeing the Mountaineers, or ‘Eers if you care. Not since 1959 have they garnered this much respect for coach, team and staff. The whole Mountaineer Nation is proud.

Two of my sons were born in West Virginia . Even though we’ve been gone for too many years, West Virginia and Marshall, one of my alma maters, still feel like home. Most all the time the whole year around, West Virginia University’s Mountaineers and Marshall University’s Thundering Herd revel in their arch rivalry. Just put one of them on the national stage; their virtual brotherhood unites. Today, in Huntington, it’s all, “Go Mountaineers!” “All the way, Eers.” A few years back, the Mountaineers in Morgantown and our nation mourned and then cheered The Thundering Herd made legendary by their inimitable spirit, resulting in the movie, “We Are Marshall” with Matthew McConaughey.

This weekend we are counting on you, WVA show your stuff. “Go Mountaineers!”

Hmmm, a comment from the Mountaineers’ winning opponent took a jab in July at my last comment to him in March…”Mountaineers prevail.” Sorry, guy if you don’t understand. Win or lose, the Mountaineers have strength of character. They prevail, they work hard. They will win another day. Congratulations to your team for 2010.

Snow on Carroll Hill


Photo by Hud

Snow in Fort Worth on March 20th! Imagine! Poor Eskimos, they must be running out of ice for their igloos since they’ve sent so much our way.

     Hud and I settled down to a warm dinner about six in the evening when we looked up to see lovely swirls full of glittering flakes gyrating first one way and then another around our back yard. Surely these flurries would soon be gone, but much to our surprise, by late evening, a white blanket completely covered the grass.

     It brought back memories of being seven years old on Carroll Hill. We had the biggest snow I had ever seen. My brother and I loved every minute. We made snowballs and nearly froze our fingers off since we were not used to snow, had no mittens and used socks instead. Daddy skimmed the freshest snow to make snow cream; we ate every bite even though our jaws hurt from the cold before we finished.

     Only our living room had a heater. Our bedrooms were frigid that night. Mother warmed bricks by the fire, wrapped them with towels and put them under the covers of our blankets and quilts just about the right spot for our feet when it came bedtime. She smoothed our chapped hands with Vicks and covered them with clean socks, tying a piece of yarn around our wrists to keep them secure. What a warm, cozy feeling!

     Our hands were like new the next morning. The snow kept coming. It froze and became quite hazardous. School closed. We loved it even more. That day Mother kept the door to our room open; my brother and I spent a lot of time playing on our beds to stay off the cold floor.

     My quilt was called Dutch Dolls. The dolls were appliquéd into the center of off-white domestic squares with pretty print dresses and bonnets which were often matching fabric or solids. My favorites were the delicate lavenders and pinks, though the brighter yellows and blues were a close second. The squares were set together with triple runners of soft green bordering a center of pink. The entire quilt was finished with the same soft green and pink border. I loved running my fingers across the tiny, little stitches my mother, her sisters and the Mimi, I couldn’t remember, sewed.

Photo by Hud

     Rayford and I made believe the green runners were streets, pushing little cars and trucks around. Sometimes we raced the cars. My arms were longer since I was three years older. Guess who won? Tired of cars and trucks, we colored in coloring books. When cajoled, Rayford played paper dolls, but that never lasted. I finished by myself while he played cars again.

     We looked out the window at the porch covered with snow and felt the ice crunch beneath our fingers as we drew snowman figures in the frosted patches on the panes. We looked to see if the little snowman made the day before was still there and listened eagerly for the sound of Daddy’s car coming up the lane to the house.

     Mother called and we ran to the living room. She had placed our little kitchen table and chairs in the room by the stove where steaming bowls of rice now set. We dug in. If we were lucky, when Daddy came home, she would make hot chocolate, and let us melt marshmallows on top.

     Daddy came in that evening with a very somber look on his face. We often went home with one of my best friends, Carrie Jo, on Sundays after church. She and her mother had the rosiest cheeks and always seemed to have something to laugh about. She had a bunch of brothers and sisters. Because of his large family, her father went to work that morning.

  On the way home, Carrie Jo’s father noticed some of the chains wrapped around his tires were slipping. He pulled into a truck stop, slid under his car and began tightening them. Neither the bus driver, coming in for his regular stop, or Carrie Jo’s father saw the other as my friend’s dad pushed his way back out into the drive from under the car into the path of the bus. The whole community was devastated by his death.

     It is my first memory that everything good does not last forever. We moved away, but I never forgot my friend. It would be nice to know how she and her family fared.