Category Archives: Family

People – A Manual

When I brought my oldest daughter home from the hospital, as a baby, I walked out of the doors and felt this huge weight settle on my shoulders. Here was this wonderful, new, red and wrinkly creature that I had to take home and keep alive. My only pet, a goldfish, had survived less than a month. I regularly kill plants and here they sent me home with no instructions other than checking to make sure that the car seat was properly installed. “That’s wonderful, she’ll be safe for the ride home. But then what?”

I wished for a manual.

So I think I’ll write one. It might take me a while. Maybe by the time the computers/robots have taken over I can get it published. It’ll be a bestseller and all the little robots can rush to the pet store and buy their own human and my manual.

Kid Wars

It’s the summertime and my children are staying up until midnight, skipping meals (if they sleep through it), and that equals arguing. And it’s the same argument every time: “She’s on the [insert TV/Computer/device] without doing her chores first!” And they wouldn’t care except they did their chores so to be fair they need to tattle on their sister.

Other than getting them back to normal sleep patterns and feeding them (I skip fixing breakfast, because they are plenty old enough to fend for themselves.) I’m not sure what else to do. The rule at our house in the summer is 1/2 hr of practicing and 1/2 hr of chores before screen time each day. Chores are free form, but maybe that should change because the house doesn’t seem to get any messier, but it really doesn’t get any cleaner either.

I could  farm the children out to the neighbors, then the tattling would go away because they can’t see each other. Or send the little ones to a labor camp in Siberia, then the 1/2 hr of chores would seem easy. “Thirty minutes of chores, I can do that before waking up!” But the real solution is shipping them off to Grandma’s, where they only have cable TV and a computer and chores are something their parents used to do back in the good ‘ole days.

Fabric Aging

Leftover fabric from curtains for old house.

Starting a new project with leftover aged curtain fabric, postponed due to broken power cord.

I like to buy fabric with the ambition of doing a project that day, but realistically the fabric sits in a box with my sewing supplies for two or more years. Fabric, to work properly, has to age you see. For example I have six yards of blue velvet that I purchased to make Christmas dresses for my three daughters, about eight years ago. It should make fantastic dresses, however since all three girls have grown in the last eight years, 6 yards is more the quantity I’d need to make them all skirts, well, realistically mini-skirts. But if I wait another eight years, I’ll only have one daughter living at home and I could use the 6 yards to make a dress.

But that daughter hates velvet and wouldn’t wear the 16-year aged vintage fabric. I’ll have to rethink this plan.

Another project was material I bought to make curtains for my daughter’s navy bedroom. The fabric was aged only a short year, when it became time to sell the house. Not to let the pale blue, with Asian-inspired dark blue trees printed fabric go to waste, after only two hours of labor I had the curtains made and hung. I enjoyed them for the last month we lived in that house. Of course I was so busy moving, performing (it was December) and packing that I only looked at them two or three times.

For my new house, one of my daughter’s rooms has a uncovered, west-facing, half-circle window, deadly in Austin summers. I’ve purchased the material, purple velvet (her pick, not mine) and have folded it neatly to age in a box next to my other fabric supplies. They can impart their wisdom of the years and their despair of ever being anything other than fabric. While I’ll contemplate the difficulty of hanging fabric on a round curtain rod.

Police Shootings – Give Us a Voice Not Violence

IMG_1390I’m horrified by the recent attacks on police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas. I recognize that there are injustices in the executive and judicial systems of the United States, but violence is not the way to protest violence.

The time is ripe for the right voice, the voice that speaks for the pains and anguish of peoples too long oppressed. That voice will not be heard coming from behind the muzzle of a rifle. That voice will not be heard from an angry man shouting, “It’s not fair!” to an uncaring world. That voice will be heard from the mothers crying for their lost sons, husbands, daughters and fathers. That voice will be heard from a thousand heartfelt stories of how I was treated in school, at my job, on the street and even in my home, because my skin was a different color than another, because my race was different from someone else’s race.

We do judge, we do prejudge, we show prejudice. We cannot ignore hundreds of years of history between our peoples. We cannot ignore the brutality that brought many of the African Americans here to the United States. We must acknowledge the choices that our ancestors made and we must choose a different path. We must choose to overcome our internal judges, our own prejudices. We must choose to overcome our instincts to fear what isn’t us, what we perceive isn’t us. We are us.

The greatest lie is that there is an us and a them. We all hurt, we all cry, we all fear, but we also can grow. We can build, we can overcome, we can change. Give us the chance, show us the path to healing. Tell us the words that your hearts are aching to say. Tell us the words that the past has buried so deep that all that is left is pain, fear and violence. We can listen, we can change. We must. It is time.

How do you like Texas?

We moved to Texas the last week of December 2015. And since we’ve been here the question that I’ve been asked the most is “How do you like Texas?” Well… there’s the polite, “Texas is fine,” or even better, “Texas is great!” But I’m a writer and words, well… I like to use them in creative ways. How do you describe your impressions of a new place in only a sentence or two?
It’s a lot warmer. There’s half a foot of snow on the ground in Utah while it’s raining here in Texas. It’s been the hottest winter of my life, with most days in the sixties or seventies. I’ve done the week in Southern California around Christmas time before. That was novel, wearing short sleeves and no jacket even at night during the winter. I’ve only been asked about five times “Aren’t you cold?” I can remember only one day in the last two Texas months that I wore my jacket outside early in the morning. My morning routine in Utah was jacket, heavy overcoat, shoes, zip up the coat, pull the hood up and shiver to take the kids to school. Here I grab my keys and purse and if I’m feeling really lazy I use flip-flops instead of shoes. One wet Texas morning I had to wipe the dew off my side windows so I could see. Compared to the scraping ice off my windows that I was doing in December in Utah, Texas is heavenly.
H.E.B’s are everywhere here. I had never heard of the store before. No Harmon’s or Ream’s are here. Of course there are wine aisles in the grocery store. They don’t have those in Utah. I remembered them from when I lived in California as a pre-teen.
The real question they are asking “Is how do you like the people?” The people of Texas are great, they are from California, Iowa, Michigan, Utah, Georgia and some are even from Texas. I’ve been called “Ma’am” more times in the last two months than I have in the last twenty years.
I do live in an interesting city, near Austin, where the recent population growth means that I meet more transplants than Texans on any given day. Which brings me to my biggest question: How long do I need to reside here before I can claim that I’m Texan?
So when you come on by I’ll say, “Howdy you’ll. Welcome!” and then I’ll have to ask, “How do you like Texas?”

Memorial Day

Memorial Day has new meaning for me since my father, Brion Johnson, passed away several years ago. I can’t visit his grave, but this year I was able to symbolically visit by going to his twin’s grave in Pocatello, Idaho. It was a little out of the way, but I enjoyed getting to visit. I never met my uncle Brent, he died the same day he was born. I never even thought of Brent as my uncle until I was explaining to my daughter how we were related to this little baby, buried so many years before. There is only one date on the gravestone. The date that Brion and Brent were both born and that Brent passed away.

I was on my way home from visiting my sister in Boise, Idaho. She has a new baby, Charles Brion, his middle name is for my father. Charlie isn’t quite two months old yet, but he is growing well and smiles already. My daughter and I said our goodbyes and gave our last hugs to my little nephew, Charlie, before leaving for Pocatello.

His whole life, my father, shared his birthday with his twin’s death day. I never thought of it before, but that day must have been bittersweet for my grandmother. Another one of the questions I wish I had asked her before she passed away. Those hard questions, “What was it like to lose a baby and have a baby on the same day?” My father probably thought about his twin on his birthday, but he didn’t mention it to us. It was just his birthday.

Seven years ago, today, on his birthday, I saw him alive for the last time. It’s a bittersweet memory for me. Knowing that I honored his twin’s memory yesterday, makes today a little easier. Happy Birthday Dad. Happy Birthday Uncle Brent.

The Month of May

For many, May is when the weather starts to get warmer and we can go outside and play. But for me May is a blur of school activities and my late father’s birthday, as well as Memorial Day. The elementary school has their talent show, their awards assemblies and activities. The high school has their gearing up for graduation, the senior ball, the last of the fundraising. Every day has another field trip, another permission slip another piano accompanying.

Today I played for my daughter’s audition. She made it! Our Pirates of the Caribbean was up to the task. She’ll be playing a flute solo in the Sixth Grade Talent Show.

I’m also involved with the PTSA at our local high school and spent part of the day, pretending to look interested while hundreds of teenagers walked by, hoping they would come order flowers from me.

As for the birthday, my father passed away seven years ago next June. And like with any birthday of a loved deceased family member the day is very bitter sweet, mostly bitter, but there is some sweet.

So while this time of year is busy, I’m grateful for the clamor, it helps with keeping this time of year more pleasant than it has been for a while for me. Here’s to hoping that May 2016 is even better yet.