Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Love List for Summer 2010

Chad and I had two friends in college who were cousins to each other, but who had shared verbal oddities and strange, secret rituals like many twin siblings do. These cousins were from the New Orleans area and introduced us to the lovely tradition of king cake parties during the pre-Lenten season. They taught us the official king cake song which sounded very silly and involved holding up your index fingers from closed fists on both hands and bending those index fingers up and down in time to the song. We later found out that the cousins made up the song and hand movements.

They also taught us how to play Mystery Card which was a nonsensical card game that involved holding up your index finger from a closed fist and saying the words "mystery card" in a high-pitched, sing-song voice before drawing a card. Each player took turns drawing cards until the deck was depleted. There were no winners or losers in Mystery Card.

My favorite thing that the cousins made up and taught to us was "love lists". Make a list of 25 things you love and 10 things you hate. Share it with the people present at the time. Seal the list in an envelope, writing the date on the outside of the envelope, and put the envelope away in a safe place. Open the envelope at some future date and bask in the memories.

Chad and I made love lists pretty regularly over the nearly seventeen years we've known each other, but have neglected to do so lately. I'm making a love list and sharing it here rather than sealing it in an envelope.

Love: (in no particular order)
1. Our 1952 house
2. Chad - and that he spends more time in Austin now with me
3. Janie - just about the best dog we could ever hope to find
4. Sonic - fourteen pounds of feline Mama's boy
5. Kenji - cuddle now, dangit!
6. Marigold - sweet old lady baby
7. Austin
9. June tomato crops from our yard
10. Basil from our yard
11. Mint from our yard
12. Mojitos! made from the mint from our yard
13. Our lovely planted areas outside
14. The lush, green not-exactly-grass that surrounds our house right now
15. Affordable Lawn Maintenance that mows and edges our yard every 2 weeks so Chad & I don't have to!
16. That Chad is going to let me repaint the kitchen! Bye-bye radioactive green walls!
17. Time with old friends and new acquaintances -- so great to see people last Friday at Lustre Pearl!
19. Reading: magazines, classic literature, silly best-sellers, chick-lit, cereal boxes, blogs, etc...
20. Swimming at Deep Eddy Pool
22. Tacos del Jardin from Chango's
23. Cinnamon Rolls from Upper Crust Bakery
24. British mysteries on Masterpiece Mystery on PBS

I'm too happy right now to dwell on thinking up ten things to hate, so no list. Maybe on a hot day in late August, I'll readily come up with those things, which will likely all center on the weather.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Where I'm From

The June issue of Texas Monthly features essays by people who consider themselves to be from Texas, even if they weren't born in Texas or don't currently reside in Texas. The special issue's cover heralds the line "Where I'm From".

Where are you from?

I was born in Louisiana and lived there until age five. My mother proclaimed Louisiana to be the armpit of the south. She says we don't have to tell people we ever lived there. In recent years, I find myself fascinated with the rich culture of Cajun people and Creole people. I appreciate the French influence on art, music and architecture that abounds in Louisiana. While I'm no foodie, who doesn't love beignets from Cafe du Monde? I don't consider myself to be from either Shreveport or Alexandria - the two cities in which I lived. I do not feel a desire to live in Louisiana again, but I wish everyone there the best, especially those people still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

My kindergarten through sixth grade years were spent in Birmingham, Alabama. Our house was Mountain Brook adjacent. (Mountain Brook was, probably still is, THE most desirable real estate area in Birmingham.) My school bus went past all the mansions with their professionally manicured, sweeping southern landscapes. Even at a young age, I knew money and good taste when I saw it combined in such abundance. I thought I wanted that: the country club connections, the Ralph Lauren wardrobe, the refined (as I now see it, restrained) lifestyle. As an adult, I no longer wish for those trappings. It's not me. I have no desire to return to Birmingham. Again, I wish residents of Birmingham well.

Seventh and eighth grade were spent in Cross Lanes, West Virginia near the state's capital city of Charleston. Upon moving to West Virginia, everyone in my family had pretty lousy attitudes about the place, largely due to the Union Carbide plant that was a mere ten miles from our house. This was shortly after the Bhopal, India industrial tragedy at the Union Carbide plant that killed thousands of people, and left nearly half a million people with health problems. We also harbored prejudices about the quality of education and society out in Appalachia. We weren't prepared for the natural beauty of West Virginia or for the warm-hearted people, but we soon came to appreciate both immensely. We lived in the prettiest house in Cross Lanes which everyone in town called "The Castle". A local man designed and built the large Tudor style home on a high hill that backed up to nature preserve parkland. We enjoyed four distinct seasons there. I ranked first in my class. The day I won the student council election to be the president of my class for the next school year, and the same week I secured a spot on the cheerleading squad, my dad dropped the news that we would be moving to Dallas, Texas. WHAT?! We finally like it here and we're moving away... moving again? Just before my parents were set to fly to Dallas to look at houses, my dad suffered the first of many heart attacks. He was only thirty-eight-years-old. He had to be shocked back to life several times during the episode. We thought we'd stay put after that, but Dad, ever the stubborn over-achiever, was on a plane three weeks after his heart attack to start his new job in Texas. It was a charmed life while it lasted, despite the bumpy start. I loved living in West Virginia. It will always hold a special place in my soul.

Next stop: Plano, Texas. We were rewarded for the move to Texas with a pool in the backyard, but our house didn't have the luster of "The Castle". I worked my tail off to stay in the top ten percent of my graduating class of 2,000+ students in the highly competitive school system. I was not popular, but did have a few good friends along the way. I didn't dare run for student council or try out for cheerleading; instead finding my place among the drama geeks and the debate dorks. The material excesses and apparent lack of good taste evident in the parking lots and housing developments were not to my liking. While I was in high school, Plano was infamously dubbed the teen-suicide capital of America. One of the guys I ate lunch with everyday started a chain-reaction of suicides among some of my peers just before graduation. For those people who consider Plano to be home, I wish you well. I'm not from Plano. My family moved around to four, or was it five, different cities since I graduated from high school. I have no ties there.

I'm from Austin, Texas. I knew it the first time I visited. I'm not leaving. I've lived here far longer than I've lived anywhere else, over half my life now. I love this place.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Mid-Year Resolutions

Marching to the beat of a different drummer, I've decided to make my mid-year resolutions.

1. Spend more time sewing and doing crafty activities. Specifically, take another quilting class so I can finally finish the king-size quilt made from Chad's old shirts.

2. Read more. I think four books a month is reasonable.

3. Take a dance class. I start Bollywood Bhangra dance lessons June 16. I can't wait!

4. Expand my cooking repertoire. I'm more of a baker of sweet things than I am a cook. I'd like to bring more healthy meals into my cooking rotation.

5. Re-lose those six pounds (of thirty-two pounds previously lost) that have found their way back to my bootie.

Wish me luck!