Category Archives: Reflections

Strawberry Fields Forever

My Little Strawberry

Late Friday night, Husband Man said, “What are you doing tomorrow?”

Inside my head: Staying in my pajamas til 4:00 and not leaving the house except to go to the grocery store, like most weekends?

Out loud: “I might call my mom up to go shopping for a little while. Why?” No answer.

Later, he hits me up again, saying that I never told him what I was doing. I retorted that I had, indeed, but that he hadn’t answered me. He dodged. I knew something was up.

Strawberries at Froberg's

Saturday, he surprised me with a surprise trip to go STRAWBERRY PICKING!!! I was so psyched. I’ve been wanting to go to this place for a year or two, and I love it when we do family outings like this. I really need to make it a habit to get out of the house for leisure more often.

Picking at Froberg's  Me at Froberg's

Strawberry Farm

Strawberry

Strawberry Picking

Me & Mustard Seed

We went to a u-pick farm on Highway 6 in Alvin, Texas called Froberg’s. They had plenty of strawberries ripe for the picking, despite the many people that were pouring in. They sell vegetable plants to take home for your garden. They also grow other crops in a different area that are sold in their store. The store has all kinds of Texas goodies: pecans, wild local honey, jalapeño jelly, bread and butter pickles, peach salsa, and homemade fried pies, including lemon, buttermilk, satsuma, and fig, to name a few.

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Trophy Husband

Free Ride

Portulaca

Gerbera Daisies

Homemade Fried Pies

Vegetable Stand

Dill

Jalapeno Jelly

Okra Pickles

Nuts

Pecans

Outside the store is a small shack where they sell all kinds of smoked meats. We got some ribs and some jalapeño cheese venison sausage to eat at the picnic tables. Farm stuff for me + sausage for Husband Man = happy couple.

At Froberg's

Me & Mustard Seed at Froberg's

When we walked in, there was someone selling fruit trees by the parking lot. There were some varieties I’ve been interested in for a long time but unable to find without ordering from the Internet (which I’m lazy and hesitant to do), such as the Kiowa blackberry and the Ein Shemer apple tree. Unfortunately, the lady could only take cash, but she told us we could go a short distance to their nursery and they’d be able to let us pay with our card.

We went there towards the end of the day, and a man walked up to our car and told us they had closed at 4:00 but that he’d open the gate and we could look at the trees. The man turned out to be Paul Froberg, who owns or runs the nursery, and he was chock full of information and about the friendliest guy you could hope to meet. He used to teach Master Gardener classes.

Mexican Lime Tree

Kumquats

Ultimately, he discouraged us from getting any citrus for our location due to greater cold, so we didn’t get the lime, which Husband Man was very excited about. He’s been making homemade limeade, peel and all, almost daily, and our habit is getting quite expensive with store-bought limes. Paul encouraged us to come back around Thanksgiving, when they would have dwarf Persian lime trees that would do better and be easier to protect from potential freezes. He said from Thanksgiving until mid-February, they have citrus tastings at the nursery, where you can taste 60 different kinds of citrus and have a wine-tasting and dinner. The picking farm also offers night-time adult tours where dinner is served.

We did adopt three Brazos blackberry bushes, and Paul threw in a fourth Kiowa because he’s just that kind of guy. If you need quality plants or good gardening information, he’s your man.

All three of us had a great time out at Froberg’s. It was truly a lovely memory for our family. Props to Husband Man for thinking of it.

Strawberry Farm Husband  Lovebirds Our Family

Dreaming Out Loud

Santa Fe MotifOne of the reasons I find it hard to write here sometimes is because I vacillate between feeling that I have and ought to offer something in the way of expert advice, something “worthwhile,” and feeling like a fraud that has nothing of the kind to offer.

My inner critic starts to say, “How can you publicly talk about these ideals when your life doesn’t resemble them (or resembles them only in fits and starts)?”

Hexagons A Study in HexagonsFor a while, I was confused about what my purpose was here. Was I trying to give help and information? Was I trying to create an online scrapbook of sorts? Was I trying to make money? Was this supposed to be some mechanism for accountability in pursuing my ideals, such as a Christ-centered outlook, hands-on homeschooling, healthy eating, and a full, creative life? Who was I talking to anyway, and couldn’t I just as easily talk to myself?

The answer is yes.

Yes to all of the above. Except maybe the money. Unless anyone would like to throw some at me. In that case, I would be grateful, thankyouverymuch, but otherwise, for now, I can’t blog successfully with a view towards money.

My resolution was this: Commercially speaking, I’m sure it makes sense to brand oneself more or less according to one of the above pigeonholes. But why must I? And why must I present myself as an expert on everything all the time? Why must I hide those times when I feel unsure or downright not okay? Why must I feel like no one will pay attention unless my life is filled with the kind of thrill-a-minute activities or beautiful objects that sometimes I’m just not up for or can’t afford?

Nature JournalNature JournalMaybe they won’t.

Maybe there’s no audience for regular, but I’m putting myself out there the way I really am just for the creative endeavor of it. I would be thrilled if people want to share in that, but it’s okay if not.

You know what, though? I have a feeling that some people might because I talk to people sometimes. Yeah, that’s right. Actual conversations. And they get excited and interested in the things I’m interested and excited about. When I share my struggles honestly, I often get a great big “YESSS!!!” of empathy.

Winter FashionIdeas for Handmade WardrobeNotes on Health Cooking To-Do List

And what I hear them say a lot of times is that they’ve been blessed by hearing the struggles and successes of regular people like them, online and in person. Not necessarily always people with the perfectly coiffed life or the mad skills of every kind, but the people that could easily be them, who have budgetary and time constraints, relationship issues, health challenges, and trouble keeping the house clean.

Because if a person with similar limitations to them can have happiness, faith, wonder, and success, there’s real hope they can too.

Also, I’ve had visits from a lot of people from different parts of the world who’ve taken the time to read what I write, even though I don’t even know them.  That just floors me! Thank you!

Spiral notebooks

So my resolution is to avoid contrived.

For this place to be less like a final, perfect product and more like an online version of the numerous sketch and spiral notebooks where I keep my my drawings, lists, notes, and the occasional manifesto about all the things that matter to me.

So will you bear with me if I share more about where I’m trying to go and the steps along the way there, more about how to go about finding that daily “nourishment” in all facets of life through trial and error? If you will, I’d be glad for your company.

Intercepting the Trail Ride

IMG_5993Many people from other states have actually asked me the question “Do you ride horses to school/work?”

What?!?! We’re not backwards. I mean, we are a thriving metropolis 5 million strong. We are a center for the arts and culture. World summits have been held here. It’s not as if there are horses and wagons carrying cowpokes in chaps going down the street!

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Well, except that one time every year.

Let’s get something straight. Texas is, in many ways, a lot like other places. Just because we say it with a drawl does not mean we can’t talk astrophysics, art, history, or politics with the best of them, but for all that, we are still Texas proud. We like our horses, cattle, ropin’, and ridin’, boots and chaps. We like our country music. After all, if we were to lose a musical genre that successfully combines the themes of trains, mamas, trucks, horses, jail, and hard, work-roughened hands time after time, the world would be a little less alive, don’t you think?

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The Trail Ride is actually only about 60 years old. Thirteen different rides start out from various parts of the states just prior to the start of the rodeo in mid-February every year. The farthest one comes all the way from the Mexican border, 386 miles away and takes three weeks. All these trails converge to camp in Houston’s Memorial Park the day before the rodeo begins and parade across town to the rodeo grounds the next day.

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It happens that two of these rides pass about two miles from my house. People go out and line the roads to greet the riders, yet I had never been out myself. The best I had done was to get stuck in a traffic jam behind them some years ago. Thursday of last week, I was aware they were coming into town. The preschool group of our homeschooling association was going to wait for them at the park where they were scheduled to eat lunch, but they were getting together earlier in the day, and when I remembered and looked at my watch, it was already 1:00. Was there still time to catch the riders?

Mustard Seed and I set out like tornado chasers. I was monitoring my GPS to see where around the park the traffic looked backed up. That should be were they were. I knew they were ultimately headed to the Houston Farm and Ranch Club on Highway 6. I started to head there, but at the last second, I made a U-turn and went down the road where the park is where they were supposed to have eaten lunch. Right as I got to that light they blocked off traffic and the first riders began to process out of the park and take a left, so that they’d be taking the road I was on. We were the second car at the light. Everyone turned off their cars, got out, and took pictures. The timing was perfect.

We hadn’t had quite enough of this, so we decided to see if we could make a huge circle and intercept again at a different point. We ended up waiting for them at a cemetery parking lot outside the Houston Farm and Ranch Club, where there were a lot of other families parked to wait for them. We had a lot of fun talking with them and taking pictures.

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Here are some photos from the following day, Go Texan Day, when everyone typically dresses up in western wear. Mustard Seed was ready as ever with her improvised costume. Yeehaw!

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A Day in Town

Today Mustard Seed took her first medals test in highland dancing.  Actually, her first test of any kind, ever. We practiced at home, got ready, and then I drove her up to the school in a light rain shower.  When we got there, my old dance teacher who I hadn’t seen in years was there and gave me such a hug and teared up on seeing me.  Made me feel very loved.

I had to leave the room for the test, but I had a good vantage point through a small window in the door and got to watch her. She was cool as a cucumber.  In front of two teachers, a judge, and 15 high school girls, Mustard Seed didn’t even hesitate. She did a good job.  Now we await the results.

Afterwards, we went ice skating in the middle of the day.  We had a gift certificate from Christmas that’s about to expire.  We had the whole rink to ourselves.  I practiced going backwards and doing small twirls and got lots of exercise.  Mustard Seed is a very good skater, too. She fell a number of times, but she’s getting so good at picking herself up and going on.

Then I headed over to a meeting at church.  The Episcopal Church is about to hold its General Convention this summer, and blessings of same-sex unions are likely to be approved, subject to approval by individual bishops. I went to find out more about what will be happening at my church. I have a lot of feelings about this, but the main one is that no matter what, Christians are called radically to love and be kind to everyone. I do not say we must accept all actions. I just think that loving people–and not just the people who say the things we like, who look like us, and who live near us– gets lost in the shuffle when we turn the issue into a merely political one, either in favor of or against.

Holy Week, Part I

For most people, Easter has come and gone.  The chocolate bunnies and plastic grass are on clearance, so they’re calling it done.  To my mind, we’ve just begun.  Lent, a 40-day season of reflection and trying to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, culminates in Holy Week, this harrowing 7 days that takes us from the heights of triumph with him on Palm Sunday, when people carpeted the streets with branches for a king, to the depths of darkness as the altar gets stripped on Maundy Thursday and the story of his Passion read and Good Friday, when we mark that day he would have suffered many humiliations and pains and died.

Some people see it as a guilt trip.  Some see it as a bummer. Others think it’s a moot point: He’s risen now, so let’s not dwell on it.  So they move on to the “good part” of the story that we all know is coming.  And for practicality’s sake, there are school egg hunts and family get-togethers a little ahead of Easter itself.  That morning comes in all its glory, with pastel polka-dotted lawns, frilly frocks, and straw hats (oh, please tell me little girls’ Easter hats are still alive somewhere!), and by Monday morning, it’s business as usual again.

Here’s how I see it:  Mustard Seed frequently refuses to watch the scary–or even the just plain sad–parts of a movie.  So I tell her I happen to know the story turns out wonderfully in the end and that if you don’t go through the dark moments, the happy ending doesn’t mean half as much.  To put it another way, if your parent worked a second job to send you on an amazing senior trip, if it’s a nice parent, he or she isn’t expecting you to grovel in your guilt about that every day for the rest of your life; but a nice child doesn’t let that sacrifice go unnoticed or unthanked.  I don’t have any illusions about lessening Jesus’ burden or currying favor with God by seeming appropriately appreciative and bereft.  That’s not why I “do” Holy Week.

I observe it because the Hallelujah! come Sunday morning is a little more heartfelt (for me) when I am explicitly reminded of the gravity of Friday.  Appreciating a resurrection is best done by first observing that there was a death, that’s all.

That said, there is a difference in observing the pre-Easter parts of Holy Week from this side of the resurrection: you know what’s coming–and it turns out wonderfully!

P.S. Did you know what you give up in pre-Easter joviality can actually go on for three weeks after The First Sunday of Easter?  Just like Christmas really is 12 days, Easter is a whole season.

Last week, as we were in the middle of a very busy week, made busier by four consecutive days of choir practice or services to sing at, rushing around from one activity to another and trying to keep the household from falling apart at the seams, the wonderful ending seemed to hardly be able to contain itself.  The sunshine was amazing, and there were pretty flowers everywhere, and I have an awesome kid who says awesome stuff all the time and who gives me an excuse to make Easter baskets and crafts.  And there was beautiful music all around me…and I got to make some of it…with only some of the most jaw-dropping singers around…the cool kids who let me hang around with them.  And besides, more than sad, from this side of things, it’s beautiful.

I thought I would share a few of my gifts that made my heart so light.

Wednesday, Mustard Seed had a tennis lesson with my dad, so as I frequently do during those, I went poking around in the woods to take pictures.  I came upon a big patch of lantana I had been eyeing for some cuttings to start in my backyard, and look what fluttered right around me and landed long enough for me to snap one perfect shot! (first photo)

I got my cuttings, and I couldn’t believe it, but right there by the tennis court, dewberry bushes were starting to grow, just a single short sucker each.  I took several up by the roots to plant in the backyard.  I’ve been waiting so long to order special blackberry bushes to grow, but why, if I like dewberries even better and I know they grow like crazy with no work here?

This faded magnolia blossom is another find from Wednesday.  The fuchsia of stem was so vibrant I had to photograph it.  Don’t the color schemes and combinations of textures in nature amaze you?  I would never think to put an outfit together with brown, cream, and fuchsia, but the magnolia is beautifully clothed.  I love the waxiness of the leaves juxtaposed with the spikiness of the claw-things, the velvet of the petals, and the fuzziness of that central cream-colored thing.  (Ha! Some naturalist I am with that terminology!)

After tennis, I headed over to hand over the child to Husband Man and ended up getting a whole hour and half to myself before choir practice.  At Target. With a Shabby Chic book to look at.  Someone please check and tell me if it gets better than that.  But in the process, I stumbled upon the coolest find and it all started with an 8-foot-tall disembodied general’s torso and involves Houston’s Mt. Rush Hour, and that’s all I’m saying about that until I can take pictures.

I have been saving and washing our eggshells for a few weeks for an Easter craft.  I thought about blowing them all out, but then I thought, nah…and just cracked ’em as usual.

I decided we could attempt a variation of a Christmas craft I saw when we went to a Colonial Christmas event at Bayou Bend a few months ago: eggshell hangers.  I don’t know why, but I like the idea of that.  I think they put a ribbon through them somehow and hung them from doors, but you could also hang them on an Easter tree or from a nail somewhere.  I envision them filled with little treats or sprouting tiny seedlings.

This is one of my designs.  I’ve been watching Bob Ross on The Joy of Painting from time to time.  Apparently, I haven’t absorbed much, but I still like the look.  We had mostly brown eggs, and it was interesting to see the different colors laid over the two colors of egg and to incorporate the brown into the color scheme itself.   We spent Thursday on this project right up until we had to rush out the door to get to Mustard Seed’s Scottish highland dance class.  She dug the dress below out from the depths of somewhere (I had totally forgotten about it), and it was very appropriate.

She takes the class at the school I grew up going to, from my dance teacher.  At first, she wasn’t sure she liked it, but that only lasted a week or two.  I let her play in the courtyard with the kids afterward.  On this day, even as we pulled up in the parking lot across the street, we could already hear the bagpipes.  Now, if there’s one thing about me that might surprise you, it’s that I get almost giddy hearing live bagpipes.  I think it comes from growing up around them, running around underfoot and dodging in between parishioners at church picnics as they played.  So when I heard them, I was psyched, especially since this was Mustard Seed’s first time hearing them in person.

When she came out of class, the pipers and drummers were holding their circle in the courtyard.  And here I got to see one of those wonderful things about her in action, one of those qualities you notice about your kid that’s not at all like you and makes you say, you know, despite me messing her up so much, she’ll probably be alright.  I don’t know why it made me think that, but it did.

As a kid, these circles were always going on after school.  They’re boys, you know–and not just any boys.  High school boys.  Cool boys.  Boys who probably have nunchuk skills, because they sure have mad drumstick twirling and pipe-circles-round-yo-mama skills.  So you would not have caught me dead dancing within their line of vision, no matter how much I wanted to.

Well, you can see how much inhibition Mustard Seed had.  It was all I could do keep her from getting in the middle of the circle! I like it that she has no thought of acting nonchalant, of what anyone there might think of her.  It was a mini Billy Elliot moment.

Evidence of Easter festivities lingered.  The kids headed home for the weekend with goodly prizes of candy.

We headed over for choir practice and Maundy Thursday service, where I got to sing probably my favorite hymn ever, Sing My Tongue the Glorious Battle.  Somber? Maybe, but all these little blessings made it seem as if something was straining to burst out of the tomb.

Amalgamation of Lives

Some old family photos

These family photos and mementos sat in storage for a long time. I’ve been bringing them home and going through them the last few months.

Left and right, my father, at once so athletically graceful and so awkward and beautiful. Top, my dad, uncle and lots of cousins, probably taken one hot summer in Fort Worth. Bottom, a family gathering in the kitchen, my grandparents among the people pictured.

In them, I find pictures of my dad’s mom from 1952, mingled with a portrait of my maternal great grandmother c. 1940.  My parents’ wedding album shares space with photos of students I taught at the university and my so-bad-it’s-not-funny prom pictures (hint: he wore white socks with his dress shoes, and I look like a disco ball).  A drawing my dad’s mom made for my uncle to explain the new baby she was bringing home from the hospital and a snapshot of my mom at the Renaissance Festival when she was exactly my current age. One of my cousin from New York at a few weeks of age, with his mom and dad.

My dad c. 1982

All of these people are special to me, but many of them barely knew each other.  They grew up in different states and countries, took different paths in life, varied radically in temperament and political persuasion.  Some didn’t see eye to eye with one another.  Yet now they all occupy my photo box together.  Who’d have thunk…

Nonnie, my great grandmother. She had piercing blue eyes and red hair, made delicious sunset chiffon jello, had quite the temper, was born in Oklahoma when it was still Indian Territory, and at one time, owned a sapphire blue-sequined flapper dress, which she used for actual flapping.

Inside, the signature of a relative and date: May 6, 1929.

The signature of my great grandmother, who I never met, inside the cover of a book of poems by William Cullen Bryant.

A very old autograph book that belonged to my great great grandmother.

" 'Our schoolgirl's happiest moments have dropped into the abyss of days gone by' but the memory of those bright hours shall ever be a source of pleasure to me, and my sincere wish is that your future life may only be as free of care and trouble. Sc. Yours, Alice Starkey, On the banks of the Guadalupe, October 2, 1883.