Archives for May 2012


Something is wrong with me. I’m looking forward to summer.

Good thing, because it starts tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., when school lets out after finals.

I have never liked summer, even as a child. It’s awfully hot in Texas, from May through September. I tend to wilt in the heat, like a bluebonnet. There’s an old joke that sums up my attitude: “There are three seasons in Texas—almost summer, summer and still summer.”

My two-part solution has always been 1) Go swimming, &/or 2) Go to Colorado. Well, we can’t go to Colorado (see my piece on Bessie, in case you missed it), and my teens are too cool for the pool (although I will still swim indoors at the Wellness Center).

So now I’m seriously worried that my somewhat positive attitude means the world is coming to an end. Last year I did Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts list during the summer because I knew that if I didn’t force myself to be grateful, I’d just gripe. I had good timing, since last summer was smack dab in the middle of Texas’ worst drought in 100 years.

If I change my mind and start to despair by Monday, I promise, I won’t complain. I have sworn and am determined to not have my annual August pre back-to-school meltdown.

This year I would classify my mood as semi-excited. Is it because my son will—hopefully—be driving in a month? Is it because both kids have stuff to do the entire 12 weeks? Is it because I’ve finally figured out a rhythm? Is it because HEB had their good tea on sale, and I stocked up?

Yeah, it’s the tea.

Northern Ireland Haibun #4

The final haibun commenting on my trip. To learn what a haibun is, go back and read my previous post


Aim at the stars
But keep your feet on the ground
(lunch before my trip)

Keep your champagne. I’ve had enough of long bus rides, tour guides, golf resorts (“A good walk spoiled,” Twain said). So I spoil myself with a good morning walk            to the edge of the lough. Ducks are already there. Swans, too. Tall reeds sway in front of the first hole. Fathers    and sons hit the links by sunrise. I stand on the dock, scan the sky for a sign. Double rainbow.

The Butterfly Effect

Is this the life I’m supposed to be living? Or has everything bad that’s ever happened to me been the fault of some stupid butterfly?

The first time I heard about the butterfly effect was in “Issac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History,” by Erik Larson. The book tells the story of the hurricane that decimated Galveston, Texas in 1900. Early on, Larson describes how winds converged in Nigeria, causing a zone of instability, which, several weeks later, traveled across the ocean to affect North America. This section ends, “Somewhere, a butterfly opened its wings.”

The butterfly effect is a term coined by Edward Lorenz, a meteorologist and mathematician. It’s a major part of chaos theory, a branch of mathematics. Simply put, it means that even a small change at the outset can lead to a big change in the outcome.

You can read about it on Wikipedia. Or better yet, you can read it in novel form in Stephen King’s newest release, “11/22/63.”

If you don’t count King’s book “On Writing,” (sort of like taking a writing class from the man himself), this is the first of King’s fiction books I’ve read. I’m not a horror gal, although I’ve read and enjoyed a few things that surprised me over the last couple of years. This book was one of them. And it’s is all about the butterfly effect; in fact, actual butterflies appear throughout the novel.

In this story, the butterfly effect shows that there can be tragic consequences even to noble actions. Sometimes, as horrifying as an event may be, it’s better than the alternative. Perhaps as a result of tragedy, people change, become better people.

That happened in the season finale of my favorite TV show, “Community.” I don’t think any of you would like it, but trust me, it’s #CoolCoolCool.

In the episode titled “Remedial Chaos Theory,” the Greendale gang accidentally created the darkest of all possible timelines for their lives through a game of Yahtzee. So for the rest of the season, they’ve been living from one tragedy to another. But when they get to the season finale, they find that the darkest timeline didn’t end up quite so dark. People changed, became better people.

I don’t pretend to understand chaos theory or the butterfly effect. But these modern stories somehow say more to me than most sermons. They say that I’m right where I need to be — in the proper timeline — butterfly or no butterfly.

Northern Ireland Haibun #3

Another haibun commenting on my trip. To learn what a haibun is, go back and read my previous post


Aoife said, “We all have our Blackberrys, and we use them to check email and to text, but the Americans, they’re all …” and she hunched over her smartphone, twiddled her thumbs to demonstrate how app-happy we all are. Our New Yorkers, constantly on their phones, texted each other secret messages about other people in the group, answered emails from the office, amused themselves with game apps. I kept my iPhone in airplane mode the whole trip. Hardly used it for five days.

with only a pencil

and an empty 2004 Texas Poetry Calendar

I record my trip


Thunder. Just like this time a week ago when my husband left for a bike ride up Old San Antonio Road. I knew I’d need to rescue him. A storm was coming, complete with four separate warnings from the National Weather Service.

He took off. I sat on the front porch to wait for him to text me that he needed a rescue.

It hit all at once. The temperature dropped at least 10 degrees, the wind picked up and blew over a basketball hoop, and the sky turned dark. Hail was surely on its way. I jumped in my son’s truck and headed out.

The truck is named Bessie, and it belonged to my mother-in-law. She had no more use for a ’93 Ford Ranger, so she gave it to us to give to our son when he turns 16 next month. He named the vehicle.

The text came while I was driving. My husband told me to pick him up at the bridge, but we couldn’t agree on the definition of that simple word. I picked the wrong one. Finally, sick of waiting, I drove on and found him about a mile further up the road. It was beginning to rain. Within minutes, it was hailing.

There’s no cover on Old San Antonio. I drove Bessie on, slowly.

When we got to town, my husband said, “We should pull into Sonic and wait it out.”

“No,” I said.

I couldn’t see a thing. It was still hailing. Almost no one was on the road.

Sonic was up ahead.

“We really should pull in,” my husband said.

“I just want to get home,” I said. Home was another three miles.

Down Main. Right on Elk. Left on Travis. Right on Llano, which was flooding, even in the center. A huge truck sprayed me, and I couldn’t see.

Left on Driftwood. Almost home. And I forgot that every street in the neighborhood drains into Driftwood. It’s a river all the way up to the truck’s tires.

Right on Ridgewood and just feet from the stop sign to my own beloved Crestwood, Bessie died.

“The engine’s flooded. Ease her on over to the curb,” my husband said.

It kept raining. For days. It hasn’t rained like this since 2007. It cleared on Saturday and Sunday. Gorgeous.

We had Bessie towed Monday, and the mechanic said it’s over. We’d have to replace the engine, and even a rebuilt one costs many times more than the truck.

And then we had to tell our son.

My husband said it was all his fault for taking that bike ride, which, incidentally, is exactly what I thought last Monday night. But I don’t think that anymore. All I can think is that I’m the stubborn idiot who would not pull into Sonic. I think of all the happy mommy bloggers and how they haven’t murdered their only son’s only truck.

I picked my son up from the place where he works out after working out at school.

“What’s wrong?” he said.

“Nothing,” I lied.

“Is it me?”


He ran through every person and situation I could possibly be mad at. I tried to change the subject. He wouldn’t budge. I pulled into the driveway. Safe inside, I admitted it.

“I killed Bessie,” I said.

“I know. It’s OK.”

I started to cry.

He walked away.

I stopped—fast—and followed after him. “No, really. It’s my fault. I’m sorry. We can’t fix it, but we’ll get you something.”

“It’s OK, Mom.” He reached out to hug me, and he was totally sweaty in his Lehigh University T-shirt, and I let him.

“I’m really, really sorry,” I said.

“You know what this means,” he said.


He smiled. “Leverage.”

Northern Ireland Haibun #2

Another haibun commenting on my trip. To learn what a haibun is, go back and read my previous post.


She has a bad dye job, the red of Christmas bows instead of Irish lasses. One day she wears red tights with black thigh-high boots, the next purple tights and pink Mary Janes with heels, followed by a day with black spangly tights and red lace-up ankle boots (to match her hair?).

He has short, spiky hair — a punk version of a High-and-Tight. Clean cut. T-shirt with names of punk bands I’ve never heard of. Urban jeans but not Detroit-urban. The urban of Ulster Hall, where the Clash cancelled a gig, united a generation.

Clouds spread like debris

over the rippling river.

Cherry trees bloom pink.

Heaven? It’s in Creede.

If you want to know the temperature in Heaven, just check the weather in Creede, Colorado. It’s programmed into my iPhone. I’ll bet money it’s programmed into my dad’s iPhone, too.

My parents started going to Creede several years ago, thanks to Ben and Amy, who let them use their house. One of the best decisions of my life was including a week in Creede during our 2008 summer vacation to Colorado. Mom was feeling good that week, even though the tumor in her eye was turning the world sepia.

We went to the theater. We fished in the Rio Grande. We drove around. John and I and the kids hiked in the San Juans. There was a horseback ride in there somewhere. My son was young enough to battle imaginary bad guys hiding behind the stairs. My daughter was old enough to tour a mine and make appropriate comments. We saw bears, an eagle. We had steak and salad and potatoes and red wine. Also, my dad’s $89 Stew with Fat Tire. We made s’mores.

As I write this post, it’s 43 degrees in Creede. The forecast calls for morning sunshine followed by isolated thunderstorms during the afternoon.

Enjoy Heaven, Mom, even if it’s not quite like Creede. We miss you. Happy Mother’s Day.

Northern Ireland Haibun #1

A few of you have asked for details of my trip. Well, my articles are written, but here’s the stuff no one wants—just poets.

Here’s a definition: “A haibun is a terse, relatively short prose poem, usually including both lightly humorous and more serious elements. A haibun usually ends with a haiku.”


What will I eat in Northern Ireland? My daughter says, Potatoes, and I do eat potatoes, every day, sometimes two or three in a meal. Each menu offers several side dishes of potatoes. Even when I order Indian curry, it comes with potatoes. Potatoes fried, mashed, grilled, with garlic, hash-browned, potato farl, potato champ, apple-potato bread.

No one offers us a single Guinness the entire week.

starfruit and mango

white fruit with black seeds —

breakfast in Belfast

Spiritual Experiences

I was standing at the edge of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, as far out on the hexagonal rocks as I could without getting wet, when I heard a voice behind me from someone in our tour group.

“It’s a spiritual experience, isn’t it?” the man said.

“It’s lovely,” I answered.

Lovely, yes. Spiritual, no.

Now, I’m the first person who can have a spiritual experience with a bunch of rocks and an ocean, but that day, I wasn’t feeling it. That day, it was only lovely.

Lately, I’ve been getting my spiritual experiences in more traditional places. That is, in church. And that’s quite a change. Two Aprils ago, my husband and I spent Easter at the Quiet House at Laity Lodge because I couldn’t go inside a church without having a panic attack. Back then, rocks and water would have done the trick.

But not now.

One Sunday, I was taking the photo you see above. The following Sunday, I was in my church. Both were lovely. Only one was spiritual.