Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Homecoming 2008


I watched the Lumberjacks get ax'd again on Saturday. They haven't had a terrible season, but they took a pretty humiating beating from Texas State. Not a cheerful way to celebrate Stephen F Austin's 85th birthday. It was a familiar scene, however, and evoked memories of homecoming games past.
(I recently replaced my stolen camera with a very nifty Canon Power Shot SX110. I took tons of photos and vids. I am trying to shake my moniker of The World's Worst Asian.)

The rest of homecoming weekend was dandy. We arrived early enough Friday to spend a boatload of money at the bookstores and to enjoy some darn fine Mexican cuisine. It was just cool enough that night to make us thankful for the heat radiating off the bonfire. It was pretty eerie to watch the students carry torches from blocks away, stepping to the rhythm of the marching band, and launch them onto the mountain of tinder.





Fire and smoke are mesmerizing, let me tell you.



video


This year's bonfire was a nicely organized event. The sound system was great, making it possible for us to hear the pep talk from the coaches and players. There was even a local cover band playing 80s tunes (the theme of the weekend). And there were fireworks.

video


Saturday morning we went to the historic downtown area to watch the parade. It seemed as if the whole town turned out to see the floats and the homecoming court. I smiled with private satisfaction at what I always knew to be true - while high school homecoming royalty may be selected primarily for looks, this is not necesarily the case in college. These individuals were pretty ordinary-looking folks, with long lists of accomplishments and affiliations.



We discovered Raisin' Cane, a really terrific little fast food establishment. They only serve chicken strips. They don't need to serve anything else, 'cuz I truly believe anything else would have paled in comparison. OMG, was that some good eatin'!

We got a huge run around trying to locate the tickets I purchased in advance. The alumni association told me to pick them up at will call. Will call told me to go wander around the big parking lot searching for the alumni association booth. The alumni association had left by the time I found their booth. Back to will call to state my case. Have I mentioned that nothing ever happens easily for me?



So, we missed the National Anthem, dang it, and the fight song. Grrr! The game was disappointing. But the Lumberjack Marching Band, AKA The Boldest Sound from the Oldest Town, did not disappoint. They were as solid as I remembered. And they appeared to be having just as much fun in the stands as we did all those years ago.



Homecoming is really for the alumni. If you haven't been back to your alma mater, go. This business about "never looking back" is nonsense. A good long gaze at your past is a strong reminder of how far you have come.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Holes

I dug a hole.

I dug a hole to bury the cat.

I dug a hole to bury the cat that I didn't want in the first place. The cat that the Not-So-Little-One rescued from certain death to bobcats at my sister's ranch. The cat that bullied my other cats and destroyed my sofa and ate weird stuff - the exact weird stuff that ended his life.

I waged war against the rocky North Texas clay, armed with a long-handled shovel and an indomitable will. The ground was hard, but it was no match for my head. The shovel handle landed a blow to that head, and it left a bruise, but it did not win, either.

I dug a hole. It was barely wide enough and probably not as deep as it should have been.

But... I dug a hole. I dug a hole because a dead cat has to go somewhere, and it made more sense to send it's body back to Mother Earth than to throw it in the nearest culvert or in a dumpster. I dug a hole because I love my daughter. I dug a hole because it is what you do.

I dug the hole and I sweated and I cursed. I allowed myself the luxury of feeling angry over all of the losses in my life. I felt the emptiness in the holes those losses left behind. I lowered the walls and let the memories flood in, and I savored every bit of it, knowing that when the task was finished I would shut them out once again.

I said goodbye. To the cat. To my mother. To my lost babies. To my innocence. To my youth. To those I loved and to those that never loved me.

I filled up the hole. With every shovel load of dirt that I dropped unceremoniously into the hole, I felt the walls go back up. But I also felt some of the emptiness subside. I reminded myself that some of the love I lost has indeed been replaced. And I took pride in the fact that I was able to do this thing all by myself.

I filled up the hole and I tamped the soil down and I placed a rock the size of my head (one that I extracted from the ground with my bare hands) on the grave.

I sat next to the site and thanked God for strength and humbly asked if He would be so kind as to keep my bum shoulder from punishing me too much the next day.

He spared the shoulder. But the bruise on my head remains a reminder that these things are just what you do.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Funerals

One of the privileges of being a church music director is getting to sing at funerals. Singing at funerals is quite different than singing at weddings. At weddings, most everyone is already happy, and it is fairly easy to please people that are giddy and full of hope.

Most people at funerals are not happy at all. They are there to say goodbye to someone that mattered to them, to find closure. Your job as a soloist is bigger than "singing pretty." You are there to comfort, ease pain, facilitate a transition. It is a big job. And not at all easy for empath.

So I consider it a privilege to be entrusted with this job. I am blessed to be able to do it several times a year. Today was one of those days. I pray that I was as much a blessing to them as they were to me.

***

Like I said, I go to a lot of funerals. Some are inside, some are outside. The outside ones are always an adventure.

One such adventure comes to mind. I arrived at the cemetery in the nick of time, having just driven through a torrential downpour. It was chilly and muddy and windy. As I was standing there, feeling the heels of my pumps sink into the soft earth, I noticed several little beetles scurrying around on the ground. One was heading in my direction, so I stepped off a little ways to my right to get out of its path. I secretly wished I were one of the family members seated on the outdoor carpet. There were no beetles over there that I could see.

I must inject here that I am a bug-a-phobe. Big time. It is irrational and real. Ask me sometime about the Concert in the Gardens...

Anyway, I was listening intently to the minister when all of the sudden I felt a tickle on the back on my right leg. When I reached around and placed my hand on my right "cheek", I felt a hard little lump moving under my pants. I bit my tongue to stifle the scream that was rising in my throat, jiggled the pant leg, and wiggled my booty a bit in hopes it would fall back down.

A few minutes later I felt a tickle below my right should blade. The little bugger was heading toward my neck - which meant it could potentially crawl into my hair. A horror scene flashed through my mind, complete with screaming and hopping and thrashing about. It wasn't pretty in my head, and it would have been even uglier in real life.

Now, I am the consummate Southern lady. To make a scene at a graveside service would be nothing short of scandalous. So... I grabbed hold of the thing through my suit jacket and pinched it as hard as I could. I felt it crunch, which made me want to puke. I must have killed it, because I didn't find it anywhere later on. Amazingly, no one around me had any clue that I averted a catastrophe.

It's the stuff of nightmares, I tell you.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What I Need When I Need It

Yesterday morning I had a mammogram. There's something about exposing your parts to a stranger and then having them unceremoniously pulled, stretched, yanked, and flattened that leaves you feeling a little less than glamorous.

So I decided to treat myself to a little "me" time at a nearby Starbucks. I ordered a chai tea latte and a pastry and settled in next the window. I lost myself in the streaming sunlight and the book I had brought.

As I exited through the door, I noticed someone coming out behind me. I did what I always do - I held the door. The man following behind me stopped me and said, "I just have to tell you. You look good. I was looking. I couldn't keep my eyes off of you. You look really good." I sputtered something that I hope resembled, "thank you," and he went back inside the coffee shop.

He did not follow me to my car. He did not ask my name or my phone number. He did not ask for anything else, if you know what I mean. He simply spoke his thoughts and went back inside. I did not feel threatened. I felt.... revived!

In my youth, I may have been offended by this gesture. I have friends who still complain about the boldness of men. But at my age I have learned to savor every compliment. I am aging, I don't look the way I used to, and I will not always look this way.

I share this story not because I want to draw attention to my oh-so-obvious hotness (ha, ha). I share it because it validates a belief I have in my God. He gives me what I need at the moments I need it. The last couple weeks have left me feeling insignificant. Seems there is no shortage of folks who will happily remind you how little you are worth. I needed to believe that, at least for a little while, I stood out.

So I choose to extract the positive from this experience and ignore the negative. Whatever that man's true intentions, no harm was done. And a little good was injected right where it was needed most.