An Enchanting Day

The Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls was closed so I made a U turn and headed to Johnson City.  I'm now sitting at the Hill Country Cupboard which is just what it sounds like--an old cafe with concrete floors and checkered table cloths on some tables.  The booth I'm sitting in has business cards and photos laminated all over its wooden top.  The menu is a printed page glued to a brown paper grocery bag.

Stacy takes my order for two eggs over medium, homemade country sausage, grits, biscuits and of course, coffee.  Stacy can best be described as wirey and grizzled.  She's dark tanned and overly wrinkly for her years.  Marie would probably say something like "She looks like she's been rode hard and put up wet!" She's my age and wears a rhinestone studded cowboy belt and a Harley t-shirt with her jeans and scuffed up ropers.

The view from my booth to the outside reveals my little blue Toyota in a sea of pickup trucks.  Mine is the only sedan in the whole parking lot.  A camo covered family comes in and sits a few tables away.  Mom and Dad order coffee and the teenage boy orders sweet tea.  Dad's going to have chicken fried steak and eggs, which explains a lot!  Camo to the left, camo to the right.  Camo hats, pants, t-shirts and fleece.  A bakery case displays homemade pies and cinnamon rolls.  An old wooden table next to it holds many bottles of A-1 Steak Sauce and Tobasco.

It is a crystal clear, blue sky, Hill Country winter day.  I'm heading to Enchanted Rock for a little hiking and a view of 2011.  I buy my day pass and start up the rock.  I take a water break on the Summit Trail, which is not much of a trail really, because you just head straight up the rock!  People of all ages are streaming past me in both directions, some going up, some coming down.  I swear Santa Claus just passed by on his way down.  The old coot looked just like Santa and he was wearing a red sweatshirt.  People pose for family pictures. "Y'all take a picture by this big rock!" Huh? The whole place is a freakin' big rock!

At the top there are at least 50 people milling around, some of them on cell phones.  A young couple walk around looking this way and that at the views.  He's very fit looking she's not so fit and she's pissed at him about something.  He keeps trying to hold her hand as he says "What's the matter?" and of course she snarls back "I said, NOTHING!" Nice.  It's very windy up here and it looks like some major dust is blowing in from the west. Blue sky with a distinct reddish dusty haze.  It's noisy with all these people up here, so I head back down.

A park sign at the base of the dome has a quote from a frequent visitor and rock climber:

"My heart feels lighter, my mind feels calmer and my senses feel tuned whenever I see that giant pink rock on the horizon.  No matter how I choose to spend my time among the enchanted rocks of the park, I always leave feeling better than when I arrived."

Yea, me too.

I cruise through Fredricksburg and stop at one of my favorite places on earth "Wildseed Farms"  I buy a bunch of goodies for Anna and her friends for their little New Year's Eve party -- artichoke hearts, hot pepper jelly, pickled asparagus bullets, marinated mushrooms and Neva Betta crackers.  In the Brewbonnet cafe, there is a fire burning in a huge fireplace and a wine tasting going on so I'm a very happy girl.  I taste a few then buy a glass as well as a lovely little fruit and cheese tray and plop myself down in front of the fireplace.

I believe I've created quite the perfect day and its not nearly over yet.  I'll drive back through the pretty hills of Central Texas to Spicewood and will meet Kathleen and Jerry later tonight for an early dinner. Happy New Year to me!



I gave my friend Marie a tiny little "Thank You" medal the Monday after Don moved out because whether she knew it or not or intended it or not her strength gave me strength. That medal is taped to the edge of her computer screen.

My friend Marie can give you a hug that takes you back to your childhood -- one hand across your shoulders the other along the back of your head, cheek to cheek and you know you are loved.

Ask Marie any question and she'll give you an answer and some very southern words of wisdom to go along with it. For that matter, don't ask Marie a question and she'll give you an answer and some southern words of wisdom to go along with it.

If you have Marie's cell phone programmed into your own, you will never be lost in the State of Texas.

Need firewood?  Marie just split a cord probably.  Need squash? Marie grows a bunch of it but doesn't eat it much. Need Apple Butter?  Marie just made a batch -- get in line behind me!!

Marie called me on Christmas Eve to say she had received a gift from her son in law.  It's a tiny little desk calendar called "Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit!"  I wonder if she wrote it -- especially after the remark she made in the office on the Monday after I recall, "That's harder than pouring melted butter up a wildcat's ass!" I really, really, really wish I could remember what in the hell we were talking about for her to say that!

Marie lives on 55 acres with her husband Tommy and all of their kids and grandkids.  Imagine if your kids could go visit their grandparents everyday, that you could see your grown children everyday, that your daughters could be together everyday if they wanted, and that the little cousins were best friends.  Nana rocks! The family comes and goes out of Marie's house as they please.  A little one stares into her refrigerator on a Saturday morning while his dad is mowing or working on a car down the dirt road.  Marie makes him eggs and toast. He directs her, "I want fwee!" So of course she makes him three, scrambled. One of the older boys plops down on the couch in front of the tube with Tommy, out of sorts with a heavy heart.  Marie says "Who wants banana pudding?" His head pops up with a slight grin and she whips some up from scratch.  On any given day, there is a pot of something on Marie's stove that will feed 14.

Marie has been married to Tommy since she was 15 making their life together now almost 50 years.  Tommy doesn't know me very well, but I know he likes me because he comes to the office from time to time to have coffee with Marie at the front desk and he'll say, "Hey Adams, come on out to the house and we'll do some shootin'!".  I think I'll invite myself over for Thanksgiving!


Sad Event On A Happy Day

Sweet Gizmo, Anna's beloved kitty, passed away on the morning of graduation. She was sick for several weeks and the vet couldn't diagnose anything solidly.  We assume it was cancer.  Eating and drinking very little lead to eating nothing and drinking sparely -- all while she slept alternatively under Anna's bed or my bed.

Gizmo was under my bed last night and I could hear her making odd soft groans.  I moved my bed out and retrieved her and laid with her on my bed for several hours listening to her labored breathing, smoothing her fur and cooing to her.  I covered her with my comforter gently to shield her from the light.  I fell asleep and then woke to find that she was gone.  I wrapped her in a soft towel and held her for several minutes before waking Anna to say that Gizmo was no longer with us.

I had wondered for awhile what Gizzy would do without Anna when she left for Tulane.  That cat followed that girl around like a puppy. Anna would always say, "Giz, ya wanna go take a shower?"  The cat always had to be in there with Anna.  If she didn't take her in, Gizmo would cry outside the door until I let her in.  Gizmo never wanted to be held though.  My sweet girl tried every single day to hold that silly cat, but Gizmo would cry and wiggle away and Anna would wail "Gizzy, why don't you love me?"  Make no mistake, that kitty adored her and she is missed.

Love is a Battlefield

I bought this journal because I left my other simple one at home and intended to buy a new one at the beginning of this trip.  Today, my first day in Crested Butte in 10ish years, I wander through the Sunday Farmer's Market on Elk then mosey down with Daniel and James in and out of shops 'til I come to this funky, tiny, very crested-butte-ish coffee shop and book store. 
I wander around all 250 square feet of the place looking for a blank journal until the owner extracts himself from the espresso he's drinking with friends and offers to help me.  He's super friendly and somewhat humbled and says he only has a couple of blank writing journals and a couple of sketching journals so what am I looking to do? 
I want a writing journal, I say and he pulls out some hand made paper, wooden covered 3 x 5 sized cuties and this one. I say "Is that Pat Benatar?" and he double checks and says, "Yes, these are made out of recycled album covers." I say, "Well, ya know, Love Is A Battlefield." He says, "Look at you! " and laughs.  I say "I'll take it!" He's a sweet guy and we laugh and talk for a few minutes about…eeegads…the '80's!! 
After I shell out my fourteen bucks, he offers to look up the album on the internet.  It's the Crimes of Passion album which was a hit in 1980 and the single off of it was "Hit Me With Your Best Shot".  I find it entertaining if not ironic that this journal dropped into my hands in July, 30 years after 1980, which was pivitol in my life. Fire away!

My New Wheels

I bought myself a birthday present...a CAR!!  Well don't get too excited...well, no, go ahead...

But the story is...the RAV crapped out and has been lodged in my driveway unable to get in any gear since Sunday.  It appears to be both the clutch and transmission and not worth repairing since, afterall, it has 249,000+ miles on it for Heaven's sake.

I went through the whole crappy car salesman rat race on Monday night.  I had dealers calling and giving me all kinds of crazy talk and I was just fending them off and telling them I had to take this one step at a time.  I was complaining to my "car guy" Webb here at the office on Tuesday morning and he says "I have a car I'll sell you!"  Seriously, it was his mother in law's car that she literally only drove to the grocery store and back.  It's a 2005 Toyota Corolla with only 28,000 miles on it!   Anyway, this is the first car I've ever bought on my own and I'm beside myself!

So this is how it all went down. When the car pooped out all I could do was laugh (because I knew it was going to happen and I was just happy it happened in my driveway), but it got funnier from that moment on...I reserved a rental car and Daniel dropped me off at the rental car office and drove off on Monday morning.  I walked up to the door to find the place abandoned.  A sign on the door said all reservations had been transferred to another office. So I called that office and assumed someone would come pick me up, but they said I had made my reservations during non business hours (yea, online on Sunday) and that they did not have a car available for me (even though I'm holding a confirmation number in my hand -- isn't this an episode from Seinfeld?) AND they wouldn't pick me up.  So I called Daniel out of school to come back and get me and take me to a rental car place by my office (the one I always use).  On the way there, we stopped to put gas in his truck and the magnetic strip on my debit card wouldn't read in the machine so he was going to take it inside to the attendant and when he tried the door, YEP another abandoned building!  We just looked at each other and said..."like is it the end of the world and nobody told us?"  It was like being in the freakin' Twilight Zone! 

College Bound!

My baby girl enrolled at Tulane!  It's nothing less than thrilling for me!  What else can I say?  I can only take so much credit for her success, but , yeah, I take credit for telling her to go for it!  She's a kick ass, pain in the butt, OCD inclined awesome little beauty and I love her with all my heart.  I'm going to miss chick flicks, Project Runway and Say Yes to the Dress with her next year.  Not sure, but I'll probably miss her pain in the butt, OCD inclined fun, too.

Who Am I?

A good weekend starts with a cheesy chick flick and 5 cups of coffee on Saturday morning.  I have eaten squid in its own ink but I don't care for raspberries much.  At one point not long ago my household included 2 dogs, 5 cats, 2 rats and a snake.  I can live without chocolate but not without pasta.  I panic when I don't have a book in my bag.  I've recently discovered false eyelashes, eyebrow waxing and microbrewery beer. It’s a bummer to have a family of skunks under your house.  I like walking my pit bull  alone through the woods at 2:00 a.m.  I can identify and pinpoint birds by the sound of their song. Bonfires and fireworks make me happy. After the drought last year I fear being without water; so to conserve that precious resource I drink more wine. If I need a pick me up I simply think of the person who once told me she woke up crying from a terrible nightmare that Danny Kaye was beating her up.  My adult kid is afraid of butterflies and just found out that “kitty glitter” is actually not that at all.  My other kid thinks that “doily” is a fun word to say.  Going barefoot gives me the creeps.  Facebook confuses me – weren’t we taught not to write on the walls?   To love me you must fall more deeply for me with every peal of my laughter.

I Love Airports

I guess I love to travel by any means, but airports are pretty fun.  I have a pet peeve though about the cost of airport food, so here I sit in Chef Jimmy’s Bistro at the Denver airport that claims to be a sit down, great affordable place.  I’m happy.  I’m drinking a $6 cabernet and eating a $5 bruschetta sampler. 
Across from me a couple of women order coffee and pasta and one of them pulls out a big ol’ tupperware container of raw broccolli.  Now that’s just weird.  I guess she’s afraid there won’t be any broccolli where she’s going?  If that’s the case, I bet she’s going someplace where they will ask her whether she’s carrying any fruits or vegetables in which case she’ll have to fork over her stash or face the consequences.
Two twentyish-year-olds sit next to me eating pizza and water.  They are a very thin vegan, Austin looking couple (her neck pillow has a Longhorn on it)  They are precious -- he touches the side of her chin from time to time in a very subtle public display of affection.
Some old dudes (ok, gentlemen who are my age) in Harley t-shirts stand outside the restaurant and decide to come in because a table opens up that’s in front of the one and only TV in the place and a game is on.  Geeze...
I think it might be cool to date a pilot; because a) he would be able to show me some cool places around the world and b) he would be gone a lot so I could continue with my own life!  I really, really, really like being unattached and don’t think I’ll ever be able to commit to someone again....unless he just thought every move I make is perfect and precious and will be along for the ride with me.
Ok, plane delayed by an hour and a far.  That means Daniel will have to pick me up tonight at like 12:30. He was having dinner with Don and, apparently, Landon because Landon was harassing him when I called...Like “Daniel your Mommy’s calling”.
Moved down to the bar closest to my gate and am now on house cab for $6.50 served in a disposable cup.  Crowd is much more fun here though.  “Blue Sky Bar” -- Quiznos attached on one side -- coffee and junk food on the other.
Been writing in this journal then texting the kids and Lis but notice a lovely man sit down next to me on a bar stool.  He’s watching a game and I’m writing with my pink pen in my dragon fly Santa Fe notebook.  At some point I quip “so you’re on the popcorn and beer diet”.  He says, “Yea, couldn’t pass up the popcorn.  It smelled so good.” We banter about where ya been, why were you there, how was the weather, yada yada yada.  I’m just trying not to look like a total dweeb.  I say something clever like, “Is this your team or does it matter?”  He pulls out his Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt and then we banter about the class act --Tom Landry. I tell him the story of how I actually met Tom Landry in Austin in the mid '80s and had a short conversation with him. I used to see him from time to time in restaurants and once in the parking lot of the Toys R Us. I would always say hello and he would always pretend he knew who I was.  He says he’s been a Cowboys fan since ‘76.  Was he born in “76?  Nah --  he’s my age.
We talk about NOLA, Santa Fe, Austin, Dallas and then he reveals that he is a former Frontier pilot.  He’s on his way to Portland Oregon.  I say my son just told me he would like to be an EMS pilot and he gives me his phone number and says to have Daniel call him and he will hook him up with several of his buddies who are air ambulance pilots. Seriously?  Suddenly, I’m rushing off hoping I didn’t miss my boarding and he says “I’ll be right here if your flight is still delayed.”  CRAP! plane is boarding...That’s the closest I’ve come to a flirtation device since 1984!! That was fun...but I'm not giving Daniel this guy's phone number...did he even tell me his name? Nope...just his phone number...bizarre, really, when you think about it.
Sweet woman sits beside in the center seat of the plane, but she and I together I’m sure will drive the passengers around us completely crazy.  I need a headset so I don’t engage...but I don’ t have one and I’m unwilling to buy one.
Really?!! If the seatbelt sign is on you can’t get up to pee?  I was chastised by a flight attendant.  I knew if I didn’t go then they would have the drink cart in the isle for forever. What’s girl to do? Two glasses of wine and three hours in the airport -- really, I simply had no choice. Luckily she scolded me on my way out of the toity.  WTF???
TMI from the chick next to me...To recap - she’s scoping out places to move to - her boyfriend doesn’t know yet, that she’s leaving.  She thinks her 6th grade son was being scouted at his baseball game on Saturday that she missed.  She’s fixing to close a $43,000 commercial insurance deal because she charged a $1500 initiation fee that the client won’t want to pay again to another agent (yea, ok, WHATEVER!)  She asks me if I’m writing letters and I say “no, its a journal” and she looks at me with, I swear, a giant question mark hovering over her head. “Oh”, she says.
I think it is slightly odd that the screen in front of me (since I’m not hooked up watching the tube) is playing a scene of the sky. It is a blue sky with clouds floating by. Um, I’m in an airplane.  If I look left or right I could see this scene, except that it is dark out there.  I wonder if, during the daytime, do they show a dark sky with a moon and stars?

Amtrak Dork!

Ok, its official.  I am such a dork! I love the Amtrak.  I love everything about it. Waiting at the station in Austin is just such a small view into a slice of that life.  The guy with the expired driver's license trying to get his ticket has to use his college id and a credit card.  He explains that he doesn’t need his driver's license in Singapore.  The hippy chick with the giant rolling suitcase, wearing a long dress, wet crazy hair and sandals talks on her cell phone the entire time until the train comes. Inside, she parks herself in the observation car and does her nails. Little boys in Thomas the Train tee shirts are on a train ride excursion with “Dada” (as he calls himself). “Mommy wants a picture.  Look at Dada! don’t keep saying cheese…just look at me.  Nice.”   Once inside the train I find corpses draped in fleece across both seats on many isles…where did they come from and where on earth are the headed?

Cotton fields are out one side and the Round Rock Express ball field is out the other.  I hear the sound of a far off train whistle in the distance and realize…oh yea…that’s us…this is the sound of a train from where I sit.  It is such fun to see kids in strollers on a walk in the country. They wave to us as we pass by.  I used to always wave at trains and pick my feet up off the floor of the car when we crossed a track.  What that was about I don’t remember now. Cows and church steeples blend side by side with power lines and junk yards. 

Announcements are made about the dining car menu, procedure and prices.  I came aboard with a giant coffee and breakfast taco, and a Greek plate for lunch from Whole Foods which is across the street from the Austin station.  Daniel dropped me off there this morning. I’ll buy myself some cabernet and have my lunch in the observation car.  Ooo la la.  How lovely. Yes.  Yes. It is such a simple lovely little pleasure.  God I really am a dork!

First stop, Taylor, Texas – grain elevators, barbecue joints, mesquite trees and fences covered with flowery wild vines.  A mom and tot get on and the little one has a toy cd player and NO HEADPHONES!! Oh lordy.  It’s loud and the Mulberry Bush song is playing over and over and over while the tot pushes the button with one hand and slurps from a sippy cup with the other.  People are starting to evacuate and the corpses are stirring.  “Mama huh?”  “Mama huh?” “Mama huh?” Mamy huh?”  What was it that I heard the blue collar comedy guy say…Oh yea "It’s enough to make a mime scream ‘HEY! IS YOUR NAME MAMA? !!!”   Answer your kid!!

Old grave yards with ornamental headstones and tall green grass look peaceful and calm.  How did those generic “perpetual maintenance” versions ever begin?  Creepy to think they designed a sacred sort of place around the premise that a mower could run right over everything in its path (including the gravestone) without ever stopping.

Tot wails, “Mama! Cows!”  Mama responds, “They ain’t no 'moo moos' out there…we passed ‘em back there (she never opens her eyes)” I look up and see cows walking chest deep into a rain filled tank.

We get delayed by a parade in Bartlett.  I wish I could get off here and see what it is all about.  There are lots and lots of cars, tents and food vendors.  While the train is stopped, I make my escape from “The Farmer in the Dell” and head forward to the observation car. Ahh peace!

What a great idea!  A woman is in the observation car brought her 13 year old daughter and two friends for a train ride.  It was her daughter’s birthday so they got on the train in Taylor and rode it to Temple.  Her dad hung up a Happy Birthday banner in Bartlett and stood on top of his Surburban and waved to them as the train went by.  Daddy's picking them up in Temple and taking them back to Bartlett for funnel cakes at the street fair. 

I love goats…at one point I see a burro chasing four goats toward the train.  They look like they are running to see the train go by.

The Conductor sits in the observation car and talks about how we should take the train all the way to Chicago sometime.  The train station is in the heart of downtown Chicago and it’s easy to get to hotels and clubs and fabulous pizza places.  I think I’ll do that one day.  Why not?