Dark Surprises

night skyUnexpected events renew respect.

As Marilyn walked into the kitchen, she noticed Duane’s ghastly, white face. He held up his finger, wrapped in a paper towel, blood oozing from the cut. “I’ve cut my finger nearly off,” he says. “I was fixing dinner. You hafta take me to the hospital.”

The time is 7:30 p.m. on a weeknight. Twilight.

“Now, Duane, how did this happen? Calm down. Get in the car. No, you can’t drive. How bad is it?” she says. “I’m sure the nearest Emergency Room is two miles away, near Walnut and Shiloh. It’s a Baylor facility.” She tries to reach the correct 911 operator to reassure it’s the closest location. As she drives her voice becomes louder and squeakier. When they arrive, the sign on the ambulance entrance says to enter through the front door. Which door? There are several doors.

They dash around three sides of the building and through the third door into the stark, white waiting room. Marilyn rushes to the receptionist to register him. Duane crowds behind her, talking over her head to the receptionist. “I need to see the doctor right now!” The little lady, with a soft, calm manner, says, “There are three ahead of you and only one doctor on duty. Those three have chest pains. Please, sit down, sir.”

“Let’s go to Plano, Marilyn. I can’t wait.” Marilyn, married to this man for forty-five years, knows him. He’s not about to sit still in this reception area. They return to the car and head for Plano. The blood pours down his hand. “Hold it up,” she says, as she maneuvers through the traffic. A thirty-minute, fifteen-mile drive ensues to the Baylor Heart Hospital.

Only one woman sits in the large, well-lit reception area, awaiting a relative or friend. A sweet, young woman in a smock ushers Duane to a private, room, which smells of antiseptics. The friendly, trim, forty-something nurse practitioner, forty-some woman charms him. They joke about his ability to cut broccoli while cooking. She glues his finger together (literally). She supplies instructions for self-treatment, suggesting he visit his personal physician the next day.They head home by 9:00 p.m.

On the road, the couple talks about the irony of him cutting himself as he considers himself an expert with a knife. He doesn’t want her to cut apples or chop celery. Often, he says to her, “You are an accident waiting to happen with a knife.” They are both relieved he doesn’t need his finger amputated or sewn together.

She thinks to herself, I’m doing well in this emergency. He seems to be okay. I’m glad he isn’t driving. His driving sucks. I’m glad I took this crazy, old man over thirty miles to Plano to appease him. As they approach a curve on a two-lane road about a mile from their home, she whacks the curb on a curve. Darkness prevails on this narrow road. He yells, “Drive over the curb. Get out of the road.” She does as he says, parking the car with two flat tires in the grass by the road. The road has no street lights. By this time, the Milky Way twinkles overhead, but no moon shines.

Duane decides to walk home to let the dog out and return in his vehicle but he fails to communicate why he leaves. AAA is on the way. Marilyn worries about his asthma or he might fall while walking through a nearby field on the way to their home. The cars whiz past her car on the two-lane road. Fear grabs her. She calls the local police to explain the accident and her concern about her senior-citizen-husband-with-breathing problems. A police cruiser arrives with a fire truck and an emergency vehicle with flashing red lights. Traffic backs up a mile. The big, burly, soft-spoken officer directs the vehicles to return to the fire station. The officer receives a call from another officer. Duane’s face registers surprise as he walks near their house. “Yes, I’m fine. I need to get my car. AAA should arrive shortly where my wife is waiting.”

The officer with Marilyn asks if she needs a ride. “No,” she replies. “I reached a neighbor who is on his way to take me home as soon as the tow truck arrives.” The officer leaves as the barefoot neighbor arrives in his car. Another anxious moment for Marilyn as she’s sure snakes and critters abound at the dark weeds. No snakes attacked. Duane pulls in behind the neighbor to await the tow truck while the neighbor provides the ride home. Duane doesn’t say much until later.

The crisis lacked humor when it occurred. When Duane arrives at home from following the tow truck to the tire store, he asked why she ran into the curb. She had no answers, other than carelessness or nerves. He didn’t yell at her about stupidity but expressed concern. Her reactions mirrored his: she thought he might fall or become out of breath. Neither attacked, which sometimes happens in families.

As Marilyn and Duane discussed the events of that dark night in the coming weeks, laughter ensues. She still complains about his driving. Several weeks later she felt he would be safe enough to cut lettuce. No one died, and Duane’s finger healed with no complications. They grasped the incongruity with a new appreciation for each other.


Looking back, the lessons learned are important for us. Sometimes what bothers us most are the things which we should examine in ourselves. Marilyn drives with more care, and Duane no longer hassles her as she chops vegetables. When we criticize others, we need to take a good look at our own liabilities. If we learn from experience the world can be a better, safer place. The irony helped increase patience and fewer complaints for this senior couple. They are thankful for the people who touched their lives that night and grateful for each other.

Fiction, based on a true story. Thank you, Caron, for assisting with the article.

 

 

 

Time to Volunteer

Ricker

Lon Ricker on his Motorcycle

Get on the Motorcycle and Ride

The kids return to school in August. What will you do with extra time? Your full-time job requires concentration. The children go to lessons and practices. Time to volunteer remains an issue.

You retire thinking you may find time to help others. But, you cannot seem to find time anything but your golf game or online interests.

Lon’s Story

Lon Ricker is a friend. I watch him from a distance as his career evolves. He’s not quite a Renaissance man but an “uncaged” spirit who loves family, freedom, and helping others. He worked with my husband. When he was promoted to a management position he hated it. With no dependents or home ownership, he quit.

After I ride around the block with him on his motorcycle I ask, “What are you going to do?” He responds, “Maybe odd jobs. For sure I will ride my bike a lot.” And he did. He looks relaxed, happy, but he tires of painting walls and carpentry. When he returns from his “free range existence,” he volunteers at the SoupMobile, a philanthropy in Dallas where the homeless eat daily. He loves it and they love him, volunteering many hours.

The leadership proposes he become the paid Development Director, which means he builds relationships and raises funds for the organization. He expands the Christmas program where the homeless stay in a fancy hotel overnight for a fabulous holiday experience, requiring many donations and volunteers. Now he’s trying something new.

After serious introspection, Lon starts a consulting agency to assist non-profits with communications and fund development. He has family obligations and is a homeowner, but he‘s a risk-taker and a king of networking. He’ll do well, resulting from his super attitude and experience.*

Limited Expertise

Teaching

Ruth loves facilitating programs.

I share his story to emphasize that we find time to do what we want. Sometimes life truly interferes with volunteer ability but constraints can be excuses.

When I changed careers to write, I considered offering to teach classes at church, but I didn’t feel qualified. I don’t attend Bible studies. I don’t have a background in Biblical history or a knowledge base for interpreting miracles. My religious acumen lacks depth. But the need arises for teaching once a month.

Guess what? When I begin the class, my voice quivers and I cope with butterflies, a little like I am riding behind Lon on his huge bike. My voice becomes more confident as the group becomes attentive. I am enjoying facilitating, rather than calling it teaching.

The last two Sundays the curriculum emphasizes the need to be “Servants.” Humph! I don’t like the curriculum so I find time to customize the suggested message for the group. I use Father Gregory Boyle’s book, titled Tattoos on the Heart during the classIf a Jesuit priest can create programs for the tough gangs on the West Coast, we, too, can make a difference. He’s an excellent role model. The class may not have liked writing a poem or hearing about gangs, but they will remember the topic. The experience encourages me to share the joy in volunteer work.

While researching for the lesson, I discover several women in the church drive a great distance to Gainesville, Texas to participate in the Kairos Prison Ministry. She and her friends help female inmates find answers for a better life. When I talk with Carolyn Jones about the program, I hear passion in her voice.

Volunteer work is important, no matter what you choose. No time? Try hard to MAKE time. You may find a new passion in life, which may feel like riding a Harley-Davidson when you walk in the door to a meeting the first time or two.

With the enormous number of philanthropies, finding a fit for your volunteer effort should be easy. You may find new confidence, new relationships for your career, and more personal rewards than challenges.

Eighteen Worthy Non-Profits

Susan G. Komen Foundation-research and assistance for cancer patients

KERA-public radio and television

Rotary International-many worthy community activities

Lions Club-helping people with eye problems and the need for eyeglasses

Hearts and Hammers-refurbish low-income housing needs

Soupmobile-feed the homeless; ancillary services

Salvation Army-donate your gently used stuff; maybe be a bell ringer at Christmas

Red Cross-help with blood donation

Bed Start-donate beds and other furniture for families sleeping on the floor

Gateway of Grace-build ramps, helping with building projects

Food pantries-amazing grace

Board memberships-new friends and insight

Kiwanis Club-service projects and fundraising for children

Book Clubs-get to know your neighbors

HOA-home owners’ association which helps the communities stay safe, presentable and friendly

Habitat for Humanity-donate furniture, refurbish and resell

 

Ambiance to Ambivalence

New Orleans

New Orleans Architecture

New Orleans is a gorgeous city, but….

New Orleans beckons me to this day, but with doubts. As a Francophile, visiting New Orleans appears on my bucket list with a line through it. Two years ago, I begged the husband to fly to New Orleans. The man is not fond of flying anywhere, much less to a drivable location from Dallas. We drove across the state when we visited Lafayette a few years ago: borrring! I don’t see how people stay awake on Highway 49 before heading east on Highway 10 to New Orleans. The expense for the trip is about the same if you fly and stay fewer days than if you would drive with extra nights in a hotel.

A friend suggests a hotel in New Orleans. She and her sister stayed at a medium-priced hotel between several of the venues we want to visit. I make the flight and hotel reservations. I barely notice the term “suites” and “non-suites” but there was a price differential. I reserve the less expensive room. The location on the map looks perfect since I prefer not to be in the midst of noisy crowds in the French Quarter.

Flight is fine. Trip from airport to hotel is fine. We drag our bags along a dark hotel corridor at the hotel to enter a room which costs more than $150 per night. The price is reasonable for New Orleans. We enter a drab, musty, gray room, which is all wrong. The bedspread has a tear in it. It looks dirty. The room smells worse than a wet dog. I call the reservation desk. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but that’s shur nuff what ya paid far. We can move ya t’a suite in the otha tawar as that’s where the nisa rooms are, but y’all needa pay a little bit more.” Although I’ve lived in the south for over thirty years, I had to listen carefully to understand her lovely, Louisiana accent. Fine. Let’s move.

hotel bath remodel

No Soap Dish and Bathroom Problems

I fail to check out the bathroom, but the suite looks comfortable and clean. We drop our bags and head to dinner, tired but happy with the upgrade. After dinner, I discover the bathroom remodel apparently stopped weeks ago. The window sills are covered with icky, gray-green mold. The shower stall has no lip on it. The water would flood the bathroom floor. Again, I contact the front desk but this time I discover that’s the last room available. Someone would clean the bathroom in the morning.

We discuss our plight and decide we can handle anything after having reared teenagers and stayed in stranger places. We would use the shower gently to “make do,” as we do not want to search for another place to stay.

Cafe du Monde

Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square

Most everyone who visits New Orleans starts the day with beignets at the famous Café du Monde. Maybe not everyone, but it is high on my priority list.  The melodious, fun-loving quartet plays jazz on the corner outside the roofed patio for travelers as we munch the beignets (fried dough with confectioners’ sugar, sometimes filled with fruit). The sun shines on the world.

We find the visitors’ center and buy tickets and board the “Hop on, Hop off” bus, a boon for travelers who do not want to drive in the city. After studying the map, we “hop off” the bus for the short walk to the World War II Museum to buy the tickets for the hour-long, in-depth documentary “Beyond the Boundaries.”

C47?

Inside the World II Museum

Both my husband and I love World War II history and stories. The high point of the trip is the museum. Its reputation as a historical gem proves true. We stand in line for the movie, huddled with a group of friendly tourists awaiting an excellent documentary in 4-D technology with commentary by Tom Hanks. Original footage and realistic sound effects astound the crowd. The lunch with a zillion other people in the large, museum café, is tasty and reasonably priced. Two more hours of walking through the displays add the joy of learning while traveling.

When we leave the museum, we shiver, as the weather changed from sunny to dreary. My husband decides he needs a nap. By the time, we reach the hotel, he is not feeling well, but later, we wander to a nearby, excellent restaurant for dinner. I do a happy dance that I packed my lined jacket as I had not expected the bitter cold and rain in early March. The excellent fish dinner at a nearby Cajun restaurant revives us.

Unfortunately, the husband’s recuperation did not last. In the morning, he declines to see more of the town. Disappointment reigns for fifteen minutes before I head out on my own. Maybe he will feel better later. I know where to look for antiques. Research before leaving Dallas helps me decide to shop. I board the “Hop on, Hop off” bus, near the hotel, making sure I take the correct route on the breezy, crisp day.

Magazine Street

Cornstalk Fence Hotel on Magazine Street

Magazine Street travels through the Garden District. I feel guilty to have fun while the husband wallows in misery at the hotel.

I meander through the stores: gifts, hardware, clothing-funky and fancy. Magazine Street holds fascinating shops and astounding homes, bed and breakfasts with ornate architecture. I buy lunch at a thriving bar, sitting alone on a stool. The bartender ignores me after serving a splendid po’boy and iced tea.

It is time to locate the last stop on the “Hop on, Hop off” bus to circle to the hotel. The tour guide regales stories about many parades in New Orleans as the tourist industry schedules regular festivals. New Orleans people love to party and entertain. Charles Street has a trolley and wonderful venues to visit. My head bounces back and forth looking at the historic buildings from the bus.

Ted, the husband, feels better. The day before we depart is excellent for photos. Again, we board the bus and ride around town with two excellent guides: one for the north end of the city with a change of guides for the southern half. We eat a quick, flavor-filled lunch in the French Quarter with no time to visit specific sites.

colorful street dancer

Is it a clown? A dancer?

Before we leave, I want to see Bourbon Street. We visit a high-end antique store on our traipse to Bourbon Street. I am not tempted with their high prices. A clown and dancers perform in the street. We hustle to Bourbon Street where the open doors let the stale smells of alcohol and cigarettes waft through the air. As we walk, I see an old, squat, heavy-set woman with no shirt walking along the street. Not a pretty sight. I almost cried to think of her lack of dignity. Was she drunk, on drugs, or what? Did she need food? Did someone take her shirt? No one pays attention to her. I’ll never know her story.

Perhaps I should return to New Orleans. I try to accept surprises when they occur. I took advantage of the chance to see the shops on Magazine Street and enjoyed the time alone, but I don’t know if I’ll ever beg to see the town again. Too much went wrong to want to return. I’ll buy my beignets elsewhere.

Addendum: I contacted the hotel manager upon returning home. After I sent photos of the nasty conditions in the room, I received a discount.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Celebrate Independence Day

flag

“I pledge alliance…”

An Essay

I finished reading the Lilac Girls, a powerful story of inhumanity. One of my book clubs chose it. I resisted reading it, preferring not to hear about the hideous treatment in concentration camps during World War II. The novel, historical fiction, is based on events surrounding a large group of female prisoners during the Holocaust. The “heroine” is the lady who organized and helped raise funds for a trip for the survivors for rehabilitation and relaxation in the US after the war.

The story needs to be shared again and again. I barely touched on the indignations the children and people encountered during the war in my book Gift of the Suitcase, yet one reader told me she found those passages uncomfortable. Throughout the Lilac Girls, the enormity of the atrocities of war caused me to cringe with sadness, even tears.

We are fortunate to live with freedom. I appreciate my independence. I am living the American dream of doing what I love (writing and traveling). Freedom to write this essay is a blessing, which is cause for celebrations with fireworks and friends.

My first trip to Europe gave me an inkling of how Americans are hated and loved. Shamefully, innocent people continue to be killed throughout the world. Our independence should not be taken for granted or in isolation. I realize the world may never rest in peace, but we, as individuals, can live peacefully.

Let’s try to make our country more lovable. We are a country of mixed heritage. Diversity is a strength. Let’s celebrate our wholeness as a nation. Let’s celebrate our unique heritage and respect others.  Vicious words, rather than constructive discussions, foster hatred. War fosters pain and suffering, no matter who is right and just. A fellow author suggests the Democrats and Republicans need to re-brand themselves. I agree.

 

 

Fun on the Fourth

Audie Murphy

Audie Murphy

The Audie Murphy and the Cotton Industry, totally entwined in history.

Antiques and memorabilia at the Audie Murphy/Cotton Museum create lasting memories for visitors. It’s worth the drive, an hour east of Dallas on Highway 30. “What,” you say, “is Audie Murphy doing in a Cotton Museum?” Hunt County, Texas is famous for two things: Audie Murphy and cotton.

Audie: the Hero

Audie lived his life in the fast lane. Born in 1925 in Kingston, near Greenville, he entered the Army ten days after his eighteenth birthday. One of twelve children, he marched off to war with love in his heart for his family and his country.

He served in Sicily, Italy, and France, facing the Germans and stunning his superiors with his expertise and bravery. He returned to Hunt County before his twentieth birthday with thirty-three military awards, including the Medal of Honor. News services picked up the story to honor him.

Audie: the Actor

Audie’s face became well-known throughout the U.S. A handsome guy, articulate and feisty in interviews, actor James Cagney invited him to visit Hollywood. When Audie published his autobiography, the movie industry chose his story for film. He talked his way into the starring role. Much to everyone’s delight, he became as famous for his acting ability as his military acumen. Unfortunately, like many actors and sports stars, he died young and poor. His investments failed and he gambled too much. He died on a foggy, misty night in an airplane accident near Roanoke, Virginia in 1971 at age 46.

A selected list Audie Murphy movies in the gift shop:

To Hell & Back

Cimarron Kid

Cast a Long Shadow

Apache Rifles

Drums Across the River

Cotton and Antique Displays

Beautifying

Hairdresser Agony

The Audie Murphy/Cotton Museum equals fun. Take the grandkids. Let Grandma share her experience with a permanent hair wave using the funny machine that looks like it could electrocute anyone coming near it: she will laugh until her stomach aches, watching the grandkids’ faces.

The cotton displays provide insight into the process of picking and baling the cotton. An enormous wooden cotton gin exhibits the intricacies of the ordeal of making cotton. You will find more insight about Hunt County as the museum supports the entire area.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and closed most holidays, but it will be open on Tuesday, the Fourth of July. A young family can spend an hour or two rambling through the museum, trying to explain how someone used to pick cotton to make a shirt. Senior citizens may saunter slower to reminisce longer than the youngsters.

The scenery refreshes urban cowboys, vets, and families. Horses lean over the fence and an old cabin and restored old home rest in the pristine setting.

Beige horse

Check the website for more detailed directions and tickets. I guarantee you will love the place, especially if you are an antique with young ones in the party.

Finding a Fit after Fifty

Sometimes finding your “fit” takes time.

Linda-the-Pastor

Linda Whitworth-Reed in the Pulpit

When Linda planned to abandon her career of short-term jobs to go to seminary, she was 52 years old. She had supported her husband through seminary a decade previously. They relocated many times for his two different careers. “Now it’s my turn,” she said. “David has not received his next calling. We may need to live apart awhile. I am well aware of the challenges.”

Linda’s dad was a Presbyterian minister. He lived with them after her mother died. When David quit an excellent technical sales job to become a minister, she and her dad applauded loudly. They understood the pitfalls and pleasures of life as a minister.

“Linda,” I wailed. “You’re over 50. Are you sure you want to graduate when you are 56 years old?”

“Well,” she responded, “I’ll still be 56 or 57 anyhow.  The timing is right and I’m sure the call is real.”  The love of learning flows through Linda’s veins. Returning to graduate school would invigorate this energetic lady.

Linda’s work history is one we call “patchwork.” She’s been a French and Spanish teacher, a publisher, an Information Technology Instructor, an exercise expert and held many other jobs. Would this be another two or three-year stint? Teaching and speaking demonstrates a recurring theme in her career.

I questioned how she knew this rung in her career ladder would be a better fit.  Linda is super-intelligent, introspective and gregarious. Before her dad passed, Linda and David took her father to visit people from his past. Within a two-week period three of his friends, who had watched her grow up, inquired about “her church.” They assumed she had followed the same career as her dad and husband. That was the sign she needed. With David in transition the present looked promising for her to begin her studies. The rocky road to seminary took five years to solidify. She registered at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin. Fortunately, David became an interim pastor in Waco, 98 miles from the seminary.

With age discrimination rampant, I worried about my friend. I didn’t need to fret. Her quick smile, unconventional wisdom, and perky personality endeared her to the other students.  Linda expected to fly through all her classes, but Hebrew and Greek gave her heartburn. Although fluent in Spanish and French, she struggled.  Discussions on theology, evolution, and creationism stirred her intellect.  Text books rarely put her to sleep. Volunteer work with the homeless while in Austin opened her eyes wider to poverty. Additional study in family dynamics increased her strength in what she would face in her ministry. Driving back and forth with their two dogs to visit her husband caused horrendous challenges with time management and their schedules.

 

Linda sings

Linda Singing a Happy Song

When she graduated, David and Linda moved to a town in South Texas, a town of over 80% Hispanic. Since Linda is fluent in Spanish, she loved the ability to converse in Spanish daily. David and Linda were called co-pastors. The situation for any new pastor is challenging and this was no exception. She loved the town, the people, and the green parrot in a nearby tree. Relationship building began in earnest.

David went to serve another church as an interim pastor. She became the Senior Minister, giving her a chance for new responsibilities. Her next call took the couple to Little Rock.

My comment:

If you are thinking of becoming a minister, she cautions, you must love and learn how to cope with diverse personalities from a Christian perspective and much faith. Linda has found her niche. The job is difficult, the hardest one she’s ever had, but she loves it.  She found her niche at 57. Risky, but worth the effort and hard work.

Currently Linda has been a minster for nine years. David is “honorably retired” and finds part-time ministry and musical gigs wherever they live. He does wood-working while she writes the sermons. Now they live in Iola, Kansas.

As we worked together on this article, she stressed, “In working with myself and others in order to give myself grace, I must realize we do the best we can with what we have.”

Are you doing the best you can with what you have? From exercise guru to minister, we find peace with what we have, no matter the age or circumstances.

 

 

Unexpected Fun and Funk

Unexpected Fun and Funk

Courtyard

Ready for an Event-Photo Courtesy of Bogart’s

“C’mon, Mom. You’ll have fun. You loved the crawdads when we had them before,” said our oldest son. “You can stay with us.” His younger brother and wife had accepted the invitation. They live in Houston but we usually run back and forth between their homes when we visit. Being together is a treat.

The problem: Super Bowl weekend in Houston. Although neither son lives downtown, I pictured sitting in traffic for hours. Two-hundred-seventy-five mile one way from Dallas to his house. But, we love to travel. Maybe we could leave early on Friday and return Sunday morning to avoid traffic. I would call the motel near his place and we’d leave Friday.

Double the Money

Whoops! The Houston hotels doubled their prices and were undoubtedly booked. After I stopped hyperventilating, I searched for a Bed and Breakfast for Friday night in Navasota, an hour northwest of Houston. We would stay with the older son on Saturday. We had stopped in Navasota several times to visit antique shops. Navasota offers streets with huge mansions, big yards, gigantic trees, and a quaint downtown.

Bogart’s Casa Blanca looked inviting. The prices seemed reasonable but could the dog stay there? He could! When I reached Dwayne Fuller, the owner, he said the Mae West Efficiency Apartment was available. Although dogs are not usually welcome, he agreed to Fargo’s inclusion.

 Dwayne’s Devine Decor

Bogart's efficiency

Mae West Efficiency with Kitchen Area-Photo Courtesy of Bogart’s

 

Bogart’s is, shall we say, funky. Eclectic might be a better term. The word “pizzazz” and “eye catching” come to mind. An antique sleigh bed stood in the middle of the room. The carpet looked like the designer chose colors from a kindergartner’s Crayola box. We would need to brush our teeth in the “kitchen.” Dwayne opened a cupboard door on the other side of the room and voila, a place with light and mirror for make up in the morning. He wanted to know what time he should bring our breakfast. He would cook.

carpet

Flowered Carpet on the Floor-Photo by R. Glover

 

 

The Renaissance Man

According to his story he operated a spa and event center in the location with eight salon chairs. When he renovated, he closed the hair salon and created four rooms for the B&B and current event center.

Dwayne is an older, tall, handsome, athletic-looking man. “Tell me more, Dwayne,” I begged.

When he graduated from a tiny high school in Arkansas he boarded a bus to live with an older brother in Houston, leaving the farm for good. He trained as a hairdresser, attracting a huge following of clients. He bought a big house on the main drag in the Heights (long a funky section in Houston) and created a hotel and events center.

His involvement in the professional hairdressers’ association led to teaching and certifying new hairdressers throughout Texas and farther locations, including an exciting trip to Hungary to teach one class. He and another beautician owned five salons in Houston, which flourished.

Fuller attended classes to become a licensed real estate dealer. His sister taught him interior design for huge events, weddings and parties. His natural creativity and opulent decor attracted the rich and famous. When he tired of the rat race, he sold his place in the Heights and moved to Navasota where he bought three big, old homes on Washington Avenue. More parties and notoriety followed. When I asked him to recall a favorite event, he remembered the author from Paris who planned her wedding for the Navasota location: it took 18 months of international planning and preparation.

When Dwayne fell off a ladder he transformed his life. He could no longer care for three big mansions. He sold two of them, making life easier with space for 15 guests a night and 200 for events.

I asked what has made him so successful. His response was as eloquent as his funky décor. “You must consider the customers. Give them what they expect. Cleanliness. And you must love people.”

If you like stark hotel rooms, this is not the place for you. One night worked for us although when we visit again, we’ll try a bigger unit. If you want to see the results of many years as a hotelier with the collection of antiques, unusual knick-knacks, colorful combinations of paintings and art objects, you need to visit Bogarts. “I’m still having fun,” he laughs, as he invites us to return soon.

Onward

It was Super Bowl weekend and Chinese New Year.  Our impromptu planning reminds me that extensive planning is not always necessary. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to travel on the spur of the moment. Unexpected surprises await when least expected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unforgettable Canadians and the Quilt Barn Trail

Bow tie quilt block

A quilt block on an attorney’s office in Bonham

An updated report on the largest quilt barn trail in Texas.

We met on the square in the Chamber of Commerce office in Bonham, Texas to meet Marie, from McKinney, who had moved from Canada and her visitors, Steve and Judy, from Ontario, Canada. They wanted to see the largest quilt barn trail in Texas. I joined them for their tour. They had read about the trail in the Texas Electric Coop magazine. Judy is a quilter. I was an observer that day and author of the article. I tagged along to update information about the trail.

The Quilt Barn Trail

A quilt barn block is exactly that: a colorful quilt pattern block or geodesic design which is square, painted on wood or metal and hung on barns or other buildings. Downtown Bonham has 20 blocks on various buildings: for example, on a tire store, a law office, and a community building. Maps are available at the Chamber to assist visitors maneuver in town and in the countryside to find the lovely artwork.  Be sure to view the online video of the trail.

We met with Patti Wolf, the organizer and spokesperson for the quilt trail. The dismal sky did not deter Patti’s tour. Judy, Steve and Marie arrived a half an hour late as they took a wrong turn at road construction, ending in Kansas before they realized their error (actually Sherman, Texas).

Patti had time to drive us around, not a regular occurrence with her busy schedule. She gave background to the three Canadians and me before we left for a short walk to see nearby signs. Sure, the town honors their hero Sam Rayburn but the Texas Quilt Barn Trail offers visitors a new reason for a road trip.

Double-sided

A Double-Sided Quilt Block

The Jaunt

Patti invited us to ride in her new, huge truck to see the trail. If we made a video of climbing into the truck, it would have gone viral. We needed a ladder; however, Steve saved the day as his strong arms helped by pushing and jostling the three females into the back seat. We all giggled and grunted but we made it into that humongous back seat. He rode “shotgun.”

We enjoyed the ride with Patti’s strong, Texas twang filling in the blanks concerning the people and the quilt blocks. “This one used to be inside the fence, but they moved it outside so everyone can see it. The senior center has three quilt blocks.” Eagerly, Patti shared the news that the trail continues to grow like weeds in a flower garden. When I wrote the original article the quilt blocks numbered around 50, but rose to 120 in the past 18 months. I particularly like the one on Highway 78 that is different designs on each side.

quilt barn square

Beauty on a Barn

Lunch

Over lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant the threesome shared they would visit Gruene, Waco, Fredericksburg, and San Antonio. They toured Dallas before Bonham. Our group knew about signs on barns from living near the Amish and Mennonite barns close to their home and in the Northeast. The Texas quilt blocks rival or surpass the artwork in the Northeast.

Spring Is Around the Corner 

As we parted Marie called the tour “…a delightful day of discovery as we drove through the towns and countryside of Fannin County in search of each unique quilt pattern proudly crafted and displayed.” Judy commented that it was, “An informative and enjoyable day highlighted by true Texas hospitality.”

I urged the Canadians to return in the spring to enjoy the Texas wildflowers and clear, blue skies when they might be wearing parkas in Canada. Traveling offers surprises you cannot beat.

If you are looking for a travel treat, be sure to pick up a map at the Bonham Chamber to see the largest quilt barn block trail in the state of Texas. If you are from Canada or other country, maybe you, too, will get to ride in a big, new truck!

by Ruth Glover, Author of Gift of the Suitcase and Freelance Writer/Speaker

Reprinted with permission from the Roxton Progress Newspaper, Roxton, Texas (last names & group photo omitted in the reprint)

Volume 40, Number 8, January 19, 2017

 

Loving Others

Valentine

Smile. It’s contagious. Photo by R. Glover

 

February is the traditional month we think about love. Our new President scares the “snot” right out of some. We need to love and pray for our government and leaders. I don’t want to get preachy, but, doggonit, smiling is better than frowning. Wringing our hands is not fruitful. Nasty, rude comments solve nothing.

Christian religion says, “Give it to God.” Sometimes that seems the only or best answer. We cannot help the angry police officer who is wiping spit off his face from an accused predator.  We cannot help the jerk who cuts in front of us on a busy highway. We cannot help the pilot when the plane is late. But…we can try more thoughtfulness before responding in a heated conversation. Helping others soothes the soul but fear brings a raft of emotions.

Subways

statue of liberty

Statue of Liberty from the Harbor by R. Glover

Before I visited New York City last year I feared conquering the subways. Would someone accost me? Rip my backpack off? Would I become confused traveling to the theater? A friend assured me the New York City subways are safe, but I should not stay out late. I looked at the subway map and nausea enveloped me.

The doorman at the hotel, where we stayed near Washington Park, helped me understand the reality of “uptown” and “downtown,” along with suggestions for taking the A-line or B-line for best results. His kindness and raucous laughter assuaged my fear. Only later did a recall managing the subways in France when I was 21 years-old.

Success

Never got lost! Had a great time. Glad I overcame my fear.

Fear

The French suffer a reputation for caustic communication. I know France is struggling with fear of foreigners. Many French Jews are moving (again) because of fear. Israel’s geography may change as the borders become unsafe for their citizens. The world is in chaos. Certainly, not the first or last time.

Eiffel Tower

Under the Eiffel Tower-Photo by R. McMichael

Love One Another

What can we do? We must love one another. We must try to understand and cope when our values are diverse. Each day let’s concentrate on kindness to others. At the end of each day where did we deposit kindness? At the very least, show respect.

It’s February. Hug a friend. Send a note to a neglected relative. Love others. Respect diversity and value difference. It can only make the world a better place to live.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Peace Be with Us.

Hot Rods and Hot Glass

Introduction

Parabelle Glass Paperweight

Parabelle Paperweight-Gary Scrutton

Photo by T. Glover

On a visit to Portland, Oregon a few years ago I met Gary Scrutton, his wife, daughter and a grandson. He welcomed us to his garage workshop in Sellwood, a neighborhood in Southeast Portland. Gary’s last endeavor, restoring hot rods, kept him as busy as his former business, making paperweights. He and his lovely wife took time to share their story with me. Afterwards I wrote an article about his life for an online news service. Here’s the story, slightly revised:

A Glazier

As a teenager, Gary Scrutton thought he’d build hot rods, dreaming, as many young people do. But by the time he reached 23, his family of six needed a better income.

Gary served an apprenticeship in the glazier industry. Glaziers cut and fit window glass for residential and commercial use. By age 42, with his family grown, he    wanted to try working with glass in new ways. While reading about glass art, paperweights caught his attention, taking his breath away with their beauty. When he watched a paperweight being produced by Clichy of France, he felt as if one of the glass orbits hit him on the head. He became obsessed. He experimented with various colors of glass, studying the chemistry and physics of glass making. Concentrating on the historic time between 1840 and1855, he studied the famous European artists in detail. His boss told him he would never learn the art of making paperweights. Gary took the challenge. He quit his job to develop Parabelle Glass, his new business. Friends and family thought he was crazy.

Sweet Success

Gary remained stalwart in his belief he could master the art. He made the glass himself, mixed his own chemicals for perfect color, designed the products and purchased the necessary equipment. Doris, the loving, but worried wife, labored beside him, assuring the bills were paid. Gary gave his first paperweight to his former boss two years after quitting.

Two relatives offered to help him sell the weights. When Larry Selman, the premier dealer for paperweights, discovered Gary’s talent, the rest is history. Doris, his wife, ran the business while Julie, one of his grown children, assisted with the production. They named the company Parabelle Glass. He earned more than a good living.

Back to the Future

Alas, after 14 years of physically demanding work in a heat-filled studio, Gary retired. His work continues to be available through the L.H.Selman studio, now in Chicago, a premier paperweight dealer. When Gary closed his shop, he devoted time to a former passion: he refurbishes hot rods. The fire in his heart for hot rods never died, although he will be remembered in the art world for many generations for his paperweights.

Addendum

Sadly, Doris Scrutton died in 2013. She and Gary were married for 57 years. He died a few months later in February 2014. I am proud I met his family and him. I am glad I met them, and I am the proud owner of two of his weights.