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.

The Flapper and the Music Man

 

poster

McMichael Band from 1930s

The story of a young, entrepreneurial couple in the 1930s who collaborated to teach music to the townspeople and their children.

“Who’s the gorgeous woman with the brown hair and finger wave?” Bill murmured to a new friend at a singles party in the 1930s. “I’m not sure. I’ve seen her here a few times. Great style, don’t you think?”

Early Years 

Florence borrowed a dress to wear to the party as her meager earnings prevented costly, stylish clothes. At age 26 her attire was classy, not spinster-like. Her pearl white, satin dress shimmered like glistening snow, accessorized with a little brown hat and clunky, brown tie shoes. She worries about finding a good man. Maybe her finger wave hairdo and friendly demeanor would attract attention.

The remnants of the Depression lingered in Central Ohio. After Bill attended college in Columbus, preparing to teach music, he settled 30 miles from his alma mater. With limited growth opportunities in Coitsville (his hometown), near Youngstown, he risked moving to Newark to investigate employment. Newark, a city of 30,500 offered better opportunities. He stayed the rest of his life.

Unemployment reached the catastrophic statistic of 25% about the time of his arrival. Finding work proved perplexing as few jobs existed in public schools. This young, inexperienced musician decided to teach private lessons. After a year of floundering, he found space for a music studio, in a big house on Hudson Avenue, along tree-lined curbs beside fancy, old homes. With plenty of space for private lessons, Bill’s friendly reputation for teaching the guitar, banjo, bass and mandolin traveled fast. His popularity around the town increased when showing off his students’ skills at club meetings and in churches.

Florence flounced by Bill with pearl earrings dancing from her earlobes at the party. As she moved towards him for a lingering, flirty handshake, she said to him, “Hi, I’m Florence. Are you enjoying the party?” His heart beat faster and faster! Her cologne lingered in the air, suggesting he should learn more about this lady.  Tall, gaunt and gracious, his attraction to Florence seemed mutual.

Florence needed a job. Bill needed someone to schedule appointments for the students and manage the accounting. He paid her a small salary and gave her mandolin lessons rather than extra money. He taught her, in her words, “Everything I know.” They married in 1934.

Growing the Business

Her musical talent blossomed, adding the piano, accordion, and guitar to her skills. Bill taught her the basics of music, which led to her teaching career. She increased his earnings by suggesting he should sell stringed instruments. Word of mouth traveled fast with moms bringing their children to learn from “the new guy in town.”

Flo & bass

Florence with her Bass

She played string bass with his 90-piece banjo band they took to contests throughout the United States, often winning top prizes. When their stringed orchestra played at the World’s Fair in Chicago, they won many awards and recognition. Imagine transporting 90 students, parents, friends and instruments cross country! He became the biggest customer in the U.S. of Gibson products during that decade. Florence suggested marketing ideas while finding locations for the student performances.

World War II

World War II raged within the first ten years of their marriage. Bill departed for the Army shortly after their daughter was born, leaving in early 1944 for the Army. How would she cope? Her tears flowed as she cringed, realizing how little she understood. How could she manage the store and teach while nurturing her baby?

Flo & baby Ruth

Note our hats.

“Whatever will I do?” she wailed. Bill’s response surprised her, “You’ll survive. I trust you.” She hired a nanny to care for the baby who helped with cooking and cleaning. She hired a sales clerk at their store, punching fear in the face. Roomers in the upstairs bedrooms added a little cash to her income while Bill continued his musical career in the service. Bill directed an Army band and played the bugle at Fort Lee, Virginia, never leaving the U.S. Failure was not an option.

Florence morphed into the predecessor of Super Woman, during his tour of duty. Her strong stamina, quick wit, and gift of gap, appealed to customers. She grasped profit and loss, bankers, and bills. Bill recognized Florence’s survival skills. When he returned after the war, she had stashed money in the bank and owned a thriving business.

The Business Roller Coaster

In the 1950s, the couple added phonographs, pianos, sheet music, records and radios. They added television, bringing more business growth. Florence worked in the store and taught music lessons. His first shop on Church Street grew. When they needed more space, they moved to South Third Street around the corner from the popular town square. They moved to another home with their young daughter. She brought her first grade class to see their new television at her house. In fact, their daughter thought all families owned a piano and implored her guests to buy a TV from her dad.

Debt for the pianos and organs caused major angst for Florence. “The bank owns us, Bill! Our names will appear in the newspaper when they come to take everything. We’ll end up in the poor house!” Bill rarely worried, leaving the troubles to her. Although the rise and fall of economic realities consumed their conversations like hail on their windows in a wind-storm, the risk of consigned pianos, organs and other products proved worthwhile.

Bill and Florence showed resilience throughout their marriage. In 1969 at age 61 Bill died of a sudden heart attack. Florence maintained the store until 1972 when she liquidated it. They both loved work. Florence taught private lessons for more than 50 years.  She worked until age 76 or 77 and died in the early 1990s.

Reality and Risk

Bill and Florence faced their struggles through reliance on each other, realistic goals and risk-taking. Although love did not necessarily solve their issues, they counted their blessings, in sync most of the time, despite their differences. Their love balanced each other’s idiosyncrasies while their self-employment enriched the community.

If you visit the natives of Newark over age 50, they probably took lessons from Florence or Bill. Their daughter remains grateful they refrained from naming her Melody, as in her words, “I didn’t want to be a walking advertisement for the music store.”

Today we see a resurgence of the entrepreneurial spirit in small towns. Entrepreneurs face the same challenges as long ago. Tenacity, respect, business savvy, and creative marketing play the same roles, which helped the Flapper and the Music Man.

Happy Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day with a special salute to my own parents.

 

 

 

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

 

Cool Place, Hot Location

Hotels are not the only place to stay! 

Quiet Moment

A Quiet Moment in the Midst of Christmas Week

We arrived in Houston on December 22 for our stay at the Domain at City Center  for eight days. The mammoth complex sits in the middle of Town and Country Village, as they call it. The price is about the same as a hotel room. We would be near our two sons and six grand-children. A son checked the model apartment beforehand to assure the reality of the online advertisement. “You’ll be claustrophobic in 750 square feet (not true), and the traffic, awful (true),” he reported. We signed the contract without knowing other aspects. The property is owned by an individual, not the leasing company.

Last year we stayed in Houston a month in a VRBO rental with three bedrooms and two baths. We thought the grand-children might visit us and stay overnight a few times. Didn’t happen.

Our dog presents an issue wherever we travel. Fargo is the perfect guest unless left alone. He’s quite good in a hotel room as long as we are with him. He barks incessantly with fear of abandonment if no one is with him. Over the six years we have owned him, we tried unsuccessful remedies to quiet his fierce barking. When he travels with us, we tend to eat in our hotel or motel room. If it’s cold enough, he stays in the car while we rush through dinners. In Houston we could deposit his blanket, dishes, leash, and bad habit with either family. The barking, little thirteen-pound beast, loves the grand-kids and grand-dogs.  On this trip we ate with family much of the time.

Watching cars

I wanna watch cars, Dad!

The Condo

The condo contained everything we needed, even a little balcony above a garden. The owner left coffee, salt, pepper, bottled water, garbage bags, soap for the dishwasher…even kitchen shears for us.  The furniture and decorations probably came from Ikea. Everything was comfortable, even the bed, which is not always the case with furnished rental properties.

Other positives included a parking place (quite small) on the same floor as our rental and a dog park! I didn’t think Fargo would like the phony grass but he loved it. He and I walked around the condo grounds and hiked the neighborhood of office and condo buildings. I never let him off-lease except in the dog park. One day he and I made 10,000+ steps according to my FIT. Other amenities in the building: a meeting area with coffee, an outdoor pool, an exercise room, and outdoor grills.

Shops and Restaurant

the plaza

The Plaza-food, music, strollers, shops

Gourmet restaurants line the streets, along with retail shops and other businesses. One night I purchased carry-out from a high-end Mexican restaurant a few steps outside our building. Another night we had designer pizza and salad from a restaurant by the plaza across from us. At night musicians performed there. Recognizable brands abound. How about Sur la Table, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ulta, and Barnes and Noble? A grocery and a pharmacy are “walkable,” although maybe not when it’s over 100 degrees. Christmas Day the temperature hit 82 degrees.

Other Properties

This is our fourth “VBRO” or Vacation Rental by Owner.* VRBOs are great for a long or short stay. They are not quite like home but certainly more exciting than a boring and expensive hotel. Our short stay this year will lead to more travel. It’s so much fun to try someone else’s home or condo, especially in such a hot place in a cool location.

*VRBO or Vacation Rental By Owner is part of the Homeaway conglomerate owned by Expedia.

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.