Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ronnie to the rescue

Wednesday was a nasty day. Navasota was gray, wet, windy, and cold. The streets and sidewalks were muddy, and no one was out, unless running from a vehicle to a store. Even the birds huddled hidden away under building eaves.

I wouldn't have ventured out of my warm house if I hadn't had a doctor's appointment, but I did. Ronnie, sweetheart that he is, drove me. I left him waiting in the reception room while I had my check-up, but he was outside in the bitter, biting cold when I came out. What the...?

As soon as I opened the door, I had my answer. He was sitting on a bench with a tiny, trembling Chihuahua cuddled against his chest inside his jacket.

"We're not keeping it," I said. I didn't know where the dog came from or what Ronnie was doing with it. All I could think about were the three rambunctious dogs in our backyard and the fourth with my son. Five dogs? I don't think so. Someone had to draw a line in the dirt.

He beat me to it.

"I'm not leaving her," he replied. "She's lost and she's freezing."  He stood, resolute, holding the little dog close to his body.

A flurry of conversation followed, with the doctor and her staff joining in. The dog had been seen running with another dog and then all alone, up and down the sidewalk for the past half hour. Ronnie had seen it following a kid on a bike, but the boy said the dog didn't belong to him and he didn't want it. The doctor said the dog had to belong to someone and Ronnie agreed but insisted he wasn't leaving the dog in the cold. Instead, he continued to warm her with his body heat and calm her with his touch.

We brought her home, but with a plan. Tomorrow Ronnie will call the dog pound to see if anyone is looking for a 4-pound female Chihuahua, and he will put an ad in the "FOUND" section of the Navasota newspaper.

In the meanwhile, she's safe with a man who has a heart as big as Texas for God's creatures. Her tail dances like a conductor's baton setting the cadence for the March of the Bumblebee. Her big brown chocolate eyes rival Antonio Banderas' Puss 'n Boots character in all the Shrek movies. No longer trembling cold, but flying up the stairs and snuggling under the blanket he's put for her in his office, she's full of spirit.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Does size really matter?

When I was in the sixth grade, my mother went on a boiled egg and hamburger diet. The idea was to eat two boiled eggs for breakfast, two boiled eggs for lunch, and 1/2 pound of hamburger for dinner. I decided I should go on it too. I don't know how Mother did, but I lasted only two days. Today that diet has morphed into the Dr. Atkins, but I'm quite sure I could never adhere to it for more than a couple of days. There's nothing that can make me obsess more for fresh garden salad than 1/2 pound of hamburger meat, sans condiments and bun.

Like many females, I struggled with my body image and yo-yo'ed with various diets at different times in my life. And none of them "worked." But over the years I noticed something. For example, when I was a freshman in college I was so sensitive about my legs--I considered them fat--and my midriff looked plump. However, after I was out of college, I ran across pictures of me and my girlfriends at the beach, and I could see, with 20-20 hindsight, I was neither overweight nor flabby. Actually,  I was quite darling.

I've talked to other girlfriends and they report similar experiences. In an effort to become perfect, we've developed an aversion to our natural bodies. Not only that, but sometimes we go so far as putting our lives on hold. How could I possibly go on a cruise or spend a week in Cancun when I was thirty pounds overweight. Sad, isn't it?

It took me until I entered the sixth decade of my life to finally make peace with my weight. That's when I made the conscious decision to enjoy life and not let my body size stop me from embracing it with gusto. One of the amazing side effects of not obsessing about weight is that I've turned my attention to experiences that enrich my life. I've traveled to Italy, Israel, and Greece, taken day rides on the Harley I bought when I was 59 years old, begun teaching public seminars.... It's been a full, exciting life.

There are times people will say, "Have you lost weight? You look great!" I always shake my head and say, "Just buying bigger clothes." I haven't, but those four words deflect the conversation from body size, and we then have an interesting conversation.

I'm hopeful with the advertisements coming out these days that celebrate the diversity among healthy bodies. I hope the women coming up today won't be imprisoned by the phrase, "If only I could lose these ten pounds..." or, "When I lose these ten pounds...." I hope they escape that American cultural trap that imprisons us so unnecessarily.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Breakfast at Mitch's

Sundays always include breakfast at the Filling Station Café and Diner in Navasota. When Ronnie and I came here a year ago to buy our house on Church Street, we stopped at the café to have coffee and pie. Mitch, the owner, gave us an overview of the town while we enjoyed the best cherry pie I've had in years. (And yes, the a la mode was a scoop of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream from the creamery in Brenham, a mere 30 miles away.) Mitch was our first acquaintance and is now a good friend. We eat at his place a couple of times a week, and one of those times is on Sundays.

In good weather the place is packed with weekend bikers, antique-hunters,  and Aggie tailgaters. The FM (farm-to-market) roads are ideal for motorcycles, the antique stores in Navasota and surrounding towns are stocked with second-hand trash and hidden treasures, and Texas A&M University is only 18 miles north of the Navasota city limits.  Football is a religion in Texas and our fighting Aggies have a congregation that comes from near and far to stand as one... as the team's symbolic 12th man. (If I have to explain the 12th man to you, I won't because you don't know enough about Texas traditions to understand anyway.) Navasota has a slew of B&B's that fill up on the weekends of home games.

Today is not a good weather day. In fact, it' cold and wet outside, and most people are snuggled in their homes with the thermostat on 78 and a fire blazing in the den. We hadn't been out all weekend, and we were starving for good food and interesting conversation, so we bundled up and headed for the café about the time the church crowd let out. The church-goers who wanted to skip home cooking drove through the Dairy Queen across from the school administration building to pick up burgers or through Church's out by Wal-Mart to get a bucket of fried chicken. The rest of them drove straight home where, I'm guessing, based on my own memories of Sunday family mid-day meals, roast beef or baked ham and garden vegetables awaited. They'll spend this afternoon watching the Dallas Cowboys play the Greenbay Packers. Like I said, football reigns in Texas.

When we got to the café, the parking lot was less than half full. Veteran waitress Chrissy greeted us and brought us steaming mugs of coffee. I washed down my prescription pills and ordered the egg and vegetable flour burrito. I hadn't had it before, and my eyes got big as the moon when she brought out an order that would easily feed a family of four.  I ate what I could and boxed the remainder for Ronnie to have in the morning. He had the "4X4," which consists of  4 eggs, 4 meats, hash browns or grits, biscuit or toast, and 2 pancakes.

Mitch came over to say hello and we got into a lively conversation about the price of gas and the significant layoffs in the oil industry that are being predicted. It will be the 1980s all over again. Texas has been golden while the rest of the nation has struggled with city governments in other states going bankrupt, but now it's our turn, and it won't be pretty. We also discussed Ronnie's and my plans to go to Cuba in May, the politics around the proposed bullet train from Houston to Dallas, and the idea of balancing the federal budget with a valued added tax (VAT) on merchandise rather than an income tax.

Good food and interesting conversation are the staples of small towns, and our friend Mitch offers both at his Filling Station Café and Diner.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Then and Now

As I review 2014, I see that I did not post every Sunday as I had planned. One of my many shortcomings is my all-or-nothing trait. This meant, at a younger age, that if I couldn't be 100 percent, my natural tendency was to claim failure and throw in the towel. But Perfection is no longer my egotistical god, thanks to my friend and mentor Jackie Crowley, who taught me years ago that on a scale 1-10, a 7 is pretty darn good.

Looking back on Jackie's and my thirty-plus years of friendship, I realize what a great mentor she's been. She's ten years older than me and she models the next decade for me by  her example. Over the years, she has shown me the advantage of  being a servant leader with a collaborative view rather than building a silo over which to rule as the Iron Queen. She has taught me to see the best in people and encourage them in their strengths rather than criticizing and ostracizing  them for their shortcomings. (As she's reminded me more than once, given the choice, do we want to be judged with mercy or justice? This is an easy answer for me--I choose mercy every time.)

These days she is living halfway across the nation in the state of Washington. She lives with her grandchildren, showing them the wisdom and delight that comes with aging. She's never been a didactic, moralizing person, so they are learning from her as I did--from her exceptional example and through a dynamic, developing relationship that embraces honesty, humor, and happiness as its guiding principles. 

As a result of trying to follow her example, I believe my relationships with family, friends, and associates have prospered. I know for sure that I am a better person for having known her. She is truly one of my life's blessings.

I had a health scare recently, which put me in the hospital right before Christmas for an 8-day stay. Everything is fine now, but the experience forced me to halt my usual swirling dervish dance moves,  think about where I am in my life, take a good look at my choices, and imagine what my future can look like.

I'm ready for some changes. A new year means beginning anew, a fresh start. So here I am, beginning 2015 with renewed excitement. What will I bring with me into the new year and what will I leave behind?  Jackie recently sent me a book of prompts for grandparents to use to write stories from their lives for the next generation, which got me thinking. I love writing, I love people, and I love helping people write, especially--but not only--the stories of their lives. That sounds like a Sizzling 7, don't you think?

I invite you to think about your own situation. What in your life needs to continue in the new year? What needs left behind?