Thursday, December 29, 2011


December 29, 2011

I had an appalling realization last week.  Finding myself with a bit of extra time on my hands, I started some heavy-duty cleaning, including in one of my three attics (and don't you think owning three attics in the same house is a little outrageous? Perhaps even decadent?).  Anyway, one of the things I found was a rather large basket of rags and leftover clothes and sheets meant to be made into rags at some point.  That finding, in and of itself, is not worth confessing.  That I have a similarly large stash of rags in each of the other attics AND in the shed and some closets led me to a realization:

I am unable to throw away clothes.

Think about this.  I have bought or received clothes for a family of four for more than half my life.  I do give away some items.  I have donated wearable clothes to the Twin City Mission and to various garage sales for good causes.  I have passed along some things as hand me downs.  However, as I pondered it, I could not remember EVER throwing away clothes.  Somehow, the idea that Someone Somewhere cut and sewed the item, as opposed to something mass produced and spit out by a machine, gives me pause.  I can't seem to throw those things away, even when they are no longer fit for anyone to wear.  I just put used clothes, sheets, towels, socks, even underwear, in a box or basket "to make rags out of them." I have now reached the point that I have so many rags I could clean up all the sites on the Superfund list and still not deplete my stock.

I think I need a chiffonier!  Or in English, a rag picker.

Did you know that the average American throws away 67.9 pounds of clothing and rags each year? With some 20 million people in the state of Texas, that’s 1.4 billion pounds of clothing thrown away each year in Texas alone.

Surely, there must be a way to recycle and/or re-use the fabric, buttons, zippers.  Locals, do you know anyplace that recycles clothes and other fabric items?  I'm talking about items no longer wearable--stained, hopelessly out of fashion, torn, faded.

Barring that (and this is a serious request), would anyone be willing to teach me how to make rag rugs?  And if I learn, are any of you willing to receive a rag rug gift from me?

An addendum to this confession:

The day I discovered my rag problem, I was confessing it to my friends, Jim and Margie.  They have just bought a new place near Dripping Springs to replace their Bastrop home lost to the wildfires last fall.  When I bemoaned my overabundant bounty of rags, Margie pulled the most wistful look, and said, "Jim and I were just shopping for rags to use to rub oil into our butcher block island in our new kitchen.  They are really hard to find at the store, and of course, I don't have any now.  I don't really even have spare clothes to make into rags."

I never imagined giving a bag of hole-y socks, ripped knit shirts, too-old-to-wear-for-yard-work pants, and a bottom sheet with bad elastic as a Christmas gift.  And what's more, I never thought the receiver would be delighted.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Open Letter to a Grieving Friend

December 24, 2011

Erin's First Christmas Eve--14 Years Ago

I have a friend who has suffered some gut-wrenching losses.  She's pretty far from friends and family and pulling the oars towards finishing her dissertation.  There are so many people I know who can identify with her words to me:    "so, this death thing seems to get worse, or at least it has for me. I guess it was the whole shock thing that has made this last longer? or does it just get harder the longer they are gone? I'm finding it absolutely ridiculous . . ." and so on.  
Many of you know these words and all the verses that follow after.  Here's my current thinking on that topic and what I wrote her [with a couple of corrections and grammar fixes]:

"Dear Friend,

I'm pretty sure I'm not an expert here, but since you asked:

I think the whole living on after your Rock of Gibraltar dies is a pretty sketchy process, and I really think you need to find more ways to be gentle with yourself.  Consider how tough what you are experiencing really is:

You have lost part of your self, all the shared memories and specialness.  It is not particularly fulfilling to try to describe those things to others, because it makes what you are talking about feel so light weight and inconsequential.  Then it makes you mad or sad that that person can't really know what you are talking about, describing, trying to express.  They can't know the person.  There aren't any mores, just what you have stored in your memory and relics.

It is okay to feel empty.  It is okay to start crying at really weird and inconsequential (or heavy-weight) things.  Give yourself a chance to talk about it and talk about your dad.  If it helps, write me out long letters telling me about him.  Take little steps.  Nothing is the same as it was.  
The main thing is that you don't have to decide how you are supposed to feel about it, how you explain it to yourself emotionally or intellectually, how you frame your life going forward, and especially you don't have to stick with one answer.  My feelings, explanations, rationales, and so on about Erin change to match what I need.  I don't have to put it all in a box that I can store forever.

I'm sorry you are lonely and suffering.  Think of a small thing you can do to honor your feelings for your situations, and do it.  It's even better if you can do it with others.  Find a verb that works.


About the photo at the top:  I think we bought this Santa suit for our oldest niece Lauren.  I know her sister Shannon wore it, as well as Davis, and possibly Annabelle.  I don't really know where it is now, but I think I need to look for it in the attic next time I clean up there.  We still have the wagon (much worse for wear).  We hauled Erin around the lake in it when she was little and later at various times when her adventurous spirit outstripped her ability to navigate where she wanted to go.  The Elmo plane and train were just part of the always eclectic tastes Erin had in toys (and everything really).  The smile?  That's just the way she rolled.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


December 13, 2011

I'm a day ahead of my usual schedule.   Ordinarily, I turn my grades in on the Wednesday of finals week and G.T.H.O.O.D (Get The Hell Out Of Dodge) so that I don't become a wheedle magnet for students looking for a mullet who might change their grade for no other reason than they have  a sad story and a compelling look on their face.  I turned all my grades in this morning and can now avoid my office for a few weeks, as if stopping by would unleash a plague of locust.   Then I hit the gym.  

I have a new incentive program to make me more faithful about working out.  I love reading mysteries, but some authors like Laurie R. King I just gobble up.  Here's my latest: 

The key to this new approach to making sure I get to the gym is that I will only let myself read The God of the Hive if I am on an exercise bike at the Rec Center.  I have other things I can read at home, even other mysteries, but to make progress in this one, I have to be exercising.  I'm about 160 pages in now, and I can honestly say I'm studying my calendar and my to do list to see when the next time I can make it to work out.  I'm glad I have my semester out of the way. . . now what to do about that pesky approaching holiday that requires cleaning and cooking and other activities that might stand as a barrier to finishing the book and solving the mystery?

Monday, December 5, 2011


December 5, 2011

Many weeks and months have passed since I gave a straight narrative of the Buenger activities (don't you feel boredom coming on, just anticipating a recital of "we went _______" then "we ate ______" and "saw ________").  Well, if your friends can't give you a little boredom and a chance to snooze at the screen this hectic, fast-paced, and stressful time of year, then what are friends for?

Do you believe in coincidences?  Me neither.  Except, here's what I read on my friend D'Anna's facebook page tonight:

Don't you just hate when you painstakingly prepare a beautiful quiche, put it in the oven, wait patiently for the timer to go off alerting you that your masterpiece is ready, and then discover that you forgot to turn the oven on? Yeah, me too.

The exact same thing happened to me last Tuesday.  I decided that I would whip up a quiche and use up the extra pie crust I made for Thanksgiving (and I want you to notice that I was using healthy ingredients, like broccoli instead of Karo syrup and sugar or chocolate and heavy cream).  I know I had the oven on at some point, because I baked the crust for about ten minuted before I filled it.  

Anyway, I checked it at the minimum bake time and thought the egg part still looked runny.  It also looked that way at the maximum bake time.  At some point around then I noticed the oven was off, but I thought I might have turned it off the first time I checked it.  I kept cooking it a little more and a little more.  Eventually, I doubled down on the bake time and pulled a decent well-cooked quiche out of the oven to serve to The Very Hungry Caterpillar Walter.

Given that very lame mistake, I was a bit leery when I was tapped as the voice of God for the liturgy on Sunday.  However, when I thought about it, I figured acting as God, even for just a few minutes at the beginning of a church service might be pretty handy for someone like me.  If I forgot to heat the quiche, I might just smite it down or materialize as a burning bush to finish it off.  Did I mention I was the voice of the Old Testament Hebrew God?  

The God-thing was fine for those few moments during the worship service, but no residual effect lingered that gave me the capacity to answer prayers or even comfort my people (which was the theme of the liturgy).  I haven't even been able to channel my inner God to connect with Elaine and Mark and catch up with their doings down under.  Every time I get on the computer, it seems like they have just moved on to something else.  Plus, my trusty little MacBook is about to go to MacBook heaven.  Even the Geek Squad only offered workarounds to make me more comfortable until the inevitable end comes.  Can I enroll in Mac Hospice?  

[Note Bene:  if you come across a word or letter that doesn't belong in a sentence, it is NOT MY FAULT.  Part of my Mac disease is cursor hopping.  I'll be typing along at the speed of molasses--looking at the keyboard so I don't make mistakes, of course--and when I look up at the screen, my little blinky friend has decided to pay a visit to the previous line or take a Ground Hog's Day trip back several words, returning repeatedly like some perverse arsonist admiring the burning building.  My touch pad is no better, picking up random parts of the screen and moving them by slight of hand.  I won't even mention the spinning beach ball of death that haunts any effort that requires more than a minimum of active memory.]

Having discovered that I neither had God-like powers to resurrect my Macbook from death or even the ability to properly time the baking of dinner, Walter left this morning--choosing to entertain himself in the archives in Austin for the week.  I think he also noticed the fit of organizing and furniture re-arranging that struck me when I finished class for the  semester last Thursday.  We now have a fresh look in the living room and all indications are that I plan to  steamroll my way through the house, until everything is flattened or at least de-cluttered and put away.

I don't know why I'm such an invalid when it comes to keeping up with household chores and normal, routine activities during the semester.   All I can say, that I don't have classes and my schedule still doesn't have much wiggle room.  But at least by tomorrow the laundry, including all the towels and 
sheets) will be washed and I will have a fresh haircut.

Wednesday, Erin's Dream Wands, which played a small role in the lighting of the Childhood Cancer Awareness Christmas Tree (Thanks to Ruth Hoffman and Amber Masso of the American Childhood Cancer Organization and the teens and teachers at Hammond-Oliver High School), will serve as the First Presbyterian Church, Bryan's Advent service project.  We will be making wands for the Cure Me, I'm  
Irish fund raising event in Boston in March, benefitting groundbreaking neuroblastoma research.

Then, the lanyards and other beaded delights are headed back to Canyon Creek Presbyterian Church for   the Women's Dinner and gift market on Thursday night.

No doubt Presbyterians all around will be saying God is among us this week.