Sunday, September 27, 2009


September 27, 2009

Do you ever feel like you have bitten off more than you can chew? Really, it's pretty easy to find yourself in the disciple/New testament situation where you've invited 5,000 people over for supper and to your embarrassment, you have nothing to serve except a couple of fish (and who really likes fish all that much, especially when you had your mind set on burgers) and some bread that you bummed off a little kid. (Actually, this never happens to me because as many of you know, I have an oversupply of rectangular salmon in the freezer. Still you get my point.).

In fact, I feel that way a lot. I look at my yard, which by the way has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it hasn't placed that high on the to-do list since mid-July 2002 when Erin first got diagnosed. Truthfully, it had fallen fairly low on the list after Davis signed up for competitive soccer some time late last century. We keep up with the mowing and from time to time the flower beds look okay, but I have neglected the deep work that makes yards and gardens sustainable. So, for instance, if cleanliness is next to Godliness in Louisiana iris beds, all I can say is I wonder what slovenly-ness is next to?

I knew things had gotten bad last Tuesday. Nico (12), Adam (9), and Ian (4) came over to wish me birthday. Adam headed out to the lake's edge to see if the rain had done anything to raise the water level. He came back with this conversation starter:

A: You know the grass at the edge of the lake has gotten very tall. I think out of control.

V: I know. Since Davis was gone this summer, we hire the lawn mowing out, and the person mowing the lawn didn't trust himself enough to get to close to the edge of the lake He was afraid the mower would pull him in.

A; It really doesn't look very good.

V: I know. I need to get out there with the weed eater and knock it all down.

A: I can help.

V: (thinking this was a theoretical conversation and a theoretical offer of help) Okay.

A: What do you have on on your schedule for this Saturday?

V: I have soccer during the middle of the day, until around 3:00 or 3;30.

A: After church on Sunday, then?

V: After church will be fine. I'll pencil you in.

So, my buddy came over today and we made some headway on the yard down by the lake. We
used a lawn mower, a weed eater (with appropriate eye-safety gear), two sharpshooter shovels, and a couple of pairs of gloves. We carried four loads of dead sticks and branches to the brush pile, three loads of pulled weeds to the compost, and finished with a grape and a cherry popsicle. I'm not done with yard work, but I'm no longer over my head. You might can even see some eyebrow hairs if you look carefully.

I love this example because it's one that bears repeating.

You can find help for almost anything if you ask nice, if you look in the right direction, and if you accept even unsolicited offers of help with grace. You should also say
thank you deep, wide, and frequently (if fact, there is actually no way that you can say thank you too much or too many times), and it's even better when offers of help move up and down a two-way street.

I relearn this lesson almost every week, whether it is the set of Albertson's bonus stickers that came in the mail this week from Margaret B. (She doesn't shop at Albertson, but she knows someone who does and asked for their help in my bonus sticker saving project for getting pots and pans for the abuse victims building a new life at Phoebe's Home) or whether it is the refilling of the lanyard board when new opportunities roll in with a short fuse. Thank you members of the Beaders Hall of Fame!

I'm pretty sure I didn't know this real meaning of this lesson until after Erin got sick. I think back then I thought of help as sort of a quid pro quo thing.
I would turn down offers of help, just so I wouldn't incur a favor debt. If I did accept help, I never wanted to stay in favor debt for too long. At some point I realized that no one was keeping score on Help Given versus Help Received, and even if they were, there was no way I could ever even the score back up (much less win). I kept playing anyway, and worked on saying thank you gracefully. It may be the most grown up thing I have ever done.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009


September 21, 2009

  • I will be 100 or 31 tomorrow, depending on whether you are counting in base 7 or hexadecimal, and that introduction, my friends, signals how this entry will go (hint sort of like the title of the post).

Q: What's worse than driving a vanload of middle school girls to their soccer match?

A: One of them finding a cricket colony in their shoes when they start to gear up (This blog would have to come with a sound track for you to fully understand the mayhem and squealing that ensued as one after another now-deceased cricket came out of its dark and aromatic hiding place).

Q: What's worse than driving a vanload of middle school girls to their soccer match after they discover a cricket colony in their cleats?

A: Eating lunch after the game, when three-fourths of them order a cup of dirt for dessert (chocolate pudding, crumbled oreos, and gummy worms) and then let the worms crawl out of their mouths continuously.

  • You probably didn't know but the online order form for lanyards went on the blink over the weekend. I fixed it this morning (using "fix" in the sense of repair rather than the Southern sense of I'll get around to it pretty soon).
Several years ago, the county decided that residents of rural Brazos County needed a fixed permanent address with a street name and house number instead of a rural route address, so they could have a county-wide 911 system and emergency personnel could find everyone. At the time, Walter unilaterally made up a name for our street and the street on the other side of the lake. We didn't really poll our neighbors. he just chose Cypress Road and Blue Heron Road and we had signs made. Davis bought me a Tom Tom. I think it is pretty amazing that the little road that Walter named first showed up on emergency responder maps, than official county maps, and now is embedded in the satellite map that Tom Tom accesses. Very grass roots.

  • I listened to Book Notes on C-Span on Saturday and they interviewed Rosalind Wiseman who has written several books including Queen Bees and Wannabes and most recently Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads. She suggests the novel idea that we'd all be better off if we treated everyone we encountered with some dignity and respect. I have heard and overheard a lot of rude behavior lately--on tv and radio, in sports, and around campus. Ms. Wiseman's suggestion made me think about what I teach about influence. I am rarely influenced by someone yelling at me or acting like a jerk towards me. I don't think I ever change my mind about something if it comes with an insult or hostility. Why does that seem to be the currency of exchange in so many instances these days? I'm going to work really hard to dial it back in my world and I hope you will, too.
Please consider coming to the lanyard workshop on Friday afternoon/evening if you are local and not committed to one of our local high school Friday night activities. There are a growing number of opportunities to display more of our lanyards, if we have them available.

  • For those interested in ordering we now have three available specialty lines (with more to come soon): the Christian Year lanyard (with special beads denoting important events in the Christian year and liturgical colors), the Pat Lacey manyard (featuring very manly, non-shiny beads like rocks and wood and shells and an emergency bottle opener attachment), and the Colby Ash camo manyard for hunting enthusiasts. I will post photos on the Erin's Dream Lanyards (and Manyards) website in the next couple of days.
If this felt like you were reading Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, you are exactly right. I followed my brain where it led me today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


September 17, 2009

Did I tell you I named my car Rosie, after Erin's bear?

There is something about Rosie that I think would help a lot of people--even my friends who still need larger, less-gas-consuming friendly vehicles, like space shuttles and battleships to get around town. Rosie has a range of gauges, but one has shaped my driving habits in ways I never suspected it would.
Look at the picture on the bottom left: there's a little mock up of a battery on the far left and within the long, flat geometric figure there's the abbreviated word CHG in white one end and PWR on the other. In the center you see a lighted squiggly that reads: ECO. When I brake the CHG lights up and I get more bars on my battery. This requires no skill and not much effort on my part. However, when I accelerate, something else happens. If I start out at a relaxed pace, the ECO light stays on and the light within the flat bar edges to the right. If I take a jackrabbit start, the space above PWR goes all RED, and the lovely, glowing ECO snaps off, irritated with my selfish, perhaps even boorish, behavior.

I don't know if you ever played little mental games with yourself: not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk (to keep your mother's back healthy), putting on your left shoe and left sock before you do your right shoe and right sock, or just in general competing with yourself. I read a blog entry this week about a man who assured victory for his basketball team one evening by keeping his tongue inserted in the opening of his beer bottle for an entire quarter of the game.

I have not started driving with my tongue in a beer bottle to assure my safe arrival. However, I have become obsessed with interested in Rosie's gauge. It's a comfort to know that I can have PWR if I want it, say when I want to drag race with the car next to me as the light turns green, but under ordinary driving conditions, it has disciplined me almost into a Stepford driver. No more jackrabbit starts for me. Gentle is the driving word of the day. I studiously avoid having the ECO light blink off, disappointed in me that I couldn't control my heavy foot. I can't help watching it.

Others probably have more spunk than me, or at least a healthy disregard for authority, but if you are like me, this gauge will trick you into being a more economical driver, just by showing you the red.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


September 13, 2009

I fit this morning's dog walk in between downpours, and Willie and Teddy pranced happily along really appreciating the loamy smells that follow a good drencher. I ended up putting Willie on the leash a little earlier than I expected because he was certifiably sidetracking, and I wanted to make the loop before I got caught in the next wave of storms and would have to blow myself dry again before Sunday School. We turned the corner onto Charlotte Lane, and Teddy paused (pretending, I suppose, that she was a bird dog). I followed her gaze and saw what looked like a smallish flock of songbirds pretending to be buzzards. I immediately thought that I had come across of game of birdy charades, and they were acting out the vulture scene from The Jungle Book (I don't remember the scene exactly, except the vultures had bangs that covered their eyes and Liverpool accents) or maybe they were doing impersonations of Wallace and Junior from Hank, the Cow Dog. I watched a little longer, and they were indeed, lurking, hopping on one foot then the other, and circling something in the middle of the road. I don't know a whole lot about songbirds, but I am pretty sure they don't usually dine on road kill. Our trio moved a little closer, me hoping to catch a glimpse of what they thought they had captured; Teddy and Willie hoping the birds were so intent upon their flat breakfast that they would become a couple of mouthfuls for the dogs.

Alas, they flew off before Teddy and Willie had a chance for a schnacken, leaving my line of vision clear. I discovered the intrepid birds investigating the roadkill had found something even better: a Lunchable. I think I saw a bottle of Ripple in the ditch they were going to wash it down with.

No, that story wasn't a set up just so I could use the word ripple (especially because that would be as a noun and not a verb). Actually, the whole rest of the post is about how a tossed stone can send out ripples. Back in July I told you about a College Station church (A&M United Methodist), where some of Erin's friends and doctors attend, planned to commission an anthem in her honor and memory. I got an update on that event this week. The composer, Dr. Dan Forrest, and Sterling Allen, the Music Director at A&M UMC have started tossing texts around and find Erin an absorbing and motivating subject. The world premier of this chorale work will be Sunday morning, January 24, 2010 at 8:30 and 11:00 with Craig Courtney conducting. If you would like to support this effort with a donation towards the commissioning, you can send
a check payable to A&M UMC and memo'ed to "Buenger Anthem Commission." Checks can be mailed to A&M UMC at 417 University Drive, College Station, Texas 77840. The absolutely cool thing about this giving opportunity, is that if (when) the church exceeds its commission needs, all the leftover money will go to a permanent arts program honoring Erin to benefit children like her who love to sing and create through the arts.

Lanyards are also continuing to ripple, splashing enough that I have had to drive traffic over to the website that I have set up for Erin's Dream Lanyards (and Manyards). I am launching two new lanyard lines and a new manyard line this week, so you will have to remember to click over later in the week and check it out.

Last Friday's lanyard workshop at the house was a great success again. Magician and performer, Robby Bennett drove up from Houston to make a lanyard, perform some sleight of hand for the kiddos, turn down my offer of tamales, and talk about some of the logistics of putting Erin's Dream Lanyards in the lobbies before and after his shows. Locate the next odd Friday (September 25) on your calender and make plans to come and string some beads. If that doesn't work think about the 9th or 23rd of October or the 13th or 27th of November. If we can't coordinate schedules, just give me an email, and I'll come to your place, on your schedule. I have at least two new groups who can't make it to my place that have started their own lanyard workshops. Thanks Terri, Amy, and Michelle.

Not only have things gone great on the "making" side, but there was a mini-bead drive yesterday at The Bead Fountain. Thanks Jennifer and all of you who donated a string of beads to our cause. There is also a tentative bead drive sponsored by the Holy Cross Youth for Christ group from Holy Cross Lutheran Church. When they launch, I will let you know the details. We are also sending an increasing number of our creations to homes all over the country (I shipped 30 to Indiana and a dozen to Michigan last week). I have a couple of specialty venues that I will tell you about as I nail down the details.

I have to say, that all the do-gooding inspired me so much that I have started my own little project. When I was a kid my grandmother collected Green Stamps. This was a double win for me, because she let me lick the stamps (mmmm, tasty) and put them into the little booklets AND she often let me use some of the stamps at the Green Stamp redemption store for little gifts for myself. Albertson's has their own version of green stamps (on a more limited basis). You get little (non-lickable) stickers with each purchase and you can collect and redeem them for cookware.

My idea is to collect the stickers and redeem them for pots and pans and give them to Phoebe's Home/Twin City Mission to help people who are trying to start new lives. If you shop at Albertson's and are throwing your stickers away or declining them at the check out, grab them for me. It will give me a double thrill. I love to stick them in the little booklet because it reminds me of my grandmother, and I will love to get freebie cookware for people who literally don't have a pot to cook in. If you like this idea, pass the ripple on.

Also tune in to Doug Vance's radio show Family Affair, on 89.1 KEOS this Friday from 6:00-7:00 where I will attempt to talk about Pediatric Cancer Awareness month for the fourth year in a row, but this time without my wingwoman, Erin, by my side.

Friday, September 11, 2009


September 11, 2009

Did your outdoor plans get scrapped because of the weather today? Jennifer Fountain at the Bead Fountain is having a bead trunk show. She is setting up a display to ask customers to buy a string of beads and donate them to Erin's Dream Lanyards. Here are the details in case you have an itch for beads:

College Station Bead Show
Saturday, Sept. 12

1804 Brothers Blvd # D
College Station, TX 77845-5474
(979) 694-2323
Get directions

Semi-precious Gemstones, Freshwater Pearls, Czech Glass beads.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


September 9, 2009

Note: I updated the facts I list below to reflect that actually two new cancer drugs have been approved for pediatric use in twenty years. I will change the actual PDF tomorrow, so you can print it again if need be.

Today presents another satisfying calender opportunity: 09/09/09 (right, Erin F?).

My phone rang yesterday. I looked at the incoming ID and expected Elaine's voice to come cheerfully piping through the receiver. Instead, it was my friend, Adam's sweet voice, inviting me over for a play date this afternoon. I'm going to knock off work a little early and go to his house to play X-Plane, which mostly involves Adam skillfully maneuvering planes through flight simulation software and me watching carefully trying to figure out how he can keep track of so many different instruments and gauges at the same time.

I have known Adam most of his life. When he was a little guy he didn't smile much for the camera. A couple of years ago he had shifted to the cryptic "Mona Lisa" smile.

Now, I get even more:

But it his broad, rarely photographed smile that comes when he has just completed a tricky landing that makes me want to hang out with him and play X-Plane.

Tonight the US Men's team plays another World Cup qualifier, this time against Trinidad & Tobago with kickoff at 6:00 Texas time. I sure hope the game is in hand after the first half so I can switch to President Obama's Health care speech at 7:00 without having to weigh to merits of major policy speech versus soccer.

AND speaking of planning ahead, please put this week's Lanyard Workshop on your calender (Friday, September 11, 4:00-7:00 at my house). September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.

I have created a Neuroblastoma Cancer Fact Sheet to support Erin's Dream Lanyards. (Click here for your own PDF). Here's what it says:

Neuroblastoma Fact Sheet

What is Neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is a common but overlooked cancer in kids. It is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system, and usually presents as a solid, malignant tumor that manifests as a lump or mass in the abdomen or around the spinal cord in the chest, neck, or pelvis. Neuroblastoma is often present at birth, but is most often diagnosed much later when the child begins to show symptoms of the disease. In the majority of cases (73%), neuroblastoma has already spread to areas outside the original site at the time of diagnosis.

Some Statistics about Neuroblastoma:

  • 5%-7% of all childhood malignancies, but 15% of pediatric cancer deaths
  • about 1 in 6000 children will be diagnosed with neuroblastoma by the age of five
  • 1 in 100,000 per year in the US
  • average age at diagnosis is two
  • about 25% of newly diagnosed neuroblastomas are found in children under the age of one
  • children under the age of one have a cure rate as high as 90%
  • children with high risk disease have a five-year survival rate of around 55%
  • relapsed neuroblastoma has no known cure

Why does Erin's Dream Lanyards raise money for neuroblastoma research?

  • Over the past two decades, only TWO new cancer drugs has been approved for pediatric use.
  • Only 3% of the National Cancer Institute budget goes towards pediatric cancer research.
  • Young patients often have a more advanced stage of cancer when first diagnosed. Approximately 20% of adults with cancer show evidence the disease has spread, yet almost 80% of children with cancer have disease that has spread at diagnosis.
  • There are 15 children diagnosed with cancer for every one child diagnosed with pediatric AIDS. Yet, the US invests approximately $595,000 for research per victim of peditric AIDS and only $20,000 for each victim of childhood cancer.
  • Research funds are scarce as most money is diverted to well-known adult forms of cancer, such as breast and prostate.
  • In 2005, the American Cancer Society provided only 2.5% of funded grants , or 1.85% of dollars spent on research to pediatric cancer.
Note: I updated the facts to reflect that actually two new cancer drugs have been approved for pediatric use in twenty years. I will change the actual PDF tomorrow, so you can print it again if need be. I have to leave for soccer right now.

Monday, September 7, 2009


September 7, 2009

I spent the weekend with the team formerly known as the Mystic '97 (ASIDE: it is almost impossible to cheer for them by their new name, the Dallas Texans Aggieland 97 Girls Red. Even with my fertile imagination, it's hard to figure out a good acronym or nicknack name for them). The little, but growing, former Mystics got roughed up pretty well in the tournament, though they did manage a game where they both scored and won.

I know that some of you think I must be masochistic to hang out with Erin's old teammates and their increasingly stinky bodies (only after playing, otherwise their bodies smell quite lovely), but frankly they make me laugh. What other way could I spend my time, engaged in a 6:15 a.m. breakfast conversation, where a group of girls adamantly demands to know, "which stooge (of the three stooges fame) do you think I'm most like? Which stooge do you think Lexie is? Do you think I'd make a good Moe?" Fortunately, they never figured out that to make the grade as stooges they would need to slap and poke each other a lot more than they actually do.

Overall, the weekend went well. I check quite a number of family-duty kinds of items off the checklist:

Visit with Aunt: check
Dinner with mom and both sisters: check
Brunch with cousin: check

But was missing on some other items:

Utensils at dinner with mom and sister (Medieval Times): oops
Map to soccer field for first game: oops
Ability to judge whether the person at the convenience store would be able to give accurate directions to soccer field: oops

Otherwise, I made it home in time for a nap on Sunday afternoon.

Friday, September 4, 2009


September 4, 2009

I got out of the habit of posting and recognizing great folks who have chosen great verbs in honor of Erin. Earlier this week I received an email from Janine Rodriguez. In part, it said:

I am going to be taking part in the Extra Life fundraiser for the Texas Children's Hospital-more specifically, to benefit the Texas Children's Cancer Center (More info on the fundraiser: ) and am doing this in honor of Erin.

We exchanged a few more e-mails to decide the most Erin-esque name for her team. In the end, we chose Erin's PPR Club (I think in this case the PPR stands for something like Power Players Rule, not the original slightly scatological meaning. And, in case any original PPR Club members are wondering, I don't think this makes those games members of the official, real PPR Club.). Here's the full skinny:

"Extra Life is a 24-hour charity video-gaming marathon to raise money to fight pediatric cancer. Every penny of the money raised will go directly to benefit pediatric cancer treatment and research at Texas Children’s Cancer Center at Texas Children’s Hospital. TxCCC is one of the largest pediatric cancer and hematology centers in the WORLD, and sees kids from all 50 states and over 80 countries. Every child gets the same ground-breaking treatment, regardless of their family’s financial situation.

Extra Life begins on October 17th at 8am and ends on October 18th at 8am. During this time gamers from around the world will pull together at the same time and play video games for 24 straight hours. All games and gaming platforms qualify from Nintendo, to PS3, to poker on your cell phone. Each gamer can raise money individually or as part of a gaming team, and the goal is to find at least 4 people who are willing to sponsor them at $1 an hour to raise a minimum of $96.

I have created a team (Erin's PPR Club) in honor of Erin. We will have an Erin power hour about 18 hours into the game-a-thon where we will play all the Wii games that Erin loved so much. Our team is open to anyone who wants to join in on the fundraising/gaming so pass this info along to any Erin fans you know who might be interested."

Once again, I'm amazed and honored that Erin has inspired people like Janine to go the extra step and do more. Thank you.

It also gave me a new experience, since I don't think I have often had the chance to use "game" as a verb. For people my age, "game" has served great as a noun for decades, and I believe it's useful to expand my horizons and stretch from time-to-time.

On the whole the semester got underway without too much unpleasantness. I admit that I was out of teaching shape, and tireder than I should have been at the end of the day on Tuesday and again on Thursday. I have had a little time to continue on various projects, and am slowly putting together a website devoted completely to the Erin's Dream Lanyards (and Manyards) project, with the build happening as I can squeeze it into my schedule. It's a work in progress, so I would appreciate feedback of any sort.

In about an hour I am headed to Dallas for a combined family visit and soccer weekend. I hope some of the rain I am driving into makes it down to the Brazos Valley. If I have weather the storm, I think my yard and gardens should too.