Friday, December 31, 2010


December 31, 2010

I should probably wax poetic about the end of the year, my lessons learned, my hopes for 2011.  I may fall into that trap tomorrow.  Today I want to tell you about my trip to the meat market.  

Until breakfast this morning, Walter and I were undecided about whether to cook New Year's Day dinner or take the fam to eat out.  We finally decided on eating in, so that we could guarantee the right kind of luck and money (black-eyed peas and cabbage) in our NYD diets.  This sent me off shortly after breakfast to Readfield's (my butcher) in search of a pork loin.  I took my running buddy, Emma (niece extraordinaire) with me.

Said niece, Emma

Emma was fascinated by a store where all you can buy is meat and meat-related stuff.  After Ben, my favorite butcher (and don't tell me that everyone doesn't have a fave butcher), picked and wrapped our roast, Emma wanted to carry that almost ten pound beauty to the cash register.  

At first she cradled it, but since it is long and a bit unwieldy, she opted for slinging it over her shoulder (like a continental solider), and hefting it to the check out.  I helped her get it up on the counter, where she tapped on it while Tammy rang it up.  Someone asked if she was tenderizing it, and she agreed that that was what she was doing.

Emma insisted on carrying it out to the car and pulled it up on her lap for the ride home, where she continued to make a very satisfying noise slapping it as we drove along.

After a few minutes she asked, "Aunt Vickie, do you think I have terrorized this end enough?"

I pronounced it suitably terrorized and she worked her way to the other end.

I am perfectly certain that we will have the most terrorized roast in the neighborhood for our family dinner tomorrow and with all the black-eyed peas and cabbage we are going to eat, we will be the most fortunate family as well.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


December 28, 2010
Merry Christmas!

I accidentally decided to take a Christmas hiatus.  Over the last week, I considered posting.  Who wouldn't have wanted to read my sassy description of Davis bringing his pots and pans home for Christmas SO THAT HIS MOM AND DAD COULD HELP HIM SCRUB THEIR OIL ENCRUSTED BOTTOMS?

Adam definitely asked me to do a post about the Christmas day concert that he and Nico performed at our house on their new violin and grand piano music boxes.

There has to be a story worth relating about my niece dating a mouse elephant.

You definitely deserve to read the account of the annual Christmas bird count (as performed by the Brazos Master Naturalist and/or the local Audubon Society).  Once again they spotted at least 150 vultures that live at one house.  Those black dots on and around this house are roosting vultures not multiple lightning rods.

While those intrepid bird watchers/counters roamed the county spotting over 500 birds, about twenty Canadian (I'm guessing on their nationality. I didn't check their documents) geese dropped by our lake for a bit of a swim before they moved on further south.

This morning (I use that term more in hope than in confidence, since Davis is still asleep) we are packing the Young Prince up and sending him back to Ohio, betting once again that he can squeeze through between the storm that just blanketed the eastern half of the country and the one that's pending.  I just don't know how he is going to work at the incredibly high standard and rate of productivity that he has become accustomed to, thanks to his diligent and able assistants:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


December 22, 2010

I can't figure out why some people can't view the long and the short version of the two C-SPAN videos r when I post them within the same entry.  Here is the short (Erin) version.  The longer version and the explanation is in the original entry below:

Observe (Personally)

December 22, 2010

I had planned a journal entry for today that involved a youtube video and wind.  I can save it.  

Instead, I'm going to exercise a point of personal privilege this morning, much as Congressman Chet Edwards did on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last night.  I encourage you to watch the entire twenty-five minutes if you have the time as he talks about what is right and best about America (this video starts about half a minute before he takes the floor, but it was the best I could do in the way of editing the C-SPAN video so that you didn't have to watch the preceding ten hours and 57 minutes of deliberations).  If you don't have a half an hour to spare, skip to the second clip I have embedded below (SPOILER ALERT:  Erin plays a featured role as her legacy becomes part of the permanent Congressional record.).  It's just a minute or two that comes near the end of his speech.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clean and Caption

December 16, 2010

Cleaning up at the end of the semester gives me a brilliant, liberating feeling.  It goes beyond clearing my office desk and credenza.  I tackled the desk in Erin's room this morning.  I work in Erin's room almost every day.  I check my mail on the laptop at her desk.  We have all the beading activity in her room.  As you know, any flat surface accumulates stuff, and her desk is no exception, so this morning I returned all the strewn about markers that Emma had used to make Thanksgiving decorations back to their various containers.  I sorted bead project addresses and receipts and put them away.  I now have a clean flat surface, so more stuff can start building up!

In the process I opened one of the gazillion books, notebooks, photo albums, diaries, etc. that Erin was always starting and abandoning.  
For your entertainment, here is a sampling from that very Lisa Frank Diva Photo Album.  I have written her own caption that she included on the back of each photo (proving, once again, that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree--I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find the perfect caption for each photo I put in an album, which explains why I am six years behind in getting my photos organized.).

"the karatie boggie  EB, CS!"
NOTE BENE:  I think she meant "the karate boogie."

"Long way from success or should I say tall?"
I also found this in the "notes" section of the album, thus affirming the lovely effect cleaning and sorting can have:

Sunday, December 12, 2010


December 12, 2010

At first, Davis was going to stay a few days in Columbus after he finished taking and grading finals.  I figured he had earned a little time to blow off steam and hang out without responsibilities or even having to explain to his (very understanding) mother why he was awake when he should be sleeping and vice versa. Friday night he called for travel advice:  should he try to slip out of town and down IH65 as the very rainy front pushed through and before the very snowy front arrived?  I hadn't watched the weather, so I assumed he could let it pass on through over the weekend and get on the road on Monday.  

When Walter and I tuned into the weather channel over coffee on Saturday morning, the news looked grimmer.  If he missed that very small window that appeared to be open between late Saturday morning and late Saturday night, it would be next Thursday at the earliest before he had another safe opportunity to drive out of Ohio.

Never mind that his sleep was way off from the cumulative effect of late night studying plus the marathon grading party that he and the other TA's had until 5:30 a.m. one night this week to get final grades turned in in time.  He packed up and got on the road:  Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, Bowling Green, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Texarkana, and then a series of small east Texas towns.  Since he left, we have spent more than our usual amount of time in front of the weather channel and with a tab to opened, watching as this cold front swept the path behind him.

I have a pot of green chile chicken and potato soup on the stove and think he might arrive by 9:00 or so this evening.  There's are many ways to drive the final 250 miles of his journey, but no good way.  Just two-lane windy, hilly (for Texas) roads through little east Texas towns.

View Larger Map

I hate waiting.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rest and Relax?

December 9, 2010

Home today.  Sent home by the IT people at work.  Sick office computer.  I can't tell how sick, but I took it as a bad sign that I could not open any programs besides my browser and my automatic weather feed.  I think that means it has mono.

Germs do spread.

I left for lunch at 11:30 (to meet Tracy and find out  she had had all the luck with lanyards this week--$500 on Tuesday alone) and all was well.  When I got back to the office at 12:30, my precious desktop was way under the weather.   I submitted my trouble ticket, printed out my grade spreadsheet (preparing for the worst-case scenario), and powered down.  Soon Ashley from IT arrived--just like someone from the Ghostbuster team.  She took over the driver seat and started searching the mitachondrial level of my computer files.  

She spent the next hour digging deeper and deeper in the file structure of my computer, while I did the same thing to the files and stacks of papers on my desk and credenza (I never NEVER throw anything away after the semester begins on the theory that I can't always tell what piece of paper a student my find important.).  She wasn't really making tut tut noises or big gasps of amazement or even little sighs of disgust while she worked, but I could tell she wasn't making big progress either.  At some point she exchanged texts with some other uber-guru, then asked me if I could work at home for the rest of the day.  When I nodded, she then added "And maybe all day tomorrow" and looked away quickly.

So here I am at home.

My reward for having all my grading finished and recorded (save finals)?  Besides have a computer in the critical care unit of the Mays Business School Computer Hospital?

Dog poop, scorpions, and puke.

That's right.  After breakfast this morning, I walked down the hall to see what I needed to do around the house before I went out and ran seasonal errands.  I glanced into Davis's room (which I had cleaned for his Thanksgiving trip home and which will need to be brushed up before he gets home for Christmas) and spotted four little poop logs.  I turned into Erin's room to avoid looking at the poop and found a six-inch (wide not tall) patch of puke.  

A quick about face headed me to the bathroom (and the cleaning supply cabinet) where I came face-to-face with brown scorpion trying to scrabble its way out of the bathroom sink.

I wished, ever so much, that I was at the office, and someone else was having my fun.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


December 2, 2010

After teetering and stumbling along all semester, I bumped into the last class day of the semester today.  I'm not completely done yet--various grading opportunities remain. . . and of course finals (Yes, I do have the next-to-last one scheduled:  Wednesday December 15, 1-3), but I no longer have to worry about whether to dress for a class day or a classless day (those who know me can appreciate the microscopic difference between these two states of the world).  [Did you happen to notice the way I mangled the punctuation in that sentence?  Far too ugly to correct.  I think I will leave it as a warning to sloppy writing.  Sloppy, as you know, is one of the seven dwarfs of bad writing, along with choppy, wordy, stodgy, weak, awkward, and boring.]

I woke up wondering about my travel plans for 2018 and 2022.  Yes!  You can save the big bucks buying your airline tickets eight to twelve years in advance.

Actually, today the World Cup sites for beyond Brazil-2014 were chosen:  Russia and Qatar.  Let's all envision what kind of inducements it will take to get Walter's buy-in.  I'm thinking this will go much beyond a generous foot massage or dinner at Madden's.

On the topic of soccer, I played small-sided games at practice on Tuesday and managed not to hurt any of the girls through either clumsiness or willful fouling.  They even chose to pass to me some of the time, proving that I wasn't a complete liability.  My body didn't creak too much yesterday, but this morning I had to do my dynamic stretches almost half way around the lake before I felt like I was walking with my regular gait.  

We will close out the season tonight with our last practice.  I say "we" but I mean they.  I have signed on to help my friend Joanie backstage at her musical at Rudder High tonight and tomorrow (I know, it's an Odd Friday, but I really owe Joanie big time).  Hopefully, I can figure out whatever it is she wants me to do--ride herd on unsupervised teenagers revved up by the cooler weather and the approaching holidays, no doubt.

As long as I'm drifting from one topic to another, I'd probably better stop before I run aground. 

I promise I will get back to the lanyard workshops soon (One at Navarro after school on Monday), but in the meantime, if you are looking for the Perfect Teacher's Christmas Gift, it's just a click away.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


November 28, 2010
Three Four Five things:
  1. Davis took over The Dahvee Repore last night.  It had languished since he left for Ohio in August, appropriately, I think.  It borders on creepy/obsessive/fiction for a mom to continue to blog about her son in graduate school who lives 1000 miles away.  Really, Davis needed to grab his eponymous blog by the horns, which he has done.  Maybe he will invite me to guest blog from time to time.
  2. Can anyone walk me through the process of editing the blog template so the header with Erin's photo and the blog title are centered over the blog?
  3. I finished Lake Wobegone Days last night, just in the nick of Christmas.  You may remember I started it eleven months ago.  Reading about the north central midwest, when you hail from south central Texas really like visiting another country.  I had to take it slowly, just so I wouldn't miss any of the unfamiliar nuances.  For example, it took me quite a long time to envision driving the (same) car out onto a lake (every winter) and placing bets as to when it would fall through the ice AS AN ANNUAL FUNDRAISER.  I think the concept of ice tripped me up.  Anyway, I had a breakthrough on understanding Lake Wobegon and its inhabitants while catalog shopping yesterday.  You can order a t-shirt from Uncommon Goods that says Ludefisk:  the piece of cod that surpasses all understanding."  I think it was an epiphanal moment for me, and I guess that Gary Keillor would be annoyed that I had to learn it from a catalog, but if it was going to be a catalog the Uncommon Goods was better than most.
  4. To Jan, who left a lovely comment about warehousing her child at the airport (insert smile here), I think it is wonderful that you named two of your kids after my pups (insert double smile here).  Seriously, thanks for helping me feel less odd about giving the dogs specific instructions and detailed explanations whenever I leave the house. 
  5. If you have difficulty choosing Christmas gifts for teachers, co-workers, or health care providers, consider an Erin Dream Lanyard this Christmas.  For a $15 or $20 donation you can provide someone with a one-of-a-kind, handmade beaded ID lanyard, and 100% of your donation will go to fund a cure for neuroblastoma.  Email me, if you want more information.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fly (and Land)

November 25, 2010

I figured we would spend at least part of the evening last night discussing the merits of pat down versus FBS as we enjoyed a beer and the prospect of someone else cooking and cleaning for Thanksgiving for a change.  It didn't turn out that way.  I don't even know which one Davis chose.

We do have him home from Ohio for the holiday, which we anticipated and now appreciate.

We also appreciate that the wing struts didn't give way when he landed in Houston.

We also appreciate the unexpected (and event-free) midnight to 4 am tour of the mainly deserted highways and tollways between Bryan and Houston (with added appreciation that I didn't turn into a pumpkin by staying up past midnight, because if you think of it, Thanksgiving Day is a bad day to be a pumpkin).

TSA search technique was the least of Davis's worries when his 4:30 pm flight got delayed multiple times yesterday as Continental tried to repair his plane's damaged struts, even flying in a specialized maintenance crew to do the final fix.  He boarded his flight a bit after midnight, Eastern time. . . only eight hours later than expected, but long after the last connecting flight and last ground shuttle van into Bryan had parked safely for the night, but that's okay.  Walter and I didn't mind.  We just split our night's sleep into shifts (8-midnight, then 4:30-8) and motored into the Big City to fetch him.

Teddy and Willie were totally confused when we got out of bed at midnight and left the house (Walter expressly told them we were not taking suitcases with us so they didn't have to worry.).  They were even more genuinely puzzled when we returned with The Young Prince.

I'm sure that there are many, many other things that deserve mention for my thanks today, but like Teddy and Willie earlier this morning, I'm a little too befuddled to recount them all, so I will cop out and hold up my friends and family for all they do for which I am thankful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Achieve Fame

November 21, 2010


Walter will guest on Biased Transmissions tonight (Wednesday) at 6 p.m. on 89.1 FM, KEOS.  The topics include:  the use of history and memory in politics and the misrepresentation of history in political rhetoric and the white washing of history.

My mom sent me an email from work last week, asking:  "I didn't know Walter was profiled in Wikipedia, did you?"  I filed this response:  "Well, that's weird" and quicker than Mrs. Bun, I found Walter on Wikipedia and marveled at my charmed fortune to have married someone who became famous enough that students might one day copy and paste (without giving bibliographic credit to the source) about him into a term paper or research report.

This prompted the rest of us to get into the act.  Here is Willie's entry on Walter for Lickipedia:

Teddy is contemplating her entry.  Should she choose Pickipedia (for all the times she wants Walter to pick her up and carry her) or Trickipedia (for the many ways she has tried to trick him into giving her bits of cheese)?

You can find mine on Vickipedia.  There you will learn about Walter Louis Buenger;

 While the wiki world knows him as a scholar and historian, readers of vickipedia recognize him as a connoisseur and expert, 

A sock connoisseur and foot care expert.  Buenger has four drawers full of socks in his home and another ten pairs that he keeps in his locker at the gym.  He is pictured above wearing one of a dozen sets of brown thorlo brand socks.  He is well-known for encouraging others to wear sensible, lace-up shoes (many people think this must provide the secret to our marriage bliss).  He has provided numerous consultation services to youth soccer players on the appropriate footwear for varying field conditions, and no one can speed lace hikers as proficiently as Buenger.

Buenger has also worked as a hat  model:

and as a father/son model for Contrast Catalogue:

Vickipedia also revealed the secret of the drinking straw in the coffee bar area of the Buenger family kitchen.  Sure, many families keep straws around the house for drinking iced beverages when their teeth feel especially sensitive, but Buenger's wife, Victoria L. (Vickie) kept finding a lone straw back by the bar sink.  Because neither she nor Walter used straws, each time she found one she tossed it away (and marveled that the next day she found a new one in its place. . .was someone spinning gold into straw?).  Finally, she asked Buenger if he knew anything about the straw.

He did.

Buenger used it on mornings when he overfilled the coffee pot.  He would suck out a bit of the extra water, so that he would have EXACTLY nine and a half cups of water to go with his EXACT measure of coffee (I'm afraid this number is so top secret that even I don't what it is, but I can attest that it is EXACTLY the right amount to go with nine and a half cups of water, which is EXACTLY the amount that will fill my coffee mug twice and Buenger's coffee mug two and two-thirds times which is EXACTLY how much coffee each of us needs each day).

He's also a great dad and knows that every little girl needs a football for Christmas!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


November 18, 2010

Tomorrow is an Odd Friday, but most of my usuals may not want to come to Odd Friday Lanyard Workshop.  I will hold it at Seguin High School, which is only a two hour and forty-five minute drive from here.

I am thrilled to get the invitation to share the lanyard project with the Health Science students in Seguin.  I'll tell you all about it when I return. 

In the meantime, what do you think of the new photo and adjustment to the color scheme and format?  I'm nibbling around the edges rather than make a radical change.

Monday, November 15, 2010


November 15, 2010

I hope to climb out of the grading well before next weekend arrives. Right now, I'm mired in mid-term papers (41 of them. . .each 7-10 pages). Here's a hint:

If you circle all the forms of the "to be" verbs in any ten consecutive sentences of your paper, your paper shouldn't look like it has the measles. The twenty little circles pictured here far exceeds expectations.

A friend of mine named Harold taught me this rule about passive writing.

He went on to illustrate it for me so I would never forget. "Don't bore your reader," he explained, "by saying 'Mary is sick.' While perhaps true and perfectly accurate, a livelier approach uses the right action verb to catch the reader's attention and propel your essay forward. Instead write: 'Mary vomited.'"

Now you know the other reason why Let's Do It! always tries to choose the right verb as its title. Think of it as The Power of the Verb.

Friday, November 12, 2010


November 12, 2010

I've changed. After 50 years.

Last year, I experimented.

This year I went all in.


I have worn Goldtoe socks for as long as I have been aware of them, and something quite similar before that (this does not apply to athletic socks, when I wear Thorlo). I am not a flip flop girl, I have a narrow foot and almost always wear lace up shoes. Except when I wear my Keens with shorts, I almost always wear socks and shoes.

Last winter I tested a pair of Smartwool socks (technically, two pair). I could hardly imagine wearing itchy wool on my feet. I have self-diagnosed pedi-aphephobia (I made that word up aphephobia means fear of being touch, so I figure, pedi-aphephobia is the fear of having my feet touched or fooled with at all).

Wearing wool socks has been the shock of my life.

It is like walking around with your feet neatly tucked into comforting nests, lined with baby blankets. I bought eight new pairs of Smartwool socks on Wednesday. If you knew how much they retailed for, you would be shocked, dismayed, and frankly, disappointed in me.

My feet love me.

People can change.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


November 11, 2010

The little brown sliver to the top and far left of the photo is the door to my office suite. The food extends on the other side of that door and down the hall in the other direction. Every fall, students in MGMT 209, 211, and increasingly other courses collect food for our local food bank and its hungriest citizens.

I don't mind walking around canned corn to get into my office!

The other fall project that Keith Swim (the mastermind behind the food drive) sponsors is a toy drive for kids in Child Protective Services in Brazos County. His project actually provides gifts to more than 20% of the 500+ CPS children in the area. He tries to make sure that each child receives three gifts. You do the math.

Because I think Keith is such a fantastic guy and this is such a worthwhile project, I wanted to share his appeal with you:

It is that time of the year again for our annual toy drive for children at Child Protective Services. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, my students (MGMT 211 and MGMT 209) have for several years agreed to sign up to purchase toys and clothes for the children under the care of Child Protective Services. These are children in the Brazos Valley who have been taken away from their parents due to physical, sexual or emotion abuse and placed into foster care. The children are allowed to pick three (3) toys/gifts that they would like to have for Christmas and also provide their clothes and shoes sizes. My students then sign up for a toy/gift or clothes to purchase for the child. They also solicit help from their Student Organization, the Corps, Fraternities, Sororities, churches, etc. Several students’ families will take an entire child to adopt.

We have committed to purchase Toys/Clothes for 110 children this year and would like to do even more. (CPSC has about 500 children that they need people to “adopt” during the holiday season.

So where do you come in?

Some of you have supported this Holiday Toy Drive for several years and we need your support again. So, if you are interested, here is how you can help:

1. You can contact me and pick up the list for an entire child, purchase the items selected by the child, wrap them and bring them back to me with the child’s name on the packages.

2. You can sign up for one present or clothing item, wrap the gift and return it to me with the item and child’s name on the package. (I will take the item information off, that is just so that I know if the child has received the things on his/her list.

3. You can purchase a gift card at Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us or Best Buy.

4. You can donate money. I don’t take money from my students but there are always items that they cannot afford to purchase so I send students out with donations and gift cards to buy items for children that didn’t get the items they had asked to receive. I am very careful which students I send to shop and I always make them bring receipts that we both go over to be sure that all of the money is spent on the children. Any amount would help.

You can drop the money or gift cards off at my office in Wehner 410 or to Phyllis in the Management Department main office Wehner 420.

If you want to see the list come by my office during my office hours:

MW 3:45 to 6 pm

TR 8-9:15 and 12:45 to 2

You can always call me at 845-3905 and I will come pick up any donations or bring the list for you to see.

Anything that you can do to help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Keith's email is:

If you want to support this project you can send a check to

Keith Swim

MS 4221

Texas A&M University

College Station, TX 77843

or to me

4138 Cypress Road

Bryan, TX 77807]

And you can click here to join the facebook group for this project.

You may remember that Erin was an ancillary beneficiary of Keith's generosity during her first stem cell transplant. The students did an add-on to their collection and brought stuffed animals to the hospital to cheer her up (notice Rosie dressed in her Christmas outfit on the lower left of the animal pyramid, welcoming the newcomers to the hospital):

You can read the retrospective here. Thank you!

Monday, November 8, 2010


November 8, 2010

I appreciated the extra hour of sleep on Saturday night (which actually allowed me to finish my Sunday school lesson before breakfast. . .and on a side note, allowed Walter to get even more than that done, since he didn't fall back. Instead, he ginned around doing chores wondering why he had such a layabout slacker for a wife.), but I'm not that gung ho about the change. My problemo? It is now getting light when I walk the Willie and the Teddy. Light = bad behavior. I'm not sure what it has to do with, because I'm pretty sure they both see well in the pre-dawn light (certainly much better than me) and certainly their smellers work just fine light or dark.

I won't go into the naughty details, but I will say that the ranch behind the dam brought back its emus for an encore performance (I know this because Willie sussed them out Sunday morning. I don't know how long they have been back, but they can run as fast as ever.). I can also identify a squirrel tail if it ends up on my living room carpet (thank you, Teddy. Also, NOTE BENE: The Squirrel Tails is not as good a name for a rock band as Possum's Blood.). I can only think, what will days 3, 4, 5 and so on bring?

I think the dark/light dichotomy wasn't so much that they couldn't see or smell to get into trouble, but they felt a stronger duty to protect me when I walked my weak, slow, mostly hairless self around the lake in the dark. They wouldn't stray as far from my side when they knew at any moment, I might get myself into something that I couldn't get out of (who knows what dangerous wild animals lurked behind the next tree or hidden by the next yaupon bush?).

Case in point, just a little over a week ago (BTC: Before the Time Change) as I rounded the last bend in the road and headed towards the house, I found myself in the midst of a great and almost dangerous adventure. I glanced across the fence (in Texas it's a bob-war fence, but I think you might recognize it as barbed wire) and thought I saw a flickering light about the size of a paper towel roll on my neighbor's back porch. I fumbled my glasses onto my face (since it's dark and I can't see anyway, I usually let them dangle on their chain around my neck) to check it out.

I thought to myself as I walked along,

Suspicious Self: "People didn't usually have fire on their back porch."

Rational Self: "It's probably one of those bug zappers or something with a yellow light bulb"

Suspicious Self: "Except it's flickering."

Rational Self: "The bulb is probably about to burn out."

Suspicious Self: "The size and height isn't quite right."

Rational Self: "Maybe it's a jack-o-lantern or some other Halloween decoration."

Suspicious Self: "Maaaybe, but on the back porch where nobody ever goes?"

Rational Self: "Okay, so maybe it's one of those warming pit things."

Suspicious Self: "At 6:00 in the morning? When it is already in the mid 70s?"

Rational Self: "If the neighbor's house is on fire, wouldn't there be some sort of hubbub or havoc? Why would I be the only one who noticed?"

I walked the dogs back to the closest vantage point and tried to figure it out. I decided to take the dogs home and come back with my binoculars and look (I know, you really don't want to move to my neighborhood now that I have confessed to stalking my neighbor's homes in the early hours with binocs).

Within the couple of minutes it took to get the dogs home, retrieve the field glasses (and my cell), and make it back to the fence line, the paper-towel sized flame had more than tripled in height, and my Rational Self had no other response than to phone Walter to call 911 and hump myself over the fence to see if anyone but me had noticed that the back porch was definitely on fire.

By the time I reached the house, the five people who lived there were making their way outside--no injuries, but quite a lot of agitation, especially from the three teens, who were really confused (one wanted to rush back in for his library books, another announced she wasn't going to school until at least second period). I took the teens out to the main road to wait for the fire truck (so they wouldn't keep trying to rush back into the smoke for their phone chargers) and let the adults move the family car away from the flames.

The professionals arrived to take care of everything, and I crossed back through the field and over the fence to my waiting coffee and those vigilant pups who were almost apoplectic that I was out before light without them to protect me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


November 4, 2010

My friends have either avoided me or tip-toed around me or sent gentle (real and metaphorical) hugs towards me in the wake of the election on Tuesday. They have perhaps forgotten that this is the way I view the world (with credit to original artist, Selin Jessa):

Okay, I admit the results on Tuesday broke my heart, but it didn't change my outlook. In the last year, I have gotten to see more parts of our community and meet, visit, and work with more interesting and committed people than I ever thought possible. I do not regret a single moment. My personal retrospective would include
  • standing in front of the very angry tea-party led crowd a the Health Care Town Hall in August 2009 when I introduced Chet;
  • speaking on Chet's behalf at Candidate's forums from Millican and Wellborn into north Bryan at the Hispanic Forum's meeting at the Sons of Herman Hall;
  • planning and organizing 14 house parties--13 in August. . .2 in my own home;
  • hanging around with twenty-somethings who live on Red Bull, Layne's chicken strips, and candy for weeks at a time;
  • working every day in an office that didn't have a single comfortable or posture-supporting chair;
  • driving t-posts in the Brazos clay that hadn't seen rain in way too long;
  • staring at my facebook friends list to see if I could impose on any of them ONE MORE TIME to do something for the campaign;
  • playing the game Stump Vickie, which involved staff or interns requesting something they wanted or needed, betting that I didn't have it in my car or home. I almost always won this one!
  • building a database called Hard Democrats Vickie Knows and wishing it were longer;
  • providing first aid for burns to a staffer who put out a flaming shirt by stamping on it with his (bare) foot and for a dog bite to a cavasser (from the gear in my car--this included betadine, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, gauze pads, neosporin, blister pads, and bandages).
  • phoning across the district--not just the supporters and undecideds--but also those who used quite lively and unfriendly invectives before hanging up;
  • block walking in the cold, dark, and rain in an unfamiliar neighborhood alone until the polls closed on Tuesday;
  • I could go on, but you get the drift.
I may not understand the wave that swept Chet out of office (here is his gracious concession speech which includes a mention of Erin) while keeping the governor in office, but I strongly believe in the electoral process. Erin taught me not to flinch. I will not complain about the outcome, but will remain firm in my resolve to continue to work towards what I believe. Being in the minority won't still my voice, nor dull my work ethic, nor blunt my sense of humor.

Here's one reason I remain hopeful:

This is Beatrice Grear. She told me to call her BeBe (which, coincidentally, is what Erin preferred me to call her). She's 86 and has voted in every election that she has been eligible to vote in. She thought she would miss this year because she had to sell her car and has a hard time getting around. I drove her to early vote. We did it curbside so she wouldn't have to negotiate the ramp up into Galilee Baptist Church.

When we got there the election judge didn't hassle her for having no registration card nor a driver's license. BeBe reached into her purse and pulled out a fat bundle of mail wrapped in rubber bands, which she handed to the judge. The judge found her tax bill, had her sign it, and certified her eligibility. I didn't know you could vote without a picture ID, but it is the law!

When they brought the machine to my car and set it on her lap, BeBe had a quick trigger and hit select before she had instructions. Her choice lit up: Straight Ticket (Party X). The election judge stopped her before she went on and carefully showed her how the machine worked. She rotated the wheel for her to demonstrate voting straight ticket and for each candidate, one at a time. Then she worked with BeBe to guarantee that she selected what she actually wanted: Straight Ticket (Party Y).

After she cast her vote, the election judge looked at me and said "I may be a lifelong member of Party X, but I always want voters to cast their vote exactly the way they want, not the way I want it."

BeBe, by the way, thanked me for taking her to vote so many times, that I was slightly embarrassed that such a simple act could elicit such appreciation.

The week before election day my friend, Erin Fry (she and Erin loved seeing each other and saying "Hi, Erin" "Hi, Erin" and giving each other knowing smiles), sent me an essay that her son, Dustin, wrote for his AP English III class, called "Hope Changes Everything." In the spirit of hope, I have included the essay in its entirety here (and added my own emphasis in bold):

Hope Changes Everything

Quantifying a feeling is strikingly difficult. Before writing this essay, I believed that I had a solid emotional understanding of what hope is, and I was surprised to find how difficult it is to put the true meaning of hope into words. To help me do so, I decided to read an online essay about hope. I found one that maintains that hope is a counterproductive force, because it results in idle wishing rather than decisive action. Reacting to that pessimistic document helped me to focus my thoughts for this essay, because I disagreed thoroughly with it. Hope, despite the dictionary definition meaning "expectation and desire," is not about wishing. Rather, hope is a trust in humanity; a faith that even when everything else fails, the "better side" of human nature will prevail--if people never stop working for what they believe in.

Disturbingly, the word "hope" is constantly abused. My peers say that they hope the next test is easy; sports fans say that they hope that the next season will be more successful. Some people use the word more sparingly, contending that one "wishes" for a good grade and "hopes" for world peace. This is a useless distinction, because it applies itself to the same, incorrect definition. Hope is not a wish for the future, but a trust that there is enough good in the world to make it a better place.

To clarify this definition, consider a man who, on his way to work, drives past a factory. Every day, he shudders at the thick, black smoke that the hulking structure exhales. Largely because of his experience with the factory, the man hopes that someday, Americans will have more respect for the environment. However, the man's feeling is not hope at all; it is merely an idle wish. The man in the example does nothing to change attitudes about the environment; he seems to wish they will miraculously change on their own. His disgust with the factory does not spur him to action. A wish is an excuse to do nothing: why should the man buy in a hybrid car or a weird-looking lightbulb when his wish for the future is a greater investment in the environment than the factory's smokestack? Unlike a wish, hope would make the man a supporter of the environment in more than philosophy. If he truly hoped that others' attitudes about the environment would change, he would trust that they would evolve if he helped them along. Unlike a wish, hope is not an excuse for inaction, but an incentive for industry.

Hope has real-life consequences. During World War II, Nazi Germany persecuted and killed millions of Jews. It was a time of terror for European Jews, and many went into hiding. This poem was found scrawled on a German cellar wall where Jews had hidden:

"I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining.
I believe in love
even when I don't feel it.
I believe in God
even when there is silence" ("Aftermath").

This poem is an example of hope. Rather than submitting to the pressure imposed by the inhumanity of the Nazis, the author of the poem remained optimistic. Even though the sun wasn't shining on the Jewish people at the time, the author of the poem knew that it would return someday. They maintained this trust even in the face of horrendous adversity. Rather than asking God to show himself, or begging the metaphorical sun to rise, the poem's author knew that God was still present, and knew that the sun would light up the world again someday. The poem's author had tremendous hope because they trusted in humanity's ability to heal, rather than quietly wishing that someday the world would be a better place.

The poem shows that hope can keep people optimistic in terrible situations. Hope can also lead to dramatic changes in the world. In pre-civil war America, millions of African-Americans were enslaved. Even those that were free faced extreme discrimination. There was crushing social pressure for them to keep their heads down and be inconspicuous. Despite this, the African-Americans invented a new culture, one that was a mixture of their home cultures and their masters'. This new culture has had a profound influence on modern-day popular culture, most famously in our music (Kennedy, Cohen, and Bailey 75). This cultural innovation exemplifies hope, because rather than submitting to the constant psychological assaults of racist white people, the African-Americans trusted themselves to survive centuries of abuse. They had faith in their own humanity, and that trust reified itself in a new culture.

A few years ago, a little girl named Erin Buenger went to my church. She abounded with energy and usually displayed a huge smile on her face. She was a near-constant presence at church, and everybody there knew and loved her. Although I never watched her play, she was apparently a great soccer player as well. It would have been impossible to guess that she suffered from neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that claimed her life at age eleven. The disease never seemed to slow her down--she worked indefatigably to raise awareness and money for neuroblastoma research. She even made friends with Congressman Chet Edwards, who worked hard to help with Erin's awareness project. Erin is gone now, but her dream remains, because of the hope of her mother. Today, Ms. Buenger runs Erin's Dream Lanyards to raise support for children's neuroblastoma. Her belief that her continuation of Erin's life work will make a difference to children with neuroblastoma is a powerful source of hope for her. This hope has enabled her to remain a positive person, despite the death of her daughter.

Though pragmatists and pessimists may rant about its uselessness, hope has an immeasurably powerful influence on the world. Hope enables people to continue living when it might seem that they have nothing else left to live for. Hope demands action when there is no other evidence that an accomplishment will be made. Hope is not an excuse, but a dare. Hope is not a cry in the darkness, but a trust in the light. Hope is the spark that makes us the human race, and not just a tribe of primates. As long as people can wake up in the morning and feel a personal connection with the rising sun, hope will live on.

Works Cited

"Aftermath and Jewish Responses to the Holocaust." Oracle ThinkQuest Library>.

Kennedy, David M., Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas Andrew Bailey. The American Pageant: a History of the Republic. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. Print.