For several days I’ve been packing up our house in South Carolina, prepping for the move back home to Texas. When we married, Paul and I merged our two homes, then moved three times – this move will be our fourth move in 2 years – and there is just a lot of extraneous crap we’ve been hauling around. This time, I am determined we haul it no further.

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They were no help at all.

As a result, my approach to packing has been far less throw-it-all-in-boxes-and-hope-for-the-best, much more about being organized and lightening the load. It requires a certain ruthlessness of which I am more than capable.

Sorting through all the old letters and cards from friends and family over the years I found several from my late friend, Jeff, and so I found it not at all coincidental when later the same afternoon, I could almost hear him snickering at me over the wrapping paper and more specifically, the ribbon.

Jeff was raised in a frugal home, and he could squeeze the last penny from a nickle when he needed to. One of his more peculiarly amusing bits of frugality was saving wrapping paper. While clearing stuff out of his house before he moved, I realized how much he’d come to trust me. That day, we came to the place Where Wrapping Paper Went to Die.

“Dude, this has become a hoarding situation,” I told him, pulling scraps of crumbling paper from a large, deep box, one of several.

“But it’s so pretty…. I might use it one day…”

“Not the stuff that’s disintegrating. Seriously, how long have you had this? Was this your mother’s?!” I don’t know how much wrapping paper I threw into Jeff’s recycling bin that day, but it was a lot. A LOT a lot. And thus why I felt him laughing at my ribbon blob yesterday.

There were three separate containers full of wrapping paper and ribbon, with one clearly specific to Christmas, but Christmas had infiltrated the other two, all higgledy-piggledy. I hate higgledy-piggledy.

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They’re all soooo pretty!

I love good, fabric ribbon; it looks lush, lovely, and expensive on a package, so I save reusable lengths of it and, judging from yesterday’s mother lode, lots of not-so-usable scraps, scraps that would have gone beautifully with Jeff’s old, yellowing, disintegrating wrapping paper in some sort of Hoarders Hall of Fame. Fortunately, I’m in just the right frame of mind – I call it scorched earth mode, sort of the organizers’ version of Beast Mode – for sorting and shedding the detritus of Life, and out went all the seriously too-short for practical use strands, no matter how pretty. They will now serve as upgraded nesting material for the birds that live off landfills, and I am content.

The day before, I’d gone through three largish plastic crates of letters, cards, ticket stubs and other souvenirs, saving some and rubbishing most, little ribbons of my life past and present. Some rich in memory, others mere trinkets I’d once imbued with misinterpreted meaning, or ideas that were just flat out wrong. A precious few have no monetary value, but a price beyond rubies in sentiment: a tooth and a note from my once-little-girl to the Tooth Fairy; one of her letters to Santa, clearly designating cookies and milk for him, carrots and celery for his reindeer; photos of her at three months old, sprawled across her father’s lap, dead asleep; dozens of cards from the flowers Paul has sent me, each one with few but essential words of what I bring to him, his life. Lovely, silky, shining ribbons of memories, ribbons of choices made. Perhaps age brings with it the liberty of no longer feeling compelled to store physical evidence of the past, of memory, or choices made. Without one shred of physical evidence, they are all stored within me and who I am today is the totality of them. So I saved the useful ones, the positive ones, the ones connected to love and that which is good, and tossed the rest. I lightened the load and didn’t lose a thing.


Weekend Coffee Share: Waffle House Edition

Last Saturday, Paul and I got our coffee and breakfast fix at that bastion of ‘Murican greatness, the Waffle House. I can’t help sharing it with you, and hope you might come to know and love it as we do.

It’s not fancy. It’s definitely not elegant, and you have to be in the American South but, while Waffle House might be a Southern thing, I believe it is the best of ‘Murica, writ large.

They all look the same: small rectangular buildings along or close to a major highway, black letters on yellow simply announcing itself to one and all: truckers and travelers, junkies and late-night revelers in need of a beer-sponge, businessmen, families, and parties of one. All are treated as equals, all are welcome to a quick, hot, good meal served cheerfully by the hardest working people you might ever meet.

Waffle House Plano East color

The menu is simple: eggs about any way one can cook an egg, pancakes and waffles of course, breakfast steaks and pork chops, and a variety of breakfast pig: bacon, sausage, and ham. Hash browns come any way you like: covered, smothered, diced or chunked, peppered, capped, topped, scattered, and country.

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Paul as Kilroy.

If you wander into one during lunch or dinner you can get a decent burger or sandwich, and I think there are other items too, but truthfully, I go for the breakfast, served 24/7. Cheesy eggs, hash browns covered and country (with onions and country gravy), toast and ham. My arteries begin clogging the instant I order, and I never finish the whole thing but I enjoy every last heart-stopping bite.

I watch the wait-and cook-staff clear tables, take orders, prepare food at the galley-style grill, and all pop up and call out, “Good morning!” each time the door opens to new customers. They are unfailingly pleasant and efficient, and I consider how much harder they probably work than I did when I waited tables, and how much less they probably make (based on the smaller bill totals of each check). They never stop. In the 15 minutes Paul and I waited for a table yesterday, the entire restaurant turned over.

It’s a good place for coffee and breakfast, and they keep your cup full. We could go through three or four cups while working our way through breakfast.

Paul always gets the All-Star Special, and I feel compelled to tell you that his waffle hadn’t yet arrived when I took the picture, lest you think I was a bigger glutton than he. While that may be true enough, were the waffle on the table it wouldn’t look like it, anyway.

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Mine looks huge because: perspective. Also, Paul’s waffle isn’t there yet.

As we pushed our plates away I might suggest you watch chef Sean Brock introduce fellow chef (and Yankee) Anthony Bourdain to Waffle House for the first time. A little professional testimony to bolster mine.

As we sat clutching our distended bellies, I’d tell you that we’ve found a place to rent for a while in Texas but the landlords didn’t make it easy and we wondered for a bit if we’d have to submit DNA analysis or witness statements about our characters in order to secure it. One year a home-owner and I’ve forgotten about the tribulations of renting, and maybe as we finished our coffee, you’d agree with me that this worry goes on my ever-increasing list of First World Problems I should give thanks for having.

And as we waddled out to our cars and said our goodbyes I’d wish you a happy week, and ask your prayers for my attempts at Organized Packing and the immediate future. Much to-doing to be done, and I’m gonna need all the help I can get.

Weekend Coffee Share: Mesquite and Salsa Edition

If we were having coffee, I’d probably be going back and forth between nervous chatter over my news, and wall-eyed, silent panic over everything it means for the immediate future.

Over our first cup, I would wonder if you’ve grown up hearing this expression, “Careful what you ask for, you just may get it,” the inference being what is received is never as awesome as one thinks it will be. Or the reality of “it” is not what one thought. I’ve generally been pretty darn careful over what I wish for, with one or two spectacularly bad wishes that once granted, could only be chalked up to Learning Experiences.

But what do you know? It turns out the “it” actually can be every bit as awesome as one believes, but still a little overwhelming when attained, most especially when it comes at one like a speeding train, maybe one of the super-high-speed trains they have in Germany or Japan. Part of me wants to say, every time I spontaneously give thanks to our kind and merciful God who surely heard the prayers in my heart, even when I didn’t speak them aloud, or even let them near my frontal lobe, must it be quite so quick, O Lord?

A Texas Spring Tradition

We’re going home. In about the space of time between heartbeats Paul was told of a position, encouraged to apply for it, interviewed, was offered and accepted an excellent new job – with a full relocation package – back home to Texas. Texas, where four of our five children and all our grandchildren are, most especially the new baby boy we’ve yet to meet. Texas where the barbecue is redolent with mesquite and the sauces peppery; Texas where the Mexicans don’t dumb-down the salsa for the gringos because the gringos grew up on jalapenos and serranos, too; Texas where the freeway signs encourages one and all to “Drive Friendly”. Texas, where singing, the stars at night, are big and bright…. will always engender the enthusiastic response of, deep in the heart of Texas! from any and all passersby. Texas, where the highways turn purple and blue with bluebonnets, and everyone stops on the sides of even the busiest to plop their children into them and take their picture.


There have been changes in Texas we won’t like: open carry laws have passed, which I find frightening. I don’t want to get caught in a shoot-out among untrained civilians thinking they’re Wyatt Earp. But I wouldn’t like that if I’d been there when it happened. The Governor and Lt. Governor are both idiots, but that can be said for many states and I can hope my presence in the next election might turn the state at least purple, if not entirely blue.

We might have wished to be in South Carolina just a little longer; there is still so much to explore and see! The Rector of our church here sent us off last Sunday with a blessing that choked me up, I guess I hadn’t realized how attached I’d gotten to some of the people here, people who were kind and welcoming to us. I know I will sorely miss the Pumpkin Patch this Fall.

This weekend, I’d beg your indulgence as I babbled on and on about everything and nothing, and cut our coffee a bit short. Paul has a whole new challenge ahead of him and I am looking at a truly staggering amount of packing up to do, which right now seems like the metaphorical elephant sales trainers are always asking how one may eat. But I’ve been through enough of those trainings, and moves, to understand that for all my panic, the correct answer is always: with hot sauce (of course) and one bite at a time.

Here’s some of what I love about Texas, by Mr. George Strait.