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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Everything’s AOK

IMG_0588Every year at this time, I tell myself to calm down. After all, 19 years ago, I had a baby on December 16. My last child, my third daughter, my baby girl was born just 9 days before Christmas. Amazingly, the year she was born was the calmest, most peaceful holiday ever. Annually, I try to channel that Christmas calm. Usually, every December 16, I feel it, briefly.

When Anne Overton Kirk, (AOK), was born around noon on a Friday in 1994, our older daughters were in school. Claire, age 6 was in first grade. Caitlin, age 4 was in Pre-K. Anne’s soon-to-be best friend, Emily, was breathing her first breaths just a couple of floors down in Methodist Hospital. My parents and sister were with us in the delivery suite. All went very well. So, a day or two after her birth, we left the hospital, introduced Anne to her two older sisters, and brought her to our home where she slept in a bassinet at our bedside. I was continually amazed at the peacefulness I felt, contentedly holding her on my lap, watching the blinking lights of our Christmas tree, and enjoying the holiday spirit. That year, friends were kind to take the older girls to see Santa and even to a performance of The Nutcracker. My husband took time off from his busy surgery practice to be by our sides. Happily, we had a wonderful nanny who was ready and willing to help with the baby. So, my husband and I enjoyed a meal or two out and finished our shopping. I vowed I would never again allow myself to be stressed during this beautiful time of year.

Nice thought, but the years went by and Anne experienced all the ups and downs typically thrown to elementary, middle, and high school students. And, every year, her birthday fell in the middle of finals, causing all of us much angst. But, every December 16, we managed to host a celebratory party. Once, it was a party at the zoo, another at an art studio, many times at our home; throughout high school, it was dinner at a Riverwalk restaurant so the girls could see the beautiful seasonal lights twinkling in the trees for an hour or two before returning to their studies.

It’s hard to believe that last year, we didn’t know where Anne would be on this 19th birthday, as she was in the throes of deciding which college to attend. Today, she is happily living and studying at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. And, today is the first birthday that Anne has celebrated away from home. But, I couldn’t be happier, as I know that she is taking a break from her studies, enjoying a birthday dinner at a restaurant near her school on the mountain, with friends whom she met last August. They have become her family in absentia, and, most likely, her friends for life. I watch the twinkling lights on our tree, enjoying the peacefulness of this beautiful season and feel calm. For a moment.


A Few Distractions

christmas-tree-lot-110661299979618wUfA few days ago, I told myself I’d spend this week shopping for Christmas gifts. I made a list and felt completely in control. Now that it’s almost Thursday, and I haven’t bought a present, I’m trying to figure out where the time has gone, and I realize that there have been several things that have happened this week that qualify as attention-grabbing, Christmas-shopping deterrents.

1. I have spent many hours singing, rehearsing, and pounding out notes on our out of tune piano while re-discovering a joy that I haven’t experienced in over 30 years, singing with a choir. This is due to my new year’s resolution – yes, that’s right, it was a resolution I made for 2013 – to do things that make me happy. So, since singing makes me happy, and there are only so many parties with karaoke machines, (thanks, Rosa!), I recently signed up to sing in my church’s choir just in time for their Christmas Concert. And, because there were already 24 sopranos and only 4 altos, I’m now singing in a key I’m having trouble locating.

2. Another few hours were spent worrying over our sweet, 14-year old dog, Maggie, culminating with a visit to the vet. Maggie was a pound puppy when we adopted her, mostly border collie, and has been the most wonderful pet. Lately, she has developed a terrible skin condition that looks like dandruff and causes itching, and her arthritis has gotten worse. She rarely gets up from her doggie bed, a far cry from the days she happily ran/walked three miles with me daily, or madly chased squirrels in our backyard. Today, I had to lift her into the car, while she moaned and whimpered, and then, sadly watched as she stood nervously waiting to be seen by the doctor, her back legs shaking as if they could barely hold her.  All her problems are attributable to old age, and she was prescribed numerous meds to help keep her comfortable. I hate to think what the new year will bring for this sweet girl.

3. Last Wednesday, in anticipation of the Arctic blast, I exchanged vehicles with my husband, taking his truck to pick up our Christmas tree. My plan was to head to the tree lot, pick out a beauty, have the elves load it into the truck , then drive home, back into the driveway and leave the tree there until my husband arrived home from work to help me unload it. Everything went according to plan until the tree lot people told me, after accepting my credit card and loading the tree into the truck, that it needed to be put in water within 30 minutes. Seriously? It would take me nearly that long to get it home. “Okay, sure. Thank you so much,” I muttered. I raced home dodging noon traffic, wondering what in the world I was going to do with this tree that had taken two people to lift. I went with my plan to back the truck into the driveway, then I lowered the lift gate and literally pulled the tree out of the bed, dragged it into the garage, and propped it up against the wall. I was seriously hoping my neighbors weren’t watching. I found our old tree stand and placed it next to the tree, took a deep breath, tightened my core and lifted that damn thing, dropping it straight into the stand. “Yes!” I shouted, as if I’d just made a basket for the Spurs. I filled the stand with water and shut the garage door. Today, one week later, I think it’s stopped drinking water as I listen to its brittle needles hit the floor. But, it is decorated and its colored lights are brightly shining.

4. My 23-year-old daughter survived the Ice-pocalypse that struck Dallas last weekend. I was sick with worry beginning Friday morning when I checked my weather app and saw that it was sleeting and 29 degrees in Dallas. My Facebook friends of North Texas noted that they were without power and were headed with their families to hotels. I called my daughter to no avail. A few hours later, I was relieved to receive her text that she had simply slept in because work was canceled. Then, “OH NO,” she texted. “MY POWER IS OUT!” and “IT’S COLD!” I asked if she had any food. Yes, plenty of cereal, oatmeal and Hot Pockets. But then, “LOTS OF FOOD BUT NO WAY TO COOK ANYTHING. AND, MILK’S SPOILED.”  I, helpfully stated, “Hey, you can boil water for your oatmeal.” “STOVE’S ELECTRIC,” she fired back. Then, I called her to say, “I have to talk fast. You need to conserve your phone battery. Write this down: bread, peanut butter, trail mix, fruit, cheese sticks, crackers. I love you. Goodbye.” She said, “I hope I’m not one of those people who is discovered days after the storm, frozen and all alone in her apartment.” Click. Soon she sent a picture of the snowy scene as she walked to the nearest Tom Thumb. “All dark here but at least they’re open,” she wrote. Next, “Feel like I’m in New York City.” And, “IT’S SOOOOOO COLD.” Later, she called her dad and said one of her friends had power and she was going to make her way to her apartment and spend the night. “Keep us posted,” he advised her. Before long, it was Sunday and I realized I hadn’t heard from her. Then, late Sunday, “YAY! Power’s back on!!” Monday morning I texted again,”Were you able to get into work today?” “Yes, but everything is still snowy and icy.” “Well, I’ll bet it’s good to get out of your apartment and try to get back to normal.” Silence…then, “Mom, I sort of got out some this weekend.” Minutes passed. “My friend had an extra ticket to the Kanye concert.” “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” “Mom, calm down. I COULD NOT pass up a free ticket to see Kanye.” I thanked her for not telling me that she risked her life to see Kanye West, father of North, boyfriend of Kim Kardashian, until three days after the fact.

So, you see, I’ve had lots going on. But, I’d better get busy. Christmas is in 2 … never mind, I don’t want to stress you out!

Fickle Fans

20938310_BG1You may have missed the Auburn/Alabama game, “The Iron Bowl,” over Thanksgiving weekend, but surely you have heard about it by now. Nearly every news outlet has covered it this week as “the greatest play in college football history.” YouTube is buzzing with amateur video of fans reacting to the play while watching t.v. in their living rooms. The footage of Alabama fans features people screaming, “Noooooo,” then throwing themselves on the floor. The tape of Auburn supporters features similar-looking people yelling just as loudly, “Yessssssss,” then briefly jumping up and down before throwing themselves on the floor. Assuming that you missed it, I’ll try to explain. In the last second of the football game, with the two rivals tied and everyone assuming the teams were headed to overtime, Alabama lined up for a 56-yard Hail Mary field goal. The freshman kicker nearly made it, but at the last instant, the ball veered to the right of the goal post. Chris Davis, wearing Auburn’s #11, was there to catch it. (I didn’t even realize one could catch a missed field goal and keep the ball in play.) Davis headed 109 yards down the field to score a touchdown for Auburn. The announcer called it, excitedly screaming, “Auburn’s gonna win! Auburn’s gonna win!” Final score: 34-28, and Auburn was suddenly headed to the SEC championship game.

I’ve never in my life watched an Auburn or an Alabama football game. In fact, the week of Thanksgiving, a friend of mine who knows my daughter is currently enrolled at Auburn asked, “Are you all excited about the Iron Bowl?” I looked at her blankly and said, “I’m sorry; I don’t know what that is.”  She explained, patiently, that it was the traditional Thanksgiving weekend game between the two Alabama rival teams, University of Alabama and Auburn University. “Oh yes, of course,” I muttered, embarrassed. My husband and I attended a small liberal arts college with no football team, but we had grown up as Longhorn fans, having many relatives who attended UT. Since our college was just 30 miles from Austin, we felt secure in our support of the Longhorns. Then, our eldest daughter chose to attend Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, where she truly turned into a Horned Frog and seemed to always wear purple.  My husband and I adopted a new philosophy: if you pay for someone to attend a university, you earn the right to become a fan of that school’s football team. So, we, too, became Horned Frog fans. At first, we simply watched the games on t.v. from the comfort of our den. Soon, however, we had season tickets to the TCU games, a mere 4 1/2 hours from our home. In the meantime, our middle daughter chose to matriculate at the University of Texas in Austin, so we could finally, legitimately, call ourselves true Longhorns. This was fine and dandy until the ‘Horns played the Frogs last Thanksgiving in Austin. Our whole family attended, and my husband and I were as conflicted as people with personality disorders. TCU won, and we felt guiltily excited about the outcome. After our daughters graduated from  college, our enthusiasm for their two teams barely diminished, although both teams haven’t done as well since our girls left the stadiums’ student sections.

As fate would have it, my eldest is now a first semester grad student at Auburn. Upon acceptance, she received congratulatory notes ending with, “War Eagle!” We weren’t real sure what that meant, but soon were off to find an apartment in Auburn. (See my prior post, “Apartment Hunting.“) Arriving, we learned that the university mascot was actually a tiger. Auburn Tigers? What happened to the eagle? We were told something about an eagle on the 50-yard line during a crucial game resulting in an Auburn victory. We were confused. There were also photographs, posters, and news articles of the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner. Apparently, the old oak trees at the corner of a major intersection in downtown Auburn were traditionally “rolled” with toilet paper after Auburn victories. But, when we arrived, the trees were dying due to the hateful act of one Harvey Updyke, a rabid Alabama fan who poisoned them after an Auburn victory. Wow. There was so much to learn.  “Crazy,” my daughter and I agreed, shaking our heads. But, now that she has nearly a full semester under her belt, and has been to an Auburn football game and hasn’t missed a tailgate, she’s morphed into a Tiger/War Eagle. Last Saturday evening while she was home, we turned on the television to check on the Iron Bowl and were disappointed to see that Auburn was about to lose to Alabama. So, we changed channels to watch our beloved TCU Horned Frogs battle the Baylor Bears, until it became clear that the Frogs were going to lose. Switching back to the Auburn game, just in time, we saw the Alabama boys lining up for the field goal, then, the football was kicked, our boy Chris caught it, and the rest is history. We were all ecstatic, yelling, screaming, jumping up and down, and excitedly shouting, “WAR EAGLE! WAR EAGLE!” I even, for a brief moment, thought about throwing myself on the floor with glee. Instead, I hugged and high-fived everyone in the room, and owned the victory. I’ll take it; I’m now a War Eagle, or a Tiger. Whatever.

In case you missed it:

“Auburn’s going to win the football game! Auburn’s going to win the football game!”