Friday, October 02, 2009


Among the many bits of motherly advice I’ve given my children over the years is included the following injunction: ‘Don’t do anything that will result in you becoming a joke on David Letterman.’ This bit of wisdom was handed down about the time that we all found out just what Monica Lewinski’s internship duties at the Clinton White House entailed.

This week, it came out that David had done what I had warned my children about: He found himself in the unenviable position of being an embarrassing joke on his own show. Faced with a threat from a CBS employee that the world would find out about the incredibly ‘creepy’ things he had done during his tenure as host of a late night talk show, David decided to break the story himself, pulling his audience in w/ a ‘little story’ in which he not only detailed the attempted blackmail attempt, but admitted to sexual liaisons with several female employees during an unnamed point in time.

While I admire David’s honesty (and the clever way he used it) in coming forward and admitting to his misdeeds before someone else could expose him as a lecherous employer, I also have to admit to being extremely disappointed in the behavior that made it necessary. He, of all people, should have known better. And I will have another bit of advice for my daughters: If the opportunity should ever arise, think twice before accepting a job with David Letterman. No one really wants to work with a lecher.

In the meantime, I offer my sympathy to David’s mother on her son’s behavior which resulted in him being a joke on Late Night with David Letterman. If she needs to commiserate with someone who understands how it feels, I suggest that she call Monica’s parents.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Life's Little Bombs

Yesterday morning I got a lovely surprise. It’s been at least two years since I ceased being a viable breeding device or rather, stopped having periods. It’s called menopause and while certain aspects of it were a bit bothersome, on the whole I thought I’d gotten off fairly well. Until yesterday when I discovered that I was spotting. Very, very light spotting, but spotting nonetheless. Having recently read somewhere that any sort of bleeding after the complete cessation of periods was usually a sign that things are ‘not good,’ I decided, after an attempt at denial, to email my doctor this morning. His reply was basically, get thee to a gynecologist and get this checked out. So, I called the wonderful doctor who delivered the girls eons ago, confirmed that he is on my insurance plan and made an appointment for mid-October. Between now and then I will endeavor to refrain from searching medical websites for what this might mean as those types of searches usually just manage to increase my blood pressure and my panic level.

As there is a bit of a history of ovarian cancer (two cousins on my mother’s side), I am concerned. Especially since my very recent pap smear came back clear.

When I’m thinking positively, I allow myself to believe that this is just a hormonal reaction to my newly empty nest and my body is just trying to bring itself back up to reproductive speed. Not that I’ve ever heard of that happening to anyone. But there was the dream the first night Emily stayed in the dorm that I was pregnant again.

At any rate, I am taking action and not sticking my head in the sand, despite my fears of what might be causing this. A few weeks ago when I was in a major funk over the whole empty nest thing, I might have been tempted to leave this to fate, suicide by denial as it were. (I’ve always been good at procrastination, though this would be a rather extreme way to use it.) But I still have an extremely healthy fear of death (nothing like reading “Charlotte’s Web” when you are 7 years old after your father has dropped dead in front of you to keep you doing what it takes to keep living) and that fear keeps me going.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This and that

I'm sitting in my office waiting for the rain to stop before driving home. Normally, rain wouldn't stop me from heading out, but the ac on the crapvan has been out this summer (technically, the fan that blows the cool air in my face is not functioning, but it's the same result), so, I hesitate to drive home in the rain. Houston is hot an humid and I know from past experience that my car will fog up and I'll just end up waiting out the storm in a parking lot. So, I'll take advantage of this delay to update here.

I have a week before I move my youngest into her dorm and officially become an 'empty-nester.' I've barely seen Emily in the last couple of weeks due to our widely varying schedules, but we are hoping to work in a partial 'girls day' on Saturday. She has plans for the afternoon, but if we can get going early enough, we can fit in some dorm shopping and lunch before she takes off w/ her friends.

Sometime in the next couple of days, I need to figure out what we can do for Larry's birthday next week. It's coming up fast. I need to email the commune/choir group and see if we can do something one night next week.

I also desperately need to work on the house. It's a shambles. That's what happens when you work 10 to 16 hour days all summer long. I need to wash slipcovers and put stuff away. Cleaning out the fridge would be a good thing too. I keep hoping that once there's just the two of us, this will be better, but I'm not holding my breath.

And choir practice for the year starts tonight. We have had a couple of rehearsals for a concert we are doing in November, but this is the official start of our year. From now on, most Thursday nights will be taken up w/ rehearsals. It will be a later one for me as I have to cantor at the 8:00 am Mass this Sunday.

The sun is shining in, so I will be on my way.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


On the “What! You’ve got to be kidding me!” list this week is the discovery that the loathsome crapvan I drive does not qualify as a “clunker” under the new clunker law. It’s not that I’m seriously shopping for a replacement vehicle. I’m only dreaming of a replacement. But that little bit of biting reality has me reeling in disbelief. I just naturally assumed that my 1996 Dodge Voyager, which wheezes its way through Houston, doggedly spewing out greenhouse gases, would be a natural fit under the new clunker law. But it’s not. We checked and according to the EPA, the crapvan actually gets (or got once upon a time in a land far, far away) 18 mpg combined city and freeway driving. I don’t know what they are smoking in the EPA offices, but they need to come and watch the crapvan smoke and then tell me it’s not a clunker.

Seriously, this has been a shock to my system. For several years now I’ve thought of the crapvan as the quintessential clunker. Only it turns out it’s not. It’s going to take me a while to get used to the idea that I’m actually driving what is considered to be an earth-friendly car. I mean, I’m right up there with all the people who drive a Prius; or at least on the same planet.

So when you see me toddling down Chimney Rock trailing exhaust fumes, don’t be giving me any dirty looks while you say disdainfully, “That woman needs to do the environmentally responsible thing and trade in that clunker for a more fuel efficient new car!” Because, I’ve got proof that officially the EPA has no problem with the crapvan.

Which is more than I can say for myself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Emily's Dress Again

I found better photos of Emily's dress. This shows the bodice detail:

And these two show it in full length:

The fabric I used was a lovely silk georgette for the overskirt and bodice ruching. The underskirt was a satin (not silk) with the dull side out. Both had to be 'xerox paper white.'
And yes, the lace crowns are traditional at her school's graduation. Though they seem a little much to begin with, it's really much prettier than your average graduation.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Emily's Graduation

Due to a lot of reasons, I never got around to posting the promised pictures of Emily's graduation dress. Making this dress was really a journey for Emily and me. We truly designed it together. And once I got it to the point where she could try it on (something that took longer than I expected due to issues with figuring out how to ruch the bodice), then there were adjustments to be made to the dress to make it fit/look the way Emily was envisioning. I owe a big thank you to a lovely lady named Marilyn, who I met at Angela House in Houston. Angela House is a halfway house for women who are trying to get back on their feet after being in prison. I was there to take photos of students from the school where I work, who go over on Sunday evenings w/ dinner for the residents and spend time with them as part of the social awareness program at school. Marilyn is a master seamstress and we spent some time going over my sketch of the dress talking about how I could make it work.

Here is Emily in the dress. (She's the one in front,)
Not the best view of the dress, but the best I have access to at the moment. The day was made even more special because Emily received the school's highest honor for a graduating senior: True Child of the Sacred Heart. The senior class nominates three girls and the entire Upper School students and faculty vote for who will receive this honor. It's announced on the morning of graduation at the end of the Prize Day awards ceremony. I was there because I take photos for the school and I just burst into tears. And yes, we are incredibly proud of Emily.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hover Parents from Hell

That thwup, thwup, thwup sound you heard last week was the helicopter parents gathering at St. Edward's University for one of the orientation sessions held over the summer. Having never been to the parents portion of an orientation session, I was totally unprepared for these overprotective parents who hover ceaselessly over theiir children monitoring course schedules and bowel movements with the same intensity. These people would reattach their children's umbilical cords if possible. And woe to the person who suggests that the whole point of raising children is to get them to the point where they are capable of taking care of themselves.

It was interesting watching the university staff and faculty tiptoe around these people and attempt, in the nicest way possible, to encourage them to let their children go and be adults. I don't know if this is a bigger problem at St. Ed's due to the the fact that it's a small university, but it's obviously an issue. I mean they call a parent who shows up on campus in response to an issue (usually minor) "Black Hawk Down."

Okay, we're only going to say this once: If your child does not know how to do laundry, take care of himself, do their own schoolwork without having it checked over by you, etc. by the time they are headed off to college, then you really haven't done your job as a parent. In fact, it's a pretty good bet that you don't understand what a parent's job is. Your job is to turn out a responsible, independent grown-up. If your child has learning disabilities, then your job is harder, but in most cases, it's not impossible. And if you are not allowing your child to make decisions for themselves of ever-increasing importance throughout their childhood, then you are pretty much guaranteeing that as an adult, your child will make the wrong decisions. People learn from their mistakes. So do children, unless they are never allowed to make a mistake. A little failure now and then can, in some instances, be more valuable to a child's learning processes than continual success, especially if the success is because the parent stayed up all night working on a project.

So, it's time to stop hovering fellow parents. Let your children learn the hard way. Like most of us did when we were young. I'm not saying don't support your child. I'm just saying let him or her have a little freedom and responsibility.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

• The dress for Emily is progressing at a snail's pace. Yesterday I had to buy another yard of silk because the bodice isn't working. So, I'll have to cut out new pieces and try again. I came up with a solution in the wee hours of the morning as to what I need to do this time. I had really hoped to have the dress mostly assembled by now and it's still in pieces all over the house. 

• We are finally going to rip out the carpet in the den and the hall! I'm so excited about getting this done. The plan is to put ceramic tile in the utility room, kitchen, den and hallway. I am beyond ecstatic over never having to clean that carpet again. Wish I could rip the carpet out of the entire house, but that's not in the budget. I have the name of a contractor, who does good work and is reasonably priced and plan to call him today to come out and measure. The goal is to get this done by mid-May before Sara comes home from school. The sooner the better as far as I'm concerned. Once I get him scheduled, I'm going to paint the hallway so that will be done before the new floor goes in. Yippee!

• And then there's work. But let's not go there...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Love You Daddy

I was in a meeting this morning about our website and in the course of adding a task to my calendar, realized that it is April 7. Forty-six years since my father died one Palm Sunday night as he played with my baby sister Julia. I've been thinking a lot about him lately due to my sister Jane's upcoming article (see post below) about how our mother raised us on her own. 

My memories of my father are few because I was so young. The most vivid are of hearing the sound he made right before he died and kneeling next to his bed as the priest administered the last rights. He is a presence in my life at unexpected times. I look in a mirror and see the echos of his face in mine. I look at a photo of Dad as a young boy and see my son. I can trace some of my personality traits to him. I wish they were the better ones, but I'm not sure they are. I do not handle money well. That's one trait I wish I had from my mother. My father was a charmer. People loved  him. I'm not sure I got the Chesnutt family charm. My brother did and my children have it, especially my son. 

There have been times in my life when my anger at my father for dying on us is overwhelming. And there are times still when the grief is as fresh as if it had just happened. In the early 60s in small town Texas, there were no grief counselors. We just dealt with it the best we could. It was strange sometimes, being the only child I knew, aside from my siblings, whose father had died. We were the only members of a club that we didn't want to join. I felt set apart, different. I did fine with my friends' moms, but would barely speak to their dads. Dads were alien territory. Even as an adult, I've had a problem even acknowledging Father's Day exists. The anger again.

But through it all, I have always loved him. And even though he was not able to be a physical presence in my life, he has been there always. Because I carry him in my heart with me. 

Needle and thread time

I am currently in the throes of sewing my daughter's graduation dress. School requirements are that the dress be 'xerox paper white' (no cream, ivory, etc), and have at least, 2 inch straps (no strapless). Long or tea length. Emily and I came up with a design that she loves and I am working to make it turn out the ways she wants. Since there were no patterns that remotely resemble what we want, I found a vintage pattern that I thought would work as a guide. So far, it's going well. I got the lining basted together and tried that on her last night for fit. I am going  to have to take it in in the back, but it's coming together. So, a few more snips with the scissors and I will be able to move on to the satin. We are using a satin fabric, dull side out, with silk georgette over it. I'll post photos as we progress.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Tragedy that Binds

When I was just 7 years old, my father dropped dead of a heart attack on a Sunday night in April. One minute he was there and the next minute he was gone. Leaving my mother with five children ranging in age from 12 to 5 months old to raise and support, along with her mother, who was completely blind. Somehow my mother did it all. She is now 87 and my sister Jane has written a tribute to her for Mother's Day that will appear in Woman's Day this May. I read the proof of the essay this weekend while I was at Mom's. It made me weep. A few of the tears were for Dad. But most of them were for Mom. I cried because Mom is being honored for what she did by the child who turned away from her at one point. It's been a long hard road for Jane and Mom. It is fitting that she be the one who gives Mom the recognition she deserves for what she did for all of us. 

Thanks Jane.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Moving Forward

Now that I have finished (kinda), our taxes and filled out the FAFSA form for my daughters, I need to move on to the next big task: Making my daughter Emily's graduation dress. It's a tradition in our family that I sew the girls' graduation dresses. So, far I've done three dresses and this will be the fourth and last. The first two were for their 8th grade graduation. The high school dress is a bit different. It must be a certain shade of white (we call it Xerox paper white), and it also has to conform to certain guidelines. So, rather than brave the bridal shops, I choose to sew.

I actually designed Sara's dress. That was an experience. I made a duct tape dressmaker's dummy of her and literally pinned the dress together on the dummy. I had never sewn anything without a pattern before and let me tell you, it took me months. I won't be auditioning for Project Runway anytime soon. However, I was pleased with how it turned out and so was Sara.

So, for Emily, I have an idea sketched out that can hopefully be assembled from a pattern with me only having to modify the pattern. But I need to get started soon. May 29 will be here before I know it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Things I do for my Children

I spent today working on our taxes and filling out the FAFSA application for my two daughters. It's been a totally hellish experience. First was finding out what our tax bite will be this year. Let's just say OUCH!!! On the bright side, at least we are not finding out on April 14 that we owe a huge sum and we have a couple of months to economize big time. Goodbye El Ranchero and your big ass margaritas. I could certainly use one right now. After getting the tax shock, I moved over to the FAFSA website. Or what I thought was the FAFSA website. Turns out Google played a dirty trick on me and put a commercial FAFSA prep site up first. I spent over an hour filling out information on this site, thinking the government had really changed things before finally finishing and discovering that what I thought was free was going to cost me $80. So, back to Google, on to the free (real) FAFSA site and 4 hours later, I'm finally done. (Explorer kept cutting out on me, forcing be to go back in and, in the case of my younger daughter, keep re-entering the information.) So girls, don't tell me I don't love you. Would a woman who didn't love you go through this sort of hell?

Luckily I have a lovely bottle of La Crema chardonney in the fridge. Won't be buying that for some time, but I will treat myself to a glass of it tonight.

The things I do for my children...