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Sweeping Fun

All through the Christmas season,  I saw advertisements for the most phenomenal and outrageous toys for kids. Many of them had to be charged up or plugged in! My memories rolled back to the years when we lived in a small Texas town and amused ourselves with simple toys.

The Dead End

Our street ended at a large bar ditch. If was forbidden for us to play there, which made it more enticing. A sign in the middle of the road named our playground — “Dead End”. The street was caliche — it’s a word that seems to be peculiar to Texas, like sendero. Caliche is a fine mix of sand and gravel. Large road graders would push it up into mounds at the sign by the ditch. We made trails through it down into the ditch, different after each rain.

Playing Army

The neighborhood kids had a collaborative venture at the Dead End. The boys would bring little plastic toy soldiers, tanks, jeeps, and flag poles. Being the only neighborhood girl — and well on a path to becoming an architect even in the second grade — I brought blocks of scrap wood and my dad’s little whisk broom.

The broom was just perfect for sweeping roads, staging areas, landing strips and parking lots around my scrap block buildings! Our war zones could be fairly large — the whole width of the street and about 20-feet in depth! Battles, demolition and re-building could keep us busy for days. Rain gave us the opportunity to start over! 

The Memories

It’s the whisk broom that brings back bittersweet memories for me. My father was meticulous about keeping his little roadsters clean. His little broom always (most always) hung on a nail in the workshop. Every few days, he would open the car doors and sweep off the seats and floorboards (in that order). I can still hear him fussing out loud when he’d sweep across the upholstery and see a swath of caliche dust in the path of the little broom.

Miss ya, Dad. Bought my own little whisk broom this Christmas! From a wonderful little Etsy Shop in North Carolina called Vintage Supply Co. I won’t use it to sweep gravel, I promise.

Christmas Inside Out

Growing up in Texas, the Christmas holidays were a grand adventure, as I remember. The Christmas tree always went up on my birthday in mid December. There was a tree at my grandparent’s house on Goldman Street and one at the ranch, also. Wreaths. Lights. Garland. Candles on my granny’s big ebony sideboard. Magical. 

Christmas trees were usually placed within the house so that they were proudly visible from a front window (to the street). Lights were flipped on a dusk each day. It was like a neon tavern sign that says “open”. Christmas was definitely happening to a family within the house.

My mother’s large Catholic family was prone to rather lavish and noisy celebrations, with lots of food and decorations, heaps of gifts, and bowls of eggnog (spiked with hooch).

My father’s tiny family was scattered across the country.

Dad adored the simple pleasures of the holiday — his holiday. He was born on December 28 and named Carol, because his mother said he was her Christmas Carol. He was a wonderful songster, with a fondness for Bing Crosby’s tunes and a voice to match! He sat on the piano bench beside me and sang while I played. It was a little bit of heaven for both of us even until the year he died.

One of Dad’s favorite traditions at Christmas was to bundle us up in the car and cruise around town looking at all the pretty Christmas decorations. Lights in the yards. Lights in the windows. It was a lovely adventure to see how everyone else was celebrating — to view the pretty twinkling trees in those living room windows.  And when we arrived back home again, there was our own pretty tree … shining in our living room window! 

Sometimes now I think there is nothing quite so lonely as Christmas. Lighted windows with bits of decoration. Trees all aglow. A glimpse of the folks inside. The dark street and the long way home. 

A cup of coffee

I think I have a new friend. Our paths crossed as a result of a mutual client, and we elected to meet for coffee and get to know one another. Conversation flowed easily for much of a crispy fall morning … at Starbucks. Over coffee.

In the course of getting acquainted, Kristen told me that she’s set up a mini coffee bar in her bedroom. It’s so she can wake up ahead of her household and enjoy a quiet cup of java in bed. So luxurious, I thought with envy. So civilized. Such a lovely way to start the day. I vowed to go home and be a copyCat immediately.


The next morning, I awoke and imagined what it would be like if I were able to take a few steps over to the table in my bedroom and zap a button and minutes later tuck myself back into bed with a hot cup of coffee. Then Fiona jarred my daydreams by leaping across the bed to visually stalk that pesky squirrel who’s eating the birdfeeder dry. And two cats made a dive for a little felt mouse that had hidden under the quilt. With a sigh, I wandered down to the kitchen to start my coffee brewing.

Cousin John


As I pulled the stainless carafe out of the Cuisinart (I sometimes spell it queasy nart) coffee maker, I remembered: My cousin had fallen on hard times and came to Georgia to make a new start. He had the absolute perfect job for his personality — a barista at Starbucks! And one of his first purchases as an employee, was this magnificent coffee top for me. (OK, he used it, too.) It was a gift of such magnitude at the time and I was truly humbled to receive it. It’s worth noting that I originally encountered this distant McCleskey cousin while he was still in the Navy stationed in Hawaii.

Hawaii: No ka oi


Next, I open a pottery jar that’s stocked with my beloved coffee beans. They are Lion Coffee’s dark French Roast and I get them shipped from Honolulu monthly. As I breathe in the rich aroma of the beans, I am remembering Patrick Y.S. Tom, my adored friend and raquetball partner. He introduced me to Lion Coffee at their cafe in downtown Honolulu. We went there often after racquetball — enjoying steamy mugs of brew along with sandwiches: thick slices of multi-grain bread, homemade mayonnaise, Manoa lettuce, peanut butter, and thin slices of banana. The best sandwich in the universe. Patrick introduced me to an insiders view of Hawaii — pikake leis, potstickers, waffle hotdogs, Peter Moon, and chicken feet in black bean sauce.

Angel Gabriel


The beans go into my grinder and I flip the button. The sound of beans going in a fast circle is loud and jarring early in the morning … but while I am holding the noisy grinder, I look out the kitchen window to the little pet cemetery where there are tiny headstones for so many of my departed furry black kittyFriends. Among them, Gabriel — a cat that I adopted at Christmas time. He was an indoor/outdoor guy, coming and going thru pet doors at his own will. Early mornings were his time for hunting in the woods near the house. However, when he heard the sound of beans going in a circle, he would stretch into the longest lion-like run to get to the kitchen pronto. As soon as the coffee process was underway, Gabe always got fed. So did Max, Harley, Peter, Smitty, and so many others. I wonder if I had/have the only cats in the world who come at the sound of a coffee bean grinder?

The Tallgrass Prairie, Montreal and Judge Roy Bean


While the coffee is brewing and the cats are crunching away at their breakfast, I take a trip down memory lane. Which mug to use today? There’s one from the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve where someone and I watched herds of buffalo grazing while we listened to music from “Dances with Wolves” playing on the car stereo. A lovely pottery mug from Belvedere Plantation, sent by a kind and generous client. One mug has a watercolour-like image of a street scene in Montreal. In my mug drawer, I can revisit memories of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Big Bend, small towns in Montana, Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, County Wexford in Ireland, and Judge Roy Bean’s saloon in Langtry, Texas. 

Poetry in the morning


Wrapping my hands around a warm mug of coffee, lightened just so with thick cream — I can wander out to the screened porch, recently built for me by my adored friend, Ibraheem. The woods come right up to the path outside the porch. Never a morning goes by that I don’t think: “Whose woods these are, I think I know …”  Truly, I am home. With my little family of four-legged friends and some magical memories. And the sun is barely risen over the trees!

No. I guess I don’t need a coffee bar in my bedroom after all.
I think I’ll opt for going down to the kitchen where my memories are.


May and Edward VIII

It’s a mouthful and definitely a fascinating story — or two, or three. Let’s begin with a forgotten seamstress in London more than a century ago …

The Forgotten Seamstress | Liz Trenow

seamstressbookA synopsis of this book (published in 2014) by the author: “London, 1910: Maria Romano, a remarkable young seamstress, is noticed by Queen Mary, patron of the London Needlework Guild, who gives her a job in the royal household. A century later, when turning out her mother’s loft, Caroline discovers an old patchwork quilt left to her by her grandmother, and becomes intrigued by the curious verse embroidered into its lining.

When her best friend, a fabric conservator, notices that some of the fabrics are almost certainly unique and rare royal wedding silks (called May Silks), Caroline becomes determined to discover more about the quilt and its mysterious origins. Through the fading memories of her mother, some family letters and photographs, some old cassette tapes and the help of a local journalist, she uncovers an extraordinary story involving a royal affair, a life of incarceration, an illegal adoption and two women whose lives collided with devastating consequences.

Finally, Caroline comes to understand what her Granny wanted her to know – the truth about herself and how she wants to live her own life.” Maria Romano is called to the suites of young David (later Prince Edward III) just prior to his investiture as Prince of Wales. They form an attraction, a liaison which results in a child. What happens to the child and Maria is best read in the context of Trenow’s story. [continue reading…]

Deep Thoughts

A friend (not a pal, but a friend) recently related to me that his men’s group had been discussing what the criteria might be for a good President. Given that this issue is filling our news these days, I began to ponder the topic. So far, I have collected these thoughts following …

“Trust and Obey”
Faith. Reverence.

Onward Christian Soldiers.
Service in the military or firsthand knowledge of soldier (father/son).

Patience of Job. Humility of George Washington.
Honest and trustworthy.

Required reading: Common Sense, The Federalist Papers, Democracy in America.
History of the United States.
The Roosevelts. John Q. Adams.
Declaration of Independence. The Constitution.
Student of western civilization studies.

Will be able to earn respect by being respectful of women, other nationalities and cultures, all religious traditions, the opinions of adversaries. Will honor family and the institution of marriage.