Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My Early Thanksgiving...

So... um... hello there!

Yeah, yeah. I know. I've taken a good many days off. My apologies. Suffice to say that these have been the craziest two weeks of my life.

But that's nothing compared to the watery hell the folks on the Gulf Coast are living through. Nothing. I realized - just moments ago - how abundantly blessed I am.

I returned to Freeman House this afternoon to find my cat missing. To fully understand the gravity of this situation, you'd have to know me. And little Maebelline. I was one of those people who laughed at the pet owners who 'babied' their animals. I even said I'd never get an indoor animal.

Then I got Mae. She was tiny and had all these little cat illnesses. I loved her immediately and hate to be away from her even now. I sing to her, sew things for her, and buy her Christmas presents.

So when I got to Freeman House today and realized the workers had let her out and she had been gone for hours, I began looking. By 7:30 tonight, neighbors and their dogs were out with flashlights calling for Mae. You'd think there was an Amber Alert in effect for the town or something.

We couldn't find her. I cried. And hollered myself hoarse looking for her. Finally, it grew dark and everyone returned home. I went into Freeman House to lock up, and as I did, thought I saw something moving around in the dark. (I don't have lights yet in the house.) I did see something. It was Mae.

She was hurt, filthy, and had burrs all over her. But she was home. I cried.

Then as I packed her up and drove away, I realized how amazing this day was for me. Instead of looking for the corpse of a family member who drowned in Louisiana, I was looking for my crazy cat. And sure, my house has broken windows, holes in the floor, and no lights. But, by God, I have windows, floors, and lights to install at some point.

Man. I am so blessed.

That said, I'm taking off across the Texas/Louisiana border this holiday weekend to help out. I had planned to paint the bathroom at Freeman House, but something tells me that can wait.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Little Shop of Horrors... and Muffins

Just so you know, I may be "out" for the next few days. A short sabbatical is in order. I didn't want you to worry.

Turns out, I finally have an amazing, viable opportunity to open my cafe, henrybella's. To say I'm excited is like saying it's 'sprinkling' when it's really flooding! I'm incredibly excited!

The shop is in Jefferson, Texas. Never been? The town is like a mini New Orleans in the middle of Texas. It has historic homes, buildings, tours, museums, and restaurants. It's very quaint.

The shop that's opened to me is on the corner of Vail and Austin Streets, and, I hate to say, the building is featured in the town's Historic Ghost Walk each night. Locals swear the building is haunted, and the proprietor even told me that I might catch a glimpse of a lady sitting at a corner table in old-fashioned dress.

Creepy. I told him I just hope she pays for her muffins.

Anyway, I'm now restoring a historic home, opening a cafe, and keeping my full-time job. Suffice to say I may drop off the face of the earth for a couple of days - starting today!

So... here goes nothing. Wish me luck!

"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cause for Celebration!

It's exciting to see wonderful things happening in the lives of gals close to you, isn't it?

I've been reading Creating A Charmed Life, by Victoria Moran. Get it. It will change you.

Anyhow, one chapter talks about Shine Time. You know, about how everyone needs their time to shine. Victoria says, "The moon has phases from dark to full shine. So do we."

So here's to celebrating a little shine time for some special girls:

I was astonished (I shouldn't have been, but was), to get an email last week that my cousin Heather and her husband are expecting their first wee one. They are now caught up in finding a bigger house, registering for bottles and ... stuff, I guess, and picking out a name. They're thinking Courtney, for now.

Then there's my best friend in the world. Sara and her husband are... well, they are a rare breed. They've been vying for an overseas "job" for years, and are blessed to be off for Neverland at the end of this month. They'll be learning a new language, new driving laws, and new political leaders to be exasperated by. Lucky them. (Just kidding. I have no desire to go where they're headed.)

Then there's the co-worker (MaryAnn) who just bought a house she's been dying for for months. And the friend in DFW (Lisa, aka SALL... hehe) who BUILT her a house because, dog gone it, she's gotten her Master's and does not need a man to set up house. Literally.

And let's not forget one of my pals back in Dallas. Lacy is facing her 25th birthday in the next few days (dreading it, I should say!) and yet, has just finished a new leg in her career that will soon open doors to her dreams. (No thanks to the Mexican work candle I burned for her.)

Finally, my little sister turns 13 this week. She's a beautiful young lady already.

Shine on, sisters!

Anyway, what Victoria says is true, I think. Everyone has their "shine time", and everyone has a cycle when things look up, and things look a little dark. It's normal.

Have you been missing a little time to shine lately? Yeah, me too. The book offers us this advice:
Don't downplay your successes. Got a new job? Made it to payday without doing broke? Changed your oil on time? Pat yourself on the back and put it down as shine time. Hey. There are some people who don't get out of bed somedays.

When the world isn't noticing you, notice yourself. Buy yourself a present. Treat yourself to ice cream. Buy an entire season of Gilmore Girls. Or, spend all day Saturday in pj's with your remote.

So... that said... again, a good heartfelt congratulations to all my best girlfriends. Y'all give me something to aspire to!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Living la Viva Dolce

Wow. What a weekend.

Busy, but good. Very good. Saw a lot done around Freeman House and got in some quality "socializing" time. It's rare that I get both at once!

Anyway, I have an idea. It's not new, or groundbreaking. Maybe I should say I'd like to reintroduce an idea. I saw on CBS Sunday Morning that Italians have an average of 43 days off a year. Americans? We have 16. While we bust our butts to get a little over 2 weeks off a year, the good Italians enjoy the viva dolce with a month and a half off.

They also close down their businesses and offices for 3 HOURS in the afternoon. You know, to eat, sip a glass of wine, and socialize.

(Speaking of lunch, I am continually cracked up by the "Let's Do Lunch" ad in D Magazine every month. This dating service sets professional guys and gals up on blind lunch dates with the hope of achieving an "e harmony" type of hook-up. I can't imagine anything more stressful than trying to fit traffic, meeting a potentially new partner, and cramming some food down your throat and getting back to work all in an hour. Does that service actually work??)

So... the CBS report got me thinking about the sweet life, and what mine would look like. I decided it would definitely not be my college life with my college boyfriend. I worked for an ABC affiliate and was on the air by 6 am every weekday morning. In college. I remember having a 2 day meltdown when I came home one day to find my boyfriend soaking his firefighter feet in my crockpot. While unknowingly drenching my term paper. The term paper dealing with the subject over whether hell is, in fact, exothermic or endothermic.

Needless to say, the ex nearly found out first hand.

Neither would I choose those stressful, job seeking years after college, which landed me at a CBS affiliate in Dallas. Then came the professionally-likeminded boyfriend who was more interested in Benny Hill and fantasy football then making our relationship work. He really sucked, and so did that life.

But now... now I'm on the verge of something really sweet. It's funny. On that same program this morning, they interviewed a man who worked for Microsoft before walking out one day and starting a vineyard somewhere. He said that his old co-workers would say: gosh, I wish I could have that life. I wish I could wake up in a different life and not have to deal with all this.
The man kinda laughed and said, well, it's your choice. We wake up everyday and make a choice about the life we lead. Everyday you have to make a decision to stay where you are or shake things up. Changing your life is as simple as changing your daily decisions.

Meaning... we have a choice whether we'll live the viva dolce. Everyday we have the choice.

Anyway, I thought that was encouraging.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Mrs. Doodlerumpf

What a week. It's flying by, but then again, could the weekend get here already?!

No matter. Today was a major break-through day. No, I still don't know how to cleverly add much-needed closets to Freeman House's floor plan without destroying the original layout. And I have no idea why the idiotic American public voted Brandon off Rockstar INXS. But, it's okay. The revelation today was much, much bigger than that.

It had to do with Mrs. Doodlerumpf. See, I'm writing a children's book. It's been a ton of fun already, but I had been struggling to come up with the perfect name for an old lady, next door neighbor character. So... I'm at work today, flipping through 7,000 deed and mineral conveyances, and it hits me. Like a flood. Doodlerumpf.

Doodlerumpf. That's her name. Mrs. Doodlerumpf.

I stopped, and thought, surely I must have read that name here somewhere. There's no way I just randomly pulled that out of the air.

But no, I went back and checked. No Doodlerumpfs anywhere in those deeds. I even checked the courthouse computer to make sure. No Doodlerumpfs.

One question: how.... what in the.....???

I think I must be crazy. That's all it can be.

So I came home from the day that refused to end and fired up the good ole Gilmore Girl DVDs. And, wouldn't you know it, the episode made mention of Emily Dickinson, the ingenious recluse poet who happens to be my favorite of all time.

I'd forgotten that she lived out her life as a spinster in an obscure place with relatively little contact with the outside world. And yet, how brilliantly she captured life. And nature. And the personal struggle with concepts like death and faith.

It got me thinking, anyway. Maybe living out my life as a spinster in an obscure place has inspired an Emily Dickinson-type geniousosity (I know, not a word) that will propel me into literary greatness.

Or, maybe not.

Oh well.

At least I finally have Mrs. Doodlerumpf. And that, my friends, is enough for today.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Books & Brownies

I'll be honest.

Two of my most favorite things in life are books and brownies. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that there's not a heartache around that a good book... and a great brownie... couldn't cure.

Case in point: today was a heartbreak day. It was one of those days that you just cry. And sob. And then cry and sob some more. I spent my lunch hour driving around, nursing a swimming pool-size Diet Coke, and trying to cry without smearing my makeup and running my mascara.

I nearly made it, too.

Suffice to say that I have relatively nothing to cry about when you put it in a global perspective. I mean, I don't have an incurable disease. I'm not one of those imported sex slaves that the media is going nuts about. I haven't just lost a child, a limb, or a loved one to the war in Iraq.

But still, I cry.

Heartache is devastatingly ignorant and invasive. He doesn't ask if now's okay, or if maybe he hold out for something bigger. Oh no. He's just like a shadow sometimes, huh?

I really needed a book and a brownie today.

So I came home this afternoon and cracked open this book I've had for weeks but hadn't touched. The Way the Crow Flies, by Ann-Marie MacDonald. It's already beyond good.

So, too, was the new brownie I perfected. It's triple-layer heaven. Trust me. (Or maybe, trust the neighbor. Since I'm on Atkins, she was kind enough to stop by and confirm that it is triple-layer heaven.)

I started thinking... maybe every Monday wouldn't be so bad if it had a good book and brownie at the end of it. Therefore, I declare the beginning of every work week a Book and Brownie Bonanza. Yee haw! Check in with me to see what I'm reading, and by all means, comment to this and tell me what you're scanning. Could be we could help each other.

As for the brownie, well.... if you can't make it to Freeman House for Triple-Layer Heaven, try Starbucks. Their espresso brownie is pretty dang good.

So... it's a plan? I'll meet you back here on Monday.

In the meantime, you can find me soaking in the tub with my book and brownie.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Laverne and Squirrelly

I forget how peaceful it is here at Freeman House. I forget, that is, until I venture into the city.

Still nursing my over-exerted temper from yesterday, I decide this morning that I'd head some 45 minutes away and find Old Navy. And Starbucks. (Have you tried those new green tea frappuccinos?? Omgosh... they are fabulous. No way they can be healthy. No way.)

So I knock out all the prerequisite errands first. At Cingular -"why does my phone say 'Emergency Only' every time I try to make a call????".... At Target - "I bought this jacket for fall, but didn't realize I'd look like the Guinness Book of World Records' biggest pumpkin in it. Can I exchange for sweats???".... At Lowe's - "How come I can't find the faucets that mount to the wall? Oh, they're special order? Oh, they start at $470? Maybe I'll just have the plumber run a water hose to my fancy new bathroom sink."

You know, the usual.

Ah, but then - hoo boy! To Old Navy I excitedly drove. I even sang:

"Over the overpass and through the traffic...
To shopping bliss I go!
The car knows the way
To brighten my day,
And save me lots of dough....oh!"

See, I told you I needed to get out.

So, I arrive finally, only to realize in stupified horror that it's TAX FREE WEEKEND. Omgosh. I picked the worst day of the entire year to shop in Texas.


But I went in. Immediately, I was greeted by the deafening roar of teens fighting with parents, desperate mothers on cell phones - (honey, do you want low waist or boot cut jeans?), and kids whining.

Man, I'm glad I don't have kids.

I turn around and left, and on the way to my car, this guy driving this enormous truck yells something about me hurrying to my car. He even did this gesture that I think was supposed to compel me, hurriedly, to my car.

In fact, it did compel me, hurriedly, to my car.

I went through the drive-thru at Starbucks and was back home in 3 hours. And no sooner had I opened the passenger door to unload my new Lowe's sink did I hear another couple arguing. Loudly.

It was Laverne and Squirrelly.

Or at least, that's what I call them. Laverne and Squirrelly are squirrels who live in this gigantic tree just off the kitchen and herb garden of Freeman House. I figure they're close to retirement, but that's only because they sound just like George Castanza's parents on Seinfeld. I mean, these guys really get into it with each other.

So I stood there, balancing the fancy sink on my car, and stared up at them.

"Hey, Squirrelly," I yelled. (At least I think it was Squirrelly. He's the one who's usually running his mouth. Just like a man.)

"If you don't lay off her, Laverne's gonna pull a Desperate Housewives move on you and kill your furry butt," I admonished.

He shut up.

And then, in the quiet, I realized. I'm talking to squirrels. Squirrels I've named Laverne and Squirrelly. I just bought a sink. I voluntarily walked out of an Old Navy without spending a dime.

Well, it was only a matter of time.

I think I'm going crazy. And I also think I'm officially loving this country life.

Friday, August 5, 2005

Mad and Mushrooms

Forget the stress balls.

Forget counting to 10... or 100... or 50-million bazillion.

I'm mad. And no amount of squeezing on a rubber ball or reciting numbers aloud will calm me down.

Oh, yeah. I'm mad.

Now hear me, I'm not Little Miss 'Best Friend of the Year', with a specialty in Sensitivity. By no means. But I do try to make an effort - most of the time - to be aware of who's around and what's going on with them. You know, I try.

That didn't hold true to the 3 people I encountered today. Count 'em - three. The first, a "friend", I caught making a spectacle out of bad-mouthing me. At work. In front of other work people.

I think my face turned red. Not from embarrassment, either. From pure, in-check anger.

The second, my mother. She does this passive-aggressive thing where she hides real bombshell insults - and let-the-wind-out-of-your-sails comments - in seemingly innocent observations or advice. It hurts, and everytime it's brutal.

Third, and probably most annoying to my blood pressure, was the neighbor girl. The college brat who has probably sent "Torturing Brin" in as a replacement for softball in the next summer olympics. The self-indulged, conceited little twit had the audacity to boss me around like a slave, then eat all my culinary-genius inspired Stuffed Mushrooms. In one sitting. Then she left the kitchen a mess and tore out - leaving the front door wide open. Hate her.

(I mean, I'm on Atkins, and those stuffed mushrooms are like diet gold. And you know how cranky you get when you're on a diet, anyway.)

So.... how to handle these annoying and trivial comments and occurrences?

I choose to try to put them in perspective. Here goes:


1. It would only mess up my hair.
2. It could be caught on one of those new Patriot Act, close-circuit cameras. And be broadcast. On 'Girls Gone Psycho'. Or COPS. Then later on COPS DVDs.
3. It would blow my great chances of being the next "it girl" for the CIA. (No, not hit girl.)
4. It would probably trump the endless talk of surgeries, illnesses, and deaths at the family Christmas Eve party. And we wouldn't want that.
5. Who would feed my cat while I'm at Camp Cupcake??

Okay. Better now.

Gotta go. I'm going to go stack all the dirty dishes - with baked-on mushroom juices - in the college brat's bed. You know, so she can enjoy it later tonight. And I won't pre-rinse them, either.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Life for Rent...

So I did it. I signed. The gypsy has sold her tent.

See, when I caught a glimpse of the city of Dallas in my rear-view mirror last August, I had no idea where I would end up. Where I would live, even. I just knew I had to get out. Sometimes things just get a little restless in my head, and before I know it, I'm uprooting and scooting out the door.

Remember in Chocolat when the North Wind drives Juliette Binoche from town to town until she finally settles down? That's me. Only I'm not that pretty and have yet to meet Johnny Depp. (sigh) But I do plan to open a small patisserie of my own - next year. More to come on that later.

So... er... I found myself here, squatting at my aunt's house, contemplating my next brilliant move. And then one night, at a very interesting dinner party, it happened. Freeman House and I were introduced.

It came by way of Lori Ellyn. She's my mother's age, and spent some time off Broadway before settling down here - in Teeny-Tinyville - to open her own art studio. She took on the restoration of a house that was built in the 1920s, and along the way acquired Freeman House. It's next door to to her house, and Lori says she would have restored Freeman House, only it's too big and too - awful.

But I fell in love with this house the first time I forced open the old, creaky door and ventured in. The place was filled with abandoned crap and definitely had this "I've been here since 1887" feel to it. But still, I felt strangely welcome in Freeman House. It felt like maybe - just maybe - we could help each other out.

And so we have. For the last 8 months, Freeman House and I have come a long way together. I've spent many days in her, knocking out walls when I'm frustrated, scrubbing windows when I'm crying, and painting walls when I need to feel pretty.

And now she's starting to look a little like pretty, too.

Ever heard Dido's song, Life for Rent?
"If my life is for rent,
and I don't learn to buy -
I deserve nothing more than I get,
'cause nothing I have is truly mine.

Well, for the first time, I feel like my life is not for rent, because I have finally learned to buy.

So go ahead and blow, North Wind. And dance on to your music, my internal gypsy.

For I think I've finally come home.

Monday, August 1, 2005

What Warwick Wishes We Women Were...

Omygosh. Kill me now.

Did you see it? Surely you did. BBC Network (Buncha-Bull-Crap Network, as I always call it) is reporting on this new study that finds that being single puts you "at greater risk of dying than smokers". No kidding. If you feel like a good beating, check it out for yourself:

Now I'm not saying that these "researchers" at the University of Warwick are vindictive cracksmokers, but then again - I think these "researchers" at the University of Warwick are vindictive cracksmokers. In fact, I will go so far as to speculate that this study was probably authored by some dumpy, mean, issue-riddled married gal who wanted to poke a passive-aggressive finger at a beautiful, accomplished single friend. A single friend who didn't have to be home by 6 p.m. to Shake-'n-Bake, fold stained underwear, and check the mail before he saw the credit card statement.

So, to all you (jealous, insecure, etc.) members of academe out there, how do you like these apples?:


1. You don't have to check in with/answer to anyone. You want to go Vegas on Friday? Fine. Spend all weekend out shopping? (Or in your pajamas, or watching Bridget Jones' Diary?) Great. Blow an entire paycheck on Nutter Butters? Even better.

2. You can stock the fridge with what you want. Yogurt, pudding cups, bottled water, Starbucks shots. No one touches it and no one gripes. Or, you simply don't have to stock the fridge at all.

3. If you're ecstatic, depressed, or mad at the world, you can be. No one analyzes your feelings or demands explanations, talks, etc.

4. No more Monster Garage, endless man TV, or lame Woody Allen movies.

5. You can be wickedly satisfied with who you are right then - not who he's expecting you to be.

So take that, University of Warwick. I personally know several miserable, unhealthy married women. And they're stuck. (Or think they are.) And I also know several happy, busy, single gals who are in perfect health, thank you VERY much.

Point is, your situation - married, single, or otherwise fabulous - is what you make of it.

I hope these folks at the University of Warwick aren't planning on graduating anytime soon.