O Holy Night

Every once in a while, I hear song lyrics out of their rote context and understand them for what they really are. This verse of “O Holy Night” struck me several times this Christmas season – on the radio when they started playing Christmas music WAY too early, at church last Sunday, and again at my family’s church tonight. Hope wherever you are you’re having a lovely holiday, and you’re as blessed by these words as I am.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!



A lot has happened these last few months,  not the least of which was that I turned 30. Quite a milestone, and one that too many people seem to freak out over. There was a whole FRIENDS episode devoted to the stupid things people do when they turn 30, one that I’ve often thought about pensively regarding my own 30th birthday. Beth and Sarah and I went out tonight for Beth’s 30th, and we had a great time, so I thought I post some of the fun that we had for mine.

A poet friend of mine from college now living in CA wrote this: “There’s something priceless and dear about having so many people who bring you joy in one room. It is a gift of temporality that shimmers.” For my 30th, I got two SUVfuls of my family and best friends in the world together, and we made the trek to Choctaw Casino, just over the Oklahoma border. On the way there, I looked in the rear-view mirror to see all these wonderful faces from different areas of my life all in one giant car, chatting with each other, there because they loved me, and it was most definitely a shimmery gift.


We had lunch out by the pool, and then cake and presents. It was also my sister-in-law Gina’s birthday party – that’s us down there with the cupcakes. And below that, the candle glasses I’m wearing are from Frank – they’ve been passed around in our group of friends over the last several years, and they made an appearance at Choctaw.






Then we headed inside for the main event – the GAMBLING. Lindsey did pretty well! She gambles like me – timidly enough to keep from spending too much. Mom and Dad and a whole slew of folks gave me gambling money, so I was set – I even gave some of it back the next day, since I didn’t need it all.


My family got a hotel room there, and we made it Party Central for the excursion. These are a few pictures of a brief respite from the slot machines. Lest you think I am selfishly inviting all my unemployed and poor friends to spend money they don’t have, my mother gave away $10 bills to everyone as party favors for them to gamble with. Mary there, in the middle between Mom and Frank, used it and won $100 on a 50-cent machine! She was the the big winner of the evening! Her birthday party was gambling, too, at Lone Star Park, right after a bunch of us lost our jobs when our company closed. I thought it was an awesome time to gamble just a few dollars away and have a good time, and I followed suit!




Although I love my friends, they are not the consummate gamblers that my mother and I – and recently my sister – are. WE stayed up until about 3 a.m., flitting from machine to machine, and we went back for more at about 9 a.m. the next morning.




I may not have it all together at 30.  In fact, I’m facing quite a bit of uncertainty and some of the biggest decisions of my life, and I cannot say that I am fearless. But I am joyful, and more importantly, I am hopeful. So for those of you not there yet, don’t let them scare you. This is face of 30. And it rocks.



October through the present has been a whirlwind of activities, and I’ve been doing a lot! I’ve got some great pictures to share, and some great stories, but I only have time for one at the moment. We’ll start with Thanksgiving. This was the third Thanksgiving my family has traveled down to Harlingen (about 45 min. from South Padre Island and Mexico) to be with my grandmother, my mom’s mom, best-known to my friends as Lipstick Grandma, because she always tries (mostly in vain) to make me put on lipstick. She doesn’t leave the bedroom without hers.

At Grandma’s, we eat Luby’s for Thanksgiving, because it’s exhausting to drive 10 hours and then cook a full meal. My wonderful mother knew, however, that we all needed a real Thanksgiving dinner this year, so the week before, she hosted one at her house, and we had all the awesome homemade stuff. This included her really, really dry turkey. Turns out that as adults, my siblings and I can’t eat juicy turkey, because we were raised on hers, so my dinner that night was a vegetarian one. As a self-respecting foodie, I have to say that eating Luby’s on Thanksgiving continues to be awful, even though I was thankful to be with my grandmother.

My dad and I took a walk around the “lake” near her house, which is really just the municipal water supply. But it was pretty, and the brisk weather was nice. “Brisk” for the Valley means that there’s a cool wind blowing the 80-degree air on you.

Harlingen Lake

H Lake 2

We also took a trip around town the next day, running several errands. We went downtown to Harlingen’s Main Street, visiting the jewelry place to get Grandma a watch.


We stopped by Lara’s bakery, which is quasi-famous in the area for its Mexican cookies. I got pumpkin empanadas. Here are some of the cookies, Lindsey eating what she thought would be lemon (but sadly was not), and, yes folks, Pillsbury Dough Boy Christmas lights.




dough boys

The annoyance of the trip was that my right contact started to rip, and it made seeing not so fun, so I went to the mall and had an eye exam, and I got some glasses. Luckily, the doctor also gave me a set of replacement contacts to get me home, and although they were not the perfect prescription because my eye was so irritated, they did the trick. Here I am at EyeMasters with Grandma and my new glasses.


Walking around with glasses after not wearing them for years was more than disconcerting, and luckily I had Lindsey with me to hang onto while I adjusted. We laughed our way out of the mall as I wobbled and leaned (I swear everything moved differently when I moved, as opposed to wearing contacts), but the drive home made me feel very icky. These are definitely only back-up glasses – I don’t like wearing them one little bit. While I was trying my hardest to stay still and let the nausea subside, I went through some of Grandma’s junk mail for her, and I found this plea from Palin and the politician she calls “McClain” for donations in the weeks before the election. Apparently she’s a frequent donor to the Republican Party.


The most fun of the trip was going to South Padre for dinner. We went to Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen, which is new the last couple of years, and we love it. Grandma was a little shocked by the silly sign near the table urging us, “Don’t drink the water. Fish crap in it.” I asked Dad and Lindsey to pose for a picture, and instead, Dad gave Lindsey a wet willy right before the camera went off.



This picture was taken in the restaurant, where they had already decorated for Christmas. It’s one of the big windows, and hell if I know what sort of animal it is supposed to be. My best guess is an armadillo, but it’s all rounded like it’s supposed to be a cat or a mouse or something cute. And the belly button is mystifying. I’ve named him the Holiday Catadillo.


We went down to the water for a few minutes, and it was downright cold!



Most of my downtime over the weekend was spent cleaning out my grandmother’s bathroom cabinets. Doesn’t sound like much, but this woman does not have an organizational bone in her body, cannot remember where she put something (or much  at all these days), and grew up a child of the Depression, learning from her parents to save everything. Put that all together and it means that her bathroom cabinets are full of decades of dental floss, eyeliner, cold cream, old medication bottles, cold cream IN old medication bottles, and every other bathroom-related item you could think of. As an adult, I’ve realized I got the only organizational gene in the family, and I decided to go after it. The main impetus was finding roach and rat poop all through the cabinets while looking for a towel, from top to bottom. This house is extremely old and falling apart around her, and although she doesn’t have a rat problem anymore, the poop is still around. The roaches, well, I guess they’re still around. She has a maid, but I guess either the woman’s IQ is under 100 or she only does what my grandmother asks her to, disregarding the Plague germs lurking in the bathroom.  I know she had to have seen it, and I’m angry that she hasn’t done anything about it, regardless of whether or not she has been asked to. The house had flooded badly multiple times just in the last 6 months, and the bottom shelf was full of debris. I washed everything off, cleared all the poop away, and took FOUR TRASH BAGS out of just that room. I sanitized every inch of it multiple times, sprayed with bug spray (against my better organic judgment), put foil down on top of that, and the cabinet contents on top of that. I organized it all into thematic tubs and containers, and I labeled – in large print and red ink so she would have no excuse – each one with a large index card. She is very forgetful and scattered, and I don’t think she’ll stick to the system, but at least she’ll have a little more peace of mind when she opens the doors and sees order. She loved it, and I was glad to be able to leave her house in better condition. Here is my crowning achievement!



On the way home, you have to drive across the King Ranch, which is gigantic. It takes hours to cross. On the way there, on Thanksgiving Day, I was looking out the window and saw a wild, red-necked turkey walking straight down the railroad tracks! Apparently he escaped Sarah Palin and was on his way down the freedom trail. On the way back, we stopped for breakfast at Whataburger. That’s Lindsey and Mom getting their drinks. But this was no regular Whataburger – this was the King Ranch Whataburger, complete with arched wooden ceiling, cowboy murals and spur-themed everything. Fancy, no?


So that was our trip. We had a good time. The trip back was ridiculously slow, as everyone uses 35 to get back into Dallas from anywhere south, and everyone was on their way back at the same time. We took the side roads through the hill country, which was beautiful but slow. I still don’t think there were enough good mashed potatoes for my liking, but overall, it was a good holiday with my family. Hope you had a good one, too!