Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fat & Happy

One morning, recently, I caught sight of myself in the mirror as I was getting dressed. “Whoa! Where’d that pooch come from?!” I turned in a 360˚circle, all the time keeping my eyes on the mirror as I inspected my unrecognizable body. It appeared to me that I had morphed into a fat woman.

And, then I smiled. I thought to myself, “I am Fat & Happy!”

“Whatever has happened to me?” I wondered. I’d spent my life concerned, to a degree, about my weight, trying to eat healthy, but more importantly, exercising daily so that I would avoid an encounter like this with my critical mirror. How did I get here? (And, whose flabby arms are those?!)

In my early 40s, I had been a runner, jogging about 3 miles per day. In addition, I did various exercises each day, such as leg lifts and stomach crunches. I was fit and trim, and best of all, I could still eat all my chocolate and sweets, with no negative consequences.

In my mid-40s, I was diagnosed with moderate arthritis in my hips and was told not to run anymore. I joined a gym and substituted 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer for my morning jog. That seemed to work, and I could still eat whatever I wanted.

The last three years, though, my dedication to daily exercise decreased dramatically – partly due to depression, partly due to the car accident I had last year, and mostly due to sheer laziness. And, now at age 49, with 50 closing in on me next month, I have far exceeded all the waistlines of my favorite clothes. Although this change in my physical life does not seem to be working well for my body, I am still eating whatever I want…only now it shows.

Yes, here I am, Fat & Happy.

I think much of my happiness is on the inside, not the outside. Thinking back to times of my svelte self, I was happy with my body, but not very happy with my life. I am now at a very good place on my Journey. I traversed a difficult couple of years on a detour that resulted in depression and deep sadness, yet through it all, my loving Heavenly Father was near. As I drew closer to Him for strength, I found the peace and comfort I needed. My mother and father transformed into His angels, wrapping me up in their blanket of love and support. My friends expressed their concern and love. My mind and spirit healed, and I began to feel joy again.

Reconnecting with Gene and then marrying, has brought me another level of happiness I had not previously known. Total acceptance and love from another human being for just being me, no matter what that looks like, is a new experience. Perhaps it was an unconscious test. Would he still love me if I got fat? My love-blind husband frequently addresses me with “Hey, Gorgeous!” and tells me all the time how pretty he thinks I am.

I think, too, that much of my weight gain can be attributed to stress – a new marriage, a new job, a new home. When I’m stressed, I eat M&Ms. And, I’ve eaten LOTS of M&Ms since June. But then again, I eat M&Ms when I’m not stressed, too. I really should buy stock in The Mars Company.

“Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not! “ ~ Author Unknown

I may be Fat & Happy now, but I think if I continue at this rate of expansion, I might soon be a bit too Fat and a lot less Happy. As I sit here and ponder about all of this over a bowl of delicious, multi-colored M&Ms, those bite-sized bits of Heaven, I have resolved to incorporate more daily exercise back into my life. That way, I can return to a body I recognize and still enjoy my little chocolate friends.

“Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but they can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake.” ~ Author Unknown

“The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight because by then, your body and your fat are really good friends” ~ Author Unknown

If You’re Happy & You Know It, Show It, Y’all!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tea For Two

It’s difficult sitting on the sidelines, watching my son advance into adulthood. This past summer, there were so many times I wanted to tell him what to do or fix his problems, but I refrained, only offering my parental advice. He’ll be 20 years old next month. I love my son, Eric, so much and want him to achieve happiness and joy in his life. As part of his Life journey, he made the decision to move back to Matthews, North Carolina with his father. While we all agreed it was most likely the best choice for Eric, it is still difficult to live so far away from him. But, I’ve been here before, and I know that one day, Eric will move back to Austin. Austin is where Eric wants to live and work eventually.

I asked Eric to set aside a Mom & Son Night for the two of us, and to select a restaurant and movie for us. So, the night before Eric left town, Eric drove me to his current favorite Austin restaurant – Jade Leaves Teahouse.

“Tea for two
And two for tea
Just me for you
And you for me…”

--From the film "Tea For Two" (1950), starring Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson & Patrice Wymore

This quiet, oriental teahouse and restaurant is situated right next door to a yoga studio. The atmosphere is very peaceful and quite lovely. Great attention has been paid to details, such as the entry way flooring, which gave me the sensation of walking down a smooth rock path and the seating areas, which are situated in sections of two tables enclosed with divider panels of ornately carved, dark wood. The feeling was one of intimacy and privacy.

Eric had been to a number of their tea tastings, meeting the Tea “Barista”, and he learned a great deal about the various types of tea that Jade Leaves serves. Eric ordered a pot of Imperial Guanyin, an organic Chinese Oolong tea. The description of the tea stated that Imperial Guanyin was an extra special variety of the Guanyin oolongs literally fit for royalty. It is a premium high grade, handcrafted Green Oolong from Fujian Province. The description also stated that oolongs were known to aid digestion and cure headaches.
I don’t drink tea, but I did taste the Imperial Guanyin, which had an interesting floral and earthy flavor.

For our dinner, Eric ordered the Thai Noodle Soup and I had the Yellow Thai Curry with Chicken. The curry also came with a serving of rice that was shaped like a yin yang symbol.

Both meals were wonderfully fresh, delightfully seasoned and delicious to the taste! And, the service was great! I give Jade Leaves Teahouse 4 out of 5 happy faces! ☻☻☻☻☺

Afterward, we saw the movie, “Surrogates”, with Bruce Willis. Although somewhat typical of a Bruce Willis flick, the movie was full of action-packed scenes, great special effects and futuristic intrigue. My assessment of “Surrogates” is 3 out of 5 happy faces. ☻☻☻☺☺

All-in-all, my son and I had a great time together eating, talking and being entertained. I guess no matter how old he gets, I’ll always miss Eric when he’s away. I pray for him every day and look forward to seeing how the chapters of his life unfold. I wonder what Eric will be when he grows up? I hope he will grow up to be wise.

“Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be President, but they don't want them to become politicians in the process.” – John F. Kennedy

“The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise” – Alden Nowlan

The Road to Adulthood Ain’t For Sissies, Y’all!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


My husband, Gene, called me in the middle of the day to see what our plans were that evening. It was Tuesday, and nothing was on the calendar. Apparently, a friend of ours, who hunts online for discounted tickets to shows and coupons to restaurants, called and said he’d scored four tickets to the musical, Wicked, playing at the Bass Concert Hall. At a price of $60 a piece, we were elated!

Gene and I waited in the lobby for Hal and Trudy (pictured below) to arrive. Even the wait was entertaining. Watching the women and their dates arrive was like being at fashion show. I was surprised to see so many women wearing black and white. I, too, wore black. All variations of dresses were lovely – simple and sophisticated, ruffled, striped, pleated and more. Although Austin is known for being laid back, it was nice to see Austinites out on the town in style.

Hal led us to our seats. We moved closer and closer to the stage. Tenth row – I was impressed. But, as we slid past the other people already seated and arrived at our seats, I had to exclaim, “WOW!” Center seats, tenth row, $60. Oh yeah….I can dig it!

I had not read the book, Wicked, so I really didn’t know anything about the story. Revisiting the Land of Oz, we are taken back in time, before Dorothy arrived, to better understand the relationship of the witches introduced in the movie, The Wizard of Oz.

The stage curtain was decorated like a map, showing the various kingdoms within Oz. There was Munchkin Land and the Emerald City, which radiated with green light. Looming above the curtain was a huge dragon.

The lights dimmed. The curtain rose. First to appear were flying monkeys. As a child, the flying monkeys scared me. And, I must admit, these monkeys were no less frightening. Their costumes were so realistic and the mannerisms of the monkeys were threatening and unpredictable.

Along came the citizens of Oz and the beloved Glinda, Good Witch of the North, played by Heléne Yorke. Glinda arrived from the air, on a prop simulated to look like the bubble she arrived in during the movie. Her blue dress was fabulous and glittered, offsetting her light blonde hair and beautiful face. Her voice was magnificent, but what I didn’t count on was the humor. Her character throughout the musical was very comical, very funny.

She was telling the citizens the story of her relationship with Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Marcie Dodd. Glinda recounts her first meeting with the strange, green girl, Elphaba, and how such opposites became acquainted.

The audience cannot help but love Elphaba. Many of us can relate to the petty prejudice she endures. We root for her and love her courage and strength. Elphaba, too, had a fabulous singing voice and the duets she did with Glinda were filled with rich harmony.

The Wizard was played by the recognizable Tom McGowan, who played Kenny, the station manager, on “Frasier”. He was quite good, too, as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the props and special effects were stunning for his role.

The citizens of Oz carried big voices that carried throughout the theater. The costumes in Wicked were awesome and whimsical and so very creative, right down to the shoes! The hairdos were distracting and funny, the hats were perfectly matched to the dresses and the dancing was delightful and perfectly timed.

All in all, the story was captivating! Not wanting to ruin the story by telling you all about it, I’ll simply say that the musical has deeper meanings – how we judge others by what they look like, the intolerance of those who don’t think like the rest of us, the trappings of ambition and greed, and how politicians cover up the truth for personal gain.

While I always expect to be entertained at musicals and plays, I have never been so enthusiastically delighted and overwhelmed by any other musical or play I’ve seen. Wicked, by far, is the best musical I have ever seen.

I hope you, too, will join the masses in reveling in the beauty and fun of Wicked!

Wicked is Wicked Good, Y’all!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fun in Fredericksburg

Nestled in the heart of the Hill Country is one of our favorite Texas towns, Fredericksburg, and that is the location we chose for our first romantic weekend getaway as a married couple. We stayed in the Oak View Room at The Inn on the Creek, a lovely bed and breakfast one block off Main Street. The creek itself was quite beautiful and provided lush greenery to shade the parking area.

The Oak View Room is named for, you guessed it, a beautiful view of an oak tree. This is not just any oak tree, however. This lovely oak is over 400 years old. It’s so old and heavy that the Inn place a large metal pole under the lowest hanging branch for support.

We checked into our room early Friday evening. The first thing I noticed as we entered the front hallway was how good it smelled and how cool it was inside. The room, decorated in a matte green, iron four-poster bed and antiques, was lush with beautifully colored fabrics and satiny linens.

Attention was paid to every detail. The beautiful dark hardwood floors were cool under the feet, and the shower was fitted with a very large showerhead and four side jet sprays. The 12-foot ceilings gave the room a feeling of space, and the antique lamps with their fabric-colored lampshades radiated a warm glow throughout the lovely bedroom.

We dined that evening at Andy’s Steak & Seafood Grill. Although I was certain I wanted steak, the seafood buffet called to me, and I could not resist. We filled our plates high with fried catfish, fried shrimp, fried oysters, boiled shrimp and crab. Megan, our server, was a comedian of sorts, complimenting our choice of the ‘boo-fay”. The food was good and the price was even better. Gene and I waddled out of Andy’s and headed back to the Inn.

Needing to walk off some of our over-abundance, we left the Inn and headed back to Main Street, strolling along, window shopping, until we came upon Berkman Books, specializing in Texas books, antique books and used books. Gene and I love book stores and enjoyed milling about the store, each in our own favorite sections. We made our purchases and headed back to Inn on the Creek for the night.

Awaking to the smell of bacon cooking, we dressed and headed down the hallway to the kitchen. We were greeted by Joyce, the hostess and cook. The breakfast table was set with fashionable red-flowered place settings paired with matching cloth napkins, and once again, attention was paid to the smallest detail, right down to the red-beaded napkin holders. The small crystal-cut stemware was filled with fresh-squeezed orange juice along with larger matching water glasses.

Our breakfast companions included three delightful women, all belonging to a larger book club. The club was staying at various B&Bs and had chosen Fredericksburg as this year’s annual meeting trip. As Debbie, one of the members, explained, each month, a different member of this Houston book club selects a book for the group to read and a restaurant at which to meet and discuss the book. Each August, the book club selects a different city to travel to together as their meeting site. Along with the book club members was a couple, about our age, who were also from Austin. Our conversation was animated and interesting.

The gourmet breakfast kicked off with a fruit medley topped with vanilla yogurt, and included delicious scrambled eggs made with onions and peppers, blueberry pancakes, mini-sweet rolls, and of course, savory bacon. The meal was filling and delighted our taste buds. The company was also entertaining.

Next, it was off to the Fredericksburg Trade Days flea market. Barn buildings housed the vendor booths and their ware. Gene found me a wonderful straw hat to shade me from the hot sun, along with antique door hardware for our 100-year old home in Austin. We walked around, browsing all the antiques and goodies.

From there, we drove over to Cranky Frank’s Barbeque Company on Highway 87. With a name like Cranky Frank’s, we had to try the food. We discovered that Cranky Frank was the 7-year old son of the owners, Dan and Kala Martin. One of the most difficult things at Cranky Frank’s was trying to make a decision about what to eat. I had a brisket platter, while Gene opted for ribs. In both cases, the meat was so tender, it fell apart. The atmosphere was rustic and the service was friendly. Next to the indoor dining room was a large screened room running the length of building, filled with several gigantic smoking pits. A great choice for lunch!

After lunch, we indulged in a short nap to recharge before heading back to the shops on Main Street. First stop was the wine shop, Texas Vineyards & Beyond, to buy a bottle of wine as a gift for a co-worker. Not knowing much about wines, we asked a man behind the counter for his advice. He turned out to be the winemaker, Martin Santamaria, owner of Santa Maria Cellars. We bought my friend a Private Collection, 2008 Limited Edition, Pinot Grigio, and Martin signed the bottle.

Another notable stop was a visit to Fredericksburg Jewelers. As Gene spoke to the owner about a turquoise-and-gold ring he’d nearly bought many years ago in Scottsdale, Arizona at Gilbert Ortega’s, a very famous purveyor of Native American Indian jewelry, the young man became very animated. It turns out that the late Gilbert Ortega was his uncle. The young owner, Joe Aysheh, reminisced with Gene about the history of his family’s jewelry business. Although Joe didn’t have a ring like Gene was searching for, he did have lots of beautiful pieces I was interested in. Imagine that! I found a lovely pendant with a deep maroon garnet stone set in brushed sterling silver with 18-karat gold accents that seemed to call me by name. My generous husband bought the piece for me and to our delight, Joe gave us a great discount.

One place we always stop while in Fredericksburg is Fredericksburg Fudge – a must for chocolate fudge lovers!

After stuffing ourselves so full at breakfast and lunch, we simply had no room for dinner, so we stayed in Saturday evening, viewed all our great buys, nibbled at fruit and chocolate and lounged. It felt very indulgent, very relaxing.

Once again, the next morning, the aroma of bacon tickled our nostrils, beckoning for us to seek out its source. Joyce and the book club gals greeted us as we entered the dining room. We sat down to our first course of an apple cinnamon coffee cake served in a long-stemmed fruit cup. The eggs were cooked in the shape of a biscuit and contained potato, onions and peppers covered in a creamy sauce. With the eggs were two biscuits, fresh melon, and bacon.

The night before, I read in a room journal, made by previous guests, a suggestion to ask Joyce to tell the story of why you should never go to sleep in a car. As we ate, I asked Joyce to share her story with us.

Joyce and her husband, who lived in Los Angeles at the time, went on a cross-country trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico with their little poodle. It was dark, about 8:00 p.m., and the couple stopped for gas at a station in Barstow, California. Joyce had already told her husband she was going to lay down for a nap, and she got in the back seat. Her husband went inside the station and while he was there, Joyce realized she hadn’t walked the dog to relieve himself. She got out with the dog and walked to a grassy area.

Meanwhile, Joyce’s husband got back into the car, and not wanting to disturb his wife, said nothing, just continued down the road. Joyce walked back to the gas pump and was shocked their car was no longer there. Her purse was in the car, along with all her money, so there was no way to call ahead to Albuquerque or back home to L.A.

Nearby was an all-night diner that allowed Joyce to come inside with her little dog. That night, Joyce waited and waited with the dog on her lap. Realizing what must’ve happened, Joyce knew her husband wouldn’t find her until he stopped for the night, so she asked to use the diner’s phone to call the Highway Patrol. Overhearing the conversation, the waitresses whispered about her, sure that her husband had left her on purpose. On the phone, Joyce could hear the sheriff say to the dispatcher, “He probably meant to do that.” Apparently, a woman getting dumped in Barstow by her boyfriend or husband was a somewhat common occurrence.

Meanwhile, Joyce’s husband stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona, nearly five hours away from Barstow and opened the back door of the car, only find an empty seat. He was as alarmed as Joyce had been, and since it was before the days of cell phones, he first called home. Joyce had already called and finally gotten one of her teenaged children around 1:00 a.m., after they’d gotten back home from drinking with their friends (partying it up since Mom and Dad were out of town). Joyce told her children what happened and asked them to come get her. Being too drunk to drive, it was close to 8:00 a.m. before one of them showed up at the diner.

Joyce’s husband had already talked with the kids and knew the situation. When he called back after Joyce returned home, she told him to drive on to Albuquerque, and she would take a flight from L.A. to meet him. This time, she left the dog with her kids, borrowed money from a good friend and neighbor, and flew to Albuquerque. When she arrived, her husband wasn’t there. She could not believe it! In fact, she was getting angry. Her husband, who hadn’t changed his watch to the new time zone, showed up an hour late to the gate to pick her up.

Joyce says he’s still making it up to her all these years later, as she waved her hand glittering with pretty diamond rings.

We said our goodbyes to Joyce and the book club ladies, wishing one another a good life. After loading the car, we dropped off our keys at the main office and drove around the residential neighborhoods of Fredericksburg, where we came upon an old milling compound. There were interesting old houses, a water mill and a windmill with a sign that read, “The Old Mill”, yet there were no cars or signs. We stopped an asked an elderly lady walking her dog what type of facility this was. She told us it was an old mill acquired by the owners of SAS Shoes, a national shoe chain, who had fixed the place up and opened it to public. After years of mistreatment from the public, the owners shut the mill down and opened it up only to the use of SAS employees.

We drove back into town, hoping to tour the art galleries, but it appeared none were open, at least not within a reasonable timeframe for us to wait. So, we headed home, veering off our route for a side trip to Blanco, Texas to browse a few more antique stores. From there, we drove through the lovely Hill Country roads back to our home sweet home in Austin.

Dorothy was right – There’s no place like home!

Road Trip, Y’all!!

Grandma Who?!

“Hi Grandma!” a little voice said. Grandma? Who is that child talking to? Then, it hit me. Jeremy, Gene’s grandson, was addressing me. “Grandma, would you read me a book?” “Sure, honey”, I replied, just like a loving grandmother should.

We’d gone down to San Antonio to visit Gene’s daughter, Liz, her husband, Kalin and their children, Jeremy and Kalini. Gene has been a grandparent for several years now. I, on the other hand, married into grandparenthood this past June.

For years, I’ve told my son, Eric, that since I only had him and no other children, I expect him to give me lots of grandchildren…when the time is right, of course. Little did I know that by marrying Gene, my wish would be granted…overnight. I now have seven grandchildren, five of whom I’ve never even met.

I love children, and as I’ve learned about the Gospel and the special, unique spirit that each child is, I’ve grown more fascinated by them. More importantly, I see the positive impact I have on children. The older I get, the more patience I have with them. I like to read to them, play games with them and dance together.

Since I never had a little girl of my own, my nieces, and now my granddaughter, Kalini, give me the opportunity to relive the things I loved about my own childhood – twirling dresses, dancing, putting on makeup and high heels, fixing hair, painting fingernails and cuddling.

My grandson, Jeremy, lets me relive all the joyous moments I enjoyed with my own son, such as joking, tickling, thumb wars and back scratching. Little boys are so wonderful!

As I approach my 50th birthday this year, I see that I have entered into a different phase of life, and I really like it. Grandma Grayson...yeah, that’s me!

“Children are an heritage of the Lord.” – Psalms 127:3

“Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children are their fathers.” –Proverbs 17:6

Hug Your Grandkids, Y’all!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

One Dead Clown Deserves Another

On our way back home from an early Father’s Day gathering at my brother’s house, my husband, Gene, witnessed a near-miss collision on Interstate 35 between a semi-truck and a small car. He said, “Limpy just about got it.” “Limpy?” I asked. Gene replied, “Yeah, Limpy the Clown. He’s coming up beside us now. He cut right in front of that truck when there was barely any room to get in.” I looked over, and sure ‘nuff, there was a clown in full makeup.

Stenciled on the side of his car was “Limpy the Clown”, along with his telephone number. On the back windshield, it said, “Clown Around”. If he isn’t more careful, ol’ Limpy may need to change his signs to “Limping the Clown” and “Limp Around”.

I was surprised to discover that many people don’t like clowns. In fact, those with an excessive fear of clowns are said to have Coulrophobia. reported,

“A University of Sheffield study of more than 250 children, aged four to 16,found the images [of clowns] were widely disliked. Even some of the oldest children found the images scary…We found that clowns are universally disliked by
children. Some found clowns quite frightening and unknowable.”

My niece, Callie, really doesn’t like clowns. I’m not sure if she has coulrophobia, but if she does, it’s likely my fault. One year, in my other life, I worked as a window cleaner with a friend. We wore cute, short, bright-colored overalls with matching hats as we cleaned the large storefront windows of many businesses. On Halloween, my girlfriend and I dressed as clowns. We had the big shoes, the clown makeup, striped socks and fake hair. We looked really, really good. I called my sister, Cameron, and suggested that she and Callie, who was 3 or 4 years old, come see us, since we were working in her part of town.

Cameron pulled up in her car while we were washing windows. As she and Callie drew near, I said loudly, “Hi Callie!” Callie recoiled in horror. She hid her face in her mother’s neck. Cameron tried to soothe her, “Callie, it’s your Aunt Grayson. See, she’s dressed up as a clown for Halloween.” Callie shook her head and wouldn’t look at me. “It’s me, Callie”, I pleaded, “it’s Aunt Grayson!” She kept her face hidden and began to cry, so Cameron took Callie back home.

(Click on this picture to see a larger image)

On the other hand, two of my other nieces, Corinne and Cassie, love clowns. For her 5th birthday party, Cassie requested that Zippy the Clown, who she’d seen at Zilker Park, make balloon animals for her and her friends. Zippy was a total hit among the numerous 5-year olds and their moms. I was mesmerized as Zippy blew up each skinny balloon with his own breath, not a pump. And, despite each painful sounding squeak, screech and squawk, Zippy managed to contort the colored rubber sausages into palm tree hats, heart bracelets, puppy dogs, alligators and more. Callie, now a teenager, would not go outside to watch the show.

When my husband found out I was writing my blog about clowns, he commented, “It’s a tough life trying to make a buck as a clown. Most people clown around all their lives and never get paid for it. By the way, where’d Limpy get his name from? His ex-girlfriend? Makes ya wonder. Frankly, I think clowns are borderline cross-dressers.”

In honor of my niece, Callie, I offer these clown jokes for her personal enjoyment:

1st Cannibal: “How was dinner last night?”
2nd Cannibal: “I had the clown. It tasted kind of funny.”


How do you make a dead clown float?
Take your foot off its head.


What's the difference between a dead cat in the road and a dead clown in the road?
There are skid marks in front of the cat.


Why aren't you allowed to incinerate clowns?
They burn funny.


How do you kill a clown who has big floppy shoes?
With a big floppy sack of door knobs.


What's better than a clown falling out of a window?
Another one below him.


I love you, Callie!!

Keep Clownin’ Around, Y’all!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

When Gene Met Grayson...A True Love Story

Our remarkable love story begins in February 2002 in Austin, Texas. My girlfriend, Susie, had asked me if I would find out about the LDS singles’ activities and attend some of the functions with her. She was newly divorced and needed a sidekick to help her learn to re-socialize with members of the opposite sex. Considering I was an expert at meeting men, I gladly obliged.

The first function we attended was the Willow City Loop Bluebonnet Tour.

There were only 7 or 8 of us, who showed up for the activity. I was dating someone at the time, so I didn’t have my Man-Antenna up. Gene, pictured to the far left, wasn’t terribly impressed with me (2nd from the right). He enjoyed talking to me, but thought I was stuck-up.

The second time we encountered each other was at a Single Adult Break-the-Fast Potluck Dinner. Gene asked if I would be interested in going out with him and I said yes. He took me to an indoor football game. Not exactly my idea of a romantic first date, but he had front row seats and the game was very exciting. We talked in the parking lot afterwards for quite awhile, and as we shared some of our past experiences, I got the impression that Gene was still pining after an old flame. I felt relieved, because I was just looking for friends to go out with. I was still in love with my boyfriend who lived in Utah.

Later that night, on his way home, having felt unexpectedly attracted to me, Gene called me from his cell phone. He asked if I’d experienced any stomach problems from eating the nachos at the game. He explained that after dropping me off, he had prayed to Heavenly Father about whether I was “the one”. He immediately felt sick to his stomach and had to pull the car over and vomit. Hearing that I hadn’t felt ill, Gene said he took this as “a sign”.

What?! A sign?!! I pretty much turned my ears off at that point. I was still alarmed that he’d prayed about me, much less that he’d vomited in response. I decided to nip this nonsense in the bud and told Gene that I just wanted to be friends and wasn’t interested in romantically dating him. I didn’t even give him a chance to explain that his interpretation of the “sign” was a “no” or "not now" answer from God.

I didn’t hear from Gene for a few months. I figured he’d been pretty upset with me. I mean, after all, telling a man you just want to be friends is usually interpreted to be the kiss of death for anyone with romantic intentions. Gene finally came to terms with his feelings for me and concluded he would like to remain friends.

From that point on, Gene and I enjoyed a wonderful friendship. We met every other week or so in search of the best burger in Austin. The conversation was always stimulating, and although I never thought we found the perfect burger, I did find a perfect friend. We went out to various cultural events over the next couple of years, always as “friends”, and I began to see how varied Gene’s interests were. He enlightened my mind about spiritual topics, motivating me to do more independent study of the scriptures, as well as broadening my life experiences by taking me to wonderful events, such as the Cirque du Soleil, “Greater Tuna”, a Chicago concert, IMAX movies, museums and more.

A few of my girlfriends commented that they could tell Gene loved me. “I know” was my reply, “but, he’s just not my type.” Of course he wasn’t my type. Gene would never leave me or divorce me or mistreat me. He would never dishonor me or be unfaithful. Gene would never disrespect me. This was a revelation I would come to much later in our relationship.

Gene and I had a special connection – a spiritual connection, I’d say. There I was, sitting at home, the day after surgery, and my phone rang. It was Gene. He said he’d felt prompted to call me, and wanted to know if there was something wrong. How uncanny, I thought. While that same sort of thing happened a few more times, I still didn’t give it much weight until a few years later.

I met a man from Plano, TX on the Internet, and I married him after dating for a year. I had even introduced Gene and a few of my other friends to my fiancé before we married. While Gene was disappointed not only that I hadn’t picked him, but in my poor choice of men, he wanted my happiness more than anything else. I invited Gene to our wedding reception in Plano and he attended, along with several other single friends from Austin.

Within six months, my marriage fell apart. I’d discovered that my husband had been seeing other women and was on 19 singles websites. I was crushed and depressed. My husband had moved out and filed for divorce. I was unemployed and unable to will myself out of bed to face the day.

One morning, my phone rang. It was Gene. He said, “I have felt strongly the past three days that I should call you, but I kept resisting because you are a married woman. I felt the prompting again today. Is there anything wrong, Grayson?” I burst into tears, regurgitating all the ugliness of my discovery. Gene didn’t judge me. He didn’t say “I told you so.” He just listened. And, that is what I needed.

Gene called me every morning and every night for two months. He counseled me about forgiveness and shared wonderful scriptures with me that helped me learn those lessons I needed to take away from that painful experience of divorce. He pointed me to the Savior. He shared his own painful experiences. He made me laugh when I didn’t feel like laughing. But, most of all, he showed me what real friendship is. I didn’t have to go through that pain alone. He helped me carry my burden.

At one point, I thought I would like to give our relationship another romantic chance. I invited Gene to visit me in Plano, which he did, and we had a delightful visit, touring Fort Worth. But, Gene had me on a pedestal, and I was uncomfortable being in that position.

I pursued other suitors and met a man from Martha’s Vineyard Island, who I dated and married the following year. Again, Gene, although disappointed in my decision, was happy for me, hoping I had found true love. And, again, I chose poorly. At one point during my marriage, Gene sent me an e-mail, later saying he’d felt prompted to contact me, but was uncomfortable doing so since I was married. This time, I responded that all was well. But, all wasn’t well. Especially not for my husband, who ended up divorcing me after only 9 months of marriage.

Broken-hearted and mentally bankrupt, I returned to Texas to regain my footing and heal from the hurt. I spent a year in psychotherapy with a wonderful woman, who helped me understand the reasons for my poor choices in men. I learned a great deal about myself. Using the lessons I had been taught by Gene about forgiveness, I set about letting go of the pain and resentment I carried for my husband. In time, I was able to let go and forgive.

It was during this time that I experienced some of my most profound spiritual progress. I immersed myself in the Scriptures. I studied about marriage, forgiveness, eternal life, the gifts of the Spirit, and more. I felt such a calm sense of peace and love come over me. I knew my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ, were close and loved me. I began to feel healed.

Although I had been searching for a job since my return to Texas, I began more earnestly to find a job in Austin, Texas, to be nearer to my son and other family members. I felt the need to contact Gene again, to let him know of my return. I desired to talk with him and renew our friendship. However, it was a few weeks before I mustered up the courage to e-mail him. I had failed again, and didn’t know if Gene would even be willing to befriend me once more. I worried that Gene might even be married or dating someone seriously, which would not have surprised me.

Gene replied with a short e-mail, and we e-mailed back and forth a bit. But, it was two months after our first e-mail before we spoke on the phone. I knew something had changed. He was still that wonderful friend, but he was calmer. I didn’t hear excitement in his voice. I asked Gene if he was still playing softball, and he invited me to a game that following month, in September.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I most certainly didn’t expect to feel attracted to Gene romantically. After all, I never really had before. What would’ve changed? Yet, I was undeniably attracted. I thought my life with men was over, but here was my friend, Gene, just as calm and confident and handsome as I had never seen him before. What was wrong with me? I enjoyed his softball game immensely and joined Gene and some of his teammates for lunch afterwards before heading back to the Ranch.

The next week, another reason to visit Austin presented itself and I called Gene to let him know I was in town. He invited me to the movies, and so I joined him. While the movie wasn’t all that great, being near Gene was. Something had definitely changed. I couldn’t put my finger on it at that moment. We spoke in the parking lot for a while and when Gene asked me a question about my failed marriage, I began to cry. He put his arm around me from the side and let me keep talking, as he stroked the back of my head. It was not romantic or forward. It was a genuine, loving gesture, one that a real friend would make towards another.

Returning to my psychologist, Pam Bailey, that week, I expounded on all my confusing feelings and desires. I explained my past relationship with Gene, and Pam smiled and listened. I told her that I just couldn’t understand why I was feeling such attraction to Gene for the very first time in our relationship. She pondered out loud that I’d spent a great deal of time learning about the unhealthy patterns of my past relationships, and perhaps I’d just recognized a really good man. She speculated that Gene had placed me on a pedestal, and when I disappointed him by marrying someone else the last time, he’d taken me down off that high point. The conclusion rang true inside me. I asked Pam what I should do, and she wisely stated that time would provide me with my answers.

After several more enjoyable outings with Gene, which usually included our resident chaperone and dear friend, Bobby. I finally asked if I could speak to Gene alone. I told Gene how I’d been feeling, and asked him whether he might consider “dating” me again. He confirmed that he had taken me off the pedestal, and we shared how we’d miscommunicated in the past or not provided valuable feedback that might’ve taken our relationship in a different direction. He told me we could try it again, but I needed to understand that he was dating other women. I was elated that the bridge between us was still intact.

It was almost as though I knew where our relationship would take us. I felt such overwhelming gratitude for Gene’s forgiveness, his friendship, his acceptance and tolerance of my past actions, and I felt gratitude to the Lord for allowing my path to cross Gene’s again. My moment of clarity came as I realized I wanted this gratitude, this feeling about this wonderful man, my friend, Gene, to never end.

A week or two later, Gene asked what I thought about him dating me exclusively. The words would not come, so I reached over and kissed him. It was our first kiss. Because I’d had so many candid discussions with Gene over the years, I knew that kissing, for Gene, did not necessarily have serious meaning behind it. While he had been discerning in his past, he was, after all, a man. And as we all know, men like to kiss women. But, his kisses were sweet and tender and loving. To me, they expressed all those feelings I had inside for Gene, and somehow, I knew he was showing me how much he loved me, by letting me get close again.

Our conversations deepened as we began to share those secret thoughts we’d had about each other over the years. And, my love for Gene blossomed. I had loved Gene as my friend for years. But, now I felt something new, something unexpected and exciting – a romantic love. All the pain and suffering, as a result of my own poor choices, had humbled me and brought me to this point. I had learned so much about myself and what I wanted and didn’t want in my life. This man before me was someone I wanted in my life, for as long as he would stay.

So, one afternoon after another fabulous discussion on the front porch of Gene’s house, Gene asked me a probing question, whether I might ever consider marrying him sometime in the future. The answer, while not a direct yes or no, rolled right out of my mouth. “I love you, Gene.” And, Gene replied, “I’ve always loved you, Grayson.”

In March, Gene and I joined my parents and my brother’s family in Rockport, TX for a relaxing weekend in my aunt’s gorgeous vacation home. We were there for Oyster Fest, and it warmed my heart to see how easily Gene fit into my family. My dad acted like he’d found a new best friend, and the two of them got along famously. My father gave Gene a hug before we left and later told me Gene was the first man I’d brought home that he liked. Having my father’s approval, while not necessary, meant so much to me.

Just years ago I could’ve had the kind of man I always dreamed about. In my journal entry, dated October 14, 2008, I wrote,
“…My telephone discussion tonight with Gene was inspiring and encouraging. Gene said he’s always known that he has everything I need, but that when we first met, I might not have everything he needed. He was right. I had to traverse a number of unsatisfying, unhealthy relationships before I suddenly hit my head,like “I could’ve had a V-8!” and realized that Gene has been there all along. He has always loved me….We are equals. He says I’m the only woman he’s dated that he ever felt that way about. He says I inspire and motivate him, which he also does for me. He’s always taught me things which enrich me, as well as the spiritual connection we have. He has always followed through on promptings,calling me when I needed to be called. By doing so, I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and is aware of me….Tonight, Gene also said something else ofgreat interest. He said he’s always felt a desire to take care of me, to nurture me and help me. And, how often have I desired that kind of love? All my life. Six years of knowing this man, and I never really allowed our relationship to progress further than friendship. Yet, it’s good. It’s good to finally be able to see who he is, and to be attracted to this healthy man.”

Regretting the past won’t change it, but it’s only human to look back and think of the time we could’ve had together. After his Memorial Day visit to the Ranch, Gene made a funny comment. My mother is an outstanding cook, and had prepared a delicious barbequed brisket, a fresh squash medley and corn-on-the cob. It was, by far, the tastiest, most tender brisket I had ever eaten. Later, Gene commented, “I just realized I could’ve been eating your mother’s cooking for the past seven years!” He acted mad for just a moment to stress his point, and then he laughed.

What Gene and I both understand clearly is that it took every moment of the past seven years to bring us together. There were things I needed to learn. Paths of people I needed to cross. Sharp edges that needed smoothing. Healing that had to take place. Gene, too, had his own set of personal hurdles to overcome.

I am just so grateful that the scales fell away from my eyes, and I finally was able to “see” Gene with a new pair of eyes. We need each other. We love each other. We deserve each other, and together, we will accomplish all the Lord has in store for us.

Deserve Each Other, Y’all!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Do and I Did

“Love is the emblem of eternity: it confounds all notion of time:
effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end.” --Germaine De Stael

If getting married was a sport, I’d be an Olympian! Gene Nelson and I entered into holy matrimony on June 6th. But to tell you the truth, it’s an absolute miracle that we ever crossed the Finish Line. There were a number of obstacles lying in our path.

About a week before the wedding date, Gene asked me what documents we needed to bring with us to the Travis County Clerk’s office to obtain a marriage license. As I looked online, I found a qualifying sentence that deeply disturbed me. It read:

If you have divorced and your divorce was final within the last 30 days,you must bring a certified copy of your divorce decree which states the thirty-day waiting period has been waived.

I just about had a heart attack. My divorce had been granted on February 18th, but in Massachusetts there is a 90-day waiting period before it is finalized by the judge. That meant my divorce was finalized on May 20th. Our wedding date was June 6th…only 17 days after the final divorce date. What was I to do?!

I called my divorce attorney in Massachusetts. He didn’t answer his office phone or his cell phone. I sent him an e-mail. Rather than waiting on him to get back to me, I called my mother to find out the name of the attorney she had originally thought I could use for the divorce.

Nancy Yates Anglin, attorney-at-law in Hamilton, Texas, quietly listened to my story, injecting a few questions here and there. When I finished, she began looking through her law books for information, but said she’d never actually done a waiver to the Texas 30-day waiting period. She didn’t think there would be any problem getting a waiver signed, seeing that I had already sent out invitations, ordered the cake and reserved the church. I was grateful for Nancy’s optimism, and we scheduled an appointment for the next day.

She told me to bring a copy of my divorce papers to my appointment, so I began to search in all the usual places. I couldn’t find them! I drove up to the Ranch to search there. I still couldn’t find them. I gathered up all my files and returned to Austin, searching through them again and again when I arrived. Nothing. I tried to stay optimistic.

I finally heard back from my attorney, who then informed me that the document I’d received from the court was not the final decree. He still had to get that from the court. That information nearly sent me over the edge. He assured me that I was divorced, and he would fax a copy of the decree and other divorce papers to my Texas attorney before my appointment.

When I arrived at Nancy’s office in Hamilton, which is a 1 ½ hour drive from Austin, she informed me that they had not received anything from my divorce attorney. I called him from my cell phone, and he assured me he was on his way to the courthouse. (Did I mention that during the course of my divorce, my attorney had brain surgery and was getting a divorce himself?) My confidence began to waiver when he called me back and let me know that the printer at the Edgartown courthouse was broken. He’d have to go back the next morning. (“And how much is that going to cost me?” I wondered.) By noon the next day, my divorce attorney had the Decree Absolute, had overnighted me a copy and faxed a copy to Nancy.

Meanwhile, Nancy had placed a call to the judge, requesting 10 minutes of her time on the Tuesday before my wedding. She had an opportunity to discuss the matter over the phone and she faxed the judge a copy of the Waiver Order she’d drawn up. The judge agreed to sign it on Tuesday and made time in her schedule. I was told I didn’t need to be at the Coryell County Courthouse in Gatesville, but I drove up there anyway. I wanted that signed piece of paper in my hot, little hands, leaving nothing to chance.

The judge had a good laugh at my expense and ribbed me a bit, all in fun, before signing the order. The judge, in her entire career on the bench, had never encountered such a situation. She wished me much happiness, and as I waited outside the courtroom for my attorney to get the order registered by the County Clerk, I could just barely hear the judge talking about my case with two other female attorneys. The courtroom was atwitter.

The next morning, which was Wednesday, about 10AM, Gene and I met at the Travis County Clerk’s office to file for the marriage license. Couples must obtain a marriage license at least 72 hours prior to the wedding. My wedding was scheduled for 1PM on Saturday. We had just scooted under the wire. Whew!

By that afternoon, Gene was experiencing a Cold Feet Attack. Gene had been speaking to his attorney, who he’d sent a wedding invitation. Gene’s attorney called, whipping up a frenzy, insistent that Gene execute a Pre-Nuptial Agreement because of issues from his last divorce. This heaped a pile of unnecessary anxiety onto Gene’s mound of pre-wedding jitters. [Note: Gene’s attorney did not show up at the wedding….good thing, too.]

Following the question of whether I would sign a pre-nup, to which I agreed, Gene began talking of wanting to take a vacation, and presuming I might not be able to take time off from work, he was already making provisions to go with a friend. The combination of those two items mentioned in one breath 3 days before our wedding, along with my state of PMS, could’ve resulted in severe head trauma for Gene or at least him being slapped seriously baldheaded. But, the meds I take are absolutely marvelous.

“The loving are the daring.” --Bayard Taylor

I chewed on the information he’d laid in my lap for about 30 minutes and then asked if we could talk. I calmly explained to him how I felt and why my feelings were hurt. Gene suddenly shared how much it hurt him when he realized he had hurt my feelings and confessed all the fears he’d had. He told me how much he really loved me. I just had to smile and all those hurt feelings fizzled away. We hugged and cuddled for quite some time, amazed at how the week’s stressful events had wheedled a wedge in between us.

Amazing to both of us, that day was a real turning point for our relationship. Gene no longer wanted a pre-nup, decided to wait and travel when I could go with him, and solidified his commitment and love for me. I had never experienced anyone feeling hurt from unintentionally hurting me. I had never experienced this kind of love from a man. I already knew what a special man Gene was, but it was amazing to see how open and honest communication brought new light to bear on our relationship and elevated our feelings to the next level of love and commitment.

Successfully navigating all the hurdles in our way, Gene and I were able to walk down the aisle together as husband and wife, crossing that Finish Line in peace and harmony and adoration. We both earned our Gold Medals of Love!

“What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined... to strengthen each other... to be at one with each other in silent unspeakable memories.” --George Eliot

We Did and We Do, Y’all!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Walk Down No Memory Lane

I’m reading a book my mother gave me, called Still Alice, by Lisa Genova. Mom said she couldn’t put it down and thought I would enjoy it as much as she did. The main character is a 50-year old woman, who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer ’s disease. The book is extremely well written and takes the reader inside the thoughts of the main character, dramatizing the effects of the disease on her family. However, after a couple of weeks, I’m only halfway through and keep putting the book down, because the story hits way too close to home.

Yesterday, I had three items on my errand list: 1) Go to the post office and submit a change of address, 2) Buy blank address labels at Office Max, and 3) Shop for a dress to get married in. (Yes, Gene eventually did formally propose marriage, and we are getting married on June 6th.) Not being terribly familiar with the downtown Austin area, I asked Gene for directions to the nearest post office and Office Max. I didn’t write down the directions. That was my first mistake.

From the softball fields where Gene had just finished playing his game, I was to travel along Pleasant Valley Road and turn east on 6th Street to get to the post office. “Here’s 5th Street”, I said to myself, be-bopping along in my Durango. The next street I came to was 7th Street. “Hey, wait one minute! Where’d 6th Street go?!” I figured that I must not have been paying attention, so I turned right on 7th Street and cut back across on the next road, expecting to intersect 6th Street. But instead, I came upon 5th Street again. What in the world?!!! I was terribly frustrated, remembering that I had opted not to change my address online because of the $1 fee, realizing I had likely used up about $5 worth of gas at this point. I tried calling Gene from my cell phone, but there was no answer.

Not wanting to waste anymore of my time looking for the hidden post office, I headed toward Office Max. Gene and I made the trip to Office Max just a few days before, so I thought I knew where it was, but as I began to travel in the maze of downtown Austin, I realized I had no clue where the store was located. I circled the same blocks over and over, expecting a different result, but Office Max simply was not where I thought it was. I called Gene again; Still no answer.

As I expanded the perimeters of my block search, I spied the downtown post office. At least I’d found one item on my list, albeit not the location I was originally searching for. I completed the change of address form, but couldn’t decide which one of the receptacles to place it in. In the area where the stamp would’ve gone were the words “No postage necessary if mailed anywhere in the U.S.” “Should I put it in the “Stamped Mail Only” slot or the “Metered Mail” slot?” I asked myself. I mean, after all, there was no stamp on the form, and it hadn’t been metered either. Why was there no “None Of The Above” slot? I finally opted for “Stamped Mail Only” and, on my way out, thankfully had the wherewithal to ask a man in the lobby where the nearest Office Max was located. I was so close to Office Max I could’ve spit on it, as the crow flies. But seeing as I was driving, it took me another ten minutes of navigating one-way streets to get there.

Feeling elated with a sense of accomplishment after leaving Office Max, I decided to go shopping at the Barton Creek Mall. As I approached the mall parking lot, my cell phone rang. No, it wasn’t Gene. It was my dear friend, Paula. We were having a wonderful conversation and still talking as I drove into the mall, parked the car and went inside. I shopped for a couple of hours, but did not find what I was looking for.

My feet hurt. My back hurt. I was hungry and tired. Not a good combination. Overly ready to leave, I walked out the JC Penney exit to the parking lot and looked about. None of the scenery was familiar. I surmised that I must’ve come in a different entrance. Not finding another exit in JC Penney, I walked back into the mall. I looked around, but couldn’t put couldn’t recall coming through any of the entrances there either. I obtained a store directory and looked it over, determining that I must’ve come in at JC Penney.

Returning to the original JC Penney exit, I walked into the bright sunlight, stared at the rows of cars before me, but did not see mine anywhere. Assuring myself that my car must be close by, I walked further into the parking lot. After several minutes of walking, shielding my eyes from the brightness and mindful of my aching back and sore feet, I became more and more dismayed. What if I was getting Alzheimer’s, like the woman in my book? What if Gene never answered his phone and I wandered in the parking lot for years like Moses in the wilderness? Would anyone I know ever find me? Nobody knew where I was.

I called Gene’s phone again, and this time my son, Eric, answered (he’s now living in the trailer house behind Gene’s home). I asked him if Gene was there and he found Gene outside, watering the plants.

“This is going to sound weird, Honey,” I said, “but I’m lost in the Barton Creek Mall parking lot. I can’t find my car anywhere.” Gene calmed me down and suggested I push the Panic Button on my key fob. Now, why didn’t I think of that? He said, “Walk around the parking lot, and if you’re within 100 feet of your car, the alarm will sound.” Great idea! Now, I only had to will my aching feet to walk around the mall parking lot while I pressed the button.

Endowed with a great deal of resilience, I set out with my new plan, pressing my Panic Button. I walked around the corner of JC Penney toward Dillard’s and saw another exit not listed on the store directory. Suddenly, I knew where my car was parked. As I walked toward it, I pressed the Panic Button anyway, just to test out Gene’s theory. Like balm to my soul, the alarm sounded. No more need to panic.

When I got home, I began reading Still Alice again. I didn’t get very far, though. I fell fast asleep.

From the movie, “Finding Nemo”:
Dory: "I suffer from short-term memory loss.”

Marlin: “Short-term memory loss?” (Dory nods) “I don't believe this!”

Dory: “No, it's true! I forget things almost instantly. It runs in my family! Well I mean... at least... I think it does. Hum... Where are they? ... Can I help you?"

Never Give Up, Y’all!!