Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Lime Tree Story

I've lived in this house for 18 years, and just this summer did I first notice a lime tree growing in my neighbors back yard.  I guess it just got tall enough for me to see the tiny green balls sprouting above the fence line -- some of them even hanging OVER the fence, preciously perched on my side.

Now, I'm sucker for edible plants.  It started last year when I bought some spindly herbs in tiny plastic pots at HEB.  I'm one of those gardeners with great intentions, but poor execution so when I transferred the little plants into big clay pots on my patio, I had realistic low expectations. But with regular watering, all of my herbs flourished and soon I enjoyed fresh basil leaves & clumps of dill in salads and baked vegetables. Twigs of sweet mint leaves made nighttime hot tea an aromatic little treat. I was hooked. I sprouted ends of celery in tiny dishes of water around my sink.  I planted garlic pods and onion bulbs.  I researched foraging and looked for edible weeds and medicinal herbs in my yard grass. My big discovery was identifying a random Purslane that sprung up in a flooded, dirt-filled pot after a hard rain.  I proudly plucked off it's salty leaves for salad with dandelions. I was the suburban farmer, eating what I grew-- at least as garnish.

So when the limes on that backyard tree started getting larger, the conscientious grower in me got miffed : my neighbors weren't taking the bounty! The limes got larger and greener and still they weren't picking the fruit.  One night, I couldn't stand it anymore.  I grabbed my gardening shears and clipped a small branch that was heavy with four limes hanging over my side of the fence. I felt vindicated.  I brought the limes inside and imagined tart, sweet meringue pie made from their juice, or maybe I'd blend up a batch of tangy salty, fresh-from-the-vine margaritas.  That night, I cut into one, to squeeze some juice into my iced tea. But it was dry.  The flesh was tight and pale; the little juice I could get out of it was tasteless, bland.         I was deflated.

BUT, mystery solved, I thought.  No wonder they ignored the sagging fruit, the neighbors knew the secret: those limes suck.  For the next few days, I'd glance over at the tree and shake my head... what a shame, maybe they should just cut it down.

So days went by and I watched the limes continue to balloon, getting larger and larger, their deep green skin started to fade; but none seemed to fall. Doesn't ripe fruit just fall off the vine and rot on the ground if it's not picked?  (well does it  ?  because when push comes to shove, I actually don't know a darn thing about harvesting or plants or fruit trees or gardening at all. This will be come clearer as the story progresses.)

It was about this time that I realized it was a lemon tree.  I'd look over at the pale yellow fruit and chastise myself, I shoulda known. Lemons are even better, I thought.  And just like that, I was excited again, paying attention with anticipation.

I started to think about that tree a lot. I wondered what it says about me that I picked the fruit before it was ready .  before I even knew what it was . even when it wasn't really mine. and then I turned away from it, before it's real time had come.  

This whole thing with the fruit and the tree got me to thinking about expectations and patience ; and assumptions.  and hope.

I have a knack for researching things--addresses, previous owners, court documents, private investigating--I love to snoop out facts.  But I never questioned my own judgement on that tree. A quick google probably would have told me that those weren't limes, heck I could have asked my neighbor--at least if I could pick some.  But I made plans and even took action, without checking out any facts beyond what I saw, (behind a fence).  I wondered how many times had I done the same thing with jobs or relationships and how many of my life's decisions were tainted with false assumptions, or worse, how many of my regrets could have become precious moments with a little patience on my part ? Is God using this backyard tree to teach me about myself ?

My first job after graduating from college was a fun job.  I worked at a tiny record label, with business trips to blues festivals and breakfast meetings at noon.  I met semi-famous people and got into shows for free.  Like I said, it was fun.  About three years into it, the label folded and I was approached by one of the executives to start a new publicity company, with him as the Founder and President.  At the time, I didn't know much about the music business. In retrospect, I didn't even know the circumstances of why our label was folding, but from the little I saw, it looked like an unorganized mess, and I didn't know this guy very well. He'd come to label right before the shut-down so I had no background on him. I declined on the spot.  I wasn't going to take my chances, I went on to work in an office, answering phones and doing the 9-5 for the next 20 years. Not Fun Job. Turns out (you knew this was coming, right) that the guy who approached me turned out to be one of the founders of the South by Southwest Music Festival. Even if his company didn't get off the ground (which it did) the contacts and connections from that job may have set me on a different career course for life.  Or maybe I would have just become a secretary 5 years later than I did. There's no way of knowing.

I can think of other examples where a little research, patience and honest assessment could have carved out an opposite life for me, but analyzing what's already done is just a way of ignoring what is.

As a single mom ten years ago, with a newborn and a four year old, I didn't even fantasize about the life I live now. I'm married to a hilarious, generous, great-looking guy, who shows his love to me as much as he does my children and my parents.  My path has had some deep scary caves to explore along the way, but for now I'm flooded with bright, loving light and allowing myself to finally let go of the critical, broken girl that used to live in my body.  I'm learning to embrace this story of the lime tree as a new way to see my spectrum of possibilities, recognize a tendency to jump to judgement and remind myself to pay attention when things don't go as expected, life gives you limes but you may end up making lemonade.

............

The other night our neighbor's little girl peeked through the back fence pickets to talk to us while we had wine on the patio. She told us that her name is Amelia, she's almost three and she likes our dog's name: Lulu. She likes bubbles and oranges, especially the oranges from their tree--but they're not ready yet, she squealed, we have to wait for them. Yep. it's a dang orange tree.  Good one God.





Sunday, May 22, 2016

Table for One : Field trip to Chinatown

i had the afternoon to myself and i was in the mood for a bit of adventure.  i'd spent the morning with mom and needed to indulge myself in a lovely time alone. somewhere interesting, if only to me. i was dressed for just about anything, which usually would inspire a stroll out of the zone, perhaps into memorial for pork belly at bramble or west U has that cuban place i've never tried. but being noon on friday, a city trip was immediately nixed. i mean, i want adventure, but i don't do friday commuter traffic. i'm a spoiled housewife.  i don't do inconvenience.

i was thinking chinatown.  a reliable go-to for me, so not exactly an adventure, but i was getting hungry and kept picturing myself at the white-clothed table at szechuan house, digging into a bowl of mapo tofu with a plastic chinese spoon.

A word about mapo tofu:  i crave it.  there are times i have to have it.  i am ever on the quest for the most tingly, tasty, spicy-soft mapo tofu on the planet, specifically radared-in on places within 10-20 miles from my house. i'm lucky to live close to a real chinatown, but one of my favorite mapo places is nestled in suburbia, right in my neighborhood.  like i said, i'm lucky.

the best thing about mapo is the tingly spiciness of the szechuan peppercorn. and nothing high-fives that peppercorn flavor in your mouth better than ice cold beer. it's like hot wings. i mean they're good, but the beer, that's what makes them great. chinatown is crammed with tons of dive-spot cafes, but most don't serve beer--or any alcohol. and herein lies a bit of adventure -- bring your own beer to lunch.  it's kinda like free beer, at least it feels kinda like it.

I mentally gauged my adventure capacity and what kind of experience would satisfy the thirst for self-celebration that i hankered for, i knew it was going to involve szechuan in some capacity.
Back to  Mala? (the Houstonian's darling of the mapo, consistently nabbing their top slot for best szechuan, which i was level-8 excited to try.  and was disappointed like a child when it wasn't even tasty, let alone tingly spicy) i want to give it another chance, but i hesitate. it's pricey and full of white people. A few other options skirted through my mind, all clustered in chinatown, somewhere.  i tossed two cold beers and a koozie into my purse, headed for the beltway and figured i'd make up my mind when i turned onto Bellaire  (aka: chinatown blvd).

I live in a super-diverse area.  i have neighbors from bangladesh, hong kong, nigeria--everywhere.  so i know about stereotypes.  i know about PC..  i thought i'd drive around the shopping centers and if something interesting appealed to me, i'd park and go in.
chinatown was a mass of traffic. no biggie.  i'm on an adventure, i guess a teeny bit of inconvenience can be tolerated. but yall: chinese people can't drive.  it's a stereotype, but sister let me tell you, it's rooted in real life.  parking lots in chinatown are where road rage was born.  cars parked in handicap ramps.  not the space --the ramp next to the space.  every backing out and pulling in was an act of intricate and slowly considered movement.  i think the same person that teaches  Tai Chi teaches the parking class.  i sat behind an old buick with it's blinker on for over three minutes.  three minutes.  it was just sitting there.  with it's blinker on. i don't think the guy ever saw me, even when i backed up to get the hell out of the isle, as he was sitting in right in the middle of it.

I ditched exploring and aligned all my energy into finding somewhere --anywhere-- to park . by now, hunger was overtaking my sense of adventure and the whole parking lot fiascos were killing my happy.  just as i was considering other options, a spot opened near me and i snagged it. i looked around to what was close:  szechuan house it is.  white table cloths, here i come.

man the place was packed.  i loved the energy.  four waitresses orchestrated the room with eye gestures and quick words -- "you one?" she shouted to me from across the room, i smile and headshake yes, hold up one finger.   "okay here!"  another she shouts & points to a seat in the left corner of a 4-top, facing the kitchen. she sets down a menu and catches my eye with a smile. my happy is resurged. i've got a big table and a prime spot to watch food come out of the kitchen.  i've been here a few times--the mapo is really good and they serve lunch portion, which is unusual, plus it's about six bucks with soup and rice, so it's a no-brainer.  (remember, i brought my beer from home!)

 i love the symphony of a busy chinese restaurant, the clanging of chop sticks on ceramic bowls and the low, chopped language broken up by laughter.  Ladies, business men, families and couples reach across round tables to pick up noodles, or separate fish from their garlicky sauce. there's a communal element to chinese eating---i think it's the round tables.

 I ordered, then got up to fill my ceramic bowl with steamy soup from the self-serve cauldron at the front of room.  the slightly thickened hot and sour soup had strips of soft tofu and long twines of chinese mushroom.  the broth was tangy and rich. i popped my beer and savored the moment.  i love going to lunch alone.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Table for One: Field Trip to the Museum

A facebook ad caught my attention last week -- the Museum of Fine Arts had an exhibition of art deco cars titled "Molded Steel." The photo in the ad looked chic and cool and i made a mental note to section off one thursday afternoon to go museum exploring.  Thursday is free museum day in Houston.

Just such a thursday made itself known the other day, when the hubs and kids had plans that would keep them out until after 5.    I'd had a busy morning, up early and out.  i had a chiro appt at noon, but after that---nothing. Of course i could go back home, have an egg on toast, fold two loads of laundry, move dirty and clean dishes around. think about mopping. or i could go into Houston and see the museum. 

These crossroad decisions for my day -- these moments where i make the choice, to zig or to jag or to clean.  These moments of pure freedom when i am left to wholly and completely choose the path of my day, i get a glimpse of my unfettered self.  (and let me interject, that i very often choose "to clean.")  but this day,   I left the yoga pants and put on a pair of jeans, checked the gas gauge and hit the freeway. The Zone be damned, we were going into Houston.

Once in the museum district, i found an easy parking spot at the church lot across from MFA.  For like 25 seconds, i sat in my car and questioned this move.  The museum by yourself in the middle of the day?  will that look weird?  also,  i didn't tell husband i was going into houston.  should i?  these thoughts flashed through my consciousness like an imperceptible lighting flash. they were there, they were gone.  i snapped a quick pic of the painted VW van in the parking lot and turned off my phone. 

Walking into the lobby at MFA was like becoming a kid again,with that field-trip sense of excitement for what's to come, the anticipation of a slow, thoughtful day with nothing to do, but look and think.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Mothers Day Past...


originally written May 13, 2007 ...



On Mother's Day morning many years from now, if God grants me the time, I'll roll over and wake up to sunshine coming in through gauzy bedroom curtains. I'll wrap a downy soft robe around me, then shuffle into the clean and orderly kitchen to make a pot of strong coffee. I'll sort through a fat, dew-kissed Sunday paper, setting aside a stack of coupons and flyers to savor that evening. I'll leisurely dress for church. My daughters will call with good wishes for my day. Maybe they'll even invite me to brunch where I'll eat with sticky grandchildren on my lap and have a tall, glossy slice of chocolate cake before waving them goodbye in carseats and SUVs of their own.

For now, I languish in the tentative years. As Sunday approaches, a dull ache creeps up my spine into the base of my brain as I an anxiously try to imagine the plans my beautiful, well-meaning daughters have for me this mothers day. Probing questions give their schemes away: "how many scoops do you put into the pot to make coffee?" the 8yr old asked me on Wednesday. "do you think M&Ms would be good on a waffle?" She pondered out loud Friday night. And then, tucking them in last night my youngest asked: "four is not too wittle to cwack an egg, wight mommy?" Note to self: hide eggs in the vegetable crisper.
But no eggs were harmed in the making of this Mother's Day morning. Fate had a different plan: this year, the girls would be sick.
As is our usual Saturday night ritual, they slept in my bed... My second grader began nursing a cold yesterday; by last night her congestion and rhythmic coughing kept me on the couch past 11:00. Finally, i succombed and went in to scoot feet off my pillow and retrieve the top sheet from a crumpled mess at the foot of the bed. After what felt like about 10 minutes of sleep, the little one awakened me with the tell-tale sounds of a stomach virus. Casualties were heavy. Sheets, bathroom rugs, the couch, even the living room floor took a hit. Each of us was splattered in collateral damage. After deftly avoiding another missile, I wiped her little mouth and adjusted the chilled eye mask wrapped around her forehead. With flushed cheeks and red lips she looked up and said, "all bedder now mommy." Something about it made me laugh out loud. I looked around at the mounting pile of soiled stuff. This is what mother's day is all about.
By four AM the house was quiet again. The three of us were toe-to-toe in my king-size bed, nestled in clean sheets and new pjs. The washer rocked with its load, the dryer hummed, foretelling my afternoon of folding. As I drifted off, with one ear open for a rumbling tummy, a chubby hand reached out for my face and rubbed my cheek. I heard the long, slow breath of a truly content child, secure that she was in the arms of a mom who was going to be there should sickness return. And as night creaked into dawn, my soul filled up with pride and Godly thanks in the assurance that I'm a good mom. Her sweet touch was, at that moment, the best mother's day present I'd ever had.
On my fantasy mother's day many years from now, as I retrieve my half-eaten slab of chocolate cake from the fridge and sink into an evening of coupon clipping in a quiet house, I'll wax nostalgic for these early mother's days. I'll smile with memories of restless mornings hearing the bump and crash of little chefs exploring my kitchen. i'll remember the squish of over-glued homemade cards and tissue paper flowers on my serving tray, with a cup of coffee grounds floating in lukewarm water. i'll laugh at the challenge of cleaning the trail of syrup from the kitchen floor to my bedside. And I'll remember this mother's day with it's sour smells, pale-faced children and piles of laundry—and I'll hope my girls will one day have a mother's day as rich as this.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Montgomery Wayne Seitz 1969-2015


Montgomery Wayne Seitz
July 28, 1969 – August 27, 2015

Our world will have a little less laughter without Montgomery Wayne in it.  Born to Shelia Kay Jenkinson Cooper and Charles Leslie Seitz, Monty bounced through life with unbridled enthusiasm. He grew up as a bright, ambitious boy with a wide circle of friends. He loved sports and played basketball, baseball and football before graduating from Jersey Village High School in 1988.

Monty loved with his whole heart and no one held his heart more tightly than Stephanie Wiley.  They met in 1992 and within a year, Monty and Stephanie shared a name, a home and a son -- Fallon Wayne.  Soon came their wide-eyed beauty, Taylor Wiley and the Seitz family set out for greatness, armed with little more than blind ambition and a few connections in the mattress business.  
They made a great team, and together opened four Capitol Mattress stores throughout Austin. After a decision to make a small town life, they sold the Austin stores and opened All Star Furniture on Hwy. 71 in Bastrop.  Together, Monty and Stephanie spent their days selling beds, telling jokes, carting kids and clinging to their commitment to each other through married life.  

Stephanie held his heart, but it was his kids that fueled Monty’s passion for life.  Every customer that walked through the door heard about Taylor and Fallon.  He coached their childhood basketball teams and as they excelled, he juggled business and family to drive countless hours to watch them play.  He carefully kept every one of Taylor’s newspaper clips featuring her basketball prowess.  Monty was overcome with pride when Fallon recently graduated from UT with honors.  To Monty,  Taylor and Fallon were the best things he had ever done in his life – not the business, not the comedy, not even fighting for his wife's care.  At times, the only thing that made him truly happy was the joy of his wonderfully successful, beautiful and strong children. They will forever be the cornerstone of his legacy. 

A sharp mind and a quick wit, Monty thirsted to know about everything that caught his attention.  His brain never stopped and he generated ideas like an engine generates heat.   He literally believed he could do anything.  Monty saw reality as a minor hindrance to achieving his dream, no matter how ridiculous or pointless that dream looked like to those around him.  He was a dreamer but mostly, Monty was a doer.  He had a grueling work ethic and applied every ounce of persistence to whatever he did from selling bean bag chairs to honing his comedy craft, Monty did everything full force, without apology and without hesitation.  He was a true hustler. He did whatever it took, even it meant doing it ass backward and at the last minute.  Then he quietly got up the next day, hugged the hell out of every bit of luck he had and did it again.  

Monty never had a lot, but he always had enough to share.  He was 420-24/7-365.   He loved watching hours of B-movies, writing screenplays, investigating time travel and eventually, he loved to stand in the spotlight on a dark stage to lay bare everything he feared and fought for just to get a laugh.  

Monty turned to comedy for relief from dark years struggling to accept his wife's tragic injuries after a car accident. .On stage, Monty could be The Outlaw, The Cosmic Cowboy for whom reality didn't exist.  A longtime volunteer for SXSW, the Moondance Festival, ACL and anything else he could talk his way into,  Monty made his stage wherever he went.  Austin Comedy embraced Monty and through that connection he found a new spring of energy.  Comedy saved Monty when he really needed it and knowing that his hope was so far-reaching and impactful to so many, helps to lessen the hard blow of losing him. We're not the same without him,  but he's still with us.  You'll find him floating on a cloud of smoke through the festival crowd, calling Where My Outlaws At?