Mrs. Pauley (Day 18)

Dear Diary

I’m ready for school to start. I miss my friends. I can’t even believe I said that. But I am. Since we moved to this new neighborhood away from my  BFF I’ve been bored to tears. I really did cry yesterday after my mom said I couldn’t spend the night with Jessica. Why do I have to stay home to take care of their kid? I deserve a life. I’m only twelve!!!! I should be biking to the ice cream shop with Jess instead of sitting in this stoop again while the little brat watches Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles and plays stupid video games. At least out here I can write without him bugging me. 

Dear Diary

Mrs. Pauley is the best thing about this street. She makes the best cookies ever. She’s the reason why I haven’t run away from home. Well, those cookies are. She offered me some cookies one day. I was all like stranger danger at first but all she wanted to do was talk. I can’t leave my stoop in case the brat breaks his leg pretending to be superman and jumps off of the top bunk again. I need to listen for his landing. Anyway, Mrs. Pauley comes over here every morning at 10:30 and leaves at 11:25. She has to get home in time for her stories which is some tv show that’s been around longer than I have. She’s tried to get me to watch with her but I reminded her of my invisible barrier. 

Dear Diary

I’m not sure how much of her stories to believe. She says she and Mr. Pauley have six sons. They all moved away from this place a long time ago. I understand why. I’ve never seen one of them. Who doesn’t come visit their parents every once in a while? They are always walking to the corner store together. They make a cute couple. Man, I wish Jason and I could be a cute couple. He’s definitely got the cute part down. But he’s 14 and thinks I’m a kid but I’m not. I’m officially a woman now. Which is kinda scary. What do I know about being a woman? But I can’t go up to him and say, hey Jason I’m a woman not some kid. Who does that?

Dear Diary

Last night I heard sirens and saw these lights on my wall. I looked outside and saw an ambulance. All I knew is it was parked outside their building. The next morning when Mrs. Pauley didn’t wave at me on my way to school I got scared. I thought something had happened to her. She’s always in the window in the morning and on the stoop when I get home. I run extra laps during PE so I don’t gain weight eating all those cookies she greets me with after school. But it wasn’t her. It was Mr. Pauley. Nosy Rosey told me after the second day of no Mrs. Pauley. Who names their kid Rosey? When Jason and I get married I’m naming our kids Katherine and David. Who can make fun of those names? Mr. Pauley died. Mrs. Pauley would not answer her door. I watched neighbor after neighbor go to her door with food or flowers but she never answered the door. Guess what? She really does have six sons. One of the other neighbors told my mom the bums didn’t show up for their dad’s funeral. I’ve never been to a funeral. Well let me tell ya just take the f-u-n out of that word. There was nothing fun about it. I cried for Mrs. Pauley. She looked so sad. 

Dear Diary

It’s been about a week but when I got off the bus yesterday there she was. Cookies in hand. Really on a plate but you know what I mean. I gave her a big hug when I saw her. She talked until dinner time that night. Mom let me stay out longer cause she knew Mrs. Pauley was probably lonely without Mr. Pauley. So she told me that she’s never worked before. She spent her years being a wife, mother and volunteer. Now that Mr. Pauley is gone what is she going to do? I hope he stuffed the mattress full of money or invested in Apple. Maybe her boys will come to her rescue like Jason did on Wednesday. Jess and I were walking down the hall when that stupid Roger bumped into me making me drop my homework folder. Ugh!!! Papers were flying everywhere. But I looked up and Jason was there with a handful. His hand touched mine and I wanted to scream, cry and kiss him all at the same time. Instead Jess said thank you cause apparently all I could do was look at him like a dork. What woman does that? I need to work on my surprise face in the mirror. I’ve been working in my, hi Jason but I guess practice doesn’t make perfect. 

Dear Diary

I’ve been crying all day. The dumb police came and took Mrs. Pauley away. She couldn’t pay her rent since Mr. Pauley died. I offered her my runaway fund but she said no. I can’t believe they threw her stuff on the curb and put her out. All she did was hold on to a picture and her cookie sheets as she watched that jerk of a landlord change the locks. It was so sad. I can’t believe she’s gone. She lived in that apartment since before the Internet. Her son’s ain’t loyal. She said she and Mr. Pauley invested in them hoping they would help take care of them when they were older. Now she’s living with her sister in another state. Mrs. Pauley sent me a letter and a care package, she refuses to text me. Guess what? She sent my favorite cookies. 

*****The neighborhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years. Write it in the first person.*****

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Fears (Day 17)

Spiders, snakes, being old(er) and alone and living a life without purpose. Those are my top four fears. I have other things that make me fearful but I don’t want to go on and on about things like Stephen King’s books and movies. Have you ever read Tommy Knockers? Shudder, that was my last scary book. Then there is that red rum scene in the Shining that make me want to hide in my closet. 

Last year my ex took me back to court to change custody. Some days I was very afraid. The financial impact and the possibility of him winning the case caused me anxiety for many months. 

I refuse to live the rest of my life in fear. I had plenty of fears growing up. I feared too many things and people. I was concerned about what people would say to me, if the mean girls were going to threaten to beat me up, were they going to make fun of my clothes today? Those are big deals to middle school girls. 

When thoughts come to my mind or I’m having too many negative conversations with myself I repeat two of my favorite quotes. “Only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt and “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7. 

Lost and Found

There is nothing like digging through other peoples’ property. In case you had not noticed we all have our own distinct smell. Image a small space cramped full of coats, shoes, socks, shirts, shorts, lunch bags, and even some underwear. Yes, you read that right…underwear. Ugh!!! The smells emanating from all of that stuff makes my stomach turn. Yet, at least once a month I find myself in this room looking for a jacket, lunchbox or book. It’s not my stuff. Nope. It belongs to my third born. The one I lovingly refer to as Little Dude. 

He’s absent minded or completely distracted. Last year he lost three jackets, two lunch boxes and a couple of books. I recently learned he lost about $40-50 on a field trip. He took the money just in case he wanted to buy something nice. We were at a fast food restaurant not long ago and he left his wallet near the condiments. I walked up behind him and picked it up. 

What do I do? I get frustrated. I talk to him about being responsible. I try to get him to develop a routine. It hasn’t worked yet. Do kids grow out of losing stuff? In the mean time I continue to enter the lost and found to dig through all that stuff to locate his missing items. He has a jacket missing right now. Off to the little cramped room we go to search through the piles of odorous things in search of Little Dude’s jacket. 

The State Fair of Texas

Is it possible for one place, that hosts a lot of visitors and vendors to have the same smell year after year? I’ve been going to the fair all of my life. It’s what we do. Schools use to close their doors for Fair Day. Now they call it teacher in service or Columbus Day. Anyway, I love, love, love the fair.

I remember candy apples and Belgium waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Oh and the cotton candy! You can’t forget that big, fluffy ball of sugar wrapped around a paper cone. Mmmmmm…. And what is the fair without Fletcher’s corny dogs. Yes I said corny dog. Some of you may know them as corn dogs or deep-fried, breaded, wieners on a stick. Good golly miss Molly. Have you ever had a smoked turkey leg? You haven’t lived until you’ve had one. Pair that leg with some corn on the cob that’s been soaking in butter for hours and you have yourself a meal for a king or queen.

There are lots of rides and side shows. My favorites are the car shows, the farm animals and the homemade items that have won in their categories and have a blue ribbon next to them.

When I was younger I went with my mother, brothers and cousins. As I got older I went with friends from school. I even road the bus sometimes. It was not a short ride. As I said before, we were free range children. Now, I go with my children. I have passed on my love of the fair to them.

Unfortunately last year was the end of this wonderful tradition. According to their website the Stare Fair of Texas is closing its doors. After the iconic Big Tex burned in a fire, the fair wasn’t the same. He had stood at his post welcoming people from all over to the State Fair of Texas. But with him gone, the numbers of visitors dropped and they decided to close their doors. I guess my dreams of taking my grandchildren has gone up in flames with him. Visiting amusement parks isn’t the same. There was something about the fair that pulled us into a familiar place that almost felt like home.

Click on the following link to see the video of Big Tex In Flames

Birthday Surprise

“I would like to give her a swanky, surprise party for her birthday. What do you think?”

“I’m not planning on being married to her by then. I’m tired of the disrespect and the constant arguing. I love her but…never mind.”

“She loves you. What if all the arguing is coming from the person inside of her saying, pick me! Maybe she wants to become your top priority. You’ve consistently pushed her aside and put everything and everybody else in front of her. Pick her.”

“I don’t understand. What do mean? I married her and we have built a life together. What else is there?”

“There is so much more. For once think about her first before you make a decision. Take her away on a vacation. She’s exhausted. She wants time alone with you. Have you ever given her your undivided attention outside of the bedroom?”

“What about me? What about my needs?”

“If you consistently meet hers she will begin to meet yours.”

“I don’t know.”

“All I need from you is a date. I’ll do the rest.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Hillside

Where did I live when I was 12? Hillside baby!!! You know it!

I still smile when I think of my childhood home. It was truly the best of times and the worst of times.

Hillside Terrace was an apartment complex in the heart of Dallas. You see, Dallas is broken up into north, south, east, west, and some other places like Oak Cliff and Arlington Park which are really just Dallas but it makes them feel special and set a part to have those names. I lived, grew up and experienced life in the heart of Dallas. It’s currently known as the medical district.

Hillside. This was the place where the term, “move you lose it’s the Hillside rules” was birthed. It was neighbors. It was friends. It was summers swimming in the pools. It was walking to school together. I rode the bus all over Dallas. My brothers and I were “free range” kids. It was family. I mean the literally and figuratively. Various cousins lived there throughout the years. Friends became so close we felt like relatives.

This was the place where my brothers learned to break dance on the top of the table they broke while fighting. This was the place where my cousin fell off of a balcony. Talk about a miracle. This was where I had my first real fight. His name was Pookie. I held my own. This was also the place of my first kiss. He leaned in and barely brushed my lips then ran like he was trying to win an Olympic medal. I’ll keep his name to myself.

I can’t limit my memories to the age of 12. They all swirl around in my head. We lived there for about ten years. In the end it went from a glorious place to roam and feel free to a place I feared. The drug trade pushed us out or propelled us on depending on how you view things.

Hillside was some of the best times of my life.

Pineapple Cake

As soon as I walked through the door the smell penetrated my soul. If goodness and mercy could take on a tangible form this was definitely one of the ways. My great grandmother knew how to make three generations rejoice. She made pineapple cake. 

Don’t confuse this with pineapple upside down cake. No, not at all. This was love baked, stacked and iced. 

What made this cake different? Oh my. How do I describe the light, fluffy, moist yellow cake? I see her standing over the stove stirring the sugary concoction. This wasn’t the typical buttercream frosting. This wasn’t a cream cheese or brown butter frosting either. 

It lured us in and brought us together in the kitchen staring and waiting. We had to wait until it cooled. The toothpicks where stuck in random places to keep the top layer from sliding off. As it cooked the icing began to solidify around the crushed pineapples. Now that I’m a baker I know she cooked the frosting to the point right before it hit the candy stage. 

When the cake was cooled she began to slice the cake and serve us. There always seemed to be enough. Not one person was left out of the experience. 

When she was layed to rest so was the pineapple cake. We’ve never been able to recreate the goodness and mercy in the form of a cake like Momma Lillie did. I came the closest years ago. I was entertaining family at my house. With awe and reverence we sat around my dining room table and as I lifted the lid on the cake plate we all looked, smelled and remembered. Most of all we experienced her love one bite at a time.