Archive | February, 2011


18 Feb


laissez les bon temps rouler

17 Feb


Exciting things are happening at chez brightenthecorner.  One is that our adorable birthday-girl cousin, Shelby Rose, is coming to town next weekend to see us.  We last saw Shelby in the summer at Monteagle (see above) and we can hardly wait til she arrives.  She’s bringing her Mama, another birthday girl, with her.  Her daddy, Uncle Walker, is staying home and holding down the cold, wintry Washington DC fort while we celebrate all the birthdays.  My birthday is next weekend, and since I haven’t held a party for Anna yet, her birthday was 3ish months ago, we are going to have one big birthday celebration.

When your birthday is around Thanksgiving, it is hard to get anyone excited about cake, no matter how thankful they are for you.  All anyone can focus on is turkey and sweet potatoes and a cauliflower gratin, and your guests are distracted by the holiday, so it is far preferable to have your party in late February, when nothing else is going on, except sometimes Mardi Gras, but the world doesn’t stop for Fat Tuesday, except in New Orleans and we are not there.  (Besides, your mother was busy in November and December, and recovering from it all in January).  We are here in West Texas and we are having a birthday party.  And you can wear your Mardi Gras beads if you are so inclined.

Because if there’s one thing we love at brightenthecorner, it’s a good party.

B thankful

16 Feb

let’s do a thankful post.  I once did an A, and I am sure it started with Anna Abernethy, so we shall begin with B.

Boys.  I heart them.  Especially Wade and Henry.  I may as well include my occasional boy, Joseph.  He is here as often as his mom will let him be, which equates to the negative spaces when Wade isn’t at his house.  Did I tell you about the morning that Joseph called to see if Wade could come over and Henry overheard the phone call?  Henry jumped out of (my – where else?) bed and said “Yade and I are going to Joseph’s house.  I need to get dressed and put my shoes on!”  Joseph’s sweet mother (to four children) understood the little brother situation and offered to let Henry come play at their house for a little while.  The little while turned into hours and Henry loved every minute of being included with the big boys.  No one has told him yet that he is the baby, and that he can’t be included in everything they do.

I love their legos and their bikes and rollerblades and their enthusiasm.  The rambunctiousness of my youngest at the thoughtful nature of my eldest.  They are wonderful bookends with their exuberant sister in the middle.  I hope they will grow into good men.  I tell them all the time how real men act.  That they protect and care for the weaker among them.  That they must be honest and kind and helpful.  Wade seems to get it.  Henry not so much.  But there’s still time for him and he does have the greatest of role models.

14 Feb

A typical day


12 Feb

 “It’s an honest thing, and honest things they last.” (Rise, Josh Rouse)

“Honesty isn’t the best policy.  It’s the only policy.”

“The truth?  You can’t handle the truth.” (A Few Good Men)

So which is it?  Is honesty the best policy?  I distinctly remember times when I have thought that honesty was NOT the best policy.  When I believed that living a pleasant life without confronting ugly truths was best for everyone involved, or at least best for me.  If not best, then definitely safest.   If I wasn’t forced to confront something ugly, then I could maintain that it didn’t really exist.  I don’t think that I can subscribe to that theory anymore.  I think I want the truth. A primrose path of pleasantries is tempting, but it isn’t real, and failing to confront certain realities leads to twisted, artificial relationships that can’t withstand the curve balls that life inevitably throws.

Moreover, it’s disrespectful.  Lying by omission, half-truths, fabrications; they all acknowledge that someone is seeking certain information and you are deliberately withholding that information because technically what you said was true, or someone simply didn’t ask the right question.  Well, that’s not how I wish to live.  I want the truth.  I want it gently, if possible.  But sometimes subtlety is lost on me, and you may need to be a little less gentle to make sure that I am hearing the message.  But one thing is certain – if I ask you a question (or sometimes a series of questions), I want to know the truth so that I can plan accordingly.  To let me rely on something that is untrue or less than accurate when making important decisions is disrespectful and manipulative.

Of course I don’t mean “Do I look fat in this dress?” and “Do you like my hair?”  Those queries aren’t asking for the truth.  They are asking for compliments, and compliments are a must.  No love ever flourished when the answer to the first question is “yes” or the second is “no.”  (True friendship – not to be confused with romantic love or long, affectionate marriages – must sometimes answer with alternative suggestions).  But it isn’t nice to withhold honesty when people are trying to make decisions based on facts.  I love facts.  I work in a world of them.  I aspire to live in accordance with them.  I like for all of us to have the same information available to us so that we can have a discussion that means something real.  So that our accordance is meaningfully arrived-at. 

Sometimes I can’t handle the truth.  Often I dislike the effects of hearing the truth and wish I could go back to the blissful state that was ignorance.  Occasionally it takes me weeks to get over learning the truth.  In some instances, years.  But I have come to the conclusion that honest things have a better chance of lasting than dishonest things.  And I am looking for things that last.  So if any of you are among the few and the proud of whom I have queried and who have responded in truth, I appreciate your letting me know.  Even if the message wasn’t pleasing, artificiality in my real friendships is a thing of the past for me, and that is a truth I can handle.


2 Feb

I once read a line in a letter written by an elderly man describing his recently-deceased wife.  “Every day spent with her was a pleasure.”  When I saw that observation, I teared up.  Who would I have to be to have someone say something that lovely about me?  What would I have to do every day to be delightful to someone else?  Is it even possible?  And what amazing perspective on the widower’s part to say that?  It probably wasn’t entirely accurate. Surely they had their bad days like all married couples.  Had he never slept on the couch?  Had she never walked out the door and spent the afternoon running errands to avoid saying something she might regret?  (Presumably pre-cell phone, when you couldn’t keep the argument alive all the way to le Superwalmart and back.  The cell phone marks the end of that little marriage-saver, the cooling-off period.)  But somehow, the pleasure of her company and how much he missed it was what he found worth mentioning.

About Alice describes a marriage like that one.  I have been taking notes as I read it this third time because Calvin “Bud” Trillin describes her in a way that lets us know his wife, but also articulates the quality of his life with her.  He is great in his ability to sufficiently appreciate Alice.  He writes of a young woman who wrote to him about looking at her boyfriend and thinking “But will he love me like Calvin loves Alice?”  I fear that I suffer from the same doubt.   What would it be like to be so consistently adored over such a great number of years?  Would it get on my nerves?  Or could I just bask in being appreciated?  Certainly I have no reason to know.

She was so very pretty, but that wasn’t the first thing that struck me about her; it might have come as much as two or three seconds later.  My first impression was that she looked more alive than anyone I’d ever seen.  She seemed to glow.

But I never stopped trying to match that evening — not just trying to entertain her, but trying to impress her.

Alice wasn’t just beautiful.  She was also very, very wise.  After her cancer diagnosis and treatment, she wrote to a friend:

It’s the realization of our worst nightmares.  No one would ever choose to have cancer…But you don’t get to choose, and it is possible at least, to understand what Ernest Becker meant when he said something like “to live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything” or to begin to understand the line in King Lear — “Ripeness is all.”  You might have chosen to become ripe less dramatically or dangerously, but you can still savor ripeness.

I think I know exactly what she means.  I recently told some friends that I like divorced people the best.  They simply have some depth and sense of fragility that all you successfully-married friends don’t necessarily have.  But that’s as it relates to marriage and we have a shared experience.  All of you who have any loss in common probably prefer each other to the rest of us.  Still, I don’t know why second marriages have a higher failure rate than first marriages.  I would think that you would take each other for granted less and tell yourself not to sweat the small stuff?  Or do the multiply-married remember how happy they were in the interim and yearn for their independence again?  I have no idea.  I am asking you.

Can you see why girls like me and the young woman in New York worry about finding someone who will love us like Calvin loves Alice?  in what I thought was an impossible way?  I have now seen two people reference the quality I want.  Should it be so hard, really, to find someone who simply adores you?  Or should I just settle for respectful admiration with a dash of “thinks I’m cute”?