Small Town Texas, Volunteer Fire Departments, and Tears for “Buck” and “Lucky”

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I couldn’t hold back the tears as I read the names in the first reports of those who were missing or confirmed dead in the West disaster. I cried for Buck and Lucky and Morris and Perry because I know those guys. Like many others across the country, I spent the hours after the explosion glued to the TV and obsessively checking the internet and Facebook for bits of news. It struck especially close to home for me for several reason. First, West is a neighbor city. It is near where I grew up and now live and even closer to Waco where I lived for many years and where I still work. I know plenty of people who grew up in West and many who still live there. But there is more than that.
It started with my Daddy. We moved to Jonesboro, Texas in the summer of 1971. It was the summer between my 2nd and 3rd grade years. Moving to a farm was just about the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. I was just like a little puppy, following Daddy wherever he went and pretty much adoring him. Our move to the farm happened to coincide with a terrible drought in our part of Texas. Everything around us was burned up and dry. Our worst enemy was fire. One spark could take out hundreds of acres of land and could threaten homes and lives. Jonesboro was 15 miles from Gatesville and 15 miles from Hamilton, both of which were served by volunteer fire departments and Jonesboro was dependent on those departments when a fire broke out. I don’t remember the details because I was too young to care or comprehend, but I know Daddy was involved in organizing the Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department. I remember, one Sunday, a meeting was called immediately following church. Daddy, Dick Wallace, Kermit Miller, Harold Watson, Moody Courtney and others met and determined that it was time for our community to organize a fire department of our own. Over the next few months, through donations, an old truck was purchased from Fort Hood and made ready to fight grass fires. A cinderblock building was constructed to house the truck and other firefighting equipment. Daddy took on the role of fire chief. (Dick Wallace called Daddy “Chief” for the rest of his life.) The phone company set up a special “fire line”. You could dial one number and the phone would ring at various fire department members homes as well as at the school and at Mayhew Watson’s store. When that number was called, our phone rang a different ring than usual and we knew there was a fire. I always wanteded to go with Daddy and he usually let me. There I was, a skinny little cotton-headed girl and Daddy would find me a spot along the edge of the grass fire and give me a bucket of water and a wet towsack and instructions to beat out the low flames as they ate away at the dry grass. Afterward, we would return home, victorious against that enemy that threatened property and livelihoods – fire. As I grew up, the fire department became less important to me except as the place where my friends and I would go after a Friday night football game and sprinkle baby powder on the floor so our feet would glide over the concrete while we learned to two-step to country music played on a scratchy record player.
Many years later, I was at Daddy’s house while he was recovering from one of his last rounds of chemo and I heard a familiar sound…a large engine pulling up the incline that was our driveway. Looking out the front window, I saw the big red truck. It wasn’t the one I grew up climbing on. This was newer, shinier, more like a city truck. Moody Courtney’s son, David had become the fire chief by then. It was the weekend of the annual Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department bar-b-que. It was the fundraiser that kept the organization afloat from year to year. Daddy couldn’t go that year because the chemo made it dangerous for him to be around so many people. They had just purchased the new truck. David Courtney and the other young men who were leading the fire department had decided to honor Daddy by bringing the truck to see him, since he couldn’t go to the bar-b-que. He couldn’t have been prouder.
When Daddy died a few months later, we named the members of the Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department as pall bearers. I will never forget driving from the funeral home in Gatesville, 15 miles to Jonesboro then to the point where we turned off the highway onto the little dirt lane to the cemetery. There, on the highway, sat the big red truck, lights flashing. A little band of men and women in jeans and boots and Jonesboro VFD shirts and t-shirts. They weren’t wearing blue suits with brass buttons and fancy hats but there couldn’t have been a better honor for Daddy than what these volunteers brought. They came as they were and offered what they had because they cared, and it served us well. That is what our volunteer fire departments do.
No, I never met and I didn’t personally know Buck Uptmore or Lucky Harris or any of the others who lost their lives in West this week.. but I do know them. They are Earl (my daddy), and Dick and Harold Kermit and Moody and his son David and hundreds more like them who just know that their neighbors need help and they go when the fire phone rings.

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Baltimore

imageI went to visit my baby girl in Baltimore last week! What an experience to see your little all grown up and living in her own world. Mine was independent from day one so it shouldn’t surprise me that she chose to live across the country in a big city instead of sticking close to home in Texas. It also shouldn’t surprise me that she is so grown up and independent. But it does… every time I see her. There are always those moments when I catch a glimpse of this young lady and am amazed that time has gone by so fast. Then there are those moments when I am sad… that my little girl is grown and that I can’t get those times back; sad that she lives so far away and that I don’t get to see her often enough. But mostly, I see her and think how happy I am for her and how proud I am of her and how lucky I am to have a daughter like her!
I posted a picture collage so you can see a little of what my trip was like. We visited the National Aquarium where her boyfriend works. The jellyfish were my favorites. We went to a really cool art exhibit where garden clubs had created flower arrangements inspired by the works of art. We ate, we shopped, we spent a day in Annapolis and ate crabs. I bought a hat to protect my face from the sun (Dr. O’Neil’s orders). Mostly we were just together, but not for long enough!

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I’m Hot! (and not in the good way)

It started a couple of weeks ago. At first, I blamed the humidity. Then the weather cleared and I thought that maybe the new sheets were not all-cotton. Finally, my dear, sweet husband forced me to face the reality. “You are having hot flashes – it’s The Change.”,he said. He didn’t have to laugh when he said it. Then, even better, he tells me he recognizes the symptoms because his ex-wife went through the same thing! He may have learned about The Change from his ex, but he clearly missed the lesson on “Never compare your current wife to your ex. At least not out loud”.
Here is how this works: you wake up suddenly several times each night thinking someone has wrapped you tightly in an electric blanket! I went to Walmart and bought a little fan to put on my bedside table and pointed it directly at me. Did I mention that Shep is cold-natured? It probably has something to do with old age and poor circulation. (Sorry, I had to get even). The fan works great- while I am having a hot flash – but then I wake up freezing when it passes.
My best friend wasn’t much help, either. She has been dealing with this for awhile and I think that she is just glad that she doesn’t have to suffer alone. She even tried taking hormones but ended up ditching those and going back to toughing it out on her own.
So, I’ll end on that note. I have to go do some research on how to make it through this!

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Makeup Inspiration

Over the last few years, I’ve struggled with makeup. I can’t seem to find a foundation that gives enough coverage and still looks natural. Eye makeup techniques that worked for me at one time now make my eyes look too small. Neutral lipsticks and blushes look blah on me now. It is time for me to find some makeup inspiration! I love seeing tips on some of my favorite blogs,(like Kate at The Small Things Blog) but most of them are geared toward younger women. That is why I was excited to see a story on one of the morning news shows about a YouTube video featuring makeup tips for “mature” women. This video has had over 289,000 views since it was posted on March 1. Let’s hope its popularity inspires more like it!
Gotta go now & try out some new makeup!

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Beautiful Words

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My last post about how I’ve found that I take better care of things that I value reminded me of this quote. I found it just before we got married and I thought it was so true. I framed it and hung it in our bedroom.

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Sometimes, Better is Better.

Have you seen the commercials where the guy is sitting at a table of elementary-age kids and he asks them if two is better than one, or if fast is better than slow, and they give silly answers?  That commerciaI makes me think of my theory that sometimes, Better is Better.

This started with a pair of RayBan sunshades.  I have always bought cheap sunglasses, figuring that I am going to lose them or get them scratched up, so why invest in a nice pair?  Several years ago, I received a pair of RayBans as a gift. Guess what? I kept up with them. I put them in the case when I wasn’t wearing them so they didn’t get scratched. What’s more, I liked wearing them because they were good shades.

Then, after I turned 40 and my eyesight betrayed me, my daughter gave me a very nice pair of Kate Spade reading glasses. I use them at work and I always keep up with them.

My job (as an escrow officer at a title company) requires me to sign documents with customers every day. The other day, I was looking for a pen on my desk. I am always walking into another room with my pen and laying it down or handing it to someone and not getting it back. Then it dawned on me… if I had a nice pen, I would probably keep up with it. So, I ordered a pretty red Cross pen through Amazon.com. It came in yesterday and I haven’t lost it yet!

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Monday Money Minute

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Okay… Disclaimer: the title of this post may make it sound like I will always post something in the “finances” category on Mondays. While the thought of having such an organized schedule for posting on various topice really appeals to me, I have no idea if I can manage to be that systematic (but I will try!).
So, on to the topic of the day… If you struggle with budgeting and/or keeping up with bill due dates, I have a wonderful free resource for you! Mint.com offers a great system of keeping up with all things money related. The phone and iPad apps will keep your budget information at your fingertips at all times and will even send you a friendly reminder when a bill is due or when you (on occasion) exceed your budget in a particular area. You can set goals and watch your progress as you get close to achieving them.
If money management bores or intimidates you, Mint.com will give you all the tools you need to master your money (except for self-discipline).

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