The Heat is On
We'd barely gotten into May when the thermometer soared into the 90s. Now, at the end of June, we've seen almost no rain and the weather forecast shows nothing but high 90s and occasional 100 degree temps. It's too darn hot to be outside for any length of time, so I water plants as early in the morning as possible. Mostly we hibernate indoors, with ceiling fans twirling to keep the air moving. Our electric bill is ridiculous. I think I'll go to Canada for the month of August.
One would think a dip in the pool would be cooling, but the water can feel like lukewarm soup on some days. So, we tend to swim in the evening to avoid getting fried by the Texas sun. My son-in-law Reagan bought us a big sunshade that can be tilted to give maximum coverage over the water and collapses like a giant umbrella, so that helps, too. The kids seem unfazed by the heat and want to swim anyway, so we cover them with sunscreen and limit their time in the water.
Such is life in the Lone Star State. The payoff is that in about eight months of the year, the weather is very pleasant, with sunny days and cooler nights. We rarely see snow or ice and don't miss shoveling or scraping it. Even so, the Texas sun can be very direct and hot, even in the cooler months.
Update: I am pleased to announce that after a two-month-long hassle with delays, underestimates of wallpaper needed, disappearing contractors, a discontinued and now unavailable pattern, etc., our guest bathroom has been beautifully papered with a blue botanical pattern and nicely put back together with a new soap dispenser, hooks on the back of the door and shower curtain liner. Yay!
It's been six years since Peter died and this is the first time I've been able to write about him without tears. I still can't bring myself to watch the video from his funeral service. The sad fact is, I really didn't know my brother all that well.
Peter Paul was born when I was twelve, the fourth child in our Toledo, Ohio family (followed by David). Thrilled to have this pudgy blond baby to entertain. I would take him for walks in the stroller and play with him. When I went off to college, Pete was only six. Andy and I married, moved to Denver and had three babies of our own, so I saw him only once or twice a year.
Then Pete married Margaret Arnold, a Mississippi beauty from a big family. Soon red-haired Hunter and his sister Emma came along. By that time, we lived Pennsylvania and saw more of them, usually at the family cottage at Clear Lake, Indiana. Pete had grown up on the lake, becoming an expert water skier and sailor. He took over cottage upkeep as my parents aged, eventually buying it. He loved teaching his kids to swim, waterski and sail.
Pete was as straight an arrow as you could find. He didn't smoke, drink or have any bad habits. Playing basketball with friends kept him fit. Then one day, it all fell apart. Severe abdominal pain took him to the emergency room where doctors told him he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and would live for 3-5 months. Pete managed to survive for a year-and-a half, often in pain, so he could be there for his family. The end came when he was just 54 years old, leaving Margaret and his high school age children to mourn his loss. His ashes were scattered in the peaceful waters of Clear Lake, the place he loved best.
Hunter, the valedictorian of his high school class and a talented musician, became a Robertson Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will attend law school. Emma, also an academic star, will soon graduate from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in graphic arts. With Margaret's support, they have done remarkably well, although I know they feel their dad's absence each day.
Pete's death left a big hole in our family. It makes my heart hurt to know he will never see what exceptional young adults Hunter and Emma have become, and that Margaret is on her own. Although our age difference and distance made it difficult to maintain a close relationship, I will always miss him and grieve his loss.
Just Shoot Me
You may remember how excited I was about the new wallpaper for our guest bathroom. Joe, the wallpaper guy, showed up the first day to do a "skim coat" to cover the texture on the wall. The next day, he started hanging the paper, but calls me to the bathroom to say that the two double rolls he had estimated would not be enough to finish the job. I sigh and tell him I'll order another roll. Then things went south - bigly. I notice that the strips he had put up were full of bubbles and wrinkles. He promises that these can be easily fixed. Right.
When I attempt to order another roll, I'm told that the pattern has been discontinued, but the helpful lady tells me that she will call around and try to locate one, which she does. Yay! I text Joe to schedule a time to finish the job. Once again, he tells me it will be perfect. Right. Three times, he promises to come and three times, he doesn't show. A threatening text message is sent, and his office doesn't return my call. I think I'm going to throw up.
I contact another installer. A very rotund man in white overalls with a bad limp and long stringy hair comes to the door. He takes one look and tells me that one double roll will not be enough to replace the messed up strips and cover the remaining areas. I'm pretty sure I don't want to hire him for the next installment. I want to scream.
So I get back on the phone to the place that sent me the last double roll and she tells me that "A New Leaf" is on back order and will be available in a couple weeks. Then I get an email from her saying that the company has decided not to reprint A New Leaf at all. OMG, just shoot me. I make more phone calls and finally learn that this paper has disappeared off the face of the earth. My husband helpfully remarks that this seems to mean more to me than it does him, it's just wallpaper and why don't we just paint the bathroom (and "we" means hiring a painter).
I finally give up, identify a new pattern and order four double rolls. The bathroom has now been a complete mess for going on six weeks and we'll have to strip off the paper that's already been installed. The towels, rug, shower curtain and hanging cabinet are in the guestroom for the duration. Even my grandchildren comment on the mess each time they visit. I'll hire paperhanger #3 as soon as I know when the order will come in and pray to the wallpaper gods that it goes right this time. Stay tuned.
A Delicious Day Trip
On a lazy Friday afternoon, we ventured about 45 minutes east of Rowlett to visit Ham Orchards, near the small town of Terrell. My daughter Alison had raved about it, as they had recently been there to pick blackberries. Off we went down Rt. 205, which is mostly ranch and farmland, but is quickly being taken over by subdivisions of large, expensive houses. I always wonder where these people work, since it's quite a long way from Dallas or even business centers like Plano and Richardson. Livestock such as cattle, horses and sheep graze peacefully in the pastures punctuated by small farmhouses and a few tiny churches.
Terrell's main street, like many small Texas communities, was once thriving with two long-closed movie theaters and banks. You can tell the downtown is struggling to survive with its mix of small stores, pay day loan businesses, and a few Mexican restaurants. However, there seem to be lots of small businesses, such as auto body shops, surrounding the downtown area and a huge WalMart. A new brick building is going up on Main Street that will help draw business and residents to the area.
Soon we reach Ham Orchards, a building set almost uncomfortably close to the railroad track. There's a sign for barbeque and it's already past lunchtime, so we head there first. You go up to a window and order a sandwich such as pulled pork, brisket, sausage, etc. What caught my eye was the peach pulled pork. Andy ordered a side of potato salad to share and I went into a small building to fill up our beverage cups with ice water. A huge open shed covers seating around barrels or at long tables, with the peach orchards nearby. It's a hot day, but there's a little breeze in the shade.
After lunch, we headed for the retail shop. Bags of peaches, tomatoes and other produce filled the center of the store, along with baked goods such as pies, breads and breakfast pastry. Around the sides were shelves of every imaginable sort of jam, jelly or fruit butter, as well as corn relish, chow chow and pickles and more. After selecting some gorgeous tomatoes, a jar of peach jam and a bag of peaches, we headed for the checkout. I couldn't resist a small cone of peach ice cream, but stayed away from the fudge! Altogether a great way to spend an afternoon in the country.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.