Saturday, December 17, 2011

And so happy Christmas,

I hope you have fun,
The near and the dear ones,
The old and the young.   
                      - John Lennon

In this last post of 2011, I just want to wish everyone an absolutely beautiful holiday season and a Merry Christmas. While this is such a busy time of year for most of us, it is also such a wonderful time. So many people are doing kind and generous things for others ... you can just feel the energy of goodwill swilling about us like snowflakes. If only we could remember to spread that goodwill all year round.
Every holiday season I donate a certain percentage of my earnings from sales of my handmade wares to a different charity, organization or individual in need. I like to find the little known causes that may not be getting lots of attention. This year I've chosen Amber's Angels and I just wanted to share her story.

Amberlyn Fett was a young woman of 22 who passed away last month after a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. But before she died she established Amber's Angels, an organization which delivers Christmas gifts to children in hospitals. The article below describes it best, copied from the Dripping Springs Babble. If you haven't yet found a charity that truly speaks to you this holiday season, please consider Amber's Angels and join me to insure that her dream lives on. I'm sure that even $20 is so very helpful when buying Christmas gifts for sick children.
Although I didn't know Amberlyn ... and how I wish I'd had the honor of meeting her ... she was a local girl who lived just down the road from me in the little town of Dripping Springs. I believe that sometimes people find ways to reach us and touch our hearts after they've passed. We're listening, Amberlyn, and we hear your generous and pure heart beat on.

Dripping Springs recently lost an angel when Amberlyn Michelle Fett passed away at the age of 22 on November 18, 2011 due to complications from a double lung transplant and cystic fibrosis. Many of you knew of Amberlyn thanks to the non-profit charity she founded, Amber's Angels. Her lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis meant most Christmases spent in the hospital. During one Christmas, she noticed that many of the children in the the pediatric units did not have family with them or any gifts to open. She was particularly concerned with a 5-year old girl who never had any visitors and did not receive any presents during the holiday season. From her hospital bed that Christmas, Amberlyn was inspired to form Amber's Angels, a charitable group created to deliver gift bags to the patients of Dell Children's Hospital. Last Christmas (2010), was the very first time that Amberlyn herself was able to attend the passing out of gift bags to the children at the hospital.

While her time on earth was so short and filled with struggles few of us can comprehend, she never lost her spirit, and what she did to help others in her too-brief lifetime should be an inspiration to all of us. For those who want to help keep Amberlyn's spirit alive to bring a brighter Christmas for many hospital-bound children, memorial contributions may be made to Amber's Angels, a 501(c)(3) organization), at Contributions can also be made to the bereavement fund for her family via Fett Family Fund c/o Cattleman's National Bank, Account #3136760, PO Box 1243, Dripping Springs, TX 78620. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Colorful Life

As I look around my house I realize it has evolved  
to reflect my colorful life.

And by that I don't necessarily mean the ruby reds, emerald greens, and sapphire blues ...

... but a multi-faceted life that is rich and saturated 
in creativity and imagination,

... of collections and treasures that express my love for young and old,

... of a life rooted in tradition and gathering family,

... lived happily under the roof of a place of comfort, retreat and rest. 

A colorful life which I cherish everyday.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oh baby, you knooooooow what ah like!

Having just returned from my 40 year high school reunion... Piedmont High School, Class of '71 .... I have just one thing to say about that:

Oh baby, that's what ah like!

Never before have I been amongst a more beautiful crowd. From the beaming faces to the open arms and hearts, this was a Love Fest to beat all Love Fests. I am bowing and hailing the incredible organizing committee for bringing us all together for this amazing reunion. Thank you a hundred times over .... Hank, Gail, Sherri, Carl, and Garrett.

PHS Class of 1971

This was a night when the high school cliques and groups dissolved and became one big happy circle. Hugs were served up all around whether you knew each other well in school or not. (Hugs of the wine-sloshing, rib-crushing variety as I predicted in my last post ... was I right? Hmmm?) I think this was the hugging-est event I've ever been to. A T-Bird Woodstock. A feast of warm fuzzies. A perfect Piedmont par-tay.
Kim, Mark, Debi & Gary
Glasses were raised as toasts were made, arms were punched, lipsticked kisses were planted on cheeks, asses were grabbed, stories of delinquent days were swapped, photos of kids and grand kids were pulled from wallets, and beer was swilled once again (but this time not in cars at Senior Circle). Someone said the funniest thing as he raised his glass to a group of us chatting together (was it Kim Gimbal?) ... he said, "My God, I think this is the first time I've had a drink with all of you legally!" Hilariously true! 
Kim Gimbal with his chickie babies; Debbie, Sherri, Debbie and Moi
Carole, Katie, Debi, & Debbie

Sue, Tracy, Ann and me

The room roared with shouts of recognition, lively conversation and laughter and needless to say, pretty soon everyone began to feel real loose like a long necked goose. And oh baby ... that's what ah like!

Classmates Tracy & Kent; too cute not to post!
Me with the man of the hour, Hank; reunion organizer and T-Bird drummer extraordinaire
John, Garret (Zook), Kim & Scott
Coleen, Cheri, Shelly, Belinda, Noel, Sherri & Gail

Oh yeah, and I think there might have been just a little bit of music .... and perhaps some dancing going on.

The teenage girls of the Class of  '71

Our class is so lucky to have our beloved T-Birds, the most awesome group of teenage boys who formed a Sha Na Na inspired band back in the day, and who have continued to perform over the years, most memorably at every high school reunion we've had.

Dan, Hank, Christoph, Kim (hidden on drums), Kent & Scott
Scott Bowhay; pure joy
We possessively call them "our own band" and brag that no other high school class has this. Last Saturday night our T-Birds give us all a priceless gift ... one night to kick off our 58- year old's clunky shoes with orthotic inserts, step into our teenager be-boppin' shoes, and return to our youth. Time fell away and we were kids again. No hair color in a bottle, no face lift, no red Ferrari, no nuthin' could make us feel that young again. Only a night with our boys, the T-Birds. Thank you, guys! Why must I be a teenager in love with all of you?

Forty years ago we were unaware of what lay ahead of us. Now we have those answers and our blank pages have been written and filled with our own unique stories of the paths we chose. I love that we came together to share them. Who would have ever thought that after all this time, we would reach across the years and celebrate our teenage years together in our lovely home town of Piedmont in 2011? This reconnection brought our scattered worlds together, if only for one night. 

Carl & Scott
But we've lost eight classmates ... gone much too soon, so many blank pages which should have described their extended lives, left unwritten. These classmates were beautifully honored and remembered through a moving video and song, thanks to Hank, Christoph and Kim. I choose to believe these eight classmates were with us on this wonderful night, reminding us that we are so blessed and privileged to be continuing on and that every day is to be cherished.

As the night drew to a close, Katie Wood Cole said it best. The T-Birds were playing their final song and she tearfully hugged old friends on the dance floor saying, "I don't want it to end."

It doesn't have to.

Call me a sappy sentimentalist but I think we were given something that night that we will always carry with us. Nothing can take it away. And besides, rumors of a 5-year reunion are already buzzing, people. And talk of a dinner gathering next year! Why wait til we're 68??? And then there is Facebook, which thankfully keeps many of us connected on a daily basis.
The boys in the band in Debi Bartlett Anderson's high school mustang.
Love you all. Virtual hugs, ass grabs, and lipsticked kisses all around. 
Oh baby, that's what ah like!


P.S. Many thanks to Lorraine Moreira for most of the fabulous photos I used here, and to Tracy Mikkelson and Coleen Casey Manuel's husband for a couple more. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Evolution of a Snotty Teenager

"You haven't changed a bit!"
"And YOU look exactly the same!"
"And YOU haven't aged a day!"
"I would have known you anywhere!"

We'll  lie and lie and lie.
At our 40 year high school reunion next month.
But really, we'll only be half lying. Because in many ways, behind the extra girth, snow on the rooftop and double chins, we are still the same. This is what I discover at every reunion I attend. And I have to confess, I'm a reunion addict. I go to all of them, high school or college, I recruit/beg friends to go, and  when I worked for the University of Pacific many (many!) years ago, one of the hats I wore was that of official class reunion organizer. I helped bring together a range of alums, young and old ... from the 32-year olds for their 10 year reunions to the 72-year olds who were being indoctrinated into the Half Century Club. It was so, so rewarding to see these classmates come together again. So I guess it's in my blood.

I love reunions because I feel like the buddies we had way back then are some of the most important friends we'll have in our lives. They knew us when we were shaping, growing, and trying to figure who the hell we wanted to be. Unlike friendships we've forged since then, our high school friends knew us at our core, before we signed up for all the grown-up stuff. When I reunite with friends from my youth, especially if it's been decades since I've seen them, the years simply fall away as I bring them back into the folds of my life. That reconnection is a gift.
Reunions mean time travel. For one weekend we can squeeze back into our 18-year old skins and look into the young faces of old friends who knew us when life was less complicated. We'll catch ourselves being hilariously and shamefully immature once again. We'll forgive and forget, even bury the hatchet if there is a hatchet to be buried.

We'll come together on that old familiar ground where we rolled up our skirts, sneaked our cigs, and drove those narrow, winding streets of our small town like Formula One drivers. This is the place where we sat in cars at lunchtime and belted out "One Less Bell To Answer" with the radio (sorry, guys) and where we ... oh, I dunno, we might have done stuff like ditch history class by jumping out the ground floor window when the teacher turned to write on the blackboard.* This is the place where our hearts were broken and mended, where we yearned to be accepted, and where we eventually parted ways after graduation to venture out into an unknown world, solo, without each other.

But much as we may often wish for our youth again, growing up is the gratifying part of life. Really. Because let's face it ... in high school we were sometimes snarky and shallow, snotty and clique-y. I know there were times I was mean to certain people, and I know I was especially sullen and snotty to my parents. For which I'm truly sorry.
At a reunion though, we proudly show each other that we really did grow up, that we now actually have grown-up qualities like responsibility, compassion, and kind, generous and grateful hearts ... everything we always had deep within us anyway, even then. We now recognize the once unthinkable; that we've evolved from snotty teenagers to adults with wiry, grey hair, cholesterol issues, and (heaven forbid) common sense. We quit smoking, let our skirts down, and subscribe to NetFlix so we can stay home on Friday nights. We've become the very parents we said we'd never become, with the very kids we once were. Yep, I love that we knew each other at our core back then, but what I love more is seeing who we've now become. Kinder, deeper, less judgmental, more tolerant and open-hearted.

I'm SO excited about The Big 40th. This is an important reunion (as high school reunion statistics indicate) because it's usually the one with the greatest attendance. And that's because:

a.) 40 years is a loooooong time and people are finally revved up to see each other again, and ....

b.) while we don't look "exactly the same" at age 58, everyone still looks pretty good, and ...

c.) everyone knows that it will probably be the last reunion, because in another 10 years you look pretty much like crap and nobody wants to go to a reunion.

These are just the facts, people.
Not gonna lie.

And so, Piedmont High School, Class of 1971 .... if any of you are reading this, I'm recruiting/begging once again. If you haven't already registered for our 40th reunion, please do. In just three weeks we'll hear the squeals of recognition and the nicknames shouted out, followed by wine-sloshing, rib-crushing hugs.

And then the lies.


* Let the record show that this was not just one student who would slip out that window ... there were times when the teacher would turn around to continue the lecture and one third of the class would be gone! To the late Doc Benson, please forgive us ... we were just a bunch of snotty teenagers.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane of Prayer.

I'm supposed to be sitting in a theater in NYC's Lincoln Center tonight, enjoying the Tony winning play, War Horse, with my daughter and sister. And we made reservations for brunch tomorrow morning at the celebrated restaurant Balthazar in Soho. We planned such a wonderful trip.

But needless to say, we cancelled that trip on Thursday night as the reports of Hurricane Irene grew more  concerning by the minute. And while we are very disappointed to miss our long planned trip to New York, this can't compare to the fear and suffering the East Coast people are going through now.

But tonight my daughter is in New York City because she recently moved there. As I write this she is hunkered down in an apartment with friends in Chelsea, only four blocks from the Hudson River. As her mother, I am beyond worried. But I must trust that she will be safe. I must have faith.

I'm sending up a request to all of you for positive thoughts and prayers, not only for my daughter ...  but for all of those in harm's way with this horrific storm. Collective positive energy can swirl, gather strength and become a powerful force, much like a hurricane.

Thank you and blessings to all.

Sunday morning update: The kid is safe! Thank heavens Irene lost steam and THANK YOU ALL for your prayers!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Pet Peeves

 Last week we made the difficult decision of putting down our beautiful 13 year old Lab, Angel. Until I find the right time and words to write a commemorative post about her, I am re-posting one I wrote for another blog quite some time ago. This may say it best.

(This blog post was originally published on January 1, 2010.)

I was kind of in the mood to gripe about a few of my pet peeves, like:

wrestling with tangled clothes hangers,

or, people who say "her and I" (as in, "Her and I ditch English class often.")

or, rude and sullen service people who mutter (without even glancing up from their task at hand) things like "what's up" when you go to pick up your passport photo at Walgreen's. And I don't mean a friendly, cheerful "hey, wassup!" ... I mean a "what-the-hell-do-you-want-lady, you're-bothering-me" what's up.

Or, sheesh, they can send a man to the moon but nobody can figure out how to make a garden hose that doesn't kink,

or, clueless grocery shoppers who abandon their carts in the middle of the aisle as they wander off to contemplate nutrition labels,

or, the fact that we are always knee-deep in dog hair at our house, despite endless vacuuming.

But that last pet peeve got me to thinking about the pet that causes that peeve and then I started feeling less bitchy and more, well ... all mushy inside. The source of all that dog hair is Angel, our 12 year old yellow Lab. Baby Girl, Mike calls her. But our Baby Girl is getting on in years. And, oh dear ... that makes you think. And now I don't so much feel like bitching about petty stuff anymore.
Angel came to us as a 9 week old pup in 1998. Elizabeth was 10 and we had promised her a puppy when we moved to Austin; she in turn promised us she would be responsible for taking care of this dog. Parents 'round the world? Does this ever happen? (raspberry sound here) Elizabeth named Angel after her favorite food at the time, angel HAIR pasta, and after a couple of shedding seasons it became clear that Elizabeth's name choice was a little joke from the universe. Shouldn't we have taken the "hair" part of that name inspiration and called her Harriet? Especially since Angel seemed a poor choice for the naughty youngster she was. But as she got older, it was evident Angel was a perfect name as she became our gentle, patient, devoted companion and protector.

She's not been an especially healthy or low maintenance dog however, and she has cost us a small fortune in vet bills, especially in contrast to our miniature dachshund, Rosemary, who's never had a sick day in her life (and who sometimes uses Angel's ass for a pillow; above). Angel takes the prize for ear infections, chronic skin allergies, compulsive licking, paw chewing, and scratching. She often wears toddler's socks (pictured above) to keep her from gnawing paws raw. She's been on an expensive allergy medication for several years now ($50 a month) and does an occasional course of steroids for bad flare ups. As you can see, she's never particularly happy about all this. In September she tore her acl and had surgery, a big deal for an older dog because the recovery process (below) is intense. Again, not happy. She's hobbling a bit but doing pretty well now! For an old Baby Girl.
But the shedding. Ack! I find blond dog hair in my morning coffee and on my pillow at night. I even found one in the microwave the other day. My slippers, which are not the furry, fluffy kind, are furry and fluffy. And our clothes ... well, suffice it to say we have a lifetime supply of lint rollers which are strategically stationed throughout the house.

Angel is a year-round shedder, even shedding great gobs in winter when other dogs are smartly building up and hanging onto their winter coats. You can see the hair falling off blizzard-like when she strolls by. I could stuff a sofa with the hair I collect after I brush her on the back porch. I often throw fistfuls of it into the yard and come spring, the birds snatch bits of it to line their nests. In the fall we find these empty nests in the naked branches of trees and we tell Angel that she has made a loving contribution to the comfort and protection of tender fledglings, who will soon be the parents of more fledglings come next spring. And on and on.

I often complain that I wish I had back all of the hours I've spent on extra vacuuming over the years since we've had Angel. I don't really. She has been worth every minute of it, worth every penny spent at the vet, every moment devoted to her convalescing, every chewed up Bally shoe and every Barbie ensemble ingested as a puppy. The best part is that we can say this now, while she is still with us. We can nuzzle her neck and tell her how important she is to us. She has been our mentor, showing us how to love. Showing us how it's done.

There is such an abundance of Angel hair blowing about our yard that long after she is gone someday, the birds will still be lining their nests with Angel hair every spring. When we find those abandoned nests in fall, our hearts will swell and we will tell Angel again: you always did and always will make a loving contribution to the comfort and protection of tender lives.

That's what Angels do.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Big Gift

It's my birthday and I'm giving myself a present! But more important, I'd like to give the Progeria kids a present.

Please scroll down and check out my last blog post about Progeria, the rare and cruel disease that causes children to age rapidly. These children march bravely through the few years they have to live. Birthdays are limited.

So here's the plan for presents. On the selfish side, I'm trying to bring new followers and comments to my blog. (But this is all part of a grander plan down the road which actually has non-selfish motives!) So to encourage participation I am going to donate $5 to the Progeria Research Foundation for every new follower and $2 for every comment left on my blog from today until the end of August. I will have a cap on the amount I can donate (just in case I get flooded with responses, which is my hope!) but it will be a pretty high cap ... maybe somewhere between $300 - $500. Haven't decided yet.

So please sign on as a follower .... it's a win/win!

Two ways to do it:

You can either click on the blue "join this site" button to your right and use your google account to follow or, if you don't already have a google account the blue button should direct you to register for one ... which you never have to use afterwards if you don't want to.

Or, you can sign up as a follower through the Networked Blogs button.

And if you share this on Facebook or tweet it, that would be awesome. Then it just might spread like wildfire! Those buttons are also to your right.

I love presents! Thank you!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

She just lives.

 Last week I turned on the TV and landed on a Barbara Walters show about the rare disease Progeria, which causes early aging in children. The show featured three little girls with Progeria; Lindsay, Kaylee and Hayley.

These children suffer from countless afflictions and rarely live past their early teens. They have no hair on their bodies, are very pale and fragile, have larger heads, bulging eyes and beaked noses. In other words, unlike most of us, these children have been dealt a very, very difficult hand. Not only do they suffer from this cruel disease and it's difficult treatment, but they look extremely different from the average child, which makes them subject to stares and cruel words from those who don't understand.

During this show, the mom of one of these little girls (and I think it was Lindsay's mom but I'm sorry that I'm not absolutely certain) said something that just hit me in the heart with a big thud. She was talking about how her daughter is such an inspiration and mentor to her, because despite all the pain, difficulty and adversity in her life, Lindsay looks beyond that and ... "she just lives."

Just those three little words. She just lives.

She doesn't care how she looks. She doesn't care what people say.  She giggles her way through her day. She adores her devoted family and friends. She's grateful for her time on this planet.  She just lives.

Say no more.

Lindsay and Kaylee, in Boston September 2009 for their
final visit in the first clinical trial (for which they received
trophies!) and their 1st visit for the new, triple drug trial.
For more information about Progeria or to donate to the Progeria Research Foundation, please click here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Who I Am

painting by L. Diane Johnson

Last week I noticed an elderly woman in a restaurant in Carmel, California where I was lunching with my Mom. She was dining alone and seemed to be having the most enjoyable, leisurely time of it. She wore khaki capris, a plain white shirt and a straw garden hat with a silver ponytail trailing out from under it. Her lined face was beautiful ... she reminded me a bit of the late Jessica Tandy, actually. I commented to my Mom, "Now there's a typical Carmel lady." Artsy, beachy, unpretentious, maybe on the wealthy side (I mean really, it's Carmel).

My mom and I enjoyed on own leisurely and scrumptious lunch ... big wedges of the most divine deep-dish veggie quiche and gorgeous fruit. (Okay, and coconut cream pie and a latte.) As I watched this Carmel lady, the writer in me immediately launched into conjuring up the details of her life.

She was an artist, of course. (Because it is Carmel, the city of galleries.) She's just taken a break from a gratifying morning of painting in her glorious garden. She's a regular here at this restaurant, dropping in often for lunch or a croissant and cappuccino. There is warmth in her eyes as she smiles at the waitress who brings her salad. She is friendly and welcoming.

Yet she is a loner in many ways. She loves her solitude and her creative time. It feeds and nourishes her soul. She has learned that using her gifts and talents and sharing them with the world is the most powerful connection to God. She is at a point in her life where she doesn't care what other people think. She's over it. She imperfect and worthy and grateful for every blessing that has come into her path. She is overwhelmingly content with her art, her house full of books and memories, her daily stroll on the beach, and her devoted family and friends.

Yes, as I painted the picture of her life I painted my own. This is who I hope to be in my 70s and 80s; I want the Carmel lady's life. Funny thing is, I feel like I'm well on my way. Over the years I've managed to wiggle myself from a place of self-doubt into a place of celebrating being an imperfect person living in an imperfect world and feeling utterly worthy of every day I get to stand on the right side of the grass. And I've recently had a return to painting and writing, two passions I've put aside for years. I've learned you can't turn away from these things .... they will come back after you because they are part of who you are at your core. Writer Mary Jo Putney says, "What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever." Words that ring so true. And so ........

This is who I was.
This is who I am .
This is who I will be.

(You never know how much you might inspire somebody, just by sitting there eating a salad. Thank you, beautiful Carmel lady.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

No journey is too great .....

I'm off to California to visit my Mom, who turned 89 yesterday. She is in surprisingly great health, has so much energy, and has a far better memory than I do! I plan to have a fun few days celebrating her birthday and catching up. (And it's 45 degrees cooler there than here in good ol' hot Austin, Texas ... a refreshing change!)
But before I go, I want to leave you with this wonderful sentiment on a thank-you card my beautiful friend and neighbor Jane, gave me ... just for bringing her some peach cobbler! When I read this, a tremendous feeling of wonder and gratitude washed over me, because I realized I DO find whatever I seek. I have hoped for people like Jane in my life and here she is. Another of my favorite people in the whole wide world, Katherine (who also happens to be my cousin's wife) found her way back into my life by moving into a house right across the road from me, all the way from New Zealand. I live out in the country which is what I've always wanted. I have a wonderful, creative life, and three sweet dogs who follow me around adoringly. I have a terrific husband and a daughter who is truly a dream come true.

This is the life I have sought and this is the life I have. Yep, sometimes the journey is rocky but it is worth everything when you find what you seek. Thank you, Jane.

A card with a dachshund even!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Funny how just when you think you're all grown up, you put on a big growth spurt. At age 57.

Last weekend I went to Brooklyn to visit my daughter who moved there a month ago. Her move was a big leap, not just for her ... but for me. You see, she's my only child and not only was it so hard to see her go, but ... well, it was difficult to know that she was moving to an uber-urban place like Brooklyn and commuting by subway to her job in NYC. This is a far cry from our laid-back, Southern lifestyle in Austin, Texas. In Brooklyn there is massive graffiti, guys hanging out on stoops, dark and grimy subway stations and, you know ... stuff for a mother to worry about.

But over the course of my three days there, my daughter introduces me to her new Brooklyn neighborhood and beyond. We walk the streets to her favorite coffee house, little diners and restaurants for brunch or pizza, and even to the Flea Market on the East River where we buy her a nice big chest for her apartment. We have a lovely time. Nevertheless, it has been a very long time since I've lived in the Bay Area and navigated the streets of Oakland and I wasn't used to this starkly urban life. I am apprehensive.

We also spend a lot of time in Manhattan during my visit, and I follow my daughter through a maze of tunnels in those dark and grimy subway stations. My preferred way of NYC transportation ("Taxi!") gives way to countless subway trains as she tries to teach me how to do this alone upon my next visit. We take the subway everywhere... to Soho, to Macy's at Harold Square, to Fifth Ave. and 53rd St. where she works ... and all sorts of points in between.

Lots and lots of walking too, which I always enjoy while in Manhattan but this time my feet are killing me. (I think this is called aging. Or quite possibly, as my husband suggests, being out of shape.) As we weave our way through the packed sidewalks of Soho, I'm often cut off by the crowd and get separated from my daughter. She turns, spots me and waits until I can catch up, something like a mother duck and her duckling. She asks about my aching feet and we stop into a drugstore and buy shoe inserts, which helps for awhile.   

On Sunday, as we sit on a bench in Central Park eating our deli sandwiches, it occurs to me that she teaches me now. She teaches me how to ride the subway, how to see that graffiti can be art, how to recognize that those people on their stoops are most likely not thugs, but people enjoying the day. She teaches me how to navigate the city and guides me through her world. Most of all, she teaches me to trust that she will be fine.

She has taken me to the very spot in Central Park where she comes to eat her lunch everyday. It's a beautiful sparkling day. We watch nicely dressed families strolling by after church and the balloon man twisting up crazy shapes for children who beg their parents to buy one. We see the pierced and tattooed lovers whispering on a bench across the path, the numerous pregnant women walking by on the arms of husbands, and nannies rocking napping babies in strollers. I am flooded with memories of my years with this beautiful 24 year old daughter beside me .. as a baby, as a toddler, as a little girl whose hand fit in mine like a tiny sparrow as we walked the tree-lined streets to kindergarten.

I am glad to know this little piece of her day on a Central Park bench, glad to take that perspective home with me to Texas so that I can glance at the clock everyday around 11:30 a.m. and know where she is and what she sees from that bench, because I've been there next to her.

We gather our shopping bags and head out to Fifth Avenue where we hail a taxi. My feet are hurting so bad I cannot even walk the few blocks to the subway station. I'm not as young as I used to be.

And neither is she.

Just one month ago, it was painful to watch her disappear through the retracting doors at the Austin airport en route to NYC, her petite frame slung with heavy duffel bags. That image is branded in my brain. It was worse then leaving her on the steps of her freshman dorm six years before. Much worse. Because this time it seemed she was going so far beyond my reach, disappearing from sight, deep into her new world and life, far away from mine. All those years she spent beneath my cloak of protection are truly over now. When those retracting doors slid closed behind her, I felt the finality of it.

But now I trust that she is (and always has been) beneath a different cloak of protection ... one of a divine and loving nature, and that she will be alright, and safe, and very happy. I try very hard to hand her over.