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this year's gifts

December 24, 2013

i've been dreading christmas this year, for reasons i can't discuss here except to say that i am not happy. i am heartbroken.

i have been trying very hard to find good in my days, though. to find laughter. i'm trying to focus on that good. on the gifts this year has bestowed.

like in january, the film industry gave us gangster squad, which is one of the better movies released this year.


i cleaned out my closet and desk and found keepsakes from my college days and an envelope with my older brother's handwriting on it (which doesn't sound like a big deal, but i've started to forget a lot of things where's he's concerned, like what his handwriting looked like.)

and, on a particularly bleak post i'd written, a very successful blogger left this comment:

Thank you for sharing this and allowing yourself to be so vulnerable. It is hard to write, but stuff like this is great for readers because it makes me feel like I am not alone and makes us all feel like we are all in this together.

And I've ALWAYS loved that quote by Emily Dickinson. Hope you get feeling better and thanks for the reminder to be kind to all those who cross my path.


Just found your blog and have enjoyed your writing! I'm excited to read more.

in february, i read the first of three magnificent stories: the language of flowers. i dragged my ass to the galleria mall (ugh), to some singles mixer (UGH) some dating website had organized (which sucked), but afterward, i drove to pappadeaux's where i downed a couple of martinis and ran into one of my older brother's corps buddies from a&m.

in march, a fellow blogger, lauren, invited others to share their favorite posts.

in april, one of the to-go servers gave me a good idea for a scene in the novel i (probably) will (never) finish. i read the second of three magnificent stories: the fault in our stars. i went to my first maroon and white game. i made up a list of some of my favorite melodies.

in may, because of tyler, i learned of the existence of this video. i posted about some of the things that make me happy. i wrote this scene for that novel, which made me love my characters and my craft even more. and there's tony and ziva (damn you, ncis & cote de pablo! ziva's not replaceable!). and kensi and deeks. my store manager told me she thought i was special, which i very much needed to hear at the time.

in june, i posted about my favorite characters; they are the reasons i love literature. i wrote about my father, the best man i know. the best blogger in the world told me this: you have talent. my cousins taught me how to play settlers of catan. i read the third of three magnficient stories: eleanor and park. and then there's wendy davis standing up to the good ole boys.

in july, bonnie let me guest post on her blog. i watched purple violets, which is the best of edward burns' films (and i always caught it halfway through... i finally got to see it from the beginning). for lauren, i posted three favorite quotes and two places i've traveled.

in august, i made a list of some of my favorite films. i finally watched people like us; elizabeth banks is SO good in this movie. and i watched the way way back. a LOT. best movie i've seen this year so far. and amber gave me this compliment:

I think you are a really great writer... You seem to be your own, and that's important out here in a sea full of cookie-cutter bloggers.

in september, i watched espn's the book of manning. a lot.

in october, i got to go back to kyle field to watch the aggies (lose to auburn, but i'm trying to focus more on the got to go back to kyle field part). my friend allison directed me to this video. and i found this neat interview with richard burton.

in november, i got all of thanksgiving day off (the two years before this, i had to work both times.. and it sucked. i missed the final quarter of the last lone star showdown! i had to hear about jeff fuller's touchdown and the longhorns' stupid field goal on the radio!). danielle, susannah, meredith and melissa gave me some pretty nifty guest posts. i blogged about forty lessons i've learned over forty years (the first and the rest).

in december, i got more guest posts; these came from kathryn and erin. after stopping to snap a few shots of the fall foliage, i visited a local winery for a bottle of red and a bottle of white. i finally finished my christmas shopping the other day (and, because i was short, the gentleman in line behind me gave me a twenty dollar bill so that i could get my niece her christmas gift. i about cried).

and today, on twitter, texas monthly called my attention to a story about a remarkable dallas family. it's a long read. but a great one.

melancholy and the infinite sadness

December 17, 2013

the greatest difference between my mother and i is that she keeps her troubles packed neatly in her chest, and i shrug them off and let them fall where they may. my floor? sometimes you can't see the carpet for all the chaos. her floor? you can still see the marks left by the vacuum she used a week before, and her chaos isn't a chaos at all, but a neat and tidy collection of knotted scarves and folded cotton crammed in some container store baskets.

my family's seen some pretty ugly things in the past few months. my mother doesn't talk about them with her friends. she's often irritated with me that i talk to mine about what troubles me.

the difference is, she can lean upon her husband. and i feel guilty leaning on either one of them. so i lean on yall or a close friend.

when my older brother passed away, she told a very finite number of people. most of those who came to the service here, they were friends of his. we told his friends. his. and if my parents were friends with their parents, we told them. one of her longtime friends? they ceased to be friends because the friend was hurt that she'd not been one of the informed. i still don't get that. they'd been friends for DECADES. good friends. and this perceived slight ruined that for the friend. and it hurt my mother, deeply i think because she truly loved having known this woman.

my mother doesn't talk. not about stuff like this. it's death. her firstborn. a child she waited and waited and prayed to have. and her heart... i can understand how and why, for her, this loss, this particular garment would be tucked away at the back of the highest basket where no one can reach it.

when he passed, while we were in colorado putting him in the ground... when one of our neighbors discovered this, she came to our house and walked back and forth, back and forth before it, praying. for my family. for my mother.

in the years since, i've become quite fond of this woman. i've always admired her.

a few months ago, i learned that this neighbor, she'd developed stage four cancer in her brain.

today i learned the chemo didn't work. that we will lose her. and my heart...

i don't even know if you can see these, but, i found some posies for you. i seem to recall your saying you loved these:


my mom used to have a big patch of these in her backyard. they're gone now, otherwise i would've brought you a bunch.

the quotes collective: kathryn

December 15, 2013

Okay, I know you’re probably expecting a quote from Ghandi or John Lennon or the Dalai Lama. Or maybe even someone like Nora Ephron, or just one of those quotes that you see painted on colorful canvases at Ikea or World Market.

Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.

My quote, the quote that unexpectedly changed my way of thinking in a dramatic manner, is from none other than pro skateboarder and reality television star Rob Dyrdek. You might know Rob from his MTV shows “Rob and Big,” “Fantasy Factory” and “Ridiculousness.” If you have a half a brain and choose to not watch MTV (clearly I am not one of those), well then I applaud you, my friend. But you probably won’t know who I’m talking about.

You wouldn’t think of Rob as a traditionally intelligent man. A man who is adept at business dealings and marketing and networking. I mean, the guy hosts a ‘roided out version of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” for God’s sake. His other show, “Fantasy Factory,” focuses on the way in which he spends insane amounts of money on absolute nonsense.

He paid marine specialists to have a shark bite him so he could earn a kick-ass nickname. He hired a guy to help him get abducted by aliens and another guy to assist him with traveling through time (both endeavors were sadly unsuccessful). He entered a grilled cheese cooking competition, skateboarded down water slides at an abandoned water park and recorded a music video wearing a fat suit.

Not traditionally intelligent, right? Yet, something he said during an episode of “Fantasy Factory” really struck me in an interesting way.

The episode was entitled “Dirty Man-Horse,” and Rob had decided to try his hand at being a jockey. Part of training to become a jockey, apparently, involves purchasing weird furry strap-on horse legs and clomping around town in them. While his 8-foot self was galloping around, Rob told his cousin, affectionately known as Drama, that he was planning to purchase a race horse and jockey it, to which Drama replied, “You can’t just hop on a horse and jockey it.” Without skipping a beat, Rob said, “You can do anything you want in this life. I got horse legs on.”

Dumbest thing to say ever, right? Something about it, though, was just so incredibly liberating and empowering. You can do anything you want in this life.

I think most of us are bound by self-imposed limitations. If only I had enough money, I’d do this. If only I lived in another state or country, I’d do that. If only I didn’t have kids, or a husband, or a job, I’d try this. If only I had enough time, I’d be involved in that.

When we’re kids, our parents tell us we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up. We can do whatever we want to do. But once we hit a certain age, we start to tell ourselves that we can’t really do those things. That it’s not realistic. That it’s just something that adults say to kids because they’re too na├»ve to understand. And maybe we can’t do all of the things we hoped we could do. We certainly can’t be dinosaurs when we grow up or transform into a puddle like Alex Mack (remember that show?) or live on Neptune. But most of those other things you dreamed of? You can do them. If you really want to, you can. If you put aside all the excuses, which are usually just fears, you can do anything you want in this life.

Rob Dyrdek is proof of this. This middle class guy from Kettering, Ohio became a professional skateboarder at age 12. He now has multiple television shows, owns several companies, runs a charity, builds skate parks throughout the United States, is immortalized in video games, earned 12 Guinness world records… the list goes on and on.

Rob helped me realize it’s never too late to try something new or begin a new adventure. You’re never too old to take up glassblowing or visit Amsterdam or swim with the dolphins. Your opportunities are endless. Next time you second-guess yourself, remember Rob. Wearing his horse legs. Preparing to jockey a horse for the first time. Realize how much more normal your dream is, and jump on that shit! Don’t let yourself get in your own way, and certainly don’t let anyone else tell you what you can or can’t do. Just put your horse legs on, and kick the crap out of life. You can do anything you want in this life.

my friend kathryn gave me this lovely post. and i'm so happy to share it with yall. other contributions were provided by erin, danielle, susannah  meredith and melissa. i hope you've enjoyed them. thanks for reading.

to the winery!

December 12, 2013

but first i had to stop and take some pictures of the pretty! i love my neighborhood, yall. every time i come home and every time i go out, i marvel at how lucky i am that i get to look at this:




 and i'm lucky, too, that some of the sweetest people i know decided to open up a winery not so far from me. they make some really good stuff, too. REALLY GOOD. 



it's called bernhardt winery. it's in plantersville, texas. and a lot of what they make has won all kinds of prizes. plus, they've got a quaint little bed and breakfast. 

and their wine? it's LOVELY. i'm particularly fond of PINELLI.

different kinds of cowardice

December 9, 2013

photo snagged here.

who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?
hunter s. thompson

when i was an adolescent, making the trek to the bus stop every morning sucked. but not nearly as much as the walk home. my mother has said that she would cry every morning after left for school, sometimes for hours, because she knew i was going to hell and hurting. but i never said, mom, i don’t wanna go today.

the walk home was worse. if i could help it, i didn’t want her to know just how awful it’d been. i didn’t want her to know.

the storm lasted eight hours. five days a week. nine months out of the year. an incredibly long siege of torrential downpour and hurricane force winds. sometimes, when it was more than my tiny, tiny body could bear, i faked sick, went to the nurse’s office, badgered her until she called my mother, who came and got me. my mother, who knew damned well that physically, i was fine.

to give you an example of how bad it was, this is the kind of day where i didn't fake sick: mom'd greeted me at the door that afternoon; i'd said something about how i wished i could tear my skin off as i rushed upstairs to my room and slammed the door. she could hear me crying. i’d forgotten all of this—the day, the afternoon, the cause. all of it. the only reason i know of this is because, years later, my mother had mentioned it in a conversation once. for some reason, she thinks i’m strong.

i don’t.

every morning, i got up, got dressed. i ate my breakfast, grabbed my books and my brown bag lunch and marched that two-tenths of a mile to the bus stop. that’s braving the storm.

somewhere between my adolescence and today, i sought refuge from it on the coast. somewhere between then and now, i found a place to hide.

i stopped aspiring and believing and dreaming. really dreaming. there’s a huge difference between a delusion and a dream.

the only storm i seem to face anymore is the madness that rages within me. and braving that? i usually feel more guilt where that’s concerned—that i can’t shove it back, that i can’t circumnavigate it, that i give it the power. that’s not courage. that’s cowardice. and even knowing this, still i hide.

after reading erin's post from yesterday, i've started to think, too, of other ways to stand on the shore. like choosing bitterness over being better.

the quotes collective: erin

"Blogging prowess"--I ain't got it. What I do have is a lot of thoughts jumbled up in this ol' brain of mine--a huge spectrum of emotions and feelings experienced on a daily basis and some years of personal introspection banked in my own vault. When Jenn introduced the idea of featuring favorite quotes, I immediately thought of this one:

If you've perused pinterest for any amount of time, you've probably seen it and possibly pinned it yourself. I tried to "research" (google search) the original link or the author. I just found a lot of links to tumblrs and flickrs and quote sites and forums, but no answer to its origin. Author unknown it is.  

Eight words that are clear, concise, to-the-point with a powerful message; effective and relatable; easy to remember. Heck, if you can't remember the eight words, maybe take this approach:

(Side note: the tattoo is reportedly on the hip of an all-time favorite musician--songwriter, artist, singer, tattoo enthusiast Mr. Butch Walker. But this entry isn't about him. Sorry for the distraction.)

I stumbled across this quote during a time in my life that was one of the toughest. Correct that. It was the toughest time in my life where I was challenging myself to self-examine some poor choices, some big mistakes, some nasty feelings and some rather unpleasant circumstances surrounding my life. This message was just what I needed. I have become a big believer in lessons and learning from mistakes. Consequently, I've become a firm believer that those that do NOT try to learn from the past are wasting valuable time and opportunities for a bigger, better, healthier life. Bitterness is an ugly, encompassing power that can take hold of you. I fought, and I fought hard to get "better" and put the "bitter" behind me.  

Everyone has their own struggles. Many of life's challenges that others have experienced are 10x, 100x worse than what I've faced. We've all had tough times; some feel them worse than others; some handle them better than others. I think if more people strived to be "better" instead of "bitter," then we'd all be headed in a more positive direction. I know it's easier said than done. I fight to have this philosophy permeate through me daily.  It's not always there, but sooner or later, I snap back to it, and I feel "better" for it.  

Now, maybe I need to get that tattoo like the one pictured above...

this post comes to you all the way from australia by my one of my oldest friends, erin. she's a good gal to get to know. pop by her blog, and say howdy!

have you got a quote you love? something that's touched you? made you laugh? gave you strength? i would love to include it as a guest post here. i've got one spot left! if interested, email me: criticalcrass (at) me (dot) com.

random quarter: a few of my favorite things edition

December 5, 2013

one. oil of olay regenerist advanced anti-aging cleanser. i don't get compliments on my mug too often, but the one i hear most frequently is how good my complexion is. this is so for two reasons: i rarely wear make-up; and i use this stuff. it makes my skin feel wonderful.

two. bodycology's pure white gardenia foaming body wash. i'm allergic to pretty much everything skin-care related, and this is one of those rare finds that doesn't make me break out in hives. plus, it smells divine. and i always get compliments when i use it.

three. dove pink soap.

four. gold bond ultimate softening shea butter lotion.

five.  ralph lauren's romance. my older brother gave me this fragrance for christmas the year before he died. and it's been a staple ever since.

six. eleanor and park by rainbow rowell.

seven. the fault in our stars by john green.

eight. right before your eyes by ellen shanman.

nine. the language of flowers by vanessa diffenbaugh.

ten. lovers and dreamers by nora roberts.

eleven. the airborne toxic event's self-titled debut.

twelve. what made milwaukee famous' what doesn't kill us.

thirteen. a fine frenzy's one cell in the sea.

fourteen. u2's joshua tree.

fifteen. depeche mode's violator. these two albums... i never tire of them. and they've been a solace of sorts. a constant through out much of my life. one to console me when i need a little mellow. and one to motivate me when i've had too much of it.

sixteen. gangster squad.

seventeen. people like us.

eighteen. the way way back.

nineteen. purple violets.

twenty. serenity.

twenty-one. settlers of catan. so i'm a fairly competitive gal. i really don't like to lose. if i've lost a game, i don't typically want to play it again immediately following that loss. but this game here? i LOVE it. even though i'm horrible at playing it.

twenty-two. james avery's stacked hammered ring. i got mine in college station. it is my favorite piece of jewelry.

twenty-three. ncis.

twenty-four. ncis: los angeles.

twenty-five. the big bang theory.

lightness has a call that's hard to hear

December 3, 2013


‘there is no use trying,’ said alice; ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’
‘i dare say you haven’t had much practice,’ said the queen. ‘when i was your age, a always did it for half an hour a day. why, sometimes i’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’
lewis carroll

i think my mother introduced me to this quote. i don’t know when or where. but the why… i’m like alice here. and my mother’s like the queen. and no matter how bleak a situation may seem, how dark, how hopeless, she can always find the light.

darkness has a hunger that's insatiable

December 2, 2013

you is kind. you is smart. you is important. 
viola davis as aibileen clark in the help
kathryn stockett

for about two years, i worked two jobs: stock at target and sales at pottery barn kids. fridays and saturdays were my longest days, especially during the holidays. i barely slept.

during much of my employment at target, i felt unappreciated and horribly used. there were far too many days i came home from work crying. i was ashamed and annoyed that i couldn’t do better for myself. wouldn’t do better. that my choices, my apparent laziness, my inability to combat my fears had brought me to this point.

one morning during the holiday season, one particularly ugly morning when failure and despair were looming over me, when i was certain i was a nothing, when i felt smaller than i had in my adolescence, i looked at my phone on a break and there was a picture of this quote.

the kind i knew, though most times i feel like people don’t value that trait all that much. the smart i knew, too, though sometimes i wish i weren’t quite so brilliant because brilliance isn’t always beautiful. but the important? i’m hardly ever certain of this.

i hadn’t read the book. i hadn’t seen the film. the sentiment was new to me.

i don’t remember where i saw it. if it’d been sent by someone through an email or a text, or if one of my friends had posted it to facebook or pinterest. i can’t tell you how it came to me.

i only remember that i read it and wept. not because i was sad, but because it pleased me, SO much, to read that in that moment. because somehow, somebody knew that i needed to see that just then. those signs we’re always asking god to give us… i was certain that was one of them.

have you got a quote you love? something that's touched you? made you laugh? gave you strength? i would love to include it as a guest post here. i'll be running this series through the holiday season, up to the week prior to christmas.
if interested, email me: criticalcrass (at) me (dot) com.