Oh Texas, My Texas

A few weeks ago, I took one of my best friends to San Antonio.

We had one mission: to see that most anti-climactic of all tourist attractions – The Alamo.

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It was my bridesmaid present to her, because there is no one alive who loves Texas more than this girl.

Yet she had somehow lived 22 years without setting eyes on that blessed memorial.

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We even got to see our friend, Wyatt!

We even got to see our friend, Wyatt!

For those who have never seen it, The Alamo is mostly one dark, smallish room. Three more rooms, barely larger than closets, squat beside the front doors, but these can not be entered. They house between them, one old military uniform of unspecified origin, a cannon that may or may not have been used in the battle of The Alamo, and that’s it.

The walls of the original building stand at about ten feet of rough stone. Above that, renovations have added three more feet of smooth concrete and a domed roof. Most of that main room is taken up by a diorama of the original fort, and a crowd gathers here with little else to draw their attention.

At the back, plaques hold the names of the dead, and a pair of imposing, old doors lean against the exterior wall. These doors, I found out, have no connection to The Alamo, but evidently, James Bowie passed through them many times, so sure, they belong.

We wait in line for this. And pay $10 for the audio tour.

It’s so Texan.

We take the sight of a lost battle and resurrect it as a point of pride. We claim ruins as a monument to our stubborn refusal to surrender. We teach our children to remember this, remember The Alamo. Remember that in the end, we won Texas.

There is no humility in this defeat, no plaque for the soldiers who besieged this sight, no nuanced discussion about Mexico’s lawful claim on the land and the contracts that first attracted these American frontiersmen.

No, here the marquis of the Crockett Hotel smiles down on the courtyard and the gift shop sells the great mementos of our time: stuffed armadillos and lapel pins emblazoned with the phrase Come And Take It.

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My feelings about Texas are admittedly conflicted – one minute I am filled with a fierce and familial pride, and the next Texas Public Schools are Teaching Ridiculous Things About the Bible or Rick Perry’s unpopular opinions are flooding my dash.

I groan inwardly every time I remember that two years of my history education were devoted to Texas, two more were spent studying American History, and the entire history of the rest of the world got 6 months. True story.

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But as we drove west toward San Antonio with hardly even a gas station to break the expanse of land around us, I marveled again at this landscape that seems to be all sky and cloud and sun. It feels sometimes as though that sky belongs especially to us, we who drive along these highways, without mountains or trees, exposed on the surface of the earth.

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With both the good and bad, it is the place from which I have come and the place I choose to call home. This state frustrates me, at times, with its self-aggrandizing, and embarrasses me with a lack of self-awareness.

But I’ll admit it, I do love my Texas. And our anti-climactic memorial.

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Today, I fail at making cookies

I had big Valentine’s Day plans guys. Big ones.

I was going to make heart-shaped, red velvet cookies.

They were going to be beautiful. Just like these.

These are last year's cookies.

These are last year’s cookies.

See, gorgeous, right?

I was going to take them to work.

And then everyone was going to love me.

And then I was going to share the process with you.

And then you were going to love me.

Because Valentine’s Day is the day that it is most appropriate to use chocolate and sugar to earn other people’s affections.

That’s what St. Valentine is famous for, right?

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The recipe calls for one box of red velvet cake mix.

So last night I strolled into HEB like the queen of baking and originality that I still believed myself to be, only to realize that a) I was shopping with every single even slightly attached male in College Station, b) everyone on the planet had the exact same thought (let’s bake red cake for the red and pink holiday), and consequently c) they were completely sold out.

Now, I usually try to avoid the more populated areas of the grocery store, which includes: the Easy-Mac aisle, the General Mills end of the cereal aisle, and the corner of the refrigerated section where they sell pre-made cookie dough. I generally have the baking aisle to myself.

But not on February 13th.

The shelves of boxed cakes had been ravaged. Basically, the only thing left behind was a Simply Organic Gluten-Free Carrot Cake. Because it’s a special breed of person who wants that as a Valentine’s Day treat. And let’s be real, they don’t tend to congregate in College Station, Texas.

So I’m standing in the baking aisle, staring at the cake shelf, when this guy turns the corner, clutching a basket and a list, and looking for all the world like a freshman trying to find his first class. He stopped and looked down at the empty shelf, then back at the list, then back at the shelf, then back at the list, as though it was going to explain the extraordinary lack of cake.

I felt bad for the guy. I did. We’ve all been there – 9:30 pm on February 13th. Our carefully made plans, crumbling before our eyes when we realize that no, the grocery store does not have an endless supply of holiday themed food. And we are too late.

I thought about suggesting a recipe to him. But then I thought about explaining that he’d need to get vinegar and buttermilk and food coloring and maybe cake flour.

It didn’t seem worth it to do that to the guy. Better to let him go buy some chocolate covered strawberries.

.

I went home and tried to recreate the box cake mix from an actual cake recipe. I thought “just combine the recipes” and “you can be like a real baker who makes things up.”

No. I can’t.

I like recipes. I like instructions.

When I go off the recipe, I end up with a concoction whose texture is far too liquid to be a cookie, and far too thick to be cake.

I kept adding small amounts of flour, hoping it would thicken into dough.

It didn’t.

So I just tried to bake it and “see what happens”.

And what happened was really dry, puffy cupcakes.

The Velveteen Baker I am not.

There was a time when I would have cried over this – really – all the wasted effort, all those not-be-realized aspirations. Instead I turned off the oven, rinsed off the worst of the dishes, and went to bed.

I consider this a sign of personal growth.

Anyway, I hope that guy has a nice Valentine’s with his whoever, even without cake.

This is, after all, not a day to celebrate our confectionery skills, but a day to celebrate the very human people that we love, failed plans and all.

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This is just to say

 

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This is just to say
I wasted almost every minute
of the last 24 hours.

Dishes languished in the sink.
Purchases went unreturned.
The laundry has over-run the basket.

You see, I downloaded 9 episodes
of Downton Abbey.
And I simply couldn’t stop
until I knew what happened
to Anna and Mr. Bates.

My condolences to the dishes.

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This is just to say

I know I should
have gone
to church
this morning.

But instead
I talked an hour
on the phone
with my darling friend.

I chatted
over sushi
and read
and ran.

I’ll dare to say
it helped
my soul more
than a sermon.

I guess this is
where I’m supposed
to say I’m sorry,
but I’m not.

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This is just to say

I have found myself
a bit disillusioned,
though just a bit.

But tonight,
I looked up from
the concrete

and saw the pale
yellow light
of a quiet,
setting sun
break through
the clouds
and reflect
off the pavement,
smiling back at itself.

I guess this is
just to say
thank you.
And forgive me.

I know not
how to live
this life
so gracefully.

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Things I have to Share

I found a new camera app for the iPhone.

And I am in love.

The editing functions are gorgeous and it allows you to share your photos on all your favorite social media sites. (You know without maybe, maybe not taking ownership of and selling those photos.)

It’s called HDR FX Pro ($2.00)

I downloaded the free version (adds, limited editing tools) to try it out, and I was completely sold. Seriously, if you take photos with your iPhone, this is the bees (bee’s?) knees.

Here’s what it did for a couple mediocre pictures I already had in my camera roll:

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After

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…….. In other news, I have no plans this weekend. (And my to-do list said “Amen”.)

Also, I have officially finished 3 of the 35 books I plan to read this year. Which means I am one book ahead of schedule, at least according to GoodReads. Looks like I’m not to bad at this getting started thing after all. And maybe I’ll give you an update/mini review every time I finish 5.

Yep, I just decided that I’m going to do that.

Anyway I’m looking forward to a weekend spent with my podcast queue and some cleaning supplies. I live a wild life.

.

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P.S. The first picture captures the rain that turned the flags pink. You can’t tell in that photo, but trust me, they are very pink.

P.P.S. I am just linking to myself all over the place today. So, I’ll do one more. Because I think most people didn’t see this post. Because I took it down pretty quickly. Because of reasons that you will see if you read it.

P.P.P.S. If you are not a follower of Rachel Held Evans, you need to go read her blog. Like yesterday. She is consistently smart and kind and spot on. She makes me want to cheer. And hug her. Pretty much every time she writes. Just, go read it.

Backfire

The generals were coming
all the way from Washington,
four stars between them.
Food was ordered, carpets cleaned.

Then we turned, together,
to take in the sight beyond the window.

Our flags hung limply on their poles –
three beacons of power
that had seen better days.
The wind whipped up, flailing their tattered hems.

Like the string you find
on the bottom of your sweater,
which is pulled taught, for a moment,
before unraveling.

The cry went out: Unacceptable!
with a rush of orders.
The generals would feast their eyes
on only the best and brightest.

The new flags were hoisted,
with a day to spare,
and, within an hour,
the rain had them soaked through.

Red, bleeding into white,
rendered them a violent shade of pink.

The generals arrived, and our flags waved –
small, ubiquitous, unnoticeable,
except for their striking resemblance
to a Barbie Dream Home.

A look back.

Confession: I  am incredibly nostalgic person.

When I went home last month to help my parents pack up the last of their stuff, I spent at least 4 hours sitting on the floor, going through a box of my old, second-rate toys mostly saying things like, “Oh my gosh, I remember this.”

Four. Hours. And some of them I literally had not thought about once in the 12+ years that they sat in our garage attic.

And while that was probably a gigantic waste of time, I enjoy indulging my nostalgic tendencies from time to time. I like looking back. Facebook timeline was designed for people just like me, and I love it.

David, on the other hand, has this strange obsession with being present in, like, the actual moment in which you are currently living.

Which is great because while one of us is waxing poetic about the Noah’s Ark puzzle she loved when she was 6, the other can be like, “That’s great, babe. But it’s 7pm and I was thinking maybe we could, like, live life and eat dinner at some point.”

But looking back over the year gives me perspective. I realize that it’s okay that I only read 29 out of 30 books. And it’s okay that my year-end posts are about 3 weeks late. And it’s okay that I have four loads of laundry waiting to be done and seven boxes that still need to be unpacked. Because look at everything we got done this year!

So with that, 2012 in pictures:

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The year started with gingerbread houses and these pretty ladies coming to visit.

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I painted this and read a great book by John Green.

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I took a photography colloquia and made it to the final round of TFA interviews.

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I turned 22, and that’s what my room looked like. It was not a good birthday.

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David and I broke up. It snowed. I painted.

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I rearranged my room. I thought about dying my hair, but thankfully, didn’t.

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I adopted a puppy. I named her Harper Lee.

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I had no idea how much I needed her.

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Kaitlyn and I pranked a favorite, retiring professor. Totally worth going to bed at 4am.

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I took a wonderful, unexpected, and much needed Spring Break trip to Kansas.

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I read, I baked with friends, and both of these pretty ladies got married.

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Then somehow, in a turn of events absolutely no one saw coming, David and I got engaged. Go ahead. Judge me. If I were you, I would judge me. In fact, if you don’t raise your eyebrows at that a little, I judge you. But somehow, that worked for us.

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David was named a University scholar and we went on a joy-filled church retreat.

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I had my last class, and we graduated from ACU.

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We said good bye to this place.

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And these people.

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I was in the Most Beautiful Wedding Ever, when my darling friend Ali got married in June.

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We said Hello to College Station. And bought some furniture from this fine establishment.

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My parents moved out of the house we lived in since I was 4, and America had a birthday.

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And my grandfather had a birthday.

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And David had a birthday.

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David started graduate school, and I got my first real job.

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We were “showered” by our wonderful churches.

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And spent a lovely Thanksgiving in Tulsa.

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Then we got married!! Which was wonderful, and busy, and so full of family.

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My dear friend Kaitlyn couldn’t be there, but we got a picture anyway.

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And we spent Christmas honeymooning in Santa Fe.

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Then flew back to Dallas, drove to San Antonio for a friend’s wedding. Then rang in the new year at the wedding of a couple more dear Highland friends.

It was quite a year. It’s a wonderful life.

 




















 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled life.

I’m back!

Did you miss me?

I hope so. Because I missed you. And frankly I try to avoid that one way street.

Well, I am officially Mrs. Rebecca Kempe. Which is delightful, but also weird. I sort of feel like I’m borrowing someone else’s name.

But the wedding was lovely, if I do say so myself, and the honeymoon was very nearly perfect. We even arrived at the airport with time to spare. Solid proof that I am no longer a Fullerton.

I promise to tell you all about it. But as of today, I’m back in College Station and back to work. The Christmas decorations are mostly packed away and I’m mostly moved into our(!) apartment.

And I’ve managed to find a place in the kitchen of our one bedroom apartment to fit nearly all of the incredibly generous gift we received. I even got the cabinet doors to shut.

Dumbledore can just sign off on my acceptance letter now, because that was a work of pure magic.

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I hope you all had a wonderful New Year’s. We celebrated at the wedding of some dear friends. And I both convinced David to dance with me and got my first ever midnight kiss. Success.