December 11, 2011

I cannot remember when this tradition started, but many, many Christmas’ ago, my mom bought me an ornament. And every year after that, I would go home at Christmas looking forward to seeing my family and opening a few presents, which undoubtedly would include another Christmas ornament.

To be totally honest, I never really thought much of these ornaments– they were small and functionally useless outside of a few weeks in December.

And these were not necessarily expensive or rare ornaments. I think that sometimes she would just pick out something that she liked or something that reminded her of me.

But after the first few years that this tradition began, it was clear to me that these ornaments had become something that was important to my mom. Even though they were never the most prized of the presents that I would get to haul away every year, I always packed them carefully and obviously held onto them.

It’s hard to believe, but this will be the 3rd Christmas of my life that I will have spent without my mom. For the first two years, I did not have the heart to even put up my own tree. I just couldn’t deal with going through all of those ornaments.

But this year, I decided to man-up a little and just do it.

There was a particular ornament that I was especially worried about, this glass acorn.

The year before my mom passed away, my mom and dad made their usual visit to Dallas in October. During this trip I took them to Northpark and found that the Christmas ornament selection was already on display at Barneys. Mom told me to go pick one out that I liked…and I chose this glass acorn.

For  the past two years I have dreaded the meltdown that I might experience when I removed this acorn from its box. But it wasn’t like that at all.

I actually enjoyed going through all of these little boxes of ornaments, many of which are well over 10…probably close to 20 years old now. While going through them all, it suddenly (finally?) dawned on me that my mom had planned this all along. She knew that there would come a day when I would place these ornaments on a tree to celebrate a Christmas without her.

For some people, Christmas has a powerful religious significance. And so it should. For me however, it’s all about family, traditions and memories. It’s the one day every year when we all simultaneously get to ritualistically run down a figurative hallway or staircase in anticipation of “something good” to happen. And hopefully, it happens in a room filled with people that you love, or your memories of them.

The glass acorn from Barneys is placed in the center of my tree this year. But to be honest, this is not the ornament that gets me a little choked up. The ornament that catches my eye every time I walk into the room was not even given to me by mom. The one that I placed in a private nook of the tree that I can only see, is the ornament that dad gave to me during our first Jackson Christmas without her.

Anyway, this is a great tradition – thanks, mom.


Thanksgiving: Dallas 2011

November 26, 2011

Huckleberry Friend

September 29, 2011

There will never be another Knox, but when this guy was rescued from a local shelter by Knox’s foster family, they gave me a call and it seemed like fate had smiled upon me once again.

I drove out to Fairview, Texas to meet him for the first time last week. He seemed kind of small and skinny when I first saw him. But when he cocked his head to the side, just so, the deed was done.

I am bringing him home tomorrow. Everyone, meet Huck….Huck, welcome to the family.

Rest in Peace, Jake & Knox

September 18, 2011

We lost two members of the family in August, Jake and Knox.

Jake became a Jackson as a young puppy. Throughout the many years that I knew him, I was always impressed by how he held-it-together in any situation…and always with typical “Jake style” in airplanes and cross-country trips to Kansas, New Jersey and back to California. He ushered my nieces into the family after they were born and he was always a loving companion and protector to both of them.

Knox had only become a Jackson since last November when I adopted him from an Aussie rescue group, North Dallas Dog Rescue. I will always remember the days that Knox and I spent “hanging out”, the two of us.

Knox would make sure that I got out of bed at a decent hour, and we would go for long walks around the block or to White Rock Lake . Knox viewed his leash as an accessory….he got excited whenever he wore it (sometimes carrying the slack in his mouth while we walked), but he never really needed it as he would never wander too far from me. We would go to lunch together in the afternoon…there are plenty of dog-friendly restaurants in Dallas…I could leave him on a patio to go inside and place my order, and by the time I returned Knox would be sitting right where I had left him, though likely surrounded by new-found admirers who would stop to pet him. As you can see from the picture (he’s the guy with the orange football), he was a very handsome guy.

Although he passed several weeks ago, the house still doesn’t feel the same without him.

We’ve lost several dogs over the years, and it’s always so hard. Our dogs have become a big part of the family, though, it was only later in my mom’s life that I discovered her love for dogs. I thought about my mom often when Knox first came to live with me, she had always said “you need a dog, Howard”. And she was right.

Memorial Day Weekend

May 31, 2011

A few traditions have been established since my parents started flying out here to visit me in Dallas many years ago: restaurants, shopping and home improvement projects.

Dad browsing the inventory at Orvis in Dallas

And dad’s Memorial Day-weekend visit this year was no exception.

We got the shopping done (as you can see from the photo above) and enjoyed many fine meals (with Knox in tow whenever possible).

But the lion’s share of the trip focused on adding a little steeze to the landscaping in my front yard.

I did not inherit my dad’s DIY skills, and maintaining my front yard is always an overwhelming experience. I’ve got the basics down…the lawn mower and the leaf blower are in the arsenal. However, everything else is a mystery (the poor edger that my dad gave me years ago has rarely seen the light of day).

So when my dad offers to help me with an outdoor project while he’s here, I always take full advantage of his generosity. And this weekend was beyond anything that I could have imagined.

First off, after all of the dramatic storms we’d had the previous week, summer weather arrived with a vengeance in Dallas over the holiday weekend.  We got swamped with nearly triple-digit temperatures and high humidity.  So working through my “plan” was no easy task.

Then came the “plan” itself. I wanted to capture a Highland Park landmark in my Lake Highlands front yard.

Intersection of Armstrong, Oak Lawn and Preston Road in Dallas

Every time I drive past this fountain I am struck by how well the silver fronds of the agave look next to the creamy white masonry. That’s what I wanted in my front yard.

As always, dad seemed up for the challenge. His only concern was that agave may not be the most welcoming plant to put along a walkway. But I was committed to sticking to the plan (“if it’s good enough for Highland Park….”).

The hardest part was finding the right pots for the agave and for some boxwoods that we also wanted to place near the front door (more on that later). I wanted something old and grand for the agave to capture the spirit of the fountain…but humble enough to blend in with my reality (that I do not live in Highland Park. Yet.)

We spent hours looking at pots and almost pulled the trigger several times on various “runners up”.  We gave up on the first day and decided to resume the hunt on dad’s 2nd day in Dallas. The final decision was made late that afternoon on one of the first pots that we looked at on Day One…very heavy, cement, vintage pots that were marked down on clearance at the White Elephant Antique Mall.

These cement pots had been painted white and kind of had a shabby chic vibe…NOT Highland Park, at all. But after two cans of ivory satin spray paint, they started to look much more posh.

Knox strategizing on the best method for "personalizing" the new pot.

Dad felt that the agave pots needed to be balanced with something bigger up close to the house. I like dad’s style in these matters so we started looking for possible candidates.  We looked at a lot of antique shops but decided to go with some ceramic pots that we found at Crate and Barrel.

Installing everything into the yard took a fraction of the time that we had spent driving all over Dallas in a little black car trying to figure it all out. But I am very happy with the end result and the neighbors like it too. I think we succeeded in bringing some Highland Park steeze to my Lake Highlands crib…which is no easy task.


For those who are keeping track of these things.

Photo Credit: Aunt Lydia

Lone Star

May 17, 2011

When I first moved to Texas, I was torn between once again leaving my native California and the possibility of new opportunities that seemed to be waiting for me in Dallas. New friends, a new job and my first house were all very exciting prospects…though there were still a few haters (“yeah, but when you leave your house, you’re in TEXAS”).

After five years of living here, I am still torn…and excited. It’s hard to be away from my family and miss many of those landmark-life events that families are designed to share.

But I have discovered my own family (cult?) of friends in Dallas. And the opportunities that exist for me here seem exclusive to the unique character of this city: easily accessible metropolitan offerings on a manageable scale.  

And to those who might rest on the post-card worthy laurels of a certain state with a generous distribution of beaches, rolling hills, vineyards and fault lines…I would argue that Texas can hold its own (sans the fault lines).

Last weekend, Knox and I took our first road trip to College Station, Texas. This town is best known as the home of Texas A&M University…an iconic, Texas institution. It’s also home to my good friends Zulema (who I’ve known since high school) and her husband Andrew.

It takes almost 4 hours to get to College Station from Dallas, which would seem like a chore. But the distance did not deter Knox and I.  We just packed some extra grass-fed-beef jerky, some bottled water and opened up the sunroof to enjoy the ride.

And it was FUN.

Most of the trip to CS is on a two-lane highway through rolling hills and small towns. Although this part of Texas is currently experiencing drought conditions, there had recently been some rain and everything along the road was green and thriving.

We stopped occasionally in different towns along the way to stretch our legs and take care of some dog biznass. These towns were like movie sets…old buildings with rusted awnings…the kind of patina that you would pay big money (or a lot of DIY effort) to achieve.

Meanwhile in College Station, Zulema was celebrating her tenure at TAMU and Andrew was celebrating a birthday…and the party was ON by the time that Knox and I pulled into their driveway.

 Although Knox knows how to cheese it up for pictures, he is actually a shy guy…so all of the excitement, kids, dogs, music and splashing in the swimming pool was little much for him. He was a good sport about it though and we managed to enjoy ourselves and meet a whole lot of cool people.

Overall, it was a great weekend. Much thanks goes to Andrew, Zulema and their dog JoJo for putting us up at their beautiful house for the night. Hopefully this will be just the first of many Texas-road trips to come.

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