Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chapter 35

Chapter 35
      With my new house only two blocks south of campus, I can comfortably walk to work, and often do, including one morning last week. Reaching the office, thankful for air conditioning, I found Jonathan Long, Boyle’s second in command, outside my door, pacing the hallway. 
  “Jonathan,” I said as he noticed me. “What a nice surprise.” Noticing his frown, I quickly said, “What’s wrong?”
“Wrong?” he said hurriedly as I unlocked the doors and he followed into my office almost stepping on my heels as he went. “Nothing. Everything. Just the usual chaos from Boyle. He called me late last night, woke the baby for God’s sake, and demanded I have this report ready for him to look at by 9 this morning. I’m telling you, Maggie, the man’s a tyrant! And he’s gotten worse now that Parker got the presidency he wanted. He’s driving me to distraction, not that he wasn’t doing that already, mind you.”
“So how can I help, Jonathan?” I interrupted, amazed any human could talk as fast as this one did. 
   “Oh, yes. The report is done, but I need you to look at it for coherence. I’m not sure it makes sense, and you’re good at being objective. Will you look at it for me? I brought it on a flash drive.” He handed me the blue flash drive and I plugged it into my computer. He continued, “Stayed up most of the night getting it done. I swear, since Stone left and Boyle threw Miss Katherine away, it’s been harder and harder to know what the man wants. Sometimes I think even he doesn’t know what he wants. And then that mess with that girl he brought from HR. Now he doesn’t even have a secretary and uses mine or Nancy from the president’s office. Guess word got around how difficult he is and nobody who is even remotely qualified wants the job ... can’t say as I blame them ... wonder myself why I stay, but the wife...”
   “Jonathan,” I interrupted again. “Sit down and give me time to go over this report if it’s due by nine.”
   “Oh, yes, of course. Sorry. I’ve a tendency to ramble.”
   Smiling at him, I thought, yes, you do. We spent the next 45 minutes working to rearrange sentences and paragraphs, adding and deleting enough information to make a quality report, one I knew Boyle couldn’t dispute. 
Jonathan called later to thankme, saying Boyle had approved it immediately. I thought it a good thing Jonathan hadn’t told the idiot I’d helped. Work was getting to be more than a pain ... it was getting harder to get the work done at all with Boyle’s constant ignorant interference. As settled in as I am, I hope this isn’t as good as it was going to get, because I know it could be so much better ... and so much easier for all at the university. 
While I pondered my growing frustration, Jonathan interrupted, almost in a whisper, “Um, Maggie, I think I need to see you about something else. Do you have time?” “Of course, Jonathan. Come on up or do you want me to come down?”
“I think I’d better come to your office. Be there as soon as I can slip away.” He hung up and I wondered what that was all about. He sounded more nervous than usual. 
Five minutes later he was standing in front of my desk once again. This time he closed the office door behind him. I looked at him questioningly. 
“Now don’t go getting all mad or anything, Maggie, because you’re not supposed to see this ... but I thought you should.” He handed me a piece of paper he took out of his leather folder.
“What is it?” I asked, taking the page. I scanned it quickly, then looked up at him in astonishment. “Who wrote this?” I said quietly, trying to contain my fury.
“Boyle said President Parker wrote it and I was to send it out to media without telling you,” Jonathan said guiltily. 
“Why? I don’t understand? Our department writes news releases and sends them out and this ... this is drivel. No newspaper worth its salt would publish something this mundane. What in the world is he thinking?”
I reread the short paragraph, an extremely unprofessional excuse for a news release stating that President Parker had met two weeks ago with the local chapter of the Tech alumni association, which wasn’t even named correctly. Attached was a badly centered photo of the president shaking hands with a person whose back was to the camera. There was no caption for the  photo. 
“I don’t know,” Jonathan said apologetically. “All I do know is when I turned in the report this morning to Boyle, I was directed to obtain a media list from your office so I could send this out ... and I was not to show it to you. And Boyle said Parker would be writing all his own news releases from now on and wanted this to appear all over the state.”
“Well, that’s not going to happen. Fact one: No reporter is going to write about a routine meeting that happened two weeks ago. Fact two: It is definitely not news. There’s nothing in it readers will care about. Where’s the hook? The interesting action? Space is money, and newspapers won’t waste their space for something as routine as this. Fact three: The photo is terrible and without proper id. Fact four: Why the heck didn’t he tell us about the meeting beforehand so we could find some angle to pitch if he wanted publicity? Was there an alum there Parker went to high school with? Did they present him with a huge donation for Tech? Did he make any statements about his vision for the university? Tell them anything new and exciting?” I knew my voice was getting louder, but I didn’t care. Jonathan closed his eyes. “This release tells me nothing!” “I’m sorry, Maggie,” he said sheepishly. “But can I have the media list?”
“No, Jonathan, you can’t. I’ll go talk to Boyle right now,” I said with determination, getting up and moving to the door. 
“Maggie, wait,” Jonathan pleaded. “He’ll kill me!”
I stopped, took a deep breath and handed the paper back to him. “Sorry ... You’re right. I’ll let you go back to your office. Then I will calmly go see our esteemed Mr. Boyle and ask why you need the media list. I’ll feign ignorance of the news release and take it from there. I promise you won’t be blamed, Jonathan. And thank you for showing it to me.”

Thirty minutes later, a much calmer me stepped unannounced into Boyle’s office. He glanced up, surprised, the usual scowl on his face. “What do you want?” he said, looking back down at the papers on his desk and rubbing his forehead.
“Excuse me, Mr. Boyle,” I said in my best professional manner, “But we were asked to provide our media list to Jonathan Long’s office and I wondered why? If you have something you need to send out, my office is more than happy to do that for you.”
He looked up at me suspiciously, but didn’t seem to detect any malice. “We just need the list, that’s all,” he said, obviously hoping that might pacify me. 
        It didn't.
“What for? Perhaps we can assist with whatever you need it for and make it easier to accomplish. We are ...” He put down his pen as if exasperated and looked at me. “If you must know, President Parker has decided to send out his own news releases and wants to bypass Communications. That’s why I need the list.” He shifted self-satisfactorily, as if he knew it would wound me. I was genuinely surprised.
“I see. May I ask why he wants to bypass the university’s department of professional communicators?” I asked, trying to control my temper.
“Because he doesn’t like you, that’s why.”
That was the last thing I had expected to hear. I was dumbfounded. “Doesn’t like me? How can he not like me? He hasn’t even met me!”
“He just doesn’t. Doesn’t think you’re doing a good job, so he’s writing all his own releases. Send the media list to Long’s office as directed,” he said briskly.
I involuntarily reached up and twisted my hair, coming to a decision. It's a childhood habit that I can't seem to shake. I consciously pulled my hand back down then stood straight, almost at attention and said firmly but calmly, “No, I won’t, sir. If the president wants news releases sent out, my office is the best place to handle them. We have contacts all over the state and can make calls ... and ... Do you have a press release he wants sent out? May I see it?”
Boyle opened a file and gave me a copy of what Jonathan had shown me earlier. I read it again and sighed. “Mr. Boyle.” He didn’t look up, but continued his work. I sat down directly in front of him and repeated a little louder, “Mr. Boyle. This is not in standard release form, there’s a mistake in it, there is no university logo, there is no contact information, no photo caption or I.D., and nothing that any newspaper would print. It’s not really news, and it’s two weeks old. No one will print it.” He put his pen down again and looked at me hard. “He wants it in newspapers all over the state. He wants it sent out today. He doesn’t want you to make any changes in it. Send it out as it is.”
“But if we send it out, it reduces our credibility with the media ... they will not only ignore this, but they might then ignore future releases we send out that do contain something worth printing. We’ll be wasting their time and they won’t appreciate it. Let me talk with President Parker so I can convince him how wrong this is.” “Do you want to keep your job, Mrs. Grant?” Boyle said sternly and loudly. I stayed silent. “Then send it out! And bring me a list of who it went to. You may NOT contact the president! Dismissed.”
I returned dejectedly to my office where I instructed my crew to send out the news release, but to call all the media outlets first and apologize. 

That night, over a large glass of sorrow-drowning wine, Sharon and I discussed the serious implications of the afternoon’s encounter with Boyle. 
“But you know you can’t trust Boyle,” Sharon said. “Maybe he’s setting you up.” “Setting me up? How?”
“I don’t know how, but no matter what you do, you’re damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t. Send out the crapy releases and lose credibility with the media and never again get anything good published. Don’t send out the crapy releases, and lose your job.” I sighed, “Definitely not good in either case.”
“Parker can’t be that stupid, can he?” Sharon asked.
“How would I know? I’ve never even met the man. Maybe I should just give up and move back to Dallas.”
“What? No way, Maggie Grant. We’re not the giving-up type of women. And you’re not ... repeat NOT ... moving. Besides, as much as I hate conspiracy theories, I think I smell a big conspiracy here. I think Boyle is flat out lying.”
“You may be right. Maybe I should do a little investigating before I put the house up for sale,” I said only half-kiddingly.
Every day since, Boyle has called to see where the article appeared. The only place the information ran was in the local alumni association newsletter and they misspelled the president’s name.
I put in a discreet call to my counterpart at the University of Illinois, President Parker’s last place of employment. What I learned from him made me decide to stay in Lubbock.   

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chapter 34

   My new house. It’s the first one I have owned by myself, and I feel a mixture of pride and panic each time I cross the threshold. Owning a house is a huge responsibility, but I feel up for the challenge. After all, I ran our Dallas home alone for more than a year after Jim died. I can do this, especially since I loved the quaint house so much.
I am particularly pleased with the original stone fireplace — a real fireplace where I can burn real wood. Jim had hated the smell and mess of ashes, so we’d enjoyed the highest-priced artificial gas logs he could find — for both our living area and den. Gas logs are warm, but just not nearly as satisfying as the real thing. I look forward to the cold West Texas winter to try it out. Actually, with this heat and drought, I just look forward to any temperature below 80!
  Getting rid of most of the furniture from my Dallas house has been a way to heal, and to not remember Jim quite as much, not that my heart still doesn’t hurt when I think of him every day. But now that I found the perfect house and completed the additions and renovations, I have decided to furnish it completely opposite from what I’ve lived with for the last 30 years. Out went the Martha Stewart everything-matched-and-everything-perfect style. In are coming odds and ends and interesting, comfortable things, like the lime green chair I’d found earlier in the summer. 
   Not that my Dallas house wasn’t comfortable. When the boys were young and Jim had made partner in the firm – youngest partner ever, I’m proud to say – we’d moved up from the old East Dallas neighborhood to the “right neighborhood.”  Once we’d added the huge den and the clichéd paneled study for Jim, our two-story traditional home, complete with white-columned-front porch was better suited for entertaining Jim’s clients and important members of the church. You just couldn’t invite the Bishop over for dinner with mismatched chairs at the dining room table. Well, you could, but Jim wouldn’t have liked it. So, we lived well, surrounded by designer furnishings, and we entertained fashionably.
   But that was when Jim was alive and loving me and when my whole world revolved around him and the boys. Now he is gone, the boys are grown and I am on my own. 

  For weeks, I have scoured the thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets for older pieces to be refinished, for comfortable chairs to be recovered, and for lots of little eclectic treasures like the wire shelf and the old game board now hanging in the hallway. Sharon refused to let me buy a second-hand couch for the living room, saying couches were like mattresses ... you just didn’t sleep on someone’s discard. So I found a lovely (but unfortunately expensive) non-traditional sofa at one of Lubbock’s finest furniture stores and was convinced to purchase the matching chair because it was on sale. They are being delivered this week. Almost everything else, though, was second- or third-hand.
   The Disabled American Veterans Thrift Store in downtown Lubbock has provided most of my finds, but I bought a few pieces of quality furniture at Aunt Frances’ estate sale early in the summer. Some of them fit perfectly where they were, and nothing else seemed to work in those special places. Like the old telephone table sitting under the alcove at the end of the hallway. I stripped its well-worn painted finish and re-stained it. 
   And when I can’t find just the right treasure to fill a wall space, well, I decided to paint … something I haven’t done since before my oldest son Michael was born. Buying boards and canvas, I delighted in the stretching and priming, the wonder of a blank canvas filling me with both joy and terror. 

   I had majored in art at Tech, my undergraduate degree in studio art with drawing as a minor. I think I was pretty good at it but slowly gave it up because “messy projects” in the house didn’t work with two growing boys and so many obligations, and because the boys left me happily exhausted at the end of each day. There simply wasn’t time in my life for painting or drawing. 
   Now the garage apartment of my new house is my first real studio. Able to do my wall of windows on the south, I eagerly set up an easel, canvas and paints in the bright new room this past week.   
   Lazily curled up next to the warm window, my new cat eyed my activity with interest. I had posted signs in the neighborhood and the A-J for a week and received no word from a possible owner, so I have allowed the cat to move in. Because the tabby keeps walking into the house with prissy little steps as though she already belonged, tail high in the air, I call her Miss Priss. 
   Normally roaming the neighborhood by day, at night she nestles in a corner of the living room on a soft basket bed. I am glad for the company and this weekend had Campos install a pet door in the back for Miss Priss’ convenience. The cat had stepped through it the first time as if she’d wondered what took me so long. Her steady diet, courtesy of me, her new owner, is starting to show in a fuller figure and shinier coat. 
But I have yet to pet her or pick her up. I’ve tried a couple of times, wanting to take her to the vet for a checkup, but Miss Priss was having none of it, hissing at me and backing away. So, we have an unusual relationship — I feed her and Miss Priss tolerates me. It seems to work for us both.
    Late Friday afternoon, I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in more than three decades, and I asked the cat what she thought. “Should I really do this?” Miss Priss turned her head away and closed her eyes, soaking up the last of the sunshine. “Thanks for your help,” I said, and stared at the blank canvas, wondering where in the world to start. 
   Then I stopped again, suddenly remembering Sharon and Carol coming to Dallas about 18 years before. Marathon shopping and a late lunch at the Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus downtown was topped off by a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art. There was special exhibit of works by members of the Wyeth family, favorites of ours from college days.   
   Halfway through the exhibit I fell apart. Overcome with emotion, I literally wept at the beauty of a John Kennedy portrait, so masterful was the younger Wyeth’s genius of capturing the strength and vitality of the famous face. As I stood there, quietly sobbing, arms folded around myself, my friends were at a loss. 
   “Mags,” Sharon said protectively putting her arm around her waist. “What is it? Are you ill? Do we need to leave?” Carol handed me tissues hastily retrieved from her purse. I was unable to answer and continued crying quietly, staring at the portrait.
   Truth was, I was ashamedly overcome with jealousy. Jealousy of these Wyeth men, that they had this enormous God-given talent and were allowed the freedom to show it to the world in all its glory.   
   I’d once had talent, or so my professors had told me. I could get lost in a painting so quickly — shut out the world and revel in the magical realm of creating. But now it was buried inside me by life ... by family ... by obligations.  Buried so deep I hadn’t realized it was even there any more, still wanting to be used, to be allowed to emerge. For some mysterious reason, seeing this particular painting forced to the surface acknowledgement of my own talent, overflowing and taking control of my emotions and actions. “I can do that,” my head silently screamed at me. “Why can’t I be allowed to do that?”
   Desperately ashamed of my selfish thoughts and my loss of control, I let my friends think I was simply overtired from volunteer work and taking care of my growing family. Sharon and Carol were worried because their normally unflappable friend was, well, “flapped,” but no other logical explanation came to mind, and I didn’t enlighten them. I let them escort me protectively to the outside sculpture garden to compose myself, swearing them to secrecy about my breakdown. They had kept their pledge. I have been grateful, and none of them mentioned it again. Until today.
   Paintbrush still in hand on Friday, I called Carol and asked if she had time for a girl talk. Of course she did, was Carol’s quick answer, and I relayed the remembrance.
   “Does it ring a bell?”I asked tentatively. 
   “Absolutely it does,” Carol said. “I didn’t think you were really exhausted. I think you were wishing you had time to draw, to paint. You wanted to be able to show the world you had talent, too. Right?”
   “How...,” I asked in amazement, “how did you know?”
   “Because I sort of felt the same way, that’s why. Seems to me if God gives us talents and we discover what they are, we shouldn’t waste them. You majored in art in college, I took some classes, and we were pretty damn good, weren’t we?”
“We were. I especially remember your Lincoln portrait.”
Carol continued, “But neither of us uses those drawing talents in our profession. And something else ...”
“What’s that?” I asked.
   “Well, my friend, we artistic types are an egotistical and competitive bunch and when someone gets recognition for something we think we might have been able to do, it rubs us the wrong way, no matter how nice we might be. So, I paint ... and I do a lot of crafts, and enter all these women’s groups contests and local competitions ... and rejoice a little each time someone admires what I do.”
   “Exactly! I, goodness, Carol, I should’ve known you’d understand. Thank you. You know I still didn’t paint or draw after that but found a pretty good creative outlet. I went home that day feeling such a need to do something ...” 
  In the days immediately following the museum visit, I took action to remedy those needs. Late one evening after the boys were tucked in bed, I told Jim of my desire to go to work, of my need for an outlet for my creativity, even if it wasn’t as an artist. 
“The boys are in school,” I argued. ”And I need to get out. I don’t want to waste my education just being a social director for the Grant family.” Jim was reluctant, as he enjoyed having me home to tend to all the activities of their lives. Everything was so orderly now. 
   “Let me find something I might like to do and try it for year,” I pleaded, “and if it isn’t working for everyone, I’ll quit.” Although harboring serious reservations, he relented. A year later he had to admit things were just as orderly at home, even though I was busier. He was proud of my work in the Communications office at SMU, the boys were thriving, and he said I seemed to be handling it all quite well. And there was a glow about me he said he hadn’t noticed since earlier in our marriage.
  Little by little, I then incorporated my creativity into my work, taking over design of the university newsletters, organizing and decorating banquets and creating marketing plans. I’d even taken up writing and seemed to have a knack for it, remembering I’d actually enjoyed assigned research papers other students dreaded. Working with the media was a game to me, one I almost always won. I had made a quality career from the need to be creative.

   “So, Carol, my dear friend,” I told her this Friday, “I’m about ready to start again, painting, that is. I’m just scared to death I’m not as good as I think I am ... or was.”
   Carol laughed, but then said in a serious tone, “Truly good artists never think they’re as good as they are ... not even the greats. Michelangelo doubted his Piéta, remember?”
    “Yeah, but his work I’m not jealous of. Just in awe!”
    “Me, too, Maggie. But go for it. Can’t wait to see what you do. Take pics and e-mail ’em. And have fun!”

   So, now, back in my light-filled studio, I tentatively took brush in hand and began outlining a giant flower on a six-foot square canvas. Standing back to analyze it after a few carefully laid strokes, I decided it wasn’t half bad ... not half bad at all. I painted with more boldness, spending the rest of the evening and late into the night immersed in paint and hope. I hung the still-wet canvas in my living area and sighed with contentment. “Great therapy,” I told Miss Priss. “Must buy more canvasses.” 
   The joyful struggle of creating, though, is in direct opposition to the painful struggles of my work at the university.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chapters 32 & 33

Chapter 32
   Campos had been true to his word and work was finished by the 12th. And Colin had been true to his word and helped move me in on Saturday, with both Josh and Jamie assisting. I generously paid the students even though both had objected loudly. Finally, Colin told them to take it, that “Mrs. Grant’s” feelings would be hurt if they didn’t.  
   Sharon and Doug had come early to help, and while the four “men” picked up furniture and hauled the big stuff, we women thoroughly discussed every possible location for every piece of furniture from the storage unit, making a list of pieces we’d need to start shopping for.  
   At one point, I found an opportunity to talk with Jamie alone, and expressed sincere condolences to him about his mother. His usual smiling face had been more sober than normal, but when I mentioned it, I saw the raw edges of still-fresh grief cloud his vision. 
“I don’t know if Professor Murphy mentioned it,” I said gently, “but I lost both my parents at about the same age you are. If there’s anything I can do other than pray, please don’t hesitate to call me. I know you might have questions about your feelings... it’s just that I have been there and can try to help navigate you through it.” 
       I didn’t know if I had said too much, so I was silent for a moment.
He met my eyes for the first time and said softly, “He told me. Thanks. Mrs. Grant. Does it go away? The pain, I mean?”
I reached out and touched his arm. “No, it doesn’t. But it gentles with time. My parents have been gone more than 30 years and I still get ambushed once in a while with the grief. It’s something you learn to live with. Mom and Dad would have wanted me to get on with my life and to be happy.” He looked at me as if saying he could never imagine being happy again. He turned away. 
“I promise it will be better with time, Jamie. Call me if you need me.” 
He nodded and went outside to bring in another load from the truck. My heart ached for him knowing how hard it actually was going to be for a very long time. 

The hardworking crew was rewarded with pizza for arranging and rearranging furniture, unloading books and carting numerous boxes. Doug left earlier when the heavy lifting was done. Josh needed to head to work right after the pizza, and Colin left shortly thereafter with Jamie to work on some business for the Saddle Tramp organization – last spring Jamie had been elected this year’s president and because he was absent most of the summer, had a lot to catch up on. Colin promised to call Maggie later in the week.      
   “Ooohhh,” Sharon said as Colin drove away. “What a hunk! No wonder you’ve got the hots for him!”
   “Phelps, I don’t have the ‘hots’ for him. He’s just an interesting man who’s generous with his time. A friend in the making.”
“A friend with a face and body that are unbelievably handsome. You might need to rethink the sex thing, you know.”
“No, I don’t want to rethink it. And speaking of which, I looked up what the Bible says about it outside of marriage. Do you want to know?” I asked as I walked to a bedroom with another box. 
   “Not really, but tell me anyway so I can refute it,” Sharon said as she followed. 
   “Seems there’s no real prohibition in the Bible against it between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman ...”
“See? That’s great! I’m happy!”
   “But,” I continued, “sexual immorality is denounced in more than two dozen passages in the New Testament. In Corinthians, Paul says it isn’t good for a man to have sexual relations with a woman, and then he goes on to talk about how each man should have his own wife and each woman should have her own husband.” I stopped then, looking at my friend’s reaction before continuing. “Seems Paul states marriage is a cure for sexual immorality.”
   Sharon sniffed and said, “Paul also hated women and said in Corinthians they should keep silent in assemblies and if women want to learn anything, they should go home and ask their husbands. Says it’s a disgrace when women speak in an assembly. Also, according to Paul, in Timothy, I think, he says he doesn’t allow women to teach or to wear their hair in fancy styles or to even adorn themselves with pearls.”
My eyes widened, thinking of mother’s pearl necklace, which I wear for special occasions and often to church. 
  Sharon continued, “But that’s Paul ... not necessarily God. So, if we don’t believe that garbage any more about speaking, teaching and wearing pearls, why should we believe what he said about sex outside of marriage? One of the ten commandments said not to commit adultery, not that we couldn’t enjoy one of His gifts without marriage. I’m confident He won’t send me to hell because I’m sleeping with a man I love dearly.”
   “I don’t believe He will either. However, I’m not ready to say it’s right for me. So, as usual, we respect each other’s opinions on the subject, right?”
   Sharon laughed. “Right, girlfriend. But you might at least give it some thought when that gorgeous man takes you in his arms next time.”
   “Maybe I will, but I doubt it ... and it’s if there’s a next time.”
   Close to midnight, Sharon finally said good night, and I was alone in my new home. I poured a glass of wine and then walked slowly through the entire house, looking critically at every room once more before making up the mattress in my new master suite. I raised my glass up high and said a prayer of thanks, draining the last dregs before turning in. Great house, I remember thinking just before I drifted off to an exhausted sleep ... and so little furniture. Must shop ...
Chapter 33 
   At Mass yesterday morning, I ran into Fern in the vestibule, accompanied by a tall man with a crew cut. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t immediately place him. Must be Fern’s husband, I thought, the way he’s holding her hand. How sweet. 
   “Maggie, my friend,” Fern said. “Let me introduce you to my better half. Russell, this is Margaret Grant, the creative lady I told you about who did such wonderful crafts for the children earlier this summer. Maggie, this is Russell, my husband of too many years to count.”
   I smiled at the tall man in the western suit with bolo tie, desperately trying to place him. He was so familiar! Where??? Shaking his hand, I said, “Pleased to meet you, Mr ...” What was Fern’s last name? Did I ever know?
“Russell Arbuckle, Mrs. Grant. And I’ve seen you at Tech regents meetings.”
“Of course, Mr. Arbuckle!” I said with sudden recognition. “You’re a regent. I hadn’t realized ... Oh, and you’re the generous donor for the Wind Museum.” I looked accusingly at a smugly smiling Fern, I said, “You keep things close to the vest, don’t you!” Looking back at Mr. Arbuckle, hoping I’d recovered my manners quickly enough, “But how nice to finally meet you.” 
   Fern was so unpretentious, and yet they were probably the wealthiest family on the South Plains, if not in most of Texas. Amazing.
   Russell smiled and said, “I’ve heard good things from my Fernie about you, and from Monsignor Fitz. And Winston Whitaker thinks you’re quite a smart woman. We ’preciate your sending Steven out to interview me about the museum gift. He did some nice stories.”
“It was our pleasure, Mr. Arbuckle,” I said, smiling. Then searching their faces, I tentatively asked, “I, um, I thought the article said your wife’s name was Dorthea?”
   Fern smiled, but it was Russ who answered. “It is. Dorthea Fern Cavenaugh Arbuckle. But we’re not that formal around these here parts. Fern is what everyone calls her and Russ is what everyone calls me, so please, no Mr. Arbuckle, if you don’t mind. Just makes me feel old!” he said with a wink. I remembered Steven’s article said he was 83, his wife 77.
   “Thank you, Russ. And I’m Maggie.”
“And we’ll be late if we don’t go in pretty soon,” Fern said. “Monsignor likes to start on time, or is it Father Murphy today? Isn’t he the best homilist? Just love his interpretations of scriptures. Oh, Maggie, we’re starting another round of Bible study at the house this fall, after Labor Day and you’re welcome to join us. I’ll let you know the details, but we really must go in now, Russ, darling. See you later, Maggie.”
“Yes, see you later, Fern. Nice to meet you Russ.”
   It was Father Murphy who celebrated that particular Mass, and once again I lost myself in his thought-provoking sermon. Lately, I’d given fleeting thought to trying to attend the earlier Mass so I might see Colin — he was an early morning person, he’d said, and liked attending as the sun came up — but I think it might be too forward, since the 10 a.m. service is my normal routine. 
        Besides, after the physical work of the previous day, I was surprised I’d made it up in time for even this mid-morning service. I’d planned to spend the rest of the day unpacking a few more boxes, especially in the kitchen so I could start cooking, but my sore muscles and the still blistering hot weather made me think instead of a relaxing afternoon in the pool at the Nest. 
       I opted for an hour in the pool and then went back to my very own house to dig through more containers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Last Week

Yesterday at church we prayed for rain, again. I can’t believe how awful this drought has been, especially here on Llano Estacado. I read in Financial Times, “The Lone Star state is at the epicenter of a once-in-a-generation drought stretching from Arizona to Florida. the US’s southern underbelly is scorched like meat on a grill.”
We are experiencing small scattered showers tonight, but the temperature was once again over 100 and the same is forecast for the remainder of the week. I am sure the cotton fields are suffering. What did I overhear the other day? Someone said the fields look like wintertime... just dry dirt with no growth. Even the weeds won’t grow in this heat.
We’ll keep praying. What we need is a hurricane that bypasses all the big cities and spreads out over the entire state. 
There was a bit of humor in the AJ the other day.. and on the news. Check out this photo below found on the internet and see the website. Some local Lubbockites had some fun with Drought Man.  
The only good thing that happened this week is Sharon and Doug convinced me to go with them Friday night to the Cactus Theatre downtown. Have I told you about the Cactus Theatre? It's a great place to see local talent. An old movie theatre turned into a live performance theatre. 

Friday was a night of Desperado. Toby Caldwell and The Lubbock Texas Rhythm Machine paid tribute to the Eagles album Desperado... played all the songs from start to finish on the album declaring it “The most influential album in county rock history.” I don’t know about that, but we loved it! The same show is each Friday this month, so maybe we’ll go again. Really fun.
Also, next Saturday they are doing a tribute to Patsy Cline. Would love to check that out, too, but I am hopeful that next Saturday I will be moving into my new house! Yipee! I've been out there riding fences for soooo long... 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chapter 31

   In late July, the Board of Regents announced the sole finalist for the position of president of Texas Tech University, one Phillip Parker, Ph.D., graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Texas, an economics guru. Of the finalists announced earlier, I think he had the best credentials. His last position was as Chief Financial Officer at the University of Illinois.
   When the decision was announced, a collective sigh of relief went up from the administration building, no doubt echoed in departments across the university. Boyle is more sullen than usual, and so I have tried to stay out of his way. Thankfully, we won’t be changing the website’s home page as directed, and Boyle hasn't mentioned it again.
  I had hoped the new president might be Catholic and fall under Monsignor Fitz’s influence so I might have at least some access, but no luck there. He is reportedly Methodist. He is also the first African-American president at Tech — definitely an anomaly in this part of the country.   
   Although my group handled the news releases about his selection and arrival, I have yet to meet him. And even though my staff has sent Boyle a detailed outline of suggestions for introductions to the staff, students and community, we have heard nothing in return. The plan included an interview with the Daily Toreador student newspaper during Dr. Parker’s first week and then guest editorials in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, as well as appearances at as many campus activities as he can fit into his schedule. The Faculty Senate, the Alumni Association and the department chairs should be visited as soon as possible.
    We’d suggested the president’s office contact various local civic clubs, the mayor’s office, the University Medical Center administrators and the student body president, as well as the presidents of all active student organizations. The Lubbock public radio station would welcome him as a guest for a lengthy interview program. Communications would be pleased to work with him to write a series of articles for our Insight employee newsletter on his mission and goals. Different student organizations could place ads in the school paper to welcome him. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to frequent local restaurants and introduce himself.    
Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to be using any of those ideas. I wonder if he’s even seen the plan because he isn’t marketing himself at all. I am afraid he won’t last long without a good exposure plan. 
     But I know better than to bring it up to Bennett Boyle. There isn’t much more I can do except wait and hope for the best. Luckily, it wasn’t all I had to think about last week.

   “Are you free Saturday morning? I found some vintage curtains I think will look good in here, but I wanted to get your opinion.” I had brought Sharon over to the new house late Sunday after I’d picked them up at the airport and deposited Doug and the luggage at the Nest.
   “I haven’t been home from Italy a full day yet and already you’re dragging me out shopping!” Sharon exclaimed. “Okay, but only if you’ll tell me when I get to meet this beau of yours.”
   “He’s not my beau,” I said, maybe a little too defensively. “He’s a friend. But he’s promised to help me move in, so you can meet him then if you promise to behave yourself.”
“When you move in? That’s another two weeks away. We could double date before then, couldn’t we?” 
   “No. We’re not dating ... we’re just friends. And besides, I’m too busy to go out.”
   “Well, then I guess I’ll just have to wait. But speaking of this house you’re renovating, Maggie,” Sharon said, moving from room to room, admiring the work, “it’s really the most charmingly house I’ve seen in the entire town. You’ve done so much while we were gone! It really suits you so well. I never did think you were a traditionalist like your home in Dallas. This house is definitely the old Maggie. You feeding the cat yet?”
  “What? No, I’m not feeding the cat! But she still won’t go away. Though I am getting worried about her. I think she looks a little thin.”
   “Where is she?”
   “I haven’t seen her this evening. She could be anywhere.”
“Well, she’s probably already devoured the entire neighborhood’s mouse population. If she comes around as much as you say, Maggie, I think she’s looking for a new home. You should feed her.”
   “Not until I find out where she came from. Surely she lives around here somewhere. I checked with Miss Frances, and she’d never seen her before. I’ll ask around and maybe put up a flier or something near the park. Will that satisfy you?”
  “Yes, but I can hardly wait to meet them both.”
   “Yes. Your new cat and your new beau.”
   “Friend,” I said quickly. “He’s my friend.”
   “Yeah, Maggie, and I’m a monkey’s uncle.”