Saturday, October 29, 2011

“Full Circle”

The week began with a mother lost   
her children writing of beauty and peace   
sharing private moments of tenderness   
bringing in light, grace and acceptance   
listening for the music of the eternal last dance   
The week ended with a mother found   
joyously announcing their future   
sharing with anticipation     
the possibilities of parenthood   
listening for the music of a child    

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, October 28, 2011

“The Second Spring”

That Spring the dew nourished us with fresh gentleness and endless   
The world sharpened into polarized crispness with infinite scope   
With loneliness, I strolled in an open meadow of wild flowers   
Always longing for some answers as I strolled away the hours   
I fell in love with the troubadour singing ballads and love songs   
The youth of tawny hair, sinewy muscle—a heart true and strong   
The artist stroking bold vibrant colors on a pristine canvas   
The man embracing the possibilities of our love’s success   
Moving from son to lover to father, he grew in each season   
He donned robes of responsibility with capable reason   
From sun to moon and moon to sun, our lifelines entwined forever   
Through time’s heartbreaks and new challenges, we always stood 
Our youthful promise dried and died under an endless summer’s 
Together we survived the long drought that led to other’s defeat   
And now we enter the Second Spring where azaleas bloom all year   
Paintbrushes, bluebonnets, and thistles blanket meadows both far        
     and near
In the Second Spring love flows strong, and it sings in notes pure 
     and true   
It flourishes and grows in bountiful joy that’s forever new   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, October 27, 2011

“Halloween Parties”

         A long, long time ago, before legislators decided children shouldn’t have parties during school hours. each holiday ushered in festivities that took weeks of preparation. The first major celebration found hallways papered with witches, jack-o-lanterns, and black cats with backs hunched in fright. Cut-out bats swooped from the ceilings and gravestones with ghosts peeking over them paraded down the walls of the hallways. Halloween meant mothers sent candied apples, popcorn balls, and cupcakes to school for the afternoon party. Everyone wore a costume for the day (and not some favorite character from a book). Some teachers played records with screeches and howls, and ghostly music while others read scary stories. Almost every year, one teacher would read “Little Orphan Annie” where “the Gobble-uns/ ‘at gits you/ Ef you/ Don’t/ Watch/ Out!” All of the students would march from class to class to trick-or-treat, and the day ended with a party back in your own room. Games like “Seven Up” and “Poor Pussy” kept us busy all afternoon.

         My teaching career began at a junior high school that encompassed seventh, eighth, and ninth graders—all too cool for wearing Halloween costumes to school, but still longing for some special way to mark the day. In those long ago days, teachers could still bring candy to school, and I’d hand out treats to my students. I’d drop the shades, turn off the lights, and delight my students with “The Tell Tale Heart.” Some classes would play “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” where one student would volunteer to be our dead body while another would chant the spooky tale of death; and with the help of five other students, we’d levitate our “dead” student. Over a period of seven years, I never had a single parent complain that the activity exposed the children to Satan, witch craft, or paganism. Boy, have times changed!

         When I moved up to teach English and Psychology at our high school, I found myself back with students who longed to roam the hallways in costumes. Leaving behind the awkward pre-teen years, this older age group donned bold and creative outfits. Our day of celebration included all the favorite music, poetry and stories plus original masterpieces written by my students and shared with the class. Our studies ranged from Poe to Stephen King as students determined the elements of horror within a story.

         Somewhere along the line, some parents in some Texas town or city complained about the celebration of Halloween within public schools. Little by little our state legislature chipped away at the traditions I enjoyed in my own childhood. The same mentality that we can use standardized testing to measure the value of our students and our schools seeped into many of the small delights of teaching and learning. I am thankful that creative teachers and principals find a way to still bring Halloween celebrations onto some campuses.    

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

“Bill Miller Bar-B-Q”

         During the early years of my marriage, going out to eat happened every three or four months when my parents came to town for a visit. Now, my parents insisted that they came to San Antonio to see us, but they always made a run to the commissary for non-perishable groceries, and they always came back to our house with an entire Bill Miller Family Meal Deal. That meant tender brisket or juicy sausage coupled with potato salad and tart vinegar coleslaw. We piled our plates high with their special pickle and onion mixture, pinto beans, and warm brown bread. The sweetest tea on earth comes from this restaurant, and my parents would bring it home in buckets. One lemon meringue pie added to the tradition.
         After my father died, Mom moved to San Antonio. She shifted from wanting Bill Miller’s once every few months to wanting it every week. She started a new tradition. On Sundays she would come over to our house to use our washer and dryer and insist on providing our meal for the day. Occasionally, she’d yearn for an Arby’s sandwich, but most of the time she wanted her brisket and slaw.
         Today, Paul wanted a break from his music studio and suggested making a Bill Miller’s run. Mom can no longer eat the sausage and brisket. She’s shifted to their chop—a delightful mixture of meat and bar-be-q sauce that’s absolutely perfect for her chewing and swallowing capabilities. We discovered that adding it to a baked potato makes it even more filling for her. Our tradition shifts, as it should, to embrace the new realities of our family life.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

“Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow”

         About three summers ago, I chopped off my hair in an extremely short cut because I wanted to get back to my roots. I really couldn’t remember the exact shade of my hair, and curiosity motivated me to hack off inches and inches until I got to the uncolored roots. I spent another two years leaving my hair its natural shade—a cross of browns, reds, and grays. Eventually, the layers of my short style grew enough for me to cut it into a bob. From there, I simply let it grow. Usually, when my hair hits shoulder length, I feel compelled to change it in some way. This time, however, I resisted the urge because I’d made a personal pledge to donate my tresses to Locks of Love (

         When I left the house this morning, my hair flowed midway down my back. I’ve never worn it this long. I swept it back in an efficient ponytail and headed over to a Great Clips because the stylists always do such a wonderful job taking care of my mother’s trims. I didn’t have to wait long. The stylist quickly braided my hair, paused for a dramatic moment and asked, “How much?”

         “All of it!” I replied. Before I could change my mind, I felt a firm tug and saw my hair suspended in the stylist’s hands before she folded the braid over and set it on the table in front of me.
         “Do you have any idea of what you want me to do now?” she asked.
         “Whatever you want!” I felt empowered by bravely leaving my hair in the hands of the expert.

         She pulled up a few strands, fluffed and studied me for a moment. Then her scissors flew quickly as she snipped, stood back, and snipped some more. I closed my eyes and let her fashion a style for me. When she finished, I couldn’t believe the change!
         I don’t know if I’ll regrow my locks to do another donation. For a little while, I think I’ll enjoy this “new me” for a few months.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, October 24, 2011

“Tone of Voice”

I’m okay, fine   
she whispers without eye contact   
I’ve got it handled   
Don’t worry   
He misses the hollowness of her words   
overlooks her subtle cues—   
her Woman Speak   
She tucks her feet onto the couch,   
pulls herself into a tight ball under a red throw   
stares at the television without seeing   
sighing deeply    
Oblivious, he flips the channel     
to his station   
all’s right   
content to listen to her words   
instead of her tone of voice   
Her annoyance and sadness battle across her features   
surreptitiously, she wipes her silent tears   
waits for him to notice her heaviness   
His attention rivets on the game   
its motion mesmerizes him   
takes him away and isolates her   
She grabs hold of anger over sorrow   
indignation throws her off the couch   
propels her into their bedroom   
fuels the door slam   
He sits with bewilderment   
Cautiously, he approaches the closed door   
tentatively tapping   
Can I do something?   
No. I’m okay, fine     
I’ve got it handled   
Don’t worry   
He opens the door anyway   
pulls her into his arms   
In tenderness, he wipes the tears from her face   
We’ll handle it   
he soothes and reassures with understanding   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, October 23, 2011

“Vinegar and Bleach”

         Budgeting since my retirement means reevaluating exactly where I want to spend my dollars. A couple of months ago, I had one of those terrible weeks where every cleanser in the house came up empty. I hate it when all of my sprays and scrubs run out at the same time because they eat such a huge chunk out of our grocery budget. Even with coupons, the cost of Scrubbing Bubbles, Pine Sol, and Windex added together on one bill translates into less to eat for the week. I started fearing that my emaciated body would keel over from starvation as I scrubbed the tubs.
         Last month, I refused to buy another round of cleaning supplies. Instead, I grabbed the largest jug of white vinegar I could find with one hand and a gallon plus container of bleach with my other hand. (Poetic license here, of course, because these two items perch on shelves in totally different aisles of H.E.B). I recycled a bottle from one of my old cleansers and loaded it with straight white vinegar. The rest is history! My love affair with the power of white vinegar has grown daily. I clean my kitchen countertops with it. Hard water stains? Vinegar and salt mixed together takes care of that. Is that a barfed up cat hair ball? Spritz and spray with vinegar, and it comes off the carpet without leaving a mark. My living room and kitchen floors (especially the grout) look new again. My windows glisten and the mirrors practically glow! Add a little baking soda to vinegar to make a paste that can clean almost anything.  Although vinegar has a strong scent, the odor dissipates quickly and leaves the rooms smelling chemical free.
         I have a healthy respect for bleach. It doesn’t matter how careful I am, I always manage to splatter a little dot on my clothing. When I began using bleach as one of my major cleansers a couple of weeks ago, I hauled out an old pair of shorts and an already bleach spotted Aggie t-shirt to use on my bleaching days. I douse paper a wad of paper towels with bleach and wipe down every surface of both bathrooms. I disinfect the toilets, sinks, and tubs. I scrub the garage floor with a diluted mixture of bleach and water, and I use it in the kitchen to kill bacteria. With bleach, I make certain I keep the room well ventilated, but that’s easy to do.

         The combination of using these two cleansers (which you never combine when actually cleaning) has impacted my ability to buy more at the grocery store. Because white vinegar and bleach are so cheap, I can purchase gallons of each for very little money. With both items in my arsenal, my house stays spotless for less.  

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman