What's the story?
Diana's remarks at the Celebration of Mark's Life, 1.22.17.
Thank you all for being here today to honor Mark Hendricks, the greatest man I have ever known.
If you have known Mark, seen the tribute website, or heard the words and songs here today, you are going to know a lot about him. Please allow me to tell you a little you might not know.
Before we began dating, Mark was diagnosed with health problems that had gone undetected for too long and had already caused other complications. He warned me that his doctors had told him that he might not live eight to ten more years. Even if the doctors were right, we had found each other and we knew what we were in for – and we vowed to celebrate every day loving one another.
On January 24, 2004, 13 years ago this week, he asked me to marry him. Today, I can honestly tell you that I would have wished for forty more years with the great love of my life. But we got thirteen so I guess we “beat the house” on that one.
As you know, Mark and Becky had DeLynn and Patrick, and Kent and I had Jenni, Sterling and HalleyAnna. Blending a family can be a challenge, but ours came together, even if often in a chaotic way. Patrick and HalleyAnna grew into kindred spirits as they grew into adulthood. .DeLynn asked Jenni and HalleyAnna to be bridesmaids in her wedding, and Sterling quickly considered Patrick the little brother he always wanted. Through chaos and fender benders, boyfriends and grandchildren, we have watched the family grow.
When Kent died in 2015, I was there. When Mark died, Becky was here.
Remember when they used to call those “broken homes?” We are thankful for this blended family gathered here today. We are family. And I am so proud of each of you. And we are so blessed to have Mark’s 92-year old mother Mary living within walking distance. Not only do we get to celebrate all of our holidays together, but she has led by example and offered me sound advice for getting through this time of heartbreak and sadness, in the true manner of a Marine Colonel’s widow.
In 2014, when we adopted Barkley from PAWS animal shelter – Mark was convinced that it was Barkley who rescued us, rather than vice versa. Barkley is pretty much the best dog in the world, and I don’t make such boasts lightly.(Note that we have never made such claims about any of our five children!)
We have filled the past thirteen years with the stuff that sappy love song are written about. We have had fun and traveled, had parties and good friends. Kim and Winton Porterfield are about as close to next of kin as we can get. And the outpouring of true friendship in the past two weeks has been overwhelming. I will never be able to thank each of you enough for all you have done to help us get through this time.
We were so lucky. Who knew love could be so easy? We have chronicled those precious years in notes and journals, cards and letters. On our first anniversary – the traditional paper gift year - he wrote a note to me on a standard sheet of paper. It began with: “Paper is an interesting substance. It can be torn but also has remarkable strength. Take a typical piece of paper. Yes, if you start at one edge, you can tear it apart. But if you hold it by two edges at the same time and try to pull it apart, you can’t do it. There’s something meaningful about the kind of strength in paper. One of us could be torn, but together we cannot be pulled apart…”
He was right. We have stumbled, and hit a few walls, but we were never pulled apart. Father Ben reminded me this week that Mark and I are still together, and it’s okay to still talk to him – and hear him - – and be “us.” Even if It is in a different way.
Mark brought three important lessons to our marriage that have served us well.
1. We are on the same side. We never argued. We debated sometimes but we were on the same side – we both wanted the best for US – and we knew that working together, things would work out.
2. Do one thing at a time.. Do your best, and move on to the next thing. (That has certainly come in handy in the last couple of weeks.)
3.. “It will be seamless. Trust me.” Stop worrying . When I would fret about the what if’s and consider all of the bad things that MIGHT happen, Mark would remind me what his father told him. Generally if you are in the right place doing the right thing, for the right reason, it will work out. But Worrying is not going to change the outcome one way or another.
While I am talking about platitudes – I have one more to share. We had a wonderful – if uneventful new years eve three weeks ago – at home alone – watching the new year roll in across the time zones, listening to one after another of our favorite songs on our playlists.
As we were toddling off to bed well after midnight, Mark said , “You know, we should get a giant rock - big enough to sit on - and set it out back by the pool. I want to put a plaque on it that says “Instead of Sheep.”
I said, “Instead of sheep? What the heck does that mean?”
Quoting the Irving Berlin song from our favorite holiday movie, White Christmas,
If you’re worried and you can’t sleep,
just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep,
counting your blessings.”
So that is my next project.
Instead of sheep.
Happy Mother's Day. Mark and I are moving kind of slow today at my house. This weekend marks the end of a very busy semester. Nine hours of grad school, two gallery shows, three magazine cover stories, and a wonderful community wide election that brought unlikely groups of people together to push forward in a new direction with some greatly needed school improvements. And it's Mother's Day.
While we have lots of images of our blended family with all five of our fabulous kids, this one was on my mind this morning. Sterling, Jenni, and HalleyAnna -- the three kids who helped me grow into who I am today.
I have had this picture on my computer desktop and in a frame on my desk for a couple of years. A quick shot taken at a rare moment when everyone was together somewhere, it has always made me think of that final scene in "The Wizard of Oz," where Dorothy wakes up in her bed on the farm in Kansas and sees everyone around her.
"You were there, and you were there, and you were there," she says, as she looks at the familiar family members with a different eye...as she remembers a technicolor dream of the adventure of her life.
And I look at this picture, I see my own versions of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.
The Scarecrow: Sterling is one of the smartest people I have ever known. In the third grade, he carried a well-worn copy of Thoreau's Walden in his book bag, reading and quoting from it. He liked reading Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and books of lists and world almanacs and Texas maps. He was a Duke National Scholar with high scores on the SAT while in junior high, and grew to be San Marcos' first National Coca-Cola scholar and a presidential scholar. And along the way, he stumbled into more questions than answers and started doubting his own ability - wondering how life would be "if he only had a brain." Ah, but he does.
The Tin Man: Jenni has been goal driven and organized since she was a toddler. She grew up overnight when Sterling was born and before she was two, she had stepped into the role of second in command in the mothering department. A childhood on stage led to a successful career on the business side of music, a challenging, competitive, and sometimes careless world. She has faced family illness and stopped her world to take care of others. And against common practice, she has put her artists' needs ahead of hers, and taken on much more than what would normally be required. Through her dedication, her clients have become friends and those friends have become family. Though along the way, when forced to make difficult decisions, she has confided, "I am sort of heartless, I guess." I beg to differ.
And HalleyAnna, the Cowardly Lion. She learned to walk before she crawled -and always knew she wanted to keep up with the big kids. She has stepped up and stepped out of her comfort zone and made her own good decisions for a long time. She had heart surgery at the age of 13 to fix an extra electrical pathway, was hit by a car while riding her bike nine years later, and has traveled solo to New York City, Walden Pond, Costa Rica and across the Great Divide in Colorado, and got at tattoo of the state of Texas on her index finger, lest she need to find her way home from somewhere far away. As she prepares to release her second album and is packing her car to head across the southeast to promote the record, she thinks a lot about courage. And wonders what it would look like.
And so today as the dust settles after a whirlwind month, I look at this picture of those children who grew into adults while I was looking the other way, while I was busy traveling down that yellow brick road, fighting off flying monkeys and trying to figure out how to get to where we needed to be. And I think of a million things I would have done differently -- and oh so much better -- if I only had the brain and the heart and the courage .... and time.
And if I had known then what I know now. And the things I wish I had said while time was slipping through my fingers. I wonder if they know how much I love them - and how proud I am of who they are - deep down, far beneath their own doubts and worries and questions.
Looking back, I think that that if I'd only had a brain... a heart... and courage, I would have passed it all on to them.
But for now, I will look at this picture and think of that great adventure over the rainbow that was motherhood.
And I will be so very proud of who they are. And who they have been all along. Even if they don't completely know themselves.
Happy Mother's Day. There's no place like home.
I’m here. I’m blogging. I started like a house ablaze a while ago, and then I saw something shiny or busy with grad school and other things, and neglected this but another year has gone by and I am going to push-start it again.
I am not promising much in the way of regular writing or deadlines- or even much of interest to the masses. In sort of a stream of consciousness, I plan to write about the most ordinary things like backroads and graveyards, great love and baseball bats, good music, quiet moments, keeping score, getting the shot and taking a chance.
I will probably share more than you want to know about things that may not matter too much to you.
Once in a while, I might stumble across something that catches your eye. And you are more than welcome to hitch yourself to my wagon and come along.
Meanwhile, forgive the typos and rambling you find in the posts on this blog. Consider it just a dime-store diary tucked between the couch cushions, to which you have found the little tin key.
And if you want to read more about this blog, please visit my first entry to this forum. There is a way to subscribe or sign up or commit - but if you don’t feel obligated, I won’t feel guilty when I lapse into that whole “picture- worth-a-thousand-words” concept and sluff off on the writing once in a while.
But sincerely, I thank you for stopping by. If you like what you’re reading, come back and visit. I’ll be around.
All my best,
Listening to: "If You Could Read My Mind" by Gordon Lightfoot
Okay. Here goes. A Valentine story.
Some years ago, my good friend, Mary Mikel, and I happened to be going through divorces at about the same time. Quietly, painfully, and not so much commiserating together, but sort of feeling our way through this new kind of normal that was single at the advent of the 21st century. And I had no interest in ever – EVER – getting involved in a relationship again.
Listening to the Beach Boys’ “Be True To Your School”
Today on a Facebook alumni group, one of my friends asked, “What in your life are you most proud of?”
This is a group of a little less than 200 folks who graduated from San Marcos High School between 1970 and 1980 – and I would guess that at least 2/3 of them moved away from San Marcos after high school graduation. After a split second of thought, I knew my answer(s).
Listening to: Johnny Cash & June Carter – “Farside Banks of Jordan”
June, 2011 :: Obit Club Membership Report
Ok – here is the current incarnation of the Obit Club – or at least my take on it — though I may not be exactly correct about some of these details. In the true southern storytelling tradition, if I don’t know the facts, I can generally fill in the blanks with some semblence of fictionalized truth. (And if, as one of the subjects of said fiction, you are not completely offended by it, just go with it. Don’t be too picky.)
Listening to: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – “Hele on to Kaua’i“
Sunrise at Shipwreck Point, Kaua'i.
“Kaua’i, say you love me once again.
I can hear you calling like a long lost friend.
I wasn’t born there, but I belong there,
Kaua’i, say you love me once again.”
- Mike Young
We are on our way home.
The bags are packed. HalleyAnna, our trusted house sitter, is ready and prepped with several lists. The neighbors are keeping an extra eye on things while we are gone. And the dogs know something’s going on.
Listening to: Joan Baez – “Forever Young“
Note: This is unlike most of my blogs, but is a big part of my life.
It’s been twelve years since April 20, 1999. An ordinary morning.
That was the morning two teenage boys woke up, got dressed, and went to school to embark on a deadly rampage. They killed 13 people, injured 24 and committed suicide. Columbine became a household word. The bullets fired that day tore a gaping hole through the heart of America, leaving each of us groping for a sense of security that will be forever lost.
Listening to: Guy Clark – “Instant Coffee Blues”
I drink coffee.
It’s a new thing.
Diet Coke was my beverage of choice in the mornings. A boiling cup of joe couldn’t hold a candle to that first chug of icy cold Diet Coke burning its way down my throat to wake me up.
Listening to: "In This Life," by Iz
"The only dream that mattered had come true..."
It’s a simple red, leather journal, thick with memories and promises, dreams, and dares, and the opening chapters of a happily-ever-after love story.
The unedited version.
Once in a while, I read back through the pages of this book. My gift to you on the occasion of our first Christmas together. Our first emails and notes are glued to the pages, quilted together with song lyrics and poetry and notes in the margins.
Our paths had crossed many times before we started dating. More than a parallel universe, at times it seems we traveled two lanes of the same highway, heading in the same direction.
In those early days, we grew together as friends as we cautiously mended our broken wings and cynical hearts. With baby steps, we carefully introduced one another to our worlds. We had doubts along the way. We wondered if it was worth the effort. And we laughed. A lot. And I learned that love can be easy. And life really can be seamless.
In our wedding vows, we said to one another, “You are my best friend, my last first kiss, my coat from the cold, and the great love of my life. In all ways and forever. And nine days. That is my vow to you.”
Today, we celebrate seven years. And truly, I’d wish for seventy more years in this. Realistically, we know we won’t get that, but we have had a chance to see what all those folks have been painting and dancing and writing and singing about for thousands of years. True love. It’s easy. And it’s worth it.
“Let the world stop turning, let the sun stop burning,
Let them tell me love’s not worth going through.
If it all falls apart, I will know deep in my heart
The only dream that mattered had come true.
In this life, I was loved by you.“
– Mike Reid, Allen Shamblin
As I archived and clipped and glued and scribbled notes in the margins, I came to the last pages of that journal. I couldn’t – no, wouldn’t think of a way to fill the final page. It is a book of beginnings.
Someday, I hope our children and their children will stumble across this story of how we came to find the great love of our lives. I wish for each of them one true love. And the chance to feel – if only for one moment in forever – the way I feel about you.
Happy anniversary, Mark.
Happily ever after. We’re living the dream.
As I set these lofty goals, and say that I really am going to write here once a month, I am already figuring out how i can "submit" some of the papers I write for school - book reviews, biographies of music writers, etc.
I am going to start this list of my favorite blogs in no particular order -(okay – maybe alphabetically), and add to it regularly. Starting with my friends’ blogs – and those I read regularly. As I go along I will add strangers’ blogs. I will try to track my wandering and share what I find along the way.
But you are going to have to do your part too. Send me links to your favorite backroad blogs.
Coach Stacy Fowler: The most upbeat fitness guru and buddy I know. She’s in it for the long haul!
Pat Conroy: Sometimes I just want to virtually sit at his desk for inspiration.
daughter of dreams. sister of songs. champion of both.Susan Hanson: Her version of life.
Joe Nick Patoski: writer, historian, Texan.
Mary Mikel Stump: A Hand Upon The Latch.
Janice Williams Loves Austin: Title pretty much says it all.Susan Wittig Albert: Notes about writing, landscape, and life in the Texas Hill Country