Lunch: NASA Astronaut Joan Higginbotham and Mexican Lasagna? OK.


This gallery contains 17 photos.

Lunch with an astronaut would have only been better in space. Continue reading


Journey to the Center of My Pocket Protector (and Beyond)

When I was pregnant forever ago, I dreamed I was observing my daughter as an adolescent, living her daily life, becoming independent. I remember wondering, as I woke up, if I’d ever be able to look at her without being emotionally overwhelmed by love and fear and everything else. I knew I wanted to give her the world, but how? Parenthood seemed like such a symphony of emergencies when I was full-bellied-with-baby.

Then she went to kindergarten.

Began reading.

Discovered her own music.

And, suddenly, she was on auto-pilot — needing me to only serve as a bumper guard for her awkward, burgeoning life. (I’m not fooled, though; this is what I’ve been rehearsing for since my kid was born.)

With the potential for so much sensory overload, it’s important to steer our surly junior high replicas down good paths whether they seem to like it or not. Being a valuable parent is about making choices for our children and then allowing them to choose their own options from there. It’s not rocket science.

Or, maybe, it is partially rocket science.

Continue reading

The Antoine Dodson seventh grade semester exam study method revealed!

Drowning herself in the deep, deep waters of last-minute academia, The Bell spent this past week waffling between a variety of semester exam study methods:

  1. The helpful “Mom” oral quiz, which usually ended in some kind of Google search for information about emancipation;
  2. Staring at the ceiling while silently reciting whatever she’d written in the study sheet below her sightline;
  3. Spending hours creating The Coolest Acronyms Ever so that she not only had to remember the awesome acronyms, but also what they stood for.

Maybe you remember that frustrating ball of wax from your own seventh grade yesteryear?

On Day Four of Total Cranium Cram Meltdooowwwnnn 2011, The Bell decided to use a new and improved approach to remembering some of the items she was having problems learning. In typical fashion, there was nothing very typical about her fashion.

But first! You remember Antoine Dodson, right?

He’s the brother of a women from the Lincoln Park area who was an attempted rape victim. The full story — in case you have been living under a rock — is tediously chronicled on Antoine’s not-to-be-missed Wiki page. Because Antoine’s television interview was an unexpected well of ***AWESOME***, Auto-Tune the News quickly picked it up and released what is now a ginormous iTunes hit.

Alright, so getting back to Bella and The Great Cram: I was pretty psyched tonight when I overheard a brand new version of Antoine’s song…with lyrics about Texas history…as sung by The Bell…minus the auto-tuning. Aw, yeah.

Rock hands. Put them up.

“We have Comanches in the Great Plains of Texas/They’re getting kinda hostile/ They’re getting kinda sick of you/Trying to preach and colonize/Hide your cows/Hide your wife/Hide your cows/Hide your wife/And tell the Spanish ‘cos they’re gonna make life miserable for invaders, also…”

There was a part about Stephen F. Austin and Jane Long and Rosa Maria and the Chicken War, but I was too bewildered to take clear notice. I mean, hell, two things here:

  1. Out of all the songs in recorded history to use as a study guide, my kid chooses this?
  2. Tomorrow, The Bell is going to [fingers crossed] ace a huge test by singing her version of a song that was originally a melodramatic sound byte from an Alabammy news report about a foiled rape attempt.

*scratches head. (I know. I am always pointing out two very important things. Gaw.)

I guess it could be worse. Heh.

Just hide your cows. Hide your wife.

The Bell’s NASA Space Shuttle Discovery Dresser, kinda sorta

For most of the year, Bella’s been walking around with a flash drive full of writing projects stashed in her pocket so she could snag a few minutes here and there from any computer with an owner willing to loan it out. I figured her resourcefulness deserved rewarding.

My kid is awesome even incognito.

After some head-scratching, the whole family chipped in and bought her a really freaking nice computer. It’s the kind of thing a kid with parents in her socioeconomic bracket usually would never consider, but Bella is a great writer. I figure if she doesn’t write her stuff now, she’s gonna whine and moan for the rest of her life about how she missed some kind of boat (and that will only keep her from winning the Nobel Peace Prize for curing cancer and eradicating world hunger, duh). Simply put: Bella needed a badass computer for the good of mankind.

We had to throw her off the trail, though, when she saw me getting out of the car with a bag from Apple. Luckily, Russ is extraordinarily good at making fake invoices for things a thirteen year-old girl would never want, like a Space Shuttle Discovery Bedroom Dresser and matching Rocket Booster Shoe Holders from the “NASA Space Store.” Said invoices are especially effective when you accidentally leave them laying around and tell Bella to stay out of the garage.

What no teenager wants for Christmas -- ever.

This afternoon, we hid the MacBook in a box under her old netbook that kicked the bucket last year. Then we covered the entire affair in a nest of chairs and stools and boxes and pillows and lots of other crud draped in sheets. It definitely didn’t look like anything cool after we were done.

Spoiler alert: Get Kleenex.

In about three minutes, all the extra hours I worked this holiday were totally worth it. My spawn is super cool. I can’t wait to read her stuff. Such good fortune.

Perfect Chemis-what? Oh, pleez, tween book writers!

After dinner, Russell took Bella to the bookstore so she could pick out some new wordy rappinghoods for making straight A’s.

“Hey, are you next to your computer?”

I was…duh.

“Can you look up a book or two?”

“Sure. What did she pick out?”

In his super-secret library voice, Russell explained it was something called Perfect Chemistry, to which we both kinda cracked up over immediately.

“Dude, really? Perfect Chemistry? Gag. Ok, looking through Google…searching…here it is.”

And that is when I discovered the total deal breaker for Bella (but the best thing for me since the 2009 Gathering of the Juggalos Infomercial). As I watched the accompanying “rap” video for the book Bella selected — no doubt, with her fists clenched in tween hopefulness — my inner, non-fiction soldier ranted mercilessly at my right brain as it cowered in the corner of my cranium.


“Yeah? And?”

“Tell her to put that crap back on the shelf.”

In the background, I heard Bella mutter, “Ok, ok.” She knew.


No, I didn’t want free checking with my metal, thank you.

“When your Uncle John and I were small children, Mother used to give us each a quarter to ride the bus into town to see a double feature at the Ridglea Theater. One day, John and I decided to just stay on the bus to see where we’d end up. The driver eventually intervened, and we got home safely, but we didn’t make it to the movies that day. Times have changed, haven’t they?”

Indeed, Mom’s right. Life isn’t what it was in the early 1950’s, but one thing is the same: Ridglea Theater is still a great place to see a show, even several generations later.

That is, at least for now.

The Little Bell and Wesley (and Dio, duh)

Yesterday I received a disturbing email from my husband, Russell (who’s done so many shows for Fastlane Concerts at Ridglea that the theater jokingly put a sign on one of its doors which reads: “Russell’s Room”). After scoping his included link to Kevin Buchanan’s article, I flipped out. Apparently, Bank of America is considering purchasing the historic Fort Worth building and transforming it into a financial institution sans music and community fellowship and my dear old mother’s childhood memories. What an enormous slap to the face of North Texas.

For the last twelve years, Wesley Hathaway and Richard Van Zandt have leased the beautiful, old theater on Camp Bowie. The couple, who met in college and have been together for the past thirty-two years, utilized the Ridglea’s architecture and distinct artwork as a backdrop to showcase local, national, and international musical acts for the Fort Worth area. Aside from providing a unique venue for crowds of one thousand plus, Wesley and Richard’s theater is also responsible for a lot of customer traffic at surrounding restaurants, gas stations, and small businesses within the immediate block. Wesley, formerly the Assistant Science Curator to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, says she only learned day before yesterday of Bank of America’s intentions. “I didn’t know until a reporter from the [Fort Worth] Star Telegram called and asked me what I thought about it. That’s how I found out! We still have almost a year left on our lease, so we don’t know what’s going to happen.” She and Richard, who also previously worked in the same prestigious, north Texan museum as the Omni Theater Director, confirmed they are booked with lots of upcoming shows and have heard nothing from Bank of America at this time that would suggest cancellations of any kind. In fact, they haven’t heard from BOA about anything, and that’s unsettling for not only Wesley and Richard, but also for an estimated thirty employees who stand to lose work after the demolition.

“I understand the owners [of the building] need to make money. It’s a business,” Hathaway stated, “However, this is the last beautiful, grand building of this type in our area. You lose part of your heritage every time you tear down something historical like this. I see it happening all over the country. People are just not cherishing heritage, and it is a tragedy for the community when things like this are allowed to happen.” Van Zandt added, “Do something with the building instead of demolishing it, you know. The west side of Fort Worth really needs a Community Arts Center. The city could host all kinds of classes and events here, things that would benefit people while preserving the structure.” Richard also pointed out the Ridglea Theater was eligible to have been noted officially as an historic landmark, but the last owner failed to designate it as such.

Richard Van Zandt, photo by permission of RVZ

“Of course, we’d be sad if we couldn’t continue to do these shows,” Wesley admitted. This all comes at a time when the theater is up, yet again, for “Best Venue” in the Fort Worth Weekly. Having previously won the same award for at least eight years, Wesley and Richard have been proud local music fans have selected their venue for similar accolades throughout the years in the Dallas Observer as well as on AOL and in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. She says the two of them will miss the musicians and fans she’s come to love — the very people from all over the world whom I know herald her as the pink-haired First Lady of Texas Metal. “This building — the beautiful mosaic floors and old paintings — it feels like home to the people who come here. The bank isn’t going to care about that.” Wesley fears if BOA is allowed to take over the building, the Ridglea’s historic art and music history will be lost forever.

Beyond the music and the magnificent mosaic flooring, losing the Ridglea Theater to something so sterile and impersonal as a bank would be, perhaps, the hardest blow of all. The Ridglea is the chassis for a slew of extremely personal memories for so many of us — not just Mom. Matt Arnold, my co-worker, was bummed to hear the news, “Are you serious? You know, I saw my first show in there.” He wouldn’t be the only one to claim that honor, of course. I’m sure all the kids who have attended Rock Camp USA during the summers at Ridglea thought it was pretty cool to say that was where they played their first show. I’ve seen a handful of couples become engaged there; Wesley says elderly people have approached her and relayed stories of when they decided to get married while at the Ridglea many years ago. When I asked which was her favorite memory of the theater so far, she paused and said, “I don’t know, Kristan. There have been weddings and so many wonderful events and music over the years. The place has a lot of history for so many people from all walks of life. I mean, it’s where Richard and I took our kids to see the very first Star Wars when it came out. I just don’t want us all to lose it.” I get that. None of us wants to walk into a bank and reminisce about . . . anything. We want to be able to stand in the entrance of the theater and relish it for what it really is: a multi-generational tribute to north Texans and the strong-willed, surviving champion of Fort Worth culture.

When my daughter graduated elementary school, Wesley and Richard gave her a beautiful piece of art, which read:

‘What do I get for this,’ I said, and the angel gave me a catalog filled with toasters and clock radios and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan, and I said, ‘But this is just stuff,’ and the angel smiled and swallowed me in her arms. ‘I’m so glad you said that,’ she whispered to me, ‘I knew you still had a chance.’

After I got off the phone with Wesley last night, I sat in Bella’s room and stared at the words in the painting. I thought about how appropriate they were now, how Wesley and Richard do what they love. Next to the graduation art, my Bella keeps a rubber band ball Wesley gave her years ago when they first met. The extra “Russell’s Room” sign is above the piano in our back room. These kind reminders amplify my sadness because they prove the Ridglea Theater isn’t just a place in Fort Worth that Bank of America wants to tear down. It’s a place in my home and in my heart, a place where my entire family has grown in both the very distant past as well as in the last few years. There is no price you can attach to a structure that serves as such a chapel of memories. The idea of passing by Where It Used To Be makes my stomach turn.

This isn’t set in stone, and there’s an opportunity to save the venue and building from the fate of Bank of America. Wesley has posted an official statement on the Ridglea’s website with information regarding where to write, etc.

City Councilman W.B. Zimmerman
, District 3 Office
, 1000 Throckmorton St., 
Fort Worth, Texas, 76102

Telephone: 817-392-8803 
Fax: 817-392-6187

Also, there’s a hefty discussion on the “Save the Ridglea” Facebook page:

Cherish heritage, one and all. Save this Ridglea Theater, Home Sweet Home.


Let Me See Your Sushi Roll, Your Sushi Roll!

“Bella, what sounds good for dinner?”

“Anything really.”


Insert total disgust and a heavy side eye here. “No way, Mom. Not that.”


Having failed so many previous sushi coercion attempts, I went straight for the bribe: “Ok, what if I sweetened the offer with extra computer time?”

Ding, ding, ding! “Really?”

“Yeah, but you have to act like it was all your idea and that you’re totally into trying new stuff with us so that Russell will think it’s opposite day and freak out.”

“Mom, you’re so weird.”


“Okay, it’s a deal if there is nothing too gross, like a fish head or…you know. That stuff.”

“Fair enough.”

And we shook on it.

An hour later, we sat at the sushi bar with one very confused Russell. “Bella, you wanted to eat sushi? What happened?”

“Nothing, Russ. I just really respect you and Mom and am trying to give the things you love a shot.”

Oh, brother.

When Russell stepped away, I leaned over, “That was over the top a little with the respect part and the ‘things we love’ and all that, but other than that, you’re doing an outstanding job.”

“Yeah, when I said that, I knew it was a little corny, but I’m kinda on the spot here, Mom.”

We exchanged a low key high five right as the sushi chef passed a “treat” over the glass for the three of us. I had zero clue what the heck it was other than some kind of fried chip with fish eggs and crab, I think, and a fish part. It was an ambitious beginning for poor Bell, who forced the fakest half-smile ever as she bit into half of the whatever-it-was. Then came the involuntary shiver. And the partial gag. And the hilarious: “Mmmm [gag], that was…what was that? That’s not fish egg, is it?”

Shock, shock, horror, horror. Shock, Shock, horror.

Russell told her it was Japanese Berry.

She leaned behind Russell and silently mouthed toward me, “Do I have to eat the rest of that stuff?” To which I gladly mouthed back, “No, no, that was awesome. Good job.” Man, whatever she wanted extra computer time for must’ve been important.

When the chef finished Bella’s sushi virgin order, the California roll, she looked panicked.

what bella saw when her california roll arrived

All the chefs were staring at her, making it even easier. I was proud, though, as Bella soldiered through this strange new food.

“What is this one?”


Blank stare and determination. “Okay.” Swallow. Water. More water. More blank staring. This was like when Dad used to drag me to pipe organ concerts. Poor Bella.

Noting Bell’s hesitation, the chef slipped her a tray of fried fish, trying to pass it off as the beloved children’s delicacy: le fishstick.

“Mmmm, now this is not bad! For real, Russ. What do you think?”

“Oh, this is delicious, Bella.”

“It is!”

“You know that’s baby harp seal, right?”

Bella started to spit it out on her tray and gagged abdominally. It took a few minutes to convince her Russell was joking, but even longer for the chefs and the people surrounding us to quit laughing. Nevertheless, Bella ate the entire serving of “harp seal”.

At the end of the meal, our server brought apples dipped in chocolate syrup, and I could tell my kid was scared there was going to be a fish eyeball or something stuck inside. Russell waited until she’d eaten them all to tell her it was “shark heart,” but it backfired with a barrage of irritated eyerolling.

Tomorrow The Bell gets her well-deserved extra computer time…and macaroni and cheese.

And that nerd Russell? Maybe I’ll make him some of this:

baby harp seal nigiri