exploring my German roots with a Karbach IPA

I have been reminiscing about my roots lately.  Where I come from, where I have been.  Where I am going.

I am at least a fifth generation Texan, on my father’s side.  My family hails from Southern Texas, the likes of Matagorda Bay, Vanderbilt, and Edna. I have many memories of the house on Yuba Dam Street.  Stepping onto the concrete steps, the sweet stench of humidity, dust, sweat, and stale vanilla wafers always enveloped me as I crossed the threshold.  Newspapers of weeks and months, piled high on the surrounding polyester couches, ruffled in wake of an oscillating fan.  I would stare at my Meemaw.

She sat directly in front of us, perpendicular, watching a small antenna television across the room.  TV trays held Soap Opera Guides, cups of water, and plates of crumbs from the day. Gripping her cane in one hand, and rocking back and forth to gain traction with the other, she would eventually grunt, and in a woof of air, would stand and walk over to me.  I was always aware of her ailments, yet Meemaw nevertheless hugged me tight.

photo 4

I was named for her husband, a blend of alcoholism and emotional anger, sweetness, and cruel frailty.  I was also born on his birthday, a few years after his death, and must have been a consistent reminder of her difficult life with him, although she never showed it.  Meemaw loved all of her grandchildren a great deal.  Soon after we would arrive for a weekend, a closet would open, and presents commenced: a crocheted pink afghan for my dolls, grocery store perfumes, and clearance costume jewelry.  Looking back, it is easy to see that my grandmother was a hoarder, but I expect nothing less from those raised in the Depression, with memories of belly aches and longing.  Her bedroom was lined with bookcases, and filled with newspapers, sheets, dusty antique bottles, collectible ceramics, picture frames, and SAS shoes.

Meemaw’s extra bedrooms were playgrounds for little girls, with plastic dolls, blankets, cribs, and figurines from the 1950s.  At night, we would sleep with the windows open, as to be awakened by chirping birds and to be stifled by the humid heat.  The only air conditioners were in her bedroom and the living room.  My love of pimento cheese stemmed from her kitchen, as well as SPAM, vegetable soup, and store bought shortbread cookies.  She bought thick sliced ham, and Velveeta block cheese, and we would eat white bread sandwiches with mustard while watching General Hospital or Hee Haw.  Meemaw took me to watch The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas for the first time.

There were several buildings outside, one where she kept canned goods like pickles, peaches, and beans.  Another my Papa used when he was alive, and contained his carpentry tools, old hammers and saws, and I had heard at one time even a cow.  Some local thug took the liberty of tagging it, but I still dream of my namesake there.  I often see him, a skinny image, watching over me at night, in a stingy brim hat, in gray pants and a white shirt.  Maybe I am dreaming….

photo 1

We moved away when I was 13, and returned when I was 17. Meemaw died that summer, just a few weeks after we returned home to Texas.  We had only visited one time that year.  While I never got to say goodbye, my heart still holds much love for all she was. My daughter now uses that pink afghan blanket for her dolls.

I drove by the house on Yuba Dam Street recently.  The grain elevator is still in working order at the end of the road.  While a lot of structures are in ruins, her house still remains occupied… although I imagine barely standing.  This Spring I tip my glass to Meemaw, one who never drank, who bore the weight of an alcoholic husband, who lived on the brink of poverty, and who raised many children, including my father, who carved his way out of the tiny town of Edna to accomplish much more than many could imagine.

photo 2

Houston’s Karbach Brewery Company prides itself in training in German style, which is perfect; my Meemaw was originally a Frenzel, and often times her smashed potatoes found themselves intertwined with sauerkraut and sausage.  The Rodeo Clown Double IPA is a strong one… just like her.  It has 9.5% ABV, an intense, hop flavor, thick head, and aromas of citrus and orange peel.  Perfect for a gal like me.  Available at HEB for $9.

photo 3

Here’s to remembering our roots.  And our branches.  Go Local. Go Texan. Cheers.


This post is part of a series in the Not So Small Stories hosted by MFA writer and novelist Kirsten Oliphant. 


sometimes you just need a beer: finding joy in doing it all.

Ever have one of those days?  Where you wake so early that your stomach hurts? And you can’t concentrate because your mind is starved for rest, and love, and peace? And you feel like crying. And yelling.  And your shoulders are tight.  And….it’s only 10am?

Today was one of those days.  Again.  I seem to be having a lot of them lately.

There are so many responsibilities we take on as working mothers.  I won’t lie.  I wake up scrupulously early sometimes just so I can check email, peruse my updated territory performance data, and create my daily task list.  Once Rhea is up and about, it’s all milk, toast with butter and jam, and Daniel Tiger on DVR.  On our way to school, we talk about our day, if mommy or daddy is picking her up, and the colors of the leaves.  During the past few weeks the windows have been down while the words “orange”, “red”, and “yellow” have floated towards the front seat.


Once we arrive, I take her hand and lead her to her classroom to leave her for the day; and sometimes for the night; and sometimes, but rarely, for the week.

From nine to five I work extremely hard, and smart.  There are challenges that present themselves on a daily basis, and while I have no qualms handling them, mostly I overanalyze and overthink situations. Well, we all have short comings. Even so, I am very successful in my career.

Here’s the thing, though.  I find joy in showing my daughter that she can be anything that she wants to be.  She can be an executive, a chef, a writer, a wife, and a mother.  She can have it all.  She deserves it all.  If she even wants it all; because maybe she makes the decision to choose just one.  Or none at all.  And we will love her no matter what.  Because that is what parents do. And it is her choice to make.


When I pick Rhea up from school the radio turns from NPR to Toddler Tunes.  And once again, our conversations revolve around lunch items, art projects, books, and what we are cooking for dinner that night.  We usually come home to frenzied dogs and a house that is in desperate need of a maid.  Repeat: I really need a maid.

Sometimes balancing it all gets tremendously heavy; my shoulders ache with the weight of my world.  Most of the time, a glass of wine will relax my mind and heart and set my dreams into motion.

But tonight, I want a beer; because sometimes you just need a change.  So, I chose Austin’s own Adelbert’s Brewery to quench my thirst.  As far as my knowledge of foams and yeast and nuances of hops reside, I am beyond novice.  I am no cicerone.  But, what I do recognize is that I like a saison style beer, so I grab the Philosophizer at just under $10.  It’s clean and somewhat light, with citrus notes.  And it’s from Texas, so it’s local.  A perfect end to my day.  A break from the normal.


Ahhh.  Just what the doctor ordered.  I can do it all.  again…  tomorrow.  And you know what?  It is worth every minute.  Because Rhea will know that everything is possible.  Because I have loved her enough to show her.

Cheers, y’all.