top of page

FaceChestTime with Benghazi

Have you seen the GEICO commercial about the guy running from the bad guys and fighting them off and in the middle of it, his clueless mother calls him to tell him, “The squirrels are back in the attic, but your dad won’t call the exterminator. He says it’s personal this time.” Her son says, “Mom, can I call you back?” as she asks if he’s in a Zumba class since it sounds so noisy on his end. 


I am that mother. 


During late 2011, Van was on a three-month assignment in Benghazi, and he told me he had to wait until late in the evening before he could get good Internet reception. But he wanted to FaceTime me soon, which would occur on a Saturday afternoon, my time. I did not like seeing myself on screen, but this would be our first FaceTime together and I was so ready to see my son’s face since he had been in this danger post for a while.


Vanessa and I happened to be at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Arlington, Texas, at the time. I had been trying to convince my daughter to get into book illustration because her art skills were really good. When I’d tell her that, she didn’t give it much credence because “mothers are supposed to say that,” she’d tell me. But what she didn’t realize was that this mother would never tell her that if I didn’t believe it. 


But she finally agreed to go with me to this conference, and it convinced her she had what it takes, thank heavens. We were so inspired listening to the first keynote speaker, author Bruce Coville, on Friday night. Author Tammi Sauer was slated as Saturday afternoon’s keynote speaker.


Ness and I chose a round table right in front of the platform to hear Tammi speak. Right in the middle of her speech, someone’s phone began ringing loudly, and it sounded like the old rotary phone ring. When they didn't answer, I looked around to see which inconsiderate soul had left their cell phone on during this woman's keynote speech before I realized that the sound was coming from my laptop. I opened it up, and there was Van’s face smiling at me. I wasn’t about to miss this call, so I leaned over and whispered to the screen, “Just a minute”, stood up and grabbed my laptop, and muttered sincere apologies for disturbing the keynote speaker and conference attendees and began winding my way through all of the tables of people to get out to the hall. I think I even jogged part of the way since I didn’t know how long the connection would hold coming from the other side of the world. 

I found a table and chair in the lobby area and sat down to talk to my son. His face was red and his head was thrown back laughing. I asked him what was so funny. He said he had gathered all of his working buddies around him so they could meet his mother, and all they saw for a good 30 seconds was my chest bouncing up and down as I carried the laptop to a place where we could talk. I’m not sure Van even knew at first what in the heck I was doing. Horrors. By the time my face appeared on the screen, every man except my son had scattered and run. 


And I don’t blame them. All those men know about Van’s mother now is… I can’t even say it. 


I honestly don’t intend to embarrass my son. It just happens. But I do try to protect him, if at all possible. When Van came home for a visit from an overseas danger post, he received an invitation to eat lunch with Governor Rick Perry and his wife Anita at the governor’s mansion in Austin. Van had met Governor Perry when a group of state governors visited Iraq, and he was assigned to accompany them and provide security. In a helicopter ride, Perry kept looking at Van’s college ring and finally realized they both were Aggies. They kept in touch for several years. On that particular visit home, the governor told Van he could bring his mother to lunch with him, and I was so honored to be invited. 


But for Van’s sake, I made Vanessa go instead. 

Donna Van Cleve

August 2020, Humor

Photos are linked to their sources.

Donna in striped top.jpg

This was the same outfit I wore to the SCBWI  conference in 2011, but here I was attending another event in 2014 with Amy Koenning & 4 other dear friends. I guess this pink & striped get-up was my go-to conference outfit. 

Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 4.03.53 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 4.08.27 PM.png

Bruce Coville & Tammi Sauers were the outstanding keynote speakers for the SCBWI conference Ness & I attended.

I'm so sorry, Tammi, for interrupting your speech.

Vanessa & Box Turtle- We R Austin.png

The children's book bug bit hard at the 2011 conference, & since then Vanessa has illustrated a number of books & published her own two picture books with Dial Books for Young Readers, & a third one is on its way.                                Photo Source:  We Are Austin


The only thing Van's co-workers saw of me on FaceTime.  

See, this could be a GEICO commercial.

Van in helicopter - Iraq.png
Van- Rick Perry - Janet Myers - Iraq 200

Van in the helicopter accompanying the Governor Rick Perry to various locations in Iraq. Aggies Van ('01) &  Janet Myers ('96) providing security for a fellow Aggie on his visit to Iraq. From Gov. Perry's Flicker pages; photos are linked. 

bottom of page