Topiaries

Often when I write a blog after having a break from blogging, inspiration strikes again quickly. Such is the case today so I’m back!

I needed to come back to talk about topiaries.

That’s right.

Topiaries.

You know those little decorative shaped trees or shrubs?

You can go google it if you want. That’s the cool thing about the written word- it just sits there and waits for you, not even making noise while you go look something up, or… refill your glass, you know- whatevs.

Anyway, perhaps you are aware that these topiaries come in small, artificial versions that can look cute on a table, maybe for entertaining, maybe with a ribbon garland strung between two of them, or perhaps with twinkle lights on them for the holidays.

It is possible I have run across a pic or two of cute topiaries while I accidentally was on Pinterest.

For whatever reason, I have wanted, and I mean WANTED some topiaries for a good while.

I have spent way too much time thinking about topiaries and looking at topiaries in stores and even doing some online topiary browsing.

By the way, just this moment I have realized that topiaries seems to be one of those words that just gets funnier the more you use it. Am I right!?

So anyway, I have been wanting some, but I just never would spend any money on them. They seemed frivolous. I almost bought a pair for about $15 a few months ago, but I couldn’t even make myself spend that small amount on something so unnecessary.

I really wanted topiaries in my life, but I did not need them.

And before I go any farther at all, I need to be very clear on something here: at NO POINT did I ever pray to God in Heaven for topiaries, okay?

I believe in prayer and I believe God hears us and cares about even small things- but I was never moved to ask the Creator of the Universe to give me small ornamental shrubs. No judgement if you are, I just wasn’t.

Alright so today I was delivering some forms to some of the schools I support and one of the elementary schools takes me through a pretty little neighborhood on the way. I dropped off the papers and headed back out of the neighborhood and out of the corner of my eye I saw a trash bag sitting on a curb with two big grapevine balls sticking out of it. I slowed to a stop. Could it be?!?! Was someone actually THROWING AWAY TOPIARIES???

I put the car in reverse thinking that probably that wasn’t what it was. Probably I just had topiaries on the brain.

I reversed back to the bag.

IT WAS TOPIARIES! To be specific, it was two of the prettiest grapevine topiaries in perfect terra cotta pots, SITTING THERE IN THE TRASH obviously waiting-
For. Me.

Well, I hopped out of the car and rescued those suckers from the trash truck. They need a little moss stuck back in the pots, but they are so great! And, honestly, they are way better than anything I was considering buying.

I brought them home and put them on the back porch and there they sit. My topiaries. I HAVE TOPIARIES! I am a topiary OWNER!!

It’s funny. I have chuckled at it all day.

But, also…

I do think God had a hand in those being there though. I really do.

Why? Because, the God of the Universe knows our hearts. And He is our FRIEND and like a friend will sometimes cheer you up with an unexpected, unrequested, unneeded nice thing, like a coffee, or some pretty flowers, God also cares about us even when we do not ask for things. He cares for us like a friend, but, you know, better, because, GOD.

I know God always cares and I know He is always there. That doesn’t mean I never feel sad. Sometimes I can really use a little pick-me-up and today was one of those days. I was okay, you know, just thinking a lot about my dad and then all the stuff I need to get done and I was driving around alone in my car most of the day and I was SIGHING a LOT and then, BAM.

Topiaries.

I choose to believe that’s God.
And that’s pretty cool.
Happy Friday Friends.
Peace and Love.
And Topiaries.

Toast

I haven’t blogged since October and apparently the holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a Brand New Year can happen without me writing something philosophical about them! Who knew?

Okay, we all knew that. If you have popped in here to sherryville for the first time you may as well realize right off that this is a sarcasm-friendly zone.

The reason for the few months of quiet is really two-fold: In November I started work on my Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership. It has kept me a little occupied. Of course, the holidays are always a flurry of activity too. This year, the day after Christmas I yanked all the decorations down in a hurry and packed them away to make room for wedding stuff. My K is getting married on Valentine’s Day, which, if anyone is keeping track, is 29 days from now. As in LESS THAN A MONTH! So, we are all on the Wedding Train right now.

Not a lot of time to blog.

But the truth is, I have written so much since my last blog. I have written about 200 pages of material for my doctoral work. TWO HUNDRED! That’s a novel! (But, trust me on this, it is not a novel…_) Remembering how to do research, format, and quickly synthesize information has been a challenge, but one I am enjoying for the most part. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 1986. I earned my master’s in 2004. So. My timeline is just about right here for me to be back in school.

Anyway.

That’s not all I have written.

Wedding Train, remember?

I couldn’t sleep last night. I’ve been up since about 3:30. When it became evident I wasn’t going to fall back asleep, I got up, did some laundry, checked into my classroom to do some work, and then I wrote my toast for my daughter’s wedding.

And then I got all emotional thinking about her and her great husband-to-be…is it fiancé or fiancee? How do you put that little mark over the “e”? Which “e” do you put it over? It’s always such a complicated word to me. I have to go look it up every time. I’ll just stick with husband-to-be. Maybe HTB for short.

I’d love to tell you lots of wonderful things about my daughter’s HTB, but both of them are pretty private people, so I will just keep this mostly about me.

Here’s the truth: My heart is full of joy. I’m thankful for the love, friendship and partnership I see between the two of them. I’m tired, I’m busy, I’m a little stressed, but mostly, I’m joyful.

God is good all the time. But sometimes it is easier to see.

Here’s to Valentine’s Day! And because I promised no Hamilton references in my toast, I’ll say it here:
A toast to the groom--To the bride.

I love y'all.

Azimuth

Azimuth

Earlier this week I came across that word somewhere. I can’t remember the context but I didn’t know the word so it caught my attention and I went looking for a definition.

Here are a few I found:

“An angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system. The vector from an observer to a point of interest is projected perpendicularly onto a reference plane; the angle between the projected vector and a reference vector on the reference plane.”

“The direction of a celestial object, measured clockwise, around the observer’s horizon from north."

“An arc of the horizon measured between a fixed point and the vertical circle passing through the center of an object.”

And finally-

“It is the name scientists use for the location of a star or another object in the sky. To find objects using azimuth, you need to first be able to locate true north."

I mean, all of those of course made perfect sense immediately. I just don’t have time to explain it to all of y’all right now, but yeah. I totally get it.

No.
Not really.

That last one was the closest one to making sense to me and I think it came from a website called Azimuth for Dummies or something like that.

I can tell you this- it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. When I saw the word the first time, it looked poetic. It sounded like a beautiful crystal, or a term for over-arching love, something along those lines. You know- less…science-y.

My dad would know all about azimuth. I can’t call him anymore though.

I started to just drop it. I don’t have to know all the words. But I’m not really wired that way. So then I looked one more time and I found this definition:

“Azimuth is a specific type of bearing which measures the direction of an object in relation to true north.”

Oh.

If our true north is where we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to become, then azimuth is the way to get there. It tells us how far and what direction away we are. It tells us how we have to move.

And, it’s useless if we don’t know what our true north is.

In other words, if we aim at nothing, we will surely hit it.

One problem in today’s world, and possibly every other time too, is that it is so easy to lose sight of our true north. There are endless distractions and road blocks.

There are problems and barriers.

There are frustrations and failures.

In fact, while I was writing this very blog you are reading, Z came in to help me, and crawled up on my lap and managed to delete the whole thing I had written so far. Accidentally of course and with no intent to cause me any distress. But it did. I’m not gonna lie. The tears came. I have so little time these days to write or to pursue those things that I think lead to true north, that when I do get a moment and it gets interrupted- well it hurts.

I notice lately that I spend a lot of time thinking about what I will do when I have time to do what I want. And thinking about how much time is going to be left for me to do those things when I am able to. It’s pretty depressing. As a result, I can overreact when I feel ‘my’ time is threatened.

How do we reconcile it when the life we have doesn’t match up to the life we planned?

Don’t misunderstand me. I have a wonderful life, full of beauty and wonder and amazing people. I’m grateful for it. So grateful.

But sometimes I feel a little bit lost.

And I’m thinking it’s because I’m trying to make a way to true north that I THINK will get me there instead of following the bearing that WILL get me there. After all, I am a person who didn’t even know the word azimuth until last week, so obviously I wasn’t taking that into consideration.

And also.

True North possibly is not where I think it is.

What if True North is the exact opposite of where I think it is? What if what it looks like I am supposed to do is not what I am supposed to do at all and I nearly miss it because I am aiming at the wrong thing?

What if True North IS the distraction?

What I am trying to say is I’ve been given a gift of understanding today and it would not have happened this way if Z had not deleted my original blog.

Here’s why:
While I was recovering from the traumatic experience of having my writing deleted, I sat down- in my own home- and opened the door to enjoy the nice weather… and never once did I think I might be shot for doing this.

I took a minute to look at social media and read the heartbreaking event that happened in Fort Worth yesterday about a woman who did almost exactly what I am doing now and she was shot. I can’t get my head around it. And I had a realization-I think this… this is the white privilege that I have been trying to understand. And friends- especially my brown friends- please chime in—but no one means I shouldn’t be able to do this. No one wants to take the right to sit in my home with the door open away from me, and no one is shaming me for being able to do it… people are only asking that I acknowledge that the things I am able to do- sometimes simple human pleasures- are not afforded to everyone. And that my friends is just plain wrong.

I have feared for my life before.

But not for sitting in my home. Not for getting pulled over for speeding. Not even for arguing with the cop when I get pulled over. Not for just being. And nobody is saying I should! They are saying---WE are saying- NO ONE should have to be afraid this way.

I sit here at my keyboard a little bit enlightened but also fully aware that I have not always been focused on True North. But I do know this; the way and the direction, the bearing with which we move, the azimuth, must be love.

If it isn’t, we aren’t going to get there.

Who’s with me?

Happy Sunday. Be kind and loving.

CQ

CQ.

I was born October 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. I lived with my parents on Swiss Avenue in a house I can’t afford to look at now.

My birthday being October 22 means that on November 22, 1963 I was one month old. My parents had a photographer come to our home to mark the occasion of me being one-twelfth of a year.

When he arrived, they turned off the Presidential motorcade they were watching on TV. He took my picture- a picture I still have.

The photographer left.

My parents turned the TV back on...
and learned that the world had changed drastically.

And six months ago, my world changed drastically again. My Dad left his life in this world and went on ahead of us and since then, I have been a different person. Still myself, but changed in the way huge things change a person.

I miss my dad so much.
He was a great dad.

Growing up, one of the constants of our lives was Amateur Radio- Ham Radio. My dad had his license and call sign from the time he was very young. He was K5UBM. Following Dad’s lead, his brother got his license too. When my parents married, Dad eventually got my Mom, her parents and her brothers to all get their licenses too.

The sound of Morse Code was the background music of our lives. Friends would come over and ask me ‘what is that sound?’ and I was so used to it I didn’t even know what they meant.

Now if you don’t know what Ham radio is, you can google that. One thing I will tell you is that it is NOT CB radio. The two things are very different. Nothing against CB radio. Just don’t confuse it for the same thing in front of a Ham. Trust me on this.

Dad always wanted us kids to get our licenses. My sister got hers a few years ago. It was something I always planned to get around to doing, but it took Dad passing away for me to get serious.

Back in March I got some study materials and started trying to learn the content for my Technician level license. I studied from April to August and went to take my test a few weeks ago.

I failed by two points.

Man.

I was happy I had done so well on one level, but also disappointed of course. All my life I have learned new academic kinds of things pretty easily, but not this. I wasn’t sure I could pass it and, even though I had come close, there was no guarantee I would get the same test version if I tried again.

I kinda wanted to give up.

It was hard!

But, after feeling sorry for myself for a couple of weeks I decided to try a new approach.
I dug my favorite study book out and went through it again. Every question I didn’t know automatically I put on an index card and then I put all the index cards on a ring and I carried them around and read them over and over in spare moments of time.

I went in today and took the test again. I got a different version- all new questions. I knew some of them- most of them- for sure…but there were still enough I wasn’t positive about that I was sweating it a little bit.

As I handed my completed test to the head examiner, I told him that it was not any easier this time. He smiled and handed my answer sheet to the guy next to him. There were three examiners who were there last time and they remembered me. I had told them about Dad and that I was trying to get my license in honor of him.

So the way it works is that there is a head examiner, this older gentlemen who was very kind both times, and three other examiners. They all have to watch you take your test and then all three of them have to grade it while you sit there.

So. No stress whatsoever.

After the first guy graded my exam, he went over it again. Then the head examiner pulled out a small rectangle of paper from his briefcase. He had not done that before. He looked over at me and whispered softly, “You passed.”

I started to cry.

After all three examiners graded and confirmed that I had indeed passed, I was handed a certificate showing that I had successfully passed all the elements for the license and they shook my hand and welcomed me to Ham Radio.

I know my dad is proud.

I feel like a story arc was completed today that started in that house on Swiss Avenue in 1963.

Maybe you noticed that I started this blog with the letters CQ.

This week some of my wonderful co-workers were telling me that one of the things they liked about my blog was that I write about small things. They were so kind and they warmed my heart so much.

This time I started really small. Just two little letters.

CQ.

In the world of Ham radio, the term CQ means calling any operator who is listening on a frequency to respond. I heard my dad make that call more times than I can remember followed by his call sign, K5UBM.

I can hear him now. “CQ CQ, this is K5UBM. Kilowatt 5 Uniform Bravo Mike.” Or sometimes he would say this is “K5UBM, Kilowatt 5, Ugly Big Man.” He was being silly then because my dad was good-looking.

But there has been no K5UBM on the air for a while now.

One of the beautiful things about Ham radio is that after the FCC issues my call sign, I can apply to have my dad’s call sign be mine.

So, Dad, this one is for you.
CQ CQ.
Calling any operator.
Calling Dad.
Can you hear me? This is the newest Ham in the family calling to say, I love you.

So glad I didn't give up, even though it was hard. You there, yes you reading this, you don't give up either okay?

…. ._ . _ _. ._ _. _._ _ … ._ _ .._ ._. _.. ._ _._ _

(Happy Saturday)

The Other Deep End

Yesterday I had one of those moments of perspective that you sometimes are given in life. I was at my mom’s house in the pool with Z, who just turned 3.

We have spent a lot of time in the water this summer since it is hotter than fried hell in Texas right now.

So, one of the things Z loves to do is to go to the deep end of the pool with me. Because of her age, we spend most of our time splashing around in the shallow end, but at least once or twice while we are swimming, I will ask her if she wants to go to the deep end with me. She always answers “YES!” with a lot of excitement.

Then we will paddle down to the other end of the pool and touch the side and call back to everyone in the shallow end, “Hello! We are here in the deep end!” Then we paddle back. It’s a little mini adventure and it is a delight to see her joy in it. She isn’t at all afraid.

So yesterday, same thing. We went down to the deep end, talked about how fun it was to be there, and paddled back. When we got back to the shallow water, Z looked at me, and then pointed across the pool the other direction- to the other side of the shallow part of the pool- and said, “I want to go to that other deep end over there now.”

Well.

I realized at that moment that of course to her, the entire pool is the deep end. All of it is over her head. And she is not fearful. We have safeguards in place. But she also knows she is not alone. We are always nearby to help her navigate and to let her safely try things on her own. If she gets in any sort of trouble though, one of us is never more than an arm’s reach away.

Oh friends.

To be more like Z.

How often do I feel afraid in the deep water of life when really, I am never anywhere that I am out of the reach of God, who is always there to hold me up. How often am I only in the “other deep end” that is only deep because it looks that way to me with my limited perception of the world, and my faith that needs to continue to grow and stretch.

And how fortunate are we all that God does not require us to understand the world in order to help us navigate through it.

Today, and in the coming weeks, as we begin a new school year, I pray I will be reminded that when I am feeling overwhelmed, I am only in the other deep end. I do not need to worry. I do not need to panic. I do not need to do it all alone.

I just need to take joy being in the water.

Happy Sunday.

Crumb Coat

Cake decorating is a little bit of a hobby of mine. I started learning how to do cakes many years ago when my kids were small as a way to save some money and add a personalized touch to celebrations. Lately I have been watching some cake decorating videos to get ideas for Z’s upcoming birthday.

Watching those videos has reminded me of one of the steps that is standard procedure in decorating cakes: the crumb coat.

The crumb coat is the first layer of icing that you put on a cake and, after you have done it, you usually still see some cake crumbs showing through.

Hence the name.

The second layer of icing goes on and is much smoother and prettier because the crumb coat is holding al the crumbs.

The crumb coat doesn’t make any difference in how the cake tastes. Sometimes I skip it, sometimes not. Just depends on the cake and the occasion. It can still be a delicious cake if you don’t make it beautiful.

And a beautiful cake can still taste like crap.

Last week I had lunch with my friend Pam and we had great conversation about so many things as we always do. Pam was my boss for many years and has always challenged and pushed my thinking in ways that helped me grow, both professionally and personally.

We have a lot in common, but we are different enough to keep it interesting. She hates my tattoos and we don’t always like the same books. I don’t really love Mac N Cheese like she does.

I could go on about how we are different, but in the big things, like how we should love our fellow man, we are the same.

We both feel like it is our job to love and not to judge.

We also agree on cussing. We are fine with it for the most part.

While we were having lunch the other day Pam asked me, “Do you think a person can use the F word and still be a good person?” I just started to laugh. She knows what I think about that. Over the past twenty or so years she has known me, Pam has heard me use that word dozens of times.

Now I know everyone doesn’t approve of cussing. Good news. If I know you don’t like it, I will try not to cuss around you. I know when to be professional. Also, I will never require you to cuss to be my friend. You do you boo.

And I’ll do me.

I do protest when people say, “Only uneducated people who don’t have a good vocabulary swear.”

Dammit. I have a great vocabulary and sometimes the cuss word is just the perfect word!

Anyway, I’ve been bouncing that conversation around in my head since last week.

Then a few nights ago, I had a super fun opportunity to host Open Mic night at a great local venue. It was a blast! There was great music, and my fabulously talented niece headlined and just knocked everyone’s socks off. Seriously I don’t think she knows how good she is!

It was laid back and everyone was friendly- like there was this great sense of community and support. I just love musicians.

There were only a very few moments I didn’t enjoy.

There was one act that was not musical. It was a stand-up comedy routine and I found it extremely offensive. I was going to describe some of the content- but no. I’m not going to do that.

Those who know me in person know I’m not that easily offended. (See above discussion on cussing for example) but, I was offended and I didn’t find the material funny at all. It was crude and stereotypical of several different groups of people.

I sat there for a while (longer than I should have) not laughing.

I tried giving him the teacher look, but that didn’t work.

I glanced around at the audience and felt somewhat better about the world because MOST people were not laughing.

I realized that I was feeling an obligation as the host to stay, but finally, I got up and walked out anyway.

And I’ve been reflecting on that today.

I know why I walked- It was my way of ’speaking up’ about what I thought.

I would have been fine with some cussing...
But not ridiculing people for who they are.

Here is what I am reflecting on: Should I have walked out sooner? Is there anything else I could have done differently in that moment to show that I was not complicit with his words?

Because, the fact is, you are just not going to get through this world liking everything anyone has to say, and you aren’t going to change everyone.

Probably, for example, you won’t get me to stop cussing.

I think it’s okay to cuss sometimes, and this guy obviously thought what he was saying was okay too.

What do I do with this?

Part of me feels sorry for him.

I’m struggling with how to approach people like this with love.

I’m struggling with how to not judge those who are cruel.

And I’m struggling with making sure I am not silent in the face of hate.

I like to give people the benefit of doubt. Just because some crumbs are showing doesn’t mean you aren’t a great cake! Just because you drop the F bomb sometimes doesn’t mean you aren’t a good person.

But.

Conversely.

It doesn’t matter how many layers of icing and beautiful buttercream roses a cake has if when you take a bite it is stale and moldy on the inside.

And.

We aren’t required to pretend that cake is good.

So that is where I am today. Feeling a little crummy, like maybe I didn’t do enough.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas on the subject.

Happy Sunday

Where God Is

I want to blog about my fabulous vacation but first off I have to start with what happened today, a week or so after vacation was over.

So my friend Kathy, is going through chemo. She is a total badass at kicking cancer’s butt. I get to sit with her during some of her treatments and I was there for some today.

Woo. The oncology center was busy. I thought perhaps because tomorrow is a holiday and they are closed it added to the usual busy-ness because it seemed extra crowded. I actually arrived before K did because she got caught at work for a bit. You read that right. She came to her treatment from work. Drove herself. She’s pretty amazing.

Anyway, I got there first so I just sat down to wait for her and I pulled out my yarn and crochet hook and got started on a scarf. In just a minute an interesting fellow sat down in one of the few remaining seats close to me. We smiled at each other- you know how you do in public like that.

He asked me how I was doing and I told him I was doing alright and I asked how he was. He didn’t say anything, but he smiled and nodded.

Now this fellow was interesting to me for a couple of reasons. One, he was maybe in his 70s I would guess, although it can be really hard for me to tell how old people are, and he was dressed in bright colors, in sort of tropical attire. He was a black man, and had this great white hair in a short afro and a wild white beard. He put me in mind of kind of an island Santa. He had a great smile too. And then the next thing he said to me was (I’m not kidding…) “Are you being good?” Dude! I was already thinking about Santa and then you ask that!?

I told him I was trying my best to be good. He said, “Well I see you are working on something.” Indicating the scarf.

Okay. Second reason I found him so interesting was that this wasn’t the usual small talk you know? I told him I was making a scarf and he told me he liked the yellow color I was using. Then he looked at me very seriously and said, “God is with you right now.”

Well.

I teared up a little you know? I mean, I KNOW God is always with us, but just to hear it put so simply and matter-of-factly was really touching. I nodded yes. He nodded yes and then K showed up and his friend showed up and we each started talking to our respective friends. We didn’t have anymore conversation with each other.
It was just one of those interactions that stayed with me. Just a little out of the ordinary. Not like, weird or anything, but unique.

When K and I got back into the infusion room we were talking with her nurse all about our girls beach trip. Four of us who have been friends for over forty years went to Destin and spent time with each other and the sea. It was the first trip we had all been on together and we had so much fun. We celebrated our long friendship- it's such a gift- and had these long conversations over coffee or wine, and remembered old times and made new memories. Some healing took place. We ate too much, We got sunburned. We laughed until we cried. And I’m just so glad we went. All the fun, fizzy, sandy memories of the trip bubbled up again.

God was certainly with us at the sea and in the infusion room too.

Coming back from our trip through airport security I got a pat down and hand swab. I usually get the pat down. I got one when we left out for vacation too. Kathy commented on it to me and I told her it usually happens. She said, “You are the least threatening looking person I saw. You even had on a Free Mom Hugs t-shirt.” Laughing I told her, “Maybe they think I am in disguise.”

But anyway.

God is even with us in the TSA line.

Now back at home reflecting on the day, the conversation from the waiting room comes back to me. Such a few simple words but, I wondered would I say that to someone? I believe it. But I don’t know that in my whole life I have ever just simply said to a stranger, for no apparent reason, “God is with you.” It was quiet and short and simple but I think that is just a disguise.

What powerful words that simple reminder can be. Sure, God can show off. He can be flashy if He wants to be. He can send us signs and wonders.

Or. He can send us a calm, smiling stranger who with no fuss and no fanfare, just quietly reminds us He is there.

I’m so glad.

So I’m here to tell you, where ever you are right now, God is with you too.

Happy Fourth.
Happy birthday Courtney!
10 down 8 to go Kathy- you got this!!
Thanks for reading.

Truthtellers

May is finally over. For educators, May lasts about 18 weeks. A smart colleague of mine compared it to tax season for accountants. I agree.

It is that time of year when we are saying goodbye. Because our school years have a definite end, often retirements are grouped about this time of year.

Friday it kind of hit me all at once. I had another retirement party and messages of thanks from two incredible educators who are leaving that I had the honor of working with over the years. I was a little teary when my friend Whitten walked into my office to ask me a question about something. I can’t remember what our brief conversation was about now, but the last thing she said as she left has stuck with me. She said something like, “The world needs truthtellers.”

She’s right.

That applies to whatever we were talking about that I can’t remember because, May, and it applies to a lot of other things as well.

It is June now and that means Father’s Day is barreling toward us and I can’t hardly breathe to think about it because it will be the first one without my dad.

I’m going to try to write now about some of the harder moments around my dad passing away. I have always processed by writing, but there are a lot of moments I am still not ready to look at hard yet. I guess I will just take a few at a time.

There are three truthtellers that figure into this part of the story and they all told the truth in different ways.

The first was with chocolate.

There was a minister who visited the ICU waiting room on more than one occasion while we spent time waiting to know if Dad was going to be okay. He had what he referred to as a chocolate ministry. He made this truly incredible homemade chocolate that he brought to people who were waiting. He offered conversation and prayer too- but the chocolate- ghost pepper, raspberry, mint…all kinds… was offered with no expectations. As I took the shiny little blue box from his outstretched hands, he explained that he was there if we needed him. I remember opening that box and being surprised at the chocolate and I thanked him for it. He said that sometimes we needed to be reminded of the goodness and sweetness in life. Or words to that effect. It is a blur in many ways. I do remember telling him that chocolate was also good for keeping dementors away. I appreciated his belly laugh at that. I told him a little about Dad’s condition and he told the truth by what he didn’t say. He didn’t say it would all be okay. He didn’t say I shouldn’t feel sad. He didn’t ask me to examine my faith. He didn’t pretend that the situation didn’t totally suck. I am thankful for that truthtelling… and for the chocolate.

The next truthteller was my brother. My sister is a truthteller too, but I can’t write her part yet. I don’t look too good in that part of the story, and I’m still too tender to share it.

So, my little brother told the truth in many ways. Two of them are burned into my memory. The last time my brother and sister and I were going into the hospital to see Dad, when there was not a lot of hope for recovery, I remember Steven saying, “Today there is going to be a miracle at this hospital. Either Dad is going to be okay, or he is going to go to Heaven. Either way, that is a miracle.” After Dad died, when we were leaving the hospital in the early hours of the morning, my giant little brother, who had been our rock so much of the time, fell to his knees, for just a moment. You know, sometimes great pain is physically overwhelming. I remember thinking how much respect I had for him in that moment. He was not afraid to tell the truth to himself- it hurt so much- and then he got up and carried on. He was not afraid to be human and vulnerable. I knew my kid brother was a great guy. I didn’t know just exactly how strong and wise he was until we went though this experience together.

And finally.

The neurologist.

We listened carefully to what all of the doctors and nurses on Dad’s care team had to say. But, when the neurologist arrived to talk about my Dad’s amazing brain, we dropped- literally- whatever we were doing or eating or saying to run and hear what he was going to tell us. His job could not have been easy, faced with a sleep-deprived, scared family hanging on to what hope he might hold out. He gave us the bad news calmly and clearly, but with human warmth. When we tried to spin it, he didn’t spin. Brene Brown says clear is kind. That neurologist did not say what I wanted him to say, but he did not hold out false hope. He told the truth. He was clear. It was time to say goodbye to our dad.

So that is it. Three truthtellers.

Thank you for taking time to read my self-therapy. I hope you will take time to give thanks for the truthtellers in your life. They are precious, even if the situation is not so dramatic. Can you think of a time someone told you that you had a hair sticking up or broccoli in your teeth in a way that let you know they cared? That is a gift. I am blessed to be surrounded by kind-spirited truthtellers in my life.

We do need truthtellers even when we don’t want to hear what they have to tell us.

Especially when we don’t want to hear.

That’s all I got tonight. It’s messy, but sometimes that is how life is.

Speak the truth in love, and have a sweet Saturday.

Three Of Us

Yesterday we had a retirement party for my friend Julie. (I’m going to miss her so much!) and as I looked at the pictures from the event, there is one I just love of our team together.

In the pic there are 11 of us. Some are missing. One is out because she has a new grandbaby. Some were there but had to leave before the picture was taken. In this picture, we don’t look all that diverse. We are all white (but that is only because everyone isn’t there) and there is only one male (also due to missing members) but let me tell you about my amazing and diverse team:

We are not all alike.

In the picture, four of us are wearing glasses.

One of us is a redhead.

10 of us have dogs.

One of us is losing hair and wearing a hat.

Eight of us are parents.

One of us kicked cancer’s ass.

One of us walked the 3 day.

One of us has bungee jumped in New Zealand.

Three of us have been divorced.

One of us is a grandparent.

Three of us are gay.

Some of us like wine.

Some of us don’t drink.

Some of us are Democrats.

Some of us are Republicans.

Some of us are Independents.

Some of us are native Texans.

Some of us are not.

Some of us have lost parents.

All of us are married.

All. Of. Us. Are. Married.

But… for three of us, marriage was not legal until 2015.
Because three of us are gay.

It doesn’t matter which three. You can’t tell by looking. I mean, I’m not posting a picture, but trust me. You. Can’t. Tell.

Here’s the thing I’m thinking of right now: I’m looking at this picture of people I love…people I have laughed with, cried with, planned with, agonized with, and some of them are gay…and when somebody comes at the rights and dignity of people who are gay (In 2019, good grief) they come at my friends.

And honestly, I hate that. So. Damn. Much.

It has only been four years since my friends have had the same right as me about marrying the person they love.

I almost still can’t get my mind around it.

I look at each face in the picture-

All of us are smart.

All of us have strong opinions.

All of us care deeply about our families.

All of us are dedicated to our profession.

All of us have wonderful, interesting stories to tell.

And all of us are pretty good-looking if I do say so myself. (Some of us are smart-asses… I’ll let you work out that for yourselves.)

All of us deserve to be treated with the same human dignity and rights. All of us in the picture do, and all of us on the planet do.

I would say more, but there is a two year old who doesn’t care one bit about my right to blog.

So until next time.
Happy Friday.
We will miss you Julie!

A Man Named Alex

I just killed a mosquito on my forearm. He landed there while I was contemplating life and not writing. Like, I’ve been staring at a work in progress for 47 minutes and I literally only added a hyphen and then later removed it.

Then the mosquito..uh..distracted me from all the not writing and I smashed it with a little extra vengeance and…this is gross…when I brushed the carcass off my arm, the stinger was still there STUCK IN MY ARM. Blech mosquitoes.

And then, because my brain apparently works like those If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books, that made me think of an encounter I had Friday afternoon. Before I tell the story, I want to be sure to make it clear that I am NOT comparing this guy to a mosquito in any philosophical way. You know – I don’t mean that he was a bloodsucker. I am not making a judgement of the guy at all. It WAS however a very interesting interaction.

Okay, so Friday after work I was stopped at the light at Davis and Division. I was on Davis heading south, so I was facing the railroad tracks. I was the first, and for a time the only, car at the intersection. I was keeping an eye on the railroad crossing because I always seem to get stopped by the train there after work and I really just wanted to get home. I had a terrible splitting headache that had come on suddenly. My ears were ringing and I felt like I had a couple of spikes in my head. I didn’t even have the radio on because of this.

At this intersection to the left there is a little convenience store, and to the right are some apartment/hotel rooms that are … not nice. If you live in my town you know what I mean and if you don’t, well you still know what I mean. They have a reputation for being a place you keep your doors locked around. The convenience store serves as a grocery for some of the people who live in this place. I often see folks carrying food from the store to the apartments because it is in walking distance. There is often at least one person on foot at this intersection.

Friday was no exception.

As I sat watching the train tracks and waiting for the light to change, a flash of neon green from the left caught my attention. A man, I’d say early 20s in age, though who can tell these days, was crossing the street in front of my car. He looked younger than most of my kids. He was wearing a neon green shirt, and jeans that were sagging so low they were barely clinging to his body. I mean, this sag style just defies the laws of physics sometimes! He had a normal build- neither overweight or very thin. He was bald.

He also had a small star-shaped face tattoo.

I know that bit of information because as he crossed the street in front of me, he turned and made eye contact, then changed direction and walked over to my driver side window- which was up- and leaned in to look at me. I felt a little bit like a fish in an aquarium.

He stood close enough to the car that he brushed against it as he moved, which he did constantly. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, bobbing from side to side and somehow up and down. Kinda like… a mosquito. He made quick, jerky movements, flailing his arms a bit and nodding his head up and down and side to side. It just put me in mind of some sort of evasive maneuvers…as if he were trying to avoid unseen swats.

He stood there for a moment, possibly waiting for me to roll down my window. I did not. He leaned in and began talking to me through the glass. “MY NAME IS ALEX!!”

I nodded.
I waved.
Not a wave to indicate he should go away, but a wave to show I had heard him, and I was friendly but I was not going to roll down the window. I know that is asking a lot from a small wave, but I was trying to make sort of a lot of decisions in the moment. I added a smile. Alex began to talk very quickly. I could not understand most of the words because he was mumbling. I heard “Represent and drug and addicts.”

Then, mid-sentence…or possibly mid-word, I couldn’t tell, another car drove up behind me and Alex, jerked toward it with his whole body and then ran away from my car and across the intersection toward the hotel/apartment building.

I watched him go filled with curiosity. A moment ago he had been intent on communicating with me. I felt…unsure of how to feel. The light turned green and I drove off. Now I realize I may have been in some danger, but he didn’t try my door- which was locked, he didn’t hit my window, he didn’t threaten me, and I did not see any sort of weapon. I did see a person, I am sure, who was in some sort of need.

I turned the moments over in my head thinking what I might have done differently. Slip a dollar through a cracked window? Offer to call someone for him? Neither of those seemed too helpful and as much as I want to lend a helping hand, I also want to get my own self home safe.

I was a couple of blocks away when I began to pray for him. I earnestly prayed for Alex and whatever his needs might be the rest of the way home. He may have been a slightly intimidating person, but I had looked into his eyes for several minutes. I felt a connection to him as a human being on the planet. Alex is a child of God, just like me. God loves him, just like me, and God knows his every need…just like He does mine.

And that was the end of it until Alex crossed my mind again today.

I wonder about him and so many other people who are walking through the world with challenges I do not know. Maybe he was put in my path so I would pray for him. Or maybe so he would pray for me. Or maybe both.

Whatever the reason, here I am now, asking you to join me in praying for Alex in whatever way you are led. As always, feel free to throw in a prayer for me as well.

I am comforted that God has us all in the hollow of His hand and that He knows our every need, even when we do not. He knows when we are unsure and He knows our hearts when we do not know what to do. And He is good all the time.

Even though He made mosquitoes.

Now I’m going back to staring at my manuscript. Maybe it does need that hyphen after all…

Happy Sunday.