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.

Ugly Easter Eggs

Ugly Easter Eggs.

Earlier this week I boiled some eggs so Z could dye them for Easter. So yesterday, on Easter, I peeled them to make deviled eggs.

If you have ever made deviled eggs, you know that sometimes the peel comes off effortlessly. It will pull off almost in one piece with the membrane attached and you have a beautiful, smooth boiled egg to use in your dish. A thing of beauty.

And sometimes it does not peel off easily. You crack it and every little piece sticks, or worse digs into the egg. Sometimes you pull a piece of shell off and it takes some of the egg with it, leaving a rough, cracked surface to work with.

Usually with a dozen or so eggs, I have one or maybe two that are difficult like this. Sometimes I can grab the membrane and get it going okay even if it starts badly, but usually, once it starts to go bad, it stays that way.

Most eggs peel nice and easy.

I have heard different tricks about water temperature and method of cracking to make it go smoothly. I have no action research to support these methods as effective.

Sometimes, it's just not a good peel.

Yesterday this happened to me with EVERY. SINGLE. EGG. Every one of them. I ended up with the ugliest batch of deviled eggs I have ever made. Sure they tasted fine, but they looked like I had put them through a cheese grater.

And I was so frustrated while I peeled those eggs.

Since March, it has been one bad peel after another.

My dad died.

I have lost two friends and another friend has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

I jacked up my knee.

I’m fighting with my husband.

My fourteen-year-old is a butt-head.

...Well, actually, that last part isn’t new…

Zoe has been in trouble for cussing at daycare and I’m pretty sure that is my fault.

I feel like I’m walking around with pieces of hard shell sticking out of me.

Are there bright spots? Of COURSE there are. God is good all the time.

But I’m cracked.

My dad is not coming back. Cancer is never not going to suck. Fourteen-year-olds will always be butt-heads. (Fight me on that one…)

I can’t write. Can’t seem to get anything done. Every little thing seems overwhelming. A day has not yet come since March 6, in which I have not, at some point, cried.

What is God doing?

Why am I in this bad egg season?

I don’t know.

And…

it doesn’t matter.

There is a reason. Of that I am sure.

Perhaps it is time for me to grow and stretch.

Perhaps it is time for me to be quiet and listen.

Perhaps there are lessons I need to learn in the small every day moments that I have blown past in a hurry for the last few years of making shit happen in my life.

For example-- last week I had all this stuff for Z’s Easter basket and I kept just looking at the pile of it thinking, “I have GOT to put that basket together!”

It was just one more thing you know?

And I was feeling overwhelmed by it. I WANTED to do it. But it was too much.

Then I saw a post on FB that a friend had made. A picture of the Easter Basket she put together for her new son…a child she and her husband had prayed and waited for for many years. She wrote: Every year for the past decade I’ve dreamed of making this basket for Baby J. Sometimes I still feel like it’s a dream.

How beautiful is that?

I read her words and looked over at Z’s basket and I thought, “I GET to do that.”

God is doing something intentionally for me and I KNOW it is for my good, because I know HIM. And I know He loves me…even with hard, broken bits sticking out all over, He loves me.

That is an amazing gift.

What I want, is to get to the end of this…lesson or what ever it is…and come out wiser and full of grace, and you know…smooth. But I’m not sure it is going to happen like that at all. So. I am giving up my vision of how I think it should be and just… trusting in God.

On Wednesday, I GET to go to Chemo with my friend. I GET to be with her. She has been there for me so many times. I’m thankful for the opportunity to get to show her in some way how much I love her. And I GET to watch her kick cancer’s ass, because I have no doubt she will continue to do that.

So. That’s all I guess. For now.

I’m an ugly Easter egg. But it’s okay.

And the undeniable truth wrapped in that fact, is that Easter happened and, even though this is a messy, confusing chapter, its still part of the story with the same happy ending. The tomb was empty. It was empty for all of us- good, cracked, rough, smooth, whatever.

I can’t wait to see what God does next.
Happy Monday.

Eulogy for my Father

My Dad’s last day on this planet was March 6, 2019. I had him in my life for 55 years. It was a great blessing and it was not long enough. My sister and brother and I spoke at his memorial service on March 16 and I have had some people ask me about my speech. I’m sharing it here for those people, and also because I want the world to understand what an incredible man my father was. This is a big hurt. It is a different grief than I have experienced before, and I have not yet arrived at a new normal. I feel all of the prayers and wishes and am so thankful for my circle of people.

At Dad’s service my brother and sister both told stories about Dad that I had not heard before. They were small moments, that now are big moments. My brother told of a time Dad threw him in the pool and he sank to the bottom- where he kicked off. My sister told of a time Dad was waiting with his hand outstretched to help her. I treasure both of their stories because now I have those memories of Dad to add to the trove of wonderful things I will always remember. Dad really did teach us to kick off when we reached bottom, and he was also there holding out a hand to help.

So here is my eulogy for Dad. For those of you who knew him, I think you will smile at these stories, and for those of you who didn’t, I’m sorry you missed out on knowing such an exceptional human being. Dad really lived, and he taught us to do the same. He did not waste his time here. I do not plan to waste mine.

Eulogy for My Dad

I have so many great memories of Dad. He gave me a lot of good advice over the years. He told me to trust myself. He told me life could be hard but it was worth it. And he told me that if you argue about furniture long enough when you are getting a divorce, that the only person who will be able to afford a new couch will be your lawyer.

No offense to any attorneys present.

Dad also told me that if anyone was ever trying to hurt me, I should do whatever I needed to do to keep myself safe, including running the person over in my big old car.

That car was a 1966 Chevy Bel Aire that we towed home from my grandparent’s barn when I was 16. Dad fixed it, of course, and as he worked on it I stood and watched. He told me, “You know Sherry, this car has air conditioning.” I was shocked because the car didn’t have a radio, or power windows, or seat covers, or even very much paint. So I said, “It does!?” Dad replied, “Yes! It has 460 air conditioning.” I asked excitedly, “What’s 460 air conditioning!?” Dad said, “You roll down all 4 windows, hit 60 miles an hours, BAM, air conditioning.”

Dad taught us to be independent, but he also saved us. I remember him running into the ocean with a sand pail to scoop up a big jellyfish that we thought was a balloon, and then carrying it to the sand where we could study it safely.

Another time when I cut my foot open in a lake, he ran into the water fully clothed, scooped me up and put me in the car to take me to get stitched up.

And when I was little in the hospital and terrified during a procedure I had to be awake for, I screamed so long and loud for my dad, that they let him scrub in and come hold my hand. After that, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I knew I would be safe no matter what because my dad was there.

Full disclosure, I also had to bite one of the doctors, but it was worth it.

Over the years I called Dad with lots of questions- we all did. I remember one time I was watching a baseball game and the catcher made this beautiful throw from home plate, past the pitcher’s mound, all the way to second base. I called Dad and told him about it and then asked, “How far was that Dad?” He said, “Well Sherry, a baseball diamond is a square and it is 90 feet between all the bases- from home to 1st, 1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to home.” I waited. You see sometimes when you asked Dad a question, you got bonus information. But he didn’t say anything else so I asked again, “But Dad, what about from home plate to second?” Dad replied, “You already have all the information you need to figure that out.” I thought for a minute and then told him I was going to need a hint. He said, “Home plate, 1st and 2nd are points on a right triangle. You know the length of two of the sides. If you want the third side just use the Pythagorean Theorum!”


So, I did. It’s about 127 feet by the way.

The last time I called Dad was February 9th. I had a question about binary code. That seems fitting because so much of life seems like it is written in code, and Dad helped us figure a lot of that out.

We finished talking and Dad told me he would see me soon.
I am going to have to wait longer than I planned for that meeting, but I know I will see him again. I have so much more I want to talk to him about. But for now, I will just say, I love you Dad. I will miss you every day.

Folding Towels

Folding Towels

Grief is a funny thing and I was reminded this past week just how awful and beautiful it can be. My last blog I wrote about an ordinary Tuesday. I sort of took the day hour by hour and chronicled it. Since then, nothing has been ordinary.

One of the last things I did that day was post the blog and I got ready for an early bedtime. Around 10 or 11 the phone rang and it was my sister. She never calls at that time just to chat. I answered quickly. Our dad had had a heart attack in Austin, Tx and was in an ambulance en route to the hospital. We did not know his condition, but we soon learned it was very serious and my sister, my brother and I began to prepare to drive to Austin.

I remember trying to pack that night and I couldn’t make sense of my stuff. I would put something on my bed, like deodorant or a pair of socks and then just sort of stare at it. Finally, I grabbed a bag and kind of tossed some things in. We got on the road about 2 am and drove though fog and mist straight to the hospital.

When I say we drove, I mean my brother drove us. He is ten years younger than me and if you had told me growing up when we were all kids, and I was the oldest, that my rotten little brother would one day drive me through awful weather in the middle of the night hours from home to anywhere I never would have believed you, but not only did he drive us, I never worried about that once.

The next few days were a blur. We stayed by Dad’s side as much as we could with his wife Barb and other family- our step-brother Brian and his family, and our cousin David who none of us had seen in years. My brother’s wife Amanda drove in the next day and all of us went through these uncertain hours together with a mixture of grace, panic, tears, snot, hope and faith.

One night my brother and sister and I sat in a hotel room and just talked for hours. I heard stories from their lives I had never heard and I felt so grateful for the time with those two amazing people.

We talked to Dad and told him we loved him. We told him all the things we needed to say. We prayed he could hear us. Then with more tests pending we returned home for a day and a half when we had to go back…to say goodbye.

These were the hours and moments I will never forget. I can’t write about them now and I am not sure I ever will be able to. Some of them were horrible. Some were sacred. Some were peaceful. All were sad.

Since then, March 6, when Dad took his last breath in the early hours of the morning, I have been grieving along with the rest of my family. Grief is hard to watch. Some people have turned to look the other way. That’s okay. I know it isn’t pretty. But some people stay right in there with you accepting whatever emotion washes over you. Those people are a true blessing.

I went back to work. Made it to Spring Break and have been busy preparing to go out of town for Dad’s memorial service. I had a full list of things to accomplish today and then- full stop. I sat on a chair unable to move. As an hour dragged by, I began to feel panic. My Dad is never, ever coming back. How can I do all the things? I didn’t even know where or how to start.

I picked up the phone and sent a text to my mom and she prayed for me. I prayed. Then I saw a way.

Towels.

There was a pile of laundry on my bed. I would start there. I approached it…so much laundry! I decided to start with just the towels. Just fold the towels. I folded each one as neatly as I could and then picked one next thing- just one more and slowly, one thing at a time, refusing to think about all the things, I got most of what I needed to do done.

I think part of it is that when your world shifts so suddenly and so hard, it just doesn’t seem like laundry and errands should go on. I’m kinda pissed about that truth be told. I’ve been kinda pissed at God some moments too but I know He can handle my little temper tantrums. And the thing is, one of the last things I said to my Dad was, I don’t want you to go, but it is okay if you do, you taught us well and we will be okay.
So, I have to be okay. And I will be. But life will always be different and somedays I might not do anything but fold some towels.

That’s all I’ve got for today.

Fold one towel.
And breathe.

Thanks for reading and thank you for your prayers.

Tuesday

Tuesday.

People ask me often how I do all the stuff I do. I usually just say something like “I don’t watch TV” which is true, I rarely watch TV…but it’s not really the whole answer. The thing is, I’m not sure people really want to know. But today I woke up to another message asking the same thing and I thought I would keep track of my day. Here is how Tuesday went:

I woke up at 5:25 before my alarm went off. I saw I had slept through some minor problems the night before that I had texts about- I think I fell asleep rather early. I’m not always up at 5:25, but I usually am up before 6. I talked to God, talked to my dog, talked to my husband, checked social media, checked work email, read a chapter in a book I am in a book study for, worked on a manuscript, showered and got ready for work. I left the house at 7:30. During this 2 hour block of time I also drank strong coffee.

I arrived at my first stop- a campus closer than my office- at 7:48. I had 12 minutes of ‘personal time’ before my work day officially started, so I emailed a ms draft to an editor, responded to some work texts, posted a response to my reading from earlier in the online group, and took a phone call from my 3rd child on his way to the passport office asking for his original birth certificate. I explained to him that waiting until nearly 8:00 on the day he needed his birth certificate was akin to being in 4th grade and letting me know at 10:00 pm that he had a diorama due the next day at school. I made a note to look for it later.

At 8:22 I got to see a student use communication technology to request what he wanted for breakfast for the first time…a student who previously had no way to communicate. I teared up at the wonderfulness of the moment and how honored I felt to witness it. Then, I got to work with another student on reading. Happy happy happy.

My next stop was a campus across town to install some math software on a teacher’s computer. In my “mobile office” I then answered emails, drafted a follow up report from my morning visit, took my blood pressure pill and looked for some advil.

I stopped at my mom’s house at lunch. She fed me while I worked on some professional development material prep for a session I am presenting later this week. I make a note to purchase spaghetti noodles and marshmallows for the team building part of that session.

I’m early to my next campus, a staffing around noon. We have difficult discussions and I am again honored to get to work with the wonderful educators I work with.

I have one more campus today. I am tired. On the drive over I turn off the radio and pray for several friends and for myself. At the last minute, this staffing is canceled so I visit with some staff, fill in my mileage report and text with my boss about some things for tomorrow.

After work I pick up Z from the sitter and head home with her. After she eats a snack she is down for a nap. It’s time for school with Gav. I toss some pork chops and potatoes in the oven and start a scarf while we go over his math, history and geography for the day. Z takes a short nap so we head outside to play until dinner. Then it’s books and letters for her and more school for G.

Z didn’t sleep much today so I put her to bed about 8:00, finish the scarf, find Tyler’s birth certificate and text second daughter to let her know her wedding invitations have shipped.

Stacy called and said she is stopping for one errand on her way home from work. She may need help with an income tax issue when she gets here so I am blogging this and waiting for her to get home. It is 9:00.

There is still time to do something else. But I will probably have another early night since I was up so early today.

Sound like a lot?

I bet it isn’t more than anyone else’s day who works and has a family to care for. If you wrote down and typed out everything you did each day, it would be impressive. For the big things- the books for example—it’s just little bites of time that add up.

I did not watch TV. I didn’t spend a lot of time on dinner. I did pick up a few things and run the washing machine (mostly because the dog threw up on a blanket…) but I did not worry about my house being spotless.

I’m not superwoman.

I’m not even close.

I wasn’t even pleasant to my husband when I got home. I was a big old crab in fact.

Tomorrow will be similar in some ways and different in others. I might get more done. I might get less done. Either way it’s okay.

I don’t know what the take away is really except maybe, if you feel you don’t get enough done, take a day and write down what you do. I bet you will be surprised! I think you will find that you are in fact quite amazing. I know this because I have incredible friends.

Happy Tuesday!

The Angel on the Porch

It was a long week, am I right?

On Friday I got in my car at lunch time to run a quick errand. I was so looking forward to the weekend and a little down time. I just had lunch and an afternoon meeting to go.

I am a member of a mom's buy sell trade board on FB and I had to swing by a house and pick up some crayon pieces. The day before, I had posted on the board that I needed some for a project, and another mom I do not know wrote me back and said she had some for me. The mom board is a great place for bargains and for community that way. I was excited, but really I didn't feel like going just then. I was exhausted.

Friday morning I had driven into work praying and thinking about angels. So often in my life I have been graced by people and events I believe to be angels. I know God is always near and I believe He sends us help and comfort in times of need.

But I was feeling sad. I have written before about living with depression. The struggle takes different forms and I heard myself crying out to God to give me a sign that it would be okay.

Now, I am not proud to admit that I do this ALL THE DAMN TIME. I mean, God is always there. He has never deserted me, He has sent me countless signs, miracles and answers to prayer...and yet, like an unsure child I constantly ask for reassurance from Him. I am so very thankful for His patience.

So Friday morning I was doing it again. And I actually asked God to, y'all it sounds so silly... but I asked Him to let me see an angel. I specifically wanted to SEE one and I asked to see it ON FRIDAY.

Why would I do that? Before you read the rest of this story, please understand that I don't believe in making demands of God...and I would still believe He is every bit as real and present if the story had turned out differently... I'm just trying to explain that...I was being weird in my prayer request.

I think I was feeling like, I had not been noticing all the wonders He places in my life. I thought perhaps in my stress and weariness I had forgotten how to see His angels.

Okay so I had prayed to see an angel and now I'm heading to pick up these old crayon pieces at lunch from a lady I have never met. I have never been to her house.

I knew her house was close to my office because I had googled it the night before. I reached for my phone to confirm the address and noticed she had sent me another message that came in earlier- not long after my whole see-an-angel prayer.

She had written, "I'm putting them out now. They will be on the left of the porch behind an angel."

Holy crapballs y'all.

I drove over and walked up to the porch and saw the angel.

I saw an angel.

Now. I know that it would have been there anyway if I hadn't said that prayer. That's not the point. The point is...well okay, one- God has a sense of humor... clearly...and two, He answers prayers all kinds of ways. He knows what we need. I guess I needed a literal, physical angel made of plaster on Friday.

It was beyond perfect.

Once again I am thankful, and humbled by His goodness and care for us.

Happy Sunday. Keep your eyes open for all kinds of angels.

Unfit

Unfit.

You know how it is when something just doesn’t fit like it is supposed to? I don’t mean like your prom dress from high school…

I mean more like, just an event or a situation that is so out of the ordinary that it takes you a second to process it?

Although it could be a physical thing. It is December and those car decorations have started showing up. I actually saw my first reindeer car the day after Halloween this year, and, hey, no judgement from me, that’s about the time I put up my Christmas Trees.

Those car decorations used to bother me because I just couldn’t figure out…WHY. But, in this world we live in today, I kind of love them, because they mean there still people are with enough Christmas spirit and whimsy to decorate their car y’all. Their CAR. It’s a sweet and gentle thing.

So, Friday, I had a really weird day. And after all the weirdness was over and I was sort of processing it, I saw a reindeer car, but it only had one antler. Like, the driver side antler was missing. I sat behind the one-antlered car for a few minutes because we were in traffic. Clearly it wasn’t affecting the function of the car to have only one antler. I mean it couldn’t FLY, but I was pretty sure it couldn’t have done that even if it had both antlers. I had an opportunity to sit there and reflect on what might have happened to the driver side antler. I figured it had fallen off at some point. I reasoned that perhaps it wasn’t a good fit on the car.

And that got me to reflecting on how things just don’t always fit.

It occurs to me now, writing this, that my mind works a lot like those ‘If you give a mouse a cookie’ books… Anyone else? Especially this time of year? I know I’m not alone…

It reminded me of the peacock on my porch.

I was teaching at an elementary school and one day the kids and I came home and there on our front porch was a beautiful, HUGE, peacock, just…standing there like he had been invited over. This was many years ago, before cell phones. I did eventually get pictures, but it wasn’t as easy to capture as it would be now. Well so, we pulled up in our driveway and saw the peacock. The kids were really excited and I was… I was confused y’all. My brain told me I was seeing a peacock on my front porch in the middle of a city of over 300,000 people, but I just couldn’t compute. I stared and finally, after a few minutes of listening to the kids say, “A peacock! A peacock!” I said, “It’s a peacock.” (I know. So insightful.)

We just sat and watched him. His tail feathers were all fanned out and he was gorgeous. Majestic really. Eventually he moved off of the porch, and I ran in the house to grab a camera. I called my sister real quick to get her advice. My sister is a veterinarian. She doesn’t specialize in peacocks, but she is an incredibly smart person about a lot of things. She told me that it was mating season and that peacocks can be aggressive and I should not let the kids get too close. Good advice. She also suggested I call animal control so I did.

Me: Hello? Yes, hi, um…there is a peacock in my yard.
Animal Services: A what?
Me: A peacock.
Animal Services: A…peacock?
Me: Yes. Can you send someone out?
Animal Services: Ma’am…are you SURE it is a peacock?

See? It didn’t ‘fit’ for them either.

After I assured them it really was a peacock, I hung up and we drove down the street behind the peacock, who was now taking a stroll, and I got some pics. I will try to find them and share them later. My kids remember this too, so I have witnesses. When my husband got home, he did not believe us and so we had to wait- this is how it used to work for you youngsters reading- until we finished the roll of film, dropped it off to be developed and then picked it up to show him. We had to wait like a WEEK! Because back then you didn’t just go off all willy-nilly taking pictures of whatever. You couldn’t DELETE them if they were stupid. You had to pay for ALL the pictures BEFORE you even saw them. So.

Anyway.

Friday.

I overslept to start with. I usually am up and going by six, but I had set an earlier alarm because I needed to go in before work and set up for a good-bye party for a colleague. That alarm didn’t go off, or I didn’t save it right or something. So when I woke up, I wasn’t thinking about getting there early. I was just going through my normal morning routine and then I remembered! I had to put it in high gear and I got to the office in time to get everything set up. I didn’t have earrings or eye makeup on, but I got there.

Oh, who am I kidding. I wasn’t going to wear eye makeup or earrings anyway.

Then, after everything was ready to go, I got this pic and …it was just like the peacock on the porch. I couldn’t process it. It didn’t fit.

The picture was for a book cover that I had submitted a short story to. The book was (is) to be an anthology of stories contributed by the attending authors of a book show I am doing in the spring. The show is at the Ballpark (it should be fabulous by the way!) and so the only rule for our short stories was that there had to be a baseball tie-in.
I wrote about a woman who finds a trunk in the attic…well…I will post the story. It was sweet, and sentimental. I was going to post it in this blog, but now I have gone on and on about one-antlered cars and peacocks, so I will post it separately. I’m already running too long.

Well, I sent in my G-rated story several weeks ago and that was that- until Friday when the cover pic came.

Y’all. It was…not what I expected. It was...not a good fit for my story. I’m not going to share the pic because it is not mine to share. There is nothing wrong with it…but if you picked up a book with that cover and read MY little tame story, you would be wondering why it was in there.

It was a …a very sexy cover. A VERY sexy cover. There was a male torso, shirtless, and not a dad bod…and a suggestive title… Now the title was a draft, just to show where the text would go but it went right along with the picture.

I just…I could not process the picture! I thought it must be a mistake.
I showed a couple of friends the mock up. Their reaction reinforced my feeling. The cover was...not UNfit…but definitely not A fit for my story.

One friend said, “Oh my God! I didn’t know you wrote THAT kind of stuff!!!”

I don’t.

In our author group, the contributors were all having a discussion about it and it emerged that a majority of the stories WOULD in fact be a good fit for this cover.

I was left wondering if I missed a memo about genre, but no, it just happened that way!

After some thought, I decided to pull my story from the anthology. This caused some extra work re-formatting the manuscript for the person handling that, and I felt bad, but she was understanding and gracious. I sent a break-up note to my fellow authors explaining that ‘it’s not you it’s me’ (and that is absolutely TRUE. I have no judgement on anyone else’s story y’all! Just had to make the right decision for me...) and there was zero drama. It’s not like my story was pivotal or was gonna make the book or anything anyway. So that done I felt good. Relaxed. The way you feel when you know you did the right thing.

That’s when I saw the reindeer car and started thinking about things fitting or not.

Oh! There was some other weirdness I was going to share, but I am just realizing it would give away a Christmas surprise so never mind. I’m already too wordy today without it.

I’ll post the baseball blog later today. I think it’s a good fit here.

Until then, hang on to all your antlers! Teachers, winter break is coming!!

Happy Sunday.

Uncounted

Uncounted.

When I was a little girl, my paternal grandmother kept sugar cubes in her house for her coffee. I remember her telling me one morning when I was visiting, that she put in two lumps every morning--never three. “Three lumps makes you fat,” she said.

I remember thinking that it couldn’t have made that much difference. I think a lump of sugar equals about 16 calories. I didn’t think it mattered. But to her, it was part of a larger mindset. Maybe she felt if she was reckless enough to put three lumps of sugar in her coffee, she might just stop making good choices at all. I don’t know. It was a different time. Bacon grease was kept on the stove and everything- EVERYTHING in her house was fried. Okay, not the rice. But almost everything.

For every blog I post, there is usually at least one other that I write and decide not to post. Maybe I just wait too long and it isn’t relevant anymore. Or maybe it just doesn’t strike the right tone- I haven’t shared what I want to share in the right way. This was almost one of those non-posters. And then I started thinking about a larger context. First the smaller one:

Baby its Cold Outside.

I’ll admit it. My first thought when I heard that a radio station had ‘banned’ this song from their playlist was “Good! I hate that song!” And if you know me, you know that is true. I never have cared for it. And a radio station is a customer service industry. If their listeners don’t want to hear that, then I suppose it is their choice to make it disappear. I mean…the government hasn’t BANNED the song. It isn’t illegal… Radio stations need happy listeners. Having happy listeners sells advertising and radio stations are a business. The classical station doesn’t play rap because their listeners don’t want to hear that. Rap stations don’t play George Strait. (Their loss…ijs.)

Then I started thinking more deeply about it. Yes, I understand the Me Too Movement. I understand that date rape is real. Trust me. I understand these things on a personal level.

I also have had the sort of banter that is portrayed in some of those lyrics within a grown-up, consensual relationship where we both understood the deeper context.

So, just like I stood up for the right of people (ADULTS) to read that silly 50 Shades of Gray book that I have not read, I am standing up for that song I really don’t like.

You know what I have done for as long as I can remember when I hear that song? I turn the channel. Or ignore it. Or sometimes I catch myself singing along to the chorus if it is the Rod Stewart version and then I sort of growl at myself. But in all those years, never, ever, has anyone sat me down, held my arms away from ears and FORCED me to listen to that song.

Me Too is real and valid. And HELL yes we have a responsibility to stand up for and to stand with people who are abused and oppressed. We have a responsibility to call out injustice when we see it and to change things that are wrong.

It’s just.

It’s more complicated than scrubbing offensive things from sight (or sound.)

And also.

I mean.

Hypocrisy right? And I don’t mean necessarily by the Me Too movement. Just in general.

I’m guilty.

We have to be so careful that our anger is righteous. I pointed out once to my husband when I was mad, mad, mad that even Jesus was angry for good cause with the moneychangers and he responded, “True. Also, YOU are not Jesus…”

Well. Ouch.

One of my FAV.OR.ITE Christmas songs ever (and it is a Christmas song in the way Die Hard is a Christmas movie…) is Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas from the Family. It’s way inappropriate on SO MANY LEVELS. The first line is “Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk” and it does not get any more politically correct from there. I remember happily singing it one Christmas Eve years ago for my old friend Danny, who is himself a Mexican, (song reference, not random fact) who howled with laughter and joined in on the Feliz Navidad line.

Life, humor, EVERYTHING is complicated. It is hard to navigate. Sometimes we get offended. Sometimes with cause, and sometimes it is petty. Sometimes we cross a line. I certainly don’t have the navigation part down solid. And I don’t really think it is my place to tell other people when they should or should not get offended. Woo. But I have done this! (I’m working on it.)

We all have different experiences that affect us. One example: Some people are adamant about saying Merry Christmas and others want to say Happy Holidays.

I have no time for this.

I don’t celebrate Hanukah.

You know what I would say to someone who wished me Happy Hanukah?

Thank you.

I would say Thank you.

I have no agenda about this. I am simply sharing my feelings. On my blog. I have friends who feel differently about this than I do and you know what? That’s okay.

It’s more than okay actually. It enriches my life.

My job on this planet is not to always win people over to my view.

My job is to honor people’s feelings.

My job is to accept that people think differently than I do.

My job is to be civil…

…and sometimes I to sing to people.

No.

Wait.

That is wrong.

That’s not my job.

My job is to love people.

And (now the bigger context) people need to be loved. They need to feel like they count and like their opinion counts! Hence FB, twitter, Instagram, numerous other social medial platforms and yes, blogs.

Being uncounted hurts.

Feeling alone hurts.

Little things that seem like they shouldn’t matter, do matter.

Like that third lump of sugar.

So, I’m feeling this:

Grace for the people offended by that song.
Defensive for a song I still do not like.
Nostalgic for my grandmother I wish I could talk to…

And slightly guilty because I just put three sugars in my coffee.
It’s a BIG cup of coffee y’all, but still.

One thing I am NOT feeling is uncounted and for that I thank you, my friends and family.
I wish you peace, joy and happiness this holiday season, because Baby, its cold outside- and sometimes inside too!

Love to you.
Happy Tuesday.

Weaving

Weaving.

I have two very different things to talk about today so I am going to try my best to weave them together.

The first thing I want to share with you is about a visit I made to a classroom yesterday that just was delightful. There is this amazing woman, Grace, aptly named, who has started a before school club for the boys and girls at her elementary school. The kids come in before school to knit and crochet. If they don’t know how, Grace teaches them. If they do, they work on their projects.

The second thing I have to talk about is poop. I could start off with the poop, but I’m pretty sure it is a law that it be number 2 since it is poop. So, I’ll come back to that.

So, back in August I think it was just as we were kicking off the school year, I got this email from a woman, Grace, saying something like, “I heard from a cashier at the store that you make scarves for the homeless.” Then she told me about the club she had started so that students at her school have a place to be and something to do before school starts each day. She invited me to come visit. I was finally able to go yesterday morning.

When I walked in, there was this group of probably 15 or so kids. Grace said it was a small group because it was also yoga day. She usually has around 20 students, sometimes more if the weather is cold. There was this great, comfortable buzz of conversation as students worked and talked to each other. The room contains cubbies full of color-coded yarn and all sorts of other things. Grace looks over the technology for the campus so there are things there for her ‘real’ job as well.

As I talked with Grace and the students, I just felt so happy and peaceful. What a lovely thing she has started. The kids are doing something they love, practicing the art of conversation, and getting some academic benefit. As Grace pointed out, you need math to count and measure. You can write about crocheting. Some teachers have even shared that they see an increase in focus from students who participate.

I asked one young lady what she liked most about her knitting and she said, “I just get to relax and be myself.”

That’s big.

We all know our kids live in a chaotic, uncertain world filled with noise, and screens and ever-changing demands. While we may remember being 8, or 10, or 12, we were never 8 or 10 or 12 in 2018. I believe in my heart that what Grace has started will benefit every single student who comes through her door and that for some, it will be life-changing.

I gave them a scarf that they added to their warm tree of items that will be donated this winter to those in need, and I left feeling happy. It would have been a bright spot in any day, but it turned out to be really the very best part of yesterday by far.

My next stop was the dentist.

I know, I know. I said poop was number 2. Hang on. I’ll get to it.

So, at the dentist my blood pressure was way up and it just didn’t go down all day. The dentist originally thought I had a big problem with one of my teeth. It turned out to be just an old filling that looked weird to her on the x-ray, but it was stressful for a while. I was already nervous. I hadn’t been to the dentist in a couple of years. (I know!) I have been trying to take better care of myself and so I made an appointment for the dentist, I got my yearly mammogram, I scheduled an eye exam and last week, I went to my doctor and had a physical.

Well, like I said, my BP was up, really very dangerously high even after I left the dentist and got to my meeting and my boss sent me home. I called my doctor’s office and went back on another medication to add to what I am taking, and finally got it back down.

I’m feeling much better.

So today, I pulled out my to do list I had made a few days ago. I figured I could get a few things crossed off. The first item was PPU. That means Porch Pick Up. It was an item I got off a Buy Sell Trade Board and I had to go pick it up today. Good. Check. The next item said prescrips. I had prescriptions to pick up today. Ironically, my BP refill. Awesome. On it. The third item…well it looked like it simply said ‘poop.’

I stared at the word.

Now I could not for the life of me figure out why I would have written poop on my to do list. That isn’t an item that I need to be reminded of. I figured it maybe just looked like the word poop in my scrawl and maybe it was something else…but I could not remember what. So, I posted it on social media and asked my friends if they had any ideas. I know I have clever friends and I enjoyed the responses. But then I remembered! Oh my God. It DID say poop!

Suddenly I wished I had not posted it, but too late. It’s out there and people want to know. So, brace yourselves.

You see friends, some of you know, and some of you don’t yet, that when you get to be a certain age, (oh how I hate that phrase…) there are things you have to think about that maybe you never thought of before.

Remember how I said I had my physical last week? Well. The doctor gave me this special little package to screen for any colon issues. The way they screen for that is to…erm…well…they check your poop. Now, believe it or not, there is a company that does this through the mail. So, you collect a …uh…a sample…following very specific instructions and then you MAIL IT IN-- I. Am. Not. Lying. To. You. --and in a few weeks your doctor gets your results.

Gives you a new appreciation for mail carriers doesn’t it?

Thankfully, it is a prepaid envelope so you don’t have to go to the post office and answer “Is there anything liquid, fragile, or perishable???” because I don’t know man. I don’t know how to answer that one.

Please be assured, it is very, VERY well sealed with multiple safeguards but still. Who knew. You can mail in your poop.

The last time I went through this process, there was an actual box that I left on the porch for FedEx to pick up and all I could think was about our rash of porch package thefts, and how very disappointed a thief would be to steal that package. Talk about karma.

Anyway.

There you have it. It was a reminder to me that that special little package is waiting for me to deal with. Apparently, I wrote it down because I thought I would forget.

And I did.

Poop.

Some days are like that. Beauty and joyfulness and then, something reminds you that not everything is roses. In fact, some things are VERY DIFFERENT from roses.

And that’s okay.

Let’s end on a different note though alright? Back to Grace’s room.
Before I left, she pulled out a weaving that her class made. It was a Saori weaving and just gorgeous. Saori is a Japanese style of weaving that is sort of free form. It doesn’t follow a pattern. It follows, your heart. To some it may look imperfect, but that is the beauty to be embraced. As with kintsugi, a way to repair a broken dish or pot that makes it even more beautiful than it was before, you don’t try to hide the parts that are different. You celebrate them. You put it all in there. Thin strands, thick uneven strands, different colors… you get the idea. And you get this random, unique bit of gloriousness BECAUSE it isn’t all perfect.

I feel like I’m trying too hard here. I know you all get it. I just don’t want to stop talking about it.

So, I will leave you with this. All of us on the planet have to deal with poop sometimes- literally sure but especially metaphorically. There are some incredible people on the planet doing things to help prepare kids to deal with difficult times. One of those people is Grace. She is doing so much more than teaching kids to knit and crochet. She is helping them see opportunity and beauty in a world that is often hard.

So, go and enjoy your evening! And if you get the chance, be like Grace.

Happy Saturday!