Wednesday, December 30, 2009

That's a wrap

Earlier this morning, I glanced over my archives from this year and one word bubbled up into my mind:  journey.  That's the word I'll attach to 2009.  It was indeed a journey, one I could never have predicted at this time in 2008.  In fact, I would have looked at you as if you had two heads had you told me that in 2009 I would lose my job as marketing manager for the global company I was a partner of and had been employed by for 18 years.  I would have collapsed in a pile on the floor and refused to move had you told me the people I would lose in 2009.  I would have laughed in your face had you told me that in 2009 I'd face my inner math demons and take a GRE course and apply to Graduate school.  I would have wondered what in the world you were alluding to if you told me that 2009 would be the year that called for the best from me in the name of those I call my friend. 

What I'm challenging myself with on the last two days of 2009 is to declare the year complete.  I'm going to spend these two days grieving what there is to grieve and celebrating what there is to celebrate.  I'm going to ask of myself to be at peace with 2009 and then to let it go.  There are three questions that are in my mind to help me in that goal.

1. What do I want to acknowledge of myself in regard to 2009?

I faced challenges and I faced them with courage.  I actively practiced my trust in the Lord. I was constantly shown that although I cannot control what happens in life, I can control my response and my actions.  I climbed a mountain of change when it would have been easier to simply quit, and I faced down two enormous fears that I previously thought were defining of me:  that of losing my job, and that of facing my inability to conquer math.  I acknowledge that I made a difference in some lives, that 2009 was a year of reaching out with whatever gifts I had, be it a dollar, a minute, an hour or an idea. It was a year of saying I'll be there, and being there.

One of my dearest friends said to me earlier this year, I know why you lost your job. It was so you could be there for us. Perhaps she is right and losing my job was not at all about me but about what I could do for others.

2. What is there to grieve about 2009?

The pace of 2009 was frightening.  It was a hard year, for me and for others in my close circle.  It was a year of change and loss. My heart is heavy over the loss of friends, and I grieve the loss that friends experienced.  I grieve a love witnessed, one cut short by cancer.

3. What else do I need to say about 2009 to declare it complete?

2009 was my year of accepting change, facing fears, and actively being a friend, the year in which I truly learned to trust in God's plans whether or not I can see or even comprehend them.  It was the year I learned to trust my responses and actions, and the year I learned that I really can do so much in the name of love. 

It is my goal for 2010 to carry the best of my lessons forward and to live in peace with the future challenges because I know that the journey is the gift.  What I make of it is my responsibility.

What do you want to acknowledge about 2009?  What do you need to do in order to declare the year complete and move forward into 2010?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas morning


St. Francis Catholic Church, first Euro-American Roman Catholic Church in Wadsworth county, built 1895.  This little church is a Texas Historic Landmark, and on the way to what used to be my father's hunting property, Flyway Farms.  On Christmas morning I woke early and drove into town for the newspaper, then decided to seek out this little historic beauty for some early morning Christmas worship.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


This morning, I was sitting at a dining table not my own, lost in my thoughts and absent-mindedly fingering a charm that a good friend gave to me on Sunday for Christmas.  The charm hangs from a silver chain and imprinted on the charm are two words:  Be brave. When I snapped out of my thoughts, I wondered where my mind and my heart were on this day last year.  You know what's funny?  My heart and mind were on the same message, that of being brave.  I wrote a post from my heart to the world on December 15, 2008, which I've copied below.  When I read my own words from this time last year, I couldn't believe how applicable they were today.  Somehow the me in the past was reaching out to the present me.  I'm so glad she did because I found a reminder and comfort waiting for me in that post. Perhaps you can use her words again this year too. 

An Early Christmas Gift

I was thinking about you earlier today. To be truthful, I've been thinking about you all day. I've been wondering what to get you for Christmas. I had no idea. I kept coming up short. My ideas weren't enough. They weren't meaningful enough, didn't connect enough, they kept falling short of enough.

Tonight though, I realized I was trying too hard. Gifts of this season are not about pomp and circumstance. Tonight, I realized that the gift I have for you is not one I can find in a store, purchase, wrap and hand over to you. Tonight I realized that what I have for you is something that was given to me. Two words, two magnificent words.

Be brave.

Every challenge I have faced in my life, from early years through high school and college and into my career, through heart break and loss, my father would calmly sit while I poured out my stress, confusion, sorrow and grief, and he would quietly but resolutely say to me, Be brave. Every challenge I've faced since losing my father, including losing my father, I've heard his words of advice echo back to me again and again. Be brave.

And with those words, I would realize that I could face what was before me, tackle the challenge or weather the fallout. They are not words of action or inaction, they are words of approach, of attitude.

And so I want to give you those words.

Whatever it is that you face in your life, the challenge, the sorrow, the confusion, the heartache, the destitution, the knots, the loss of faith, the hopelessness, I'm not going to preach to you, not going to advise you or make suggestions, I simply want to give you one of the greatest gifts given to me:

Be brave, my friend, be brave.

I'm not asking you to change your course or to understand something you cannot fathom at the moment. I'm not asking you to forgive or understand or extend an olive leaf. I'm not asking you to have faith or to put your troubles in the Lord's hands. I'm not asking you to seek therapy or to read this book or the other. I'm not asking anything. I'm simply offering these words: Be brave. And in giving you these words, in my heart and mind, I'm giving you my father's sage advice. Simplistic but powerful, in your darkest hour, you can do it. One minute at a time, one hour, one day. Be brave. You can do it, you can. You can face the moment, the day, the week, the future.

Please accept this Christmas gift from me, these two little words given to me over a lifetime, two little words I give to you now: Be brave.

Whether you need them today or hold on to them for the future. Forever and true, this gift of words will never fail you.

You know I love you. XOXO

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Master's Plan

I don't always understand it, the Lord's magnificent plan. Who am I kidding when I write, always?  I only get fleeting glimpses of comprehension, and those are rare at best. But I do trust in Him, even when his plan is painful to accept, especially when his plan is difficult to understand. The Lord's plans are not mine to know, and only through faith do I understand this to be true.  I will not angrily raise my fist in the air, and ask Why?  Instead, I humbly ask that He help me accept what I cannot change, that He guide me in keeping my promises, and that He lead me to where I am the most useful to His children.

This time, this present, is a terribly sad one, and yet a quiet and beautiful one. A bright light slowly fades, a circle completes itself before me.  This is a time where I hold Eclesiastes close to my heart. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens. 


Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I remember as a child, I was fascinated by echoes.  I loved to yell HELLO at the top of my lungs and hear my word travel across the lake from our hill country house and bounce along the limestone hills in slowly decreasing volume and increasing distance.  The echo was my first awareness of the law of give and take, of getting back what we put out.  What we say, how we treat others, how we omit or stretch the truth, and how we set out to support or deny the character of another, these things and more have everything to do with our own well being.  We cannot be too careful about what we send out.  Our words, our actions, can be cleansing or toxic not only in the lives of others, but to our own lives as well.   

It's something to think about, the law of echoes.

Monday, December 07, 2009

You must always tell

For years I carried this poem with me in my wallet. I tore its page from Interview Magazine in the early 80s.  Over time, the edges of the paper have become tattered, the fold creases deep and permanent, and the paper color yellowed a bit. A couple years ago, I had it framed, pressed and floating between two pieces of glass, and I hung it in the entryway of my home.

I've never been able to find the author.

This poem touches me with its simplicity and hope. I read it often and throughout the years I've found myself in different lines, but it’s in the truth of the last two lines that I find the strongest connection.  As it has many times in the past, the poem soothes me this morning. 

“You Must Always Tell…”

You must always tell the world what you’ve been through,
It does concern the curious who pass;
The stories of our hearts and of our dead
Can all improve our image in the glass.

I am a child who carefully picks her way
Here, or down there, or anywhere I stop
Tipping my had to twenty thousand truths,
Deep in a Now about to open up.

You must always tell the world just what you’ve learned;
It was not chance that took you where you went.
And when I search my pockets what I find
Is far more hope than I have ever spent.

You must always tell your secrets to the world,
Those passers-by whose business is the same;
And those from a land where all that’s holy’s dead
May not themselves be totally to blame.

You must always tell the world that you’ve been happy,
Loaded with talent, yes, a great success,
That you built beacons from brutality
And made your music from the pain of love.

We cannot both be ignorant and live
Let’s not just say we sheltered here a while
When one’s known death, and life–which is always there,
One tries to make a poem—and to smile…

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's all I got

This is the eve of the dawn of my favorite month, the month of December, which brings Christmas trees and decorations and wishes prayed on Santa's lap, and candy hopes and sugary dreams, and garlands of green that fill my home with the smell of pine and make me think I'm outdoors in a forest filled with chirping birds and garlands of dried cranberries dusted by the falling snow, and around every Spruce tree is the reflection of the shadown that splices through the glow of a fingernail moon.

I am wondering if you're wondering whether you should wait for it, you know, the punch line to the joke of my happiness.  Or the kick to the gut.  As it where, or is.

It's coming.

This is late hour of the unbelievable day, the day in which I faced my waking memory that a friend died last night, the day that I shook my head and sank my heart when I screamed at the realization that he did die, and that he died suddenly and all too young (46) from a heart attack while alone in his house. And this is the day that is two weeks after my Aunt died. And this is the day that is one and a half weeks after my dear friend lost her son. 

And this is another day in the life of someone who is fighting for her life every day and every hour against a cancer that is, without mercy, stalking her.

And right now, one I love is hovering over her mother in ICU.

How does that register?  The answer is that it does not. 

But let me tell you this:  If you love someone, if you ever have loved that someone, if you are about to or even if you realize you never will but you do care that much, do me a favor.  Do yourself a favor.  Hold on to your kiss a moment longer, hold on to a hug a moment longer, go ahead and pick up the tab that makes you lopsided in your balanced payout to your friends. Laugh at the jokes, shoulder the wrongs.  In the end, it doesn't really matter.  Forgive that one who offended you, let go of that grudge that does no good beyond you're  being lonely at the top. Let go the weight, the issues, the positions.

I can promise you that the time you're not thinking about  is a dangerous illusion of your wishful imagination.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Snapshots of a Thanksgiving

A few scenes from a delightful and delicious Thanksgiving holiday spent just south of Houston in a charming beach house in Galveston.  Good people, good times, good food, good gratitude.






And now that I'm home, the holiday decorating has begun.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Look! It's a food blog

Finally, the Thanksgiving menu is complete:  Smoked turkey with gravy and stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, greenbean casserole, fresh corn with wild rice, apple-blackberry pie, pumpkin and cranberry bread, fresh cranbrerry dressing, and Veuve Cliquot champagne. Doesn't that sound fabulous?  Too bad for me that most of the ingredients are still sitting unpurchased on the grocery store shelves. 

The grocery store is scheduled for early tomorrow morning.  Today, I'm busying myself with making pumpkin bread and cranberry dressing for a few friends to have on their Thanksgiving tables. I love how the cranberries pop when they are cooking and I love how the sauce thickens right before my eyes.  The magic!

DSC01325  DSC01331  DSC01332

I enjoyed my morning in the kitchen but I believe my little helper enjoyed it all the more.


Monday, November 23, 2009


No doubt she's dreaming of all the food she can pull off the counter in just a few short days.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's the little things

Each morning when I wake up, I get out of bed, put my feet on the floor and I flinch as I physically remember that my right ankle is healing from a break three weeks ago.  Left on its own, my ankle does not hurt anymore so it's easy to forget.  When I put weight on it, however, it does hurt, and I limp on the ball of my foot to the chair where I sit and put on a contraption called an AirCast.  Although robotic looking and not at all attractive footwear, its interior air chambers have been tremendously helpful, allowing me to walk without crutches but with support to my broken bone, and giving me confidence that my ankle won't roll.

Yesterday when I got out of bed, for the first time in three weeks, I could stand on both feet, my right foot flat on the ground, without pain.  I was elated.  Painlessly, I walked to the chair and strapped on the boot.

This morning, when I got out of bed, I walked across the room without pain and in my normal gate.  Then I stopped and realized how wonderful it felt to be walking, to be able to walk.

It's a simple thing, isn't it?  Walking is something I take for granted every single day.  I have legs that work and I am able to get myself from here to there on my own two feet. I can take a stroll in the morning with my dog, I can walk through the grocery store, I can climb stairs or walk from the couch to the kitchen for a fresh cup of coffee. Such freedom I have. Not everyone can say that, and this morning I realized how much it means to me that I can walk, how very much I appreciate that I have that ability. When I look around this life of mine, I realize this morning that there is so much, so very much that I am thankful for.  It took an accident for me to have this realization, proving to me once again that many gifts are not initially obvious.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

While the candle flickers

It's time for me to go upstairs to bed. The lights are turned off, a candle burns, the clock in the kitchen ticks through the silence.  And I sit here at the dining table, look at the fan blades turning above, and I feel the solitude and the quiet seep into me, feel them like soothing words.  It's been different lately, this life of mine.  There are changes and peaks and valleys and it seems that so much is happening so fast. Life and death, healing and swelling.  I was at my best this weekend, and also was at my worst.  In such a short span of time, the two extremes.  How is that?  My tongue was sharp and burning this weekend, harsh words, ill-timed and poorly spoken.  And yet the same mouth spoke kindly and gently to a broken woman only hours later.  My heart was heavy this weekend, and yet flowers and a card delivered by hand gave me light and hope, and most importantly, love.  I laughed this weekend. And I cried, oh Lord how I cried.  I cried for others and I cried for myself.  I cried for pain and loss and fear, and I shouted out and lashed out for the very same.  And tonight, I take this person, this me, and I take her gently upstairs to rest beneath a God I know is there and prayers I know are heard.  And I ask of myself to slow down, and I ask of life to slow down, just slow down enough for me to adjust, enough for all of us to catch our breath.  And I pray for the weary to have rest, the broken to have healing, the hungry to be nourished, and the fearful to be soothed.  I pray for what we all need, for all of us to have and to give.  Love.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Found - Missing week stuffed into a single day

It ended nicely, my day yesterday did.  It started nicely as well.  It started with a yawn and a stretch and rubbing Cheyenne's belly while her tail thump thump thumped with glee. It wrapped up with an outdoor fireplace and champagne, watching my nephew pop his first Champagne cork under the guidance of a friend who's been a friend to me, to him, to my family for a long, long time.  I told her earlier in the evening that she is the bravest person that I know.  She said back to me, We both are.

The space between the beginning and end of Thursday, however, was filled with enough activity and emotion to swell the single day into appearing to be a full week.

I attended the memorial service of a woman I'd known my entire life, a graceful and kind woman who was one of my mother's dearest lifelong friends and whom I always knew as Aunt Suzie. I sat in the same church my family attended, the same church where my parents' memorial services took place, and I watched her three sons shoulder an incredible grief for the matriarch of their family. Each son wore one of her brooches on his suit lapel, a little something that I found delightful and tender.  I remembered those brooches.  The eldest son wore a silver dragonfly.  My mother had the same one, and it sits in my jewelry box. After the service we marveled at that. Did they give them to each other?  Did one of our mothers buy it for herself and gift the other with one?  Did they buy them together during one of their trips?  We sighed.  We will never know.

Later in the afternoon, I got my splint removed from my right ankle and in its place an aircast that makes walking a possibility for me now.  I thought I'd skip right out of the appointment, only to find that it doesn't quite work that quickly, and I still need at least one crutch.

Still later, I went to friends' house for dinner and a visit.  While she cooked, I sat with her sick partner and felt completely helpless when she took a deep breath and told me that she hurts all over, even her skin. Among other things, Cancer is a ruthless stalker.

Dinner was interrupted by a desperate phone call from my nephew.  His dog got out of his yard and was hit by a truck. The driver kept going, he said, and Chico was limping and confused, blood was coming from his nose.  My heart sank.  I gave him directions to the nearest emergency vet and told him I'd meet him there. 

When we left the vet, assured that Chico would be fine but they were keeping him for the night to watch him, my nephew and I returned to my friends' house.  He hungrily finished the leftovers from our earlier dinner and then the three of us sat outside by the fire, each of us together at the end of three very different days, each of us talking, remembering, loving. 

When I got home this morning, this silliness was waiting for me:


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Missing - One week

It's funny how a single misstep can change your path, can take what you thought you were going to be doing or were planning to do and wad those particular pages in your daily planner into a big fat paper ball and chunk it out the window of your life. 

So, yeah, I was less than 12 hours away from boarding a plane to St. Thomas, where I was going to spend a week's vacation, a week of much needed time off.  And then I tripped.  And the next thing I knew, I was in the emergency room looking at a doctor holding up my x-rays and saying the words, broken ankle. And on my discharge papers were the words, See orthopedic surgeon within 24 hours, and, sadly, No travel by air. And I was in pain, a lot of pain. But the pain pills did nothing except make me scratch at mysterious itches all over my body. The next day I was at an orthopedic surgeon's office. He confirmed what the docors in ER said, and then he said three words that thrilled me:  No surgery necessary.  He gave me new pain pills, which also did nothing except make me scratch at new mysterious itches. And then it became obvious that I had to move out of my house since stairs and crutches don't go together like a horse and carriage. And then I was at another orthopedic surgeon's office because my ankle would not cease hurting and the first orthopedic surgeon's office said they could not prescribe anything stronger. The new pain pills worked, and so did the anti-inflammatories and the muscle relaxers. And then I spent the weekend resting and medicated, with my leg elevated and my ankle iced.  Yesterday I moved home and...

Hello?  Can anyone tell me where the last week went?  I swear it was just a minute ago that I was heading downstairs on the eve before my flight to St. Thomas and suddenly it's a week later. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What happens when I'm not paying attention

Right about now, I should be strolling along the beach in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.  Or perhaps reading a book poolside, or maybe walking through the historic area and learning about the Danish culture from the 1800's.

My flight out was at 6:00 in the morning Tuesday, but the plane left without me.  Why?  Because a funny thing happened on my way downstairs Monday evening. 

My mother always used to tell me not to wear flip flops in the house.  They are dangerous, she'd tell me.  I never understood why until Monday night when I was racing down the stairs, excited to be picking up my friend who'd I'd be happily spending the next week with, when my foot slipped from my flip flop at the landing and my ankle went hard to the right off the stair and my body followed.  Before I could feel it, I heard the bone break.  That?  That's not a pleasant sound.


Friday, October 30, 2009


Guess what I just realized about myself? I opened the refrigerator door to get a bottle of water this morning and when I closed the door, I stepped back and realized I am one of those people, those people who put everything on the doors of the appliance designed to keep my food and drinks cold.  Yep, that's me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Today is her birthday!

It goes like this. I reached a point in my life nine years ago where I decided it was the right time to get a dog. Although my family always had dogs, dogs that I grew up with and loved, none was my very own, and that's what I wanted, my very own dog. I wanted a female Chocolate Lab puppy. Little did I know that the pup that would be my Christmas present that year had already been born at the time I reached that decision. Nine years ago today, in fact.

Our years together have cost me in many ways. In books and frames, window ledges and shoes, in trips to the emergency vet and two surgeries to replace her knees, and many many food items swiped from the counter tops in my house and the houses of others.

Seven weeks - Day 2

Still, the rewards have been much greater. I got the dog I wanted, and that is to say that what I have is a friend. Cheyenne and I have walked many miles together and seen countless sun rises along the way. Over the past nine years, we swam in rivers and surf, in lakes and ponds. We've climbed mountains and trekked through the snow together. I've watched her baby blue eyes turn an autumn gold. We've run in the rain and played fetch in many parks and yards and even in a couple houses. We've spent days and weeks at the cabin together, free to explore where my eye or her nose led us. I've tripped over her more than once, and she's tipped more than one canoe. She keeps me shaking my head in constant amusement at her antics, whether it's freaking out that her feet are being touched, eating the Easter candy, or backing up to me and growling when she wants me to scratch her back.

And she's been a tremendous source of warmth and comfort to me in times of terrible grief.

Dad & Cheyenne

She's a quirky one, this girl of mine. She's eager, and happy. She's both serious and silly, dramatic and goofy, and she has a whole bag of odd behavior that never ceases to make me smile. She has her moments of pause and her moments of explosive, butt-tucking enthusiasm, and every day when I get home, she's right at the top of the stairs, tail in full wag with a smile that's all her own spread across her face and crinkling her nose.


She's a little bit crazy and a lot of dork. If you know her, then right now you are shaking your head in agreement.


She has a boyfriend, the strappingly handsome yellow Lab, Isaac. He plays Forest to her Jenny, which is to say that he is completely smitten with her. And tolerant. And that they go together like peas and carrote. They have fun together. Oh what fun they have!


She's my friend is what she is, and she's a great one, bless her little brown self. She and I, we're two in a row. I can't really imagine what the past nine years would have been like without her by my side to show me the way and remind me that life? It's good stuff.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One day and... well, yeah, that means my test is tomorrow

I humbly request your prayers, crossed fingers*, rabbit's feet, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers, lady bugs, oils, coins, jade, crickets, dragonflies, rainbows, dolphins, dreamcatchers, elephants and acorns, and even your voodoo or booyah.

*Crossed toes also accepted.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two days and counting

In the last eight weeks, I've filled two notebooks, using the front, back and margins of every single page. I am now mid-way through my third.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Three days and counting

There are two things in this picture that make me happy. One is the vase. It's a porcelain milk carton and I adore it for the whimsy of taking a utilitarian shape and retooling its purpose. The other is the flowers. I picked these flowers from my own little garden. What's not to love about the simplicity of picking flowers from your own little garden and putting them in a porcelain vase that looks like a milk carton?


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Around here

On Wednesday evening, I was out with a couple friends for a brief respite from studying and other things I am stuffing my days with as of late. One of my friends looked at me from across the table and asked, What's up with your blog lately? I asked her what she meant by that. She said that I haven't been writing much.

But I just posted the other day about Camelot and being a sparkling drop.

She rolled here eyes, said, BORING.

Before you get defensive on my behalf, let me say that she said that with a smile on her face and an exaggerated tone, as if she were imitating a child. This friend enjoys when I relay stories, especially stories about times which she was part of, or where she knows all the characters.

Then she elaborated. What about those posts you used to write about, about your friends or the cabin and sitting around the patio and laughing?

Well, I smiled, it's not exactly like I'm having those times lately. We laughed at that because truer words could not be more true. What's also true is that it's not exactly as if I'm my usual self lately.

Let me give you a quick example: It took me about fifteen minutes to organize my thoughts and my words into the brief bit I wrote just above. Why that long? Because if I took my thoughts directly out of my brain, and left them unscrubbed, the first paragraph above would like like this:

On Wednesday (a negative times a negative equals a positive) evening, I (a fraction describes a part over a whole) was (Maria) out (Eddie) with a (Kelly) couple (my GRE test is in one week) friends (math homework) for (the difference between any two sides of a triangle must be larger than the third side) a brief (etymology) respite from (Pythagorean triplets are 3:5:4, 6:8:10, and 5:12:13) studying (homework, homework, homework) and other (Maria) things (bisecting a square diagonally creates two 45:45:90 triangles) I stuff (the shaded area equals total area minus unshaded area) my day (many coordinate questions are really about triangles) with these (a ratio is a part over part relationship) days. One (an even negative raised to an even positive gets bigger) of (what does saturnine mean again?) my friends looked at (area of a parallelogram equals base times height) me from across (vocabulary flashcards) the (use FOIL - first, outside, inside, last, to multiply two algebraic terms) table and (Maria) asked, What's up with your blog lately? I asked her what she meant by that. She said that I haven't been writing much lately.

Need I go on? My head is so filled with math rules and new vocabulary words and concern over loved ones, that my thoughts will not stop. Although tired when I go to bed, sleep has eluded me for many nights. If sleep is the ball on a roulette table, well it just bounces and bounces and never lands. Okay I confess, I capture an hour here and there. But real sleep, that wonderful kind of sleep in which all the individual hours of sleep are connected by hours of sleep? There hasn't been much of that in the past couple of weeks. On the rare and delightful occasion when I am able to get there, I have nightmares that are filled with triangles and unreal scenarios and I wake up in frightened or sad confusion.

I need to separate something here. I have so much concern for and heartbreak over a friend who is ill, and for her lover, but I am capable of handling those emotions because I put my sadness and anger and desperation into prayer and conversation with God. I am strong in this capacity, because I have learned to be that way. And that strength, that is how I can be there for my friends, how I answer a very real need they have.

What has me losing sleep is the fact that I am filled with such anxiety over the math in my upcoming GRE that my nerves have overtaken the knowledge that I do have and I stare at the questions on my practice tests and don't understand at all what I'm being asked to solve. All the while, a sweat breaks out all over my body as I imagine a gigantic clock, tick tick ticking over my shoulder, about to announce to the world that I will not get into graduate school because I cannot do simple arithmetic, and then a global email will be sent and that email will say: ISN'T ALISON PATHETIC? Because, seriously, how the hell can she not understand how to convert 0.167 into a fraction and multiply that by the long side of an isosceles triangle to arrive at the volume of a parallelogram, which don't we all know is just a box? (panic, panic, panic)

My GRE study course teacher told me during a one-on-one tutor session a couple weeks ago that my problem is not math, that I know the math, my problem is me and my anxiety towards math. I smiled at her and told her that she didn't understand that my tackling math is the most difficult thing I've done in years, and I've been through a lot in the past several years. As the words came out of my mouth, I thought, Wait a minute. And then I realized that, yeah, maybe I do have some anxiety there. But something needs to get a shake down, because, seriously, math? Math does not compare to the real world, and the little battle I have with fractions and decimals has no place at all in the rest of my world. Period.

But still, anxiety is NOT a reasonable thing. So, asking or telling the anxiety in my head to calm down because I've survived more and others are fighting way bigger battles, does nothing.

Trust me on this: Anxiety is a selfish and self-feeding logic-eater.

Yesterday, I was prescribed something to calm me down. It's a very small dosage of a powerful substance to calm my nerves enough to allow me to focus. That small dosage is going to get smaller tonight because although I did sleep wonderfully last night, when I woke up I felt as if I'd been hit by a truck and the resulting impact left me with mashed potatoes for brains. It took me three cups of coffee before I could feel my head atop my shoulders, much less use the brain inside that head.

Anyway... all of this is to say that for the time being, it's not all patios and laughter-filled conversations with friends and loved ones around these parts. Part of the reason for that is painfully beyond my hands, but in my prayers. The other part is the GRE test looming large on my horizon. Someone recently reminded me that this test is not something that defines who I am, but rather a means to an end. And nothing more. And that is something I keep telling myself. Over and over and over again. I hope the 1/16th of that pill I'm taking is listening.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Words that guide me

From Camelot, final scene.

The night before the final battle against Sir Lancelot, King Arthur has come across a young boy (Tom of Warwick) who wants to fight for him. Arthur knights him and instead, instructs him to return home.

Sir Pellinore, an old and trusted friend of Arthur's, is with Arthur and observing this.

Arthur tells the boy: Each evening from December to December, before you drift to sleep upon your cot, think back on all the tales that you remember of Camelot. Ask every person if he's heard the story and tell it strong and clear if he has not; how once there was a fleeting wisp of glory called Camelot. Camelot! Camelot! Now sing it out with love and joy.

Sir Tom of Warwick repeats after King Arthur: Camelot! Camelot!

Arthur: Yes, Camelot, my boy. Where once it never rained till after sunset, by 8:00 a.m. the morning mists had flown. Don't let it be forgot that once there was a spot for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot. My teacher, Merlin, who often remembered things that hadn't happened better than things that had, told me that one day, a few hundred years from now, it will be discovered that the world is round. Round, like that great table at which we sat with high hopes and noble purpose. If you do as I ask, perhaps one day men will sit around this world as we did around our table and go questing once more for honour and freedom and justice. Now run, Sir Tom, behind the lines...

Sir Pellinore: Who was that, Arthur?

Arthur: One of what we all are, Pelly, less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea. But it seems that some of the drops sparkle, Pelly, some of them do sparkle!

Years ago, I clipped from the Playbill those last words between Pelly and Arthur, framed them and placed the frame on my bedside table. I read them often, and I strive to be one of the sparkling drops.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Words for the day: Thank you

My waking thoughts this morning were of gratitude. Another day, another opportunity to give thanks, to be a friend, an Aunt, to open my mind to the lessons around me and open my eyes to the beauty around me. I stayed in bed, snuggling in the comfy disarray of the sheets and pillows, and letting my mind roll out the ribbon of all I am thankful for. There is so much. Then I excitedly jumped out of there and into my sweats, raced Cheyenne down the stairs, and together we set out for a long walk in this perfect weather.

And I wouldn't be me if I didn't have a camera in hand.

With these photos, I wish you a happy Friday and a good weekend. Perhaps you too will discover appreciation for the many gifts that are always present.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Embracing the surprises

Today could be a turning point in your life. Maybe yesterday was. Maybe you won't discover it until weeks or even months or years from now. It often happens that way, with slow winds and quiet moments, not flashing lights and loud fanfare. In the past, I've searched for reasons, for something I could pinpoint as the catalyst for a certain change. Usually I cannot decide or discover that one thing. Something within us, something about awareness, suddenly gives us consciousness of new ideas, new choices. Something pushes us to think outside the limits of our usual ways. Life begins to fit together in a different way, a better way.

As turning points go, some are not particularly great. But inside are hidden many gifts and opportunities for change. A firm believer in silver linings and making the most of what you have been given, I'm not someone who fears change. That feeling was challenged when I lost my job last February. That turning point was a surprise and sudden, a shock to my system that led to an emotional time, to be sure, but it was not a frightening time. Now I look back to that day with gratitude. I didn't know then what God was planning for me or what new path He wanted me to walk.

I still do not know, but here's what I do know: The path is a good one. I've been given opportunity to be a fully present friend who is needed. I've been given opportunity to spend time with family. I've been given opportunity to expand my mind through reviewing and setting new goals and continuing my formal education. I've been given opportunity to take care of an elderly loved one who needs assistance. All of these opportunities are fulfilling.

When I wake up each morning, I thank God for this completely unexpected path, for the turning point He gave me that was initially disguised as something I thought I did not want. And now I find it was the beginning of changes in my life that I very much do want, and embrace.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday morning Snorgle

If you have never met a Snorgle, let me introduce you to mine.


Thursday, October 08, 2009


The entrance to MD Anderson Cancer Center hospital is through two sets of doors that are massive and open automatically. The first set is nondescript, purely functional. The second set, however, has a random pattern of large diamonds etched deep into the glass, and rising like wishes to the sky. With the movement of the opening doors, the diamonds grab and reflect the light and what you walk through is a song of colors.

On Tuesdays, a volunteer plays the grand piano in the lobby and fills the space from floor to ceiling with beautiful notes. You expect to see people sitting in the lobby and you expect to see the empty wheelchair by the door and the volunteer sitting at the information desk. You expect to see doctors ambling about and patients out for a stroll, but piano music is not what you expect when you enter a cancer center. It's a pleasant surprise.

What these gifts give your heart and mind is a moment, just a moment of pause when you walk into and through the lobby on your way to the elevators that carry you up to the tenth floor where you will spend the day with your friend who for the time being is in the corner room.

From the phone calls, emails and texts I received, apparently I worried a few people with yesterday's post. It was not about me. I wrote it about my friend, wrote it to my friend.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Point blank

There are times when nothing in you arsenal prepares you, times when your experiences, your lessons, your favorite sentence in your favorite book, your beating heart, your grieving heart, your epiphanies learned from your private moments, your incessantly pulsing blood, your empty but soul-searching time spent in nothingness while driving from here to there, your fist raised in the air, your favorite photograph or most delicate ornament on the Christmas tree; none of it can prepare you for what you hear when you hear the words. When the immediacy of knowledge spikes your brain and shreds your soul, strangles your breath and steals your hopes. There are no experiences you've painted your name on, nor any that have branded their name on you, none at all that will step up and console you. None that will say to you, it will be okay.

It won't be okay. Life will go on, but it won't be okay. And this? Knowing this? This will be the secret and most regrettable voice in your mind, in your heart. It will be the day you never forget and the words you will forever despise, the words that will always take you down, because this was the moment you will forever trace your weary fingers backwards to discover over and over again to be the beginning of the end.

All I can offer you right now right here is this song I heard while taking the long way home tonight.

Just Breathe
- Pearl Jam

Yes I understand that every life must end
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go
I’m a lucky man to count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Others they got none
Stay with me
Let’s just breathe

Practiced are my sins
Never gonna let me win
Under everything, just another human being
Yeah, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world
To make me bleed

Stay with me
You’re all I see

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t, now I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
As I come clean

I wonder everyday as I look upon your face
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take
Nothing you would take
Everything you gave

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t now I’m a fool you see
No one know this more than me
As I come clean

Nothing you would take
everything you gave
Hold me till I die
Meet you on the other side

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Turning the page

Do you love October? I do. Each year, I look forward to turning the calendar page and seeing the date, October 1st. October reminds me that it doesn't take much to please me. October brings simple things to the front for me. One elusive goal after another lately has made me hurry by some beautiful things, I'm sure. But October reminds me to stand still once and again and observe the world around me. The leaves consider change, a bright cluster of mums is placed on a neighbor's porch, an owl calls out to another in the evening.

Much is required of us because to give and receive is the order of life. And that has been particularly true of my life lately. But it is the quiet, timeless, natural activity that October ushers in the calm, that rests me and puts a glow on my face. Everything is not duty, I am reminded. Much is reward, rewards I don't remember earning but that are everywhere around me nonetheless. October reminds me to slow down and enjoy those rewards.

I want you to slow down and recognize those rewards too.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where have the words gone?

Lately I've been treading waters in algebra and recently barely keeping my head above water in geometry. I have two notebooks filled with my scribblings to solve equation after equation from my GRE manual. The last time I was in school, I had notebooks of page after page filled with words, glorious words. And now? Numbers and variables. Who am I and what happened to the life I knew before?

Along with the expanse of math filling my head, I've been weighed down with some hefty decisions and deadlines by which I had to make them. Decisions that don't only involve me but involve my parents' wishes and the children's futures and a lot of emotions and memories. That has been about as much fun for me as not only having to remember the Pythagorean theorem again but actually having to apply it to find the sum of the diagonals in the meaningless diagrams on pages 326 through 331 of my GRE manual.

Really? All squares are rectangles? And they contain distinct right angles?

Sometimes, I look in the mirror and wonder who it is staring back at me, wonder who this adult is that is making big decisions and has immersed herself in an eight-week course that involves an enormous amount of math so that she can take a big serious test so that she can spend the next two years in school. Voluntarily.

If it weren't for the consistency of my ever-present camera, I'm not sure that I'd be able to recognize myself these days.

This photo of a storm moving in from the west was taken just moments before I walked into my tutoring session Monday night.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On the horizon

For those of you who recognize that it's no longer here, yes, there was a different post here. I had to take it down, and we'll leave it at that.

In its stead, this stunning sunset from last Friday.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pushing my trigger

I've been thinking about language as of late and that's because I've been studying for the verbal portion of the GRE. The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains over 170,000 words currently in use in the English language. Also included are 47,000 obsolete words. It is my belief that the good folks who create the GRE tests take their words from that obsolete part of the language. I introduce 60 of those words into my mind each week, writing them on flashcards, flashing through those cards, writing them in sentences and comparing them to each other, and did you know that noisome has nothing to do with sound but is an adjective meaning offensive to one's sense of smell? So, yeah, don't be fooled when you see LOUD as one of the answer choices when looking for synonyms of noisome.

Tricky bastards.

As exhausting as it is, I'm learning to recognize and love some of the knowledge that is seeping into my brain during my weekly class and daily, almost hourly, studies. Some of that knowledge is very basic but left my brain years ago. For instance, paying attention to trigger words in reading comprehension, those words that shift direction: nonetheless, although, notwithstanding, except, yet, despite, etc. While that's obvious, who really thinks about that consciously? It wasn't up front in my mind and now, well now they jump out at me as if I'd already highlighted them with my nifty yellow highlighter. And in reading comprehension when you have to read five boring paragraphs and answer five questions with four possible answers that are each paraphrased, those trigger words are extremely important because they alert you to an argument that will be in one of the questions.

While I admit to enjoying what I'm learning and I believe that having a killer vocabulary is a worthy goal, the gist of the GRE is that it does not test your knowledge, it tests how well you take the GRE. So in addition to resurrecting math I've not used since high school, and dusting off reading techniques that I haven't considered since college, and learning new words daily, I am also having to study the tricks of this test. For instance, beyond Process of Elimination, my study guide tells me this: Do not believe your eyes. Beneath that warning is the explanation that the test contains figures that are not drawn to scale. BUT THE TEST WILL NOT TELL YOU THAT.

Learning this does not placate my nerves.

So, as I plod through my studies, I'm also trying to assuage my desire to wring these test-writers necks for all their games designed to trick me into false answers. Testing knowledge is one thing. Creating a test that doesn't test your knowledge but your ability to walk through a mine field unscathed? That's completely over the top and if I ever meet someone who says they work for the company who creates the GRE tests, I'm afraid that my initial reaction will be to throw a drink in their face, and to do so in honor of all of those who've walked this very slippery path known as the GRE.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Up and Autumn!

Today, September 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm CST, something is going to happen, something you may or may not notice. But at that time, the long-awaited (for me anyway) Autumnal equinox occurs, meaning 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night time, but really meaning, hello Fall! On the southern hemisphere, some kindred soul is beginning to thaw and surely saying hello Spring! But over here, this summer and its heat and its absent rain took it all out of me and I am so hapy to wake up to the first day of Fall.

Fall brings remembrance of times gone by. The season is prayerful and peaceful. Fall is a joy, a setting sun spreading rouge like an open heart across the horizon. Fall is a feast of time, a feast of friends and family, of football and cool weather. Fall brings wonderful Orvis and LL Bean catalogs, comfortable jeans and long-sleeve tee shirts, and boots. Yea for boots!

Hello Fall, it's good to see you. Welcome back into my life.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of this lovely Saturday

Walking downstairs this morning and seeing my niece sleeping soundly on the couch - warm and wonderful, blooming love

Driving to El Rey with my niece, both of us in our pajamas, for breakfast tacos and fresh squeezed orange juice - silly and comforting

Running errands with her, buying her some new jeans - happy and parental

Walking through Whole Foods, wandering the aisles because we love to look and smell and marvel at all of it - discovery and wonder

Lunch of sushi and completely unnecessary key lime tart for me, and for her, cheesecake tart - lavish and delectable

Watching her drive away towards her brother's house and then later back to Austin - a smile, a thump thump thump in my heart, a tickle in my throat

Getting ready for a dear friend's birthday party at her house this evening - excitement, happy, life is good

Friday, September 18, 2009

There's a star in the house

My niece is here, and she's here for the weekend. And that little fact? It puts a big smile on my face.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You knew there'd come a day

Dear Pottery Barn,

Perhaps you don't know this, and really why would you, but I lost my job in February of this year. I'll do the math for you: that's seven months ago. And those past seven months? They've been, what's another word for challenging? Trying? Taxing? Yes and yes. Mostly so in the financial department. Because completely without my consent, I went from a healthy salary to dipping into savings and adding to that an anemic pittance from the government in attempt to live my life as if nothing had changed. Guess what? That attitude will catch up with you and when it does, it will tackle your behind to the ground and hold you there until you say out loud, not mercy, but OKAY, I ADMIT IT. I ONLY HAVE A HUNDRED DOLLARS IN THE BANK.

This week, I've been putting pencil to paper and eraser to paper and wadding up paper in frustration and throwing it in the trashcan, except for my aim stinks so the wad never lands in the basket but nearby on the floor and I have to get up out of my chair and place the wad there from the no miss advantage point of about one foot above the target receptacle. All that pencil to paper business is in earnest effort to create a reasonable budget for myself for the next two years while I attend graduate school. That budget consists of starting with a number that is just under the salary I was making back in the day when I was employed and trying to stretch that number to cover me for two years. I know, I know, just divide by 24, but oh man the resistance on my part when I see the number I have available to me each month and realize that some things have to be adjusted.

Budgets? I can't stand budgets, I rail against budgets, stretch against the choking yoke of the their hold on me. I don't mind the number so much as the portion of my scratch paper where I have to cut things in order to actually make the allotment work, where I have to draw a line through things that I enjoy, things like manicures and pedicures and XM radio in my car and did you know that Dos XX beer tastes nothing like Veuve Clicquot champagne?

I'm determined to make this work though and if I have to cut back on things that I enjoy but in reality are completely unnecessary in order to reach my goal of survival the next two years, then so be it. But that doesn't mean I'm happy about it, understand.

Pottery Barn, are you still with me? I have a point, really I do. Part of what has been eliminated from my budget is that part of income known as discretionary. Why? Are you dense, Pottery Barn? Have you not been paying attention? Because there's nothing left over to be discretionary about, that's why. And that is why, five paragraphs later, I'm going to get to the point. With head bowed, I humbly request that you stop sending me your catalogs, your luscious, soothing catalogs. I cannot daydream through your pages any more. I cannot be tempted by your paisleys and velvets, your gilt and silver-plate frames, your perfectly appointed rooms with hand tufted wool rugs, or you embroidered towels with thread colors of sandalwood and ocean blue.

It not you, it's me. You are lovely, understand, but I simply cannot have you in my life anymore. I've tried but there's no room on this piece of paper I have with the columns and numbers beneath the heading 2010/2011 Budget. It's not your fault, you've done nothing wrong. It's just that there's no longer room for you in my life and I'm not strong enough to resist you, so we have to separate.

Wipe that tear from your eye, it won't be forever. Promise.


A former frequent customer

p.s. I guess you'll find out soon enough, but because I am weak when it comes to your seductive ways, I've also had to block your emails.

Restoration Hardware
Banana Republic
Ann Taylor Loft

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey Internet! I got back into my Flickr account!


Taken this afternoon, after her morning at the Spa.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

You might be asking yourself, Where is the new website featuring Donald's photographs? Up until yesterday, it was in the works. Yesterday I received an email from the site designer I was working with and for unfortunate personal reasons, she regretfully had to quit the project. I wish her the best and her family is in my prayers. Square one, back to.

Adding to my challenges with Donald's photographs is that I'm having some trouble with Flickr, trouble as in I forgot my log-in and my password. Deleting the cookies on my laptop might not have been the best idea. I uploaded the photo to the left straight from my laptop, using Blogger's upload feature, the only thing about which I like is the ability to upload to the left, center or right of text.

Why post a photo of my kitchen sink? Because the plumber is here right this minute installing a new one. The sink in the picture is white porcelain, which means that I'm forever dealing with stains. On top of that, porcelain is not very strong, and the sink has several chips, though not visible here. I've had it with that sink and when the garbage disposal went kaput last week, I decided to rid both from my life. So on Saturday my friend and I wandered the sink and faucet aisles at Lowe's. Not ever having given sinks much thought, I really had no idea the decisions that lay before me. Material, size, double sink, single sink, depth, faucet style. Before yesterday I had no idea that faucets were sold separately, or that strainers /drains were sold separately. But I can tell you this: I am the proud owner of an eight-inch deep stainless steel double sink. It's the bold look of Kohler, baby, and it came with a free cutting board, where by free, Kohler actually means costs very much.

Here's another picture uploaded straight from my laptop. It's also uploaded straight from the here and now of my life. I've been holding off on sharing this but now that I've embarked on the first step of the journey, I can talk about it. Assuming I make a good score on this beast of an exam, I plan to return to school in January for my Masters degree in Communication. For now, I'm in school to study for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The test is three parts, including writing two essays and vocabulary. But it's the third part that makes me view this as an enormous hurdle to clear, that's splitting my head open and sending it spinning off my shoulders: Math. I've never been good at math; it is a completely foreign language to me. I always get frustrated and either rush through it, over-think it or shut down on it completely, more often than not resulting in getting it all wrong. Math sent me to summer school for two summers in high school and when I hit college I took no risks by taking my required math courses Pass/Fail. But now I'm eyeing math as the one thing standing between me and my goal of getting into grad school. So in addition to spending the next eight weeks attending prep school for the test, I can also be found in weekly math boot camp sessions. Math and I meet again. This time, I'm going to win.

Oh look! The plumber is finished! Before I sign off and miserably reacquaint myself with studying fractions and their numerator, denominator and reciprocal madness, check out my shiny new sink with free cutting board.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tuesday's Child

In 2001, September 11th fell on a Tuesday. Early that morning, I clicked the leash to Cheyenne's collar and we set out for the park, relishing in the pinks and golds of the rising sun. I had been travelling the past week, arriving home Monday afternoon, and was happy to be back in my familiar morning routine.

The previous Saturday, I walked the long and zig zagging path of Boston's Freedom Trail. I read about and walked the early history of our country. The feeling of patriotism was still with me that Tuesday morning and in my head the song, City of New Orleans, Good morning, America, how are ya? There was a bounce in my step; I just knew the day was going to be a good one.

As was the morning norm, the Today Show was on the living room television when Cheyenne and I returned. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to watch. Suddenly there was a switch to breaking live news. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. It seemed it was a tragic commuter plane accident.

A glance at the clock told me I needed to get in the shower or I'd be late for work.

My friend called out to me from the hall. Are you watching this? You should watch this. Her voice was different, higher than normal, desperate, an urgent timber I'd not heard from her before.

Oh my God! A second plane hit the World Train Center!

Confused, I stepped out of my room to the hallway, dripping wet in my towel. She stood there in her robe. We hugged in fear and shock. We stood before the television in my bedroom waiting for someone to pull the plug, announce the mistake.

The text on the screen said, Plane Crashes into World Trade Center Tower.

NBC News took over. Tom Brokaw spoke to us. It cannot be confirmed at this time, but it appears that we are under a terrorist attack.

With those words, and the incomprehensible live images before us, we began to believe the unbelievable. We watched the unreal become factual. We watched in frozen horror and disbelief. So little could be confirmed. I remember the scramble for information. And more came. The Pentagon was hit, images and live feeds were all over the television. The more we understood, the more we cried out. Instinctively, we called our fathers; she called her girlfriend. Both of us terrified but reassured by the voices on the other end of the line.

We were being attacked. We paced. We made the dogs nervous. Our hands were shaking. We lifted our coffee cups to our mouths and held them there unable to take a sip. The tears came. They would stop as we digested more news, and they'd return again. And again. I don't know how many times I held my hand to my mouth and said Oh God. I think I will forever remember the sounds, the sirens and sirens and sirens of responding vehicles.

We weren't at all sure what to do, but we needed to be with our families, that much we knew, that much drove us out of the house. I remember saying goodbye to her that morning. The two of us about to set out into a suddenly unfamiliar and dangerous world. The two of us marked, changed within a few moments. Along with everyone else in the country. We hugged before leaving. I held on. I honestly was not sure I would see her again.

On the drive to my parents, I listened to the news on the radio. When the first building began to fall, I looked over at the man in a truck beside me in the traffic. His hand was on his mouth. We locked eyes and I put my my hand on my heart. I started to cry again. Never have I felt so devastated but so broadly connected at the same time.

Eight years later, I walk downstairs and light a candle while the coffee brews. In a moment, I'll walk Cheyenne to the park, gaze up at the flag flying atop the building across the street and remember that morning, that morning I was singing Good morning America, how are ya? without a care in the world, innocent to terror. Eight years later, I recall the horror and I recall looking into a stranger's face in traffic and feeling love.

Eight years later, I'll be singing at the park this morning, I will. And that? That singing at the park? That's my love for this country and her people. The song is more doleful now; so very much happened that day and so very much has changed since then. But sing I will, out loud and out strong.

That last line? That should be the ending to this post, but I'm not quite finished. I know that bells will ring today. I know that bagpipes will sound. I know that my memory of that day will float through my heart and haunt my mind. I know that grief pours from shore to shore. With that in my heart, I want to finish with this: A dear friend of mine writes a wonderful blog and just yesterday she wrote a post with the title, Grace Really is Amazing. After I read her words last night, I recalled the childhood poem, Monday's Child.

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

It's that second line, Tuesday's child is full of grace, that resonates with me today.

September 11, 2001, fell on a Tuesday. As my friend pointed out, grace really is amazing. And as I grew up, I helf fast to Tuesday's child being full of grace. I'm Wednesay's child, full of woe. With that, with head bowed but voice high, in honor of those who we lost on September 11, 2001, those who died, those who grieved, those who collapsed, those who crawled into a dark place and never came out, those who connected with strangers, and those who stood up and fought, who rushed in when others ran out, those who prayed, those who caved, those who shook their heads in sorrow, those who reported and those who watched, I say this: Tuesday's child IS full of grace and never more have I known that child than on this day eight years ago, and now.

We are all Tuesday's children, each and every one of us.

I leave you with these words by John Newton (1725-1807).

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail
,And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What's that sound? It's time flying by

Twenty-three years ago this evening, a rising moon quietly grew in the sky, casting shadows across the brick exterior of a county hospital in south Texas. Inside that hospital on that evening, a baby girl was born. That little girl is one of the brightest lights in my life. The first time I held her, she wrapped her tiny fingers around my heart and she hasn't let go since.

Fast forward to now where she is a senior in college and I'm sitting on my couch scratching my head because wasn't that moonlit night just last week?

Happy birthday Peanut! Your Aunt loves you very much and would like to request that you slow down the speed of time. Okay?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Words for today, and every day

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Something, someone and The Winner

In a box wrapped in tissue paper placed in a bag and set on my doorstep Tuesday afternoon was this necklace, with a wonderful note of support and encouragement for The Saint Veronica Project.


It was a wonderful surprise, a thoughtful gift from a generous and thoughtful person. I'm feeling very blessed these days.

Speaking of The Saint Veronica Project, remember the contest? Even though I went a different route for the site name, I still wanted someone to win an 8 x 10 of one of Donald's photographs. So this morning, I incorporated the ever-fair Random Number Generator and the winner was Comment No. 11. That's mccarthy281.

The Saint Veronica Project site will be launched in a couple of weeks. I'm working with an external designer for the site since the standard templates do not appeal to me and I have zero knowledge on creating my own design. I can't wait to go live with all of this!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

With open arms

Good morning September!

When I walked outside to get the morning newspaper, I was struck not by a hot wet blanket of hot heat, but by little to no humidity and a temperature of 70. I had to look in the paper to learn what temperature the low was but do you know what 70 means? It means over 30 degrees cooler than what was the norm in June, July and August. Oy, three months of hot moist heat in the air and on my skin and dripping down my brow whenever I was out for more than, oh, two minutes. But 70? Seventy is a delightful giggle of a temperature. You can take a walk with 70, you can dance with 70, you can sit on the back porch with 70 and 70 will smile at you and tell you that you are beautiful. Seventy is that nice.

Ninety is still lurking though, to be sure, but that 70 in the morning? That 70 is just the beginning of the changes that September has in mind.

September is such a lovely month. School starts, Fall clothes appear in all the catalogs, the leaves on the Cottonwood tree begin to yellow and fall. Summer desperately tried to hold on, but we know it won't last for long. The change in seasons comes softly, slowly. The sunrise becomes gauze curtains of lavender and pinks, and pockets of cool air surprise me in my morning walks. Even before there is credible evidence that Fall is coming, one can sense it in September's air.

Today is the day to start enjoying the changes, the releasing of the old season, the welcoming of the new. Today is the day to listen to the earth speak, and let it renew your spirit.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Decisions decisions

I'm thinking about Veronica, Saint Veronica in particular. Etymology has ascribed the name Veronica to the Latin word vera, meaning true, and the Greek word icon, meaning image.

Did you know that Saint Veronica is the patron Saint of photographers? Until recently, I did not know that. But when I learned it, I began to research what I could find about Saint Veronica.

In brief, when Christ fell on his way to Cavalry, a woman handed a veil to Him so that He could wipe His brow. According to tradition, the cloth was imprinted with the image of Christ's face. This woman was Veronica, and this incident is all we really know about her, and the veil has become her symbol ever since.


The relic is still preserved in St. Peter's Basicila in Vatican City, and the memory of Veronica's act of charity is commemorated in the Stations of the Cross.

Are you wondering if I have a point? I do have a point.

I've decided to name the new website The Saint Veronica Project.

I am moved by the True Image meaning behind the name Veronica. I also like the idea of naming this photographic collaboration between Donald and me after the Patron Saint of Photography. I hope that Saint Veronica will guide and bless us as we journey together.

After all of your wonderful suggestions and kind comments, and I thank each of you for them, everything in me tells me to go with this name. I didn't want to make the title about Donald's wheelchair, didn't want to promote that handicap, and although I liked many of the names with the word, street, in them, I felt that too was limiting Donald. With The Saint Veronica Project, I don't feel any limitations at all, on Donald or me. What I feel is inspiration, and connection.

Donald likes it. I like it. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I need you now

If you read my post of August 19th, Working Together, then you are aware of a project I'm working on, one very close to my heart. If you haven't read that post, please click on the link above; otherwise you'll have no idea what this one is about.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

That post received a lot of support and the comments you left gave me so much encouragement and excitement. Thank you for that. Donald was thrilled when I told him your kind words.

I'm hoping you are willing to do the same again because I really need you now.

I cannot think of a name for the website I will build to launch and feature Donald's work. I had thought about HoustonStreets but that name is not interesting and also does not capture this project. The trouble is that's the only name I can come up with because my brain struggles all the time with titles for individual posts, so how can I expect myself to come up with a name of such importance to me, one fitting to this project?

Do you have any ideas? I hope you do because I'm running a contest. I need your ideas for a blog name, one that will capture this project thad Donald and I created together. Please leave any ideas you have in the comment section of this post. Feel free to leave more than one suggestion if you have multiple ideas. I'll check the name's availability and the winner will receive a signed 8 x 10 of one of Donald's photos, as well as credit for the title. If you like to be anonymous, that's okay, you'll know who you are.

Does that sound fair?

This contest will be open until Thursday at midnight CST, so if inspiration strikes you more than once, by all means, let me know.


Donald and I thank you for your creative assistance!

Matthew 5:14-16

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Sometimes the unexpected arrives at your door and fills your living room with the sweet smell of kindness.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Working together

His name is Donald. His skin is dark and his eyes are bright. He favors the color blue. Curls of gray form his beard and swirl around the tips of his hair. He gets around the inner city in his wheelchair, sometimes on the street and other times rolling down the sidewalk or making quick shortcuts through parking lots. The streets of Houston are not his home; he lives in an aging and sagging clapboard house with his Aunt. But his days, and much of his nights, are spent on the streets.

Misc 035

Donald's personality is a large one, a happy one. Oue paths first crossed in a parking lot of a neighborhood coffee shop. He flashed a broad smile and I smiled back at him. He rolled up to my car and proposed to me. I was delighted but had to turn him down. After that day, whenever I saw Donald, we'd strike up a conversation. In time, we became friends. I began to give to him as I could, a dinner here, a diet coke there. He never asked for anything, beside my hand, but I could see his hunger and his thirst at times and I wanted to help him. Still, the giving and taking was making the friendship off balance and I began to get uncomfortable with that because I knew there was something else, had to be something else that I could do. That Donald and I could do.

I asked myself, How could I really help Donald? What could we do together? And while I was asking myself these questions, Donald and I had a conversation that sparked an idea. A long time ago, I learned, Donald was a photographer in Fort Worth for a local paper. My mind began to spin. I have many cameras. I have a photo printer. I have access to editing programs.

Can you see where I'm going?


Donald and I talked about my idea. I gave him a camera, asked him to shoot what he sees, what moves him, what inspires him, what he lives. And once a week, Donald and I meet and I give him a fresh set of batteries and take the memory card from the camera and upload his photos to my laptop. Then I give him prints of his photos from the week before and we put them in photo sleeves in a large notebook. And Donald sets off to take more pictures and to sell his photos for $5.00 for an 8 x 10.


It is my hope that in this project, I can give volume to Donald's voice as well as help him earn money and become less dependent on others. It is my belief that I'm in for a lot of learning, through Donald's eyes.

The photo at the beginning of this post is of Donald, and was taken by me Monday evening. The other photos were taken by him. He has an interesting eye; he likes big spaces in his photos, he likes to make your eye wander the scene. He breaks a lot of rules and that works for him because really how can you place rules on someone's vision?


In a couple weeks, I will be launching a separate site where I will feature Donald's photos available for purchase. In the meantime, I will show you Donald's work here.

I read somewhere that the scent of a rose lingers on the giver's hand. This feels like that. This is something I wanted for my friend Donald and yet it makes me feel so good, to work beside him, to learn about him through his photography, to watch him roll away from me eager for his next sale, his next opportunity.