October 24

Rock, Metal and Mindfulness


I’ve never been a fan of heavy metal music.

Twice I bought albums out of my genre in an attempt to bond with boys.

Rush. And Blue Oyster Cult.

I’m not even sure those are considered heavy metal, maybe they are just hard rock.

Anyway, lately when I find myself between a rock and a hard place, I am decidedly determined to not let my emotions spin out of control. I abruptly walk away, end the call and begin to play soft music or quietly pray. I hum melodies that help me stay in a state of peace and contentment.

Music and writing have always been the best way for me to seek solitude. Like my favorite Journey album, they were acceptable escapes before I became an adult and started making other, less healthy, more addictive coping choices.

When the helpfulness of those eventually became more obviously detrimental, I decided something had to give and added a different kind of activity. One I never thought would become so serious on my schedule. And now I can’t make it through the day without it.


If I don’t like where my attitude is headed or the way my day is beginning to unfold or the phone call I just received makes my heart hurt to the point of wanting to puke, I have to stop. And hum a hymn, or pray.

It’s not been one of those spiritual disciplines I looked forward to. It seemed boring and pointless. Unexciting and repetitive. I’d get tired and sometimes even fall asleep just like Peter did before Jesus’ final day on earth.

I’m also not a big fan of prayer circles. Nervousness takes over when I gather in the simplest shape with a lot of people I don’t know. I worry my knees will buckle if we have to stand still much longer. I’ve been caught one- eyed peeking a time or two, or more, just to see how close we are to ending with one final prayer.

But as a little girl, I remember faithfully kneeling beside my bed, and believing God could hear me.

In my early 20’s I was paid to kneel beside a motel bed and prayed he couldn’t.

The faithful prayers of my mom, my grandparents and the people who have known and loved me through some of my most disappointing and daunting days were not pointless.

They were powerful, mindful and long lasting.

We want our prayers answered the way we order a cheeseburger and fries in the drive through. But it doesn’t always work like that.

I’ve seen enough prayers answered that I am beginning to really see and understand just how important it is to pray God-sized prayers for ourselves, the people we love, the situations we can’t control and the country we are so privileged to live in.

The week before we left for the Belong Tour in Dallas, I began to notice a push back and unsettledness. Obstacles and opposition. And in a hushed moment of stopping and circling complicated situations before me, I heard it. The most unlikely lyrics that could have popped into my head.

We’re not gonna take it. No, we ain’t gonna take it.

Turns out, that’s a Twisted Sister song and I think sometimes God uses things we don’t necessarily like, to get our attention.

In that particular moment, I was reminded that determined, unrelenting prayer is our best and most important opportunity to move our circumstances boldly in new directions, in a Quiet Riot kind of way.


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October 21

Forced Smiles, Favorite Clothes & Forevers


There is one with bright red overalls.

Another features a bangs mishap.

And the year with the mullet.

Mine had braces.

And pimples.

Lots of pimples.

It’s Picture Day. And it’s capitalized for the big deal it is.

In small town south, they say, “getting our pictures made.”

We made it through picture day the old school way, when every imperfection showed and there were no photo shop touch-ups you could purchase for a small fee.

A Lifetouch school portrait is more than a picture. It’s an official record of your child’s school experience.

I’m not sure my school photos are the official record I want to hold on to. For some of us, it was just an official way of documenting our awkwardness.

My favorite school pictures were taken in Kindergarten, a.k.a., the best year ever, with Mrs. Marquis. When I was five, before I knew crocodile gap teeth needed to be brought together and I couldn’t wear my plaid skirted dress for the rest of my life.

Saydee Grace is having hers today. It’s a sort of a pre-pre-school, picture day and she will be adorable, because every child who is almost four years-old is adorable. Those are the years we should be snap-shotting.

Not eleven.

Or thirteen.

Or the drunken binge pictures we post on Facebook at 34.

I checked out the number one choice for school pictures since 1936 and it says a lot of sweet, touchy-feely things about childhood memories and the services the Lifetouch company provides. Things like retouching options so we, “don’t have to worry about little things like scrapes or blemishes on Picture Day.”

I didn’t worry about blemishes on Picture Day.

I worried about them every day.

Every single day for about 7 straight years.

When you are the tallest girl in class with bad skin and a perm the neighbor lady put in, proudly using exactly 100 tiny rollers, you better be thinking of some other way to stand out.  Because this is memory making of the not-so-good kind.

In the hallway, permeated with the smell of freshly disinfected floors, we’d whisper and giggle whisper behind cupped hands and wait to hear the loud pop of the camera that sounded like it just busted the light bulb, an indicator we were one forced smile closer to going back to class.

Picture Day was the day we wore our favorite clothes, but it was also the day my ugly always showed up.

I’d wait in the hall that lead to the cafeteria. It was often crowded with other classes, my prettier friends, insecurities and undisclosed awkwardness.  In between the silly girl chatter, there was a quiet comparing of perfect outfits, hair styles and smooth skin.

Some girls waited for those crinkly, plastic, windowed packets to arrive the same way I excitedly counted the days for the Scholastic books to be delivered. Because we focus on what we are good at.

And I’m not photogenic.

I see some of those friends on Facebook now, a lifetime later, and happily reminisce about the times we spent together standing in line, waiting for our lives to really begin. I’m thankful for the friends I had and the lives that were touched during those years when recess, lunch and Saturday morning cartoons were the things we looked forward to the most.

Lifetouch says their portraits stand the test of time.

And so do we.

It says their wide variety of background styles gives you more ways to create the perfect portrait.

And that is true.

We come from different places, backgrounds and lifestyles. Whether we were city kids or country kids, northern or southern, east or west coast, we were still just children, trying to create something that was picture perfect and memorable.

Showing off our toothless grins and perfect bows, smiling for the camera and hoping someone would notice, hoping they’d turn out good enough for our parents to buy extras to swap with our friends. So we could have a keepsake to remember and something more significant than the camera sees.

Something that looks more like real smiles, the kind that last forever and the ones I remember, when I think of those old school days and the friends I shared them with.

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October 17

Crossing our Fingers and Crossing New Roads


I called because I needed to know.

No one wants to show up for dinner wearing an inappropriately under-dressed outfit and a dazed look on their face that says, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea it was so expensive.”

So I called. Fingers crossed.

“How much are the average entrees?”

She quoted a few prices and I stopped her when she said, “$26.00 for the signature chicken and…”

“Are you serious? $26.00. For chicken? Do we get to watch it cross the road for that price?” I was kidding of course and thought I heard her giggle, but it might have been a sigh.

When I shared that joke with my gift card carrying college daughter said she’s taking food ethics right now and didn’t find it funny at all.

“Get it? Why did the chicken cross the road? It would be so totally worth $26.00 to watch a chicken try and cross IH 10.”

She just gave me the look that says, enough already.

I felt sorry for her and the other people in my family who had to cross paths with me this week because sometimes family relations are hard and we are unreasonably moody and ridiculous without explanation. That’s how I was all weekend.

And I hate it when I act like that.

It’s easier to be kind to strangers, clients, friends and acquaintances than it is to children who won’t laugh at your jokes, call you out for borrowing their non-shareable personal items and complain when you allow a mosquito to bite their children.

Three times.

Three times this week I wanted to jump in front traffic on IH 10. But I was chicken. And so I prayed through it, knowing I desperately needed peace from the nefarious forces that seemed determined to take my joy out and sometimes the only way I know to get peace is by walking away. Or being kind to strangers.

It’s awesome when two paths seem to cross on purpose.

A few weeks ago I was over-explaining something to the barista at Starbucks. “You have not because you ask not, so I asked, right?” He smiled and nodded. I bought the gift card and left the store.

The woman who had been standing two people behind in line, followed me outside.

“Can I ask you a huge favor?”


She told me about losing her job and how another company hired her but she had run out of minutes on her Tracfone and was afraid she was going to miss their call. She asked if I could spare $33.00

She didn’t look like a beggar. She wasn’t standing on the corner asking me for change or a dollar. She was standing behind me in line at Starbucks and wearing a nice outfit, but she also heard what I said about not having, if you don’t ask.

And so she did.

She asked.

Her name was Harmony and she needed something specific.

I had the ability to help her and thought of all I’ve learned and read in the word about giving if you have the ability to give and the persistent widow and going the extra mile and the middle of the night, door knocking story. I sincerely felt this was a chance to show God’s faithfulness to someone who asked something outrageous.

My heart said, Yes. And so I walked next door to the Frost ATM and gave it her. She promised to get it back to me, I told her not to worry about it and good luck on her new job.

That situation made me think a lot about my own prayer requests and the next morning, I was sitting quietly, contemplating my crazy, and was prompted to Romans 12:14. I don’t know that verse, so I looked it up.

“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other.”

There are days my words cause more harm than good.

We don’t ask God sincerely when we pray because we doubt he will come through. We’ve been let down, unanswered and prayer jilted. And we start to forget how faithful he is.

Jen said something in our Circle Maker study, something I underlined, but too soon forgot.

“God’s last act of faithfulness, is not his last act of faithfulness, for you.”

What is it that you have need of?

Though it may seem scary and outrageous, don’t be afraid to call on the favor of the Lord.

I’ve been praying circles around the relationships with people closest to me and honestly, it seems things get worse, before they get better. Many days, I feel like I’m making no prayer progress, but instead just running around in circles like a chicken with its head cut off.

And I can’t wait to get to the other side.


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October 14

We are the product we are always selling.


This week I’ve decided to become a sales trainer or a string art artist.

The knock on the door came just in time to interrupt me while I was on the phone discussing an offer.

But I’m a sucker for door to door salespeople.

Especially the small ones with big brown eyes.

So I quickly got off the phone with the promise of a call back.


“Hi. How are you?”

Random question number one, “Do you have a cat?”



The adorable little girl with brown disheveled hair came into the entry and started looking all around.

She looked everywhere, but straight at me.

“Can I help you?” I asked in the nurturing way you talk to adorable little girls.

“Do you have a cat?”


“Did you just move in?”


“Oh. When I was here last year, the people that lived here let me pet their cat.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t have a cat. Oh! That cat! The floppy, bendy, black and white cat?”

“I think so.”

“He lives next door now.”

“Oh,” she said in a voice that was definitely too disappointed to be selling door to door. “They’re not home.”

Then she handed me the colored brochure with all of the pretty pie pictures and added a side note, “I’m doing a fund raiser.”


You’re selling pies? I thought. Pie selling requires smiling.

“What are you raising money for?”

“I don’t know.”

“How many do you have to sell? Do you have a goal?”

“I’m not sure.”

And that’s when the sales trainer in me kicked in and the excitement got the best of me. I have years of experience training little girls in sales and when I looked at Mary, I saw the look of dread.

The same look my troop girls gave me every cookie selling season.

It was about to get serious.

So I told her.

“You’re selling pies. You have to smile when you’re selling pies. And people want to know what you’re in it for. So you knock on the door, smiling. When someone opens the door you say, loud and proud, “Hi. My name is Mary and I’m selling these super delicious pies for….”

“Wait. What are you selling them for?” I desperately needed her to know that when you are selling, whatever you are selling, you are really the product. People buy in because of you.

She kept looking around like she really just wanted the cat to appear.

And that’s when I hijacked her envelope and showed her how it important it was to keep the money organized by facing her Lincoln’s and George Washington’s the same way and wrote my name down for a French Silk pie.

“Okay. So, it says you are raising money for educational enhancements. Do you know what educational enhancements are?”


“Neither does anybody else. We need specifics.”

She smiled.

Sort of.

“So that’s when you tell them you are trying to bring dinosaur George to your school.”

“What prize do you want?”

She opened her brochure and pointed to the tablet.

“That’s a great goal! Awesome! So you tell the customer you have a goal to sell 100 pies to earn, be sure and say earn, a tablet.”

“I don’t really like to talk that much. And I’ve only sold 6.”

“Okay. I get it. But this is good. These are life skills. You’re not just selling pies.”


“See, now that I know you have a goal, I want to get behind you. I’m also going to order the Coconut Cream.”

Her enthusiasm level raised a few notches and she said, “Well if you have a family of four, you might need four pies!”


She started to walk away and turned to ask, “What if they say they don’t like pies?”

“Everyone likes pies.”

“That’s not true.”

“You’re right. It’s crazy but it’s not true. So if they say they don’t like pies, you say, smiling, ‘I bet there’s someone you could bless with a pie!'”

She nodded, “Okay.”

“And don’t forget to say thank you, no matter what.”

“I’m not very good at manners.”

Oh dear God. Manners come first. And last.

Right then and there I wanted to book our next sales meeting because it’s easier to be a sales trainer than it is to string together cohesive sentences about life and my personal experiences in selling myself, my soul and door to door encyclopedias.

So I decided to stay up until 3:30 in the morning making a super awesome string art project with arrows. I thought it was very appropriate that I nailed one going this direction, and the other another.
















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October 10

Make it What you Want.


Zebras should be black with purple stripes.

That’s what Saydee Grace says anyway.

I can’t believe she’s almost four now. At four, you are allowed to live in make believe worlds. It’s apparently frowned upon as we become adults. Or presidential candidates. But I completely love all people who are able to move in and out of alternative universes. The rules don’t always apply to them. Or us.

We only make the fun up as we go. And fitting in is overrated. Unpolished is less perfect, and I trust it more.

“You had me at……..we shouldn’t be doing this,” is a t-shirt slogan I saw and am pretty certain it should be hanging in my closet.

Yesterday I met a woman at Soda Pops who’s name was also Tina.

“It’s Bettina, actually,” she said.

“Oh! There’s a street named after you over in Balcones Creek! You should drive by and take a picture with the sign. Or have a few frozen margaritas and snag it for your backyard.”

She laughed and said, “I would have done that back in the day.”

The day.

The day is usually a time we all know, laugh about, or have to apologize for.


Yesterday I was reading Max Lucado’s, You are Special to Saydee. I love it because it’s one of those children’s books that speaks to the adult in me as well as the child. I noticed how much we still go around giving and gathering. Gray dots and gold stars.

I’m personally exhausted with the collecting, the sorting and the labeling. I’m tired of the over-analyzing of people’s lives and bad behavior. I’ve got enough of my own. Stones on the ground. 

We strive to say the right things in hopes of receiving less dots and more gold stars, we hope for great ratings, positive feedback and more followers. And then we blurt out unpolished, unprofessional things.

I did it recently in a conversation and declared that sometimes this way of life, this walk, has become, “too much.” What I meant to say, but it came out all wrong was that sometimes we are just too much as followers.

We speak a language no one gets. It’s polished and can be quoted by book and number, but it can come off sounding flowery…and phony. I catch myself doing it sometimes when I’m talking to my girls, until I remember they don’t need a sermon, they just need a mom.

I don’t want to press in, pray more, repent again or do, do, do…for one more minute.

There are some days, like yesterday when I just want to wake up and take a cup of coffee back to bed. I want to sit there with the covers pulled up all snuggly, with my legs smashing my sweet, soft dog under my legs and smile in the morning sunshine.

It’s all become too much noise, too much chatter and too many universes to alternate.

I have to live like this now. In the quiet.

We need more of this. More margin. More grace and more space. Because the burnout made me crazy and a padded room is nowhere for a playful person live.

I get caught up in trying to monitor my speech, fix myself or stop being less of who I am and more of what I think I should be, if I were a good Jesus loving girl.

What I really think is that should is almost a swear word. I find it more offensive than the real four letter kinds.

 “I remind myself what is true: that God loves me, and that there’s nothing I can do in this new day to earn more love-nothing. And there’s nothing I can do in this new day to ruin or break that love-nothing.” excerpted without permission and praying she’s okay with it from Shauna’s must read, Present over Perfect. 

It’s for those of us who need an alternative universe to cope with the one we’ve created for ourselves, because it’s easier to conform to more and more shoulds and expectations than it is to blaze new trails.

The road to Eli is almost always the best road to be on. And our hearts know there is something more. A place where the peacemakers are blessed. I felt it last night as I watched and listened to a sincere compliment. It was deeper and deliberately peaceful – for real.

It’s a crazy alternate place where life is good and full and loving.

And zebras can be whatever color we want them to be.

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October 7

What is that thing hanging over your head?


Somewhere in the garage, there is a letter.

It’s the kind of letter you write, but should not send.

I know that it’s there, somewhere, in a wrinkled up plastic bag, calling me out from the person I am now, back to the life of a person I barely recognize anymore. Truthfully, someone I feel sorry for.

That girl, in her mid-twenties was so certain. She knew that one day, things would change, she would rock her life and unrequited love would be returned.

In the midst of turmoil and chaos, I naively thought I knew God and how he worked and how it would all turn out someday. But that was before I lived a little more, and a few decades. It was before I realized in this new season that nothing is certain and when we make plans, God laughs.

I don’t like him much for that.

I’ve worked on this memoir and have had a hard time recreating some of the remnants of the past. Who I was, versus who I am now. And it must be the truth. But who knows what that is?

The truth gets hazy.

It’s foggy and forgetful, like me.

I only remember my side of the story and the other sides don’t want to talk about it. Words I’ve written years ago don’t seem to see anything, except another round of edits.

In this current chapter, I am realizing that I’ve spent a whole lot more time trying to find answers and a lot less time trying to find God. And that has really not helped me find answers as much as it’s only made me more confused.

I remember the times I thought I had God figured out, only to learn there is no figuring him out. Just as soon as I start to think I do, he doesn’t.

And I guess that’s what it means in the bible where it says, my ways are higher than your ways. I’ve been a little too high in my own ways. When life got too real, and I didn’t want to feel and just needed a way out of my own skin.

Until it broke me.

And I lost it.

But it helped me find my way out.


We talked this past weekend about dark places and the things we pack and hide away and how people don’t keep memory boxes hidden in their attics anymore. Instead, we store both our trash and our treasures, in the garage. So much of it now that we need three bays.

And somewhere in my garage is the letter I still don’t want to read.

The one I wrote when I thought I knew how the last chapter would end. But our characters don’t cooperate, the story gets re-written and we are left to write our own endings. I turn to God and ask for help with what’s next.

He’s a real author, the ghost writer of our lives who knows all of the intricate parts of us and helps me put it all on paper. He’s given me a better understanding of the good, the bad and the worst.

And now my perception is changing.

Webster’s says perception is the ability to become aware, but our perception is not always as it really is. There are misunderstandings, and missed moments. And things that go left unsaid.

And unread.


There are minor misunderstandings and also really big ones that drive deep and far and permanent, wedges.

Wedges larger than the ones sitting with the set of golf clubs in the garage.

T.D. Jakes says, “Understanding is the truth you stand under.”

The truth can be scary or enlightening. It’s all in how you perceive it.

In many ways, you are still the same.

They are still the same.

But it’s different now. And there is a shifting. A change in perception and understanding. And then healing begins. We begin to understand that we may never get answers to our questions.

Only love.

And that truth we choose to stand under, makes us stronger.

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October 3

Stories from A-Z


I haven’t been yelled at by a bus driver in a really long time.

In fact, considering the bus was about 2 hours late to pick us up and then drove in circles, literally, for about half an hour on I 35, I’d say we were all on pretty good behavior.

The singing of The Wheels on the Bus song was appropriate, on key, and quite lovely actually.

This is what girl’s weekends are all about.

And I think I forgot that. A few of us were already friends, the others all meeting for the first time.

Initially, it felt like showing up at summer camp when you were a kid. The atmosphere was a little awkward. Everyone stands around, nervously holding our luggage in the parking lot, not sure what to expect or if we are going to like each other enough for a five hour bus ride and weekend together.

But then the bonding begins.

We heard stories from women like Nichole Nordeman and Shauna Niequist that pulled us in close and made us cry. We understand the longing to belong and the exhaustion we live with as we try to be all things to all people, rarely true to ourselves.

We talked for a while about the stories and songs that moved us the most, and downloaded Johnny Swim music immediately. Oh. My. Gosh. Get it.

Get it now.

I wanted to take the house band home with me, and the analogy of the Russian Nesting Doll I will never forget. Partly because it’s one of our favorite family things and Saydee loves The Adventurers book that features a Russian nesting doll, but also because I never consider how closely it mirrors ourselves.

We are just like the dolls.

The largest, biggest version is what we and others see initially. But the smaller, younger versions of ourselves are still inside of us.

And they still want to play.

Still want to believe.

And still have dreams.

We have to be purposeful and intentional in remembering who and what those tinier versions of ourselves used to be and how we wanted our lives to look when we got bigger. What God purposed and put inside of us from the beginning.

What are the things we used to love that brought us to life?

How far do we have to go back to pick up and find the parts of ourselves that have gotten lost along the way?

On the bus ride back, before we got yelled at for laughing so much, we decided to play a big girl version of the Alphabet Grocery Game. It’s the best time passer I know and so I threw out the question.

The story of my life has been;











Krunk? (I still need to google that)










(I forgot U)



Xylophone or Xanax. We went back and forth on that one.


Two young girls from outside of our group were playing from their seats behind us, so we invited them to join in. Because it’s all about belonging. And knowing there is a place for you. Here.

You just can’t be loud on the top floor of a double decker bus.

The driver came over the intercom and said, “This is not a party bus. No one wants to hear you having fun.”

Apparently no one told him the Happy Fun Girl Group was riding.

And then there we were. Back in the parking lot, saying our goodbyes, promising to stay in touch and certain there were a few more women in our lives who are willing to help us with our baggage, and all of those things that weigh us down.

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September 30

Belonging in Dallas! Meet us there!



I’ve heard of planes, trains and automobiles but never the Megabus. I’m curious what the mega part is all about and in a few short hours several of us will board the bus and head to Dallas for the Belong Tour. I have been so excited and still have 3 or 4 tickets to give away so call or message me.

I have nothing profound or deep to write today. I’m tired. It’s 3 am, and I’m having a Matchbox 20 moment.

This is the tour I’ve been talking up and promoting for months now it seems. I ran all over trying to put together some fun little gift bags for the women who are partaking in this cross state adventure, though the pre-adventure party really began late yesterday afternoon.

It started with a phone fight. My daughter informed me at the last minute that she didn’t want to watch Mr. Riley. Ok. Seriously. He’s super smiley!

So I barked up one side and down the other and after several hours of silence between us, we made up and I drove to Kerrville to drop off the dog and give my grand daughter a million kisses.

We ate fake plastic fruit and read a few books including the one about the Three Billy Goats Gruff and I hope I don’t have nightmares now during my whopping two hours of sleep because that book used to scare me.

The bags are stuffed, the dog is delivered and I’ve forced myself to refrain from playing with the new label maker I got from clients today.

A few weeks ago I needed to retrieve a document from her file cabinet and ended up with total organization envy. Each and every folder was labeled beautifully and alphabetically. When I walk into my office, the desk and my file cabinet laugh at me.

They are like the talking dishes that taunt me every time I turn the light on.

Anyway, I bowed and complimented Paula while we were sitting at the closing table today. That was before I hauled their giant fish in the back of the Aviator to a climate controlled storage.

“I’m serious. I think you need to sign a waiver or something,” I said nervously.

“It’ll be fine. Just go slow.”

“Okay. I will. But if we break the nose off accidentally when I take the turn out of the gate, I am not responsible. I also have super glue in the hatch thingy right here in case it goes bad. Garry will never know the difference.”

Super glue and duct tape can be found in every single girl’s survivor kit.

I was trying to listen and talk and pay attention but I was also weaving a story about this giant blue marlin coming to life in the back of my car and also wondering how I could use the photo in my marketing on social media.

We placed it carefully on the blanket in a super nice storage unit at 10 Oaks and then they handed me an assortment of colored folders and a label maker of my very own.

I’m so excited! Organization is just a few hours of alone time away.

But it won’t be this weekend. Because I’ll be in Dallas at the American Airlines Center trying to figure out how to stalk the speakers like Jen and Shauna and praying God will move mountains and build bridges.

I’m afraid I’ve burned too many.

In true Happy Fun Girl form, I packed bags with fun stuff like Double Bubble and coloring books and pencils, a candle, miniature notebooks for taking notes, a bookmark, some candy, a KIND bar and a Tootsie Pop because we have a five hour drive on the Megabus and I am determined to find out exactly how many licks it takes to get to the center.




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September 29

Standing at the Crossroads


I agree with Hillary.

Stop and frisk is a fun phrase to say.

It’s less fun to actually have it happen to you and I’m not debating. I’m just saying.

I was a victim of a stop and frisk situation. Profiled for being a pre-teen white girl in a junk jewelry store, at a mall, on a Saturday. We were about 12 years old and it was the late 70’s. It’s always been hard for me to be a shoplifter, or blend into a crowd, because I’m sometimes loud and freakishly tall for a girl.

It happened just outside of Claire’s Boutique at the Crossroads Mall.

I think we had just come from our favorite go-to beverage shop, though I am an unreliable narrator because a few of the details may have been rewritten in my head over time.

The thing I remember quite clearly was the ridiculous amount of time we spent looking over every ring, necklace, headband and earrings we could buy with our babysitting money from the night before. My friend Monica Rosalez and I decided to come back later after we had a chance to check out a few of the other popular mall stores like Maurices and Spencer Gifts.

We could always find something adult-like and inappropriately humorous in Spencers.

After walking out of Claire’s, just a few feet from the door, we were stopped by a large policeman. Standing there in the middle of the mall, I thought I might pee my pants. We were terrified, actually.

I can still see that scene unfolding over 30 years later, and remember focusing my eyes intently on the bright Orange Julius sign across the platform in front of us so I didn’t start crying in front of everyone.

We wanted to run and hide, but instead, we were asked to stand still while he patted us down and searched our bags. There was nowhere to hide and nothing to be found.

But sometimes we are still asked to stand.

And sometimes we find ourselves standing at the crossroads.

We wonder which way to turn.

Monica and I recently sat on the band shell stage at Oleson Park and talked about our childhood, the fun things we did and growing up together.

“Isn’t it so weird?” I asked. “All of the things we’ve gotten into. All of the things we said would never happen to us and those things we swore we would never do.”

She nodded quietly, and agreed. “We could look at other people and see their path before they did. But not us.”

“We were going to do so much more,” I added. “God brought us both back.”

“And now here we are again.”

And there we sat.

Two grateful girls, who promised and swore to each other we would be world changers.

The truth is we’ve struggled mostly to change ourselves while spending our lives gathering flavorful stories the way we collected stones from the woods.

We’ve wandered in circles, and drove ourselves down many dead ends, and yet still ended up on that stage, together again.

Still the same little girls we were back then. Sipping drinks from straws and wishing on stars.

Today I read the Orange Julius website and it was so super fitting and put a smile across my 6:00 am morning face as I get ready to head to Dallas this weekend with a bunch of big girls for the The Belong Tour.

Here’s what it says.

“…it’s not about blending into the crowd. It’s about consistently being our unique selves. And celebrating the inexplicable taste our friends have come to love.

So be an original.

Keep it fresh.
Keep it real.
The world will catch up.”


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September 28

When We See the Impossible as Possible


My grandpa spoke to me yesterday.

But Grandpa Merritt is dead.

I was practicing this new and freeing present over perfect way of living, and decided to have a few people over for dinner even though I wasn’t totally prepared. There were crumbs on the floor and a thin layer of dust across my more shabby than chic furniture.

On Sunday Saydee Grace painted a pumpkin picture I wanted to hang on the fridge which meant the picture of the blue whale that says, God makes all things had to come down. On my sassier, more disgruntled days, that art piece makes me smirk, because he didn’t make that one.

Saydee did.

We had fun with her new plastic art smock and poster paints and she made a green picture that had a bunch of little green splotches. I did what I learned to do after my kids were grown and instead of asking her what it was, I asked her to tell me about her picture.

“It’s zucchini.”

You have to love a little girl that can paint her favorite vegetable.

Anyway, there’s only room for one picture on the fridge and it’s harvest time and the pumpkin got the space. But I was in a hurry, tidying up and looking for a place to put the whale and zucchini until I could figure out a permanent place to put all of this girl’s art.

I opened the bottom drawer of the antique shelf that I bought in Menard for $75 a gazillion years ago and that’s when I heard his voice.

It startled me at first to hear my now passed away, retired Firestone executive, tractor riding, green humpty back camel, memory making grandfather speak in an audible voice.

“Well hello, Tina. I just saw your nanny goat run past the window.”  

The talking picture frame was a gift from him and my mom that she had made for each of us the year before he passed away.

Grandpa and I had an invisible nanny goat. No one else could see it except for the two of us.

He would sit on his big chair in the den at the farmhouse, smoking his pipe, and reading the paper behind his big black Clark Kent glasses. I’d tip toe up to see him and whisper that I just saw the nanny goat run past the window.

He’d get all dramatic in the way good grandparents do.

When we drove the gravel roads of Grundy County together looking for morel mushrooms and wild asparagus, sometimes we’d spot the nanny goat hiding in the tall stalks of corn.

Sometimes we’d spot the nanny goat down by the water at Prospect Park while we were metal detecting and searching for buried treasure.

Buried in the bottom of that drawer was Saydee’s scattered alphabet letters, my missing knitting needle and the book, Heidi. An heirloom passed down when Grandma Betty died and a book I used to touch and see and hold while I dreamed about words and writing my own.

I was thinking about how God really does make all things.

He makes beauty out of ashes and laughter out of tears.

He makes the impossible possible.

Like believing in things, that cannot be seen.

I wonder if there are nanny goats in heaven, and think my grandpa and God have a whole lot in common.

They both have the ability to make something out of nothing and I never know what might turn up, or which adventure to expect next.


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