January 16

My mother was wrong.

I am crazy about color. All of them.

Red, yellow, black, white, green, blue and especially purple.

It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I’m afraid I’m a racist.

I don’t even like to type the word because it’s so ugly.

For many years on this day I’ve been inclined to join the march downtown, but I’m scared.

Not of the other participants, but because too often, I say the wrong things. I’m overly curious about people who are different from myself and I constantly ask questions that I’m only just now learning are inappropriate.

“Can I touch your hair?” is apparently not okay.

I didn’t know that.

As young as 4 years old, I proudly proclaimed and introduced my very own brown- eyed girl, “This is my best friend Monica. She’s a Mexican.” I was more concerned with why she ate worms and her coloring skills than I was the color of her skin.

We lived by the railroad tracks back then and we were both taught not to talk to hobos.

Both of us still do.

My mother taught me about content of character before I even understood what character meant. Sesame Street made me believe that even if the color of our skin on the outside was different, we were still the same on the inside.

I taught my girls this also. But then my daughter was suspended from school for asking another student how to get a green card. That’s when I started realizing how much color really does matter.

The girls noticed the house wasn’t as clean as usual and asked me over the dinner table one night, “Where’s Lupe been?”

“I’m not sure. I heard she got deported.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means she was sent back to Mexico because she didn’t have a green card.”

“Why not?”
“I don’t know.”

“What do you have to do to get a green card?”

“I don’t know. That’s a really good question.”

I should have researched it before clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, because it was not a good question to ask a Hispanic girl at school the next day.

I don’t understand the rules.

Right now I am listening to Small Great Things on audible. It’s a hard listen and I hear myself in the story. I feel like Kennedy, the lawyer, who explains that she, like me, doesn’t think she sees color.

For example, if she realizes she needs to cross the street and there is a black person approaching her, she will just keep going the wrong way anyway so they don’t think she’s stereotyping or being, whatever the word is. Ruth tells her that’s just as bad, reverse racism.

One of my goals this year is to become a Certified International Property Specialist.

I need special training.

It was New Year’s Eve. I had an open house. I packed gift bags with home made cookies, goal setting tips for 2017, a list of other homes for sale in that price range and party horns.

Towards the end of the day I welcomed an American Asian woman at the front door who immediately told me she was a student, has a house for sale in Seattle, and used to live in China. I told her the same thing I told everyone else that day.

“Well let me apologize in advance for the jacked up home made fortune cookies,” not thinking a thing, I smiled. “They’re delicious, but not-so pretty.”

But then she just kept looking at me without saying anything for what seemed like the longest minute ever.

Finally, she broke the silence, “The whole time I lived in China, I never ate a fortune cookie.”

“Really?”

And then it occurred to me.

And I excitedly asked, “Oh my gosh! Is it possible that fortune cookies aren’t even from China? I just assumed that when you get Chinese food and there is a fortune cookie with your meal, that they originated in China. Oh my gosh! Maybe not.”

This is the part when my head tells my mouth to just stop talking. I fumbled over my words in an attempt to make it right and it all came out wrong. I started to sweat under my wireless bra. I could feel warm blood rushing to my temples as my chest tightened. She smiled sweetly.

It was entirely possible I was the only one having an awkward moment. I don’t feel like we’ve been properly trained to communicate openly and respectfully, without offense.

Cheerfully I added, “Well I’ll have to look that up! Did you see the rock garden bed out back?”

Good Lord.

This month I’m taking a class in diversity.

I can still hear the strong and admirable voice of Dr. King in the background on a black and white television as I played in the living room. I can also still feel the sickness I felt in my stomach when I watched the tapes replayed in Memphis at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Those are not shoes I’ve ever walked in or marched in, so no, I don’t know. I’m just sorry.

The truth is, color does matter.

It matters the most in our misunderstandings.

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January 13

Looking for Love and Global Connecting

I’ve been thinking a lot about the world lately. All the drama, and the way it turns.

I can still hear the deep voice of the narrator announcing the soap opera just before it began, As the World Turns. 

When I was growing up, there was always a curiosity that extended to people in far away places. It was an interest that carried on past the snickering, when we spotted naked breasts on the cover of National Geographic in the school library.

Even though the world was big, I always felt it was small, and manageable. When we sang, he’s got the whole world in his hands, I felt peace and a sense of security that transcended the simple comforts found in a folk song.

The peppy music that filled the auditorium as we watched the Harlem Globetrotters perform their basketball acrobatics, made me feel like I could spring off the sidelines and dunk a ball or two.

There is a global theme going on right now in my heart and I find myself having uncomfortable conversations about our differences and the climate changes in our culture. It feels heavier than it should and weighs me down.

My friend Patty has this amazing collection of glass paper weights. A few weeks ago I helped her move her curio cabinet to a more highlighted area of her home and then carefully put the collection of colored and clear pretties back on the shelves.

I think about the glass shelves, glass houses and the stones we throw like the ones hurled through my daughter’s friends’ window just one county over, because he’s new and quirky and different.

We notice our differences the way I noticed the globe in Patty’s living room.

It stuck out among all the other pretties and I thought that it might be exactly what was needed to pull the display together. She found a smaller one to place beside it and then we added a small treasure chest to follow the well known, odd number, decorating rule.

Tuesday on home tour I had the opportunity to see a charming old house near downtown. It’s the kind of house that quietly says from the street, “Come, sit on the porch swing and have a glass of iced tea please.” In the kitchen, above the cabinets, in a place where they shouldn’t really go, was a gorgeous grouping of a dozen giant globes. I loved it! So fun. The entire home was filled with whimsical color and the children’s rooms were decorated in a way where you just knew, creativity and imagination happens here.

I often imagine myself traveling the world to far and unknown destinations. I’m passionate about people and learning new things and I believe in the unity of the cutout. When you scissor out the silhouette of a person, you end up with a paper doll chain of connected people and I wish we lived more like that.

World Thinking Day was always one of my most favorite activities when I was a troop leader for Girl Scouts. There was always something new to learn about other people. I wish I would have learned that fortune cookies do not come from China before I stuck my foot in my mouth at an open house on New Year’s Eve but that’s another story.

At times I feel like my oddity is on display at all times, but it’s our collective, quirky differences that keep us connected as people, across cultures, across the globe, as the world turns, before God.

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January 9

Use what you’ve got.

It started with a conversation and a cake pop.

Driving down the road, talking with my past and awkwardly smirking when I understood the reference, I wondered if we’d ever get past the person I was, so I could be seen as the someone new that I am.

“I am who I am,” God said to Moses.

What I am is what I am, sings Edie Brickell.

And Popeye, the cartoon sailor man, confirmed with surety. “I yam what I yam.”

Who are you and do you know why?

I’m reading a book right now by Bernie Swain, the founder of the Washington Speakers Bureau and have found it to be full of stories of people we know who have narratives that inspire.

Back stories we don’t expect from some of the greatest leaders of our time. People like Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brokaw, Madeleine Albright, Debbi Fields and Ben Carson. I love reading about how people were shaped to become who they are and the many different paths that lead to success.

How do they shape a cake pop anyway?

For some, it is through pain, adversity, and sometimes humiliation.

My eyes welled as I listened to the TED talk titled, “The Price of Shame,” by a woman who knows the cost. I’m blown away by the bravery it took to stand there and deliver such a powerful talk with that kind of strength, humor and determination to make a difference.

It was the kind of talk empowered by undeniable grace.

She said she was taking back her narrative. After the dust settles and the damage and hurt subsides, that’s exactly what survivors do.

I read about Mrs. Fields, the cookie baker, who stood humiliated in the library of a friends’ home, and it changed her life.

The words of others can change us and we can then turn around and help others change their life courses as well. I read about sacrificing parents, diligent mentors, and a football nemesis. I’m only on page 44.

So much of my focus in the last few weeks has been on how I can be a better person this year, but when I look past myself and at the people and needs around me, I can see where my own mistakes might be able to make a difference.

The back stories become beautiful when used for good. And the strong voice of survivors should never be shamed to not be heard.

As much as I love being happy and having fun, more importantly, I want my life to have counted for something.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Everyday I pray for God to give me a more compassionate, caring and understanding heart.

I printed another quote to put inside one of my open house fortune cookies. Some of them got smushed, some over-cooked, some-under cooked and a little messed up, but it was all I had.

We have to use what we’ve got.

Think about your thoughts when you are alone and think more about your words when you are with others. 

The words were accidentally eaten.

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January 6

Picking out the Pieces of False Beliefs

They were not the kind of questions I expected to hear when I answered the phone.

“Did you eat your black-eyed peas?”

“Did you eat your cornbread?”

My aunt interjected on the speaker phone as her and my mom rode together in the car, “Are you wearing your red underwear?”

“I don’t even own a pair of red underwear.”

“Uh-oh!”

Red underwear are for girls who strut down runways with false fluffy angel wings taped to their backs. The only thing fluffy around here is me and the Christmas socks I forgot about last year and found in the recycled wrapping paper bin.

Must. Keep. Organizing.

“Are you superstitious?” a friend asked me a few days ago.

“No. Not really. I don’t think so.” But then I remembered the jolting of my stomach as I drove down the street when a black cat, fluffy and fat, walked nonchalantly out in front of my car.

I believe like Jack on the Titanic that we make our own luck. Luck precedes hard work, doing and then doing more. I always believed that God helps those who help themselves.

Until I couldn’t help anyone, including myself.

I didn’t think about my dietary lack of the proper foods on New Year’s Day. I didn’t think about the cat that crossed my path or the mirror that I accidentally dropped or the cracks I stepped on purposefully when I walked to school and was angry at my mother as a child.

Instead, I thought about paybacks. And all of the things I’d done to deserve the mess I was in. That’s what we do.

We incorrectly reason.

We falsely come to the conclusion that if things are bad, we are bad. When things are good, we are good.

I thought about that as a close friend lamented over her bad year. “Last year I started out with partying and drinking. I think I drank more this year than I ever have and it was a terrible, really bad year.”

It was no black cat or broken mirror that had her, I’m not sure what color panties, in a wad.

But it wasn’t true.

Someone special ingrained in my brain that God’s mercies are new every morning and I remember that often, and smile. He has more compassion for us than we have for ourselves.

The more I read, the more I know, and the more I believe in the absolute goodness of a God who loves us.

I read in Lamentations 3:23, “The Lord’s loving kindness indeed never ceases, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion.”

He is my portion when I don’t eat black- eyed peas and cornbread.

He is my portion when I go to bed after having a stupid argument with my daughter about taking the recycling to the curb. He inspires me to understand that it has nothing to do with taking plastics to the curb.

I’ve been hauling out my own trash for a long time. Sometimes I take my my portion and everyone else’s.

As the New Year unfolds its first week and I think about my hopes and goals and the word for this year, I’m determined to be more kind, especially to myself. I think many of us get caught up carrying around the weight and regrets of missed opportunities, old habits and bad mistakes and we need to give ourselves a break.

I love the creativeness of up-cycling. Finding ways to make new things with what we have, leaving behind the pieces that no longer serve us well.

Besides, every good southern girl knows that when you cook black-eyed peas, you first have to sort out the junk.

 

 

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December 30

3 Things You Can Do For a Rockin’ Awesome New Year!

It will end, the way it started.

2016 started with singing and dancing with my grand daughter in the living room. We listened to the take back my life song and waited for the ball to drop as I silently vowed to not drop it in the coming year.

As with every year it seems, we fumble, we score, we fumble some more, but we keep on playing. When the New Year rolls around in a few days, I will be saying a good, good-bye to the last 365 days.

It will feel like a big, warm hug, the kind of well wishing we give to people we love right before we know they have to go. This was the year I began to breathe again. The year my heart began to beat like it might get fixed for good some day.

I took more from God and gave more of myself and looked purposely for more things to give thanks for. Maybe because I have learned that gratefulness precedes all that is great.

I thought it might be more helpful to share what I’ve experienced and learned this year, simple things that may help you be more easy when life isn’t always that way.

Here’s my A B C list for being on your way to rockin’ an awesome 2017.

A.

Attitude is almost always an issue.  From the minute we get up in the morning we have a choice of what kind of day it’s going to be. On the days I start off grumbling and complaining, I go to bed as miserable as I woke up. I’m really trying to greet each morning with less contempt for the sound of the alarm. I’m starting to hear it as the sounding bell for a God given day, and a chance to maybe make a difference in some way. If my focus is on others, I see more clearly and find more joy. Stop complaining all the time. As Jim Rohn would say, “If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.”

B. 

Be Mindful. Be Silly. Be Bold.

We must be mindful of all those things we take for granted, the people in our lives, our health and our own peace of mind. The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to be mindful of the choices I make, the type of content I take in and the kind of people I allow to speak into my life.

The other night I verbally vomited on one of my daughters. Several issues had been building up, just under the surface of my skin and I ranted to her about all of them in one five minute sentence. It took five hours for me to get over my mouth, another thing I have to be much more mindful of. Good communication never starts with, “You always…” or “You never…” Be mindful to eliminate those words from your vocabulary.

My days must often be infused with things that are fun. I am a girl and I just want to have it.

It was totally silly, but yesterday, to the annoyance I think of a few people in a nearby booth, I started a sing-a-long at Brantley’s 259 to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline because, well, when Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline comes on, you must sing. Good times never felt so good.

So good. So good.

Incorporate silly and fun in some way, every day.

Be bold. Be daring and brave enough to move out of your comfort zone to learn new things and pursue your passions.

If you could do anything, what would you do?

C. 

Connect and care for those around you. 

Life is just better when we are not living it solely for ourselves, but instead, more focused on loving others in the way we want to be loved. There are always opportunities to connect and care for the people we come in contact with. I believe in divine intervention and introductions.

Greet 2017 with expectations of abundance and goodness and super joy. Expect that things will be different. Expect that you will be different. Expect that life will move in your favor.

Expect that is God is with you, loving you the way you want to be loved, and moving you away from the old and into all that is new.

Must. Get. Party. Horns.

 

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December 26

What Will You Do With with What You’ve Been Given?

This post will be brief.

Last night I stood in the kitchen, up to my ears with strands of pasta, kneading and stretching, as excited as an eight year-old with an Easy Bake Oven the day after Christmas.

As I inserted the fresh dough through the machine, I thought of the year to come.

I wondered how I could best be a good steward with all my gifts in the days ahead and decided making meals and inviting people into my home, and into my life, to eat on my beautiful new eclectic World Market plates would be a good thing.

I thought about the kneading and the stretching.

I wondered what things I would find myself needing in the New Year and what things would stretch and shape me into who I really wanted to be.

What will you do with what you’ve been given?

What will you find that you need and what will you seek to stretch you?

The week before the coming year is always one of my favorite, and most productive. Unless we fail to plan, we plan to fail. I think Benjamin Franklin said that.

I’m going to plan better this year.

That plan will include pasta. And bringing people together.

 

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December 23

Before the Buzzer…

There are some things I’m really bad at.

Even as an adult, walking into the auditorium that Saturday morning felt a lot like walking into an elementary lunch room when you’re the new kid in school.

Awkward.

Uncomfortable.

Wishing someone would say, “You can sit by me.”

I’m always reminded of the stolen rebounds I missed, and the long stretches of time spent on the bench when I catch that first whiff of sweaty socks and see that yellow shade of gym floor shine.

From the roll away bleacher stands, I watched the nail biting, competitive game. Then I jumped up and cheered for my oldest daughter who proudly made her first basket of the season.

Into the wrong hoop.

Whoops.

The parents eyeballed each other, then me, and then the scoreboard.

One of the other mothers pushed her folding chair back and climbed downed from the other side where she had been sitting at the official looking table and walked over to where I was.

“Can you keep score?” she asked in a way that told me I would be an idiot if I could not.

“I’ve done it before, but it’s been a while.” I added, “I’m sure I can figure it out.” I was the new single mom in town with three little girls who still often looked at me in a mostly proud way.

The other mother had to leave. Suddenly, I found myself in charge of the machine and the scoreboard for a game I was terrible at playing, and didn’t understand well enough to light the display.

I watched the game, fumbled the buttons, lit up the wrong the side and was quickly replaced by someone else.

Over a decade and a half later, I can still remember how embarrassed I felt for my girls that their mother had to climb so quickly back down the bleachers.

Crossing to the other side of the auditorium, a basketball game walk of shame.

Sometimes I think about that when I consider the competitions, life, and all of the score keeping we seem to do in our day to day living. We keep track of our issues or grievances. Or who got the bigger present or gave the better gift.

I remember how relieved I felt to be relieved from my duties that Saturday morning, out from under the pressure and responsibility of tracking everyone’s every move.

Life is so much more fun when we don’t have to keep score. We give what we are determined and able to give. I always want kindness, love and compassion to be at the top of my list. Some days score better than others.

We give freely because we want to give, as a way to say thank you, or, you mean something to me and I want to honor you with home made treats that I burned a hole in my flesh making.

Enjoy.   

This time of year I drive around and think of all the people who make my life so wonder filled and wonder-ful. I can’t possibly stop and visit every one, but I think of them often and throw prayers up over my steering wheel as I pass by their neighborhoods.

I still think of old friends like Betty Hendry, one of my very first clients who moved to Florida with her son about 25 years ago.

Whether it’s compliments, presents or the gift of our timely presence, it all means much more when we give willingly, without expectation or score keeping.

Counting our blessings more than the board.

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December 19

Don’t be that bulb.

Before the freezing temperatures set in and I seared my flesh in a peanut brittle accident at the hard crack stage, I was outside, leisurely listening to a story on Audible and walking the dogs through the neighborhood.

Dog (s) now because I couldn’t bring myself to walk out of the Kendall County animal shelter with this big, sweet, lug of a dog staring at me and shaking like he had PTSD and really, really needed me to get him out of there.

He is a well behaved old dog but I am having a hard time teaching him new tricks.

Like how to sit.

Shake.

Or fetch a stick.

Charlie has now become the sole reason I get about an hour of exercise almost every day. We walk all over.

Some days downtown or down John’s Road to Cibolo Crossing and then Cibolo Branch and over to Cibolo Basin, looping around. The more Christmas displays I see, the more I feel like I should really find a ladder and start restringing the ones around my trees. With all of the heavy wind and rain, they’ve started to slide down the bark and don’t look anything like I thought they’d look when I got the bright idea to put them up.

I have icicle lights I’d hoped to hang, but that’s not done yet either. I just got a tree two days ago.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Being on the corner lot of one of the busiest streets in town, I’m not sure this is the reflection of the neighborhood they want me shining like a beacon with my crooked lights and all.

I was walking and thinking and trying to keep up with my canine trainers when I noticed how truly beautiful some of the other yards were decorated. There’s one house in the back that has the sweetest woven snowman and reindeer set. He has a top hat and a scarf, like all the good snowmen do, and they’re lit up with tons of twinkly white lights.

The whole place just sparkles and as pretty as it is to drive through Christmas displays as I often love to do, there is something super special about being out walking, on a dark starry night when your breath is visible with each exhale.

It’s evidence of survival.

The things you thought would just kill you, didn’t.

You can visibly see you are still alive, still breathing.

And you give silent thanks on a silent night. That’s just what happens.

The blue lights strung randomly throughout the trees were striking, and the Star Wars Christmas display around the corner and down a few houses seemed to strike back.

I compared them the way we do. Always comparing. Their bright lights to my fallen lights.

I think of the hours spent in the garage, untangling, plugging and unplugging. Hoping there was no burned out bulb keeping the rest of the strand from working. We don’t try to fix them anymore. We just buy new ones.

I’m not an electrician. I know nothing about electric circuitry. Once I tried to cut through some seriously ugly ceramic sconces that were hanging in the breakfast area in our house on 1st Street.

With an Exacto knife.

And the power still on.

Shocking.

I thought about the twinkle of the lights and how it is that one unlit bulb can keep the rest from shining. I know I don’t want to be that bulb.

I’d rather be the blinker light. The one that brings life to the entire strand even though the blinking lights are the ones that sometimes give me a headache from too much blinking.

I do that.

The power we generate as individual, tiny lights, is enough to light up the night sky on a dark path we cannot always see too well. But together, connected, the light show is amazing, and beautiful.

I feel a little more comfort and joy when I remember that the pressure is not on me to be the blinkiest blinker light, but to trust in the power of the contact, staying connected to the one who shines the brightest and helps me sparkle a little better too.

 

 

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December 16

Seeing it from all sides.

Must. Make. Magic.

The countdown to Christmas really began in our house when the dining room table was cleared of projects my mom had been working on for weeks.

Ever since I can remember, she created things.

On a very limited budget, she made Christmas magic by decorating the entire house and baking and making elaborately designed cookie and candy trays for everyone. Every year we had a huge real tree chosen from the tented lot.

Some Christmas’s were flocked. Others were not.

Long needles and short ones.

Ones that got stuck in the orange shag carpet and penetrated tiny unsocked toes and ones that punctured the vacuum cleaner bag.

She alternated years and colors. One year we would have classic red and green ornaments, plaid or polka dots, another year we would celebrate in sparkly and contemporary white, blue & silver.

We used a needle and thread to string cranberries and popcorn across the living room while we watched Magic Kingdom on Sunday nights at six and we immediately cleared the room for Lawrence Welk when my grandparents came to town.

About as often as Santa Claus it seemed. Because we mostly visited them.

She decorated each and every gift with bright paper, bows and old ornaments we used to hang on the tree during days gone by. A few of my favorites were the tiny nativity scene, a clothespin reindeer I think my brother painted and the colorful pin beaded Christmas tree I made in Girl Scouts.

When it wasn’t Christmas, and she wasn’t at one of her several jobs, my mom was learning macrame, making pop bottle dolls, trying new recipes and teaching herself how to pour molds for making Precious Moments or Holly Hobbie wall plaques to give to friends and family.

I never considered how creative and artistic she was because she was also the type A, list making, obsessive planning, rise at 7 am and get chores done kind of mom who demanded clean hands and base boards.

When my Girl Scout troop took a trip to San Antonio for a field trip and sleep over, my third grade daughter informed the rest of the girls, “Now, we are going to my nanny’s house. There is one thing that is very important to know…”

“Don’t touch the walls.”

I never realized how valuable the kind of example she set was until I went the other way, letting my girls stay in their pajamas, sleep in on Saturdays and eat cereal in front of the t.v.

And on the couch.

Hers was always spotless, mine, always stained.

Like the Shrinky Dink glass we baked in the oven and poured into metal cutouts, I couldn’t see clearly enough to know how they would eventually take shape.

Just the other night my mom texted me a picture of a snow globe cake her and my aunt Maureen created for a Christmas party at the Holiday Inn.

Immediately, the eight year old in me wanted to touch the walls of the snow globe and put my nose right up next to the glass.

That’s the thing about growing up and growing old, you start to see things more clearly, from a different perspective, observing and taking notice of all the different angles and those things you didn’t see before.

Life is what you make it.

We have to create it.

When I see a snow globe now, I remember those times when life was fragile and things got really shaken up.

But life is always what you make with it.

The things we watch and see and keep safe in our hands, are breakable.

But there’s always something beautiful to be found in the swirling and the twirling. And when the snow clears and settles to the ground, we can see so much better.

And we become grateful.

Grateful for the years and the sacrifices made and the time put in. Grateful for the hours spent when no one seems to really notice how hard a mom works to make things special.

The best gifts don’t come in packages. They come in precious moments. The ones we give to our friends and family and people we’ve never even met before.

My mom always knew how to make magic out of the messes and memories we will hold in our hearts, forever.

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