October 30

Finding Wisdom in the Woods

“Can I walk Mr. Riley?”

“Of course!”

We leashed the dogs and headed over to the open area just behind the house. The field where the trees and woods cause the imagination to run as wild and free as the two bucks and four fawns that hang out there more than I do.

It’s one of my happy places and we were on a mission for better bark materials so we could make a super cute bark owl like the ones we created last Thursday at the Cibolo Nature Center.

When she tried to pull a piece off one of the towering oak trees I reminded her that was sort of like skinning us alive and we had to use the bark that had already fallen on the ground.

She smiled and made a little snort of a laugh because sometimes I have a way of explaining things that’s just twisted enough for an almost-middle-schooler to enjoy.

The pecan trees down in the valley were holding onto to their pie booty the way a toddler clenches a Tootsie Pop. No matter how I shook the branches, they were just not quite ready. So while my friend looked for the perfect craft bark, I scoured the tall grasses for fallen shells.

Charlie, my shelter dog, loves pecans and gets so impatient waiting for me to palm crack them, he just starts crushing the shell with his teeth.

Pretty soon, we had a pocket of pecans and some good crafty bark wood.

This nature wandering was really just a way to help us through our own impatience as we waited for the Halloween cookies to dry. We were one step away from a Food Network style bake-off and certain our cat eyes were the perfect combination of both blue and creepy.

While we were sidetracked with our scavenger hunt of nature items, the dogs wandered. Just to the edge of the fence.

Of course when you yell at dogs, they don’t always listen, but instead, run the other way. Under the fence they went as we began the chase. Carefully, we lifted the wire, ducking our heads just so and maneuvering our way in between the strands of barbed wire.

My favorite scarf got hung up and tore a tad while my friend took the lead. Thankfully, she is fast, limber and a great dog wrangler.

We each grab a leash and headed back to the house, suddenly noticing that about 10 feet from where we crossed the fence before, there was a giant unfenced opening.

“Oh, I guess we could have just gone through here.”

She laughed again, aware that I’m often ridiculous. Neither of us had seen the way through before. The funny thing is, when you stand far enough back in the meadow, you can clearly see the difference in the two ways to go. A clear and distinct, visual metaphor of my life it seemed, often making things harder than they have to be.

I suddenly felt like a wise old bark owl.

Who? Who?


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October 27

The Best Part of Waking Up

You know it’s going to be a great day when you wake up to make coffee in the dark and overfill the French press so it spills all over the counter, just after the house was cleaned nicer than it has been all year.

I understand this is not a critical issue.

Since the Keurig refill filter thing broke, my new routine is to turn on the tea kettle and go back to bed until the whistle blows. Occasionally, I don’t fall back asleep and remember to remove it from the stove, just before.

Tea connoisseurs know the kettle goes silent just before making the high pitched screech that has the power to wake the dead on a cool October morning.

Here’s the super cool part.

When I groggily shuffled in to make a cup of coffee a little bit later, I noticed the spill fell onto the counter in the perfect shape of a star. I’m hoping by the end of this post, my Gmail will be working again so I can post the picture. It’s so stinking cool. Not exactly an apparition of the mother Mary, but still.

One of the things I’ve always struggled with is walking the fine line between being enthusiastic or becoming the person who sounds like a screeching tea kettle.

Several months ago I helped someone sell their Boerne home and she recently told me her friend was hoping to find one near hers, preferably on the greenbelt. It’s one of my favorite gated neighborhoods on I10, a hidden gem that has a country feel on the back lots but a convenient commute to the city.

So I began knocking.

Because I believe adamantly in the story in Luke about the man with the hungry neighbor at midnight. Knock until the door is opened. I’ve had many discussions with people about this.

As a persistent person, I often wonder how to know when we should keep knocking or when it’s time to walk away. I still don’t know the answer to that because it was the relentless door knocking and hustling of Thin Mints that got me to Camp Lakota all those years ago.

I knocked. And the doors were opened.

So I apply the same principle to my long-time career in real estate and it’s opened many doors.

Now my friend’s friend has her new forever home and I have a new listing at 27630 Dana Creek Drive.  It’s almost as beautiful as the woman who owns it and the love story she has to share.

It’s awesome when life starts to feel like it’s falling into place again. The stars are lined up just so, and you wake up to a countertop reminder that makes you smile so big, you leave it there for a few days more.


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October 23

My Three Pauls

One of the most important and influential people that persuaded me to faith was a man by the name of Paul.

He knocked at my door, the one that was not really a door, but a giant piece of plywood we would slide over to get through because we were renovating, and doors were expensive.

It was more important to be able to pay the heating bill of that massive three-story home we shared with a flock of bats in the attic, not nearly as pretty as a flock of seagulls. I’m not sure they call them a flock, but a herd of bats doesn’t sound right either.

Those winter bills alone kept us sunk, the way the house was, a tad to the right, impossible to play an honest game of marbles on the hardwood floors, a place where I often felt like I was losing mine.

On the darkest days of winter, when the chill of the air crept under the cracks and was nearly as cold as the comments we made to each other, Paul knocked.

He was a black man or man of color and a Jehovah’s Witness without the tie. Somehow he always managed to show up on our doorstep in times of need with divine intervention and encouraging words.

I let him in because I believe the spirit of God knows no color and you can’t deny the power of an invisible light that shines so bright from certain people that you can feel it warm your heart, as well as a living room covered in plastic.

Paul sat on the couch and talked about faith and fruit and Jesus. He shared with me about the things that are undeniably evident in the lives of those who love God.

Love, joy, peace, gentleness, and kindness.

Self-control and patience have been the hardest for me to find, always buried at the bottom of the fruit bowl that sometimes sits on tables, impossible to paint, because it’s hardly ever seen.

I’ve had days and months and weeks like that.

Later that same year, I met another Paul, the homeless man who wore a worn- out olive green army jacket and came to the soup kitchen where I volunteered to bring my family famous baked beans.

Paul, who I bummed a smoke from just before he told me everything I had ever done and promised me that God had plans of good for the unspeakable things I’d done and have experienced in my life.

Listening to great-uncle Vinny and watching the tears well as he told the story of watching men dive to their death off the precipice in Okinawa, it occurred to me why I feel such extreme love for this old man that I’ve only seen maybe a handful of times in my life. Our spirits are connected.

We get each other.

And occasionally, we get God.

In different ways, on different paths, we have both come face to face with what forgiveness and mercy and grace look like. Tormented for years by images we can’t get out of our heads, but then this light enters and shines brighter and hotter than any summer day. A light we may not have fully understood while we were young and standing in stain-glassed cathedrals.

Something so radiant and cleansing and inconceivable that all we can do is celebrate with heartfelt thankfulness.

And that makes me think of the other Paul. The Beatle.

The one who sings one line and soothes my soul. Maybe I’m amazed by the way you love me all the time…

Maybe I’m just amazed by Jesus and the God who loves us all…

the time.

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October 20

Muskrat Love and Lessons from New Hampshire

Even with a slight hunch to his back, at almost 91 years old, he is still about the most dapper guy I know.

I’ve often told myself when I slow down and maybe someday retire, I will get on Ancestry.com and learn about the history of my family.

But my great-uncle Vin is here from up east this week and he shared with me a few things last night at dinner that I never knew.

I did not know he worked for the railroad for over 60 years. I didn’t know we were fur traders or that he was a poet with a collection of about 150 pieces including a lengthy one about the death of John F. Kennedy. I’d really like to read that.

I didn’t know there was someone else in my family who prayed to Jesus to find their favorite pencil.

On special occasions, I’m allowed 12-22 seconds to utter a prayer before meals. After one sentence to Dear Lord Jesus, my brother chimes in to zip-it before the food gets cold.

But last night, just as the first spoon of potatoes was about to hit my mouth, my aunt Maureen nudged me on the right. And grabbed my hand.

I looked up to a table of people with bowed heads, holding hands.

Dear father, we thank you… 

My heart soared. Uncle Vin offered the kindest, sweetest, most sincere prayer I have ever heard in that breakfast nook.

I come from prayer.

I was rooted in a love for God.

I remembered this as soon as he began to give thanks, sounding so much like my grandfather it made me nearly cry for how I’ve forgotten.

In-between the occasional cursing and small sips of red wine from the Waterford crystal, he told stories.

He told a story about watching his father haggle with a muskrat dealer over a nickel. They went to the next trader and the man stood there with his two children hiding behind his legs. He looked past them to see their broken-down shack and the lack of beds or even mattresses, but just rags thrown down on the floor for sleeping.

“I messed up this cut right here,” the man apologized.

“Oh, no. These are fine pelts. The fur is black and shiny.”

Before this, the only time I think I’ve ever heard about muskrats was from the Captain and Tennille song.

He paid that man more than he offered the first.

When they got back in the pick-up truck, my great-grandfather spoke kindly, “Tell me what you saw.”

Uncle Vin retold what happened, asking why he paid the second man more money.

“The first trader will always be here and I can go back and get more next week. But that man, the one with the children in front of the run-down shack, he needed that money now. He needed it to feed his family and survive.”

Every story came back to a lesson and back to the bible.

He brought up the rich man from the Bible who couldn’t part with his stuff. Right there, in that moment, I was over-filled with joy.

Muskrat love.

And a love for God.

My family was rooted in faith.



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October 16

When life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

Identifying values.

I can identify the things I value all day long. It’s my follow-through that is still lacking.

For example, on my calendar for yesterday, the new one I bought so I could prioritize all that is important, there is a big giant X and a side note that says, day off.

It was going to be a day of reading, relaxing and spending time with family.

But then as I was double-checking and catching up on leads, I noticed a new house pop up in a neighborhood where I have client friends looking and then an agent wanted to preview some land I have listed.

I figured I had time. I thought I could do it all.

And so I made time for all the wrong things.

I happen to love finding the perfect place for people to live out their lives. I’m crazy passionate about homes.

Behind this front door is where the real stuff is happening.

So I raced to the country and then back to the city and then back to my house to read scary stories about Creepy Carrots to a little girl who’d waited too long for her Grammie to get back.

My phone has been off ever since.

We went to the park and she climbed to the top of the green bar even though she was wearing new flip flops instead of her tennis shoes and she proudly proclaimed, “I told you I could do it!”

There was an episode with another little girl named Lala, and an adamant refusal to surrender two tiny words, “I’m sorry.”

The short sentences are the ones often hardest to say for a four-year-old, although they are the ones most often coming out of my mouth.

“I’m sorry.”

Sorry, I don’t have the answer you want to hear.

Sorry, I don’t want to hear about the personal trainer who already has a girlfriend.

Sorry, I should have gotten back sooner.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to say it like that.

Sorry, I forgot to call back right away.

It seems I’m always apologizing.

And sometimes to myself.

I messed up my Spanish streak and my 100 uninterrupted days.

Instead, we went for a walk with the dogs and found some pecans. I taught her how to crack them open and she taught me that one side goes in her mouth and one side in the bowl for the pie.

We read more books.

I thought I’d have time after laying down with her to get my other 8 unfinished things done.

But after a week of running and being sick, I fell fast asleep, all squished in, by the most important thing to me in this whole world.

When I woke up this morning to that sweet face, it was okay.

I know today will be a new day to get all those other things done. You only learn how to hunt and crack pecans once.

You only get to watch Moana 136 times. Sometimes we can’t do it. Not all of it anyway.

Life isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. But then sometimes it is. I never get tired of hearing, “Grammie?”

“Yes, baby girl?”

“I love you.”




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October 13

Debilitating Detours

It was maybe 1988.

The year of the stolen wallet conundrum and the first time I ever got fired. One had nothing to do with the other, but the older I get, the more I think it may have had everything to do with it.

We might have been watching Rain Man or Working Girl, I forget. What I remember very clearly is that when the house lights went up, I found a black wallet on the theatre floor.

Contrary to my do-a-good-turn-daily upbringing, my new husband at the time convinced me to keep it. Sort of. He was often enticing me to do things I didn’t want to do, including marrying him.

But, when someone buys you some stuff and gives you money to get back home and a ride across the country in a Camaro, it would be rude to say, “No,” when they ask you to marry them. I believe it was Friday the 13th.


“We have to give it back,” I offered.

“You don’t give it back. When you find a wallet it’s expected that you will keep the money, because you found it. It’s your reward. You are supposed to throw the wallet in the mailbox so they can deliver it to the owner.”

“I’ve never heard of that.”

“Trust me. They are just happy to get all their cards back.”

“Okay,” I agreed. “You’re probably right.”

So I think we pulled out about $22.00. to cover the movie tickets and snacks and still had a little extra gas money for him to get to work that week.

As newlyweds who never should have made it to the altar, we were broke a lot and only had one car. To his credit, he was a hard worker and learned a new school after his military days where he was an at sea loan shark. Eventually, he became a butcher at the local grocery store.

My job in advertising was downtown and much closer to our three-story brick apartment building so I was the one who got to walk.

In the Midwest winter.

Dropping the wallet in the corner mailbox almost felt like a very altruistic thing to do. Except, repeatedly shushing that still small voice only seems to make it get louder and louder, even after the deed is done.

It was sometime around my late teens and early 20’s that I started to get pretty comfortable with compromise. When I hustled my way through the door, brushing snowflakes off my coat shoulders, I was told work started at 8:00 am.

I thought 8:05 was close enough.

So I started a routine of getting there as quick as I could, depending on how my morning was going. Somedays 8:10, 8:04, 8:13.

“Work starts at 8:00. If you can’t be on time, you’re not going to have a job.”

I thought my boss was a derelict.

And came in the next day at 8:01.

“I’m sorry. You are a great worker and everyone really likes you, but we’re going to have to let you go.”

“For being one minute late for work?”

I thought they needed me. I was one of the best employees they had. I was cheerful and funny and worked hard.

I was also perpetually tardy.

One of the things I loved the most about living in Mason was my ability to be on time. When there is no traffic and you live 26 seconds from your office, it’s pretty easy to not get hung up by accidents and rerouting detours.

Initially, I was shocked and thankfully, about three weeks later, was offered my job back.

As I look at my life, forks in the road, decisions I’ve made, and paths I’ve taken, it’s even more shocking to see with clarity now where it clearly started to go wrong.

It was in the silencing and the shushing of that voice that gently said, “No.”


This is not for you.

This is not the way.

To this day, I absolutely despise being late. I still am on occasion, but not without the stress sweat stains to prove it.

When we ignore that voice long enough, we stop hearing it at all. And that’s when we know, we’ve really gotten detoured.

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October 9

Communication and the Conference Call

“Which one is yours?” she asked.

I quickly replied, “The broken one.”

Four grown women stared at the art display inside the Houston Center for Photography. We saw vintage mirrors and our mother’s mirrors and replicas of gold leafed, long-handled ones that still sit on the top of triple dressers back home.

It was an odd work, but one I could see on the wall behind a couch on the cover of some sort of shabby chic magazine.

I caught a quick glimpse of myself and noticed the sincere apprehension reflected just underneath the joy that was more obvious on the surface. Who am I to be here?  Which character will I play, which one will I display or am I also, free to be myself? 

For the last three days, I’ve been at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference at the Marriott Westchase. Surrounded by creative types, I was only slightly concerned about my ability to be with the best of the best, the people who took their craft seriously and had publishing dreams every bit as ambitious as my own. It was truly a crowd of beautiful people.

I’m getting only slightly better about stalking editors at writer’s conferences and for that, I am not sorry. Admittedly, when one mentioned she knew all the songs from Sound of Music AND was a fan of the hilarious book, Dragons Love Tacos, I knew I was just a few feet away from a fabulous new connection.

Pretty sure she didn’t get the memo.

This would have been a good time to reign in the ridiculous enthusiasm I was feeling in favor of a more professional approach. Perhaps not all editors from Manhattan want to be pulled into an elevator and squealed at.

I didn’t do that. But I was so, so close.

Earlier that day, I’d spilled coffee on my cream linen pants, the ones with the outstretched waist, held up only by a turquoise undershirt that fit fine until four years ago. For a good part of day one, I was both praying someone would love my new manuscript and that my pants wouldn’t fall off when I bent over to pick something up. Saying something stupid or offensive to someone is most assuredly, always a given.

Later, in Jennifer Hamberg’s, Finding the Funny session, I literally started crying when she read her super fun rhyming book, Monkey and Duck Quack Up.  I found her hilarious and felt immediately sympatico.

I pitched my story to an editor and afterward, proceeded to follow her suspiciously down the corridor in an attempt to peak into her Highlights Barn bag because she must have inadvertently stolen mine. Why would we both have the exact same handbag from Honesdale, Pennsylvania? Am I right?


Connections were made, but mostly the ones in the car on a long drive down and back, having sensitive and somewhat serious discussions about who we are, who we love and where we come from.

While I absolutely adored the immense kindness, creativity and the opportunity to mix and mingle with people I felt destined to know, at times, I felt out of place, tip-toeing a bit around questions and conversations, certain that many times, I’d said the wrong things.

My heart’s desire is to love God and love people. I also have a lot of questions and found myself struggling with where and how my faith will fit into these new and hopefully lasting friendships.

As I travel on exciting, but less certain, less steady paths, I want the many mirrors of who I am to reflect the love and grace of God. Because the shards of glass in the broken mirror are a constant reminder of the change in the image I now see.

Not the fairest in the land, but someone who is extremely grateful and distinctly different than who I was, in the beginning. Someone with her own story, who also, has a few things to say and write about.

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October 6

When a Three Hour Tour is A Whole Lot More…

For a really long time, when I was a kid, I had an irrational fear of falling into quicksand.

I think it was the Gilligan’s Island episode that did me in. I don’t know if there are a lot of places in Iowa where there are pools of sinking sand hiding in between corn fields and hog farms, but I was definitely a little skittish going down the big slide after seeing the Skipper sink so quickly.

Poor Gilligan was just whacking away on the coconut tree branches as his Skipper sank further and further. He was unaware that his friend already escaped from the miry, sinking sand pit and was standing right by his side the whole time.

Skipper stood watching his little buddy cut and chop while he wiped his forehead with a look of exasperation that seemed to say, “Why are you even bothering, Gilligan?”

Why do we bother?

A few weeks ago I had a phone conversation with my second cousin’s best friend’s brother-in-law. That lengthy description should appropriately disguise the person I was really talking with.

I asked how his new assignments were going online. “Pretty good.”

“Are you on track to hit your goal of getting all A’s and B’s so far?”

“No. I got a C in Intro to….” something super important.

“The instructor said I could make it up by going back and turning in the extra credit, but I’m not gonna do that.”

“Why not?”

“Why would I bother?”

Why bother? he asked.

“Because you had a goal to make A’s and B’s!”

That’s when I went all motivational speaker on him. “Why bother? Are you kidding me with that? You bother because you want to be better. You bother because someone has offered you an opportunity to fix it. You bother because an attitude of ‘why bother?’ is a total slacker mentality that is not going to get you anything in life that you want.”

I think I heard a huff and a snicker. “It’s not that serious.”

“It IS that serious. It’s about the choices we make every day. The little things matter. That’s why you bother! Where would we be if everyone had that attitude?”

I thought of that confrontational conversation last night while I was chomping down my movie diet of buttered popcorn and Twizzlers in the super awesome reclining seats at the Palladium Imax. Whaaat? Reclining seats? Glory! Glory!

Reclining seats? Glory! Glory!

Admittedly, I felt a little bad chilling out and deep chair seating while I watched, Mully, an incredibly inspirational story about the power of one person who had every stinkin’ reason to not bother. But he refused to give up and be what his uncle and father were.

He succeeded and succeeded and succeeded, until one day, God called him out on his motives and that incident wrecked havoc, i.e. transformed his life. The catastrophic numbers of children suffering bothered him enough to change his life and Mully became the man and daddy to over 23,000 orphans who were abandoned to die in the streets of Kenya.

I can’t get over the power of a person who is so able to embrace such incredible kindness and love after every valid reason to be bitter and not bother.

I can only seem to muster up that kind of love in a way that is mostly inconsistent, despite my heart’s desire to stay steadfast with family and friends who know all my insides and issues.

But still, on most days, I bother to try because I believe it’s important to keep trying, keep moving, keep pulling and pushing to find what works.

Even when it feels like we’re quickly sinking and see no way out.

He actually changed his mind and did the extra credit, raising his grade to a B!


October 2

Where Love is, Mercy Triumphs

Joan Jett, Kenny Rogers, Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow, Matchbox 20, Michael Jackson, Natalie Merchant and Prince. The list goes on.

From the cheap seats I could afford, I stood, screamed and pushed my way to the stage when I could find a way. Determined to be as close to the front as possible, in the fly zone of musician sweat, I had to be.

In the 90’s at a Natalie Merchant concert, I actually maneuvered my way backstage through a half-open door and made it to the side of the curtain like the crazed fan I was at 23-years-old or so. There she was, standing, singing, just in front of me. I could see her whole back so clearly as she performed. Until a giant intruding hand grabbed my right shoulder from behind, “What are you doing here?”

Long after the crowd departed, I stayed, demonstrating my perseverance while I stalked the darkened exit door and closely parked tour bus. I was simply not leaving until she came out and signed my Natalie Merchant Tiger Lily guitar book. At times, I’ve held onto love just as tightly.

After Natalie boarded the bus, I could see through the tinted windows as her beautiful, graceful shadow moved towards the back. Eventually, she turned, and walked back down the row towards the front, opened the bus door and took my book to sign with a black magic marker.

I still have it.

Yesterday, two minutes late with a small child in tow, I walked into our sometimes concert-like worship service, equally determined to lay low in one of the seats in the back. I have been a back seat, back row kind of girl for a lot of my life, hardly ever rushing the altar with the same zeal as my former concert days.

But, a family of four, needed that row and a volunteer seat-finder found us two in the front. I started to sweat like a…

Never mind.

That was only for a minute.

The worship band played and sang and led us in songs that always seem to move my heart to a calmer, more grace-giving place. I wondered why I’m always so determined to stand at the back.

Pastor Jason called me out, commenting on my fancy fedora, the one I usually wear when I haven’t washed my hair and Saydee Grace asked, “Why is he talking to you?”

I thought immediately of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, how crazy he was to talk to her and how maniacally she ran back to town to tell everyone to come and meet the man who told her everything she’d ever done.

I’ve done just that thing.

The man spoke to her with sincerity, truth, and love. He spoke in such a way that the words penetrated her heart and re-connected her conscience with the girl she knew she once was.

There comes a time when we have simply had all we can stand. That is when we have to push our way to the front.

There comes a time when we need to hear the heartstrings of a father’s love. We need to wake up and walk boldly into our day a little more different than we did yesterday. Something has got to go. Something has got to give.

The thing I love most about my God is that I sometimes see him on stage, taking the solo, my front row rocker, I follow his lead.

I am forgiven. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

So I can sing along with Joan and her jet black hair as she sings, Now I don’t give a *&^% about my bad reputation… Some call it crazy.

I call it Grace.

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