June 23

Take Your Dog to Work Today

My days start and end with Jesus and my dogs.

“Good morning, Lord.”

“Good morning, Poopsie.”

His name is Mr. Riley, but somewhere along the way, he got that nickname. Like my closest friends, Riley has been through the best of the best and the worst of the worst with me. When I couldn’t face seeing one human being, his soft fur and kind eyes were the comforts that helped me keep it together for one more day.

His antics over the years have made me a little crazy.

There was the time he and Baby Dog maneuvered a dead deer leg through the smallest doggy door you can buy. I came home from work to see two dogs, both under 8 pounds, sitting on the fake oriental rug in the living room, gnawing the fur off a femur.

I’m sorry. That’s kind of gross, but it happened. I had to admire the teamwork it must have taken to get the double jointed leg part through the door.

When the girls and I are gone too long, Mr. Riley lets us know we are missed by dragging our pairs of underwear out from the piles of laundry, through the same doggy door, then spreading them decoratively across the entire lawn for all to see.

If I remember correctly, that incident is what began the discovery and heated disagreement over whether or not it was appropriate for a 16-year-old to wear thong panties.

Yesterday, thanks to Mr. Riley, I inhaled about a can of HotShot bug fogger. The house has become an arachnophobic’s nightmare with spiders coming out of the drain and springing onto the bed from the ceiling and finally, something had to be done.

Right before I left for Firefly Night at the Cibolo Nature Center, I set off four bug bombs, but then Riley hid under the bed before I had a chance to get him outside. The process of luring him out took over 20 minutes. By the time I made it over to the kids’ craft station, I’m pretty sure my insides were glowing like a firefly.

I don’t go in the office anymore, mostly because I can’t take my dogs to work and partly because they like us to be dressed professionally when we get there. I prefer dog walking clothes and pants that don’t zip or button.

Also, I prefer to take my dogs to work by baking a fresh batch of homemade dog treats and taking them to the river road duck park to pass out to strangers. Charlie is my new shelter dog and he is quickly becoming another BFF canine companion.

He loves to eat popsicles, watermelon and deer poop.

When we go for walks and I drop the leash, he stays right by my side. When we go to the lake and I try to paddle them out on the blue foam mat, he gouges claw marks into my stomach and uses me as a human floatie. He is scared of thunder and lightning but loves to catch grasshoppers by stomping them with his paws.

They are service dogs without the accreditation.

Extra work, yes. But worth it in so many ways.

They are the calm force at my feet when I’m making calls and negotiating sales. I’m convinced that dog people are the best the kind of people, and those are the people I often meet when I take my dogs to work.

 

 

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June 19

The Pride and the Jungle.

There is a scene in one of the Shrek movies that Saydee Grace and I love. We crack up every time we watch it and I overuse the same four words every time she starts to act a little four-ish.

At the birthday party for the oger children, this plump little boy with blonde hair is standing with his father in front of Shrek and licking a lollipop. The child stops only for a second to say in a very peculiar tone, “Do the roar.”

Shrek is trying to keep his cool. He’s at a party. The whole village is there. The three little pigs came, and Donkey licked the cake and now Shrek’s wife is on his back about it.

“Do the roar.” The child taunts repeatedly.

Saturday, a determined red head that stood maybe 36″ tall, climbed out of the sand pool and started to carry on with more of a whine than a roar. Her sisters just finished their rock art trees and now it was time to go. I had to laugh when she was stomping her way through the dirt behind the nature center proclaiming the unfairness of it all.

“You said it was gonna be fun and it was super boring!” she shouted at her mother as they were all walking away.

I didn’t realize she wanted to make something and as the new kids’ craft volunteer, I could not risk a bored three-year-old leaving in a huff. I thought she just wanted to play in the sandbox. Convincingly, I assured her that we needed her tiny hand prints for the next project and all went well, mostly. She kept moving her hands and fingers when I was trying to place them artfully on the page. It made a few of the tree branches looked smudged, which made me only a little anxious on my insides.

My patience fruit is a fruit I’ve been working on for what seems like a very, very, very long time. I think she reminded me a bit of the boy from Shrek who knew exactly what he wanted. To hear the roar.

My aunt Maureen bought my first record album for me in 1971. It was Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman. I could barely add or spell, but when I sang along, I knew that I was strong.

I’ve since learned that I am not invincible and I do not want to roar anymore as much as I want to take a nap or make a fun art project. I thrive in the quiet places more now. It used to be that I wanted attention. I needed to be noticed and accepted, loved probably. Three grown girls later, and a closer walk with God has proven something different.

When we are children, we don’t listen until the roaring begins. “Go get ready for bed.”

Stalling, stalling. “Go get ready for bed.”

Stalling, stalling. “GO GET READY FOR BED!”

The roar gets results. Or at least that’s the way it seems when you’re both little and the one roaring. But then something changes. I am not sure when it happened exactly. I don’t need it anymore. I don’t want or need to be noticed. I don’t want the attention, in fact, I’d rather be quiet in my kitchen or listening to some old tunes on my new Bose or reading a book with my feet up and the birds chirping in the backyard.

As a woman who will be 50 next month, but today, still child-like, I don’t think we really need to be louder. In fact, I believe in being more still and finding those quiet places where our souls can soak up nourishment and rest. I lay down my pride to defend, to roar, to shout or to prove myself to anyone so that I can survive in the jungle.

We get up each day, look in the mirror, give thanks, know that we are blessed beyond belief, even if we don’t understand, and we make choices. We have the ability to schedule our day, filling it with whatever we choose. I’ve filled mine with things at times that only left me feeling more empty than more filled up. But thankfully, after the bending and the breaking, change comes.

There is a certain security that comes from being comfortable in our skin, knowing, for me anyway, that God is the lion in my life. I choose to leave the roaring up to him now.

“Do the roar.”

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June 16

Father’s Day & Daddy Issues

On red dirt roads and small town streets, I taught two of my three daughters to drive.

I’ve learned how to change out a three-prong cord on the back of a dryer.

On any given weekend, I could smoke chicken and ribs in the backyard and also speak the phrase, “Go put oil in your car. You don’t want to crack your head gasket.”

For these skills and 19 years of single-mom-ness, I usually get calls on Father’s Day. I almost love that day more than Mother’s Day, because it reminds me that I stayed, and stuck it out, but I didn’t do it alone. I had that community, that same small town and a heavenly Father who gave me more parenting grace than I ever deserved.

That’s what grace is.

My own father got two purple hearts in Vietnam and came home to die in a house fire before I was even in kindergarten. I don’t remember much about him but my Grandma Mary says he loved to work on cars. My mom says I have a heart like his and am more like him than her.

Yesterday, I paid over $38.00 to send three .99 Hotwheels to Mexico for Marco, my World Vision boy, who is seven and passionate about drawing and cars. If I lived in Mexico I’d be passionate about snorkeling, mangoes and hot salsa.

His father works in the field to provide for his family.

The father I haven’t forgotten worked at the labs. He later sold used cars and insurance. He was the Hobby Dad who smoked in the car with the windows up. He had a set of golf clubs in the garage and was always on a softball or bowling team. He learned to play racquetball and handball and was the kind of guy everyone loved to be around, most times. Lonnie was handsome and charming in the handlebar mustache way that guys were handsome in the 70’s. When we went to the lake, he’d put us high up on his shoulders. He had super hairy armpits and a tattoo of a dancing Hawaiian girl.

He liked the ladies and frequented places like beer joints and gentlemen’s clubs, the places where pretty girls danced on poles. He took me to one once, The Hungry Eye, when I was about five. From behind the bar, I sneaked a peek to see the topless girls with pretty hair and upturned smiles, but the lights and music, I still remember loving the most.

Lonnie had a Honda Gold Wing and we loved to go fast on his motorcycle, until I got a muffler burn just above my ankle. When we rode in the station wagon, he turned the music up louder than any of the other dads. I learned all the lyrics to Bad Moon Rising because he, like me, always liked to take the long way home.

There are still less happy memories I can’t seem to shake and the older I get, the more I go grace.

I have figured out I am the kind of person who says, “I love you,” and what it really means is, “I will love you, forever.” The way that love looks may change, but my heart never does. There may have been all kinds of things mixed in there with it. Things like jealousy, anger, resentment, bitterness and at times, hate, even though I hate to say it.

But the love remains.

I am trying to get to the place where only grace resides. Tomorrow we are making super fun rock tree art for Father’s Day at the Cibolo Nature Center at 2:00 to celebrate family and all things solid and steady and dad-like. 

Because I know now, that a dad is just a dad. Human and flawed and unable to meet every expectation, the same as me. They can let us down and lift us high up on their shoulders, depending on the day.

I’m reading a book right now that is giving me exactly what I need in this season, How’s Your Soul? by Judah Smith. I picked it off the clearance shelf at Hobby Lobby and it’s helping me understand a few things a little more clearly.

Mostly, how to say, “He didn’t mean it.”

“She didn’t mean it.” This book is helping me. Every few pages, I crack up laughing.  Love believes the best about a person, even when we act our worst. He writes about loving his kids and corn nuts. I love all things corn and kids. They are such characters. This week, my client’s seven-year-old son called her a “Poophead.”

She is also a single mom. Single parenting as a mom or dad is the hardest job ever. None of us are perfect in our parenting roles or as people. We are not one dimensional. Our characters grow and change and sometimes get better. None of us are all good, or all bad, but mixed up parts of both.

Most days, I search for that dad I always wanted, the one I’m always missing. With hungry eyes, I look for a Father’s love, the kind that never changes. Solid as a rock.

And the hope of a new smoker.

 

 

 

 

 

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June 12

When Just Talking becomes Stalking & More Things Not to Do

I’ve been called a lot of things before, but never “creepy.”

My education in childhood interactions started this week when I made a gentle recommendation to say thank you to the guy that runs the kiddie coaster at Six Flags. Those polo wearing people stand there all day in the hot sun calming nerves, securing seat belts and monitoring the runaway monster kids who insist on cutting back through the line. I think it’s nice to offer a kind word of thanks.  I love good manners and am really working hard on not interrupting because I’m bad like that.

I’ll admit, it may have been too much when I stopped a man in a cut-off tank as we were leaving the park.

“I’m sorry, sir. There has been a recall on funnel cakes and I’m going to have to confiscate that.” He stopped momentarily and then smiled when he figured out I just wanted his food. When I noticed it had the strawberry topping instead of the powdered sugar and syrup, I changed my mind.

That was when the lecture/debate/argument began. “Maybe you weren’t taught to not talk to strangers, but now she’s going around talking to everyone.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a stranger,” I said.

“I’m sorry if you have a problem with me wanting to keep my child safe.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think we should sow fear into children. They need people skills growing up.” They need to know how to look someone in the eye, shake their hand and hold a conversation.

The hot sun baked our brains I guess and we were not going to come to an agreement. I knew the situation would only deteriorate if talking continued. The super fun day ended with a loud slam of the luxury car door and a whole lot of silence in between. God help us.

Saturday morning I woke up with an excited energy to participate in all of the activities going on around town. Usually, I have open houses on the weekend but decided instead to follow up with a few fun things to write about like the Hill Country Optimists Bike Club Rodeo and the free book giveaway the Kendall County Democratic Women were having for kids at the library.

I had some homes to see later in the day and put on my RE/MAX name badge, the one with the balloon and fake sparkly diamonds. Earlier in the week I had a nice meet and greet with Randy at the Hill Country Weekly. I forgot to ask for detailed instructions and in my child-like mind, I thought it was pretty simple.

Write stories people want to read.

For 13 years I lived in Mason, Texas, a tiny Mayberry-type town where Gerry, editor of the weekly paper, would go around snapping pictures, shaking hands and talking to people. I’d seen him do it for years. He was the smiling face at every event. He was the guy that all the kids wanted to have their attention.
“Take a picture of me!” they’d yell. “Take a picture of me!”

Papers flew off the shelves and out of the racks because everyone wants to see their picture on the cover. Parents and grandparents buy those issues up in multiples.

With my newfound excitement, I set out to have a fun day. For many years now, I’ve been attending children’s events and often I forget all the new adult rules. Quickly, I was reminded not to take pictures without parent permission. And just as quickly, I wanted to go home and skip the whole thing. Most days I walk around with a low-grade headache because I can’t keep track of it all.

But I really wanted to write a few stories, so I shook it off, searched for a some friendly faces, and began taking notes, shaking hands and talking to people. Several parents came by with their adorable kids on bikes and I asked, “Would it be okay to take a picture?”

“Yes, of course!”

I made my way over to the library where children were just coming up to me like they sometimes do because I’m sort of like the Pied Piper without the pipe, rats or bad intentions of luring children. Anyway,  I was talking to a lot of different people and got side-tracked by a girl holding a beautiful pop-up picture book of houses.

Okay. Seriously. I sell homes. I love all things homey and house related and was totally captivated by the 3-D pages of this picture book.

I asked where her parents were and if I could take a picture. She gestured to her dad who was standing right next to her but in a conversation with another parent, but of course, I didn’t want to interrupt. Instead, I snapped a quick picture of the book and okay, maybe a part of the child’s head and said I’d be back.

“We have princesses over here,” one of the volunteers came to tell me before I had to leave quickly for my next appointment.

In the parking lot, I saw the pop-up picture book girl with her family. “Oh, great! Can I get your name? I’m writing a….”
“No! You may not!”

“Are you kidding?” I sincerely couldn’t tell. I have friends and family who joke like that all the time.  “You’re kidding right?”

“NO! I AM NOT! I don’t appreciate you taking pictures of my child!”

Oh crap.

“I’m so sorry. ” I tried to explain what I was doing but he was loading up the hatchback of his shiny black Nissan and his wife just looked away from me and I only had 4 minutes to get to my next appointment, so I apologized again and left.

Driving across town I thought of the conversation I had at Six Flags and people’s right to protect their children. That’s when I began the self-talk.

Okay, okay. Don’t be offended. He has a right. He was looking after his family. Grrr…But it’s the way he said it. Calm yourself. It was a misunderstanding, I should have handled it differently. I just get talking and having a nice time and forget all of the rules. Maybe I should become one of those people that never, ever leave their home? My fricken head is killing me. I can’t function like this. He was so rude. There is a way you can talk to someone politely and state your concern. Oh, my God. Pull it together. Do not start crying right now.  

I pulled up to the home I was previewing, waved “Hello!” to a friend across the street and rang the doorbell. Waiting for them to answer, I turned around to notice the over-sized front porch, pretty flowers, and wicker seating. “Super pretty,” I may have said out loud.

Just then, the black Nissan pulled up and out the window the guy yells, “Exactly why were you photographing my daughter?” He was still being rude and much louder than necessary.

“I’m also a writer. I was writing an article for the paper and ….”

Interrupting again, for God and all the neighbors to hear, “Do you just go around taking pictures of children without their parent’s permission?”

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t planning to use it, I forgot to…”

“I think it is completely unprofessional and quite honestly, I think the whole thing was very creepy!” He sped off and that’s when the homeowner answered the door.

Personally, I think it’s creepy to jot down my license plate number and follow me all the way across town. It’s not like I was standing in the bushes with a dark hoodie, holding a Nikon with a zoom lens.

God help us.

I miss the good ole’ days.

Oh, I’m doing a Nature Craft with Kids on Saturday from 2-3 at the Cibolo Nature Center. Parents are welcome to stay and participate. I’m not sure yet about the picture policies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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June 9

2 Things To Never, Ever Do…

On my better days, I leave the house hoping to make an impact.

Yesterday, I’m certain I left an impression, but I’m not so sure what kind of impact.

Because I’m ridiculous.

And I had Kleenex stuck to my face without knowing it for God knows how long.

Someone brought up something. I said I didn’t want to talk about it, but then ranted for fifteen minutes about it anyway. And yes, maybe I did hang up the phone crying and dabbing my face with tissue because I’m an overly emotional, super sensitive person and there is no chocolate in the house right now.

Quickly, I pulled it together like the responsible person I know to be, then drove to my appointment and talked with a seller for a solid 25 minutes about all the progress on his home. Then I got in the car to leave. After checking messages and emails on my phone, I glanced quickly into the rear view mirror as I was about to pull out onto the street.

“Whaaaaat? Are you kidding me?”

Then I yelled for the man voice Siri to call my seller back.

“Hello?” he answered.

“Okay. Seriously. I know we are doing a business transaction here, but I also consider us friends.”

“Yeah.”

“Friends, don’t let friends walk around with pieces of Kleenex stuck in tiny globs all over their face. Are you kidding me? I stood there talking to you that whole time and you didn’t mention it? You know I can’t see without my reading glasses on.”

I was smiling as I said it so it wasn’t rude, but I could hear fidgeting on the other end.

“Well, you know, some women respond differently to those kinds of comments.”

“All women will respond to, ‘Mirror check. You have toilet paper all over your face.’ That’s all you had to say.”

“I’m sorry.”

He laughed. I laughed. Then I told him no problem and he really should put shutters around the windows.

I shudder to think how awkward that was for him.

Then last night, I thought I would venture out of my comfort zone and whale bottom, cotton stretch pants with the drawstring to attend the wine tasting event for Impact San Antonio held at Trinity Title last night. I failed to Google what dressy casual is and I can tell you that it is not fake look linen pants.

The other thing I learned was the kind of real impact this amazing, smart and super-giving group of women were having on non-profit organizations in our area. Even before I over-sampled the deliciously dry, red Wedding Oak Regency Bridge, I knew this was something I really wanted to be a part of.

They have set a goal this year to award five $100,000 grants in each of the five focus areas.

  • Arts & Culture
  • Education
  • Environment, Recreation & Preservation
  • Family
  • Health & Wellness

“We are a group of diverse women who are united by a common purpose – to make a positive difference in our community. We each contribute $1,000 and pool our donations to create as many $100,000 grants as our membership numbers can support,” says the website. I have no direct quotes because I was balancing my plate and a tall glass of wine.

Wait. What? Did she just say a thousand dollars? I’m definitely eating more cheese and meatballs.

But then, amongst the murmuring, I discovered we can also partner up with a group of 3 other friends to create the same $1,000.

Okay! That’s more like it. 

Did I mention how much I liked the wine and cheese?

I liked it so much, that when Lorelei, the gorgeous insurance girl by day, wine server at night, scooted the red carafe a little more closely to us on the counter, I reached into my purse, debated momentarily between the two $1.00 bills or the $10.00 and shoved the two into the neck of the jar.

A few minutes later, I walked back to the red sample table, just in time to notice the sharp-dressed man in the blue tie pouring wine into a similar red jar.

“OH!” I said loudly,  “That’s not a tip jar?”

Pause here for a super awkward moment.

“No. It’s not a tip jar.”

I guess it’s apparently called a dump bucket, which is fun, because during the presentation, I also got to hear about how Impact donated $100,000 to help the special needs Camp CAMP fund their new septic systems.

I refrained from sharing too loudly about my new friend Viola, who cheerfully introduced me to her special needs chicken last week.

Now I have a sincere need to find the blue cheese brie from Costco and a few other women who want to be a part of my Impact giving group by June 15th.

I may not always check the mirror when I walk out of the house, but I do want to be a woman who is able to impact my community. These smart, successful women know how to shine from the inside. They are the kind of women who reflect a spirit of generosity and a sincere desire to help and give back.

They know how to respond differently.

 

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June 5

Bringing My Best and My Worst

Whatever you have to offer, bring it.

I believe God needs your two-legged ping pong table.

Recently I brought my friend Jennifer’s spicy coleslaw to the Memorial weekend gathering at my mom’s house. Saturday night, we got together again to visit with extended family from the Midwest and my brother brought fresh fish he caught in the gulf.

It was plated and labeled so we knew exactly what we were getting. Little tiny chalkboards were balanced decoratively in buckets that said, Red Snapper, Trout and Red Fish. The scallops needed no introduction, they were scallops, seared to perfection on the grill.

When I had friends over for dinner a few months ago, they brought me the most beautiful orchid. It perfectly matches a piece of art that hangs on my dining room wall, a portrait of an orchid, and it’s perfect.

Through a series of unimportant events, I ended up with three large bags of guillejo peppers that I snapped the stems off of, soaked, and you-tubed how to make the base for many delicious Mexican recipes. Then I jarred it and took it to my friend Edith’s house.

It was bitter, to begin with. You have to add things to it like tomato paste, juice, water or broth and other spices. On its own, it wasn’t so good.

For the last few weeks, we’ve been listening to a sermon series called, Juice. It’s about tithing and being generous givers. Don’t stop reading here or you’ll miss the part about the urine-stained couch.

Have you ever given away something you really loved? It’s easy to bring the crap we don’t want or need anymore, but much harder to let go of the things we love. I always think of my friend Jeanie Smith when I think of generous givers. Jeanie had a beautiful print hanging on the wall of her home health office. It was a black and white picture of the ten healed lepers, showing the one, who came back to give thanks.

Something about that painting made my eyes well up as I sat in a chair in front of her desk, over a dozen years ago.

“I’m sorry. That picture just really got to me.”

“Then take it.”

“What?”

“It’s yours. Take it.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yep.”

“Thank you!”

I walked out of there that day with a smile on my face, a 4′ x 3′ foot piece of framed art and a life lesson I will never forget.

I think of the fruited plate that was pulled from the trash and presented to me. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” I say when I am scouring the aisles of second-hand stores.

Pastor Jason talked about the kind of awkward giving that we sometimes do. We bring our trashed out goods to the church garage sale and act like we’ve done them a favor. “No one wants that torn up, pee-stained couch.”

Apparently, someone also brought a two-legged ping pong table.

“Have you ever tried to play ping-pong on a two-legged ping pong table?”

I have actually. Sort of.

We walk through life trying to score the good stuff, but we can’t. We are off balance and out of whack. Our priorities are jacked up and we are missing some important pieces.

Like the other two legs.

Or the solid understanding that we have a high calling to be vessels of extreme generosity.

It is better to give than to receive. I’ve been on both sides of that table, and am so ridiculously grateful for the help I’ve been given, but the times when I was able to bring something of value to someone else are the times that brought me unspeakable joy.

Yesterday, I was thinking about the pee-stained couch, the two-legged ping-pong table and the wooden boxes at the back of the church that say, My Best.

I thought about the times that I could not bring my best, but only my brokenness. Pieces of a scattered life that could no longer function the way it was intended. Days when I felt like I could not get up and go one more. There was no pinging or ponging or scoring to be done. Only surviving.

In God’s economy, our brokenness is the best thing we have to offer. His holiness makes us whole again.

If that’s all you’ve got left to give, then just bring it. If that’s not where you are, then bring something better, with thankfulness.

 

 

 

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June 2

Raising Questions and Kids with Love & Encouragement

“You are so funny and nice. You are my best friend in the entire world!” was written in blue ink on the decorated page.

Impressive.

Not just the world, the entire world.

I noticed how big her smile got when she read what her friend had written about her. And then I noticed the boy.

His hand was raised high in the air.

Firmly planted in his chair at the long table, he wore a huge smile and an Under Armour brand camouflage sweatshirt.  “Who wants to sign?”  He waved his papers around, shouting cheerfully at an acceptable last day of school volume, “Who wants to sign? Who wants to sign?

Over and over he repeated the question.

I was sitting on the cozy lime green settee watching children milling about while others stood in line, waiting their turn to get their yearbooks and scrapbooks signed by teachers and friends.

But not this boy.

I thought to myself, This kid is a future leader of tomorrow. Look at him there, all corporate manager-like, making every one come to him.

Impressive.

Then I remembered all of the things I’ve learned about leadership since fourth grade.

Ms. Reeh sat about 23 children down on the green shag carpet in front of the chalk board. For nearly a year, she has been giving these kids the biggest head start they could ever hope for.

“What was your favorite memory of this year?” she asked with an upturned tone. Immediately, they began taking turns, going around the circle and praising their teacher for all she had done to help them.

This wasn’t my classroom, these kids weren’t mine, but I needed a Kleenex in the most embarrassing kind of way.

“I didn’t really know how to read or write very well and Ms. Reeh helped me and taught me,” one boy confessed.

“When the school year started I thought she would be like some of the other teachers and boss us around but she has always wanted to help us be better in a different way that was good.”

“The Christmas Party.”

A future speaker himself, one boy said, “I always felt left out and I lived in a really dark place, but Ms. Reeh brought me into the light.”

Did they understand the question? I wondered.

I refrained from interrupting but was tempted to raise my own hand and say, “You guys have already gotten your report cards. Seriously. What is your favorite memory of fourth grade?”

Ms. Reeh clarified the question again.

“That is so sweet. You guys are the best. I’m so proud of who you  are. Now, what are some of your other favorite fourth grade memories?”

“The Christmas Party,” another repeated.

I found out later there were movies, French toast and pigs in a blanket.

The tallest boy in class had drawn a black line on his upper lip with a Sharpie and told the others, “Call me Mr. Mustache.”

But then he said quietly, “At my old school, I didn’t have very many friends and people weren’t very nice to me. Every kid in this classroom and Ms. Reeh, made me feel welcome from the very first day and I will never forget this class or everything you have all done for me.”

More Kleenex, please.

The girl I mentor looked at me and smiled. I needed a group hug.

With a stack of awards in her hand, Ms. Reeh stood up and presented certificates. She stood there, with her tiny frame, like she was the Wizard of Oz and had helped them realize they already had a heart.

They were brave and courageous and smart.

One of the girls cried tears of joy and sadness to say good-bye.

Team Player Award.

Best Listener Award.

Above and Beyond.

Oscar Award.

They stood to receive their honors and a hug.

A sandy brown-haired boy with the most sincere smile ever, got his certificate and walked back to his place. Mid-way back to his shaggy spot across the circle, he remembered something he wanted to say and turned around to whisper in his teacher’s ear.

“Oh, Ms. Reeh. That wasn’t just me that helped with all of those chairs. Juan did most of it.”

And there it was.

The real future leader of tomorrow.

A nine year-old who understood what it takes to lead.

A boy who already knows, it is always about the team, not the individual. It is always about serving, rather than being served. It is always about character and truly caring about your people.

They can teach reading, writing and arithmetic. They can prep kids for weeks on end to pass the Staar test. They can come up with creative ways to get kids to sit down and be quiet, but to see what a teacher can really do to shape a child’s life is the most amazing thing ever.

The life long impact of having a loving and sincere teacher are the best memories these kids will take through their entire lives. They will take it out into a world that is waiting for new leaders to rise up.

They are the real stars.

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May 22

Doormats and Welcome Mats

The other day, I dropped off a six-pack of Matchbox cars for a young boy who, I could tell, didn’t particularly care for the coloring book and stickers I took him and his sister, the last time I popped over unannounced.

Natalie was home from college, just before finals week, we were driving back from dinner, and I asked her to place the package on the front mat, ring the door-bell and run quickly back to the car so we could escape before being spotted.

When I think of Matchbox cars, I often think of Matchbox 20 and the song 3 am. I especially like the lyric that says, “She thinks that happiness is the mat that sits on her doorway.”

And it’s true. I do.

I used to have a mat that sat at the back door in Mason that read, “We have a vacuum, we’ve found God and we gave at the office.” It brought me happiness in a snarky, sarcastic kind of way. Probably because I’m still a little bitter over the Rainbow vacuum I bought, but couldn’t afford, and then it caught my carpet on fire.

That’s another story.

It’s important for you to track with me here for a minute because when I hear the song 3 am, I think of the mat. And when I think of the mat, I think of the man that Jesus healed down by the water. The paralyzed one he told to get up.

“Get up!” he said. “Do you want to get well?” The guy had been an invalid for like 38 years and Jesus had the nerve to ask him what might have sounded like a very offensive question. I imagine there might have been a little bit of a tone.

“Do you even want to get well?”

Do we? I sometimes see myself sitting next to the man in the story from John 5:1.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Talk about a doormat.

After that many years of affliction, you would think he might have been able to muster up enough courage and discipline to at least squiggle his way into the water. But, the man was just lying around, making excuses, and blaming everyone else around him.

We find what we look for.

If we really want to get something done, we will make a way. If not, we will make an excuse.

Stop surrounding yourself with the type of people who just want to keep stirring things up. Welcome the people into your life that are in your corner and willing to help. Jesus helped him and healed him, right there on the spot.

“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

I often find myself wondering where he went first.

I’ve been stuck in the same place for too long before, places where I knew I could not get out of on my own.  Those, pull me down places that needed the power of God, good friends and a good word to get me up and going again.

Now I track my walking steps with a plum colored Fit Bit. I have a vacuum I love and a home office to give from. I’m not exactly sure if I found God or he found me. I’m just glad he always seems to welcome me in when I show up, announced, after I’ve run out of places to go.

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May 19

Couch Coaching

The worst thing about sick days is being legitimately sick.

It sucks all the fun out of lying around, sleeping all day and binge watching movies that are too often interrupted by a ridiculous amount of commercials and painful deep chest coughing.

When I can open my mouth to speak, it’s only to ask my daughter to please bring me another popsicle.

“Another one? You just had two.”

“Yes. Please.” Sick people should always get as many popsicles as they want plus I’ve had plenty of extra ailments this week.

The day before Mother’s Day I woke up with a scorpion crawling on my arm. I suppose the sudden stinging is what woke me up in the middle of the night. I flicked it off like the brave Girl Scout Leader I once was, picked it up with a wad of toilet paper then flushed it down the toilet and went back to bed. Of course, I could not sleep because I could only keep wondering how many others were waiting in the air vent above my bed.

When I was out walking the dogs the next day, I somehow managed to get into poison ivy. That’s when the blisters and itching began.

And then the fever and chills came. When I could no longer stand it, I went to the clinic on Main Street to find out that on top of all that, I had a viral infection. My leg is barely healed from the Easter egg hunting debacle.

Less than lovingly, I was told karma is a %$#*$ and it looks like I’m getting what I deserve. Nice.

These comments are often hard to swallow whether your throat is swollen shut or not.

So instead of falling to pieces, I thought I better keep it healthy and read more chapters of Brant Hansen’s book, Unoffendable. It’s not that I’m offended at the snarky comments, it’s that it hurts my feelings and I’m not sure, maybe that’s the same thing.

God knows I’ve said things I wish I could take back also.

Four chapters in, the headache is back and I realize it’s too hard to read with a massive piercing behind my eyeballs. I downed all the medication I could and then began downloading movies off of Amazon Prime Video. I’m seriously considering cutting the cable because I only watch about 3 or 4 channels on a regular basis and the rest of the time I waste flipping through a gazillion things I don’t want to see.

Here are my sick day movie picks in case you find yourself on the couch too.

To Catch a Thief, one of many Cary Grant movies that I love. TCM is my latest addiction and I can’t get enough of these old movies that remind me of a sweeter, more charming and dignified way of life.

To Sir, With Love, one of my favorites of all time. I only have to hear Lulu sing those first four notes to become a weepy wreck. I have so much respect for teachers and the role they play in raising children to be their very best. I also always wanted Sydney Poitier to come to my house for dinner. He reminded me, that sometimes, I enter a room like a brat.

Mary and Martha with Hilary Swank. A moving story about malaria and the staggering numbers of children that die from it. I wanted to call everyone I know and start raising funds for mosquito nets. Who’s in?

Noble. Another true story about an Irish woman who lived through terrible things in her childhood, but stayed constantly connected to God in spite of the religious harshness around her. As an adult, she was led to go to Vietnam to help the street children. I can’t say enough good things about this movie.

Yes, Man. Because we all need a few laughs, Jim Carey, that adorable Zooey on a day we feel like crap.

A Knights’ Tale. I just love a good underdog story and am absolutely fascinated with jousting as a sport.

I began to notice with an interesting curiosity which movies I selected and the takeaway I got from each. What are the things we are saying Yes to? Are they things that will make a difference or impact other people in a positive way? Are they action choices that call us into areas of purpose, and places where we can learn to be more brave?

Over and over again I read about or see how one person is able to rise up from horrible events and become world changers.

I remember coming back from Mexico after seeing those beautiful brown-eyed children who live literally, at the dump. I got off the plane, drove home and walked back into my world, where my cabinets were stocked full and I lacked nothing.

It’s hard to get back to normal living, without the knowing. The conversations around me seemed petty, shallow and self-absorbed. Every day children here and abroad are starving, suffering, being sexually abused and dying. Oh my God, what can we do?

What can I do?

I pray I can be a better kind of yes man. Yes to serving others. Yes to becoming un-offendable. Yes to loving people the way Jesus did.

Just as soon as I can get off the couch.

 

 

  

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