Latest Entries »

Oh how the time does fly…  The kids in this picture are in high school now.  Crazy, that.

And when I spent my day at our high school career fair today, I saw them. And I knew them.  And they knew me.  And that’s not crazy… that’s crazy-wonderful!

Sometimes the connection was not by name, but by something more important….

“Miss?  …..  Do you remember me, Miss?”

“Oh, yes, Honey!  You wrote me a beautiful letter and gave it to me at Relay….  I still have it.”

…and this precious quiet girl dissolved into a hug.  

I knew her by her heart and the struggles that she’d faced in school.  She was one of those kiddos who worked so very, very hard, but tended to overthink and second guess herself … to the tune of failing standardized tests by 2 questions.  My focus with her in intervention was always on the social-emotional side.  

…and it worked.   On the second attempt, she passed with flying colors.

A few years later, she was in a youth group as I shared my story as a cancer survivor and Relayer and invited them to join in the fight.  Months afterwards, she charged me on the field at Relay and pressed something into my hands.  

“Read it later,” she said.

So I waited.  About a minute (!)… 

 I read it… and cried and cried and cried.  This young girl’s precious heart… it touched my heart!

But as I looked into her eyes and knew all these things today — I could not pull up her name.

But it didn’t matter….

“You always believed in me… so you should know… I struggled a little bit – with school and with boys – but I’m getting back on track.”

…and we talked about her goals and dreams and the steps to get from Point A to Point B… We reminisced about the lessons she’d learned years ago:  to stop, to breathe,and to believe in herself.

It all happened in a moment…  so brief,  so fast.

As the group transitioned on, she locked her eyes on mine and whispered to my heart “I can’t believe you remember me….”

I patted her shoulder and said, “not only that, Babe.  I believe in you!”

…. and 10 hours later, I’ve remembered her name.

Makayla.

Then sings my soul….

This is one of my favorite pictures of all time.

As in … EVER.

As in … nothing will ever compare.

As in …. My goodness, Connie.  We miss you so…

In the photo – snapped at the 1st annual Reading Under the Stars literacy night at EES – Connie P, veteran 1st grade teacher and a legend in her own time, is reading to a group of kiddos in a classroom decorated by her team.

The little girl?  We don’t know who she was….  Probably the sibling or neighbor of a student.  But we don’t know.

All we know is that this precious girl was captured by literacy that night… swept up in the beauty of the read-aloud… the rhythm of words… the cadence of Connie’s voice… the magic.

The Magic.

It’s The Magic that Connie knew instinctively how to ignite.  

In her 30-someodd years in the classroom, Connie led countless children to The Magic of books, of words, of language…

She led them to literacy.  

Through practice and patience and sight word after sight word  (even when she had to sneak home the Build Up books because they were frowned upon by current educational practice).  But most of all, through love….

Love.

Love of books.  Love of language.  Love of poetry and structure. Love of her kids.

Most of all this:  Love. Of. Her. Kids.

Hers.

And the definition of Her Kids didn’t stop at her door or even at age 7.

Connie taught her class and pulled in struggling readers from across and/or down the hall.  She pulled in accelerated readers from Kinder and struggling kiddos from 2nd (& up). 

 If you needed to learn to read, she was your Gal.  

And what a Gal she was….

Because her touch reached farther still — to the classrooms and hearts of teachers on her team– especially those of us who were young and green when we came to 1st grade.

27 years ago, I was one of those.   It was 1990 and whole language was in full swing.  Connie shared with the 4 of us new to teaching and the team the secret of her success.  And it didn’t match what we’d been reading in college… so we smiled and nodded and cut out lily pad after lily pad after lily pad for thematic Frog and Toad vocabulary words.

But then we saw her results. 

Her kids had The Magic.  They got it!!  And we began to, too.

Oh, we didn’t give up the arts and crafts, but we did bridge them into words on our walls (Early Word Walls, anyone??) and onto rings of flashcards (Automaticity, anyone??)

And we learned.  

We learned because she Loved.

She guided with practice and patience … and may have accidentally slipped class sets of build-up readers into our boxes.

All this is not to say that sight word drill is The Answer.  But, when factored into the Love and Magic equation, it’s pretty dang powerful.

Connie touched the lives of all whom she taught.  Her students.   Our students.   Us.

To do the math would be staggering…  In addition to her 30+ years of students,   she mentored at least 2 dozen new teachers — some of whom are entering their 30th year in the classroom, others of whom are teaching teachers.   Or hiring teachers….That’s my job now.

She not only touched the future,  she changed it… 100% for the better.

Oh, Connie.  How we miss you… but we’re paying forward your gift every single day and hope we make you proud.

You, my beloved friend, touch the future. 

Then sings my soul….

I wish I had something profound to say, but really it just boils down to this:

HOPE.

When I see that a young man has 9 weeks of chemo starting soon….

HOPE.

Because this is the CURE to the form of stupid cancer that has attacked his body.

When I learn that another friend is battling a truly terrible infection…

HOPE.

Because she has such tremendous strength.  She’s conquered disease before and I fully believe she’ll do it again.

But what I HOPE most of all is that one day… one day very, very soon… the news I hear in and out of each day can skip some of the yucky parts.

Until then, I’ll wait and I’ll pray and I’ll do whatever I can in the fight against stupid disease…. and I’ll always play HOPE.

This Little Light of Mine…  I’m gonna let it shine.

It’s a song from childhood and Sunday school.  A song for every VBS in town.  And a song I find, as an adult, reaches far beyond a single meaning.

We’re called to shine our lights, I believe,  on the good things of the world- to highlight and showcase and sparkle upon that which is the best of humankind, of nature,  and the many incredible ways one impacts the other.

But we’re also called to shine our lights in the darkness. 

To shine out against the evils of the world – the plight of the needy, the fight against disease,  the inhumanities that seem to rise all too often these days…

            …and more.

But, specifically tonight,  this little light of mine shines for reasons both illuminating the good, and calling out the bad.  It shines in preparation and anticipation. 

It shines in HOPE.

In memory of all loved ones stolen too soon by stupid cancer.

In honor of all who are now or have ever heard those 3 dreadful words “You have cancer.”

But most of all… in anticipation.

Of one more kiss.  One more hug.  One more wave “hello.”

One more bedtime story.  One more bubble bath.  One more midnight snack.  

One more missed curfew, missed turn, missed call — because LIFE was happening and that was more important.

I Relay for LIFE and for LOVE…

And for HOPE.

Hope…that one day cancer becomes scarce, early detection is the norm, and those “one mores” will happen for more and more.

         …..and more.

Stupid cancer.                 I hate it.

But HOPE….?

              For HOPE, my little light shines.   Tonight and every night.

…because Relay is my way to DO SOMETHING in the fight.  

Relay = Hope = This Little Light of Mine. 

And then sings my soul.

On this,  the last day of Spring Break, I stole a few precious moments in one of my favorite places:  under the wine bottle arbor.

I love this spot for all the reasons you’d imagine… and then some.

I love it for the beauty of the sun shining through the colored glass.

I love it for the respite of shade from the grape vine and honeysuckle.

I love it for the very “coolness” of its existence. 

Most of all, I love it for how it came to be.

We bought a camper, you see, and it came with a mattress…

That was AWFUL.

And so, being from the country and all, I threw it on the brush pile and burned it one gray, drizzly day.

But, of course, springs don’t burn.  

So there I was – left with the skeletal remains of an awful mattress…

And, being from the country and all, I decided to repurpose it!!

          …as a wine bottle arbor!

The Hubs thought I was a little nuts, but when I came in the house with measurements, he made a wise choice and played along.

We went to town, got the lumber, and got to work – planning as we went.

The corner posts as 4 x 4s and we used strong slats to frame and support the springs. 

“What are you putting in it again?” He asked more than once.

Wine bottles.  Lots and lots of wine bottles.

“But do you drink enough wine to fill it up?”

Just wait and see.

This is where it gets good.

I put out a call to my family and friends for wine bottles — because he’s right.  I do like my wine,  but I don’t drink it all that often.

And the wine bottles started coming!!

Friends started saving their bottles and sending them my way.

They met me in the HEB parking lot with bottles.  Dropped them off on my mom’s porch in town.  Sent word with their husbands to tell my husband they had bottles for me.   Saved up a stash in the corner of their counters….

Best of all,  friends brought wine over to share…all in the name of the future empties, of course.

Whether I’d sipped from the bottles or not, I still gained from the connections.

And it was all good.

Several years later, I’m still adding to the arbor.  

And each bottle brings with it the memory of good times shared – both directly and otherwise.

And this makes it a good place.  A happy place.  A lovely, loving place.

And then sings my soul….

Kids these days.  MY kids these days…

My GOODNESS, they make me proud!!  Both so fit.  Both so strong.  …both inside and out.

The Boychild – who rinsed before the pic – is 25.  After “wandering” a bit post high school, he found his calling as a licensed massage therapist.  His passion?  Helping people heal physically and psychologically through Thai massage.  It’s not rare for me to get a call after his shift as he shares the goodness of his day.  He feels a connection to his clients, and they to him.  When they feel better, he feels better.  Such empathy… such growth… such beauty.  And I couldn’t be more proud.

His spiritual and physical wellbeing has been a focus and strength for years.  And he wears it well.

2 months ago, while healing from an adult tonsillectomy, the Girlchild – now 22 and an early graduate with a Biology degree and limitless potential but undeclared goals –  decided to join the Boychild for  full Tough Mudder in New Orleans.

She’s got a tremendous character, a healthy stubborn streak, and has always been strong, but a focus on fitness is relatively new.  As she’s discovered her physical strength, she’s uncovering the power of making and conquering goal after goal.  Her immediate future holds an internship at a National Wildlife Refuge where she’ll work with her hands in the dirt to make a difference for our planet.  

Her calling is different from her brother’s, yet somehow the same.  They will both — ARE both — changing the world, making it a better place, a healthier place.

And on this day — the day they conquered 10+ miles and 20+ obstacles in New Orleans — a muddier place.

And I couldn’t be more proud. 

Then sings my proud Momma soul…

I was raised writing thank-you notes.

Literally…. Raised!

As Pastor’s kids in a dual rural church parish,  we were adopted by the families of both churches.  Christmas came not only with the annual Open House but also with precious gifts left for my brother and I under the tree by many from our church families.  Add this to the blessings of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and we were showered with gifts.

And so… the first week of January included, without fail, my brother and I at the kitchen table, each with our list and a stack of blank thank-you notes.

At times, we balked.  We were, afterall, kids.  But we always, always, always got them done.

It’s a lesson I carried forward into the world outside of my parents’ home.  I wish I could say I maintained the discipline to write them for every occasion, but I haven’t….

But when I do write thank-yous , I WRITE thank-yous, for the lesson I learned is that though the material gifts may inspire me to sit down and write,  it’s not the gifts, necessarily,  for which I’m most thankful. 

It’s the people. 

The love.  

The time.

These are the things for which I give most thanks, and the aspects I strive to include in my thank-yous.

Tonight I sat down with my list and a stack of blank thank-you notes.

The occasion?  My 50th birthday party.  A surprise spearheaded by my husband and made complete by the the folks who made time in their week to be there.   We laughed. We hugged.  We visited. We shared.

I opened lovely gifts and perfectly perfect cards.  Each and every one the exact thing I never knew I needed. 

But most of all, 

It’s the people.

The time.

The love.

And so I’ll tackle my list. I won’t balk even once.  And I’ll thank my friends and family for not only the gifts they brought,  but the love and laughter they shared.

Then sings my soul….

To Have and to Hold…. #SOL17

For 55 years, these hands have held each other, through good times and bad.  For richer,  for poorer.  In sickness, and in health.  

My brother and I are lucky enough to call the folks on the ends of these hands Mom and Dad.

And for the past 50 years of those 55 years, these hands have held mine.

They’ve guided me along the paths of life – 

They’ve kept me safe along life’s journey –

Holding me up, urging me forward, cautioning me back –

Lifting me up before my knees hit the sidewalk when I tripped as a girl –

Lifting me up when my heart was broken into a million pieces as an adult –

Coaxing me forward as I tiptoed into new experiences as a girl –

Coaxing me forward as I’ve forged into life changes as an adult –

Holding me back from the fire, the danger, the fears as a girl –

Holding hands together in prayer as I’ve stubbornly charged headlong into the fire, the dangers, the fears as an adult –

The love in these hands.

Through good times and bad.  For richer or for poorer.  In sickness and in health.

Then sings my soul…

“Well dang.  She came out of the house in time…. but just barely.”

“We were THISCLOSE to getting to that fresh cut grass!”

“Quick!  Look casual!  She’ll never know!”

“Wonder twins, ACTIVATE!”

“Never fear.  I’ve got your back!”

“Side by siiiiiide!!!”

“Wait for meeeeeeeeee!”

“Moooooooooooooooo……”

I usually write my slice at the end of the day after mulling over all that has happened in the past 24 hours.  The big things, the little things, the “was that even a thing” things.

I find that, most often,  I write about the littles…for they truly are the bigs.

Today, though, I’m posting early.

It’s Spring Break, I’m on a stay-cation (a nice way of saying I can’t afford a trip), and I’ve already had occasion to ponder….

What follows comes from a post I shared this morning in my little Facebook group called Shape Up Sisters.  This group was born out of a desire to share the trials and tribulations of finding fitness.   And, quite honestly, it’s often my health (physical and emotional) journal.   My Sisters keep me honest and on track and I’m so very thankful.

Healthy is an outfit…  I like that.

I turn 50 in 2 days and will be 10 pounds from my goal on the scale.   This is don’t like….
But what I DO like is the way I’m feeling in my skin these days.

I DO like that my body doesn’t hurt when I get out of bed each morning.

I DO like that I can push myself to do more… and that my body responds.

I DO like that I’m being conscious about what goes into my body — even if it’s m&ms.

I DO like that my clothes are fitting better — even if I’ve been eating m&ms.

I DO like catching glimpses of muscles I didn’t know were there.

I DO like hitting my step goal every day.
But most of all, I DO like who I am.  I am blessed with dear friends and a tremendous family.  I enjoy my new job and treasure my new “work family.”  I am invigorated by the passion of peeps new to Relay.  I am so very, very proud of the kids – the Boychild,  Girlchild,  Step-loves, and Grands.
I get to listen to the swallows, ruin my manicure in the garden, and watch the sunset in the beautiful Texas sky.

And I get to sleep in this week of Spring Break.
Yes.  I am 10 pounds away from goal, my thighs have extra texture,  my arms have cushion, and my belly will never lie flat…  but!!
I am healthy.   I am blessed.  I am 2 days away from 50…. and it’s all good.

Then sings my soul.