One Last Time

I couldn’t help but think about my mother this Thanksgiving. I thought about the many meals she planned just for her family to come celebrate with her all the things she was thankful for. She didn’t have the happiest of childhoods, she lived through the depression and life with my dad was difficult because he suffered from a mental illness. Still, she was thankful she made it through all she did.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, she would grab a couple of used envelopes and on the back of one envelope, she would write everyone’s names . On the other, she would write her shopping list. She had rather large handwriting, so, in the end, the whole envelope would be written on.

She would go to the store, bring home the groceries and hide anything she thought we might get into before she cooked, like the colored marshmallows for her cathedral cookies or the large marshmallows for the sweet potato casserole.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Mother began to cook. As she  cooked, the house filled with the savory aroma of a big old Tom Turkey roasting in the roaster,. That roaster sat on the washing machine while it cooked that turkey to perfection.. She had a humongous bowl in which she mixed the dressing. She made two  extra large dishes of it. Her dressing was by far the best thing she made. There was  a time when I realized it would be prudent to get the  recipe if I wanted to carry on the tradition.

“I won’t know how to make it after you are gone and no one will know how to make it,” I told her.

“Well, I just put in a pinch of salt, some sage, bread crumbs, chicken stock, you know.”

“Yeah, but how much of it? I need measurements.”

“Honey, I don’t measure it, I just know how much to put in.”

“Can’t you just measure it and tell me?”

“I wouldn’t know how.”

I never learned that dressing recipe and I have tried to duplicate it as best as I can, but to no avail. Now that my mother is gone, so is the dressing I loved so much. Oh, what I would give to have just one more Thanksgiving with Mother. The cooking, the laughter, the late nights with her during the holidays-now gone, but never forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

Books, Dance and Weddings

These past few weekends have been really busy ones for me. Last weekend, I was attending Authorfest up in Denison, Texas. It was so much fun and was a two day event. Friday, there was dinner and readings from the participating authors and Saturday, there were book signings , Bark and Paws events and even a parade. After the main event Saturday, there were more readings from the authors.

When I got home from church, Sunday, my kids came over, along with my grand daughter. This is an every week occurrence that we love. It gives us time to catch up with what is going on in our kids’ lives and time to play with Miss Doodle. She loves to play school and of course, being the kid, she has to be the teacher. She is quite strict and we get sent to time out if our participation is less than stellar. At any rate, there is a lot of giggling, eating, laughing and loving all meshed together in these little visits.

This weekend, Saturday boasted Doodle’s first dance recital. Her little class danced ballet to “A Spoonful of Sugar” of Mary Poppins fame. All were cute, but , I have to tell you , being the doting  nana, our little Doodle was the best and the cutest! When I was dancing in recitals, we danced and went home, glowing because we had made our mommies and daddies proud, but these kids, well, they get flowers for their performances . So, the glow is only secondary to the big people flowers they get for dancing their little hearts out.

Sunday, my husband, Stephen and I drove up to Pottsboro, Texas to Camp All Saints, the camp we perform “labor of love” weekends (getting ready for the children who come to the camp during the summer) with our Church for the unhoused. Only, this week, we went for Jason and Tricia’s wedding. What a beautiful couple they made. Tricia in her yellow dress and wedgie shoes and Jason in his nice pants and suit coat. Their vows, tender and loving made me think back to my own wedding day. Talk about glowing- Tricia was the most beautiful bride. Jason is a lucky man to have her and she is a lucky woman to have Jason.

And the world keeps on turning.

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Working Title

Hey y’all! I have finished the sequel to The Conservative Congregant and now have a working title. The title, as of this moment is “And Time Stood Still.” It encompasses the book pretty well, I think .

If you have read The Conservative Congregant, then you know it is about a woman who leaves her comfort zone to make a meal for the “unhoused” congregation of The City of Hope. The City of Hope is a church for the unhoused or homeless folks of the city. It is set in Dallas as the book is based on my actual church, The Gathering. The Gathering was a dream of Archdeacon Jim Webb  of the Episcopal Diocese here in Dallas. Thankfully, he was able to see it come to fruition before he passed away .

Back to the book. Because Eloise Dowager stepped out of her comfort zone to feed the homeless, many blessings come her way. I don’t know if you have noticed it, but that is truly what happens in real life. TCC  follows her as life takes her through the many changes that take place in her life, up to and including the day she makes the dinner. The blessing she receives is much more than one could ask for and she is truly blessed.

The sequel follows up on her blessing and all that entails. I cannot go through it with you for obvious reasons. But, suffice it to say that something big comes out of this book. I am very excited about it and hope to publish it to be released in June 2016.

My plans are to publish one or two more novellas and then publish the novel that will tie the story fully together. I hope you will follow me in this exciting journey and pick up the books as they come out in print or on Kindle.

Have a great week  and keep reading!

 

A Love Song For Stephen

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I love Valentine’s Day as much as the next girl. I love to be told I’m loved and adored, I love to laugh  with my husband, Stephen and I love presents. But, some years, we’ve not had enough to get a Valentine’s present and make it through the week. You know, those lean years when you just have to choose which is more important. It is during those times I have felt more love than when I am given some token of love.

Love is a state of being. It’s not just a one day thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying (or am I ?) that one day out of the year does it for most people. I somehow can’t imagine that. But, many times, people choose only to show their affection through words and gestures on this one day.

My husband is not perfect. Neither am I. That’s what makes us so perfect for each other. But, my husband brags on me, tells of when we met with a gleam in his eye, talks about strengths he sees in me even before I see it myself and I do the same . We’re crazy about each other! That’s the whole thing. We are the real deal.

It’s not always been this way. No siree. There was a time when we were divorced. For two long years. I’m here to tell you we were the world’s worst divorced couple. We were miserable together and apart. But the thing was, we were more miserable apart than we ever were together. I moved away -way far away – to Granger, Texas. A four hour drive  from Stephen. Distance made no difference. If my car broke down, Stephen was there. If I was sick, he came to nurse me back to health. Flat tire? He came Stephen from Dallas to fix it.

Eventually, I moved back to Dallas and because I had no place to stay, Stephen let me stay at the house. It was Valentine’s Day 2000, when  he and the boys came in my room and said they’d talked and wondered if I would marry him again! He had asked the  boys if it was okay with them before he asked me. It was romantic and amazing and I realized I never had lost the love of my life. So, we married that April. We still celebrate our first marriage on our anniversary and six months later, we celebrate our second wedding anniversary. What could be more perfect than that?  We have the occassional argument, but not often at all.

So, I would like to suggest that Valentine’s is a state of mind and we would all do well to practice it every day. Besides, it’s more fun. It’s not the cards, flowers and stuff. Shoot! I have those things. But, the best thing, is the state of mind.

Stephen, “Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away.”

Waiting For a Better Connection

I’m posting from my phone tonight waiting for my new and improved internet connection to kick in tomorrow. While living in the sticks-away from the road and not taking the paper is quite nice- there is not a decent internet connection to be had.

We’ve lived out here about 9 years now and have had Internet through many different, but not major companies. Thus, we’ve been in search of the ultimate connection. So, tomorrow, we’ll see if the one major company is the one.

It kinda reminds me of watching “LoveConnection-the only kind of connection besides a phone call one could make back in the day. Chuck Woolery, quite the looker himself, was the host. It was a kind of dating game, but after the date was chosen and the couple went out, they then came back to the show to tell about their date and whether a connection was made or not. I saw ol’ Chuck hawking catheters not long ago. Wonder if that was a good connection gone bad? sigh. Well, can’t wait to see how ours turns out.

Preconceived Ideas? Better Think Again!

All of us have preconceived ideas about lots of things. Sometimes, our preconceived ideas have us refusing certain foods because of the color, the smell, but not usually the taste. What do you think when I say “Brussell Sprouts”? Does your lip curl at the smell of them? Do you shriek with terror? Or, do you lick your lips? What about when I say “Cops”? Does it conjure up a good connotation or a bad one? Fear? Anger? Compassion or perhaps, the phrase,

“They give their lives for our safety?”

So, then, what comes to mind when you think of homeless people? “Lazy?” “Crazy?” “Weird?” Do the words “Nice”, “Sweet,” “Funny?” ever come to mind? Have you ever taken the time to speak to a homeless person? Have you even looked them in the eye? Have you escorted someone to a restaurant and bought them lunch? Or does the mere mention of the word incite fear, anger and lack of understanding, fill you? 

I am asking because it seems we all have preconceived ideas regarding some topic or another- some words bring instant visuals to our minds’ eye. I am also asking because I used to have the same visual. I thought homeless folks were lazy, crazy, weird, scary and God forbid I ever look a homeless person in the eye. 

But, I had a change of heart when I began going to “The Gathering.” The Gathering, you may remember (because I write often about it), is a church for the “housed and unhoused” people of Dallas. Some of the most sincere, loving, funny, friendly, wonderful people worship at The Gathering with us.Some are ill, bipolar, mentally  ill, unable to get medications that might stabilize them, unable to get proper help for their illness. Most are so different than we think they are. Some made me feel ashamed I did not worship God with the fervor they did. But I learned and so can you.

“They” are us. “They” are what we might be someday, what the hidden part of ourselves could be. There is no “They” and “Us. There is,however, “We.” Because we could all be walking in their shoes. 

My challenge for this week is to start with a first step- make eye contact and say hi. How hard could that be, right? Well, it can be very difficult for some. Some folks have been taught negative things about homeless people all their lives.  It’s time to stop all of our preconceived ideas about the homeless and come to think of it, anyone else. So, practice… if you dare. Say hi, make eye contact. Maybe next week, you might have a smile. Choose one person. Make them your challenge. Step out of your comfort zone and walk in Jesus’ shoes for a day. Be kind. Love. Help someone else. I’d love to hear about your experiment.

When we help others, we forget our own troubles. Isn’t that worth it?

Growing Older Together

Stephen, my love, Happy Birthday!
Stephen, my love, Happy Birthday!

Today is my best friend’s birthday. My husband, my lover, my everything- is a year older today. It seems like yesterday when we met at Tom Thumb’s tobacco bar. Only wanting to buy  “two packets of Marlboro”, he ended up with a girlfriend and then a wife and then children and then grandchildren. I, on the other hand, ended up with a best friend, a husband, a father, a mentor, and someone I look up to every day. Who would have ever thought ?

We have had fun, sorrow, love, hate, joy, sadness and humdrumness together. And isn’t that the way it should be? We married- he adopted my daughter, loved her like his own always,  we had two boys. We divorced. We were terrible at it. We missed each other, loved each other , called each other, remarried. The second time around- bliss- not all the time- most of the time.Every day I am grateful this man waited for me to gather my craziness and marry me  all over again anyway. 

I look forward to the next year, awaiting new experiences, deeper love, laughter and pure -D silliness. I love you honey. Happy birthday. 

There But for the Grace of God….

would you help this man?
would you help this man?

Homelessness should be a crime. Not for the homeless, of course, but for those who let it continue. Those who vote against help for the homeless – those who disallow communities to be built for them or those who choose to disallow help for folks because they don’t want their property “devalued.” Wow. Really? Before you label me a bleeding heart liberal, follow through reading . 

I have epilepsy and bipolar disorder . In the last few weeks,my mood had crashed. In other words, I was so depressed, I could only sit and cry. That is what bipolar disorder does to you. Although I have been stable with it for a good long while, meds suddenly quit doing their job- in need of tweaking. I spent the last month in great despair because the meds quit working. I don’t choose that. It is a chemical imbalance in my brain that sometimes has a mind of it’s own. One might wonder why I was in such despair for such a long time. Well, the answer to that is because it usually takes about that long to find out if it is, in fact, a medication problem. Sometimes, depression comes about because of situations arising that we are not sure how to deal with. It does take time to sort out why one has crashed.  During that period of time, it is not easy to continue functioning. It is so easy to just stay in bed and sleep through it all. If one is asleep, no pain is felt, no tears, no hallucinations, no voices . It’s just easier. 

I called my doctor and she added a medication. She had samples for me, so I went to pick them up. It worked and for a change, it was a medication which worked quickly. I called to let her know it worked and could she call the prescription in. She did. When I went to pick it up, imagine my surprise when the clerk told me it would $262.00! And that was with my insurance paying part of it!  This is where it stops being about me .

Homeless people don’t choose to be homeless. Sometimes, it is because they  are mentally ill, sometimes because they are on drugs- addicted to some drug – maybe not for the high they get, but for the feeling of “normalcy” they get from it. Most people who are on drugs are on them because they are self -medicating. They want to feel like a “normal ” person. They don’t want to hear the voices that tell them to do bizarre things, or feel scared because there is something real there . 

Stay with me, please. I told my story to say homelessness is a vicious cycle. Let’s say someone has a good job, but has mental issues and  don’t really know or understand what is going on. Let’s say, then, our person tries a drug.. let’s say meth. From what i understand the meth high is a very short time period. But, meth is fairly cheap and may make someone feel “normal.” Therefore, he continues to take it over and over again to feel okay. Well, this person  may not know that meth causes massive paranoia, mini-strokes, tics and brain damage. He does, however, know it makes him feel right. All of this exacerbates his problem with his mental illness. Jobs are lost, relatives don’t want them because they are addicts. Where else can they go but the streets. Let’s say with their job, they had insurance. Even though they go to the doctor and get prescriptions for meds, the meds, like mine are so expensive our guy can’t afford to get them. Yes, there are generics- but not on all meds. The medications that do work well are third generation drugs- new drugs-expensive drugs. 

Yes, there may be addicts among the homeless. In most cases, the person has been through rehab many times and it can’t help because being sober means not feeling “normal.” How then, can we make mental help possible for people like this? There are low cost mental health clinics, but many times, one still has to pay something. How can one pay something if they can’t work? 

The cycle continues, cities are not willing to step up to help make the situation better, homelessness runs rampant and nothing is done.

People are afraid and shun the homeless folks. Why? People are afraid of what they don’t understand. That is why I write this missive. I want people to know there is nothing to be afraid of- say hi to a homeless person. If they ask for money and you don’t want to give it directly to them, why not take them to a sandwich shop and buy them a meal, a drink, a cookie? Treat them like they are human beings. Because that is what they are. They love and are loved. They get hungry,tired, sad, happy. Just do something out of your comfort zone. They will truly be grateful.

And there but for the grace of God go I. 

My Life in Pictures or…. What Makes Me Happy

My husband
My husband
Wedding at The Gathering
Wedding at The Gathering
silly cartoons
silly cartoons
Sunbeams
Sunbeams

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beautiful sunsets
beautiful sunsets
baby donkeys, adult donkeys and cartoon donkeys
baby donkeys, adult donkeys and cartoon donkeys

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practicing agility with Licorice
practicing agility with Licorice
our children and grandchildren
our children and grandchildren

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people watching
people watching
the moon
the moon
sunflowers
sunflowers
all of our dogs
all of our dogs
this little girl!
this little girl!
surprise artwork for me from my best friend
surprise artwork for me from my best friend
sitting in the pasture
sitting in the pasture

My 'Sexy Horse Pose"

Rev. Charles Keen listens while the Word of the Lord is being read.
Church- The Gathering , downtown dallas
my art
my art
more art
more art
creating art
creating art

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My crazy husband and beautiful daughter in law
My crazy husband and beautiful daughter in law

Uncomfortable? Think of Other Guy

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An old Scottish pastor, upon hearing I have Bipolar disorder, asked me what it felt like. I’d never really had anyone ask me what it “felt like.” I’m not sure there are words for it. But, pictured here is what it  looks like.  I have been stable with medication for a while. But, I painted these two examples of what bipolar is and what it feels like only yesterday. “But,” you may be thinking, “You just said you were stable.” Well, see that’s the whole thing about bipolar.

Bipolar means manic depression. Some folks may be more depressed – some more manic. And still more may be mixed-yep, depressed AND manic at the same time.  And that’s where it gets complicated. That’s when there are no words to describe it because iit all becomes too much. Too many feelings racing through my head, too many things that irritate and agitate me- too much noise, too much frustration- just too much. Overwhelming sadness, overwhelming hyperactive behaviour- all at once. Organizing, cleaning, music, laughter, crying- all symptoms of mania.

Overwhelming, crippling sadness, the inability to get out of bed, the inability to care, the inability to move.The tears, the screaming, both in my head and out of my mouth.

A call to my doctor decreases a med here and maybe add a med there. An atypical anti psychotic, she says. “I don’t want to if i can get away from it,” I say.” It makes me feel flat, takes away my imagination, my ability to write, communicate and paint. My creativity gone- in one fell swoop. That is why folks diagnosed with bipolar don’t stay on the meds they are prescribed. Ridiculously expensive and highly effective as far as curbing the feelings, non-feelings, voices, weird behaviour and activity, they come with a bevy of side effects not the least of which is flat affect or no real feelings at all. More of a numbness. So, the plight of the mentally ill  is basically too many feelings, thoughts and more or none.

I have a wonderful psychiatrist who has worked with me for long about 20 years or more now and my therapist is so in tune to the cycles in my mind. She can usually help me ward them off before they actually come to the surface. I waited too long to go see her this time. I’ll know better next time.

Mental illness is debilitating at best. I have tried to use words to describe what happens- what goes on- but it is difficult helping a non-mentally ill person sort it out. The triggers that set a mentally ill person off may be nothing to someone else. That is why it is so difficult to understand and so difficult to relate to. It is like folks say, ” Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a disease.”

People are sometimes not nice to people like me. I don’t really have that problem since i’ve been stable. But, just let me cycle- let me go manic or depressed and then some people think “pulling myself up by my bootstraps ” should do the job. Righty-o. Please try to have patience, empathy and if nothing more than a modicum of understanding if you see someone on the streets talking to themselves, making gestures to no one in particular. If you think it is uncomfortable for you- imagine what it is for us.