Archives for January 2012

Birthday Folly

How, oh how can I thank my dear friends for their birthday posts? To link to them here seems rather self-promoting (although you sgouldvisit theirblogs). But Jennifer Dukes Lee and Lyla Lindquist and Sandra Heska King slipped into God’s stream and helped me to celebrate my birthday.

I’ve sort of skipped the last two. I skipped 40 because it was too soon after my mom died. And 39, well, here it is:

(in case you have a thing for cancer poems, just look to the left and there are 72 of them, ready and waiting)


Mom and Dad came from the east bearing birthday gifts

smoked turkey, brisket, creamed

corn, potato salad, coleslaw,

sausage, beans, ribs, chocolate chunk cookies.

We dig in.

Mom, adept at hiding chemo’s forced starvation,

picks at her food (except for the cookie).

I break out the Fat Tire — our favorite microbrew,

an amber ale divinely inspired on a bike trip. I sip,

savor the label: “Follow your folly. Ours is beer.”

Mom’s is to believe until the last possible second

that she will be spared.

Navigating by St. Mary’s

In our small town, St. Mary’s is a church and a school, both Catholic. The church has been around since 1846 and claims about 40 percent of the town’s residents as members. The school started 10 years later. For years, it went through high school, but it now ends at eighth grade. When St. Mary’s kids finish middle school, they usually come to Fredericksburg High School to finish their education. My son has become friends with a lot of St. Mary’s guys because they dominate the sports teams. And now that my son and his friends are beginning to drive, an interesting distinction between the public and private school kids has been revealed:

The St. Mary’s guys navigate by St. Mary’s. Many of them are incapable of finding their way around town without driving to St. Mary’s first.

So, if they want to run to Sonic after basketball practice, they have to drive to St. Mary’s. Same if they want to go to McDonald’s. Or Walmart. Or even certain gas stations.

I find it fascinating that for a certain group of young men in our town, a church is still the center of their world.


This poem was published in the Autumn, 2007 edition of “Inspirit: The Literary Journal of Baughman Memorial United Methodist Church.”

for Uncle Don
The wife said, One of these days!
She said it as she held on to the porch rail, steadyin’ herself
That new church she’s been going to, they put a labyrinth out back
The wife says it’s nice, but I ain’t gone yet and don’t intend to
The weather’s been too nice to waste it wandering around in circles
But today, though, it commenced to raining pretty good
You’d’ve thought a fella’d have more than a dollar-store umbrella in his truck
But the wife insisted on washing my gimme cap
So I elected to get wet
and go check it out. Here’s what it’s like:
You start at the beginning and follow the edge
I don’t know how you get lost walking in a straight line, but I did
Three times
Still you just put one foot in front of the other
It’s not a maze. There’s nothing for you to think.
You just walk and walk until you wind up in the middle
There was this rock there, so I sat on it
‘Cuz it was there and all
The rain left and the whole thing was blazin’ with sunlight
Then I walked out
I didn’t notice nothing I’d seen on the way in
I thought I was facing the wrong way
but I still went right the whole way out
The rain’d stopped, so I got back in my truck and opened the windows
I drove home the same way I’d come, back to my wife
Who had laid my ballcap out on the porch rail to dry.

Nature Walk

First, Laura Boggess reminded her readers about going outside for a “playdate with God.” Then, Cassandra Frear said that she loves winter walks because she finds nests in leafless trees. So on my sabbath, I headed out to the nature trail at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.

When I had last been? Two years? Three? It was back when my kids were young enough to think that a nature walk was a fun idea.

It was chilly, but not cold. Brilliant sun (not a single cloud). So, off to find nests. But I didn’t find any. What I thought was a nest turned out to be …

a cat. Do you see him? He’s fat and grey. In fact, he looks like he just ate the entire nest whole and decided to sit up there for the rest of his days.

So much for spiritual inspiration. Isn’t this typical, I thought. I go looking for serenity and find a predator.

But a little further down the trail, I found something else …

birds. I don’t know if you can see them, but if you had passed by the Bird Blind and Feeding Area, you would have heard them. There were so many birds that it sounded like water splashing. This little area was absolutely teeming with birds. I sat on one of the bar stools and just watched and listened.

Not as long as I should have stayed, but long enough to notice.

For the Doors

inspired by Edward Hirsch’s “For the Sleepwalkers”


This morning I want to say a thank you

to the solid doors that serve this home,

that watch each day’s going out


and each day’s coming back in.

That keep our secrets in suitcases,

our shoes, neatly matched.


That bar strangers, neighbors,

even friends. Sometimes, even unlocked,

they secure us in the bathroom,


where we splash water in the sink to drown

out the shouting just on the other side.

My heart says: Swing wide.


Swing open. Swing back and forth.

May knobs hobble off and keys

take wing. Be screened—not solid.


Let the air in. Slam joyfully.

Play indoors and outdoors

at once, as if they were the same.


We have to make our souls mesh.

We must become an exit

as well as an entrance


to every person. In every

season, when we must

close, let us lay unlatched, like a gate.

Happy Perihelion Day!

If I had been paying attention, I would have posted this last Wednesday, January 4, when Perihelion Day actually occurred. What is Perihelion Day? The day the Earth is closest to the sun. (OK, it’s not a named day, but don’t you think it should be?)

That’s right, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, that day the Earth is closest to the sun comes in winter. You know, the season of Frosty the Snowman and seasonal affective disorder. That means the antihelion, the day the Earth is farthest from the sun, comes in summer, in July.

Sidenote: No, this doesn’t explain seasons. The Earth’s tilt on its axis explains seasons.

In December, I read a lot of posts about the solstice. Winter … dark. But what I didn’t know was that just a few days later, winter would mean … sun. Not necessarily light. Not yet.

Life can look very dark and cold. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re far from the sun. We might be closer than ever.

Unless, of course, you live in the Southern Hemisphere. Then this little analogy is completely worthless.


Next door a cardinal

(a female) is flinging leaves under the photinia

bush. Nesting,

I suppose, like all the women in December,

flinging themselves from store to store,

from kitchen to party and back.

Barely red, the cardinal flutters to the fence

to watch me typing, typing, typing,

then bathes herself in trampoline water.

She flies from the squish of composting leaves

to the sparse pecan branches, dripping grey.

She screeches at me, “Let me out of here!”

Can’t you fly, dear bird? Can’t you pilot yourself away?

“No,” she says. “I’ll never fly more than one mile

from the nest where I was born.”

If I wanted, I could get in my car and be at the coast

by the end of today, or in the mountains

by tomorrow night. The cardinal leaves,

probably to a nearby nest. I am lucky

she came because hope is a busy cardinal

visiting on a dank holiday morning.

There and Back Again: with Charity Singleton

And somehow I know I was meant to sit here this day, at the end of a painful year, holding onto this little rug that nearly couldn’t be fixed, and figure it out.

Charity Singleton, from her blog, “Wide Open Spaces.” The post: “Fix The Thing.”

A lot of you know Charity. Last year was rough for her, including another bout with cancer. But to meet her–as I did in September–you just forget about all that.

I haven’t walked Charity’s path, but I did grow up with a great deal of cancer in my family, including both my parents. There was a lot in my life that couldn’t be fixed. And as a child, I couldn’t figure it out.

“What is your New Year’s resolution?” people have asked this week.

I roll my eyes and sigh. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Any plans I make are easily changed on my digital devices. Why? Because I must always be ready for tragedy.

It always comes. It always has. It always will. I thought I was crazy until I read Hope Edelman’s “Motherless Daughters” and “Motherless Mothers.” No, I’m not crazy; I’m a category.

And then, of course, I’m always expecting that I’m going to get sick, as in cancer-sick. I’m stunned that I’m about to turn 41. I never thought I’d live this long. Every doctor I’ve ever had is nice and friendly until they take my family’s medical history. Then their eyes get wide. They look away.

So I try to live ready. If not me, then surely someone in the family will need me. As soon as the magazine is done this month, I’m good to go. And when it doesn’t come, I have a list of things that need doing, and I do them. But that list isn’t a list of goals. It’s just a laundry list of stuff, like laundry. An oil change.

Charity makes me question everything I just wrote, perhaps because she has walked where I fear to tread. What if I tried to figure it out, instead of giving up at the outset? What if got out my needle and thread (Confession: I can’t sew.) … What if I got out my metaphorical needle and thread and simply tried to fix the thing? I have no idea what might happen.

There and Back Again

The 13 Days of Christmas: tea

Why 13 days? Because that’s how long my kids are out of school!


Today Day 13. I celebrate the end of Christmas vacation with one of the 13 teas on my newly organized tea shelf. Eight of them are gifts from my dad, who purchased them at the Tea Embassy in Austin, Texas.

Thanks to all of you who came along for the ride over the winter break. You helped me stretch.

The 13 Days of Christmas: H-E-B

Why 13 days? Because that’s how long my kids are out of school!


Yesterday was New Year’s, and once we got home from our trip, my cupboard was bare. So, off to H-E-B, where they very thoughtfully bagged my black-eyed peas with my Shiner Bock. I love Texas!