Archives for October 2014

29 October 2014

I hear the clamor—you want an update on Polo and Clover, don’t you?

Currently, Polo is lying on a pillow next to me while I write. That’s where she often is. Clover is lying on top of the picnic table, next to my pot of oolong. I can only hope the squirrels stay away so she doesn’t leap and loose my tea from its cozy home.

The other night we were at an outdoor dinner party at a friend’s ranch, and her dog, Chevy, wandered around the guests, making herself at home. I’ve met Chevy before. She’s a white Lab, 11 years old. But even though she’s about 100 pounds bigger than Clover, the two of them do the same thing—if you pet them, they flop over onto their backs and put all four paws in the air and let you rub their bellies.

I spent some quality time with Chevy after most of the guests had left. I sat in the grass with her, rubbing that belly. I considered lying down next to her, but everyone would have talked about John’s weird wife. You know, that poet lady. I try to behave myself in public, but it can be difficult when a sweet dog wanders by.

Years ago, before my parents turned the screened porch into a second living room, my aunt and uncle came down from Wyoming with their dog, which back then was a white husky. My uncle didn’t want the dog to be lonely, so he slept out on the porch with him. At the time, I thought he was crazy. Now, I wish I would’ve dragged my sleeping bag out there with him.

A poem about sweeping (someone’s gotta do it)



I feel stupid. She’s sweeping and I’m praying

in the church that’s open all day, every day. She’s


Someone’s got to sweep it. Why not at 10:34 a.m. on a Thursday.

And what am I doing praying in the middle

of the morning on a Thursday. Don’t I have anything better

to do, like


I am not the only slacker here—four of us kneel while she sweeps

like I’ve never swept my own home.

She’s on her third pass now

with her blue dust mop. She shakes the leaves,

dirt, dead beetles near me in the corner. Leaves

to locate the dust pan with snap-on brush. I stay.

Stare at the debris, so easy to collect, to toss out.

Michelle DeRusha’s “50 Women Every Christian Should Know”

Last week I said I hadn’t read any friends’ books lately, but I did read Michelle DeRusha’s “50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith.” I finished it before my vacation, and then we had a family funeral, so I never sat down to process it.

I did take time to send Michelle an email about the book: “I think one reason I liked your book is because for a lot of those women, the hard season never ended. They would never write a bestseller on overcoming in Christ. They did the best they could. That resonates with me.”

She replied back, “In many cases they simply learned to live IN the hard season and to survive it.”

As I went back through my Kindle notes, here are some of the quotes I highlighted.

Julian of Norwich: “He said not: Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be afflicted; but He said: Thou shalt not be overcome.”

Margery Kempe: “He who writes pleases me right much.”

Mary Lyon: “Be not hasty to decide that you have no physical or mental strength and no faith or hope.”

on Harriet Tubman: “God ‘knows all about mothers’ hearts; He wont break yours,’ Candace assures the bereft mother.”

on Amy Carmichael: “They yearned for success stories of hope and redemption, not the hard, unsweetened truth as Amy presented it.”

on Ruth Bell Graham: ““It was write or develop an ulcer. I chose to write,’ she admitted.”

on Flannery O’Connor: “The unseen was as real to her as the visible universe.” (and because it’s Flannery O’Connor—she gets two quotes!) “In my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace.”

These quotes spoke to me personally, but in choosing to highlight these women, I left out others I already loved — Teresa of Ávila, Thèrése of Lisieux, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, Madeleine L’Engle (my writing hero).

Some of these sainted women from other centuries I’d heard of through the writings of Richard Foster. I’ve read about others on my own. But Michelle introduced me to women like Phyllis Wheatley, Pandita Ramabai, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Faye Edgerton.

These women are our heritage. Thank you, Michelle, for writing something of substance, something beyond the Christian fads. If these women all gathered for tea, they would disagree on many particulars, just not the most important thing.



Maple tree poem

What Drought Hath Wrought


I thought trees didn’t die

especially not my maple, my lost maple


It’d be fine without rain. Oh sure

we cut back on running the sprinklers since


they were broken

but I should’ve at least poured out the dog’s water bowl

on those roots I should’ve

done a few rain dances in the moonlight

should’ve prayed just once


But the tree guys

the young one with the moustache and the older one with the aviators

said the maple — “It ain’t gonna get any less dead” — was killing

the pecan tree.

“F’we cut it down, off the power lines, that pecan’ll grow right. Get some sun.”


I don’t know if the pecan tree has noticed it can breathe but

it has thanked us, filled our grass with nuts.


An Apology to my Bloggy Friends

Dear Bloggy Friends,

Those of you spread across the country, doing your part to fill online spaces with good words, I have neglected you, and I am sorry. I have missed you all.

I almost wish I could claim some awful tragedy over the past four months prevented me from visiting your blogs and reading your guest posts. But no. I was just busy finishing my own book. My manuscript is now being edited, and I can finally think beyond my own words.

Those of you who released books during these months, I haven’t read them. I haven’t even seen the hype. I know I’ve missed so much great stuff.

I swore I wouldn’t be this person, the person too busy for anyone but herself. But I was. Of course, I did, you know, still do my job and move two kids to school and take a much-needed vacation with my husband. Polo and Clover still got walked. I’ve traveled over 1,200 miles in the last two weeks … all in Texas.

The one place I won’t be traveling this fall is to The High Calling retreat at Laity Lodge. That weekend already is full. But I will read your words.

Distractedly yours,


Waltz Across Texas

Okay, so it’s not exactly a waltz across Texas. It’s a drive. A long drive.

Last week we went to South Padre, at the tip of Texas. This week we’re in Amarillo, at almost the top of Texas. Padre was for vacation. Amarillo is for a funeral for someone gone too soon. The day after I return, I’ll drive to San Antonio, and the day after that, to Waco. Such is the life of a Texan.

I drive, therefore I am.

When you drive the middle section of the state, the only hills are where I currently live. Lots of flat land on either end of the state. The mountains are out west. The pine trees are in the east. No autumn color yet. The only thing to see is the sky.

I’m used to driving. I like it. When I have the wheel, I don’t like to relinquish it (just ask my husband).

But this trip I hitch a ride with other family members. We travel interstates and U.S. highways and state highways. Maybe even a farm-to-market road or two. Our family converges not only from all parts of Texas but also New Mexico and Oklahoma. The Californians are now Austinites.

We drop everything and come because that’s what family does. We spend money intended for something else, and we don’t think twice. We give each other space to grieve loudly or quietly or to run necessary errands or to be busy in the kitchen.

But we do not understand. Not at all.








South Padre shells

At the end of my month off blogging, my husband and I took a trip to South Padre Island.

South Padre Island

I did bring my computer, but I didn’t use it except for one work email. I brought my poetry journal but didn’t even open it. Mostly I watched birds and waves and collected shells—177 of them.

When I was a child and our family went to the beach, I collected shells, but I don’t remember finding them in this many colors. Forty-two are autumn shells: yellows and browns and even a little orange. Another 16 looked black when I picked them up, but they’ve dried to gray. Two dozen are striped blues. Thirty-one are more traditional white and variations of white. All the shells I just described are what’s known as Atlantic Cockles, although I also have several broken abalones.

“What are you going to do with those?” my husband asked.

I still don’t know. It just seemed important to save them. It was our first trip alone in two-and-a-half years, our first time to go to the coast by ourselves. I can’t save the sound of the waves or the smell of the salt, but I can save these shells.

Unfortunately, I do not own a glue gun or any crafting materials that could be used to make the shells cute. I really don’t do cute. I can write a poem about things, but I don’t know what to do with actual things I can hold in my hands.

Maybe no one else would find my shells as spectacular as I do. If they were in a museum, the exhibit would be labeled “Common Texas Gulf Coast Shells.” But I found each one. I got more sun while bent over the sand, picking up shells, than I did in the water. I can remember finding the speckled one, the one with three hues of gray, the one that looks like a latte—complete with a milky swirl. They’re mine. I’ll figure out something.