Archives for November 2014

Travel poem

(Since it’s the busiest travel weekend of the year, I thought I’d post a travel poem. For all you non-Texans, Utopia and Happy are actual Texas towns: Utopia is in the Hill Country, and Happy is in the Panhandle.)


God’s Country


It’s 444 miles from Happy to Utopia

seven hours and thirty-six minutes if you go the speed limit.

No one does.


Happy, with one foot in two counties, “The Town Without a Frown.” Utopia

(so named only

because “Montana, Texas” was already taken).


It’s a long way from from the land of sky that scoops

you up to the land that looks like it doesn’t belong

like God forgot what he was doing,


threw out some miniature mountains, stuck in the Sabinal

river, relocated some lost maples down the road,

not far from the endangered birds that do pretty well so near nirvana.


I don’t know

how many folks travel the other direction, from Utopia

to Happy. It’s hard to justify a trip out of paradise


for mere happiness but some folks’ll do just that

just to watch the sun jump up and down

all over those Panhandle skies.

Thankful for Someone Else’s Words

I’ve been trying to think about what to write for Thanksgiving in this space. No words. I think I put them all in the December issue of the WACOAN.

I’m aware that all is not well everywhere, in every home, this Thanksgiving. So I’m turning to my friend Lisha Epperson, who says what needs to be said better than I could ever say it.

Take care, y’all.


Apple poem

(I had a discussion with novelist Elizabeth Crook, who informed me that “tump” is one of those Texas words I thought everyone knew, as in, “My boat tumped over.” If you don’t know the word, you should. Everyone needs strong one-syllable words. Like this one.)


Found a “Tump Me” sign on my apple cart.

I didn’t put it there. Not sure

who did, unless it was the apple cart,

no longer willing to carry apples.


The sign lay sideways on the ground along with the tumped

apples all over the street,

where hungry children grabbed them.

Ate the evidence.


I grabbed the handles. Righted the traitor cart.

It can’t run, only tump.

And the trees are



Some of you have commented on my red teacups above. When I was discussing the blog design with the Blog Whisperer, she suggested I do something with tea, since I tweet about it all the time.

“Not a teapot, though,” I said. “I’m not fancy about it. I just drink a lot a lot of tea.” (Those two “a lot”s are intentional. Two quarts a day is a minimum.)

After hearing that, she found me the stack of teacups.

I drink my tea in mugs and cups, most of which are Christmas-y. Here’s a little something I discovered, though, after a particularly busy season of writing—the more overwhelmed I am, the smaller the tea cup.

Smaller is somehow bigger. The constant trips up and down to refill my tiny cup, to warm up more water in my electric tea kettle and then pour that over the teabag in my teapot, somehow that flow helps the words flow, too.

(Did you notice I said “teabag”? I am not a tea snob. I buy my tea off the rack at H-E-B. I do not desecrate it with sugar or milk. Straight up, no chaser.)

The one exception to this is for a long editing day. Then I prefer as big a mug as possible because I read everything aloud. Stay put, stay hydrated.

Today is a medium editing day, so I’m drinking out of a medium mug, a gift from my friend Ann Kroeker. She and another friend, Charity Singleton Craig, recently published a book on writing, and if I’m not completely bleary-eyed when I finish working, I plan to curl up and read about how to sustain this writing life.


Apart from buying more tea, of course.

How Cooking Is Saving Me

My friend Shelly Miller wrote a post called “How Saturdays Are Saving Me.” It’s also about cooking.

The whir of the Kitchen Aid, the ting of the timer, chocolate melting in the oven, the aroma of chicken simmering in the Crockpot — it all seems like a holy union, as if the act of cooking is saving me somehow.

Shelly’s life has been in flux for a while now, as she and her husband prepare for a move to London. There have been delays, twists. They should have been there by now. Instead, they are doing the best they can, one day at a time, with no income.

Four months of living in exile leads me back to what is base to humanity. In cooking, I’m looking for some small crumb of hope in the silent mystery that currently encompasses life.

Shelly says that cooking anchors her. And I so get that. When the storm in my life came, I didn’t recognize it for the monster it was. One day I looked up and realized I hadn’t cooked in two years.

So finally, I was ready. And I was scared. Where should I start? Would it make any difference? Most important, If I make it, will they come?

I turned to another friend (who happens to be a friend of Shelly’s) — Kristin Schell. I wish I remembered which of her recipes I tried first, but I can’t. All I remember is it worked. I made it, people gathered around the table and ate it, and it was good.

That was about a year and a half ago when I started cooking again. The storm didn’t stop—not by any means—but like Shelly, I found that cooking settled me.

Every time I follow one of Kristin’s recipes, it’s a bit of a mystery–if I do what she says to do, will it work out? Will it nourish my soul? Last night my husband came home to the smells of Roasted Chicken with Apples & Shallots. A couple of days earlier, I’d made Potluck Fiesta Bean Salad for a Bible study dinner. I’m planning to make her Baked Artichoke Nibbles for Thanksgiving.

I’m not cooking every day, but when I do, it feels like something miraculous.

That is why I’m drawn to my kitchen to create and cannot explain it. And why I cook with my shoes off.

Amen, Shelly.


The other day I traded emails with a friend who had liked my November column in the Wacoan magazine. It was about getting my first new car.

The friend wrote, “I also enjoyed your Wacoan article about your new car, enjoy!”

I wrote back, “One of my more frivolous columns, to be sure. Next month’s will be more moving, I promise. 🙂 “

And he said, “I needed something frivolous at the time.”

Wow. I totally get that.

Most of my columns and blogs over the last year or two have been on the frivolous side. That’s been intentional. I’m not all that frivolous a person. Actually, I’m a fuddy-duddy. My husband has been begging me to dance with him, and finally, after 25 years, I’ve done it twice in the last month.

Frivolous topics have been my salvation lately because I can’t talk about the heavy. It’s too heavy, too raw. So I’ve written about my dogs (which people love). I’ve written poetry (which people don’t seem to hate).

In writing about his play “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde wrote, “That we should treat all trivial things very seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality.”

Those words have been my north star. A new car may be trivial, but everyone reading my stuff has either had a new one or wanted one. It’s trivial, but by taking it seriously, I tap into something common (for Americans, at least). And the serious things of life? Good golly, they’re serious! I keep looking for ways to talk about them “with sincere and studied triviality.”

When I go out to lunch with a friend, sure, we share the hard stuff. We also talk about things like, Did you see that house down the block that’s already put up its Christmas lights? … There’s a sale downtown. … Yes, I’ll give you the recipe for that soup I brought to the thing the other night. … Cute boots!

Frivolous, every one. Balm of Gilead, to be sure.

Sunday Haiku



Life feels heavy and

I am too light for it all.

Walk on anyway.

Deep thoughts from Hilton

Hey, there. I’m staying at a Homewood Suites by Hilton for work, and I found the most interesting placard in my room about their message. Here it is:

In ancient times there was a prayer for “The Stranger Within Our Gates…”

Because this hotel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a for profit organization, we hope that God will grant you peace and rest while you are under our roof.

May this room and this hotel be your “second” home. May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be comfortable and happy as if you were in your house.

May the business that brought you our way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy. When you leave, may your journey be safe.

We are all travelers. From “birth till death” we travel between the eternities. May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those who know and love you best.

Well, dang!

Same to you, friends, whatever your travels.

A poem inspired by my poetry muse–George Strait

There’s more to come about how George Strait became my poetry muse, but for now, here’s a poem inspired by his song “Run.” Some of the lyrics are interspersed.



She’s up early. Lingers with coffee, wonders how she’s stuck in Dallas, of all places. Turns on the radio, steps in the shower. When she gets out, her phone’s ringing. It’s him. She listens, doesn’t say much. Then he says, “Don’t you walk to me.

Baby, run.”

She doesn’t answer, just hangs up softly. Grabs her bag, throws in that nightgown, a toothbrush. Baby, run. Out to the Chevy, the one he hates. (He’s a Ford man.) Fires it up. Takes that shortcut to the highway, the one that runs by the high school where they met. Baby, run. Steps on the gas and off the clutch. Drives til she needs gas. So distracted she puts in super unleaded. Leaves Dallas in the dust. Interstate. Headed west. Past Cowtown. Won’t let that speed limit slow her down. She goes on and breaks it. Relaxes when she hits Abilene. It’s all behind her now. On to Big Spring. Already, things look different. Baby, run. Hello, Midland. Bye, Odessa. Straight in a straight line to Mohanas. Pick up I-10. She can’t get there fast enough. Down to Fort Stockton, stop at McDonald’s. Gosh, she hasn’t eaten. She needs him in a rush. On Highway 67, cuts a path across the blue skies. Why’d it take her so long? Out there ain’t where she oughta be. She belongs here, where the mountains rise straight out of the desert. She slows at his ranch, just a few miles out from town. The road slopes down, so she does what she always used to do—puts it in neutral. Coasts home.