Sunday, December 4, 2011



For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5

Remember the wonders he has done,
His miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. Psalm 105:5

I came that they might have life and might have it abundantly. John 10:10

Sarah Young, Jesus Calling: “Let thankfulness rule your heart. As you thank me for blessings in your life, a marvelous thing happens. It is as if scales fall off your eyes, enabling you to see more and more of my glorious riches…Enjoy abundant life by overflowing with praise and thankfulness.” (this is from a daily devotional book)

Abundance Retreat is the perfect name of a place for a getaway in the Texas Hill Country. What a recent treat to visit there with four friends for a weekend – wild women in Wimberley! Food and drink, games and stories, walks by the creek, rockers on the porch, laughter and tears, dreams and fears, devotions and jokes, shopping and lunching, tasting the salsas and wines. Good friends – good times! Thank you, Lord, for Cassandra, Judy, Lori and Nancy!

Returning home, my life was full with activities from sons and their wives visiting for Thanksgiving holidays. Stress of traffic, night driving and storms quickly fell away at the Joey Wilkins Foundation Dinner and Auction. Our bids “won” some treasures – a Stetson cowboy hat for Travis, an auto detailing package to clean the West Texas red dirt off Darrell’s truck and 4-day passes to the Colonial Golf tournament. The next day we wandered through the Fort Worth Stockyards and showed Chelsea the best ever elephant collection at The White Elephant Saloon. When Jonathan and Erica arrived for Thanksgiving dinner, we followed Erica’s suggestion to eat dessert first. She served us chocolate cake balls that revealed blue on first bite – their way of announcing their baby is a boy – and then sonogram pictures with labels to prove it! Abundant joy in the family!

Now we have transitioned quickly into the next holiday season, packed with lots of possible activities to pick and choose, to busy ourselves and distract ourselves from the original intent of the traditions of Christmas celebrations. In advent, like in pregnancy, we live and wait for the arrival of the baby. Our minds are full with memories and certain expectations for the season. We pressure ourselves to attend certain events, to look a certain way among friends, family and unknowns, to find the perfect gifts, to serve the best foods, to achieve the best looks for holiday d├ęcor in the home.

If the hustle/ bustle becomes too much, take time away to just sit in reverence and reflect on the true gift of God to us for the season and for the whole span of our lives. Remember the story of Jesus visiting in the home of Mary and Martha? Martha was distracted with all her busy preparations.

Luke 10:41-42 But the Lord said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken from her.”

Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening. Maybe that’s what this season should be about – moments of peace found in listening – hearing the carols, friend’s stories, scriptures and sermons, thunder and rain. What is the voice of the Holy Spirit saying to you this holiday season? The message that I am hearing is be thankful for your abundant blessings, share your abundance with those in need, slow down and let your heart rejoice in peace.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Dear Clint

I Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass darkly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Hebrews 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Our friend Clint claims to be a hard agnostic; that means he believes that it is not possible to “know” that there is a God. His claims are true. God does not call us to mountain tops like Moses to give us concrete messages etched in stone. In this life, we do not get to see him face to face. But we do get to see evidence of his presence that calls us to faith. Where is this evidence? Look around you! It is in sunrises and sunsets, stars and moons, mountains and oceans, eagles and hummingbirds, Science, History, Mathematics and Literature, births and deaths. We just have to live with a sense of awareness to be able to see it.

When we do step out in faith, what happens? Our prayers are answered to give us better than our meager imaginations requested. We are connected to others – some in need of our talents, our listening ears, and a share of our abundance – and through these connected experiences we learn more of God’s grace and God’s true care for every soul. How can he do all that? Well, Archie Bunker, it’s because God is God!

My favorite personal story about God’s providence is through serving in a summertime activity called Project Read. (Sorry to keep repeating this event in my writings, but it keeps coming back to me, especially during the Thanksgiving season, calling me to gratitude.) People from my church donate children’s books and we take them to various locations in Grapevine where children who normally receive free lunch at school are fed during their school vacation days. I would visit with the children and their moms under the shade of the trees at the Grace building near their trailer park. On one of those sweltering days, one of the moms asked me if I could help her get an air conditioner for her children’s bedroom. My brain said, “How in the world am I going to do that,” while my voice and my heart said, “Yes.” Taking her written contact information to the church secretary, I was confident that some good person would find a way to help her in time. That night Darrell & I were sitting in the comfort of our Lazy boy recliners watching the big screen TV cooled by the central air that is a common expectation in most of our homes and a phone call from a friend was a welcomed interruption to our dangling conversation. He wanted to know what to do with the used window unit that we had given him a few years ago to use in his backyard shop. He had just bought a new, larger edition and wanted to return our gift. Wow, did that ever get my attention! Call it coincidence or karma; I call it God’s grace that connected me on that day to another person with a need. My gratitude for that experience is still with me. Moments like that happen more and more when you take steps to serve God by serving others. Moments like that serve to confirm your faith in the unseen and the unknowable.

Another mystical experience occurred to confirm my faith and the setting was a very unlikely place, a group meeting with a psychic which she advertises as a Circle of Light. Well, we actually sit in a circle in the pitch darkness, but I suppose the light is a metaphor for my enlightenment. During this group meeting, I had messages from loved ones who had passed on – both of my grandmothers, Uncle Mendil, and Darrell’s dad Jack. They mentioned memorable shared experiences that were in no way knowable to the lady who was the medium. My grandmother, Nana, reminded me of the time when our family was gathered in a private hospital meeting room to visit with the chaplain due to her imminent death. Her heart had stopped for several minutes during surgery but at that time she miraculously came back and was in our lives for several more years. She said if she had known what it was going to be like, she would have gone ahead and left us then. She said it was better than I could ever imagine. I believe her, so I also believe that God gives us an indescribable existence after death. I don’t “know” it because I have seen it with my eyes, but I know it.

So how does living with faith and connection to God affect your life here and now? It takes away fear and replaces it with peace and contentment. It gives you heightened awareness of beauty and blessings. It helps you see the goodness and potential in other souls you meet. It helps you see the connectedness of all creation and your own interchangeable role in the ever changing, evolving world.

We are living in a current world that has access to so much knowledge, so much information that it sometimes becomes overwhelming to sort through it all and make it match with our personal ability to reason. Why would an all-powerful God not just jump in the midst of events that seem out of control and do a grand fix? Too much war, disease, injustice! Yes, but in midst of all the craziness, there are pockets of glorious richness.

My prayer for Clint is for God to bring him to a job that will challenge his mind, give him enough money to live comfortably and give him satisfaction that he is making a significant contribution to the world; that God will bring him a soul mate to share his life experiences; that God will pour out his blessings on him to confirm his faith in what cannot be known. Yes, our bodies will turn to dirt just like the great names and the anonymous ones who have gone before us, but our spirits do continue…blessings to all on this All Saints Sunday, when we keep special remembrance for those who have passed on before us.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Malachi 3:10 “Test me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Top Ten/Eleven Reasons to Love Ron Washington

Today was a tough day at work. I let 5 things annoy me. Student, parent, co-worker, situation where the school phone system put all incoming calls into my room (What???), and a "friend" who sent me a message that he thinks Ron Washington is stupid. Oh, really! The nerve of that guy who spends his time finding a friend's sports passion and purposefully routing against that team! Oh, writing is such sweet therapy! Although I would never use my blog to vent about personal stories related to my job - I will use it to reply to the taunts of a misguided sports devil!

Here's why we all should lend our support to Texas Rangers manager, Ron Washington.

11.  He reminds me of a favorite Saturday Night Live skit - baseball been very good to me!

10. He did cocaine and since decided to follow a different path.

9. He’s from New Orleans, suffered & survived loss in Katrina.

8. He gives us great quotes.

7. Here’s one of his great quotes:  Whenever one of those styles is needed, I know how to use it. If I have to take it to the opposing team, I will. If the team is going well, I'll kick back and watch them play. If my offense is struggling, then I have to do something to help get them over it. You adjust to whatever the situation is.”

6. He has wisdom, but not eloquence.

5. His players love him (leadership)!

4. He’s made enough right decisions to get my home team to the World Series 2 years in a row!

3. He has a cute booty that likes to shimmy!

2. He has joie de vie – and he lets it show all over!

1. He reminds me of our dear, departed friend, Tom Armstrong!

Romans 3:23  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Matthew 7:1  Do not judge lest you be judged.

Acts 2:28  You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gray Sightings

Shades of Gray

Job 12:12 Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comfort us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Lately every time I buy a new article of clothing it turns out to be gray. What’s up with that? A new favorite color? Well, it does provide a nice contrast to pink, red, purple and green, orange or yellow (I don’t wear yellow)! It does blend well with black or white. It does show that something has aged to a patina, like the weathered wood of a fence or a barn. It’s not an extreme, it’s not showy – but it could be a badge of experience or wisdom.

When I was a little girl, I loved to claim the grey Fiesta dinner plate at my Mamaw’s house and match it to the almost worn smooth stainless steel Mickey Mouse spoon. In my mind they were pure silver trinkets meant for the royal princess. My mother always admired grey houses with yellow trim – they must have been a sign of happy families inside. When Darrell & I bought our first house (a vintage fixer upper) we had new siding installed to cover the outside walls – grey planks with black shutters for the windows.

How do you see the world? Black and white, shades of gray or through rosy colored glasses? I think I see the gray version with slight accents of the pink…To me, the gray version means there is a lot of good and bad mixed in together. In the confines of a week we receive criticism and compliments, we experience confusion and understanding, we witness great wins and frustrating losses in our chosen sports teams, we learn of death of one personally connected within hours of celebrating impending birth at a joyful baby shower. Through it all, God is there. He is always there wanting to make our lives richer, fuller by being more aware of his love and his constant presence. He is always there nudging us to help each other survive the troubles, blessing us as we show gratitude and toast the goodness of life. He is always there to send the rain to replenish the drought starved earth. He is always there to send the babies to replenish the families and extend the generations.

I am grateful for so much! Even though I choose to love the color gray!

Jeremiah 33:11 The voice of joy, the voice of gladness…the voice of those who say, “Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.”


Paul McCartney lyrics - Ebony And Ivory lyrics

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Good Word


And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace, good will to men. Luke 2:14

What’s your favorite word? I think mine is PEACE. It’s not too long, not hard to pronounce, not hard to spell. It has its own simple hand gesture that spreads good will. It has its own circular symbol that transcends languages. It means that all is well. Aaaahhhhh….

When do you feel peace? I find it in a lot of places. Right now I feel it while sitting in my comfy, Lazy boy leather recliner with my feet up, computer in my lap, IPad at my elbow and Bible tucked in by my hip. My view is NFL on the big screen, family photos, art prints bought from various travels. Through the glass panes on my back door I see plants on the deck drinking up the rain, tops of crepe myrtles in the Dove Loop median barely starting to leaf turn to red and beyond that giant oaks shade the monuments of Grapevine Cemetery with actual puddles brimming by their roots.

Each Sunday morning I find peace in the sanctuary of the church. We sing the songs of praise; we hear words of scripture and words of a sermon to give us questions and meditations for the week ahead. We receive comfort and encouragement from friends’ greetings, we join in communal prayer for those names listed in the bulletin, and we become a visual, physical presence of the body of Christ. Today we reflected in the light of colors from the newly installed and dedicated stained glass panels. They are beautiful reminders of God’s call to us to join him (Jesus calling the fishermen to be his disciples) and God’s promise to take care of us (Noah and his family bringing animal pairs to the ark). I really like the dogs waiting at attention in the corner of the window and I think of Chelsea when I see the elephants.

Back in July when we were visiting at Travis and Chelsea’s house in Redstone CO, I jotted notes in my Ipad while sitting outside. Those thoughts seem to fit in this piece: Peaceful, easy feeling – go to bed at night with windows open listening to the quiet sounds of the Crystal river full with melted snow rushing over granite boulders. Daytime peace is found sitting in the hillside garden wild with flowers and dive bombing hummingbirds while dogs nuzzle under your relaxed hands begging for love pats. Thunder pulls your eyes skyward where grey clouds merge into a triangular ceiling between surrounding peaks. Don’t really want to leave this place but my other life will call me too soon.

Other places of peace: Grapevine Lake (not on Labor Day or Fourth of July), wherever a baby is sleeping, Grapevine Botanical Gardens – with its flowers, fountain, koi pond, ancient oak tree, a library, golf courses, spas, bath tub, pedicure foot soak and massage chair, art museums, the land at Throckmorton with its open fields and open sky, mountain scenes, desert scenes, wildlife spotted in the wild.

Join me in enjoying my favorite word. Find your favorite locations for peace. Go there again in person or go there again in your mind.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


What is etched on your heart?

Proverbs 15:23 How delightful is a timely word!

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…

Until I attended the Dallas Cowboys/Washington Redskins game, I was not aware that it was Hispanic Heritage Month! Part of the event’s surrounding fanfare was former Cowboy player, Tony Casillas, serving as honorary captain, Ballet Folklorico from San Antonio performing on field in their dazzling costumes, and Los Lonely boys singing a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Sometimes things that are important to others escape the smaller circle boundaries of our own personal day-to-day existence…

Because of friends and family who have been touched by a terrible disease, I am aware that we are now in the month of Breast Cancer Awareness. We lost our Aunt Patty years ago to this illness. We never got to meet Erica’s mom, Charlene, due to her passing from this illness during Erica’s teenage years before she came to join the Green family. Last weekend, I attended the funeral for my friend Connie’s daughter, Carolyn, who had breast cancer take her away too soon from her husband and three children. And now, the beloved associate pastor of our church has been diagnosed, had surgery to remove a tumor and is waiting for her radiation treatment to be scheduled. Dear God, please help her! I have “cussed” for her before, so here I go again – Damn It!

I am also glad to see my friends who are survivors – Diana, Janet, Judy, Pat – you are true blessings to have in my life!

So what do we do? We wear our pink. We walk the walks. We donate to the cause. Most of all we offer our love, support, prayers, visits, cards, notes, food to those who need it when they need it.

It’s a rare treat when I get a solid night’s sleep. I blame the female hormones (or lack of them) that often make me hot and sweaty and wake me in wee morning hours of darkness. I used to get very restless and annoyed, worried that I would not have enough energy to do my work the next day. Now when I wake up in the night I try to pray for someone – usually my children or other family members. Last week, my “wake in the night prayers” were for my pastor Cindy. The next day I read her journal entry on the Caring Bridge website. She wrote about having nightmares of sharks attacking her, waking her up in terror. She was able to easily interpret the dream. These are the words she used to conclude that journal entry:

In the moments after I woke up and realized it was "just a dream", I remembered this scripture, When you walk through the waters, I will be with you. (Isaiah 43:2) I let those words lull me back to sleep.

This morning I read The Message version of that same passage: When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you are in rough waters, you will not go down.

In the middle of the night, when things got dark and weird and scary, I was really glad I had a verse of scripture previously etched on my heart. It made all the difference when the sharks showed up.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Teach Your Children Well

Proverbs 4:1, Give attention that you may gain understanding.

Do you like to read a lot, like I do? If I do not have a good book hanging on in my life, I feel a little lost. Usually, I have a fiction selection and a non-fiction thought provoker going on at the same time – which reminds me that I need to make a trip to the library or else I will spend some dollars through the amazing maze of wireless shopping to find a new nook-book. Who were the marketing geniuses who made up that name to sound sort of like a pacifier? Ok – I just broke down & did my online Barnes & Noble shopping – instant gratification: Seven Days in Utopia, Heaven Is For Real and That Used to Be Us. Distracting myself – stop it!

Part of my regular reading is actually education journals where I try to find the latest research reports to direct me to push my students in the right direction. Lately, the research is telling that so much more than content knowledge (my Papaw called this book learnin’) indicates continued academic progress. Character traits such as self-control, social awareness and perseverance appear to be strong predictors for future success. So how do I teach that????
Well, one way to teach it is to bring it up for discussion at every opportunity. In teaching math to 7th and 8th graders, believe it or not, there are a bajillion opportunities! When I give the “warm-up – challenge” problem to start class each day I am given the chance the encourage those who have the “Sit & stare at blank paper syndrome.” Learn from your peers who are chosen to share their work and explain the solution – look at their mark outs, erasures and changes – we talk often about persistence in problem solving. Now when I am redirecting behavior, they know the purpose is to support their future success. I just use the keys words to remind them, “Michael, social awareness,” reminds him to look around and be aware that his class mates are involved in a task & he needs to follow their lead. Or it might be, “Sara, self-control.” They are smart kids – they get it!

Lately, educational research has particularly commented about how this character growth has become especially difficult for children from affluent families (whom I happen to teach). Their parents while trying to actively support them in academic success are sometimes doing the exact opposite when they try to shield them from possible failure. In his recent article in New York Times Magazine, What if the secret to success is failure? Published: September 14, 2011, Paul Tough, quotes educational researchers and writers, Levin, Randolph and Levine listing the character traits that they find most supportive of success:  zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, persistence and curiosity.

Another way to teach character besides discussion is modeling. How do we show them to interact with others? How do we show them to find contentment and “success”? All of the necessary qualities seem to come back to the fruits of the spirit that God will give to us as we continually seek Him.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Trees Deeply Rooted

Family and Friends in the Fifties: My Life 1955-1960

One of the family treasures that helped us prepare for Darrell’s mom’s (Laverne Scott Green) recent memorial service was a handwritten book of memories. Our sister-in-law, Alyce Green, had printed out a list of interesting questions about life and asked her own parents and Laverne to fill it in. She said Laverne took about two years to complete the task and then Alyce made copies and bound it into a notebook to give us all as Christmas gifts in 2008. On the first page, the three questions were: what were your parents like, how did The Depression affect your family, and who were your childhood friends? This blog post answers modified versions of those questions for my “Memory Book”.

This is the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians; this is my prayer for my family and friends:

Ephesians 3:14-21, New International Version (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

My preschool years were spent in Royse City TX, my parents’ hometown. Surrounded by much extended family, also residing in this small town were both sets of grandparents, the 5 great grandparents that were still living and Aunt Berniece and Uncle Jimmy Sladek. Uncle Wayne and Aunt Joyce lived nearby in Rockwall and Uncle Glenn lived in Dallas. My dad commuted to work in Dallas at Otis Engineering located on Mockingbird Lane, sharing the travel with his friend William Mantooth who worked for Braniff Airlines at Love Field. Having such a carefree, happy childhood, I had thought that my mother was always a stay at home housewife until she corrected me about her employment; she worked for the town doctor, Dr. Peters. While she was gone to work, I got to pal around with my grandmother (Mamaw) Lois Fisher. I was having such a good time that I guess I didn’t realize what my parents were doing with their hours away from me.

Those days at my grandparents’ house followed a comfortable routine. I played in their bedroom/den with a coffee can collection of buttons and sea shells. These were sorted into families and arranged into their imaginary houses and activities. Another favorite past time was using the Sears catalog and Better Homes and Gardens magazines to pick out imaginary families and the objects of their homes and lives. If I was lucky, these paper goods would become old enough that I could cut pictures out of them and sort out the imagined families in piles on the floor instead of keeping it all in my head. Mamaw also made me temporary doll babies by rolling up a towel and tying a string around it to separate the form into a head and body. When the whistle blew, I knew it was lunchtime and Papaw would come home to join us for a home cooked noon meal. She served on Fiesta ware and I always wanted the grey plate because they told me it was a silver platter like the fairy tale princesses. I also got to use the special Mickey Mouse spoon. Meals I remember were fried chicken, salmon croquettes and chicken and dumplings. Then I would take a nap in “Glenn’s room”, drifting off with the traffic sounds from the far off highway blowing in the wind that stirred the curtains. (Yes, Janene, it was on a chenille bedspread!)

Their yard held lots of opportunities for outside adventures. The big tree in the front had a little cubby hole at its base near the roots; this made a great place for an oven to bake leaves and twigs. Another tree near the driveway had lots of low branches providing great climbs and “rooms”. At the end of the driveway was a carport and carpenter’s shop. Papaw kept his tools and table saw in there. I loved to play there in the fresh sawdust with the wooden blocks that came from his scraps. The shop also housed the big wringer washer that was used regularly until the “little room” was built on the side of the house to hold the washer/dryer and Papaw’s office for his insurance business. His manual typewriter was an obsession with all the grandchildren and the reason we always wanted to play in the “little room”.

More interesting adventures were available in their neighborhood (Peterson St.) with the various families that lived nearby. In the house next door, the Baptist parsonage, various sons of the preacher families raised pigs and I could observe them through the fence that kept them penned up in that back yard. On the other side, lived the Fikes family (who were related on my dad’s side) and they tended a large back yard garden. Mrs. Fikes was often out there working in her faded sun bonnet and calling us over to give us vegetables. Across the street was the Vining family who had a teenage daughter that I idolized – she was so grown up and pretty with her perfect ponytail. Further down were Tince and Lottie Bell (the undertaker and his wife) who liked to entertain us with the musical organ in their living room. And sometimes we visited with Mrs. Nation (Aunt Joyce’s mother) who also lived a short walk down the street. This was one of those places where everyone knew everybody in town.

Church worship services were regular activities. Grandparents on the Kohn side (Nana and Papaw Bally) were members at a country church before they moved off the farm into town. I think it was called Graham Point Baptist Church. Nana was known for her great home cooking and she was often hosting the preacher’s family over to her house for a meal. Mamaw and Papaw were long time members at First Methodist in Royse City which is now a building recognized as a historic landmark. My parents and my dad’s parents were members at First Baptist Royse City where my dad was the music leader. I remember going to church in a storefront building on Main St. while the current sanctuary was being built. My dad also provided music for revival meetings at numerous country churches around Rockwall and Hunt counties and sometimes I went with him. So I learned the old traditional hymns from a very early age, sometimes mixing up the words. I remember singing, “bringing in the sheets” instead of “bringing in the sheaves,” thinking of my mom bringing in the washing from the outside clothes line. And I’m told that I also mixed up a pop song with Sunday school lessons and came out with, “Jesus standing on the corner watching all the girls go by…” My dad played guitar and would entertain us at home with Hank Williams songs, “Your cheatin’ heart…will tell on you.”

Recently reading The Help, a current best seller and a new movie, made me think about one of my childhood playmates. Pam Peters, the doctor’s daughter, often invited me to play at her house. The Help made me think of her family because they were the only people in town that I remember having “help”. Their maid’s name was Miss Gussie and Pam’s mother was named Evadean. Their help did the cooking, cleaning and watching after the child while Evadean played golf, read books, watched TV or went off to Dallas. It was fun to play there and I was so impressed that Pam had her bedroom and a separate play room. We were not allowed to mess up her pretty pink bedroom with the Felix the Cat clock and were confined to only play in the play room.

My best friend in those years was the girl across the street, Jan Claycomb. We had lots of fun playing together, mostly outside in the other neighbor’s yard. Mr. Carr was an elderly man who lived alone and still farmed part of his city property. He kept an old hay wagon parked under a weeping willow tree that made a perfect location for little girls to play “house”. He also had an old smokehouse and beehives on his lot. My sister is famous for beating the hives with a stick and then running home yelling, “The flies are after me!” Jan and I also liked to play at a place around the corner from our house that we called, “The Big Tree”. There was a lot of freedom for kids to wander around and play outside without worry in those days. I remember going on an exploring adventure with Jan, taking a walk down the dirt road next to Mr. Carr’s house just to see where it would go. Evidently, parents did panic when they couldn’t locate their kids because I recall getting in big trouble when we came home…we had travelled past our known zone and passed unknown workers in some fields.

 Jan was a year older than me and I was really sad when she went off to school with her older sisters and I was left to play with the younger ones during the day. By that time, my sister Gail was born and my mom was a stay at home mom who did home day care for our cousins Tammy and Donna Sladek. The best time of day was the afternoon when Jan got home from school. I would go over to her house and she would teach me what she learned that day and we would watch TV shows, Dobie Gillis and Our Miss Brooks. We loved a song that her sisters taught us, “She wore an itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny yellow polka dot bikini…”

She probably gave me a great head start to formally learning to read – thanks Jan! I haven’t seen her in years but have come across her mother Joann at various Royse City funerals. Jan graduated from Texas A & M during the early years of girls first being allowed to attend there; her dad and uncles were all Aggie alums. She married, raised a family and lives in Tyler TX, last I heard.

Imagery of large, strong trees keeps repeating in the haze of my memories. I liked to climb, hang from limbs and just sit and look at my world from a different perspective. I would play out the Bible story and children’s song of Zaccheas, climbing and waiting in a tree, waiting for Jesus to walk my way.

Psalm 1:3 …be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does, he prospers.

Waking up in the mornings, I remember loving to lie on the floor in the den in front of the space heater. I would be watching my dad leave for work with his metal lunch box and watching the kid TV show, Captain Kangaroo. Cereal was the breakfast preference, like Alpha-bits or Rice Krispies. I loved playing with coloring books, paper dolls, my toy sewing machine and my toy doll house, Colorforms, Slinky and Hula hoops…

My mom was a census taker in 1960 and I remember riding with her in the car as she drove to places in the country to record their information. She kept me occupied with a coloring book where you could paint on water with Q-tips and it would bring out color from the pages. I also remember the election – most local signs were for Nixon. People in small town northeast Texas were suspicious of the Irish - Catholic candidate.

Basically, living was easy…no worries, be happy! Maybe the prayers of my family gave me a blessed life in my early days! Thank you!

Hebrews 13:7, Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I Heart Basketball!

I Love Basketball!

“You have believed before, and every time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable, that faith has normally been rewarded with a giant drop into a stinking pile…”; this is a quote from sports writer Mac Engel in his opinion printed in the Star Telegram sports section of today’s newspaper. He's writing about the Dallas Cowboys but he’s expressing my emotions about the Dallas Mavericks that were experienced for many, many years – until this year! I love basketball and I love the Mavs! I love Mark Cuban and Dirk and Tyson and Jet and Kidd and JJ! I love Jeffrey (#1 platinum level server) and Sandy (our most recent server) and Ernest (my ticket rep) and our usher (we can’t come up with her name at the moment) and John & Anita Everheart (mates on our four seat row) and T.J. Griffin, Jerud Miller, Mark and Melinda Forgue, Kevin Aslin and his mom, Steve Nathman, Landry Locker… (MFFL – Mav Fans for Life - soul mates in Maverick fandom throughout the years of pain). Ah, what joy to spread the love! Savoring the moments, enjoying the memories, pondering in my heart – these thoughts have been simmering and stewing over a slow flame for hours, days, weeks, months and they are deliciously tender!

My mom and dad both played basketball for their high school teams. When the streak of 100 degree days breaks I will venture to their attic and find pictures from their yearbooks to share. After school hours as a kid were spent playing with my sister and neighborhood friends: kickball in the playfields we designed in the few empty lots and basketball in the Douphrate’s driveway or on our own small patio “court”. My dad had erected a hoop attached to a wooden backboard on a wooden pole at the right angle corner of our tiny concrete backyard patio. The best shots came from “outside” on the sidewalk and from the “top of the key” – up the steps of the back porch standing next to the back door. Actually, the best shots came from the star player who rarely made an appearance on the court – my mom had a game that would put all us young ‘uns to shame!

Girls growing up in the 60’s did not have a lot of choices for sports activities. This pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction now so that a federal investigation required our school district to implement more equitable opportunities for females in athletics – that’s why we now have to fund water polo! So in the absence of getting to try out for basketball in middle school or high school, I enjoyed the days that our P.E. teacher, Mrs. Strickland, organized intermurals. We played the old school rules (like Don Carter described of his wife’s playing days for Duncanville) where you were either an assigned defender or offensive player and not allowed to cross the half court line. I loved those games and remember the pleasure of hanging in to win some against the older, taller girls who were considered the favorites. The high school gym was opened in the summer for loosely organized activities for those whose parents signed them up for the summer recreation program (and I think a lot of high school football players were expected to show up here and work out). What we did (the younger kids) was play basketball, softball, ping pong and run track. Throughout those years some of our standard family activities were Friday night football and high school basketball season – we went to games for Royse City High School (my parents’ alma mater), Carrollton High School and then R. L. Turner High School. Highlights were the State playoff teams – football vs. San Angelo and basketball vs. Houston Wheatley; we didn’t win but it was memorable to go that far!

Freshman year of college was spent at Oklahoma Baptist University, a basketball school – I went to every game! In the early 80’s, following Darrell’s career with IBM brought us to live in Greencastle IN – the heartland of all things basketball! Here we were season ticket patrons to DePauw University basketball and the middle school students I taught had current heroes of Steve Alford and his coach Bobby Knight from IU. When we attended the premier showing of Hoosiers at our local movie theater, they held the start of the show because our friends were running late - ah such happy memories of small town America in the great Midwest!

For some reason our first son, Jonathan, developed into a sports fanatic! He spent hours sorting through his Topps cards, watching games, reading stats and creating spreadsheets on the computer to organize fantasy leagues before it was such a common concept. From his essay about basketball and submitted application, he was chosen to be a Dallas Mavericks ball boy. This was during his middle school and early high school years when the Mavericks were still in Reunion Arena and Mark Cuban was watching from the nose bleed section. Ball boys were scheduled to work every third home game and free tickets were given to their families for those games. When his ball boy days were over, my days of attending games continued as we bought season ticket packages each year in American Airlines Center, starting in the upper zone and then moving down to the platinum level.

2006 was a memorable season when losing to Miami Heat brought such pain to the team and the fans. I noticed then throughout the playoffs that many of the regular ticket holders that we had sat with to watch so many games were not there. They had “wisely” sold their tickets to make a nice profit while I was a “sucker” who gave up the chance for cash to support my team. I am not known to be friendly to opposing team fans and being at that final game at the AAC watching the Heat win their championship was an experience of the worst karma ever! So the years moved on and I steadfastly continued to decorate my classroom with Mavs posters and suffer through the abusive comments from students, staff and friends who were fans of other teams (mostly Spurs, Lakers, Heat). Not bullying abuse, just good natured trash talk. Meantime, I’m also getting my basketball joy from watching all the 8th grade home games for my school while I earn extra pennies by running the clock for their games.

A few years ago an anonymous person from our church gave every member a book as a Christmas gift. It was called A Hole in the Gospel and written by the chairman of the organization, World Vision.

 The main message of the book is how Jesus calls us to pay attention to poverty and to do our part to take care of people in need. Matthew 25:35-36, 40 For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. I was naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me…And the King will answer and say to them, “Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” The theme of the book reminded me of how I should focus my life; the church has also focused our collective activities (outside of worship) to serve in our local community and in our global community. So this also leads me to think about how we spend our money. How much goes to needs & how much goes to “frills”? My inner voice told me Maverick games were frills; hence came the conversation with Darrell that I thought this should be our last year to do season tickets – although I love the games, our money could be better used on other things. He agreed easily, as I am the major Mav fan & his love is the Cowboys. With this impending adjustment in my mind, I experienced each game with appreciation while Anita and I shared our amazement at the progress of the team. Often we whispered, “This might be the year!” to each other, afraid to be too bold. We enjoyed dinners, cheers and happy dances throughout the season and the playoffs and met up later in Colorado at their cabin in the Rockies to reminisce about the remarkable season and the championship finish.

They took this picture of us at the Stone Chapel on a mountain top in the YMCA camp.

Backing up a little to a special Sunday in May, I attended church that day at Heritage & sat with a dear friend. We chatted about Mother’s Day plans and I mentioned that we were going to the Maverick game that afternoon against the Lakers. Through this conversation I told her a little bit about this being our last year for the season ticket plan and she commented, “You will be blessed for this.” That day I witnessed the performance of a lifetime with the Mavs decisively shutting down Kobe and his entourage where Jet Terry was lights out on threes! Do any of you recall that miracle game? I thought that was when the team had given it their all and maybe would not have any game left in them.

School came to an end and I left town on a planned girl trip to Key West while Darrell travelled with his buddies for a week of golf in the Texas hill country. When we made these vacation plans we had not dreamed that the Mavericks would make their way to the finals in the NBA! Unlike 2006, our section mates at AAC were showing up for the games – no one was selling their seats – all good karma! In my heart of hearts, I could not be playing in Key West while my team was battling it out with the Miami team. I changed my flight to return 2 days early to use my Finals ticket and be there in person for game 4. Whoa – what a game – we kept wondering about Dirk’s lack of performance and lack of time on the court. Then word spread through the stands about his sickness and his fever – then his teammates came through and pulled out another great win! I was so glad to witness Nowitzkiness!

Soon after followed the infamous video clip of Wade and LeBron doing the mocking cough – and then came the wonderful, amazing, final game to win the championship, forever blazed in sports history. I was standing in my living room in front of the TV screen doing the shaking shoulders, sobbing cries – while texting back & forth with family and friends! How can a sports game make you feel so happy?

Don’t know; can’t explain it; but it did and it does!

My pastor, Ken, who passed away a few months ago used to do a Super bowl sermon each year – choosing various Super bowl commercials to talk about and use as his illustrations for God’s message. Whenever a player thanked God for blessing his performance, Ken always mentioned that he thought God loved both sides and did not spend his time favoring one team over another in a sporting event. I don’t know. I sure felt blessed as a fan. Jet Terry gave glory to God on Mother’s Day and on championship day for getting the chance to do what he did. Dirk and the rest were blessed for their hard work, humility, respect. They won as a team relying on each other rather than performing as showboating superstars; they won playing old school basketball. I loved it; I love it still. What a treasured ending to the Mavericks’ first 31 years as a team and to my years as a season ticket holder – I could not have hoped or dreamed for a more beautiful result! Thank you, God, for life’s pleasures! This one was a BIG one!