Saturday, December 30

Not a Monty Python Sketch

Driving through Arkansas today, a very large Dodge Ram pickup zoomed past me. In the bed of the pickup truck were two (2) male goats. Banjo music instantly played in my head.

I laughed for 30 miles.

Thursday, December 21

Thought to Ponder

Is will the opposite of faith?

Monday, December 18

...and now I give you The Virgin Mary

I had every intention of sending an annual Christmas letter and then I read this article in the local paper. It's clear I mustn't burden you with the trivial events of my ordinary life when news like this is breaking:

What I enjoyed even more was the postage stamp sized ad below the Virgin Mary sighting...a notice that reads:


Prescription Eye Glasses

Somewhere around Ashland City. Rims are dark and ear piece fits across top of ear.

Call WQSV Radio 615-792-6789

"Ear piece fits across top of ear." Have I been living in the woods too long? Has there been some sort of scientific breakthrough allowing eyeglasses to hover in place on your face so as not to fit across the top of your ear?

These are questions I have. Do you have answers?

Friday, December 15


A bag of fritos, 1/2 a can of bean dip and 1/2 an avocado later, I feel like I'm going to hurl...ugh.

Thursday, December 14

On Being Still

The solitary life from the outside looking in can appear foreign, frivilous, even disconcerting. Many who come on retreat at Penuel Ridge will eventually ask me (while looking at their feet), "How can you live alone, deep in the woods without compliment of modern life?" I usually smile warmly and tell them I intentionally chose this life, a life of oneness with nature, self and the Creator.

I admit there are times of loneliness and a desire for connectdness. In hindsight, those feelings are strongest when I am pushing away from myself...times when expanses of silence reveal wounds in need of examination, understanding and healing, shortcomings in need of growth.

The gift of silence and stillness is difficult to conceive in today's world. One has to experience it first hand, over an extended period of time to truly feel the resonance, the vibration of oneness that is born out of being quiet and still. I have been called to this practice after many years. The restorative, healing power I experience today harkens me back to my early childhood when my siblings and mother would lay down in the afternoon to take a nap. I remember lying on my bed, feeling the vibration of hush as it fell over our house and hearing the collective breathing in and breathing out of my brother and sister exhausted from play and our mother, equally exhausted from tending to her children and home.

This morning, the benches surrounding the lake were covered in ice, but I braved a frosty posterior to take in the silent morning that broke gracefully over the eastern ridge. The world in silent stillness are the words of a well known Christmas hymn.

Silence and stillness are gifts one can give to ones self. I am gifted each day by the wonder of it peaceful.

Tuesday, December 12

There's No Place Like Home

This week, I received a Christmas letter from my Aunt Cheryl in Texas. It was as I about the kids, antics of the grandkids, right of passage for two of them shooting their first deer this hunting season and news from the farm. Hearing about their lives tugged at me in a place I thought was dead...or at least sleeping heavily.

I grew up in a farming family. My mother was the only sibling to leave the farm...a whopping 20 miles away in another small Texas farming town where rice was king. Every Sunday after church, we piled into the 57 black and white Chevy with my mom behind the wheel and flew down country lanes that were once nothing more than dirt trails to move the cows and farm equipment between pastures. Our destination was my maternal grandparent's house, where aunts and uncles and cousins would await our arrival for a hearty lunch. This ritual transpired every Sunday and it was magical...eating food that was grown right outside the back door and then playing with my cousins all afternoon to the point of exhaustion. Grandma would usually find us sleeping in the hay loft or under the satsuma bushes next the swingset. She would dust us off and take us into her kitchen where there'd be homemade ice cream, cake, pie, dewberry cobbler, lemon jelly roll or any one of her infamous confections. We'd sit around the counter, dirt covered legs and feet swinging from high oak chairs and refuel on Grandma's love.

After the grown ups finished their domino and card games, mom would pile us back in the car and we would drive another 10 miles to my paternal grandparents house for a vist and Sunday night supper. My dad was the oldest of 9 in his family and as my mom tells it, she and my grandmother were often pregnant at the same time, so my aunts and uncles were more like cousins. After supper, we'd play in the pastures, along the creek, in the chicken house. We pretty much roamed where ever we wanted to until it was time to go home.

This happened every single Sunday in my childhood. I never once questioned who I was or where I belonged. I was part of a big, salt-of-the-Earth, hard working family and it gave me a strong sense of being at a very young age. No, it wasn't perfect and I learned just how imperfect they were in my late teens, but I wouldn't trade those Sundays for anything in heaven or on Earth.

Wednesday, December 6

Be A Candle of Hope

Last night was the season finale concert for Nashville in Harmony. The music we performed was challenging and diverse, from an English madrigal to an African processional march and 'it' happened. Something I've been waiting for since I joined this chorus. We brought the house lights down and the entire chorus spread out around the perimeter of the sanctuary holding lit candles singing, "The Size of Your Heart." The words speak so eloquently of how we can touch each others lives:

The size of your heart is the size of your life
for out of your heart comes the kind of your life
The way you reach out
to the world all around
is first in your heart to be found

Toward the end of the piece, 'it' happened. The blending of our voices rose with such perfect harmony and volume and pitch that it created what I call an angelic divine that when you finish singing, 'it'...the sound continues and the audience is afraid to applaud for fear they will break the spell. When 'it' happens, my breath is taken away and I cry. So there I am, singing...feeling 'it' coming, holding my little candle, lending my voice to the divinity with crocodile tears streaming down my face. I love this chorus...

Friday, December 1

Catching Up Is Hard To Do

A LOT has been happening in my world and I haven't been able to blog about it.

The coughing and the sneezing and the blowing of the nose and the fever and hacking up foreign objects that look like jigsaw puzzle pieces from my lungs and the constant drinking of tea and taking of pills and taking of temperature and the good God I have been SO SICK! Today was my first full day out of bed since last Sunday. Anyway...all of this to say I've been too sick to blog...can you imagine?'s short list of what's been going on and when I'm feeling better and have more time, I will expound or not because I'm sure more stuff will have happened that I want to blog about and the stuff from last week will seem like...well, stuff from last week.

1. Had a wonderful visit with my ex-husband before Thanksgiving. I think we are actually going to be able to be friends now...that's nice.

2. Performed in the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra Gospel Choir for a Thanksgiving concert. The guest artists were Wynonna and Donna Summer. Seriously...Wynonna and Donna Summer. One's a true diva and the other...well, let's just give her the benefit of the doubt and say she was having an off day!

3. Looked up from the stage of the Symphony Center at the boxes (you know, where the loaded people sit) and there was my entire ex-family!!!! I had no idea they were going to be there and it was more than a little off-putting to see all those people whom I haven't seen in like 4 years.

4. Entered 3 writing competitions for cash prizes and publication!!!!

5. Applied for a two year writing fellowship at Stanford University...omg!

There'll be photos and links and all kinds of bells and whistles to add to this later, but wanted to get it all down before I lost it the next time I blow my nose.

Back to bed.

Tuesday, November 28

Say What?

I am a big fan of Say What?, broadcast Sunday mornings on NPR. It's a weekly dose of wit, wisdom and tom foolery, usually instigated by Paula Poundstone. I always learn something, especially new vocabulary words (which you know makes me hot!) and this past Sunday in a complete break from the show format, I learned something that literally had me rolling on the floor...involving Texas and Poetry!

Did you know any Emily Dickinson poem can be sung to the tune of The Yellow Rose of Texas?'s true and if you don't believe me, here's a little ditty by the Belle of Amherst to prove the point:

The Day Came Slow

The day came slow, till five o'clock
Then sprang before the hills
Like hindered rubies, or the light
A sudden musket spills

The purple could not keep the east,
The sunrise shook from fold,
Like breadths of topaz, packed a night,
The lady just unrolled.

The happy winds their timbrels took;
The birds, in docile rows,
Arranged themselves around their prince
(The wind is prince of those).

The orchard sparkled like a Jew,
--How mighty 't was, to stay
A guest in this stupendous place,
The parlor of the day!

Pretty funny huh?

Thursday, November 23


The sun has returned
this Thanksgiving morning,
warming Mother and child

I am a pauper, indebted to your rays
of respite from dark awakenings...
restored, even if for one day

I am thankful for you,
with all our starts
and stops
and starts anew…
you remain as constant as breath

You are the banquet table
on which I feast,
‘tho yesterday, there
lingered only the slightest taste
of you in my mouth

It was enough to sustain me
when there was but dust
on pantry shelves

I am grateful for gnawing hunger
entreating you break
fast in brilliance over the Ridge,
through barren arms of a forest once green
hastening o’er a meadow of sparkling gems
spilling into my soul

Wednesday, November 22

de profundis

de profundis

out of the depths
comes a cry of the heart
a lava flow of fire and ash
scorching the landscape
creating anew
a path never before imagined

Sunday, November 19

If I Scream in the Forest, Will Anyone Hear Me?

When balmy gulf breezes blew just right, I could hear shrill screams from the amusement park, located 5 miles east of our house. This sound conjured images of teenagers with arms raised above their heads, anticipating the moment when gravity would rip them from the security of their perch at the precipice of the wooden roller coaster. From our front yard, I could also see the loftiest fireworks shot off at 9 o’clock every night, framed by the tops of our neighbors oak trees. If not for the oppressive heat, ever-present humidity and mosquitoes, I would have sat in the front yard until the park closed, smiling at the sounds of life as it floated in on night air.

Like the anonymous thrill-seekers I heard in the night, I would stand in line for what seemed like hours to experience 2 to 3 minutes of adrenaline-laced fun (?). What I can admit today is that most of the time I was terrified. As we would inch closer and closer to the inevitable, I would scan the perimeter for an escape route, my eyes darting left to right as I nervously shifted my weight from foot to foot. I could feel a greasy ball of fear growing in the pit of my stomach.

On one particular visit to the park, I found myself waiting for an agonizingly long period of time to ride Greezed Lightnin’…the latest loop roller coaster the park had installed. I soon realized from my vantage point in line I could watch the entire operation from start to finish. People being loaded, strapped in and cars slowing inching, click by mechanical click, up the 80’ vertical climb to the top where they would be jettisoned at breakneck speed on shrieking rails towards a loop that would slingshot them at 60 mph skyward only to fall prey to gravity and experience the entire thing again, only this time backwards. From start to finish, the ride only lasted 33 seconds…I know because I timed it.

I learned a life coping skill that day that is the centerpiece in my arsenal against fear. If I stand still long enough in the face of what terrifies me, watch, analyze and intellectualize it in repetitive motion, I am no longer afraid. On that hot Texas summer day, I stood in the same spot long enough to be able to anticipate every twist turn, bump and jolt I was about to experience, hoping that someone, somewhere west of the park would be standing outside at just the right time to hear my shrill scream and smile.

Wednesday, November 15

No Words

Mary Oliver is a poet whose work is always nearby. It's fluid, graceful, breathtaking, funny and at times tragic, just like life. A new book of her poetry has just been published entitled Thirst. In it, she captures once again the beauty and mystery of nature, but also speaks to the profound grief and loss of Mollie, her partner of more than 40 years.

I don't know Mary Oliver personally, but when I learned of her loss, I was stricken with sadness. In sharing the news with fellow admirers, their reactions were the same. She very rarely revealed their relationship in her published works, but when she did, I felt deep joy, awe and reverence for the sanctity of their union.

On Monday night, the writers group to which I belong gathered to share our words. It's a small group of women and men who savor language and life and when we come together, there is always laughter and sometimes tears. One of the members entered into the group a bit timidly, not truly believing she belonged. I was privileged to have read some of her poetry and knew full well not only did she "belong" but we could all learn and grow from her words. She too, a lover of the work of Mary Oliver, offered this poem...the profoundness of which I have no words. Thank you Linda Z, for allowing me to share your words, dipped with grace and compassion, with the world.

For My Friend
Mary Oliver

This great ocean
It's called loss
And grief and death

And yes, it's called

It's our common christening
Where tears are shed
Or not shed
Where we drown
A million times

Only to find
That we've been invited
To float

Monday, November 13


I've been thinking about exposure. This train of thought has been inspired by the seasonal push and pull of leaves off the trees, down gullies and over ridges. The trees are so dense where I live you truly cannot see the topography of the land, nor what may lie 10 feet into the woods, be it a listing and abandoned barn, a 3 story house or a pack of coyotes in concert to the moon.

We shed, I understand 40 pounds of skin in an average lifetime, but wouldn't it be delightful to have a shedding season, just like the leaves in fall or winter coats on animals in the spring. It would be much easier for us to see each other for who we are, underneath all that camouflage.

I wonder what I might look like.

Wednesday, November 8

Makes Me Glad to Be Alive

Go to this website NOW...Puppies Behind Bars.

Seriously...I mean RIGHT NOW!!!

My two favorite subjects...

PUPPIES so damn cute you want to kiss their faces wearing red lipstick



What an amazing organization...makes me want to break the law just so I can train a whole litter of these cuties! I mean...look at those paws.

Saturday, November 4

I Could Knit a Puppy

Hair...most of us have it. We fill our world with pets who have hair, which means our homes are filled with it.

My dog has full access to the furniture in my living quarters. Who am I kidding? She has full access to the furniture in the entire retreat house! Between the two of us, we leave our calling card, in the form of hair, pretty much everywhere.

Each night I flap the sheets and comforter and brush off as much dog hair as possible before I crawl into bed. Once a week, I hang my comforter outside in the sun and sweep/beat the dog hair off with a broom. It's a fun ritual and for a few days my bed smells like the outdoors, but by day seven, I'll be honest, it pretty much smells like a dog.

So, this morning, I'm sitting in my big comfy chair in the sun drinking coffee and reading emails. Mocha is curled up behind the chair taking a post-hike nap. She wakes up, comes from behind the chair and stands in front of me for a pat on the head and to see if food has magically fallen from the sky onto the floor. That's when I notice 3 or 4 very long, very curly blonde hairs hanging decoratively from her chin. might be time to vacuum!

Thursday, November 2

What's the Difference?

What is the difference between wounded and injured? I hear these words used interchangeably on NPR reports that drift into my office on radio waves.

When someone is writing a news story, how do they decide which one to use? What does one convey that the other doesn't? So, I started thinking about it. I scanned my brain for an answer. Here's what I came up with:

To me, to be wounded means someone/something has inflicted bodily harm upon someone else, i.e. "The wedding party was wounded when a suicide bomber detonated himself outside a temple in Tel Aviv." Whereas injured carries for me a tone of accidental injury , i.e. "A woman was injured when she dropped a bowling ball on her foot."

Now, I don't claim to have a firm grasp on the English language, I almost used cadre incorrectly in a sentence yesterday, so I consulted several references and here's what they had to say:

To injure implies the inflicting of anything detrimental to one's looks, comfort, health, or success, where as to wound implies an act that causes bodily injury, especially the puncturing of one's skin.

Hmmm...the difference is still not clear to me. I suppose I'll need to pay closer attention to how others are using them.

Which is Funnier?


Chuck as Princess Leah



Chuck as Darth Vadar



Chuck as Yoda

I'm going on record that this is one of the best dogs ever and here's the woman who (lovingly) exploits him: Dooce

Leave your vote in comments!!!!!

Wednesday, November 1

Show Me Your Belly

I live for the moment when someone reveals their true self to me. It happens so quietly, so quickly, so fleetingly it's easy to miss if you aren't paying attention. It's the moment of absolute honesty when there are no walls, there is no pretense, no sarcasm, no synicism and it's always the moment when I fall head over heels in love.

I guess I've been's happened twice in my life. The memory of those moments haunt me at times. Should it happen again, I wonder if I'll notice.

Monday, October 30

Mrs. Kravitz I'm not, however...

I'm exiting the local Cracker Barrel after a gastronomical feast extraordinaire and find myself a few paces behind a wild pack of old geezers out on the town without their wives. I assumed they were a gang because they were dressed alike, crisply pressed khaki slacks, matching khaki jackets, golfing shirts and loafers and shuffling to one side when they walked.

As the north wind whipped up a whirling dervish of dried leaves, I overheard one of them say, "...she doesn't do anything with her hair and her car is a mess...what's up with that?"

Word Pops...I bet she lives for the day when you are out with your homeys sucking down some chicken livers at the Cracker Barrel.

Friday, October 27


small sparrow
big puddle

isn't it just like us
to jump in over our heads?

Wednesday, October 25

Study in Circles

Moon Window in the Chapel

Butterfly for All Seasons

Clapper Happy

Sunday, October 22

Bits & Pieces


going down


Images from Penuel Ridge

place of peace

upward gaze

Wednesday, October 18

I Don't Think This is Normal

How the bloody hell did I get chocolate on my feet?


Tuesday, October 17

Song of Freedom

who got my freedom?
you got it?
what about you?

no suh...I got it
I got my freedom
ain’t nobody gonna take it from me agin’

you can put me in a hole
drop me down a well
tie my hands and feet so tight they bleed
but you ain't never gonna take
my freedom agin’
cuz where it live you cain’t touch
it live right here
right here where i used to hold my babies

you best get outta my way cuz I’m a comin’
comin’ at you fast and strong with both hands
so fast you think you a chile agin’ been snatched up by
the collar and set butt down on a chair by your pappy

all a’ you...
all a’ you done laid your hands on me
you gonna know what it feel like
to have something put on you
witt out nobody askin’ do you want it

you better run cuz I’m a comin’
I’m a comin’ fast and strong
I got me a rope and a tall tree

i know i’ll answer to the Almighty for this,
but I’m a comin’
and ain’t nuttin’ gonna stop me
from takin' back everything
you took from me

do you hear me?


I’m a’ takin’ it back with both hands and
when I do
ain’t gonna be nothin’ left of you
but bones
bones hangin’ in the yard
all dried up like my soul’s been all this time

you ain’t never gonna lay claim on me ever again
ain't nuttin’ can stop me now,
stop me from claimin' what
i’s pose a’ be doin’

whatta we pose a’ be humans, us folk?
we pose a’ be killin’
an hurtin’
an cheatin?
we pose a’ be lovin’?

Good Book say Love One Another
don’t seem like we doin’ much uh dat these days
yeah...Love One Another

maybe I put down my rope
step away from dat tall tree
maybe I love you even though
you didn’t love me

maybe dat what I'm pose a’ be doin’


Monday Night

This one came out of nowhere...just fell out of the air into my soul. This is a spoken piece, so when you read it, imagine the voice in your head to be an old black woman who has smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day for 50 years and drank nothing but whiskey. Her voice is barely a it? Now read it...

blow baby
‘cuz you can’t keep it in
blow baby blow from down low
where it moans and growls and grumbles

thems who’s got the blues
they knows it,
they knows where it lives
they knows you got to let it loose
‘cuz it don’t got no place else to go but out
let it loose
let it loose like Ella, like Billie, like Etta

and you don’t even know when it’s a comin’
a comin’ down a ridge so fast,
so blue, so fierce it’ll blow the
the needles off a tree
so high, so strong, so forever
it’ll peel the red off the leaves

you sittin’ there a thinkin’ you is safe, but you aint
you don’t know it’s a comin’
but thems that’s had the blues
they know
they can feel it comin’
feel it buildin' in their bones
shriekin' in their brain down to their soul
oh yeah, it’s a comin’

Train knew it, Bird knew it, Dizzie knew it too
well…all they really knowed was they had to,
had to put that piece to their mouth and cry
cry that blue note
wail it out the end of their horn
‘cuz if they didn’t…they’d a’ died

you got a blue note in you
yeah you do
it’s in there
you just gotta let it out
let it rip outta yo belly
like a wind roarin’ over the ridge
bendin’ those mighty spines back so far
they think they’s a gonna snap…but they don’t
they just bend
bend to the blue note
the bitter blue note of woe

oh! what a note...let it blow
let it bend you back
you won’t break
but if you keep it in, whoa!
that’s a bitter blue note of a pill that’ll kill ya
kill ya dead

blow baby
blow that blue note low
make it growl
make it moan
let it shriek out the end of your horn


Saturday, October 14

Better than Prozac

What gives you the warm and fuzzies? Pinching a baby's cheek? Fuzzy baby ducks and kittens? For me it's of dogs, movies about dogs, songs about dogs, random dog encounters on the street, in a park, on the road at a store or coffee name it, if there's a dog involved, I turn into a blathering idiot and I mean that in a good way. Don't even get me started with puppies. If it were humanly possible for me to have a litter of puppies...I would do it.

Imagine my absolute delight to have stumbled onto this blog:

Dog Blog

Almost 300 photographs of dogs on the street with some pretty witty commentary.


Thursday, October 12

Plane Crash Post Script

I'm really pissed off over the coverage of the small plane crash yesterday in NYC. Every headline and news report has read something to the effect of, "New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and a passenger dies in tragic plane crash." Today, I saw that the "and a passenger" is now being referred to as "a flight instructor." Everyone is shocked, saddened and dismayed over the death of a baseball player, but what about the "passenger?" Isn't it shocking and sad and dismaying that this person was slammed into a highrise? Everyone is "so sad for Lidle's wife and child for their loss." What about the family of the "passenger?" Is their loss and grief less sad than that of the Lidle family?

I HATE that sports figures* receive elevated status just because they have a talent for playing a game. I wonder what talents the "passenger" possessed?

*This applies to other "celebrities" as well, but that's another rant.

What if the "passenger" were someone you loved? Wouldn't they deserve equal respect, not only as they walked through life, but when it came to an end?


Wednesday, October 11

This Way!

Miss Mocha, resident dog and tour guide at Penuel Ridge strikes a pose in the sunshine.

Sunday, October 8

You Say It's Your Birthday?

Lordy, Lordy, has been a week for birthday of my very own, a 30th birthday weekend celebration in NashVegas for my longtime friend *Holly and well wishes for Melissa in Houston on Saturday.

The finale of my b'day celebration was an Indigo Girls concert at the Ryman Auditorium courtesy of yummy neighbors J & K. Until Tuesday night, I had only heard their music covered by other girl-duo bands, like Girls with Guitars. Very interesting people watching...especially when the lights went down. I have a couple of suggestions for my sisters out there:

1. When they dim the lights and the band starts playing...that's your cue to stop talking. I'm not really interested in hearing you tell your current girlfriend/date the when, where, how and which ex-girlfriend you were with when you heard this particular song the first time.

2. If you're bladder is that active, you may want to: a) drink less beer, b) consult a physician or c) both. Seriously girls, getting up to pee and announcing to EVERYONE in your row and the surrounding rows that you have to pee does not enhance my concert-going experience.

3. Cell phones...calling or text messaging your buddies who are at the same concert, but seated on the opposite side of the hall from you...get a clue...they know what song is being played and that it's your favorite. Screaming, "WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?" into your color-coordinated, jewel encrusted cell phone does not enhance my concert-going experience. Here's an idea, why don't the two of you hook up in the bathroom during one of your 20 pee breaks and compare notes?

4. Knowing every word, to every song being played is awesome. Singing note for note, word for word in the right place when the band gives you the cue ROCKS. This audience ROCKED on all counts.

5. Songwriting and musicianship that makes me laugh, jump up and dance, cry, clap my hands and think is about as perfect as my momma's lemon meringue pie...delicious!

Thanks J & K...for the was D-I-V-I-N-E!

*Holly's 30th b'day celebration in NashVegas deserves it's own blog with photos, so check back for a future posting...suffice it to say there was indeed a real life Tennessee Hillbilly and Elvis sighting, all in the same weekend!!!!!

Wednesday, October 4

The Voice of Being

This prayer was gifted to me in July, 2005 as I was preparing to leave Texas to pursue my dream of writing. It was written by hand, on hand-made paper, tied to tablets and pencils in every color of the rainbow with tangles of brilliant ribbon. It's significance is greater today than the day they put it into my hands...thank you Gambill family:

It is I who must begin...
Once I begin, once I try...
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying that things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
ostentatious gestures,
but all the more persistently
--to live in harmony
with the "Voice of Being" as I
understand it within myself
--as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
nor the most important one
to have set out
upon that road...
Vaclav Havel
Life Prayers from Around the World

Hampster Wheel

A single spotlight illuminates a shiny cylindrical object in the middle of the stage
Smarmy voice booms over the PA system to an empty theatre,
"Emotions, meet Mr. Hampster Wheel!"

Tiny voice from the back of the theatre says in high shreaky voice,
"We've met and what the hell are you doing here? I thought I kicked your ass the last time around."

Mr. Hampster Wheel responds smugly, "Squeak." as it begins to slowly spin.

Thursday, September 28

In the "i" of the Beholder

I enjoyed this post by the Fabulous Dooce on dating walking red flags and knowing what your deal breakers are. Her readers were most eager to share their horror stories of what made them run screaming from the burning building. Since she asked the question, I thought I should oblige, which set me to pondering.

What I discovered was my red flags were a bit more subtle than that of other readers. Sure, being kind to animals and waitstaff is important and I prefer my dates not to have back or chest hair, but for me the BIGGY is...can they pronounce the word MISCHIEVOUS correctly. This has been a bit of a personal crusade for many years. I love the way they sound...the way they form in the mouth and roll off the tongue and I think words deserve to be treated with enough respect to pronounce them correctly. Mischievous has taken a beating over the years. The average Joe/Jonelle pronounces it miss chee vee us, which I blame entirely on Madison Avenue, who has intentionally misrepresented it in print, television and radio ads for years. My biggest fear is the creators of dictionaries will throw up their hands in defeat, cave to the populace and change the spelling and pronunciation to MISCHIEVIOUS. I was crafting a rather witty comment to add to Dooce's post, I thought I would take this opportunity to include a public service message by inserting a link to the Merriam Webster website where they not only define the word, but provide an audio pronunciation.

Imagine my utter disbelief, quickly followed by dismay when I realized that my trusty Merriam Webster site was now including both spellings and pronunciations on their website. MY WORST FEARS WERE BEING REALIZED. Then, I read further down the page and apparently, this variation (mischievious) dates back to the 16th Century...that would be for more than 500 years!

I was wrong and stand corrected, eyes downcast looking sheepishly at my shoes.

Wednesday, September 27

File Under eyuuuuuuuuu

Is it strange, weird or creepy that I can tell if my dog needs to poo by the smell of her breath?

Monday, September 25

She's Stuffing What?

What could possibly be more humiliating for the under-developed girl in gym class than being outed for stuffing her bra by her hateful classmates, who parade around the locker room waving her 32AA bra overhead and tossing her stuffing of choice in the air?

Pull up a chair...I have a story to tell. For those of you who enjoyed my moanings about my vanishing chest, this should be a treat.

Monday is cleaning day at Penuel Ridge. It's usually pretty quiet except for the sound of the vacuum cleaner and a continuous stream of conversation with the young woman who cleans...yes, I have a captive audience with which to share my musings. So...we're swapping stories about our respective weekends. Hers was all about rest...mine was all about birthday outings. So, I get to the part where I'm describing a 2 hour weedeating marathon Saturday to tidy up the paths, steps, fire circle, picnic area, etc... on the land. We have a heavy duty weedeater and by this I mean heavy and long, as long as I am tall, so now you have a mental picture of short, round me wielding this massive weedeater...sometimes over my head just for effect...anyway, I digress. Blah, blah, blah...I tell her I wake up the next morning with very sore biceps and to illustrate my point, I raise my right arm in the obligatory make a muscle pose and that's when I want the Earth to open and swallow me. There is an obvious bulge under the sleeve of my blouse, which she notices at the same moment I realize it (the bulge) is the missing sock from yesterday's laundry.

Yes, folks, I stuff my shirt sleeves with socks to make my muscles look bigger.

Sunday, September 24

Diva Dialing

I had just made it home after a perfect night celebrating my birthday and the phone rang. I heard laughter and the muffled sounds of a party, so assumed I was being drunk-dialed, although it was near midnight and a little too early for such a call. No one spoke, so I hung up and went back to what I was doing. A few seconds later, the phone rang again and it was the same laughter and background noise, but then a voice from the past arose over the din of partygoers. Much to my joy and surprise, I was not being drunk dialed, but diva dialed!

For the next 10 minutes, the cell phone was passed from diva to diva...singing and wishing me happy birthday from the stage of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Houston, Texas. The curtain had just lowered on Sing for Evening of Arts Songs & Arias...a benefit concert to support People Living with HIV/AIDS. This is a fundraising concert I've been intimately involved with for more than 10 years. I wanted badly to be with them this year, not because it was on my birthday, but because this ensemble of singers are not only stellar performers, but long-time friends and it shows on stage...the genuine love they have for each other and for our brothers and sisters with HIV/AIDS.

It took but an instant for me to have an ear-to-ear smile plastered on my face as I heard such loving and familiar voices on the line, who took the time to put down their champagne glasses and acknowledge not only my birthday, but that although I wasn't there in person, my presence was felt.

So Vance, Camille, Lester, Randy, Deb, Michael, Ken, Lois and Karen...thanks for bringing a smile to my face and for reminding me that family means so much more than shared dna.

Brava, Bravo, Bravissimo...divas one and all!

The Trouble With Truth

I heard this song performed tonight and it grabbed me right in the ass. Gary Nicholson wrote it, Yo Mama performed it, I heard it:

Oh, the trouble with the truth
Is it's always the same 'ol thing
So hard to forget, so impossible for me to change
Every time I try to fight it
I know I'll be left to blame
Oh, the trouble with the truth
Is it's always the same 'ol thing

And the trouble with the truth
Is it's just what I need to hear
Ringing so right, deep down inside my ear
And it's everything I want
And it's everything I fear
Oh, the trouble with the truth
Is it's just what I need to hear

It has ruined the taste of the sweetest lies
Burned through my best alibis
Every sin that I deny
Keeps hanging 'round my door
Oh, the trouble with the truth
Is it always begs for more
That's the trouble, trouble with the truth
That's the trouble, trouble with the truth

And the trouble with the truth
Is it just won't let me rest
I run and hide but there's always another test
And I know that it won't let me be
'Til I've given it my best
The trouble with the truth
Is it just won't let me rest

That's the trouble, trouble with the truth
That's the trouble, trouble with the truth
That's the trouble, trouble with the truth
That's the trouble, trouble with the truth

Friday, September 22

I've Gone to the Dogs

Turning 47 doesn't have much oomph to it. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful every morning when I open my eyes to a new day, but for some reason, this year I'm not feeling particularly festive.

Yesterday, I received two birthday cards from friends in Houston. There seems to be a theme...

Thanks Kris (poodles) and Larry & John (Great Dane)!

Thursday, September 21

You Know I Will!

They irritated me. They came in wave after unsolicited wave. They went directly into the recycle bin. Now, I welcome them. Now, I read them cover to cover.

Yesterday, I received a gem...the Fall-Winter 2006-2007 catalogue for Northern Sun, a company that sells t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, etc... for progressive thinkers. I laughed from cover to cover and this was my favorite. In case anyone wants to order it for me, go to XL will do nicely!

Tuesday, September 19

Winter Project

When my parents divorced in 1987, my sister became the keeper of the family photo albums. As a winter project, I have begun painstakingly removing them from each album and scanning the images. Thanks to advancements in technology, they'll be saved from the ravages of time and we'll each have a CD containing all 18 volumes, ranging from the early 1900's to the late 1980's.

This is my sister and me from 1961, sitting on the front porch of our house behind the "picture show" in Brookshire, Texas:

Thursday, September 14

Where is the Love people...Where is the love?

I received a blogworthy email today. Normally, messages like this, demanding I take action within a set amount of time gets the finger from me...on the delete button. When I read today's offering, I made an exception and replied to the sender, asking where I might find the "Christian love" in her message:

A kid asked Jesus... how much do u love me? Jesus replied, "I love
you this much." and he stretched his arms to the cross and died for
us. If you believe in God, you will send this to everyone on your
list. If you delete this, you will have a cold heart in 2007. I like
you because of who you are to me. I treat you as a true friend. But
if I don't get this back, I get the hint. Send this to all people in
your list within 30 min and something good will happen to you NOW.

This is not a fake...apparently...copy and paste this to 15 people in
the next 10 min. and you WILL have the best day of your life tomorrow!

Editor's note: I did not alter spelling, punctuation or sentence structure in the email message.

Happy Trails Ann

Inauguration day, January 15, 1991. The first woman to be elected Texas governor on her own merits, Governor Richards appointed more women, blacks, and Hispanics to office than any previous administration. She worked with the legislature to achieve insurance reform, new ethics rules for lobbyists, better hazardous waste management, and restructuring of public school financing.

Ann Richards died yesterday...I will miss her sardonic wit, ineffable charm, irreverence and commitment to creating a seat at the table for everyone.

Monday, September 11

What the Hell?

I'm usually a fairly even-tempered, happy person...but something happened. At 4:15 PM today, someone or something flipped on my bitch switch and all circuits are firing.

There's a seething, writhing monster lurking under my skin and she's hungry and pissed.

Suddenly, I have the appetite, sex drive, complexion and attitude of a teenager and as an extra special treat, not one, but two periods a month and I DON'T MEAN PUNCTUATION!!!!

I would highly recommend everyone keep away from my hands and mouth because I will either slap you or eat you.

Once More

Tenderness…soft and supple
as the petal of a rose
rushes in

My eyes follow the gentle wash
of sunrise
as it dances across your face

I become the sun, warm
sweet on your skin
coaxing you from dreams

You stir…I rise
You reach for me
and once more,
I come home in your arms

Bodies entwined…souls aligned
we breathe the same breath
effortless rhythm of lovers past

The sun clings low to the horizon
but has no master
and will too soon shake you from peaceful sleep,
you will leave this sanctuary

once more,
you turn your sunflower face to me
the lightest, softest kiss passes between us
as lips brush across lips

In the stillness of slumber
you pull me closer
drawing breath from my lungs
in a moment of suspended truth

But the sun must continue its climb
or surrender to time
and I must leave the work of the sun
to the sun

I raise my lips to your ear,
whispering three times the name
I know as love

Your eyes open slowly to a new day…
once more.

Saturday, September 9

Disconcerting Certainties

I just returned from Texas, spending the last week with my family. It was a fishing expedition to see for myself how Dad is doing, how Mom is handling the situation and what I can do to help.

Having spent 14 hours and 15 minutes alone in my car driving back to Tennessee, there are certainties that spoke above the hum of tires on asphalt:

Certainty - Dad is going to die, the "when" depends upon him, no matter how many pills the doctors prescribe or how many Mom pokes down his throat

Certainty - Parents are always going to assume the role of parent, no matter how much they need the help of their children.

Certainty - Whatever skills I learned working with people dying of complications from AIDS isn't helpful now...I thought it would be, but I was wrong.

Certainty - Kind, concerned and well-meaning people are going to ask what they can do to help...I honestly don't know, but keep asking.

Thursday, September 7

Wednesday, August 30

Thanks for Playing

1. elitch

Slang term for marijuana. Used mainly in the 40s and 50s by beat hipsters.

Alas, there was no winner, but kudos to Tuffenuf for discerning that the embedded clue was "brownies." Kudos also to everyone for not are either very honorable people or frightened by my immense powers.

BTW, elitch is not listed in the Merriam Webster Dictionary. It took a very deep Google search which led me here, the Urban Dictionary. Who knew?!?!?!?!

Thanks for playing was most entertaining.

Monday, August 28

What Does It all Mean?

I'm craving potato chips in the worst way...why?

Sunday, August 27

River Road on a Sunday Morning

Q: Why did the wild turkey cross the road?

A: The chicken was in church.

Thursday, August 24

Where Be My Prize?

I will personally bake you a pan of mouth-watering brownies and send them to you if you know the definition of this word...without benefit of looking it up:


I'll even give you the sentence it appeared in:

With my inexhaustible supplies of Elitch I daily dive again into these dim regions, and crawl to the surface with the stub of a pencil, sweating, to record what I have observed.

Here are the contest rules:

1. You are on the honor system about sneaking a peak at the definition...if you cheat, I will know it and poison your brownies!

2. You may ask for clues, but I retain the right to refuse to give you one or I may make something up just to throw you off...take your chances.

3. If you are thinking of asking someone to look it up for you...see rule #1

4. If you are thinking of asking someone with a pulse if they know what the word means...see rule #1

5. The contest ends when the first correct response is received as a comment on this blogsite or by my birthday, whichever comes first.

There is a clue to the definition embedded in this Blog. It's subtle and I didn't do it intentionally...but it's there!

A Good Morning to Be

I awoke to the first cool morning of the season...58 degrees and the Ridge is shrouded in mist. We stretch and rise, anxious to enter the sanctity of the breathe and hear what the creatures have to say. The pileated woodpecker is rat-a-tat-tatting in the distance...a cliche runs through my foggy head about early birds...I chase it away.

I'm grateful to have finished most of my chores last night, leaving more play time for this morning before the guests arrive at 9:00. There is one thing to do...take the park bench to the lake. With it's freshly sanded and re-sealed wood planks, it's anxious to return to its post of respite for the weary. Bench is reunited with dam, lake, iron weed, spider webs, dew on the grass. I can now turn my senses over to what is before me.

The lake is reacting to the coolness much like we are...swirling, dancing, rising to touch the blue of morning. It's surface is covered in boiling mist, moving clockwise, but also toward the center of the lake. Fragile ballerinas spin 'round and t'ward each other until they commingle into one plume of swirling mist thrust upward into the open air, into the space where the trees surrender to the sky.

Wednesday, August 23

To Be Human

I subscribe to the Daily OM. Today's message seemed particularly poignant. When I read it this morning, it wasn't an "ah-hah" moment in the mirror of who I am today, but a clear reflection of who I have been in the past.

For those whom I have not allowed to be fully human...I am sorry.

Putting People On Pedestals

When we fall in love with someone or make a new friend, we sometimes see that person in a glowing light. Their good qualities dominate the foreground of our perception and their negative qualities. They just don't seem to have any. This temporary state of grace is commonly known as putting someone on a pedestal. Often times we put spiritual leaders and our gurus on pedestals. We have all done this to someone at one time or another, and as long as we remember that no one is actually "perfect," the pedestal phase of a relationship can be enjoyed for what it is-a phase. It's when we actually believe our own projection that troubles arise.

Everyone has problems, flaws, and blind spots, just as we do. When we entertain the illusion that someone is perfect, we don't allow them room to be human, so when they make an error in judgment or act in contradiction to our idea of perfection, we become disillusioned. We may get angry or distance ourselves in response. In the end, they are not to blame for the fact that we idealized them. Granted, they may have enjoyed seeing themselves as perfect through our eyes, but we are the ones who chose to believe an illusion. If you go through this process enough times, you learn that no one is perfect.

We are all a combination of divine and human qualities and we all struggle. When we treat the people we love with this awareness, we actually allow for a much greater intimacy than when we held them aloft on an airy throne.

The moment you see through your idealized projection is the moment you begin to see your loved one as he or she truly is. We cannot truly connect with a person when we idealize them. In life, there are no pedestals-we are all walking on the same ground together. When we realize this, we can own our own divinity and our humanity.

This is the key to balance and wholeness within ourselves and our relationships.

Tuesday, August 22

Falling Like Rain

I just talked to my Mom...she is so sad. After being home for 3 days, Bill's lungs filled with fluid and at 4:45 am Sunday morning they went back to the hospital. Lasix isn't helping any more and he's very tired and weak. The doctors are going to start a different medication to try and dry up his lungs and also introduce a medication to strengthen his heart.

The heartbreak in her voice jumped from the phone to my bone marrow.

I need to be there so Bill can come home to die. I need to be there so Mom doesn't have to care for him alone. I need to be there so they can spend this time in a meaningful way...not in a hospital room. I need to be there for me because this is an important part of who I am...a caregiver.

For more than 20 years, I've been taking care of other people's dying sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. I should be able to do this for my own family.

Second Helping

I lace my hiking boots
to the pulse of raindrops meeting
parched Earth, today calls
for a sturdy shoe,
no umbrella to shield me from the elements.

She levitates around my feet
wishing me faster to the doorknob
as it turns clockwise to freedom.

We strike out on an all-too-familiar path
staccato footfalls muted by a veil of rain,
soft and supple as chiffon
swaying before an open window.

Six clicks of a walking stick
and we enter the sanctuary of lichen-covered trails
cool and quiet, yet not without movement
leaves and branches bow and sway
as puddles rekindle their jubilation

Why is there no name for the sound of falling rain?
More soothing than static, richer than white noise...

Deeper in the woods, deeper into self,
the crisp call of a cardinal shakes
us from our morning stupor
Senses heighten
breath quickens
we are hydrated deeper than our skin

Yawned from the mouth of the trail
I stand frozen at the specter...
a dancing lake embraced by oak, sycamore and mimosa...
layers of mist shrouding their intentional greenness.

Brown dog, flying low across the dam
breaks my gaze,
the scent of blackberries and loam
swirl in her wake...pulling me along the creek.

Cedars cling to rain on outstretched arms
in a tug o’ war with gravity for each precious drop.
In our passing, we are careful not to engage
in a battle not of our making.

Will the cascade, held to a whisper by drought,
bustle once more or will the Ridge open its craggy,
leathered fingers to drink in every drop?

Anchored steps and sturdy rope aid
our descent into the meadow
the grandiose sweep of walnut branches tickle
bowing grasses into gales of laughter, soaring above
low...growling thunder.

Shelter is near, yet we are unhurried
to sever ourselves from the feast...
to be in dry clothes,
restored to the order of the World.

All too soon, staccato footfalls
and the click-click of a walking stick
will lift the veil between worlds...

the un-named and the one named chaos
known by the listening as yearning.

Thursday, August 17

Scraps of Wisdom.11

To dream of the person you would like to be is to waste the person you are.

Friday, August 11

Here I Go Again

More random thoughts...

Random lapse in memory #1

I can't remember Mocha's favorite place to lay in the house we lived in on Hemphill. I've closed my eyes and walked through every room in my memory and she's not there. I can see her outside on the front porch looking at the stars and us on our twice a day walks through the neighborhood, but nowhere inside the house. Freaky huh?

Random bit of bitterness #2

The Mars Candy Company is on my shit list...just when I'm conquering my addiction to sugar, they come out with dark chocolate M& a purple package. Bastards.

Random observation #3

I've been eating fruit every day for a month. The last few days, I forgot and now I'm craving sugar...hmmmm.

Random paradox #4

I've been having random days of no pain in my knee or hip after 4 weeks of constant pain...this is good. I finally have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday.

Reading While Falling

Here's a link to a captivating blog written by an American who is in Beirut teaching Lebaneese children about peace. This appears to be a genuine telling of what is going on, how this particular American is perceived by self and those around him. It's gripping and I anxiously await every post.

Reading While Falling

Pray for peace in our world
Be the peace in your own world

Thursday, August 10

Yes Victoria, I Have A Secret

One of the experiences of losing weight is that often, your internal body image doesn't match reality. There's less of me...I know this because I don't have to turn sideways to get through a turnstile and my ass fits comfortably in a movie theater seat. But this morning, I was picking out something to wear and realized the perfect bra to complete the ensemble was one I hadn't worn in a while. It's red satin with black lace...very nice and of course, no one but me (and Mocha) know that under this seemingly nondescript blouse lurks some sexy lingerie.

Imagine my surprise when I put it on and realized it was too big. I don't mean around my torso, but the cups. I stood gazing down at my boobs swimming around in satin cups that once were filled to overflowing. There was enough room for them to do the breast stroke, if they were so inclined.

Did someone come in the middle of the night and deflate my boobs? Is this my punishment for thinking Ken Lay isn't truly dead?

So now, I have to adjust my body image and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I've always liked having big boobs, others have as well. I was happy when the size of my thighs, stomach and hips shrunk...I'm even wearing a smaller shoe size, but it's going to take some time for me to accept my new boobs.

Wednesday, August 9

Photo Archives

I discovered a file on my laptop containing photos for the past 4-5 years. I'm posting some of my favorites.

This is Mocha and Molly taking up residence in my favorite chair. Everybody say, "Awwwwww."

Tuesday, August 8

When I Wake Up....

I've suddenly become very weary over the situation surrounding my stepdad's protracted decline. Last week, the doctors started him on chemotherapy after they discovered that on top of everything else, prostate cancer he had surgery for 17 years ago is back with a vengence. Did I mention they did this without consulting my stepdad, mom or any of us? This seems to be ok with everyone but me and my sister...Mom has gone from being in deep denial to turning it all over to God and the doctors.

Why in the name of all things decent would they do this? Doesn't quality of life mean anything to anyone any more? If it were their father, would they have taken the same action? I think not.

All I want to do is take a nap...its 6:22 pm...this is not a good sign. Maybe when I wake up, it will all have been a bad dream. Who's in denial now?

Friday, August 4


An active hornets nest was discovered in the brush on the side of the lake. Normally, we leave these things alone, but folks spend a lot of time in the area fishing, walking and sitting on the benches, so we couldn't take the risk of someone getting a face full of hornets.

Much to my surprise, our exterminators wouldn't touch this job with a ten foot pole. Apparently the EPA prohibits the spraying of chemicals near a body of water...makes sense. But, I have a live hornets nest!!!!!!!! After being shuffled from one government agency to the next, I: 1) did research on the internet and 2) spoke to an entomologist at the county extension office.

The rules of engagement, as explained to me, seem to be like entering a bar full of surly women:
  • Wait until dark..they are more easily agitated when it's light outside
  • Since it's dark, you'll need a flashlight, but cover the beam with red celophane...they tend to make a beeline for the light
  • Approach with caution and NEVER attempt to do this alone...take a buddy as a decoy
  • Don't wear bright clothing...gray, brown or black is preferred
  • They have a tendency to crawl up your pant leg, so tape the bottom of your pants real tight and include the wrists of your shirt sleeve too...just in case
  • In fact, wear two layers of clothing, two hats, two pairs of gloves and a impenetrable veil over your face...they will sting over and over again
  • Have a foolproof getaway plan (this is where the buddy comes in handy)
  • There's only one way in and out of the nest, so find the hole and spray liberally with hornet be gone...wait a few minutes for them to get stunned, then spray again
  • Pick up the nest and 1) put it in a plastic bag and seal it with duct tape, 2) burn it, 3) toss it in the lake or 4) leave it where it is and go back this winter when you are sure they are all dead and display proudly on your fireplace mantle...makes a great conversation piece my beekeepers suit is in storage in Houston and Mocha is no good at driving the getaway golf cart....what am I to do? Then I of my neighbors has bee hives in his yard. I bet he has a beekeepers suit. So I dial him up and sure enough, he has the wardrobe for the job and will come over right away and take care of it for me! I'm a little disappointed he's not going to let me wear his suit, but heck, leave it to the experts I say.

He pulls up in his pickup truck in full beekeeper regalia...cute as a bug. We exchange polite chit chat...he too lived in Houston and has very fond memories of that time. We jump in the golf cart and tallyho...we are off to the lake....him singing through his beekeeper veil, "Isn't it Romantic." Now I have to tell you, he and his wife have been married 57 years, so he can get away with it. Then, my knight in shining armor does the sweetest thing...he says, "you go on back to the house and I'll walk back once I get the nest in the plastic bag." Sure enough...about ten minutes later, he comes walking up the trail to the house with stick in one hand and plastic bag in the other...what a man.

Tomorrow, I'm going to bake him something and drop it off at their house as a thank you. No my friends, chivalry is not dead!

Thursday, August 3

Random Musings

I'm in a personal season of Advent...waiting and while I'm waiting, I'm observing and feeling and thinking and when I do this...randomness occurs:

Random Confession #1

No matter what I'm doing, when Vince Gill comes on the radio I stop, take a deep breath, sit back, close me eyes and let his voice wash all over one fluid movement. That boy can sing.

Random Feeling #2

Today, I picked and ate tomatoes I grew in the front yard at Penuel Ridge. They were warm and juicy and tasted as good as being here feels.

Random Irritation #3

There's a song playing on a country radio station in Nashville titled "Yeehaw." It's a bouncy tune, but what bothers me is they spell the word yeehaw in the song...y-e-e-h-a-w. I'm thinking the folks who need to know how to spell yeehaw already possess that skill because just like me, they learned it in the 6th grade when they took Texas History. If your birth certificate doesn't say Texas, please refrain from using our just sound silly.

Random Knowledge (good to know) #4

Yellow Jackets build their nest in the ground. Hornet nests usually hang from trees or bushes and look like watermelons or basketballs made of papier mache. Bees build hives in hollow places, usually trunks of trees. I've interacted with all three this week. Run Forrest Run!

Tuesday, August 1

Laying on the Conspiracy

I reached a new height of cynicism when I heard Ken Lay had died of a heart attack at his vacation home in Colorado. I didn't believe it and apparently am not alone in my conspiracy-laced thinking. Instead of packing for a long stretch in prison, I picture him reclining under a palm tree, healing nicely from a facial transplant and sipping pina coladas through a straw.

I usually don't lean in the direction of conspiracy theories, but you have to admit, someone with Ken Lay's cunning and resources could pull this off.

This appeared over the weekend on one of my favorite blogs...

I imagine Michael Moore or Oliver Stone are working out the story idea even as I type this confession.

Saturday, July 29

Answer the Door

A large, dark SUV crunched to a stop on the gravel drive outside my office. Not expecting a visitor, I looked up from my morning labors impatiently, wondering who had made the trek to Penuel Ridge on the off chance I would be there. I checked myself, smoothed my unruly hair, plastered on my most hospitable Southern woman smile, the one that says, “yes, I just happened to have a pie baking in the oven in case someone came by” and went to the door to greet the interloper.

There stood a tiny woman with bleached blonde braids zigging and zagging across her black scalp. She shook my hand and made a beeline for the bathroom. I stood there awkwardly, waiting for her to reappear and identify herself. Bursting out of the door and closing the gap between us in two strides, she enveloped me in her arms and whispered, “I am a Prophetess and God has sent me to deliver a message.” Locked in an embrace, she spoke intentionally in my ear, part English, part moaning, part twitching, part guttural dialect I didn’t recognize. She uttered my truths, every single one in detail, acknowledging the whimpering child who suffered at the hands of my father and brother and the wounded woman who carried the pain of lost loves. “Repeat after me,” she instructed, and I did, eyes closed, leaning into her, repeating forgiving words of sweet release for it ALL. When consciousness crept back into the corners of my mind, I was lying on the floor, her smiling face looking down at me. Not sure the proper protocol for this type of experience, I pulled myself off of the floor to an upright position and did the only natural thing…hugged her.

How many times have we, in our human-ness, asked God for a sign, for a message letting us know he is there; sees our struggle; knows our pain and will wash it away? In our soul pining, do we believe it will come and when it does, will we know it? She was gone as quickly as she came. Was she truly a messenger sent from God or a crackpot on a joy ride through rural Tennessee? My intellect questions if it actually happened. The healed, open space inside of me that once held tight to the pain of the past says, “Yes.”

I wonder, if in your human-ness, you would have opened the door?

Friday, July 28

Independence Day 24

Independence from TV - no problem

Independence from sugar - a couple of candy bars and a small bag of Teddy Grahams in the last 24 days...not too bad considering what I was consuming

Independence from procrastinating - finished or discarded unfinished poems from a year ago (mostly discarded)

Independence from cursing - the "f" word has been flying out of my mouth today and I don't mean "frustrated", although I am quite frustrated...something is holding Bill to this Earth when his body is clearly shutting down, at being a prisoner to my body, which is only painfree in the sitting and lying down position

...time to swallow the patience pill


My first sweet I drew it in, you were there
ancient souls in a new body peering through curious eyes

My first sweet taste…as it passed my lips, you were there
hungry souls in a marauder’s body savoring life’s bounty

My first sweet love…as it filled my vessel, you were there
entwined souls in a rhythmic body breathing in one another

My first sweet heartbreak…as the fabric tore, you vanished
abandoned soul in a quaking body seeking solace in darkness

My first sweet awakening…as it shone in my eyes, you were there
reunited souls in a soaring body embracing one another

My last sweet breath…as it escapes my lungs, you are there
flooded souls in a spent body released…manna to the Universe

Wednesday, July 26

I'll Take Two Please

I'm hungry...yogurt, toast and coffee are to my right.

I have things to say...laptop is perched on my lap, ready to go.

Which will win out....hunger to eat or hunger to write?

I need more hands.

Monday, July 24

Scraps of Wisdom.10

Those who have sought for and gained from your destruction find no benefit in your resurrection.

Sunday, July 23

...on Jack Kerouac

I just finished reading Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. A disturbing read as you are drawn into his desperate attempts at clarity through alcohol soaked boughts of insanity. The dialogue was hard for me to follow at first, written in the beatnick vernacular of the early 60's. Luckily, I hung in there and on page 34, he pulls out of a drunken stupor to lay out with precise clarity one of the most profound narratives I've ever read. It's a bit long, but well worth the read...enjoy.

The setting is a small cabin in Big Sur, California...sandwiched between ancient redwood forests on one side, the pounding Pacific Ocean on the other. Here's a link to the coastline view he mentions from the upper deck of Nepenthe.

At high noon the sun always coming out at last, strong, beating down on my nice high porch where I sit with books and coffee and the noon I thought about the ancient Indians who must have inhabited this canyon for thousands of years, how even as far back as the 10th Century this valley must have looked the same, just different trees: these ancient Indians simply the ancestors of the Indians of only recently say 1860-----How they've all died and quietly buried their grievances and excitements----How the creek may have been an inch deeper since logging operations of the last 60 years have removed some of the watershed in the hills back there----How the women pounded the local acorns, acorns or shmacorns, I finally found the natural nuts of the valley and they were sweet tasting----And men hunted deer-----In fact God knows what they did because I wasn't here----But the same valley, a thousand years of dust more or less over their footsteps of 960 A.D.-----And as far as I can see the world is too old for us to talk about it with our new words----We will pass just as quietly through life (passing through, passing through) as the 10th Century people of this valley only with a little more noise and a few bridges and dams and bombs that won't even last a million years---The world being just what it is, moving and passing through, actually alright in the long view and nothing to complain about----Even the rocks of the valley had earlier rock ancestors, a billion billion years ago, have left no howl of complaint----Neither the bee, or the first sea urchins, or the calm, or the severed paw----All sad So-Is sight of the world, right there in front of my nose as I look----And looking at that valley in fact I also realize I have to make lunch and it won't be any different than the lunch of those olden men and besides it'll taste good----Everything is the same, the fog says "We are fog and we fly by dissolving like ephemera," and the leaves say "We are leaves and we jiggle in the wind, that's all, we come and go, grow and fall"----Even the paper bags in my garbage pit say "We are man-transformed paper bags made out of wood pulp, we are kinda proud of being paper bags as long as that will be possible, but we'll be mush again with our sisters the leaves come rainy season"----The tree stumps say "We are tree stumps torn out of the ground by men, sometimes by wind, we have big tendrils full of earth that drink out of the earth"----Men say "We are men, we pull out tree stumps, we make paper bags, we think wise thoughts, we make lunch, we look around, we make a great effort to realize everything is the same"----While the sand says "We are sand, we already know," and the sea says "We are always come and go, fall and plosh"----The blue sky adds "Don't call me eternity, call me God if you like, all of you talkers are in paradise: the leaf is paradise, the tree stump is paradise, the paper bag is paradise, the man is paradise, the sand is paradise, the sea is paradise, the man is paradise, the fog is paradise"----Can you imagine a man with marvelous insights like these can go mad within a month? (because you must admit all those talking paper bags and sands were telling the truth)----But I remember seeing a mess of leaves suddenly go skittering in the wind and into the creek, then floating rapidly down the creek towards the sea, making me feel a nameless horror even then of "Oh my God, we're all being swept away to sea no matter what we know or say or do"----And a bird who was on a crooked branch is suddenly gone without my even hearing him.

Small Miracle

I was on a conference call when a retreatant burst into my office exclaiming, "we have a minor crisis on our hands!" I politely excuse myself from the call, pull myself up off the floor (the only comfortable position I could find that day) and follow her to the patio, where she points to the problem. At the end of her intentional digit, is the large birdfeeder sitting on the picnic table. It's a long cylinder with holes drilled hither and yon with metal perches inserted so the birds can feast comfortably. There, on the bottom row, I see the body of a small bird jutting out of one of the feeding holes, but no head! I step closer and realize this creature, in its zeal to get the last safflower seed, has wedged its head so deep into the hole it can't get out. The retreatant is near hysterics...she's been watching this bird struggle for more than an hour to extricate itself.

One of us obviously has to stay calm and come up with a plan, so I check first to see if the bird is still alive, which it is, gently tug on its little body to see if I can free it, which I can't and step back to assess the situation. I open the top of the birdfeeder and look down. All I can see is part of its head, beak and its shining black eye looking up at me, pleading to be set free. There's only one thing to do...break the birdfeeder and set our feathered friend free.

So, I head back into the retreat house for plyers, channel locks, vice grips, whatever tool I can lay my hands on to do the job. The channel lock does the trick, several intentional tugs on the metal perch under its bird body and crack, crack, crack, the plastic gives way and out falls the trembling bird into my waiting hand.

It's in shock, laying on its side, panting, yes, panting like a dog. I'm pretty sure this little fellow is not going to make it, so I stroke its feathers and talk to it softly. It responds by peeing and pooping on me, which I oddly don't mind. The bird and I are locked in a staring contest, you know the one from childhood where the first person to blink loses. I recognize consternation in his fixed gaze. I send the retreatant back into the house for a box and something soft for it to lay on. She reappears with just the right makeshift bird sanctuary. Showing no signs of struggle, I gently lower him into the box where he seems content enough, all-the-while piercing my soul with its onyx stare.

The Ridge is wild, with many natural predators, so now I don the role of protector for our rescued friend. I gently walk the box into the breezeway outside my office. This is where I tend to the ailing houseplants, so it seems logical this is where the bird should recuperate.

I returned to my conference call, complete the meeting and check on the status of the bird. Much to my surprise, not only is he now upright, but flies out of the box in the general direction of my face. I duck and rush to open the door of freedom and our rejuvinated friend exits with a rush. Instead of flying straight away, he stops for a moment and rests, casting a backward glance over his left wing at me. Our eyes meet in a parting 'thank you' and he launches into the heavy summer air to the sanctuary of the forest.

Saturday, July 22

Crisis and Calm

The space between crisis and calm is rapidly diminishing. Bill is back in the hospital after being home for only 2 weeks. Pneumonia, another mild heart attack and early signs of kidney failure is the diagnosis. The news this morning is encouraging...he's responding well to medication to knock out the pneumonia. Mom reports he's anxious to get back to the lake.

When does medical intervention become a hindrance? The sands of time are rushing into the bottom of his hourglass, yet something is holding him here. I know my role is to honor his process and not intervene...easy to say...hard to do.

Tuesday, July 18

Scraps of Wisdom.9

"Our work is simply to find our work. And then with all our hearts to do it."

Sunday, July 16

I'm Tired

If I lay very, very still and breathe shallow breaths, the excrutiating pain almost subsides. It's been 3 sleepless days and nights of non-stop pain. It started out as lower back pain, but now the entire left side of my body from the waist down is on fire.

Hopefully, at some point, I'll pass out from exhaustion.

Thursday, July 13

Two Chickens and a Turkey Leg

I was thinking about my Grandma this morning, who taught me some mighty powerful life lessons. She had a reputation for being an impeccable housekeeper, which was no small feat considering the number of menfolk traipsing in and out of her house. One day I asked her, "Grandma, how do you keep your house so clean?" She looked me in the eye and said, "Baby, if you live clean, you're house will stay clean." Wise woman.

So, this morning I decided to tackle the mystery contents of the freezer. It appears to be full of food, but truthfully, it's full of various portions of food that went bad in my refrigerator. When this happens, I just move the offensive dish into the freezer, awaiting disposal on trash day, at least that's my intention. In truth, there's more dead food in my freezer than consumable. Did you know moldy food continues to mold in the freezer and turns a beautiful shade of teal?

After an hour of feeding the garbage can and emptying countless storage containers, here's what remains:

1. Homemade chicken broth
2. 4 bananas
3. 4 packages of corn meal - which must multiply in the freezer when I'm not looking because I only remember buying one carton in the past year
4. 1 package of coconut
5. Various bread products - hot dog buns, croissants, etc...
6. Two Whole Chickens
7. One Turkey Leg

From a freezer jam-packed with stuff, I'm down to 7 items. My Grandma would be so proud!

Sunday, July 9

My Personal Declaration of Independence - 2006

Although most people make resolutions for personal and professional improvement on New Year's Day, I have found Independence Day to be a more meaningful time for me. Yeah, yeah...New Year, New Beginning, New You...I appreciate the metaphor, however what could be more powerful than claiming independence from those things holding me back from realizing my fullest, most joyful self?

Since last July 4th, I've achieved independence from:

diet sodas
artificial sweeteners

I was only intentional about the top 4 things, which I admit were at the level of addiction. The additional ones occurred organically as a result of living at a Contemplative Retreat Center...a bonus of sorts.

It's been quite a year, so in the interest of balance, my personal declaration of independence is shorter this July 4th...nevertheless intentional. These are BIGGIES and have been with me since childhood, except the last one:

Watching television

The television, VCR/DVD player, all remote controls and owner's manuals have been neatly tucked away in a closet.

Since sugar truly is an addiction for me, I have to quit cold turkey. Nor do I intend to replace sugary treats and snacks with sugar-free alternatives...that's just silly. Please send blankets. I envision myself crouched in a corner of the basement shivering from withdrawal, like someone coming off of crack.

The latter two, I'll take a day, an hour or a moment at a time. I am amused at the irony of posting this 5 days after July 4th and will miss cursing, but look forward to an expanded vocabulary.

I've lit the fuse on this Independence Day. Time will tell if the sky lights up with brilliance.

Friday, July 7

The Mother Church of Country Music

Yes folks, this Sunday night I'll be standing on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music, singing my heart out with my brothers and sisters from Nashville in Harmony. I'm freakin' gonna sing at the original Grand Ole Opry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here's the best part...Mae West performed on the very same stage.

Life doesn't get any sweeter than that!

Scraps of Wisdom.8

Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations.
George Bernard Shaw
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap;
the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

Wednesday, July 5


I lace my hiking boots
to the pulse of raindrops meeting
parched Earth, today calls
for a sturdy shoe, no umbrella
to shield me from the elements

We strike out on an all-too-familiar path
staccato footfalls muted by a veil of rain,
soft and supple as chiffon swaying
before an open window

Six clicks of a walking stick
and we enter the sanctuary of lichen-covered trails
cool and quiet, yet not without movement
leaves and branches bow and sway
as puddles rekindle their jubilation

Why is there no name for the sound of falling rain?
More soothing than static, richer than white noise...

Deeper into the woods
the crisp call of a cardinal shakes
us from our morning stupor
Senses heighten
breath quickens
we are hydrated deeper than our skin

Yawned from the mouth of the trail
I stand frozen at the specter of a
dancing lake embraced by smoking trees
layers of mist dissecting the green of
the forest, punctuated
by the smell of loam and ripening berries

Along the creek, cedars cling to rain, wrestling
gravity for each precious orb
held in defiance on the tips of outstretched arms
We are careful in our passing not to
engage in battle not of our making

Will the cascade, held to a whisper by drought,
bustle once more or will the Ridge open its craggy,
leathered fingers to drink in every drop?

Anchored steps and sturdy rope aid
our descent into the meadow
the grandiose sweep of walnut branches tickle
meadow grasses into gales of laughter
soaring above the low,
growling rumble of thunder

Shelter is but a meadow away.
We are unhurried to separate
ourselves from the feast,
to be in dry clothes
or restored to the order of the World

All too soon, staccato footfalls
and the click of a walking stick
will lift the veil between worlds.
What lies beyond is not necessarily chaos.
Like the sound of rain, it has no name
...except yearning and peace.

© 2006 Laura E. Valentine. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 4

Coming Clean

It's 12:48 pm...time to come clean.

Today has been filled with tasks aimed at keeping my hands and mind busy. Busy enough to drown out the small still voice inside of me that is throwing me into a bona fide state of guilt.

Here's what I've done so far:

baked banana nut bread
did laundry
flipped the mattress on my bed
rearranged books in my closet
washed, dried and put away dishes
cleaned the bathroom
arranged recipes

...and I've only been up for 6 hours. If I keep up this pace, I'm going to collapse before the day is over.

So, here's the deal. My stepdad has been gravely ill. He's been in congestive heart failure for more than a decade and his health has slowly declined. Seven weeks ago, he had a heart attack and has been in the hospital, then a nursing home for rehab and back to the hospital...where he is now. To say this has been a difficult time is an understatement.

I consider Bill my Dad, even though he and my Mom didn't marry until I was in my mid-twenties. He's a good man and he's been good to my Mom. He's also been very good to me; showing me over and over again what it means to be a father. I love him for this and for the imperfect person he is.

All the love and medical knowledge in the world is not going to strengthen his heart. He's not going to recover from this last heart attack. His mind is with us, but his body is shutting down and I wish he would just slip away. That's a nice way of saying I wish he would die.

I don't need to expound upon my guilt surrounding this wish. I'll have to work through it the only way I know how...shed some tears and find peace in being human.

Sunday, July 2

Chasing Bunnies

It's easy to overlook subtle changes since moving to rural Tennessee. These changes haven't only occurred in me, but in my constant companion, Mocha.

Having been surrounded by dogs my whole life, I'm familiar with their tendency to "run" in their sleep. Laying on their side, all four paws twitching and moving in tandem, muzzle trembling stifling a low woof. We humans can only imagine what our furry friends are dreaming of. I'm not alone in calling this phenomenon, "chasing bunnies."

The other night, Mocha was curled up in her dog bed and I was settled in my own, reading. Suddenly, I heard thump, thump, thump...the wagging tail of a happy dog. I gazed over the top of my book in her direction and realized she was indeed wagging her tail, but was sound asleep. I laughed out loud and then it occurred to me, she no longer runs in her sleep chasing bunnies. She doesn't need to because she runs freely all day long, chasing bunnies, wild turkeys, chipmunks, squirrels, etc... so now she wags.

She is one happy dog.

Thursday, June 29

Quiet Day Mantra

Today is quiet day at Penuel Ridge, where we are intentionally silent for the day. With a lot of stuff churning inside of me, I decided what I needed to do was go to The Well (our chapel) and lie prostrate on the floor, clear my head and let the small still voice be heard. After deep breathing and clearing the's what was spoken:

I open my heart to receive the infinite love of the Universe.

Tuesday, June 27

Assumptions About Tomorrow

The little mushrooms were pushing through the mosses in the undergrowth, signaling that the autumn rains were bringing the time of gathering. Two Clouds was teaching the young women of her Clan how to know which kinds of mushrooms were edible, and how to collect them.

One young woman was filling her baskets with every edible mushroom she could find. Two Clouds noticed and stopped the women, asking them to form a circle so they could talk. Then Two Clouds began her lesson.

We can never assume what tomorrow will bring for our children and their children. If we take all the mushrooms we see, there will be none left to continue the generations of food that can be foraged from the forest. We might discover that our great grandchildren died of hunger because we took unfair advantage of the bounty given to us today.

There is a balance in the natural world that we can sense, but we cannot always see. If the buffalo keep disappearing, and the deer and the flocks of winged creatures change their migration patterns, how will our generation survive? In assuming that there will always be more than enough, we have forgotten that we are ultimately responsible for what tomorrow holds. If we take without giving something back, we have robbed tomorrow of the energy it needs for renewal.

Sunday, June 25

Observations from the Road

...or maybe questions, but definitely not rhetorical in nature:

1. Why isn't baseline and vaseline pronounced the same way?

2. Driving back from Texas, I hit Bucksnort, Tennessee at about dusk. There was a deer grazing peacefully next the interstate under the city limit sign. Redundant or shrewd municipal marketing?

3. they truly think pulling up next to me on the freeway and making cat calls loud enough to be heard over the roar of their engine is going to turn me on? Does this ever work for them?

4. Who is advocating for the geriatric community dealing with substandard rural healthcare?

5. Solidarity...a pylon or a pile driver?

Friday, June 9

Ich habe geweint

I cried.
I cried this week.
I cried over things seemingly disconnected.

Mournful tears

the fresh scars of tire tracks and ruts on the lower trail leading to the lake

having to resort to killing a wasp building a nest in the doorframe of the cottage when she/he was not amenable to being relocated

photos of the corpse of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shortly after he was killed


Joyful tears

Mocha running as fast as she can across the meadow with a crazed smile on her face

hearing and feeling in my marrow my own voice joining others in creating a perfectly tuned chord

remembering who I am

knowing what I need to be happy

I cried.
I cried this week.
I cried over things seemingly disconnected...

Wednesday, June 7

Scraps of Wisdom.7

My barn, having burned to the ground
I can now see the moon.

Thursday, June 1

Ode to my Texas heritage

Bluebonnet, bluebonnet
with your coat so blue
your eyes are so shiny
through the silvery dew

I know you're my dolly
offered for the rain
I know you'll return again
to Texas in the spring.

Thursday, May 18

A Surly Sentiment

Driving back from town to the Retreat Center I closed in on a short line of cars going very slow on a road that usually clips along at 50 mph. As the ribbon of cars bent around a curve, I spied the culprit, a John Deere tractor in the lead. I settled into my seat, expecting to poke along for the 5 or so miles I had left to travel. The folks ahead of me must have been anxious to get home for as soon as the double yellow lines became single, they zipped around the tractor at break neck speed. When it was my turn to pass, the road was seeing double again, so I had a front seat behind Mr. John Deere, with its large air-conditioned cab and tinted windows.

Glistening in the light of the setting sun, I noticed very large lettering on the back window of the cab which read:



Wednesday, May 17

Write Your Own Caption

Again with the Labels

Recently, a retreatant and I were in conversation about our mutual experiences working with the homeless. We shook our heads in unison over the plight of the poor and marginalized, a kinship born out of mutual frustration and then... it happened. It was so subtle, I almost missed it, but woven into the conversation, he referred to me as a "person of privilege."

I suppose he labeled me a "person of privilege" because I'm white. My reaction was one of curiosity, not quite understanding how this virtual stranger could assume I led a privileged life based solely on the color of my skin. I didn't draw attention to his choice of words, but since his departure, I hear the echo of his voice and wonder.