On Remembrance


There’s so much about that day in my life I remember, or I think I remember.

I was a housewife, living in the country. I was a good person, I guess, and there’s nothing wrong with staying home and raising children. I cleaned the house and baked lasagna–the epitome of white bread south. Looking back now, I realize how naïve I was, like many others– how trusting of the government and our leaders, so willing to be lead as a country into a war I didn’t understand with a cost we could have never calculated.

There was so much I didn’t comprehend–so much of it I probably never will.

I had initially heard the news that the first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center by seeing the footage on the small television at the University of Arkansas bookstore. The footage repeated, the confusion of what we were seeing, voices over voices…I didn’t understand at first. Nobody did.

Because, at first, it seemed like an accident, a tragic misfortune. Perhaps, I speculated, the captain on board of that 747 had a stroke or heart attack, and this was the fiery result.

I did not hear about the second plane until after my job interview, on the way home in my car. The radio reflected the pandemonium, the sheer panic of the spectators…for once, it seemed, the journalists covering the story did not sound stoic, speaking each word with a measured accuracy. The people being interviewed were breathless, terrified.

That was the moment when I knew this event was no accident. Two planes had been the unwilling weapons of terrorists, essentially bombs with humans as ammunition. It was too horrific for words.

When I returned home, my husband was plastered in front of the television; my dad had called him a few minutes earlier. On TV, people were screaming, sobbing, running through the streets, covered in white dust as if they were victims of a nuclear holocaust. The old women bleeding, leaning on you women, trying to get away from what was now being called “Ground Zero,” they could have been anyone. Images of fire, chaos and terror played over and over. Police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances were everywhere at once.

I never really knew why they called that place Ground Zero. When I tried to research it, Google comes up with some pretty outrageous stuff. There are so many pages devoted to conspiracy theories–a few of these use “Why do they call it Ground Zero” in their titles. The hypotheses are as numerous as the conspiracies themselves. One guy says that they call it Ground Zero because “they” knew it was an inside demolition job. USA Today has an article about businesses that, before 9/11, were called Ground Zero and the fallout that have occurred since–how they had to change their names, etc. Other articles talk about the workers around the site who helped rescue others from the steaming rubble, and their increased risk of cancer because of it. But as far as anything credible, there’s nothing I could point to.

On that day, my husband and I had not eaten yet, so I went to cook pancakes. Lee worked the night shift at a factory that made diaper wipes, and should have been in bed resting, but of course he couldn’t. My daughters were both at school, and Nathan was playing quietly with some blocks.

On the surface, at least for us, everything seemed eerily normal. At least, for a moment, I could pretend.

I could try to block out what this meant to me personally. There was a comfort there in the center of my kitchen, as I mixed the pancake mix and water with a whisk, as I had done a thousand times before. There was a rhythm to the way I heated the old iron skillet to just the right temperature. The buttery smell of the pancakes filled the kitchen, but it wasn’t enough to work on my worry for long. I began thinking of how, at age 30, the kind of world I was raising my children in. Jordanne was eleven, Sarah was eight, and Nate was two.

I can remember pouring the batter, watching the bubbles build in the center and spread to the edges. Then the panic set in. I pictured my sister’s face, blond and gorgeous, and wondered what pandemonium must have been at play at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska where she was stationed. If I’m honest, I knew everything was not “okay.” Not with our country, and not with me.

“A plane just hit the Pentagon!” Lee shouted from the living room.

So America was at war, but with whom? The words Al Qaeda had been mentioned dozens of times, and the blame was being placed there, at least for the moment .

“There are some planes missing! Flight 93 is one of them!”

The pancake turned a golden brown.

“What do you mean, missing?”

“They know because the planes are not on their assigned paths. hey think one of them is headed toward D.C.–maybe the White House.”

“Oh my God…what will we do?” A chill stole across my arms.

“If they find out the pilot has been killed, they will have to shoot it down.”

“Shoot it down?” I repeated numbly, stupidly. I began sobbing. The pancake burned and smoke-filled the kitchen.

“Tina, your pancake…”Lee said, but I stood there, looking at it curiously, as if I had never seen such a thing. When I didn’t move, Lee shoved in front of me and turned off the burner.

“Where is our president?” It seemed he was being very quiet during this whole thing. Later, I would find out that he had been flown to the very Air Force Base my sister was working.

I had a feeling that she would know all about it, and possibly be a part of the planning it took to get him there.

On TV, the broken wreckage of flight 93 carved a cavernous ditch into the Pennsylvania countryside, looking like burning, torn flesh.

Suddenly I was struck with panic. All I could think of was my kids. I wanted to go to the school and pick them up, hold them close. I began to ramble incoherently.

Lee put his arms around me.

“The girls are o.k. I don’t think the terrorists are planning to attach the schools. They don’t need to be picked up.” He was right, I knew. It was unlikely that the terrorists were interested in small town Arkansas. We were hardly a symbol of American arrogance. If New York City was “Ground Zero” then what did that make us?

The rest of the day, I spent watching TV and trying to call my sister. Not surprisingly, the line to her office stayed busy. Frustrated, I hung the phone up harder than I needed to.

On TV, after President Bush announced that this was in fact an “act of terror and war,” people were even more scared, if that was possible. The news depicted aimless wanderers, shuffling through stacks of paper that littered the ground. Why was there so much paper everywhere? Of course it makes sense; it was a shrine to the “old way of life.” But the images of people wading through that paper still haunts me.

At home, the grocery stores were empty. I learned that many of my friends bought large amounts of ammunition, fearing the worst. Many of my friends who did not own guns bought them for the first time. Such a time of fear and chaos was upon us.

On TV, camera angles showed piles of concrete, several stories high. Fire fighters, covered in ashes and blood, dug out bodies with shovels. The rubble was covered in shredded, barely deliverable human artifacts: bits of clothing, portions of walls,shards of glass–it reminded me of human tokens: an archaeological dig.

I also remember hearing of the beating of Muslims, the political cartoons, the everlasting rhetoric of war. On campus at the University of Arkansas, an announcement was made that we were to be especially sensitive to Muslim students, and any threats made against them would be taken very seriously.

It was around six that evening before I was able to reach my sister.

“Hey,” I said, softly.

“Hey.” The background noise was indescribable. Phones rang and tons of conversations went on at once.

“Are you okay? Are you safe?” I asked her.

“Yes, I’m safe, but I’m going to be deployed, probably tomorrow.”

It seems crazy now that she would already have orders. To the rest of us, it seemed like the government drug its feet, letting the frenzied cry for revenge of American blood rise to its fever pitch.

My sister talked later about the fact that she did not even had time to sew on the stripes demonstrating her newly decorated promotion. Instead, she hurriedly sewed them on by hand, late into the night.

I caught my breath, trying to steady it. She didn’t like it when I freaked out about her deployments–and I had in the past. “I figured,” I whispered, swallowing a lump in my throat, trying to clear it away. She had enough to worry about.

“Oh, happy birthday,” I said.

“Right,” she said, with a sigh.

The fragile link between us, even though she was over 1000 miles away, seemed strong. On TV, the American flag flew high. In town, the flag was everywhere.

Now that I’m a teacher, I see lots of veterans returning to school. Sometimes, I can tell the veterans from civilians without even  checking their paperwork. Sometimes, I can see the haunted look in their eyes. I see their struggle to make sense of civilian life and college classes. Sometimes, it’s almost tangible–the great effort it takes for some of them  to attach importance to something as trivial as English homework when all they can think of is the sense of mission that seems missing and those they left behind. I see them, sitting in the back of the classroom, watching the door. Some of them come to my class physically broken, but most of the scars they bear are nothing less than a symbol of the mutilation of a nation, the castration of a once proud super power.

It’s possible to be patriotic, to support our military, but to still be wary of war. I was a Navy wife for 4 years, and my father and grandfather were also military. I’ve always believed that we should be respectful of those who serve.

Now that Nathan is almost grown, he’s talked once or twice about joining the Air Force or Marines himself. The thought makes my blood run cold. Not because I don’t love my country, but because I’ve seen firsthand the damage done to those who serve.

And I remember.

An Open Letter to Judy Blume


Dear Judy,

So many times as a kid I wanted to write you. To me, you were like the “cool” aunt–somebody who understood me much better than I imagined my mother did. I’m not sure why I never did it, so I’m taking a moment to do that now.

Thank you for your books. Thank you for your frank point of view–you seemed to really get me. Perhaps you also had a bit of a hard time during your teens–but then most teens feel they have a hard time.

Thankfully, I never had to hide your books from my parents. They were pretty okay with me reading whatever I wanted. I began with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I loved that Margaret was much like me–worrying about getting my first period and the time it was taking for my boobs to grow in, hoping and praying my best friend wasn’t first! The horror! Isn’t that funny–what was I so excited about? Turns out, like a lot of things, it was a lot better in theory than in real life. I also learned a bit about Jewish culture (and New Jersey!) from Margaret. Growing up in small town Arkansas, I didn’t know any Jewish kids, and you showed me a glimpse into a girl who was very much like me. You helped open my mind to other viewpoints and lifestyles from my white bread, rural, Southern Baptist life. Nobody would have expected a children’s author to tread into such deep theological territory, but you did.Thank you for that.

Deeny was another favorite. Deeny explained to me a bit about scoliosis, which I was to develop a few years later, although very minor in comparison. My daughter as well has been diagnosed with it, and Deeny’s experience resonated in my mind. Because of your book, I knew a little about this beforehand.

When I became a mom myself, the first of your books I read to them was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. My son especially enjoyed Fudge’s personality (seeing that he was of similar nature, it’s no surprise), and so did my daughters. All my kids LOVED Otherwise Known Sheila The Great (which is still on our bookshelf, and my youngest is 16) the most, I think, and more than once I heard the favorite phrase “Sunny Sheila Tubman!” sang around the house.

I know parents and scholars alike have analyzed your work over and over–I’m far from the first. Thanks to you, my favorite childhood author, I began to write stories of my own, and my love of reading has never lessened.  I’m now an English teacher and author, in part to you and your influence.

For now, I think I’ll go buy your newest book In The Unlikely Event. I can’t wait to read it.

So thank you, Judy, for so many reasons. And here’s a confession for you: sometimes, when I’m alone, I yell “Sunny Sheila Tubman!” … just for fun.

On Settling and Other Myths

settling 3Concert

I used to worry I was settling

Somehow sacrificing what I could be for who I was

Solving the problem of yearning with inertia

Putting my dreams in the backseat

While I wiped runny noses and composed grocery lists

When time is forever and money is a dream


Sometimes I would feel the regret of choices made

Haphazardly, without really thinking about the consequences

Not really thinking much of anything except

How I was going to get that next can of formula

To feed your hungry bottomless stomach


The guilt of that feeling consumed me

What kind of mother questions motherhood

And its effect on a young woman’s life

As she holds a warm infant close to her breast

In the wee hours of the breaking day


But now I see more clearly the choices made

Not sacrifices at all, not wasted days

My vision is clear now

It’s amazing the clarity that comes  when you have had rest

Rest from the endless cycle of feeding, burping, bathing


I see the young woman you’ve become

As your life unfolds before you and you make choices of your own

Wait, I want to say



I see the young man you’re trying on—

Still deciding which way to go

Left or right, the decision is yours

And oh, it seems as if there’s plenty of time—hours folding upon hours like so many snowflakes

I see the hourglass, quietly reminding me this is not so


I see the husband sleeping next to me

His back raising and falling with dreams

Like the tide rushing in and flowing back

Foamy water that refreshes the weary


I see the home we’ve made, the five of us

The three souls that made us whole

Our little universe in an expansive but terminable piece of eternity


I have no regrets


It was not a sacrifice as I had first thought

But more like a perfect gift of God’s timing

In the small hours of this morning

When all I love is under one roof

Fall TV: 4 Shows I Won’t Miss!

It’s fall–you know what that means. Fun, football and new TV episodes. I love it when a new season starts and all my favorite shows are back. Here’s 5 shows I love, love, love…and if you haven’t seen them I strongly suggest you check them out.

1. Parenthood
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5vCDj0tsEp0″>Season 1 Trailer

This show hooked me from the very first episode. The Braverman clan never disapoints. Well, that’s not 100% true. I was extremely disappointed (and yes, grossed out) when Julia kissed Ed last season. Blech! What is this guy’s problem? He always plays jerks (remember when he was on the Office playing Roy–still a jerk!) This is the “farewell” season and that makes me so sad. I love the Bravermans in their inperfection, although sometimes Max’s mom Christina annoys me since she always has the right thing to say. You never see her making the kids eat cereal for dinner or picking up drive-thru fare for her. Even when she was on her death bed, she managed to squeak out a request for Adam to check on Max at school. But overall, the characters are flawed and (except Christina) inperfect. I’ll miss you Parenthood!

2. Greys Anatomy

I hesitated putting this show on my list becuase it’s really not as great as it used to be, and Meridith gets on my nerves. Her lips have had so many injections that they kind of resemble Daisy Duck. But still I watch it. Why? I’m committed. I have to find out if McDreamy is gonna leave Meridith to take that job in DC where he’s working with the Prez. I also have not seen Cally and Arizona’s baby in a while. She’s always “conviently” somewhere else. She’s got to be like 20 now. I couldn’t believe that they are trying to get the viewers to swallow this stupid plot about Ellis having a love child with Webber back in the day that nobody know about. PULEEZE. Yet still I watch.

3. Modern Family

Even if there’s not a new episode on, I will watch the reruns. Why? Because they are hilarious. I love how they showcase Mitchell and Cameron’s ongoing rivalry. It doesn’t matter what it is they are competing. Cracks me up! Of the entire show I relate the most to Cameron. He’s at least honest about his faults. One question though. Why does nobody admit that Haley looks hispanic? There’s a story there.

5. American Horror Story Season 4: Freak Show

I missed the first episode so I haven’t started this one but I’m going to get around to it. I love Jessica Lange and this concept of modern Gothic tv. I never, ever watch this show if Nate is in the vicinity because sometimes there’s gratitutious parts for no apparent reason–I usally just fast forward thru those.

What’s your favorite fall lineup? Let me know! In the meantime, I’m gonna get caught up on the latest episode of Parenthood while I still can.

3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Son

Raising responsible, kind men is a daunting task. Sometime as a mom I am tempted to “help” my son by giving him what I believe is constructive criticism, but, shocker of shockers, he may just view my sage advice as plain criticism/nagging!

We see our sons as diamonds in the rough (emphasis on rough) that we have been charged to polish to a shine. For example, I see a report card full of A’s and immediately notice the one B. Why? How short-sided of me.

Polishing is painful. There’s friction, and it’s always one-sided. It’s painful to be the one who is being polished, rubbed and broken.

I believe that as good moms we need to walk that fine line between helping and being too harsh. Avoid saying these 3 things as a start when working with your own diamond.

1. You’re lazy. Here’s the kicker: he might very well be lazy, but to say these words is a negative reinforcement and may turn into a voice in his head for the rest of his life. Instead, try to notice when he shows interest in a chore or skill praise it. For example, my son doesn’t like to do dishes, in fact he will avoid dishes at all costs. He’d rather walk though Hello Kitty World dressed as Hello Kitty. But, he loved the experience of washing jars and helping with home canning! I know! Super weird. So I jumped on that and we spent several pleasant hours together making the best salsa known to man. If you don’t think so, you can just come to Tyler and tell me to my FACE.

2. You can’t do this! It’s too much for you. Maybe your kid is taking on too much. I’m not saying to not be your son’s buffer, but he needs to learn a bit of stress.Another unpleasant aspect of diamond making is intense heat. Melt your eyebrows kind of heat. Uncomfortable, unbearable, chemical-changing heat. If he never encounters heat because we’re so protective, how will he know what to do when he’s in college and you’re not there to shield him? Let him try to find the balance between school, work, church, activities, and girls. Do give him advice and stop him if he’s going off the rails. But let him feel the heat. It’s good for him.

3. Your girlfriend is a !@#!. Ok this is a tough one. We must guide without criticism, which is so difficult. One way to help him without verbally assaulting someone’s daughter, is to do your best to model the kind of woman you would like your son to find. Ouch. And just to be clear, I don’t mean anything Norman Batesesque. Whether or not you realize it, you are the standard, for good or bad. Luckily for me, I adore Mancub’s girl, but not every mama is as lucky.

Good luck, Mama. Remember that Jesus is the master diamond maker and ultimately has the final say, so trust Him with your diamond-to-be. And oh, how lovely the Son reflects from your son’s facets. Every.Single.One.


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On Regret and New Beginnings

My favorite pic of Dad.

My favorite pic of Dad.

The anniversary of my dad’s death is September 14. During his last weeks, our tiny family was strained beyond the tipping point. Dying isn’t easy. The soul, our very essence, does not easily part from our flesh.

Watching someone you love die? I think that’s even harder.

There’s no guide book. There’s no YouTube video on surviving grief either.

Because really, nobody knows how.

Though I’ll always treasure those last moments I spent with Dad, there will always be an element of regret associated with that time in my life. I’ll always question myself, wondering why it took me so long to realize how sick he was, hoping that Dad realized my love for him even in the gritty reality of our reversed roles.

I think that one regret I’ll always have is that before he became sick, it felt like time was plentiful–unlimited and slow-moving. I remember being annoyed with his habit of coming over early when I invited him to dinner. I wasn’t ready to see him yet. The house needed to be vacuumed, the dishes in the sink washed. When he arrived early, I always was a bit irritated that he couldn’t seem to respect my idea of punctuality. If I said, “Dinner’s at 7:00,” he’d knock on the door at 6:40.

I can’t believe that used to bug me. Now, eleven years later, I regret that attitude I had. Like Dad was going to be around forever. Like time was just standing still. I hate that it took him getting sick for me to open my eyes to the swiftness of time.

I know better now. Don’t we all? My baby boy? A man child. My little girls? Grown-up women with jobs and classes and boyfriends. My hubby? Getting a little silver around his temples and me. Well.

I asked some friends to ask me what their regrets were. Here are the most repeated ones.

1. “Not believing in myself.” So many times, we only hear the echoes of those negative voices from our past influence our present which becomes our future.

2. “Not taking chances or opportunities given to me.” Sometimes we just need to take a leap of faith, because certain opportunities (or people) are worth the risk. It’s my experience that opportunities rarely present themselves at a convenient time. There’s almost never a perfect time to take the great job, travel the world, have a baby. If you wait too long, it just slips away.

3.”Working too much.” We only have 24 hours a day, and even then the minutes fly. I’m not dismissing the importance of a good work ethic. It’s just that, in all likelihood, we sometimes put our work “family” above our real family, when the reality is that no matter how important we are at work, we are SO replaceable. But to your husband, your kids–there’s only one you and there’s no good substitute.

4. “Caring too much what others thought” or its ugly sister, “Working too hard to please others.” This is, I’d like to point out, an almost entirely female statement. It’s so easy to slide into the trap of not saying “no” because we want others to think well of us.

5. “Letting addiction/alcoholism take over my life.” This one is not so nearly black and white as it seems, because addiction wears many masks. Can an addiction to video games be every bit as damaging as alcoholism, excessive spending or a gambling addiction? Absolutely, if your whole world revolves around a game to the detriment of your health and relationships. When a pretend world is more important than the real world, it’s time to take stock. When I spend hours wasting time watching other people’s lives on reality TV while my flesh-and-blood family is right here within reach? Same thing. What about when I write for hours, giving others encouragement for raising their teenagers–obsessing about my so-called “ministry” to others, when every minute I do so at the expense of my own family time, if I’m not careful…damaging.I’m a woman with an addictive personality–predisposed by genetics and encouraged by my own excesses. Regrets in the making.

But the good thing about regrets is this: once I realize I have something to regret, I can make a positive change. I can’t get that time back with my dad, but I can use that experience to remind myself that each moment, every second, even the seemingly mundane, has the opportunity to be a precious memory one day. I can let my regrets about dad’s last days drag me down, or I can learn from them, giving myself permission to forgive myself.

I can exchange my regret for a new chance, a fresh outlook.

After all, what is regret but joy in disguise?

Jerkwads and 1st World Problems


This guy.

I’m a reasonable person most of the time. I don’t have a record. I pay my taxes. I buy 2% milk and take vitamins and never litter. I follow the rules.

But when I see stuff like this…well, I feel a little like a vegan trapped at a Texas barbecue. That’s CRAZY.

Why do people think it’s ok to do stuff like this? And what’s more, when I put it on Facebook, a friend of mine responded with “Yeah! I saw that guy there LAST WEEK DOING THE SAME THING.” So this guy is a repeat offender! GRRRR!

I guess I just don’t understand this kind of entitled mentality…someone who says to himself, “You know what? Even though parking spots are rarer than a Longhorn fan in Razorback country, I DESERVE two spaces for my brand new, untagged vehicle. I JUST DO.”

I would NEVER double park my giant truck in front of a popular sushi restaurant! That is unacceptable; only the biggest jerkwads would do that! (My dad, who never cursed, would call people jerkwads.) I might have used another harsher term under my breath.

But wait. Am I REALLY complaining about having to search for a parking spot? Is this the worst thing I’ve had to endure today in my cushy world? Wahhhhhhhh!

Whenever it dawns on me that I’m just as bad as Rude Truck Guy… I’m ashamed.

I often hear people joking about “First World Problems.” That’s really a catch phrase for entitlement. I’m guilty of this, without even realizing it. If the lady at the drive-thru at Starbucks doesn’t immediately come on to take my order, I get miffed. Every second that ticks by I get more annoyed. What’s taking so long? I’m BUSY. I have classes to teach and minds to ignite with knowledge! I can’t be expected to work my magic without my triple capp frapp! THE HORROR. There are people going through serious health issues, mamas grieving their children taken too soon, children going hungry. These are the real tragedies.

How spoiled I am! Here I am, on my way to have dinner with one of my sweetest friends (you all know her as Leigh Ann), at my favorite restaurant that is NOT cheap. Minutes before, I was watching Oklahoma with my Mancub, cuddling with my chihuahua, listening to the rain fall softly on the window of my cozy house. Hours before that, I finished up my first week of my dream job teaching students the joy of writing. I have so many things to be thankful for, but what do I post on Facebook? My outrage at this guy.

Forgive me Jesus.

Thank you for my cozy house that I have the privilege of taking care of. Thank you for my sweet hubby who puts up with my crazy ideas and my obsession with writing and literature. Thank you for my beautiful girls laughing in the kitchen, giving each other a hard time. Thank you for Mancub, who is transforming into a Godly man right before my eyes.

Thank you, Jesus, for these and many more blessings. Soften my heart and show me the ones in need you would have me help.

But listen, while I have you here, could you maybe send a little smiting Jerkwad’s way? Just the smallest smidge of smiting–like a giant bird doo on his precious window. If it’s not too much trouble. Amen!


Do you have a First World Pet Peeve you’d like to vent about? Go ahead! I’m with you, Sister!

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After the Honeymoon: 6 Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years of Marriage


Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 25 years together. I was 18 (by merely DAYS) and he was 19. Since we were married in 1989, (notice the big hair and mullet, respectively) we’ve moved about 20 times, had three kids, went back to school, dropped out of school, went back to school and finished. We’ve lost people we loved. We made friends and lost friends. We’ve fought and made up more times than I can count. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and by no means am I proclaiming myself some kind of marriage guru. I’m not. But I can share with you these 5 survival tips I’ve learned the past 25 years–I’ve been around long enough to have made many of these mistakes myself or to have seen them played out to their eventual disaster.
1. Make time to laugh together. I’ve read over and over that parents should make time for a weekly date night. I’m sorry but are you a parent? Do you have jobs, games, grocery shopping, bill paying and other life activities that take up your time? Me too! A weekly date night might be a bit of a stretch but you do have at least an hour to reconnect with the one you love, even if it’s just to talk for a moment before bed. That last hour after the kids are in bed and the dog is chewing something out of sight, talk to each other! Share funny parts of your day. If you don’t have funny parts to share, talk about the not-so-funny parts. Tip: don’t bring up stressful decisions right now. You’re trying to unwind.
2. Don’t take your kid’s side in an argument when they disagree with your spouse. Behind closed doors, you can hold your stand until the cows come home. Just really try to present yourselves as a team to the family. It’s so important. Disclaimer: I’m assuming that your marriage is abuse free here. If you or your kids are being abused, all bets are off. I don’t believe that Jesus wants that for us, and can’t ever be on board to see abuse continue.
3. Never let anyone disrespect your spouse. This goes for family members (your own teens!) as well as friends. Just don’t let them go there. Take it personally. It’s the same as if they disrespected you. In the same vein, be careful to not disrespect your spouse–in private or public. Sometimes in the day-to-day grind of mortgage paying, lawn mowing, tax filing reality, it’s easy to take out your frustrations on those we love. Try not to do this, but if you do–
4. Never be too  right to apologize. Woman up and do it. Your spouse, your family, is worth it.
5. When (not if!) your marriage is struggling, don’t isolate yourselves. Don’t be too proud to talk to someone. We have had marriage counseling in the past, sometimes through a pastor and sometimes not. That’s not always went so well, because sometimes when we are already hurting, the opinion of one person can be biased or judgemental. I’ll never forget the time we went to our pastor and the very first question he asked was about our tithing. The implication being that if we weren’t tithing our ten percent, we were asking for God’s wrath. We were giving as much as we could–and still struggling.
I think it’s better–at least it was for us–to choose a married couple you trust to talk to. Do not discuss your marital issues with someone of the opposite gender: to do so is a recipe for disaster. You are creating intimacy with someone other than your spouse and it’s not ok. But a couple you trust can be a salve for the wounded. It’s good to open up and hear good, solid advice from those who love you–and to hear that maybe it’s not as bad as you think, and that you can make it through this.
6. Stop trying to fix each other and give your irritations to God. Trust Him to address it. Little irritations sometimes turn into big problems, so be aware of your own bad habits. Is God at the center of your marriage? Ask yourself that every single day. The times I’ve felt the most alone have been when we’ve allowed God to be crowded out by other things. There have been times when our marriage has lasted only by the thinnest hair–and by the promise we made to God. When it’s 3:00 in the morning and you’ve sobbed yourself to sleep–sometimes He’s the only one who has whispered: “I’m here. You’re ok. Perservere. Don’t give up.”

Marriage is worth it, but it’s one of the hardest endeavors you’ll ever take on. Don’t go into it blind, dear one. Take nothing for granted.

It’s been through God and the help of others that we’ve made it through this 25 years and look forward to the next.

5 Reasons Your Kid Should Be In Band


It’s that time of year again–summer band. It’s bittersweet for Mancub: he loves band BUT he’s also become accustomed to a shall we say more relaxed way of life over the summer. Gone are the days of sleeping until noon, only to surface like a bear from hibernation.

Summer band means school is just around the corner. I have three kids who have all experienced it, and around here it’s kind of a rite of passage. Now I know how Texans feel about their football, and I love it too–but not for the reason you think. I love to watch the band at half-time. I don’t care who wins or loses, as long as I can pick out Mancub from the others in the best horn section ever. There’s something exhilarating about it–the deep red and gray uniforms marching in precision onto the field, the excitement that builds when they turn and bam! That sound that knocks my socks off every. Single. Time.
Like most sports or after school activities, they start ’em young here: most kids are mere babies when they first take the field. I’ve heard tell of some Texas bands that throw kids on the field as young as 4. That could be a tall tale, but even so it’s pretty close.

Here you go: a bit of last year’s awesome show as performed by the REL Band. You’re welcome. I’m so proud that he’s a part of such a great band program.


(video courtesy REL Band)

Here’s 5 reasons your kid should be in marching band.
1. They will be forced to have a bit of discipline. Mancub’s band is no different. He’s a sophomore now, so he’s no longer on the bottom rung of the bandie ladder, but he’d still rather risk personal injury or jail time then be late for band. Because nobody is late for band. I remember being late for marching practice one time, under the magnificent Pat Ellison, and receiving a tongue lashing that would have made Mussolini cry like an infant after his first set of shots. I’ll tell you this: it never happened again. Your teen who is habitually late for school, church, and library books will not be late to band. It’s too embarrassing.
2. Band teaches teamwork. One thing I love about Mancub’s band is that they are taught from day one to be a part of a section that is part of the band. It’s very organized and there’s definitely a hierarchy to it. It’s almost military in the way it works. And it works.
3. Band teaches responsibility. Your teen will, God help him if he doesn’t, learn a bit of responsibility while in band. There’s so much to keep up with: uniform pieces, music, instruments, the list goes on and on. If Mancub forgets his flip folder, only God can help him now. He fails inspection and is in deep crap. If he fails his inspection too many times, doesn’t learn his music, leaves his horn behind somewhere–he risks the very fires of hell. Ok not really but close. He will at the very least be called out in front of the band, lose points, or have to do a superfun chore like cleaning up the band hall after 300 or so of his closest, sweaty friends have been hanging out after practice. If too many slip-ups happen then the unspeakable happens. Ok I’ll speak it.There’s a B-list of band kids that for one reason or another don’t get to march and sit on the sidelines waiting for a spot to open up. Nothing is quite as embarrassing to lose your spot. You still have to come to everything and march on the sidelines but you don’t actually get to perform.
4. You must pass to play. You can’t fail a class while in band. If you do, you are automatically B-listed and you miss out on the fun trips the band takes.And you don’t want to miss out, trust me.
5. Friends for a lifetime. I just checked my Facebook and I am still in contact with a great many of my friends from band. In fact, my closest friends Joy, Amy, and Mac (all in my wedding party) have known me longer that my hubby of 25 years. This photo is of Amy and me. She played flute and was on the flag line, but I didn’t hold that against her.



I sat next to Joy in concert band and marched beside her on the field. My girls, who loved band so much they are going to school to be band directors, tell everyone that if you are in band, it doesn’t matter where you are, what lunch you have, what classes you take because you will always have band kids–friends–there. It makes all the difference to a terrified freshman to know that the first day of high school he’s not gonna be alone. Band kids stick together. And that makes this mama bear feel a lot better about the late nights and long rehearsals. I know he’s in good hands.

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This Castle’s A Mess: A Real Life Fairy Tale


Once upon a time, a queen and her royal family lived in a modest castle which she lovingly referred to as her “Little House on the Loop.” After a weekend of attempting to experiment in the alchemy known as “home canning” the Queen realized a sad, horrifying fact. The castle was trashed. Because the Queen and King were from a lowly kingdom near Le Ghetto (from the French), they could ill afford servants–nary a lady in waiting was to be found, which was fine, because they had those before and nobody could ever figure out what they were waiting for. For this and other numberless atrocities, the royal Auntie blamed a faraway king named Obama.

In the tradition of oppression, they had several children, partially because of their love for one another and partially for the household help they would bring.

As the saying goes, “Ain’t nobody happy if the Queen’s not happy.” When the Queen mistakenly confused her castle with the set of Hoarders: Buried Alive, she took action. Her first instinct was to recruit the children. After all, they lived in relative bliss and should be more than happy to scrub a royal commode once in a while.

To her great surprise and shock, the royal children were not overtly fond of household chores, and despite the untrue legend that pretty princesses received unsolicited help from forest animals, the Queen tried to charm her handsome prince into helping. This also was a failure. Although the King was a good and righteous leader, he had a habit of disappearing into the Royal Mancave when the dirty dishes piled sky high, pretending to be deaf to the Queen’s gentle requests.

The last idea the Queen had was to institute the black arts of magic. However, no wizards, witches or even useless fairies seemed to be on hand–neither by royal decree, Facebook announcement, nor even a royal Tweet could summon them. So the good Queen, virtuous and beautiful, was left alone once again to wash the royal dishes caked with leftover enchiladas and hours-old cereal remains.

And oh, the kingdom would pay for her angst. Between her ruby red lips the Queen made a hideous oath: the royal television would forever be parked on the Food Channel or Lifetime, cycling through endless reruns of The Next Food Network Star and Sister Wives, and oh, the prince and princesses would protest through the gnashing of teeth.

And the sun would once again set upon the mighty Queendom after all.

The End.