20160727_163041-1.jpgMy 2nd favorite Stephen King novel is Needful Things. It’s the story of a mysterious stranger who opens up an even more mysterious shop, full of the townspeople’s greatest desires. Want a rare, autographed baseball? Got it. The price? Free, only do some vile thing to your neighbor. One by one, desire by desire, the once friendly town is torn apart, culminating in a vicious, murderous war.

I feel like I’m living in that novel. And, honestly? I think I’d rather be living in Misery. At least then I’d be able to get away to a cool mountain cabin and make a decent living by my writing.

I like Needful Things because, like most of King’s books, it takes this fantastical plot and dives straight to the human condition. We are a fickle, traitorous species. And minute-by-minute, post-by-post, we’re tearing each other apart.needful-things

And I’m torn, too. Like a lot of people, I’m torn between person and platform, believing fiercely with a certain political ideology, but being extremely uncomfortable with the person charged with bringing that ideology to the White House. I don’t (I mean, I really, really, really try never to) post politics on my social media. OK, I did make a joke about wanting to vote for Judge Judy. But I don’t comment much. In fact, I just successfully scrolled past 5 posts on facebook with which I vehemently disagree. I also scrolled past a few that I kinda “liked,” but didn’t bother with the thumbs-up. But in my private life? I am a total political junkie. I love to dissect the debates, to rage against the media machine, to layout campaign advice as if I had the ear of the candidates themselves.

salem-632x362For a truly fascinating read about today’s election, I suggest The Witches, by Stacy Schiff—a beautiful and insightful study of the Salem witch trials of 1692. She writes: We all subscribe to preposterous beliefs; we just don’t know yet which ones they are. We too have been known to prefer plot to truth; to deny the evidence before us in favor of the ideas behind us; to do insane things in the name of reason; to take that satisfying step from the righteous to the self-righteous; to drown our private guilts in a public well; to indulge in a little delusion.

Yeah, guilty. When I’m not playing the part of one of the screaming, hysterical, accusatory girls, I’m the hypocritical Puritan judge embracing suspicion over reason.

I’m not always tactful. A while back at a friend’s house for dinner, I went on a rant, using words to describe a candidate that would have made Billy Bush blush. Later, convicted, I apologized to my friend. I’d spoken against the candidate she supports, I was a guest in her home. I’d been rude and insufferable and obnoxious. The words I used to insult the candidate were ultimately insulting to her. And while it’s true that we all have a right to an opinion, we are under no obligation to share it.

That night, I became a player in the game I’m slowly beginning to hate. I forgot that behind her vote lives a person that I deeply love and respect. I can’t fling mud at her candidate without catching her in the spatter.

And you know what? We’re all supposed to love each other. Whether we agree with them or not. Maybe especially if not.

Does that mean I’ve given up on political discourse? Not at all. But I think I’ve learned to be a little more respectful. And if not respectful, then quiet. And if not quiet, then at least careful to do my plotting and dissecting and ranting and venting with those with whom I’m not likely to offend. It’s a conscientious choice to avoid a political fray. My opinion is simply not—ever—worth offending someone else.

I feel like we’ve elevated voting from a simple civic duty to an all-encompassing judgment of a person’s existence. I’ve seen such vicious attacks between friends, between family members, between utter strangers who have no earthly business arguing with each other. We act as if each campaign—each issue within the campaign—is a two-sided coin. Heads, I’m right; tails, you’re wrong. But no issue is limited to two sides. It’s more like a disco ball, a thousand nuanced surfaces that become something new in spinning light.

Here’s the deal: God willing, we’re all going to be here sharing the country on November 9th. And we’ll be sharing it under the leadership of the person God appointed at creation—long before any words were secretly recorded or deleted. Like my mother used to say when we were about to confront an unpleasant situation: Prepare to get happy. Now, decide what your first step is going to be.



, but life

“Life got in the way.” It’s what we say when trying to explain those things that have been abandoned  or ignored.

I meant to call you, but life got in the way.20160917_123306-1.jpg

I need to clean out the garage, but life keeps getting in the way.

I’m way behind on my deadline–life keeps getting in the way!

I’ve been serving soup with a mug because my ladles have disappeared and they’re probably behind the refrigerator and we’ve been meaning to pull it out and look, but life gets in the way.

The nooks and crannies of my shower are probably inhabited by Seuss-like creatures embroiled in a civilized election, and I need to just get in there and scrub and clean, but life gets in the way.

I haven’t had the college boys home for a home-cooked meal in two months, because–for all of us–life gets in the way.

I haven’t blogged since July, though I’ve been living the life that got away.

It happens.

But then, last Saturday, even though I could have had the boys down for dinner, or I could have been digging behind the fridge, or scrubbing out the tub, or writing that next novel with the deadline that seems so far away but isn’t… I threw some snacks in a bag, and Mikey and I took the bus to a jazz festival downtown. We spread out a blanket, sipped our fancy-pants iced tea, and listened to a group of five extremely talented young men playing songs that were written before their parents were born. It was the last gasping heat of summer. Present, but not oppressive. We were surrounded by people that spanned the range of the notes spilling from the tenor sax. I dozed off in the middle of the crowd. Mikey walked around, schmoozing the music scene.

Life happened.

Life is what we need to do, every moment, every day. Don’t apologize, don’t explain.

Life isn’t the excuse. It’s the purpose.



Because I love food…

…and by that I don’t mean to call myself a foodie–far from it. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking, and I get very little satisfaction from a perfectly executed recipe. Of course, maybe that’s because I rarely enjoy a perfectly executed recipe. So, I envy those people who can assemble ingredients by instinct, and I really envy those who can relegate food to a mere source of fuel. Me? I love to taste, enjoy, savor. So, on the continuing adventure of celebrating my birthday, here are five ways you can join me in a culinary celebration.


This is NOT the pic from the pub burger last night. I’m not sure what it says about me that I have a plethora of burger pics in my gallery. 

  1. Try Something New! Now, my closest friends will call me a hypocrite for saying this, because I usually always get the exact same thing when I go out to eat. Partly becasue, at home, it’s a fairly rare occasion, and I don’t want to take a chance on being disappointed. But when we travel, I like to get the biggest, most obnoxious thing on the menu, knowing that I may never have this chance again. So, last night, after a long day’s drive, we ended up in a pub, and I ordered this monstrosity of a burger, with bacon and little chunks of fried gouda cheese and this sauce…so yummy. (I took a pic, but can’t find it) Would I ever order it again? No. Do I resent the waitress’ pre-emptive warning that she’d never seen anyone finish it? Kind of.
  2. Nutella. On Ritz crackers. The salty and the sweet… I get a jar every payday. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Because of my school’s pay schedule, I don’t get a check in August. Might have to use some of the birthday money…
  3. Whole-grain frozen waffles are my snack solution almost any time of day. With Nutella (sigh), or with PB&J. But, the most fun thing about waffles? (as if there were so many fun things about waffles…) is to find a new topping. This summer, I added Lemon Curd to my repertoire. Get a box of waffles and try something new!
  4. Indulge in your guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Now, for the record–and, yes, I understand the nutritional nightmare of what I am about to say–I love McDonald’s. There. It is a truth now a part of the universe. But, I also know that this cannot be a regular part of my diet, because I love myself. My solution? I have a Big Mac every New Year’s Day, and a McGriddle every birthday. In-between, as the occasion calls, I get the littlest burger and the biggest, the tiniest fries, and the biggest Diet Coke. But, while I have no actual self-discipline in my life, I can deny my two favorites knowing I’ll get one or the other in about six months.
  5. Treat somebody! I am equally happy when I snatch up a check, or nudge a friend aside at Starbucks as I am when the same happens to me. I know it’s an act of specific generosity to pay for the meal of a stranger, but how lovely it is to pay for the meal of a friend. Or a smoothie. Or…a Big Mac.

Because I Pray. ..

I woke up this morning after a fun day travelling with friends, followed by a pizza-and-cake party, and topped off by a late night chat with my sister and our hubbies as we floated in her pool under a star-filled sky. So, this morning, when I’ll officially retire the “It’s my birthday…” mantra that I lords over everyone for the past 24 hours, I face a new day, like every other new day, full of promise and light.

Celebrate with me today, in praying with me. We forget, I think, in the rancor of what we call “discourse” that we are capable of speaking as a single, strong voice.

1. Praise God for His creation. I’ve dubbed this our “Creation Vacation” Because all of out activities center around the natural works of God’s hand. No matter where you are, stop and observe the details of the Master.

2. Thank God for all you have. All of is can measure our wealth in one word: enough. Most of us can measure it in theee words: more than enough. 

3. Pray for our nation, and ask God to show you what you need to do to make it a place glorifying to Him. Your nation begins with your neigjbor. Take care of each other,  no matter what sign is in the yard.

4. Forgive who you need to forgive, and seek forgiveness to mend a heart. 

5. And the greatest gift–birthday or othwrwise–is to pray for me. And, in turn, ask someone to pray for you. And pray for someone elae. I don’t mean a list of specifics–the health-n-wealth of a Wednesday night meeting. God knows the needs. Just toss up my name. Ans rhen another. Wait for God to catch it, and do wonderful things.

Because I’ve Always been a Reader

I don’t remember not reading. I’ve never lived in a home without books. I know I read long before I went to school, and I have more fond memories of reading childhood books than any other activity. I was the girl who took a book to a slumber party–to any party, really. I’ve always read late into the night (or early into morning), and nothing is more fun than knowing that a friend shares the common love of a book.

So, on this–my true, true birthday–I invite you to celebrate with me by reading any of these books that made the list. (and, boy, was this one hard to whittle down) And if you find a new favorite, let me know! And, tell a friend.

  1. nolanA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I remember seeing references to this book in Bugs Bunny cartoons, and one day I thought…I’m going to read that. And, oh, the love. If you’ve only seen the movie, you’ve only scratched the surface. I tend to love books about books, and this one is the best. From it, I got the best advice ever for a fiction writer: Live the truth, and write the lie. And Officer McShane still makes me swoon. And I have never, ever NOT cried when a certain singing waiter doesn’t come home. This is a book that I have to re-read every couple of years. Not all of it, just enough to make me so glad it lives in my world.
  2. Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger. kluger summerA dear teacher friend of mine came with this book to a school inservice one summer, and we just about got kicked out of our session because we were passing it back and forth and laughing. Its a story told completely through ephemera–letters, telegrams, report cards, newspaper clippings. It tells the story of a major league baseball player and his biggest fan during the years leading up to the second World War. It is one of the few books that can make me laugh out loud, and then bawl…sometimes simultaneously. I’ve been known to say that I will judge your worthiness of my friendship based on your reaction to this book. This book easily has the most PG-13 language of any on the list, be fair warned. But totally delightful.
  3. poldark-1Poldark by Winston Graham.  I think I’ve harped on this for a while now. I just picked this up at my mother’s house, intrigued having loved the PBS reboot of the miniseries. The prose is exceptional, the characters live on the page, and it’s the best piece of subversive feminism ever. I only know a handful of people who have read this book, and I’m dying to talk to somebody.
  4. hadassahVoice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. This is the only work of Christian fiction on the list, because it changed my life. The powerful story of first century Christianity, Hadassah is a Jewish slave, serving in Rome, and making a powerful impact on the family who owns her. I love this story because it takes place before salvation through Jesus Christ had a chance to be boiled down to cliche and multi-chorus worship tunes. No matter your faith, you cannot come away from this story without an understanding of how Christianity changes a person, a family, a nation. After you read this book, talk to me, and I’ll navigate you through how you should proceed through the rest of the series.
  5. lauralmanzoThese Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I always count my set of Little House on the Prairie books as my favorite gift, ever. While I always had a book to read, I didn’t often own books, because they were still quite a luxury. I was a library girl, and I checked out the Little House books on a regular rotation. These Happy Golden Years tells the romance of Laura and Almonzo Wilder. It was my first romance. Almonzo Wilder set the bar for all future men. It’s a sweet story, but –like Poldark–carries a feminist message beyond its time.

Because I Am a Watchaholic

Continuing my birthday celebration–I invite you to share with one of the greatest loves of my life. Television. I am unashamed in my love for TV. Quality shows, guilty pleasures, mindless comedy or ground-breaking drama–I love it. I always have. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of watching television with my family. Skipping church for animated Christmas specials. Grasping the sophisticated humor of M*A*S*H. Sneaking peeks at Love, American Style against my parents’ permission.

So, to help me celebrate my milestone birthday, I’m inviting you not to a party, but to the small screen, to share my FIVE favorite offerings at the moment. Some are perfect for a last-minute summertime binge; others might need to find a place in your TV routine. Leave a comment if I’ve included one of your favorites, and if I’ve enticed you to try something new, please let me know! If there’s anything I love more than watching TV, it’s talking about the shows themselves.

In no particular order:

  1. vikings beach 2Vikings. If you haven’t caught this series on the History Channel, you are missing out on some of the most sophisticated filming and story telling on television. The evolution of the main character, Ragnar Lothbrok, from a simple farmer to a king, with an authentic spiritual journey along the way, is masterful. It’s also a fascinating look at early Christianity, and the role that religion played in creating our recognizable Western Civilization. Past season are available on Hulu, and the final installment of the last season will be along in spring 2017.
  2. gilmore_girls_season1_keyartGilmore Girls. Just…there aren’t enough words for this show. Masterful writing, multi-dimensional characters, great fashion. It’s witty and perfect, with the entire series available on Netflix. If you’ve been hearing about it, but haven’t seen it, go. Now. Watch. And get ready for the reunion episodes coming soon.

3. The Paradise. This 2-part mini-series ran on Masterpiece Theater a couple of years ago, and is now available on Amazon. If you’re mourning Downton Abbey, consider a journey to The Paradise. It’s a little lighter, and never quite got the love and attention it deserved.paradise

4. The Golden Girls. Yes, an oldie, but a goodie. (see what I did there?) For those of you who missed out on this show during its 90’s run, you owe it to yourself to check it out and see what a spicy little thing Betty White was before she stepped over into vulgartown. (for that matter, you need to check her out golden-girlson Mary Tyler Moore). And yes, I know Blanche is the sexy one, but Rose has this marvelous little undercurrent…they all do, actually. It’s nice to see smart, sassy television writing, before everything became a lower-case r rating. According to my Mikey, Golden Girls is “always on.” Find an episode and laugh.

5. The 5:30 network news. I’m partial to NBC, because I loved pre-scandal Brian Williams and never bothered to change. I love to watch 30 minutes of national news, without the commentary of “experts” and “contributors” who shout over each other in an effort to tell me what to think. Every half hour starts with the “big” story–war or violence or disaster–and ends with something heartwarming. With a little something enlightening in-between. I leave informed, not battered. I like a show that lets you think.

OK! Come back tomorrow, and I’ll share five books to put you at my party!


Fifty Ways to Celebrate a Texas 50

This is my birthday month, and I am celebrating. Usually, I’m pretty low key about birthdays. I dislike parties, and generally stay away from planning any kind of event. But this is a big birthday. Fifty. I remember thinking fifty seemed so old. But even though I’m in the process of sending my baby to college, I don’t feel old. At all. I feel vibrant and healthy and surrounded by people who love me.

So, I’ve decided to celebrate. And, I’m asking all of you to celebrate with me. Not with gifts (please) or with a party (please, please), but by indulging me over the next ten days while I invite you to enjoy what I enjoy. To indulge in the gifts I give myself. I’m giving you FIFTY ways to share this day with me–trying on all of the hats I wear.


My humble painting of our beloved Alamo. Under a starry, starry sky. What I like to call Lonestarrystarry

Because I am a proud Texan…

  1. Be friendly. Seriously, Texas is The Friendship State. Say “please” and “thank you.” Hold the door for somebody, let the person with fewer items go ahead of you in line. Let the woman with three kids go ahead of you in line. Just slow down a bit and treat a stranger like a friend.
  2. Spend some of the rest of your summer reading Lonesome Dove.
  3. Make breakfast tacos–for breakfast, or for lunch, or for dinner, or for a snack. My personal favorite taco combination is bacon, egg, and cheese. So, for those not familiar,  it’s just a matter of scrambling an egg, frying up some bacon, putting them together in a tortilla, and sprinkle with cheese. Wrap it up, let the cheese get all melty, and…..enjoy.
  4. Today, July 21, has been declared Tim Duncan Day in San Antonio. I’m not a sports fan in general, but the San Antonio Spurs are a unique organization, and Tim Duncan pretty much embodies all that is good in humanity. If you don’t know him, take a few minutes to read up on him. Watch this clip and learn what a class act he is, and why I couldn’t breathe for a minute when I learned he was retiring.
  5. downloadGo to Whataburger. And, if you’re not fortunate enough to live near a Whataburger, go to this website, that of my favorite grocery store HEB, and order the Whataburger starter pack of all their specialized condiments. It’s less than $20, about what you’d pay for any other brand, but so much better. Trust me.

Check in tomorrow and see how you can help me celebrate with the small screen!