Waiting, the Unknown, and Other Things I Dislike

This morning the oncologist’s nurse is supposed to call to tell me when I begin chemo. They’ve been waiting to get approval from the insurance company. I won’t say anymore about what I think of all that. I’m just ready to get on with it. I think. Worse than waiting is not knowing what to…

The Day Before the Tomb Was Empty

The oncologist ordered more tests – more blood work, an echo cardiogram, and a PET scan – after my initial visit a couple of weeks ago. The PET scan was the only test I hadn’t been through before, but I knew it was similar to an MRI, only with radioactive dye injected into your veins…

Critters in the MRI

So the first procedure I had to go in for was a breast MRI. I’ve had MRIs before. Lie on your back, fold your arms over your chest, close your eyes and talk to yourself for 45 minutes to an hour. Talk to God, talk to yourself, just don’t raise your hand to scratch. First,…

Words That Scare Us

The first time I ever heard the word, “cancer,” I was seven years old and my grandfather had it in his stomach. By the time the Archer County Hospital doctor found it, there was nothing anyone could’ve done in 1969. So my Papa died of stomach cancer in the early spring when I was in…

Kindness. Always the Best Medicine.

A couple of weeks ago I was told that I have breast cancer. I’ve had some time now to process that diagnosis, to learn more about the type of cancer I have and the course of treatment I’ll pursue, and that’s helpful. Having at least an idea of what to expect is always better than…

“You Can Have the Town…”

Looking back I realize we watched a lot of television when I was growing up, because I remember characters on TV as well as I remember the people I interacted with in real life. Maybe it was because television was still so new, still a novelty to my parents who were older when it first…

Birthday Gravy. And other things guaranteed to stick.

One year my birthday fell on a Sunday and at the age of ten, I had no idea what trouble my mother went to to pull off what I asked for that year. I wanted to eat Sunday dinner at home. I was tired at eating at Luby’s. I asked my mother to fry chicken…

A World of Difference

Six years ago my world was very different. On this day six years ago I received a phone call I won’t ever forget. I could take you to the exact spot where I dropped to my knees and wept as my dad’s voice came over the phone. “Sally, Joe Rex has been killed in a…

Friends Who Help Us Find Our Way

Sometimes it’s the simplest moments – the seemingly insignificant events of an ordinary day – that make all the difference in our lives. Like the day in high school when my friend Carolyn asked me to compete in a speech tournament. “Hey, Sally,” she said. “We need somebody to do impromptu speaking at the Old…

Lilies after Easter

When we started to have some warmer days awhile back, one afternoon while I was letting Chester outside, I noticed something on my patio that I didn’t expect. You see, last year I bought a lily for Easter. They were selling them at my church in honor of those who had passed away during the…

Last Suppers

About this time last year, my cousin, Andy, brought a couple of guys with him to help move my parents into an assisted living facility. They left early so the guys could get back home in the same day. I’d been secretly packing things the week before, not wanting to disturb my ailing mother, both…

The Taste of Love

The sense of taste, so they say, is almost as powerful a memory trigger as the sense of smell. So last Friday night when I put the first bite in my mouth, I was instantly taken back. The smooth texture of the not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting, chock full of pecans. The crunch of carrots mixed…

The Colors of Kindness

I love watching the CBS evening news. Especially the last story of the broadcast, because it features somebody doing something good in the world. Like those guys who changed my tire last week when I had a blowout on Interstate 30, just outside of downtown Dallas. Fortunately, not long after I ran over whatever it…

Flowerpot Cakes

One year I saved up all my money to buy a cake for Mama on Mother’s Day. I’d had my eye on these cakes shaped like flower pots since early spring, when they first started making them at The Cake Box bakery. The Cake Box was where Mama always took me after I got my…

Seder Meals & Red Cross Volunteers

Sometimes I feel like the lone survivor of a Tsunami. Like the person whose entire village was washed away by a tidal wave. The person who lost not only one of the people closest to her, but her whole community as well. The Red Cross relief volunteers come and bring supplies, they help rebuild, they…

About Time

Awhile back I watched this movie about a guy who had the ability to travel through time. All the men in his family had the gift. They could travel back into time, revisit any situation, repair relationship blunders, correct those awkward moments in life you’d give anything to do over. The only catch was that…

The Dangers of Loving A Dog

  It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything.  The last three months have been a blur.  Lots of posts have floated around in my head, but nothing has materialized.  I was too busy, too scattered, too sad. After all, so I thought, who wants to read the posts of someone who’s grieving? It’s…

No Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

Yesterday was the day elementary teachers always asked you to draw a picture of how you spent Thanksgiving. Now that I’m older, I realize that assignment is as much for the benefit of teachers as it’s just fun for the kids.  After a holiday you have to ease back into the routine of school slowly….

Uncles We Didn’t Know

Today, on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, I’ve been watching all the historic news footage from the day. Seeing what downtown Dallas looked like in 1963. Remembering the cars people drove. Remembering how men and women dressed. Women wearing hats and gloves and glasses that looked like my mother’s. Men wearing felt Stetson…

Birthday Presence

It’s hard to believe this picture was taken 40 years ago today.   And that my mom was the same age in this picture as I am today.   She was 52 and I was 12.   Today we’re celebrating her 92d birthday.   We’re not celebrating the arthritis that has robbed her of mobility,…

Stairwells

This past Saturday I got everything set up in just enough time to run downstairs and grab a cup of coffee before the class I was teaching was supposed to start.   I walked down the hall, then around the curved hallway lined with classrooms where other speakers were setting up for the Envision Church…

Top Chef

Tonight I decided to bake something for my friends coming in town for our 30th college reunion. Pumpkin bars from a Betty Crocker mix.  All you have to do is add some butter and an egg. How hard can it be? Except I forgot to melt the butter. And I never should’ve attempted cream cheese…

Five Things I Love About My Birthday

    1.  My mother’s carrot cake               With the exception of when I was younger, when I still thought chocolate cake was the only kind of cake worth eating (oh, how naïve we are when we’re young), my mother has made a carrot cake for my birthday almost every year of my life….

Airport Security

It didn’t occur to me until I got to the airport what day it was.   The home airport I fly out of most often is small.  We only have two gates.   Most of the men and women working security have been there long enough that I recognize them.  And when I go through,…

“The Butler”

If you haven’t gone to see the recently released movie, The Butler, you need to get in your car and go to the mall or wherever it’s showing and see it now. It’s worth it just to see Robin Williams as Ike Eisenhower. John Cusack as Richard Nixon. And Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. I…

Peach Smiles and Hospital Coffee

Lots of afternoons when I got out of school, we’d drive down to the little town where my grandparents lived to visit one of them in the hospital. The hospital was tiny with less than ten rooms, an operating room, an emergency room where I often sat with my Papa when he needed oxygen, a…

Purple Mountains Majesty….and Beyond

I love to fly. I don’t tell many people this, but I have dreams about being able to fly.  Kicking off the ground with my arms extended like Superman, catapulting myself up into the air.  Being able to see everything from the air and land in remote places you wouldn’t ever be able to reach…

Washing Dishes. And all that goes with it.

  A friend of mine always talks about her mom using the dishwasher as a giant drainer, instead of actually using it for washing the dishes.  When we were growing up, the only dishwashers we had stood on two very tired legs with varicose veins. My friend’s mom had washed dishes by hand for so…

The Journey of Grief

It’s a day of grief in my family. Three years ago today at three o’clock in the afternoon, going about the busy-ness of my day, tending to the trivia that seemed so urgent at the time, I was interrupted by a phone call. My father’s tearful, panicked voice still echoes – “Sally, Joe Rex has…

Needing a Place to ‘Hang Out.’ Even at 50.

Last weekend I had the privilege of working with the middle school retreat at my church.  As always, I was reminded of how much I love working with this age group. Yes, I just admitted to enjoying working with middle schoolers. I always have. Looking out into their faces during worship times, while they were…

Mike’s Wedding Dress

It had been a long time since I’d bought a dress, but I’d been invited to a friend’s wedding and I wanted to wear a dress.  My friend, Mike, came down from Arkansas to attend the wedding, too, so he agreed to go shopping with me.  I haven’t always felt comfortable shopping with just anybody. …

High School Graduation

    Last weekend I went to my cousin Brooke’s graduation from high school and honestly, nothing has changed much in the last 34 years.  Well, maybe a few things. For instance, this time I was the one taking pictures. And now we all have smart phones to combat the boredom. But the band still…

When Phones Don’t Ring

The first time the phone rang after it happened, we all jumped.  For hours, you couldn’t get a dial tone on our phone, a land line, the only kind of phone anyone had back then.  All you could hear was static. And then about midnight out of the blue, it rang. I jumped to pick…

Top Ten Favorite Moments With My Mom

  10.  Eating pimento cheese sandwiches at the lunch counter at English Pharmacy in Parker Square. 9.  The time she got out of the car at a stoplight to invite the people in the car just ahead of us to come over for sandwiches on our way home from church one Sunday night.  Just as…

Time Heals All Wounds?

This past week I spent time with a Christian school for K-12 students in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  The closest place to fly in to was El Paso.  Hesitantly, I agreed.   You see, I don’t have the best track record with El Paso. And yesterday, when I was flying home, of course, my plane got…

And…We Have Lift Off

Well, it’s official.  Today is the release day for the memoir I began writing over a year ago.  This afternoon I’ll hold a copy of the book in my hands and read to a group of friends – and strangers who may become friends – for the very first time.            …

An ‘A’ In Persuasion

The first time I ever heard him preach was at Fish Camp my freshman year of college. He drove a red Prelude, his hair was blonde from the sun, and he didn’t appear to be much older than we were.  He wasn’t. But a big church in town had just hired him to be their…

Eternal Friends

I have some pretty amazing friends. I don’t remember when I met Linda Egle, but it was in a Bible class at my church on a Sunday morning over a decade ago.  She talked about the ministry she had started called Eternal Threads.  On that particular Sunday she was telling us about making a trip…

“You Can’t Go Home Again.” But You Can Visit.

We pulled up in the driveway of the house where I lived until I was 13 years old, got out of the car and I walked up the steps to the front door.  The new paint had chipped away in places, revealing other layers, and eventually got down to the yellow paint that had been…

More Friends in Arkansas

Last week I spent a few days in a little Podunk town in Arkansas with my editor, Lissa, and her husband, Rich. The weather turned bitter cold, snowing most of the time I was there, but I’ve never been any place warmer. Lissa and I first met through emails after she was hired to edit…

Slow to Speak

I think I was a pretty good classroom teacher overall, but when I was younger and just getting started, I made a lot of mistakes. Like the time I made an eighth grade boy stand up in front of the room and tell us everything he knew about Jesus. It was one of those rare…

Slumber Parties

  When I was in the sixth grade I got invited to my friend, Teresa’s, slumber party and I was so excited.    “ I was scared too because I wasn’t completely secure in the whole spending-the-night-away-from-home thing. But I so wanted to go. My mother went all out and bought me a small tapestry…

Hot Dogs, High School, and Hunting For Bathrooms in the Dark

This weekend I’m going along as a sponsor on the youth group retreat at my church. I haven’t been to a retreat for high school students since I was one. In fact, the last one I went to was a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, we started out having a great time.  We played ping…

Rocking Chairs

I had this dollhouse that I just loved when I was a little girl.  I spent hours decorating that house. My mother’s cousin, George, had made it for me one year for Santa Claus to deliver. Who knew we had one of Santa’s elves in the family? It was two story and every room had…

True Confessions on Valentine’s Day

Being the only child that I am, my parents always got me a present for Valentine’s Day. Like the white transistor radio that I listened to in the forts made out of a blanket draped over the coffee table in the den.  The fort that I forced Fritz, our weiner dog, to sit in with…

What if we all lived at Graceland?

Tomorrow I’m leaving on a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, and the thought has just occurred to me that I’ve left no room in my itinerary to visit Graceland. Seems like everybody’s been to Graceland but me. On the official Elvis Presley website, there’s a whole gallery of pictures of celebrities who have made a point…

Friends With (and Without) Titles

We’re getting closer to putting a book together….. A couple of weeks ago I met with Dr. Leonard Allen, director of Leafwood Press, who’s publishing the book I’ve been working on for the last several months. I’ll never forget the day Leonard asked me if I’d thought about a title for the book. It was…

The Power of Words

I’m sitting in the floor of my living room watching President Obama’s second inauguration. On Martin Luther King Day. Watching all the dignitaries file in and take their seats.  Watching the limousine drive the Obamas from the White House to the Capitol. Hearing news commentators say that Obama will take the oath of office with…

Resolved

It’s about this time every year that I’m busted on my New Year’s resolutions. Around the beginning of December you start thinking about the things you want to change in your life.  When we’re full-blown into the holiday season, with Muzac Christmas carols running in all the stores, the downtown decorations are up, and everybody’s…

Holding Hands

While I was in Colorado this week I went to see my 88 year old uncle. He stays in an assisted living facility now, with increasing dementia robbing him of the ability to care for himself. Driving up the interstate on my way to visit him, I thought about all the times he’d driven me…

No Fear.

I don’t remember being afraid the day my mother and I climbed out onto the side of a mountain in Yellowstone to play in a patch of snow. But to hear my mother tell the story, I should’ve been. She claimed we nearly died that day. It was one of the summer vacations we took…

Remembering

Driving through Austin this weekend made me remember all the times I hauled students to the University of Texas for the U.I.L. state tournament. I drove past a hotel where we stayed one year for the state cross-examination debate tournament. That was the year that during dinner at Papasita’s, one of the guys ate a…

No Drink.

“No, we’re not getting a drink.” That’s what she told me as we walked briskly by the water fountain and into the auditorium. Quite frankly I don’t remember anything about the whole incident because I was just a toddler. But I know the story well from my mother telling it. We were traveling to a…