Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 ~ The Year in Pictures

Although 2012 was filled with a lot of tears, and fears, and nights without much sleep, beauty often appeared among the clouds. Here are a few beautiful things I experienced in 2012.

 January - New Year's Day was simply spectacular.

 February  - A tiny girl with a big ball put a smile on my face.

 March  - A beautiful girl with a big dog warmed my heart on a cold day.

April - My beloved mother celebrated a milestone birthday with family and friends.

 May - Twin sister and I witnessed a majestic sunrise on Galveston Island.

 June - I posed with Daddy on Father's Day.

 July - Three sisters went shopping in cowboy hats.

 August - A flowerbed makeover brought loads of good cheer.

 September - Time with my daughter and granddog brightened a weekend.

 October - Hearing the heartbeat of my grandchild made my own heart beat a little faster.

 November - A glorious sunset welcomed me home after difficult days with Daddy in the hospital.

 
 December - I was blessed to spend another Christmas with my family at the old home place, and...

...my beautiful daughter turned 27.

♦ ♦ ♦

I hope your year brought good things, and I hope 2013 is filled with promise and peace.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Exploiting Tragedies for Political Gain is Wrong

This afternoon, while waiting for President Obama’s initial remarks regarding the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I told myself that he would not politicize this heartbreaking event so soon, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Within a few sentences, he was talking about us “coming together” to take “meaningful action” to “prevent more tragedies like this.”

MSNBC’s, Alex Wagner, said, "Hopefully, this shooting will result in political capital to reform gun laws."

CNN’s Piers Morgan tweeted: "Nothing happened after Aurora. Now it must."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said we need “immediate action” against guns.

Boston Mayor Menino said, “Now is the time for a national policy on guns.”

And here we go again, exploiting horrific tragedies in order to advance a political agenda of gun control. It is shameful at best, and the argument is totally ludicrous.

The fact of the matter is: Gun laws don’t work.

Take the Brady Bill for example.

When the Brady Bill was signed into law on Nov. 30, 1998, it was heralded as a meaningful step toward a “safer, saner society.” In essence, this new law replaced the already failed Brady Act, and required a five-day waiting period to purchase a handgun.

At the time of the signing, James Brady—for whom the bill was named—said the new legislation would bring “the end of unchecked madness.”

Perhaps Mr. Brady believed the words he spoke, but as evidenced by the slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut today, “unchecked madness” didn’t cease with the signing of the Brady Bill. And it won’t cease regardless of how many bills are signed into law. Legislation can't cure the morally diseased, after all.
 
I contend that if we're really concerned about the out-of-control violence that is happening in America, we should take a long, hard look at what is being promoted as entertainment these days.
 
Movies are violent. Music is violent. Video games are violent. Yet, when a violent act is carried out, nobody on the left points fingers toward Hollywood. Oh, no. They are way too busy pointing fingers at the NRA, speculating if the shooter is a Republican, or a Tea Party member, or a Sarah Palin fan or a Rush Limbaugh listener, or a Bible-thumping believer with a rifle in his truck. Sad, but true, and you know it.
 
Don't misunderstand, I would love to have a safer, saner society—God knows we need one—but more gun laws won’t bring that about. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes." He went on to say, "Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants."
 
Today's shooting was an unimaginable tragedy. Unimaginable. Exploiting it for political gain is disgusting and wrong.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sustaining Grace

Most of you who read my blog already know that crisis knocked on my family's door the day before Thanksgiving, when my 85-year-old father fell from the roof of our home while hanging Christmas lights. His ladder broke, and his injury was grave. A pilon fracture. An open break. All the things that can cause even young men to lose their legs.

Some say that "believers" aren't supposed to ask why, but I did. Not once. Not twice. I asked it numerous times over the course of the next few days.

Why, God? Why did such a violent thing have to happen to my daddy. He's 85. He was in great shape, walking a mile every day except Sundays. It seems so cruel, God. So unfair. So wrong. I'd just like to know why.


Being the perfect Father that he is, God understood my need to knowI am human, after allbut he didn't answer my question.


One evening, after an exhausting day of keeping vigil at the hospital, the injustice of it all overwhelmed me again, and I raised the question to my mother, the wisest woman I know. Why, Mother? Why did this happen to Daddy?


"It's the law of gravity, baby."


No, I'm serious, Mother. Why now? After all these years? I mean, how many times has Daddy been on that roof, hanging those lights? Umpteen times. Umpteen times, Mother. And this time, when he's nearing the end of his life, he falls and may never walk unaided again. I'd just like to know why, Mother. Can you tell me why?


"Because the ladder broke, sweetheart. The ladder broke."


Matthew 5:45 tells us that God allows the sun to rise on the evil and on the good. He allows the rain to fall on the just and on the unjust. Corrupt men win, and honest men lose. We can whine and moan till the cows come home, but as long as we are imperfect people in an imperfect world, tragedy will visit us all in some form or another. Daddy fell because his ladder broke. Nothing more; nothing less.


I can either allow God's grace to sustain me during this time of personal despair, or I can become angry and bitter and keep asking why. The choice is mine to make, and after an ocean of tears and a million whys, I'm making my choice today: Goodbye, questions. Hello, grace. ♦


grace  - noun \ˈgrās\   a: unmerited divine assistance given humans


"My grace is sufficient for you." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Leave It There

As the first flickers of dawn sifted through the tall pines, I stood in the back doorway struggling to focus. Words from an old hymn whispered to my soul: "Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there."

As a person of faith, taking my burden to the Lord is a natural instinct. The tricky part for me is leaving it there. Today, however, I needed to leave it there.

Returning to my bedroom, I sat silently on the edge of the bed. My alarm would go off soon, and another workday would begin. I felt heavier than Gibraltar. The scripture about casting my cares upon "him" came to mind. The end of that verse says, "because he cares for you." After repeating those words several times to myself, I lined my cares up in a long row and began praying.

"Lord, here's my concern about _______. I cast it upon you today." As I called out each concern, I made the motion of removing it from my heart and placing it in his hands.
Somewhere around the third concern, tears spilled out and dripped off my face. With each falling tear, I felt a sense of release and a genuine lightening of my load. It was truly miraculous. In mere moments, with just a few simple words, and a tiny bit of faith, Gibraltar had transitioned from my heart into his hands. Today, I would leave it there. ♦
I'm linking to Still Saturday, a new blog I have discovered for quiet inspiration.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Clouds and Silver Linings


Tuesday afternoon, while sitting in traffic, exhausted after a long day at work, I glanced out my window and was immediately captivated by this brilliant silver lining. Quite frankly, I barely noticed the cloud.

Figuratively speaking, clouds come to us all. A lost job. A sick child. A broken heart. A broken home. Natural disasters that damage and destroy.

During such times of loss and grief, silver linings aren't always easy to see. We may go for weeks, months, sometimes even years of existing beneath the cloud, just being still and being sad.

Personally, I believe there is great value in being still and being sad, and sometimes it is all we are capable of doing.

However, once we find the strength to move forwardto accept our pain, our loss and our sufferingwe can look back and see beauty in the things that made us weep. Not tangible beauty, perhaps, but a silver lining just the same.

Maybe it’s a restoring of the soul, a softening of the heart or a renewed sense of gratitude.

As James Buckham once said: “Trials, temptations, disappointments—all these are helps instead of hindrances, if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fiber of character but strengthen it. Every conquered temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured 'in the right spirit' makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.”

As evidenced by the picture I snapped at the end of the day, clouds (even dark ones) can be beautiful things. How we look at them will determine what we see.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Doing The Fair With My Fair Daughter

Friday evening, as the sun sank westward, my daughter and I headed north on I-45. Destination: The State Fair of Texas. Going to the fair was a favorite fall thing to do when we lived in the Dallas area as a family. I hadn't been back since my divorce, and after 10 years away, I was anxious to see the sights and smell the foods again, including fried Twinkies and fried pecan pie.

One of my favorite "sights" has always been Big Tex. Wearing a 75-gallon hat and 50-pound belt buckle, Big Tex was easy to spot and served as a popular meeting place for people coming to the fair.

I was excited about getting a picture of him again, soaring high in the sky. But, alas, Big Tex had gone up in flames just that morning, after an electrical malfuntion. I was saddened, like so many other fair goers. He was celebrating his 60th birthday. Officials say he'll return better than ever next year.


Still, even without the giant cowboy, it was a great day.

Sometimes it isn't what you do but who you do it with that makes it so special, and, for me, this was that kind of weekend.

Despite me nearly "killing her" with my driving, and despite her iPhone diving into my open cup of coffee, and despite an unexpected wardrobe change in the parking garage of the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, being with my daughter made everything good. Here are a few pictures from our day.

♦♦♦♦
"A daughter is the happy memories of the past,
the joyful moments of the present,
and the hope and promise of the future."
- Author Unknown

Sunday, October 14, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR WOMBMATE!

 
Today is my twin sister's birthday, which means it's my birthday, too, of course. ☺ I love this picture of us as babies. I'm on the right, and Dayle is on the left.
 
Explaining the bond we share is almost impossible to do. Two people with identical DNA has to be experienced, I suppose. However, I've written about our relationship on two different occasions.

In 2009, I was part of the book: "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More." My story was titled "Weirdly in Sync," and I share in detail how weirdly in sync Dayle and I have been since birth, starting with the one heartbeat Mother's doctor heard throughout Mother's pregnancy. (Surprise! It's two babies, not one!)

As my story reveals, Dayle and I weren't just weirdly "in sync," we were just plain weird. We ate dirt, we chewed on wood, and our communication skills were...well...nobody could understand a word we said.

Mother often used the process of elimination to determine what tale we were weaving, but it might take her days to completely figure it out. If you're intrigued beyond containment, go buy the book, or maybe I'll tell the rest of that story in another post. (Smile.)

The article I'm sharing below was published in 2002 in Reflections magazine. Dayle and I were asked to write our thoughts about each other, and I think this piece comes closest to describing the emotions I feel for Dayle. I hope it gives you a bit of insight into the bond of identical twins.

Happy birthday, dear wombmate. I'm glad you were born with me. ♦
_____________________________________________


It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. Dayle and I have just finished our third consecutive game of Scrabble, but neither of us is anxious to retire. Come daybreak, I’ll be going home. Sleeping can wait.
 
 My Scrabble partner is a reflection of me in so many ways. Born seven minutes apart, we have the same nose, same eyes, same hair, same fingers and same feet. We talk alike, walk alike and laugh alike.
 
 I can’t imagine life without Dayle.
 
Once, when we were kids, we lost sight of each other in Piggly Wiggly. It was a game of hide-and-seek and Dayle was “it.”
 
After searching everywhere for her wayward twin, she rounded the produce aisle, saw her own reflection in a mirror and hollered, “There you are!”
 
As I observe her across the table tonight, I find myself saying those same three words: There you are.
 
You! My beloved womb mate. You! My God-created clone. I love you more than words can say.
 
I love the way you look in that yellow housecoat. I love the way your hair is piled on your head, with only a pencil holding it in place.
 
I love how you scowl as you shuffle your letters back and forth, hoping to make a high-point word out of “psvjooo.”

I love laughing with you, drinking coffee with you, doing nothing with you.
 
 
You’ve been a compass to me in times of confusion. A haven to me in times of storm. An encourager to me in times of doubt and dissatisfaction.
 
What a glorious gift you are.
 
I wish I lived next door, but I don’t. In a few hours, I’ll pack my things and drive away. But that’s OK.
 
No matter how far from you I am, I’m never without you. Like threads joined together in a piece of crochet, my heart is forever intertwined with yours. All I have to do is breathe, and there you are. ♦

Friday, October 12, 2012

OF DEMONS AND WAR

A favorite quote of mine goes something like this: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."

How true that is, and, regrettably, there are some battles that must be fought alone. Family can't help. Friends can't help. When the lights go out at night, it's just you on the battlefield with your demons.

I'm not speaking of literal demons, of course. I'm speaking of negative mindsets, brought on by negative inner voices. Things that can cripple you if you don't fight them off in the true sense of war.

In my case, the demons have been around as long as I can remember. I might conquer them for a while, but they always return. It's about how human I am and the weight of the experiences that have shaped me.

Perhaps you believe that all battles are meant to be won and all demons are meant to be conquered. I believe, however, that some battles will be fought until we stop breathing. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I believe it is a sure thing. The best we can do is to keep fighting when we'd rather lay down the sword. His grace is sufficient, after all, and his strength is made perfect when we are weak.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

I'm linking to Spritual Sundays.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mosaic Monday ~ Fabulous Fall


"FALL ON THE MANTEL"

It's another Mosaic Monday, and I'm linking in.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Month in Photos - September 2012

SEPTEMBER zipped by in a flash. Here is how mine shaped up:
 
A fun Saturday with my grandniece. (You can read about it here.)
A family birthday dinner with lasagna cupcakes. (Oh, yum.)
 The arrival of fall on my mantel. (You can see more pictures here.)
  Butterfly watching in my lovely little garden. (You can read how it came to be here.)
Dinner with my beloved daughter, Lesliethe joy of my life.
Some priceless face time with my adorable granddog, Charlie.
 
♦ ♦ ♦
 
I'm linking to Rebecca's delightful blog Simple As That. Each month, she hosts A Month in Photos.
The September party is currently underway, and I think the linky is open all month. Come on by, y'all!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Seasonal Switcheroo

FALL has arrived in my house, and I'm hoping the weather cooperates shortly.

Here are a few pictures, documenting my seasonal switcheroo. I was shooting for an unrefined look this yearkinda like me. I mainly used things I already had. Nothing too fancy.


I wanted a garland this year, but since I couldn't find anything I liked, I put my crafting hat on and made me one. I considered making my own leaves out of scrapbook paper, but when I saw these at Michael's (a pack of 12 for $1.99) I snatched them up. I "customized" each leaf with a handwritten note of thanks for each member of my family. I attached them to a simple rope, using strips of green ribbon. They are bright and beautiful, yet simple and fun.


My grandmother's painting transitioned seamlessly from summer to fall. I love the gold tones of the sunset and the blues of the sky.


American flags hang around my house, no matter the season. My copper pumpkin seemed like a perfect spot for one. Another one is nestled among the eucalyptus on the other end of the mantel.

 
I've used these wreaths for about three years now. I have one on the dining room window, the living room window, and one on the front door. They are so vibrant, and represent fall beautifully I think.

 
My daughter gave me this Willow Tree "Mother and Daughter" figurine several years ago, and it is a real treasure of mine. It usually sits in my bedroom, but I love it on the mantel. By the way, the berry garland running along the back I got for a steal last year at Michael's. It cost me one penny. Really.
 

My twin sister gave me the "Angel of Hope" during a difficult season of my life. I thought it fit perfectly on the mantel, too.
 
 
My dining table is a mish-mash of fall leaves, colored stones and various nuts, scattered around lanterns I got at Ross earlier this year for $7 each. They have flameless candles in them, and that's perfect for a table. No napkins on fire! And since copper and fall go hand-in-hand, I used two of my copper kettles to give it all a bit of shine.
 
And last, but not least, are my two scarecrows. My sister bought me the little boy a few years back, and he is adorable, guarding the fireplace. I spotted the little girl in Michael's the other day, and I couldn't leave her in the store.
 
That's all! Happy FALL y'all!
 
I'm linking to:
 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Week in Review

Monday ~ After a crazy day at work, it was nice gathering with family for dinner at Shelaine's and Shawn's home (my niece and her spouse), celebrating Big Sister's upcoming birthday. These lasagna cupcakes excited me greatly. So good!


Tuesday ~ I had a dentist appointment to see what was causing me pain. The news wasn't good. As a consolation prize, I stopped in at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner (and cheesecake, of course). A spoonful boatload of sugar, helped the medicine go down.

 
Wednesday ~ The bad news at the dentist had to be taken care of pronto, so I scheduled a morning appointment. As expected, my lips were too numb to operate for a few hours, so I opted to work from home the rest of the day. With temps in the low 80's, and no humidity to speak of, it had it's perks.
 

Thursday ~ After work, I met up with a former co-worker to wind down on the patio at Landry's. It's a favorite spot of mine for winding down.  We caught up over oyster po-boys. The weather was divine.

 
Friday ~ It was a quiet day at work, so I headed home a little early. My garden needed a drink, and a few weeds needed pulling, so I spent a few minutes puttering in the yard.


♦ ♦ ♦
 I hope your week has been a good one. No matter how you spent it, each day was a gift from God. 
 
I'm looking forward to making memories with my daughter and granddog today. Monday will be here before I'm ready.
 
Until we meet again, my friends, may the Lord bless and keep you.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

REMEMBERING

Sunday marked four years since my throat surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, after a rare voice disorder left me struggling to speak. Not a day goes by that I'm not grateful for Dr. Berke and his brilliant team.

My dear twin made the journey with me. Thanks to Hurricane Ike (and some zany madness in between) it is a journey we will never forget.

A collage of momentos.

The twin and I.

Yellow roses, fit for a queen.

Gaining altitude over the Pacific, headed home.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mosaic Monday - Charlie Girl

~ Charlie Girl ~

Charlie has been in our family since she was a few weeks old. She lives with my adult daughter, and is a loyal companion and friend. She is very spoiled, and after looking at these photos, I'm sure you know why: It's hard to resist her big, brown eyes.

I'm linking to "Little Red House" for Mosaic Monday.

The "Funnest" Saturday

Working a full-time job, I don't get to spend as much time with my grand niece as I would like to. That makes me sadder than sad, but I can't change what is, so when we're together, I try to make every minute count. My camera is always with me, and I cherish the memories we make.

With that being said, I kept Ainsley a few hours Saturday, and what a fun day it was. I think our "funnest" day ever. This is a detailed account of our day, and it's a bit long-winded, but sometimes I just need to write it all down. You can stop reading whenever you please.

The day started with us looking for a missing piece on a toy train, and ended with Miss Ainsley falling in lovewith Big Bird and "Little Boy," in that order.
 

Big Bird and "Little Boy" (Ainsley's name for him.)

 Here is how it went...

In our hunt for the missing train piece, we stumbled upon Big Bird in a bedroom upstairs. It was love at first sight for Miss Ainsley, and I suddenly remembered how my own daughter had fallen in love with this same Big Bird one afternoon in Wal-Mart, right before her second birthday.

The love was intense, and I knew Big Bird would join our family soon. We didn't take pictures of Leslie unwrapping him that Christmas morning, but here are some still shots from the video we took.

Sigh. Where did the years GO?

Now (sniff, sniff) back to my story.

While Ainsley patted Big Bird's head, I opened a nearby closet (still searching for the train piece) and saw my fall decor, waiting to be used. Among the loot was an adorable scarecrow. Miss Ainsley saw it, too, and insisted we take Big Bird and the scarecrow downstairs for a play date.
The minute we got downstairs, she raised her little arms and said, "Hold you," to Big Bird.
This photo melts my heart.

A doll!

Giving him sugar.

After loving on Big Bird awhile, she wanted to carry him around. Now, Big Bird is very heavy, and I tried dissuading her from carrying him. However, my advice wasn't well received, so I gave up and gave in, and off she went, carrying him from hither to yon, back and forth, from pillar to post.

I figured his heaviness would affect her enthusiasm after awhile, but it didn't. She even insisted on carrying him to the mailbox, which was a sign of true love if I ever saw one.

 Love this picture!

On occasion, she would put Big Bird down and walk over to Little Boy and hug him tightly and plant a kiss on his cheek. (Precious!) After watching her do that several times, trust me, my heart was in puddles.

 Such a loving expression on her face.

Squeezing him tightly.

And, of course, she wanted to carry Little Boy around, too. Thankfully, he is very lightweight, because, as seen in the pictures below, Little Boy is a pretty tall dude.

Love conquers all!

 I love this picture! LOL!!
(Pardon the stereo in the middle of nowhere. It's on its way to Goodwill.)

Dumplin' Pie!

 After a long time playing with Big Bird and Little Boy, the sleepies showed up in a most unusual fashion: She decided to lay her new friends down in front of the fireplace.


At first, she just looked at them. I asked if they were sleeping, and she said they were. She then rubbed her eyes and slowly laid down between them...but not for long.

Within a few seconds, she was up again. Down again. Up. Down. Up. She seemed to enjoy me taking their picture, and I enjoyed taking it. 
I love her eyes, cocked over to Big Bird.

Solemn and still.

She could barely hold her eyes open here.
Going once, going twice...

After several more ups and downs, I told her to close her eyes and pretend like she was asleep, too, so I could take another picture. She hesitated, but then she closed her little eyes—for a millisecond at least. 

Precious!!

Thinking she might take a nap for real, I gathered some pillows from my room and made us all a soft place to lay. But she was way too busy, of course. Up. Down. Up. Down.

On one of the "ups," she decided to rock Big Bird and Little Boy in the small rocking chair I have. With each one, she sang "Rock-a-bye Baby," and I promise you it sounded like an angel choir from on high. Aunt Gayle's heart flipped several times, end over end.

After a diaper change, I could tell a nap wasn't going to happen without tears, so I suggested ice-cream instead. (Call me a wimp, but I just can't handle my angel girl crying.) Angel Girl was in favor of ice-cream, so we got in the car and headed out.


Over ice-cream, burgers and fries, we laughed ourselves silly—for real. I couldn't resist kissing her over, and over, and over again. She looked so much like her mom at times, and old memories came rushing in. I wish Angel Girl knew how much I love her, and how special she is to me. But, alas, kids never know.

The nap? Well, the nap came a few minutes after walking out of Jack-in-the-Box—in Aunt Gayle's arms, in the parking lot, no less. Putting her in the car seat roused her enough to tears, so I settled into the front seat with Sunshine on my shoulder, leaned the seat back and let her sleep. I could have held her forever. ♦