I love new beginnings—the opportunity to start over—to get my mind right. May March bring you joy, fulfillment, perspective, and hope.
A few weeks ago when I stayed with my daughter in Dallas, my bestie Denise let me do some of Lauren’s laundry at her house, which was awesome. Even better, what comes next. Our conversation started like this. “Blah, blah, blah…I’m angry,” I said.
She sat in her chair beside me, listened to my woes, and said, “Do you know where your thoughts are when you’re angry?”
I thought for a moment and said, “The past?”
And she nodded her beautiful face up and down and launched into some sound advice.
I said, “Wait, could I video this?”
Denise coaches golf. And for me, life. She should have her own YouTube channel. Our backstory goes like this—I crashed her birthday party when she turned five. I went uninvited with another friend. That’s how we met. The year was 1975. Later, we shared homerooms—first, second, and third grade. I was always happy to see Denise’s name on the list for my class. Flash forward through twelve years of school, and then I didn’t see her for almost twenty years. We became besties closer to age 40 when we realized we lived within twenty minutes of each other. There’s something about having friends who know exactly where you are from, and I’m just lucky to have a few of those.
Last weekend Kody and I masked up for an event at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston called The Marzio Years. Peter C. Marzio was the museum’s longest-serving director from 1982-2010, and the exhibition celebrates his thirty years of acquisitions.
At the museum entrance, an attendant took our temperature from an eight-foot distance with a device that looked like a camera. I’m not sure how that worked, but I didn’t ask questions. We were deemed good to go. Kody and I spent some time with Munch and O’Keefe, Pollock and Picasso, Rembrandt and Rothko. We saw Warhol, too.
Marzio helped found the MFAH International Center for the Arts of the Americas. He expanded African-American, Texan, and Latino art collections. When I visit the art museum, my goal is to really see one piece. Of course, I’ll see more, but I wait for the one that sees me. The one piece that will see me and speak. And da dum, da duh—this is she:
According to the museum plaque, Ramona Lives Her Life is one of the most iconic prints of the Ramona series. Argentinean Antonio Berni’s “xylo-collage” technique earned him the acclaim of international critics. Berni glued and collaged elements from Ramona’s everyday life—lace, machine parts, discarded gears and other industrial refuse—onto the woodblock print. This method gives his work an elaborate texture and relief.
I thought about Ramona…and me…and you…We are textured people. With interwoven fibers and elements. With distinctive qualities. Ramona in all of her texture reminded me to live my life. In these days of COVID, life looks different for us based on our qualities. As an introvert, I’m okay living my life at home. School is my life for now. I read books, and I’m writing one, too. I enjoy this time. School is online. Distanced. I walk outside most days. Distanced. I notice the squirrels fattening up. Do squirrels always size up in the fall? I’ve never noticed. The sun sparkles in the leaves at the tops of the trees. I take pleasure in these observations. I try to stay connected with my friends and family by text and phone. From a distance. Our conversations weave us together. These interwoven fibers make us stronger.
Sometimes I find myself surrounded by drama. That happens in families. I usually find myself able to distance from drama, except when it comes to my kids. With mental illness in the family, I’m not at liberty to give ultimatums. I mean, of course, I could. But I don’t want to be the mother who gives up. In my experience, there is no reasoning with brain disorders. Sometimes I feel like I’ve hit my drama quotient, like I just can’t share any more ridiculous stories, even with my closest friends. My introverted self keeps the drama concealed until I feel I might be breaking. How many times have I glued my own pieces back together? Then suddenly, I run into a piece of art called Ramona Lives Her Life. Ramona whispers directly to my heart, “Girl, go live your life.” I rub my hands together and feel their texture. Age. Experience. Ramona says, “You’ve made sacrifices your whole life. Take care of yourself, and speak your truth.” I allow these ideas to sink in. There is silence. I think of my own lace. My own machine parts. Ramona speaks again, “Your fibers are strong. You can handle whatever comes your way, and you inspire others to do the same. Be courageous, and do you.”
Last Sunday morning, my neighbor and I were walking toward each other in the street. He walked south. I walked north. I don’t know this neighbor, but I see him around. I know which house is his. I think I talked to him once before on the night of the hurricane three years ago when a group of my neighbors gathered right in front of my house to watch the water rise. That was a dark night. Literally. The streetlights had gone out, and the sky poured buckets. He said, “I’ve lived here since 1960. I’ve never seen anything like this.” I have some images seared in my memory from that night and one of him walking away, back to his house, shaking his head.
Last Sunday as we approached each other, I took my headphones off. Maybe I left an earbud in my right ear. Anyway, I didn’t exactly hear what he said. I just sort of felt like he said, “Have a good day!”
I slowed my pace to a stop, nodded at him, and said, “You have a good day.”
This man is eighty something I’m guessing. Because he has white hair and looks older than my dad, who doesn’t look eighty at all, however eighty looks. Age aside, the man said again, what I thought was, “Have a good day!”
I smiled, feeling awkward, and just repeated, “You have a good day!”
Then he laughed out loud, slowed his statement, and enunciated each word. “No. You have a good gait.”
Then I slapped my knee and laughed because no one had ever complimented my gait. “My daddy always told me to stand up straight,” I said. I never call my dad “Daddy,” but for whatever reason that’s what I said.
“He must have been military,” he said.
“No, just short.” I smiled at my own bad joke. This man was not much taller than me, and I’m 5′ 4″.
“I’m short, too,” he said.
I don’t know if you just had to be there, but I’m still tickled about the exchange. At the end of our conversation we officially wished each other a good day.
Later in the week, Friday, to be exact. I received an audio message via Instagram from my blogger friend Eliza who lives across the pond. She went out of her way to use her voice to say, “Hoping you’re having a really good day!” Again, I was tickled. By her beautiful British accent and just by the kindness. So much that I taught myself how to use my Instagram microphone and started wishing my friends and family really good days. And in this way, I entertained myself without making phone calls, and hopefully I brightened somebody else’s day.
Back in July, Monday the 13th to be exact, I made a friend while walking in my neighborhood. I remember the date because the previous Friday I had a doctor’s appointment, and I saw an unfamiliar and frightening number on the scale. Though I had walked every day in April, I nursed an injury in May, and then June and July rolled around. Summers in Houston are a sweaty hot mess. My walking habit suffered leading up to my visit with Dr. Fong. On July 13th, I resolved to walk every day and make headway on my weight situation.
I don’t remember how the conversation started. She probably said something like, “Do you walk every day?” or “Is this your house?” That morning around 7:30, we stood sweating on the street near my driveway, and she asked me if I wanted to walk with her the following day. I swear, God places people in my life. I needed some accountability.
“Okay,” I said.
“6:30?” she said.
“Um, that’s a little early for me,” I said. I had just met this woman. Since I’m not currently working, I couldn’t remember the last time I had set my alarm.
“6:40?” she said. “I have a five-year-old. I have to be back before my husband leaves for work.”
“Okay,” I said. “I will try. My name is Crystal.”
“My name is Rosa. See you tomorrow,” she said. From my house she walked north to her home at the opposite end of our street.
Rosa is my age, fiftyish. With a five-year-old. Her oldest is thirty-three. Another one, twenty-eight. Another, twenty-one. And a stepson eighteen. Can you imagine? She moved to Houston from Mexico, a child bride at seventeen. She knew NO English, and she had babies in this country with no other family except for her husband’s brother. For the next thirteen years, she did not learn the language, and her husband was a drunk and had a girlfriend in Mexico. Pregnant with her third child, Rosa realized she held the future in her own hands.
I’m not sure of all the details. Rosa and I have a slight language barrier. But this I know. She divorced him and chose to stand on her own two feet in the USA with no other family here. She sucked it up. She had to be strong for her kids, and the United States held opportunities. She took a job cleaning while her older kids Cesar and Jackie were in school, and she carried her baby Kimberly with her to work. Rosa attended classes to learn English, and she studied to become a citizen. She told me about driving round trip from Houston to Iowa and back in a car with her children and parents visiting from Mexico. Throughout the vacation, she listened to CD’s in English to help her prepare for the citizenship test. Her dad said, “Do you know what they’re saying?” He spoke in Spanish, of course.
And Rosa shook her head and said, “No.” The same word in either language. Rosa kept trying and kept taking classes, and her English improved. She supported herself and her kids with no help from anyone. Then, she passed her citizenship test. In English, of course.
Eventually, Rosa remarried. Her husband has a successful painting business, and Rosa accounts for the money. She owns and leases a couple of condominiums. She makes home-made tortillas every week. Flour one day. Corn on another. She has lunch on the table for her husband at noon, and supper on the table by 6:30. Since I’ve known her, Rosa had some sort of electrical problem at her house, and she fixed it herself by Googling help. She takes an online upholstery class, online nutrition, and online cake decorating. And last week for Independence Day in Mexico, she cooked enchiladas and posole and shared with me and my family.
Meanwhile, I sit on my couch and read books and write words and let my husband cook for me. I know I’m spoiled and a little complacent. I’ve never had to work that hard in my life. Is this white privilege? You better believe—Rosa inspires me.
Since it’s dark now at 6:30 in the morning, Rosa and I have moved our walks to a beautiful little park with a walking path and lights. She picks me up in her Infinity QX something at 6:15, and we drive a short distance to walk and watch the sunrise. I failed to mention that we run some. If she can run, so can I. Even if I have never claimed to be a runner, I decided it’s not too late to give it a try. Like I said, she inspires me.
Sometimes Rosa’s daughter Kimberly comes along for the workout. Now Kimberly is a real-deal runner. Anyway, last Friday Kimberly was in the car, Rosa and I chatted, and Kimberly said, “I don’t know how you can understand what she is saying.”
I said, “I just understand about every fourth word and somehow get the gist of it.” I was exaggerating. Kimberly and I laughed.
Then she translated for her mother in Spanish, and we all laughed.
“Seriously,” I said. “I just listen and try to understand.”
And do you know what I understand most of all? Good energy.
Some of you might have noticed I left out the Monday Re-Make. I had an idea and scratched it— “Jolene” by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus. I like the song and both versions, but I never understood the woman who fought so hard for her cheating husband. I’ve officially concluded the Monday Re-Make Series. Sometimes, life calls for a new song entirely.
That crazy thing
I thought might happen
and that’s okay.
For 2020, I have enough.
Who needs extra
But the possibility
in the way
that you never know
until you try.
And so on to the next—
as opportunities arise.
my new mantra,
when things don’t go
And so I adjust—
my thoughts and plans,
my words and days.
When people ask my opinion on must-reads, Glennon Doyle’s memoir, Love Warrior makes my list. It’s the inspiring story of a woman who has overcome bulimia and alcoholism and then faces her husband’s infidelity. It’s about the healing process and finding trust in self. Love Warrior is one of those books that I marked up, and as promised, it changed my life.
Since 2016, I waited patiently for Glennon’s next memoir Untamed. I follow her on Instagram, so I knew the premise to come. My friend of forty-years Pamela follows her, too, and mailed me a copy. When the book arrived, I pulled a yellow highlighter from the kitchen-miscellaneous drawer and started reading and highlighting.
Between memoirs, Glennon fell in love with a woman—Abby Wambach, soccer icon, speaker, New York Times bestselling author, and activist for equality and inclusion. Untamed tells their story and launches into more activism—racial justice, refugee rights, and women’s ability to live and work without the threat of sexual harassment and violence. At times, it feels preachy. I like Glennon most when she sticks to her story. Regardless, she is insightful and funny, her relationship with Abby loving and faithful, and her truths universal:
“In the past eighteen years, I have learned two things about pain.
First: I can feel everything and survive. What I thought would kill me, didn’t. Every time I said to myself: I can’t take this anymore—I was wrong…
Second: I can use pain to become. I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever” (51).
“There is a life meant for you that is truer than the one you’re living. But in order to have it, you will have to forge it yourself. You will have to create on the outside what you are imagining on the inside. Only you can bring it forth” (64).
“A few years ago, Alicia Keys announced to the world that she was done wearing makeup. She said, ‘I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles…Nothing.’
A while later I read an interview with Adam Levine. He said that while they were filming a show together, he poked his head into Alicia Keys’s dressing room. She had her back to him, and she was leaning into the mirror, putting on lipstick.
He smiled and said, ‘Oh, I thought Alicia doesn’t wear makeup.’
She turned around, looked at him, lipstick in her hand. She said, ‘I do what the fuck I want’” (101).
“I have spent the last decade of my life listening to women talk about what they most desire. This is what women tell me they want:
I want a minute to take a deep breath.
I want rest, peace, passion.
I want good food and true, wild, intimate sex.
I want relationships with no lies.
I want to be comfortable in my own skin.
I want to be seen, to be loved.
I want joy and safety for my children and for everyone else’s children.
I want justice for all.
I want help, community, connection.
I want to be forgiven, and I want to finally forgive.
I want enough money and power to stop feeling afraid.
I want to find my purpose down here and live it out fully.
I want to look at the news and see less pain, more love.
I want to look at the people in my life and really see them and love them.
I want to look in the mirror and really see myself and love myself.
I want to feel alive (121).
“I will never promise to be this way or that way, I will only promise to show up, as I am, wherever I am. That’s it, and that’s all. People will like me or not, but being liked is not my One Thing; integrity is. So I must live and tell my truth. Folks will come around or quit coming around. Either way: lovely. Anything or anyone I could lose by telling the truth was never mine anyway” (200).
“I think of the words of Dr. Maya Angelou: ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better’” (219).
“After a decade of listening to women, I’m convinced that our deepest fears are:
Living without ever finding our purpose
Dying without ever finding our true belonging” (267).
“I’m a clinically depressed inspirational speaker. I am a diagnosed anxious person whose main job is to convince people that everything’s okay. Please note that if I can be these things, anyone can be anything” (275).
“I’ll tell you this: The braver I am, the luckier I get” (296).
“Glennon shows us the clearest meaning of ‘To thine own self be true.’ It’s as if she reached into her heart, captured the raw emotions there and translated them into words that anyone who’s ever known pain or shame—in other words, every human on the planet—can relate to” (Oprah Winfrey, Untamed book cover).
Today I’m thankful for the Untamed perspective, the ability to make up my own mind, and a platform to pass along my thoughts. Next book—Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.
Thank U for visiting my A-Z blogging challenge. If U stumbled onto my post by chance today, I’ve been sticking to a theme of gratitude this month and working my way through the alphabet. Past posts are linked below 😊:
I thought about taking a before and after. To tell you the truth I’m ashamed of the disarray in my master bathroom before I sucked it up and dove in. From the countertop on my half of the vanity, I grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and found its proper spot in the cabinet above the toilet. I put my jar of face moisturizer and tube of eye cream into my top drawer. I picked up a clear, old Bobbi Brown lip gloss that I might have thrown away, but it said ‘Crystal’ on it. So even though it’s too sticky for kissing purposes, I applied the gloss to my lips and then set the tube in the drawer next to my eye cream. I cleared away the TIGI Colour Luster Oil for my hair and my Secret anti-perspirant. I found storage for a pair of scissors and a bottle of lotion, a brown bobby pin and a black hair elastic. I also found new locations for my lavender comb and two brushes, two of my rings and a tube of toothpaste, oh, and my hair dryer at rest on the floor. What can I say? I’m a slob—but always determined to be better than the person I was before.
With the countertop cleared, I was able to wipe down everything and put back only what sparks joy. [Clears throat.] Okay, I still have some clutter, but having only what sparks joy is my goal.
The following day, a miracle occurred. First a quick backstory—when we rebuilt our house post Hurricane Harvey, we added lighted his-and-her mirrors over the double vanity in our master bath. Except, the wiring was bad with my mirror, and it shorted out. Kody’s side glowed. Mine did not. After ten months of living in a La Quinta, I just wanted all contractors and day workers out of my house. Things were left unfinished, and I didn’t care. My peace meant more to me than the light.
Anyway, the morning after I cleaned my bathroom, I went for my walk and came home and showered. Feeling fancy in front of my clean vanity, I spritzed myself with the Chanel No. 5 Lauren gave me for my 50th birthday and suddenly my mirror lit up.
My mirror had not worked since July of 2018, and I heard a voice in my head: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Isn’t that weird? I suppose I still have work to do. Anyway, I had another clean bathroom, and you know what? I felt like celebrating, so I popped the champagne. [Clears throat.] Okay, I mean, prosecco, but I needed a C for the title of this post. Either way, I feel accomplished and fancy and grateful. For the light and the glittering tiles, for a beautiful renovation and a continued transformation.
Lauren called me yesterday morning. It was 7:23 AM. “Did I wake you up?” she said.
“No, I was awake,” I said, not sure if it was the truth.
“Do you have much going today?” she said.
“I have a few things to do,” I said vaguely, thinking about my morning walk, some reading homework, a trip to the grocery store, and my self-imposed A-Z blogging challenge. “Why?”
“I was wondering if you would come pick up Boozie.”
Boozie is a Shih Tzu-Cocker Spaniel mix and such a good boy. He loves to come to our house. We have a doggy door here and a yard, and he loves to fetch sticks. At our house he can run full speed, his entire little body stretched horizontal as he literally flies back and forth around the side of the house and across the back yard and up onto the deck where he crashes through our back door doggy door and down the hallway through the laundry room and around the corner back to the living room where he takes one last flying leap onto the floral ottoman and comes to an exhausted halt. We love to have Boozie over for the sheer entertainment. “Sure,” I said, “but not until later this afternoon.”
“No, Mom, I want you to come over right now,” she said dripping with sarcasm. I must have been asleep because I don’t remember anything else from our conversation.
By 2:00, I had accomplished all but the groceries, plus read a few other blogs. Julie Krupp at Enhanced Perspective wrote about how “dogs and dog owners were missing that magical moment when you greet each other after work, yoga, errands, etc.” and how “people and dogs are not getting the boost of positive endorphins that this ritual used to supply at least once a day.” In the post, Julie provides “Ways to Recreate the ‘Return Home Ritual’ While Sheltering in Place.” If you have a dog, check it out.
After my grocery pick-up, I drove a few more miles to Lauren’s apartment for the curbside Boozer pick-up. I called Lauren, and she brought him to my Mazda CX-5 on a leash. Boozie’s little tail wagged like mad, and he bucked like a bronco. My laugh was real. I felt the endorphin boost. And when we wound our way through Houston back to my neighborhood and turned on to my street, Boozie actually sang a song. I sang right along with him, and we shared a perfect moment.
Do you have a favorite apple? Mine is the Honeycrisp. Pricey for an apple, but worth every sweet and juicy bite. And we all know the saying about apples and doctors, so I picked some up on my last run for groceries.
I drove over to Austin back in December for a birthday celebration with my lifelong friends Pamela and Denise. Pamela was in Mr. Hale’s fifth grade class with me, and I crashed Denise’s five-year-old birthday party uninvited. We grew up together, and we continue to grow together by sharing cool things like skydive simulations and apples.
Before I left Austin that weekend, Pamela packed me a snack of assorted nuts in one Ziploc bag and apple slices with a squeeze of lemon in another. We hugged and said our goodbyes, and I hopped back into my car for the return trip home. I sped down Highway 71 lined on both sides by barbed-wire fences and open pastures, and I slowed down in the small, one-stop-light towns all while enjoying some good apple love. The lemon adds a freshness.
Yesterday, April 1st, I came across the A-Z blogging challenge. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some extra time on my hands. This seems like a good month to take on a challenge. So for April I’m committing to blog each day using the letters A-Z as inspiration, skipping Sundays, and sticking to a gratitude theme.
I’m sure I need a master plan, but for now I’m taking it day by day. After my morning walk, I headed to the kitchen to cut up a Honeycrisp. But lo and behold, I had lemons in my refrigerator, too, and so…
Some sweet things have happened these last few weeks, and I wanted to shout out a few blogger friends who have inspired me. Cue Julie Andrews. These are a few of my favorite things (from the last couple of weeks):
Thanks to Barb at letitgocoach.com, I have a bathroom that sparkles down to the shower liner. Who knew that you could throw a plastic liner into the washing machine? The biggest part of the triumph—this is Drew’s bathroom, which I normally avoid. I just happen to have some extra time on my hands. Click on this link for Barb’s post on Showers That Shine.
Another blogger friend who goes by the pen name Terrified Amateur posted a recipe for Baltimore-Style Crab Cakes, and I’m a sucker for crab cakes, one of my favorite appetizers when we dine out. Of course, we’re not dining out at the moment, so I thought these would be a treat. And treat—well, that’s an understatement!! They were divine!! Like straight out of heaven. One pound of crab made eight cakes, so we had them two days in a row. On the second day, they were even more amazing (my pan was hotter—medium high). I thought I had peanut oil, but I didn’t, so I used canola. I thought I had Dijon, but I didn’t, so I used spicy brown. And you know what? I braved the grocery store one more time (for alcohol) and round two of lump crab.
Then there is Eliza over at Journey to Life, who has been posting a daily Gratitude Challenge. I’m a big believer in gratitude, but even so, there are times when I lose focus. As I reflected on my blessings, feeling thankful for things like the roof over my head and my sweet dog and my family and friends and extra time to read and write and the gorgeous Spring weather and my walks and music in my ears, I remembered a note to self that I typed into my phone on Sunday, August 19, 2019. Now seems a right time to post it.
This Sunday morning I’m thankful
for my eyes that opened
to another gorgeous day
and the sunlight at play,
silver gold reflections
in the emerald treetops.
I’m thankful for strength
of body and mind
that carry me
to my oasis of calm
through my own backdoor.
For a delicious breeze
and the songs of birds in the trees
backed by the choir of cicadas.
For two little black dogs
with waggity tails
and so much love
in those deep brown eyes.
For all of this.
This moment in time
when all is right in the world.
So here’s the thing—life is bittersweet. I’m heartbroken by two deaths this past week. One of my best friends lost her Dad, and I lost my dear friend Desi who was my lunch buddy all through junior high and high school. Cancer is a bitch, and so is Covid-19. And as I scroll through Facebook (because I can’t see anyone in real time), I see so many others facing losses and illness and pain. Obviously, not all is right in the world, but there is something good in every day. I went to church this past Sunday (in my living room online), and later a friend asked me what I heard that was meaningful. Here are a few words that resonated with me from the sermon and the good book:
Philippians 4:4-13 New International Version (NIV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
I find peace and strength in these words in a time when I need peace and strength, and I’m finding contentment in circumstance. I pray the same for you. I try to keep my thoughts on the true and noble, right and pure, lovely and admirable things, and I try to thank God for the excellent and praiseworthy—like good people and clean showers and crab cakes and reasons to live.