Category Archives: Longreads

A-Tack Day

It was the middle of a crazy, emotion-packed week. Too exhilarated from my drive to town in perfect weather, I couldn’t force myself back indoors yet.

The cloud bank to the west served to justify another walk for the morning; it could be a storm front coming in, so I headed to the pastures – to check on the livestock, of course.

Only one head rose up as I approached the main gate, but I was glad it was Kendra’s gray mare on the east side. Naturally her head went right back down into a patch of sweet grass, but her pause to recognize me once again filled me with wonder.

The cattle watched me dispassionately from the west end as I moved from the gate to the south pasture. The mare pretended to ignore me, and yet she repositioned her hooves – taking more than one step away (only in case I was coming to bring her in) would have required more exertion. As I stepped closer she nickered as if she enjoyed teasing me. As she continued to munch a mouthful of grass uninterrupted, I shooed some flies away from her face and picked some straw from her mane. She thanked me by resting her head on my shoulder and with her head pulled me to her neck. I don’t care what equestrian experts call this, I consider it a horse hug.

One hand rubbed her chest between her forelegs as Kendra taught me, the other reached up and around to rub her neck and then her face. She hated that so much, except for her munching she stayed perfectly still while my hands moved over her.

Once again I felt like she understands these kinds of moments with her actually get me through my occasional bouts with loneliness.

Sufficiently stroked, I left her to walk briskly to the tree line at the back of the lot, opposite the cattle and then I turned back toward the gates. As I walked, I couldn’t believe my eyes zeroing in on the tiniest suggestion of yellow on the ground. I stepped in closer and confirmed my suspicions; a fresh crop of tack weeds had begun spreading out.

After losing my dearest canine companion to an infection caused by tack weed stickers, I developed a particular loathing for them. Here at the ranch we’ve been at war since this year’s thaw. I got a bucket, a large claw hammer and gloves from the tack room and set to digging the dastardly roots up.

The number of them I actually found surprised me, but I was glad for the perfect light to see them. A shiver had just shot through me as I imagined a mean goat head sticker stabbing the mare’s soft lips, when I suddenly felt overshadowed. From my periphery it seemed the neighbor’s bull had somehow gotten into our pasture, which for a heartbeat confused me. God and I have had a lifelong understanding about bulls (and rams); He keeps them away from me and I stay clear of them.

Instinctively I did not alter my slightest movement. However after another heartbeat, before I peeked out from under my hat, Hero, our 9-month-old calf let out a familiar low, soft moo. Immediately calm replaced all my concern. His 600-or-so pound self had silently grazed up to about six feet from me and was eyeing me curiosly as he munched.

While I marveled over how much he’s grown in a week or two, I recalled Brother telling me if one sits still long enough, the calf will come close to investigate. That had been eight months ago. My next thought was whether this half-ton baby remembered me lassoing him a few weeks back. He was too calm for that and content to continue grazing close by me.

Then I wondered where Momma was, and if she remembers me bringing her flakes of hay and fresh water for the weeks the pastures rested. I felt no alarm or concern about anything but the tack weeds.

After a few more minutes there was no sign of the malefactors outside my bucket. I slowly stood and stretched, eyes still scanning over the grounds.

Hero watched from about three feet away by then, but didn’t startle or miss a nibble. Momma looked up for a moment but her head went right back down. Mare went right on munching inches from where I left her. The neighbor’s bull, by the way, continued laying on his side of the fence and the hot wires. I marveled at how I often have trouble seeing my computer screen clearly, and yet I can spot a fly by a cow’s eye or a tack weed from yards away.

Satisfied and sufficiently stretched for the day, I walked toward the gate. Mare bounced her head as I went on without her. That’s when I remembered Kendra telling me about one of her favorite summer memories; her laying in the pasture grass with her newly acquired mare’s head laying contentedly on her like a pillow.

As much as I adore the image, it made my heart ache a bit. Too many times I had to leave my treasures behind. I’m too familiar with that ache to not understand how Kendra misses being with her horse and chickens every day. Images of harder times flashed across my mind. But happy new memories are gradually replacing them.

I sent up a prayer for my friend’s peace and strength, asked that God continue to guard and guide my family, and I thanked Him for these peaceful moments and again for bringing me here.

What a delight being able to lose myself out in the open; to be unconcerned, unintimidated and unaware of anything but God’s presence and my 5 physical senses. A tear was slipping down my face when the adolescent rooster crowed – yeah, at noon, bringing my focus back to the present.

By then I was completely relaxed and content in the present time. I happily returned to my work.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” Psalm 23:1,2 (NLT)



Filed under Longreads, Notes from the Apex


Do other writers get stuck on a thought, a word, a number that has nothing to do with the current project or task? Anyone else ever struggle to break free from such a grip? I recently resisted a momentary nemesis for days till I turned and met the foe head on.

Fact: Much of my life has been unimaginable to most folks. Several decades ago I realized I was on a collision course with a bleak future. After a series of failed attempts to redirect I got help. It took years to find the right counselor, but for about eight years now I’ve been keeping notes from sessions with the best trauma counselor ever. We’ll call him Rob.

Months ago when Rob pointed out a few concerns, suggested I could be depressed, and insisted I see my doctor, I stopped. I thought hard, prayed harder. And then I stopped longer.

I dread the thought of being known as “that poor thing who…” I write about my life because, well, it’s what I know best. Seriously, I write my stories, my experiences in the hope they help and encourage others. Writing helps me make sense of the grand scheme of things. Plus there’s the perk I get when my work sometimes reveals a bad attitude, it checks me like a friendly punch in the face. Hopefully those that grew up with numerous brothers understand the concept.

This brings us back a little while to shortly after the snow and ice melted here at the ranch, when I hit a wall. That actually had less to do with me injuring my arm and shoulder chopping wood (seriously, don’t all great-grandmothers do that?). The wall had more to do with the preceding twelve years.

Have I mentioned having driver’s licenses in three states within the last two calendar years? Yeah, that’s a lot of moving around. And each move directly resulted from one crisis right after another. When I pointed out this profound revelation to my Go-To Girl, my sister Roan (my on-and-off house mate), she replied,

“Yeah. So?” 

Not the response I expected. She was on her lunch break two time zones ahead of here, so she may have missed my point. We mocked the topic sufficiently enough to laugh it off and we returned to work.

So, after circling back to Roan’s question for a couple of days I set all my other projects aside to seek solid answers.


I handle most challenges better when I can break them down to physics, mathematical formulas – or Sun Tzu*. I did the math:



In the last 20 years Roan has (to my knowledge) moved x times, 6 of which since were her daughter was born, the last six within the past 7 years. But for 17 years she and her daughter were rooted in one place.

Then I again reviewed my nomadic history. Again with the number 17.

  • I was 17 when I married my sons’ father.
  • For 17 years I lived with (and moved around with) my husband.
  • I have lived at 17 different addresses. Seventeen.

Only because of Roan can I imagine living in one dwelling for seventeen years. In my entire life I’ve never lived in any one place for 4 years. That’s a staggering amount of moving around! Additionally some form of drama generated each move and often changed my family dynamics; broken hearts and broken bones (some mine), husbands left, sons outgrew the nest, a heart attack here – loved ones died there, banks became less sympathetic… I tell ya, some hits were hard. But I moved on.

So, our life has been astoundingly complicated compared to most people we know.

So, that itinerant life is over now. And yet, I’m having trouble getting my head around the concept of being home, that I won’t be packing up and moving again in a while. Rob and I figure it’ll likely be three years before it actually sinks in. I marked my digital calendar just in case.

So, days after the aforementioned chat with Rob I visited my Naturopathic Physician. Thanks to our decades old relationship we quickly caught up and then we agreed;

  • I’m tired,
  • I’m possibly slightly traumatized,
  • undeniably I have much to be sad about,
  • but I’m not necessarily depressed.

She studied my blood-work and my DNA evaluation (yes, I happened to have it on me), prescribed a course of supplements and then we went out for tea. Within days the dark heaviness lifted, but I continued to take the time I needed to simply be for a while.

So, the cast in the main house has changed, Kendra and Twelve-Year-Old moved away, but we’re all adjusting. The show goes on. My journals are busting at the bindings and I’m back to working on chapters again. More important, I give myself lots of grace. I walk away whenever I want. And within a couple of hours I walk back – usually feeling lighter. I’m sure there will be more hard days. But it’s like Brother tells me often, “Just settle down. You’re not going anywhere.”

So, today I smile as the mare and the cattle call to me when I step outside my door. I giggle as the hens flutter-waddle to the fence cackling. I’m sure it’s all about me – not the grain, scraps, hay, carrots or apples I bring them.

Most important, hearing how my stories help others also helps me. Having shared the experience with other writers/bloggers, the bobbing and weaving and working it all out, I feel so much better now.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)

*The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.  Just in case my humor missed the mark, I translate much of Sun Tzu principles into Biblical scripture – and disregard the rest.

Images courtesy


Filed under A Door Ajar, Longreads

Deep Gratitude

This week I asked God to show me things and events I take for granted or overlooked, things for which I’m thankful.

All y’alls probably don’t forget the epic moments in your lives that turned the tide for you. This morning I awoke with one such memory – that ended a friendship.

Typically I prefer to avoid dwelling on the dark times of my early past, but this week memories blessed me with a clearer perception of God’s infinite grace, the day I didn’t pull the trigger.

My family of origin is rich – with extremes. Some of those include violence. When I was young I witnessed such from a distance and was sometimes at the receiving end. While I not only survived but overcame them, they affected me. Not always in positive ways.

I left my marriage not solely to remove my sons and myself from physical harm but because of infidelity on many levels. We all got over it, but soon after the separation I recognized violent roots in me.

A good friend surprised the boys and me with a visit to our new home. She’d told me weeks before her new husband had shoved and grabbed her hard enough to bruise her. I wasn’t as happy to see him with her.

woman-angry-pixabayHe quickly felt my reluctance to receive him and soon began urging her to leave. Forgetting all she’d confided in me, she simply said they wouldn’t stay long.


After chatting in the kitchen I started walking them through the house to show her the changes we’d made. Soon didn’t come fast enough for him. Entering the second room he grabbed her arm forcefully, insisting they leave immediately. I perceived violence.

revolver-sillouette-bixabayFaster than I recall ever moving before, I reached into the closet we stood next to and retrieved the single action .22 revolver we kept at the back of the high shelf.

I aimed the barrel at her husband’s brow saying, “Let go of her, and leave.” My eldest son later said my strange, icy tone gave him chills from the other room and the pitch of my friend’s voice confirmed her terror as she warned her husband, “She will shoot. Don’t test her.”

The husband realized his life depended upon his next move. He slowly let go of her, raising his hands above his head. From the doorway, thirteen-year-old Iain stepped beside him, and taking his elbow urged him toward the back door saying, “Good choice.”

As the husband backed away with Iain, he cautiously said “Honey, if you’re ready I’ll be in the car.”

In my history the behavior and attitude the husband initially exhibited typically led to me bleeding. One of the last such instances, my friend was in the house during some of the brutality I had survived. In the present all I could think of was protecting my sons and perhaps my friend.

Iain guided the husband outside. After closing the door I lowered my weapon. My friend shocked me by shaming me for doing what I considered the best response to the situation. She cried saying she couldn’t understand me. I was dumbfounded.

Months before Erin came to take me to the hospital. I’d been hit so hard I didn’t get up. After I came to I determined it was the last time I was going down defenseless. The friend I presently stared at, mouth agape in disbelief, had witnessed the attack and called Erin.

As the couple drove away I checked the pistol and then put it back on the shelf. I gathered my sons and assured them everything was okay and then encouraged them to talk about what had just happened. Soon I asked Iain why he went to the husband. He answered, “I saw you hadn’t pulled the hammer back, but he didn’t.” Then shrugging his shoulders he quoted his uncle, “Neutralize the threat.” There were no other questions.

Iain has always astounded me – often in good ways. He never forgot Grandpa, a WWII vet, vigilantly teaching the family of huntsmen, “You hear that sound [a firearm cocking], drop wherever you are.” Iain had’t heard that distictive sound that day.

Minutes later we all returned to what we’d been doing before the guests arrived as though it was any other day.

In almost 25 years, I did not recall that event. After many changes in my life and my heart the memory came to me, tormenting me for days. At the time of that incident I was remarkably spontaneous, especially proactive regarding any perceived threat. A practiced shootist then, I gladly remember now that I never cocked the gun that day. It was the last time I’d pulled a firearm for over two decades.


Whenever I just breathe deeply enough to feel the familiar old scars where my ribs and scull cracked beneath my beloved’s boots, I am thankful. Today I’m thankful to be home safe and sound. I’m not proud, but I’m thankful for the times I stood against physical violence with equal force. And I thank God especially that one particular stand could have gone horribly wrong, but didn’t.

Mostly I’m thankful for my sons. Against the odds they are peacekeepers today.

“When I think of all this I fall to my knees and pray to the Father… Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:14, 20 (NLT)

Images courtesy of Pixabay


Filed under A Door Ajar, Longreads


bathroomWhile the sickness healed in my throat… What? Okay, now that the pressure’s mostly in my inner ears, I’ve had more time to reflect on life.

I recently recalled the time a beautiful, water resistant shower curtain and rugs display grabbed my attention and held it, I liked them so much. They were pricey for my budget. Still, they inspired a need for change in my house. Usually a spend-thrift, knock offs would not do that time. I cut corners and saved for months until I had enough to buy them.

Lending the illusion of a life I once dreamed of, the bath/spa room is important to me. Having purchased my curtain and rugs I could hardly wait to get home to stage the new look I’d imagined for months. While saving I’d run through every detail in my head and my vision was clear.

old bottlesWhile buying my treasures I remembered I was nearly out of supplies. I have always been careful about cleaning products, but without a spare dollar for the rest of the month, I took a bottom-shelf product and hurried home.

My usual routine was to start with a clean slate, but I’d scoured the entire house the day before. I pressed and then hung the curtain. Taking in the finished scene, I noticed a fresh smear on the wall next to the new curtain. Glad I got the spray cleaner, I pulled the curtain back just a bit, aimed, sprayed and then wiped away the offending smudge. I was delighted with my new decor and how well it blended with my towels and wall color the way I’d imagined. I took a photo to send to friends and flex my bragging rights.

After pasting the photo into the email I couldn’t believe my eyes. There on my new curtain was unmistakable bleaching in the beautiful color! I dashed to the bathroom hoping my eyes deceived me. But no… My wailing brought neighbors running.

In my hurry to make my vision reality and then get back to work, I’d inadvertently grabbed a bottle containing mostly bleach that had been misplaced in the non-bleach section. I’d been so preoccupied with my happy thoughts I didn’t notice the caustic smell. Arrrrgh!cleaner

I wasn’t quick enough to arrest the damage. After sulking a while and, of course bemoaning the unfairness of it all, I began brainstorming ideas to recover some of the original beauty of the curtain. Eventually my imagination kicked in.

What my situation meant for defeat, God used for good. I creatively sprayed more of the the cleaner all over the curtain and then some Ritz dye remnants consistent with my color palette. Eventually I created a poor-man’s Monet, very slightly reminiscent of his Rose Walk.

Even after several washings, the curtain performed it’s primary purpose very well. With every wash the pattern took on new characteristics. Now it’s more like a Wildflower Walk. Yeah, Ritz still bleeds and fades.

I do not recommend intentionally ruining a lovely curtain or settling for less than what we can achieve either. But I can share the worthwhile lesson from that whole process:

Life takes us through lots of twists and turns and we adjust our original plans. In high school I imagined my life in showcase homes. Over the years, with each relocation I told myself, “this will do for now.” I usually settled on the best location, the nicest home with the most space I could afford. While I’m thankful for a great imagination, I graduated magna cum laude from the school of hard knocks, but I’m not the most creative person around. Fortunately, home and garden magazines are always freely available and I regularly thank God for HGTV and DIY network. With that I got by – for now.

Now that I’m used to a healthy over-all lifestyle on a tight budget, it’s all I can do to stay focused on my set priorities. I’ve minimized dramatically while still hoping to become a piano virtuoso. Hey, I can play either one or the other part of Heart and Soul. While I admire friends’ beautiful homes and still aspire to own something similar someday, for now I’m content with a roof that doesn’t leak, food, electricity, and especially good company. Is it just me or is that actually funny now?

Compared to my dramatic, dynamic early years I’ve developed a very ordinary life from extreme conditions. While my long Bucket List continually grows, I have what I need and I’m confident I am exactly who and what God created me to be now.

I believe all the tragedies, hardships, the bad times of my life worked together to bring me right where I am now – I’m good. When we question why God allows so much trouble, sadness and evil in the world, we can too easily lose sight of the joy in life.

victorian house

I won’t lose sight of my ideal house, complete with writing room, and neither will Voithos. Today I’m glad for a modest, comfortable home. While modest, it has been my status quo for more years than I want to admit, with a good, old friend it’s quite good enough for me now. While I keep my focus upon God’s will, He always takes care of the details. I have experienced time and again how He guides me through the necessary clutter with more colorful variations I could never have imagined.

Like the rest of my life, that’s my story – and I’m sticking to it.


We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment…” Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

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Filed under Longreads, Notes from the Apex


Today again I appreciate more and more how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. First, who knew how changing my post days to Monday and Thursday would go like this?

Today’s revelation began two nights ago – I was actually cold beneath my wool blanket and goose down throw. In case I haven’t mentioned it before I never feel cold, so in the gorgeous spring weather of the Western Slope, that was the first clue that I have been running overloaded for too long. I just checked: The temps were 46 degrees to 78 degrees here that day – around 70 degrees when I retired.

This morning confirmed my suspicion when I awoke with what I generally call hamburger throat, imagining what my insides might look like with that sore, raspy feeling.

Josey tea Carli JeanWith no fever it’s all good. I arose only slightly slower than usual and was sipping my Black Silk amaretto latte by the time Erin arose. I marvel at how, in only four weeks we’ve achieved very close to perfect sync with each other. It’s almost as though the past thirty-five years had been mere weeks.

thumb driveRight on course, by then I’d already checked my drafts for today’s post and had dismissed all of the ideas I found there. By Erin’s second cup of Black Silk Vanilla ambition, she suggested I consider her idea from a few days before, the things we miss while driving.

Before I prepared my second latte Erin invited me to walk downtown with her to City Hall to pay a bill and get some fresh air. Because my second latte was super low fat, low caffeine with evaporated cane juice, (and my body’s fighting off an infection 😉 ) I considered her suggestion longer than I usually would.

Despite having volumes of words and photos to consider, I immediately prepared to walk anyway. Walking simply seemed right.

Though I felt tired before we wrapped up the 1.6 miles, I’m glad I went. Walking alone and had I not been feeling slightly puny, I would have logged in 3 miles in that time. However I would not have met the neighbors.

Two blocks from home a Mini-Schnauzer, a Shih Tzu, and a Great Pyrenees/German shepherd pup rushed into the road, barking happily to greet us. The pup, already bigger than her mature dog companions, but clearly a baby, loped along. Their people, Guy and Barbie were right on their heels.

Without Erin I wouldn’t have stopped to chat. We wouldn’t have learned Guy and Barbie also have property just a stretch of the legs from Keira and Newlyn’s property (Erin’s mom and her late father) where we go for Sunday dinner every week. And yet, we paused a good ten minutes, met our neighbors briefly and their fur kids – well enough that 3-month-old Big Baby began walking with us as we departed. We’ll consider doing that another day.

pit bull leashHow delightful that Guy knows Keira and Newlyn’s place by the spayed Amstaf terrier that lives in the next lot on the road just before Keira’s. Though Guy doesn’t recall knowing Erin’s two brothers, everyone in town knows Nancy the pit bull, who initially seems ferocious, but locals all stop to greet her – usually with a treat. I adore the friendly, small-town atmosphere despite the wide geographical span.

Ordinarily under other circumstances I wouldn’t have stopped to chat up our two young, co-ed neighbors taking a break from their studies either. I wouldn’t have told them they remind me of mornings on our porch back home where Roan, Opal and I would sit, wrapped in our blankets, mugs of coffee in hand to see the day in.

What’s more, the girls wouldn’t otherwise have extended an invitation to join their occasional parties any time, and they wouldn’t have welcomed us to visit them for food and grog where they both work at the local chain establishment. We wouldn’t have chatted about the advantages of the new Fitbits and the knock-offs that are out there.

GJ Law ofcI also noticed the amazing array of flora, from blooming cactus to peonies, vivid iris and the many varieties of columbine, and how they differ in full sun and from beneath the immense shade trees. Nor seemingly everywhere the vintage, refashioned architecture styles and landscaping seen on the Western Slope.



cactus flower1 flora fence Iris GJ iris maybe yellow cactus flower


I noticed how the many other pedestrians nodded, saying, “hi” and how one in particular paused to ask us about the shell casing we’d found in the grass a few feet in front of him. “Weird,” he said. We agreed. I wouldn’t have noticed the bird calls, especially the dove that called to us, seeming to follow us from tree top to tree top going from our block and then welcoming us back to it.

What I didn’t notice is vehicle traffic. Aside from a rare, occasional car passing (below the speed limit), the driver waving or nodding politely as they passed, there are very few cars moving through the neighborhood mid-to-late weekday mornings. The breeze and bird calls aren’t drowned out by more obnoxious sounds. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I might have heard some dandelions groaning as they struggled for root room in the thick grass of one sunny lawn.

Then there’s the view of the Book Cliffs, Sleeping Ute, Mount Garfield, The Mesa and the National Monument towering around us. If they don’t take your breath away you need new glasses – or perhaps a check up from the neck up.

Sleep Butte  Mt Garfield

Whether I’m actually sick or simply run-hard-and-put-away-wet, I’m delighted to have experienced some of the beauty we miss when we drive ourselves to our various errands. Clearly it’s good therapy. I feel extravagantly blessed that whatever we need in our household is walking distance from our front door, even when we need a break more than anything else. The reorganization project will be waiting for us whenever we return.

God knows this deep sense of belonging to family and community is exactly what I’d hoped and prayed for. Clearly He held it all together here just for me :D.

Thanks God!


“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21 (NLT)


Filed under A Door Ajar, Longreads, Notes from the Apex


In this new phase of my life I often hear weekday television talk shows from my room. One conversation recently caught my interest so I joined Erin in front of the television for a while.

The co-hosts were talking about Refinery 29, the Take Back the Beach initiative and overall body positivity. I could go on all day on this, but I’ll try to stick to the program:

Logans runThe co-hosts talked about how people seem to be more obsessive than ever with morphing themselves into their ideal self-images. Is it just me or do images of Logan’s Run come to anyone else’s mind?


As a co-host I would have pointed out renown art through the ages. We consider even those now in pieces beautifully inspiring. Take Venus Di Milo and Michelangelo’s David for instance.

venus di milo 'David'_by_Michelangelo

Art inspires us, and while the inspiration remains in moderation it’s great. Yet it seems to me much of our global society has taken cosmetic procedures to a whole new level – too close to obsession for my thinking.

While not new on the scene, figureheads like Veruschka von Lehndorff, Dianne Carroll and Christi Brinkley continue to stand out in my mind among the haunting new images of Pia Trivedi, Aneta Pajak and Alisa Ahmann.
All. Painfully. Thin.

More than ever we seem to be morphing humans. Back to the the show again, they also talked about the increase in men having cosmetic procedures including hair implants to be more attractive to a prospective mate.

One host commented that with all this cosmetic manipulating (my paraphrase), When they start having children, they don’t really know what they’re getting; all they know is there’s a new baby. But the baby’s features will be a real surprise! Like, where did that come from?!

Personally speaking, when I was young I did not consider myself comely. I could not see beyond how people treated me; the people who loved me, provided for me, and cared for me. I saw myself as unattractive and fat mostly because that’s mostly what I heard. What’s more I had that hideous red hair people talked about. UGH!

Ultimately I came to understand that my family and loved ones regarded me the same way they saw themselves (not necessarily as they actually are/were). Naturally, they passed on to me what they had – distorted and sad as much of that was. Thanks to God, I am fortunate to have extended family and good friends, so I survived and went on to learn about a better, happier perception of life.

I understand the attitude toward body image and self-esteem. A poor self-perception, over-indulgences and genetics aren’t such a mystery anymore. Personally I experienced how for a season, my self-perception made me somewhat insensitive to others’ feelings and opinions. It happens.

What’s more, like many younger people today, I once took my appearance very seriously – making myself attractive to the opposite sex for sex’s sake. And consistently, the inevitable disappointment, emptiness and loneliness consistently signaled the end to nearly every intimate relationship. I eventually learned I couldn’t hide behind pop culture, fashion, make up and others’ opinions of me . I had to get to know, accept myself and then love ME.

We do well to focus upon

what the Bible says about our image:

“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us…. So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”*

“This is the written account of the descendants of Adam. When God created human beings, he made them to be like himself. He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them “human.””**

This says nothing about fashion or outward appearance. It’s about a process – knowing The Great I Am, so we know who He says we all are.


In photos of much younger me I look fit, stylish and for the most part attractive – until I spoke. It’s funny how a few decades can change things.


2016jan30copyToday I don’t think long about clothes (aside from not embarrassing my companions in public) or makeup – since I rarely wear much. The person in the mirror today resembles that younger girl mostly, only with many more wrinkles and utter resignation to gravity. This not only proves the adage, we don’t know what we have until we lose it, but that nothing lasts forever.


Now I daily recite the fact that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” “And how well I know it.”# In that truth I tend to focus more upon self-respect, self-perception and health consciousness – the inner me.

I don’t wish my history or my excess baggage upon any other human, and yet I am not that unique. When we feel good about ourselves, we feel better about the world around us. By understanding and accepting that we are formed in God’s image the burden of responsibility for ourselves is as much on God as it is on each individual. To date, I’m very okay with that.

As I age I understand better that we are all accountable for what we do with our image. Now I understand better that God sees past our perceived flaws, through all our faults and some slightly embarrassing secrets, right to our need. As we practice relationship with God, we begin to see ourselves as He sees us – lovely and perfect in His design for our lives. I’m thankful for that.

Our relationships with Him makes us all we can be.

That’s as much as I stick with talk shows  😀

“I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14 (King James Version)

* Genesis 1:26, 27 (NLT)
** Genesis 5:1,2 (NLT)
# Psalm 139:14 (NLT)

Logan’s Run image courtesy IMDB:

Venus Di Milo image courtesy By Unknown – Jastrow (2007), Public Domain,

Michelangelo’s David image courtesy By Jörg Bittner Unna – Own work, CC BY 3.0,


Filed under Longreads, Notes from the Apex

Falling In To Place

I must confess. For me the New Year didn’t actually begin on January the first. It didn’t start on the first Monday in January, or the first work day of the new year as I’d intended either. For me it dawned on the 7th – an otherwise nondescript Thursday.

Most notably that day did not go as I planned – something that would normally feel to me like the earth tilted on its axis. Instead I welcomed the change.

I’d been laboring over a book manuscript during my first year of blogging. Learning more about the mechanics and enjoying the experience, I wanted more – more followers, more comments, more feedback… I down-shifted. Ambition took over and before I realized it, I had become obsessed. I didn’t feel like the world was falling apart, so I felt better.

I’d been staring into the monitor till my eyes dried and my head hurt six days a week, letting my fitness and health care slide for days in a row. I’d been constantly thinking, reading, studying, cyber surfing until I realized I hadn’t even walked outside the house in too close to a week – yet again.

w o r k

What’s Next followers might remember The View From Ground Level. And you’d rightly assume I’d learned from that experience. Or not. My breakthrough moment came the day before Christmas Eve. I realized I had performed the rudimentary holiday preparations my phone apps hounded me to do, but not much else to welcome in the season. This is very not like me. Instead I worked, telling myself I was about to reach my dream.

Right about that time I noticed an old feeling lurking around just outside the shadows. It had grown bold, stepping closer into the light. I wasn’t enjoying my life or my chosen career. Instead I had been working it, telling myself I must work harder so I could get where I need to be, and then I could relax and enjoy my life.

Blind ambition had taken over. I banished that little monster after surviving a heart attack in my mid-thirties. A little ambition, in check is typically good. This time around I was plain stupid. Literally, doing the same thing again and again expecting different results. This past year I’d be hard-pressed to prove this is not my typical MO.

During my year-end break I realized my main concerns were work and want. Although I celebrated Christmas Day with my household, thankful that hard times hadn’t robbed us of that joy, I was pensive, intense and remarkably not joyful.

My Ghost of Christmas Future appeared to me in the form of the “God-hat” I had tossed away long ago when I gave my life to Jesus. I realized I’d walled myself in and despite all my positive self-talk, laborious prayer rituals, and my enlightened perspective, I had become stale, dismal and worn.

At that point I put on the brakes. The next day as tornadoes swept past our neighborhood, I pulled some post ideas from my drafts folder, added a little bling, ran the proofreader, named the files with post dates and saved them as drafts to publish from my phone. And then I walked away from my desk for the year.

Josey coffee Annie SprattFast forward to the first work day in January. Within minutes I noticed my neck and shoulders immediately tighten with that familiar, old pressure to perform, produce, provide. Instead of rowing in my chair to loosen up, I walked away holding my hands skyward. I made a cup of chamomile, and then sat in my prayer closet. I hung out with God till we were good again.

Rather than diving into my projects, the Reader or my manuscript, I started up the old laptop I use for business records.

I created a workbook; month to month spreadsheets detailing my financial plan for the year. I scheduled out the birthdays I’d observe, travel allowances and holiday budgets. Then I compiled my tax paperwork. I allocated every available dollar, checked the super-coupon site, purged my coupon folders, and drafted a back up plan to cover any ‘what-ifs.’

Relieved but not entirely satisfied, I overhauled my digital files and reformatted my back up drive. When that was done I wrote a long letter to my brother and his fiancee. I gave myself permission to not work. I lived.

What’s unique about that first day of this new year is I felt fine taking my life at a my pace again. I liked the unfamiliar, but comfortable peace, knowing what I have to work with and what must wait for residual income – essentially anything but food and shelter. But as billions around the globe can attest, my circumstances could be far worse.

Instead of my daily dread, that nagging drive to produce a monumental, world-changing post and manuscript, tabled and annotated, by my self-imposed deadline, I coasted. Rather than cracking the whip, screaming for the muse, I snapped my fingers to Pandora Radio and cruised through the day. It felt great!

sunrise walk

The next morning I slid into my work-out garb, slammed down some nutrients, stretched and walked out the door. After a luxurious shower and prayer time I ate a legitimate breakfast, made a pot of tea and calmly walked to my clean, orderly desk. Yes, I pinched myself to be sure I was awake.

Instead of my work day starting at five, it was nearly nine a.m. and I wasn’t falling apart. I felt like the over comer I’d been most of my life. Blind ambition put to rest, I’m enjoying life with God in control again. As I watched the birds and the squirrels quarreling over territories, I listen for orders from my High Commander. Knowing they’ll come in the perfect time, I can relax and work on my manuscript – at my pace – in God’s time.


Just Be Held, Casting Crowns
YouTube Link:


“So don’t worry about these things… your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT)


Filed under A Door Ajar, Longreads

Journey Reflections

As my body continues to rebel against time and gravity I appreciate life more than ever before. I’ve been reflecting upon memories, mostly the snap shot images, and some videos from my history.

Film camera selfie: Roo inside tent

AZ boyzNot that long ago, I was known for impulsively grabbing a day pack, and taking off. I didn’t think long about it then, I simply went. With the boys, friends or sometimes alone, we’d explore the land, lakes, rivers, the ocean, whatever we encountered. Subject and adverse to aches and pains now, I plan more these days.

Today those memories took me to three journeys long ago.

Farthest back was a drive from the east side of Scottsdale, Arizona to Crown King. Off the beaten path on some barely paved roads, much of the area was still remote in the early 1980’s, so it naturally appealed to me.

AZ VistaMy favorite part of that trip was the return to Phoenix, cresting a hill on Highway 17 a stretch north of what is now the Carefree Highway. As the Valley of the Sun laid out before me, I stopped to take in the miles of nearly pristine dessert between that rise and the the remote edges of Phoenix. The springtime desert wove a tapestry beneath a glorious sunset of dazzling gold, silver and sapphires, struck with silhouettes of saguaros, chollas, organ pipes and the sloping hills.

CA CoastSeveral decades later, driving around Deer Valley reminded me of yet another adventure years earlier in 1980’s California:

On a rare occasion that my companion and I weren’t pressed for time, we began driving the mini truck from Arroyo Grande bound for Whittier. Instead of taking the interstate, we took Highway 101, and diverted to smaller coastal roads, stopping frequently to refresh and explore the towns.

At one point of the casual drive we stopped in Lompoc. There we noticed a man and woman sitting with large backpacks. We greeted them, struck up a conversation and learned they were from West Germany. That was before the Berlin wall collapsed. Somehow between their pigeon English and our gooney-bird German, we decided to intertwine our adventures together for a while.

malibu From Lompoc they rode with us, taking turns riding in the bed of the truck. We’d removed the camper shell before departing and took the back window out so we could talk back and forth with our new friends. With our company the different route took on an even broader perspective, making the journey more exhilarating.

los-angeles-downtown-cityscape-3000x2000_28675Though we’d been there often, we rediscovered Santa Barbara through their maiden visit. From Malibu we back tracked a little up to Highway 101 again. Though further inland, we wanted to relive the first spellbinding view of the Los Angeles basin with them, the couple in the cab so they could view the city head-on. Though the traffic was denser and noisier, we were spellbound.

We drove through the center of Los Angeles to the Bonaventure Hotel, specifically to ride the exterior glass elevators.

Olvera_Street_Los_Angeles_California_blogWe’d intended to take a meal at one of the dining establishments at the Bonaventure. We ate at a taco stand on Olvera Street instead and couldn’t have enjoyed it more. Back in the truck, having shot several canisters of film (before digital photography) we were full of food, and wonder. So caught up in the adventure, we bypassed Whittier and drove on to Anaheim, marveling over the city lights.

The couple opted to stay in Buena Park and meet up with other fellow sojourners in the morning. We located a nice, affordable room for the night within walking distance from their connection the next day.

la basin nightI don’t recall much of the conversation we shared over a bottle of wine, cheese and bread on their hotel balcony. I marveled with them over the magnitude of Los Angeles County. The lady said several times how big it is and how glad they were that we met.

Reluctant to part, even in the wee small hours of the morning, the little truck nearly drove itself back to Whittier. Having seen Los Angeles through their eyes, I became humbled. I felt ashamed for becoming indifferent to the beautiful, marvelous place we lived; from the coast to the foothills of the Angeles National Forest and the amazing metropolises of Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Sdale from Cback1988

Roo atop Camelback Mt. 1988

In Arizona 2007, the same feelings I experienced exploring Los Angeles years before overwhelmed me again. I rode in awed silence with my sister from my Aunt’s house that was nestled into the foothills of the North Mountain Reserve at the end of 15th Avenue. Although it looked hugely different, vastly developed, it was still Phoenix to us.

We grew up there when Deer Valley Road seemed to mark the edge of the world and visits to my aunt felt like a trip to the wilds. Now the bustling city reaches beyond the hills with no break before heading up Highway 17 toward Black Canyon City. The long miles of landscape between Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa are now filled with towns spreading outward. Once again, filled with wonder I let go of exactly where I was, where I’d ever been before and watched through the eyes of my German friends long ago.

Make me walk along the path of your commands,
for that is where my happiness is found.” Psalm 119:35 (NLT)



Filed under Longreads, Notes from the Apex

Christmas Eve’s Eve

angel wing cloud nancy


Our Christmas celebration this year will consist of Candlelight Service (maybe with Sister), an actual sit-down dinner together and all three of us taking a restful day off work together, probably with popcorn and Netflix, maybe darts.

The plan was in place.  Sister and I left the house together to do the last minute shopping before Christmas.  This was an event.  I’ve missed her.  I see her every day, but she’s mostly been away for a few years. Discouraged, disappointed, heartbroken, confused; essentially shattered, she holds the pieces of herself so tightly she can hardly do anything else but work.  People we love often hurt us at some point and knocked us down at others. I get it.

Sister, Opal and I move about in the world and live our lives together from behind our walls.  Occasionally, I can’t contain the spirit inside me.  It escapes and preys upon any unwitting subject on my way.  Sister and I both felt it coming.  “Let me get that door for you…” and the next thing you know I’m engaged in conversation with a friendly, talkative, complete stranger.  Sister usually loathes it, but being so far from friends and other family too she understands – and suffers through my social gushing.

Happy to be out, invigorated by the warm Texas December weather, we were on our last stop for the day.  A seemingly familiar woman approached the door the same time we did.  Feeling I actually knew her from somewhere, and even if I didn’t, I greeted her cheerily and sprang to get the door for her.  “Good afternoon.”

As if she didn’t notice us before the lady straightened very slightly, and as I swung the door open and stepped aside, she looked me in the eye as if she saw into my soul, “Oh, thank you, Baby.  Good afternoon” she replied warmly, then turned to watch where she walked.  Something clicked – I didn’t know what.  I didn’t care.  I felt alive and fully connected to the world again.

The lady adjusted her large purse and a hobo bag as she reached forward.  The interior door opened into the vestibule so I awkwardly stepped around her to hold that door open for her too.  I was probably overreaching, but I had to.  She was one of those strong women, knowing her actual age was tricky, but the touches of grey in her hair and brows told me she was slightly older than I, but fit and sharp, if slightly preoccupied.

With that she looked into my face again.  Entirely unintimidated – and unannoyed, she responded, “Why thank you, Baby,” She said “Baby” again, but as if she knew me.  She seemed to start to say something else, but nodded and began walking away.  Strangely, my heart wanted me to walk with her, but noticing Sister’s expression I checked myself not wanting to seem patronizing or just plain crazy.  Instead I said, “Of course.  You have a wonderful day.  Merry Christmas.”

She’d started to walk away, glanced back saying, “Why, God bless you.  Merry Christmas,” as she stepped toward the back of the store and out of sight.

Sis and I shopped around looking for a nice little something to put beneath the tree; a two-foot paper and wire figure sitting on the now vacant television cabinet in the den. We searched around for one of those special finds, and wound up looking through blouses; something I never do.  I can’t wear off the rack without alterations, but Sister can wear whatever she wants.  To make her happy I went along enjoying the feel of the fabrics.

“What are you looking for today?” came the voice from behind us.  I turned to respond and was delighted to find the lady from the door.  Now smiling broadly, wearing a plush red and white Santa hat on her head and a lanyard of keys and key cards around her neck.  As she wandered away I finally recognized her; polished orthopedic shoes, black patterned stockings over support hose, a stylish, upscale, conservative skirt, comfortable, but immaculate.  A shell and cardigan tastefully accessorized, every hair neatly in place; she was a Momma.

Not somebody’s mother, though she possibly was, she’s a Momma.  You’ll find her at the job, at church every Sunday and mid-week service, at the local free day care, senior care center, food pantry, often a volunteer at the local hospital or hospice.  You see it all over her, confidently owning whatever space she occupies.  Calm, collected, always busy, but quick to help wherever she can.  She never misses the slightest nuance, takes life head-on, living comfortably, modestly and entirely in love with people.

Over the years Mommas were my lifeline.  When I commuted into Los Angeles for work, stuck in traffic, my boys knew to go to the church office where Momma D volunteered every afternoon.  She’d take them in, get them started on their homework and usually have snacks when I got to the neighborhood, late and panic stricken.  “Don’t you worry, Baby,” She’d always say, “They’re good boys.  You can remember me when the offering plate comes around.” A Momma.

As a missionary, the only pink face in a volatile neighborhood, Momma Gen would often be “taking a walk” (in her house slippers) when I left the building to walk home after dark.  Nobody messes with a Momma.

Working for an inner-city grass roots community center, putting in 50 hour weeks, Momma Cece would bring plates of dinner for the boys and me at least twice a week, knowing I wouldn’t have time to cook a dinner. That’s a Momma.

Sis and I kept sliding hangers. “Momma Burke” (we’ll call her as she didn’t wear a name tag) held out a blouse to each of us.  “These colors are perfect for you two and they’re very popular.” Before I could gracefully refuse, she said, “It doesn’t cost a thing to try them on and it’s good to try something new once in a while.”

You don’t argue with a Momma.  Sister stared me down as I took the beautiful blue, flowing top and stepped toward the fitting room.  I smiled back at her saying, “I’m going for it, You might as well too.” Momma Burke pushed the rusty red shirt at Sister saying, “Now don’t waste time thinking about it. The store is going to get busy fast.”

Moments later I heard Sister gasp in the room next to me.  Both the blouses were perfect.

Sure enough, when we stepped out of the rooms the store was full and noisy.  Momma stepped up out of nowhere, smiling.  “I knew you’d like ‘em; the colors suit you both and you can either dress them up or down.”

Sister agreed, thanked her and wandered away.  Clearly she was ready to leave.  I thanked Momma and explained I liked the blouse, but it isn’t in my budget until January. “Did you even look at the tag?” she asked, giving me “that look” over her half-frames.  I hadn’t.

It actually was that rare find from the clearance rack.  A second by most standards, but on me it draped perfectly, for $5.61.  I almost giggled.  Momma just smiled and went on to help other customers.  I wanted to hug her tight but taking the other blouse from the returns rack, hurried to catch up with Sister and bought both blouses.

We practically flew through the rest of the shopping and were home before we knew it.

I couldn’t stop thinking how God places exactly the right people in my life at the perfect times.  I’d longed for something new to wear for months.  With bills to pay, paying gigs scarce, I’ve made due with what I have.  What I have often isn’t a big deal. But it is today.

As I readied for Christmas Eve the next day, the mail brought a cash surprise. Immediately I thought of the leggings Sister wanted – and Momma Burke.  I couldn’t get to the store fast enough.  I found the leggings straight away and then went to the fitting room to find Mrs. Burke.  The woman that also worked there yesterday was absolute that she’s never seen anybody over twenty-something working in the store and she’s worked there almost two years!

Perhaps Momma Burke is a new hire starting late into Christmas season.  Maybe not.  I won’t be surprised to confirm sometime in the future, that Momma Burke is one of those angelic beings that appear and vanish when we actually need a little special help.  I shall look forward to seeing her again wherever it happens.

candles and nuts christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Filed under Longreads