Maggie Lee begged for months for a chihuahua. Finally her father broke down, “Since we already have two dogs, I’m considering this a cat.”
Little could we know the therapy dog straight from Heaven our Ellie would prove to be. When the church bus accident which would eventually claim ML’s life occurred in 2009, Ellie accompanied Jack in the car ride with church members. Having no grasp of the severity of ML’s injuries, we decided that she should come to help Maggie Lee recover. Little did we know that she would serve as a key to our recovery.
We snuck Ellie into the Batson Children’s ICU when the end was near. My Mom was nervous that we would be discovered. I figured that there was no fear of them throwing us all out at that point. Jack stowed Ellie away in a gym bag as Mom and I blocked the nurses’s view into her room. In one stealth motion, Jack unzipped the bag and placed Ellie near her mommy’s artificially ventilated chest. We wanted her to at least know that ML had not abandoned her. Whether the coin dropped in her doggy mind or not one cannot say but like so many plot twists in life we gave it our best.
To call Ellie the most important therapy dog a family could ever have is an understatement. I used to joke about my future grandchildren and she would indignantly state, “You already have a grandchild.” That is how much she adored her dog. A most un-chihuahua-like chihuahua, she was not a yippy little dog, rather a settled and beautiful soul. She was God’s comfort with fur on; comfort I could carry in a purse yet that 5 pound little person carried me.
Present at all the big charity events for the non-profit for which she was the mascot (Maggie Lee for Good) she opened Maggie Lee’s Closet, watched the Maggie Lee for Good Little League invitational and was featured prominently in all 15 MLFG T-shirts. One of ML’s favorite sayings was “Stop Dog Nudity” and one of my favorite photos is a Texas A & M Vet School Class with a huge banner stating just that. Maggie Lee for Good is a day in which people perform a good deed in our daughter’s memory. Because of the iconic photo of ML and Ellie on the MLFG Book, literally hundreds of kindnesses have been bestowed upon pet shelters, pet-fostering organizations and rescues.
Our hilarious daughter named her long-awaited puppy for Reese Witherspoon’s character in the movie Legally Blonde then proceeded to clothe her every day. I already began shopping for Ellie’s Quincenera dress. And as dearly as I wanted Ellie to have her Quincenera this September 30th, I cannot argue with God’s timing. I would rather hold on loosely in gratitude than strangle that which I feel I am owed.
I am incredibly thankful that John gave in to Maggie Lee’s fervent desire for a Chihuahua. You don’t often think of that breed as a purveyor of peace or curator of comfort but she was nothing less than the ultimate friend. She softened the brutal blow and for that we are eternally in her debt. Rest in peace & Joy, Ellie. We love and miss you.
I am sitting at my desk stacked with pink mailing bags; the final t-shirt orders for Maggie Lee for Good 2022. Next Saturday will be the 14th year we have celebrated our child’s birthday long-distance.
The list of good deeds performed and non-profits helped continues to grow as any healthy entity does. We walk with a limp as any parent in this lane does but would be fools to ignore how beautiful our lives are.
I glanced at the photo on my desk. The one of Ms. Evelyn Adams and me at The Scoggin’s church pool party. I prominently display her likeness to remind me to study my Bible more. She was the most caring, Christ-like woman I have ever met. She loved reading books to the Lighthouse kids.
Those of you who have your faves in Heaven will get this, those of you who don’t could think I’m insane and help yourself to that impression. No worries. I looked at Evelyn with this big Christmas toy drive coming up next Saturday for MLFG Day and just asked her for some help.
I have no clue what is heard on the other side and no desire to change anyone’s mind about it. But, I went into the kitchen to open the Amazon boxes John brought in and unpacked this:
These books for our Christmas toy drive came from my friend Jennifer Jolin in Ft. Worth. She lost her husband just months ago. I thought how generous and precious of her, texted a photo and thanked her and then I returned to my desk. And once more saw Evelyn who reminds me to read my Bible. And once more saw Evelyn and remembered I just asked her to do me a solid, send a little help.
The dropped and I literally LOL’ed. I do not pretend to know the back story of how the after life works, just what I read in scripture and there is a lot left to the imagination. But, I do know that God is kind and shows off when we are feeling overwhelmed. I do know that people who live unto God and lean into life with passionate purpose have spirits which reverberate forever.
I am just a mom celebrating a birthday with an eternal 12-year-old on October 29th. Trusted too short a time with that treasure. A mom grateful for the thousands who have done a good deed in her memory on Maggie Lee for Good Day. Not for us or even the memory of her but because God is perpetually bringing beauty from the tough breaks, sending waves of mercy to help us hang on; sometimes through us and sometimes to us.
You’re invited to join the wave. I’d love to highlight whatever kindness you portray because we can never have enough good examples of love. 🤍
How ironic that an individual like Putin, breast-fed on KGB strategy for decades is being thwarted militarily by a comic. A comic. Even an anonymous open-mic’er for decades like myself is not shocked in the least. Here’s why:
“Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” So pithy a summation, I swear it could have come from Lincoln himself. A stand-up bares observations of their soul in an attempt to squeeze laughter out of other humans. The connection is immediate. So is the shame. A seasoned comic reads the room (or world stage in this instance) and adjusts their set list accordingly. Zelenskyy didn’t want a ride out of Kiyev when offered but wittily quipped that what he needed was ammo. Don’t think for a second he did not know exactly where that brilliant line would land the second he launched it.
It takes guts to be a comic. A staggering 75% of adults listed public speaking as their greatest fear. This trepidation even caused Warren Buffett to drop speech in college. Zelenskyy had no doubt weathered the awkward performances on the way to his critical acclaim in “Servant of The People,” the Ukrainian show which iit would seem predicted the future. He “stood with himself” the practice of still believing in yourself even when you fail without giving up. This bravery in leadership is no fluke.
It takes special vision to be a comic. It requires the brilliance to notice and ability to cleverly articulate those observations of common experiences. Bo Burnham’s “White Woman’s Instagram” is a brilliant example of women like myself and the propensity toward predictable posts:
“Some random quote from Lord of the Rings Incorrectly attributed to Martin Luther King.
A goat cheese salad (goat cheese salad) A backlit hammock (backlit hammock) A simple glass of wine Incredibly derivative political street art A dreamcatcher bought from Urban Outfitters A vintage neon sign”
The song is hysterical because it is true. What the masses might glance over, a comic eye like Burnham SEES then fashions observations into an irresistible message he calculates will connect with the world. Zelenskyy did not ask for this horrific affront. The consequences are actual life and death of actual people, not just a career or a gig. But he has seen with brilliant eye the power of the moment and articulated through social media some tremendous truths.
My prayers are fervently with Ukraine and my money is absolutely on the comic.
Last night with the Christmas tree sparkling, I watched “Anne With an E” on Netflix. In the Netflix show the pastoral beauty of Prince Edward Island pops in juxtaposition against the cold Nova Scotian orphanage. Jumping off from L.M. Montgomery’s 1908 book and numerous cinematic adaptations, the series details Anne’s indomitable spirit in the face of perpetual misery.
As the novel goes, The Cutberths (an agrarian brother and sister pair in advancing years) request a male child-laborer from the asylum. Asylum being an earlier moniker for orphanage. Instead of a male, our siblings receive a loquacious little red-haired girl. Sensible Ms. Cuthbert, not given to shenanigous folly, sets out to return Anne to her wretched situation.
On the previous journey from orphanage to beautiful Green Gables, Anne developed a bruise from pinching herself. She was in disbelief that her life could be that good. Sadly before the bruise even yellows, her good fortune is reversed. Anne’s words as she leaves paradise and returns to hell made me weep. Our persevering protagonist says this: “I will enjoy my ride back to the orphanage because I have already determined to do so.”
With that phrase the tears erupted and the river of my maternal heart spilled forth. Child actress Amybeth McNulty’s brilliant portrayal did me in. Do not fear, there are twists and turns,” my friend Lynne (with an e) who recommended the show to me was quick to text back when I told her I was totally gutted not 30 minutes in. “Many twists and turns,” she said, but I was already sunk.
I continued to watch as the character chose to keep it on the sunny side through many dangers, toils and snares. She is brave, brilliant and determined to steel herself against the life of rejection dealt her. I adore Anne with an e. I admire the way that she determines herself into positivity. Like another e-Anne, Anne Frank, who wrote about the beauty of life while hiding out in the Secret Annex as World War Two raged on.
Perhaps our heroine’s positivity is phenomenally unrealistic; that no one in her position in life would make things better by sheer force of her will. Maybe our troubles won’t be defeated by the choice of our minds. But perhaps more is in our control than we’ve dared to admit. What IF life could be transformed by our determining in advance to enjoy the ride?
Something truly extraordinary happened in 2020 for me. I had a pivot. That’s what my career coach Maureen called it anyway.
Pivot. What a beautiful way to describe one turning 50 and launching into a vocation never before attempted. For me it was venturing into the world of real estate which I had long desired to attempt.
Since even a ramshackle shotgun speaks to me, there was no doubt that I would enjoy my subject matter. I love a house, be they big ones, tiny ones, brand new, Yellow Fever-era. No matter the style I envision a tweak or two and picture a soul thriving in that very space; both bringing to life and being brought to life symbiotically.
John and I had the honor of meeting Habitat for Humanity and Fuller Center for Housing founder Millard Fuller on a few occasions. He explained succinctly the power of home:
“What Habitat does is much more than just sheltering people. It’s what it does for people on the inside. It’s that intangible quality of hope.”
Hope and home. Yes. Houses are not merely the mirror of their inhabitants but the frame inside which a life story unfolds; an entity whose square footage, kitchen and backyard serve as co-conspirators alongside those of us actually doing the living. These structures we call home not only shelter us but rejoice in celebrations, grieve in losses and ultimately provide a safe place to fall.
I had the honor of listing a home just two doors down this summer. A precious family bought it and this holiday adorned their home like a gingerbread house in the best way. The family has a toddler and I cannot fathom what magical stirring he feels when he sees the celebration on his roof each night. I highly recommend having as many toddlers in your life as possible, especially as neighbors.
As I walked this cold morning (more to gaze at the beautiful moon than to exercise) I was struck by the joy that their house emitted. There was no missing the much-needed joyful message in this very challenging year.
I read the lights of home as a little love notes to one another even if that is not the owner’s intention. The sparkles reach out to me in cheer and even hope like the star which guided people to the Christ child. Obviously the inflatable, Santa-capped Minion may not be a deep conveyance of the nativity mystery, yet it still brings tremendous hope and joy as I walk down Patton Avenue.
Your 24th birthday is next Thursday and it is still an outlandish thought that you are in Heaven and not here with us. Time marches on and even the movie Legally Blonde turned twenty this year! Speaking of which, Elle Woods Henson was particularly excited by her prominent placement in this year’s T-shirt graphic. She’s so extra, just like her mommy.
It is always so amazing to see the kindness people perform in your name by many who knew you and even more who never did. I cannot wait to see you again and watch you watch the video roll of all of the good deeds your spirit inspired in people. Who knows but that the box of groceries in Detroit or the simple hand-written note in Phoenix was just the touch God used to restore someone’s broken soul. As you know, kindness is not wimpy and sentimental but rather a force both fierce and transformative.
What began as a simple seed to carry on your legacy of love has grown and next Thursday photos will pour in from different parts of the country where your spirit has spread. Four West Point Grads are having a golf scramble in Las Vegas to raise money for Wounded Warriors, crossing guards in Frisco are being assaulted with showers of Little Debbie’s and children in Jackson, MS are being treated at Batson Hospital because of donations someone made in your name. How wonderful is that?
Amid the celebration, however, there will always be an empty seat at our table. Time forever demarcated before 2009 and after. I suppose this is the frightening risk of loving a soul; the possibility that one day it will be gone. Our insides swell at the thought of love, enlarged by the fulfilled presence of another, but desperately deflated should it be taken away. How miraculous to feel the flat disappointment of grief eventually give way to the infilling of God’s grace? Life can almost kill us and then we least expect, catch it being beautiful once more.
I treasure what we had in you, Maggie Lee. Your sparkle remains like glitter found in the baseboards of an old house years after the craft project has wrapped. Your essence is both impossible to remove and ever present. You will always be the undercurrent in my soul when I react out of love and patience when I have the choice to be selfish. You will always be my inspiration to pull up a chair at the lunch table to make room for one more. You will always be one-half of the best things I ever did in my life on Earth and I cannot waitto celebrate you next week!!!
To join the world wide wave of kindness on October 29, simply go to fb group
2020. It sounded so beautifully round, didn’t it? The 2020 sunglasses on New Year’s Eve fashioned from the two 0’s were flawless, not some 2017 with the contorted 7 wrapped around the second circle. No, this was 2020, baby. Whole. Repetitive. Catchy. We came in hot, zip-lining into the Roaring 20’s with zero indication that a Prickly Pear awaited to break our fall.
This year has held melt-downs on so many fronts; the CV-19 word has slain over 150,000 Americans and taken down Neiman Marcus. The molten underground flow of racial unrest erupted over the horrific death of George Floyd, a tipping point for a country plagued with systemic mistreatment of black and brown people. Moreover, our economy continues to struggle:
The economy contracted at a record rate last quarter and July setbacks for the jobs market added to signs of a slowing recovery as the country faces a summer surge in coronavirus infections.” Harriet Torry wrote in The Wall Street Journal on July 30, 2020.
Because we have story- shaped minds, I gain strength from a good, sturdy overcomer; souls like Harriet Tubman, Hamilton, and Job. Not Steve Jobs but rather Job. Old Testament Job. You may recall that he’s the one known for sitting catatonically atop the literal ash heap of his life. His grief brought questions and so might yours.
The book of Job is a brief one in the Old Testament right before Psalms. The title character is killing it in Chapter one: rich yet humble, blessed with 10 children, a wife, a huge livestock operation and a reputation as “the greatest in the East.” -Job 1:3. Basically Chip Gaines with 5 extra kids. He makes sacrifices to God on behalf of his kids just in case they accidentally sin. I like this guy, he holds on loosely and doesn’t assume his kids are perfect.
As the story goes, one day when heavenly beings & Satan come to present themselves before the Lord (quite a bizarre squad…so many questions about this receiving line) God asks Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it” Which comes as a challenge to God about how generally crappy humanity has turned out.
As the scene unfolds, God then throws this question out to the enemy, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him in all the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil?” Satan laughs at the confidence placed in a mortal, cynically explaining that Job is good only because Job’s life is good. Remove the blessings and Job will curse. The Almighty disagrees.
So, shockingly undeservedly the devastation is unleashed. In a calamitous one-after-another set of announcements, servants enter to proclaim successive tragedies which take all of his flocks, culminating in the news that all of his ten children are dead. All. Ten. Children. Dead. He arose, tore his robe, shaved his head and extraordinarily enough, honored God:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.”
Though utterly laid low, Job’s knee- jerk reaction is praise. He admirably takes this complete reversal in stride. After humbly proving his fidelity, he then suffers a round of attacks on his body. In Job Chapter 2, he is covered with loathesome sores from head to toe. Praising God from his ash heap only proves to trigger his wife. She suggests he do the only sensible thing and “Curse God and DIE.”
But Job is hell-bent on keeping his heavenly perspective. Eschewing her suggestion, he calls her foolish for the mere idea, reasoning, “Should we receive good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. His perspective powered his perception. His gratitude granted him grace. Grace to accept the unthinkable reality that his life is completely ruined.
In an effort to encourage Job in his grief, his friends come from afar. They do not recognize him at first but when the coin drops, they gasp and tear their clothes. Nothing like your gasping friends ripping their clothes at your appearance communicates “sucks to be you,” quite as colorfully. Scripture says they sat quietly with Job for seven days lending support. When Job begins verbally processing his grief, his tribe begins finding just cause for his ruination. They shoulda kept quiet.
Job’s friends are at their most helpful when they simply love and listen. It is fruitless to proffer explanations as to why afflictions happen because as we see, Job is never granted one. Job’s friends sought to find an explanation for his suffering as a prescription for avoiding it themselves. The human mind seeks to explain tragedy to restore the false sense of control. Herein lies the the baseline of blame: control. That is why every parent who has ever lost a child replays every scenario for a missed cue as to how they allowed this to occur to prevent it from repeating itself, which is a foolish exercise.
Eventually after heated debates with his support staff and God, Job circles back to acceptance. He puts God on trial for allowing his many trials. God does not shrink back but rather reminds Job of his place in creation. Citing Behemoth and Leviathan created, God reminds our protagonist of the microscopic vision which he has. This is a reminder of the perspective to which we humans can only aspire. Not an answer to our burning questions of why? but a way to open our minds. Once still and yielding, the spirit can blow in acceptance of the truth that there are some questions for we will never have answers.
God eventually restores double what our friend has lost. His sores eventually heal but it is likely his scalp always looked wonky and his hair patchy. I imagine he bore the scars of living as you may as well. I still have a scar on my left eye from where my ridiculously uncoordinated daughter smacked me with a tennis racket and one on my chin from Jack armed with a hockey stick. They are beautiful to me because they represent a full life well lived. That is the bargain I reckon.
What handles on truth can be learned from the story of Job’s devastation? What possible takeaway can bring peace to our terrified minds? How can we wisely face the uncertainty of life? Probably none of us will lose as much as Job did but we may lose a business, our loved-ones, our dignity or our mental health during this unprecedented crisis. What shred of hope can we grasp from this ancient tale?
Change and loss are normal. As completely abnormal as Job’s loss was, life for all of us means change. As audaciously as we assume the blessings of the food on and family around our table, all could be gone in just a moment. Any fortune, friendship or family we assume will be there at days’ end may not be. This is life. To take for granted that the good life will go on forever is a foolish assumption. This is a lesson driven home as we have been thrown into quarantine, unable to procure basic staples and unable to be physically present with loved ones. As deeply as it chainsaws against our death-grip on control, the truth is that we will experience change and grieve those we love.
As lame a consolation as it may appear at first blush, I do think one gets points for survival and bonus points for love. This is my take-away from Job. He survived loss of wealth and children, financial ruin and even well-intentioned friends. I only wish Job’s friends could have shared a modicum of the empathy and love I have received from mine. Despite being conditioned to always grope for more and better, may we bear in mind that we are not promised tomorrow, good health or even those we hold so dear. So let us see through eyes of fierce gratitude which seeks to appreciate what we have this day.
So here’s to Job who shunned the suggestion that he curse God and die. He debated God and lived. And I am richer for his example. May our preoccupation with ourselves drop away like chaff and with it take our expectations of what we are owed by life or by God. If the breath in our lungs is all we have, may we breathe out beautiful hope for others with every exhalation.
If there’s one thing this “from the mind of M. Night Shamalan,” of a year has revealed to us as a people it is that there is no escaping reality. With a world-wide pandemic raging, record unemployment and seismic racial eruptions, we are chest-deep in our new reality. Stuff just got real. From Today Show anchor Savannah Guthrie getting flack over her “hair-do”-it-yourself-beauty efforts or just the piles of unadulterated crap shoved in bookcases as backdrops for tv interviews, there was no dodging the REALITY of this messy moment.
I usually pretty much love reality, particularly in juxtaposition with edited, face-tuned, sound-bitten, shellacky flawlessness our egos present to the world. I’ll take any day the two left feet verses the best foot forward. The outtakes over the seamlessly-edited final promo. The side-by-side of the idealized private, sugar-sanded beach next to the crowded, diaper-strewn sea weed patch of shoreline. The gritty reality, albeit not always preferable, is always far more interesting.
I love the mile-misses way better than the near-misses. So, here’s a photo from our 25th to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary today. A glance back to last year pre-Pandemic. And kudos to the photog Jonathan in Paris I found on line for super cheap. His portfolio traditionally centered around uninhibited 20-year-olds not grey-haired men and good ol’ gals with maxi skirts and denim flamenco shirts. No traffic-stopping hotness here. We did manage to repulse some unkempt gentleman on his skateboard with our forced awkwardness. John was instructed in broken English, “take heir face into your hanns. Kees her. And you, look into hees eyes” The result looks like a domestic abuse chokehold poster which captured perfectly the goiter created by the bizarre angle of my head in hees hanns.
Happy 26th to my John. I am grateful beyond words for our health and life together during this time of pandemic and complete societal upheaval likened by historians to “If The Civil War and Yellow Fever had a baby.” Ok, so maybe that’s just my take on the reality of this moment we are walking through. I don’t know much but I do know that I adore this guy. He is kind, loving, cat- rescuing and even occasionally “watches” read: scrolls through Twitter paying zero attention a Jane Austen movie. Perhaps a successful marriage is sometimes more about enduring than enjoying the same things together. And this fella has endured a lot.
I love you forever, my John. You are the greatest gift I could ever imagine and I’m flat-out blessed beyond comprehension to get to share life with you. Even if getting that perfectly romantic 25th anniversary photo was not meant to be, I’m so glad that we are.