Successful Closet Office Couture

My part time job in employee engagement has grown into a position with perks. Like huge perks. I now am the ecstatic occupant of a closet-turned-office. It is exactly 4’10” by 5’3″ and it is amazing.

What began as prime real estate for marketing posters, brooms and folding chairs has transitioned into a beautiful cloffice. My cloffice is perfect for deep work like writing and apparently fashion design.

Like most fabulous things that happen my Project Runway moment was brought on by necessity. The way my blouse hung when I first dressed in the morning had me totally irritated by 10am. It seems I am still reaping repercussions from Holiday Pie Month as my jeans screamed for mercy at the waistline.

With ill-fitting top and gut-sprung bottom, something had to give. An employee T-shirt would fix it but I didn’t have cash and corporate has some obscure bias towards not stealing or whatever.

Suddenly I remembered the 2 yards of stretchy fabric in my cloffice storage area (behind the mirror) I rarely purchase fabric but my amazing tufted sofa from Weir’s had been victimized by a protracted 11 months of use and began farting tufted button covers. So I had to replace the buttons with a craft kit and fabric. It worked like a charm and I had fabric left over.

I fashioned the leftover stretchy fabric into a scarf two weeks ago which I shucked at work. Now in need I searched every inch for the fabric. Once in hand my historical brain thumbed through clothing periods, reminding my creative brain that in ancient times they mainly had large swatches of clothing tied in brilliant ways.

So I halved the remnant, held it square and cut a slit for my neck hole. Way smaller than I wanted to cut but you cannot go back. I stuffed my epically large head through and bam! Poncho city, sweetheart. Holding my left arm out, I cut the two layers into 3 strips and tied them. Repeating the cut and tie method for the right armhole, I now held arms up and was happy to be covered and comfortable.

Emerging from the cocoon of constraining couture I was free to move about Garden Park until halted in my tracks. By compliments. Apparently I was accidentally stylish. How fun is fun?

So I bring you the cloffice couture. Who knows what a day may hold?























This Girl is on 🔥

I first saw her from afar in front of the Baylor Library (was it Moody? The big one with a Starbucks now?) The occasion was a fraternity event on a sunny February afternoon my freshman year.

Fresh from sorority rush in our pledge jerseys, we stood glommed together by house waiting for the chance to pour ourselves into a VW Bug. The house with the most girls fitting in a vehicle won. This archaic challenge required the combination of flexibility, small stature and mainly being OK with a banana clip full of frosted spiral perm in the mouth.

A friend pointed her out to me,

“There she is! That’s the one who asked Rick to the pledge dance.”

She was Gina Rhodes. A radiant, bright-faced beauty from Arkansas. The worst part? She was as sweet as she was gorgeous. AND had the audacity to ask my Freshman Formal date to her dance.

Remember that guy? The one I made a mix tape for probably before ever meeting him and did not deliver only because Betsy tackled me as I was marching out of our Collins dorm room to foist upon him. The line between stalker and crush, so razor-thin at 19. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

I admired Gina from afar and once Rick failed to fall madly in love with her either I suddenly found her far more palatable. I mean, come ON. Clearly that was on HIM. I would never imagine that those bright blue smiling eyes and the heart just South of them would impact my life for decades to come.

Through sheer grace, I wound up having this sweet one as a suite mate sophomore year in Memorial Dorm. A group of us with parents who strongly preferred another year on campus for their baby girls got a block of rooms to make it fun. It was there that the initial admiration for this person so unlike myself grew.

One evening returning from popping the nightly bag of ACT popcorn I was startled by the figure I saw through our Jack and Jill bathroom. Sweet Gina was dressed in a high-neck, floor-length white cotton gown. All we needed was a Nutcracker. Shutting the bathroom door, I drew within whisper distance to Maureen and mouthed, “What is that?” “Honey, I know. I don’t know.” she replied.

Like anyone who lives in close proximity to an oddity, I was routinely pulled aside in hushed hallways and asked “Seriously, Jinny, what is Gina like? Is she really that sweet?” Sub context question: “How is anyone that sweet?” The answer to their verbalized as well as hidden queries was “Yes. And I know, right? As the year progressed I saw not a saccharine actress but rather an authentic and loving soul.

While most of us knew we should treat people as God would and probably talked a fairly good game, the outcast of the outcast was her actual squad. Overlooked people were her wheelhouse. In the hidden and private moments away from any audience or ethics professor, Gina spent valuable study time simply sharing life with other people. Many of us operated from excellent intentions while she overflowed with indiscriminate kindness.

From 1991 to 1994 this surreal saint Gina was my room mate. She studied Marriage and Family Counseling while I hacked away at a Masters of Communication. The tears we cried over adulting and academic anxiety were only surpassed by those flowing from uproarious laughter. The disarray of our tiny bathroom, grosser than that of any dudes, was never rivaled. Each night as I would come in from my Uncle Julio’s job and she from McKay’s Steakhouse next door, our 600-square feet apartment was a safe place to fall.

When John and I began dating and he spoke of me people would correct him,

“Not Jinny. You mean you’re dating Gina? Not the comic. The sweet one?”

God knew I would need a good listener. My skill in that area improved and as iron sharpens iron, how Gina sharpened me. This counselor got me and got me through so much in 30 years. As different as we are we share an unshakable similarity in absent mindedness.

We got lost en route to DFW (which would be my engagement trip) sharing a dance party in her Impala, we performed a funeral for a McKay’s customer whose brother was a famous preacher, we cluelessly attempted to divide itemized phone bills and caught Restless Heart at Billy Bobs at least once.

It simply matters who you choose to let in your life. It is unexplainable how profoundly a sister of my own choosing has made me better in every way. Thank you, God, for Gina.













Change in 2019

Raise your hand if the thought of New Year’s Resolutions gives you cramps. Ok, you can put your hand down. They make me feel like the chunky girl at Baylor whose bestie taught aerobics. You know who you are, Colleen Gibbs.

Resolutions fill me with dread because what if I fail? What if I do not have the discipline to keep my car clean and the inside looks like overflow housing for Chimp Haven? What if I commit to more sleep but Netflix? What if my intentions toward the manna of morning prayer are edged out by the emotional sugar-rush of social media? Twinkie-over-oatmeal-style?

If we are honest, and the human bent toward self-defense keeps this from happening at all costs, there is clutter holding us back. Clutter like the content of literal storage sheds we need to shed or the energy-suck of anxiety over what we cannot control. Honesty is the assassin of our false selves* and the open door to change.

Can’t you just feel the terror of your secrets? There is dog hair in your fridge, people you love to judge. There are entire days spent mentally crucifying those who have done you wrong. Real Dr. Pepper cans in your trash. Like a LOT. Drugs under your bed. Degrading photographs on your lap top. Overdue library books to name just a few. This clutter must be named before we can change.

“We’re only as sick as our secrets” Stephen King has said. Maybe a resolution is not what you need, perhaps just a decision that before February you will get honest with yourself about one thing clogging your life which needs to go. Perhaps if today you name your clutter and write it down it will not be so terrifying.
























The Happiness Advantage

Shawn Achor asserts that we can rewire our brains to be happy. There is a mountain of evidence to support this.

His book has been around since 2010. I am a little slow to the party but his Ted Talk has blown me away! Some members of our work family are undertaking the Happiness Challenge of recording three new things a day for which to be thankful. Beginning January 1 and lasting 21 days, we are hoping to personally increase our positive outlook by looking for the good things.

Monica Grant shared her moving life story which further inspired me to life change. So incredible!

Count your blessings. Name them one by one.

#gardenpark #happiness #lifehacks #shawnachor #happinessadvantage #changethelenschangeyourlife #monicagrant


Be A Rockefeller Christmas Tree

(Stocking cap creds: John Craig Henson, Sr.)

New York is magical at Christmastime. The most iconic image for me is The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

If you pilgrimage there, beware of flying selfie sticks (yes, there are still a few in existence) and just know that your head/face/hat will play a supporting role in a at least a few Christmas cards. I even saw a woman on the steps of 30 Rock applying makeup for her selfie while her spouse held the mirror. Which was so completely obnoxious that it made me angry…that I had not thought of it.

The sheer size of this year’s Spruce is staggering; the tree is 74′ high and 50′ in diameter. Amazingly, there is no bad side to the tree. Believe me, I looked. Nowhere will you find a bare patch with no lights. There is no wall to hide the bent limbs or squirrel-damage. The 75-year-old tree at Rockefeller is huge, symmetrical and beautifully decorated. On every side.

When I was a high school and college student, I worked at Neiman Marcus in Houston on Christmas break. Most times I was at the candy counter front and center but occasionally I would be pulled into epicure and holiday decor. My Dad being men’s suit manager is the only reason a clumsy girl like me would ever have that assignment. I will never forget the manager’s instruction: pull the tree away from the wall and make sure the lights and ornaments are evenly-spaced around the entire tree. Do not neglect the less-visible half which faces the corner.

“How stupid,” I thought. The level of unnecessary attention to detail was striking. Why waste good ornaments on the hidden half of the tree when you could make the front completely amazing? I wondered quietly why we worked on the half of this Christmas Tree that shoppers will NEVER see? Confused yet respectful, I did as I was instructed. She was beautiful from every angle even if no one would ever appreciate the hidden side.

I am reminded of this tree when I put all my good stuff in the front window and cram the junk under the rug. I proudly display the leg lamp of my highlight reel front and center while ignoring the things which God wants to touch and change in me with the light of His love. This illumination can only happen when I take honest inventory.

The secret of the tree has unfolded before me; character is the fruit of a soul which we assume we can hide or display at will when actually it is expressed continuously in all we do. If we are to desire that God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven we must connect with that God to even know how to breathe.

What escaped me was the fact that the stand for this display tree actually rotated. All the Christopher Radko Ornaments would actually be seen by everybody. My effort so grudgingly expended was not for naught as I assumed.

The interior life of our souls is worth all the time we can sink into it and so much more. Our openness to God’s Spirit before we open our social media accounts is the best work we can accomplish all day. The deep work of silently listening to God’s Word saves us from the humiliation of a revolving tree stand revealing the appearance of goodness while lacking goodness indeed.

The image to project today is Jesus. If all the effort we invest is merely in how we look then perhaps we need a second look at our souls.







You Are My Sunshine

Two decades ago you were born. You spent the first night in the NICU because your lungs were a little damp from your quick entrance into the world. I think that is the last time you hurried.

Andrea sent me Kenny Loggins Return to Pooh Corner and when sister napped we would dance around the house. I mean I did most of the leading since you weighed about as much as a rotisserie chicken.

You mainly were a great audience to our shenanigans and when you finally walked, you came up with your own. Like the time Pop replaced the broken 10.5 x 13 window pane in our French door and you took the opportunity to squeeze through the opening and explore the back yard.

Your heroes have always been cowboys even when you insisted on wearing your hat backwards at the XIT Rodeo in the Panhandle. How you have grown into the cowboy hat connoisseur placing yours perfectly upside down to protect the brim when not in use.

A happy little fellow you were and still are. I could speak of all the ways you were ridiculously easy to raise or your hustle in the classroom or your incredible wit or writing. But I will leave it with just how grateful I am that God entrusted me with the unmerited gift of you twenty years ago.

Despite my myriad of maternal imperfections, I truly could not love you any more than I do John Craig Henson, Jr. Happy Birthday to you.










With Life as Short as a Half-Taken Breath


I am inspired by those serving the least of these who really just have no business doing so; expending their limited energies on others. So often it is not the ones with unlimited resources of time, talent and treasure who are the helpers in this life.

I received a Maggie Lee for Good Project email from a retired teacher named Mary Ann. She and son, Alan, have been on an exhausting caregiver roller coaster this year. Husband and Father Ken has been hospitalized four times this year, the last time he actually coded in the E.R. and revived. If anyone deserves a pass on this year’s sowing, it is this family.

Each October 29th The Stowes have opened their home for a Halloween Party. There is always a movie shown in the backyard and plenty of food. Their non profit emphasis is The Star of Hope Mission which serves a cross-section of very poor Houstonians. Items like towels and toiletries are requested when Mary Ann issues invitations.

This year there will not be a party but yet there was still a request for donations and a commitment of this family to look out for others despite their drained resources, sleepless nights and medical anxiety.

These people are planting love. Overwhelmed and certainly entitled to have a year off from bringing goodness into the world in memory of Maggie Lee, they continue on. I am amazed by the generosity of spirit which God implants in a human soul.

May we all live with hands open when tempted to clinch them tight, eyes focused on God and not our burdens, spirits alive with kindness while it’s still called today.

No other crop will do. Let other fools sow hatred and foment disdain. For the sake of your own soul plant love.










How I Know There is Hope

I rifled through my desk drawer this morning and happened upon a small pink notebook of our daughter’s from a decade ago. Like a stash of love letters from a first heart break, I knew it was there and had avoided it numerous times before. Flipping the tiny pages, I was transported to another time and place. Her handwriting was hard to read but I deciphered a few verses about our family: The Henson 4.

It is impossible to convey the way The Spirit seeps into the broken places expansively like foam insulation. I struggle to express how and why God holds us in our devastation and leads us forth with joy. In that leading despite the unfamiliar terrain God holds my hand in tenderness.

As much as I have longed to be a faithful steward of her memory I feel in the air around me so much more than I could personally conjure, even in a thousand lifetimes. I am surrounded by an atmosphere of redemption, thick with the scandalous aura of hope.

This other-worldly joy penetrates my backward glancing tendencies like a laser burning up the fog. This presence of God not only informs my story but engulfs it, right-sizing my greatest triumphs and bitterest griefs in the swallowing.

Maggie Lee for Good, a day of kindness on our child’s birthday, October 29th, has been the spot that a dance partner tells you to focus on as you spin so that your balance is kept. As the frenetic gyration of heartache has mellowed, MLFG remains a miraculous reminder that nothing lost in Christ is ever truly gone.

The very capacity of a human soul to translate trauma into benevolence is a spiritual phenomenon. I consider Shannon at M.D. Anderson delivering encouragement and snacks in the very same clinic where she received treatment for a brain tumor. What is it within her to love that creative degree? That active love like ants in her pants which demands expression.

Brian Pearson one of the Alabama National Guardsman wrote these words just last week:

“I only met Maggie Lee for a sort time on the side off the Interstate at the Alabama Mississippi line . About 2 minutes after the bus accident. I held her hand and prayed with her until the helicopter came to take her to the hospital. In that short time she changed my life. So this weekend we have raised money to buy 57 radios for the patients at the Tuscaloosa VA hospital. That have ask for them to listen to music and ball games. Maggie lee for good is going strong in Alabama”

– Brian K Pearson


Brian has taken trauma and distilled it into love for other veterans. And that is pretty phenomenal moonshine. I know that there is hope because I have seen good spring up like flowers through the sidewalk. I know that there is hope as long as we have air in our lungs. And it hinges not upon our brilliance, faith or status. Only God.

If you would like to join The World-wide wave of goodness, join up at http://www.maggieleeforgood.org or simply do a kind deed on October 29th

#God’s grace









What Do You Want to Say to The World?

My friend, Ray Ford, asked something 10 years ago that has never left me. As Maggie Lee interviewed him for a paper she had to write on her desired profession (acting) he began with that question.

I reflect upon such as the air is thick with opinions and dishonesty, gloating and vitriol, conspiracies and just plain hatred. Emboldened and embittered tribes with no desire to understand much less listen can only repeat what they consider to be their point. They are right and others be wrong. Dreadfully, Hell-bound, idiotically wrong.

So, what do you want to say to our sweet and damaged world? And how will you say it? A time and place where all of these rancorous voices exist in cacophonous freedom because a crazy experiment called America actually worked decades go. What can you inject into Social Media, water cooler conversations and your every day chatter with your children that is true, good and necessary?

If the take away from 18 years under our roofs is a list of who is wrong and deserves our hate then perhaps a reset would be beneficial. What we say en route to soccer practice and Honor Society and certainly church matters and will long outlive us, God willing. Children have an excellent ear for hypocrisy. Just correct them on gossip and then make a sly comment in carpool line about someone’s tight pants or face lift and see what happens.

What we have to say to and about our world and other human beings matters. The words we use matters. Every evil person on the outside of our tribe is someone God ADORES. Is that even within the realm of possibility? Certainly. He adores us.




















Action Begets Motivation

Elle Woods Henson has the West Coast Covered

Literary agent and writing coach Rachelle Gardner recently reminded me of something in her Author School session: action begets motivation. In the writing life, work life, or home life. If you do it the motivation will follow.

It turns out that motivation is not an elusive gift with which few are blessed. Motivation is not worth waiting for; motivation is in our very hands right now. The great news: my will births motivation. The scary news: the feels come only after the effort. Inspiring Ted-Talker Mel Robbins similarly discovered this life-changing truth.

Why is the snooze button so seductive? My bedtime resolve to arise by 5 a.m. gets ridiculed by morning me. My standards for what ethically qualifies as a shower become less stringent in the wee hours. And also the dogs are so comfortable.

But then I remember that action begets motivation. Our choices determine just how fired-up or washed-out we will be. As a college girl I always feared missing my chance, or as Lin Manuel Miranda transliterated Alexander Hamilton’s drive; “I’m not throwing away my shot.” I mistakenly believed that one single opportunity for greatness would arrive. Now I know that greatness is a minute by minute decision to act myself into joy, peace, patience and kindness by serving others.

Kindness may not come naturally to you. Character trait- wise it seems to have taken a far back seat as aggression, hostility and tribalism as of late. Thank God there was no Facebook during The Civil War to further divide brother against brother. Yet amid the barbs and division opportunity converges with a soul in need of that action what is created is far greater than the sum of its two parts. We were created to relate. As you care / listen / give / join another soul or souls in something more important than yourself you cannot help but be motivated.

What that will look like to you I do not presume to know but I will let you in on a pretty phenomenal little story. In 2009 Maggie Lee passed away at the age of 12. For whatever reason God took the seeds of her her life, scattered them to the four winds and inspired thousands to acts of kindness. Betsy has spent every October 29th since 2009 encouraging her city of Tifton, GA to sew seeds of kindness. Tifton has raised money for the Ronald McDonald house, food for its local pantry, and taught an elementary school generation of kids to “do the good they know.” Ellie and I have been to Tifton their myriad acts of grace and generosity motivate me to no end.

In Dallas, TX, Gina met the troops returning from war at DFW and her children honored them on MLFG Day. Ted and family in Arlington bought a Thanksgiving Meal for a hungry family. Jack in Lubbock bought a hungry-looking guy a meal, Judy in Chicago passed out Dunkin’ Doughnuts and coffee to people on State Street.

Tim and the Broadway cast of Wicked organized a clothing drive in New York, Kathy bought t-shirts for a small town and Colleen and family raised thousands of dollars for clothes for Maggie Lee’s Closet in Shreveport. Gina and Andrea collected books for a Children’s Hospital in Ft. Worth and visited the elderly in a nursing home.

And Maggie Lee’s Closet, a free kids clothes closet has provided thousands of uniforms for the children of Northwest Louisiana in just five years of operation. Aprile, Debbie, Judy and Sabra serve and the community donates beautiful clothes.

More than slacktivism which only requires a swipe or like, these people chose to actively make their corner of the world brighter. They took the initiative to ask their children what they wanted to do to bless people in the world and some even had plausible ideas. Michelle had a snack stand for dog walkers in her front yard along with cards explaining MLFG and encouraging others to continue paying it forward. I have to imagine that the great swirl of goodness injected into the universe on October 29th has led to a chain of benevolent events. Not only for one day but for years to come as children learn how to be inconvenienced to help another soul.

As a side motivation it is always healthy to remind ourselves and our people that we are not the center of the universe. The reset button of acts of kindness is such a vital reality check. Hopefully in giving their time, talent and treasure to others completely different from themselves our children will develop empathy and be empowered to be the change they want to see in the world. First they must be shown those who need a bit of change not as service projects but as dearly loved children of God. Loved just as dearly as we are.

Who is bummed by the air quality? Air thick with snarky arrogance, slander, meanness, and vitriol. The negativity is virally contagious. But, guess what? So is grace! Will you decide to bring grace into your hula hoop of influence today and see what happens? Will you join me on Maggie Lee for Good Day: October 29th and spread a dash of kindness to your spot on the map?

Previous projects include:

-Baking cookies for firemen / police officers

-Donations to Locks of Love

-Paying a month’s bills for a struggling mom

-Filling up a stranger’s gas tank

-Creating “For Good” charms and digging an African Water Well with the precedes.

-Buying basketball uniforms for a local team

-Hanging out in a Laundromat and handing out quarters and detergent just for fun

-Bringing dinner to a sick, elderly friend

-Representing an indigent client

-Giving blood

-Fostering a child

-Registering to be a bone marrow donor

-Stocking up on Dollar Tree umbrellas and handing them out to pedestrians on a rainy day

All of these projects are beautiful and were answers to the prayer, “Who needs something that I can give?” The Maggie Lee for do-gooders were single & married, old and young, rich and poor, urban and rural, friends and complete strangers, spiritual, conservative Christians and Baptists who party. All kinds of people who heard a compelling story of a little girl whose life was cut short that for God’s grace were inspired.

There are still several unclaimed states which we would greatly love to see spread the MLFG Kindness this October 29th. If you are the first one in your state to raise your hand, Email me and I will send you an amazing FREE T-shirt and cards to pass out. I ask that you would post a picture of yourself or your family/ school/ church performing one kind act on Oct. 29th.

I get that you are not a braggart. But this message of love is one begging to be injected into our social networks.

Join the Kindness Revolution” is the rebellious theme this October 29th and the graphic is reminiscent of Les Miserables. If you are not the first to claim your state and still want a t-shirt, order here. They are $20, cute & super soft. The proceeds from the t’s will be distributed between Vets and Pets here in NW Louisiana.

If you would love to act yourself into a new way of thinking and join the kindness revolution, jump over to the Maggie Lee for Good Facebook page and like it. That will connect you with all of the great expressions of God’s love being carried out this month in memory of Maggie Lee.

You do not have to wait until October 29th to give yourself the gift of motivation. Don’t wait to launch. You need not join any Facebook group to get there but I would love to see your face and have you be a part of this new wave.

Maggie Lee died 9 years ago on her way to church camp but the twelve years she lived she truly lived with deliberate, contagious JOY. If her spark can act you into motivation and remind you that kindness is the only way that our country will make it through then her message wins the day.