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Lost Pines

7 Sep

We spent a drizzly afternoon in Bastrop State Park a couple of years ago, hiking the trail, collecting pine cones, watching for deer and lizards and mushrooms peeking through the pine needle carpet.

But mostly, I looked up, at the towering Loblolly Pines. They aren’t really supposed to be there. The closest stand of pines like them is more than 100 miles away. No matter. Somehow these pines settled in and flourished.

To a northern California girl who has never quite gotten used to the short trees of South Texas, they felt like old friends.

Now, the pines are burning, in one of Texas’ most devastating wildfires. Half of Bastrop State Park has been charred, and flames have consumed close to five hundred homes. I can’t even stand to see the pictures of the devastation, the still-burning flames that are destroying everything in their path.

So I shut my eyes and pray for rain.

The trees will come back, I know. 95 percent of Loblolly Pine root systems survive a forest fire and new seedlings spring forth. But they will not tower again in my lifetime like they did that October afternoon when I looked up at a cloudy sky framed in the needles of giants.


Want to help?

The Red Cross is taxed to the limits helping victims of these fires, and storms Lee and Irene. If you can spare it,  text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. My friend Heather at Geekette Bits has a great roundup of other ways to help at her blog here: Austin-Bastrop Fire Directions.


The King of Pop vs. The Prince of Peace

19 Nov

Eight friends like Jesus. 14 Like Michael Jackson. Huh.

Actual screen capture from my Facebook page recommendations today.


A Cleanup in 3 Acts

18 Jun


Scene: The living room. Boy, 10-ish, being confronted about the state of his room.

Characters:  Messy Boy, Frustrated Mom

Mom: Your room is a disaster. Legos are all over the floor, and overflowing toxic waste fumes are coming from your closet which has apparently become the site of a laundry-hoarding cover-up of some kind.  Additionally, I see hidden behind your curtain a cup from Sonic with the top off, and I can see furry greenish-blue feathery fingers of mold creeping over the edge of the cup. They appear to be preparing to  get ready to grab and eat the dog.

Boy: And your point is?

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Three Things That Will Not End Well

16 Mar

First, from our trip to the Natural Bridges Wildlife Ranch yesterday.

1. Teasing a bird big enough to peck off your head.


In this picture, my daughter is screaming “Tina, come eat your ham, you fat lard!”

“Tina” was not amused.



2. Posing without your pants on with Dora the Explorer and Barney the Dinosaur.

I am not even going to comment on how Barney is posed. Really, Reille? This is “rehabbing your image?” Pants on the ground, pants on the ground. Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.

3. Letting Drunk Interns Pick the Clip Art for Your Press Releases.

Florida Family Policy Council sent out a news release last week protesting a judge’s decision to approve a lesbian couple’s adoption. Which merits no mention because it’s what they do. But they included a picture of the couple in question.

Only it wasn’t the couple in question. The image used on the Florida Family Policy Council Council story is on the left. The real couple is on the right.

You can read the rest of the story here:

Here’s what I want to say about that. I love Jesus a whole bunch. I am sure the people at Florida Family Policy Council would say they do, too. So, let me tell you something IN LOVE.

Jesus doesn’t need this kind of ridiculous hate-fueling, truth-twisting crap to accomplish his work. He can change lives and hearts and minds without you resorting to this kind of poisonous distortion. If you really think God is sovereign, why fall back on desperate scare tactics?

OK, that’s all.

Brown-Eyed Boy

23 Oct

Strange, the things we remember.

I can’t remember his name, 12 years later. But I can picture the huge brown eyes, the red hair that fell across into them, still waiting for its first haircut. He was about a year old, round-faced and robust looking if you could ignore the IV tubes and the oxygen cannula. His mother — young, unmarried, overwhelmed. I can’t picture her any more either. Forgive me. We had our own details to remember.

His glassed-in room in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was across the nurses’ station from our daughter’s. Heart patient, of course; that’s what the wing was for. A miserable fraternity we’d never asked to join. But we were going through initiation nonetheless. Psychological warfare in the waiting room, hazing by sleep deprivation and terror.

His mother and I would talk during the shift changes at 7 and 7, when doctors made rounds and we had to leave lest we overhear another child’s health details. As if we didn’t know them already. Bonds forge fast in a PICU waiting room.

So we learned them all, the defects that brought our children there. Tetralogy of Fallot, Ventricular Septal Defect, Transposition of the Great Arteries, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

On the scale of “serious heart defects,” a ridiculous hierarchy, he had one of the easy ones: Ventricular Septal Defect, or a hole in the heart. One surgery, fix the hole, recover, go home. That’s how it’s supposed to happen.

I envied her, to be honest. Our daughter’s defect came with a lot of question marks. Secret meetings we couldn’t attend where doctors talked about treatment options and quality of life versus risk and gave her genetic tests to be sure she was worth the trouble. Of course, they didn’t say it like that. 

They wrapped explanations in gentle blankets of “we need a complete picture,” and “there could be complicating factors for long-term survival.” They whispered things like “palliative care.” Which sounds much kinder than “we could just keep her comfortable and let her die.”

And I understood those choices, I really did. But in the end, because our doctors wanted to save this blue-eyed girl, they chose the route that gave her the best chance. 

I never wondered then if the fact that my husband and I were both educated members of the media, and our daughter had double-coverage private insurance played a role. Twelve years ago, I just  thanked God for putting us in the right place, at the right time, with the right surgeon. I still do.

But this brown-eyed boy, and his young, single mother, had a different story. They had a managed care program with a reputation for stingy payout. So when the brown-eyed boy was born with a tiny hole in his heart, the insurance company said, “let’s wait it out.”

Sometimes, holes close on their own. That’s a lot cheaper. So they refused to approve surgery. And the young mother and the brown-eyed boy waited.

But the hole didn’t close. So finally, the insurance company relented, and scheduled surgery.

 You remember, right? Ventricular Septal Defect, or a hole in the heart. One surgery, fix the hole, recover, go home. That’s how it’s supposed to happen.

The problem is, the brown-eyed boy’s heart had to work much harder because of that hole. Overworked hearts get enlarged. The muscle walls get thick, more rigid. Sometimes, they’re not ready to start beating again after open-heart surgery. And so it was for the brown-eyed boy’s heart. It couldn’t find a rhythm and wouldn’t beat on its own.

Surgeons fought back with bypass machines, and medication, and everything they could. We were at one of the best hospitals in the world for babies with heart defects, and the fight was valiant. Helpless spectators, the mother and I sat in the waiting room during shift change and talked and prayed and hoped together that her brown-eyed boy would open his eyes again.

Then one day, she didn’t come to the waiting room. The delay had proved deadly. He was gone, and so was she.

I think of that brown-eyed boy a lot these days, as the health care reform debate dissolves into so much silliness and death panel discussions and screaming at town hall meetings.

But what I wonder, is what made my blue-eyed girl more valuable than that brown-eyed boy?

While she practices for Shakespeare plays, texts her friends and fights with her brother, what would he be doing? Suiting up in pads and helmet for football practice, writing a book report, refusing to pick up his room?

I can’t buy the argument that just because we were born into families that valued education, blessed with bright minds through genetics,  happened to have good insurance, our baby was worth more.

I hear the argument that quality health care is not a right, and I ask, “why can’t that change?” We used to say that about education. We used to say that about women voting. We used to say that slavery was an economic necessity that would bankrupt our country if we abolished it. We grew up. We made progress.

I’m not a politician or policy maker. But when I think of the brown-eyed boy, I wonder how many deadly delays it’s going to take.

Rattle and Hum

9 Oct

Oh “Hi!” Yes, I do have a blog. You like how I did that? Write every day in September, and then just stop for nine days?

Here’s what happened. We went camping, and while we were gone, San Antonio had flooding, and lots of rain. And the storms blew shingles off our roof. And I mentioned lots of rain? It all came funneling in through the hole in the roof, which very squishy carpet in our daughter’s room. Also, pieces of the walls fell off. Which is not ideal.

Because our house already split in half earlier this year, I have had a lot of well-meaning friends tell me. “Wow, God is really testing you.”

I think, not so much. I think domestic disasters are just God’s special way of telling me my blog was getting boring. So I will be filling you in on all those things as soon as I am able to laugh about it. Which, according to the information on my prescription vitamin bottles, should be in a week or two.

In the meantime, my goodness, you have certainly come here looking for lots of important answers.

Today’s search inquiries that led people here:

  1. Can I say “crap” in my school paper?
  2. Michelle Duggar Hair
  3. Sniffing Preteen Socks
  4. Horse Head in Bed

Seriously, I cannot help the sock-sniffers, she-mullet searchers or those of you who have watched The Godfather too many times.

But the school paper question, I am qualified to address.

If you are in elementary school, you cannot say crap in your paper. Middle school, high school? Look, you probably can get away with it.  But your teachers won’t be impressed, nor will they be shocked. Crap is a poser swear word. It is not creative. It lacks panache. Go to and find something better.

Try balderdash, claptrap, drivel, nonsense, idiocy, or even the vintage poppycock, and make a teacher smile.

Real swear words, the ones with the punch you need, are off limits in an academic environment. Wait until you have a blog. Even then, you’ll want to use them sparingly for two reasons. First, saying them all the time becomes a schtick, and they lose impact. Second, and more importantly, your mom and dad and husband and minister and future bosses and maybe even your kids will end up reading your blog.

 And even if you’re 41 and totally confident in your belief that Jesus is worried about more important things than “bad words,” it’s just not worth the scatological excrement you’ll have to deal with.

So I hear.

My all-time favorite email exchanges about the use of “colloquial language” took place with Blogger  Roy Bragg . We were discussing what kind of things I needed to refrain from saying if I blogged for the San Antonio Express-News. Roy graciously gave me a very detailed list of what words I could and could not get away with on the paper’s website.

And then, in further clarifying discussion, because I was concerned about some recent posts on sex education videos, it included this gem: “Singing penises would be fine on”

It’s something I have kept in mind, but have not, as of yet, felt any need to reference.

I have, however, blogged there today about President Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize Award. So, if you would like to read a post with a semi-coherent point, go there.

Otherwise, I suspect you still haven’t found what you’re looking for.

What The World Will Look Like Today

9 Sep

Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson


Enjoy your 15 minutes, Congressman Joe Wilson. Thanks for the distraction from the actual issue of health care reform. Because you know, that’s not anything important for us to figure out. It’s way more fun for us to discuss your little outburst.

You Rock!

Joe Wilson

 Make your own statement at

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