Sunday, July 31, 2016

I hear the sound of breaking glass

I spent last week glued to my television while scanning Twitter posts as my Democratic Party nominated Hillary Rodham Clinton as our candidate for President of the United States.

She will not have an easy time ahead.

Much of America is angry with politicians and what is perceived as a government that responds to lobbyists rather than to the working middle class, and Americans are scared of the racial violence in our steets and terrorists who are theatening us here and abroad.

We are the televison generation, used to having solutions to crises within 43 minutes, which is the actual running time for an hour TV drama.

Tempers are running short. A significant number of Republicans feel Donald Trump bullied his way into being their nominee. Many respected Republican Party leaders are not endorsing him, but I hear neighbors vowing to vote for him. I think they like the idea that he has no political experience, which gives them hope he will get Big Government out of their daily lives and let local government--the men and women they see at the Brookshire Brothers grocery store--divvy up the tax money and decide who gets to go into which public restroom at the county courthouse and local schools.

I understand their frustration, I really do. But I do not share their distrust.

No, Hillary Clinton will not have an easy time, but when have women in leadership ever had it easy? I can still hear my mother Lane Murray who was the first superintendent of the Texas prison school system, tell me shortly after she retired: "Do you have any idea what it's like to know every eye is watching you, waiting for you to make a mistake?"

The question stunned me because I'd never considered the pressure she was under. Silly me.

The truth is, it takes an enormous sense of purpose to stand in the unforgiving eye of the public. It takes grit to stay the course, as we say in education. I'm proud to live in America where strong-minded women with a sense of purpose can break glass ceilings and change the way we think of leadership.

I do not know if Hillary Clinton will be our next President, but I do know this for sure: The ceiling has been shattered, and things will never be the same as before; having a female US President will not be unique in the years to come.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Painful Week to Remember

The perfect storm formed earlier last week. African-American Alton Sterling was shot and killed in Louisiana by police while he was pinned to the ground. Less than 48 hours later a Minnesota police officer shot and killed another African American man, named Philando Castile, during a routine traffic stop as the man reached for his driver’s license and registration. The next night, twelve Dallas police officers were shot and five (Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarriopa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Lorne Ahrens) were killed by an African American sniper in retaliation during a Black Lives Matter protest march in Texas.

According to ABC News: 

The Rev. Jeff Hood, one of the organizers of the protest said the goal of the rally was to create “a space where anger could be let out. We were interested in creating a space where people could grieve. We were interested in creating a space where people could network to face head-on the problem of police brutality in our country."

He added, "We left that rally in a nonviolent fashion. After leaving the rally, I heard 'Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop' in succession. Immediately when I heard the shots, I looked up, and I saw what I believe were two police officers that went down."
"The sergeant ran towards the shooting. I ran the opposite direction … was screaming, 'Run, run! Active shooter, active shooter! Run, run!' And I was trying to get folks out as fast as I could … During that moment, I lost track of my wife. I didn't find her again for three and a half hours," Hood said.

"I spent those three hours talking to people asking the question, 'Why, why? Why is this happening?' The only answer I know now and the only answer I knew then was turn to love. We've got to turn to love. We got to stop shooting," he said. "This is a devastating time for the city of Dallas. It's a devastating time for us as activists and organizers."

Let’s be clear, Dallas is the focal point for the national and international media outlets right now, but retaliation elsewhere in response for the killings of Black citizens is occurring in other places.  Police have also been ambushed in Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee.

Terror and confusion rule the day (and night). What is happening? Are we witnessing the beginning of a race war, or the defining moment when Americans begin to build reconciliation and seek understanding? Will we realign ourselves to embrace diversity and fill our hearts with tolerance, or will we draw deeper lines that divide communities, even families?
While elected officials and other wannabe politicians may rush to judgment to feed the hungry media beast, I believe it is important for the rest of us to step back, take several deep breaths and reflect on how are we feeling? When we share our deep, personal emotions in response to the historical events of our time, our eyewitness stories become more powerful than any chapter in a history textbook or Wikipedia entry can ever hope to be. We are on the front row as history unfolds.
But even more importantly, by writing what we think and how we feel, we can begin to heal from the trauma all of us are experiencing this summer. As Dr. James Pennebaker at the University of Texas has discovered, writing about life’s stresses is profoundly therapeutic. Writing in our personal journals about the shame, the blame and the pain we are feeling today will actually save us from sinking further into the abyss of craziness.
I urge you to get out your journal and write—or draw—what you are feeling about the grip that violence has on our community. Explore the details of what you’re feeling instead of being terrorized by apparitions flickering from the dark recesses of your mind.
Write fast—against the clock—in ten minutes—or less. You don’t ever have to show it to anyone else. This is private writing, for your eyes only.
However, you may find that when you re-read it in a few months or a year, that you’ll be able to understand what you are going through and be able to bring an individual perspective to things that would not be possible otherwise.
I often say, writing is thinking on paper. What do you think, really think, and how do you feel about the chaos swirling around us? Tell yourself the truth. Your truth. And why.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

1st date remembered

Ronnie and I "met" online on a site called Plenty of Fish. I'd been on and off the site for several years, not really finding any fish that were worth keeping, but it was different with Ronnie. There was an instant connection. We flirted for several weeks, eventually exchanged phone numbers and flirted some more. Finally, we decided to meet for lunch at a restaurant on the outskirts of Houston.

I remember he was waiting just outside the door. He had on sunglasses, jeans and a collared shirt. The hostess seated us and we both ordered steak salads. I did most of the talking, but God only knows what I said. First meetings are so flustering.

I left for Dallas afterwards and was gone a week. He called me every night.

I returned home the first week of July and he asked me out. Our first official date was July 4, 2011.

Ronnie rode to The Woodlands where I was living, picked me up on his Harley-Davidson trike and brought me back to Houston. We watched the fireworks flashing magnificently across the Houston skyline from the freeway.

Since moving to Navasota, we've celebrated in College Station on the grounds of the George Bush memorial library at Texas A&M University.  We ride the trike with camp chairs tied to the back. I play patriotic music on my iPhone and we watch the children chase fireflies, and each other, in the twilight before the show begins.

Tomorrow will mark the fifth year since our first date. We are in St. Jo, Texas, visiting my brother Mark and his wife at their ranch, so we're in Ronnie's BMW, not on his Harley.

We plan to drive into town for the fireworks. St. Jo is a small town, so the fireworks show will not be as bold as the ones we've seen elsewhere, but flags will wave proudly and the rockets' red glare will fill the sky and we will celebrate. Oh how we will celebrate.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Living lazy

Summer days, and the living is lazy. It seems I have done nothing but porch sit, sleep, eat, read, and do laundry. And I'm loving life (except for the laundry part).

Porch sitting is the best. Ronnie brews coffee and makes our toast, and we sit on the second floor porch of our 1875 Victorian home and watch the squirrels raid the bird feeder. After they get their fill, Cardinals and wrens take turns. We watch the cars and pickups taking people to work and kids to school, and talk about how it will be when I retire in December.

We are getting our RV ready for a trip to Alpine, TX, next month. We bought a car-caddy so we could take the Mini Cooper with us. We can ride to Marfa or travel over to Fort Stockton without taking our highway home with us.

We've been on short overnight trips in the RV, but this will be for an entire week, and we will be in the RV together instead of me following behind in my car. If we love it as much as we think we will, after I retire, we plan to trek around Texas to all 95 state parks. Although there is a man named Dale Blasingame who did it in a tad over 12 months (367 days), I think Ronnie and I will ramble at a slower pace.

I'm looking forward to Palo Duro Canyon State Park and Lost Maples State Park; they've been on my bucket list for at least a decade. And it will be nostalgic to vist Huntsville State Park and Garner State Park. I'm sure they've changed significantly since the 1960s.

There isn't a porch attached to the RV, but there is a coffeepot and toaster inside and two camp chairs with our names on them.  I'm gonna love being retired with this man.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Behind every story

Happy Father's Day!

Google makes me smile the way the company posts its logo with cultural themes. Guess what today is?

The image reminds me of my daddy and the way I adored him. He was the best storyteller! I still remember two of them that starred me as the heroine. 

In one of the stories, I dug my way to China with a spoon from the kitchen. In another, instead of having hazel eyes, I had a green eye and a red eye, which made me the town's savior when the traffic lights went out and I was able to move traffic along with the wink of an eye--and then the other. 

Silly stories to you perhaps, but when these tiny red Keds fit my feet (see above), I was stuck in the middle between two brothers, and it was rare to feel the warmth of the limelight. My daddy's stories illustrated his faith in me. Through those stories, he let me know he believed that I would go places (China is still on my bucket list) and that I'd help my fellow travelers along the way.

My daddy was the creative one in the family. But his ideas would have flown off on butterfly wings, if not for my mother. She kept my daddy grounded, and she was his partner in building a successful career in educational media. They produced two award winning films. But more importantly, they produced three children who've been raised to jump at life's chance to be everyday heroes.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Settling in a new hometown

Young people often can hardly wait to grow up and leave the small towns where they were raised. I was certainly one of those. My brothers and I yearned to get away from a community where everyone knew everyone else's business. We raced to the city--for me it was Houston, for my brothers, it was Dallas--so we could kick up our heels in anonymity and then find a spouse--someone we hadn't known since the first grade.

After living in Houston for 48 years, my sweetie and I moved to Navasota, population 7,049. Getting to know everyone is not as easy when you move into a community as an adult, especially if you don't have kids in school. But we're smart people, and we are finding our way.

Our first friend in town was Mitch White, proprietor of the Filling Station Restaurant and Cafe. Ronnie bartered his Fender guitar to Mitch in exchange for food service. We ate "free" for over a year. Mitch's daughter was on the high school drill team, so we started attending games. Navasota's Rattler Nation has won the state championship for the last two years.

After his daughter graduated from high school, Mitch closed his establishment and started a rock band. Occasionally we go to the Dizzy Llama to listen, but we're not regulars... because... let's be honest, we hardly resemble the hard party people we were in our youth. Smoke-filled bar rooms that smell of stale beer and tobacco have lost their appeal. But we like Mitch, and we enjoy his band, so we show up on occastion, listen to a set, and then scurry home in time for Saturday Night Live and Blue Bell ice cream.

Recently we joined the Two Rivers Historical Society, which is the smartest thing we've done so far. A couple of weeks ago Judge Eddie Harrison of Brenham gave a presentation on the Buffalo Soldiers. He is a direct descendent--his father was a Buffalo Solider--so we were privy to anechdotes not availabe in a textbook or on Wikipeida.

"Riders of the Orphan Train" is scheduled for Saturday, June 18, at St. Stanislaus Cathiolic Chruch parish hall in Anderson, TX, at 2 p.m. Not too many peple know much about the mass migrarion of 250,000 orphans and abandoned children who were taken out of New York City and given away at train stations across the west. About two dozen were taken in by farm families in Anderson and Plantersville in the early 1900s; many of their desendents still live around here. The stories of the orphans who came to Texas are compelling.

I hope you'll drive out to Anderson--it's smaller than Navasota but it is the county seat. Ronnie and I will be there. If you'll come, you'll enjoy a dramatic and powerful story-- and we'll introudce you to our neighbors.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

After the floods, is a sweltering summer on its way?

Last weekend's severe storms were devastating.

I watched in horror as the 24-hour news feed showed vehicles being submerged and swept away, of homes being swamped by rising water, of tornadoes tearing away roof tops and yes, of accounts of people being stranded and found drowned. In Brenham, a short 30 miles away, someone drowned in a motor home and a young father was swept away by the rising water from the Brazos River that capsized his pickup truck. Another family reported their house being knocked off its foundation by torrential flood waters.

According to news reports, the double-digit inch rains in Texas qualified as a 500-year flood event. Only trouble is, this is the second 500-year flood we've had in the last two months!

On May 22-23, during the last catastrophic flooding, I was in Houston. My place was dry and I had power, but the flooding marooned my son and me for 24 hours. People in apartments near one of the college's centers were climbing on the rooftops to escape the rising water. When the storm was over, Houston and the region suffered $5 billion in damages.

Last weekend during the ravaging rains, I was in Navasota, and again, my house was dry and I had electricity, but there was a power outage around 10 p.m. at the state prison farm outside of town. A brawl broke out between 50 prisoners and correctional officers after inmates refused to return to their darkened cells when the emergency generator malfunctioned.  Three are recovering in the hospital.

Navasota reported 10 inches of rain and 60+mph wind gusts. Local officials set up Navasota Junior High as a shelter for folks, but livestock had to survive on their own since the animal shelter was full. Our three dogs found refuge in the house. A neighbor in the next block has goats... we still have not heard how they fared.

Ronnie was on his way home when his BMW flooded. Thank heaven, he didn't get swept away from the creek that rose from its banks only five yards from where his car stalled. He walked home in water that rode as high as his knees. I'd say he walked home in the dark, but he counted at least a hundred lightening strikes across the sky during the ten block trek.

After the storm, a wrecker took the car to College Station where the dealership assessed damages. Unfortunately it's a total loss. Still, it's just a car. Ronnie is alive, and I am grateful.

More rain came through during this week, and I cancelled my weekly trip to Houston for fear I might get stuck there. If I'm going to be stranded, I want to be with my sweetie and my dogs.

Eventually all the rains of Spring will subside, and Summer will blaze like hell-on-heels. We may face destructive wildfires as we have during recent summer seasons. I hope not, but there is no way to predict... unless, of course, we believe the scientists who are warning of climate change caused by humanity's misuse of the environment.

Can we stop raping our surroundings of its resources and reclaim the balance of nature? That's a hard choice for Texas, a state that worships oil and gas production to the detriment of everything else. But I think we've been warned: Mother Nature is getting pissed.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Family Game Night

When I was growing up in the 1950s, Charades was a favorite game in our family.

We played in the living room. Mother was one team captain and Daddy was the other. Each captain "acted out" the book, movie, famous quotation, person place, or thing and scored points when their team correctly guessed the right answer in 2 minutes or less.

I especially loved "sounds like" clues. My brothers and I would get so excited sometimes that one of us might blurt out the song title or famous person's name even though we were on the other side's team. No telling what happened next. Either we'd roll off the couch laughing ourselves silly, or scream "No fair!" and try to pinch the culprit.

Years later Pictionary came on the scene. Instead of acting out, we attempted to draw a person, place, animal, action or something "difficult" (meaning the word was difficult to represent in a drawing) in a minute or less so our team could correctly guess what it was. The rules prohibited you from drawing pictures that contained any letters or numbers (such as a yellow car with "Taxi" written in the door) or using verbal clues about what you were drawing.

There were a couple of spin-offs--Fast Draw and Win, Lose or Draw. Or were they precursors?  I don't remember.

My sweetie and I are going to visit my brother and his wife at their get-away place outside of Dallas. I heard Hasbro brought back Pictrionary a couple of years ago, and I'm going to look for the game at Walmart, take it to my brother's ranch and see if Mark still has his artist's touch.

If Ronnie blurts the answer out of turn, I may pinch him. But more 'n likely, I'll just laugh myself silly.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Writing for the future

I'm always encouraging people to write the stories from their lives so future generations will learn about life in the "good ol' days" and maybe learn a thing or two from our experiences. If you're finally encouraged to try your hand, here's a little additional advice.

Take some time tomorrow to go by a stationary shop, art supplies store or Hallmark retailer and peruse the writing instruments and writing paper.

Choose a pen that fits in your hand, not too heavy, not too fat, and one with a writing tip that you prefer, resulting in bold, medium or thin lines. The color of ink covers the spectrum. Popular choices include blue, black, purple and green.

Next, choose an acid free paper that will last the passing of time. The paper serves as your canvas so let it complement your ink color choice.

I prefer black ink on white paper, but my dad preferred green ink on ivory-beige paper.  You might even decide to mix it up, depending on the type of letter you’re writing. White ink on black stationary makes a daring statement. It may not be your taste, but again, it may be just the right choice for a letter that speaks of regret. A word of caution: Don’t let your pen and paper choices be so audacious that they overwhelm your words; your words are what count.

Why am I suggesting that you invest in a pen and paper when we’re in the digital age?

There are benefits you’ll receive by hand writing your letters. For example, the physical movement of the hand pulls on another muscle (the brain) to conjure its cognitive processers to release memories. Also, humans cannot write as fast as they can type. Hence, hand writing forces you to slow down and focus.

Yes, most people’s handwriting is messy, but so is life. Engage in the messiness for self-awareness and self-discovery. You’ll cultivate the integrity of emotional truth in the process. Many of us have the handwriting of a physician writing a prescription (translation: almost illegible), but there is something heart-warming about seeing correspondence in a person’s own scrawled handwriting rather than in immaculate word-processed computer type.

But, of course, the choice is yours. You may decide, after you’ve written a few pages, that your intended reader(s) need the legibility of computer text over your scribbling. But even if you write your final draft on the keyboard, I urge you to explore the benefit of writing your quick draft by hand, even if it’s with a number 2 pencil and ruled notebook paper.

And I’ll let you in on a secret: While I care dearly about all the written correspondence my father left, I treasure his handwritten notes the most. There’s just something about his tiny, cursive handwriting in that green ink on ivory-beige paper.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Digital storytelling

I've been thinking about the power of story and how we seem to be losing family histories. I've always claimed we have world history, American history, Texas history--but that family history is being lost because we don't seem to be writing down those stories.

But I''ve been wrong.

Last night, I met a new friend at the Navasota Theater. She told me about her interest and decade of work in digital storytelling. Yes, since the 1990s, there's been a movement that began at the San Francisco Bay Area-based Center for Digital Storytelling, located at

Through digital storytelling, communities, organizations and schools have been using technology to capture 3- to 5-minute stories that focus on the heart's core of a story. Most stories emphasize partricular themes that run the gamut, e.g., from personal stories to historical events, from exploring community and social issues regarding personal views on family relationships, racism and social justice.

The methodology is simple: merge tradtional storytelling with contemporary digital tools, such as photography, audio, video, text and/or voiceover. The way to formulate the script is by asking such questions as:  How do I find meaning in life?  What do I think?  How do I feel?  What's meaningful in my life?

Is this cool, or what?

If you want to explore this dynamic, modern, creative way to tell your story, you can find a FREE webinar on creating digital stories as a "first step of your storytelling journey, and a gateway to further explorations of image, sound and digital media" (

As I've said many times: we are natural storytellers--it is in our DNA. What is the story only you can tell? You can write it, podcast it, video it, draw it... You've so many choices. You need only to choose one and share your unique narrative so that we can connect. So, take your first step and in the words of that famous athletic shoe company: Just do it.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Talent vs. Attention & Intention

10 Things that Require Zero Talent, according to a FaceBook post from my nephew Drew Murray today:

  1. Being on Time
  2. Work Ethic
  3. Effort
  4. Body Language
  5. Energy
  6. Attitude
  7. Passion
  8. Being Coachable
  9. Doing Extra
  10. Being Prepared
While it is true the things on this list require no talent, they do require attention and intention. 

I used to be late to almost everything until someone pointed out that being tardy is a sign of disrespect. That is, when I am late to meet a friend for lunch, I am disrespectng her and disregarding her time. From that perspective, I could see clearly that I was being a selfish, arrogrant twit instead of a friend. I began setting my watch 10 minutes fast and solved the problem (#1).

My work ethic (#2) came from my father. He told me repeatedly: "You are going to spend more time working than anything else your in life, with the possible exception of sleeping. Choose work that you love and you'll not only be happy, you'll be very good at it." 

He was right, of course. I love my career choice as a teacher, writer and storyteller. As a result, I put effort (#3), energy (#5), and passion (#7) into my work. Additonally, I am always coachable (#8) to adding new skills and strategies (#9) to my repertoire.

My friend and mentor Jackie Crowley taught me about body language (#4). When we were young adminstrators at Houston Community College, she suggestd we begin answering the phone with a grin. Try it, and you'll see what I discovered: it creates a friendly attitude (#6) and encourages the person on the other end to mirror your pleasantness. An added value to grinning is that, as I've grown older and my face has begun to sag, the grin is like an instant face lift. Nothing quite like it to put a spring in my step!

Being prepared (#10) has a great deal to do with paying attention to my life,.. embracing opprtunties to engage, sidestepping pettiness and prejudice, learning from my errors in judgment, taking on challenges that surprise and delight, and remaining grateful for the blessings God has bestowed upon me and mine.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What's your story?

One of the reasons we write stories from our life is to make sense of our journeys. 

What have we accomplished that has made a difference? What lessons should we pass on? What wounds need to be healed? What do we celebrate, and who do we forgive?

The answers to these questions are revealed in the stories we tell about ourselves. 

Periodically we need to pause and assess how our lives are unfolding. Understanding the twists and turns that our lives have taken gives us a choice to move forward on the same path or in a different direction. "They" say that we cannot change our past (and they are right). However, we can start fresh with a new beginning at any time in our lives. 

We were created by a loving God who gives us the gift of free will to be authors of our life stories. How is your story unfolding? Are you the hero(ine) or the victim? As children we depended on others to give us a good life, and sometimes they let us down in tragic, even horrific ways. But we are the adults now--the ones in charge--the ones who are responsible for our happiness and peace of mind. The truth is, we can keep doing the same things over and over expecting different results, or we can have the courage to change and embrace the life we were meant to live. 

What story are you creating for yourself?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Coca Cola is my brand

I know Texas is a Dr. Pepper state, but I've been a Coca Cola girl since... well, since I was a girl. Back then, I would get a glass bottle from the cooler for 5 cents and then, instead of uncapping it, I'd take an ice pick and punch a hole in the cap. It was like having a grown-up drink in a baby bottle. The sweet, sticky, carbonated watery syrup leaked through that little hole, and I drank in tiny sips like a humming bird at a feeder.

By the time "Things go better with Coke" became the marketing mantra for my favorite brand, I'd learned to uncap the bottle and pour Planters peanuts through the neck and enjoy the salty-sweet dance of peanuts and Coke on my tongue. Singer Barbara Mandrel did the same, but she earned royalties from a song about doing it.

When I started going honky-tonking, the things I added to my Coke were Puerto Rico rum and Tennessee whiskey, which I drank from a paper cup. I'd start out with two fingers (about a jigger) of alcohol, but as the night deepened, I quit measuring. I was wild and crazy, but not very smart.

Now I'm older and wiser. I drink Diet Coke in a glass or Solo plastic cup. Today my sweetie drove through McDonalds and bought me a large Diet Coke for $1.08 (the 8 cents is the tax). I crushed the straw between my teeth so I could only get a trickle into my mouth, like I did when I was a girl. That's one of the benefits and blessings of living this long: I can be a kid again.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I woke up with a novel idea (no pun intended). I want to host a write-in. What do you think?

I'll have it at Church Street Retrerat, which is Ronnie's and my Victoian home, built in 1875 in Navasota, TX. It's only a 90-minute drive from Houston.

There's roomy spaces in rooms with high ceilings and slow moving fans, a porch looking out on a pecan and elm shaded lawn, a fenced backyard with three rowdy dogs to keep you company but not talk to you, and blocks of small town wonder for solitary meandering with the Muse as company.

Bring your writing tablet or laptop. I'll provide coffee and tea, maybe a little fruit and cheese. We'll write together, but in silence. We will be like children in parallel play--feeding off each other's creative energy, but not interrupting one another's thought process.

In silence but in community.

You see yourself as an artist but not a writer? No worries--bring your sketch book. Or your camera.

In the late afternoon we'll come together, reflect on the experience, and decide if we should do it again.

Sound like a plan?

April is flying by, and soon it will be May, so when? Sundays are preferred but I'm open.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Life in Shoes

I love shoes. They've marked some important events in my life. When I got my tonsils removed at age three, I got white sandals for being brave. I wanted to race out of the hospital, but my daddy carried me. I can still remember what they looked like on my pudgy little feet.

Growing up, I had two pairs of shoes, one brown pair for everyday school shoes and Mary Jane black ones for church. I know those shoes were probably two more than other kids had, but I can admit it now--I wanted more. When I turned thirteen, my parents gave me black patent French heels for my birthday, and  even though my younger brother insisted we could only love people and not things, I looooooved them. My everyday shoes were cordovan penny loafers, but I thought of myself as an uptown girl, so I put silver dimes in them instead of copper pennies. ( I had no idea what an uptown girl was, but I felt sure she'd prefer silver to copper.)

When I graduated from college and bought my own wardrobe, I began buying shoes in larger numbers, but they were from discount stores, made of imitation leather that made my feet sweat. Smelly feet, however, were a small price to pay for 3-inch heels with tiny slingback straps in red, white, taupe, navy, gold, pink, lavender, silver, and black. I was twenty-one teaching high school seniors who were seveneen, eighteen and nineteen. I needed the height.

I moved from teaching into administration in my thirties, enabling me to buy good Italian leather shoes. My favorite was a pink and white Bally high-heel number from Neiman Marcus. I also purchased slinky sandals and sturdy atheletic shoes in both bold and muted colors. As they say from where I come from, I was in high cotton.

Now that I'm nearing retirement, I no longer buy high-heels--or to be honest, mid-heels. I need to be extra careful about keeping my balance. It's a much harder fall at my age and further down, too. So I'm wearing flats again. My favorite are a pair of Mary Janes. They're comfortable and the crossover straps keep them snug on my feet.

Oh, and I have three pairs of low-heel leather cowboy boots: one in a red, white, and blue Lone Star design, one in blood red, and one Ostrich pair in honey brown.  After all, I am a Texas woman, y'all.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


What's the best advice you ever received? The worst? These are worth writing down and passing along. Not because someone else is going to avoid making mistakes--making mistakes is how we learn from life. However, I believe examining the advice we've been given can help us understand our choices.

I've gotten wise advice and foolish advice along the journey of my life. There are consquences, of course, both golden and disasterous. And, through the years, I have learned from both.

Good advice:

  • If you want to change your life, change your attitude.
  • Relationships matter  more than material things. 
  • Nothing lasts--but the heart remembers, so live with a forgiving heart.
  • Nothing teaches you history, geography and culture better than world travel.
  • The arts stimulate and nourish both the intellect and the soul.
  • You can't change what you regret about the past, but you can start over anytime for a sweeter future.
Foolish advice:

  • Get a perm--it'll give your hair some body.
  • Have a drink--just one.
  • Tell me what he said--I promise I'll keep it a secret.
  • Go ahead and do it--nobody is watching.
  • Buy it anyway--it'll motivate you to lose weight.
  • That's too expensive for you--look for something cheaper.

How about you? What's the most memorable advice you've ever received?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Stowaway cat

It's Spring Break and Ronnie and I have arrived in Kerrville for a glorious week in our RV.


We heard a mewling this evening and Ronnie thought it was a cat, maybe one that got up under the RV while we were out this afternoon, and he went out to investigate. Turns out there is a tiny kitten in the baggage area. How could such a small kitty get up there? Ronnie has a theory: our neighbor's cat crawled up into the baggage area somehow and had her litter. She was probably moving her babies when Ronnie got the n the RV and drove off with the last one stranded.

We don't know if it's a he or she, so I've named it Sox. My friend Jackie Crowley had a very cool cat named Sox, and this one has four white paws similar to Jackie's cat.

I'm highly allergic to cats, so I'm popping Antihistamines. Ronnie is staying up with Sox, keeping nag the baby comfortable and warm.

We've looked up how to care for orphan d kittens and we have nothing. In the morning we're headed for the vet as soon as he opens. According to the internet we can expect a healthy bill and a carload of supplies to get Sox through the next 4 weeks or so. From Sox's appearance: one eye open and one shut; folded back but straightening ears; and shaky steps, it's just a day over or under 2 weeks.

So far, Sox is a furry survivor that has captured Ronnie's heart. And okay, I'll admit it, me too. Guess I'll be living on Benedril.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Happy birthday, y'all

The fourth Texas Birthday Bash was held this weekend to celebrate Texas's 180th anniversary of independence. Ronnie and I went both nights. My friend Karleen Koen went with us Saturday night. We were supposed to join Butch and Sheila Juelg, but there were a couple of thousand people crowding the bandstand that was set up beside the Navasota City Hall and finding them was just impossible. We'll try again next year. Most likely meet at the house and then walk the four blocks to the venue.

The weather was perfect. We didn't even need jackets once we moved to the beat of William Clark Green, Josh Abbott, and John Michael Montgomery. There were other bands, but these were the ones we came to see.

The crowd was the real show.

Long legged fillies in denim shorts that barely covered their bottoms wore cowboy boots to mid-calf and frilly white lace camisoles or plaid sleeveless shirts. Except for a few sporting ponytails, most had hair loose and cascading down their backs. Bling-crusted belts assessorized all choices of attire, from the fringed denim shorts to mini-skirts to skin tight jeans. Lots of fringe. On shirts, shorts, boots, and handbags.

The young men with dates kept a hand on their woman's waist or in her back pocket or slung possessively over a shoulder. Single men lined the outermost edges, in groups of three and five, drinking from their longnecks and checking the beauties who were forever weaving through the crowd gathered in front of the bandstand.

There weren't many cowboy hats this year. Instead, there were plenty of caps with bills pointed forward and pulled down over masculine faces, not askew or backwards like city gangsta types. These guys hailed from College Station, Brenham, Hempstead, Anderson, Roans Prairie and other neighboring communitites. They wore low-slung Levis held in place by tooled leather belts. Their boots were scuffed, proof that they worked the land or in one of the industrial or manufacturing plants.

Many wore snug tee-shirts that showed off muscular  bodies. Most of them were Aggie brands with appropriate tag lines about the 12th Man and such. My favorite was "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Ring." (For you non-Texans, that is the pusuit of the Aggie graduation ring.)

Others wore western shirts or long sleeved white dress shirts. One had on a hoodie with this statement stenciled on the back:
Frac long
Frac strong
And always
Frac on!

Where else will you find someone promoting fracking at a concert? Only in Texas, my friend, where oil field is still the major employer and an important revenue stream for the state budget.

The crowd thickened as the night wore on. The single men began walking into the fray, feeling pumped by the beer and the band. Young women jumped atop hay bales, swinging their hips to the beat of the bass guitar. Couples danced in spaces no bigger than three-feet square. Shiner beer, Bud Light, and bottled water from HEB kept most people hydrated.

Even though Open Carry is law in Texas now, the only thing anyone had in a holster was an iPhone, which was frequently drawn to shoot photos of each other and the bands.

I love this small town that celebrates the birthday of Texas.  Yee-haw, y'all.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Harvesting stories from life

I spent this past week as an instructor in the memoir workshop at Houston's first annual Writefest, sponsored by Writespace. It's been a rich week, immersed in the voices of new and emerging writers with evocative and amazing stories worth telling. The experience has given me an opportunity to reflect on why we dedicate ourselves to this work, this storytelling, crafting our memoirs. The courage it takes to reveal ourselves.

We are the authors of our life story, a personal narrative that compels us to leave home to find our destiny. Each time we take a risk to leave the safety (and boredom in the routine sameness) of our lives, we embark on a new beginning and the excitement of possibilities. As storytellers, we explore the depth of our experiences for meaning. There is pride in accomplishment, hope in surviving tragedy, and joy in a life fully lived. By sharing our stories, we share both our fragility and fierceness. We share our humanity.

Irish poet John O'Donohue writes: "Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning." 

He adds: "To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a cynical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginning might be ripening." 

I love O'Donohue's word "ripening." I imagine my ideas for storytelling as seeds. When I give myself permission to sit and craft those stories, I can imagine a story ripening with each draft, each new revision. The hardest part of craft is to begin. Once that occurs, I can be vulnerable, honest, and authentic. The story swirls, ripens, flourishes. 

Sometimes writing is play, often it's work, but oh my God, it is sweet ecstasy to see it finished.

Again quoting O'Donohue: "There can be no growth if we do not remain open to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that has not been rewarded a thousand times over."

When I explore my life experiences, I'm startled by the lessons they offer me. But as Carl Jung observed, an unexamined life is not worth living. Telling our amazing stories together may be living out loud, but it's preferable to living unconsciously. Indeed, if life is worth the risk for the rewards, so all the more worthy is the telling of those stories for others to hear and celebrate.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hitting the road, RV style

My sweetie bought us a recreational vehicle, known commonly as a RV.

She's a Dolphin, which is a popular brand. In fact, the newest custom ones can sell for as high as six figures all tricked out, but Ronnie found an old girl that was still trustworthy with only 45,000 miles on her odometer. Built in 1997, she was a steal at $12,000, and he is proud he found her.

She's got two captain chairs up front. One for Ronnie, the driver, and one for me, the navigator... or as Roinnie sometimes complains, the nag-igator.

She's 36-feet long with a slideout in the living area, complete with sofa and recliner/rocker. There's a full galley with gas stove, microwave and a man-sized refrigerator, dining table with cushioned benches. In the back, there's a bathroom with shower-tub, and a bedroom with a luxurious queen bed. Plenty of room for two adults. Actually the specifications hint that the RV will sleep six. In addtion to using our queen bed, there could be two people sleepng on the converted dining table and two on the pullout sofa, but trust me, my man isn't letting anyone crowd him inside his new home-on-the-road.

Ronnie has spent weeks sprucing her up. She's sparkling clean, inside and out, and sporting new license plates so everyone knows that she belongs to a veteran. Her fluids are topped off, and she's ready to hit the road. He has a spot reserved in Kerrville for us over Spring Break.

Although it's still two weeks away, I'm already packing.

We figure we'll take the Dolphin across country this summer and see some of America. We can't decide if we'll head up to Montana or across to Florida, but we're leaning toward the northwest. Driving  to Florida seems more like a plan for autumn, winter even, skimming the Gulf coastline like snow birds.

If we like travelng RV-style, we plan to trade up in a year. If we discover we like the idea of RVing more than the actual experience, we figure we can probably sell the old girl for what Ronnie paid for her. Either way, it's sure to be quite an adventure.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Let love lead

This is my last year to work full-time at Lone Star College, and it marks my silver anniversary. Twenty-five years filled with teaching, administrative tasks, engaging with colleagues, motivating students--making a difference. It's been a glorious ride, doing meaningful work. I have been relunctant to retire because I love my job.

But I feel a stirring in my soul. I want to spend more energy helping women give voice to their life stories. However, as I told my sweetie, I do not want to make it a business. Instead, I want to take my time and follow my heart.

It will be a challenge. I have been addicted to "busyness" most of my life. In fact, someone commented that I should be slowing down, but I laughed and said that I'd decided to finish strong. And I will; it's in my nature. After that, however, I am going to bask in the late afternoon of life.

My plans? I plan develop workshops for women and bear witness to their evocative stories, both in person and online.  I'll finish that second novel that is hiding in plain sight in my computer. I'll travel with my sweetie in the RV that he bought for us three weeks ago and plant the seeds for women's story circles as we motor throughout the nation.

I will not, however, do any of this hurriedly. Busyness is not part of my post-retirement plan.

And if those plans don't work out?

"Let go of the life you planned and embrace the life you are meant to live" reads one of the quotations prominently placed above my computer in my home office. What better reminder for today, Feb. 14, 2016?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

First love

I believe a woman remembers her first love because there’s such a sweet romantic high about it, like being drunk on Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine.

You can hear the nostalgia in the lyrics “I Got the Boy,” a heart-warming song inspired by reading in the newspaper the details of your first love’s wedding and honeymoon. Jana Kramer sings:

I got the first kiss and she'll get the last
She's got the future, I got the past
I got the class ring, she got the diamond and wedding band
I got the boy, she got the man

Yeah there's an old you that I knew,
Fake IDs to get into those spring break bars
Back woods on a four wheel, hanging on tight, I can still feel my racing heart
And now you're cleaned up with a haircut, nice tie and shoes
If things were different and I had a choice, which would I choose?

Oh my. The memories just flood like Galveston’s beachfront during a hurricane and wash over me. Our innocent flirting in algebra class. Shy at first and then more brazen. The first date at Huntsville State Park. Getting all dressed up for the Junior Prom. Sneaking off to Splash Day USA. The budding feeling of young love. Our sharing secrets and mutual plans for the future: a white-framed house and five children. The dreamy certainty that we’d experience happily ever after. Followed by the shifting emotions, the drama of misunderstandings and arguments that ended in deep kisses. Until the last fight that ended it all. Or did we just drift away after high school graduation? Whatever the reason, the memories are no longer sad—they’ve become sweet with time.

Truth is, we learned enduring lessons from one another about love. How fragile it is. How intimacy is more than sweat-slicked bodies and breathlessness. How commitment binds together a man and a woman, and we were far too young for such capacity.

The question, however, in Jana's song is intriguing: If things were different and I had a choice, which would I choose?

The answer comes in a heartbeat, quick and sure. I’d leave the boy where he is now—nestled in past memories. My sweet Ronnie is not my first love, but he is surely my last. He is the man with whom I make new memories every day. He's funny, he's wise, he's kind. The memories of the boy pale in comparison.

What about you? Which would you choose?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Following in parental footsteps

I grew up in a small town where the major employers were a state college and a state prison. Most female students majored in teacher education or home economics but were actually working on their MRS. hoping to marry a business  or agriculture major.

The inmates on the prison farms outside of town worked in the fields tending crops or in warehouses manufacturing the goods the state prison system needed to be self-sufficient. Oh, and the penitentiary housed "Old Sparky," the electric chair that took the lives of the most dangerous and least rehabilitative criminals until 1964 (the year I graduated from high school) when death by electrocution was struck down by the Supreme Court. Most of the convicts on death row were murderers or rapists, but none were women. Karla Faye Tucker was the first woman put to death in Texas by lethal injection in 1998. She found Jesus in prison and became born again, but then Governor George Bush chose to deny her clemancy. Texas today ranks third for giving death sentences to female offenders, and more white women are sentenced to death than women of color--which, by the way, is the opposite for male felons.

My father taught teacher education at the college. Sam Houston State Teachers College was the name of the institution when he started his career there. The name changed to Sam Houston State College in 1965 (and has since become a univesity rather than a college). If you were a teacher or principal in a Houston school or anywhere in East Texas, chances were excellent that Professor Thomas Murray taught you educational psychology or supervised your student teaching.

Education continues to be the most popular major among students today, and the university also boasts of its nationally acclaimed criminal justice program, which in 1970 became one of the first to offer a Ph.D. in criminal justice. My mother, who became the first superintendent of schools within Texas Department of Corrections in 1968, served as an interim professsor of criminal justice at Sam. For the record, my mother built a school system known for reducing recidivism through education and the Dr. Lane Murray Unit outside Gatesville, TX, is named in her honor.

Is it any wonder that my older brother and I went to college in our hometown? Stone worked as a guard at the prison while going to school and eventually became a parole officer in Dallas County. While in college, he dated home economics and elementary education majors, but found his wife in far-off Virginia. I became a teacher in Spring Branch ISD and then a college professor for several colleges in Harris County, the last being Lone Star College.

My younger brother Mark broke the pattern, went to the University of Texas and became a lawyer. Mother always said he was the smartest kid in the family. For sure he landed the most lucrative career, but I'm not convinced it is the most satisfying.

What were the main industries in your hometown? How did your parents' careers influence your choices?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Looking for purpose in life

Human beings are storytellers. We’ve been passing on our histories since our ancestors scratched the original picture books on cave walls. As a species we want to leave our mark, to let future generations know we were here. That is the power of story.

The two most important days in your life: 
  • The day you were born
  •  The day you find out why

Usually the day you were born is recorded in a family bible and in county records, but recording why you were born is up to you. Genealogy will trace your ancestry, but genealogy only shows the lineage. Your story gives texture and depth. As you write stories from your memories, more will come and soon your story plot (your reason for being here) will reveal itself. You will understand the purpose of your life, and you can pass on those contributions, values and lessons to the others who follow in your line.

We are living longer and longer. “Retirement” is more than playing bridge, starting up a small business or going fishing. The fourth chapter of our lives is meant to be savored through reflection and consideration. We have the opportunity to understand the meaning of life and our place in it.

An unexamined life is inexcusable. In fact, according to Socrates, "An unexamined life is not worth living." However, when we reflect on our lives, we can see the personal and spiritual growth that fuels our joie de vivre. Take some time to review your life so that rather than stumbling through life, you live with purpose. 

Look at where you are in life, whether in your second, third or fourth act, and answer this: What would you do if you knew nothing could stop you? I have asked myself that question and I’m living my answer. I plan to finish strong.

What about you?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Don't worry, be happy

Deb Nance, a librarian friend of mine in Alvin, TX, has a great blog you guys should follow (in addition to mine, of course). The blog address is and you guessed it, the blog is about good books, ones that feed your intellect and your imagination and satisfy your hunger for other voices. Today, she offered a recommendation for the Instant Happy Journal: 365 Days of Inspiration, Gratitude and Joy by Karen Salmansohn.

Deb says the author reveals the tricks that cheerful folks use to "keep their happy on." You know, those people who always have a smile on their face and a spring in their step? It’s not just in their DNA—they have ways to adjust their attitudes and behaviors that keep them in the optimistic zone. But here’s the best part: (in Deb’s words): “She [the author] not only shares the tricks-to-be-happy but she gives you time and space to practice them in this little journal book.”

Okay, I am convinced. I’m ordering several copies at, your favorite bookstore when you live in small town Navasota, and I’m going to share them with a couple of “unhappy” friends. Deb says she’s been practicing for only twelve days and she’s already 117% happier. That blows my mind because Deb was one happy women already. (How did she get the percentage change? With some complicated mathematical formula that is ‘way over my head, so I’m just trusting her.)

I believe that for most of us, happiness is a choice. Personally, I’ve discovered on most days when I feel negative and critical, it’s because my attitude has taken a nose dive. There’s lots of research to support this idea that has been published in The New York Times, USA Today, Psychology Today, and many, many scholarly journals. Here is what one expert, Remez Sasson, the founder of Success Consciousness, writes:  

“A positive attitude helps you cope more easily with the daily affairs of life. It brings optimism into your life, and makes it easier to avoid worries and negative thinking. If you adopt it as a way of life, it would bring constructive changes into your life, and makes them happier, brighter and more successful.”

And just to be clear, a positive attitude expresses itself in an attitude of happiness.

One of the “tricks” I’m certain is in the Instant Happy Journal will be getting out in the sunshine and enjoying the beauty of the day. It’s 55 degrees and sunny in Navasota today—I’m grabbing my sweetie and going outdoors. To be honest, I woke up happy, but if a little happy is good, why not reach for 117% more?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016 Bucket List

It's the first week of 2016 and I'm filled with excitement. I have a shiny new bucket list:

  • Design, develop and deliver courses, workshops and retreats that help people make sense of their lives. 
  • Practice what I preach by reflecting on my own life journey, releasing what no longer serves me and unleashing my passions at full throttle. 
  • Explore the simplicity and complexity of the craft of writing to find my sweet spot - that creative, blissful place where I can let the words flow. Sometimes effortlessly, sometimes not.
  • Reacquaint my body to mindful movement by exploring the residential streets of my small town neighborhood.
  • Cook on a daily basis, creating meals that feed my soul and nourish my body.
  • Love Ronnie and Matthew with the fullness and tenderness of my heart. 
  • Enjoy the company of my women friends, feeling their support and giving them  mine.
I will live 2016 with intention and not be caught up in the mindless, objectifying prejudice flooding our communities. I will take care of my place in the world by turning away from the vicous hate being spewed by toxic tongues and practicing the gentleness of human kindness.

What's on your 2016 bucket list?