The Big “Bad” Wolf


Once upon a time there was a big wolf hybrid named Dakota.  Tip to tail he’s about 6’4″ and the sweetest thing ever.  He has a sister, Cheyenne, who is smaller and lighter in color.  People seem to go to her more because she favors their 25% Siberian Husky ancestry in looks more than their 75% Canadian Timberwolf blood.  Dakota may look like the big bad wolf but he is all Texas dawg.  He has a penchant for giving kisses and he won’t rest until you get one … whether you want it or not.  And he has a little girl whom he adores.  From the moment she came home from the hospital he has lovingly watched over her.  I remember his huge head was bigger than her entire body and he would carefully place it beside her while she slept.  She was literally nestled to sleep next to the powerful jaws of a wolf.  Wolves are family oriented, gentle creatures and it is a shame people still fear them.  My daddy used to say you cannot argue with someone whose mind is made up.  But I still hope Cheyenne and Dakota are helping in some small way to change that.  If you are out somewhere on a walk don’t freak out because you see a coyote.  That poor critter is just trying to live its life in peace and be left alone.  Man needs to allow wildlife to live; they are essential to our planet.  The American actor Denis O’Hare said:

“When you think of Grimm’s fairy tales, they are deeply, deeply psychological.  They’re so powerful, so bloody, and really, really disturbing.  Think about five-year-olds reading that stuff.  Even ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is a really freaky story.  Grandma is gobbled up by a wolf, and the wolf is going to eat the girl. That’s scary stuff.”

I hope and pray more people will take time to understand wildlife and their vital role in our world.  I came into my little girl’s bedroom and snapped this picture just as he was.  There, in her two story wooden “cottage” bed with flowers and vines, was Dakota.  The two bags of Pirates’ Booty were what he hunted and ate while waiting on his own Little Red Riding Hood to return from school.  As I went to open the front door I could hear his huge paws thundering down to greet us.  He sniffed her and covered her with huge wolf kisses.  And Little Red Riding Hood lived happily ever after with the big “bad” wolf.




Looking at this stained glass at a memorial for a dear friend, I have been thinking how it resembles life.  We are all made up of a complex mosaic of experiences and people we have encountered.  Some pieces are bigger and take up more space; others may be small but their color shines brightly.  Some are easy to forget and others never leave.  Some people we encounter in life are givers; others are takers.  Some you can count on and others you cannot.  Some wish you well and some don’t.  Some always bring the sun, allowing your colors to shine brighter.  Others always seem to carry dark clouds, trying to making your light gloomy.  Some hold you together and some can crack you to pieces.  And some we take for granted until it’s too late.  We get so busy with our own lives and we tell ourselves we’ll visit tomorrow.  Then tomorrow comes and we still do not make the time.  This woman whose celebration of life and faith I was attending was a true friend.  I am ashamed to say I do not believe I was as good of a friend to her.  I did not mean to stop visiting; I had an ailing mother and newborn baby plus my work and I was overwhelmed.  Now I am writing this and she will not get to see it.  I witnessed a chapel full of loving friends who laughed at her candor, admired her adventures, and loved her for her genuine warmth and hospitality.  The wonderful thing about faith is the belief that we will see those whom we love again one day.  The American author Leo Buscaglia said, “Death is a challenge.  It tells us not to waste time … it tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other.”  I resolve to become more caring of others and follow in her example.  I want to be like her; a treasured piece in someone else’s mosaic.


Lost And Found


When I was little there was nothing I loved more than carting tiny toy animals around.  To this day I still have my little plastic turtles I got from the tops of cupcakes.  Oh how I loved them — and still do.  My little one has just discovered the joys of pocket pets which her daddy bought her.  They come in a “blind bag” (to force you to buy a gazillion if your kiddo wants to collect them) and with a tiny little pet carrier.  As fate would have it, she got an Alaskan Malamute named Yukon and a very sneaky Spaniel named Sadie.  She had them less than an hour when Sadie broke free from her carrier, landing somewhere in the yard.  Of course it was dark by then.  My beloved used his iPhone flashlight trying to find her but with no luck.  Our little one cried herself to sleep and we promised her it would somehow be OK.  Early the next morning I got up to look for the runaway Spaniel.  Marrying a man who would lose his own appendages if they were not attached to his body has taught me a thing or two about the need for patience.  Growing up my daddy infused a type of methodicalness in my every day life that I employed out of habit.  I began making a careful sweet from up to down and left to right.  My Baby Doll came outside in the windy chill and asked anxiously if I had found her.  “Not yet” I said with my head tucked down.  She then asked if we could pray as she pressed her little hand in mine.  We said a short simple prayer and I told her to go back inside while I kept looking.  JUST as I was about to give up, I saw my little one’s precious toy.  There she was nestled among the leaves staring straight at me with her bright blue eyes.  The Canadian writer Douglas Coupland said:

“There are three things we cry about in life, things that are lost, things that are found, and things that are magnificent.”

For my little one, this tiny pet qualified as all three.  See if you can spot the little Spaniel pictured above.  I swung my baby doll around and around as she giggled with glee.  Sadie had spent the night out in the cold but seemed glad to be reunited with Yukon and home safe; lost and found.


A Slippery Slope


You know how people joke about swiping everything free from hotels?  Well, I am among those who “avail themselves.”  At our first time in a hotel together within minutes I’d managed to swoop up all the fancy toiletries and stuff them in my suitcase.  Poor Burk had no idea.  I’ll never forget he came out of this big beautiful bathroom with plumes of steam billowing out and I could hear the shower running in the background.  Clutching a towel around his waist with his eyes squeezed shut, water was dripping from his hair and onto the marble floor.  “Baby Doll,” he said to the room in general, “This must not be a very good hotel.  There’s no soap anywhere!”  I sat on the bed striving not to look guilty; fortunately he had his eyes closed.  After telling him I would request more I got discovered.  He demanded I give some up that instant.  So I called down and got extra to take one of each home.  By now the poor man knows my peccadillo.  I have shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and lotions from every place we have ever traveled.  They are arranged in chronological order under one of our bathroom cabinets.  When I manage to acquire extra I sometimes put them in our guest bathroom or I will bring them on future trips so as not to use the ones I intend on procuring.  The American author John Steinbeck once said, “Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”  In a way my collection of tiny toiletries help bring those places back for me.  They are part of my remembrances.  I am limiting myself, though; it can be a slippery slope.


The Smiling One


Two years and two days ago I lost my best friend, and the most beautiful woman I have ever known; my mother.  Oh how I miss her.  She wore the same mantle of gentleness about her my grandmother carried as well.  I am thankful she at least got to live to see the man I would marry (whom she ADORED) and spend three years with her precious namesake, our daughter.  One of our shared stories was that after Daddy passed she and I continued the tradition of driving to Santa Fe every year.  And every year, like clockwork, I would invariably get pulled over coming home; ahem, several times.  My daddy had warned me tiny Texas towns were speed traps and to always slow WAY down.  But it is an all day drive from Santa Fe back to Dallas; when you’re on an endless stretch of road and it’s not night so you don’t have to worry about animals …  Mama and I were in a hurry each year to get to Medicine Mound for dinner at this restaurant we loved before they closed.  We always went home on Memorial Day and yes, I see the recipe brewing.  The same darn cop pulled us over EVERY SINGLE TIME.  One would think I would have known better but nope; I just kept getting busted.  We were so familiar to him that one year I had changed cars from a Trans Am to a Land Rover and he not only asked what happened to the other car, he wanted to know how I got that one.  So my mother shoots off, “We STOLE it!” and the officer leaned his blond head into her window and said, “What did you say?”  I will never forget my little mother stuck her head in like a turtle and then said again, only much more quietly and ending on a question, “We stole it?”  The officer just laughed while he issued us our annual ticket.  After we drove off I told her we could have wound up in some type of country jail with no one to help get us out.  Mama said she just couldn’t help it because he’d made her so darn mad.  She was something.  She was sweet but sassy, hilarious, and incredibly smart.  The American writer Dr. Seuss once said, “Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.”  My mother had the most serene smile and I will never forget my delight in college upon learning that her first name meant “The Smiling One” in Aleutian.  No name could have been more fitting.  When I close my eyes I can still see her tiny, freckled hands and hear her soft voice.  My beautiful mother; The Smiling One.


The View From My Office


I am borrowing this from a pedicab driver we had in France.  He said he had the best job in the world because all of Paris was his office.  And he was right.  I snapped this at a stop sign on my way to my first round of the morning.  The sun was just rising which is why the light is faint.  My car is my office.  I have worked on Black Friday every year since I was fifteen.  The difference is I now have the privilege and pleasure of visiting with and caring for animals.  I love my job and do not resent working essentially every day of the year.  Some days are more stressful than others but then that is just life.  Growing up we never had any money to spend so Black Friday just doesn’t mean shopping to me.  I do not like the crowds, the battle for parking, and the frenzied feel of it all.  The Scottish singer Annie Lennox once said, “I will go out of my way to avoid the shopping crowds and the extreme consumerism – I hate all that.”  For those who love to hit the stores AFTER Thanksgiving day, enjoy!  As for me, I am going to try and relax a little, and I will be spending some of my time admiring the view from my office.


Give Thanks


Precisely as I sat down to write this my little one came over and asked me when I started my blog and then wanted to know why.  I was stunned that she would ask not only today but at the very moment before I started to type.  I launched Seashells and Carousels exactly one year ago on Thanksgiving Day.  My sweet mother passed the day after Thanksgiving two years ago.  I thought I was doing OK until my first year without her was about to end.  Grief and an overwhelming sadness over her loss and of being an orphan started to overtake me.  So I began thinking back to all my father had instilled:  to be positive, to look for the good, and above all to keep faith in the deep, abiding love of Jesus Christ.  The American author Melody Beattie wrote:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

As I was setting our table tonight I took this picture.  It is not in our formal dining room; rather it is where we always eat.  I did not drag out our wedding china, crystal, and silver; I just used our regular plates, glasses and flatware.  This is my life.  This is what it looks like after a long day of work, playing with my little one, and trying to cook a special meal for my family.  We had a fire going, soothing music playing, and were surrounded by our precious wolves, cats, turtles and fish.  I had no make up on and we all were completely relaxed.  There was no pressure; just the pleasure of each other’s company.  It is my sincerest hope that as you read my blog each day you will leave feeling a little happier — regardless of race, faith, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, political affiliation, or anything else.  Just come as you are and know that you are always welcome with no judgement.  As of this writing I have had over 20,000 visitors and over 318,000 hits.  Be blessed; it is for you I also give thanks.


Face The Sunshine


I can no longer wear contacts and I have not worn glasses in years.  I remember my first pair were 1970’s huge and I had my initials on the bottom right corner of one of the lenses.  I have never liked glasses and in fact there is only one pair of sunglasses I have ever found that I like.  Now I have actually found a pair of peepers I really, truly like!  First, I can SEE (I need them for distance) and second, they actually make me happy.  They are my favorite, beloved shade of blue, and I do not mind wearing them.  And I can see!  Did I mention that?  I am so grateful for my eyesight and once again I have been reminded what a tremendous blessing it is, not to be taken for granted.  The famous American author Helen Keller, whom I have always greatly admired, said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”  I think that is incredibly profound coming from a woman who spent her entire life blind.  There will always be shadows in life, but one can choose where they place their focus.  I choose to face the sunshine.


Happy Fall Y’all


Hooray for the first day of autumn in Texas!  I can actually open the kitchen window without it feeling like a blasting hot pizza oven!  Our screened in porch is letting in a chilly, invigorating breeze.  With the exception of the pervasive scent of cinnamon in stores everywhere (I am allergic and it gives me vicious migraines), I believe autumn is my favorite.  No one is freezing and the threat of mosquitos is thankfully gone.  My beloved calls this “wolf weather” and it really is.  Cheyenne and Dakota just prance on our walks around the creek.  I wonder how much more glorious it must be for them, given their far keener sense of smell.  This is the best walking weather and we are blessed to have one of the best walks to enjoy in the city.  It is actually going to get cold enough to start a fire!  We never had a fireplace growing up and there is absolutely nothing in this world that can beat the smell of wood burning in cold air.  I love pinion the best but we burn mesquite or any other type of wood that is sustainable.  A parting thought for today:  the ancient Greek rhetorician Athenaeus of Naucratis said, “Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”  Happy fall y’all.




I absolutely love walking bridges.  I have adored them for as long as I can remember.  I thought I would be in heaven when we went to Venice on our honeymoon because of all the bridges.  While I am so incredibly thankful to have gone, I discovered my heart is with the bridges of Paris.  I stood on a bridge today overlooking this creek with my little one contemplating the serenity of nature and the changing of the seasons.  I have learned to savor these precious moments of beauty as I recognize their value.  One of these days I want to travel to Arkansas or New England to see the leaves change.  It is something my mother always wanted to do and she instilled that love in me.  The American three time Olympic gold medalist in cycling Kristin Armstrong said:

“When the seasons shift, even the subtle beginning, the scent of a promised change, I feel something stir inside me.  Hopefulness?  Gratitude?  Openness?  Whatever it is, it’s welcome.”

I love that.  Saying good-bye to summer today, we are waiting to welcome the beginning of autumn tomorrow.  There are four seasons and four directions.  Each has a time, a cycle, and a purpose; from the rising of the sun to the setting of the moon.  Eternal and changeless are the seasons.