Mystery Photo



This mystery photograph was passed around at a family reunion I attended this summer. No one there could positively identify anyone in the picture (that was found in my great aunt’s photo album) but I haven’t been able to take my eyes off of it.

The first, and most notable thing that strikes me is that the small boy in the foreground seems to be smoking a cigarette like all the men (the one on the left probably has one between the fingers of his left hand, and the one leaning against the wall may be holding one to his lips). The second thing is that they’re all wearing newsboy caps…maybe it’s a fashion statement, or maybe that’s what was on sale at the five and dime, we will probably never know. But besides the obvious, there is so much more to be divined here.

Based on my family history, this photograph was most likely taken in Oklahoma, probably in the 1940’s – during the Great Depression and the worst of the dust bowl days. I’m sure there were serious issues being dealt with on a daily basis, like having enough food and water, and finding jobs; and while there may be an ounce of sadness here, I don’t see defeat.

I see grit and sincerity. There is a sense of family and purpose. I see community, and faith and ingenuity. I also see pride and joy and love.  These are salt of the earth folks and they have pride in their country and faith in mankind. They take care of each other and do the right thing more often than not. The women are probably in the kitchen fixin’ a pot of pinto beans and cornbread for dinner and they all go to church on Sunday morning.

These men work hard and take their responsibilities seriously, but they know how to laugh, even on the toughest of days. They are handsome and strong. This boy has a place in the family, and even though he’s young, he matters and is cared for and loved. He helps where he can and does what his mama says most of the time.

I may not know for sure who these men are, and I don’t know what they’re working on here – in what looks to be someone’s front yard – but I believe that they care and that they can be trusted. They will survive and thrive and be successful. They will fight in wars and marry their sweethearts and grow their families. They will provide for their wives and children, and say their prayers. They will be knocked down and they will get back up. They will do the best they can with what they have and they will help their neighbors because that’s what you do.

These are my kinfolk, y’all.

Mr. and Mrs. #Shannyforever

Magic Was In The Air ~ July 12, 2014

We had a wedding!

Friends, family and loved ones gathered at the end of a beautiful July day, in overwhelming joy, to witness the exchanging of heartfelt vows, celebrate love, and to dance our butts off. All of that and so much more! Everyone ate, drank and got merry, just as intended. And now two extraordinary young people are a brand new family because they chose each other!

There was so much love and joy floating around this place for three full days, I thought I might burst. Every time I turned around there was another smiling face or a hug or a special conversation waiting for me. Not only did the gorgeous bride choose a bright, fun, caring and thoughtful man to share her life with, but he came with a warm, loving family that has embraced us all and now we are bound together too….an unexpected and totally awesome benefit of our children coming together.

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Magical Thinking


Writing 101 – Assignment.

Tell the tale of your most prized possession. Use as many words as it takes.




My red scrapbook is old, musty and bulging with a lifetime of love letters, keepsakes and photographs. It is where I keep the Apollo 17 pin that I wore while watching the last rocket (that would ever land on the moon) launch from the white sands of Cocoa Beach in December of 1972. Nestled among the yellowing pages are my blue and gold embroidered Presidential Physical Fitness patch, and my nickel-plated Vietnam POW/MIA bracelet; the very bracelet that I wore religiously for months until it broke in half. I secretly worried that the breaking of that bracelet meant my soldier might never return home.

When you’re thirteen years old, you can get carried away with magical thinking.

But the very first page of my scrapbook, the one with my baby pictures, is where my heart lives. There are four black corner stickers hugging my most prized possession in the world – a photograph of me and my daddy. The caption reads: “Vanessa 9 months, with Daddy”. My childhood scrapbook is not neat, organized, color-coordinated or of archival quality. But it’s mine, and mama’s handwriting under that fading photograph is proof we were once a family. Continue reading

Here Comes The Bride

Writing 101 – Assignment.

Free Writing. Write at least 400 words and once you start typing, don’t stop.


A few short days after announcing her engagement, I had already bought a dress and the perfect shoes. As mother of the bride, I wasn’t going to waste a single moment. At first the happy couple was planning on a fall wedding, after the heat of the summer has released its death grip on us and allowed that first northern to blow in with its promise of lasting relief. But after visiting several wedding venues, a sense of urgency developed. Some venues were astonished that the bride was inquiring about a date for this year and not next. “Oh, you’re talking October, 2014? That might be a problem.” Imagine my surprise when this call came: “Mom! We found a venue and set the date! We’re getting married outside in July!!!” July had plenty of dates available at a great venue, and a discounted price. Not their first choice, but we’ll make it work. We’re not going to let a little Texas heat in the middle of July scare us away. Continue reading




Writing 101 – Write about finding something.


My parents divorced when I was eight years old after years of drinking, fighting and gnashing of teeth. I cannot conjure a memory of them being happy together during my entire childhood. Smiles and laughter rarely found their way into the fabric of our days.

Daddy has been gone now for over 25 years, mama is remarried again and the past seems like a bad dream – a tragic play with unskilled actors flailing through their poorly-written scripts.

Last fall, while visiting our aunt, two of my sisters and I set up camp on her living room floor and rifled through box after box of old family photographs. We looked at vacation photos taken at Six Flags, faded, creased pictures of unidentified relatives, and shots of tombstones of those long gone.  There were the obligatory “say cheese” group snapshots at holiday gatherings and K-12 school photos of almost everyone.

And then, as I grabbed yet another pile to sift through, a gift fell into my lap. A wallet-sized, black and white picture of my parents that I had never seen before. Nestled dangerously close to each other, they are sitting on one end of a couch, daddy’s arm around mama, a huge smile on her face and the perfect look of peace and contentment in his eyes. They are so young, so beautiful, and so obviously in love.

In that photograph that now sits framed on my nightstand, I can see their love – see back to a time when it made sense for them to be together. In that photograph, I found home.

Just Breathe


Writing 101 Assignment. Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind. Don’t use any adverbs.


She blasts past me on the sidewalk leading to the yoga studio – in her perfectly purple Lululemon ensemble, opens the door and rushes in – the glass panel slamming in my face. Anger and irritation threaten to bubble in my veins as I reach for the handle, but I take a deep breath and remind myself why I’m here.

Whoosh. A blanket of suffocating heat washes over me, stealing my calming breath. ‘Ugh…it’s sooooo hot in here.’ The tired, whiney little girl in me has been looking forward to a cool, easy, yin class. I quickly check the schedule and realize I’ve just entered a 90 minute hot power-yoga session. ‘I’ll die in here. I should probably just leave.’

“So good to see you today,” the instructor chirps, flashing a bright smile my way. I call her toothy smile and raise her a double-eyebrow lift. Continue reading