Today, I was at a rehearsal for an Easter pageant I am involved with. I have been in the cast for 10 years, was chairman for a stint, and still do all the photography and publicity for it. It’s been a rough year, as last-minute construction at the Burger Center shoved us out of our home with only a month to go. We had to scramble for a new location and then reblock the whole pageant as well as retrofit the tomb, the garden of Gethsemane, Pilot’s palace… everything. The rehearsals are still pretty ragged only 6 days out on the show. I sat on the bleachers with my daughters, as since I have young ones not allowed in the arrest-trial-beating-crucifixion scenes, we only go out at the very beginning and end of the production.

I make up the program, so I am in charge of the cast list and memorials to have loved one’s mentioned in print. A man I know well, let’s call him Billy, came up to me and said he’d like to make a contribution to have his mom’s name as well as his mother in law’s name placed in the program.

Billy is around 60, but looks older, other than a dark shock of hair. His is missing most of his teeth, and he stoops as he talks, so his face is often inches from yours. He rambles in conversation, seems to stumble to follow a line of thought, but is awkward about it, as if he realizes his shortcomings and is embarrassed to make you suffer through them. He is humble. I adore him.

I touched his arm and said I was very pleased to put his family in the program again. These ladies have been dead many years. He pulled out his wallet and I assumed he’d hand over a small contribution of a few dollars. Billy eats only out of the grace of Meals on Wheels, does not have a car, and often misses rehearsals because he can’t afford a bus pass or even a daily fare.

He handed over a check for $33. I looked at the sum and felt mild shock. How could he afford this? He said, “I’ve been in the pageant for 33 years. I wanted to make a donation that showed that. $1 for every year.”

I squeezed his arm and told him, “That’s a wonderful way to look at it. And we’ve been very blessed to have you here all these years.”

He smiled, face reddening. “This is my family,” he said.

He got called out to do his part, a role reserved for him each year as the high priest. I sat on the bleachers again and watched the cast fumble through the complex blocking. I worried about what that amount of money had cost him to contribute. We ran through the Palm Sunday scene, and Jesus, played by Benjamin, who had been in the pageant since he was an infant, related the story of the Poor Widow. It comes from the book of Mark, chapter 12.

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”

And so did Billy.
And when I watch Benjamin play his role, even when it doesn’t come off just right, he is transfigured to me. I get a chill when they throw him against the whipping post, and whether or not any of it is true no longer matters. It’s all about how I feel, and how I believe.

Sunburned and Golf Dazed

Usually I can count on an outdoor April birthday party for my eldest daughter to be risky. Rain. Tornadoes.

Today, unexpected heat.

No one expected to swelter at Peter Pan Mini Golf with 16 kids and 14 grownups. But the day was glorious, we had lots of bottled water, and the party went well. One darling mischief maker sent his golf ball sailing over the fence and into McDonald’s parking lot. But no windshields were involved. Hallelujah.

My baby is seven. My little wriggling squawler who cried 14 hours a day until she was 4 months old, who crawled late and walked early, who colored in the lines at two and still suffers from perfectionist tendencies to the point of not completing her work at times, has her own friends, whispers things I can’t hear to them, and kicks my butt at Frogger. Days like this I’d like to freeze time, but when it hits 86 degrees, I guess nothing much will even stay cold.

I hated to miss Spamarama. Hope you guys who went ingested plenty of canned meat product on my behalf.
Back when I was seven, we ate Spam with Karo syrup.

Thank goodness we do grow up!

Shawn Oh Shawn Mullins

Last night I went to see Shawn Mullins at the Cactus on campus. I have been a fan of his for a long long time, since Soul’s Core in 1998 when “Lullaby” was a hit, followed by “Shimmer.” He’s a narrative song writer with a husky voice. He likes to talk in his songs as much as sing, but we let him get away with it.

He seems to have endured some hard livin’ since the pictures and interviews of Soul’s Core. It showed on his face and in his posture and demeanor. I had never seen him perform live, although he comes through Austin fairly often. He did not disappoint me, his control of his songs and his voice and his guitar showing the polish of a seasoned performer. Yet he had a down to earth attitude, first by saying his new single “Beautiful Wreck” was going to be made into a video, which meant the label was going to push it. And that the video was only going to cost $10,000, which was cool with him, because it could be a $500,000 video and he still had to pay for it. When he talks to you, you settle in a bit, absorbing his calmness, the reverberation of his voice, into you.

The Cactus is a small venue–a low stage backed by red velvet curtains with rows of chairs on two sides. Members of the crowd could talk back and forth with Shawn and his opening singer/songwriter Clay Cook. He told the stories behind some of the songs, lightly and with wry humor. He was laid back, calm, toned down. He smiled a slow lazy grin at times, his eyes small under a knit cap he wore for the first set.

Clay was on stage singing backup vocals and accompanying on guitar or keyboard for most of the show. He was hammy, loud and full of jokes, long black hair forever in his face and eyes. Pushing it back or tossing his head while playing became his primary gestures. Shawn never cut him off or joined in for the humor, just eventually started the next song with level strength.

If you haven’t heard him, visit his site and listen. I think “Beautiful Wreck” is probably going to hit. He’s playing again tonight at Cactus at 9:00 if you want to hear him yourself. $14 at the door.

I’m going to go listen to some more of the new CD, just released, which I picked up last night. My day has been frantic and frustrating and difficult. Shawn Mullins always managed to mellow me out. I’m going to let him for a while.

Spring Break in Pictures, Part 2

My nephew Eric plays with a resident at the nursing home where my grandparents live.

Elizabeth takes another riding lesson from Aunt Traci.

Emily doesn’t panic, pulling back on the reins to stop Who Dat when he unexpectedly takes off into a gallop across the arena. Aunt Traci is proud. Mama and Emily cry like babies afterward.

Deanna decides that at 35 she’ll start counting backwards, so she celebrates her 34th with niece Holly.

Spring break is over, and now it’s back to the same ol’ same ol’ (thank goodness.)

Spring Break in Pictures, Part 1

I have had an amazing spring break so far. Here’s proof!

Melon margaritas at Iguana Grill on Lake Travis.

A hike reveals an unexpected grotto.

Thank goodness for spring!

Citizen dips strawberries for game night.

Elizabeth walks through what meager bluebonnets have bloomed so far.

Petah! The girls and a friend play a few rounds at Peter Pan Mini Golf.

So much more to come!


Farfelu, Not Far from You

Time to support the locals.

My friend Jane Parsons, a photographer on the artsy end of the scale, got a rather unusual photograph published in Farfelu, a newish Austin literary magazine.

If you’re an artist, photographer, poet, or writer, you should submit to them. They are off to a good start and the ‘zine is run by two very fun chicks.

Oh, and yeah, there’s a short story in there I wrote (Issue 2, Spring 2006). Just remember, people, should you pick up a copy at Book People and take a peek–FICTION! That means the story is MADE UP!

I had a wonderful weekend, complete with a hike near Lake Travis, a magnificent lunch at Iguana Grill, a successful reunion shoot, and many other delights–including going to a party with girlfriends where there was a cake shaped like a (dang, this is a family blog.) Well, a part of the male anatomy.

The novel is going well. I’m in a good space.

State of My States

Thanks to my friend Henry for pointing out this cute little item–you can map out where you’ve been in the U.S. or the world.

Here is my US Map (red states visited–18 states, 35% of them):

And my world map (red countries visited–13 countries, 5%):

So many places left to explore!

Princess in Waiting

Ready for her prince…


Think there are any on Craig’s List? I guess we can send her to Windsor…

This is her getup … Mama had no hand in it!

Candy Hearts-Warming

Emily has 22 kids in her class. Eliza has 19. This means that Valentine’s Day lasts for a week or more with leftover candy and sweet sentiment (and wrappers and sugar highs.)

Today in the car, Eliza, who is three, opened a little packet of candy hearts–the chalky kind with the little sentiments like “Hug Me” or “I’m Yours.” She wants to be like her big sister, so she often pretends that she can read.

“I know what this one says!” she announced, holding up a pale orange heart.

“What’s that?” I asked, glancing at her via the rearview mirror.

“It says, ‘I really like you and you’re my friend and I gave this to you for Valentine’s Day!'”

We all paused.

“And that’s all!” she said.

“All that fits on the heart?” I asked.


Emily giggled behind her cupped hand. “Elizabeth! That’s too much!”

“It is NOT!”

She popped the candy in her mouth as if to prevent authentification.

“Guess what this one says!” She held up a purple candy.

“Let me guess–shot through the heart and you’re to blame, you give love a bad name?”

Both girls giggled. Mama and her 80s lyrics.

“NOOOO! It says, ‘You’re a stinky-poo!'”



“Nobody says that to somebody on Valentine’s Day!” I turned to look at her, kicking her legs in excitement. We were stopped at the light.

“I did!”

“You called someone a stinky-poo on Valentine’s Day?”


“Was that nice?” I asked, gearing up for a teachable moment.

“It was just a boy. Daniel. Boys are stinky-poo.”

I almost defended boys. Came within an inch. But really, I couldn’t argue with that.

A Day of Pix

Yes, Mama is new-camera shutter-happy. If you get annoyed with parents endlessly showing pictures of their darlings, skip this blog!!!

First, we visited Emily at school for lunch–mmmm, pancakes!

Then we were off to Fry’s for–of course–spare battery and card for the new toy! Eliza got her pick of the little candy and toy quarter machines as we left for being sooo patient. Bouncy ball and M&Ms! (Or, as she calls them, MMMs.)


Then we waited for Emily to arrive home on the bus.



And lots of play time in the back yard!


This is the sort of exciting day we tend to lead!