An Open Letter To Donald Trump From A Hospice Volunteer

Mr. Trump,

Wow.  Over the past few months I have heard you make racist, misogynistic (that’s “cruel to women”, as your advisers must have told you by now), cruel & inappropriate comments in your speeches, one debate and interviews.  I’ve watched you disrespect immigrants, African-Americans, women, people with special needs & veterans.  Today, however, I saw part of a speech in which you thought it was funny to demean the TERMINALLY ILL.  This soundbite, Mr. Trump, proved to me exactly how callous & unfeeling you really are.  You are so narcissistic & out of touch that I honestly have no clue how millions of Americans could come to the conclusion that you have their best interests & those of our nation as a whole, at heart.

Let me repeat the demographic you felt it was ok to joke about – the TERMINALLY ILL.  Terminally ill people have been given the heartbreaking news that their life is ENDING.  There is no realistic hope left or they have made the courageous decision to forego further treatment because the disease has progressed so far.  Many of those people will be placed in hospice care, some in their homes, some in hospitals and others in nursing homes.

I have a few questions for you, if you will oblige, and you will because you have no platform, in this instance, to interrupt me:

Have you, sir, ever been with someone while waiting for a doctor to come in & tell them if a tumor is benign or malignant?  Have you been with someone and felt the palpable anxiety in the room while you or your loved one waited to hear if their disease has progressed? Because I have.  And it isn’t funny.

Have you ever sat with a dying person so their caregiver could attend their child’s school program, church or an event that the patient might also like to attend but cannot go because they are too weak to even lift their head?  I have. Many times.

Have you ever comforted an Alzheimer’s patient who suddenly realized their caregiver, one of the only constants remaining in their brain, is gone temporarily & you are there instead?  I have. It’s heartbreaking.

Have you ever sat with a terminal patient while their spouse went for an MRI to see if they too have terminal cancer?  I have. The stress on them is unimaginable.

Do you have any idea what it is like to get your nutrition through a tube because you are terminal & can’t eat real food & likely won’t ever again?  I didn’t think so.  I haven’t either, thank God. We are fortunate.

Have you ever had the indignity of having someone help you into your adult diaper because you can no longer make it to your toilet?  Your toilet that isn’t gold, by the way.  I haven’t but I have been that helper and it’s humbling.

Have you ever volunteered for a “volunteer vigil”?  That’s what it’s called when someone’s death is imminent & they have no relatives or friends to hold their hand when they die? None.  No one.  They are going to die alone.  I haven’t had the courage to do that yet but volunteers across America do it every single day & the furthest thing from their mind, as that person takes their final breath, is electing you.

I’m not sure what is more disturbing —- the fact that you actually made the remarks or the fact that there was an audience applauding as you did.  You said, and I quote:

“I don’t care how sick you are…”

“It’s over.”

“You’ve received the worst possible prognosis…”

“Hang around!  Get out & vote!”

Terminally ill people don’t “hang around”.  They attempt to cherish every last moment with their families & friends while trying to stay coherent & fight the pain.  They won’t be thinking of voting, Mr. Trump, and they won’t be thinking of you.  I realize the kind of people you surround yourself with.  They will make excuses for your inexcusable behavior & demean Hillary in response.  They will spout some bullshit about how you’re going to make America great again.  Mr. Trump, the America I live in is great right now.  It’s great because of citizens who are compassionate & care for their fellow citizens, terminal & living & not because of narcissistic bigots like you.

But I can promise you, Mr. Trump, as a relatively healthy person, that in November, I WILL get out and vote.


Noelle Buttry

(Note:  I would have included the video, but does he really need anymore airtime?)

TCU v. Arkansas: Where To Eat & What To Do



Amon G. Carter Stadium, Texas Christian University, Ft. Worth, TX

This weekend TCU and Arkansas meet in Fort Worth for the first time since 1991, when they were Southwest Conference rivals.  Coaches Gary Patterson & Bret Bielema have faced each other before in 2011’s Rose Bowl, which ended with the Frogs victorious over Wisconsin & sealed a perfect season for the Frogs & future NFL QB, Andy Dalton.  I’ll be rooting for the Frogs since my daughter is a senior at TCU, but I’ve lived in Arkansas for 20 years so any victory will be a little bittersweet.  Unfortunately, my family will not be able to attend because the following weekend is Parent’s Weekend & we will be there rooting for the Frogs against Iowa State.  However, I’m sure there are a lot of Razorbacks heading down I-30 to Fort Worth this coming weekend and I thought I would share some of my favorite places to eat, drink and hang out when we’re in Fort Worth, Texas.

I have heard several radio personalities mention Joe T. Garcia’s (2201 N. Commerce St.) as a place to include on your culinary tour of Ft. Worth and they are not wrong.  Joe T’s serves two things:  fajitas & enchiladas.  Don’t let that deter you from eating there.  There are numerous sides, great salsa and the tastiest margaritas.  Order a pitcher – you won’t be sorry.  In addition to the food, the restaurant itself is a visual treat with fountains, gardens and a sprawling outdoor seating area.  On weekend nights, prepare to wait.  In fact, no matter what meal you choose to eat there, I would recommend arriving as early as possible.  Parking is a challenge at times so I highly recommend an Uber to & from.  Joe T’s is located in the Stockyards and if you have time, it’s a really fun area to explore.  Each day at 11:30 & 4:00 real Texas cowboys will drive a herd of Texas Longhorns down the main drag. You can even attend Cowboy Church, if you’re still around on Sunday.


The Stockyards, Ft. Worth, TX

Other places to eat in the Stockyards that I can recommend are Riscky’s BBQ (140 E. Exchange Ave.), Love Shack (burgers by Ft. Worth chef Tim Love – 110 E. Exchange Ave), and Lonesome Dove Western Bistro (a more upscale eatery from Chef Love-2406 N. Main St.).


Woodshed Smokehouse, Ft. Worth, TX

If you’d like to stay closer to the TCU campus, there are several options for good food.  My favorite is Woodshed Smokehouse (3201 Riverfront Dr.), another Tim Love creation.  It’s barbecue like I’ve never had.  Very interesting flavors, great sides and the atmosphere can’t be beat.  It sits on the banks of the Trinity River and has both indoor and outdoor seating.  Parking is a challenge so take advantage of the valet.  Game day will be crazy at the Woodshed but it’s definitely worth it and you can have a cold beer while you wait.


Down the road a bit is Torchy’s Tacos (928 Northton St.).  This chain is taking Texas by storm.  Great food, excellent queso & good service.  You can choose from a LONG list of tacos, including the Democrat & the Republican, but I highly recommend the Fried Avocado.  My daughter would tell you to get the Trailer Park and make it “trashy”.  It’s ALL good though.  The line will be long but amazingly by the time we order, someone has always vacated a table & we sit right down.  They also serve alcohol and there is outdoor seating as well as indoor so if it’s crowded inside, just go out the back door and there are picnic tables outside.

If you’re just feeling like a sandwich, but a darn good one, try East Hampton Sandwich Co. (1605 S University Dr.).  I HIGHLY recommend the Meyer Lemon Chicken Sandwich.  It’s truly my favorite sandwich ever, but many people swear by the Lobster Roll too.  It’s rare for me to leave the Fort without hitting East Hampton.  I’ve even been known to put one in a cooler and bring home when we don’t have time to eat there.

Kincaid’s Hamburgers, Ft. Worth, TX

Feeling like a burger and a shake?  Try the original location of Kincaid’s (4901 Camp Bowie Blvd.) in a charming, older section of Ft. Worth, complete with cobblestone streets.  It’s located in an old grocery store.  The burgers are old-fashioned & the shakes are thick & tasty.

Paris Coffee Shop, Magnolia District, Ft. Worth, TX

Breakfast/brunch options are plentiful in Fort Worth.  In the historic Magnolia District, not too far from TCU, you’ll find a classic diner, Paris Coffee Shop (704 W. Magnolia Ave.).  You won’t find much here reminiscent of Paris but you will find a good breakfast and a lot of locals.  Occasionally, even a few cowboys.  Closer to the University, McKinley’s Bakery (1616 S. University – Suite 301) serves up not only a delicious array of baked goods & pastries but one of my favorite breakfasts in Fort Worth, the “paleo breakfast”, which consists of bacon & eggs, avocado and a bowl of the freshest berries.  If your hotel is downtown near Sundance Square there are two great brunch spots I have dined at, Bird Cafe (155 E. 4th St.), which has both excellent food and great atmosphere, and Taverna (450 Throckmorton St.), which is good for any meal but serves a rich, delicious Vanilla French Toast that I sometimes crave.


Sundance Square, Ft. Worth, TX

If you’re there on Friday evening and want a great steak, as many visitors to Texas do, I can recommend the following restaurants:  Grace (777 Main St.) – upscale modern cuisine & huge wine list.  Bob’s Steak & Chop House (1300 Houston St. – inside the Omni Hotel) – just good steak and potatoes with their signature carrot, too.  Capital Grille (800 Main St. – no connection to Capital Grill in LR) – excellent steaks and seafood in a classic, upscale atmosphere. We had Thanksgiving Dinner here last year & it was REALLY good.  Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse (812 Main St.) – steaks and seafood in an upscale atmosphere, downtown Ft. Worth.  If sushi is your thing, try Blue Sushi Sake Grill (3131 W. 7th).  It’s good food, beautifully presented.  If you’re in the mood, have a fishbowl drink with a friend.  You can also try a “TCU Tower” (sushi), unless you’re an Arkansas fan & don’t want to curse yourself.  This restaurant is right on the edge of the Cultural District and West 7th area, which is also a fun area to explore with three world-class museums: The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth,  The Kimball Museum and  Amon G. Carter Museum of American Art.  If you have extra time on Saturday, you can visit one of these museums and you’re still just down the road from TCU, when game time rolls around.


The Kimball Museum, Ft. Worth, TX

Enjoy your stay in Ft. Worth.  We feel so thankful that we have been able to explore & enjoy both the city and it’s people for the past four years.  You’ll have a great weekend & hopefully if your team loses, at least you’ll have eaten well.  If they win, you’ll have the best of both worlds.




Family & friends will undoubtedly laugh for a few minutes when they see that *I* am writing a piece on patience.  It’s not something I’m known for in my personal life.  In my professional career, as a photographer, I often hear “You are so PATIENT!” when I’m photographing a newborn who doesn’t want to go to sleep or a toddler who needed to go to sleep about two hours prior. That’s entirely different though, because I’m being paid to be patient.  My kids are just supposed to do what I ask, right?  They are now 20, 15 and 13 and if I could do it over I would be so much more patient, but wisdom comes with age and I fear that ship might have sailed.  That, however, is not really the kind of patience that I’ve been thinking about lately.  It’s a far different form & in this respect, I think that Chuck and I are doing just fine.

Have you noticed lately the pressure that people put on kids to get it right and get it right early in life?  The pressure comes from grandparents, teachers, coaches, other parents and yes, sometimes us.  My generation wants to raise children who are socially-conscious, philanthropic, mannerly, gifted, good readers, musicians, scientists, engineers, doctors and good LORD, healthy eaters —  in a nutshell, “successes in the eyes of adults”, but they want visible evidence of this at age 6 or 8 or 12. (I fear one day I’ll be reading about kids taking the ACT in kindergarten “just to see if little Johnny gets any right!”)  Grandparents want all of this because how our kids turn out is generally construed to be a reflection of how they parented us. Besides being utter bullshit, that’s just so irrelevant in the grand scheme of life.  I’d like to present some examples of ways we can just CHILL, lead by example & let our offspring come to conclusions that make them better humans on their own.

A few years ago my daughter was faulted for not sending a thank you note (within a week, no less) after receiving a generous gift.  Never mind, she was present and thanked the giver when she received it and never mind that she was leaving on a 5-day vacation the next morning.  She was “ungrateful.”  This year she went on a trip of a lifetime to Scotland to see one of her best friends and more than once I got comments like, “I hope she knows how fortunate she is” or “I hope she thanked you for that”. I have endured many years of snide comments from grandparents about my children being unappreciative or “not living in the real world” because they didn’t immediately express thanks without prompting.  Please tell me what child lives in the real world.  They’re dressed as Batman and Elsa, for God’s sake.  That’s what childhood is.  I guarantee you I didn’t send out any handwritten thank you notes without my elders lording it over me.  And I can damn sure say my grandma never instituted “manners lessons” as part of sleepovers.  Don’t misunderstand me.  We should teach our children manners and respect and ask them to write thank yous but the most important job that we have as parents is being the example of what to do.  We should thank them for things they do and show appreciation of and respect for them.  They should see US writing thank you notes (not FOR them; our own)! If we do that, treat them with a modicum of respect (& fight the urge to call them ingrates) and we are PATIENT, then it will pay off and as adults, they will be the mannerly, respectful humans we want.

My children never had a party where everyone brought something for charity and we took pictures and facebooked it and reveled in the fact that we were raising perfect, socially-conscious humans.  They had normal birthday parties with cake (sugar & gluten!) and hot dogs (preservative and nitrate-filled, even!) & they received gifts because, guess what?  IT WAS THEIR SPECIAL DAY.  No one died, no animals were injured (well, except for the hot dogs) & so far they don’t have criminal records.  When my kids were small my mom would collect blankets and fruit and take the kids around downtown to pass them out to the homeless during the holidays.  I was dragged along on many occasions & what was intended to be a lesson in giving generally resulted in what felt more like being held hostage by a tv preacher.  Once it was forced upon the kids as a tradition and requirement, it lost its appeal.  She cannot grasp what went wrong, but it simply became forced.  We have done several things throughout the years to show our children it’s important to give.  I always give when homeless people ask, no matter what I might think their circumstances are (because they have less than we do) and we most always adopt a family at Christmas.  These are things that children can see & learn from without feeling like something is being shoved down their throats.  I have strong feelings about littering so my three were always made to pick up after themselves at the ballpark or swimming pool.  I hope they take this lesson into their elder years and I am being patient but there is no need to go out and adopt a damn mile of highway and put their name on a sign to influence them to respect their surroundings & give ourselves glory in the process. 

The impetus for thinking about all of this was my daughter’s resurrected love of reading.  At the elementary school they attended, my kids participated in the accelerated reader program which is not a bad thing in theory but for a period of time all I heard, especially from one of my son’s teachers, was “They must read!  Early and often!  Twenty minutes a night AT LEAST!  If they don’t read now they will never read!  Oh, but they have to read stuff on this list, that’s at their level….” Yeah.  Notsomuch a way to get a boy to read.  (I shouldn’t even GO to the time Wyatt’s teacher asked if he had read any Judy Blume.  Apparently “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret” was on his level and I’m sure nothing excites a 3rd grade boy about reading like learning what it’s like to start his period.  SERIOUSLY.)  I digress.  As my kids grew, electronics became more popular and they never really became the voracious readers I had hoped for.  It was delightful to see my daughter enjoying a rekindled interest in reading and acquiring books. What worked was being a reader myself, surrounding her with books and yes, patience.

A similar thing happened with my son and baseball.  In the fall of 2014, he wanted to quit.  I know – I’ve heard it all:  “Quitters never win!  He’ll never go back!  He’ll lose his ability!”  (At 12?  Washed up?) I convinced my husband it was OK to let him quit.  He sat out two seasons.  He rarely mentioned baseball.  But this spring, three days before tryouts for the Babe Ruth league, he announced he would like to try out.  He made the team and he’s so into his fantasy baseball team right now it’s almost funny.  We didn’t pressure him, we didn’t beg him and we were patient.  He just had to come to the conclusion he was wasting talent ON HIS OWN.  And if he hadn’t decided to come back, would the world have stopped turning? 

So my challenge to you is to force less, lead more by example and be patient.  Let’s stop trying to create perfect humans.  Let’s let go of a little control and let them have some idle time if need be.  Let them be treated like a queen or king on their birthday.  And let’s not discourage them by labeling them as lazy, phone-obsessed, ingrates when you aren’t given the praise you think you deserve.  I can tell you that the reward you get from seeing kids decide things on their own is so much greater.

The End of Absence

I recently decided to add a new regular feature to WriteCreateClick by sharing  books that have positively impacted my life or motivated me to change some aspect of how I choose to live it. After all, if it helps me, why not share it with others?   As I type this, I realize I’m more than open to suggestions on books that help one deal with life with a neurotic rescue dog who is fearful of cats, squirrels, birds, rain, delivery men, wind & pumpkins. Yes, pumpkins. Today it happens to be the meter reader.  Life is indeed an adventure with Apollo!  Somedays it’s a bit more than I can handle:-)  I digress…

The first book I would like to highlight is The End of Absence by Michael Harris.

UnknownThis book caught my eye while I was waiting in line to check out at Barnes & Noble.  Having children who love computers, iPhones and iPads, I have developed a somewhat unrelenting concern with how these devices are affecting their world:  the relationship they have with me & their friends, their social skills, their manners, their education, their creativity, etc.  The opening sentences on the book jacket read:

“Soon enough, nobody will remember life before the Internet.  What does this unavoidable fact mean?”

My generation will remember life before.  We know what it was like to experience living without constantly being connected.  Some of us, and most certainly myself, still have that longing to unplug and seek solitude away from texts, e-mails, Facebook, Instagram, and even the ringing of the phone, which although not a new annoyance, is now an annoyance that follows you everywhere – the beach, the car, the beauty salon, the cruise ship, the dinner out – and isn’t just an issue in our home (where we no longer even have a land line).

I have attempted to discuss these issues and how we should deal with it on Facebook and like most attempts at Facebook discussions, I generally get self-righteous advice from people telling me that it’s in my control & not really an issue at all.  “Take their devices!”  “Make them go outside.”  “My son never has too much screen time because *I* limit it.”  But these people are missing the point.  No matter how perfectly they think they are parenting, the influences and pressures and risks our kids face being online and constantly connected are not going away just because you limit their time and {think you} are in control.  You cannot change the fact that they will never know life before these devices came along.

It has been a long time since I have read a book where I felt the need to grab a highlighter and highlight passages that inspire me and contain information that I find brilliant or important enough to want to refer back to often.  This book made me do that.  I will warn you that it’s a somewhat intellectual, scholarly-type text.  But it’s so thought-provoking that I fully intend to re-read it soon. Mr. Harris’ concern with future generations being able to experience lack, absence, & dropping out of the daily electronic grind, if only for a short while, is a key theme in the book.

Here are just a few of the passages I highlighted:

“Despite the universality of this change, which we’re all buffeted by, there is a single, seemingly small change that I’ll be most sorry about. It will sound meaningless, but:  One doesn’t see teenagers staring into space anymore. Gone is the idle mind of the adolescent.”

“This is the problem with losing lack:  It’s nearly impossible to recall its value once it is gone.”

“The smartphone itself is a far, far safer friend than a messy, unpredictable human.”

“If we maintain that cognizance of the difference between an online life and an offline life, we can choose to enjoy both worlds and move between them as we wish.”

In the end, Mr. Harris urges to to look away from our devices more often and experience absence and solitude.  I put down this book feeling very, very grateful that I am part of the generation that has the experience of living both pre and post-internet.  He most certainly wrote a book that needed to be written.  Although you may feel it’s slow in parts due to the fact that it sometimes reads like a college thesis, just persevere and in the end I think you will come away better educated and informed about the world we find ourselves living in.



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A Good Man Gone….

Mr. "Bud" Shell

Mr. “Bud” Shell

I grew up in the bootheel of Missouri – endless rows of rice, soybeans, cotton and corn with towns interspersed here and there. There wasn’t a whole lot to do on the weekend during our teen years.  The normal Saturday night involved grabbing a bite to eat (at the Hickory Log if it was a first date, Sonic or McDonald’s if you were single or had been an item for awhile) and hitting the Dexter Twin Cinema for your choice of whatever two movies were playing.  After the movie ended, you had to get creative.  Some people went “parking”, some gathered on parking lots to hang out & I often ended up at Bud Shell Ford.  Yep, a car dealership.  Way back in the eighties you could drive through the car lots at night and check out the cars.  I don’t think I missed too many weekends of seeing what Bud had on the lot.  A new Thunderbird?  A Mustang? A convertible Mustang?  The newest, most luxurious Lincoln, with keyless entry on the door?  SUVs weren’t a big thing yet but you could always buy a new Ford Aerostar if you needed room for the family.  We would pull in and explore the lot like it was an amusement park.  ONE of us – I’m looking at you, Michael Hurley – may have occasionally changed his wiper blades out with ones from a new car, but I’ll never tell.  My dad, Norm, had a great relationship with Mr. Shell since Norm always, and I mean ALWAYS, drove a Lincoln.  I knew if my dream of having my own car ever came true, I would likely drive it off of this lot. I had, by this time, lowered my 5th grade expectations of getting a Ferrari like Magnum P.I.  I remember visiting the showroom with my dad when his car was getting serviced and Mr. Shell would stroll through in his Tom Landry-style hat and & ask if Dad wanted to take whatever car he was enamored with at the moment for a spin or even take it back home for the day.  Mr. Shell was a smart businessman and a darn good car dealer.  He knew if my dad took something home that he’d be back the next day to sign the papers. I’d love to know how many car deals Mr. Shell made in his lifetime because the number he made with my dad alone was substantial.

On one of our trips to the dealership, we pulled in and I went immediately to the used section with the sparkly blue & silver pennants,  because I knew that was where any car I ever got would come from.  It would be well-worn & marked way down!  For a while after I turned 16, I borrowed my grandma’s or stepmother’s cars but by this time I was really itching for my own set of wheels.  I couldn’t drive worth shit, but my friends had started getting cars & it was a matter of pride & freedom to a teenager.  Dad had told me he would spend $1200 on my car.  Back in those days, that meant a pre-owned Ford Escort with significant mileage, an AM radio & more than a few dents, so I wasn’t too excited.  On this evening, I remember my laying my eyes on my dream car, right there in the used section at Bud Shell Ford, parked under those sparkly blue & silver pennants.  It was a 1985 Cutlass Supreme – light blue metallic with navy leather top and shiny wire wheel covers.  In my eyes, it was perfection.  Perhaps not a Ferrari but sometimes a kid in Southeast Missouri has to compromise.  I went straight to the sticker to see how much it was —– I knew it was more than $1200.  It was $7500.  Just a little over budget, but less than a Ferrari!  That night, I vowed that somehow, someway, that car would be mine.  In reality though, I thought that car was so beautiful that it would be gone in a couple days.  However, every time I visited the lot for weeks it was there.  I touched it, peered inside it, hoped against all hope that Mr. Shell would somehow lower the price to $1200.  I mean, it didn’t seem to be going anywhere at $7500.  I swear it seemed like that car sat there forever, just waiting for me to drive it home.  Dad would  laugh when I talked about it & remind me that he wasn’t spending over $1200.  Then March came.  The highlight of my year was always attending the Missouri State Beta Convention in St. Louis.  This year was my senior year and I had applied for a scholarship to attend Missouri State University in Springfield.  All the applicants were interviewed at the convention and the winner was announced before we came back home.  I knew college would be a stretch for my dad and I hoped to help him out by getting a scholarship, but this one was a long shot – I wasn’t valedictorian or salutatorian.  In fact, I was ranked 6th.  No one gives full-ride scholarships to people ranked 6th, right?  Except this time they did.  I got that scholarship, which, in 1988 was worth about $25,000.  It covered tuition, room and board, books and later, even a couple dinners a week at the on-campus Pizza Hut.  Dad wasn’t going to have to pay a dime if I kept a 3.5 GPA.  I’ve never been so excited to tell my dad anything.  Because I knew it was going to lift a weight off of him and I knew that now, if by the grace of God it was still there, that car was MINE.  I was sitting in the hallway of the downtown Marriott in St. Louis (now the Hilton) & I called him from the room phone that I had stretched out into the hallway.  I’ll never forget the yell he let out and the pride in his voice.  Then I asked.  “Hey, remember that car I want at Bud Shell?  Think we could go look at it?”  He thought that was a fair deal and the next day we drove to Dexter and Patti, the saleswoman who later became Mr. Shell’s wife, got the keys and took us to my beautiful, blue Cutlass.  I just thought we would sign some papers and leave but this is where I got introduced to the art of the deal.  My dad made an offer.  Mr. Shell countered.  My dad made another.  Mr. Shell followed suit.  He seemed like such a nice man and surely he could see in my eyes that this car meant EVERYTHING to me, right?  Everyone was so serious and all of these numbers were flying around and it got down to my dad offering $6925 and Mr. Shell offering $6975.  My dad said he couldn’t offer more than $6925. Mr. Shell said $6950.  I remember thinking that this was where I would hear “SOLD!”  But my dad wouldn’t budge.  Would not budge.  I felt tears welling up and I remember so distinctly saying to my dad, as my voice cracked, “I’ll pay the $25.00 difference!”  Dad said (& I could have seriously hurt him at this moment), “It’s the principle of the matter.  I’ve made my final offer.”  Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. (Will it help if I cry, I wonder?)  I bit my lip.  It was agonizing.  At that moment, that car might as well have been a Ferrari that came with Tom Selleck because I wanted it so bad.  And then it happened…….”Awww, hell, Patti, sell it to him!”  I could have hugged Mr. Shell.

We won!  I won!  That moment will stay with me forever because right there in that showroom, a dream came true.  I don’t know if Mr. Shell knew what he did that day, but he made me the happiest girl on earth.  It was the first of a few cars I purchased from him before we left the area, but every time I’m home and I find myself at the intersection of Highway 25 and Highway 114, I get a little smile on my face thinking of all the memories I carry with me from that car dealership… first car, my first sports car, my first family car (Taurus wagon) and many nights spent looking at cars with my friends.

I hope you’ll forgive us, Mr. Shell for those wiper blades.  It was Michael.  I swear.

As The Sun Sets On Summer…..

photo-25I’ll be honest. I hate this time of year. Hate it. The pool is closed. The days get shorter. School is in session and homework abounds. I have to wake the kids up early. UGH. I try to look for bright spots, like almost daily stops at the donut shop, time to myself during the day & a daughter who is back at college where she is having fun & not whining that this is the most boring place on Earth. But the bottom line is that I just do not look forward to the school year and winter. This too shall pass. IN MAY.

Where have I been the last several months? Well, I had a simple surgery on March 5th and from there went right into a battle with a BEAST of a kidney stone on April 5th. Suffice it to say that I thought that was never going to end. It did and I’m well now. So what have I done since then?

*spent a weekend at the beautiful Roaring River State Park near Cassville, MO with my husband & his family

*spent a week in Watercolor, FL with my family &  few of my daughter’s friends who came & went throughout the week

*read so many books – Gone Girl, Summer House With Swimming Pool, Sharp Objects, Me Before You, Dad is Fat, All Fall Down, The Wives of Los Alamos, Insane City, Glitter & Glue, The Burgess Boys, Up At Butternut Lake, & The End of Absence 

*completed a few needlework projects

*spent spring break in New Orleans, LA with the boys & Chuck

*spent a day canoeing the Buffalo National River in the mountains of Arkansas with the boys and two of their friends (We live in Little Rock, so it was about a 4 hour drive to Steel’s Landing near Ponca, AR, where we put in.)

*moved my daughter, Ryder, home from Texas Christian University for the summer

*moved Ryder back to TCU for her sophomore year

*spent an awesome weekend in Dallas, TX with Ryder & attended George Strait’s last big tour concert at AT & T Stadium

*spent a lot of time at our neighborhood pool with friends & enjoyed a couple quiet days at our neighbor’s backyard pool while they were on vacation

And so much more that I’m sure I’m forgetting.  Perhaps now that the kids are in school I will have more time to update.  I have several ideas for projects to share on this little corner of the internet and I hope to start sharing some before & after projects as we slowly do a bit of cosmetic work on our 1950’s ranch home.  Thanks a million for bearing with me through the drought!



Chicken Artichoke Casserole

Insanely good chicken artichoke casserole

Insanely good chicken artichoke casserole

It’s been ages since I’ve updated. Right after the last post I was sidelined by my 11th kidney stone. Not fun. It took a month to attempt to pass it, finally have it removed surgically and then recover. I’m back to my old self now and Chuck & I are one a mission to expand or stash of recipes & add a bit of variety to our weekly menus. I found this recipe for Chicken Artichoke Casserole in a magazine & although I’ve never been someone who loves casseroles (or even really liked them at all), the ingredients in this spoke to me and I decided to try it. Very glad I did! It’s not at all hard to prepare and it’s very much like having a nice, creamy artichoke dip for a meal!


2 cups uncooked bowtie pasta
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken (I used breast cutlets & they worked fine.)
1 can (14 oz) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup 2% milk
1 garlic clove, minced (I used the pre-minced from a jar.)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup onion and garlic croutons, coarsely crushed (I used Texas Toast Butter & Garlic because Kroger didn’t have onion & garlic.)
Olive oil for cooking the chicken.

1. I cooked the chicken first by browning it in a few tsp. of olive oil in a skillet. After cooking thoroughly, I cut it into pieces.

2. Cook pasta according to package direction. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, artichokes, soup, cheese, mayonnaise, milk, garlic, onion powder and pepper. Drain pasta; add that to chicken mixture.

3. Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle the top with croutons. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

We ate ours with fresh French bread which I think made it even better!

These three….


These three are my world and I could not be prouder of them.  They are not perfect and I couldn’t be prouder of that either.  Not one of them fits a formula (Straight A-student, star athlete, Rhodes scholar….).  We get compliments all the time on how nice, funny & respectful they are and that is what makes me proud.  Their teachers, administrators and fellow peers seem to adore them and that’s important to me.  More important than perfect grades, scholarships and accolades.  I want them to grow up to be what they want to be.  We know more and more people lately who will only finance their kids’ college educations if they follow the plans they think will produce a lucrative job at the end of the line – medicine, law, nursing, accounting, engineering, physical therapy, teaching……..Wouldn’t the world be interesting if those were the only professions we had to choose from?  Next time you take in a movie, think of how exciting it would be if Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese were all partners in a law firm.  The next time you get your hair done, think of how you’d look if your favorite stylist thought nursing was her only option.  Last year on our family vacation, while paddling in the middle of a lake, I thought, “Wow, thank God someone used their imagination and came up with the Yolo Board!”  It takes all kinds.  And it takes all sorts of interests and passions to make this wonderful thing we call a world go around.

I have a theory that there would be many more creative people if not for the expectations of their parents and grandparents.  We are experiencing this in our own life right now, both good and bad.  My dad loves my kids completely unconditionally.  He loves that they are caring, unique individuals with diverse interests in life. Sometimes I wish he would teach a course on how to love unconditionally.  It’s not all about having an arsenal of brag fodder. Some say,  “How are their grades?  What?  Not straight A’s??”  “He wants to be a director? Good luck with that.”  “He’ll never be an athlete if he doesn’t eat better or practice more!”  And to this I simply say, “Are you serious???”

I look at my three children and I see bravery in my girl,  the one that broke from the pack and went off to a university where she had no close friends.  She sought out and got a job without being told to when we told her we couldn’t squeeze any more out of our budget to help her with expenses.  She works hard and she makes us proud.  She has always chosen good friends who help round out her life.  She has endured people erronously thinking she has an illness, for God’s sake, with grace and dignity.  She travels the world with little or no fear, once with two broken toes, and drinks in life fully with every breath.  I have no doubt she will succeed in life.

I look at my middle child, the free spirit, the one people find hilariously funny…..and I see great things in his future.  At his old school, he was routinely dismissed as not paying attention, not giving it his all, sometimes being a pain…..  At his new school, he is embraced.  They find him hilarious and go out of their way to find things that will interest him and use his abilities for a greater good.  He has found a sweet spot in drama and improv and he has developed a heart that makes me proud.  On a recent trip to New Orleans, his dad had given both he and his brother $20 to spend.  Over dinner, Wyatt asked if it would be ok if he gave his $20 to the struggling musician with the loyal dog curled up beside him.  I’ll take that over “straight A’s” any day.  I love that at his new school, on many occasions, teachers and administrators have told me, “We don’t know what he’s going to do with his life but we know it will be something successful that we will all remember.”  I believe that too.

I look at my youngest.  My shy one, my introvert.  He’s talented at many things, including baseball and cooking.  He’s got an eagerness to learn that is admirable and an eagerness to make his money grow that I still do not have🙂 His attention to detail on projects can be both impressive and frustrating!  In many ways, parenting him  is my biggest challenge because I take for granted that he’s fairly outgoing like me when he’s actually much shyer and more withdrawn that even HE projects to others.   He played basketball for his school this year and gave it his all.  No matter what the sport, he’s so fun to watch.  I admire that he is generally over a loss by the time he’s off the court or in the car.  He likes to have fun and he is good with kids younger than he is.  He is funny too.  All three seem to have that gene.

What’s not to be proud of?  Why would I need straight-A’s?  Have I told you all how much I hate that phrase?  I’ll say it again.  I hate hearing how your kid has straight-A’s.  Would you like to know why?  I’ll tell you anyway.  In many instances, those straight-A’s result from pressure from parents and the fear of failure they’ve instilled, whether conscious or not.  I hate that phrase the way I hate “gifted and talented” programs, though all my kids took part in them at some time or another, with very little benefit.  Take a kid who is naturally gifted at playing concert violin but has a 2.9 GPA.  Is he not gifted and talented?  Or is he talented but not gifted?  WTF does that phrase even MEAN?  What about a child who starts a charity to collect shoes for the needy and helps more people than many adults his age but struggled terribly in history and science and only graduated with a 2.5?  Does he have nothing to offer this world?  People, we are setting kids up for failure when we make them believe they are only worthy if they get into the best schools, have a high starting salary upon graduation and have to reward their parents & grandparents with a long string of successes to brag about.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s no mystery to me that there is a rash of suicides today among teens and young adults.

I feel qualified to speak on this issue because for a long time I was one of those kids.  No, I wasn’t suicidal, but I was a high school kid who had a grandparent who talked about me like I was perfect.  I did make good grades.  I excelled in music.  At one point I was the top student in my class, and then the 2nd and then the 3rd and by graduation, the 6th.  Why?  Because I grew weary of having to keep up the facade of being perfect.  I really didn’t think it would affect my lot in life and it hasn’t.  I do what I love now.  I am a mom, a wife and a photographer, who takes images that hopefully have a positive effect on my subjects, whether I’m photographing a new baby, an engaged couple, a senior in high school or a beautiful woman.  I don’t make a fortune.  I don’t even promote myself much, if truth be known, because I’m lucky enough to be in a situation where I can pick and choose my work.  I’m not a perfect wife or mother by any means, but I think I’m happy.  I have my days, don’t get me wrong, when I consider hanging it up and fleeing for the nearest secluded beach.  But overall, I’ve got it good.  Would I be happier as a hotshot LA attorney with a degree from Stanford?  I doubt it.  Actually I can pretty much guarantee it.

What I do know for sure is that the person who affected my life the most was the one who supported me no matter what I chose or how I failed and not the one who expected me to be perfect.  Which one are you?

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A favorite memory - riding the ferris wheel each year with my dad...

A favorite memory – riding the ferris wheel each year with my dad…

My dad used to constantly tell me, “I may not always agree with your decisions, but I’ll always be here for you & I’ll still love you no matter what happens.”  Now that I am a parent of three children with distinctly different personalities, I realize how brave – how EXTREMELY BRAVE – that was.  At the heart of that statement, I now know, was a bold faith.  He was confident in his faith that I was intelligent & would choose wisely.  I didn’t always make the right decisions but I’m alright – educated, happy and content – & I think he always had faith that I would be.  How in the WORLD he kept this unwavering faith in me through the early teen years is beyond me.  Jack Daniels, maybe?  I love my three with the deepest emotion and intensity that one can muster.  Somewhere, buried in my heart, I know that same faith exists.  In those moments when they are just TRYING the last vestige of patience that is hiding in a remote corner of my soul by not turning in homework, forgetting tests, or talking back, I long to have been given some sort of warning when they were born.  “This one’s a Level 5!  Take cover! In a therapist’s office, if possible!” or “This one, a level 2,  will cause some waves, but you will easily ride it out.” Something….anything…. I often tell people if I ever host another baby shower I will order a cake that says, “Get ready. Your life is about to be turned completely upside down & any confidence you had in your ability to lead will be shattered.  But CONGRATULATIONS!”  Had I been warned, instead of childproofing with cute outlet plugs I would have barred the windows, intensely researched the best therapist instead of pediatrician and had a locksmith put locks on the OUTSIDE of their doors.  (Kidding……sort of.) I made it through these stages with my firstborn, a spirited, outgoing, FUNNY, beautiful daughter.  In college now, she amazes me all the time.  She is someday going to be living on her own, continuing to make me proud & we will barely remember we had to wrap our arms around her tightly in the car to keep her screaming, writhing self from jumping out the door of our 95 Geo Prizm on the way to school because the socks she wanted were not clean.  The drama that ensued when her dad lost her Halloween wig right before Halloween night rolled around will be but a distant memory.  When you’re opening that Diaper Genie you considered essential and smiling between bites of cake, no one will tell you how hard it is, but you too will survive.

We are left with two boys at home.  They are REALLY making me question where my dad found that faith.  He tells me they’ll be fine.  Not only did he have faith in me, but he has it in my kids.  He is the epitome of unconditional love & has never expected them to be anything more than what they are.  That’s a fine example to have and I struggle daily to live up to it.  When one of my kids forgets to turn in a 50 pt. assignment, or gets a speeding ticket, or comes home with one shoe because the other had been taped to his locker by the teacher & he just didn’t notice it, I usually hang my head in prayer.  “God, help me.”  I now understand why my grandma, who I grew up with, would look at the sky sometimes & simply say, “Strength.”  It used to seem odd to me but I get it now.  Oh, Lord, do I get it!

“Strength! (looking skyward) Strength!  And if possible, a little faith.  And thanks.”

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Why Our Son Is Leaving Baseball….At Least For Now


“You CAN’T let him quit!”

“You’re teaching him it’s ok to be a quitter!”

“He’s got potential!  Why would you not foster that?”

“You’re letting your kid be in charge!  I’D teach that kid to get down to that baseball park and play!”

“You’re not teaching him to be a team player!”

“If he quits now, he’ll never play again!”  

“He’ll never make the pros if he quits now!”

I’ve heard it ALL.  Our son started playing baseball when he was in what they call the “rookie” league.  I think they’re 6-7 at that age.  He liked it “ok”.  He sat out a season because he was bored & just didn’t like it.  We let him.  He was, after all, 7 years old.  The next summer he really got into playing catch with his dad and watching the Cardinals play.  It lit a fire in him.  He was inspired and he was ready to get back at it.  He wanted to play again and we encouraged him every step of the way.  He showed potential to be good. His love of the game bordered on obsession, but in a positive way.  At the next level of baseball, you get “drafted”.  Yes, at 9 years of age, you try out in front of prospective coaches and some get chosen and some don’t. (Eyeroll.) We felt very lucky and happy that our son was chosen to be on a team in the “Cal Ripken” league, yet a bit apprehensive as to what we might be entering into.  Cal Ripken is a four-year commitment.  It is four years of baseball with the SAME team, moving up from single A competition and ending with AAA competition, before you graduate from that and try out for the Babe Ruth league.  Four years with the same team.  Theoretically, four years with the same coaches and same players.   We loved the coach who drafted him and most importantly, our son loved the coach.  From outward appearances, you might not think our son is introverted.  In fact, he’s extremely introverted.  Shy.  Observant.  One of those kids who sits quietly and takes everything in while not making a sound.  He’s analytical.  He’s a perfectionist, in some ways to a fault.  He’s got a lot of his mom in him.  If you get on his nerves, he’s likely not to give you the time of day.  Yet, if someone reaches out and makes a connection and shows that they want to get him on a personal level, he will let you in wholeheartedly.   He’s got a lot of his dad in him in that he’s shy but people sometimes mistake that for being rude or snobbish.  (After birthing two extroverted children, this has been somewhat of a change for us, but it’s HIM and we love him & we are slowly learning to adjust to this.)   Our son’s first “Cal Ripken” coach made a connection with him, taught him well and continued to inspire his love of the game.  He seemed to “get” him and that important connection was made.  For unfair reasons I won’t go into here, that coach was let go and we were thrust swiftly into the world of the nasty politics of youth baseball.  It wasn’t pretty.  We were in limbo.  Did he even have a team?  Then he got a new coach.  After a while, that coach started to make a connection with him.  He began to get over the disappointment of losing the coach he loved and continued to play.  It was a bit hard because there was now a rift in our team.  Some left. Some stayed.  It wasn’t his old team.  He eventually began to relish his role as a leader, being one of the oldest (& certainly the tallest!)  on the single A team and wanted to keep playing.  And then that coach left to form a traveling baseball team.  So we were in limbo again.  At this point in time, I saw my son slowly begin to lose his love for the sport.  He had also switched schools at this time and started to develop a love of basketball.  He’s eleven at this point & I feel strongly that no child should have to choose one sport to focus on at eleven.   Although they may think they do, most kids have no clue what they want to focus on, in sports or life in general, at age eleven.  After a long wait, we finally learned that our second team would be disbanded and the kids would be farmed out to other teams based on the needs of coaches while trying to take into consideration which teams the parents would prefer their child be on.  So, yet another change.  At this point, my husband and I made a huge mistake.  We thought we were doing the right thing.  We thought he should be on a team with a coach who had no dog in the fight (he’s been at the park for decades and has grown children) and who would have no desire to leave the ballpark & join the world of travel ball.  Our son had asked to be put on a couple of teams where he had friends, and yet we chose to put the coach of our choice first.  Parents know best, right?  Not always.  Add this to my list of regrets.  We viewed stability as the most important factor at this point, forgetting he was just eleven and the most important factor was fun and a sense of being part of a team.  Although this third coach was a wonderful coach and improved our son’s batting average, tremendously, he’s just not a coach who tries to form a connection with his players.  Or parents.  I think he said 5 words to me the entire time he coached my son.  He’s more of a manager in some ways, leaving much of the coaching to his “staff”.  This is fine for some people but when you couple this lack of connection with the coach with the fact that we took a totally introverted kid and put him on a team where he had absolutely no friends, it was a recipe for disaster.  By now, he was completely tired of being moved around.  And although he was on a team of mostly nice and welcoming boys, that team feeling just never, ever came.  I’m proud of him for playing one spring season with this new coach and giving his pitching and his new position in the infield his all.  I’m proud of him for enduring heckling by one horrid dad who constantly yelled at him when he didn’t pitch perfectly or missed a ball at shortstop.  (I’m proud of me for enduring that dad also.)  I’m very grateful to my son for the opportunity to stare into the storm that is youth baseball and see it for the ugliness that it’s become.  He may want to play again someday and I laugh at the people who say he will never be able to.  It IS true that it’s hard to compete with the kids whose parents insist they play year-round, get the extra pitching and batting lessons, have them train with weights,  drive them all over the country and basically try to produce a college-level or professional athlete.  Guess what?  In 99.99999% of cases, this isn’t going to work and your child is either going to end up with damaged muscles, lost opportunities in other areas of life or really the chance to just be a kid. (I know, I know – your child WANTS to do it.) Parents these days obsessively count the number of pitches their kids are throwing. AT ELEVEN!  Some kids on travel teams are simply commodities to these coaches who use them to win tournament after tournament or the ultimate goal, a trip to the “World Series”, which is actually one of many, many “World Series” held each year for youth baseball leagues.  Youth baseball has become a money sport. Sad, but true.  I had parents come to my son’s games to watch how he was doing and relish the games in which he didn’t do so well.  Sportsmanship in many of today’s parents is deplorable.  If it’s hard for adults to take, imagine being a kid out on the field.  Embarrassing at the least.  I ran into a parent the other day whose kid was sitting out of sports for a few weeks due to a stress fracture in his back.  She said it was due to too much intense football, basketball and baseball.  AT ELEVEN!  It’s disturbing what we are doing to our children these days when it comes to athletics.  They don’t have to do it all and they shouldn’t do it all.  I tell my son, if you want to play again someday, you’ll find a way to play.  A professional baseball player once watched him pitch and told him, “Someday you’ll be a great pitcher.”  In our minds, that seems awesome.  A professional baseball player??  But what if that’s not what he wants to be. I was forced to take piano lessons against my will for years.  I played and I played well.  I have not touched a piano since I left for college.  Someday I might want to, but it certainly wasn’t going to be for me what my grandmother hoped because it wasn’t MY dream.  Think twice about what you’re asking of your kid.  If your kid wants to play three competitive sports at once, be the adult.  Tell him no.  Teach him to make decisions and prioritize.  And ask yourselves, “Am I in this for my child or the kudos I’ll receive when he excels?”  I say this because I know for a fact that you just might destroy your child in the process and I refuse to be this kind of parent.   At eleven, they’re kids, not athletes.  I will miss seeing that boy on the mound.  I will miss watching the fierce determination inside him become visible in his eyes as he releases that pitch.  And I will miss him sliding into home.  I will miss so much.  But I don’t want to be “that” parent. If he ever decides to pursue a sport with all of his heart again, I will be there to support him and help guide him, but for now he’s retiring his cleats.  And that’s OK.

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