I take great joy in observing life. I spend a lot of time pondering my observations. So, one day I thought I would write them down. These are my ponderings. -dana

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fifty-Six Years.

For thirty-four of his birthdays, I have been married to my guy, with today being the most recent one.  

I always feel kind of sorry for December birthday holders because they tend to get lost in the shuffle.  Todd's birthday hits every year right on the tails of Thanksgiving which is just about the time I'm gearing up for the fun of Christmas decorating.  Of course that doesn't happen without his help.  Okay, it could, but why should it? Still, it's his birthday.

Wait, I tell myself.  Give the old fellow a break.  It's just one day, I reiterate to myself.

For all these thirty-four years, he just rolls with it.  

The late birthday cards.

The trying to "work in" a family celebration around everyone's holiday schedules.

The late-night phone calls from dear ones who almost forgot.

The next-day phone calls from dear ones who did forget.

'Tis the season.  Such is the life of one born in December.  On a platter of holiday favorites like succulent roasted turkey and honey-glazed ham, a December birthday person must feel kind of like a piece of bologna. 

To all you December people, I write on behalf of the rest of us.

We're sorry.

You are good.  You are kind.  You are important. 


A few days ago, I woke up to an empty house and a hot pot of coffee waiting for me.  Todd had left early for work that day, and of course because of the whole "He-brews" thing which he's passionate about, he made the coffee before he left.

In the fridge was my cup, with my perfectly measured out, weight-watchers approved amount of cream.  I retrieved it, filled it with coffee and headed to the chair to sit down with no real thanksgiving for this man who cares for me so well in all the little ways.  Sometimes I can be such a "taker". 

Take, take, take.

That said, though, without us "takers" what would the "givers" do?  I'm just doing my part to keep it all spinning, you know? Keeping the balance of things. 

Anyway.  On that particular morning, God wanted me to see something. Something that has been so present and consistent in most all the years of our marriage that I've taken to overlooking it. Mostly I just dust around it.

There on the coffee table. Next to books with the kids' wedding pictures and a bowl of driftwood from a recent trip.  His old worn bible and his reading glasses. 

On December 2, 1960, my husband entered this life.  Though I don't pretend to understand how matters of the heart work, one day this December birthday boy thought we could make a go of it, I agreed, and so we did. And so we have.

I think he's always taken better care of me than I have taken care of him. Because I'm a taker.  Remember?

This man has consistently cared for me and our kids in the very best way. No matter the circumstance, he has never failed to point us to God.  Never once that I can think of.  Surely to goodness you know (or if you don't I will tell you)--he. isn't. perfect.  

Oh let me count the ways!

But isn't that the point of Christ?  He runs to the rescue of imperfect people. And those imperfect people, if they will become transparent for a bit, can say "Look there!  Can't you see it, man?  There is hope.  And love.  Even for the likes of me!"  

Nothing has pointed me to Christ more in my life than seeing my imperfect husband on his knees in a dark room pleading to God. Nothing.

We are weak, people.  We are imperfect and broken in ways we can't even see. 

I wonder how many times Todd has looked at me and said "just trust". Too many times to count. I wonder how many times he's told our kids the same.  Those words, coming from him, have weight I tell you. Rolled into those words is a life of firsthand experiences in the cycle of brokenness that demanded trust that culminated in seeing God's faithfulness.  Over and over again. I know there have been times when he's pointed me to God's word on a subject and I've turned a blind eye and a deaf ear. Pride, I guess.

Still, all the while, the bible and the glasses were there. Always a constant in my life with him.

On that morning a few days ago I saw them and they meant something to me. They reminded me of my man's constant love for me when I am unloveable. They reminded me of his constant love for our kids. For our friends. And most of all they reminded me of his unmoving devotion to God. 

Today I celebrate the most selfless joy-filled giver I know.  Today I'm remembering all the ways his life is a gift to me. 

Happy Birthday Todd.

Enjoy it!  Because tomorrow? We're decking the halls!

And one more thing.

Today, "I" brewed. I mean, with it being his birthday and all.

Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, "You owe me".  Look what happens with a love like that.  It lights the whole sky.  -Hafiz

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Layered People

We are all layered people. 

Layered, complex, beautifully afflicted people.

We weren't born that way though—with layers.  We were born naked and innocent and the closest to God’s heart that we would ever be in our lives. 

Immediately the layering began.  We were a daughter or a son.  We had ethnicity. We had a place in a family—a certain position in the pecking order.  Sometimes that family was typical.  Sometimes that family was atypical.  Sometimes the lines between the two seemed skewed because atypical could seem typical if that’s all we ever knew. Sometimes we were loved and adored. Sometimes we were born into a life of the sweetest affection and sometimes we weren't.   Sometimes we were abandoned and sometimes we were found again. Sometimes we were lost forever. Sometimes we were mistreated.  Neglected.  Ignored. We accumulated layer after layer as we assumed our place in the family.  Mostly we didn’t even know it was happening.

So we grew and we layered as if we were preparing for some unforeseen cold. Sometimes we were the golden child and sometimes we couldn't do anything right.  We had peers and sometimes we had friends.  Or we didn’t.  We had acne or we had clear skin.  Sometimes we were bullied because we were chubby.  We had boyfriends and girlfriends, or we didn’t.  We got embarrassed.  We got humiliated.  We got in trouble and sometimes we got rewarded.  We were homecoming queens,  athletes and band kids.  We drank alcohol or we didn’t.  We did drugs or we didn’t.  We slept around or we didn’t. We all got a reputation of some sort.  We were “goodie two-shoes” or we were the “bad kid”.  Or just the kid in the middle of two extremes. 

More layers. 

We graduated high school.  We went to college or we didn’t.  We worked in a high-paying job, a decent job or a minimum wage one.  Or no job at all. We earned prestige with our job title or we didn’t.  Sometimes we were embarrassed by the job we did, but we still did it.  Sometimes we made a load of cash.  Sometimes we required government assistance for a bit.  Sometimes we lived off of government assistance for our whole life.  Sometimes we worked our tails off, and sometimes we were on the lazy side. Sometimes we were happy with our choices.  Sometimes we were unhappy with our choices.  And sometimes we were angry about how life  turned out.  Sometimes we did something about it.  Sometimes we didn’t know what to do about it, so we just stayed there forever.  People we love died.  Or left us in other ways.  Some of us had success followed by failure followed by success.  It was a repeating cycle.  Some of us wanted to be noticed.  Some of us wanted to fade into the background.  Some of us gave everything for others, some of us couldn’t see beyond ourselves.  Some of us learned to lie and some of us wouldn’t consider it.


Some of us married.  Some had happy marriages and some had abusive marriages.  Some had just “meh” marriages.  Some eventually divorced.  Some never married at all—some out of choice and some because time ran out.  Some of us never had kids because we physically couldn’t or because we didn't want them.  But some had babies and became parents, in which case a whole other cycle of fully naked to fully layered started again.

We are all layered people--layered with good stuff and bad stuff that have formed who we are and how we act.  

You and I. 

Some of our layers are lovely and colored beautiful.  Others are ugly with a noticeable stench.

And though we may differ in many ways—even in most ways—in some ways we are the same. Every single man or woman shares some common thing with the next one.  On some level we are the same.   Exactly the same.  And it’s because of that place—that place of “likeness”, that I can show you grace.  If I can find even a single thing we have in common, my heart can become—at least in that space and in that instance—soft toward you.  

If in your journey you are like me, you might have crossed paths with God.  And maybe like me, you have surrendered your life to him.  If so, you know what you are called to.  You can't pretend you don't know.  

You know.  

You know that we are called to love not only the lovable.  We are called to love the unlovable.  All the time.  We don't have to agree.  We just have to love.  It can only happen by extending grace when everything in us says it's crazy to do so.  When everything in us tells us all the reasons we should not.

I started thinking about this last week when I came face to face with a man who used to be a trusted family friend.  Our families broke bread together often, and all the while he was deceitful and evil and a destroyer of innocence toward his own.  He was sick.  When his sickness came to light, I swore I would never have another interaction with him.  Ever.  Even when he came back into my world and I had to pass him on the road or see him from a distance.  He sickened me.  In my heart, though, I knew one day God would make me look at this man again and deal with my disdain for him.  And he did.

When the day came, it was at his workplace.  I didn’t see it coming.  In awkwardness, I ask for the information I needed and tried to make a quick exit.  As I turned my back to leave I heard him speak my name.

Though I wanted to pretend I never heard it and keep going, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn't do it.  So I turned toward him.

I was silent, but he spoke.  He reminded me of a time 15 years ago when I had given him a cd to minister to him. It was a time when I mistakenly believed he was the victim, and not the victimizer. He let me believe it then.  He deceived me and my family and everyone he knew.  But in that face-to-face moment a few days ago, his eyes welled with tears as he told me that the music continued to help him.  He told me he still listens to it daily. He told me that he just wanted me to know that.  This time he wasn’t deceiving me.  He knew I knew everything—the whole sordid story.  His body is broken and sick now, but you know what I suddenly saw in that moment?   I saw the tender layer of him that was drenched and overcome with regret, loss and sadness.  Because I’m acquainted with that layer in myself, I saw him clear of all the other junk.  And in that moment I found “likeness” with him and I was unable to withhold even a morsel of grace from him.  And I knew it was finally over.

“Thank you for telling me,” I said.  I called him by his name—the same name I swore I'd never utter again.  And then I left with peace.

Only grace would allow for that.

Friends.  It is time for grace.

In these ugly times of political unrest and chaos, maybe it wouldn’t hurt us to remember this.   That buried inside those imperfect leader-wannabe people who spew poison at each other there are some layers that look just like yours and mine.  Humbling, isn't it?

Buried inside people who will vote for the “other side” in this election, there is at least one layer in them that is like you.  And that is an important space, for it is where you will understand them for just a bit.  A single moment of clarity is enough.   

It is enough.  

When you see the “likeness”, you will feel a tenderness that will replace any hatred.  And you will find your only choice is to show some grace.  

Lord have mercy on us all if we forget the necessity of grace in this world--the beauty of giving away something that isn't deserved and doesn't make sense simply because we can.

grace extended.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sitting on the edge of my rocking chair.

I'm antsy today.

There's change in the air.  Maybe you haven't noticed, but the world is barely spinning at all as if it's holding its breath with me.  I'm giddy with excitement.  

Today I am "this", but any moment now I will be "something else"--something I've never been before.  I am right smack dab in the middle of becoming.

Becoming a grandmother.  

As I write, I'm not there yet, but with every stroke of the key I become closer to the owning the title. 

At this very moment and an ocean away, my boy and the one he loves more than any other human walking this earth are about to have a baby.  We don't know if it's the boy kind or the girl kind.  We don't know the name. I'll tell you, though, the mystery lends itself to being a most wonderful surprise.  

With this birth, my world will be immediately altered and in a state that it wasn't only a second before. My tribe will grow. This sweet little one who has been forever unknown to me will be known to me for the rest of my life.  

His or her name will be on my tongue.  The sound of it will be unfamiliar at first, but soon it will roll right off as if I've been saying it forever.  The name will be lifted in my prayers. I'll sing it in the "Happy Birthday" song.  I'll write it on Christmas gift tags. I won't go a day without thinking it.

For this one, I'll prepare a comfy bed and favorite foods when visits come. I'll rejoice when first words are said and when first steps are taken. I'll wipe the dust off the old books, and the stories will come to life again. This little one will breathe a new energy into my life. 

Family means one thing now, but it will mean a new thing soon

In three days, I'll get on a plane that will take me to the place where this little one is. Though I don't know exactly how it will all go down, the scenario is rife with possibility! 

My son with his own child.  His miracle. Will I smile until my face hurts?  Will I cry at the sweetness of it all?  When I see my kind and gentle daughter-in-law sweetly mothering, will I be able to keep a dry eye? Will I shriek with joy so loudly that I'll startle the baby and they'll have to "shush" me?  My heart has proven to be an unruly sort, so I just don't know. Anything is possible. But here's what I think. 

I kind of think I'll stand to the side taking it all in--waiting my turn for the moment I will hold this little one for the first time. Then I'll introduce myself.

"Hey little one. It's me!  Your grandma. But you can call me Dovey.  I live just over there--just across the ocean.  It seems faraway, but it really isn't.  Just a hop, skip and a jump. How blessed you are to be loved by people here and there. You are my family.  My people. Happy Birthday. Jesus loves you. Welcome to the world".

Those are my thoughts and words that I want to say though I admit I've yet to fully "become" who I will be. So who knows. I write knowing it's highly likely that all the pretty words will fly out the window when I see this child for the first time. In which case, I'll just hold tight, rock and hum, and let love speak for itself. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Staying Relevant in a Chemex World (and Other Challenges of Middle-Agedness).

It isn't aging that I mind so much.  I just don't want to get old.  

Age happens to the body despite our best efforts. Short of some sort of surgical intervention, things tend to...drop. Perhaps plummet might be a more accurate word.  

I can live with that, though.  For heaven's sake, I birthed three children. Surely I can handle a little redistribution of stuff.  That's all it is.

Age also brings with it a few lines from all the years of laughing and squinting and frowning. I'm told, though, that these lines can all be erased by getting a few little shots in my face.  Thank you very much, but no.   

But "old"? It's a mind thing.  It's a choice we make when the world is changing rapidly and we decide somewhere along the line that it isn't worth our energy to try to understand it.  

And I get it.  

It's not like in my mid-fifties I'm drawing from a deep well of energy anyhow. "Old" is crabby and is easily ticked off when it doesn't understand things. It's like being on the outside of an inside joke. It's like being at the end of a very long dinner table and being just out of earshot to what is so stinking funny at the other end of the table. Now that will tick you off if you're old.  I know because I almost got old once.  Or twice.

I admit to the tendency sometimes. That's when I pull the emergency brake and eat half a bag of mini mint chocolate chips that I keep tucked in the back of the freezer. I take a deep breath and utter these words.

Dear Lord, don't let me go there!

Without fail,  I am miraculously and almost immediately swept up in a passion to remain relevant. It pushes me to jump right in the middle of something new. Usually with no floaties, I might add. Sink or swim baby, because we no longer live in a "permed" world.  Straight hair is the wave of the future.

It happened with technology and the digital world. It was my choice to explore the worlds of "instagram" and "twitter",  "podcasts" and "hulu". It was my choice to let phrases like "create an event", "PM me" and "share a contact" become part of my vocabulary. I can learn it or live in a state of being distant, frustrated, confused and alienated. Isn't it so wonderful that in these middle years, we can embrace "new"?  We can go a little minimal and design a tiny house? Instead of having a poodle, why we can invite a massive dog to live with us inside the house. Oh my! Who knew we don't have to always cook fish to eat it. We can "eat clean" and give up Diet Coke. We can spend an afternoon learning to skydive in a wind tunnel and we can zipline across canyons.

New things.

Oh, I've made a few newbie mistakes in each of the above categories. No matter how careful I am to watch and learn, occasionally I slip up. I held my chopsticks upside down when I tried sushi the first time. The waiter corrected me when he saw me struggling. He actually brought me a pair of beginner chopsticks--chopsticks with training wheels.  Only minimal public shaming.  

The first time I proudly hash-tagged on Instagram, my daughter texted me to say there are no spaces between the words. I still don't get it, but I have embraced it and stand corrected. 


I've caught on to a few other things, too!
For example, just last week my husband hired a new employee.  As he was telling me about it, he couldn't recall the guy's last name.   In less than two minutes, I had the fellow's picture staring at us from my iPhone screen. Not only do we now know his last name, but we know other things, too.  Now that is scary proficiency, folks.

It has nothing to do with giving myself over to trends.  It has nothing to do being politically correct.  It has everything to do with engaging.

It is nothing more than me kicking "old" to the curb when I get a go at it. It is me trying oh so hard to be fearless. I assure you it's intentional.  It's well-calculated.  And sometimes it is exhausting.  

But I don't like the alternative.

A few days ago, I began drifting toward "old" again. I began to gripe about the dumbest things. Thank goodness there was the last half of the mini mint chocolate chips in the back of the freezer to help me refocus.

That and a new passion to help me stay relevant. The statistics about relevancy are frightening to me.  I just read that if I'm no longer relevant I might not keep my job! The article went on to make an even more profound declaration. It said that without relevance, I might be called…wait for it…


Just let the depth of that comment sink in.  If you want my respect, it will take you all of a millisecond.  I think it was written by the same fellow who invented no spaces in hashtags.  Has to be. 

Though I think name-calling is uncalled for,   I do not wish to be labeled "irrelevant". Therefore, I won't be.  

I am learning a knew language now. It matters not whether the language is new to anyone else. It might even fall in the category of "fairly new", but it is new to me.

It is the language of Chemex.

Chemex.  The trendy way to serve pour-over coffee. Achieved by blending "astute science with fine art to deliver a rich, pure coffee you just can't live without".  That's what their brochure says anyway. Oh I've done my research. According to Facebook and Instagram mentions, "Chemex" is spoken by most all twenty and thirty-somethings out there.  It is art to them, the brochure says. I'm not trying to be that age again, but I sometimes like to talk to twenty and thirty-somethings.  Sooo…if it's art to them, then it will be art to me too!

Yesterday I bought a Chemex. 

I didn't realize it didn't include filters.  Let me be "old" for just a minute and say that at the price I paid, filters should have been included. That's it. That's all I'm saying.

Lowes Market, my local hometown grocer, doesn't carry Chemex filters. H.E.B. is a 45-minute drive from home.  They don't carry them either. But you know who does carry them?  Whole Foods--or as my husband calls it--"Holier-Than-Thou" Foods. A mere hour drive to the city.

Still, such a small price to pay for relevancy, ya know?

Before going to bed last night, I excitedly opened my new 8-cup Chemex to prepare for the next morning's brewing.  It was interesting looking with its hourglass-shaped carafe and its wooden handle.  I carefully washed and dried it before opening the box of filters--a really large box of filters.

I was unaware that there were different types of Chemex filters. No one had ever spoken about that. Not the sales person.  Not my daughter. So I grabbed the first box I saw.

Here's the skinny on the filters. You have your Unfolded Circles and your Pre-Folded Circles.  Then there are your Pre-Folded White Squares and your Pre-Folded Natural Squares. And then, of course the Unfolded Half Moons.  Those are the ones I bought.

Here have a look for yourself.

A big old box of frustration.

Gals.  We are emancipated! We can vote and everything. We are educated. We have permanent press clothing now so we don't have to iron.  We're amazing.  We can work AND take care of our children AND our husbands AND our homes.  All at the same time.  So tell me why would anyone think we have a desire to fold our coffee filters?  Is it a joke? Are they laughing behind our middle-aged backs seeing just how far we'll go to stay relevant?

Well here's a newsflash!  I learned how to fold those Unfolded Half Moon filters because I paid $6.99 for 100. In all honesty I'll tell you I bought two boxes of them because of the long drive to get them. So by golly, I plan to use them! Oh dear, I don't mean to gripe.

"Old"...get thee behind me!!

Chocolate chips...and breathe...and here we go.

I didn't learn the folding technique from reading the directions on the box, which were printed entirely too small to see even with my 2.75 strength reading glasses--an effect of "aging" of course and not of "old".

I researched the fold and I learned.

I found the Youtube video to be quite helpful actually.  I watched it five or six times, give or take.  That's all it took. I was empowered knowing that if there was a video on the subject, there surely must be other relevance-seekers like me! In fact, I know now that many Chemex-ers half my age have yet to learn the art of folding the Half-Moon Unfolded filter.  I smirk.

My husband doesn't understand my quest for relevance. Mostly he doesn't understand why it must impact our morning coffee. Our morning coffee is sacred. 

"Do you not like our percolator?  Does this other thing--this Chemex--taste better?" he asked.  I thought it was sweet the way he defended the percolator. 

Phhh.  It isn't always just about the taste, silly man.

It is simply a cycle towards relevancy.

First there was Mr. Coffee, and we loved him until we just couldn't.  Then there was the fancy Cuisinart. Two of them, actually--one of them in a lovely apple red.  Eventually, however, it became passé so we moved on. 

That's when we began to grind our own beans. 
Totally relevant at the time.

Soon we didn't need to grind our beans though, because we embraced the cutting edge Keurig with all the wonderful little flavor-filled K-cups. Quickly though, the children judged us for contributing to the mound of plastic waste in the world and they began turning their noses up at Keurig's substandard taste. We were on the verge of becoming irrelevant then and we didn't even realize it.  

Close call.  

We redeemed ourselves, however, when they came home to find us french-pressing our coffee.  

I know!  So international and so darn charming, we thought they thought.  

A few years later we went a little old-school with my husband's beloved electric percolator. We've had two of them. They cost under $20,  so we pat ourselves on the back for going old-school and thrifty at the same time. My husband always rises early to get the percolator going.  He says it's biblical since it is written "Hebrews". He tells me this at least once a week and we've been married 34 years. That's 1,768 times...conservatively speaking.   In an unpredictable world, I take comfort in the certainty of his... particular brand of humor. No really, I do.

Back to coffee though.

We recently added Cold Brew to the mix, requiring its own specific kind of grind and making it the perfect caffeinated choice for hot summer days.

And now?  Chemex. 

Did you know that a suggested #4 grind of the coffee is perfect for this method of brewing? Or that once you've poured a small amount of boiling water over the grounds in the half-moon, now-perfectly-folded filter you should wait 30 seconds to let the grounds "bloom"?  Who knew? Blooming is of utmost importance since this is when the most desirable coffee elements are released from the grounds. And one more thing. Pouring the water over the grounds in a slow, circular fashion is a true sign of Chemex fluency.

As I got ready for bed the night after I bought my Chemex, I informed my husband that just this once, I must brew.  I imagined how much fun I would have the next morning experimenting with this new and hip form of coffee-making.  I pulled back my hair to wash my face and noticed the white hair amidst the blonde right at my hairline.  I shrugged it off as I reached for the Retinol. Then the extra heavy moisturizer. And finally, two cranberry pills for digestive tract health and a single Advil PM to ensure a good night's rest.  I grabbed my computer and climbed into bed.  Until I fell asleep, I tried something I'd heard about called "binge watching". Interesting.

Age is nothing, I think. "Old" isn't a foregone conclusion. It didn't happen to me that day.  

Not that day.

Because I was only one sleep and a first-pour away from being fluent in Chemex, and therefore relevant.

I was at a meeting today, and during the meeting we talked about learning something new.  Afterwards we were invited to stay an extra 15 minutes where a woman named Rita would be happy to teach us a line dance called The Electric Slide.  Staying was optional, and most everyone left but four of us. Plus Rita.  I was the youngest. Rita turned on "Elvira" and the four of us did the Electric slide in the youth room of a Methodist Church. It was exhilarating!  It was new and unexpected and out of the box.   

As it turns out, Rita--who is likely somewhere in her early 70's--square dances twice a week.  Then usually two other nights a week she dances country and western at a place called Pardners.

Rita is making herself relevant.  She has so much to talk about.  She is absolutely not going to grow old.   

There is a 44-year-old woman from a country called Ubekistan.  Her name is Oksana Chusovitina.  You know what she's doing these days to stay relevant and engaged?  She's competing in the Olympics in Rio. It's her 7th Olympics as a competitor. As I write this, she is in the vault FINALS.  Amazing and rare. 

Though in the last three or four years I'll admit that my cartwheel has suffered, I still feel a kinship with Oksana.  Even without knowing her, I know she is planning to age without growing old. 

Me too, Oksana! 

My process will absolutely not involve a vault or a beam, but it will involve a Chemex and other things I know nothing about today.

That day I learned to make coffee a new way, I expanded what I know.  I have a new thing to talk about.  Just one small thing that engages me in life.  I am thankful that the world keeps changing on me and that it still manages to peak my curiosity in a million little ways.

It's what I'm praying these days.  That I will always see something. Big things and little things. Important things and trivial things. Hysterically funny things and heart-wrenching things. Because when I see something and do the follow-up, I have something to talk about.  Something to share.  Something to discuss.

Sometimes that thing is simply a really smooth cup of pour-over coffee.

The coffee cabinet.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Nice People.

People are nice.

Most all of them, I've found.

It's kind of like the bag of Lil' Cuties that I buy at the grocery store--you know, those little clementine mandarins that are so tasty, juicy and easy to peel?  The ones that are zero points on Weight Watchers and chock full of Niacin, Potassium and Dietary Fiber? Yes those ones.   I can easily consume three of them in one fell swoop, but now I'm off and going all rogue again.  

Post-Menopausal Attention Deficit Disorder. (P-MADD).  The struggle is real.

So, as I was saying...

In that little bag of mandarin heaven, there are always a few of them on the bottom that have begun to grow mold.  We all toss them and never give them another thought as we enjoy the sweet delight of juiciness dripping down our chins.  Maybe that last part it just me, but it always makes me happy inside and I feel six years old again.

It's like people.  A few moldy ones are bound to show up from time to time, but there are so many good ones that it's almost impossible to dwell on the others.

On a recent 3-day adventure with a dear friend, I had the true joy of experiencing  the niceness of total strangers once again.  It caught me by surprise, and I'm more than a little ashamed of myself for forgetting.  

The idea of "niceness" .

The truth that people are nice.  

When it hit me, a sort of giddiness coursed through me--kind of like drawing that first breath of nitrous oxide at the dentist office.  Okay.  Well that's a really crappy analogy.  Let me try again.  

Springtime was new in the air that weekend, and I found the goodness of ordinary folks wash over me like a rain shower. (Much better).   It refreshed me.  

This is my tribute to a few of them who reminded me that it's true.  People are nice.

On the surface, the weekend was about "junking".  

You see, my friend is a dealer of "good junk" as we like to call it--a job that requires much more skill than one might think.  It takes years and years of hard work to develop the intuition and discernment necessary to separate "good junk" from "junk junk".  Together,  Nancy and I have a combined 50 years experience in the field. I like few things more than going on the hunt for treasures.  So that was the plan.  Treasure hunting.

We jumped in a truck pulling a trailer early one morning,  way before sunrise.   We headed east.  Way east.  To-the-Louisiana-border east.   Then we jumped on the famous Highway 80  that spans half of the country east to west--from Dallas almost to the Atlantic Ocean.

We were  well-prepared for our journey. 

We brought ice chests full of tomatoes and okra and carrots.  And hummus.  Apples and Lil' Cuties, of course.  Plenty of water, because one must stay hydrated and focused when treasure hunting.  Still we tried to achieve the balance between "enough water" and "too much water", as we wanted to make as few stops as humanly possible.  Who were we kidding?  We're both in the Glorious Fifties so that turned out only to be a pipe dream.  Urgency has fresh meaning in your fifties.


"What are you looking for?" Nancy asked me as we barrel down the road?

"You know, nothing really.  I mean I know I'll find stuff, but I'm not really looking for anything," I answered.

That's new for me.

I've simplified life over the last few years.  Gotten rid of belongings.  It has lightened my load and freed my soul in a way that makes me feel like I'm at my pre-pregnancy weight. Imagination is the most wonderful thing.

So nothing.  I was on the hunt for not one thing.

The very first stop in a tiny town as we headed east changed that.

It was in the little town of Malakoff when we saw it.   The first little pink sign that said two simple words.

Yard sale.

Observation.  Quick braking isn't quite as easy in a truck pulling a trailer driven by a gal driving a truck pulling a trailer for the very first time.  No.  It isn't easy, but it wasn't a problem for a couple of well-seasoned junkers.

It was almost dusk when we drove up to the old mansion that sat on an expansive corner lot.  They were setting up for a sale the next morning and were about ready to call it a day when we showed up.  They invited us to have  a look anyway. "They" included a woman about my age, her teenage son and a man they'd hired to help.  Nancy began to explore the garage and yard and was even invited to treasure hunt in the secret attic above the garage.  People always like Nancy.

Then we met Jersey Girl and she wore the title proudly on the ball cap she sported.  She was the owner of the mansion-- a feisty one in her 80's who was doing a little bit of "lightening her load" as well.  She lived up to the "Jersey" stereotype in the first minute we met.  She was tight-lipped.  She said very little to us at first, answering questions with short, curt words wrapped up in a strong Jersey accent.  Since I wasn't really looking for anything in particular, I began to talk to her about how I'd gotten rid of a bunch of stuff recently.  I lamented with her about what a task it was.  She then sat down in a lawn chair and started talking. 

We had that in common, it seemed.  Jersey Girl and Texas Gal drawn together by a single commonality--too much stuff.

So Nancy shopped while Jersey Girl and I talked.  She told me how her husband's health had recently declined and he had to go into a nursing home.  She said she sold the family farm and moved all the stuff into the garage in the old mansion there.  She was renovating it, she said.  The mansion.  

Slowly, it seemed to me as I looked around at the disrepair.  

She said she'd just replaced all the windows.  

Ambitious,  I thought.  

She told me she also had a house in L.A. full of books and mid-century furniture.  She used to live there, she said, telling me that one day soon she was going to sell it all.  She said she didn't want any of it.  She was clear about that.  

I wondered if she had sad memories there.

I asked her about the two old cars in the garage.  A 1942 Packard and a Karmann Ghia convertible.  She told me the Packard had been her family car back in Jersey.  She told me a  story of how her mother worked for the phone company and was going in for the late shift on an icy night when she was involved in a head-on collision.  The Packard and her mother barely got a dent, Jersey Girl said.  

"It was that well-built." 

 She told me she drove the convertible when she lived out in L.A.  She said as soon as the garage was cleaned out, she planned to get them both in running condition again so she could drive them.

I loved her spunk. I bet no one ever pulls a fast one on her, I thought to myself.

Eventually Nancy returned from the attic with a few treasures.  Jersey Girl carefully and seriously considered them all before she pronounced her verdict--that she would indeed sell them.  A bunch of old doors mostly.  But it lightened her load a little, and I know how that feels.  

I'm happy for her, I thought.

After we loaded the doors on the trailer, we thanked her for letting us shop and we wished her luck with the sale the following day.

It was dark as we drove off,  with me wondering if she'd enjoyed the visit as much as I had.  

Jersey Girl had a soft side and she showed it to me.  She was nice, and she couldn't hide it from me.

All of the sudden it hit me what I was hunting for!  I decided then and there that I would be on the hunt for "nice".  That's it.  Nice.  Even if there was a shortage of it--which I wasn't sure there was--I had it's very fresh scent and I was hot on the trail.  

We didn't get far before we slowed down as we passed a junky thrift store we thought was closed.  At the last second, we saw a woman waving at us as if to say, "Come on in".  

Of course we did, because Nancy will absolutely not pass up such a tempting adventure.  Neither wind, nor rain, nor winter's cold can separate my sweet friend from finding "good junk".  I learned that on this trip.  If Nancy was reading this, which she isn't since she rarely opens her computer, she would know I'm writing about her with a smile on my face.

I'm glad we stopped, because I stepped right into a big 'ole pile of "nice" when we were greeted by an extremely tan,  middle-aged Texas gal who proudly sported a very big and very blonde bouiffant.   Her smile was framed by hot pink lipstick and it never left her face the entire time we were there.  

The store was a mess, but it didn't seem to bother her at all.  She was all about hospitality in the midst of the mess.  She with right in the middle of eating a late supper of shrimp when we walked in, but she happily wiped her hands and put it aside to show us all the great finds in the store.  She was larger than life as she told me about the tanning bed her ex-husband had recently bought her.  

Clearly he still has feelings for her, I think.

"As you can probably tell, I'm a sun goddess.  Girlfriend, I just love the sun!" she said laughing.  As she talked, she gestured with her entire body.

In the end, she was happy to give Nancy some good prices on books and a few other treasures before we said goodbye. 

"I like y'all", she said, indicating that was the reason she gave us her best prices.   As I glanced at her as we made our way through the maze of junk to front door, she was enjoying her shrimp once again.  I wondered how many more folks she'd welcome into the store before she called it a night.

I got the idea from a few things she said that she was a little down on her luck.  Funny though.  She didn't act "down" at all.  I mean, who puts on pink lipstick when she's down?  This gal--the sun goddess--she just seemed plain old nice.  

I kind of wanted to be more like her, except maybe minus the tan.

The next morning we turned that truck and trailer rig around in the middle of a highway because we'd missed a yard sale sign.  

We are fearless in pursuit of junk.  And niceness.

That's where we met Dee and Dennis.  

We followed the signs way back into those east Texas woods until we came upon their old house.  Their yard and a little side house were a picker's paradise.  They had an ongoing sale at their place--just things they found around the property or things they didn't need anymore. Actually, most anything was for sale.  It was how they made a living, they said. 

I was intrigued by how loosely those two they held onto things, because God had been dealing with me on that very subject lately. 

We walked and we talked.  Dennis was quiet, deferring to Dee when it came to pricing and selling.  We learned a grandchild would be coming soon.  They showed us some old glass bottle they'd dug up in the field behind them that was once an oil field camp.  I bought a petrified cedar tree from them that I planned to use as a hat/coat rack.  Nancy found many treasures, including an old concrete bird bath.  

"Hey," Nancy said.  "I'm looking for a chicken coop.  Would you guys have anything like that or know where I could find one?"

Dee answered. "Pete might have one. He's my old friend who lives down the road a ways.  If I can hop in the truck with you, I'll take you around to his house".

She is Pete's protector, I thought.

So off we went to Pete's house--farther and deeper into the woods.  I've seen so many scary movies in my life, that my mind just automatically started writing a movie trailer about two junkers going deep in the woods to meet a man named Pete…

Okay Dana.  Stop it.  You are hunting for "nice".  Remember. Only nice.

Pete is Dee's best friend.  He's an 80-something-year-old, and when we pulled up to his little old house he was sitting on his front-porch swing.  Dee told us he was probably resting after work.  He clears property for a living she said.  Eighty-something and still doing hard physical labor. I suddenly felt like a slug.

Not wanting to be disrespectful or intrusive, we hung back as Dee went up to ask him about the chicken coop.  We slowly approached when Dee waved us closer.  He wouldn't look at us when he talked.  He talked to us only through Dee.

His east Texas was thick like the air that morning, and it made him hard to understand at times.  

"I ain't got no coop.  They talkin' about a hen house?" he asked us, through Dee of course, as if we weren't standing right there.  I was amused.  He didn't trust us one bit. 

I wonder if he's forgotten about nice people, too.  

He had neither a coop or a hen house though,  so we thanked him and started to go.  

But I don't think he wanted us to go.

"What else they lookin' for?" he asked Dee.

So Dee asked us.

"Well I don't know," Nancy said, awkwardly not knowing who to address--Dee or Pete.  "But we'll know it if we see it.  Would it be alright if we just walked around with you and if we see something and you want to sell it, maybe we could work something out".

For the first time he looked at Nancy directly.

"That'd be alright," he said.  As I said before, people like Nancy.

For the next two hours we walked the property with Dee and Pete.  Nancy and Dee walked a little ahead of us.  I hung back with Pete who was slow due to a bad hip.

"Pete what are these old buggies for?" I asked motioning to a couple of them parked neatly in a straight row.

"Trail rides.  I go on trail rides.  I'm goin' tomorrow if it don't rain.  Takin' my grandson," he told me.  

Every outbuilding on the property was full of treasures--the most colorful tack I'd ever seen.  Pete told us he was the son of a sharecropper, and then he showed us some old cotton implements, telling us about the work he'd done to put food on the table for his boy and girl.

Every treasure had a story, and in the end he was asking us if we wanted some of them. 

The hunt for "stuff" led us to Pete, but it became inconsequential as the afternoon wore on.  He made sure we left with some treasures, though,  which he sold us for a fair price--me with a single old flower pot and Nancy with old ropes and parts and pieces of things.  He was proud to have had things we wanted.  We patted him on the shoulder, thanked him and he looked us in the eyes and shook our hands as we said goodbye.  When we drove off, he was already back sitting on his porch swing--waving and watching us go.  

I think there could never be enough of that kind of nice in the world.

So I found more.

Like Linda, who was locking up her store when we drove through the parking lot.  She invited us to shop her parking lot where things were set up.  After we passed a little time with her shopping and laughing, she told us she liked us and she unlocked her store and invited us in for a fun, junk-talking time.  

A few doors down, a jovial Stacy Moon sold Nancy a mounted deer she'd named "Buck".  She was glad it was going home to live on a ranch.

It was a hot and humid morning when Martha and Jeffie sold Nancy a bunch of furniture.  They didn't have to help load it on the trailer, but they did.  Happily so. 

On the side of the road where people were selling, I admired a painting depicting a rainy day with a girl in a street with a red umbrella.  A young woman approached me and asked if I liked the painting.  I told her I was drawn to it.  Then she told me she painted it.  Her name was Sherrie.  She was very pleased when I bought the painting.  I was surprised when she told me it was only $20.  

Perhaps an hour later--as Nancy and I were tying down some of her larger things--Sherrie found me again and told me she needed to tell me something.  The painting I bought had been passed over by many for a few years, she told me.  That very morning she said a gust of wind caught it and blew it off the easel.  

"I told myself that was it and I decided to paint over it.  I was imagining what I would paint when you walked up and asked me about it".

She went on to tell me that she painted it right after her father had passed away and that was why it was kind of dark. She told me that when she paints she knows she's painting for a specific someone and she told me how happy she was that this one was for me.  Then she hugged me, said goodbye and thanked me for encouraging her.

How kind of her to tell me this.  In that moment, "nice" seemed everywhere.

Rhee and Tracy--a girl and her great aunt--helped us load some more finds.  Tracy's mom had passed when she was a little girl, and her Aunt Rhee and filled her mom's shoes.  There "thing" was selling and junking, and they hoped soon to take a similar trip like the one we were on.  We invited them to our little town and told them we had plenty of room to put them up.  

I think they'll come one day, those two.

Our last day on the road, there was so much left to see.  Many miles to cover.  We'd hoped to leave the hotel and get an early start.

That's when we met Deb, the hotel manager, who was cruising the breakfast room.  We watched her making the rounds to greet all the guests, knowing full well that she would eventually make her way to us.  Now I'm not saying that Nancy and I were 100% grumpy that morning, but we might have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 70%.   We were quietly sipping our first cups of coffee when Deb approached our table.  Clearly she had already had a whole pot of coffee, and was locked and loaded and fully engaged when she sat with us. 

She was living on site temporarily, until she could find a suitable place to live.  She'd moved down from Pennsylvania recently, and before we said our goodbyes we knew she was on the hunt for a pair of second-hand cowboy boots to wear the next week for the local rodeo.  We knew that her daughter had dealt with a drug issue for which Deb had doled out her life savings for the very best rehab in upstate New York.  We knew she handed down a family heirloom bed to her grandson. We knew she owned a handgun and would not hesitate to use it.  We knew she watched her security cameras at the hotel closely and would personally investigate anything suspicious.  We knew she was anti-smoking.

I liked "take-charge" Deb.  I liked her a lot.

I liked how she talked about an amount of money.  She would call fifty dollars "Fifty Smack" and as she said "smack" she would simultaneously clap her hand a single time.  
In our conversation, she must have done this at least four times.  Talking about the cost of boots, the cost of a bus ticket, the cost of rehab.

I loved her exuberance for life.  I loved how she took every opportunity to make guests feel welcomed.  I loved her laugh and how after chatting with her for about an hour, Nancy and I felt like her best friends. 

We hit the road late on that last morning, but there wasn't enough good junk out there that could've been better than the morning with Deb.

And all the others we met. Before and after.

On the way home, Nancy and I asked each other a question we always ask each other after a junking expedition.

"So what was your favorite find?"

This time the answer was easy for me.

Nice people. 

Like Deb.  And Dee, Dennis and Pete.  Like Jersey Girl and Sun Goddess.  Like Rhee and Tracy, Linda and Stacy Moon.  Martha and Jeffie too.  And all the others

They are everywhere.  There is no shortage of nice people. They are out in plain sight.  If we don't see them, it's because we don't take the time to look--the time to see something in everyone.

Everyday, thoughts are planted in our brain telling us there are more mean people than nice people; that just about every other stranger we meet is likely a terrorist, or a thief, or a liar and a cheat.  Or just a regular old run-of-the-mill axe murderer.  The idea is planted as a seed at first, and we're only subliminally aware.  Eventually though after being fertilized by the evening news and social media, the idea climbs up in the front seat to ride shotgun.

dee and pete

But that's not truth.

This is truth.  

People are nice.  Most all of them.

One weekend in early spring, Nancy and I thought we'd go out collecting some junk.  And we did.  But mostly we collected stories of nice people.

Adios Pete.

Pete's Tack Room

Nancy, Stacy Moon and Buck

Jeffie, Martha and Nancy

Aunt Rhee and Tracy helping us tie down junk.

Aunt Rhee, Tracy,Nancy & Me.
Making plans to meet again.

East Texas back roads.

The road where nice people live.

More of where nice people live.

So yeah.  He was nice too.